Part 7 out of 7
"I have done it now!"
No: the ball had luckily buried itself in the ground.
Tom turned, to rush down hill again, and meet the impatient Stangrave.
Yes! And, prodigy on prodigy, up the hill towards him charged, as he
would upon a whole army, a Prussian gendarme, with bayonet fixed.
Tom sat down upon the mountain-side, and burst into inextinguishable
laughter, while the gendarme came charging up, right toward his very
But up to his nose he charged not; for his wind was short, and the noise
of his roaring went before him. Moreover, he knew that Tom had a
revolver, and was a "mad Englishman." Now, he was not afraid of Tom, or
of a whole army: but he was a man of drills and of orders, of rules and
of precedents, as a Prussian gendarme ought to be; and for the modes of
attacking infantry, cavalry, and artillery, man, woman, and child, thief
and poacher, stray pig, or even stray wolf, he had drill and orders
sufficient: but for attacking a Colt's revolver, none.
Moreover, for arresting all manner of riotous Burschen, drunken boors,
French red Republicans, Mazzini-hatted Italian refugees, suspect Polish
incendiaries, or other feras naturse, he had precedent and regulation:
but for arresting a mad Englishman, none. He held fully the opinion of
his superiors, that there was no saying what an Englishman might not,
could not, and would not do. He was a sphinx, a chimera, a lunatic broke
loose, who took unintelligible delight in getting wet, and dirty, and
tired, and starved, and all but lolled; and called the same "taking
exercise:" who would see everything that nobody ever cared to see, and
who knew mysteriously everything about everywhere; whose deeds were like
his opinions, utterly subversive of all constituted order in heaven and
earth; being, probably, the inhabitant of another planet; possibly the
man in the moon himself, who had been turned out, having made his native
satellite too hot to hold him. All that was to be done with him was to
inquire whether his passport was correct, and then (with a due regard to
self-preservation) to endure his vagaries in pitying wonder.
So the gendarme paused panting; and not daring to approach, walked
slowly and solemnly round Tom, keeping the point of his bayonet
carefully towards him, and roaring at intervals--
"You have murdered the young man!"
"But I have not!" said Tom. "Look and see."
"But I saw him fall!"
"But he has got up again, and run away."
"So! Then where is your passport?"
That one other fact cognisable by the mind of a Prussian gendarme,
remained as an anchor for his brains under the new and trying
circumstances, and he used it. "Here!" quoth Tom, pulling it out.
The gendarme stepped cautiously forward.
"Don't be frightened. I'll stick it on your bayonet-point;" and suiting
the action to the word, Tom caught the bayonet-point, put the passport
on it, and pulled out his cigar-case.
"Mad Englishman!" murmured the gendarme. "So! The passport is correct.
But der Herr must consider himself under arrest. Der Herr will give up
"By all means," says Tom: and gives up the revolver.
The gendarme takes it very cautiously; meditates awhile how to carry it;
sticks the point of his bayonet into its muzzle, and lifts it aloft.
"Schon! Das kriegt! Has der Herr any more death-instruments?"
"Dozens!" says Tom, and begins fumbling in his pockets; from whence he
pulls a case of surgical instruments, another of mathematical ones,
another of lancets, and a knife with innumerable blades, saws, and
pickers, every one of which he opens carefully, and then spreads the
whole fearful array upon the grass before him.
The gendarme scratches his head over those too plain proofs of some
"So! Man must have a dozen hands! He is surely Palmerston himself; or at
least Hecker, or Mazzini!" murmurs he, as he meditates how to stow them
He thinks now that the revolver may be safe elsewhere; and that the
knife will do best on the bayonet-point So he unships the revolver.
Bang goes barrel number two, and the ball goes into the turf between his
"You will shoot yourself soon, at that rate," says Tom.
"So? Der Herr speaks German like a native," says the gendarme, growing
complimentary in his perplexity. "Perhaps der Herr would be so good as
to carry his death-instruments himself, and attend on the Herr
Polizeirath, who is waiting to see him."
"By all means!" And Tom picks up his tackle, while the prudent gendarme
reloads; and Tom marches down the hill, the gendarme following, with his
bayonet disagreeably near the small of Tom's back.
"Don't stumble! Look out for the stones, or you'll have that skewer
"So! Der Herr speaks German like a native," says the gendarme, civilly.
"It is certainly der Palmerston," thinks he, "his manners are so
Once at the crater edge, and able to see into the pit, the mystery is,
in part at least, explained: for there stand not only Stangrave and
Bursch number two, but a second gendarme, two elderly gentlemen, two
ladies, and a black boy.
