Helbeck of Bannisdale, Vol. I.
Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 2 out of 4
"I wish to go to Browhead Farm this afternoon," she said rather shortly.
"Certainly," said Helbeck. "Certainly. I will see that something is found
But his voice had no cordiality, and Laura at once thought him
"Oh, pray don't give yourself any trouble," she said, flushing, "I can
walk to the village."
"If you could wait till to-morrow," he said after a moment, "I could
promise you the pony. Unfortunately he is busy this afternoon."
"Oh, do wait, Laura!" cried Augustina. "There is so much unpacking to
"Very well," said the girl unwillingly.
As she turned away from him Helbeck's look followed her. She was in a
dress of black serge, which followed the delicate girlish frame with
perfect simplicity, and was relieved at the neck and wrists with the
plainest of white collars and cuffs. But there was something so brilliant
in the hair, so fawnlike in the carriage of the head, that she seemed to
Helbeck to be all elegance; had he been asked to describe her, he would
have said she was in _grande toilette_. Little as he spoke to her, he
found himself perpetually conscious of her. Her evident--childishly
evident--dislike of her new surroundings half amused, half embarrassed
him. He did not know what topic to start with her; soon, perhaps, he
might have a difficulty in keeping the peace! It was all very absurd.
After luncheon they gathered in the hall for a while, Father Bowles
talking eagerly with Helbeck and Augustina about "orphans" and "new
buildings." Laura stood apart awhile--then went for her hat.
When she reappeared, in walking dress--with Fricka at her heels--Helbeck
opened the heavy outer door for her.
"May I have Bruno?" she said.
Helbeck turned and whistled.
"You are not afraid?" he said, smiling, and looking at Fricka.
"Oh, dear no! I spent an hour this morning introducing them."
At that moment Bruno came bounding up. He looked from his master to Laura
in her hat, and seemed to hesitate. Then, as she descended the steps, he
sprang after her. Laura began to run; the two dogs leapt about her; her
light voice, checking or caressing, came back to Helbeck on the spring
wind. He watched her and her companions so long as they were in
sight--the golden hair among the trees, the dancing steps of the girl,
the answering frolic of the dogs.
Then he turned back to his sister, his grave mouth twitching.
"How thankful she is to get rid of us!"
He laughed out. The priest laughed, too, more softly.
"It was the first time, I presume, that Miss Fountain had ever been
within a Catholic church?" he said to Augustina.
"Of course it is the first time. Oh! Alan, you can't think how strange it
is to her."
She looked rather piteously at her brother.
"So I perceive," he said. "You told me something, but I had not
"You see, Alan--" cried Augustina, watching her brother's face,--"it was
with the greatest difficulty that her mother got Stephen to consent even
to her being baptized. He opposed it for a long time."
Father Bowles murmured something under his breath.
Helbeck paused for a moment, then said:
"What was her mother like?"
"Everyone at Cambridge used to say she was 'a sweet woman'--but--but
Stephen,--well, you know, Alan, Stephen always had his way! I always
wonder she managed to persuade him about the baptism."
She coloured still more deeply as she spoke, and her nervous infirmity
became more pronounced. Alas! it was not only with the first wife that
Stephen had had his way! Her own marriage had begun to seem to her a mere
sinful connection. Poor soul--poor Augustina!
Her brother must have divined something of what was passing in her mind,
for he looked down upon her with a peculiar gentleness.
"People are perhaps more ready to talk of that responsibility than to
take it," he said kindly. "But, Augustina,--" his voice changed,--"how
pretty she is!--You hardly prepared me----"
Father Bowles modestly cast down his eyes. These were not questions that
concerned him. But Helbeck went on, speaking with decision, and looking
at his sister:
"I confess--her great attractiveness makes me a little anxious--about the
connection with the Masons. Have you ever seen any of them, Augustina?"
No--Augustina had seen none of them. She believed Stephen had
particularly disliked the mother, the widow of his cousin, who now owned
the farm jointly with her son.
"Well, no," said Helbeck dryly, "I don't suppose he and she would have
had much in common."
"Isn't she a dreadful Protestant--Alan?"
"Oh, she's just a specimen of the ordinary English Bible-worship run
mad," he said, carelessly. "She is a strange woman, very well known about
here. And there's a foolish parson living near them, up in the hills, who
makes her worse. But it's the son I'm thinking of."
"Why, Alan--isn't he respectable?"
"Not particularly. He's a splendid athletic fellow--doing his best to
make himself a blackguard, I'm afraid. I've come across him once or
twice, as it happens. He's not a desirable cousin for Miss Fountain--that
I can vouch for! And unluckily," he smiled, "Miss Fountain won't hear any
good of this house at Browhead Farm."
Even Augustina drew herself up proudly.
"My dear Alan, what does it matter what that sort of people think?"
He shook his head.
"It's a queer business. They were mixed up with young Williams."
"Mrs. Mason was a great friend of his mother, who died. They hate me like
The priest interposed.
"Mrs. Mason is a very violent, a most unseemly woman," he said, in his
mincing voice. "And the father--the old man--who is now dead, was
concerned in the rioting near the bridge----"
"When Alan was struck? Mrs. Denton told me! How _abominable_!"
Augustina raised her hands in mingled reprobation and distress.
Helbeck looked annoyed.
"That doesn't matter one brass farthing," he said, in some haste. "Father
Bowles was much worse treated than I on that occasion. But you see the
whole thing is unlucky--it makes it difficult to give Miss Fountain the
hints one would like to give her."
He threw himself down beside his sister, talking to her in low tones.
Father Bowles took up the local paper.
Presently Augustina broke out--with another wringing of the hands.
"Don't put it on me, my dear Alan! I tell you--Laura has always done
exactly what she liked since she was a baby."
Mr. Helbeck rose. His face and air already expressed a certain
haughtiness; and at his sister's words there was a very definite
tightening of the shoulders.
"I do not intend to have Hubert Mason hanging about the house," he said
quietly, as he thrust his hands into his pockets.
"Of course not!--but she wouldn't expect it," cried Augustina in dismay.
"It's the keeping her away from them, that's the difficulty. She thinks
so much of her cousins, Alan. They're her father's only relations. I know
she'll want to be with them half her time!"
"For love of them--or dislike of us? Oh! I dare say it will be all
right," he added abruptly. "Father Bowles, shall I drive you half-way?
The pony will be round directly."
It was a Sunday morning--bright and windy. Miss Fountain was driving a
shabby pony through the park of Bannisdale--driving with a haste and glee
that sent the little cart spinning down the road.
Six hours--she calculated--till she need see Bannisdale again. Her
cousins would ask her to dinner and to tea. Augustina and Mr. Helbeck
might have all their Sunday antics to themselves. There were several
priests coming to luncheon--and a function in the chapel that afternoon.
Laura flicked the pony sharply as she thought of it. Seven miles between
her and it? Joy!
Nevertheless, she did not get rid of the old house and its suggestions
quite as easily as she wished. The park and the river had many windings.
Again and again the grey gabled mass thrust itself upon her attention,
recalling each time, against her will, the face of its owner.
A high brow--hollows in the temples, deep hollows in the cheeks--pale
blue eyes--a short and pointed beard, greyish-black like the hair--the
close whiskers black, too, against the skin--a general impression of
pallor, dark lines, strong shadows, melancholy force--
She burst out laughing.
A pose!--nothing in the world but a pose. There was a wretched picture of
Charles I. in the dining-room--a daub "after" some famous thing, she
supposed--all eyes and hair, long face, and lace collar. Mr. Helbeck was
"made up" to that--she was sure of it. He had found out the likeness, and
improved upon it. Oh! if one could only present him with the collar and
blue ribbon complete!
"--Cut his head off, and have done with him!" she said aloud, whipping up
the pony, and laughing at her own petulance.
Who could live in such a house--such an atmosphere?
As she drove along, her mind was all in a protesting whirl. On her return
from her walk with the dogs the day before, she had found a service going
on in the chapel, Father Bowles officiating, and some figures in black
gowns and white-winged coifs assisting. She had fled to her own room, but
when she came down again, the black-garbed "Sisters" were still there,
and she had been introduced to them. Ugh! what manners! Must one always,
if one was a Catholic, make that cloying, hypocritical impression? "Three
of them kissed me," she reminded herself, in a quiver of wrath.
They were Sisters from the orphanage apparently, or one of the
orphanages, and there had been endless talk of new buildings and money,
while she, Laura, sat dumb in her corner looking at old photographs of
the house. Helbeck, indeed, had not talked much. While the black women
were chattering with Augustina and Father Bowles, he had stood, mostly
silent, under the picture of his great-grandmother, only breaking through
his reverie from time to time to ask or answer a question. Was he
pondering the sale of the great-grandmother, or did he simply know that
his silence and aloofness were picturesque, that they compelled other
people's attention, and made him the centre of things more effectively
than more ordinary manners could have done? In recalling him the girl had
an impatient sense of something commanding; of something, moreover, that
held herself under observation. "One thinks him shy at first, or
awkward--nothing of the sort! He is as proud as Lucifer. Very soon one
sees that he is just looking out for his own way in everything.
"And as for temper!----"
After the Sisters departed, a young architect had appeared at supper. A
point of difference had arisen between him and Mr. Helbeck. He was to be
employed, it appeared, in the enlargement of this blessed orphanage. Mr.
Helbeck, no doubt, with a view to his pocket--to do him justice, there
seemed to be no other pocket concerned than his--was of opinion that
certain existing buildings could be made use of in the new scheme. The
architect--a nervous young fellow, with awkward manners, and the
ambitions of an artist--thought not, and held his own, insistently. The
discussion grew vehement. Suddenly Helbeck lost his temper.
"Mr. Munsey! I must ask you to give more weight, if you please, to my
wishes in this matter! They may be right or wrong--but it would save
time, perhaps, if we assumed that they would prevail."
The note of anger in the voice made every one look up. The Squire stood
erect a moment; crumpled in his hand a half-sheet of paper on which young
Munsey had been making some calculations, and flung it into the fire.
