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•IlKILit 

LIBRARY 

UHIVEWITY Of 
CAkJPOftNIA 



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ikMio^id^ 



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MEHALAH 



A STORY OF THE SALT MARSHES 



BY THE 

AUTHOR OF 'JOHN HERRING' &c. 



NJEW EDITION 



LONDON 
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE 

1884 

{All rights reserved] 






MLf 






CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE, 

I. THE RAT 1 

II. THE RHYN 17 

III. THE SEVEN WHISTLEES 35 

IV. RED HALL 46 

V. THE DECOY 60 

VI. BLACK OR GOLD 72 

VII. LIKE A BAD PENNY 91 

Vni. WHERE IS HE? 108 

IX. IN MOURNING 122 

X. STRUCK COLOURS 131 

XI. A DUTCH AUCTION . . . . • . . . 149 

XII. A GILDED BALCONY 163 

XIII. THE ELAG PLIES 173 

XTV. ON THE BURNT HILL 188 

XV. NEW year's EVE 203 

XVI. IN NEW QUARTERS 215 

XVn. FACE TO FACE 230 

XVIII. IN A COBWEB 243 

397 



IV CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XIX. DE PKOFTJITDIS 268 

XX. IN PKOFUNDUM 273 

XXI. IN YAIN ! 286 

XXII. THE LAST STRAW 302 

XXIII. BEFORE THE ALTAR 314 

XXIV. THE VIAL OF WRATH 327 

XXV. IN THE DARKNESS .346 

XXVI. THE FORGING OF THE RING 357 

XXVII. THE RETURN OF THE LOST 371 

XXVIII. timothy's TIDINGS 379 

XXIX. TEMPTATION 393 

XXX. TO WEDDING BELLS 406 



MEHALAH : 

A 8T0EY OF THE SALT MARSHES. 



CHAPTEE I. 

THE RAT. 

Between the mouths of the Blackwater and the Colne^ 
on the east coast of Essex, lies an extensive marshy- 
tract veined and freckled in every part with water. It 
is a wide waste of debatable groimd contested by sea 
and land, subject to incessant incursions from the former, 
but stubbornly maintained by the latter. At high tide 
the appearance is that of a vast surface of moss or Sar- 
gasso weed floating on the sea, with rents and patches 
of shining water traversing and dappling it in all 
dii actions. The creeks, some of considerable length 
and breadth, extend many miles inland, and are arteries 
whence branches out a fibrous tissue of smaller channels, 
flushed with water twice in the twenty-four hours. At 
noon-tides, and especially at the equinoxes, the sea 
asserts its royalty over this vast region, and overflows 
the whole, leaving standing out of the flood only the 
long island of Mersea, and the lesser islet, called the 



2 MEHALAH. 

Kay. This latter is a hill of gravel rising from the 
heart of the Marshes, crowned with ancient thorntrees, 
and possessing, what is denied the mainland, an unfail- 
ing spring of purest water. At ebb, the Eay can only 
be reached from the old Koman causeway, called the 
Strood, over which runs the road from Colchester to 
Mersea Isle, connecting formerly the city of the 
Trinobantes with the station of the count of the Saxon 
shore. But even at ebb, the Kay is not approachable 
by land unless the sun or east wind has parched the 
ooze into brick ; and then the way is long, tedious and 
tortuous, among bitter pools and over shining creeks. 
It was perhaps because this ridge of high ground was 
so inaccessible, so well protected by nature, that the 
ancient inhabitants had erected on it a rath, or fortified 
camp of wooden logs, which left its name to the place 
long after the timber defences had rotted away. 

A more desolate region can scarce be conceived, and 
yet it is not without beauty. In summer, the thrift 
mantles the marshes with shot satin, passing through 
all gradations of tint from maiden's blush to lily white. 
Thereafter a purple glow steals over the waste, as the 
sea lavender bursts into flower, and simultaneously 
every creek and pool is royally fringed with sea aster, 
A little later the glass-wort, that shot up green and 
transparent as emerald glass in the early spring, turns 
to every tinge of carmine. 

When all vegetation ceases to live, and goes to sleep, 
the marshes are alive and wakeful with countless wild 
fowl. At all times they are haunted with sea mews 
and roysten crows, in winter they teem with wild duck 
and grey geese. The stately heron loves to wade in the 



THE RAY. 3 

pools, occasionally the whooper swan sounds his loud 
trumpet, and flashes a white reflection in the still blue 
waters of the fleets. The plaintive pipe of the curlew 
is familiar to those who frequent these marshes, and 
the barking of the brent greese as they return from 
their northern breeding places is heard in November. 

At the close of last century there stood on the Eay 
a small farmhouse built of tarred wreckage timber, and 
roofed with red pan-tiles. The twisted thorntrees about 
it afforded some, but slight, shelter. Under the little 
cliff of gravel was a good beach, termed a ' hard.' 

On an evening towards the close of September, a 
man stood in this farmhouse by the hearth, on which 
burnt a piece of wreckwood, opposite an old woman, 
who crouched shivering with ague in a chair on the 
other side. He was a strongly built man of about 
thirty-five, wearing fisherman's boots, a brown coat and 
a red plush waistcoat. His hair was black, raked over 
his brow. His cheekbones were high ; his eyes dark, 
eager, intelligent, but fierce in expression. His nose 
was aquiline, and would have given a certain nobility 
to his countenance, had not his huge jaws and heavy 
chin contributed an animal cast to his face. 

He leaned on his duck-gun, and glared from under 
his pent-house brows and thatch of black hair over the 
head Of the old woman at a girl who stood behind, lean- 
ing on the back of her mother's chair, and who returned 
his stare with a look of defiance from her brown eyes. 

The girl might have been taken for a sailor boy, as 
she leaned over the chairbackj but for the profusion of 
her black hair. She wore a blue knitted guernsey 
covering body and arms, and across the breast, woven 

B 2 



4 MEHALAH. 

in red wool, was the name of the vessel, ' Grloriana.' 
The guernsey had been knitted for one of the crew of a 
ship of this name, but had come into the girl's possession. 
On her head she wore the scarlet woven cap of a boat- 
man. 

The one-pane window at the side of the fireplace 
faced the west, and the evening sun lit her brown gipsy 
face, burnt in her large eyes, and made coppery lights 
in her dark hair. 

The old woman was shivering with the ague, and 
shook the chair on which her daughter leaned ; a cold 
sweat ran off her brow, and every now and then she 
raised a white faltering hand to wipe the drops away 
that hung on her eyebrows like rain on thatching. 

'I did not catch the chill here,' she said. ^I 
ketched it more than thirty years ago when I was on 
Mersea Isle, and it has stuck in my marrow ever since. 
But there is no ague on the Kay. This is the healthiest 
place in the world, Mehalah has never caught the ague 
on it. I do not wish ever to leave it, and to lay my 
bones elsewhere.' 

' Then you will have to pay your rent punctually,' 
said the man in a dry tone, not looking at her, but at 
her daughter. 

' Please the Lord so we shall, as we ever have done,' 
answered the woman ; ' but when the chill comes on 
mC' ' 

' Oh, curse the chill,' interrupted the man ; ' who 
cares for that except perhaps Grlory yonder, who has to 
work for both of you. Is it so. Glory ? ' 

The girl thus addressed did not answer, but folded 
her arms on the chairback, and leaned her chin upon 



THE EAY. 5 

them. She seemed at that moment like a wary cat 
watching a threatening dog, and ready at a moment 
to show her claws and show desperate battle, not out of 
malice, but in self-defence. 

' Why, but for you sitting there, sweating and 
jabbering, Grlory would not be bound to this lone islet, 
but would go out and see the world, and taste life. She 
grows here like a mushroom, she does not live. Is it 
not so, Grlory ? ' 

The girl's face was no longer lit by the declining sun, 
which had glided further north-west, but the flames of 
the driftwood flickered in her large eyes that met those 
of the man, and the cap was still illumined by the even- 
ing glow, a scarlet blaze against the indigo gloom. 

' Have you lost your tongue, Grlory V asked the man, 
impatiently striking the bricks with the butt end of his 
gun. 

' Why do you not speak, Mehalah ? ' said the mother, 
turning her wan wet face aside, to catch a glimpse of her 
daughter. 

' I've answered him fifty times,' said the girl. 

' No,' protested the old woman feebly, ' you have 
not spoken a word to Master Eebow.' 

' By God, she is right,' broke in the man. ' The 
little devil has a tongue in each eye, and she has been 
telling me with each a thousand times that she hates 
me. Eh, Grlory?' 

The girl rose erect, set her teeth, and turned her 
face aside, and looked out at the little window on the 
decaying light. 

Eebow laughed aloud. 

' She hated me before, and now she hates me worse. 



6 MEHALAH. 

because I have become her landlord. I have bought the 
Kay for eight hundred pounds. The Eay is mine, I 
tell you. Mistress Sharland, you will henceforth have 
to pay me the rent, to me and to none other. I am 
your landlord, and Michaelmas is next week.' 

' The rent shall be paid, Elijah ! ' said the widow. 

' The Eay is mine,' pursued Eebow, swelling with 
pride. ' I have bought it with my own money — eight 
hundred pounds. I could stubb up the trees if I would. 
I could cart muck into the well and choke it if I would. 
I could pull down the stables and break them up for 
firewood if I chose. All here is mine, the Eay, the 
marshes, and the saltings,^ the creeks, the fleets, the 
farm. That is mine,' said he, striking the wall with 
his gun, * and that is mine,' dashing the butt end against 
the hearth ; ' and you are mine, and Glory is mine.' 

' That never,' said the girl stepping forward, and 
confronting him with dauntless eye and firm lips and 
folded arms. 

' Eh ! Gloriana ! have I roused you ? ' exclaimed 
Elijah Eebow, with a flash of exultation in his fierce 
eyes. * I said that the house and the marshes, and the 
saltings are mine, I have bought them. And your 
mother and you are mine.' 

' Never,' repeated the girl. 

' But I say yes.' 

* We are your tenants, Elijah,' observed the widow 
nervously interposing. ' Do not let Mehalah anger you. 
She has been reared here in solitude, and she does not 

' A salting is land occasionally flooded, otherwise serving as pas- 
turage. A marsh is a reclaimed salting, enclosed within a sea-wall. 



THE EAY. . 7 

know the ways of men. She means nothing by her 
manner.' 

' I do,' said the girl, ' and he knows it.' 

' She is a headlong child,' pursued the old woman, 
' and when she fares to say or do a thing, there is no 
staying tongue or hand. Do not mind her, master.' 

The man paid no heed to the woman's words, but 
fixed his attention on the girl. Neither spoke. It was 
as though a war of wills was proclaimed and begun. 
He sought to beat down her defences with the force of 
his resolve flung at her from his dark eyes, and she 
parried it dauntlessly with her pride. 

' By God ! ' he said at last, ' I have never seen any- 
where else a girl of your sort. There is none elsewhere. 
I like you.' 

'I knew it,' said -the mother with feeble triumph in 
her palsied voice. ' She is a right good girl at heart, 
true as steel, and as tough in fibre.' 

' I have bought the house and the pasture, and the 
marshes and the saltings,' said Elijah sulkily, 'and all 
that thereon is. You are mine, Glory ! You canDot 
escape me. Give me your hand.' 

She remained motionless, with folded arms. He 
laid his heavy palm on her shoulder. 

' Give me your hand, and mine is light ; I will help 
you. Let me lay it on you and it will crush you. 
Escape it you cannot. This way or that. My hand will 
clasp or crush.' 

She did not stir. 

' The wild fowl that fly here are mine, the fish that 
swim in the fleets are mine,' he went on ; ' I can shoot 
and net them.' 



8 MEHALAH. 

' So can I, and so can anyone,' said the girl 
haughtily. 

' Let them try it on,' said Elijah ; ' I am not one to 
be trifled with, as the world well knows. I will bear no 
poaching here. I have bought the Kay, and the fish 
are mine, and the fowl are mine, and you are mine also. 
Let him touch who dares.' 

' The wild fowl are free for any man to shoot, the 
fish are free for any man to net,' said the girl scornfully. 

' That is not my doctrine,' answered Elijah. ' What 
is on my soil and in my waters is mine, I may do with 
them what I will, and so also all that lives on my estate 
is mine.' Keturning with doggedness to his point, ' As 
you live in my house and on my land, you are mine.' 

' Mother,' said the girl, ' give him notice, and quit 
the Kay.' 

' I could not do it, Mehalah, I could not do it,' 
answered the woman. ' I've lived all my life on the 
marshes, and I cannot quit them. But this is a healthy 
spot, and not like the marshes of Dairy House where 
once we were, and where I ketched the chill.' 

' You cannot go till you have paid me the rent,' 
said Kebow. 

' That,' answered Mehalah, ' we will do assuredly.' 

' So you promise. Glory ! ' said Kebow. ' But should 
you fail to do it, I could take every stick here : — That 
chair in which your mother shivers, those dishes yonder, 
the bed you sleep in, the sprucehutch * in which you 
keep your clothes. I could pluck the clock, tfhe heart 
of the house, out of it. I could tear that defiant red 
cap ofif your head. I could drive you both out with- 
' Cypress-chest. 



THE EAY. 9 

out a cover into the whistling east wind and biting 
frost; 

' I tell you, we can and we will pay.' 

' But should you not be able at any time, I warn 
you whaii to expect. I've a fancy for that jersey you 
wear with " Grloriana " right across the breast. I'll pull 
it off and draw it on myself.' He ground his teeth. 
' I will have it, if only to wrap me in, in my grave. I 
will cross my arms over it, as you do now, and set my 
teeth, and not a devil in hell shall tear it off me.' 

' I tell you we will pay.' 

'Let me alone, let me talk. This is better than 
money. I will rip the tiling off the roof and fling it 
down between the rafters, if you refuse to stir ; I will 
cast it at your mother and you, Grlory. The red cap 
will not protect your skull from a tile, will it ? And 
yet you say, I am not your master. You do not belong- 
to me, as do the marshes and the saltings, and the wild 
duck.' 

' I tell you we will pay,' repeated the girl pas- 
sionately, as she wrenched her shoulder from his iron 
grip. 

' You don't belong to me ! ' jeered Elijah. Then 
slapping the arm of the widow's chair, and pointing over 
his shoulder at Mehalah, he said scornfully : ' She says 
she does not belong to me, as though she believed it. But 
she does, and you do, and so does that chair, and the 
log that smoulders on the hearth, and the very hearth 
itself, with its heat, the hungry ever-devouring belly of 
the house. I've bought the Eay and all that is on it 
for eight hundred pounds. I saw it on the paper, it 
stands in writing and may not be broke through. 



10 MEHALAH. 

Lawyers' scripture binds and looses as Bible scripture. 
I will stick to my rights, to every thread and breath of 
them. She is mine.' 

' But, Elijah, be reasonable,' said the widow, lifting 
her hand appealingly. The fit of ague was, passing 
away. ' We are in a Christian land. We are not slaves 
to be bought and sold like cattle.' 

' If you cannot pay the rent, I can take everything 
from you. I can throw you out of this chair down on 
those bricks. I can take the crock and all the meat in 
it. I can take the bed on which you sleep. I can take 
the clothes off your back.' Turning suddenly round on 
the girl he glared, ' I will rip the jersey off her, and 
wear it till I rot. I will pull the red cap off her head 
and lay it on my heart to keep it warm. None shall 
say me nay. Tell me, mistress, what are you, what is 
she, without house and bed and clothing ? I will take 
her gun, I will swamp her boat. I will trample down 
your garden. I will drive you both down with my dogs 
upon the saltings at the spring tide, at the full of moon. 
You shall not shelter here, on my island, if you will not 
pay. I tell you, I have bought the Ray. I gave for it 
eight hundred pounds.' 

' But Elijah,' protested th6 old woman, * do not be so 
angry. We are sure to pay.' 

' We will pay him, mother, and then he cannot open 
his mouth against us.' At that moment the door flew 
open, and two men entered, one young, the other 
old. 

' There is the money,' said the girl, as the latter laid 
a canvas bag on the table. 

' We've sold the sheep — at least Abraham has,' said 



THE EAY. 11 

the young man joyously, as he held out his hand., 
' Sold them well, too, Glory ! ' 

The girl's entire face was transformed. The cloud 
that had hung over it cleared, the hard eyes softened, 
and a kindly light beamed from them. The set lips 
became flexible and smiled. Elijah saw and noted 
the change, and his brow grew darker, his eye more 
threatening. 

Mehalah strode forward, and held out her hand 
to clasp that offered her. Elijah swung* his musket 
suddenly about, and unless she had hastily recoiled, 
the barrel would have struck, perhaps broken, her 
wrist. 

' You refused my hand,' he said, ' although you are 
mine. I bought the Eay for eight hundred pounds.' 
Then turning to the young man with sullenness, he 
asked, ' George De Witt, what brings you here ? ' 

'Why, cousin, I've a right to be here as well as 
you.' 

' No, you have not. I have bought the Eay, and no 
man sets foot on this island against my will.' 

The young man laughed good-humouredly. 

' You won't keep me off your property then, Elijah, 
so long as Glory is here ? ' 

Elijah made a motion as though he would speak 
angrily, but restrained himself with an effort. He 
said nothing, but his eyes followed every movement of 
Mehalah Sharland. She turned to him with an exultant 
splendour in her face, and pointing to the canvas bag 
on the table, said, ' There is the money. Will you take 
the rent at once, or wait till it is due ? ' 

' It is not due till next Thursday.' 



12 MEHALAH. 

'We do not pay for a few weeks. Three weeks' 
grace we have been hitherto allowed.' 

' I give no grace.' 

' Then take your money at once.' 

' I will not touch it till it is due. I will take 
it next Thursday. You will bring it me then to Red 
Hall.' 

' Is the boat all right where I left her ? ' asked the 
young man. 

' Yes, George ! ' answered the girl, ' she is on the 
hard where you anchored her this morning. What have 
you been getting in Colchester to-day ? ' 

' I have bought some groceries for mother,' he said, 
' and there is a present with me for you. But that I 
will not give up till by-and-bye. You will help me to 
thrust the boat off, will you not, Griory ? ' 

' She is afloat now. However, I will come presently, 
I must give Abraham first his supper.' 

' Thank ye,' said the old man. ' G-eorge de Witt 
and me stopped at the Rose and had a bite. I must go 
at once after the cows. You'll excuse me.' He went 
out. 

' Will you stay and sup with us, Greorge ? ' asked the 
widow. ' There is something in the pot will be ready 
directly.' 

' Thank you all the same,' he replied, ^ I want to be 
back as soon as I can, the night will be dark ; besides, 
you and Griory have company.' Then turning to Rebow 
he added : 

' So you have bought the Ray.' 

' I have.' 

' Then Glory and her mother are your tenants.' 



THE EAY. la 

' They are mine.' 

' I hope they will find you an easy landlord.' 

' I reckon they will not,' said Elijah shortly. 

' Come along, Glory ! ' he called, abandoning the 
topic and the uncongenial speaker, and turning to the 
girl. ' Help me with my boat.' 

' Don't be gone for long, Mehalah ! ' said her mother* 

' I shall be back directly.' 

Elijah Eebow kept his mouth closed. His face was 
as though cast in iron, but a living fire smouldered 
within and broke out through the eye-sockets, as lava 
will lie hard and cold, a rocky crust with a fiery fluid 
core within that at intervals glares out at fissures. 
He did not utter a word, but he watched Grlory go out 
with De Witt, and then a" grim smile curdled his rugged 
cheeks. He seated himself opposite the widow, and 
spread his great hands over the fire. He was pondering. 
The shadow of his strongly featured face and expanded 
hands was cast on the opposite wall; as the flame 
flickered, the shadow hands seemed to open and shut, to 
stretch and grasp. 

The gold had died out of the sky and only a pearly 
twilight crept in at the window, the evening heaven 
seen through the pane was soft and cool in tone as the 
tints of the Grlaucus gull. The old woman remained 
silent. She was afraid of the new landlord. She had 
long known him, longer known of him, she had never 
liked him, and she liked less to have him now in a place 
of power over her. 

Presently Kebow rose, slowly, from his seat, and 
laying aside his gun said, ' I too have brought a present, 
but not for Grlory. She must know nothing of this, it 



14 MEHALAH. 

is for you. I put the keg outside the door under the 
whitethorn. I knew a drop of spirits was good for the 
ague. We get spirits cheap, or I would not give you 
any.' He was unable to do a gracious act without mar- 
ring its merit by an ungracious word. ' I will fetch it 
in. May it comfort you in the chills.' 

He went out of the house and returned with a 
little keg under his arm. ' Where is it to go ? ' he 
asked. 

' Oh, Master Kebow ! this is good of you, and I am 
thankful. My ague does pull me down sorely.' 

' Damn your ague, who cares about it ! ' he said 
surlily. ' Where is the keg to go ? ' 

' Let me roll it in,' said the old woman, jumping up. 
' There are better cellars and storeplaces here than any- 
where between this and Tiptree Heath.' 

' Saving mine at Eed Hall, and those at Salcot Kising 
Sun,' interjected the man. 

' You see, Kebow, in times gone by, a great many 
smuggled goods were stowed away here ; but much does 
not come this way now,' with a sigh. 

' It goes to Eed Hall instead,' said Kebow. ' Ah ! 
if you were there, your life would be a merry one. 
There ! take the keg. I have had trouble enough 
bringing it here. You stow it away where you like, 
yourself; and draw me a glass, I am dry.' 

He flung himself in the chair again, and let the old 
woman take up and hug the keg, and carry it oif to 
some secure hiding-place where in days gone by many 
much larger barrels of brandy and wine had been stored 
away. She soon returned. 

' I have not tapped this,' she said. ' The liquor will 



THE EAY. 15 

be muddy. I have drawn a little from the other that 
you gave me.' 

Elijah took the glass from her hand and tossed it off. 
He was chuckling to himself. 

' You will say a word for me to Grlory.' 

' Eely on me, Elijah. None has been so good tome 
as you. None has given me anything for my chill but 
you. But Mehalah will find it out, I reckon ; she sus- 
pects already.' 

He paid no heed to her words. 

' So she is not mine, nor the house, nor the marshes, 
nor the saltings, nor the fish and fowl ! ' he muttered 
derisively to himself. 

' I paid eight hundred pounds for the Eay and all 
that therein is,' he continued, ' let alone what I paid the 
lawyer.' He rubbed his hands. Then he rose again, 
and took his gun. 

' I'm off,' he said, and strode to the door. 

At the same moment Mehalah appeared at it, her 
face clear and smiling. She looked handsomer than 
ever. 

' Well ! ' snarled Eebow, arresting her, ' what did he 
give you ? ' 

' That is no concern of yours,' answered the girl, and 
she tried to pass. He put his fowling piece across the 
door and barred the way. 

' What did he give you ? ' he asked in his dogged 
manner. 

' I might refuse to answer,' she said carelessly, ' but 
I do not mind your knowing ; the whole Kay and Mer- 
sea, and the world outside may know. This ! ' She 
produced an Indian red silk kerchief, which she flung 



1 6 MEHALAH. 

over her shoulders and knotted under her chin. With 
her rich complexion, hazel eyes, dark hair and scarlet 
cap, lit by the red fire flames, she looked a gipsy, and 
splendid in her beauty. Rebow dropped his gun, thrust 
her aside with a sort of mad fury, and flung himself out 
of the door. 

' He is gone at last ! ' said the girl with a gay laugh. 

Eebow put his head in again. His lips were drawn 
back and his white teeth glistened. 

' You will pay the rent next Thursday. I give no 
grace.' 

Then he shut the door and was gone. 



CHAPTEE II. 

THE EHYN. 



^ MoTHEB,' said Mehalah, ' are you better now ? ' 

' Yes, the fit is off me, but I am left terribly weak.' 

' Mother, will you give me the medal ? ' 

' What ? Your grandmother's charm ? You cannot 

want it ! ' 

' It brings luck, and saves from sudden death. I 

wish to give it to Greorge.' 

' No, Mehalah ! This will not do. You must keep 

it yourself.' 

' It is mine, is it not ? ' 

' No, child ; it is promised you, but it is not yours 

yet. You shall have it some future day.' 

' I want it at once, that I may give it to George. 

He has made me a present of this red kerchief for my 



THE RHYN. 17 

neck, and he has given me many another remembrance, 
but I have made him no return. I have nothing that 
I can give him save that medal. Let me have it.' 

' It must not go out of the family, Mehalah.' 

' It will not. You know what is between Greorge 
and me.' 

The old woman hesitated and excused herself, but 
was so much in the habit of yielding to her daughter, 
that she was unable in this matter to maintain her 
opposition. She submitted reluctantly, and crept out 
of the room to fetch the article demanded of her. 

When she returned, she found Mehalah standing 
before the fire with her back to the embers, and her 
hands knitted behind her, looking at the floor, lost in 
thought. 

' There it is,' grumbled the old woman. ' But I 
don't like to part with it ; and it must not go out of 
the family. Keep it yourself, Mehalah, and give it 
away to none.' 

The girl took the coin. It was a large silver token, 
the size of a crown, bearing on the face a figure of 
Mars in armour, with shield and brandished sword, 
between the zodiacal signs of the Ram and the 
Scorpion. 

The reverse was gilt, and represented a square 
divided into five-and-twenty smaller squares, each con- 
taining a number, so that the sum in each row, taken 
either vertically or horizontally, was sixty-five. The 
medal was undoubtedly foreign. Theophrastus Para- 
celsus, in his ' Archidoxa,' published in the year 1572, 
describes some such talisman, gives instructions for its 
casting, and says : ' This seal or token gives him who 

c 



18 MEHALAH. 

carries it about him strength and security and victory 
in all battles, protection in all perils. It enables 
him to overcome his enemies and counteract their 
plots.' 

The medal held by the girl belonged to the six- 
teenth century. Neither she nor her mother had ever 
heard of Paracelsus, and knew nothing of his ' Archi- 
doxa.' The figures on the face passed their compre- 
hension. The mystery of the square on the reverse 
had never been discovered by them. They knew only 
that the token was a charm, and that family tradition 
held it to secure the wearer against sudden death by 
violence. 

A hole was drilled through the piece, and a strong 
silver ring inserted. A broad silk riband of faded blue 
passed through the ring, so that the medal might be 
worn about the neck. For a few moments Mehalah 
studied the mysterious figures by the fire-light, then 
flung the riband round her neck, and hid the coin and 
its perplexing symbols in her bosom. 

' I must light a candle,' she said ; then she stopped 
by the table on her way across the room, and took up 
the glass upon it. 

' Mother,' she said sharply ; ' who has been drinking 
here ? ' 

The old woman pretended not to hear the question, 
and began to poke the fire. 

' Mother, has Elijah Eebow been drinking spirits out 
of this glass ? ' 

' To be sure, Mehalah, he did just take a drop.' 

' Whence did he get it ? ' 

' Don't you think it probable that such a man as 



THE RHYN. 19 

he, out much on the marshes, should carry a bottle 
about with him ? Most men go provided against the 
chill who can afford to do so.' 

* Mother,' said the girl impatiently, ' you are de- 
ceiving me. I know he got the spirits here, and that 
you have had them here for some time. I insist on 
being told how you came by them.' 

The old woman made feeble and futile attempts to 
evade answering her daughter directly ; but was at last 
forced to confess that on two occasions, of which this 
evening was one, Elijah Rebow had brought her a small 
keg of rum. 

' You do not grudge it me, Mehalah, do you ? It 
does me good when I am low after my fits.' 

' I do not grudge it you,' answered the girl ; ' but 
I do not choose you should receive favours from that 
man. He has to-day been threatening us, and yet 
secretly he is making you presents. Why does he come 
here ? ' She looked full in her mother's face. ' Why 
does he give you these spirits ? He, a man who never 
did a good action but asked a return in fourfold 
measure. I promise you, mother, if he brings here any 
more, that I will stave in the cask and let the liquor 
you so value waste away.' 

The widow made piteous protest, but her daughter 
remained firm. 

' Now,' said the girl, ' this point is settled between 
us. Be sure I will not go back from my word. I will 
in nothing be behoven to the man I abhor. Now let 
me count the money.' She caught up the bag, then put 
it down again. She lit a candle at the hearth, drew 
her chair to the table, seated herself at it, untied 

c 2 



20 MEHALAH. 

the string knotted about the neck of the pouch, and 
poured the contents upon the board. 

She sprang to her feet with a cry ; she stood as 
though petrified, with one hand to her head, the other 
holding the bag. Her eyes, wide open with dismay, 
were fixed on the little heap she had emptied on the 
table — a heap of shot, great and small, some penny- 
pieces, and a few bullets. 

' What is the matter with you, Mehalah ? What 
has happened ? ' 

The girl was speechless. The old woman moved to 
the table and looked. 

' What is this, Mehalah ? ' 

' Look here ! Lead, not gold.' 

' There has been a mistake,' said the widow, ner- 
vously, ' call Abraham ; he has given you the wrong 
sack.' 

' There has been no mistake. This is the right bag. 
He had no other. We have been robbed.' 

The old woman was about to put her hand on the 
heap, but Mehalah arrested it. 

' Do not touch anything here,' she said, ' let all 
remain as it is till I bring Abraham. I must ascertain 
who has robbed us.' 

She leaned her elbows on the table ; she platted her 
fingers over her brow, and sat thinking. What could 
have become of the money ? Where could it have been 
withdrawn ? Who could have been the thief? 

Abraham Dowsing, the shepherd, was a simple surly 
old man, honest but not intelligent, selfish but trust- 
worthy. He was a fair specimen of the East Saxon 
peasant, a man of small reasoning power, moving like 



THE KHYN. 21 

a machine, very slow, muddy in mind, only slightly 
advanced in the scale of beings above the dumb beasts ; 
with instinct just awaking into intelligence, but not 
sufficiently awake to know its powers ; more unhappy 
and helpless than the brute, for instinct is exhausted in 
the transformation process ; not happy as a man, for he 
is encumbered with the new gift, not illumined and 
assisted by it. He is distrustful of its power, inapt to 
appreciate it, detesting the exercise of it. 

On the fidelity of Abraham Dowsing, Mehalah felt 
assured she might rely. He was guiltless of the ab- 
straction. She relied on him to sell the sheep to the 
best advantage, for, like everyone of low mental organi- 
sation, he was grasping and keen to drive a bargain. 
But when he had the money she knew that less confidence 
could be reposed on him. He could think of but one 
thing at a time, and if he fell into company, his mind 
would be occupied by his jug of beer, his bread and 
cheese, or his companion. He would not have attention 
at command for anything beside. 

The rustic brain has neither agility nor flexibility. 
It cannot shift its focus nor change its point of sight. 
The educated mind will peer through a needlehole in a 
sheet of paper, and see through it the entire horizon 
and all the sky. The uncultured mind perceives nothing 
but a hole, a hole everywhere without bottom, to be 
recoiled from, not sounded. When the oyster spat falls 
on mud in a tidal estuary, it gets buried in mud deeper 
with every tide, two films each twenty-four hours, and 
becomes a fossil if it becomes anything. Mind in the 
rustic is like oyster spat, unformed, the protoplasm of 
mind but not mind itself, daily, annually deeper buried 



22 MEHALAH. 

in the mud of coarse routine. It never thinks, it scarce 
lives, and dies in unconsciousness that it ever possessed 
life. 

Mehalah sat considering, her mother by her, with 
anxious eyes fastened on her daughter's face. 

The money must have been abstracted either in 
Colchester or on the way home. The old man had 
said that he stopped and tarried at the Eose inn on the 
way. Had the theft been there committed ? Who had 
been his associates in that tavern ? 

' Mother,' said Mehalah suddenly, ' has the canvas 
bag been on the table untouched since Abraham brought 
it here ? ' 

' To be sure it has.' 

' You have been in the room, in your seat all the 
while?' 

' Of course I have. There was no one here but 
Kebow. You do not suspect him, do you ? ' 
Mehalah shook her head. 

' No, I have no reason to do so. You were here all 
the while ? ' 
' Yes.' 

Mehalah dropped her brow again on her hands. 
What was to be done ? It was in vain to question 
Abraham. His thick and addled brain would baffle 
enquiry. Like a savage, the peasant when questioned 
will equivocate, and rather than speak the truth invent 
a lie from a dim fear lest the truth should hurt him. 
The lie is to him what his shell is to the snail, his place 
of natural refuge ; he retreats to it not only from 
danger, but from observation. 

He does not desire to mislead the querist, but to 



THE EHYN. 23 

baffle observation. He accumulates deception, equivo- 
cation, falsehood about him just. as he allows dirt to 
clot his person, for his own warmth and comfort, not to 
offend others. 

The girl stood up. 

' Mother, I must go after Greorge De Witt at once. 
He was with Abraham on the road home, and he will 
tell us the truth. It is of no use questioning the old 
man, he will grow suspicious, and think we are accusing 
him. The tide is at flood, I shall be able to catch 
George on the Mersea hard.' 

' Take the lanthorn with you.' 

' I will. The evening is becoming dark, and there 
will be ebb as I come back. I must land in the 
saltings.' 

Mehalah unhung a lanthorn from the ceiling and 
kindled a candle end in it, at the light upon the table. 
She opened the drawer of the table and took out a 
pistol. She looked at the priming, and then thrust it 
through a leather belt she wore under her guernsey. 

On that coast, haunted by smugglers and other 
lawless characters, a girl might well go armed. By 
the roadside to Colchester where cross ways met, was 
growing an oak that had been planted as an acorn in 
the mouth of a pirate of Eowhedge, not many years 
before, who had there been hung in chains for men 
murdered and maids carried off. Nearly every man 
carried a gun in hopes of bringing home wild fowl, and 
when Mehalah was in her boat, she usually took her 
gun with her for the same purpose. But men bore 
firearms not only for the sake of bringing home game ; 
self-protection demanded it. 



24 MEHALAH. 

At this period, the mouth of the Blackwater was a 
great centre of the smuggling trade ; the number and 
intricacy of the channels made it a safe harbour for 
those who lived on contraband traffic. It was easy for 
those who knew the creeks to elude the revenue boats, 
and every farm and tavern was ready to give cellarage 
to run goods and harbour to smugglers. 

Between Mersea and the Blackwater were several 
flat holms or islands, some under water at high-tides, 
others only just standing above it, and between these 
the winding waterways formed a labyrinth in which it 
was easy to evade pursuit and entangle the pursuers. 
The traffic was therefore here carried on with an 
audacity and openness scarce paralleled elsewhere. 
Although there was a coastguard station at the mouth 
of the estuary, on Mersea ' Hard,' yet goods were run 
even in open day under the very eyes of the revenue 
men. Each public-house on the island and on the 
mainland near a creek obtained its entire supply of wine 
and spirits from contraband vessels. Whether the coast- 
guard were bought to shut their eyes or were baffled by 
the adroitness of the smugglers, cannot be said, but 
certain it was, that the taverns found no difficulty in 
obtaining their supplies as often and as abundant as 
they desired. 

The villages of Virley and Salcot were the chief 
landing-places, and there horses and donkeys were 
kept in large numbers for the conveyance of the spirits, 
wine, tobacco and silk to Tiptree Heath, the scene of 
Boadicsea's great battle with the legions of Suetonius, 
which was the emporium of the trade. There a constant 
fair or auction of contraband articles went on, and 



THE KHYN. 25- 

thence they were distributed to JNIaldon, Colchester, 
Chelmsford, and even London. Tiptree Heath was a 
permanent camping ground of gipsies, and squatters 
ran up there rude hovels; these were all engaged in 
the distribution of the goods brought from the sea. 

But though the taverns were able to supply them- 
selves with illicit spirits, unchecked, the coastguard 
were ready to arrest and detain run goods not destined 
for their cellars. Deeds of violence were not rare, and 
many a revenue oflBcer fell a victim to his zeal. On 
Sunken Island oif Mersea, the story went, that a whole 
boat's crew were found with their throats cut ; they were 
transported thence to the churchyard, there buried, and 
their boat turned keel upwards over them. 

The gipsies were thought to pursue over-conscien- 
tious and successful officers on the mainland, and remove 
them with a bullet should they escape the smugglers on 
the water. 

The whole population of this region was more or 
less mixed up with, and interested in, this illicit traffic, 
and with defiance of the officers of the law, from the 
parson who allowed his nag and cart to be taken from 
his stable at night, left unbolted for the purpose, and 
received a keg now and then as repayment, to the 
vagabonds who dealt at the door far inland in silks and 
tobacco obtained free of duty on the coast. 

What was rare elsewhere was by no means uncommon 
here, gipsies intermarried with the people, and settled 
on the coast. The life of adventure, danger, and im- 
permanence was sufficiently attractive to them to induce 
them to abandon for it their roving habits ; perhaps 
the difference of life was not so marked as to make the 



26 MEHALAH. 

change distasteful. Thus a strain of wild, restless, 
law-defying gipsy blood entered the veins of the Essex 
marshland populations, and galvanised into new life 
the sluggish and slimy liquid that trickled through 
the East Saxon arteries. Adventurers from the Low 
Countries, from France, even from Italy and Spain — 
originally smugglers, settled on the coast, generally as 
publicans, in league with the owners of the contraband 
vessels, married and left issue. There were neither 
landed gentry nor resident incumbents in this district, 
to civilise and restrain. The land was held by yeomen 
farmers, and by squatters who had seized on and enclosed 
waste land, no man saying them nay. At the revocation 
of the Edict of Nantes a large number of Huguenot 
French families had settled in the ' Hundreds ' and the 
marshes, and for full a century in several of the churches 
divine service was performed alternately in French and 
English. To the energy of these colonists perhaps are 
due the long-extended sea-walls enclosing vast tracts of 
pasture from the tide. 

Those Huguenots not only infused their Grallic blood 
into the veins of the people, but also their Puritanic 
bitterness and Calvinistic partiality for Old Testament 
names. Thus the most frequent Christian names met 
with are those of patriarchs, prophets and Judaic kings, 
and the sire-names are foreign, often greatly corrupted. 

Yet, ill spite of this infusion of strange ichor from all 
sides, the agricultural peasant on the land remains un- 
altered, stamped out of the old unleavened dough of Saxon 
stolidity, forming a class apart from that of the farmers 
and that of the seamen, in intelligence, temperament, 
and gravitation. All he has derived from the French 



THE EHYX. 27 

element which has washed about him has been a nasal 
twang in his pronunciation of English. Yet his dogged 
adherence to one letter, which was jeopardised by the 
Gallic invasion, has reacted, and imposed on the in- 
vaders, and the v is universally replaced on the Essex 
coast by a iv. 

In the plaster and oak cottages away from the sea, 
by stagnant pools, the hatching places of clouds of 
mosquitos, whence rises with the night the haunting 
spirit of tertian ague, the hag that rides on, and takes 
the life out of the sturdiest men and women, and shakes 
and wastes the vital nerves of the children, live the old 
East Saxon slow moving, never thinking, day labourers. 
In the tarred wreck-timber cabins by the sea just above 
the reach of the tide, beside the shingle beach, swarms 
a yeasty, turbulent, race of mixed-breeds, engaged in 
the fishery and in the contraband trade. 

Mehalah went to the boat. It was floating. She 
placed the Ian thorn in the bows, cast loose, and began 
to row. She would need the light on her return, perhaps, 
as with the falling tide she would be unable to reach 
the landing-place under the farmhouse, and be forced 
to anchor at the end of the island, and walk home across 
the saltings. To cross these without a light on a dark 
night is not safe even to one knowing the lie of the land. 

A little light stiU lingered in the sky. There was 
a yellow grey glow in the west over the Bradwell shore. 
Its fringe of trees, and old barn chapel standing across 
the walls of the buried city Othona, stood sombre against 
the light, as though dabbed in pitch on a faded golden 
ground. The water was still, as no wind was blowing, 
and it reflected the sky and the stars that stole out, with 



28 MEHALAH. 

such distinctness that the boat seemed to be swimming 
in the sky, among black tatters of clouds, these being 
the streaks of land that broke the horizon and the re- 
flection. 

Grulls were screaming, and curlew uttered their 
mournful cry. Mehalah rowed swiftly down the Rhyn, 
as the channel was called that divided the Ray from the 
mainland, and that led to the * hard ' by the Rose inn, 
and formed the highway by which it drew its supplies, 
and from which every farm in the parish of Peldon 
carried its casks of strong liquor. To the west extended 
a vast marsh from which the tide was excluded by a 
dyke many miles in length. Against the northern 
horizon rose the hill of Wigborough crowned by a church 
and a great tumulus, and some trees that served as 
landmarks to the vessels entering the Blackwater. In 
ancient days the hill had been a beacon station, and it 
was reconverted to this purpose in time of war. A man 
was placed by order of Government in the tower, to 
light a crescet on the summit, in answer to a similar 
beacon at Mersea, in the event of a hostile fleet being 
seen in the oflBng. 

Now and then the boat — it was a flat-bottomed punt 
— hissed among the asters, as Mehalah shot over tracts 
usually dry, but now submerged ; she skirted next a bed 
of bulrushes. These reeds are only patient of occasional 
flushes with salt water, and where they grow it is at 
the opening of a land drain, or mark a fresh spring. 
Suddenly as she was cutting the flood, the punt was 
jarred and arrested. She looked round. A boat was 
across her bows. It had shot out of the rushes and 
stopped her. 



THE EHYN. 29 

' Whitner are you going, Glory ? ' 

The voice was that of Elijah Eebow, the last man 
Mehalah wished to meet at night, when alone on the 
water. 

' That is my affair, not yours,' she answered. ' I am 
in haste, let me pass.' 

' I will not. I will not be treated like this. Glory. 
I have shot you a couple of curlew, and here they are.' 

He flung the birds into her boat. Mehalah threw 
them back again. 

' Let it be an understood thing between us, Elijah, 
that we will accept none of your presents. You have 
brought my mother a keg of rum, and I have sworn to 
beat in the head of the next you give her. She will 
take nothing from you.' 

' There you are mistaken. Glory ; she will take as 
much as I will give her. You mean that you will not. 
I understand your pride, Glory ! and I love you for it.' 

' I care nothing for your love or your hate. We are 
naught to each other.' 

' Yes we are, I am your landlord. We shall see how 
that sentiment of yours will stand next Thursday.' 

' What do you mean ? ' asked Mehalah hastily. 

' What do I mean ? Why^ I suppose I am intelli- 
gible enough in what I say for you to understand me 
without explanation. When you come to pay the rent 
to me next Thursday, you will not be able to say we are 
naught to each other. Why ! you will have to pay me 
for every privilege of life you enjoy, for the house you 
occupy, for the marshes that feed your cow and swell its 
udder with milk, for the saltings on which your sheep 
fatten and grow their wool.' 



3'0 MEHALAH. 

The brave girl's heart failed for a moment She 
had not the money. What would Elijah say and do 
when he discovered that she and her mother were 
defaulters ? However, she put a bold face on the matter 
now, and thrusting off the boat with her oar, she said 
impatiently, ' You are causing me to waste precious 
time. I must be back before the water is out of the 
fleets.' 

' Whither are you going ? ' again asked Eebow, and 
again he drove his boat athwart her bows. ' It is not 
safe for a young girl like you to be about on the water 
after nightfall with ruffians of all sorts poaching on my 
saltings and up and down my creeks.' 

' I am going to Mersea City,' said Mehalah. 

' You are going to Greorge De Witt.' 

' What if I am ? That is no concern of yours.' 

' He is my cousin.' 

' I wish he were a cousin very far removed from 
you.' 

' Oh Grlory ! you are jesting.' He caught the side 
of the punt with his hand, for she made an effort to 
push past him. ' I shall not detain you long. Take 
these curlew. They are plump birds ; your mother 
will relish them. Take them, and be damned to your 
pride. I shot them for you.' 

' I will not have them, Elijah.' 

' Then I will not either,' and he flung the dead birds 
into the water. 

She seized the opportunity, and dipping her oars in 
the tide, strained at them, and shot away. She heard 
him curse, for his boat had grounded and he could not 
follow. 



THE EHYN. 31 

She laughed in reply. 

In twenty minutes Mehalah ran her punt on Mersea 
beach. Here a little above high-water mark stood a 
cluster of wooden houses and an old inn, pretentiously 
called the ' City,' a hive of smugglers. On the shore, 
somewhat east, and away from the city, lay a dismasted 
vessel, fastened upright by chains, the keel sunk in the 
shingle. She had been carried to this point at spring 
flood and stranded, and was touched, not lifted by the 
ordinary tides. Mehalah's punt, drawing no draught, 
floated under the side of this vessel, and she caught the 
ladder by which access was obtained to the deck. 

' Who is there ? ' asked Greorge De Witt, looking over 
the side. 

' I am come after you, George,' answered Mehalah. 

' Why, Glory ! what is the matter ? ' 

' There is something very serious the matter. You 
must come back with me at once to the Ray.' 

' Is your mother ill ? ' 

' Worse than that.' 

' Dead ? ' 

' No, no ! nothing of that sort. She is all right. 
But I cannot explain the circumstances now. Come at 
once and with me.' 

' I will get the boat out directly.' 

' Never mind the boat. Come in the punt with me. 
You cannot retm-n by water to-night. The ebb will 
prevent that. You will be obliged to go round by 
the Strood. Tell your mother not to expect you.' 

' But what is the matter, Glory ? ' 

' I will tell you when we are afloat.' 

' I shall be back directly, but I do not know liow 



^2 MEHALAH. 

the old woman will take it.' He swung himself down 
into the cabin, and announced to his mother that he 
was going to the Ray, and would retm'n on foot by the 
Strood. 

A gurgle of objurgations rose from the hatchway, 
and followed the young man as he made his escape. 

' I wouldn't have done it for another,' said he ; 'the 
old lady is put out, and will not forgive me. It wdll 
be bad walking by the Strood, Grlory ! Can't you put 
me across to the Fresh Marsh ? ' 

' If there is water enough I will do so. Be quick 
now. There is no time to spare.' 

He came down the ladder and stepped into the punt. 

'Give me the oars, Grlory. You sit in the stern 
and take the lanthorn.' 

' It is in the bows.' 

' I know that. But can you not understand. Glory, 
that when I am rowing, I like to see you. Hold the 
lanthorn so that I may get a peep of your face now and 
then.' 

' Do not be foolish, George,' said Mehalah. How- 
ever, she did as he asked, and the yellow dull light fell 
on her face, red handkerchief and cap. 

' You look like a witch,' laughed De Witt. 

' I will steer, row as hard as you can, George,' said 
the girl ; then abruptly she exclaimed, ' I have some- 
thing for you. Take it now, and look at it afterwards.' 

She drew the medal from her bosom, and passing 
the riband over her head, leaned forward, and tossed 
the loop across his shoulders. 

' Don't upset the boat. Glory ! Sit still ; a punt is 
an unsteady vessel, and won't bear dancing in. What 
is it that you have given me ? ' 



THE RHYN. 33 

* A keepsake.' 

' I shall always keep it, Glory, for tlie sake of the girl 
I love best in the world. Now tell me; ara I to row 
up Mersea channel or the Rhyn ? ' 

' There is water enough in the Rhyn, though we 
shall not be able to reach our hard. You row on, and 
do not trouble yourself about the direction, I will steer. 
We shall land on the Saltings. That is why I have 
brought the lanthorn with me.' 

' What are you doing with the light ? ' 

' I must put it behind me. With the blaze in my 
eyes I cannot see where to steer.' She did as she 
said. 

* Now tell me, Grlory, what you have hung round 
my neck.' 

* It is a medal, George.' 

' Whatever it be, it comes from you, and is worth 
more than gold.' 

' It is worth a great deal. It is a certain charm.' 

'Indeed!' 

' It preserves him who wears it from death by vio- 
lence.' 

At the word a flash shot out ot the rushes, and a 
bullet whizzed past the stern. 

George De Witt paused on his oars, startled, con- 
founded. 

' The bullet was meant for you or me,' said Mehalah 
in a low voice. ' Had the lanthorn been in the bows 
and not in the stern it would have struck you.' 

Then she sprang up and held the lanthorn aloft, 
above her head. 

' Coward, whoever you are, skulking in the reeds. 

]> 



34 MEHALAH. 

Show a light, if you are a man. Show a light as I do., 
and give me a mark in return.' 

' For heaven's sake, Glory, put out the candle,' ex- 
claimed De Witt in agitation. 

' Coward ! show a light, that I may have a shot at 
you,' she cried again, without noticing what Greorge 
said. In his alarm for her and for himself, he raised his 
oar and dashed the Ian thorn out of her hand. It fell, 
and went out in the water. 

Mehalah drew her pistol from her belt, and cocked it,. 
She was standing, without trembling, immovable in the 
punt, her eye fixed unflinching on the reeds, 

' George,' she said, ' dip the oars. Don't let her float 
away.' 

He hesitated. 

Presently a slight click was audible, then a feeble 
flash, as from flint struck with steel in the pitch black- 
ness of the shore. 

Then a small red spark burned steadily. 

Not a sound, save the ripple of the retreating tide. 

Mehalah's pistol was levelled at the spark. She^ 
fired, and the spark disappeared. 

She and George held their breath. 

' I have hit,' she said. ' Now run the punt in where 
the light was visible.' 

'No, Glory; this will not do. I am not going to 
run you and myself into fresh danger.' He struck out. 

' George, you are rowing away ! Give me the 

oars. I will find out who it was that fired at us.' 

^ 'This is foolhardiness,' he said, but obeyed. A 

couple of strokes ran the punt among the reeds^ 

Nothing was to be seen or heard. The night was dark 



THE RHYX. 35 

on the water, it was black as ink among the rushes. 
Several times De Witt stayed his hand and listened, 
but there was not a sound save the gurgle of the water, 
and the song of the night wind among the tassels and 
harsh leaves of the bulrushes. 

' She is aground,' said De Witt. 

'We must back into the channel, and push on to 
the Ray,' said Mehalah. 

The young man jumped into the water among the 
roots of the reeds, and drew the punt out till she floated ;, 
then he stepped in and resumed the oars. 

' Hist ! ' whispered De Witt. 

Both heard the click of a lock. 

' Down ! ' he whispered, and threw himself in the 
bottom of the punt. 

Another flash, report, and a bullet struck and 
splintered the bulwark. 

De Witt rose, resumed the oars, and rowed lustily. 

Mehalah had not stirred. She had remained erect 
in the stern and never flinched. 

' Coward ! ' she cried in a voice full of wrath and 
scorn, ' I defy you to death, be you who you may ! ' 



CHAPTER III. 

THE SEVEN WHISTLERS. 



The examination of old Abraham before Greorge De 
AMtt did not lead to any satisfactory result. The 
young man was unable to throw light on the mystery. 
He had not been with the shepherd all the while since 

D 2 



36 MEHALAH. 

the sale of the sheep ; nor had he seen the money. 
Abraham had indeed told him the sum for which he 
had parted with the flock, and in so doing had chinked 
the bag significantly. Greorge thought it was impossible 
for the shot and pennypieces that had been found in 
the pouch to have produced the metallic sound he had 
heard. Abraham had informed him of the sale in Col- 
chester. Then they had separated, and the shepherd had 
left the town before De Witt. 

The young man had overtaken him at the public- 
house called the Ked Lion at Abberton, half-way between 
Colchester and his destination. He was drinking a 
mug of beer with some seafaring men ; and they pro- 
ceeded thence together. But at the Rose, another 
tavern a few miles further, they had stopped for a glass 
and something to eat. But even there De Witt had 
not been with the old man all the while, for the land- 
lord had called him out to look at a contrivance he had 
in his punt for putting a false keel on her ; with a bar, 
after a fashion he had seen among the South Sea 
Islanders when he was a sailor. 

The discussion of this daring innovation had lasted 
some time, and when De Witt returned to the tavern, 
he found Abraham dozing, if not fast asleep, with his 
head on the table, and his money bag in his hand. 

' It is clear enough,' said the widow, ' that the money 
was stolen either at the Lion or at the Rose.' 

' I brought the money safe here,' said Abraham 
sullenly. ' It is of no use your asking questions, and 
troubling my head about what I did here and there. I 
was at the Woolpack at Colchester, at the Lion at 
Abberton, and lastly at the Rose. But I tell you I 



THE SEVEN WHISTLERS. 37 

brought the money here all safe, and laid it there on 
that table every penny.' 

'How can you be sure of that, Abraham ?' 

' I say I know it.' 

' But Abraham, what grounds have you for such 
assurance ? Did you count the money at the Eose ? ' 

' I don't care what you may ask or say. I brought 
the money here. If you have lost it, or it has been 
bewitched since then, I am not to blame.' 

' Abraham, it must have been stolen on the road. 
There was no one here to take the money.' 

' That is nothing to me. I say I laid the money all 
right there ! ' He pointed to the table. 

'You may go, Abraham,' said Mehalah. 

' Do you charge me with taking the money ? ' the 
old man asked with moody temper. 

' Of course not,' answered the girl. ' We did not 
suspect you for one moment.' 

' Then whom do you lay it on ? ' 

' We suspect some one whom you met at one of 
the taverns.' 

' I tell you,' he said with an oath, ' I brought the 
money here.' 

' You cannot prove it,' said De Witt ; ' if you have 
any reasons for saying this, let us hear them.' 

' I have no reasons,' answered the shepherd, ' but I 
know the truth all the same. I never have reasons, I 
do not want to have them, when I know a fact.' 

' Did you shake the bag and make the money chink 
on the way ? ' 

'• I will not answer any more questions. If you 
suspect me to be the thief, say so to my face, and don't 



38 MEHALAH. 

go ferriting and trapping to ketch me, and then go 
and lay it on me before a magistrate.' 

' You had better go, Abraham. No one disputes 
your perfect honesty,' said Mehalah. 

^ But I will not go, if anyone suspects me.' 

' We do not suspect you.' 

' Then why do you ask questions ? Who asks 
questions who don't want to lay a wickedness on 
one ?' 

' Gro off to bed, Abraham,' said widow Sharland. 
* We have met with a dreadful loss, and the Almighty 
knows how we are to come out of it.' 

The old man went forth grumbling imprecations 
on himself if he answered any more questions. 

' Well,' asked Mehalah of De Witt, when the shep- 
herd was gone, ' what do you think has become of the 
money ? ' 

' I suppose he was robbed at one of the taverns. I 
see no other possible way of accounting for the loss. 
The bag was not touched on the table from the moment 
Abraham set it down till you opened it.' 

'No. My mother was here all the time. There 
was no one else in the room but Elijah Kebow.' 

' He is out of the question,' said De Witt. 

' Besides, my mother never left her seat whilst he 
was here. Did you, mother ? ' 

The old woman shook her head. 

' What are we to do ? ' she asked ; ' we have no 
money now for the rent ; and that must be paid next 
Thursday.' 

' Have you none at all ? ' 

'None but a trifle which we need for purchases 



THE SEVEN WHISTLERS. 39 

against the winter. There was more in the bag than 
was needed for the rent, and how we shall struggle 
through the winter without it, heaven alone can tell.' 

' You have no more sheep to sell ? ' 

'None but ewes, which cannot be parted with.' 

' Nor a cow ? ' 

' It would be impossible for us to spare her.' 

' Then I will lend you the money,' said Greorge. ' I 
have something laid by, and you shall have what you 
need for the rent out of it. Mehalah will repay me 
some day.' 

' I will, Greorge ! I will ! ' said the girl vehemently, 
and her eyes filled. She took the two hands of her 
lover in her own, and looked him full in the face. Her 
-eyes expressed the depth of her gratitude which her 
tongue could not utter. 

' Now that is settled,' said De Witt, ' let us talk of 
something else.' 

' Come along, George,' said Mehalah, hastily, inter- 
rupting him. ' If you want to be put across on Fresh 
Marsh, you must not stay talking here any longer.' 

' All right, Grlory ! I am ready to go with you, any- 
where, to the world's end.' 

As she drew him outside, she whispered, ' I was 
afraid of your speaking about the two shots to-night. 
I do not wish my mother to hear of that ; it would 
alarm her.' 

' But I want to talk to you about them,' said De 
Witt. ' Have you any notion who it was that fired at 
«s?' 

' Have you ? ' asked Mehalah, evading an answer. 

' I have a sort of a notion.' 



40 MEHALAH. 

' So have I. As I was going down the Ehyn ta 
fetch you, I was stopped by Elijah Rebow.' 

* Well, what did he want ? ' 

' He wanted me to take some curlew he had shot ; 
but that was not all, he tried to prevent my going on. 
He said that I ought not to be on the water at night 
alone.' 

' He was right. He knew a thing or two.' 

' He did not like my going to Mersea — to you.' 

' I dare say not. He knew what was in the wind.' 

' What do you mean, George ? ' 

' He tried to prevent your going on ? ' 

' Yes, he did, more than once.' 

' Then he is in it. T don't like Elijah, but I did 
not think so badly of him as that.' 

' What do you mean, Greorge ? ' 

As they talked they walked down the meadow to 
the saltings. They were obliged to go slowly and' 
cautiously. The tide had fallen rapidly, and left the 
pools brimming. Every runnel was full of water racing 
out with the rush of a mill stream. ' You see, Griory, 
the new captain of the coastguard has been giving a 
deal of trouble lately. He has noticed the single-flash- 
ing from the Leather Bottle at the city, and has guessed 
or found out the key ; so he has been down there flash- 
ing false signals with a lanthorn. By this means he 
has brought some of the smugglers very neatly into 
traps he has laid for them. They are as mad as devils, 
they swear he is taking an unfair advantage of them, 
and that they will have his life for it. That is what 
I have heard whispered; and I hear a great many 
things.' 



THE SEVEN WHISTLERS. 41 

' Oh, George ! have you not warned him ? ' 

' I ! my dear Grlory ! what can I do ? He knows 
lie is in danger as well as I. It is a battle between 
them, and it don't do for a third party to step between. 
That is what we have done to-night, and near got 
knocked over for doing it. Captain Macpherson is about, 
night and day. There never was a fellow more wide 
awake, at least not on this station. What do you think 
he did the other day ? A vessel came in, and he over- 
hauled her, but found nothing ; he sought for some 
barrels drawn along attached behind her, below water 
level, but couldn't find them. As he was leaving, he 
just looked up at the tackling. " Halloo ! " said he to 
the captain, " your cordage is begun to untwist, suppose 
I have yom' old ropes and give you new ? " He sent a 
man aloft, and all the ropes were made of twisted 
tobacco. Now, as you may suppose, the smugglers don't 
much like such a man.' ^ 

'But, George, he would hardly go about at night 
with a lanthorn in his boat.' 

' That is what he does — only it is a dark lanthorn, 
and with it he flashes his signals. That is what makes 
the men so mad. It is not my doctrine to shoot a man 
who does his duty. If a man is a smuggler let him do 
his duty as one. If he is a coastguard, let him do his 
duty by the revenue.' 

' But, George ! if he were out watching for smug- 
glers, he would not have carried his light openly.' 

'He might have thought all was safe in the 
Ehyn.' 

' Then again,' pursued Mehalah, ' I spoke, and there 
was a second shot after that.' 



42 MEHALAH. 

' Whoever was there waiting for the captain may 
have thought you were a boy. I do not believe the shot 
was at you, but at me.' 

' But I held the light up. It would have been seen 
that I was a woman.' 

' Not a bit. All seen would be your cap and jersey, 
which are such as sailor boys wear.' 

Mehalah shook her head thoughtfully and some- 
what doubtfully, and paced by the side of De Witt. 
She did not speak for some time. She was not satisfied 
with his explanation, but she could not state her reasons 
for dissatisfaction. 

Presently she said, ' Do you think that it was Kebow 
who fired ? ' 

' No, of course I do not. He knew you were out, 
and with a light; and he knows your voice.' 

' But you said he was in the plot.' 

' I said that I supposed he knew about it ; he 
knew that there were men out in punts waiting for the 
captain, he probably knew that there was some fellow 
lurking in the Rhyn ; but I did not say that he would 
shoot the captain. I do not for a moment suppose he 
would. He is not greatly affected by his vigilance. 
He gets something out of the trade, but not enough to 
be of importance to him. A man of his means would 
not think it worth his while to shoot an officer.' 

' Then you conjecture that he warned me, and went 
home.' 

' That is most likely, I would have done the same ; 
nay more, I would not have let you go on, if I knew 
there were fellows about this night with guns on the look- 
out. He did not dare to speak plainly what he knew, 



THE SEVEN WHISTLEES. 43 

l)ut he gave you a broad hint, and his best advice, and 
I admire and respect him for it.' 

' You and Eebow are cousins ? ' 

' His father's sister is my mother. The land and 
money all went to Elijah's father who is now dead, and 
is now in Elijah's hands. My mother got nothing. The 
fan\ily were angry with her for marrying ofif the land 
on to the water. But you see at Ked Hall she had 
lived, so to speak, half in and half out of the sea ; she 
took to one element as readily as to the other.' 

