Part 1 out of 6
Etext prepared by John Bickers, email@example.com
and Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
by H. RIDER HAGGARD
THE REV. PHILIP T. BAINBRIDGE
Vicar of St. Thomas'
Regent Street, London
You, whose privilege it is by instruction and example to
strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees of many,
may perhaps care to read of one whose human love led her from
darkness into light and on to the gates of the Love Eternal.
More than thirty years ago two atoms of the eternal Energy sped forth
from the heart of it which we call God, and incarnated themselves in
the human shapes that were destined to hold them for a while, as vases
hold perfumes, or goblets wine, or as sparks of everlasting radium
inhabit the bowels of the rock. Perhaps these two atoms, or essences,
or monads indestructible, did but repeat an adventure, or many, many
adventures. Perhaps again and again they had proceeded from that Home
august and imperishable on certain mornings of the days of Time, to
return thither at noon or nightfall, laden with the fruits of gained
experience. So at least one of them seemed to tell the other before
all was done and that other came to believe. If so, over what fields
did they roam throughout the ĉons, they who having no end, could have
no beginning? Not those of this world only, we may be sure. It is so
small and there are so many others, millions upon millions of them,
and such an infinite variety of knowledge is needed to shape the soul
of man, even though it remain as yet imperfect and but a shadow of
what it shall be.
Godfrey Knight was born the first, six months later she followed (her
name was Isobel Blake), as though to search for him, or because
whither he went, thither she must come, that being her doom and his.
Their circumstances, or rather those of their parents, were very
different but, as it chanced, the houses in which they dwelt stood
scarcely three hundred yards apart.
Between the rivers Blackwater and Crouch in Essex, is a great stretch
of land, flat for the most part and rather dreary, which, however, to
judge from what they have left us, our ancestors thought of much
importance because of its situation, its trade and the corn it grew.
So it came about that they built great houses there and reared
beautiful abbeys and churches for the welfare of their souls. Amongst
these, not very far from the coast, is that of Monk's Acre, still a
beautiful fane though they be but few that worship there to-day. The
old Abbey house adjacent is now the rectory. It has been greatly
altered, and the outbuildings are shut up or used as granaries and so
forth by arrangement with a neighbouring farmer. Still its grey walls
contain some fine but rather unfurnished chambers, reputed by the
vulgar to be haunted. It was for this reason, so says tradition, that
the son of the original grantee of Monk's Acre Abbey, who bought it
for a small sum from Henry VIII at the Dissolution of the Monasteries,
turned the Abbey house into a rectory and went himself to dwell in
another known as Hawk's Hall, situate on the bank of the little stream
of that name, Hawk's Creek it is called, which finds its way to the
Parsons, he said, were better fitted to deal with ghosts than laymen,
especially if the said laymen had dispossessed the originals of the
ghosts of their earthly heritage.
The ancient Hawk's Hall, a timber building of the sort common in Essex
as some of its premises still show, has long since disappeared. About
the beginning of the Victorian era a fish-merchant of the name of
Brown, erected on its site a commodious, comfortable, but particularly
hideous mansion of white brick, where he dwelt in affluence in the
midst of the large estate that had once belonged to the monks. An
attempt to corner herrings, or something of the sort, brought this
worthy, or unworthy tradesman to disaster, and the Hall was leased to
a Harwich smack-owner of the name of Blake, a shrewd person, whose
origin was humble. He had one son named John, of whom he was
determined to "make a gentleman." With this view John was sent to a
good public school, and to college. But of him nothing could make a
gentleman, because true gentility and his nature were far apart. He
remained, notwithstanding all his advantages, a cunning, and in his
way an able man of business, like his father before him. For the rest,
he was big, florid and presentable, with the bluff and hearty manner
which sometimes distinguishes a /faux bonhomme/. "Honest John" they
called him in the neighbourhood, a soubriquet which was of service to
him in many ways.
Suddenly Honest John's father died, leaving him well off, though not
so rich as he would have liked to be. At first he thought of leaving
Hawk's Hall and going to live at Harwich, where most of his business
interests were. But, remembering that the occupation of it gave him a
certain standing in the county, whereas in Harwich he would have been
only a superior tradesman, he gave up the idea. It was replaced by
another--to marry well.
Now John Blake was not an idealist, nor in any sense romantic;
therefore, from marriage he expected little. He did not even ask that
his wife should be good-looking, knowing that any aspirations which he
had towards beauty could be satisfied otherwise. Nor did he seek
money, being well aware that he could make this for himself. What he
desired were birth and associations. After a little waiting he found
exactly what he wanted.
A certain Lord Lynfield from the South of England, who lived in
London, and was a director of many Boards, took a pheasant-shooting in
the neighbourhood of Hawk's Hall, and with it a house. Here he lived
more or less during the winter months, going up to town when
necessary, to attend his Boards. Lord Lynfield was cursed with several
extravagant sons, with whom John Blake, who was a good shot, soon
became friendly. Also he made himself useful by lending one of them a
considerable sum of money. When this came to Lord Lynfield's ears, as
Honest John was careful that it should, he was disturbed and offered
repayment, though as a matter of fact he did not know where to turn
for the cash. In his bluffest and heartiest way Blake refused to hear
of such a thing.
"No, no, my Lord, let it stand. Your son will repay me one day, and if
he doesn't, what will a trifle like that matter?"
"He certainly shall repay you. But all the same, Mr. Blake, you have
behaved very well and I thank you much," replied his Lordship
Thus did John Blake become an intimate of that aristocratic family.
Now Lord Lynfield, who was a widower, had one unmarried daughter. She
was an odd and timid little person, with strong religious views, who
adored secretly a high-church curate in London. This, indeed, was the
reason why she had been brought to Essex when her infatuation was
discovered by one of her married sisters, who, like the rest of the
family, was extremely "low." Lady Jane was small in body and shrinking
and delicate in character, somewhat mouselike indeed. Even her eyes
were large and timid as are those of a mouse. In her John Blake
perceived the exact /parti/ whom he desired for a wife.
It is not necessary to follow the pitiful story to its inevitable end,
one, happily, more common at that time than it is to-day. Mr. Blake
played the earnest, ardent lover, and on all occasions proclaimed his
own unworthiness at the top of his loud voice. Also he hinted at large
settlements to the married sisters, who put the matter before Jane
very plainly indeed. In the end, after a few words with her father,
who pointed out that the provision which could be made for her was but
small, and that he would die more happily if he knew her to be
comfortably settled in life with a really trustworthy and generous man
such as Mr. Blake had proved himself to be, she gave way, and in due
course they were married.
In fact, the tragedy was complete, since Jane loathed her husband,
whose real nature she had read from the beginning, as much as she
adored the high-church curate from whom in some terrible hour she
parted with broken words. Even when he died a few years later, she
continued to adore him, so much that her one hope was that she might
meet him again in the land where there is no marrying or giving in
marriage. But all of this she kept locked in her poor little heart,
and meanwhile did her duty by her husband with an untroubled brow,
though those mouse-like eyes of hers grew ever more piteous.
He, for his part, did not do his duty by her. Of one side of his
conduct she was careless, being totally indifferent as to whom he
admired. Others she found it hard to bear. The man was by nature a
bully, one who found pleasure in oppressing the helpless, and who
loved, in the privacy of his home, to wreak the ill-temper which he
was forced to conceal abroad. In company, and especially before any of
her people, he treated her with the greatest deference, and would even
make loud laudatory remarks concerning her; when they were alone there
was a different tale to tell, particularly if she had in any way
failed in promoting that social advancement for which he had married
"What do you suppose I give you all those jewels and fine clothes for,
to say nothing of the money you waste in keeping up the house?" he
would ask brutally.
Jane made no answer; silence was her only shield, but her heart burned
within her. It is probable, notwithstanding her somewhat exaggerated
ideas of duty and wifely obedience, that she would have plucked up her
courage and left him, even if she must earn her own living as a
sempstress, had it not been for one circumstance. That circumstance
was the arrival in the world of her daughter, Isobel. In some ways
this event did not add to her happiness, if that can be added to which
does not exist, for the reason that her husband never forgave her
because this child, her only one, was not a boy. Nor did he lose any
opportunity of telling her this to her face, as though the matter were
one over which she had control. In others, however, for the first time
in her battered little life, she drank deep of the cup of joy. She
loved that infant, and from the first it loved her and her only, while
to the father it was indifferent, and at times antagonistic.
From the cradle Isobel showed herself to be an individual of
character. Even as a little girl she knew what she wanted and formed
her own opinions quite independently of those of others. Moreover, in
a certain way she was a good-looking child, but of a stamp totally
different from that of either of her parents. Her eyes were not
restless and prominent, like her father's, or dark and plaintive, like
her mother's, but large, grey and steady, with long curved lashes. In
fact, they were fine, but it was her only beauty, since the brow above
them was almost too pronounced for that of a woman, the mouth was a
little large, and the nose somewhat irregular. Her hair, too, though
long and thick, was straight and rather light-coloured. For the rest
she was well-ground and vigorous, with a strong, full voice, and as
she approached maturity she developed a fine figure.
When she was not much more than ten Isobel had her first trouble with
her father. Something had gone wrong with one of his shipping
speculations, and as usual, he vented it upon his wife. So cruelly did
he speak to her on a household matter for which she was not the least
to blame, that the poor woman at last rose and left the room to hide
her tears. Isobel, however, remained behind, and walking up to her
father, who stood with his back to the fire, asked him why he treated
her mother thus.
"Mind your own business, you impertinent brat," he answered.
"Mummy is my business, and you are--a brute," she exclaimed, clenching
her little fists. He lifted his hand as though to strike her, then
changed his mind and went away. She had conquered. Thenceforward Mr.
Blake was careful not to maltreat his wife in Isobel's presence. He
complained to her, however, of the child's conduct, which, he said,
was due to her bringing up and encouragement, and Lady Jane in turn,
scolded her in her gentle fashion for her "wicked words."
Isobel listened, then asked, without attempting to defend herself,
"Were not father's words to you wicked also, Mummy? It was not your
fault if James forgot to bring round the dog-cart and made him miss
the train to London. Ought you to be sworn at for that?"
"No, dear, but you see, he is my husband, and husbands can say what
they wish to their wives."
"Then I will never have a husband; at least, not one like father,"
Isobel announced with decision.
