IT was nearly midnight when Hannah Dill came up the
alley toward her humble home, and noticed with alarm a small group of
people standing outside the window, and apparently glancing into it.
She could see, as she advanced, that a candle was burning inside, and she
was struck by the silence of the people, till, just as she joined them,
one man whispered to the other, “To think of it!” “Well, I'll always
believe there's real saints in the world from this time forrard,” answered
his fellow; and making way for her as she came straight up to the window,
they all quietly passed on. Uzziah was kneeling on the floor, with
his hands clasped and his eyes upraised. She could only see the side
of his face, but, remembering how they two had parted, she was astonished
both at the utterly absorbed expression and the depth of its calm.
“He is not crying to God now,” she murmured, half aloud; “he
is thinking on him. I have seen him do that before. Art a
murderer, my poor wretched husband, or art a saint? Can a man be
both one and the other? It's past my knowledge to give an answer to
that. But the Lord have mercy on thee and on me, and take our
innocent child to himself !”
She tapped lightly at the door, and Uzziah, with perfect
calmness, rose and opened it to her. He looked at her fixedly, as if
he expected her to say something decisive, something important to him; but
her strength was spent, and her spirits had fallen again. She went
forward, sat down on the rocking-chair, and laying her babe down on her
knees, looked at him and said, “Have you done as I told you? Have
you prayed for the death of the child?”
“I seemed to have no power to do it. My prayer had no
wings; it would not ascend.”
She sat many minutes silent. Then she said, “Aren't you
afraid you're making yourself too conspicuous — more easy to find —
lecturing and spreading your name about as you do?”
“I have left all that to my patient Judge. I must work
now while it is day; when the bitter, call comes I must kiss the rod, and
“I have thought sometimes, since I've been out, that I may
have made a blessed mistake, and the thing was not so black as I feared.
Don't name it to me, but if it was not the darkest deed a man can do, say
“It was, in the eyes of the law.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“They made me drunk first, Hannah. I was three parts
drunk; yet when — when I did it —”
“You cannot say, then, what I wanted to hear you say?”
“You had better take the poor babe, then.”
Her arms dropped at her side, and her head sank. Uzziah
was only just in time to save the child, when she fell forward, and all
his efforts could not save her from a fall and a heavy blow.
Some very bitter and anxious weeks followed. Hannah
Dill, lying on her bed, took little notice of her husband, or even of her
child. She scarcely seemed to care what became of her. She had
no heart to recover herself, and her wasted features, faded eyes, and
feeble pulse showed how much she suffered.
“The wages of sin.” She was linked with the sinner, and
those wages had been paid out also to her. She felt more than the
fear that he suffered, for he had gone forth to meet the Avenger — had
lain at his feet, and craved his pardon; but the more fully he was able to
believe that pardon had been granted, the surer he always felt that in
this world his sin was to find him out.
But now the despair of this woman, whom be deeply loved, was
too much for him. She dreaded him; she could not bear him to touch
her or her child. He knew this, and knew how she tried to hide it.
She perfectly acknowledged to herself that he was a changed character; but
though she could command her countenance as to expression, she could not
as to hue, and when he approached, or when he accosted her, she would
often turn white, even to the lips.
Uzziah felt as if he had not known suffering, or even
remorse, before. It was only for a short time that such a man as he
could taste of love and joy and domestic peace; they were all gone.
He saw himself, as it were, with his wife's eyes, and knew how vile he
was. He perceived that the opinion of his fellow-creatures was more
to him than that of the just and holy God. He had borne to know that
death (God-awarded) was the penalty of his crime, but he shrank from the
scorn and detestation which at any moment discovery might bring upon him
from his fellows; and he too began to feel that “his punishment was
greater than he could bear,” and that he scarcely cared what became of
It was past midnight, about six weeks after Hannah Dill’s
brief sight of her children, when, coming home once from a dinner-party,
Amias de Berenger let himself into his own chambers with a latch-key.
The fire in a comfortable room, very much cumbered with books, had been
made up for him, and a reading-lamp was burning near it on a small table.
There were bookcases ranged about his walls, and there were
red curtains let down before the windows. The sound of passing
vehicles was heard, as well as the general murmur made by the
multitudinous noises of London. But as Amias sat, with his feet on
the fender, a slight tap roused his attention, and it was repeated several
times. He threw up the window and looked out. A man at the
same moment had withdrawn from the door, and was looking up. He
shrank back when the light fell on his face, but Amias saw that it was his
“inspired cobbler,” his favourite temperance lecturer, and, wondering what
the man could want at that time of night, he went down and let him in.
“You want to speak to me?” he asked, as he shut the door of
his sitting-room, and moved to Uzziah to sit down.
The “inspired cobbler” made no answer. His face was
pale; he looked inexpressibly forlorn. In his best black clothes,
Amias had always seen him looking the picture of neatness, as if he had
the ambition to hope that he might be taken for a third-rate dissenting
minister. Now his hair was wild, his dress disordered, his face
pale. He shivered, and as he spread out his hands to the fire, Amias
noticed that they were blue with cold, and that his breath came with a
series of involuntary sighs.
“Well,” exclaimed Amias, when he did not speak, “what is it,
“Sir, I can’t speak at your lecture tomorrow.”
“You should have let me know before, Mr. Dill. And why
“There’s two reasons,” answered Uzziah, uttering the words
with difficulty, as if his sighs almost suffocated him; “and they’re both
of them as bad as they well can be.”
“Indeed! I fear you mean more than you say.”
“I mean, first, that I’ve got down into the slough again.
I did not think it could be; but I’ve fallen. God forgive me!
I presumed; I was too sure of myself; and the drink (I was very miserable)
— and the drink (I’d been a long way, and had nothing, and was faint) —
and the drink was at every street-corner. I passed fifty
public-houses, and counted them aloud to keep myself out, but at the
fifty-first I went in; and I reeled home, sir, as drunk as ever.”
“I am truly sorry for you,” was all Amias said.
“Oh, sir, and it took so little to overcome me. I went
home to my poor wife; and now the thirst and the longing, for it are upon
me, and I shall do it again.”
“No,” answered Amias; “this will go off; you must not
despond. But how came you to be so imprudent as to walk till you
were faint? And what misfortune has made you miserable?” he
continued, calling Uzziah’s words to mind.
“Oh, I am a miserable man!“ was all the reply his “inspired
cobbler” made; and he sank upon his knees before the fire, and covered his
face with his hands.
“I am truly sorry for you, Dill,” repeated Amias, very much
shocked. “But the worst thing you can do is to talk in this
despairing way. Pluck up courage; be a man. Come, I’ll give
you something to eat at once; and I’ll see you safe into your own home.
But I am afraid — yes, I am afraid you cannot speak any more at these
meetings, — at least, for a time.”
“I cannot eat,” answered Uzziah “but you are good, sir, to
say you’ll walk home with me. I‘m
in such mortal fear that I shall be drawn into those mantraps again; they
catch body and soul. My head never would stand the half of what
another man can take,” he moaned. “Oh, why did I do it! But I
know: I longed for it; I kept muttering to myself as I came to you this
night, ‘Oh for one drop — oh that I could have one drop!’ I longed
for it more than for the air I breathe.”
“Did this come upon you all on a sudden?“ asked Amias.
“It came on same time as all the rest of the misery.”
“What misery?” asked Amias.
Uzziah started up, seeming to recollect himself; he sat down
again, and looked at Amias as if he was trying to collect his thoughts.
“It would not be safe to tell you,” he said; and instantly
seemed to feel that to have said even that was far too much.
Amias drew his chair slightly further off.
“Yes, sir,” said the cobbler, as if answering his thought;
“I’m no worse than I always have been since long before the day you first
saw me. But you have no call to demean yourself to sit so near.
It’s more than my wife will do. I thought God, that knew all, had
forgiven me: but now it’s all dark. O God, thou hast taken me up and
cast me down.”
“You must not despair of the goodness of God. He knows
the great temptation the constant sight and smell of drink is to such as
you. You will recover yourself soon, I hope, and even, perhaps, may
be allowed to speak again in public.”
Amias said this because he knew what joy and honour it always
seemed to the cobbler to stand forth and utter his testimony. He had
a ready flow of words, many anecdotes at his command, and took a simple
and harmless pride in his own popularity.
Uzziah shook his head. “My wife says no to that,” he
answered ,sighing; “she says it would be tempting providence.”
Amias again offered him food, and when he would not take it,
renewed the offer of walking home with him; and the two men set forth
together, Amias feeling sufficient distrust and dislike of his companion
to keep him very silent. But what was his astonishment when, having
conducted the poor man to his own door, he knocked, determining to see him
enter it before he left him, and it was opened by his brother’s old
servant, Mrs. Snaith — yes, Mrs. Snaith — evidently the mistress of that
humble home, and she had a baby in her arms.
He was on the point of addressing her, when he remembered his
brother’s account of the interview he had lately had with her, and how she
had begged that, if either of them met her with her husband, he would not
She looked aghast, but almost instantly recovered herself.
He checked himself just in time, and as Uzziah passed in, said, as if to a
stranger, “Your poor husband has been with me to-night, Mrs. Dill, and I
have walked home with him. I am very sorry for him, but I am full of
hope that this will soon pass off.”
“Will you come in, sir?” answered Mrs. Dill, with entreating
Amias entered, and Uzziah Dill went straight up-stairs,
shutting the staircase door behind him.
Mrs. Dill, who had not moved nor spoken again, was standing
with the candle in her hand listening, and her head slightly raised.
She now set it down on the small deal table. “He will not come down
any more, poor man,” she said, almost in a whisper; “he has shut himself
in for the night, but whether to pray or to sleep I cannot say. He
never seems to have a moment’s ease of mind now.”
“It is a piteous sight to see his repentance,” Amias
answered; “but, Mrs. Snaith―”
“Mrs. Dill, sir.”
“Yes — Mrs. Dill. You must not let him get morbid; I
mean that you should encourage him. He ought not to think that such
a fault is past reprieve.”
“What fault, sir?” asked Mrs. Dill, with a certain air of
fluttered distress. “Oh yes, sir —yes, sir; he was overcome by
temptation, and he fell.” She trembled now, and looked so faint and
frightened, that Amias could not answer at once, he was too much
surprised; but when she repeated, “Overcome by temptation, and he
fell—that was what you meant,” he at once perceived that both husband and
wife had more on their minds than a mere drunken fit, and he again
experienced the strange revulsion against this man which had impelled him
to draw away his chair. He did not like to hear his footsteps
“Mrs. Dill,” he said, leaning towards her as he sat, and
speaking in a whisper “I have thought of that poor man, your husband —“
“Yes, sir; my husband.”
“Well, I have thought of him as a saint.”
“And so have I, Mr. Amias.”
“But you are very much in fear of him?”
“I believe he is a saint, sir.”
“I think you ought to answer me. Are you in bodily fear
“No, sir, I am not. He is perfectly gentle, and a pious
Christian, poor creature, when he is sober, and I trust in the mercy of
God that he will not drink again. He and I have kneeled down
together, and begged and prayed the Lord that he never might so fall
again; and I do believe, sir, that we are heard.”
“And yet, Mrs. Dill, when you opened the door, if ever I saw
a woman’s face express mortal fear, yours was that face.”
Mrs. Dill said nothing.
“It is only a few days, is it, since this took place — since
he got drunk?”
“Only a few days.”
Amias pondered, and at last said, “I do not like to leave a
person whom I have long known and respected in any danger, or in such a
state of terror as I found you.”
“I was afraid, sir, when I heard the knock, for how should I
know that it was you?”
Amias looked at her; the words “You are afraid for
him, then, not of him?” were almost on his lips, but he spared her.
“I don’t fare to regard a few pangs of fright, more or less,”
she presently added, “my life, sir, is so full of misery; but when I saw
Mr. de Berenger, and now that I see you, I know what a wide gulf there is
betwixt me and that happy life I led, when I went in and out without fear,
and lived so quiet and respectable, all comforts about me, and answered
the door without any alarm, and — and waited on my dear young ladies.”
