Part 5 out of 7
boasted our superiority to him at every point, and at last, for the sake
of our own selfish ease, helped him to forge new chains for his victims,
and received as our only reward fresh insults. White slaves! We,
perhaps, and not the English peasant, are the white slaves! At least, if
the Irishman emigrates to England, or the Englishman to Canada, he is
not hunted out with blood-hounds, and delivered back to his landlord to
be scourged and chained. He is not practically out of the pale of law,
unrepresented, forbidden even the use of books; and even if he were,
there is an excuse for the old country; for she was founded on no
political principles, but discovered what she knows step by step, a sort
of political Topsy, as Claude Mellot calls her, who has 'kinder growed,'
doing from hand to mouth what seemed best. But that we, who profess to
start as an ideal nation, on fixed ideas of justice, freedom, and
equality--that we should have been stultifying ever since every great
principle of which we so loudly boast!--"
* * * * *
"The old Jew used to say of his nation, 'It is God that hath made us,
and not we ourselves.' We say, 'It is we that have made ourselves, while
God--?'--Ah, yes; I recollect. God's work is to save a soul here and a
soul there, and to leave America to be saved by the Americans who made
it. We must have a broader and deeper creed than that if we are to work
out our destiny. The battle against Middle Age slavery was fought by the
old Catholic Church, which held the Jewish notion, and looked on the
Deity as the actual King of Christendom, and every man in it as God's
own child. I see now!--No wonder that the battle in America has as yet
been fought by the Quakers, who believe that there is a divine light and
voice in every man; while the Calvinist preachers, with their isolating
and individualising creed, have looked on with folded hands, content to
save a negro's soul here and there, whatsoever might become of the
bodies and the national future of the whole negro race. No wonder, while
such men have the teaching of the people, that it is necessary still in
the nineteenth century, in a Protestant country, amid sane human beings,
for such a man as Mr. Sumner to rebut, in sober earnest, the argument
that the negro was the descendant of Canaan, doomed to eternal slavery
by Noah's curse!"
* * * * *
He would rouse himself. He would act, speak, write, as many a noble
fellow-countryman was doing. He had avoided them of old as bores and
fanatics who would needs wake him from his luxurious dreams. He had even
hated them, simply because they were more righteous than he. He would be
a new man henceforth.
He strode down the hill through the cannon-guarded vineyards, among the
busy groups of peasants.
"Yes, Marie was right. Life is meant for work, and not for ease; to
labour in danger and in dread; to do a little good ere the night comes,
when no man can work: instead of trying to realise for oneself a
Paradise; not even Bunyan's shepherd-paradise, much less Fourier's
Casino-paradise; and perhaps least of all, because most selfish and
isolated of all, my own heart-paradise--the apotheosis of loafing, as
Claude calls it. Ah, Tennyson's Palace of Art is a true word--too true,
"Art? What if the most necessary human art, next to the art of
agriculture, be, after all, the art of war? It has been so in all ages.
What if I have been befooled--what if all the Anglo-Saxon world has been
befooled by forty years of peace? We have forgotten that the history of
the world has been as yet written in blood; that the story of the human
race is the story of its heroes and its martyrs--the slayers and the
slain. Is it not becoming such once more in Europe now? And what divine
exemption can we claim from the law? What right have we to suppose that
it will be aught else, as long as there are wrongs unredressed on earth;
as long as anger and ambition, cupidity and wounded pride, canker the
hearts of men? What if the wise man's attitude, and the wise nation's
attitude, is that of the Jews rebuilding their ruined walls,--the tool
in one hand, and the sword in the other; for the wild Arabs are close
outside, and the time is short, and the storm has only lulled awhile in
mercy, that wise men may prepare for the next thunder-burst? It is an
ugly fact: but I have thrust it away too long, and I must accept it now
and henceforth. This, and not luxurious Broadway; this, and not the
comfortable New England village, is the normal type of human life; and
this is the model city!--Armed industry, which tills the corn and vine
among the cannons' mouths; which never forgets their need, though it may
mask and beautify their terror: but knows that as long as cruelty and
wrong exist on earth, man's destiny is to dare and suffer, and, if it
must be so, to die....
"Yes, I will face my work; my danger, if need be. I will find Marie. I
will tell her that I accept her quest; not for her sake, but for its
own. Only I will demand the right to work at it as I think best,
patiently, moderately, wisely if I can; for a fanatic I cannot be, even
for her sake. She may hate these slaveholders,--she may have her
reasons,--but I cannot. I cannot deal with them as _feras naturae_. I
cannot deny that they are no worse men than I; that I should have done
what they are doing, have said what they are saying, had I been bred up,
as they have been, with irresponsible power over the souls and bodies of
human beings. God! I shudder at the fancy! The brute that I might have
been--that I should have been!
"Yes; one thing at least I have learnt, in all my experiments on poor
humanity;--never to see a man do a wrong thing, without feeling that I
could do the same in his place. I used to pride myself on that once,
fool that I was, and call it comprehensiveness. I used to make it an
excuse for sitting by, and seeing the devil have it all his own way, and
call that toleration. I will see now whether I cannot turn the said
knowledge to a better account, as common sense, patience, and charity;
and yet do work of which neither I nor my country need be ashamed."
He walked down, and on to the bridge of boats. They opened in the
centre; as he reached it a steamer was passing. He lounged on the rail
as the boat passed through, looking carelessly at the groups of
Two ladies were standing on the steamer; close to him; looking up at
Ehrenbreitstein. Was it?--yes, it was Sabina, and Marie by her!
But ah, how changed! The cheeks were pale and hollow; dark rings--he
could see them but too plainly as the face was lifted up toward the
light--were round those great eyes, bright no longer. Her face was
listless, careworn; looking all the more sad and impassive by the side
of Sabina's, as she pointed smiling and sparkling, up to the fortress;
and seemed trying to interest Marie in it, but in vain.
He called out. He waved his hand wildly, to the amusement of the
officers and peasants who waited by his side; and who, looking first at
his excited face, and then at the two beautiful women, were not long in
making up their minds about him; and had their private jests
They did not see him, but turned away to look at Coblentz; and the
steamer swept by.
Stangrave stamped with rage--upon a Prussian officer's thin boot.
"Ten thousand pardons!"
"You are excused, dear sir, you are excused," says the good-natured
German, with a wicked smile, which raises a blush on Stangrave's cheek.
"Your eyes were dazzled; why not? it is not often that one sees two such
suns together in the same sky. But calm yourself; the boat stops at
Stangrave could not well call the man of war to account for his
impertinence; he had had his toes half crushed, and had a right to
indemnify himself as he thought fit. And with a hundred more apologies,
Stangrave prepared to dart across the bridge as soon as it was closed.
Alas! after the steamer, as the fates would have it, came lumbering down
one of those monster timber rafts; and it was a full half hour before
Stangrave could get across, having suffered all the while the torments
of Tantalus, as he watched the boat sweep round to the pier, and
discharge its freight, to be scattered whither he knew not. At last he
got across, and went in chase to the nearest hotel: but they were not
there; thence to the next, and the next, till he had hunted half the
hotels in the town; but hunted all in vain.
He is rushing wildly back again, to try if he can obtain any clue at the
steam-boat pier, through the narrow, dirty street at the back of the
Rhine Cavalier, when he is stopped short by a mighty German embrace, and
a German kiss on either cheek, as the kiss of a housemaid's broom; while
a jolly voice shouts in English:--
"Ah, my dear, dear friend! and you would pass me! Whither the hangman so
fast are you running in the mud!"
"My dear Salomon! But let me go, I beseech you; I am in search--"
"In search?" cries the jolly Jew banker,--"for the philosopher's stone?
You had all that man could want a week since, except that. Search no
more, but come home with me; and we will have a night as of the gods on
"My dearest fellow, I am looking for two ladies!"
"Two? ah, rogue! shall not one suffice?"
"Don't, my dearest fellow! I am looking for two English ladies."
"Potz! You shall find two hundred in the hotels, ugly and fair; but the
two fairest are gone this two hours."
"When?--which?" cries Stangrave, suspecting at once.
"Sabina Mellot, and a Sultana--I thought her of The Nation, and would
have offered my hand on the spot: but Madame Mellot says she is a
"Gone? And you have seen them! Where?"
"To Bertrich. They had luncheon with my mother, and then started by
"I must follow."
"_Ach lieber_? But it will be dark in an hour."
"But you shall find them to-morrow, just as well as to-day. They stay at
Bertrich for a fortnight more. They have been there now a month, and
only left it last week for a pleasure tour, across to the Ahrthal, and
so back by Andernach."
"Why did they leave Coblentz, then, in such hot haste?"
"Ah, the ladies never give reasons. There were letters waiting for them
at our house; and no sooner read, but they leaped up, and would forth.
Come home now, and go by the steamer to-morrow morning."
"Impossible! most hospitable of Israelites."
"To go to-night,--for see the clouds!--Not a postilion will dare to
leave Coblentz, under that quick-coming _allgemein und ungeheuer
Stangrave looked up, growling; and gave in. A Rhine-storm was rolling up
"They will be caught in it."
"No. They are far beyond its path by now; while you shall endure the
whole visitation; and if you try to proceed, pass the night in a
flea-pestered post-house, or in a ditch of water."
So Stangrave went home with Herr Salomon, and heard from him, amid
clouds of Latakia, of wars and rumours of wars, distress of nations, and
perplexity, seen by the light, not of the Gospel, but of the
stock-exchange; while the storm fell without in lightning, hail, rain,
of right Rhenish potency.
THE THIRTIETH OF SEPTEMBER.
