Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Part 2 out of 9
wooded, and was tinted by the young tender hues of the earliest
summer, for all the trees of the wood had donned their leaves
except the cautious ash, which here and there gave a soft,
pleasant greyness to the landscape. Far away in the champaign
were spires, and towers, and stacks of chimneys belonging to some
distant hidden farmhouse, which were traced downwards through the
golden air by the thin columns of blue smoke sent up from the
evening fires. The view was bounded by some rising ground in deep
purple shadow against the sunset sky. When first they stopped,
silent with sighing pleasure, the air seemed full of pleasant
noises; distant church-bells made harmonious music with the
little singing-birds near at hand; nor were the lowings of the
cattle nor the calls of the farm-servants discordant, for the
voices seemed to be hushed by the brooding consciousness of the
Sabbath. They stood loitering before the house, quietly enjoying
the view. The clock in the little inn struck eight, and it
sounded clear and sharp in the stillness.
"Can it be so late?" asked Ruth.
"I should not have thought it possible," answered Mr. Bellingham.
"But, never mind, you will be at home long before nine. Stay,
there is a shorter road, I know, through the fields; just wait a
moment, while I go in and ask the exact way." He dropped Ruth's
arm, and went into the public-house.
A gig had been slowly toiling up the sandy hill behind,
unperceived by the young couple, and now it reached the
tableland, and was close upon them as they separated. Ruth turned
round, when the sound of the horse's footsteps came distinctly as
he reached the level. She faced Mrs. Mason!
They were not ten--no, not five yards apart. At the same moment
they recognised each other, and, what was worse, Mrs. Mason had
clearly seen, with her sharp, needle-like eyes, the attitude in
which Ruth had stood with the young man who had just quitted her.
Ruth's hand had been lying in his arm, and fondly held there by
his other hand.
Mrs. Mason was careless about the circumstances of temptation
into which the girls entrusted to her as apprentices were thrown,
but severely intolerant if their conduct was in any degree
influenced by the force of these temptations. She called this
intolerance "keeping up the character of her establishment." It
would have been a better and more Christian thing if she had kept
up the character of her girls by tender vigilance and maternal
This evening, too, she was in an irritated state of temper. Her
brother had undertaken to drive her round by Henbury, in order to
give her the unpleasant information of the misbehaviour of her
eldest son, who was an assistant in a draper's shop in a
neighbouring town. She was full of indignation against want of
steadiness, though not willing to direct her indignation against
the right object--her ne'er-do-well darling. While she was thus
charged with anger (for her brother justly defended her son's
master and companions from her attacks), she saw Ruth standing
with a lover, far away from home, at such a time in the evening,
and she boiled over with intemperate displeasure.
"Come here directly, Miss Hilton," she exclaimed sharply. Then,
dropping her voice to low, bitter tones of concentrated wrath;
she said to the trembling, guilty Ruth--
"Don't attempt to show your face at my house again after this
conduct. I saw you, and your spark too. I'll have no slurs on the
character of my apprentices. Don't say a word. I saw enough. I
shall write and tell your guardian to-morrow. The horse started
away, for he was impatient to be off; and Ruth was left standing
there, stony, sick, and pale, as if the lightning had tom up the
ground beneath her feet. She could not go on standing, she was so
sick and faint; she staggered back to the broken sand-bank, and
sank down, and covered her face with her hands.
"My dearest Ruth! are you ill? Speak, darling! My love, my love,
do speak to me!"
What tender words after such harsh ones! They loosened the
fountain of Ruth's tears, and she cried bitterly.
"Oh! did you see her--did you hear what she said?"
"She! Who, my darling? Don't sob so, Ruth; tell me what it is.
Who has been near you?--who has been speaking to you to make you
"Oh, Mrs. Mason." And there was a fresh burst of sorrow.
"You don't say so! are you sure? I was not away five minutes."
"Oh, yes, sir, I'm quite sure. She was so angry; she said I must
never show my face there again. Oh, dear! what shall I do?"
It seemed to the poor child as if Mrs. Mason's words were
irrevocable, and, that being so, she was shut out from every
house. She saw how much she had done that was deserving of blame,
now when it was too late to undo it. She knew with what severity
and taunts Mrs. Mason had often treated her for involuntary
fallings, of which she had been quite unconscious; and now she
had really done wrong, and shrank with terror from the
consequences. Her eyes were so blinded by the fast-falling tears,
she did not see (nor, had she seen, would she have been able to
interpret) the change in Mr. Bellingham's countenance, as he
stood silently watching her. He was silent so long, that even in
her sorrow she began to wonder that he did not speak, and to wish
to hear his soothing words once more.
"It is very unfortunate," he began, at last; and then he stopped;
then he began again: "It is very unfortunate; for, you see, I did
not like to name it to you before, but, I believe--I have
business, in fact, which obliges me to go to town to-morrow--to
London, I mean; and I don't know when I shall be able to return."
"To London!" cried Ruth; "are you going away? Oh, Mr.
Bellingham!" She wept afresh, giving herself up to the desolate
feeling of sorrow, which absorbed all the terror she had been
experiencing at the idea of Mrs. Mason's anger. It seemed to her
at this moment as though she could have borne everything but his
departure; but she did not speak again; and, after two or three
minutes had elapsed, he spoke--not in his natural careless voice,
but in a sort of constrained, agitated tone.
"I can hardly bear the idea of leaving you, my own Ruth. In such
distress, too; for where you can go I do not know at all. From
all you have told me of Mrs. Mason, I don't think she is likely
to mitigate her severity in your case."
No answer, but tears quietly, incessantly flowing. Mrs. Mason's
displeasure seemed a distant thing; his going away was the present
distress. He went on--
"Ruth, would you go with me to London? My darling, I cannot
leave you here without a home; the thought of leaving you at all
is pain enough, but in these circumstances--so friendless, so
homeless--it is impossible. You must come with me, love, and
trust to me."
Still she did not speak. Remember how young, and innocent, and
motherless she was! It seemed to her as if it would be happiness
enough to be with him; and as for the future, he would arrange
and decide for that. The future lay wrapped in a golden mist,
which she did not care to penetrate; but if he, her sun, was out
of sight and gone, the golden mist became dark heavy gloom,
through which no hope could come. He took her hand.
"Will you not come with me? Do you not love me enough to trust
me? Oh, Ruth (reproachfully), can you not trust me?"
She had stopped crying, but was sobbing sadly.
"I cannot bear this, love. Your sorrow is absolute pain to me;
but it is worse to feel how indifferent you are--how little you
care about our separation."
He dropped her hand. She burst into a fresh fit of crying.
"I may have to join my mother in Paris; I don't know when I shall
see you again. Oh, Ruth!" said he vehemently, "do you love me at
She said something in a very low voice; he could not hear it,
though he bent down his head--but he took her hand again.
"What was it you said, love? Was it not that you did love me? My
darling, you do! I can tell it by the trembling of this little
hand; then you will not suffer me to go away alone and unhappy,
most anxious about you? There is no other course open to you; my
poor girl has no friends to receive her. I will go home directly,
and return in an hour with a carriage. You make me too happy by
your silence, Ruth."
"Oh, what can I do?" exclaimed Ruth. "Mr. Bellingham, you should
help me, and instead of that you only bewilder me."
"How, my dearest Ruth? Bewilder you! It seems so clear to me.
Look at the case fairly! Here you are, an orphan, with only one
person to love you, poor child!--thrown off, for no fault of
yours, by the only creature on whom you have a claim, that
creature a tyrannical, inflexible woman; what is more natural
(and, being natural, more right) than that you should throw
yourself upon the care of the one who loves you dearly--who would
go through fire and water for you--who would shelter you from all
harm? Unless, indeed, as I suspect, you do not care for him. If
so, Ruth, if you do not care for me, we had better part--I will
leave you at once; it will be better for me to go, if you do not
care for me."
He said this very sadly (it seemed so to Ruth, at least), and
made as though he would have drawn his hand from hers; but now
she held it with soft force.
"Don't leave me, please, sir. It is very true I have no friend
but you. Don't leave me, please. But, oh! do tell me what I must
"Will you do it if I tell you? If you will trust me, I will do my
very best for you. I will give you my best advice. You see your
position. Mrs. Mason writes and gives her own exaggerated account
to your guardian; he is bound by no great love to you, from what
I have heard you say, and throws you off; I, who might be able to
befriend you--through my mother, perhaps--I, who could at least
comfort you a little (could not I, Ruth?), am away, far away, for
an indefinite time; that is your position at present. Now, what I
advise is this. Come with me into this little inn; I will order
tea for you--(I am sure you require it sadly)--and I will leave
you there, and go home for the carriage. I will return in an hour
at the latest. Then we are together, come what may; that is
enough for me; is it not for you, Ruth? Say yes--say it ever so
low, but give me the delight of hearing it. Ruth, say yes."
Low and soft, with much hesitation, came the "Yes;" the fatal
word of which she so little imagined the infinite consequences.
The thought of being with him was all and everything.
"How you tremble, my darling! You are cold, love! Come into the
house, and I'll order tea, directly, and be off."
She rose, and, leaning on his arm, went into the house. She was
shaking and dizzy with the agitation of the last hour. He spoke
to the civil farmer-landlord, who conducted them into a neat
parlour, with windows opening into the garden at the back of the
house. They had admitted much of the evening's fragrance through
their open casements before they were hastily closed by the
"Tea, directly, for this lady!" The landlord vanished.
"Dearest Ruth, I must go; there is not an instant to be lost.
Promise me to take some tea, for you are shivering all over, and
deadly pale with the fright that abominable woman has given you.
I must go; I shall be back in half an hour--and then no more
He kissed her pale cold face, and went away. The room whirled
round before Ruth; it was a dream--a strange, varying, shifting
dream--with the old home of her childhood for one scene, with the
terror of Mrs. Mason's unexpected appearance for another; and
then, strangest, dizziest, happiest of all, there was the
consciousness of his love, who was all the world to her, and the
remembrance of the tender words, which still kept up their low
soft echo in her heart. Her head ached so much that she could
hardly see; even the dusky twilight was a dazzling glare to her
poor eyes; and when the daughter of the house brought in the
sharp light of the candles, preparatory for tea, Ruth hid her
face in the sofa pillows with a low exclamation of pain.
"Does your head ache, miss?" asked the girl, in a gentle,
"Let me make you some tea, miss, it will do you good. Many's the
time poor mother's headaches were cured by good strong tea."
