Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by Charles Aldarondo.
Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell (1863)
Philip Hermongenes Calderon (1833-98)
Broken Vows (1856)
It is a great thing for a lad when he is first turned into the
independence of lodgings. I do not think I ever was so satisfied
and proud in my life as when, at seventeen, I sate down in a
little three-cornered room above a pastry-cook's shop in the
county town of Eltham. My father had left me that afternoon,
after delivering himself of a few plain precepts, strongly
expressed, for my guidance in the new course of life on which I
was entering. I was to be a clerk under the engineer who had
undertaken to make the little branch line from Eltham to Hornby.
My father had got me this situation, which was in a position
rather above his own in life; or perhaps I should say, above the
station in which he was born and bred; for he was raising himself
every year in men's consideration and respect. He was a mechanic
by trade, but he had some inventive genius, and a great deal of
perseverance, and had devised several valuable improvements in
railway machinery. He did not do this for profit, though, as was
reasonable, what came in the natural course of things was
acceptable; he worked out his ideas, because, as he said, 'until
he could put them into shape, they plagued him by night and by
day.' But this is enough about my dear father; it is a good thing
for a country where there are many like him. He was a sturdy
Independent by descent and conviction; and this it was, I
believe, which made him place me in the lodgings at the
pastry-cook's. The shop was kept by the two sisters of our
minister at home; and this was considered as a sort of safeguard
to my morals, when I was turned loose upon the temptations of the
county town, with a salary of thirty pounds a year.
My father had given up two precious days, and put on his Sunday
clothes, in order to bring me to Eltham, and accompany me first
to the office, to introduce me to my new master (who was under
some obligations to my father for a suggestion), and next to take
me to call on the Independent minister of the little congregation
at Eltham. And then he left me; and though sorry to part with
him, I now began to taste with relish the pleasure of being my
own master. I unpacked the hamper that my mother had provided me
with, and smelt the pots of preserve with all the delight of a
possessor who might break into their contents at any time he
pleased. I handled and weighed in my fancy the home-cured ham,
which seemed to promise me interminable feasts; and, above all,
there was the fine savour of knowing that I might eat of these
dainties when I liked, at my sole will, not dependent on the
pleasure of any one else, however indulgent. I stowed my eatables
away in the little corner cupboard--that room was all corners,
and everything was placed in a corner, the fire-place, the
window, the cupboard; I myself seemed to be the only thing in the
middle, and there was hardly room for me. The table was made of a
folding leaf under the window, and the window looked out upon the
market-place; so the studies for the prosecution of which my
father had brought himself to pay extra for a sitting-room for
me, ran a considerable chance of being diverted from books to men
and women. I was to have my meals with the two elderly Miss
Dawsons in the little parlour behind the three-cornered shop
downstairs; my breakfasts and dinners at least, for, as my hours
in an evening were likely to be uncertain, my tea or supper was
to be an independent meal.
Then, after this pride and satisfaction, came a sense of
desolation. I had never been from home before, and I was an only
child; and though my father's spoken maxim had been, 'Spare the
rod, and spoil the child', yet, unconsciously, his heart had
yearned after me, and his ways towards me were more tender than
he knew, or would have approved of in himself could he have
known. My mother, who never professed sternness, was far more
severe than my father: perhaps my boyish faults annoyed her more;
for I remember, now that I have written the above words, how she
pleaded for me once in my riper years, when I had really offended
against my father's sense of right.
But I have nothing to do with that now. It is about cousin
Phillis that I am going to write, and as yet I am far enough from
even saying who cousin Phillis was.
For some months after I was settled in Eltham, the new employment
in which I was engaged--the new independence of my life--occupied
all my thoughts. I was at my desk by eight o'clock, home to
dinner at one, back at the office by two. The afternoon work was
more uncertain than the morning's; it might be the same, or it
might be that I had to accompany Mr Holdsworth, the managing
engineer, to some point on the line between Eltham and Hornby.
This I always enjoyed, because of the variety, and because of the
country we traversed (which was very wild and pretty), and
because I was thrown into companionship with Mr Holdsworth, who
held the position of hero in my boyish mind. He was a young man
of five-and-twenty or so, and was in a station above mine, both
by birth and education; and he had travelled on the Continent,
and wore mustachios and whiskers of a somewhat foreign fashion. I
was proud of being seen with him. He was really a fine fellow in
a good number of ways, and I might have fallen into much worse
Every Saturday I wrote home, telling of my weekly doings--my
father had insisted upon this; but there was so little variety in
my life that I often found it hard work to fill a letter. On
Sundays I went twice to chapel, up a dark narrow entry, to hear
droning hymns, and long prayers, and a still longer sermon,
preached to a small congregation, of which I was, by nearly a
score of years, the youngest member. Occasionally, Mr Peters, the
minister, would ask me home to tea after the second service. I
dreaded the honour, for I usually sate on the edge of my chair
all the evening, and answered solemn questions, put in a deep
bass voice, until household prayer-time came, at eight o'clock,
when Mrs Peters came in, smoothing down her apron, and the
maid-of-all-work followed, and first a sermon, and then a chapter
was read, and a long impromptu prayer followed, till some
instinct told Mr Peters that supper-time had come, and we rose
from our knees with hunger for our predominant feeling. Over
supper the minister did unbend a little into one or two ponderous
jokes, as if to show me that ministers were men, after all. And
then at ten o'clock I went home, and enjoyed my long-repressed
yawns in the three-cornered room before going to bed. Dinah and
Hannah Dawson, so their names were put on the board above the
shop-door--I always called them Miss Dawson and Miss
Hannah--considered these visits of mine to Mr Peters as the
greatest honour a young man could have; and evidently thought
that if after such privileges, I did not work out my salvation, I
was a sort of modern Judas Iscariot. On the contrary, they shook
their heads over my intercourse with Mr Holdsworth. He had been
so kind to me in many ways, that when I cut into my ham, I
hovered over the thought of asking him to tea in my room, more
especially as the annual fair was being held in Eltham
market-place, and the sight of the booths, the merry-go-rounds,
the wild-beast shows, and such country pomps, was (as I thought
at seventeen) very attractive. But when I ventured to allude to
my wish in even distant terms, Miss Hannah caught me up, and
spoke of the sinfulness of such sights, and something about
wallowing in the mire, and then vaulted into France, and spoke
evil of the nation, and all who had ever set foot therein, till,
seeing that her anger was concentrating itself into a point, and
that that point was Mr Holdsworth, I thought it would be better
to finish my breakfast, and make what haste I could out of the
sound of her voice. I rather wondered afterwards to hear her and
Miss Dawson counting up their weekly profits with glee, and
saying that a pastry-cook's shop in the corner of the
market-place, in Eltham fair week, was no such bad thing.
However, I never ventured to ask Mr Holdsworth to my lodgings.
There is not much to tell about this first year of mine at
Eltham. But when I was nearly nineteen, and beginning to think of
whiskers on my own account, I came to know cousin Phillis, whose
very existence had been unknown to me till then. Mr Holdsworth
and I had been out to Heathbridge for a day, working hard.
Heathbridge was near Hornby, for our line of railway was above
half finished. Of course, a day's outing was a great thing to
tell about in my weekly letters; and I fell to describing the
country--a fault I was not often guilty of. I told my father of
the bogs, all over wild myrtle and soft moss, and shaking ground
over which we had to carry our line; and how Mr Holdsworth and I
had gone for our mid-day meals--for we had to stay here for two
days and a night--to a pretty village hard by, Heathbridge
proper; and how I hoped we should often have to go there, for the
shaking, uncertain ground was puzzling our engineers--one end of
the line going up as soon as the other was weighted down. (I had
no thought for the shareholders' interests, as may be seen; we
had to make a new line on firmer ground before the junction
railway was completed.) I told all this at great length, thankful
to fill up my paper. By return letter, I heard that a
second-cousin of my mother's was married to the Independent
minister of Hornby, Ebenezer Holman by name, and lived at
Heathbridge proper; the very Heathbridge I had described, or so
my mother believed, for she had never seen her cousin Phillis
Green, who was something of an heiress (my father believed),
being her father's only child, and old Thomas Green had owned an
estate of near upon fifty acres, which must have come to his
daughter. My mother's feeling of kinship seemed to have been
strongly stirred by the mention of Heathbridge; for my father
said she desired me, if ever I went thither again, to make
inquiry for the Reverend Ebenezer Holman; and if indeed he lived
there, I was further to ask if he had not married one Phillis
Green; and if both these questions were answered in the
affirmative, I was to go and introduce myself as the only child
of Margaret Manning, born Moneypenny. I was enraged at myself for
having named Heathbridge at all, when I found what it was drawing
down upon me. One Independent minister, as I said to myself, was
enough for any man; and here I knew (that is to say, I had been
catechized on Sabbath mornings by) Mr Dawson, our minister at
home; and I had had to be civil to old Peters at Eltham, and
behave myself for five hours running whenever he asked me to tea
at his house; and now, just as I felt the free air blowing about
me up at Heathbridge, I was to ferret out another minister, and I
should perhaps have to be catechized by him, or else asked to tea
at his house. Besides, I did not like pushing myself upon
strangers, who perhaps had never heard of my mother's name, and
such an odd name as it was--Moneypenny; and if they had, had
never cared more for her than she had for them, apparently, until
this unlucky mention of Heathbridge. Still, I would not disobey
my parents in such a trifle, however irksome it might be. So the
next time our business took me to Heathbridge, and we were dining
in the little sanded inn-parlour, I took the opportunity of Mr
Holdsworth's being out of the room, and asked the questions which
I was bidden to ask of the rosy-cheeked maid. I was either
unintelligible or she was stupid; for she said she did not know,
but would ask master; and of course the landlord came in to
understand what it was I wanted to know; and I had to bring out
all my stammering inquiries before Mr Holdsworth, who would never
have attended to them, I dare say, if I had not blushed, and
blundered, and made such a fool of myself.
'Yes,' the landlord said, 'the Hope Farm was in Heathbridge
proper, and the owner's name was Holman, and he was an
Independent minister, and, as far as the landlord could tell, his
wife's Christian name was Phillis, anyhow her maiden name was
'Relations of yours?' asked Mr Holdsworth.
'No, sir--only my mother's second-cousins. Yes, I suppose they
are relations. But I never saw them in my life.'
'The Hope Farm is not a stone's throw from here,' said the
officious landlord, going to the window. 'If you carry your eye
over yon bed of hollyhocks, over the damson-trees in the orchard
yonder, you may see a stack of queer-like stone chimneys. Them is
the Hope Farm chimneys; it's an old place, though Holman keeps it
in good order.'
