Imatges de pÓgina


able for nothing so much as simple common past her feet. Here and there a rusted The experience of a long life had gate barred her way,

while a broken-down done its utmost to make her the most fence reluctantly allowed her to proceed. matter-of-fact person in the world. And And as she made her way resolutely past yet there was something within her that all obstacles, there were other things bemade it difficult that she should go to sides the cruel east wind that plucked at see Simon of Tobereevil. So difficult that her sorely. She remembered how many Miss Martha would rather have marched and many a time she had been used to trip into a battle-field in her neat bright goloshes up and down that avenue. She saw the and best black silk, and taken the few odd moss-covered trunk on which she had liked chances for her life. It was twenty years to stand to get a favourite view down an since she had seen Simon Finiston. "And arch of the trees, thinking pleasantly all on the occasion of that last meeting she the time of what things she and Simon had broken off an engagement, which had would do when they should become owners then already lasted nearly a quarter of a life- of Tobereevil. They would prune and weed, time. She had sought him then as she was and tilland plant, until the wilderness should going to seek him now, had spoken to him, be changed into a paradise. They would and left him before his own door-step. She make the mountains glad, and restore the was not going to have the blood of the tarnished honour of the Finistons. Then poor upon her head, and their hunger-cry the desolation of Tobereevil had possessed in her ears all her life.

If he would per- a weird charm for her, as the haunt of an sist in walking evil ways, why, then, she evil genius which was to be banished one must let him walk them alone. She had day by the force of her strong goodwill. waited and hoped till suspense had gnawed Then the mansion itself, the mansion which the pith out of her heart.

Now she was

was just now showing a cold grey shoulder going away to mend her wounds, and to fit between the trees, had been as the castle herself for a life of wholesome labour else- of an ogre, which was to be charmed into where. It was in this way that she had a home of all blessedness and happiness. talked to him, and left him, and he had These had been a young girl's joyful ex. walked his evil ways quite alone ever since. pectations. Yet now all that she looked It had pleased her later to come back upon was sunk a hundred times deeper in in her independence and settle for old ruin than it had been in the hour of her age within a mile of Tobereevil. But it hope. did not please her to confront this old man Miss Martha did not dwell upon these who could remind her that certain five thoughts at all. She simply gathered up years of her life had been full of a light her wits and her skirts, and held both which had failed her, and that other ten well in control, as she confronted the years had been racked with the worst grief sour visage of the house. She rememthat can be suffered, the ill-doing and dis- bered it well, she had known it morose, grace of one entirely beloved. To save and threatening, and woebegone; but she herself from death she would not have en- saw now the marks of twenty years of tered in at that rusty gate and travelled extra desolation on its front. It had gained up that dismal avenue. But she knew an air of surly recklessness, and much of very well what she had meant when she its dignity was gone. There was a savage had said, “I will try to be Elizabeth.” raggedness about its chimneys, and window

The unkind March wind was making a sills, and door-steps, tufted with tall wild jest of her all the time, plucking at her grass, and fluttering with streamers of the gown, and puffing in her face, and singing most flaunting weeds. The greenness of out a loud shrill song at her expense, that the earth had not been content with eating made the tender buds shiver on the trees. up the approaches to the walls, but seemed It was as hard upon her as would have resolved to make its way under the very been

any other raw blustering thing that roof itself. prided itself on youth, and had no pity Miss Martha saw the one cow feeding on upon the romance of a weather-beaten the lawn, and the few famished hens that heart. Miss Martha often paused to con. were pecking about the door-step. The sider her way, for the trees and the door was opened by a dreadful old woman, weeds seemed to have eaten up the landa mass of rags and patches, whose face was marks which she had known. There were disfigured, apparently, by the grime and no longer any traces of the broad carriage discontent of years. This was the wretched drive. The branches of the trees hung old woman who was held in aversion by across the path, and the rabbits scampered the country because, for some reasons best known to herself, she had chosen to devote manly hue above the dainty lace of his her services to the miser of Tobereevil; to ruffles, and when his well-cut profile had live a life of starvation under an accursed looked all the more stately from the becomroof. It was doubtless but seldom that ingness of the quaint and jaunty queue. she was required to answer a summons at Time had been when no finer foot and leg that inhospitable door. She looked as had stepped down the country-dance. Now scared at the wholesome apparition of Miss the limbs hung lank and limp, the knees Mourne, as if she had been suddenly con- clinging together under the patched and fronted with a whole gang of thieves. threadbare garb.