Augustina sat cowering. The young man himself turned white, bowed, and
said nothing. While Father Bowles, of course, like the old tabby that he
was, had at once begun to purr conciliation.
"Would I have stood meek and mum if _I'd_ been the young man!" thought
Laura. "Would I! Oh! if I'd had the chance! And he should not have made
up so easily, either."
For she remembered, also, how, after Father Bowles was gone, she had come
in from the garden to find Mr. Helbeck and the architect pacing the long
hall together, on what seemed to be the friendliest of terms. For nearly
an hour, while she and Augustina sat reading over the fire, the colloquy
Helbeck's tones then were of the gentlest; the young man too spoke low
and eagerly, pressing his plans. And once when Laura looked up from her
book, she had seen Helbeck's arm resting for a moment on the young
fellow's shoulder. Oh! no doubt Mr. Helbeck could make himself agreeable
when he chose--and struggling architects must put up with the tempers of
All the more did Miss Fountain like to think that the Squire could compel
no court from her.
She recalled that when Mr. Munsey had said good-night, and they three
were alone in the firelit hall, Helbeck had come to stand beside her. He
had looked down upon her with an air which was either kindness or
weariness; he had been willing--even, she thought, anxious to talk with
her. But she did not mean to be first trampled on, then patronised, like
the young man. So Mr. Helbeck had hardly begun--with that occasional
timidity which sat so oddly on his dark and strong physique--to speak to
her of the two Sisters of Charity who had been his guests in the
afternoon, when she abruptly discovered it was time to say good-night.
She winced a little as she remembered the sudden stiffening of his look,
the careless touch of his hand.
* * * * *
The day was keen and clear. A nipping wind blew beneath the bright sun,
and the opening buds had a parched and hindered look. But to Laura the
air was wine, and the country all delight. She was mounting the flank of
a hill towards a straggling village. Straight along the face of the hill
lay her road, past the villages and woods that clothed the hill slope,
till someone should show her the gate beyond which lay the rough ascent
to Browhead Farm.
Above her, now, to her right, rose a craggy fell with great screes
plunging sheer down into the woods that sheltered the village; below, in
the valley-plain, stretched the purples and greens of the moss; the
rivers shone in the sun as they came speeding from the mountains to the
sea; and in the far distance the heights of Lakeland made one pageant
with the sun and the clouds--peak after peak thrown blue against the
white, cloud after cloud breaking to show the dappled hills below, in
such a glory of silver and of purple, such a freshness of atmosphere and
light, that mere looking soon became the most thrilling, the most
palpable of joys. Laura's spirits began to sing and soar, with the larks
and the blackcaps!
Then, when the village was gone, came a high stretch of road, looking
down upon the moss and all its bounding fells, which ran out upon its
purple face like capes upon a sea. And these nearer fields--what were
these thick white specks upon the new-made furrows? Up rose the gulls for
answer; and the girl felt the sea-breath from their dazzling wings, and
turned behind her to look for that pale opening in the south-west through
which the rivers passed.
And beyond the fields a wood--such a wood as made Laura's south-country
eyes stand wide with wonder! Out she jumped, tied the pony's rein to a
gate beside the road, and ran into the hazel brushwood with little cries
of pleasure. A Westmoreland wood in daffodil time--it was nothing more
and nothing less. But to this child with the young passion in her blood,
it was a dream, an ecstasy. The golden flowers, the slim stalks, rose
from a mist of greenish-blue, made by their speary leaf amid the
encircling browns and purples, the intricate stem and branch-work of the
still winter-bound hazels. Never were daffodils in such a wealth before!
They were flung on the fell-side through a score of acres, in sheets and
tapestries of gold,--such an audacious, unreckoned plenty as went
strangely with the frugal air and temper of the northern country, with
the bare walled fields, the ruggedness of the crags above, and the
melancholy of the treeless marsh below. And within this common
lavishness, all possible delicacy, all possible perfection of the
separate bloom and tuft--each foot of ground had its own glory. For below
the daffodils there was a carpet of dark violets, so dim and close that
it was their scent first bewrayed them; and as Laura lay gathering with
her face among the flowers, she could see behind their gold, and between
the hazel stems, the light-filled greys and azures of the mountain
distance. Each detail in the happy whole struck on the girl's eager sense
and made there a poem of northern spring--spring as the fell-country sees
it, pure, cold, expectant, with flashes of a blossoming beauty amid the
rocks and pastures, unmatched for daintiness and joy.
Presently Laura found herself sitting--half crying!--on a mossy tuft,
looking along the wood to the distance. What was it in this exquisite
country that seized upon her so--that spoke to her in this intimate, this
Why, she was of it--she belonged to it--she felt it in her veins! Old
inherited things leapt within her--or it pleased her to think so. It was
as though she stretched out her arms to the mountains and fields, crying
to them, "I am not a stranger--draw me to you--my life sprang from
yours!" A host of burning and tender thoughts ran through her. Their
first effect was to remind her of the farm and of her cousins; and she
sprang up, and went back to the cart.
On they rattled again, downhill through the wood, and up on the further
side--still always on the edge of the moss. She loved the villages, and
their medley of grey houses wedged among the rocks; she loved the stone
farms with their wide porches, and the white splashes on their grey
fronts; she loved the tufts of fern in the wall crannies, the limestone
ribs and bonework of the land breaking everywhere through the pastures,
the incomparable purples of the woods, and the first brave leafing of the
larches and the sycamores. Never had she so given her heart to any new
world; and through her delight flashed the sorest, tenderest thoughts of
her father. "Oh! papa--oh, papa!" she said to herself again and again in
a little moan. Every day perhaps he had walked this road as a child, and
she could still see herself as a child, in a very dim vision, trotting
beside him down the Browhead Road. She turned at last into the fell-gate
to which a passing boy directed her, with a long breath that was almost a
She had given them no notice; but surely, surely they would be glad to
_They_? She tried to split up the notion, to imagine the three people she
was going to see. Cousin Elizabeth--the mother? Ah! she knew her, for
they had never liked Cousin Elizabeth. She herself could dimly remember a
hard face; an obstinate voice raised in discussion with her father. Yet
it was Cousin Elizabeth who was the Fountain born, who had carried the
little family property as her dowry to her husband James Mason. For the
grandfather had been free to leave it as he chose, and on the death of
his eldest son--who had settled at the farm after his marriage, and taken
the heavy work of it off his father's shoulders--the old man had
passionately preferred to leave it to the strong, capable granddaughter,
who was already provided with a lover, who understood the land, moreover,
and could earn and "addle" as he did, rather than to his bookish milksop
of a second son, so richly provided for already, in his father's
contemptuous opinion, by the small government post at Newcastle.
"Let us always thank God, Laura, that my grandfather was a brute to
yours!" Stephen Fountain would say to his girl on the rare occasions when
he could be induced to speak of his family at all. "But for that I might
be a hedger and ditcher to this day."
Well, but Cousin Elizabeth's children? Laura herself had some vague
remembrance of them. As the pony climbed the steep lane she shut her eyes
and tried hard to recall them. The fair-haired boy--rather fat and
masterful--who had taken her to find the eggs of a truant hen in a hedge
behind the house--and had pushed her into a puddle on the way home
because she had broken one? Then the girl, the older girl Polly, who had
cleaned her shoes for her, and lent her a pinafore? No! Laura opened her
eyes again--it was no good straining to remember. Too many years had
rolled between that early visit and her present self--years during which
there had been no communication of any sort between Stephen Fountain and
Why had Augustina been so trying and tiresome about the Masons? Instead
of flying to her cousins on the earliest possible opportunity, here was a
whole fortnight gone since her arrival, and it was not till this Sunday
morning that Laura had been able to achieve her visit. Augustina had been
constantly ailing or fretful; either unwilling to be left alone, or
possessed by absurd desires for useless trifles, only to be satisfied by
Laura's going to shop in Whinthorpe. And such melancholy looks whenever
the Masons were mentioned--coupled with so formal a silence on Mr.
Helbeck's part! What did it all mean? No doubt her relations were vulgar,
low-born folk!--but she did not ask Mr. Helbeck or her stepmother to
entertain them. At last there had been a passage of arms between her and
her stepmother. Perhaps Mr. Helbeck had overheard it, for immediately
afterwards he had emerged from his study into the hall, where she and
Augustina were sitting.
"Miss Fountain--may I ask--do you wish to be sent into Whinthorpe on
She had fronted him at once.
"No, thank you, Mr. Helbeck. I don't go to church--I never did with
Had she been defiant? He surely had been stiff.
"Then, perhaps you would like the pony--for your visit? He is quite at
your service for the day. Would that suit you?"
* * * * *
So here she was--at last!--climbing up and up into the heart of the
fells. The cloud-pageant round the high mountains, the valley with its
flashing streams, its distant sands, and widening sea--she had risen as
it seemed above them all; they lay beneath her in a map-like unity. She
could have laughed and sung out of sheer physical joy in the dancing
air--in the play of the cloud gleams and shadows as they swept across
her, chased by the wind. All about her the little mountain sheep were
feeding in the craggy "intaks" or along the edges of the tiny tumbling
streams; and at intervals amid the reds and yellows of the still wintry
grass rose great wind-beaten hollies, sharp and black against the blue
distance, marching beside her, like scattered soldiers, up the height.
Not a house to be seen, save on the far slopes of distant hills--not a
sound, but the chink of the stone-chat, or the fall of lonely water.
Soon the road, after its long ascent, began to dip; a few trees appeared
in a hollow, then a gate and some grey walls.
Laura jumped from the cart. Beyond the gate, the road turned downward a
little, and a great block of barns shut the farmhouse from view till she
was actually upon it.
But there it was at last--the grey, roughly built house, that she still
vaguely remembered, with the whitewashed porch, the stables and cowsheds
opposite, the little garden to the side, the steep fell behind.
