Life's Little Ironies and a Few Crusted Characters
Thomas Hardy

Part 2 out of 5

with dry indirectness. 'But you'll find that she will not be content
to live on here as you do, giving her whole mind to a young child.'

'That's just where we differ. Her very disqualification, that of
being a nobody, as you call it, is her recommendation in my eyes.
Her lack of influential connections limits her ambition. From what I
know of her, a life in this place is all that she would wish for.
She would never care to go outside the park-gates if it were
necessary to stay within.'

'Being in love with her, Albert, and meaning to marry her, you invent
your practical reasons to make the case respectable. Well, do as you
will; I have no authority over you, so why should you consult me?
You mean to propose on this very occasion, no doubt. Don't you,

'By no means. I am merely revolving the idea in my mind. If on
further acquaintance she turns out to be as good as she has hitherto
seemed--well, I shall see. Admit, now, that you like her.'

'I readily admit it. She is very captivating at first sight. But as
a stepmother to your child! You seem mighty anxious, Albert, to get
rid of me!'

'Not at all. And I am not so reckless as you think. I don't make up
my mind in a hurry. But the thought having occurred to me, I mention
it to you at once, mother. If you dislike it, say so.'

'I don't say anything. I will try to make the best of it if you are
determined. When does she come?'


All this time there were great preparations in train at the curate's,
who was now a householder. Rosa, whose two or three weeks' stay on
two occasions earlier in the year had so affected the squire, was
coming again, and at the same time her younger brother Cornelius, to
make up a family party. Rosa, who journeyed from the Midlands, could
not arrive till late in the evening, but Cornelius was to get there
in the afternoon, Joshua going out to meet him in his walk across the
fields from the railway.

Everything being ready in Joshua's modest abode he started on his
way, his heart buoyant and thankful, if ever it was in his life. He
was of such good report himself that his brother's path into holy
orders promised to be unexpectedly easy; and he longed to compare
experiences with him, even though there was on hand a more exciting
matter still. From his youth he had held that, in old-fashioned
country places, the Church conferred social prestige up to a certain
point at a cheaper price than any other profession or pursuit; and
events seemed to be proving him right.

He had walked about half an hour when he saw Cornelius coming along
the path; and in a few minutes the two brothers met. The experiences
of Cornelius had been less immediately interesting than those of
Joshua, but his personal position was satisfactory, and there was
nothing to account for the singularly subdued manner that he
exhibited, which at first Joshua set down to the fatigue of over-
study; and he proceeded to the subject of Rosa's arrival in the
evening, and the probable consequences of this her third visit.
'Before next Easter she'll be his wife, my boy,' said Joshua with
grave exultation.

Cornelius shook his head. 'She comes too late!' he returned.

'What do you mean?'

'Look here.' He produced the Fountall paper, and placed his finger
on a paragraph, which Joshua read. It appeared under the report of
Petty Sessions, and was a commonplace case of disorderly conduct, in
which a man was sent to prison for seven days for breaking windows in
that town.

'Well?' said Joshua.

'It happened during an evening that I was in the street; and the
offender is our father.'

'Not--how--I sent him more money on his promising to stay in Canada?'

'He is home, safe enough.' Cornelius in the same gloomy tone gave
the remainder of his information. He had witnessed the scene,
unobserved of his father, and had heard him say that he was on his
way to see his daughter, who was going to marry a rich gentleman.
The only good fortune attending the untoward incident was that the
millwright's name had been printed as Joshua Alborough.

'Beaten! We are to be beaten on the eve of our expected victory!'
said the elder brother. 'How did he guess that Rosa was likely to
marry? Good Heaven Cornelius, you seem doomed to bring bad news
always, do you not!'

'I do,' said Cornelius. 'Poor Rosa!'

It was almost in tears, so great was their heart-sickness and shame,
that the brothers walked the remainder of the way to Joshua's
dwelling. In the evening they set out to meet Rosa, bringing her to
the village in a fly; and when she had come into the house, and was
sitting down with them, they almost forgot their secret anxiety in
contemplating her, who knew nothing about it.

Next day the Fellmers came, and the two or three days after that were
a lively time. That the squire was yielding to his impulses--making
up his mind--there could be no doubt. On Sunday Cornelius read the
lessons, and Joshua preached. Mrs. Fellmer was quite maternal
towards Rosa, and it appeared that she had decided to welcome the
inevitable with a good grace. The pretty girl was to spend yet
another afternoon with the elder lady, superintending some parish
treat at the house in observance of Christmas, and afterwards to stay
on to dinner, her brothers to fetch her in the evening. They were
also invited to dine, but they could not accept owing to an

The engagement was of a sombre sort. They were going to meet their
father, who would that day be released from Fountall Gaol, and try to
persuade him to keep away from Narrobourne. Every exertion was to be
made to get him back to Canada, to his old home in the Midlands--
anywhere, so that he would not impinge disastrously upon their
courses, and blast their sister's prospects of the auspicious
marriage which was just then hanging in the balance.

As soon as Rosa had been fetched away by her friends at the manor-
house her brothers started on their expedition, without waiting for
dinner or tea. Cornelius, to whom the millwright always addressed
his letters when he wrote any, drew from his pocket and re-read as he
walked the curt note which had led to this journey being undertaken;
it was despatched by their father the night before, immediately upon
his liberation, and stated that he was setting out for Narrobourne at
the moment of writing; that having no money he would be obliged to
walk all the way; that he calculated on passing through the
intervening town of Ivell about six on the following day, where he
should sup at the Castle Inn, and where he hoped they would meet him
with a carriage-and-pair, or some other such conveyance, that he
might not disgrace them by arriving like a tramp.

'That sounds as if he gave a thought to our position,' said

Joshua knew the satire that lurked in the paternal words, and said
nothing. Silence prevailed during the greater part of their journey.
The lamps were lighted in Ivell when they entered the streets, and
Cornelius, who was quite unknown in this neighbourhood, and who,
moreover, was not in clerical attire, decided that he should be the
one to call at the Castle Inn. Here, in answer to his inquiry under
the darkness of the archway, they told him that such a man as he had
described left the house about a quarter of an hour earlier, after
making a meal in the kitchen-settle. He was rather the worse for

'Then,' said Joshua, when Cornelius joined him outside with this
intelligence, 'we must have met and passed him! And now that I think
of it, we did meet some one who was unsteady in his gait, under the
trees on the other side of Hendford Hill, where it was too dark to
see him.'

They rapidly retraced their steps; but for a long stretch of the way
home could discern nobody. When, however, they had gone about three-
quarters of the distance, they became conscious of an irregular
footfall in front of them, and could see a whitish figure in the
gloom. They followed dubiously. The figure met another wayfarer--
the single one that had been encountered upon this lonely road--and
they distinctly heard him ask the way to Narrobourne. The stranger
replied--what was quite true--that the nearest way was by turning in
at the stile by the next bridge, and following the footpath which
branched thence across the meadows.

When the brothers reached the stile they also entered the path, but
did not overtake the subject of their worry till they had crossed two
or three meads, and the lights from Narrobourne manor-house were
visible before them through the trees. Their father was no longer
walking; he was seated against the wet bank of an adjoining hedge.
Observing their forms he shouted, 'I'm going to Narrobourne; who may
you be?'

They went up to him, and revealed themselves, reminding him of the
plan which he had himself proposed in his note, that they should meet
him at Ivell.

'By Jerry, I'd forgot it!' he said. 'Well, what do you want me to
do?' His tone was distinctly quarrelsome.

A long conversation followed, which became embittered at the first
hint from them that he should not come to the village. The
millwright drew a quart bottle from his pocket, and challenged them
to drink if they meant friendly and called themselves men. Neither
of the two had touched alcohol for years, but for once they thought
it best to accept, so as not to needlessly provoke him.

'What's in it?' said Joshua.

'A drop of weak gin-and-water. It won't hurt ye. Drin' from the
bottle.' Joshua did so, and his father pushed up the bottom of the
vessel so as to make him swallow a good deal in spite of himself. It
went down into his stomach like molten lead.

'Ha, ha, that's right!' said old Halborough. 'But 'twas raw spirit--
ha, ha!'

'Why should you take me in so!' said Joshua, losing his self-command,
try as he would to keep calm.

'Because you took me in, my lad, in banishing me to that cursed
country under pretence that it was for my good. You were a pair of
hypocrites to say so. It was done to get rid of me--no more nor
less. But, by Jerry, I'm a match for ye now! I'll spoil your souls
for preaching. My daughter is going to be married to the squire
here. I've heard the news--I saw it in a paper!'

'It is premature--'

'I know it is true; and I'm her father, and I shall give her away, or
there'll be a hell of a row, I can assure ye! Is that where the
gennleman lives?'

Joshua Halborough writhed in impotent despair. Fellmer had not yet
positively declared himself, his mother was hardly won round; a scene
with their father in the parish would demolish as fair a palace of
hopes as was ever builded. The millwright rose. 'If that's where
the squire lives I'm going to call. Just arrived from Canady with
her fortune--ha, ha! I wish no harm to the gennleman, and the
gennleman will wish no harm to me. But I like to take my place in
the family, and stand upon my rights, and lower people's pride!'

'You've succeeded already! Where's that woman you took with you--'

'Woman! She was my wife as lawful as the Constitution--a sight more
lawful than your mother was till some time after you were born!'

Joshua had for many years before heard whispers that his father had
cajoled his mother in their early acquaintance, and had made somewhat
tardy amends; but never from his father's lips till now. It was the
last stroke, and he could not bear it. He sank back against the
hedge. 'It is over!' he said. 'He ruins us all!'

