A MODERN MARTYR.
fortnight after our visit to the Refuge, Ruth found some dressmaking
to take to Miss Sanders. I wished her to go on this feminine
expedition alone, but she persisted in requiring my company.
We meant to go in the morning, but something prevented our departure
till the afternoon.
We soon found the place which Alice had pointed out to us,
and we went up to the door and knocked. Ruth always gives a
good hearty knock, and in this case it seemed to shake the whole
building. It was a poor shallow little sham of a house,—alas,
if it were a type of the home!
Our rap was not quickly answered. I fancied I heard
sounds of shouting and scuffling within. But presently the
door was opened by a neat, pretty-looking faded woman, with a
painfully flushed face, who indicated the way to the parlour, rather
than invited us to enter. No sooner were we seated, than we
heard sounds of unchecked sobs and groans proceeding from the inner
apartment. Our hostess suddenly turned from us and leaned on
the mantelpiece, but as suddenly recovered herself, and with a dim
smile inquired our business.
"But, surely, some one is ill," I remarked "do not let us
keep you from them; we can wait."
"Nobody is ill, sir," she answered, with a firmness almost
severe. "There is no need that I should detain you."
I noticed that during these remarks the sounds ceased, though
they were redoubled while Ruth unfolded her materials, and issued
instructions. Miss Sanders went through her part bravely, only
in her face there was a little deepening of pain-lines already deep
"Is that unfortunate person a lunatic?" Ruth inquired at
last, in that kind of whisper which is awfully audible.
Miss Sanders threw up her hands with a disclaiming gesture,
and then spread out her fashion-book.
"Yes, I'm mad,—I'm driven mad!" screamed a voice from the
other room; "but there 's One above knows,—He knows all the
sufferings of those who never complain!"
"What is it, my dear lady?" I inquired of the trembling woman
before us. "You must have heard of us in the village.
Will you put no trust in us?"
Her lips quivered a little, and she wrung her thin fingers.
"You know I have not said a word, sir," she exclaimed. "I
wished to keep it all to ourselves. God save me from my
sister!" and she burst into tears.
The door between the rooms opened, and a woman entered.
I recognised her as a worshipper at St Cross's, and I concluded we
saw Anne Sanders. She was a dark, sallow woman, with a bony
face,—one of those countenances which seem to betray a heart too
hard to be easily worn out. Though it was nearly five o'clock,
she wore a dirty ragged morning gown. She rushed to her
sister, and seized her arm. "What have I done? what have I
done?" she shrieked frantically. "Ah, Bessie, it drives me mad
to find you thus set against me. It so cuts into my heart that
I am sure my last dying word will be your name!"
"The dying often remember those whom they have cruelly
injured," said Ruth, quietly.
Anne Sanders dropped in a heap upon the floor, emitting
incoherent ejaculations. Bessie stood aside, silent and
agitated. She suffered under the degradation in which the
other evidently gloried. Presently, finding herself unnoticed,
Anne again sprang up and attacked her sister. "What have I
done? what have I done? tell me—tell them! " she screamed.
"If God and your own conscience do not answer, how can I?",
said Bessie. "And if you don't respect yourself, or me, at
least respect the presence of strangers."
"No, no," she cried. "I will not be silent,—I want
justice,—I appeal for justice to God,—the Father of the helpless
"Orphanhood is not very touching at forty," said Ruth, drily.
"By your own account, Miss Anne Sanders, you are an ill-used woman.
Then why don't you leave your sister?—the world is all before you."
"Oh, I wish she would," moaned Bessie.
"Where am I to go? What am I to do?" said Anne.
"Nobody wants me. I'm not fit for anything."
"Then as you are useless, why should your sister be taxed
with you, since there is no love between you?" questioned Ruth.
"Why should there be no love between us?" groaned Anne.
"Whatever I've done—I don't know what it is—but whatever I've done,
oughtn't she to forgive"――
"Oh, Anne, Anne," sighed Bessie; "haven't I forgiven?
But you won't change, and you won't go away, and you stay in the
house, and make me wicked—and it is so hard to forgive that!"
"You've got nothing to forgive," screamed Anne, changing her
tactics. "I work as hard as you, for all I don't earn
anything. Don't I drudge about at the hard, nasty housework,
while you sit in the parlour and make your dresses and get money?"
"Depend upon it, Miss Bessie will be very glad if you will do
the same," remarked Ruth.
"But every one can't do the same thing," insisted Anne;
"there's different work for different people, and there's some
doomed to be drudges all their days. Oh—oh—oh!"
"No work is drudgery except to an unwilling worker," said
Ruth, promptly; "and, therefore, I would not keep a drudge about me
for any consideration; and it is very hard that your sister should
be compelled so to do."
"What began the—ahem—the difference this afternoon?" I asked.
"I was angry—very angry—with Anne, because, although it was
late, she was too dirty to answer the door if any one came,"
"And she called me an idle slut," sobbed Anne.
"So I did," said Bessie, wearily. "God forgive me but
at times I am so tried, I scarcely know what I say, and that's why I
wish she would go away."
"No epithet stings like a true one!" observed Ruth.
"She can say nothing against me except these little trifles,"
said Anne, passionately. "Yesterday there was a fuss because
her candles weren't ready to a minute."
"She knew I was so busy," sighed Bessie; "and I didn't ask
for them till I couldn't see to thread my needles. And it's
always the same."
"She might have put them up herself," shouted Anne. "It
would have wasted no more time than scolding me."
"But you remember—there is different work for different
people," repeated Ruth; "and the world would run into fine confusion
if each left his own line of duty to take up another's."
"Every one takes part against me," said Anne, again dropping
on the floor. "I've never had a friend all my life."
"Not a nice confession," remarked Ruth.
"But I hope I shall soon be taken away," she moaned, and then
I shan't be a nuisance to any one, or a burden to myself. I
can find comfort in that. There's hope for me in my religion.
I've kept hold of my religion through all. I've never given up
my church, though no one will go with me, and I've found peace
there, and so"――
"Silence, Anne," said Bessie, springing up and speaking with
terrible fervour. "Your profession of religion has made
religion a scoff and a byword to those who knew your useless,
selfish life. Who said that if pious people were like you, he
would rather try the bad ones? Who was first weaned from going
to church, because he was shamed and angered by your slovenly
clothes and repellent manners? Is that the religion which
enjoins whatever is lovely and of good report? The blood of
George Roper, body and soul, rests upon your head!"
There was an awful solemnity in her sister's sudden outburst,
which cowed the miserable woman sitting on the floor. But
presently she spoke again, in a whining tone:
"I'm blamed for being idle and useless, I'm treated like a
blank, and yet I'm accused of having power to do evil. How can
I do harm if I'm a blank?"
"Now that puts me out of all patience!" said Ruth, quite
warmly; "how can one argue with a person who asks such a question?
Does not one dumb note spoil a tune, and one dead flower poison a
nosegay? Is not every child taught that idle hands are Satan's
instruments to work out his wicked will?"
"Every one is against me," wailed Anne Sanders again, finding
no answer to parry these home-thrusts. "Nobody takes my part.
I am forlorn and forsaken here; but at least I can remember WHO
said, 'Blessed are they which are persecuted; for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.'"
"Don't pervert Scripture," said my sister—"'Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness' sake,'—not blessed are they
who are called to account and chidden for their own wrong-doing."
And then Anne Sanders sprang up, saying incoherently that she
should go to her own room, and pour out her heart where she had
never failed to find comfort. And so she rushed away, leaving
Ruth and me, and Bessie Sanders, blankly gazing at each other.
"I am so sorry," said the latter gently. "You should
never have known this, if I could have helped it. It has
happened that you should learn more in an hour than other neighbours
among whom we have lived for years."
"Depend upon it, all has happened for the best," remarked
"I am so afraid that I am in the wrong," continued Miss
Sanders, as if she feared she might gain more sympathy than she
deserved. "I had such a dear good sister once, that perhaps I
expect too much from Anne. And I am very sharp tempered."
"So are all overworked people," rejoined Ruth; "of course
they shouldn't be, but they can't help it, that's all."
"But the worst is that I can't love Anne," said Miss Bessie,
sadly; "and when I remember that we should love our enemies, and
forgive them as we look to be forgiven, then a great cloud of
despair comes over me."
"Nonsense," exclaimed Ruth; "what do you call forgiveness?
Fine talk and selfish actions? If it be not forgiveness to
give another house-room and maintenance, while she neglects and
torments you, what is forgiveness, I wonder!"
Miss Bessie smiled dimly, as though she gathered a little
comfort from this healthy and unsentimental view of the matter.
"From her earliest childhood, Anne always thought herself an injured
being," she said.
"Then her best blessing would have been real misery,"
returned Ruth; "it would have taught her to know the genuine
"Oh, ma'am, she maybe more really unhappy than you think,"
said Bessie, earnestly. "You cannot judge from this afternoon.
I fear I am too fidgety."
"I saw her dirty, ragged gown," remarked Ruth, grimly; "a
disgrace to a common lodging-house servant. Besides, she is
confident she is a martyr, and you abase yourself as a sinner.
That throws a great light on the matter!"
"So you had another sister once, Miss Sanders?" I questioned,
anxious to soften that poor pained face with sweeter recollections.
"Yes, a dear little sister, years younger than Anne," said
Miss Bessie, going to the mantelpiece and taking therefrom a little
miniature in an ebony case. "That is all I have of Katie.
The picture is pretty, but not half like her, she was so sweet!
And she was something like her poor cousin George—the portrait
reminds me of both. If things had gone right, I think those
two would have married. How different it would have been!"
"But George went wrong?" I queried.
"Yes, George went wrong," answered Miss Bessie "and that is
the misery of it! When he was a lad of seventeen or eighteen,
we all lived together in London, and mother and I carried on the
business, and the housekeeping was left to Anne. George found
everything unpleasing and impunctual, and when he grew cross, Anne
talked piously to him," (Ruth groaned,) "and of course that made
matters much worse. Then he did not like going to church with
her, because she never would get her winter clothes ready till after
Christmas, nor her summer ones till the dog-days, and when his
fellow-clerks met him with her it vexed him, and she was stiff and
snappy to them besides. So he dropped going to church, and
went about instead, and made friends that didn't go either, and bad
habits grew where the good ones had fallen off, and mother, who was
a rigid woman in her way—rigid people never punish the right
ones—forbade him our house, and then he went to the bad altogether.
And Katie was never herself after, and she died when she was
"But have I not heard that Mr Roper was one of your household
at the time he met his death?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered. "When mother died, some time after
Katie, George heard of her death, and came to the funeral. He
seemed very miserable; so, when I sold our London business and
bought a smaller one here, I got him to come with us, just for
Katie's sake. I had more time then than before, and I managed
to keep Anne out of his way. He got a situation in Mallowe,
but he never settled in this house, only came here now and then,
though I think he called it his home. He kept his lively,
kindly manners to the last, and that was all, for he made many
parents rue the day when we came to the village. He was coming
to see me that summer afternoon when—you know, sir?"
"When his mysterious death brought a blight on young Ewen
M'Callum," I said.
Miss Sanders would make no further remark upon that subject.
So I took up the little ebony-framed portrait, and tried to fancy
what this cousin George had been. The pictured face was soft
and girlish—a boy resembling it must have had a touching look of
frank innocence. And yet it had ended in a debasing life,
spreading pollution round it, and closed by a shameful death, only
to be named in whispers. Oh, what wonderful strength and
wisdom and love must dwell in Him who has patience with a world
where such things happen!
"And is this struggle between you and your sister to go on
for ever?" queried Ruth presently.
"I suppose so," answered Miss Sanders, hopelessly.
"I could not endure it," said Ruth with animation.
"I must," replied the other. And as the shadows of
twilight settled in the little room, the faded, lined countenance
shone out of their gloom, a heroic, enduring face, strong enough for
aught which life might make its duty. No demonstrative woman
was this; she might have come and gone about her work for years, and
yet have made no sign. She had evidently only spoken so freely
to Mr M'Callum, because she deemed her secret safer than it really
was, and did not think her words could be understood as the
involuntary cry of her own pain. Surely all her life would not
be lived out in the chilling shadow of this unreasonable and
worthless relative! But should relief come—ay, to-morrow—it
could not undo the past; there were scars on her soul which could
never be healed on earth. Perhaps such scars shine as honours
We said no more about her shivered household happiness, and
after a little ordinary conversation, we left her. She came
with us to the garden-gate, and stood there till we were nearly out
of sight. Then she went back into the house, and we heard the
door close behind her. Are there no torment chambers not
underground? There was a fearful torture common in old times,
when a putrid body was fastened to a living man. What would it
be to drag through life with such a burden? But is it better
to be linked with a diseased soul?
"Now, Ruth," I said, as we walked along, "suppose a man
married a woman like Anne Sanders, what is he to do with her?"
"He need not marry such a one," she answered, "unless he
feels that he cannot get any one better!"
"But suppose he married her under a mistake," I pleaded.
"When one makes a bargain which turns out badly, one has to
abide by it," she said.
"But what comfort in life could he have?" I asked.
"Nobody's fault but his own," said my sister.
"But don't you think this stolid irresponsibility in the
woman may explain some of our wretched wife-beating cases?" I
"Probably it may," said Ruth. "When a man marries a
brainless animal, he is likely to degenerate into a wild beast.
Men are generally good or bad according to the women with whom they
Oh my terrible sister!
"But is it not strange," I began presently, taking another
subject, "that there are people in the world so ignorant as not to
understand that a religious profession, unsupported by practice, is
worse than nothing? Anne Sanders consoles herself by the very
principles and precepts in which she should see her own
condemnation. I wonder how she reads the last chapter of
"She has her own version of it," said Ruth. "Do you
suppose the Bible sounds the same to every one?"
"Certainly not," I answered; "but the variety ought to be,
that it should seem to each full of special warnings against his own
"That is how it should be," replied my sister "but this is
how it is: the lessons we most need stand as blanks in our Bibles,
till God opens our eyes to see them just a little. The
greatest saint does not know God's word as he will know it
"I suppose Anne Sanders heard Mr Marten's sermon when the
Refuge was opened," I remarked.
"Of course she did," said Ruth, "and depend upon it she sat
and glorified herself that she was not as other people."
"Do you really think she would not apply a single word to
herself?" I queried.
"Certainly she wouldn't," answered my sister; "she would
apply it to Bessie instead."