She stood with her hand on the pony, looking at the house in some
perplexity. Not a soul apparently had heard her coming. Nothing moved in
the farmhouse or outside it. Was everybody at church? But it was nearly
The door under the deep porch had no knocker, and she looked in vain for
a bell. All she could do was to rap sharply with the handle of her whip.
No answer. She rapped again--louder and louder. At last in the intervals
of knocking, she became conscious of a sound within--something deep and
continuous, like the buzzing of a gigantic bee.
She put her ear to the door, listening. Then all her face dissolved in
laughter. She raised her arm and brought the whip-handle down noisily on
the old blistered door, so that it shook again.
There was a sudden sound of chairs overturned, or dragged along a flagged
floor. Then staggering steps--and the door was opened.
"I say--what's all this--what are you making such a damned noise for?"
Inside stood a stalwart young man, still half asleep, and drawing his
hand irritably across his blinking eyes.
"How do you do, Mr. Mason?"
The young man drew himself together with a start. Suddenly he perceived
that the young girl standing in the shade of the porch was not his
sister, but a stranger. He looked at her with astonishment,--at the
elegance of her dress, and the neatness of her small gloved hand.
"I beg your pardon, Miss, I'm sure! Did you want anything?"
The visitor laughed. "Yes, I want a good deal! I came up to see my
cousins--you're my cousin--though of course you don't remember me. I
thought--perhaps--you'd ask me to dinner."
The young man's yawns ceased. He stared with all his eyes, instinctively
putting his hair and collar straight.
"Well, I'm afraid I don't know who you are, Miss," he said at last,
putting out his hand in perplexity to meet hers. "Will you walk in?"
"Not before you know who I am!"--said Laura, still laughing--"I'm Laura
Fountain. Now do you know?"
"What--Stephen Fountain's daughter--as married Miss Helbeck?" said the
young man in wonder. His face, which had been at first vague and heavy
with sleep, began to recover its natural expression.
Laura surveyed him. He had a square, full chin and an upper lip slightly
underhung. His straight fair hair straggled loose over his brow. He
carried his head and shoulders well, and was altogether a finely built,
rather magnificent young fellow, marred by a general expression that was
half clumsy, half insolent.
"That's it," she said, in answer to his question--"I'm staying at
Bannisdale, and I came up to see you all.--Where's Cousin Elizabeth?"
"Mother, do you mean?--Oh! she's at church."
"Why aren't you there, too?"
He opened his blue eyes, taken aback by the cool clearness of her voice.
"Well, I can't abide the parson--if you want to know. Shall I put up your
"But perhaps you've not had your sleep out?" said Laura, politely
He reddened, and came forward with a slow and rather shambling gait.
"I don't know what else there is to do up here of a Sunday morning," he
said, with a boyish sulkiness, as he began to lead the pony towards the
stables opposite. "Besides, I was up half the night seeing to one of the
"You don't seem to have many neighbours," said Laura, as she walked
"There's rooks and crows" (which he pronounced broadly--"craws")--"not
much else, I can tell you. Shall I take the pony out?"
"Please. I'm afraid you'll have to put up with me for hours!"
She looked at him merrily, and he returned the scrutiny. She wore the
same thin black dress in which Helbeck had admired her the day before,
and above it a cloth jacket and cap, trimmed with brown fur. Mason was
dazzled a moment by the milky whiteness of the cheek above the fur, by
the brightness of the eyes and hair; then was seized with fresh shyness,
and became extremely busy with the pony.
"Mother'll be back in about an hour," he said gruffly.
"Goodness! what'll you do with me till then?"
They both laughed, he with an embarrassment that annoyed him. He was not
at all accustomed to find himself at a disadvantage with a good-looking
"There's a good fire in the house, anyway," he said; "you'll want to warm
yourself, I should think, after driving up here."
"Oh! I'm not cold--I say, what jolly horses!"
For Mason had thrown open the large worm-eaten door of the stables, and
inside could be seen the heads and backs of two cart-horses, huge,
majestic creatures, who were peering over the doors of their stalls, as
though they had been listening to the conversation.
Their owner glanced at them indifferently.
"Aye, they're not bad. We bred 'em three years ago, and they've taken
more'n one prize already. I dare say old Daffady, now, as looks after
them, would be sorry to part with them."
"I dare say he would. But why should he part with them?"
The young man hesitated. He was shaking down a load of hay for the pony,
and Laura was leaning against the door of the stall watching his
"Well, I reckon we shan't be farmin here all our lives," he said at last
with some abruptness.
"Don't you like it then?"
"I'd get quit on it to-morrow if I could!"
His quick reply had an emphasis that astonished her.
"And your mother?"
"Oh! of course it's mother keeps me at it," he said, relapsing into the
same accent of a sulky child that he had used once before.
Then he led his new cousin back to the farmhouse. By this time he was
beginning to find his tongue and use his eyes. Laura was conscious that
she was being closely observed, and that by a man who was by no means
indifferent to women. She said to herself that she would try to keep him
As they entered the farmhouse kitchen Mason hastened to pick up the
chairs he had overturned in his sudden waking.
"I say, mother would be mad if she knew you'd come into this scrow!" he
said with vexation, kicking aside some sporting papers that were littered
over the floors, and bringing forward a carved oak chair with a cushion
to place it before the fire for her acceptance.
"Scrow? What's that?" said Laura, lifting her eyebrows. "Oh, please don't
tidy any more. I really think you make it worse. Besides, it's all right.
What a dear old kitchen!"
She had seated herself in the cushioned chair, and was warming a slender
foot at the fire. Mason wished she would take off her hat--it hid her
hair. But he could not flatter himself that she was in the least occupied
with what he wished. Her attention was all given to her surroundings--to
the old raftered room, with its glowing fire and deep-set windows.
Bright as the April sun was outside, it hardly penetrated here. Through
the mellow dusk, as through the varnish of an old picture, one saw the
different objects in a golden light and shade--the brass warming-pan
hanging beside the tall eight-day clock--the table in front of the long
window-seat, covered with its checked red cloth--the carved door of a
cupboard in the wall bearing the date 1679--the miscellaneous store of
things packed away under the black rafters, dried herbs and tools,
bundles of list and twine, the spindles of old spinning wheels,
cattle-medicines, and the like--the heavy oaken chairs--the settle beside
the fire, with its hard cushions and scrolled back. It was a room for
winter, fashioned by the needs of winter. By the help of that great peat
fire, built up year by year from the spoils of the moss a thousand feet
below, generations of human beings had fought with snow and storm, had
maintained their little polity there on the heights, self-centred,
self-supplied. Across the yard, commanded by the window of the
farm-kitchen, lay the rude byres where the cattle were prisoned from
October to April. The cattle made the wealth of the farm, and there must
be many weeks when the animals and their masters were shut in together
from the world outside by wastes of snow.
Laura shut her eyes an instant, imagining the goings to and fro--the
rising on winter dawns to feed the stock; the shepherd on the fell-side,
wrestling with sleet and tempest; the returns at night to food and fire.
Her young fancy, already played on by the breath of the mountains, warmed
to the farmhouse and its primitive life. Here surely was something more
human--more poetic even--than the tattered splendour of Bannisdale.
She opened her eyes wide again, as though in defiance, and saw Hubert
Mason looking at her.
Instinctively she sat up straight, and drew her foot primly under the
shelter of her dress.
"I was thinking of what it must be in winter," she said hurriedly. "I
know I should like it."
"What, this place?" He gave a rough laugh. "I don't see what for, then.
It's bad enough in summer. In winter it's fit to make you cut your
throat. I say, where are you staying?"
"Why, at Bannisdale!" said Laura in surprise. "You knew my stepmother was
still living, didn't you?"
"Well, I didn't think aught about it," he said, falling into candour,
because the beauty of her grey eyes, now that they were fixed fair and
full upon him, startled him out of his presence of mind.
"I wrote to you--to Cousin Elizabeth--when my father died," she said
simply, rather proudly, and the eyes were removed from him.
"Aye--of course you did," he said in haste. "But mother's never yan to
talk aboot letters. And you haven't dropped us a line since, have you?"
he added, almost with timidity.
"No. I thought I'd surprise you. We've been a fortnight at Bannisdale."
His face flushed and darkened.
"Then you've been a fortnight in a queer place!" he said with a sudden,
almost a violent change of tone. "I wonder you can bide so long under
that man's roof!"
"Do you mean because he disliked my father?"
"Oh, I don't know nowt about that!" He paused. His young face was
crimson, his eyes angry and sinister. "He's a _snake_--is Helbeck!" he
said slowly, striking his hands together as they hung over his knees.
Laura recoiled--instinctively straightening herself.
"Mr. Helbeck is quite kind to me," she said sharply. "I don't know why
you speak of him like that. I'm staying there till my stepmother gets
He stared at her, still red and obstinate.
"Helbeck an his house together stick in folk's gizzards aboot here," he
said. "Yo'll soon find that oot. And good reason too. Did you ever hear
of Teddy Williams?"
"Williams?" she said, frowning. "Was that the man that painted the
Mason laughed and slapped his knee.
"Man, indeed? He was just a lad--down at Marsland School. I was there
myself, you understand, the year after him. He was an awful clever
lad--beat every one at books--an he could draw anything. You couldn't
mak' much oot of his drawins, I daur say--they were queer sorts o'
things. I never could make head or tail on 'em myself. But old Jackson,
our master, thowt a lot of 'em, and so did the passon down at Marsland.
An his father an mother--well, they thowt he was going to make all their
fortunes for 'em. There was a scholarship--or soomthin o' that sort--an
he was to get it an go to college, an make 'em all rich. They were just
common wheelwrights, you understand, down on t' Whinthorpe Road. But my
word, Mr. Helbeck spoilt their game for 'em!"
He lifted another sod of turf from the basket and flung it on the fire.
The animus of his tone and manner struck Laura oddly. But she was at
least as curious to hear as he was anxious to tell. She drew her chair a
little nearer to him.
"What did Mr. Helbeck do?"