She could not possibly forbear to speak of her children, so
sore was her longing to hear of their welfare. Amias, who took her
mention of them chiefly as a proof, among others, of her regrets for her
old occupation and the old place, felt as if desire to talk of them was
all his own. A glow came into his dark cheek, and a flash into his
eyes. It became evident to him that he ought to indulge himself —
their old nurse naturally wished to hear about them — and almost with
reverence the lover allowed himself the delightful privilege of uttering
He was fully occupied now with his own feelings, or he could
not have failed to notice how the waxen pallor of the nurse’s face gave
way to rose-colour, and how her expression became first peaceful, then
almost rapturous. She turned her eyes away from him, and scarcely
asked a question, and she also was too full of her own feelings to notice
She tried to keep her gladness moderate, and to hear of their
welfare, improvement, and beauty with as much seeming calm as he tried to
give to his words in telling of them. If a third person had been
present this attempt would, on both sides, have been equally vain.
Amias ended with, “And I often hear them speak of their dear old nurse,
and wish they had her again.”
Then the nurse lifted up her hand, and looked up.
“Bless their sweet hearts” she said, with impassioned tenderness. “I
love them, but I pray the Lord in his great mercy to keep them and me
Amias was very much struck by this speech, and by her
earnestness. “I was almost thinking, Mrs. Snaith, that I could,
perhaps, bring them to see you,” he exclaimed.
“This is no place for them to come to,” she interrupted.
“And you do not wish to see your young ladies?”
“No, sir; I pray you to keep them away.”
The clock of a neighbouring church struck one. Amias
“Some things you say make me very uneasy,” he began.
“Sir, you have no call to be afraid for me,” she repeated,
interrupting him again.
“Do you know my address?”
“If ever you should want help, come, or write to me.”
“I will, and I am truly thankful for your kindness; but I
want nothing so much as this, that, if we meet, you should make as if you
did not know me.”
“I shall remember.”
“And I would fain, if I might, send my love to my dear young
Her love, which she was so desirous not to reveal so as to
excite his suspicions, and his love, which, unless he kept it hidden, got
the mastery over his calm, made them both so self-conscious and
restrained, that again neither could notice the other, and Amabel’s mother
and her lover parted strangers, in spite of what might have been so mighty
a link between them.
Hannah Dill had at last recovered her health, and begun to
take in hand her husband’s affairs. He had lost energy and hope
since he had again fallen under the influence of drink, but after he had
seemed to become like himself, and had begun to eat and to work again, he
was a second time drawn into a gin-palace, and then, when the next day he
was lying in despair on his bed, racked with headache, and almost beside
himself with remorse, she came up to him and deliberately proposed that
she should lock him up — lock him in to that little whitewashed garret,
bring him his food and his work, supply him with coal and candle, and not
let him out till she thought he was safe.
He accepted her proposal thankfully, and it spoke well for
his sincerity that he armed her against himself, his own probable
entreaties or commands, by giving her a paper, desiring her to use her
best judgment, and show no false mercy by letting him out till she was
satisfied of his cure. He signed it, and she kept him locked in for
three weeks. But he was used to confinement — that did him no harm;
he was accustomed to the companionship of accusing thoughts and wretched
memories. She took these things into account, and did not let them
influence her; but there was one thing she did not take into account, and
this was his strong, absorbing love for herself.
She brought him his meals, she swept out his room, she took
care that he had candlelight, and all such comforts as their slender means
would permit; but when she had done all such obvious tasks, she did not
sit with him, or linger to chat, or bring the child and lay it on its
father’s bed, while she worked. No, nothing of this kind; when she
had waited on him, she went down again.
Uzziah felt this, and he found nothing to say. Every
day he thought he must and would open a conversation with her, if it was
only to ask a few harmless, commonplace questions, such as, “Have you been
to the shop, Hannah? Well, sit you down and tell me about it.”
“Got the baby a new hat, did you? Bring up the little chap and let
me see him in it.” He rehearsed many such questions and remarks with
himself when alone; but when he heard his wife’s step on the stair, and
heard her turn the key, he never could utter them. She always found
him silent, and every morning she made him the same apology, “Wishing you
better, my poor husband, and feeling it hard I should have to take away
“I don’t feel as much better as I could wish,” was often the
answer. “I’m parched with thirst, and long for liquor;“ but he could
not add, “and I long for your company.”
And she was only able to talk with him on the matter in hand
— what he thought it might be best for him to eat, and what to drink.
When she had done and said all, she would turn away very quietly, almost
slowly, and close and lock the door again; but then he used to hear her
run down-stairs, as if it was a deep relief to get away from him.
And so it was.
At last one day he said, “Hannah, I’ve no longing at all upon
me now for liquor, and I bless the Lord for that.”
“Well, and I bless the Lord for it, too,” she answered,
She observed that he had put on his best clothes, and brushed
“I feel as if I might go out,” he said. “Only, what do
you think, my poor wife? Am I fit to go alone?”
“I’ll go with you,” she answered; and his whole appearance
changed. She could not but feel a pang of pity for him, for his face
was so like what her heart had felt when she had last seen her lovely
children. Her proposing of her own accord to go out with him was
such a cordial, and yet he knew it was only as a guardian that she was to
go. She would be near to help him out of mischief and temptation —
as a duty, and not a pleasure.
“And where do you want to go?” she inquired.
“Well, Hannah, first I must look for work; for what I used to
earn by my efforts for the temperance cause, I have lost now.”
“Too true,” she replied.
“And, second, I must go to Mr. de Berenger. He will
wonder what has become of me all this time. I want to say to him
what you have to hear first.”
He saw then the sudden pallor which often distressed him in
his wife’s face, and did not know that her fear of meeting with Amias was
what had brought it on, not of what he might have to say.
“If you’re agreeable to it, my dear, I feel as if I had
better go away from London. I might find a country place — I seem to
know of several — where there are not any public-houses tempting one at
every turn. I could not keep us quite as well as I have done, but I
would do my best.”
He paused, and looked at her earnestly, and she answered what
she knew was in his mind.
“Yes, Uzziah, I would go with you.”
AMIAS was standing on the rug in the room where he
had talked with Uzziah Dill. It was a pleasant morning; the red
curtains of the windows had been partly drawn, and shafts of sunshine came
in between, casting a fine glow upon the figures of an old man and an
elderly lady, who sat on two comfortable chairs.
“Yes, my dear uncle is much disappointed,” said Sarah.
“He thinks the little girls look thin and weakly. Yes! and dear
Amabel and my pretty Delia—”
“Why mention them in the same breath with the others?”
interrupted Amias. “My uncle, I understood, was come here to talk
over his affairs, — express some of his wishes as regards his
“And dear Amabel and my pretty Delia,” Sarah went on, as if
she had not heard him, “have each had an offer of marriage. Yes,
very natural, I am sure, and does the young men no special credit.”
The dark cheek of Amias mustered colour, and his eyes
flashed. Sir Samuel, in spite of a little depression which showed
itself in his air, smiled furtively here.
“No special credit,” she went on, “for anybody might see,
with half an eye, what charming, desirable girls they are — though, to be
sure, the lovers, both in the army, had nothing at all but their pay.
However, as they said to me, there’s always hope of a scrimmage.
War, war, — that’s what they all look to, what they daily pray for.
But it’s rather shocking to think of their dropping on their knees — whole
rows of them — and deliberately entreating a merciful Providence to send
‘battle, and murder, and sudden death,’ that they may get their promotion!
Yes; but that’s what, as I’m informed, they always do.”
Sir Samuel sat through this speech in silence, and, as he
still said nothing, Sarah spoke again.
“Some girls are far too rich,” she observed, “and others far
too poor. It would be much better if my dear uncle would have his
six granddaughters as before. Punctilios are quite out of place in
family matters; and you are so particular, Amias, about your rubbishing
proofs, that now you see the consequences. The property, as my dear
uncle has said, must go to those four pale-eyed, sickly girls (not the
least like the family), and their fortunes will be so large, that they
will be the victims of all the neediest scamps out.”
“I am not so sure of that,” said Amias, “if Felix is to have
the charge of them, and I am to be their guardian.”
“Much too rich, poor children! But when my will comes
to be investigated, perhaps it may be found that I have been less
regardless of the family interests than you have, and have not thrown dear
John’s children over just because he died before he could come home to
claim them, — and produce his marriage certificate,” she added, after a
short pause, “which he had no reason to suppose we should ever think of
“If you please, sir,” said a servant, entering, “Mr. Uzziah
Dill wishes to speak with you.”
“I will see him in a few minutes,” replied Amias. “Now,
aunt,” he continued, when the door was shut, “you have been giving me
rather a long lecture this morning.”
“Well, perhaps I have,” she answered, looking up at him
affectionately, “and I must say you have borne it like a lamb. Yes!
but it will have no effect upon you, Amias.”
“You accuse me, among other things, of meddling in the
affairs of this world, of a strong wish to make it better and happier.
Now, there is a poor, weak wretch of a lame cobbler down-stairs —“
“Yes! going to prove that my remarks were so much wasted
Amias turned from his aunt to his uncle. “I say, uncle,
that I feel a wish just now to see the world — at least, those few atoms
of it which are held together by the body of that lame cobbler — a little
better and a little happier.”
“Then there’s money in the wish,” said Sir Samuel, smiling
rather grimly. “By how much money is the little demagogue to be made
better and happier? I remember him. I heard him rant when you
were at the seaside, a year or two ago.”
“I think five-and-twenty pounds would satisfy me.”
Sir Samuel lifted his eyebrows involuntarily, he was so much
astonished at the audacity of Amias in naming so large a sum. “This
comes,” he thought, “of my having laid myself under an obligation to him
by making him my girls’ guardian.”
“The poor man’s case is hard, and I deeply pity him,”
continued Amias. “He was a reformed drunkard, and kept himself sober
for years; but in a time of deep distress — an illness of his wife’s, I
think — he was overcome by temptation, and drank again. Now he
almost despairs, and his living is lost, for of course he cannot rant, as
you call it, on temperance any more.”
Partly in gratitude to Amias, but more in pity for the man,
Sir Samuel took out his purse, and, to the surprise of Sarah, gave Amias,
in gold and notes, the five and twenty pounds.
Amias, thanking him, took the money and went into a little
waiting-room, where he found poor Dill and his wife. Uzziah looked
the shadow of his former self, and was very desponding.
Amias applauded him for his intention of leaving London, held
out no hope that any more temperance lecturing was possible for him, but
gave Mrs. Dill the money, and said it was a generous gift from a friend.
Mrs. Dill accepted it with beautiful and homely dignity.
“It was a king’s ransom to her,” she said; “it would give her husband hope
and courage, and that was what he mainly wanted to keep him sober.”
She had money, more than this sum, lying in the hands of Mr.
Bartlett, but since a certain dreadful fact had come to her knowledge, she
feared the very sight of a lawyer, and had made her husband more timid
“Then I suppose I’ve got to retire into private life, sir,”
said poor Uzziah, in a desponding tone.
Amias with difficulty forbore to smile.
“I am sorry for you, Dill,” he began.
“It’s a sore blow, but a meet punishment,” interrupted the
“We have taken up enough of Mr. de Berenger’s time,” said the
wife, with gentle firmness. Amias shook hands with her, but not with
her husband, and when Uzziah saw that he was determined to say no more, he
made his bow, and departed.
He and his wife went and sat down on a bench in Kensington
Gardens, for Uzziah was too weak to walk all the way home without a rest,
and the gardens were in their way.
The poor man was very wretched, and his wife understood his
misery. He wiped his brow as he seated himself, and spoke for the
“He never gave me the least hope, Hannah; he never even said
I might stand forth again at some future time.”
She was silent.
“To think I could do good and help the cause was almost what
I lived for. It was not only the applause I got, Hannah; you must
not think it.”
“I do not think it.”
“I was buoyed up by it. It enabled me to deny myself.”
“Ay, my poor husband; but it made you forget.”
Uzziah wiped his forehead again.
“Am I to have nothing to do, then, for God?”
“Ay, truly; you’ve got to get our living by your trade.
So far as I can see, that is God’s will about you just now, and that it
may last his will, I daily pray.”
“Then, if I am to go, let it be a long way off. There’s
plenty of money. Let us go where I may forget.”
He spoke weakly and almost peevishly. His wife
encouraged him, but from that day she recognized a change. His
crime, which it seemed he had almost forgotten, was now ever present to
his mind; he had supposed that in the end he should be discovered as its
perpetrator, but because he believed that God had forgiven it, he had felt
that he was free of it in the mean time.
He now discovered his mistake. No need to tell him to
be distant and humble in his manner to his wife, or meek and silent with
others; he was all this of his own accord. With a touching patience
he undertook such work as he could get, and contented himself with such
fare as it would procure.
