Part 1 out of 8
THE THREE SISTERS
THE THREE SISTERS
North of east, in the bottom, where the road drops from the High Moor,
is the village of Garth in Garthdale.
It crouches there with a crook of the dale behind and before it,
between half-shut doors of the west and south. Under the mystery and
terror of its solitude it crouches, like a beaten thing, cowering from
its topmost roof to the bowed back of its stone bridge.
It is the last village up Garthdale; a handful of gray houses, old
and small and humble. The high road casts them off and they turn their
backs to it in their fear and huddle together, humbly, down by the
beck. Their stone roofs and walls are naked and blackened by wind and
rain as if fire had passed over them.
They have the silence, the darkness and the secrecy of all ultimate
North, where the high road begins to rise again, the Vicarage stands
all alone. It turns its face toward the village, old and gray and
humble as any house there, and looks on the road sideways, through the
small shy window of its gable end. It has a strip of garden in front
and on its farther side and a strip of orchard at the back. The garden
slopes down to the churchyard, and a lane, leading to the pastures,
And all these things of stone, the village, the Vicarage, the church,
the churchyard and the gravestones of the dead are alike naked
and black, blackened as if fire had passed over them. And in their
grayness and their desolation they are one with each other and with
the network of low walls that links them to the last solitary farm on
the High Moor. And on the breast of the earth they show, one moment,
solid as if hewn out of her heart, and another, slender and wind-blown
as a tangle of gray thread on her green gown.
Through four of its five front windows the house gave back darkness
to the dark. One, on the ground floor, showed a golden oblong, skirted
with watery gray where the lamp-light thinned the solid blackness of
The three sisters, Mary, Gwendolen and Alice, daughters of James
Cartaret, the Vicar of Garth, were sitting there in the dining-room
behind the yellow blind, doing nothing. In their supine, motionless
attitudes they seemed to be waiting for something to happen, to happen
so soon that, if there had been anything to do, it was not worth their
while doing it.
All three were alike in the small, broad faces that brooded, half
sullen and half sad; in the wide eyes that watched vaguely; in the
little tender noses, and in the mouths, tender and sullen, too; in the
arch and sweep of the upper lips, the delicate fulness of the lower;
in the way of the thick hair, parted and turned back over the brows in
two wide and shallow waves.
Mary, the eldest, sat in a low chair by the fireside. Her hands were
clasped loosely on the black woolen socks she had ceased to darn.
She was staring into the fire with her gray eyes, the thick gray eyes
that never let you know what she was thinking. The firelight woke the
flame in her reddish-tawny hair. The red of her lips was turned back
and crushed against the white. Mary was shorter than her sisters, but
she was the one that had the color. And with it she had a stillness
that was not theirs. Mary's face brooded more deeply than their faces,
but it was untroubled in its brooding.
She had learned to darn socks for her own amusement on her eleventh
birthday, and she was twenty-seven now.
Alice, the youngest girl (she was twenty-three) lay stretched out on
She departed in no way from her sister's type but that her body was
slender and small boned, that her face was lightly finished, that her
gray eyes were clear and her lips pale against the honey-white of her
face, and that her hair was colorless as dust except where the edge of
the wave showed a dull gold.
Alice had spent the whole evening lying on the sofa. And now she
raised her arms and bent them, pressing the backs of her hands against
her eyes. And now she lowered them and lifted one sleeve of her thin
blouse, and turned up the milk-white under surface of her arm and lay
staring at it and feeling its smooth texture with her fingers.
Gwendolen, the second sister, sat leaning over the table with her
arms flung out on it as they had tossed from her the book she had been
She was the tallest and the darkest of the three. Her face followed
the type obscurely; and vividly and emphatically it left it. There was
dusk in her honey-whiteness, and dark blue in the gray of her eyes.
The bridge of her nose and the arch of her upper lip were higher,
lifted as it were in a decided and defiant manner of their own. About
Gwenda there was something alert and impatient. Her very supineness
was alive. It had distinction, the savage grace of a creature utterly
abandoned to a sane fatigue.
Gwenda had gone fifteen miles over the moors that evening. She had run
and walked and run again in the riotous energy of her youth.
Now she was too tired to read.
Gwenda was the first to speak.
"Is it ten yet?"
"No." Mary smiled, but the word shuddered in her throat like a weary
"Oh, Lord----" Gwenda laughed the laugh of brave nerves tortured.
From her sofa beyond the table Alice sighed.
At ten o'clock Essy Gale, the maid-servant, would come in from the
kitchen and the Vicar from the inner room. And Essy would put the
Bible and Prayer-book on the table, and the Vicar would read Prayers.
That was all they were waiting for. It was all that could happen. It
happened every night at ten o'clock.
Alice spoke next.
"What day of the month is it?"
"The thirtieth." Mary answered.
"Then we've been here exactly five months to-day."
"That's nothing," said Mary, "to the months and years we shall be
"I can't think what possessed Papa to come and bury us all in this
"Can't you?" Mary's eyes turned from their brooding. Her voice was
very quiet, barely perceptible the significant stress.
"Oh, if you mean it's _me_ he wants to bury----. You needn't rub that
"I'm not rubbing it in."
"You are. You're rubbing it in every time you look like that. That's
the beastly part of it. Supposing he does want to get back on me, why
should he go and punish you two?"
"If he thinks he's punishing me he's sold," said Gwenda.
"He couldn't have stuck you in a rottener hole."
Gwenda raised her head.
"A hole? Why, there's no end to it. You can go for miles and miles
without meeting anybody, unless some darling mountain sheep gets up
and looks at you. It's--it's a divine place, Ally."
"Wait till you've been another five months in it. You'll be as sick as
"I don't think so. You haven't seen the moon get up over Greffington
Edge. If you had--if you knew what this place was like, you wouldn't
lie there grizzling. You wouldn't talk about punishing. You'd wonder
what you'd done to be allowed to look at it--to live in it a day. Of
course I'm not going to let on to Papa that I'm in love with it."
Mary smiled again.
"It's all very well for you," she said. "As long as you've got a moor
to walk on _you're_ all right."
"Yes. I'm all right," Gwenda said.
Her head had sunk again and rested in the hollow of her arms. Her
voice, muffled in her sleeve, came soft and thick. It died for
In the extreme immobility and stillness of the three the still house
stirred and became audible to them, as if it breathed. They heard the
delicate fall of the ashes on the hearth, and the flame of the lamp
jerking as the oil sputtered in the burnt wick. Their nerves shook to
the creeping, crackling sounds that came from the wainscot, infinitely
minute. A tongue of fire shot hissing from the coal. It seemed to them
a violent and terrifying thing. The breath of the house passed over
them in thick smells of earth and must, as the fire's heat sucked at
The church clock struck the half hour. Once, twice; two dolorous notes
that beat on the still house and died.
Somewhere out at the back a door opened and shut, and it was as if the
house drew in its breath at the shock of the sound.
Presently a tremor crept through Gwenda's young body as her heart
She rose and went to the window.
She was slow and rapt in her going like one walking in her sleep,
moved by some impulse profounder than her sleep.
She pulled up the blind. The darkness was up against the house,
thick and close to the pane. She threw open the window, and the night
entered palpably like slow water, black and sweet and cool.
From the unseen road came the noise of wheels and of a horse that in
trotting clanked forever one shoe against another.
It was young Rowcliffe, the new doctor, driving over from Morthe to
Upthorne on the Moor, where John Greatorex lay dying.
The pale light of his lamps swept over the low garden wall.
Suddenly the four hoofs screamed, grinding together in the slide of
their halt. The doctor had jerked his horse up by the Vicarage gate.
The door at the back opened and shut again, suddenly, sharply, as if
A voice swung out like a mournful bell into the night. A dalesman's
voice; such a voice as the lonely land fashions sometimes for its own
delight, drawling and tender, hushed by the hills and charged with the
infinite, mysterious sadness of their beauty.
It belonged to young Greatorex and it came from the doorway of the
"That yo, Dr. Rawcliffe? I wuss joost gawn oop t'road t' see ef yo
"Of course I was coming."
The new doctor was short and stern with young Greatorex.
The two voices, the soft and the stern, spoke together for a moment,
low, inaudible. Then young Greatorex's voice was heard again, and in
its softness there was the furtive note of shame.
"I joost looked in to Vicarage to leave woord with Paason."
The noise of the wheels and hoofs began again, the iron shoes clanked
together and struck out the rhythm that the sisters knew.
And with the first beat of it, and with the sound of the two voices in
the road, life, secret and silent, stirred in their blood and nerves.
It quivered like a hunting thing held on the leash.
Their stillness, their immobility were now intense. And not one spoke
a word to the other.
All three of them were thinking.