"But if such truths were repeated to her individually, don't
you think she would see their application to her own case?" I
"She would then see that you meant to apply them to her,"
replied Ruth, "and she would take it as a proof of your malice and
"Then what means can be taken to convince such people of
their error and danger?" I exclaimed.
"I don't know," said Ruth, "but I believe the grace of God is
much nearer to the double-dyed murderer on the scaffold than to the
respectable self-deceived hypocrite."
"But we must not be uncharitable in our thoughts of any,
Ruth," I suggested.
"I daresay some worthy souls in Jerusalem thought Christ
himself uncharitable when He called the Pharisees vipers, serpents,
and whited sepulchres," answered Ruth. "Remember, He had
counsel for the fallen woman, and pardon for the dying thief, yet
nothing but anger for those whose lives He summed up in the awful
words,—'Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither
go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go
"Yet these people form part of the world for which He died,"
"So they do," she responded, heartily, "and therefore we must
leave them in His hands. Otherwise I should sometimes be
inclined to think the bees set us a good example when they kill off
their drones once a year."
"But all Pharisees and hypocrites are not drones," I ventured
"Not with their tongues," said Ruth, significantly.
"'Whatsoever they bid you observe and do, that observe and do: but
do ye not after their works; for they say, and do not.' Such
people are like a copy of the Scriptures, on whose margin an infidel
has drawn unclean and blasphemous pictures, which pervert the holy
words and pollute the reader's mind."
So we both returned home, and found our fire brightly stirred
and reflected in our shining teapot, while Phillis stood in cheerful
active attendance. But all the evening, as I basked in the
blessings God gave me, I wondered what would have become of me had
my sister, Ruth Garrett, been such a one as Anne Sanders; and as I
contrasted myself with Miss Bessie toiling in her neglected home, I
hoped that God does somehow make up for those strange differences in
lot which no human wisdom can understand or prevent.
WHO ARE "WE"?
RUTH kept up our
acquaintance with Miss Bessie Sanders. I noticed that my
sister required a great deal of work done in our own house, which
took the quiet dressmaker out of her miserable, haunted abode.
And in the course of a few weeks the silent woman appeared to take
heart. Her reserved nature had never sought sympathy, but when
it came, she found it good. Ruth's sympathy was of that
sensible sort which proud people like. Anne was never named.
Only Bessie was constantly treated with tenderness and respect by
every member of our household.
And so spring brightened round our home, and with the
crocuses and snowdrops, certain strange gentlemen came to Upper
Mallowe, and hovered about St Cross, and roused the curiosity of the
village by their notebooks and measuring rods. Rumours began
to fly about that the church would soon be closed for repairs: and
in due time Mr Marten announced from the communion rails that
donations for that purpose would be thankfully received by himself
or by Mr Edward Garrett.
In the course of the following week we were startled by a
visit from Mr Herbert and Agnes. It was the farmer's first
appearance in our house, and he had never been formally introduced
to Ruth, though he and she had exchanged greetings when the two
households met on the way to worship. He was not at all a
visiting man. He was quite at ease among the bluff, feudal
hospitalities of his great farm, with its honest oak floors and
substantial furniture, which did not tremble beneath his huge weight
and unceremonious movements, but he had a respectful deference for
his neighbour's carpets and chairs, which caused him to sit
painfully and to tread gingerly in any house but his own.
Agnes excused the long time between her visits, by the plea of
severe colds and general ill-health, and I noticed that, though the
weather was unusually bright and warm for the season, she still wore
a long fur-trimmed mantle and a woollen veil, and held her wraps
about her like one who feels chilly. She looked very fragile
and shadowy—reminding me of some early flowers in our garden, which
blossomed on a prematurely sunny day, and then shivered and shrank
in the pitiless rains which followed. Yet she talked more than
before, the aim of her words being to lead the conversation to such
subjects as her uncle would like to take up. Her whole manner
towards him was particularly attentive and dutiful—something like
the over-anxious service of a truly loyal subject, who yet has
involuntary doubts about the perfect wisdom of some of his
sovereign's ways. Yet this very deference seemed to perplex
and trouble Mr Herbert.
"The object of my visit," the worthy farmer presently
explained, (he could not understand a visit without one,) "is to pay
in my subscription for the church repairs. I can't do more at
present, but I may before it's all over." So saying he put a
folded note upon the table. I expected it would be for five
pounds, or perhaps ten; but even my sanguine nature was agreeably
startled to find it was for fifty.
"But really, Mr Herbert," I said, "when you intended such
liberality as this, you should have taken it to the rector himself."
Our guest laughed and shook his head. "I honour the
rector, sir," he answered; "though it do come rather hard when one's
'pastors and masters' are twenty years younger than one's-self.
I like the rector in the pulpit, and, as he is the rector, I would
rather not differ from him out of it, and so I don't go near him,
"But why should you like Mr Marten in the pulpit, and yet
differ from him out of it, sir?" asked Ruth.
Mr Herbert laughed his hearty, rollicking laugh, and again
shook his head with the knowing air of a man who can explain more
than he chooses. "Mr Marten is pastor at St Cross," he said,
"and I am master at the Great Farm, and we've each a right to do as
we please with our own, and we are best not to interfere with each
other. I don't reckon he has done justice to St Cross—till
lately; and he don't reckon I act fairly with my concerns.
Neither of us has ever given our opinion straight out, but I guess
we each know what the other thinks. And so I keep out of his
"I believe Mr Marten is a truly excellent man, and always
anxious to do his duty as his conscience tells him," I remarked.
"According to my mind, that's dangerous doctrine, sir,"
replied Mr Herbert. "Is not our conscience too likely to bid
us do just what we wish?"
"I don't think so," I answered; "I think we can generally
distinguish between our conscience and our will."
"I think it's best to put all that on one side," said the
farmer, "and just take a sound standard of duty, and resolutely
stretch ourselves up to it, even if we crack our hearts in the
"But by your rule, how are we to select a sound standard?" I
queried. "May not our wills engage in the choice, and the
harsh man indulge himself in the belief he aims at justice, and the
mild man forget justice in the imaginary pursuit of mercy?"
"Oh, my ideas don't take such high flights as that," rejoined
Mr Herbert; "I just follow up two or three good old precepts, that
keep the world in the right place, and have no twistings and
"But everything must turn out of its way sometimes, or else
crush something beneath it," said Ruth.
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Agnes.
Her uncle turned and glanced at her. The niece rose
from her chair, and picked up his gloves, which had fallen to the
floor. It seemed as if the animated ejaculation must have come
from somebody else, she appeared so utterly submissive. When
an over-hasty driver hears a child's cry from beneath his
chariot-wheels, how does he look? Like Mr Herbert looked then,
After a little desultory conversation, our visitors rose to
go, and then, availing ourselves of her uncle's presence, we claimed
Agnes's company for the day. Mr Herbert immediately granted
the petition, and the girl yielded as if she had no voice in the
matter. Yet there was no scornful apathy about Agnes Herbert.
One felt no repulsion—only pity. I have heard that some, who
have passed through terrible physical ordeals, have henceforth found
the world somewhat like a padded and darkened room, wherein all
sounds were muffled and all sights misty. Would you be angry
if you had to speak twice before such a one heeded you? I
don't think so.
When her uncle was gone, and her bonnet and mantle put aside,
Agnes returned to the parlour, and professed interest in some plain
woollen knitting with which Ruth was busy. "Such nice work,
for it can be done quite mechanically," she said.
"Nice work for an old woman whose eyes are not as good as
they were," rejoined my sister, "but rather dull work for a young
lady, who should have pretty patterns and plans of her own."
"Ah, yes; but I lose myself in a pattern," said Agnes,
"But practice makes perfect, my dear," observed Ruth.
"I have had plenty of practice," replied Miss Herbert.
"See! I did that in London,"—and she displayed a tiny
pocket-handkerchief with an elaborate embroidered device in one
My sister admired it exceedingly, and inquired if she had
worked any more.
"Oh yes," she answered, "I did a great many, but I have only
"Have you worn them out?" asked Ruth, surprised.
"Surely you don't use such things for everyday wear?"
"No," replied Miss Herbert, "but I only kept this one, and I
seldom use it."
"Why don't you embroider some more?" inquired my sister.
She shook her head. "I could not do it now," she
answered, a little sadly. "I should only spoil the muslin."
"Did you leave all your talents in London, Miss Herbert?" I
She laughed. "Perhaps I did, sir," she said.
"Do you remember your mother, my dear?" queried Ruth
"No," she answered; "and there is no portrait of her.
And yet I fancy I know what she was like,"—this very softly.
"As your name is the same as your uncle's, I presume you are
his niece by your father's side?" remarked my sister.
"Yes," replied Agnes; adding presently, "but my father was
not at all like my uncle. Not like him in anyway. I have
heard he resembled my grandmother's brother, Richard Carewe."
"Family likenesses often descend in that cross fashion," I
"And family characters too," said Agnes, with a shoot of that
animation which occasionally illuminated her languor.
"We knew something of the Carewes, when we were young," said
Ruth, "and I hope your father did not resemble your great-uncle in
"Not exactly. But he was never what the world calls
respectable or good," answered Agnes, with a hard, satiric touch in
"What does his daughter say?" asked Ruth, gently.
"That he was an angel in a strange disguise," she said
fervently; adding sorrowfully, "but that is only my opinion, and, of
course, I loved him."
"Depend upon it, my dear," said Ruth, "the opinion of those
who love, is most like God's verdict."
Agnes looked up with great pathetic eyes. "My poor
father often laughed about religious people," she said, "but he
would have liked you."
"Would he?" queried my sister, with just a little quaver in
her cheerful voice.
"Yes," said Agnes, quietly, "he fancied religious people were
selfish, and narrow, and even cruel; those whom he had known were
so, you see."
"Then it was not religion he laughed at, but only its
counterfeit," rejoined Ruth; "still, that was wrong, for it should
have given him pain rather than amusement."
"It gave him pain enough," answered Agnes, "bitter pain!
But it was always his way to laugh when he suffered. Oh, now,
surely he knows all about it, and suffers no more!"
"God loves him far better than you can, little one," said my
sister. "God knows everything, and takes all circumstances
into consideration. Circumstances don't make a man good or
bad, but they try him, and God knows exactly the severity of the
trial, and that those who seem much better than he, might have been
far worse had they lived the same life."
There followed a silence, which, at last, I broke by asking
where Miss Herbert had lived when in London.
"Oh, in many places," she replied, with a little hesitation;
"we lived in any neighbourhood which suited my father for the time
being—in Bloomsbury while he went to the British Museum Reading
Room, once on Tower Hill, often in Soho."
"And you were the housekeeper?" queried Ruth.
"Yes, but there is not much housekeeping needed for two
people in lodgings," Agnes answered, laughing.
"How did you amuse yourself?" I asked.
"Oh, I had plenty to do," she replied, bending over Ruth's
knitting—"my embroidery and a little drawing, and so forth.
Sometimes I could help papa with his manuscripts."
"For what did your father write?" I asked.
Agnes coloured, and explained rapidly. "My poor father
was unfortunate from the beginning. You see, his family
disowned him, because he refused to be a clergyman; it being a
custom with the Herberts that the eldest son should be bred for the
farm, and the second for the church. Therefore, when he went
to London, he was so badly off, he was glad to work for any one who
would employ him. He often used to say he got into a bad style
of literature; and what was worse, he made a name in that style, and
that cost him all chances of advancement." And after this
apologetic preamble, she added, humbly, "He wrote long stories for
the common penny papers. I daresay you scarcely know what I
mean, for such journals only go into kitchens."
"None the worse, for that matter," said Ruth, promptly.
"I've seen thirty-shilling novels that should only go into kitchen
"No, I don't think my father cared for that alone," continued
Agnes thoughtfully; "only he had to write in a particular way for
these papers—to cram each story with twenty hair-breadth adventures,
to make his people talk as real people never do, and each like—I
scarcely know how to express myself—but every character like one
great capital letter, instead of a long word made up of many vowels
and consonants, each modifying the other."
"All the devils very black, and all the angels very bright!"
"Yes, exactly so," rejoined Agnes, accepting my sister's
shrewd definition. "How often he used to say that if he had
known the end from the beginning, he would rather have swept a
crossing than have rushed into literature merely to earn a piece of
"And was he never able to break these miserable trammels?" I
"Never—until—until just before his death," she answered, with
a breaking voice: "and then a beautiful little simple tale of his
came out in a first-class magazine. The number containing it
was brought to him the day he died: and he read his own story, word
for word, and smiled as if it pleased him." And here she broke
down, very quietly.
"Did he say anything?" Ruth asked, presently.
"He put the magazine into my hands," she replied, raising her
tearful face, "and he said, 'Agnes, that is the only legacy I can
leave you. I wish I had gone to church with you now, my girl.
If I have strength next Sunday, I will go.' But two hours
after, he was dead."
We scarcely spoke again, until Phillis brought in our dinner.
The afternoon passed in our usual sleepy, old-folks' way, but when
tea and lamp-light banished our drowsiness, we found that in the
meantime Agnes had made considerable progress with Ruth's knitting.
When Phillis came to removed our tea equipage she announced
that Alice M'Callum was in the kitchen. "If you are not
particularly engaged, sir, she has a message from her brother in
London," said Phillis.
"Bring her in," directed my sister; "and I hope she has
brought the drawings which she promised to show us."
Alice came immediately; her pale face freshened by the
healthy March breezes. In one hand she held a folded envelope,
and in the other, a small, worn portfolio. Miss Herbert had
resumed Ruth's knitting, but she looked up and smiled and nodded as
our ex-servant entered.
Alice had brought good news. A little kindness is a
very good investment when it secures us the first edition of all
pleasant tidings concerning those we have aided. She had
brought a sovereign from Ewen as his subscription towards the St
Cross repairs, and she confided to us the history of this sovereign.
Ewen had sold six little sketches at some picture shop in London,
and the piece of gold was his payment.
"And I hope there are more in that portfolio," said Ruth,
"for I want to see some. Take off your bonnet and shawl,
child, or you will not feel their benefit when you go out again into
the cool night air."
So Alice carried her wrappers to the sofa, and then returned
to the table in her dark, tight dress, with its prim linen collar
and cuffs. Agnes Herbert left her seat, and helped her to
untie the knotted strings of her portfolio. When it was
opened, she withdrew a little, that Ruth might have the best view.
The first which Alice displayed was the drawing which her
brother had given to George Wilmot, a ruined boat on a moonlit
wharf. It was a simple affair, the paper and other materials
employed being of the very cheapest description. And yet there
was something in the sketch which many a gilt-framed picture lacks.