Hannah Dill could find no consoling words for him; but she
forbore from all reproach, and gradually, as he left more and more to her,
she took the guidance of him and of their small earnings. In one
thing she always yielded. He had sometimes a fit of restlessness,
and would long to leave the town or village where they were. Then
she would produce Sir Samuel’s money, and by some cheap excursion train,
and still cheaper steamer, they would go on. It was always in the
same direction — always north. At last, after a full year of such
wandering, they found themselves at Whitby, and here the change of scene,
the cordial manners of the people, and perhaps the fine air of the place,
seemed at last to revive the poor man. He settled to his work with
more hope, slept better, and would sometimes walk about the shore and into
the country, evidently refreshed by the beauty of the scene.
Hannah Dill felt relieved, for she could not but be
influenced by the deep depression she always saw in him. Gradually
it passed, she scarcely knew when or how. He was very humble, very
silent still; many an hour he would spend in prayer, lying on the floor of
the little chamber; but at meal-times he would now sometimes converse with
her, or he would whistle to the child, now grown a fine, rosy little
fellow. Sometimes he would read aloud, and always he would work
diligently at his calling. Hannah Dill calmed herself by degrees,
and began to live from day to day. She had been long looking for a
catastrophe: it did not come. She now began to feel some refreshment
in the present. The constant changes of the sea fed her observant
mind. Sometimes the harbour would be full of heavy rolling waves,
and the tugs and vessels would rock on them like ducks, while the pier
lighthouse would be drenched by the breakers that reared at it, and rushed
on, hiding it for the moment, in a great fountain of seething foam.
Every day she took her child on her arm and walked forth,
that he might enjoy the bracing air.
And she could again enjoy it. The sweet life of the
rectory was remote as paradise might have been to Eve’s imagination when
she had left it; but she had another child to love and tend, and she had
much ado to make the money cover their small expenses. Then she took
in needlework when she could get it, and sometimes did a little
clear-starching, so that she had plenty of occupation, and yet not of a
sordid kind. They were poor, but there was no grumbling in their
home, and though the parents frequently went without meat with their
potatoes, there was always a cup of milk for the child.
The year thus spent by Hannah Dill proved a very eventful one
for the De Berengers.
Sir Samuel, now eighty years of age, began slightly to lose
his memory, and to depend more and more on his niece Sarah and on his two
great-nephews. To describe the anguish this caused to his
daughter-in-law, Mrs. de Berenger, would be quite impossible. When
she heard that Amias had gone to live with the old man, and always
attended to his affairs while he was in London, and sat at the head of his
table, she was taken ill from sheer anxiety, so likely, it seemed to her,
that Amias would influence him to the prejudice of her four children.
She wrote to Sarah frequently, and, expressing the deepest solicitude
about the old man‘s health, begged that
she would use her influence to get him into the country. He had
already given up his seat in Parliament, and disposed of his business; how
much better it would be for him if he would live in the fresh country air!
It was such a needless expense, too, as he saw hardly any company, to have
Sarah showing the letter to Amias, who saw its real meaning,
the old man was easily persuaded to go into the country; but there matters
were no better. Sir Samuel did not want his daughter-in-law, would
not invite her and her children to come to him. He wanted Amias,
always Amias; and as he could not have this favourite nephew in the
country, he got Felix to come about him as much as the parson nephew would
consent to do, and at other times, rather than be alone, he would come and
stay at the rectory, contenting himself with the quiet life led there, and
paying for himself and his old servant a due proportion of its expenses,
and no more.
From week to week, though his mental decay was so slight as
to be scarcely perceptible, he seemed to become more conscious of a change
in himself, and to be more desirous of guidance; more afraid, especially
in money matters, of committing some imprudence, more openly dependent on
the opinion of one or other of his two great-nephews; while, at the same
time, his spirits improved, and his temper grew sweeter, partly from the
absence of all business or political worries, partly from the delightful
consciousness of how much money he was saving by living so frequently at
His presence was never regarded as a trouble there; quite the
contrary. Felix, who had been keenly aware of his foibles some years
previously, became now very indulgent to them. From mere sociability
of temper, he always liked to have his house full. He was never easy
when Amabel and Delia were away; his aunt Sarah’s presence had always been
a pleasure to him; and now Sir Samuel frequently in and out, riding with
the girls, going to sleep in his most comfortable chairs, and conforming
to the early hours of the rectory, was decidedly agreeable to him.
If anybody had taken the trouble to observe the fact, and
place it to its true account, Felix must have been held to be changed.
He was much more particular in his dress; he was altogether brushed up,
and looked better and younger: but his temper was not quite so indolently
gentle as it had been, and he was sometimes a little unfriendly toward a
certain young officer in the army, who frequently rode over to the rectory
about this time, and would turn very red and half choke himself with
sighing, whenever Delia condescended to look at him or to speak to him.
Delia thought this young man a great bore, for a certain
instinct of propriety made her aware that, as she did not mean to let him
get friendly and intimate — as she would not let him help to feed her
young ducks, or knock down the sweetest crab-apples for her, or beat the
donkey when she indulged in a canter — she must, therefore, take the
trouble to smooth her wandering locks for him, and treat him to her best
frock. She never gave him a smile, but then she took care that her
sash was not awry.
Nothing, however, could repress the gallant soldier’s love,
and one afternoon, when Delia was out — gone out riding with her sister
and old Sir Samuel — he laid his modest prospects before Felix, together
with his manly hopes, and begged leave to make his offer in due form.
It was his last hour in the neighbourhood; his leave was up.
Felix was perfectly sure that Delia cared nothing at all about him, but he
consented to lay the matter before his ward; and when the two girls
returned, rosy and beautiful, from their ride, he called her into his
Felix was seated on his sofa. He had seldom in his life
looked so well. Delia looked at him, and thought so. There was
more fire in his dark eyes than usual; there was even a shade of red under
the dark cheek. He began quietly to state the soldier’s wishes.
“What a goose he is!” said Delia, when the story had been
Felix was gratified. He would have liked to rise and
set a chair for Delia, but this would have been such an unwonted
proceeding, that it must have roused her attention, and for the present he
did not dare to do that; he wanted to let things drift.
“Was he very droll, Coz?” she next inquired.
“Droll!” exclaimed Felix; “droll, poor fellow! No.
Delia was standing before him, with her whip in her hand; she
was twisting round it a long bine of wild briony that she had gathered in
the hedge. “Oh, because you look so — so amused. I don’t like
you to look pleased.”
Felix could not help looking pleased.
“Why?“ he inquired, almost faintly.
Delia made no answer for the moment. She seemed to
cogitate; then she said, in a pleading tone, “I suppose I’m not obliged to
try to like him, Coz, if I don’t wish?”
“Certainly not,” replied Felix.
Delia came and sat down beside him next, and she blushed, and
seemed to look inquiringly at him. So sweet a hope had never dawned
in the heart of Felix in all his life, as swelled it in that happy moment,
but he said not a word.
Then the unreasonable young creature laughed and shrugged her
shoulders. “If you want me to send an answer to him,” she said,
“you’d better tell me what to say; for, of course, I don’t know.”
Felix was so sure she did not care for her lover, that he
found no difficulty in doing him justice, and in taking care that his suit
was duly presented.
“How can I tell what to say, unless I know what you feel?“ he
“I don’t feel anything particular,” replied Delia —“excepting
when he comes,” she added.
“And what then?“
“And then I do so wish he would go.”
Felix laughed. He felt that the situation was getting
the mastery over him. This child of his adoption was so sweet, so
familiarly affectionate in her manner towards him, that he could not but
retain his old household ways with her, and yet she did not now give him
her good-morning kiss without making him tremble from head to foot.
He started up hastily from his seat, and began to pace the room.
Delia still occupied her hand with the strand of wild briony, and he
looked at her: a beautiful blush went and came on her rounded cheek; it
seemed that she could not meet his eyes.
“Delia,” he said, stopping opposite to her, and speaking not
without some tremblement in his voice, “you must say yourself what I am to
repeat to him. You must make a direct answer to his proposal.”
“He’s so old,” said Delia, as if excusing herself for not
caring about him.
“Old!” exclaimed Felix, astonished and almost horrified.
He felt himself turning chill, and a sudden dimness seemed to becloud all
his dearest hopes. “He is only six-and-twenty,” he went on, sitting
down and sighing.
“He’s much older than Dick,” said Delia. “Oh — I would
much rather — wait — for Dick.”
Felix looked at her earnestly while she spoke; a flood of
rosy colour covered her fair face and throat. She bent her head a
little, and was too much absorbed in her own trouble to notice that Coz
“Wait for Dick?” repeated Felix, in the quietest of tones.
Delia felt something unusual in it; a certain dullness and
dimness made it seem far off. She blushed yet more deeply. “I
did not think you would mind,” she began.
“Dick is a mere boy,” said Felix. “Is it possible that he has
“No, be hasn’t yet,” answered Delia, excusing him; “but he
“He will soon?“ repeated Felix, between astonishment and
dismay, and instantly Delia started up and ran to him. He rose to
meet her, and putting her dimpled hand on his shoulder, she sighed out
“Oh, Coz, don’t tell him. I did not mean to say it.”
“Never mind, my sweet,” be answered, and it seemed as if be
was consoling her —“never mind; it cannot be helped.”
“But you’ll never tell any one?” she entreated, and she laid
her cheek for a moment against his.
He answered, “No.”
“No, Coz, dearest, don’t,” she repeated “and there he is
coming.” She had caught the sound of Dick’s foot outside the door,
and, with a mischievous little laugh, she snatched up the train of her
habit, and, darting out at the open window, ran to join Sir Samuel, who
was sitting under a chestnut-tree on a low bench.
She spent the next quarter of an hour in thinking a good deal
about her cheeks, now and then laying her dimpled hand upon them, to
ascertain whether they were growing cooler.
Felix spent the same time in his study, sitting perfectly
motionless and silent. He had wasted his youth on a long,
obstinately cherished attachment; it had melted away quite unaware, and
for the last few weeks — only a few weeks — a new one had risen, suddenly
as a star. Delia was so young. He knew, of course, that at
present she felt only a childlike love for him, but he never supposed that
she loved any one else; and now she herself had told him that she did, and
if he could believe that she knew her own mind, his hope was lost, and his
day was over.
LITTLE PEEP was dead.
Amias wrote a long, affecting account of his last illness to Amabel, how
for many alternate nights he and Lord Robert had watched by him, how
patient and content he was, and how kind Mr. Tanner had been.
Amabel kissed the letter; it pleased her to think that Amias
had such an affectionate heart.
Lord Robert, it seemed, had “broken down” at the funeral.
Yes, but Lord Robert had got a fine appointment in one of the colonies; he
would sail in a few days with his pretty wife, and soon forget poor little
Peep. Amias never would.
Little Peep, in his last will and testament, left several
thousand pounds in trust to Amias, to build a temperance public-house, and
his portrait was to hang in the bar.
Little Peep was there represented as a young man of average
size, and a decidedly intellectual countenance. The temperance
lecture that Amias had written, appeared in his hand as a folded scroll,
and he was coming forward on a platform to read it.
The poor young fellow took much innocent pride in this
picture, and the last night of his life, when Lord Robert and Amias were
both with him, he told them what he intended to have done with it.
“Some people think it an excellent likeness,” he said
faintly. “I enjoy public speaking, and if it had pleased God to
prolong my life, I might have made myself a name by it. I might have
done something great.”
“That you would, dear boy,” said Lord Robert; and soon after
this he died.
“He had so many endearing qualities,” said Amias, speaking to
Lord Robert the night after his funeral —“so many endearing qualities—that
it was impossible to despise him, and yet I think, on the whole, he was
the greatest fool I ever knew.”
“He was not by any means the greatest fool I ever knew,”
answered Lord Robert, pointedly, and in a tone of good-natured banter.
“Why, what have I done now?” exclaimed Amias.
“Oh, nothing now; but I do not see why you are to be allowed
to go about the country making yourself conspicuous for this temperance
cause, without being made to pay for it.”
“I have paid,” answered Amias, “I paid when I was a boy.”
“But I have a fine eye. I observe the march of events.
You’ll see that poetical justice will be done upon you before long.
I don’t say that I should not take a certain pleasure in seeing it done.”
“What do you mean, Bob?”