There the matter ended. Or rather it did not end, since from that
moment Isobel began to reflect much on matrimony and other civilized
institutions, as to which at last she formed views that were not
common among girls of her generation. In short, she took the first
step towards Radicalism, and entered on the road of rebellion against
the Existing and Acknowledged.
During the governess era which followed this scene Isobel travelled
far and fast along that road. The lady, or rather the ladies, hired by
her father, for his wife was allowed no voice in their selection, were
of the other known as "determined"; disciplinarians of the first
water. For one reason or another they did not stay. Isobel, though a
quick and able child, very fond of reading moreover, proved unamenable
under discipline as understood by those formidable females, and owing
to her possession of a curious tenacity of purpose, ended by wearing
them down. Also they did not care for the atmosphere of the house,
which was depressing.
One of them once tried to strike Isobel. This was when she was nearly
thirteen. Isobel replied with the schoolroom inkpot. She was an adept
at stone-throwing, and other athletic arts. It caught her instructress
fair upon her gentle bosom, spoiled her dress, filled her mouth and
eyes with ink, and nearly knocked her down.
"I shall tell your father to flog you," gasped the lady when she
recovered her breath.
"I should advise you not," said Isobel. "And what is more," she added
after reflection, "if you do I shall advise him not to listen to you."
Then the governess thought better of it and gave notice instead. To be
just to John Blake he never attempted to resort to violence against
his daughter. This may have been because he knew by instinct that it
would not be safe to do so or tend to his own comfort. Or perhaps, it
was for the reason that in his way he was fond of her, looking on her
with pride not quite untouched by fear. Like all bullies he was a
coward at heart, and respected anyone who dared to stand up to him,
even although she were but a girl, and his own daughter.
After the victim of the inkpot incident departed, threatening actions
at law and proclaiming that her pupil would come to a bad end,
questions arose as to Isobel's future education. Evidently the
governess experiment had broken down and was not worth repeating.
Although she trembled at the idea of parting with her only joy and
consolation in life, Lady Jane suggested that she should be sent to
school. It was fortunate for her that she did so, since as the idea
came from his wife, Mr. Blake negatived it at once firmly and finally,
a decision which she accepted with an outward sigh of resignation,
having learned the necessity of guile, and inward delight. Indeed, for
it that evening she thanked God upon her knees.
It may be also that her father did not wish that Isobel should go
away. Lady Jane bored him to distraction, since kicking a cushion soon
becomes poor sport. So much did she bore him indeed that for this and
other reasons he passed most of his time in London or at Harwich, in
both of which places he had offices where he transacted his shipping
business, only spending the week-ends at Hawk's Hall. It was his
custom to bring with him parties of friends, business men as a rule,
to whom, for sundry purposes, he wished to appear in the character of
a family man and local magnate. Isobel, who was quick and vivacious
even while she was still a child, helped to make these parties pass
off well, whereas without her he felt that they would have been a
failure. Also she was useful during the shooting season. So it came
about that she was kept at home.
It was at this juncture that an idea came to Mr. Blake. A few years
before, at the very depth of the terrible agricultural depression of
the period, he had purchased at a forced sale by the mortgagees, the
entire Monk's Acre estate, at about £12 the acre, which was less than
the cost of the buildings that stood upon the land. This, as he
explained to all and sundry, he had done at great personal loss in the
interest of the tenants and labourers, but as a matter of fact, even
at the existing rents, the investment paid him a fair rate of
interest, and was one which, as a business man he knew must increase
in value when times changed. With the property went the advowson of
Monk's Acre, and it chanced that a year later the living fell vacant
through the resignation of the incumbent. Mr. Blake, now as always
seeking popularity, consulted the bishop, consulted the church-
wardens, consulted the parishioners, and in the end consulted his own
interests by nominating the nephew of a wealthy baronet of his
acquaintance whom he was anxious to secure as a director upon the
Board of a certain company in which he had large holdings.
"I have never seen this clerical gentleman and know nothing of his
views, or anything about him. But if you recommend him, my dear Sir
Samuel, it is enough for me, since I always judge of a man by his
friends. Perhaps you will furnish me, or rather my lawyers, with the
necessary particulars, and I will see that the matter is put through.
Now, to come to more important business, as to this Board of which I
am chairman," &c.
The end of it was that Sir Samuel, flattered by such deference, became
a member of the Board and Sir Samuel's nephew became rector of Monk's
Such appointments, like marriages, are made in Heaven--at least that
seems to be the doctrine of the English Church, which is content to
act thereon. In this particular instance the results were quite good.
The Rev. Mr. Knight, the nephew of the opulent Sir Samuel, proved to
be an excellent and hard-working clergyman. He was low-church, and
narrow almost to the point of Calvinism, but intensely earnest and
conscientious; one who looked upon the world as a place of sin and woe
through which we must labour and pass on, a difficult path beset with
rocks and thorns, leading to the unmeasured plains of Heaven. Also he
was an educated man who had taken high degrees at college, and really
learned in his way. While he was a curate, working very hard in a
great seaport town, he had married the daughter of another clergyman
of the city, who died in a sudden fashion as the result of an
accident, leaving the girl an orphan. She was not pure English as her
mother had been a Dane, but on both sides her descent was high, as
indeed was that of Mr. Knight himself.
This union, contracted on the husband's part largely from motives that
might be called charitable, since he had promised his deceased
colleague on his death bed to befriend the daughter, was but
moderately successful. The wife had the characteristics of her race;
largeness and liberality of view, high aspirations for humanity,
considerable intelligence, and a certain tendency towards mysticism of
the Swedenborgian type, qualities that her husband neither shared nor
could appreciate. It was perhaps as well, therefore that she died at
the birth of her only son, Godfrey, three years after her marriage.
Mr. Knight never married again. Matrimony was not a state which
appealed to his somewhat shrunken nature. Although he admitted its
necessity to the human race, of it in his heart he did not approve,
nor would he ever have undertaken it at all had it not been for a
sense of obligation. This attitude, because it made for virtue as he
understood it, he set down to virtue, as we are all apt to do, a
sacrifice of the things of earth and of the flesh to the things of
heaven, and of the spirit. In fact, it was nothing of the sort, but
only the outcome of individual physical and mental conditions. Towards
female society, however hallowed and approved its form, he had no
leanings. Also the child was a difficulty, so great indeed that at
times almost he regretted that a wise Providence had not thought fit
to take it straight to the joys of heaven with its mother, though
afterwards, as the boy's intelligence unfolded, he developed interest
in him. This, however, he was careful to keep in check, lest he should
fall into the sin of inordinate affection, denounced by St. Paul in
common with other errors.
Finally, he found an elderly widow, named Parsons, who acted as his
housekeeper, and took charge of his son. Fortunately for Godfrey her
sense of parenthood was more pronounced than that of his father, and
she, who had lost two children of her own, played the part of mother
to him with a warm and loyal heart. From the first she loved him, and
he loved her; it was an affection that continued throughout their
When Godfrey was about nine his father's health broke down. He was
still a curate in his seaport town, for good, as goodness is
understood, and hard-working as he was, no promotion had come his way.
Perhaps this was because the bishop and his other superiors,
recognising his lack of sympathy and his narrowness of outlook, did
not think him a suitable man to put in charge of a parish. At any
rate, so it happened.
Thus arose his appeal to his wealthy and powerful relative, Sir
Samuel, and his final nomination to a country benefice, for in the
country the doctor said that he must live--unless he wished to die.
Convinced though he was of the enormous advantages of Heaven over an
earth which he knew to be extremely sinful, the Rev. Mr. Knight, like
the rest of the world, shrank from the second alternative, which, as
he stated in a letter of thanks to Sir Samuel, however much it might
benefit him personally, would cut short his period of terrestrial
usefulness to others. So he accepted the rectorship of Monk's Acre
In one way there was not much for which to be grateful, seeing that in
those days of depreciated tithes the living was not worth more than
£250 a year and his own resources, which came from his wife's small
fortune, were very limited. It should have been valuable, but the
great tithes were alienated with the landed property of the Abbey by
Henry VIII, and now belonged to the lay rector, Mr. Blake, who showed
no signs of using them to increase the incumbent's stipend.
Still there was a good house with an excellent garden, too good
indeed, with its beautiful and ancient rooms which a former rector of
archĉological knowledge and means had in part restored to their
pristine state, while for the rest his tastes were simple and his
needs few, for, of course, he neither drank wine nor smoked.
Therefore, as has been said, he took the living with thankfulness and
determined to make the best of it on a total income of about £350 a
ISOBEL KISSES GODFREY
On the whole Monk's Acre suited Mr. Knight fairly well. It is true
that he did not like the Abbey, as it was still called, of which the
associations and architectural beauty made no appeal to him, and
thought often with affection of the lodging-house-like abode in which
he had dwelt in his southern seaport town amid the Victorian
surroundings that were suited to his Victorian nature. The glorious
church, too, irritated him, partly because it was so glorious, and
notwithstanding all that the Reformation had done to mar it, so
suggestive of papistical practice and errors, and partly because the
congregation was so scanty in that great expanse of nave and aisle, to
say nothing of the chancel and sundry chapels, that they looked like a
few wandering sheep left by themselves in a vast and almost emptied
fold. Nor was this strange, seeing that the total population of the
parish was but one hundred and forty-seven souls.
Of his squire and patron he saw but little. Occasionally Mr. Blake
attended church and as lay-rector was accommodated in an ugly oak box
in the chancel, where his big body and florid countenance reminded
Godfrey of Farmer Johnson's prize polled ox in its stall. These state
visits were not however very frequent and depended largely upon the
guests who were staying for the week-end at the Hall. If Mr. Blake
discovered that these gentlemen were religiously inclined, he went to
church. If otherwise, and this was more common, acting on his
principle of being all things to all men, he stopped away.
Personally he did not bother his head about the matter which, in
secret, he looked upon as one of the ramifications of the great
edifice of British cant. The vast majority of people in his view went
to church, not because they believed in anything or wished for
instruction or spiritual consolation, but because it looked
respectable, which was exactly why he did so himself. Even then nearly
always he sat alone in the oak box, his visitors generally preferring
to occupy the pew in the nave which was frequented by Lady Jane and
Nor did the two often meet socially since their natures were
antipathetic. In the bosom of his family Mr. Blake would refer to Mr.