Mr Holdsworth had risen from the table with more promptitude than
I had, and was standing by the window, looking. At the landlord's
last words, he turned round, smiling,--'It is not often that
parsons know how to keep land in order, is it?'
'Beg pardon, sir, but I must speak as I find; and Minister
Holman--we call the Church clergyman here "parson," sir; he would
be a bit jealous if he heard a Dissenter called parson--Minister
Holman knows what he's about as well as e'er a farmer in the
neighbourhood. He gives up five days a week to his own work, and
two to the Lord's; and it is difficult to say which he works
hardest at. He spends Saturday and Sunday a-writing sermons and
a-visiting his flock at Hornby; and at five o'clock on Monday
morning he'll be guiding his plough in the Hope Farm yonder just
as well as if he could neither read nor write. But your dinner
will be getting cold, gentlemen.'
So we went back to table. After a while, Mr Holdsworth broke the
silence:--'If I were you, Manning, I'd look up these relations of
yours. You can go and see what they're like while we re waiting
for Dobson's estimates, and I'll smoke a cigar in the garden
'Thank you, sir. But I don't know them, and I don't think I want
to know them.'
'What did you ask all those questions for, then?' said he,
looking quickly up at me. He had no notion of doing or saying
things without a purpose. I did not answer, so he
continued,--'Make up your mind, and go off and see what this
farmer-minister is like, and come back and tell me--I should like
I was so in the habit of yielding to his authority, or influence,
that I never thought of resisting, but went on my errand, though
I remember feeling as if I would rather have had my head cut off.
The landlord, who had evidently taken an interest in the event of
our discussion in a way that country landlords have, accompanied
me to the house-door, and gave me repeated directions, as if I
was likely to miss my way in two hundred yards. But I listened to
him, for I was glad of the delay, to screw up my courage for the
effort of facing unknown people and introducing myself. I went
along the lane, I recollect, switching at all the taller roadside
weeds, till, after a turn or two, I found myself close in front
of the Hope Farm. There was a garden between the house and the
shady, grassy lane; I afterwards found that this garden was
called the court; perhaps because there was a low wall round it,
with an iron railing on the top of the wall, and two great gates
between pillars crowned with stone balls for a state entrance to
the flagged path leading up to the front door. It was not the
habit of the place to go in either by these great gates or by the
front door; the gates, indeed, were locked, as I found, though
the door stood wide open. I had to go round by a side-path
lightly worn on a broad grassy way, which led past the
court-wall, past a horse-mount, half covered with stone-crop and
the little wild yellow fumitory, to another door--'the curate',
as I found it was termed by the master of the house, while the
front door, 'handsome and all for show', was termed the 'rector'.
I knocked with my hand upon the 'curate' door; a tall girl, about
my own age, as I thought, came and opened it, and stood there
silent, waiting to know my errand. I see her now--cousin Phillis.
The westering sun shone full upon her, and made a slanting stream
of light into the room within. She was dressed in dark blue
cotton of some kind; up to her throat, down to her wrists, with a
little frill of the same wherever it touched her white skin. And
such a white skin as it was! I have never seen the like. She had
light hair, nearer yellow than any other colour. She looked me
steadily in the face with large, quiet eyes, wondering, but
untroubled by the sight of a stranger. I thought it odd that so
old, so full-grown as she was, she should wear a pinafore over
Before I had quite made up my mind what to say in reply to her
mute inquiry of what I wanted there, a woman's voice called out,
'Who is it, Phillis? If it is any one for butter-milk send them
round to the back door.'
I thought I could rather speak to the owner of that voice than to
the girl before me; so I passed her, and stood at the entrance of
a room hat in hand, for this side-door opened straight into the
hall or house-place where the family sate when work was done.
There was a brisk little woman of forty or so ironing some huge
muslin cravats under the light of a long vine-shaded casement
window. She looked at me distrustfully till I began to speak. 'My
name is Paul Manning,' said I; but I saw she did not know the
name. 'My mother's name was Moneypenny,' said I,--'Margaret
'And she married one John Manning, of Birmingham,' said Mrs
'And you'll be her son. Sit down! I am right glad to see you. To
think of your being Margaret's son! Why, she was almost a child
not so long ago. Well, to be sure, it is five-and-twenty years
ago. And what brings you into these parts?'
She sate down herself, as if oppressed by her curiosity as to all
the five-and-twenty years that had passed by since she had seen
my mother. Her daughter Phillis took up her knitting--a long grey
worsted man's stocking, I remember--and knitted away without
looking at her work. I felt that the steady gaze of those deep
grey eyes was upon me, though once, when I stealthily raised mine
to hers, she was examining something on the wall above my head.
When I had answered all my cousin Holman's questions, she heaved
a long breath, and said, 'To think of Margaret Moneypenny's boy
being in our house! I wish the minister was here. Phillis, in
what field is thy father to-day?'
'In the five-acre; they are beginning to cut the corn.'
'He'll not like being sent for, then, else I should have liked
you to have seen the minister. But the five-acre is a good step
off. You shall have a glass of wine and a bit of cake before you
stir from this house, though. You're bound to go, you say, or
else the minister comes in mostly when the men have their four
'I must go--I ought to have been off before now.'
'Here, then, Phillis, take the keys.' She gave her daughter some
whispered directions, and Phillis left the room.
'She is my cousin, is she not?' I asked. I knew she was, but
somehow I wanted to talk of her, and did not know how to begin.
'Yes--Phillis Holman. She is our only child--now.'
Either from that 'now', or from a strange momentary wistfulness
in her eyes, I knew that there had been more children, who were
'How old is cousin Phillis?' said I, scarcely venturing on the
new name, it seemed too prettily familiar for me to call her by
it; but cousin Holman took no notice of it, answering straight to
'Seventeen last May-day; but the minister does not like to hear
me calling it May-day,' said she, checking herself with a little
awe. 'Phillis was seventeen on the first day of May last,' she
repeated in an emended edition.
'And I am nineteen in another month,' thought I, to myself; I
don't know why. Then Phillis came in, carrying a tray with wine
and cake upon it.
'We keep a house-servant,' said cousin Holman, 'but it is
churning day, and she is busy.' It was meant as a little proud
apology for her daughter's being the handmaiden.
'I like doing it, mother,' said Phillis, in her grave, full
I felt as if I were somebody in the Old Testament--who, I could
not recollect--being served and waited upon by the daughter of
the host. Was I like Abraham's servant, when Rebekah gave him to
drink at the well? I thought Isaac had not gone the pleasantest
way to work in winning him a wife. But Phillis never thought
about such things. She was a stately, gracious young woman, in
the dress and with the simplicity of a child.
As I had been taught, I drank to the health of my newfound cousin
and her husband; and then I ventured to name my cousin Phillis
with a little bow of my head towards her; but I was too awkward
to look and see how she took my compliment. 'I must go now,' said
Neither of the women had thought of sharing in the wine; cousin
Holman had broken a bit of cake for form's sake.
'I wish the minister had been within,' said his wife, rising too.
Secretly I was very glad he was not. I did not take kindly to
ministers in those days, and I thought he must be a particular
kind of man, by his objecting to the term May-day. But before I
went, cousin Holman made me promise that I would come back on the
Saturday following and spend Sunday with them; when I should see
something of 'the minister'.
'Come on Friday, if you can,' were her last words as she stood at
the curate-door, shading her eyes from the sinking sun with her
hand. Inside the house sate cousin Phillis, her golden hair, her
dazzling complexion, lighting up the corner of the vine-shadowed
room. She had not risen when I bade her good-by; she had looked
at me straight as she said her tranquil words of farewell.
I found Mr Holdsworth down at the line, hard at work
superintending. As Soon as he had a pause, he said, 'Well,
Manning, what are the new cousins like? How do preaching and
farming seem to get on together? If the minister turns out to be
practical as well as reverend, I shall begin to respect him.'
But he hardly attended to my answer, he was so much more occupied
with directing his work-people. Indeed, my answer did not come
very readily; and the most distinct part of it was the mention of
the invitation that had been given me.
'Oh, of course you can go--and on Friday, too, if you like; there
is no reason why not this week; and you've done a long spell of
work this time, old fellow.' I thought that I did not want to go
on Friday; but when the day came, I found that I should prefer
going to staying away, so I availed myself of Mr Holdsworth's
permission, and went over to Hope Farm some time in the
afternoon, a little later than my last visit. I found the
'curate' open to admit the soft September air, so tempered by the
warmth of the sun, that it was warmer out of doors than in,
although the wooden log lay smouldering in front of a heap of hot
ashes on the hearth. The vine-leaves over the window had a tinge
more yellow, their edges were here and there scorched and
browned; there was no ironing about, and cousin Holman sate just
outside the house, mending a shirt. Phillis was at her knitting
indoors: it seemed as if she had been at it all the week. The
manyspeckled fowls were pecking about in the farmyard beyond, and
the milk-cans glittered with brightness, hung out to sweeten. The
court was so full of flowers that they crept out upon the
low-covered wall and horse-mount, and were even to be found
self-sown upon the turf that bordered the path to the back of the
house. I fancied that my Sunday coat was scented for days
afterwards by the bushes of sweetbriar and the fraxinella that
perfumed the air. From time to time cousin Holman put her hand
into a covered basket at her feet, and threw handsful of corn
down for the pigeons that cooed and fluttered in the air around,
in expectation of this treat.
I had a thorough welcome as soon as she saw me. 'Now this is
kind--this is right down friendly,' shaking my hand warmly.
'Phillis, your cousin Manning is come!'
'Call me Paul, will you?' said I; 'they call me so at home, and
Manning in the office.'
'Well, Paul, then. Your room is all ready for you, Paul, for, as
I said to the minister, "I'll have it ready whether he comes on
Friday or not." And the minister said he must go up to the
Ashfield whether you were to come or not; but he would come home
betimes to see if you were here. I'll show you to your room, and
you can wash the dust off a bit.'
After I came down, I think she did not quite know what to do with
me; or she might think that I was dull; or she might have work to
do in which I hindered her; for she called Phillis, and bade her
put on her bonnet, and go with me to the Ashfield, and find
father. So we set off, I in a little flutter of a desire to make
myself agreeable, but wishing that my companion were not quite so
tall; for she was above me in height. While I was wondering how
to begin our conversation, she took up the words.
'I suppose, cousin Paul, you have to be very busy at your work
all day long in general.'
'Yes, we have to be in the office at half-past eight; and we have
an hour for dinner, and then we go at it again till eight or
'Then you have not much time for reading.'
'No,' said I, with a sudden consciousness that I did not make the
most of what leisure I had.