' I can trace little resemblance in your features, but 
something in your voice.' 

' Now, Griory ! ' said the young man, ' here is the 
boat. How fast the tide ebbs here ! She is already 
dry, and we must shove her down over the grass 
and mud till she floats. You step in, I will run her 
along.' 

The wind had risen, and was wailing over the 
marshes, sighing among the harsh herbage, the sea- 
lavender, sovereign wood, and wild asparagus. Not a 
€loud was visible. The sky was absolutely unblurred 
and thick besprint with stars. Jupiter burned in the 
south, and cast a streak of silver over the ebbing 
waters. 

The young people stood silent by each other for a 
moment, and their hearts beat fast. Other matters had 
broken in on and troubled the pleasant current of their 
love ; but now the thought of these was swept aside, and 
their hearts rose and stretched towards each other. They 
had known each other for many years, and the friendship 
of childhood had insensibly ripened in their hearts to 
love. 



44 MEHALAH. 

' I have not properly thanked you, Greorge, for the 
promise of help in our trouble.' 

' Nor I, Mehalah, for the medal you have given me.' 

' Promise me, Greorge, to wear it ever. It saved your 
life to-night, I doubt not.' 

' What ! Does it save from death ? ' 

'From sudden death,' answered Mehalah. I told 
you so before, in the boat.' 

' I forgot about it. Glory.' 

' I will tell you now all about it, my friend. The 
charm belonged to my mother's mother. She, as I 
daresay you have heard, was a gipsy. My grandfather 
fell in love with her and married her. He was a well- 
to-do man, owning a bit of land of his own; but he 
would go to law with a neighbour and lost it, and it 
went to the lawyer. Well, my grandmother brought the 
charm with her, and it has been in the family ever 
since. It had been in the gipsy family of my grand- 
mother time out of mind, and was lent about when any 
of the men went on dangerous missions. No one who 
wears it can die a sudden death from violence — that is ' 
— Mehalah qualified the assertion, ' on land.' 

' It does not preserve one on the water then ? ' said 
Greorge, with an incredulous laugh. 

'I won't say that. It surely did so to-night. It 
saves from shot and stab.' 

' Not from drowning ? ' 

' I think not.' 

' I must get a child's caul, and then I shall be im- 
mortal.' 

' Don't joke, George,' said Mehalah gravely. ' AMiat 
I say is true.' 



THE SEVEN WHISTLERS. 45 

' Griory ! ' said De Witt, ' I always thought you looked 
like a gipsy with your dark skin and large brown eyes, 
and now from your own lips comes the confession that 
you are one.' 

' There is none of the blood in my mother,' said she, 
' she is like an ordinary Clnistian. I fancy it jumps a 
generation.' 

' Well, then, you dear gipsy, here is my hand. Tell 
my fortune.' 

' I cannot do that. But I have given you a gipsy 
charm against evil men and accidents.' 

' Hark ! ' 

Out of the clear heaven was heard plaintive whistles, 
loud, high up, inexpressibly weird and sad, ' Ewe ! ewe ! 
ewe ! ' They burst shrilly on the ears, then became 
fainter, then burst forth again, then faded away. It 
was as though spirits were passing in the heavens wail- 
ing about a brother sprite that had flickered into 
nothingness. 

' The curlew are in flight. What is the matter, 
Mehalah ? ' 

The girl was shivering. 

' Are you cold ! ' 

' Greorge ! those are the Seven Whistlers.' 

' They are the long-beaked curlew going south.' 

' They are the Seven Whistlers, and they mean death 
or deathlike woe. For God's sake, George,' she threw 
her arms round him, ' swear, swear to me, never to lay 
aside the medal I have given you, but to wear it night 
and day.' 

' There ! Glory, I swear it.' 



46 MEHALAF. 

CHAPTER IV. 

EED HALL. 

The rent-paying day was bright and breezy. The tide 
was up in the morning, and Mehalah and her mother in 
a boat with sail and jib and spritsailflew before a north- 
east wind down the Mersea Channel, and doubling 
Sunken Island, entered the creek which leads to Salcot 
and Virley, two villages divided only by a tidal stream, 
and connected by a bridge. 

The water danced and sparkled, multitudes of birds 
were on the wing, now dipping in the wavelets, now 
rising and shaking off the glittering drops. A high 
sea-wall hid the reclaimed land on their left. Behind it 
rose the gaunt black structure of a windmill used for 
pumping the water out of the dykes in the marsh. It 
was working now, the great black arms revolving in the 
breeze, and the pump creaking as if the engine groaned 
remonstrances at being called to toil on such a bright 
day. A little further appeared a tiled roof above the wall. 

' There is Eed Hall,' said Mehalah, as she ran the 
boat ashore and threw out the anchor. ' I have brought 
the stool, mother,' she added, and helped the old woman 
to land dry-footed. The sails were furled, and then 
Mehalah and her mother climbed the wall and descended 
into the pastures. These were of considerable extent, 
reclaimed saltings, but of so old a date that the brine 
was gone from the soil, and they furnished the best feed 
for cattle anywhere round. Several stagnant canals or 
ditches intersected the flat tract and broke it into islands. 



EED HALL. 47 

"but they hung together by the thread of sea-wall, and 
the windmill drained the ditches into the sea. 

In the midst of the pasture stood a tall red-brick 
house. There was not a tree near it. It rose from the 
flat like a tower. The basement consisted of cellars 
above ground, and there were arched entrances to these 
from the two ends. They were lighted by two small 
round windows about four feet from the ground. A 
flight of brick stairs built over an arch led from a paved 
platform to the door of the house, which stood some six 
feet above the level of the marsh. The house had per- 
haps been thus erected in view of a flood overleaping 
the walls, and converting the house for a while into an 
island, or as a preventive to the inhabitants against ague. 
The sea-walls had been so well kept that no tide had 
poured over them, and the vaults beneath served partly 
as cellars, and being extensive, were employed with 
the connivance of the owner as a storeplace for run 
spirits. The house was indeed very conveniently situated 
for contraband trade. A ' fleet ' or tidal creek on either 
side of the marsh allowed of approach or escape by the 
one when the other was watched. Nor was this all. 
The marsh itself was penetrated by three or four ramifi- 
cations of the two main channels, to these the sea-wall 
accommodated itself instead of striking across them, and 
there was water-way across the whole marsh, so that if 
a boat were lifted over the bank on one side, it could be 
rowed across, again lifted, and enter the other channel, 
before a pursuing boat would have time to return to and 
double the spit of land that divided the fleets. The 
windmill which stood on this spit was in no favour with 
the coastguard, for it was thought to act tlie double 



48 MEHALAH. 

purpose of pump and observatory. The channel south 
of these marshes, called the Tollesbury Fleet, was so full 
of banks and islets as to be difficult to navigate, and 
more than once a revenue boat had got entangled and 
grounded there, when in pursuit of a smuggled cargo, 
which the officers had every reason to believe was at that 
time being landed on the Eed Hall marshes, and carted 
into Salcot and Virley with the farmer's horses. 

The house was built completely of brick, the win- 
dows were of moulded brick, mullions and drip stone, 
and the roof was of tile. How the name of Eed Hall 
came to be given it, was obvious at a glance. 

Eound the house was a yard paved with brick, and 
a moat filled with rushes and weed. There were a few 
low outhouses, stable, cowsheds, bakehouse, forming a 
yard at the back, and into that descended the stair 
from the kitchen-door over a flying arch, like that in 
front. 

Perhaps the principal" impression produced by the 
aspect of Eed Hall on the visitor was its solitariness. 
The horizon was bounded by sea wall ; only when the 
door was reached, which was on a level with the top of 
the mound, were the glittering expanse of sea, the 
creeks, and the woods on Mersea Island and the main- 
land visible. Mehalah and her mother had never been 
at Eed Hall before, and though they were pretty familiar 
with the loneliness of the marshes, the utter isolation 
of this tall gaunt house impressed them. The thorn- 
trees at the Eay gave their farm an aspect of snugness 
compared with this. From the Eay, village-church 
towers and cultivated acres were visible, but so long as 
they were in the pasture near the Hall, nothing was to 



BED HALL. 4^ 

"be seen save a flat tract of grass land intersected with 
lines of bulrush, and bounded by a mound. 

Several cows and horses were in the pasture, but no 
human being was visible. Mehalah and her mother 
hesitated before ascending the stair. 

' This is the queerest place for a Christian to live in 
I ever saw,' said the widow. ' Look tliere, Mehalah, 
there is a date on the door, sixteen hundred and thirty- 
six. Gro up and knock.' 

' Do you see that little window in the sea face of the 
house, mother ? ' 

* Yes. There is none but it.' 

' I can tell you what that is for. It is to signal 
from with a light.' 

' I don't doubt it. Go on.' 

Mehalah slowly ascended the stair ; it was without 
a balustrade. She struck against the door. The door 
was of strong plank thickly covered with nails, and the 
date of which the widow had spoken was made with 
nail-heads at the top. 

Her knock met with no response, so she thrust the 
door open and entered, followed by her mother. 

The room she stepped into was large and low. It 
was lighted by but one window to the south, fitted with 
lead lattice. The floor was of brick, for the cellarage 
was vaulted and supported a solid basement. There 
was no ceiling, and the oak rafters were black with age 
and smoke. The only ornaments decorating the walls 
were guns and pistols, some of curious foreign make. 

The fire-place was large ; on the oak lintel was cut 
deep the inscription : — 

'when I HOLD (1636) I HOLD FAST.' 



50 MEHALAH. 

Mehalah had scarce time to notice all this, when a 
trap-door she had not observed in the floor flew up, and 
the head, then the shoulders, and finally the entire body, 
of Elijah Eebow emerged from the basement. Without 
taking notice of his tenants, he leisurely ran a stout 
iron bolt through a staple, making fast the trap at the 
top, then he did the same with a bolt at the bottom. 

At the time, this conduct struck Mehalah as singular. 
It was as though Eebow were barring a door from within 
lest he should be broken in on from the cellar. 

Elijah slowly drew a leather armchair over the trap- 
door, and seated himself in it. The hole through which 
he had ascended was near the fire-place, and now that 
he sat over it he occupied the ingle nook. 

' Well, Glory ! ' said he suddenly, addressing Mehalah. 
* So you have not brought the rent. You have come 
with your old mother to blubber and beg compassion 
and delay. I know it all. It is of no use. Tears 
don't move me, I have no pity, and I grant no delay. 
I want my money. Every man does. He wants his 
money when its due. I calculated on it, I've a debt 
which I shall wipe off with it, so there ; now no excuses, 
I tell you they won't do. Sheer off.' 

' Master Rebow — ' began the widow. 

'You may save your speech,' said Elijah, cutting 
her short. ' Faugh ! when I've been down there.' — he 
pointed with his thumb towards the cellar — ' I need a 
smoke.' He drew forth a clay pipe and tobacco-box and 
leisurely filled the bowl. Whilst he was lighting his 
pipe at the hearth, where an old pile was smouldering, 
and emitting an odour like gunpowder, Mehalah drew a 
purse from her pocket and counted the amount of the 



RED HALL. ' ' 51 

rent on the table. Kebow did not observe her. He was 
engaged in making his pipe draw, and the table was 
behind the chair. 

' Well ! ' said he, blowing a puff of smoke, and chuck- 
ling, ' I fancy you are in a pretty predicament. Read 
that over the fire, cut yonder, do you see ? " When I 
hold, I hold fast." I didn't cut that, but my fore-elders 
did, and we all do that. Why, George De Witt's 
mother thought to have had some pickings out of the 
marsh, she did, but my father got hold of it, and he 
held fast. He did not let go a penny; no, not a 
farthing. It is a family characteristic. It is a family 
pleasure. We take a pride in it. I don't care what it 
is, whether it is a bit of land, or a piece of coin, or a 
girl, it is all the same, and I think you'll find it is so 
with me. Eh ! Glory ! When I hold, I hold fast.' He 
turned in his chair and leered at her. 

' There, there,' said she, ' lay hold of your rent, and 
hold fast till death. We want none of it.' 

' What is that ? ' exclaimed Rebow, starting out of 
his seat. ' What money is that ? ' 

' The rent,' said Mehalah ; she stood erect beside 
the table in her haughty beauty, and laughed at the 
surprised and angry, expression that clouded Rebow's 
countenance. 

' I won't take it. You have stolen it.' 

' Master Rebow,' put in the widow, ' the money is 
yours ; it is the rent, not a penny short.' 

' Where did you get the money ? ' he asked with a 
curse. 

' You bid me bring the money on rent-day, and there 

E 2 



52 MEHALAH. 

it is,' said Mehalah. ' But now I will ask a question, 
and I insist on an answer.' 

' Oh ! you insist, do you ? ' 

' I insist on an answer,' repeated the girl. ' How 
did you come to think we were without money ? ' 

'Suppose I don't choose to answer.' 

' If you don't — ' she began, then hesitated. 

'I will tell you,' he said, sulkily. 'Abraham Dow- 
sing, your shepherd, isn't dumb, I believe. He talks, 
he does, and has pretty well spread the news all round 
the country how he was robbed of his money at the 
Rose.' 

' Abraham has never said anything of the sort. He 
denies that he was robbed.' 

' Then he says he is accused of being robbed, which 
is the same. I suppose the story is true.' 

' It is quite true. Master Rebow,' answered the widow. 
' It was a terrible loss to us. We had sold all the sheep 
we could selL' 

Oh! a terrible loss, indeed I' scoffed the man. 
You are so flush of money, that a loss of ten or fifteen, 
or may be twenty pounds is nought to you. You have 
your little store in one of those cupboards in every 
corner of the old house, and you put your hand in, and 
take out what you like. You call yourself poor, do you, 
and think nothing of a loss like this ? ' 

' We are very poor,' said the widow ; ' Heaven knows 
we have a hard battle to fight to make both ends meet, 
and to pay our rent.' 

' I don't believe it. You are telling me lies.' 

He took the coin, and counted it ; his dark brow 
grew blacker ; and he ground his teeth. Once he raised 



( 

c 



EED HALL. 53 

his wolfish eyes and glared on Mehalah. ' That guinea 
is bad,' he said, and he threw it on the floor. 

' It rings like a good one,' answered the girl, ' pick 
it up and give it to me. I will let you have another in 
its place.' 

' Oh ho ! your pocket is lined with guineas, is it ? 
I will raise the rent of the Eay. I thought as much, 
the land is fatter than mine on this marsh. You get 
the place dirt cheap. I'll raise the rent ten pounds. 
I'll raise it twenty.' 

' Master Eebow ! ' pleaded the widow, ' the Eay won't 
allow us to pay it.' 

'Do not put yourself out, mother,' said Mehalah, 
^ we have a lease of twenty-one years ; and there are 
seven more years to run, before Eebow can do what he 
threatens.' 

' Oh, you are clever, you are. Glory ! cursed clever. 
Now look here, Mistress Sharland, I'm going to have a 
rasher, and it's about dinner time, stop and bite with 
me ; and that girl there, she shall bite too. You can't 
be back till evening, and you'U be perished with 
hunger.' 

' Thank you, master,' answered the widow eagerly. 

'And I'll give you a sup of the very primest 
brandy.' 

'Mother, we must return at once. The tide will 
ebb, and we shall not be able to get away. ' 

' That's a lie,' said Elijah angrily, ' as you've got 
here, you can get away. There's plenty of water in the 
fleet, and will be for three hours. I knew you'd come 
. and so I got some rashers all ready on the pan ; there 
they be.' 



54 MEHALAH. 

' You're very kind,' observed the widow. 

' A landlord is bound to give his tenantry a dinner 
on rent-day,' said Kebow, with an ugly laugh which 
displayed his great teeth. ' It's Michaelmas, but I have 
no goose. I keep plenty on the marshes. They do well 
here, and they pay well too.' 

' I will have a witness that I have paid the rent,* 
said Mehalah. ' Call one of your men.' 

' Go and call one yourself. I am going to fry the 
rashers.' 

' That guinea is still on the floor,' said Mehalah. 

'I have refused it. Pick it up, and give me 
another.' 

' I will not pick it up ; and I will not give you 
another till you have convinced me that the coin is bad.^ 

' Then let it lie.' 

' Where are your men ? ' 

' I don't know, go and find them. They're at their 
dinner now. I dare say near the pump.' 

Mehalah left the house, but before she descended the 
steps, she looked over the flat. There was a sort of 
shed for cattle half a mile ofi*, and she thought she saw 
some one moving there. She went at once in that 
direction. 

Scarce was she gone when Elijah beckoned the 
widow to draw over a chair to the fire. 

' You cook the wittles,' said he ; ' I'm my own cook 
in general, but when a woman is here, why, I'm fain to 
let her take the job off my hands.' 

The old woman obeyed with as much activity as she 
was mistress of. Whilst thus engaged, Elijah walked to 
the door, opened it, and looked out. 



RED HALL. 55 

' She's going as straight as a wild duck,' he said, 
and laughed ; ' she is a damned fine girl. Listen to 
me, mistress, that daughter of yours, Grlory, is too good- 
looking to be mewed up on the Ray. You should marry 
her, and then settle yourself comfortably down for the 
rest of your days in your son-in-law's house.' 

' Ah I Master Rebow, she is poor, she is, and now 
young men look out for money.' 

' You don't want a very young man for such as she. 
Why, she is as wild as a gipsy, and needs a firm hand 
to keep her. He that has hold of her should hold fast.' 

The widow shook her head. ' We don't see many 
folks on the Ray. She will have to marry a fellow on 
the water.' 

' No, she won't,' said Rebow angrily. ' Damn her, 
she shall marry a farmer, who owns land and marshes, 
and saltings, and housen, and takes rents, and don't 
mind to drop some eight hundred pound on a bit of 
a farm that takes his fancy.' 

' Such men are not easy to be got.' 

' No, there you are right, mistress ; but when you 
find one, why ' he drew his pipe over the inscrip- 
tion on the fireplace. ' I'm the man, and now you hold 
me, hold fast.' 

' You, master ! ' 

' Aye, I. I like the girl. By G-od ! I will have 
Glory. She was born for me. There is not another 
girl I have seen that I would give an oystershell for, 
but she— she — she makes my blood run like melted 
lead, and my heart here gnaws and burns in my breast 
like a fiery rat. I tell you I will have her. I wilL' 

' If it only rested with me,' moaned the widow. 



66 MEHALAH. 

' Look here,' said Eebow. * Lay that pan on one 
side and follow me. I'll show you over the house.' 
He caught her by the wrist, and dragged her from room 
to room, and up the stairs. When he had brought her 
back to the principal apartment in which they had been 
sitting, he chuckled with pride. ' Ain't it a good house ? 
It's twenty times better than the Ray. It is more com- 
fortable, and there are more rooms. And all these 
marshes and meadows are mine, and I have also some 
cornfields in Virley, on the mainland. And then the 
Eay is mine, with the saltings and all thereon ; — I 
bought it for eight hundred pounds.' 

' We are very much honoured,' said the widow, ' but 
you do not consider how poor Mehalah is; she has 
nothing.' 

Elijah laughed. ' Not so very poor neither, I fancy. 
You lost the price of your sheep, and yet you had money 
in store wherewith to pay the rent.' 

' Indeed, indeed we had not.' 

' Where then did you get the money ? ' 

* It was lent us.' 

' Lent you, who by ? ' asked Elijah sharply. 

' Greorge De Witt was so good ' 

Elijah uttered a horrible curse. 

' Tell me,' he said furiously, coming up close to the 
old woman and scowling at her — into her eyes. ' Answer 
me without a lie ; why, by what right did De Witt lend, 
or give you, the money ? What claim had you on him ? ' 

' Well, Elijah, I must tell you. Mehalah ' 

' Here I am,' said the girl throwing open the door. 
*Why am I the subject of your talk?' A couple of 
shepherds followed her. 



KED HALL. 57 

' Look here,' she said, counting the coin ; ' there is 
a guinea on the floor. Pick it up and try it, if it be 
good.' 

' That's all right,' said one of the men, ringing the 
coin and then trying it between his teeth. 

' This is the sum due for our half-year's rent,' she 
went on. ' Is it not so, Master Kebow ? Is not this 
the sum in full ? ' 

He sullenly gave an affirmative. 

' You see that I pay this over to him. I don't want 
a written receipt. I pay before witnesses.' 

Eebow signed to the men to leave, and then with 
knitted brow collected the money and put it in his 
pocket. The widow went on with the frying of the 
bacon. 

' Come along with me, mother, to the boat. We 
cannot stay to eat.' 

' You shall eat with me. You have come for the 
first time under my roof to-day, and you shall not go 
from under it without a bite.' 

' I have no appetite.' 

' But I have,' said the widow testily. ' I don't see 
why you are in such a hurry, Mehalah ; and what is 
more, I don't see why you should behave so unpolitely 
to Master Eebow when he fares to be so civil.' 

' Eat then, if you will, mother,' said Mehalah ; ' but 
I cannot. I have no hunger,' after a pause, firmly, ' I 
will not.' 

' Oh, you have a mil indeed,' remarked Kebow with 
a growl. ' A will it would be a pleasure to break, and 
I'll do it.' 

The bacon was fried, and the widow proceeded to 



58 MEHALAH. 

dish it up. There was a rack in the next room, as 
Elijah told her, with plates in it, and there were knives 
and forks in the drawer. 

Whilst the old woman was getting the necessary- 
articles, Eebow was silent, seated in his leather chair, 
his elbows on his knees, with the pipe in one hand, and 
his head turned on one side, watching Mehalah out of 
his fierce, crafty eyes. The girl had seated herself on a 
chair against the wall, as far away from him as possible. 
Her arms were folded over her breast, and her head was 
bent, to avoid encountering his glance. She was angry 
with her mother for staying to eat with the man whom 
she hated. 

During this quiet — neither speaking — a curious 
grating noise reached her ear, and then a clank like 
that of a chain. She could not quite make out whence 
the noise came. It was some little while before it 
sufficiently attracted her attention to make her consider 
about it ; and before she had formed any conclusion, 
her mother returned, and spread the table, and placed 
the meat on a dish. 

' I'll go and fetch the liquor,' said Rebow, and went 
away. Whilst he was absent, again the sound met the 
girl's ears. Neither she nor her mother had spoken, but 
now she said, ' Listen, mother, what is that sound ? ' 

The old woman stood still for a moment, and then 
proceeded with her task. 

' It is nothing,' she said indifferently, ' the sound 
comes up from below the floor. I reckon Master Rebow 
has cows fastened there.' 

' By a chain,' added Mehalah, and dismissed the 
matter from her mind ; the explanation satisfied her. 



EED HALL. 59 

Eebow returned the next moment with a bottle. 

' This is prime spirit, this is,' said he. ' You can't 
drink water here, it gives the fever. You must add 
spirits to it to make it harmless.' 

' You have no beautiful spring here, as we have on 
the Ray,' observed the widow. 

' Not likely to have,' answered the surly landlord. 
' Now sit down and eat. Come, Glory.' 

She did not move. 

'Come, Mehalah, draw up your chair,' said her 
mother. 

' I am not going to eat,' she answered reso- 
lutely. 

' You shall,' shouted Elijah, rising impetuously, and 
thrusting his chair back. ' You are insulting me in my 
own house if you refuse to eat with me.' 

' I have no appetite.' 

' You will not eat, I heard you say so. I know the 
devilry of your heart. You will not, but I ivilV In 
his rage he stamped on the trap-door that he had un- 
covered, when removing tlie chair. Instantly a pro- 
longed, hideous howl rose from the depths and rang 
through the room. Mistress Sharland started back 
aghast. Mehalah raised her head, and the colour left 
her cheek. 

'Oh ho ! ' roared Elijah. ' You will join in also, 
will you ? ' He drew the bolts passionately back. 

' Look here,' he cried to Mehalah. ' Come here ! ' 

Involuntarily she obeyed, and looked down. She 
saw into a vault feebly illuminated by daylight through 
one of the circular windows she had noticed on ap- 
proaching the house. There she saw looking up, directly 



'60 MEHALAH. 

under the trap, a face so horrible in its dirt and madness 
that she recoiled. 

' She won't eat, she won't bite with me,' shouted 
Kebow, ' then neither shall her mother eat, nor will I. 
You shall have the whole.' He caught up the dish, 
and threw down the rashers. The man below snapped, 
and caught like a wild beast, and uttered a growl of 
satisfaction. 

Eebow flung the door back into its place, and re- 
bolted it. Then he placed his chair in its former posi- 
tion, and looked composedly from the widow to Mehalah 
and seemed to draw pleasure from their fear. 

' My brother,' he explained. ' Been mad from a 
child. A good job for me, as he was the elder. Now 
I have him in keeping, and the land and the house and 
the money are mine. What I hold, I hold fast. Amen.' 



CHAPTER V. 

THE DECOY. 

There was commotion on the beach at Mersea City. 

A man-of-war, a schooner, lay off the entrance to 
the Blackwater, and was signalling with bunting to the 
coastguard ship, permanently anchored off the island, 
which was replying. War had been declared with 
France some time, but as yet had not interfered with 
the smuggling trade, which was carried on with the 
Low Countries. Cruisers in the Channel had made it 
precarious work along the South Coast, and this had 
rather stimulated the activity of contraband traffic on 



THE DECOY. 61 

the East. It was therefore with no little uneasiness that 
a war ship was observed standing off the Mersea flats. 
Why was she there ? Was a man-of-war to cruise about 
the mouth of the Colne and Blackwater continually? 
What was the purport of the correspondence carried on 
between the schooner and the coastguard ? Such were 
the queries put about among those gathered on the 
shingle. 

They were not long left in doubt, for a boat manned 
by coastguards left the revenue vessel and ran ashore ; 
the captain sprang out, and went up the beach to his 
cottage, followed by a couple of the crew. The eager 
islanders crowded round the remainder, and asked the 
news. 

The captain was appointed to the command of the 
schooner, the ' Salamander,' which had come from the 
Downs under the charge of the first lieutenant, to pick 
him up. The destiny of the ' Salamander ' was, of 
course, unknown. 

Captain Macpherson was a keen, canny Scot, small 
and dapper ; as he pushed through the cluster of men 
in fishing jerseys and wading boots he gave them a nod 
and a word, ' You ought to be serving your country 
instead of robbing her, ye loons. Why don't you volun- 
teer like men, there's more money to be made by prizes 
than by running spirits.' 

' That won't do, captain,' said Jim Morrell, an old 
fisherman. ' We know better than that. There's the 
oysters.' 

' Oysters ! ' exclaimed the captain ; ' there'll be no 
time for eating oysters now, and no money to pay for 
them neither. Come along with me, some of you shore 



62 MEHALAH. 

crabs. I promise you better sport than sneaking about 
the creeks. We'll have at Johnny Crapaud with gun 
and cutlass.' 

Then he entered his cottage, which was near the 
shore, to say farewell to his wife. 

' If there's mischief to be done, that chap will do 
it,' was the general observation, when his back was 
turned. 

Attention was all at once distracted by a young 
woman in a tall taxcart who was endeavouring to urge 
her horse along the road, but the animal, conscious of 
having an inexperienced hand on the rein, backed, and 
jibbed, and played a number of tricks, to her great 
dismay. 

' Oh, do please some of you men lead him along. 
I daresay he will go if his head be turned east, but he 
is frightened by seeing so many of you.' 

' Where are you going, Phoebe ? ' asked old Morrell. 

' I'm only going to Waldegraves,' she answered. 
' Oh, bother the creature ! there he goes again ! ' as the 
horse danced impatiently, and swung round. 

' De Witt ! ' she cried in an imploring tone, ' do hold 
his head. It is a shame of you men not to help a poor 
girl.' 

Greorge at once went to the rescue. 

^Lead him on, De Witt, please, till we are away 
from the beach.' 

The young man good-naturedly held the bit, and 
the horse obeyed without attempting resistance. 

' There's a donkey on the lawn by Elm Tree Cottage,' 
said the girl ; ' she brays whenever a horse passes, and 
I'm mortal afeared lest she scare this beast, and he runs 



THE DECOY. 63 

away with me. If he do so, I can't hold him in, my 
wrists are so weak.' 

' Why, Phoebe,' said De Witt, ' what are you driving 
for ? Waldegraves is not more than a mile and a half 
off, and you might have walked the distance well enough.' 

' I've sprained my ankle, and I can't walk. I must 
go to Waldegraves, I have a message there to my aunt, 
so Isaac Mead lent me the horse.' 

'If you can't drive, you may do worse than sprain 
your ankle, you may break your neck.' 

'That is what I am afraid of, Greorge. The boy 
was to have driven me, but he is so excited, I suppose, 
about the man-of-war coming in, that he has run off. 
There ! take care ! ' 

' Can't you go on now ? ' asked De Witt, letting go 
the bridle. Immediately the horse began to jib and 
rear. 

' You are lugging at his mouth fit to break his jaw, 
Phoebe. No wonder the beast won't go.' 

' Am I, Greorge ? It is the fright. I don't under- 
stand the horse. dear ! dear ! I shall never get 
to Waldegraves by myself.' 

'Let the horse go, but don't job his mouth in that 
way.' 

'There he is turning round. He will go home 
again. Greorge ! save me.' 

' You are pulling him round, of course he will turn 
if you drag at the rein.' 

' I don't understand horses,' burst forth Phoebe, and 
she threw the reins down. ' George, there's a good, dear 
fellow, jump in beside me. There's room for two, quite 
cosy. Drive me to Waldegraves. I shall never forget 



64 MEHALAH. 

your goodness.' She put her two hands together, and 
looked piteously in the young man's face. 

Phoebe Musset was a very good-looking girl, fair 
with bright blue eyes, and yellow hair, much more deli- 
cately made than most of the girls in the place. More- 
over, she dressed above them. She was a village 
coquette, accustomed to being made much of, and of 
showing her caprices. Her father owned the store at 
the city where groceries and drapery were sold, and was 
esteemed a well-to-do man. He farmed a little land. 
Phoebe was his only child, and she was allowed to do 
pretty much as she liked. Her father and mother were 
hard-working people, but Phoebe's small hands were 
ever unsoiled, for they were ever unemployed. She 
neither milked the cows nor weighed the sugar. 
She liked indeed to be in the shop, to gossip with any- 
one who came in, and perhaps the only goods she con- 
descended to sell was tobacco to the young sailors, from 
whom she might calculate on a word of flattery and a 
lovelorn look. She was always well and becomingly 
dressed. Now, in a chip bonnet trimmed with blue 
riband, and tied under the chin, with a white lace- 
edged kerchief over her shoulders, covering her bosom, 
she was irresistible. So at least De Witt found her, for 
he was obliged to climb the gig, seat himself beside her, 
and assume the reins. 

' I am not much of a steersman in a craft like this,' 
said George laughing, ' but my hand is stronger than 
yours, and I can save you from wreck.' 

Phoebe looked slyly round, and her great blue eyes 
peeped timidly up in the fisherman's face. ' Thank you 
so much, George. I shall never, never forget your great 
kindness.' 



THE DECOY. Q5 

' There's nothing in it,' said the blunt fisherman ; I'd 
do the same for any girl.' 

' I know- how polite you are,' continued Phoebe ; then 
putting her hand on the reins, ' I don't think you need 
drive quite so fast, George ; I don't want to get the 
horse hot, or Isaac will scold.' 

' A jog trot like this will hurt no horse.' 

' Perhaps you want to get back. I am sorry I have 
taken you away. Of course you have pressing business. 
No doubt you want to get to the Eay.' A little twink- 
ling sly look up accompanied this speech. De Witt 
waxed red. 

' I'na in no hurry, myself,' he said. 

' How delightful, Greorge, nor am I.' 

The young man could not resist stealing a glance at 
the little figure beside him, so neat, so trim, so fresh. 
He was a humble fellow, and never dreamed himself to 
be on a level with such a refined damsel. Glory was 
the girl for him, rough and ready, who could row a boat, 
and wade in the mud. He loved Glory. She was a 
sturdy girl, a splendid girl, he said to himself. Phoebe 
was altogether different, she belonged to another sphere, 
he could but look and admire — and worship perhaps. 
She dazzled him, but he could not love her. She was 
none of his sort, he said to himself. 

' A penny for your thoughts ! ' said Phoebe roguishly. 
He coloured. ' I know what you were thinking of. 
You were thinking of me.' 

De Witt's colour deepened. ' I was sure it was so. 
Now I insist on knowing what you were thinking of me.' 

' Why,' answered George with a clumsy effort at 
gallantry, ' I thought what a beauty you were.' 

F 



66 MEHALAH. 

' Oh, Greorge, not when compared with Mehalah.' 

De Witt fidgeted in his seat. 

' Mehalah is quite of another kind, you see. Miss.' 

' I'm no Miss, if you please. Call me Phoebe. It 
is snugger.' 

' She's more — ' he puzzled his head for an explana- 
tion of his meaning. ' She is more boaty than you 
are — ' 

'Phoebe.' 

' Than you are,' with hesitation, ' Phoebe.' 

' I know ; — strides about like a man, smokes and 
swears, and chews tobacco.' 

' No, no, you mistake me, M .' 

• ' Phoebe.' 

' You mistake me, Phoebe.' 

' I have often wondered, Greorge, what attracted you 
to Mehalah. To be sure, it will be a very convenient 
thing for you to have a wife who can swab the deck, 
and tar the boat and calk her. But then I should have 
fancied a man would have liked something different from 
a — sort of a man- woman — a jack tar or Ben Brace in 
petticoats, to sit by his fireside, and to take to his heart. 
But of course it is not for me to speak on such matters, 
only I somehow can't help thinking about you, Greorge, 
and it worries me so, I lie awake at nights, and wonder 
and wonder, whether you will be happy. She has the 
temper of a tom cat, I'm told. She blazes up like gun- 
powder.' 

De Witt fidgeted yet more uneasily. He did not 
like this conversation. 

'Then she is half a gipsy. So you mayn't be 
troubled with her long. She'll keep with you as long 



THE DECOY. 67 

as she likes, and then up with her pack, on with 
her wading boots. Yo heave hoy! and away she 
goes.' 

De Witt, in his irritation, gave the horse a stinging 
switch across the flank, and he started forward. A little 
white hand was laid, not now on the reins, but on his 
hand. 

' I'm so sorry, Greorge my friend ; after your kindness, 
I have teased you unmercifully, but I can't help it. 
When I think of Mehalah in her wading boots and 
jersey and cap, it makes me laugh — and yet when I 
think of her and you together, I'm ashamed to say I 
feel as if I could cry. Greorge ! ' she suddenly ejaculated, 

' Yes, Miss ! ' 

' Phoebe, not Miss, please.' 

' I wasn't going to say Miss.' 

' What were you going to say ? ' 

' Why, mate, yes, mate ! I get into the habit of it 
at sea,' he apologised. 

' I like it. Call me mate. We are on a cruise 
together, now, you and I, and I trust myself entirely in 
your hands, captain.' 

^What was it you fared to ask, mate, when you 
called "George"?' 

' Oh, this. The wind is cold, and I want my cloak 
and hood, they are down somewhere behind the seat in 
the cart. If I take the reins will you lean over and get 
them ? ' 

' You won't upset the trap ? ' 

'No.' He brought up the cloak and adjusted it 
round Phoebe's shoulders, and drew the hood over her 
bonnet, she would have it to cover her head. 

F 2 



68 MEHALAH. 

' Doesn't it make me a fright ? ' she asked, looking 
into his face. 

' Nothing can do that,' he answered readily. 

' Well, push it back again, I feel as if it made me 
one, and that is as bad. There now. Thank you, mate ! 
Take the reins again.' 

'Halloo! we are in the wrong road. We have 
turned towards the Strood.' 

' Dear me ! so we have. That is. the horse's doing. 
I let him go where he liked, and he went down the turn. 
I did not notice it. All I thought of was holding up 
his head lest he should stumble.' 

De Witt endeavoured to turn the horse. 

' Oh don't, don't attempt it ! ' exclaimed Phcebe. 
' The lane is so narrow, that we shall be upset. Better 
drive on, and round by the Barrow Farm, there is not 
half-a-mile difference.' 

'A good mile, mate. However, if you wish 
it.' 

' T do wish it. This is a pleasant drive, is it not, 
George ? ' 

' Very pleasant,' he said, and to himself added, ' too 
pleasant.' 

So they chatted on till they reached the farm called 
Waldegraves, and there Phcebe alighted. 

' I shall not be long,' she said, at the door, turning 
and giving him a look which might mean a great deal 
or nothing, according to the character of the woman 
who cast it. 

When she came up she said, ' There, Greorge, I cut 
my business as short as possible. Now what do you 
say to showing me the Decoy ? I have never seen it, 



THE DECOY. 69 

but I have heard a great deal of it, and I cannot under- 
stand how it is contrived.' 

' It is close here,' said De Witt. 

' I know it is, the little stream in this dip feeds it* 
Will you show me the Decoy ? ' 

' But your foot — Phoebe. You have sprained your 
ankle.' 

' If I may lean on your arm I think I can limp 
down there. It is not very far.' 

' And then what about the horse ? ' 

' Oh ! the boy here will hold it, or put it up in the 
stable. Eun and call him, George.' 

' I could drive you down there, I think, at least 
within a few yards of the place, and if we take the boy 
he can hold the horse by the gate.' 

' I had rather hobble down on your arm, Greorge.' 

' Then come along, mate.' 

The Decoy was a sheet of water covering perhaps an 
acre and a half in the midst of a wood. The clay that 
had been dug out for its construction had been heaped 
up, forming a little hill crowned by a group of willows. 
No one who has seen this ill-used tree in its mutilated 
condition, cut down to a stump which bristles with fresh 
withes, has any idea what a stately and beautiful tree it 
is when allowed to grow naturally. The old untrimmed 
willow is one of the noblest of our native trees. It 
may be seen thus in well-timbered parts of Suffolk, and 
occasionally in Essex. The pond was fringed with 
rushes, except at the horns, where the nets and screens 
stood for the trapping of the birds. From the mound 
above the distant sea was visible, through a gap in the 
old elm trees that stood below the pool. In that gap 



70 MEHALAH. 

was visible the war- schooner, lying as near shore as pos- 
sible. G-eorge De Witt stood looking at it. The sea 
was glittering like silver, and the hull of the vessel was 
dark against the shining belt. A boat with a sail was 
approaching her. 

' That is curious,' observed Greorge. ' I could swear 
to yon boat. I know her red sail. She belongs to my 
cousin Elijah Eebow. But he can have nought to do 
with the schooner.' 

Phoebe was impatient with anything save herself 
attracting the attention of the young fisherman. She 
drew him from the mound, and made him explain to 
her the use of the rush-platted screens, the arched and 
funnel-shaped net, and the manner in which the decoy 
ducks were trained to lead the wild birds to their 
destruction. 

' They are very silly birds to be led like that,' said 
she. 

' They little dream whither and to what they are 
being drawn,' said De Witt. 

' I suppose some little ducks are dreadfully enticing,' 
said Phoebe, with a saucy look and a twinkle of the 
blue eyes. ' Look here, George, my bonnet-strings are 
untied, and my hands are quite unable to manage a 
bow, unless I am before a glass. Do you think you could 
tie them for me ? ' 

' Put up your chin, then,' said De Witt with a sigh. 
He knew he was a victim ; he was going against his 
conscience. He tried to think of Mehalah, but could 
not with those blue eyes looking so confidingly into his. 
He put his finger under her chin and raised it. He was 
looking full into that sweet saucy face. 



THE DECOY. 71 

'What sort of a knot? I can tie only sailor's 
knots/ 

' Oh Greorge ! something like a true lover's knot.' 

Was it possible to resist, with those damask cheeks, 
those red lips, and those pleading eyes so close, so com- 
pletely in his power ? Greorge did not resist. He 
stooped and kissed the wicked lips, and cheeks, and 
eyes. 

Phoebe drew away her face at once, and hid it. He 
took her arm and led her away. She turned her head 
from him, and did not speak. 

He felt that the little figure at his side was shaken 
with some hysterical movement, and felt frightened. 

' I have offended you, I am very sorry. I could not 
help it. Your lips did tempt me so ; and you looked 
up at me just as if you were saying, " Kiss me ! " I 
could not help it. You are crying. I have offended 
you.' 

' No, I am laughing. Oh, George ! Oh, George I ' 

They walked back to the farm without speaking. 
De Witt was ashamed of himself, yet felt he was under 
a spell which he could not break. A rough fisher lad 
flattered by a girl he had looked on as his superior, and 
beyond his approach, now found himself the object of 
her advances ; the situation was more than his rude virtue 
could withstand. He knew that this was a short dream 
of delight, which would pass, and leave no substance, 
but whilst under the charm of the dream, he could not 
cry out nor move a finger to arouse himself to real life. 

Neither spoke for a few minutes. But, at last, 
Greorge De Witt turned, and looking with a puzzled 
face at Phoebe Musset said, ' You asked me on our way 



72 MEHALAH. 

to Waldegraves what I was thinking about, and offered 
me a penny for my thoughts. Now I wonder what you 
are lost in a brown study about, and I will give you 
four farthings for what is passing in your little golden 
head.' 

' You must not ask me, Greorge — dear Greorge.' 

' Oh mate, you must tell me.' 

' I dare not. I shall be so ashamed.' 

' Then look aside when you speak.' 

' No, I can't do that. I must look you full in the 
face ; and do you look me in the face too. Greorge, I 
was thinking — Why did you not come and talk to me, 
before you went courting that gipsy girl, Mehalah. Are 
you not sorry now that you are tied to her ? ' 

His eyes fell. He could not speak. 



CHAPTEE VI. 

BLACK OK GOLD. 



When De Witt drove up to the ' City ' with Phoebe 
Musset, the first person he saw on the beach was the 
last person that, under present circumstances, he wished 
to see — Mehalah Sharland. Phoebe perceived her at 
once, and rejoiced at the opportunity that offered to 
profit by it. 

For a long time Phoebe had been envious of the 
reputation as a beauty possessed by Mehalah. Her 
energy, determination and coiu'age made her highly 
esteemed among the fishermen, and the expressions of 
admiration lavished on her handsome face and generous 



BLACK OE OOLD. 73 

character had roused all the venom in Phoebe's nature. 
She desired to reign as queen paramount of beauty, and, 
like Elizabeth, could endure no rival. Greorge De Witt 
was the best built and most pleasant faced of all the 
Mersea youths, and he had hitherto held aloof from her 
and paid his homage to the rival queen. This had 
awakened Phoebe's jealousy. She had no real regard, 
no warm affection for the young fisherman ; she thought 
him handsome, and was glad to flirt with him, but he 
had made no serious impression on her heart, for Phoebe 
had not a heart on which any deep impression could be 
made. She had laid herself out to attract and entangle 
him from love of power, and desire to humble Mehalah. 
She did not know whether any actual engagement 
existed between George and Grlory, probably she did 
not care. If there were, so much the better, it would 
render her victory more piquant and complete. 

She would trifle with the young man for a few 
weeks or a month, till he had broken with her rival, 
and then she would keep him or cast him off as suited 
her caprice. By taking him up, she would sting other 
admirers into more fiery pursuit, blow the smouldering 
embers into flaming jealousy, and thus flatter her vanity 
and assure her supremacy. The social laws of rural life 
are the same as those in higher walks, but unglossed and 
undisguised. In the realm of nature it is the female 
who pursues and captures, not captivates, the male. 
As in Eden, so in this degenerate paradise, it is Eve who 
walks Adam, at first in wide, then in gradually contract- 
ing circles, about the forbidden tree, till she has brought 
him to take the unwholesome morsel. The male bird 
blazes in gorgeous plumage and swims alone on the 



74 MEHALAH. 

glassy pool, but the sky is speckled with sombre 
feathered females who disturb his repose, drive him into 
a corner and force him to divide his worms, and drudge 
for them in collecting twigs and dabbing mud about 
their nest. The male glow-worm browses on the dewy 
blades by his moony lamp ; it is the lack-light female 
that buzzes about him, coming out of obscurity, obscure 
herself, flattering and fettering him and extinguishing 
his lamp. 

Where culture prevails, the sexes change their habits 
with ostentation, but remain the same in proclivities 
behind disguise. The male is supposed to pursue the 
female he seeks as his mate, to hover round her ; and 
she is supposed to coyly retire, and start from his 
advances. But her modesty is as unreal as the nolo 
episGopari of a simoniacal bishop-elect. Bashfulness 
is a product of education, a mask made by art. The 
cultured damsel hunts not openly, but like a poacher, 
in the dark. Eve put off modesty when she put on 
fig-leaves ; in the simplicity of the country, her 
daughters walk without either. The female gives chase 
to the male as a matter of course, as systematically 
and unblushingly in rustic life, as in the other grades 
of brute existence. The mother adorns her daughter 
for the war-path with paint and feathers, and sends her 
forth with a blessing and a smile to fulfil the first duty 
of woman, and th-e meed of praise is hers when she 
returns with a masculine heart, yet hot and mangled, at 
her belt. 

The Early Church set apart one day in seven for 
rest ; the Christian pagans set it apart for the exercise 
of the man hunt. The Stuart bishops published a book 



BLACK OE GOLD. 75 

on Sunday amusements, and allowed of Sabbath hunt- 
ing. They followed, and did not lead opinion. It is 
the coursing day of days when marriage-wanting maids 
are in full cry and scent of all marriageable men. 

A village girl who does not walk about her boy is an 
outlaw to the commonwealth, a renegade to her sex. A 
lover is held to be of as much necessity as an umbrella, 
a maiden must not go out without either. If she can- 
not attract one by her charms, she must retain him with 
a fee. Eural morality moreover allows her to change the 
beau on her arm as often as the riband in her cap, but 
not to be seen about, at least on Sunday, devoid of either. 

Phoebe Musset intended some day to marry, but had 
not made up her mind whom to choose, and when to 
alter her condition. She would have liked a well-to-do 
young farmer, but there happened to be no man of this 
kind available. There were, indeed, at Peldon four 
bachelor brothers of the name of Marriage, but they 
were grown grey in celibacy and not disposed to change 
their lot. One of the principal Mersea farmers was 
named Wise, and had a son of age, but he was an 
idiot. The rest were afflicted with only daughters — 
afflicted from Phoebe's point of view, blessed from their 
own. There was a widower, but to take a widower was 
like buying a broken-kneed horse. 

George was comfortably off. He owned some oyster 
pans and gardens, and had a fishing smack. 

But he was not a catch. There were, however, no 
catches to be angled, trawled or dredged for. Phoebe 
did not trouble herself greatly about the future. Her 
father and mother would, perhaps, not be best pleased 
were she to marry off the land, but the wishes of her 



76 MEHALAH. 

parents were of no weight with Phoebe, who was deter- 
mined to suit her own fancy. 

As she approached the ' City,' she saw Grlory sur- 
rounded by young boatmen, eager to get a word from 
her lips or a glance from her eyes. Phoebe's heart con- 
tracted with spite, but next moment swelled with triumph 
at the thought that it lay in her power to wound her 
rival and exhibit her own superiority, before the eyes 
of all assembled on the beach. 

' There is the boy from the Leather Bottle, Greorge,' 
said she, ' he shall take the horse.' 

De Witt descended and helped her to alight, then 
directly, to her great indignation, made his way to 
Mehalah. Grlory put out both hands to him and smiled. 
Her smile, which was rare, was sweet ; it lighted up and 
transformed a face somewhat stern and dark. 

' Where have you been, George ? ' 

' I have been driving that girl yonder, what's-her- 
name, to Waldegraves.' 

' What, Phoebe Musset ? I did not know you could 
drive.' 

' I can do more than row a boat and catch crabs, 
Glory.' 

' What induced you to drive her ? ' 

' I could not help myself, I was driven into doing 
so. You see, Glory, a fellow is not always his own 
master. Circumstances are sometimes stronger than 
his best purposes, and like a mass of seaweed arrest his 
oar and perhaps upset his boat.' 

« Why, bless the boy I ' exclaimed Mehalah. ' What 
are all these excuses for ? I am not jealous.' 

' But I am,' said Phoebe who had come up. ' George, 



BLACK OR GOLD. 77 

you are very ungallant to desert me. You have 
forgotten your promise, moreover.' 

' What promise ? ' 

' There ! what promise you say, as if your head were 
a riddle and everything put in except clots of clay and 
pebbles fell through. Mehalah has stuck in the wires, 
and poor little I have been sifted out.' 

' But what did 1 promise ? ' 

' To show me the hull in which you and your mother 
live, the "Pandora" I think you call her.' 

' Did I promise ? ' 

' Yes, you did, when we were together at the Decoy 
under the willows. I told you I wished greatly to be 
introduced to the interior and see how you lived.' 
Turning to Mehalah, ' George and I have been to the 
Decoy. He was most good-natured, and explained the 
whole contrivance to me, and — and illustrated it. We 
had a very pleasant little trot together, had we not, 
G-eorge ? ' 

' Oh ! this is what's-her-name, is it ? ' said Mehalah 
in a low tone with an amused look. She was neither 
angry nor jealous, she despised Phoebe too heartily to be 
either, though with feminine instinct she perceived what 
the girl was about, and saw through all her affectation. 

' If I made the promise, I must of course keep it,' 
said George, ' but it is strange I should not remember 
having made it.' 

'I dare say you forget a great many things that 
were said and done at the Decoy, but,' with a little 
affected sigh, ' I do not, I never shall, I fear.' 

George De Witt looked uncomfortable and awkward. 
' Will not another day do as well ? ' 



78 MEHALAH. 

*No, it will not, Greorge,' said Phoebe petulantly. 
' I know you have no engagement, you said so when you 
volunteered to drive me to Waldegraves.' 

De Witt turned to Mehalah, and said, ' Come along 
with us, Grlory I my mother will be glad to see you.' 

' Oh I don't trouble yourself, Miss Sharland — or 
Master Sharland, which is it ? ' — staring first at the 
short petticoats, and then at the cap and jersey. 

' Come, Grlory,' repeated De Witt, and looked so 
uncomfortable that Mehalah readily complied with his 
request. 

' I can give you oysters and ale, natives, you have 
never tasted better.' 

' No ale for me, Greorge,' said Phoebe. ' It is getting 
on for five o'clock when I take a dish of tea.' 

' Tea ! ' echoed De Witt, ' I have no such dainty on 
board. But I can give you rum or brandy, if you 
prefer either to ale. Mother always has a glass of grog 
about this time ; the cockles of her heart require it, she 



' You must give me your arm, George, you know I 
have sprained my ankle. I really cannot walk unsup- 
ported.' 

De Witt looked at Mehalah and then at Phoebe, 
who gave him such a tender, entreating glance that he 
was unable to refuse his arm. She leaned heavily on 
it, and drew very close to his side ; then, turning her 
head over her shoulder, with a toss of the chin, she said, 
' Come along, Mehalah ! ' 

Grlory's brow began to darken. She was displeased. 
Greorge also turned and nodded to the girl, who walked 
in the rear with her head down. He signed to her to 
join him. 



BLACK OR GOLD. 79 

' Do you know, Grloiy, what mother did the other 
night when I failed to turn up — that night you fetched 
me concerning the money that was stolen ? She was 
vexed at my being out late, and not abed at eleven. As 
you know, I could not be so. I left the Eay as soon as 
all was settled, and as you put me across to the Fresh 
Marsh, I got home across the pasture and the fields as 
quickly as I could, but was not here till after eleven. 
Mother was angry, she had pulled up the ladder, but 
before that she tarred the vessel all round, and she 
stuck a pail of sea water atop of the place where the 
ladder goes. Well, then, I came home and found the 
ladder gone, so I laid hold of the rope that hangs there, 
and then souse over me came the water. I saw mother 
was vexed, and wanted to serve me out for being late ; 
however, I would not be beat, so I tried to climb the 
side, and got covered with tar.' 

' You got in, however ? ' 

' No, I did not, I went to the public-house, and laid 
the night there.' 

'I would have gone through tar, water, and fire,' 
said Glory vehemently. ' I would not have been beat.' 

'I have no doubt about it, you would,' observed 
Greorge, 'but you forget there might be worse things 
behind. An old woman after a stiff glass of grog, when 
her monkey is up, is better left to sleep off her liquor 
and her displeasure before encountered.' 

' I would not tell the story,' said Mehalah ; ' it does 
you no credit.' 

' This is too bad of you, Griory ! You ran me foul 
of her, and now reproach me for my steering.' 

' You will run into plenty of messes if you go after 
Mehalah at night,' put in Phoebe with a saucy laugh. 



80 MEHALAH. 

' G-lory ! ' said De Witt, ' come on the other side of 
Phoebe and give her your arm. She is lame. She has 
hm't her foot, and we are coming now to the mud.' 

* Oh, I cannot think of troubling Mehalah,' said 
Phoebe sharply; 'you do not mind my leaning my 
whole weight on you, I know, George. You did not 
mind it at the Decoy.' 

' Here is the ladder,' said De Witt ; ' step on my 
foot and then you will not dirty your shoe-leather in 
the mud. Don't think you will hurt me. A light 
feather like you will be unfelt.' 

'Do you keep the ladder down day and night?' 
asked Glory. 

' No. It is always hauled up directly I come home. 
Only that one night did mother draw it up without me. 
We are as safe in the " Pandora " as you are at the Eay.' 

' And there is this in the situation which is like,' 
said Phoebe, pertly, ' that neither can entice robbers, 
and need securing, as neither has anything to lose.' 

' I beg your pardon,' answered George, ' there are my 
savings on board. My mother sleeps soundly, so she 
will not turn in till the ladder is up. That is the same 
as locking the door on land. If you have monev in the 
till ' 

' There always is money there, plenty of it too.' 

' I have no doubt about it, Phoebe. Under these 
circumstances you do not go to bed and leave your door 
open.' 

' I should think not. You go first up the ladder, I 
will follow. Mehalah can stop and paddle in her native 
mud, or come after us as suits her best.' Turning her 
head to Glory she said, ^Two are company, three are 



BLACK OE GOLD. 81 

none.' Then to the young man, ' Greorge, give me your 
hand to help me on deck, you forget your manners. I 
fear the Decoy is where you have left and lost them.' 

She jumped on deck. Mehalah followed without 
asking for or expecting assistance. 

The vessel was an old collier, which George's father 
had bought when no longer seaworthy for a few pounds. 
He had run her up on the Hard, dismasted her, and 
converted her into a dwelliug. In it Greorge had been 
born and reared. ' There is one advantage in living in 
a house such as this,' said De Witt ; ' we pay neither 
tax, nor tithe, nor rate.' 

' Is that you ? ' asked a loud hard voice, and a head 
enveloped in a huge mob cap appeared from the com- 
panion ladder. ' What are you doing there, gallivanting 
with girls all day ? Come down to me and let's have it 
out.' 

' Mother is touchy,' said George in a subdued voice ; 
' she gets a little rough and knotty at times, but she is 
a rare woman for melting and untying speedily.' 

' Come here, George ! ' cried the rare woman. 

'I am coming, mother.' He showed the two girls 
the ladder ; Mrs. De Witt had disappeared. ' Go down 
into the fore cabin, then straight on. Turn your face 
to the ladder as you descend.' Phoebe hesitated. She 
was awestruck by the voice and appearance of Mrs. De 
Witt. However, at a sign from George she went down, 
and was followed by Mehalah. Bending her head, she 
passed through the small fore-cabin where was George's 
bunk, into the main cabin, which served as kitchen, 
parlour, and bedroom to Mrs. De Witt. A table occupied 
the centre, and at the end was an iron cooking stove. 

G 



82 MEHALAH. 

Everything was clean, tidy, and comfortable. On a 
shelf at the side stood the chairs. Mrs. De Witt 
whisked one down. 

' Your servant,' said she to Phoebe, with more ami- 
ability than the girl anticipated. ' Yours too, Grlory,' 
curtly to Mehalah. 

Mrs. De Witt was not favourable to her son's attach- 
ment to Grlory. She was an imperious, strong-minded 
woman, a despot in her own house, and she* had no wish 
to see that house invaded by a daughter-in-law as strong 
of will and iron-headed as herself. She wished to see 
Greorge mated to a girl whom she could browbeat and 
manage as she browbeat and managed her son. Greorge's 
indecision of character was due in measure to his bring- 
ing up by such a mother. He had been cuffed and yelled 
at from infancy. His intimacy with the maternal lap 
had been contracted head downwards, and was connected 
with a stinging sensation at the rear. Self-assertion 
had been beat or bawled out of him. She was not a 
bad, but a despotic woman. She liked to have her own 
way, and she obtained it, first with her husband, and 
then with her son, and the ease with which she had 
mastered and maintained the sovereignty had done her 
as much harm as them. 

If a beggar be put on horseback he will ride to the 
devil, and a woman in command will proceed to unsex 
herself. She was a good-hearted woman at bottom, but 
then that bottom where the good heart lay was never to 
be found with an anchor, but lay across the course as a 
shoal where deep water was desired. Her son knew 
perfectly where it was not, but never where it was. 
Mrs. De Witt in face somewhat resembled her nephew, 



BLACK OE GOLD. 83 

Elijah Rebow, but she was his senior by ten years. She 
had the same hawk-like nose and dark eyes, but was 
without the wolfish jaw. Nor had she the eager intelli- 
gence that spoke out of Elijah's features. Hers were 
hard and coarse and unillumined with mind. 

When she saw Phoebe enter her cabin she was both 
surprised and gratified. A fair, feeble, bread-and-butter 
Miss, such as she held the girl to be, was just the daughter 
she fancied. Were she to come to the ' Pandora ' with 
whims and graces, the month of honey with Greorge 
would assume the taste of vinegar with her, and would 
end in the new daughter's absolute submission. She 
would be able to convert such a girl very speedily into 
a domestic drudge and a recipient of her abuse. Men 
make themselves, but women are made, and the making 
of women, thought Mrs. De Witt, should be in the 
hands of women ; men botched them, because they let 
them take their own way. 

Mrs. De Witt never forgave her parents for having 
bequeathed her no money ; she could not excuse Elijah 
for having taken all they left, without considering her. 
She found a satisfaction in discharging her wrongs on 
others. She was a saving woman, and spent little money 
on her personal adornment. ' What coin I drop,' she 
was wont to say, ' I drop in rum, and smuggled rum ^s 
cheap.' 

But though an article is cheap, a great consumption 
of it may cause the item to be a serious one ;. and it was 
so with Mrs. De Witt. 

The vessel to which she acted as captain, steward, 
and cook, was named the ' Pandora.' The vicar was 

G 2 



84 MEHALAH. 

wont to remark that it was a ' Pandora's ' box full of all 
gusts, but minus gentle Zephyr. 

' Will you take a chair ? ' she said obsequiously to 
Phoebe, placing the chair for h er, after having first 
breathed on the seat and wiped it with her sleeve. 
Then turning to Mehalah, she asked roughly, 'Well, 
Grlory ! how is that old fool, your mother ? ' 

' Better than your manners,' replied Mehalah. 

' I am glad you are come, Grlory,' said Mrs. De Witt, 
' I want to have it out with you. What do you mean 
by coming here of a night, and carrying off my son 
when he ought to be under his blankets in his bunk ? 
I won't have it. He shall keep proper hours. Such 
conduct is not decent. What do you think of that ? ' 
she asked, seating herself on the other side of the table, 
and addressing Phoebe, but leaving Mehalah standing. 
' What do you think of a girl coming here after night- 
fall, and asking my lad to go off for a row with her all 
in the dark, and the devil knows whither they went, and 
the mischief they were after. It is not respectable, 
is it?' 

' George should not have gone when she asked him,' 
said the girl. 

' Dear Sackalive ! she twists him round her little 
finger. He no more dare deny her anything than he 
dare defy me. But I will have my boy respectable, I 
can promise you. I combed his head well for him when 
he came home, I did by cock I He shall not do the 
thing again.' 

' Look here, mother,' remonstrated Greorge ; ' wash 
our dirty linen in private.' 

' Indeed I ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt. ' That is 



BLACK OE GOLD. ^ 85 

strange doctrine ! ^Tiy, who would know we wore any 
linen at all next our skin, unless we exposed it when 
washed over the side of the wessel ? Now you come 
here. I have a bone to pick along with you, George ! ' 

To be on a level with her son, and stare him full in 
the eyes, a way she had with everyone she assailed, she 
sat on the table, and put her feet on the chair. 

' What has become of the money ? I have been to 
the box, and there are twenty pounds gone out of it, all 
in gold. I haven't took it, so you must have. Now I 
want to know what you have done with it. I will have 
it out. I endure no evasions. Where is the money ? 
Fork it out, or I will turn all your pockets inside out, 
and find and retake it. You want no money, not you. 
I provide you with tobacco. Where is the money ? 
Twenty pounds, and all in gold. I was like a shrimp in 
scalding water when I went to the box to-day and found 
the money gone. I turned that red you might have 
said it was erysipelas. I shruck out that they might 
have heard me at the City. Turn your pockets out at 
once.' 