We must go back a week or so, to England, and to the last day of
September. The world is shooting partridges, and asking nervously, when
it comes home, What news from the Crimea? The flesh who serves it is
bathing at Margate. The devil is keeping up his usual correspondence
with both. Eaton Square is a desolate wilderness, where dusty sparrows
alone disturb the dreams of frowzy charwomen, who, like Anchorites amid
the tombs of the Thebaid, fulfil the contemplative life each in her
subterranean cell. Beneath St. Peter's spire the cabman sleeps within
his cab, the horse without: the waterman, seated on his empty bucket,
contemplates the untrodden pavement between his feet, and is at rest.
The blue butcher's boy trots by with empty cart, five miles an hour,
instead of full fifteen, and stops to chat with the red postman, who,
his occupation gone, smokes with the green gatekeeper, and reviles the
Czar. Along the whole north pavement of the square only one figure
moves, and that is Major Campbell.
His face is haggard and anxious; he walks with a quick, excited step;
earnest enough, whoever else is not. For in front of Lord Scoutbush's
house the road is laid with straw. There is sickness there, anxiety,
bitter tears. Lucia has not found her husband, but she has lost her
Trembling, Campbell raises the muffled knocker, and Bowie appears. "What
news to-day?" he whispers.
"As well as can be expected, sir, and as quiet as a lamb now, they say.
But it has been a bad time, and a bad man is he that caused it."
"A bad time, and a bad man. How is Miss St. Just?"
"Just gone to lie down, sir. Mrs. Clara is on the stairs, if you'd like
to see her."
"No; tell Miss St. Just that I have no news yet." And the Major turns
Clara, who has seen him from above, hurries down after him into the
street, and coaxes him to come in. "I am sure you have had no breakfast,
sir: and you look so ill and worn. And Miss St. Just will be so vexed
not to see you. She will get up the moment she hears you are here."
"No, my good Miss Clara," says Campbell, looking down with a weary
smile. "I should only make gloom more gloomy. Bowie, tell his lordship
that I shall be at the afternoon train to-morrow, let what will happen."
"Ay, ay, sir. We're a' ready to march. The Major looks very ill, Miss
Clara. I wish he'd have taken your counsel. And I wish ye'd take mine,
and marry me ere I march, just to try what it's like."
"I must mind my mistress, Mr. Bowie," says Clara.
"And how should I interfere with that, as I've said twenty times, when
I'm safe in the Crimea? I'll get the licence this day, say what ye will:
and then you would not have the heart to let me spend two pounds twelve
and sixpence for nothing."
Whether the last most Caledonian argument conquered or not, Mr. Bowie
got the licence, was married before breakfast the next morning, and
started for the Crimea at four o'clock in the afternoon; most
astonished, as he confided in the train to Sergeant MacArthur, "to see a
lassie that never gave him a kind word in her life, and had not been
married but barely six hours, greet and greet at his going, till she
vanished away into hystericals. They're a very unfathomable species,
Sergeant, are they women; and if they were taken out o' man, they took
the best part o' Adam wi' them, and left us to shift with the worse."
But to return to Campbell. The last week has altered him frightfully. He
is no longer the stern, self-possessed warrior which he was; he no
longer even walks upright; his cheek is pale, his eye dull; his whole
countenance sunken together. And now that the excitement of anxiety is
past, he draws his feet along the pavement slowly, his hands clasped
behind him, his eyes fixed on the ground, as if the life was gone from
out of him, and existence was a heavy weight.
"She is safe, at least, then! One burden off my mind. And yet had it not
been better if that pure spirit had returned to Him who gave it, instead
of waking again to fresh misery? I must find that man! Why, I have been
saying so to myself for seven days past, and yet no ray of light. Can
the coward have given me a wrong address? Yet why give me an address at
all if he meant to hide from me? Why, I have been saying that too, to
myself every day for the last week? Over and over again the same dreary
round of possibilities and suspicions. However, I must be quiet now, if
I am a man. I can hear nothing before the detective comes at two. How to
pass the weary, weary time? For I am past thinking--almost past praying
--though not quite, thank God!"
He paces up still noisy Piccadilly, and then up silent Bond Street;
pauses to look at some strange fish on Groves's counter--anything to
while away the time; then he plods on toward the top of the street, and
turns into Mr. Pillischer's shop, and upstairs to the microscopic
club-room. There, at least, he can forget himself for an hour.
He looks round the neat pleasant little place, with its cases of
curiosities, and its exquisite photographs, and bright brass
instruments; its glass vases stocked with delicate water-plants and
animalcules, with the sunlight gleaming through the green and purple
seaweed fronds, while the air is fresh and fragrant with the seaweed
scent; a quiet, cool little hermitage of science amid that great noisy,
luxurious west-end world. At least, it brings back to him the thought of
the summer sea, and Aberalva, and his shore-studies: but he cannot think
of that any more. It is past; and may God forgive him!
At one of the microscopes on the slab opposite him stands a sturdy
bearded man, his back toward the Major; while the wise little German,
hopeless of customers, is leaning over him in his shirt sleeves.
"But I never have seen its like; it had just like a painter's easel in
its stomach yesterday!"
"Why, it's an Echinus Larva: a sucking sea-urchin! Hang it, if I had
known you hadn't seen one, I'd have brought up half-a-dozen of them!"
"May I look, sir?" asked the Major; "I, too, never have seen an Echinus
The bearded man looks up.
"Mr. Thurnall! I thought I could not be mistaken in the voice."
"This is too pleasant, sir, to renew our watery loves together here,"
said Tom: but a second look at the Major's face showed him that he was
in no jesting mood. "How is the party at Beddgelert? I fancied you with
"They are all in London, at Lord Scoutbush's house, in Eaton Square."
"In London, at this dull time? I trust nothing unpleasant has brought
"Mrs. Vavasour is very ill. We had thoughts of sending for you, as the
family physician was out of town: but she was out of danger, thank God,
in a few hours. Now let me ask in turn after you. I hope no unpleasant
business brings you up three hundred miles from your practice?"
"Nothing, I assure you. Only I have given up my Aberalva practice. I am
going to the East."
"Like the rest of the world."
"Not exactly. You go as a dignified soldier of her Majesty's; I as an
undignified Abel Drugger, to dose Bashi-bazouks."
"Impossible! and with such an opening as you had there! You must excuse
me; but my opinion of your prudence must not be so rudely shaken."
"Why do you not ask the question which Balzac's old Tourangeois judge
asks, whenever a culprit is brought before him,--'Who is she?'"
"Taking for granted that there was a woman at the bottom of every
mishap? I understand you," said the Major, with a sad smile. "Now let
you and me walk a little together, and look at the Echinoid another day
--or when I return from Sevastopol--"
Tom went out with him. A new ray of hope had crossed the Major's mind.
His meeting with Thurnall might he providential; for he recollected now,
for the first time, Mellot's parting hint.
"You knew Elsley Vavasour well?"
"No man better."
"Did you think that there was any tendency to madness in him?"
"No more than in any other selfish, vain, irritable man, with a strong
imagination left to run riot."
"Humph! you seem to have divined his character. May I ask you if you
knew him before you met him at Aberalva?"
Tom looked up sharply in the Major's face.
"You would ask, what cause I have for inquiring? I will tell you
presently. Meanwhile I may say, that Mellot told me frankly that you had
some power over him; and mentioned, mysteriously, a name--John Briggs, I
think--which it appears that he once assumed."
"If Mellot thought fit to tell you anything, I may frankly tell you all.
John Briggs is his real name. I have known him from childhood." And then
Tom poured into the ears of the surprised and somewhat disgusted Major
all he had to tell.
"You have kept your secret mercifully, and used it wisely, sir; and I
and others shall be always your debtors for it. Now I dare tell you in
turn, in strictest confidence of course--"
"I am far too poor to afford the luxury of babbling."
And the Major told him what we all know.
"I expected as much," said he drily. "Now, I suppose that you wish me to
exert myself in finding the man?"
"Were Mrs. Vavasour only concerned, I should say--Not I! Better
that she should never set eyes on him again."
"Better, indeed!" said he bitterly: "but it is I who must see him, if
but for five minutes. I must!"
"Major Campbell's wish is a command. Where have you searched for him?"
"At his address, at his publisher's, at the houses of various literary
friends of his, and yet no trace."
"Has he gone to the Continent?"
"Heaven knows! I have inquired at every passport office for news of any
one answering his description; indeed, I have two detectives, I may tell
you, at this moment, watching every possible place. There is but one
hope, if he be alive. Can he have gone home to his native town?"
"Never! Anywhere but there."
"Is there any old friend of the lower class with whom he may have taken
"There was a fellow, a noisy blackguard, whom Briggs was asking after
this very summer--a fellow who went off from Whitbury with some players.
I know Briggs used to go to the theatre with him as a boy--what was his
name? He tried acting, but did not succeed; and then became a
scene-shifter, or something of the kind, at the Adelphi. He has some
complaint, I forget what, which made him an out-patient at St.
Mumpsimus's, some months every year. I know that he was there this
summer, for I wrote to ask, at Briggs's request, and Briggs sent him a
sovereign through me."
"But what makes you fancy that he can have taken shelter with such a
man, and one who knows his secret?"
"It is but a chance: but he may have done it from the mere feeling of
loneliness--just to hold by some one whom he knows in this great
wilderness; especially a man in whose eyes he will be a great man, and
to whom he has done a kindness; still, it is the merest chance."
"We will take it, nevertheless, forlorn hope though it be."
They took a cab to the hospital, and, with some trouble, got the man's
name and address, and drove in search of him. They had some difficulty
in finding his abode, for it was up an alley at the back of Drury Lane,
in the top of one of those foul old houses which hold a family in every
room; but, by dint of knocking at one door and the other, and bearing
meekly much reviling consequent thereon, they arrived, "_per modum
tollendi_" at a door which must be the right one, as all the rest were
"Does John Barker live here?" asks Thurnall, putting his head in
cautiously for fear of drunken Irishmen, who might be seized with the
national impulse to "slate" him.
