Part 3 out of 5
'I am sure it lies in no other.'
'Do you want to go, Shadrach?'
'Not for the pleasure of it, I can tell 'ee. There's no such
pleasure at sea, Joanna, as I can find in my back parlour here. To
speak honest, I have no love for the brine. I never had much. But
if it comes to a question of a fortune for you and the lads, it is
another thing. That's the only way to it for one born and bred a
seafarer as I.'
'Would it take long to earn?'
'Well, that depends; perhaps not.'
The next morning Shadrach pulled from a chest of drawers the nautical
jacket he had worn during the first months of his return, brushed out
the moths, donned it, and walked down to the quay. The port still
did a fair business in the Newfoundland trade, though not so much as
It was not long after this that he invested all he possessed in
purchasing a part-ownership in a brig, of which he was appointed
captain. A few months were passed in coast-trading, during which
interval Shadrach wore off the land-rust that had accumulated upon
him in his grocery phase; and in the spring the brig sailed for
Joanna lived on at home with her sons, who were now growing up into
strong lads, and occupying themselves in various ways about the
harbour and quay.
'Never mind, let them work a little,' their fond mother said to
herself. 'Our necessities compel it now, but when Shadrach comes
home they will be only seventeen and eighteen, and they shall be
removed from the port, and their education thoroughly taken in hand
by a tutor; and with the money they'll have they will perhaps be as
near to gentlemen as Emmy Lester's precious two, with their algebra
and their Latin!'
The date for Shadrach's return drew near and arrived, and he did not
appear. Joanna was assured that there was no cause for anxiety,
sailing-ships being so uncertain in their coming; which assurance
proved to be well grounded, for late one wet evening, about a month
after the calculated time, the ship was announced as at hand, and
presently the slip-slop step of Shadrach as the sailor sounded in the
passage, and he entered. The boys had gone out and had missed him,
and Joanna was sitting alone.
As soon as the first emotion of reunion between the couple had
passed, Jolliffe explained the delay as owing to a small speculative
contract, which had produced good results.
'I was determined not to disappoint 'ee,' he said; 'and I think
you'll own that I haven't!'
With this he pulled out an enormous canvas bag, full and rotund as
the money-bag of the giant whom Jack slew, untied it, and shook the
contents out into her lap as she sat in her low chair by the fire. A
mass of sovereigns and guineas (there were guineas on the earth in
those days) fell into her lap with a sudden thud, weighing down her
gown to the floor.
'There!' said Shadrach complacently. 'I told 'ee, dear, I'd do it;
and have I done it or no?'
Somehow her face, after the first excitement of possession, did not
retain its glory.
'It is a lot of gold, indeed,' she said. 'And--is this ALL?'
'All? Why, dear Joanna, do you know you can count to three hundred
in that heap? It is a fortune!'
'Yes--yes. A fortune--judged by sea; but judged by land--'
However, she banished considerations of the money for the nonce.
Soon the boys came in, and next Sunday Shadrach returned thanks to
God--this time by the more ordinary channel of the italics in the
General Thanksgiving. But a few days after, when the question of
investing the money arose, he remarked that she did not seem so
satisfied as he had hoped.
'Well you see, Shadrach,' she answered, 'WE count by hundreds; THEY
count by thousands' (nodding towards the other side of the Street).
'They have set up a carriage and pair since you left.'
'O, have they?'
'My dear Shadrach, you don't know how the world moves. However,
we'll do the best we can with it. But they are rich, and we are poor
The greater part of a year was desultorily spent. She moved sadly
about the house and shop, and the boys were still occupying
themselves in and around the harbour.
'Joanna,' he said, one day, 'I see by your movements that it is not
'It is not enough,' said she. 'My boys will have to live by steering
the ships that the Lesters own; and I was once above her!'
Jolliffe was not an argumentative man, and he only murmured that he
thought he would make another voyage.
He meditated for several days, and coming home from the quay one
afternoon said suddenly:
'I could do it for 'ee, dear, in one more trip, for certain, if--if--
'Do what, Shadrach?'
'Enable 'ee to count by thousands instead of hundreds.'
'If I might take the boys.'
She turned pale.
'Don't say that, Shadrach,' she answered hastily.
'I don't like to hear it! There's danger at sea. I want them to be
something genteel, and no danger to them. I couldn't let them risk
their lives at sea. O, I couldn't ever, ever!'
'Very well, dear, it shan't be done.'
Next day, after a silence, she asked a question:
'If they were to go with you it would make a great deal of
difference, I suppose, to the profit?'
''Twould treble what I should get from the venture single-handed.
Under my eye they would be as good as two more of myself.'
Later on she said: 'Tell me more about this.'
'Well, the boys are almost as clever as master-mariners in handling a
craft, upon my life! There isn't a more cranky place in the Northern
Seas than about the sandbanks of this harbour, and they've practised
here from their infancy. And they are so steady. I couldn't get
their steadiness and their trustworthiness in half a dozen men twice
'And is it VERY dangerous at sea; now, too, there are rumours of
war?' she asked uneasily.
'O, well, there be risks. Still . . . '
The idea grew and magnified, and the mother's heart was crushed and
stifled by it. Emmy was growing TOO patronizing; it could not be
borne. Shadrach's wife could not help nagging him about their
comparative poverty. The young men, amiable as their father, when
spoken to on the subject of a voyage of enterprise, were quite
willing to embark; and though they, like their father, had no great
love for the sea, they became quite enthusiastic when the proposal
Everything now hung upon their mother's assent. She withheld it
long, but at last gave the word: the young men might accompany their
father. Shadrach was unusually cheerful about it: Heaven had
preserved him hitherto, and he had uttered his thanks. God would not
forsake those who were faithful to him.
All that the Jolliffes possessed in the world was put into the
enterprise. The grocery stock was pared down to the least that
possibly could afford a bare sustenance to Joanna during the absence,
which was to last through the usual 'New-f'nland spell.' How she
would endure the weary time she hardly knew, for the boys had been
with her formerly; but she nerved herself for the trial.
The ship was laden with boots and shoes, ready-made clothing,
fishing-tackle, butter, cheese, cordage, sailcloth, and many other
commodities; and was to bring back oil, furs, skins, fish,
cranberries, and what else came to hand. But much trading to other
ports was to be undertaken between the voyages out and homeward, and
thereby much money made.
The brig sailed on a Monday morning in spring; but Joanna did not
witness its departure. She could not bear the sight that she had
been the means of bringing about. Knowing this, her husband told her
overnight that they were to sail some time before noon next day hence
when, awakening at five the next morning, she heard them bustling
about downstairs, she did not hasten to descend, but lay trying to
nerve herself for the parting, imagining they would leave about nine,
as her husband had done on his previous voyage. When she did descend
she beheld words chalked upon the sloping face of the bureau; but no
husband or sons. In the hastily-scrawled lines Shadrach said they
had gone off thus not to pain her by a leave-taking; and the sons had
chalked under his words: 'Good-bye, mother!'
She rushed to the quay, and looked down the harbour towards the blue
rim of the sea, but she could only see the masts and bulging sails of
the Joanna; no human figures. ''Tis I have sent them!' she said
wildly, and burst into tears. In the house the chalked 'Good-bye'
nearly broke her heart. But when she had re-entered the front room,
and looked across at Emily's, a gleam of triumph lit her thin face at
her anticipated release from the thraldom of subservience.
To do Emily Lester justice, her assumption of superiority was mainly
a figment of Joanna's brain. That the circumstances of the
merchant's wife were more luxurious than Joanna's, the former could
not conceal; though whenever the two met, which was not very often
now, Emily endeavoured to subdue the difference by every means in her
The first summer lapsed away; and Joanna meagrely maintained herself
by the shop, which now consisted of little more than a window and a
counter. Emily was, in truth, her only large customer; and Mrs.
Lester's kindly readiness to buy anything and everything without
questioning the quality had a sting of bitterness in it, for it was
the uncritical attitude of a patron, and almost of a donor. The long
dreary winter moved on; the face of the bureau had been turned to the
wall to protect the chalked words of farewell, for Joanna could never
bring herself to rub them out; and she often glanced at them with wet
eyes. Emily's handsome boys came home for the Christmas holidays;
the University was talked of for them; and still Joanna subsisted as
it were with held breath, like a person submerged. Only one summer
more, and the 'spell' would end. Towards the close of the time Emily
called on her quondam friend. She had heard that Joanna began to
feel anxious; she had received no letter from husband or sons for
some months. Emily's silks rustled arrogantly when, in response to
Joanna's almost dumb invitation, she squeezed through the opening of
the counter and into the parlour behind the shop.
'YOU are all success, and _I_ am all the other way!' said Joanna.
'But why do you think so?' said Emily. 'They are to bring back a
fortune, I hear.'
'Ah! will they come? The doubt is more than a woman can bear. All
three in one ship--think of that! And I have not heard of them for
'But the time is not up. You should not meet misfortune half-way.'
'Nothing will repay me for the grief of their absence!'
'Then why did you let them go? You were doing fairly well.'
'I made them go!' she said, turning vehemently upon Emily. 'And I'll
tell you why! I could not bear that we should be only muddling on,
and you so rich and thriving! Now I have told you, and you may hate
me if you will!'
'I shall never hate you, Joanna.'
And she proved the truth of her words afterwards. The end of autumn
came, and the brig should have been in port; but nothing like the
Joanna appeared in the channel between the sands. It was now really
time to be uneasy. Joanna Jolliffe sat by the fire, and every gust
of wind caused her a cold thrill. She had always feared and detested
the sea; to her it was a treacherous, restless, slimy creature,
glorying in the griefs of women. 'Still,' she said, 'they MUST
She recalled to her mind that Shadrach had said before starting that
if they returned safe and sound, with success crowning their
enterprise, he would go as he had gone after his shipwreck, and kneel
with his sons in the church, and offer sincere thanks for their
deliverance. She went to church regularly morning and afternoon, and
sat in the most forward pew, nearest the chancel-step. Her eyes were
mostly fixed on that step, where Shadrach had knelt in the bloom of
his young manhood: she knew to an inch the spot which his knees had
pressed twenty winters before; his outline as he had knelt, his hat
on the step beside him. God was good. Surely her husband must kneel
there again: a son on each side as he had said; George just here,
Jim just there. By long watching the spot as she worshipped it
became as if she saw the three returned ones there kneeling; the two
slim outlines of her boys, the more bulky form between them; their
hands clasped, their heads shaped against the eastern wall. The
fancy grew almost to an hallucination: she could never turn her worn
eyes to the step without seeing them there.
Nevertheless they did not come. Heaven was merciful, but it was not
yet pleased to relieve her soul. This was her purgation for the sin
of making them the slaves of her ambition. But it became more than
purgation soon, and her mood approached despair. Months had passed
since the brig had been due, but it had not returned.