'No more have I. Father always gets an hour before going a-field
in the mornings, but mother does not like me to get up so early.'
'My mother is always wanting me to get up earlier when I am at
'What time do you get up?'
'Oh!--ah!--sometimes half-past six: not often though;' for I
remembered only twice that I had done so during the past summer.
She turned her head and looked at me.
'Father is up at three; and so was mother till she was ill. I
should like to be up at four.'
'Your father up at three! Why, what has he to do at that hour?'
'What has he not to do? He has his private exercise in his own
room; he always rings the great bell which calls the men to
milking; he rouses up Betty, our maid; as often as not he gives
the horses their feed before the man is up--for Jem, who takes
care of the horses, is an old man; and father is always loth to
disturb him; he looks at the calves, and the shoulders, heels,
traces, chaff, and corn before the horses go a-field; he has
often to whip-cord the plough-whips; he sees the hogs fed; he
looks into the swill-tubs, and writes his orders for what is
wanted for food for man and beast; yes, and for fuel, too. And
then, if he has a bit of time to spare, he comes in and reads
with me--but only English; we keep Latin for the evenings, that
we may have time to enjoy it; and then he calls in the men to
breakfast, and cuts the boys' bread and cheese; and sees their
wooden bottles filled, and sends them off to their work;--and by
this time it is half-past six, and we have our breakfast. There
is father,' she exclaimed, pointing out to me a man in his
shirt-sleeves, taller by the head than the other two with whom he
was working. We only saw him through the leaves of the ash-trees
growing in the hedge, and I thought I must be confusing the
figures, or mistaken: that man still looked like a very powerful
labourer, and had none of the precise demureness of appearance
which I had always imagined was the characteristic of a minister.
It was the Reverend Ebenezer Holman, however. He gave us a nod as
we entered the stubble-field; and I think he would have come to
meet us but that he was in the middle of giving some directions
to his men. I could see that Phillis was built more after his
type than her mother's. He, like his daughter, was largely made,
and of a fair, ruddy complexion, whereas hers was brilliant and
delicate. His hair had been yellow or sandy, but now was
grizzled. Yet his grey hairs betokened no failure in strength. I
never saw a more powerful man--deep chest, lean flanks,
well-planted head. By this time we were nearly up to him; and he
interrupted himself and stepped forwards; holding out his hand to
me, but addressing Phillis.
'Well, my lass, this is cousin Manning, I suppose. Wait a minute,
young man, and I'll put on my coat, and give you a decorous and
formal welcome. But--Ned Hall, there ought to be a water-furrow
across this land: it's a nasty, stiff, clayey, dauby bit of
ground, and thou and I must fall to, come next Monday--I beg your
pardon, cousin Manning--and there's old Jem's cottage wants a bit
of thatch; you can do that job tomorrow while I am busy.' Then,
suddenly changing the tone of his deep bass voice to an odd
suggestion of chapels and preachers, he added. 'Now, I will give
out the psalm, "Come all harmonious tongues", to be sung to
"Mount Ephraim" tune.'
He lifted his spade in his hand, and began to beat time with it;
the two labourers seemed to know both words and music, though I
did not; and so did Phillis: her rich voice followed her father's
as he set the tune; and the men came in with more uncertainty,
but still harmoniously. Phillis looked at me once or twice with a
little surprise at my silence; but I did not know the words.
There we five stood, bareheaded, excepting Phillis, in the tawny
stubble-field, from which all the shocks of corn had not yet been
carried--a dark wood on one side, where the woodpigeons were
cooing; blue distance seen through the ash-trees on the other.
Somehow, I think that if I had known the words, and could have
sung, my throat would have been choked up by the feeling of the
The hymn was ended, and the men had drawn off before I could
stir. I saw the minister beginning to put on his coat, and
looking at me with friendly inspection in his gaze, before I
could rouse myself.
'I dare say you railway gentlemen don't wind up the day with
singing a psalm together,' said he; 'but it is not a bad
practice--not a bad practice. We have had it a bit earlier to-day
for hospitality's sake--that's all.'
I had nothing particular to say to this, though I was thinking a
great deal. From time to time I stole a look at my companion. His
coat was black, and so was his waistcoat; neckcloth he had none,
his strong full throat being bare above the snow-white shirt. He
wore drab-coloured knee-breeches, grey worsted stockings (I
thought I knew the maker), and strong-nailed shoes. He carried
his hat in his hand, as if he liked to feel the coming breeze
lifting his hair. After a while, I saw that the father took hold
of the daughter's hand, and so, they holding each other, went
along towards home. We had to cross a lane. In it were two little
children, one lying prone on the grass in a passion of crying,
the other standing stock still, with its finger in its mouth, the
large tears slowly rolling down its cheeks for sympathy. The
cause of their distress was evident; there was a broken brown
pitcher, and a little pool of spilt milk on the road.
'Hollo! Hollo! What's all this?' said the minister. 'why, what
have you been about, Tommy,' lifting the little petticoated lad,
who was lying sobbing, with one vigorous arm. Tommy looked at him
with surprise in his round eyes, but no affright--they were
evidently old acquaintances.
'Mammy's jug!' said he, at last, beginning to cry afresh.
'Well! and will crying piece mammy's jug, or pick up spilt milk?
How did you manage it, Tommy?'
'He' (jerking his head at the other) 'and me was running races.'
'Tommy said he could beat me,' put in the other.
'Now, I wonder what will make you two silly lads mind, and not
run races again with a pitcher of milk between you,' said the
minister, as if musing. 'I might flog you, and so save mammy the
trouble; for I dare say she'll do it if I don't.' The fresh burst
of whimpering from both showed the probability of this.
'Or I might take you to the Hope Farm, and give you some more
milk; but then you'd be running races again, and my milk would
follow that to the ground, and make another white pool. I think
the flogging would be best--don't you?'
'We would never run races no more,' said the elder of the two.
'Then you'd not be boys; you'd be angels.'
'No, we shouldn't.'
They looked into each other's eyes for an answer to this puzzling
question. At length, one said, 'Angels is dead folk.'
'Come; we'll not get too deep into theology. What do you think of
my lending you a tin can with a lid to carry the milk home in?
That would not break, at any rate; though I would not answer for
the milk not spilling if you ran races. That's it!'
He had dropped his daughter's hand, and now held out each of his
to the little fellows. Phillis and I followed, and listened to
the prattle which the minister's companions now poured out to
him, and which he was evidently enjoying. At a certain point,
there was a sudden burst of the tawny, ruddy-evening landscape.
The minister turned round and quoted a line or two of Latin.
'It's wonderful,' said he, 'how exactly Virgil has hit the
enduring epithets, nearly two thousand years ago, and in Italy;
and yet how it describes to a T what is now lying before us in
the parish of Heathbridge, county----, England.'
'I dare say it does,' said I, all aglow with shame, for I had
forgotten the little Latin I ever knew.
The minister shifted his eyes to Phillis's face; it mutely gave
him back the sympathetic appreciation that I, in my ignorance,
could not bestow.
'Oh! this is worse than the catechism,' thought I; 'that was only
'Phillis, lass, thou must go home with these lads, and tell their
mother all about the race and the milk. Mammy must always know
the truth,' now speaking to the children. 'And tell her, too,
from me that I have got the best birch rod in the parish; and
that if she ever thinks her children want a flogging she must
bring them to me, and, if I think they deserve it, I'll give it
them better than she can.' So Phillis led the children towards
the dairy, somewhere in the back yard, and I followed the
minister in through the 'curate' into the house-place. 'Their
mother,' said he, 'is a bit of a vixen, and apt to punish her
children without rhyme or reason. I try to keep the parish rod as
well as the parish bull.'
He sate down in the three-cornered chair by the fire-side, and
looked around the empty room.
'Where's the missus?' said he to himself. But she was there
home--by a look, by a touch, nothing more--as soon as she in a
minute; it was her regular plan to give him his welcome could
after his return, and he had missed her now. Regardless of my
presence, he went over the day's doings to her; and then, getting
up, he said he must go and make himself 'reverend', and that then
we would have a cup of tea in the parlour. The parlour was a
large room with two casemented windows on the other side of the
broad flagged passage leading from the rector-door to the wide
staircase, with its shallow, polished oaken steps, on which no
carpet was ever laid. The parlour-floor was covered in the middle
by a home-made carpeting of needlework and list. One or two
quaint family pictures of the Holman family hung round the walls;
the fire-grate and irons were much ornamented with brass; and on
a table against the wall between the windows, a great beau-pot of
flowers was placed upon the folio volumes of Matthew Henry's
Bible. It was a compliment to me to use this room, and I tried to
be grateful for it; but we never had our meals there after that
first day, and I was glad of it; for the large house-place,
living room, dining-room, whichever you might like to call it,
was twice as comfortable and cheerful. There was a rug in front
of the great large fire-place, and an oven by the grate, and a
crook, with the kettle hanging from it, over the bright
wood-fire; everything that ought to be black and Polished in that
room was black and Polished; and the flags, and window-curtains,
and such things as were to be white and clean, were just spotless
in their purity. Opposite to the fire-place, extending the whole
length of the room, was an oaken shovel-board, with the right
incline for a skilful player to send the weights into the
prescribed space. There were baskets of white work about, and a
small shelf of books hung against the wall, books used for
reading, and not for propping up a beau-pot of flowers. I took
down one or two of those books once when I was left alone in the
house-place on the first evening--Virgil, Caesar, a Greek
grammar--oh, dear! ah, me! and Phillis Holman's name in each of
them! I shut them up, and put them back in their places, and
walked as far away from the bookshelf as I could. Yes, and I gave
my cousin Phillis a wide berth, as though she was sitting at her
work quietly enough, and her hair was looking more golden, her
dark eyelashes longer, her round pillar of a throat whiter than
ever. We had done tea, and we had returned into the house-place
that the minister might smoke his pipe without fear of
contaminating the drab damask window-curtains of the parlour. He
had made himself 'reverend' by putting on one of the voluminous
white muslin neckcloths that I had seen cousin Holman ironing
that first visit I had paid to the Hope Farm, and by making one
or two other unimportant changes in his dress. He sate looking
steadily at me, but whether he saw me or not I cannot tell. At
the time I fancied that he did, and was gauging me in some
unknown fashion in his secret mind. Every now and then he took
his pipe out of his mouth, knocked out the ashes, and asked me
some fresh question. As long as these related to my acquirements
or my reading, I shuffled uneasily and did not know what to
answer. By-and-by he got round to the more practical subject of
railroads, and on this I was more at home. I really had taken an
interest in my work; nor would Mr Holdsworth, indeed, have kept
me in his employment if I had not given my mind as well as my
time to it; and I was, besides, full of the difficulties which
beset us just then, owing to our not being able to find a steady
bottom on the Heathbridge moss, over which we wished to carry our
line. In the midst of all my eagerness in speaking about this, I
could not help being struck with the extreme pertinence of his
questions. I do not mean that he did not show ignorance of many
of the details of engineering: that was to have been expected;
but on the premises he had got hold of; he thought clearly and
reasoned logically. Phillis--so like him as she was both in body
and mind--kept stopping at her work and looking at me, trying to
fully understand all that I said. I felt she did; and perhaps it
made me take more pains in using clear expressions, and arranging
my words, than I otherwise should.