Greorge looked abashed ; he was cowed by his 
mother. 

' I'll take the carving knife to you I ' said the woman, 
' if you do not hand me over the cash at once.' 

' Oh don't, pray don't hurt him ! ' cried Phoebe, inter- 
posing her arm, and beginning to cry. 

' Dear Sackalive ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt, ' I am 
not aiming at his witals, but at his pockets. Where is 
the money ? ' 

' I have had it,' said Mehalah, stepping forward and 
standing between De Witt and his mother. ' Greorge 



86 MEHALAH. 

has behaved generously, nobly by us. You have heard 
how we were robbed of our nioney. We could not liave 
paid our rent for the Eay had not Greorge let us have 
twenty pounds. He shall not lose it.' 

' You had it, you I — you ! ' cried Mrs. De Witt in 
wild and fierce astonishment. ' Grive it up to me at 
once.' 

' I cannot do so. The greater part is . gone. I 
paid the money to-day to Eebow, our landlord.' 

' Elijah has it ! Elijah gets everything. My father 
left me without a shilling, and now he gets my hard- 
won earnings also.' 

' It seems to me, mistress, that the earnings belong 
to George, and surely he has a right to do with them 
what he will,' said Mehalah coldly. 

'That is your opinion, is it? It is not mine.' 
Then she mused : ' Twenty pounds is a fortune. One 
may do a great deal with such a sum as that, Mehalah ; 
twenty pounds is twenty pounds whatever you may say ; 
and it must be repaid.' 

' It shall be.' 

'When?' 

' As soon as I can earn the money.' 

Mrs. De Witt's eyes now rested on Phoebe, and she 
assumed a milder manner. Her mood was variable as 
the colour of the sea ; ' I'm obliged to be peremptory at 
times,' she said ; ' I have to maintain order in the wessel. 
You will stay and have something to eat ? ' 

' Thank you ; your son has already promised us some 
oysters, — that is, promised me.' 

' Come on deck,' said Greorge. ' We will have them 
there, and mother shall brew the liquor below.' 



BLACK OE GOLD. 87 

The mother grunted a surly acquiescence. 

Wlien the thi'ee had re-ascended the ladder, the sun 
was setting. The mouth of the Blackwater glittered 
like gold leaf fluttered by the breath. The tide had 
begun to flow, and already the water had surrounded 
the ' Pandora.' Phoebe and Mehalah would have to 
return by boat, or be carried by De Witt. 

The two girls stood side by side. The contrast 
between them was striking, and the young man noticed 
it. Mehalah was tall, lithe, and firm as a young pine, 
erect in her bearing, with every muscle well developed, 
firm of flesh, her skin a rich ripe apricot, and her eyes, 
now that the sun was in them, like volcanic craters, 
gloomy, but full of fire. Her hair, rich to profusion, 
was black, yet with coppery hues in it when seen with 
a side light. It was simply done up in a knot, neatly 
not elaborately. Her navy-blue jersey and skirt, the 
scarlet of her cap and kerchief, and of a petticoat that 
appeared below the skirt, made her a rich combination 
of colour, suitable to a sunny clime rather than to the 
misty bleak east coast. Phoebe was colourless beside 
her, a faded picture, faint in outline. Her complexion 
was delicate as the rose, her frame slender, her contour 
undulating and weak. She was the pattern of a trim 
English village maiden, with the beauty of youtli, and 
the sweetness of ripening womanhood, sans sense, sans 
passion, sans character, sams everything — pretty 
vacuity. She seemed to feel her own inferiority beside 
the gorgeous Mehalah, and to be angry at it. She 
took off her bonnet, and the wind played with her yellow 
curls, and the setting sun spun them into a halo of 
gold about her delicate face. 



88 MEHALAH. 

' Loose your hair, Mehalah,' said the spiteful girl. 

'What for?' 

' I want to see how it will look in the sun.' 

' Do so, Glory ! ' begged Greorge. ' How shining 
Phoebe's locks are. One might melt and coin them 
into guineas.' 

Mehalah pulled out a pin, and let her hair fall, a 
flood of warm black with red gleams in it. It reached 
her waist, and the wind scattered it about her like a 
veil. 

If Phoebe's hair resembled a spring fleecy cloud 
gilded by the sun, buoyant in the soft warm air, that of 
Mehalah was like an angry thunder shower with a 
promise of sunshine gleaming through the rain. 

' Black or gold, which do you most admire, Greorge ? ' 
asked the saucy girl. 

' That is not a fair question to put to me,' said De 
Witt in reply ; but he put his fingers through the dark 
tresses of Mehalah, and raised them to his lips. Phoebe 
bit her tongue. 

' George,' she said sharply. ' See the sun is in my 
hair. I am in glory. That is better than being so 
only in name.' 

' But your glory i's short-lived, Phoebe ; the sun will 
be set in a minute, and then it is no more.' 

' And hers,' she said spitefully, ' hers — you imply — 
endures eternally. I will go home.' 

' Do not be angry, Phoebe, there cannot be thunder 
in such a golden cloud. There can be nothing worse 
than a rainbow.' 

' What have you got there about your neck, George ? 
she asked, pacified by the compliment. 



ELACK OR GOLD. 89 

' A riband.' 

' Yes, and something at the end of it — a locket con- 
taining a tuft of black horsehair.' 

' No, there is not.' 

' Call me " mate," as you did when we were at the 
Decoy. How happy we were there, but then we were 
alone, that makes all the difference.' 

Greorge did not answer. Mehalah's hot blood began 
to fire her dark cheek. 

' Tell me what you have got attached to that riband ; 
if you love me, tell me, Greorge. We girls are always 
inquisitive.' 

' A keepsake, Phoebe.' 

' A keepsake ! Then I must see it.' She snatched 
at the riband where it showed above De Witt's blue 
jersey. 

' I noticed it before, when you were so attentive at 
the Decoy.' 

Mehalah interposed her arm, and placing her open 
hand on George's breast, thrust him out of the reach 
of the insolent flirt. 

' For shame of you, how dare you behave thus ! ' 
she exclaimed. 

' Oh dear ! ' cried Phoebe, ' I see it all. Your keep- 
sake. How sentimental ! Oh, Greorge ! I shall die of 
laughing.' 

She went into pretended convulsions of merriment. 
' I cannot help it, this is really too ridiculous.' 

Mehalah was trembling with anger. Her gipsy 
blood was in flame. There is a flagrant spirit in such 
veins which soon bursts into an explosion of fire. 

Phoebe stepped up to her, and holding her delicate 



90 MEHALAH. 

fingers beside the strong hand of Mehalah, whispered, 
' Look at these little fingers. They will pluck your 
love out of your rude clutch.' She saw that she was 
stinging her rival past endurance. She went on aloud, 
casting a saucy side glance at De Witt, ' I should like 
to add my contribution to the trifle that is collecting 
for you since you lost your money. I suppose there is a 
brief. 0& with the red cap and pass it round. Here is 
a crown.' 

The insult was unendurable. Mehalah's passion 
overpowered her. In a moment she had caught up the 
girl, and without considering what she was doing, she 
flung her into the sea. Then she staggered back and 
panted for breath. 

A cry of dismay from De Witt. He rushed to the 
side. 

' Stay ! ' said Mehalah, restraining him with one 
hand and pressing the other to her heart. ' She will 
not drown.' 

The water was not deep. Several fisherlads had 
already sprung to the rescue, and Phoebe was drawn 
limp and dripping towards the shore. Mehalah stooped, 
picked up the girl's straw hat, and slung it after her. 

A low laugh burst from someone riding in a boat 
under the side of the vessel. 

' Well done, Griory ! You served the pretty vixen 
right. I love you for it.' 

She knew the voice. It was that of Eebow. He 
must have heard, perhaps seen all. 



91 
CHAPTER Vir. 

LIKE A BAD PENNT. 

' For shame, Griory ! ' exclaimed De Witt when he had 
recovered from his sm-prise but not from his dismay, 
' How could you do such a \vicked and unwomanly act ? ' 

' For shame, Greorge ! ' answered Mehalah, gasping 
for breath. ' You stood by all the while, and listened 
whilst that jay snapped and screamed at me^ and tor- 
mented me to madness, without interposing a word.' 

' I am angr}^ Yom* behaviour has been that of a 
savage ! ' pursued George, thoroughly roused. ' I love 
you, Glory, you know I do. But this is beyond 
endurance.' 

' If you are not prepared, or willing to right me, I 
must defend myself,' said Mehalah ; ' and I will do it. 
I bore as long as I could bear, expecting every moment 
that you would silence her, and speak out, and say, 
" Glory is mine, and I will not allow her to be affronted." 
But not a step did you take, not a finger did you lift ; 
and then, at last, the tire in my heart burst forth and 
sent up a smoke that darkened my eyes and bewildered 
my brain. I could not see, I could not think. I did 
not know, till all was over, what I had done. George ! 
I know I am rough and violent, when these rages come 
over me, I am not to be trifled with.' 

* I hope they never may come over you when you 
have to do with me,' said De Witt sulkily. 

^I hope not, George. Do not trifle with me, do 
not provoke me. I have the gipsy in me, but under 



92 MEHALAH. 

control. All at once the old nature bursts loose, and 
then I do I know not what. I cannot waste my energy 
in words like some, and I cannot contend with such a 
girl as that with the tongue.' 

' What will folks say of this ? ' 

' I do not care. They may talk. But now, Greorge, 
let me warn jon. That girl has been trifling with you, 
and you have been too blind and foolish to see her 
game and keep her at arm's length.' 

' You are jealous because I speak to another girl 
besides you.' 

' No, I am not. I am not one to harbour jealousy. 
Whom I trust I trust with my whole heart. Whom I 
believe I believe with my entire soul. I know you too 
well to be jealous. I know as well that you could not 
be false to me in thought or in act as I know my truth 
to you. I cannot doubt you, for had I thought it pos- 
sible that you would give me occasion to doubt, I could 
not have loved you.' 

' Sheer off ! ' exclaimed Greorge, looking over his 
shoulder. ' Here comes the old woman.' 

The old woman appeared, scrambling on deck, her 
cap-frills bristling about her ears, like the feathers of 
an angry white cockatoo. 

' What is all this ? By j aggers ! where is Phoebe 
Musset ? What have you done with her ? Where have 
you put her ? What were those screams about ? ' 

'Sheer off while you may,' whispered De Witt; 
' the old woman is not to be faced when wexed no more 
than a hurricane. Strike sail, and run before the 
wind.' 

' What have you done with the young woman ? 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 93 

Where is she ? Produce the corpse. I heard her as 
she shruck out.' 

* She insulted me,' said Mehalah, still agitated by 
passion, ' and I flung her overboard.' 

Mrs. De Witt rushed to the bulwarks, and saw the 
dripping damsel being carried — she could not walk — 
from the Strand to her father's house. 

' You chucked her overboard ! ' exclaimed the old 
woman, and she caught up a swabbing-mop. ' How 
dare you ? She was my visitor ; she came to sip my 
grog and eat my natives at my hospitable board, and 
you chucked her into the sea as though she were a 
picked cockleshell ! ' 

' She insulted me,' said Mehalah angrily. 

' I will teach you to play the dog-fish among my 
herrings, to turn this blessed peaceful " Pandora " into 
a cage of bears ! ' cried Mrs. De Witt, charging with 
her mop. 

Mehalah struck the weapon down, and put her foot 
on it. 

' Take care ! ' she exclaimed, her voice trembling 
with passion. ' In another moment you will have raised 
the devil in me again.' 

' He don't take much raising,' vociferated Mrs. De 
Witt. ' I will teach you to assault a genteel young- 
female who comes a wisiting of me and my son in our 
own wessel. Do you think you are already mistress 
here ? Does the " Pandora " belong to you ? Am I to 
be chucked overboard along with every lass that wexes 
you ? Am I of no account any more in the eyes of my 
son, that I suckled from my maternal bottle, and fed 
with egg and pap out of my own spoon ? ' 



94 MEHALAH. 

' For heaven's sake,' interrupted George, ' sheer ofif, 
Mehalah. Mother is the dearest old lady in the world 
when she is sober. She is a Pacific Ocean when not 
vexed with storms. She will pacify presently.' 

' I will go, Greorge,' said Mehalah, panting with 
anger, her veins swollen, her eye sparkling, and her lip 
quivering ; ' I will go, and I will never set foot in this 
boat again, till you and your mother have asked my 
pardon for this conduct ; she for this outrage, you for 
having allowed me to receive insult, white-livered coward 
that you are.' 

She flung herself down the ladder, and waded ashore. 

Mrs. De Witt's temper abated as speedily as it rose. 

She retired to her grog. She set feet downwards on the 

scene ; the last of her stalwart form to disappear was 

the glowing countenance set in white rays. 

George was left to his own reflections. He saw 
Mehalah get into her boat and row away. He waved 
his cap to her, but she did not return the salute. She 
was offended grievously. George was placed in a difii- 
cult situation. The girl to whom he was betrothed was 
angry, and had declared her determination not to tread 
the planks of the ' Pandora ' again, and the girl who 
had made advances to him, and whom his mother would 
have favoured, had been ejected unceremoniously from 
it, and perhaps injured, at all events irretrievably 
offended. 

It was incumbent on him to go to the house of 
the Mussets and enquire for Phoebe. He could do no 
less; so he descended the ladder and took his way 
thither. 

Phoebe was not hurt, she was only frightened. She 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 95 

had been wet through, and was at once put to bed. 
She cried a great deal, and old Musset vowed he would 
take out a summons against the aggressor. Mrs. 
Musset wept in sympathy with her daughter, and then 
fell on DeWitt for having permitted the assault to take 
place unopposed. 

' How could I interfere ? ' he asked, desperate with 
his difficulties. ' It was up and over with her before I 
was aware.' 

^My girl is not accustomed to associate with 
cannibals,' said Mrs. Musset, drawing herself out like a 
telescope. 

As George returned much crestfallen to the beach, 
now deserted, for the night had come on, he was accosted 
by Elijah Kebow. 

' George ! ' said the owner of Red Hall, laying a 
hand on his cousin's shoulder, 'you ought not to be 
here.' 

' Where ought I to be, Elijah ? It seems to me 
that I have been everywhere to-day where I ought not 
to be. I am left in a hopeless muddle.' 

' You ought not to allow Glory to part from you in 
anger.' 

' How can I help it ? I am sorry enough for the 
quarrel, but you must allow her conduct was trying to 
the temper.' 

' She had great provocation. I wonder she did not 
kill that girl. She has a temper, has Mehalah, that 
does not stick at trifles ; but she is generous and for- 
giving.' 

' She is so angry with me that I doubt I shall not be 
able to bring her back to good humour.' 



96 MEHALAH. 

' I doubt so, too, unless you go the right way to 
work with her ; and that is not what you are doing 
now.' 

' Why, what ought I to do, Elijah ? ' 

' Do you want to break with her, Greorge ? Do you 
want to be off with Grlory and on with milk-face ? ' 

' No, I do not.' 

' You are set on Grlory still ? You will cleave to 
her till naught but death shall you part, eh ? ' 

' Naught else.' 

' George ! That other girl has good looks and 
money. Give up Mehalah, and hitch on to Phoebe. I 
know your mother will be best pleased if you do, and it 
will suit your interests well. Glory has not a penny, 
Phoebe has her pockets lined. Take my word for it 
you can have milk-face for the asking, and now is your 
opportunity for breaking with Glory if you have a mind 
to do so.' 

' But I have not, Elijah.' 

' What can Glory be to you, or you to Glory ? She 
with her great heart, her stubborn will, her strong soul, 
and you — you — bah ! ' 

' Elijah, say what you like, but I will hold to Glory 
till death us do part.' 

' Your hand on it. You swear that.' 

' Yes, I do. I want a wife who can row a boat, a 
splendid girl, the sight of whom lights up the whole 
heart.' 

' I tell you Glory is not one for you. See how 
passionate she is, she blazes up in a moment, and then 
she is one to shiver you if you offend her. No, she 
needs a man of other stamp than you to manage her.' 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 97 

' She shall be mine,' said George : ' I want no other.' 

' This is your fixed resolve ? ' 

' My fixed resolve.' 

' For better for worse ? ' 

' For better for worse, till death us do part.' 

' Till death you do part,' Elijah jerked out a laugh. 
* George, if you are not the biggest fool I have set eyes 
on for many a day, I am much mistaken.' 

' Why so ? ' 

' Because you are acting contrary to your interests. 
You are unfit for Glory, you do not now, you never will, 
understand her.' 

' What do you mean ? ' 

' You let the girl row away, offended, angry, eating 
out her heart, and you show no sign that you desire 
reconciliation.' 

' I have though. I waved my hat to her, but she 
took no notice.' 

' Waved your hat ! ' repeated Eebow, with suppressed 
scorn. ' You never will read that girl's heart, and 
understand her moods. Oh, you fool ! you fool ! strain- 
ing your arms after the unapproachable, unattainable, 

star ! If she were mine ' he stamped and clenched 

his fists. 

' But she is not going to be yours, Elijah,' said 
George with a careless laugh. 

' No, of course not,' said Elijah, joining in the laugh. 
' She is yours till death you do part.' 

' Tell me, what have I done wrong ? ' asked De 
Witt. 

' There — you come to me, after all, to interpret the 
writing for you. It is there, written in letters of fire, 

H 



98 MEHALAH. 

Mene, mene, tekel, Upharsin ! Thou art weighed in 
the balance and found wanting, and this night shall thy 
kingdom be taken from thee and given to ' 

' Elijah, I do not understand this language. What 
ought I to do to regain Mehalah's favour ? ' 

' You must go after her. Do you not feel it in every 
fibre, that you must, you mud-blood ? Go after her at 
once. She is now at home, sitting alone, brooding over 
the offence, sore at your suffering her to be insulted 
without making remonstrance. Her wrong will grow 
into a mountain in her heart unless it be rooted up to- 
night. Her pride will flame up as her passion dies 
away, and she will not let you speak to her another 
tender word. She will hate and despise you. The 
little crack will split into a wide chasm. I heard her 
call you a white-livered coward.' 

' She did ; you need not repeat it. She will be sorry 
when she is cool.' 

' That is just it, George. As soon as passion abates, 
her generous heart will turn to self-reproach, and she 
will be angry with herself for what she has done. She 
will accuse herself with having been violent, with having 
acted unworthily of her dignity, with having grown in 
too great a heat about a worthless doll. She will be 
vexed with herself, ashamed of herself, unable in the 
twilight of her temper to excuse herself. Perhaps she 
is now in tears. But this mood will not last. To- 
morrow her pride will have returned in strength, she 
will think over her wrongs and harden herself in stub- 
bornness ; she will know that the world condemns her, 
and she will retire into herself in defiance of the world. 
Look up at the sky. Do you see, there is Charles' Wain, 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 99 

and there is Cassiopsea's Chair. There the Serpent and 
there the Swan. I can see every figure plain, but your 
landsman rarely can. So I can see every constellation 
in the dark heaven of Mehalah's soul, but you cannot. 
You would be wrecked if you were to sail by it. Now, 
George, take Glory while she is between two moods, or 
lose her for ever. Go after her at once, George, ask her 
forgiveness, blame yourself and your mother, blame 
that figure-head miss, and she will forgive you frankly, 
at once. She will fall on your neck and ask your pardon 
for what she has done.' 

* I believe you are right,' said De Witt, musing. 

' I know I am. As I have been working in my forge, 
I have watched the flame on the hearth dance and 
waver to the clinking of the hammer. There was some- 
thing in the flame, I know not what, which made it 
wince or flare, as the blows fell hard or soft. So there 
are things in Nature respond to each other without your 
knowing why it is, and in what their sympathy consists. 
So I know all that passes in Mehalah's mind. I feel 
my own soul dance and taper to herpulses. If you had 
not been a fool, George, you would already have been 
after her. What are you staying for now ? ' 

^ My mother ; what will she say ? ' 

^ Do you care for her more than for Glory ? If you 
think of her now, you lose Glory for ever. Once more 
I ask you, do you waver ? Are you inclined to forsake 
Mehalah for milk- face ? ' 

' I am not,' said De Witt impatiently ; * why do 
you go on with this ? I have said already that Glory 
is mine.' 

' Unless death you do part.' 

H 2 



100 MEHAIAH. 

' Till death us do part, is what I said.' 

' Then make haste. An hour hence the Eay house 
will be closed, and the girl and her mother in bed.' 

' I will -get my boat and row thither at once.' 

' You need not do that. I have my boat here, jump 
in. We will each take an oar, and I will land you on 
the Kay.' 

' You take a great interest in my affairs.' 

' I take a very great interest in them,' said Rebow 
dryly. 

' Lead the way, then.' 

* Follow me.' 

Rebow walked forward, over the shingle towards his 
boat, then suddenly turned, and asked in a suppressed 
voice, ' Do you know whither you are going ? ' 

' To the Ray. ' 

' To the Ray, of course. Is there anyone on the 
Hard ? ' 

' Not a soul. Had I not better go to my mother 
before I start and say that I am going with you ? ' 

'On no account. She will not allow you to go to 
the Ray. You know she will not.' 

De Witt was not disposed to dispute this. 

' You are sure,' asked Rebow again, ' that there is 
no one on the Hard. No one sees you enter my boat. 
No one sees you push off with me. No one sees whither 
we go.' 

' Not a soul.' 

' Then here goes ! ' Elijah Rebow thrust the boat 
out till she floated, sprang in and took his oar. De 
Witt was already oar in hand on his seat. 

' The red curtain is over the window at the Leather 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 101 

Bottle,' said Greorge. ' No signalling to-night, the 
schooner is in the offing.' 

' A red signal. It may mean more than you under- 
stand.' 

They rowed on. 

' Is there a hand on that crimson pane,' asked Eebow 
in a low tone, ' with the fingers dipped in fire, writing ? ' 

' Not that I can see.' 

' Nor do you see the writing, Mene, mene, tekel, 
Upharsin.' 

'You jest, Elijah!' 

'A strange jest. Perhaps the writing is in the 
vulgar tongue, thou art weighed and found wanting, 
feeble fool, and thy kingdom is taken from thee, and 
given to ME.' 

Mehalah sat by the hearth, on the floor, in the farm- 
house at the Ray. Her mother was abed and asleep. 
The girl had cast aside the cap and thrown ofif her 
jersey. Her bare arms were folded on her lap ; and the 
last flicker of the red embers fell on her exposed and 
heaving bosom. 

Elijah Rebow on the Hard at Mersea had read accu- 
rately the workings and transitions in the girl's heart. 
Precisely that was taking place which he had described. 
The tempest of passion had roared by, and now a tide 
of self-reproach rose and overflowed her soul. She was 
aware that she had acted wrongly, that without adequate 
cause she had given way to an outburst of blind fury. 
Phoebe was altogether too worthless a creature for her 
jealousy, too weak to have been subjected to such treat- 
ment. Her anger against George had expired. He did 



] 02 MEHALAH. 

well to be indignant with her. It was true he had not 
rebuked Phoebe nor restrained his mother, but the reason 
was clear. He was too forbearing with women to offend 
them, however frivolous and intemperate they might be. 
He had relied on the greatness of his Glory's heart to 
stand above and disregard these petty storms. 

She'^had thrown off her boots and stockings, and sat 
with her bare feet on the hearth. The feet moved 
nervously in rhythm to her thoughts. She could not 
keep them still. Her trouble was great. Tears were 
not on her cheeks ; in this alone was Elijah mistaken. 
Her dark eyes were fixed dreamily on the dying fire — 
they were like the marsh-pools with the will-o'-the-wisp 
in each. They did not see the embers, they looked 
through the iron fireback, and the brick wall, over the 
saltings, over the water, into infinity. 

She loved Greorge. Her love for him was the one 
absorbing passion of her life. She loved her mother, 
but no one else — only her and Greorge. She had no one 
else to love. She was without relations. She had been 
brought up without playfellows on that almost inac- 
cessible islet, only occasionally visiting Mersea, and then 
only for an hour. She had seen and known nothing of 
the world save the world of morass. She had mixed with 
no life, save the life of the flocks on the Ray, of the 
fishes and the seabirds. Her mind hungered for some- 
thing more than the little space of the Ray could supply. 
Her soul had wings and sought to spread them and soar 
away, whither, however, she did not know. She had a 
dim prevision of something better than the sordid round 
of common cares which made up the life she knew. 

With a heart large and full of generous impulses. 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 103 

she had spent her girlhood without a recognition of its 
powers. She felt that there was a voice within which 
talked in a tongue other from that which struck her 
ears each day, but what that language was, and what 
the meaning of that voice, she did not know. She 
had met with De Witt. Indeed they had known each 
other, so far as meeting at rare intervals went, for many 
years ; she had not seen enough of him to know him as 
he really was, she therefore loved him as she idealised 
him. The great cretaceous sea was full of dissolved 
silex penetrating the waters, seeking to condense and 
solidify. But there was nothing in the ocean then save 
twigs of weed and chips of shells, and about them that 
hardest of all elements drew together and grew to ada- 
mant. The soul of Mehalah was some such vague sea 
full of ununderstood, un estimated elements, seeking their 
several centres for precipitation, and for want of better, 
condensing about straws. To her, Greorge De Witt was 
the ideal of all that was true and manly. She was noble 
herself, and her ideal was the perfection of nobility. 
She was rude indeed, and the image of her worship was 
rough hewn, but still with the outline and carriage of a 
hero. She could not, she would not, suppose that Greorge 
De Witt was less great than her fancy pictured. 

The thought of life with him filled her with exulta- 
tion. She could leap up, like the whooper swan, spread 
her silver wings, and shout her song of rapture and of 
defiance, like a trumpet. He would open to her the 
gates into that mysterious world into which she now 
only peeped, he would solve for her the perplexities of 
her troubled soul, he would lead her to the light which 
would illumine her eager mind. 



104 MEHALAH. 

Nevertheless she was ready to wait patiently the 
realisation of her dream. She was in no hurry. She 
knew that she could not live in the same house or boat 
with George's mother. She could not leave her own 
ailing mother, wholly dependent on herself. Mehalah 
contentedly tarried for what the future would unfold, 
with that steady confidence in the future that youth so- 
generally enjoys. 

The last embers went out, and all was dark within. 
No sound was audible, save the ticking of the clock, 
and the sigh of the wind about the eaves and in the ' 
thorntrees. Mehalah did not stir. She dreamed on 
with her eyes open, still gazing into space, but now with 
no marsh fires in the dark orbs. The grey night sky 
and the stars looked in at the window at her. 

Suddenly, as she thus sat, an inexpressible distress 
came over her, a feeling as though Greorge were in danger,, 
and were crying to her for help. She raised herself on 
the floor, and drew her feet under her, and leaning her 
chin on her fingers listened. The wind moaned under 
the door : everything else was hushed. 

Her fear came over her like an ague fit. She wiped 
her forehead, there were cold drops beading it. She 
turned faint at heart ; her pulse stood still. Her soul 
seemed straining, drawn as by invisible attraction, and 
agonised because the gross body restrained it. She felt 
assm-ed that she was wanted. She must not remain 
there. She sprang to her feet and sped to the door, un- 
bolted it and went forth. The sky was cloudless, thick 
strewn with stars. Jupiter glowed over Mersea Isle. A 
red gleam was visible, far away at the ' City.' It 
shone from the tavern window, a coloured star set iiL 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 105 

ebony. She went within again. The fire was out. 
Perhaps this was the vulgar cause of the strange sen- 
sation. She must shake it off. She went to her room 
and threw herself on the bed. Again, as though an icy 
wave washed over her, lying on a frozen shore, came 
that awful fear, and then, again, that tension of her soul 
to be free, to fly somewhere, away from the Ray, but 
whither she could not tell. 

Where was George ? Was he at home ? Was he safe ? 
She tried in vain to comfort herself with the thought 
that he ran no danger, that he was protected by her 
talisman. She felt that without an answer to these 
questions she could not rest, that her night would be a 
fever dream. 

She hastily drew on her jersey and boots ; she slipped 
out of the house, unloosed her punt, and shot over the 
water to Mersea. The fleet was silent, but as she flew 
into the open channel she could hear the distant throb 
of oars on rowlocks, away in the dark, out seaward. 
She heard the screech of an owl about the stacks of a 
farm near the waterside. She caught as she sped past 
the Leather Bottle muffled catches of the nautical songs 
trolled by the topers within. 

She met no boat, she saw no one. She ran her punt 
on the beach and walked to the ' Pandora,' now far 
above the water. The ladder was still down ; therefore 
George was not within. 'Who goes there?' asked the 
voice of Mrs. De Witt. ' Is that you, George ? Are 
you coming home at last ? Where have you been all 
this while ? ' 

Mehalah drew back. George was not only not there, 
but his mother knew not where he was. 



106 MEHALAH. 

The cool air and the exercise had in the mean time 
dissipated Mehalah's fear. She argued with herself 
that Greorge was in the tavern, behind the red curtain, 
remaining away from his mother's abusive tongue as 
long as he might. His boat lay on the Hard. She saw 
it, with the oars in it. He was therefore not on the 
water ; he was on land, and on land he was safe. He 
wore the medal about his neck, against his heart. 

How glad and thankful she was that she had given 
him the precious charm that guarded from all danger 
save drowning. 

She rowed back to the Ray, more easy in her mind, 
and anchored her punt. She returned cautiously over 
the saltings, picking her way by the starlight, leaping 
or avoiding the runnels and pools, now devoid of water, 
but deep in mud most adhesive and unfathomable. 

She felt a little uneasy lest her mother should have 
awoke during her absence, and missed her daughter. 
She entered the house softly ; the door was without a 
lock, and merely hasped, and stole to her mother's room. 
The old woman was wrapt in sleep, and breathing peace- 
fully. 

Mehalah drew off her boots, and seated herself again 
by the hearth. She was not sleepy. She would reason 
with herself, and account for the sensation that had 
affected her. 

Hark ! she heard some one speak. She listened 
attentively with a flutter at her heart. It was her 
mother. She stole back on tiptoe to her. The old 
woman was dreaming, and talking in her sleep. She 
had her hands out of bed together and parted them, 
and waved them, ' No, Mehalah, no ! Not Greorge I not 



LIKE A BAD PENNY. 107 

Greorge ! ' she gave emphasis with her hand, then 
suddenly grasped her daughter's wrist, ' But Elijah ! ' 
Next moment her grasp relaxed, and she slept calmly, 
apparently dreamlessly again. 

Mehalah went back. 

It was strange. No sooner was she in her place by 
the hearth again than the same distress came over her. 
It was as though a black cloud had swept over her 
sky and blotted out every light, so that neither sun, 
nor moon, nor star appeared, as though she were left 
drifting without a rudder and without a compass in an 
unknown sea, under murky night with only the phos- 
phorescent flash of the waves about, not illumining the 
way but intensifying its horror. It was as though she 
found herself suddenly in some vault, in utter, ray- 
less blackness, knowing neither how she came there nor 
whether there was a way out. 

Oppressed by this horror, she lifted her eyes to 
the window, to see a star, to see a little light of any 
sort. What she there saw turned her to stone. 

At the window, obscuring the star's rays, was the 
black figure of a man. She could not see the face, she 
saw only the shape of the head, and arms, and hands 
spread out against the panes. The figure stood looking 
in and at her. 

Her eyes filmed over, and her head swam. 

She heard the casement struck, and the tear of 
the lead and tinkle of broken glass on the brick floor, 
and then something fell at her feet with a metallic click. 

When she recovered herself, the figure was gone, 
but the wind piped and blew chill through the rent 
lattice. 



108 MEHALAH. 

How many minutes passed before she recovered her- 
self sufficiently to rise and light a candle she never 
knew, nor did it matter. When she had obtained a 
light she stooped with it, and groped upon the floor. 

^ ^ Tf^ ^ y^ ^ 

Mrs. Sharland was awakened by a piercing scream. 

She sprang from her bed and rushed into the ad- 
joining room. There stood Mehalah, in the light of 
the broken candle lying melting and flaring on the 
floor, her hair fallen about her shoulders, her face the 
hue of death, her lips bloodless, her eyes distended with 
terror, gazing on the medal of Paracelsus, which she 
held in her hand, the sea-water dripping from the wet 
riband wound about her fingers. 

' Mother ! Mother ! He is drowned. I have seen 
him. He came and returned me this.' 

Then she fell senseless on the floor, with the medal 
held to her heart. 



CHAPTER VIIL 

WHERE IS HE? 



If there had been excitement on the Hard at Mersea on 
the preceding day when the schooner anchored off* it, 
there was more this morning. The war-vessel had 
departed no one knew whither, and nobody cared. The 
bay was full of whiting; the waters were alive with 
them, and the gulls were flickering over the surface 
watching, seeing, plunging. The fishermen were getting 
their boats afloat, and all appliances ready for making 



WHERE IS HE? 109 

harvest of that fish which is most delicious when fresh 
from the water, most flat when out of it a few 
hours. 

Down the side of the ' Pandora ' tumbled Mrs. 
De Witt, her nose sharper than usual, but her cap more 
flabby. She wore a soldier's jacket, bought second- 
hand at Colchester. Her face was of a warm com- 
plexion, tinctured with rum and wrath. She charged 
into the midst of the fishermen, asking in a loud 
imperative tone for her son. 

To think that after the lesson delivered him last 
week, the boy should have played truant again ! The 
world was coming to a pretty pass. The last trumpet 
might sound for aught Mrs. De Witt cared, and involve 
mankind in ruin, for mankind was past 'worriting' 
about. 

Greorge had defied her, and the nautical population 
of the ' City ' had aided and abetted him in his revolt. 

'This is what comes of galiwanting,' said Mrs. 
De Witt ; ' first he galiwants Mehalah, and then Phoebe. 
No good ever came of it. I'd pass a law, were I king, 
against it, but that smuggling in love would go on as 
free under it as smuggling in spirits. Young folks 
now-a-days is grown that wexing and wicious — — 
Where is my Greorge?' suddenly laying hold of Jim 
Morell. 

The old sailor jumped as if he had been caught by 
a revenue ofificer. 

' Bless my life. Mistress ! You did give me a tum^ 
What is it you want ? A pinch of snuff ? ' 

'I want my George,' said the excited mother. 
* Where is he skulking to ? ' 



110 IVIEHALAH. 

' How should I know ? ' asked Morell, ' he is big 
enough to look after himself.' 

' He is among you,' said Mrs. De Witt ; ' I know 
you have had him along with a party of you at the 
Leather Bottle yonder. You men get together, and 
goad the young on into rebellion against their parents.' 

' I know nothing about Creorge. I have not even 
seen him.' 

' I've knitted his guernseys and patched his breeches 
these twenty years, and now he turns about and deserts 
me.' 

' Tom ! ' shouted Morell to a young fisherman, ' have 
you seen Greorge De Witt this morning ? ' 

' No, I have not, Jim.' 

' Oh, you young fellows ! ' exclaimed the old lady, 
loosing her hold on the elder sailor, and charging 
among and scattering the young boatmen. ' Where 
is my boy ? What have you done with him that he did 
not come home last night, and is nowhere wisible ? ' 

' He went to the Mussets' last evening, Mistress. 
We have not set eyes on him since.' 

' Oh ! he went there, did he ? Graliwanting again ! ' 
She turned about and rushed over the shingle towards 
the grocery, hardware, drapery, and general store. 

Before entering that realm of respectability, Mrs. 
De Witt assumed an air of consequence and gravity. 

She reduced her temper under control, and with an 
effort called up an urbane smile on her hard features 
when saluting Mrs. Musset, who stood behind the 
counter. 

' Can I serve you with anything, ma'am ? ' asked 
the mother of Phoebe, with cold self-possession. 



WHERE IS HE? Ill 

' I want my George.' 

' We don't keep him in stock.' 

' He was here last night.' 

' Do you suppose we kept him here the night ? Are 
you determined to insult us, madam ? You have been 
drinking, and have forgot yourself and where you are. 
We wish to see no more of your son. My Phoebe is 
not accustomed to demean herself by association with 
cannibals. It is unfortunate that she should have 
stepped beyond her sphere yesterday, but she has 
learned a lesson by it which will be invaluable for the 
future. I do not know, I do not care, whether the 
misconduct was that of your son or of your daughter- 
in-law. Birds of a feather flock together, and lambs 
don't consort with wolves. I beg, madam, that it be 
an understood matter between the families that, except 
in the way of business, as tobacco, sugar, currants, or 
calico, intimacy must cease.' 

' Oh indeed ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt, the colour 
mottling her cheek. ' You mean to insinuate that our 
social grades are so wery different.' 

' Providence, madam, lias made distinctions in 
human beings as in currants. Some are all fruit, and 
some half gravel.' 

' You forget,' said Mrs. De Witt, ' that I was 
a Eebow — a Kebow of Red Hall. It was thence I 
inherit the blood in my weins and the bridge of my 
nose.' 

* And that was pretty much all you did inherit from 
them,' observed Mrs. Musset. ' Much value they must 
be to you, as you have nothing else to boast of.' 

' Oh, indeed, Mistress Musset ! ' 



112 MEHALAH. 

* Indeed, Mistress De Witt ! ' with a profound 
curtsey. 

Mrs. De Witt attempted an imitation, but having 
been uninstructed in deportment as a child, and in- 
experienced in riper years, she got her limbs entangled, 
and when she had arrived at a sitting posture was unable 
to extricate herself with ease. 

In attempting to recover her erect position she pre- 
cipitated herself against a treacle barrel and upset it. 
A gush of black saccharine matter spread over the floor. 

' Where is my son ? ' shouted Mrs. De Witt, her 
temper having broken control. 

'You shall pay for the golden syrup,' said Mrs. 
Musset. 

' Grolden syrup ! ' jeered Mrs. De Witt, ' common 
treacle, the cleanings of the niggers' feet that tread out 
the sugar-cane.' 

' It shall be put down to you ! ' cried the mistress of 
the store, defying her customer across the black river. 
' I will have a summons out against you for the syrup.' 

' And I will have a search-warrant for my son.' 

' I have not got him. I should be ashamed to keep 
him under my respectable roof.' 

' What is this disturbance about ? ' asked Mr. Mus- 
set, coming into the shop with his pipe. 

' I want my son,' cried the incensed mother. ' He 
has not been seen since he came here last night. What 
have you done to him ? ' 

' He is not here. Mistress. He only remained a few 
minutes to enquire after Phoebe, and then he left. We 
have not seen him since. Gro to the Leather Bottle ; 
you will probably find him there.' 



WHEKE IS HE? 113 

The advice was reasonable ; and having discharged 
a parting shot at Mrs. Musset, the bereaved mother 
departed and took her way to the quaint old inn by the 
waterside, entitled the Leather Bottle. 

Mrs. De Witt pushed the door open and strode in. No 
one was there save the host, Isaac Mead. He knew 
nothing of Greorge's whereabouts. He had not seen him 
or heard him spoken of. ]Mrs. De Witt having entered, 
felt it incumbent on her to take something for the good 
of the house. 

The host sat opposite her at the table. 

' Where can he be ? ' asked Mrs. De Witt. ' The 
boy cannot be lost.' 

' Have you searched everywhere ? ' 

' I have asked the lads ; they either know nothing, or 
won't tell. I have been to the Musset's. They pretend 
they have not seen him since last night.' 

' Perhaps he rowed off somewhere.' 

' His boat is on the Hard.' 

* Do not bother your head about him,' said the host 
with confidence, ' he will turn up. Mark my words. I 
say he will certainly turn up, perhaps not when you 
want him, or where you expect him, but he assuredly 
will reappear. I have had seven sons, and they got 
scattered all over the world, but they have all turned up 
one after another, and,' he added sententiously, ' the world 
is bigger than Mersea. It is notliing to be away for 
twelve or fourteen hours. Lads take no account of time, 
they do not walue it any more than they walue good 
looks. We older folks do ; we hold to that which is 
slipping from us. When we was children, we thought 
we could deal with time as with the sprats. We draw 

I 



114 MEHALAH. 

in all and throw what we can't consume away. At last 
we find we have spoiled our fishing, and we must use 
larger meshes in our net. I will tell you another thing, 
INIistress,' continued the host, who delighted to moralise, 
' time is like a clock, when young it goes slow, and when 
old it gallops. When you and 1 was little, we thought 
a day as long as now we find a year. As we grew older 
years went faster ; and the older we wax the greater the 
speed with which time spins by ; till at last it passes 
with a whisk and a flash, and that is eternity.' 

' He cannot be drowned,' said Mrs. De Witt. ' That 
would be too ridiculous.' 

' It would, just about.' After a moment's consideration 
Isaac added, 'I heard that Elijah Eebow was on the 
Hard last night, maybe your Greorge is gone off with him.' 
' Not likely, laaac. I and Elijah are not on good 
terms. My father left me nothing. Elijah took all 
after his parents, and I did not get a penny.' 

' You know we have war with foreigners,' observed 
the publican. ' Now I observe that everything in this 
world goes by contraries. When there's peace abroad, 
there is strife at home, and vice versa. There was a 
man-of-war in the bay yesterday. I should not wonder 
if that put it into Greorge's head to be a man-of-peace 
on land. When you want to estimate a person's 
opinions, first ask what other folks are saying round 
him, and take the clean contrary, and you hit the bull's- 
eye. If you see anything like to draw a man in one 
direction, look the opposite way, and you will find him. 
There was pretty strong intimation of war yesterday 
with the foreigners, then you may be dead certain he 



WHERE IS HE? 115 

took a peaceful turn in his perwerse vein, and went to 
patch up old quarrels with Elijah.' 

' It is possible,' said Mrs. De Witt. ' 1 will row to 
Red Hall and find out.' 

' Have another glass before you go,' said the landlord. 
' Never hurry about anything. If Greorge be at his 
cousin's he will turn up in time. There is more got by 
waiting than by worrying.' 

' But perhaps he is not there.' 

' Then he is elsewhere.' 

'He may be drowned.' 

' He will turn up. Drowned or not, he will turn up. 
I never knew boys to fail. If he were a girl it would 
be different. You see it is so when they drown. A 
boy floats face upwards, and a girl with her face down. 
It is so also in life. If a girl strays from home, she 
goes to the bottom like a plummet, but a boy on the 
contrary goes up like a cork.' 

Mrs. De Witt so far took Isaac Mead's advice that 
she waited at her home till afternoon. But as Greorge 
did not return, she became seriously uneasy, not so 
much for him as for herself. She did not for a moment 
allow that any barm had befallen him, but she imagined 
this absence to be a formal defiance of her authority. 
Such a revolt was not to be overlooked. In Mrs. De 
Witt's opinion no man was able to stand alone, he must fall 
under female government or go to the dogs. Deliberate 
bachelors were, in her estimation, Grod-forsaken beings, 
always in scrapes, past redemption. She had ruled her 
husband, and he had submitted with a meekness that 
ought to have inherited the earth. George had been 



116 MEHALAH. 

always docile. She had bored docility into him with 
her tongue, and hammered it into him with her fist. 

The idea came suddenly on her, — What if he had 
gone to the war schooner and enlisted ? but was dis- 
missed as speedily as impossible. Tales of ill-treatment 
in the Navy were rife among the shoremen. The pay 
was too small to entice a youth who owned a vessel, a 
billyboy, and oyster pans. He might do well in his 
trade, he must fare miserably in the Navy. Captain 
MacPherson had indeed invited Greorge and others to 
follow him, but not one had volunteered. 

She determined at last, in her impatience, to visit 
Eed Hall, and for that purpose she got into the boat. 
Mrs. De Witt was able to row as well as a man. 
She did not start for Ked Hall without reluctance. 
She had not been there since her marriage, kept away 
by her resentment. Elijah had made no overtures to 
her for reconciliation, had never invited her to revisit 
her native place, and her pride prevented her from 
making first advances. She had been cut off by her 
father, the family had kept aloof from her, and this 
had rankled in her heart. True, Elijah's father and 
mother were dead, and he was not mixed up in the 
first contentions ; but he had inherited money which 
she considered ought to have fallen to her. 

She was, however, anxious to see the old place 
again. Her young life there had not been happy ; 
quite the reverse, for her father had been brutal, and 
iier mother Calvinistic and sour. Yet Eed Hall was, 
after all, her old home ; its marshes were the first land- 
fc^cape on which her eyes had opened, its daisies had 
made her first necklaces, its bulrushes her first whips. 



WHEEE IS HE? 117 

its sea-wall the boundary of her childish world. It 
was a yearning for a wider, less level world, which had 
driven her in a rash moment into the arms of Moses 
De Witt. 

The tide was out, so Mrs. De Witt was obliged to 
land at the point near the windmill. She walked thence 
on the sea-wall. She knew that wall well, fragrant with 
sovereign wood in summer, and rank with sea spinach. 
The aster blooming time was past, and the violet 
petals had fallen off, leaving only the yellow centres. 

There, before her, like a stranded ark, was the old 
red house, unaltered, lonely, without a bush or tree to 
screen it. 

The cattle stood browsing in the pasture as of old. 
In the marsh was a pond, a flight of wild fowl was 
wheeling round it, as in the autumns long ago. There 
was the little creek where her punt had lain, the punt 
in which she had been sometimes sent to Mersea to buy 
groceries for her mother. 

The hard crust about the heart of Mrs. De Witt 
began to break, and the warm feeling within to ooze 
through. Gentler sentiments began to prevail. She 
would not take her son by the ears and bang his head, 
if she should find him at Eed Hall. She would forgive 
him in a Christian spirit, and grant his dismissal with 
an innocuous curse. 

She walked straight into the house. Elijah was 
crouched in his leather chair, with his head on one side, 
asleep. She stood over him and contemplated his un- 
attractive face in silence, till he suddenly started, and 
exclaimed, ' Who is here ? Who is this ? ' 
Next moment he had recognised his visitor. 



118 MEHALAH. 

' So you are come, Aunt. You have not honoured 
me before. Will you have some whisky ? ' 

'Thank you, Elijah, thank you. I am dry with 
rowing. But how come you to be asleep at this time 
of day ? Were you out after ducks last night ? ' 

' No, I was not out. I lay abed. I went to bed early.' 

' Elijah, where is my son ? ' 

He started, and looked at her suspiciously. 

' How am I to know ? ' 

' I cannot find him anywhere,' said the mother. ' I 
fear the boy has levanted. I may have been a little 
rough with him, but it was for his good. You cannot 
clean a deck with whiting, you must take holystone to 
the boards, and it is so with children. If you are 
not hard, you get off no edges, if you want to polish 
them, you must be gritty yourself. I doubt the boy 
is off.' 

' What makes you think so ? ' 

' I have not seen him. Nobody at Mersea has seen 
him. Have you ? ' 

' Not since last night.' 

' You saw him then ? ' 

' Yes, he was on the beach going to Mehalah.' 

' Grali wanting ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt. ' Oh, 
what wickedness comes of gali wanting ! ' Then, re- 
covering herself, 'But how could he get there? His 
boat was left on the Hard ! ' 

* I suppose he went by land. He said something to 
that effect. You see the tide would have been out if 
he purposed to stay some time.' 

' But what should make him go to the Kay ? He 
had seen Mehalah on his boat.' 



WHERE IS HE? 119 

' He said there had been a quarrel, and he was bent 
on making it up. Go and look for him on the Eay. 
If he is not back on your boat already, you will find 
him, or hear of him, there.' 

' Oh, the worries to parents that come of gali want- 
ing ! ' moaned Mrs. De Witt, ' none who have not 
experienced can tell. Do not stay me, Elijah. Dear 
sackalive ; I must go home. I dare say the boy is now 
on the "Pandora," trying to look innocent.' She 
rubbed her hands, and her eyes glistened. ' By cock ! ' 
she exclaimed, 'I would not be he.' She was out of 
the roam, without a farewell to her nephew, down the 
steps, away over the flat to the sea-wall and her boat, 
her he^rt palpitating with anger. 

It was late in the afternoon before Mrs. De Witt 
got back to Mersea. She ascended her ladder and 
unlocked the hatches. She looked about her. No 
George was on deck. She returned to the shore and 
renewed her enquiries. He had not been seen. No 
doubt he was still galivanting at the Ray. The un- 
certainty became unendurable. She jumped into her 
boat once more, and rowed to the island inhabited by 
Glory ard her mother. 

With her nose high in the air, her cap-frills quiver- 
ing, she stepped out of the skiff. She had donned her 
military coat, to add to her imposing and threatening 
aspect. 

The door of the house was open. She stood still 
and listened. She did not hear George's voice. She 
waited ; she saw Mehalah moving in the room. Once 
the girl looked at her, but there was neither recognition 
nor lustre in her eyes. Mrs. De Witt made a motion 



120 MEHALAH. 

towards her, but Griory did not move to meet her in 
return. 

As she stepped over the threshold, Mrs. Sharland, 
who was seated by the fire, turned and observed her. 
The widow rose at once with a look of distress in her 
face, and advanced towards her, holding out her hand. 

' Where is Greorge ? ' asked Mrs. De Witt, ignoring 
the outstretched palm, in a hard, impatient tone. 

' Greorge ! ' echoed Mehalah, standing still, ' George 
is dead.' 

' What nonsense ! ' said Mrs. De Witt, catching the 
girl by the shoulder and shaking her. 

' I saw him. He is dead.' She quivered lUke an 
aspen. 

The blood had ebbed behind her brown skin. Her 
eyes looked in Mrs. De Witt's face with a flash of agony 
in them. 

' He came and looked in at the window at me, and 
cast me back the keepsake I had given him, and which 
he swore not to part with while life lasted.' 

' Dear sackalive ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt ; ' the 
girl is dreaming or demented. What is the meaning of 
all this. Mistress Sharland ? ' 

' Last night,' explained the widow, ' as Mehalah was 
sitting here in the dark, some one came to the \Tindow, 
stove it in — look how the lead is torn, and ths glass 
fallen out — and cast at the feet of Mehalah a medal she 
had given Greorge on Thursday. She thinks,' added the 
old woman in a subdued tone, * that what she saw was 
his spirit.' 

Mrs. De Witt was awed. She was not a woman 
without superstition, but she was not one to allow a 



WHERE IS HE? . 121 

supernatural intervention till all possible prosaic ex- 
planations had been exhausted. 

''Is this Grospel truth ? ' she asked. 

' It is true,' answered the widow. 

' Did you see the face. Glory ? Are you sure that 
what you saw was Greorge ? ' 

^I did not see the face. I saw only the figure. 
But it was George. It could have been no other. He 
alone had the medal, and he brought it back to me.' 

' You see,' explained the widow Sharland, ' the coin 
was an heirloom ; it might not go out of the family.' 

' I see it all,' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt. ' Galiwant- 
ing again ! He came to return the keepsake to Mehalah, 
because he wanted to break with her and take on with 
another.' 

' No, never ! ' exclaimed Mehalah vehemently. ' He 
could not do it. He was as true to me as I am to him. 
He could not do it. He came to tell me that all wa,s 
over.' 

' Dear sackalive ! ' said Mrs. De Witt, ' you don't 
know men as I do. You have had no more experience 
of them than you have of kangaroos. I will not believe 
he is dead.' 

'He Js dead,' Mehalah burst forth with fierce 
vehemence. ' He is drowned, he is not false. He is 
dead, he is dead.' 

' I know better,' said Mrs. De Witt in a low tone to 
herself as she bit her thumb. ' That boy is galiwant- 
ing somewhere ; the only question to me is Where. By 
cock ! I'd give a penny to know.' 



122 MEHALAH. 

CHAPTER IX. 

IN MOUKNING. 

A MONTH passed, and no tidings whatever of George 
De Witt had reached his mother or Mehalah. The 
former constantly expected news of her son. She would 
not believe in his death, and was encouraged in her 
opinion by Isaac Mead. But Mehalah had never enter- 
tained hope ; she did not look for news, she knew that 
Greorge was drowned. 

His body had not been found. His disappearance 
had been altogether mysterious. Mrs. De Witt used 
every effort to trace him, but failed. From the moment 
the door of the Mussets had closed upon him, no one 
had seen him. With the closing of that door the record 
of his life had closed. He had passed as completely 
beyond pursuit as though he had passed through the 
gate of death. 

There was but one possible way of accounting for his 
disappearance, and it was that at which public opinion 
arrived. He had gone round by the Strood from Mersea 
to reach the Ray, which was on that side accessible, but 
with difficulty, and occasionally only by land, had lost 
his way among the saltmarsh^es in the night, had fallen 
into one of the myriad creeks that traverse this desolate 
region, and had been engulfed in the ooze. The sea will 
give up her dead after a storm and with the tide, but 
the slime of the marshes never. 

Mehalah made no attempt to account for the dis- 
appearance of Greorge ; it was sufficient for her that he 



IN MOUKNING. 123 

-was lost to her for ever. But his mother made enquiries 
when selling shrimps along the Colchester road, and on 
the island. He had nowhere been seen. He had not 
visited the Kose. 

It was Elijah Eebow who finally brought Mrs. De 
Witt to admit that her son was entirely lost to her. 

He visited her in November. She was surprised 
and pleased to see him. Since the disappearance of 
Greorge, Mrs. De Witt had taken more vigorously than 
before to grog. Her feelings needed solace, and she 
found it in her glass. Perhaps the presence of Greorge had 
acted as a restraint on his mother. She had not wished 
him to suppose her a habitual tippler. Her libations 
had been performed when he was away, or under the 
excuse of stomachics. On the subject of her internal 
arrangements, discomforts, and requirements, Mrs. De 
Witt had afforded her son information more copious 
than interesting. Her digestion sympathised with aU 
the convulsions then shaking Europe. Eevolutions were 
brought about there by the most ordinary edibles, and 
were always to be reduced by spirituous drinkables. 

The topic of her internal economy, when introduced 
by Mrs. De Witt, always prefaced a resolve to try a drop 
of cordial. Now that Greorge was gone, Mrs. De Witt 
brooded over her loss at home, stirring her glass as if it 
were the mud of the marshes, and she hoped to turn 
George up out of the syrup of the dissolving sugar. 

Mrs. De Witt had laid aside her red coat, as inap- 
propriate to her forlorn condition. The month of 
October had seen a sad deterioration in the mistress of 
the ' Pandora.' Her funds had been fast ebbing. The 
bread-winner was gone, and the rum-drinker had ob- 



124 MEHALAH. 

tained fresh excuse for deep potations. There were fish 
in the sea to be caught, but he that had netted them 
was now under the mud. Things could not go on thus 
for ever. 

Mrs. De Witt was musing despondingl}^ over her 
desperate position, when Elijah appeared above the 
hatchway and descended to the cabin. 

Mrs. De Witt had stuck a black bow in her mob 
cap, as a symbol of her woe. She hardly needed to 
hang out the flag, for her whole face and figure be- 
tokened distress. It cannot be said that her maternal 
bowels yearned after her son out of love for him so much 
as out of solicitude for herself. She naturally grieved 
for her ' poor boy,' but her grief for him was largely 
tinctured with anxiety for her own future. How should 
she live ? On what subsist ? She had her husband's 
old hull as a home, and a fishing smack, and a row- 
ing boat. There was some money in the box, but not 
much. ' There's been no wasteful outlay over a burying,' 
said Mrs. De Witt. ^That is a good job.' 

But, as already said, Mrs. De Witt only yielded 
reluctantly to the opinion that her boy was drowned. 
She held resolutely in public to this view for reasons 
she confided to herself over her rum. ' It is no use 
dropping a pint of money in dragging for the body, and 
burying it when you've got it. To my notion that is 
laying out five pound to have the satisfaction of spend- 
ing another five. George was a gentleman,' she said 
with pride. ' If he was to go from his pore mother, lie 
went as cheap from her as a lad could do it.' 

Another reason why she refused to believe in his 
death was characteristic of the illogicality of her gex 



IX MOUENING. 125 

This she announced to Kebow. ' You have it in a nut- 
shell. How can the poor boy be drowned ? For, if so, 
what is to become of me, and I a widow ? ' 

'Mrs. De Witt,' said Eebow, helping himself to 
some rum, 'you may as well make your mind easy on 
this point. If Greorge be not dead where can he be ? ' 

' That I do not take on myself to say.* 

' He is nowhere on Mersea, is he ? ' 

' Certainly not.' 

' He did not go along the Colchester road beyond 
the Strood ? ' 

' No, or I should have heard of him.' 

' Moreover, he told me he purposed going to the Ray.' 

' To be sure he did.' 

' And he never reached the Eay.' 

' No, for certain.' 

' Then it is obvious he must have been lost between 
Mersea and the Ray.' 

' There is something in what you say, Elijah ; there 
is what we may term argument in it.' 

' There was a reason why he should go to the Ray.' 

' I suppose there was.' 

' He had quarrelled with Glory, and desired to make 
it up that night.' 

' I know there had been a squall.' 

' Then do not flatter yourself with false hopes. 
Greorge is gone past recall ; you and Glory must give 
him up for ever.' 

Mrs. De Witt shook her head, wiped her eyes with 
the frill of her cap, looked sorrowfully into her glass 
and said, ' Pore me ! ' 

' You are poor indeed,' said Elijah, ' but how poor I 



126 MEHALAH. 

suspect rather than know. What have you got to live 
upon ? ' 

' That is just it,' answered Mrs. De Witt ; ' my head 
has been like the Swin light, a rewolving and a rewolving. 
But there is this difference, the Swin rewolves first light 
and then dark alternately, whereas in my head there 
has been naught rewolving but warious degrees of 
darkness.' 

' What do you propose doing ? ' 

' Well, I have an idea.' Mrs. De Witt hitched her 
chair nearer to her nephew, and breathed her idea and 
her spirit together into his ear. ' I think I shall 
marry.' 

i You ! ' 

' Yes, I. Why not ? There is the billyboy running 
to waste, rotting for want of use, crying out for a 
master to take her out fishing. There are as many fisher- 
boys on shore as there are sharks in the ocean, ready to 
snap me up were I flung to them. I have felt them. 
They have been a-nibbling round me already. Consider, 
Elijah ! there is the " Pandora," good as a palace for a 
home, and the billyboy and the boat, and the nets, and 
the oyster garden, and then there is my experience to 
be thrown in gratis, and above all,' she raised herself, 
' there is my person.' 

Rebow laughed contemptuously. 

' What have these boys of their own ? ' asked Mrs. 
De Witt, laying down the proposition with her spoon. 
' They have nothing, no more than the sea-cobs. They 
have naught to do but swoop down on whatever they 
can see, sprats, smelt, mullet, whiting, dabs, and when 
there is naught else, winkles. Their thoughts do not 



IN MOUENING. 127 

rise that proudly to me, and I must stoop to them. I 
tell you what, Elijah, if I was to be raffled for, at 
a shilling a ticket, there would be that run among 
the boys for me, that I could make a fortune. But 
I won't demean myself to that. I shall choose the 
stoutest and healthiest among them, then I can send 
him out fishing, and he can earn me money, as did 
Greorge, and so I shall be able to enjoy ease, if not 
opulence.' 

' But suppose the lads decline the honour.' 

'I should like to see the impertinence of the lad 
that did,' said Mrs. De Witt firmly. ' I have had 
experience with men, and I know them in and out that 
familiarly that I could find my way about their brains 
or heart, as you would about your marshes, in the dark. 
No, Elijah, the question is not will they have me, but 
whether I will be bothered with any more of the 
creatures. I will not unless I can help it. I will not 
unless the worst comes to the worst. But a woman 
must live, Elijah.' 

' How much have you got for current expenses ? ' 

' Only a few pounds.' 

' There are five and twenty pounds owed you by 
the Sharlands. You are not going to let them have it 
as a present ? ' 

' No, certain, I am not.' 

* Do you expect to get it by waiting for it ? ' 

' To tell you the truth, Elijah, I hadn't given that 
fiive and twenty pounds a thought. I will go over ta 
the Eay and claim the money.' 

' You will not get it.' 

' I must have it.' 



128 MEHALAH. 

' They cannot possibly pay.' 

' But they shall pay. I want and will have my 
money.' 

' Mehalah will pretend that Greorge gave her the 
money.' 

' No, she will not. She acknowledged the debt to 
me before Greorge's face. She promised repayment as 
soon as she had sufficient.' 

' If you do not seize on their goods, or some of 
them, you will never see the colour of the coin again.' 

' I must and will have it.' 

' Then follow my advice. Put in an execution. I 
will lend you my men. All you have to do is to give 
notice on this island when the sale is to be, get together 
sufficient to bid and buy, and you have your money. 
You must have an auction.' 

' Can I do so, Elijah ? ' 

' Of course you can. Gro over to the Eay at once 
and demand your money. If they decline to pay, allow 
them a week's grace, more if you like. I'll go with 
you, when the sale is to take place, and perhaps bid. 
We will have a Dutch auction.' 

' By cock ! I'll do it. I will go there right on end.' 

