Part 8 out of 9
shed, and Flower was coxswain. His musing was on the possibility of
a use for it this night.
It appeared that the captain of the Spruce was aiming to pass in
under the lee of the pier; but a strong current of four or five
knots was running between the piles, drifting the steamer away at
every attempt as soon as she slowed. To come in on the other side
was dangerous, the hull of the vessel being likely to crash against
and overthrow the fragile erection, with damage to herself also.
Flower, who had disappeared for a few minutes, now came back.
'It is just possible I can make 'em hear with the trumpet, now they
be to leeward,' he said, and proceeded with two or three others to
grope his way out upon the pier, which consisted simply of a row of
rotten piles covered with rotten planking, no balustrade of any kind
existing to keep the unwary from tumbling off. At the water level
the piles were eaten away by the action of the sea to about the size
of a man's wrist, and at every fresh influx the whole structure
trembled like a spider's web. In this lay the danger of making
fast, for a strong pull from a headfast rope might drag the erection
completely over. Flower arrived at the end, where a lantern hung.
'Spruce ahoy!' he blared through the speaking trumpet two or three
There seemed to be a reply of some sort from the steamer.
'Tuesday's gale hev loosened the pier, Cap'n Ounce; the bollards be
too weak to make fast to: must land in boats if ye will land, but
dangerous; yer wife is out of danger, and 'tis a boy-y-y-y!'
Ethelberta and Picotee were at this time standing on the beach a
hundred and fifty yards off. Whether or not the master of the
steamer received the information volunteered by Flower, the two
girls saw the triangle of lamps get narrow at its base, reduce
themselves to two in a vertical line, then to one, then to darkness.
The Spruce had turned her head from Knollsea.
'They have gone back, and I shall not have my wedding things after
all!' said Ethelberta. 'Well, I must do without them.'
'You see, 'twas best to play sure,' said Flower to his comrades, in
a tone of complacency. 'They might have been able to do it, but
'twas risky. The shop-folk be out of stock, I hear, and the
visiting lady up the hill is terribly in want of clothes, so 'tis
said. But what's that? Ounce ought to have put back afore.'
Then the lantern which hung at the end of the jetty was taken down,
and the darkness enfolded all around from view. The bay became
nothing but a voice, the foam an occasional touch upon the face, the
Spruce an imagination, the pier a memory. Everything lessened upon
the senses but one; that was the wind. It mauled their persons like
a hand, and caused every scrap of their raiment to tug westward. To
stand with the face to sea brought semi-suffocation, from the
intense pressure of air.
The boatmen retired to their position under the wall, to lounge
again in silence. Conversation was not considered necessary: their
sense of each other's presence formed a kind of conversation.
Meanwhile Picotee and Ethelberta went up the hill.
'If your wedding were going to be a public one, what a misfortune
this delay of the packages would be,' said Picotee.
'Yes,' replied the elder.
'I think the bracelet the prettiest of all the presents he brought
'It is the most valuable.'
'Lord Mountclere is very kind, is he not? I like him a great deal
better than I did--do you, Berta?'
'Yes, very much better,' said Ethelberta, warming a little. 'If he
were not so suspicious at odd moments I should like him exceedingly.
But I must cure him of that by a regular course of treatment, and
then he'll be very nice.'
'For an old man. He likes you better than any young man would take
the trouble to do. I wish somebody else were old too.'
'He will be some day.'
'Never mind: time will straighten many crooked things.'
'Do you think Lord Mountclere has reached home by this time?'
'I should think so: though I believe he had to call at the
parsonage before leaving Knollsea.'
'Had he? What for?'
'Why, of course somebody must--'
'O yes. Do you think anybody in Knollsea knows it is going to be
except us and the parson?'
'I suppose the clerk knows.'
'I wonder if a lord has ever been married so privately before.'
'Frequently: when he marries far beneath him, as in this case. But
even if I could have had it, I should not have liked a showy
wedding. I have had no experience as a bride except in the private
form of the ceremony.'
'Berta, I am sometimes uneasy about you even now and I want to ask
you one thing, if I may. Are you doing this for my sake? Would you
have married Mr. Julian if it had not been for me?'
'It is difficult to say exactly. It is possible that if I had had
no relations at all, I might have married him. And I might not.'
'I don't intend to marry.'
'In that case you will live with me at Enckworth. However, we will
leave such details till the ground-work is confirmed. When we get
indoors will you see if the boxes have been properly corded, and are
quite ready to be sent for? Then come in and sit by the fire, and
I'll sing some songs to you.'
'Sad ones, you mean.'
'No, they shall not be sad.'
'Perhaps they may be the last you will ever sing to me.'
'They may be. Such a thing has occurred.'
'But we will not think so. We'll suppose you are to sing many to me
'Yes. There's good sense in that, Picotee. In a world where the
blind only are cheerful we should all do well to put out our eyes.
There, I did not mean to get into this state: forgive me, Picotee.
It is because I have had a thought--why I cannot tell--that as much
as this man brings to me in rank and gifts he may take out of me in
'But there's no reason in it--not any; for not in a single matter
does what has been supply us with any certain ground for knowing
what will be in the world. I have seen marriages where happiness
might have been said to be ensured, and they have been all sadness
afterwards; and I have seen those in which the prospect was black as
night, and they have led on to a time of sweetness and comfort. And
I have seen marriages neither joyful nor sorry, that have become
either as accident forced them to become, the persons having no
voice in it at all. Well, then, why should I be afraid to make a
plunge when chance is as trustworthy as calculation?'
'If you don't like him well enough, don't have him, Berta. There's
time enough to put it off even now.'
'O no. I would not upset a well-considered course on the haste of
an impulse. Our will should withstand our misgivings. Now let us
see if all has been packed, and then we'll sing.'
That evening, while the wind was wheeling round and round the
dwelling, and the calm eye of the lighthouse afar was the single
speck perceptible of the outside world from the door of Ethelberta's
temporary home, the music of songs mingled with the stroke of the
wind across the iron railings, and was swept on in the general tide
of the gale, and the noise of the rolling sea, till not the echo of
a tone remained.
An hour before this singing, an old gentleman might have been seen
to alight from a little one-horse brougham, and enter the door of
Knollsea parsonage. He was bent upon obtaining an entrance to the
vicar's study without giving his name.
But it happened that the vicar's wife was sitting in the front room,
making a pillow-case for the children's bed out of an old surplice
which had been excommunicated the previous Easter; she heard the
newcomer's voice through the partition, started, and went quickly to
her husband, who was where he ought to have been, in his study. At
her entry he looked up with an abstracted gaze, having been lost in
meditation over a little schooner which he was attempting to rig for
their youngest boy. At a word from his wife on the suspected name
of the visitor, he resumed his earlier occupation of inserting a few
strong sentences, full of the observation of maturer life, between
the lines of a sermon written during his first years of ordination,
in order to make it available for the coming Sunday. His wife then
vanished with the little ship in her hand, and the visitor appeared.
A talk went on in low tones.
After a ten minutes' stay he departed as secretly as he had come.
His errand was the cause of much whispered discussion between the
vicar and his wife during the evening, but nothing was said
concerning it to the outside world.
44. SANDBOURNE - A LONELY HEATH - THE 'RED LION' - THE HIGHWAY
It was half-past eleven before the Spruce, with Mountclere and Sol
Chickerel on board, had steamed back again to Sandbourne. The
direction and increase of the wind had made it necessary to keep the
vessel still further to sea on their return than in going, that they
might clear without risk the windy, sousing, thwacking, basting,
scourging Jack Ketch of a corner called Old-Harry Point, which lay
about halfway along their track, and stood, with its detached posts
and stumps of white rock, like a skeleton's lower jaw, grinning at
British navigation. Here strong currents and cross currents were
beginning to interweave their scrolls and meshes, the water rising
behind them in tumultuous heaps, and slamming against the fronts and
angles of cliff, whence it flew into the air like clouds of flour.
Who could now believe that this roaring abode of chaos smiled in the
sun as gently as an infant during the summer days not long gone by,
every pinnacle, crag, and cave returning a doubled image across the
They were now again at Sandbourne, a point in their journey reached
more than four hours ago. It became necessary to consider anew how
to accomplish the difficult remainder. The wind was not blowing
much beyond what seamen call half a gale, but there had been enough
unpleasantness afloat to make landsmen glad to get ashore, and this
dissipated in a slight measure their vexation at having failed in
their purpose. Still, Mountclere loudly cursed their confidence in
that treacherously short route, and Sol abused the unknown
Sandbourne man who had brought the news of the steamer's arrival to
them at the junction. The only course left open to them now, short
of giving up the undertaking, was to go by the road along the shore,
which, curving round the various little creeks and inland seas
between their present position and Knollsea, was of no less length
than thirty miles. There was no train back to the junction till the
next morning, and Sol's proposition that they should drive thither
in hope of meeting the mail-train, was overruled by Mountclere.
'We will have nothing more to do with chance,' he said. 'We may
miss the train, and then we shall have gone out of the way for
nothing. More than that, the down mail does not stop till it gets
several miles beyond the nearest station for Knollsea; so it is
'If there had only been a telegraph to the confounded place!'
'Telegraph--we might as well telegraph to the devil as to an old
booby and a damned scheming young widow. I very much question if we
shall do anything in the matter, even if we get there. But I
suppose we had better go on now?'
'You can do as you like. I shall go on, if I have to walk every
'That's not necessary. I think the best posting-house at this end
of the town is Tempett's--we must knock them up at once. Which will
you do--attempt supper here, or break the back of our journey first,
and get on to Anglebury? We may rest an hour or two there, unless
you feel really in want of a meal.'