One is Lieutenant D----, by his white moustache. He is lecturing the
Bursch, who looks sufficiently foolish. The other is a portly and
awful-looking personage in uniform, evidently the Polizeirath of those
parts, armed with the just terrors of the law: but Justice has, if not
her eyes bandaged, at least her hands tied; for on his arm hangs Sabina,
smiling, chatting, entreating. The Polizeirath smiles, bows, ogles,
evidently a willing captive. Venus had disarmed Rhadamanthus, as she has
Mars so often; and the sword of Justice must rust in its scabbard.
Some distance behind them is Stangrave, talking in a low voice,
earnestly, passionately,--to whom but to Marie?
And lastly, opposite each other, and like two dogs who are uncertain
whether to make friends or fight, are a gendarme and Sabina's black boy:
the gendarme, with shouldered musket, is trying to look as stiff and
cross as possible, being scandalised by his superior officer's defection
from the path of duty; and still more by the irreverence of the black
boy, who is dancing, grinning, snapping his fingers, in delight at
having discovered and prevented the coming tragedy.
Tom descends, bowing courteously, apologises for having been absent when
the highly distinguished gentleman arrived; and turning to the Bursch,
begs him to transmit to his friend who has run away his apologies for
the absurd mistake which led him to, etc. etc.
The Polizeirath looks at him with much the same blank astonishment as
the gendarme had done; and at last ends by lifting up his hands, and
bursting into an enormous German laugh; and no one on earth can laugh as
a German can, so genially and lovingly, and with such intense
"Oh, you English! you English! You are all mad, I think! Nothing can
shame you, and nothing can frighten you! Potz! I believe when your
Guards at Alma walked into that battery the other day, every one of them
was whistling your Jim Crow, even after he was shot dead!" And the jolly
Polizeirath laughed at his own joke, till the mountain rang. "But you
must leave the country, sir; indeed you must. We cannot permit such
conduct here--I am very sorry."
"I entreat you not to apologise, sir. In any case, I was going to Alf by
eight o'clock, to meet the steamer for Treves. I am on my way to the war
in the East, via Marseilles. If you would, therefore, be so kind as to
allow the gendarme to return me that second revolver, which also belongs
"Give him his pistol!" shouted the magistrate.
"Potz! Let us be rid of him at any cost, and live in peace, like honest
Germans. Ah, poor Queen Victoria! What a lot! To have the government of
five-and-twenty million such!"
"Not five-and-twenty millions," says Sabina.
"That would include the ladies; and we are not mad too, surely, your
The Polizeirath likes to be called your Excellency, of course, or any
other mighty title which does or does not belong to him; and that Sabina
knows full well.
"Ah, my dear madam, how do I know that? The English ladies do every day
here what no other dames would dare or dream--what then, must you be at
home? Ach! your poor husbands!"
"Mr. Thurnall!" calls Marie, from behind. "Mr. Thurnall!"
Tom comes, with a quaint, dogged smile on his face.
"You see him, Mr. Stangrave! You see the man who risked for me liberty,
life,--who rescued me from slavery, shame, suicide,--who was to me a
brother, a father, for years!--without whose disinterested heroism you
would never have set eyes on the face which you pretend to love. And you
repay him by suspicion--insult--Apologise to him, sir! Ask his pardon
now, here, utterly, humbly: or never speak to Marie Lavington again!"
Tom looked first at her, and then at Stangrave. Marie was convulsed with
excitement; her thin cheeks were crimson, her eyes flashed very flame.
Stangrave was pale--calm outwardly, but evidently not within. He was
looking on the ground, in thought so intense that he hardly seemed to
hear Marie. Poor fellow! he had heard enough in the last ten minutes to
bewilder any brain.
At last he seemed to have strung himself for an effort, and spoke,
without looking up.
"I have done you a great wrong!"
"We will say no more about it, sir. It was a mistake, and I do not wish
to complicate the question. My true ground of quarrel with you is your
conduct to Miss Lavington. She seems to have told you her true name, so
I shall call her by it."
"What I have done, I have undone!" said Stangrave, looking up. "If I
have wronged her, I have offered to right her; if I have left her, I
have sought her again; and if I left her when I knew nothing, now that I
know all, I ask her here, before you, to become my wife!"
Tom looked inquiringly at Marie.
"Yes; I have told him all--all?" and she hid her face in her hands.
"Well," said Tom, "Mr. Stangrave is a very enviable person; and the
match in a worldly point of view, is a most fortunate one for Miss
Lavington; and that stupid rascal of a gendarme has broken my revolver."
"But I have not accepted him," cried Marie; "and I will not unless you
give me leave."
Tom saw Stangrave's brow lower, and pardonably enough, at this.