Joanna was always hearing or seeing evidences of their arrival. When
on the hill behind the port, whence a view of the open Channel could
be obtained, she felt sure that a little speck on the horizon,
breaking the eternally level waste of waters southward, was the truck
of the Joana's mainmast. Or when indoors, a shout or excitement of
any kind at the corner of the Town Cellar, where the High Street
joined the Quay, caused her to spring to her feet and cry: ''Tis
But it was not. The visionary forms knelt every Sunday afternoon on
the chancel-step, but not the real. Her shop had, as it were, eaten
itself hollow. In the apathy which had resulted from her loneliness
and grief she had ceased to take in the smallest supplies, and thus
had sent away her last customer.
In this strait Emily Lester tried by every means in her power to aid
the afflicted woman; but she met with constant repulses.
'I don't like you! I can't bear to see you!' Joanna would whisper
hoarsely when Emily came to her and made advances.
'But I want to help and soothe you, Joanna,' Emily would say.
'You are a lady, with a rich husband and fine sons! What can you
want with a bereaved crone like me!'
'Joanna, I want this: I want you to come and live in my house, and
not stay alone in this dismal place any longer.'
'And suppose they come and don't find me at home? You wish to
separate me and mine! No, I'll stay here. I don't like you, and I
can't thank you, whatever kindness you do me!'
However, as time went on Joanna could not afford to pay the rent of
the shop and house without an income. She was assured that all hope
of the return of Shadrach and his sons was vain, and she reluctantly
consented to accept the asylum of the Lesters' house. Here she was
allotted a room of her own on the second floor, and went and came as
she chose, without contact with the family. Her hair greyed and
whitened, deep lines channeled her forehead, and her form grew gaunt
and stooping. But she still expected the lost ones, and when she met
Emily on the staircase she would say morosely: 'I know why you've
got me here! They'll come, and be disappointed at not finding me at
home, and perhaps go away again; and then you'll be revenged for my
taking Shadrach away from 'ee!'
Emily Lester bore these reproaches from the grief-stricken soul. She
was sure--all the people of Havenpool were sure--that Shadrach and
his sons could not return. For years the vessel had been given up as
Nevertheless, when awakened at night by any noise, Joanna would rise
from bed and glance at the shop opposite by the light from the
flickering lamp, to make sure it was not they.
It was a damp and dark December night, six years after the departure
of the brig Joanna. The wind was from the sea, and brought up a
fishy mist which mopped the face like moist flannel. Joanna had
prayed her usual prayer for the absent ones with more fervour and
confidence than she had felt for months, and had fallen asleep about
eleven. It must have been between one and two when she suddenly
started up. She had certainly heard steps in the street, and the
voices of Shadrach and her sons calling at the door of the grocery
shop. She sprang out of bed, and, hardly knowing what clothing she
dragged on herself; hastened down Emily's large and carpeted
staircase, put the candle on the hall-table, unfastened the bolts and
chain, and stepped into the street. The mist, blowing up the street
from the Quay, hindered her seeing the shop, although it was so near;
but she had crossed to it in a moment. How was it? Nobody stood
there. The wretched woman walked wildly up and down with her bare
feet--there was not a soul. She returned and knocked with all her
might at the door which had once been her own--they might have been
admitted for the night, unwilling to disturb her till the morning.
It was not till several minutes had elapsed that the young man who
now kept the shop looked out of an upper window, and saw the skeleton
of something human standing below half-dressed.
'Has anybody come?' asked the form.
'O, Mrs. Jolliffe, I didn't know it was you,' said the young man
kindly, for he was aware how her baseless expectations moved her.
'No; nobody has come.'
THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR OF THE GERMAN LEGION
Here stretch the downs, high and breezy and green, absolutely
unchanged since those eventful days. A plough has never disturbed
the turf, and the sod that was uppermost then is uppermost now. Here
stood the camp; here are distinct traces of the banks thrown up for
the horses of the cavalry, and spots where the midden-heaps lay are
still to be observed. At night, when I walk across the lonely place,
it is impossible to avoid hearing, amid the scourings of the wind
over the grass-bents and thistles, the old trumpet and bugle calls,
the rattle of the halters; to help seeing rows of spectral tents and
the impedimenta of the soldiery. From within the canvases come
guttural syllables of foreign tongues, and broken songs of the
fatherland; for they were mainly regiments of the King's German
Legion that slept round the tent-poles hereabout at that time.
It was nearly ninety years ago. The British uniform of the period,
with its immense epaulettes, queer cocked-hat, breeches, gaiters,
ponderous cartridge-box, buckled shoes, and what not, would look
strange and barbarous now. Ideas have changed; invention has
followed invention. Soldiers were monumental objects then. A
divinity still hedged kings here and there; and war was considered a
Secluded old manor-houses and hamlets lie in the ravines and hollows
among these hills, where a stranger had hardly ever been seen till
the King chose to take the baths yearly at the sea-side watering-
place a few miles to the south; as a consequence of which battalions
descended in a cloud upon the open country around. Is it necessary
to add that the echoes of many characteristic tales, dating from that
picturesque time, still linger about here in more or less fragmentary
form, to be caught by the attentive ear? Some of them I have
repeated; most of them I have forgotten; one I have never repeated,
and assuredly can never forget.
Phyllis told me the story with her own lips. She was then an old
lady of seventy-five, and her auditor a lad of fifteen. She enjoined
silence as to her share in the incident, till she should be 'dead,
buried, and forgotten.' Her life was prolonged twelve years after
the day of her narration, and she has now been dead nearly twenty.
The oblivion which in her modesty and humility she courted for
herself has only partially fallen on her, with the unfortunate result
of inflicting an injustice upon her memory; since such fragments of
her story as got abroad at the time, and have been kept alive ever
since, are precisely those which are most unfavourable to her
It all began with the arrival of the York Hussars, one of the foreign
regiments above alluded to. Before that day scarcely a soul had been
seen near her father's house for weeks. When a noise like the
brushing skirt of a visitor was heard on the doorstep, it proved to
be a scudding leaf; when a carriage seemed to be nearing the door, it
was her father grinding his sickle on the stone in the garden for his
favourite relaxation of trimming the box-tree borders to the plots.
A sound like luggage thrown down from the coach was a gun far away at
sea; and what looked like a tall man by the gate at dusk was a yew
bush cut into a quaint and attenuated shape. There is no such
solitude in country places now as there was in those old days.
Yet all the while King George and his court were at his favourite
sea-side resort, not more than five miles off.
The daughter's seclusion was great, but beyond the seclusion of the
girl lay the seclusion of the father. If her social condition was
twilight, his was darkness. Yet he enjoyed his darkness, while her
twilight oppressed her. Dr. Grove had been a professional man whose
taste for lonely meditation over metaphysical questions had
diminished his practice till it no longer paid him to keep it going;
after which he had relinquished it and hired at a nominal rent the
small, dilapidated, half farm half manor-house of this obscure inland
nook, to make a sufficiency of an income which in a town would have
been inadequate for their maintenance. He stayed in his garden the
greater part of the day, growing more and more irritable with the
lapse of time, and the increasing perception that he had wasted his
life in the pursuit of illusions. He saw his friends less and less
frequently. Phyllis became so shy that if she met a stranger
anywhere in her short rambles she felt ashamed at his gaze, walked
awkwardly, and blushed to her shoulders.
Yet Phyllis was discovered even here by an admirer, and her hand most
unexpectedly asked in marriage.
The King, as aforesaid, was at the neighbouring town, where he had
taken up his abode at Gloucester Lodge and his presence in the town
naturally brought many county people thither. Among these idlers--
many of whom professed to have connections and interests with the
Court--was one Humphrey Gould, a bachelor; a personage neither young
nor old; neither good-looking nor positively plain. Too steady-going
to be 'a buck' (as fast and unmarried men were then called), he was
an approximately fashionable man of a mild type. This bachelor of
thirty found his way to the village on the down: beheld Phyllis;
made her father's acquaintance in order to make hers; and by some
means or other she sufficiently inflamed his heart to lead him in
that direction almost daily; till he became engaged to marry her.
As he was of an old local family, some of whose members were held in
respect in the county, Phyllis, in bringing him to her feet, had
accomplished what was considered a brilliant move for one in her
constrained position. How she had done it was not quite known to
Phyllis herself. In those days unequal marriages were regarded
rather as a violation of the laws of nature than as a mere
infringement of convention, the more modern view, and hence when
Phyllis, of the watering-place bourgeoisie, was chosen by such a
gentlemanly fellow, it was as if she were going to be taken to
heaven, though perhaps the uninformed would have seen no great
difference in the respective positions of the pair, the said Gould
being as poor as a crow.
This pecuniary condition was his excuse--probably a true one--for
postponing their union, and as the winter drew nearer, and the King
departed for the season, Mr. Humphrey Gould set out for Bath,
promising to return to Phyllis in a few weeks. The winter arrived,
the date of his promise passed, yet Gould postponed his coming, on
the ground that he could not very easily leave his father in the city
of their sojourn, the elder having no other relative near him.
Phyllis, though lonely in the extreme, was content. The man who had
asked her in marriage was a desirable husband for her in many ways;
her father highly approved of his suit; but this neglect of her was
awkward, if not painful, for Phyllis. Love him in the true sense of
the word she assured me she never did, but she had a genuine regard
for him; admired a certain methodical and dogged way in which he
sometimes took his pleasure; valued his knowledge of what the Court
was doing, had done, or was about to do; and she was not without a
feeling of pride that he had chosen her when he might have exercised
a more ambitious choice.
But he did not come; and the spring developed. His letters were
regular though formal; and it is not to be wondered that the
uncertainty of her position, linked with the fact that there was not
much passion in her thoughts of Humphrey, bred an indescribable
dreariness in the heart of Phyllis Grove. The spring was soon
summer, and the summer brought the King; but still no Humphrey Gould.
All this while the engagement by letter was maintained intact.
At this point of time a golden radiance flashed in upon the lives of
people here, and charged all youthful thought with emotional
interest. This radiance was the aforesaid York Hussars.
The present generation has probably but a very dim notion of the
celebrated York Hussars of ninety years ago. They were one of the
regiments of the King's German Legion, and (though they somewhat
degenerated later on) their brilliant uniform, their splendid horses,
and above all, their foreign air and mustachios (rare appendages
then), drew crowds of admirers of both sexes wherever they went.
These with other regiments had come to encamp on the downs and
pastures, because of the presence of the King in the neighbouring
The spot was high and airy, and the view extensive, commanding the
Isle of Portland in front, and reaching to St. Aldhelm's Head
eastward, and almost to the Start on the west.