The millwright moved on, waving his stick triumphantly, and the two
brothers stood still. They could see his drab figure stalking along
the path, and over his head the lights from the conservatory of
Narrobourne House, inside which Albert Fellmer might possibly be
sitting with Rosa at that moment, holding her hand, and asking her to
share his home with him.

The staggering whitey-brown form, advancing to put a blot on all
this, had been diminishing in the shade; and now suddenly disappeared
beside a weir. There was the noise of a flounce in the water.

'He has fallen in!' said Cornelius, starting forward to run for the
place at which his father had vanished.

Joshua, awaking from the stupefied reverie into which he had sunk,
rushed to the other's side before he had taken ten steps. 'Stop,
stop, what are you thinking of?' he whispered hoarsely, grasping
Cornelius's arm.

'Pulling him out!'

'Yes, yes--so am I. But--wait a moment--'

'But, Joshua!'

'Her life and happiness, you know--Cornelius--and your reputation and
mine--and our chance of rising together, all three--'

He clutched his brother's arm to the bone; and as they stood
breathless the splashing and floundering in the weir continued; over
it they saw the hopeful lights from the manor-house conservatory
winking through the trees as their bare branches waved to and fro.

The floundering and splashing grew weaker, and they could hear
gurgling words: 'Help--I'm drownded! Rosie--Rosie!'

'We'll go--we must save him. O Joshua!'

'Yes, yes! we must!'

Still they did not move, but waited, holding each other, each
thinking the same thought. Weights of lead seemed to be affixed to
their feet, which would no longer obey their wills. The mead became
silent. Over it they fancied they could see figures moving in the
conservatory. The air up there seemed to emit gentle kisses.

Cornelius started forward at last, and Joshua almost simultaneously.
Two or three minutes brought them to the brink of the stream. At
first they could see nothing in the water, though it was not so deep
nor the night so dark but that their father's light kerseymere coat
would have been visible if he had lain at the bottom. Joshua looked
this way and that.

'He has drifted into the culvert,' he said.

Below the foot-bridge of the weir the stream suddenly narrowed to
half its width, to pass under a barrel arch or culvert constructed
for waggons to cross into the middle of the mead in haymaking time.
It being at present the season of high water the arch was full to the
crown, against which the ripples clucked every now and then. At this
point he had just caught sight of a pale object slipping under. In a
moment it was gone.

They went to the lower end, but nothing emerged. For a long time
they tried at both ends to effect some communication with the
interior, but to no purpose.

'We ought to have come sooner!' said the conscience-stricken
Cornelius, when they were quite exhausted, and dripping wet.

'I suppose we ought,' replied Joshua heavily. He perceived his
father's walking-stick on the bank; hastily picking it up he stuck it
into the mud among the sedge. Then they went on.

'Shall we--say anything about this accident?' whispered Cornelius as
they approached the door of Joshua's house.

'What's the use? It can do no good. We must wait until he is

They went indoors and changed their clothes; after which they started
for the manor-house, reaching it about ten o'clock. Besides their
sister there were only three guests; an adjoining landowner and his
wife, and the infirm old rector.

Rosa, although she had parted from them so recently, grasped their
hands in an ecstatic, brimming, joyful manner, as if she had not seen
them for years. 'You look pale,' she said.

The brothers answered that they had had a long walk, and were
somewhat tired. Everybody in the room seemed charged full with some
sort of interesting knowledge: the squire's neighbour and his wife
looked wisely around; and Fellmer himself played the part of host
with a preoccupied bearing which approached fervour. They left at
eleven, not accepting the carriage offered, the distance being so
short and the roads dry. The squire came rather farther into the
dark with them than he need have done, and wished Rosa good-night in
a mysterious manner, slightly apart from the rest.

When they were walking along Joshua said, with desperate attempt at
joviality, 'Rosa, what's going on?'

'O, I--' she began between a gasp and a bound. 'He--'

'Never mind--if it disturbs you.'

She was so excited that she could not speak connectedly at first, the
practised air which she had brought home with her having disappeared.
Calming herself she added, 'I am not disturbed, and nothing has
happened. Only he said he wanted to ask me SOMETHING, some day; and
I said never mind that now. He hasn't asked yet, and is coining to
speak to you about it. He would have done so to-night, only I asked
him not to be in a hurry. But he will come to-morrow, I am sure!'


It was summer-time, six months later, and mowers and haymakers were
at work in the meads. The manor-house, being opposite them,
frequently formed a peg for conversation during these operations; and
the doings of the squire, and the squire's young wife, the curate's
sister--who was at present the admired of most of them, and the
interest of all--met with their due amount of criticism.

Rosa was happy, if ever woman could be said to be so. She had not
learnt the fate of her father, and sometimes wondered--perhaps with a
sense of relief--why he did not write to her from his supposed home
in Canada. Her brother Joshua had been presented to a living in a
small town, shortly after her marriage, and Cornelius had thereupon
succeeded to the vacant curacy of Narrobourne.

These two had awaited in deep suspense the discovery of their
father's body; and yet the discovery had not been made. Every day
they expected a man or a boy to run up from the meads with the
intelligence; but he had never come. Days had accumulated to weeks
and months; the wedding had come and gone: Joshua had tolled and
read himself in at his new parish; and never a shout of amazement
over the millwright's remains.

But now, in June, when they were mowing the meads, the hatches had to
be drawn and the water let out of its channels for the convenience of
the mowers. It was thus that the discovery was made. A man,
stooping low with his scythe, caught a view of the culvert
lengthwise, and saw something entangled in the recently bared weeds
of its bed. A day or two after there was an inquest; but the body
was unrecognizable. Fish and flood had been busy with the
millwright; he had no watch or marked article which could be
identified; and a verdict of the accidental drowning of a person
unknown settled the matter.

As the body was found in Narrobourne parish, there it had to be
buried. Cornelius wrote to Joshua, begging him to come and read the
service, or to send some one; he himself could not do it. Rather
than let in a stranger Joshua came, and silently scanned the
coroner's order handed him by the undertaker:-

'I, Henry Giles, Coroner for the Mid-Division of Outer Wessex, do
hereby order the Burial of the Body now shown to the Inquest Jury as
the Body of an Adult Male Person Unknown . . . ,' etc.

Joshua Halborough got through the service in some way, and rejoined
his brother Cornelius at his house. Neither accepted an invitation
to lunch at their sister's; they wished to discuss parish matters
together. In the afternoon she came down, though they had already
called on her, and had not expected to see her again. Her bright
eyes, brown hair, flowery bonnet, lemon-coloured gloves, and flush
beauty, were like an irradiation into the apartment, which they in
their gloom could hardly bear.

'I forgot to tell you,' she said, 'of a curious thing which happened
to me a month or two before my marriage--something which I have
thought may have had a connection with the accident to the poor man
you have buried to-day. It was on that evening I was at the manor-
house waiting for you to fetch me; I was in the winter-garden with
Albert, and we were sitting silent together, when we fancied we heard
a cry. We opened the door, and while Albert ran to fetch his hat,
leaving me standing there, the cry was repeated, and my excited
senses made me think I heard my own name. When Albert came back all
was silent, and we decided that it was only a drunken shout, and not
a cry for help. We both forgot the incident, and it never has
occurred to me till since the funeral to-day that it might have been
this stranger's cry. The name of course was only fancy, or he might
have had a wife or child with a name something like mine, poor man!'

When she was gone the brothers were silent till Cornelius said, 'Now
mark this, Joshua. Sooner or later she'll know.'


'From one of us. Do you think human hearts are iron-cased safes,
that you suppose we can keep this secret for ever?'

'Yes, I think they are, sometimes,' said Joshua.

'No. It will out. We shall tell.'

'What, and ruin her--kill her? Disgrace her children, and pull down
the whole auspicious house of Fellmer about our ears? No! May I--
drown where he was drowned before I do it! Never, never. Surely you
can say the same, Cornelius!'

Cornelius seemed fortified, and no more was said. For a long time
after that day he did not see Joshua, and before the next year was
out a son and heir was born to the Fellmers. The villagers rang the
three bells every evening for a week and more, and were made merry by
Mr. Fellmer's ale; and when the christening came on Joshua paid
Narrobourne another visit.

Among all the people who assembled on that day the brother clergymen
were the least interested. Their minds were haunted by a spirit in
kerseymere in the evening they walked together in the fields.

'She's all right,' said Joshua. 'But here are you doing journey-
work, Cornelius, and likely to continue at it till the end of the
day, as far as I can see. I, too, with my petty living--what am I
after all? . . . To tell the truth, the Church is a poor forlorn hope
for people without influence, particularly when their enthusiasm
begins to flag. A social regenerator has a better chance outside,
where he is unhampered by dogma and tradition. As for me, I would
rather have gone on mending mills, with my crust of bread and

Almost automatically they had bent their steps along the margin of
the river; they now paused. They were standing on the brink of the
well-known weir. There were the hatches, there was the culvert; they
could see the pebbly bed of the stream through the pellucid water.
The notes of the church-bells were audible, still jangled by the
enthusiastic villagers.

'Why see--it was there I hid his walking-stick!' said Joshua, looking
towards the sedge. The next moment, during a passing breeze,
something flashed white on the spot to which the attention of
Cornelius was drawn.

From the sedge rose a straight little silver-poplar, and it was the
leaves of this sapling which caused the flicker of whiteness.

'His walking-stick has grown!' Joshua added. 'It was a rough one--
cut from the hedge, I remember.'

At every puff of wind the tree turned white, till they could not bear
to look at it; and they walked away.

'I see him every night,' Cornelius murmured . . . 'Ah, we read our
Hebrews to little account, Jos! [GREEK TEXT] To have endured the
cross, despising the shame--there lay greatness! But now I often
feel that I should like to put an end to trouble here in this self-
same spot.'

'I have thought of it myself,' said Joshua.

