MoboReader> Literature > I Saw Three Ships and Other Winter Tales

   Chapter 10 THE THIRD SHIP.

I Saw Three Ships and Other Winter Tales By Arthur Quiller-Couch Characters: 124859

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

We return to Ruan church, whence this history started. The parson was there in his surplice, by the altar; the bride was there in her white frock, by the chancel rails; her father, by her side, was looking at his watch; and the parishioners thronged the nave, shuffling their feet and loudly speculating. For the bridegroom had not appeared.

Ruby's face was white as her frock. Parson Babbage kept picking up the heavy Prayer-book, opening it, and laying it down impatiently. Occasionally, as one of the congregation scraped an impatient foot, a metallic sound made itself heard, and the buzz of conversation would sink for a moment, as if by magic.

For beneath the seats, and behind the women's gowns, the whole pavement of the church was covered with a fairly representative collection of cast-off kitchen utensils-old kettles, broken cake-tins, frying-pans, saucepans-all calculated to emit dismal sounds under percussion. Scattered among these were ox-bells, rook-rattles, a fog-horn or two, and a tin trumpet from Liskeard fair. Explanation is simple: the outraged feelings of the parish were to be avenged by a shal-lal as bride and bridegroom left the church. Ruby knew nothing of the storm brewing for her, but Mary Jane, whose ears had been twice boxed that morning, had heard a whisper of it on her way down to the church, and was confirmed in her fears by observing the few members of the congregation who entered after her. Men and women alike suffered from an unwonted corpulence and tightness of raiment that morning, and each and all seemed to have cast the affliction off as they arose from their knees. It was too late to interfere, so she sat still and trembled.

Still the bridegroom did not come.

"A more onpresidented feat I don't recall," remarked Uncle Issy to a group that stood at the west end under the gallery, "not since 'Melia Spry's buryin', when the devil, i' the shape of a black pig, followed us all the way to the porch."

"That was a brave while ago, Uncle."

"Iss, iss; but I mind to this hour how we bearers perspired-an' she such a light-weight corpse. But plague seize my old emotions!-we'm come to marry, not to bury."

"By the look o't 'tis' neither marry nor bury, Nim nor Doll," observed Old Zeb, who had sacrificed his paternal feelings and come to church in order to keep abreast with the age; "'tis more like Boscastle Fair, begin at twelve o'clock an' end at noon. Why tarry the wheels of his chariot?"

"'Tis possible Young Zeb an' he have a-met 'pon the road hither," hazarded Calvin Oke by a wonderful imaginative effort; "an' 'tis possible that feelings have broke loose an' one o' the twain be swelterin' in his own bloodshed, or vicey-versey."

"I heard tell of a man once," said Uncle Issy, "that committed murder upon another for love; but, save my life, I can't think 'pon his name, nor where 't befell."

"What an old store-house 'tis!" ejaculated Elias Sweetland, bending a contemplative gaze on Uncle Issy.

"Mark her pale face, naybours," put in a woman; "an' Tresidder, he looks like a man that's neither got nor lost."

"Trew, trew."

"Quarter past the hour, I make it," said Old Zeb, pulling out his timepiece.

Still the bridegroom tarried.

Higher up the church, in the front pew but one, Modesty Prowse said aloud to Sarah Ann Nan Julian-

"If he doesn' look sharp, we'll be married before she after all."

Ruby heard the sneer, and answered it with a look of concentrated spite.

Probably she would have risked her dignity to retort, had not Parson

Babbage advanced down the chancel at this juncture.

"Has anyone seen the bridegroom to-day?" he inquired of Tresidder.

"Or will you send some one to hurry him?"

"Be danged if I know," the farmer began testily, mopping his bald head, and then he broke off, catching sound of a stir among the folk behind.

"Here he be-here he be at last!" cried somebody. And with that a hush of bewilderment fell on the congregation.

In the doorway, flushed with running and glorious in bridal attire, stood Young Zeb.

It took everybody's breath away, and he walked up the nave between silent men and women. His eyes were fastened on Ruby, and she in turn stared at him as a rabbit at a snake, shrinking slightly on her father's arm. Tresidder's jaw dropped, and his eyes began to protrude.

"What's the meanin' o' this?" he stammered.

"I've come to marry your daughter," answered Zeb, very slow and distinct. "She was to wed Zebedee Minards to-day, an' I'm Zebedee Minards."


"I've a note to hand to each of 'ee. Better save your breath till you've read 'em."

He delivered the two notes, and stood, tapping a toe on the tiles, in the bridegroom's place on the right of the chancel-rails.


"Mr. Tresidder," interrupted the parson, "I like a man to swear off his rage if he's upset, but I can't allow it in the church."

"I don't care if you do or you don't."

"Then do it, and I'll kick you out with this very boot."

The farmer's face was purple, and big veins stood out by his temples.

"I've been cheated," he growled. Zeb, who had kept his eyes on Ruby, stepped quickly towards her. First picking up the paper that had drifted to the pavement, he crushed it into his pocket. He then took her hand. It was cold and damp.

"Parson, will 'ee marry us up, please?"

"You haven't asked if she'll have you."

"No, an' I don't mean to. I didn't come to ax questions-that's your business-but to answer."

"Will you marry this man?" demanded the parson, turning to Ruby.

Zeb's hand still enclosed hers, and she felt she was caught and held for life. Her eyes fluttered up to her lover's face, and found it inexorable.

"Yes," she gasped out, as if the word had been suffocating her. And with the word came a rush of tears-helpless, but not altogether unhappy.

"Dry your eyes," said Parson Babbage, after waiting a minute; "we must be quick about it."

So it happened that the threatened shal-lal came to nothing. Susan Jago, the old woman who swept the church, discovered its forgotten apparatus scattered beneath the pews on the following Saturday, and cleared it out, to the amount (she averred) of two cart-loads. She tossed it, bit by bit, over the west wall of the churchyard, where in time it became a mound, covered high with sting-nettles. If you poke among these nettles with your walking-stick, the odds are that you turn up a scrap of rusty iron. But there exists more explicit testimony to Zeb's wedding within the church-and within the churchyard, too, where he and Ruby have rested this many a year.

Though the bubble of Farmer Tresidder's dreams was pricked that day, there was feasting at Sheba until late in the evening. Nor until eleven did the bride and bridegroom start off, arm in arm, to walk to their new home. Before them, at a considerable distance, went the players and singers-a black blur on the moonlit road; and very crisply their music rang out beneath a sky scattered with cloud and stars. All their songs were simple carols of the country, and the burden of them was but the joy of man at Christ's nativity; but the young man and maid who walked behind were well pleased.

"Now then," cried the voice of Old Zeb, "lads an' lasses all together an' wi' a will-"

All under the leaves, an the leaves o' life,

I met wi' virgins seven,

An' one o' them was Mary mild,

Our Lord's mother of Heaven.

'O what are 'ee seekin', you seven fair maids,

All under the leaves o life;

Come tell, come tell, what seek ye

All under the leaves o' life?'

'We're seekin' for no leaves, Thomas,

But for a friend o' thine,

We're seekin' for sweet Jesus Christ

To be our guide an' thine.'

'Go down, go down, to yonder town

An' sit in the gallery,

An there you'll see sweet Jesus Christ

Nailed to a big yew-tree.'

So down they went to yonder town

As fast as foot could fall,

An' many a grievous bitter tear

From the Virgin's eye did fall.

'O peace, Mother-O peace, Mother,

Your weepin' doth me grieve;

I must suffer this,' he said,

'For Adam an' for Eve.

'O Mother, take John Evangelist

All for to be your son,

An' he will comfort you sometimes

Mother, as I've a-done.'

'O come, thou John Evangelist,

Thou'rt welcome unto me,

But more welcome my own dear Son

Whom I nursed on my knee.'

Then he laid his head 'pon his right shoulder

Seein death it struck him nigh;

'The holy Mother be with your soul-

I die, Mother, I die.'

O the rose, the gentle rose,

An the fennel that grows so green!

God gi'e us grace in every place

To pray for our king an' queen.

Furthermore, for our enemies all

Our prayers they should be strong;

Amen, good Lord; your charity

Is the endin' of my song!

In the midst of this carol Ruby, with a light pull on Zeb's arm, brought him to a halt.

"How lovely it all is, Zeb!" She looked upwards at the flying moon, then dropped her gaze over the frosty sea, and sighed gently. "Just now I feel as if I'd been tossin' out yonder through many fierce days an' nights an' were bein' taken at last to a safe haven. You'll have to make a good wife of me, Zeb. I wonder if you'll do 't."

Zeb followed the direction of her eyes, and seemed to discern off Bradden Point a dot of white, as of a ship in sail. He pressed her arm to his side, but said nothing.

"Clear your throats, friends," shouted his father, up the road, "an' let fly-"

As I sat on a sunny bank,

-A sunny bank, a sunny bank,

As I sat on a sunny bank

On Chris'mas day i' the mornin,

I saw dree ships come sailin' by,

-A-sailin' by, a-sailin' by,

I saw dree ships come sailin' by

On Chris'mas day i' the mornin'.

Now who shud be i' these dree ships-

And to this measure Zeb and Ruby stepped home.

At the cottage door Zeb thanked the singers, who went their way and flung back shouts and joyful wishes as they went. Before making all fast for the night, he stood a minute or so, listening to their voices as they died away down the road. As he barred the door, he turned and saw that Ruby had lit the lamp, and was already engaged in setting the kitchen to rights; for, of course, no such home-coming had been dreamt of in the morning, and all was in disorder. He stood and watched her for a while, then turned to the window.

After a minute or two, finding that he did not speak, she too came to the window. He bent and kissed her.

For he had seen, on the patch of sea beyond the haven, a white frigate steal up Channel like a ghost. She had passed out of his sight by this time, but he was still thinking of one man that she bore.


Beside the Plymouth road, as it plunges down-hill past Ruan Lanihale church towards Ruan Cove, and ten paces beyond the lych-gate-where the graves lie level with the coping, and the horseman can decipher their inscriptions in passing, at the risk of a twisted neck-the base of the churchyard wall is pierced with a low archway, festooned with toad-flax and fringed with the hart's-tongue fern. Within the archway bubbles a well, the water of which was once used for all baptisms in the parish, for no child sprinkled with it could ever be hanged with hemp. But this belief is discredited now, and the well neglected: and the events which led to this are still a winter's tale in the neighbourhood. I set them down as they were told me, across the blue glow of a wreck-wood fire, by Sam Tregear, the parish bedman. Sam himself had borne an inconspicuous share in them; and because of them Sam's father had carried a white face to his grave.

My father and mother (said Sam) married late in life, for his trade was what mine is, and 'twasn't till her fortieth year that my mother could bring herself to kiss a gravedigger. That accounts, maybe, for my being born rickety and with other drawbacks that only made father the fonder. Weather permitting, he'd carry me off to churchyard, set me upon a flat stone, with his coat folded under, and talk to me while he delved. I can mind, now, the way he'd settle lower and lower, till his head played hidey-peep with me over the grave's edge, and at last he'd be clean swallowed up, but still discoursing or calling up how he'd come upon wonderful towns and kingdoms down underground, and how all the kings and queens there, in dyed garments, was offering him meat for his dinner every day of the week if he'd only stop and hobbynob with them- and all such gammut. He prettily doted on me-the poor old ancient!

But there came a day-a dry afternoon in the late wheat harvest-when we were up in the churchyard together, and though father had his tools beside him, not a tint did he work, but kept travishing back and forth, one time shading his eyes and gazing out to sea, and then looking far along the Plymouth road for minutes at a time. Out by Bradden Point there stood a little dandy-rigged craft, tacking lazily to and fro, with her mains'le all shiny-yellow in the sunset. Though I didn't know it then, she was the Preventive boat, and her business was to watch the Hauen: for there had been a brush between her and the Unity lugger, a fortnight back, and a Preventive man shot through the breast-bone, and my mother's brother Philip was hiding down in the town. I minded, later, how that the men across the vale, in Farmer Tresidder's wheat-field, paused every now and then, as they pitched the sheaves, to give a look up towards the churchyard, and the gleaners moved about in small knots, causeying and glancing over their shoulders at the cutter out in the bay; and how, when all the field was carried, they waited round the last load, no man offering to cry the Neck, as the fashion was, but lingering till sun was near down behind the slope and the long shadows stretching across the stubble.

"Sha'n't thee go underground to-day, father?" says I, at last.

He turned slowly round, and says he, "No, sonny. 'Reckon us'll climb skywards for a change."

And with that, he took my hand, and pushing abroad the belfry door began to climb the stairway. Up and up, round and round we went, in a sort of blind-man's-holiday full of little glints of light and whiff's of wind where the open windows came; and at last stepped out upon the leads of the tower and drew breath.

"There's two-an'-twenty parishes to be witnessed from where we're standin', sonny-if ye've got eyes," says my father.

Well, first I looked down towards the harvesters and laughed to see them so small: and then I fell to counting the church-towers dotted across the high-lands, and seeing if I could make out two-and-twenty. 'Twas the prettiest sight-all the country round looking as if 'twas dusted with gold, and the Plymouth road winding away over the hills like a long white tape. I had counted thirteen churches, when my father pointed his hand out along this road and called to me-

"Look'ee out yonder, honey, an' say what ye see!"