"My dear Miss Lavington, as I have never been able to settle my own love
affairs satisfactorily to myself, I do not feel at all competent to
settle other people's. Good-bye! I shall be late for the steamer." And,
bowing to Stangrave and Marie, he turned to go.
"Sabina! Stop him!" cried she; "he is going, without even a kind word!"
"Sabina," whispered Tom as he passed her,--"a had business--selfish
coxcomb; when her beauty goes, won't stand her temper and her
flightiness: but I know you and Claude will take care of the poor thing,
if anything happens to me."
"Tut, tut, tut!--Good-bye, you sweet little sunbeam. Good morning,
And Tom hurried up the slope and out of sight, while Marie burst into an
agony of weeping.
"Gone, without a kind word!"
Stangrave bit his lip, not in anger, but in manly self-reproach.
"It is my fault, Marie! my fault! He knew me too well of old, and had
too much reason to despise me! But he shall have reason no longer. He
will come back, and find me worthy of you; and all will be forgotten.
Again I say it, I accept your quest, for life and death. So help me God
above, as I will not fail or falter, till I have won justice for you and
for your race! Marie?"
He conquered: how could he but conquer! for he was man, and she was
woman; and he looked more noble in her eyes, while he was confessing his
past weakness, than he had ever done in his proud assertion of strength.
But she spoke no word in answer. She let him take her hand, pass her arm
through his, and lead her away, as one who had a right.
They walked down the hill behind the rest of the party, blest, but
silent and pensive; he with the weight of the future, she with that of
"It is very wonderful," she said at last. "Wonderful ... that you can
care for me.... Oh, if I had known how noble you were, I should have
told you all at once."
"Perhaps I should have been as ignoble as ever," said Stangrave, "if
that young English Viscount had not put me on my mettle by his own
"No! no! Do not belie yourself. You know what he does not;--what I would
have died sooner than tell him."
Stangrave drew the arm closer through his, and clasped the hand. Marie
did not withdraw it.
"Wonderful, wonderful love!" she said quite humbly. Her theatric
passionateness had passed;--
"Nothing was left of her,
Now, but pure womanly."
"That you can love me--me, the slave; me, the scourged; the scarred--Oh
Stangrave! it is not much--not much really;--only a little mark or
"I will prize them," he answered, smiling through tears, "more than all
your loveliness. I will see in them God's commandment to me, written not
on tables of stone, but on fair, pure, noble flesh. My Marie! You shall
have cause even to rejoice in them!"
"I glory in them now; for, without them, I never should have known all
The next day Stangrave, Marie, and Sabina were hurrying home to England!
while Tom Thurnall was hurrying to Marseilles, to vanish Eastward Ho.
He has escaped once more: but his heart is hardened still. What will his
fall be like?
LAST CHRISTMAS EVE.
And now two years and more are past and gone; and all whose lot it was
have come Westward Ho once more, sadder and wiser men to their lives'
end; save one or two, that is, from whom not even Solomon's pestle and
mortar discipline would pound out the innate folly.
Frank has come home stouter and browner, as well as heartier and wiser,
than he went forth. He is Valencia's husband now, and rector, not
curate, of Aberalva town; and Valencia makes him a noble rector's wife.
She, too, has had her sad experiences;--of more than absent love; for
when the news of Inkerman arrived, she was sitting by Lucia's death-bed;
and when the ghastly list came home, and with it the news of Scoutbush
"severely wounded by a musket-ball," she had just taken her last look of
the fair face, and seen in fancy the fair spirit greeting in the eternal
world the soul of him whom she loved unto the death. She had hurried out
to Scutari, to nurse her brother; had seen there many a sight--she best
knows what she saw. She sent Scoutbush back to the Crimea, to try his
chance once more; and then came home to be a mother to those three
orphan children, from whom she vowed never to part. So the children went
with Frank and her to Aberalva, and Valencia had learnt half a mother's
duties, ere she had a baby of her own.
And thus to her, as to all hearts, has the war brought a discipline from
Frank shrank at first from returning to Aberalva, when Scoutbush offered
him the living on old St. Just's death. But Valencia all but commanded
him; so he went: and, behold his return was a triumph.
All was understood now, all forgiven, all forgotten, save his conduct in
the cholera, by the loving, honest, brave West-country hearts; and when
the new-married pair were rung into the town, amid arches and garlands,
flags and bonfires, the first man to welcome Frank into his rectory was
Not a word of repentance or apology ever passed the old bulldog's lips.
He was an Englishman, and kept his opinions to himself. But he had had
his lesson like the rest, two years ago, in his young daughter's death;
and Frank had thenceforth no faster friend than old Tardrew.
