The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid
Part 2 out of 2
'You sent for me, and I have come,' she answered humbly, like an
obedient familiar in the employ of some great enchanter. Indeed, the
Baron's power over this innocent girl was curiously like enchantment,
or mesmeric influence. It was so masterful that the sexual element
was almost eliminated. It was that of Prospero over the gentle
Ariel. And yet it was probably only that of the cosmopolite over the
recluse, of the experienced man over the simple maid.
'You have come--on your wedding-day!--O Margery, this is a mistake.
Of course, you should not have obeyed me, since, though I thought
your wedding would be soon, I did not know it was to-day.'
'I promised you, sir; and I would rather keep my promise to you than
be married to Jim.'
'That must not be--the feeling is wrong!' he murmured, looking at the
distant hills. 'There seems to be a fate in all this; I get out of
the frying-pan into the fire. What a recompense to you for your
goodness! The fact is, I was out of health and out of spirits, so I-
-but no more of that. Now instantly to repair this tremendous
blunder that we have made--that's the question.'
After a pause, he went on hurriedly, 'Walk down the hill; get into
the road. By that time I shall be there with a phaeton. We may get
back in time. What time is it now? If not, no doubt the wedding can
be to-morrow; so all will come right again. Don't cry, my dear girl.
Keep the locket, of course--you'll marry Jim.'
He hastened down towards the stables, and she went on as directed.
It seemed as if he must have put in the horse himself, so quickly did
he reappear with the phaeton on the open road. Margery silently took
her seat, and the Baron seemed cut to the quick with self-reproach as
he noticed the listless indifference with which she acted. There was
no doubt that in her heart she had preferred obeying the apparently
important mandate that morning to becoming Jim's wife; but there was
no less doubt that had the Baron left her alone she would quietly
have gone to the altar.
He drove along furiously, in a cloud of dust. There was much to
contemplate in that peaceful Sunday morning--the windless trees and
fields, the shaking sunlight, the pause in human stir. Yet neither
of them heeded, and thus they drew near to the dairy. His first
expressed intention had been to go indoors with her, but this he
abandoned as impolitic in the highest degree.
'You may be soon enough,' he said, springing down, and helping her to
follow. 'Tell the truth: say you were sent for to receive a wedding
present--that it was a mistake on my part--a mistake on yours; and I
think they'll forgive . . . And, Margery, my last request to you is
this: that if I send for you again, you do not come. Promise
solemnly, my dear girl, that any such request shall be unheeded.'
Her lips moved, but the promise was not articulated. 'O, sir, I
cannot promise it!' she said at last.
'But you must; your salvation may depend on it!' he insisted almost
sternly. 'You don't know what I am.'
'Then, sir, I promise,' she replied. 'Now leave me to myself,
please, and I'll go indoors and manage matters.'
He turned the horse and drove away, but only for a little distance.
Out of sight he pulled rein suddenly. 'Only to go back and propose
it to her, and she'd come!' he murmured.
He stood up in the phaeton, and by this means he could see over the
hedge. Margery still sat listlessly in the same place; there was not
a lovelier flower in the field. 'No,' he said; 'no, no--never!' He
reseated himself, and the wheels sped lightly back over the soft dust
to Mount Lodge.
Meanwhile Margery had not moved. If the Baron could dissimulate on
the side of severity she could dissimulate on the side of calm. He
did not know what had been veiled by the quiet promise to manage
matters indoors. Rising at length she first turned away from the
house; and, by-and-by, having apparently forgotten till then that she
carried it in her hand, she opened the case, and looked at the
locket. This seemed to give her courage. She turned, set her face
towards the dairy in good earnest, and though her heart faltered when
the gates came in sight, she kept on and drew near the door.
On the threshold she stood listening. The house was silent.
Decorations were visible in the passage, and also the carefully swept
and sanded path to the gate, which she was to have trodden as a
bride; but the sparrows hopped over it as if it were abandoned; and
all appeared to have been checked at its climacteric, like a clock
stopped on the strike. Till this moment of confronting the suspended
animation of the scene she had not realized the full shock of the
convulsion which her disappearance must have caused. It is quite
certain--apart from her own repeated assurances to that effect in
later years--that in hastening off that morning to her sudden
engagement, Margery had not counted the cost of such an enterprise;
while a dim notion that she might get back again in time for the
ceremony, if the message meant nothing serious, should also be
mentioned in her favour. But, upon the whole, she had obeyed the
call with an unreasoning obedience worthy of a disciple in primitive
times. A conviction that the Baron's life might depend upon her
presence--for she had by this time divined the tragical event she had
interrupted on the foggy morning--took from her all will to judge and
consider calmly. The simple affairs of her and hers seemed nothing
beside the possibility of harm to him.
A well-known step moved on the sanded floor within, and she went
forward. That she saw her father's face before her, just within the
door, can hardly be said: it was rather Reproach and Rage in a human
'What! ye have dared to come back alive, hussy, to look upon the
dupery you have practised on honest people! You've mortified us all;
I don't want to see 'ee; I don't want to hear 'ee; I don't want to
know anything!' He walked up and down the room, unable to command
himself. 'Nothing but being dead could have excused 'ee for not
meeting and marrying that man this morning; and yet you have the
brazen impudence to stand there as well as ever! What be you here
'I've come back to marry Jim, if he wants me to,' she said faintly.
'And if not--perhaps so much the better. I was sent for this morning
early. I thought--.' She halted. To say that she had thought a
man's death might happen by his own hand if she did not go to him,
would never do. 'I was obliged to go,' she said. 'I had given my
'Why didn't you tell us then, so that the wedding could be put off,
without making fools o' us?'
'Because I was afraid you wouldn't let me go, and I had made up my
mind to go.'
'To go where?'
She was silent; till she said, 'I will tell Jim all, and why it was;
and if he's any friend of mine he'll excuse me.'
'Not Jim--he's no such fool. Jim had put all ready for you, Jim had
called at your house, a-dressed up in his new wedding clothes, and a-
smiling like the sun; Jim had told the parson, had got the ringers in
tow, and the clerk awaiting; and then--you was GONE! Then Jim turned
as pale as rendlewood, and busted out, "If she don't marry me to-
day," 'a said, "she don't marry me at all! No; let her look
elsewhere for a husband. For tew years I've put up with her haughty
tricks and her takings," 'a said. "I've droudged and I've traipsed,
I've bought and I've sold, all wi' an eye to her; I've suffered
horseflesh," he says--yes, them was his noble words--"but I'll suffer
it no longer. She shall go!" "Jim," says I, "you be a man. If
she's alive, I commend 'ee; if she's dead, pity my old age." "She
isn't dead," says he; "for I've just heard she was seen walking off
across the fields this morning, looking all of a scornful triumph."
He turned round and went, and the rest o' the neighbours went; and
here be I left to the reproach o't.'
'He was too hasty,' murmured Margery. 'For now he's said this I
can't marry him to-morrow, as I might ha' done; and perhaps so much
'You can be so calm about it, can ye? Be my arrangements nothing,
then, that you should break 'em up, and say off hand what wasn't done
to-day might ha' been done to-morrow, and such flick-flack? Out o'
my sight! I won't hear any more. I won't speak to 'ee any more.'
'I'll go away, and then you'll be sorry!'
'Very well, go. Sorry--not I.'
He turned and stamped his way into the cheese-room. Margery went
upstairs. She too was excited now, and instead of fortifying herself
in her bedroom till her father's rage had blown over, as she had
often done on lesser occasions, she packed up a bundle of articles,
crept down again, and went out of the house. She had a place of
refuge in these cases of necessity, and her father knew it, and was
less alarmed at seeing her depart than he might otherwise have been.
This place was Rook's Gate, the house of her grandmother, who always
took Margery's part when that young woman was particularly in the
The devious way she pursued, to avoid the vicinity of Mount Lodge,
was tedious, and she was already weary. But the cottage was a
restful place to arrive at, for she was her own mistress there--her
grandmother never coming down stairs--and Edy, the woman who lived
with and attended her, being a cipher except in muscle and voice.
The approach was by a straight open road, bordered by thin lank
trees, all sloping away from the south-west wind-quarter, and the
scene bore a strange resemblance to certain bits of Dutch landscape
which have been imprinted on the world's eye by Hobbema and his
Having explained to her granny that the wedding was put off; and that
she had come to stay, one of Margery's first acts was carefully to
pack up the locket and case, her wedding present from the Baron. The
conditions of the gift were unfulfilled, and she wished it to go back
instantly. Perhaps, in the intricacies of her bosom, there lurked a
greater satisfaction with the reason for returning the present than
she would have felt just then with a reason for keeping it.
To send the article was difficult. In the evening she wrapped
herself up, searched and found a gauze veil that had been used by her
grandmother in past years for hiving swarms of bees, buried her face
in it, and sallied forth with a palpitating heart till she drew near
the tabernacle of her demi-god the Baron. She ventured only to the
back-door, where she handed in the parcel addressed to him, and
quickly came away.
Now it seems that during the day the Baron had been unable to learn
the result of his attempt to return Margery in time for the event he
had interrupted. Wishing, for obvious reasons, to avoid direct
inquiry by messenger, and being too unwell to go far himself, he
could learn no particulars. He was sitting in thought after a lonely
dinner when the parcel intimating failure as brought in. The
footman, whose curiosity had been excited by the mode of its arrival,
peeped through the keyhole after closing the door, to learn what the
packet meant. Directly the Baron had opened it he thrust out his
feet vehemently from his chair, and began cursing his ruinous conduct
in bringing about such a disaster, for the return of the locket
denoted not only no wedding that day, but none to-morrow, or at any
'I have done that innocent woman a great wrong!' he murmured.
'Deprived her of, perhaps, her only opportunity of becoming mistress
of a happy home!'
A considerable period of inaction followed among all concerned.