Knight as the "little parson rat," while in his bosom Mr. Knight would
think of Mr. Blake as "that bull of Bashan." Further, after some
troubles had arisen about a question of tithe, also about the upkeep
of the chancel, Blake discovered that beneath his meek exterior the
clergyman had a strong will and very clear ideas of the difference
between right and wrong, in short, that he was not a man to be trifled
with, and less still one of whom he could make a tool. Having
ascertained these things he left him alone as much as possible.
Mr. Knight very soon became aware first that his income was
insufficient to his needs, and secondly, especially now when his
health was much improved, that after a busy and hard-working life,
time at Monk's Acre hung heavily upon his hands. The latter trouble to
some extent he palliated by beginning the great work that he had
planned ever since he became a deacon, for which his undoubted
scholarship gave him certain qualifications. Its provisional title
was, "Babylon Unveiled" (he would have liked to substitute "The
Scarlet Woman" for Babylon) and its apparent object an elaborate
attack upon the Roman Church, which in fact was but a cover for the
real onslaught. With the Romans, although perhaps he did not know it
himself, he had certain sympathies, for instance, in the matter of
celibacy. Nor did he entirely disapprove of the monastic orders. Then
he found nothing shocking in the tenets and methods of the Jesuits
working for what they conceived to be a good end. The real targets of
his animosity were his high-church brethren of the Church of England,
wretches who, whilst retaining all the privileges of the Anglican
Establishment, such as marriage, did not hesitate to adopt almost
every error of Rome and to make use of her secret power over the souls
of men by the practice of Confession and otherwise.
As this monumental treatise began in the times of the Early Fathers
and was planned to fill ten volumes of at least a hundred thousand
words apiece, no one will be surprised to learn that it never reached
the stage of publication, or indeed, to be accurate, that it came to
final stop somewhere about the time of Athanasius.
Realizing that the work was likely to equal that of Gibbon both in
length and the years necessary to its completion; also that from it
could be expected no immediate pecuniary profits, Mr. Knight looked
round to find some other way of occupying his leisure, and adding to
his income. Although a reserved person, on a certain Sunday when he
went to lunch at the Hall, in the absence of Mr. Blake who was
spending the week-end somewhere else, he confided his difficulties to
Lady Jane whom he felt to be sympathetic.
"The house is so big," he complained. "Mrs. Parsons" (Godfrey's old
nurse and his housekeeper) "and one girl cannot even keep it clean. It
was most foolish of my predecessor in the living to restore that old
refectory and all the southern dormitories upon which I am told he
spent no less than £1,500 of his own money, never reflecting on the
expense which his successors must incur merely to keep them in order,
since being once there they are liable for charges for dilapidations.
It would have been better, after permission obtained, to let them go
"No doubt, but they are very beautiful, are they not?" remarked Lady
"Beauty is a luxury and, I may add, a snare. It is a mistaken love of
beauty and pomp, baits that the Evil One well knows how to use, which
have led so large a section of our Church astray," he replied sipping
at his tumbler of water.
A silence followed, for Lady Jane, who from early and tender
associations loved high-church practices, did not know what to answer.
It was broken by Isobel who had been listening to the conversation in
her acute way, and now said in her clear, strong voice:
"Why don't you keep a school, Mr. Knight? There's lots of room for it
in the Abbey."
"A school!" he said. "A school! I never thought of that. No, it is
ridiculous. Still, pupils perhaps. Out of the mouth of babes and
sucklings, &c. Well, it is time for me to be going. I will think the
matter over after church."
Mr. Knight did think the matter over and after consultation with his
housekeeper, Mrs. Parsons, an advertisement appeared in /The Times/
and /The Spectator/ inviting parents and guardians to entrust two or
three lads to the advertiser's care to receive preliminary education,
together with his own son. It proved fruitful, and after an exchange
of the "highest references," two little boys appeared at Monk's Acre,
both of them rather delicate in health. This was shortly before the
crisis arose as to the future teaching of Isobel, when the last
governess, wishing her "a better spirit," had bidden her a frigid
farewell and shaken the dust of Hawk's Hall off her feet.
One day Isobel was sent with a note to the Abbey House. She rang the
bell but no one came, for Mr. Knight was out walking with his pupils
and Mrs. Parsons and the parlour-maid were elsewhere. Tired of
waiting, she wandered round the grey old building in the hope of
finding someone to whom she could deliver the letter, and came to the
refectory which had a separate entrance. The door was open and she
peeped in. At first, after the brilliant sunlight without, she saw
nothing except the great emptiness of the place with its splendid oak
roof on the repair of which the late incumbent had spent so much,
since as is common in monkish buildings, the windows were high and
narrow. Presently, however, she perceived a little figure seated in
the shadow at the end of the long oaken refectory table, that at which
the monks had eaten, which still remained where it had stood for
hundreds of years, one of the fixtures of the house, and knew it for
that of Godfrey, Mr. Knight's son. Gliding towards him quietly she saw
that he was asleep and stopped to study him.
He was a beautiful boy, pale just now for he had recovered but
recently from some childish illness. His hair was dark and curling,
dark, too, were his eyes, though these she could not see, and the
lashes over them, while his hands were long and fine. He looked most
lonely and pathetic, there in the big oak chair that had so often
accommodated the portly forms of departed abbots, and her warm heart
went out towards him. Of course Isobel knew him, but not very well,
for he was a shy lad and her father had never encouraged intimacy
between the Abbey House and the Hall.
Somehow she had the idea that he was unhappy, for indeed he looked so
even in his sleep, though perhaps this was to be accounted for by a
paper of unfinished sums before him. Sympathy welled up in Isobel, who
remembered the oppressions of the last governess--her of the inkpot.
Sympathy, yes, and more than sympathy, for of a sudden she felt as she
had never felt before. She loved the little lad as though he were her
brother. A strange affinity for him came home to her, although she did
not define it thus; it was as if she knew that her spirit was intimate
with his, yes, and always had been and always would be intimate.
This subtle knowledge went through Isobel like fire and shook her. She
turned pale, her nostrils expanded, her large eyes opened and she
sighed. She did more indeed. Drawn by some over-mastering impulse she
drew near to Godfrey and kissed him gently on the forehead, then
glided back again frightened and ashamed at her own act.
Now he woke up; she felt his dark eyes looking at her. Then he spoke
in a slow, puzzled voice, saying:
"I have had such a funny dream. I dreamed that a spirit came and
kissed me. I did not see it, but I think it must have been my
"Why?" asked Isobel.
"Because no one else ever cared enough for me to kiss me, except Mrs.
Parsons, and she has given it up now that the other boys are here."
"Does not your father kiss you?" she asked.
"Yes, once a week, on Sunday evening when I go to bed. Because I don't
"No, I understand," said Isobel, thinking of her own father, then
added hastily, "it must be sad not to have a mother."
"It is," he answered, "especially when one is ill as I have been, and
must lie so long in bed with pains in the head. You know I had an
abscess in the ear and it hurt very much."
"I didn't know. We heard you were ill and mother wanted to come to see
you. Father wouldn't let her. He thought it might be measles and he is
afraid of catching things."
"Yes," replied Godfrey without surprise. "It wasn't measles, but if it
had been you might have caught them, so of course he was right to be
"Oh! he wasn't thinking of me or Mummy, he was thinking of himself,"
blurted out Isobel with the candour of youth.
"Big, strong men don't catch measles," said Godfrey in mild
"He says they do, and that they are very dangerous when you are grown
up. Why are you alone here, and what are you working at?"
"My father has kept me in as a punishment because I did my sums wrong.
The other boys have gone out bird-nesting, but I have to stop here
until I get them right. I don't know when that will be," he added with
a sigh, "as I hate rule of three and can't do it."
"Rule of three," said Isobel, "I'm quite good at it. You see I like
figures. My father says it is the family business instinct. Here, let
me try. Move to the other side of that big chair, there's plenty of
room for two, and show it to me."
He obeyed with alacrity and soon the brown head and the fair one were
bent together over the scrawled sheet. Isobel, who had really a
budding talent for mathematics, worked out the sum, or rather the
sums, without difficulty and then, with guile acquired under the
governess régime, made him copy them and destroyed all traces of her
"Are you as stupid at everything as you are at sums?" she asked when
he had finished, rising from the chair and seating herself on the edge
of the table.
"What a rude thing to ask! Of course not," he replied indignantly. "I
am very good at Latin and history, which I like. But you see father
doesn't care much for them. He was a Wrangler, you know."
"A Wrangler! How dreadful. I suppose that is why he argues so much in
his sermons. I hate history. It's full of dates and the names of kings
who were all bad. I can't make out why people put up with kings," she
"Because they ought to, 'God bless our gracious Queen,' you know."
"Well, God may bless her but I don't see why I should as she never did
anything for me, though Father does hope she will make him something
one day. I'd like to be a Republican with a President as they have in
"You must be what father calls a wicked Radical," said Godfrey staring
at her, "one of those people who want to disestablish the Church."
"I daresay," she replied, nodding her head. "That is if you mean
making clergymen work like other people, instead of spying and
gossiping and playing games as they do about here."
Godfrey did not pursue the argument, but remarked immorally:
"It's a pity you don't come to our class, for then I could do your
history papers and you could do my sums."
She started, but all she said was:
"This would be a good place to learn history. Now I must be going.
Don't forget to give the note. I shall have to say that I waited a
long while before I found anyone. Goodbye, Godfrey."
"Goodbye, Isobel," he answered, but she was gone.
"I hope he did dream that it was his mother who kissed him," Isobel
reflected to herself, for now the full enormity of her performance
came home to her. Young as she was, a mere child with no knowledge of
the great animating forces of life and of the mysteries behind them,
she wondered why she had done this thing; what it was that forced her
to do it. For she knew well that something had forced her, something
outside of herself, as she understood herself. It was as though
another entity that was in her and yet not herself had taken
possession of her and made her act as uninfluenced, she never would
have acted. Thus she pondered in her calm fashion, then, being able to
make nothing of the business, shrugged her shoulders and let it go by.
After all it mattered nothing since Godfrey had dreamed that the ghost
of his mother had visited him and would not suspect her of being that
ghost, and she was certain that never would she do such a thing again.
The trouble was that she had done it once and that the deed signified
some change in her which her childish mind could not understand.