Phyllis, though not precisely a girl of the village, was as
interested as any of them in this military investment. Her father's
home stood somewhat apart, and on the highest point of ground to
which the lane ascended, so that it was almost level with the top of
the church tower in the lower part of the parish. Immediately from
the outside of the garden-wall the grass spread away to a great
distance, and it was crossed by a path which came close to the wall.
Ever since her childhood it had been Phyllis's pleasure to clamber up
this fence and sit on the top--a feat not so difficult as it may
seem, the walls in this district being built of rubble, without
mortar, so that there were plenty of crevices for small toes.
She was sitting up here one day, listlessly surveying the pasture
without, when her attention was arrested by a solitary figure walking
along the path. It was one of the renowned German Hussars, and he
moved onward with his eyes on the ground, and with the manner of one
who wished to escape company. His head would probably have been bent
like his eyes but for his stiff neck-gear. On nearer view she
perceived that his face was marked with deep sadness. Without
observing her, he advanced by the footpath till it brought him almost
immediately under the wall.
Phyllis was much surprised to see a fine, tall soldier in such a mood
as this. Her theory of the military, and of the York Hussars in
particular (derived entirely from hearsay, for she had never talked
to a soldier in her life), was that their hearts were as gay as their
At this moment the Hussar lifted his eyes and noticed her on her
perch, the white muslin neckerchief which covered her shoulders and
neck where left bare by her low gown, and her white raiment in
general, showing conspicuously in the bright sunlight of this summer
day. He blushed a little at the suddenness of the encounter, and
without halting a moment from his pace passed on.
All that day the foreigner's face haunted Phyllis; its aspect was so
striking, so handsome, and his eyes were so blue, and sad, and
abstracted. It was perhaps only natural that on some following day
at the same hour she should look over that wall again, and wait till
he had passed a second time. On this occasion he was reading a
letter, and at the sight of her his manner was that of one who had
half expected or hoped to discover her. He almost stopped, smiled,
and made a courteous salute. The end of the meeting was that they
exchanged a few words. She asked him what he was reading, and he
readily informed her that he was re-perusing letters from his mother
in Germany; he did not get them often, he said, and was forced to
read the old ones a great many times. This was all that passed at
the present interview, but others of the same kind followed.
Phyllis used to say that his English, though not good, was quite
intelligible to her, so that their acquaintance was never hindered by
difficulties of speech. Whenever the subject became too delicate,
subtle, or tender, for such words of English as were at his command,
the eyes no doubt helped out the tongue, and--though this was later
on--the lips helped out the eyes. In short this acquaintance,
unguardedly made, and rash enough on her part, developed and ripened.
Like Desdemona, she pitied him, and learnt his history.
His name was Matthaus Tina, and Saarbruck his native town, where his
mother was still living. His age was twenty-two, and he had already
risen to the grade of corporal, though he had not long been in the
army. Phyllis used to assert that no such refined or well-educated
young man could have been found in the ranks of the purely English
regiments, some of these foreign soldiers having rather the graceful
manner and presence of our native officers than of our rank and file.
She by degrees learnt from her foreign friend a circumstance about
himself and his comrades which Phyllis would least have expected of
the York Hussars. So far from being as gay as its uniform, the
regiment was pervaded by a dreadful melancholy, a chronic home-
sickness, which depressed many of the men to such an extent that they
could hardly attend to their drill. The worst sufferers were the
younger soldiers who had not been over here long. They hated England
and English life; they took no interest whatever in King George and
his island kingdom, and they only wished to be out of it and never to
see it any more. Their bodies were here, but their hearts and minds
were always far away in their dear fatherland, of which--brave men
and stoical as they were in many ways--they would speak with tears in
their eyes. One of the worst of the sufferers from this home-woe, as
he called it in his own tongue, was Matthaus Tina, whose dreamy
musing nature felt the gloom of exile still more intensely from the
fact that he had left a lonely mother at home with nobody to cheer
Though Phyllis, touched by all this, and interested in his history,
did not disdain her soldier's acquaintance, she declined (according
to her own account, at least) to permit the young man to overstep the
line of mere friendship for a long while--as long, indeed, as she
considered herself likely to become the possession of another; though
it is probable that she had lost her heart to Matthaus before she was
herself aware. The stone wall of necessity made anything like
intimacy difficult; and he had never ventured to come, or to ask to
come, inside the garden, so that all their conversation had been
overtly conducted across this boundary.
But news reached the village from a friend of Phyllis's father
concerning Mr. Humphrey Gould, her remarkably cool and patient
betrothed. This gentleman had been heard to say in Bath that he
considered his overtures to Miss Phyllis Grove to have reached only
the stage of a half-understanding; and in view of his enforced
absence on his father's account, who was too great an invalid now to
attend to his affairs, he thought it best that there should be no
definite promise as yet on either side. He was not sure, indeed,
that he might not cast his eyes elsewhere.
This account--though only a piece of hearsay, and as such entitled to
no absolute credit--tallied so well with the infrequency of his
letters and their lack of warmth, that Phyllis did not doubt its
truth for one moment; and from that hour she felt herself free to
bestow her heart as she should choose. Not so her father; he
declared the whole story to be a fabrication. He had known Mr.
Gould's family from his boyhood; and if there was one proverb which
expressed the matrimonial aspect of that family well, it was 'Love me
little, love me long.' Humphrey was an honourable man, who would not
think of treating his engagement so lightly. 'Do you wait in
patience,' he said; 'all will be right enough in time.'
From these words Phyllis at first imagined that her father was in
correspondence with Mr. Gould; and her heart sank within her; for in
spite of her original intentions she had been relieved to hear that
her engagement had come to nothing. But she presently learnt that
her father had heard no more of Humphrey Gould than she herself had
done; while he would not write and address her affianced directly on
the subject, lest it should be deemed an imputation on that
'You want an excuse for encouraging one or other of those foreign
fellows to flatter you with his unmeaning attentions,' her father
exclaimed, his mood having of late been a very unkind one towards
her. 'I see more than I say. Don't you ever set foot outside that
garden-fence without my permission. If you want to see the camp I'll
take you myself some Sunday afternoon.'
Phyllis had not the smallest intention of disobeying him in her
actions, but she assumed herself to be independent with respect to
her feelings. She no longer checked her fancy for the Hussar, though
she was far from regarding him as her lover in the serious sense in
which an Englishman might have been regarded as such. The young
foreign soldier was almost an ideal being to her, with none of the
appurtenances of an ordinary house-dweller; one who had descended she
knew not whence, and would disappear she knew not whither; the
subject of a fascinating dream--no more.
They met continually now--mostly at dusk--during the brief interval
between the going down of the sun and the minute at which the last
trumpet-call summoned him to his tent. Perhaps her manner had become
less restrained latterly; at any rate that of the Hussar was so; he
had grown more tender every day, and at parting after these hurried
interviews she reached down her hand from the top of the wall that he
might press it. One evening he held it so long that she exclaimed,
'The wall is white, and somebody in the field may see your shape
He lingered so long that night that it was with the greatest
difficulty that he could run across the intervening stretch of ground
and enter the camp in time. On the next occasion of his awaiting her
she did not appear in her usual place at the usual hour. His
disappointment was unspeakably keen; he remained staring blankly at
the spot, like a man in a trance. The trumpets and tattoo sounded,
and still he did not go.
She had been delayed purely by an accident. When she arrived she was
anxious because of the lateness of the hour, having heard as well as
he the sounds denoting the closing of the camp. She implored him to
'No,' he said gloomily. 'I shall not go in yet--the moment you come-
-I have thought of your coming all day.'
'But you may be disgraced at being after time?'
'I don't mind that. I should have disappeared from the world some
time ago if it had not been for two persons--my beloved, here, and my
mother in Saarbruck. I hate the army. I care more for a minute of
your company than for all the promotion in the world.'
Thus he stayed and talked to her, and told her interesting details of
his native place, and incidents of his childhood, till she was in a
simmer of distress at his recklessness in remaining. It was only
because she insisted on bidding him good-night and leaving the wall
that he returned to his quarters.
The next time that she saw him he was without the stripes that had
adorned his sleeve. He had been broken to the level of private for
his lateness that night; and as Phyllis considered herself to be the
cause of his disgrace her sorrow was great. But the position was now
reversed; it was his turn to cheer her.
'Don't grieve, meine Liebliche!' he said. 'I have got a remedy for
whatever comes. First, even supposing I regain my stripes, would
your father allow you to marry a non-commissioned officer in the York
She flushed. This practical step had not been in her mind in
relation to such an unrealistic person as he was; and a moment's
reflection was enough for it. 'My father would not--certainly would
not,' she answered unflinchingly. 'It cannot be thought of! My dear
friend, please do forget me: I fear I am ruining you and your
'Not at all!' said he. 'You are giving this country of yours just
sufficient interest to me to make me care to keep alive in it. If my
dear land were here also, and my old parent, with you, I could be
happy as I am, and would do my best as a soldier. But it is not so.
And now listen. This is my plan. That you go with me to my own
country, and be my wife there, and live there with my mother and me.
I am not a Hanoverian, as you know, though I entered the army as
such; my country is by the Saar, and is at peace with France, and if
I were once in it I should be free.'
'But how get there?' she asked. Phyllis had been rather amazed than
shocked at his proposition. Her position in her father's house was
growing irksome and painful in the extreme; his parental affection
seemed to be quite dried up. She was not a native of the village,
like all the joyous girls around her; and in some way Matthaus Tina
had infected her with his own passionate longing for his country, and
mother, and home.
'But how?' she repeated, finding that he did not answer. 'Will you
buy your discharge?'
'Ah, no,' he said. 'That's impossible in these times. No; I came
here against my will; why should I not escape? Now is the time, as
we shall soon be striking camp, and I might see you no more. This is
my scheme. I will ask you to meet me on the highway two miles off;
on some calm night next week that may be appointed. There will be
nothing unbecoming in it, or to cause you shame; you will not fly
alone with me, for I will bring with me my devoted young friend
Christoph, an Alsatian, who has lately joined the regiment, and who
has agreed to assist in this enterprise. We shall have come from
yonder harbour, where we shall have examined the boats, and found one
suited to our purpose. Christoph has already a chart of the Channel,
and we will then go to the harbour, and at midnight cut the boat from
her moorings, and row away round the point out of sight; and by the
next morning we are on the coast of France, near Cherbourg. The rest
is easy, for I have saved money for the land journey, and can get a
change of clothes. I will write to my mother, who will meet us on
He added details in reply to her inquiries, which left no doubt in
Phyllis's mind of the feasibility of the undertaking. But its
magnitude almost appalled her; and it is questionable if she would
ever have gone further in the wild adventure if, on entering the
house that night, her father had not accosted her in the most
'How about the York Hussars?' he said.