It made me think of the lives which at first gladden happy
households, and yet end in corruption and misery on the seething
shores of the river Thames. It was, somehow, like a prayer for
such. I wonder if that was in Ewen's mind when he drew it.
Very likely not. If the soul of an artist or a poet be once
enlisted in God's service, I believe his brush or his pen becomes
the unconscious mouthpiece of God's oracle. Over that picture
Ruth lingered a long while.
The next was quite a different scene. A sunny, sloping
meadow, with a river winding in the distance, one or two sleepy
sheep in the foreground, and a single bird in the blue English sky.
I knew the scene. It was the great field where I had first
spoken to Ewen M'Callum.
"Oh I remember that!" exclaimed Agnes, startled.
Alice looked up, surprised.
"Have you seen it before?" asked Ruth.
"Yes," she answered, turning to Alice and adding half-aside,
"we chanced to come upon your brother whilst he was drawing it, and
I remember it well, because afterwards we took the same subject."
Who were "we?" I wondered. But Alice only smiled, and
seemed quite satisfied with the explanation, and passed on to
There were one or two other sketches of local scenery, all
very beautiful. Then Alice produced two more drawings, the
only ones which were mounted on cardboard. "These are a pair,"
said she, "and they are only in my charge. The others Ewen
gave me, but these he asked me to keep for him. He did them in
London, and brought them home on Christmas day. I think he
took the subject from some verses which he has copied on the back."
I took one, and Ruth took the other. Mine represented a
poorly furnished chamber, whose single ornament was an unframed
portrait on the wall. Before it sat a young man with a book on
his knee, from which he seemed to have just looked up. There
were traces of laborious work about the figure, which showed our
artist was a novice in this line. Behind the drawing I found
this verse, written in a close, dark characteristic hand:—
"For like an angel's had her face
To his eyes always seemed:
On waking and on sleeping dreams
Her beauty ever beam'd:
And the poor orphan boy, alas!
Was happiest when he dream'd!"
Turning to the picture Ruth had taken, I found it represented
a church porch. The door was ajar, and one could see white
dresses and gay flowers within. Leaving the porch was a man,
about seven years older than the hero of the other scene—and Ewen
had evidently striven to preserve the character of the countenance,
through the change from early youth to maturity. The verses
attached were as follows:—
"He saunter'd up the rough-hewn steps,
The doors were open wide,
And there,—before the altar old,
At her brave father's side,
With some one on her other hand,—
Stood Lady May, a bride!
"Ah, why! ah, why? that question came
To Fulke, without reply,
As he gazed on the village homes,
The blue, out-reaching sky,
The ancient church, the old red house,
And left them with a sigh."
As I read these quotations aloud, Agnes whispered to my
sister, who responded, "Are they really, my dear?" then addressing
me, "Edward, Miss Herbert says those verses are taken from a poem
which her father wrote in his last story."
"Oh, how strange!" said Alice, smiling with pleased surprise;
I wonder if Ewen knew it! He never told me."
"What do you think of these two pictures, brother?" queried
"I am a bad art-critic," I replied. "They are very
pretty, but, to my mind, scarcely as pleasing as the landscapes."
"Their execution is not as good just because the aim is
higher," said Agnes Herbert, eagerly. "I think Mr M'Callum's
skill is scarcely equal to his ambition—as yet. But these are
the best in the portfolio. Look at the two different
expressions modifying the same features!"
"I believe Ewen has taken his own reflection in the glass for
his model," observed Ruth. "The face and the whole figure
remind me of him."
"George Wilmot insists on the likeness," rejoined Alice, "but
I can't see it, ma'am,"—pondering over the drawing or, at least, a
very little. Ewen is much better looking."
"Your brother is certainly a genius, Alice," I remarked.
"I always thought so, sir," she answered, very quietly
"Now, speaking confidentially, Alice," I said, "do you think
Ewen would prefer some artistic occupation to his present
office-work? Do you think it is a drudgery to him?"
"Oh no, sir," she replied, quite frankly; "I am sure he is
happy. Indeed, I believe he greatly prefers things as they
are. At Christmas I heard grandfather and him talk about
something of the kind, and Ewen said the best life for a genius was
one which kept him at a fair balance with everyday life. Those
were his own words, sir. And he was not speaking of himself."
"I am sure he is right," said Agnes, warmly.
"Yes, truly," I responded, "a genius, to be above his
fellows, must be a good, common-place man, and something besides.
Is he higher than others for having what they have not, if he lack
something which they have?"
"Ah!" said Ruth, "I never blame the good old woman who boxed
King Alfred's ears because he let the cakes burn, while he pondered
over his miserable country. Served him right!"
"But you would not have had him forget his country for the
cakes," pleaded Agnes, gently.
"No; he might have watched them and thought of it while he
did so. 'Twould have been good exercise for his eyes and his
mind. And I daresay the dame's punishment did him good, and he
was the better king for it afterwards," said my sister.
"But she need not have been so rough," Agnes, remonstrated.
"That was the manner of the time," Ruth retorted; "if she had
been a cruel woman she would not have given him any more cakes, and
there would have been an end of King Alfred!"
"Ah, that is it," said the other. "I was sure you
wouldn't think it right to spoil another's whole life for one
instance of folly."
At this juncture, Phillis put in her head and announced, "Mrs
Irons has come to fetch Miss Herbert."
"Perhaps you will like to come with us, Alice," said Agnes,
as she assisted her in putting the pictures into the portfolio.
"Then you will have the benefit of Mrs Irons' protection as far as
the Farm—the loneliest part of your journey."
"Thank you, ma'am," answered Alice, "I shall be very glad,
though I am not at all afraid."
"Neither am I," said Agnes; "but we may as well save our
courage till we need it."
"Now, I hope you have enjoyed yourself sufficiently well to
come again very soon," said I, shaking hands with Miss Herbert.
Miss Herbert penitently gave a suitable promise.
"And give our kindest regards to your grandfather," said
Ruth, bidding good-bye to Alice; "and when you write to Ewen, tell
him we wonder why we have no letter from him, and we suppose he has
found so many friends in London that he has quite forgotten
everybody at Upper Mallowe, except his own family."
Alice laughed gaily. "Ewen has not," she said.
"Ewen never will. But he fears to be troublesome, ma'am."
"Then just tell him my opinion," retorted Ruth, "and then, I
think, though he is Scotch—by descent—he can scarcely have
sufficient obstinacy and pride to persist any longer in his own
Alice laughed again, and promised to deliver the message
exactly, with an emphasis on the word. She perfectly
understood my sister. Then they went off. And presently,
as they crossed the garden, we heard their clear voices mingling
with the harsher metallic tones of the severe upper servant of the
"Those two girls nearly realise the quaint old fictions
wherein the maid was as much a gentlewoman as the mistress," I
"Is that such a wonder?" asked Ruth.
"Is it a common case?" I questioned, in return.
"No, but it should be," she replied: "and it would be, if
masters and mistresses had a right idea of service."
"What do you think the right idea?" I asked.
"That man's whole duty to man is service," she answered, "and
that, therefore, everybody is somebody's servant, and that he stands
highest who best serves the greatest number."
"That lad Ewen is evidently a clever fellow," I observed
"Yes, indeed, poor boy!" said Ruth.
And then we sat in silence, and I pondered over the pictures
I had seen, and the talk we had held about them. And I
wondered if Miss Herbert drew nearly as well as Ewen. "We took
the same subject," she said. Who are "we?" Not her
uncle, surely. No; my mind rejected that surmise. Who
can "we" be? Is it not tantalising to hear a riddle, without
A PLAN FOR A HOUSEHOLD.
ON the first
Sunday in April, St Cross was closed, and Mr Marten held service in
the great room of the Refuge. This certainly had one good
result; it led many parishioners to that place who had never been
induced to visit it before, and, in consequence, several stray
shillings found their way to its funds. Of course, the
enlargement of the house, necessary for its proposed orphanage,
could not be proceeded with while the building was needed for public
worship; but I arranged with the builder that this improvement
should be carried out as soon as the church was in a fair way of
At the same time, it occurred to me to buy a piece of land
close to the church green. The next time we met Mr Marten, we
took him to survey my purchase. It lay on a gentle inclination
behind St Cross, and commanded a fine open view of the surrounding
"I intend to build a house on it," I said.
"A fine, healthy site," he answered; "but are you not very
comfortable in your present quarters?"
"Oh, yes, indeed," I replied; "ours is a thoroughly good old
house, which suits us exactly. A house fit for birth, and
death, and sickness, for making love and marriage—not that Ruth or I
will require most of its capabilities, but a house is not a home
"Then no new houses are homes, or at least very few," said
the rector, dismally stroking his chin, and thinking of more than
"I mean to try and make one," I responded. "Is there
any reason why old houses should be better than new ones? In
most things the world does not go backwards."
"No, nor in this, really," replied Mr Marten; "but a
thoroughly good house costs money, and in this matter, cash seems
scarcer now than formerly."
"I think we are getting to the root of the evil," I observed.
"Money is much more plentiful now than it used to be, but every one
pretends to be richer than he is, and if a man have enough money to
build a real cottage, he builds a sham villa instead."
"And directly he gets fifty pounds a year more, he removes to
a greater sham," said Ruth.
"The right method," I said, " is to build a place thoroughly
good in its way, however humble that way may be. If it be only
a barn, build it so that it may remain unchanged when the mansion is
built before it. Why not follow the example of our fathers,
and rear houses so good and substantial that our successors shall
esteem it an honour to keep them up, and may gratify their own
tastes by enlarging and beautifying, rather than by destroying?"
"But then the march of fashion soon strides over
neighbourhoods," observed Mr Marten, "and the son blushes to name
where his father lived, and never does so without the modification,
'It was so different then!' And yet I think if there were more
right feeling in the world, localities would not be mapped out as at
present —in one, outer life all colour and gilding; in another, all
mildew and mist."
"You may well say 'outer life'" said Ruth, grimly, "for inner
life is much the same queer mixture everywhere. I believe
there are as many heartaches in mansions as in huts."
"But might there not be fewer in both, if they did not keep
aloof from each other?" I pleaded. "Would not a kindly
interest in others' welfare be a healthy stimulant to many an empty,
irritable mind? And mere almsgiving can never give this
interest, which naturally grows from near neighbourhood and habitual
knowledge. And, on the other hand, would not the world be
spared many an outburst of evil passion, if the despair which breeds
such were checked by the reassurance of God's protection in a
comforting human presence?"
"But still, some localities really grow unbearable," said Mr
"Just because they are deserted," I answered. "If
people of means and cultivated tastes would stay in them, they could
not become unbearable. And though cleanliness and elegance may
cost more under these circumstances than under others, let wealthy
men remember that the truest charity is that which works indirectly.
There is far more self-denial and love in remaining on the spot, to
confront the struggle which one's weaker neighbours must wage, than
in flying from the scene of action, and then sending back a scanty
supply of ammunition. Then, if exertion and example fail to
ward off all the surrounding discomforts, let such as remain be
cheerfully endured as God's discipline—far better than man's."
"Ah, yes," said Ruth, "if folks only stand steady in the path
of duty, they will find penance enough without mounting Simon
"Let us remember," I went on, "that in the few mixed
neighbourhoods still left in London, however deep the poverty of the
poor, we never hear of those frightful deaths from starvation and
neglect which horrify us in parishes where the richest people are
those just able to struggle on without assistance. Let us also
remember, when we hear of agèd
people dying on the bare floors of empty rooms, that many of them
have been industrious folks, though engaged upon those humble works
to which the necessities of the labour-market forbid wages which
will permit saving. Therefore they have had employers, from
whom time and distance have separated them, and who only recall
their old servants when they hear of their miserable end. I
think it would be so much better if commercial men could condescend
to keep to the places which keep them."
"But it must be very expensive and difficult to rear a
refined family among coarse surroundings," said Mr Marten.
"Under present circumstances it is so difficult that it is
almost impossible," I returned. "As a lonely bachelor I could
reside in my house of business in the city, though I was only
thought a lunatic for my pains. But as a married man I could
scarce have done so. No, the mistakes which have been
committed, cannot be hastily remedied. But where it is still
possible that a neighbourhood be maintained as an epitome of God's
world, with the rich and poor side by side, each to comfort and
sustain the other, there let every thoughtful man beware how he
begin the evil work of desertion."
"You see the rich draw the rich to them," said Mr Marten,
"even in rural districts, and often in positive contradiction to the
dictates of nature. Our village of Upper Mallowe is much
healthier than Mallowe itself," he added, turning to Ruth, "for the
one is on a hill, and the other in its valley; but then, you see,
Mallowe boasts a manor-house, and therefore every wealthy man in the
adjacent country is anxious to live there."
"Not my brother, sir," remarked Ruth.
"Not your brother, thank God," Mr Marten was pleased to
answer, (and I won't say I did not like to hear it!) "But even
since my sojourn in this village, an agèd
farmer, retiring on a considerable fortune, and coveting a quiet
little villa for him and his old wife to die in, immediately built
the same in Mallowe proper. Nobody lives here except Mr
Garrett, the farmers on their own land, their cottagers, and a few
tradespeople, who go away as soon as they can."
"And the clergyman," I added. "And no place is past
redemption so long as the clergyman stands bravely to his post.
He should always live in his parish, whatever it be."
"So I think," replied Mr Marten; "only it is sometimes
awkward when no house is provided," he added ruefully.
Ruth and I exchanged glances and smiles.
"What a discursive conversation we have had," I remarked,
strolling about my new possession, "and it has all started from this
little bit of ground, whereon I wish to build a house exactly suited
to a well-educated family of moderate means. I want it to be
so good and so pleasing as to prove a suggestion for every future
erection in Upper Mallowe, that people may say, 'Let our house be at
least as comfortable as that behind St Cross, and then as much
better as possible.'"
"But I don't like to see many houses alike," interrupted
Ruth. "To follow an example is good, but to imitate is bad.
God made no two minds precisely alike, so if two minds produce the
same results, one is in slavery."
Then there was a pause.
"Mr Marten must dine with us to-day," I observed presently;
"for to-morrow I must give my instructions for the plan of this
house, and I want some hints."
"You must be a better judge than me," he said; but I shall be
very happy to dine with you nevertheless."
And so we adjourned to our own house, and when we had
discussed a pheasant and a custard, and the cloth was removed, Ruth
placed before us pens, ink, and paper, and then took up her knitting
in a way that said she expected us to set about our business
"For what class of people is this house intended?" asked Mr
"For people with about two hundred pounds a-year or a little
more," I replied.