At once, with her natural impetuosity, the old 
woman started. Before departing, however, to heighten 
her importance, and give authority and sternness to her 
appearance, she donned her red coat. In token of 
mourning she wrapped a black rag round her left arm. 
Over her cap she put a broad-brimmed battered straw 
hat, in front of which she affixed with a hair-pin the 
large black bow that had figured on her cap. Thus 
arrayed she entered her boat and rowed to the Ray. 



IN MOUENING. 129 

The demand for the money filled Mrs. Sharland 
with dismay. It was a demand as unexpected as it was 
embarrassing. She and Mehalah were absolutely with- 
out the means of discharging the debt. They had, 
indeed, a few pounds by them, which had been intended 
to serve to carry them through the winter, and these 
they offered Mrs. De Witt, but she refused to receive 
a portion on account when she wanted the whole of the 
debt. 

Mrs. Sharland entreated delay till spring, but Mrs. 
De Witt was inexorable. She would allow no longer 
than a week. She departed, declaring that she would 
sell them up, unless the five and twenty pounds were 
produced. 

Since the death or disappearance of Greorge De 
Witt, Mehalah had gone about her usual work in a 
mechanical manner. She was in mourning also. But 
she did not exhibit it by a black bow on her cap or a 
sable rag round her arm, like the mother of the lost 
lad. She still wore her red cap, crimson kerchief and 
blue jersey. But the lustre was gone from her eyes, 
the bloom from her cheek, animation from her lips. 
There was no spring in her step, no lightness in her 
tone. The cow was milked as regularly as usual, and 
foddered as attentively as before. The house was kept 
as scrupulously clean, Mrs. Sharland ministered to with 
the same assiduity, but the imperiousness of Mehalah's 
nature had gone. The widow found to her astonish- 
ment that she was allowed to direct what was to be 
done, and that her daughter submitted without an 
objection. 

It is the way with strong natures to allow their 

K 



130 MEHALAH. 

griefs no expression, to hide their sorrows and mask 
their wounds. Grlory did not speak of Greorge. She 
did not weep. She made no lamentation over his loss ; 
more wonderful still in her mother's eyes, she uttered 
no reproaches against anyone for it. A weak nature 
always exhausts its troubles in reproaches of others ; a 
strong one eats out its own heart. Mehalah listened 
with a dull ear to her mother's murmurs, and made 
no response. Mrs. Sharland set her down as unfeeling. 
A feeble querulous woman like her was quite unable to 
measure the depth of her daughter's heart, and under- 
stand its working. The result was that she read them 
wrong, and took false soundings. 

When her mother was in bed and asleep, then 
Mehalah sat at the hearth, or leaned at the window 
looking at the stars, hour by hour, immovable, uttering 
no sound, not building castles in the clouds, not weaving 
any schemes for her future, not hoping for anything, 
not imagining anything, but exhaling her pain. As 
the turned earth after the plough may be seen in a 
sudden frost to smoke, so was it with that wounded 
heart, it smoked, gave up its fever heat, and in silence 
and solitude cooled. There was something, which yet 
was no thing, to which her weary soul stretched, in dim 
unconsciousness. There was a communing without 
words, even without the thoughts which form into 
words, with that Unseen which is yet so surely felt. 
It was the spirit — that infinite essence so mysteriously 
enclosed within bounds, in strange contradiction to its 
nature, asserting its nature and yearning for Infinity. 

The human heart in suffering is like the parched 
soil in summer ; when its sky is overcast and it cannot 



IX MOUKNINa. 131 

see beyond the cloud that lies low over it, then it must 
harbour its heat, and gape with fever. But, should a 
rent appear in the earthborn vaporous veil, through 
which it can look into unfathomable space, at once it 
radiates the ardour that consumes it, casts off the fever 
that consumes it, and drinks in, and is slaked by, the 
dew of heaven. 



CHAPTER X. 

STKUCK COLOURS. 



Woman is the natural enemy of woman. When one 
woman is over thirty or plain, and the other is young 
or beautiful, the enmity on one side is implacable and 
unqualified by mercy. A woman can be heroically 
self-sacrificing and behave with magnificent generosity 
towards man, but not towards one of her own sex. 
She is like the pillar that accompanied the Israelites 
and confounded the Egyptians ; she is cloud and dark- 
ness to these, but light and fire to those. She will 
remorselessly pursue, and vindictively torment a sister 
who offends by having a better profile and less age. 
No act of submission will blunt her spite, no deed of 
kindness sponge up her venom. There is but one 
unpardonable sin in the sight of Heaven ; there are 
two in the eyes of a middle-aged woman, youth 
and beauty. She is unconscious of fatigue in the 
pursuit, and without compunction in the treatment of 
the member of her sex who has sinned against her in 
one particular or other. The eternal laws of justice, 
the elementary principles of virtue, are set aside as 

K 2 



132 MEHALAH. 

inappropriate to the world of women. Generosity, 
charity, pity are unknown quantities in the feminine 
equation. As the Eoman tyrant wished that mankind 
had but one neck which he might hack through, so 
woman would like that womankind had but one nose 
which she might put out of joint. Every woman is a 
kill-joy to every other woman, a discord in the universal 
harmony. Her ideal world is that of the bees, in 
which there is but one queen, and all other shes are 
stung to death. Eve was the only woman who tasted 
of happiness unalloyed, because in Eden she had no 
sisters. 

The iron maid of Nuremberg was sweet and smiling 
externally, but a touch revealed the interior bristling 
with spikes, and the victim thrust into her embrace 
was only released a corpse to drop into an oubliette. 
All women are Nuremberg maidens, with more or 
fewer spikes, discovered perhaps by husbands, unsus- 
pected by the rest of men, but known to all other 
women, who are scarred from their embraces. 

Mehalah knew that no leniency was to be looked 
for in Mrs. Be Witt. She thought that lady exception- 
ally rigorous and exacting ; she thought so because she 
knew nothing of the world. Her mother spent her 
breath in repinings that could not help, and in hopes 
which must be frustrated. The extremity of the 
danger roused Mehalah from her dreams. There was 
no pity to be expected from the creditor, and there 
was no means that she could see of defraying the debt. 
She considered and tried to find some road out of the 
difficulty, but could discover none. Now more than 
ever did she need the advice, if not the help, of him 



STKUCK COLOUKS. 133 

who was gone. There was nothing on the farm that 
could be sold without leaving them destitute of means 
of carrying it on and defraying the next half-year's 
rent. The cow, the ewes, her boat, were necessary to 
them. The furniture in the house was of little value, 
and it was impossible for her to transport it to Col- 
chester for sale. 

She sat thinking of the situation one evening over 
the fire opposite her mother, without uttering a word. 
Her hands with her knitting needles lay in her lap ; she 
could not work, she was too fully engrossed in the cares 
which pressed on her. 

Presently her mother roused her from her reverie, b} 
saying, ' There is no help for it, Mehalah, you must go 
to Wyvenhoe, and find out my cousin, Charles Pettican. 
He is my only relative left ; — at least as far as I know, 
and him I have not seen for fifteen or sixteen years. I 
do not even know if he be yet alive. We haven't had 
a chance of meeting. I go nowhere, I am imprisoned 
on this island, and he is cut off from us by the river 
Colne. I see no way out of our trouble but that of 
borrowing mone^ fi'om him. He was a kind-hearted 
lively fellow when yoimg, but what he is now that he is 
old I cannot tell. You must go and try what you can 
do with him. He is well off, and would not miss twenty 
pounds more than twenty pence.' 

Mehalah greatly disliked the idea of going to a 
stranger, to one who, though a connection, was quite 
unknown to her, and begging a loan of him. It galled 
her pride and wounded her independence. It lowered 
her in her own eyes. She would rather have worked her 
fingers to the bone than so stoop, but no work of hers 



134 MEHALAH. 

could raise twenty pounds in a week. The thought was 
altogether so intolerable to her, that she fought against 
it as long as she could. She would herself cheerfully 
have gone out of her home and left the farm rather than 
do this, but she was obliged to consider her mother. 
She yielded at last most reluctantly ; and with tears of 
mortification filling her eyes, and her cheeks burning 
with shame, she threw aside her customary costume, and 
dressed herself in dark blue cloth gown, white kerchief, 
and a bonnet, and took her way to Wyvenhoe. She had 
to walk some seven miles. Her road led her to the top 
of high ground overlooking the mouth of the Colne. 

The blue water was dotted with sails. Beyond the 
river on a height rose from above trees the lofty tower 
of Brightlingsea. Up a winding creek she looked, and 
at the head could distinguish the grey priory of St. 
Osyth, then the seat of the Earl of Eochford, at the 
entrance to a noble park. She descended the hill, and 
by a ferry crossed the river to the village of Wyvenhoe. 

On her walk she had mused over what she should say 
to Mr. Charles Pettican, without coming to any deter- 
mination. Her mother had let fall some hints that her 
cousin had once been her fond admirer, but that they 
had been parted by cruel parents. Mrs. Sharland's 
reminiscences were rather vague, and not much reliance 
could be placed on them ; however, Mehalah hoped there 
might be some truth in this, and that old recollections 
might be stirred in the breast of Mr. Pettican, and 
stimulate him to generosity. The river was full of 
boats, and on the landing were a number of people. 
' We're lively to-day,' said the ferryman who put her 
over, ' the regatta is on. It is late this season, but what 



STEUCK COLOUES. 135 

^ith one thing and another, we couldn't have it earlier 
no way.' 

' Will Mr. Pettican be there ? ' 

' Lor bless you, no,' answered the man, ' that's im- 
possible.' 

Grlory asked her way to the house of her mother's 
cousin. He was, or rather had been, a shipbuilder. 
He occupied a little compact wooden house painted 
white, on the outskirts of the village. It was a cheerful 
place. The shutters were after the French fashion, ex- 
ternal, and painted emerald green. The roof was tiled 
and looked very red, as though red ochred every morning 
by the housemaid after she had pipeclayed the walls. 
Over the door of the house was a balcony with elaborate 
iron balustrades gilt ; against these leaned two figure- 
heads, females, with very pink and white complexions, 
and no expression in their faces. 

There was a sanded path led from the gate to the 
door, and there were two green patches of turf, one on 
each side of it. In the centre of that on the left was 
another figure-head — a Medusa with flying serpent locks, 
but with a face as passionless and ordinary as that of a 
milliner's block. In the midst of the other plot rose a 
mast. On this day, when all Wyvenhoe was en fete, a 
flag ought properly to be flying from the mast. Every 
other in the village and on the water was adorned with 
its bunting, but that of Mr. !Pettican alone ignored the 
festival. 

As Mehalah ascended the walk, a gull with its wings 
clipped uttered a fierce scream, and rushing across the 
garden with outspread pinions, dashed at her foot with 
his sharp beak, and then falling back, threw out his 



136 MEHALAH. 

breast, elevated his bill, and broke into a long succession 
of discordant yells, whoops, and gulps. 

At the same moment one pane in the window on the 
right of the door opened, a little dry face peered through 
and nodded. 

' If you're going to knock, don't. Come in, and 
make no noise about it. It's very kind. She's out.' 

The gull made a second assault at Mehalah's foot. 

' Kick him,' said the face ; ' don't fear you will hurt 
him. He is as good as a watch dog. Open the door, 
and when you are in the hall turn to the right-hand.' 

Then the pane was slammed to, and Mehalah turned 
the handle of the front door. She found herself in a 
narrow passage with a flight of very steep stairs before 
her, and a door on each hand. Over each of these on 
a bracket stood a ship fully rigged, with all her sail on. 

She entered the room on the right as directed, and 
found herself in a little parlour with very white walls, 
and portraits of ships, some in worsted work on canvas, 
others painted in oils, others again in water-colours, 
covering the walls. 

In the window, half sat, half reclined, an old man, 
with a scrubby grey head, a pair of very lively eyes, 
but with a trembling feeble mouth. 

He wore very high shirt-collars, exceedingly stiff, and 
thick folds of black silk round his neck. His blue coat 
had a high black velvet collar. The little man seemed 
to draw his head in between his blinkers and beneath 
his coat-collar, and lose his face in his cravat, then at 
will to project his head from them, as though he were a 
tortoise retiring into or emerging from his shell. 

As Glory came in, the little wizened face was scarce 



STRUCK COLOUES. 137 

perceptible, save that the bright eyes peeped and 
twinkled at her from somewhere in a chaos of black 
velvet, blue cloth, white linen, and black silk ; then all 
at once the head shot forward, and a cheery voice said, 
' I can't rise to meet you, Mary,' he made at the same 
time a salutation with his hand, ' or I would throw my- 
self at your feet. Grlad to see you. How are you, Lizzy, 
my dear.' 

' My name is neither Mary nor Lizzy, but Mehalah.' 

' Let it be Methuselah or Melchisedek, or what you 
like, it is all one to me. I don't care for the name you 
give a wine when it is good, I drink it and smack my 
lips, whether you call it Port, or Tarragona, or Koussillon ; 
and I don't bother about a girl's name. If she is sweet 
and sunny, and bright and pretty as ' — he made a little 
bow and a great flourish of his hand as a salute — ' as 
you are, I see her and listen to her, and admire her.' 

' My name's ' 

' I have told you it don't matter. I never yet met 
with a girl's name that wasn't pretty, except one, and I 
thought that pretty once.' 

' A¥hat name ? ' 

' Admonition.' 

' Why do you not like it ? ' 

The little man looked out of the window, along the 
walls, then turned his head round and sighed. ' Never 
mind. Do you see that figure-head out there ? It 
belonged to a wessel I built ; she was called the 
* Medusa." Bad luck attended her. She was always 
fouling other wessels. She ran down a Frenchman once, 
but that was no matter, and she did the same by a 
Dutchman. Well, at last she got such a character that 



138 MEHALAH. 

I was forced to chaoge her head and her name, but then 
she fared worse than before. Changing their names don't 
always mend wessels and women. Well ! ' with another 
sigh, ' we will leave unpleasant topics, and laugh and be 
jolly while we may. You haven't told me how you are. 
This is very kind of you to drop in on me. It is like 
old times ; my halcyon days, as I think they call 'em. 
I haven't had such a wisit since,' he waved towards his 
flagstaff, ' since I lowered my flag.' 

'But, sir,' said Mehalah, ' you must let me explain 
my purpose in coming here ; and to do that, I must 
tell you who I am, and whence I come.' 

' I don't want to hear it. I don't care a bit about 
it. Be jolly and gather the rosebuds while you may. 
She ain't out for long, and we must be joyful at such 
opportunities as are afforded us. I know as well as you 
do why you have come. You have come in the good- 
ness of your female heart to cheer a poor crippled wretch 
like me.' 

'I did not know you were a cripple, sir ! ' 

' You didn't. Grive me my crutches. Look at this.' 
He placed his crutches under his arms, swung himself 
dexterously off his chair, and stumped round the room, 
dragging his lower limbs behind him, as though they 
did not belong to him. They were lifeless. \¥hen he 
returned to his seat he threw himself down. ' Now, 
Jemima, put up my legs on that chair. I can't stir 
them myself. I couldn't raise them an inch if you was 
to promise me a kiss for my pains. There, thank ye ; 
now sit down and be jolly.' 

' Sir,' said Mehalah, ' you remember my mother, 
Mistress Sharland,' 



STKUCE- COLOUES. 139 

' What ! Liddy Vince, pretty cousin Liddy ! I should 
think I did remember her. Why, it is only the other 
day that she married.' 

' I am her daughter, and my age is nineteen.' 

' I haven't seen her for — well, never mind how many 
years. Years don't tell on a man as they do on a 
woman ; they mellow him, but wither her. So you are 
her daughter, are you ? Stand round there by my feet 
where I can see you.' 

He drew his head down among his clothes and peered 
at her from between his tall white collars. ' You are an 
uncommon fine girl,' he said, when his observation was 
completed, ' but not a bit like Liddy. You are more 
like her mother — she was the deuce of a -splendid woman, 

such eyes, such hair — but she was a ' he hesitated, 

his courtesy forbade his saying what rose to the tongue 

' A gipsy ; ' Mehalah supplied the words. 

' Well, she was, but she couldn't help it, you know. 
But that is not what I was about to say. I intended 
to observe that she was a — little before my time. She 
was old when I knew her, but I've heard what a beauty 
she was, and her eyes always remained large and noble, 
and her hair luxuriant. But women don't improve with 
age as does good port, and as do men. Well, now, tell 
me your name.' 

' Mehalah.' 

' A regular Essex marshland name. I hope I shall re- 
member it. But I have to carry so many names of nice- 
looking girls in my head, and of ships I have built, that 
they run one another down, and I cannot be sure to re- 
call them. My memory is not going. Don't suppose 
that. Why, bless your dear heart, I can remember 



140 MEHALAH. 

everything your mother and I said to one another when 
we were sweet upon each other. That don't look like a 
failing memory, does it ? But you see, as we go on in 
life, every day brings something more to remember, and 
so this head gets choke full. A babe a year old has 
some three hundred and sixty-five things to recollect, 
that is if he remembers only one thing per diem, and a 
man of fifty has over eighteen million of things stuffed 
away in this little warehouse,' tapping his head ; ' so he 
has to rummage and rout before he can find the parti- 
cular article he wants. His memory don't go with age, 
but gets overchoked. Now, to change the topic, why 
haven't you been to see me before ? ' 

' Sir ! I could not. I did not know you, and you 
live a long way from the Eay. Mother cannot walk so far.' 

' And I can't neither, but not from age but from 
accident. So your mother can't walk a matter of seven 
miles. Dear me I How women do deteriorate either 
with age or with marriage ! I could ; I would think 
nothing of it but for my accident. Now tell me what 
has brought you here, Mehalaleel ? ' 

' I have come,' answered Mebalah, looking down, 
'because driven by necessity to apply to you, as our 
only relative.' 

' Bless my soul ! Want my help ! How ? I wish 
I could as easily apply for yours. My dear gii'l, I am 
past help. I've hauled down my flag. All is up with 
me. I'm drawn up on the mud and put to auction. 
They are breaking me up. Tell your mother so. Tell 
her that time was — but let bygones be bygones. How 
is she looking ? Are the roses altogether faded ? ' 



STKUCK COLOUES. 141 

' She is very feeble and suffering. She is greatly 
afflicted with ague.' 

' She had it as a girl. One day as I was courting 
her and wispering pretty things in her ear, she was going 
to blush and smile, when all at once the fit of shivers 
came on her, and she could do nought but chatter her 
teeth and turn green and stream with cold sweat. So 
she is very feeble, is she ? ' 

' She is weak and ailing.' 

' Women never do improve, like men, by ripening,' 
said Mr. Pettican. ' Grirls are angels up to one and 
twenty, some a little bit later, but after that they 
deteriorate and become old cats. They are roses up to 
marriage and after that are hips, with hard red skins 
outside and choke and roughness within. Men are 
quite the reverse. They are louts to twenty-five, as un- 
formed in body as young colts, and in mind as young 
owls ; after that they begin to ripen, and the older they 
get the better they grow. A man is like a medlar, only 
worth eating when rotten. A young man is raw and 
hard and indigestible, but a man of forty is full of juice 
and sweetness. Now don't tell your mother what I have 
said about old women.' 

' I will not.' 

' Sit ye down, sit ye down, and be jolly. Don't 
stand. It does not fare to be comfortable.' 

' Sir, I must mention the object of this visit.' 

' All in good time. But first let us be jolly. Grive 
me some fun, I haven't had any since — since,' he pointed 
sadly to his flagless staff and shook his head. ' It is all 
up with me, save when a stray gkam of liveliness and 



142 MEHALAH. 

mirth shoots athwart my gloomy sky. But that is 
rarely the case now.' 

' Thank you, sir,' said Mehalah, taking a chair. 
' Now to the point.' 

' P^irst be jolly. I have enough of mouths drawn 
down at the corners — but never mind now. Begone 
dull care, thou canker. Come ! I should like your 
mother to know all about me. You will tell her how 
young I am looking. You will say that I would be 
sure to come tripping over to see her but for my 
accident.' 

' I will tell her how I have seen you.* 

' You needn't dwell on the crutches ; but she knows, 
she has heard of that affliction of mine, it was the talk 
of the county, thousands of tender hearts beat in 
sympathy with me. My accident is one of long standing. 
I won't say when it happened. I have not a good head 
for dates, but anyhow it was not quite last year, or the 
year before that. It has told on me. I look older than 
I really am, and yet I am hearty and well. I have such 
an appetite. Just pull me up, dear, in the chair, and 
I will tell you what I eat. I had a rasher of bacon 
and a chop for breakfast, and a pewter of homebrewed 
beer ; that don't look like a failing digestion, does it. 
And I shall eat, — Lord bless you I You would laugh 
to see me at my dinner, I eat like a ploughboy. That 
is not like the decay of old age attacking the witals, is 
it, my pretty ? Now listen to me, and I will tell you 
all about it. Do you chance to notice here and there 
a little grey in my hair ? Just as though a few grains 
of salt had dropped among black pepper ? They come 
of care, dearest, not of years. I never had a grizzled 



STKUGK COLOUES. 143 

hair on my head till — till I struck my colours. Now I'll 
tell you all about it, and you tell your mother. She will 
pity me. One day in my yard I stumbled over a round 
of timber and fell on my back on it, and hurt my spine, 
and I've been a cripple ever since. It is a sad pity — 
such a fine, strapping, manly fellow as I, in the prime 
of age, to be Md by like an old condemned wessel ! 
Well ! here I have had to lie in my window, looking 
out, and not seeing much to interest me. But the girls 
of Wyvenhoe, bless their kind hearts, — they are angels 
up to one and twenty — used to come to the window, 
and wish me a good day, and ask after my health, and 
have pleasant little gossips, and be altogether jolly. 
Next, whenever they could, some one or two would 
bring her knitting or needlework, and come in, and sit 
here and spend an hour or so, talking, laughing and 
making fun. That was pleasant, wasn't it? It is 
wonderful what a lot those dear girls had to say for 
themselves; they became quite confidential with me, 
and told me all their love afiairs, and how matters 
stood, and who their sweethearts were. It was worth 
while being ill and laid on one's back to enjoy such 
society. Whenever I was dull and wanted some chat, 
I sent my man to hoist the flag, and the next girl that 
went by, " Ah ! " said she, " there's that poor fellow 
would like my society," and in she came and sat talking 
with me as long as she was able. Then sometimes I 
had a dish of tea brought in, or some cakes, or fruit. 
It was a pleasant time. I wish it were to come over 
all again. Tell your mother all this. I was quite the 
pet of all the kind-hearted young folks in Wy\^enhoe. 
Now that is over. I'll tell you about it.' He sighed 



144 MEHALAH. 

and passed a shaking hand over his bright, twinkling 
eyes. ' You must explain it all to your mother — Liddy 
that was. You see, I don't forget her name. Now tell 
me yours again ; it is gone from me.' 

' Mehalah.' 

' I'll write it down in my note-book and then I shall 
remember it. My memory is overstocked, and it takes 
me a deal of time to find in it what I want. But your 
mother's name don't get buried, but lies at hand on the 
top. You'll tell her so. Now about my troubles. There 
was one damsel, who was called Admonition ; and she was 
very particularly pleasant and attentive to me, and many 
a little teasing and joking I had with her about her 
name. She was the girl fullest of fun, she regularly 
brimmed over with it, and it ran down her sides. She 
was a milliner, and had to work for her living. She 
had no relations and no money of her own. It is curious 
what a lot of cousins she has now, mostly in the sea- 
faring line, and all young. Then she was always ready 
for a chat. She would bring her needlework and sit 
with me by the hour. I thought it vastly pleasant, and 
how much more pleasant it would be if she were always 
by my side to keep me laughing and chirpy. I must 
tell you that I go down some degrees when alone, — not 
that my spirits fail me with age, — it is constitutional. 
I was so as a boy. — ^Bless me ! it seems to me only the 
other day when I was a romping lout of a lad — I'm crisp 
and crackly like seaweed in an East wind when I am in 
female society, that is, female society up to one and 
twenty — but I'm like the same seaweed in a Sou'wester 
when I'm alone. One day the flag was flying, but no 
visitor came except Admonition. It was the day of the 



STKUCK COLOUES. 145 

Kegatta. She said, and the tears came into her eyes, 
that she was a lone girl, with no one to accompany her, 
so she had come to sit with me. She tried to cheer 
up and laugh, but she felt her loneliness so that my 
heart was touched, and I proposed and we were married.' 
There ensued a long pause. Mr. Pettican looked out 
of the window. ' I had a queer sort of premonitory 
feeling when I said, " I take thee Admonition to my 
wedded wife," but it was too late then to retract. Now 
the flag that has braved a thousand breezes is down. 
It has not flown since that day.' 

' Where is ^Irs. Pettican now ? ' asked Mehalah. 

'At the Kegatta,' answered the cripple. 'You'll 
tell your mother how I am situated. She will drop a 

tear for poor Charlie. I will tell you what. Me ' he 

looked at his note-book, ' Mehalah ; men fancy all girls 
sultana raisins, but when they bite them they get very 
hard pips between their teeth. There's a Methodist 
preacher here has been haranguing on conversion, and 
persuading Admonition that she is a new creature. I 
know she is. She was converted on the day of the 
marriage ceremony ; but the conversion was not some- 
thing to boast of. Matrimony with women is what 
jibbing is with ships, they go through a movement 
of staggering and then away they start off on a tack 
clean contrary to the course they were sailing before. 
Marriage, Mehalah, is like Devonshire cream ; it is very 
rich and tasty, but it develops a deal of bile. Look 
here, my pretty I ' In a moment he was off his chair, 
stumping in his crutches round the room, dragging his 
paralysed limbs after him. He returned to his chair. 
' Put up my legs, dear,' he begged ; then said, ' That is 

L 



146 MEHALAH. 

the state of my case ; my better half is Admonition, the 
poor paralysed, helpless, dead half is me.' 

He did not speak for some moments, but brushed 
his eyes with his feeble hand. At last he said, ' I've 
unburdened my soul. Tell your mother. Now go ahead, 
and let me know what you want.' 

Mehalah told Mr. Pettican the circumstances. She 
said that her mother wanted a loan of fifteen or twenty 
pounds. If she could not procure the sum, she would 
have her cow taken from her, then they would be unable 
to pay the rent next Lady Day, and be without milk for 
the winter. They would be turned out of the little 
farm on which her mother had lived so long, in quiet 
and contentment, and this would go far to break her 
mother's heart. She told him candidly that the loan 
could only be repaid in instalments. 

The old man listened patiently, only passing his 
hand in an agitated manner across his face several 
times. 

' I wish I could help you,' he said, when she had 
done ; ' I have money. I have laid by some. There 
is plenty in the box and more at the bank, but I can't 
get at it.' 

'Sir!' 

' Before I struck my colours, Mehalah, I did what I 
liked with my money ; on market days my man went 
into Colchester, and I always gave him a little sum to 
lay out in presents for my kind visitors. Bless you ; a 
very trifle pleased them. It is different now. I don't 
spend a penny myself. The money is spent for me. I 
don't keep the key of my cashbox. Admonition has it.' 

' Then,' said Mehalah, rising from her seat, ' all is 



STRUCK COLOUES. 147 

•over with us. My mother, your cousin, will in her old 
age be cast destitute into the world. But, if you really 
wish to help her, be a man, use your authority, and do 
what you choose with your own.' 

' Bless me I ' exclaimed Mr. Pettican touching his 
brow with his trembling hand, ' I will be a man. Am 
I not a man ! If I don't exert my authority, people 
will say I am in my dotage. I — I — in my flower and 

cream of my age — in the dotage ! Gro, Me ' he 

looked in his note-book, ' Mehalah, fetch me my cashbox, 
it is in the bedroom cupboard upstairs, on the right, 
over this. Bring the box down. Stay though ! Before 
you come down just feel in my wife's old dress pocket. 
She may have forgotten to take her keys with her to 
the Kegatta. It is just possible.' 

' I cannot do that.' 

'Well, no, perhaps you had better not. Do you 
happen to have a bunch of keys with you ? ' 

' No, sir.' 

' Well, never mind. Bring me the case. I will be 
a man. I will show the world I am not in my dotage. 
I will be of the masculine gender, dative case, if it 
pleases me, and Admonition may lump it if she don't 
like it.' 

Mehalah obeyed. She found the box, which was of 
iron, brought it downstairs, and placed it on the table 
by Mr. Pettican. ' I've been turning the matter over 
in my mind,' said he, ' and I see a very happy way out 
of it without a row. Grive me the poker. You will 
find a cold chisel in that drawer.' 

' I will tell you my idea. Whilst I am left here all 
^lone, bm-glars have broken into the house, knowing my 

I- 2 



1 48 MEHALAH. 

helpless condition, and have ransacked the place, found 
my cashbox and broken it open.' He chuckled and 
rubbed his hands. ' I shall be able accurately to describe 
the ruffians. One has a black moustache, and the other 
a red beard, and they look like foreigners and speak a 
Dutch jargon.' 

He put the chisel to the lid, and struck at it with 
the poker, starting the hinges by the blow. 

At that moment the door was flung wide, and in 
swam a dashing young woman in very gay colours, on 
the arm of a yachtsman. 

' Charles ! ' she cried? ' what are you after ? ' then 
turning abruptly on Mehalah, ' And pray what are you 
doing here, in my house ? ' Mr. Pettican's head, which 
had been craned forward in eagerness over the box, re- 
treated amidst the collar and cravat, and almost disap- 
peared. 

' Who are you ? ' she asked of Mehalah, with an 
insulting air. ' Out of this house with you at once ! ' 

' My dear Monie ! ' pleaded Mr. Pettican, lifting his 
shaking hands into an attitude of prayer. 

' No " My dears " and " Monies " to me,' said the^ 
wife. ' I want to know what you are after with my 
cashbox ? Ho, ho ! trying to prize it open and squander 
my little sums laid aside for household expenses on — 
Heaven knows whom.' 

' Mr. Pettican is my mother's cousin,' said Me- 
halah. 

' Cousin, indeed ! never heard Mr. Pettican speak of 
you. Cousins are sure to turn up when money is 
wanted.' 

' Mr. Pettican,' said Mehalah, refusing to notice thfr 



STKUCK COLOUES. 149 

insolent woman, ' be a man and let me have the money 
you promised.' 

' 1 should like to be a man, oh ! I wish I were a man 1 
But I can't, I can't indeed, dear. I haven't been my- 
self since I hauled down my flag.' 

' Charles, hold out your hand, and invite my cousin 
Timothy to dinner. He has kindly consented to stay 
a fortnight with us.' 

' Timothy ! ' echoed Mr. Pettican, ' I did not know 
you had such a cousin.' 

' Do you think you know anything of my relations ? ' 
exclaimed Admonition ; ' I should hope not, they are a 
little above your sphere. There are lots more cousins ! ' 

The poor little man sat shrinking behind his blinkers, 
peering piteously now at Mehalah, and then at his wife. 

' Be a man,' said Mehalah, grasping him by both 
hands. ' Save us from ruin.' 

' Can't do it. Pretty, can't. I have struck my 
colours.' 



CHAPTER XI 

A DUTCH AUCTION. 



Mehalah returned sadly to the Ray. The hope that 
had centred in help from Wyvenhoe had been extin- 
guished. 

Her mother was greatly disappointed at the ill- 
success of the application, but flattered at her cousin's 
recollection of her. 

'If it had not been for that woman's coming in 
when she did, we should have had the money,' said Mrs. 



150 MEHALAH. 

Sharland. ' What a pity she did not remain away a 
little longer. Charles is very well disposed, and would 
help us if he could pluck up courage to defy his wife. 
Suppose you try again, Mehalah, some other day, and 
choose your time well.' 

' I will not go there again, mother,' 

'If we do get turned out of this place we might 
settle at Wyvenhoe, and then choose our opportunity.' 

' Mother, the man is completely under his wife's 
thumb. There is no help to be found there.' 

' Then, Mehalah, the only chance that remains, is to 
get the money from the Mersea parson.' 

' He cannot help us.' 

' There is no harm trying.' 

The day on which Mrs. De Witt had threatened to 
come had passed, without her appearing. True it had 
blown great guns, and there had been storms of rain. 
Mrs. Sharland hoped that the danger was over. The 
primitive inhabitants of the marshes had dwelt on piles, 
she built on straws. Some people do not realise a 
danger till it is on them and they cannot avert it. Mrs. 
Sharland was one of these. She liked her grievance, 
and loved to moan over it ; if she had not a real one she 
invented one, just as children celebrate funerals over 
dolls. She had been so accustomed to lament over toy 
troubles that when a real trouble threatened she was 
imable to measure its gravity. 

She was a limp and characterless woman. Mehalah 
had inherited the rich red blood of her grandparents, 
and Mrs. Sharland had assimilated only the water, 
and this flowed feebly through her pale veins. Her 
nature was parasitic. She could not live on her own 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 151 

root, but must adhere to a character stronger than her- 
self. She had hung on and snaothered her husband, and 
now she dragged at her daughter. Mehalah must stand 
upright or IMrs. Sharland would crush her to the ground. 
There are women like articles of furniture that will 
' wobble ' unless a penny or a wedge of wood be put 
under their feet. Mrs. Sharland was always crying out 
for some trifle to steady her. 

Mehalah did not share her mother's anticipations 
that the danger had passed with the day, that Mrs De. 
Witt's purpose had given way to kinder thoughts ; she 
was quite sure that she would prove relentless and push 
matters to extremities. It was this certainty which 
drove her to act once more on her mother's suggestion, 
and go to the Mersea Kectory, to endeavour to borrow 
the sum of money needed to relieve them from imme- 
diate danger. 

She found the parson in his garden without his coat, 
which hung on the hedge, making a potatoe pie for the 
winter. 

He was on all fours packing the tubers in straw. 
His boots and gaiters were clogged with clay. 

' Hallo ! ' he exclaimed as Mehalah came up. ' You 
are the girl they call Griory ? Look here. I want you 
to see my kidneys. Did you ever see the like, come 
clean out of the ground without canker. Would you 
like a peck ? I'll give them you. Boil beautiful.' 

' I want to speak with you, sir.' 

* Speak then by all means, and don't mind me. I 
must attend to my kidneys. A fine day like this is not 
to be wasted at this time of the year. Go on. There 
is an ashtop for you. I don't care for the potatoe as a 



152 MEHALAH. 

potatoe. It don't boil all to flour as I like. You can 
have a few if you like. Now go on.' 

Down went his head again, and was buried in a nest 
of straw. Mehalah waited. She did not care to address 
his back and legs, the only part of his person visible. 

' You can't be too careful with potatoes,' said the 
parson, presently emerging, very red in the face, and 
with a pat of clay on his nose. ' You must make them 
comfortable for the winter. Do to others as you would 
they should do to you. Keep them well from frost, 
and they will boil beautiful all the winter through. Gro 
on with your story. I am listening,' and in went the 
head again. 

Mehalah lost heart. She could not begin thus. 

' Pah ! how I sweat,' exclaimed the parson, again 
emerging. ' The sun beats down on my back, and 
the black waistcoat draws the heat. And we are in 
November. This won't last. Have you your potatoes 
in, Glory?' 

' We have only a few on the Eay.' 

'You ought to have more. Potatoes like a light 
soil well drained. You have gravel, and with some 
good cow-dung or sheep-manure, which is better still, 
with your fall, they ought to do primely. I'll give you 
seed. It is all nonsense, as they do here, planting 
small whole potatoes. Take a good strong tuber, and 
cut it up with an eye in each piece ; then you get a 
better plant than if you keep the little half-grown 
potatoes for seed. However, I'm wasting time. I'll be 
back in a moment. I must fetch another basket load. 
Gro on with your story all the same : I can hear you. I 
shall only be in the shed behind the Kectory.' 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 153 

Parson Tyll was a curate of one parish across the 
Strood and of the two on the island. The rector was 
non-resident, on the plea of the insalubrity of the spot. 
He had held the rectory of one parish and the vicarage 
of the other thirty years, and during that period had 
visited his cures twice, once to read himself in, and on 
the other occasion to exact some tithes denied him. 

' All right,' said Mr. Tyll, returning from the back 
premises, staggering under a crate full of roots. ' Gro 
on, I am listening. Pick up those kidneys which have 
rolled out. Curse it, I hate their falling and getting 
bruised ; they won't keep. There now, you never saw 
finer potatoes in your life than these. My soil here is 
the same as yours on the Eay. Don't plant too close, 
and not in ridges. I'll tell you what I do. I put mine 
in five feet apart and make heaps round each. I don't 
hold by ridges. Hillocks is my doctrine. Gro on, I am 
listening. Here, lend me a hand, and chuck me in the 
potatoes as I want them. You can talk all the same.' 

Parson Tyll crept into his heap and seated himself 
on his haunches. ' Chuck away, but not too roughly. 
They mustn't be bruised. Now go on, I can stack the 
tubers and listen all the same.' 

' Sir,' said Mehalah, out of heart at her reception, 
' we are in great trouble and difficulty.' 

' I have no doubt of it ; none in the world. You 
don't grow enough potatoes. Now look at my kidneys. 
They are the most prolific potatoes I know. I intro- 
duced them, and they go by my name. You may ask 
for them anywhere as TylFs kidneys. Gro on, I am 
listening.' 

' We owe Mrs. De Witt a matter of five and twenty 



154 MEHALAH. 

pounds,' began Mehalah, red with sliame ; ' and how to 
pay her we do not know.' 

' Nor I,' said the parson. ' You have tried to go 
on without potatoes, and you can't do it. Others have 
tried and failed. You should keep geese on the saltings, 
and fowls. Fowls ought to thrive on a sandy soil, but 
then you have no corn land, that makes a difference. 
Potatoes, however, especially my kidneys, ought to be 
a treasure to you. Take my advice, be good, grow 
potatoes. Gro on, I am listening. Chuck me some 
more. How is the stock in the basket ? Does it want 
replenishing ? Look here, my lass, go to the coach- 
house and bring me some more. There is a heap in the 
corner ; on the left ; those on the right are ashtops. 
They go in a separate pie. You can talk as you go, I 
shall be here and harkening.' 

Mehalah went sullenly to the place where the pre- 
cious roots were stored, and brought him a basketful. 

' By the way,' said the parson, peeping out of his 
mole-hill at her, 'it strikes me you ought not to be 
here now. Is there not a sale on your farm to-day ? ' 

' A sale, sir ? ' 

' A sale, to be sure. Mrs. De Witt has carried off 
my clerk to act as auctioneer, or he would be helping 
me now with my potatoes. She has been round to 
several of the farmers to invite them to attend and bid, 
and they have gone to see if they can pick up some 
ewes or a cow cheap.' 

Mehalah staggered. Was this possible ? 

' Go on with your story, I'm listening,' continued 
the parson, diving back into his burrow, so that only 
the less honourable extremity of his vertebral column 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 155 

was visible. ' Talk of potatoes. There's not one to 
come up to Tyll's kidneys. Go on, I am all attention ! 
Chuck me some more potatoes.' 

But Mehalah was gone, and was making the best of 
her way back. 

Parson Tyll was right. This fine November day 
was that which it had struck Mrs. De Witt was most 
suitable for the sale, that would produce the money. 

Mehalah had not long left the Strood before a strange 
procession began to cross the Marshes. 

jNIrs. De Witt sat aloft in a tax-cart borrowed of 
Isaac Mead, the publican, by the side of his boy who 
drove. Behind, very uncomfortably, much in the 
attitude of a pair of scissors, sat the clerk, folded 
nearly double in the bottom of the cart ; his head 
reclined on Mrs. De Witt's back and the seat of the 
vehicle, his legs hung over the board at the back, and 
swung about like those of a calf being carried to 
market or to the butcher's. Mrs. De Witt wore her 
red coat, and a clean washed or stiffly starched cap. 
She led the way. The road over the Marshes was bad, 
full of holes, and greasy. A recent tide had corrupted 
the clay into strong brown glue. 

The farmers and others who followed to attend the 
sale had put up their gigs and carts at the cottage of 
the Strood keeper, and pursued their way on foot. But 
Mrs. De Witt was above such feebleness of nerve. She 
had engaged the trap for the day, and would take her 
money's worth out of it. The boy had protested at the 
Strood that the cart of his master could not go over 
the marshes, that Isaac Mead had not supposed it 
possible that it would be taken over so horible and 



156 MEHALAH. 

perilous a road. Mrs. De Witt thereupon brought her 
large blue gingham umbrella down on the lad's back, 
and vowed she would open him like an oyster with her 
pocket-knife unless he obeyed her. She looked quite 
capable of fulfilling her threat, and he submitted. 

The cart jerked from side to side. The clerk's head 
struck Mrs. De Witt several sharp blows in the small 
of her back. She turned sharply round, pegged at him 
with the umbrella, and bade him mind his manners. 

' Let me get out. I can't bear this, ma'am,' pleaded 
^he man. 

^It becomes you to ride to the door as the officer of 
justice,' answered she. ' If I can ride, so can you. 
Lie quiet,' and she banged at him with the umbrella 
again. 

At that moment there came a jolt of a more violent 
description than before, and Mrs. De Witt was suddenly 
precipitated over the splash-board, and, after a battle 
in the air, on the back of the prostrate horse, with her 
feet, hands and umbrella she went into a mud hole. 
The horse was down, but the knees of the clerk were 
up far above his head. He struggled to rise, but was 
unable, and could only bellow for assistance. 

Mrs. De Witt picked herself up and assisted the 
boy in bringing the horse to his feet again. Then she 
-coolly pinned up her gown to her knees, and strode 
forward. The costume was not so shocking to her 
native modesty as might have been supposed, nor did 
it scandalise the farmers, for it was that adopted by the 
collectors of winkles on the flats. The appearance pre- 
sented by Mrs. De Witt was, however, grotesque. In 
the mud her legs had sunk to the knees, and they 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 157 

looked as though she wore a pair of highly polished 
Hessian boots. The skirt and the red coat gave her a 
curious nondescript military cut, as half Highlander. 
Though she walked, she would not allow the clerk to 
dismount. She whacked at the pendant legs when they 
rose and protested, and bade the fellow lie still ; he was 
all right, and it was only proper that he, the functionary 
on the occasion, should arrive in state, instead of on his 
own shanks. 

' If you get up on the seat you'll be bobbed off like 
a pea on a drum. Lie in the bottom of the cart and 
be peaceful, as is your profession,' said Mrs. De Witt, 
with a dig of the umbrella over the side. 

They formed a curious assemblage. There were the 
four brothers Marriage of Peldon, not one of whom had 
taken a wife. Once, indeed, the youngest, Herbert, had 
formed matrimonial schemes ; but on his ventilating 
the subject, had been fallen on by his three brothers and 
three unmarried sisters who kept house for them, as 
though he had hinted the introduction of a cask of 
gunpowder into the cellars. He had been scolded and 
lectured, and taunted, as the apostate, the profligate, 
the prodigal, who was bent on the ruin of the family, 
the dissipation of the accumulated capital of years of 
labour, the introducer of discord into a united household. 
And yet the household was only united in theory, in fact 
the brothers were always fighting and swearing at one 
another about the order of the work to be executed on 
the farm, and the sisters quarrelled over the household 
routine. 

There was Joshua Pudney, of Smith's Hall, who 
loved his bottle and neglected his farm, who grew more 



158 MEHALAH. 

thistles than wheat, and kept more hunters than cows, 
a jolly fat red-faced man with white hair, always in top 
boots. Along with him was Nathaniel Pooley, who com- 
bined preaching with farming, was noted for sharp 
practice in money matters, and for not always coming 
out of pecuniary transactions with clean hands. Pudney 
cursed and Pooley blessed, yet the labourers were wont 
to say that Pudney's curses broke no bones, but Pooley's 
blessings did them out of many a shilling. Pudney let 
wheat litter in his stubble, and bid the gleaners go in 
and be damned, when he threw the gate open to them. 
Pooley raked the harvest field over thrice, and then 
opened the gleaning with an invocation to Providence 
to bless the widow, the fatherless, and the poor who 
gathered in his fields. 

Farmer Wise was a gaunt, close-shaven man, always 
very neatly dressed, a great snuff-taker. He was a 
politician, and affected to be a Whig, whilst all the rest 
of his class were Tories. He was argumentative, com- 
bative, and cantankerous, a close, careful man, and re- 
ported a miser. 

A dealer, riding a black pony, a wonderful little 
creature that scampered along at a flying trot, came up 
and slackened rein. He was a stout man in a very 
batteied hat, with shabby coat ; a merry man, and a 
good judge of cattle. 

The proceedings of the day were, perhaps, hardly in 
accordance with strict English law, but then English law 
was precisely like G-ospel precepts, made for other folk. 
On the Essex marshes people did not trouble themselves 
much about the legality of their proceedings ; they took 
the law into their own hands. If the law suited them 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 159 

they used it, if not they did without it. But, legally or 
not legally, they got what they wanted. It was alto- 
gether inconvenient and expensive for the recovery of a 
small debt to apply to a solicitor and a magistrate, and 
the usual custom was, therefore, to do the thing cheaply 
and easily through the clerk of the parish constituted 
auctioneer for the occasion, and the goods of the de- 
faulter were sold by him to an extemporised assembly 
of purchasers on any day that suited the general con- 
venience. The clerk so far submitted to legal restric- 
tions that he did not run goods up, but down ; he 
began with an absurdly high figure, instead of one pre- 
posterously low. 

When the cart and its contents and followers arrived 
at the Ray, the horse was taken out, and the vehicle 
was run against a rick of hay, into which the shafts 
were deeply thrust, so as to keep the cart upright, that 
it might serve as a rostrum for the auctioneer. 

' We'll go and take stock first,' said the clerk ; 
'we've to raise twenty-five pounds for the debt and 
twenty shillings my costs. What is there to sell ? ' 

'Wait a bit, gaffer,' said the cattle jobber ; ' you're 
a trifle too quick. The oM lady must demand the 
money first.' 

' I'm agoing to do so, Mr. Mellonie,' said Mrs. De 
Witt ; ' you teach your grandmother to shell shrimps.' 
Then, looking round on about twenty persons who had 
assembled, she said, ' Follow me. Stay ! here comes 
more. Oh ! it is Elijah Kebow and his men come to see 
fair play. Come by water have you, Elijah ? We are 
not going to sell anything of yours, you needn't fear.' 

She shouldered her umbrelly likf> an oar, and strode 



160 MEHALAH. 

to the house door. Mrs. Sharland was there, white and 
trerabling. 

' Have you got my money ? ' asked Mrs. De Witt. 

'Oh, mistress,' exclaimed the unfortunate widow, 
' do have pity and patience. Mehalah has just gone to 
get it.' 

« Gone to get it ? ' echoed Mrs. De Witt. ' Why, 
where in the name of wonder does she expect to get 
it?' 

' She had gone to Parson Tyll to borrow it.' 

' Then she won't get it,' said the drover. ' There's 
no money to be wrung out of empty breeches pockets.' 

' Let me into the house,' said Mrs. De Witt. ' Let 
us all see what you have got. There's a clock. Drag 
it out, and stick it up under the tree near the cart. 
That is worth a few pounds. And take that chair.' 

' It is my chair. I sit in it, and I have the ague 
so bad.' 

'Take the chair,' persisted Mrs. De Witt, and 
Eebow's men carried it forth. 'There's some good 
plates there. Is there a complete set ? ' 

' There are only six.' 

'That is better tha!i none. Out with them. 
What have you got in the corner cupboard ? ' 

' Nothing but trifles.' 

' We'll sell the cupboard and the dresser. You can't 
move the dresser, Elijah. We'll carry it in our heads. 
Look at it,' she said to the clerk ; ' see you don't forget 
to put that up. Now shall we go into the bedrooms, or 
go next to the cowhouse ? ' 

' Leave the bedroom,' said Mellonie, ' you can't sell 
the bed from under the old woman.' 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 161 

' I can though, if I don't raise enough,' said Mrs. 
De Witt. ' I've slept on a plank many a time.' 

' Oh dear ! Oh dear ! ' moaned the widow Sharland ; 
^ I wish Mehalah had returned ; perhaps she has the 
money.' 

' No chance of that, mistress,' said Eebow. ' You 
are sold up and done for past escape now. What will 
you do next, you and that girl Grlory, I'd Uke to 
taow ? ' 

' I think she will get the money,' persisted the 
widow. 

Elijah turned from her with a sneer. 

' Outside with you,' shouted Mrs. De Witt. ' The 
sale is going to begin.' 

The men — there were no women present except 
Mrs. De Witt — quickly evacuated the house and pushed 
into the stable and cowhouse. 

There was no horse, and only one cow. The sheep 
were on the saltings. There was no cart, and very few 
tools of any sort. The little farm was solely a sheep 
farm, there was not an acre of tillage land attached to it. 

The clerk climbed up into the cart. 

' Stop, stop, for Heaven's sake I ' gasped Mehalah 
dashing up. ' What is this ! Why have we not been 
warned ? ' 

' Oh yes ! forewarned indeed, and get rid of the 
things,' growled Mrs. De Witt. ' But I did tell you 
what I should do, and precious good-natured I was to 
do It.' 

Mehalah darted past her into the house. 

' Tell me, tell me ! ' cried the excited mother, ' have 
you the money ? ' 

M 



162 MEHALAH. 

' No. The parson could not let me have it.' 

' Hark ! they have begun the sale. What is it thejr 
are crying now ? ' 

' The clock, mother. Oh, this is dreadful.' 

' They will sell the cow too,' said the widow. 

' Certain to do so.' 

'There! I hear the dresser's put up. Who has 
bougfht the clock ? ' 

' Oh never mind, that matters nothing. We are 
ruined.' 

' Oh dear, dear ! ' moaned Mrs. Sharland, ' that it 
should come to this ! But I suppose I must, I must 
indeed. Eun, Mehalah, run quick and unrip the belt 
of my green gown. Quick, fetch it me.' 

The girl hastily obeyed. The old woman got her 
knife, and with trembling hand cut away the lining in 
several parts of the body. Shining sovereigns came 
out. 

' There are twenty here,' she said with a sigh, ' and 
we have seven over of what Greorge let us have. Give 
the wretches the money.' 

' Mother, mother ! ' exclaimed Mehalah. ' How 
could you borrow ! How could you send me ! ' 

' Never mind, I did not want to use my little store 
till every chance had failed. Eun out and pay the 
money.' 

Mehalah darted from the door. 

The clerk was selling the cow. 

' Groing for twenty-five pounds. What ? no one 
bid, going for twenty-five pounds, and dirt cheap at the 
money, all silent ! Well I never, and such a cow I 
Going for twenty-three ' 



A DUTCH AUCTION. 163 

' Stop ! ' shouted Mehalah. ' Here is Mrs. De 
Witt's money, twenty- five pounds.' 

'Damnation!' roared Elijah, 'where did you get 
it?' 

' Our savings,' answered Mehalah, and turned her 
back on him. 



CHAPTER XII. 

A GILDED BALCONY. 



Mehalah was hurt and angry at her mother's conduct. 
She thought that she had not been fairly treated. 
When the loss sustained presumably by Abraham Dow- 
sing's carelessness had been discovered, Mrs. Sharland 
had not hinted the existence of a private store, and had 
allowed De Witt to lend her the money she wanted for 
meeting the rent. Grlory regarded this conduct as 
hardly honest. It jarred, at all events, with her sense 
of what was honourable. On the plea of absolute 
inability to pay the rent, they had obtained five and 
twenty pounds from the young fisherman. Then again, 
when Mrs. De Witt reclaimed the debt, Mehalah had 
been subjected to the humiliation of appealing to Mr. 
Petti can and being repulsed by Admonition. She had 
been further driven to sue a loan of the parson ; she 
had not, indeed, asked him for the money, but that was 
only because he avoided, intentionally or not she could 
not say, giving her the chance. She had gone with the 
intention of begging, and his manner, and the acciden- 
tal discovery that the sale was already taking place, had 

M 2 



1 64 MEHALAH. 

alone prevented her from undergoing the shame of 
asking and being refused. 

She did not like to charge her mother with having 
behaved dishonourably, for she felt instinctively that her 
mother's views and hers were not coincident. Her brow 
was clouded, and an unpleasant gleam flickered in her 
eyes. She resisted the treatment she had been subjected 
to as unnecessary. It was only justifiable in an extreme 
emergency, and no such emergency had existed. Her 
mother would rather sacrifice her daughter's self-respect 
than break in on the little hoard. 

' Charles said he had money in the bank, did he ? ' 
asked Mrs. Sharland. 
'Yes.' 

' To think of that ! My cousin has an account in 
the bank, and can write his cheques, and one can cash 
cheques signed Charles Pettican ! That is something to 
be proud of, Mehalah.' 
' Indeed, mother ? ' 

' And you say he has a beautiful house, with a 
verandah. A real gilt balcony. Think of that ! And 
Charles is my cousin, the cousin of your own mother. 
There's something to think of, there. I couldn't sleep 
last night with dreaming of that house with its green 
shutters and a real balcony. I do believe that I shall 
die happy, if some day I may but see that there gilded 
— you said it was gilded — balcony. Charles Pettican 
with a balcony ! What is the world coming to next ! 
A real gilded balcony, and two figureheads looking over 
— there's an idea ! Did you tell me there was a sofa in 
his sitting-room ; and I think you said the dressing- 
table had a pink petticoat with gauze over it. Just think 



A GILDED BALCONY. 165 

of that. I might have been Mrs. Charles Pettican, if 
all had gone well, and things had been as they should 
have, and then I should have had a petticoat to my 
dressing-table and a balcony afore my window. I am 
glad you went, it was like the Queen of Sheba visiting- 
Solomon and seeing all his glory, and now you've come 
back into your own land, and filled me with your tidings.' 

Mehalah let her mother meander on, without paying 
any attention to what she said. Mrs. Sharland had 
risen some stages in her self-importance since she had 
heard how prosperous in a pecuniary sense her relation 
was. It shed a sort of glory on her when she thought 
that, had fate ruled it so, she might have shared with 
him this splendour, instead of being poor and lonely on 
the desolate Kay. Mrs. Sharland would have loved a 
gossip, but never got a chance of talking to anyone with 
a similar partiality. Had she married Mr. Charles Pet- 
tican she would have been in the vortex of a maelstrom 
of tittle-tattle. It was something to puff her up to 
think that if matters had taken another turn this would 
have been her position in Wyvenhoe. 

' I don't think Mrs. De Witt had any notion how rich 
and distinguished my relatives are, when she came here 
asking for her live and twenty pounds. I'll take my 
oath on it, she has no cousin with a balcony and a sofa. 
I don't suppose we shall be troubled much now, when it 
is known that my cousin draws cheques, and that the 
name of Charles Pettican is honoured at the bank.' 

' You forget we got, and shall get, no help from him.' 

' I do not forget it, Mehalah. I remember perfectly 
how affably he spoke of me — his Liddy Vince, his pretty 
cousin. I do not forget how ready he was to lend the 



166 MEHALAH. 

money. Twenty pounds ! if you had asked fifty, he'd 
have given it you as readily. He was about to break 
open his cash-box, as he hadn't the key by him, and 
would have given me the money I wanted, had not a 
person who is no relation of mine interposed. That 
comes of designing women stepping in between near 
relatives. Charles Pettican is my cousin, and he is not 
ashamed to acknowledge it; why should he? I have 
always maintained myself respectable, and always shall.' 
'Mother,' said Mehalah, interrupting this watery 
wash of vain twaddle, ' you should not have borrowed 
the money of Greorge De Witt. That was the beginning 
of the mischief ? ' 

* Beginning of what mischief ? ' 
' The beginning of our trouble.' 

' No, it was not ; Abraham's carelessness was the 
beginning.' 

* But, mother, I repeat it, you did wrong in not pro- 
ducing your hidden store instead of borrowing.' 

' I did not borrow. I never asked Greorge De Witt 
for his money, he proposed to let us have it himself.' 

' That is indeed true ; but you should have at once 
refused to take it, and said it was unnecessary for us to 
be indebted to him, as you had the sum sufficient laid 

by.' 

' That is all very well, Mehalah, but when a generous 
offer is made me, why should I not accept it ? Be- 
cause there's still some milk of yesterday in the pan, do 
you decline to milk the cow to-day? I was glad of the 
opportunity of keeping my little savings untouched. 
Besides, I always thought George would make you his 
wife.' 



A GILDED BALCONY. 167 

' I thought SO too,' said Mehalah in a low tone, and 
her face became sad and blank as before ; she went off 
into a dream, but presently recovered herself and said, 
^Then, when Mrs. De Witt asked for her money, why 
did you not produce it, and free us of her insults and 
annoyance ? ' 

' I did not want to part with my money. And it 
has turned out well. If I had done as you say, we 
should not have revived old acquaintance, and obtained 
the valuable assistance of Charles Pettican.' 

' He did not assist us.' 

'He did as far as he was able. He would have 
given us the money, had not untoward circumstances 
intervened. He as good as let us have the twenty 
pounds. That is something to be proud of — to be 
helped by a man whose name is honoured at the bank 
— at the Colchester Bank.' 

' But, mother, you have given me inexpressible 
pain ! ' 

' Pained you ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Sharland. ' How 
could I?' 

Her eyes opened wide. Mehalah looked at her. 
They had such different souls, that the girl saw it was 
of no use attempting to explain to her mother what 
had wounded her; her sensations belonged to a sense of 
which her mother was deprived. It is idle to speak of 
scarlet to a man who is blind. 

' I did it all for you,' said Mrs. Sharland reproach- 
fully. ' I was thinking and caring only for you, 
Mehalah, from beginning to end, from first to last.' 

' Thinking and caring for me I ' echoed Glory in 
surprise. 



168 MEHALAH. 

' Of course I was. 1 put those gold pieces away^- 
one a quarter from the day you were born, till I had 
no more savings that I could put aside. I put them 
away for you. I thought that when I was gone and 
buried, you should have this little sum to begin the 
world upon, and you would not say that your mother 
died and left you nothing. Nothing in the world would 
have made me touch the hoard, for it was your money, 
Mehalah — nothing but the direst need, and you will do 
me the justice to say that this was the case to-day. It 
would have been the worst that could have happened 
for you to-day had the money not been paid, for you 
would have sunk in the scale.' 

' Mother I ' exclaimed Mehalah, intensely moved, 
' you did all this for me ; you thought and cared for 
me — for me ! ' 

The idea of her mother having ever done anything 
for her, ever having thought of her, apart from herself, 
of having provided for her independently of herself, 
was too strange and too amazing for Mehalah to take it 
in at once. As long as she remembered anything she 
had worked for her mother, thought for her, and denied 
herself for her, without expecting any return, taking it 
as a matter of course that she should devote herself to 
her mother without the other making any acknowledg- 
ment. 

And now the thought that she had been mistaken, 
that her mother had really cared for and provided for 
her, overwhelmed her. She had not wept when she 
thought that Greorge De Witt was lost to her, but now 
she dropped into her chair, buried her face in her arms,, 
and burst into a storm of sobs and tears. 



A GILDED BALCONY. 169" 

Mrs. Sharland looked at her with a puzzled face. 
She never had understood Mehalah, and she was content 
to be in the dark as to what was passing in her breast 
now. She settled back in her chair, and turned back 
to the thoughts of Charles Pettican's gilt balcony, and 
petticoated dressing-table. 

By degrees Mehalah recovered her composure, then 
she went up to her mother and kissed her passionately 
on the brow. 

' Mother dear,' she said in a broken voice, ' I never, 
never will desert you. Whatever happens, our lot shall 
be cast together.' 

Then she reared herself, and in a moment was firm 
of foot, erect of carriage, rough and imperious as of old. 

' I must look after the sheep on the saltings,' she 
said. ' Abraham's head is turned with the doings here 
to-day, and he has gone to the Kose to talk and drink 
it over. The moon is full, and we shall have a high tide.' 

Next moment Mrs. Sharland was alone. 

The widow heaved a sigh. ' There is no making 
heads or tails of that girl, I don't understand her a bit,' 
she muttered. 

' I do though,' answered Elijah Rebow at the door. 
' I want a word with you, mistress.' 

' I thought you had gone, Elijah, after the sale.' 

' No, I did not leave with the rest. I hung about 
in the marshes, waiting a chance when I might speak 
with you by yourself. I can't speak before Glory ; she 
flies out.' 

' Come in, master, and sit down. Mehalah is gone 
down to the saltings, and will not be back for an hour.' 

' I must have a word with you. Where has Griory 



170 MEHALAH. 

been? I saw her go off t'other day in gay Sunday 
dress towards Fingringhoe. What did she go after ? ' 

Mrs. Sharland raised herself proudly. ' I have a 
cousin lives at Wyvenhoe, and we exchange civilities 
now and then. I can't go to him and he can't come 
to me, so Mehalah passes between us.' 