Frank is still as High Church as ever; and likes all pomp and
circumstance of worship. Some few whims he has given up, certainly, for
fear of giving offence; but he might indulge them once more, if he
wished, without a quarrel. For now that the people understand him, he
does just what he likes. His congregation is the best in the
archdeaconry; one meeting-house is dead, and the other dying. His choir
is admirable; for Valencia has had the art of drawing to her all the
musical talent of the tuneful West-country folk; and all that he needs,
he thinks, to make his parish perfect, is to see Grace Harvey
schoolmistress once more.
What can have worked the change? It is difficult to say, unless it be
that Frank has found out, from cholera and hospital experiences, that
his parishioners are beings of like passions with himself; and found
out, too, that his business is to leave the Gospel of damnation to those
whose hapless lot it is to earn their bread by pandering to popular
superstition; and to employ his independent position, as a free rector,
in telling his people the Gospel of salvation--that they have a Father
Little Scoutbush comes down often to Aberalva now, and oftener to his
Irish estates. He is going to marry the Manchester lady after all, and
to settle down; and try to be a good landlord; and use for the benefit
of his tenants the sharp experience of human hearts, human sorrows, and
human duty, which he gained in the Crimea two years ago.
And Major Campbell?
Look on Cathcart's Hill. A stone is there, which is the only earthly
token of that great experience of all experiences which Campbell gained
two years ago.
A little silk bag was found, hung round his neck, and lying next his
heart. He seemed to have expected his death; for he had put a label on
"To be sent to Viscount Scoutbush for Miss St. Just."
Scoutbush sent it home to Valencia, who opened it, blind with tears.
It was a note, written seven years before; but not by her; by Lucia ere
her marriage. A simple invitation to dinner in Eaton Square, written for
Lady Knockdown, but with a postscript from Lucia, herself: "Do come, and
I will promise not to tease you as I did last night."
That was, perhaps, the only kind or familiar word which he had ever had
from his idol; and he had treasured it to the last. Women can love, as
this book sets forth: but now and then men can love too, if they be men,
as Major Campbell was.
And Trebooze of Trebooze?
Even Trebooze got his new lesson two years ago. Terrified into sobriety,
he went into the militia, and soon took delight therein. He worked, for
the first time in his life, early and late, at a work which was suited
for him. He soon learnt not to swear and rage, for his men would not
stand it; and not to get drunk, for his messmates would not stand it. He
got into better society and better health than he ever had had before.
With new self-discipline has come new self-respect; and he tells his
wife frankly, that if he keeps straight henceforth, he has to thank for
it his six months at Aldershott.
When you meet Mary in heaven, you can ask her there.
But Frank's desire, that Grace should become his schoolmistress once
more, is not fulfilled.
How she worked at Scutari and at Balaklava, there is no need to tell.
Why mark her out from the rest, when all did more than nobly? The lesson
which she needed was not that which hospitals could teach; she had
learnt that already. It was a deeper and more dreadful lesson still. She
had set her heart on finding Tom; on righting him, on righting herself.
She had to learn to be content not to find him; not to right him, not to
And she learnt it. Tearless, uncomplaining, she "trusted in God, and
made no haste." She did her work, and read her Bible; and read too,
again and again, at stolen moments of rest, a book which some one lent
her, and which was to her as the finding of an unknown sister--
Longfellow's Evangeline. She was Evangeline; seeking as she sought,
perhaps to find as she found--No! merciful God! Not so! yet better so
than not at all. And often and often, when a new freight of agony was
landed, she looked round from bed to bed, if his face too, might be
there. And once, at Balaklava, she knew she saw him: but not on a sick
Standing beneath the window, chatting merrily with a group of officers--
It was he! Could she mistake that figure, though the face was turned
away? Her head swam, her pulses beat like church bells, her eyes were
ready to burst from their sockets. But--she was assisting at an
operation. It was God's will, and she must endure.
When the operation was over, she darted wildly down the stairs without a
He was gone.
Without a word she came back to her work, and possessed her soul in
Inquiries, indeed, she made, as she had a right to do; but no one knew
the name. She questioned, and caused to be questioned, men from Varna,
from Sevastopol, from Kerteh, from the Circassian coast; English,
French, and Sardinian, Pole and Turk. No one had ever heard the name.
She even found at last, and questioned, one of the officers who had
formed that group beneath the window.
"Oh! that man? He was a Pole, Michaelowyzcki, or some such name. At
least, so he said; but he suspected the man to be really a Russian spy."
Grace knew that it was Tom: but she went back to her work again, and in
due time went home to England.
Home, but not to Aberalva. She presented herself one day at Mark
Armsworth's house in Whitbury, and humbly begged him to obtain her a
place as servant to old Dr. Thurnall. What her purpose was therein she
did not explain; perhaps she hardly knew herself.