On reaching the Hall, or rather shortly afterwards, she saw her father
who was waiting for the carriage in which to go to the station to meet
some particularly important week-end guest. He asked if she had
brought any answer to his note to Mr. Knight, and she told him that
she had left it in the schoolroom, as she called the refectory,
because he was out.
"I hope he will get it," grumbled Mr. Blake. "One of my friends who is
coming down to-night thinks he understands architecture and I want the
parson to show him over the Abbey House. Indeed that's why he has
come, for you see he is an American who thinks a lot of such old
"Well, it is beautiful, isn't it, Father?" she said. "Even I felt that
it would be easy to learn in that big old room with a roof like that
of a church."
An idea struck him.
"Would you like to go to school there, Isobel?"
"I think so, Father, as I must go to school somewhere and I hate those
"Well," he replied, "you couldn't throw inkpots at the holy Knight, as
you did at Miss Hook. Lord! what a rage she was in," he added with a
chuckle. "I had to pay her £5 for a new dress. But it was better to do
that than to risk a County Court action."
Then the carriage came and he departed.
The upshot of it all was that Isobel became another of Mr. Knight's
pupils. When Mr. Blake suggested the arrangement to his wife, she
raised certain objections, among them that associating with these
little lads might make a tomboy of the girl, adding that she had been
taught with children of her own sex. He retorted in his rough marital
fashion, that if it made something different of Isobel to what she,
the mother, was, he would be glad. Indeed, as usual, Lady Jane's
opposition settled the matter.
Now for the next few years of Isobel's life there is little to be
told. Mr. Knight was an able man and a good teacher, and being a
clever girl she learned a great deal from him, especially in the way
of mathematics, for which, as has been said, she had a natural
Indeed very soon she outstripped Godfrey and the other lads in this
and sundry other branches of study, sitting at a table by herself on
what once had been the dais of the old hall. In the intervals of
lessons, however, it was their custom to take walks together and then
it was that she always found herself at the side of Godfrey. Indeed
they became inseparable, at any rate in mind. A strange and most
uncommon intimacy existed between these young creatures, almost might
it have been called a friendship of the spirit. Yet, and this was the
curious part of it, they were dissimilar in almost everything that
goes to make up a human being. Even in childhood there was scarcely a
subject on which they thought alike, scarcely a point upon which they
would not argue.
Godfrey was fond of poetry; it bored Isobel. His tendencies were
towards religion though of a very different type from that preached
and practised by his father; hers were anti-religious. In fact she
would have been inclined to endorse the saying of that other
schoolgirl who defined faith as "the art of believing those things
which we know to be untrue," while to him on the other hand they were
profoundly true, though often enough not in the way that they are
generally accepted. Had he possessed any powers of definition at that
age, probably he would have described our accepted beliefs as shadows
of the Truth, distorted and fantastically shaped, like those thrown by
changeful, ragged clouds behind which the eternal sun is shining,
shadows that vary in length and character according to the hour and
weather of the mortal day.
Isobel for her part took little heed of shadows. Her clear, scientific
stamp of mind searched for ascertainable facts, and on these she built
up her philosophy of life and of the death that ends it. Of course all
such contradictions may often be found in a single mind which believes
at one time and rejects at another and sees two, or twenty sides of
everything with a painful and bewildering clearness.
Such a character is apt to end in profound dissatisfaction with the
self from which it cannot be free. Much more then would one have
imagined that these two must have been dissatisfied with each other
and sought the opportunities of escape which were open to them. But it
was not so in the least. They argued and contradicted until they had
nothing more to say, and then lapsed into long periods of weary but
good-natured silence. In a sense each completed each by the addition
of its opposite, as the darkness completes the light, thus making the
round of the perfect day.
As yet this deep affection and remarkable oneness showed no signs of
the end to which obviously it was drifting. That kiss which the girl
had given to the boy was pure sisterly, or one might almost say,
motherly, and indeed this quality inspired their relationship for much
longer than might have been expected. So much was this so that no one
connected with them on either side ever had the slightest suspicion
that they cared for each other in any way except as friends and fellow
So the years went by till the pair were seventeen, young man and young
woman, though still called boy and girl. They were good-looking in
their respective ways though yet unformed; tall and straight, too,
both of them, but singularly dissimilar in appearance as well as in
mind. Godfrey was dark, pale and thoughtful-faced. Isobel was fair,
vivacious, open-natured, amusing, and given to saying the first thing
that came to her tongue. She had few reservations; her thoughts might
be read in her large grey eyes before they were heard from her lips,
which generally was not long afterwards. Also she was very able. She
read and understood the papers and followed all the movements of the
day with a lively interest, especially if these had to do with
national affairs or with women and their status.
Business, too, came naturally to her, so much so that her father would
consult her about his undertakings, that is, about those of them which
were absolutely above board and beyond suspicion of sharp dealing. The
others he was far too wise to bring within her ken, knowing exactly
what he would have heard from her upon the subject. And yet
notwithstanding all his care she suspected him, by instinct, not by
knowledge. For his part he was proud of her and would listen with
pleasure when, still a mere child, she engaged his guests boldly in
argument, for instance a bishop or a dean on theology, or a statesman
on current politics. Already he had formed great plans for her future;
she was to marry a peer who took an active part in things, or at any
rate a leading politician, and to become a power in the land. But of
this, too, wisely he said nothing to Isobel, for the time had not yet
During these years things had prospered exceedingly with John Blake
who was now a very rich man with ships owned, or partly owned by him
on every sea. On several occasions he had been asked to stand for
Parliament and declined the honour. He knew himself to be no speaker,
and was sure also that he could not attend both to the affairs of the
country and to those of his ever-spreading business. So he took
another course and began to support the Conservative Party, which he
selected as the safest, by means of large subscriptions.
He did more, he bought a baronetcy, for only thus can the transaction
be described. When a General Election was drawing near, one evening
after dinner at Hawk's Hall he had a purely business conversation with
a political Whip who, perhaps not without motive, had been complaining
to him of the depleted state of the Party Chest.
"Well," said Mr. Blake, "you know that my principles are yours and
that I should like to help your, or rather our cause. Money is tight
with me just now and the outlook is very bad in my trade, but I'm a
man who always backs his fancy; in short, would £15,000 be of use?"
The Whip intimated that it would be of the greatest use.
"Of course," continued Mr. Blake, "I presume that the usual
acknowledgment would follow?"
"What acknowledgment?" asked the Whip sipping his port wearily, for
such negotiations were no new thing to him. "I mean, how do you spell
"With a P," said Mr. Blake boldly, acting on his usual principle of
asking for more than he hoped to get.
The Whip contemplated him through his eyeglass with a mild and
"Out of the question, my dear fellow," he said. "That box is full and
locked, and there's a long outside list waiting as well. Perhaps you
mean with a K. You know money isn't everything, as some of you
gentlemen seem to think, and if it were, you would have said fifty
instead of fifteen."
"K be damned!" replied Mr. Blake. "I'm not a mayor or an actor-
manager. Let's say B, that stands for Beginning as well as Baronet;
also it comes before P, doesn't it?"
"Well, let's see. You haven't a son, have you? Then perhaps it might
be managed," replied the Whip with gentle but pointed insolence, for
Mr. Blake annoyed him. "I'll make inquiries, and now, shall we join
the ladies? I want to continue my conversation with your daughter
about the corruption which some enemy, taking advantage of her
innocence, has persuaded her exists in the Conservative Party. She is
a clever young lady and makes out a good case against us, though I am
sure I do not know whence she got her information. Not from you, I
suppose, Sir John--I beg your pardon, Mr. Blake."
So the matter was settled, as both of them knew it would be when they
left the room. The cash found its way into some nebulous account that
nobody could have identified with any party, and in the Dissolution
Honours, John Blake, Esq., J.P., was transformed into Sir John Blake,
Bart.; information that left tens of thousands of the students of the
list mildly marvelling why. As the same wonder struck them regarding
the vast majority of the names which appeared therein, this, however,
did not matter. They presumed, good, easy souls, that John Blake,
Esq., J.P., and the rest were patriots who for long years had been
working for the good of their country, and that what they had done in
secret had been discovered in high places and was now proclaimed from
Lady Jane was inclined to share this view. She knew that a great deal
of her husband's money went into mysterious channels of which she was
unable to trace the ends, and concluded in her Victorian-wife kind of
fashion, or at any rate hoped, that it was spent in alleviating the
distress of the "Submerged Tenth" which at that time was much in
evidence. Hence no doubt the gracious recognition that had come to
him. John Blake himself, who paid over the cash, naturally had no such
delusions, and unfortunately in that moment of exultation, when he
contemplated his own name adorning the lists in every newspaper, let
out the truth at breakfast at which Isobel was his sole companion. For
by this time Lady Jane had grown too delicate to come down early.
"Well, you've got a baronet for a father now, my girl"--to be accurate
he called it a "bart."--he said puffing himself out like a great toad
before the fire, as he threw down the /Daily News/ in which his name
was icily ignored in a spiteful leaderette about the Honours List,
upon the top of /The Times/, /The Standard/, and /The Morning Post/.
"Oh!" said Isobel in an interested voice and paused.
"It's wonderful what money can do," went on her father, who was
inclined for a discussion, and saw no other way of opening up the
subject. "Certain qualifications of which it does not become me to
speak, and a good subscription to the Party funds, and there you are
with Bart. instead of Esq. after your name and Sir before it. I wonder
when I shall get the Patent? You know baronets do not receive the
"Don't they?" commented Isobel. "Well, that saves the Queen some
trouble of which she must be glad as she does not get the
subscription. I know all about the accolade," she added; "for Godfrey
has told me. Only the other day he was showing me in the Abbey Church
where the warriors who were to receive it, knelt all night before the
altar. But they didn't give subscriptions, they prayed and afterwards
took a cold bath."
"Times are changed," he answered.
"Yes, of course. I can't see /you/ kneeling all night with a white
robe on, Father, in prayer before an altar. But tell me, would they
have made you a baronet if you hadn't given the subscription?"
Sir John chuckled till his great form shook--he had grown very stout
of late years.
"I think you are sharp enough to answer that question for yourself. I
have observed, Isobel, that you know as much of the world as most
young girls of your age."
"So you bought the thing," she exclaimed with a flash of her grey
eyes. "I thought that honours were given because they were earned."
"Did you?" said Sir John, chuckling again. "Well, now you know better.