'They are still at the camp; but they are soon going away, I
'It is useless for you to attempt to cloak your actions in that way.
You have been meeting one of those fellows; you have been seen
walking with him--foreign barbarians, not much better than the French
themselves! I have made up my mind--don't speak a word till I have
done, please!--I have made up my mind that you shall stay here no
longer while they are on the spot. You shall go to your aunt's.'
It was useless for her to protest that she had never taken a walk
with any soldier or man under the sun except himself. Her
protestations were feeble, too, for though he was not literally
correct in his assertion, he was virtually only half in error.
The house of her father's sister was a prison to Phyllis. She had
quite recently undergone experience of its gloom; and when her father
went on to direct her to pack what would be necessary for her to
take, her heart died within her. In after years she never attempted
to excuse her conduct during this week of agitation; but the result
of her self-communing was that she decided to join in the scheme of
her lover and his friend, and fly to the country which he had
coloured with such lovely hues in her imagination. She always said
that the one feature in his proposal which overcame her hesitation
was the obvious purity and straightforwardness of his intentions. He
showed himself to be so virtuous and kind; he treated her with a
respect to which she had never before been accustomed; and she was
braced to the obvious risks of the voyage by her confidence in him.
It was on a soft, dark evening of the following week that they
engaged in the adventure. Tina was to meet her at a point in the
highway at which the lane to the village branched off. Christoph was
to go ahead of them to the harbour where the boat lay, row it round
the Nothe--or Look-out as it was called in those days--and pick them
up on the other side of the promontory, which they were to reach by
crossing the harbour-bridge on foot, and climbing over the Look-out
As soon as her father had ascended to his room she left the house,
and, bundle in hand, proceeded at a trot along the lane. At such an
hour not a soul was afoot anywhere in the village, and she reached
the junction of the lane with the highway unobserved. Here she took
up her position in the obscurity formed by the angle of a fence,
whence she could discern every one who approached along the turnpike-
road, without being herself seen.
She had not remained thus waiting for her lover longer than a minute-
-though from the tension of her nerves the lapse of even that short
time was trying--when, instead of the expected footsteps, the stage-
coach could be heard descending the hill. She knew that Tina would
not show himself till the road was clear, and waited impatiently for
the coach to pass. Nearing the corner where she was it slackened
speed, and, instead of going by as usual, drew up within a few yards
of her. A passenger alighted, and she heard his voice. It was
He had brought a friend with him, and luggage. The luggage was
deposited on the grass, and the coach went on its route to the royal
'I wonder where that young man is with the horse and trap?' said her
former admirer to his companion. 'I hope we shan't have to wait here
long. I told him half-past nine o'clock precisely.'
'Have you got her present safe?'
'Phyllis's? O, yes. It is in this trunk. I hope it will please
'Of course it will. What woman would not be pleased with such a
'Well--she deserves it. I've treated her rather badly. But she has
been in my mind these last two days much more than I should care to
confess to everybody. Ah, well; I'll say no more about that. It
cannot be that she is so bad as they make out. I am quite sure that
a girl of her good wit would know better than to get entangled with
any of those Hanoverian soldiers. I won't believe it of her, and
there's an end on't.'
More words in the same strain were casually dropped as the two men
waited; words which revealed to her, as by a sudden illumination, the
enormity of her conduct. The conversation was at length cut off by
the arrival of the man with the vehicle. The luggage was placed in
it, and they mounted, and were driven on in the direction from which
she had just come.
Phyllis was so conscience-stricken that she was at first inclined to
follow them; but a moment's reflection led her to feel that it would
only be bare justice to Matthaus to wait till he arrived, and explain
candidly that she had changed her mind--difficult as the struggle
would be when she stood face to face with him. She bitterly
reproached herself for having believed reports which represented
Humphrey Gould as false to his engagement, when, from what she now
heard from his own lips, she gathered that he had been living full of
trust in her. But she knew well enough who had won her love.
Without him her life seemed a dreary prospect, yet the more she
looked at his proposal the more she feared to accept it--so wild as
it was, so vague, so venturesome. She had promised Humphrey Gould,
and it was only his assumed faithlessness which had led her to treat
that promise as nought. His solicitude in bringing her these gifts
touched her; her promise must be kept, and esteem must take the place
of love. She would preserve her self-respect. She would stay at
home, and marry him, and suffer.
Phyllis had thus braced herself to an exceptional fortitude when, a
few minutes later, the outline of Matthaus Tina appeared behind a
field-gate, over which he lightly leapt as she stepped forward.
There was no evading it, he pressed her to his breast.
'It is the first and last time!' she wildly thought as she stood
encircled by his arms.
How Phyllis got through the terrible ordeal of that night she could
never clearly recollect. She always attributed her success in
carrying out her resolve to her lover's honour, for as soon as she
declared to him in feeble words that she had changed her mind, and
felt that she could not, dared not, fly with him, he forbore to urge
her, grieved as he was at her decision. Unscrupulous pressure on his
part, seeing how romantically she had become attached to him, would
no doubt have turned the balance in his favour. But he did nothing
to tempt her unduly or unfairly.
On her side, fearing for his safety, she begged him to remain. This,
he declared, could not be. 'I cannot break faith with my friend,'
said he. Had he stood alone he would have abandoned his plan. But
Christoph, with the boat and compass and chart, was waiting on the
shore; the tide would soon turn; his mother had been warned of his
coming; go he must.
Many precious minutes were lost while he tarried, unable to tear
himself away. Phyllis held to her resolve, though it cost her many a
bitter pang. At last they parted, and he went down the hill. Before
his footsteps had quite died away she felt a desire to behold at
least his outline once more, and running noiselessly after him
regained view of his diminishing figure. For one moment she was
sufficiently excited to be on the point of rushing forward and
linking her fate with his. But she could not. The courage which at
the critical instant failed Cleopatra of Egypt could scarcely be
expected of Phyllis Grove.
A dark shape, similar to his own, joined him in the highway. It was
Christoph, his friend. She could see no more; they had hastened on
in the direction of the town and harbour, four miles ahead. With a
feeling akin to despair she turned and slowly pursued her way
Tattoo sounded in the camp; but there was no camp for her now. It
was as dead as the camp of the Assyrians after the passage of the
She noiselessly entered the house, seeing nobody, and went to bed.
Grief, which kept her awake at first, ultimately wrapped her in a
heavy sleep. The next morning her father met her at the foot of the
'Mr. Gould is come!' he said triumphantly.
Humphrey was staying at the inn, and had already called to inquire
for her. He had brought her a present of a very handsome looking-
glass in a frame of repousse silverwork, which her father held in his
hand. He had promised to call again in the course of an hour, to ask
Phyllis to walk with him.
Pretty mirrors were rarer in country-houses at that day than they are
now, and the one before her won Phyllis's admiration. She looked
into it, saw how heavy her eyes were, and endeavoured to brighten
them. She was in that wretched state of mind which leads a woman to
move mechanically onward in what she conceives to be her allotted
path. Mr. Humphrey had, in his undemonstrative way, been adhering
all along to the old understanding; it was for her to do the same,
and to say not a word of her own lapse. She put on her bonnet and
tippet, and when he arrived at the hour named she was at the door
Phyllis thanked him for his beautiful gift; but the talking was soon
entirely on Humphrey's side as they walked along. He told her of the
latest movements of the world of fashion--a subject which she
willingly discussed to the exclusion of anything more personal--and
his measured language helped to still her disquieted heart and brain.
Had not her own sadness been what it was she must have observed his
embarrassment. At last he abruptly changed the subject.
'I am glad you are pleased with my little present,' he said. 'The
truth is that I brought it to propitiate 'ee, and to get you to help
me out of a mighty difficulty.'
It was inconceivable to Phyllis that this independent bachelor--whom
she admired in some respects--could have a difficulty.
'Phyllis--I'll tell you my secret at once; for I have a monstrous
secret to confide before I can ask your counsel. The case is, then,
that I am married: yes, I have privately married a dear young belle;
and if you knew her, and I hope you will, you would say everything in
her praise. But she is not quite the one that my father would have
chose for me--you know the paternal idea as well as I--and I have
kept it secret. There will be a terrible noise, no doubt; but I
think that with your help I may get over it. If you would only do me
this good turn--when I have told my father, I mean--say that you
never could have married me, you know, or something of that sort--
'pon my life it will help to smooth the way vastly. I am so anxious
to win him round to my point of view, and not to cause any
What Phyllis replied she scarcely knew, or how she counselled him as
to his unexpected situation. Yet the relief that his announcement
brought her was perceptible. To have confided her trouble in return
was what her aching heart longed to do; and had Humphrey been a woman
she would instantly have poured out her tale. But to him she feared
to confess; and there was a real reason for silence, till a
sufficient time had elapsed to allow her lover and his comrade to get
out of harm's way.
As soon as she reached home again she sought a solitary place, and
spent the time in half regretting that she had not gone away, and in
dreaming over the meetings with Matthaus Tina from their beginning to
their end. In his own country, amongst his own countrywomen, he
would possibly soon forget her, even to her very name.
Her listlessness was such that she did not go out of the house for
several days. There came a morning which broke in fog and mist,
behind which the dawn could be discerned in greenish grey; and the
outlines of the tents, and the rows of horses at the ropes. The
smoke from the canteen fires drooped heavily.
The spot at the bottom of the garden where she had been accustomed to
climb the wall to meet Matthaus, was the only inch of English ground
in which she took any interest; and in spite of the disagreeable haze
prevailing she walked out there till she reached the well-known
corner. Every blade of grass was weighted with little liquid globes,
and slugs and snails had crept out upon the plots. She could hear
the usual faint noises from the camp, and in the other direction the
trot of farmers on the road to the town, for it was market-day. She
observed that her frequent visits to this corner had quite trodden
down the grass in the angle of the wall, and left marks of garden
soil on the stepping-stones by which she had mounted to look over the
top. Seldom having gone there till dusk, she had not considered that
her traces might be visible by day. Perhaps it was these which had
revealed her trysts to her father.
While she paused in melancholy regard, she fancied that the customary
sounds from the tents were changing their character. Indifferent as
Phyllis was to camp doings now, she mounted by the steps to the old
place. What she beheld at first awed and perplexed her; then she
stood rigid, her fingers hooked to the wall, her eyes staring out of
her head, and her face as if hardened to stone.
On the open green stretching before her all the regiments in the camp
were drawn up in line, in the mid-front of which two empty coffins
lay on the ground. The unwonted sounds which she had noticed came
from an advancing procession. It consisted of the band of the York
Hussars playing a dead march; next two soldiers of that regiment in a
mourning coach, guarded on each side, and accompanied by two priests.