"I see dust," says I.

"Nothin' else? Sonny boy, use your eyes, for mine be dim."

"I see dust," says I again, "an' suthin' twinklin' in it, like a tin can-"

"Dragooners!" shouts my father; and then, running to the side of the tower facing the harvest-field, he put both hands to his mouth and called:

"What have 'ee? What have 'ee?"-very loud and long.

"A neck-a neck!" came back from the field, like as if all shouted at once-dear, the sweet sound! And then a gun was fired, and craning forward over the coping I saw a dozen men running across the stubble and out into the road towards the Hauen; and they called as they ran, "A neck-a neck!"

"Iss," says my father, "'tis a neck, sure 'nuff. Pray God they save en!

Come, sonny-"

But we dallied up there till the horsemen were plain to see, and their scarlet coats and armour blazing in the dust as they came. And when they drew near within a mile, and our limbs ached with crouching-for fear they should spy us against the sky-father took me by the hand and pulled hot foot down the stairs. Before they rode by he had picked up his shovel and was shovelling out a grave for his life.

Forty valiant horsemen they were, riding two-and-two (by reason of the narrowness of the road) and a captain beside them-men broad and long, with hairy top-lips, and all clad in scarlet jackets and white breeches that showed bravely against their black war-horses and jet-black holsters, thick as they were wi' dust. Each man had a golden helmet, and a scabbard flapping by his side, and a piece of metal like a half-moon jingling from his horse's cheek-strap. 12 D was the numbering on every saddle, meaning the Twelfth Dragoons.

Tramp, tramp! they rode by, talking and joking, and taking no more heed of me-that sat upon the wall with my heels dangling above them-than if I'd been a sprig of stonecrop. But the captain, who carried a drawn sword and mopped his face with a handkerchief so that the dust ran across it in streaks, drew rein, and looked over my shoulder to where father was digging.

"Sergeant!" he calls back, turning with a hand upon his crupper; "didn't we see a figger like this a-top o' the tower, some way back?"

The sergeant pricked his horse forward and saluted. He was the tallest, straightest man in the troop, and the muscles on his arm filled out his sleeve with the three stripes upon it-a handsome red-faced fellow, with curly black hair.

Says he, "That we did, sir-a man with sloping shoulders and a boy with a goose neck." Saying this, he looked up at me with a grin.

"I'll bear it in mind," answered the officer, and the troop rode on in a cloud of dust, the sergeant looking back and smiling, as if 'twas a joke that he shared with us. Well, to be short, they rode down into the town as night fell. But 'twas too late, Uncle Philip having had fair warning and plenty of time to flee up towards the little secret hold under Mabel Down, where none but two families knew how to find him. All the town, though, knew he was safe, and lashins of women and children turned out to see the comely soldiers hunt in vain till ten o'clock at night.

The next thing was to billet the warriors. The captain of the troop, by this, was pesky cross-tempered, and flounced off to the "Jolly Pilchards" in a huff. "Sergeant," says he, "here's an inn, though a damned bad 'un, an' here I means to stop. Somewheres about there's a farm called Constantine, where I'm told the men can be accommodated. Find out the place, if you can, an' do your best: an' don't let me see yer face till to-morra," says he.

So Sergeant Basket-that was his name-gave the salute, and rode his troop up the street, where-for his manners were mighty winning, notwithstanding the dirty nature of his errand-he soon found plenty to direct him to Farmer Noy's, of Constantine; and up the coombe they rode into the darkness, a dozen or more going along with them to show the way, being won by their martial bearing as well as the sergeant's very friendly way of speech.

Farmer Noy was in bed-a pock-marked, lantern-jawed old gaffer of sixty-five; and the most remarkable point about him was the wife he had married two years before-a young slip of a girl but just husband-high. Money did it, I reckon; but if so, 'twas a bad bargain for her. He was noted for stinginess to such a degree that they said his wife wore a brass wedding-ring, weekdays, to save the genuine article from wearing out. She was a Ruan woman, too, and therefore ought to have known all about him. But woman's ways be past finding out.

Hearing the hoofs in his yard and the sergeant's stram-a-ram upon the door, down comes the old curmudgeon with a candle held high above his head.

"What the devil's here?" he calls out. Sergeant Basket looks over the old man's shoulder; and there, halfway up the stairs, stood Madam Noy in her night rail-a high-coloured ripe girl, languishing for love, her red lips parted and neck all lily-white against a loosened pile of dark-brown hair.

"Be cussed if I turn back!" said the sergeant to himself; and added out loud-

"Forty souldjers, in the King's name!"

"Forty devils!" says old Noy.

"They're devils to eat," answered the sergeant, in the most friendly manner; "an', begad, ye must feed an' bed 'em this night-or else I'll search your cellars. Ye are a loyal man-eh, farmer? An' your cellars are big, I'm told."

"Sarah," calls out the old man, following the sergeant's bold glance, "go back an' dress yersel' dacently this instant! These here honest souldjers-forty damned honest gormandisin' souldjers-be come in his Majesty's name, forty strong, to protect honest folks' rights in the intervals of eatin' 'em out o' house an' home. Sergeant, ye be very welcome i' the King's name. Cheese an' cider ye shall have, an' I pray the mixture may turn your forty stomachs."

In a dozen minutes he had fetched out his stable-boys and farm-hands, and, lantern in hand, was helping the sergeant to picket the horses and stow the men about on clean straw in the outhouses. They were turning back to the house, and the old man was turning over in his mind that the sergeant hadn't yet said a word about where he was to sleep, when by the door they found Madam Noy waiting, in her wedding gown, and with her hair freshly braided.

Now, the farmer was mortally afraid of the sergeant, knowing he had thirty ankers and more of contraband liquor in his cellars, and minding the sergeant's threat. None the less his jealousy got the upper hand.

"Woman," he cries out, "to thy bed!"

"I was waiting," said she, "to say the Cap'n's bed-"

"Sergeant's," says the dragoon, correcting her.

"-Was laid i' the spare room."

"Madam," replies Sergeant Basket, looking into her eyes and bowing, "a soldier with my responsibility sleeps but little. In the first place, I must see that my men sup."

"The maids be now cuttin' the bread an' cheese and drawin' the cider."

"Then, Madam, leave me but possession of the parlour, and let me have a chair to sleep in."

By this they were in the passage together, and her gaze devouring his regimentals. The old man stood a pace off, looking sourly. The sergeant fed his eyes upon her, and Satan got hold of him.

"Now if only," said he, "one of you could play cards!"

"But I must go to bed," she answered; "though I can play cribbage, if only you stay another night."

For she saw the glint in the farmer's eye; and so Sergeant Basket slept bolt upright that night in an arm-chair by the parlour fender. Next day the dragooners searched the town again, and were billeted all about among the cottages. But the sergeant returned to Constantine, and before going to bed-this time in the spare room-played a game of cribbage with Madam Noy, the farmer smoking sulkily in his arm-chair.

"Two for his heels!" said the rosy woman suddenly, halfway through the game. "Sergeant, you're cheatin' yoursel' an' forgettin' to mark. Gi'e me the board; I'll mark for both."

She put out her hand upon the board, and Sergeant Basket's closed upon it. 'Tis true he had forgot to mark; and feeling the hot pulse in her wrist, and beholding the hunger in her eyes, 'tis to be supposed he'd have forgot his own soul.

He rode away next day with his troop: but my uncle Philip not being caught yet, and the Government set on making an example of him, we hadn't seen the last of these dragoons. 'Twas a time of fear down in the town. At dead of night or at noonday they came on us-six times in all: and for two months the crew of the Unity couldn't call their souls their own, but lived from day to day in secret closets and wandered the country by night, hiding in hedges and straw-houses. All that time the revenue men watched the Hauen, night and day, like dogs before a rat-hole.

But one November morning 'twas whispered abroad that Uncle Philip had made his way to Falmouth, and slipped across to Guernsey. Time passed on, and the dragooners were seen no more, nor the handsome devil-may-care face of Sergeant Basket. Up at Constantine, where he had always contrived to billet himself, 'tis to be thought pretty Madam Noy pined to see him again, kicking his spurs in the porch and smiling out of his gay brown eyes; for her face fell away from its plump condition, and the hunger in her eyes grew and grew. But a more remarkable fact was that her old husband-who wouldn't have yearned after the dragoon, ye'd have thought-began to dwindle and fall away too. By the New Year he was a dying man, and carried his doom on his face. And on New Year's Day he straddled his mare for the last time, and rode over to Looe, to Doctor Gale's.

"Goody-losh!" cried the doctor, taken aback by his appearance-

"What's come to ye, Noy?"

"Death!" says Noy. "Doctor, I hain't come for advice, for before this day week I'll be a clay-cold corpse. I come to ax a favour. When they summon ye, before lookin' at my body-that'll be past help-go you to the little left-top corner drawer o' my wife's bureau, an' there ye'll find a packet. You're my executor," says he, "and I leaves ye to deal wi' that packet as ye thinks fit."

With that, the farmer rode away home-along, and the very day week he went dead.

The doctor, when called over, minded what the old chap had said, and sending Madam Noy on some pretence to the kitchen, went over and unlocked the little drawer with a duplicate key, that the farmer had unhitched from his watch-chain and given him. There was no parcel of letters, as he looked to find, but only a small packet crumpled away in the corner. He pulled it out and gave a look, and a sniff, and another look: then shut the drawer, locked it, strode straight down-stairs to his horse and galloped away.

In three hours' time, pretty Madam Noy was in the constables' hands upon the charge of murdering her husband by poison.

They tried her, next Spring Assize, at Bodmin, before the Lord Chief Justice. There wasn't evidence enough to put Sergeant Basket in the dock alongside of her-though 'twas freely guessed he knew more than anyone (saving the prisoner herself) about the arsenic that was found in the little drawer and inside the old man's body. He was subpoena'd from Plymouth, and cross-examined by a great hulking King's Counsel for three-quarters of an hour. But they got nothing out of him. All through the examination the prisoner looked at him and nodded her white face, every now and then, at his answers, as much as to say, "That's right-that's right: they shan't harm thee, my dear." And the love-light shone in her eyes for all the court to see. But the sergeant never let his look meet it. When he stepped down at last she gave a sob of joy, and fainted bang-off.

They roused her up, after this, to hear the verdict of Guilty and her doom spoken by the judge. "Pris'ner at the bar," said the Clerk of Arraigns, "have ye anything to say why this court should not pass sentence o' death?"

She held tight of the rail before her, and spoke out loud and clear-

"My Lord and gentlemen all, I be a guilty woman; an' I be ready to die at once for my sin. But if ye kill me now, ye kill the child in my body-an' he is innocent."

Well, 'twas found she spoke truth; and the hanging was put off till after the time of her delivery. She was led back to prison, and there, about the end of June, her child was born, and died before he was six hours old. But the mother recovered, and quietly abode the time of her hanging.

I can mind her execution very well; for father and mother had determined it would be an excellent thing for my rickets to take me into Bodmin that day, and get a touch of the dead woman's hand, which in those times was considered an unfailing remedy. So we borrowed the parson's manure-cart, and cleaned it thoroughly, and drove in together.

The place of the hangings, then, was a little door in the prison-wall, looking over the bank where the railway now goes, and a dismal piece of water called Jail-pool, where the townsfolk drowned most of the dogs and cats they'd no further use for. All the bank under the gallows was that thick with people you could almost walk upon their heads; and my ribs were squeezed by the crowd so that I couldn't breathe freely for a month after. Back across the pool, the fields along the side of the valley were lined with booths and sweet-stalls and standings-a perfect Whitsun-fair; and a din going up that cracked your ears.

But there was the stillness of death when the woman came forth, with the sheriff and the chaplain reading in his book, and the unnamed man behind-all from the little door. She wore a strait black gown, and a white kerchief about her neck-a lovely woman, young and white and tearless.

She ran her eye over the crowd and stepped forward a pace, as if to speak; but lifted a finger and beckoned instead: and out of the people a man fought his way to the foot of the scaffold. 'Twas the dashing sergeant, that was here upon sick-leave. Sick he was, I believe. His face above his shining regimentals was grey as a slate; for he had committed perjury to save his skin, and on the face of the perjured no sun will ever shine.

"Have you got it?" the doomed woman said, many hearing the words.

He tried to reach, but the scaffold was too high, so he tossed up what was in his hand, and the woman caught it-a little screw of tissue-paper.

"I must see that, please!" said the sheriff, laying a hand upon her arm.

"'Tis but a weddin'-ring, sir"-and she slipped it over her finger. Then she kissed it once, under the beam, and, lookin' into the dragoon's eyes, spoke very slow-

"Husband, our child shall go wi' you; an' when I want you he shall fetch you."

-and with that turned to the sheriff, saying:

"I be ready, sir."