'She shall see I know something worth knowing, though it mayn't
be her dead-and-gone languages,' thought I.
'I see,' said the minister, at length. 'I understand it all.
You've a clear, good head of your own, my lad,--choose how you
came by it.'
'From my father,' said I, proudly. 'Have you not heard of his
discovery of a new method of shunting? It was in the Gazette. It
was patented. I thought every one had heard of Manning's patent
'We don't know who invented the alphabet,' said he, half smiling,
and taking up his pipe.
'No, I dare say not, sir,' replied I, half offended; 'that's so
long ago.' Puff--puff--puff.
'But your father must be a notable man. I heard of him once
before; and it is not many a one fifty miles away whose fame
'My father is a notable man, sir. It is not me that says so; it
is Mr Holdsworth, and--and everybody.'
'He is right to stand up for his father,' said cousin Holman, as
if she were pleading for me.
I chafed inwardly, thinking that my father needed no one to stand
up for him. He was man sufficient for himself.
'Yes--he is right,' said the minister, placidly. 'Right, because
it comes from his heart--right, too, as I believe, in point of
fact. Else there is many a young cockerel that will stand upon a
dunghill and crow about his father, by way of making his own
plumage to shine. I should like to know thy father,' he went on,
turning straight to me, with a kindly, frank look in his eyes.
But I was vexed, and would take no notice. Presently, having
finished his pipe, he got up and left the room. Phillis put her
work hastily down, and went after him. In a minute or two she
returned, and sate down again. Not long after, and before I had
quite recovered my good temper, he opened the door out of which
he had passed, and called to me to come to him. I went across a
narrow stone passage into a strange, many-cornered room, not ten
feet in area, part study, part counting house, looking into the
farm-yard; with a desk to sit at, a desk to stand at, a Spittoon,
a set of shelves with old divinity books upon them; another,
smaller, filled with books on farriery, farming, manures, and
such subjects, with pieces of paper containing memoranda stuck
against the whitewashed walls with wafers, nails, pins, anything
that came readiest to hand; a box of carpenter's tools on the
floor, and some manuscripts in short-hand on the desk.
He turned round, half laughing. 'That foolish girl of mine thinks
I have vexed you'--putting his large, powerful hand on my
shoulder. '"Nay," says I, "kindly meant is kidney taken"--is it
'It was not quite, sir,' replied I, vanquished by his manner;
'but it shall be in future.'
'Come, that's right. You and I shall be friends. Indeed, it's not
many a one I would bring in here. But I was reading a book this
morning, and I could not make it out; it is a book that was left
here by mistake one day; I had subscribed to Brother Robinson's
sermons; and I was glad to see this instead of them, for sermons
though they be, they're . . . well, never mind! I took 'em both,
and made my old coat do a bit longer; but all's fish that comes
to my net. I have fewer books than leisure to read them, and I
have a prodigious big appetite. Here it is.'
It was a volume of stiff mechanics, involving many technical
terms, and some rather deep mathematics. These last, which would
have puzzled me, seemed easy enough to him; all that he wanted
was the explanations of the technical words, which I could easily
While he was looking through the book to find the places where he
had been puzzled, my wandering eye caught on some of the papers
on the wall, and I could not help reading one, which has stuck by
me ever since. At first, it seemed a kind of weekly diary; but
then I saw that the seven days were portioned out for special
prayers and intercessions: Monday for his family, Tuesday for
enemies, Wednesday for the Independent churches, Thursday for all
other churches, Friday for persons afflicted, Saturday for his
own soul, Sunday for all wanderers and sinners, that they might
be brought home to the fold.
We were called back into the house-place to have supper. A door
opening into the kitchen was opened; and all stood up in both
rooms, while the minister, tall, large, one hand resting on the
spread table, the other lifted up, said, in the deep voice that
would have been loud had it not been so full and rich, but
without the peculiar accent or twang that I believe is considered
devout by some people, 'Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we
do, let us do all to the glory of God.'
The supper was an immense meat-pie. We of the house-place were
helped first; then the minister hit the handle of his buck-horn
carving-knife on the table once, and said,--
'Now or never,' which meant, did any of us want any more; and
when we had all declined, either by silence or by words, he
knocked twice with his knife on the table, and Betty came in
through the open door, and carried off the great dish to the
kitchen, where an old man and a young one, and a help-girl, were
awaiting their meal.
'Shut the door, if you will,' said the minister to Betty.
'That's in honour of you,' said cousin Holman, in a tone of
satisfaction, as the door was shut. 'when we've no stranger with
us, the minister is so fond of keeping the door Open, and talking
to the men and maids, just as much as to Phillis and me.
'It brings us all together like a household just before we meet
as a household in prayer,' said he, in explanation. 'But to go
back to what we were talking about--can you tell me of any simple
book on dynamics that I could put in my pocket, and study a
little at leisure times in the day?'
'Leisure times, father?' said Phillis, with a nearer approach to
a smile than I had yet seen on her face.
'Yes; leisure times, daughter. There is many an odd minute lost
in waiting for other folk; and now that railroads are coming so
near us, it behoves us to know something about them.'
I thought of his own description of his 'prodigious big appetite'
for learning. And he had a good appetite of his own for the more
material victual before him. But I saw, or fancied I saw, that he
had some rule for himself in the matter both of food and drink.
As soon as supper was done the household assembled for prayer. It
was a long impromptu evening prayer; and it would have seemed
desultory enough had I not had a glimpse of the kind of day that
preceded it, and so been able to find a clue to the thoughts that
preceded the disjointed utterances; for he kept there kneeling
down in the centre of a circle, his eyes shut, his outstretched
hands pressed palm to palm--sometimes with a long pause of
silence was anything else he wished to 'lay before the Lord! (to
use his own expression)--before he concluded with the blessing.
He prayed for the cattle and live creatures, rather to my
surprise; for my attention had begun to wander, till it was
recalled by the familiar words.
And here I must not forget to name an odd incident at the
conclusion of the prayer, and before we had risen from our knees
(indeed before Betty was well awake, for she made a practice of
having a sound nap, her weary head lying on her stalwart arms);
the minister, still kneeling in our midst, but with his eyes wide
open, and his arms dropped by his side, spoke to the elder man,
who turned round on his knees to attend. 'John, didst see that
Daisy had her warm mash to-night; for we must not neglect the
means, John--two quarts of gruel, a spoonful of ginger, and a
gill of beer--the poor beast needs it, and I fear it slipped Out
of my mind to tell thee; and here was I asking a blessing and
neglecting the means, which is a mockery,' said he, dropping his
voice. Before we went to bed he told me he should see little or
nothing more of me during my visit, which was to end on Sunday
evening, as he always gave up both Saturday and Sabbath to his
work in the ministry. I remembered that the landlord at the inn
had told me this on the day when I first inquired about these new
relations of mine; and I did not dislike the opportunity which I
saw would be afforded me of becoming more acquainted with cousin
Holman and Phillis, though I earnestly hoped that the latter
would not attack me on the subject of the dead languages.
I went to bed, and dreamed that I was as tall as cousin Phillis,
and had a sudden and miraculous growth of whisker, and a still
more miraculous acquaintance with Latin and Greek. Alas! I
wakened up still a short, beardless lad, with 'tempus fugit' for
my sole remembrance of the little Latin I had once learnt. While
I was dressing, a bright thought came over me: I could question
cousin Phillis, instead of her questioning me, and so manage to
keep the choice of the subjects of conversation in my own power.
Early as it was, every one had breakfasted, and my basin of bread
and milk was put on the oven-top to await my coming down. Every
one was gone about their work. The first to come into the
house-place was Phillis with a basket of eggs. Faithful to my
resolution, I asked,--
'What are those?'
She looked at me for a moment, and then said gravely,--
'No! they are not,' said I. 'They are eggs. What do you mean by
saying they are potatoes?'
'What do you mean by asking me what they were, when they were
plain to be seen?' retorted she.
We were both getting a little angry with each other.
'I don't know. I wanted to begin to talk to you; and I was afraid
you would talk to me about books as you did yesterday. I have not
read much; and you and the minister have read so much.'
'I have not,' said she. 'But you are our guest; and mother says I
must make it pleasant to you. We won't talk of books. What must
we talk about?'
'I don't know. How old are you?'
'Seventeen last May. How old are you?'
'I am nineteen. Older than you by nearly two years,' said I,
drawing myself up to my full height.
'I should not have thought you were above sixteen,' she replied,
as quietly as if she were not saying the most provoking thing she
possibly could. Then came a pause.
'What are you going to do now?' asked I.
'I should be dusting the bed-chambers; but mother said I had
better stay and make it pleasant to you,' said she, a little
plaintively, as if dusting rooms was far the easiest task.
'Will you take me to see the live-stock? I like animals, though I
don't know much about them.'
'Oh, do you? I am so glad! I was afraid you would not like
animals, as you did not like books.'
I wondered why she said this. I think it was because she had
begun to fancy all our tastes must be dissimilar. We went
together all through the farm-yard; we fed the poultry, she
kneeling down with her pinafore full of corn and meal, and
tempting the little timid, downy chickens upon it, much to the
anxiety of the fussy ruffled hen, their mother. She called to the
pigeons, who fluttered down at the sound of her voice. She and I
examined the great sleek cart-horses; sympathized in our dislike
of pigs; fed the calves; coaxed the sick cow, Daisy; and admired
the others out at pasture; and came back tired and hungry and
dirty at dinner-time, having quite forgotten that there were such
things as dead languages, and consequently capital friends.