Ruth murmured acquiescence; the young girl (about Ruth's own age,
but who was the mistress of the little establishment owing to her
mother's death) made tea, and brought Ruth a cup to the sofa
where she lay. Ruth was feverish and thirsty, and eagerly drank
it off, although she could not touch the bread and butter which
the girl offered her. She felt better and fresher, though she was
still faint and weak.
"Thank you," said Ruth. "Don't let me keep you, perhaps you are
busy. You have been very kind, and the tea has done me a great
deal of good."
The girl left the room. Ruth became as hot as she had previously
been cold, and went and opened the window, and leant out into the
still, sweet, evening air, The bush of sweet-brier underneath the
window scented the place, and the delicious fragrance reminded
her of her old home. I think scents affect and quicken the memory
more than either sights or sound; for Ruth had instantly before
her eyes the little garden beneath the window of her mother's
room with the old man leaning on his stick watching her, just as
he had done not three hours before on that very afternoon.
"Dear old Thomas! he and Mary would take me in, I think; they
would love me all the more if I were cast off. And Mr. Bellingham
would, perhaps, not be so very long away; and he would know where
to find me if I stayed at Milham Grange. Oh, would it not be
better to go to them? I wonder if he would be very sorry! I could
not bear to make him sorry, so kind as he has been to me; but I
do believe it would be better to go to them, and ask their
advice, at any rate. He would follow me there; and I could talk
over what I had better do, with the three best friends I have in
the world--the only friends I have."
She put on her bonnet, and opened the parlour-door; but then she
saw the square figure of the landlord standing at the open
house-door, smoking his evening pipe, and looming large and
distinct against the dark air and landscape beyond. Ruth
remembered the cup of tea she had drunk; it must be paid for, and
she had no money with her. She feared that he would not let her
quit the house without paying. She thought that she would leave a
note for Mr. Bellingham, saying where she was gone, and how she
had left the house in debt, for (like a child) all dilemmas
appeared of equal magnitude to her; and the difficulty of passing
the landlord while he stood there, and of giving him an
explanation of the circumstances (as far as such explanation was
due to him), appeared insuperable, and as awkward and fraught
with inconvenience as far more serious situations. She kept
peeping out of her room, after she had written her little
pencil-note, to see if the outer door was still obstructed. There
he stood, motionless, enjoying his pipe, and looking out into the
darkness which gathered thick with the coming night. The fumes of
the tobacco were carried by the air into the house, and brought
back Ruth's sick headache. Her energy left her; she became stupid
and languid, and incapable of spirited exertion; she modified her
plan of action, to the determination of asking Mr. Bellingham to
take her to Milham Grange, to the care of her humble friends,
instead of to London. And she thought, in her simplicity, that he
would instantly consent when he had heard her reasons.
She started up. A carriage dashed up to the door. She hushed her
beating heart, and tried to stop her throbbing head, to listen.
She heard him speaking to the landlord, though she could not
distinguish what he said heard the jingling of money, and in
another moment he was in the room, and had taken her arm to lead
her to the carriage.
"Oh, sir, I want you to take me to Milham Grange," said she,
holding back; "old Thomas would give me a home."
"Well, dearest, we'll talk of all that in the carriage; I am sure
you will listen to reason. Nay, if you will go to Milham, you
must go in the carriage," said he hurriedly. She was little
accustomed to oppose the wishes of any one; obedient and docile
by nature, and unsuspicious and innocent of any harmful
consequences. She entered the carriage, and drove towards London.
IN NORTH WALES
The June of 18-- had been glorious and sunny, and full of
flowers; but July came in with pouring rain, and it was a gloomy
time for travellers and for weather-bound tourists, who lounged
away the days in touching up sketches, dressing flies, and
reading over again, for the twentieth time, the few volumes they
had brought with them. A number of the Times, five days old, had
been in constant demand in all the sitting-rooms of a certain inn
in a little mountain village of North Wales, through a long July
morning. The valleys around were filled with thick, cold mist,
which had crept up the hillsides till the hamlet itself was
folded in its white, dense curtain, and from the inn-windows
nothing was seen of the beautiful scenery around. The tourists
who thronged the rooms might as well have been "wi' their dear
little bairnies at hame;" and so some of them seemed to think, as
they stood, with their faces flattened against the windowpanes,
looking abroad in search of an event to fill up the dreary time.
How many dinners were hastened that day, by way of getting
through the morning, let the poor Welsh kitchen-maid say! The
very village children kept indoors; or, if one or two more
adventurous stole out into the land of temptation and puddles,
they were soon clutched back by angry and busy mothers.
It was only four o'clock, but most of the inmates of the inn
thought it must be between six and seven, the morning had seemed
so long--so many hours had passed since dinner--when a Welsh car,
drawn by two horses, rattled briskly up to the door. Every window
of the ark was crowded with faces at the sound; the leathern
curtains were undrawn to their curious eyes, and out sprang a
gentleman, who carefully assisted a well-cloaked-up lady into the
little inn, despite the landlady's assurances of not having a
room to spare.
The gentleman (it was Mr. Bellingham) paid no attention to the
speeches of the hostess, but quietly superintended the unpacking
of the carriage, and paid the postillion; then, turning round,
with his face to the light, he spoke to the landlady, whose voice
had been rising during the last five minutes--
"Nay, Jenny, you're strangely altered, if you can turn out an old
friend on such an evening as this. If I remember right, Pen tre
Voelas is twenty miles across the bleakest mountain-road I ever
"Indeed, sir, and I did not know you; Mr. Bellingham, I believe.
Indeed, sir, Pen tre Voelas is not above eighteen miles--we only
charge for eighteen; it may not be much above seventeen,--and
we're quite full, indeed, more's the pity."
"Well, but, Jenny, to oblige me, an old friend, you can find
lodgings out for some of your people--that house across, for
"Indeed, sir, and it's at liberty; perhaps you would not mind
lodging there yourself. I could get you the best rooms, and send
over a trifle or so of furniture, if they weren't as you'd wish
them to be."
"No, Jenny, here I stay. You'll not induce me to venture over
into those rooms, whose dirt I know of old. Can't you persuade
some one who is not an old friend to move across? Say, if you
like, that I had written beforehand to bespeak the rooms. Oh, I
know you can manage it--I know your good-natured ways."
"Indeed, sir! Well, I'll see, if you and the lady will just step
into the back-parlour, sir--there's no one there just now; the
lady is keeping her bed to-day for a cold, and the gentleman is
having a rubber at whist in number three. I'll see what I can
"Thank you--thank you! Is there a fire? if not, one must be
lighted. Come, Ruthie, come!"
He led the way into a large bow-windowed room, which looked
gloomy enough that afternoon, but which I have seen bright and
buoyant with youth and hope within, and sunny lights creeping
down the purple mountain slope, and stealing over the green, soft
meadows, till they reached the little garden, full of roses and
lavender-bushes, lying close under the window. I have seen--but I
shall see no more.
"I did not know you had been here before," said Ruth, as Mr.
Bellingham helped her off with her cloak.
"Oh, yes; three years ago I was here on a reading party. We were
here above two months, attracted by Jenny's kind heart and
oddities, but driven away finally by the insufferable dirt.
However, for a week or two it won't much signify."
"But can she take us in? I thought I heard her saying her house
"Oh, yes, I dare say it is; but I shall pay her well. She can
easily make excuses to some poor devil, and send him over to the
other side; and for a day or two, so that we have shelter, it
does not much signify."
"Could not we go to the house on the other side?"
"And have our meals carried across to us in a half-warm state, to
say nothing of having no one to scold for bad cooking! You don't
know these out-of-the-way Welsh inns yet, Ruthie."
"No, I only thought it seemed rather unfair," said Ruth gently;
but she did not end her sentence, for Mr. Bellingham formed his
lips into a whistle, and walked to the window to survey the rain.
The remembrance of his former good payment prompted many little
lies of which Mrs. Morgan was guilty that afternoon, before she
succeeded in turning out a gentleman and lady, who were only
planning to remain till the ensuing Saturday at the outside; so,
if they did fulfil their threat, and leave on the next day, she
would be no very great loser.
These household arrangements complete, she solaced herself with
tea in her own little parlour, and shrewdly reviewed the
circumstances of Mr. Bellingham's arrival.
"Indeed! and she's not his wife," thought Jenny, "that's clear as
day. His wife would have brought her maid, and given herself
twice as many airs about the sitting-rooms; while this poor miss
never spoke, but kept as still as a mouse. Indeed, and young men
will be young men; and as long as their fathers and mothers shut
their eyes, it's none of my business to go about asking
In this manner they settled down to a week's enjoyment of that
Alpine country. It was most true enjoyment to Ruth. It was
opening a new sense; vast ideas of beauty and grandeur filled her
mind at the sight of the mountains, now first beheld in full
majesty. She was almost overpowered by the vague and solemn
delight; but by-and-by her love for them equalled her awe, and in
the night-time she would softly rise, and steal to the window to
see the white moon-light, which gave a new aspect to the
everlasting hills that girdle the mountain village.
Their breakfast-hour was late, in accordance with Mr.
Bellingham's tastes and habits; but Ruth was up betimes, and out
and away, brushing the dewdrops from the short crisp grass; the
lark sung high above her head, and she knew not if she moved or
stood still, for the grandeur of this beautiful earth absorbed
all idea of separate and individual existence. Even rain was a
pleasure to her. She sat in the window-seat of their parlour (she
would have gone out gladly, but that such a proceeding annoyed
Mr. Bellingham, who usually at such times lounged away the
listless hours on a sofa, and relieved himself by abusing the
weather); she saw the swift-fleeting showers come athwart the
sunlight like a rush of silver arrows; she watched the purple
darkness on the heathery mountain-side, and then the pale golden
gleam which succeeded. There was no change or alteration of
nature that had not its own peculiar beauty in the eyes of Ruth;
but if she had complained of the changeable climate, she would
have pleased Mr. Bellingham more: her admiration and her content
made him angry, until her pretty motions and loving eyes soothed
down his impatience.
"Really, Ruth," he exclaimed one day, when they had been
imprisoned by rain a whole morning, "one would think you had
never seen a shower of rain before; it quite wearies me to see
you sitting there watching this detestable weather with such a
placid countenance; and for the last two hours you have said
nothing more amusing or interesting than--'Oh, how beautiful!'
or, 'There's another cloud coming across Moel Wynn.'"
Ruth left her seat very gently, and took up her work. She wished
she had the gift of being amusing; it must be dull for a man
accustomed to all kinds of active employments to be shut up in
the house. She was recalled from her absolute self-forgetfulness.