Mary thought, "Wednesday is his day. On Wednesday I will go into the
village and see all my sick people. Then I shall see him. And he
will see me. He will see that I am kind and sweet and womanly." She
thought, "That is the sort of woman that a man wants." But she did not
know what she was thinking.
Gwenda thought, "I will go out on to the moor again. I don't care if I
_am_ late for Prayers. He will see me when he drives back and he will
wonder who is that wild, strong girl who walks by herself on the moor
at night and isn't afraid. He has seen me three times, and every time
he has looked at me as if he wondered. In five minutes I shall go."
She thought (for she knew what she was thinking), "I shall do nothing
of the sort. I don't care whether he sees me or not. I don't care if I
never see him again. I don't care."
Alice thought, "I will make myself ill. So ill that they'll _have_ to
send for him. I shall see him that way."
Alice sat up. She was thinking another thought.
"If Mr. Greatorex is dead, Dr. Rowcliffe won't stay long at Upthorne.
He will come back soon. And he will have to call and leave word. He
will come in and I shall see him."
But if Mr. Greatorex wasn't dead? If Mr. Greatorex were a long time
over his dying? Then he might be kept at Upthorne, perhaps till
midnight, perhaps till morning. Then, even if he called to leave
word, she would not see him. When she looked deep she found herself
wondering how long Mr. Greatorex would be over his dying. If she had
looked a little deeper she would have found herself hoping that Mr.
Greatorex was already dead.
If Mr. Greatorex was dead before he got to Upthorne he would come very
soon, perhaps before prayer-time.
And he would be shown into the drawing-room.
Would he? Would Essy have the sense? No. Not unless the lamp was lit
there. Essy wouldn't show him into a dark room. And Essy was stupid.
She might have _no_ sense. She might take him straight into the study
and Papa would keep him there. Trust Papa.
Alice got up from her sofa and left the room; moving with her weary
grace and a little air of boredom and of unconcern. She was always
most unconcerned when she was most intent.
Outside in the passage she stood a moment, listening. All the ways
of the house gave upon the passage in a space so narrow that by
stretching out one arm she could have touched both walls.
With a door open anywhere the passage became a gully for the north
wind. Now, with all doors shut, it was as if the breath of the house
was being squeezed out there, between closing walls. The passage,
instead of dividing the house, drew it together tight. And this
tightness was intolerable to Alice.
She hated it. She hated the whole house. It was so built that there
wasn't a corner in it where you could get away from Papa. His study
had one door opening into the passage and one into the dining-room.
The window where he sat raked the garden on the far side. The window
of his bedroom raked the front; its door commanded the stairhead. He
was aware of everything you did, of everything you didn't do. He could
hear you in the dining-room; he could hear you overhead; he could hear
you going up and downstairs. He could positively hear you breathe, and
he always knew whether you were in bed or not. She drew in her breath
lest he should hear it now.
At the far end of the passage, on the wall-space between the staircase
and the kitchen door, raised on a small bracket, a small tin lamp
showed a thrifty flame. Under it, on a mahogany table-flap, was a row
of bedroom candlesticks with their match-boxes.
Her progress to the table-flap was stealthy. She exalted this business
of lighting the drawing-room lamp to a desperate, perilous adventure.
The stone floor deadened her footsteps as she went.
Her pale eyes, half sullen, half afraid, slewed round to the door of
the study on her right. With a noiseless hand she secured her matches
and her candle. With noiseless feet she slid into the darkness of the
drawing-room. She dared not light her candle out there in the passage.
For the Vicar was full of gloom and of suspicion in the half hour
before prayer-time, and at the spurt of the match he might come out
blustering and insist on knowing what she was doing and where she was
going, whereas presently he would know, and he might be quiet as long
as he was satisfied that she wasn't shirking Prayers.
Stealthily, with her air of desperate adventure, she lit the
drawing-room lamp. She shook out the puffs and frills of its yellow
paper shade. Under its gaudy skirts the light was cruel to the cramped
and shabby room, to the huddled furniture, to the tarnished gilt, the
perishing tones of gray and amber.
Alice set the lamp on the top of the cottage piano that stood
slantwise in a side window beyond the fireplace. She had pulled back
the muslin curtains and opened both windows wide so that the room was
now bared to the south and west. Then, with the abrupt and passionate
gesture of desire deferred, she sat down at the little worn-out Erard
and began to play.
Sitting there, with the open window behind her, she could be seen, and
she knew that she could be seen from over the wall by anybody driving
past in a high dog-cart.
And she played. She played the Chopin Grande Polonaise, or as much of
it as her fingers, tempestuous and inexpert, could clutch and reach.
She played, neither with her hands nor with her brain, but with her
temperament, febrile and frustrate, seeking its outlet in exultant
and violent sound. She fell upon the Erard like some fierce and hungry
thing, tearing from the forlorn, humble instrument a strange and
savage food. She played--with incredible omissions, discords and
distortions, but she played. She flung out her music through the
windows into the night as a signal and an appeal. She played (on the
little worn-out Erard) in ecstasy and expectation, as if something
momentous hung upon her playing. There was joy and triumph and
splendor in the Grande Polonaise; she felt them in her heart and
nerves as a delicate, dangerous tremor, the almost intolerable on
coming of splendor, of triumph and of joy.
And as she played the excitement gathered; it swung in more and more
vehement vibrations; it went warm and flooding through her brain
like wine. All the life of her bloodless body swam there, poised and
thinned, but urgent, aspiring to some great climax of the soul.
The whole house was full of the Chopin Grande Polonaise.
It raged there like a demon. Tortured out of all knowledge, the Grande
Polonaise screamed and writhed in its agony. It writhed through the
windows, seeking its natural attenuation in the open air. It writhed
through the shut house and was beaten back, pitilessly, by the roof
and walls. To let it loose thus was Alice's defiance of the house and
Mary and Gwenda heard it in the dining-room, and set their mouths
and braced themselves to bear it. The Vicar in his study behind the
dining-room heard it and scowled. Essy, the maid-servant, heard it,
she heard it worse than anybody, in her kitchen on the other side of
the wall. Now and then, when the Polonaise screamed louder, Mary drew
a hissing breath of pain through her locked teeth, and Gwenda grinned.
Not that to Gwenda there was anything funny in the writhing and
screaming of the Grande Polonaise. It was that she alone appreciated
its vindictive quality; she admired the completeness, the audacity of
But Essy in her kitchen made no effort to stand up to the Grande
Polonaise. When it began she sat down and laid her arms on the kitchen
table, and her head, muffled in her apron, on her arms, and cried. She
couldn't have told you what the Polonaise was like or what it did to
her; all that she could have said was that it went through and
through her. She didn't know, Essy didn't, what had come over her; for
whatever noise Miss Alice made, she hadn't taken any notice, not at
first. It was in the last three weeks that the Polonaise had found her
out and had begun to go through and through her, till it was more than
she could bear. But Essy, crying into her apron, wouldn't have lifted
a finger to stop Miss Alice.
"Poor laass," Essy said to herself, "she looves to plaay. And Vicar,
he'll not hold out mooch longer. He'll put foot down fore she gets
Through the screaming of the Polonaise Essy listened for the opening
of the study door.
The study door did not open all at once.
"Wisdom and patience, wisdom and patience----" The Vicar kept on
muttering as he scowled. Those were his watchwords in his dealings
with his womenkind.
The Vicar was making a prodigious effort to maintain what seemed
to him his god-like serenity. He was unaware that he was trying to
control at one and the same time his temper and his temperament.
He was a man of middle height and squarish build, dark, pale-skinned
and blue-eyed like his daughter Gwendolen. The Vicar's body stretched
tight the seams of his black coat and kept up, at fifty-seven, a false
show of muscular energy. The Vicar's face had a subtle quality of
deception. The austere nose, the lean cheek-bones, the square-cut
moustache and close-clipped, pointed beard (black, slightly grizzled)
made it appear, at a little distance, the face of an ascetic. It
approached, and the blue of the eyes, and the black of their dilated
pupils, the stare of the nostrils and the half hidden lines of the red
mouth revealed its profound and secret sensuality.
The interior that contained him was no less deceptive. Its book-lined
walls advertised him as the scholarly recluse that he was not. He had
had an eye to this effect. He had placed in prominent positions
the books that he had inherited from his father, who had been a
schoolmaster. You were caught at the very door by the thick red line
of The Tudor Classics; by the eleven volumes of The Bekker's Plato,
with Notes, bound in Russia leather, side by side with Jowett's
Translations in cloth; by Sophocles and Dean Plumptre, the Odyssey
and Butcher and Lang; by AEschylus and Robert Browning. The Vicar had
carried the illusion of scholarship so far as to hide his Aristophanes
behind a little curtain, as if it contained for him an iniquitous
temptation. Of his own accord and with a deliberate intention to
deceive, he had added the Early Fathers, Tillotsen's _Sermons_ and
Farrar's _Life of Christ_.