'No. I'll leave eating to merrier men, who have no sister in the
hands of a cursed old Vandal.'
'Very well,' said Mountclere. 'We'll go on at once.'
An additional half-hour elapsed before they were fairly started, the
lateness and abruptness of their arrival causing delay in getting a
conveyance ready: the tempestuous night had apparently driven the
whole town, gentle and simple, early to their beds. And when at
length the travellers were on their way the aspect of the weather
grew yet more forbidding. The rain came down unmercifully, the
booming wind caught it, bore it across the plain, whizzed it against
the carriage like a sower sowing his seed. It was precisely such
weather, and almost at the same season, as when Picotee traversed
the same moor, stricken with her great disappointment at not meeting
Further on for several miles the drive lay through an open heath,
dotted occasionally with fir plantations, the trees of which told
the tale of their species without help from outline or colour; they
spoke in those melancholy moans and sobs which give to their sound a
solemn sadness surpassing even that of the sea. From each carriage-
lamp the long rays stretched like feelers into the air, and somewhat
cheered the way, until the insidious damp that pervaded all things
above, around, and underneath, overpowered one of them, and rendered
every attempt to rekindle it ineffectual. Even had the two men's
dislike to each other's society been less, the general din of the
night would have prevented much talking; as it was, they sat in a
rigid reticence that was almost a third personality. The roads were
laid hereabouts with a light sandy gravel, which, though not
clogging, was soft and friable. It speedily became saturated, and
the wheels ground heavily and deeply into its substance.
At length, after crossing from ten to twelve miles of these eternal
heaths under the eternally drumming storm, they could discern
eyelets of light winking to them in the distance from under a
nebulous brow of pale haze. They were looking on the little town of
Havenpool. Soon after this cross-roads were reached, one of which,
at right angles to their present direction, led down on the left to
that place. Here the man stopped, and informed them that the horses
would be able to go but a mile or two further.
'Very well, we must have others that can,' said Mountclere. 'Does
our way lie through the town?'
'No, sir--unless we go there to change horses, which I thought to
do. The direct road is straight on. Havenpool lies about three
miles down there on the left. But the water is over the road, and
we had better go round. We shall come to no place for two or three
miles, and then only to Flychett.'
'What's Flychett like?'
'A trumpery small bit of a village.'
'Still, I think we had better push on,' said Sol. 'I am against
running the risk of finding the way flooded about Havenpool.'
'So am I,' returned Mountclere.
'I know a wheelwright in Flychett,' continued Sol, 'and he keeps a
beer-house, and owns two horses. We could hire them, and have a bit
of sommat in the shape of victuals, and then get on to Anglebury.
Perhaps the rain may hold up by that time. Anything's better than
going out of our way.'
'Yes. And the horses can last out to that place,' said Mountclere.
'Up and on again, my man.'
On they went towards Flychett. Still the everlasting heath, the
black hills bulging against the sky, the barrows upon their round
summits like warts on a swarthy skin. The storm blew huskily over
bushes of heather and furze that it was unable materially to
disturb, and the travellers proceeded as before. But the horses
were now far from fresh, and the time spent in reaching the next
village was quite half as long as that taken up by the previous
heavy portion of the drive. When they entered Flychett it was about
'Now, where's the inn?' said Mountclere, yawning.
'Just on the knap,' Sol answered. ''Tis a little small place, and
we must do as well as we can.'
They pulled up before a cottage, upon the whitewashed front of which
could be seen a square board representing the sign. After an
infinite labour of rapping and shouting, a casement opened overhead,
and a woman's voice inquired what was the matter. Sol explained,
when she told them that the horses were away from home.
'Now we must wait till these are rested,' growled Mountclere. 'A
'It cannot be helped,' answered Sol; and he asked the woman to open
the door. She replied that her husband was away with the horses and
van, and that they could not come in.
Sol was known to her, and he mentioned his name; but the woman only
began to abuse him.
'Come, publican, you'd better let us in, or we'll have the law
for't,' rejoined Sol, with more spirit. 'You don't dare to keep
nobility waiting like this.'
'My mate hev the title of Honourable, whether or no; so let's have
none of your slack,' said Sol.
'Don't be a fool, young chopstick,' exclaimed Mountclere. 'Get the
'I will--in my own way,' said Sol testily. 'You mustn't mind my
trading upon your quality, as 'tis a case of necessity. This is a
woman nothing will bring to reason but an appeal to the higher
powers. If every man of title was as useful as you are to-night,
sir, I'd never call them lumber again as long as I live.'
'There's never a bit of rubbish that won't come in use if you keep
it seven years.'
'If my utility depends upon keeping you company, may I go to h---
for lacking every atom of the virtue.'
'Hear, hear! But it hardly is becoming in me to answer up to a man
so much older than I, or I could say more. Suppose we draw a line
here for the present, sir, and get indoors?'
'Do what you will, in Heaven's name.'
A few more words to the woman resulted in her agreeing to admit them
if they would attend to themselves afterwards. This Sol promised,
and the key of the door was let down to them from the bedroom window
by a string. When they had entered, Sol, who knew the house well,
busied himself in lighting a fire, the driver going off with a
lantern to the stable, where he found standing-room for the two
horses. Mountclere walked up and down the kitchen, mumbling words
of disgust at the situation, the few of this kind that he let out
being just enough to show what a fearfully large number he kept in.
'A-calling up people at this time of morning!' the woman
occasionally exclaimed down the stairs. 'But folks show no mercy
upon their flesh and blood--not one bit or mite.'
'Now never be stomachy, my good soul,' cried Sol from the fireplace,
where he stood blowing the fire with his breath. 'Only tell me
where the victuals bide, and I'll do all the cooking. We'll pay
like princes--especially my mate.'
'There's but little in house,' said the sleepy woman from her
bedroom. 'There's pig's fry, a side of bacon, a conger eel, and
'Conger eel?' said Sol to Mountclere.
'No, thank you.'
'No, thank you.'
'Well, then, tell me where the bacon is,' shouted Sol to the woman.
'You must find it,' came again down the stairs. ''Tis somewhere up
in chimley, but in which part I can't mind. Really I don't know
whether I be upon my head or my heels, and my brain is all in a
spin, wi' being rafted up in such a larry!'
'Bide where you be, there's a dear,' said Sol. 'We'll do it all.
Just tell us where the tea-caddy is, and the gridiron, and then you
can go to sleep again.'
The woman appeared to take his advice, for she gave the information,
and silence soon reigned upstairs.
When one piece of bacon had been with difficulty cooked over the
newly-lit fire, Sol said to Mountclere, with the rasher on his fork:
'Now look here, sir, I think while I am making the tea, you ought to
go on griddling some more of these, as you haven't done nothing at
'I do the paying. . . . Well, give me the bacon.'
'And when you have done yours, I'll cook the man's, as the poor
feller's hungry, I make no doubt.'
Mountclere, fork in hand, then began with his rasher, tossing it
about the gridiron in masterly style, Sol attending to the tea. He
was attracted from this occupation by a brilliant flame up the
chimney, Mountclere exclaiming, 'Now the cursed thing is on fire!'
'Blow it out--hard--that's it! Well now, sir, do you come and begin
upon mine, as you must be hungry. I'll finish the griddling. Ought
we to mind the man sitting down in our company, as there's no other
room for him? I hear him coming in.'
'O no--not at all. Put him over at that table.'
'And I'll join him. You can sit here by yourself, sir.'
The meal was despatched, and the coachman again retired, promising
to have the horses ready in about an hour and a half. Sol and
Mountclere made themselves comfortable upon either side of the
fireplace, since there was no remedy for the delay: after sitting
in silence awhile, they nodded and slept.
How long they would have remained thus, in consequence of their
fatigues, there is no telling, had not the mistress of the cottage
descended the stairs about two hours later, after peeping down upon
them at intervals of five minutes during their sleep, lest they
should leave without her knowledge. It was six o'clock, and Sol
went out for the man, whom he found snoring in the hay-loft. There
was now real necessity for haste, and in ten minutes they were again
on their way.
Day dawned upon the 'Red Lion' inn at Anglebury with a timid and
watery eye. From the shadowy archway came a shining lantern, which
was seen to be dangling from the hand of a little bow-legged old
man--the hostler, John. Having reached the front, he looked around
to measure the daylight, opened the lantern, and extinguished it by
a pinch of his fingers. He paused for a moment to have the
customary word or two with his neighbour the milkman, who usually
appeared at this point at this time.
'It sounds like the whistle of the morning train,' the milkman said
as he drew near, a scream from the further end of the town reaching
their ears. 'Well, I hope, now the wind's in that quarter, we shall
ha'e a little more fine weather--hey, hostler?'
'What be ye a talking o'?'
'Can hear the whistle plain, I say.'
'O ay. I suppose you do. But faith, 'tis a poor fist I can make at
hearing anything. There, I could have told all the same that the
wind was in the east, even if I had not seed poor Thomas Tribble's
smoke blowing across the little orchard. Joints be a true
weathercock enough when past three-score. These easterly rains,
when they do come, which is not often, come wi' might enough to
squail a man into his grave.'
'Well, we must look for it, hostler. . . . Why, what mighty
ekkypage is this, come to town at such a purblinking time of day?'
''Tis what time only can tell--though 'twill not be long first,' the
hostler replied, as the driver of the pair of horses and carriage
containing Sol and Mountclere slackened pace, and drew rein before
Fresh horses were immediately called for, and while they were being
put in the two travellers walked up and down.
'It is now a quarter to seven o'clock,' said Mountclere; 'and the
question arises, shall I go on to Knollsea, or branch off at
Corvsgate Castle for Enckworth? I think the best plan will be to
drive first to Enckworth, set me down, and then get him to take you
on at once to Knollsea. What do you say?'