What could she say to interest Mr. Bellingham? While she thought,
he spoke again--
"I remember when we were reading here three years ago, we had a
week of just such weather as this; but Howard and Johnson were
capital whist-players, and Wilbraham not bad, so we got through
the days famously. Can you play ecarte, Ruth, or picquet?"
"No, sir; I have sometimes played at beggar-my-neighbour,"
answered Ruth humbly, regretting her own deficiencies.
He murmured impatiently, and there was silence for another
half-hour. Then he sprang up, and rang the bell violently. "Ask
Mrs. Morgan for a pack of cards. Ruthie, I'll teach you ecarte,"
But Ruth was stupid, not so good as a dummy, he said; and it was
no fun betting against himself. So the cards were flung across
the table--on the floor--anywhere. Ruth picked them up. As she
rose, she sighed a little with the depression of spirits
consequent upon her own want of power to amuse and occupy him she
"You're pale, love!" said he, half repenting of his anger at her
blunders over the cards. "Go out before dinner; you know you
don't mind this cursed weather; and see that you come home full
of adventures to relate. Come, little blockhead! give me a kiss,
She left the room with a feeling of relief; for if he were dull
without her, she should not feel responsible, and unhappy at her
own stupidity. The open air, that kind of soothing balm which
gentle mother Nature offers to us all in our seasons of
depression, relieved her. The rain had ceased, though every leaf
and blade was loaded with trembling glittering drops. Ruth went
down to the circular dale, into which the brown foaming mountain
river fell and made a deep pool, and, after resting there for a
while, ran on between broken rocks down to the valley below. The
water-fall was magnificent, as she had anticipated; she longed to
extend her walk to the other side of the stream, so she sought
the stepping-stones, the usual crossing-place, which were
overshadowed by trees, a few yards from the pool. The waters ran
high and rapidly, as busy as life, between the pieces of grey
rock; but Ruth had no fear, and went lightly and steadily on.
About the middle, however, there was a great gap; either one of
the stones was so covered with water as to be invisible, or it
had been washed lower down; at any rate, the spring from stone to
stone was long, and Ruth hesitated for a moment before taking it.
The sound of rushing waters was in her ears to the exclusion of
every other noise; her eyes were on the current running swiftly
below her feet; and thus she was startled to see a figure close
before her on one of the stones, and to hear a voice offering
She looked up and saw a man, who was apparently long past middle
life, and of the stature of a dwarf; a second glance accounted
for the low height of the speaker, for then she saw he was
deformed. As the consciousness of this infirmity came into her
mind, it must have told itself in her softened eyes; for a faint
flush of colour came into the pale face of the deformed
gentleman, as he repeated his words--
"The water is very rapid; will you take my hand? perhaps I can
help you." Ruth accepted the offer, and with this assistance she
was across in a moment. He made way for her to precede him in the
narrow wood path, and then silently followed her up the glen.
When they had passed out of the wood into the pasture-land
beyond, Ruth once more turned to mark him. She was struck afresh
with the mild beauty of the face, though there was something in
the countenance which told of the body's deformity, something
more and beyond the pallor of habitual ill-health, something of a
quick spiritual light in the deep-set eyes, a sensibility about
the mouth; but altogether, though a peculiar, it was a most
attractive face. "Will you allow me to accompany you if you are
going the round by Cwm Dhu, as I imagine you are? The handrail is
blown away from the little wooden bridge by the storm last night,
and the rush of waters below may make you dizzy; and it is really
dangerous to fall there, the stream is so deep."
They walked on without much speech. She wondered who her
companion might be. She should have known him, if she had seen
him among the strangers at the inn; and yet he spoke English too
well to be a Welshman; he knew the country and the paths so
perfectly, he must be a resident; and so she tossed him from
England to Wales, and back again, in her imagination.
"I only came here yesterday," said he, as a widening in the path
permitted them to walk abreast. "Last night I went to the higher
waterfalls; they are most splendid."
"Did you go out in all that rain?" asked Ruth timidly.
"Oh, yes. Rain never hinders me from walking. Indeed, it gives a
new beauty to such a country as this. Besides, my time for my
excursion is so short, I cannot afford to waste a day."
"Then you do not live here?" asked Ruth.
"No! my home is in a very different place. I live in a busy town,
where at times it is difficult to feel the truth that
'There are in this loud stunning tide Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide Of th' everlasting chime; Who carry
music in their heart Through dusky lane and crowded mart, Plying
their task with busier feet, Because their secret souls a holy
I have an annual holiday, which I generally spend in Wales; and
often in this immediate neighbourhood."
"I do not wonder at your choice," replied Ruth. "It is a
"It is, indeed; and I have been inoculated by an old inn-keeper
at Conway with a love for its people, and history, and
traditions. I have picked up enough of the language to understand
many of their legends; and some are very fine and awe-inspiring,
others very poetic and fanciful."
Ruth was too shy to keep up the conversation by any remark of her
own, although his gentle, pensive manner was very winning.
"For instance," said he, touching a long bud-laden stem of
foxglove in the hedge-aide, at the bottom of which one or two
crimson-speckled flowers were bursting from their green sheaths,
"I dare say, you don't know what makes this fox-glove bend and
sway so gracefully. You think it is blown by the wind, don't
you?" He looked at her with a grave smile, which did not enliven
his thoughtful eyes, but gave an inexpressible sweetness to his
"I always thought it was the wind. What is it?" asked Ruth
"Oh, the Welsh tell you that this flower is sacred to the
fairies, and that it has the power of recognising them, and all
spiritual beings who pass by, and that it bows in deference to
them as they waft along. Its Welsh name is Maneg Ellyllyn--the
good people's glove; and hence, I imagine, our folk's-glove or
"It's a very pretty fancy," said Ruth, much interested, and
wishing that he would go on, without expecting her to reply. But
they were already at the wooden bridge; he led her across, and
then, bowing his adieu, he had taken a different path even before
Ruth had thanked him for his attention.
It was an adventure to tell Mr. Bellingham, however; and it
aroused and amused him till dinner-time came, after which he
sauntered forth with a cigar.
"Ruth," said he, when he returned, "I've seen your little
hunchback. He looks like Riquet-with-the-Tuft. He's not a
gentleman, though. If it had not been for his deformity, I should
not have made him out from your description; you called him a
"And don't you?" asked Ruth, surprised.
"Oh, no! he's regularly shabby and seedy in his appearance;
lodging, too, the ostler told me, over that horrible
candle-and-cheese shop, the smell of which is insufferable twenty
yards off--no gentleman could endure it; he must be a traveller
or artist, or something of that kind."
"Did you see his face?" asked Ruth.
"No; but a man's back--his tout ensemble has character enough in
it to decide his rank."
"His face was very singular; quite beautiful!" said she softly;
but the subject did not interest Mr. Bellingham, and he let it
TROUBLES GATHER ABOUT RUTH
The next day the weather was brave and glorious; a perfect
"bridal of the earth and sky;" and every one turned out of the
inn to enjoy the fresh beauty of nature. Ruth was quite
unconscious of being the object of remark; and, in her light,
rapid passings to and fro, had never looked at the doors and
windows, where many watchers stood observing her, and commenting
upon her situation or her appearance.
"She's a very lovely creature," said one gentleman, rising from
the breakfast-table to catch a glimpse of her as she entered from
her morning's ramble. "Not above sixteen I should think. Very
modest and innocent-looking in her white gown!"
His wife, busy administering to the wants of a fine little boy,
could only say (without seeing the young girl's modest ways, and
gentle, downcast countenance)--
"Well! I do think it's a shame such people should be allowed to
come here. To think of such wickedness under the same roof! Do
come away, my dear, and don't flatter her by such notice."
The husband returned to the breakfast-table; he smelt the broiled
ham and eggs, and he heard his wife's commands. Whether smelling
or hearing had most to do in causing his obedience, I cannot
tell; perhaps you can.
"Now, Harry, go and see if nurse and baby are ready to go out
with you. You must lose no time this beautiful morning."
Ruth found Mr. Bellingham was not yet come down; so she sallied
out for an additional half-hour's ramble. Flitting about through
the village, trying to catch all the beautiful sunny peeps at the
scenery between the cold stone houses, which threw the radiant
distance into aerial perspective far away, she passed by the
little shop; and, just issuing from it, came the nurse and baby,
and little boy. The baby sat in placid dignity in her nurse's
arms, with a face of queenly calm. Her fresh, soft, peachy
complexion was really tempting; and Ruth, who was always fond of
children, went up to coo and to smile at the little thing, and
after some "peep-boing," she was about to snatch a kiss, when
Harry, whose face had been reddening ever since the play began,
lifted up his sturdy little right arm and hit Ruth a great blow
on the face.
"Oh, for shame, sir!" said the nurse, snatching back his hand;
"how dare you do that to the lady who is so kind as to speak to
"She's not a lady!" said he indignantly. "She's a bad, naughty
girl--mamma; said so, she did; and she shan't kiss our baby."
The nurse reddened in her turn. She knew what he must have heard;
but it was awkward to bring it out, standing face to face with
the elegant young lady.
"Children pick up such notions, ma'am," said she at last,
apologetically, to Ruth, who stood, white and still, with a new
idea running through her mind.
"It's no notion; it's true, nurse; and I heard you say it
yourself. Go away, naughty woman!" said the boy, in infantile
vehemence of passion to Ruth. To the nurse's infinite relief,
Ruth turned away, humbly and meekly, with bent head, and slow,
uncertain steps. But as she turned, she saw the mild sad face of
the deformed gentleman, who was sitting at the open window above
the shop; he looked sadder and graver than ever; and his eyes met
her glance with an expression of deep sorrow. And so, condemned
alike by youth and age, she stole with timid step into the house.
Mr. Bellingham was awaiting her in the sitting-room. The glorious
day restored all his buoyancy of spirits. He talked gaily away,
without pausing for a reply; while Ruth made tea, and tried to
calm her heart, which was yet beating with the agitation of the
new ideas she had received from the occurrence of the morning.
Luckily for her, the only answers required for some time were
mono-syllables; but those few words were uttered in so depressed
and mournful a tone, that at last they struck Mr. Bellingham with
surprise and displeasure, as the condition of mind they
unconsciously implied did not harmonise with his own.