Look here, Isobel, don't be a fool. Honours, or most of them, like
other things, are for those who can pay for them in this way or that.
Nobody bothers how they come so long as they /do/ come. Now, listen.
Unfortunately, as a girl, you can't inherit this title. But it doesn't
matter much, since it will be easy for you to get one for yourself."
Isobel turned red and uttered an exclamation, but enjoining silence on
her with a wave of his fat hand, her father went on:
"I haven't done so badly, my dear, considering my chances. I don't
mind telling you that I am a rich man now, indeed a very rich man as
things go, and I shall be much richer, for nothing pays like ships,
especially if you man them with foreign crews. Also I am a Bart," and
he pointed to the pile of newspapers on the floor, "and if my Party
gets in again, before long I shall be a Lord, which would make you an
Honourable. Anyway, my girl, although you ain't exactly a beauty,"
here he considered her with a critical eye, "you'll make a fine figure
of a woman and with your money, you should be able to get any husband
you like. What's more," and he banged his fist upon the table, "I
expect you to do it; that's your part of the family business. Do you
"I understand, Father, that you expect me to get any husband I like.
Well, I'll promise that."
"I think you ought to come into the office, you are so smart," replied
Sir John with sarcasm. "But don't you try it on me, for I'm smarter.
You know very well that I mean any husband /I/ like, when I say 'any
husband you like.' Now do you understand?"
"Yes," replied Isobel icily. "I understand that you want to buy me a
husband as you have bought a title. Well, titles and husbands are
alike in one thing; once taken you can never be rid of them day or
night. So I'll say at once, to save trouble afterwards, that I would
rather earn my living as a farm girl, and as for your money, Father,
you can do what you wish with it."
Then looking him straight in the eyes, she turned and left the room.
"An odd child!" thought Sir John to himself as he stared after her.
"Anyway, she has got spirit and no doubt will come all right in time
when she learns what's what."
THE PLANTAGENET LADY
In the course of these years of adolescence, Godfrey Knight had
developed into a rather unusual stamp of youth. In some ways he was
clever, for instance at the classics and history which he had always
liked; in others and especially where figures were concerned, he was
stupid, or as his father called him, idle. In company he was apt to be
shy and dull, unless some subject interested him, when to the
astonishment of those present, he would hold forth and show knowledge
and powers of reflection beyond his years. By nature he was intensely
proud; the one thing he never forgot was a rebuff, or forgave, was an
insult. Sir John Blake soon found this out, and not liking the lad,
whose character was antagonistic to his own in every way, never lost
an opportunity of what he called "putting him in his place," perhaps
because something warned him that this awkward, handsome boy would
become a stumbling-block to his successful feet.
Godfrey and Isobel were both great readers. Nor did they lack for
books, for as it chanced there was a good library at Hawk's Hall,
which had been formed by the previous owner and taken over like the
pictures, when Mr. Blake bought the house. Also it was added to
constantly, as an order was given to a large London bookseller to
supply all the important new works that came out. Although he never
opened a book himself, Sir John liked to appear intellectual by
displaying them about the rooms for the benefit of his visitors. These
publications Isobel read and lent to Godfrey; indeed they perused a
great deal which young people generally are supposed to leave alone,
and this in various schools of thought, including those that are known
It was seldom that such studies led to unanimity between them, but to
argument, which sharpened their intellects, they did lead, followed
invariably by a charitable agreement to differ.
About the time of the addition of the name of John Blake to the roll
of British Chivalry, a book on Mars came their way--it was one by a
speculative astronomer which suggests that the red planet is the home
of reasoning beings akin to humanity. Isobel read it and was not
impressed. Indeed, in the vigorous language of youth, she opined that
it was all "made-up rot."
Godfrey read it also and came to quite a different conclusion. The
idea fired him and opened a wide door in his imagination, a quality
with which he was well provided. He stared at Mars through the large
Hall telescope, and saw, or imagined that he saw the canals, also the
snow-caps and the red herbage. Isobel stared too and saw, or swore
that she saw--nothing at all--after which they argued until their
throats were dry.
"It's all nonsense," said Isobel. "If only you'll study the rocks and
biology, and Darwin's 'Origin of Species,' and lots of other things,
you will see how man came to develop on this planet. He is just an
accident of Nature, that's all."
"And why shouldn't there be an accident of Nature on Mars and
elsewhere?" queried Godfrey.
"Perhaps, but if so, it is quite another accident and has nothing to
do with us."
"I don't know," he answered. "Sometimes," here his voice became dreamy
as it had a way of doing, "I think that we pass on, all of us, from
star to star. At least I know I often feel as if I had done so."
"You mean from planet to planet, Godfrey; stars are hot places, you
know. You should not swallow all that theosophical bosh which is based
"There's the Bible," went on Godfrey, "which tells us the same thing,
that we live eternally----"
"Then we must always have lived, since eternity is a circle."
"Why not, Isobel? That is what I was trying to say. Well, if we live
eternally, we must live somewhere, perhaps in those planets, or
others, which it would be a waste to keep empty."
"I daresay--though Nature does not mind waste, or what seems to be
waste. But why should you think of living eternally at all? Many
people live a great deal too long as it is, and it is horrible to
believe that they go on for ever."
"You see they might grow to something splendid in the end, Isobel. You
must not judge them by what they are now."
"Oh! I know, the caterpillar and the butterfly, and all the rest of
"The Bible"--continued Godfrey imperturbably--when she cut him short.
"Well, what of the Bible? How do you know that it is true?"
"Because I do know it, though the truth in it may be different for
everyone. What is more, I know that one day you will agree with me."
She looked at him curiously in the flashing way that was peculiar to
her, for something in his tone and manner impressed her.
"Perhaps. I hope so, Godfrey, but at present I often feel as though I
believed in nothing, except that I am I and you are you, and my father
is--there he's calling me. Goodbye," and she was gone.
This particular conversation, one of many, had, as it happened,
important results on the lives of these two young creatures. Isobel,
in whom the love of Truth, however ugly it might be and however
destructive of hope, faith, charity and all the virtues, was a
burning, inbred passion, took to the secret study of theology in order
to find out why Godfrey was so convinced as to the teachings of the
Bible. She was not old or mellowed enough to understand that the real
reason must be discovered, not in the letter but in the spirit, that
is in the esoteric meaning of the sayings as to receiving the Kingdom
of Heaven like a child and the necessity of being born again.
Therefore with a fierce intensity, thrusting aside the spirit and its
promptings which perhaps are shadows of the only real truths, she
wrestled with the letter. She read the Divines, also much of the
Higher Criticism, the lives of Saints, the Sacred Books themselves and
many other things, only to arise bewildered, and to a great extent
"Why should I believe what I cannot prove?" she cried in her heart,
and once with her lips to Godfrey.
He made her a very wise answer, although at the moment it did not
strike either of them in that light.
"When you tell me of anything that you can really prove, I will show
you why," he said. To this he added a suggestion that was most unwise,
namely, that she should consult his father.
Now Mr. Knight was, it is true, a skilled theologian of a certain,
narrow school and learned in his way. It is probable, however, that in
all the wide world it would have been difficult to find any man less
sympathetic to a mind like Isobel's or more likely to antagonize her
eager and budding intelligence. Every doubt he met with intolerant
denial; every argument with offensive contradiction; every query with
references to texts.
Finally, he lost his temper, for be it acknowledged, that this girl
was persistent, far from humble, and in a way as dogmatic as himself.
He told her that she was not a Christian, and in her wrath she agreed
with him. He said that she had no right to be in church. She replied
that if this were so she would not come and, her father being
indifferent upon the point (Lady Jane did not count in such matters),
ceased her attendance. It was the old story of a strait-minded bigot
forcing a large-minded doubter out of the fold that ought to have been
wide enough for both of them. Moreover, this difference of opinion on
matters of public and spiritual interest ended in a private and
mundane animosity. Mr. Knight could never forgive a pupil of his own,
whose ability he recognized, who dared to question his pontifical
announcements. To him the matter was personal rather than one of
religious truth, for there are certain minds in whose crucibles
everything is resolved individually, and his was one of them. He was
the largest matters through his own special and highly-magnifying
spectacles. So, to be brief, they quarrelled once and for all, and
thenceforward never attempted to conceal their cordial dislike of each
Such was one result of this unlucky discussion as to the exact
conditions of the planet Mars, god of war. Another was that Godfrey
developed a strong interest in the study of the heavenly bodies and
when some domestic debate arose as to his future career, announced
with mild firmness that he intended to be an astronomer. His father,
to whom the heavenly bodies were less than the dust beneath his human
feet and who believed in his heart that they had been created, every
one of them, to give a certain amount of light to the inhabitants of
this world when there was no moon, was furious in his arctic fashion,
especially as he was aware that with a few distinguished exceptions,
these hosts of heaven did not reward their votaries with either wealth
"I intend you for my own profession, the Church," he said bluntly. "If
you choose to star-gaze in the intervals of your religious duties, it
is no affair of mine. But please understand, Godfrey, that either you
enter the Church or I wash my hands of you. In that event you may seek
your living in any way you like."
Godfrey remonstrated meekly to the effect that he had not made up his
mind as to his fitness for Holy Orders or his wish to undertake them.
"You mean," replied his father, "that you have been infected by that
pernicious girl, Isobel. Well, at any rate, I will remove you from her
evil influence. I am glad to say that owing to the fact that my little
school here has prospered, I am in a position to do this. I will send
you for a year to a worthy Swiss pastor whom I met as a delegate to
the recent Evangelical Congress, to learn French. He told me he
desired an English pupil to be instructed in that tongue and general
knowledge. I will write to him at once. I hope that in new
surroundings you will forget all these wild ideas and, after your
course at college, settle down to be a good and useful man in the walk
of life to which you are so clearly called."
Godfrey, who on such occasions knew how to be silent, made no answer,
although the attack upon Isobel provoked him sorely. In his heart
indeed he reflected that a year's separation from his parent would not
be difficult to bear, especially beneath the shadow of the Swiss
mountains which secretly he longed to climb. Also he really wished to
acquire French, being a lad with some desire for knowledge and
appreciation of its advantages. So he looked humble merely and took
the first opportunity to slip from the presence of the fierce little
man with small eyes, straight, sandy hair and a slit where his lips
should be, through whose agency, although it was hard to believe it,
he had appeared in this disagreeable and yet most interesting world.