'When shall I reach Knollsea by that arrangement?'
'By half-past eight o'clock. We shall be at Enckworth before eight,
which is excellent time.'
'Very well, sir, I agree to that,' said Sol, feeling that as soon as
one of the two birds had been caught, the other could not mate
without their knowledge.
The carriage and horses being again ready, away they drove at once,
both having by this time grown too restless to spend in Anglebury a
minute more than was necessary.
The hostler and his lad had taken the jaded Sandbourne horses to the
stable, rubbed them down, and fed them, when another noise was heard
outside the yard; the omnibus had returned from meeting the train.
Relinquishing the horses to the small stable-lad, the old hostler
again looked out from the arch.
A young man had stepped from the omnibus, and he came forward. 'I
want a conveyance of some sort to take me to Knollsea, at once. Can
you get a horse harnessed in five minutes?'
'I'll make shift to do what I can master, not promising about the
minutes. The truest man can say no more. Won't ye step into the
bar, sir, and give your order? I'll let ye know as soon as 'tis
Christopher turned into a room smelling strongly of the night
before, and stood by the newly-kindled fire to wait. He had just
come in haste from Melchester. The upshot of his excitement about
the wedding, which, as the possible hour of its solemnization drew
near, had increased till it bore him on like a wind, was this
unpremeditated journey. Lying awake the previous night, the
hangings of his bed pulsing to every beat of his heart, he decided
that there was one last and great service which it behoved him, as
an honest man and friend, to say nothing of lover, to render to
Ethelberta at this juncture. It was to ask her by some means
whether or not she had engaged with open eyes to marry Lord
Mountclere; and if not, to give her a word or two of enlightenment.
That done, she might be left to take care of herself.
His plan was to obtain an interview with Picotee, and learn from her
accurately the state of things. Should he, by any possibility, be
mistaken in his belief as to the contracting parties, a knowledge of
the mistake would be cheaply purchased by the journey. Should he
not, he would send up to Ethelberta the strong note of expostulation
which was already written, and waiting in his pocket. To intrude
upon her at such a time was unseemly; and to despatch a letter by a
messenger before evidence of its necessity had been received was
most undesirable. The whole proceeding at best was clumsy; yet
earnestness is mostly clumsy; and how could he let the event pass
without a protest? Before daylight on that autumn morning he had
risen, told Faith of his intention, and started off.
As soon as the vehicle was ready, Christopher hastened to the door
and stepped up. The little stable-boy led the horse a few paces on
the way before relinquishing his hold; at the same moment a
respectably dressed man on foot, with a small black bag in his hand,
came up from the opposite direction, along the street leading from
the railway. He was a thin, elderly man, with grey hair; that a
great anxiety pervaded him was as plainly visible as were his
features. Without entering the inn, he came up at once to old John.
'Have you anything going to Knollsea this morning that I can get a
lift in?' said the pedestrian--no other than Ethelberta's father.
'Nothing empty, that I know of.'
'A matter of fifteen shillings, then, I suppose?'
'Yes--no doubt. But yond there's a young man just now starting; he
might not take it ill if ye were to ask him for a seat, and go
halves in the hire of the trap. Shall I call out?'
The hostler bawled to the stable-boy, who put the question to
Christopher. There was room for two in the dogcart, and Julian had
no objection to save the shillings of a fellow-traveller who was
evidently not rich. When Chickerel mounted to his seat, Christopher
paused to look at him as we pause in some enactment that seems to
have been already before us in a dream long ago. Ethelberta's face
was there, as the landscape is in the map, the romance in the
history, the aim in the deed: denuded, rayless, and sorry, but
For the moment, however, this did not occur to Julian. He took the
whip, the boy loosed his hold upon the horse, and they proceeded on
'What slap-dash jinks may there be going on at Knollsea, then, my
sonny?' said the hostler to the lad, as the dogcart and the backs of
the two men diminished on the road. 'You be a Knollsea boy: have
anything reached your young ears about what's in the wind there,
'No, nothing: except that 'tis going to be Christmas day in five
weeks: and then a hide-bound bull is going to be killed if he don't
die afore the time, and gi'ed away by my lord in three-pound junks,
as a reward to good people who never curse and sing bad songs,
except when they be drunk; mother says perhaps she will have some,
and 'tis excellent if well stewed, mother says.'
'A very fair chronicle for a boy to give, but not what I asked for.
When you try to answer a old man's question, always bear in mind
what it was that old man asked. A hide-bound bull is good when well
stewed, I make no doubt--for they who like it; but that's not it.
What I said was, do you know why three fokes, a rich man, a middling
man, and a poor man, should want horses for Knollsea afore seven
o'clock in the morning on a blinking day in Fall, when everything is
as wet as a dishclout, whereas that's more than often happens in
fine summer weather?'
'No--I don't know, John hostler.'
'Then go home and tell your mother that ye be no wide-awake boy, and
that old John, who went to school with her father afore she was born
or thought o', says so. . . . Chok' it all, why should I think
there's sommat going on at Knollsea? Honest travelling have been so
rascally abused since I was a boy in pinners, by tribes of nobodies
tearing from one end of the country to t'other, to see the sun go
down in salt water, or the moon play jack-lantern behind some rotten
tower or other, that, upon my song, when life and death's in the
wind there's no telling the difference!'
'I like their sixpences ever so much.'
'Young sonny, don't you answer up to me when you baint in the story-
-stopping my words in that fashion. I won't have it, David. Now up
in the tallet with ye, there's a good boy, and down with another
lock or two of hay--as fast as you can do it for me.'
The boy vanished under the archway, and the hostler followed at his
heels. Meanwhile the carriage bearing Mr. Mountclere and Sol was
speeding on its way to Enckworth. When they reached the spot at
which the road forked into two, they left the Knollsea route, and
keeping thence under the hills for the distance of five or six
miles, drove into Lord Mountclere's park. In ten minutes the house
was before them, framed in by dripping trees.
Mountclere jumped out, and entered without ceremony. Sol, being
anxious to know if Lord Mountclere was there, ordered the coachman
to wait a few moments. It was now nearly eight o'clock, and the
smoke which ascended from the newly-lit fires of the Court painted
soft blue tints upon the brown and golden leaves of lofty boughs
'O, Ethelberta!' said Sol, as he regarded the fair prospect.
The gravel of the drive had been washed clean and smooth by the
night's rain, but there were fresh wheelmarks other than their own
upon the track. Yet the mansion seemed scarcely awake, and
stillness reigned everywhere around.
Not more than three or four minutes had passed when the door was
opened for Mountclere, and he came hastily from the doorsteps.
'I must go on with you,' he said, getting into the vehicle. 'He's
'Where--to Knollsea?' said Sol.
'Yes,' said Mountclere. 'Now, go ahead to Knollsea!' he shouted to
the man. 'To think I should be fooled like this! I had no idea
that he would be leaving so soon! We might perhaps have been here
an hour earlier by hard striving. But who was to dream that he
would arrange to leave it at such an unearthly time of the morning
at this dark season of the year? Drive--drive!' he called again out
of the window, and the pace was increased.
'I have come two or three miles out of my way on account of you,'
said Sol sullenly. 'And all this time lost. I don't see why you
wanted to come here at all. I knew it would be a waste of time.'
'Damn it all, man,' said Mountclere; 'it is no use for you to be
angry with me!'
'I think it is, for 'tis you have brought me into this muddle,' said
Sol, in no sweeter tone. 'Ha, ha! Upon my life I should be
inclined to laugh, if I were not so much inclined to do the other
thing, at Berta's trick of trying to make close family allies of
such a cantankerous pair as you and I! So much of one mind as we
be, so alike in our ways of living, so close connected in our
callings and principles, so matched in manners and customs! 'twould
be a thousand pities to part us--hey, Mr. Mountclere!'
Mountclere faintly laughed with the same hideous merriment at the
same idea, and then both remained in a withering silence, meant to
express the utter contempt of each for the other, both in family and
in person. They passed the Lodge, and again swept into the
'Drive on!' said Mountclere, putting his head again out of the
window, and shouting to the man. 'Drive like the devil!' he roared
again a few minutes afterwards, in fuming dissatisfaction with their
rate of progress.
'Baint I doing of it?' said the driver, turning angrily round. 'I
ain't going to ruin my governor's horses for strangers who won't pay
double for 'em--not I. I am driving as fast as I can. If other
folks get in the way with their traps I suppose I must drive round
There was a slight crash.
'There!' continued the coachman. 'That's what comes of my turning
Sol looked out on the other side, and found that the forewheel of
their carriage had become locked in the wheel of a dogcart they had
overtaken, the road here being very narrow. Their coachman, who
knew he was to blame for this mishap, felt the advantage of taking
time by the forelock in a case of accusation, and began swearing at
his victim as if he were the sinner. Sol jumped out, and looking up
at the occupants of the other conveyance, saw against the sky the
back elevation of his father and Christopher Julian, sitting upon a
little seat which they overhung, like two big puddings upon a small
'Father--what, you going?' said Sol. 'Is it about Berta that you've
'Yes, I got your letter,' said Chickerel, 'and I felt I should like
to come--that I ought to come, to save her from what she'll regret.
Luckily, this gentleman, a stranger to me, has given me a lift from
Anglebury, or I must have hired.' He pointed to Christopher.
'But he's Mr. Julian!' said Sol.
'You are Mrs. Petherwin's father?--I have travelled in your company
without knowing it!' exclaimed Christopher, feeling and looking both
astonished and puzzled. At first, it had appeared to him that, in
direct antagonism to his own purpose, her friends were favouring
Ethelberta's wedding; but it was evidently otherwise.