"Ruth, what is the matter this morning? You really are very
provoking. Yesterday, when everything was gloomy, and you might
have been aware that I was out of spirits, I heard nothing but
expressions of delight; to-day, when every creature under heaven
is rejoicing, you look most deplorable and woe-begone. You really
should learn to have a little sympathy."
The tears fell quickly down Ruth's cheeks, but she did not speak.
She could not put into words the sense she was just beginning to
entertain of the estimation in which she was henceforward to be
held. She thought he would be as much grieved as she was at what
had taken place that morning; she fancied she should sink in his
opinion if she told him how others regarded her; besides, it
seemed ungenerous to dilate upon the suffering of which he was
"I will not," thought she, "embitter his life; I will try and be
cheerful. I must not think of myself so much. If I can but make
him happy, what need I care for chance speeches?"
Accordingly, she made every effort possible to be as
light-hearted as he was; but, somehow, the moment she relaxed,
thoughts would intrude, and wonders would force themselves upon
her mind: so that altogether she was not the gay and bewitching
companion Mr. Bellingham had previously found her.
They sauntered out for a walk. The path they chose led to a wood
on the side of a hill, and they entered, glad of the shade of the
trees. At first it appeared like any common grove, but they soon
came to a deep descent, on the summit of which they stood,
looking down on the tree-tops, which were softly waving far
beneath their feet. There was a path leading sharp down, and they
followed it; the ledge of rock made it almost like going down
steps, and their walk grew into a bounding, and their bounding
into a run, before they reached the lowest plane. A green gloom
reigned there; it was the still hour of noon; the little birds
were quiet in some leafy shade. They went on a few yards, and
then they came to a circular pool overshadowed by the trees,
whose highest boughs had been beneath their feet a few minutes
before. The pond was hardly below the surface of the ground, and
there was nothing like a bank on any side. A heron was standing
there motionless, but when he saw them he flapped his wings and
slowly rose; and soared above the green heights of the wood up
into the very sky itself, for at that depth the trees appeared to
touch the round white clouds which brooded over the earth. The
speedwell grew in the shallowest water of the pool, and all
around its margin, but the flowers were hardly seen at first, so
deep was the green shadow cast by the trees. In the very middle
of the pond the sky was mirrored clear and dark, a blue which
looked as if a black void lay behind.
"Oh, there are water-lilies!" said Ruth, her eye catching on the
farther side. "I must go and get some."
"No; I will get them for you. The ground is spongy all round
there. Sit still, Ruth; this heap of grass will make a capital
He went round, and she waited quietly for his return. When he
came back he took off her bonnet, without speaking, and began to
place his flowers in her hair. She was quite still while he
arranged her coronet, looking up in his face with loving eyes,
with a peaceful composure. She knew that he was pleased from his
manner, which had the joyousness of a child playing with a new
toy, and she did not think twice of his occupation. It was
pleasant to forget everything except his pleasure. When he had
decked her out, he said--
"There, Ruth! now you'll do. Come and look at yourself in the
pond. Here, where there are no weeds. Come."
She obeyed, and could not help seeing her own loveliness; it gave
her a sense of satisfaction for an instant, as the sight of any
other beautiful object would have done, but she never thought of
associating it with herself. She knew that she was beautiful; but
that seemed abstract, and removed from herself. Her existence was
in feeling and thinking, and loving.
Down in that green hollow they were quite in harmony. Her beauty
was all that Mr. Bellingham cared for, and it was supreme. It was
all he recognised of her, and he was proud of it. She stood in
her white dress against the trees which grew around; her face was
flushed into a brilliancy of colour which resembled that of a
rose in June; the great, heavy, white flowers drooped on either
side of her beautiful head, and if her brown hair was a little
disordered, the very disorder only seemed to add a grace. She
pleased him more by looking so lovely than by all her tender
endeavours to fall in with his varying humour.
But when they left the wood, and Ruth had taken out her flowers,
and resumed her bonnet, as they came near the inn, the simple
thought of giving him pleasure was not enough to secure Ruth's
peace. She became pensive and sad, and could not rally into
"Really, Ruth," said he, that evening, "you must not encourage
yourself in this habit of falling into melancholy reveries
without any cause. You have been sighing twenty times during the
last half-hour. Do be a little cheerful. Remember, I have no
companion but you in this out-of-the-way place."
"I am very sorry," said Ruth, her eyes filling with tears; and
then she remembered that it was very dull for him to be alone
with her, heavy-hearted as she had been all day. She said in a
sweet, penitent tone--
"Would you be so kind as to teach me one of those games at cards
you were speaking about yesterday? I would do my best to learn."
Her soft, murmuring voice won its way. They rang for the cards,
and he soon forgot that there was such a thing as depression or
gloom in the world, in the pleasure of teaching such a beautiful
ignoramus the mysteries of card-playing.
"There!" said he, at last, "that's enough for one lesson. Do you
know, little goose, your blunders have made me laugh myself into
one of the worst headaches I have had for years."
He threw himself on the sofa, and in an instant she was by his
"Let me put my cool hands on your forehead," she begged; "that
used to do mamma good."
He lay still, his face away from the light, and not speaking.
Presently he fell asleep. Ruth put out the candles, and sat
patiently by him for a long time, fancying he would awaken
refreshed. The room grew cold in the night air; but Ruth dared
not rouse him from what appeared to be sound, restoring slumber.
She covered him with her shawl, which she had thrown over a chair
on coming in from their twilight ramble. She had ample time to
think; but she tried to banish thought. At last, his breathing
became: quick and oppressed, and, after listening to it for some
minutes with increasing affright, Ruth ventured to awaken him. He
seemed stupefied and shivery. Ruth became more and more
terrified; all the household were asleep except one servant-girl,
who was wearied out of what little English she had knowledge of
in more waking hours, and could only answer, "Iss, indeed,
ma'am," to any question put to her by Ruth.
She sat by the bedside all night long. He moaned and tossed, but
never spoke sensibly. It was a new form of illness to the
miserable Ruth. Her yesterday's suffering went into the black
distance of long-past years. The present was all in all. When she
heard people stirring, she went in search of Mrs. Morgan, whose
shrewd, sharp manners, unsoftened by inward respect for the poor
girl, had awed Ruth even when Mr. Bellingham was by to protect
"Mrs. Morgan," she said, sitting down in the little parlour
appropriated to the landlady, for she felt her strength suddenly
desert her--"Mrs. Morgan, I'm afraid Mr. Bellingham is very
ill;"--here she burst into tears, but instantly checking herself,
"Oh, what must I do?" continued she; "I don't think he has known
anything all through the night, and he looks so strange and wild
She gazed up into Mrs. Morgan's face, as if reading an oracle.
"Indeed, miss, ma'am, and it's a very awkward thing. But don't
cry, that can do no good; 'deed it can't. I'll go and see the
poor young man myself, and then I can judge if a doctor is
Ruth followed Mrs. Morgan upstairs. When they entered the
sick-room Mr. Bellingham was sitting up in bed, looking wildly
about him, and as he saw them, he exclaimed--
"Ruth! Ruth! come here; I won't be left alone!" and then he fell
down exhausted on the pillow. Mrs. Morgan went up and spoke to
him, but he did not answer or take any notice.
"I'll send for Mr. Jones, my dear, 'deed and I will; we'll have
him here in a couple of hours, please God."
"Oh, can't he come sooner?" asked Ruth, wild with terror.
"'Deed no! he lives at Llanglas when he's at home, and that's
seven mile away, and he may be gone a round eight or nine mile on
the other side Llanglas; but I'll send a boy on the pony
Saying this, Mrs. Morgan left Ruth alone. There was nothing to be
done, for Mr. Bellingham had again fallen into heavy sleep.
Sounds of daily life began, bells rang, break-fast-services
clattered up and down the passages, and Ruth sat on shivering by
the bedside in that darkened room. Mrs. Morgan sent her breakfast
upstairs by a chambermaid; but Ruth motioned it away in her sick
agony, and the girl had no right to urge her to partake of it.
That alone broke the monotony of the long morning. She heard the
sound of merry parties setting out on excursions, on horseback or
in carriages; and once, stiff and wearied, she stole to the
window, and looked out on one side of the blind; but the day
looked bright and discordant to her aching, anxious heart. The
gloom of the darkened room was better and more befitting.
It was some hours after he was summoned before the doctor made
his appearance. He questioned his patient, and, receiving no
coherent answer, he asked Ruth concerning the symptoms; but when
she questioned him in turn he only shook his head and looked
grave. He made a sign to Mrs. Morgan to follow him out of the
room, and they went down to her parlour, leaving Ruth in a depth
of despair, lower than she could have thought it possible there
remained for her to experience, an hour before.
"I am afraid this is a bad case," said Mr. Jones to Mrs. Morgan
in Welsh. "A brain-fever has evidently set in."
"Poor young gentleman! poor young man! He looked the very picture
"That very appearance of robustness will, in all probability,
make his disorder more violent. However, we must hope for the
best, Mrs. Morgan. Who is to attend upon him? He will require
careful nursing. Is that young lady his sister? She looks too
young to be his wife?"
"No, indeed! Gentlemen like you must know, Mr. Jones, that we
can't always look too closely into the ways of young men who come
to our houses. Not but what I am sorry for her, for she's an
innocent, inoffensive young creature. I always think it right,
for my own morals, to put a little scorn into my manners when
such as her come to stay here; but indeed, she's so gentle, I've
found it hard work to show the proper contempt."
She would have gone on to her inattentive listener if she had not
heard a low tap at the door, which recalled her from her
morality, and Mr. Jones from his consideration of the necessary
"Come in!" said Mrs. Morgan sharply. And Ruth came in. She was
white and trembling; but she stood in that dignity which strong
feeling, kept down by self-command, always imparts.
"I wish you, sir, to be so kind as to tell me, clearly and
distinctly, what I must do for Mr. Bellingham. Every direction
you give me shall be most carefully attended to. You spoke about
leeches--I can put them on, and see about them. Tell me
everything, sir, that you wish to have done!"
Her manner was calm and serious, and her countenance and
deportment showed that the occasion was calling out strength
sufficient to meet it. Mr. Jones spoke with a deference which he
had not thought of using upstairs, even while he supposed her to
be the sister of the invalid. Ruth listened gravely; she repeated
some of the injunctions, in order that she might be sure that she
fully comprehended them, and then, bowing, left the room.
"She is no common person," said Mr. Jones. "Still she is too
young to have the responsibility of such a serious case. Have you
any idea where his friends live, Mrs. Morgan?"
