Part 2 out of 5
The vicar took his boy's arm again--the boy, head and shoulders taller
than his father, was down from Cambridge for the vacation then drawing
to its close--and moved, I fear, by the same impulse of pure curiosity
they walked together down the path that would take them right in front
of the young woman on the slab.
Priscilla was lost in the bright dreams she was weaving, and looked up
with the radiance of them still in her eyes at the two figures between
her and the sunset.
"My dear young lady," said the vicar kindly, "are you not afraid of
catching cold? The evenings are so damp now, and you have chosen a
very cold seat."
"I don't feel cold," said Priscilla, smiling at this vision of
"But I do think you ought not to linger here," said the vicar.
"I am waiting for my uncle. He's gone to buy a cottage, and ought to
be back, really, by now."
"Buy a cottage?" repeated the vicar. "My dear young lady, you say
that in the same voice you might use to tell me your uncle had gone to
buy a bun."
"What is a bun?" asked Priscilla.
"A bun?" repeated the vicar bewildered, for nobody had ever asked him
"Oh I know--" said Priscilla quickly, faintly flushing, "it's a thing
you eat. Is there a special voice for buns?"
"There is for a thing so--well, so momentous as the buying of a
"Is it momentous? It seems to me so nice and natural."
She looked up at the vicar and his son, calmly scrutinizing first one
and then the other, and they stood looking down at her; and each time
her eyes rested on Robin they found his staring at her with the
frankest expression of surprise and admiration.
"Pardon me," said the vicar, "if I seem inquisitive, but is it one of
the Symford cottages your uncle wishes to buy? I did not know any were
"It's that one by the gate," said Priscilla, slightly turning her head
in its direction.
"Is it for sale? Dear me, I never knew Lady Shuttleworth sell a
"I don't know yet if she wants to," said Priscilla; "but Fr--, my
uncle, will give any price. And I must have it. I shall--I shall be
ill if I don't."
The vicar gazed at her upturned face in perplexity. "Dear me," he
said, after a slight pause.
"We must live somewhere," remarked Priscilla.
"Of course you must," said Robin, suddenly and so heartily that she
examined his eager face in more detail.
"Quite so, quite so," said the vicar. "Are you staying here at
"Never at the Cock and Hens?" broke in Robin.
"We're at Baker's Farm."
"Ah yes--poor Mrs. Pearce will be glad of lodgers. Poor soul, poor
"She's a very dirty soul," said Robin; and Priscilla's eyes flashed
over him with a sudden sparkle.
"Is she the soul with the holes in its apron?" she asked.
"I expect there are some there. There generally are," said Robin.
They both laughed; but the vicar gently shook his head. "Ah well, poor
thing," he said, "she has an uphill life of it. They don't seem
able--they don't seem to understand the art of making both ends meet."
"It's a great art," said Robin.
"Perhaps they could be helped," said Priscilla, already arranging in
her mind to go and do it.
"They do not belong to the class one can help. And Lady Shuttleworth,
I am afraid, disapproves of shiftless people too much to do anything
in the way of reducing the rent."
"Lady Shuttleworth can't stand people who don't look happy and don't
mend their apron," said Robin.
"But it's her own apron," objected Priscilla.
"Exactly," said Robin.
"Well, well, I hope they'll make you comfortable," said the vicar; and
having nothing more that he could well say without having to confess
to himself that he was inquisitive, he began to draw Robin away. "We
shall see you and your uncle on Sunday in church, I hope," he said
benevolently, and took off his hat and showed his snow-white hair.
Priscilla hesitated. She was, it is true, a Protestant, it having been
arranged on her mother's marriage with the Catholic Grand Duke that
every alternate princess born to them was to belong to the Protestant
faith, and Priscilla being the alternate princess it came about that
of the Grand Duke's three children she alone was not a Catholic.
Therefore she could go to church in Symford as often as she chose; but
it was Fritzing's going that made her hesitate, for Fritzing was what
the vicar would have called a godless man, and never went to church.
"You are a member of the Church of England?" inquired the vicar,
seeing her hesitate.
"Why, pater, she's not English," burst out Robin.
"Not English?" echoed the vicar.
"Is my English so bad?" asked Priscilla, smiling.
"It's frightfully good," said Robin; "but the 'r's,' you know--"
"Ah, yes. No, I'm not English. I'm German."
"Indeed?" said the vicar, with all the interest that attaches to any
unusual phenomenon, and a German in Symford was of all phenomena the
most unusual. "My dear young lady, how remarkable. I don't remember
ever having met a German before in these parts. Your English is really
surprising. I should never have noticed--my boy's ears are quicker
than my old ones. Will you think me unpardonably curious if I ask what
made you pitch on Symford as a place to live in?"
"My uncle passed through it years ago and thought it so pretty that he
determined to spend his old age here."
"And you, I suppose, are going to take care of him."
"Yes," said Priscilla, "for we only"--she looked from one to the other
and thought herself extremely clever--"we only have each other in the
whole wide world."
"Ah, poor child--you are an orphan."
"I didn't say so," said Priscilla quickly, turning red; she who had
always been too proud to lie, how was she going to lie now to this
aged saint with the snow-white hair?
"Ah well, well," said the vicar, vaguely soothing. "We shall see you
on Sunday perhaps. There is no reason that I know of why a member of
the German Church should not assist at the services of the Church of
England." And he took off his hat again, and tried to draw Robin away.
But Robin lingered, and Priscilla saw so much bright curiosity in his
eyes that she felt she was giving an impression of mysteriousness; and
this being the last thing she wanted to do she thought she had better
explain a little--always a dangerous course to take--and she said, "My
uncle taught languages for years, and is old now and tired, and we
both long for the country and to be quiet. He taught me
English--that's why it's as good as it is. His name"--She was carried
away by the desire to blow out that questioning light in Robin's
eyes--"his name is Schultz."
The vicar bowed slightly, and Robin asked with an air of great
politeness but still with that light in his eyes if he were to address
her, then, as Miss Schultz.
"I'm afraid so," said Priscilla, regretfully. It really sounded gross.
Miss Schultz? She might just as well have chosen something romantic
while she was about it, for Fritzing in the hurry of many cares had
settled nothing yet with her about a name.
Robin stared at her very hard, her answer seemed to him so odd. He
stared still more when she looked up with the air of one who has a
happy thought and informed him that her Christian name was Ethel.
"Ethel?" echoed Robin.
"It's a very pretty name, I think," said Priscilla, looking pleased.
"Our housemaid's called Ethel, and so is the little girl that wheels
the gardener's baby's perambulator," was Robin's impetuous comment.
"That doesn't make it less pretty," said Priscilla, frowning.
"Surely," interrupted the vicar mildly, "Ethel is not a German name?"
"I was christened after my mother," said Priscilla gently; and this
was strictly true, for the deceased Grand Duchess had also been
Priscilla. Then a feeling came over her that she was getting into
those depths where persons with secrets begin to flounder as a
preliminary to letting them out, and seized with panic she got up off
"You are half English, then," said Robin triumphantly, his bright eyes
snapping. He looked very bold and masterful staring straight at her,
his head thrown back, his handsome face twinkling with interest. But a
person of Priscilla's training could not possibly be discomposed by
the stare of any Robin, however masterful; had it not been up to now
her chief function in life to endure being stared at with graceful
indifference? "I did not say so," she said, glancing briefly at him;
and including both father and son in a small smile composed
indescribably of graciousness and chill she added, "It really is damp
here--I don't think I'll wait for my uncle," and slightly bowing
walked away without more ado.
She walked very slowly, her skirts gathered loosely in one hand, every
line of her body speaking of the most absolute self-possession and
unapproachableness. Never had the two men seen any one quite so calm.
They watched her in silence as she went up the path and out at the
gate; then Robin looked down at his father and drew his hand more
firmly through his arm and said with a slight laugh, "Come on, pater,
let's go home. We're dismissed."
"By a most charming young lady," said the vicar, smiling.
"By a very cool one," said Robin, shrugging his shoulders, for he did
not like being dismissed.
"Yes--oddly self-possessed for her age," agreed the vicar.
"I wonder if all German teacher's nieces are like that," said Robin
with another laugh.
"Few can be so blest by nature, I imagine."
"Oh, I don't mean faces. She is certainly prettier by a good bit than
"She is quite unusually lovely, young man. Don't quibble."
"Miss Schultz--Ethel Schultz," murmured Robin; adding under his
breath, "Good Lord."
"She can't help her name. These things are thrust upon one."
"It's a beastly common name. Macgrigor, who was a year in Dresden,
told me everybody in Germany is called Schultz."
"Except those who are not."
"Now, pater, you're being clever again," said Robin, smiling down at
"Here comes some one in a hurry," said the vicar, his attention
arrested by the rapidly approaching figure of a man; and, looking up,
Robin beheld Fritzing striding through the churchyard, his hat well
down over his eyes as if clapped on with unusual vigour, both hands
thrust deep in his pockets, the umbrella, without which he never, even
on the fairest of days, went out, pressed close to his side under his
arm, and his long legs taking short and profane cuts over graves and
tombstones with the indifference to decency of one immersed in
unpleasant thought. It was not the custom in Symford to leap in this
manner over its tombs; and Fritzing arriving at a point a few yards
from the vicar, and being about to continue his headlong career across
the remaining graves to the tree under which he had left Priscilla,
the vicar raised his voice and exhorted him to keep to the path.
"Quaint-looking person," remarked Robin. "Another stranger. I say, it
can't be--no, it can't possibly be the uncle?" For he saw he was a
foreigner, yet on the other hand never was there an uncle and a niece
who had less of family likeness.
Fritzing was the last man wilfully to break local rules or wound
susceptibilities; and pulled out of his unpleasant abstraction by the
vicar's voice he immediately desisted from continuing his short cut,
and coming onto the path removed his hat and apologized with the
politeness that was always his so long as nobody was annoying him.