'Yes, that's father,' said Sol. 'Father, this is Mr. Julian. Mr.
Julian, this gentleman here is Lord Mountclere's brother--and, to
cut the story short, we all wish to stop the wedding.'
'Then let us get on, in Heaven's name!' said Mountclere. 'You are
the lady's father?'
'I am,' said Chickerel.
'Then you had better come into this carriage. We shall go faster
than the dogcart. Now, driver, are the wheels right again?'
Chickerel hastily entered with Mountclere, Sol joined them, and they
sped on. Christopher drove close in their rear, not quite certain
whether he did well in going further, now that there were plenty of
people to attend to the business, but anxious to see the end. The
other three sat in silence, with their eyes upon their knees, though
the clouds were dispersing, and the morning grew bright. In about
twenty minutes the square unembattled tower of Knollsea Church
appeared below them in the vale, its summit just touching the
distant line of sea upon sky. The element by which they had been
victimized on the previous evening now smiled falsely to the low
They descended the road to the village at a little more mannerly
pace than that of the earlier journey, and saw the rays glance upon
the hands of the church clock, which marked five-and-twenty minutes
45. KNOLLSEA - THE ROAD THENCE - ENCKWORTH
All eyes were directed to the church-gate, as the travellers
descended the hill. No wedding carriages were there, no favours, no
slatternly group of women brimming with interest, no aged pauper on
two sticks, who comes because he has nothing else to do till dying
time, no nameless female passing by on the other side with a laugh
of indifference, no ringers taking off their coats as they vanish up
a turret, no hobbledehoys on tiptoe outside the chancel windows--in
short, none whatever of the customary accessories of a country
wedding was anywhere visible.
'Thank God!' said Chickerel.
'Wait till you know he deserves it,' said Mountclere.
'Nothing's done yet between them.'
'It is not likely that anything is done at this time of day. But I
have decided to go to the church first. You will probably go to
your relative's house at once?'
Sol looked to his father for a reply.
'No, I too shall go to the church first, just to assure myself,'
said Chickerel. 'I shall then go on to Mrs Petherwin's.'
The carriage was stopped at the corner of a steep incline leading
down to the edifice. Mountclere and Chickerel alighted and walked
on towards the gates, Sol remaining in his place. Christopher was
some way off, descending the hill on foot, having halted to leave
his horse and trap at a small inn at the entrance to the village.
When Chickerel and Mountclere reached the churchyard gate they found
it slightly open. The church-door beyond it was also open, but
nobody was near the spot.
'We have arrived not a minute too soon, however,' said Mountclere.
'Preparations have apparently begun. It was to be an early wedding,
Entering the building, they looked around; it was quite empty.
Chickerel turned towards the chancel, his eye being attracted by a
red kneeling-cushion, placed at about the middle of the altar-
railing, as if for early use. Mountclere strode to the vestry,
somewhat at a loss how to proceed in his difficult task of
unearthing his brother, obtaining a private interview with him, and
then, by the introduction of Sol and Chickerel, causing a general
'Ha! here's somebody,' he said, observing a man in the vestry. He
advanced with the intention of asking where Lord Mountclere was to
be found. Chickerel came forward in the same direction.
'Are you the parish clerk?' said Mountclere to the man, who was
dressed up in his best clothes.
'I hev the honour of that calling,' the man replied.
Two large books were lying before him on the vestry table, one of
them being open. As the clerk spoke he looked slantingly on the
page, as a person might do to discover if some writing were dry.
Mountclere and Chickerel gazed on the same page. The book was the
'Too late!' said Chickerel.
There plainly enough stood the signatures of Lord Mountclere and
Ethelberta. The viscount's was very black, and had not yet dried.
Her strokes were firm, and comparatively thick for a woman's, though
paled by juxtaposition with her husband's muddled characters. In
the space for witnesses' names appeared in trembling lines as fine
as silk the autograph of Picotee, the second name being that of a
stranger, probably the clerk.
'Yes, yes--we are too late, it seems,' said Mountclere coolly. 'Who
could have thought they'd marry at eight!'
Chickerel stood like a man baked hard and dry. Further than his
first two words he could say nothing.
'They must have set about it early, upon my soul,' Mountclere
continued. 'When did the wedding take place?' he asked of the clerk
'It was over about five minutes before you came in,' replied that
luminary pleasantly, as he played at an invisible game of pitch-and-
toss with some half-sovereigns in his pocket. 'I received orders to
have the church ready at five minutes to eight this morning, though
I knew nothing about such a thing till bedtime last night. It was
very private and plain, not that I should mind another such a one,
sir;' and he secretly pitched and tossed again.
Meanwhile Sol had found himself too restless to sit waiting in the
carriage for more than a minute after the other two had left it. He
stepped out at the same instant that Christopher came past, and
together they too went on to the church.
'Father, ought we not to go on at once to Ethelberta's, instead of
waiting?' said Sol, on reaching the vestry, still in ignorance.
''Twas no use in coming here.'
'No use at all,' said Chickerel, as if he had straw in his throat.
'Look at this. I would almost sooner have had it that in leaving
this church I came from her grave--well, no, perhaps not that, but I
fear it is a bad thing.'
Sol then saw the names in the register, Christopher saw them, and
the man closed the book. Christopher could not well command
himself, and he retired.
'I knew it. I always said that pride would lead Berta to marry an
unworthy man, and so it has!' said Sol bitterly. 'What shall we do
now? I'll see her.'
'Do no such thing, young man,' said Mountclere. 'The best course is
to leave matters alone. They are married. If you are wise, you
will try to think the match a good one, and be content to let her
keep her position without inconveniencing her by your intrusions or
complaints. It is possible that the satisfaction of her ambition
will help her to endure any few surprises to her propriety that may
occur. She is a clever young woman, and has played her cards
adroitly. I only hope she may never repent of the game! A-hem.
Good morning.' Saying this, Mountclere slightly bowed to his
relations, and marched out of the church with dignity; but it was
told afterwards by the coachman, who had no love for Mountclere,
that when he stepped into the fly, and was as he believed
unobserved, he was quite overcome with fatuous rage, his lips
frothing like a mug of hot ale.
'What an impertinent gentleman 'tis,' said Chickerel. 'As if we had
tried for her to marry his brother!'
'He knows better than that,' said Sol. 'But he'll never believe
that Berta didn't lay a trap for the old fellow. He thinks at this
moment that Lord Mountclere has never been told of us and our
'I wonder if she has deceived him in anything,' murmured Chickerel.
'I can hardly suppose it. But she is altogether beyond me.
However, if she has misled him on any point she will suffer for it.'
'You need not fear that, father. It isn't her way of working. Why
couldn't she have known that when a title is to be had for the
asking, the owner must be a shocking one indeed?'
'The title is well enough. Any poor scrubs in our place must be
fools not to think the match a very rare and astonishing honour, as
far as the position goes. But that my brave girl will be miserable
is a part of the honour I can't stomach so well. If he had been any
other lord in the kingdom, we might have been merry indeed. I
believe he will ruin her happiness--yes, I do--not by any personal
snubbing or rough conduct, but by other things, causing her to be
despised; and that is a thing she can't endure.'
'She's not to be despised without a deal of trouble--we must
remember that. And if he insults her by introducing new favourites,
as they say he did his first wife, I'll call upon him and ask his
meaning, and take her away.'
'Nonsense--we shall never know what he does, or how she feels; she
will never let out a word. However unhappy she may be, she will
always deny it--that's the unfortunate part of such marriages.'
'An old chap like that ought to leave young women alone, damn him!'
The clerk came nearer. 'I am afraid I cannot allow bad words to be
spoke in this sacred pile,' he said. 'As far as my personal self
goes, I should have no objection to your cussing as much as you
like, but as a official of the church my conscience won't allow it
to be done.'
'Your conscience has allowed something to be done that cussing and
swearing are godly worship to.'
'The prettiest maid is left out of harness, however,' said the
clerk. 'The little witness was the chicken to my taste--Lord
forgive me for saying it, and a man with a wife and family!'
Sol and his father turned to withdraw, and soon forgot the remark,
but it was frequently recalled by Christopher.
'Do you think of trying to see Ethelberta before you leave?' said
'Certainly not,' said Chickerel. 'Mr. Mountclere's advice was good
in that. The more we keep out of the way the more good we are doing
her. I shall go back to Anglebury by the carrier, and get on at
once to London. You will go with me, I suppose?'
'The carrier does not leave yet for an hour or two.'
'I shall walk on, and let him overtake me. If possible, I will get
one glimpse of Enckworth Court, Berta's new home; there may be time,
if I start at once.'
'I will walk with you,' said Sol.
'There is room for one with me,' said Christopher. 'I shall drive
back early in the afternoon.'
'Thank you,' said Sol. 'I will endeavour to meet you at Corvsgate.'
Thus it was arranged. Chickerel could have wished to search for
Picotee, and learn from her the details of this mysterious matter.
But it was particularly painful to him to make himself busy after
the event; and to appear suddenly and uselessly where he was plainly
not wanted to appear would be an awkwardness which the pleasure of
seeing either daughter could scarcely counterbalance. Hence he had
resolved to return at once to town, and there await the news,
together with the detailed directions as to his own future
movements, carefully considered and laid down, which were sure to be
given by the far-seeing Ethelberta.
Sol and his father walked on together, Chickerel to meet the carrier
just beyond Enckworth, Sol to wait for Christopher at Corvsgate.
His wish to see, in company with his father, the outline of the seat
to which Ethelberta had been advanced that day, was the triumph of
youthful curiosity and interest over dogged objection. His father's
wish was based on calmer reasons.