"Indeed and I have. His mother, as haughty a lady as you would
wish to see, came travelling through Wales last year; she stopped
here, and, I warrant you, nothing was good enough for her; she
was real quality. She left some clothes and hooks behind her (for
the maid was almost as fine as the mistress, and little thought
of seeing after her lady's clothes, having a taste for going to
see scenery along with the man-servant), and we had several
letters from her. I have them locked in the drawers in the bar,
where I keep such things."
"Well, I should recommend your writing to the lady, and telling
her her son's state."
"It would be a favour, Mr. Jones, if you would just write it
yourself. English writing comes so strange to my pen."
The letter was written, and, in order to save time, Mr. Jones
took it to the Llanglas post-office.
THE CRISIS---WATCHING AND WAITING
Ruth put away every thought of the past or future; everything
that could unfit her for the duties of the present. Exceeding
love supplied the place of experience. She never left the room
after the first day; she forced herself to eat, because his
service needed her strength. She did not indulge in any tears,
because the weeping she longed for would make her less able to
attend upon him. She watched, and waited, and prayed; prayed with
an utter forgetfulness of self, only with a consciousness that
God was all-powerful, and that he, whom she loved so much, needed
the aid of the Mighty One.
Day and night, the summer night, seemed merged into one. She lost
count of time in the hushed and darkened room. One morning Mrs.
Morgan beckoned her out; and she stole on tiptoe into the
dazzling gallery, on one side of which the bedrooms opened.
"She's come," whispered Mrs. Morgan, looking very much excited,
and forgetting that Ruth had never heard that Mrs. Bellingham had
"Who is come?" asked Ruth. The idea of Mrs. Mason flashed through
her mind--but with a more terrible, because a more vague, dread
she heard that it was his mother; the mother of whom he had
always spoken as a person whose opinion was to be regarded more
than that of any other individual.
"What must I do? Will she be angry with me?" said she, relapsing
into her child-like dependence on others; and feeling that even
Mrs. Morgan was some one to stand between her and Mrs.
Mrs. Morgan herself was a little perplexed. Her morality was
rather shocked at the idea of a proper real lady like Mrs.
Bellingham discovering that she had winked at the connection
between her son and Ruth. She was quite inclined to encourage
Ruth in her inclination to shrink out of Mrs. Bellingham's
observation, an inclination which arose from no definite
consciousness of having done wrong, but principally from the
representations she had always heard of the lady's awfulness.
Mrs. Bellingham swept into her son's room as if she were
unconscious what poor young creature had lately haunted it; while
Ruth hurried into some unoccupied bedroom, and, alone there, she
felt her self-restraint suddenly give way, and burst into the
saddest, most utterly wretched weeping she had ever known. She
was worn out with watching, and exhausted by passionate crying,
and she lay down on the bed and fell asleep. The day passed on;
she slumbered unnoticed and unregarded; she awoke late in the
evening with a sense of having done wrong in sleeping so long;
the strain upon her responsibility had not yet left her. Twilight
was closing fast around; she waited until it had become night,
and then she stole down to Mrs. Morgan's parlour.
"If you please, may I come in?" asked she.
Jenny Morgan was doing up the hieroglyphics which she called her
accounts; she answered sharp enough, but it was a permission to
enter, and Ruth was thankful for it.
"Will you tell me how he is? Do you think I may go back to him?"
"No, indeed, that you may not. Nest, who has made his room tidy
these many days, is not fit to go in now. Mrs. Bellingham has
brought her own maid, and the family nurse and Mr. Bellingham's
man; such a tribe of servants, and no end to packages; water-beds
coming by the carrier, and a doctor from London coming down
to-morrow, as if feather-beds and Mr. Jones was not good enough.
Why, she won't let a soul of us into the room; there's no chance
Ruth sighed. "How is he?" she inquired, after a pause.
"How can I tell, indeed, when I am not allowed to go near him?
Mr. Jones said to-night was a turning-point; but I doubt it, for
it is four days since he was taken ill, and who ever heard of a
sick person taking a turn on an even number of days? It's alway
on the third, or the fifth, or seventh, or so on. He'll not turn
till to-morrow night, take my word for it, and their fine London
doctor will get all the credit, and honest Mr. Jones will be
thrown aside. I don't think he will get better myself,
though--Gelert does not howl for nothing. My patience what's the
matter with the girl?--Lord, child, you're never going to faint,
and be ill on my hands?" Her sharp voice recalled Ruth from the
sick unconsciousness that had been creeping over her as she
listened to the latter part of this speech. She sat down and
could not speak--the room whirled round and round--her white
feebleness touched Mrs. Morgan's heart.
"You've had no tea, I guess. Indeed, and the girls are very
careless." She rang the bell with energy, and seconded her pull
by going to the door and shouting out sharp directions, in Welsh,
to Nest and Gwen, and three or four other rough, kind, slatternly
They brought her tea, which was comfortable, according to the
idea of comfort prevalent in that rude hospitable place; there
was plenty to eat; too much indeed, for it revolted the appetite
it was intended to provoke. But the heartiness with which the
kind rosy waiter pressed her to eat, and the scolding Mrs. Morgan
gave her when she found the buttered toast untouched (toast on
which she had herself desired that the butter might not be
spared), did Ruth more good than the tea. She began to hope, and
to long for the morning when hope might have become certainty. It
was all in vain that she was told that the room she had been in
all day was at her service; she did not say a word, but she was
not going to bed that night of all nights in the year, when life
or death hung trembling in the balance. She went into the bedroom
till the bustling house was still, and heard busy feet passing to
and fro into the room she might not enter; and voices, imperious,
though hushed down to a whisper, ask for innumerable things. Then
there was silence: and when she thought that all were dead
asleep, except the watchers, she stole out into the gallery. On
the other side were two windows, cut into the thick stone wall,
and flower-pots were placed on the shelves thus formed, where
great untrimmed, straggling geraniums grew, and strove to reach
the light. The window near Mr. Bellingham's door was open; the
soft, warm-scented night-air came sighing in in faint gusts, and
then was still. It was summer; there was no black darkness in the
twenty-four hours; only the light grew dusky, and colour
disappeared from objects, of which the shape and form remained
distinct. A soft grey oblong of barred light fell on the flat
wall opposite to the windows, and deeper grey shadows marked out
the tracery of the plants, more graceful thus than in reality.
Ruth crouched where no light fell. She sat on the ground close by
the door; her whole existence was absorbed in listening: all was
still; it was only her heart beating with the strong, heavy,
regular sound of a hammer. She wished she could stop its rushing,
incessant clang. She heard a rustle of a silken gown, and knew it
ought not to have been worn in a sick-room; for her senses seemed
to have passed into the keeping of the invalid, and to feel only
as he felt. The noise was probably occasioned by some change of
posture in the watcher inside, for it was once more dead-still.
The soft wind outside sank with a low, long, distant moan among
the windings of the hills, and lost itself there, and came no
more again. But Ruth's heart beat loud. She rose with as little
noise as if she were a vision, and crept to the open window to
try and lose the nervous listening for the ever-recurring sound.
Out beyond, under the calm sky, veiled with a mist rather than
with a cloud, rose the high, dark outlines of the mountains,
shutting in that village as if it lay in a nest. They stood, like
giants, solemnly watching for the end of Earth and Time. Here and
there a black round shadow reminded Ruth of some "Cwm," or
hollow, where she and her lover had rambled in sun and in
gladness. She then thought the land enchanted into everlasting
brightness and happiness; she fancied, then, that into a region
so lovely no bale or woe could enter, but would be charmed away
and disappear before the sight of the glorious guardian
mountains. Now she knew the truth, that earth has no barrier
which avails against agony. It comes lightning-like down from
heaven, into the mountain house and the town garret; into the
palace and into the cottage. The garden lay close under the
house; a bright spot enough by day; for in that soil, whatever
was planted grew and blossomed in spite of neglect. The white
roses glimmered out in the dusk all the night through; the red
were lost in shadow. Between the low boundary of the garden and
the hills swept one or two green meadows; Ruth looked into the
grey darkness till she traced each separate wave of outline. Then
she heard a little restless bird chirp out its wakefulness from a
nest in the ivy round the walls of the house. But the mother-bird
spread her soft feathers, and hushed it into silence. Presently,
however, many little birds began to scent the coming dawn, and
rustled among the leaves, and chirruped loud and clear. Just
above the horizon, too, the mist became a silvery grey cloud
hanging on the edge of the world; presently it turned shimmering
white; and then, in an instant, it flushed into rose, and the
mountain-tops sprang into heaven, and bathed in the presence of
the shadow of God. With a bound, the sun of a molten fiery red
came above the horizon, and immediately thousands of little birds
sang out for joy, and a soft chorus of mysterious, glad murmurs
came forth from the earth; the low whispering wind left its
hiding-place among the clefts and hollows of the hills, and
wandered among the rustling herbs and trees, waking the
flower-buds to the life of another day. Ruth gave a sigh of
relief that the night was over and gone; for she knew that soon
suspense would be ended, and the verdict known, whether for life
or for death. She grew faint and sick with anxiety; it almost
seemed as if she must go into the room and learn the truth. Then
she heard movements, but they were not sharp nor rapid, as if
prompted by any emergency; then, again, it was still. She sat
curled up upon the floor, with her head thrown back against the
wall, and her hands clasped round her knees. She had yet to wait.
Meanwhile, the invalid was slowly rousing himself from a long,
deep, sound, health-giving sleep. His mother had sat by him the
night through, and was now daring to change her position for the
first time; she was even venturing to give directions in a low
voice to the old nurse, who had dozed away in an arm-chair, ready
to obey any summons of her mistress. Mrs. Bellingham went on
tiptoe towards the door, and chiding herself because her stiff,
weary limbs made some slight noise. She had an irrepressible
longing for a few minutes' change of scene after her night of
watching. She felt that the crisis was over; and the relief to
her mind made her conscious of every bodily feeling and
irritation, which had passed unheeded as long as she had been in
She slowly opened the door. Ruth sprang upright at the first
sound of the creaking handle. Her very lips were stiff and
unpliable with the force of the blood which rushed to her head.
It seemed as if she could not form words. She stood right before
Mrs. Bellingham. "How is he, madam?"
Mrs. Bellingham was for a moment surprised at the white
apparition which seemed to rise out of the ground. But her quick,
proud mind understood it all in an instant. This was the girl,
then, whose profligacy had led her son astray; had raised up
barriers in the way of her favourite scheme of his marriage with
Miss Duncombe; nay, this was the real cause of his illness, his
mortal danger at this present time, and of her bitter, keen
anxiety. If, under any circumstances, Mrs. Bellingham could have
been guilty of the ill-breeding of not answering a question, it
was now; and for a moment she was tempted to pass on in silence.