' What does she go there for ? ' 

' My cousin, Mr. Charles Pettican — I dare say you 
have heard the name, it is a name that is honoured at 
the bank ' she paused and pursed up her lips. 

' Go on, I have heard of him, an old shipbuilder.' 

' He made his fortune in shipbuilding,' said Mrs. 
Sharland. ' He has laid by a good deal of money, and 
is a free and liberal man with it, among his near 
relatives.' 

' Curse him,' growled Elijah, ' he let you have the 
money ? ' 

' I sent Mehalah to my cousin Charles, to ask him 
to lend me a trifle, being for a moment inconvenienced,' 
said Mrs. Sharland with stateliness. 

' She — Glory — went cringing for money to an old 
shipbuilder ! ' exclaimed Eebow with fury in his face. 

' She did not like doing so,' answered the widow, 
' but I entreated her to put her prejudices in her pocket, 
and do as I wished. You see. Master Kebow, this was 
not like asking strangers. Charles is my cousin, my 
nearest living relative, and some day, perhaps, there is 

no knowing ' she winked, and nodded, and ruffled 

up in her pride. ' We are his nearest of kin, and he is 
an old man, much older than I am. I am young com- 
pared to him, and he is half-paralysed.' 



A GILDED BALCONY. 171 

' He gave the money without any difficulty or 
demur ? ' asked Elijah, his face flaming. 

* He was most willing, anxious, I may say, to help. 
You see. Master Eebow, he is well off, and has no other 
relatives. He is a man of fortune, and has a gilt bal- 
cony before his house, and a real sofa in his sitting-room. 
His name is engraved on brass on a plate on the door, 
it commands respect and receives honour at the Col- 
chester Bank.' 

' So you are fawning on him, are you ? ' growled 
Elijah. 

' He has real oil-paintings on his walls. There's 
some in water-colours, and some in worsted work, but 
I make no count of them, but real oils, you know ; 
there's something to think of in that. A man don't 
break out into oil unless he has money in the bank at 
command.' 

Mrs. Sharland was delighted with the opportunity 
of airing her re-discovered cousin, and exalting his 
splendour before some one other than her daughter. 

' A valance all round his bed — there's luxury! ' said 
the widow, ' and that bed a whole tester. As for his 
dressing-table, it wears a better petticoat than I, pink 
calico that looks like silk, and over it gauze, just like a 
lady at an assembly ball, a real quality lady. My cousin 
is not one to see his Liddy — he calls me his pretty cousin 
Liddy — my name before I was married was Vince, but 
instead of Sharland it might have been Pettican, if all 
had been as it ought. I say cousin Charles is not the 
man to see his relatives sold up stick and stock by such 
as Mrs. De Witt.' 



172 MEHALAH. 

' You think if you can't pay me my rent, he will 
help you again ? ' 

* If I feel a little behind-hand. Master Kebow, I 
shall not scruple sending Mehalah to him again. Charles 
is a man of kind and generous heart, and it is touching 
how he clings to his own flesh and blood. He has taken 
a great affection for Mehalah. He calls her niece, and 
wants her to look on him as an uncle, but you know that 
is not the real relationship. He was my mother's only 
brother's son, so we was first cousins, and he can only 
be a cousin of some sort to Mehalah, can he ? ' 

' Oh curse your cousinships ! ' broke in Elijah angrily. 
' To what an extent can you count on his help ? ' 

' To any amount,' said the widow, too elated to care 
to limit her exaggeration. 

' How is Mehalah ? Is she more inclined to think 
of me ? ' 

Mrs. Sharland shook her head. 

' She don't love me ? ' said Elijah with a laugh. 

' I fear not, Elijah.' 

' She won't be disposed to take up her quarters at 
EedHall?' 

IMrs. Sharland sighed a negative. 

' Nor to bear with me near her all day ? ' 

« No, Elijah.' 

' No, she won't,' said he with a jerky laugh, ' she won't 
till she is made to. She won't come to Eed Hall till 
she can't help it. She won't live with me till I force 
her to it. Damn that cousin ! He stands in my path, 
I will go see him. There comes Mehalah, back from, 
the saltings. I must be off.' 

' My cousin is a man of importance,' observed Mrs. 



A GILDED BALCONY. 173 

Sharland, bridling up at Elij ah's slighting remark. ' He 

is not accustomed to be cursed. Men with names that 

the bank honours, and who have gilded balconies over 
their doors, don't like it, they don't deserve it.' 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

THE FLAG FLIES. 



A MONTH after the interrupted auction, Elijah Rebow 
appeared one day before Mr. Pettican's door at Wyven- 
hoe. The gull was screaming and flying at his feet. 
His stick beat a loud summons on the door, but the 
noise within was too considerable for the notices of a 
visitor to be heard and responded to. 

Elijah remained grimly patient outside, with a sar- 
donic smile on his face, and amused himself with tor- 
menting the gull. 

Presently the door flew open, and a dashing young 
woman flung out, with cherry-coloured ribands in her 
bonnet, and cherry colour in her cheeks. 

' All right, Monie ? ' asked a voice from the balcony, 
and then Elijah was aware of a young man in a blue 
guernsey and a straw hat lounging over the balustrade, 
between the figureheads, smoking a pipe. 

' He has learned his place at last,' answered Admo- 
nition ; ' I never saw him so audacious before. Come 
along, Timothy.' The young man disappeared, and 
presently emerged at the door. At the same time 
a little withered face was visible at the window, with 



174 MEHALAH. 

a dab of putty, as it seemed, in the middle of it, but 
which was probably a nose flattened against the glass. 
Two little fists were also apparent shaken violently, and 
a shrill voice screamed imprecations and vowed ven- 
geance behind the panes, utterly disregarded by Ad- 
monition and Timothy, who stared at Elijah, and then 
struck down the gravelled path without troubling them- 
selves to ask his business. 

The door was left open, and Elijah entered, but stood 
on the threshold, and looked after the pair as they 
turned out of the garden-gate, and took the Colchester 
road, laughing and talking, and Admonition tossing her 
saucy head, in the direction of the face at the window, 
and then taking the sailor's arm. 

A wonderful transformation had taken place in Mrs. 
Pettican's exterior as well as in her manner since her 
marriage. 

She had been a soft demure little body with melting 
blue eyes and rich brown hair very smoothly laid on 
either side of her brow — a modest brow with guile- 
lessness written on it — and the simplest little curls 
beside her round cheeks. She wore only black, in 
memory of a never-to-be-forgotten mother, and a neat 
white cap and apron. If she allowed herself a little 
colour, it was only a flower in her bosom. Poor Charles 
Pettican ! How often he had supplied that flower ! 

' I can't pick one myself. Admonition,' he had said ; 
' you go into my garden and pluck a rose.' 

' But you must give it me,' she had invariably said 
on such occasions, with a shy eye just lifted, and then 
dropped again. 

And of course Mr. Pettican had presented the 



THE FLAO FLIES. 175' 

flower with a compliment, and an allusion to her cheek, 
which had always deepened the modest flush in it. 

Now Admonition affected bright colours — cherry 
was her favourite. She who had formerly dressed below 
her position, now dressed above it; she was this day 
flashing through Wyvenhoe in a straw broad-brimmed 
hat with crimson bows, lined with crimson, and in a 
white dress adorned with carnation knots, and a red 
handkerchief over the shoulders worn bare in the house. 
There was no doubt about it, that Admonition looked 
very well thus attired, better even than in her black. 

Her hair was now frizzled over her brow, and she wore 
a mass of curls about her neck, confined in the house 
by a carnation riband. The soft eyes were now mar- 
vellously hard when directed upon the husband, and only 
retained their velvet for Timothy. The cheek now 
blushed at nothing, but flamed at the least opposition. 

' I married one woman and got another,' said Charles 
Pettican to himself many times a day. ' I can't make 
it out at all. Marriage to a woman is, I suppose, much 
like a hot bath to a baby ; it brings out all the bad 
humours in the blood. Young girls are as alike as flour 
and plaster of Paris, and it is not till you begin to be 
the making of them that you find the difference. Some 
make into bread, but others make into stone.' 

When Elijah Kebow entered the little parlour, he 
found Mr. Pettican nearly choked with passion. He 
was ripping at his cravat to get it off, and obtain air. 
His face was nearly purple. He took no notice of his 
visitor for a few moments, but continued shaking his 
fist at the window, and then dragging at his neckcloth. 

Being unable to turn himself about, the unfortunate 



176 MEHALAH. 

man nearly strangled himself in his inability to unwind 
his cravat. This increased his anger, and he screamed 
and choked convulsively. 

' You will smother yourself soon,' observed Elijah 
dryly, and going up to Mr. Pettican, he loosened the 
neckcloth. 

The cripple lay back and panted. Presently he was 
sufficiently recovered to project his head towards Eebow, 
and ask him what he wanted, and who he was. 

Elijah told him his name. Charles Pettican did not 
pay attention to him ; his mind was engrossed by other 
matters. 

' Come here,' said he, ' here, beside me. Do you see 
them ? ' 

' See what ? ' asked Elijah in return, gruffly, as 
Pettican caught his arm, and drew him down, and pointed 
out of the window. 

' There they are. Isn't it wexing to the last degree 
of madness ? ' 

' Do you mean your daughter and her sweetheart ? ' 

' Daughter I ' echoed the cripple. ' Daughter ! 1 
wish she was. No, she's my wife. I don't mean her.' 

' What do you mean then ? ' 

' Why, my crutches. Don t you see them ? ' 

' No, I do not,' answered Eebow looking round the 
room. 

' They are not here,' said Pettican. ' Admonition 
flew out upon me, because I wouldn't draw more money 
from the bank, and she took away my crutches, to con- 
fine me till I came into her whimsies. There they are. 
They are flying at the mast-head. She got that cousin 
of hers to hoist them. She knows I can't reach them. 



THE FLAG FLIES. 177 

that here I must lie till somebody fetches them down for 
me. You should have heard how they laughed, those 
cousins as they call themselves, as my crutches went 
aloft. Oh ! it was fun to them, and they could giggle and 
cut jokes about me sitting here, flattening my nose at 
the pane, and seeing my crutches hoisted. They might 
as well have robbed me of my legs — better, for they are 
of no use, and my crutches are. Fetch me them down.^ 
Elijah consented, chuckling to himself at the distress 
of the unfortunate shipbuilder. He speedily ran the 
crutches down, and returned them to Pettican. 

' Turning me into fun before the whole town ! ' 
growled Pettican, ' exposing my infirmity to all the 
world ! It was my wife did it. Admonition urged on 
her precious cousin Timothy to it. He did fare to be- 
ashamed, but she laughed him into it, just as Eve 
jeered Adam into eating the apple. She has turned off 
my servant too, and here am I left alone and helpless in 
the house all day, whilst she is dancing off to Colchester 
market with her beau — cousin indeed ! What do you 
think, master — T don't know your name.' 
' Elijah Eebow, of Ked Hall.' 

' What do you think, Master Eebow ? That cousin 
has been staying here a month, a whole calendar month. 
He has been given the best room, and there have been 
junketings without number; they have ate all the oysters 
out of my pan, and drank up all my old stout, and broken 
the necks of half the whisky bottles in my cellar, and 
smoked out all my havannahs. I have a few boxes, and 
indulge myself occasionally in a good cigar, they come 
costly. Well, will you believe me ! Admonition routs 
out all my boxes, and gives her beau a havannah twice 

N 



178 MEHALAH. 

a day or more often, as he likes, and I haven't had one 
between my lips since he came inside my doors. That 
lot of old Scotch whisky I had down from Dundee is all 
drunk out. Before I married her. Admonition would 
touch nothing but water, and tea very weak only coloured 
with the leaf ; now she sucks stout and rum punch and 
whisky like a fish. It is a wonder to me she don't smoke too.' 

The cripple tucked his recovered crutches under his 
arms, rolled himself off his chair, and stumped vehe- 
mently half a dozen times round the room. He returned 
at length, out of breath and very hot, to his chair, into 
which he cast himself. 

'Put up my legs, please,' he begged of Elijah. 
' There ! ' he said, ' I have worked off my excitement a 
little. Now go into the hall and look in the box under 
the stairs, there you will find an Union Jack. Kun it 
np to the top of the mast. I don't care. I will defy 
hei'. When that girl who came here the other day — I 
forget her name — sees the flag flying she will come and 
help me. If Admonition has cousins, so have I, and 
mine are real cousins. I doubt but those of Admonition 
are nothing of the sort. If that girl ' 

' What girl? ' asked Kebow gloomily, as he folded his 
arms across his breast, and scowled at Charles Pettican. 

' I don't know her name, but it is written down. I 
have it in my note-book — Ah ! Mehalah Sharland. 
She is my cousin, her mother is my cousin. I'll tell you 
what I will do, master. But before I say another word, 
you go up for me into the best bed-room — the blue room, 
and chuck that fellow's things out of the window over 
tlie balcony, and let the gull have the 'pecking and tear- 
ing of them to pieces. I know he has his best jacket 



THE FLAG FLIES. 179 

on his back ; more's the pity. I should like the gull to 
have the clawing and the Leaking of that, but he can 
make a tidy mess of his other traps ; and will do it.' 

' Griory ' began Elijah. 

' Ah ! you are right there,' said Pettican. ' It will 
be glory to have routed cousin Timothy out of the house ; 
and if the flag flies, my cousin — I forget her name — Oh ! 
I see, Mehalah — will come here and bring her mother, 
and before Master Timothy returns with Admonition 
from market — they are going to have a shilling's worth 
on a merry-go-round, I heard them scheme it — my 
cousins will be in possession, and cousin Timothy must 
content himself with the balcony, or cruise off.' 

' Griory — or Mehalah, as you call her.' 

' I'll not listen to another word, till you have 
chucked that fellow's traps overboard. There's a port- 
mantle of his up there, chuck that over with the rest, 
and let the gull have the opening and examination of 
the contents.' 

There was nothing for it but compliance, if Elijah 
wished to speak on the object of his visit. The old man 
was in an excited condition which would not allgw him 
to compose his mind till his caprices were attended to, 
and his orders carried out. Kebow accordingly went 
upstairs and emptied the room of all evidences of its 
having been occupied. There was a discharge of boots, 
brush, clothes, pipes, into the garden, at which Pettican 
rubbed his hands and clucked like a fowl. 

Eebow returned to the parlour, and the old ship- 
builder was profuse in his thanks. ' Now,' said he, ' run 
the flag up. You haven't done that yet. Then come 
and have a glass of spirits. There is some of the whisky 

N 2 



1 80 MEHALAH. 

left, not many bottles, but there is some, and not locked 
up, for Admonition thought she had me safe when she 
hoisted my crutches up the mast-head. Gro now and let 
the bunting float as of old in my halcyon days.' This 
was also done ; the wind took, unfurled, and flapped the 
Union Jack, and the old man crowed with delight, and 
swung his arms. 

'That is right. I haven't seen it fly for many 
months ; not since I was married. Now that girl, I 
forget her name, oh ! I have it here — Mehalah — will 
see it, and come to the rescue. Do you know her ? ' 

'What, Glory?' 

' That ain't her name. Her name is — is — Mehalah.' 

' We call her Grlory. She is the girl. I know her,' 
he laughed and his eyes glittered. He set his teeth. 
Charles Pettican looked at him, and thought he had 
never seen a more forbidding countenance. He was 
frightened, and asked hastily, 

' Who are you ? ' 

' I am Elijah Eebow, of Eed Halh' 

* I don't know you or the place.' 

' I am in Salcott and Virley. You know me by name.' 

' Oh ! perhaps I do. My memory is not what it once 
was. I get so put out by my wife's whimsies that I can't 
collect my faculties all at once. I think I may have 
heard of you, but I haven't met you before.' 

' I am the landlord of Glory — Mehalah, you call her. 
The Kay, which is their farm, belongs to me, with all the 
marshes and the saltings, and all that thereon is. I 
bought it for eight hundred pounds. Glory and her 
mother are mine.' 

' I don't understand you.' 



THE FLAG FLIES. 181 

'I bought the land, and the farm, and them, a job 
lot, for eight hundred pounds.' 

' I remember, the girl — I forget her name, but I 
have it here, written down ' 

' Grlory ! ' 

' No, not that, Mehalah. I wish you wouldn't call 
her what she is not, because it conluses me ; and I have 
had a deal to confuse me lately. Marriage does rum- 
mage a man's hold up so. Mehalah came here a few 
weeks back to ask me to lend her some money, as her 
mother could not pay the rent. Her mother is my 
cousin, Liddy Vince that was, I used to call her " Pretty 
l<iddy," or Lydia Languish, after a character in a play, 
because of her ague, and because she sort of languished 
of love for me. And I don't deny it, I was sweet on her 
once, but the ague shivers stood in the way of our love 
waxing wery hot.' 

' You lent her the money.' 

' I — I ' hesitated Mr. Pettican. ' You see how 

I am circumstanced, my wife ' 

' You lent her the money. Mistress Sharland told 
me so.' 

' She did ! ' exclaimed Pettican in surprise. 

' Yes, she did. Now I want to know, will you do 
that again ? I am landlord. I bought the Ray for 
eight hundred pounds, and I don't want to drop my 
money without a return. You understand that. A 
man doesn't want to give his gold away, and be whined 
out of getting interest for it by an old shivering, chat- 
tering woman, and flouted out of it by a devil of a girl.' 
His hands clenched fiercely. 

"• Of course, of course,' said the cripple. ' I under- 



182 MEHALAH. 

stand you. You think those two can't manage the farm^ 
and were better out of it.' 

' I want to be sure of my money,' said Elijah, knitting 
his dark brows, and fixing his eyes intently on Pettican. 

' I quite understand,' said the latter, and tapping 
his forehead, he added, ^ I am a man of business still. 
I am not so old as all that, whatever Admonition may say.' 

' Now what I want to know,' pursued Elijah, ' is this 
— for how long are you going to pay your cousin's rent ? 
For how long is that Glory to come to me and defy me,. 
and throw the money down before me ? ' 

' I don't quite take you,' said Pettican. 

' How many times will you pay their rent ? ' asked 
Kebow. 

' Well ! ' said the cripple, passing his hand over his 
face. ' I[don't want them to stay at your farm at all. 
I want them to come here and take care of me. I can- 
not defend myself. If I try to be a man — that girl, I 
forget her name, you confuse me about it — told me to 
be a man, and I will be a man, if she will back me up. 
I have been a man somewhat, have I not, master,, in 
chucking cousin Timothy's traps to the gull — that I call 
manly. You will see the girl — -Mehalah — I have the 
name now. I will keep my note-book open at the place. 
Mehalah, Mehalah, Mehalah, Mehalah.' 

'I want to know ' broke in Elijah. 

' Let me repeat the name ten times, and then I shall 
not forget it again.' Pettican did so. ' You called her 
something else. Perhaps we are not speaking of the 
same person.' 

' Yes, we are. I call her Glory. I am accustomed 
to that name. Tell me what you want with her.' 



THE FLAG FLIES. 18a 

' I want her and her mother to come and live with 
me, and take care of me, and then I can be a man, and 
make head against the wind that is now blowing in my 
teeth. Shall you see them ? ' 

'Yes.' 

' To-day ? ' 

' Perhaps.' 

' Then pray make a point of seeing the girl or her 
mother, in case she should not notice the flag, and say 
that I wish them to come here at once ; at once it must 
be, or I shall never have courage to play the man again, 
not as I have to-day. They did put my monkey up by 
removing my crutches and hoisting them to the mast- 
head, leaving me all by myself and helpless here. I should 
wish Mehalah to be here before Admonition and her beau 
return. They won't be back till late. There's a horse- 
manship at Colchester as well as a merry-go-round, and 
they are going to both, and perhaps to the theatre 
after that. There'll be junketings and racketings, and 
I — poor I — left here with no one to attend to me, and 
my crutches at the mast-head. You will tell the girl 
and her mother that I expect their help, and I will be 
a man, that I will. It would be something to boast 
of, would it not, if Timothy were to return and find 
his room occupied and his baggage picked to rags, and 
if Admonition were to discover that I have cousins as 
well as she ? ' 

' You are bent on this ? ' 

' I rely on you. You will see them and tell them to 
come to me, and I will provide for them whilst I am 
alive, and afterwards— when I am no more — we tvon't 
talk or think of such an eventuality. It isn't pleasant 



184 MEHALAH. 

to contemplate, and may not happen for many years. 
I am not so old as you might think. My infirmity is 
due to accident; and my digestion is, or rather was, 
first-rate. I could eat and drink anything before I was 
married. Now I am condemned to see others eat and 
drink what I have laid in for my own consumption, and 
I am put off with the drumstick of the fowl, or the 
poorest swipes of ale, whilst the others toss off my stout 
— bottled stout. I will not endure this any longer. 
Tell that girl — I forget her name — and her mother that 
they must come to me.' 

' But suppose they will not come.' 

' They will, I know they will. The female heart is 
tender and sympathetic, and compassionates misery. 
My suffering will induce them to come. If that will 
not, why then the prospects of being comfortably off 
and free from cares will make them come. I have 
plenty of money. I won't tell you, I have not told 
Admonition, how much. I have money in the Col- 
chester Bank. I have South Sea shares, and insurances, 
and mortgages, and I shall not let Admonition have 
more money than I can help, as it all goes on cousin 
Timothy, and whirligigs and horsemanships, or regattas, 
and red ribands, and what not ; none is spent on me. 
No, no. The Sharlands shall have my money. They 
are my cousins. I have cousins as well as Admonition. 
I will be a man and show that I have courage too. But I 
have another inducement that will be sure to bring them.' 

' What is that ? ' 

* I have observed,' said Pettican, with a hiccuppy 
giggle, ' that just as tom-cats will range all over the 
country in search of other tom-cats, just for the pleasure 
of clawing them and tearing out their hair, so women 



THE FLAG PLIES. 185 

will hunt the whole country-side for other women, if 
there be a chance of fighting them. Tell my cousin 
Liddy that Admonition is game, she has teeth, and 
tongue, and nails, and sets up her back in a corner, and 
likes a scrimmage above everything, and my word for 
it, Liddy — unless the ague has taken the female nature 
out of her — will be here before nightfall to try her 
teeth, and tongue, and nails on Admonition. It is said 
that if on a May morning you rub your eyes with cuckoo 
spittle, you see things invisible before, the fairies in the 
hoes dancing and feasting, swimming in eggshells on 
the water to bore holes in ships' sides, milking the cows 
before the maids come with the pail, and stealing the 
honey from the hives. WeU, marriage does much the 
same sort of thing to a man as salving his eyes in 
xjuckoo spittle ; it affords him a vision of a world un- 
dreamt of before ; it gives him an insight into what is 
going on in the female world, and the workings and 
brewings and the mischief in women's hearts. Tell 
Liddy Sharland about my Admonition, and she will be 
here, with all her guns run out and ready charged, 
before nightfall.' 

Eebow shook his head. ' ^Mistress Sharland and 
Olory won't come.' 

' Don't say so. They must, or I shall be undone. 
I cannot live as I have, tyrannised over, insulted, 
trampled on by Admonition and her cousin. I will no 
longer endure it. The flag is flying. I have proclaimed 
my independence and defiance. But, as you see, I am 
unable to live alone. If Liddy and her daughter will 
not come to me, I shall be driven to do something 
desperate. My life has become intolerable, I will bear 
with Admonition no longer.' 



186 MEHALAH. 

' What will you do ? ' asked Elijah with a sneer. 

' I tell you, I do not care. I am reckless, I will 
even fire the house, and burn it over their heads.' 

' What good would that do ? ' 

* What good would it do ? ' repeated Pettican. ' It 
would no longer be a shelter for Admonition and that 
beau Timothy. I am not going to be trifled with, I 
have endured too much. I will be a man. I shouldn't 
mind a bit smoking them out of this snug lair.' 

' And what about yourself ? ' 

' Oh, as for me, I could go to the Blue Anchor, and 
put up til ere for the rest of my days. I think I could 
be happy in a tavern, happier than here, and I should 
have the satisfaction of thinking I had shaken the 
weevils out of the biscuit.' 

Elijah started, and strode up and down the room, 
with head bent, and his eyes fixed on the floor. His 
hands were clenched and rigid at his side. 

' You will tell Liddy,' said the cripple, watching him. 

' Smoke them out ! Ha ! ha ! that is a fine idea ! ' 
burst forth from Elijah, with a laugh. 

'You will tell Liddy,' repeated Charles Pettican. 
* You must, you know, or I am lost. If Admonition 
were to return with Timothy at her heels, and were to 

find the flag flying, and me alone ' he passed his 

agitated hand over his face, and his lips trembled. 

' I see,' said Rebo w. ' You would then cease to be a man.' 

It was late when Admonition and her cousin returned 
from the market. It was so dark that they did not see 
the flag. But as Admonition put her hand on the gate 
it was grasped. 

' Stop,' said Elijah. ' A word with you.' 



THE FLAG FLIES. 187 

' Who are you ? ' asked Mrs. Pettican in alarm, and 
Timothy swaggered forward to her defence. 

' Never mind who I am. I have waited here some 
hours to warn you. Was there a girl, a handsome girl, 
a glorious girl, here to see that man, your husband, a 
month ago ? You need not answer. I know there was. 
She is his cousin. He lent her money.' 

'No, he did not. I stopped that, didn't I, Tim?' 
' He lent her money. You think you stopped that, 
but you did not. He let her have the money, twenty 
pounds, how I know not. She had his money, and she 
will have more, all^ unless you keep a sharp watch on him.'' 
' Tim ! do you hear this ? ' asked Admonition. 
'He will send for his cousin to live in the house 
with him, and to support him against you.' 
' Oh, oh ! That's fine, isn't it, Tim ? ' 
' If they come, your reign is at an end. That girl. 
Glory, has a head of iron and the heart of a lion. No 
one can stand against her but one. There is only one 
in all the world has dared to conquer her, and he will 
do it yet. Don't you think you will be able to lift a 
little finger against her will. She will be too strong for 
you and a hundred of your Timothys.' 

Admonition laughed. ' My little mannikin daren't 
do it. He is under my thumb.' 

' The flag is flying,' sneered Elijah. 
At that moment the faint light of evening broke 
through the clouds and Admonition saw the Union Jack 
at the mast-head. 

' He is right. There is audacity ! Eun, Tim, haul 
it down, and bring it me. It shall go into the kitchen 
fire to boil the water for a glass of grog.' 



188 MEHALAH. 

CHAPTEK XIV. 

ON THE BUKNT HILL. 

It was Christmas Eve. A hard frost had set in. The 
leaves which had hung on the thorn trees on the Kay 
rained off and were whirled away by the wind and 
scattered over the rising and falling waters in the Khyn. 
On the saltings were many pools, filled from below, 
through crab burrows, from the channels ; when the 
tide mounted, the water squirted up through these 
passages and brimmed the pools, and when the tide fell, 
it was sucked down through them as if running out of 
a colander. Now a thin film of ice was formed about 
the edges of these pondlets, and the marsh herbs that 
dipped in them were encased in crystal. The wild 
geese and ducks came in multitudes, and dappled the 
water of Mersea channel. 

' There's four gone,' said Abraham Dowsing in a 
sulky voice to Mehalah. 

' Four what V 

' Four ewes to be sure, of what else have we more 
than one ? ' 

' Where are they ? ' 

' That is what I should like to know. Two went 
yesterday, but I said nothing about it, as I thought they 
might be found, or that I hadn't counted aright ; but 
there's two more missing to-day.' 

' What can have become of them ? ' 

' It's no use asking me. Is it like I should know ? ' 

' But this is most extraordinary. They must have 
wandered off the saltings, on to the causeway, and so 
^ot away.' 



ON THE BURNT HILL. ISO' 

' That is likely, ain't it,' said Abraham. ^ It is like 
the ways of sheep, to scatter, and two or three to go oflf 
and away from all the flock. I'll believe that when 
sheep change their nature.' 

' They must have fallen into a pool and been 
drowned.' 

' Then I should find their carcases ; but I haven't. 
Perhaps there has been a spring tide at the wrong time 
of the year and overflowed and drowned them. That's 
likely, isn't it ? ' 

' But, Abraham, they must be found.' 

' Then you must find 'em yourself.' 

' Where can they be ? ' 

' I've told you it is no use asking me.' 

' Can they have been stolen ? ' 

* I reckon that is just about it.' 

' Stolen ! ' exclaimed Mehalah, her blood flashing to 
her face and darkening cheek and brow. ' Do you mean 
to tell me that some scoundrel has been here in the 
night, and carried off four of our ewes ? ' 

Abraham shrugged his shoulders ; ' Mud tells tales 
at times.' 

Mehalah trembled with anger. 

' Some boat was here last night, and night afore, and 
the keel marks remain. I saw them, and I saw foot- 
prints of sheep too, near them.' 

' When ? ' 

' The tide is up, and you can't see. Near the Burnt 
Hill.' 

' Abraham, this is not to be borne.' 

' Who is to help it ? ' 

' I will. I will watch,' she stamped her foot fiercely 



190 MEHALAH. 

on the red glasswort ; ' I will kill the cowardly sneaking" 
thief who comes here to rob the widow and the orphan.' 

' You must see him first,' said Abraham, ' and sheep- 
stealers don't generally let themselves be seen.' 

' A man who steals sheep can be hung for it.' 

' Yes.' 

' I'll catch him,* she laughed, ' and the gallows will 
be set up on the Burnt Hill, and then he shall dangle 
till his bones drop away into the ooze.' 

* You must catch him first,' said the shepherd, and 
shrugged his shoulders again. 

Mehalah strode up and down in the marsh, her 
brows knit, and the veins swollen on her temples. She 
breathed fast and her blood sang in her ears. To be 
robbed in this cowardly manner ! The thought was 
maddening. Hitherto she and her mother had deemed 
themselves perfectly safe on the Eay : nothing had ever 
been taken from them ; the ooze and the sea water 
walled them in. The Kay was a trap from which there 
was no escape save by boat. It was said that once a 
deserter found his way into Mersea Isle and lingered 
about the marshes for many days. He dared not return 
by the causeway, thinking it would be watched and he 
would be secured, and he had no money wherewith to 
bribe a boatman to put him across elsewhere. One 
evening he lit on a farmer with a spade over his 
shoulder going to the sea-wall to block a rent against 
an expected tide. He fell on the man from behind, 
wrenched away his spade and cut his head open with it, 
then turned out his pockets in search of coin, but found 
none. The man was taken. He could not escape, and 
was hung on the marshes where the murder was done, 
by the mouth of the Pyefleet. 



ON THE BURNT HILL. 191 

If Mersea was a trap, how much more so the Eay. 
The Sharlands had not even a lock to their door. No 
one was ever seen on the island after dark save those 
who dwelt there, for the hill was surrounded on all 
sides, save where girt by the sea, by a labyrinth of 
creeks and pools. A robber there would be like a fly 
in a cobweb, to be caught at once. The sheep were 
allowed to ramble all over the marsh and saltings, they 
could thread their way ; and it was only when the 
moon was full or new, and the wind in the south-east, 
that the shepherd drove them into fold till the waters 
subsided. There were times — such as the coincidence 
of a peculiar wind with an equinoctial tide — when to 
leave the sheep on the marsh would be to ensure their 
being drowned. This was so well known, that precaution 
was always taken against the occasion. 

Tlie sense of being treated unjustly, of being cruelly 
wronged, of advantage being taken of their feebleness, 
filled Mehalah's heart with bitterness, with rage. An 
over-mastering desire for revenge came upon her. She, 
a girl, would defend her property, and chastise the man 
who injured her. She gave up all thought of obtaining 
the assistance of Abraham, if it ever entered her mind. 
The old man was too slow in his movements, and dull 
of sight and hearing, to be of use. As likely as not, 
moreover, he would refuse to risk himself on the salt- 
ings at night, to expose himself to the ague damp 
or the bullet. What could he, a feeble old loon, do 
against a sturdy sheep-stealer ? 

' Whom do you suspect ? ' asked Glory abruptly. 

He drew up his shoulders. 

* Come, tell me.' 



192 MEHALAH. 

' An empty belly.' 

' Abraham ! one man cannot have taken four sheep 
for himself.' 

Another shrug:. 

There was nothing to be got out of the dogged rustic, 
Mehalah waited till evening, then she wrapped a cloak 
round her, put her pistol in her belt, and walked through 
the marsh to the point indicated by the shepherd as the 
Burnt Hill. 

Through all the low flat coast land of this region, 
above the saltings, or pasture overflowed by high tides 
occasionally, are scattered at irregular intervals large 
broad circular mounds of clay burned to brick red, in- 
terspersed with particles of charcoal. A few fragments 
of bone are found in them, relics of the meals of those 
who raised these heaps, but they cover no urns, and 
enclose no cists, they contain no skeletons. They were 
never intended as funeral monuments, and are quite 
different from the hoes or barrows which stand on high 
land, and which were burial mounds. The burnt or red 
hills are always situate at high -water mark ; near them, 
below the surface of the vegetable deposit, are multitudes 
of oyster shells. Near them also are sometimes found, 
sunk in the marsh, polished chert weapons. Who raised 
these mounds ? For what purpose were they reared ? 
These are questions that cannot be answered satisfac- 
torily. One thing is certain. An immense amount of 
wood must have been consumed to burn such a mass of 
clay, and the country must then have been more over- 
grown with timber than at present. Many of the 
mounds are now enclosed in fields by sea-walls which 
hold out the tide, the plough has been drawn over them, 



ox THE BURNT HILL. 193 

and the spade has scattered them over the surface, 
colouring a whole field brick red, and making it rich 
for the production of corn. There is no better manure 
than a red hill. 

But why were these mounds so laboriously raised ? 
The tradition of the marsh-dwellers is that they were 
platforms for huts, the earth burned as a prevention to 
ague. It is curious that in the marshy regions of 
Central Africa the natives adopt a precisely similar 
method for their protection from miasma. But why 
men dwelt in such numbers on the saltings remains 
undetermined. Whether they lived there to burn the 
glass wort for nitre, or to steam the sea water for salt, 
or to take charge of oyster grounds, is uncertain. 
Fragments, very broken, of pottery are found in these 
heaps, scattered throughout them, but not a specimen 
of a perfect vessel. The burnt hills are built up on the 
old shingle of the shore, with no intervening line of 
vegetable matter, the growth of the marsh has been 
later and has risen about their bases and has partly 
buried them. 

Grlory reached the Burnt Hill, and stood on it. A 
cold east wind wailed over the waste ; a white fog like 
curd lay on the water, and the surface of the saltings, 
clinging to the surface and rising scarce above three feet 
from it. Here and there it lifted itself in a vaporous 
column, and moved along in the wind like a white spectral 
woman, nodding her head and waving her arms cum- 
bered with wet drapery. Above, the sky was clear, and 
a fine crescent moon sparkled in it without quenching 
the keenness of the stars. Cassiopeia was glorious in 
her chair, Orion burned sideways over Mersea Isle. 





194 MEHALAH. 

No red gleam was visible 'to-night from the tavern 
■window at the City, the veil of fog hung over it and 
cm-tained it off. To the north-west was a silvery glow 
at the horizon, then there rose a pure ray as of return- 
ing daylight, it was answered by a throb in the north- 
east, then it broke into two rays, and again united and 
spread, and suddenly was withdrawn. Mehalah had 
often seen the Aurora, and she knew that the signals 
portended increased cold or bad weather. 

She seated herself on the mound, and drew her 
cloak about her more closely, the damp cold bit into 
her flesh ; she knew she was safe from ague on the 
burnt earth. 

Her anger subsided, not that she resented the wrong 
the less, but that her mind had passed to other con- 
templations. She was thinking of Greorge, of her dead 
hopes, of the blankness of the future before her. A 
little sunlight had fallen on her sad and monotonous 
life, but it had been withdrawn, and had left her with 
nothing to live for, save her mother. Her heart had begun 
to expand as a flower, and a frost had fallen on it, and 
blackened its petals. She brooded now on the past. 
She wished for nothing in the future. She had no care 
for the present. It was all one to her what befell her, 
so long as her mother were cared for. She had no one 
else to love. She was without a friend. She would 
resent an injury, and fight an enemy. Greorge might 
have introduced her into a new world of gentleness, and 
pity, and love. Now the door to that world was shut 
for ever, and she must beat her way through a world of 
hard realities, where every man's hand was lifted against 
his brother, and where was hate and resentment, and 



ON THE BURNT HILL. 195 

exacting of the uttermost farthing. She had gone forth 
seeking help, and except from Greorge, had found none. 
Mrs. De Witt, Phoebe Musset, Admonition, such were 
the women she had met ; and the men were selfish as 
Parson Till, fools as Charles Pettican, surly as Abraham 
Dowsing, or brutal as Elijah Rebow. 

Hark ! — She caught the dip of an oar. 

She drew in her breath and raised her head. Then 
she saw a boat shoot out of the mist, white and ghost- 
like as the mist forms that stalked over the water, and 
in the boat a man. 

There he was ! The sheep-stealer, come once more 
to rob her mother and herself. At once her furious 
passion boiled up in her veins. She saw before her the 
man who had wronged her ; she thought nothing of her 
own weakness beside his strength, of there being no one 
within call to come to her aid, should his arm be stouter 
than hers. She sprang to her feet with a shout, such 
as an Indian might utter on leaping on his foe, and 
rushed to the water's edge, just as the man had landed, 
and had her hands at his throat in a moment. 

'You coward, you thief!' she cried shaking him 
savagely. 

' Glory ! ' 

In an instant a pair of stronger hands had wrenched 
her hands away and pinioned them. 

' By heaven ! you wild cat, what are you flying at 
me like that for ? What has brought you here at this 
time of night ? ' 

Mehalah was abashed. Her rage sank. She had 
mistaken her man. This was no sheep-stealer. She 
could not speak, so great was her agitation. She 

o 2 



196 MEHALAH. 

writhed to free herself, but writhed in vain. Elijah 
laughed at her attempts. 

' What are you here for ? ' he asked again. ' Can 
you not answer my question ? ' 

' Some one has been stealing our ewes,' she said, 

' And you took me for the thief,' said Rebow. ' Much 
obliged for the compliment. Me — the owner of Red 
Hall, and the man that purchased the Ray, the farm 
house, and the marshes and the saltings and all that 
thereon is for eight hundred pounds, to be taken and 
hanged for sheep-lifting ! A likely story, Griory. You 
must manage better another time.' 

' What brings you here ? ' asked Mehalah sullenly, 
angry with herself and with him. 

' That is the question I asked of you, and you return 
it. I will tell you. I am out duck-shooting, but the 
mist lies so thick on the water, and eats into the marrow 
of the bones. I could see no ducks, and I was freezing 
in my punt ; so I have come to lie with my gun on the 
Burnt Hill awhile till the fog clears, as it will in an 
hour, when I shall return.' 

' Were you here yesterday night ? ' 

' No, I was not ; I was up Tottesbury creek and got 
a dozen pair of wild duck. Will you have some ? I 
have a pair or two in the punt.' 

'I have refused them before, and I refuse them 
again.' 

« Why do you ask me if I were here yesternight ? ' 

' Because then two sheep were taken. Were you 
here the night before ? ' 

' No, I was then on Abbots' Hall marshes. Do you 
suspect me still of sheep-stealing ? ' he asked scoffingly. 



ON THE BURNT HILL. 197 

' I do not, but I thought had you been here you 
might have seen some signs of the villains who have 
robbed us.' 

' Come here. Glory ! out of the fog on to the Burnt 
Hill.' 

' I am going home.' 

' You are not, till I have said what I have to say. 
Come out of the ague damps.' 

' I am going home, now.' 

He held her by both wrists. She was strong, but 
her strength was nothing to his. She made no great 
effort to get away. If he chose to speak to her, she 
would listen to him. If she struggled in his grasp, it 
would make him think she feared him. She would not 
allow him to suppose himself of such importance to her. 
If he insulted her, she had her pistol, and she would 
not scruple to defend herself. 

He drew her to the top of the mount ; there they 
were clear of the mist, which lay like snow below and 
round them, covering the morass and the water. The 
clear cut crescent moon hung over a clump of pines on 
Mersea. Eebow looked at it, then waved an arm in the 
direction. 

' Do you see Grrim's Hoe yonder ? — That great bar- 
row with the Scotch pines on top ? Do you know how 
it comes there ? Have you heard the tale ? ' 

Mehalah was silent. 

' I will tell you, for I often think of it, and so will 
you when you have been told the tale. In the old times 
when the Danes came here, they wintered on Mersea Isle, 
and in the summer they cruised all along the coast, 
burning and plundering and murdering. There were 



198 MEHALAH. 

two chiefs to them, brothers, who loved one another, they 
were twins, born the same hour, and they had but one 
heart and soul ; what one willed that willed the other, 
what one desired that the other desired also. One 
spring they sailed up the creek to St. Osyth's, and there 
they took Osyth and killed her. She had a sister, very 
beautiful, and she fell to the lot of the brothers. They 
brought her back to Mersea, and then each would have 
her for his own. So the brothers fell out whose she 
should be, and all their love turned to jealousy, and their 
brotherhood to enmity, and it came about that they 
fought with their long swords who should have the maid. 
They fought, and smote, and hacked one another till 
their armour was broken, and their flesh was cut off, 
and their blood flowed away, and by nightfall they were 
both dead. Thereupon the Danes drew their ship up to 
the top of the hill just above the Strood, and they 
placed the maid in the hold with a dead brother on 
either side of her, in his tattered harness, sword in hand, 
and they heaped a mountain over them and buried them 
all, the living and the dead together.' 

Eebow paused, and pointed to the moon hung over 
the hoe. 

' When the new moon appears, the flesh grows on 
their bones, and the blood stanches, and the wounds 
close, and breath comes back behind their ribs. When 
the moon is full they rise in the ship's hold and fall on 
one another, and if you listen at full moon on the hoe 
you can hear the brothers fighting below in the heart of 
the barrow. You hear them curse and cry out, and 
you hear the clash of their swords. But when the moon 
wanes the sounds grow fainter, their armour falls to bits, 



ON THE BUKNT HILL. 199 

their flesh drops away, the blood oozes out of all the 
hacked veins, and at last all is still. Then, when there 
is no moon, you can hear the maid mourning and sob- 
bing : you can hear her quite distinctly till the new 
moon reappears, and then she is hushed, for the brothers 
are recovering for a new fight. This will go on month 
after month, year after year, till one conquers the other 
and wins the maid ; but that will never be, for the 
brothers are of the same age, and equally strong, and 
equally resolute.' 

' Why have you told me this ? ' asked Mehalah. 

' Why have I told you this, (xlory ? ' repeated Kebow ; 
• because you and I are like those brothers, only they 
began with love and ended with fighting, and you and I 
begin with fighting and must and shall end with love. 
I love you. Glory, and yet, at times, I almost hate 
you.' 

' And I,' broke in Mehalah, 'hate you with my whole 
heart, and never, never can love you.' 

' You have a strong spirit, so have I,' said Elijah ; 
^ I like to hear you speak thus. For long you have let 
me see that you have hated me : you have fought me 
hard, but you shall love me yet. We must fight, Grlory ; 
it is our destiny. We were made for one another, to 
love and fight, and fight and love, till one has conquered 
or killed the other. How can you live at the Eay, and 
I at Red Hall, apart ? You know, you feel it, that we 
must be together to love and fight, and fight and love, 
till death. What is the use of your struggling against 
what must come about ? As soon as ever I saw you I 
knew that you were ordained for me from the moment 
jou were born. You grew up and ripened for me, for 



200 MEHALAH. 

me, and no one else. You thought you loved Greorge 
De Witt. I hated you for loving him. He was not 
worthy of you, a poor, foolish, frightened sop. You 
would have taken him and turned him inside out and 
lorn him to pieces, in a week, disgusted with the fellow 
that made calf-love to you, when you had sounded his 
soul and found a bottom as soon as the lead went out of 
your hand. You thought George De Witt would belong 
to you. It could not be. You cannot oppose your 
destiny. A strong soul like yours must not mate but 
with a strong soul like mine. Till I saw you I hated 
women, poor, thin -headed, hollo w-souled toys. When I 
saw you I saw the only woman who could be mine, 
and I knew, as the pointers yonder know the polestar, 
that you were destined to me. You hate me be- 
cause you know this as well as I do. You know that 
there is no man on earth who can be yours save me, 
but you will play and fight with your destiny. Sooner 
or later you must bend to it. Sooner or later you must 
give way. You thought of George De Witt, and he 
is swept out of your path. You may fancy any other 
man, and he will go this way or that, and nothing 
will prosper till you set your face in the direction 
whither your destiny points. You can take no other 
than me, however much you may desire it. You need 
me and I need you. You may hate me and go on 
hating me and fighting me to the last, but you cannot 
escape me. 

' Elijah,' said Mehalah, ' escape you I will. Since I 
have known you, you have been mixed up with all the 
ills that have come upon us, I do not know how; but I 
seem to feel that you are like an evil wind or a blight- 



ON THE BUENT HILL. 201 

ing cloud passing over my life. I would look up and 
laugh, but I cannot, I turn hard, and hate the world — 
only because you are in it. It would be another world 
without you.' 

'Why do you turn hard and hate the world? 
Because you are on a wrong road, you are battling 
against your destiny. All goes across with you, because 
you are across your proper path. Why do you hate 
me ? Because you feel in your soul that you must 
sooner or later be mine, and your haughty will rebels 
against having your future determined for you. Yet I 
know it. The time is at hand when you will take me 
for better, for worse, for all life. We cannot live a 
moment the one without the other. If I were to die 
you would die too, you would rage and writhe against 
death, but it would come. I know it. Our lives are 
bound up together in one bundle, and the knife that 
cuts one string cuts the other also. Our souls are twins 
to love and to hate, to fondle and fight, till death us da 
part ! Till death us do part I ' repeated Rebow scornfullyr 
' Death can no more part us than life. We will live 
together and we will die together, and moulder away 
in one another's arms. The worm that gnaws me shall 
gnaw you. I think of you night and day. I cannot 
help it : it is my fate. I knew it was so the moment I 
saw you. I came here. I cannot keep away till you 
come to me to Red Hall.' 

' I shall never go there again,' said Mehalah sullenly, 

' Not before New Year ? ' 

' Never.' 

He laughed. ' She would swear to it, and yet at 
the New Year she will be there. And she will take me 



202 MEHALAH. 

and be mine. For me she must and will love. It is 
her fate ; she cannot oppose that for ever. For me she 
would even give up George De Witt.' 

' Greorge De Witt is dead.' 

' I say, were it to come to this, Greorge or Elijah, 
one or the other, you would fly to Elijah and cast 
George off.' 

'Let me go. I will have no more of this mad 
babble,' said Mehalah, wrenching her hands out of his 
grasp. She would not run away. She was too proud. 
She folded her arms on her breast and confronted him. 

' Hark ! ' she said, ' the Christmas bells.' 

Faint and far off could be heard the merry pealing 
of the Colchester bells. The wind had shifted. 

'Peace on earth and good will to men,' muttered 
Elijah; 'but to them that fight against their destiny 
fury and hate.' 

' Go back, Elijah, and speak to me no more on this 
matter. I will not hear you again. I have but endured 
it now.' 

' This is Christmas Eve,' said Kebow. ' In eight 
days is the New Year, and then you will be in Bed 
Hall, Glory!' 

' Listen to me, Elijah,' exclaimed Mehalah passion- 
ately. ' If you find me there, then you may hope to 
see your other fond dream fulfilled. Destiny will have 
been too strong for me.' 

' Farewell.' 

' May we not meet again.' 

' We shall. It cannot be helped. I feel it coming. 
You may fight against it ; you cannot escape. Destiny 
must fulfil itself. We must fight and love, and love 



ON THE BURNT HILL. 203 

and fight in life, in death, and through eternity, like 
the old warriors in Grrim's Hoe.' 

' Farewell.' 

' Till this day sen'night.' 



CHAPTER XV. 

NEW teak's eye. 



No more sheep were stolen ; but then the moon was 
filling her horns, and a robbery could not be committed 
without chance of detection. But though nothing- 
further had been taken, Mehalah was uneasy. Some 
evilly-disposed person had visited the Ray and plun- 
dered her and her mother of four ewes ; others, or the 
same, might attempt the house, in the hopes of finding 
money there. The auction had shown people that Mis- 
tress Sharland was not without money. 

On New Year's Eve Mehalah went to Colchester to 
make some purchases for the New Year. The kalends 
of January and not the Nativity of Christ is the great 
winter festival among the Essex peasantry on the coast. 
They never think of wishing one another a Happy 
Christmas, but only a Merry New Year. No yule log 
is bm-nt, no mummers dance, no wassail bowl is con- 
sumed at Christmas, but each man who can afford it 
deems himself bound to riot and revel, to booze and sing, 
to wake the death of the old year, and baptise the new 
with libations of brandy or ale. 

When Mehalah returned, she brought with her a new 
lock and key for the house-door. There had been once 



204 MEHALAH.: 

a lock there, but it had been broken many years ago, 
and had never been repaired. On the Eay no lock was 
needed, it had been supposed. Mehalah was of a 
different opinion now. The short day had closed some 
time ago ; she had seen it die over Bradwell from 
Abberton Hill, but the full moon was rising, and she 
knew her way over the marshes, she could thread the 
tangle easily by moonlight. She reached the Ray, threw 
open the door, and strode in. Her mother was by the 
lire, with her head on the table. Mehalah's heart stood 
still for a moment, and then her face flushed. The 
smell of spirits in the close room, the attitude of her 
mother, the stupefied eyes which opened on her, and 
then closed again without recognition, convinced her 
that her mother had been drinking. 

Mehalah was angry as well as distressed. This was 
a new trouble, one to which she was quite unaccustomed. 
She knew that her mother had taken a little rum-and- 
water against her ague, and she had not grudged it her. 
But of late there had been something more than this. 
Since Kebow had supplied Mrs. Sharland with spirits, 
the old woman had been unable to resist the temptation 
of going to her keg whenever she felt lonely or depressed. 
Mehalah had insisted on her mother receiving no more 
from Elijah Eebow, but she was by no means certain 
that the widow had complied with her desire. The 
sight of her mother in this condition angered Mehalah, 
for she was sure now that a fresh supply had been 
obtained, and was secreted somewhere. She was angry 
with her mother for deceiving her and with Kebow for 
tempting the old woman and laying her under an obli- 
gation to him. She was angry with herself for not 



NEW YEAK'S EVE. 205 

having watched her mother more closely, and explored 
the places of concealment which abounded in the old 
house. 

She stood over her mother for some moments with 
folded arms and bowed head, her brows knit, and a 
gloomy light in her eyes. Then she shook her roughly 
and spoke harshly to her. 

' Mother ! answer me. You have received more from 
Eebow ? ' 

' It was very kind, very kind indeed,' stuttered the 
old woman. ' Capital for ague shivers and rheumatic 
pains in the bones.' 

' Has Elijah been here again ? ' 

' He's wery civil ; he knows what suits old bones.' 

' Has he brought you another keg ? ' 

' It is stowed away,' said the widow drowsily. 
' Quite comfortable. Gro to bed, Mehalah, it's time to 
get up.' 

The girl drew back in disgust and wrath. Elijah 
was making her own mother despicable in her eyes. She 
was quite resolved what to do. She thi'ust open the 
door to the cellar, and behind a heap of faggots found 
a fresh keg, evidently recently brought, and quite full. 
She drew it forth into the front room and held it up. 

' Mother ! ' she shouted. 

' I am here, Mehalah. The ague isn't on me yet.' 

' Do you see this little cask ? It is full, quite full.' 

' Don't do that, child, you may drop it.' 

' I shall dash it to pieces,' said the girl, and she 
flung it with her whole force on the bricks. A stave 
was broken : the precious liquor spurted out. Some 
flew into the fire and flashed into blue flame up the 



206 MEHALAH. 

chimney. In a moment the floor was swimming, and 
the thirsty bricks were sucking in the spirit. The old 
woman was too besotted with drink to understand what 
was done. Mehalah's bosom heaved with passion and 
excitement. 

' I have done with that,' she said ; ' I said that I 
would, and I have kept my word. Never, never shall 
my poor mother be like this again. He did it.' 
She knit her hands, and a fire flickered in her eye, like 
that of the burning spirit in the chimney. 

' Now come to bed, mother.' She drew or carried 
the old woman out of the room, undressed her, and put 
her in bed. Mrs. Sharland made no resistance. She 
submitted drowsily, and her head was no sooner on the 
pillow than she fell asleep. 

Mehalah returned to the front room. She got out 
some tools and set herself to work at once to fasten 
on the lock. She was accustomed to doing all sorts of 
things herself; she could roughly carpenter, she had 
often patched her boat. The old farmhouse was in a 
decayed condition and needed much mending, and for 
several years she had done what was required to it. To 
put on a lock was a trifle ; but the old nails that had 
fastened the former lock remained in the wood, and had 
to be punched out, and the keyhole was not quite in 
the right place when the lock was first put on, and had 
to be altered. At length the lock was fast, a strong 
lock, strong for such a worm-eaten door. 

Mehalah went to her mother's room and looked at 
the old woman. She slept heavily, unlike her usual 
sleep, which would be broken at once by the entry of 
her daughter with a light. 



NEW YEAE'S EVE. 207 

Mehalah returned to the kitchen and seated herself 
at the hearth. How long had this keg of spirits been 
in the house ? She had paid no attention to the intro- 
duction of spirits since Greorge's death, her mind had 
been occupied with other matters. Her mother and 
Eebow had taken advantage of this. How was it that 
Eebow came to the house when she was away ? He 
never came when she was present, at least not since the 
night when the money was stolen ; but she was sure 
that he visited her mother during her absence, from 
little things let drop by the old woman. 

How did he manage to time his visits so as not to 
meet her ? She would find out when he was last at 
the Eay Farm. She sprang up, and went out of the 
door, unlocking it to let herself go forth ; and she 
called Abraham. There was no answer. The old man 
was already turned into his loft over the cowhouse, and 
asleep. 

She called him again, but with equal want of 
success. Not a thunderbolt falling on the thorns be- 
side the house would rouse him. INIehalah knew that, 
and went back to her seat by the fire, relocking the 
door. ' I will ask him in the morning. He must know.' 

She drew off her shoes, and put her bare feet on 
the warm hearth. She was without her guernsey and 
cap, for she did not wear them when she went to 
Colchester. 

She fell, as was her wont, to thinking. Since the 
death of George, she had been accustomed to sit thus 
over the fire, after her mother had retired. She was 
not thinking of him now, she was thinking of Elijah. 
His words, his strange, mad, fierce words, came back to 



208 MEHALAH. 

her. Was there a destiny shaping her life against her 
will, and forcing her into his arms ? She shuddered 
at the thought. To hate and love, and love and hate, 
year out, year in, that was what they were fated to do, 
according to him. That he was drawn towards her by 
some attractive power exercised against her will, she 
knew full well, but she would not allow that he exer- 
cised the least attraction on her. Yet she did feel that 
there was some sort of spell upon her. Hate him as 
she did and would, she knew that she could not altogether 
escape him, she had an instinctive consciousness that 
she was held by him, she did not understand how, in 
his hands. Perhaps it was her destiny to hate and 
fight him ; for how long? Love him she never could, 
she never would. There was an assurance in his manner 
and tone which impressed her against her better judg- 
ment. He spoke as though it were but a matter of 
time before she yielded herself wholly to him, and came 
under his roof and joined her lot with his, for life and 
for death. What right had he to assume this ? What 
grounds had he for this confidence ? None but a blind, 
dogged conviction in his own mind that destiny had 
ordained them for each other. Then she thought of 
the story of Grrim's Hoe, of the two who loved and 
hated, embraced and fought eternally therein, those 
two destined from their mother's womb to be together 
in life and death, with twin souls and bodies, who had 
they lived in love might have rested in death, but as 
they fought must fight on. There they were, in the old 
hollow womb of the ship down in the earth in darkness, 
loving one another as brothers, fighting each other as 
rivals; the conflict lasting till one shall master the 



NEW YEAR'S EVE. 209 

other, a thing that never can be, for both were born 
with equal strength, and equal purpose, and equal 
stubbornness of will. The fumes of the spilled spirits 
hung in the air, and stimulated Mehalah's brain. 
Instead of stupefying, they quickened her mind into 
activity. Her heart beat. She felt as if she were in 
the ship hold watching the eternal conflict, and as if 
she must take a part with one or the other ; as if her 
so doing would determine the victory. But which 
should she will to conquer, when each was the counter- 
part of the other ? She could not bear this thought,, 
she could not endure the fumes of the spirit, it suffocated 
her. She sprang up. The full moon was glaring in at 
the window from a cloudless sky. 

She opened the door. The air was cold, but there 
was little wind. She could see on the south-east horizon, 
at the highest point of the island, the great Hoe crowned 
with black pines. 

The moon was at full. The old warriors were now 
hewing at one another, and the dim, frightened captive 
maid looked on with her hands on her heart, her great 
eyes gleaming like glow-worms in the decaying ship 
hold. Ha ! at ,each sword stroke the sparks flashed. 
Ha ! the cut flesh glimmered like phosphorescent fish, 
and the blood ran like blue fire. Was the story true ? 
Could anyone hear the warriors shout and smite, who 
chose to listen at the full of the moon ? The distance to 
Grrim's Hoe was not over two miles. Mehalah thought 
she must go there and listen with her own ears. She 
would go. 

Once more she returned to her mother's room, and 
saw that Mrs. Sharland was asleep. Then she drew on 

p 



•210 MEHALAH. 

her shoes, her guernsey, and her red cap, went out, locked 
the door, and put the key in her pocket. 

' Who went there ? ' She started. She thought 
she saw something — some one, move ; but then laughed. 
The moon was so bright that it cast her shadow on the 
wall, distinct and black as if it were a palpable body. 
She stood still, listened, and looked round. She could 
see the stretch of the saltings as distinctly as if it were 
day, only that the shadows were inky black, not purple 
as by sunlight. Not a sound was to be heard. 

' I will go,' she said, and she strode off towards the 
causeway. 

The path over the marshes was perfectly distinct. 
She walked fast, the earth crackled under her feet, the 
frost was keen. Her eyes rose ever and anon to Grrim's 
Hoe. The pines on it did not stir, they stood like 
mourners above a grave. 

The Mersea channel gleamed like a belt of silver, 
not a ripple was on the water on the west side of the 
causeway, and but slight flapping wavelets, driven by 
the north-east wind, played with the tangles on the piles 
on the other side of the Strood. 

She reached the island of Mersea by the causeway, 
now dry, and began to ascend the hill. Once she turned 
and looked back. She could see the Eay rising above 
the marshes, bathed in moonlight, patched with coal 
black shadows cast by the ancient thorn trees, and the 
farm buildings. 

Before her rose the great barrow, partly overgrown 
with shrubs, but bare on the north-west towards the 
Strood. It was a bell-shaped mound rising some thirty 
feet above the surface of the ground. She paused a 



NEW YEAR'S EVE. 211 

moment at the foot and listened. Not a sound. She 
must then climb the tumulus, and lie on the top between 
the pines, and lay her ear to the ground. She stepped 
boldly up the little path trodden by children and sheep, 
and in a few moments was at the top. She stopped to 
breathe, to look up at the wan white moon that gazed 
down on her, and then she cast herself on the ground, 
with her face to the north-west. 

What was that ? A fir cone fell beside her. There 
was no sound. Hist ! a stoat ran past and disappeared 
in a hole. Then she heard screams. A poor rabbit was 
attacked and its blood sucked. She lifted her head, 
and then laid it on the ground again. Her eyes were 
fixed on the distance. 

What was that ? In a moment she was on her feet. 

What was that red spot over the marshes, on the 
Eay, among the trees ? What was that leaping, dancing, 
lambent tongue, shooting up and recoiling ? What was 
that white rising cloud above the thorns ? 

Before she knew where she was, Mehalah was flying 
down the hill towards the Strood, the dead Danish 
warriors forgotten in the agony of her fear. As she ran 
on, her eyes never left the Ray, and she saw the red 
light grow in intensity and spread in body. The farm 
was on fire. The house was on fire, and her mother 
was in a dead sleep within — locked in — and the key 
was in her pocket. 

God ! what had she done ? Why had she gone ? 
Had not the spilled spirits caught fire and set the house 
in flames I Why had she locked her mother in ? a thing 
never done before. Mehalah ran, terror, horror, anguish 
at her heart. She did not look at her path, she took 

p 2 



212 MEHALAH. 

it instinctively, she did not heed the rude bridges, she^ 
dashed across them, and one broke under her hasty foot, 
and fell away after she had passed. The flames were 
climbing higher. She could see them devouring the 
wooden tarred walls. Then came a great burst of fire, 
and a rushing upwards of blazing sparks. The roof had 
fallen in. A pillar of blue and golden light stood up 
and illumined the whole Eay. The thorn trees looked 
now like wondrous, finely-ramified, golden seaweeds in 
a dim blue sea. Mehalah would not pause to look at 
anything, she saw only flames leaping and raging where 
was her home, where lay her mother. How could she 
reach the place before the house was a wreck, and her 
dear mother was buried beneath the burned timbers 
of the roof, and the hot broken tiles ? 