All across the vast and empty stone hall, A violent fit of agitation seized him as and away in the chamber where he stood Miss Martha spoke. Amazement, shame, at the moment, Simon Finiston heard and embarrassment struggled all together wrangling at his door. Old Tibbie's dis- in his face. It was not the sight of Miss cordant voice echoed among the rafters like Martha that had moved him, but the sound the sound of a loud quarrel. Miss Martha's of her voice. The twenty years had done tones did not travel so far, but every harsh their work upon her too, and out of the note of Tibbie's had an echo of its own, fogs of his puzzled brain he might hardly and there might bave been an angry crowd have recognised her. She had never upon the door-step.

been a beauty; only one of those maidens The miser had been pacing up and down whose temper and wit idealise the homelihis room, being in a humour more than ness of their features in the eyes of all those usually timorous. As he walked he twisted who come under their spell. A husband his hands together wildly, and at intervals who had married Martha in her youth struck his forehead in the agony of his would have gone on thinking her a beauty mind. He was beginning to fear that his till her death ; but a lover who had not memory failed him.

He was subject to seen her since her youth would now wonder momentary forgetfulness of the exact posi- to find that she had altered into a plaintion of each tittle of his possessions. Some featured woman. The memory would pretimes, for an instant, he could not remem- sent her as a person of rare charms, rather ber in which pocket he had placed the key than a creature of mere freshness and of the drawer, in which he kept the key of comeliness, shining with good sense and the closet, in which was hid the key of the grace. But Simon knew her by her voice. desk, where lay safely, under heaps of It echoed yet her steady self-containment yellow papers, the key of the safe in which and simple goodwill, and now that the a large amount of money was stored. This sparkle had left her eyes, it was the truest noise in his hall alarmed him. There were messenger of the spirit still within her. loaded pistols upon a bench in a corner, and The narrow soul of the miser was stabbed he placed his hand upon one in terror, and on the instant by the idea that here was looked towards the door. The door opened his former love come in person to reproach and Miss Martha came in, having van- him, to try to assert something of her quished Tibbie, and sent her growling to olden power, so as to wheedle him into her den.

lowering her heavy rent. He could not “You need not be alarmed, sir,” said talk to her face to face, and he would not, she, cheerfully, “I am come to rob you of and as she was there confronting him, and, nothing but a few moments of your time.” being nearest the door, in a way held him

Then these two, who had been lovers, prisoner, he instinctively put up a blind looked upon one another.

which might enable him to hold parley with The old man was tall, withered, and her at ease. blighted-looking, and so ill-clad, that the A look of cunning gleamed out of the blast from the door seemed to pierce him confusion of his face, and he became tranwhere he stood. It was difficult to believe quil. that he had once been handsome, yet the "Pray be seated, madam," he said, with features were imposing, though hacked and an assumption of benevolence and statelinotched by the wrinkles and hollows of ness. He drew his frail garment around the flesh. Once the countenance had been him, and sat down on one of the few old pleasant and bland, but there were snarling carved oaken chairs that were in the room. lines defacing it now that made one shrink to the cashions of these still clung a few from the creature, shadowy as he was. fragments of the ruby-tinted velvet, which Time had been when the powdered curls had made some attempt at covering them had hung gracefully over the polished fore- when Martha had, seen them last. The head, when the complexion had worn a chilly March sun- gleam flickered down not mind the people about here, but doesn't temper. The promptitude which his comlike strangers. Is afraid, I suppose, of panion displayed in seizing upon every meeting people who knew her in better word uttered by their host as a personal days, and who would be ashamed of recog- matter was not without its effect upon Mr. nising her in her present position. Now I Delabole. When Sir Geoffry pushed his must once more look through the papers chair back from the table and suggested which Irving sent to me, and coach my- that they should adjourn to the library, self up in readiness to meet these gentle there to discuss the object of their visit, men from the City."