'Perhaps we shall, some day,' murmured his brother. 'Perhaps,' said
Joshua moodily.

With that contingency to consider in the silence of their nights and
days they bent their steps homewards.

December 1888.



The man who played the disturbing part in the two quiet lives
hereafter depicted--no great man, in any sense, by the way--first had
knowledge of them on an October evening, in the city of Melchester.
He had been standing in the Close, vainly endeavouring to gain amid
the darkness a glimpse of the most homogeneous pile of mediaeval
architecture in England, which towered and tapered from the damp and
level sward in front of him. While he stood the presence of the
Cathedral walls was revealed rather by the ear than by the eyes; he
could not see them, but they reflected sharply a roar of sound which
entered the Close by a street leading from the city square, and,
falling upon the building, was flung back upon him.

He postponed till the morrow his attempt to examine the deserted
edifice, and turned his attention to the noise. It was compounded of
steam barrel-organs, the clanging of gongs, the ringing of hand-
bells, the clack of rattles, and the undistinguishable shouts of men.
A lurid light hung in the air in the direction of the tumult.
Thitherward he went, passing under the arched gateway, along a
straight street, and into the square.

He might have searched Europe over for a greater contrast between
juxtaposed scenes. The spectacle was that of the eighth chasm of the
Inferno as to colour and flame, and, as to mirth, a development of
the Homeric heaven. A smoky glare, of the complexion of brass-
filings, ascended from the fiery tongues of innumerable naphtha lamps
affixed to booths, stalls, and other temporary erections which
crowded the spacious market-square. In front of this irradiation
scores of human figures, more or less in profile, were darting
athwart and across, up, down, and around, like gnats against a

Their motions were so rhythmical that they seemed to be moved by
machinery. And it presently appeared that they were moved by
machinery indeed; the figures being those of the patrons of swings,
see-saws, flying-leaps, above all of the three steam roundabouts
which occupied the centre of the position. It was from the latter
that the din of steam-organs came.

Throbbing humanity in full light was, on second thoughts, better than
architecture in the dark. The young man, lighting a short pipe, and
putting his hat on one side and one hand in his pocket, to throw
himself into harmony with his new environment, drew near to the
largest and most patronized of the steam circuses, as the roundabouts
were called by their owners. This was one of brilliant finish, and
it was now in full revolution. The musical instrument around which
and to whose tones the riders revolved, directed its trumpet-mouths
of brass upon the young man, and the long plate-glass mirrors set at
angles, which revolved with the machine, flashed the gyrating
personages and hobby horses kaleidoscopically into his eyes.

It could now be seen that he was unlike the majority of the crowd. A
gentlemanly young fellow, one of the species found in large towns
only, and London particularly, built on delicate lines, well, though
not fashionably dressed, he appeared to belong to the professional
class; he had nothing square or practical about his look, much that
was curvilinear and sensuous. Indeed, some would have called him a
man not altogether typical of the middle-class male of a century
wherein sordid ambition is the master-passion that seems to be taking
the time-honoured place of love.

The revolving figures passed before his eyes with an unexpected and
quiet grace in a throng whose natural movements did not suggest
gracefulness or quietude as a rule. By some contrivance there was
imparted to each of the hobby-horses a motion which was really the
triumph and perfection of roundabout inventiveness--a galloping rise
and fall, so timed that, of each pair of steeds, one was on the
spring while the other was on the pitch. The riders were quite
fascinated by these equine undulations in this most delightful
holiday-game of our times. There were riders as young as six, and as
old as sixty years, with every age between. At first it was
difficult to catch a personality, but by and by the observer's eyes
centred on the prettiest girl out of the several pretty ones

It was not that one with the light frock and light hat whom he had
been at first attracted by; no, it was the one with the black cape,
grey skirt, light gloves and--no, not even she, but the one behind
her; she with the crimson skirt, dark jacket, brown hat and brown
gloves. Unmistakably that was the prettiest girl.

Having finally selected her, this idle spectator studied her as well
as he was able during each of her brief transits across his visual
field. She was absolutely unconscious of everything save the act of
riding: her features were rapt in an ecstatic dreaminess; for the
moment she did not know her age or her history or her lineaments,
much less her troubles. He himself was full of vague latter-day
glooms and popular melancholies, and it was a refreshing sensation to
behold this young thing then and there, absolutely as happy as if she
were in a Paradise.

Dreading the moment when the inexorable stoker, grimily lurking
behind the glittering rococo-work, should decide that this set of
riders had had their pennyworth, and bring the whole concern of
steam-engine, horses, mirrors, trumpets, drums, cymbals, and such-
like to pause and silence, he waited for her every reappearance,
glancing indifferently over the intervening forms, including the two
plainer girls, the old woman and child, the two youngsters, the
newly-married couple, the old man with a clay pipe, the sparkish
youth with a ring, the young ladies in the chariot, the pair of
journeyman-carpenters, and others, till his select country beauty
followed on again in her place. He had never seen a fairer product
of nature, and at each round she made a deeper mark in his
sentiments. The stoppage then came, and the sighs of the riders were

He moved round to the place at which he reckoned she would alight;
but she retained her seat. The empty saddles began to refill, and
she plainly was deciding to have another turn. The young man drew up
to the side of her steed, and pleasantly asked her if she had enjoyed
her ride.

'O yes!' she said, with dancing eyes. 'It has been quite unlike
anything I have ever felt in my life before!'

It was not difficult to fall into conversation with her. Unreserved-
-too unreserved--by nature, she was not experienced enough to be
reserved by art, and after a little coaxing she answered his remarks
readily. She had come to live in Melchester from a village on the
Great Plain, and this was the first time that she had ever seen a
steam-circus; she could not understand how such wonderful machines
were made. She had come to the city on the invitation of Mrs.
Harnham, who had taken her into her household to train her as a
servant, if she showed any aptitude. Mrs. Harnham was a young lady
who before she married had been Miss Edith White, living in the
country near the speaker's cottage; she was now very kind to her
through knowing her in childhood so well. She was even taking the
trouble to educate her. Mrs. Harnham was the only friend she had in
the world, and being without children had wished to have her near her
in preference to anybody else, though she had only lately come;
allowed her to do almost as she liked, and to have a holiday whenever
she asked for it. The husband of this kind young lady was a rich
wine-merchant of the town, but Mrs. Harnham did not care much about
him. In the daytime you could see the house from where they were
talking. She, the speaker, liked Melchester better than the lonely
country, and she was going to have a new hat for next Sunday that was
to cost fifteen and ninepence.

Then she inquired of her acquaintance where he lived, and he told her
in London, that ancient and smoky city, where everybody lived who
lived at all, and died because they could not live there. He came
into Wessex two or three times a year for professional reasons; he
had arrived from Wintoncester yesterday, and was going on into the
next county in a day or two. For one thing he did like the country
better than the town, and it was because it contained such girls as

Then the pleasure-machine started again, and, to the light-hearted
girl, the figure of the handsome young man, the market-square with
its lights and crowd, the houses beyond, and the world at large,
began moving round as before, countermoving in the revolving mirrors
on her right hand, she being as it were the fixed point in an
undulating, dazzling, lurid universe, in which loomed forward most
prominently of all the form of her late interlocutor. Each time that
she approached the half of her orbit that lay nearest him they gazed
at each other with smiles, and with that unmistakable expression
which means so little at the moment, yet so often leads up to
passion, heart-ache, union, disunion, devotion, overpopulation,
drudgery, content, resignation, despair.

When the horses slowed anew he stepped to her side and proposed
another heat. 'Hang the expense for once,' he said. 'I'll pay!'

She laughed till the tears came.

'Why do you laugh, dear?' said he.

'Because--you are so genteel that you must have plenty of money, and
only say that for fun!' she returned.

'Ha-ha!' laughed the young man in unison, and gallantly producing his
money she was enabled to whirl on again.

As he stood smiling there in the motley crowd, with his pipe in his
hand, and clad in the rough pea-jacket and wideawake that he had put
on for his stroll, who would have supposed him to be Charles Bradford
Raye, Esquire, stuff-gownsman, educated at Wintoncester, called to
the Bar at Lincoln's-Inn, now going the Western Circuit, merely
detained in Melchester by a small arbitration after his brethren had
moved on to the next county-town?


The square was overlooked from its remoter corner by the house of
which the young girl had spoken, a dignified residence of
considerable size, having several windows on each floor. Inside one
of these, on the first floor, the apartment being a large drawing-
room, sat a lady, in appearance from twenty-eight to thirty years of
age. The blinds were still undrawn, and the lady was absently
surveying the weird scene without, her cheek resting on her hand.
The room was unlit from within, but enough of the glare from the
market-place entered it to reveal the lady's face. She was what is
called an interesting creature rather than a handsome woman; dark-
eyed, thoughtful, and with sensitive lips.

A man sauntered into the room from behind and came forward.

'O, Edith, I didn't see you,' he said. 'Why are you sitting here in
the dark?'

'I am looking at the fair,' replied the lady in a languid voice.

'Oh? Horrid nuisance every year! I wish it could be put a stop to'

'I like it.'

'H'm. There's no accounting for taste.'

For a moment he gazed from the window with her, for politeness sake,
and then went out again.

In a few minutes she rang.

'Hasn't Anna come in?' asked Mrs. Harnham.

'No m'm.'

'She ought to be in by this time. I meant her to go for ten minutes

'Shall I go and look for her, m'm?' said the house-maid alertly.

'No. It is not necessary: she is a good girl and will come soon.'

However, when the servant had gone Mrs. Harnham arose, went up to her
room, cloaked and bonneted herself, and proceeded downstairs, where
she found her husband.

'I want to see the fair,' she said; 'and I am going to look for Anna.
I have made myself responsible for her, and must see she comes to no
harm. She ought to be indoors. Will you come with me?'