In point of fact he had an assignation, of an innocent sort. Of course
it was with the "pernicious" Isobel and the place appointed was the
beautiful old Abbey Church. Here they knew that they would be
undisturbed, as Mr. Knight was to sleep at a county town twenty miles
away, where on the following morning he had business as the examiner
of a local Grammar School, and must leave at once to catch his train.
So, when watching from an upper window, he had seen the gig well on
the road, Godfrey departed to his tryst.
Arriving in the dim and beauteous old fane, the first thing he saw was
Isobel standing alone in the chancel, right in the heart of a shaft of
light that fell on her through the rich-coloured glass of the great
west window, for now it was late in the afternoon. She wore a very
unusual white garment that became her well, but had no hat on her
head. Perhaps this was because she had taken the fancy to do her
plentiful fair hair in the old Plantagenet fashion, that is in two
horns, which, with much ingenuity she had copied more or less
correctly from the brass of an ancient, noble lady, whereof the two
intended to take an impression. Also she had imitated some of the
other peculiarities of that picturesque costume, including the long,
hanging sleeves. In short, she wore a fancy dress which she proposed
to use afterwards at a dance, and one of the objects of the rubbing
they were about to make, was that she might study the details more
carefully. At least, that was her object. Godfrey's was to obtain an
impression of the crabbed inscription at the foot of the effigy.
There she stood, tall and imposing, her arms folded on her young
breast, the painted lights striking full on her broad, intellectual
forehead and large grey eyes, shining too in a patch of crimson above
her heart. Lost in thought and perfectly still, she looked strange
thus, almost unearthly, so much so that the impressionable and
imaginative Godfrey, seeing her suddenly from the shadow, halted,
startled and almost frightened.
What did she resemble? What might she not be? he queried to himself.
His quick mind suggested an answer. The ghost of some lady dead ages
since, killed, for there was the patch of blood upon her bosom,
standing above the tomb wherein her bones crumbled, and dreaming of
someone from whom she had been divorced by doom and violence.
He sickened a little at the thought; some dread fell upon him like a
shadow of Fate's uplifted and pointed finger, stopping his breath and
causing his knees to loosen. In a moment it was gone, to be replaced
by another that was nearer and more natural. He was to be sent away
for a year, and this meant that he would not see Isobel for a year. It
would be a very long year in which he did not see Isobel. He had
forgotten that when his father told him that he was to go to
Switzerland. Now the fact was painfully present.
He came on up the long nave and Isobel, awakening, saw him.
"You are late," she said in a softer voice than was usual to her.
"Well, I don't mind, for I have been dreaming. I think I went to sleep
upon my feet. I dreamed," she added, pointing to the brass, "that I
was that lady and--oh! all sorts of things. Well, she had her day no
doubt, and I mean to have mine before I am as dead and forgotten as
she is. Only I would like to be buried here. I'll be cremated and have
my ashes put under that stone; they won't hurt her."
"Don't talk like that," he said with a little shiver, for her words
jarred upon him.
"Why not? It is as well to face things. Look at all these monuments
about us, and inscriptions, a lot of them to young people, though now
it doesn't matter if they were old or young. Gone, every one of them
and quite forgotten, though some were great folk in their time. Gone
utterly and for always, nothing left, except perhaps descendants in a
labourer's cottage here and there who never even heard of them."
"I don't believe it," he said almost passionately, I believe that they
are living for ever and ever, perhaps as you and I, perhaps
"I wish I could," she answered, smiling, "for then my dream might have
been true, and you might have been that knight whose brass is lost,"
and she pointed to an empty matrix alongside that of the great
Godfrey glanced at the inscription which was left when the
Cromwellians tore up the brass.
"He was her husband," he said, translating, "who died on the field of
Crecy in 1346."
"Oh!" exclaimed Isobel, and was silent.
Meanwhile Godfrey, quite undisturbed, was spelling out the inscription
beneath the figure of the knight's wife, and remarked presently:
"She seems to have died a year before him. Yes, just after marriage,
the monkish Latin says, and--what is it? Oh! I see, '/in sanguine/,'
that is, in blood, whatever that may mean. Perhaps she was murdered. I
say, Isobel, I wish you would copy someone else's dress for your
"Nonsense," she answered. "I think its awfully interesting. I wonder
what happened to her."
"I don't know. I can't remember anything in the old history, and it
would be almost impossible to find out. There are no coats of arms,
and what is more, no surname is given in either inscription. The one
says, 'Pray for the soul of Edmundus, Knight, husband of Phillippa,
and the other, 'Pray for the soul of Phillippa, Dame, wife of
Edmundus.' It looks as though the surnames had been left out on
purpose, perhaps because of some queer story about the pair which
their relations wished to be forgotten."
"Then why do they say that one died in blood and the other on the
field of Crecy?"
Godfrey shook his head because he did not know. Nor indeed was he ever
able to find out. That secret was lost hundreds of years ago. Then the
conversation died away and they got to their work.
At length the rubbing, as it is termed technically, was finished and
the two prepared to depart out of the gloom of the great church which
had gathered about them as the evening closed in. Solitary and small
they looked in it surrounded by all those mementoes of the dead,
enveloped as it were in the very atmosphere of death. Who has not felt
that atmosphere standing alone at nightfall in one of our ancient
English churches that embody in baptism, marriage and burial the
hopes, the desires, and the fears of unnumbered generations?
For remember, that in a majority of instances, long before the Cross
rose above these sites, they had been the sacred places of faith after
faith. Sun-worshippers, Nature-worshippers, Druids, votaries of Jove
and Venus, servants of Odin, Thor and Friga, early Christians who were
half one thing and half another, all have here bowed their brows to
earth in adoration of God as they understood Him, and in these
hallowed spots lies mingled the dust of every one of them.
So Godfrey felt in that hour and the same influences impinged upon and
affected even the girl's bold, denying soul. She acknowledged them to
herself, and after a woman's way, turned and almost fiercely laid the
blame upon her companion.
"You have infected me with your silly superstitions," she said,
stamping her foot as they shut and locked the door of the church. "I
feel afraid of something, I don't know what, and I was never afraid of
"What superstitions?" he asked, apologetically. "I don't remember
"There is no need for you to mention them, they ooze out of you. As
though I could not read your mind! There's no need for you to talk to
tell me what you are thinking of, death--and separations which are as
bad, and unknown things to come, and all sorts of horrors."
"That's odd," he remarked, still without emotion, for he was used to
these attacks from Isobel which, as he knew, when she was upset,
always meant anything but what she said, "for as a matter of fact I
was thinking of a separation. I am going away, Isobel, or rather, my
father is sending me away."
He turned, and pointing to the stormy western sky where the day died
in splendour, added simply in the poetic imagery that so often springs
to the lips of youth:
"There sets our sun; at least it is the last we shall look upon
together for a whole year. You go to London to-morrow, don't you?
Before you come back I shall be gone."
"Gone! Why? Where? Oh! what's the use of asking? I knew something of
the sort was coming. I felt it in that horrible old church. And after
all, why should I mind? What does it matter if you go away for a year
or ten years--except that you are the only friend I have--especially
as no doubt you are glad to get out of this dreadful hole? Don't stand
there looking at me like a moon-calf, whatever that may be, but tell
me what you mean, or I'll, I'll----" and she stopped.
Then he told her--well, not quite everything, for he omitted his
father's disparaging remarks about herself.
She listened in her intent fashion, and filled in the gaps without
"I see," she said. "Your father thinks that I am corrupting you about
religion, as though anybody could corrupt you when you have got an
idea into your stupid head; at least, on those subjects. Oh! I hate
him, worse even than I do my own, worse than you do yourself."
Godfrey, thinking aloud, began to quote the Fourth Commandment. She
cut him short:
"Honour my father!" she said. "Why should we honour our fathers unless
they are worthy of honour? What have we to thank them for?"
"Life," suggested Godfrey.
"Why? You believe that life comes from God, and so do I in a way. If
so, what has a father to do with it who is just a father and no more?
With mothers perhaps it is different, but you see I love my mother and
he treats her like--like a dog, or worse," and her grey eyes filled
with tears. "However, it is your father we are talking of, and there
is no commandment telling me to honour /him/. I say I hate him and he
hates me, and that's why he is sending you away. Well, I hope you
won't find anyone to contaminate you in Switzerland."
"Oh! Isobel, Isobel," he broke out, "don't be so bitter, especially as
it is of no use. Besides after all you have got everything that a girl
can have--money and position and looks----"
"Looks!" she exclaimed, seizing on the last word, "when you know I am
as ugly as a toad."
He stared at her.
"I don't know it; I think you beautiful."
"Wait till you see someone else and you will change your mind," she
"And you are going to come out," he went on hastily.
"Yes, at a fancy ball in this Plantagenet lady's dress, but I almost
wish I was--to go out instead--like her."
"And I daresay you will soon be married," he blurted, losing his head
for she bewildered him.
"Married! Oh! you idiot. Do you know what marriage means--to a woman?
Married! I can bear no more of this. Goodbye," and turning she walked,
or rather ran into the darkness, leaving him amazed and alone.
This was the last time that Godfrey spoke with Isobel for a long
while. Next morning he received a note addressed in her clear and
peculiar writing, which from the angular formation of the letters and
their regularity, at a distance looked not unlike a sheet of figures.
It was short and ran:--
Dear Old Godfrey,--Don't be vexed with me because I was so cross
this evening. Something in that old church upset me, and you know
I have a dreadful temper. I didn't mean anything I said. I daresay
it is a good thing you should go away and see the world instead of
sticking in this horrid place. Leave your address with Mother
Parsons, and I will write to you; but mind you answer my letters
or I shan't write any more. Good-bye, old boy.
Who is always thinking of you.
P.S.--I'll get this to the Abbey with your milk. Can't leave it
myself, as we are starting for town at half-past seven to-morrow
morning to catch the early train.
THE GARDEN IN THE SQUARE
As it chanced Godfrey did see Isobel once more before he left England.
It was arranged that he was to leave Charing Cross for Switzerland
early on a certain Wednesday morning. Late on the Tuesday afternoon,
Mr. Knight brought the lad to the Charing Cross Hotel. There, having
taken his ticket and made all other necessary arrangements, he left
him, returning himself to Essex by the evening train. Their farewell
was somewhat disconcerting, at any rate to the mind of the youth.