"Well, he just made a Papist of Teddy--took him an done him--brown. He
got hold on him in the park one evening--Teddy was drawing a picture of
the bridge, you understand--'ticed him up to his place soomhow--an Teddy
was set to a job of paintin up at the chapel before you could say Jack
Robinson. An in six months they'd settled it between 'em. Teddy wouldn't
go to school no more. And one night he and his father had words; the owd
man gie'd him a thrashing, and Teddy just cut and run. Next thing they
heard he was at a Papist school, somewhere over Lancashire way, an he
sent word to his mother--she was dyin then, you understan'--and she's
dead since--that he'd gone to be a priest, an if they didn't like it,
they might just do the other thing!"
"And the mother died?" said Laura.
"Aye--double quick! My mother went down to nurse her. An they sent Teddy
back, just too late to see her. He come in two-three hours after they'd
screwed her down. An his father chivvyed him oot--they wouldn't have him
at the funeral. But folks were a deal madder with Mr. Helbeck, you
understan', nor with Teddy. Teddy's father and brothers are chapel
folk--Primitive Methodists they call 'em. They've got a big chapel in
Whinthorpe--an they raised the whole place on Mr. Helbeck, and one night,
coming out of Whinthorpe, he was set on by a lot of fellows, chapel
fellows, a bit fresh, you understan'. Father was there--he never denied
it--not he! Helbeck just got into the old mill by the bridge in time, but
they'd marked his face for him all the same."
"Ah!" said Laura, staring into the fire. She had just remembered a dark
scar on Mr. Helbeck's forehead, under the strong ripples of black hair.
"Oh! afterwards there was a lot of men bound over--father among 'em.
There was a priest with Mr. Helbeck who got it hot too--that old chap
Bowles--I dare say you've seen him. Aye, he's a _snake_, is Helbeck!" the
young man repeated. Then he reddened still more deeply, and added with
vindictive emphasis--"and an interfering,--hypocritical,--canting sort of
party into t' bargain. He'd like to lord it over everybody aboot here, if
he was let. But he's as poor as a church rat--who minds him?"
The language was extraordinary--so was the tone. Laura had been gazing at
the speaker in a growing amazement.
"Thank you!" she said impetuously, when Mason stopped. "Thank you!--but,
in spite of your story, I don't think you ought to speak like that of the
gentleman I am staying with!"
Mason threw himself back in his chair. He was evidently trying to control
"I didn't mean no offence," he said at last, with a return of the sulky
voice. "Of course I understand that you're staying with the quality, and
not with the likes of us."
Laura's face lit up with laughter. "What an extraordinary silly thing to
say! But I don't mind--I'll forgive you--like I did years ago, when you
pushed me into the puddle!"
"I pushed you into a puddle? But--I never did owt o' t' sort!" cried
Mason, in a slow crescendo of astonishment.
"Oh, yes, you did," she nodded her little head. "I broke an egg, and you
bullied me. Of course I thought you were a horrid boy--and I loved Polly,
who cleaned my shoes and put me straight. Where's Polly, is she at
"Aye--I dare say," said Mason stupidly, watching his visitor meanwhile
with all his eyes. She had just put up a small hand and taken off her
cap. Now, mechanically, she began to pat and arrange the little curls
upon her forehead, then to take out and replace a hairpin or two, so as
to fasten the golden mass behind a little more securely. The white
fingers moved with an exquisite sureness and daintiness, the lifted arms
showed all the young curves of the girl's form.
Suddenly Laura turned to him again. Her eyes had been staring dreamily
into the fire, while her hands had been busy with her hair.
"So you don't remember our visit at all? You don't remember papa?"
He shook his head.
"Ah! well"--she sighed. Mason felt unaccountably guilty.
"I was always terr'ble bad at remembering," he said hastily.
"But you ought to have remembered papa." Then, in quite a different
voice, "Is this your sitting-room"--she looked round it--"or--or your
The last words fell rather timidly, lest she might have hurt his
Mason jumped up.
"Why, yon's the parlour," he said. "I should ha' taken you there fust
thing. Will you coom? I'll soon make a fire."
And walking across the kitchen, he threw open a further door
ceremoniously. Laura followed, pausing just inside the threshold to look
round the little musty sitting-room, with its framed photographs, its
woollen mats, its rocking-chairs, and its square of mustard-coloured
carpet. Mason watched her furtively all the time, to see how the place
"Oh, this isn't as nice as the kitchen," she said decidedly. "What's
that?" She pointed to a pewter cup standing stately and alone upon the
largest possible wool mat in the centre of a table.
Mason threw back his head and chuckled. His great chest seemed to fill
out; all his sulky constraint dropped away.
"Of course you don't know anythin aboot these parts," he said to her with
condescension. "You don't know as I came near bein champion for the
County lasst year--no, I'll reckon you don't. Oh! that cup's nowt--that's
nobbut Whinthorpe sports, lasst December. Maybe there'll be a better
The young giant grinned, as he took up the cup and pointed with assumed
indifference to its inscription.
"What--football?" said Laura, putting up her hand to hide a yawn. "Oh! I
don't care about football. But I _love_ cricket. Why--you've got a
piano--and a new one!"
Mason's face cleared again--in quite another fashion.
"Do you know the maker?" he said eagerly. "I believe he's thowt a deal of
by them as knows. I bought it myself out o' the sheep. The lambs had done
fust-rate,--an I'd had more'n half the trooble of 'em, ony ways. So I
took no heed o' mother. I went down straight to Whinthrupp, an paid the
first instalment an browt it up in the cart mesel'. Mr. Castle--do yo
knaw 'im?--he's the organist at the parish church--he came with me to
"And is it you that play it," said Laura wondering, "or your sister?"
He looked at her in silence for a moment--and she at him. His aspect
seemed to change under her eyes. The handsome points of the face came
out; its coarseness and loutishness receded. And his manner became
suddenly quiet and manly--though full of an almost tremulous eagerness.
"You like it?" she asked him.
"What--music? I should think so."
"Oh! I forgot--you're all musical in these northern parts, aren't you?"
He made no answer, but sat down to the piano and opened it. She leant
over the back of a chair, watching him, half incredulous, half amused.
"I say--did you ever hear this? I believe it was some Cambridge fellow
made it--Castle said so. He played it to me. And I can't get further than
just a bit of it."
He raised his great hands and brought them down in a burst of chords that
shook the little room and the raftered ceiling. Laura stared. He played
on--played like a musician, though with occasional stumbling--played with
a mingled energy and delicacy, an understanding and abandonment that
amazed her--then grew crimson with the effort to remember--wavered--and
"Goodness!"--cried Laura. "Why, that's Stanford's music to the Eumenides!
How on earth did you hear that? Go away. I can play it."
She pushed him away and sat down. He hung over her, his face smiling and
transformed, while her little hands struggled with the chords, found the
after melody, pursued it,--with pauses now and then, in which he would
strike in, prompting her, putting his hand down with hers--and finally,
after modulations which she made her way through, with laughter and
head-shakings, she fell into a weird dance, to which he beat time with
hands and limbs, urging her with a rain of comments.
"Oh! my goody--isn't that rousing? Play that again--just that
change--just once! Oh! Lord--isn't that good, that chord--and that bit
afterwards, what a bass!--I say, _isn't_ it a bass? Don't you like
it--don't you like it _awfully_?"
Suddenly she wheeled round from the piano, and sat fronting him, her
hands on her knees. He fell back into a chair.
"I say"--he said slowly--"you are a grand 'un! If I'd only known you
could play like that!"
Her laugh died away. To his amazement she began to frown.
"I haven't played--ten notes--since papa died. He liked it so."
She, turned her back to him, and began to look at the torn music at the
top of the piano.
"But you will play--you'll play to me again"--he said
beseechingly.--"Why, it would be a sin if you didn't play! Wouldn't I
play if I could play like you! I never had more than a lesson, now and
again, from old Castle. I used to steal mother's eggs to pay him--I can
play any thing I hear--and I've made a song--old Castle's writing it
down--he says he'll teach me to do it some day. But of course I'm no good
for playing--I never shall be any good. Look at those fingers--they're
like bits of stick--beastly things!"
He thrust them out indignantly for her inspection. Laura looked at them
with a professional air.
"I don't call it a bad hand. I expect you've no patience."
"Haven't I! I tell you I'd play all day, if it'ld do any good--but it
"And how about the poor farm?" said Laura, with a lifted brow.
"Oh! the farm--the farm--dang the farm!"--said Mason violently, slapping
Suddenly there was a sound of voices outside, a clattering on the stones
of the farmyard.
Mason sprang up, all frowns.
"That's mother. Here, let's shut the piano--quick! She can't abide it."
Mason went out to meet his mother, and Laura waited. She stood where she
had risen, beside the piano, looking nervously towards the door. Childish
remembrances and alarms seemed to be thronging back into her mind.
There was a noise of voices in the outer room. Then a handle was roughly
turned, and Laura saw before her a short, stout woman, with grey hair,
and the most piercing black eyes. Intimidated by the eyes, and by the
sudden pause of the newcomer on the threshold, Miss Fountain could only
look at her interrogatively.
"Is it Cousin Elizabeth?" she said, holding out a wavering hand.
Mrs. Mason scarcely allowed her own to be touched.
"We're not used to visitors i' church-time," she said abruptly, in a deep
funereal voice. "Mappen you'll sit down."
And still holding the girl with her eyes, she walked across to an old
rocking-chair, let herself fall into it, and with a loud sigh loosened
her bonnet strings.
Laura, in her amazement, had to strangle a violent inclination to laugh.
Then she flushed brightly, and sat down on the wooden stool in front of
the piano. Mrs. Mason, still staring at her, seemed to wait for her to
speak. But Laura would say nothing.
"Soa--thoo art Stephen Fountain's dowter--art tha?"
"Yes--and you have seen me before," was the girl's quiet reply.
She said to herself that her cousin had the eyes of a bird of prey. So
black and fierce they were, in the greyish white face under the shaggy
hair. But she was not afraid. Rather she felt her own temper rising.