"What's that to you?" answers a shrill voice from among soapsuds and
"Here is a gentleman wants to speak to him."
"So do a many as won't have that pleasure, and would be little the
better for it if they had. Get along with you, I knows your lay."
"We really want to speak to him, and to pay him, if he will--"
"Go along! I'm up to the something to your advantage dodge, and to the
mustachio dodge too. Do you fancy I don't know a bailiff, because he's
dressed like a swell?"
"But, my good woman!" said Tom, laughing.
"You put your crocodile foot in here, and I'll hit the hot water over
the both of you!" and she caught up the pan of soapsuds.
"My dear soul! I am a doctor belonging to the hospital which your
husband goes to; and have known him since he was a boy, down in
"You?" and she looked keenly at him.
"My name is Thurnall. I was a medical man once in Whitbury, where your
husband was born."
"You?" said she again, in a softened tone, "I knows that name well
"You do? What was your name, then?" said Tom, who recognised the woman's
Berkshire accent beneath its coat of cockneyism.
"Never you mind: I'm no credit to it, so I'll let it be. But come in,
for the old county's sake. Can't offer you a chair, he's pawned 'em all.
Pleasant old place it was down there, when I was a young girl; they say
it's grow'd a grand place now, wi' a railroad. I think many times I'd
like to go down and die there." She spoke in a rough, sullen, careless
tone, as if life-weary.
"My good woman," said Major Campbell, a little impatiently, "can you
find your husband for us?"
"Why then?" asked she sharply, her suspicion seeming to return.
"If he will answer a few questions, I will give him five shillings. If
he can find out for me what I want, I will give him five pounds."
"Shouldn't I do as well? If you gi' it he, it's little out of it I shall
see, but he coming home tipsy when it's spent. Ah, dear! it was a sad
day for me when I first fell in with they play-goers!"
"Why should she not do it as well?" said Thurnall. "Mrs. Barker, do you
know anything of a person named Briggs--John Briggs, the apothecary's
son, at Whitbury?"
She laughed a harsh bitter laugh.
"Know he? yes, and too much reason. That was where it all begun, along
of that play-going of he's and my master's."
"Have you seen him lately?" asked Campbell, eagerly.
"I seen 'un? I'd hit this water over the fellow, and all his play-acting
merryandrews, if ever he sot a foot here!"
"But have you heard of him?"
"Ees--" said she carelessly; "he's round here now, I heard my master
say, about the 'Delphy, with my master: a drinking, I suppose. No good,
"My good woman," said Campbell, panting for breath, "bring me face to
face with that man, and I'll put a five-pound note in your hand there
"Five pounds is a sight to me: but it's a sight more than the sight of
he's worth," said she suspiciously again.
"That's the gentleman's concern," said Tom. "The money's yours. I
suppose you know the worth of it by now?"
"Ees, none better. But I don't want he to get hold of it; he's made away
with enough already;" and she began to think.
"Curiously impassive people, we Wessex worthies, when we are a little
ground down with trouble. You must give her time, and she will do our
work. She wants the money, but she is long past being excited at the
prospect of it."
"What's that you're whispering?" asked she sharply.
Campbell stamped with impatience.
"You don't trust us yet, eh?--then, there!" and he took five sovereigns
from his pocket, and tossed them on the table. "There's your money! I
trust you to do the work, as you've been paid beforehand."
She caught up the gold, rang every piece on the table to see if it was
sound; and then--
"Sally, you go down with these gentlemen to the Jonson's Head, and if he
ben't there, go to the Fighting Cocks; and if he ben't there, go to the
Duke of Wellington; and tell he there's two gentlemen has heard of his
poetry, and wants to hear 'un excite. And then you give he a glass of
liquor, and praise up his nonsense, and he'll tell you all he knows, and
a sight more. Gi' un plenty to drink. It'll be a saving and a charity,
for if he don't get it out of you, he will out of me."
And she returned doggedly to her washing.
"Can't I do anything for you?" asked Tom, whose heart always yearned
over a Berkshire soul. "I have plenty of friends down at Whitbury
"More than I have. No, sir," said she sadly, and with the first touch of
sweetness they had yet heard in her voice. "I've cured my own bacon, and
I must eat it. There's none down there minds me, but them that would be
ashamed of me. And I couldn't go without he, and they wouldn't take he
in; so I must just bide." And she went on washing.
"God help her!" said Campbell, as he went downstairs.
"Misery breeds that temper, and only misery, in our people. I can show
you as thorough gentlemen and ladies, people round Whitbury, living on
ten shillings a week, as you will show me in Belgravia living on five
thousand a year."
"I don't doubt it," said Campbell.... "So 'she couldn't go without he,'
drunken dog as he is! Thus it is with them all the world over."
"So much the worse for them," said Tom cynically, "and for the men too.
They make fools of us first with our over-fondness of them; and then
they let us make fools of ourselves with their over-fondness of us."
"I fancy sometimes that they were all meant to be the mates of angels,
and stooped to men as a _pis aller_; reversing the old story of the sons
of heaven and the daughters of men."
"And accounting for the present degeneracy. When the sons of heaven
married the daughters of men, their offspring were giants and men of
renown. Now the sons of men marry the daughters of heaven, and the
offspring is Wiggle, Waggle, Windbag, and Redtape."
They visited one public-house after another, till the girl found for
them the man they wanted, a shabby, sodden-visaged fellow, with a
would-be jaunty air of conscious shrewdness and vanity, who stood before
the bar, his thumbs in his armholes, and laying down the law to a group
of coster-boys, for want of a better audience.
The girl, after sundry plucks at his coat-tail, stopped him in the midst
of his oration, and explained her errand somewhat fearfully.
Mr. Barker bent down his head on one side, to signify that he was
absorbed in attention to her news; and then drawing himself up once
more, lifted his greasy hat high in air, bowed to the very floor, and
"Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors:
A man of war, and eke a man of peace--
That is, if you come peaceful; and if not,
Have we not Hiren here?"
And the fellow put himself into a fresh attitude.
"We come in peace, my good sir," said Tom; "first to listen to your
talented effusions, and next for a little private conversation on a
subject on which--" but Mr. Barker interrupted,--
"To listen, and to drink? The muse is dry,
And Pegasus doth thirst for Hippocrene,
And fain would paint--imbibe the vulgar call--
Or hot or cold, or long or short--Attendant!"
The bar girl, who knew his humour, came forward.
"Glasses all round--these noble knights will pay--
Of hottest hot, and stiffest stiff. Thou mark'st me?
Now to your quest!"
And he faced round with a third attitude.
"Do you know Mr. Briggs?" asked the straightforward Major. He rolled
his eyes to every quarter of the seventh sphere, clapped his hand upon
his heart, and assumed an expression of angelic gratitude:--
"My benefactor! Were the world a waste,
A thistle-waste, ass-nibbled, goldfinch-pecked,
And all the men and women merely asses,
I still could lay this hand upon this heart,
And cry, 'Not yet alone! I know a man--
A man Jove-fronted, and Hyperion-curled--
A gushing, flushing, blushing human heart!'"
"As sure as you live, sir," said Tom, "if you won't talk honest prose,
I won't pay for the brandy and water."
"Base is the slave who pays, and baser prose--
Hang uninspired patter! 'Tis in verse
That angels praise, and fiends in Limbo curse."
"And asses bray, I think," said Tom, in despair. "Do you know where Mr.
Briggs is now?"
"And why the devil do you want to know?
For that's a verse, sir, although somewhat slow."
The two men laughed in spite of themselves.
"Better tell the fellow the plain truth," said Campbell to Thurnall.
"Come out with us, and I will tell you." And Campbell threw down the
money, and led him off, after he had gulped down his own brandy, and
half Tom's beside.
"What? leave the nepenthe untasted?"
They took him out, and he tucked his arms through theirs, and strutted
down Drury Lane.
"The fact is, sir,--I speak to you, of course, in confidence, as one
gentleman to another--"
Mr. Barker replied by a lofty and gracious bow.
"That his family are exceedingly distressed at his absence, and his
wife, who, as you may know, is a lady of high family, dangerously ill;
and he cannot be aware of the fact. This gentleman is the medical man of
her family, and I--I am an intimate friend. We should esteem it
therefore the very greatest service if you would give us any information
"Weep no more, gentle shepherds, weep no more;
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be upon a garret floor,
With fumes of Morpheus' crown about his head."
"Fumes of Morpheus' crown?" asked Thurnall.
"That crimson flower which crowns the sleepy god,
And sweeps the soul aloft, though flesh may nod."
"He has taken to opium!" said Thurnall to the bewildered Major. "What I
should have expected."
"God help him! we must save him out of that last lowest deep!" cried
Campbell. "Where is he, sir?"
"A vow! a vow! I have a vow in heaven!
Why guide the hounds toward the trembling hare?
Our Adonais hath drunk poison; Oh!
What deaf and viperous murderer could crown
Life's early cup with such a draught of woe?"
"As I live, sir," cried Campbell, losing his self-possession in disgust
at the fool; "you may rhyme your own nonsense as long as you will, but
you shan't quote the Adonais about that fellow in my presence."
Mr. Barker shook himself fiercely free of Campbell's arm, and faced
round at him in a fighting attitude. Campbell stood eyeing him sternly,
but at his wit's end.
"Mr. Barker," said Tom blandly, "will you have another glass of brandy
and water, or shall I call a policeman?"
"Sir," sputtered he, speaking prose at last, "this gentleman has
insulted me! He has called my poetry nonsense, and my friend a fellow.
And blood shall not wipe out--what liquor may?"