His father retired with him to his room at the top of the hotel, and
there administered a carefully prepared lecture which touched upon
every point of the earnest Christian's duty, ending up with
admonitions on the dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and
a strong caution against frivolous, unbelieving and evil-disposed
persons, especially such as were young, good-looking and wore
"Woman," said Mr. Knight, "is the great danger of man. She is the
Devil's favourite bait, at least to some natures of which I fear yours
is one, though that is strange, as I may say that on the whole I have
always disliked the sex, and I married for other reasons than those
which are supposed to be common. Woman," he went on, warming to his
topic, "although allowed upon the world as a necessary evil, is a
painted snare, full of [he meant baited with] guile. You will remember
that the first woman, in her wicked desire to make him as bad as
herself, tempted Adam until he ate the apple, no doubt under threats
of estranging herself from him if he did not, and all the results that
came from her iniquity, one of which is that men have had to work hard
Here Godfrey reflected that there was someone behind who tempted the
woman, also that it is better to work than to sit in a garden in
eternal idleness, and lastly, that a desire for knowledge is natural
and praiseworthy. Had Isobel been in his place she would have advanced
these arguments, probably in vigorous and pointed language, but,
having learnt something of Adam's lesson, he was wiser and held his
"There is this peculiarity about women," continued his parent, "which
I beg you always to remember. It is that when you think she is doing
what you want and that she loves you, you are doing what she wants and
really she only loves herself. Therefore you must never pay attention
to her soft words, and especially beware of her tears which are her
strongest weapon given to her by the father of deceit to enable her to
make fools of men. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said Godfrey, with hesitation, "but----" this burst from him
involuntarily, "but, Father, if you have always avoided women, as you
say, how do you know all this about them?"
For a moment Mr. Knight was staggered. Then he rose to the occasion.
"I know it, Godfrey, by observing the effect of their arts on others,
as I have done frequently."
A picture rose in Godfrey's mind of his father with his eye to
keyholes, or peering through fences with wide-open ears, but wisely he
did not pursue the subject.
"My son," continued and ended Mr. Knight, "I have watched you closely
and I am sure that your weakness lies this way. Woman is and always
will be the sin that doth so easily beset you. Even as a child you
loved Mrs. Parsons much more than you did me, because, although old
and unsightly, she is still female. When you left your home this
morning for the first time, who was it that you grieved to part from?
Not your companions, the other boys, but Mrs. Parsons again, whom I
found you embracing in that foolish fashion, yes, and mingling your
tears with hers, of which at your age you should be ashamed. Indeed I
believe that you feel being separated from that garrulous person, who
is but a servant, more than you do from me, your father."
Here he waited for Godfrey's contradiction, but as none came, went on
with added acerbity:
"Of that /anguis in herba/, that viper, Isobel, who turns the pure
milk of the Word to poison and bites the hand that fed her, I will say
nothing, nothing," (here Godfrey reflected that Isobel would have been
better described as a lion in the path rather than as a snake in the
grass) "except that I rejoice that you are to be separated from her,
and I strictly forbid any communication between you and her, bold,
godless and revolutionary as she is. I had rather see any man for
whose welfare I cared, married to a virtuous and pious-minded
housemaid, than to this young lady, as she is called, with all her
wealth and position, who would eat out his soul with her acid unbelief
and turn the world upside down to satisfy her fancy. Now I must go or
I shall miss my train. Here is a present for you, of which I direct
you to read a chapter every day," and he produced out of a brown paper
parcel a large French Bible. "It will both do you good and improve
your knowledge of the French tongue. I especially commend your
attention to certain verses in Proverbs dealing with the dangers on
which I have touched, that I have marked with a blue pencil. Do you
"Yes, Father. Solomon wrote Proverbs, didn't he?"
"It is believed so and his wide--experience--gives a special value to
his counsel. You will write to me once a week, and when you have had
your dinner get to bed at once. On no account are you to go out into
the streets. Goodbye."
Then he planted a frosty kiss upon Godfrey's brow and departed,
leaving that youth full of reflections, but to tell the truth,
Shortly afterwards Godfrey descended to the coffee-room and ate his
dinner. Here it was that the universal temptress against whom he had
been warned so urgently, put in a first appearance in the person of a
pleasant and elderly lady who was seated alongside of him. Noting this
good-looking and lonely lad, she began to talk to him, and being a
woman of the world, soon knew all about him, his name, who he was,
whither he was going, etc. When she found out that it was to Lucerne,
or rather its immediate neighbourhood, she grew quite interested,
since, as it happened, she--her name was Miss Ogilvy--had a house
there where she was accustomed to spend most of the year. Indeed, she
was returning by the same train that Godfrey was to take on the
"We shall be travelling companions," she said when she had explained
"I am afraid not," he answered, glancing at the many evidences of
wealth upon her person. "You see," he added colouring, "I am going
second and have to spend as little as possible. Indeed I have brought
some food with me in a basket so that I shall not need to buy any
meals at the stations."
Miss Ogilvy was touched, but laughed the matter off in her charming
way, saying that he would have to be careful that the Custom-house
officers did not think he was smuggling something in his basket, and
as she knew them all must look to her to help him if he got into
difficulties on the journey. Then she went on chatting and drawing him
out, and what is more, made him take several glasses of some delicious
white wine she was drinking. It was not very strong wine, but except
for a little small beer, practically Godfrey had been brought up as a
teetotaller for economy's sake, and it went to his head. He became
rather effusive; he told her of Sir John Blake about whom she seemed
to know everything already, and something of his friendship with
Isobel, who, he added, was coming out that very night at a fancy dress
ball in London.
"I know," said Miss Ogilvy, "at the de Lisles' in Grosvenor Square. I
was asked to it, but could not go as I am starting to-morrow."
Then she rose and said "Good-night," bidding him be sure not to be
late for the train, as she would want him to help her with her
So off she went looking very charming and gracious, although she was
over forty, and leaving Godfrey quite flattered by her attention.
Not knowing what to do he put on his hat and, walking across the
station yard, took his stand by a gateway pillar and watched the tide
of London life roll by. There he remained for nearly an hour, since
the strange sight fascinated him who had never been in town before,
the object of some attention from a policeman, although of this he was
unaware. Also some rather odd ladies spoke to him from time to time
which he thought kind of them, although they smelt so peculiar and
seemed to have paint upon their faces. In answer to the inquiries of
two of them as to his health he told them that he was very well. Also
he agreed cordially with a third as to the extreme fineness of the
night, and assured a fourth that he had no wish to take a walk as he
was shortly going to bed, a statement which caused her to break into
It was at this point that the doubting policeman suggested that he
should move on.
"Where to?" asked Godfrey of that officer of the law.
"To 'ell if you like," he replied. Then struck with curiosity, he
inquired, "Where do you want to go to? This pillar ain't a leaning
Godfrey considered the matter and said with the verve of slight
"Only two places appeal to me at present, heaven (not hell as you
suggested), and Grosvenor Square. Perhaps, however, they are the same;
at any rate, there is an angel in both of them."
The policeman stared at him but could find no fault with the perfect
sobriety of his appearance.
"Young luny, I suspect," he muttered to himself, then said aloud:
"Well, the Strand doesn't lead to 'eaven so far as I have noticed,
rather t'other way indeed. But if you want Grosvenor Square, it's over
there," and he waved his hand vaguely towards the west.
"Thank you," said Godfrey, taking off his hat with much politeness.
"If that is so, I will leave heaven to itself for the present and
content myself with Grosvenor Square."
Off he started in the direction indicated, and, as it seemed to him,
walked for many miles through a long and bewildering series of
brilliant streets, continually seeking new information as to his goal.
The end of it was that at about a quarter to eleven he found himself
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Edgware Road, utterly stranded
as it were, since his mind seemed incapable of appreciating further
indications of locality.
"Look here, young man," said a breezy costermonger to whom he had
appealed, "I think you had better take a 'ansom for the 'orse will
know more about London than you seem to do. There's one 'andy."
"That is an idea," said Godfrey, and entered the cab, giving the
address of Grosvenor Square.
"What number?" asked the driver.
"I don't know," replied Godfrey, "the Ball, Grosvenor Square."
Off they went, and in due course, reaching the square, drove round it
until they came to a great house where there were signs of festivity
in the shape of an awning above the entrance and a carpet on the
The cab stopped with a jerk and a voice from above--never having been
in a hansom before, at first Godfrey could not locate it--exclaimed:
"Here's your Ball, young gent. Now you'd better hop out and dance."
His fare began to explain the situation through the little trap in the
roof, demonstrating to the Jehu that his object was to observe the
ball from without, not to dance at it within, and that it was
necessary for him to drive on a little further. That worthy grew
"Blowed if I don't believe you're a bilk," he shouted through the
hole. "Here, you pay me my fare and hook it, young codger."
Godfrey descended and commenced a search for money, only to remember
that he had left his purse in his bag at the hotel. This also he
explained with many apologies to the infuriated cabby, two gorgeous
flunkeys who by now had arrived to escort him into the house, and a
group of idlers who had collected round the door.
"I told yer he was a bilk. You look after your spoons, Thomas; I
expect that's wot he's come for. Now you find that bob, Sonny, or I
fetches the perlice."
Then an inspiration flashed on Godfrey's bewildered mind. Suddenly he
recollected that, by the direction of heaven, Mrs. Parsons had sewn a
ten shilling piece into the lining of his waistcoat, "in case he
should ever want any money sudden-like." He undid that garment and
heedless of the mockery of the audience, began to feel wildly at its
interior calico. Joy! there it was in the lefthand corner.
"I have money here if only I can get it out," he gasped.
A woman in the gathering crowd, perhaps from pity, or curiosity, in
the most unexpected way produced a pair of scissors from her pocket
with which he began to hack at the waistcoat, gashing it sadly. At
length the job was done and the half-sovereign appeared wrapped in a
piece of cotton wool.
"Take it," said Godfrey, "and go away. Let it teach you to have more
trust in your fellow creatures, Mr. Cabman."
The man seized the coin, examined it by the light of his lamp, tasted
it, bit it, threw it on the top of the cab to see that it rang true,
then with a "Well, I'm blowed!" whipped up his horse and went off.