Cousin Holman gave me the weekly county newspaper to read aloud
to her, while she mended stockings out of a high piled-up basket,
Phillis helping her mother. I read and read, unregardful of the
words I was uttering, thinking of all manner of other things; of
the bright colour of Phillis's hair, as the afternoon sun fell on
her bending head; of the silence of the house, which enabled me
to hear the double tick of the old clock which stood half-way up
the stairs; of the variety of inarticulate noises which cousin
Holman made while I read, to show her sympathy, wonder, or horror
at the newspaper intelligence. The tranquil monotony of that hour
made me feel as if I had lived for ever, and should live for ever
droning out paragraphs in that warm sunny room, with my two quiet
hearers, and the curled-up pussy cat sleeping on the hearth-rug,
and the clock on the house-stairs perpetually clicking out the
passage of the moments. By-and-by Betty the servant came to the
door into the kitchen, and made a sign to Phillis, who put her
half-mended stocking down, and went away to the kitchen without a
word. Looking at cousin Holman a minute or two afterwards, I saw
that she had dropped her chin upon her breast, and had fallen
fast asleep. I put the newspaper down, and was nearly following
her example, when a waft of air from some unseen source, slightly
opened the door of communication with the kitchen, that Phillis
must have left unfastened; and I saw part of her figure as she
sate by the dresser, peeling apples with quick dexterity of
finger, but with repeated turnings of her head towards some book
lying on the dresser by her. I softly rose, and as softly went
into the kitchen, and looked over her shoulder; before she was
aware of my neighbourhood, I had seen that the book was in a
language unknown to me, and the running title was L'Inferno. Just
as I was making out the relationship of this word to 'infernal',
she started and turned round, and, as if continuing her thought
as she spoke, she sighed out,--
'Oh! it is so difficult! Can you help me?' putting her finger
below a line.
'Me! I! I don't even know what language it is in!'
'Don't you see it is Dante?' she replied, almost petulantly; she
did so want help.
'Italian, then?' said I, dubiously; for I was not quite sure.
'Yes. And I do so want to make it out. Father can help me a
little, for he knows Latin; but then he has so little time.'
'You have not much, I should think, if you have often to try and
do two things at once, as you are doing now.
'Oh! that's nothing! Father bought a heap of old books cheap. And
I knew something about Dante before; and I have always liked
Virgil so much. Paring apples is nothing, if I could only make
out this old Italian. I wish you knew it.'
'I wish I did,' said I, moved by her impetuosity of tone. 'If,
now, only Mr Holdsworth were here; he can speak Italian like
anything, I believe.'
'Who is Mr Holdsworth?' said Phillis, looking up.
'Oh, he's our head engineer. He's a regular first-rate fellow! He
can do anything;' my hero-worship and my pride in my chief all
coming into play. Besides, if I was not clever and book-learned
myself, it was something to belong to some one who was.
'How is it that he speaks Italian?' asked Phillis.
'He had to make a railway through Piedmont, which is in Italy, I
believe; and he had to talk to all the workmen in Italian; and I
have heard him say that for nearly two years he had only Italian
books to read in the queer outlandish places he was in.'
'Oh, dear!' said Phillis; 'I wish--' and then she stopped. I was
not quite sure whether to say the next thing that came into my
mind; but I said it.
'Could I ask him anything about your book, or your difficulties?'
She was silent for a minute or so, and then she made reply,--
'No! I think not. Thank you very much, though. I can generally
puzzle a thing out in time. And then, perhaps, I remember it
better than if some one had helped me. I'll put it away now, and
you must move off, for I've got to make the paste for the pies;
we always have a cold dinner on Sabbaths.'
'But I may stay and help you, mayn't I?'
'Oh, yes; not that you can help at all, but I like to have you
with me.' I was both flattered and annoyed at this
straightforward avowal. I was pleased that she liked me; but I
was young coxcomb enough to have wished to play the lover, and I
was quite wise enough to perceive that if she had any idea of the
kind in her head she would never have spoken out so frankly. I
comforted myself immediately, however, by finding out that the
grapes were sour. A great tall girl in a pinafore, half a head
taller than I was, reading books that I had never heard of, and
talking about them too, as of far more interest than any mere
personal subjects; that was the last day on which I ever thought
of my dear cousin Phillis as the possible mistress of my heart
and life. But we were all the greater friends for this idea being
utterly put away and buried out of sight.
Late in the evening the minister came home from Hornby. He had
been calling on the different members of his flock; and
unsatisfactory work it had proved to him, it seemed from the
fragments that dropped out of his thoughts into his talk.
'I don't see the men; they are all at their business, their
shops, or their warehouses; they ought to be there. I have no
fault to find with them; only if a pastor's teaching or words of
admonition are good for anything, they are needed by the men as
much as by the women.'
'Cannot you go and see them in their places of business, and
remind them of their Christian privileges and duties, minister?'
asked cousin Holman, who evidently thought that her husband's
words could never be out of place.
'No!' said he, shaking his head. 'I judge them by myself. If
there are clouds in the sky, and I am getting in the hay just
ready for loading, and rain sure to come in the night, I should
look ill upon brother Robinson if he came into the field to speak
about serious things.'
'But, at any rate, father, you do good to the women, and perhaps
they repeat what you have said to them to their husbands and
'It is to be hoped they do, for I cannot reach the men directly;
but the women are apt to tarry before coming to me, to put on
ribbons and gauds; as if they could hear the message I bear to
them best in their smart clothes. Mrs Dobson to-day--Phillis, I
am thankful thou dost not care for the vanities of dress!'
Phillis reddened a little as she said, in a low humble voice,--
'But I do, father, I'm afraid. I often wish I could wear
pretty-coloured ribbons round my throat like the squire's
'It's but natural, minister!' said his wife; 'I'm not above
liking a silk gown better than a cotton one myself!'
'The love of dress is a temptation and a snare,' said he,
gravely. 'The true adornment is a meek and quiet spirit. And,
wife,' said he, as a sudden thought crossed his mind, 'in that
matter I, too, have sinned. I wanted to ask you, could we not
sleep in the grey room, instead of our own?'
'Sleep in the grey room?--change our room at this time o' day?'
cousin Holman asked, in dismay.
'Yes,' said he. 'It would save me from a daily temptation to
anger. Look at my chin!' he continued; 'I cut it this morning--I
cut it on Wednesday when I was shaving; I do not know how many
times I have cut it of late, and all from impatience at seeing
Timothy Cooper at his work in the yard.'
'He's a downright lazy tyke!' said cousin Holman. 'He's not worth
his wage. There's but little he can do, and what he can do, he
'True,' said the minister. 'He is but, so to speak, a half-wit;
and yet he has got a wife and children.'
'More shame for him!'
'But that is past change. And if I turn him off; no one else will
take him on. Yet I cannot help watching him of a morning as he
goes sauntering about his work in the yard; and I watch, and I
watch, till the old Adam rises strong within me at his lazy ways,
and some day, I am afraid, I shall go down and send him about his
business--let alone the way in which he makes me cut myself while
I am shaving--and then his wife and children will starve. I wish
we could move to the grey room.'
I do not remember much more of my first visit to the Hope Farm.
We went to chapel in Heathbridge, slowly and decorously walking
along the lanes, ruddy and tawny with the colouring of the coming
autumn. The minister walked a little before us, his hands behind
his back, his head bent down, thinking about the discourse to be
delivered to his people, cousin Holman said; and we spoke low and
quietly, in order not to interrupt his thoughts. But I could not
help noticing the respectful greetings which he received from
both rich and poor as we went along; greetings which he
acknowledged with a kindly wave of his hand, but with no words of
reply. As we drew near the town, I could see some of the young
fellows we met cast admiring looks on Phillis; and that made me
look too. She had on a white gown, and a short black silk cloak,
according to the fashion of the day. A straw bonnet with brown
ribbon strings; that was all. But what her dress wanted in
colour, her sweet bonny face had. The walk made her cheeks bloom
like the rose; the very whites of her eyes had a blue tinge in
them, and her dark eyelashes brought out the depth of the blue
eyes themselves. Her yellow hair was put away as straight as its
natural curliness would allow. If she did not perceive the
admiration she excited, I am sure cousin Holman did; for she
looked as fierce and as proud as ever her quiet face could look,
guarding her treasure, and yet glad to perceive that others could
see that it was a treasure. That afternoon I had to return to
Eltham to be ready for the next day's work. I found out
afterwards that the minister and his family were all 'exercised
in spirit,' as to whether they did well in asking me to repeat my
visits at the Hope Farm, seeing that of necessity I must return
to Eltham on the Sabbath-day. However, they did go on asking me,
and I went on visiting them, whenever my other engagements
permitted me, Mr Holdsworth being in this case, as in all, a kind
and indulgent friend. Nor did my new acquaintances oust him from
my strong regard and admiration. I had room in my heart for all,
I am happy to say, and as far as I can remember, I kept praising
each to the other in a manner which, if I had been an older man,
living more amongst people of the world, I should have thought
unwise, as well as a little ridiculous. It was unwise, certainly,
as it was almost sure to cause disappointment if ever they did
become acquainted; and perhaps it was ridiculous, though I do not
think we any of us thought it so at the time. The minister used
to listen to my accounts of Mr Holdsworth's many accomplishments
and various adventures in travel with the truest interest, and
most kindly good faith; and Mr Holdsworth in return liked to hear
about my visits to the farm, and description of my cousin's life
there--liked it, I mean, as much as he liked anything that was
merely narrative, without leading to action.
So I went to the farm certainly, on an average, once a month
during that autumn; the course of life there was so peaceful and
quiet, that I can only remember one small event, and that was one
that I think I took more notice of than any one else: Phillis
left off wearing the pinafores that had always been so obnoxious
to me; I do not know why they were banished, but on one of my
visits I found them replaced by pretty linen aprons in the
morning, and a black silk one in the afternoon. And the blue
cotton gown became a brown stuff one as winter drew on; this
sounds like some book I once read, in which a migration from the
blue bed to the brown was spoken of as a great family event.
Towards Christmas my dear father came to see me, and to consult
Mr Holdsworth about the improvement which has since been known as
'Manning's driving wheel'. Mr Holdsworth, as I think I have
before said, had a very great regard for my father, who had been
employed in the same great machine-shop in which Mr Holdsworth
had served his apprenticeship; and he and my father had many
mutual jokes about one of these gentlemen-apprentices who used to
set about his smith's work in white wash-leather gloves, for fear
of spoiling his hands. Mr Holdsworth often spoke to me about my
father as having the same kind of genius for mechanical invention
as that of George Stephenson, and my father had come over now to
consult him about several improvements, as well as an offer of
partnership. It was a great pleasure to me to see the mutual
regard of these two men. Mr Holdsworth, young, handsome, keen,
well-dressed, an object of admiration to all the youth of Eltham;
my father, in his decent but unfashionable Sunday clothes, his
plain, sensible face full of hard lines, the marks of toil and
thought,--his hands, blackened beyond the power of soap and water
by years of labour in the foundry; speaking a strong Northern
dialect, while Mr Holdsworth had a long soft drawl in his voice,
as many of the Southerners have, and was reckoned in Eltham to
give himself airs.