'Oh, she's all right. I saw her on one of those whirligig things,
talking to her young man as I came in. But I'll go if you wish,
though I'd rather go a hundred miles the other way.'

'Then please do so. I shall come to no harm alone.'

She left the house and entered the crowd which thronged the market-
place, where she soon discovered Anna, seated on the revolving horse.
As soon as it stopped Mrs. Harnham advanced and said severely, 'Anna,
how can you be such a wild girl? You were only to be out for ten

Anna looked blank, and the young man, who had dropped into the
background, came to her assistance.

'Please don't blame her,' he said politely. 'It is my fault that she
has stayed. She looked so graceful on the horse that I induced her
to go round again. I assure you that she has been quite safe.'

'In that case I'll leave her in your hands,' said Mrs. Harnham,
turning to retrace her steps.

But this for the moment it was not so easy to do. Something had
attracted the crowd to a spot in their rear, and the wine-merchant's
wife, caught by its sway, found herself pressed against Anna's
acquaintance without power to move away. Their faces were within a
few inches of each other, his breath fanned her cheek as well as
Anna's. They could do no other than smile at the accident; but
neither spoke, and each waited passively. Mrs. Harnham then felt a
man's hand clasping her fingers, and from the look of consciousness
on the young fellow's face she knew the hand to be his: she also
knew that from the position of the girl he had no other thought than
that the imprisoned hand was Anna's. What prompted her to refrain
from undeceiving him she could hardly tell. Not content with holding
the hand, he playfully slipped two of his fingers inside her glove,
against her palm. Thus matters continued till the pressure lessened;
but several minutes passed before the crowd thinned sufficiently to
allow Mrs. Harnham to withdraw.

'How did they get to know each other, I wonder?' she mused as she
retreated. 'Anna is really very forward--and he very wicked and

She was so gently stirred with the stranger's manner and voice, with
the tenderness of his idle touch, that instead of re-entering the
house she turned back again and observed the pair from a screened
nook. Really she argued (being little less impulsive than Anna
herself) it was very excusable in Anna to encourage him, however she
might have contrived to make his acquaintance; he was so gentlemanly,
so fascinating, had such beautiful eyes. The thought that he was
several years her junior produced a reasonless sigh.

At length the couple turned from the roundabout towards the door of
Mrs. Harnham's house, and the young man could be heard saying that he
would accompany her home. Anna, then, had found a lover, apparently
a very devoted one. Mrs. Harnham was quite interested in him. When
they drew near the door of the wine-merchant's house, a comparatively
deserted spot by this time, they stood invisible for a little while
in the shadow of a wall, where they separated, Anna going on to the
entrance, and her acquaintance returning across the square.

'Anna,' said Mrs. Harnham, coming up. 'I've been looking at you!
That young man kissed you at parting I am almost sure.'

'Well,' stammered Anna; 'he said, if I didn't mind--it would do me no
harm, and, and, him a great deal of good!'

'Ah, I thought so! And he was a stranger till to-night?'

'Yes ma'am.'

'Yet I warrant you told him your name and every thing about

'He asked me.'

'But he didn't tell you his?'

'Yes ma'am, he did!' cried Anna victoriously. 'It is Charles
Bradford, of London.'

'Well, if he's respectable, of course I've nothing to say against
your knowing him,' remarked her mistress, prepossessed, in spite of
general principles, in the young man's favour. 'But I must
reconsider all that, if he attempts to renew your acquaintance. A
country-bred girl like you, who has never lived in Melchester till
this month, who had hardly ever seen a black-coated man till you came
here, to be so sharp as to capture a young Londoner like him!'

'I didn't capture him. I didn't do anything,' said Anna, in

When she was indoors and alone Mrs. Harnham thought what a well-bred
and chivalrous young man Anna's companion had seemed. There had been
a magic in his wooing touch of her hand; and she wondered how he had
come to be attracted by the girl.

The next morning the emotional Edith Harnham went to the usual week-
day service in Melchester cathedral. In crossing the Close through
the fog she again perceived him who had interested her the previous
evening, gazing up thoughtfully at the high-piled architecture of the
nave: and as soon as she had taken her seat he entered and sat down
in a stall opposite hers.

He did not particularly heed her; but Mrs. Harnham was continually
occupying her eyes with him, and wondered more than ever what had
attracted him in her unfledged maid-servant. The mistress was almost
as unaccustomed as the maiden herself to the end-of-the-age young
man, or she might have wondered less. Raye, having looked about him
awhile, left abruptly, without regard to the service that was
proceeding; and Mrs. Harnham--lonely, impressionable creature that
she was--took no further interest in praising the Lord. She wished
she had married a London man who knew the subtleties of love-making
as they were evidently known to him who had mistakenly caressed her


The calendar at Melchester had been light, occupying the court only a
few hours; and the assizes at Casterbridge, the next county-town on
the Western Circuit, having no business for Raye, he had not gone
thither. At the next town after that they did not open till the
following Monday, trials to begin on Tuesday morning. In the natural
order of things Raye would have arrived at the latter place on Monday
afternoon; but it was not till the middle of Wednesday that his gown
and grey wig, curled in tiers, in the best fashion of Assyrian bas-
reliefs, were seen blowing and bobbing behind him as he hastily
walked up the High Street from his lodgings. But though he entered
the assize building there was nothing for him to do, and sitting at
the blue baize table in the well of the court, he mended pens with a
mind far away from the case in progress. Thoughts of unpremeditated
conduct, of which a week earlier he would not have believed himself
capable, threw him into a mood of dissatisfied depression.

He had contrived to see again the pretty rural maiden Anna, the day
after the fair, had walked out of the city with her to the earthworks
of Old Melchester, and feeling a violent fancy for her, had remained
in Melchester all Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; by persuasion
obtaining walks and meetings with the girl six or seven times during
the interval; had in brief won her, body and soul.

He supposed it must have been owing to the seclusion in which he had
lived of late in town that he had given way so unrestrainedly to a
passion for an artless creature whose inexperience had, from the
first, led her to place herself unreservedly in his hands. Much he
deplored trifling with her feelings for the sake of a passing desire;
and he could only hope that she might not live to suffer on his

She had begged him to come to her again; entreated him; wept. He had
promised that he would do so, and he meant to carry out that promise.
He could not desert her now. Awkward as such unintentional
connections were, the interspace of a hundred miles--which to a girl
of her limited capabilities was like a thousand--would effectually
hinder this summer fancy from greatly encumbering his life; while
thought of her simple love might do him the negative good of keeping
him from idle pleasures in town when he wished to work hard. His
circuit journeys would take him to Melchester three or four times a
year; and then he could always see her.

The pseudonym, or rather partial name, that he had given her as his
before knowing how far the acquaintance was going to carry him, had
been spoken on the spur of the moment, without any ulterior intention
whatever. He had not afterwards disturbed Anna's error, but on
leaving her he had felt bound to give her an address at a stationer's
not far from his chambers, at which she might write to him under the
initials 'C. B.'

In due time Raye returned to his London abode, having called at
Melchester on his way and spent a few additional hours with his
fascinating child of nature. In town he lived monotonously every
day. Often he and his rooms were enclosed by a tawny fog from all
the world besides, and when he lighted the gas to read or write by,
his situation seemed so unnatural that he would look into the fire
and think of that trusting girl at Melchester again and again.
Often, oppressed by absurd fondness for her, he would enter the dim
religious nave of the Law Courts by the north door, elbow other
juniors habited like himself, and like him unretained; edge himself
into this or that crowded court where a sensational case was going
on, just as if he were in it, though the police officers at the door
knew as well as he knew himself that he had no more concern with the
business in hand than the patient idlers at the gallery-door outside,
who had waited to enter since eight in the morning because, like him,
they belonged to the classes that live on expectation. But he would
do these things to no purpose, and think how greatly the characters
in such scenes contrasted with the pink and breezy Anna.

An unexpected feature in that peasant maiden's conduct was that she
had not as yet written to him, though he had told her she might do so
if she wished. Surely a young creature had never before been so
reticent in such circumstances. At length he sent her a brief line,
positively requesting her to write. There was no answer by the
return post, but the day after a letter in a neat feminine hand, and
bearing the Melchester post-mark, was handed to him by the stationer.

The fact alone of its arrival was sufficient to satisfy his
imaginative sentiment. He was not anxious to open the epistle, and
in truth did not begin to read it for nearly half-an-hour,
anticipating readily its terms of passionate retrospect and tender
adjuration. When at last he turned his feet to the fireplace and
unfolded the sheet, he was surprised and pleased to find that neither
extravagance nor vulgarity was there. It was the most charming
little missive he had ever received from woman. To be sure the
language was simple and the ideas were slight; but it was so self-
possessed; so purely that of a young girl who felt her womanhood to
be enough for her dignity that he read it through twice. Four sides
were filled, and a few lines written across, after the fashion of
former days; the paper, too, was common, and not of the latest shade
and surface. But what of those things? He had received letters from
women who were fairly called ladies, but never so sensible, so human
a letter as this. He could not single out any one sentence and say
it was at all remarkable or clever; the ensemble of the letter it was
which won him; and beyond the one request that he would write or come
to her again soon there was nothing to show her sense of a claim upon

To write again and develop a correspondence was the last thing Raye
would have preconceived as his conduct in such a situation; yet he
did send a short, encouraging line or two, signed with his pseudonym,
in which he asked for another letter, and cheeringly promised that he
would try to see her again on some near day, and would never forget
how much they had been to each other during their short acquaintance.


To return now to the moment at which Anna, at Melchester, had
received Raye's letter.

It had been put into her own hand by the postman on his morning
rounds. She flushed down to her neck on receipt of it, and turned it
over and over. 'It is mine?' she said.