The sheriff wouldn't give father and mother leave for me to touch the dead woman's hand; so they drove back that evening grumbling a good bit. 'Tis a sixteen-mile drive, and the ostler in at Bodmin had swindled the poor old horse out of his feed, I believe; for he crawled like a slug. But they were so taken up with discussing the day's doings, and what a mort of people had been present, and how the sheriff might have used milder language in refusing my father, that they forgot to use the whip. The moon was up before we got halfway home, and a star to be seen here and there; and still we never mended our pace.

'Twas in the middle of the lane leading down to Hendra Bottom, where for more than a mile two carts can't pass each other, that my father pricks up his ears and looks back.

"Hullo!" says he; "there's somebody gallopin' behind us."

Far back in the night we heard the noise of a horse's hoofs, pounding furiously on the road and drawing nearer and nearer.

"Save us!" cries father; "whoever 'tis, he's comin' down th' lane!" And in a minute's time the clatter was close on us and someone shouting behind.

"Hurry that crawlin' worm o' yourn-or draw aside in God's name, an' let me by!" the rider yelled.

"What's up?" asked my father, quartering as well as he could.

"Why! Hullo! Farmer Hugo, be that you?"

"There's a mad devil o' a man behind, ridin' down all he comes across. A's blazin' drunk, I reckon-but 'tisn' that-'tis the horrible voice that goes wi' en-Hark! Lord protect us, he's turn'd into the lane!"

Sure enough, the clatter of a second horse was coming down upon us, out of the night-and with it the most ghastly sounds that ever creamed a man's flesh. Farmer Hugo pushed past us and sent a shower of mud in our faces as his horse leapt off again, and 'way-to-go down the hill. My father stood up and lashed our old grey with the reins, and down we went too, bumpity-bump for our lives, the poor beast being taken suddenly like one possessed. For the screaming behind was like nothing on earth but the wailing and sobbing of a little child-only tenfold louder. 'Twas just as you'd fancy a baby might wail if his little limbs was being twisted to death.

At the hill's foot, as you know, a stream crosses the lane-that widens out there a bit, and narrows again as it goes up t'other side of the valley. Knowing we must be overtaken further on-for the screams and clatter seemed at our very backs by this-father jumped out here into the stream and backed the cart well to one side; and not a second too soon.

The next moment, like a wind, this thing went by us in the moonlight- a man upon a black horse that splashed the stream all over us as he dashed through it and up the hill. 'Twas the scarlet dragoon with his ashen face; and behind him, holding to his cross-belt, rode a little shape that tugged and wailed and raved. As I stand here, sir, 'twas the shape of a naked babe!

Well, I won't go on to tell how my father dropped upon his knees in the water, or how my mother fainted off. The thing was gone, and from that moment for eight years nothing was seen or heard of Sergeant Basket. The fright killed my mother. Before next spring she fell into a decline, and early next fall the old man-for he was an old man now-had to delve her grave. After this he went feebly about his work, but held on, being wishful for me to step into his shoon, which I began to do as soon as I was fourteen, having outgrown the rickets by that time.

But one cool evening in September month, father was up digging in the yard alone: for 'twas a small child's grave, and in the loosest soil, and I was off on a day's work, thatching Farmer Tresidder's stacks. He was digging away slowly when he heard a rattle at the lych-gate, and looking over the edge of the grave, saw in the dusk a man hitching his horse there by the bridle.

'Twas a coal-black horse, and the man wore a scarlet coat all powdered with pilm; and as he opened the gate and came over the graves, father saw that 'twas the dashing dragoon. His face was still a slaty-grey, and clammy with sweat; and when he spoke, his voice was all of a whisper, with a shiver therein.

"Bedman," says he, "go to the hedge and look down the road, and tell me what you see."

My father went, with his knees shaking, and came back again.

"I see a woman," says he, "not fifty yards down the road. She is dressed in black, an' has a veil over her face; an' she's comin' this way."

"Bedman," answers the dragoon, "go to the gate an' look back along the

Plymouth road, an' tell me what you see."

"I see," says my father, coming back with his teeth chattering, "I see, twenty yards back, a naked child comin'. He looks to be callin', but he makes no sound."

"Because his voice is wearied out," says the dragoon. And with that he faced about, and walked to the gate slowly.

"Bedman, come wi' me an' see the rest," he says, over his shoulder.

He opened the gate, unhitched the bridle and swung himself heavily up in the saddle.

Now from the gate the bank goes down pretty steep into the road, and at the foot of the bank my father saw two figures waiting. 'Twas the woman and the child, hand in hand; and their eyes burned up like coals: and the woman's veil was lifted, and her throat bare.

As the horse went down the bank towards these two, they reached out and took each a stirrup and climbed upon his back, the child before the dragoon and the woman behind. The man's face was set like a stone. Not a word did either speak, and in this fashion they rode down the hill towards Ruan sands. All that my father could mind, beyond, was that the woman's hands were passed round the man's neck, where the rope had passed round her own.

No more could he tell, being a stricken man from that hour. But Aunt Polgrain, the house-keeper up to Constantine, saw them, an hour later, go along the road below the town-place; and Jacobs, the smith, saw them pass his forge towards Bodmin about midnight. So the tale's true enough. But since that night no man has set eyes on horse or riders.




The sensation was odd; for I could have made affidavit I had never visited the place in my life, nor come within fifty miles of it. Yet every furlong of the drive was earmarked for me, as it were, by some detail perfectly familiar. The high-road ran straight ahead to a notch in the long chine of Huel Tor; and this notch was filled with the yellow ball of the westering sun. Whenever I turned my head and blinked, red simulacra of this ball hopped up and down over the brown moors. Miles of wasteland, dotted with peat-ricks and cropping ponies, stretched to the northern horizon: on our left three long coombes radiated seaward, and in the gorge of the midmost was a building stuck like a fish-bone, its twisted Jacobean chimneys overtopping a plantation of ash-trees that now, in November, allowed a glimpse, and no more, of the grey facade. I had looked down that coombe as we drove by; and catching sight of these chimneys felt something like reassurance, as if I had been counting, all the way, to find them there.

But here let me explain who I am and what brought me to these parts. My name is Samuel Wraxall-the Reverend Samuel Wraxall, to be precise: I was born a Cockney and educated at Rugby and Oxford. On leaving the University I had taken orders; but, for reasons impertinent to this narrative, was led, after five years of parochial work in Surrey, to accept an Inspectorship of Schools. Just now I was bound for Pitt's Scawens, a desolate village among the Cornish clay-moors, there to examine and report upon the Board School. Pitt's Scawens lies some nine miles off the railway, and six from the nearest market-town; consequently, on hearing there was a comfortable inn near the village, I had determined to make that my resting-place for the night and do my business early on the morrow.

"Who lives down yonder?" I asked my driver.

"Squire Parkyn," he answered, not troubling to follow my gaze.

"Old family?"

"May be: Belonged to these parts before I can mind."

"What's the place called?"


I had certainly never heard the name before, nevertheless my lips were forming the syllables almost before he spoke. As he flicked up his grey horse and the gig began to oscillate in more business-like fashion, I put him a fourth question-a question at once involuntary and absurd.

"Are you sure the people who live there are called Parkyn?"

He turned his head at this, and treated me quite excusably to a stare of amazement.

"Well-considerin' I've lived in these parts five-an'-forty year, man and boy, I reckon I ought to be sure."

The reproof was just, and I apologised. Nevertheless Parkyn was not the name I wanted. What was the name? And why did I want it? I had not the least idea. For the next mile I continued to hunt my brain for the right combination of syllables. I only knew that somewhere, now at the back of my head, now on my tongue-tip, there hung a word I desired to utter, but could not. I was still searching for it when the gig climbed over the summit of a gentle rise, and the "Indian Queens" hove in sight.

It is not usual for a village to lie a full mile beyond its inn: yet I never doubted this must be the case with Pitt's Scawens. Nor was I in the least surprised by the appearance of this lonely tavern, with the black peat-pool behind it and the high-road in front, along which its end windows stare for miles, as if on the look-out for the ghosts of departed coaches full of disembodied travellers for the Land's End. I knew the sign-board over the porch: I knew-though now in the twilight it was impossible to distinguish colours-that upon either side of it was painted an Indian Queen in a scarlet turban and blue robe, taking two black children with scarlet parasols to see a blue palm-tree. I recognised the hepping-stock and granite drinking-trough beside the porch; as well as the eight front windows, four on either side of the door, and the dummy window immediately over it. Only the landlord was unfamiliar. He appeared as the gig drew up-a loose-fleshed, heavy man, something over six feet in height-and welcomed me with an air of anxious hospitality, as if I were the first guest he had entertained for many years.

"You received my letter, then?" I asked.

"Yes, surely. The Rev. S. Wraxall, I suppose. Your bed's aired, sir, and a fire in the Blue Room, and the cloth laid. My wife didn't like to risk cooking the fowl till you were really come. 'Railways be that uncertain,' she said. 'Something may happen to the train and he'll be done to death and all in pieces.'"

It took me a couple of seconds to discover that these gloomy anticipations referred not to me but to the fowl.

"But if you can wait half an hour-" he went on.

"Certainly," said I. "In the meanwhile, if you'll show me up to my bedroom, I'll have a wash and change my clothes, for I've been travelling since ten this morning."

I was standing in the passage by this time, and examined it in the dusk while the landlord was fetching a candle. Yes, again: I had felt sure the staircase lay to the right. I knew by heart the Ionic pattern of its broad balusters; the tick of the tall clock, standing at the first turn of the stairs; the vista down the glazed door opening on the stable-yard. When the landlord returned with my portmanteau and a candle and I followed him up-stairs, I was asking myself for the twentieth time-'When-in what stage of my soul's history-had I been doing all this before? And what on earth was that tune that kept humming in my head?'

I dismissed these speculations as I entered the bedroom and began to fling off my dusty clothes. I had almost forgotten about them by the time I began to wash away my travel-stains, and rinse the coal-dust out of my hair. My spirits revived, and I began mentally to arrange my plans for the next day. The prospect of dinner, too, after my cold drive was wonderfully comforting. Perhaps (thought I), there is good wine in this inn; it is just the house wherein travellers find, or boast that they find, forgotten bins of Burgundy or Teneriffe. When my landlord returned to conduct me to the Blue Room, I followed him down to the first landing in the lightest of spirits.

Therefore, I was startled when, as the landlord threw open the door and stood aside to let me pass, it came upon me again-and this time not as a merely vague sensation, but as a sharp and sudden fear taking me like a cold hand by the throat. I shivered as I crossed the threshold and began to look about me. The landlord observed it, and said-

"It's chilly weather for travelling, to be sure. Maybe you'd be better down-stairs in the coffee-room, after all."

I felt that this was probable enough. But it seemed a pity to have put him to the pains of lighting this fire for nothing. So I promised him I should be comfortable enough.

He appeared to be relieved, and asked me what I would drink with my dinner. "There's beer-I brew it myself; and sherry-"

I said I would try his beer.

"And a bottle of sound port to follow?"

Port upon home-brewed beer! But I had dared it often enough in my Oxford days, and a long evening lay before me, with a snug armchair, and a fire fit to roast a sheep. I assented.

He withdrew to fetch up the meal, and I looked about me with curiosity. The room was a long one-perhaps fifty feet from end to end, and not less than ten paces broad. It was wainscotted to the height of four feet from the ground, probably with oak, but the wood had been so larded with dark blue paint that its texture could not be discovered. Above this wainscot the walls were covered with a fascinating paper. The background of this was a greenish-blue, and upon it a party of red-coated riders in three-cornered hats blew large horns while they hunted a stag. This pattern, striking enough in itself, became immeasurably more so when repeated a dozen times; for the stag of one hunt chased the riders of the next, and the riders chased the hounds, and so on in an unbroken procession right round the room. The window at the bottom of the room stood high in the wall, with short blue curtains and a blue-cushioned seat beneath. In the corner to the right of it stood a tall clock, and by the clock an old spinet, decorated with two plated cruets, a toy cottage constructed of shells and gum, and an ormolu clock under glass-the sort of ornament that an Agricultural Society presents to the tenant of the best-cultivated farm within thirty miles of somewhere or other. The floor was un-carpeted save for one small oasis opposite the fire. Here stood my table, cleanly spread, with two plated candlesticks, each holding three candles. Along the wainscot extended a regiment of dark, leather-cushioned chairs, so straight in the back that they seemed to be standing at attention. There was but one easy-chair in the room, and this was drawn close to the fire. I turned towards it.

As I sat down I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror above the fireplace. It was an unflattering glass, with a wave across the surface that divided my face into two ill-fitting halves, and a film upon it, due, I suppose, to the smoke of the wood-fire below. But the setting of this mirror and the fireplace itself were by far the most noteworthy objects in the whole room. I set myself idly to examine them.

It was an open hearth, and the blazing faggot lay on the stone itself. The andirons were of indifferently polished steel, and on either side of the fireplace two Ionic pilasters of dark oak supported a narrow mantel-ledge. Above this rested the mirror, flanked by a couple of naked, flat-cheeked boys, who appeared to be lowering it over the fire by a complicated system of pulleys, festoons, and flowers. These flowers and festoons, as well as the frame of the mirror, were of some light wood-lime, I fancy-and reminded me of Grinling Gibbons' work; and the glass tilted forward at a surprising angle, as if about to tumble on the hearth-rug. The carving was exceedingly delicate. I rose to examine it more narrowly. As I did so, my eyes fell on three letters, cut in flowing italic capitals upon a plain boss of wood immediately over the frame, and I spelt out the word FVI.