Christopher, lone and out of place, remained in the church yet a
little longer. He desultorily walked round. Reaching the organ
chamber, he looked at the instrument, and was surprised to find
behind it a young man. Julian first thought him to be the organist;
on second inspection, however, he proved to be a person Christopher
had met before, under far different circumstances; it was our young
friend Ladywell, looking as sick and sorry as a lily with a slug in
The occasion, the place, and their own condition, made them kin.
Christopher had despised Ladywell, Ladywell had disliked
Christopher; but a third item neutralized the other two--it was
their common lot.
Christopher just nodded, for they had only met on Ethelberta's
stairs. Ladywell nodded more, and spoke. 'The church appears to be
interesting,' he said.
'Yes. Such a tower is rare in England,' said Christopher.
They then dwelt on other features of the building, thence enlarging
to the village, and then to the rocks and marine scenery, both
avoiding the malady they suffered from--the marriage of Ethelberta.
'The village streets are very picturesque, and the cliff scenery is
good of its kind,' rejoined Ladywell. 'The rocks represent the
feminine side of grandeur. Here they are white, with delicate tops.
On the west coast they are higher, black, and with angular summits.
Those represent grandeur in its masculine aspect. It is merely my
own idea, and not very bright, perhaps.'
'It is very ingenious,' said Christopher, 'and perfectly true.'
Ladywell was pleased. 'I am here at present making sketches for my
next subject--a winter sea. Otherwise I should not have--happened
to be in the church.'
'You are acquainted with Mrs. Petherwin--I think you are Mr.
Ladywell, who painted her portrait last season?'
'Yes,' said Ladywell, colouring.
'You may have heard her speak of Mr. Julian?'
'O yes,' said Ladywell, offering his hand. Then by degrees their
tongues wound closer round the subject of their sadness, each
tacitly owning to what he would not tell.
'I saw it,' said Ladywell heavily.
'Did she look troubled?'
'Not in the least--bright and fresh as a May morning. She has
played me many a bitter trick, and poor Neigh too, a friend of mine.
But I cannot help forgiving her. . . . I saw a carriage at the
door, and strolled in. The ceremony was just proceeding, so I sat
down here. Well, I have done with Knollsea. The place has no
further interest for me now. I may own to you as a friend, that if
she had not been living here I should have studied at some other
coast--of course that's in confidence.'
'I understand, quite.'
'I only arrived in the neighbourhood two days ago, and did not set
eyes upon her till this morning, she has kept so entirely indoors.'
Then the young men parted, and half-an-hour later the ingenuous
Ladywell came from the visitors' inn by the shore, a man walking
behind him with a quantity of artists' materials and appliances. He
went on board the steamer, which this morning had performed the
passage in safety. Ethelberta single having been the loadstone in
the cliffs that had attracted Ladywell hither, Ethelberta married
was the negative pole of the same, sending him away. And thus did a
woman put an end to the only opportunity of distinction, on Art-
exhibition walls, that ever offered itself to the tortuous ways,
quaint alleys, and marbled bluffs of Knollsea, as accessories in the
picture of a winter sea.
Christopher's interest in the village was of the same evaporating
nature. He looked upon the sea, and the great swell, and the waves
sending up a sound like the huzzas of multitudes; but all the wild
scene was irksome now. The ocean-bound steamers far away on the
horizon inspired him with no curiosity as to their destination; the
house Ethelberta had occupied was positively hateful; and he turned
away to wait impatiently for the hour at which he had promised to
drive on to meet Sol at Corvsgate.
Sol and Chickerel plodded along the road, in order to skirt
Enckworth before the carrier came up. Reaching the top of a hill on
their way, they paused to look down on a peaceful scene. It was a
park and wood, glowing in all the matchless colours of late autumn,
parapets and pediments peering out from a central position afar. At
the bottom of the descent before them was a lodge, to which they now
descended. The gate stood invitingly open. Exclusiveness was no
part of the owner's instincts: one could see that at a glance. No
appearance of a well-rolled garden-path attached to the park-drive;
as is the case with many, betokening by the perfection of their
surfaces their proprietor's deficiency in hospitality. The approach
was like a turnpike road full of great ruts, clumsy mendings;
bordered by trampled edges and incursions upon the grass at
pleasure. Butchers and bakers drove as freely herein as peers and
peeresses. Christening parties, wedding companies, and funeral
trains passed along by the doors of the mansion without check or
question. A wild untidiness in this particular has its
recommendations; for guarded grounds ever convey a suspicion that
their owner is young to landed possessions, as religious
earnestnesss implies newness of conversion, and conjugal tenderness
Half-an-hour being wanting as yet to Chickerel's time with the
carrier, Sol and himself, like the rest of the world when at
leisure, walked into the extensive stretch of grass and grove. It
formed a park so large that not one of its owners had ever wished it
larger, not one of its owner's rivals had ever failed to wish it
smaller, and not one of its owner's satellites had ever seen it
without praise. They somewhat avoided the roadway passing under the
huge, misshapen, ragged trees, and through fern brakes, ruddy and
crisp in their decay. On reaching a suitable eminence, the father
and son stood still to look upon the many-chimneyed building, or
rather conglomeration of buildings, to which these groves and glades
formed a setting.
'We will just give a glance,' said Chickerel, 'and then go away. It
don't seem well to me that Ethelberta should have this; it is too
much. The sudden change will do her no good. I never believe in
anything that comes in the shape of wonderful luck. As it comes, so
it goes. Had she been brought home today to one of those tenant-
farms instead of these woods and walls, I could have called it good
fortune. What she should have done was glorify herself by
glorifying her own line of life, not by forsaking that line for
another. Better have been admired as a governess than shunned as a
peeress, which is what she will be. But it is just the same
everywhere in these days. Young men will rather wear a black coat
and starve than wear fustian and do well.'
'One man to want such a monstrous house as that! Well, 'tis a fine
place. See, there's the carpenters' shops, the timber-yard, and
everything, as if it were a little town. Perhaps Berta may hire me
for a job now and then.'
'I always knew she would cut herself off from us. She marked for it
from childhood, and she has finished the business thoroughly.'
'Well, it is no matter, father, for why should we want to trouble
her? She may write, and I shall answer; but if she calls to see me,
I shall not return the visit; and if she meets me with her husband
or any of her new society about her, I shall behave as a stranger.'
'It will be best,' said Chickerel. 'Well, now I must move.'
However, by the sorcery of accident, before they had very far
retraced their steps an open carriage became visible round a bend in
the drive. Chickerel, with a servant's instinct, was for beating a
'No,' said Sol. 'Let us stand our ground. We have already been
seen, and we do no harm.'
So they stood still on the edge of the drive, and the carriage drew
near. It was a landau, and the sun shone in upon Lord Mountclere,
with Lady Mountclere sitting beside him, like Abishag beside King
Very blithe looked the viscount, for he rode upon a cherub to-day.
She appeared fresh, rosy, and strong, but dubious; though if mien
was anything, she was a viscountess twice over. Her dress was of a
dove-coloured material, with a bonnet to match, a little tufted
white feather resting on the top, like a truce-flag between the
blood of noble and vassal. Upon the cool grey of her shoulders hung
a few locks of hair, toned warm as fire by the sunshiny addition to
its natural hue.
Chickerel instinctively took off his hat; Sol did the same.
For only a moment did Ethelberta seem uncertain how to act. But a
solution to her difficulty was given by the face of her brother.
There she saw plainly at one glance more than a dozen speeches would
have told--for Sol's features thoroughly expressed his intention
that to him she was to be a stranger. Her eyes flew to Chickerel,
and he slightly shook his head. She understood them now. With a
tear in her eye for her father, and a sigh in her bosom for Sol, she
bowed in answer to their salute; her husband moved his hat and
nodded, and the carriage rolled on. Lord Mountclere might possibly
be making use of the fine morning in showing her the park and
premises. Chickerel, with a moist eye, now went on with his son
towards the highroad. When they reached the lodge, the lodge-keeper
was walking in the sun, smoking his pipe. 'Good morning,' he said
'Any rejoicings at the Court to-day?' the butler inquired.
'Quite the reverse. Not a soul there. 'Tisn't knowed anywhere at
all. I had no idea of such a thing till he brought my lady here.
Not going off, neither. They've come home like the commonest couple
in the land, and not even the bells allowed to ring.'
They walked along the public road, and the carrier came in view.
'Father,' said Sol, 'I don't think I'll go further with you. She's
gone into the house; and suppose she should run back without him to
try to find us? It would be cruel to disappoint her. I'll bide
about here for a quarter of an hour, in case she should. Mr. Julian
won't have passed Corvsgate till I get there.'
'Well, one or two of her old ways may be left in her still, and it
is not a bad thought. Then you will walk the rest of the distance
if you don't meet Mr. Julian? I must be in London by the evening.'
'Any time to-night will do for me. I shall not begin work until to-
morrow, so that the four o'clock train will answer my purpose.'
Thus they parted, and Sol strolled leisurely back. The road was
quite deserted, and he lingered by the park fence.
'Sol!' said a bird-like voice; 'how did you come here?'
He looked up, and saw a figure peering down upon him from the top of
the park wall, the ground on the inside being higher than the road.
The speaker was to the expected Ethelberta what the moon is to the
sun, a star to the moon. It was Picotee.
'Hullo, Picotee!' said Sol.
'There's a little gate a quarter of a mile further on,' said
Picotee. 'We can meet there without your passing through the big
lodge. I'll be there as soon as you.'
Sol ascended the hill, passed through the second gate, and turned
back again, when he met Picotee coming forward under the trees.