On another shelf, rather less conspicuous, were some bound volumes
of _The Record_, with the novels of Mrs. Henry Wood and Miss Marie
Corelli. On the ledge of his bureau _Blackwood's Magazine_, uncut, lay
ready to his hand. The _Spectator_, in process of skimming, was on his
knees. The _Standard_, fairly gutted, was on the floor. There was no
room for it anywhere else.
For the Vicar's study was much too small for him. Sitting there, in
an arm-chair and with his legs in the fender, he looked as if he had
taken flight before the awful invasion of his furniture. His bookcases
hemmed him in on three sides. His roll-top desk, advancing on him
from the window, had driven and squeezed him into the arm-chair. His
bureau, armed to the teeth, leaning from its ambush in the recess of
the fireplace, threatened both the retreat and the left flank movement
of the chair. The Vicar was neither tall nor powerful, but his study
made him look like a giant imprisoned in a cell.
The room was full of the smell of tobacco, of a smoldering coal fire,
of old warm leather and damp walls, and of the heavy, virile odor of
A brown felt carpet and thick serge curtains shut out the draft of the
On a September evening the Vicar was snug enough in his cell; and
before the Grande Polonaise had burst in upon him he had been at peace
with God and man.
* * * * *
But when he heard those first exultant, challenging bars he scowled
Not that he acknowledged them as a challenge. He was inclined rather
to the manly course of ignoring the Grande Polonaise altogether. And
not for a moment would he have admitted that there had been anything
in his behavior that could be challenged or defied, least of all by
his daughter Alice. To himself in his study Mr. Cartaret appeared
as the image of righteousness established in an impregnable place.
Whereas his daughter Alice was not at all in a position to challenge
She had made a fool of herself.
She knew it; he knew it; everybody knew it in the parish they had left
five months ago. It had been the talk of the little southern seaside
town. He thanked God that nobody knew it, or was ever likely to know
For Alice's folly was not any ordinary folly. It was the kind that
made the parish which was so aware of it uninhabitable to a sensitive
He reflected that she would be clever if she made a fool of herself
here. By his decisive action in removing her from that southern
seaside town he had saved her from continuing her work. In order to do
it he had ruined his prospects. He had thrown up a good living for a
poor one; a living that might (but for Alice it certainly would) have
led to preferment for a living that could lead to nothing at all; a
living where he could make himself felt for a living where there was
nobody to feel him.
And, having done it, he was profoundly sorry for himself.
So far as Mr. Cartaret could see there had been nothing else to do. If
it had all to be done over again, he told himself that he would do it.
But there Mr. Cartaret was wrong. He couldn't have done it or anything
like it twice. It was one of those deeds, supremeful sacrificial,
that strain a man's moral energies to breaking point and render him
incapable of further sacrifice; if, indeed, it did not render further
sacrifice superfluous. Mr. Cartaret honestly felt that even an
exacting deity could require no more of him.
And it wasn't the first time either, nor his daughter Alice the first
woman who had come between the Vicar and his prospects. Looking back
he saw himself driven from pillar to post, from parish to parish, by
the folly or incompetence of his womankind.
Strictly speaking, it was his first wife, Mary Gwendolen, the one
the children called Mother, who had begun it. She had made his first
parish unendurable to him by dying in it. This she had done when Alice
was born, thereby making Alice unendurable to him, too. Poor Mamie! He
always thought of her as having, inscrutably, failed him.
All three of them had failed him.
His second wife, Frances, the one the children called Mamma (the
Vicar had made himself believe that he had married her solely on their
account), had turned into a nervous invalid on his hands before she
died of that obscure internal trouble which he had so wisely and
His third wife, Robina (the one they called Mummy), had run away from
him in the fifth year of their marriage. When she implored him to
divorce her he said that, whatever her conduct had been, that course
was impossible to him as a churchman, as she well knew; but that he
forgave her. He had made himself believe it.
And all the time he was aware, without admitting it, that, if the
thing came into court, Robina's evidence might be a little damaging
to the appearances of wisdom and patience, of austerity and dignity,
which he had preserved so well. He had had an unacknowledged vision of
Robina standing in the witness box, very small and shy, with her eyes
fluttering while she explained to the gentlemen of the jury that she
ran away from her husband because she was afraid of him. He could hear
the question, "Why were you afraid?" and Robina's answer--but at that
point he always reminded himself that it was as a churchman that he
objected to divorce.
For his profession had committed him to a pose. He had posed for more
than thirty years to his parish, to his three wives, to his three
children, and to himself, till he had become unconscious of his real
thoughts, his real motives, his real likings and dislikings. So that
when he told himself that it would have been better if his third wife
had died, he thought he meant that it would have been better for her
and for his opinion of her, whereas what he really did mean was that
it would have been better for himself.
For if Robina had died he could have married again. As it was, her
infidelity condemned him to a celibacy for which, as she knew, he was
Therefore he thought of her as a cruel and unscrupulous woman. And
when he thought of her he became more sorry for himself than ever.
Now, oddly enough, the Grande Polonaise had set Mr. Cartaret thinking
of Robina. It was not that Robina had ever played it. Robina did not
play. It was not the discords introduced into it by Alice, though
Robina had been a thing of discords. It was that something in him,
obscurely but intimately associated with Robina, responded to that
sensual and infernal tremor that Alice was wringing out of the
Polonaise. So that, without clearly knowing why it was abominable,
Mr. Cartaret said to himself that the tune Alice was playing was an
abominable tune and must be stopped at once.
He went into the drawing-room to stop it.
And Essy, in the kitchen, raised her head and dried her eyes on her
"If you must make a noise," said Mr. Cartaret, "be good enough to make
one that is less--disturbing."
* * * * *
He stood in the doorway staring at his daughter Alice.
Her excitement had missed by a hairsbreadth the spiritual climax. It
had held itself in for one unspeakable moment, then surged, crowding
the courses of her nerves. Beaten back by the frenzy of the Polonaise,
it made a violent return; it rose, quivering, at her eyelids and her
mouth; it broke, and, with a shudder of all her body, split itself and
The Vicar stared. He opened his mouth to say something, and said
nothing; finally he went out, muttering.
"Wisdom and patience. Wisdom and patience."
It was a prayer.
Alice trailed to the window and leaned out, listening for the sound of
hoofs and wheels. Nothing there but the darkness and stillness of the
moors. She trailed back to the Erard and began to play again.
This time it was Beethoven, the Pathetic Sonata.
Mr. Cartaret sat in his study, manfully enduring the Pathetic Sonata.
He was no musician and he did not certainly know when Alice went
wrong; therefore, except that it had some nasty loud moments, he could
not honestly say that the First Movement was disturbing. Besides, he
had scored. He had made Alice change her tune.
Wisdom and patience required that he should be satisfied, so far. And,
being satisfied, in the sense that he no longer had a grievance, meant
that he was very badly bored.
He began to fidget. He took his legs out of the fender and put them
back again. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, but
without relief. He turned over his _Spectator_ to see what it had to
say about the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, and found that he was not
interested in what it had to say. He looked at his watch and
compared it with the clock in the faint hope that the clock might be
The watch and clock both agreed that it was not a minute later than
fifteen minutes to ten. A whole quarter of an hour before Prayer-time.
There was nothing but Prayer-time to look forward to.
He began to fidget again. He filled his pipe and thought better about
smoking it. Then he rang the bell for his glass of water.
After more delay than was at all necessary Essy appeared, bringing the
glass of water on a plate.
She came in, soft-footed, almost furtive, she who used to enter so
suddenly and unabashed. She put the plate down on the roll-top desk
and turned softly, furtively, away.
The Vicar looked up. His eyes were large and blue as suspicion drew in
the black of their pupils.
"Put it down here," he said, and he indicated the ledge of the bureau.
Essy stood still and stared like a half-wild creature in doubt as to
its way. She decided to make for the bureau by rounding the roll-top
desk on the far side, thus approaching her master from behind.
"What are you doing?" said the Vicar. "I said, Put it down here."
Essy turned again and came forward, tilting the plate a little in her
nervousness. The large blue eyes, the stern voice, fascinated her,
The Vicar looked at her steadily, remorselessly, as she came.
Essy's lowered eyelids had kept the stain of her tears. Her thick
brown hair was loose and rumpled under her white cap. But she had put
on a clean, starched apron. It stood out stiffly, billowing, from
her waist. Essy had not always been so careless about her hair or so
fastidious as to her aprons. There was a little strained droop at the
corners of her tender mouth, as if they had been tied with string. Her
dark eyes still kept their young largeness and their light, but they
looked as if they had been drawn tight with string at their corners
All these signs the Vicar noted as he stared. And he hated Essy. He
hated her for what he saw in her, and for her buxom comeliness, and
for the softness of her youth.