“When you took yourself off from your old uncle, he had three
sons. They have all died, one after the other, and every year he
became more attached to you. Now, there’s a great uncertainty about
the ways of this world; people don’t always do in real life what is
expected of them. But if you had been a man in a book, Amias, the
old uncle about this time would have done poetical justice upon you; he
would have let you know — in fact, he would have said, in the presence of
those friends you most liked (would, perhaps, have convened them on
purpose to hear it) — that but for your rebellious, unfilial, and
unfeeling conduct to him, he would have (leaving a poor fortune to each of
his granddaughters)—he would have adopted you, and made you his principal
“Verdict, ‘serve me right,’” said Amias
“The march of events distinctly points to such a
catastrophe,” continued Lord Robert. “Depend on it, he will say
something of the sort before he has done with you.”
“Poor old man!” answered Amias. “No, Bob, he never
will; he will say nothing of the sort.”
“But am I to have these noble aspirations after poetical
justice for nothing?”
“Time will show.”
“If I had been blessed with such an uncle, would I have so
treated him? Yes, Amias, I repeat it: little Peep was not the
greatest fool I ever knew.”
A very eventful year followed for the De Berengers, but
Hannah Dill, who thought of them unceasingly, never had a hint of anything
that concerned them; her darlings, as she often felt, with an almost
unbearable pang, might be dead and buried, while she knew nothing of it.
But her little son helped her to endure this uncertainty, as he also
helped to fill the empty, aching heart.
Her husband had quite, for the time, got over those paroxysms
of craving for stimulus; he could trust himself alone about the town, but
he never proposed to speak at meetings again, and she did not conceal her
opinion that this was best.
But now the last of Sir Samuel’s money was spent, and though
Uzziah worked hard, his poor earnings did not quite keep them.
Several of their best articles of clothing had been sold, yet he could not
make up his mind to let his wife write to Mr. Bartlett for the money due
to her, so much was he afraid now of bringing himself into undesirable
And yet money was sorely wanted — money for the quarter’s
rent now nearly due — and, after the only discussion they had held since
leaving London, Dill consented to write to Mr. Bartlett, authorizing him
to give the money to his wife, and then consented to her going to London,
and taking the letter by hand, so as not to betray his whereabouts.
With great difficulty, and by the sale of every article that
they could possibly spare, they scraped together just enough money to pay
for an excursion ticket, and then, some small provision of food tied up in
a handkerchief, the husband and wife proceeded to the station, the former
carrying his child.
“Keep a good heart,” said the wife as she took leave of him;
but unaccountable depression weighed down her own heart. She had not
an easy moment during the long journey, and she walked to Mr. Bartlett’s
house full of wretched forebodings.
A pale, faded woman, he scarcely knew her at first, but she
soon recalled herself to his mind, and, almost to her own astonishment,
she got all the money due to her, with only the little formality of
waiting for her husband’s signature, which she wrote for and obtained,
before she could carry it away.
“And now you have got it,” he said to her, with a certain
dispassionate curiosity, which was more an interest in the event than in
her, the human agent that was to bring it to pass — “now you have got it,
Mrs. Hannah Dill, do you mind telling me what you are going to do with
“Why, take it to my poor husband, sir.”
“Oh!“ was all he answered; but he looked at her in a way that
suggested both surprise and incredulity. “I only asked you as a
friend,” he observed. “Of course it does not matter to me what you
do. I am perfectly safe.”
“Yes, sir; but what else should you think I would do?”
“Should I think?“ he repeated. “Well, I may have
thought you would go on as you began.”
“Sir, in the other case I only acted against Dill, to save,
if I could, his poor children; not to save myself.”
“And this poor child?”
“I fare to think he cannot be saved, sir,” she answered,
melting into tears. “His father sets that store by him that I could
not be so cruel as to carry him off.”
“Well, well, Mrs. Dill,” he answered, “it is no business of
mine — none at all.”
“I was never treacherous to him,” she interrupted. “I
never said to him that former time, ‘Dill, I am off to get our money.
Keep a good heart; I am coming home as soon as I can.’”
“And you did say so this time?”
“Well, Mrs. Dill, I am truly sorry for you."
His voice was rather kind, but his manner suggested all
manner of doubts to her — doubts as to what she really meant to do, and
doubts whether, knowing what she meant to do, she was wise; but she had
hardly reached her humble lodging, before she became calm and assured
again. She had promised her poor husband that she would go back to
him, and go she would.
But, oh! with what fear she returned; with what crowding,
unfortunate presentiments! What they meant she could not tell, but
she never lost them for a moment till she stopped at Whitby Station, and
saw her landlady waiting to meet her, and smiling in cordial, pleasant
fashion, as she stepped up to the carriage door.
“Dill was off to a little hamlet, some miles off,” she
explained, “and would not be back till the next day. A poor man,
whom he sometimes went to read to, was near his end, and had just sent to
beg that he would sit up with him that night and pray with him.”
“And Dill is all right?“ asked the wife.
“As right as can be,” was the answer.
Where now were all her fears?
She was so wearied and exhausted with what she had gone
through, that her knees shook and her head ached. The relief was
great of finding her superstition, as she now called it, unjustified by
any reasonable cause, yet she could not settle to any work. What she
had gone through is by no means a rare experience; it had been a restless
sense of conscious danger or of deep need, weighing down the spirit of her
husband, and having power to affect her, making her a partaker of his
misery, without imparting to her the cause. She knew she should not
be quite at ease till she had seen Uzziah, and she wanted to pass away the
time, so as soon as she had taken something to eat, she dressed her boy in
his best, and went forth among the visitors to the pier that forms one
side of the harbour. She had been so deeply brooding over her own
thoughts, that during the journey she had hardly noted anything that
passed around her. Now her eyes wandered with conscious refreshment,
and her ears were thankful and attentive; all that passed helped to fill
her mind with fresh images. Two old fishermen were coiling ropes
close to her seat. “Ay, ay,” quoth one to the other, speaking with
deep pity of the visitors, “there they was, dawdling about, poor souls;
nought to do but listen to the pestilent music tootle-tooing, fit to drive
‘em distracted. Folks should be piped to their work, and not to
“What’s a lugger?“some boy coming up asked the other
His companion quietly went on with his business, while he
answered, in his broad dialect and soft, persuasive voice, “What’s a
lugger? Why, that’s one; her that has a small mizzen and lug sail on
“Won’t her masts come out?” asked a still younger boy.
“Ay, for sure; they have kin’ o’ steps in the boat for to
rest ‘em on — yo’ can see em. They make the foremast rake a vast.
Now, mebbe yo’ doont see what that’s fur.”
Neither of the urchins pretended that he did see.
He continued, “It’s to give the wind more power, so’s to lift
the sail — git under it like; and so, if she’s heavy laden wi’ fish, to
lift her at the bows moor out o’ t’ watter.”
This valuable information was given with conscientious care:
in his deep pity for these poor children of the land, the old seaman would
neglect no opportunity, but do his manifest duty towards them, which was
to put the A B C of shipping life (and what other life is worth the name?)
plainly before them.
Mrs. Dill looked at their rosy faces with interest. A
great many little boys are brought up by old fishermen to take to the
water. A few quaint phrases stick in their minds. The loss of
that one life-boat, the Whitby life-boat, has alone caused many youths to
risk their lives, for danger that ends in death has a fearful
attractiveness; it draws the island children out, quite as strongly as
that which is surmounted and comes safe home again.
“Ay, t’ harbour dues are high,” she next heard on her other
side. “What do they come to? Why, nigh upon sixpence a ton!”
“Oh!” said the lady who had inquired. “Then, how much
will that ship pay?” indicating a vessel with her finger.
“That collier schooner?” asked the fisherman, with genuine
pity in his air. “She’s not a ship at all, mem. Well, mebbe
eighteen shillings. Folks say t’ new dues kept out t’ vessels.
But I doon’t complain; when God shuts one door, he mostly opens another.
There’s less shipping, but there’s moor fish. — Who pays for t’ lights?
Why, every vessel that passes Whitby lights has to pay a half-penny.”
“All those vessels out there? Why, surely it’s not
worth while to send out to them for only a halfpenny?”
The old fisherman straightened himself up when he heard this,
and looked at his mate, as if he would have him testify that the words had
truly been said.
“The vessels pay wheer they start from — say Hull.
You’ve heerd talk of Hull?” he then replied, doubtfully.
“Why, of course!”
“Oh, I wasn’t sure. Hull, or Sunderland, or wheer not.”
“Your boat’s ready now, mem,” said the second old man.
“Take extry care on ‘em, mate,” whispered his fellow, with
something like contempt; “for they’re real landlubbers and no mistake.
And her, the mother of a family, too, to know nothing more than the babe
“Bless you,” replied his companion, “what should she know of
dues, nor what’s reasonable? If yo’ll me believe, she asked
me las’ night whither theer were any difference atwixt a roadstead and a
Mrs. Dill smiled, so exquisite was the enjoyment of the old
fishermen over this ignorance “in the mother of six.” She watched
the boys and this rosy-faced parent down to their boat. They were
going to fish — at least, they thought so; the old fisherman was going to
bait the lines, and they were going to hold them.
It was a still, warm day. A great bulging cloud, black
and low, was riding slowly up from the south. The cliffs had gone
into the brooding darkness of this cloud, which had stooped to take them
in. The water was spotted with flights of thistledown, floated from
the meadows behind the church, and riding out to sea. Suddenly a
hole was blown in the advancing and lowering cloud; the sun glared through
it, and all the water where his light fell was green as grass, and the
black hulls of the crowded vessels glittered; while under the cliff a long
reach of peaked red roofs looked warmer and more homelike than ever, and
on the top of them the wide old church seemed to crouch, like a great
sea-beast at rest, and the ruined abbey, well up on the hill, stood gaunt
and pale, like the skeleton ribs and arms of a dead thing in sore need of
So Mrs. Dill thought; but then she was not cultivated enough
to love death and decay. She felt the weird gloom of the cloud and
the blackness of the nearer water; something of its gloom came over her
also; the short respite that change had brought was over. A weight
fell down upon her; the peculiar instinct of coming sorrow was upon her
gain. A step was drawing near rather slowly. She knew it, and
a more than common pang of pity shot through her heart; it included her
husband and herself, and the child, while seated on her knee the little
fellow held up his arms and babbled, “Daddy, daddy!”
Hannah Dill looked up at her husband, and at the moment was
too much struck by his appearance to speak. His eyes were not
absolutely looking at her, though, a little wider open than usual, they
seemed to take in the whole scene — the lowering cloud, the grass-green
sea, the rocking boats, and herself and her child. Was it the arrest
of some great surprise that held him motionless? That could not be
all. He was lost in thought, and wonder, and perplexity. There
was nothing like fear in his face, but no fear could have made it more
“Uzziah!“ she exclaimed, with a sharp cry of terror and
suspense. Then, as it seemed, he brought his eyes to look at her,
and his lips moved; but he uttered no sound. “Whatever is it?
Do speak!" she said, faintly.
And in a low, mumbling tone, he said slowly, “I went to read
“Well?” she cried. That was no answer to her question.
“He’s dead,” proceeded Uzziah.
“Well?” she repeated, shuddering; for he looked distraught,
and it seemed as if his thoughts were still remote. But as he saw
the terror in her face he appeared to note it (yet not till he had
examined her well with his eyes), and then to rouse himself with a sudden
start, and with a violent effort to regain almost his usual manner and
“It looks like a storm coming up,” he said, while his wife,
trembling and sick at heart, wiped away a few tears. He was folding
up a newspaper in his shaking hand; he now put it in his pocket, and when
his child slid from the mother’s knee, and toddled toward him, he
retreated, saying, — “No! Maybe you’d rather lead him yourself,
Hannah! And I’ve nothing to say against it.” She rose then.
There was something wrong, and she did not dare to hear it, or ask what it
was. He preceded her to the house, and she noticed that, his hand in
his pocket, he kept hold of the newspaper all the way. Yet when they
got home the strange manner was all but gone: he was less pale, more
observant; he could even eat. And she was very thankful for a
comfortable meal. She ate and drank almost with urgency, for she
thought there must be something terrible for her to hear, and that she
would fortify herself for it beforehand. Something, she thought, was
impending. But nothing occurred; as soon as he had eaten, he told
her he was going out to the shore to pray, and he did not return till ten
“I am not going to bed this night,” was all he said, when
she, weary with her journey, roused herself up to let him in.
She went up to bed, and while she undressed, heard him as he
sighed to God, and afterwards heard the same sighing in her dreams; but
she was greatly wearied, and when at last she woke, in full daylight, and
all the splendour of an August morning, it startled her to find that there
was silence below at last.