Jane, the old servant who had clung to the doctor through his reverses,
was growing old and feeble, and was all the more jealous of an intruder:
but Grace disarmed her.
"I do not want to interfere; I will be under your orders. I will be
kitchen-maid--maid-of-all-work. I want no wages. I have brought home a
little money with me; enough to last me for the little while I shall be
And, by the help of Mark and Mary, she took up her abode in the old
man's house; and ere a month was past she was to him as a daughter.
Perhaps she had told him all. At least, there was some deep and pure
confidence between them; and yet one which, so perfect was Grace's
humility, did not make old Jane jealous. Grace cooked, swept, washed,
went to and fro as Jane bade her; submitted to all her grumblings and
tossings; and then came at the old man's bidding to read to him every
evening, her hand in his; her voice cheerful, her face full of quiet
light. But her hair was becoming streaked with gray. Her face, howsoever
gentle, was sharpened, as if with continual pain. No wonder; for she had
worn that belt next her heart for now two years and more, till it had
almost eaten into the heart above which it lay. It gave her perpetual
pain: and yet that pain was a perpetual joy--a perpetual remembrance of
him, and of that walk with him from Tolchard's farm.
Mary loved her--wanted to treat her as an equal--to call her sister: but
Grace drew back lovingly, but humbly, from all advances; for she had
divined Mary's secret with the quick eye of woman; she saw how Mary grew
daily paler, thinner, sadder, and knew for whom she mourned. Be it so;
Mary had a right to him, and she had none.
* * * * *
And where was Tom Thurnall all the while?
No man could tell.
Mark inquired; Lord Minchampstead inquired; great personages who had
need of him at home and abroad inquired: but all in vain.
A few knew, and told Lord Minchampstead, who told Mark, in confidence,
that he had been heard of last in the Circassian mountains, about
Christmas, 1854: but since then all was blank. He had vanished into the
Mark swore that he would come home some day: but two full years were
past, and Tom came not.
The old man never seemed to regret him; never mentioned his name after a
"Mark," he said once, "remember David. Why weep for the child? I shall
go to him, but he will not come to me."
None knew, meanwhile, why the old man needed not to talk of Tom to his
friends and neighbours; it was because he and Grace never talked of
* * * * *
So they had lived, and so they had waited, till that week before last
Christmas-day, when Mellot and Stangrave made their appearance in
Whitbury, and became Mark Armsworth's guests.
The week slipped on. Stangrave hunted on alternate days; and on the
others went with Claude, who photographed (when there was sun to do it
with) Stangrave End, and Whitford Priory, interiors and exteriors; not
forgetting the Stangrave monuments in Whitbury church; and sat, too, for
many a pleasant hour with the good Doctor, who took to him at once, as
all men did. It seemed to give fresh life to the old man to listen to
Tom's dearest friend. To him, as to Grace, he could talk openly about
the lost son, and live upon the memory of his prowess and his virtues;
and ere the week was out, the Doctor, and Grace too, had heard a hundred
gallant feats, to tell all which would add another volume to this book.
And Grace stood silently by the old man's chair, and drank all in
without a smile, without a sigh, but not without full many a prayer.
It is the blessed Christmas Eve; the light is failing fast; when down
the high street comes the mighty Roman-nosed rat-tail which carries
Mark's portly bulk, and by him Stangrave, on a right good horse.
They shog on side by side--not home, but to the Doctor's house. For
every hunting evening Mark's groom meets him at the Doctor's door to
lead the horses home, while he, before he will take his bath and dress,
brings to his blind friend the gossip of the field, and details to him
every joke, fence, find, kill, hap and mishap of the last six hours.
The old man, meanwhile, is sitting quietly, with Claude by him, talking
--as Claude can talk. They are not speaking of Tom just now: but the
eloquent artist's conversation suits well enough the temper of the good
old man, yearning after fresh knowledge, even on the brink of the grave;
but too feeble now, in body and in mind, to do more than listen. Claude
is telling him about the late Photographic Exhibition; and the old man
listens with a triumphant smile to wonders which he will never behold
with mortal eyes. At last,--
"This is very pleasant--to feel surer and surer, day by day, that one is
not needed; that science moves forward swift and sure, under a higher
guidance than one's own; that the sacred torch-race never can stand
still; that He has taken the lamp out of old and failing hands, only to
put it into young and brave ones, who will not falter till they reach
Then he lies back again, with closed eyes, waiting for more facts from
"How beautiful!" says Claude--"I must compliment you, sir--to see the
child-like heart thus still beating fresh beneath the honours of the
grey head, without envy, without vanity, without ambition, welcoming
every new discovery, rejoicing to see the young outstripping them."