They walked together in this secluded spot.
'Berta says she wants to see you and father,' said Picotee
breathlessly. 'You must come in and make yourselves comfortable.
She had no idea you were here so secretly, and she didn't know what
'Father's gone,' said Sol.
'How vexed she will be! She thinks there is something the matter--
that you are angry with her for not telling you earlier. But you
will come in, Sol?'
'No, I can't come in,' said her brother.
'Why not? It is such a big house, you can't think. You need not
come near the front apartments, if you think we shall be ashamed of
you in your working clothes. How came you not to dress up a bit,
Sol? Still, Berta won't mind it much. She says Lord Mountclere
must take her as she is, or he is kindly welcome to leave her.'
'Ah, well! I might have had a word or two to say about that, but
the time has gone by for it, worse luck. Perhaps it is best that I
have said nothing, and she has had her way. No, I shan't come in,
Picotee. Father is gone, and I am going too.'
'We are rather put out at her acting like this--father and I and all
of us. She might have let us know about it beforehand, even if she
is a lady and we what we always was. It wouldn't have let her down
so terrible much to write a line. She might have learnt something
that would have led her to take a different step.'
'But you will see poor Berta? She has done no harm. She was going
to write long letters to all of you to-day, explaining her wedding,
and how she is going to help us all on in the world.'
Sol paused irresolutely. 'No, I won't come in,' he said. 'It would
disgrace her, for one thing, dressed as I be; more than that, I
don't want to come in. But I should like to see her, if she would
like to see me; and I'll go up there to that little fir plantation,
and walk up and down behind it for exactly half-an-hour. She can
come out to me there.' Sol had pointed as he spoke to a knot of
young trees that hooded a knoll a little way off.
'I'll go and tell her,' said Picotee.
'I suppose they will be off somewhere, and she is busy getting
'O no. They are not going to travel till next year. Ethelberta
does not want to go anywhere; and Lord Mountclere cannot endure this
changeable weather in any place but his own house.'
'Then you will wait for her by the firs? I'll tell her at once.'
Picotee left him, and Sol went across the glade.
46. ENCKWORTH (continued) - THE ANGLEBURY HIGHWAY
He had not paced behind the firs more than ten minutes when
Ethelberta appeared from the opposite side. At great inconvenience
to herself, she had complied with his request.
Ethelberta was trembling. She took her brother's hand, and said,
'Is father, then, gone?'
'Yes,' said Sol. 'I should have been gone likewise, but I thought
you wanted to see me.'
'Of course I did, and him too. Why did you come so mysteriously,
and, I must say, unbecomingly? I am afraid I did wrong in not
informing you of my intention.'
'To yourself you may have. Father would have liked a word with you
before--you did it.'
'You both looked so forbidding that I did not like to stop the
carriage when we passed you. I want to see him on an important
matter--his leaving Mrs. Doncastle's service at once. I am going to
write and beg her to dispense with a notice, which I have no doubt
she will do.'
'He's very much upset about you.'
'My secrecy was perhaps an error of judgment,' she said sadly. 'But
I had reasons. Why did you and my father come here at all if you
did not want to see me?'
'We did want to see you up to a certain time.'
'You did not come to prevent my marriage?'
'We wished to see you before the marriage--I can't say more.'
'I thought you might not approve of what I had done,' said
Ethelberta mournfully. 'But a time may come when you will approve.'
'Don't be harsh, Sol. A coronet covers a multitude of sins.'
'A coronet: good Lord--and you my sister! Look at my hand.' Sol
extended his hand. 'Look how my thumb stands out at the root, as if
it were out of joint, and that hard place inside there. Did you
ever see anything so ugly as that hand--a misshaped monster, isn't
he? That comes from the jackplane, and my pushing against it day
after day and year after year. If I were found drowned or buried,
dressed or undressed, in fustian or in broadcloth, folk would look
at my hand and say, "That man's a carpenter." Well now, how can a
man, branded with work as I be, be brother to a viscountess without
something being wrong? Of course there's something wrong in it, or
he wouldn't have married you--something which won't be righted
without terrible suffering.'
'No, no,' said she. 'You are mistaken. There is no such wonderful
quality in a title in these days. What I really am is second wife
to a quiet old country nobleman, who has given up society. What
more commonplace? My life will be as simple, even more simple, than
it was before.'
'Berta, you have worked to false lines. A creeping up among the
useless lumber of our nation that'll be the first to burn if there
comes a flare. I never see such a deserter of your own lot as you
be! But you were always like it, Berta, and I am ashamed of ye.
More than that, a good woman never marries twice.'
'You are too hard, Sol,' said the poor viscountess, almost crying.
'I've done it all for you! Even if I have made a mistake, and given
my ambition an ignoble turn, don't tell me so now, or you may do
more harm in a minute than you will cure in a lifetime. It is
absurd to let republican passions so blind you to fact. A family
which can be honourably traced through history for five hundred
years, does affect the heart of a person not entirely hardened
against romance. Whether you like the peerage or no, they appeal to
our historical sense and love of old associations.'
'I don't care for history. Prophecy is the only thing can do poor
men any good. When you were a girl, you wouldn't drop a curtsey to
'em, historical or otherwise, and there you were right. But,
instead of sticking to such principles, you must needs push up, so
as to get girls such as you were once to curtsey to you, not even
thinking marriage with a bad man too great a price to pay for't.'
'A bad man? What do you mean by that? Lord Mountclere is rather
old, but he's worthy. What did you mean, Sol?'
'Nothing--a mere sommat to say.'
At that moment Picotee emerged from behind a tree, and told her
sister that Lord Mountclere was looking for her.
'Well, Sol, I cannot explain all to you now,' she said. 'I will
send for you in London.' She wished him goodbye, and they
separated, Picotee accompanying Sol a little on his way.
Ethelberta was greatly perturbed by this meeting. After retracing
her steps a short distance, she still felt so distressed and
unpresentable that she resolved not to allow Lord Mountclere to see
her till the clouds had somewhat passed off; it was but a bare act
of justice to him to hide from his sight such a bridal mood as this.
It was better to keep him waiting than to make him positively
unhappy. She turned aside, and went up the valley, where the park
merged in miles of wood and copse.
She opened an iron gate and entered the wood, casually interested in
the vast variety of colours that the half-fallen leaves of the
season wore: more, much more, occupied with personal thought. The
path she pursued became gradually involved in bushes as well as
trees, giving to the spot the character rather of a coppice than a
wood. Perceiving that she had gone far enough, Ethelberta turned
back by a path which at this point intersected that by which she had
approached, and promised a more direct return towards the Court.
She had not gone many steps among the hazels, which here formed a
perfect thicket, when she observed a belt of holly-bushes in their
midst; towards the outskirts of these an opening on her left hand
directly led, thence winding round into a clear space of greensward,
which they completely enclosed. On this isolated and mewed-up bit
of lawn stood a timber-built cottage, having ornamental barge-
boards, balconettes, and porch. It was an erection interesting
enough as an experiment, and grand as a toy, but as a building
A blue gauze of smoke floated over the chimney, as if somebody was
living there; round towards the side some empty hen-coops were piled
away; while under the hollies were divers frameworks of wire netting
and sticks, showing that birds were kept here at some seasons of the
Being lady of all she surveyed, Ethelberta crossed the leafy sward,
and knocked at the door. She was interested in knowing the purpose
of the peculiar little edifice.
The door was opened by a woman wearing a clean apron upon a not very
clean gown. Ethelberta asked who lived in so pretty a place.
'Miss Gruchette,' the servant replied. 'But she is not here now.'
'Does she live here alone?'
'Yes--excepting myself and a fellow-servant.'
'She lives here to attend to the pheasants and poultry, because she
is so clever in managing them. They are brought here from the
keeper's over the hill. Her father was a fancier.'
'Miss Gruchette attends to the birds, and two servants attend to
'Well, to tell the truth, m'm, the servants do almost all of it.
Still, that's what Miss Gruchette is here for. Would you like to
see the house? It is pretty.' The woman spoke with hesitation, as
if in doubt between the desire of earning a shilling and the fear
that Ethelberta was not a stranger. That Ethelberta was Lady
Mountclere she plainly did not dream.
'I fear I can scarcely stay long enough; yet I will just look in,'
said Ethelberta. And as soon as they had crossed the threshold she
was glad of having done so.
The cottage internally may be described as a sort of boudoir
extracted from the bulk of a mansion and deposited in a wood. The
front room was filled with nicknacks, curious work-tables, filigree
baskets, twisted brackets supporting statuettes, in which the
grotesque in every case ruled the design; love-birds, in gilt cages;
French bronzes, wonderful boxes, needlework of strange patterns, and
other attractive objects. The apartment was one of those which seem
to laugh in a visitor's face and on closer examination express
frivolity more distinctly than by words.
'Miss Gruchette is here to keep the fowls?' said Ethelberta, in a
puzzled tone, after a survey.
'Yes. But they don't keep her.'
Ethelberta did not attempt to understand, and ceased to occupy her
mind with the matter. They came from the cottage to the door, where
she gave the woman a trifling sum, and turned to leave. But
footsteps were at that moment to be heard beating among the leaves
on the other side of the hollies, and Ethelberta waited till the
walkers should have passed. The voices of two men reached herself
and the woman as they stood. They were close to the house, yet
screened from it by the holly-bushes, when one could be heard to say
distinctly, as if with his face turned to the cottage--
'Lady Mountclere gone for good?'
'I suppose so. Ha-ha! So come, so go.'
The speakers passed on, their backs becoming visible through the
opening. They appeared to be woodmen.
'What Lady Mountclere do they mean?' said Ethelberta.