"How long is't sen your feyther deed?"
"Nine months. But you knew that, I think--because I wrote it you."
Mrs. Mason's heavy lids blinked a moment, then she said with slowly
quickening emphasis, like one mounting to a crisis:
"Wat art tha doin' wi' Bannisdale Hall? What call has thy feyther's
dowter to be visitin onder Alan Helbeck's roof?"
Laura's open mouth showed first wonderment, then laughter.
"Oh! I see," she said impatiently--"you don't seem to understand. But of
course you remember that my father married Miss Helbeck for his second
"Aye, an she cam oot fra amang them," exclaimed Mrs. Mason; "she put away
from her the accursed thing!"
The massive face was all aglow, transformed, with a kind of sombre fire.
Laura stared afresh.
"She gave up being a Catholic, if that's what you mean," she said after a
moment's pause. "But she couldn't keep to it. When papa fell ill, and she
was unhappy, she went back. And then of course she made it up with her
The triumph in Mrs. Mason's face yielded first to astonishment, then to
"The poor weak doited thing," she said at last in a tone of indescribable
contempt, "the poor silly fule! But naebody need ha' luked for onything
betther from a Helbeck.--And I daur say"--she lifted her voice
fiercely--"I daur say she took yo' wi' her, an it's along o' thattens as
yo're coom to spy on us oop here?"
Laura sprang up.
"Me!" she said indignantly. "You think I'm a Catholic and a spy? How kind
of you! But of course you don't know anything about my father, nor how he
brought me up. As for my poor little stepmother, I came here with her to
get her well, and I shall stay with her till she is well. I really don't
know why you talk to me like this. I suppose you have cause to dislike
Mr. Helbeck, but it is very odd that you should visit it on me, papa's
daughter, when I come to see you!"
The girl's voice trembled, but she threw back her slender neck with a
gesture that became her. The door, which had been closed, stealthily
opened. Hubert Mason's face appeared in the doorway. It was gazing
eagerly--admiringly--at Miss Fountain.
Mrs. Mason did not see him. Nor was she daunted by Laura's anger.
"It's aw yan," she said stubbornly. "Thoo ha' made a covenant wi' the
Amorite an the Amalekite. They ha' called tha, an thoo art eatin o' their
There was an uneasy laugh from the door, and Laura, turning her
astonished eyes in that direction, perceived Hubert standing in the
doorway, and behind him another head thrust eagerly forward--the head of
a young woman in a much betrimmed Sunday hat.
"I say, mother, let her be, wil tha?" said a hearty voice; and, pushing
Hubert aside, the owner of the hat entered the room. She went up to
Laura, and gave her a loud kiss.
"I'm Polly--Polly Mason. An I know who you are weel enough. Doan't you
pay ony attention to mother. That's her way. Hubert an I take it very
kind of you to come and see us."
"Mother's rats on Amorites!" said Hubert, grinning.
"Rats?--Amorites?"--said Laura, looking piteously at Polly, whose hand
Polly laughed, a bouncing, good-humoured laugh. She herself was a
bouncing, good-humoured person, the apparent antithesis of her mother
with her lively eyes, her frizzled hair, her high cheek-bones touched
with a bright pink.
"Yo'll have to get oop early to understan' them two," she declared.
"Mother's allus talkin out o' t' Bible, an Hubert picks up a lot o' low
words out o' Whinthrupp streets--an there 'tis. But now look here--yo'll
stay an tak' a bit o' dinner with us?"
"I don't want to be in your way," said Laura formally. Really, she had
some difficulty to control the quiver of her lips, though it would have
been difficult to say whether laughter or tears came nearest.
At this Polly broke out in voluble protestations, investigating her
cousin's dress all the time, fingering her little watch-chain, and even
taking up a corner of the pretty cloth jacket that she might examine the
quality of it. Laura, however, looked at Mrs. Mason.
"If Cousin Elizabeth wishes me to stay," she said proudly.
Polly burst into another loud laugh.
"Yo see, it goes agen mother to be shakin hands wi' yan that's livin wi'
Papists--and Misther Helbeck by the bargain. So wheniver mother talks
aboot Amorites or Jesubites, or any o' thattens, she nobbut means
Papist--Romanists as our minister coes 'em. He's every bit as bad as her.
He would as lief shake hands wi' Mr. Helbeck as wi' the owd 'un!"
"I'll uphowd ye--Mr. Bayley hasn't preached a sermon this ten year wi'oot
chivvyin Papists!" said Hubert from the door. "An yo'll not find yan o'
them in his parish if yo were to hunt it wi' a lantern for a week o'
Sundays. When I was a lad I thowt Romanists were a soart o' varmin. I
awmost looked to see 'em nailed to t' barndoor, same as stoeats!"
"But how strange!" cried Laura--"when there are so few Catholics about
here. And no one _hates_ Catholics now. One may just--despise them."
She looked from mother to son in bewilderment. Not only Hubert's speech,
but his whole manner had broadened and coarsened since his mother's
"Well, if there isn't mony, they make a deal o' talk," said
Polly--"onyways sence Mr. Helbeck came to t' hall.--Mother, I'll take
Miss Fountain oopstairs, to get her hat off."
During all the banter of her son and daughter Mrs. Mason had sat in a
disdainful silence, turning her strange eyes--the eyes of a fanatic, in a
singularly shrewd and capable face--now on Laura, now on her children.
Laura looked at her again, irresolute whether to go or stay. Then an
impulse seized her which astonished herself. For it was an impulse of
liking, an impulse of kinship; and as she quickly crossed the room to
Mrs. Mason's side, she said in a pretty pleading voice:
"But you see, Cousin Elizabeth, I'm not a Catholic--and papa wasn't a
Catholic. And I couldn't help Mrs. Fountain going back to her old
religion--you shouldn't visit it on me!"
Mrs. Mason looked up.
"Why art tha not at church on t' Lord's day?"
The question came stern and quick.
Laura wavered, then drew herself up.
"Because I'm not your sort either. I don't believe in your church, or
your ministers. Father didn't, and I'm like him."
Her voice had grown thick, and she was quite pale. The old woman stared
"Then yo're nobbut yan o' the heathen!" she said with slow precision.
"I dare say!" cried Laura, half laughing, half crying. "That's my affair.
But I declare I think I hate Catholics as much as you--there, Cousin
Elizabeth! I don't hate my stepmother, of course. I promised father to
take care of her. But that's another matter."
"Dost tha hate Alan Helbeck?" said Mrs. Mason suddenly, her black eyes
opening in a flash.
The girl hesitated, caught her breath--then was seized with the
strangest, most abject desire to propitiate this grim woman with the
"Yes!" she said wildly. "No, no!--that's silly. I haven't had time to
hate him. But I don't like him, anyway. I'm nearly sure I _shall_ hate
There was no mistaking the truth in her tone.
Mrs. Mason slowly rose. Her chest heaved with one long breath, then
subsided; her brow tightened. She turned to her son.
"Art tha goin to let Daffady do all thy work for tha?" she said sharply.
"Has t' roan calf bin looked to?"
"Aye--I'm going," said Hubert evasively, and sheepishly straightening
himself he made for the front door, throwing back more than one look as
he departed at his new cousin.
"And you really want me to stay?" repeated Laura insistently, addressing
"Yo're welcome," was the stiff reply. "Nobbut yo'd been mair welcome if
yo hadna brokken t' Sabbath to coom here. Mappen yo'll goa wi' Polly, an
tak' your bonnet off."
Laura hesitated a moment longer, bit her lip, and went.
* * * * *
Polly Mason was a great talker. In the few minutes she spent with Laura
upstairs, before she hurried down again to help her mother with the
Sunday dinner, she asked her new cousin innumerable questions, showing an
intense curiosity as to Bannisdale and the Helbecks, a burning desire to
know whether Laura had any money of her own, or was still dependent upon
her stepmother, and a joyous appropriative pride in Miss Fountain's
gentility and good looks.
The frankness of Polly's flatteries, and the exuberance of her whole
personality, ended by producing a certain stiffness in Laura. Every now
and then, in the intervals of Polly's questions, when she ceased to be
inquisitive and became confidential, Laura would wonder to herself. She
would half shut her eyes, trying to recall the mental image of her
cousins and of the farm, with which she had started that morning from
Bannisdale; or she would think of her father, his modes of life and
speech--was he really connected, and how, with this place and its
inmates? She had expected something simple and patriarchal. She had found
a family of peasants, living in a struggling, penurious way--a grim
mother speaking broad dialect, a son with no pretensions to refinement or
education, except perhaps through his music--and a daughter----
Laura turned an attentive eye on Polly, on her high and red cheek-bones,
the extravagant fringe that vulgarised all her honest face, the Sunday
dress of stone-coloured alpaca, profusely trimmed with magenta ribbons.
"I will--I _will_ like her!" she said to herself--"I am a horrid,
snobbish, fastidious little wretch."
But her spirits had sunk. When Polly left her she leant for a moment upon
the sill of the open window, and looked out. Across the dirty, uneven
yard, where the manure lay in heaps outside the byre doors, she saw the
rude farm buildings huddled against each other in a mean, unsightly
group. Down below, from the house porch apparently, a cracked bell began
to ring, and from some doors opposite three labourers, the "hired men,"
who lived and boarded on the farm, came out. The first two were elderly
men, gnarled and bent like tough trees that have fought the winter; the
third was a youth. They were tidily dressed in Sunday clothes, for their
work was done, and they were ready for the afternoon's holiday.
They walked across to the farmhouse in silence, one behind the other. Not
even the young fellow raised his eyes to the window and the girl framed
within it. Behind them came a gust of piercing easterly wind. A cloud had
covered the sun. The squalid farmyard, the bare fell-side beyond it, the
distant levels of the marsh, had taken to themselves a cold forbidding
air. Laura again imagined it in December--a waste of snow, with the farm
making an ugly spot upon the white, and the little black-bearded sheep
she could see feeding on the fell, crowding under the rocks for shelter.