Behind came a crowd of rustics who had been attracted by the event.
The melancholy procession marched along the front of the line,
returned to the centre, and halted beside the coffins, where the two
condemned men were blindfolded, and each placed kneeling on his
coffin; a few minutes pause was now given, while they prayed.
A firing-party of twenty-four men stood ready with levelled carbines.
The commanding officer, who had his sword drawn, waved it through
some cuts of the sword-exercise till he reached the downward stroke,
whereat the firing-party discharged their volley. The two victims
fell, one upon his face across his coffin, the other backwards.
As the volley resounded there arose a shriek from the wall of Dr.
Grove's garden, and some one fell down inside; but nobody among the
spectators without noticed it at the time. The two executed Hussars
were Matthaus Tina and his friend Christoph. The soldiers on guard
placed the bodies in the coffins almost instantly; but the colonel of
the regiment, an Englishman, rode up and exclaimed in a stern voice:
'Turn them out--as an example to the men!'
The coffins were lifted endwise, and the dead Germans flung out upon
their faces on the grass. Then all the regiments wheeled in
sections, and marched past the spot in slow time. When the survey
was over the corpses were again coffined, and borne away.
Meanwhile Dr. Grove, attracted by the noise of the volley, had rushed
out into his garden, where he saw his wretched daughter lying
motionless against the wall. She was taken indoors, but it was long
before she recovered consciousness; and for weeks they despaired of
It transpired that the luckless deserters from the York Hussars had
cut the boat from her moorings in the adjacent harbour, according to
their plan, and, with two other comrades who were smarting under ill-
treatment from their colonel, had sailed in safety across the
Channel. But mistaking their bearings they steered into Jersey,
thinking that island the French coast. Here they were perceived to
be deserters, and delivered up to the authorities. Matthaus and
Christoph interceded for the other two at the court-martial, saying
that it was entirely by the former's representations that these were
induced to go. Their sentence was accordingly commuted to flogging,
the death punishment being reserved for their leaders.
The visitor to the well-known old Georgian watering-place, who may
care to ramble to the neighbouring village under the hills, and
examine the register of burials, will there find two entries in these
'Matth:- Tina (Corpl.) in His Majesty's Regmt. of York Hussars, and
Shot for Desertion, was Buried June 30th, 1801, aged 22 years. Born
in the town of Sarrbruk, Germany.
'Christoph Bless, belonging to His Majesty's Regmt. of York Hussars,
who was Shot for Desertion, was Buried June 30th, 1801, aged 22
years. Born at Lothaargen, Alsatia.'
Their graves were dug at the back of the little church, near the
wall. There is no memorial to mark the spot, but Phyllis pointed it
out to me. While she lived she used to keep their mounds neat; but
now they are overgrown with nettles, and sunk nearly flat. The older
villagers, however, who know of the episode from their parents, still
recollect the place where the soldiers lie. Phyllis lies near.
THE FIDDLER OF THE REELS
'Talking of Exhibitions, World's Fairs, and what not,' said the old
gentleman, 'I would not go round the corner to see a dozen of them
nowadays. The only exhibition that ever made, or ever will make, any
impression upon my imagination was the first of the series, the
parent of them all, and now a thing of old times--the Great
Exhibition of 1851, in Hyde Park, London. None of the younger
generation can realize the sense of novelty it produced in us who
were then in our prime. A noun substantive went so far as to become
an adjective in honour of the occasion. It was "exhibition" hat,"
"exhibition" razor-strop, "exhibition" watch; nay, even "exhibition"
weather, "exhibition" spirits, sweethearts, babies, wives--for the
'For South Wessex, the year formed in many ways an extraordinary
chronological frontier or transit-line, at which there occurred what
one might call a precipice in Time. As in a geological "fault," we
had presented to us a sudden bringing of ancient and modern into
absolute contact, such as probably in no other single year since the
Conquest was ever witnessed in this part of the country.'
These observations led us onward to talk of the different personages,
gentle and simple, who lived and moved within our narrow and peaceful
horizon at that time; and of three people in particular, whose queer
little history was oddly touched at points by the Exhibition, more
concerned with it than that of anybody else who dwelt in those
outlying shades of the world, Stickleford, Mellstock, and Egdon.
First in prominence among these three came Wat Ollamoor--if that were
his real name--whom the seniors in our party had known well.
He was a woman's man, they said,--supremely so--externally little
else. To men be was not attractive; perhaps a little repulsive at
times. Musician, dandy, and company-man in practice; veterinary
surgeon in theory, he lodged awhile in Mellstock village, coming from
nobody knew where; though some said his first appearance in this
neighbourhood had been as fiddle-player in a show at Greenhill Fair.
Many a worthy villager envied him his power over unsophisticated
maidenhood--a power which seemed sometimes to have a touch of the
weird and wizardly in it. Personally he was not ill-favoured, though
rather un-English, his complexion being a rich olive, his rank hair
dark and rather clammy--made still clammier by secret ointments,
which, when he came fresh to a party, caused him to smell like
'boys'-love' (southernwood) steeped in lamp-oil. On occasion he wore
curls--a double row--running almost horizontally around his head.
But as these were sometimes noticeably absent, it was concluded that
they were not altogether of Nature's making. By girls whose love for
him had turned to hatred he had been nicknamed 'Mop,' from this
abundance of hair, which was long enough to rest upon his shoulders;
as time passed the name more and more prevailed.
His fiddling possibly had the most to do with the fascination he
exercised, for, to speak fairly, it could claim for itself a most
peculiar and personal quality, like that in a moving preacher. There
were tones in it which bred the immediate conviction that indolence
and averseness to systematic application were all that lay between
'Mop' and the career of a second Paganini.
While playing he invariably closed his eyes; using no notes, and, as
it were, allowing the violin to wander on at will into the most
plaintive passages ever heard by rustic man. There was a certain
lingual character in the supplicatory expressions he produced, which
would well nigh have drawn an ache from the heart of a gate-post. He
could make any child in the parish, who was at all sensitive to
music, burst into tears in a few minutes by simply fiddling one of
the old dance-tunes he almost entirely affected--country jigs, reels,
and 'Favourite Quick Steps' of the last century--some mutilated
remains of which even now reappear as nameless phantoms in new
quadrilles and gallops, where they are recognized only by the
curious, or by such old-fashioned and far-between people as have been
thrown with men like Wat Ollamoor in their early life.
His date was a little later than that of the old Mellstock quire-band
which comprised the Dewys, Mail, and the rest--in fact, he did not
rise above the horizon thereabout till those well-known musicians
were disbanded as ecclesiastical functionaries. In their honest love
of thoroughness they despised the new man's style. Theophilus Dewy
(Reuben the tranter's younger brother) used to say there was no
'plumness' in it--no bowing, no solidity--it was all fantastical.
And probably this was true. Anyhow, Mop had, very obviously, never
bowed a note of church-music from his birth; he never once sat in the
gallery of Mellstock church where the others had tuned their
venerable psalmody so many hundreds of times; had never, in all
likelihood, entered a church at all. All were devil's tunes in his
repertory. 'He could no more play the Wold Hundredth to his true
time than he could play the brazen serpent,' the tranter would say.
(The brazen serpent was supposed in Mellstock to be a musical
instrument particularly hard to blow.)
Occasionally Mop could produce the aforesaid moving effect upon the
souls of grown-up persons, especially young women of fragile and
responsive organization. Such an one was Car'line Aspent. Though
she was already engaged to be married before she met him, Car'line,
of them all, was the most influenced by Mop Ollamoor's heart-stealing
melodies, to her discomfort, nay, positive pain and ultimate injury.
She was a pretty, invocating, weak-mouthed girl, whose chief defect
as a companion with her sex was a tendency to peevishness now and
then. At this time she was not a resident in Mellstock parish where
Mop lodged, but lived some miles off at Stickleford, farther down the
How and where she first made acquaintance with him and his fiddling
is not truly known, but the story was that it either began or was
developed on one spring evening, when, in passing through Lower
Mellstock, she chanced to pause on the bridge near his house to rest
herself, and languidly leaned over the parapet. Mop was standing on
his door-step, as was his custom, spinning the insidious thread of
semi- and demi-semi-quavers from the E string of his fiddle for the
benefit of passers-by, and laughing as the tears rolled down the
cheeks of the little children hanging around him. Car'line pretended
to be engrossed with the rippling of the stream under the arches, but
in reality she was listening, as he knew. Presently the aching of
the heart seized her simultaneously with a wild desire to glide
airily in the mazes of an infinite dance. To shake off the
fascination she resolved to go on, although it would be necessary to
pass him as he played. On stealthily glancing ahead at the
performer, she found to her relief that his eyes were closed in
abandonment to instrumentation, and she strode on boldly. But when
closer her step grew timid, her tread convulsed itself more and more
accordantly with the time of the melody, till she very nearly danced
along. Gaining another glance at him when immediately opposite, she
saw that ONE of his eyes was open, quizzing her as he smiled at her
emotional state. Her gait could not divest itself of its compelled
capers till she had gone a long way past the house; and Car'line was
unable to shake off the strange infatuation for hours.
After that day, whenever there was to be in the neighbourhood a dance
to which she could get an invitation, and where Mop Ollamoor was to
be the musician, Car'line contrived to be present, though it
sometimes involved a walk of several miles; for he did not play so
often in Stickleford as elsewhere.
The next evidences of his influence over her were singular enough,
and it would require a neurologist to fully explain them. She would
be sitting quietly, any evening after dark, in the house of her
father, the parish clerk, which stood in the middle of Stickleford
village street, this being the highroad between Lower Mellstock and
Moreford, five miles eastward. Here, without a moment's warning, and
in the midst of a general conversation between her father, sister,
and the young man before alluded to, who devotedly wooed her in
ignorance of her infatuation, she would start from her seat in the
chimney-corner as if she had received a galvanic shock, and spring
convulsively towards the ceiling; then she would burst into tears,
and it was not till some half-hour had passed that she grew calm as
usual. Her father, knowing her hysterical tendencies, was always
excessively anxious about this trait in his youngest girl, and feared
the attack to be a species of epileptic fit. Not so her sister
Julia. Julia had found Out what was the cause. At the moment before
the jumping, only an exceptionally sensitive ear situated in the
chimney-nook could have caught from down the flue the beat of a man's
footstep along the highway without. But it was in that footfall, for
which she had been waiting, that the origin of Car'line's involuntary
springing lay. The pedestrian was Mop Ollamoor, as the girl well
knew; but his business that way was not to visit her; he sought
another woman whom he spoke of as his Intended, and who lived at
Moreford, two miles farther on. On one, and only one, occasion did
it happen that Car'line could not control her utterance; it was when
her sister alone chanced to be present. 'Oh--oh--oh--!' she cried.