Although most of my father's leisure time was occupied with
conversations about the business I have mentioned, he felt that
he ought not to leave Eltham without going to pay his respects to
the relations who had been so kind to his son. So he and I ran up
on an engine along the incomplete line as far as Heathbridge, and
went, by invitation, to spend a day at the farm.
It was odd and yet pleasant to me to perceive how these two men,
each having led up to this point such totally dissimilar lives,
seemed to come together by instinct, after one quiet straight
look into each other's faces. My father was a thin, wiry man of
five foot seven; the minister was a broad-shouldered,
fresh-coloured man of six foot one; they were neither of them
great talkers in general--perhaps the minister the most so--but
they spoke much to each other. My father went into the fields
with the minister; I think I see him now, with his hands behind
his back, listening intently to all explanations of tillage, and
the different processes of farming; occasionally taking up an
implement, as if unconsciously, and examining it with a critical
eye, and now and then asking a question, which I could see was
considered as pertinent by his companion. Then we returned to
look at the cattle, housed and bedded in expectation of the
snow-storm hanging black on the western horizon, and my father
learned the points of a cow with as much attention as if he meant
to turn farmer. He had his little book that he used for
mechanical memoranda and measurements in his pocket, and he took
it out to write down 'straight back', small muzzle', 'deep
barrel', and I know not what else, under the head 'cow'. He was
very critical on a turnip-cutting machine, the clumsiness of
which first incited him to talk; and when we went into the house
he sate thinking and quiet for a bit, while Phillis and her
mother made the last preparations for tea, with a little unheeded
apology from cousin Holman, because we were not sitting in the
best parlour, which she thought might be chilly on so cold a
night. I wanted nothing better than the blazing, crackling fire
that sent a glow over all the house-place, and warmed the snowy
flags under our feet till they seemed to have more heat than the
crimson rug right in front of the fire. After tea, as Phillis and
I were talking together very happily, I heard an irrepressible
exclamation from cousin Holman,--
'Whatever is the man about!'
And on looking round, I saw my father taking a straight burning
stick out of the fire, and, after waiting for a minute, and
examining the charred end to see if it was fitted for his
purpose, he went to the hard-wood dresser, scoured to the last
pitch of whiteness and cleanliness, and began drawing with the
stick; the best substitute for chalk or charcoal within his
reach, for his pocket-book pencil was not strong or bold enough
for his purpose. When he had done, he began to explain his new
model of a turnip-cutting machine to the minister, who had been
watching him in silence all the time. Cousin Holman had, in the
meantime, taken a duster out of a drawer, and, under pretence of
being as much interested as her husband in the drawing, was
secretly trying on an outside mark how easily it would come off,
and whether it would leave her dresser as white as before. Then
Phillis was sent for the book on dynamics about which I had been
consulted during my first visit, and my father had to explain
many difficulties, which he did in language as clear as his mind,
making drawings with his stick wherever they were needed as
illustrations, the minister sitting with his massive head resting
on his hands, his elbows on the table, almost unconscious of
Phillis, leaning over and listening greedily, with her hand on
his shoulder, sucking in information like her father's own
daughter. I was rather sorry for cousin Holman; I had been so
once or twice before; for do what she would, she was completely
unable even to understand the pleasure her husband and daughter
took in intellectual pursuits, much less to care in the least
herself for the pursuits themselves, and was thus unavoidably
thrown out of some of their interests. I had once or twice
thought she was a little jealous of her own child, as a fitter
companion for her husband than she was herself; and I fancied the
minister himself was aware of this feeling, for I had noticed an
occasional sudden change of subject, and a tenderness of appeal
in his voice as he spoke to her, which always made her look
contented and peaceful again. I do not think that Phillis ever
perceived these little shadows; in the first place, she had such
complete reverence for her parents that she listened to them both
as if they had been St Peter and St Paul; and besides, she was
always too much engrossed with any matter in hand to think about
other people's manners and looks.
This night I could see, though she did not, how much she was
winning on my father. She asked a few questions which showed that
she had followed his explanations up to that point; possibly,
too, her unusual beauty might have something to do with his
favourable impression of her; but he made no scruple of
expressing his admiration of her to her father and mother in her
absence from the room; and from that evening I date a project of
his which came out to me a day or two afterwards, as we sate in
my little three-cornered room in Eltham. 'Paul,' he began, 'I
never thought to be a rich man; but I think it's coming upon me.
Some folk are making a deal of my new machine (calling it by its
technical name), and Ellison, of the Borough Green Works, has
gone so far as to ask me to be his partner.'
'Mr Ellison the Justice!--who lives in King Street? why, he
drives his carriage!' said I, doubting, yet exultant.
'Ay, lad, John Ellison. But that's no sign that I shall drive my
carriage. Though I should like to save thy mother walking, for
she's not so young as she was. But that's a long way off; anyhow.
I reckon I should start with a third profit. It might be seven
hundred, or it might be more. I should like to have the power to
work out some fancies o' mine. I care for that much more than for
th' brass. And Ellison has no lads; and by nature the business
would come to thee in course o' time. Ellison's lasses are but
bits o' things, and are not like to come by husbands just yet;
and when they do, maybe they'll not be in the mechanical line. It
will be an opening for thee, lad, if thou art steady. Thou'rt not
great shakes, I know, in th' inventing line; but many a one gets
on better without having fancies for something he does not see
and never has seen. I'm right down glad to see that mother's
cousins are such uncommon folk for sense and goodness. I have
taken the minister to my heart like a brother; and she is a
womanly quiet sort of a body. And I'll tell you frank, Paul, it
will be a happy day for me if ever you can come and tell me that
Phillis Holman is like to be my daughter. I think if that lass
had not a penny, she would be the making of a man; and she'll
have yon house and lands, and you may be her match yet in fortune
if all goes well.'
I was growing as red as fire; I did not know what to say, and yet
I wanted to say something; but the idea of having a wife of my
own at some future day, though it had often floated about in my
own head, sounded so strange when it was thus first spoken about
by my father. He saw my confusion, and half smiling said,--
'Well, lad, what dost say to the old father's plans? Thou art but
young, to be sure; but when I was thy age, I would ha' given my
right hand if I might ha' thought of the chance of wedding the
lass I cared for--'
'My mother?' asked I, a little struck by the change of his tone
'No! not thy mother. Thy mother is a very good woman--none
better. No! the lass I cared for at nineteen ne'er knew how I
loved her, and a year or two after and she was dead, and ne'er
knew. I think she would ha' been glad to ha' known it, poor
Molly; but I had to leave the place where we lived for to try to
earn my bread and I meant to come back but before ever I did, she
was dead and gone: I ha' never gone there since. But if you fancy
Phillis Holman, and can get her to fancy you, my lad, it shall go
different with you, Paul, to what it did with your father.'
I took counsel with myself very rapidly, and I came to a clear
conclusion. 'Father,' said I, 'if I fancied Phillis ever so much,
she would never fancy me. I like her as much as I could like a
sister; and she likes me as if I were her brother--her younger
I could see my father's countenance fall a little.
'You see she's so clever she's more like a man than a woman--she
knows Latin and Greek.'
'She'd forget 'em, if she'd a houseful of children,' was my
father's comment on this.
'But she knows many a thing besides, and is wise as well as
learned; she has been so much with her father. She would never
think much of me, and I should like my wife to think a deal of
'It is not just book-learning or the want of it as makes a wife
think much or little of her husband,' replied my father,
evidently unwilling to give up a project which had taken deep
root in his mind. 'It's a something I don't rightly know how to
call it--if he's manly, and sensible, and straightforward; and I
reckon you're that, my boy.'
'I don't think I should like to have a wife taller than I am,
father,' said I, smiling; he smiled too, but not heartily.
'Well,' said he, after a pause. 'It's but a few days I've been
thinking of it, but I'd got as fond of my notion as if it had
been a new engine as I'd been planning out. Here's our Paul,
thinks I to myself, a good sensible breed o' lad, as has never
vexed or troubled his mother or me; with a good business opening
out before him, age nineteen, not so bad-looking, though perhaps
not to call handsome, and here's his cousin, not too near cousin,
but just nice, as one may say; aged seventeen, good and true, and
well brought up to work with her hands as well as her head; a
scholar--but that can't be helped, and is more her misfortune
than her fault, seeing she is the only child of scholar--and as I
said afore, once she's a wife and a she'll forget it all, I'll be
bound--with a good fortune in land and house when it shall please
the Lord to take her parents to himself; with eyes like poor
Molly's for beauty, a colour that comes and goes on a milk-white
skin, and as pretty a mouth--,
'Why, Mr Manning, what fair lady are you describing?' asked Mr
Holdsworth, who had come quickly and suddenly upon our
tete-a-tete, and had caught my father's last words as he entered
the room. Both my father and I felt rather abashed; it was such
an odd subject for us to be talking about; but my father, like a
straightforward simple man as he was, spoke out the truth.
'I've been telling Paul of Ellison's offer, and saying how good
an opening it made for him--'
'I wish I'd as good,' said Mr Holdsworth. 'But has the business a
'You're always so full of your joking, Mr Holdsworth,' said my
father. 'I was going to say that if he and his cousin Phillis
Holman liked to make it up between them, I would put no spoke in
'Phillis Holman!' said Mr Holdsworth. 'Is she the daughter of the
minister-farmer out at Heathbridge? Have I been helping on the
course of true love by letting you go there so often? I knew
nothing of it.'
'There is nothing to know,' said I, more annoyed than I chose to
show. 'There is no more true love in the case than may be between
the first brother and sister you may choose to meet. I have been
telling father she would never think of me; she's a great deal
taller and cleverer; and I'd rather be taller and more learned
than my wife when I have one.'
'And it is she, then, that has the pretty mouth your father spoke
about? I should think that would be an antidote to the cleverness
and learning. But I ought to apologize for breaking in upon your
last night; I came upon business to your father.'
And then he and my father began to talk about many things that
had no interest for me just then, and I began to go over again my
conversation with my father. The more I thought about it, the
more I felt that I had spoken truly about my feelings towards
Phillis Holman. I loved her dearly as a sister, but I could never
fancy her as my wife. Still less could I think of her ever--yes,
condescending, that is the word--condescending to marry me. I was
roused from a reverie on what I should like my possible wife to
be, by hearing my father's warm praise of the minister, as a most
unusual character; how they had got back from the diameter of
driving-wheels to the subject of the Holmans I could never tell;
but I saw that my father's weighty praises were exciting some
curiosity in Mr Holdsworth's mind; indeed, he said, almost in a
voice of reproach,--
'Why, Paul, you never told me what kind of a fellow this
minister-cousin of yours was!'