The hint was sufficient; but ere he had drained another glass, Mr.
Barker was decidedly incapable of managing his affairs, much less
theirs; and became withal exceedingly quarrelsome, returning angrily to
the grievance of Briggs having been called a fellow; in spite of all
their entreaties, he talked himself into a passion, and at last, to
Campbell's extreme disgust, rushed out of the bar into the street.
"This is too vexations! To have kept half-an-hour's company with such an
animal, and then to have him escape me after all! A just punishment on
me for pandering to his drunkenness."
Tom made no answer, but went quietly to the door, and peeped out.
"Pay for his liquor, Major, and follow. Keep a few yards behind me;
there will be less chance of his recognising us than if he saw us both
"Why, where do you think he's going?"
"Not home, I can see. Ten to one that he will go raging off straight to
Briggs, to put him on his guard against us. Just like a drunkard's
cunning it would be. There, he has turned up that side street. Now
follow me quick. Oh that he may only keep his legs!"
They gained the bottom of that street before he had turned out of it;
and so through another, and another, till they ran him to earth in one
of the courts out of St. Martin's Lane.
Into a doorway he went, and up a stair. Tom stood listening at the
bottom, till he heard the fellow knock at a door far above, and call out
in a drunken tone. Then he beckoned to Campbell, and both, careless of
what might follow, ran upstairs, and pushing him aside, entered the room
Their chances of being on the right scent were small enough, considering
that, though every one was out of town, there were a million and a half
of people in London at that moment; and, unfortunately, at least fifty
thousand who would have considered Mr. John Barker a desirable visitor;
but somehow, in the excitement of the chase, both had forgotten the
chances against them, and the probability that they would have to retire
downstairs again, apologising humbly to some wrathful Joseph Buggins,
whose convivialities they might have interrupted. But no; Tom's cunning
had, as usual, played him true; and as they entered the door, they
beheld none other than the lost Elsley Vavasour, alias John Briggs.
Major Campbell advanced bowing, hat in hand, with a courteous apology on
It was a low lean-to garret; there was a deal table and an old chair in
it, but no bed. The windows were broken; the paper hanging down in
strips. Elsley was standing before the empty fireplace, his hand in his
bosom, as if he had been startled by the scuffle outside. He had not
shaved for some days.
So much Tom could note; but no more. He saw the glance of recognition
pass over Elsley's face, and that an ugly one. He saw him draw something
from his bosom, and spring like a cat almost upon the table. A flash--a
crack. He had fired a pistol full in Campbell's face.
Tom was startled, not at the thing, but that such a man should have done
it. He had seen souls, and too many, flit out of the world by that same
tiny crack, in Californian taverns, Arabian deserts, Australian gullies.
He knew all about that: but he liked Campbell; and he breathed more
freely the next moment, when he saw him standing still erect, a quiet
smile on his face, and felt the plaster dropping from the wall upon his
own head. The bullet had gone over the Major. All was right.
"He is not man enough for a second shot," thought Tom quietly, "while
the Major's eye is on him."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Vavasour," he heard the Major say, in a gentle
unmoved voice, "for this intrusion. I assure you that there is no cause
for any anger on your part; and I am come to entreat you to forget and
forgive any conduct of mine which may have caused you to mistake either
me or the lady whom I am unworthy to mention."
"I am glad the beggar fired at him," thought Tom. "One spice of danger,
and he's himself again, and will overawe the poor cur by mere civility.
I was afraid of some abject methodist parson humility, which would give
the other party a handle."
Elsley heard him with a stupefied look, like that of a trapped wild
beast, in which rage, shame, suspicion, and fear, were mingled with the
vacant glare of the opium-eater's eye. Then his eye drooped beneath
Campbell's steady gentle gaze, and he looked uneasily round the room,
still like a trapped wild beast, as if for a hole to escape by; then up
again, but sidelong, at Major Campbell.
"I assure you, sir, on the word of a Christian and a soldier, that you
are labouring under an entire misapprehension. For God's sake and Mrs.
Vavasour's sake, come back, sir, to those who will receive you with
nothing but affection! Your wife has been all but dead; she thinks of no
one but you, asks for no one but you. In God's name, sir, what are you
doing here, while a wife who adores you is dying from your--I do not
wish to be rude, sir, but let me say at least--neglect?"
Elsley looked at him still askance, puzzled, inquiring. Suddenly his
great beautiful eyes opened to preternatural wideness, as if trying to
grasp a new thought. He started, shifted his feet to and fro, his arms
straight down by his sides, his fingers clutching after something. Then
he looked up hurriedly again at Campbell; and Thurnall looked at him
also; and his face was as the face of an angel.
"Miserable ass!" thought Tom, "if he don't see innocence in that man's
countenance, he wouldn't see it in his own child's."
Elsley suddenly turned his back to them, and thrust his hand into his
bosom. Now was Tom's turn.
In a moment he had vaulted over the table, and seized Elsley's wrist,
ere he could draw the second pistol.
"No, my dear Jack," whispered he quietly, "once is enough in a day!"
"Not for him, Tom, for myself!" moaned Elsley.
"For neither, dear lad! Let bygones be bygones, and do you be a new man,
and go home to Mrs. Vavasour."
"Never, never, never, never, never, never!" shrieked Elsley like a baby,
every word increasing in intensity, till the whole house rang; and then
threw himself into the crazy chair, and dashed his head between his
hands upon the table.
"This is a case for me, Major Campbell. I think you had better go now."
"You will not leave him?"
"No, sir. It is a very curious psychological study, and he is a Whitbury
Campbell knew quite enough of the would-be cynical doctor, to understand
what all that meant. He came up to Elsley.
"Mr. Vavasour, I am going to the war, from which I expect never to
return. If you believe me, give me your hand before I go."
Elsley, without lifting his head, beat on the table with his hand.
"I wish to die at peace with you and all the world. I am innocent in
word, in thought. I shall not insult another person by saying that she
is so. If you believe me, give me your hand."
Elsley stretched his hand, his head still buried. Campbell took it, and
went silently downstairs.
"Is he gone?" moaned he, after a while.
"Does she--does she care for him?"
"Good heavens! How did you ever dream such an absurdity?"
Elsley only beat upon the table.
"She has been ill?"
"Is ill. She has lost her child."
"Which?" shrieked Elsley.
"A boy whom she should have had."
Elsley only beat on the table; then--
"Give me the bottle, Tom!"
"The laudanum;--there in the cupboard."
"I shall do no such thing. You are poisoning yourself."
"Let me then! I must, I tell you! I can live on nothing else. I shall go
mad if I do not have it. I should have been mad by now. Nothing else
keeps off these fits;--I feel one coming now. Curse you! give me the
"How do I know? Agony and torture--ever since I got wet on that
Tom knew enough to guess his meaning, and felt Elsley's pulse and
"I tell you it turns every bone to red-hot iron!" almost screamed he.
"Neuralgia; rheumatic, I suppose," said Tom to himself. "Well, this is
not the thing to cure you: but you shall have it to keep you quiet." And
he measured him out a small dose.
"More, I tell you, more!" said Elsley, lifting up his head, and looking
"Not more while you are with me."
"With you! Who the devil sent you here?"
"John Briggs, John Briggs, if I did not mean you good, should I be here
now? Now do, like a reasonable man, tell me what you intend to do."
"What is that to you, or any man?" said Elsley, writhing with neuralgia.
"No concern of mine, of course: but your poor wife--you must see her."
"I can't, I won't!--that is, not yet! I tell you I cannot face the
thought of her, much less the sight of her, and her family,--that
Valencia! I'd rather the earth should open and swallow me! Don't talk to
me, I say!"
And hiding his face in his hands, he writhed with pain, while Thurnall
stood still patiently watching him, as a pointer dog does a partridge.
He had found his game, and did not intend to lose it.
"I am better now; quite well!" said he, as the laudanum began to work.
"Yes! I'll go--that will be it--go to ---- at once. He'll give me an
order for a magazine article; I'll earn ten pounds, and then off to
"If you want ten pounds, my good fellow, you can have them without
racking your brains over an article." Elsley looked up proudly.
"I do not borrow, sir!"
"Well--I'll give you five for those pistols. They are of no use to you,
and I shall want a spare brace for the East."
"Ah! I forgot them. I spent my last money on them," said he with a
shudder; "but I won't sell them to you at a fancy price--no dealings
between gentleman and gentleman. I'll go to a shop, and get for them
what they are worth."
"Very good. I'll go with you, if you like. I fancy I may get you a
better price for them than you would yourself: being rather a knowing
one about the pretty little barkers." And Tom took his arm, and walked
him quietly down into the street.
"If you ever go up those kennel-stairs again, friend," said he to
himself, "my name's not Tom Thurnall."
They walked to a gunsmith's shop in the Strand, where Tom had often
dealt, and sold the pistols for some three pounds.
"Now then let's go into 333, and get a mutton chop."
Elsley was too shy; he was "not fit to be seen."
"Come to my rooms, then, in the Adelphi, and have a wash and a shave. It
will make you as fresh as a lark again, and then we'll send out for the
eatables, and have a quiet chat."
Elsley did not say no. Thurnall took the thing as a matter of course,
and he was too weak and tired to argue with him. Beside, there was a
sort of relief in the company of a man who, though he knew all, chatted
on to him cheerily and quietly, as if nothing had happened; who at least
treated him as a sane man. From any one else he would have shrunk, lest
they should find him out: but a companion, who knew the worst, at least
saved him suspicion and dread.
His weakness, now that the collapse after passion had come on, clung to
any human friend. The very sound of Tom's clear sturdy voice seemed
pleasant to him, after long solitude and silence. At least it kept off
the fiends of memory.