'He's going to HER, and not coming to ME!'
To do the fiddler justice he had not at first thought greatly of, or
spoken much to, this girl of impressionable mould. But he had soon
found out her secret, and could not resist a little by-play with her
too easily hurt heart, as an interlude between his more serious
performances at Moreford. The two became well acquainted, though
only by stealth, hardly a soul in Stickleford except her sister, and
her lover Ned Hipcroft, being aware of the attachment. Her father
disapproved of her coldness to Ned; her sister, too, hoped she might
get over this nervous passion for a man of whom so little was known.
The ultimate result was that Car'line's manly and simple wooer Edward
found his suit becoming practically hopeless. He was a respectable
mechanic, in a far sounder position than Mop the nominal horse-
doctor; but when, before leaving her, Ned put his flat and final
question, would she marry him, then and there, now or never, it was
with little expectation of obtaining more than the negative she gave
him. Though her father supported him and her sister supported him,
he could not play the fiddle so as to draw your soul out of your body
like a spider's thread, as Mop did, till you felt as limp as withy-
wind and yearned for something to cling to. Indeed, Hipcroft had not
the slightest ear for music; could not sing two notes in tune, much
less play them.
The No he had expected and got from her, in spite of a preliminary
encouragement, gave Ned a new start in life. It had been uttered in
such a tone of sad entreaty that he resolved to persecute her no
more; she should not even be distressed by a sight of his form in the
distant perspective of the street and lane. He left the place, and
his natural course was to London.
The railway to South Wessex was in process of construction, but it
was not as yet opened for traffic; and Hipcroft reached the capital
by a six days' trudge on foot, as many a better man had done before
him. He was one of the last of the artisan class who used that now
extinct method of travel to the great centres of labour, so customary
then from time immemorial.
In London he lived and worked regularly at his trade. More fortunate
than many, his disinterested willingness recommended him from the
first. During the ensuing four years he was never out of employment.
He neither advanced nor receded in the modern sense; he improved as a
workman, but he did not shift one jot in social position. About his
love for Car'line he maintained a rigid silence. No doubt he often
thought of her; but being always occupied, and having no relations at
Stickleford, he held no communication with that part of the country,
and showed no desire to return. In his quiet lodging in Lambeth he
moved about after working-hours with the facility of a woman, doing
his own cooking, attending to his stocking-heels, and shaping himself
by degrees to a life-long bachelorhood. For this conduct one is
bound to advance the canonical reason that time could not efface from
his heart the image of little Car'line Aspent--and it may be in part
true; but there was also the inference that his was a nature not
greatly dependent upon the ministrations of the other sex for its
The fourth year of his residence as a mechanic in London was the year
of the Hyde-Park Exhibition already mentioned, and at the
construction of this huge glass-house, then unexampled in the world's
history, he worked daily. It was an era of great hope and activity
among the nations and industries. Though Hipcroft was, in his small
way, a central man in the movement, he plodded on with his usual
outward placidity. Yet for him, too, the year was destined to have
its surprises, for when the bustle of getting the building ready for
the opening day was past, the ceremonies had been witnessed, and
people were flocking thither from all parts of the globe, he received
a letter from Car'line. Till that day the silence of four years
between himself and Stickleford had never been broken.
She informed her old lover, in an uncertain penmanship which
suggested a trembling hand, of the trouble she had been put to in
ascertaining his address, and then broached the subject which had
prompted her to write. Four years ago, she said with the greatest
delicacy of which she was capable, she had been so foolish as to
refuse him. Her wilful wrong-headedness had since been a grief to
her many times, and of late particularly. As for Mr. Ollamoor, he
had been absent almost as long as Ned--she did not know where. She
would gladly marry Ned now if he were to ask her again, and be a
tender little wife to him till her life's end.
A tide of warm feeling must have surged through Ned Hipcroft's frame
on receipt of this news, if we may judge by the issue.
Unquestionably he loved her still, even if not to the exclusion of
every other happiness. This from his Car'line, she who had been dead
to him these many years, alive to him again as of old, was in itself
a pleasant, gratifying thing. Ned had grown so resigned to, or
satisfied with, his lonely lot, that he probably would not have shown
much jubilation at anything. Still, a certain ardour of
preoccupation, after his first surprise, revealed how deeply her
confession of faith in him had stirred him. Measured and methodical
in his ways, he did not answer the letter that day, nor the next, nor
the next. He was having 'a good think.' When he did answer it,
there was a great deal of sound reasoning mixed in with the
unmistakable tenderness of his reply; but the tenderness itself was
sufficient to reveal that he was pleased with her straightforward
frankness; that the anchorage she had once obtained in his heart was
renewable, if it had not been continuously firm.
He told her--and as he wrote his lips twitched humorously over the
few gentle words of raillery he indited among the rest of his
sentences--that it was all very well for her to come round at this
time of day. Why wouldn't she have him when he wanted her? She had
no doubt learned that he was not married, but suppose his affections
had since been fixed on another? She ought to beg his pardon.
Still, he was not the man to forget her. But considering how he had
been used, and what he had suffered, she could not quite expect him
to go down to Stickleford and fetch her. But if she would come to
him, and say she was sorry, as was only fair; why, yes, he would
marry her, knowing what a good little woman she was at the core. He
added that the request for her to come to him was a less one to make
than it would have been when he first left Stickleford, or even a few
months ago; for the new railway into South Wessex was now open, and
there had just begun to be run wonderfully contrived special trains,
called excursion-trains, on account of the Great Exhibition; so that
she could come up easily alone.
She said in her reply how good it was of him to treat her so
generously, after her hot and cold treatment of him; that though she
felt frightened at the magnitude of the journey, and was never as yet
in a railway-train, having only seen one pass at a distance, she
embraced his offer with all her heart; and would, indeed, own to him
how sorry she was, and beg his pardon, and try to be a good wife
always, and make up for lost time.
The remaining details of when and where were soon settled, Car'line
informing him, for her ready identification in the crowd, that she
would be wearing 'my new sprigged-laylock cotton gown,' and Ned gaily
responding that, having married her the morning after her arrival, he
would make a day of it by taking her to the Exhibition. One early
summer afternoon, accordingly, he came from his place of work, and
hastened towards Waterloo Station to meet her. It was as wet and
chilly as an English June day can occasionally be, but as he waited
on the platform in the drizzle he glowed inwardly, and seemed to have
something to live for again.
The 'excursion-train'--an absolutely new departure in the history of
travel--was still a novelty on the Wessex line, and probably
everywhere. Crowds of people had flocked to all the stations on the
way up to witness the unwonted sight of so long a train's passage,
even where they did not take advantage of the opportunity it offered.
The seats for the humbler class of travellers in these early
experiments in steam-locomotion, were open trucks, without any
protection whatever from the wind and rain; and damp weather having
set in with the afternoon, the unfortunate occupants of these
vehicles were, on the train drawing up at the London terminus, found
to he in a pitiable condition from their long journey; blue-faced,
stiff-necked, sneezing, rain-beaten, chilled to the marrow, many of
the men being hatless; in fact, they resembled people who had been
out all night in an open boat on a rough sea, rather than inland
excursionists for pleasure. The women had in some degree protected
themselves by turning up the skirts of their gowns over their heads,
but as by this arrangement they were additionally exposed about the
hips, they were all more or less in a sorry plight.
In the bustle and crush of alighting forms of both sexes which
followed the entry of the huge concatenation into the station, Ned
Hipcroft soon discerned the slim little figure his eye was in search
of, in the sprigged lilac, as described. She came up to him with a
frightened smile--still pretty, though so damp, weather-beaten, and
shivering from long exposure to the wind.
'O Ned!' she sputtered, 'I--I--' He clasped her in his arms and
kissed her, whereupon she burst into a flood of tears.
'You are wet, my poor dear! I hope you'll not get cold,' he said.
And surveying her and her multifarious surrounding packages, he
noticed that by the hand she led a toddling child--a little girl of
three or so--whose hood was as clammy and tender face as blue as
those of the other travellers.
'Who is this--somebody you know?' asked Ned curiously.
'Yes, Ned. She's mine.'
'Your own child?'
'Well--as God's in--'
'Ned, I didn't name it in my letter, because, you see, it would have
been so hard to explain! I thought that when we met I could tell you
how she happened to be born, so much better than in writing! I hope
you'll excuse it this once, dear Ned, and not scold me, now I've come
so many, many miles!'
'This means Mr. Mop Ollamoor, I reckon!' said Hipcroft, gazing palely
at them from the distance of the yard or two to which he had
withdrawn with a start.
Car'line gasped. 'But he's been gone away for years!' she
supplicated. 'And I never had a young man before! And I was so
onlucky to be catched the first time, though some of the girls down
there go on like anything!'
Ned remained in silence, pondering.
'You'll forgive me, dear Ned?' she added, beginning to sob outright.
'I haven't taken 'ee in after all, because--because you can pack us
back again, if you want to; though 'tis hundreds o' miles, and so
wet, and night a-coming on, and I with no money!'
'What the devil can I do!' Hipcroft groaned.
A more pitiable picture than the pair of helpless creatures presented
was never seen on a rainy day, as they stood on the great, gaunt,
puddled platform, a whiff of drizzle blowing under the roof upon them
now and then; the pretty attire in which they had started from
Stickleford in the early morning bemuddled and sodden, weariness on
their faces, and fear of him in their eyes; for the child began to
look as if she thought she too had done some wrong, remaining in an
appalled silence till the tears rolled down her chubby cheeks.
'What's the matter, my little maid?' said Ned mechanically.
'I do want to go home!' she let out, in tones that told of a bursting
heart. 'And my totties be cold, an' I shan't have no bread an'
butter no more!'
'I don't know what to say to it all!' declared Ned, his own eye moist
as he turned and walked a few steps with his head down; then regarded
them again point blank. From the child escaped troubled breaths and
silently welling tears.
'Want some bread and butter, do 'ee?' he said, with factitious
'Well, I daresay I can get 'ee a bit! Naturally, you must want some.
And you, too, for that matter, Car'line.'
'I do feel a little hungered. But I can keep it off,' she murmured.
'Folk shouldn't do that,' he said gruffly. . . . 'There come along!'
he caught up the child, as he added, 'You must bide here to-night,
anyhow, I s'pose! What can you do otherwise? I'll get 'ee some tea
and victuals; and as for this job, I'm sure I don't know what to say!
This is the way out.'
They pursued their way, without speaking, to Ned's lodgings, which
were not far off. There he dried them and made them comfortable, and
prepared tea; they thankfully sat down. The ready-made household of
which he suddenly found himself the head imparted a cosy aspect to
his room, and a paternal one to himself. Presently he turned to the
child and kissed her now blooming cheeks; and, looking wistfully at
Car'line, kissed her also.