The woman blushed. 'They meant Miss Gruchette.'
The woman whispered why in a story of about two minutes' length.
Ethelberta turned pale.
'Is she going to return?' she inquired, in a thin hard voice.
'Yes; next week. You know her, m'm?'
'No. I am a stranger.'
'So much the better. I may tell you, then, that an old tale is
flying about the neighbourhood--that Lord Mountclere was privately
married to another woman, at Knollsea, this morning early. Can it
'I believe it to be true.'
'And that she is of no family?'
'Of no family.'
'Indeed. Then the Lord only knows what will become of the poor
thing. There will be murder between 'em.'
'Her and the lady who lives here. She won't budge an inch--not
Ethelberta moved aside. A shade seemed to overspread the world, the
sky, the trees, and the objects in the foreground. She kept her
face away from the woman, and, whispering a reply to her Good-
morning, passed through the hollies into the leaf-strewn path. As
soon as she came to a large trunk she placed her hands against it
and rested her face upon them. She drew herself lower down, lower,
lower, till she crouched upon the leaves. 'Ay--'tis what father and
Sol meant! O Heaven!' she whispered.
She soon arose, and went on her way to the house. Her fair features
were firmly set, and she scarcely heeded the path in the
concentration which had followed her paroxysm. When she reached the
park proper she became aware of an excitement that was in progress
Ethelberta's absence had become unaccountable to Lord Mountclere,
who could hardly permit her retirement from his sight for a minute.
But at first he had made due allowance for her eccentricity as a
woman of genius, and would not take notice of the half-hour's
desertion, unpardonable as it might have been in other classes of
wives. Then he had inquired, searched, been alarmed: he had
finally sent men-servants in all directions about the park to look
for her. He feared she had fallen out of a window, down a well, or
into the lake. The next stage of search was to have been drags and
grapnels: but Ethelberta entered the house.
Lord Mountclere rushed forward to meet her, and such was her
contrivance that he noticed no change. The searchers were called
in, Ethelberta explaining that she had merely obeyed the wish of her
brother in going out to meet him. Picotee, who had returned from
her walk with Sol, was upstairs in one of the rooms which had been
allotted to her. Ethelberta managed to run in there on her way
upstairs to her own chamber.
'Picotee, put your things on again,' she said. 'You are the only
friend I have in this house, and I want one badly. Go to Sol, and
deliver this message to him--that I want to see him at once. You
must overtake him, if you walk all the way to Anglebury. But the
train does not leave till four, so that there is plenty of time.'
'What is the matter?' said Picotee. 'I cannot walk all the way.'
'I don't think you will have to do that--I hope not.'
'He is going to stop at Corvsgate to have a bit of lunch: I might
overtake him there, if I must!'
'Yes. And tell him to come to the east passage door. It is that
door next to the entrance to the stable-yard. There is a little
yew-tree outside it. On second thoughts you, dear, must not come
back. Wait at Corvsgate in the little inn parlour till Sol comes to
you again. You will probably then have to go home to London alone;
but do not mind it. The worst part for you will be in going from
the station to the Crescent; but nobody will molest you in a four-
wheel cab: you have done it before. However, he will tell you if
this is necessary when he gets back. I can best fight my battles
alone. You shall have a letter from me the day after to-morrow,
stating where I am. I shall not be here.'
'But what is it so dreadful?'
'Nothing to frighten you.' But she spoke with a breathlessness that
completely nullified the assurance. 'It is merely that I find I
must come to an explanation with Lord Mountclere before I can live
here permanently, and I cannot stipulate with him while I am here in
his power. Till I write, good-bye. Your things are not unpacked,
so let them remain here for the present--they can be sent for.'
Poor Picotee, more agitated than her sister, but never questioning
her orders, went downstairs and out of the house. She ran across
the shrubberies, into the park, and to the gate whereat Sol had
emerged some half-hour earlier. She trotted along upon the turnpike
road like a lost doe, crying as she went at the new trouble which
had come upon Berta, whatever that trouble might be. Behind her she
heard wheels and the stepping of a horse, but she was too concerned
to turn her head. The pace of the vehicle slackened, however, when
it was abreast of Picotee, and she looked up to see Christopher as
'Miss Chickerel!' he said, with surprise.
Picotee had quickly looked down again, and she murmured, 'Yes.'
Christopher asked what he could not help asking in the
circumstances, 'Would you like to ride?'
'I should be glad,' said she, overcoming her flurry. 'I am anxious
to overtake my brother Sol.'
'I have arranged to pick him up at Corvsgate,' said Christopher.
He descended, and assisted her to mount beside him, and drove on
again, almost in silence. He was inclined to believe that some
supernatural legerdemain had to do with these periodic impacts of
Picotee on his path. She sat mute and melancholy till they were
within half-a-mile of Corvsgate.
'Thank you,' she said then, perceiving Sol upon the road, 'there is
my brother; I will get down now.'
'He was going to ride on to Anglebury with me,' said Julian.
Picotee did not reply, and Sol turned round. Seeing her he
instantly exclaimed, 'What's the matter, Picotee?'
She explained to him that he was to go back immediately, and meet
her sister at the door by the yew, as Ethelberta had charged her.
Christopher, knowing them so well, was too much an interested member
of the group to be left out of confidence, and she included him in
'And what are you to do?' said Sol to her.
'I am to wait at Corvsgate till you come to me.'
'I can't understand it,' Sol muttered, with a gloomy face. 'There's
something wrong; and it was only to be expected; that's what I say,
'If necessary I can take care of Miss Chickerel till you come,' said
'Thank you,' said Sol. 'Then I will return to you as soon as I can,
at the "Castle" Inn, just ahead. 'Tis very awkward for you to be so
burdened by us, Mr. Julian; but we are in a trouble that I don't yet
see the bottom of.'
'I know,' said Christopher kindly. 'We will wait for you.'
He then drove on with Picotee to the inn, which was not far off, and
Sol returned again to Enckworth. Feeling somewhat like a thief in
the night, he zigzagged through the park, behind belts and knots of
trees, until he saw the yew, dark and clear, as if drawn in ink upon
the fair face of the mansion. The way up to it was in a little
cutting between shrubs, the door being a private entrance, sunk
below the surface of the lawn, and invisible from other parts of the
same front. As soon as he reached it, Ethelberta opened it at once,
as if she had listened for his footsteps.
She took him along a passage in the basement, up a flight of steps,
and into a huge, solitary, chill apartment. It was the ball-room.
Spacious mirrors in gilt frames formed panels in the lower part of
the walls, the remainder being toned in sage-green. In a recess
between each mirror was a statue. The ceiling rose in a segmental
curve, and bore sprawling upon its face gilt figures of wanton
goddesses, cupids, satyrs with tambourines, drums, and trumpets, the
whole ceiling seeming alive with them. But the room was very gloomy
now, there being little light admitted from without, and the
reflections from the mirrors gave a depressing coldness to the
scene. It was a place intended to look joyous by night, and
whatever it chose to look by day.
'We are safe here,' said she. 'But we must listen for footsteps. I
have only five minutes: Lord Mountclere is waiting for me. I mean
to leave this place, come what may.'
'Why?' said Sol, in astonishment.
'I cannot tell you--something has occurred. God has got me in his
power at last, and is going to scourge me for my bad doings--that's
what it seems like. Sol, listen to me, and do exactly what I say.
Go to Anglebury, hire a brougham, bring it on as far as Little
Enckworth: you will have to meet me with it at one of the park
gates later in the evening--probably the west, at half-past seven.
Leave it at the village with the man, come on here on foot, and stay
under the trees till just before six: it will then be quite dark,
and you must stand under the projecting balustrade a little further
on than the door you came in by. I will just step upon the balcony
over it, and tell you more exactly than I can now the precise time
that I shall be able to slip out, and where the carriage is to be
waiting. But it may not be safe to speak on account of his
closeness to me--I will hand down a note. I find it is impossible
to leave the house by daylight--I am certain to be pursued--he
already suspects something. Now I must be going, or he will be
here, for he watches my movements because of some accidental words
that escaped me.'
'Berta, I shan't have anything to do with this,' said Sol. 'It is
'I am only going to Rouen, to Aunt Charlotte!' she implored. 'I
want to get to Southampton, to be in time for the midnight steamer.
When I am at Rouen I can negotiate with Lord Mountclere the terms on
which I will return to him. It is the only chance I have of rooting
out a scandal and a disgrace which threatens the beginning of my
life here! My letters to him, and his to me, can be forwarded
through you or through father, and he will not know where I am. Any
woman is justified in adopting such a course to bring her husband to
a sense of her dignity. If I don't go away now, it will end in a
permanent separation. If I leave at once, and stipulate that he
gets rid of her, we may be reconciled.'
'I can't help you: you must stick to your husband. I don't like
them, or any of their sort, barring about three or four, for the
reason that they despise me and all my sort. But, Ethelberta, for
all that I'll play fair with them. No half-and-half trimming
business. You have joined 'em, and 'rayed yourself against us; and
there you'd better bide. You have married your man, and your duty
is towards him. I know what he is and so does father; but if I were
to help you to run away now, I should scorn myself more than I scorn
'I don't care for that, or for any such politics! The Mountclere
line is noble, and how was I to know that this member was not noble,
too? As the representative of an illustrious family I was taken
with him, but as a man--I must shun him.'
'How can you shun him? You have married him!'
'Nevertheless, I won't stay! Neither law nor gospel demands it of
me after what I have learnt. And if law and gospel did demand it, I
would not stay. And if you will not help me to escape, I go alone.'
'You had better not try any such wild thing.'