She stole down-stairs. Her husband dressed in all his
best clothes, had opened the window, and was sitting with his head leaning
on the sill, fast asleep. He looked exhausted, and she thought he
must be going to be ill. He had not treated himself to a holiday for
many months. As he had said nothing, there could, she now thought,
be nothing to say; he must and should have a day on the heather, and
breathe the air from the hills. She went out quietly, bought some
fish for breakfast, made the fire, and dressed the child.
It was not till past eight o’clock that he woke, and she
called him to his breakfast, and laid her plan before him. Oh how
gentle and quiet he was! How little was left of the husband of her
youth! He was to see what money she had brought. Yes, he
would. He was to rouse himself up. He would try. He was
to go with her and the child in the railway to a place he had loved the
previous summer, and they were to sit together on the hills. Yes —
so best. She began to get alarmed again, as she saw how quietly he
sat while she made her simple preparations.
And they went. They stopped a few miles out of Whitby,
at a station called Gothland, between two great expanses of heather.
They climbed the steep, cliff-like hill on the left-hand side, and reached
a long expanse, all purple and gold; a lovely, peaceful view spread itself
forth in successive descents at their feet. The place was remote
from life, and yet it was not lonely, for every valley, as it lay open for
inspection, had its own farmhouse, and on every space of grass kine were
What peace appeared to rest as a presence over the purple
moor! The child was happy with his flowers; the mother sat quietly
looking about her, and feeling thankful for the rest. She thought
change might have done her poor husband good. He had eaten, and was
wandering hither and thither. She watched him awhile; then her eyes
were attracted to a steep declivity, down which a sparkling beck was
leaping. In the vale, where it spread itself out into a shallow,
lonely pool, a crowd of rooks walked on the moss in companies, and a flock
of little finches washed themselves sportively. She was still tired.
Her eyes rested on these careless creatures with a dull contentment that
was almost pleasure.
She had forgotten her husband for the moment. Where was
he? Wandering about in the heather, most likely. Not at hand,
for she turned and could not see him. And what was this? Close
where he had been sitting, and almost under her hand, he had spread out
his handkerchief, and laid upon it most of the money she had given him in
the morning. It was all in gold. Her heart sank. Why had
he done this? She counted it. He had taken with him seven
pounds. She looked about her again, and at last there he was,
descending the steep path toward the station. He was half a mile
off, and before she could decide what to do, a train came up and stopped.
The lame man’s figure was visible, running hard to reach the little lonely
station. He was the only passenger. She stood up in her place;
she saw that he was in time, that the train went on, and that he was gone.
Very few trains stopped there.
It was evening when Hannah Dill and her child got home.
Her husband was not there; she had scarcely expected it would be so.
Where, then, was he gone? She looked about her, and saw her
husband’s everyday coat hanging behind the door. She took it down
with a trembling hand. She was always looking for evil tidings, and
however heavy the blow might be that fell on her then, it was not a shock,
it was hardly a surprise.
A south-county newspaper was in the pocket. Her eyes
ran down the columns. She felt, before she saw, what it was that
concerned her. The assizes were going on. The judge would be
at a certain town that was named, on such and such days. There were
several important trials, and one — Hannah Dill cried out, and flung the
paper down and wrung her hands. She saw a name that she knew, the
name of a murdered man. Some of the details of the crime were given;
she remembered them. The murderer was found, it appeared, and was
about to be tried.
She quieted herself with difficulty. This could not
concern her, then? And yet her terror all concentrated itself upon
those assizes. The paper had been read and reread and wept over it
was still limp with tears. She must go down to this town in the
south-west. It was not far from the place where her little Delia had
been born. Her husband had been tried there. She should die if
she remained in ignorance. Why did she think he had gone there?
She could not tell; but she must go, and if her husband did not prove to
be there, she was a happier woman than she feared.
A FEW days after this, Mrs. Snep, as she stood
ironing in her little cottage by the hop-garden, saw a respectable-looking
woman standing by her gate. A stout little boy held her by the hand,
and was crying lustily.
Mrs. Snep did not recognize her. It was now seventeen
years since a tall, gaunt young woman had craved admittance there.
The young woman was forgotten, but she could not forget. There was
the little path, and there were the very clumps of pinks, and the grey
bushes of southernwood, and there was the mistress of the mansion,
stouter, and, as she thought, kindlier-looking than before.
Mrs. Snep came out, and as she threw an article of clothing,
just ironed, on a bush to air in the morning sun, she cast an observant
eye on the stranger, who, coming forward, begged to ask for a seat until
the carrier should appear, and begged to know if she might have a slice of
bread and some milk for her child. She had not been able to give him
his usual breakfast, and he was cross, and tired too, for they had been
travelling all night.
The stranger had a shilling in her hand, and expressed her
willingness to pay for what she had, so she was soon made welcome to a
seat in the cottage. Some tea was made for her, and while she
crumbled bread into a saucer for her boy, and poured milk upon it, a tide
of recollections flowed up. She remembered the days before her
little Delia was born, and afterwards all that she had suffered.
Just so, in that same place, and perhaps in that very chair, her little
Amabel had sat beside her, contented with her bread and milk. The
click of Mrs. Snep’s iron appeared familiar; the hops leaned over the
little back window, just as in the former days.
“And so you want to go on by the carrier's cart?” said Mrs.
Snep. “It does not pass till noon.”
“I know that, ma’am; I have been the journey before.”
“Oh, you know these parts, ma’am?”
“I did a good many years ago.”
“Well, things don’t change here much, that’s certain.
We’ve got the same squire, and the same doctor, and the same parson we’ve
had for years.”
“The parson’s name was Mr. de Berenger,” faltered Mrs. Dill,
“when I knew these parts.”
“Oh, he was the curate. We have no curate now,”
answered Mrs. Snep.
“He must have been gone these fifteen years.’’
“And well-nigh forgot by this time, I should judge,” sighed
Mrs. Dill, for an anguish of desire urged her to speak of him if she
could; he stood so near to her darlings.
“Forgot!” exclaimed Mrs. Snep; “not by any means, I can tell
you, ma’am. It’s only two years since he came to stay at the
vicarage; and I’ve reason enough to remember that, for my daughter — my
second one, that will be three and twenty if she live still Michaelmas —
“Yes?”exclaimed Mrs. Dill, with keen interest.
Mrs. Snep paused to take another iron from the fire, then,
attacking her narrative at a different point, said, “Miss Sarah de
Berenger, an aunt to that Mr. de Berenger, had wrote to our vicar’s lady
while he was here, and said she wanted a parlour-maid; and she wanted one
from a distance, for she could not allow followers. And so our
vicar’s lady and Mr. de Berenger managed the thing between them. And
Mary took the place, worse luck!”
“Why I know Miss de Berenger quite well, ma’am!‘‘ exclaimed
Mrs. Dill, a warm flush of joy passing over her face. “I lived in a
situation for many years within four miles of her.”
“No, you don’t say so, ma’am! She was the nearest
woman, and the meanest, that ever I had to do with, as you’ll judge, when
I tell you that I’m ironing my girl’s clothes for her next place, and
there’s not a scrap of black among them.”
“Black!“ faltered Mrs. Dill. “Why, who’s dead?”
“Who should be dead, ma’am? Why, Miss de Berenger
herself. Didn’t you know it?“
“Dear me, no. I am come a long way; I’ve heard nothing.
She was in the best of health when last I heard of her.”
“And might be now. It was an accident that killed her.
The old gentleman, that used to be so rich, was driving her out, poor
lady, and they got overturned. She never spoke again, my girl says.
Ah, there have been many changes in that family; it’s as much as there
often is in the newspapers to read of them. Perhaps you knew the old
“I’ve seen him times out of mind, ma‘am,”
faltered the poor mother. She dared not now mention her children.
Had those changes affected them?
“They say,” proceeded Mrs. Snep, “that of all his fine houses
and lands, he have but enough left just to keep him.”
“Why, I never heard of such a thing,” cried Mrs. Dill.
“I did not fare to think rich folks like that could lose their property.”
“It was a company he had shares in that has done it for him,
my daughter said. All the country rang with it. It arose from
what people call unlimited liability. There are two pretty young
ladies, that folks do say are his granddaughters. You’ve seen them
too, mayhap. He likes to ride about what used to be his own park
with them, and he’s as happy as a king.”
The mother sighed for joy; she could not speak. Her
children were among the living, then, and they were well.
The operation of sprinkling the clothes occupied Mrs. Snep
for a minute or two, and gave Hannah Dill time to recover herself.
“Rides about with Miss Amabel and Miss Delia, does he?” she presently
found voice enough to say.
“Their very names, ma’am; you have them quite pat.”
“But I should have thought to lose his money would break his
“It does not, ma’am. My daughter stayed at the rectory
for three months, after Miss de Berenger’s death. They wanted extra
help, and paid her handsome. They are better off now, of course.
She said it was as good as a printed book to see how the old gentleman
went on. He is upward of eighty, and has lost his memory, but I
should judge he must be a little childish too. He has no servant
left but one old man, that always wait on him, and he has a fat old horse
in the rectory stable. He lives with Mr. de Berenger, and does not
know that he has lost his money. His notion is that he is making his
great fortune greater. Saving up, you know, to leave more behind
“He never could hear to spend much money,” observed Mrs.
Dill. “And so the young ladies ride with him, and are attentive to
“So I hear, ma’am. And what he costs Mr. de Berenger,
he has about enough money left to pay for. When he gets tired of the
country, my daughter says they put him in the train and telegraph to his
other nephew, that lives in London, to meet him. And that’s what he
does, and takes him home, and there the old gentleman plays the same game.
It’s not worth while, he says, to have a town house, and that is why he
has let it, for he wants to save. He says he must go and see that
the people his house is let to are taking care of it. And those
folks are so regardful and kind, knowing the case, that they always
satisfy him, and, as I said, he is as cheerful and as happy as a king.”
“Well, I never!” exclaimed Mrs. Dill.
She was glowing all over with a warmth and joy that she had
hardly ever expected to feel again. Even her miserable errand
receded into the background, and made way for the various pictures of her
children that had been presented to her. They were well, pretty,
useful, happy. Oh, there was sunshine yet in this world, and she was
basking in it.
“The Mr. de Berengers are better off now, no doubt?” she
presently said, still desirous to prolong the conversation.
“Not by a shilling,” replied Mrs. Snep.
“Well I always hoped, though Miss de Berenger was so fond of
making schemes about her will, that she would do the right thing by her
“Then she didn’t, ma’am.”
“Who did her money go to, then?”
“She’d almost doubled it during her lifetime, as I heard
tell, and they say her house was a sight for the useful things she’d got
together — stores of linen, and china, and what not. And she left it
all — her farms and her house, and her money—to those two young ladies;
everything, down to the very jam-pots on her shelves, and the clothes in
her drawers, and the thimbles in her workbox. They say those two
young ladies have more than eighteen thousand pounds apiece.”
More than eighteen thousand pounds apiece! And the man
that had been so good to them — that had brought them up and loved them,
and even been proud of them — he had got nothing.
Oh, how sweet it was to hear even this stranger talk of them!
But oh, how bitter to hear that the kindness of Felix de Berenger had been
so rewarded, and that Sarah, in her obstinate, wilful mistake about them,
should have robbed her own flesh and blood for their sake.
Could any good come of money so inherited? No; their
mother thought it could not. She became cold and pale. It was
not till Mrs. Snep mentioned their names again that she roused herself;
but it was only to hear what caused her fresh anxiety, and to be shown
that a most difficult, a most bitter, duty towards her darlings was yet to
“One of the two is engaged to be married, as I’m told,” said
“It must be the eldest, then,” said Mrs. Dill, trembling with
excitement, and the surprise of thus collecting information about her
“Well, now, I should have said not.”
“But the other is so very young.”
“I know there was a young soldier-officer that made one of
them an offer. He went away, and came back lately and offered to her
again. I think he is the gentleman, and I think it is the youngest.
But they’re thoughtless — the young ladies are both thoughtless,”
continued Mrs. Snep, going off on a part of the subject more interesting
to her than Delia’s lover. “As I said, Miss de Berenger never left
so much as one black gown apiece to her servants, though some of them had
lived with her for years. Those young ladies were kind — I will say
that; but neither of them had the thought to put the servants into
mourning, and my daughter came home to me without a scrap of black upon
“Somebody did ought to have told the young ladies what was
the custom,” said the mother, apologizing for them.
“So I say, ma’am.”