'I don't see how I can send 'ee back all them miles,' he growled,
'now you've come all the way o' purpose to join me. But you must
trust me, Car'line, and show you've real faith in me. Well, do you
feel better now, my little woman?'
The child nodded, her mouth being otherwise occupied.
'I did trust you, Ned, in coming; and I shall always!'
Thus, without any definite agreement to forgive her, he tacitly
acquiesced in the fate that Heaven had sent him; and on the day of
their marriage (which was not quite so soon as he had expected it
could be, on account of the time necessary for banns) he took her to
the Exhibition when they came back from church, as he had promised.
While standing near a large mirror in one of the courts devoted to
furniture, Car'line started, for in the glass appeared the reflection
of a form exactly resembling Mop Ollamoor's--so exactly, that it
seemed impossible to believe anybody but that artist in person to be
the original. On passing round the objects which hemmed in Ned, her,
and the child from a direct view, no Mop was to be seen. Whether he
were really in London or not at that time was never known; and
Car'line always stoutly denied that her readiness to go and meet Ned
in town arose from any rumour that Mop had also gone thither; which
denial there was no reasonable ground for doubting.
And then the year glided away, and the Exhibition folded itself up
and became a thing of the past. The park trees that had been
enclosed for six months were again exposed to the winds and storms,
and the sod grew green anew. Ned found that Car'line resolved
herself into a very good wife and companion, though she had made
herself what is called cheap to him; but in that she was like another
domestic article, a cheap tea-pot, which often brews better tea than
a dear one. One autumn Hipcroft found himself with but little work
to do, and a prospect of less for the winter. Both being country
born and bred, they fancied they would like to live again in their
natural atmosphere. It was accordingly decided between them that
they should leave the pent-up London lodging, and that Ned should
seek out employment near his native place, his wife and her daughter
staying with Car'line's father during the search for occupation and
an abode of their own.
Tinglings of pleasure pervaded Car'line's spasmodic little frame as
she journeyed down with Ned to the place she had left two or three
years before, in silence and under a cloud. To return to where she
had once been despised, a smiling London wife with a distinct London
accent, was a triumph which the world did not witness every day.
The train did not stop at the petty roadside station that lay nearest
to Stickleford, and the trio went on to Casterbridge. Ned thought it
a good opportunity to make a few preliminary inquiries for employment
at workshops in the borough where he had been known; and feeling cold
from her journey, and it being dry underfoot and only dusk as yet,
with a moon on the point of rising, Car'line and her little girl
walked on toward Stickleford, leaving Ned to follow at a quicker
pace, and pick her up at a certain half-way house, widely known as an
The woman and child pursued the well-remembered way comfortably
enough, though they were both becoming wearied. In the course of
three miles they had passed Heedless-William's Pond, the familiar
landmark by Bloom's End, and were drawing near the Quiet Woman Inn, a
lone roadside hostel on the lower verge of the Egdon Heath, since and
for many years abolished. In stepping up towards it Car'line heard
more voices within than had formerly been customary at such an hour,
and she learned that an auction of fat stock had been held near the
spot that afternoon. The child would be the better for a rest as
well as herself, she thought, and she entered.
The guests and customers overflowed into the passage, and Car'line
had no sooner crossed the threshold than a man whom she remembered by
sight came forward with glass and mug in his hands towards a friend
leaning against the wall; but, seeing her, very gallantly offered her
a drink of the liquor, which was gin-and-beer hot, pouring her out a
tumblerful and saying, in a moment or two: 'Surely, 'tis little
Car'line Aspent that was--down at Stickleford?'
She assented, and, though she did not exactly want this beverage, she
drank it since it was offered, and her entertainer begged her to come
in farther and sit down. Once within the room she found that all the
persons present were seated close against the walls, and there being
a chair vacant she did the same. An explanation of their position
occurred the next moment. In the opposite corner stood Mop, rosining
his bow and looking just the same as ever. The company had cleared
the middle of the room for dancing, and they were about to dance
again. As she wore a veil to keep off the wind she did not think he
had recognized her, or could possibly guess the identity of the
child; and to her satisfied surprise she found that she could
confront him quite calmly--mistress of herself in the dignity her
London life had given her. Before she had quite emptied her glass
the dance was called, the dancers formed in two lines, the music
sounded, and the figure began.
Then matters changed for Car'line. A tremor quickened itself to life
in her, and her hand so shook that she could hardly set down her
glass. It was not the dance nor the dancers, but the notes of that
old violin which thrilled the London wife, these having still all the
witchery that she had so well known of yore, and under which she had
used to lose her power of independent will. How it all came back!
There was the fiddling figure against the wall; the large, oily, mop-
like head of him, and beneath the mop the face with closed eyes.
After the first moments of paralyzed reverie the familiar tune in the
familiar rendering made her laugh and shed tears simultaneously.
Then a man at the bottom of the dance, whose partner had dropped
away, stretched out his hand and beckoned to her to take the place.
She did not want to dance; she entreated by signs to be left where
she was, but she was entreating of the tune and its player rather
than of the dancing man. The saltatory tendency which the fiddler
and his cunning instrument had ever been able to start in her was
seizing Car'line just as it had done in earlier years, possibly
assisted by the gin-and-beer hot. Tired as she was she grasped her
little girl by the hand, and plunging in at the bottom of the figure,
whirled about with the rest. She found that her companions were
mostly people of the neighbouring hamlets and farms--Bloom's End,
Mellstock, Lewgate, and elsewhere; and by degrees she was recognized
as she convulsively danced on, wishing that Mop would cease and let
her heart rest from the aching he caused, and her feet also.
After long and many minutes the dance ended, when she was urged to
fortify herself with more gin-and-beer; which she did, feeling very
weak and overpowered with hysteric emotion. She refrained from
unveiling, to keep Mop in ignorance of her presence, if possible.
Several of the guests having left, Car'line hastily wiped her lips
and also turned to go; but, according to the account of some who
remained, at that very moment a five-handed reel was proposed, in
which two or three begged her to join.
She declined on the plea of being tired and having to walk to
Stickleford, when Mop began aggressively tweedling 'My Fancy-Lad,' in
D major, as the air to which the reel was to be footed. He must have
recognized her, though she did not know it, for it was the strain of
all seductive strains which she was least able to resist--the one he
had played when she was leaning over the bridge at the date of their
first acquaintance. Car'line stepped despairingly into the middle of
the room with the other four.
Reels were resorted to hereabouts at this time by the more robust
spirits, for the reduction of superfluous energy which the ordinary
figure-dances were not powerful enough to exhaust. As everybody
knows, or does not know, the five reelers stood in the form of a
cross, the reel being performed by each line of three alternately,
the persons who successively came to the middle place dancing in both
directions. Car'line soon found herself in this place, the axis of
the whole performance, and could not get out of it, the tune turning
into the first part without giving her opportunity. And now she
began to suspect that Mop did know her, and was doing this on
purpose, though whenever she stole a glance at him his closed eyes
betokened obliviousness to everything outside his own brain. She
continued to wend her way through the figure of 8 that was formed by
her course, the fiddler introducing into his notes the wild and
agonizing sweetness of a living voice in one too highly wrought; its
pathos running high and running low in endless variation, projecting
through her nerves excruciating spasms, a sort of blissful torture.
The room swam, the tune was endless; and in about a quarter of an
hour the only other woman in the figure dropped out exhausted, and
sank panting on a bench.
The reel instantly resolved itself into a four-handed one. Car'line
would have given anything to leave off; but she had, or fancied she
had, no power, while Mop played such tunes; and thus another ten
minutes slipped by, a haze of dust now clouding the candles, the
floor being of stone, sanded. Then another dancer fell out--one of
the men--and went into the passage, in a frantic search for liquor.
To turn the figure into a three-handed reel was the work of a second,
Mop modulating at the same time into 'The Fairy Dance,' as better
suited to the contracted movement, and no less one of those foods of
love which, as manufactured by his bow, had always intoxicated her.
In a reel for three there was no rest whatever, and four or five
minutes were enough to make her remaining two partners, now
thoroughly blown, stamp their last bar and, like their predecessors,
limp off into the next room to get something to drink. Car'line,
half-stifled inside her veil, was left dancing alone, the apartment
now being empty of everybody save herself, Mop, and their little
She flung up the veil, and cast her eyes upon him, as if imploring
him to withdraw himself and his acoustic magnetism from the
atmosphere. Mop opened one of his own orbs, as though for the first
time, fixed it peeringly upon her, and smiling dreamily, threw into
his strains the reserve of expression which he could not afford to
waste on a big and noisy dance. Crowds of little chromatic
subtleties, capable of drawing tears from a statue, proceeded
straightway from the ancient fiddle, as if it were dying of the
emotion which had been pent up within it ever since its banishment
from some Italian city where it first took shape and sound. There
was that in the look of Mop's one dark eye which said: 'You cannot
leave off, dear, whether you would or no!' and it bred in her a
paroxysm of desperation that defied him to tire her down.
She thus continued to dance alone, defiantly as she thought, but in
truth slavishly and abjectly, subject to every wave of the melody,
and probed by the gimlet-like gaze of her fascinator's open eye;
keeping up at the same time a feeble smile in his face, as a feint to
signify it was still her own pleasure which led her on. A terrified
embarrassment as to what she could say to him if she were to leave
off, had its unrecognized share in keeping her going. The child, who
was beginning to be distressed by the strange situation, came up and
said: 'Stop, mother, stop, and let's go home!' as she seized
Suddenly Car'line sank staggering to the floor; and rolling over on
her face, prone she remained. Mop's fiddle thereupon emitted an
elfin shriek of finality; stepping quickly down from the nine-gallon
beer-cask which had formed his rostrum, he went to the little girl,
who disconsolately bent over her mother.
The guests who had gone into the back-room for liquor and change of
air, hearing something unusual, trooped back hitherward, where they
endeavoured to revive poor, weak Car'line by blowing her with the
bellows and opening the window. Ned, her husband, who had been
detained in Casterbridge, as aforesaid, came along the road at this
juncture, and hearing excited voices through the open casement, and
to his great surprise, the mention of his wife's name, he entered
amid the rest upon the scene. Car'line was now in convulsions,
weeping violently, and for a long time nothing could be done with
her. While he was sending for a cart to take her onward to
Stickleford Hipcroft anxiously inquired how it had all happened; and
then the assembly explained that a fiddler formerly known in the
locality had lately revisited his old haunts, and had taken upon
himself without invitation to play that evening at the inn.
Ned demanded the fiddler's name, and they said Ollamoor.