Mr. Delabole said : Punctual to its time, the train containing "If you have no objection, Sir Geoffry, the two gentlemen arrived at the Spring- I think that this question will be more side station the following morning, and likely to be brought to a speedy conclusion Mr. Delabole, hopping briskly out, called a if it is left to you and me. My friend Mr. fily, then turned back to assist his com- Vane is invaluable in all matters of detail, panion in extricating their luggage from and when we come to them we can request the carriage. There were but few persons him to favour us with his presence ; for on the platform, for it was an early and un- the old saying of two being better company fashionable train; but amongst them was than three holds good in business discusa tall, thin man, of stooping figure, dressed sions as well as in social life, and if you in a long clergyman's coat, who hovered have no objection, I think the basis of any round the two strangers, and seemed to arguments which are to be made between take particular notice of them-such par- our friend Irving, represented by you, and ticular notice as to attract Mr. Vane's at the company represented by me, would tention, and induce him to inquire jocularly better be settled by us alone." of Mr. Delabole “ Who was his friend?" Sir Geoffry bowed stiffly enough. “WhatWhereupon Mr. Delabole stared with easy ever Mr. Delabole thought he should be assurance at the tall gentleman, and told happy to agree to. From the position Mr. Vane “ that their friend was probably which Mr. Delabole held in the City, it a parson who had got wind of the rich was quite evident that in such a talk as marriage Mr. Vane was about to make, and they proposed to have, he, by himself, had come there to draw him of a little would be more than a match for an old money for the local charities.”

retired Indian officer." They drove straight to Wheatcroft, and Mr. Delabole smiled at this speech. on their arrival were received with much “ There was, he hoped, no question of formality and politeness by Sir Geoffry, who brains or ingenuity in it. If the stability told them that luncheon was awaiting and excellence of the investment did not by them. During the discussion of this meal, themselves persuade Sir Geoffry to advise at which the three gentlemen alone were his friend to embark in it—and he hoped to present, the conversation was entirely of a embark in it a little himself—no blandishsocial character; Springside, its natural ments of his should be brought forward to beauties and its mineral waters; the style bring about that end. It was simply a of persons frequenting it; the differences question of confidence and figures, not of between a town and country life—were listening to compliments and blarney. He all lightly touched upon. The talk then would willingly retire with the general drifted into a discussion on the speculative into the library, while his good friend Mr. mania which had recently laid such hold Vane would perhaps stroll about the upon English society, then filtering off into grounds, taking care to be within call if a narrow channel of admiration for Mr. his valuable services were required." Irving and his Midas-like 'power, worked His good friend, Mr. Vane, who during back into the broad stream of joint-stock luncheon had been paying particular atcompanies and rapid fortune-making, and tention to some old and remarkable Madeira finally settled down upon the Terra del which was on the table, did not seem at Fuegos mine. During this conversation, all to relish this plan. At first, he seemed Sir Geoffry had given utterance to various inclined to make some open remonstrance, caustic remarks, and what he imagined but a glance from underneath Mr. Delawere unpleasant truths, all of which, bole's bushy eyebrows dissuaded him though somewhat chafed at by Mr. Vane, therefrom, and he contented himself by were received by Mr. Delabole, who acted shrugging his shoulders and indulging in as spokesman for himself and his friend, other mild signs of dissent and objection. with the greatest suavity, and were replied Previously to retiring with Mr. Delabole, to with the utmost coolness and good | Sir Geoffry, with punctilious courtesy, accompanied Mr. Vane to the hall-door; curled up his feet beneath him on the pointed out to him where were the plea- bench, pulled out a cigar, and was just santest walks in the grounds, how best to about to light it, when, glancing up from reach the spots from whence the favourite under the brim of his hat, he saw the views were to be obtained, and handed him clergyman standing beside him. the keys of the conservatory and the gates Philip Vane dropped the cigar, and opening into the home park. Mr. Vane sprang to his feet. received all this politeness very coolly, Who are you?” he cried, “and what inwardly determining to take the first op- are you doing here?” portunity of revenging himself on Mr. De- “There is no occasion for you to disturb labole for the unceremonious treatment yourself,” said the new comer, quietly liftreceived at that gentleman's hands. ing his hat. “My name is Drage, and I Left to himself