Godfrey followed his example, as the flunkeys and the audience
supposed to recover his change, though the last thing he was thinking
of at that moment was change--except of locality. He ran a hundred
yards or more to a part of the square where there was no lamp, then
paused to consider.
"I have made a fool of myself," he reflected, "as Isobel always says I
do when I get the chance. I have come all this way and been abused and
laughed at for nothing."
Then his native determination began to assert itself. Why should it be
for nothing? There was the house, and in it was Isobel, and oh! he
wanted to see her. He crossed to the square-garden side and walked
down in the shadow of the trees which grew there.
Under one of these he took his stand, squeezing himself against the
railings, and watched the glowing house that was opposite, from which
came the sounds of music, of dancing feet, of laughter and the
tinkling of glasses. It had balconies, and on these appeared people
dressed in all sorts of costumes. Among them he tried to recognise
Isobel, but could not. Either she did not come or he was too far off
to see her.
A dance was ending, the music grew faster and faster, then ceased with
a flourish. More people appeared on the balconies. Others crowded into
the hall, which he could see, for the door was open. Presently a pair
came onto the steps. One of them was dressed as a knight in shining
armour. He was a fine, tall young man, and his face was handsome, as
the watcher could perceive, for he had taken off his plumed helm and
carried it in his hand. The other was Isobel in her Plantagenet
costume, to which were added one rose and a necklet of pink pearls.
They stood on the steps a little while laughing and talking. Then he
heard her say:
"Let us go into the square. It will be cooler. The key is hanging on
She vanished for a moment, doubtless to fetch the key. Then they
walked down the steps, over the spread carpet, and across the roadway.
Within three paces of where Godfrey stood there was a gate. She gave
the key to the knight, and after one or two attempts the gate swung
open. Whilst he was fumbling at the lock she stood looking about her,
and presently caught sight of Godfrey's slim figure crouched against
the railings in the deepest of the shadows.
"There is someone there, Lord Charles," she said.
"Is there?" he answered, indifferently. "A cab-tout or a beggar, I
expect. They always hang about parties. Come on, it is open at last."
They passed into the garden and vanished. A wild jealousy seized
Godfrey, and he slipped after them with the intention of revealing
himself to Isobel. Inside the railings was a broad belt of shrubs
bordered by a gravel path. The pair walked along the path, Godfrey
following at a distance, till they came to a recessed seat on which
they sat down. He halted behind a lilac bush ten paces or so away, not
that he wanted to listen, but because he was ashamed to show himself.
Indeed, he stopped his ears with his fingers that he might not
overhear their talk. But he did not shut his eyes, and as the path
curved here and the moon shone on them, he could see them well. They
seemed very merry and to be playing some game.
At any rate, first with her finger she counted the air-holes in the
knight's helmet which he held up to her. Then with his finger he
counted the pearls upon her neck. When he had finished she clapped her
hands as though she had won a bet. After this they began to whisper to
each other, at least he whispered and she smiled and shook her head.
Finally, she seemed to give way, for she unfastened the flower which
she wore in the breast of her dress, and presented to him. Godfrey
started at the sight which caused him to take his fingers from his
ears and clutch the bush. A dry twig broke with a loud crack.
"What's that?" said Isobel.
"Don't know," answered Lord Charles. "What a funny girl you are,
always seeing and hearing things. A stray cat, I expect; London
squares are full of them. Now I have won my lady's favour and she must
fasten it to my helm after the ancient fashion."
"Can't," said Isobel. "There are no pins in Plantagenet dresses."
"Then I must do it for myself. Kiss it first, that was the rule, you
"Very well," said Isobel. "We must keep up the game, and there are
worse things to kiss than roses."
He held the flower to her and she bent forward to touch it with her
lips. Suddenly he did the same, and their lips came very close
together on either side of the rose.
This was too much for Godfrey. He glided forward, as the stray cat
might have done, of which the fine knight had spoken, meaning to
Then he remembered suddenly that he had no right to interfere; that it
was no affair of his with whom Isobel chose to kiss roses in a garden,
and that he was doing a mean thing in spying upon her. So he halted
behind another bush, but not without noise. His handsome young face
was thrust forward, and on it were written grief, surprise and shame.
The moonlight caught it, but nothing else of him. Isobel looked up and
He knew that she had seen and turning, slipped away into the darkness
back to the gate. As he went he heard the knight called Lord Charles,
"What's the matter with you?" and Isobel answer, "Nothing. I have seen
a ghost, that's all. It's this horrible dress!"
He glanced back and saw her rise, snatch the rose from the knight's
hand, throw it down and stamp upon it. Then he saw and heard no more
for he was through the gate and running down the square. At its end,
as he turned into some street, he was surprised to hear a gruff voice
calling to him to stop. On looking up he saw that it came from his
enemy, the hansom-cab man, who was apparently keeping a lookout on the
square from his lofty perch.
"Hi! young sir," he said, "I've been watching for you and thinking of
wot you said to me. You gave me half a quid, you did. Jump in and I'll
drive you wherever you want to go, for my fare was only a bob."
"I have no more money," replied Godfrey, "for you kept the change."
"I wasn't asking for none," said the cabby. "Hop in and name where it
is to be."
Godfrey told him and presently was being rattled back to the Charing
Cross Hotel, which they reached a little later. He got out of the cab
to go into the hotel when once again the man addressed him.
"I owe you something," he said, and tendered the half-sovereign.
"I have no change," said Godfrey.
"Nor 'ain't I," said the cabman, "and if I had I wouldn't give it you.
I played a dirty trick on you and a dirtier one still when I took your
half sov, I did, seeing that I ought to have known that you ere just
an obfusticated youngster and no bilk as I called you to them
flunkeys. What you said made me ashamed, though I wouldn't own it
before the flunkeys. So I determined to pay you back if I could, since
otherwise I shouldn't have slept well to-night. Now we're quits, and
goodbye, and do you always think kindly of Thomas Sims, though I don't
suppose I shall drive you no more in this world."
"Goodbye, Mr. Sims," said Godfrey, who was touched. Moreover Mr. Sims
seemed to be familiar to him, at the moment he could not remember how,
The man wheeled his cab round, whipping the horse which was a spirited
animal, and started at a fast pace.
Godfrey, looking after him, heard a crash as he emerged from the
gates, and ran to see what was the matter. He found the cab overturned
and the horse with a 'bus pole driven deep into its side, kicking on
the pavement. Thomas Sims lay beneath the cab. When the police and
others dragged him clear, he was quite dead!
Godfrey went to bed that night a very weary and chastened youth, for
never before had he experienced so many emotions in a few short hours.
Moreover, he could not sleep well. Nightmares haunted him in which he
was being hunted and mocked by a jeering crowd, until Sims arrived and
rescued him in the cab. Only it was the dead Sims that drove with
staring eyes and fallen jaw, and the side of the horse was torn open.
Next he saw Isobel and the Knight in Armour, who kept pace on either
side of the ghostly cab and mocked at him, tossing roses to each other
as they sped along, until finally his father appeared, called Isobel a
young serpent, at which she laughed loudly, and bore off Sims to be
buried in the vault with the Plantagenet lady at Monk's Acre.
Godfrey woke up shaking with fear, wet with perspiration, and
reflected earnestly on his latter end, which seemed to be at hand. If
that great, burly, raucous-voiced Sims had died so suddenly, why
should not he, Godfrey?
He wondered where Sims had gone to, and what he was doing now.
Explaining the matter of the half-sovereign to St. Peter, perhaps, and
hoping humbly that it and others would be overlooked, "since after all
he had done the right thing by the young gent."
Poor Sims, he was sorry for him, but it might have been worse. /He/
might have been in the cab himself and now be offering explanations of
his own as to a wild desire to kill that knight in armour, and Isobel
as well. Oh! what a fool he had been. What business was it of his if
Isobel chose to give roses to some friend of hers at a dance? She was
not his property, but only a girl with whom he chanced to have been
brought up, and who found him a pleasant companion when there was no
one else at hand.
By nature, as has been recorded, Godfrey was intensely proud, and then
and there he made a resolution that he would have nothing more to do
with Isobel. Never again would he hang about the skirts of that fine
and rich young lady, who on the night that he was going away could
give roses to another man, just because he was a lord and good-looking
--yes, and kiss them too. His father was quite right about women, and
he would take his advice to the letter, and begin to study Proverbs
forthwith, especially the marked passages.
Having come to this conclusion, and thus eased his troubled mind, he
went to sleep in good earnest, for he was very tired. The next thing
of which he became aware was that someone was hammering at the door,
and calling out that a lady downstairs said he must get up at once if
he meant to be in time. He looked at his watch, a seven-and-sixpenny
article that he had been given off a Christmas tree at Hawk's Hall,
and observed, with horror, that he had just ten minutes in which to
dress, pack, and catch the train. Somehow he did it, for fortunately
his bill had been paid. Always in after days a tumultuous vision
remained in his mind of himself, a long, lank youth with unbrushed
hair and unbuttoned waistcoat, carrying a bag and a coat, followed by
an hotel porter with his luggage, rushing wildly down an interminable
platform with his ticket in his teeth towards an already moving train.
At an open carriage door stood a lady in whom he recognized Miss
Ogilvy, who was imploring the guard to hold the train.
"Can't do it, ma'am, any longer," said the guard, between blasts of
his whistle and wavings of his green flag. "It's all my place is worth
to delay the Continental Express for more than a minute. Thank you
kindly, ma'am. Here he comes," and the flag paused for a few seconds.
"In you go, young gentleman."
A heave, a struggle, an avalanche of baggage, and Godfrey found
himself in the arms of Miss Ogilvy in a reserved first-class carriage.
From those kind supporting arms he slid gently and slowly to the
"Well," said that lady, contemplating him with his back resting
against a portmanteau, "you cut things rather fine."
Still seated on the floor, Godfrey pulled out his watch and looked at
it, then remarked that eleven minutes before he was fast asleep in
"I thought as much," she said severely, "and that's why I told the
maid to see if you had been called, which I daresay you forgot to
arrange for yourself."
"I did," admitted Godfrey, rising and buttoning his waistcoat. "I have
had a very troubled night; all sorts of things happened to me."
"What have you been doing?" asked Miss Ogilvy, whose interest was
Then Godfrey, whose bosom was bursting, told her all, and the story
lasted most of the way to Dover.
"You poor boy," she said, when he had finished, "you poor boy!"