She was there at last, before the great blaze ; she 
could see that some one or two men were present. 

' My mother, my mother ! ' she gasped, and fell on 
her knees. 

' Be still, Grlory, she is safe, no thanks to you.' 

Mehalah lost consciousness for a few moments. The 
revulsion of feeling was so great as to overcome her. 
When she recovered, she was still unable for some 
time to gather all her faculties together, rise, look 
round, and note what had taken place. 

The whole farmhouse was on fire, every wall was 
flaming, and part of the roof had fallen in. If once 
the house were to catch fire it was certain to go like 
tinder. A spout of flame came out of her mother's 
bed-room window. The fire glowed and roared in the 
old kitchen sitting-room. 



NEW YEAE'S EVE. 213 

* Where is my mother ? ' asked Mehalah abruptly. 

' She is all safe,' answered Abraham Dowsing, who 
Avas dragging some saved bedding out of reach of the 
sparks. ' She is in the boat.' 

' The cow ? ' asked Mehalah. 

' She is all right also. The fire has not caught the 
stable.' 

' Who got my mother out ? ' 

' I did, Grlory I ' answered Elijah Eebow. ' You owe 
her life to me. Why were you not here? Fighting 
your destiny, I suppose.' 

Several articles were scattered about under the trees. 
The Sharlands had not many valuables ; such as they 
had seemed to have been saved. 

' Where is my mother ? Lead me to her.' 

' She is in the boat, G-lory I ' said Rebow. ' Come 
with me. The fire must burn itself out. There is 
nothing further to be done ; we must put your mother 
at once under shelter. There is a cruel frost, and she 
will suffer.' 

' Where is she ? What have you done with her ? ' 
again asked Mehalah, still hardly collected and conscious 
of what she said. 

' She is safe in my boat, well wrapped up. Come 
with me. You shall see her. Abraham and my man. 
shall stay and watch till the lire dies out, and see that 
no fmther harm is done, and then follow in your boat.' 

' Where are you going ? ' 

'I am going to place your mother under cover, at 
once, or the cold will kill her. Come on. Glory ! ' 

Elijah led the way down the steep gravelly slope to 



214 MEHALAH. 

the Ehyn. There floated his boat — his large two-oared 
boat, and in thesternhalf lay, half crouched, Mrs. Shar- 
land, amidst blankets and bedding. 

' Joseph ! ' shouted Elijah to one of the men by the 
fire, ' follow us as soon as you can, and bring Abraham 
Dowsing with you. We will fetch away the traps to- 
morrow.' 

Mrs. Sharland was wailing and wringing her hands. 

' Oh Mehalah ! this is dreadful ! too dreadful ! ' 

' Step in and take the oar,' said Elijah impatiently. 
' We must get off, and house the old woman as soon as 
possible, or she will be death -struck.' 

The flames were reflected in the water about the 
boat, it seemed to float in fire. 

' Take the oar ! ' ordered Elijah gruffly. 

Mehalah obeyed mechanically. He thrust the boat 
off, and cast himself in. 

No word was spoken for some time. Mehalah's 
eyes were fixed on her burning home, with despair. 
Her brain was numb, her heart oppressed. Mrs. 
Sharland wailed and wept, and uttered loud reproaches 
against Mehalah, which the girl heard not. She was 
stunned, and could not take in the situation. 

The boat shot past the head of the Kay. 

There stood the low broad bulk of the Burnt Hill. 
Mehalah roused herself. 

Elijah looked over his shoulder and laughed. 

' Up Salcot Fleet I ' he said shortly. 

' What ! ' suddenly exclaimed Mehalah, as a pang 
shot through her heart. ' Whither are we going ? ' 

' To Red Hall,' answered Elijah. 

' I will not go there ! ' exclaimed the girl in a tone 



NEW YEAE'S EVE. 215 

of despair, as she drew her hands sharply from the oar, 
and the boat swung round. 

* Take the oar again,' ordered Elijah. ' Where else 
can your mother go? You must think of her. She 
cannot be left to die of cold on the marshes, this night.' 

A groan escaped Mehalah's breast. She resumed 
the oar. ' Hold hard I ' shouted Elijah after a row of 
half-an-hour. He sprang into the water, and drew the 
boat ashore. 

' Grive your mother a hand and help her to land,' he 
said peremptorily. Mehalah obeyed without a word. 

Kebow caught the girl by both hands as she stepped 
on shore. 

' Welcome, Griory ! welcome to Ked Hall ! The new 
year sees you under the roof where you shall rule as 
mistress ; your destiny is mightier than your will.' 



CHAPTER XYl, 

IN NEW QUARTERS 



When the boat reached the landing place for Red Hall, 
Mrs. Sharland was found to have been so overcome with 
terror, and numbed with frost, as to be unable to walk. 
She moaned under her blankets, but made no effort to 
rise. Elijah was obliged to carry her out of the boat 
upon the sea-wall, and then with the assistance of 
Mehalah she was conveyed to the house in their arms. 
Neither spoke, and ]Mrs. Sharland's lamentations, over 
various articles she had prized, and which she feared 
were lost or destroyed, remained unattended to. 



216 MEHALAH. 

The old woman was wrapped up from the cold in a 
blanket that enfolded her entire person and head, and 
she kept working an aperture for her face, whilst being 
carried, not so much to obtain air, as to give vent to 
queries. 

' My green bombazine, — where is it ? ' 

The folds of the blanket closed over the face. The 
fingers worked at them, till they had made a gap. 

' Is the toad-jug saved ? ' at the same time a point 
of a nose and a thin finger emerged from the wraps. 

' There was a dozen of Lowestoft soup-dishes ! ' A 
jerk as she was being lifted over a rail sent her head 
and shoulders deeper into the blanket, and it was 
some minutes before she had grubbed a hole for herself 
again. 

' The warming-pan ! I can't go to bed unless I have 
the sheets aired.' 

A spring across a dyke buried the old woman again 
* in woollen.' She emerged only as the house was 
reached to exclaim ' My rum ! ' 

* You've come where there's lots of that,' said Elijah, 
and he indicated with his chin to Mehalah to carry her 
up the steps into the hall. 

A red fire was glowing and painting the walls. The 
great room was warm, and Mrs. Sharland battled out of 
her envelopes as soon as she became aware that she was 
under cover. 

'Take me to bed,' she said; 'my legs are frozen. 
I can't go a step. Oh ! is the toad-jug saved ? ' 

' I will carry her now,' said Elijah. ' You light a 
candle, Glory, and follow me.' 



IN NEW QUARTEES. 217 

He took the old woman over his shoulder, and led 
the way up the stairs. Mehalah followed with a light 
she had kindled at the hearth. He conducted into a 
bed-room, comfortably furnished, with white curtains 
-to the windows, and a low tester bed in the corner. 

' Light the fire,' he ordered, and Mehalah applied 
the candle to the straw and chips in the grate. 
Presently the flames were dancing up the chimney, 
and making the whole chamber glow. The old woman 
was laid on the bed. 

'This looks comfortable,' said she; 'just as if you 
was prepared for us.' 

'I was prepared for you. Everything was ready. 
Grlory knows that I have been expecting you and her. 
I told her she must come, sooner or later. Sooner or 
later the same roof must cover both, as sooner or later 
the same grave will hold us both. She would fight me, 
and would not come to me, but her destiny is stronger 
than her will. My will is the destiny of her life. It 
shapes and directs it.' 

Mehalah did not speak. She could not speak. 
She was stunned. A belt of iron bound her heart and 
restrained its free bounds, a weight of lead crushed her 
brain and killed its independence of action. She, who 
had been hitherto a law to herself, whose will had been 
unfettered, now discovered, her self a captive under the 
thraldom of a will mightier, or more ungovernable, than 
her own. She had no time or power to think how to 
escape, and free herself from the situation in which she 
was placed. All her thoughts that she could collect 
must be about her mother. She must think of herself 



218 MEHALAH. 

when she had more leisure. But though she could not 
think of herself, she could feel that she was conquered, 
and a captive, and that escape would not be easy. 

' There,' said Elijah, indicating a door, ' there is 
another little room for you and your mother to put 
away what you like. If you want anything, come 
downstairs.' 

Elijah went heavily down the stairs and out at the 
door. Mehalah looked from the window, and saw him 
on his way to the boat. He was going back to the 
Kay. She could still see a red cloud hanging over her 
burnt home. The tears rose in her heart at the sight, 
but would not well out at her eyes. She stood and 
looked long at the dying fire, drawing the window 
curtain behind her to screen from her the light of 
the room. Her mother lay quiet, evidently pleased 
at having got into such comfortable quarters, and ex- 
hausted with her alarm. By degrees she dozed off into 
unconsciousness of her loss and of her situation, and 
Mehalah remained at the window looking moodily over 
the fens and the water, at the ruby spark that marked 
her old home. 

She was standing in the same place when the boats 
arrived, bringing portions of their goods to Ked Hall. 
She heard the voices of Rebow and other men below. 
She opened the door and listened. He was giving 
them something to eat and drink. Abraham Dowsing 
was there. She could distinguish his voice. 

' If I hadn't turned you out, you'd have been burnt,' 
said Rebow. 

' A good job for mistress we saved the cowhouse,' 
answered Abraham, with sulky unwillingness to admit 
that he was indebted to Elijah for anything. 



IN NEW QUAETEES. 21 ^ 

'Don't you think you owe me your life?' asked 
Kebow. 

' The cowhouse didn't burn.' 

' No. But it would have, had not we been there to 
keep the flames off,' observed one of the men. 

' Good job for mistress I wasn't burnt. I don't 
know how she'd got along without me.' 

' It did not matter particularly to yourself then, 
Abby?' 

' Don't know as it did. A man must die some 
time, and I've always heard as smothering is a nice 
quiet sort of death — better than being racked with 
cramps and tormented with rheumatics and shivered 
into the pithole with agues.' After a pause Abraham's 
voice was heard to add, ' Besides, I should have woke, 
myself, with the fire and smoke.' 

' Not you. And if you had, what could you have 
done to save the old woman ? She'd have been burnt 
to a cinder before you woke.' 

'That's mistress' matter, not mine,' answered 
Dowsing. 

'You could not have got the things out of the 
house.' 

' They are not mine,' retorted Abraham angrily. 
' You are not going to make a merit to me of saving 
what are the belongings of other folk ? ' 

' They belong to your mistress.' 

' Well, so they do, that is, they don't belong to me; 
so none of your boasting to me, as if I owed you any- 
thing.' This ungracious remark, but one not unnatm-al 
for a rude peasant jealous lest an obligation should place 
him in a position of disadvantage, was followed by 
fiilence, during which the party ate. 



.220 MEHALAH. 

Presently Abraham asked, 'How came you to be 
there?' 

' Master sent Jim out with me in the big boat after 
ducks, and he was in the punt,' answered one of the 
men. ' He bade us lie by at the mouth of the Ehyn, 
while he went on to drive the birds our way ; there was 
a lot, and we thought to pepper into a whole flight. He 
was not long away — not above an hour — when we saw 
the Eay house afire, and heard him shouting to us to 
xjome on, so we rowed as hard as hard, and by the time we 
landed he had broke open the door, and got the old lady 
out. We helped as best we might, and saved a deal of 
things.' 

' They ain't worth much,' said Abraham. ' There's 
nothing in the house worth five pound,— take the whole 
lot. The cow was the only thing would pay for saving, 
and she was safe. I slept in the loft over her.' 

' The life of your mistress was worth something, I 
hope, Abby.' 

' Don't know that. Not to me, anyhow. She's not 
mistress ; it is Mehalah that orders, and does everything. 
I don't reckon an old woman's life is wortli a crown, not 
to nobody but herself, may be ; but that is her concern 
not mine. She was an ailing aguish body. Why ! ' 
exclaimed Abraham banging his can of ale on the table, 
' when you've saved an old woman who is nought but a 
trouble to everybody as does with her, of what wally is 
it ? They might have paid you to let her alone, but 
not to lug her out of the fire. Now, Mehalah, she was 
another sort. But you didn't save her.' 

* Where was she ? She was not in the house.' 

' How am 1 to know ? I don't spy after her. 



IX NEW QUAETERS. 221 

Others may,' he gave a sly, covert look at Elijah, ' I 
don't. But I reckon she was out on the saltings watch- 
ing for the sheep-stealers.' 

' Have you had sheep-stealers on the Ray ? ' 

' Aye, we have.' 

' Did you watch for them at night ? ' 

' I ! ' with a grunt. ' They were not my sheep. 
No, thank you. Let them that wallys the sheep watch 
'em. I do what I'm paid to do, and I don't do more.' 

Mehalah did not listen to the whole of this conver- 
sation. She had satisfied herself that Abraham was 
there, and had heard how Eebow and his men came to be 
on the spot when the fire broke out ; she then closed 
the door again, and returned to the window. She did 
not leave her station till dawn, except to attend to the 
fire, to make it up from the heap stacked by the side 
of the chimneypiece. When day began to break, she 
seated herself on a stool by the bed, and laying her 
head on the mattress fell asleep, and slept for an hour 
or two, uneasily, troubled by dreams and the discom- 
fort of her position. 

When she awoke the house was quiet. She went 
downstairs, with reluctance, and found no one stirring, 
but the fire made up and a kettle boiling over it, the 
table spread with everything she could desire for break- 
fast. Elijah, Abraham, and the other men were gone. 
There was a canister with tea on the board. Mehalah 
made her mother some, and took it up to her. 

The old woman was awake, and drank the tea with 
eagerness. 

' I don't think I can get out of bed to-day, Mehalah ! ' 
she said. ' I feel my limbs all of an ache ; the cold 



222 IvIEHALAH. 

has got into the marrow of my bones, and I feel as if 
the frost were splitting them, as at times it will split 
pipes. I must lie abed till the thaw comes to them.' 

' Can you eat anything ? ' 

' I think I can.' 

' Mother, how long are we going to remain here ? ' 

' It is wery comfortable, I am sure.' 

' But we cannot stay in this house.' 

' Where else can we go ? ' 

' I will get into service somewhere.' 

' You cannot leave me. Where shall I go ? I cannot 
leave my bed, and I don't think the frost will get out 
of my bones for a week or more.' 

' I can not, I will not, remain here.' 

' Where can we go ? ' 

Mehalah put both her hands to her brow. She 
could not answer this question. Were she alone, she 
could get a situation in a farmhouse, perhaps ; but with 
a sick mother dependent on her, this was not possible. 
No farmer would take them both in for the sake of her 
services. 

' Where else can we go ? ' again asked Mrs. Sharland ; 
then in a repining voice, ' If Master Kebow houses us 
for a while, it is very good of him, and we must be 
thankful, for we have no chance of shelter elsewhere. 
Where is the money to pay for rebuilding the farm- 
house? Do you think my cousin, Charles Petti- 
can ' 

'No, no,' exclaimed Mehalah, 'not a word about him.' 

' He spoke up and promised most handsomely,' said 
Mrs. Sharland. 

' He can do nothing, mother, I will not ask him.' 



IN NEW QUARTERS. 223 

' A man that has a gilded balcony to his house 
wouldn't miss a few pounds for running up a wooden 
cottage.' 

' I will not go to him again.' 

' My dear child,' said Mrs. Sharland, ^ I don't doubt 
he would take us in on a visit for a while, when we are 
forced to leave Red Hall.' 

' You think we shall not be obliged to remain here ? ' 

' I don't see how we can. It is very good of Master 
Rebow to house us for a bit, but I doubt we can't stick 
as fixtures. I only wish we could. Anyhow stay here 
a bit we must. We have nowhere else to go to, except 
to my cousin Charles.' 

Mehalah knew what this alternative was worth. It 
was a relief to her to hear her mother speak of their 
stay in Red Hall as only temporary. She could not 
endiure to contemplate the possibility of its being per- 
manent. She formed a hope that she would be able to 
find work somewhere, and hire a small cottage; she 
was strong enough to do as much as a man. 

During the day, everything that had been rescued 
from the fire on the Ray was brought to Red Hall, even 
the cow, which was driven round by land, a matter of 
eleven miles. The old clock arrived, and was set up in 
the large room below, an old cypress chest or ' spruce 
hutch ' as Mrs. Sharland called it, covered with curious 
shallow carvings picked out with burnt umber, repre- 
senting a hawking party, that contained her best clothes, 
and was a security against moth, was conveyed into her 
bedroom. It weighed half a ton. The old Lowestoft 
dishes she valued were placed in the rack in the hall 
along with the ware that belonged to Elijah. The. toad- 



224 MEHALAH. 

jug, a white jug with a painted and glazed figure of a 
toad squatting inside it in the neck, was also brought to' 
Red Hall, so even were two biscuit-china poodles with 
shaven posteriors and with manes and tufted tails, 
that had stood on the chimneypiece at the Ray. The 
warming-pan of brass with a stamped portrait of H.M. 
Greorge I. on it was likewise transported to Red Hall, 
and hung up in the little oak-panelled parlour behind 
the entrance hall generally occupied by Rebow. 

By degrees most of the property of Mrs. Sharland 
was brought to the house, and the small oak parlour 
was furnished with it. Her arm-chair of leather with 
high back was placed in the hall by the great fireplace 
that bore the inscription, ' When I hold, I hold fast.' 
There were also some things belonging specially to Griory 
that had been saved, and these were put in the oak 
parlour. The satisfaction of Mrs. Sharland at finding 
herself surrounded by her goods was extreme. She did 
not leave her bed, but she insisted on her daughter 
bringing her up everything that could be carried, 
that she might turn it about, and inspect it minutely 
and rejoice over what was uninjured, and bewail 
what had suffered. One of the poodles had lost an 
ear and part of its tail. The old woman cried and 
grumbled and scolded about this injury, as though it 
were on a level with the destruction of the house. She 
would see the men Jim and Joe who had brought it 
from the Ray in the boat ; she catechised them minutely, 
she insisted on knowing which had brought the dog 
out of the burning house, where it had been placed till 
removal, and fretted, till they promised to examine the 
spot beneath the thorn tree where the china brute had 



IN NEW QUAETEES. 225 

spent the night, and also the bottom of the boat, for the 
missing tail tuft and ear tip. 

' You know,' she said, ' if I boil them in milk with 
the dog, I can get them to stick on.' 

Among certain persons, the mind is destitute of 
perspective, and consequently magnifies trifles and dis- 
regards great evils, Mrs. Sharland had a mind thus 
constituted. She harped all day on the battered biscuit- 
china dog, because it was placed on the mantelpiece 
of her bedroom, and was under her eyes whenever she 
turned her head that way. The farmhouse was almost 
forgotten in her distress about the tail ; her flaming 
home formed but a red background to the mutilated 
white poodle. 

Mehalah saw nothing of Elijah Kebow all day. He 
was several times in the house ; directly her foot sounded 
on the stairs, however, he disappeared. But she saw 
and felt that he was considering her ; his care to recover 
all the little treasures and property on the Eay evinced 
this ; and in the house he provided everything she could 
need ; he placed meat on the table in the hall for her 
dinner, and had boiled potatoes over the fire. They 
were set ready for her, she had only to take them out. 
Her mother ate heartily, and was loud in expressions of 
satisfaction at the comfort that surrounded them. 

' I hope, Mehalah, we shan't have to leave this in a 
hurry.' 

Griory did not answer. 

Towards evening Abraham Dowsing arrived with the 
cow. The girl heard the low, and ran down — she could 
not help it — and threw her arms round the neck of the 
-beast. There was a back stair leading to the kitchen 



226 MEHALAH. 

and yard, by which she could descend without entering 
the hall, and by this means she avoided Elijah, who, she 
was aware, was there. 

Elijah, however, came to the top of the steps after 
she had descended, and looked into the yard where she 
was. Mehalah at once desisted from lavishing her 
tenderness on the animal. 

Abraham stood sulkily by. 

' I've had a long bout,' he said. 

' I dare say you have, Abraham,' she answered. 

' I want something to eat and drink, I haven't bit 
nought since morning. There's nothing but ashes on 
the Kay now, and they are red-hot. You don't expect 
me to fill my belly on them.' 

Mehalah put her hand to her mouth and checked 
her tongue, as she was about to tell him to go indoors 
and get some supper. She had now nothing to give the 
old man. She lived on the bounty of Rebow. 

' I cannot go without my wittles,' persisted Abraham. 
' Now I want to know where my wittles are to come 
from. I paid fourpence at the Rose for some bread and 
cheese, and you owes me that.' 

^ There is the money,' said Mehalah producing the 
coin. 

' Ah ! that is wery well. But where am I to get my 
wittles now ? Am I your servant or ain't I ? If I am, 
— where's my wittles ? ' 

' Come here, Abraham,' said Elijah, from the kitchen 
door. ' There is bread and cold potatoes and meat here. 
You shall have your supper, an4 you can sleep in the 
loft.' 

' Look here, master,' pursued the sullen old raan^. 



IN NEW QUARTEES. 227 

' I want to know further where I'm to look for my 
wages.' 

' To me,' said Kebow. ' I take you on.' 

' Where am I to work ? ' 

' Here, or on the Eay, looking after the sheep.' 

' The sheep are not yours, they are hers,' — pointing 
to Mehalah with his thumb. 

' The Eay and Eed Hall are one concern,' answered 
Eebow. ' You look to me as your master, and to her 
as your mistress;' then he entered and slammed the 
door. 

Abraham shrugged his shoulders. He leered at 
Mehalah, who had put her hands to her forehead. 

^ When are you going to church ? Eh, mistress ? I 
thought it was coming to this. But I don't care so long 
as I gets my wittles and wage.' 

Abraham went slowly into the cattlehouse with the 
cow. Mehalah remained rooted to the spot, pressing 
her brow. 

This was more than she could endure. She ran up 
the steps, she would speak to Eebow while her heart was 
full. She dashed through the kitchen and into the hall. 
He was not there. As she ran on, she tripped and 
almost fell; and recovered herself with horror. She 
had almost precipitated herself through the trap into 
the vault beneath. The door was thrown back, her 
foot had caught this. Faugh ! an odour rose from the 
cellar as from the lair of a wild beast. She looked in, 
there was the maniac racing up and down in the den 
fastened by his chain, jabbering and uttering incoherent 
cries. He was almost naked, covered with filthy rags, 
and his hair hung over his face so that she could dis- 



228 MEHALAH. 

tinguish no features by the dim light that strayed down 
from the trap, and from the horn lanthorn that Elijah 
had placed on the steps. Eebow had a pitchfork, and 
he was tossing fresh straw to his brother, and raking 
out the sodden and crushed litter of the wretched man. 

Mehalah could not bear the sight ; she withdrew. 
She needed a little while by herself to consider what 
was best to be done, to think of what had taken place. 
She opened the front door, and descended by the long- 
flight of steps over the arch. Then she saw that a 
shutter covered the circular window that in summer 
lighted the den of the maniac. This was now closed 
to shut out the cold of winter. There was a door. As 
she looked, Rebow opened it from within, and appeared, 
raking out the litter and the gnawed bones, the relics 
of his brother's repasts. He did not notice her, or he 
pretended not to do so, and she shrank back. Her 
wish to speak with him had gone from her. She was 
not equal to an interview till she had been alone for a 
while, and had gathered up her strength. An inter- 
view with him must be a contest. It was clear to her 
that he was resolved that she should stay at Eed Hall. 
She was equally determined not to do so. But how to 
get away and remove her mother was more than she 
could discover. 

She left the house and the garden round it, and 
walked through the meadow till she reached the sea- 
wall. She ascended that, and went along it to the spot 
where the Ked Hall marsh divided the Tollesbury Fleet 
from the Virley and Salcott Creeks. 

Then she threw herself beneath the windmill, the 
mill that pumped the water out of the dykes, and 



IN NEW QUARTERS. 229 

worked day and night whenever there was wind to 
move the sails. The mill was now at work. The 
wings rushed round, and the pump painfully creaked, 
and after every stroke sent a dash of water into the 
sea over the wall. 

Mehalah hoped that here, away from her mother 
and Kebow, and the sights and sounds of Eed Hall, she 
might be able to think. But it was not so. Her 
numbed head was unable to form any plans. She 
looked out at sea, it was leaden grey, ruffled with angry 
waves, and the mews screamed and dipped in them. 
The sky overhead was overcast. The Bradwell shore 
looked grey and bleak and desolate ; there was not a 
sail in the offing. The fancy took her to sit and wait, 
and if she saw a ship pass to take it as a good omen, a 
promise of escape from her present perplexity. 

She sat and waited. The sea darkened to a more 
sullen tint. The mews were no longer visible. Mersea 
with its trees and church tower disappeared. Bradwell 
coast loomed black as pitch against the last lingering 
light of day. Not a sail appeared. 

Far away, out to sea, as the darkness deepened, 
gleamed a light. It gleamed a moment, then grew 
dim and disappeared in the blackness. A minute, and 
then it waxed, but waned again, and once more all was 
night. So on, in wearisome iteration. What she saw 
was the revolving Swin light fifteen miles from land^ 
a floating Pharos. She thought of Elijah's words, she 
thought of the horrible iterations in the barrow on the 
hill, the embracing and fighting, embracing and fight- 
ing, loving and hating, loving and hating, till one should 
conquer of the twin but rival powers. 



230 MEHALAH. 

CHAPTER XVII. 

FACE TO FACE. 

Mehalah returned slowly to the house, her spirits 
oppressed with gloom. It was night without and 
within, before her face, and in her soul. The wind 
sighed and sobbed among the rushes and over the fen, 
in a disconsolate, despairing manner, and the breath of 
Grod within — the living soul — sighed and sobbed like 
His breath that blew over the wintry marsh without. 
Not a star looked down from His heaven above, and 
none looked up from His heaven below in the little 
confines of a human heart. Mehalah could scarce see 
her way in the fen, among the dykes and drains ; she 
was as unable to find a path in the level of her life. 

She reached Red Hall at last, and mounted the front 
stairs to the principal door. She would see Elijah now. 
It were better to speak with him and come to some un- 
derstanding at once. It was intolerable to allow the pre- 
sent position to remain unexplained, and the future 
undetermined. She hesitated at the door. It was not 
without a struggle that she could open it and go in and 
face the man whose hospitality she was receiving and 
yet whom she abhorred. She knew that she was greatly 
indebted to him. He had saved her mother's life, he 
had secured from destruction a large amount of their 
property ; yet she could not thank him. She resented 
his intrusion into their affairs, when anyone else would 
have been unobjectionable. She disliked him all the 
more because she knew she was heavily in his debt ; 



FACE TO FACE. 231 

it galled her almost past endui-ance to feel that she and 
her mother were then subsisting on his bounty. 

'Come in, Glory I' shouted Elijah from within, as 
she halted at the door. 

She entered. He was seated by the fire with his 
pipe in his hand ; he had heard her step on the stairs, 
and had paused in his smoking, and had waited in a 
listening, expectant attitude. 

He signed her to take a chair — her mother's chair — 
on the other side of the hearth. She paid no attention 
to the sign, but stood in the middle of the room, and 
unconsciously covered her eyes with her hands. Her 
pulses quivered in her temples. Her heart grew cold, 
and a faintness came over her. 

'The light is not too strong to dazzle you,' said 
Elijah, ' put your hands down, I want to see your face.' 

She made an effort to retain them where they were, 
but could not ; they fell. 

' Sit down.' 

She shook her head. 

' Sit down.' 

' I want to speak with you, Elijah, for a moment. 
I must speak with you.' Her heart palpitated, her 
breast heaved. She could only utter short sentences. 

^ Sit down there ! ' he beckoned with the stalk of 
his pipe. 

She still refused to obey. Her power was slipping 
from her. The exhaustion after the excitement she 
had gone through had affected even her stout will. 
She resolved to oppose him in this trifling matter, 
but knew that her resolution was infirm. She clung 
desperately to what remained to her of power. 



232 MEHALAH. 

' I will not listen to a word you say unless you sit 
down.' 

He paused, and looked at her ; then he said, ' Gro 
to your mother ! ' and continued his smoking, with face 
averted. 

' Elijah, I know what you have done, and are doing 
now for my mother.' 

He sprang from his seat, and strode up and down 
the room, turning and glowering at her, sucking at his 
pipe, and making it red and angry like his eyes in the 
firelight. He walked fast and noisily on the brick 
floor, with his high shoulders up and his head down. 
She watched him with painful apprehension ; he 
reminded her of the mad brother pacing in the vault 
below. She could not speak to him whilst he persisted 
in this irritating, restless tramp. There was no help 
for it. She dropped into her mother's leather chair. 

' There ! ' said he, and he flung a ring with some 
keys attached to it, into her lap. ' Take them. They 
are yours now. The keys of everything in the house, 

except of ' he jerked his pipe towards the den 

beneath. 

' I cannot take them,' she said, and let them slide 
off her lap upon the floor. 

' Pick them up ! ' he ordered. 

' No,' she said firmly, ' I will not. Elijah, we must 
come to an understanding with each other.' 

' We already understand each other,' he said, pausing 
in his walk. ' We always did. I can read your heart. 
I know everything that passes there, just as if it was 
-written in red letters on a page. I understand you, and 
there's nobody else in the world that can. I was made 



FACE TO FACE. 233 

to read you. I heard a Baptist preacher say one day that 
Grod wrote a book, and then He created mankind to read 
it. You are a book, and God made me to read you. 
I can do it. That wants no scholarship, it comes by 
nature to me. Others can't. They might puzzle and 
rack their heads, they'd make nothing of you. But you 
are clear as light of day to me. You understand me ? ' 

' I do not.' 

' You will not. You set your obstinate, wicked 
mind against understanding me. I heard a preacher 
once say — I went to chapel along of my mother when I 
was a boy ; I goes nowhere now but to the Eay after 
you — What is Grod ? It is that as makes a man, and 
keeps him alive, and gives him hopes of happiness, or 
plunges him in hell. Every man has his own God ; for 
there is something different makes and mars each man. 
What do I want but you. Glory ? It is you that can 
make and keep me alive, and you are my happiness or 
my hell.' 

'But,' said he standing still again, and flourishing 
his hand and pipe, ' as I was saying, I heard a preacher 
say once, that God made every man of a lump of clay 
and a drop of spittle, and that He made always two at 
a time. He couldn't help it. He has two hands and 
ain't right and left handed as we, but works with both, 
and then He casts about the men He has made, any- 
where. Hasn't He made all things double ? Have not 
you two hands and two feet and two eyes ? Is there 
not a sun and a moon, are there not two poles to the 
earth, and two sexes, and day and night, and winter 
and summer ? and — ' he went up before Mehalah, and 
with a burst of passion — ' and you and me ? ' Then he 



234 MEHALAH. 

recommenced his pacing, but slower, and continued, 
' Wherever those two are that Grod made with His two 
hands, they must come together. It don't matter 
where they be, if one is in Mersea, and t'other is in 
Asia, or Africa, or China, or America, or London, it 
don't matter, soon or late, they must come together, 
and when they come together then they are in heaven. 
Now if a man takes some other left-handed figure — it 
was the left hand made woman — then it don't matter, 
he can't go against his destiny. He has taken the 
wrong woman, and he is not happy. He knows it all 
along, and he feels restless and craving in his soul, and 
if he does not find the proper one in this world when 
he goes out of it, he waits and wanders, till the proper 
one dies and begins to hunt about for her right-hand 
man. That is what makes ghosts to ramble. Ghosts 
are those that have married the wrong ones, wandering 
and waiting, and seeking for their right mates. Do 
you hear the piping and the crying at the windows 
of a winter night ? That is the ghosts looking in and 
sobbing because they are out in the cold shivering till 
they meet their mates. But when they meet, then 
that is heaven. There's a heaven for everyone, but 
that is only once for all when the two doubles find each 
other, and if that be not in this life, why it is after. 
And there is a hell too, but that isn't reserved for all, 
and it does not last for ever and ever, but is only when 
one has taken the wrong mate and has found it out.' 
He stopped. He had become very earnest and excited 
by what he had said. He came again over against 
Mehalah. ' Glory ! ' he continued, ' don't you see how 
the moon goes after the sun and cannot come to him ? 



FACE TO FACE. 235 

She is his proper mate and double, and the sun don't 
know, and won't have it, and so day and night, and winter 
and summer, and waxing and waning goes on and on. 
But that won't go on for ever. The sun will grow sad 
at heart, and wane for want of the moon some day, and 
then there will be a great flare and blaze and glory, and 
they will be in heaven. And now the two poles of the 
earth are apart, and so long as they keep apart, the 
world rolls on in misery and pain, and that is what 
makes earthquakes, and volcanoes, and great plagues 
— the poles are apart which ought to be together. 
But they are drawing gradually nearer each other. 
The seasons now are not what they used to be, and that 
is it. The poles are not where they were, they are 
straining to meet. And some day they will run into 
one, and that will be the end. I've heard say that in 
the Bible it is spoken that there'll be an end of this 
world. I could have known that without the Bible. 
The poles must come together some day, and be one. 
G-lory ! ' he went on, ' you and I are each other's 
doubles, you was made with Grod's left hand, and I with 
his right, at the same moment of time, and He cast 
you into the Eay, and me to Eed Hall. There was not 
much space between, only some water and ooze and 
marsh, and we've been drawing and drawing nearer and 
closer for ever so long, and now you are here, under my 
roof. You can't help it. You cannot fight agin it. 
You was made for me and I for you, and you'll have a 
life of hell unless you take me now. I must be yours. 
You thought you'd resist and take Greorge De Witt. 
It might have been. Suppose you had, and I had died 
years before you. You would have heard me crying at 



236 MEHALAH. 

your window and beating at your door, and you would 
have felt me drawing and drawing of you, whether you 
chose or not, taking the heart away from your Greorge,. 
and bringing it to me. Then at last, you'd have died, 
and then, then, you'd have been mine, and you would 
have found our heaven after thirty, forty, fifty years of 
hell.' 

The terrible earnestness of the man imposed on 
Mehalah. He spoke what he believed. He gave 
utterance, in his rude fierce way, to what he felt. She, 
untaught, full of dim gropings after something higher, 
vaster, than the flat, narrow life she led, was startled. 

' Heaven with you ! ' she cried, drawing back ; ' never ! 
never ! ' 

' Heaven with me, and with none but me. You 
can't get another heaven but in my arms, for you was 
made for me by Grod. I told you so, but you would not 
believe it. Try, if you like, to find it elsewhere. Grod 
didn't make you and George De Witt out of one lump. 
He couldn't have done it — You, Grlory ! strong, great, 
noble, with a will of iron, and that weak, helpless, 
vulgar lout, tied to his mother's apron. He couldn't 
have done it. He made, like enough, Phoebe Musset 
and Greorge De Witt out of one piece, but you and me 
was moulded together at the same time, out of the 
same clay, and the same breath is in our hearts, and 
the same blood in our veins. You can't help it, it is so. 
You can not, you shall not, escape me. Soon or late 
you must find your proper mate, soon or late you must 
seek your double, soon or late find your heaven.' 

He came now quietly and seated himself in his 
chair opposite Mehalah. 



FACE TO FACE. 237 

' What did you fare to say, Grlory ? ' he asked. ' I 
interrupted you.' 

' I must thank you first for what you have done for 
my mother.' 

' I have done nothing for her,' said Elijah sharply. 

'You drew her out of the burning house. You 
saved her goods from the flames. You have sheltered 
her here.' 

' I have done nothing for her,' said Elijah again. 
' Whatever I have done, I did for you. But for you 
she might have burned, and I would not have put out 
a finger to help her. What care I for her? She is 
naught to me. She wasn't destined for me ; that was 
you. I saved her because she was your mother. I 
collected your things from the blazing house. I have 
taken you in. I take her in only as I might take in 
your shoe, or your cow, because it is yours. She is 
naught to me. I don't care if I never saw or heard her 
again.' 

He got up and went to the window, took a flask 
thence; then brought his gun from a corner, and began 
to polish the brass fittings with rag, having first put on 
the metal some of the vitriol from the bottle. 

' Look at this,' he said, dropping some of the acid 
on the tarnished brass. ' Look how it frets and boils 
till it has scummed away the filth, and then the brass 
is bright as gold. That's like me. I'm fretted and 
fume with your opposition, and I dare say it is as well 
I get a little. But after a bit it will bring out the 
shining metal. You will see what I am. You don't 
like me now, because I'm not shapely and handsome as 
your George De Witt. But there is the gold metal 



238 MEHALAH. 

underneath ; he was but gilt pinchbeck — George De 
Witt ! ' he repeated. ' That was a fancy of yours, that 
he was your mate ! You could not have loved him a 
week after you'd known what he was. Marriage would 
have rubbed the plating off. and you would have 
scorned and cast him aside.' 

'Elijah!' said Mehalah, 'I cannot bear this. I 
loved once, and I shall love for ever, — not you ! — ^you 
— never,' with gathering emphasis, 'Greorge, only 
Greorge, none but Greorge.' 

' More fool you,' said Eebow sulkily. ' Only I don't 
believe it. You say so to aggravate me, but you don't 
think it.' 

She did not care to pursue the subject. She had 
spoken out her heart, and was satisfied. 

' Well, what else had you to say ? I didn't think 
you was one of the bread and butter curtsey-my- dears 
and thanky, sirs ! That is a new feature in you, Grlory ! 
It is the first time I've had the taste of thanks from 
you on my tongue.' 

' You never gave me occasion before.' 
' No more I did,' he answered. ' You are right 
there. And I don't care for thanks now. I'd take 
them if I valued them, but I don't. I don't care to 
have them from you. I don't expect thanks from my 
body when I feed it, nor from my hands when I warm 
'em at the fire ; they belong to me, and I give 'em their 
due. What I do for you I do for myself, for the same 
reason. You belong to me.' 

' I must speak,' said Mehalah. ' This is more than 
I can endure. You say things of me, and to me, which 
I will not suffer. Do you mean to insult me ? Have I 



FACE TO FACE. 23^ 

ever given you the smallest reason to encourage you to 
assume this right ? ' 

' No. But it must be. You can't always go against 
fate.' 

' 1 do not believe in this fate, this destiny, of which 
you talk,' said the girl gathering up her strength, as her 
indignation swelled within her. ' You have no right 
over me whatever. I have been brought here against 
my will, but at the same time I cannot do other than 
acknowledge your hospitality. Had you not given us a 
shelter, I know not whither we should have gone. I 
ask you to let us shelter here a little longer, but only 
a little longer, till I have found some situation where 
I can work, and support my mother. We must sell 
our little goods, our sheep and cow, and with the 
proceeds ' 

' With the proceeds you will have to pay the rent of 
the Eay to Lady Day.' 

' You cannot be so ungenerous,' gasped Mehalah, 
flashing wrathfully against him. ' This undoes all your 
kindness in housing us. But if it must be, so be it. 
We will sell all, and pay you every penny ; yes, and 
for our keep in this house, as long as we are forced to 
remain.' 

' Not so fast, Grlory,' said Elijah composedly. ' There 
are various things to be considered first. You can't 
find a situation — no one would take you in along of an 
old bedridden mother.' 

' I can but try.' 

' Aye, try ; try by all means, and then come back 
to me. You have tried a deal of tricks to escape me, 
but you can't do it. You tried by borrowing money of 



240 MEHALAH. 

Greorge De Witt, you tried by going to that old palsied 
shipbuilder, you tried at Parson Tyll's, you tried, I 
don't know how at last, and you got the money ; but 
yet you couldn't escape me. You tried to get Greorge 
De Witt as your husband, to keep you from me in life, 
but it came to naught. He's gone out of the path that 
leads from you to me. You may heap up what you will, 
but the earth will open, and swallow all obstructions, 
and leave the way smooth and open. Did you ever see 
the old place — they call it the Devil's Walls — by Payne's? 
No, I dare say you don't know thereabouts. Well, I'll 
tell you how that spot lies waste, and covered with 
brambles and nettles now. The old lords D'Arcy thought 
to build a castle there. Then the Salcott creek ran up 
so far, and they could row and sail right up to their 
gates, were the mansion built. But it could not be. 
The masons built all day, and at night the earth sucked 
the walls in. They worked there a whole year, and they 
brought stones from Kent, and they poured in boulders, 
and they laid bricks, but it was all of no good, the 
earth drank in everything they put on it, as water. At 
last they gave it up, and they built instead on the hill 
where stands Barn Hall. It will be the same with you. 
You may build what you like, and where you like, it 
will go ; it cannot stand, it will be swallowed up ; you 
can only build on me.' 

' Elijah ! I insist on your listening to me. I will 
not hear this.' 

' You will not ? I do not care, you must. My will 
will drink in yours. But go on ; say what you wish.' 

' I am going to propose this. Pay me a wage, and 
I will work here. I will attend to the house and the 



FACE TO FACE. 241 

COWS, and do anything you require of me. You have 
no servant, and you need one. You shall let me be 
your servant. I shall not be ashamed to be that, but I 
will not remain here unless my place be determined and 
recognised.' 

' You shall be the mistress.' 

' I do not want, I do not choose to be anything else 
in this house but your hired servant. Pay me a wage, 
and I will remain till I can find some other situation ; 
refuse, and, if I have to leave my mother, I will go out 
of this house to-night.' 

' If you leave your mother, I will throw her out.' 

' I would fetch her away. I would carry her in my 
arms. I will not stay here on any other terms.' 

' I will humour you. You shall be paid. I will 
give you five shillings a week. Is that enough ? ' 

' More than enough, with my keep and that of my 
mother. I thank you now. In future speak of me to 
the men as their fellow-servant, and not as you did 
recently to Abraham as their mistress.' 

'I shall speak to them as I like. Am I to be con- 
trolled by you ? ' 

' Then I will leave. I will carry my mother to the 
inn at Salcott, and rest there till I can find some other 
shelter.' 

' Now look here, Grlory,' said Elijah. He put his 
gun aside, and leaned his elbows on his knees, and faced 
her. ' It is of no use your talking of running away 
from me. You may run, but I can draw you back. I 
sit here of a night brooding over my fire, I begin 
thinking of you. I think, I think, and then a spirit 
takes me as it were, and fills me with fierce will, to 

B 



242 MEHALAH. 

bring you here. I feel I have threads at every finger 
and threads to my knees and to my feet, all fast to you, 
and if I stir, I move you. I lift my finger, and you 
raise yours. I wave my hand up, and you throw up 
yours. You don't know it. I do. I know that I have 
but to rise up from my chair, and I lift you up wher- 
ever you may be, in your bed, in your grave, and then, 
if I draw in with my will, I wind up these threads, and 
you come, you come, from wheresoever you are, out of 
your bed in your smock, out of your grave in your 
shroud ; doors are nothing, my will can biust them 
open ; locks are naught, my will can wrench them off ; 
the screws in the coffin lid and five feet of earth are 
nothing, I could draw you through all. I could draw 
you over the ooze, and you would not be sucked in by it. 
I could draw you over the water, and you would not wet 
your foot. I could draw you through the marsh and you 
would not break a buUrush ; look there — ' he waved his 
arm towards the door. ' That door would fly open, and 
there you would stand, like one dreaming, with your 
eyes wide open as they are now, with your cheek colour- 
less as now, with your lips parted as now, helpless, un- 
able to stir a finger, or utter a sound, against my will, 
and you would rush into my arms, and fall on my heart. 
I can do all that. I feel it. I know it. I have sat here 
and wanted to do it, but I have not. I would not have 
you come to me in that way, but come of your own free 
will. You must come to me one way or other. Look 
here ! ' he raised his hand, and involuntarily, uncon- 
sciously, she lifted hers. 

' Pick up the keys.' 

She stooped and took them up. 



FACE TO FACE. 243 

' One day,' he said, ' you refused to take a piece of 
money that fell, when I bade you. Now you are more 
compliant. My will is gaining over your^. Your will 
is stout and rebellious, but it must bend and give way 
before mine. Go; I have done with you for the 
present.' 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

IN A COBWEB. 



A MONTH passed. Mrs. Sharland recovered, as far as 
recovery was possible to one of her age and enfeebled 
constitution, much shaken by the events of the night 
that saw the destructiom of her home and the abrasion 
of the ear and tail of her biscuit-china poodle. After 
remaining in bed for more than a week, Mehalah almost 
by force obliged her to get up and descend. When once 
she had taken this step and found that her leather high- 
backed chair was before the fire in the hall, she showed 
no further desire to spend her days upstairs. Her life 
resumed the old course it had run at the Ray, but she 
sat more by the fire, and did less in the house than 
formerly. She devolved most of the domestic work on 
her daughter. That she had declined in strength of 
late was obvious. Old people will go on from year to 
year without any visible alteration, till some shock, or 
change in their surroundings takes place, when they 
drop perceptibly a stage, and from that moment declen- 
sion becomes rapid. 

Mrs. Sharland was unmistakably contented with her 
position at Eed Hall. She enjoyed comforts which 

E 2 



244 MEHALAH. 

were not hers at the Kay. She saw more people, some- 
gossip reached her ears. There was a village, Salcotty 
within two miles, and the small talk of a village wilL 
overflow its bounds, and dribble into every house in its 
neighbourhood. Every little parish throws up its 
coarse crop of vulgar tittle-tattle, on which the inhabi- 
tants feed, and which is exactly adapted to their mental 
digestion. Human characters as well as skins are 
subject to parasitic attacks, but human beings are the 
vermin which burrow their heads into, and blow them- 
selves out on the blood of moral life. There are certain 
creatures which will lie shrivelled up on their backs^ 
and endure flood a.nd frost and burning sun, without 
its killing them, with suspended animation, till the 
animal on which they feed chances to come that 
way, when they leap into activity and voracity at 
once. Mrs. Sharland had been laid aside on the 
Eay, without neighbours, and therefore without matter 
of interest and objects of attack. She was now within 
leaping, lancing, and sucking distance of fresh life, and 
she rejoiced in renewed vigour, not of body, but of 
mind, if mind that can be called which has neither 
thought nor instinct, but only a certain gravitation 
which sets the tongue in motion. The brain of the 
rustic is as unlike the brain of the man of culture 
as the maggot is unlike the butterfly ; the one is the 
larva of the other. They feed, live, move in different 
spheres ; one chews cabbage, the other sips honey ; one 
crawls on the earth, the other flies above it ; one is 
clumsy in all its motions, the other agile ; one is carnal,^ 
the other is spiritual. And yet — wondrous thought 1 
the one is the parent of the other. 



IN A COBWEB. 245 

Mehalah had a great deal to do, and that work of 
.a sort she had not been much engaged on at the Kay. 
No female hand had been employed at Eed Hall since 
the death of Elijah's mother, and everything was accord- 
ingly falling out of repair and into disorder. She saw 
nothing of Kebow except at meals, and not always then, 
for he was often away with beasts at market, or at sales 
making purchases. 

The rich marshes of Red Hall were unrivalled for 
the grazing of cattle, and the rearing of young stock. 

As Mehalah was well occupied, her mind was taken 
off from herself, and she was for a while satisfied with 
her position. Eebow had not spoken to her in the 
manner she so disliked, and she had small occasion to 
speak with the men. Her mother, on the contrary, 
seized every occasion to entangle them in talk, or to 
initiate a conversation with Rebow. He maintained 
a surly deference towards her, and condescended at 
times to answer her queries and allow himself to be 
drawn into talk by the old woman. When that was the 
case, Mehalah found excuse to leave the room and en- 
gage herself in the kitchen or among the cows. 

Abraham Dowsing saw much less of her than formerly. 
The old man, with all his sulky humour and selfish 
greed, had got a liking for the girl. He was much at 
the Ray, but often about Red Hall, where he got his food. 

If he went after the sheep for the day, ^Mehalah pro- 
vided him with ' baggings,' provision during his absence. 

Lambing time was at hand, when he would be away 
for some weeks, returning only occasionally. Mehalah 
noticed that the shepherd hesitated each time he re- 
ceived his food, as though he desired to speak to her, 



246 MEHALAH. 

but put off the occasion. At last, one day at the begin- 
ning of February, when he was about to depart for the 
Ray, and would be absent some days, he said to her in 
a low dissatisfied tone, ' I suppose, when I come back 
after the lambing, you'll have been to church with him/ 

' What do you mean ? ' 

' What do I mean ? ' repeated Abraham, ' I mean 
what I say. I ain't one of those that says one thing 
and means another. Nobody can accuse me of that.' 

' I do not understand you, Abraham.' 

' There's none so dull as them that won't take,' he 
pursued. ' I don't hold, myself,[that much good comes 
of going to church with a man, except this, that you 
fasten him, and he can't cast you off when he's tired 
of you.' 

Mehalah flushed up. 

' Abraham,' she said angrily, ' I will not allow you 
to speak thus to me. I understand you now, and wish 
I did not.' 

' Oh ! you do take at last ! That's well. I'd act 
on it if I was you. A man, you see, don't make no 
odds of taking up with a girl, and then when he's had 
a bit of her tongue and temper, he thinks he'd as lief 
be without her, and pick up another. He'd ring a 
whole change on the bells, he would, if it warn't for 
churches. That is my doctrine. Churches was built,, 
and parsons were made, for tying up of men, and the 
girls are fools who let the men make up to them, and 
don't seize the opportunity to tie them.' 

* Abraham, enough of this.' 

' It is no odds to me. I don't care so long as I has 
my wittles and my wage. Only I'd rather see you 
mistress here than another. I'd get my wittles more 



IN A COBWEB. 247 

regular and better, because you know me and my likings, 
and a new one wouldn't. That's all. Every man for 
himself, is my doctrine.' 

' I forbid this for once and all. I am servant on 
wage here just as you are ; I am that, and I shall never 
be anything else.' 

' Oh, there you think dififerent from most folks. You 
don't think according to your interests ; and mistress, 
let me tell you, you don't talk as does the master.' 

He went away mumbling something about it being 
no concern of his, and if some people did not know how 
to eat their bread and butter when they had it in their 
hands it was no odds to him. 

Mehalah was hurt and incensed. She went to her 
mother. 

' Mother,' she said, ' when will you be able to move ? 
I shall look out for a situation elsewhere.' 

' What, my dear child ! Move from here, where I 
am so comfortable ! You can not. Elijah won't hear 
of it. He told me so. He told me you was to remain 
here, and I should spend the rest of my days here in 
quiet. It is a very pleasant place, and more in the 
world than was the Eay. I am better off here than I 
was there. Now we get everything for nothing, we 
don't lay out a penny, and you get wage beside.' 

' Mother, Abraham has been speaking to me. He 
has hinted, what I do not like, that I ought to marry 
Elijah- ' 

' So you ought,' said the widow. ' Elijah, I am 
sure, is willing. It is what he has been wishing and 
hoping for all along, but you have been so stubborn and 
set against him. After all he has done for us you might 
yield a bit.' 



248 MEHALAH. 

' I will never marry him.' 

' Don't say that. You will do anything to secure a 
comfortable home for me. It may not be long that I 
may have to trouble you, — I know you look on me as a 
trouble, I know that but for me you would feel free, 
and go away into the world. You think me a burden 
on you, because I can do nothing : you are young and 
lusty. But I bore with you, Mehalah, when you was 
young and feeble, and I laid by for you money that 
would have been very acceptable to me, and bought me 
many little comforts that I forbore, to save for you 

' The old woman with low cunning had discovered 

the thread to touch, to move her daughter. 

' Say no more, say not another word, mother,' ex- 
claimed Mehalah. ' You know that I never, never will 
forsake you, that you are more to me a thousand times 
than my own life. But there is one thing I never will 
do for you. I never will marry Elijah.' 

' I am afraid, Mehalah, that folks will talk.' 

' I fear so too, but they have no occasion. I will 
show them that. I will find a situation elsewhere.' 

' You shall not, Mehalah ! ' 

' I must, mother.' 

She thought for some time what she should do, and 
then put on her bonnet, and walked into Salcott. She 
had not been into the village since her arrival at Eed Hall. 

Salcott is a small village of old cottages at the head 
of a creek that opens out of the Blackwater. It has a 
church with a handsome tower built of flints, but with 
no chancel. Within a bowshot, across the creek, con- 
nected with it by a bridge, is Virley church, a small 
hunchbacked edifice in the last stages of dilapidation, 
in a graveyard unhedged, unvvalled; the church is 



IN A COBWEB. 249 

scrambled over by ivy, with lattice windows bulged in 
by the violence of the gales, and a bellcot leaning on 
one side like a drunkard. Near this decaying church 
is a gabled farm, and this and a cottage form Virley 
village. The principal population congregates at 
Salcott, across the wooden bridge, and consisted — a 
hundred years ago — of labourers, and men more or less 
engaged in the contraband trade. Every house had its 
shed and stable, where was a donkey and cart, to be let 
on occasion to carry smuggled goods inland. At the 
end of the village stands a low tavern, the Eising Sun, 
a mass of gables ; part of it, the tavern drinking-room, 
is only one storey high, but the rest is a jumble of roofs 
and lean-to buildings, chimneys, and ovens, a miracle 
of picturesqueness. Mehalah walked into the bar, and 
found there the landlady alone. 

' I have come here, mistress,' she said abruptly, * in 
search of work. I am strong and handy, and will do 
as much as a man. I will serve you faithfully and well 
if you will engage me. I have an infirm mother who 
must be lodged somewhere, so I ask for small wage.' 

' Who are you ? Where do you come from ? ' asked 
the landlady eyeing her with surprise. 

' My name is Mehalah Sharland. I lived on the 
Ray till the house was burned down. Since then I have 
been at Eed Hall.' 

' Oh ! ' exclaimed the woman, her countenance 
falling. ' You are the young woman, are you, that I 
heard tell of?' 

' I am the young woman now in service there, but 
wanting to go and work elsewhere.' 

' I've heard tell of you,' said the landlady dryly. 

* What have you heard of me ? ' 



250 MEHALAH. 

The woman looked knowingly at her, and smiled. 

' Pray what does Master Kebow say to your leaving 
him ? You and he have fallen out, have you ? ' said the 
hostess knowingly. ' You'll come together all the faster 
for it. There's nothiDg like a good breeze for running 
a cargo in.' 

' Can you give me work ? ' 

' I dursn't do it.' 

' Have you need of anyone now ? ' 

' Well,' with a cough, ' if Master Kebow were agree- 
able, I might find such a girl as you wery handy about 
the house. I've lost the last girl I had; she's took 
with the small-pox. You could have her bed, and her 
work, and her wage, and welcome. But unless the 
master gave his consent,' she began to dust the table, 
' I dursn't do it.' 

' Is he your landlord ? ' 

' No, he is not.' 

' Then why need you doubt about taking me ? ' 

' Because Rebow wouldn't allow of it.' 

' He could not stop me. I am not engaged to him 
for any time.' 

'I dursn't do it. How long have you been with 
Rebow?' 

' A little more than a month.' 

* You've never gone against him perhaps. If you 
had, you wouldn't ask me the reason why I dursn't 
stand in his way.' 

Mehalah considered. She had opposed Elijah from 
the very beginning. 

' There's no one would dare to do it,' continued the 
landlady. ' If you want to get from Master Rebow, 
you must go farther inland; but I doubt if you'll 



IN A COBWEB. 251 

escape him. However,' and she tossed her head, ' you 
only want to make him fast. If a girl gives way at 
once, she's cheap.' 

' You mistake me, you altogether mistake me,' said 
Mehalah indignantly. ' I will not remain in his house 
any longer ; I must and I will go elsewhere.' 

' If Elijah Kebow was to take the purse out of my 
pocket, or the bed from under me, if he was to take 
my daughter from my side, I dursn't say nay. If you 
think to escape against the will of the master, you are 
mistaken.' 

'I shall.' 

' Look here,' said the landlady ; ' take my advice 
and go back and be mum. I won't say another word 
with you, lest I get into trouble.' She turned and left 
the bar. 

Mehalah went out, more determined than ever to 
break away from Eed Hall, whether her mother desired 
it or not. 

She crosised the creaking rude wooden bridge to 
Virley. The churchyard and the farmyard seemed all 
one. The pigs were rooting at the graves. A cow was 
lying in the porch. An old willow drooped over a 
stagnant pool beneath the chancel window. Shed roof- 
tiles and willow leaves lay mouldering together on the 
edge of the pond. The church of timber and brick, 
put up anyhow on older stone foundations, had warped 
and cracked ; the windows leaned, fungus growths 
sprouted about the bases of the timbers. Every rib 
showed in the roof as on the side of a horse led to the 
knackers. 

The farm was but little more prosperous in appear- 
ance than the church. Patched windows and broken 



■252 MEHALAH. 

railings showed a state of decline. Mehalah walked 
into the yard, where she saw a man carrying a pitch- 
fork. 

' Who is the master here ? ' she asked. 

' I am.' 

' Is there a mistress ? ' 

' Yes. What have you to say to her ? ' 

Mehalah told her story as she had told it to the 
landlady of the Kising Sun. ' I will work for my keep 
^nd that of my mother, and work harder than any man 
on your farm.' 

' Where do you come from ? ' 

'EedHall.' 

' Oh ! ' said the farmer, with a whistle, ' Kebow's girl, 
eh?' 

' I am working for him now.' 

' Working for him, come now that's fine.' 

'I am working for him,' repeated Mehalah with 
clouding brow. 

' And you want to come here. You think my 
missus would let you, do you ? Now tell me, what put 
you on to coming to me ? Has Elijah picked a quarrel 
with me, that he sends you here ? Does he want occa- 
sion against me ? Do you think I want to run any 
risks with my barns and my cattle and my life ? No, 
thank you. I dursn't do it.' 

' Tell me, where can I find work ? ' 

' You must go out of the reach of Kebow's arm, if 
you find it.' 

' You won't give me any ? ' 

He shook his head. * For my life, I dursn't do it.' 
He laughed and put out his hand to chuck her under 



IN A COBWEB. 25,*? 

the chin, she struck his fingers up with her fist. 
' There ain't a better judge of beasts in all the marshes 
than Eebow, nor in horse-flesh neither. You ain't a 
bad bit of meat neither. I approve his taste.' 

Mehalah wrenched the pitchfork out of his hand. 
Her eyes flamed. She would have struck him ; but was 
suddenly assailed from behind by the farmer's wife. 

' Now then, hussy, what are you up to ? ' 

The girl could not answer ; her anger choked the 
words in her throat. 

' She's that wench of Rebow's, you know,' said the 
farmer. ' I guess it is cat and dog in that house.' 

' Gret you gone,' shouted the woman, ' go out of my 
premises, hussy ! I don't want my place to be frequented 
by such as you. Gret you gone at once, or I will loose 
the mastiff.' 

Mehalah retired with bowed head, and her arms 
folded on her bosom. She halted on the bridge, and 
kicked fragments of frozen earth and gravel into the 
water. A woman going by looked at her. 

' Where is the parson ? ' asked Mehalah. 

' Yonder, you go over the marsh by the hill with 
the windmill on it, and you come to a road, you'll find 
a blacksmith's shop, and you must ask there. He's the 
curate, there's no rector hereabouts. They keep away 
because of the ague.' 

Mehalah cross the fen indicated, passed beside the 
windmill and the blacksmith's shop, and found the 
cottage occupied by the curate, a poor man, married 
to a woman of a low class, with a family of fourteen 
children, packed in the house wherever they could be 
stowed away. The curate was a crushed man, his ideas 



•254 MEHALAH. 

stunned in his head by the uproar in which he dwelt. 
His old scholarship remained to him in his brain like 
fossils in the chalk, to be picked out, dead morsels. 
There was nothing living in the petrified white matter 
that filled his skull. 

Mehalah knocked at the door. The parson opened 
it, and admitted her into his kitchen. As soon as the 
wife heard a female voice, she rushed out of the back 
kitchen with her arms covered with soap suds, and stood 
in the door. A little-minded woman, she lived on her 
jealousy, and would never allow her husband to speak 
with another woman if she could help it. 

' What do you want, my dear ? ' asked the curate. 

' Ahem ! ' coughed the wife. ' Dear, indeed 1 Pray 
who are you, miss ? ' 

Mehalah explained that she sought work, and hoped 
that the parson would be able to recommend her. 

* You don't, you don't ' faltered he. 

' You don't suppose I'd take you on here,' said the 
parson's wife. ' You're too young by twenty years. I 
don't approve of young women ; they don't make good 
servants. I like a staid matronly person of forty to 
fifty, that one can trust, and won't be gadding after 

boys or ' she shook her suds at her husband, ' But 

I don't at present want any servant. We are full.' 

' We don't keep any,' said the pastor. 

' Edward ! don't demean us, we do keep servants — 
occasionally. You know we do, Edward. Mrs. Cutts 
comes in to scour out and clean up of a Saturday. 
You forget that. We pay her ninepence.' 