Fui-the word was simple enough; but what of its associations? Why should it begin to stir up again those memories which were memories of nothing? Fui-"I have been"; but what the dickens have I been?

The landlord came in with my dinner.

"Ah!" said he, "you're looking at our masterpiece, I see."

"Tell me," I asked; "do you know why this word is written here, over the mirror?"

"I've heard my wife say, sir, it was the motto of the Cardinnocks that used to own this house. Ralph Cardinnock, father to the last squire, built it. You'll see his initials up there, in the top corners of the frame-R. C.-one letter in each corner."

As he spoke it, I knew this name-Cardinnock-for that which had been haunting me. I seated myself at table, saying-

"They lived at Tremenhuel, I suppose. Is the family gone?-died out?"

"Why yes; and the way of it was a bit curious, too."

"You might sit down and tell me about it," I said, "while I begin my dinner."

"There's not much to tell," he answered, taking a chair; "and I'm not the man to tell it properly. My wife is a better hand at it, but"- here he looked at me doubtfully-"it always makes her cry."

"Then I'd rather hear it from you. How did Tremenhuel come into the hands of the Parkyns?-that's the present owner's name, is it not?"

The landlord nodded. "The answer to that is part of the story. Old Parkyn, great-great-grandfather to the one that lives there now, took Tremenhuel on lease from the last Cardinnock-Squire Philip Cardinnock, as he was called. Squire Philip came into the property when he was twenty-three: and before he reached twenty-seven, he was forced to let the old place. He was wild, they say-thundering wild; a drinking, dicing, cock-fighting, horse-racing young man; poured out his money like water through a sieve. That was bad enough: but when it came to carrying off a young lady and putting a sword through her father and running the country, I put it to you it's worse."

"Did he disappear?"

"That's part of the story, too. When matters got desperate and he was forced to let Tremenhuel, he took what money he could raise and cleared out of the neighbourhood for a time; went off to Tregarrick when the militia was embodied, he being an officer; and there he cast his affections upon old Sir Felix Williams's daughter. Miss Cicely-"

I was expecting it: nevertheless I dropped my fork clumsily as I heard the name, and for a few seconds the landlord's voice sounded like that of a distant river as it ran on-

"And as Sir Felix wouldn't consent-for which nobody blamed him- Squire Philip and Miss Cicely agreed to go off together one dark night. But the old man found them out and stopped them in the nick of time and got six inches of cold steel for his pains. However, he kept his girl, and Squire Philip had to fly the country. He went off that same night, they say: and wherever he went, he never came back."

"What became of him?"

"Ne'er a soul knows; for ne'er a soul saw his face again. Year after year, old Parkyn, his tenant, took the rent of Tremenhuel out of his right pocket and paid it into his left: and in time, there being no heir, he just took over the property and stepped into Cardinnock's shoes with a 'by your leave' to nobody, and there his grandson is to this day."

"What became of the young lady-of Miss Cicely Williams?" I asked.

"Died an old maid. There was something curious between her and her only brother who had helped to stop the runaway match. Nobody knows what it was: but when Sir Felix died-as he did about ten years after- she packed up and went somewhere to the North of England and settled. They say she and her brother never spoke: which was carrying her anger at his interference rather far, 'specially as she remained good friends with her father."

He broke off here to fetch up the second course. We talked no more, for I was pondering his tale and disinclined to be diverted to other topics. Nor can I tell whether the rest of the meal was good or ill. I suppose I ate: but it was only when the landlord swept the cloth, and produced a bottle of port, with a plate of biscuits and another of dried raisins, that I woke out of my musing. While I drew the arm-chair nearer the fire, he pushed forward the table with the wine to my elbow. After this, he poured me out a glass and fell to dusting a high-backed chair with vigour, as though he had caught it standing at ease and were giving it a round dozen for insubordination in the ranks. "Was there anything more?" "Nothing, thank you." He withdrew.

I drank a couple of glasses and began meditatively to light my pipe.

I was trying to piece together these words "Philip Cardinnock-

Cicely Williams-fui," and to fit them into the tune that kept running

in my head.

My pipe went out. I pulled out my pouch and was filling it afresh when a puff of wind came down the chimney and blew a cloud of blue smoke out into the room.

The smoke curled up and spread itself over the face of the mirror confronting me. I followed it lazily with my eyes. Then suddenly I bent forward, staring up. Something very curious was happening to the glass.



The smoke that had dimmed the mirror's face for a moment was rolling off its surface and upwards to the ceiling. But some of it still lingered in filmy, slowly revolving eddies. The glass itself, too, was stirring beneath this film and running across its breadth in horizontal waves which broke themselves silently, one after another, against the dark frame, while the circles of smoke kept widening, as the ripples widen when a stone is tossed into still water.

I rubbed my eyes. The motion on the mirror's surface was quickening perceptibly, while the glass itself was steadily becoming more opaque, the film deepening to a milky colour and lying over the surface in heavy folds. I was about to start up and touch the glass with my hand, when beneath this milky colour and from the heart of the whirling film, there began to gleam an underlying brilliance after the fashion of the light in an opal, but with this difference, that the light here was blue- a steel blue so vivid that the pain of it forced me to shut my eyes. When I opened them again, this light had increased in intensity. The disturbance in the glass began to abate; the eddies revolved more slowly; the smoke-wreaths faded: and as they died wholly out, the blue light went out on a sudden and the mirror looked down upon me as before.

That is to say, I thought so for a moment. But the next, I found that though its face reflected the room in which I sat, there was one omission.

I was that omission. My arm-chair was there, but no one sat in it.

I was surprised; but, as well as I can recollect, not in the least frightened. I continued, at any rate, to gaze steadily into the glass, and now took note of two particulars that had escaped me. The table I saw was laid for two. Forks, knives and glasses gleamed at either end, and a couple of decanters caught the sparkle of the candles in the centre. This was my first observation. The second was that the colours of the hearth-rug had gained in freshness, and that a dark spot just beyond it-a spot which in my first exploration I had half-amusedly taken for a blood-stain-was not reflected in the glass.

As I leant back and gazed, with my hands in my lap, I remember there was some difficulty in determining whether the tune by which I was still haunted ran in my head or was tinkling from within the old spinet by the window. But after a while the music, whencesoever it came, faded away and ceased. A dead silence held everything for about thirty seconds.

And then, still looking in the mirror, I saw the door behind me open slowly.

The next moment, two persons noiselessly entered the room-a young man and a girl. They wore the dress of the early Georgian days, as well as I could see; for the girl was wrapped in a cloak with a hood that almost concealed her face, while the man wore a heavy riding-coat. He was booted and spurred, and the backs of his top-boots were splashed with mud. I say the backs of his boots, for he stood with his back to me while he held open the door for the girl to pass, and at first I could not see his face.

The lady advanced into the light of the candles and threw back her hood. Her eyes were dark and frightened: her cheeks damp with rain and slightly reddened by the wind. A curl of brown hair had broken loose from its knot and hung, heavy with wet, across her brow. It was a beautiful face; and I recognised its owner. She was Cicely Williams.

With that, I knew well enough what I was to see next. I knew it even while the man at the door was turning, and I dug the nails of my right hand into the palm of my left, to repress the fear that swelled up as a wave as I looked straight into his face and saw-my own self.

But I had expected it, as I say: and when the wave of fear had passed over me and gone, I could observe these two figures steadfastly enough. The girl dropped into a chair beside the table, and stretching her arms along the white cloth, bowed her head over them and wept. I saw her shoulders heave and her twined fingers work as she struggled with her grief. The young Squire advanced and, with a hand on her shoulder, endeavoured by many endearments to comfort her. His lips moved vehemently, and gradually her shoulders ceased to rise and fall. By-and-by she raised her head and looked up into his face with wet, gleaming eyes. It was very pitiful to see. The young man took her face between his hands, kissed it, and pouring out a glass of wine, held it to her lips. She put it aside with her hand and glanced up towards the tall clock in the corner. My eyes, following hers, saw that the hands pointed to a quarter to twelve.

The young Squire set down the glass hastily, stepped to the window and, drawing aside the blue curtain, gazed out upon the night. Twice he looked back at Cicely, over his shoulder, and after a minute returned to the table. He drained the glass which the girl had declined, poured out another, still keeping his eyes on her, and began to walk impatiently up and down the room. And all the time Cicely's soft eyes never ceased to follow him. Clearly there was need for hurry, for they had not laid aside their travelling-cloaks, and once or twice the young man paused in his walk to listen. At length he pulled out his watch, glanced from it to the clock in the corner, put it away with a frown and, striding up to the hearth, flung himself down in the arm-chair-the very arm-chair in which I was seated.

As he sat there, tapping the hearth-rug with the toe of his thick riding-boot and moving his lips now and then in answer to some question from the young girl, I had time to examine his every feature. Line by line they reproduced my own-nay, looking straight into his eyes I could see through them into the soul of him and recognised that soul for my own. Of all the passions there I knew that myself contained the germs. Vices repressed in youth, tendencies to sin starved in my own nature by lack of opportunity-these flourished in a rank growth. I saw virtues, too, that I had once possessed but had lost by degrees in my respectable journey through life-courage, generosity, tenderness of heart. I was discovering these with envy, one by one, when he raised his head higher and listened for a moment, with a hand on either arm of the chair.

The next instant he sprang up and faced the door. Glancing at Cicely, I saw her cowering down in her chair.

The young Squire had hardly gained his feet when the door flew open and the figures of two men appeared on the threshold-Sir Felix Williams and his only son, the father and brother of Cicely.

There, in the doorway, the intruders halted; but for an instant only. Almost before the Squire could draw, his sweetheart's brother had sprung forward. Like two serpents their rapiers engaged in the candle-light. The soundless blades crossed and glittered. Then one of them flickered in a narrow circle, and the brother's rapier went spinning from his hand across the room.

Young Cardinnock lowered his point at once, and his adversary stepped back a couple of paces. While a man might count twenty the pair looked each other in the face, and then the old man, Sir Felix, stepped slowly forward.

But before he could thrust-for the young Squire still kept his point lowered-Cicely sprang forward and threw herself across her lover's breast. There, for all the gentle efforts his left hand made to disengage her, she clung. She had made her choice. There was no sign of faltering in her soft eyes, and her father had perforce to hold his hand.

The old man began to speak. I saw his face distorted with passion and his lips working. I saw the deep red gather on Cicely's cheeks and the anger in her lover's eyes. There was a pause as Sir Felix ceased to speak, and then the young Squire replied. But his sentence stopped midway: for once more the old man rushed upon him.

This time young Cardinnock's rapier was raised. Girdling Cicely with his left arm he parried her father's lunge and smote his blade aside. But such was the old man's passion that he followed the lunge with all his body, and before his opponent could prevent it, was wounded high in the chest, beneath the collar-bone.

He reeled back and fell against the table. Cicely ran forward and caught his hand; but he pushed her away savagely and, with another clutch at the table's edge, dropped upon the hearth-rug. The young man, meanwhile, white and aghast, rushed to the table, filled a glass with wine, and held it to the lips of the wounded man. So the two lovers knelt.

It was at this point that I who sat and witnessed the tragedy was assailed by a horror entirely new. Hitherto I had, indeed, seen myself in Squire Philip Cardinnock; but now I began also to possess his soul and feel with his feelings, while at the same time I continued to sit before the glass, a helpless onlooker. I was two men at once; the man who knelt all unaware of what was coming and the man who waited in the arm-chair, incapable of word or movement, yet gifted with a torturing prescience. And as I sat this was what I saw:-

The brother, as I knelt there oblivious of all but the wounded man, stepped across the room to the corner where his rapier lay, picked it up softly and as softly stole up behind me. I tried to shout, to warn myself; but my tongue was tied. The brother's arm was lifted. The candlelight ran along the blade. Still the kneeling figure never turned.

And as my heart stiffened and awaited it, there came a flash of pain- one red-hot stroke of anguish.



As the steel entered my back, cutting all the cords that bound me to life, I suffered anguish too exquisite for words to reach, too deep for memory to dive after. My eyes closed and teeth shut on the taste of death; and as they shut a merciful oblivion wrapped me round.

When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was standing on my feet. A cold wind was blowing on my face, as from an open door. I staggered to meet this wind and found myself groping along a passage and down a staircase filled with Egyptian darkness. Then the wind increased suddenly and shook the black curtain around my senses. A murky light broke in on me. I had a body. That I felt; but where it was I knew not. And so I felt my way forward in the direction where the twilight showed least dimly.

Slowly the curtain shook and its folds dissolved as I moved against the wind. The clouds lifted; and by degrees I grew aware that I was standing on the barren moor. Night was stretched around to the horizon, where straight ahead a grey bar shone across the gloom. I pressed on towards it. The heath was uneven under my feet, and now and then I stumbled heavily; but still I held on. For it seemed that I must get to this grey bar or die a second time. All my muscles, all my will, were strained upon this purpose.