'Why, yes, can't you see it is?' said the postman, smiling as he
guessed the nature of the document and the cause of the confusion.

'O yes, of course!' replied Anna, looking at the letter, forcedly
tittering, and blushing still more.

Her look of embarrassment did not leave her with the postman's
departure. She opened the envelope, kissed its contents, put away
the letter in her pocket, and remained musing till her eyes filled
with tears.

A few minutes later she carried up a cup of tea to Mrs. Harnham in
her bed-chamber. Anna's mistress looked at her, and said: 'How
dismal you seem this morning, Anna. What's the matter?'

'I'm not dismal, I'm glad; only I--' She stopped to stifle a sob.


'I've got a letter--and what good is it to me, if I can't read a word
in it!'

'Why, I'll read it, child, if necessary.'

'But this is from somebody--I don't want anybody to read it but
myself!' Anna murmured.

'I shall not tell anybody. Is it from that young man?'

'I think so.' Anna slowly produced the letter, saying: 'Then will
you read it to me, ma'am?'

This was the secret of Anna's embarrassment and flutterings. She
could neither read nor write. She had grown up under the care of an
aunt by marriage, at one of the lonely hamlets on the Great Mid-
Wessex Plain where, even in days of national education, there had
been no school within a distance of two miles. Her aunt was an
ignorant woman; there had been nobody to investigate Anna's
circumstances, nobody to care about her learning the rudiments;
though, as often in such cases, she had been well fed and clothed and
not unkindly treated. Since she had come to live at Melchester with
Mrs. Harnham, the latter, who took a kindly interest in the girl, had
taught her to speak correctly, in which accomplishment Anna showed
considerable readiness, as is not unusual with the illiterate; and
soon became quite fluent in the use of her mistress's phraseology.
Mrs. Harnham also insisted upon her getting a spelling and copy book,
and beginning to practise in these. Anna was slower in this branch
of her education, and meanwhile here was the letter.

Edith Harnham's large dark eyes expressed some interest in the
contents, though, in her character of mere interpreter, she threw
into her tone as much as she could of mechanical passiveness. She
read the short epistle on to its concluding sentence, which idly
requested Anna to send him a tender answer.

'Now--you'll do it for me, won't you, dear mistress?' said Anna
eagerly. 'And you'll do it as well as ever you can, please? Because
I couldn't bear him to think I am not able to do it myself. I should
sink into the earth with shame if he knew that!'

From some words in the letter Mrs. Harnham was led to ask questions,
and the answers she received confirmed her suspicions. Deep concern
filled Edith's heart at perceiving how the girl had committed her
happiness to the issue of this new-sprung attachment. She blamed
herself for not interfering in a flirtation which had resulted so
seriously for the poor little creature in her charge; though at the
time of seeing the pair together she had a feeling that it was hardly
within her province to nip young affection in the bud. However, what
was done could not be undone, and it behoved her now, as Anna's only
protector, to help her as much as she could. To Anna's eager request
that she, Mrs. Harnham, should compose and write the answer to this
young London man's letter, she felt bound to accede, to keep alive
his attachment to the girl if possible; though in other circumstances
she might have suggested the cook as an amanuensis.

A tender reply was thereupon concocted, and set down in Edith
Harnham's hand. This letter it had been which Raye had received and
delighted in. Written in the presence of Anna it certainly was, and
on Anna's humble note-paper, and in a measure indited by the young
girl; but the life, the spirit, the individuality, were Edith

'Won't you at least put your name yourself?' she said. 'You can
manage to write that by this time?'

'No, no,' said Anna, shrinking back. 'I should do it so bad. He'd
be ashamed of me, and never see me again!'

The note, so prettily requesting another from him, had, as we have
seen, power enough in its pages to bring one. He declared it to be
such a pleasure to hear from her that she must write every week. The
same process of manufacture was accordingly repeated by Anna and her
mistress, and continued for several weeks in succession; each letter
being penned and suggested by Edith, the girl standing by; the answer
read and commented on by Edith, Anna standing by and listening again.

Late on a winter evening, after the dispatch of the sixth letter,
Mrs. Harnham was sitting alone by the remains of her fire. Her
husband had retired to bed, and she had fallen into that fixity of
musing which takes no count of hour or temperature. The state of
mind had been brought about in Edith by a strange thing which she had
done that day. For the first time since Raye's visit Anna had gone
to stay over a night or two with her cottage friends on the Plain,
and in her absence had arrived, out of its time, a letter from Raye.
To this Edith had replied on her own responsibility, from the depths
of her own heart, without waiting for her maid's collaboration. The
luxury of writing to him what would be known to no consciousness but
his was great, and she had indulged herself therein.

Why was it a luxury?

Edith Harnham led a lonely life. Influenced by the belief of the
British parent that a bad marriage with its aversions is better than
free womanhood with its interests, dignity, and leisure, she had
consented to marry the elderly wine-merchant as a pis aller, at the
age of seven-and-twenty--some three years before this date--to find
afterwards that she had made a mistake. That contract had left her
still a woman whose deeper nature had never been stirred.

She was now clearly realizing that she had become possessed to the
bottom of her soul with the image of a man to whom she was hardly so
much as a name. From the first he had attracted her by his looks and
voice; by his tender touch; and, with these as generators, the
writing of letter after letter and the reading of their soft answers
had insensibly developed on her side an emotion which fanned his;
till there had resulted a magnetic reciprocity between the
correspondents, notwithstanding that one of them wrote in a character
not her own. That he had been able to seduce another woman in two
days was his crowning though unrecognized fascination for her as the

They were her own impassioned and pent-up ideas--lowered to
monosyllabic phraseology in order to keep up the disguise--that Edith
put into letters signed with another name, much to the shallow Anna's
delight, who, unassisted, could not for the world have conceived such
pretty fancies for winning him, even had she been able to write them.
Edith found that it was these, her own foisted-in sentiments, to
which the young barrister mainly responded. The few sentences
occasionally added from Anna's own lips made apparently no impression
upon him.

The letter-writing in her absence Anna never discovered; but on her
return the next morning she declared she wished to see her lover
about something at once, and begged Mrs. Harnham to ask him to come.

There was a strange anxiety in her manner which did not escape Mrs.
Harnham, and ultimately resolved itself into a flood of tears.
Sinking down at Edith's knees, she made confession that the result of
her relations with her lover it would soon become necessary to

Edith Harnham was generous enough to be very far from inclined to
cast Anna adrift at this conjuncture. No true woman ever is so
inclined from her own personal point of view, however prompt she may
be in taking such steps to safeguard those dear to her. Although she
had written to Raye so short a time previously, she instantly penned
another Anna-note hinting clearly though delicately the state of

Raye replied by a hasty line to say how much he was affected by her
news: he felt that he must run down to see her almost immediately.

But a week later the girl came to her mistress's room with another
note, which on being read informed her that after all he could not
find time for the journey. Anna was broken with grief; but by Mrs.
Harnham's counsel strictly refrained from hurling at him the
reproaches and bitterness customary from young women so situated.
One thing was imperative: to keep the young man's romantic interest
in her alive. Rather therefore did Edith, in the name of her
protegee, request him on no account to be distressed about the
looming event, and not to inconvenience himself to hasten down. She
desired above everything to be no weight upon him in his career, no
clog upon his high activities. She had wished him to know what had
befallen: he was to dismiss it again from his mind. Only he must
write tenderly as ever, and when he should come again on the spring
circuit it would be soon enough to discuss what had better be done.

It may well be supposed that Anna's own feelings had not been quite
in accord with these generous expressions; but the mistress's
judgment had ruled, and Anna had acquiesced. 'All I want is that
NICENESS you can so well put into your letters, my dear, dear
mistress, and that I can't for the life o' me make up out of my own
head; though I mean the same thing and feel it exactly when you've
written it down!'

When the letter had been sent off, and Edith Harnham was left alone,
she bowed herself on the back of her chair and wept.

'I wish it was mine--I wish it was!' she murmured. 'Yet how can I
say such a wicked thing!'


The letter moved Raye considerably when it reached him. The
intelligence itself had affected him less than her unexpected manner
of treating him in relation to it. The absence of any word of
reproach, the devotion to his interests, the self-sacrifice apparent
in every line, all made up a nobility of character that he had never
dreamt of finding in womankind.

'God forgive me!' he said tremulously. 'I have been a wicked wretch.
I did not know she was such a treasure as this!'

He reassured her instantly; declaring that he would not of course
desert her, that he would provide a home for her somewhere.
Meanwhile she was to stay where she was as long as her mistress would
allow her.

But a misfortune supervened in this direction. Whether an inkling of
Anna's circumstances reached the knowledge of Mrs. Harnham's husband
or not cannot be said, but the girl was compelled, in spite of
Edith's entreaties, to leave the house. By her own choice she
decided to go back for a while to the cottage on the Plain. This
arrangement led to a consultation as to how the correspondence should
be carried on; and in the girl's inability to continue personally
what had been begun in her name, and in the difficulty of their
acting in concert as heretofore, she requested Mrs. Harnham--the only
well-to-do friend she had in the world--to receive the letters and
reply to them off-hand, sending them on afterwards to herself on the
Plain, where she might at least get some neighbour to read them to
her, if a trustworthy one could be met with. Anna and her box then
departed for the Plain.

Thus it befel that Edith Harnham found herself in the strange
position of having to correspond, under no supervision by the real
woman, with a man not her husband, in terms which were virtually
those of a wife, concerning a condition that was not Edith's at all;
the man being one for whom, mainly through the sympathies involved in
playing this part, she secretly cherished a predilection, subtle and
imaginative truly, but strong and absorbing. She opened each letter,
read it as if intended for herself, and replied from the promptings
of her own heart and no other.