Nothing tended to dissipate the obscurity which veiled the life of
the Baron. The position he occupied in the minds of the country-folk
around was one which combined the mysteriousness of a legendary
character with the unobtrusive deeds of a modern gentleman. To this
day whoever takes the trouble to go down to Silverthorn in Lower
Wessex and make inquiries will find existing there almost a
superstitious feeling for the moody melancholy stranger who resided
in the Lodge some forty years ago.
Whence he came, whither he was going, were alike unknown. It was
said that his mother had been an English lady of noble family who had
married a foreigner not unheard of in circles where men pile up 'the
cankered heaps of strange-achieved gold'--that he had been born and
educated in England, taken abroad, and so on. But the facts of a
life in such cases are of little account beside the aspect of a life;
and hence, though doubtless the years of his existence contained
their share of trite and homely circumstance, the curtain which
masked all this was never lifted to gratify such a theatre of
spectators as those at Silverthorn. Therein lay his charm. His life
was a vignette, of which the central strokes only were drawn with any
distinctness, the environment shading away to a blank.
He might have been said to resemble that solitary bird the heron.
The still, lonely stream was his frequent haunt: on its banks he
would stand for hours with his rod, looking into the water, beholding
the tawny inhabitants with the eye of a philosopher, and seeming to
say, 'Bite or don't bite--it's all the same to me.' He was often
mistaken for a ghost by children; and for a pollard willow by men,
when, on their way home in the dusk, they saw him motionless by some
rushy bank, unobservant of the decline of day.
Why did he come to fish near Silverthorn? That was never explained.
As far as was known he had no relatives near; the fishing there was
not exceptionally good; the society thereabout was decidedly meagre.
That he had committed some folly or hasty act, that he had been
wrongfully accused of some crime, thus rendering his seclusion from
the world desirable for a while, squared very well with his frequent
melancholy. But such as he was there he lived, well supplied with
fishing-tackle, and tenant of a furnished house, just suited to the
requirements of such an eccentric being as he.
Margery's father, having privately ascertained that she was living
with her grandmother, and getting into no harm, refrained from
communicating with her, in the hope of seeing her contrite at his
door. It had, of course, become known about Silverthorn that at the
last moment Margery refused to wed Hayward, by absenting herself from
the house. Jim was pitied, yet not pitied much, for it was said that
he ought not to have been so eager for a woman who had shown no
anxiety for him.
And where was Jim himself? It must not be supposed that that
tactician had all this while withdrawn from mortal eye to tear his
hair in silent indignation and despair. He had, in truth, merely
retired up the lonesome defile between the downs to his smouldering
kiln, and the ancient ramparts above it; and there, after his first
hours of natural discomposure, he quietly waited for overtures from
the possibly repentant Margery. But no overtures arrived, and then
he meditated anew on the absorbing problem of her skittishness, and
how to set about another campaign for her conquest, notwithstanding
his late disastrous failure. Why had he failed? To what was her
strange conduct owing? That was the thing which puzzled him.
He had made no advance in solving the riddle when, one morning, a
stranger appeared on the down above him, looking as if he had lost
his way. The man had a good deal of black hair below his felt hat,
and carried under his arm a case containing a musical instrument.
Descending to where Jim stood, he asked if there were not a short cut
across that way to Tivworthy, where a fete was to be held.
'Well, yes, there is,' said Jim. 'But 'tis an enormous distance for
'Oh, yes,' replied the musician. 'I wish to intercept the carrier on
The nearest way was precisely in the direction of Rook's Gate, where
Margery, as Jim knew, was staying. Having some time to spare, Jim
was strongly impelled to make a kind act to the lost musician a
pretext for taking observations in that neighbourhood, and telling
his acquaintance that he was going the same way, he started without
They skirted the long length of meads, and in due time arrived at the
back of Rook's Gate, where the path joined the high road. A hedge
divided the public way from the cottage garden. Jim drew up at this
point and said, 'Your road is straight on: I turn back here.'
But the musician was standing fixed, as if in great perplexity.
Thrusting his hand into his forest of black hair, he murmured,
'Surely it is the same--surely!'
Jim, following the direction of his neighbour's eyes, found them to
be fixed on a figure till that moment hidden from himself--Margery
Tucker--who was crossing the garden to an opposite gate with a little
cheese in her arms, her head thrown back, and her face quite exposed.
'What of her?' said Jim.
'Two months ago I formed one of the band at the Yeomanry Ball given
by Lord Toneborough in the next county. I saw that young lady
dancing the polka there in robes of gauze and lace. Now I see her
carry a cheese!'
'Never!' said Jim incredulously.
'But I do not mistake. I say it is so!'
Jim ridiculed the idea; the bandsman protested, and was about to lose
his temper, when Jim gave in with the good-nature of a person who can
afford to despise opinions; and the musician went his way.
As he dwindled out of sight Jim began to think more carefully over
what he had said. The young man's thoughts grew quite to an
excitement, for there came into his mind the Baron's extraordinary
kindness in regard to furniture, hitherto accounted for by the
assumption that the nobleman had taken a fancy to him. Could it be,
among all the amazing things of life, that the Baron was at the
bottom of this mischief; and that he had amused himself by taking
Margery to a ball?
Doubts and suspicions which distract some lovers to imbecility only
served to bring out Jim's great qualities. Where he trusted he was
the most trusting fellow in the world; where he doubted he could be
guilty of the slyest strategy. Once suspicious, he became one of
those subtle, watchful characters who, without integrity, make good
thieves; with a little, good jobbers; with a little more, good
diplomatists. Jim was honest, and he considered what to do.
Retracing his steps, he peeped again. She had gone in; but she would
soon reappear, for it could be seen that she was carrying little new
cheeses one by one to a spring-cart and horse tethered outside the
gate--her grandmother, though not a regular dairywoman, still
managing a few cows by means of a man and maid. With the lightness
of a cat Jim crept round to the gate, took a piece of chalk from his
pocket, and wrote upon the boarding 'The Baron.' Then he retreated
to the other side of the garden where he had just watched Margery.
In due time she emerged with another little cheese, came on to the
garden-door, and glanced upon the chalked words which confronted her.
She started; the cheese rolled from her arms to the ground, and broke
into pieces like a pudding.
She looked fearfully round, her face burning like sunset, and, seeing
nobody, stooped to pick up the flaccid lumps. Jim, with a pale face,
departed as invisibly as he had come. He had proved the bandsman's
tale to be true. On his way back he formed a resolution. It was to
beard the lion in his den--to call on the Baron.
Meanwhile Margery had recovered her equanimity, and gathered up the
broken cheese. But she could by no means account for the
handwriting. Jim was just the sort of fellow to play her such a
trick at ordinary times, but she imagined him to be far too incensed
against her to do it now; and she suddenly wondered if it were any
sort of signal from the Baron himself.
Of him she had lately heard nothing. If ever monotony pervaded a
life it pervaded hers at Rook's Gate; and she had begun to despair of
any happy change. But it is precisely when the social atmosphere
seems stagnant that great events are brewing. Margery's quiet was
broken first, as we have seen, by a slight start, only sufficient to
make her drop a cheese; and then by a more serious matter.
She was inside the same garden one day when she heard two watermen
talking without. The conversation was to the effect that the strange
gentleman who had taken Mount Lodge for the season was seriously ill.
'How ill?' cried Margery through the hedge, which screened her from
'Bad abed,' said one of the watermen.
'Inflammation of the lungs,' said the other.
'Got wet, fishing,' the first chimed in.
Margery could gather no more. An ideal admiration rather than any
positive passion existed in her breast for the Baron: she had of
late seen too little of him to allow any incipient views of him as a
lover to grow to formidable dimensions. It was an extremely romantic
feeling, delicate as an aroma, capable of quickening to an active
principle, or dying to 'a painless sympathy,' as the case might be.
This news of his illness, coupled with the mysterious chalking on the
gate, troubled her, and revived his image much. She took to walking
up and down the garden-paths, looking into the hearts of flowers, and
not thinking what they were. His last request had been that she was
not to go to him if be should send for her; and now she asked
herself, was the name on the gate a hint to enable her to go without
infringing the letter of her promise? Thus unexpectedly had Jim's
Ten days passed. All she could hear of the Baron were the same
words, 'Bad abed,' till one afternoon, after a gallop of the
physician to the Lodge, the tidings spread like lightning that the
Baron was dying.
Margery distressed herself with the question whether she might be
permitted to visit him and say her prayers at his bedside; but she
feared to venture; and thus eight-and-forty hours slipped away, and
the Baron still lived. Despite her shyness and awe of him she had
almost made up her mind to call when, just at dusk on that October
evening, somebody came to the door and asked for her.
She could see the messenger's head against the low new moon. He was
a man-servant. He said he had been all the way to her father's, and
had been sent thence to her here. He simply brought a note, and,
delivering it into her hands, went away.
DEAR MARGERY TUCKER (ran the note)--They say I am not likely to live,
so I want to see you. Be here at eight o'clock this evening. Come
quite alone to the side-door, and tap four times softly. My trusty
man will admit you. The occasion is an important one. Prepare
yourself for a solemn ceremony, which I wish to have performed while
it lies in my power.
Margery's face flushed up, and her neck and arms glowed in sympathy.
The quickness of youthful imagination, and the assumptiveness of
woman's reason, sent her straight as an arrow this thought: 'He
wants to marry me!'
She had heard of similar strange proceedings, in which the orange-
flower and the sad cypress were intertwined. People sometimes wished
on their death-beds, from motives of esteem, to form a legal tie
which they had not cared to establish as a domestic one during their
For a few minutes Margery could hardly be called excited; she was
excitement itself. Between surprise and modesty she blushed and
trembled by turns. She became grave, sat down in the solitary room,
and looked into the fire. At seven o'clock she rose resolved, and
went quite tranquilly upstairs, where she speedily began to dress.