But this time she shivered. All the spell was broken. To live up here
with this madwoman, this strange youth--and Polly! Yet it seemed to her
that something drew her to Cousin Elizabeth--if she were not so mad. How
strange to find this abhorrence of Mr. Helbeck among these people--so
different, so remote! She remembered her own words--"I am sure I _shall_
hate him!"--not without a stab of conscience. What had she been
doing--perhaps--but adding her own injustice to theirs?
She stood lost in a young puzzle and heat of feeling--half angry, half
But only for a second. Then certain phrases of Augustina's rang through
her mind--she saw herself standing in the corner of the chapel while the
others prayed. Every pulse tightened--her whole nature leapt again in
defiance. She seemed to be holding something at bay--a tyrannous power
that threatened humiliation and hypocrisy, that seemed at the same time
to be prying into secret things--things it should never, never know--and
never rule! Yes, she did understand Cousin Elizabeth--she _did_!
* * * * *
The dinner went sadly. The viands were heavy: so were the faces of the
labourers, and the air of the low-raftered kitchen, heated as it was by a
huge fire, and pervaded by the smell from the farmyard. Laura felt it all
very strange, the presence of the farm servants at the same table with
the Masons and herself--the long silences that no one made an effort to
break--the relations between Hubert and his mother.
As for the labourers, Mason addressed them now and then in a bullying
voice, and they spoke to him as little as they could. It seemed to Laura
that there was an alliance between them and the mother against a lazy and
incompetent master; and that the lad's vanity was perpetually alive to
it. Again and again he would pull himself together, attempt the
gentleman, and devote himself to his young lady guest. But in the midst
of their conversation he would hear something at the other end of the
table, and suddenly there would come a burst of fierce unintelligible
speech between him and the mistress of the house, while the labourers sat
silent and sly, and Polly's loud laugh would break in, trying to make
Laura's cool grey eyes followed the youth with a constant critical
wonder. In any other circumstances she would not have thought him worth
an instant's attention. She had all the supercilious impatience of the
pretty girl accustomed to choose her company. But this odd fact of
kinship held and harassed her. She wanted to understand these Masons--her
"Now he is really talking quite nicely," she said to herself on one
occasion, when Hubert had found in the gifts and accomplishments of his
friend Castle, the organist, a subject that untied his tongue and made
him almost agreeable. Suddenly a question caught his ear.
"Daffady, did tha turn the coo?" said his mother in a loud voice. Even in
the homeliest question it had the same penetrating, passionate quality
that belonged to her gaze--to her whole personality indeed.
Hubert dropped his phrase--and his knife and fork--and stared angrily at
Daffady, the old cowman and carter.
Daffady threw his master a furtive look, then munched through a mouthful
of bread and cheese without replying.
He was a grey and taciturn person, with a provocative look of patience.
"What tha bin doin wi' th' coo?" said Hubert sharply. "I left her mysel
nobbut half an hour sen."
Daffady turned his head again in Hubert's direction for a moment, then
deliberately addressed the mistress.
"Aye, aye, missus"--he spoke in a high small voice--"A turned her reet
enoof, an a gied her soom fresh straa for her yed. She doin varra
"If she'd been turned yesterday in a proper fashion, she'd ha' bin on her
feet by now," said Mrs. Mason, with a glance at her son.
"Nowt o' t' soart, mother," cried Hubert. He leant forward, flushed with
wrath, or beer--his potations had begun to fill Laura with dismay--and
spoke with a hectoring violence. "I tell tha when t' farrier cam oop last
night, he said she'd been managed first-rate! If yo and Daffady had yor
way wi' yor fallals an yor nonsense, yo'd never leave a poor sick creetur
alone for five minutes; I towd Daffady to let her be, an I'll let him
knaa who's measter here!"
He glared at the carter, quite regardless of Laura's presence. Polly
coughed loudly, and tried to make a diversion by getting up to clear away
the plates. The three combatants took no notice.
Daffady slowly ran his tongue round his lips; then he said, again looking
at the mistress:
"If a hadna turned her I dew believe she'd ha' gien oos t' slip--she was
terr'ble swollen as 'twos."
"I tell tha to let her be!" thundered Hubert. "If she deas, that's ma
consarn; I'll ha' noa meddlin wi' my orders--dost tha hear?"
"Aye, it wor thirrty poond thraan awa lasst month, an it'll be thirrty
poond this," said his mother slowly; "thoo art fine at shoutin. Bit thy
fadther had need ha' addlet his brass--to gie thee summat to thraw oot o'
Hubert rose from the table with an oath, stood for an instant looking
down at Laura,--glowering, and pulling fiercely at his moustache,--then,
noisily opening the front door, he strode across the yard to the byres.
There was an instant's silence. Then Mrs. Mason rose with her hands
clasped before her, her eyes half closed.
"For what we ha' received, the Lord mak' us truly thankful," she said in
a loud, nasal voice. "Amen."
* * * * *
After dinner, Laura put on an apron of Polly's, and helped her cousin to
clear away. Mrs. Mason had gruffly bade her sit still, but when the girl
persisted, she herself--flushed with dinner and combat--took her seat on
the settle, opposite to old Daffady, and deliberately made holiday,
watching Stephen's daughter all the time from the black eyes that roved
and shone so strangely under the shaggy brows and the white hair.
The old cowman sat hunched over the fire, smoking his pipe for a time in
But presently Laura, as she went to and fro, caught snatches of
"Did tha go ta Laysgill last Sunday?" said Mrs. Mason abruptly.
Daffady removed his pipe.
"Aye, a went, an a preeched. It wor a varra stirrin meetin. Sum o' yor
paid preests sud ha' bin theer. A gien it 'em strang. A tried ta hit 'em
all--baith gert an lile."
There was a pause, then he added placidly:
"A likely suden't suit them varra weel. Theer was a mon beside me, as
pooed me down afoor a'd hofe doon."
"Tha sudna taak o' 'paid preests,' Daffady," said Mrs. Mason severely.
"Tha doosna understand nowt o' thattens."
Daffady glanced slyly at his mistress--at the "Church-pride" implied in
the attitude of her capacious form, in the shining of the Sunday alpaca
and black silk apron.
"Mebbe not," he said mildly, "mebbe not." And he resumed his pipe.
On another occasion, as Laura went flitting across the kitchen, drawing
to herself the looks of both its inmates, she heard what seemed to be a
fragment of talk about a funeral.
"Aye, poor Jenny!" said Mrs. Mason. "They didna mak' mich account on her
whan t' breath wor yanst oot on her."
"Nay,"--Daffady shook his head for sympathy,--"it wor a varra poor
set-oot, wor Jenny's buryin. Nowt but tay, an sic-like."
Mrs. Mason raised two gaunt hands and let them drop again on her knee.
"I shud ha' thowt they'd ha' bin ashamed," she said. "Jenny's brass ull
do 'em noa gude. She wor a fule to leave it to 'un."
Daffady withdrew his pipe again. His lantern-jawed face, furrowed with
slow thought, hung over the blaze.
"Aye," he said, "aye. Wal, I've buried three childer--an I'm nobbut a
labrin mon--but a thank the Lord I ha buried them aw--wi' ham."
The last words came out with solemnity. Laura, at the other end of the
kitchen, turned open-mouthed to look at the pair. Not a feature moved in
either face. She sped back into the dairy, and Polly looked up in
"What ails tha?" she said.
"Oh, nothing!" said Laura, dashing the merry tears from her eyes. She
proceeded to roll up her sleeves, and plunge her hands and arms into the
bowl of warm water that Polly had set before her. Meanwhile, Polly, very
big and square, much reddened also by the fuss of household work, stood
just behind her cousin's shoulder, looking down, half in envy, half in
admiration, at the slimness of the white wrists and pretty fingers.
A little later the two girls, all traces of their housework removed, came
back into the kitchen. Daffady and Mrs. Mason had disappeared.
"Where is Cousin Elizabeth?" said Laura rather sharply, as she looked
Polly explained that her mother was probably shut up in her bedroom
reading her Bible. That was her custom on a Sunday afternoon.
"Why, I haven't spoken to her at all!" cried Laura. Her cheek had
Polly showed embarrassment.
"Next time yo coom, mother'll tak' mair noatice. She was takkin stock o'
you t' whole time, I'll uphowd yo."
"That isn't what I wanted," said Laura.
She walked to the window and leaned her head against the frame. Polly
watched her with compunction, seeing quite plainly the sudden drop of the
lip. All she could do was to propose to show her cousin the house.
Laura languidly consented.
So they wandered again through the dark stone-slabbed dairy, with its
milk pans on the one side and its bacon-curing troughs on the other; and
into the little stuffy bedrooms upstairs, each with its small oak
four-poster and patchwork counterpane. They looked at the home-made quilt
of goosedown--Polly's handiwork--that lay on Hubert's bed; at the
clusters of faded photographs and coloured prints that hung on the old
uneven walls; at the vast meal-ark in Polly's room that held the family
store of meal and oatcake for the year.
"When we wor little 'uns, fadther used to give me an Hubert a silver
saxpence the day he browt home t' fresh melder fro' t' mill," said Polly;
"theer was parlish little nobbut paritch and oatcake to eat when we wor
small. An now I'll uphold yo there isn't a farm servant but wants his
white bread yanst a day whativver happens."
The house was neat and clean, but there were few comforts in it, and no
luxuries. It showed, too, a number of small dilapidations that a very
little money and care would soon have set to rights. Polly pointed to
them sadly. There was no money, and Hubert didn't trouble himself.
"Fadther was allus workin. He'd be up at half-past four this time o'
year, an he didna go to bed soa early noather. But Hubert'ull do nowt he
can help. Yo can hardly get him to tak' t' peaets i' ter Whinthorpe when
t' peaet-cote's brastin wi' 'em. An as fer doin a job o' cartin fer t'
neebors, t' horses may be eatin their heads off, Hubert woan't stir
hissel'. 'Let 'em lead their aan muck for theirsels'--that's what he'll
say. Iver sen fadther deed it's bin janglin atwixt mother an Hubert. It
makes her mad to see iverything goin downhill. An he's that masterful he
woan't be towd. Yo saw how he went on wi' Daffady at dinner. But if it
weren't for Daffady an us, there'd be no stock left."