Tom, anxious to keep Elsley's mind employed on some subject which should
not be painful, began chatting about the war and its prospects. Elsley
soon caught the cue, and talked with wild energy and pathos, opium-fed,
of the coming struggle between despotism and liberty, the arising of
Poland and Hungary, and all the grand dreams which then haunted minds
"By Jove!" said Tom, "you are yourself again now. Why don't you put all
that into a book!"
"I may perhaps," said Elsley proudly.
"And if it comes to that, why not come to the war, and see it for
yourself? A new country--one of the finest in the world. New scenery,
new actors,--Why, Constantinople itself is a poem! Yes, there is
another 'Revolt of Islam' to be written yet. Why don't you become our
war poet? Come and see the fighting; for there'll be plenty of it, let
them say what they will. The old bear is not going to drop his dead
donkey without a snap and a hug. Come along, and tell people what it's
all really like. There will be a dozen Cockneys writing battle songs,
I'll warrant, who never saw a man shot in their lives, not even a hare.
Come and give us the real genuine grit of it,--for if you can't, who
"It is a grand thought! The true war poets, after all, have been
warriors themselves. Koerner and Alcaeus fought as well as sang, and sang
because they fought. Old Homer, too,--who can believe that he had not
hewn his way through the very battles which he describes, and seen every
wound, every shape of agony? A noble thought, to go out with that army
against the northern Anarch, singing in the van of battle, as Taillefer
sang the song of Roland before William's knights, and to die like him,
the proto-martyr of the Crusade, with the melody yet upon one's lips!"
And his face blazed up with excitement.
"What a handsome fellow he is, after all, if there were but more of
him?" said Tom to himself. "I wonder if he'd fight, though, when the
singing-fever was off him."
He took Elsley upstairs into his bed-room, got him washed and shaved:
and sent out the woman of the house for mutton chops and stout, and
began himself setting out the luncheon table, while Elsley in the room
within chanted to himself snatches of poetry.
"The notion has taken: he's composing a war song already, I believe."
It actually was so: but Elsley's brain was weak and wandering; and he
was soon silent; and motionless so long, that Tom opened the door and
looked in anxiously.
He was sitting on a chair, his hands fallen on his lap, the tears
running down his face.
"Well?" asked Tom smilingly, not noticing the tears; "how goes on the
opera? I heard through the door the orchestra tuning for the prelude."
Elsley looked up in his face with a puzzled piteous expression.
"Do you know, Thurnall, I fancy at moments that my mind is not what it
was. Fancies flit from me as quickly as they come. I had twenty verses
five minutes ago, and now I cannot recollect one."
"No wonder," thought Tom to himself. "My clear fellow, recollect all
that you have suffered with this neuralgia. Believe me all you want is
animal strength. Chops and porter will bring all the verses back, or
better ones instead of them."
He tried to make Elsley eat; and Elsley tried himself: but failed. The
moment the meat touched his lips he loathed it, and only courtesy
prevented his leaving the room to escape the smell. The laudanum had
done its work upon his digestion. He tried the porter, and drank a
little: then, suddenly stopping, he pulled out a phial, dropped a heavy
dose of his poison into the porter, and tossed it off.
"Sold am I?" said Tom to himself. "He must have hidden the bottle as he
came out of the room with me. Oh, the cunning of those opium-eaters?
However, it will keep him quiet just now, and to Eaton Square I must
"You had better be quiet now, my dear fellow, after your dose; talking
will only excite you. Settle yourself on my bed, and I'll be back in an
So he put Elsley on his bed, carefully removing razors and pistols (for
he had still his fears of an outburst of passion), then locked him in,
ran down into the Strand, threw himself into a cab for Eaton Square, and
asked for Valencia.
Campbell had been there already; so Tom took care to tell nothing which
he had not told, expecting, and rightly, that he would not mention
Elsley's having fired at him. Lucia was still all but senseless, too
weak even to ask for Elsley; to attempt any meeting between her and her
husband would be madness.
"What will you do with the unhappy man, Mr. Thurnall?"
"Keep him under my eye, day and night, till he is either rational again,
"Do you think that he may?--Oh my poor sister!"
"I think that he may yet end very sadly, madam. There is no use
concealing the truth from you. All I can promise is, that I will treat
him as my own brother."
Valencia held out her fair hand to the young doctor. He stooped, and
lifted the tips of her fingers to his lips.
"I am not worthy of such an honour, madam. I shall study to deserve it."
And he bowed himself out, the same sturdy, self-confident Tom, doing
right, he hardly knew why, save that it was all in the way of business.
And now arose the puzzle, what to do with Elsley? He had set his heart
on going down to Whitbury the next day. He had been in England nearly
six months, and had not yet seen his father; his heart yearned, too,
after the old place, and Mark Armsworth, and many an old friend, whom he
might never see again. "However, that fellow I must see to, come what
will: business first and pleasure afterwards. If I make him all right--
if I even get him out of the world decently, I get the Scoutbush
interest on my side--though I believe I have it already. Still, it's as
well to lay people under as heavy an obligation as possible. I wish Miss
Valencia had asked me whether Elsley wanted any money: it's expensive
keeping him myself. However, poor thing, she has other matters to think
of: and I dare say, never knew the pleasures of an empty purse. Here we
are! Three-and-sixpence--eh, cabman? I suppose you think I was born
Saturday night? There's three shillings. Now, don't chaff me, my
excellent friend, or you will find you have met your match, and a leetle
And Tom hurried into his rooms, and found Elsley still sleeping.
He set to work, packing and arranging, for with him every moment found
its business: and presently heard his patient call faintly from the next
"Thurnall!" said he; "I have been a long journey. I have been to
Whitbury once more, and followed my father about his garden, and sat
upon my mother's knee. And she taught me one text, and no more. Over and
over again she said it, as she looked down at me with still sad eyes,
the same text which she spoke the day I left her for London. I never saw
her again. 'By this, my son, be admonished; of making of books there is
no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the
conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments; for
this is the whole duty of man.'.... Yes, I will go down to Whitbury,
and he a little child once more. I will take poor lodgings, and crawl
out day by day, down the old lanes, along the old river-banks, where I
fed my soul with fair and mad dreams, and reconsider it all from the
beginning;--and then die. No one need know me; and if they do, they
need not be ashamed of me, I trust--ashamed that a poet has risen up
among them, to speak words which have been heard across the globe. At
least, they need never know my shame--never know that I have broken the
heart of an angel, who gave herself to me, body and soul--attempted the
life of a man whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose--never know that I
have killed my own child!--that a blacker brand than Cain's is on my
brow!--Never know--Oh, my God, what care I? Let them know all, as long
as I can have done with shams and affectations, dreams, and vain
ambitions, and he just my own self once more, for one day, and then
And he burst into convulsive weeping.
"No, Tom, do not comfort me! I ought to die, and I shall die. I cannot
face her again; let her forget me, and find a husband who will--and be a
father to the children whom I neglected! Oh, my darlings, my darlings!
If I could but see you once again: but no! you too would ask me where I
had been so long. You too would ask me--your innocent faces at least
would--why I had killed your little brother!--Let me weep it out,
Thurnall; let me face it all! This very misery is a comfort, for it will
kill me all the sooner."
"If you really mean to go to Whitbury, my poor dear fellow," said Tom at
last, "I will start with you to-morrow morning. For I too must go; I
must see my father."
"You will really?" asked Elsley, who began to cling to him like a child.
"I will indeed. Believe me, you are right; you will find friends there,
and admirers too. I know one."
"You do?" asked he, looking up.
"Mary Armsworth, the banker's daughter."
"What! That purse-proud, vulgar man?"
"Don't be afraid of him. A truer and more delicate heart don't beat. No
one has more cause to say so than I. He will receive you with open arms,
and need be told no more than is necessary; while, as his friend, you
may defy gossip, and do just what you like."
Tom slipped out that afternoon, paid Elsley's pittance of rent at his
old lodgings; bought him a few necessary articles, and lent him, without
saying anything, a few more. Elsley sat all day as one in a dream,
moaning to himself at intervals, and following Tom vacantly with his
eyes, as he moved about the room. Excitement, misery, and opium were
fast wearing out body and mind, and Tom put him to bed that evening, as
he would have put a child.
Tom walked out into the Strand to smoke in the fresh air, and think, in
spite of himself, of that fair saint from whom he was so perversely
flying. Gay girls slithered past him, looked round at him, but in vain;
those two great sad eyes hung in his fancy, and he could see nothing
else. Ah--if she had but given him back his money--why, what a fool he
would have made of himself! Better as it was. He was meant to be a
vagabond and an adventurer to the last; and perhaps to find at last the
luck which had flitted away before him.
He passed one of the theatre doors; there was a group outside, more
noisy and more earnest than such groups are wont to be; and ere he could
pass through them, a shout from within rattled the doors with its mighty
pulse, and seemed to shake the very walls. Another; and another!--What
was it? Fire?
No. It was the news of Alma.
And the group surged to and fro outside, and talked, and questioned, and
rejoiced; and smart gents forgot their vulgar pleasures, and looked for
a moment as if they too could have fought--had fought--at Alma; and
sinful girls forgot their shame, and looked more beautiful than they had
done for many a day, as, beneath the flaring gas-light, their faces
glowed for a while with noble enthusiasm, and woman's sacred pity, while
they questioned Tom, taking him for an officer, as to whether he thought
there were many killed.
"I am no officer: but I have been in many a battle, and I know the
Russians well, and have seen how they fight; and there is many a brave
man killed, and many a one more will be."
"Oh, does it hurt them much?" asked one poor thing.
"Not often," quoth Tom.
"Thank God, thank God!" and she turned suddenly away, and with the
impulsive nature of her class, burst into violent sobbing and weeping.