' Who are you, my dear — I mean, young woman ? ' 
asked the curate. 



IN A COBWEB. 255 

' Yes, who are you ? ' said his better half. ' We 
must know more of you before we can recommend you 
among our friends. Our friends are very select, and 
keep quite a better sort of servants, they don't pick up 
anybody, they take so to speak the cream, the very 
purest quality.' 

Mehalah gave the required information. Mrs. 
Kabbit bridled and blew bubbles. The Eeverend Mr. 
Eabbit became depressed, yet made an effort to 
be confidential. ' You'd better — you'd better marry 
him,' he hinted. ' It would be a satisfaction on all 
sides.' 

' What is that ? What did you say, Edward ? No 
whisperings in my house, if you please. My house is 
respectable, I hope, though it mayn't be a lordly mansion. 
I do drive a conweyance,' she said, ' I hire the black- 
smith's donkey-cart when I go out to make my calls, 
and drop my cards. So I leave you to infer if I'm not 
respectable. And Miss — Miss — Miss — ' with a giggle 
and a curtsey, ' when may I have the felicity of calling 
on you at Eed Hall, and of learning how respectable 
that establishment has become ? There's room for 
improvement,' she said, tossing her nose. 

At that moment a rush, a roar, an avalanche down 
the narrow stairs, steep as a ladder. In a heap came 
the whole fourteen, the oldest foremost, the youngest in 
the rear. 

' We've got him, we're going to drown him.' 

' What is it ? ' feebly enquired the father, putting 
his hands to his ears. 

' We'll hold him to the fire and pop liis little eyes.' 

'No, they're too small.' 



256 MEHALAH. 

' Into the water-butt with him ! ' 

A yell. 

' He's bitten me. Drown him ! ' 

' What is it ? ' shouted the mother. 

* A bat. Tommy found him in the roof. We're 
going to put him in the butt, and see if he can 
swim.' 

The whole torrent swept and swirled round Mehalah, 
and carried her to the front door. 

The curate stole out after her. 

' My good girl,' he whispered, ' botch it up. Marry. 
Most marriages hereabouts are botches.' 

' Edward ! ' shouted Mrs. Eabbit, ' come in, no sneak- 
ing outside after lasses. Come back at once. Always 
wanting a last word with suspicious characters.' 

' Marry ! ' was the pastor's last word, as he was drawn 
back by two soapy hands applied to his coat tails, and 
the door was slammed. 

Mehalah walked away fast from the yelping throng 
of children congregated about the water-butt, watching 
the struggles of the expiring bat. She took the road 
before her, and saw that it led to Peldon, the leaning 
tower of which stood on a hill that had formed the 
northern horizon from the Kay. There was a nice farm 
by the roadside, and she went there, and was met with 
excuses. The time was not one when a girl could be 
engaged. There was no work to be done in the winter. 
The early spring was coming on, she urged, and she would 
labour in the fields like a man. Then the sick mother 
was mentioned as an insuperable objection. ' We can't 
have any old weakly person here on the premises,' said 
the farmer's wife. ' You see if she was to die, you've 



IN A COBWEB. 257 

no money, and we should be put to the expense of the 
burying ; anyhow there'd be the inconvenience of a 
corpse in the house.' 

Mehalah went on ; and now a hope dawned in her. 
Another two miles would bring her to the Eose, the old 
inn that stood not far from the Strood. There she was 
known, and there she was sure, if possible, she would be 
accommodated and given work. 

She walked forward with raised head, the dark cloud 
that had brooded on her brow began to rise, the bands 
about her heart that had been contracting gave way a 
little. There was the inn, an old-fashioned house, with 
a vine scrambling over the red tile roof, and an ancient 
standard sign before the door, on the green, bearing a 
rose, painted the size of a gigantic turnip. 

Mehalah walked into the bar. The merry landlord 
and his wife greeted her with delight, with many shakes 
of the hands, and much condolence over the disasters that 
had befallen her and her mother. 

' Well, my dear,' said the landlady, confidentially, 
' you're well out of it, if you come here. To be sure 
we'll take you in, and I dare say we'll find you work ; 
bring your mother also. It ain't right for a handsome 
wench like you to be living all along of a lone man in 
his farm. Folks talk. They have talked, and said a 
deal of things. But you come here. What day may 
we expect you ? ' 

' I must bring my mother by water. The tide will 
not suit for a week. It must be by day, my mother can- 
not come in the boat if there be much rain ; and we 
shall not be able to come — at least there will be a diffi- 
culty in getting away — should Kebow be at home. 

s 



258 MEHALAH. 

Expect us some day when the weather is favourable and 
there be an afternoon tide.' 

' You will be sure to come ? ' 

' Sure.' 



CHAPTER XIX. 

DE PROFU» mS. 



Mehalah's heart was lighter now than it had been for 
many a week. She had secured her object. She could 
be out of the toils of Rebow, away from his hateful 
presence. 

She had worked hard and conscientiously at Red 
Hall, and felt that she had to some extent cancelled 
the obligation he had laid on her. Her proud spirit, 
lately crushed, began to arise ; her head was lifted 
instead of being bowed. 

Rebow remarked the change in her, and was satis- 
fied either that she had reconciled herself to her posi- 
tion, or that she meditated something which he did not 
understand. 

Mrs. Sharland did not share in her daughter's 
exultation. She grumbled and protested. She was 
very comfortable at Red Hall, she was sure Elijah had 
been exceedingly kind to them. They had wanted 
nothing. The house was much better than the old 
ramshackle Ray, and their position in it superior to 
any they could aspire to at the Rose. This was a hint 
to Mehalah, but the girl refused to take it. As for 
Elijah, what was there to object to in him ? He was 
well off, very well off, a prosperous man, who spent 



DE PEOFUNDIS. 259 

nothing on himself, and turned over a great deal of 
money in the year. He was not very young, but he 
was a man who had seen the world and was in his prime 
of strength and intelligence. Mrs. Sharland thought 
that they could not do better than settle at the Red 
Hall and make it their home for life, and that Mehalah 
should put her foolish fancies in her pocket and make 
the best of what offered. 

But Mehalah's determination bore down all oppo- 
sition. 

St. Valentine's Day shone bright with a promise of 
spring. The grey owls were beginning to build in the 
hayrick, the catkins were timidly swelling on the nut 
bushes ; in the ooze the glasswort shot up like little 
spikes of vitriol-green glass. A soft air full of wooing 
swept over the flats. The sun was hot. 

The tide flowed at noon, and Elijah was absent. 

Mehalah, deaf to her mother's remonstrances, re- 
moved some of their needful articles to the boat, and at 
last led her mother, well wrapped up, to the skifi". 

When the girl had cast loose, and was rowing on 
the sparkling water, her heart danced and twinkled 
with the wavelets ; there was a return of spring to her 
weary spirit, and the good and generous seeds in her 
uncultivated soul swelled and promised to shoot. She 
was proud to think that she had carried her point, that 
in spite of Rebow, she had estabKshed her freedom, 
that her will had proved its power of resistance. She 
even sang as she rowed, she, — whose song had been 
hushed since the disappearance of George. She had 
not forgotten him, and cast away her grief at his loss, 
but the recoil from the bondage and moral depression 

s 2 



260 MEHALAH. 

of Ked Hall filled her with transient exultation and 
joyousness. 

The row was long. 

' mother ! ' she said, as she passed under the Ray 
hill, « I must indeed run up and look at the place. I 
cannot go by.' 

* Do as you will,' said Mrs. Sharland. ' I cannot 
control you. I don't pretend to. My wishes and my 
feelings are nothing to you.' 

Mehalah did not notice this peevish remark, she 
was accustomed to her mother's fretfulness. She threw 
the little anchor on the gravel at the ' hard,' and jumped 
on shore. She ascended the hill and stood by the 
scorched black patch which marked her old home. 
The house had burned to the last stick, leaving two 
brick chimneys standing gauntly alone. There was the 
old hearth at which she had so often crouched, bare, 
cold, and open. A few bricks had been blown from the 
top of the chimney, but otherwise it was intact. 

As she stood looking sadly on the relics, Abraham 
Dowsing came up. 

What are you doing here ? ' 

' I have come away from Red Hall, Abraham,' she 
said gaily, ' I do not think I have been so happy for 
many a day.' 

' When are you going back ? ' 

' Never.' 

' Who then is to prepare me my wittles ? ' he asked 
sullenly. ' I ain't going to be put off with anything.' 

' I do not know, Abraham.' 

' But I must know. Now go back again, and don't 
do what's wrong and foolish. You ought to be there. 



DE PROFUNDIS. 261 

and mistress there too. Then all will run smooth, and 
I'll get my wittles as I like them.' 

' You need not speak of that, Abraham, I shall 
never return to Ked Hall. I have quitted it and I 
hope have seen the last of the hateful house and its 
still more hateful master.' 

' I wonder,' mused the shepherd, ' whether I could 
arrange with Eebow to get my wittles from the Kose.' 

' That is where I am going to.' 

' Oh ! ' his face lightened, ' then I don't mind. Do 
what you think best.' His face darkened again. ' But 
I doubt whether the master will keep me on when you 
have left. I reckon he only takes me because of you ; 
he thinks you wouldn't like it, if I was to be turned 
adrift. No. You had better go back to Eed Hall. 
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. That's my 
doctrine.' 

Presently the old man asked, ' I say, does the master 
know you have left ? ' 

' No, Abraham.' 

' Are you sure ? ' 

' I never told him.' 

' Did your mother know you had made up your 
mind to leave ? ' 

' Yes, I told her so a week ago.' 

' And you suppose she has kept her mouth shut ? 
She couldn't do it.' 

' If Elijah had suspected we were going to-day,' said 
Mehalah, ' I do not think he would have left home ; he 
would have endeavoured to prevent me.' 

' Perhaps. But he's deep.' 

' Grood day, Abraham I ' She waved him a farewell 



262 MEHALAH. 

with a smile. She knew, and made allowance for the 
hmnours of the old man. In a moment she was again 
by her mother, at the oar, and speeding with the flowing 
tide up the Khyn to the ' hard ' at its head belonging 
to the Eose Inn, 

' Have you brought the toad-jug with you, 
Mehalah ? ' 

' iS'o, mother.' 

' Nor the china dogs ? ' 

'No, mother.' 

' It is of no use, I will not live at the Eose, I will 
not get out of the boat. I must have all my property 
about me.' 

'I will fetch the other things away. When you 
are housed safely, then I shall not care. I will go back 
and bring away all our goods.' 

' You are so rough. I won't let anyone handle the 
china but myself. Last time the poodles were moved, 
you know one lost a ear and a bit of its tail. There 
is no one fit to touch such things but me. Those 
rough-handed fellows, Jim and Joe, what do they 
know of the value of those dogs ? You will promise 
me, Mehalah, to be gentle with them. Put them in 
the foot of a pair of stockings and wrap the legs round 
them, and then perhaps they will travel. I wouldn't 
have them lose any more of their precious persons, — 
no, not for worlds, — not for worlds.' 

' I will take heed, mother.' 

' And mind and stuff my old nightcap, — the dirty 
one, I mean — and my bedsocks into the toad-jug, then 
it won't break. You'll promise me that, won't you ; if 
that were injured, I'd as soon die as see it.' 



DE PEOFUNDIS. 263 

' I will use the utmost precaution with it.' 

' Then there are the soup plates, of Lowestoft. I 
had them of my father, and he had them of his grand- 
mother ; there's a dozen of them, and not a chip or a 
crack. True beauties as ever you saw, I think you'd 
best put them in the folds of some of my linen. Put 
them between the sheets, wide apart, in the spruce 
hutch.' 

* All right, mother ; now hold hard, here we are.' 

The boat grated on the bottom, and then it was 
drawn up by a firm hand. Mehalah looked round and 
started. 

Elijah and two other men were there. Elijah had 
stepped into the water, and pulled the boat ashore. 

' Here we are. Glory ! ' he said, ' waiting ready for 
you. The sheriffs officer with his warrant, all ready. 
You haven't kept us waiting long.' 

' What is that ? What is that ? ' screamed Mrs. 
Sharland. 

' Step out, Griory ! step out, mistress ! ' said Elijah. 

' What is the meaning of this ? ' asked Mehalah, a 
cloud suddenly darkening her sky and quenching the 
joy of her heart. 

' I've a warrant against you, madam,' said the man 
who stood by Rebow. ' Please to read it.' He held it 
out. 

' What is this ? ' screamed Mrs. Sharland, rising in 
the boat and staggering forwards. Mehalah helped 
her on shore. 

' This is what it is,' answered Eebow. ' You and 
Griory there are my tenants for the Ray. The farm is 
mine, with the marshes and the saltings. I gave eight 



264 MEHALAH. 

hundred pounds for it. You've burnt down my 
premises, between you, you and Glory there. You've 
robbed me of a hundred or two hundred pounds worth 
of property with your wilfulness or carelessness. Now, 
I want to know, how is it you have not built up my 
farmhouse again ? ' 

' I can't do it. I haven't the money ! ' wailed Mrs. 
Sharland. ' I am sure. Master Rebow, there was 
nothing but pure accident in the fire. I never 
thought ' 

' Pure accident ! ' scoffed Elijah. ' Do you call that 
pure accident, soaking the whole chamber in spirits, 
with a fire burning on the hearth, and dashing the cask 
staves here and there, on the fire and off it.' 

Mehalah looked at him. 

' Ah, ha ! Grlory ! You think I don't know it. 
You think I didn't see you! Why, I was at the 
window. I saw you do it. Tell me, mother, did not 
Grlory smash the keg I had just given you? ' 

' I believe she did, Elijah ! I am very sorry. I 
did my best to stop her, but she is a perverse, rebellious 
girl. You must forgive her, she intended no harm.' 

' If you saw me do it, why did you let the house 
catch fire ? ' asked Mehalah, looking hard in Rebow's 
face. 

* Could I help it ? ' he asked in reply. ' There you 
sat by the hearth, and no harm came of it. At last 
you went out, and locked and double-locked the door. 
I went down to my boat. I tell you, I was uneasy, 
and I looked back, and I saw by the light in the room 
that the spirit had caught. I ran back and tried to 
get in. The floor was flaming.' 



DE PKOFUNDIS, 265 

' The floor was of brick,' said Mehalah. 

' The door was fast locked. You know best why 
you locked it. It never was fastened before that night. 
You screwed on the lock, then you went out of the 
place yourself, leaving the room on fire, and fastened 
the door that none might get in.' 

' A lie ! ' exclaimed the girl. 

* Is it a lie ? I don't think it. I can't cipher out 
your doings any other way. I tried to break open the 
door, but you had put too stout a fastening on. Then 
I burst open the window, and when the wind got in, it 
made the fire rage worse. So I ran and shouted to my 
men in the big boat, and I got a balk and I stove the 
door in, and then it was too late to do more than save 
your mother and her goods. As for you, you left her 
and them to burn together ; you wanted to be off and 
free of her. I know you.' 

' Oh, Master Eebow ! I know I'm a bm'den to her, 
but she would not do that ! ' put in Mrs. Sharland. 

' Why did you watch me ? ' asked Mehalah, and 
then regretted that she had'put the question. 

' You see,' said Elijah turning to the officer, ' she 
didn't think anyone was near to give evidence against 
her.' 

' Here I am,' said Mehalah, ' put me in prison, do 
with me what you will. I am innocent of all intent 
to burn the farm.' 

' I could hang you for it,' laughed Elijah. ' That 
pretty neck where the red handkerchief hangs so 
jauntily would not look well with a hemp rope round 
it. You'd dangle on the Ray, where the house stood. 
You'd have a black cap then pulled over those dark 



266 MEHALAF. 

eyes and brown skin, not a red one, not a red one 
Griory ! ' he rubbed his hands. 

' I have no warrant against you,' said the bailiff to 
Mehalah. ' You stand charged with nothing. The 
warrant is against your mother.' 

' Against me ? What will you do with me ? ' cried 
the old woman. 

' You must go to prison if you cannot build the 
house up again, and restore it as good as it was to the 
landlord. He can't be at a loss by your neglect.' 

' I cannot do it. I have not the money.' 

' Then you must go to prison till you get it.' 

Mrs. Sharland sank on the gravel. She wept and 
wrung her hands. This was worse than the burning of 
the house, worse even than the lesion of the ear and 
tail of the poodle. 

' I won't go. I can't go ! ' she sobbed. ' I've the 
ague so bad. I suffer from rheumatism in all my bones. 
Let me alone,' she pleaded, ' and I promise I'll go to 
bed and never get out of it again.' 

' You'll suffer in prison, I can promise you,' said 
Elijah exultingly. ' You'll have no bed to crawl into, 
unless you can pay for it ; you'll have no blankets to 
wrap round you in the cold frosty night, if you can't 
pay for them ; you'll have no fire to shiver by when 
there is ice on the ponds, if you haven't money to pay 
for it. The frost in your bones will make you shriek 
and jabber in prison.' 

' I have no money. I gave the last to pay off Mrs. 
De Witt,' wailed the wretched woman. ' But there are 
the sheep.' 

' They go to pay your rent up to Lady Day, aye, and 



DE PROFUNDIS. 267 

till Michaelmas. I haven't had notice yet that you are 
about to quit. You can't give up the farm without, and 
I will exact every penny of my rent.' 

' Then I am at your mercy,' sobbed Mrs. Sharland. 
She turned to Mehalah and pleaded, ' Haven't you a 
word to say, to save me ? ' 

The girl was silent. What could she say ? 

' Come along, madam, it is of no use. The warrant 
is here, and come along you must.' 

' I will not go to prison. I will not. I shall die of 
cold and ague and rheumatics there. My bones will 
burst like water-pipes, and I'll shiver the teeth out of 
my jaws and the nails off my fingers and toes. I won't 
go ! ' she screamed. ' You must carry me, I can't walk,. 
I'm a dying old woman.' 

' Would you like to go back to Red Hall ? ' asked 
Elijah gravely. 

' Oh ! Master Rebow, if I might ! I could shiver 
in comfort.' 

' You and Grlory ! You and Grlory ! ' He looked 
from one to the other. ' I don't take back one without 
the other.' 

' Take me back ! ' wailed Mrs. Sharland. ' I know 
you won't be so cruel as to send me to prison. I^et me 
go back to my armchair; Mehalah! promise him every- 
thing.' 

' I will promise him nothing,' she said gloomily. 
* If ever I hated this man, I hate him now.' 

' Then she must go to prison,' growled Rebow. 
' Now look you here, Grlory ! I don't ask much. I only 
ask you to go back with your mother, and work for me 
as you have worked hitherto. I do not say a word 



268 MEHALAH. 

about anything else. You thought to escape me. You 
cannot. I have told you all along that it is impossible. 
As for the future, let the future determine. I wish to 
let you take your own course. I will not say another 
word about my wishes, till you come to me, of your own 
accord, and say that you will be mine. There ! I 
promise you that. I will not force you any further ; 
but I will not allow you to leave my house. There you 
must remain till you come to me and bid me take you, 
till you come and give yourself freely into my hands. 
Do you hear me, Griory ? ' 

' Mehalah, save me,' pleaded Mrs. Sharland. ' Do 
what you can to save me from prison. Did I not lay 
by for you when I was a widow and needy ? And will 
you refuse me this ? ' 

' One thing or another,' said Eebow. ' Either your 
mother rots in prison, with no escape possible till she 
goes out to her grave in a pauper's shell, or you and 
she return at once to Eed Hall, on the same conditions 
as you have been there hitherto, on the conditions you 
proposed yourself.' 

Mehalah trembled. 

' Let us go back,' said Mrs. Sharland. ' Help me 
into the boat. He couldn't have spoken more fair. 
You see, Mehalah, the Eay house is a great loss to him, 
and he gave eight hundred pounds for it.' 

' And the marshes, and the saltings, and for you and 
Griory, and all things,' put in Rebow. 

Mehalah held out her arms. Her head swam ; she 
stood as though balancisg herself on a high wall. Then 
she clasped her hands over her forehead, and burst into 
a storm of tears. 



DE PEOFUNBIS, 269 

' Jim ! ' said Elijah, ' get the old doll into the stern, 
and you row her back to Eed Hall. Take her under 
your arm and chuck her in anyhow.' 

He looked at the convulsed girl with an ugly smile 
of triumph, 

' Give me the warrant, bailiff I ' He took the paper, 
held it under Mehalah's eyes and tore it in pieces, and 
scattered them over the water. 

' Shove off, Jim. Kow the old bundle back quick. 
Grlory and I are going to drive home.' 

Mehalah looked up, with a gasp as though stung. 

' Yes, Glory ! To-day is Valentine's Day. Valen- 
tine's Day it is. I have my little gig here. It accom- 
modates two beautifully. I am going to take you up 
by my side, and drive you home, home, to your home 
and mine, Glory, in it ; and all along the road, here at 
the Kose where the horse is standing, at Peldon, at 
Salcott and Virley, — all along the road, — at the parson's, 
at the Kising Sun, at Farmer Goppin's, — everywhere 
I'll let them see that I'm out a-junketing to-day along 
with my Valentine.' 

All power of resistance was gone from Mehalah. 
The landlady at the Eose looked at her with pitying 
eyes, as she was helped up into the gig. 

' I thought you was coming to us,' said the woman. 

• ' You thought wrong,' answered Elijah with a boi- 
sterous laugh. ' Glory is coming back to me. We've 
had a bit of a tiff, but have made it up. Haven't we, 
Glory ? ' 

The guTs head fell in shame on her bosom. She 
could not speak, but the tears rolled out of her eyes and 
streaked the ' Gloriana ' on her breast. 



•270 MEHALAH. 

He did not say a word to her as he drove home ; 
but he stopped wherever she had halted a few days 
before. At Peldon farm he drew up, and struck at the 
door. He asked if there was a bullock there to be 
sold. The woman came into the garden with him. 

' Out a Valentining along with my lass,' he said, 
indicating Mehalah with his whip over his shoulder. 

He arrested his horse at the parson's cottage, and 
shouted till the door opened, and Mr. Rabbit appeared, 
with Mrs. Rabbit behind his back, peeping over his 
shoulder. 

* I say,' roared Rebow, ' one of those cursed brats of 
yours has been on my marshes plaguing my cows, and 
has run two of them lame. Let him try it on again, 
let him put his foot on my ground, and I'll cut it off, 
and send him limping home.' 

He stopped at the Rising Sun and called for spirits, 
and offered some to Mehalah. She turned aside her 
head in disgust ; he drove up to Virley Hall farm, and 
into the yard, and called forth Farmer Groppin and his 
wife. 

' I tell you,' he said, ' one of my cattle has been 
straying, I don't suppose she has done damage ; she 
got into this here yard, I'm told. You turned her out. 
I'm a man of few words, but I thank ye. I am carrying 
her home before she is pounded.' 

And then he drove straight to Red Hall. 

Mehalah descended, crushed, broken, no more her- 
self, the bold haughty girl of the Ray. She crept 
upstairs, took off her red cap and tore it with her 
hands and teeth. Her liberty was for ever gone from 
her. 



DE PKOFUNDIS. 271 

Her mother was in their common bedroom, the boat 
had returned before the cart, for the way by water was 
the shortest, and tide had favoured. The old woman 
babbled about her grievances, and rejoiced at Eebow's 
magnanimity. She was busy replacing all thie little 
articles that had been carried away, and were now 
brought back. 

Mehalah could not endure the thrumming of her 
talk, and she hid herself in a corner of the little inner 
"apartment, an empty room lighted by a small triangular 
window. There she crouched in the corner, on the 
ground, with her head on her knees and her hands in 
her hair behind. She sat there motionless. The foun- 
tain of her tears was dried up. The hectic flames 
burned in her cheeks, but all the rest of her face was 
deadly in its pallor. She could not think, she could 
not feel. She had experienced but one such another 
period of agony, that when the medal was restored and 
she knew that George was lost to her. That moment 
was sweet to this. That was one of pure pain, this 
of pain and humiliation, of crushed pride, of honour 
trampled and dragged in the dirt. Her self-respect 
had had its death-wound, and she sat and let her heart 
bleed away. Once or twice she put her hand on the 
floor. She thought that that must have been flooded 
with blood and tears, as if, when she took her hand up, 
it must be steeped red. It was not so. 

But the soul has its ichor as well as the heart, and 
when it is cut deep into it also drains away, and is left 
empty, pulseless, pallid. Mrs. Sharland came in and 
spoke to her daughter, but got no answer. Mehalah 



272 MEHALAH. 

looked up at her, but there was no expression in her 
eyes, she did not hear, or if she heard, did not under- 
stand what was said to her. The old woman went away 
muttering. 

The evening fell, and Mehalah still sat crouched in 
her corner. The golden triangle which had stood on 
the wall opposite her had moved to her side, turned to 
silver, and now was but a nebulous patch on the white 
plaster. With the death of the day some abatement 
came to Mehalah's distress. She moved her cramped 
limbs. She rose to her knees, and fixed her eyes on the 
sky that glimmered grey through the triangular win- 
dow. A star was hanging there. She saw it, and looked 
at it long, it shone through her eyes and down into the 
dark abyss in her soul. By little her ideas began to 
shape themselves ; recollections of the past formed 
over that despairing gulf; she could not think of the 
present ; she had not the power or the will to look into 
the future. 

A year had passed since, on such an evening as this, 
looking on that star, she had stood with Greorge de 
Witt on the Kay beneath the thorn ti-ees, and he had 
gaily called her his Valentine, and given her in jest a 
picture of the Groddess of Liberty as proclaimed in 
Paris, wearing the bonnet rouge. She a goddess ! She 
who was now so weak. Her power was gone. Liberty ! 
She had none. She was a slave. 

She drew herself up on her knees, and strained her 
united fingers, with the palms outward, towards that 
glittering star, and moaned, ' My Valentine I My 
Greorge, my G-eorge I ' 

Suddenly, as if in answer to that wail from her 



DE PEOFUNDIS. 273 

wounded heart, there came a crash, and then loud, 
pealing, agonising, a cry from below out of the depths, 
and yet in the air about — ' Grlory ! Glory ! Glory ! ' 



CHAPTEE XX. 

IN PROFUNDUM. 



The cry roused Mehalah, as a step into cold water 
is a shock bringing a somnambulist instantly to full 
consciousness. 

In a minute she was outside the house, looking for 
the person whose appeal had struck her ear. She saw 
the wooden shutter that had closed the window of the 
madman's den broken, hanging by one hinge. Two 
bleached, ghostly hands were stretched through the 
bars, cliitching and opening. 

At his door, above the steps, stood Elijah. 

' Hah ! Glory ! ' he said, ' has the crazed fool's shout 
brought you down ? ' 

She was stepping towards the window. Kebow ran 
down before her. 

' Go in I ' he shouted to his brother. ' Curse you, 
you fool ! breaking the shutter and yelling out, scaring 
the whole house.' He had a whip, a great carter's 
whip in his hand, and he smacked it. The hands dis- 
appeared instantly. 

' Bring me a hammer and nails,' ordered Rebow. 
' You will find them in the window of the hall.' 

Mehalah obeyed. Rebow patched up the shutter 
temporarily. There were iron bars to the window. 

T 



274 ^ MEHALAH. 

The wooden cover had a small hole in it to admit a 
little light. During the summer the shutter was re- 
moved. It was used to exclude the winter cold. 

' Why did he call me ? ' asked Mehalah. 

'He did not.' 

' I heard his cry. He called me thrice, Grlory ! 
aiory! Glory!' 

' He was asking for his victuals,' said Eebow, with 
a laugh. ' Look you here, Grlory ! I have been alone 
in this house so long, and have thought of you, and 
brooded on you, and had none to speak to about you. 
At last I took to teaching my brother your name. I 
wouldn't give him his food till he said it. I taught 
him like a parrot. I made him speak your name, as 
you make a dog sit up and beg for a bit of bread. I've 
been about on the road all day, on account of your per- 
versity and wilfulness, and so forgot to give my brother 
his food. But I don't care. He had no right to smash 
the shutter and yell out the way he has. I'll punish 
him for it. I'll lay into him with the whip, so as he 
shall not forget. He'll be quieter in future.' 

' Do not,' said Mehalah. ' It is a shame ; it is 
wicked to treat a poor afflicted wretch thus.' 

' Oh ! you are turned advocate, are you ? You take 
the side of a madman against the sane. That is like a 
perverse creature such as you. What has he done for 
you, that you should try to save his back ? ' 

* No mercy is to be looked for at your hands,' said 
Mehalah sullenly. 

' Look you here, Grlory I the moon is full, and that 
always makes him madder. I have to keep him short 
of food, and strap his shoulders, or he would tear the 
walls down in his fury.' 



IN PEOFUNDUM. 275 

' Let me attend to him,' asked Mehalah. 

' You'd be afraid of him.' 

' I should pity him,' said the girl. ' He and I are 
both wretched, both your victims, both prisoners, wear- 
ing your chains.' 

'You have no chains round you, Grlorj.' 

^ Have I not ? I have, invisible, may be, but firmer, 
colder, more given to rust into and rub the flesh than 
those carried by that poor captive. I have tried to 
break away, but I cannot. You draw me back.' 

' I told you I could. I have threads to every finger, 
and I can move you as I will. I can bring you into 
my arms.' 

' That — never,' said Mehalah gloomily and leisurely. 

' You think not ? ' 

'I am sure not. You may boast of your power 
over me. You have a power over me, but that power 
has its limits. I submit now, but only for my mother's 
sake. Were she not dependent wholly on me, were 
she dead, I would defy you and be free, free as the gull 
yonder.' 

Elijah put his hand inside his door, drew out his 
gun, and in a moment the gull was seen to fall. 

' She is not dead,' said Mehalah, with a gleam of 
triumph in her sad face. 

' No, but winged. The wretch will flutter along 
disabled. She will try to rise, and each eff'ort will give 
her mortal agony, and grind the splintered bones 
together and make the blood bleed away. She will 
skim a little while above the water, but at length 
will fall into the waves and be washed ashore dead.' 

T 2 



276 MEHALAH. 

' Yes,' said Mehalah ; ' you will not kill, but wound 
— wound to the quick.' 

« That is about it, Olory ! ' 

' Let me repeat my request,' she said ; ' allow me 
to attend to your brother. I must have someone, 
some thing, to pity and minister to.' 

' You can minister to me.' 

'Soldo.' 

' And you can pity me.' 

' Pity you ! ' with scorn. 

' Aye. I am to be pitied, for here am I doing all 
I can to win the heart of a perverse and stubborn girl, 
and I meet with nothing but contempt and hate. I am 
to be pitied. I am a man ; I love you, and am defied 
and repulsed, and fled from as though I had the pesti- 
lence, and my house were a plague hospital.' 

' Will you let me attend to your brother ? ' 

' No, I will not.' 

The shutter was dashed off its hinges, flung out 
into the yard, and the two ghastly hands were again 
seen strained through the bars. Again there rang out 
in the gathering night the piteous cry, ' Griory ! Grlory ! 
Olory ! ' 

' By Grod ! you hound,' yelled Elijah, and he raised 
his whip to bring it down in all its cutting force on the 
white wrists. 

' I cannot bear it. I will not endure it ! ' cried 
Mehalah, and she arrested the blow. She caught the 
stick and wrenched it out of the hand of Kebow before 
he could recover from his surprise, and broke it over 
her knee and flung it into the dyke that encircled the 
yard. There was, however, no passion in her face, she 



IN PEOFUNDUM. 277 

acted deliberately, and her brown cheek remained un- 
flushed. ' I take his cry as an appeal to me, and I 
will protect him from your brutality.' 

' You are civil,' sneered Elijah. ' What are you in 
this house? A servant, you say. Then you should 
speak and act as one. No, Griory ! you know you are 
not, and cannot be, a servant. You shall be its mistress. 
I forgive you what you have done, for you are asserting 
your place an4 authority. Only do not cry out and 
protest if in future I speak to the workmen of you as 
the mistress.' 

A hard expression settled on Mehalah's brow and 
eyes. She tm*ned away. 

' Are you going ? Have you not a parting word, 
mistress ? ' 

' Go ! ' she said, in a tone unlike that usual with 
her. ' I care for nothing. I feel for no one. I am 
without a heart. Do what you will with that brother 
of yours. I am indifferent to him and to his fate. 
Everything in the world is all one to me now. If you 
had let me think for the poor creature and feed him, 
and attend to him, I might have become reconciled to 
being here; I could at least have comforted my soul 
with the thought that I was ministering to the welfare 
of one unhappy wretch and lightening his lot. But 
now,' she shrugged her shoulders. ' Now everything is 
all one to me. I can laugh,' she did so, harshly. ' There 
is nothing in the world that I care for now, except my 
mother, and I do not know that I care very much for 
her now. I feel as if I had no heart, or that mine were 
frozen in my bosom.' 

' You do not care now for your mother ! ' exclaimed 



278 MEHALAH. 

Kebow. ' Then leave her here to my tender mercy, and 
go out into the world and seek your fortune. Gro on 
the tramp like your gipsy ancestry.' 

' Leave my mother to your mercy ! ' echoed Mehalah. 
' To the mercy of you^ who could cut your poor crazed 
brother over the fingers with a great horsewhip ! To 
you, who have stung and stabbed at my self-respect 
till it is stupefied; who have treated me, whom you 
profess to love, as I would not treat a marsh briar.' 
Never. Though my heart may be stunned or dead, yet 
I have sufficient instinct to stand by and protect her 
who brought me into the world and nursed me, when I 
was helpless. As for you, I do not hate you any more 
than I love you. You are nothing to me but a coarse, 
ill-conditioned dog. I will beat you off with a hedge- 
stake if you approach me nearer than I choose. If you 
keep your distance and keep to yourself, you will not 
occupy a corner of my thoughts. I take my course, 
you take yours.' She walked moodily away and re- 
gained her ro< ^m. 

Mrs. Sharland began at once a string of queries. 
She wanted to know who had cried out and alarmed 
them, what Mehalah had been saying to Kebow, whether 
she had come to her senses at last, how long she was 
going to sulk, and so on. 

Mehalah answered her shortly and rudely ; that the 
cry had come from the madman, that he meant nothing 
by it, he had been taught to yell thus when he wanted 
food, that he had been neglected by his brother and 
was distressed ; as for her mother's other questions, she 

* Horse-fly. 



IN PEOFUNDUM. 279 

passed them by without remark, and brushing in front 
of the old woman, went into the inner chamber. 

' Mehalah ! ' called Mrs. Sharland. ' I will not have 
you glouting in there any longer. Come out.' 

The girl paid no attention to her. She leaned her 
head against the wall and put her hands to her ears. 
Her mother's voice irritated her. She wanted quiet. 

' This is too much of a good thing,' said the old 
woman, going in after her. ' Come away, Mehalah, you 
have your work to do, and it must be done.' 

' You are right,' answered the girl in a hard tone, 
' I am a servant, and I will do my work. I will go down 
at once.' She knitted her brows, and set her teeth. 
Her complexion was dull and dead. Her hair was in 
disorder, and fell about her shoulders. She twisted it 
up carelessly, and tied it round her head with Greorge's 
handkerchief. 

When she returned, her mother was in bed, and 
half-asleep. Mehalah went to the window, the window 
that looked towards the Eay, and drawing the curtains 
behind her, remained there, her head sunk, but her 
eyes never wavering from the point where her home 
had been when she was happy, her heart free, and her 
self-respect unmangled. So passed hour after hour. 
There was full moon, but the sky was covered with 
clouds white as curd, scudding before a north-west wind. 
The moon was dulled but hardly obscured every now and 
then, and next moment glared out in naked brilliancy. 

Everything in the house was hushed. Elijah had 
gone to bed. Mehalah had heard his heavy tread on 
the stair, and the bang of his door as he shut it ; it had 
roused her, she turned her head, and her face grew 



280 MEHALAH. 

harder in the cold moonlight. Then she looked back 
towards the Eay. 

Her mother was asleep. The starlings and sparrows 
who had worked their way under the eaves, and were 
building nests between the ceiling and the tiles, stirred 
uneasily ; they were cold and hungry and could not 
sleep. Anyone not knowing what stirred would have 
supposed that mice were holding revel in the attics. 
There yonder on the marsh was something very white, 
like paper, flapping and flashing in the moonlight. 
What could it be ? It moved a little way, then blew 
up and fell and flapped again. Was it a sheet of 
paper ? If so how came it not to be swept away by the 
rushing wind. No, it was no sheet of paper. Mehalah's 
curiosity was roused. She opened the window and 
looked out. At the same moment it ro.se, fluttered 
nearer, eddied up, and fell again. A cloud drifted over 
the moon and made the marsh grey, and in the shadow 
the restless object was lost, the flash of white was blotted 
over. When the moon gleamed out again, she saw it 
once more. It did not move. The wind tore by, and shook 
the casement in her hand, but did not lift and blow 
away that white object. Then there was a lull. The 
air was still for a moment. At that moment the white 
object moved again, rose once more and fluttered up, it 
was flying, it was nearing, — it fell on the roof of the 
bakehouse under the window. Now Mehalah saw what 
this was. It was the wounded gull, the bird Kebow had 
shot. 

The miserable creature was struggling with a broken 
wing, and with distilling blood, to escape to sea, to die, 
and drop into the dark, tossing, foaming waves, to lose 



IN PKOFUNDUM. 281 

itself in infinity. It could not expire on the land, it 
must seek its native element, the untamed, unconfined 
sea ; it could not give forth its soul on the trampled, 
reclaimed, hedged-in earth. 

Was it not so with Glory ? Could her free soul rest 
where she now was? Could it endure for ever this 
tyranny of confinement within impalpable walls ? She 
who had lived, free as a bird, to be blown here and 
there by every impulse, when every impulse was fresh 
and pure as the unpolluted breath of Grod that rushes 
over the ocean. Was she not wounded by the same 
hand that had brought down the white mew ? There 
she was fluttering, rising a little, again falling, her 
heart dim with tears, her life's vigour bleeding away, 
the white of her bosom smeared with soil that adhered, 
as she draggled in the mire, into which he had cast her. 
Whither was she tending ? She turned her face out to 
sea — it lay stretched before her ink-black. Eed Hall 
and its marshes were to her a prison, and freedom was 
beyond its sea-wall. 

She was startled by a sound as of bricks falling. 
She listened without curiosity. The sound recurred 
again, and was followed after a while by a gTating noise, 
and then a rattle as of iron thrown down. She heard 
nothing further for a few minutes, and sank back into 
her dull dream, and watching of the poor mew, that 
now beat its wings on the roof, and then slid off and 
disappeared. Was it dead now ? It did not matter. 
Mehalah could not care greatly for a bird. But pre- 
sently from out of the shadow of the bakehouse floated 
a few white feathers. The gull was still wending its 
way on, with unerring instinct, towards the rolling sea. 



282 MEHALAH. 

Just then Mehalah heard a thud, as though some heavy 
body had fallen, accompanied by a short clank of metal. 
She would have paid it no further attention had she not 
been roused by seeing the madman striding and then 
jumping, with the chain wound round one arm. He 
looked up at the moon, his matted hair was over his 
face, and Mehalah could not distinguish the features. 
He ran across the yard, and then leaped the dyke and 
went off at long bounds, like a kangaroo, over the 
pasture towards the sea-wall. 

Mehalah drew back. What should she do ? Should 
she rouse Elijah, and tell him that his brother had 
wrenched off the grating of his window and worked his 
way out, and was now at large in the glare of moon on 
the marshes, leaping and rejoicing in his freedom ? No, 
she would not. Let the poor creature taste of liberty, 
inhale the fresh, pure air, caper and race about under 
no canopy but that of Grod's making. She would not 
curtail his time of freedom by an hour. He would 
suffer severely for his evasion on the morrow, when 
Elijah would call out his men, and they would hunt the 
poor wretch down like a wild beast. She could see 
Eebow stand over him with his great dog-whip, and 
srrike him without mercy. She rouse Eebow ! She 
reconsign the maniac to his dark dungeon, with its 
dank floor and stifling atmosphere ! The gull was for- 
gotten now ; its little strivings overlooked in anxiety 
for the mightier strivings of the human sufferer. Yet all 
these three were bound together by a common tie! 
Each was straining for the infinite, and for escape from 
thraldom ; one with a broken wing, one with a broken 
brain, one with a broken heart. There was the wounded 



IN PEOFUNDTJM. 283 

bird flapping and edging its way outwards to the salt 
sea. There was the dazed brain driving the wretched 
man in mad gambols along the wall to the open water. 
There was the bruised soul of the miserable girl 
yearning for something, she knew not what, wide, deep, 
eternal, unlimited, as the all-embracing ocean. In 
that the bird, the man, the maid sought freedom, rest, 
recovery. 

She could not go to bed and leave the poor maniac 
thus wandering unwatched. She would go out and 
follow him, and see that no harm came to him. 

She took off her shoes, shut the window. Her 
mother was sleeping soundly. She undid the door and 
descended the stairs. They creaked beneath her steps, 
but Eebow, who had slept through the noise made by 
his brother in effecting his escape, was not awakened 
by her footfall. She unlocked the back door, closed it, 
and stole forth. 

As she passed the bakehouse she lit on the wounded 
bird. In a spasm of sympathy she bent and took it up. 
It made a frantic effort to escape, and uttered its wild, 
harsh screams ; but she folded her hands over the wings 
and held the bird to her bosom and went on. The 
blood from the broken bone and torn flesh wet her 
hand, and dried on it like glue. She heeded it not, 
but walked forward. By the raw moonlight she saw 
the madman on the wall. He had thrown down his 
chain. He heeded it not now. There had been suffi- 
cient intelligence or cunning in his brain to bid him 
deaden its clanking when making his escape from the 
house. 

He sprang into the air and waved his arms ; his 



284 MEHALAH. 

wild hair blew about in the wind, it looked like seaweed 
tangles. Then he sat down. Mehalah did not venture 
on the wall, but crept along in the marsh. He had got 
a stone, and was beating at his chain with it upon the 
stone casing of the wall on the sea face. He worked at 
it patiently for an hour, and at last broke one of the 
links. He waved the chain above his head with a shout, 
and flung it behind him into the marsh. He ran on. 
Mehalah stole after him. He never looked back, always 
forwards or upwards. Sometimes he danced and shouted 
and sang snatches to the moon when it flared out from 
behind a cloud. Once, when at a bend of the wall, his 
shadow was cast before him, he cowered back from it, 
jabbering, and putting his hands supplicatingly towards 
it ; then he slipped down the bank, laughed, and ran 
across the marsh, with his shadow behind him, and 
thought in his bewildered brain that he had cunningly 
eluded and escaped the figure that stood before him to 
stop him. He reached the mill that worked the pump. 
He must have remembered it : it was mixed up some- 
how with the confused recollections in his brain, for it 
did not seem to startle or frighten him. He scarcely 
noticed it, but, uttering a howl, a wild, triumphant 
shout, sprang upon a duck punt hauled up on the wall. 
It was Elijah's punt, left there occasionally, quite as 
often as at the landing near the house, a small, flat- 
bottomed boat, painted white, with a pair of white, 
muffled oars in it. 

In a moment, before Mehalah had considered what 
to do, or whether she could do anything, he had run 
the punt down into the water, and had seated himself 



IN PROFUNDUM. 285 

in it, and taken the oars and struck out to sea, out 
towards the open, towards the unbounded horizon. 

He rowed a little way, not very far, and then stood 
up. He could not apparently endure to face the land, 
the place of long confinement, he must turn and look 
out to sea. 

Mehalah stood on the sea-wall. The waves were 
lapping at her feet. The tide had turned. It flowed 
at midnight, and midnight was just past. She had 
forgotten the gull she bore, in her alarm for the man, 
she opened her arms, and the bird fluttered down and 
fell into the water. 

The moon was now swimming in a clear space of 
sky free of cloudfloes. In that great light the man was 
distinctly visible, standing, waving his arms in the 
white punt, drifting, not rapidly, but steadily outwards. 
In that great light went out also, on the same cold, 
dark water, the dying bird, that now stirred not a 
wing. 

Mehalah watched motionless, with a yearning in 
her heart that she could not understand, her arms ex- 
tended towards that boundless expanse towards which 
the man and the bird were being borne, and into which 
they were fading. He was singing I Some old, childish 
lay of days that were happy, before the shadow fell. 

There stood Griory, looking, indistinctly longing, 
till her eyes were filled with tears. She looked on 
through the watery vail, but saw nothing. When she 
wiped it away she saw nothing. She watched till the 
day broke, but she saw notching more. 



286 MEHALAH. 

CHAPTEE XXI. 

IN VAIN ! 

Mks. De Witt was not happy, taken all in all. There 
were moments indeed of conviviality when she boasted 
that she was now what she had always wanted to be, 
independent, and with none to care for but herself, 
' none of them bullet-headed, sliark-bellied men to fuss 
and worrit about.' But she laboured, like the moon, 
under the doom of passing through phases, and one of 
these was dark and despondent. As she lay in her 
bunk of a raw morning, and contemplated her toes in 
the grey light that fell through the hatches, she was 
forced to admit that her financial position was not 
established on a secure basis. It reposed on smelt, 
shrimps, dabs and eels, a fluctuating, an uncertain 
foundation. She strode about the island and the 
nearest villages on the mainland, with a basket on her 
arm, containing a half-pint measure, and a load of 
shrimps, or swung a stick in her hand from which 
depended slimy eels. She did a small trade at the 
farm-houses, and reaped some small retail profits. 
The farmers' wives were accustomed to see her in sun- 
shine habited in scarlet more or less mottled with 
crimson, in storm wearing a long grey military great 
coat. In summer a flapping straw hat adorned her 
head ; in winter a fur cap with a great knob at the top, 
and fur lappets over her ears. In compliment to her 
condition of mourner a big black bow was sewn to the 
summit of the knob, and she looked like a knight 



IN VAINl 287 

helmeted, bearing as crest a butterfly displayed, sable. 
It was seldom that she was dismissed from a farmhouse 
without having disposed of a few shrimps, or some 
little fish ; for if she were not given custom regularly, 
she took huff and would not call with her basket again, 
till an apology were offered, and she was entreated to 
return. 

The profits of the trade were not however con- 
siderable, and such as they were underwent reduction 
on all her rounds. She consumed the major part of 
them in her orbit at the ' Fountain,' the ' Fox,' the 
' Leather Bottle ' or the ' Dog and Pheasant.' In the 
bar of each of these ancient taverns, Mrs. De Witt was 
expected and greeted as cordially as at the farm- 
kitchen. There she was wont to uncasque, and ruffle 
out her white cap, and turn out her pockets to count 
her brass. There also this brass underwent consider- 
able diminution. The consumption of her profits 
generally left Mrs. De Witt in a condition rather the 
worse than the better. She was a sinking fund that 
sucked in her capital. However cheery of face, and 
crisp of gathers, Mrs. De Witt may have started on 
her mercantile round, the close saw her thick of speech, 
leery of eye, festoony of walk, vague in her calculations, 
reckless of measurement with her little pewter half- 
pint, and generally crumpled in cap and garment. If 
she were still able to rattle a few coppers in her pocket 
when she stumbled up the ladder, toppled down into 
the hold, and tumbled into her bunk, she was happy. 
She was her own mistress, she had no helpless, foolish 
man, husband or son, to consider, and before whom to 
veil her indiscretions ; she pulled up the ladder as soon 



288 MEHALAH. 

as she was home ; and, as she said, sat up for no one 
but herself. 

She had not quite reconciled her smoking to her 
conscience, when she had a son to set a model of life 
to, before whom to posture as the ideal of womanhood 
and maternity ; then when his foot was heard on the 
ladder she would slip her clay into the oven, and mur- 
mur something about a pinch out of her snuff-box 
having fallen on the stove, or about her having smoked 
her best gown as a preventive to moth. Now she 
smoked with composure, and turned over in her mind 
the various possibilities that lay before her. Should 
she bow to the hard necessity of leading about a tame 
man again, or should she remain in her present condi- 
tion of absolute freedom ? The five-and-twenty pounds 
had nearly disappeared, and she was not certain that 
she could live in comfort on her gains by the trade in 
shrimps and eels. 

Mrs. De Witt was a moralist, and when nearly 
drunk religious. She was not a church-goer, but she 
was fond of convivial piety. Over her cups she had a 
great deal to say of her neighbours' moral shortcomings 
and of her own religious emotions. When in a state 
of liquor she was always satisfied that she was in a state 
of grace. In her sober hours she thought of nothing 
save how to make both ends meet. She mused on her 
future, and hovered in her choice, she feared that 
sooner or later she must make her election, to take a 
man or to do without one. The eagle can gaze on the 
sun without blinking, but Mrs. De Witt could not fix 
her eye on matrimony without the water coming into 
it. That was a step she would not take till driven to 



IX vain! 289 

it by desperation. The Pandora's bottom was not all 
that could be wished, it was rotten. Mrs. De Witt saw 
that the repair of the Pandora was a matter she could 
not compass. When she let in water, Mrs. De Witt 
would admit a husband. Whilst a plank remained 
impervious to the tide, so would her breast to matri- 
monial dreams. 

The spring tides came, and with them seawater 
oozing in at the rotted joints of the vessel. Mrs. De 
Witt was well aware of the presence of bilgewater in 
the bottom. Bilgewater has the faculty of insisting on 
cognisance being taken of its presence. Whenever 
she returned to the Pandora, the odour affected her 
with horror, for it assured her that her days of inde- 
pendence were numbered. But all at once a new light 
sprang up in the old lady's mind, she saw a middle 
course open to her; a way of maintaining a partial 
independence, on a certainty of subsistence. 

She had not returned the call made her by her 
nephew Elijah Eebow. Half a year had elapsed, but 
that was no matter. Etiquette of high life does not 
rule the grades to which the Kebows and De Wit^-s 
belonged. WTiy should not she keep house for her 
nephew ? He was well off, and he was little at home ; 
his house was large, she would have free scope in it for 
carrying on her own independent mode of life, and her 
keep would cost her nothing. That house had been 
her home. In it she had been born and nurtured. 
She had only left it to be incumbered with a husband 
and a son. Now she was free from these burdens, 
what more reasonable than that she should return ? It 

u 



290 MEHALAH. 

was the natural asylum to which she must flee in her 
necessity. 

It was true indeed that Kebow had taken in Mrs. 
Sharland and Griory, but what ties attached them to 
him equal to hers of flesh and blood. Was she not his 
aunt ? 

Now that Mrs. De Witt saw that it was clearly in 
her interest to disestablish the Sharlands and install 
herself in their place, she saw also, with equal clearness, 
that morality and religion impelled her to take this 
course. What was Elijah's connection with Griory? 
Was it not a public scandal, the talk of the neighbour- 
hood ? As aunt of Eebow was she not in duty bound to 
interfere, to act a John the Baptist in that Herod's 
court, and condemn the intimacy as improper ? 

Mrs. De Witt pulled herself up, morally as well 
as physically, and in habit also. That is, she was sit- 
ting on her military coat tails, and with a gathering 
sense of her apostleship of purity she shook them out, 
she drew in at the same time the strings of her apron 
and of her cap, tightened and lifted her bustle, so that 
the red military tails cocked in an audacious and 
defiant — if not in an apostolic and missionary manner. 
She ran her fingers through the flutings of her frills, to 
make them stand out and form a halo round her face, 
like the corolla of white round the golden centre of the 
daisy. Then she drank off a noggin of gin to give 
herself courage, and away she started, up the com- 
panion, over the deck, and down the ladder, to row to 
Ked Hall with her purpose hot in her heart. 

After the disappearance of the madman, Mehalah 
had returned to the house and to her room. She said 



IN vain! 291 

nothing next day of what she had seen. Elijah and his 
men had searched the marshes and found no trace of 
the man save the broken chain. That Rebow took 
back, and hung over his chimney-piece. He enquired 
in Salcott and Virley, but no one there had seen any- 
thing of the unfortunate creature. It was obvious that 
he had not gone inland. He had run outward, and 
when it was found that the punt was gone, the conclu- 
sion arrived at was that the madman had left the 
marshes in it. 

Elijah rowed to Mersea, and made enquiries with- 
out eliciting any information. He went next to Brad- 
well on the south coast of the great Black water estuary, 
there his punt had been found, washed ashore ; but no 
traces of the man were to be discovered. That he was 
drowned admitted of no doubt. Eebow satisfied him- 
self that this was the case, and was content to be thus 
rid of an encumbrance. Mehalah's knowledge of the 
matter was unsuspected, and she was therefore not 
questioned. She did not feel any necessity for her to 
mention what she had seen. It could be of no possible 
advantage to anybody. 

Her life became monotonous, but the monotone was 
one of gloom. She had lost every interest ; she at- 
tended to her mother without heart ; and omitted those 
little acts of tenderness which had been customary with 
her, or performed them, when her mother fretted at 
the omission, in a cold, perfunctory manner. Mrs. 
Sharland had been accustomed to be overruled by her 
daughter, but now Mehalah neither listened to nor 
combated her recommendations. She rarely spoke, 
but went through the routine of her work in a mechan- 

u 2 



292 MEHALAH. 

ical manner. Sometimes she spoke to her mother in a 
hard, sharp tone the old woman was unused to, and 
resented ; but Mehalah ignored her resentment. She 
cared neither for her mothers love nor for her dis- 
pleasure. 

When she met the men about the farm, if they 
addressed her, she repelled them with rudeness, and if 
obliged to be present with them for some time, did not 
speak. 

Neither had she a word for Eebow. She answered 
his questions with monosyllables, or not at all, and he 
had often to repeat them before she condescended to 
answer. He spoke at meal times, and attempted to 
draw her into conversation, but she either did not 
listen to him, was occupied with her own thoughts, or 
she would not appear to hear and be interested in what 
he said. 

A morose expression clouded and disfigured her 
countenance, once so frank and genial. Joe remarked 
to Jim that she was growing like the master. Jim 
replied that folks who lived together mostly did re- 
semble one another. He knew a collier who had a 
favourite bull-dog, and they were as alike in face as 
if they were twins. 

Mehalah avoided Abraham, she rarely spoke to him, 
and when he attempted to open a conversation with her 
she withdrew abruptly. When all her work was done, 
she walked along the sea-wall to the spit of land, and, 
seating herself there, remained silent, brooding, with 
dull, heavy eyes looking out to sea at the passing sails, 
or the foaming waves. 

She did not think, she sat sunk in a dull torpor. 



IN vain! 293 

She neither hoped anything nor recalled anything. As 
she had said to Elijah, she neither loved nor hated ; she 
did not fear him or desire him. She disliked to be in 
his presence, but she would not fix her mind on him, 
and concern herself about him. Her self-respect was 
sick, and till that was recovered nothing could interest 
and revive her. 

Mehalah was seated under the windmill when Mrs. 
De Witt drew to land. That lady was on her war-path, 
and on seeing the person whom she designed to attack 
and rout out of her shelter, she turned the beak of her 
boat directly upon her, and thrust ashore at Mehalah's 
feet. 

The sight of Mrs. De Witt in her red coat roused 
the girl from her dream, and she rose wearily to her 
feet and tm'ned to walk away. 

' Grlory ! ' shouted the fishwife after her. ' Sack- 
alive ! I want to speak to you. Stop at once.' 

Mehalah paid no attention to the call, but walked 
on. Mrs. De Witt was incensed, and, after anchoring 
her boat, rushed after and overtook her, 

' By Cock ! ' exclaimed the lady, ' here's manners ! 
Didn't you hear me hollering to you to hold hard and 
heave to ? ' She laid her hand on Mehalah's shoulder. 
The girl shook it off. 

' Sackalive ! ' cried Mrs. De Witt. ' We are out of 
temper to-day. We have the meagrims. What is all 
this about ? But I suppose you can't fare to look an 
honest woman in the face. The wicious eye will drop 
before the stare of wirtue ! ' 

' What have you to say to me ? ' asked Mehalah 
moodily. 



294 MEHALAH. 

' Why, I want to speak along of you about what 
concerns you most of all. Now his father and his 
mother are dead, who's to look after Elijah's morals but 
me, his aunt? Now I can't stand these goings on, 
Grlory ! Here are you living in this out-of-the way 
house with my nephew, who is not a married man, and 
folks talk. My family was always respectable, we kept 
ourselves up in the world. My husband's family I 
know nothing about. He was a low chap, and rose out 
of the mud, like the winkles. I took him up, and then 
I dropped him again ; I was large and generous of heart 
when I was young — younger than I am now. I wouldn't 
do it again, it don't pay. The man will raise the 
woman, but the woman can't lift the man. He grovels 
in the mud he came out of. She may pick him out 
and wipe him clean a score of times, but when she ain't 
looking, in he flops again. I have had my experience. 
Moses was a good-looking man, but he looked better 
raw than cooked, he ate tougher than he cut. He 
wasn't the husband that he seemed to promise as a 
bachelor. George was another ; but he was an advance 
on Moses, he had a little of me in him. There was 
Eebow mixed with De Witt ; he was a glass of half and 
half, rum and water. But this is neither here nor 
there. We are not talking of my family, but of you. 
I'm here for my nephew's welfare and for yours. Glory ! 
you ain't in Ked Hall for any good. Do you think my 
nephew can take in an old woman that is not worth 
sixpence to bait lines with, and feed her and find her 
in liquor for nothing ! Everybody knows he's after you. 
He's been after you ever so long. Everybody knows 
that. He had a hankering after you when George was 



IN vain! 295 

a galliwanting on the Eay. That's known to all the 
world. Well, you can't live in the house with him and 
folks not talk.' 

' Do you dare to believe ■' 

' Grlory ! I always make a point to believe the worst. 
I'm a religious person, and them as sets up to be re 
ligious always does that. It is part of their profession. 
When I buy fish of thei men, I say at once, it stinks, I 
know it ain't fresh ! when I take shrimps I say, they're 
a week out of the water, and they won't peel nicely. 
So I look upon you and everyone else, and then it's a 
wery pleasing surprise when I find that the stale fish 
turns out fresh. But it ain't often that happens. It 
may happen now and then, just as now and then a whale 
is washed up on Mersea Island. Now look you here. 
Glory ! don't you believe that Elijah will marry you 
and make an honest woman of you. He wont do it. 
He don't think to do it. He never did intend it. He 
belongs to a better family than yours. You have gipsy 
blood in your veins, and he knows it ; that's as bad as 
having . king's evil or cancer. I made a mistake and 
looked below me. He won't do it. He knows that I 
made a mistake, he won't do the same. There's as 
much difference in human flesh as there is in that of 
flat-fish, some is that of soles, other is that of dabs ; 
some is fresh and firm as that of small eels, other is 
coarse and greasy as that of conger. The Eebows belong 
to another .lot from you altogether. Elijah knows it. 
He never thought to marry you. He couldn't do it.' 

Mehalah, stung even through the hard panoply of 
callousness in which she had encased herself, turned 
surlily on the woman. 



296 MEHALAH. 

' You lie ! It is I who will not marry him.' 

' There's an Adam and Eve in every brown shrimp,' ^ 
said Mrs. De Witt sententiously ; ' and there's wigour 
and weakness in every human creature. It is possible 
that at a time when Eve is up in Elijah he may have 
proposed such a foolish thing as to marry you, and it is 
possible that, at a time when Adam was the master in 
you, you may have refused him. I don't deny it. But 
I do say that Elijah will never marry you in cold blood. 
And I'll tell you what — you won't stand out against 
him for long. He has too much of the Adam, and you 
too little for that. You may set up your pride and 
self-will against him, but you will give way in the end 
— your weakness will yield to his strongheadedness. 
What he purposes he will carry out ; you cannot oppose 
Elijah ; the Adam in his heart is too old and wigorous 
and heady.' 

Mehalah made no answer. Sunk in her dark 
thoughts she strode on, her arms folded over her heart, 
to still and crush it ; her head bowed. 

' Now Grlory ! ' pursued Mrs. De Witt ; ' I've a bit 
of a liking for you, after all, and I'm sorry for what I 
was forced to do about that five and twenty pounds. I 
tell you, I am sorry, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't 
starve,^ you know — I was a lone widow without a son to 
help me. As I said, I've a sort of a liking for you, for 

you was the girl my George ' Mehalah's breast 

heaved, she uttered an ill-suppressed cry, and then 
covered her face. 

' My poor Greorge,' went on the old woman, aware 

' Children find in the front paddles of the brown shrimp, when 
pulled out, two quaint little figures which they call Adam and Eve. 