"Did I hear young Greatorex round at the back door this evening?" he
Essy started, slanting her plate a little more.
"I doan knaw ef I knaw, sir."
"Either you know or you don't know," said the Vicar.
"I doan know, I'm sure, sir," said Essy.
The Vicar was holding out his hand for his glass of water, and Essy
pushed the plate toward him, so blindly and at such a perilous slant
that the glass slid and toppled over and broke itself against the
Essy gave a little frightened cry.
"Clever girl. She did that on purpose," said the Vicar to himself.
Essy was on her knees beside him, picking up the bits of glass and
gathering them in her apron. She was murmuring, "I'll mop it oop. I'll
mop it oop."
"That'll do," he said roughly. "That'll do, I tell you. You can go."
Essy tried to go. But it was as if her knees had weights on them
that fixed her to the floor. Holding up her apron with one hand, she
clutched the arm of her master's chair with the other and dragged
herself to her feet.
"I'll mop it oop," she repeated, shamefast.
"I told you to go," said the Vicar.
"I'll fetch yo anoother glass?" she whispered. Her voice was hoarse
with the spasm in her throat.
"No," said the Vicar.
Essy slunk back into her kitchen with terror in her heart.
_"Attacca subito l'Allegro."_
Alice had fallen on it suddenly.
"I suppose," said Mary, "it's a relief to her to make that row."
"It isn't," said Gwenda. "It's torture. That's how she works herself
up. She's playing on her own nerves all the time. If she really
_could_ play----If she cared about the music----If she cared about
anything on earth except----"
"Molly, it must be awful to be made like that."
"Nothing could be worse for her than being shut up here."
"I know. Papa's been a frightful fool about her. After all, Molly,
what did she do?"
"She did what you and I wouldn't have done."
"How do you know what you wouldn't have done? How do I know? If we'd
been in her place----"
"If _I'd_ been in her place I'd have died rather."
"How do you know Ally wouldn't have rather died if she could have
chosen? She didn't want to fall in love with that young ass, Rickards.
And I don't see what she did that was so very awful."
"She managed to let everybody else see, anyhow."
"What if she did? At least she was honest. She went straight for what
she wanted. She didn't sneak and scheme to get him from any other
girl. And she hadn't a mother to sneak and scheme _for_ her. That's
fifty times worse, yet it's done every day and nobody thinks anything
She went on. "Nobody would have thought anything as it was, if Papa
hadn't been such a frantic fool about it. It he'd had the pluck to
stand by her, if he'd kept his head and laughed in their silly faces,
instead of grizzling and growling and stampeding out of the parish as
if poor Ally had disgraced him."
"Well--it isn't a very pleasant thing for the Vicar of the parish----"
"It wasn't a very pleasant thing for any of us. But it was beastly of
him to go back on her like that. And the silliness of it! Caring so
frightfully about what people think, and then going on so as to make
them think it."
"That she really _had_ done something."
"Do you suppose they did?"
"Yes. You can't blame them. He couldn't have piled it on more if she
_had_. It's enough to make her."
"It would be his own fault. Just as it's his own fault that he hates
"He doesn't hate her. He's fond of all of us, in his way."
"Wot of Ally. Don't you know why? He can't look at her without
thinking of how awful _he_ is."
"And if he _is_--a little----You forget what he's had to go through."
"You mean Mummy running away from him?"
"Yes. And Mamma's dying. And before that--there was Mother."
Gwenda raised her head.
"He killed Mother."
"What do you mean?"
"He did. He was told that Mother would die or go mad if she had
another baby. And he let her have Ally. No wonder Mummy ran away from
"Who told you that story?"
"It was horrid of her."
"Everything poor Mummy did was horrid. It was horrid of her to run
away from him, I suppose."
"Why did you tell me that? I didn't know it. I'd rather not have
"Well, now you do know, perhaps you'll be sorrier for Ally."
"I am sorry for Ally. But I'm sorry for Papa, too. You're not."
"I'd be sorry for him right enough if he wasn't so sorry for himself."
"Gwenda, _you're_ awful."
"Because I won't waste my pity? Ally's got nothing--He's got
"Not what he cares most for."
"He cares most for what people think of him. Everybody thought him a
good kind husband. Everybody thinks him a good kind father."
* * * * *
The music suddenly ceased. A sound of voices came instead of it.
"There," said Gwenda. "He's gone in and stopped her."
He had, that time.
And in the sudden ceasing of the Pathetic Sonata the three sisters
heard the sound of wheels and the clank of horseshoes striking
Mr. Greatorex was not yet dead of his pneumonia. The doctor had passed
the Vicarage gate.
And as he passed he had said to himself. "How execrably she plays."
* * * * *
The three sisters waited without a word for the striking of the church
The church clock struck ten.
At the sound of the study bell Essy came into the dining-room. Essy
was the acolyte of Family Prayers. Though a Wesleyan she could not
shirk the appointed ceremonial. It was Essy who took the Bible and
Prayerbook from their place on the sideboard under the tea-urn and put
them on the table, opening them where the Vicar had left a marker the
night before. It was Essy who drew back the Vicar's chair from the
table and set it ready for him. It was Essy whom he relied on for
responses that _were_ responses and not mere mumblings and mutterings.
She was Wesleyan, the one faithful, the one devout person in his
To-night there was nothing but a mumbling and a muttering. And that
was Mary. She was the only one who was joining in the Lord's Prayer.
Essy had failed him.
* * * * *
Prayers over, there was nothing to sit up for. All the same, it was
Mr. Cartaret's rule to go back into the study and to bore himself
again for a whole hour till it was bed-time. He liked to be sure that
the doors were all bolted and that everybody else was in bed before he
But to-night he had bored himself so badly that the thought of his
study was distasteful to him. So he stayed where he was with his
family. He believed that he was doing this solely on his family's
account. He told himself that it was not right that he should leave
the three girls too much to themselves. It did not occur to him that
as long as he had had a wife to sit with, he hadn't cared how much
he had left them. He knew that he had rather liked Mary and Gwendolen
when they were little, and though he had found himself liking them
less and less as they grew into their teens he had never troubled to
enquire whose fault that was, so certain was he that it couldn't be
his. Still less was it his fault if they were savage and inaccessible
in their twenties. Of course he didn't mean that Mary was savage and
inaccessible. It was Gwendolen that he meant.
So, since he couldn't sit there much longer without saying something,
he presently addressed himself to Mary.
"Any news of Greatorex today?"
"I haven't heard. Shall I ask Essy?"
"No," said Mr. Cartaret, so abruptly that Mary looked at him.
"He was worse yesterday," said Gwenda.
They all looked at Gwenda.
"Who told you that?" said Mr. Cartaret by way of saying something.
"When did she tell you?"
"Yesterday, when I was up at the farm."
"What were you doing at the farm?"
"Nothing. I went to see if I could do anything." She said to herself,
"Why does he go on at us like this?" Aloud she said, "It was time some
of us went."
She had him there. She was always having him.
"I shall have to go myself tomorrow," he said.
"I would if I were you," said Gwenda.
"I wonder what Jim Greatorex will do if his father dies."
It was Mary who wondered.
"He'll get married, like a shot," said Alice.
"Who to?" said Gwenda. "He can't marry _all_ the girls----"
She stopped herself. Essy Gale was in the room. Three months ago
Essy had been a servant at the Farm where her mother worked once a
She had come in so quietly that none of them had noticed her. She
brought a tray with a fresh glass of water for the Vicar and a glass
of milk for Alice. She put it down quietly and slipped out of the room
without her customary "Anything more, Miss?" and "Good-night."
"What's the matter with Essy?" Gwenda said.
Nobody spoke but Alice who was saying that she didn't want her milk.
More than a year ago Alice had been ordered milk for her anaemia. She
had milk at eleven, milk at her midday dinner, milk for supper, and
milk last thing at night. She did not like milk, but she liked being
ordered it. Generally she would sit and drink it, in the face of
her family, pathetically, with little struggling gulps. She took a
half-voluptuous, half-vindictive pleasure in her anaemia. She knew that
it made her sisters sorry for her, and that it annoyed her father.
Now she declared that she wasn't feeling well, and that she didn't
want her milk.
"In that case," said Mr. Cartaret, "you had better go to bed."
Alice went, raising her white arms and rubbing her eyes along the
backs of her hands, like a child dropping with sleep.
One after another, they rose and followed her.