In making this hasty toilet nine-tenths of her care were given to her
hands. The summer had left them slightly brown, and she held them up
and looked at them with some misgiving, the fourth finger of her left
hand more especially. Hot washings and cold washings, certain
products from bee and flower known only to country girls, everything
she could think of, were used upon those little sunburnt hands, till
she persuaded herself that they were really as white as could be
wished by a husband with a hundred titles. Her dressing completed,
she left word with Edy that she was going for a long walk, and set
out in the direction of Mount Lodge.
She no longer tripped like a girl, but walked like a woman. While
crossing the park she murmured 'Baroness von Xanten' in a
pronunciation of her own. The sound of that title caused her such
agitation that she was obliged to pause, with her hand upon her
The house was so closely neighboured by shrubberies on three of its
sides that it was not till she had gone nearly round it that she
found the little door. The resolution she had been an hour in
forming failed her when she stood at the portal. While pausing for
courage to tap, a carriage drove up to the front entrance a little
way off, and peeping round the corner she saw alight a clergyman, and
a gentleman in whom Margery fancied that she recognized a well-known
solicitor from the neighbouring town. She had no longer any doubt of
the nature of the ceremony proposed. 'It is sudden but I must obey
him!' she murmured: and tapped four times.
The door was opened so quickly that the servant must have been
standing immediately inside. She thought him the man who had driven
them to the ball--the silent man who could be trusted. Without a
word he conducted her up the back staircase, and through a door at
the top, into a wide corridor. She was asked to wait in a little
dressing-room, where there was a fire, and an old metal-framed
looking-glass over the mantel-piece, in which she caught sight of
herself. A red spot burnt in each of her cheeks; the rest of her
face was pale; and her eyes were like diamonds of the first water.
Before she had been seated many minutes the man came back
noiselessly, and she followed him to a door covered by a red and
black curtain, which he lifted, and ushered her into a large chamber.
A screened light stood on a table before her, and on her left the
hangings of a tall dark four-post bedstead obstructed her view of the
centre of the room. Everything here seemed of such a magnificent
type to her eyes that she felt confused, diminished to half her
height, half her strength, half her prettiness. The man who had
conducted her retired at once, and some one came softly round the
angle of the bed-curtains. He held out his hand kindly--rather
patronisingly: it was the solicitor whom she knew by sight. This
gentleman led her forward, as if she had been a lamb rather than a
woman, till the occupant of the bed was revealed.
The Baron's eyes were closed, and her entry had been so noiseless
that he did not open them. The pallor of his face nearly matched the
white bed-linen, and his dark hair and heavy black moustache were
like dashes of ink on a clean page. Near him sat the parson and
another gentleman, whom she afterwards learnt to be a London
physician; and on the parson whispering a few words the Baron opened
his eyes. As soon as he saw her he smiled faintly, and held out his
Margery would have wept for him, if she had not been too overawed and
palpitating to do anything. She quite forgot what she had come for,
shook hands with him mechanically, and could hardly return an answer
to his weak 'Dear Margery, you see how I am--how are you?'
In preparing for marriage she had not calculated on such a scene as
this. Her affection for the Baron had too much of the vague in it to
afford her trustfulness now. She wished she had not come. On a sign
from the Baron the lawyer brought her a chair, and the oppressive
silence was broken by the Baron's words.
'I am pulled down to death's door, Margery,' he said; 'and I suppose
I soon shall pass through . . . My peace has been much disturbed in
this illness, for just before it attacked me I received--that present
you returned, from which, and in other ways, I learnt that you had
lost your chance of marriage . . . Now it was I who did the harm, and
you can imagine how the news has affected me. It has worried me all
the illness through, and I cannot dismiss my error from my mind . . .
I want to right the wrong I have done you before I die. Margery, you
have always obeyed me, and, strange as the request may be, will you
obey me now?'
She whispered 'Yes.'
'Well, then,' said the Baron, 'these three gentlemen are here for a
special purpose: one helps the body--he's called a physician;
another helps the soul--he's a parson; the other helps the
understanding--he's a lawyer. They are here partly on my account,
and partly on yours.'
The speaker then made a sign to the lawyer, who went out of the door.
He came back almost instantly, but not alone. Behind him, dressed up
in his best clothes, with a flower in his buttonhole and a
bridegroom's air, walked--Jim.
Margery could hardly repress a scream. As for flushing and blushing,
she had turned hot and turned pale so many times already during the
evening, that there was really now nothing of that sort left for her
to do; and she remained in complexion much as before. O, the mockery
of it! That secret dream--that sweet word 'Baroness!'--which had
sustained her all the way along. Instead of a Baron there stood Jim,
white-waistcoated, demure, every hair in place, and, if she mistook
not, even a deedy spark in his eye.
Jim's surprising presence on the scene may be briefly accounted for.
His resolve to seek an explanation with the Baron at all risks had
proved unexpectedly easy: the interview had at once been granted,
and then, seeing the crisis at which matters stood, the Baron had
generously revealed to Jim the whole of his indebtedness to and
knowledge of Margery. The truth of the Baron's statement, the
innocent nature as yet of the acquaintanceship, his sorrow for the
rupture he had produced, was so evident that, far from having any
further doubts of his patron, Jim frankly asked his advice on the
next step to be pursued. At this stage the Baron fell ill, and,
desiring much to see the two young people united before his death, he
had sent anew Hayward, and proposed the plan which they were to now
about to attempt--a marriage at the bedside of the sick man by
special licence. The influence at Lambeth of some friends of the
Baron's, and the charitable bequests of his late mother to several
deserving Church funds, were generally supposed to be among the
reasons why the application for the licence was not refused.
This, however, is of small consequence. The Baron probably knew, in
proposing this method of celebrating the marriage, that his enormous
power over her would outweigh any sentimental obstacles which she
might set up--inward objections that, without his presence and
firmness, might prove too much for her acquiescence. Doubtless he
foresaw, too, the advantage of getting her into the house before
making the individuality of her husband clear to her mind.
Now, the Baron's conjectures were right as to the event, but wrong as
to the motives. Margery was a perfect little dissembler on some
occasions, and one of them was when she wished to hide any sudden
mortification that might bring her into ridicule. She had no sooner
recovered from her first fit of discomfiture than pride bade her
suffer anything rather than reveal her absurd disappointment. Hence
the scene progressed as follows:
'Come here, Hayward,' said the invalid. Hayward came near. The
Baron, holding her hand in one of his own, and her lover's in the
other, continued, 'Will you, in spite of your recent vexation with
her, marry her now if she does not refuse?'
'I will, sir,' said Jim promptly.
'And Margery, what do you say? It is merely a setting of things
right. You have already promised this young man to be his wife, and
should, of course, perform your promise. You don't dislike Jim?'
'O, no, sir,' she said, in a low, dry voice.
'I like him better than I can tell you,' said the Baron. 'He is an
honourable man, and will make you a good husband. You must remember
that marriage is a life contract, in which general compatibility of
temper and worldly position is of more importance than fleeting
passion, which never long survives. Now, will you, at my earnest
request, and before I go to the South of Europe to die, agree to make
this good man happy? I have expressed your views on the subject,
haven't I, Hayward?'
'To a T, sir,' said Jim emphatically; with a motion of raising his
hat to his influential ally, till he remembered he had no hat on.
'And, though I could hardly expect Margery to gie in for my asking, I
feels she ought to gie in for yours.'
'And you accept him, my little friend?'
'Yes, sir,' she murmured, 'if he'll agree to a thing or two.'
'Doubtless he will--what are they?'
'That I shall not be made to live with him till I am in the mind for
it; and that my having him shall be kept unknown for the present.'
'Well, what do you think of it, Hayward?'
'Anything that you or she may wish I'll do, my noble lord,' said Jim.
'Well, her request is not unreasonable, seeing that the proceedings
are, on my account, a little hurried. So we'll proceed. You rather
expected this, from my allusion to a ceremony in my note, did you
'Yes, sir,' said she, with an effort.
'Good; I thought so; you looked so little surprised.'
We now leave the scene in the bedroom for a spot not many yards off.
When the carriage seen by Margery at the door was driving up to Mount
Lodge it arrested the attention, not only of the young girl, but of a
man who had for some time been moving slowly about the opposite lawn,
engaged in some operation while he smoked a short pipe. A short
observation of his doings would have shown that he was sheltering
some delicate plants from an expected frost, and that he was the
gardener. When the light at the door fell upon the entering forms of
parson and lawyer--the former a stranger, the latter known to him--
the gardener walked thoughtfully round the house. Reaching the small
side-entrance he was further surprised to see it noiselessly open to
a young woman, in whose momentarily illumined features he discerned
those of Margery Tucker.
Altogether there was something curious in this. The man returned to
the lawn front, and perfunctorily went on putting shelters over
certain plants, though his thoughts were plainly otherwise engaged.
On the grass his footsteps were noiseless, and the night moreover
being still, he could presently hear a murmuring from the bedroom
window over his head.
The gardener took from a tree a ladder that he had used in nailing
that day, set it under the window, and ascended half-way, hoodwinking
his conscience by seizing a nail or two with his hand and testing
their twig-supporting powers. He soon heard enough to satisfy him.
The words of a church-service in the strange parson's voice were
audible in snatches through the blind: they were words he knew to be
part of the solemnization of matrimony, such as 'wedded wife,'
'richer for poorer,' and so on; the less familiar parts being a more
or less confused sound.
Satisfied that a wedding was in progress there, the gardener did not
for a moment dream that one of the contracting parties could be other
than the sick Baron. He descended the ladder and again walked round
the house, waiting only till he saw Margery emerge from the same
little door; when, fearing that he might be discovered, he withdrew
in the direction of his own cottage.
This building stood at the lower corner of the garden, and as soon as
the gardener entered he was accosted by a handsome woman in a widow's
cap, who called him father, and said that supper had been ready for a
long time. They sat down, but during the meal the gardener was so
abstracted and silent that his daughter put her head winningly to one
side and said, 'What is it, father dear?'
'Ah--what is it!' cried the gardener. 'Something that makes very
little difference to me, but may be of great account to you, if you
play your cards well. THERE'S BEEN A WEDDING AT THE LODGE TO-NIGHT!'