Drawing nearer, I observed that a wave-like motion kept passing over this brighter space, as it had passed over the mirror.

The glimmer would be obscured for a moment, and then re-appear. At length a gentle acclivity of the moor hid it for a while. My legs positively raced up this slope, and upon the summit I hardly dared to look for a moment, knowing that if the light were an illusion all my hope must die with it.

But it was no illusion. There was the light, and there, before my feet, lay a sable sheet of water, over the surface of which the light was playing. There was no moon, no star in heaven; yet over this desolate tarn hovered a pale radiance that ceased again where the edge of its waves lapped the further bank of peat. Their monotonous wash hardly broke the stillness of the place.

The formless longing was now pulling at me with an attraction I could not deny, though within me there rose and fought against it a horror only less strong. Here, as in the Blue Room, two souls were struggling for me. It was the soul of Philip Cardinnock that drew me towards the tarn and the soul of Samuel Wraxall that resisted. Only, what was the thing towards which I was being pulled?

I must have stood at least a minute on the brink before I descried a black object floating at the far end of the tarn. What this object was I could not make out; but I knew it on the instant to be that for which I longed, and all my will grew suddenly intent on drawing it nearer. Even as my volition centred upon it, the black spot began to move slowly out into the pale radiance towards me. Silently, surely, as though my wish drew it by a rope, it floated nearer and nearer over the bosom of the tarn; and while it was still some twenty yards from me I saw it to be a long black box, shaped somewhat like a coffin.

There was no doubt about it. I could hear the water now sucking at its dark sides. I stepped down the bank, and waded up to my knees in the icy water to meet it. It was a plain box, with no writing upon the lid, nor any speck of metal to relieve the dead black: and it moved with the same even speed straight up to where I stood.

As it came, I laid my hand upon it and touched wood. But with the touch came a further sensation that made me fling both arms around the box and begin frantically to haul it towards the shore.

It was a feeling of suffocation; of a weight that pressed in upon my ribs and choked the lungs' action. I felt that I must open that box or die horribly; that until I had it upon the bank and had forced the lid up I should know no pause from the labour and torture of dying.

This put a wild strength into me. As the box grated upon the few pebbles by the shore, I bent over it, caught it once more by the sides, and with infinite effort dragged it up out of the water. It was heavy, and the weight upon my chest was heavier yet: but straining, panting, gasping, I hauled it up the bank, dropped it on the turf, and knelt over it, tugging furiously at the lid.

I was frenzied-no less. My nails were torn until the blood gushed. Lights danced before me; bells rang in my ears; the pressure on my lungs grew more intolerable with each moment; but still I fought with that lid. Seven devils were within me and helped me; and all the while I knew that I was dying, that unless the box were opened in a moment or two it would be too late.

The sweat ran off my eyebrows and dripped on the box. My breath came and went in sobs. I could not die. I could not, must not die. And so I tugged and strained and tugged again.

Then, as I felt the black anguish of the Blue Room descending a second time upon me, I seemed to put all my strength into my hands. From the lid or from my own throat-I could not distinguish-there came a creak and a long groan. I tore back the board and fell on the heath with one shuddering breath of relief.

And drawing it, I raised my head and looked over the coffin's edge.

Still drawing it, I tumbled back.

White, cold, with the last struggle fixed on its features and open eyes, it was my own dead face that stared up at me!



They found me, next morning, lying on the brink of the tarn, and carried me back to the inn. There I lay for weeks in a brain fever and talked- as they assure me-the wildest nonsense. The landlord had first guessed that something was amiss on finding the front door open when he came down at five o'clock. I must have turned to the left on leaving the house, travelled up the road for a hundred yards, and then struck almost at right angles across the moor. One of my shoes was found a furlong from the highway, and this had guided them. Of course they found no coffin beside me, and I was prudent enough to hold my tongue when I became convalescent. But the effect of that night was to shatter my health for a year and more, and force me to throw up my post of School Inspector. To this day I have never examined the school at Pitt's Scawens. But somebody else has; and last winter I received a letter, which I will give in full:-

21, Chesterham Road, KENSINGTON, W. December 3rd, 1891.

Dear Wraxall,-

It is a long time since we have corresponded, but I have just returned from Cornwall, and while visiting Pitt's Scawens professionally, was reminded of you. I put up at the inn where you had your long illness. The people there were delighted to find that I knew you, and desired me to send "their duty" when next I wrote. By the way, I suppose you were introduced to their state apartment-the Blue Room-and its wonderful chimney carving. I made a bid to the landlord for it, panels, mirror, and all, but he referred me to Squire Parkyn, the landlord. I think I may get it, as the Squire loves hard coin. When I have it up over my mantel-piece here you must run over and give me your opinion on it. By the way, clay has been discovered on the Tremenhuel Estate, just at the back of the "Indian Queens": at least, I hear that Squire Parkyn is running a Company, and is sanguine. You remember the tarn behind the inn? They made an odd discovery there when draining it for the new works. In the mud at the bottom was imbedded the perfect skeleton of a man. The bones were quite clean and white. Close beside the body they afterwards turned up a silver snuff-box, with the word "Fui" on the lid. "Fui" was the motto of the Cardinnocks, who held Tremenhuel before it passed to the Parkyns. There seems to be no doubt that these are the bones of the last Squire, who disappeared mysteriously more than a hundred years ago, in consequence of a love affair, I'm told. It looks like foul play; but, if so, the account has long since passed out of the hands of man.

Yours ever, David E. Mainwaring.

P.S.-I reopen this to say that Squire Parkyn has accepted my offer for the chimney-piece. Let me hear soon that you'll come and look at it and give me your opinion.


Extract from the Memoirs of Gabriel Foot, Highwayman.

I will say this-speaking as accurately as a man may, so long afterwards-that when first I spied the house it put no desire in me but just to give thanks.

For conceive my case. It was near mid-night, and ever since dusk I had been tramping the naked moors, in the teeth of as vicious a nor'-wester as ever drenched a man to the skin, and then blew the cold home to his marrow. My clothes were sodden; my coat-tails flapped with a noise like pistol-shots; my boots squeaked as I went. Overhead, the October moon was in her last quarter, and might have been a slice of finger-nail for all the light she afforded. Two-thirds of the time the wrack blotted her out altogether; and I, with my stick clipped tight under my armpit, eyes puckered up, and head bent aslant, had to keep my wits alive to distinguish the road from the black heath to right and left. For three hours I had met neither man nor man's dwelling, and (for all I knew) was desperately lost. Indeed, at the cross-roads, two miles back, there had been nothing for me but to choose the way that kept the wind on my face, and it gnawed me like a dog.

Mainly to allay the stinging of my eyes, I pulled up at last, turned right-about-face, leant back against the blast with a hand on my hat, and surveyed the blackness behind. It was at this instant that, far away to the left, a point of light caught my notice, faint but steady; and at once I felt sure it burnt in the window of a house. "The house," thought I, "is a good mile off, beside the other road, and the light must have been an inch over my hat-brim for the last half-hour." This reflection-that on so wide a moor I had come near missing the information I wanted (and perhaps a supper) by one inch-sent a strong thrill down my back.

I cut straight across the heather towards the light, risking quags and pitfalls. Nay, so heartening was the chance to hear a fellow creature's voice, that I broke into a run, skipping over the stunted gorse that cropped up here and there, and dreading every moment to see the light quenched. "Suppose it burns in an upper window, and the family is going to bed, as would be likely at this hour-" The apprehension kept my eyes fixed on the bright spot, to the frequent scandal of my legs, that within five minutes were stuck full of gorse prickles.

But the light did not go out, and soon a flicker of moonlight gave me a glimpse of the house's outline. It proved to be a deal more imposing than I looked for-the outline, in fact, of a tall, square barrack, with a cluster of chimneys at either end, like ears, and a high wall, topped by the roofs of some outbuildings, concealing the lower windows. There was no gate in this wall, and presently I guessed the reason. I was approaching the place from behind, and the light came from a back window on the first floor.

The faintness of the light also was explained by this time. It shone behind a drab-coloured blind, and in shape resembled the stem of a wine-glass, broadening out at the foot; an effect produced by the half-drawn curtains within. I came to a halt, waiting for the next ray of moonlight. At the same moment a rush of wind swept over the chimney-stacks, and on the wind there seemed to ride a human sigh.

On this last point I may err. The gust had passed some seconds before I caught myself detecting this peculiar note, and trying to disengage it from the natural chords of the storm. From the next gust it was absent; and then, to my dismay, the light faded from the window.

I was half-minded to call out when it appeared again, this time in two windows-those next on the right to that where it had shone before. Almost at once it increased in brilliance, as if the person who carried it from the smaller room to the larger were lighting more candles; and now the illumination was strong enough to make fine gold threads of the rain that fell within its radiance, and fling two shafts of warm yellow over the coping of the back wall. During the minute or more that I stood watching, no shadow fell on either blind.

Between me and the wall ran a ditch, into which the ground at my feet broke sharply away. Setting my back to the storm again, I followed the lip of this ditch around the wall's angle. Here it shallowed, and here, too, was shelter; but not wishing to mistake a bed of nettles or any such pitfall for solid earth, I kept pretty wide as I went on. The house was dark on this side, and the wall, as before, had no opening. Close beside the next angle there grew a mass of thick gorse bushes, and pushing through these I found myself suddenly on a sound high-road, with the wind tearing at me as furiously as ever.

But here was the front; and I now perceived that the surrounding wall advanced some way before the house, so as to form a narrow courtlage. So much of it, too, as faced the road had been whitewashed, which made it an easy matter to find the gate. But as I laid hand on its latch I had a surprise.

A line of paving-stones led from the gate to a heavy porch; and along the wet surface of these there fell a streak of light from the front door, which stood ajar.

That a door should remain six inches open on such a night was astonishing enough, until I entered the court and found it as still as a room, owing to the high wall. But looking up and assuring myself that all the rest of the facade was black as ink, I wondered at the carelessness of the inmates.

It was here that my professional instinct received the first jog. Abating the sound of my feet on the paving-stones, I went up to the door and pushed it softly. It opened without noise.

I stepped into a fair-sized hall of modern build, paved with red tiles and lit with a small hanging-lamp. To right and left were doors leading to the ground-floor rooms. Along the wall by my shoulder ran a line of pegs, on which hung half-a-dozen hats and great-coats, every one of clerical shape; and full in front of me a broad staircase ran up, with a staring Brussels carpet, the colours and pattern of which I can recall as well as I can to-day's breakfast. Under this staircase was set a stand full of walking-sticks, and a table littered with gloves, brushes, a hand-bell, a riding-crop, one or two dog-whistles, and a bedroom candle, with tinder-box beside it. This, with one notable exception, was all the furniture.

The exception-which turned me cold-was the form of a yellow mastiff dog, curled on a mat beneath the table. The arch of his back was towards me, and one forepaw lay over his nose in a natural posture of sleep. I leant back on the wainscotting with my eyes tightly fixed on him, and my thoughts sneaking back, with something of regret, to the storm I had come through.

But a man's habits are not easily denied. At the end of three minutes the dog had not moved, and I was down on the door-mat unlacing my soaked boots. Slipping them off, and taking them in my left hand, I stood up, and tried a step towards the stairs, with eyes alert for any movement of the mastiff; but he never stirred. I was glad enough, however, on reaching the stairs, to find them newly built, and the carpet thick. Up I went, with a glance at every step for the table which now hid the brute's form from me, and never a creak did I wake out of that staircase till I was almost at the first landing, when my toe caught a loose stair-rod, and rattled it in a way that stopped my heart for a moment, and then set it going in double-quick time.

I stood still with a hand on the rail. My eyes were now on a level with the floor of the landing, out of which branched two passages-one turning sharply to my right, the other straight in front, so that I was gazing down the length of it. Almost at the end, a parallelogram of light fell across it from an open door.

A man who has once felt it knows there is only one kind of silence that can fitly be called "dead." This is only to be found in a great house at midnight. I declare that for a few seconds after I rattled the stair-rod you might have cut the silence with a knife. If the house held a clock, it ticked inaudibly.

Upon this silence, at the end of a minute, broke a light sound-the tink-tink of a decanter on the rim of a wine-glass. It came from the room where the light was.

Now perhaps it was that the very thought of liquor put warmth into my cold bones. It is certain that all of a sudden I straightened my back, took the remaining stairs at two strides, and walked down the passage as bold as brass, without caring a jot for the noise I made.

In the doorway I halted. The room was long, lined for the most part with books bound in what they call "divinity calf," and littered with papers like a barrister's table on assize day. A leathern elbow-chair faced the fireplace, where a few coals burned sulkily, and beside it, on the corner of a writing table, were set an unlit candle and a pile of manuscripts. At the opposite end of the room a curtained door led (as I guessed) to the chamber that I had first seen illuminated. All this I took in with the tail of my eye, while staring straight in front, where, in the middle of a great square of carpet, between me and the windows, stood a table with a red cloth upon it. On this cloth were a couple of wax candles lit, in silver stands, a tray, and a decanter three-parts full of brandy. And between me and the table stood a man.