"My name is Neumann, sir," he said, introducing himself after the
German fashion, "and I sincerely beg your pardon. I was looking for a
lady, and"--he gave his spectacles a little adjusting shove as though
they were in fault, and gazing across to the elm where he had left
Priscilla sitting added with sudden anxiety--"I fear I do not see
"Do you mean Miss Schultz?" asked the vicar, looking puzzled.
"No, sir, I do not mean Miss Schultz," said Fritzing, peering about
him at all the other trees in evident surprise and distress.
"A lady left about five minutes ago," said Robin.
"A tall young lady in a blue costume?"
"Yes. Miss Schultz."
Fritzing looked at him with some sternness. "Sir, what have I to do
with Miss Schultz?" he inquired.
"Oh come now," said the cheerful Robin, "aren't you looking for her?"
"I am in search of my niece, sir."
"Yes. Miss Schultz."
"No sir," said Fritzing, controlling himself with an effort, "not
Miss Schultz. I neither know Miss Schultz nor do I care a--"
"Sir, sir," interposed the vicar, hastily.
"I do not care a _pfenning_ for any Miss Schultz."
The vicar looked much puzzled. "There was a young lady," he said,
"waiting under that tree over there for her uncle who had gone, she
said, to see Lady Shuttleworth's agent about the cottage by the gate.
She said her uncle's name was Schultz."
"She said she was Miss Ethel Schultz," said Robin.
"She said she was staying at Baker's Farm," said the vicar.
Fritzing stared for a moment from one to the other, then clutching his
hat mechanically half an inch into the air turned on his heel without
another word and went with great haste out of the churchyard and down
the hill and away up the road to the farm.
"Quaint, isn't he," said Robin as they slowly followed this flying
figure to the gate.
"I don't understand it," said the vicar.
"It does seem a bit mixed."
"Did he not say his name was Neumann?"
"He did. And he looked as if he'd fight any one who said it wasn't."
"It is hardly credible that there should be two sets of German uncles
and nieces in Symford at one and the same time," mused the vicar.
"Even one pair is a most unusual occurrence."
"If there are," said Robin very earnestly, "pray let us cultivate the
Schultz set and not the other."
"I don't understand it," repeated the vicar, helplessly.
Symford, innocent village, went to bed very early; but early as it
went long before it had got there on this evening it contained no
family that had not heard of the arrivals at Baker's Farm. From the
vicarage the news had filtered that a pretty young lady called Schultz
was staying there with her uncle; from the agent's house the news that
a lunatic called Neumann was staying there with his niece; and about
supper-time, while it was still wondering at this sudden influx of
related Germans, came the postmistress and said that the boy from
Baker's who fetched the letters knew nothing whatever of any one
called Schultz. He had, said the postmistress, grown quite angry and
forgotten the greater and by far the better part of his manners when
she asked him how he could stand there and say such things after all
the years he had attended Sunday-school and if he were not afraid the
earth would open and swallow him up, and he had stuck to it with an
obstinacy that had at length convinced her that only one uncle and
niece were at Baker's, and their name was Neumann. He added that there
was another young lady there whose name he couldn't catch, but who sat
on the edge of her bed all day crying and refusing sustenance.
Appeased by the postmistress's apologies for her first unbelief he
ended by being anxious to give all the information in his power, and
came back quite a long way to tell her that he had forgotten to say
that his mother had said that the niece's Christian name was
"But what, then," said the vicar's wife to the vicar when this news
had filtered through the vicarage walls to the very sofa where she
sat, "has become of the niece called Ethel?"
"I don't know," said the vicar, helplessly.
"Perhaps she is the one who cried all day."
"My dear, we met her in the churchyard."
"Perhaps they are forgers," suggested the vicar's wife.
The vicar's wife said no more, but silently made up her mind to go the
very next day and call at Baker's. It would be terrible if a bad
influence got into Symford, her parish that she had kept in such good
order for so long. Besides, she had an official position as the wife
of the vicar and could and ought to call on everybody. Her call would
not bind her, any more than the call of a district visitor would, to
invite the called-upon to her house. Perhaps they were quite decent,
and she could ask the girl up to the Tuesday evenings in the
parish-room; hardly to the vicarage, because of her daughter Netta. On
the other hand, if they looked like what she imagined anarchists or
forgers look like, she would merely leave leaflets and be out when
they returned her call.
Robin, all unaware of his mother's thoughts, was longing to ask her to
go to Baker's and take him with her as a first step towards the
acquaintance after which his soul thirsted, but he refrained for
various discreet reasons based on an intimate knowledge of his
mother's character; and he spent the evening perfecting a plan that
should introduce him into the interior of Baker's without her help.
The plan was of a barbarous simplicity: he was going to choose an
umbrella from the collection that years had brought together in the
stand in the hall, and go boldly and ask the man Neumann if he had
dropped it in the churchyard. The man Neumann would repudiate the
umbrella, perhaps with secret indignation, but he would be forced to
pretend he was grateful, and who knew what luck might not do for him
While Robin was plotting, and his mother was plotting, that the next
day would certainly see them inside Baker's, a third person was trying
to do exactly the same thing at Symford Hall; and this third person
was no other than Augustus, the hope of all the Shuttleworths.
Augustus--he was known to his friends briefly as Tussie--had been
riding homewards late that afternoon, very slowly, for he was an
anxious young man who spent much of his time dodging things like being
overheated, when he saw a female figure walking towards him along the
lonely road. He was up on the heath above Symford, a solitary place of
heather, and gorse bushes, and winding roads that lead with many
hesitations and delays to different parts of Exmoor, and he himself
with his back to that wild region and the sunset was going, as every
sensible person would be going at that time of the evening, in the
direction of the village and home. But where could the girl be going?
For he now saw it was a girl, and in a minute or two more that it was
a beautiful girl. With the golden glow of the sky the sun had just
left on her face Priscilla came towards him out of the gathering dusk
of approaching evening, and Tussie, who had a poetic soul, gazed at
the vision openmouthed. Seeing him, she quickened her steps, and he
took off his cap eagerly when she asked him to tell her where Symford
was. "I've lost it," she said, looking up at him.
"I'm going through it myself," he answered. "Will you let me show you
"Thank you," said Priscilla; and he got off his horse and she turned
and walked beside him with the same unruffled indifference with which
she would have walked beside the Countess Disthal or in front of an
attending lacquey. Nor did she speak, for she was busy thinking of
Fritzing and hoping he was not being too anxious about her, and Tussie
(God defend his innocence) thought she was shy. So sure was he as the
minutes past that her silence was an embarrassed one that he put an
end to it by remarking on the beauty of the evening, and Priscilla who
had entirely forgotten Miss Schultz gave him the iciest look as a
reminder that it was not his place to speak first. It was lost on
Tussie as a reminder, for naturally it did not remind him of anything,
and he put it down at first to the girl's being ill at ease alone up
there with a strange man, and perhaps to her feeling she had better
keep him at arm's length. A glance at her profile however dispelled
this illusion once and for ever, for never was profile of a profounder
calm. She was walking now with her face in shadow, and the glow behind
her played strange and glorious tricks with her hair. He looked at
her, and looked, and not by the quiver of an eyelash did she show she
was aware of anybody's presence. Her eyes were fixed on the ground,
and she was deep in thought tinged with remorsefulness that she should
have come up here instead of going straight home to the farm, and by
losing her way and staying out so long have given Fritzing's careful
heart an unnecessary pang of anxiety. He had had so many, and all
because of her. But then it had been the very first time in her life
that she had ever walked alone, and if words cannot describe the joy
and triumph of it how was it likely that she should have been able to
resist the temptation to stray aside up a lovely little lane that
lured her on and on from one bend to another till it left her at last
high up, breathless and dazzled, on the edge of the heath, with
Exmoor rolling far away in purple waves to the sunset and all the
splendour of the evening sky in her face? She had gone on, fascinated
by the beauty of the place, and when she wanted to turn back found she
had lost herself. Then appeared Sir Augustus to set her right, and
with a brief thought of him as a useful person on a nice horse she
fell into sober meditations as to the probable amount of torture her
poor Fritzi was going through, and Augustus ceased to exist for her as
completely as a sign-post ceases to exist for him who has taken its
advice and passed on.
He looked at her, and looked, and looked again. He had never seen any
one quite so beautiful, and certainly never any one with such an air
of extreme detachment. He was twenty-one and much inclined to poetry,
and he thought as she walked beside him so tall and straight and
aloof, with the nimbus of flaming hair and the noble little head and
slightly stern brow that she looked like nothing less than a young
saint of God.
Tussie was not bold like Robin. He was a gentle youth who loved quiet
things, quiet places, placid people, kind dogs, books, canaries even,
if they did not sing too loud. He was sensitive about himself, being
small and weakly, and took, as I have said, great care of what he had
of health, such care indeed that some of his robust friends called him
Fussie. He hated the idea of coming of age and of having a great deal
of money and a great many active duties and responsibilities. His
dream was to be left in peace to write his verses; to get away into
some sweet impossible wilderness, and sit there singing with as much
of the spirit of Omar Kayyam as could reasonably be expected to
descend on a youth who only drank water. He was not bold, I say; and
after that one quelling glance from the young saint's eyes did not
dare speak again for a long while. But they were getting near Symford;
they were halfway down the hill; he could not let her slip away
perhaps suddenly from his side into the shadows without at least
trying to find out where she was staying. He looked at her soft kind
mouth and opened his own to speak. He looked at her stern level brows
and shut it again. At last, keeping his eyes on her mouth he blurted
out, growing red, "I know every soul in Symford, and every soul for
miles round, but I don't know--" He stopped. He was going to say
"you," but he stopped.
Priscilla's thoughts were so far away that she turned her head and
gazed vaguely at him for a moment while she collected them again. Then
she frowned at him. I do not know why Robin should have had at least
several smiles and poor Tussie only frowns, unless it was that during
this walk the young person Ethel Schultz had completely faded from
Priscilla's mind and the Royal Highness was well to the fore. She
certainly frowned at Tussie and asked herself what could possess the
man to keep on speaking to her. Keep on speaking! Poor Tussie. Aloud
she said freezingly, "Did you say something?"