He related to her, with a caution to secrecy, all that he had heard
'We are folk that have got to get their living,' he said, 'and such
ones mustn't tell tales about their betters,--Lord forgive the
mockery of the word!--but there's something to be made of it. She's
a nice maid; so, Harriet, do you take the first chance you get for
honouring her, before others know what has happened. Since this is
done so privately it will be kept private for some time--till after
his death, no question;--when I expect she'll take this house for
herself; and blaze out as a widow-lady ten thousand pound strong.
You being a widow, she may make you her company-keeper; and so you'll
have a home by a little contriving.'
While this conversation progressed at the gardener's Margery was on
her way out of the Baron's house. She was, indeed, married. But, as
we know, she was not married to the Baron. The ceremony over she
seemed but little discomposed, and expressed a wish to return alone
as she had come. To this, of course, no objection could be offered
under the terms of the agreement, and wishing Jim a frigid good-bye,
and the Baron a very quiet farewell, she went out by the door which
had admitted her. Once safe and alone in the darkness of the park
she burst into tears, which dropped upon the grass as she passed
along. In the Baron's room she had seemed scared and helpless; now
her reason and emotions returned. The further she got away from the
glamour of that room, and the influence of its occupant, the more she
became of opinion that she had acted foolishly. She had
disobediently left her father's house, to obey him here. She had
pleased everybody but herself.
However, thinking was now too late. How she got into her
grandmother's house she hardly knew; but without a supper, and
without confronting either her relative or Edy, she went to bed.
On going out into the garden next morning, with a strange sense of
being another person than herself, she beheld Jim leaning mutely over
He nodded. 'Good morning, Margery,' he said civilly.
'Good morning,' said Margery in the same tone.
'I beg your pardon,' he continued. 'But which way was you going this
'I am not going anywhere just now, thank you. But I shall go to my
father's by-and-by with Edy.' She went on with a sigh, 'I have done
what he has all along wished, that is, married you; and there's no
longer reason for enmity atween him and me.'
'Trew--trew. Well, as I am going the same way, I can give you a lift
in the trap, for the distance is long.'
'No thank you--I am used to walking,' she said.
They remained in silence, the gate between them, till Jim's
convictions would apparently allow him to hold his peace no longer.
'This is a bad job!' he murmured.
'It is,' she said, as one whose thoughts have only too readily been
identified. 'How I came to agree to it is more than I can tell!'
And tears began rolling down her cheeks.
'The blame is more mine than yours, I suppose,' he returned. 'I
ought to have said No, and not backed up the gentleman in carrying
out this scheme. 'Twas his own notion entirely, as perhaps you know.
I should never have thought of such a plan; but he said you'd be
willing, and that it would be all right; and I was too ready to
'The thing is, how to remedy it,' said she bitterly. 'I believe, of
course, in your promise to keep this private, and not to trouble me
'Certainly,' said Jim. 'I don't want to trouble you. As for that,
why, my dear Mrs. Hayward--'
'Don't Mrs. Hayward me!' said Margery sharply. 'I won't be Mrs.
Jim paused. 'Well, you are she by law, and that was all I meant,' he
'I said I would acknowledge no such thing, and I won't. A thing
can't be legal when it's against the wishes of the persons the laws
are made to protect. So I beg you not to call me that anymore.'
'Very well, Miss Tucker,' said Jim deferentially. 'We can live on
exactly as before. We can't marry anybody else, that's true; but
beyond that there's no difference, and no harm done. Your father
ought to be told, I suppose, even if nobody else is? It will partly
reconcile him to you, and make your life smoother.'
Instead of directly replying, Margery exclaimed in a low voice:
'O, it is a mistake--I didn't see it all, owing to not having time to
reflect! I agreed, thinking that at least I should get reconciled to
father by the step. But perhaps he would as soon have me not married
at all as married and parted. I must ha' been enchanted--bewitched--
when I gave my consent to this! I only did it to please that dear
good dying nobleman--though why he should have wished it so much I
'Nor I neither,' said Jim. 'Yes, we've been fooled into it,
Margery,' he said, with extraordinary gravity. 'He's had his way wi'
us, and now we've got to suffer for it. Being a gentleman of
patronage, and having bought several loads of lime o' me, and having
given me all that splendid furniture, I could hardly refuse--'
'What, did he give you that?'
'Ay sure--to help me win ye.'
Margery covered her face with her hands; whereupon Jim stood up from
the gate and looked critically at her. ''Tis a footy plot between
you two men to--snare me!' she exclaimed. 'Why should you have done
it--why should he have done it--when I've not deserved to be treated
so. He bought the furniture--did he! O, I've been taken in--I've
been wronged!' The grief and vexation of finding that long ago, when
fondly believing the Baron to have lover-like feelings himself for
her, he was still conspiring to favour Jim's suit, was more than she
Jim with distant courtesy waited, nibbling a straw, till her paroxysm
was over. 'One word, Miss Tuck--Mrs.--Margery,' he then recommenced
gravely. 'You'll find me man enough to respect your wish, and to
leave you to yourself--for ever and ever, if that's all. But I've
just one word of advice to render 'ee. That is, that before you go
to Silverthorn Dairy yourself you let me drive ahead and call on your
father. He's friends with me, and he's not friends with you. I can
break the news, a little at a time, and I think I can gain his good
will for you now, even though the wedding be no natural wedding at
all. At any count, I can hear what he's got to say about 'ee, and
come back here and tell 'ee.'
She nodded a cool assent to this, and he left her strolling about the
garden in the sunlight while he went on to reconnoitre as agreed. It
must not be supposed that Jim's dutiful echoes of Margery's regret at
her precipitate marriage were all gospel; and there is no doubt that
his private intention, after telling the dairy-farmer what had
happened, was to ask his temporary assent to her caprice, till, in
the course of time, she should be reasoned out of her whims and
induced to settle down with Jim in a natural manner. He had, it is
true, been somewhat nettled by her firm objection to him, and her
keen sorrow for what she had done to please another; but he hoped for
But, alas for the astute Jim's calculations! He drove on to the
dairy, whose white walls now gleamed in the morning sun; made fast
the horse to a ring in the wall, and entered the barton. Before
knocking, he perceived the dairyman walking across from a gate in the
other direction, as if he had just come in. Jim went over to him.
Since the unfortunate incident on the morning of the intended wedding
they had merely been on nodding terms, from a sense of awkwardness in
'What--is that thee?' said Dairyman Tucker, in a voice which
unmistakably startled Jim by its abrupt fierceness. 'A pretty fellow
It was a bad beginning for the young man's life as a son-in-law, and
augured ill for the delicate consultation he desired.
'What's the matter?' said Jim.
'Matter! I wish some folks would burn their lime without burning
other folks' property along wi' it. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. You call yourself a man, Jim Hayward, and an honest lime-
burner, and a respectable, market-keeping Christen, and yet at six
o'clock this morning, instead o' being where you ought to ha' been--
at your work, there was neither vell or mark o' thee to be seen!'
'Faith, I don't know what you are raving at,' said Jim.
'Why--the sparks from thy couch-heap blew over upon my hay-rick, and
the rick's burnt to ashes; and all to come out o' my well-squeezed
pocket. I'll tell thee what it is, young man. There's no business
in thee. I've known Silverthorn folk, quick and dead, for the last
couple-o'-score year, and I've never knew one so three-cunning for
harm as thee, my gentleman lime-burner; and I reckon it one o' the
luckiest days o' my life when I 'scaped having thee in my family.
That maid of mine was right; I was wrong. She seed thee to be a
drawlacheting rogue, and 'twas her wisdom to go off that morning and
get rid o' thee. I commend her for't, and I'm going to fetch her
'You needn't take the trouble. She's coming home-along to-night of
her own accord. I have seen her this morning, and she told me so.'
'So much the better. I'll welcome her warm. Nation! I'd sooner see
her married to the parish fool than thee. Not you--you don't care
for my hay. Tarrying about where you shouldn't be, in bed, no doubt;
that's what you was a-doing. Now, don't you darken my doors again,
and the sooner you be off my bit o' ground the better I shall be
Jim looked, as he felt, stultified. If the rick had been really
destroyed, a little blame certainly attached to him, but he could not
understand how it had happened. However, blame or none, it was clear
he could not, with any self-respect, declare himself to be this
peppery old gaffer's son-in-law in the face of such an attack as
For months--almost years--the one transaction that had seemed
necessary to compose these two families satisfactorily was Jim's
union with Margery. No sooner had it been completed than it appeared
on all sides as the gravest mishap for both. Stating coldly that he
would discover how much of the accident was to be attributed to his
negligence, and pay the damage, he went out of the barton, and
returned the way he had come.
Margery had been keeping a look-out for him, particularly wishing him
not to enter the house, lest others should see the seriousness of
their interview; and as soon as she heard wheels she went to the
gate, which was out of view.
'Surely father has been speaking roughly to you!' she said, on seeing
'Not the least doubt that he have,' said Jim.
'But is he still angry with me?'
'Not in the least. He's waiting to welcome 'ee.'
'Ah! because I've married you.'
'Because he thinks you have not married me! He's jawed me up hill
and down. He hates me; and for your sake I have not explained a
Margery looked towards home with a sad, severe gaze. 'Mr. Hayward,'
she said, 'we have made a great mistake, and we are in a strange
'True, but I'll tell you what, mistress--I won't stand--' He stopped
suddenly. 'Well, well; I've promised!' he quietly added.
'We must suffer for our mistake,' she went on. 'The way to suffer
least is to keep our own counsel on what happened last evening, and
not to meet. I must now return to my father.'
He inclined his head in indifferent assent, and she went indoors,
leaving him there.
Margery returned home, as she had decided, and resumed her old life
at Silverthorn. And seeing her father's animosity towards Jim, she
told him not a word of the marriage.