'I don't know that I found out, sir,' said I. 'But if I had, I
don't think you'd have listened to me, as you have done to my
'No! most likely not, old fellow,' replied Mr Holdsworth,
laughing. And again and afresh I saw what a handsome pleasant
clear face his was; and though this evening I had been a bit put
out with him--through his sudden coming, and his having heard my
father's open-hearted confidence--my hero resumed all his empire
over me by his bright merry laugh.
And if he had not resumed his old place that night, he would have
done so the next day, when, after my father's departure, Mr
Holdsworth spoke about him with such just respect for his
character, such ungrudging admiration of his great mechanical
genius, that I was compelled to say, almost unawares,--
'Thank you, sir. I am very much obliged to you.'
'Oh, you're not at all. I am only speaking the truth. Here's a
Birmingham workman, self-educated, one may say--having never
associated with stimulating minds, or had what advantages travel
and contact with the world may be supposed to afford--working out
his own thoughts into steel and iron, making a scientific name
for himself--a fortune, if it pleases him to work for money--and
keeping his singleness of heart, his perfect simplicity of
manner; it puts me out of patience to think of my expensive
schooling, my travels hither and thither, my heaps of scientific
books, and I have done nothing to speak of. But it's evidently
good blood; there's that Mr Holman, that cousin of yours, made of
the same stuff'
'But he's only cousin because he married my mother's second
cousin,' said I.
'That knocks a pretty theory on the head, and twice over, too. I
should like to make Holman's acquaintance.'
'I am sure they would be so glad to see you at Hope Farm,' said
I, eagerly. 'In fact, they've asked me to bring you several
times: only I thought you would find it dull.'
'Not at all. I can't go yet though, even if you do get me an
invitation; for the ---- Company want me to go to the ----
Valley, and look over the ground a bit for them, to see if it
would do for a branch line; it's a job which may take me away for
some time; but I shall be backwards and forwards, and you're
quite up to doing what is needed in my absence; the only work
that may be beyond you is keeping old Jevons from drinking.' He
went on giving me directions about the management of the men
employed on the line, and no more was said then, or for several
months, about his going to Rope Farm. He went off into ----
Valley, a dark overshadowed dale, where the sun seemed to set
behind the hills before four o'clock on midsummer afternoon.
Perhaps it was this that brought on the attack of low fever which
he had soon after the beginning of the new year; he was very ill
for many weeks, almost many months; a married sister--his only
relation, I think--came down from London to nurse him, and I went
over to him when I could, to see him, and give him 'masculine
news,' as he called it; reports of the progress of the line,
which, I am glad to say, I was able to carry on in his absence,
in the slow gradual way which suited the company best, while
trade was in a languid state, and money dear in the market. Of
course, with this occupation for my scanty leisure, I did not
often go over to Hope Farm. Whenever I did go, I met with a
thorough welcome; and many inquiries were made as to Holdsworth's
illness, and the progress of his recovery.
At length, in June I think it was, he was sufficiently recovered
to come back to his lodgings at Eltham, and resume part at least
of his work. His sister, Mrs Robinson, had been obliged to leave
him some weeks before, owing to some epidemic amongst her own
children. As long as I had seen Mr Holdsworth in the rooms at the
little inn at Hensleydale, where I had been accustomed to look
upon him as an invalid, I had not been aware of the visible shake
his fever had given to his health. But, once back in the old
lodgings, where I had always seen him so buoyant, eloquent,
decided, and vigorous in former days, my spirits sank at the
change in one whom I had always regarded with a strong feeling of
admiring affection. He sank into silence and despondency after
the least exertion; he seemed as if he could not make up his mind
to any action, or else that, when it was made up, he lacked
strength to carry out his purpose. Of course, it was but the
natural state of slow convalescence, after so sharp an illness;
but, at the time, I did not know this, and perhaps I represented
his state as more serious than it was to my kind relations at
Hope Farm; who, in their grave, simple, eager way, immediately
thought of the only help they could give.
'Bring him out here,' said the minister. 'Our air here is good to
a proverb; the June days are fine; he may loiter away his time in
the hay-field, and the sweet smells will be a balm in
themselves--better than physic.'
'And,' said cousin Holman, scarcely waiting for her husband to
finish his sentence, 'tell him there is new milk and fresh eggs
to be had for the asking; it's lucky Daisy has just calved, for
her milk is always as good as other cows' cream; and there is the
plaid room with the morning sun all streaming in.' Phillis said
nothing, but looked as much interested in the project as any one.
I took it upon myself. I wanted them to see him; him to know
them. I proposed it to him when I got home. He was too languid
after the day's fatigue, to be willing to make the little
exertion of going amongst strangers; and disappointed me by
almost declining to accept the invitation I brought. The next
morning it was different; he apologized for his ungraciousness of
the night before; and told me that he would get all things in
train, so as to be ready to go out with me to Hope Farm on the
'For you must go with me, Manning,' said he; 'I used to be as
impudent a fellow as need be, and rather liked going amongst
strangers, and making my way; but since my illness I am almost
like a girl, and turn hot and cold with shyness, as they do, I
So it was fixed. We were to go out to Hope Farm on Saturday
afternoon; and it was also understood that if the air and the
life suited Mr Holdsworth, he was to remain there for a week or
ten days, doing what work he could at that end of the line, while
I took his place at Eltham to the best of my ability. I grew a
little nervous, as the time drew near, and wondered how the
brilliant Holdsworth would agree with the quiet quaint family of
the minister; how they would like him, and many of his
half-foreign ways. I tried to prepare him, by telling him from
time to time little things about the goings-on at Hope Farm.
'Manning,' said he, 'I see you don't think I am half good enough
for your friends. Out with it, man.'
'No,' I replied, boldly. 'I think you are good; but I don't know
if you are quite of their kind of goodness.'
'And you've found out already that there is greater chance of
disagreement between two "kinds of goodness", each having its own
idea of right, than between a given goodness and a moderate
degree of naughtiness--which last often arises from an
indifference to right?'
'I don't know. I think you're talking metaphysics, and I am sure
that is bad for you.'
'"When a man talks to you in a way that you don't understand
about a thing which he does not understand, them's metaphysics."
You remember the clown's definition, don't you, Manning?'
'No, I don't,' said I. 'But what I do understand is, that you
must go to bed; and tell me at what time we must start tomorrow,
that I may go to Hepworth, and get those letters written we were
talking about this morning.'
'Wait till to-morrow, and let us see what the day is like,' he
answered, with such languid indecision as showed me he was
over-fatigued. So I went my way. The morrow was blue and sunny,
and beautiful; the very perfection of an early summer's day. Mr
Holdsworth was all Impatience to be off into the country; morning
had brought back his freshness and strength, and consequent
eagerness to be doing. I was afraid we were going to my cousin's
farm rather too early, before they would expect us; but what
could I do with such a restless vehement man as Holdsworth was
that morning? We came down upon the Hope Farm before the dew was
off the grass on the shady side of the lane; the great house-dog
was loose, basking in the sun, near the closed side door. I was
surprised at this door being shut, for all summer long it was
open from morning to night; but it was only on latch. I opened
it, Rover watching me with half-suspicious, half-trustful eyes.
The room was empty.
'I don't know where they can be,' said I. 'But come in and sit
down while I go and look for them. You must be tired.'
'Not I. This sweet balmy air is like a thousand tonics. Besides,
this room is hot, and smells of those pungent wood-ashes. What
are we to do?'
'Go round to the kitchen. Betty will tell us where they are.' So
we went round into the farmyard, Rover accompanying us out of a
grave sense of duty. Betty was washing out her milk-pans in the
cold bubbling spring-water that constantly trickled in and out of
a stone trough. In such weather as this most of her kitchen-work
was done out of doors.
'Eh, dear!' said she, 'the minister and missus is away at Hornby!
They ne'er thought of your coming so betimes! The missus had some
errands to do, and she thought as she'd walk with the minister
and be back by dinner-time.'
'Did not they expect us to dinner?' said I.
'Well, they did, and they did not, as I may say. Missus said to
me the cold lamb would do well enough if you did not come; and if
you did I was to put on a chicken and some bacon to boil; and
I'll go do it now, for it is hard to boil bacon enough.'
'And is Phillis gone, too?' Mr Holdsworth was making friends with
'No! She's just somewhere about. I reckon you'll find her in the
kitchen-garden, getting peas.
'Let us go there,' said Holsworth, suddenly leaving off his play
with the dog. So I led the way into the kitchen-garden. It was in
the first promise of a summer profuse in vegetables and fruits.
Perhaps it was not so much cared for as other parts of the
property; but it was more attended to than most kitchen-gardens
belonging to farm-houses. There were borders of flowers along
each side of the gravel walks; and there was an old sheltering
wail on the north side covered with tolerably choice fruit-trees;
there was a slope down to the fish-pond at the end, where there
were great strawberry-beds; and raspberry-bushes and rose-bushes
grew wherever there was a space; it seemed a chance which had
been planted. Long rows of peas stretched at right angles from
the main walk, and I saw Phillis stooping down among them, before
she saw us. As soon as she heard our cranching steps on the
gravel, she stood up, and shading her eyes from the sun,
recognized us. She was quite still for a moment, and then came
slowly towards us, blushing a little from evident shyness. I had
never seen Phillis shy before.
'This is Mr Holdsworth, Phillis,' said I, as soon as I had shaken
hands with her. She glanced up at him, and then looked down, more
flushed than ever at his grand formality of taking his hat off
and bowing; such manners had never been seen at Hope Farm before.
'Father and mother are out. They will be so sorry; you did not
write, Paul, as you said you would.'
'It was my fault,' said Holdsworth, understanding what she meant
as well as if she had put it more fully into words. 'I have not
yet given up all the privileges of an invalid; one of which is
indecision. Last night, when your cousin asked me at what time we
were to start, I really could not make up my mind.'
Phillis seemed as if she could not make up her mind as to what to
do with us. I tried to help her,--
'Have you finished getting peas?' taking hold of the half-filled
basket she was unconsciously holding in her hand; 'or may we stay
and help you?'
'If you would. But perhaps it will tire you, sir?' added she,
speaking now to Holdsworth.
'Not a bit,' said he. 'It will carry me back twenty years in my
life, when I used to gather peas in my grandfather's garden. I
suppose I may eat a few as I go along?'