"Yes," said Tussie, his eyes on her mouth--surely a mouth only made
for kindness and gentle words. "I was wondering whether you were
staying at the vicarage."
"No," said Priscilla, "we're staying at Baker's Farm." And at the
mention of that decayed lodging the friendly Schultz expression crept
back, smiling into her eyes.
Tussie stopped short. "Baker's Farm?" he said. "Why, then this is the
way; down here, to the right. It's only a few yards from here."
"Were you going that way too?"
"I live on the other side of Symford."
"Then good-bye and thank you."
"Please let me go with you as far as the high-road--it's almost dark."
"Oh no--I can't lose myself again if it's only a few yards."
She nodded, and was turning down the lane.
"Are you--are you comfortable there?" he asked hurriedly, blushing.
"The Pearces are tenants of ours. I hope they make you comfortable?"
"Oh, we're only going to be there a few days. My uncle is buying a
cottage, and we shall leave almost directly."
The girl Ethel nodded and smiled and went away quickly into the dusk;
and Tussie rode home thoughtfully, planning elaborate plans for a
descent the next day upon Baker's Farm that should have the necessary
air of inevitableness.
Fritzing was raging up and down the road in front of the gate when
Priscilla emerged, five minutes later, from the shadows of the lane.
She ran up to him and put her arm through his, and looked up at him
with a face of great penitence. "Dear Fritzi," she said, "I'm so
sorry. I've been making you anxious, haven't I? Forgive me--it was the
first taste of liberty, and it got into my feet and set them off
exploring, and then I lost myself. Have you been worrying?"
He was immensely agitated, and administered something very like a
scolding, and he urged the extreme desirability of taking Annalise
with her in future wherever she went--("Oh nonsense, Fritzi,"
interjected Priscilla, drawing away her arm)--and he declared in a
voice that trembled that it was a most intolerable thought for him
that two strange men should have dared address her in the churchyard,
that he would never forgive himself for having left her there
alone--("Oh, Fritzi, how silly," interjected Priscilla)--and he begged
her almost with tears to tell him exactly what she had said to them,
for her Grand Ducal Highness must see that it was of the first
importance they should both say the same things to people.
Priscilla declared she had said nothing at all but what was quite
diplomatic, in fact quite clever; indeed, she had been surprised at
the way ideas had seemed to flow.
"So please," she finished, "don't look at me with such lamentable
"Ma'am, did you not tell them our name is Schultz?"
"But so it is."
"It is not, ma'am. Our name is Neumann."
Priscilla stared astonished. "Neumann?" she said. "Nonsense, Fritzi.
Why should it be Neumann? We're Schultz. I told these people we were.
It's all settled."
"Settled, ma'am? I told the woman here as well as the estate agent
that you are my brother's child and that we are Neumann."
Priscilla was aghast. Then she said severely, "It was your duty to ask
me first. What right have you to christen me?"
"I intended to discuss it during our walk to the village this
afternoon. I admit I forgot it. On the other hand I could not suppose
your Grand Ducal Highness, left for a moment unprotected, would inform
two strange gentlemen that our name was Schultz."
"You should certainly have asked me first," repeated Priscilla with
knitted brows. "Why should I have to be Neumann?"
"I might inquire with equal reason why I should have to be Schultz,"
"But why Neumann?" persisted Priscilla, greatly upset.
"Ma'am, why not?" said Fritzing, still more upset. Then he added,
"Your Grand Ducal Highness might have known that at the agent's I
would be obliged to give some name."
"I didn't think any more than you did," said Priscilla stopping in
front of the gate as a sign he was to open it for her. He did, and
they walked through the garden and into the house in silence. Then she
went into the parlour and dropped into a horsehair armchair, and
leaning her head against its prickliness she sighed a doleful sigh.
"Shall I send Annalise to you, ma'am?" asked Fritzing, standing in the
"What can we do?" asked Priscilla, her eyes fixed on the tips of her
shoes in earnest thought. "Come in, Fritzi, and shut the door," she
added. "You don't behave a bit like an uncle." Then an idea struck
her, and looking up at him with sudden gaiety she said, "Can't we have
"Yes, and be Neumann-Schultz?"
"Certainly we can," said Fritzing, his face clearing; how muddled he
must be getting not to have thought of it himself! "I will cause cards
to be printed at once, and we will be Neumann-Schultz. Ma'am, your
"Fritzi, you're deteriorating--you never flattered me at Kunitz. Let
us have tea. I invite you to tea with me. If you'll order it, I'll
pour it out for you and practice being a niece."
So the evening was spent in harmony; a harmony clouded at intervals,
it is true, first by Priscilla's disappointment about the cottage,
then by a certain restiveness she showed before the more blatant
inefficiencies of the Baker housekeeping, then by a marked and ever
recurring incapacity to adapt herself to her new environment, and
lastly and very heavily when Fritzing in the course of conversation
let drop the fact that he had said she was Maria-Theresa. This was a
very black cloud and hung about for a long while; but it too passed
away ultimately in a compromise reached after much discussion that
Ethel should be prefixed to Maria-Theresa; and before Priscilla went
to bed it had been arranged that Fritzing should go next morning
directly after a very early breakfast to Lady Shuttleworth and not
leave that lady's side and house till he had secured the cottage, and
the Princess for her part faithfully promised to remain within the
Baker boundaries during his absence.
Lady Shuttleworth then, busiest and most unsuspecting of women, was
whisking through her breakfast and her correspondence next morning
with her customary celerity and method, when a servant appeared and
offered her one of those leaves from Fritzing's note-book which we
know did duty as his cards.
Tussie was sitting at the other end of the table very limp and sad
after a night of tiresome tossing that was neither wholly sleep nor
wholly wakefulness, and sheltered by various dishes with spirit-lamps
burning beneath them worked gloomily at a sonnet inspired by the girl
he had met the day before while his mother thought he was eating his
patent food. The girl, it seemed, could not inspire much, for beyond
the fourth line his muse refused to go; and he was beginning to be
unable to stop himself from an angry railing at the restrictions the
sonnet form forces upon poets who love to be vague, which would
immediately have concentrated his mother's attention on himself and
resulted in his having to read her what he had written--for she
sturdily kept up the fiction of a lively interest in his poetic
tricklings--when the servant came in with Fritzing's leaf.
"A gentleman wishes to see you on business, my lady," said the
"Mr. Neumann-Schultz?" read out Lady Shuttleworth in an inquiring
voice. "Never heard of him. Where's he from?"
"Baker's Farm, my lady."
At that magic name Tussie's head went up with a jerk.
"Tell him to go to Mr. Dawson," said Lady Shuttleworth.
The servant disappeared.
"Why do you send him away, mother?" asked Tussie.
"Why, you know things must go through Dawson," said Lady Shuttleworth
pouncing on her letters again. "I'd be plagued to death if they
"But apparently this is the stranger within our gates. Isn't he
"His name is. Dawson will be quite kind to him."
"Dawson's rather a brute I fancy, when you're not looking."
"Dearest, I always am looking."
"He must be one of Pearce's lodgers."
"Poor man, I'm sorry for him if he is. Of all the shiftless women--"
"The gentleman says, my lady," said the servant reappearing with
rather an awestruck face, "that he wishes to speak to you most
"James, did I not tell you to send him to Mr. Dawson?"
"I delivered the message, my lady. But the gentleman says he's seen
Mr. Dawson, and that he"--the footman coughed slightly--"he don't want
to see any more of him, my lady."
Lady Shuttleworth put on her glasses and stared at the servant. "Upon
my word he seems to be very cool," she said; and the servant, his gaze
fixed on a respectful point just above his mistress's head, reflected
on the extreme inapplicability of the adjective to anything so warm as
the gentleman at the door.
"Shall I see him for you, mother?" volunteered Tussie briskly.
"You?" said his mother surprised.
"I'm rather a dab at German, you know. Perhaps he can't talk much
English"--the footman started--"evidently he wasn't able to say much
to Dawson. Probably he wants you to protect him from the onslaughts of
old Pearce's cockroaches. Anyhow as he's a foreigner I think it would
be kinder to see him."
Lady Shuttleworth was astonished. Was Tussie going to turn over a new
leaf after all, now that he was coming of age, and interest himself in
more profitable things than verse-making?
"Dearest," she said, quite touched, "he shall be seen if you think it
kinder. I'll see him--you haven't done breakfast yet. Show him into
the library, James." And she gathered up her letters and went out--she
never kept people waiting--and as she passed Tussie she laid her hand
tenderly for a moment on his shoulder. "If I find I can't understand
him I'll send for you," she said.
Tussie folded up his sonnet and put it in his pocket. Then he ate a
few spoonfuls of the stuff warranted to give him pure blood, huge
muscles, and a vast intelligence; then he opened a newspaper and
stared vacantly at its contents; then he went to the fire and warmed
his feet; then he strolled round the table aimlessly for a little; and
then, when half an hour had passed and his mother had not returned, he
could bear it no longer and marched straight into the library.
"I think the cigarettes must be here," said Tussie, going over to the
mantelpiece and throwing a look of eager interest at Fritzing.
Fritzing rose and bowed ceremoniously. Lady Shuttleworth was sitting
in a straight-backed chair, her elbows on its arms, the tips of her
ten fingers nicely fitted together. She looked very angry, and yet
there was a sparkle of something like amusement in her eyes. Having
bowed to Tussie Fritzing sat down again with the elaboration of one
who means to stay a long while. During his walk from the farm he had
made up his mind to be of a most winning amiability and patience,
blended with a determination that nothing should shake. At the door,
it is true, he had been stirred to petulance by the foolish face and
utterances of the footman James, but during the whole of the time he
had been alone with Lady Shuttleworth he had behaved, he considered,
with the utmost restraint and tact.
Tussie offered him a cigarette.
"My dear Tussie," said his mother quickly, "we will not keep Mr.