"And what credit, sir, to us? Our knowledge did not belong to us, but to
Him who made us, and the universe; and our sons' belonged to Him
likewise. If they be wiser than their teachers, it is only because they,
like their teachers, have made His testimonies their study. When we
rejoice in the progress of science, we rejoice not in ourselves, not in
our children, but in God our Instructor."
And all the while, hidden in the gloom behind, stands Grace, her arms
folded over her bosom, watching every movement of the old man; and
listening, too, to every word. She can understand but little of it: but
she loves to hear it, for it reminds her of Tom Thurnall. Above all she
loves to hear about the microscope, a mystery inseparable in her
thoughts from him who first showed her its wonders.
At last the old man speaks again:--
"Ah! How delighted my boy will be when he returns, to find that so much
has been done during his absence."
Claude is silent awhile, startled.
"You are surprised to hear me speak so confidently? Well, I can only
speak as I feel. I have had, for some days past, a presentiment--you
will think me, doubtless, weak for yielding to it. I am not
"Not so," said Claude, "but I cannot deny that such things as
presentiments may be possible. However miraculous they may seem, are
they so very much more so than the daily fact of memory? I can as little
guess why we can remember the past as why we may not, at times, be able
to foresee the future."
"True. You speak, if not like a physician, yet like a metaphysician; so
you will not laugh at me, and compel the weak old man and his fancy to
take refuge with a girl--who is not weak.--Grace, darling, you think
still that he is coming?"
She came forward and leaned over him.
"Yes," she half whispered. "He is coming soon to us: or else we are soon
going to him. It may mean that, sir. Perhaps it is better that it
"It matters little, child, if he be near, as near he is. I tell you, Mr.
Mellot, this conviction has become so intense during the last week,
that--that I believe I should not be thrown off my balance if he entered
at this moment.... I feel him so near me, sir, that--that I could swear,
did I not know how the weak brain imitates expected sounds, that I heard
his footstep outside now."
"I heard horses' footsteps," says Claude.--"Ah, there comes Stangrave
and our host."
"I heard them: but I heard my boy's likewise," said the old man quietly.
The next minute he seemed to have forgotten the fancy, as the two
hunters entered, and Mark began open-mouthed as usual--
"Well, Ned! In good company, eh? That's right. Mortal cold I am! We
shall have a white Christmas, I expect. Snow's coming."
"What sport?" asked the doctor blandly.
"Oh! Nothing new. Bothered about Sidricstone till one. Got away at last
with an old fox, and over the downs into the vale. I think Mr. Stangrave
"Mr. Stangrave likes the vale better than the vale likes him. I have
fallen into two brooks following, Claude; to the delight of all the
"Oh! You rode straight enough, sir! You must pay for your fun in the
vale:--but then you have your fun. But there were a good many falls the
last ton minutes: ground heavy, and pace awful; old rat-tail had enough
to do to hold his own. Saw one fellow ride bang into a pollard-willow,
when there was an open gate close to him--cut his cheek open, and lay;
but some one said it was only Smith of Ewebury, so I rode on."
"I hope you English showed more pity to your wounded friends in the
Crimea," quoth Stangrave, laughing, "I wanted to stop and pick him up:
but Mr. Armsworth would not hear of it."
"Oh, sir, if it had been a stranger like you, half the field would have
been round you in a minute: but Smith don't count--he breaks his neck on
purpose three days a week:--by the by, Doctor, got a good story of him
for you. Suspected his keepers last month. Slips out of bed at two in
the morning; into his own covers, and blazes away for an hour. Nobody
comes. Home to bed, and tries the same thing next night. Not a soul
comes near him. Next morning has up keepers, watchers, beaters, the
whole posse; and 'Now, you rascals! I've been poaching my own covers two
nights running, and you've been all drunk in bed. There are your wages
to the last penny; and vanish! I'll be my own keeper henceforth; and
never let me see your faces again!"
The old Doctor laughed cheerily. "Well: but did you kill your fox?"
"All right: but it was a burster,--just what I always tell Mr.
Stangrave. Afternoon runs are good runs; pretty sure of an empty fox and
a good scent after one o'clock."
"Exactly," answered a fresh voice from behind; "and fox-hunting is an
epitome of human life. You chop or lose your first two or three: but
keep up your pluck, and you'll run into one before sun-down; and I seem
to have run into a whole earthful!"
All looked round; for all knew that voice.
Yes! There he was, in bodily flesh and blood; thin, sallow, bearded to
the eyes, dressed in ragged sailor's clothes: but Tom himself.