, Mr. Vane strolled idly am rector of one of the parishes in Springabout the grounds switching the heads off side. I am speaking to Mr. Philip Vane, the flowers with his cane, and cursing Dela- I believe ?" bole's impudence for having relegated him “That's my name," said Vane, shortly, to the duties of the second fiddle.

and resuming his seat," though I cannot “Make the best of your time, my good imagine how you knew it, unless you read friend,” said he, stretching himself upon a it off my portmanteau, when you were bench shaded by the overhanging branches | dodging about the station this morning.' of a large tree,

“make the best of your “I knew it before I was dodging about time, to swagger and give yourself airs, the station, as you are politely pleased to and show that you are the head of the say," said Mr. Drage; “I know a great concern; while I

am, or am supposed to deal more about you, as you will find out, be, only one of its paid officers; for within before this interview is at an end !" a week, or ten days at the outside, I shall “The deuce you do!” said Philip Vane, be my 097n master, and if you attempt with a cynical smile; “I did not know my anything of that kind with me then, I fame had extended to these parts. And shall be in a position to tell you my what do you know about me, pray, Mr.opinion of you in the very plainest lan. I forget your name.” guage. Don't think I have not noticed of

My name, I repeat, is Drage !" late how very tightly you have drawn "Drage-Drage," muttered Vane. “Any the rope which binds me to you! Tele- relation of Drage, of Abchurch-lane ?” graphed for when I am away, told to go “ His son." here and there, to find out this and that, “A most respectable man, holding a brought down here and shunted on one leading position in the City. My dear Mr. side, as though I were a mere clerk, whose Drage, I am delighted to make your acbusiness it is to make memoranda of what quaintance.' And he held out his hand. may pass between their excellencies! Oh, “I do not think,” said Mr. Drage, my good friend Delabole, you may take taking no notice of the movement; “I do your oath I will not forget this. When not think that you will be quite so pleased once my marriage with Mrs. Bendixen is to make my acquaintance when you have an accomplished fact, and I have the know- heard all I have to say !" ledge that I am beyond any harm which you Philip Vane looked hard at his comcould do me, then you shall taste the leek panion, and noted with astonishment the which you have compelled me so frequently hectic flush in his cheeks, the brightness of of late to swallow. I will put my foot on his eyes, the mobile working of his mouth. your neck, as you have put yours on mine, “ You may say what you please,” he said, I will Hallo, who's this coming this shortly. "It is a matter of perfect in

One of the gardeners, I suppose. difference to me. If you were in the City, No, by Jove! the parson who was at the your father or your father's clerks could station, and who seemed to take such in- tell you what position I hold there. City terest in us and our movements. What men are careful of what they say of each can he want? He must be a friend of Sir other; but you are a parson,

and Geoffry's, and makes his way through the privileged, I suppose ?" grounds as a short cut from one part of “I am a parson. It was in that capacity his parish to the other. He will see I am I became acquainted with the circuma friend of the general's, and will want to stances, the knowledge of which has inenter into conversation. I hate parsons, duced me to seek you out. You are about and shan't take any notice of him." to be married, Mr. Vane?”