Neumann-Schultz. I'm sure his time must be quite as valuable as mine
"Oh madam," said Fritzing with a vast politeness, settling himself yet
more firmly in his chair, "nothing of mine can possibly be of the same
value as anything of yours."
Lady Shuttleworth stared--she had stared a good deal during the last
halfhour--then began to laugh, and got up. "If you see its value so
clearly," she said, "I'm sure you won't care to take up any more of
"Nay, madam," said Fritzing, forced to get up too, "I am here, as I
explained, in your own interests--or rather in those of your son, who
I hear is shortly to attain his majority. This young gentleman is, I
take it, your son?"
"And therefore the owner of the cottages?"
"What cottages?" asked Tussie, eagerly. He was manifestly so violently
interested in Mr. Neumann-Schultz that his mother could only gaze at
him in wonder. He actually seemed to hang on that odd person's lips.
"My dear Tussie, Mr. Neumann-Schultz has been trying to persuade me to
sell him the pair of cottages up by the church, and I have been trying
to persuade him to believe me when I tell him I won't."
"But why won't you, mother?" asked Tussie.
Lady Shuttleworth stared at him in astonishment. "Why won't I? Do I
ever sell cottages?"
"Your esteemed parent's reasons for refusing," said Fritzing, "reasons
which she has given me with a brevity altogether unusual in one of her
sex and which I cannot sufficiently commend, do more credit, as was to
be expected in a lady, to her heart than to her head. I have offered
to build two new houses for the disturbed inhabitants of these. I have
offered to give her any price--any price at all, within the limits of
reason. Your interests, young gentleman, are what will suffer if this
business is not concluded between us."
"Do you want them for yourself?" asked Tussie.
"Yes, sir, for myself and for my niece."
"Mother, why do you refuse to do a little business?"
"Tussie, are we so poor?"
"As far as I'm concerned," said Tussie airily to Fritzing, "you may
have the things and welcome."
"But they are not worth more than about fifty pounds apiece, and I
advise you not to give more for them than they're worth. Aren't they
very small, though? Isn't there any other place here you'd rather
"Do you mind telling me why you want them?"
"Young man, to live in them."
"And where are the people to live who are in them now?" asked Lady
Shuttleworth, greatly incensed.
"Madam, I promised you to build."
"Oh nonsense. I won't have new red-brick horrors about the place.
There's that nice good old Mrs. Shaw in one, so clean and tidy always,
and the shoemaker, a very good man except for his enormous family, in
the other. I will not turn them out."
"Put 'em in the empty lodge at the north gate," suggested Tussie.
"They'd be delighted."
Lady Shuttleworth turned angrily on Fritzing--she was indeed greatly
irritated by Tussie's unaccountable behaviour. "Why don't you build
for yourself?" she asked.
"My niece has set her heart on these cottages in such a manner that I
actually fear the consequences to her health if she does not get
"Now, mother, you really can't make Mr. Neumann-Schultz's niece ill."
"Dearest boy, have you suddenly lost your senses?"
"Not unless it's losing them to be ready to do a kindness."
"Well said, well said, young man," said Fritzing approvingly.
"Tussie, have I ever shirked doing a kindness?" asked Lady
Shuttleworth, touched on her tenderest point.
"Never. And that's why I can't let you begin now," said Tussie,
smiling at her.
"Well said, well said, young man," approved Fritzing. "The woman up to
a certain age should lead the youth, and he should in all things
follow her counsels with respect and obedience. But she for her part
should know at what moment to lay down her authority, and begin, with
a fitting modesty, to follow him whom she has hitherto led."
"Is that what your niece does?" asked Lady Shuttleworth quickly.
"Is she following you into these cottages, or are you following her?"
"You must pardon me, madam, if I decline to discuss my niece."
"Do have a cigarette," said Tussie, delighted.
"I never smoke, young man."
"Something to drink, then?"
"I never drink, young man."
"If I decide to let you have these cottages--_if_ I do," said Lady
Shuttleworth, divided between astonishment at everything about
Fritzing and blankest amazement at her son's behaviour, "you will
understand that I only do it because my son seems to wish it."
"Madam, provided I get the cottages I will understand anything you
"First that. Then I'd want some information about yourself. I
couldn't let a stranger come and live in the very middle of my son's
estate unless I knew all about him."
"Why, mother--" began Tussie.
"Is not the willingness to give you your own price sufficient?"
inquired Fritzing anxiously.
"Not in the least sufficient," snapped Lady Shuttleworth.
"What do you wish to know, madam?" said Fritzing stiffly.
"I assure you a great deal."
"Come, mother," said Tussie, to whom this was painful, for was not the
man, apart from his strange clothes and speeches, of a distinctly
refined and intellectual appearance? And even if he wasn't, was he not
still the uncle of that divine niece?--"these are things for Dawson to
Fritzing started at the hated name, and began to frown dreadfully. His
frown was always very impressive because of his bushy eyebrows and
deep-set eyes. "Dawson, as you call him," he said, "and he certainly
has no claim to any prefix of politeness, is not a person with whom I
will consent to arrange anything. Dawson is the most offensive
creature who ever walked this earth clad in the outer semblance of one
of God's creatures."
This was too much for Lady Shuttleworth. "Really--" she said,
stretching out her hand to the bell.
"Didn't I tell you so, mother?" cried Tussie triumphantly; and that
Tussie, her own dear boy, should in all things second this madman
completely overwhelmed her. "I knew he was a brute behind your back.
Let's sack him."
"James, show this gentleman out."
"Pardon me, madam, we have not yet arranged--"
"Oh," interrupted Tussie, "the business part can be arranged between
you and me without bothering my mother. I'll come part of the way with
you and we'll talk it over. You're absolutely right about Dawson. He's
an outrageous mixture of bully and brute." And he hurried into the
hall to fetch his cap, humming _O dear unknown One with the stern
sweet face_, which was the first line of his sonnet in praise of
Priscilla, to a cheerful little tune of his own.
"Tussie, it's so damp," cried his anxious mother after him--"you're
not really going out in this nasty Scotch mist? Stay in, and I'll
leave you to settle anything you like."
"Oh, it's a jolly morning for a walk," called back Tussie gaily,
searching about for his cap--"_And eyes all beautiful with strenuous
thought_--Come on, sir."
But Fritzing would not skimp any part of his farewell ceremonies.
"Permit me, madam," he said, deeply bowing, "to thank you for your
extremely kind reception."
"Kind?" echoed Lady Shuttleworth, unable to stop herself from
"Yes, madam, kind, and before all things patient."
"Yes, I do think I've been rather patient," agreed Lady Shuttleworth,
"And let me," proceeded Fritzing, "join to my thanks my
congratulations on your possession of so unusually amiable and
promising a son."
"Come on, sir--you'll make me vain," said Tussie, in the
doorway--"'_Hair like a web divine wherein is caught_,'"--he hummed,
getting more and more shrill and happy.
Lady Shuttleworth put out her hand impulsively. Fritzing took it, bent
over it, and kissed it with much respect.
"A most unusually promising young man," he repeated; "and, madam, I
can tell you it is not my habit to say a thing I do not mean."
"'_The last reflection of God's daily grace_'"--chirped Tussie,
looking on much amused.
"No, that I'm quite certain you don't," said Lady Shuttleworth with
"Don't say too many nice things about me," advised Tussie. "My mother
will swallow positively anything."
But nevertheless he was delighted; for here were his mother and the
uncle--the valuable and highly to be cherished uncle--looking as
pleased as possible with each other, and apparently in the fairest way
to becoming fast friends.
The cheerful goddess who had brought Fritzing and his Princess safely
over from Kunitz was certainly standing by them well. She it was who
had driven Priscilla up on to the heath and into the acquaintance of
Augustus Shuttleworth, without whom a cottage in Symford would have
been for ever unattainable. She it was who had sent the Morrisons,
father and son, to drive Priscilla from the churchyard before Fritzing
had joined her, without which driving she would never have met
Augustus. She it was who had used the trifling circumstance of a
mislaid sermon-book to take the vicar and Robin into the church at an
unaccustomed time, without which sermon-book they would never have met
Priscilla in the churchyard and driven her out of it. Thus are all our
doings ruled by Chance; and it is a pleasant pastime for an idle hour
to trace back big events to their original and sometimes absurd
beginnings. For myself I know that the larger lines of my life were
laid down once for all by--but what has this to do with Priscilla?
Thus, I say, are all our doings ruled by Chance, who loves to use
small means for the working of great wonders. And as for the gay
goddess's ugly sister, the lady of the shifty eye and lowering brow
called variously Misfortune and Ill Luck, she uses the same tools
exactly in her hammering out of lives, meanly taking little follies
and little weaknesses, so little and so amiable at first as hardly to
be distinguished from little virtues, and with them building up a
mighty mass that shall at last come down and crush our souls. Of the
crushing of souls, however, my story does not yet treat, and I will
not linger round subjects so awful. We who are nestling for the moment
like Priscilla beneath the warm wing of Good Fortune can dare to make
what the children call a face at her grey sister as she limps scowling
past. Shall we not too one day in our turn feel her claws? Let us when
we do at least not wince; and he who feeling them can still make a
face and laugh, shall be as the prince of the fairy tales,
transforming the sour hag by his courage into a bright reward,
striking his very griefs into a shining shower of blessing.
From this brief excursion into the realm of barren musings, whither I
love above all things to wander and whence I have continually to fetch
myself back again by force, I will return to the story.
At Tussie's suggestion when the business part of their talk was
over--and it took exactly five minutes for Tussie to sell and Fritzing
to buy the cottages, five minutes of the frothiest business talk ever
talked, so profound was the ignorance of both parties as to what most
people demand of cottages--Fritzing drove to Minehead in the
postmistress's son's two-wheeled cart in order to purchase suitable
furniture and bring back persons who would paper and paint. Minehead
lies about twenty miles to the north of Symford, so Fritzing could not
be back before evening. By the time he was back, promised Tussie, the
shoemaker and Mrs. Shaw should be cleared out and put into a place so
much better according to their views that they would probably make it
vocal with their praises.