"Then it must be built so that its proper maintenance will
not make undue demands upon that sum," be remarked promptly, as if
he had studied the exact possibilities of such an income, which very
likely he had, considering it was his own.
"Certainly," I responded, "and so it must not be too large,
and yet there must be several rooms, for the income does not fix the
size of the family."
"No, indeed," sighed the rector, shaking his head.
"Well, isn't that a very good thing?" I queried. "Would
you like poverty to deprive us of life's sweetest blessings?
Which do you think the most fortunate—the poor man with loving
children, or the rich man with none? I know my own answer to
that question. But to return to our house," I added, taking up
a pen and marking on the paper. "I think the door must be in
the middle, so let that dot represent it."
"Ah, I like that," remarked the rector; "nothing is better
than a nice entrance-hall with rooms at each side."
"It must be broad enough to leave a good passage beyond a
table and chair and hat-stand," I said, still drawing on the paper;
"that is so handy when many messengers come who wait for answers, as
in the case of professional men."
"And how many rooms on the ground-floor?" asked Mr Marten.
"One at each side of the passage," I replied, "a study and a
"Then where is the kitchen?" interrupted Ruth.
"At the end of the hall shall be a door," I explained; "this
door shall open into a small entry, with three other doors, those on
the right and on the left opening into the garden, and that facing
the hall into the kitchen. So, by opening the doors on the
right and left, a current of fresh air may pass between the sitting
apartments and the kitchen, whenever needed to cut off all
over-salubrious culinary smells."
"Then all the bedrooms will be up-stairs?" queried Mr Marten.
"Certainly," I answered.
"Have you considered a staircase?" asked Ruth; "amateur
architects never do."
"But I have," I replied. "I tell you the front part of
the hall shall be wide enough for two people to walk abreast past a
roomy table and a comfortable chair. This width is unnecessary
at the back of the house. There a flight of stairs can rise to
the landing, which will be above the kitchen entry and the back part
of the hall, and will be lit by two windows, right and left, like
the doors below. All the bedrooms will open on to this landing
except one, which must be gained through another."
"I don't exactly understand how you arrange the stairhead,"
my sister observed.
"Neither do I," I admitted candidly; "but I suppose the
architect will do so."
"I think I can see how it could be managed by means of a
gallery," said Mr Marten, criticising my rough plan; "but as you
say, these details are best left to professional skill."
"And how many bedrooms do you mean to have?" asked Ruth.
"I think of five," I replied. "One for the heads of the
family, extending over the study, one over the kitchen, two over the
parlour, and a little extra chamber above the hall."
"Then you intend the study and the parlour to be rather
large?" remarked Mr Marten.
"Each about sixteen feet by fifteen," I answered.
"But I never thought a man with two hundred a-year could live
in so large a house as this," he said, very briskly.
"I mean it for an income of two hundred exclusive of house
rent," I replied.
"Oh, indeed!" said he, in quite another tone.
"Shall you have the walls papered or wainscoted?" asked Ruth.
"Wainscoted," I replied.
"It costs more at first, but it 's cheapest in the end," said
my sister, "and it can be kept clean much more easily; and wherever
labour is saved, money is saved."
"And the kitchen shall have a red-brick floor," I went on,
"and the hall shall be tiled, not with very smart tiles, which put
ordinary furniture to shame, but good neat plain ones, so that the
heart of the mistress need never be vexed by splitting oil-cloth or
"How thoughtful you are said the rector, with a grave smile.
"And build the house itself with red-bricks," put in Ruth.
"They look best with the green leaves in summer, and in autumn and
winter the sight is as good as a fire!"
"It shall be built with red bricks, Ruth," I assented; "that
is another good old fashion which has fallen into disuse."
"Also on account of its cost," said Mr Marten.
"A short-sighted policy," I answered, "considering that
houses are now made of inferior material, and then covered with
paint or cement, which needs constant renewal, and gives the owner
the perpetual worry and mortification always caused by fading
"But I almost think two hundred a-year is too little to keep
house upon," remarked Mr Marten presently.
"Too little for the fantastical existence of boarding-school
misses and dandies," answered Ruth, "but just enough for the honest
life of good women and brave men."
"But what service can a man secure with such an income?"
asked the rector.
"The best service," replied my sister, "the service of love."
"What! set his wife to household work!" exclaimed the rector
"If I were a man I would not marry a woman who was unworthy
of such work," said Ruth drily.
"Unworthy? No!" said Mr Marten. "But when a woman
is highly educated"――
"What is the end of her education?" inquired my sister.
"To play a little worse than a professional pianist?—to paint not so
well as an artist?—to talk French so that foreigners can just guess
what she means? If she can do better than this, she herself
can add to the family income; but then, unless she be a wonder, the
home will not be quite as happy as if she devoted herself to make
the best of her husband's earnings."
"I could not endure that my wife should earn money," said the
"I will tell you the plain truth, Mr Marten," retorted Ruth;
"you would like to set up your wife as an idol, and then, like all
other idols, she would break. Has a woman no soul, sir?" she
added almost severely. "Is she neither to serve, nor to save,
nor to earn? Will you leave her no way to heaven, sir?"
"I know good women feel with you," answered Mr Marten
reflectively; "but I always thought it was the duty of the men who
loved them to save them from themselves."
"To what danger do their natural impulses spur them?" asked
Ruth, rather sarcastically. "On what precipice does a good
"Oh, I don't mean danger exactly," said the rector; "but is
not a cultivated mind likely to be dwarfed if set to work which
could be as well done by an uncultivated one?"
"The simplest task is done better for real cultivation,"
answered my sister; "and the raw materials of education are just
like seeds, quite valueless if they do not bring forth a crop."
"And let me remark," said I, "that most great and good
women—and many who have been merely great—had their full share of
the commonest domestic duties."
"Yes, truly," assented Ruth. "Was Grizel Baillie less a
lady because she knew the worth of a farthing? Was Joan of Arc
less heroic because she had doubtless scrubbed many a floor?
Did not Emily Brontë blacken the
grates in Haworth Parsonage? And upon my word, she was better
employed then than when she wrote 'Wuthering Heights!'"
"Ruth, my dear," I said, "you will prejudice Mr Marten anew
against domestic work, on the novel ground that it strengthens a
woman's mind a little too much!"
"Well, if the woman be not a Christian, I'll own that is its
tendency," she granted. "But if she be, no matter how strong
her mind grows, she'll not forget her place, and her husband will be
none the weaker for her strength."
"Then you don't think two hundred a-year a bad income to
marry on?" said Mr Marten, smiling.
I must here observe that he had no idea we knew it was his
own. That information we had obtained from the Clergy List,
and I hope my readers will wait a while ere they condemn us for
"I think two hundred a-year a very good beginning," I
answered, "while energy is strong and hope is high. Nay, if
all else were promising, I should blame one who, having so much, yet
waited for more. For why did God give us hope if we are to
avoid occasions for its exercise?"
"Reasonable hope," put in Mr Marten.
"And if an industrious and able man of thirty possess two
hundred a-year, is it unreasonable in him to hope that he may have
three hundred by the time he is forty?" I asked.
"But if not?" queried the rector, with a dubious smile.
"Well, I said, "should God deny a blossom to our hopes, and
give us poverty instead of wealth, and sorrow instead of joy, He
will not deny us hearts strong enough to answer, 'It is better so.'"
"Then what becomes of improvidence—is there no such thing?"
inquired Mr Marten.
"Ah, truly there is," responded Ruth, "when a man marries a
fool, or a woman does ditto."
"There are other kinds of improvidence, too," I remarked;
"when a man marries without reasonable prospect of a permanent
income, or without any little fund to fall back upon in emergencies.
And yet I have observed that even these cases prosper better than
they seem to deserve."
"Should you speak thus to every one, sir?" said the rector,
carelessly sketching on a blank sheet.
Now, why did he try to make our conversation personal?
I was glad when Ruth answered for me, saying,――
"Of course not. Truths, like physic, must be
administered to the right patients. For what cures one, kills
At that moment there came to our door a workman from St
Cross, inquiring for the rector. So Mr Marten bade us a hasty
good-bye, and hurried off. Orderly sister Ruth instantly began
to arrange the papers scattered over the table. Presently she
paused smiling, and pushed a sheet towards me―
"I declare he has drawn a lady's head!" said she.
THE FIRST OF MAY.
WE learned that
May-day did not pass unobserved in Upper Mallow, but that it was a
time much dreaded by all prudent fathers and mothers. The
festivities were a mere degeneration of the old May-poles and
dances, having forfeited whatever beauty and merriment those
possessed, and retained only their riotous licence, thereby drawing
to our quiet village all the disorderly characters within ten miles
thereof. May-day was a sad date in many a humble cottage,
marking the time when the only son first came home "not himself," or
when the daughter conceived that fatal passion for flattery and
finery which ultimately led her away and away,—God only knows where!
Mr Marten knew and deplored the evil, and it was he who first
mentioned it to me, along with his own unsuccessful attempts to
grapple therewith. He had preached about it, with stern
and sorrowful lamentations; he had made personal appeals to the
younger members of his flock, nay, when the fateful day came, he had
startled the godless scene with terrible words of warning and
condemnation. Startled it truly, but not to awed repentance,
only to coarse jests and rude laughter. And now, when the time
of trouble drew nigh, he came to me, saying, "What shall I do?"
"The Sunday before May-day," he remarked, "I always look
round my church, and wonder which boy or which girl I shall never
again see in the accustomed seat. It never passes without some
"And have you never tried a counter-attraction?" I asked.
"Last year I got up a lecture on the 'Origin of Old Customs,'
with illustrations," he answered, with a ludicrous expression of
"And who attended?" inquired Ruth.
"A few old people, and two or three very small girls," he
"Did they like it?" pursued my sister.
"I cannot say," he responded.
"Did you like it?" she asked, pointedly.
"I might have preferred a walk in the fields," he answered,
looking up with a rueful smile.
"Then judge others by yourself," said she.
"The only remedy lies in a counter-attraction," I remarked,
"and it must be prepared very carefully, for each failure will make
the matter more difficult. And in these things we must always
remember that although it is sometimes good to unite instruction and
amusement, yet the combination can never supply the place of pure
"Ah, yes," observed Ruth, "whenever I hear a child say it
likes 'sensible games' best, I always think, 'You little idle
simpleton, you'll choose differently when you've done some real
"Then you would ruin the makers of scientific toys," said Mr
"No, I would not," she answered; "they can make them for the
schoolroom. Let a child learn about steam engines and so
forth, but don't expect it to find merriment therein."
"Sir," I said, "will you clear your conscience from the
burden of these May-day sports, and lay it upon mine?"
"Most gladly will I do so," he replied, "if—if I ought."
"I think you should," I answered, "and I will explain my
reason. Perhaps I shall succeed better than you, just because
I am not a clergyman."
"Is it so?" he sighed; "will people never believe it possible
that a clergyman honestly wishes their good?"
"Not exactly that," I responded, "but their instincts cry out
for 'fun,' and they have a notion that a clergyman will give but a
diluted draught thereof, and will only tolerate that for the sake of
"And as there's never smoke without a little fire," put in
Ruth, "so there's no popular notion which has not some reason for
it. The sooner such reason is destroyed the better; only, till
that time, there are certain wholesome movements in which a
clergyman's best place is the background."
"Well, if you and your brother will kindly devise some
successful May-day celebration, I am sure I shall be most happy to
appear as your most insignificant guest," said Mr Marten, humbly.
"And then you will have a magnificent chance of convincing
your parishioners you are none the less a man because you are 'a
parson,'" I said. "I think it's a very good thing for all
parties when a clergyman has an opportunity of appearing among his
people in an unofficial character."
And so we arranged between us that the rector should be kept
as much in ignorance of our plans as any one in the parish, and that
we should send him an invitation in due course, and away he went,
declaring he should be quite restless and uneasy in his mind until
it reached him, and adding that wonders would never cease, since he,
too, was allured into eager expectation of the coming May-day.
So Ruth and I conspired together, and we took Agnes Herbert
and the M'Callums into our plot. We settled directly that the
festival must begin early in the day, and must be of a free,
out-of-door character. There could be nothing better than the
ancient custom of "getting in the may," which, owing to an early
season, was now in beautiful blossoms. Strange to say, May-day
at Upper Mallowe had been kept without any shadow of this usage, and
the advent of God's flowers had been celebrated merely by rough
dances, inane songs, gambling, and intemperance. Surely it was
not hard to find better ways of holiday-making. And I firmly
believe that popular instinct will seldom choose the evil and reject
the good,—if it only have a fair choice.
On the twenty-sixth of April, our invitations were issued on
neatly-printed cards, Agnes and Alice filling in the names of the
individuals or families addressed, so that each invitation had a
pleasant personal tone, and ran as follows:—
"Mr Edward Garrett hopes to see Mr
John Jones and family, (as the case might be,) at the Oak on the
Green, at nine o'clock in the morning of the first of May. Why
should good old customs die out? Is not summer as great a
blessing to us as to our forefathers?
'Can such delights be in the street
And open fields, and we not see't?
Come, we'll abroad, and let's obey
The proclamation made for May.'"
Besides sending one to everybody in and about our own
village, I sent a few cards to some old friends at Mallowe, among
them the present owner of Meadow Farm, the only son of my Lucy's
The eventful morning arose bright and warm, and by half-past
eight Ruth and I were at the rendezvous. I must mention that
the Green lay behind our Refuge, so that its back gate opened upon
it. Old Mr M'Callum and Alice had stocked the garden with
every available seat, for the comfort of any elderly people who
might honour the gathering with their presence. Indeed, the
whole house presented a holiday appearance, for in consideration of
its famous "supper room," we intended to close our festivities
Early as we were, many were before us, and amongst them Mr
Herbert and his niece. The farmer was in his element, chatting
with his labourers, complimenting their blushing wives, and praising
their bonnie children. Bessie Sanders too was there, talking
to Alice M'Callum, and helping her to welcome some very agèd
village matrons, who were saying "they wanted to see the fun,
though, dearie me, fun was getting hard work for their likes,
now-a-days." Anne Sanders was not there, but that valuable
member of society made her appearance about noon, being, I presume,
as soon as she could get ready. I regret to say, she was the
cause of the only breach of propriety which occurred during the day,
inasmuch as when she arrived a small boy called out, "Hulloo, Jem,
here's a guy!" Of course I reproved the lad, but, except to
his good manners, there was no harm done, for Bessie did not hear
him, and Anne decidedly liked it, accepting it as the malignity of
an unappreciative world, instead of blushing at the truthful
description of her own slovenly appearance.