* * * * *
At the half-landing five steep steps in a recess of the wall led aside
to the door of Essy's bedroom. There Gwenda stopped and listened.
A sound of stifled crying came from the room. Gwenda went up to the
door and knocked.
"Essy, are you in bed?"
A pause. "Yes, miss."
"What is it? Are you ill?"
"Is there anything wrong?"
A longer pause. "I've got th' faace-ache."
"Oh, poor thing! Can I do anything for you?"
"Naw, Miss Gwenda, thank yo."
"Well, call me if I can."
But somehow she knew that Essy wouldn't call.
She went on, passing her father's door at the stair head. It was shut.
She could hear him moving heavily within the room. On the other side
of the landing was the room over the study that she shared with Alice.
The door stood wide. Alice in her thin nightgown could be seen sitting
by the open window.
The nightgown, the small, slender body showing through, the hair,
platted for the night, in two pig-tails that hung forward, one over
each small breast, the tired face between the parted hair made Alice
look childlike and pathetic.
Gwendolen had a pang of compassion.
"Dear lamb," she said. "_That_ isn't any good. Fresh air won't do it.
You'd much better wait till Papa gets a cold. Then you can catch it."
"It'll be his fault anyway," said Alice. "Serve him jolly well right
if I get pneumonia."
"Pneumonia doesn't come to those who want it. I wonder what's wrong
Alice was tired and sullen. "You'd better ask Jim Greatorex," she
"What do you mean, Ally?"
But Ally had set her small face hard.
"Can't you he sorry for her?" said Gwenda.
"Why should I be sorry for her? _She's_ all right."
She had sorrow enough, but none to waste on Essy. Essy's way was easy.
Essy had only to slink out to the back door and she could have her
will. _She_ didn't have to get pneumonia.
John Greatorex did not die that night. He had no mind to die: he was a
man of stubborn pugnacity and he fought his pneumonia.
The long gray house at Upthorne looks over the marshes of the high
land above Garth. It stands alone, cut off by the marshes from the
network of gray walls that links the village to the hill farms.
The light in its upper window burned till dawn, a sign to the brooding
and solitary land. Up there, in the low room with its sunken ceiling,
John Greatorex lay in the big bed and rallied a little as the clean
air from the moors lapped him like water. For the doctor had thrown
open all the windows of the house before he left. Presently Mrs. Gale,
the untrained village nurse, would come and shut them in terror, and
John Greatorex's pneumonia would get the upper hand. That was how the
fight went on, with Steven Rowcliffe on John Greatorex's side and Mrs.
Gale for the pneumonia. It was ten to one against John Greatorex and
the doctor, for John Greatorex was most of the time unconscious and
the doctor called but once or twice a day, while Mrs. Gale was always
there to shut the windows as fast as he opened them. In the length and
breadth of the Dale there wasn't another woman who would not have done
the same. She was secure from criticism. If she didn't know how to
nurse pneumonia, who did? Seeing that her own husband had died of it.
Young Rowcliffe was a dalesman and he knew his people. In six months
his face had grown stiff in the struggle with them. It was making his
voice stern and his eyes hard, so that they could see nothing round
him but stupidity and distrust and an obstinacy even greater than his
Nothing in his previous experience had prepared him for it. In his
big provincial hospital he had had it practically his own way. He had
faced a thousand horrible and intractable diseases with a thousand
appliances and with an army of assistants and trained nurses under
him. And if in his five years' private practice in Leeds he had come
to grips with human nature, it had been at any rate a fair fight. If
his work was harder his responsibility was less. He still had trained
nurses under him; and if a case was beyond him there were specialists
with whom he could consult.
Here he was single-handed. He was physician and surgeon and specialist
and nurse in one. He had few appliances and no assistant beside naked
and primeval nature, the vast high spaces, the clean waters and clean
air of the moors.
Yet it was precisely these things that his romantic youth had cried
for--that solitary combat and communion, that holy and solitary aid.
At thirty Rowcliffe was still in his romantic youth.
He had all its appearances about him. A life of continual labor
and discomfort had kept his body slender; and all the edges of
his face--clean-shaven except for its little dark moustache--were
incomparably firm and clear. His skin was bronzed and reddened by sun
and wind. The fine hard mouth under the little dark moustache was not
so hard that it could not, sometimes, be tender. His irreproachable
nose escaped the too high curve that would have made it arrogant. And
his eyes, keen and hard in movement, by simply keeping quiet under
lowered brows, became charged with a curious and engaging pathos.
Their pathos had appealed to the little red-haired, pink-skinned,
green-eyed nurse who had worked under him in Leeds. She was clever and
kind--much too kind, it was supposed--to Rowcliffe. There had been one
or two others before the little red-haired nurse, so that, though he
was growing hard, he had not grown bitter.
He was not in the least afraid of growing bitter; for he knew that his
eyes, as long as he could keep them quiet, would preserve him from all
necessity for bitterness.
Rowcliffe had always trusted a great deal to his eyes. Because of them
he had left several young ladies, his patients, quite heart-broken in
Leeds. The young ladies knew nothing about the little red-haired nurse
and had never ceased to wonder why Dr. Rowcliffe did not want to marry
And Steven Rowcliffe's eyes, so disastrous to the young ladies in
Leeds, saw nobody in Morfe whom he could possibly want to marry. The
village of Morfe is built in a square round its green. The doctor's
house stands on a plot of rising ground on the north side of the
square, and from its front windows young Rowcliffe could see the
inhabitants of Morfe coming and going before him as on a stage, and he
kept count of them all. There were the three middle-aged maiden ladies
in the long house on the west side of whom all he knew was that they
ate far too many pikelets and griddle cakes for tea. There were the
two old ladies in the white house next door who were always worrying
him to sound their chests, one for her lungs and the other for her
arteries. In spite of lungs and arteries they were very gay old
ladies. The tubes of Rowcliffe's queer, new-fangled stethescope,
appearing out of his coat pocket, sent them into ecstacies of mirth.
They always made the same little joke about it; they called the
stethescope his telephone. But of course he didn't want to marry them.
There was the very old lady on the east side, who had had one stroke
and was expecting another every day. There were the two unmarried
daughters of a retired manufacturer on the far side of the Green. They
were plump and had red cheeks, if he had cared for plumpness and
red cheeks; but they had no conversation. The only pretty girl whose
prettiness appealed to Rowcliffe had an "adenoid" mouth which he held
to be a drawback. There was the daughter of his predecessor, but she
again was well over forty, rigid and melancholy and dry.
All these people became visibly excited when they saw young Rowcliffe
starting off in his trap and returning; but young Rowcliffe was never
excited, never even interested when he saw them. There was nothing
about them that appealed to his romantic youth.
As for Morfe Manor, and Garth Manor and Greffington Hall, they were
nearly always empty, so that he had not very much chance of improving
his acquaintance there.
And he had nothing to hope for from the summer visitors, girls with
queer clothes and queer manners and queer accents; bouncing, convivial
girls who spread themselves four abreast on the high roads; fat, lazy
girls who sat about on the Green; blowsed, slouching girls who tramped
the dales with knapsacks and no hats. The hard eyes of young Rowcliffe
never softened as he looked at the summer visitors. Their behavior
irritated him. It reminded him that there were women in the world and
that he missed, quite unbearably at moments, the little red-haired
nurse who had been so clever and so kind. Moreover it offended his
romantic youth. The little publicans and shop-keepers of Morfe did not
offend it; neither did the peasants and the farmers; they were part
of the place; generations of them had been born in those gray houses,
built from the gaunt ribs of the hills; whereas the presence of the
summer visitors was an outrage to the silent and solitary country that
his instincts inscrutably adored. No wonder that he didn't care to
look at them.
* * * * *
But one night in September, when the moon was high in the south, as
he was driving toward Garth on his way to Upthorne, the eyes of
young Rowcliffe were startled out of their aversion by the sudden and
incredible appearance of a girl.
It was at the bend of the road where Karva lowers its head and sinks
back on the moor; and she came swinging up the hill as Rowcliffe's
horse scraped his way slowly down it. She was in white (he couldn't
have missed her) and she carried herself like a huntress; slender
and quick, with high, sharp-pointed breasts. She looked at him as she
passed and her face was wide-eyed and luminous under the moon. Her
lips were parted with her speed, so that, instinctively, his hands
tightened on the reins as if he had thought that she was going to
speak to him. But of course she did not speak.
He looked back and saw her swing off the high road and go up Karva. A
flock of mountain sheep started from their couches on the heather and
looked at her, and she went driving them before her. They trailed up
Karva slowly, in a long line, gray in the moonlight. Their mournful,
musical voices came to him from the hill.