Fritzing quite loved Tussie. Here was a young man full of the noblest
spirit of helpfulness, and who had besides the invaluable gift of
seeing no difficulties anywhere. Even Fritzing, airy optimist, saw
more than Tussie, and whenever he expressed a doubt it was at once
brushed aside by the cheerfullest "Oh, that'll be all right." He was
the most practical, businesslike, unaffected, energetic young man,
thought Fritzing, that he had even seen. Tussie was surprised himself
at his own briskness, and putting the wonderful girl on the heath as
much as possible out of his thoughts, told himself that it was the
patent food beginning at last to keep its promises.
He took Fritzing to the post-office and ordered the trap for him,
cautioned the postmistress's son, who was going to drive, against
going too fast down the many hills, for the bare idea of the priceless
uncle being brought back in bits or in any state but absolutely whole
and happy turned him cold, told Fritzing which shops to go to and
where to lunch, begged him to be careful what he ate, since hotel
luncheons were good for neither body nor soul, ordered rugs and a
mackintosh covering to be put in, and behaved generally with the
forethought of a mother. "I'd go with you myself," he said,--and the
postmistress, listening with both her ears, recognized that the
Baker's Farm lodgers were no longer persons to be criticised--"but I
can be of more use to you here. I must see Dawson about clearing out
the cottages. Of course it is very important you shouldn't stay a
moment longer than can be helped in uncomfortable lodgings."
Here was a young man! Sensible, practical, overflowing with kindness.
Fritzing had not met any one he esteemed so much for years. They went
down the village street together, for Tussie was bound for Mr. Dawson
who was to be set to work at once, and Fritzing for the farm whither
the trap was to follow him as soon as ready, and all Symford,
curtseying to Tussie, recognized, as the postmistress had recognized,
that Fritzing was now raised far above their questionings, seated
firmly on the Shuttleworth rock.
They parted at Mr. Dawson's gate, Mrs. Dawson mildly watching their
warmth over a wire blind. "When we are settled, young man," said
Fritzing, after eloquent words of thanks and appreciation, "you must
come in the evenings, and together we will roam across the splendid
fields of English literature."
"Oh _thanks_" exclaimed Tussie, flushing with pleasure. He longed to
ask if the divine niece would roam too, but even if she did not, to
roam at all would be a delight, and he would besides be doing it under
the very roof that sheltered that bright and beautiful head. "Oh
_thanks_," cried Tussie, then, flushing.
His extreme joy surprised Fritzing. "Are you so great a friend of
literature?" he inquired.
"I believe," said Tussie, "that without it I'd have drowned myself
long ago. And as for the poets--"
He stopped. No one knew what poetry had been to him in his sickly
existence--the one supreme interest, the one thing he really cared to
Fritzing now loved him with all his heart. "_Ach Gott, ja_," he
ejaculated, clapping him on the shoulder, "the poets--_ja,
ja_--'Blessings be with them and eternal praise,' what? Young man," he
added enthusiastically, "I could wish that you had been my son. I
could indeed." And as he said it Robin Morrison coming down the street
and seeing the two together and the expression on Tussie's face
instantly knew that Tussie had met the niece.
"Hullo, Tuss," he called across, hurrying past, for it would rather
upset his umbrella plan to be stopped and have to talk to the man
Neumann thus prematurely. But Tussie neither saw nor heard him, and
"By Jove, hasn't he just seen the niece though," said Robin to
himself, his eyes dancing as he strode nimbly along on long and
bird-like legs. The conviction seized him that when he and his
umbrella should descend upon Baker's that afternoon Tussie would
either be there already or would come in immediately afterwards. "Who
would have thought old Fuss would be so enterprising?" he wondered,
thinking of the extreme cordiality of Fritzing's face. "He's given
them those cottages, I'll swear."
So Fritzing went to Minehead. I will not follow his painful footsteps
as they ranged about that dreary place, nor will I dwell upon his
purchases, which resolved themselves at last, after an infinite and
soul-killing amount of walking and bewilderment, into a sofa, a
revolving bookstand, and two beds. He forgot a bed for Annalise
because he forgot Annalise; and he didn't buy things like sheets
because he forgot that beds want them. On the other hand he spent
quite two hours in a delightful second-hand bookshop on his way to the
place where you buy crockery, and then forgot the crockery. He did,
reminded and directed by Mr. Vickerton, the postmistress's son, get to
a paperhanger's and order him and his men to come out in shoals to
Symford the next morning at daybreak, making the paperhanger vow, who
had never seen them, that the cottages should be done by nightfall.
Then, happening to come to the seashore, he stood for a moment
refreshing his nostrils with saltness, for he was desperately worn
out, and what he did after that heaven knows. Anyhow young Vickerton
found him hours afterwards walking up and down the shingle in the
dark, waving his arms about and crying--
"O, qui me gelidis convallibus Haemi
Sistat et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra!"
"Talking German out loud to himself," said young Vickerton to his
mother that night; and it is possible that he had been doing it all
And while he was doing these things Priscilla was having calls paid
her. Nothing could exceed her astonishment when about four o'clock, as
she was sitting deep in thought and bored on the arm of a horsehair
chair, Mrs. Pearce opened the door and without the least warning let
in Mrs. Morrison. Priscilla had promised Fritzing for that one day to
stay quietly at the farm, and for the last two hours, finding the farm
of an intolerable dulness, she had been engaged in reflections of an
extremely complex nature on subjects such as Duty, Will, and
Personality. Her morning in the Baker fields and by the banks of that
part of the Sym that meanders through them had tuned her mind to
meditation. The food at one o'clock and the manner of its bringing in
by Annalise--Priscilla had relieved Mrs. Pearce of that office--tuned
it still more. The blended slipperiness and prickliness of all the
things she tried to sit on helped surprisingly; and if I knew how far
it is allowable to write of linen I could explain much of her state of
mind by a description of the garments in which she was clothed that
day. They were new garments taken straight from the Gerstein box.
They were not even linen,--how could they be for Fritzing's three
hundred marks? And their newness had not yet been exposed to the
softening influence of any wash-tub. Straight did they come, in all
their crackling stiffness, out of the shop and on to the Princess.
Annalise had been supposed to wash them or cause them to be washed the
day before, but Annalise had been far too busy crying to do anything
of the sort; and by four o'clock Priscilla was goaded by them into a
condition of mind so unworthy that she was thinking quite hard about
the Kunitz fine linen and other flesh-pots and actually finding the
recollection sweet. It was a place, Priscilla mused, where her body
had been exquisitely cared for. Those delicate meals, served in
spotlessness, surely they had been rather of the nature of poems?
Those web-like garments, soft as a kiss, how beautiful they had been
to touch and wear. True her soul had starved; yes, it had cruelly
starved. But was it then--she started at her own thought--was it then
being fed at Baker's?
And into the middle of this question, a tremendous one to be asked on
the very threshold of the new life, walked Mrs. Morrison.
"How d'y do," said Mrs. Morrison. "The vicar asked me to come and see
you. I hope the Pearces make you comfortable."
"Well I never," thought Mrs. Pearce, lingering as was her custom on
the door-mat, and shaking her head in sorrow rather than in anger.
Priscilla sat for a moment staring at her visitor.
"You are Miss Schultz, are you not?" asked Mrs. Morrison rather
Priscilla said she was,--her name, that is, was Neumann-Schultz--and
got up. She had the vaguest notion as to how Miss Schultz would behave
under these trying circumstances, but imagined she would begin by
getting up. So she got up, and the sofa being a low one and her
movements leisurely, Mrs. Morrison told her husband afterwards there
seemed to be no end to the girl. The girl certainly was long, and when
at last unfolded and quite straightened out she towered over Mrs.
Morrison, who looked up uneasily at the grave young face. Why, Mrs.
Morrison asked herself, didn't the girl smile? It was the duty of a
Miss Schultz called upon by the vicar's wife to smile; so profound a
gravity on such an occasion was surely almost rude. Priscilla offered
her hand and hoped it was all right to do so, but still she did not
smile. "Are you Mrs. Morrison?" she asked.
"Yes," said Mrs. Morrison with an immense reserve in her voice.
Then Priscilla suggested she should sit down. Mrs. Morrison was
already doing it; and Priscilla sank on to her sofa again and wondered
what she had better say next. She wondered so much that she became
lost in mazes of wonder, and there was so long a silence that Mrs.
Pearce outside the door deplored an inconsiderateness that could keep
her there for nothing.
"I didn't know you had a double name," said Mrs. Morrison, staring at
Priscilla and trying to decide whether this was not a case for the
application of leaflets and instant departure. The girl was really
quite offensively pretty. She herself had been pretty--she thanked
heaven that she still was so--but never, never pretty--she thanked
heaven again--in this glaringly conspicuous fashion.
"My name is Ethel Maria-Theresa Neumann-Schultz," said Priscilla, very
clearly and slowly; and though she was, as we know, absolutely
impervious to the steadiest staring, she did wonder whether this good
lady could have seen her photograph anywhere in some paper, her stare
was so very round and bright and piercing.
"What a long name," said Mrs. Morrison.
"Yes," said Priscilla; and as another silence seemed imminent she
added, "I have two hyphens."
"Two what?" said Mrs. Morrison, startled; and so full was her head of
doubt and distrust that for one dreadful moment she thought the girl
had said two husbands. "Oh, hyphens. Yes. Germans have them a good
deal, I believe."
"That sounds as if we were talking about diseases," said Priscilla, a
faint smile dawning far away somewhere in the depths of her eyes.
"Yes," said Mrs. Morrison, fidgeting.
Odd that Robin should have said nothing about the girl's face. Anyhow
she should be kept off Netta. Better keep her off the parish-room
Tuesdays as well. What in the world was she doing in Symford? She was
quite the sort of girl to turn the heads of silly boys. And so
unfortunate, just as Augustus Shuttleworth had taken to giving Netta
little volumes of Browning.