Her inner life, however, was not what it once had been. She had
suffered a mental and emotional displacement--a shock, which had set
a shade of astonishment on her face as a permanent thing.
Her indignation with the Baron for collusion with Jim, at first
bitter, lessened with the lapse of a few weeks, and at length
vanished in the interest of some tidings she received one day.
The Baron was not dead, but he was no longer at the Lodge. To the
surprise of the physicians, a sufficient improvement had taken place
in his condition to permit of his removal before the cold weather
came. His desire for removal had been such, indeed, that it was
advisable to carry it out at almost any risk. The plan adopted had
been to have him borne on men's shoulders in a sort of palanquin to
the shore near Idmouth, a distance of several miles, where a yacht
lay awaiting him. By this means the noise and jolting of a carriage,
along irregular bye-roads, were avoided. The singular procession
over the fields took place at night, and was witnessed by but few
people, one being a labouring man, who described the scene to
Margery. When the seaside was reached a long, narrow gangway was
laid from the deck of the yacht to the shore, which was so steep as
to allow the yacht to lie quite near. The men, with their burden,
ascended by the light of lanterns, the sick man was laid in the
cabin, and, as soon as his bearers had returned to the shore, the
gangway was removed, a rope was heard skirring over wood in the
darkness, the yacht quivered, spread her woven wings to the air, and
moved away. Soon she was but a small, shapeless phantom upon the
wide breast of the sea.
It was said that the yacht was bound for Algiers.
When the inimical autumn and winter weather came on, Margery wondered
if he were still alive. The house being shut up, and the servants
gone, she had no means of knowing, till, on a particular Saturday,
her father drove her to Exonbury market. Here, in attending to his
business, he left her to herself for awhile. Walking in a quiet
street in the professional quarter of the town, she saw coming
towards her the solicitor who had been present at the wedding, and
who had acted for the Baron in various small local matters during his
brief residence at the Lodge.
She reddened to peony hues, averted her eyes, and would have passed
him. But he crossed over and barred the pavement, and when she met
his glance he was looking with friendly severity at her. The street
was quiet, and he said in a low voice, 'How's the husband?'
'I don't know, sir,' said she.
'What--and are your stipulations about secrecy and separate living
still in force?'
'They will always be,' she replied decisively. 'Mr. Hayward and I
agreed on the point, and we have not the slightest wish to change the
'H'm. Then 'tis Miss Tucker to the world; Mrs. Hayward to me and one
or two others only?'
Margery nodded. Then she nerved herself by an effort, and, though
blushing painfully, asked, 'May I put one question, sir? Is the
'He is dead to you and to all of us. Why should you ask?'
'Because, if he's alive, I am sorry I married James Hayward. If he
is dead I do not much mind my marriage.'
'I repeat, he is dead to you,' said the lawyer emphatically. 'I'll
tell you all I know. My professional services for him ended with his
departure from this country; but I think I should have heard from him
if he had been alive still. I have not heard at all: and this,
taken in connection with the nature of his illness, leaves no doubt
in my mind that he is dead.'
Margery sighed, and thanking the lawyer she left him with a tear for
the Baron in her eye. After this incident she became more restful;
and the time drew on for her periodical visit to her grandmother.
A few days subsequent to her arrival her aged relative asked her to
go with a message to the gardener at Mount Lodge (who still lived on
there, keeping the grounds in order for the landlord). Margery hated
that direction now, but she went. The Lodge, which she saw over the
trees, was to her like a skull from which the warm and living flesh
had vanished. It was twilight by the time she reached the cottage at
the bottom of the Lodge garden, and, the room being illuminated
within, she saw through the window a woman she had never seen before.
She was dark, and rather handsome, and when Margery knocked she
opened the door. It was the gardener's widowed daughter, who had
been advised to make friends with Margery.
She now found her opportunity. Margery's errand was soon completed,
the young widow, to her surprise, treating her with preternatural
respect, and afterwards offering to accompany her home. Margery was
not sorry to have a companion in the gloom, and they walked on
together. The widow, Mrs. Peach, was demonstrative and confidential;
and told Margery all about herself. She had come quite recently to
live with her father--during the Baron's illness, in fact--and her
husband had been captain of a ketch.
'I saw you one morning, ma'am,' she said. 'But you didn't see me.
It was when you were crossing the hill in sight of the Lodge. You
looked at it, and sighed. 'Tis the lot of widows to sigh, ma'am, is
'Widows--yes, I suppose; but what do you mean?'
Mrs. Peach lowered her voice. 'I can't say more, ma'am, with proper
respect. But there seems to be no question of the poor Baron's
death; and though these foreign princes can take (as my poor husband
used to tell me) what they call left-handed wives, and leave them
behind when they go abroad, widowhood is widowhood, left-handed or
right. And really, to be the left-handed wife of a foreign baron is
nobler than to be married all round to a common man. You'll excuse
my freedom, ma'am; but being a widow myself, I have pitied you from
my heart; so young as you are, and having to keep it a secret, and
(excusing me) having no money out of his vast riches because 'tis
swallowed up by Baroness Number One.'
Now Margery did not understand a word more of this than the bare fact
that Mrs. Peach suspected her to be the Baron's undowered widow, and
such was the milkmaid's nature that she did not deny the widow's
impeachment. The latter continued -
'But ah, ma'am, all your troubles are straight backward in your
memory--while I have troubles before as well as grief behind.'
'What may they be, Mrs. Peach?' inquired Margery with an air of the
The other dropped her voice to revelation tones: 'I have been
forgetful enough of my first man to lose my heart to a second!'
'You shouldn't do that--it is wrong. You should control your
'But how am I to control my feelings?'
'By going to your dead husband's grave, and things of that sort.'
'Do you go to your dead husband's grave?'
'How can I go to Algiers?'
'Ah--too true! Well, I've tried everything to cure myself--read the
words against it, gone to the Table the first Sunday of every month,
and all sorts. But, avast, my shipmate!--as my poor man used to say-
-there 'tis just the same. In short, I've made up my mind to
encourage the new one. 'Tis flattering that I, a new-comer, should
have been found out by a young man so soon.'
'Who is he?' said Margery listlessly.
'A master lime-burner.'
'A master lime-burner?'
'That's his profession. He's a partner-in-co., doing very well
'But what's his name?'
'I don't like to tell you his name, for, though 'tis night, that
covers all shame-facedness, my face is as hot as a 'Talian iron, I
declare! Do you just feel it.'
Margery put her hand on Mrs. Peach's face, and, sure enough, hot it
was. 'Does he come courting?' she asked quickly.
'Well only in the way of business. He never comes unless lime is
wanted in the neighbourhood. He's in the Yeomanry, too, and will
look very fine when he comes out in regimentals for drill in May.'
'Oh--in the Yeomanry,' Margery said, with a slight relief. 'Then it
can't--is he a young man?'
'Yes, junior partner-in-co.'
The description had an odd resemblance to Jim, of whom Margery had
not heard a word for months. He had promised silence and absence,
and had fulfilled his promise literally, with a gratuitous addition
that was rather amazing, if indeed it were Jim whom the widow loved.
One point in the description puzzled Margery: Jim was not in the
Yeomanry, unless, by a surprising development of enterprise, he had
entered it recently.
At parting Margery said, with an interest quite tender, 'I should
like to see you again, Mrs. Peach, and hear of your attachment. When
can you call?'
'Oh--any time, dear Baroness, I'm sure--if you think I am good
'Indeed, I do, Mrs. Peach. Come as soon as you've seen the lime-
Seeing that Jim lived several miles from the widow, Margery was
rather surprised, and even felt a slight sinking of the heart, when
her new acquaintance appeared at her door so soon as the evening of
the following Monday. She asked Margery to walk out with her, which
the young woman readily did.
'I am come at once,' said the widow breathlessly, as soon as they
were in the lane, 'for it is so exciting that I can't keep it. I
must tell it to somebody, if only a bird, or a cat, or a garden
'What is it?' asked her companion.
'I've pulled grass from my husband's grave to cure it--wove the
blades into true lover's knots; took off my shoes upon the sod; but,
avast, my shipmate,--'
'Upon the sod--why?'
'To feel the damp earth he's in, and make the sense of it enter my
soul. But no. It has swelled to a head; he is going to meet me at
the Yeomanry Review.'
'The master lime-burner?'
The widow nodded.
'When is it to be?'
'To-morrow. He looks so lovely in his accoutrements! He's such a
splendid soldier; that was the last straw that kindled my soul to say
yes. He's home from Exonbury for a night between the drills,'
continued Mrs. Peach. 'He goes back to-morrow morning for the
Review, and when it's over he's going to meet me. But, guide my
heart, there he is!'
Her exclamation had rise in the sudden appearance of a brilliant red
uniform through the trees, and the tramp of a horse carrying the
wearer thereof. In another half-minute the military gentleman would
have turned the corner, and faced them.
'He'd better not see me; he'll think I know too much,' said Margery
precipitately. 'I'll go up here.'
The widow, whose thoughts had been of the same cast, seemed much
relieved to see Margery disappear in the plantation, in the midst of
a spring chorus of birds. Once among the trees, Margery turned her
head, and, before she could see the rider's person she recognized the
horse as Tony, the lightest of three that Jim and his partner owned,
for the purpose of carting out lime to their customers.
Jim, then, had joined the Yeomanry since his estrangement from
Margery. A man who had worn the young Queen Victoria's uniform for
seven days only could not be expected to look as if it were part of
his person, in the manner of long-trained soldiers; but he was a
well-formed young fellow, and of an age when few positions came amiss
to one who has the capacity to adapt himself to circumstances.
Meeting the blushing Mrs. Peach (to whom Margery in her mind sternly
denied the right to blush at all), Jim alighted and moved on with
her, probably at Mrs. Peach's own suggestion; so that what they said,
how long they remained together, and how they parted, Margery knew
not. She might have known some of these things by waiting; but the
presence of Jim had bred in her heart a sudden disgust for the widow,
and a general sense of discomfiture. She went away in an opposite
direction, turning her head and saying to the unconscious Jim,
'There's a fine rod in pickle for you, my gentleman, if you carry out
that pretty scheme!'