He saw her again late--incredibly late--that night as the moon swept
from the south toward Karva. She was a long way off, coming down from
her hill, a white speck on the gray moor. He pulled up his horse and
waited below the point where the track she followed struck the high
road; he even got out of his trap and examined, deliberately, his
horse's hoofs in turn, spinning out the time. When he heard her he
drew himself upright and looked straight at her as she passed him. She
flashed by like a huntress, like Artemis carrying the young moon on
her forehead. From the turn of her head and the even falling of her
feet he felt her unconscious of his existence. And her unconsciousness
was hateful to him. It wiped him clean out of the universe of
The apparition fairly cried to his romantic youth. And he said to
himself. "Who is the strange girl who walks on the moor by herself at
night and isn't afraid?"
* * * * *
He saw her three times after that; once in the broad daylight, on the
high road near Morfe, when she passed him with a still more perfect
and inimical unconsciousness; once in the distance on the moor, when
he caught her, short-skirted and wild, jumping the wide water courses
as they came, evidently under the impression that she was unobserved.
And he smiled and said to himself, "She's doing it for fun, pure fun."
The third time he came upon her at dawn with the dew on her skirts
and on her hair. She darted away at the clank of his horse's hoofs,
half-savage, divinely shy. And he said to himself that time, "I'm
getting on. She's aware of me all right."
She had come down from Karva, and he was on his way to Morfe from
Upthorne. He had sat up all night with John Greatorex who had died at
The smell of the sick man, and of the bed and of the low close room
was still in his nostrils, and in his ears the sounds of dying and of
mourning, and at his heart the oppression (he was still young enough
to feel it) of the secret and abominable things he knew. And in his
eyes the unknown girl and her behavior became suddenly adorable.
She was the darting joy and the poignant sweetness, and the sheer
extravagant ardor and energy of life. His tempestuously romantic youth
rose up and was troubled at the sight of her. And his eyes, that
had stared at her in wonder and amusement and inquisitive interest,
followed her now with that queer pathos that they had. It was the look
that he relied on to move desire in women's eyes; and now it traveled,
forlorn and ineffectual, abject almost in its futility, over the gray
moorgrass where she went.
* * * * *
That was on Wednesday the fourteenth. On Friday the sixteenth he saw
her again at nightfall, in the doorway of John Greatorex's house.
He had overtaken the cart that was carrying John Greatorex's coffin to
Upthorne. Low lighted, the long gray house brooded over the marshes,
waiting to be disencumbered of its dead.
In the east the broken shoulders of the hills receded, winding with
the dale like a coast line of gray cliffs above the mist that was
their sea. Tortured, mutilated by the jagged cloud that held her, the
moon struggled and tore her way, she lifted and freed herself high and
struck the marshes white. Defaced and sinister, above her battlements,
she looked at the house and made it terrible, moon-haunted. Its door,
low lighted, stood open to the night.
Rowcliffe drew back from the threshold to let a woman pass out.
Looking up, he was aware that he had seen her again. He supposed it
was the light of that detestable moon that gave her face its queer
She went by without seeing him, clenching her hands and carrying her
young head high; and he saw that her eyes still held the tears that
she was afraid to spill.
Mrs. Gale stood behind her with a lamp, lighting her passage.
"Who is that young lady?" he asked.
"T' Vicar's laass, Gwanda."
The woman leaned to him and whispered, "She's seen t' body."
And in the girl's fear and blindness and defiance he saw the pride of
her youth beaten and offended by that which it had seen.
Out there, in the bridle path leading from the high road to the farm,
the cart had stopped. The men were lifting the coffin out, shouldering
it, carrying it along. He saw Gwenda Cartaret swerve out of their way.
Presently he heard her running down the road.
Then he remembered what he had been sent for.
He turned his attention to Mrs. Gale. She was a square-set,
blunt-featured woman of forty-five or so, who had once been comely
like her daughter Essy. Now her soft chin had sagged; in her cheeks
the stagnant blood crawled through a network of little veins, and
the gloss had gone from her dark hair. Her brown eyes showed a dull
defiance and deprecation of the human destiny.
"Where is he?" he said.
"Oop there, in t' room wi' 's feyther."
"Been drinking again, or what?"
"Naw, Dr. Rawcliffe, 'e 'assn't. I suddn' a sent for yo all this road
She drew him into the house place, and whispered.
"I'm feared 'e'll goa queer in 'is 'head, like. 'E's sot there by t'
body sence yesterda noon. 'E's not takken off 'is breeches for tree
daas. 'E caaun't sleap; 'e wunna eat and 'e wunna drink. There's work
to be doon and 'e wunna lay haand to it. Wull yo goa oop t' 'im, Dr.
Rowcliffe went up.
In the low lighted room the thing that Gwenda Cartaret had seen lay
stretched in the middle of the great bed, covered with a sheet. The
bed, with its white mound, was so much too big for the four walls that
held it, the white plaster of the ceiling bulging above it stooped so
low, that the body of John Greatorex lay as if already closed up in
Jim Greatorex, his son, sat on a wooden chair at the head of the
bed. His young, handsome face was loose and flushed as if he had been
drinking. His eyes--the queer, blue, wide-open eyes that had hitherto
looked out at you from their lodging in that ruddy, sensuous face,
incongruously spiritual, high and above your head, like the eyes of a
dreamer and a mystic--Jim's eyes were sunken now and darkened in their
red and swollen lids. They stared at the rug laid down beside the bed,
while Jim's mind set itself to count, stupidly and obstinately, the
snippets of gray and scarlet cloth that made the pattern on the black.
Every now and then he would recognise a snippet as belonging to some
suit his father had worn years ago, and then Jim's brain would receive
a shock and would stagger and have to begin its counting all over
The door opened to let Rowcliffe in. And at the sound of the door,
as if a spring had been suddenly released in his spine, Jim Greatorex
shot up and started to his feet.
"Good evening, Dr. Rawcliffe." He came forward awkwardly, hanging his
head as if detected in an act of shame.
There was a silence while the two men turned their backs upon the
bed, determined to ignore what was on it. They stood together by the
window, pretending to stare at things out there in the night; and so
they became aware of the men carrying the coffin.
They could no longer ignore it.
"Wull yo look at 'Im, doctor?"
"Better not----." Rowcliffe would have laid his hand on the young
man's arm, muttering a refusal, but Greatorex had moved to the bed and
drawn back the sheet.
What Gwenda Cartaret had seen was revealed.
The dead man's face, upturned with a slight tilt to the ceiling that
bulged so brutally above it, the stiff dark beard accentuating the
tilt, the eyes, also upturned, white under their unclosing lids, the
nostrils, the half-open mouth preserved their wonder and their terror
before a thing so incredible--that the walls and roof of a man's room
should close round him and suffocate him. On this horrified face there
were the marks of dissolution, and, at the corners of the grim beard
and moustache, a stain.
It left nothing to be said. It was the face of the man who had drunk
hard and had told his son that he had never been the worse for drink.
Jim Greatorex stood and looked at it as if he knew what Rowcliffe was
thinking of it and defied him to think.
Rowcliffe drew up the sheet and covered it. "You'd better come out of
this. It isn't good for you," he said.
"I knaw what's good for me, Dr. Rawcliffe."
Jim stuck his hands in his breeches and gazed stubbornly at the
"Come," Rowcliffe said, "don't give way like this. Buck up and be a
"A ma-an? You wait till yor turn cooms, doctor."
"My turn came ten years ago, and it may come again."
"And yo'll knaw then what good it doos ta-alkin'." He paused,
listening. "They've coom," he said.
There was a sound of scuffling on the stone floor below and on the
stairs. Mrs. Gale's voice was heard out on the landing, calling to the
"Easy with un--easy. Mind t' lamp. Eh--yo'll never get un oop that
road. Yo mun coax un round corner."
A swinging thud on the stone wall. Then more and more desperate
scuffling with muttering. Then silence.
Mrs. Gale put her head in at the door.
"Jimmy, yo mun coom and gie a haand wi' t' coffin. They've got un
faasst in t' turn o' t' stair."
Through the open doorway Rowcliffe could see the broad shoulders of
the coffin jammed in the stairway.
Jim, flushed with resentment, strode out; and the struggling and
scuffling began again, subdued, this time, and respectful. Rowcliffe
went out to help.
Mrs. Gale on the landing went on talking to herself. "They sud 'ave
browt trestles oop first. There's naw place to stond un in. Eh dear!
It's job enoof gettin' un oop. What'll it be gettin' un down again
wit' 'E layin' in un? 'Ere--yo get oonder un, Jimmy, and 'eave un
Jim crouched and went backward down the stair under the coffin. His
flushed face, with its mournful, mystic eyes, looked out at Rowcliffe
for a moment under the coffin head. Then, with a heave of his great
back and pushing with his powerful arms against the wall and stair
rail, he loosened the shoulders of the coffin and bore it, steadied by
Rowcliffe and the men, up the stair and into the room.