Poor thing! perhaps among the men who fought and fell that day was he to
whom she owed the curse of her young life; and after him her lonely
heart went forth once more, faithful even in the lowest pit.
"You are strange creatures, women, women!" thought Tom: "but I knew that
many a year ago. Now then--the game is growing fast and furious, it
seems. Oh, that I may find myself soon in the thickest of it!"
So said Tom Thurnall; and so said Major Campbell, too, that night, as he
prepared everything to start next morning to Southampton. "The better
the day, the better the deed," quoth he. "When a man is travelling to a
better world, he need not be afraid of starting on a Sunday."
THE BANKER AND HIS DAUGHTER.
Tom and Elsley are safe at Whitbury at last; and Tom, ere he has seen
his father, has packed Elsley safe away in lodgings with an old dame
whom he can trust. Then he asks his way to his father's new abode; a
small old-fashioned house, with low bay windows jutting out upon the
Tom stops, and looks in the window. His father is sitting close to it,
in his arm-chair, his hands upon his knees, his face lifted to the
sunlight, with chin slightly outstretched, and his pale eyes feeling for
the light. The expression would have been painful, but for its perfect
sweetness and resignation. His countenance is not, perhaps, a strong
one; but its delicacy, and calm, and the high forehead, and the long
white locks, are most venerable. With a blind man's exquisite sense, he
feels Tom's shadow fall on him, and starts, and calls him by name; for
he has been expecting him, and thinking of nothing else all the morning,
and takes for granted that it must be he.
In another moment Tom is at his father's side. What need to describe the
sacred joy of those first few minutes, even if it were possible? But
unrestrained tenderness between man and man, rare as it is, and, as it
were, unaccustomed to itself, has no passionate fluency, no metaphor or
poetry, such as man pours out to woman, and woman again to man. All its
language lies in the tones, the looks, the little half-concealed
gestures, hints which pass themselves off modestly in jest; and such was
Tom's first interview with his father; till the old Isaac, having felt
Tom's head and hands again and again, to be sure whether it were his
very son or no, made him sit down by him, holding him still fast, and
"Now, tell me, tell me, while Jane gets you something to eat. No, Jane,
you mustn't talk to Master Tom yet, to bother about how much he's
grown;--nonsense, I must have him all to myself, Jane. Go and get him
some dinner. Now, Tom," as if he was afraid of losing a moment; "you
have been a dear boy to write to me every week; but there are so many
questions which only word of mouth will answer, and I have stored up
dozens of them! I want to know what a coral reef really looks like, and
if you saw any trepangs upon them? And what sort of strata is the gold
really in? And you saw one of those giant rays; I want a whole hour's
talk about the fellow. And--What an old babbler I am! talking to you
when you should be talking to me. Now begin. Let us have the trepangs
first. Are they real Holothurians or not?"
And Tom began, and told for a full half-hour, interrupted then by some
little comment of the old man's, which proved how prodigious was the
memory within, imprisoned and forced to feed upon itself.
"You seem to know more about Australia than I do, father," said Tom at
"No, child; but Mary Armsworth, God bless her! comes down here almost
every evening to read your letters to me; and she has been reading to me
a book of Mrs. Lee's Adventures in Australia, which reads like a novel;
delicious book--to me at least. Why, there is her step outside, I do
believe, and her father's with her!"
The lighter woman's step was inaudible to Tom; but the heavy, deliberate
waddle of the banker was not. He opened the house-door, and then the
parlour-door, without knocking; but when he saw the visitor, he stopped
on the threshold with outstretched arms.
"Hillo, ho! who have we here? Our prodigal son returned, with his
pockets full of nuggets from the diggings. Oh, mum's the word, is it?"
as Tom laid his finger on his lips. "Come here, then, and let's have a
look at you!" and he catches both Tom's hands in his, and almost shakes
them off. "I knew you were coming, old boy! Mary told me--she's in all
the old man's secrets. Come along, Mary, and see your old playfellow.
She has got a little fruit for the old gentleman. Mary, where are you I
always colloguing with Jane."
Mary comes in: a little dumpty body, with a yellow face, and a red nose,
the smile of an angel, and a heart full of many little secrets of other
people's--and of one great one of her own, which is no business of any
man's--and with fifty thousand pounds as her portion, for she is an only
child. But no man will touch that fifty thousand; for "no one would
marry me for myself," says Mary; "and no one shall marry me for my
So she greets Tom shyly and humbly, without looking in his face, yet
very cordially; and then slips away to deposit on the table a noble
"A little bit of fruit from her greenhouse," says the old man in a
disparaging tone: "and, oh Jane, bring me a saucer. Here's a sprat I
just capered out of Hemmelford mill-pit; perhaps the Doctor would like
it fried for supper, if it's big enough not to fall through the
Jane, who knows Mark Armsworth's humour, brings in the largest dish in
the house, and Mark pulls out of his basket a great three-pound trout.
"Aha! my young rover; Old Mark's right hand hasn't forgot its cunning,
eh? And this is the month for them; fish all quiet now. When fools go
a-shooting, wise men go a-fishing! Eh? Come here, and look me over. How
do I wear, eh? As like a Muscovy duck as ever, you young rogue? Do you
recollect asking me, at the Club dinner, why I was like a Muscovy duck?
Because I was a fat thing in green velveteen, with a bald red head, that
was always waddling about the river bank. Ah, those were days! We'll
have some more of them. Come up to-night and try the old '21 bin."
"I must have him myself to-night; indeed I must, Mark," says the Doctor.
"All to yourself you selfish old rogue?"
"We'll come down, then, Mary and I, and bring the '21 with us, and hear
all his cock-and-bull stories. Full of travellers' lies as ever, eh?
Well, I'll come, and smoke my pipe with you. Always the same old Mark,
my lad," nudging Tom with his elbow; "one fellow comes and borrows my
money, and goes out and calls me a stingy old hunks because I won't let
him cheat me; another comes, and eats my pines, and drinks my port, goes
home, and calls me a purse-proud upstart, because he can't match 'em.
Never mind; old Mark's old Mark; sound in the heart, and sound in the
liver, just the same as thirty years ago, and will be till he takes his
last quietus est--
'And drops into his grassy nest.'
Bye, bye, Doctor! Come, Mary!"
And out he toddled, with silent little Mary at his heels.
"Old Mark wears well, body and soul," said Tom.
"He is a noble, generous fellow, and as delicate-hearted as a woman
withal, in spite of his conceit and roughness. Fifty and odd years now,
Tom, have we been brothers, and I never found him change. And brothers
we shall be, I trust, a few years more, till I see you back again from
the East, comfortably settled. And then--"
"Don't talk of that, sir, please!" said Tom, quite quickly and sharply.
"How ill poor Mary looks!"
"So they say, poor child; and one hears it in her voice. Ah, Tom, that
girl is an angel; she has been to me daughter, doctor, clergyman, eyes
and library; and would have been nurse too, if it had not been for
making old Jane jealous. But she is ill. Some love affair, I suppose--"
"How quaint it is, that the father has kept all the animal vigour to
himself, and transmitted none to the daughter."
"He has not kept the soul to himself, Tom, or the eyes either. She will
bring me in wild flowers, and talk to me about them, till I fancy I can
see them as well as ever. Ah, well! It is a sweet world still, Tom, and
there are sweet souls in it. A sweet world: I was too fond of looking at
it once, I suppose, so God took away my sight, that I might learn to
look at Him." And the old man lay back in his chair, and covered his
face with his handkerchief, and was quite still awhile. And Tom watched
him, and thought that he would give all his cunning and power to be like
that old man.
Then Jane came in, and laid the cloth,--a coarse one enough,--and Tom
picked a cold mutton bone with a steel fork, and drank his pint of beer
from the public-house, and lighted his father's pipe, and then his own,
and vowed that he had never dined so well in his life, and began his
traveller's stories again.
And in the evening Mark came in, with a bottle of the '21 in his
coat-tail pocket; and the three sat and chatted, while Mary brought out
her work, and stitched listening silently, till it was time to lead the
old man upstairs.
Tom put his father to bed, and then made a hesitating request--
"There is a poor sick man whom I brought down with me, sir, if you could
spare me half-an-hour. It really is a professional case; he is under my
charge, I may say."
"What is it, boy?"
"Well, laudanum and a broken heart."
"Exercise and ammonia for the first. For the second, God's grace and the
grave: and those latter medicines you can't exhibit, my dear boy. Well,
as it is professional duty, I suppose you must: but don't exceed the
hour; I shall lie awake till you return, and then you must talk me to
So Tom went out and homeward with Mark and Mary, for their roads lay
together; and as he went, he thought good to tell them somewhat of the
history of John Briggs, alias Elsley Vavasour.
"Poor fool!" said Mark, who listened in silence to the end. "Why didn't
he mind his bottles, and just do what Heaven sent him to do? Is he in
want of the rhino, Tom?"
"He had not five shillings left after he had paid his fare; and he
refuses to ask his wife for a farthing."
"Quite right--very proper spirit." And Mark walked on in silence a few
"I say, Tom, a fool and his money are soon parted. There's a five-pound
note for him, you begging, insinuating dog, and be hanged to you both! I
shall die in the workhouse at this rate."
"Oh father, you will never miss--"
"Who told you I thought I should, pray? Don't you go giving another five
pounds out of your pocket-money behind my back, ma'am. I know your
tricks of old. Tom, I'll come and see the poor beggar to-morrow with you,
and call him Mr. Vavasour--Lord Vavasour, if he likes--if you'll warrant
me against laughing in his face." And the old man did laugh, till he
stopped and held his sides again.
"Oh, father, father, don't be so cruel. Remember how wretched the poor
"I can't think of anything but old Bolus's boy turned poet. Why did you
tell me, Tom, you bad fellow? It's too much for a man at my time of
life, and after his dinner too."