Jim's military coup had decidedly astonished her. What he might do
next she could not conjecture. The idea of his doing anything
sufficiently brilliant to arrest her attention would have seemed
ludicrous, had not Jim, by entering the Yeomanry, revealed a capacity
for dazzling exploits which made it unsafe to predict any limitation
to his powers.
Margery was now excited. The daring of the wretched Jim in bursting
into scarlet amazed her as much as his doubtful acquaintanceship with
the demonstrative Mrs. Peach. To go to that Review, to watch the
pair, to eclipse Mrs. Peach in brilliancy, to meet and pass them in
withering contempt--if she only could do it! But, alas! she was a
'If the Baron were alive, or in England,' she said to herself (for
sometimes she thought he might possibly be alive), 'and he were to
take me to this Review, wouldn't I show that forward Mrs. Peach what
a lady is like, and keep among the select company, and not mix with
the common people at all!'
It might at first sight be thought that the best course for Margery
at this juncture would have been to go to Jim, and nip the intrigue
in the bud without further scruple. But her own declaration in after
days was that whoever could say that was far from realizing her
situation. It was hard to break such ice as divided their two lives
now, and to attempt it at that moment was a too humiliating
proclamation of defeat. The only plan she could think of--perhaps
not a wise one in the circumstances--was to go to the Review herself;
and be the gayest there.
A method of doing this with some propriety soon occurred to her. She
dared not ask her father, who scorned to waste time in sight-seeing,
and whose animosity towards Jim knew no abatement; but she might call
on her old acquaintance, Mr. Vine, Jim's partner, who would probably
be going with the rest of the holiday-folk, and ask if she might
accompany him in his spring-trap. She had no sooner perceived the
feasibility of this, through her being at her grandmother's, than she
decided to meet with the old man early the next morning.
In the meantime Jim and Mrs. Peach had walked slowly along the road
together, Jim leading the horse, and Mrs. Peach informing him that
her father, the gardener, was at Jim's village further on, and that
she had come to meet him. Jim, for reasons of his own, was going to
sleep at his partner's that night, and thus their route was the same.
The shades of eve closed in upon them as they walked, and by the time
they reached the lime-kiln, which it was necessary to pass to get to
the village, it was quite dark. Jim stopped at the kiln, to see if
matters had progressed rightly in his seven days' absence, and Mrs.
Peach, who stuck to him like a teazle, stopped also, saying she would
wait for her father there.
She held the horse while he ascended to the top of the kiln. Then
rejoining her, and not quite knowing what to do, he stood beside her
looking at the flames, which to-night burnt up brightly, shining a
long way into the dark air, even up to the ramparts of the earthwork
above them, and overhead into the bosoms of the clouds.
It was during this proceeding that a carriage, drawn by a pair of
dark horses, came along the turnpike road. The light of the kiln
caused the horses to swerve a little, and the occupant of the
carriage looked out. He saw the bluish, lightning-like flames from
the limestone, rising from the top of the furnace, and hard by the
figures of Jim Hayward, the widow, and the horse, standing out with
spectral distinctness against the mass of night behind. The scene
wore the aspect of some unholy assignation in Pandaemonium, and it
was all the more impressive from the fact that both Jim and the woman
were quite unconscious of the striking spectacle they presented. The
gentleman in the carriage watched them till he was borne out of
Having seen to the kiln, Jim and the widow walked on again, and soon
Mrs. Peach's father met them, and relieved Jim of the lady. When
they had parted, Jim, with an expiration not unlike a breath of
relief; went on to Mr. Vine's, and, having put the horse into the
stable, entered the house. His partner was seated at the table,
solacing himself after the labours of the day by luxurious
alternations between a long clay pipe and a mug of perry.
'Well,' said Jim eagerly, 'what's the news--how do she take it?'
'Sit down--sit down,' said Vine. ''Tis working well; not but that I
deserve something o' thee for the trouble I've had in watching her.
The soldiering was a fine move; but the woman is a better!--who
'I myself,' said Jim modestly.
'Well; jealousy is making her rise like a thunderstorm, and in a day
or two you'll have her for the asking, my sonny. What's the next
'The widow is getting rather a weight upon a feller, worse luck,'
said Jim. 'But I must keep it up until to-morrow, at any rate. I
have promised to see her at the Review, and now the great thing is
that Margery should see we a-smiling together--I in my full-dress
uniform and clinking arms o' war. 'Twill be a good strong sting, and
will end the business, I hope. Couldn't you manage to put the hoss
in and drive her there? She'd go if you were to ask her.'
'With all my heart,' said Mr. Vine, moistening the end of a new pipe
in his perry. 'I can call at her grammer's for her--'twill be all in
Margery duly followed up her intention by arraying herself the next
morning in her loveliest guise, and keeping watch for Mr. Vine's
appearance upon the high road, feeling certain that his would form
one in the procession of carts and carriages which set in towards
Exonbury that day. Jim had gone by at a very early hour, and she did
not see him pass. Her anticipation was verified by the advent of Mr.
Vine about eleven o'clock, dressed to his highest effort; but Margery
was surprised to find that, instead of her having to stop him, he
pulled in towards the gate of his own accord. The invitation planned
between Jim and the old man on the previous night was now promptly
given, and, as may be supposed, as promptly accepted. Such a strange
coincidence she had never before known. She was quite ready, and
they drove onward at once.
The Review was held on some high ground a little way out of the city,
and her conductor suggested that they should put up the horse at the
inn, and walk to the field--a plan which pleased her well, for it was
more easy to take preliminary observations on foot without being seen
herself than when sitting elevated in a vehicle.
They were just in time to secure a good place near the front, and in
a few minutes after their arrival the reviewing officer came on the
ground. Margery's eye had rapidly run over the troop in which Jim
was enrolled, and she discerned him in one of the ranks, looking
remarkably new and bright, both as to uniform and countenance.
Indeed, if she had not worked herself into such a desperate state of
mind she would have felt proud of him then and there. His shapely
upright figure was quite noteworthy in the row of rotund yeomen on
his right and left; while his charger Tony expressed by his bearing,
even more than Jim, that he knew nothing about lime-carts whatever,
and everything about trumpets and glory. How Jim could have scrubbed
Tony to such shining blackness she could not tell, for the horse in
his natural state was ingrained with lime-dust, that burnt the colour
out of his coat as it did out of Jim's hair. Now he pranced
martially, and was a war-horse every inch of him.
Having discovered Jim her next search was for Mrs. Peach, and, by
dint of some oblique glancing Margery indignantly discovered the
widow in the most forward place of all, her head and bright face
conspicuously advanced; and, what was more shocking, she had
abandoned her mourning for a violet drawn-bonnet and a gay spencer,
together with a parasol luxuriously fringed in a way Margery had
never before seen. 'Where did she get the money?' said Margery,
under her breath. 'And to forget that poor sailor so soon!'
These general reflections were precipitately postponed by her
discovering that Jim and the widow were perfectly alive to each
other's whereabouts, and in the interchange of telegraphic signs of
affection, which on the latter's part took the form of a playful
fluttering of her handkerchief or waving of her parasol. Richard
Vine had placed Margery in front of him, to protect her from the
crowd, as he said, he himself surveying the scene over her bonnet.
Margery would have been even more surprised than she was if she had
known that Jim was not only aware of Mrs. Peach's presence, but also
of her own, the treacherous Mr. Vine having drawn out his flame-
coloured handkerchief and waved it to Jim over the young woman's head
as soon as they had taken up their position.
'My partner makes a tidy soldier, eh--Miss Tucker?' said the senior
lime-burner. 'It is my belief as a Christian that he's got a party
here that he's making signs to--that handsome figure o' fun straight
'Perhaps so,' she said.
'And it's growing warm between 'em if I don't mistake,' continued the
Margery was silent, biting her lip; and the troops being now set in
motion, all signalling ceased for the present between soldier Hayward
and his pretended sweetheart.
'Have you a piece of paper that I could make a memorandum on, Mr.
Vine?' asked Margery.
Vine took out his pocket-book and tore a leaf from it, which he
handed her with a pencil.
'Don't move from here--I'll return in a minute,' she continued, with
the innocence of a woman who means mischief. And, withdrawing
herself to the back, where the grass was clear, she pencilled down
Armed with this document she crept into the throng behind the
unsuspecting Mrs. Peach, slipped the paper into her pocket on the top
of her handkerchief; and withdrew unobserved, rejoining Mr. Vine with
a bearing of nonchalance.
By-and-by the troops were in different order, Jim taking a left-hand
position almost close to Mrs. Peach. He bent down and said a few
words to her. From her manner of nodding assent it was surely some
arrangement about a meeting by-and-by when Jim's drill was over, and
Margery was more certain of the fact when, the Review having ended,
and the people having strolled off to another part of the field where
sports were to take place, Mrs. Peach tripped away in the direction
of the city.
'I'll just say a word to my partner afore he goes off the ground, if
you'll spare me a minute,' said the old lime-burner. 'Please stay
here till I'm back again.' He edged along the front till he reached
'How is she?' said the latter.
'In a trimming sweat,' said Mr. Vine. 'And my counsel to 'ee is to
carry this larry no further. 'Twill do no good. She's as ready to
make friends with 'ee as any wife can be; and more showing off can
only do harm.'
'But I must finish off with a spurt,' said Jim. 'And this is how I
am going to do it. I have arranged with Mrs. Peach that, as soon as
we soldiers have entered the town and been dismissed, I'll meet her
there. It is really to say good-bye, but she don't know that; and I
wanted it to look like a lopement to Margery's eyes. When I'm clear
of Mrs. Peach I'll come back here and make it up with Margery on the
spot. But don't say I'm coming, or she may be inclined to throw off
again. Just hint to her that I may be meaning to be off to London
with the widow.'