As we walked through the assembled people, shaking hands and
exchanging greetings, a sound of sweet singing suddenly reached us,
and Mr Marten and the boys of his choir came trooping across the
green, trilling a merry May-day carol. And did not we applaud
when they came amongst us!
And ever and anon as we lingered at the Oak on the Green,
while tardy neighbours joined us—some in a flutter which denoted
they had not made up their minds to come till the last minute—Mr
Marten and his choir boys lifted their voices and sang appropriate
glees. But before ten we started on our rambles, Mr M'Callum
remaining in the Refuge garden to dispense sundry simple dainties to
such old people as had lost all inclination for pedestrianism.
Away we went: each free to follow his own tastes,—to run
races, to search for hawthorn in sober earnest, to carry the babies,
to go a little aside, whispering—dear me, where's the harm!
When my Lucy said something which has done me good all my life, she
did not speak in a room full of company! As for Ruth, nobody
was more popular or more delighted. She got on confidential
terms with everybody. The courting couples seemed to feel she
knew all about it, and so attempted no concealment. Wherever
Ruth went there was quite a little bustle round her, but her
particular companion was young Weston, and a fine-looking
honest-hearted fellow he was, like his father before him.
Presently I noticed George Wilmot. Just as our whole
party turned into a lane, so narrow that it reduced us to something
like rank and file, he ran before, and then stood still and watched
us pass. As I came up, I said to him―
"I hope you are enjoying yourself, my boy. Are you
looking for anybody"
"He doesn't seem to be here," he answered, eagerly watching
as the crowd passed by.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"The gentleman who brought me to you, sir," he replied.
"Should you like to see him?" I queried.
"Yes, 'cos it's all so nice," he said, simply.
"What is that?" inquired Agnes Herbert, who happened to be
"Did you never hear that story?" I questioned in reply, and,
drawing the lad along with us, I narrated his first arrival at our
house. She listened with very quiet interest, and just as my
tale ended, her uncle came upon us, and claimed my attention.
But half an hour later I found the rough farm-lad still walking
beside her, and, from a few words which I overheard, I discovered
that her delicate womanly tact had made a far better mutual ground
of their common acquaintance with London than I had done.
Long before noon the lads of our party were laden with
may-blossom trophies, but I was glad to see these were only boughs,
and that as no hawthorn trees were seriously broken, the meadows
would look none the worse for our spoils. Presently, as we
came to a hedge, white with blossom, I discovered the reason for
this thoughtfulness, by hearing Alice M'Callum's soft, Scottish
voice lifted in gentle exhortation. Where did she learn this
tenderness for nature? Very likely she has not read
Wordsworth. But who is most akin to the poet—those who know
his words, or those who have his heart?
"What a pretty girl that is!" remarked young Weston to Ruth,
just as I joined them.
"Which?" queried my sister.
"The one with the Highland name," he answered. "She has
a real pretty face."
"And as good as she's pretty," responded Ruth, "ay, and far
better; only a man always begins at the wrong end of a woman's
"I fancy I've seen her before," said Mr Weston. "Will
you say her name again?"
"Alice M'Callum," answered my sister: "and very likely you
have seen her before, for she was formerly lady's-maid at Mallowe
"Oh indeed!" he said, with a slightly fallen countenance; "I
remember now. There was some misfortune in her family."
"There was a sad accusation brought against her brother," I
remarked, "who seems to me as fine a young man as I know. But
he is now doing very well in London. As for Alice, the whole
affair was only the trial-furnace which tests pure gold."
"But men seldom like tried gold in women's nature," said
Ruth, rather sharply; "they prefer untried gilt. Perhaps
because they know they don't deserve the other."
"Is Miss M'Callum now living at home?" asked Mr Weston,
"When we first came here, she was our upper servant," Ruth
answered. "She preferred our service to the Manor, that she
might be near her grandfather. But she left us to live at our
Refuge, where she is matron."
My sister had never before called Alice by this dignified
Here somebody called me away, and I was engaged with
different members of our party for some time after, and when next I
noticed young Weston he was climbing a steep bank to gather some
pink hawthorn for the blushing matron of the Refuge.
"It is nearly time for me to go home, sir," she said, when
she saw me.
"Very nearly, Alice," I answered.
"What! can't you stay with us?" queried Mr Weston, as he
descended, panting, with a face which nearly matched his floral
"Alice has business at home," I said, smiling, and then I
In a few minutes I missed her—and him also.
The rest of us did not return to the Refuge until about one
o'clock. Ruth and I knew what we should find there. In
its back garden were two tables, groaning beneath the weight of huge
joints and jolly pies, and enlivened by bunches of may, set in
honest earthenware jugs. The lads cheered when they saw them.
But there was not room for all to sit down together, so the juniors
waited for a second "spread," and left their fathers and mothers,
and uncles and aunts in our charge; and Miss Sanders and I provided
for one table, and Mr Herbert and Ruth for another. Alice
wished to wait upon us, but I bade her reserve herself wholly for
the youngsters. As for Mr Weston, I found he had resolved to
go or stay as she did, and they both lingered with us, till we sang
the good old Doxology, and I wondered if he knew that was the daily
custom in his grandfather's house !
There was such a constant flow of good-natured chatter round
the tables, that I had neither eye nor ear to spare. There
never were such victuals, so they said, and I heard one toothless
old woman asking her "John" if the pie didn't mind him of what they
had on their wedding-day? "It's forty-five years a-gone, but
the taste of that pie brings it up better nor yesterday."
In about an hour's time, the young people took our places,
presided over by Mr Marten and Agnes, young Weston and Alice.
I daresay they did not talk about the repast, but deeds speak louder
than words, and they did full justice to it. When they were
deeply engaged with knives and forks, we discovered what they had
done while we were at dinner. They had made a light arch over
our garden gate and twined it with hawthorn, also fastening great
bunches to the door-posts, so that the place looked quite a bower.
The day was warm and the sun was bright, so we old people
were fain to rest ourselves on some turfy knolls and fallen trees
left on the village Green. And when the young folks had
finished dinner, they also felt rather tired, and were quite ready
to join us. Then we had a little singing—good old songs which
every one knows, and nobody tires over—" Home, sweet home," " Scots
wha hae wi' Wallace bled," (that was Mr M'Callum's), Poor Jack
Brown," and so forth.
Later in the afternoon, Mr Marten paid a visit to the High
Street, and brought back tidings that a few disreputable strangers
were lounging listlessly about the inn. He also brought back
an Italian organ-man with a monkey. The poor foreigner having
heard some reports of festivity, had come down in hopes of a little
harvest, and so in the end he was not disappointed, for Jack's
antics were a source of amusement to both young and old, and
contributions in cash and kind did not fail.
In due time, tea and cake revived the spirits of the whole
party, and effectually aroused any old ladies who were inclined to
be sleepy. After tea we adjourned to the great room of the
Refuge, taking with us the organ-man and Jacko, who by that time was
on terms of personal friendship with most of the boys, who could
understand his graphic gestures much better than his good-humoured
master's broken English.
I hope nobody expects me to remember all the sports which
enlivened the remainder of the evening. I recollect "Post" and
"Proverbs," but in one or two other instances I blindly followed the
instructions of the frank, smiling girls who volunteered to "teach"
me, though I knew no more about the game when it was finished than
when it began. In the course of the evening, a strange old
gentleman and a young lady made their appearance, and Mr Marten
introduced them to us as his old friends Lieutenant Blake, of the
Royal Navy, and his only daughter, Marian. A jolly old sailor
was Lieutenant Blake, and in ten minutes had quite caught the spirit
of the evening, and sung sea-songs and spun yarns to such
appreciative audiences, that some of the village mothers grew
apprehensive lest their sons should be attacked with a seafaring
fever. And two or three times in the evening, it did me good
to hear Bessie Sanders laugh—not a laugh—no middle-aged laugh, but
one as buoyant and ringing as if she had no benumbing cross to lift
the moment she passed her own threshold. And amid all the
confusion of merriment sat the lonely Italian, with Jacko clinging
round his neck, separated from us by the dread curse of Babel, but
smiling at our glee, and murmuring melodious thanks for the little
hospitalities we pressed upon him.
But at nine o'clock our friends began to depart, and by ten
no one remained but the Herberts, Mr Weston, and ourselves, for Mr
Marten had escorted the Blakes to their home. We arranged that
the organ-man should sleep at the Refuge, and one or two destitute
creatures who had hoped to make some forlorn pence, perhaps not over
honestly, by the old village festivities, availed themselves of the
But when Agnes Herbert was arranging her wrappers, she found
she had lost a little fancy pincushion, which she carried in her
pocket, and I really thought she seemed inclined to cry over her
loss, trivial as it seemed.
"Don't ye remember when the little gal tore her frock in the
'edge, miss?" asked George Wilmot; "well, you hadn't lost it then,
'twas from it you took the pin to fasten up the hole. I'm sure
of it, 'cos I noticed it's being so pretty."
"Then I daresay I foolishly laid it on the grass, and forgot
to take it up," answered Agnes, "and it would soon get trodden down.
It cannot be helped." But then I believe her eyes positively
filled with tears, only she drew down her veil.
"I knows where it was, miss," said George, eagerly; "'twas by
the 'edge of the field aback of the Low Meadow. I'll go and
look for it to-morrow."
"I shall be so glad if you find it," exclaimed Agnes, turning
to him brightly, "but it doesn't seem worth much trouble."
"Yes, miss, if you wants it," said the boy.
And so that matter ended, and Agnes went off with her uncle.
Mr Weston accompanied us home, and supped with us, and Ruth
and he made a duet in praising Alice M'Callum.
"I think she 'd make a good wife," said he.
"So she would; but a good wife deserves a good husband," said
"I hope she'll get a good one!" he ejaculated.
"Or else none," responded my sister.
"But, bless me, she'd draw any man's goodness to the top,"
"There's a great deal in that," answered Ruth.
And when Mr Weston went away he promised another visit to
Upper Mallowe very soon, and I had not the least doubt of his
"We have all had a very happy day, brother," said Ruth, as we
parted for the night.
So we had. And we heard that, before the poor organ-man
and his monkey, Jack, left the Refuge, he insisted that Alice should
accept a sixpence towards the funds of the place. "He pointed
up to the sky," Alice narrated, and said, "Not to pay—but for thanks
to Him there." And long afterwards, while chatting in sundry
village parlours, I detected my invitation card stored among the
small treasures of the house-mother's work-box. Ah truly,
"I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning:
Alas! the gratitude of men
Has oftener left me mourning."
AN OLD KNIFE.
NEXT morning I
went for a stroll, and after idly straying about for some time, it
occurred to me that I would go to the field behind the Low Meadow,
and see if I could find any trace of the missing pincushion. I
was not very surprised when I found both George Wilmot and Agnes
busily engaged in the search. It was the lad's dinner hour,
and he had hurried over the meal, to gain a few minutes for the
fulfilment of his promise. As for Miss Herbert, all I ever
learned of her appearance on the scene was George's subsequent
explanation that she was there "afore him," nor did she seem at all
disposed to retire defeated. But just before I arrived, they
had found, not what they sought, but something else.
They were so eagerly examining it that they did not notice my
approach. George was sitting upon his heels, just as he had
drawn back from a kneeling posture, and Miss Herbert stood over him.
They both started when they heard my voice, and the young lady
turned and held out her hand, and George displayed his discovery.
It was a clasp knife, larger than the ordinary size, with a
heavy brown handle, curiously carved, but much obscured by clay and
dust, some of which George had rubbed away. The blade, red and
blunt with rust, was partly open. I took it and tried to move
it, but it was fixed in that position.
"I found it down among the long grass by the 'edge," said the
boy. "I was feeling among the thickness, where we couldn't
see, and I hit my hand agent somethin' hard, and says I, 'I got it,
Miss;' but when I took hold, I found it wor werry hard and straight,
and stickin' into the ground, so I cleared the grass a bit till we
could see, and there wor the knife a-standin' up, with the blade
stabbed right into the earth."
"More than an inch of it underground," corroborated Agnes.
"I suppose somebody dropped it just as he had used it," I
remarked, examining it.
"I think it must ha' been throwed a long way, sir," said
George, "or it wouldn't have stuck in so precious hard and far.
Knives is nasty things to chuck about that way."
Just then the church clock struck one, and Agnes touched his
shoulder, and reminded him that he must hasten to his work, and not
linger longer in her service.
"But you mustn't take that knife with you," I remarked, as he
seemed about to put it into his pocket. "Half open as it is,
any accident might easily cause it to hurt you dreadfully."
"But the handle's such a beauty," said the boy, "and it would
make me late if I ran home with it."
"Then give it to me," I said, "and I will call at the Refuge,
and leave it with Mr M'Callum for you."
"Thank ye, sir," he answered, cheerfully surrender it; "an'
if you please, Miss, I'll come back here in the evening an' look
But instead of replying, Agnes exclaimed ecstatically, "Here
it is! here it is!" and plucked something from a bed of briar, and
eagerly held up a little purple leather thing, with white flowers
painted on it. It was but an impulsive burst of the vivacity
kept in chains within her. In a second, she was again her own
quiet self, with only a flush of pleasure lingering on her face.
"I wish I'd found it, Miss," said George Wilmot.
"Miss Herbert will take the will for the deed," I remarked.
"That I'm sure I do," she responded; "and remember, you
reminded me where I had lost it. But I must make haste home
now." And after she had shaken hands with me, she shook hands
with the little boy too; and so she went away.
"Now, my lad, run away to your work," I said. So
counselled, George Wilmot set off at a fine pace. Country air
and healthy work had already done him good. As I stood and
watched him, it pleased me to think, "If his mother can see him, she
must be quite satisfied."
I turned my steps to the Refuge, carrying the rusted soiled
knife openly in my hand. I did not waste two thoughts on it—a
half-spoiled, old thing, only valuable because it pleased a boy's
fancy. Coming across the fields, I approached the Refuge,—not
from the High Street, but by way of the village green—and seeing its
back-door open, I went in, and found Mr M'Callum and Alice both in
the supper-room, packing up the crockery which had been used at the
feast of the previous day. I laid the knife on the table, and
was entering into its history, when an exclamation from Alice
"Grandfather, look!" she said, "it is his!"
As she uttered these words she did not raise her tone, and
yet it gave me that thrilling sensation which homely folks call "the
blood turning cold." Mr M'Callum walked to the table, and
examined the knife with great deliberation; then suddenly dropped
it, looked straight before him, and said―
"Sae it is, lassie."