“Oh, my Delia!“ thought Hannah Dill; “do you love this young
gentleman? And must your mother go and tell you that you’ve no right
at all to keep Miss Sarah’s money? When will there be an end to my
sorrows? Maybe the young man will be off the bargain if you give up
the fortune; and if you refuse to do so, your mother’ll never have an easy
hour about you any more.”
And what was the true state of the case about Delia?
This. That the young officer had, indeed, returned at the end of the
year, and had again offered her his hand. Urged by Amabel to give
him a little time, and not to reject him hastily, Delia had agreed to
consider the matter for a few weeks, and to try to like him. She had
failed; and that very morning, while her little brother ate his bread and
milk, she had, with many flushes and blushes, a great deal of pity for
him, and some shame for herself, contrived to tell him so. He was
gone, and just as her mother left the house where she had been born, and
met the carrier’s cart, Delia darted upstairs to Amabel’s room, and stood
looking at her sister with blushing discomfiture.
Amabel came up to her and smoothed her cheek gently against
hers — a kind of moderate caress that the girls had used from their
“What a goose you are, Delia!” she said.
“Yes, I know,” said Delia, ruefully.
“You’ve sent him away.”
“Of course: Coz said I must. I wish —oh, I wish Coz
“He’ll never tell!” exclaimed Amabel.
“No; but I know that he knows.”
Delia moved to the dressing table, and in an absent and
agitated fashion began to try on some of Amabel’s rings. Presently
she saw Dick in the garden; he was apparently deep in thought. Delia
drew backward in the room and smiled.
“Coz and Amias have been talking to him all the morning”
whispered Amabel. “He says now he should like to go to sea,” she
continued, nodding towards Dick.
“Does he?” exclaimed Delia. “Oh no, Dick; I think you’ll find
you do not wish to go to sea.”
“Then you should not have set him against emigrating.”
It may have fairly been said of Master Dick at that time,
that he did not know his own mind, unless it may have been said more
fairly still that he did not know somebody else’s mind, any more than he
knew how completely that mind had the mastery over his.
Sir Samuel de Berenger had put him to school till he was
eighteen years old, and then, when he came home for the holidays, his two
brothers had sat in judgment on him and his future; when it was found that
he had done so very well, and stood so very high, that if they let him
stay at school another year, he would in all probability get a good
exhibition, which would enable him to go to college almost for nothing,
after which he would be able to provide for his own living.
And Dick had come home without getting the exhibition.
He was now nineteen, a remarkably fine, handsome young fellow, brown all
over, taller than either of his two brothers, very engaging, rather
inclined to be idle, and quite helpless in the hands of these said
brothers, who had, at some inconvenience to themselves, prolonged his
school days for him, and now did not very well know what to do with him.
Dick had only been in the garden a few minutes when he saw
Delia sitting in the open window of what had been the nursery, with some
“art needlework” in her hand.
“How nice this room looks, with poor Aunt Sarah’s things in
it!“ he said, accosting her and sitting on the window-sill. “No one
would know it. — I say, Delia!”
“I’ve had such a wigging this morning.”
“Oh! you should decide, then, what you’ll do — what you'll
“Well, I said I would go to sea, and they won’t let me.
Why, Delia, where did you get those rings?”
“Oh, they belong to Amabel. I’m so fond of rings, and I
have not got one.”
“Why don’t you buy some, then?” said Dick.
“Amabel never bought one of hers; rings are supposed to be
presents. If I wore rings, and was asked who gave them to me, I
shouldn’t like to have to say I bought them.”
Dick revolved a certain thing in his mind. “Look here,”
he began; “if I go to sea for two or three years —”
“It will be so dull,” interrupted Delia, “if you go to sea
and Amabel’s gone.”
“Well, but if I do, I could give you a ring for a parting
“So you could; and I could give one to you, with your crest
“If I go to sea.” No occasion to wait for that.
Dick took himself off in less than five minutes, and in hot haste demanded
of Felix a large, old fashioned gold watch, which had been his father’s,
and which he had knocked about a good deal at school.
It had plenty of good stuff in it. Felix looked at him
almost as if he knew all about it, and gave him the watch in silence and
It was four miles to the town, and Dick ran almost all the
way. He did not make a bad bargain with the one jeweller that the
place afforded, and then the price he was to have for his watch being
agreed upon, he set himself to overhaul the whole shop for two pretty
rings. It never once occurred to him that it was odd he should be
desirous to lay out his whole fortune on a fancy of Delia’s — he never
considered once what his brother would say to it if he knew; and yet when
he got home, though he had the two tiny cases in his waistcoat pocket, and
opportunities were not wanting for the presentation, he could not give
them to her. It was not till the next morning, about the same hour,
that he saw Delia sitting in the same place, all over blushes and dimples.
He approached, and getting over the low sill, sat down beside her on the
couch, and said, “I’ve got them. Rather jolly ones, I think; only
I’m afraid they’re too big for your finger.” He looked very
Delia put forth her little finger, the same on which she had
worn Amabel’s rings. They were manifestly too big for it. Then
she put forth her middle finger, and for that they were a little too
“What a pity!” said Delia. “And they’re such pretty
ones; just the sort I like.”
“Well, put them on your third finger, then,” rejoined the
“Oh, but I couldn’t wear them there,” said Delia, blushing
till her forehead and throat were all one lovely hue of carnation.
In an instant Dick knew why; but it was his destiny to be a
lucky dog. He blushed himself, but he said stoutly, “Why not?”
“Because that’s the ‘engaged’ finger, you know, Dick,” she
Dick was holding her hand in one of his, and had the rings in
the other. “Oh,” he said, almost with a groan, “what a fool I have
been!” And Delia — this exquisite Delia, who all on a sudden had
become almost unbearably delightful — Delia was turning away her face from
him. “I’m nothing but a schoolboy yet,” he said, with deep disgust
against himself. “If I had but worked as I ought to have done, it
might have been different.” But that blush of Delia’s was the making
of him. “Put them on, if only for a moment,” he said, pleadingly.
And she let him put them on her “engaged” finger.
“It can only be for a little while,” she observed. But
how pretty they looked there!
“Even if you won’t wear them, you mean to keep them?” he
Delia had closed her dimpled fist, and was looking at them
“Suppose you take care of them for me,” she said; but she
made no movement towards unclosing her hand or taking them off.
“Take care of them till when?”
Delia still looked at them, then her little band unclosed,
and Dick took it in his.
“Coz would be displeased,” she whispered.
“You mean that he would, because I’ve been an idle dog, and
because—well, he said it yesterday — because I seem very well content to
be loafing about here, doing nothing.”
Delia was silent.
“But that’s all over now,” he added impetuously. “I’m
going to Felix directly — this minute. I intend to settle to
something at once — forthwith. And then —”
By this time she had taken off the rings, and put them into
“And then, Delia —“ he repeated.
But had not Delia got all she wished for now? Perhaps
she thought so. At any rate, Dick’s glimpse of paradise was over.
“Oh, then,” she said (she had such a mischievous little
dimple in her cheek when she laughed) —“oh then — we shall see.”
SARAH DE BERENGER
was indeed gone; her guiding hand was at last withdrawn.
“I have lost my aunt,” Felix would say, and ever after he
felt an uneasy want of those fresh and direct expressions of opinion that
often showed him what he really thought himself, as well as of her
fearless certainties, and her fertile crops of schemes. But he did
not know, it never occurred to him to consider, that for many years she
had been the doer of everything of the least consequence that had been
done in his family.
She was a remarkably foolish woman. Her impressions
were vivid and quite unreasonable; they soon ripened into convictions
which never changed. She looked upon all she had become convinced of
as fully proved, and she followed out all that was so proved to its just
conclusion. There can be little doubt that it is the fools, and not
the wise, who govern the world. While the wise are considering, the
fools act; while the wise investigate, the fools have made up their minds;
by the time the wise have discovered, the fools have made arrangements,
and the wise, for the sake of law and order, or, if not, for the sake of
peace and quietness, are obliged to give way.
Sarah had first, as she believed, discovered an interesting
mystery. She had obliged Hannah Dill, contrary to all her wishes, to
bring the mystery near; she had, to her own satisfaction, solved it, and
she had, for the sake of it, deprived her own nephews of every shilling
she possessed. It was all Sarah’s doing that Amias was engaged to a
little girl who was supposed by all the neighbourhood to have no right to
any father’s name; but then it was Sarah’s doing also that old Sir Samuel,
now he had lost his memory, was more happy in the society of the two
girls, and received more tender attentions from them, and more real
affection, than from any other creatures. He knew he loved them, and
had ceased to consider how it was, and under what mistake, his love had
first dawned. If they had been his grand-daughters, just so they
might have loved him; and they also had ceased, except on important
occasions, to consider why this was. They lived under a disadvantage
which they had discovered, but then they were saved from the true
disadvantage, which would have been far worse to bear. They were
always gentle, sweet, and humble, but all was as it ever had been; they
could not be unhappy as to their position, for every one about them loved
As for Felix, his life for years past had been planned out
for him by his Aunt Sarah. It is true that he now hopelessly loved
this beautiful Delia, but then for many years she and her sister had been
his delight, his daily occupation, and his one amusement. He knew
that he would not have given up that pleasant, cheerful past, even if by
so doing he might have avoided the pain of his present. And even
that present, — could he do without it? No; he must watch over
Delia’s happiness; he could find little rest and joy but in that. He
must bring Dick on, help him on, or goad him on, for her sake.
Perhaps he allowed himself to be more severe on Dick, on her account, than
occasion altogether warranted; for Dick was but a youth — a fine, honest,
healthy, affectionate youth. Felix considered that Dick was not
manly enough; not considering that, but for Delia, he might, perhaps, at
his time of life not have been manly at all.
However, Felix changed his mind on one particular morning.
Dick had two rings in his pocket. “I will not wear either of them,”
Delia had said, “till it is decided what you are to be.” So Dick had
asked to have a conference, a final conference, on this great subject with
his two brothers, and then and there he had discussed it — laid down his
own views, stated the pros and cons of all the plans proposed, and
expressed his deep desire to work, in a fashion that perfectly astonished
Amias was exceedingly amused. Felix sat back in his
chair, and looked at him in puzzled bewilderment.
“Why, you young scamp!” exclaimed Amias. “Want to go to
London the day after to-morrow — want to set to work instantly!
Well, I’ll do my very best for you, as I declared I would the other day,
when you didn’t seem to care a straw about it. But I cannot think
what has come to you.”
“The fact is, Delia says —” Dick began.
“Delia says!” exclaimed Amias, in amazement.
“Delia says —” Dick began again, and again stuck fast.
“Well, out with it, my boy,” said Felix, gravely and kindly.
Dick had a little ring-case now in his hand; he put it down,
and the ring rolled out on to the table. Dick picked it up and
poised it on the top of one of his great fingers. “Delia says she’ll
never wear this for a schoolboy. She will not be engaged till I have
got some career before me — till I have something to do.”
“I — think — she — is — quite— right,” said Amias, gazing at
the ring, and uttering the sentence as if he required to think between
every word. He looked so much surprised, however, that Dick, in
spite of his nervousness, burst into a short laugh. Then all on a
sudden it flashed upon him that Delia was included in this astonishment.
He could not bear that this exquisite creature, so wise, so kind, so
loving, should be the subject of any disparaging surprise. He
thought his own impetuous presumption was alone to blame. He
hastened to declare this. He meant to be worthy of her. Change
his mind? Nonsense! How could he change his mind? He had
loved her all his life better than any one else in the world. He had
always helped her with her lessons. When they played at “houses” as
children, she was always his little wife.
Everything he said, while more earnest, became more boyish,
till Felix said, — “There, my dear boy, think of improving yourself, not
of excusing Delia. The best part of your future is already prepared
for you; make the rest suitable for it, and all will be well.”
And in the mean time Hannah Dill, with her child, entered the
town where she feared to find her husband.
The assizes were indeed going on, but to those who were not
directly concerned in them, this gave no air of solemnity; there was
little about any whom she accosted which answered to the fear and dread
and depression in her own mind. And she found herself unable to ask
any questions. She looked about, she wandered about, till she found
herself in the market-place, and the buildings about it she felt sure were
none of them what she wanted. And what was the building she wanted
called? She was not sure whether it was a court-house, or a
session-house, or a prison, and she could not make up her mind to ask.