The old man still insisted that this was going too far.
'No, no, it isn't,' said Jim. 'I know how to manage her. 'Twill
just mellow her heart nicely by the time I come back. I must bring
her down real tender, or 'twill all fail.'
His senior reluctantly gave in and returned to Margery. A short time
afterwards the Yeomanry hand struck up, and Jim with the regiment
followed towards Exonbury.
'Yes, yes; they are going to meet,' said Margery to herself,
perceiving that Mrs. Peach had so timed her departure as to be in the
town at Jim's dismounting.
'Now we will go and see the games,' said Mr. Vine; 'they are really
worth seeing. There's greasy poles, and jumping in sacks, and other
trials of the intellect, that nobody ought to miss who wants to be
abreast of his generation.'
Margery felt so indignant at the apparent assignation, which seemed
about to take place despite her anonymous writing, that she
helplessly assented to go anywhere, dropping behind Vine, that he
might not see her mood.
Jim followed out his programme with literal exactness. No sooner was
the troop dismissed in the city than he sent Tony to stable and
joined Mrs. Peach, who stood on the edge of the pavement expecting
him. But this acquaintance was to end: he meant to part from her
for ever and in the quickest time, though civilly; for it was
important to be with Margery as soon as possible. He had nearly
completed the manoeuvre to his satisfaction when, in drawing her
handkerchief from her pocket to wipe the tears from her eyes, Mrs.
Peach's hand grasped the paper, which she read at once.
'What! is that true?' she said, holding it out to Jim.
Jim started and admitted that it was, beginning an elaborate
explanation and apologies. But Mrs. Peach was thoroughly roused, and
then overcome. 'He's married, he's married!' she said, and swooned,
or feigned to swoon, so that Jim was obliged to support her.
'He's married, he's married!' said a boy hard by who watched the
scene with interest.
'He's married, he's married!' said a hilarious group of other boys
near, with smiles several inches broad, and shining teeth; and so the
exclamation echoed down the street.
Jim cursed his ill-luck; the loss of time that this dilemma entailed
grew serious; for Mrs. Peach was now in such a hysterical state that
he could not leave her with any good grace or feeling. It was
necessary to take her to a refreshment room, lavish restoratives upon
her, and altogether to waste nearly half an hour. When she had kept
him as long as she chose, she forgave him; and thus at last he got
away, his heart swelling with tenderness towards Margery. He at once
hurried up the street to effect the reconciliation with her.
'How shall I do it?' he said to himself. 'Why, I'll step round to
her side, fish for her hand, draw it through my arm as if I wasn't
aware of it. Then she'll look in my face, I shall look in hers, and
we shall march off the field triumphant, and the thing will be done
without takings or tears.'
He entered the field and went straight as an arrow to the place
appointed for the meeting. It was at the back of a refreshment tent
outside the mass of spectators, and divided from their view by the
tent itself. He turned the corner of the canvas, and there beheld
Vine at the indicated spot. But Margery was not with him.
Vine's hat was thrust back into his poll. His face was pale, and his
manner bewildered. 'Hullo? what's the matter?' said Jim. 'Where's
'You've carried this footy game too far, my man!' exclaimed Vine,
with the air of a friend who has 'always told you so.' 'You ought to
have dropped it several days ago, when she would have come to 'ee
like a cooing dove. Now this is the end o't!'
'Hey! what, my Margery? Has anything happened, for God's sake?'
'That's more than earthly man can tell! I never see such a thing!
'Twas a stroke o' the black art--as if she were sperrited away. When
we got to the games I said--mind, you told me to!--I said, "Jim
Hayward thinks o' going off to London with that widow woman"--mind
you told me to! She showed no wonderment, though a' seemed very low.
Then she said to me, "I don't like standing here in this slummocky
crowd. I shall feel more at home among the gentlepeople." And then
she went to where the carriages were drawn up, and near her there was
a grand coach, a-blazing with lions and unicorns, and hauled by two
coal-black horses. I hardly thought much of it then, and by degrees
lost sight of her behind it. Presently the other carriages moved
off, and I thought still to see her standing there. But no, she had
vanished; and then I saw the grand coach rolling away, and glimpsed
Margery in it, beside a fine dark gentleman with black mustachios,
and a very pale prince-like face. As soon as the horses got into the
hard road they rattled on like hell-and-skimmer, and went out of
sight in the dust, and--that's all. If you'd come back a little
sooner you'd ha' caught her.'
Jim had turned whiter than his pipeclay. 'O, this is too bad--too
bad!' he cried in anguish, striking his brow. 'That paper and that
fainting woman kept me so long. Who could have done it? But 'tis my
fault. I've stung her too much. I shouldn't have carried it so
'You shouldn't--just what I said,' replied his senior.
'She thinks I've gone off with that cust widow; and to spite me she's
gone off with the man! Do you know who that stranger wi' the lions
and unicorns is? Why, 'tis that foreigner who calls himself a Baron,
and took Mount Lodge for six months last year to make mischief--a
villain! O, my Margery--that it should come to this! She's lost,
she's ruined!--Which way did they go?'
Jim turned to follow in the direction indicated, when, behold, there
stood at his back her father, Dairyman Tucker.
'Now look here, young man,' said Dairyman Tucker. 'I've just heard
all that wailing--and straightway will ask 'ee to stop it sharp.
'Tis like your brazen impudence to teave and wail when you be another
woman's husband; yes, faith, I see'd her a-fainting in yer arms when
you wanted to get away from her, and honest folk a-standing round who
knew you'd married her, and said so. I heard it, though you didn't
see me. "He's married!" says they. Some sly register-office
business, no doubt; but sly doings will out. As for Margery--who's
to be called higher titles in these parts hencefor'ard--I'm her
father, and I say it's all right what she's done. Don't I know
private news, hey? Haven't I just learnt that secret weddings of
high people can happen at expected deathbeds by special licence, as
well as low people at registrars' offices? And can't husbands come
back and claim their own when they choose? Begone, young man, and
leave noblemen's wives alone; and I thank God I shall be rid of a
Swift words of explanation rose to Jim's lips, but they paused there
and died. At that last moment he could not, as Margery's husband,
announce Margery's shame and his own, and transform her father's
triumph to wretchedness at a blow.
'I--I--must leave here,' he stammered. Going from the place in an
opposite course to that of the fugitives, he doubled when out of
sight, and in an incredibly short space had entered the town. Here
he made inquiries for the emblazoned carriage, and gained from one or
two persons a general idea of its route. They thought it had taken
the highway to London. Saddling poor Tony before he had half eaten
his corn, Jim galloped along the same road.
Now Jim was quite mistaken in supposing that by leaving the field in
a roundabout manner he had deceived Dairyman Tucker as to his object.
That astute old man immediately divined that Jim was meaning to track
the fugitives, in ignorance (as the dairyman supposed) of their
lawful relation. He was soon assured of the fact, for, creeping to a
remote angle of the field, he saw Jim hastening into the town.
Vowing vengeance on the young lime-burner for his mischievous
interference between a nobleman and his secretly-wedded wife, the
dairy-farmer determined to balk him.
Tucker had ridden on to the Review ground, so that there was no
necessity for him, as there had been for poor Jim, to re-enter the
town before starting. The dairyman hastily untied his mare from the
row of other horses, mounted, and descended to a bridle-path which
would take him obliquely into the London road a mile or so ahead.
The old man's route being along one side of an equilateral triangle,
while Jim's was along two sides of the same, the former was at the
point of intersection long before Hayward.
Arrived here, the dairyman pulled up and looked around. It was a
spot at which the highway forked; the left arm, the more important,
led on through Sherton Abbas and Melchester to London; the right to
Idmouth and the coast. Nothing was visible on the white track to
London; but on the other there appeared the back of a carriage, which
rapidly ascended a distant hill and vanished under the trees. It was
the Baron's who, according to the sworn information of the gardener
at Mount Lodge, had made Margery his wife.
The carriage having vanished, the dairyman gazed in the opposite
direction, towards Exonbury. Here he beheld Jim in his regimentals,
laboriously approaching on Tony's back.
Soon he reached the forking roads, and saw the dairyman by the
wayside. But Jim did not halt. Then the dairyman practised the
greatest duplicity of his life.
'Right along the London road, if you want to catch 'em!' he said.
'Thank 'ee, dairyman, thank 'ee!' cried Jim, his pale face lighting
up with gratitude, for he believed that Tucker had learnt his mistake
from Vine, and had come to his assistance. Without drawing rein he
diminished along the road not taken by the flying pair. The dairyman
rubbed his hands with delight, and returned to the city as the
cathedral clock struck five.
Jim pursued his way through the dust, up hill and down hill; but
never saw ahead of him the vehicle of his search. That vehicle was
passing along a diverging way at a distance of many miles from where
he rode. Still he sped onwards, till Tony showed signs of breaking
down; and then Jim gathered from inquiries he made that he had come
the wrong way. It burst upon his mind that the dairyman, still
ignorant of the truth, had misinformed him. Heavier in his heart
than words can describe he turned Tony's drooping head, and resolved
to drag his way home.
But the horse was now so jaded that it was impossible to proceed far.
Having gone about half a mile back he came again to a small roadside
hamlet and inn, where he put up Tony for a rest and feed. As for
himself, there was no quiet in him. He tried to sit and eat in the
inn kitchen; but he could not stay there. He went out, and paced up
and down the road.
Standing in sight of the white way by which he had come he beheld
advancing towards him the horses and carriage he sought, now black
and daemonic against the slanting fires of the western sun.
The why and wherefore of this sudden appearance he did not pause to
consider. His resolve to intercept the carriage was instantaneous.
He ran forward, and doggedly waiting barred the way to the advancing
The Baron's coachman shouted, but Jim stood firm as a rock, and on
the former attempting to push past him Jim drew his sword, resolving
to cut the horses down rather than be displaced. The animals were
thrown nearly back upon their haunches, and at this juncture a
gentleman looked out of the window. It was the Baron himself.