"Is your uncle out?" she asked, some of the sharpness of her thoughts
getting into her voice.
"He's gone to Minehead, to see about things for my cottage."
"Your cottage? Have you got Mrs. Shaw's, then?"
"Yes. She is being moved out to-day."
"Dear me," said Mrs. Morrison, greatly struck.
"Is it surprising?"
"Most. So unlike Lady Shuttleworth."
"She has been very kind."
"Do you know her?"
"No; but my uncle was there this morning."
"And managed to persuade her?"
"He is very eloquent," said Priscilla, with a demure downward sweep of
"Just a little more," thought Mrs. Morrison, watching their dusky
golden curve, "and the girl would have had scarlet hair and
white-eyebrows and masses of freckles and been frightful." And she
sighed an impatient sigh, which, if translated into verse, would
undoubtedly have come out--
"Oh the little more and how much it is,
And the little less and what worlds away!"
"And poor old Mrs. Shaw--how does she like being turned out?"
"I believe she is being put into something that will seem to her a
"Dear me, your uncle must really be very eloquent."
"I assure you that he is," said Priscilla earnestly.
There was a short pause, during which Mrs. Morrison staring straight
into those unfathomable pools, Priscilla's eyes, was very angry with
them for being so evidently lovely. "You are very young," she said,
"so you will not mind my questions--"
"Don't the young mind questions?" asked Priscilla, for a moment
supposing it to be a characteristic of the young of England.
"Not, surely, from experienced and--and married ladies," said Mrs.
"Please go on then."
"Oh, I haven't anything particular to go on about," said Mrs.
Morrison, offended. "I assure you curiosity is not one of my faults."
"No?" said Priscilla, whose attention had begun to wander.
"Being human I have no doubt many failings, but I'm thankful to say
curiosity isn't one of them."
"My uncle says that's just the difference between men and women. He
says women might achieve just as much as men if only they were curious
about things. But they're not. A man will ask a thousand questions,
and never rest till he's found out as much as he can about anything he
sees, and a woman is content hardly even to see it."
"I hope your uncle is a Churchman," was Mrs. Morrison's unexpected
Priscilla's mind could not leap like this, and she hesitated a moment
and smiled. ("It's the first time she's looked pleasant," thought Mrs.
Morrison, "and now it's in the wrong place.")
"He was born, of course, in the Lutheran faith," said Priscilla.
"Oh, a horrid faith. Excuse me, but it really is. I hope he isn't
going to upset Symford?"
"New people holding wrong tenets coming to such a small place do
sometimes, you know, and you say he is eloquent. And we are such a
simple and God-fearing little community. A few years ago we had a
great bother with a Dissenting family that came here. The cottagers
quite lost their heads."
"I think I can promise that my uncle will not try to convert anybody,"
"Of course you mean pervert. It would be a pity if he did. It wouldn't
last, but it would give us a lot of trouble. We are very good
Churchmen here. The vicar, and my son too when he's at home, set
beautiful examples. My son is going into the Church himself. It has
been his dearest wish from a child. He thinks of nothing else--of
nothing else at all," she repeated, fixing her eyes on Priscilla with
a look of defiance.
"Really?" said Priscilla, very willing to believe it.
"I assure you it's wonderful how absorbed he is in his studies for it.
He reads Church history every spare moment, and he's got it so
completely on his mind that I've noticed even when he whistles it's
'The Church's One Foundation.'"
"What is that?" inquired Priscilla.
"Mr. Robin Morrison," announced Mrs. Pearce.
The sitting-room at Baker's was a small, straightforward place, with
no screens, no big furniture, no plants in pots, nothing that could
for a moment conceal the persons already in it from the persons coming
in, and Robin entering jauntily with the umbrella under his arm fell
straight as it were into his mother's angry gaze. "Hullo mater, you
here?" he exclaimed genially, his face broadening with apparent
"Yes, Robin, I am here," she said, drawing herself up.
"How do you do, Miss Schultz. I seem to have got shown into the wrong
room. It's a Mr. Neumann I've come to see; doesn't he live here?"
Priscilla looked at him from her sofa seat and wondered what she had
done that she should be scourged in this manner by Morrisons.
"You know my son, I believe?" said Mrs. Morrison in the stiffest
voice; for the girl's face showed neither recognition nor pleasure,
and though she would have been angry if she had looked unduly pleased
she was still angrier that she should look indifferent.
"Yes. I met him yesterday. Did you want my uncle? His name is Neumann.
Neumann-Schultz. He's out."
"I only wanted to give him this umbrella," said Robin, with a swift
glance at his mother as he drew it from under his arm. Would she
recognize it? He had chosen one of the most ancient; the one most
appropriate, as he thought, to the general appearance of the man
"What umbrella is that, Robin?" asked his mother suspiciously. Really,
it was more than odd that Robin, whom she had left immersed in study,
should have got into Baker's Farm so quickly. Could he have been
expected? And had Providence, in its care for the righteous cause of
mothers, brought her here just in time to save him from this girl's
toils? The girl's indifference could not be real; and if it was not,
her good acting only betrayed the depths of her experience and
balefulness. "What umbrella is that?" asked Mrs. Morrison.
"It's his," said Robin, throwing his head back and looking at his
mother as he laid it with elaborate care on the table.
"My uncle's?" said Priscilla. "Had he lost it? Oh thank you--he would
have been dreadfully unhappy. Sit down." And she indicated with her
head the chair she would allow him to sit on.
"The way she tells us to sit down!" thought Mrs. Morrison indignantly.
"As though she were a queen." Aloud she said, "You could have sent
Joyce round with it"--Joyce being that gardener whose baby's
perambulator was wheeled by another Ethel--"and need not have
interrupted your work."
"So I could," said Robin, as though much struck by the suggestion.
"But it was a pleasure," he added to Priscilla, "to be able to return
it myself. It's a frightful bore losing one's umbrella--especially if
it's an old friend."
"Uncle Fritzi's looks as if it were a very old friend," said
Priscilla, smiling at it.
Mrs. Morrison glanced at it too, and then glanced again. When she
glanced a third time and her glance turned into a look that lingered
Robin jumped up and inquired if he should not put it in the passage.
"It's in the way here," he explained; though in whose way it could be
was not apparent, the table being perfectly empty.
Priscilla made no objection, and he at once removed it beyond the
reach of his mother's eye, propping it up in a dark corner of the
passage and telling Mrs. Pearce, whom he found there that it was Mr.
"No it ain't," said Mrs. Pearce.
"Yes it is," said Robin.
"No it ain't. He's took his to Minehead," said Mrs. Pearce.
"It is, and he has not," said Robin.
"I see him take it," said Mrs. Pearce.
"You did not," said Robin.
This would have been the moment, Mrs. Morrison felt, for her to go and
to carry off Robin with her, but she was held in her seat by the
certainty that Robin would not let himself be carried off; and sooner
than say good-bye and then find he was staying on alone she would sit
there all night. Thus do mothers sacrifice themselves for their
children, thought Mrs. Morrison, for their all too frequently
thankless children. But though she would do it to any extent in order
to guard her boy she need not, she said to herself, be pleasant
besides,--she need not, so to speak, be the primroses on his path of
dalliance. Accordingly she behaved as little like a primrose as
possible, sitting in stony silence while he skirmished in the passage
with Mrs. Pearce, and the instant he came in again asked him where he
had found the umbrella.
"I found it--not far from the church," said Robin, desiring to be
truthful as long as he could. "But mater, bother the umbrella. It
isn't so very noble to bring a man back his own. Did you get your
cottages?" he asked, turning quickly to Priscilla.
"Robin, are you sure it is his own?" said his mother.
"My dear mother, I'm never sure of anything. Nor are you. Nor is Miss
Schultz. Nor is anybody who is really intelligent. But I found the
thing, and Mr. Neumann--"
"The name to-day is Neumann-Schultz," said Mrs. Morrison, in a voice
heavy with implications.
"Mr. Neumann-Schultz, then, had been that way just before, and so I
felt somehow it must be his."
"Your Uncle Cox had one just like it when he stayed with us last
time," remarked Mrs. Morrison.
"Had he? I say, mater, what an eye you must have for an umbrella. That
must be five years ago."
"Oh, he left it behind, and I see it in the stand every time I go
through the hall."
"No! Do you?" said Robin, who was hurled by this statement into the
corner where his wits ended and where he probably would have stayed
ignominiously, for Miss Schultz seemed hardly to be listening and
really almost looked--he couldn't believe it, no girl had ever done it
in his presence yet, but she did undoubtedly almost look--bored, if
Mrs. Pearce had not flung open the door, and holding the torn portions
of her apron bunched together in her hands, nervously announced Lady
"Oh," thought Priscilla, "what a day I'm having." But she got up and
was gracious, for Fritzing had praised this lady as kind and
sensible; and the moment Lady Shuttleworth set her eyes on her the
mystery of her son's behaviour flashed into clearness. "Tussie's seen
her!" she exclaimed inwardly; instantly adding "Upon my word I can't
blame the boy."
"My dear," she said, holding Priscilla's hand, "I've come to make
friends with you. See what a wise old woman I am. Frankly, I didn't
want you in those cottages, but now that my son has sold them I lose
no time in making friends. Isn't that true wisdom?"
"It's true niceness," said Priscilla, smiling down at the little old
lady whose eyes were twinkling all over her. "I don't think you'll
find us in any way a nuisance. All we want is to be quiet."
Mrs. Morrison sniffed.
"Do you really?" said Lady Shuttleworth. "Then we shall get on
capitally. It's what I like best myself. And you've come too," she
went on, turning to Mrs. Morrison, "to make friends with your new
parishioner? Why, Robin, and you too?"