And with that he opened the little gate by the side of the grand one,
and turned to ask Tom--
"Won't come in, boy, and have one more cigar?"
"I promised my father to be back as quickly as possible."
"Good lad--that's the plan to go on--
'You'll be churchwarden before all's over,
And so arrive at wealth and fame.'
Instead of writing po-o-o-etry? Do you recollect that morning, and the
black draught? Oh dear, my side!"
And Tom heard him keckling to himself up the garden walk to his house;
went off to see that Elsley was safe; and then home, and slept like a
top; no wonder, for he would have done so the night before his
And what was little Mary doing all the while?
She had gone up to the room, after telling her father, with a kiss, not
to forget to say his prayers. And then she fed her canary bird, and made
up the Persian cat's bed; and then sat long at the open window, gazing
out over the shadow-dappled lawn, away to the poplars sleeping in the
moonlight, and the shining silent stream, and the shining silent stars,
till she seemed to become as one of them, and a quiet heaven within her
eyes took counsel with the quiet heaven above. And then she drew in
suddenly, as if stung by some random thought, and shut the window. A
picture hung over her mantelpiece--a portrait of her mother, who had
been a country beauty in her time. She glanced at it, and then at the
looking-glass. Would she have given her fifty thousand pounds to have
exchanged her face for such a face as that?
She caught up her little Thomas a Kempis, marked through and through
with lines and references, and sat and read steadfastly for an hour and
more. That was her school, as it has been the school of many a noble
soul. And, for some cause or other, that stinging thought returned no
more; and she knelt and prayed like a little child; and like a little
child slept sweetly all the night, and was away before breakfast the
next morning, after feeding the canary and the cat, to old women who
worshipped her as their ministering angel, and said, looking after her:
"That dear Miss Mary, pity she is so plain! Such a match as she might
have made! But she'll be handsome enough, when she is a blessed angel in
Ah, true sisters of mercy, whom the world sneers at as "old maids," if
you pour out on cats and dogs and parrots, a little of the love which is
yearning to spend itself on children of your own flesh and blood! As
long as such as you walk this lower world, one needs no Butler's Analogy
to prove to us that there is another world, where such as you will have
a fuller and a fairer (I dare not say a juster) portion.
* * * * *
Next morning Mark started with Tom to call on Elsley, chatting and
puffing all the way.
"I'll butter him, trust me. Nothing comforts a poor beggar like a bit of
praise when he's down; and all fellows that take to writing are as
greedy after it as trout after the drake, even if they only scribble in
county newspapers. I've watched them when I've been electioneering, my
"Only," said Tom, "don't be angry with him if he is proud and peevish.
The poor fellow is all but mad with misery."
"Poh! quarrel with him? whom did I ever quarrel with? If he barks, I'll
stop his mouth with a good dinner. I suppose he's gentleman enough, to
"As much a gentleman as you and I; not of the very first water, of
course. Still he eats like other people, and don't break many glasses
during a sitting. Think! he couldn't have been a very great cad to marry
a nobleman's daughter!"
"Why, no. Speaks well for him, that, considering his breeding. He must
be a very clever fellow to have caught the trick of the thing so soon."
"And so he is, a very clever fellow; too clever by half; and a very
fine-hearted fellow, too, in spite of his conceit and his temper. But
that don't prevent his being an awful fool!"
"You speak like a book, Tom!" said old Mark, clapping him on the back.
"Look at me! no one can say I was ever troubled with genius: but I can
show my money, pay my way, eat my dinner, kill my trout, hunt my hounds,
help a lame dog over a stile" (which was Mark's phrase for doing a
generous thing), "and thank God for all; and who wants more, I should
like to know? But here we are--you go up first!"
They found Elsley crouched up over the empty grate, his head in his
hands, and a few scraps of paper by him, on which he had been trying to
scribble. He did not look up as they came in, but gave a sort of
impatient half-turn, as if angry at being disturbed. Tom was about to
announce the banker; but he announced himself.
"Come to do myself the honour of calling on you, Mr. Vavasour. I am
sorry to see you so poorly; I hope our Whitbury air will set all right."
"You mistake me, sir; my name is Briggs!" said Elsley, without turning
his head; but a moment after he looked up angrily.
"Mr. Armsworth? I beg your pardon, sir; but what brings you here? Are
you come, sir, to use the rich successful man's right, and lecture me in
"'Pon my word, sir, you must have forgotten old Mark Armsworth, indeed,
if you fancy him capable of any such dirt. No, sir, I came to pay my
respects to you, sir, hoping that you'd come up and take a family
dinner. I could do no less," ran on the banker, seeing that Elsley was
preparing a peevish answer, "considering the honour that, I hear, you
have been to your native town. A very distinguished person, our friend
Tom tells me; and we ought to be proud of you, and behave to you as you
deserve, for I am sure we don't send too many clever fellows out of
"Would that you had never sent me!" said Elsley in his bitter way.
"Ah, sir, that's matter of opinion! You would never have been heard of
down here, never have had justice done you, I mean; for heard of you
have been. There's my daughter has read your poems again and again--
always quoting them; and very pretty they sound too. Poetry is not in my
line, of course; still, it's a credit to a man to do anything well, if
he has the gift; and she tells me that you have it, and plenty of it.
And though she's no fine lady, thank Heaven, I'll back her for good
sense against any woman. Come up, sir, and judge for yourself if I don't
speak the truth; she will be delighted to meet you, and bade me say so."
By this time good Mark had talked himself out of breath; and Elsley
flushing up, as of old, at a little praise, began to stammer an excuse.
"His nerves were so weak, and his spirits so broken with late troubles."
"My dear sir, that's the very reason I want you to come. A bottle of
port will cure the nerves, and a pleasant chat the spirits. Nothing like
forgetting all for a little time; and then to it again with a fresh
lease of strength, and beat it at last like a man."
"Too late, my dear sir; I must pay the penalty of my own folly," said
Elsley, really won by the man's cordiality.
"Never too late, sir, while there's life left in us. And," he went on in
a gentler tone, "if we all were to pay for our own follies, or lie down
and die when we saw them coming full cry at our heels, where would any
one of us be by now? I have been a fool in my time, young gentleman,
more than once or twice; and that too when I was old enough to be your
father: and down I went, and deserved what I got: but my rule always
was--Fight fair; fall soft; know when you've got enough; and don't cry
out when you've got it: but just go home; train again; and say--better
luck next fight." And so old Mark's sermon ended (as most of them did)
in somewhat Socratic allegory, savouring rather of the market than of
the study; but Elsley understood him, and looked up with a smile.
"You too are somewhat of a poet in your way, I see, sir!"
"I never thought to live to hear that, sir. I can't doubt now that you
are cleverer than your neighbours, for you have found out something
which they never did. But you will come?--for that's my business."
Elsley looked inquiringly at Tom; he had learnt now to consult his eye,
and lean on him like a child. Tom looked a stout yes, and Elsley said
"You have given me so much new and good advice in a few minutes, sir,
that I must really do myself the pleasure of coming and hearing more."
"Well done, our side!" cried old Mark. "Dinner at half-past five. No
London late hours here, sir. Miss Armsworth will be out of her mind when
she hears you're coming."
And off he went.
"Do you think he'll come up to the scratch, Tom?"
"I am very much afraid his courage will fail him. I will see him again,
and bring him up with me: but now, my dear Mr. Armsworth, do remember
one thing; that if you go on with him at your usual rate of hospitality,
the man will as surely be drunk, as his nerves and brain are all but
ruined; and if he is so, he will most probably destroy himself to-morrow
"He will. The shame of making a fool of himself just now before you will
be more than he could bear. So be stingy for once. He will not wish for
it unless you press him; but if he talks (and he will talk after the
first half-hour), he will forget himself, and half a bottle will make
him mad; and then I won't answer for the consequences."
"Good gracious! why, these poets want as tender handling as a bag of
gunpowder over the fire."
"You speak like a book there in your turn." And Tom went home to his
He returned in due time. A new difficulty had arisen. Elsley, under the
excitement of expectation, had gone out and deigned to buy laudanum--so
will an unhealthy craving degrade a man!--of old Bolus himself, who
luckily did not recognise him. He had taken his fullest dose, and was
now unable to go anywhere or do anything. Tom did not disturb him: but
went away, sorely perplexed, and very much minded to tell a white lie to
Armsworth, in whose eyes this would be an offence--not unpardonable, for
nothing with him was unpardonable, save lying or cruelty--but very
grievous. If a man had drunk too much wine in his house, he would have
simply kept his eye on him afterwards, as a fool who did not know when
he had his "quotum;" but laudanum drinking,--involving, too, the
breaking of an engagement, which, well managed, might have been of
immense use to Elsley,--was a very different matter. So Tom knew not
what to say or do; and not knowing, determined to wait on Providence,
smartened himself as best he could, went up to the great house, and
found Miss Mary.
"I'll tell her. She will manage it somehow, if she is a woman; much more
if she is an angel, as my father says."
Mary looked very much shocked and grieved; answered hardly a word; but
said at last, "Come in, while I go and see my father." He came into the
smart drawing-room, which he could see was seldom used; for Mary lived
in her own room, her father in his counting-house, or in his "den." In
ten minutes she came down. Tom thought she had been crying.
"I have settled it. Poor unhappy man! We will talk of something more
pleasant. Tell me about your shipwreck, and that place,--Aberalva, is it
not? What a pretty name!"
Tom told her, wondering then, and wondering long afterwards, how she had
"settled it" with her father. She chatted on artlessly enough, till the
old man came in, and to dinner, in capital humour, without saying one
word of Elsley.
"How has the old lion been tamed?" thought Tom. "The two greatest
affronts you could offer him in old times were, to break an engagement,
and to despise his good cheer." He did not know what the quiet oil on
the waters of such a spirit as Mary's can effect.