A forlorn hope that she might get a letter from her husband, sustained her
till she reached the post-office; for she had written to Uzziah, at their
poor home in Whitby, told him where she had gone, and cautiously hinted at
her reason. If her panic had been needless, and from some other
cause he had left her on the moor, and if he had returned again after her
departure, she knew she should get a letter. What a blessed
possibility that was! It comforted her while she wandered about.
And no less did the strangeness of the place; for she had thought of it
till she had formed such a vivid picture of it in her mind, that, now it
was under her eyes, and wholly unlike her expectation, it seemed as if all
that had any relation to it might also be different, as if the nightmare
that had oppressed her might be all unreal. The smiling, bustling
market, where fruit was so eagerly bought and sold, the market-women so
earnest in praising their produce, the old-fashioned red roofs, the
comfortable sunshine, the common, every-day talk, — could these be
possible if several poor creatures were at that moment in course of being
tried for their lives close at hand?
Alas! there was no letter at the office, and no telegraphic
message for Hannah Dill. Her child, tired and hungry, began to cry
for his dinner, and she felt that, when she reached the court, she should
not be allowed to enter unless he was perfectly quiet and good. She
hastened into an eating-shop and gave him a comfortable meal, and then, as
she glanced out at the window, she saw what she at once perceived to be
the place she had looked for; people were hanging about the door, but many
more were coming out than going in.
“Why were the people coming away?” she asked. “Were the
“Oh no: but the judges were at lunch; they always had an
interval for lunch at that time of day.”
“Might one go in and hear the trial?”
“Certainly; a court of justice was always open to the
She hardly knew how the next half-hour passed. She was
soon standing in the press outside that door. At first all was
silence; she seemed to have no chance of getting in. Afterwards
there was a little bustle, and voices inside struck upon her frightened
ears. Some people were almost as desirous to enter as she was, but
her sharpened senses showed her some who were only there for curiosity.
“Five shillings, sir, if I get in,” she whispered to a stalwart man at her
side. Then she turned her pale face, and, selecting another,
repeated the same words.
An energetic movement on either side of her soon brought her
on. She knew not how it was done, but the money was given, and she
was all but inside in a very few minutes. She had not intended to
tell her wretched errand, but it was guessed. Her money, and these
two men were powerful enough to bring her to the front; her face did the
rest. She stood within, and, being tall, she could see well over the
shoulders and heads of those about her, almost all of whom were women.
There was no trembling, no sinking, now; the people were
pressed closely together. The atmosphere was stifling. She had
a heavy child in her arms, but she knew no fatigue; all her soul was in
her eyes, for at present she could hear nothing. Perhaps there was
nothing to hear. The place, as she took rapid glances about it,
looked almost like a dissenting meeting-house. The crowded
spectators seemed to be ranged in compartments not unlike pews.
Where would the judges sit?
Oh! now there was a movement; something that pierced her
heart with anguish, showed her the judges coming in with all state.
These men, who were to doom others to a disgraceful death, were ushered in
with honour, with observance. She, poor, wretched woman, felt this
with a keenness that had never struck in all her life on her sharpened
It was right, it must be so; sympathy was all with the law.
In that crowd she felt so utterly alone, as if none of God’s
creatures could come near enough even to know what she suffered, much less
to pity her — the wife of a possible murderer, a possible murderer’s
child, sleeping with his rosy face resting on her shoulder.
Another movement, which it so chanced brought her a little
forwarder, and there were the barristers in their wigs, and a name had
been called. Some man answering to the call was in the pulpit-like
enclosure, which she at once recognized as the witness-box. Then she
saw the prisoner, a pale, small man, whose forlorn face looked as if no
courage or strength was left in him. As the witness kissed the book
almost carelessly, certainly with perfect composure and confidence, he
turned his faded eyes upon him. Hannah Dill lifted up hers.
One fear was over. The prisoner being tried was a
stranger; but another fear followed closely. Her instinct justified
itself by the event. Sitting among the spectators, and a very little
way behind the witness, a man leaning forward gazed and hearkened.
Not any change that fear or fatigue or shame had wrought had so changed
him, that she did not instantly recognize the deeply watchful and utterly
colourless face. It was her husband.
A terrible trembling seized her, so that she lost the drift
and meaning of the first few questions and answers. All he thought
was to know the meaning of Uzziah’s expression.
His features were sunk, he was wasted almost to a shadow; his
eyes were intent on the witness, and yet there was spread over his face a
certain awful peace. Her wretched husband was perfectly calm.
She knew not how long she watched him but it was till another
witness was in the box, and it was because of a great change in Uzziah’s
face that she turned to look and to listen. It was a confident
witness — a witness almost too willing. He was being re-examined by
the counsel for the prisoner.
“Remember that you are on your oath.”
“I do remember it.”
“And you swear that this is the man?”
“I could not forget him.”
“But it is seventeen years ago.”
“Seventeen years and three months.”
“A man changes a good deal in seventeen years and three
“Ay, but a club-foot, — when one hears it behind one —“
Here the witness paused.
“Well?” said the counsel for the prisoner.
“When I heard that man’s club foot, as he was following, I
felt as if —”
“You are not to tell the court what you felt.”
“Well, I mean I knew that was the very same I heard that
fearful time, and I turned myself, and I saw him.”
“You saw the prisoner, certainly!”
“Ay; and I knew him at once, and spoke at once. Said I,
‘We have met before.’”
“And as another witness has proved, he answered, ‘Not to my
knowledge.’ Now, what had you beside the peculiar sound of the
club-foot to go on, when you said to a man whom, by your own showing, you
had not seen for seventeen years, ‘We have met before’?”
“It was the same man,” persisted the witness. “I knew him at
once, and he knew me.”
“How did you know him? Tell the jury that.”
“It was the lock of hair, partly, that hung over his
forehead, and, partly, it was the oval shape of his face, as he leaned
over poor Cambourne after he’d struck him, that I remembered.”
“It’s false!” cried a voice that rang through the court;
“it’s false! You, William Tasker, don’t look at the prisoner look
here, look at me!”
Cries of “Turn that man out,” were heard. There was
confusion in the place where the sound had proceeded from; a woman fell
down in a fainting-fit; people rose in their places; but before the
officer could reach the man who had spoken, some were helping the woman
out, others had started away from him. He was standing alone,
leaning on a rail in front.
“You, William Tasker,” he repeated, “look at me.”
The terrified witness turned hastily, and gazed at him as if
fascinated. The counsel for the prisoner paused. In one
terrible instant every eye was upon Uzziah Dill. From the judges
downwards all gazed at him — a lame man, with an oval face, and a lock of
hair that strayed over his forehead.
He leaned forward, with eyes wide open. He and the
witness gazed at one another, and the unfortunate wife gazed also; saw the
officers advancing through the crowd to remove Uzziah; heard the witness
cry out in a lamentable voice, and beat his breast, “I’ve sworn against
the innocent, and there the guilty stands!” and then heard (not one
syllable was spared to her) — heard her husband’s answer, as they were
about to lead him away, “You’ve said the truth now, William Tasker; ‘twas
I that did it. The Lord have mercy on my sinful soul!“
SOME time after this, Hannah Dill seemed to come
back again — she knew not from whence — and she was sitting on some stone
steps in a quiet flagged court. The sun was shining — that was the
first thing she noticed; then she observed that she herself was in the
shadow; that her child, rubbing his cheek against her sleeve, was
caressing her with “Mummy, mummy;” and that a tall gentleman was leaning
over her, a gentleman whom she had seen before.
“Do you know me, Mrs. Dill?” he asked her kindly.
She thought he might have said that several times before.
“Yes, sir,” she answered in a low, dull voice. “It’s
“What can I do for you?”
“I want to go to poor Dill.”
“You cannot do that now, my poor friend. He has accused
himself; he has given himself up.”
“I knew he would,” she replied, quite calmly. “That
other man’s wife is happy now, and I —“
“Your misfortune is very great,” said Mr. Bartlett. “I
pity you deeply.”
“I saw the prisoner’s wife get her arms round his neck and
hug him, while they led my wretched husband away.”
“Have you any place to go to — have you lodgings here?”
“Well, then, I must arrange for you.”
He went quickly from her, and a lady, who seemed to have been
standing above her on the steps, came down and addressed her with
She knew it was Mrs. Bartlett, but the shock she had
sustained had been too much for her; her mind was blank and dull.
She uttered her passing impressions. “I never thought to see them
here; they don’t live here?”
“No,” said Mrs. Bartlett, glad to foster this momentary lapse
from the dread reality. “No; we don’t live here, but my father and
mother do. This is their house; we are come to stay with them.”
After that Hannah Dill knew not at all how many hours or
weeks might have passed, when one day, awaking in a decent bed, she found
that she was cool; that the furniture, which had long seemed to whirl
about her, had settled in its place that the swarms of passing strangers,
who had appeared night and day to approach her bed and gaze at her, were
all gone. She slept a good deal that night, and in the morning awoke
aware of what had occurred, and able to think.
She had a nurse, as she perceived, but she could not bear to
question her. It was not till Mr. Bartlett, hearing she was
sensible, came to see her, and brought his wife, that she spoke, sending
down the nurse, and gazing at them with hollow, frightened eyes.
“Is he condemned, sir?”
She lay long silent when Mr. Bartlett had told her, by a
pitying gesture, that it was so. At last Mrs. Bartlett said, “You
must think of your dear little boy, Mrs. Dill, and try to get better for
his sake. He is very well; I have seen that he was well done by.”
“Ma’am, I know you have a mother’s heart. Is there no
hope for Dill, sir? Must he die that death?”
“He is quite resigned,” said Mr. Bartlett, instead of
“Oh, my God!” cried the poor woman, folding her hands; “have
pity on him and on our innocent child!”
“Yes, your innocent child,” said Mrs. Bartlett. “In all
this bitter misery, Mrs. Dill, there is one gleam of comfort, and that
concerns him. Nobody here knows your husband’s name; he has refused
to divulge it. He has shown a father’s heart in that respect.”
“It was his duty. Does he know that I have been so
“Oh, I must go to him!”
“You cannot yet.”
“Oh, I might be too late!”
“There are many days yet. You will not be too late.
Your husband has been very ill himself. He has had an epileptic
There are some things that appear quite unendurable; they
bear down the soul under such a weight of misery, that life seems
impossible. And yet they will not kill; they are not thus to come to
their desired end.
When Hannah Dill and her husband met, they both looked the
mere shadows of their former selves. They sat hand in hand in the
condemned cell, and neither spoke. It seemed a comfort to the
wretched prisoner to have his wife by his side, but he never had anything
to say. Sometimes he was reading his Bible when she appeared,
sometimes he was kneeling in prayer — always deeply humble and generally
quite calm, for he was not agitated by any hope; his doom was fixed.
One day, as she was about to leave him, he bared his thin
arm, and said, “Oh, Hannah, sometimes I hope —“
“Hope you may die first?” she whispered.
“I spoke to Mr. Bartlett about that,” she answered. “My
poor husband! he says, for all their suffering, the condemned do not die.
And you are at peace. But oh, that it might be!“ she broke out,
bursting into tears. Then, trying to calm herself, she said, “You
are a man forgiven of God, as we both forever trust; but you have always
known that at last you deserved to suffer — and suffer you would.”
“Oh that it was over! — oh that it was done!” she said when
she got home; and she was so wretchedly ill all that night, that she
feared to be laid up again, and unable to go to him. But just at
sunrise, as she had dropped into an uneasy doze, a flattering dream came
to her; she thought she saw her husband standing at the foot of the bed,
and that his eyes were full of a rapturous calm.
While she looked, some noise startled her, and she woke,
mourning over the sweetness of that short respite. How hard that it
should have been wrested from her! But there was a noise again; it
was under her window. Some one called out her name. She
started up. Mr. Bartlett was below. He told her to dress
herself and come down to him.
Oh, how beautiful the sunrise was, when she came out, how
pure and peaceful!
“Your husband is very ill,” he whispered to her; “the
chaplain has obtained leave for you to come to him. He had another
fit last night.”
Her dream had still dominion over her, and she looked at the
sunrise; but she hastened to the prison, and was soon in his cell.
Two people were there, the doctor and a warder. They were not
sympathetic, not pitiful, merely attentive to what was before them.
Her husband was speaking; his voice was perfectly strange to her — a
tremulous, piping voice. “Yes, they tempted me; they gave me the
drink, sir. I was three-parts drunk when I did it.”
The doctor and the warder parted, to let her come to the
narrow bed. The signs of his sore struggle during the fit were
visible on his face, and on the bruised arms and disordered bed, but he
was perfectly calm now; the sunrise was fair upon his wasted features.