And his voice was almost terrible in its expression of
determined resignation to the worst.
"What is this?" I whispered, after a short pause.
"Only that is George Roper's knife," said Alice, meeting my
eyes, and speaking very quietly, but with breaks in her sentences.
"He was seen to take it when he left home on—the last morning.
And it was missing when he was—taken out of the water."
"But how can you be sure it is his?" I asked, in my turn
advancing to the table, and bending over the defaced thing, now
invested with such dreadful interest.
"Yes, indeed, I can," she answered. "Before I went to
Mallowe Manor, Ewen used to bring it home for grandfather to sharpen
for Mr Roper, because he did it so well."
"And you are sure Mr Roper's knife was never found after his
death?" I questioned.
"Quite sure," she replied again; "for the police asked
questions about it, and even searched over Ewen's things for it."
"Did your brother know anything of it? I queried.
She shook her head. "Ewen told me that Mr Roper had
used a knife to cut some string during the regatta that morning,"
she answered; "and he thought he should have noticed if it had not
been his usual one. But you know, sir, it is so hard to be
sure about things one is accustomed to," she added.
"Just so," I said.
"Halloo!" cried a cheerful voice at the still open back-door;
"so yesterday has not tired you too much for morning visits, Mr
It was our rector. As I turned, I remember his
countenance was particularly bright. But the radiance sobered
when he saw our anxious faces. With very few words I detailed
the facts I had just learned, and then handed him the knife.
He had naturally taken interest in a tragedy which involved
the fates of two of his parishioners; therefore he remembered that,
at the time of the murder, inquiries had been made concerning a
missing knife belonging to the dead man. He even remembered
the description of the lost article which Bessie Sanders had
furnished. And when he looked at it, he said, gravely—
"I have no doubt this is the same."
Then he rose from the seat he had taken, and carried it to
the window for closer inspection.
"Ought anything to be done?" I queried, following him, and
speaking in a whisper.
"I suppose the orthodox course would be to give it to the
police," answered Mr Marten, still twisting it about.
Alice caught our words, low as they were spoken, and all her
woman-weakness rose within her, and, for a moment, it was stronger
than her woman-strength. "Oh, Ewen, oh, my darling!" she
cried, with a passionate tenderness which no happiness could have
wrung from her. "If it is all to come over again, you were
better dead, Ewen, my own brother!"
"Whisht, whisht, lassie!" said her grandfather; the Lord
ne'er gies a cross wi'out poo'er to lift it. His holy will be
"Even if the police had this, what can come over again?"
observed the rector soothingly. "The discovery of the knife
has nothing to do with your brother."
"But it would bring up the old story and all the talk," said
Alice more calmly.
"So it might," he answered, "and as I cannot see how it can
possibly give a clue to the real culprit, I think we shall keep the
discovery a secret,—if we can."
"Then Ewen need never hear of it," exclaimed Alice eagerly,
with gleaming eyes.
"I think he should," I observed; "the affair touched him very
nearly, and he has a right to know all about it. Besides,
should it be divulged afterwards, the concealment would pain him
more than the disclosure."
"Poor Ewen!" sighed his sister, so softly that I saw the
words rather than heard them.
"But I don't think we need unsettle him in London by writing
about it," I added. "Time enough to tell him when he comes
home for his holidays."
"Ay, ay," murmured the grandfather; "it's ill putting worry
in a letter."
"Mr M'Callum," said the rector, suddenly speaking from the
window-seat, where he was still examining the rusty blade, "I don't
recollect that any wound was found on Roper's body?"
"There was nane," answered the old man, hobbling towards his
questioner; "there was nae mark o' violence at a', only the doctors
said his wrists seemed to ha' been held in a tight grip. Na,
the puir creatur had just been drooned."
"I only asked you," remarked Mr Marten, turning quite round,
and quietly facing both the M'Callums, "because I believe there is
blood on this knife."
"Ye dinna say sae, sir!" said Mr M'Callum astonished.
"With what knowledge we have now, this only deepens the
mystery," I observed. "But we know Ewen and Mr Roper had high
words before they parted! is it possible they even came to blows?"
"Came to blows?—my brother? Not at all likely, sir,"
said Alice, quite proudly.
"I cannot be certain these stains are blood," explained the
rector; "but I know something of chemistry, for it was a pet pursuit
of mine, and if Mr Garrett will accompany me, I will take it home,
and make an analysis in his presence."
"It has occurred to me," I said, "that there is somebody else
whom we must consult in the matter—somebody who is now the rightful
owner of this knife—Miss Sanders—the nearest kin to the dead man."
"So we should, sir," responded Alice, though her lips
tightened as she said it. Her sense of right had recovered its
"And even if she will not take it," I went on, "yet with this
terrible story belonging to it, of course we cannot give it to
little George; so I must break my promise to him; but you may say I
will send him another. I suppose he knows something of your
household trial, Alice?" I added, staying behind Mr Marten, as
she let us out.
"Yes, sir," she answered. "Ewen told him when he was
here at Christmas."
"Why, then, George had only been with you a few days,"
"Yes, sir," she replied again; "but when he was scraping the
snow off the High Street he heard something, and so he asked a
question, and then my brother told him the whole history."
"How did he take it?" I queried.
An involuntary smile burst over Alice's face as she answered―
"He said he wished there was somebody to take the police when
they took up the wrong people, for they were always making stupid
blunders. That was all, sir,"
Oh, terrible liberality of opinion learned in Ratclift
Highway! Is that how the majesty of the law looks there?
So I suppose when the policeman tells a vagrant to "move on," the
vagrant comforts himself with an adverse criticism, and does not
think him such a canon of respectability as we do.
I accompanied Mr Marten to his home; and by his servant I sent a
message to Ruth that she must not expect me for an hour or two, as I
intended to lunch with him. After hastily partaking of this meal,
the rector proceeded to his chemical inquisition. It verified his
suspicions. The stains upon the blade were undoubtedly human blood.
It was rather late in the afternoon when we proceeded to Miss
Sanders's house. The eldest sister admitted us—the brightness of
yesterday scarcely faded from her face—and led us to the same little
room where Ruth and I first made her acquaintance.
Presently Mr Marten unfolded our errand. Miss Bessie quietly took
the knife, and set our last doubts at rest by pointing out a certain
flaw on the handle, by which she could positively identify it as her
"Then we give it up to you, ma'am," said Mr Marten; "and shall you
think it right to acquaint the police with its discovery?"
"Need I do so?" she asked.
"Not unless you choose," he replied; "but it is the usual course,—only
you remember that a young man was accused of Mr Roper's death."
"Yes, Ewen M'Callum," she said mechanically.
"Well," the rector went on, "the finding of this knife gives no clue
to the guilt of any other person, and if the fact transpire, it can
only revive the old accusation against him, certainly not in a court
of law, but in the village, and much useless misery will surely
Miss Sanders was silent.
"You believe Ewen M'Callum guilty?" I queried.
"I wish I could hope otherwise, sir," she said, quickly.
"We all think him innocent," observed Mr Marten.
"Of course the acquittal set him right with the world," she
responded, rather bitterly.
"No, indeed it didn't, poor fellow!" said I.
Her worn face, which had now quite lost the faint gleam of the day
before, softened a little; but she did not speak. Neither did we. The knife lay on the mantel-piece, her thin fingers resting over it.
At last she stirred, so suddenly that I almost started, and Mr
Marten sprang up as if he understood that our visit was considered
at an end. But Miss Sanders only moved to fetch her work-box in the
depths of which she proceeded to deposit the dismal relic of her
dead sister's lover.
"So nothing need be said about it," she observed, locking the box,
and speaking in quite an ordinary tone. "What a lovely evening it
is, to be sure! Real summer weather!"
Mr Marten disregarded these remarks, which she evidently intended to
cover her escape from any thanks. "The M'Callums will understand how
much they owe you," said he.
"And you will do Ewen this great kindness, though you still believe
his guilt?" I ventured to inquire.
"We cannot always govern our thoughts," she answered humbly; "but,
God helping, we may control our deeds. And besides, I have no doubt
George terribly provoked whoever brought him to his end."
"But if it were Ewen," I pleaded, "it would be easier to forgive
the sudden crime than the persistent denial of it. In his nature, I
could understand the one, but not the other."
"We need not puzzle ourselves about that," she sighed.
"Only I wish to make you feel his guilt an impossibility!" said I.
She shook her head with a sad smile.
"That does not matter while I act as if I thought him innocent," she
replied. "I hope he is. I only wish that poor George had died
without staining any soul with his blood. He did harm enough while
So, with a few more thanks we took our leave. Mr Marten returned to
the Refuge, to assure the watchers there that all was well, and I
pursued my way homeward.
It was truly a beautiful evening, and I found Ruth standing in the
porch. As she greeted me, she added archly,—
"Mr Weston has been here."
"Indeed!" I said; "and wouldn't he wait to see me?"
"Oh, he waited a little while," she answered; "but when I told him
that the girl who brought your message said she thought you and the
rector were busy about some Refuge-business, he said very likely you
would go there, and he might as well walk round and meet you; but if
he chanced to miss you, he would not return here, but would come
again in a day or two.
When a young man promises to visit you soon, and then comes next
day, and yet does not seem over-anxious to see your poor old face,
what does it mean? And as I took my seat in my easy chair, I said to
myself, "I wonder if Lucy's nephew is talking to Alice M'Callum at
this instant? He will see she has been crying. Ah well I think
showers ripen love even better than sunshine!"
THE GHOST'S SEAT.
WESTON kept his second promise of
"calling again soon," and very agreeable he made himself in his own
simple country fashion. But he went away remarkably early.
He said he was not going straight home. Two or three days
after, when Phillis returned from buying some tapes for my sister,
she told us she thought we should have Mr Weston to tea, for she saw
him in the High Street. But he did not come. However, he
arrived duly next week, and spent two or three hours with us.
And when he rose to go, he found courage to announce openly that he
intended to "look in" at the Refuge. He blushed a little as he
said it, and stroked his hat.
Nobody made any comment—only Ruth sent a message to Alice.
When next we saw Alice she remarked that she had received this
message, and executed whatever its directions were, which I forget.
One evening still early in May, Ruth and I were taking a
little stroll in the meadows, when we met Mr Marten. He was in
high spirits; in fact, that was now his normal condition. I
was very glad to see him, because, at that particular time, I wanted
to consult him about the terrible coloured window of St Cross.
I wished to get his consent for its removal. If I succeeded, I
would substitute another at my own sole expense, quite apart from
any assistance I rendered to the fund for general repairs.
Accordingly, I introduced the subject, without any preamble,
candidly adding, that I was prepared for objections, inasmuch as I
believed my own sister did not share my views on the matter.
"I'm glad you tell that, Edward," said Ruth, "for it is the
truth. Why should people's nerves be so fine as to shrink from
the sight of what HE endured? His own
mother was strong enough to see it."
"Ah, so she was," I responded; "but, depend on it, she never
spoke about it afterwards. And, Ruth, I fancy it would be
those wrenched and worn with agony something like hers, who would
shrink most from that picture, because they only would feel all its
terrible meaning. I know I don't, but it pains me for
"I daresay I do not realise its horrors more than you do,
sir," said the rector; "but yet it pains me for my own sake,—or
rather, it did so, for I doubt if it would have the same power now.
I was often heroic enough to rejoice it was behind me!"
"Therefore while in that state of mind," I remarked, "had you
been one of the laity, and doomed to confront it, you would have
stayed away from worship."
"A pretty morbid state of mind it must have been," said Ruth.
"I can't understand such weakness."
"Then thank God, my sister," I observed, "and so pity those
"Surely you can't," she answered, somewhat sharply, as
if resenting the possibility of such weakness in so near a relation.
"Not in my own spirit, God be praised," I replied; "but none
the less I know it exists, as I know of blindness or palsy, or other
evils I have never suffered, or of poetry or music, or other gifts
which I have not—yet!"
"But such weakness, however pardonable, should be conquered,
and not humoured," said Ruth, rather more gently.
"If you had a broken leg to be made whole," I argued, "would
you walk upon it or rest it?"
"H'm—I don't know," she retorted; "I daresay I should use it
more quickly than most people!"
"If it were mine, would you tell me to do the same?" I
"You would not mind me if I did," said she, "for you are
"Can't you abstract all personalities from the question," I
said, warming just a little, "and answer me fairly which you would
recommend as the best course?"
"Well," she answered, "in the first instance I should
recommend the owner of the leg to take care it did not get broken,
and I should say the same of hearts or spirits. or whatever region
is the seat of the whims you're talking about."
"But, in all cases, some unavoidable accidents will happen,"
"So they will," said she.
"Then granting that, which is the best and surest
cure—perfect rest, or exercise, while the limb is in a diseased
state?" I questioned.
"Depends upon the patient," she replied, shortly.
"If it were my
duty to walk, then it would do me less harm than lying still; for
that would set me in a fever."
"But if you were the nurse, should not you think it your duty to
keep the invalid calm and"――
"Stop, Edward, stop," said my sister: "we need not argue it. You can
do as you like about the window. I don't wish to hinder you."
"I always thought you could give an argument fair hearing, Ruth," I
remarked, a little hurt.
"So I can—except when it proves me in the wrong," she replied, with
a sly glance, which quite restored my good temper. "And see, here is
Mr Herbert standing at his gate;" for that moment we came in sight
of the Great Farm.
Of course we stopped for a chat. If Mr Marten had been alone, I
think he would have bowed and passed on; but as he was with us, he
remained to speak. Ruth's first inquiry was for Agnes.
"She's somewhere in the house," answered her uncle. "If you will
step inside, Miss Garrett, I will call her. Gentlemen, will you
follow?" he added, with a slight hesitation.
"Mr Garrett and I are consulting about some church alterations,"
said the rector, as an apology for declining the invitation.
"Well, can't you talk in our parlour?" returned Mr Herbert. "I guess
Mr Garrett can, and I suppose you are not talking secrets, are you?"
"Oh dear, no," I said, "we shall be very glad to include you all in
our consultation;" and with this I stepped up to the garden-path,
and the rector followed in silence.
"A fine old place, to my mind, ma'am, though it's rough and
old-fashioned," said our host, walking beside Ruth, and doing the
honours. "But I've a right to say so. I was born in this house, and
my father, and his father, and his grandfather, were born here
before me. And our family has lived on the spot for two centuries,
only the old house was burnt down, and the present one was built in
my great-great-grandfather's time. But don't you fancy we belong to
the gentry; we're only a good old yeomen stock—there isn't a better
in the three nearest counties. And don't you fancy I'm proud of it.