Throughout this correspondence, carried on in the girl's absence, the
high-strung Edith Harnham lived in the ecstasy of fancy; the
vicarious intimacy engendered such a flow of passionateness as was
never exceeded. For conscience' sake Edith at first sent on each of
his letters to Anna, and even rough copies of her replies; but later
on these so-called copies were much abridged, and many letters on
both sides were not sent on at all.

Though selfish, and, superficially at least, infested with the self-
indulgent vices of artificial society, there was a substratum of
honesty and fairness in Raye's character. He had really a tender
regard for the country girl, and it grew more tender than ever when
he found her apparently capable of expressing the deepest
sensibilities in the simplest words. He meditated, he wavered; and
finally resolved to consult his sister, a maiden lady much older than
himself, of lively sympathies and good intent. In making this
confidence he showed her some of the letters.

'She seems fairly educated,' Miss Raye observed. 'And bright in
ideas. She expresses herself with a taste that must be innate.'

'Yes. She writes very prettily, doesn't she, thanks to these
elementary schools?'

'One is drawn out towards her, in spite of one's self, poor thing.'

The upshot of the discussion was that though he had not been directly
advised to do it, Raye wrote, in his real name, what he would never
have decided to write on his own responsibility; namely that he could
not live without her, and would come down in the spring and shelve
her looming difficulty by marrying her.

This bold acceptance of the situation was made known to Anna by Mrs.
Harnham driving out immediately to the cottage on the Plain. Anna
jumped for joy like a little child. And poor, crude directions for
answering appropriately were given to Edith Harnham, who on her
return to the city carried them out with warm intensification.

'O!' she groaned, as she threw down the pen. 'Anna--poor good little
fool--hasn't intelligence enough to appreciate him! How should she?
While I--don't bear his child!'

It was now February. The correspondence had continued altogether for
four months; and the next letter from Raye contained incidentally a
statement of his position and prospects. He said that in offering to
wed her he had, at first, contemplated the step of retiring from a
profession which hitherto had brought him very slight emolument, and
which, to speak plainly, he had thought might be difficult of
practice after his union with her. But the unexpected mines of
brightness and warmth that her letters had disclosed to be lurking in
her sweet nature had led him to abandon that somewhat sad prospect.
He felt sure that, with her powers of development, after a little
private training in the social forms of London under his supervision,
and a little help from a governess if necessary, she would make as
good a professional man's wife as could be desired, even if he should
rise to the woolsack. Many a Lord Chancellor's wife had been less
intuitively a lady than she had shown herself to be in her lines to

'O--poor fellow, poor fellow!' mourned Edith Harnham.

Her distress now raged as high as her infatuation. It was she who
had wrought him to this pitch--to a marriage which meant his ruin;
yet she could not, in mercy to her maid, do anything to hinder his
plan. Anna was coming to Melchester that week, but she could hardly
show the girl this last reply from the young man; it told too much of
the second individuality that had usurped the place of the first.

Anna came, and her mistress took her into her own room for privacy.
Anna began by saying with some anxiety that she was glad the wedding
was so near.

'O Anna!' replied Mrs. Harnham. 'I think we must tell him all--that
I have been doing your writing for you?--lest he should not know it
till after you become his wife, and it might lead to dissension and

'O mis'ess, dear mis'ess--please don't tell him now!' cried Anna in
distress. 'If you were to do it, perhaps he would not marry me; and
what should I do then? It would be terrible what would come to me!
And I am getting on with my writing, too. I have brought with me the
copybook you were so good as to give me, and I practise every day,
and though it is so, so hard, I shall do it well at last, I believe,
if I keep on trying.'

Edith looked at the copybook. The copies had been set by herself,
and such progress as the girl had made was in the way of grotesque
facsimile of her mistress's hand. But even if Edith's flowing
caligraphy were reproduced the inspiration would be another thing.

'You do it so beautifully,' continued Anna, 'and say all that I want
to say so much better than I could say it, that I do hope you won't
leave me in the lurch just now!'

'Very well,' replied the other. 'But I--but I thought I ought not to
go on!'


Her strong desire to confide her sentiments led Edith to answer

'Because of its effect upon me.'

'But it CAN'T have any!'

'Why, child?'

'Because you are married already!' said Anna with lucid simplicity.

'Of course it can't,' said her mistress hastily; yet glad, despite
her conscience, that two or three outpourings still remained to her.
'But you must concentrate your attention on writing your name as I
write it here.'


Soon Raye wrote about the wedding. Having decided to make the best
of what he feared was a piece of romantic folly, he had acquired more
zest for the grand experiment. He wished the ceremony to be in
London, for greater privacy. Edith Harnham would have preferred it
at Melchester; Anna was passive. His reasoning prevailed, and Mrs.
Harnham threw herself with mournful zeal into the preparations for
Anna's departure. In a last desperate feeling that she must at every
hazard be in at the death of her dream, and see once again the man
who by a species of telepathy had exercised such an influence on her,
she offered to go up with Anna and be with her through the ceremony--
'to see the end of her,' as her mistress put it with forced gaiety;
an offer which the girl gratefully accepted; for she had no other
friend capable of playing the part of companion and witness, in the
presence of a gentlemanly bridegroom, in such a way as not to hasten
an opinion that he had made an irremediable social blunder.

It was a muddy morning in March when Raye alighted from a four-wheel
cab at the door of a registry-office in the S.W. district of London,
and carefully handed down Anna and her companion Mrs. Harnham. Anna
looked attractive in the somewhat fashionable clothes which Mrs.
Harnham had helped her to buy, though not quite so attractive as, an
innocent child, she had appeared in her country gown on the back of
the wooden horse at Melchester Fair.

Mrs. Harnham had come up this morning by an early train, and a young
man--a friend of Raye's--having met them at the door, all four
entered the registry-office together. Till an hour before this time
Raye had never known the wine-merchant's wife, except at that first
casual encounter, and in the flutter of the performance before them
he had little opportunity for more than a brief acquaintance. The
contract of marriage at a registry is soon got through; but somehow,
during its progress, Raye discovered a strange and secret gravitation
between himself and Anna's friend.

The formalities of the wedding--or rather ratification of a previous
union--being concluded, the four went in one cab to Raye's lodgings,
newly taken in a new suburb in preference to a house, the rent of
which he could ill afford just then. Here Anna cut the little cake
which Raye had bought at a pastrycook's on his way home from
Lincoln's Inn the night before. But she did not do much besides.
Raye's friend was obliged to depart almost immediately, and when he
had left the only ones virtually present were Edith and Raye who
exchanged ideas with much animation. The conversation was indeed
theirs only, Anna being as a domestic animal who humbly heard but
understood not. Raye seemed startled in awakening to this fact, and
began to feel dissatisfied with her inadequacy.

At last, more disappointed than he cared to own, he said, 'Mrs.
Harnham, my darling is so flurried that she doesn't know what she is
doing or saying. I see that after this event a little quietude will
be necessary before she gives tongue to that tender philosophy which
she used to treat me to in her letters.'

They had planned to start early that afternoon for Knollsea, to spend
the few opening days of their married life there, and as the hour for
departure was drawing near Raye asked his wife if she would go to the
writing-desk in the next room and scribble a little note to his
sister, who had been unable to attend through indisposition,
informing her that the ceremony was over, thanking her for her little
present, and hoping to know her well now that she was the writer's
sister as well as Charles's.

'Say it in the pretty poetical way you know so well how to adopt,' he
added, 'for I want you particularly to win her, and both of you to be
dear friends.'

Anna looked uneasy, but departed to her task, Raye remaining to talk
to their guest. Anna was a long while absent, and her husband
suddenly rose and went to her.

He found her still bending over the writing-table, with tears
brimming up in her eyes; and he looked down upon the sheet of note-
paper with some interest, to discover with what tact she had
expressed her good-will in the delicate circumstances. To his
surprise she had progressed but a few lines, in the characters and
spelling of a child of eight, and with the ideas of a goose.

'Anna,' he said, staring; 'what's this?'

'It only means--that I can't do it any better!' she answered, through
her tears.

'Eh? Nonsense!'

'I can't!' she insisted, with miserable, sobbing hardihood. 'I--I--
didn't write those letters, Charles! I only told HER what to write!
And not always that! But I am learning, O so fast, my dear, dear
husband! And you'll forgive me, won't you, for not telling you
before?' She slid to her knees, abjectly clasped his waist and laid
her face against him.

He stood a few moments, raised her, abruptly turned, and shut the
door upon her, rejoining Edith in the drawing-room. She saw that
something untoward had been discovered, and their eyes remained fixed
on each other.

'Do I guess rightly?' he asked, with wan quietude. 'YOU were her
scribe through all this?'

'It was necessary,' said Edith.

'Did she dictate every word you ever wrote to me?'

'Not every word.'

'In fact, very little?'

'Very little.'

'You wrote a great part of those pages every week from your own
conceptions, though in her name!'


'Perhaps you wrote many of the letters when you were alone, without
communication with her?'

'I did.'

He turned to the bookcase, and leant with his hand over his face; and
Edith, seeing his distress, became white as a sheet.

'You have deceived me--ruined me!' he murmured.

'O, don't say it!' she cried in her anguish, jumping up and putting
her hand on his shoulder. 'I can't bear that!'

'Delighting me deceptively! Why did you do it--WHY did you!'

'I began doing it in kindness to her! How could I do otherwise than
try to save such a simple girl from misery? But I admit that I
continued it for pleasure to myself.'

Raye looked up. 'Why did it give you pleasure?' he asked.

'I must not tell,' said she.

He continued to regard her, and saw that her lips suddenly began to
quiver under his scrutiny, and her eyes to fill and droop. She
started aside, and said that she must go to the station to catch the
return train: could a cab be called immediately?