They set it on its feet beside the bed, propped against the wall. And
Jim Greatorex stood and stared at it.
Rowcliffe went down into the kitchen, followed by Mrs. Gale.
"What d'yo think o' Jimmy, Dr. Rawcliffe?"
"He oughtn't to be left alone. Isn't there any sister or anybody who
could come to him?"
"Naw; 'e's got naw sisters, Jimmy 'assn't."
"Well, you must get him to lie down and eat."
"Get 'im? Yo can do nowt wi' Jimmy. 'E'll goa 'is own road. 'Is
feyther an' 'e they wuss always quar'ling, yo med say. Yet when t' owd
gentleman was taaken bad, Jimmy, 'e couldn' do too mooch for 'im. 'E
was set on pullin' 's feyther round. And when 'e found 'e couldn't
keep t' owd gentleman, 'e gets it on 'is mind like--broodin'. And 'e's
got nowt to coomfort 'im."
She sat down to it now.
"Yo see, Dr. Rawcliffe, Jim's feyther and 'is granfeyther before 'im,
they wuss good Wesleyans. It's in t' blood. But Jim's moother that
died, she wuss Choorch. And that slip of a laass, when John Greatorex
coom courtin', she turned 'im. 'E was that soft wi' laasses. 'Er
feyther 'e was steward to lord o' t' Manor and 'e was Choorch and all
t' family saame as t' folk oop at Manor. Yo med say, Jim Greatorex,
'e's got naw religion. Neither Choorch nor Chapel 'e is. Nowt to
Upstairs the scuffling and the struggling became frightful. Jim's feet
and Jim's voice were heard above the muttering of the undertaker's
Mrs. Gale whispered. "They're gettin' 'im in. 'E's gien a haand wi' t'
body. Thot's soomthin'."
She brooded ponderously. A sound of stamping and scraping at the back
door roused her.
"Eh--oo's there now?" she asked irritably.
Willie, the farm lad, appeared on the threshold. His face was flushed
"Where's Jim?" he said in a thick voice.
"Ooosh-sh! Doan't yo' knaw t' coffin's coom? 'E's oopstairs w' t' owd
"Well--'e mun coom down. T' mare's taaken baad again in 'er insi-ide."
"T' mare, Daasy?"
"Eh dear, there's naw end to trooble. Yo go oop and fatch Jimmy."
Willie hesitated. His flush deepened.
"I daarss'nt," he whispered hoarsely.
"Poor laad, 'e 's freetened o' t' body," she explained. "Yo stay
there, Wullie. I'll goa. T' body's nowt to me. I've seen too many o'
they," she muttered as she went.
They heard her crying excitedly overhead. "Jimmy! Yo coom to t'
ma-are! Yo coom to t' ma-are!"
The sounds in the room ceased instantly. Jim Greatorex, alert and in
violent possession of all his faculties, dashed down the stairs and
out into the yard.
Rowcliffe followed into the darkness where his horse and trap stood
waiting for him.
* * * * *
He was lighting his lamps when Jim Greatorex appeared beside him with
"Dr. Rawcliffe, will yo joost coom an' taak a look at lil maare?"
Jim's sullenness was gone. His voice revealed him humble and
Rowcliffe sighed, smiled, pulled himself together and turned with
Greatorex into the stable.
In the sodden straw of her stall, Daisy, the mare, lay, heaving and
snorting after her agony. From time to time she turned her head
toward her tense and swollen flank, seeking with eyes of anguish the
mysterious source of pain. The feed of oats with which Willie had
tried to tempt her lay untouched in the skip beside her head.
"I give 'er they oats an hour ago," said Willie. "An' she 'assn't so
mooch as nosed 'em."
"Nawbody but a donmed gawpie would have doon thot with 'er stoomach
raw. Yo med 'ave killed t' mare."
Willie, appalled by his own deed and depressed, stooped down and
fondled the mare's face, to show that it was not affection that he
"Heer--clear out o' thot and let doctor have a look in."
Willie slunk aside as Rowcliffe knelt with Greatorex in the straw and
examined the sick mare.
"Can yo tell at all what's amiss, doctor?"
"Colic, I should say. Has the vet seen her?"
"Ye-es. He sent oop soomthing--"
"Well, have you given it her?"
Jim's voice thickened. "I sud have given it her yesterda."
"And why on earth didn't you?"
"The domned thing went clane out o' my head."
He turned to the window ledge by the stable door where, among a
confusion of cobwebs and dusty bottles and tin cans, the drench of
turpentine and linseed oil, the little phial of chlorodyne, and the
clean tin pannikin with its wide protruding mouth, stood ready, all
gleaming in the lantern light, forgotten since the day before.
"Thot's the stoof. Will yo halp me give it 'er, doctor?"
"All right. Can you hold her?"
"That I can. Coom oop, Daasy. Coom oop. There, my beauty. Gently,
gently, owd laass."
Rowcliffe took off his coat and shook up the drench and poured it into
the pannikin, while Greatorex got the struggling mare on to her feet.
Together, with gentleness and dexterity they cajoled her. Then Jim
laid his hands upon her mouth and opened it, drawing up her head
against his breast. Willie, suddenly competent, held the lantern while
Rowcliffe poured the drench down her throat.
Daisy, coughing and dribbling, stood and gazed at them with sad and
terrified eyes. And while the undertaker's men screwed down the lid
upon John Greatorex in his coffin, Jim Greatorex, his son, watched
with Daisy in her stall.
And Steven Rowcliffe watched with him, nursing the sick mare, making
up a fresh, clean bed for her, rubbing and fomenting her swollen and
tortured belly. When Daisy rolled in another agony, Rowcliffe gave her
chlorodyne and waited till suddenly she lay still.
In Jim's face, as he looked down at her, there was an infinite
tenderness and pity and compunction.
Rowcliffe, wriggling into his coat, regarded him with curiosity and
wonder, till Jim drew himself up and fixed him with his queer, unhappy
"Shall I save her, doctor?"
"I can't tell you yet. I'd better send the vet up tomorrow hadn't I?"
"Ay----" Jim's voice was strangled in the spasm of his throat. But he
took Rowcliffe's hand and wrung it, discharging many emotions in that
one excruciating grip.
Rowcliffe pointed to the little phial of chlorodyne lying in the
straw. "If I were you," he said, "I shouldn't leave that lying about."
Through his long last night in the gray house haunted by the moon,
John Greatorex lay alone, screwed down under a coffin lid, and his
son, Jim, wrapped in a horse-blanket and with his head on a hay sack,
lay in the straw of the stable, beside Daisy his mare. From time to
time, as his mood took him, he turned and laid his hand on her in a
poignant caress. As if she had been his first-born, or his bride, he
spoke to her in the thick, soft voice of passion, with pitiful, broken
words and mutterings.
"What is it, Daasy----what is it? There, did they, then, did they? My
beauty--my lil laass. I--I wuss a domned brute to forget tha, a domned
All that night and the next night he lay beside her. The funeral
passed like a fantastic interlude between the long acts of his
passion. His great sorrow made him humble to Mrs. Gale so that he
allowed her to sustain him with food and drink. And on the third day
it was known throughout Garthdale that young Greatorex, who had lost
his father, had saved his mare.
Only Steven Rowcliffe knew that the mare had saved young Greatorex.
* * * * *
And the little phial of chlorodyne was put back among the cobwebs and
Down at the Vicarage the Vicar was wrangling with his youngest
daughter. For the third time Alice declared that she was not well and
that she didn't want her milk.
"Whether you want it or not you've got to drink it," said the Vicar.
Alice took the glass in her lap and looked at it.
"Am I to stand over you till you drink it?"
Alice put the rim of the glass to her mouth and shuddered.
"I can't," she said. "It'll make me sick."
"Leave the poor child alone, Papa," said Gwenda.
But the Vicar ignored Gwenda.
"You'll drink it, if I stand here all night," he said.
Alice struggled with a spasm in her throat. He held the glass for her
while she groped piteously.
"Oh, where's my hanky?"
With superhuman clemency he produced his own.
"It'll serve you right if I'm ill," said Alice.
"Come," said the Vicar in his wisdom and his patience. "Come."
He proffered the disgusting cup again.
"I'd drink it and have done with it, if I were you," said Mary in her
Mary's soft voice was too much for Alice.
"Why c-can't you leave me alone? You--you--beast, Mary," she sobbed.
And Mr. Cartaret began again, "Am I to stand here----"
Alice got up, she broke loose from them and left the room.
"You might have known she wasn't going to drink it," Gwenda said.