Ruth could not wait; she spoke again--
"For the love of God, madam, speak! How is he? Will he live?" If
she did not answer her, she thought the creature was desperate
enough to force her way into his room. So she spoke--
"He has slept well: he is better."
"Oh! my God, I thank thee," murmured Ruth, sinking back against
the wall. It was too much to hear this wretched girl thanking God
for her son's life; as if, in fact, she had any lot or part in
him. And to dare to speak to the Almighty on her son's behalf!
Mrs. Bellingham looked at her with cold, contemptuous eyes, whose
glances were like ice-bolts, and made Ruth shiver up away from
"Young woman, if you have any propriety or decency left, I trust
that you will not dare to force yourself into his room."
She stood for a moment as if awaiting an answer, and half
expecting it to be a defiance. But she did not understand Ruth.
She did not imagine the faithful trustfulness of her heart. Ruth
believed that, if Mr. Bellingham was alive and likely to live,
all was well. When he wanted her, he would send for her, ask for
her, yearn for her, till every one would yield before his
steadfast will. At present she imagined that he was probably too
weak to care or know who was about him; and though it would have
been an infinite delight to her to hover and brood around him,
yet it was of him she thought and not of herself. She gently drew
herself on one side to make way for Mrs. Bellingham to pass.
By and by Mrs. Morgan came up. Ruth was still near the door, from
which it seemed as if she could not tear herself away.
"Indeed, miss, and you must not hang about the door in this way;
it is not pretty manners. Mrs. Bellingham has been speaking very
sharp and cross about it, and I shall lose the character of my
inn if people take to talking as she does. Did I not give you a
room last night to keep in, and never be seen or heard of; and
did I not tell you what a particular lady Mrs. Bellingham was,
but you must come out here right in her way? Indeed, it was not
pretty, nor grateful to me, Jenny Morgan, and that I must say."
Ruth turned away like a chidden child. Mrs. Morgan followed her
to her room, scolding as she went; and then, having cleared her
heart after her wont by uttering hasty words, her real kindness
made her add, in a softened tone--
"You stop up here like a good girl. I'll send you your breakfast
by-and-by, and let you know from time to time how he is; and you
can go out for a walk, you know: but if you do, I'll take it as a
favour if you'll go out by the side-door. It will, maybe, save
All that day long, Ruth kept herself close prisoner in the room
to which Mrs. Morgan accorded her; all that day, and many
succeeding days. But at nights, when the house was still, and
even the little brown mice had gathered up the crumbs, and darted
again to their holes, Ruth stole out, and crept to his door to
catch, if she could, the sound of his beloved voice. She could
tell by its tones how he felt, and how he was getting on, as well
as any of the watchers in the room. She yearned and pined to see
him once more; but she had reasoned herself down into something
like patience. When he was well enough to leave his room, when he
had not always one of the nurses with him, then he would send for
her, and she would tell him how very patient she had been for his
dear sake. But it was long to wait, even with this thought of the
manner in which the waiting would end. Poor Ruth! her faith was
only building up vain castles in the air; they towered up into
heaven, it is true; but, after all, they were but visions.
MRS. BELLINGHAM "DOES THE THING HANDSOMELY"
If Mr. Bellingham did not get rapidly well, it was more owing to
the morbid querulous fancy attendant on great weakness than from
any unfavourable medical symptom. But he turned away with peevish
loathing from the very sight of food, prepared in the slovenly
manner which had almost disgusted him when he was well. It was of
no use telling him that Simpson, his mother's maid, had
superintended the preparation at every point. He offended her by
detecting something offensive and to be avoided in her daintiest
messes, and made Mrs. Morgan mutter many a hasty speech, which,
however, Mrs. Bellingham thought it better not to hear until her
son should be strong enough to travel.
"I think you are better to-day," said she, as his man wheeled his
sofa to the bedroom window. "We shall get you downstairs
"If you were to get away from this abominable place, I could go
down to-day; but I believe I'm to be kept prisoner here for ever.
I shall never get well here, I'm sure."
He sank back on his sofa in impatient despair. The surgeon was
announced, and eagerly questioned by Mrs. Bellingham as to the
possibility of her son's removal; and he, having heard the same
anxiety for the same end expressed by Mrs. Morgan in the regions
below, threw no great obstacles in the way. After the doctor had
taken his departure, Mrs. Bellingham cleared her throat several
times. Mr. Bellingham knew the prelude of old, and winced with
"Henry, there is something I must speak to you about; an
unpleasant subject, certainly, but one which has been forced upon
me by the very girl herself; you must be aware to what I refer
without giving me the pain of explaining myself." Mr. Bellingham
turned himself sharply round to the wall, and prepared himself
for a lecture by concealing his face from her notice; but she
herself was in too nervous a state to be capable of observation.
"Of course," she continued, "it was my wish to be as blind to the
whole affair as possible, though you can't imagine how Mrs. Mason
has blazoned it abroad; all Fordham rings with it but of course
it could not be pleasant, or, indeed, I may say correct, for me
to be aware that a person of such improper character was under
the same--I beg your pardon, dear Henry, what do you say?"
"Ruth is no improper character, mother; you do her injustice!"
"My dear boy, you don't mean to uphold her as a paragon of
"No, mother, but I led her wrong; I----"
"We will let all discussions into the cause or duration of her
present character drop, if you please," said Mrs. Bellingham,
with the sort of dignified authority which retained a certain
power over her son--a power which originated in childhood, and
which he only defied when he was roused into passion. He was too
weak in body to oppose himself to her, and fight the ground inch
by inch. "As I have implied, I do not wish to ascertain your
share of blame; from what I saw of her one morning, I am
convinced of her forward, intrusive manners, utterly without
shame, or even common modesty."
"What are you referring to?" asked Mr. Bellingham sharply.
"Why, when you were at the worst, and I had been watching you all
night, and had just gone out in the morning for a breath of fresh
air, this girl pushed herself before me, and insisted upon
speaking to me. I really had to send Mrs. Morgan to her before I
could return to your room. A more impudent, hardened manner, I
"Ruth was neither impudent nor hardened; she was ignorant enough,
and might offend from knowing no better."
He was getting weary of the discussion, and wished it had never
been begun. From the time he had become conscious of his mother's
presence he had felt the dilemma he was in, in regard to Ruth,
and various plans had directly crossed his brain; but it had been
so troublesome to weigh and consider them all properly, that they
had been put aside to be settled when he grew stronger. But this
difficulty in which he was placed by his connection with Ruth,
associated the idea of her in his mind with annoyance and angry
regret at the whole affair. He wished, in the languid way in
which he wished and felt everything not immediately relating to
his daily comfort, that he had never seen her. It was a most
awkward, a most unfortunate affair. Notwithstanding this
annoyance connected with and arising out of Ruth, he would not
submit to hear her abused; and something in his manner impressed
this on his mother, for she immediately changed her mode of
"We may as well drop all dispute as to the young woman's manners;
but I suppose you do not mean to defend your connection with her;
I suppose you are not so lost to all sense of propriety as to
imagine it fit or desirable that your mother and this degraded
girl should remain under the same roof, liable to meet at any
hour of the day?" She waited for an answer, but no answer came.
"I ask you a simple question; is it, or is it not, desirable?"
"I suppose it is not," he replied gloomily.
"And I suppose, from your manner, that you think the difficulty
would be best solved by my taking my departure, and leaving you
with your vicious companion?" Again no answer, but inward and
increasing annoyance, of which Mr. Bellingham considered Ruth the
cause. At length he spoke--
"Mother, you are not helping me in my difficulty. I have no
desire to banish you, nor to hurt you, after all your care for
me. Ruth has not been so much to blame as you imagine, that I
must say; but I do not wish to see her again, if you can tell me
how to arrange it otherwise, without behaving unhandsomely. Only
spare me all this worry a while, I am so weak. I put myself in
your hands. Dismiss her, as you wish it; but let it be done
handsomely, and let me hear no more about it; I cannot bear it;
let me have a quiet life, without being lectured, while I am pent
up here, and unable to shake off unpleasant thoughts."
"My dear Henry, rely upon me."
"No more, mother; it's a bad business, and I can hardly avoid
blaming myself in the matter. I don't want to dwell upon it."
"Don't be too severe in your self-reproaches while you are so
feeble, dear Henry; it is right to repent, but I have no doubt
in my own mind she led you wrong with her artifices. But, as you
say, everything should be done handsomely. I confess I was deeply
grieved when I first heard of the affair, but since I have seen
the girl----Well! I'll say no more about her, since I see it
displeases you; but I am thankful to God that you see the error
of your ways. She sat silent, thinking for a little while, and
then sent for her writing-case and began to write. Her son became
restless, and nervously irritated.
"Mother," he said, "this affair worries me to death. I cannot
shake off the thoughts of it."
"Leave it to me, I'll arrange it satisfactorily."
"Could we not leave to-night? I should not be so haunted by this
annoyance in another place. I dread seeing her again, because I
fear a scene; and yet I believe I ought to see her in order to
"You must not think of such a thing, Henry," said she, alarmed at
the very idea.
"Sooner than that, we will leave in half-an-hour, and try to get
to Pen tre Voelas to-night. It is not yet three, and the evenings
are very long. Simpson should stay and finish the packing; she
could go straight to London and meet us there. Macdonald and
nurse could go with us. Could you bear twenty miles, do you
Anything to get rid of his uneasiness. He felt that he was not
behaving as he should do to Ruth, though the really right never
entered his head. But it would extricate him from his present
dilemma, and save him many lectures; he knew that his mother,
always liberal where money was concerned, would "do the thing
handsomely"; and it would always be easy to write and give Ruth
what explanation he felt inclined, in a day or two; so he
consented, and soon lost some of his uneasiness in watching the
bustle of the preparation for their departure. All this time Ruth
was quietly spending in her room, beguiling the waiting, weary
hours, with pictures of the meeting at the end. Her room looked
to the back, and was in a side-wing away from the principal state
apartments, consequently she was not roused to suspicion by any
of the commotion; but, indeed, if she had heard the banging of
doors, the sharp directions, the carriage-wheels, she would still
not have suspected the truth; her own love was too faithful.