'Ah!' exclaimed Ned, looking round him. 'Where is he, and where--
where's my little girl?'
Ollamoor had disappeared, and so had the child. Hipcroft was in
ordinary a quiet and tractable fellow, but a determination which was
to be feared settled in his face now. 'Blast him!' he cried. 'I'll
beat his skull in for'n, if I swing for it to-morrow!'
He had rushed to the poker which lay on the hearth, and hastened down
the passage, the people following. Outside the house, on the other
side of the highway, a mass of dark heath-land rose sullenly upward
to its not easily accessible interior, a ravined plateau, whereon
jutted into the sky, at the distance of a couple of miles, the fir-
woods of Mistover backed by the Yalbury coppices--a place of
Dantesque gloom at this hour, which would have afforded secure hiding
for a battery of artillery, much less a man and a child.
Some other men plunged thitherward with him, and more went along the
road. They were gone about twenty minutes altogether, returning
without result to the inn. Ned sat down in the settle, and clasped
his forehead with his hands.
'Well--what a fool the man is, and hev been all these years, if he
thinks the child his, as a' do seem to!' they whispered. 'And
everybody else knowing otherwise!'
'No, I don't think 'tis mine!' cried Ned hoarsely, as he looked up
from his hands. 'But she is mine, all the same! Ha'n't I nussed
her? Ha'n't I fed her and teached her? Ha'n't I played wi' her? O,
little Carry--gone with that rogue--gone!'
'You ha'n't lost your mis'ess, anyhow,' they said to console him.
'She's throwed up the sperrits, and she is feeling better, and she's
more to 'ee than a child that isn't yours.'
'She isn't! She's not so particular much to me, especially now she's
lost the little maid! But Carry's everything!'
'Well, ver' like you'll find her to-morrow.'
'Ah--but shall I? Yet he CAN'T hurt her--surely he can't! Well--
how's Car'line now? I am ready. Is the cart here?'
She was lifted into the vehicle, and they sadly lumbered on toward
Stickleford. Next day she was calmer; but the fits were still upon
her; and her will seemed shattered. For the child she appeared to
show singularly little anxiety, though Ned was nearly distracted. It
was nevertheless quite expected that the impish Mop would restore the
lost one after a freak of a day or two; but time went on, and neither
he nor she could be heard of, and Hipcroft murmured that perhaps he
was exercising upon her some unholy musical charm, as he had done
upon Car'line herself. Weeks passed, and still they could obtain no
clue either to the fiddler's whereabouts or the girl's; and how he
could have induced her to go with him remained a mystery.
Then Ned, who had obtained only temporary employment in the
neighbourhood, took a sudden hatred toward his native district, and a
rumour reaching his ears through the police that a somewhat similar
man and child had been seen at a fair near London, he playing a
violin, she dancing on stilts, a new interest in the capital took
possession of Hipcroft with an intensity which would scarcely allow
him time to pack before returning thither.
He did not, however, find the lost one, though he made it the entire
business of his over-hours to stand about in by-streets in the hope
of discovering her, and would start up in the night, saying, 'That
rascal's torturing her to maintain him!' To which his wife would
answer peevishly, 'Don't 'ee raft yourself so, Ned! You prevent my
getting a bit o' rest! He won't hurt her!' and fall asleep again.
That Carry and her father had emigrated to America was the general
opinion; Mop, no doubt, finding the girl a highly desirable companion
when he had trained her to keep him by her earnings as a dancer.
There, for that matter, they may be performing in some capacity now,
though he must be an old scamp verging on threescore-and-ten, and she
a woman of four-and-forty.
TRADITION OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR
The widely discussed possibility of an invasion of England through a
Channel tunnel has more than once recalled old Solomon Selby's story
to my mind.
The occasion on which I numbered myself among his audience was one
evening when he was sitting in the yawning chimney-corner of the inn-
kitchen, with some others who had gathered there, and I entered for
shelter from the rain. Withdrawing the stem of his pipe from the
dental notch in which it habitually rested, he leaned back in the
recess behind him and smiled into the fire. The smile was neither
mirthful nor sad, not precisely humorous nor altogether thoughtful.
We who knew him recognized it in a moment: it was his narrative
smile. Breaking off our few desultory remarks we drew up closer, and
he thus began:-
'My father, as you mid know, was a shepherd all his life, and lived
out by the Cove four miles yonder, where I was born and lived
likewise, till I moved here shortly afore I was married. The cottage
that first knew me stood on the top of the down, near the sea; there
was no house within a mile and a half of it; it was built o' purpose
for the farm-shepherd, and had no other use. They tell me that it is
now pulled down, but that you can see where it stood by the mounds of
earth and a few broken bricks that are still lying about. It was a
bleak and dreary place in winter-time, but in summer it was well
enough, though the garden never came to much, because we could not
get up a good shelter for the vegetables and currant bushes; and
where there is much wind they don't thrive.
'Of all the years of my growing up the ones that bide clearest in my
mind were eighteen hundred and three, four, and five. This was for
two reasons: I had just then grown to an age when a child's eyes and
ears take in and note down everything about him, and there was more
at that date to bear in mind than there ever has been since with me.
It was, as I need hardly tell ye, the time after the first peace,
when Bonaparte was scheming his descent upon England. He had crossed
the great Alp mountains, fought in Egypt, drubbed the Turks, the
Austrians, and the Proossians, and now thought he'd have a slap at
us. On the other side of the Channel, scarce out of sight and hail
of a man standing on our English shore, the French army of a hundred
and sixty thousand men and fifteen thousand horses had been brought
together from all parts, and were drilling every day. Bonaparte had
been three years a-making his preparations; and to ferry these
soldiers and cannon and horses across he had contrived a couple of
thousand flat-bottomed boats. These boats were small things, but
wonderfully built. A good few of 'em were so made as to have a
little stable on board each for the two horses that were to haul the
cannon carried at the stern. To get in order all these, and other
things required, he had assembled there five or six thousand fellows
that worked at trades--carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights,
saddlers, and what not. O 'twas a curious time!
'Every morning Neighbour Boney would muster his multitude of soldiers
on the beach, draw 'em up in line, practise 'em in the manoeuvre of
embarking, horses and all, till they could do it without a single
hitch. My father drove a flock of ewes up into Sussex that year, and
as he went along the drover's track over the high downs thereabout he
could see this drilling actually going on--the accoutrements of the
rank and file glittering in the sun like silver. It was thought and
always said by my uncle Job, sergeant of foot (who used to know all
about these matters), that Bonaparte meant to cross with oars on a
calm night. The grand query with us was, Where would my gentleman
land? Many of the common people thought it would be at Dover;
others, who knew how unlikely it was that any skilful general would
make a business of landing just where he was expected, said he'd go
either east into the River Thames, or west'ard to some convenient
place, most likely one of the little bays inside the Isle of
Portland, between the Beal and St. Alban's Head--and for choice the
three-quarter-round Cove, screened from every mortal eye, that seemed
made o' purpose, out by where we lived, and which I've climmed up
with two tubs of brandy across my shoulders on scores o' dark nights
in my younger days. Some had heard that a part o' the French fleet
would sail right round Scotland, and come up the Channel to a
suitable haven. However, there was much doubt upon the matter; and
no wonder, for after-years proved that Bonaparte himself could hardly
make up his mind upon that great and very particular point, where to
land. His uncertainty came about in this wise, that he could get no
news as to where and how our troops lay in waiting, and that his
knowledge of possible places where flat-bottomed boats might be
quietly run ashore, and the men they brought marshalled in order, was
dim to the last degree. Being flat-bottomed, they didn't require a
harbour for unshipping their cargo of men, but a good shelving beach
away from sight, and with a fair open road toward London. How the
question posed that great Corsican tyrant (as we used to call him),
what pains he took to settle it, and, above all, what a risk he ran
on one particular night in trying to do so, were known only to one
man here and there; and certainly to no maker of newspapers or
printer of books, or my account o't would not have had so many heads
shaken over it as it has by gentry who only believe what they see in
'The flocks my father had charge of fed all about the downs near our
house, overlooking the sea and shore each way for miles. In winter
and early spring father was up a deal at nights, watching and tending
the lambing. Often he'd go to bed early, and turn out at twelve or
one; and on the other hand, he'd sometimes stay up till twelve or
one, and then turn in to bed. As soon as I was old enough I used to
help him, mostly in the way of keeping an eye upon the ewes while he
was gone home to rest. This is what I was doing in a particular
month in either the year four or five--I can't certainly fix which,
but it was long before I was took away from the sheepkeeping to be
bound prentice to a trade. Every night at that time I was at the
fold, about half a mile, or it may be a little more, from our
cottage, and no living thing at all with me but the ewes and young
lambs. Afeard? No; I was never afeard of being alone at these
times; for I had been reared in such an out-step place that the lack
o' human beings at night made me less fearful than the sight of 'em.
Directly I saw a man's shape after dark in a lonely place I was
frightened out of my senses.
'One day in that month we were surprised by a visit from my uncle
Job, the sergeant in the Sixty-first foot, then in camp on the downs
above King George's watering-place, several miles to the west yonder.
Uncle Job dropped in about dusk, and went up with my father to the
fold for an hour or two. Then he came home, had a drop to drink from
the tub of sperrits that the smugglers kept us in for housing their
liquor when they'd made a run, and for burning 'em off when there was
danger. After that he stretched himself out on the settle to sleep.
I went to bed: at one o'clock father came home, and waking me to go
and take his place, according to custom, went to bed himself. On my
way out of the house I passed Uncle Job on the settle. He opened his
eyes, and upon my telling him where I was going he said it was a
shame that such a youngster as I should go up there all alone; and
when he had fastened up his stock and waist-belt he set off along
with me, taking a drop from the sperrit-tub in a little flat bottle
that stood in the corner-cupboard.
'By and by we drew up to the fold, saw that all was right, and then,
to keep ourselves warm, curled up in a heap of straw that lay inside
the thatched hurdles we had set up to break the stroke of the wind
when there was any. To-night, however, there was none. It was one
of those very still nights when, if you stand on the high hills
anywhere within two or three miles of the sea, you can hear the rise
and fall of the tide along the shore, coming and going every few
moments like a sort of great snore of the sleeping world. Over the
lower ground there was a bit of a mist, but on the hill where we lay
the air was clear, and the moon, then in her last quarter, flung a
fairly good light on the grass and scattered straw.
'While we lay there Uncle Job amused me by telling me strange stories
of the wars he had served in and the wownds he had got. He had
already fought the French in the Low Countries, and hoped to fight
'em again. His stories lasted so long that at last I was hardly sure
that I was not a soldier myself, and had seen such service as he told
of. The wonders of his tales quite bewildered my mind, till I fell