But Raye went up to her, and took her unresisting hand. 'Well, to
think of such a thing as this!' he said. 'Why, you and I are
friends--lovers--devoted lovers--by correspondence!'

'Yes; I suppose.'



'Plainly more. It is no use blinking that. Legally I have married
her--God help us both!--in soul and spirit I have married you, and no
other woman in the world!'


'But I will not hush! Why should you try to disguise the full truth,
when you have already owned half of it? Yes, it is between you and
me that the bond is--not between me and her! Now I'll say no more.
But, O my cruel one, I think I have one claim upon you!'

She did not say what, and he drew her towards him, and bent over her.
'If it was all pure invention in those letters,' he said
emphatically, 'give me your cheek only. If you meant what you said,
let it be lips. It is for the first and last time, remember!'

She put up her mouth, and he kissed her long. 'You forgive me?' she
said crying.


'But you are ruined!'

'What matter!' he said shrugging his shoulders. 'It serves me

She withdrew, wiped her eyes, entered and bade good-bye to Anna, who
had not expected her to go so soon, and was still wrestling with the
letter. Raye followed Edith downstairs, and in three minutes she was
in a hansom driving to the Waterloo station.

He went back to his wife. 'Never mind the letter, Anna, to-day,' he
said gently. 'Put on your things. We, too, must be off shortly.'

The simple girl, upheld by the sense that she was indeed married,
showed her delight at finding that he was as kind as ever after the
disclosure. She did not know that before his eyes he beheld as it
were a galley, in which he, the fastidious urban, was chained to work
for the remainder of his life, with her, the unlettered peasant,
chained to his side.

Edith travelled back to Melchester that day with a face that showed
the very stupor of grief; her lips still tingling from the desperate
pressure of his kiss. The end of her impassioned dream had come.
When at dusk she reached the Melchester station her husband was there
to meet her, but in his perfunctoriness and her preoccupation they
did not see each other, and she went out of the station alone.

She walked mechanically homewards without calling a fly. Entering,
she could not bear the silence of the house, and went up in the dark
to where Anna had slept, where she remained thinking awhile. She
then returned to the drawing-room, and not knowing what she did,
crouched down upon the floor.

'I have ruined him!' she kept repeating. 'I have ruined him; because
I would not deal treacherously towards her!'

In the course of half an hour a figure opened the door of the

'Ah--who's that?' she said, starting up, for it was dark.

'Your husband--who should it be?' said the worthy merchant.

'Ah--my husband!--I forgot I had a husband!' she whispered to

'I missed you at the station,' he continued. 'Did you see Anna
safely tied up? I hope so, for 'twas time.'

'Yes--Anna is married.'

Simultaneously with Edith's journey home Anna and her husband were
sitting at the opposite windows of a second-class carriage which sped
along to Knollsea. In his hand was a pocket-book full of creased
sheets closely written over. Unfolding them one after another he
read them in silence, and sighed.

'What are you doing, dear Charles?' she said timidly from the other
window, and drew nearer to him as if he were a god.

'Reading over all those sweet letters to me signed "Anna,"' he
replied with dreary resignation.

Autumn 1891.



The interior of St. James's Church, in Havenpool Town, was slowly
darkening under the close clouds of a winter afternoon. It was
Sunday: service had just ended, the face of the parson in the pulpit
was buried in his hands, and the congregation, with a cheerful sigh
of release, were rising from their knees to depart.

For the moment the stillness was so complete that the surging of the
sea could be heard outside the harbour-bar. Then it was broken by
the footsteps of the clerk going towards the west door to open it in
the usual manner for the exit of the assembly. Before, however, he
had reached the doorway, the latch was lifted from without, and the
dark figure of a man in a sailor's garb appeared against the light.

The clerk stepped aside, the sailor closed the door gently behind
him, and advanced up the nave till he stood at the chancel-step. The
parson looked up from the private little prayer which, after so many
for the parish, he quite fairly took for himself; rose to his feet,
and stared at the intruder.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the sailor, addressing the minister in
a voice distinctly audible to all the congregation. 'I have come
here to offer thanks for my narrow escape from shipwreck. I am given
to understand that it is a proper thing to do, if you have no

The parson, after a moment's pause, said hesitatingly, 'I have no
objection; certainly. It is usual to mention any such wish before
service, so that the proper words may be used in the General
Thanksgiving. But, if you wish, we can read from the form for use
after a storm at sea.'

'Ay, sure; I ain't particular,' said the sailor.

The clerk thereupon directed the sailor to the page in the prayer-
book where the collect of thanksgiving would be found, and the rector
began reading it, the sailor kneeling where he stood, and repeating
it after him word by word in a distinct voice. The people, who had
remained agape and motionless at the proceeding, mechanically knelt
down likewise; but they continued to regard the isolated form of the
sailor who, in the precise middle of the chancel-step, remained fixed
on his knees, facing the east, his hat beside him, his hands joined,
and he quite unconscious of his appearance in their regard.

When his thanksgiving had come to an end he rose; the people rose
also, and all went out of church together. As soon as the sailor
emerged, so that the remaining daylight fell upon his face, old
inhabitants began to recognize him as no other than Shadrach
Jolliffe, a young man who had not been seen at Havenpool for several
years. A son of the town, his parents had died when he was quite
young, on which account he had early gone to sea, in the Newfoundland

He talked with this and that townsman as he walked, informing them
that, since leaving his native place years before, he had become
captain and owner of a small coasting-ketch, which had providentially
been saved from the gale as well as himself. Presently he drew near
to two girls who were going out of the churchyard in front of him;
they had been sitting in the nave at his entry, and had watched his
doings with deep interest, afterwards discussing him as they moved
out of church together. One was a slight and gentle creature, the
other a tall, large-framed, deliberative girl. Captain Jolliffe
regarded the loose curls of their hair, their backs and shoulders,
down to their heels, for some time.

'Who may them two maids be?' he whispered to his neighbour.

'The little one is Emily Hanning; the tall one Joanna Phippard.'

'Ah! I recollect 'em now, to be sure.'

He advanced to their elbow, and genially stole a gaze at them.

'Emily, you don't know me?' said the sailor, turning his beaming
brown eyes on her.

'I think I do, Mr. Jolliffe,' said Emily shyly.

The other girl looked straight at him with her dark eyes.

'The face of Miss Joanna I don't call to mind so well,' he continued.
'But I know her beginnings and kindred.'

They walked and talked together, Jolliffe narrating particulars of
his late narrow escape, till they reached the corner of Sloop Lane,
in which Emily Hanning dwelt, when, with a nod and smile, she left
them. Soon the sailor parted also from Joanna, and, having no
especial errand or appointment, turned back towards Emily's house.
She lived with her father, who called himself an accountant, the
daughter, however, keeping a little stationery-shop as a supplemental
provision for the gaps of his somewhat uncertain business. On
entering Jolliffe found father and daughter about to begin tea.

'O, I didn't know it was tea-time,' he said. 'Ay, I'll have a cup
with much pleasure.'

He remained to tea and long afterwards, telling more tales of his
seafaring life. Several neighbours called to listen, and were asked
to come in. Somehow Emily Hanning lost her heart to the sailor that
Sunday night, and in the course of a week or two there was a tender
understanding between them.

One moonlight evening in the next month Shadrach was ascending out of
the town by the long straight road eastward, to an elevated suburb
where the more fashionable houses stood--if anything near this
ancient port could be called fashionable--when he saw a figure before
him whom, from her manner of glancing back, he took to be Emily.
But, on coming up, he found she was Joanna Phippard. He gave a
gallant greeting, and walked beside her.

'Go along,' she said, 'or Emily will be jealous!'

He seemed not to like the suggestion, and remained. What was said
and what was done on that walk never could be clearly recollected by
Shadrach; but in some way or other Joanna contrived to wean him away
from her gentler and younger rival. From that week onwards, Jolliffe
was seen more and more in the wake of Joanna Phippard and less in the
company of Emily; and it was soon rumoured about the quay that old
Jolliffe's son, who had come home from sea, was going to be married
to the former young woman, to the great disappointment of the latter.

Just after this report had gone about, Joanna dressed herself for a
walk one morning, and started for Emily's house in the little cross-
street. Intelligence of the deep sorrow of her friend on account of
the loss of Shadrach had reached her ears also, and her conscience
reproached her for winning him away.

Joanna was not altogether satisfied with the sailor. She liked his
attentions, and she coveted the dignity of matrimony; but she had
never been deeply in love with Jolliffe. For one thing, she was
ambitious, and socially his position was hardly so good as her own,
and there was always the chance of an attractive woman mating
considerably above her. It had long been in her mind that she would
not strongly object to give him back again to Emily if her friend
felt so very badly about him. To this end she had written a letter
of renunciation to Shadrach, which letter she carried in her hand,
intending to send it if personal observation of Emily convinced her
that her friend was suffering.

Joanna entered Sloop Lane and stepped down into the stationery-shop,
which was below the pavement level. Emily's father was never at home
at this hour of the day, and it seemed as though Emily were not at
home either, for the visitor could make nobody hear. Customers came
so seldom hither that a five minutes' absence of the proprietor
counted for little. Joanna waited in the little shop, where Emily
had tastefully set out--as women can--articles in themselves of
slight value, so as to obscure the meagreness of the stock-in-trade;
till she saw a figure pausing without the window apparently absorbed
in the contemplation of the sixpenny books, packets of paper, and
prints hung on a string. It was Captain Shadrach Jolliffe, peering
in to ascertain if Emily were there alone. Moved by an impulse of
reluctance to meet him in a spot which breathed of Emily, Joanna
slipped through the door that communicated with the parlour at the
back. She had frequently done so before, for in her friendship with
Emily she had the freedom of the house without ceremony.