It was four o'clock and past, when some one knocked at her door,
and, on entering, gave her a note, which Mrs. Bellingham had
left. That lady had found some difficulty in wording it so as to
satisfy herself, but it was as follows:--
"My son, on recovering from his illness, is, I thank God, happily
conscious of the sinful way in which he has been living with you.
By his earnest desire, and in order to avoid seeing you again, we
are on the point of leaving this place; but, before I go, I wish
to exhort you to repentance, and to remind you that you will not
have your own guilt alone upon your head, but that of any young
man whom you may succeed in entrapping into vice. I shall pray
that you may turn to an honest life, and I strongly recommend
you, if indeed you are not 'dead in trespasses and sins,' to
enter some penitentiary. In accordance with my son's wishes, I
forward you in this envelope a bank-note of fifty pounds.
Was this the end of all? Had he, indeed, gone? She started up,
and asked this last question of the servant, who, half guessing
at the purport of the note, had lingered about the room, curious
to see the effect produced.
"Iss, indeed, miss; the carriage drove from the door as I came
upstairs. You'll see it now on the Yspytty road, if you'll please
to come to the window of No. 24."
Ruth started up and followed the chambermaid. Ay, there it was,
slowly winding up the steep, white road, on which it seemed to
move at a snail's pace.
She might overtake him--she might--she might speak one farewell
word to him, print his face on her heart with a last look--nay,
when he saw her he might retract, and not utterly, for ever,
leave her. Thus she thought; and she flew back to her room, and
snatching up her bonnet, ran, tying the strings with her
trembling hands as she went down the stairs, out at the nearest
door, little heeding the angry words of Mrs. Morgan; for the
hostess, more irritated at Mrs. Bellingham's severe upbraiding at
parting, than mollified by her ample payment, was offended by the
circumstance of Ruth, in her wild haste, passing through the
prohibited front door.
But Ruth was away before Mrs. Morgan had finished her speech, out
and away, scudding along the road, thought-lost in the breathless
rapidity of her motion. Though her heart and head beat almost to
bursting, what did it signify if she could but overtake the
carriage? It was a nightmare, constantly evading the most
passionate wishes and endeavours, and constantly gaining ground.
Every time it was visible it was in fact more distant, but Ruth
would not believe it. If she could but gain the summit of that
weary everlasting hill, she believed that she could run again,
and would soon be nigh upon the carriage. As she ran she prayed
with wild eagerness; she prayed that she might see his face once
more, even if she died on the spot before him. It was one of
those prayers which God is too merciful to grant; but, despairing
and wild as it was, Ruth put her soul into it, and prayed it
again, and yet again.
Wave above wave of the ever-rising hills were gained, were
crossed, and at last Ruth struggled up to the very top and stood
on the bare table of moor, brown and purple, stretching far away
till it was lost in the haze of the summer afternoon; the white
road was all flat before her, but the carriage she sought, and
the figure she sought, had disappeared. There was no human being
there; a few wild, black-faced mountain sheep, quietly grazing
near the road as if it were long since they had been disturbed,
by the passing of any vehicle, was all the life she saw on the
She threw herself down on the ling by the side of the road, in
despair. Her only hope was to die, and she believed she was
dying. She could not think; she could believe anything. Surely
life was a horrible dream, and God would mercifully awaken her
from it? She had no penitence, no consciousness of error or
offence no knowledge of any one circumstance but that he was
gone. Yet afterwards--long afterwards--she remembered the exact
motion of a bright green beetle busily meandering among the wild
thyme near her, and she recalled the musical, balanced, wavering
drop of a skylark into her nest, near the heather-bed where she
lay. The sun was sinking low, the hot air had ceased to quiver
near the hotter earth, when she bethought her once more of the
note which she had impatiently thrown down before half mastering
its contents. "Oh, perhaps," she thought, "I have been too hasty.
There may be some words of explanation from him on the other side
of the page, to which, in my blind anguish, I never turned. I
will go and find it."
She lifted herself heavily and stiffly from the crushed heather.
She stood dizzy and confused with her change of posture; and was
so unable to move at first, that her walk was but slow and
tottering; but, by-and-by, she was tasked and goaded by thoughts
which forced her into rapid motion, as if, by it, she could
escape from her agony. She came down on the level ground, just as
many gay or peaceful groups were sauntering leisurely home with
hearts at ease; with low laughs and quiet smiles, and many an
exclamation at the beauty of the summer evening.
Ever since her adventure with the little boy and his sister, Ruth
had habitually avoided encountering these happy--innocents, may I
call them?--these happy fellow-mortals! And even now, the habit
grounded on sorrowful humiliation had power over her; she paused,
and then, on looking back, she saw more people who had come into
the main road from a side-path. She opened a gate into a
pasture-field, and crept up to the hedge-bank until all should
have passed by, and she could steal into the inn unseen. She sat
down on the sloping turf by the roots of an old hawthorn tree
which grew in the hedge; she was still tearless, with hot burning
eyes; she heard the merry walkers pass by; she heard the
footsteps of the village children as they ran along to their
evening play; she saw the small black cows come into the fields
after being milked; and life seemed yet abroad. When would the
world be still and dark, and fit for such a deserted, desolate
creature as she was? Even in her hiding-place she was not long at
peace. The little children, with their curious eyes peering here
and there, had peeped through the hedge, and through the gate,
and now they gathered from all the four corners of the hamlet,
and crowded round the gate; and one more adventurous than the
rest had run into the field to cry, "Gi' me a halfpenny," which
set the example to every little one, emulous of his boldness; and
there, where she sat, low on the ground, and longing for the sure
hiding-place earth gives to the weary, the children kept running
in, and pushing one another forwards and laughing. Poor things!
their time had not come for understanding what sorrow is. Ruth
would have begged them to leave her alone, and not madden her
utterly; but they knew no English save the one eternal "Gi' me a
halfpenny." She felt in her heart that there was no pity
anywhere. Suddenly, while she thus doubted God, a shadow fell
across her garments, on which her miserable eyes were bent. She
looked up. The deformed gentleman she had twice before seen stood
there. He had been attracted by the noisy little crowd, and had
questioned them in Welsh; but, not understanding enough of the
language to comprehend their answers, he had obeyed their signs,
and entered the gate to which they pointed. There he saw the
young girl whom he had noticed at first for her innocent beauty,
and the second time for the idea he had gained respecting her
situation; there he saw her, crouched up like some hunted
creature, with a wild, scared look of despair, which almost made
her lovely face seem fierce; he saw her dress soiled and dim, her
bonnet crushed and battered with her tossings to and fro on the
moorland bed; he saw the poor, lost wanderer, and when he saw her
he had compassion on her.
There was some look of heavenly pity In his eyes, as gravely and
sadly they met her upturned gaze, which touched her stony heart.
Still looking at him, as if drawing some good influence from him,
she said low and mournfully, "He has left me, sir!--sir, he has
indeed!--he has gone and left me!"
Before he could speak a word to comfort her, she had burst into
the wildest, dreariest crying ever mortal cried. The settled form
of the event, when put into words, went sharp to her heart; her
moans and sobs wrung his soul; but, as no speech of his could be
heard, if he had been able to decide what best to say, he stood
by her in apparent calmness, while she, wretched, wailed and
uttered her woe. But when she lay worn out, and stupefied into
silence, she heard him say to himself in a low voice--
"Oh, my God! for Christ's sake, pity her!"
Ruth lifted up her eyes, and looked at him with a dim perception
of the meaning of his words. She regarded him fixedly in a dreamy
way, as if they struck some chord in her heart, and she were
listening to its echo; and so it was. His pitiful look, or his
words, reminded her of the childish days when she knelt at her
mother's knee; and she was only conscious of a straining, longing
desire to recall it all.
He let her take her time, partly because he was powerfully
affected himself by all the circumstances, and by the sad pale
face upturned to his; and partly by an instinctive consciousness
that the softest patience was required. But suddenly she startled
him, as she herself was startled into a keen sense of the
suffering agony of the present; she sprang up and pushed him
aside, and went rapidly towards the gate of the field. He could
not move as quickly as most men, but he put forth his utmost
speed. He followed across the road, on to the rocky common; but,
as he went along, with his uncertain gait, in the dusk gloaming,
he stumbled, and fell over some sharp projecting stone. The acute
pain which shot up his back forced a short cry from him; and,
when bird and beast are hushed into rest and the stillness of
night is over all, a high-pitched sound, like the voice of pain,
is carried far in the quiet air. Ruth, speeding on in her
despair, heard the sharp utterance, and stopped suddenly short.
It did what no remonstrance could have done; it called her out of
herself. The tender nature was in her still, in that hour when
all good angels seemed to have abandoned her. In the old days she
could never bear to hear or see bodily suffering in any of God's
meanest creatures, without trying to succour them; and now, in
her rush to the awful death of the suicide, she stayed her wild
steps, and turned to find from whom that sharp sound of anguish
He lay among the white stones, too faint with pain to move, but
with an agony in his mind far keener than any bodily pain, as he
thought that by his unfortunate fall he had lost all chance of
saving her. He was almost over-powered by his intense
thankfulness when he saw her white figure pause, and stand
listening, and turn again with slow footsteps, as if searching
for some lost thing. He could hardly speak, but he made a sound
which, though his heart was inexpressibly glad, was like a groan.
She came quickly towards him.
"I am hurt," said he; "do not leave me;" his disabled and tender
frame was overcome by the accident and the previous emotions, and
he fainted away. Ruth flew to the little mountain stream, the
dashing sound of whose waters had been tempting her, but a moment
before, to seek forgetfulness in the deep pool into which they
fell. She made a basin of her joined hands, and carried enough of
the cold fresh water back to dash into his face and restore him
to consciousness. While he still kept silence, uncertain what to
say best fitted to induce her to listen to him, she said softly--
"Are you better, sir?--are you very much hurt?"
"Not very much; I am better. Any quick movement is apt to cause
me a sudden loss of power in my back, and I believe I stumbled
over some of these projecting stones. It will soon go off; and
you will help me to go home, I am sure."
"Oh, yes! Can you go now? I am afraid of your lying too long on
this heather; there is a heavy dew."
He was so anxious to comply with her wish, and not weary out her
thought for him, and so turn her back upon herself, that he tried
to rise. The pain was acute, and this she saw.
"Don't hurry yourself, sir; I can wait."
Then came across her mind the recollection of the business that
was thus deferred; but the few homely words which had been
exchanged between them seemed to have awakened her from her
madness. She sat down by him, and covering her face with her
hands, cried mournfully and unceasingly. She forgot his presence,
and yet she had a consciousness that some one looked for her kind
offices, that she was wanted in the world, and must not rush
hastily out of it. The consciousness did not 'take this definite
form, it did not become a thought, but it kept her still, and it
was gradually soothing her.