He spoke again. “And the mercy of the most Merciful is
over all his works. I trust in him that I die forgiven.” A
slight convulsive movement passed over his face, and then there was a deep
sigh. She was kneeling beside him now.
“There,” said the doctor, coming forward with grave
indifference, “I said he would not last more than the twelve hours from
the time of the seizure. It’s half past six o’clock.”
“Is my poor husband dead, sir?” asked the wife.
“Yes, my good woman — dead.”
“May I —”
“You may do nothing at all but leave the prison,” interrupted
the doctor, with more kindness of manner.
“Not have his poor body to bury it?”
“You may do nothing at all but leave the prison,” he
repeated; and she rose at once, and Mr. Bartlett took her home again.
A widow, and all that day lying on her bed, unable to lift
herself up, and yet lost in a rapture of thankfulness, blessing God for
her own and her poor husband’s sake.
But the shock of all she had gone through was more than she
could bear, and for several weeks she was so utterly prostrate, that to
rise, and for an hour or two daily to sit trembling by her fire, was all
she could accomplish. She had still money left, and there would be
more to come to her in a few weeks, so that she was able to pay for what
she wanted. Her kind friends, the Bartletts, were gone.
She was quite alone, but on the whole, she was happy.
Her husband, she believed, was at rest, and forgiven. His real name
had not transpired; she was no longer in fear, and was free from the
corroding care she had suffered on his account, and seen him suffer.
What still oppressed her was Miss de Berenger’s will.
As soon as she was able, she must go and seek her children, and, if
possible, induce them to give up the bequest. She was too weak to
write, too weak to move; it was not till some time in the month of
November, some weeks after her husband’s death, that, finding how very
little of her money was left, she roused herself, and selling all she had
that she could possibly spare, set off in the railway with her child.
She had an urgent longing upon her to see justice done. Her children
could not prosper if they had, however innocently, brought loss upon the
family which had cherished them.
And yet how little she could with safety tell them. She
pondered over this during the dreary night’s journey in the Parliamentary
train, and almost despaired. There was still nothing but concealment
before her. Her daughters would meet her with kindly condescension,
though she had gone off from them so suddenly. Yes, and each of them
she hoped — she was sure — would give her a kiss. But she had robbed
herself of all claim on them; even the bond of faithful service was
MRS. JOLLIFFE was a woman of
consequence — of much more consequence, in some respects, than Mr. de
Berenger, though she was generally considered to be a servant, and he a
master. On all great occasions, Mrs. Jolliffe could make her power
felt, and one was approaching.
In fact, the very next day, namely, the eighteenth of
November, was to be the most important that for many years had dawned on
the De Berenger family. A very large goose pie was at that moment
baking in honour of it. Cakes, without end, were ranged on the
dressers, to be given away in the village. There was great rolling
of pastry, stuffing of fowls, clearing of jelly, stoning of plums,
roasting of beef. Mrs. Jolliffe was making all her subordinates
miserable for fear the oven shouldn’t go. It generally went very
well; there was no special reason why it should not then. It never
had failed since Master Dick came of age. A modest festival had been
given on that occasion, and the crust of the pie was burnt.
Nobody in the kitchen had any peace till that goose pie was
out of the oven, and was all one clean expanse of gold-coloured crust.
“And quite a credit to you, ma ‘am,” cried the two village
matrons who were come to help. Mrs. Jolliffe was pacified for the
moment, but now she began to fret about the partridges and the custards,
“for, indeed, a wedding is not a thing that takes place every day,” she
“And hadn’t need,” sighed her weary subordinates.
“There wasn’t as much of a spread when Mr. Amias was
christened as I could have wished to see,” continued Mrs. Jolliffe, who
never forgot anything, “and I remember as well as can be, how I said to
her that was cook at that time, ‘I hope, if the blessed babe lives to eat
his wedding breakfast, he’ll see finer victuals on the table by half, and
more of them.’”
“You might have said you hoped he would make a fine
bridegroom,” observed one of the attendants.
“But I did not,” replied Mrs. Jolliffe, impressively, “and so
I tell you truly. But we have all heard that marriages are made in
heaven, and so I believe they are — a picked few of them, — this for one.
Never was anything like the conveniency of it. Miss Sarah’s money
going to her own nephew, the right crest on Miss Amabel’s share of the
plate, and all their things marked ‘A. B.’ both of them.”
“It’s very interesting,” said the scullery girl; and Mrs.
Jolliffe, finding that she had no time to pause and be amused when the
success of the breakfast hung yet in the balance, severely ordered her
into the back kitchen to wash potatoes.
It was long past midnight when Mrs. Jolliffe, satisfied at
last, locked up the house and crept up to bed. The servants, all
extremely tired, slept heavily and later than usual.
The bridegroom, as perhaps might have been expected, was
first awake, and rang for his hot water.
He was in the little room which had been his from a boy.
It led out of his brother’s room, and commanded a view of the church and
the lawn, on which grew two very fine fir-trees.
Amias drew up his blind. Rather a thick sprinkling of snow
had fallen in the night. It was still snowing. A dark and rather misty
morning. The two trees stood like two tall, sharp spires, and a tree or
shrub of singular shape appeared between them. It did not seem to be so
thickly covered with snow as the other shrubs. He looked at it with
interest; it was singularly like the figure of a woman crouching down
against the fir-tree as if for shelter. A curious freak of the frost, as
he thought it. Yes, like even to the minute details; for there, bent down,
might be the head, and there, falling into regular creases, was what might
be the hood of her cloak. It was a woman. He called his brother out of his
room to look at it. They even thought they saw it move, and both,
hurriedly throwing on their clothes, ran down. The shape had already
attracted attention below. Felix and Amias had plenty of help, and the
helpless creature, not stiff, not insensible, but only powerless to move,
was carried into the warm nursery and laid on a couch. Her attitude, as
they raised her, was easily explained. She was crouching over a beautiful,
rosy child, so as to shield him from the cold. Her cloak folded him to
her, and he was warm and sleeping, having leaned against her shoulder.
Hannah Dill! She looked worn and wan; her hair had many
streaks of grey in it, and her hollow eyes told of pain and grief and
trouble. She made no complaint; her eyes followed her child, and
when she saw that they were attending to him, giving him breakfast and
warming him, she appeared to sink away into an exhausted sleep.
It was about eight o’clock, and the family were not down.
It was not to be expected that at such a time more attention could be
devoted to the poor, uninvited visitor than was absolutely needful,
especially as she could not talk; but in about an hour she was able to
drink some hot tea. Then she seemed to notice that Felix had come in
and was standing near her. Mr. Brown, the doctor, was also present.
“And you say she spoke when you first found her under the
tree?” he said to Felix.
“Yes; we raised her up, my brother and I, and she stood
Jolliffe took the child, and remarked at the same moment,
“She has a widow’s cap on.”
Then she said faintly, “My poor husband is dead. I
trust he went to God.”
“She is coming round,” said the doctor. “Well, Mrs.
Snaith, do you feel better?”
Hannah Dill looked about her. “I had not been there
long — there under the tree. It did not seem long” she said,
addressing Felix. “I wanted so to see them,” she presently added,
while the doctor continued to feel her pulse and regard her attentively.
“Her strength must have failed just as she got near the
house,” he observed, “and she sank down. The cold has done the rest.
See how she gazes at the door.”
“The young ladies are not dressed yet, Mrs. Snaith,” said
Felix, using her old familiar name. “You shall see them shortly.
So you were not long under the tree?“
“No; they put me out at four o’clock at the town. I
walked on, for my money was all spent, and my boy was hungry.”
And this was the wedding morning. Neither of the two
brothers liked that Amabel and Delia should begin it with the sight of
their old nurse, and the story of what she must have suffered.
Amias came in first with Delia, all in white array as a
bridesmaid; her lovely face was sweet and pitiful, but she shrank a little
when she saw the hollow-eyed woman stretched on a couch and motionless,
except for the turning of her eyes. She came, and, leaning over her,
kissed her kindly, and noticing a sort of rapture that came over the poor
face, said, “Mamsey dear, you’ll be better soon.”
Mamsey had hold of a fold of tarlatan. “What does it
mean?” she asked with entreating eyes.
“Why, the wedding, Mamsey — the wedding; that’s what it
“You to be married, my beauty bright? You!”
“Oh no,” cried Delia, all dimples and blushes; “no. But
don’t look so frightened, dear.”
“Who is it, then?” said Mamsey very faintly.
“Then I’m too late,” said Mamsey. “I hoped the Lord
would let me get here in time. It can’t be helped.”
What could she mean? She spoke so slowly and seemed so
disturbed, that Amias said, “And why should it be helped, Mamsey?
Everybody wishes for it.”
“Who’s the gentleman?” she mourned out; “tell me his name.”
“Why, his name is the same as mine,” answered Amias, smiling
down upon her with joy in his dark eyes. “I am the gentleman!“
“You, sir — you?”
“Yes, I — Mr. Amias de Berenger. You remember me,
“Well, then, it’s all right,” she murmured. “Wonderful
goodness of God! I bless his holy name.”
Strangely solemn words; they seemed to have little relation
to the circumstances; and she fell away, after saying them, into a kind of
“The bride had better see her before she goes to church,”
observed the doctor to Felix, who had come in again.
“Why?” asked Felix.
The doctor looked at him. “I think it might be better,”
“She changes very much, surely, sir,” said Mrs. Jolliffe.
“I don’t see that she seems to rally.”
Hannah Dill recovered from her faint and again gazed towards
the door. Delia presently entered it, with the rosy little unknown
brother in her arms. And after her, floating onwards, lovely and
pensive and pitiful, came Amabel, in her bridal gown and floating veil.
“Put it back,” she said, “that I may kiss Mamsey.”
Amias put the veil back for her, and she looked quietly into
his eyes. Then she came on and kissed the prostrate invalid, and sat
down beside her. The mother and child for several minutes held each
other by the hand. Amabel appeared instinctively to feel that Mamsey
was feeding her heart and comforting herself with the sight of her.
She sat gently and sweetly beside her to allow this, but it cannot be
supposed that at such a time, within half an hour of her marriage
ceremony, she was able to give any very deep attention to her old nurse.
It was Delia who first spoke; she had a sudden idea that
human faces seldom could look like Mamsey’s long. It must be her own
little inexperience, she thought, that made her feel alarmed, but she
yielded to a sudden impulse; she would say the kindest thing in the world,
whatever was the event.
“Mamsey dear, look at me — look! I’ve got the dear,
pretty little boy in my arms,” she said, in a cheerful and comforting
voice. “You will come and live here again, won’t you? But if
you don’t stay, Mamsey — do you understand? — I shall always take care of
The dying eyes appeared to thank her; they wandered over the
three faces with a wondrous rapture of peace and joy.
“And yet,” she presently whispered, “it’s not said, and I
cannot say it.”
“Say what, Mamsey?“ asked Delia.
Her eyes fell upon Delia’s hand; she saw the rings.
“You engaged, too, my sweetest sweet?”
For an answer Delia lifted her hand to her lips, and kissed
the rings she had so lately begun to wear.
A spasm of anguish passed over the mother’s face; all the
light and joy in it was gone.
“Do you love him?” she whispered.
Delia murmured, “Oh yes.”
“And I’ve no time to speak,” Mamsey repeated. “Miss
Sarah’s money — Miss Sarah —“
“She’s wandering!” exclaimed Amabel.
“Never mind Cousin Sarah’s money, dear,” said Delia,
caressingly — her lovely face was all dimples and blushes; her happiness
was so new to her — “look at these instead. Don’t you want to know
who gave them to me?” she whispered. She leaned down till her cheek
almost touched her mother’s shoulder.
“Who did?“ replied Mamsey.
Delia could but just hear the words. Mamsey had hold of
her ringed hand now. Delia lifted up her face, and answered those
beseeching eyes. “Who did? Why — Dick.”
Then the clasp of that cold hand was relaxed, and there came
back again a strange rapture of peace. Delia watched it and
wondered, till some one came to the door and called the girls away.
They gave each a kindly look to their old nurse, and passed out of the
room, Delia still having the baby boy in her arms. They all passed
out of that room — indeed, at the same moment; the children to the lot
which had been won for them, the mother to her rest.
If it was failure so to live and so to die, having given up
all things, even her own children — to live not thanked, and to die not
known — yet still it was the failure she had chosen; and there are some
who, reflecting on such a life, would say, “If that be failure, let me so