And poor Polly, sitting on the edge of the meal-ark and dangling her
large feet, went into a number of plaintive details, that were mostly
unintelligible, sometimes repulsive, in Laura's ears.
It seemed that Hubert was always threatening to leave the farm. "Give me
a bit of money, and you'll soon be quit of me. I'll go to Froswick, and
make my fortune"--that was what he'd say to his mother. But who was going
to give him money to throw about? And he couldn't sell the farm while
Mrs. Mason lived, by the father's will.
As to her mother, Polly admitted that she was "gey ill to live wi'."
There was no one like her for "addlin a bit here and addlin a bit there."
She was the best maker and seller of butter in the country-side; but she
had been queer about religion ever since an illness that attacked her as
a young woman.
And now it was Mr. Bayley, the minister, who excited her, and made her
worse. Polly, for her part, hated him. "My worrd, he do taak!" said she.
And every Sunday he preached against Catholics, and the Pope, and such
like. And as there were no Catholics anywhere near, but Mr. Helbeck at
Bannisdale, and a certain number at Whinthorpe, people didn't know what
to make of him. And they laughed at him, and left off going--except
occasionally for curiosity, because he preached in a black gown, which,
so Polly heard tell, was very uncommon nowadays. But mother would listen
to him by the hour. And it was all along of Teddy Williams. It was that
had set her mad.
Here, however, Polly broke off to ask an eager question. What had Mr.
Helbeck said when Laura told him of her wish to go and see her cousins?
"I'll warrant he wasn't best pleased! Feyther couldn't abide him--because
of Teddy. He didn't thraw no stones that neet i' Whinthrupp Lane--feyther
was a strict man and read his Bible reg'lar--but he stood wi' t' lads an
looked on--he didn't say owt to stop 'em. Mr. Helbeck called to him--he
had a priest with him--'Mr. Mason!' he ses, 'this is an old man--speak to
those fellows!' But feyther wouldn't. 'Let 'em trounce tha!' he
ses--'aye, an him too! It'ull do tha noa harm.'--Well, an what did he
say, Mr. Helbeck?--I'd like to know."
"Say? Nothing--except that it was a long way, and I might have the pony
Laura's tone was rather dry. She was sitting on the edge of Polly's bed,
with her arm round one of its oaken posts. Her cheek was laid against the
post, and her eyes had been wandering about a good deal while Polly
talked. Till the mention of Helbeck. Then her attention came back. And
during Polly's account of the incident in Whinthorpe Lane, she began to
frown. What bigotry, after all! As to the story of young Williams--it was
very perplexing--she would get the truth of it out of Augustina. But it
was extraordinary that it should be so well known in this upland
farm--that it should make a kind of link--a link of hatred--between Mr.
Helbeck and the Masons. After her movement of wild sympathy with Mrs.
Mason, she realised now, as Polly's chatter slipped on, that she
understood her cousins almost as little as she did Helbeck.
Nay, more. The picture of Helbeck stoned and abused by these rough,
uneducated folk had begun to rouse in her a curious sympathy. Unwillingly
her mind invested him with a new dignity.
So that when Polly told a rambling story of how Mr. Bayley, after the
street fight, had met Mr. Helbeck at a workhouse meeting and had placed
his hands behind his back when Mr. Helbeck offered his own, Laura tossed
"What a ridiculous man!" she said disdainfully; "what can it matter to
Mr. Helbeck whether Mr. Bayley shakes hands with him or not?"
Polly looked at her in some astonishment, and dropped the subject. The
elder woman, conscious of plainness and inferiority, was humbly anxious
to please her new cousin. The girl's delicate and characteristic
physique, her clear eyes and decided ways, and a certain look she had in
conversation--half absent, half critical--which was inherited from her
father,--all of them combined to intimidate the homely Polly, and she
felt perhaps less at ease with her visitor as she saw more of her.
Presently they stood before some old photographs on Polly's mantelpiece;
Polly looked timidly at her cousin.
"Doan't yo think as Hubert's verra handsome?" she said.
And taking up one of the portraits, she brushed it with her sleeve and
handed it to Laura.
Laura held it up for scrutiny.
"No--o," she said coolly, "not really handsome."
Polly looked disappointed.
"There's not a mony gells aboot here as doan't coe Hubert handsome," she
said with emphasis.
"It's Hubert's business to call the girls handsome," said Laura,
laughing, and handing back the picture.
Polly grinned--then suddenly looked grave.
"I wish he'd leave t' gells alone!" she said with an accent of some
energy, "he'll mappen get into trooble yan o' these days!"
"They don't keep him in his place, I suppose," said Laura, flushing, she
hardly knew why. She got up and walked across the room to the window.
What did she want to know about Hubert and "t' gells"? She hated vulgar
and lazy young men!--though they might have a musical gift that, so to
speak, did not belong to them.
Nevertheless she turned round again to ask, with some imperiousness,--
"Where is your brother?--what is he doing all this time?"
"Sittin alongside the coo, I dare say--lest Daffady should be gettin the
credit of her," said Polly, laughing. "The poor creetur fell three days
sen--summat like a stroke, t' farrier said,--an Hubert's bin that jealous
o' Daffady iver sen. He's actually poo'ed hissel' oot o' bed mornins to
luke after her!--Lord bless us--I mun goa an feed t' calves!"
And hastily throwing an apron over her Sunday gown, Polly clattered down
the stairs in a whirlwind.
* * * * *
Laura followed her more leisurely, passed through the empty kitchen and
opened the front door.
As she stood under the porch looking out, she put up a small hand to hide
a yawn. When she set out that morning she had meant to spend the whole
day at the farm. Now it was not yet tea-time, and she was more than ready
to go. In truth her heart was hot, and rather bitter. Cousin Elizabeth,
certainly, had treated her with a strange coolness. And as for
Hubert--after that burst of friendship, beside the piano! She drew
herself together sharply--she would go at once and ask him for her pony
Lifting her skirt daintily, she picked her way across the dirty yard, and
fumbled at a door opposite--the door whence she had seen old Daffady come
out at dinner-time.
"Who's there?" shouted a threatening voice from within.
Laura succeeded in lifting the clumsy latch. Hubert Mason, from inside,
saw a small golden head appear in the doorway.
"Would you kindly help me get the pony cart?" said the light,
half-sarcastic voice of Miss Fountain. "I must be going, and Polly's
feeding the calves."
Her eyes at first distinguished nothing but a row of dim animal forms, in
crowded stalls under a low roof. Then she saw a cow lying on the ground,
and Hubert Mason beside her, amid the wreaths of smoke that he was
puffing from a clay pipe. The place was dark, close, and fetid. She
withdrew her head hastily. There was a muttering and movement inside, and
Mason came to the door, thrusting his pipe into his pocket.
"What do you want to go for, just yet?" he said abruptly.
"I ought to get home."
"No; you don't care for us, nor our ways. That's it; an I don't wonder."
She made polite protestations, but he would not listen to them. He strode
on beside her in a stormy silence, till the impulse to prick him
"Do you generally sit with the cows?" she asked him sweetly. She shot her
grey eyes towards him, all mockery and cool examination. He was not
accustomed to such looks from the young women whom he chose to notice.
"I was not going to stay and be treated like that before strangers!" he
said, with a sulky fierceness. "Mother thinks she and Daffady can just
have their own way with me, as they'd used to do when I was nobbut a lad.
But I'll let her know--aye, and the men too!"
"But if you hate farming, why don't you let Daffady do the work?"
Her sly voice stung him afresh.
"Because I'll be measter!" he said, bringing his hand violently down on
the shaft of the pony cart. "If I'm to stay on in this beastly hole I'll
make every one knaw their place. Let mother give me some money, an I'll
soon take myself off, an leave her an Daffady to draw their own water
their own way. But if I'm here I'm _measter_!" He struck the cart again.
"Is it true you don't work nearly as hard as your father?"
He looked at her amazed. If Susie Flinders down at the mill had spoken to
him like that, he would have known how to shut her mouth for her.
"An I daur say it is," he said hotly. "I'm not goin to lead the dog's
life my father did--all for the sake of diddlin another sixpence or two
oot o' the neighbours. Let mother give me my money oot o' the farm. I'd
go to Froswick fast enough. That's the place to get on. I've got
friends--I'd work up in no time."
Laura glanced at him. She said nothing.
"You doan't think I would?" he asked her angrily, pausing in his handling
of the harness to throw back the challenge of her manner. His wrath
seemed to have made him handsomer, better-braced, more alive. Physically
she admired him for the first time, as he stood confronting her.
But she only lifted her eyebrows a little.
"I thought one had to have a particular kind of brains for business--and
begin early, too?"
"I could learn," he said gruffly, after which they were both silent till
the harnessing was done.
Then he looked up.
"I'd like to drive you to the bridge--if you're agreeable?"
"Oh, don't trouble yourself, pray!" she said in polite haste.
His brows knit again.
"I know how 'tis--you won't come here again."
Her little face changed.
"I'd like to," she said, her voice wavering, "because papa used to stay
He stared at her.
"I do remember Cousin Stephen," he said at last, "though I towd you I
didn't. I can see him standing at the door there--wi' a big hat--an a
beard--like straw--an a check coat wi' great bulgin pockets."
He stopped in amazement, seeing the sudden beauty of her eyes and cheeks.
"That's it," she said, leaning towards him. "Oh, that's it!" She closed
her eyes a moment, her small lips trembling. Then she opened them with a
"Yes, you may drive me to the bridge if you like."