"Oh, I'm only accidental," said Robin quickly. "Only a restorer of
lost property. And I'm just going," he added, beginning to make hasty
adieux; for Lady Shuttleworth invariably produced a conviction in him
that his clothes didn't fit and wanted brushing badly, and no young
man so attentive to his appearance as Robin could be expected to enjoy
that. He fled therefore, feeling that even Miss Schultz's loveliness
would not make up for Lady Shuttleworth's eyes; and in the passage,
from whence Mrs. Pearce had retreated, removing herself as far as
might be from the awful lady to whom her father-in-law owed rent and
who saw every hole, Robin pounced on his Uncle Cox's umbrella, tucked
is once more beneath his arm, and bore it swiftly back to the stand
where it had spent five peaceful years. "Really old women are rather
terrible things," he thought as he dropped it in again. "I wonder what
they're here for."
"Ah, it's there, I see," remarked his mother that night as she passed
through the hall on her way to dinner.
"What is?" inquired Robin who was just behind her.
"Your Uncle Cox's umbrella."
"Dear mater, why this extreme interest in my Uncle Cox's umbrella?"
"I'm glad to see it back again, that's all. One gets so used to
Lady Shuttleworth and his mother--I shudder to think that it is
possible Robin included his mother in the reflection about old women,
but on the other hand one never can tell--had stayed on at the farm
for another twenty minutes after he left. They would have stayed
longer, for Lady Shuttleworth was more interested in Priscilla than
she had ever been in any girl before, and Mrs. Morrison, who saw this
interest and heard the kind speeches, had changed altogether from ice
to amiability, crushing her leaflets in her hand and more than once
expressing hopes that Miss Neumann-Schultz would soon come up to tea
and learn to know and like Netta--I repeat, they would have stayed
much longer, but that an extremely odd thing happened.
Priscilla had been charming; chatting with what seemed absolute
frankness about her future life in the cottages, answering little
questionings of Lady Shuttleworth's with a discretion and plausibility
that would have warmed Fritzing's anxious heart, dwelling most, for
here the ground was safest, on her uncle, his work, his gifts and
character, and Lady Shuttleworth, completely fascinated, had offered
her help of every sort, help in the arranging of her little home, in
the planting of its garden, even in the building of those bathrooms
about which Tussie had been told by Mr. Dawson. She thought the desire
for many bathrooms entirely praiseworthy, and only a sign of lunacy in
persons of small means. Fritzing had assured Tussie that he had money
enough for the bathrooms; and if his poetic niece liked everybody
about her to be nicely washed was not that a taste to be applauded?
Perhaps Lady Shuttleworth expatiated on plans and probable
building-costs longer than Priscilla was able to be interested;
perhaps she was over-explanatory of practical details; anyhow
Priscilla's attention began to wander, and she gradually became very
tired of her callers. She answered in monosyllables, and her smile
grew vague. Then suddenly, at the first full stop Lady Shuttleworth
reached in a sentence about sanitation--the entire paragraph was never
finished--she got up with her usual deliberate grace, and held out her
"It has been very kind of you to come and see me," she said to the
astounded lady, with a little gracious smile. "I hope you will both
come again another time."
For an instant Lady Shuttleworth thought she was mad. Then to her own
amazement she found her body rising obediently and letting its hand be
Mrs. Morrison did the same. Both had their hands slightly pressed,
both were smiled upon, and both went out at once and speechless.
Priscilla stood calmly while they walked to the door, with the little
smile fixed on her face.
"Is it possible we've been insulted?" burst out Mrs. Morrison when
they got outside.
"I don't know," said Lady Shuttleworth, who looked extremely
"Do you think it can possibly be the barbarous German custom?"
"I don't know," said Lady Shuttleworth again.
And all the way to the vicarage, whither she drove Mrs. Morrison, she
was very silent, and no exclamations and conjectures of that indignant
lady's could get a word out of her.
Kunitz meanwhile was keeping strangely quiet. Not a breath, not a
whisper, had reached the newspapers from that afflicted little town of
the dreadful thing that had happened to it. It will be remembered that
the Princess ran away on a Monday, arrived at Baker's in the small
hours of Wednesday morning, and had now spent both Wednesday and
Thursday in Symford. There had, then, been ample time for Europe to
receive in its startled ears the news of her flight; yet Europe,
judging from its silence, knew nothing at all about it. In Minehead on
the Thursday evening Fritzing bought papers, no longer it is true with
the frenzy he had displayed at Dover when every moment seemed packed
with peril, but still with eagerness; and not a paper mentioned
Kunitz. On the Saturday he did find the laconic information in the
London paper he had ordered to be sent him every day that the Grand
Duke of Lothen-Kunitz who was shooting in East Prussia had been joined
there by that Prince--I will not reveal his august name--who had so
badly wanted to marry Priscilla. And on the Sunday--it was of course
the paper published in London on Saturday--he read that the Princess
Priscilla of Lothen-Kunitz, the second and only unmarried daughter of
the Grand Duke, was confined to her bed by a sharp attack of
influenza. After that there was utter silence. Fritzing showed
Priscilla the paragraph about her influenza, and she was at first very
merry over it. The ease with which a princess can shake off her
fetters the moment she seriously tries to surprised her, and amused
her too, for a little. It surprised Fritzing, but without amusing him,
for he was a man who was never amused. Indeed, I am unable to recall
any single occasion on which I saw him smile. Other emotions shook him
vigorously as we know, but laughter never visited him with its
pleasant ticklings under the ribs; it slunk away abashed before a task
so awful, and left him at his happiest to a mood of mild contentment.
"Your Royal Parent," he remarked to Priscilla, "has chosen that which
is ever the better part of valour, and is hushing the incident up."
"He never loved me," said Priscilla, wistfully. On thinking it over
she was not quite sure that she liked being allowed to run away so
easily. Did nobody care, then, what became of her? Was she of
positively no value at all? Running away is all very well, but your
pride demands that those runned from shall at least show some sign of
not liking it, make some effort, however humble, to fetch you back. If
they do not, if they remain perfectly quiescent and resigned, not even
sending forth a wail that shall be audible, you are naturally
extremely crushed. "My father," said Priscilla bitterly, "doesn't
care a bit. He'll give out I'm dangerously ill, and then you'll see,
Fritzi--I shall either die, or be sent away for an interminable
yachting cruise with the Countess. And so dust will be thrown in
people's eyes. My father is very good at that, and the Countess is a
perfect genius. You'll see."
But Fritzing never saw, for there was no more mention at all either of
Kunitz or of influenza. And just then he was so much taken up by his
efforts to get into the cottages as quickly as possible that after a
passing feeling of thankfulness that the Grand Duke should be of such
a convenient indifference to his daughter's fate it dropped from his
mind in the easy fashion in which matters of importance always did
drop from it. What was the use, briefly reflected this philosopher, of
worrying about what they were or were not thinking at Kunitz? There
would be time enough for that when they actually began to do
something. He felt very safe from Kunitz in the folds of the Somerset
hills, and as the days passed calmly by he felt still safer. But
though no dangers seemed to threaten from without there were certain
dangers within that made it most desirable for them to get away from
Baker's and into their own little home without a moment's unnecessary
delay. He could not always be watching his tongue, and he found for
instance that it positively refused to call the Princess Ethel. It had
an almost equal objection to addressing her as niece; and it had a
most fatal habit of slipping out Grand Ducal Highnesses. True, at
first they mostly talked German together, but the tendency to talk
English grew more marked every day; it was in the air they breathed,
and they both could talk it so fatally well. Up at the cottages among
the workmen, or when they were joined by Mr. Dawson, grown zealous to
help, or by either of the young men Robin and Tussie, who seemed
constantly to be passing, the danger too was great. Fritzing was so
conscious of it that he used to break out into perspirations whenever
Priscilla was with him in public, and his very perspirations were
conspicuous. The strain made his manner oddly nervous when speaking to
or of his niece, and he became the subject of much conjecture to the
observant Robin. Robin thought that in spite of her caressing ways
with her uncle the girl must be privately a dreadful tyrant. It seemed
difficult to believe, but Robin prided himself on being ready to
believe anything at a moment's notice, especially if it was the worst,
and he called it having an open mind. The girl was obviously the most
spoilt of girls. No one could help seeing that. Her least wish seemed
to be for the uncle a command that was not even to be talked about.
Yet the uncle was never openly affectionate to her. It almost seemed
as though she must have some secret hold over him, be in possession,
perhaps, of some fact connected with a guilty past. But then this girl
and guilty pasts! Why, from the look in her eyes she could never even
have heard of such things. Robin thought himself fairly experienced
in knowledge of human nature, but he had to admit that he had never
yet met so incomprehensible a pair. He wanted to talk to Tussie
Shuttleworth about them, but Tussie would not talk. To Tussie it
seemed impossible to talk about Priscilla because she was sacred to
him, and she was sacred to him because he adored her so. He adored her
to an extent that amazes me to think of, worshipping her beauty with
all the headlong self-abasement of a very young man who is also a
poet. His soul was as wax within him, softest wax punched all over
with little pictures of Priscilla. No mother is happy while her
child's soul is in this state, and though he was extremely decent, and
hid it and smothered it and choked it with all the energy he
possessed, Lady Shuttleworth knew very well what was going on inside
him and spent her spare time trying to decide whether to laugh or to
cry over her poor Tussie. "When does Robin go back to Cambridge?" she
asked Mrs. Morrison the next time she met her, which was in the front
garden of a sick old woman's cottage.
Mrs. Morrison was going in with a leaflet; Lady Shuttleworth was going
in with a pound of tea. From this place they could see Priscilla's
cottage, and Robin was nailing up its creepers in the sight of all
"Ah--I know what you mean," said Mrs. Morrison quickly.
"It is always such a pity to see emotions wasted," said Lady
Shuttleworth slowly, as if weighing each word.
"Wasted? You do think she's an adventuress, then?" said Mrs. Morrison
"Sh-sh. My dear, how could I think anything so unkind? But we who are
old"--Mrs. Morrison jerked up her chin--"and can look on calmly, do
see the pity of it when beautiful emotions are lavished and wasted. So
much force, so much time frittered away in dreams. And all so useless,
so barren. Nothing I think is so sad as waste, and nothing is so
wasteful as a one-sided love."