Jolliffe entered the shop. Through the thin blind which screened the
glass partition she could see that he was disappointed at not finding
Emily there. He was about to go out again, when Emily's form
darkened the doorway, hastening home from some errand. At sight of
Jolliffe she started back as if she would have gone out again.

'Don't run away, Emily; don't!' said he. 'What can make ye afraid?'

'I'm not afraid, Captain Jolliffe. Only--only I saw you all of a
sudden, and--it made me jump!' Her voice showed that her heart had
jumped even more than the rest of her.

'I just called as I was passing,' he said.

'For some paper?' She hastened behind the counter.

'No, no, Emily; why do ye get behind there? Why not stay by me? You
seem to hate me.'

'I don't hate you. How can I?'

'Then come out, so that we can talk like Christians.'

Emily obeyed with a fitful laugh, till she stood again beside him in
the open part of the shop.

'There's a dear,' he said.

'You mustn't say that, Captain Jolliffe; because the words belong to
somebody else.'

'Ah! I know what you mean. But, Emily, upon my life I didn't know
till this morning that you cared one bit about me, or I should not
have done as I have done. I have the best of feelings for Joanna,
but I know that from the beginning she hasn't cared for me more than
in a friendly way; and I see now the one I ought to have asked to be
my wife. You know, Emily, when a man comes home from sea after a
long voyage he's as blind as a bat--he can't see who's who in women.
They are all alike to him, beautiful creatures, and he takes the
first that comes easy, without thinking if she loves him, or if he
might not soon love another better than her. From the first I
inclined to you most, but you were so backward and shy that I thought
you didn't want me to bother 'ee, and so I went to Joanna.'

'Don't say any more, Mr. Jolliffe, don't!' said she, choking. 'You
are going to marry Joanna next month, and it is wrong to--to--'

'O, Emily, my darling!' he cried, and clasped her little figure in
his arms before she was aware.

Joanna, behind the curtain, turned pale, tried to withdraw her eyes,
but could not.

'It is only you I love as a man ought to love the woman he is going
to marry; and I know this from what Joanna has said, that she will
willingly let me off! She wants to marry higher I know, and only
said "Yes" to me out of kindness. A fine, tall girl like her isn't
the sort for a plain sailor's wife: you be the best suited for

He kissed her and kissed her again, her flexible form quivering in
the agitation of his embrace.

'I wonder--are you sure--Joanna is going to break off with you? O,
are you sure? Because--'

'I know she would not wish to make us miserable. She will release

'O, I hope--I hope she will! Don't stay any longer, Captain

He lingered, however, till a customer came for a penny stick of
sealing-wax, and then he withdrew.

Green envy had overspread Joanna at the scene. She looked about for
a way of escape. To get out without Emily's knowledge of her visit
was indispensable. She crept from the parlour into the passage, and
thence to the front door of the house, where she let herself
noiselessly into the street.

The sight of that caress had reversed all her resolutions. She could
not let Shadrach go. Reaching home she burnt the letter, and told
her mother that if Captain Jolliffe called she was too unwell to see

Shadrach, however, did not call. He sent her a note expressing in
simple language the state of his feelings; and asked to be allowed to
take advantage of the hints she had given him that her affection,
too, was little more than friendly, by cancelling the engagement.

Looking out upon the harbour and the island beyond he waited and
waited in his lodgings for an answer that did not come. The suspense
grew to be so intolerable that after dark he went up the High Street.
He could not resist calling at Joanna's to learn his fate.

Her mother said her daughter was too unwell to see him, and to his
questioning admitted that it was in consequence of a letter received
from himself; which had distressed her deeply.

'You know what it was about, perhaps, Mrs. Phippard?' he said.

Mrs. Phippard owned that she did, adding that it put them in a very
painful position. Thereupon Shadrach, fearing that he had been
guilty of an enormity, explained that if his letter had pained Joanna
it must be owing to a misunderstanding, since he had thought it would
be a relief to her. If otherwise, he would hold himself bound by his
word, and she was to think of the letter as never having been

Next morning he received an oral message from the young woman, asking
him to fetch her home from a meeting that evening. This he did, and
while walking from the Town Hall to her door, with her hand in his
arm, she said:

'It is all the same as before between us, isn't it, Shadrach? Your
letter was sent in mistake?'

'It is all the same as before,' he answered, 'if you say it must be.'

'I wish it to be,' she murmured, with hard lineaments, as she thought
of Emily.

Shadrach was a religious and scrupulous man, who respected his word
as his life. Shortly afterwards the wedding took place, Jolliffe
having conveyed to Emily as gently as possible the error he had
fallen into when estimating Joanna's mood as one of indifference.


A month after the marriage Joanna's mother died, and the couple were
obliged to turn their attention to very practical matters. Now that
she was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of
her husband going to sea again, but the question was, What could he
do at home? They finally decided to take on a grocer's shop in High
Street, the goodwill and stock of which were waiting to be disposed
of at that time. Shadrach knew nothing of shopkeeping, and Joanna
very little, but they hoped to learn.

To the management of this grocery business they now devoted all their
energies, and continued to conduct it for many succeeding years,
without great success. Two sons were born to them, whom their mother
loved to idolatry, although she had never passionately loved her
husband; and she lavished upon them all her forethought and care.
But the shop did not thrive, and the large dreams she had entertained
of her sons' education and career became attenuated in the face of
realities. Their schooling was of the plainest, but, being by the
sea, they grew alert in all such nautical arts and enterprises as
were attractive to their age.

The great interest of the Jolliffes' married life, outside their own
immediate household, had lain in the marriage of Emily. By one of
those odd chances which lead those that lurk in unexpected corners to
be discovered, while the obvious are passed by, the gentle girl had
been seen and loved by a thriving merchant of the town, a widower,
some years older than herself, though still in the prime of life. At
first Emily had declared that she never, never could marry any one;
but Mr. Lester had quietly persevered, and had at last won her
reluctant assent. Two children also were the fruits of this union,
and, as they grew and prospered, Emily declared that she had never
supposed that she could live to be so happy.

The worthy merchant's home, one of those large, substantial brick
mansions frequently jammed up in old-fashioned towns, faced directly
on the High Street, nearly opposite to the grocery shop of the
Jolliffes, and it now became the pain of Joanna to behold the woman
whose place she had usurped out of pure covetousness, looking down
from her position of comparative wealth upon the humble shop-window
with its dusty sugar-loaves, heaps of raisins, and canisters of tea,
over which it was her own lot to preside. The business having so
dwindled, Joanna was obliged to serve in the shop herself; and it
galled and mortified her that Emily Lester, sitting in her large
drawing-room over the way, could witness her own dancings up and down
behind the counter at the beck and call of wretched twopenny
customers, whose patronage she was driven to welcome gladly: persons
to whom she was compelled to be civil in the street, while Emily was
bounding along with her children and her governess, and conversing
with the genteelest people of the town and neighbourhood. This was
what she had gained by not letting Shadrach Jolliffe, whom she had so
faintly loved, carry his affection elsewhere.

Shadrach was a good and honest man, and he had been faithful to her
in heart and in deed. Time had clipped the wings of his love for
Emily in his devotion to the mother of his boys: he had quite lived
down that impulsive earlier fancy, and Emily had become in his regard
nothing more than a friend. It was the same with Emily's feelings
for him. Possibly, had she found the least cause for jealousy,
Joanna would almost have been better satisfied. It was in the
absolute acquiescence of Emily and Shadrach in the results she
herself had contrived that her discontent found nourishment.

Shadrach was not endowed with the narrow shrewdness necessary for
developing a retail business in the face of many competitors. Did a
customer inquire if the grocer could really recommend the wondrous
substitute for eggs which a persevering bagman had forced into his
stock, he would answer that 'when you did not put eggs into a pudding
it was difficult to taste them there'; and when he was asked if his
'real Mocha coffee' was real Mocha, he would say grimly, 'as
understood in small shops.'

One summer day, when the big brick house opposite was reflecting the
oppressive sun's heat into the shop, and nobody was present but
husband and wife, Joanna looked across at Emily's door, where a
wealthy visitor's carriage had drawn up. Traces of patronage had
been visible in Emily's manner of late.

'Shadrach, the truth is, you are not a business-man,' his wife sadly
murmured. 'You were not brought up to shopkeeping, and it is
impossible for a man to make a fortune at an occupation he has jumped
into, as you did into this.'

Jolliffe agreed with her, in this as in everything else.

'Not that I care a rope's end about making a fortune,' he said
cheerfully. 'I am happy enough, and we can rub on somehow.'

She looked again at the great house through the screen of bottled

'Rub on--yes,' she said bitterly. 'But see how well off Emmy Lester
is, who used to be so poor! Her boys will go to College, no doubt;
and think of yours--obliged to go to the Parish School!'

Shadrach's thoughts had flown to Emily.

'Nobody,' he said good-humouredly, 'ever did Emily a better turn than
you did, Joanna, when you warned her off me and put an end to that
little simpering nonsense between us, so as to leave it in her power
to say "Aye" to Lester when he came along.' This almost maddened

'Don't speak of bygones!' she implored, in stern sadness. 'But
think, for the boys' and my sake, if not for your own, what are we to
do to get richer?'

'Well,' he said, becoming serious, 'to tell the truth, I have always
felt myself unfit for this business, though I've never liked to say
so. I seem to want more room for sprawling; a more open space to
strike out in than here among friends and neighbours. I could get
rich as well as any man, if I tried my own way.'

'I wish you would! What is your way?'

'To go to sea again.'

She had been the very one to keep him at home, hating the semi-
widowed existence of sailors' wives. But her ambition checked her
instincts now, and she said: 'Do you think success really lies that


Back to Full Books