I'm no more proud of it, Mr Garrett, than you are of your money. You
use your fortune to buy up all the hearts in the village by the
kindness you do with it. That's your way. So I use my good old
English blood; I keep 'em in their place by it. Bless you, if I let
go that hold over 'em, I haven't got another."
"Wouldn't it be better, sir," I said, "if you used it to show them
how successive honest and industrious generations, without any
chance helps of fortune, lift their family above the low level of
Mr Herbert gave his good-humoured, coarse laugh.
"Let them find that out for themselves," said he. "If one does it,
that's quite enough. I suppose my ancestor made it out for himself,
and I'm glad his neighbours weren't enlightened on the matter. If
they had kept pace with us, we should be no better off than if we
had only kept pace with them!"
"But because your descent proves that honesty and industry may
prosper apart from mere 'luck,"' I remarked, "it does not disprove
that, in other cases, the will of God may set obstacles between the
same qualities and success. Doubtless, if you review your family
history, you will remember many instances where the well-being of
the Herberts might have been damaged or destroyed, or at least
hindered, by one of those commonplace misfortunes which happen every
day to somebody. There are the M'Callums—high-principled people—who
were prosperous after the frugal fashion of their country, and yet,
through no fault of their own, they were forced to forego all the
advantages of old neighbourhood and ancient respectability, and to
begin a struggle for bare existence under new conditions in a
"There!" exclaimed Mr Herbert, enthusiastically, slapping my
shoulder, "that's what I always say! Good blood, like good wine,
needs no bush. It speaks for itself. I knew that Ewen was above the
never said so; because he knew if the mettle was in him, it would
not need his recommendation. But he did his work so that he never
needed to be told that I was his master. I'm glad the yeoman blood
is in him, sir. The best blood in the world. It made Great Britain
what she is, sir."
The worthy farmer was evidently in happy ignorance of any difference
between the Celtic and Saxon races, and I fear none of us was
sufficiently well informed on the subject to care to begin his
education in that
"Well, so long as any blood, whether 'gentle' or simply 'good,' is
never boasted, but quietly proved by deeds, the wildest Radical will
scarcely complain," said Mr Marten; "but certainly 'descent ' is
oftenest on the lips of those who themselves forget―
"Tis only noble to be good,
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood."'
"Pooh! who thinks anything of coronets?" interrupted Mr Herbert. "How
were many of them earned?"
"Anyhow, many were earned most honourably," I returned; "and their
value is, that they should be a spur to incite their wearers to
rival the sires who won them. A great and good ancestor is as much a
gift of God as any other blessing."
"And if the descendant prove unworthy, he changes that blessing into
a curse," said the rector.
"So he does," observed Mr Herbert, with sudden gravity; "but, to tell
you the truth, I hate to hear about 'degenerate families.' Let every
respectable family be considered extinct on the death of its last
"But some people have strange notions of worth," began Mr Marten,
but he was interrupted, for, as our host uttered his last dogma,
Agnes joined us, entering the great dining-room by one door, as we
reached it by another. She looked a little scared, just as she had
done on my first visit to the Great Farm, and she glanced from one
to another as if she wondered what we were talking about. Her
entrance broke the conversation, and presently Mr Marten introduced
the subject of our previous discussion—the coloured window of St
"I say, Mr Garrett, can't you let well alone?" was the farmer's
bluff query. "Any old thing is better than a new one, I'll engage."
"What is Miss Herbert's opinion?" asked the rector. "I shall be
sorry if it be taken away," she answered "and yet I wish it had
never been there."
"Thank you, my dear," I said; "that is the strongest possible
argument on my side of the case."
"Is it?" she queried, smiling. "I don't quite understand why."
"I do," said Mr Marten.
And I think so did Ruth.
"Well, it does not matter to me what the window is," remarked Mr
Herbert; "so you can settle it how you like, for my part."
"But you will not destroy the old window, will you?" asked Agnes.
"No, my dear," I answered, "we will exchange it for another."
"Will that be right?" questioned the conscientious rector. "Should
we offer another what we reject ourselves?"
"Others may not be in our case," I replied. "In many churches there
are several painted windows. In such our objection to this design does
not hold good."
"Ah, I see that," assented Mr Marten.
"Then what shall you have?" asked the farmer. "Your coat-of-arms, eh,
"Our family has never troubled the Heralds' College," I answered,
drily, for I was rather affronted by his hint of self-glorification.
"I think heraldry out of place in churches," said the rector. "Need
we take the most secular art on earth to adorn the House of God?"
"I don't quite agree with you," remarked Ruth. "An escutcheon is a
family possession as much as a purse, and as a man may pour the one
into God's treasury, so he may set up the other in God's temple,
purely in the spirit of dedication,—'I and my house, we will serve
"True enough," responded Mr Marten; "only I fear that spirit is
somewhat scarce. But, at least, you do not think heraldry
appropriate to a chancel window?"
"Certainly not," said Ruth.
"Do you think we shall have to order a window, Mr Garrett?"
inquired the rector.
"I don't think so," I answered. "St Cross' window is by no means
unusually large, and many of the London ecclesiastical warehouses
have coloured glasses which can be made to fit it by using wider or
"And who is to survey these warehouses and make the selection?"
asked Mr Marten, rather blankly.
"You and I," I replied, laughing. "We will take the trip together."
"Oh dear," said he, "I wish I could get rid of the responsibility! What device do you think most suitable, Miss Garrett?"
"Well, certainly not two or three thin monks, each in a separate
shrine, turning up his eyes, as if that promoted God's glory,"
returned my practical sister.
"Monks, Ruth?" I exclaimed. "I think you mistaken. Surely they are
intended for apostles?"
"If so, they are libels," she retorted. "Apostles, indeed! The
apostles were all honest working men, and what reason have we to
suppose they were so foolish as to wear pink and blue trailing
robes, with embroidered edges?"
"I think some incident from the life of our Saviour would be far
better," I remarked.
"Not with the usual treatment," Ruth replied. There is scarcely one
picture taken from our Lord's life which is not a LIE. Can their
smooth, pink, feminine faces give any idea of One who wrought hard
work, and lived in sun and wind? Are their delicate draperies
consistent with the fact that He had not where to lay His head?"
"But I suppose art must have some licence in these things," I
observed. "You see a painted window must be 'a thing of beauty.'"
"Truth first—and then as much beauty as you like," said Ruth.
"So say I," joined Mr Herbert, heartily. "But that is not the
fashion now-a-days, madam."
"But there are subjects which admit of beautiful form and colour
without any clashing with facts," said the rector. "I know a
splendid window with emblematical figures of Faith, Hope, and
"And I'll engage the artist has painted them so that the most
worthless women who ever enter the church are most like them!"
"I confess I prefer scriptural subjects for church windows," I
"Certainly, if they are so treated as to convey God's truth,"
responded my sister; "for then they may be as useful as the sermon!"
"Do not the parables offer good subjects?" suggested Agnes, timidly.
"Yes, that they do," replied Ruth; "and as they are lessons which
Christ set in stories, it does not seem inappropriate that we should
set them in pictures. But they are not very common, are they,
"I have seen them in some city churches, I believe," I answered; "in
St Stephen's, Walbrook, for instance."
"But I don't like any great figures in a window," said the rector. "One cannot see anything else. If you will recall any ancient
cathedral, you will remember there is nothing obtrusive about its
coloured windows. They warm the light, and rest the eye, but they
never stare one out of countenance."
"Well, I daresay we could divide the St Cross window into three
parts," I said, "and about the centre of each part place a medallion
representing a striking parable, and then fill in the ground with
minute and richly-coloured devices."
"And what parables shall you select?" asked Ruth.
"We must choose those which can best be illustrated," I answered. "I
fear it would be hard to make the parable of 'the labourers' tell
its own story in a picture."
"Perhaps the Good Samaritan will do for one," said Agnes.
"Yes," replied Mr Marten, "and the Prodigal Son for another."
By this time twilight had fallen, and Mr Herbert started up so
suddenly, that some suggestion which was on my lips vanished
completely from my mind, and I could never afterwards recall it.
"I don't know why we're sitting in the dark," said he; "I'm getting
quite sleepy, begging the company's pardon for saying so. Ah, here
comes Mrs Irons with lights." And our worthy host stamped firmly
down the long room, and closed the shutters of the end window with
his own hands.
Meantime, Mrs Irons advanced to the table, and set down a very
handsome, antique bronze lamp. Then she deliberately smoothed the
table-cover, which did not really need smoothing, and at last
inquired in her dry acid tones―
"Have you any orders, sir?"
"Now, you know all about it, Sarah," replied her bluff master; "only
don't be long."
"I think we must say good-night, Ruth," I said, rising.
"No, you shan't," said the farmer in his peremptory way; "there's
some ham coming in presently. Sarah will spread supper in a minute,
Miss Garrett. She won't keep you waiting. She's an invaluable woman. Been in this house thirty years. Came here as my mother's maid. Found she liked the place, and concluded she would stay. Never was
any danger of her sweethearts drinking up the ale in the kitchen. The only trouble she ever made was that she frightened all the
"Well, Mr Herbert," observed Ruth, with some asperity, "considering
what specimens of womankind one sees in the bonds of matrimony,
nobody can suppose that any woman is obliged to remain single on
account of any ugliness, or even wickedness."
At this instant, Mrs Irons, carrying the supper-tray, and followed
by a young attendant damsel, entered the room. While the elder
servant spread the cloth, the girl arranged five chairs about the
table, and Mr Herbert and his niece took their seats at either end. Mr Marten chanced to overlook this arrangement, and so drew up his
own chair, and as Ruth and I sat down side by side, an empty seat
remained between him and
Ages. When he perceived this he pointed to it, and said, laughingly―
"Look, Miss Herbert, the ghost's seat!"
He had scarcely uttered the words before I saw he wished he could
recall them. And yet they seemed harmless enough. But Agnes' face
quivered, and she glanced nervously at her uncle, while she gave the
obnoxious chair a little ineffectual push. Mr Herbert's face
crimsoned, and he threw a fierce glance at the rector; it was only a
flash—next instant he turned round on his chair, and shouted in a
voice of thunder―
"Sarah, come back and take this—"
I think he was about to utter a word which our presence forbade, and
as he checked himself in that particular, he also paused in his
command. He got up, and himself removed the chair, for Mr Marten sat
perfectly still, as if afraid that any movement on his part would
only make bad worse. Our host had scarcely returned to his seat,
when the door opened, and the dry, sour voice inquired—
"Did you call me, sir?"
"Yes, Sarah, I did," he answered, in quite a propitiatory tone; "but
I made a mistake. Nothing is wanted, thank you, Mrs Irons."
"Very well, sir," said the acid tones outside the door.
Our conversation never recovered that shock. We all left immediately
after supper, and Mr Marten walked home with us. Somehow, I guessed
that he knew the secret of the Great Farm, but whether he kept
silence because he supposed we knew it too, or because he had
learned it in the course of his pastoral duty, in either case it
behoved me to respect that silence.
A VISIT TO LONDON.
arrived at the conclusion that we must take a journey to London, Mr
Marten and I were not long in making the necessary arrangements. I
wished Ruth to be of the party, but she would not "trouble us," as
she called it, and so we were fain to go alone. And we started on
the third morning after our visit to the Herberts, with nothing to
take charge of except ourselves and a portmanteau, and two messages
and one parcel, sent by Mr M'Callum and Alice to Ewen.
Ruth drove with us to the railway station, and when I saw her
standing on the platform as we were whirled away, it seemed almost a
revival of our old parting scene on Mallowe Common. But it was a
revival with many improvements.
The rector had asked, "By which class shall we travel?" And it
struck me that he would not have put this question had he not wished
to go second-class himself. So I gave him the answer I thought
he wanted. And as the day was fine and warm, I found our
second-class carriage exceedingly comfortable, and could not help
reflecting that such men as Shakspeare and Dante would have esteemed
it the height of luxury to travel in a vehicle now despised by many
a paltry dandy, who is only kept in the flesh by his father's
During the earlier part of our journey we had three
fellow-passengers. When I enter a train or an omnibus, it
often seems to me that I must have known my fellow- travellers in
some former stage of existence, where I unfortunately offended them.
How otherwise can I account for the active animosity of the lady on
my right, or the passive contempt of the gentleman opposite?
Sometimes during the course of a journey, I contrive to propitiate
them, but generally it is not easy. Nevertheless, I always do
my best. So, on this occasion, as there was a newspaper in the
hands of one of our party, a red-faced, important person—one of
those who always suggest the idea of an intimate relationship with
our national grandmother in Threadneedle Street—I presently ventured
to inquire if there were any important telegrams from a certain
foreign country, upon which the whole world was then intently
"No, sir," he answered, suddenly lowering the crackling
sheet, and confounding me with the Gorgon gaze of stony gray eyes;
"no, sir, there is not." And then up again went the
closely-printed page, and down went my hopes of any reconciliation
in that quarter.
Opposite sat a fair damsel of fifty, who seemed uneasy at
finding herself the sole representative of her sex. I fear she
thought I admired her, for I confess my eyes would wander in her
direction, simply because I could not help wondering what she could
possibly have been in her girlhood, and what she might eventually
become before her career closed. I have heard of a great man
who would not seek an interview with an early love in her middle
age, because he wished to preserve her youthful memory. I
always thought that strange, a sacrifice of feeling to sentiment.
But I don't wonder at it, if he had learned to associate middle age
with looks like that lady's. I think she had worn the bloom
from her soul by fearing lest it was wearing from her face, and her
spirits seemed quite exhausted by her vain contest with Time.
I cannot think why any should fear his touches, when once they feel
them. They may shrink a little beforehand, for unknown change
is always sad. As the white marble is fair, so is the smooth
young brow; but even as the one is ennobled by the sculptor's
chisel, so is the other by the tracings of a good life. There
is a beauty of dimples, and a beauty of crows' feet. We may
put summer fruit on our winter tables, as a surprise and a rarity,
but we do not choose it for our Christmas dinner. For all
things there is a season, and what is seasonable is best.