'Certainly, sir. But if you went to the strawberry-beds you would
find some strawberries ripe, and Paul can show you where they
'I am afraid you distrust me. I can assure you I know the exact
fulness at which peas should be gathered. I take great care not
to pluck them when they are unripe. I will not be turned off, as
unfit for my work.' This was a style of half-joking talk that
Phillis was not accustomed to. She looked for a moment as if she
would have liked to defend herself from the playful charge of
distrust made against her, but she ended by not saying a word. We
all plucked our peas in busy silence for the next five minutes.
Then Holdsworth lifted himself up from between the rows, and
said, a little wearily,
'I am afraid I must strike work. I am not as strong as I fancied
myself.' Phillis was full of penitence immediately. He did,
indeed, look pale; and she blamed herself for having allowed him
to help her.
'It was very thoughtless of me. I did not know--I thought,
perhaps, you really liked it. I ought to have offered you
something to eat, sir! Oh, Paul, we have gathered quite enough;
how stupid I was to forget that Mr Holdsworth had been ill!' And
in a blushing hurry she led the way towards the house. We went
in, and she moved a heavy cushioned chair forwards, into which
Holdsworth was only too glad to sink. Then with deft and quiet
speed she brought in a little tray, wine, water, cake, home-made
bread, and newly-churned butter. She stood by in some anxiety
till, after bite and sup, the colour returned to Mr Holdsworth's
face, and he would fain have made us some laughing apologies for
the fright he had given us. But then Phillis drew back from her
innocent show of care and interest, and relapsed into the cold
shyness habitual to her when she was first thrown into the
company of strangers. She brought out the last week's county
paper (which Mr Holdsworth had read five days ago), and then
quietly withdrew; and then he subsided into languor, leaning back
and shutting his eyes as if he would go to sleep. I stole into
the kitchen after Phillis; but she had made the round of the
corner of the house outside, and I found her sitting on the
horse-mount, with her basket of peas, and a basin into which she
was shelling them. Rover lay at her feet, snapping now and then
at the flies. I went to her, and tried to help her, but somehow
the sweet crisp young peas found their way more frequently into
my mouth than into the basket, while we talked together in a low
tone, fearful of being overheard through the open casements of
the house-place in which Holdsworth was resting.
'Don't you think him handsome?' asked I.
'Perhaps--yes--I have hardly looked at him,' she replied 'But is
not he very like a foreigner?'
'Yes, he cuts his hair foreign fashion,' said I.
'I like an Englishman to look like an Englishman.'
'I don't think he thinks about it. He says he began that way when
he was in Italy, because everybody wore it so, and it is natural
to keep it on in England.'
'Not if he began it in Italy because everybody there wore it so.
Everybody here wears it differently.'
I was a little offended with Phillis's logical fault-finding with
my friend; and I determined to change the subject.
'When is your mother coming home?'
'I should think she might come any time now; but she had to go
and see Mrs Morton, who was ill, and she might be kept, and not
be home till dinner. Don't you think you ought to go and see how
Mr Holdsworth is going on, Paul? He may be faint again.'
I went at her bidding; but there was no need for it. Mr
Holdsworth was up, standing by the window, his hands in his
pockets; he had evidently been watching us. He turned away as I
'So that is the girl I found your good father planning for your
wife, Paul, that evening when I interrupted you! Are you of the
same coy mind still? It did not look like it a minute ago.'
'Phillis and I understand each other,' I replied, sturdily. 'We
are like brother and sister. She would not have me as a husband
if there was not another man in the world; and it would take a
deal to make me think of her--as my father wishes' (somehow I did
not like to say 'as a wife'), 'but we love each other dearly.'
'Well, I am rather surprised at it--not at your loving each other
in a brother-and-sister kind of way--but at your finding it so
impossible to fall in love with such a beautiful woman.' Woman!
beautiful woman! I had thought of Phillis as a comely but awkward
girl; and I could not banish the pinafore from my mind's eye when
I tried to picture her to myself. Now I turned, as Mr Holdsworth
had done, to look at her again out of the window: she had just
finished her task, and was standing up, her back to us, holding
the basket, and the basin in it, high in air, out of Rover's
reach, who was giving vent to his delight at the probability of a
change of place by glad leaps and barks, and snatches at what he
imagined to be a withheld prize. At length she grew tired of
their mutual play, and with a feint of striking him, and a 'Down,
Rover! do hush!' she looked towards the window where we were
standing, as if to reassure herself that no one had been
disturbed by the noise, and seeing us, she coloured all over, and
hurried away, with Rover still curving in sinuous lines about her
as she walked.
'I should like to have sketched her,' said Mr Holdsworth, as he
turned away. He went back to his chair, and rested in silence for
a minute or two. Then he was up again.
'I would give a good deal for a book,' he said. 'It would keep me
quiet.' He began to look round; there were a few volumes at one
end of the shovel-board. 'Fifth volume of Matthew Henry's
Commentary,' said he, reading their titles aloud. 'Housewife's
complete Manual; Berridge on Prayer; L'Inferno--Dante!' in great
surprise. 'Why, who reads this?'
'I told you Phillis read it. Don't you remember? She knows Latin
and Greek, too.'
'To be sure! I remember! But somehow I never put two and two
together. That quiet girl, full of household work, is the
wonderful scholar, then, that put you to rout with her questions
when you first began to come here. To be sure, "Cousin Phillis!"
What's here: a paper with the hard, obsolete words written out. I
wonder what sort of a dictionary she has got. Baretti won't tell
her all these words. Stay! I have got a pencil here. I'll write
down the most accepted meanings, and save her a little trouble.'
So he took her book and the paper back to the little round table,
and employed himself in writing explanations and definitions of
the words which had troubled her. I was not sure if he was not
taking a liberty: it did not quite please me, and yet I did not
know why. He had only just done, and replaced the paper in the
book, and put the latter back in its place, when I heard the
sound of wheels stopping in the lane, and looking out, I saw
cousin Holman getting out of a neighbour's gig, making her little
curtsey of acknowledgment, and then coming towards the house. I
went to meet her.
'Oh, Paul!' said she, 'I am so sorry I was kept; and then Thomas
Dobson said if I would wait a quarter of an hour he would--But
where's your friend Mr Holdsworth? I hope he is come?'
Just then he came out, and with his pleasant cordial manner took
her hand, and thanked her for asking him to come out here to get
'I'm sure I am very glad to see you, sir. It was the minister's
thought. I took it into my head you would be dull in our quiet
house, for Paul says you've been such a great traveller; but the
minister said that dulness would perhaps suit you while you were
but ailing, and that I was to ask Paul to be here as much as he
could. I hope you'll find yourself happy with us, I'm sure, sir.
Has Phillis given you something to eat and drink, I wonder?
there's a deal in eating a little often, if one has to get strong
after an illness.' And then she began to question him as to the
details of his indisposition in her simple, motherly way. He
seemed at once to understand her, and to enter into friendly
relations with her. It was not quite the same in the evening when
the minister came home. Men have always a little natural
antipathy to get over when they first meet as strangers. But in
this case each was disposed to make an effort to like the other;
only each was to each a specimen of an unknown class. I had to
leave the Hope Farm on Sunday afternoon, as I had Mr Holdsworth's
work as well as my own to look to in Eltham; and I was not at all
sure how things would go on during the week that Holdsworth was
to remain on his visit; I had been once or twice in hot water
already at the near clash of opinions between the minister and my
much-vaunted friend. On the Wednesday I received a short note
from Holdsworth; he was going to stay on, and return with me on
the following Sunday, and he wanted me to send him a certain list
of books, his theodolite, and other surveying instruments, all of
which could easily be conveyed down the line to Heathbridge. I
went to his lodgings and picked out the books. Italian, Latin,
trigonometry; a pretty considerable parcel they made, besides the
implements. I began to be curious as to the general progress of
affairs at Hope Farm, but I could not go over till the Saturday.
At Heathbridge I found Holdsworth, come to meet me. He was
looking quite a different man to what I had left him; embrowned,
sparkles in his eyes, so languid before. I told him how much
stronger he looked.
'Yes!' said he. 'I am fidging fain to be at work again. Last week
I dreaded the thoughts of my employment: now I am full of desire
to begin. This week in the country has done wonders for me.'
'You have enjoyed yourself, then?'
'Oh! it has been perfect in its way. Such a thorough country
life! and yet removed from the dulness which I always used to
fancy accompanied country life, by the extraordinary intelligence
of the minister. I have fallen into calling him "the minister'',
like every one else.'
'You get on with him, then?' said I. 'I was a little afraid.'
'I was on the verge of displeasing him once or twice, I fear,
with random assertions and exaggerated expressions, such as one
always uses with other people, and thinks nothing of; but I tried
to check myself when I saw how it shocked the good man; and
really it is very wholesome exercise, this trying to make one's
words represent one's thoughts, instead of merely looking to
their effect on others.'
'Then you are quite friends now?' I asked.
'Yes, thoroughly; at any rate as far as I go. I never met with a
man with such a desire for knowledge. In information, as far as
it can be gained from books, he far exceeds me on most subjects;
but then I have travelled and seen--Were not you surprised at the
list of things I sent for?'
'Yes; I thought it did not promise much rest.'
'Oh! some of the books were for the minister, and some for his
daughter. (I call her Phillis to myself, but I use XX in speaking
about her to others. I don't like to seem familiar, and yet Miss
Holman is a term I have never heard used.)'
'I thought the Italian books were for her.'
'Yes! Fancy her trying at Dante for her first book in Italian! I
had a capital novel by Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, just the thing
for a beginner; and if she must still puzzle out Dante, my
dictionary is far better than hers.'
'Then she found out you had written those definitions on her list
'Oh! yes'--with a smile of amusement and pleasure. He was going
to tell me what had taken place, but checked himself.
'But I don't think the minister will like your having given her a
novel to read?'
'Pooh! What can be more harmless? Why make a bugbear of a word?
It is as pretty and innocent a tale as can be met with. You don't
suppose they take Virgil for gospel?'
By this time we were at the farm. I think Phillis gave me a
warmer welcome than usual, and cousin Holman was kindness itself.
Yet somehow I felt as if I had lost my place, and that Holdsworth
had taken it. He knew all the ways of the house; he was full of
little filial attentions to cousin Holman; he treated Phillis
with the affectionate condescension of an elder brother; not a
bit more; not in any way different. He questioned me about the
progress of affairs in Eltham with eager interest.
'Ah!' said cousin Holman, 'you'll be spending a different kind of
time next week to what you have done this! I can see how busy
you'll make yourself! But if you don't take care you'll be ill
again, and have to come back to our quiet ways of going on.
'Do you suppose I shall need to be ill to wish to come back
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