He stood sideways, leaning a little back, as if to keep his shadow off the threshold, and looked at me over his left shoulder-a bald, grave man, slightly under the common height, with a long clerical coat of preposterous fit hanging loosely from his shoulders, a white cravat, black breeches, and black stockings. His feet were loosely thrust into carpet slippers. I judged his age at fifty, or thereabouts; but his face rested in the shadow, and I could only note a pair of eyes, very small and alert, twinkling above a large expanse of cheek.

He was lifting a wine-glass from the table at the moment when I appeared, and it trembled now in his right hand. I heard a spilt drop or two fall on the carpet. This was all the evidence he showed of discomposure.

Setting the glass back, he felt in his breast-pocket for a handkerchief, failed to find one, and rubbed his hands together to get the liquor off his fingers.

"You startled me," he said, in a matter-of-fact tone, turning his eyes upon me, as he lifted his glass again, and emptied it. "How did you find your way in?"

"By the front door," said I, wondering at his unconcern.

He nodded his head slowly.

"Ah! yes; I forgot to lock it. You came to steal, I suppose?"

"I came because I'd lost my way. I've been travelling this

God-forsaken moor since dusk-"

"With your boots in your hand," he put in quietly.

"I took them off out of respect to the yellow dog you keep."

"He lies in a very natural attitude-eh?"

"You don't tell me he was stuffed?"

The old man's eyes beamed a contemptuous pity.

"You are indifferent sharp, my dear sir, for a housebreaker. Come in. Set down those convicting boots, and don't drip pools of water in the doorway. If I must entertain a burglar, I prefer him tidy."

He walked to the fire, picked up a poker, and knocked the coals into a blaze. This done, he turned round on me with the poker still in his hand. The serenest gravity sat on his large, pale features.

"Why have I done this?" he asked.

"I suppose to get possession of the poker."

"Quite right. May I inquire your next move?"

"Why?" said I, feeling in my tail-pocket, "I carry a pistol."

"Which I suppose to be damp?"

"By no means. I carry it, as you see, in an oil-cloth case."

He stooped, and laid the poker carefully in the fender.

"That is a stronger card than I possess. I might urge that by pulling the trigger you would certainly alarm the house and the neighbourhood, and put a halter round your neck. But it strikes me as safer to assume you capable of using a pistol with effect at three paces. With what might happen subsequently I will not pretend to be concerned. The fate of your neck"-he waved a hand,-"well, I have known you for just five minutes, and feel but a moderate interest in your neck. As for the inmates of this house, it will refresh you to hear that there are none. I have lived here two years with a butler and female cook, both of whom I dismissed yesterday at a minute's notice, for conduct which I will not shock your ears by explicitly naming. Suffice it to say, I carried them off yesterday to my parish church, two miles away, married them and dismissed them in the vestry without characters. I wish you had known that butler-but excuse me; with the information I have supplied, you ought to find no difficulty in fixing the price you will take to clear out of my house instanter."

"Sir," I answered, "I have held a pistol at one or two heads in my time, but never at one stuffed with nobler indiscretion. Your chivalry does not, indeed, disarm me, but prompts me to desire more of your acquaintance. I have found a gentleman, and must sup with him before I make terms."

This address seemed to please him. He shuffled across the room to a sideboard, and produced a plate of biscuits, another of dried figs, a glass, and two decanters.

"Sherry and Madeira," he said. "There is also a cold pie in the larder, if you care for it."

"A biscuit will serve," I replied. "To tell the truth, I'm more for the bucket than the manger, as the grooms say: and the brandy you were tasting just now is more to my mind than wine."

"There is no water handy."

"I have soaked in enough to-night to last me with this bottle."

I pulled over a chair, laid my pistol on the table, and held out the glass for him to fill. Having done so, he helped himself to a glass and a chair, and sat down facing me.

"I was speaking, just now, of my late butler," he began, with a sip at his brandy. "Does it strike you that, when confronted with moral delinquency, I am apt to let my indignation get the better of me?"

"Not at all," I answered heartily, refilling my glass.

It appeared that another reply would have pleased him better.

"H'm. I was hoping that, perhaps, I had visited his offence too strongly. As a clergyman, you see, I was bound to be severe; but upon my word, sir, since Parkinson left I have felt like a man who has lost a limb."

He drummed with his fingers on the cloth for a few moments, and went on-

"One has a natural disposition to forgive butlers-Pharaoh, for instance, felt it. There hovers around butlers an atmosphere in which common ethics lose their pertinence. But mine was a rare bird-a black swan among butlers! He was more than a butler: he was a quick and brightly gifted man. Of the accuracy of his taste, and the unusual scope of his endeavour, you will be able to form some opinion when I assure you he modelled himself upon me."

I bowed, over my brandy.

"I am a scholar: yet I employed him to read aloud to me, and derived pleasure from his intonation. I talk with refinement: yet he learned to answer me in language as precise as my own. My cast-off garments fitted him not more irreproachably than did my amenities of manner. Divest him of his tray, and you would find his mode of entering a room hardly distinguishable from my own-the same urbanity, the same alertness of carriage, the same superfine deference towards the weaker sex. All-all my idiosyncrasies I saw reflected in him; and can you doubt that I was gratified? He was my alter ego-which, by the way, makes it harder for me to pardon his behaviour with the cook."

"Look here," I broke in; "you want a new butler?"

"Oh, you really grasp that fact, do you?" he retorted.

"Why, then," said I, "let me cease to be your burglar and let me continue here as your butler."

He leant back, spreading out the fingers of each hand on the table's edge.

"Believe me," I went on, "you might do worse. I have been in my time a demy of Magdalen College, Oxford, and retain some Greek and Latin. I'll undertake to read the Fathers with an accent that shall not offend you. My taste in wine is none the worse for having been formed in other men's cellars. Moreover, you shall engage the ugliest cook in Christendom, so long as I'm your butler. I've taken a liking to you- that's flat-and I apply for the post."

"I give forty pounds a year," said he.

"And I'm cheap at that price."

He filled up his glass, looking up at me while he did so with the air of one digesting a problem. From first to last his face was grave as a judge's.

"We are too impulsive, I think," was his answer, after a minute's silence; "and your speech smacks of the amateur. You say, 'Let me cease to be your burglar and let me be your butler.' The aspiration is respectable; but a man might as well say, 'Let me cease to write sermons, let me paint pictures.' And truly, sir, you impress me as no expert even in your present trade."

"On the other hand," I argued, "consider the moderation of my demands; that alone should convince you of my desire to turn over a new leaf. I ask for a month's trial; if at the end of that time I don't suit, you shall say so, and I'll march from your door with nothing in my pocket but my month's wages. Be hanged, sir! but when I reflect on the amount you'll have to pay to get me to face to-night's storm again, you seem to be getting off dirt cheap!" cried I, slapping my palm on the table.

"Ah, if you had only known Parkinson!" he exclaimed.

Now the third glass of clean spirit has always a deplorable effect on me. It turns me from bright to black, from levity to extreme sulkiness. I have done more wickedness over this third tumbler than in all the other states of comparative inebriety within my experience. So now I glowered at my companion and cursed.

"Look here, I don't want to hear any more of Parkinson, and I've a pretty clear notion of the game you're playing. You want to make me drink, and you're ready to sit prattling there plying me till I drop under the table."

"Do me the favour to remember that you came, and are staying, on your own motion. As for the brandy, I would remind you that I suggested a milder drink. Try some Madeira."

He handed me the decanter, as he spoke, and I poured out a glass.

"Madeira!" said I, taking a gulp, "Ugh! it's the commonest Marsala!"

I had no sooner said the words than he rose up, and stretched a hand gravely across to me.

"I hope you will shake it," he said; "though, as a man who after three glasses of neat spirit can distinguish between Madeira and Marsala, you have every right to refuse me. Two minutes ago you offered to become my butler, and I demurred. I now beg you to repeat that offer. Say the word, and I employ you gladly; you shall even have the second decanter (which contains genuine Madeira) to take to bed with you."

We shook hands on our bargain, and catching up a candlestick, he led the way from the room.

Picking up my boots, I followed him along the passage and down the silent staircase. In the hall he paused to stand on tip-toe, and turn up the lamp, which was burning low. As he did so, I found time to fling a glance at my old enemy, the mastiff. He lay as I had first seen him- a stuffed dog, if ever there was one. "Decidedly," thought I, "my wits are to seek to-night;" and with the same, a sudden suspicion made me turn to my conductor, who had advanced to the left-hand door, and was waiting for me, with a hand on the knob.

"One moment!" I said: "This is all very pretty, but how am I to know you're not sending me to bed while you fetch in all the countryside to lay me by the heels?"

"I'm afraid," was his answer, "you must be content with my word, as a gentleman, that never, to-night or hereafter, will I breathe a syllable about the circumstances of your visit. However, if you choose, we will return up-stairs."

"No; I'll trust you," said I; and he opened the door.

It led into a broad passage paved with slate, upon which three or four rooms opened. He paused by the second and ushered me into a sleeping-chamber, which, though narrow, was comfortable enough-a vast improvement, at any rate, on the mumpers' lodgings I had been used to for many months past.

"You can undress here," he said. "The sheets are aired, and if you'll wait a moment, I'll fetch a nightshirt-one of my own."

"Sir, you heap coals of fire on me."

"Believe me that for ninety-nine of your qualities I do not care a tinker's curse; but for your palate you are to be taken care of."

He shuffled away, but came back in a couple of minutes with the nightshirt.

"Good-night," he called to me, flinging it in at the door; and without giving me time to return the wish, went his way up-stairs.

Now it might be supposed I was only too glad to toss off my clothes and climb into the bed I had so unexpectedly acquired a right to. But, as a matter of fact, I did nothing of the kind. Instead, I drew on my boots and sat on the bed's edge, blinking at my candle till it died down in its socket, and afterwards at the purple square of window as it slowly changed to grey with the coming of dawn. I was cold to the heart, and my teeth chattered with an ague. Certainly I never suspected my host's word; but was even occupied in framing good resolutions and shaping out a reputable future, when I heard the front door gently pulled to, and a man's footsteps moving quietly to the gate.

The treachery knocked me in a heap for the moment. Then, leaping up and flinging my door wide, I stumbled through the uncertain light of the passage into the front hall. There was a fan-shaped light over the door, and the place was very still and grey. A quick thought, or, rather, a sudden, prophetic guess at the truth, made me turn to the figure of the mastiff curled under the hall table.

I laid my hand on the scruff of his neck. He was quite limp, and my fingers sank into the flesh on either side of the vertebrae. Digging them deeper, I dragged him out into the middle of the hall and pulled the front door open to see the better.

His throat was gashed from ear to ear.

How many seconds passed after I dropped the senseless lump on the floor, and before I made another movement, it would puzzle me to say. Twice I stirred a foot as if to run out at the door. Then, changing my mind, I stepped over the mastiff, and ran up the staircase.

The passage at the top was now dark; but groping down it, I found the study door open, as before, and passed in. A sick light stole through the blinds-enough for me to distinguish the glasses and decanters on the table, and find my way to the curtain that hung before the inner room.

I pushed the curtain aside, paused for a moment, and listened to the violent beat of my heart; then felt for the door-handle and turned it.

All I could see at first was that the chamber was small; next, that the light patch in a line with the window was the white coverlet of a bed; and next that somebody, or something, lay on the bed.

I listened again. There was no sound in the room; no heart beating but my own. I reached out a hand to pull up the blind, and drew it back again. I dared not.

The daylight grew minute by minute on the dull oblong of the blind, and minute by minute that horrible thing on the bed took something of distinctness.

The strain beat me at last. I fetched a loud yell to give myself courage, and, reaching for the cord, pulled up the blind as fast as it would go.

The face on the pillow was that of an old man-a face waxen and peaceful, with quiet lines about the mouth and eyes, and long lines of grey hair falling back from the temples. The body was turned a little on one side, and one hand lay outside the bedclothes in a very natural manner. But there were two big dark stains on the pillow and coverlet.

Then I knew I was face to face with the real householder, and it flashed on me that I had been indiscreet in taking service as his butler, and that I knew the face his ex-butler wore.

And, being by this time awake to the responsibilities of the post, I quitted it three steps at a time, not once looking behind me. Outside the house the storm had died down, and white daylight was gleaming over the sodden moors. But my bones were cold, and I ran faster and faster.


"So you reckon I've got to die?"

The room was mean, but not without distinction. The meanness lay in lime-washed walls, scant fittings, and uncovered boards; the distinction came of ample proportions and something of durability in the furniture. Rooms, like human faces, reflect their histories; and that generation after generation of the same family had here struggled to birth or death was written in this chamber unmistakably. The candle-light, twinkling on the face of a dark wardrobe near the door, lit up its rough inscription, "S.T. and M.T., MDCLXVII"; the straight-backed oaken chairs might well claim an equal age; and the bed in the corner was a spacious four-poster, pillared in smooth mahogany and curtained in faded green damask.

In the shadow of this bed lay the man who had spoken. A single candle stood on a tall chest at his left hand, and its ray, filtering through the thin green curtain, emphasised the hue of death on his face. The features were pinched, and very old. His tone held neither complaint nor passion: it was matter-of-fact even, as of one whose talk is merely a concession to good manners. There was the faintest interrogation in it; no more.