Mrs. Morrison gave the pink tulle bow she liked to wear in the
afternoons at her throat an agitated pat, and tried to conceal her
misery that Augustus Shuttleworth should also have succumbed to Miss
Neumann-Schultz. That he had done so was very clear from Lady
Shuttleworth's portentous remarks, for it was not in human nature for
a woman to be thus solemn about the wasted emotions of other people's
sons. His doing so might save Robin's future, but it would ruin
Netta's. We all have our little plans for the future--dear rosy things
that we dote on and hug to our bosoms with more tenderness even than
we hug the babies of our bodies, and the very rosiest and best
developed of Mrs. Morrison's darling plans was the marriage of her
daughter Netta with the rich young man Augustus. It was receiving a
rude knock on its hopeful little head at this moment in old Mrs.
Jones's front garden, and naturally the author of its being winced.
Augustus, she feared, must be extremely far gone in love, and it was
not likely that the girl would let such a chance go. It was a
consolation that the marriage would be a scandal,--this person from
nowhere, this niece of a German teacher, carrying off the wealthiest
young man in the county. The ways of so-called Providence were quite
criminally inscrutable, she thought, in stark defiance of what a
vicar's wife should think; but then she was greatly goaded.
Priscilla herself came out of Mrs. Jones's door at that moment with a
very happy face. She had succeeded in comforting the sick woman to an
extent that surprised her. The sick woman had cheered up so suddenly
and so much that Priscilla, delighted, had at once concluded that work
among the sick poor was her true vocation. And how easy it had been! A
few smiles, a few kind words, a five-pound note put gently into the
withered old hands, and behold the thing was done. Never was sick
woman so much comforted as Mrs. Jones. She who had been disinclined to
speak above a whisper when Priscilla went in was able at the end of
the visit to pour forth conversation in streams, and quite loud
conversation, and even interspersed with chuckles. All Friday
Priscilla had tried to help in the arranging of her cottage, and had
made herself and Fritzing so tired over it that on Saturday she let
him go up alone and decided that she would, for her part, now begin to
do good to the people in the village. It was what she intended to do
in future. It was to be the chief work of her new life. She was going
to live like the poor and among them, smooth away their sorrows and
increase their joys, give them, as it were, a cheery arm along the
rough path of poverty, and in doing it get down herself out of the
clouds to the very soil, to the very beginnings and solid elementary
facts of life. And she would do it at once, and not sit idle at the
farm. It was on such idle days as the day Fritzing went to Minehead
that sillinesses assailed her soul--shrinkings of the flesh from
honest calico, disgust at the cooking, impatience at Annalise's
swollen eyes. Priscilla could have cried that night when she went to
bed, if she had not held tears in scorn, at the sickliness of her
spirit, her spirit that she had thought more than able to keep her
body in subjection, that she had hoped was unalterably firm and brave.
But see the uses of foolishness,--the reaction from it is so great
that it sends us with a bound twice as far again along the right road
as we were while we were wise and picking our way with clean shoes
slowly among the puddles. Who does not know that fresh impulse, so
strong and gracious, towards good that surges up in us after a period
of sitting still in mud? What an experience it is, that vigorous shake
and eager turning of our soiled face once more towards the blessed
light. "I will arise and go to my Father"--of all the experiences of
the spirit surely this is the most glorious; and behold the prudent,
the virtuous, the steadfast--dogged workers in the vineyard in the
heat of the day--are shut out from it for ever.
Priscilla had not backslided much; but short as her tarrying had been
among the puddles she too sprang forward after it with renewed
strength along the path she had chosen as the best, and having
completed the second of her good works--the first had been performed
just previously, and had been a warm invitation made personally from
door to door to all the Symford mothers to send their children to tea
and games at Baker's Farm the next day, which was Sunday--she came
away very happy from the comforted Mrs. Jones, and met the two
arriving comforters in the front garden.
Now Priscilla's and Mrs. Jones's last words together had been these:
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Priscilla had asked,
leaning over the old lady and patting her arm in farewell.
"No, deary--you've done enough already, God bless your pretty face,"
said Mrs. Jones, squeezing the five-pound note ecstatically in her
"But isn't there anything you'd like? Can't I get you anything? See, I
can run about and you are here in bed. Tell me what I can do."
Mrs. Jones blinked and worked her mouth and blinked again and wheezed
and cleared her throat. "Well, I do know of something would comfort
me," she said at last, amid much embarrassed coughing.
"Tell me," said Priscilla.
"I don't like," coughed Mrs. Jones.
"Tell me," said Priscilla.
"I'll whisper it, deary."
Priscilla bent down her head, and the old lady put her twitching mouth
to her ear.
"Why, of course," said Priscilla smiling, "I'll go and get you some at
"Now God for ever bless your beautiful face, darlin'!" shrilled Mrs.
Jones, quite beside herself with delight. "The Cock and 'Ens,
deary--that's the place. And the quart bottles are the best; one gets
more comfort out of them, and they're the cheapest in the end."
And Priscilla issuing forth on this errand met the arriving visitors
in the garden.
"How do you do," she said in a happy voice, smiling gaily at both of
them. She had seen neither since she had dismissed them, but naturally
she had never given that strange proceeding a thought.
"Oh--how do you do," said Lady Shuttleworth, surprised to see her
there, and with a slight and very unusual confusion of manner.
Mrs. Morrison said nothing but stood stiffly in the background,
answering Priscilla's smile with a stern, reluctant nod.
"I've been talking to poor old Mrs. Jones. Your son"--she looked at
Mrs. Morrison--"told me how ill she was."
"Did he?" said Mrs. Morrison, hardly raising her eyes a moment from
the ground. This girl was her double enemy: bound, whatever she did,
to make either a fool of her son or of her daughter.
"So I went in and tried to cheer her up. And I really believe I did."
"Well that was very kind of you," said Lady Shuttleworth, smiling in
spite of herself, unable to withstand the charm of Priscilla's
personality. How supremely ridiculous of Mrs. Morrison to think that
this girl was an adventuress. Such are the depths of ignorance one can
descend to if one is buried long enough in the country.
"Now," said Priscilla cheerfully, "she wants rum, and I'm just going
to buy her some."
"Rum?" cried Lady Shuttleworth in a voice of horror; and Mrs. Morrison
"Is it bad for her?" said Priscilla, surprised.
"Bad!" cried Lady Shuttleworth.
"It is," said Mrs. Morrison with her eyes on the ground, "poison for
both body and soul."
"Dear me," said Priscilla, her face falling. "Why, she said it would
"It will poison both her body and her soul," repeated Mrs. Morrison
"My dear," said Lady Shuttleworth, "our efforts are all directed
towards training our people to keep from drinking."
"But she doesn't want to drink," said Priscilla. "She only wants to
taste it now and then. I'm afraid she's dying. Mustn't she die
"It is our duty," said Mrs. Morrison, "to see that our parishioners
"But I've promised," said Priscilla.
"Did she--did she ask for it herself?" asked Lady Shuttleworth, a
great anxiety in her voice.
"Yes, and I promised."
Both the women looked very grave. Mrs. Jones, who was extremely old
and certainly dying--not from any special disease but from mere
inability to go on living--had been up to this a shining example to
Symford of the manner in which Christian old ladies ought to die. As
such she was continually quoted by the vicar's wife, and Lady
Shuttleworth had felt an honest pride in this ordered and seemly
death-bed. The vicar went every day and sat with her and said that he
came away refreshed. Mrs. Morrison read her all those of her leaflets
that described the enthusiasm with which other good persons behave in
a like case. Lady Shuttleworth never drove through the village without
taking her some pleasant gift--tea, or fruit, or eggs, or even little
pots of jam, to be eaten discreetly and in spoonfuls. She also paid a
woman to look in at short intervals during the day and shake up her
pillow. Kindness and attention and even affection could not, it will
be admitted, go further; all three had been heaped on Mrs. Jones with
generous hands; and in return she had expressed no sentiments that
were not appropriate, and never, never had breathed the faintest
suggestion to any of her benefactors that what she really wanted most
was rum. It shocked both the women inexpressibly, and positively
pained Lady Shuttleworth. Mrs. Morrison privately believed Priscilla
had put the idea into the old lady's head, and began to regard her in
something of the light of a fiend.
"Suppose," said Priscilla, "we look upon it as medicine."
"But my dear, it is not medicine," said Lady Shuttleworth.
"It is poison," repeated Mrs. Morrison.
"How can it be if it does her so much good? I must keep my promise. I
wouldn't disappoint her for the world. If only you'd seen her
delight"--they quivered--"you'd agree that she mustn't be
disappointed, poor old dying thing. Why, it might kill her. But
suppose we treat it as a medicine, and I lock up the bottle and go
round and give her a little myself three or four times a day--wouldn't
that be a good plan? Surely it couldn't hurt?"
"There is no law to stop you," said Mrs. Morrison; and Lady
Shuttleworth stared at the girl in silent dismay.
"I can try it at least," said Priscilla; "and if I find it's really
doing her harm I'll leave off. But I promised, and she's expecting it
now every minute. I can't break my promise. Do tell me--is the Cock
and Hens that inn round the corner? She told me it was best there."
"But you cannot go yourself to the Cock and Hens and buy rum,"
exclaimed Lady Shuttleworth, roused to energy; and her voice was full
of so determined a protest that the vicar's wife, who thought it
didn't matter at all where such a young woman went, received a fresh
"Why not?" inquired Priscilla.
"My dear, sooner than you should do that I'll--I'll go and buy it
myself," cried Lady Shuttleworth.
"Gracious heavens," thought Mrs. Morrison, perfectly staggered by this
speech. Had Lady Shuttleworth suddenly lost her reason? Or was she
already accepting the girl as her son's wife? Priscilla looked at her
a moment with grave eyes. "Is it because I'm a girl that I mustn't?"
"Yes. For one thing. But--" Lady Shuttleworth shut her mouth.