The creaking of a door was heard. 'O Sol,' she said appealingly,
'don't go into the question whether I am right or wrong--only
remember that I am very unhappy. Do help me--I have no other person
in the world to ask! Be under the balcony at six o'clock. Say you
will--I must go--say you will!'
'I'll think,' said Sol, very much disturbed. 'There, don't cry;
I'll try to be under the balcony, at any rate. I cannot promise
more, but I'll try to be there.'
She opened in the panelling one of the old-fashioned concealed modes
of exit known as jib-doors, which it was once the custom to
construct without architraves in the walls of large apartments, so
as not to interfere with the general design of the room. Sol found
himself in a narrow passage, running down the whole length of the
ball-room, and at the same time he heard Lord Mountclere's voice
within, talking to Ethelberta. Sol's escape had been marvellous:
as it was the viscount might have seen her tears. He passed down
some steps, along an area from which he could see into a row of
servants' offices, among them a kitchen with a fireplace flaming
like an altar of sacrifice. Nobody seemed to be concerned about
him; there were workmen upon the premises, and he nearly matched
them. At last he got again into the shrubberies and to the side of
the park by which he had entered.
On reaching Corvsgate he found Picotee in the parlour of the little
inn, as he had directed. Mr. Julian, she said, had walked up to the
ruins, and would be back again in a few minutes. Sol ordered the
horse to be put in, and by the time it was ready Christopher came
down from the hill. Room was made for Sol by opening the flap of
the dogcart, and Christopher drove on.
He was anxious to know the trouble, and Sol was not reluctant to
share the burden of it with one whom he believed to be a friend. He
told, scrap by scrap, the strange request of Ethelberta.
Christopher, though ignorant of Ethelberta's experience that
morning, instantly assumed that the discovery of some concealed
spectre had led to this precipitancy.
'When does she wish you to meet her with the carriage?'
'Probably at half-past seven, at the west lodge; but that is to be
finally fixed by a note she will hand down to me from the balcony.'
'The nearest to the yew-tree.'
'At what time will she hand the note?'
'As the Court clock strikes six, she says. And if I am not there to
take her instructions of course she will give up the idea, which is
just what I want her to do.'
Christopher begged Sol to go. Whether Ethelberta was right or
wrong, he did not stop to inquire. She was in trouble; she was too
clear-headed to be in trouble without good reason; and she wanted
assistance out of it. But such was Sol's nature that the more he
reflected the more determined was he in not giving way to her
entreaty. By the time that they reached Anglebury he repented
having given way so far as to withhold a direct refusal.
'It can do no good,' he said mournfully. 'It is better to nip her
notion in its beginning. She says she wants to fly to Rouen, and
from there arrange terms with him. But it can't be done--she should
have thought of terms before.'
Christopher made no further reply. Leaving word at the 'Red Lion'
that a man was to be sent to take the horse of him, he drove
directly onwards to the station.
'Then you don't mean to help her?' said Julian, when Sol took the
tickets--one for himself and one for Picotee.
'I serve her best by leaving her alone!' said Sol.
'I don't think so.'
'She has married him.'
'She is in distress.'
'She has married him.'
Sol and Picotee took their seats, Picotee upbraiding her brother.
'I can go by myself!' she said, in tears. 'Do go back for Berta,
Sol. She said I was to go home alone, and I can do it!'
'You must not. It is not right for you to be hiring cabs and
driving across London at midnight. Berta should have known better
than propose it.'
'She was flurried. Go, Sol!'
But her entreaty was fruitless.
'Have you got your ticket, Mr. Julian?' said Sol. 'I suppose we
shall go together till we get near Melchester?'
'I have not got my ticket yet--I'll be back in two minutes.'
The minutes went by, and Christopher did not reappear. The train
moved off: Christopher was seen running up the platform, as if in a
vain hope to catch it.
'He has missed the train,' said Sol. Picotee looked disappointed,
and said nothing. They were soon out of sight.
'God forgive me for such a hollow pretence!' said Christopher to
himself. 'But he would have been uneasy had he known I wished to
stay behind. I cannot leave her in trouble like this!'
He went back to the 'Red Lion' with the manner and movement of a man
who after a lifetime of desultoriness had at last found something to
do. It was now getting late in the afternoon. Christopher ordered
a one-horse brougham at the inn, and entering it was driven out of
the town towards Enckworth as the evening shades were beginning to
fall. They passed into the hamlet of Little Enckworth at half-past
five, and drew up at a beer-house at the end. Jumping out here,
Julian told the man to wait till he should return.
Thus far he had exactly obeyed her orders to Sol. He hoped to be
able to obey them throughout, and supply her with the aid her
brother refused. He also hoped that the change in the personality
of her confederate would make no difference to her intention. That
he was putting himself in a wrong position he allowed, but time and
attention were requisite for such analysis: meanwhile Ethelberta
was in trouble. On the one hand was she waiting hopefully for Sol;
on the other was Sol many miles on his way to town; between them was
He ran with all his might towards Enckworth Park, mounted the lofty
stone steps by the lodge, saw the dark bronze figures on the piers
through the twilight, and then proceeded to thread the trees. Among
these he struck a light for a moment: it was ten minutes to six.
In another five minutes he was panting beneath the walls of her
Enckworth Court was not unknown to Christopher, for he had
frequently explored that spot in his Sandbourne days. He perceived
now why she had selected that particular balcony for handing down
directions; it was the only one round the house that was low enough
to be reached from the outside, the basement here being a little way
sunk in the ground.
He went close under, turned his face outwards, and waited. About a
foot over his head was the stone floor of the balcony, forming a
ceiling to his position. At his back, two or three feet behind, was
a blank wall--the wall of the house. In front of him was the misty
park, crowned by a sky sparkling with winter stars. This was
abruptly cut off upward by the dark edge of the balcony which
It was as if some person within the room above had been awaiting his
approach. He had scarcely found time to observe his situation when
a human hand and portion of a bare arm were thrust between the
balusters, descended a little way from the edge of the balcony, and
remained hanging across the starlit sky. Something was between the
fingers. Christopher lifted his hand, took the scrap, which was
paper, and the arm was withdrawn. As it withdrew, a jewel on one of
the fingers sparkled in the rays of a large planet that rode in the
Light steps retreated from the balcony, and a window closed.
Christopher had almost held his breath lest Ethelberta should
discover him at the critical moment to be other than Sol, and mar
her deliverance by her alarm. The still silence was anything but
silence to him; he felt as if he were listening to the clanging
chorus of an oratorio. And then he could fancy he heard words
between Ethelberta and the viscount within the room; they were
evidently at very close quarters, and dexterity must have been
required of her. He went on tiptoe across the gravel to the grass,
and once on that he strode in the direction whence he had come. By
the thick trunk of one of a group of aged trees he stopped to get a
light, just as the Court clock struck six in loud long tones. The
transaction had been carried out, through her impatience possibly,
four or five minutes before the time appointed.
The note contained, in a shaken hand, in which, however, the well-
known characters were distinguishable, these words in pencil:
'At half-past seven o'clock. Just outside the north lodge; don't
This was the time she had suggested to Sol as that which would
probably best suit her escape, if she could escape at all. She had
changed the place from the west to the north lodge--nothing else.
The latter was certainly more secluded, though a trifle more remote
from the course of the proposed journey; there was just time enough
and none to spare for fetching the brougham from Little Enckworth to
the lodge, the village being two miles off. The few minutes gained
by her readiness at the balcony were useful now. He started at once
for the village, diverging somewhat to observe the spot appointed
for the meeting. It was excellently chosen; the gate appeared to be
little used, the lane outside it was covered with trees, and all
around was silent as the grave. After this hasty survey by the wan
starlight, he hastened on to Little Enckworth.
An hour and a quarter later a little brougham without lamps was
creeping along by the park wall towards this spot. The leaves were
so thick upon the unfrequented road that the wheels could not be
heard, and the horse's pacing made scarcely more noise than a rabbit
would have done in limping along. The vehicle progressed slowly,
for they were in good time. About ten yards from the park entrance
it stopped, and Christopher stepped out.
'We may have to wait here ten minutes,' he said to the driver. 'And
then shall we be able to reach Anglebury in time for the up mail-
train to Southampton?'
'Half-past seven, half-past eight, half-past nine--two hours. O
yes, sir, easily. A young lady in the case perhaps, sir?'
'Well, I hope she'll be done honestly by, even if she is of humble
station. 'Tis best, and cheapest too, in the long run.' The
coachman was apparently imagining the dove about to flit away to be
one of the pretty maid-servants that abounded in Enckworth Court;
such escapades as these were not unfrequent among them, a fair face
having been deemed a sufficient recommendation to service in that
house, without too close an inquiry into character, since the death
of the first viscountess.
'Now then, silence; and listen for a footstep at the gate.'
Such calmness as there was in the musician's voice had been produced
by considerable effort. For his heart had begun to beat fast and
loud as he strained his attentive ear to catch the footfall of a
woman who could only be his illegally.
The obscurity was as great as a starry sky would permit it to be.
Beneath the trees where the carriage stood the darkness was total.
47. ENCKWORTH AND ITS PRECINCTS - MELCHESTER
To be wise after the event is often to act foolishly with regard to
it; and to preserve the illusion which has led to the event would
frequently be a course that omniscience itself could not find fault
with. Reaction with Ethelberta was complete, and the more violent
in that it threatened to be useless. Sol's bitter chiding had been
the first thing to discompose her fortitude. It reduced her to a
consciousness that she had allowed herself to be coerced in her
instincts, and yet had not triumphed in her duty. She might have
pleased her family better by pleasing her tastes, and have entirely
avoided the grim irony of the situation disclosed later in the day.
After the second interview with Sol she was to some extent composed