The evening passed pleasantly enough till nine, in chatting over old
times, and listening to the history of every extraordinary trout and fox
which had been killed within twenty miles, when the footboy entered with
a somewhat scared face.
"Please, sir, is Mr. Vavasour here?"
"Here? Who wants him?"
"Mrs. Brown, sir, in Hemmelford Street. Says he lodges with her, and has
been to seek for him at Dr. Thurnall's."
"I think you had better go, Mr. Thurnall," said Mary, quietly.
"Indeed you had, boy. Bother poets, and the day they first began to
breed in Whitbury! Such an evening spoilt! Have a cup of coffee? No?
then a glass of sherry?"
Out went Tom. Mrs. Brown had been up, and seen him seemingly sleeping;
then had heard him run downstairs hurriedly. He passed her in the
passage, looking very wild. "Seemed, sir, just like my nevy's wife's
brother, Will Ford, before he made away with hes'self."
Tom goes off post haste, revolving many things in a crafty heart. Then
he steers for Bolus's shop. Bolus is at "The Angler's Arms;" but his
assistant is in.
"Did a gentleman call here just now, in a long cloak, with a felt
"Yes." And the assistant looks confused enough for Tom to rejoin,--
"And you sold him laudanum?"
"And you had sold him laudanum already this afternoon, you young rascal?
How dare you, twice in six hours? I'll hold you responsible for the
"You dare call me a rascal?" blusters the youth, terror-stricken at
finding how much Tom knows.
"I am a member of the College of Surgeons," says Tom, recovering his
coolness, "and have just been dining with Mr. Armsworth. I suppose you
The assistant shook in his shoes at the name of that terrible justice of
the peace and of the war also; and meekly and contritely he replied,--
"Oh sir, what shall I do?"
"You're in a very neat scrape; you could not have feathered your nest
better," says Tom, quietly filling his pipe, and thinking. "As you
behave now, I will get you out of it, or leave you to--you know what, as
well as I. Get your hat."
He went out, and the youth followed trembling, while Tom formed his
plans in his mind.
"The wild beast goes home to his lair to die, and so may he; for I fear
it's life and death now. I'll try the house where he was born. Somewhere
in Water Lane it is I know."
And toward Water Lane he hurried. It was a low-lying offshoot of the
town, leading along the water meadows, with a straggling row of houses
on each side, the perennial haunts of fever and ague. Before them, on
each side the road, and fringed with pollard willows and tall poplars,
ran a tiny branch of the Whit, to feed some mill below; and spread out,
meanwhile, into ponds and mires full of offal and duckweed and rank
floating grass. A thick mist hung knee-deep over them, and over the
gardens right and left; and as Tom came down on the lane from the main
street above, he could see the mist spreading across the water-meadows
and reflecting the moon-beams like a lake; and as he walked into it, he
felt as if he were walking down a well. And he hurried down the lane,
looking out anxiously ahead for the long cloak.
At last he came to a better sort of house. That might be it. He would
take the chance. There was a man of the middle class, and two or three
women, standing at the gate. He went up--
"Pray, sir, did a medical man named Briggs ever live here?"
"What do you want to know for?"
"Why"--Tom thought matters were too serious for delicacy--"I am looking
for a gentleman, and thought he might have come here."
"And so he did, if you mean one in a queer hat and a cloak."
"How long since?"
"Why, he came up our garden an hour or more ago; walked right into the
parlour without with your leave, or by your leave, and stared at us all
round like one out of his mind; and so away, as soon as ever I asked him
what he was at--"
"To the river, I expect: I ran out, and saw him go down the lane, but I
was not going far by night alone with any such strange customers."
"Lend me a lanthorn then, for Heaven's sake!"
The lanthorn is lent, and Tom starts again down the lane.
Now to search. At the end of the lane is a cross road parallel to the
river. A broad still ditch lies beyond it, with a little bridge across,
where one gets minnows for bait: then a broad water-meadow; then silver
The bridge-gate is open. Tom hurries across the road to it. The lanthorn
shows him fresh footmarks going into the meadow. Forward!
Up and down in that meadow for an hour or more did Tom and the trembling
youth beat like a brace of pointer dogs, stumbling into gripes, and over
sleeping cows; and more than once stopping short just in time, as they
were walking into some broad and deep feeder.
Almost in despair, and after having searched down the river bank for
full two hundred yards, Tom was on the point of returning, when his eye
rested on a part of the stream where the mist lay higher than usual, and
let the reflection of the moonlight off the water reach his eye; and in
the moonlight ripples, close to the farther bank of the river--what was
that black lump?
Tom knew the spot well; the river there is very broad, and very shallow,
flowing round low islands of gravel and turf. It was very low just now
too, as it generally is in October: there could not be four inches of
water where the black lump lay, but on the side nearest him the water
was full knee deep.
The thing, whatever it was, was forty yards from him; and it was a cold
night for wading. It might be a hassock of rushes; a tuft of the great
water-dock; a dead dog; one of the "hangs" with which the club-water was
studded, torn up and stranded: but yet, to Tom, it had not a canny look.
"As usual! Here am I getting wet, dirty, and miserable, about matters
which are not the slightest concern of mine! I believe I shall end by
getting hanged or shot in somebody else's place, with this confounded
spirit of meddling. Yah! how cold the water is!"
For in he went, the grumbling honest dog; stepped across to the black
lump; and lifted it up hastily enough,--for it was Elsley Vavasour.
No. But wet through, and senseless from mingled cold and laudanum.
Whether he had meant to drown himself, and lighting on the shallow, had
stumbled on till he fell exhausted: or whether he had merely blundered
into the stream, careless whither he went, Tom knew not, and never knew;
for Elsley himself could not recollect.
Tom took him in his arms, carried him ashore and up through the water
meadow; borrowed a blanket and a wheelbarrow at the nearest cottage;
wrapped him up; and made the offending surgeon's assistant wheel him to
He sat with him there an hour; and then entered Mark's house again with
his usual composed face, to find Mark and Mary sitting up in great
"Mr. Armsworth, does the telegraph work at this time of night?"
"I'll make it, if it is wanted. But what's the matter?"
"You will indeed?"
"'Gad, I'll go myself and kick up the station-master. What's the
"That if poor Mrs. Vavasour wishes to see her husband alive, she must be
here in four-and-twenty hours. I'll tell you all presently--"
"Mary, my coat and comforter!" cries Mark, jumping up.
"And, Mary, a pen and ink to write the message," says Tom.
"Oh! cannot I be of any use?" says Mary.
"No, you angel."
"You must not call me an angel, Mr. Thurnall. After all, what can I do
which you have not done already?"
Tom started. Grace had once used to him the very same words. By the by,
what was it in the two women which made them so like? Certainly, neither
face nor fortune. Something in the tones of their voices.
"Ah! if Grace had Mary's fortune, or Mary Grace's face!" thought Tom, as
he hurried back to Elsley, and Mark rushed down to the station.
Elsley was conscious when he returned, and only too conscious. All night
he screamed in agonies of rheumatic fever; by the next afternoon he was
failing fast; his heart was affected; and Tom knew that he might die any
The evening train brings two ladies, Valencia and Lucia. At the risk of
her life, the poor faithful wife has come.
A gentleman's carriage is waiting for them, though they have ordered
none; and as they go through the station-room, a plain little
well-dressed body comes humbly up to them--
"Are either of these ladies Mrs. Vavasour?"
"Yes! I!--I!--is he alive?" gasps Lucia.
"Alive, and better! and expecting you--"
"Better?--expecting me?" almost shrieks she, as Valencia and Mary (for
it is she) help her to the carriage. Mary puts them in, and turns away.
"Are you not coming too?" asks Valencia, who is puzzled.
"No, thank you, madam; I am going to take a walk. John, you know where
to drive these ladies."
Little Mary does not think it necessary to say that she, with her
father's carriage, has been down to two other afternoon trains, upon the
chance of finding them.
But why is not Frank Headley with them, when he is needed most? And why
are Valencia's eyes more red with weeping than even her sister's sorrow
need have made them?
Because Frank Headley is rolling away in a French railway, on his road
to Marseilles, and to what Heaven shall find for him to do.
Yes, he is gone Eastward Ho among the many; will he come Westward Ho
again, among the few?
They are at the door of Elsley's lodgings now. Tom Thurnall meets them
there, and bows them upstairs silently. Lucia is so weak that she has to
cling to the banister a moment; and then, with a strong shudder, the
spirit conquers the flesh, and she hurries up before them both.
It is a small low room--Valencia had expected that: but she had
expected, too, confusion and wretchedness: for a note from Major
Campbell, ere he started, had told her of the condition in which Elsley
had been found. Instead, she finds neatness--even gaiety; fresh damask
linen, comfortable furniture, a vase of hothouse flowers, while the air
was full of cool perfumes. No one is likely to tell her that Mary has
furnished all at Tom's hint--"We must smarten up the place, for the poor
wife's sake. It will take something off the shock; and I want to avoid
shocks for her."
So Tom had worked with his own hands that morning; arranging the room as
carefully as any woman, with that true doctor's forethought and
consideration, which often issues in the loftiest, because the most
He paused at the door--
"Will you go in?" whispered he to Valencia, in a tone which meant--"you
had better not."
"Not yet--I daresay he is too weak."
Lucia darted in, and Tom shut the door behind her, and waited at the
stair-head. "Better," thought he, "to let the two poor creatures settle
their own concerns. It must end soon, in any case."
Lucia rushed to the bed-side, drew back the curtains--
"Tom!" moaned Elsley.
"Lucia?--Lucia St. Just!" answered he, in a low abstracted voice, as if
trying to recollect.