As for our third passenger, I can only describe him as a pair
of checked trousers, one straw-coloured glove, a black frock coat, a
little reddish hair, and a low-crowned hat. I never saw more
of him. He looked out of the window with the greatest
assiduity. Perhaps he was shy. Perhaps he had been
crossed in love. Perhaps he was in trouble. I shall
never know. When our train stopped at a certain station he
slipped from the carriage. The stout gentleman gave a sonorous
cough, got up threw down his paper—it was the Standard—and
also, alighted. The lady half rose, and then sat down, and
then rose again; but when Mr Marten, kindly thinking to relieve her
uncertainty, repeated the name of the station, she only answered
with a freezing glance, and, gathering up a sea of fluffy frills and
fringes, hastily quitted the carriage, leaving us alone.
As we moved on again, Mr Marten pointed to the newspaper, and
"That good gentleman left his journal behind him as a present
to you, that you may look over the telegrams for yourself."
"Very much obliged for the favour," I said, taking possession
"I dare say he meant to vex you," observed my companion.
"Oh, I hope not," I replied, "and it does not matter if he
did, as I am not vexed, but quite the contrary, for I had no time to
read the news before I left home this morning."
I found one or two reviews, and sundry items of political
interest, and our discussions over these beguiled our time until the
broad horizon narrowed, and knots of trim villas betokened the
outskirts of the great city. Then gradually the fields
vanished, and soon the newly-planted trees of suburban gardens also
disappeared, and the train dashed on its resolute way amid a forest
of houses. On and on it went, cutting through the narrow
unknown arteries of our giant London, and the houses crowed close
upon its path and upon each other, for it was the dreadful East End,
where space is valuable—more valuable than life? As we crossed
the railway bridges we saw the people swarming like insects in the
streets below. Through open windows, staring on the dreary
lines, we caught glimpses of sundry household arrangements,
patch-work quilts, boiling kettles, and spread tables.
"Here every room is a home," I remarked.
"Don't say 'home,'" said Mr Marten, dismally shaking his
"Yes, I will say 'home,'" I replied, "for more are homes than
the reverse. The upper and middle classes are too prone to
judge the very poor by what they read in the police reports.
They have no reason to complain if, in return, the very poor judge
them, as I fear they do, by the revelations of the Divorce Court.
If you take up any commonplace aristocratic fiction, you are sure to
find the conventional labourer, who gets drunk, beats his wife, and
starves his children, and only exists to be converted by the angelic
efforts of the young ladies from the Hall. And if you buy any
of the badly-printed penny serials sold in the streets beneath us,
you will be equally sure to find the conventional nobleman, whose
mansion is a very charnel house, and who deceives and seduces every
girl he sees, until he is finally induced to abandon his wickedness
that he may deserve the hand of some peerless village damsel, whose
virtue has resisted force and fraud alike. Now, one picture is
as true as the other, or rather as false. I readily grant that
in real life there are more ill-conducted labourers than wicked
lords, because there are more labourers than noblemen. But
unfortunately each class judges the other by the bad specimens,
which, like all evil weeds, come into undue prominence."
"I did not make my remark in any depreciation of the poor,"
observed the rector; "only it seems to me that to keep one's mind
pure and healthy and heavenward amid influences such as these, must
be so hard as to be nearly impossible."
"Mr Marten," I said, "the modern school of sentimental
philanthropists appear to forget that when Christ gave His opinion
on the subject, He said, 'How hardly shall they that have riches
enter into the kingdom of God!' Do not think I deny that this
wretchedness is an evil, but I believe it does more harm to the soul
of the rich man who allows it to be endured, than to the soul of the
poor man who must endure it."
Just then the train stopped; it was not yet the terminus, but
only a little eastern station, where many of the third-class
passengers alighted. Close behind the parapet rose a tall old
house. Its wide, low garret window overlooked the end of the
platform. At this window stood a young woman, trimming a
laurel in a red pot. She was a pretty girl in a coarse linsey
dress. Presently a young railway guard came down the platform
whistling, and when he saw her he laughed and nodded, and then
stopped, leaning over the parapet. They could easily exchange
a few words, but they had to raise their voices a little, and so I
could hear what they said.
"Don't forget this evening, Maggie," said he.
"No, indeed," said she. "Shall you get away in time,
"Oh, yes," he answered. "Mind you don't make it late,
"Mind you don't," she retorted.
"All right," said he. And then our train moved on, and
left the little idyl behind; and I looked at Mr Marten, and smiled,
and he smiled back again.
After that, we were very soon at the terminus; and when we
were walking down the platform, who should we see alighting from
another carriage but that fair damsel of fifty who had deserted us
so early in our journey!
"She only changed carriages," I remarked to my companion.
"So you see what she thought about us."
"Poor idiot!" said Mr Marten.
"But I daresay we sometimes judge as unfairly," I added.
We took a cab, and drove to a comfortable old-fashioned
hostelry in a quiet city close. There we dined, and after
dinner, it being too late to begin our art expeditions for that day,
Mr Marten went off to the Temple to visit a college crony, and I
took a leisurely walk to my old house of business by the churchless
city grave-yard. But by the quiet which I observed stealing
over the streets, I feared that I should be too late to find my
friends there. So it proved. Principals and staff had
alike departed, with the exception of the old head-clerk, who
regularly made a point of being the last on the premises. I
was a great favourite of his, and he always treated me with that
quaint patronage which confidential servants often extend to their
employers. He took me into the familiar counting-house, where
we sat down and chatted. He was a little man, whose wiry gray
hair had a tendency to stand upright, and he had a habit of touching
his auditor's arm when he wished to give particular emphasis to his
words. He did so when he told me that the firm had bought the
good-will of Barwell Brothers, and had found it a highly profitable
investment. He did so when he told me that the junior partner
was about to marry the senior partner's daughter; and he did so when
he spoke of Ewen M'Callum.
"A fine young man, sir," he said in his little precise tone.
"Of course, I know all about him. Whatever is told to the firm
is told to me, sir, which, of course, you understand, Mr Garrett.
So I'll own I suspected him at first, and I kept my eyes on him, but
he had not been here a month before I saw that to pay him eighteen
shillings a week was a sheer robbery on the part of the firm, sir.
Now I'm not one for sudden advancement" (an emphatic touch), "but I
talked it over with the principals, and we came to a conclusion.
You remember we have on the premises, sir, a dinner-table for the
boys—those young lads that get eight or nine shillings a week.
Just plain joint and vegetables, sir. Yes, yes, you remember.
We don't have it for the better-paid clerks, because they may prefer
dining with their wives at home, and if they haven't got wives they
can go to an ordinary, and suit themselves exactly. So
we made M'Callum free of that dinner-table, which would make his
eighteen shillings go a great deal further" (another touch.)
"He wrote home of the arrangements, did he, sir? Yes, yes,
he's a grateful sort of lad. And no one could be jealous, for
the others' wages are all much higher. And now I'll tell you a
secret, sir. At Midsummer his salary will be raised to
EIGHTY POUNDS A YEAR!" (a vigorous poke.)
"I'm very glad to hear it," I said; "and as I must not keep
you from your family any longer, I will bid you good-bye, and go and
pay him a visit."
"But surely you will see something more of the firm while you
are in London?" observed the worthy man.
"Certainly," I answered; "I will be here as much as I
possibly can, but the length of my stay is very uncertain."
So I took my departure. I knew where Ewen lodged, as he
had written to us several times since Alice had delivered my
sister's injunction. I got into an omnibus at the Bank, and
rode to the "Angel," Islington, whence I soon found my way into the
Liverpool Road. Ewen lived in a small cross street of humble
but decent appearance. I soon found his number. There
was a plate on the door announcing that the landlord was a tailor.
The parlour window was screened by a respectable wire-blind, and had
old-fashioned wooden shutters outside. The establishment
boasted both knocker and bell, and I chose the latter. Why
need I alarm the quiet street, and throw the good housewife into an
A plump, pleasant-faced woman opened the door. "Yes,
sir, he's at home," she answered to my inquiry for "Mr M'Callum."
"Will you step inside, sir; and what name shall I say?"
"Mr Garrett," I replied, advancing into the passage.
The landlady ran up-stairs, and I heard her open the door, and
announce me, and then Ewen's voice said, "Take the candle, please,
for it must be quite dark on the stairs." But simultaneously
there was a scuffle of feet, and a rush down the stairs, and a tall
figure passed me in the dusk, and went out at the front door.
"Will you step this way, sir?" cried the landlady's cheerful
voice, as she held the light over the banisters. I obeyed, and
went up three flights of stairs. At the top Ewen welcomed me,
took the candle from the woman, and led me into his room; and after
our first greetings, and when I had repeated my message, and
delivered his parcel, I found a moment's leisure to glance round it.
It was neither large nor small, and had two windows facing
northward. It was clean and neat, but the furniture was
singularly scanty. The floor was bare. In one corner
stood a small, ascetic-looking bed, with a common deal washstand
near it. The table was also deal; and there were only three
chairs—two Windsor ones, and a cane arm-chair, in which Ewen had
placed me. The rest of the furniture consisted of Ewen's box,
(on which lay a shabby portmanteau,) a common looking-glass hung
against the wall, and a homily set of book-shelves, with a decent
array of worn books. I noticed a door beside the fire-place
that I concluded belonged to a cupboard. But the region about
the mantel had a brightness which, by its contrast to the rest of
the apartment, reminded me of the little decorated shrines one sees
in Roman Catholic houses. There were three pictures hanging
above it—two small ones unglazed, and one much larger, which boasted
a very narrow frame. This one I could see was a head, but by
the dim light of the solitary candle I could not distinguish more.
The shelf itself was decorated by two plaster casts, and one or two
bright bits of pottery, and at either end was a smart hand-screen.
But there was a familiar look about the room which puzzled me.
I had certainly never seen it before, nor could I recall anything
like it, and yet it was not wholly strange. My observations
were made in a minute, and then my eyes returned to my young host.
Glancing at him as he stood in the centre of the room, I suddenly
noticed that the two chairs were both drawn up to the table, on
which lay two heaps of papers, indicating the recent presence of two
individuals. Then I remembered the apparition in the passage.
"I fear I have disturbed you," I said; "did not a friend of
yours run away when he heard of my arrival? I saw some one go
Ewen laughed, and yet looked a little embarrassed.
"Oh, he is staying with me," he answered.
"But why did he run away?" I queried; "I should not have
"He did not wish to intrude," said the young man, rather
"But a pleasant companion never intrudes," I replied.
"If you know where to find him, pray fetch him back."
Ewen paused, and mechanically turned over the leaves of an
open book lying on the table. Then he looked up, and said with
"I must tell you at once, sir, that my friend is in such an
unhappy state of mind that he generally shuns seeing or being seen."
"I am sorry he did not make me an exception to the rule," I
answered, "for I might help him in some way. I think you say
he lives with you?"
"At present," Ewen replied. "You see, sir, I am out all
day, and then he has the room entirely to himself."
"Doesn't he go to business?" I inquired.
"He is an artist," said Ewen.
"Oh, indeed," I responded, involuntarily glancing round the
"This room has the advantage of a north light," explained the
young man, "and the landlady is very kind and attentive. Her
husband is a Scotchman, and new to London. I heard from one of
my fellow-clerks that they let apartments. The rooms they
showed me at first were nicely furnished and too expensive for me.
But in the course of conversation, they mentioned this attic, and
said they did not wish to go to the expense of furnishing it just
now. And presently they said, if I could be satisfied with the
furniture you see, they would let me have the room at a very low
rent. And I have been here ever since."
"I see you stick to your art studies," I said, glancing at
the etchings strewed about the table. "I suppose your
artist-friend gives you a few hints."
"Yes, indeed he does," he replied; "some of his things are
"So are yours," I said.
Ewen smiled very sadly. "Mine are commonplace," he
answered. "I always miss the idea in my mind. But I work
and work and work upon them, and then they look elaborate, and so
sometimes tempt the dealers to buy, while they stupidly reject his
brilliant sketches, with genius in every dash of the pencil."
I glanced at this young man, with his passionate brow and
intense eyes, and it struck me that very likely the dealers were
right. But I only said, "Genius goes but a little way without
"And hard work goes but a little way without genius," he
answered, somewhat bitterly.
I looked at him again. He was certainly paler and
thinner than formerly. His hands had lost the hue they had
caught in his days of out-door work. His manner had always
been good, not, as people say, for "what he was," but intrinsically
good, despite a little shy embarrassment; yet now he had gained an
air which caused me to suspect that his companion was not without
polish. But I also noticed that he looked much older, and like
one who has passed through a severe moral struggle, where
self-conquest was not gained without sharp suffering. I
thought, surely this is not merely the trace of his artistic
aspirations. And yet I knew that genius, before it understands
itself, is often like that dumb spirit in the Scripture, which tore
and wore its unhappy owner. So I said, cheerfully, "And your
genius, my boy, combined with your hard work, will go a very long
way. And when you are at the top of the tree, don't forget
that I said so, but give me credit as a good prophet and a
He smiled a little more brightly.
"But I hope you do not forget rest and exercise," I added; "I
need not hope you don't neglect business, for I have just heard your
praises sounded at the counting-house."
"I think I give satisfaction there," he answered, meekly,
"and I never sit up late, and I take two long walks regularly every
week; I should not do justice to my work if I neglected those
"And yet you get through much drawing," I remarked.
"I could not live without it now," he exclaimed, with
Then it had come to this! The spell was on him, whether
for good or for evil. "My boy," I said, gently, "would you
like to devote yourself wholly to art?"
"No," he replied, slowly and firmly "but I suppose if I were
a genius I should. And yet Milton did not live on 'Paradise
Lost,' and Shakespeare made his fortune from his playhouse and not
from his plays. And I'd rather get my bread like other
"Your friend does not think thus," I said.
"He did not think so," he answered; "but it would have been
better for him, and for every one concerned, if he had."
I looked again at Ewen, for there was an undefinable
something about him which filled me with wonder. He had
certainly grown much older than the lapse of five months warranted;
but it was not only that.
"Your friend is not in trouble?" I queried.
"Not now," he said.
"And you are in no trouble?" I whispered, softly.
"Why, what makes you say such a thing, sir?" he questioned in
return, turning on me his old smile, which yet had a new solemnity
that gave pathos to its brightness. "There ought not to be a
happier man in London, sir, thanks to you."
"Thanks to God," I said—and I said no more; for, of all the
delicate tortures which society tolerates, there are few more cruel
than such remarks as, "You seem sad to-day," or, "You look ill."
If mistaken, they annoy; if true, they sting.
After a little more conversation we parted. I would not
promise another visit, for I scarcely knew what my plans would be.
Yet, in my own mind, I felt sure that I should not leave the city
without seeing Ewen again.