"Can you help me to rise now?" said he, after a while. She did
not speak, but she helped him up, and then he took her arm, and
she led him tenderly through all the little velvet paths, where
the turf grew short and soft between the rugged stones. Once more
on the highway, they slowly passed along in the moonlight. He
guided her by a slight motion of the arm, through the more
unfrequented lanes, to his lodgings at the shop; for he thought
for her, and conceived the pain she would have in seeing the
lighted windows of the inn. He leant more heavily on her arm, as
they awaited the opening of the door.
"Come in," said he, not relaxing his hold, and yet dreading to
tighten it, lest she should defy restraint, and once more rush
They went slowly into the little parlour behind the shop. The
bonny-looking hostess, Mrs. Hughes by name, made haste to light
the candle, and then they saw each other, face to face. The
deformed gentleman looked very pale, but Ruth looked as if the
shadow of death was upon her.
THE STORM-SPIRIT SUBDUED
Mrs. Hughes bustled about with many a sympathetic exclamation,
now in pretty broken English, now in more fluent Welsh, which
sounded as soft as Russian or Italian, in her musical voice. Mr.
Benson, for that was the name of the hunchback, lay on the sofa
thinking; while the tender Mrs. Hughes made every arrangement for
his relief from pain. He had lodged with her for three successive
years, and she knew and loved him.
Ruth stood in the little bow-window, looking out. Across the
moon, and over the deep blue heavens, large, torn,
irregular-shaped clouds went hurrying, as if summoned by some
storm-spirit. The work they were commanded to do was not here;
the mighty gathering-place lay eastward, immeasurable leagues;
and on they went, chasing each other over the silent earth, now
black, now silver-white at one transparent edge, now with the
moon shining like Hope through their darkest centre, now again
with a silver lining; and now, utterly black, they sailed lower
in the lift, and disappeared behind the immovable mountains; they
were rushing in the very direction in which Ruth had striven and
struggled to go that afternoon; they, in their wild career, would
soon pass over the very spot where he (her world's he) was lying
sleeping, or perhaps not sleeping, perhaps thinking of her. The
storm was in her mind, and rent and tore her purposes into forms
as wild and irregular as the heavenly shapes she was looking at.
If, like them, she could pass the barrier horizon in the night,
she might overtake him. Mr. Benson saw her look, and read it
partially. He saw her longing gaze outwards upon the free, broad
world, and thought that the siren waters, whose deadly music yet
rang in his ears, were again tempting her. He called her to him
praying that his feeble voice might have power.
"My dear young lady, I have much to say to you; and God has taken
my strength from me now when I most need--Oh, I sin to speak
so--but, for His sake, I implore you to be patient here, if only
till to-morrow morning." He looked at her, but her face was
immovable, and she did not speak. She could not give up her hope,
her chance, her liberty, till to-morrow.
"God help me," said he mournfully, "my words do not touch her;"
and, still holding her hand, he sank back on the pillows. Indeed,
it was true that his words did not vibrate in her atmosphere. The
storm-spirit raged there, and filled her heart with the thought
that she was an outcast; and the holy words, "for His sake," were
answered by the demon, who held possession, with a blasphemous
defiance of the merciful God--
"What have I to do with Thee?"
He thought of every softening influence of religion which over
his own disciplined heart had power, but put them aside as
useless. Then the still small voice whispered, and he spake--
"In your mother's name, whether she be dead or alive, I command
you to stay here until I am able to speak to you."
She knelt down at the foot of the sofa, and shook it with her
sobs. Her heart was touched, and he hardly dared to speak again.
At length he said--
"I know you will not go--you could not--for her sake. You will
not, will you?"
"No," whispered Ruth; and then there was a great blank in her
heart. She had given up her chance. She was calm, in the utter
absence of all hope.
"And now you will do what I tell you?" said he gently, but
unconsciously to himself, in the tone of one who has found the
hidden spell by which to rule spirits.
She slowly said, "Yes." But she was subdued.
He called Mrs. Hughes. She came from her adjoining shop.
"You have a bedroom within yours, where your daughter used to
sleep, I think? I am sure you will oblige me, and I shall
consider it as a great favour, if you will allow this young lady
to sleep there to-night. Will you take her there now? Go, my
dear. I have full trust in your promise not to leave until I can
speak to you." His voice died away to silence; but as Ruth rose
from her knees at his bidding, she looked at his face through her
tears. His lips were moving in earnest, unspoken prayer, and she
knew it was for her.
That night, although his pain was relieved by rest, he could not
sleep; and, as in fever, the coming events kept unrolling
themselves before him in every changing and fantastic form. He
met Ruth in all possible places and ways, and addressed her in
every manner he could imagine most calculated to move and affect
her to penitence and virtue. Towards morning he fell asleep, but
the same thoughts haunted his dreams; he spoke, but his voice
refused to utter aloud; and she fled, relentless, to the deep,
But God works in His own way.
The visions melted into deep, unconscious sleep. He was awakened
by a knock at the door, which seemed a repetition of what he had
heard in his last sleeping moments.
It was Mrs. Hughes. She stood at the first word of permission
within the room.
"Please, sir, I think the young lady is very ill indeed, sir;
perhaps you would please to come to her."
"How is she ill?" said he, much alarmed.
"Quite quiet-like, sir; but I think she is dying, that's all,
"Go away, I will be with you directly," he replied, his heart
sinking within him.
In a very short time he was standing with Mrs. Hughes by Ruth's
bedside. She lay as still as if she were dead, her eyes shut, her
wan face numbed into a fixed anguish of expression. She did not
speak when they spoke, though after a while they thought she
strove to do so. But all power of motion and utterance had left
her. She was dressed in everything, except her bonnet, as she had
been the day before; although sweet, thoughtful Mrs. Hughes had
provided her with nightgear, which lay on the little chest of
drawers that served as a dressing-table. Mr. Benson lifted up her
arm to feel her feeble, fluttering pulse; and when he let go her
hand, it fell upon the bed in a dull, heavy way, as if she were
"You gave her some food?" said he anxiously, to Mrs. Hughes.
"Indeed, and I offered her the best in the house, but she shook
her poor pretty head, and only asked if I would please to get her
a cup of water. I brought her some milk though; and, 'deed, I
think she'd rather have had the water; but, not to seem sour and
cross, she took some milk." By this time Mrs. Hughes was fairly
"When does the doctor come up here?"
"Indeed, sir, and he's up nearly every day now, the inn is so
"I'll go for him. And can you manage to undress her and lay her
in bed? Open the window too, and let in the air; if her feet are
cold, put bottles of hot water to them."
It was a proof of the true love, which was the nature of both,
that it never crossed their minds to regret that this poor young
creature had been thus thrown upon their hands. On the contrary,
Mrs. Hughes called it "a blessing."
"It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes."
A NOTE AND THE ANSWER
At the inn everything was life and bustle. Mr. Benson had to wait
long in Mrs. Morgan's little parlour before she could come to
him, and he kept growing more and more impatient. At last she
made her appearance and heard his story. People may talk as they
will about the little respect that is paid to virtue,
unaccompanied by the outward accidents of wealth or station; but
I rather think it will be found that, in the long run, true and
simple virtue always has its proportionate reward in the respect
and reverence of every one whose esteem is worth having. To be
sure, it is not rewarded after the way of the world, as mere
worldly possessions are, with low obeisance and lip-service; but
all the better and more noble qualities in the hearts of others
make ready and go forth to meet it on its approach, provided only
it be pure, simple, and unconscious of its own existence.
Mr. Benson had little thought for outward tokens of respect just
then, nor had Mrs. Morgan much time to spare; but she smoothed
her ruffled brow, and calmed her bustling manner, as soon as ever
she saw who it was that awaited her; for Mr. Benson was well
known in the village, where he had taken up his summer holiday
among the mountains year after year, always a resident at the
shop, and seldom spending a shilling at the inn.
Mrs. Morgan listened patiently--for her.
"Mr. Jones will come this afternoon. But it is a shame you should
be troubled with such as her. I had but little time yesterday,
but I guessed there was something wrong, and Gwen has just been
telling me her bed has not been slept in. They were in a pretty
hurry to be gone yesterday, for all that the gentleman was not
fit to travel, to my way of thinking; indeed, William Wynn, the
post-boy, said he was weary enough before he got to the end of
that Yspytty road; and he thought they would have to rest there a
day or two before they could go further than Pen tre Voelas.
Indeed, and anyhow, the servant is to follow them with the
baggage this very morning; and now I remember, William Wynn said
they would wait for her. You'd better write a note, Mr. Benson,
and tell them her state."
It was sound, though unpalatable advice. It came from one
accustomed to bring excellent, if unrefined sense, to bear
quickly upon any emergency, and to decide rapidly. She was, in
truth, so little accustomed to have her authority questioned,
that, before Mr. Benson had made up his mind, she had produced
paper, pens, and ink from the drawer in her bureau, placed them
before him, and was going to leave the room.
"Leave the note on this shelf, and trust me that it goes by the
maid. The boy that drives her there in the car shall bring you an
answer back." She was gone before he could rally his scattered
senses enough to remember that he had not the least idea of the
name of the person to whom he was to write. The quiet leisure and
peace of his little study at home favoured his habit of reverie
and long deliberation, just as her position as mistress of an inn
obliged her to quick, decisive ways.
Her advice, though good in some points, was unpalatable in
others. It was true that Ruth's condition ought to be known by
those who were her friends; but were these people to whom he was
now going to write friends? He knew there was a rich mother, and
a handsome, elegant son; and he had also some idea of the
circumstances which might a little extenuate their mode of
quitting Ruth. He had wide-enough sympathy to understand that it
must have been a most painful position in which the mother had
been placed, on finding herself under the same roof with a girl
who was living with her son, as Ruth was. And yet he did not like
to apply to her; to write to the son was still more out of the
question, as it seemed like asking him to return. But through one
or the other lay the only clue to her friends, who certainly
ought to be made acquainted with her position. At length he
"MADAM,--I write to tell you of the condition of the poor young
woman"--(here came a long pause of deliberation)--"who
accompanied your son on his arrival here, and who was left behind
on your departure yesterday. She is lying (as it appears to me)
in a very dangerous state at my lodgings; and, if I may suggest,
it would be kind to allow your maid to return and attend upon her
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