After a minute or so, getting no reply, he added more querulously-

"I reckon you might answer, 'Lizabeth. Do 'ee think I've got to die?"

'Lizabeth, who stood by the uncurtained window, staring into the blackness without, barely turned her head to answer-


"Doctor said so, did he?"

'Lizabeth, still with her back towards him, nodded. For a minute or two there was silence.

"I don't feel like dyin'; but doctor ought to know. Seemed to me 'twas harder, an'-an' more important. This sort o' dyin' don't seem o' much account."


"That's it. I reckon, though, 'twould be other if I had a family round the bed. But there ain't none o' the boys left to stand by me now. It's hard."

"What's hard?"

"Why, that two out o' the three should be called afore me. And hard is the manner of it. It's hard that, after Samuel died o' fever, Jim shud be blown up at Herodsfoot powder-mill. He made a lovely corpse, did Samuel; but Jim, you see, he hadn't a chance. An' as for William, he's never come home nor wrote a line since he joined the Thirty-Second; an' it's little he cares for his home or his father. I reckoned, back along, 'Lizabeth, as you an' he might come to an understandin'."

"William's naught to me."

"Look here!" cried the old man sharply; "he treated you bad, did


"Who says so?"

"Why, all the folks. Lord bless the girl! do 'ee think folks use their eyes without usin' their tongues? An' I wish it had come about, for you'd ha' kept en straight. But he treated you bad, and he treated me bad, tho' he won't find no profit o' that. You'm my sister's child, 'Lizabeth," he rambled on; "an' what house-room you've had you've fairly earned-not but what you was welcome: an' if I thought as there was harm done, I'd curse him 'pon my deathbed, I would."

"You be quiet!"

She turned from the window and cowed him with angry grey eyes. Her figure was tall and meagre; her face that of a woman well over thirty-once comely, but worn over-much, and prematurely hardened. The voice had hardened with it, perhaps. The old man, who had risen on his elbow in an access of passion, was taken with a fit of coughing, and sank back upon the pillows.

"There's no call to be niffy," he apologised at last. "I was on'y thinkin' of how you'd manage when I'm dead an' gone."

"I reckon I'll shift."

She drew a chair towards the bed and sat beside him. He seemed drowsy, and after a while stretched out an arm over the coverlet and fell asleep. 'Lizabeth took his hand, and sat there listlessly regarding the still shadows on the wall. The sick man never moved; only muttered once-some words that 'Lizabeth did not catch. At the end of an hour, alarmed perhaps by some sound within the bed's shadow, or the feel of the hand in hers, she suddenly pushed the curtain back, and, catching up the candle, stooped over the sick man.

His lids were closed, as if he slept still; but he was quite dead.

'Lizabeth stood for a while bending over him, smoothed the bedclothes straight, and quietly left the room. It was a law of the house to doff boots and shoes at the foot of the stairs, and her stocking'd feet scarcely raised a creak from the solid timbers. The staircase led straight down into the kitchen. Here a fire was blazing cheerfully, and as she descended she felt its comfort after the dismal room above.

Nevertheless, the sense of being alone in the house with a dead man, and more than a mile from any living soul, was disquieting. In truth, there was room for uneasiness. 'Lizabeth knew that some part of the old man's hoard lay up-stairs in the room with him. Of late she had, under his eye, taken from a silver tankard in the tall chest by the bed such moneys as from week to week were wanted to pay the farm hands; and she had seen papers there, too-title-deeds, maybe. The house itself lay in a cup of the hill-side, backed with steep woods-so steep that, in places, anyone who had reasons (good or bad) for doing so, might well see in at any window he chose. And to Hooper's Farm, down the valley, was a far cry for help. Meditating on this, 'Lizabeth stepped to the kitchen window and closed the shutter; then, reaching down an old horse-pistol from the rack above the mantelshelf, she fetched out powder and bullet and fell to loading quietly, as one who knew the trick of it.

And yet the sense of danger was not so near as that of loneliness-of a pervading silence without precedent in her experience, as if its master's soul in flitting had, whatever Scripture may say, taken something out of the house with it. 'Lizabeth had known this kitchen for a score of years now; nevertheless, to-night it was unfamiliar, with emptier corners and wider intervals of bare floor. She laid down the loaded pistol, raked the logs together, and set the kettle on the flame. She would take comfort in a dish of tea.

There was company in the singing of the kettle, the hiss of its overflow on the embers, and the rattle with which she set out cup, saucer, and teapot. She was bending over the hearth to lift the kettle, when a sound at the door caused her to start up and listen.

The latch had been rattled: not by the wind, for the December night without was misty and still. There was somebody on the other side of the door; and, as she turned, she saw the latch lowered back into its place.

With her eyes fastened on this latch, she set down the kettle softly and reached out for her pistol. For a moment or two there was silence. Then someone tapped gently.

The tapping went on for half a minute; then followed silence again. 'Lizabeth stole across the kitchen, pistol in hand, laid her ear against the board, and listened.

Yes, assuredly there was someone outside. She could catch the sound of breathing, and the shuffling of a heavy boot on the door-slate. And now a pair of knuckles repeated the tapping, more imperiously.

"Who's there?"

A man's voice, thick and husky, made some indistinct reply.

'Lizabeth fixed the cap more securely on her pistol, and called again-

"Who's there?"

"What the devil-" began the voice.

'Lizabeth shot back the bolt and lifted the latch.

"If you'd said at once 'twas William come back, you'd ha' been let in sooner," she said quietly.

A thin puff of rain floated against her face as the door opened, and a tall soldier stepped out of the darkness into the glow of the warm kitchen.

"Well, this here's a queer home-coming. Why, hullo, 'Lizabeth-with a pistol in your hand, too! Do you shoot the fatted calf in these parts now? What's the meaning of it?"

The overcoat of cinder grey that covered his scarlet tunic was powdered with beads of moisture; his black moustaches were beaded also; his face was damp, and smeared with the dye that trickled from his sodden cap. As he stood there and shook himself, the rain ran down and formed small pools upon the slates around his muddy boots.

He was a handsome fellow, in a florid, animal fashion; well-set, with black curls, dark eyes that yet contrived to be exceedingly shallow, and as sanguine a pair of cheeks as one could wish to see. It seemed to 'Lizabeth that the red of his complexion had deepened since she saw him last, while the white had taken a tinge of yellow, reminding her of the prize beef at the Christmas market last week. Somehow she could find nothing to say.

"The old man's in bed, I reckon. I saw the light in his window."

"You've had a wet tramp of it," was all she found to reply, though aware that the speech was inconsequent and trivial.

"Damnably. Left the coach at Fiddler's Cross, and trudged down across the fields. We were soaked enough on the coach, though, and couldn't get much worse."


"Why, you don't suppose I was the only passenger by the coach, eh?" he put in quickly.

"No, I forgot."

There was an awkward silence, and William's eyes travelled round the kitchen till they lit on the kettle standing by the hearthstone. "Got any rum in the cupboard?" While she was getting it out, he took off his cap and great-coat, hung them up behind the door, and, pulling the small table close to the fire, sat beside it, toasting his knees. 'Lizabeth set bottle and glass before him, and stood watching as he mixed the stuff.

"So you're only a private."

William set down the kettle with some violence.

"You still keep a cursedly rough tongue, I notice."

"An' you've been a soldier five year. I reckoned you'd be a sergeant at least," she pursued simply, with her eyes on his undecorated sleeve.

William took a gulp.

"How do you know I've not been a sergeant?"

"Then you've been degraded. I'm main sorry for that."

"Look here, you hush up! Damn it! there's girls enough have fancied this coat, though it ain't but a private's; and that's enough for you, I take it."

"It's handsome."

"There, that'll do. I do believe you're spiteful because I didn't offer to kiss you when I came in. Here, Cousin 'Lizabeth," he exclaimed, starting up, "I'll be sworn for all your tongue you're the prettiest maid I've seen this five year. Give me a kiss."

"Don't, William!"

Such passionate entreaty vibrated in her voice that William, who was advancing, stopped for a second to stare. Then, with a laugh, he had caught and kissed her loudly.

Her cheeks were flaming when she broke free.

William turned, emptied his glass at a gulp, and began to mix a second.

"There, there; you never look so well as when you're angered,


"'Twas a coward's trick," she panted.

"Christmas-time, you spitfire. So you ain't married yet? Lord! I don't wonder they fight shy of you; you'd be a handful, my vixen, for any man to tame. How's the old man?"

"He'll never be better."

"Like enough at his age. Is he hard set against me?"

"We've never spoke of you for years now, till to-night."

"To-night? That's queer. I've a mind to tip up a stave to let him know

I'm about. I will, too. Let me see-"

"When Johnny comes marching home again,

Hooray! Hoo-"

"Don't, don't! Oh, why did you come back to-night, of all nights?"

"And why the devil not to-night so well as any other? You're a comfortable lot, I must say! Maybe you'd like common metre better:-

"Within my fathers house

The blessed sit at meat.

Whilst I my belly stay

With husks the swine did eat."

-"Why shouldn't I wake the old man? I've done naught that I'm ashamed of."

"It don't seem you're improved by soldiering."

"Improved? I've seen life." William drained his glass.

"An' got degraded."

"Burn your tongue! I'm going to see him." He rose and made towards the door. 'Lizabeth stepped before him.

"Hush! You mustn't."

"'Mustn't?' That's a bold word."

"Well, then-'can't.' Sit down, I tell you."

"Hullo! Ain't you coming the mistress pretty free in this house?

Stand aside. I've got something to tell him-something that won't wait.

Stand aside, you she-cat!"

He pushed by her roughly, but she held on to his sleeve.

"It must wait. Listen to me."

"I won't."

"You shall. He's dead."

"Dead!" He reeled back to the table and poured out another glassful with a shaking hand. 'Lizabeth noticed that this time he added no water.

"He died to-night," she explained; "but he's been ailin' for a year past, an' took to his bed back in October."

William's face was still pallid; but he merely stammered-

"Things happen queerly. I'll go up and see him; I'm master here now. You can't say aught to that. By the Lord! but I can buy myself out-I'm sick of soldiering-and we'll settle down here and be comfortable."


His foot was on the stair by this time. He turned and nodded.

"Yes, we. It ain't a bad game being mistress o' this house.

Eh, Cousin 'Lizabeth?"

She turned her hot face to the flame, without reply; and he went on his way up the stairs.

'Lizabeth sat for a while staring into the wood embers with shaded eyes. Whatever the path by which her reflections travelled, it led in the end to the kettle. She remembered that the tea was still to make, and, on stooping to set the kettle back upon the logs, found it emptied by William's potations. Donning her stout shoes and pattens, and slipping a shawl over her head, she reached down the lantern from its peg, lit it, and went out to fill the kettle at the spring.

It was pitch-dark; the rain was still falling, and as she crossed the yard the sodden straw squeaked beneath her tread. The yard had been fashioned generations since, by levelling back from the house to the natural rock of the hill-side, and connecting the two on the right by cow-house and stable, with an upper storey for barn and granary, on the left by a low wall, where, through a rough gate, the cart-track from the valley found its entrance. Against the further end of this wall leant an open cart-shed; and within three paces of it a perpetual spring of water gushing down the rock was caught and arrested for a while in a stone trough before it hurried out by a side gutter, and so down to join the trout-stream in the valley below. The spring first came to light half-way down the rock's face. Overhead its point of emergence was curtained by a network of roots pushed out by the trees above and sprawling over the lip in helpless search for soil.

'Lizabeth's lantern threw a flare of yellow on these and on the bubbling water as she filled her kettle. She was turning to go when a sound arrested her.

It was the sound of a suppressed sob, and seemed to issue from the cart-shed. 'Lizabeth turned quickly and held up her lantern. Under the shed, and barely four paces from her, sat a woman.

The woman was perched against the shaft of a hay-waggon, with her feet resting on a mud-soiled carpet-bag. She made but a poor appealing figure, tricked out in odds and ends of incongruous finery, with a bonnet, once smart, hanging limply forward over a pair of light-coloured eyes and a very lachrymose face. The ambition of the stranger's toilet, which ran riot in cheap jewellery, formed so odd a contrast with her sorry posture that 'Lizabeth, for all her wonder, felt inclined to smile.

"What's your business here?"

"Oh, tell me," whimpered the woman, "what's he doing all this time? Won't his father see me? He don't intend to leave me here all night, surely, in this bitter cold, with nothing to eat, and my gown ruined!"

"He?" 'Lizabeth's attitude stiffened with suspicion of the truth.

"William, I mean; an' a sorry day it was I agreed to come."


"My husband. I'm Mrs. William Transom."

"Come along to the house." 'Lizabeth turned abruptly and led the way.

Mrs. William Transom gathered up her carpet-bag and bedraggled skirts and followed, sobbing still, but in diminuendo. Inside the kitchen 'Lizabeth faced round on her again.

"So you'm William's wife."

"I am; an' small comfort to say so, seein' this is how I'm served.

Reely, now, I'm not fit to be seen."