* * * * *
And on the drive she was another being. She talked to him about music, so
softly and kindly that the young man's head swam with pleasure. All her
own musical enthusiasms and experiences--the music in the college
chapels, the music at the Greek plays, the few London concerts and operas
she had heard, her teachers and her hero-worships--she drew upon it all
in her round light voice, he joining in from time to time with a rough
passion and yearning that seemed to transfigure him. In half an hour, as
it were, they were friends; their relations changed wholly. He looked at
her with all his eyes; hung upon her with all his ears. And she--she
forgot that he was vulgar and a clown; such breathless pleasure, such a
humble absorption in superior wisdom, would have blunted the sternest
As for him, the minutes flew. When at last the bridge over the Bannisdale
River came in sight, he began to check the pony.
"Let's drive on a bit," he said entreatingly.
"No, no--I must get back to Mrs. Fountain." And she took the reins from
"I say, when will you come again?"
"Oh, I don't know." She had put on once more the stand-off town-bred
manner that puzzled his countryman's sense.
"I say, mother shan't talk that stuff to you next time. I'll tell her--"
he said imploringly.--"Halloa! let me out, will you?"
And to her amazement, before she could draw in the pony, he had jumped
out of the cart.
"There's Mr. Helbeck!" he said to her with a crimson face. "I'm off.
He shook her hand hastily, turned his back, and strode away.
She looked towards the gate in some bewilderment, and saw that Helbeck
was holding it open for her. Beside him stood a tall priest--not Father
Bowles. It was evident that both of them had seen her parting from her
Well, what then? What was there in that, or in Mr. Helbeck's ceremonious
greeting, to make her cheeks hot all in a moment? She could have beaten
herself for a silly lack of self-possession. Still more could she have
beaten Hubert for his clownish and hurried departure. What was he afraid
of? Did he think that she would have shown the smallest shame of her
"Is that Mrs. Fountain's stepdaughter?" said Helbeck's companion, as
Laura and her cart disappeared round a corner of the winding road on
which the two men were walking.
Helbeck made a sign of assent.
"You may very possibly have known her father?" He named the Cambridge
college of which Stephen Fountain had been a Fellow.
The Jesuit, who was a convert, and had been a distinguished Cambridge
man, considered for a moment.
"Oh! yes--I remember the man! A strange being, who was only heard of, if
I recollect right, in times of war. If there was any dispute
going--especially on a religious point--Stephen Fountain would rush into
it with broad-sheets. Oh, yes, I remember him perfectly--a great untidy,
fair-haired, truculent fellow, to whom anybody that took any thought for
his soul was either fool or knave. How much of him does the daughter
Helbeck returned the other's smile. "A large slice, I think. She comes
here in the curious position of having never lived in a Christian
household before, and she seems already to have great difficulty in
putting up with us."
Father Leadham laughed, then looked reflective.
"How often have I known that the best of all possible beginnings! Is she
attached to her stepmother?"
"Yes. But Mrs. Fountain has no influence over her."
"It is a striking colouring--that white skin and reddish hair. And it is
a face of some power, too."
"Power?" Helbeck demurred. "I think she is clever," he said dryly. "And,
of course, coming from a university town, she has heard of things that
other girls know nothing of. But she has had no training, moral or
"And no Christian education?"
Helbeck shrugged his shoulders.
"She was only baptized with difficulty. When she was eleven or twelve she
was allowed to go to church two or three times, I understand, on the
helot principle--was soon disgusted--her father of course supplying a
running comment at home--and she has stood absolutely outside religion of
all kinds since."
"Poor child!" said the priest with heartiness. The paternal note in the
words was more than official. He was a widower, and had lost his wife and
infant daughter two years before his entrance into the Church of Rome.
Helbeck smiled. "I assure you Miss Fountain spends none of her pity upon
"I dare say more than you think. The position of the unbeliever in a
house like yours is always a painful one. You see she is alone. There
must be a sense of exile--of something touching and profound going on
beside her, from which she is excluded. She comes into a house with a
chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, where everybody is
keeping a strict Lent. She has not a single thought in common with you
all. No; I am very sorry for Miss Fountain."
Helbeck was silent a moment. His dark face showed a shade of disturbance.
"She has some relations near here," he said at last, "but unfortunately I
can't do much to promote her seeing them. You remember Williams's story?"
"Of course. You had some local row, didn't you? Ah! I remember."
And the two men walked on, discussing a case which had been and was still
of great interest to them as Catholics. The hero, moreover--the Jesuit
novice himself--was well known to them both.
"So Miss Fountain's relations belong to that peasant class?" said the
Jesuit, musing. "How curious that she should find herself in such a
double relation to you and Bannisdale!"
"Consider me a little, if you please," said Helbeck, with his slight,
rare smile. "While that young lady is under my roof--you see how
attractive she is--I cannot get rid, you will admit, of a certain
responsibility. Augustina has neither the will nor the authority of a
mother, and there is literally no one else. Now there happens to be a
young man in this Mason family----"
"Ah!" said the priest; "the young gentleman who jumped out at the bridge,
with such a very light pair of heels?"
Helbeck nodded. "The old people were peasants and fanatics. They thought
ill of me in the Williams affair, and the mother, who is still alive,
would gladly hang and quarter me to-morrow if she could. But that is
another point. The old people had their own dignity, their own manners
and virtues--or, rather, the manners and virtues of their class. The old
man was coarse and boorish, but he was hard-working and honourable, and a
Christian after his own sort. But the old man is dead, and the son, who
now works the farm jointly with his mother, is of no class and no
character. He has just education enough to despise his father and his
father's hard work. He talks the dialect with his inferiors, or his
kindred, and drops it with you and me. The old traditions have no hold
upon him, and he is just a vulgar and rather vicious hybrid, who drinks
more than is good for him and has a natural affinity for any sort of low
love-affair. I came across him at our last hunt ball. I never go to such
things, but last year I went."
"Good!" ejaculated the Jesuit, turning a friendly face upon the speaker.
Helbeck paused. The word, still more the emphasis with which it was
thrown out, challenged him. He was about to defend himself against an
implied charge, but thought better of it, and resumed:
"And unfortunately, considering the way in which all the clan felt
towards me already, I found this youth in the supper-room, misbehaving
himself with a girl of his own sort, and very drunk. I fetched a steward,
and he was told to go. After which, you may imagine that it is scarcely
agreeable to me to see my guest--a very young lady, very pretty, very
distinguished--driving about the country in cousinly relations with this
The last words were spoken with considerable vivacity. The aristocrat and
the ascetic, the man of high family and the man of scrupulous and
fastidious character, were alike expressed in them.
The Jesuit pondered a little.
"No; you will have to keep watch. Why not distract her? You must have
plenty of other neighbours to show her."
Helbeck shook his head.
"I live like a hermit. My sister is in the first year of her widowhood
and very delicate."
"I see." The Jesuit hesitated, then said, smiling, in the tone of one who
makes a venture: "The Bishop and I allowed ourselves to discuss these
cloistered ways of yours the other day. We thought you would forgive us
as a pair of old friends."
"I know," was the somewhat quick interruption, "the Bishop is of
Manning's temper in these things. He believes in acting on and with the
Protestant world--in our claiming prominence as citizens. It was to
please him that I joined one or two committees last year--that I went to
the hunt ball----"
Then, suddenly, in a very characteristic way, Helbeck checked his own
flow of speech, and resumed more quietly: "Well, all that----"
"Leaves you of the same opinion still?" said the Jesuit, smiling.
"Precisely. I don't belong to my neighbours, nor they to me. We don't
speak the same language, and I can't bring myself to speak theirs. The
old conditions are gone, I know. But my feeling remains pretty much, what
that of my forefathers was. I recognise that it is not common
nowadays--but I have the old maxim in my blood: 'Extra ecclesiam nulla
"There is none which has done us more deadly harm in England," cried the
Jesuit. "We forget that England is a baptized nation, and is therefore in
the supernatural state."
"I remind myself of it very often," said Helbeck, with a kind of proud
submission; "and I judge no man. But my powers, my time, are all limited.
I prefer to devote them to the 'household of faith.'"
The two men walked on in silence for a time. Presently Father Leadham's
face showed amusement, and he said:
"Certainly we modern converts have a better time of it than our
predecessors! The Bishop tells me the most incredible things about the
old feeling towards them in this Vicariate. And wherever I go I seem to
hear the tale of the old priest who thanked God that he had never
received anyone into the Church. Everybody has met someone who knew that
old fellow! He may be a myth--but there is clearly history at the back of
"I understand him perfectly," said Helbeck, smiling; and he added
immediately, with a curious intensity, "I, too, have never influenced,
never tried to influence, anyone in my life."
The priest looked at him, wondering.
"Williams! But Williams was born for the faith. Directly he saw what I
wanted to do in the chapel, he prayed to come and help me. It was his
summer holiday--he neglected no duty; it was wonderful to see his
happiness in the work--as I thought, an artistic happiness only. He used
to ask me questions about the different saints; once or twice he borrowed
a book--it was necessary to get the emblems correct. But I never said a
single controversial word to him. I never debated religious subjects with
him at all, till the night when he took refuge with me after his father
had thrashed him so cruelly that he could not stand. Grace taught him,
"Grace taught him, but through you," said the priest with quiet emphasis.
"Perhaps I know more about that than you do."
"I think you are mistaken. At any rate, I should prefer that you were
The priest raised his eyebrows.
"A man who holds 'no salvation outside the Church,'" he said slowly, "and
rejoices in the thought that he has never influenced anybody?"
"I should hope little from the work achieved by such an instrument. Some
men have enough to do with their own souls," was the low but vehement
The priest threw a wondering glance at his companion, at the signs of
feeling--profound and morbid feeling--on the harsh face beside him.
"Perhaps you have never cared enough for anyone outside to wish
passionately to bring them within," he said. "But if that ever happens to
you, you will be ready--I think you will be ready--to use any tool, even
The priest's voice changed a little. Helbeck, somewhat startled, recalled
the facts of Father Leadham's personal history, and thought he
understood. The subject was instantly dropped, and the two men walked on
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