With this amiable resolve, Mr. Vane “The dullest of laymen could have told



out of the uncurtained window above his of your own,” said Miss Martha ; “ to bring head, and laughed over his chair, and lit you news. Your brother's wife is dead, up the variegations of his many-coloured Mr. Finiston." robe. The room was sheathed in oak, yet He pricked up his ears and sat bolt upthe floor was rotted and broken in many right. places. The spiders had been at work to “Well, madam, I should not be surmake draperies for the windows, and cob- prised. A spendthrift creature who could webs were the only hangings on the walls. not thrive. She came here to see me with The ceiling had been painted, but the damp lace trimmings on her dress. But I told had superadded many pictures of its own, her my mind, and I pointed out the destituwhose rude outlines obtruded themselves tion that would fall upon her. I underamong flowers, and hid smiling, fading stand that her husband died of starvation, figures under their grievous blots. the consequence of his improvidence and her

" I have expected this visit,” said Mr. extravagance. They would have dragged Finiston, with a courtly air, while yet Miss me down to want with themselves, but I Martha was trying to right her thoughts, was much too wise for that. I was always which had been somewhat thrown awry by a sparing man, madam, and it is thanks the first glimpse of the picture now before to my economy that I have still bread to her. “You are probably a messenger from eat, and have got a roof over my head.” my tenant at Monasterlea. A relation per- “I find you are misinformed," said Miss haps. I had the pleasure of knowing Miss Martha. “Your brother died of fever, and Mourne many years ago, and I see some he was a happy man, and a prudent one, likeness. A very respectable tenant she while he lived. His wife was a very noble is, but pays me such a dreadfully low rent woman, who for years denied herself many -such a dreadfully low rent!"

comforts in the hope of being able to proHe shook his head from side to side with vide for her son. She has died without his eyes averted from his visitor, and rubbed fulfilling this purpose, and all her slight his hands slowly, and rocked himself in his means bave disappeared with herself. I chair.

have come here expressly to tell you that Miss Martha drew her breath hard, and her son is now alone and without means of gazed at him fixedly. He would not meet living. And her son, sir, is Paul Finiston, her eyes. In a few moments her amaze- your nephew and heir." ment abated, and her presence of mind The old man's face had grown darker returned. She believed that he had re- and more frightened at every word she cognised her, but she could not be sure. spoke. At all events, either his cunning cowardice “Well, well, well,” he said, hoarsely, or his want of memory might make the clutching his chair with both hands and task she had undertaken less difficult. gazing now straight at Miss Martha, with.

“ I need not introduce myself,” she said. out thinking of who she was. “ Heir, she “ It is true I am but the messenger of said, heir. Ay! And pray, madam, who another, I come from Monasterlea, but says there is anything to inherit ? Barely not upon the business of your tenant." enough property to keep a man alive, with “Eh ?” asked he, sharply.

the expenses of a servant, and a cat to keep your—not upon her business? What then, down the rats. Would you rob an old man madam, what then? Not, I hope, with a of his crust, madam ? Would you take it story from any of these smaller rascally out of his mouth to give it to a young tenants who want their land for nothing, beggar who can work, madam ?” and would drive a wretched landlord " That is not what we propose, sir," said to the workhouse? If you come, madam, Miss Martha, unflinchingly. “We ask you about them, I will wish you a good morn- to use a small part of your wealth only to ing on the instant. Å good morning, help the poor boy to independence. Even madam. I wish you a very good morning.” a few hundred pounds

He arose hastily and made a grotesque A bitter shriek burst from the old man's bow, a tremulous, mocking attempt at lips, and he got up trembling in a paroxysm courtesy, and his face had begun to work of passion. with a passion which brought out all those Away!” he cried, waving his hand over snarling lines upon it.

his head. Away! you who deserted me Stay, sir,” said Miss Martha, and her in my need, and now come back to rob me! quick steady tone affected him so that he I will not have you sitting there looking at dropped back nervelessly into his chair.

I will not He was tottering “I am come, sir, altogether about affairs towards her with his menacing hand, but

Not upon


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