Grace uttered a long, low, soft, half-laughing cry, full of the
delicious agony of sudden relief; a cry as of a mother when her child is
born; and then slipped from the room past the unheeding Tom, who had no
eyes but for his father. Straight up to the old man he went, took both
his hands, and spoke in the old cheerful voice,--
"Well, my dear old daddy! So you seem to have expected me; and gathered,
I suppose, all my friends to bid me welcome. I'm afraid I have made you
very anxious: but it was not my fault; and I knew you would be certain I
should come at last, eh?"
"My son! my son! Let me feel whether thou be my very son Esau or not!"
murmured the old man, finding half-playful expression in the words of
Scripture, for feelings beyond his failing powers.
Tom knelt down: and the old man passed his hands in silence over and
over the forehead, and face, and beard; while all stood silent.
Mark Armsworth burst out blubbering like a great boy:
"I said so! I always said so! The devil could not kill him, and God
"You won't go away again, dear boy? I'm getting old--and--and forgetful;
and I don't think I could bear it again, you see."
Tom saw that the old man's powers were failing. "Never again, as long as
I live, daddy!" said he, and then, looking round,--"I think that we are
too many for my father. I will come and shake hands with you all
"No, no," said the Doctor. "You forget that I cannot see you, and so
must only listen to you. It will be a delight to hear your voice and
theirs;--they all love you."
A few moments of breathless congratulation followed, during which Mark
had seized Tom by both his shoulders, and held him admiringly at arm's
"Look at him, Mr. Mellot! Mr. Stangrave! Look at him! As they said of
Liberty Wilkes, you might rob him, strip him, and hit him over London
Bridge: and you find him the next day in the same place, with a laced
coat, a sword by his side, and money in his pocket! But how did you come
in without our knowing?"
"I waited outside, afraid of what I might hear--for how could I tell!"
said he, lowering his voice; "but when I saw you go in, I knew all was
right, and followed you; and when I heard my father laugh, I knew that
he could bear a little surprise. But, Stangrave, did you say? Ah! this
is too delightful, old fellow! How's Marie and the children?"
Stangrave, who was very uncertain as to how Tom would receive him, had
been about to make his amende honorable in a fashion graceful,
magnificent, and, as he expressed it afterwards laughingly to Thurnall
himself, "altogether highfalutin:" but what chivalrous and courtly words
had arranged themselves upon the tip of his tongue, were so utterly
upset by Tom's matter-of-fact bonhomie, and by the cool way in which he
took for granted the fact of his marriage, that he burst out laughing,
and caught both Tom's hands in his.
"It is delightful; and all it needs to make it perfect is to have Marie
and the children here."
"How many?" asked Tom.
"Is she as beautiful as ever!"
"More so, I think."
"I dare say you're right; you ought to know best, certainly."
"You shall judge for yourself. She is in London at this moment."
"Tom!" says his father, who has been sitting quietly, his face covered
in his handkerchief, listening to all, while holy tears of gratitude
steal down his face.
"You have not spoken to Grace yet!"
"Grace?" cries Tom, in a very different tone from that in which he had
"Grace Harvey, my boy. She was in the room when you came in."
"Grace? Grace? What is she doing here?"
"Nursing him, like an angel as she is!" said Mark.
"She is my daughter now, Tom; and has been these twelve months past."
Tom was silent, as one astonished.
"If she is not, she will be soon," said he quietly, between his clenched
teeth. "Gentlemen, if you'll excuse me for five minutes, and see to my
father:"--and he walked straight out of the room, closing the door
behind him--to find Grace waiting in the passage.
She was trembling from head to foot, stepping to and fro, her hands and
face all but convulsed; her left hand over her bosom, clutching at her
dress, which seemed to have been just disarranged; her right drawn back,
holding something; her lips parted, struggling to speak; her great eyes
opened to preternatural wideness, fixed on him with an intensity of
eagerness;--was she mad?
At last words bubbled forth: "There! there! There it is!--the belt!--
your belt! Take it! take it, I say!"
He stood silent and wondering; she thrust it into his hand.
"Take it! I have carried it for you--worn it next my heart, till it has
all but eaten into my heart. To Varna, and you were not there!--Scutari,
Balaklava, and you were not there!--I found it, only a week after!--I
told you I should! and you were gone!--Cruel, not to wait! And Mr.
Armsworth has the money--every farthing--and the gold:--he has had it
these two years!--I would give you the belt myself; and now I have done
it, and the snake is unclasped from my heart at last, at last, at last!"
Her arms dropped by her side, and she burst into an agony of tears.