'Who's there?' he inquired.
'James Hayward!' replied the young man fiercely, 'and he demands his
The Baron leapt out, and told the coachman to drive back out of sight
and wait for him.
'I was hastening to find you,' he said to Jim. 'Your wife is where
she ought to be, and where you ought to be also--by your own
fireside. Where's the other woman?'
Jim, without replying, looked incredulously into the carriage as it
turned. Margery was certainly not there. 'The other woman is
nothing to me,' he said bitterly. 'I used her to warm up Margery: I
have now done with her. The question I ask, my lord, is, what
business had you with Margery to-day?'
'My business was to help her to regain the husband she had seemingly
lost. I saw her; she told me you had eloped by the London road with
another. I, who have--mostly--had her happiness at heart, told her I
would help her to follow you if she wished. She gladly agreed; we
drove after, but could hear no tidings of you in front of us. Then I
took her--to your house--and there she awaits you. I promised to
send you to her if human effort could do it, and was tracking you for
'Then you've been a-pursuing after me?'
'You and the widow.'
'And I've been pursuing after you and Margery! My noble lord, your
actions seem to show that I ought to believe you in this; and when
you say you've her happiness at heart, I don't forget that you've
formerly proved it to be so. Well, Heaven forbid that I should think
wrongfully of you if you don't deserve it! A mystery to me you have
always been, my noble lord, and in this business more than in any.'
'I am glad to hear you say no worse. In one hour you'll have proof
of my conduct--good and bad. Can I do anything more? Say the word,
and I'll try.'
Jim reflected. 'Baron,' he said, 'I am a plain man, and wish only to
lead a quiet life with my wife, as a man should. You have great
power over her--power to any extent, for good or otherwise. If you
command her anything on earth, righteous or questionable, that she'll
do. So that, since you ask me if you can do more for me, I'll answer
this, you can promise never to see her again. I mean no harm, my
lord; but your presence can do no good; you will trouble us. If I
return to her, will you for ever stay away?'
'Hayward,' said the Baron, 'I swear to you that I will disturb you
and your wife by my presence no more. And he took Jim's hand, and
pressed it within his own upon the hilt of Jim's sword.
In relating this incident to the present narrator Jim used to declare
that, to his fancy, the ruddy light of the setting sun burned with
more than earthly fire on the Baron's face as the words were spoken;
and that the ruby flash of his eye in the same light was what he
never witnessed before nor since in the eye of mortal man. After
this there was nothing more to do or say in that place. Jim
accompanied his never-to-be-forgotten acquaintance to the carriage,
closed the door after him, waved his hat to him, and from that hour
he and the Baron met not again on earth.
A few words will suffice to explain the fortunes of Margery while the
foregoing events were in action elsewhere. On leaving her companion
Vine she had gone distractedly among the carriages, the rather to
escape his observation than of any set purpose. Standing here she
thought she heard her name pronounced, and turning, saw her foreign
friend, whom she had supposed to be, if not dead, a thousand miles
off. He beckoned, and she went close. 'You are ill--you are
wretched,' he said, looking keenly in her face. 'Where's your
She told him her sad suspicion that Jim had run away from her. The
Baron reflected, and inquired a few other particulars of her late
life. Then he said: 'You and I must find him. Come with me.' At
this word of command from the Baron she had entered the carriage as
docilely as a child, and there she sat beside him till he chose to
speak, which was not till they were some way out of the town, at the
forking ways, and the Baron had discovered that Jim was certainly
not, as they had supposed, making off from Margery along that
particular branch of the fork that led to London.
'To pursue him in this way is useless, I perceive,' he said. 'And
the proper course now is that I should take you to his house. That
done I will return, and bring him to you if mortal persuasion can do
'I didn't want to go to his house without him, sir,' said she,
'Didn't want to!' he answered. 'Let me remind you, Margery Hayward,
that your place is in your husband's house. Till you are there you
have no right to criticize his conduct, however wild it may be. Why
have you not been there before?'
'I don't know, sir,' she murmured, her tears falling silently upon
'Don't you think you ought to be there?'
She did not answer.
'Of course you ought.'
Still she did not speak.
The Baron sank into silence, and allowed his eye to rest on her.
What thoughts were all at once engaging his mind after those moments
of reproof? Margery had given herself into his hands without a
remonstrance, her husband had apparently deserted her. She was
absolutely in his power, and they were on the high road.
That his first impulse in inviting her to accompany him had been the
legitimate one denoted by his words cannot reasonably be doubted.
That his second was otherwise soon became revealed, though not at
first to her, for she was too bewildered to notice where they were
going. Instead of turning and taking the road to Jim's, the Baron,
as if influenced suddenly by her reluctance to return thither if Jim
was playing truant, signalled to the coachman to take the branch road
to the right, as her father had discerned.
They soon approached the coast near Idmouth. The carriage stopped.
Margery awoke from her reverie.
'Where are we?' she said, looking out of the window, with a start.
Before her was an inlet of the sea, and in the middle of the inlet
rode a yacht, its masts repeating as if from memory the rocking they
had practised in their native forest.
'At a little sea-side nook, where my yacht lies at anchor,' he said
tentatively. 'Now, Margery, in five minutes we can be aboard, and in
half an hour we can be sailing away all the world over. Will you
'I cannot decide,' she said, in low tones.
Then on a sudden, Margery seemed to see all contingencies: she
became white as a fleece, and a bewildered look came into her eyes.
With clasped hands she leant on the Baron.
Baron von Xanten observed her distracted look, averted his face, and
coming to a decision opened the carriage door, quickly mounted
outside, and in a second or two the carriage left the shore behind,
and ascended the road by which it had come.
In about an hour they reached Jim Hayward's home. The Baron
alighted, and spoke to her through the window. 'Margery, can you
forgive a lover's bad impulse, which I swear was unpremeditated?' he
asked. 'If you can, shake my hand.'
She did not do it, but eventually allowed him to help her out of the
carriage. He seemed to feel the awkwardness keenly; and seeing it,
she said, 'Of course I forgive you, sir, for I felt for a moment as
you did. Will you send my husband to me?'
'I will, if any man can,' said he. 'Such penance is milder than I
deserve! God bless you and give you happiness! I shall never see
you again!' He turned, entered the carriage, and was gone; and
having found out Jim's course, came up with him upon the road as
In due time the latter reached his lodging at his partner's. The
woman who took care of the house in Vine's absence at once told Jim
that a lady who had come in a carriage was waiting for him in his
sitting-room. Jim proceeded thither with agitation, and beheld,
shrinkingly ensconced in the large slippery chair, and surrounded by
the brilliant articles that had so long awaited her, his long-
Margery's eyes were round and fear-stricken. She essayed to speak,
but Jim, strangely enough, found the readier tongue then. 'Why did I
do it, you would ask,' he said. 'I cannot tell. Do you forgive my
deception? O Margery--you are my Margery still! But how could you
trust yourself in the Baron's hands this afternoon, without knowing
'He said I was to come, and I went,' she said, as well as she could
'You obeyed him blindly.'
'I did. But perhaps I was not justified in doing it.'
'I don't know,' said Jim musingly. 'I think he's a good man.'
Margery did not explain. And then a sunnier mood succeeded her
tremblings and tears, till old Mr. Vine came into the house below,
and Jim went down to declare that all was well, and sent off his
partner to break the news to Margery's father, who as yet remained
The dairyman bore the intelligence of his daughter's untitled state
as best he could, and punished her by not coming near her for several
weeks, though at last he grumbled his forgiveness, and made up
matters with Jim. The handsome Mrs. Peach vanished to Plymouth, and
found another sailor, not without a reasonable complaint against Jim
and Margery both that she had been unfairly used.
As for the mysterious gentleman who had exercised such an influence
over their lives, he kept his word, and was a stranger to Lower
Wessex thenceforward. Baron or no Baron, Englishman or foreigner, he
had shown a genuine interest in Jim, and real sorrow for a certain
reckless phase of his acquaintance with Margery. That he had a more
tender feeling toward the young girl than he wished her or any one
else to perceive there could be no doubt. That he was strongly
tempted at times to adopt other than conventional courses with regard
to her is also clear, particularly at that critical hour when she
rolled along the high road with him in the carriage, after turning
from the fancied pursuit of Jim. But at other times he schooled
impassioned sentiments into fair conduct, which even erred on the
side of harshness. In after years there was a report that another
attempt on his life with a pistol, during one of those fits of
moodiness to which he seemed constitutionally liable, had been
effectual; but nobody in Silverthorn was in a position to ascertain
There he is still regarded as one who had something about him magical
and unearthly. In his mystery let him remain; for a man, no less
than a landscape, who awakens an interest under uncertain lights and
touches of unfathomable shade, may cut but a poor figure in a garish
When she heard of his mournful death Margery sat in her nursing-
chair, gravely thinking for nearly ten minutes, to the total neglect
of her infant in the cradle. Jim, from the other side of the fire-
place, said: 'You are sorry enough for him, Margery. I am sure of
'Yes, yes,' she murmured, 'I am sorry.' After a moment she added:
'Now that he's dead I'll make a confession, Jim, that I have never
made to a soul. If he had pressed me--which he did not--to go with
him when I was in the carriage that night beside his yacht, I would
have gone. And I was disappointed that he did not press me.'
'Suppose he were to suddenly appear now, and say in a voice of
command, "Margery, come with me!"'
'I believe I should have no power to disobey,' she returned, with a
mischievous look. 'He was like a magician to me. I think he was
one. He could move me as a loadstone moves a speck of steel . . .
Yet no,' she added, hearing the infant cry, 'he would not move me
now. It would be so unfair to baby.'
'Well,' said Jim, with no great concern (for 'la jalousie
retrospective,' as George Sand calls it, had nearly died out of him),
'however he might move 'ee, my love, he'll never come. He swore it
to me: and he was a man of his word.'
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