But the Vicar never knew when he was beaten.
"She would have drunk it," he said, "if Mary hadn't interfered."
* * * * *
Alice had not got the pneumonia that had killed John Greatorex. Such
happiness, she reflected, was not for her. She had desired it too
But she was doing very well with her anaemia.
Bloodless and slender and inert, she dragged herself about the
village. She could not get away from it because of the steep hills
she would have had to climb. A small, unhappy ghost, she haunted the
fields in the bottom and the path along the beck that led past Mrs.
The sight of Alice was more than ever annoying to the Vicar. Only
you wouldn't have known it. As she grew whiter and weaker he braced
himself, and became more hearty and robust. When he caught her lying
on the sofa he spoke to her in a robust and hearty tone.
"Don't lie there all day, my girl. Get up and go out. What you want is
a good blow on the moor."
"Yes. If I didn't die before I got there," Alice would say, while she
thought, "Serve him right, too, if I did."
And the Vicar would turn from her in disgust. He knew what was the
matter with his daughter Alice.
At dinner time he would pull himself together again, for, after all,
he was her father. He was robust and hearty over the sirloin and the
leg of mutton. He would call for a glass and press into it the red
juice of the meat.
"Don't peak and pine, girl. Drink that. It'll put some blood into
And Alice would refuse to drink it.
Next she refused to drink her milk at eleven. She carried it out to
Essy in the scullery.
"I wish you'd drink my milk for me, Essy. It makes me sick," she said.
"I don't want your milk," said Essy.
"Please--" she implored her.
But Essy was angry. Her face flamed and she banged down the dishes she
was drying. "I sail not drink it. What should I want your milk for?
You can pour it in t' pig's bucket."
And the milk would be left by the scullery window till it turned sour
and Essy poured it into the pig's bucket that stood under the sink.
* * * * *
Three weeks passed, and with every week Alice grew more bloodless,
more slender, and more inert, and more and more like an unhappy
ghost. Her small face was smaller; there was a tinge of green in its
honey-whiteness, and of mauve in the dull rose of her mouth. And under
her shallow breast her heart seemed to rise up and grow large, while
the rest of Alice shrank and grew small. It was as if her fragile
little body carried an enormous engine, an engine of infernal and
terrifying power. When she lay down and when she got up and with every
sudden movement its throbbing shook her savagely.
Night and morning she called to her sister: "Oh Gwenda, come and feel
my heart. I do believe it's growing. It's getting too big for my body.
It frightens me when it jumps about like that."
It frightened Gwenda.
But it did not really frighten Alice. She rejoiced in it, rather,
and exulted. After all, it was a good thing that she had not
got pneumonia, which might have killed her as it had killed John
Greatorex. She had got what served her purpose better. It served all
her purposes. If she had tried she could not have hit on anything that
would have annoyed her father more or put him more conspicuously in
the wrong. To begin with, it was his doing. He had worried her into
it. And he had brought her to a place which was the worst place
conceivable for anybody with a diseased heart, since you couldn't stir
out of doors without going up hill.
Night and morning Alice stood before the looking-glass and turned out
the lining of her lips and eyelids and saw with pleasure the pale rose
growing paler. Every other hour she laid her hand on her heart and
took again the full thrill of its dangerous throbbing, or felt her
pulse to assure herself of the halt, the jerk, the hurrying of the
beat. Night and morning and every other hour she thought of Rowcliffe.
"If it goes on like this, they'll _have_ to send for him," she said.
But it had gone on, the three weeks had passed, and yet they had not
sent. The Vicar had put his foot down. He wouldn't have the doctor. He
knew better than a dozen doctors what was the matter with his daughter
Alice said nothing. She simply waited. As if some profound and
dead-sure instinct had sustained her, she waited, sickening.
And on the last night of the third week she fainted. She had dragged
herself upstairs to bed, staggered across the little landing and
fallen on the threshold of her room.
They kept her in bed next day. At one o'clock she refused her
chicken-broth. She would neither eat nor drink. And a little before
three Gwenda went for the doctor.
She had not told Alice she was going. She had not told anybody.
She had to walk, for Mary had taken her bicycle. Nobody knew where
Mary had gone or when she had started or when she would be back.
But the four miles between Garth and Morfe were nothing to Gwenda, who
would walk twenty for her own amusement. She would have stretched the
way out indefinitely if she could; she would have piled Garthdale Moor
on Greffington Edge and Karva on the top of them and put them between
Garth and Morfe, so violent was her fear of Steven Rowcliffe.
She had no longer any desire to see him or to be seen by him. He had
seen her twice too often, and too early and too late. After being
caught on the moor at dawn, it was preposterous that she should show
herself in the doorway of Upthorne at night.
How was he to know that she hadn't done it on purpose? Girls did these
things. Poor little Ally had done them. And it was because Ally had
done them that she had been taken and hidden away here where she
couldn't do them any more.
But--couldn't she? Gwenda stood still, staring in her horror as the
frightful thought struck her that Ally could, and that she would, the
very minute she realised young Rowcliffe. And he would think--not that
it mattered in the least what he thought--he would think that there
were two of them.
If only, she said to herself, if only young Rowcliffe were a married
man. Then even Ally couldn't--
Not that she blamed poor little Ally. She looked on little Ally as
the victim of a malign and tragic tendency, the fragile vehicle of an
alien and overpowering impulse. Little Ally was doomed. It wasn't her
fault if she was made like that.
And this time it wouldn't be her fault at all. Their father would have
driven her. Gwenda hated him for his persecution and exposure of the
She walked on thinking.
It wouldn't end with Ally. They were all three exposed and persecuted.
For supposing--it wasn't likely, but supposing--that this Rowcliffe
man was the sort of man she liked, supposing--what was still more
unlikely--that he was the sort of man who would like her, where
would be the good of it? Her father would spoil it all. He spoiled
Well, no, to be perfectly accurate, not everything. There was
one thing he had not spoiled, because he had never suspected its
existence--her singular passion for the place. Of course, if he had
suspected it, he would have stamped on it. It was his business
to stamp on other people's passions. Luckily, it wasn't in him to
conceive a passion for a place.
It had come upon her at first sight as they drove between twilight and
night from Reyburn through Rathdale into Garthdale. It was when they
had left the wooded land behind them and the moors lifted up their
naked shoulders, one after another, darker than dark, into a sky
already whitening above the hidden moon. And she saw Morfe, gray as
iron, on its hill, bearing the square crown and the triple pendants of
its lights; she saw the long straight line of Greffington Edge, hiding
the secret moon, and Karva with the ashen west behind it. There was
something in their form and in their gesture that called to her as
if they knew her, as if they waited for her; they struck her with the
shock of recognition, as if she had known them and had waited too.
And close beside her own wonder and excitement she had felt the deep
and sullen repulsion of her companions. The Vicar sat huddled in his
overcoat. His nostrils, pinched with repugnance, sniffed as they drank
in the cold, clean air. From time to time he shuddered, and a hoarse
muttering came from under the gray woolen scarf he had wound round
his mouth and beard. He was the righteous man, sent into uttermost
abominable exile for his daughter's sin. Behind him, on the back seat
of the trap, Alice and Mary cowed under their capes and rugs. They had
turned their shoulders to each other, hostile in their misery. Gwenda
was sorry for them.
The gray road dipped and turned and plunged them to the bottom of
Garthdale. The small, scattering lights of the village waited for her
in the hollow, with something humble and sad and familiar in their
setting. They too stung her with that poignant and secret sense of
"This is the place," the Vicar had said. He had addressed himself
to Alice; and it had been as if he had said, This the place, the
infernal, the damnable place, you've brought us to with your behavior.
Their hatred of it had made Gwenda love it. "You can have your old
Garthdale all to yourself," Alice had said. "Nobody else wants it."
That, to Gwenda, was the charm of it. The adorable place was her own.
Nobody else wanted it. She loved it for itself. It had nothing but
itself to offer her. And that was enough. It was almost, as she
had said, too much. Her questing youth conceived no more rapturous
adventure than to follow the sheep over Karva, to set out at twilight
and see the immense night come down on the high moors above Upthorne;
to get up when Alice was asleep and slip out and watch the dawn
turning from gray to rose, and from rose to gold above Greffington
As it happened you saw sunrise and moonrise best from the platform of
Morfe Green. There Greffington Edge breaks and falls away, and lets
slip the dawn like a rosy scarf from its shoulder, and sets the moon
free of her earth and gives her to the open sky.
But, just as the Vicar had spoiled Rowcliffe, so Rowcliffe had
spoiled Morfe for Gwenda. Therefore her fear of him was mingled with
resentment. It was as if he had had no business to be living there, in
that house of his looking over the Green.