Tom caught her in his arms: but she put him back, and looked up in his
"Promise me!" she said, in a low clear voice; "promise me this one thing
only, as you are a gentleman; as you have a man's pity, a man's
gratitude in you"
"Promise me that you will never ask, or seek to know, who had that
"I promise: but, Grace!--"
"Then my work is over," said she in a calm collected voice. "Amen. So
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. Good-bye, Mr. Thurnall. I must
go and pack up my few things now. You will forgive and forget?"
"Grace!" cried Tom; "stay!" and he girdled her in a grasp of iron. "You
and I never part more in this life, perhaps not in all lives to come!"
"Me? I?--let me go! I am not worthy of you!"
"I have heard that once already;--the only folly which ever came out of
those sweet lips. No! Grace, I love you, as man can love but once; and
you shall not refuse me! You will not have the heart, Grace! You will
not dare, Grace! For you have begun the work; and you must finish it."
"Work? What work?"
"I don't know," said Tom. "How should I? I want you to tell me that."
She looked up in his face, puzzled. His old self-confident look seemed
strangely past away.
"I will tell _you_" he said, "because I love you. I don't like to show
it to them; but I've been frightened, Grace, for the first time in my
She paused for an explanation; but she did not straggle to escape from
"Frightened; beat; run to earth myself, though I talked so bravely of
running others to earth just now. Grace, I've been in prison!"
"In prison? In a Russian prison? Oh, Mr. Thurnall!"
"Ay, Grace, I'd tried everything but that; and I could not stand it.
Death was a joke to that. Not to be able to get out!--To rage up and
down for hours like a wild beast; long to fly at one's gaoler and tear
his heart out;--beat one's head against the wall in the hope of knocking
one's brains out;--anything to get rid of that horrid notion, night and
day over one--I can't get out!"
Grace had never seen him so excited.
"But you are safe now," said she soothingly. "Oh, those horrid
"But it was not Russians!--If it had been, I could have borne it.--That
was all in my bargain,--the fair chance of war: but to be shut up by a
mistake!--at the very outset, too--by a boorish villain of a khan, on a
drunken suspicion;--a fellow whom I was trying to serve, and who
couldn't, or wouldn't, or daren't understand me--Oh, Grace, I was caught
in my own trap! I went out full blown with self-conceit. Never was any
one so cunning as I was to be!--Such a game as I was going to play, and
make my fortune by it!--And this brute to stop me short--to make a fool
of me--to keep me there eighteen months threatening to cut my head off
once a quarter, and wouldn't understand me, let me talk with the tongue
of the old serpent!"
"He didn't stop you: God stopped you!"
"You're right, Grace; I saw that at last! I found out that I had been
trying for years which was the stronger, God or I; I found out I had
been trying whether I could not do well enough without Him: and there I
found that I could not, Grace;--could not! I felt like a child who had
marched off from home, fancying it can find its way, and is lost at
once. I felt like a lost child in Australia once, for one moment: but
not as I felt in that prison; for I had not heard you, Grace, then. I
did not know that I had a Father in heaven, who had been looking after
me, when I fancied that I was looking after myself;--I don't half
believe it now--If I did, I should not have lost my nerve as I have
done!--Grace, I dare hardly stir about now, lest some harm should come
to me. I fancy at every turn, what if that chimney fell? what if that
horse kicked out?--and, Grace, you, and you only, can cure me of my new
cowardice. I said in that prison, and all the way home,--if I can but
find her!--let me but see her--ask her--let her teach me; and I shall be
sure! Let her teach me, and I shall be brave again! Teach me, Grace! and
Grace was looking at him with her great soft eyes opening slowly, like a
startled hind's, as if the wonder and delight were too great to be taken
in at once. The last words unlocked her lips.
"Forgive you? What! Do you forgive me?"
"You? It is I am the brute; ever to have suspected you. My conscience
told me all along I was a brute! And you--have you not proved it to me
in this last minute, Grace?--proved to me that I am not worthy to kiss
the dust from off your feet?"
Grace lay silent in his arms: but her eyes were fixed upon him; her
hands were folded on her bosom; her lips moved as if in prayer.
He put back her long tresses tenderly, and looked into her deep glorious
"There! I have told you all. Will you forgive my baseness; and take me,
and teach me, about this Father in heaven, through poverty and wealth,
for better, for worse, as my wife--my wife?"
She leapt up at him suddenly, as if waking from a dream, and wreathed
her arms about his neck.
"Oh, Mr. Thurnall! my dear, brave, wise, wonderful Mr. Thurnall! come
home again!--home to God!--and home to me! I am not worthy! Too much
happiness, too much, too much:--but you will forgive, will you not,--and
And so the old heart passed away from Thomas Thurnall: and instead of it
grew up a heart like his father's; even the heart of a little child.