"Bless the woman, who cares here what you look like? Take off those fal-lals, an' sit in your petticoat by the fire, here; you ain't wet through-on'y your feet; and here's a dry pair o' stockings, if you've none i' the bag. You must be possessed, to come trampin' over High Compton in them gingerbread things." She pointed scornfully at the stranger's boots.

Mrs. William Transom, finding her notions of gentility thus ridiculed, acquiesced.

"An' now," resumed 'Lizabeth, when her visitor was seated by the fire pulling off her damp stockings, "there's rum an' there's tea. Which will you take to warm yoursel'?"

Mrs. William elected to take rum; and 'Lizabeth noted that she helped herself with freedom. She made no comment, however, but set about making tea for herself; and, then, drawing up her chair to the table, leant her chin on her hand and intently regarded her visitor.

"Where's William?" inquired Mrs. Transom.


"Askin' his father's pardon?"

"Well," 'Lizabeth grimly admitted, "that's like enough; but you needn't fret about them."

Mrs. William showed no disposition to fret. On the contrary, under the influence of the rum she became weakly jovial and a trifle garrulous- confiding to 'Lizabeth that, though married to William for four years, she had hitherto been blessed with no children; that they lived in barracks, which she disliked, but put up with because she doted on a red coat; that William had always been meaning to tell his father, but feared to anger him, "because, my dear," she frankly explained, "I was once connected with the stage"-a form of speech behind which 'Lizabeth did not pry; that, a fortnight before Christmas, William had made up his mind at last, "'for,' as he said to me, 'the old man must be nearin' his end, and then the farm'll be mine by rights;'" that he had obtained his furlough two days back, and come by coach all the way to this doleful spot-for doleful she must call it, though she would have to live there some day-with no shops nor theayters, of which last it appeared Mrs. Transom was inordinately fond. Her chatter was interrupted at length with some abruptness.

"I suppose," said 'Lizabeth meditatively, "you was pretty, once."

Mrs. Transom, with her hand on the bottle, stared, and then tittered.

"Lud! my dear, you ain't over-complimentary. Yes, pretty I was, though

I say it."

"We ain't neither of us pretty now-you especially."

"I'd a knack o' dressin'," pursued the egregious Mrs. Transom, "an' nice eyes an' hair. 'Why, Maria, darlin',' said William one day, when him an' me was keepin' company, 'I believe you could sit on that hair o' yours, I do reely.' 'Go along, you silly!' I said, 'to be sure I can.'"

"He called you darling?"

"Why, in course. H'ain't you never had a young man?"

'Lizabeth brushed aside the question by another.

"Do you love him? I mean so that-that you could lie down and let him tramp the life out o' you?"

"Good Lord, girl, what questions you do ask! Why, so-so, o' course, like other married women. He's wild at times, but I shut my eyes; an' he hav'n struck me this year past. I wonder what he can be doin' all this time."

"Come and see."

'Lizabeth rose. Her contempt of this foolish, faded creature recoiled upon herself, until she could bear to sit still no longer. With William's wife at her heels, she mounted the stair, their shoeless feet making no sound. The door of the old man's bed-room stood ajar, and a faint ray of light stole out upon the landing. 'Lizabeth looked into the room, and then, with a quick impulse, darted in front of her companion.

It was too late. Mrs. Transom was already at her shoulder, and the eyes of the two women rested on the sorry spectacle before them.

Candle in hand, the prodigal was kneeling by the dead man's bed. He was not praying, however; but had his head well buried in the oaken chest, among the papers of which he was cautiously prying.

The faint squeal that broke from his wife's lips sufficed to startle him. He dropped the lid with a crash, turned sharply round, and scrambled to his feet. His look embraced the two women in one brief flicker, and then rested on the blazing eyes of 'Lizabeth.

"You mean hound!" said she, very slowly.

He winced uneasily, and began to bluster:

"Curse you! What do you mean by sneaking upon a man like this?"

"A man!" echoed 'Lizabeth. "Man, then, if you will-couldn't you wait till your father was cold, but must needs be groping under his pillow for the key of that chest? You woman, there-you wife of this man-I'm main grieved you should ha' seen this. Lord knows I had the will to hide it!"

The wife, who had sunk into the nearest chair, and lay there huddled like a half-empty bag, answered with a whimper.

"Stop that whining!" roared William, turning upon her, "or I'll break every bone in your skin."

"Fie on you, man! Why, she tells me you haven't struck her for a whole year," put in 'Lizabeth, immeasurably scornful.

"So, cousin, you've found out what I meant by 'we.' Lord! you fancied you was the one as was goin' to settle down wi' me an' be comfortable, eh? You're jilted, my girl, an' this is how you vent your jealousy. You played your hand well; you've turned us out. It's a pity-eh?-you didn't score this last trick."

"What do you mean?" The innuendo at the end diverted her wrath at the man's hateful coarseness.

"Mean? Oh, o' course, you're innocent as a lamb! Mean? Why, look here."

He opened the chest again, and, drawing out a scrap of folded foolscap, began to read :-

"I, Ebenezer Transom, of Compton Burrows, in the parish of Compton, yeoman, being of sound wit and health, and willing, though a sinner, to give my account to God, do hereby make my last will and testament."

"My house, lands, and farm of Compton Burrows, together with every stick that I own, I hereby (for her good care of me) give and bequeath to Elizabeth Rundle, my dead sister's child"

-"Let be, I tell you!"

But 'Lizabeth had snatched the paper from him. For a moment the devil in his eye seemed to meditate violence. But he thought better of it; and when she asked for the candle held it beside her as she read on slowly.

" . . . to Elizabeth Rundle, my dead sister's child, desiring that she may marry and bequeath the same to the heirs of her body; less the sum of one shilling sterling, which I command to be sent to my only surviving son William-"

"You needn't go on," growled William.

" . . . because he's a bad lot, and he may so well know I think

so. And to this I set my hand, this 17th day of September, 1856."


"Ebenezer Transom."

"Witnessed by" "John Hooper." "Peter Tregaskis."

The document was in the old man's handwriting, and clearly of his composition. But it was plain enough, and the signatures genuine. 'Lizabeth's hand dropped.

"I never knew a word o' this, William," she said humbly.

Mrs. Transom broke into an incredulous titter.

"Ugh! get along, you designer!"

"William," appealed 'Lizabeth, "I've never had no thought o' robbin' you."

'Lizabeth had definite notions of right and wrong, and this disinheritance of William struck her conservative mind as a violation of Nature's laws.

William's silence was his wife's opportunity.

"Robbery's the word, you baggage! You thought to buy him wi' your ill-got gains. Ugh! go along wi' you!"

'Lizabeth threw a desperate look towards the cause of this trouble-the pale mask lying on the pillows. Finding no help, she turned to William again-

"You believe I meant to rob you?"

Meeting her eyes, William bent his own on the floor, and lied.

"I reckon you meant to buy me, Cousin 'Lizabeth."

His wife tittered spitefully.

"Woman!" cried the girl, lapping up her timid merriment in a flame of wrath. "Woman, listen to me. Time was I loved that man o' your'n; time was he swore I was all to him. He was a liar from his birth. It's your natur' to think I'm jealous; a better woman would know I'm sick-sick wi' shame an' scorn o' mysel'. That man, there, has kissed me, oft'n an' oft'n-kissed me 'pon the mouth. Bein' what you are, you can't understand how those kisses taste now, when I look at you."

"Well, I'm sure!"

"Hold your blasted tongue!" roared William. Mrs. Transom collapsed.

"Give me the candle," 'Lizabeth commanded. "Look here-"

She held the corner of the will to the flame, and watched it run up at the edge and wrap the whole in fire. The paper dropped from her hand to the bare boards, and with a dying flicker was consumed. The charred flakes drifted idly across the floor, stopped, and drifted again. In dead silence she looked up.

Mrs. Transom's watery eyes were open to their fullest. 'Lizabeth turned to William and found him regarding her with a curious frown.

"Do you know what you've done?" he asked hoarsely.

'Lizabeth laughed a trifle wildly.

"I reckon I've made reparation."

"There was no call-" began William.

"You fool-'twas to myself! An' now," she added quietly, "I'll pick up my things and tramp down to Hooper's Farm; they'll give me a place, I know, an' be glad o' the chance. They'll be sittin' up to-night, bein' Christmas time. Good-night, William!"

She moved to go; but, recollecting herself, turned at the door, and, stepping up to the bed, bent and kissed the dead man's forehead. Then she was gone.

It was the woman who broke the silence that followed with a base speech.

"Well! To think she'd lose her head like that when she found you wasn't to be had!"

"Shut up!" said William savagely; "an' listen to this: If you was to die to-night I'd marry 'Lizabeth next week."

Time passed. The old man was buried, and Mr. and Mrs. Transom took possession at Compton Burrows and reigned in his stead. 'Lizabeth dwelt a mile or so down the valley with the Hoopers, who, as she had said, were thankful enough to get her services, for Mrs. Hooper was well up in years, and gladly resigned the dairy work to a girl who, as she told her husband, was of good haveage, and worth her keep a dozen times over. So 'Lizabeth had settled down in her new home, and closed her heart and shut its clasps tight.

She never met William to speak to. Now and then she caught sight of him as he rode past on horseback, on his way to market or to the "Compton Arms," where he spent more time and money than was good for him. He had bought himself out of the army, of course; but he retained his barrack tales and his air of having seen life. These, backed up with a baritone voice and a largehandedness in standing treat, made him popular in the bar parlour. Meanwhile, Mrs. Transom, up at Compton Burrows-perhaps because she missed her "theayters"-sickened and began to pine; and one January afternoon, little more than a year after the home-coming, 'Lizabeth, standing in the dairy by her cream-pans, heard that she was dead.

"Poor soul," she said; "but she looked a sickly one." That was all.

She herself wondered that the news should affect her so little.

"I reckon," said Mrs. Hooper with meaning, "William will soon be lookin' round for another wife."

'Lizabeth went quietly on with her skimming.

It was just five months after this, on a warm June morning, that William rode down the valley, and, dismounting by Farmer Hooper's, hitched his bridle over the garden gate, and entered. 'Lizabeth was in the garden; he could see her print sun-bonnet moving between the rows of peas. She turned as he approached, dropped a pod into her basket, and held out her hand.

"Good day, William." Her voice was quite friendly.

William had something to say, and 'Lizabeth quickly guessed what it was.

"I thought I'd drop in an' see how you was gettin' on; for it's main lonely up at Compton Burrows since the missus was took."

"I daresay."

"An' I'd a matter on my mind to tell you," he pursued, encouraged to find she harboured no malice. "It's troubled me, since, that way you burnt the will, an' us turnin' you out; for in a way the place belonged to you. The old man meant it, anyhow."

"Well," said 'Lizabeth, setting down her basket, and looking him full in the eyes.

"Well, I reckon we might set matters square, you an' me, 'Lizabeth, by marryin' an' settlin' down comfortable. I've no children to pester you, an' you're young yet to be givin' up thoughts o' marriage. What do 'ee say, cousin?"

'Lizabeth picked a full pod from the bush beside her, and began shelling the peas, one by one, into her hand. Her face was cool and contemplative.

"'Tis eight years ago, William, since last you asked me. Ain't that so?" she asked absently.

"Come, Cousin, let bygones be, and tell me; shall it be, my dear?"

"No, William," she answered; "'tis too late an hour to ask me now. I thank you, but it can't be." She passed the peas slowly to and fro in her fingers.

"But why, 'Lizabeth?" he urged; "you was fond o' me once. Come, girl, don't stand in your own light through a hit o' pique."

"It's not that," she explained; "it's that I've found myself out-an' you. You've humbled my pride too sorely."

"You're thinking o' Maria."

"Partly, maybe; but it don't become us to talk o' one that's dead. You've got my answer, William, and don't ask me again. I loved you once, but now I'm only weary when I think o't. You wouldn't understand me if I tried to tell you."

She held out her hand. William took it.

"You're a great fool, 'Lizabeth."

"Good-bye, William."

She took up her basket and walked slowly back to the house; William watched her for a moment or two, swore, and returned to his horse. He did not ride home wards, but down the valley, where he spent the day at the "Compton Arms." When he returned home, which was not before midnight, he was boisterously drunk.

Now it so happened that when William dismounted at the gate Mrs. Hooper had spied him from her bedroom window, and, guessing his errand, had stolen down on the other side of the garden wall parallel with which the peas were planted. Thus sheltered, she contrived to hear every word of the foregoing conversation, and repeated it to her good man that very night.

"An' I reckon William said true," she wound up. "If 'Lizabeth don't know which side her bread's buttered she's no better nor a fool-an' William's another."

"I dunno," said the farmer; "it's a queer business, an' I don't fairly see my way about in it. I'm main puzzled what can ha' become o' that will I witnessed for th' old man."

"She's a fool, I say."

"Well, well; if she didn't want the man I reckon she knows best. He put it fairly to her."

"That's just it, you ninny!" interrupted his wiser wife; "I gave William credit for more sense. Put it fairly, indeed! If he'd said nothin', but just caught her in his arms, an' clipped an' kissed her, she couldn't ha' stood out. But he's lost his chance, an' now she'll never marry."

And it was as she said.


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