IN vain! 297 

that she had gained an advantage. ' He was wery fond 
of you. Sackalive ! how he would love to talk of you 
to me his doting old mother, and scheme how you was 
to live in love together ! That boy's heart was full of 

you, full as ' she cast about for a simile, 'as a 

March sprat is full of oil. Now I know, my Greorge — 
he was a good lad ! and more like me in features than 
his father, but he hadn't the soul of a Eebow! — My 
Greorge, I feel sm-e, couldn't rest in his grave, if he'd 
got one, knowing as how tongues were going about you, 
and hearing what wicked things was said of your 
character. A woman's good name is like new milk. 
If it once gets turned there's no sweetening it after, and 
I can tell you what. Glory ! your name is not as fresh 
as it was ; look to it before it is quite curdled and sour.' 
' I can do nothing ! I can do nothing ! ' moaned the 
despairing girl. 

' Look you here, Grlory ! ' said Mrs. De Witt. * I'm 
the aunt of the party, and I must attend to his morals. 
I'U go in and see him and I'D. manage matters. He's 
my nephew. I can do anything with him. Trust me 
with men, girl. I know 'em. They are like nettles. 
Grasp 'em and they are harmless ; touch 'em trembling, 
and they sting you. They are like eels, try to hold 
them where you will and they wriggle away, but run a 
skewer through their gills and you have them.' 

' What are you here for, talking to my girl ? ' asked 
Eebow, suddenly coming from behind the house, which 
Mrs. De Witt had now reached. 

' Sackalive I ' exclaimed his aunt, ' how you flustered 
me. We was just talking of you when you appeared. 
It is wonderful how true proverbs are ; they are the 



298 MEHALAH. 

Bible of those that don't read, a sort of scripture written 
in the air. But I want a talk along of you, Elijah, that 
is what I'm come after, I your precious aunt, who loves 
you as the oyster loves his shell, and the crab its young 
that it cuddles.' 

' What do you want with me ? ' 

' Come, Elijah, let us go indoors. To tell you 
Gospel truth, I'm dry after my row and want a wet. 
As I wet I will talk. I've that to say to you that con- 
cerns you greatly.' 

' Follow me,' he said surlily, and led the way up the 
steps. Mehalah turned back, but walked not to the 
point where she had been sitting before, lest she should 
be again disturbed on the return of Mrs. De Witt to her 
boat. She went instead to the gate at the bridge over 
the dyke, that led towards Salcott. There was no real 
road, only a track through the pasture land. She 
leaned her hands on the bar of the gate and laid her 
weary head on her hands. Outside the gate was a 
tillage field with green wheat in it glancing in the 
early summer air. Aloft the larks were spiring and 
caroling. In the ploughed soil of Mehalah's heart no- 
thing had sprung up, — above it no glad thought soared 
and sang. Her head was paralysed and her heart was 
numb. The frost lay there, and the clods were as iron. 

In the meantime Mrs. De Witt was in the hall with 
her nephew, endeavouring to melt him into geniality, 
but he remained morose and unimpressionable. 

By slow approaches she drew towards the object of 
her visit. 

' I have been very troubled, nephew, by the gossip 
that goes about.' 



IN vain! 299 

' Have joii ? ' asked he, ' I thought you were imper- 
vious to trouble short of loss of grog.' 

' You know, Elijah, that your character is precious 
to me. I wally it, for the honour of the family.' 

' What are you driving at ? ' he asked with an oath. 
' Speak out, and then take your slimy tongue off my 
premises.' 

' This is my old home, Elijah, the dear old place 
where I spent so many happy and innocent days.' 

' Well, you are not likely to spend any more of either 
sort here now. Say what you have to say, and begone.' 

' You fluster me, Elijah. When I have a glass of 
rare good stuff such as this, I like to sit over it, and 
talk, and sip, and relax.' 

' I don't,' he said ; ' I gulp it down and am off. Come, 
say your say, and be quick about it. I have my affairs 
to attend to and can't sit here palavering with an old 
woman.' 

' Oh ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt, in rising wrath, ' if 
I were young it would be different, if I were not a moral 
and religious character it would be different, if I were 
not a Eebow, but half gipsy, half boor, it would be 
different ! ' 

' If you allude to Glory, with that sneer,' said he, ' I 
t^ll you, it would be different.' 

' I dare say ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt tossing her 
head. ' Blood and kinship are all forgot.' 

' You forgot them fast enough when you ran after 
Moses De Witt.' 

' I did demean myself, I admit,' said she ; ' but I 
have repented it since in dabs and sprats, and I don't 
intend to do it again. Listen to me, Elijah. Once for 



300 MEHALAH. 

all, I want to know what you mean by keeping this girl 
Grlory here ? ' 

' You do, do you ? — So do I. I wonder ; she defies 
and hates me, yet I keep her. I keep her here, I can 
do no other. I would to God I could shake free of her 
and forget her, forget that I had ever seen her, but I 
can't do it. She and I are ordained for one another.' 

' Parcel of stuff ! ' exclaimed his aunt. ' You send 
her packing, her and her old fool of a mother, and I 
will come and keep house for you.' 

'Pack Grlory off! ' echoed Elijah. 

' Yes, break this wretched, degrading tie.' 

' I couldn't do it ! ' he said. ' I tell you again, I 
would if I could. I know as well as if it were written 
in flames on the sky that no good can come of her being 
here, but for better for worse, for well or for woe, here 
we two are, and here we remain.' 

' You love her ? ' 

' I love her and I hate her. I love her with every 
fibre and vein, and bone and nerve, but I hate her too, 
with my soul, because she does not love me, but hates 
me. I could take her to my heart and keep her there,' 
his breast heaved and his dark eyes flared, ' and kiss her 
on her mouth and squeeze the breath out of her, and 
cast her dead at my feet. Then perhaps I might be 
happy. I am now in hell ; but were she not here, were 
I alone, and she elsewhere, it would be hell unendurable 
in its agonies, I should go mad like my brother. She 
must be mine, or my fate is the same as his.' 

' Are you going to marry her ? ' 

' She will not marry me. Believe what I say. That 
girl, Grlory, is the curse and ruin of me and of this house. 



IN vain! 301 

I know it, and yet I cannot help it. She might have 
made me happy and built up my prosperity and family. 
Then I should have been a good and a glad man, a man 
altogether other from what I am now. But your son 
came in the way. He marred everything. Glory still 
thinks of him, it does not matter that he be gone. She 
will cling to him and keep from me. Yet she is des- 
tined for me. She never was for George. If he were 
to turn up — I don't say that it is possible or even pro- 
bable, but suppose he were — she would fly to him. I 
might chain her up, but she'd break away. There is 
nothing for it,' he pursued, drooping into a sullen mood. 
' We must battle it out between us. None can or must 
intervene ; whoever attempts it shall be trampled under 
our feet. We must work out our own fate together ; 
there is no help for it. I tell you, if I were born again, 
and I knew that this were before me, I'd fly to the 
Indies, to Africa, anywhere to be from her, so as never 
to see her, never to know of her, and then I might jog 
on through life in quiet, and some sort of happiness. 
But that is not possible. I have seen her. I have her 
here under my roof, but we are still apart as the poles. 
Go away, aunt, it is of no good your interfering. No 
one comes here, she and I must work the sum out 
between us. There's a fate over all and we cannot fight 
against it, but it falls on us and crushes us.' 

Mrs. De Witt was awed. She rose. She knew that 
her mission was fruitless, that there was no possibility 
of her gaining her point. 

She opened the door, and started back before an 
apparition in carnation and white 

' Whom have we here ? ' 



302 MEHALAH. 

' Mrs. Charles Pettican, madam,' said the apparition 
with a stately curtsey. 



CHAPTEK XXII. 

THE LAST STRAW. 



Mehalah was lost to consciousness, leaning on the gate, 
her aching brow and leaden eyes in her hand. She did 
not hear the larks that sang above her, nor saw the 
buttercups and daisies that smiled to her from below. 
By the gate was a willow covered with furry flower now 
ripe and shedding its golden pollen. The soft air 
scattered the delicate yellow dust over the girl's hair 
and neck and shoulders, a minute golden powder, but 
she noticed it not. The warm air played caressingly 
with some of her dark hair, and the sun brought out 
its copper glow — she was unaware of all. 

A little blue butterfly flickered above her and lighted 
on her head, it lay so still that the insect had no fear. 

Then a hand shook the gate. 

' Gone to sleep, girl ? ' asked a female voice. 

Mehalah looked up dreamily. 

A young, handsome, and dashing lady before her, 
in white and carnation, a crimson feather in her hat, 
and carmine in her cheeks. Mehalah slowly recognised 
Admonition. 

Mrs. Pettican looked curiously at her. 

' Who are you ? — Oh I I know, the girl Sharland ! ' 
and she laughed. 



THE LAST STEAW. 303 

Mehalah put her hand to the latch to open the 
gate. 

' You need not trouble,' said Admonition : ' I want 
nothing from you, I have heard of you. You are the 
young person,' with an affected cough, ' whom Master 
Eebow has taken to live with him I think. You had 
the assurance once to come to my dear husband, and to 
pester him.' 

' He was kind to me,' said Mehalah to herself. 

' Oh yes, he was very kind indeed. He did not 
know much of you then. Eeport had not made him 
familiar with your name.' 

Mehalah looked moodily at her. It was of no use 
pretending to misunderstand her. It was of no use 
resenting the insinuation. She sullenly bore the blow 
and suffered. 

* I have come here on your behalf,' said Admonition, 
speaking to her across the gate. She had the gate half 
open, and kept it between them. 

' You have nothing to do with me, or I with you,' 
said Mehalah. 

' Oh ! nothing, I am respectable. I keep myself up, 
I look after my character ! ' sneered Mrs. Pettican. 
' Nevertheless I am here with an offer from my husband. 
He is ready to receive your mother into his house ; I do 
not approve of this, but he is perverse and will have 
his way. He will take her in and provide for her.' 

' Mehalah looked up. A load was being lifted from 
her heart. Were her mother taken in by Mr. Pettican, 
then she could leave, and leave for ever, Eed Hall. 

' Yes. He admits his relationship,' said Admonition. 
' I would not, were I he, now that the name is — well — 



304 MEHALAH. 

not so savoury as it was. But he is not particular. 
Men are not. I have been brought up, I am thankful 
to say, with very strict ideas, and have been formed in 
a school quite other from that of Mr. Pettican. How- 
ever, as I was observing — you need not come near me — 
keep the gate between us, please.' 

' You were saying,' anxiously repeated Mehalah, who 
had stepped forward in her eagerness. 

' I was saying that Mr. Pettican will overlook a 
great deal, and will receive your mother into his house, 
and provide her with all that is necessary. But 
you ' 

' I,' repeated Mehalah, breathlessly. 

' You must never, never set foot within my doors. 
I could not allow it. I am a person of respectability, 
I value proprieties. I could not allow my house to be 
spoken of as one which admitted — ' with a contemptuous 
shrug. 

Mehalah took no notice of the insult. She looked 
hard at Admonition, and said gravely, ^ You will shelter 
and care for my mother, on condition that I never go 
near her.' 

' Yes.' 

' I may never see her, never speak to her, never kiss 
her again.' 

' No, I could not suffer you to enter my respectable 
house.' 

' Not even if she were dying ? ' 

' My character would not allow of it. The respec- 
tability of my house must be maintained.' 

Mehalah thought for awhile. 

' I cannot make up my mind at once,' she said. 



THE LAST STKAW. 305 

' It will be a great relief to you to get rid of your 
mother.' 

' Yes, immeasurable.' 

* I thought as much ! ' with a toss of the head, and 
curl of the lip. 

Mehalah did not give attention to these marks of 
contempt. Presently she asked, ' And who will attend 
to my mother ? ' 

' I will.' 

' You I ' exclaimed Grlory, with a flash of her old 
indignation. ' You, who neglect and illtreat the husband 
who lifted you out of the gutter. You who have not 
gratitude and generosity to the man to whom you owe 
your position and comforts ! How would you treat a 
poor, helpless, aged woman trusting to your mercy un- 
conditioned, when the man who bound you to him by 
most solemn and sacred promises is insulted, and neg- 
lected, and degraded by you ? No, never. My mother 
shall never, never be left to you of all women in the 
world. Never, never, never ! ' she beat her hand on the 
gate. ' Let me bear my burden, let it crush me, but 
she shall not be taken from me and die of neglect and 
cruel treatment. I can bear ! ' she raised herself with a 
poor effort of her old energy, ' I will bear all for her. 
She once bore with me.' 

' Drab ! ' hissed Admonition, and she flung past her, 
shaking the gate furiously as she went by. 

It was with carnation in her cheek as well as in her 
dress and hat that she appeared before Mrs. De Witt 
and Elijah Eebow. 

Mrs. De Witt drew back to let Mrs. Pettican in. 

X 



306 MEHALAH. 

' I think you was passing out,' said tlie latter ; 
'madam, your servant.' 

'Your servant, madam,' from Mrs. De Witt, still 
lingering. 

' Now then, one at a time. Aunt, go out and shut 
the door,' said Eebow peremptorily, and the old woman 
was obliged to obey. 

' What has brought you here ? ' asked Elijah surlily. 

Mrs. Pettican looked round, then drew nearer. ' I 
think,' she said, ' you once advised me something, but 
I don't know how far your interest is the same as it was.' 

' What do you mean ? ' 

•• I don't know whether you would be satisfied to 
get Mehalah Sharland off your hands now, or keep her 
here.' 

' She remains here, she never shall leave it.' 

' It is just this,' said Admonition. ' My husband 
has of late been plucking up a little courage, or showing 
obstinacy. My cousin Timothy — I don't know what to 
make of him — he is not what he was. He is always 
making some excuse or other to get away, and I find 
he goes to Mersea. He hasn't been as dutiful and 
amiable to me of late, as I have a right to expect, con- 
sidering how I have found him in food and drink and 
tobacco, the best of all, and no stint. There's some 
game up between him and my husband, and I believe 
it is this, I know it is this. Charles is bent on getting 
Mrs. Sharland and her daughter, the latter especially, 
to come and live with him and take care of him. He 
dares to say I neglect him. He reckons on pitting that 
girl against me, he thinks that she would be more than 
a match for me.' 



THE LAST STRAW. 307 

' He thinks rio'ht,' burst in Rebow with a laiio'h. 

' I won't have her in the house. I don't mind 
taking in the old woman, but the daughter I will not 
admit.' 

' You are right. She'd master you and make you 
docile or drive you out,' jeered Rebow. 

' She shall not come. I have told her so. I will 
not be opposed and brow-beaten in my own house. I 
will not have the care of my husband wrested from me. 

' Have you come here to tell me this ? ' 

' I know that Charles and Timothy have put their 
heads together. They are both up in rebellion against 
me, and Timothy has walked over to Mersea to get a 
boat and row here to invite that girl to come with her 
mother to Wyvenhoe, and take up their abode with my 
husband. Charles promises if they will do so to provide 
for them and leave them everything in his will, so as to 
make them independent at my cost. When I got wind 
of this — I overheard the scheme by the merest accident 
— I got a gig and was driven over to Salcott, and the 
boy has put up the horse at the inn, and I walked on. 
I will stop this little game. The girl shall not come 
inside the house. If she puts in her little finger, her 
fist will follow, and I will be driven out, though I am 
the lawful wife of Charles Pettican. I don't know what 
Timothy means by aiding and abetting him in this. I 
will have it out with him, and that veiy soon. I want 
to know what are your views. I have been pretty plain 
with mine. You may help me or hinder me, but I 
hope I shall be able to keep my door locked against 
such as that girl, and if Timothy thinks to flirt along 
with her under my roof, and before my face, he is vastly 



308 MEHALAH. 

mistaken. That husband of mine is deeper than I sus- 
pected, or he would not have come over Timothy and 
got him to aid him in this. But I see it all. Timothy- 
thinks if the girl gets there, and is to have Charles' 
money, he will make up to her, marry her, and share 
the plunder. If that be his game he has left me out 
of his calculations. Timothy is a fool, or he would not 
have gone over from me to Charles. I'll have the matter 

out here -' 

'Not in this room,' said Elijah. 'There's rows 
enough go on in here without your making another. 
Set your mind at rest : Grlory does not leave this house. 
But I advise you to see your cousin, and, if possible, 
prevent him from making the proposal. If she hears 
it, she will be off to-morrow, and carry her mother with 
her ; and then there may be trouble to you and me to 
get her back.' 

' She shall not come across my doorstep.' 
' I tell you if once she hears that the chance is given 
her, she will go, and not you nor a legion of such as you 
could keep her out. Gro upstairs and go straight on till 
you come to a door. Go in there ; it is the bedroom of 
Glory and her mother. Never mind the old fool — she 
is sick and in bed. You will find a small room or 
closet beyond, with a three-cornered window in it. 
Look out of that. It commands the whole bay, and 
you will see a boat, if it approaches the Hall. There's 
Sunken island and Cobb marsh between you and Mersea 
City. You will see a boat creep through one of the 
creeks of Cobb marsh into Virley flat, and that will be 
the boat with your cousin in it. If you come down 
then you will meet him as he lands.' 



THE LAST STEAW. 309 

As soon as Admonition had rushed past Mehalah 
the girl walked away from the gate and ascended the 
sea-wall. She could obtain peace nowhere. She could 
hide nowhere, be nowhere without interruption. She 
saw Mrs. De Witt depart, and thought that now she 
could sit on the wall and remain unmolested. But 
again was she disturbed, this time by old Abraham. 
He was at the near landing-stage, just come from the 
Kay — the landing-place employed when tides were full. 
' Hark ye, mistress,' said the shepherd. ' I've had much 
on my tongue this many a day, but you haven't given 
me the chance to spit it out. I won't be put off any 
longer.' 

She did not answer or move away. The reaction 
after the momentary kindling of hope and burst of 
passion had set in, and she had relapsed into her now 
wonted mood. 

' It is of no use, mistress, your going on as you are,' 
continued the old man. ' Wherever he is, the master 
speaks of you as no man ought to speak save of his 
wife ; and all the world knows you are not that. What 
are you, then ? You are in a false position, and that is 
one of your own making.' 

' You know it is not, Abraham.' 

' 1 know it is one you could step out of to-morrow 
if you chose,' he said. ' The master has offered you 
your right place. As long as you refuse to take it so 
long everybody will be turned against you, and you 
against everybody. You keep away from everybody 
because you shame to see them and be seen by them. 
I know you don't like the master, but that's no reason 
why you shouldn't take him. Beggars mustn't be 



310 MEHALAH. 

choosers. He is not as young and handsome as George 
De Witt, but he is not such a fool, and he has his 
pockets well lined, which the other had not.' 

' It is of no use your saying this to me, Abraham,' 
said Mehalah sadly. 

'■ No, it is not,' pursued the dogged old man. ' Here 
you must stick as long as your mother lives, and she 
may live yet a score of years. Creaky gates last longest. 
Why, she ain't as old as I, and there's a score of years' 
work in me yet. How can you spend twenty years here 
along of the master, with all the world talking? It 
will shame you to your grave, or brazen you past 
respect. This state of things can't do good to any-- 
body. You must take him, and set yourself right with 
the world, or go from here.' 

' I cannot get away. Would to heaven I could ! ' 

' Then you must marry him. There is no escape 
from it, for your own sake. Why, girl,' the shepherd 
went on, ' if you was his wife you would have a lawful 
right and place here — this house, these marshes, these 
cattle would be yours. You would not be dependent 
on him for anj^thing ; you would hold them as a right. 
Now he can have you and your mother in prison at any 
time, for you are still his tenants and owe him rent for 
the Eay. But if you marry him, you cut away his 
power : he can't proceed against you and your mother 
for one penny. You would cancel the debt, do away 
with the obligation. If you was to marry him, and 
saw your way clear, I fancy you might go away at any 
time, and he would have no hold on you. Now he has 
you fast by this claim. And now your character is 
being ruined by association with him. There,' con- 



THE LAST STRAW. 311 

tinued the old man, ' I doubt I never said so much 
afore ; but I have known you since you was a girl, and 
I no more like to see you going to the bad than I like to 
see a field that has been well tilled allowed to be overrun 
with thistles, or a sheep lie down in the fen and die of 
rot that might have been saved with a little ointment 
stuck on in proper time.' 

Mehalah made no response. 

' I dare say it stings.' said Dowsing. ' I've seen 
sheep jump with pain when the copperas comes against 
a raw ; but that's better than to lie down and rot away 
without an effort, and without a word, as you are 
doing now.' He gave her a nod, and went on his 
way. 

Mehalah stepped into his boat and seated herself in 
her usual manner, with her head in her arms, and sank 
into her wonted torpor. 

' Now, then, young woman ! ' 

Again interrupted, again aroused. There was no 
rest for her that day. 

' Jump on land, will you, young woman, and let this 
lass step into your boat and get ashore without having 
to go into the mud.' 

' Timothy ! that is Mehalah ! ' exclaimed Phoebe 
Musset. She was in the boat with Admonition's cousin. 
' I'd rather you carried me. I do not want to be obliged 
to her for anything.' 

Mehalah stepped from her boat upon the turf, and 
held out her hand mechanically to assist the girl. 

' Don't hold out your hand to me ! ' screamed Phoebe. 
' I wouldn't touch it. Keep to yourself, if you please, 
and let me pass.' 



312 MEHALAH. 

' Why, Phoebe ! ' exclaimed Timothy, ' what is the 
matter? I have come here to see this girl.' 

' What ! — to see Mehalah — or Grlory, as you sailor 
and fisher fellows like to call her ? ' 

'Yes.' 

' Then I'm ashamed to have come with you,' said 
Phoebe, pouting. ' You offered me a nice little row on 
the water, and the sun was so bright, and the air so 
warm, and you were so agreeable, that I ventured ; but 
I would not have stepped into the boat had I known you 
were coming to visit another young woman, and she 
one of so smirched a character.' 

' Phoebe ! For shame ! ' 

' For shame ! ' repeated the girl turning on Timothy. 
' For shame to you, to bring me here with you when you 

are visiting this ' She eyed Mehalah from head to 

foot with studied insolence, and sniffed. * I know her. 
A bad, spiteful cat ! always running after fellows. She 
tried to wheedle poor George De Witt into marrying 
her. When he was lost, she burnt her house and flung 
herself on the mercy, into the arms, of Eebow. Now, I 
suppose, she is setting her red cap at you. Oh ! where 
is the cap gone, eh ? ' turning to Mehalah as she skipped 
ashore. 

Timothy was fastening the boat to that of Dowsing. 

Mehalah's wrath was rising. She had endured 
much that day — more than she could well bear. The 
impertinence of this malicious girl was intolerable 
altogether. She turned away to leave her. 

' Stop ! stop ! ' shouted Timothy. ' I have come 
here with a message to you. I have come here expressly 
to see you. I picked up Miss Musset on the way ' 



THE LAST STRAW. 313 

' You picked me up just to amuse me till you found 
Glory ! ' screamed Phoebe. ' Now you pitch me over- 
board, as that savage treated me once. I will not stand 
this. Timothy, come back this instant ! .Row me back 
to Mersea. I have not come here to be insulted. I 
will not speak another word with you unless you ' 

'For heaven's sake,' cried Timothy, tearing down 
the sea-wall and jumping into the boat, ' come in, 
Phoebe, at once, or I shall be off and leave you ! ' 

' What is the matter now ? ' 

He had his knife out, and was hacking through the 
cord that attached his boat to Dowsing's. In another 
moment he was rowing as hard as he could down the 
creek. 

Admonition appeared on the wall. Timothy had 
detected her crossing the marsh, and fled. 

She turned in fury on Phoebe. 

Mehalah withdrew to the windmill, away from their 
angry voices, and remained sitting by the sea till the 
shadows of evening fell. 

Then she returned, a fixed determination in her 
face, which was harder and more moody than be- 
fore. 

She walked deliberately to the hall, opened the door, 
and stepped in. Elijah was there, crouched over the 
empty hearth, as though there was a fire on it. He 
looked up. 

' Well, aicry ? ' 

Her bosom heaved. She could not speak. 

' You have something to say,' he proceeded. ' Won't 
the words come out ? Do they stick ? ' His wild dark 
eye was on her. 



314 MEHALAH. 

' Elijah,' she said, with burning brow and cheek, ' I 
give up. I will marry you.' 

He gave a great shout and sprang up. 

'Listen patiently to me,' she said, with difficulty 
controlling her agitation. ' I will marry you, and take 
your name, but only to save mine. That is all. I will 
neither love you, nor live with you, save as I do now. 
These are my terms. If you will take them, so be it. 
If not, we shall go on as before.' 

He laughed loudly, savagely. 

' I told you, Grlory, my own, own Grlory, what must 
be. You would not come under my roof, but you came. 
You would not marry me — now you submit. You will 
not love me — you must and shall. Nothing can keep 
us apart. The poles are drawing together. Perhaps 
there may be a heaven for us both here. But I do not 
know. Anyhow the sum is nearer the end than it was. 
Glory, this day week you shall be my wife. 



CHAPTEK XXIII. 

BEFORE THE ALTAR. 



ViRLET Church has been already described, as far as its 
external appearance goes. The interior was even less 
decent. 

It possessed but one bell, which was tolled alike for 
weddings and for funerals ; there was a difference in 
the pace at which it went for these distinct solemnities, 
but that was all. The bell produced neither a cheerful 
nor a lugubrious effect on either occasion, as it was 



BEFOEE THE ALTAK. 315 

cracked. The dedication of Viiiey Church is unknown 
— no doubt because it never had a patron ; or if it had, 
the patron disowned it. No saint in the calendar could 
be associated with such a church and keep his charac- 
ter. St. Nicholas is the patron of fishers, St. Giles of 
beggars, but who among the holy ones would spread 
his mantle over worshippers who were smugglers or 
wreckers ? When we speak of worshippers we use an 
euphemism; for though the church sometimes contained 
a congregation, it never held one of worshippers. Sal- 
cott and Virley, the Siamese-twin parishes, connected 
by a wooden bridge, embraced together five hundred 
souls. There were two churches, but few churchgoers. 

On the day of which we write, however, Virley 
Church was full to overflowing. This is not saying 
much, for Virley Church is not bigger than a stable 
that consists of two stalls and a loose box, whereof the 
loose box represents the chancel. When the curate in 
charge preached from the pulpit — the rectors of the 
two parishes were always non-resident — they kept a 
curate between them — he was able to cuff the boys 
in the west gallery who whispered, cracked nuts, or 
snored. 

The bellringer stood in the gallery, and had much 
ado to guard his knuckles from abrasion against the 
ceiling at each upcast of the rope. He managed to 
save them when tolling for a burial, but when the 
movement was double-quick for a wedding his knuckles 
came continually in contact with the plaster ; and when 
they did an oath, audible throughout the sacred build- 
ing, boomed between the clangours of the bell. 

Virley Church possessed one respectable feature, a 



316 MEHALAH. 

massive chancel-arch, but that gaped ; and the pillars 
slouched back against the wall in the attitude of the 
Virley men in the village street waiting to insult the 
women as they went by. 

On either side of the east window hung one table of 
the Commandments, but a village humourist had erased 
all the ' nots ' in the Decalogue ; and it cannot be 
denied that the parishioners conscientiously did their 
utmost to fulfil the letter of the law thus altered. 

The congregation on Sundays consisted chiefly of 
young people. The youths who attended divine worship 
occupied the hour of worship by wafting kisses to the 
girls, making faces at the children, and scratching ships 
on the paint of the pews. Indeed, the religious ser- 
vices performed alternately at the two churches might 
have been discontinued, without discomposure to any, 
had not traditional usage consecrated them to the 
meeting of young couples. The ' dearly beloveds ' met 
in the Lord's house every Lord's day to acknowledge 
their ' erring and straying like lost sheep ' and make 
appointments for erring and straying again. 

The altar was a deal table, much wormeaten, with 
a box beneath it. The altar possessed no cover save 
the red cotton pocket-handkerchief of i he curate cast 
occasionally across it. The box contained the battered 
Communion plate, an ironmoulded surplice with high 
collar, a register-book, the pages glued together with 
damp, and a brush and pan. 

The Communion rails had rotted at the bottom ; 
and when there was a Communion the clerk had to 
caution the kneelers not to lean against the balustrade, 
lest they should be precipitated upon the sanctuary floor. 



BEFOEE THE ALTAR. 317 

No such controversy as that which has of late years 
agitated the Church of England relative to the position 
of the celebrant could have affected Virley, for the floor 
in the midst, before the altar, had been eaten through 
by rats, emerging from an old grave, and exposed 
below gnawed and mouldy bones a foot beneath the 
boards. 

A marriage without three ' askings ' was a novelty 
in Salcott and Virley sufficient to excite interest in the 
place ; and when that marriage was to take place be- 
tween one so well known and dreaded as Elijah Eebow 
and a girl hardly ever seen, but of whom much was 
spoken, it may well be supposed that Virley Church 
was crowded with sightseers. The gallery was full to 
bursting. Sailor-boys in the front amused themselves 
with dropping broken bits of tobacco-pipe on the heads 
below, and giggling at the impotent rage ot' those they 
hit. 

There was a sweep in Salcott, who tenanted a totter- 
ing cottage, devoid of furniture. The one room was 
heaped with straw, and into this the sweep crept at 
night for his slumbers. This man now appeared at the 
sacred door. 

' Look out, blackie ! ' shouted those near ; ' we are 
not going to be smutted by you.' 

' Then make way for your superiors.' 

' Superiors ! ' sneered a matron near. 

' Well, I am your superior,' said the sweep, ' for my 
proper place is poking out at the top of a chimney, and 
yours is poking into the fire at the bottom. Make way. 
I have a right to see as well as the best of you.' 

The crowd contracted on either side in anxiety for 



318 MEHALAH. 

their clothes, and the sweep worked his way to the 
fore. 

' I'll have the best place of you all,' he said, as the 
gods in the gallery received him with ironical cries of 
' Sweep ! sweep ! ' 

He charged into the chancel, and sent his black 
legs over the Communion rails. 

At some remote period the chancel of Virley had 
fallen, and had been rebuilt, with timber and bricks on 
the old walls left to the height of two feet above the 
floor. As the old walls were four feet thick, and the 
new walls only the thickness of one brick, the chancel 
was provided with a low seat all round it, like the 
cancellce of an ancient basilica. The sweep, with a 
keen eye peering through his soot, had detected this 
seat and seen that it was unappropriated. He was over 
the altar with a second jump, and had seated himself 
behind it, facing west, in the post of dignity occupied 
in the Primitive Church by the bishop, with his legs 
under the table, and his elbows on it, commanding the 
best view attainable of everything that went on, or that 
would go on, in the church. 

His example was followed at once. A rush of boys 
and men was made for the chancel ; the railings fell 
before them, and they seized and appropriated the 
whole of the low seat that surrounded the sanctuary. 

' I've the best place now, you lubbers,' said the 
sweep. ' I shall have them full in face, and see the 
blushes of the bride.' 

' They are a-coming ! they are a- coming ! ' was 
repeated through the church. A boy peering out of 
the window that lighted the gallery had seen the 



BEFOKE THE ALTAR. 319 

approach of the procession from Eed Hall over the 
wooden bridge. 

In came the Eeverend Mr. Eabbit, very hot and 
sneezy — he laboured under hay fever all the blooming 
time of the year. He got to the altar. The clerk 
dived into the box and rose to the surface with the 
register-book and the surplice. 

' Where is the ink ? ' 

' Here is a pen,' said the clerk, producing one with 
nibs parted like the legs of the Colossus of Khodes. 

' But we shall want ink.' 

' There is a bottle somewhere in the box,' said the 
clerk. 

'Never mind if there ain't,' observed one of the 
elders seated by the table ; ' there is the sweep here 
handy, and you have only to mix a bit of his smut with 
the tears of the bride,' 

' Shut that ugly trap of yours,' said the chimney- 
cleaner. 

' It may be ugly,' retorted the humourist, ' but it is 
clean.' 

' Here they are ! ' from the gallery. 

' Make way ! ' shouted ]\'Irs. De Witt, battering 
about her with her umbrella. ' How are people to get 
married if you stuff up the door, as though caulking a 
leak ? ' 

She drove her way in. 

' Now, then,' said she, ' come on, Mistress Sharland. 
Dear soul alive ! how unmannerly these Virley people 
are ! They want some of us from Mersea to come and 
teach them manners. Now, then, young Spat ! ' she 
shouted to a great boy in a fishing guernsey, ' do you 



320 MEHALAH. 

want your head combiDg ? Do you see what you have 
done to my best silk gown ? What do you mean 
coming to a house of worship in mud-splashers ? ^ Are 
you come here after winkles ? ' 

' I ain't got my splashers on,' said the boy. 

' Then you have feet as big and as dirty as paddles. 
You have trodden on my best silk and took it out at 
the gathers.' Then, turning and looking through the 
door behind her, she waved her umbrella with a proud 
flourish. ' Come on, hearties ! I've cleared the way.' 

She put her shoulder to the crowd and wedged her 
way further ahead. ' Ah ! ' she said, ' here are a lot of 
sniggering girls. If all was known what ought to be 
known some of you ought to be getting married to-day. 
Leave off your laughing up there ! ' gesticulating to- 
wards the boys in the loft. ' Don't you know yet how 
to behave in a place of worship ? I have a great mind 
to draw my Pandora up at Virley hard and settle here 
and teach you.' 

Mehalah came in, pale, with sunken eyes, that 
burned with feverish brightness. A hectic flush dyed 
her cheeks. Her lips were set and did not tremble. 

After having given her promise, under conditions, 
to Eebow she had neither slept nor eaten. She had 
abandoned her habit of retiring to the shore to sit and 
brood, and maintained instead incessant activity. When 
she had done what was necessary for others she made 
work for herself. 

Mrs. Sharland had forgotten her ague and left her 
bed in the excitement and pleasure of her daughter's 

' Wooden paddles, worn by those who go out < winkling ' in the 
mud, to prevent their sinking. 



BEFORE THE ALTAR. 321 

submission. She had attempted several times to speak 
±0 Mehalah of her approaching marriage, but had -not 
been able to wring a word out of her. From the 
moment Grlory gave her consent to Eebow she said not 
another syllable on the subject to him or to anyone. 
She became more taciturn and retiring, if possible, 
than before. Abraham Dowsing had saluted her and 
attempted a rough congratulation. She had turned 
her back and walked away. 

Elijah's conduct was the reverse of Grlory's. His 
gloom was gone, and had made way for boisterous and 
demonstrative joy. His pride was roused, and he in- 
sisted on the marriage preparations being made on a 
liberal scale. He threw a purse into Mrs. Sharland's 
lap, and bade her spend it how she liked on Mehalah's 
outfit and her own. The old woman had been supremely 
happy in arranging everything, her happiness only 
dashed by the unsympathetic conduct of one chief 
performer in the ceremony, her daughter, whom she 
could not interest in any point connected with it. 

There had been a little struggle that morning. 
Mehalah had drawn on her blue ' Gloriana ' jersey as 
usual, and Mrs. Sharland had insisted on its coming oif. 
The girl had submitted after a slight resistance, and 
had allowed herself passively to be arrayed as her 
mother chose. 

Elijah was dressed in a blue coat, with brass buttons, 
and knee-breeches. No one had seen him so spruce 
before. 

' I say, dame,' whispered Farmer Groppin to his 
wife, ' the master of Eed Hall is turning over a new 
leaf to-day.' 

Y 



322 MEHALAH. 

' Maybe,' she answered, ' but I doubt it will be a 
blank one. Look at the girl. It won't be a gay ^ for 
him.' 

'Move on!' said Mrs. De Witt. Til keep the 
road.' 

Mrs. De Witt had come at Eebow's special request. 
She had put on for the occasion her silk dress, in which; 
she had gone from home and been married. Her figure 
had altered considerably through age and maternity, 
and the dress was now not a little too tight for her. 
Her hooking together had been a labour of difficulty^ 
performed by Mrs. Sharland at Eed Hall ; it had been 
beyond her own unassisted powers, in the Pandora^ 
when she drew on the ancient dress. 

' Dear Sackalive ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt when 
she extracted the garment from the lavender in which 
it had lain, like a corpse in balm, for some five-and- 
twenty years, ' I was a fool when I last put you on ; 
and I won't fit myself out in you again for the same 
purpose, unless I am driven to it by desperate circum- 
stances.' 

Unable to make the body meet, she had thrown a 
smart red coat over it ; and having engaged a boy to row 
her to Eed Hall, sat in the stern, with her skirt pinned 
over her head, as though the upper part of her person 
were enveloped in a camera lucida, in which she was 
viewing in miniature the movements of the outer world. 
On reaching Eed Hall she had thrown off the scarlet, 
and presented her back pleadingly to Mrs. Sharland. 

' I ought not to have done it, but I did,' said she- 
in a tone of confidence. ' I mean I oughtn't to have 
* Essex for ' Picture.' 



BEFORE THE ALTAR. 323 

put this gown on, last time I wore it,' she explained 
when Mrs. Sharland inquired her meaning. ' It was 
thus it came about : I was intimate with the sister of 
Moses De Witt, and one Mersea fair I went over to the 
merrymakings, and she inwited me to take a mouthful 
with her and her brother on board the Pandora, I 
went, and I liked the looks of the wessel, and of Moses, 
so I said to him, " You seem wary comfortable here^ 
and I think I could make myself comfortable here too. 
So, if you are noways unobjectionable, I think I will 
stay." And I did. I put on my silk gown, and was 
married to Moses, in spite of all my parents said, and 
I turned th€^ sister of De Witt out and took her place.' 

Mrs. De Witt felt great restraint in the silk gown. 
Her arms were like wings growing out of her shoulder- 
blades. She was not altogether satisfied that the hooks 
would hold, and therefore carried to church with her 
the military coat, over her arm. She wore her hair 
elaborately frizzled. She had done it with the stove 
poker, and had worn it for some days in curl-papers. 
Over this was a broad white chip hat, tied under her 
chin with skyblue ribands, and she had inserted a sprig^ 
of forget-me-nots inside the frizzle of hair over her 
forehead. ' Bless my soul,' she said to herself, ' the 
boys will go stark staring mad of love at the sight of 
me. I look like a pretty miss of fifteen — I do, by 
Cock ! ' 

Mrs. De Witt succeeded in bringing her party 
before the altar, at which still sat the sweep, deaf to 
the feeble expostulations of the curate, which he had 
listened to with one eye closed and his red tongue 
hanging out of the corner of his mouth. 

Y 2 



324 MEHALAH. 

Mr. Rabbit was obliged to content himself with a 
protest, and vest himself hastily for the function. 

' Look here,' said Mrs. De Witt, who took on her- 
self the office of master of the ceremonies : ' I am not 
going to be trodden on and crumpled. Stand back, 
good people; stand back, you parcel of unmannerly 
cubs ! Let me get where I can keep the boys in order 
and see that everything gives satisfaction. I have 
been married ; I ought to know all the ways and work- 
ings of it, and I do.' 

She thrust her way to the pulpit, ascended the 
stair, and installed herself therein. 

' Oh, my eye ! ' whispered the boys in the gallery. 
' The old lady is busted all down her back ! ' 

'What is that?' asked Mrs. De Witt in dismay. 
She put her hands behind her. The observation of the 
boys was just. Her efforts to clear a way had been 
attended with ruin to the fastenings of her dress, and 
had brought back her arms to their normal position at 
the expense of hooks-and-eyes. 

' It can't be helped,' said Mrs. De Witt, ' so here 
goes ! ' And she drew on her military coat to hide the 
wreck. 

'Now, then, parson, cast off! Elijah, you stand on 
the right, and Glory on the left.' 

The curate sneezed violently and rubbed his nose, 
and then his inflamed eyes. The dust of the flowering 
grass got even into that mouldy church, rank with 
grave odours and rotting timber. He began with the 
Exhortation. Mrs, De Witt followed each sentence 
with attention and appropriate gesture. 

' " Is not to be enterprised nor taken in hand un- 



BEFOKE THE ALTAR. 32d 

advisedly, lightly, or wantonly," ' she repeated, with 
solemn face and in an awestruck whisper ; then, poking 
the boys in the gallery with her umbrella, ' Just you 
listen to that, you cubs ! ' Then she nodded and 
gesticulated at the firstly, secondly, and thirdly of the 
address to those whom she thought needed impressing 
with the solemn words. Elijah answered loudly to the 
questions asked him whether he would have the girl at 
his side to be his wedded wife. Her answer was faint 
and reluctantly given. 

^ " Who giveth this woman to be married to this 
man ? " ' 

There was a pause. 

' Speak up. Mistress Sharland, speak up ! ' said Mrs. 
De Witt in a tone of authority. ' Or, if you don't 
speak, curtsey.' 

The curate was affected with a violent sneezing fit. 
When he recovered he went on. 

Kebow clasped Mehalah's hand firmly, and firmly 
repeated the sentences after the priest. 

' " I, Elijah, take thee " ' began the curate ; 

then asked, in a whisper, ' What is the bride's name ? ^ 

' Mehalah,' answered the mother. 

' " I, Elijah, take thee, Mehalah, to my wedded 
wife," ' began the curate. 

' " I, Elijah, take thee, Grlory, to ray wedded wife," ^ 
repeated Kebow. 

* That is not the name,' protested Mr. Eabbit. 

' I marry Glory, and no one else ; I take her by 
that name and by none other,' said Eebow. ' Gro on.' 

' Say the words after me,' the curate whispered ta 
Mehalah, who began to tremble. She obeyed, but 



326 MEHALAH. 

stopped at the promise ' to love, cherish, and to obey.' 
The curate repeated it again. 

« " To obey," ' said Mehalah. 

Mr. Eabbit looked uncertain how to act. 

' " To love, cherish, and obey," ' he suggested 
faintly. 

' Gro on,' ordered Kebow. ' Let her obey now ; the 
rest will come in due season.' 

The priest nervously submitted. 

' Now for the ring,' said the clerk, * Put it on the 
book.' 

Kebow was taken by surprise. 'By heaven!' he 
said, ' I forgot all about that.' 

' You must have something to use for the purpose,' 
said the curate. ' Have you no ring of your own ? ' 

' No. Am I like to have ? ' 

' Then let her mother lend her her own marriage- 
ring.' 

' She shall not,' said Kebow angrily. ' No, no ! 
Grlory's marriage with me is not a second-hand affair, 
and like that of such fools as she," pointing to Mrs. 
Sharland. ' No, we shall use a ring such as has never 
been used before, because our union is unlike all other 
unions. Will this do ? ' He drew the link of an iron 
chain from his pocket. 

' This is a link broke off my brother's fetters. I 
picked it up on the sea-wall this morning. Will it 
do?' 

' It must do for want of a better,' said the curate. 

Elijah threw it on the^ book ; then placed it on 
Mehalah's finger, with a subdued laugh. ' Our bond, 
Glory,' he said, in a low tone, ' is not of gold, but of 



327 
CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE VIAL OF WRATH. 

Elijah Rebow, in the pride and ostentation of his heart, 
had invited the curate, the clerk, Mrs. De Witt, Farmer 
Goppin, Reuben Grrout, innkeeper of the 'Rising Sun,' 
and several others to eat and drink with him and his 
bride at Red Hall after the ceremony. The marriage 
had taken place in the afternoon. The law in Marsh- 
land was flexible as osier — it must bend to man's con- 
venience, not man submit to law. 

Mrs. De Witt took the management of everything 
out of the hands of the feeble Mrs. Sharland. ' You're 
not up to the job,' she said. ' It wants some one with 
eyes in her elbows and as many legs as a crab.' 

Mrs. De Witt was everywhere, in the kitchen, the 
hall, the oak parlour. She had pinned up her silk dress 
about her, so that it might take no harm. 

'There,' said she to the assembled guests, as she 
brought in a pail full of shrimps and set it on the table. 
' Stay your appetites on them, and imitate the manners 
of high society, which always begins with fish and works 
up to solids. I brought them myself as my contribu- 
tion to the feast. Do you, Elijah, hand a wet round : 
if the others be like me they are dry. Marriage, as I 
.always found it, is a dry job.' 

' Where is Griory ? ' asked Elijah. 

' Oh, yes ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt. ' That is like 
you, Elijah, shouting, "Where is Glory?" Do you 
think she is to come here toozling about among the 



328 MEHALAH. 

wittles in her best gown ? She is upstairs getting her 
dress changed.' 

He was pacified. 

Mrs. Sharland passed here and there, eager to be 
supposed useful, actually getting across Mrs. De Witt's 
path and interfering with her proceedings. 

'I cant stand this,' said the fishwife. 'You go- 
upstairs and see after Mehalah. I am going to dish up 
the pudding.' 

' I will take the gravy in the sauceboat,' said Mrs.. 
Sharland. 

' Don't get your shivers on at the time, then, and 
send the grease over everyone,' advised Mrs. De Witt. 

' There now, Elijah ! ' exclaimed she, full of pride, 
when the table was spread. ' Do look at them dump- 
lings. They are round, plump, and beautiful as cherubs' 
heads on monuments.' 

' Where is Glory ? ' asked Rebow. 

' Run up,' said Mrs. De Witt to the mother, ' tell 
the girl we are waiting for her. Bid her come at once 
before the gravy clots.' 

An Essex dinner begins with dumplings soused iu: 
gravy. When these have been demolished the flesh 
follows. 

The guests sat, with black-handled knives and forks 
in hand, mouths and noses projected, and eyes riveted 
on the steaming puddings, ready to cut into them the 
moment the signal was given. 

Mrs. Sharland was slow of foot. Every step was 
taken leisurely up the stairs and along the passage. 

' I'm afeared,' said Farmer Goppin, ' the outer edge 



THE VIAL OF WEATH. 329 

of the pudding, about an inch deep all round, is getting 
the chili; 

'And there is a scum of fat forming on the gravy, 
said Eeuben Grrout, 'just like cat-ice on my duck-pond ,- 
or like mardlins ^ in spring on a ditch. Had not I 
better set the gravy against the fire till the good lady 
comes down ? ' 

' Shefis'coming,' said Eebow ; and then he drummed 
on the table with his knife. Mrs. Sharland leisurely 
returned. She was alone. 

' Well ? ' from Eebow. 

' Mehalah is not in her room.' 

' Curse it ! ' said Elijah. ' Where is she, then ? GrO' 
and fetch her.' 

' I do not know where she is.' 

' She will be here directly,' said Eebow, controlling 
himself. ' You may fall to, neighbours.' 

At the word every fork was plunged into the pud- 
dings, and every knife driven into their hearts. Each 
sought who could appropriate to himself the largest 
block of pudding. Then there ensued a struggle for 
the gravy, and great impatience was manifested by those 
who had to wait till others had well drenched their 
hunches of dough in the greasy liquor. 

Eebow leaned back in his chair, holding knife and 
fork erect on the table. * Why is she not here ? She 
ought to be here.' 

' Take some dumpling, Elijah ?' 

' I won't eat till my Grlory comes.' 

' Lord preserve you ! ' exclaimed Mrs. De Witt, 
slapping his back. ' Gro on and eat. You don't under- 

^ ' Mardlins ' are duckweed. 



•330 MEHALAH. 

stand girls, as you do calves, that is a fact. Why, a 
girl on her marriage-day is shamefaced, and does not 
like to be seen. In high society they hide their heads 
in their wails all day. That is what the wails are for. 
I was like that. You may look at me, but it is true 
as that every oyster wears a beard. When I was married 
to Moses I was that kittle, coy young bird I would have 
dived and hid among the barnacles on the keel of the 
wessel, had I been able to keep under water like a 
duck.' 

' Where is she ? ' 

' How do I know ? Never fear ; she is somewhere 
— gone out to get a little fresh air. It was hot and 
stank in that hold of an old church. What with the 
live corpses above in the pews and the dead ones below 
deck, it gave me a headache, and you may be sure 
Mehalah was overcome. I saw she did not look well. 
The pleasure, I suppose, has been too much for her. A 
wery little tipple of that topples some folks over.' 

• You think so ? ' 

' I am sure of it. Have I not been a bride myself? 
I know about those sort of things by actual experience. 
I've gone through the operation myself. It is wery 
like being had up before the magistrate and convicted 
for life.' 

Elijah was partly satisfied, and he began to eat ; 
but his eyes turned restlessly at intervals to the door. 

' Don't you put yourself out,' murmured Mrs. De 
Witt as she leaned over his shoulder and emptied his 
^lass of spirits. ' Grirls are much like scallops. If you 
want to have them tender and melting in your mouth, 
yon must treat them with caution and patience. You 



THE VIAL OF WRATH. 331 

take the scallops and put them first in lukewarm water, 
working up into a gentle simmer, and at last, but not 
under two hours, you toast them, and pepper and butter 
them, and then they are scalding and delicious. But 
if you go too fast to work with them, they turn to 
leather, and will draw the teeth out of your gums if you 
bite into them. Grirls must be treated just similarly, 
or you spoil them. You wouldn't think it, looking at 
me, but my Moses, with all his faults, knew how to deal 
with me, and he got me that soft and yielding that he 
could squeeze me through his fingers like Mersea mud. 
True as gospel. Fill your glass, Elijah ; it don't look 
hospitable to allow it to stand empty.' 

When the lady in her red coat entered, holding 
triumphantly above her head a leg of boiled mutton, 
there was a general burst of delight. 

' A hunter's dinner ! ' said Groppin. 

' But where is the bride ? ' asked Grout. ' I want 
to drink health and a long family to her.' 

' Griory ought to be here. Gro up. Mistress Sharland, 
and bring her down. She has returned by this time,' 
said Rebow. 

' I don't think she has,' said the old woman. 

' I am sure of it ; go and look.' 

The widow revisited the bedroom. 

When she returned she said, ' No, Elijah ; Mehalah 
has not come back. She has taken off her bridal dress 
and laid it on the bed, and has put on her blue jersey, 
and I see she has taken with her a red cap.' 

' She tore that to pieces.' 

' She has been knitting a new cap this week.' said 
Mrs. Sharland. 



332 MEHALAH. 

' I like that ! She has done it to please me,' said 
Elijah, his eye twinkling. ' I loved her in that ; and I 
hate to see her as she was tricked out to-day.' 

^ We are waiting for you to carve,' said Goppin. 
' Don't forget we like fat,' said Grrout. 
' I say,' murmured Jabez Bunting, a storekeeper, 
' look at the gravy, how it oozes out ; I'm fit to jump at 
the sight. Don't think we eat like ladies of quality, 
Eebow. Give us good large helpings, and the redder 
and rawer the better.' 

' Some one,' said Elijah, ' tell Abraham Dowsing to 
go on the sea-wall and look out for Glory, and bring 
her home.' 

' There's the boy what rowed me here,' said Mrs. 
De Witt. ' He is sitting outside on the step, and I'm 
throwing him the bits of skin and fat and gristle. I'll 
send him.' 

' Keally,' observed the Kev. Mr. Eabbit, after a fit 
of sneezing, ' the circumstance reminds the student of 
Holy Writ somewhat of Queen Vashti.' 

' What do you mean ? ' asked Elijah abruptly. 
' No offence, no offence meant,' gasped the curate, 
waxing very red ; ' I only thought your good lady was 
to-day like Queen Vashti.' 

' Glory is like nobody,' said Eebow, with some pride. 
' There never was, there never can be, another Glory. 
I don't care who or what your Vashti was — Was she 
beautiful ? ' shortly interrupting himself. 

' Did she bring property into the family ! ' asked Mrs, 
De Witt, leaning over Elijah's shoulder and emptying his 
tumbler. ' Elijah ! you must replenish. Look hospit- 
able, and keep the liquor flowing.' 



THE VIAL OF WEATH. 333 

' I really don't know,' said Mr. Eabbit. 

' Then what do you mean by saying she was like 
my Grlory ? ' asked Eebow angrily. 

' I — I only suggested that there was a faint simi- 
larity in the circumstances, you know. King Ahasuerus 
made a great feast — as you have done.' 

' Was there boiled mutton at it ? ' asked Grrout. 

' I really cannot say. It is not recorded.' 

' Give me boiled mutton, a little underdone, and I 
ask for nothing more,' said Goppin. 

' And,' went on the curate, ' he naturally wished his 
wife to be present. He wanted her to come down to 
be seen of his lords and princes.' 

'Go on ! Damn your sneezing. Put it off till 
you're preaching, and then no one will care,' said 
Eebow. 

' But,' pursued the parson, when he had wiped his 
nose and eyes, and recovered breath after the fit, 
' Queen Vashti refused to come down.' 

' Well, what did the husband say to that ? ' asked 
Elijah. 

' If he was a sensible man,' said Goppin, ' he cut 
into the mutton, and didn't bother about she.' 

' You don't know, neighbour, that it was a leg of 
mutton,' said Grout. ' It might have been sirloin.' 

' Sirloin ! ' exclaimed Bunting ; ' I wouldn't go ten 
yards to taste sirloin. There's not enough on the bone, 
except fat.' 

' Go on,' said Elijah to the curate. ' How did the 
man — king, was he — take it ? ' 

' He dismissed Vashti, and took Esther to be his 
queen. But then,' put in the frightened curate, thinking 



33-1 MEHALAH. 

he had suggested a startling precedent, ' Ahasuerus was 
not a Christian, and knew no better.' 

' Do you think,' laughed Eebow, ' that I would cast 
off my Griory for any other woman that ever was born ? 
No, I would not. Let her do what she likes. She 
don't care to associate with such as you. She holds 
herself above you. And she's right. She is one the 
like of whom does not exist. She has a soul stronger 
and more man-like than anyone of you. If she don't 
choose to come and guzzle here along of you, she's 
right. I like her for it.' 

He flung himself back in his chair and drained his 
full glass. 

' I ask you, Groppin ! Did you ever see the equal 
of my Glory ? ' 

' I can't say as ever I did, Eebow,' answered the 
farmer. ' I took the liberty to chuck her under the 
chin, and she up with the pitchfork out of my hand, 
and had like to have sent me to kingdom come, had not 
my good woman been nigh to hand, and run to the 
rescue. I hope you'll find her more placable when you 
come to ask a kiss.' 

Elijah rubbed his hands, and laughed boisterously. 

' Ha ! ' shouted he, ' that is my Griory ! I tell 
you, Goppin, she'd have drove the prongs of the 
fork into your flesh as I dig this into the meat,' and 
he stabbed at the joint fiercely with his carving 
fork. 

' I dare say,' grumbled the farmer, wincing and rub- 
bing his leg. ' I'd for my part rather have a more 
peacable mate ; but there's no choosing fat beasts for 
others, as the saying goes.' 



THE VIAL OF WRATH. 335^ 

' What do you think of her ? ' asked Rebow, turning 
round with exultation on Bunting and Grrout. 

' She came to my old woman,' said the latter, ' and 
asked her to take her in and give her work. She wanted 
to leave you.' 

' She did,' exclaimed Eebow. ' And what did your 
old woman say to that ? ' 

' She said she durstn't do it. She durstn't do it.' 

' She durstn't do it ! ' echoed Elijah with a great 
laugh. ' That was fine. She durstn't do it ! ' 

' No,' pursued Grrout, ' without your leave.' 

' And you wouldn't have dared to do it neither,' 
turning to Bunting, who shook his head. 

' No, you would not dare. I'd like to see the man 
or woman in Salcott or Virley as would dare. I reckon 
there is none that knows me would make the venture. 
By G-od ! ' he burst forth. ' Where is the girl ? I will 
have her here ; and I'm cursed if you shall not all 
stand on your legs, and drink to her health and happi- 
ness as the most splendid woman as ever was or shall 
be.' 

' Abraham Dowsing is at the door,' said Mrs. Shar- 
land. 

' Come in, and say what you have to say before us 
all,' called Elijah. ' If it be anything about my Glory, 
say it out.' 

' She is gone off in her boat,' said the old man ; ' I 
saw her.' 

' Why did you not stop her then ? ' asked Mrs. De 
W^itt. 

' I stop her ! ' repeated Abraham. ' She is my 
mistress, and I a servant,' 



336 MEHALAH. 

' That is right,' said Elijah, ' if she had taken a 
whip and lashed your back till it was raw, you couldn't 
stop her. Where is she gone to ? ' 

Abraham drew up his shoulders. ' That's her con- 
cern. It's no odds to me. But I tell ye what, Master. 
Here are you feasting here, and we han't had nothing- 
extra with our wittles. I ask that we may eat and 
drink prosperity to you both, to her and you.' 

' You shall,' said Elijah. 

* Stay,' put in Mrs. De Witt. ' What do you mean, 
you old barnacle, you ? Let your superiors eat their 
fill first, and then you and the other men shall have 
what's over. That's fair. I shall manage for you. 
G-o, Abraham.' 

The supper drew to a close. Elijah drank a great 
deal. He was fretted, though he tried not to show it, 
by the absence of Grlory. As more spirits were drunk 
and pipes were lighted in the hall, whilst the men of 
the farm fed in the kitchen, several of those present 
repeated their regret that she in whose honour they 
were assembled, the new mistress of the house in which 
they had met, had not deigned to show herself, and 
receive their good wishes and congratulations. 

Eebow gulped down the contents of glass after 
glass. 

Mrs. De Witt had seated herself with the rest, and 
was doing her best to make up for lost time, with the 
bottle. 

^ Elijah ! ' said she, ' one or other must establish 
the mastery, either you or Glory. I did think she were 
a bit shy at first to come among us ; but now the night 
is coming on and still she is away. I don't deny that 



THE VIAL OF WRATH. 337 

this ain't civil. But then, she has lived all her life on 
the Kay, and can't know the fashions of high society ; 
and again, poor thing, it's her first experience of matri- 
mony. She will do better next time. Let us drink ! ' 
said she, holding up her brimming glass, ' to her pro- 
fiting speedily by her experience, and next time we 
have all of us the honour of attending at her wedding, 
may she do us the favour to respond.' 

' Amen ! ' said the clerk, who was present. 

' Go out some one, and see if she is coming,' said 
Rebow, his dark face burning with anger and drink* 
He could not, however, wait till the messenger returned, 
but left his guests, and went forth himself. He mounted 
the sea-wall, and turned his eyes down the creek ; 
nothing was visible. He stood there, bareheaded, 
cursing, for a quarter of an hour, and then went back 
with knitted brows. 

He found his guests preparing to depart. 

' Gro along ! ' he said ; ' I want no congratulations ; 
say nothing. Grlory and I have a marriage different 
from other folks, as she and I are not like other folks. 
We must fight it out between us.' 

He waved his guests away, with a rude impatient 
gesture. 

Mrs. De Witt roused her boat-boy by kicking him 
off the steps — he had gone to sleep there — and then 
tumbling on top of him. She staggered up, tucked 
the lad under her arm, and marched off. 

' If I meet Grlory by the way, I'll send her home, 
I'll be sure and mind it,' said she to Eebow as she 
departed. 

He went in. He ordered Mrs. Sharland to go to 

z 



338 MEHALAH. 

her bed. The charwoman, had in for the day, cleared 
the table of all the glasses, save that of Elijah, and 
retired. He was left alone. He went to the back 
door and fastened it. Grlory should not slink home 
that way without facing him. He seated himself in 
his armchair, and refilled his tumbler with spirits 
and water. He was very angry. She had deliberately 
insulted him before his guests, defied him in the face 
of the principal people of the parish. It would be 
spoken of, and he would be laughed at throughout the 
neighbourhood. 

The black veins in his brow puffed out. A half- 
drunken, half-revengeful fire smouldered in his deep-set 
eyes. There was no lamp or candle burning in the 
room, but the twilight of midsummer filled it with a 
grey illumination. 

He walked to the door, opened it, and looked out. 
The gulls were crying over the marsh, and the cattle 
were browsing in it. No Mehalah was to be seen. 

' On my wedding day ! ' he muttered, and he re- 
sumed his seat. ' On that for which I have worked, to 
which I have looked, for which I have thought and 
schemed, she flies in my face, she scorns me, she shows 
everyone that she hates me ! ' 

His pipe was out, he threw it impatiently away. 

' She does not know me, or she would not dare to 
do it. There is no one in all the neighbourhood dare 
defy me but she. Everyone fears me but she, for every- 
one knows me but she. Know me she must, know me 
she shall. There will be no wringing love out of her 
till she bends under me and fears me. She will never 
fear me till she knows all. She shall know that ; by 



THE VIAL OF WKATH. 339 

God ! ' he cried aloud, ' I will tell her that which shall 
make her shrink and fall, and whine at my feet ; and 
then I shall take her up, and drag her to my heart, 
and say, " Ah, ha ! Glory ! think what a man you have 
gotten to-day, a man whom none can withstand. There 
is none like me, there is none will dare what I will 
dare. You and I, I and you, are alone in the world. 
One must submit or there is no peace. You must learn 
to cower beneath me, or we shall fight for ever." ' 

He went out again upon the sea-wall, but saw no- 
thing, and came back more angry. As he stood on his 
steps he heard from the path to Salcott a burst of merri- 
ment. He swore an ugly oath. Those men, rolling 
home, were ridiculing him, keeping his marriage feast 
without the presence of his bride ! 

He flung himself again into his chair, and rocked 
himself in it. He could not sit there, tortured with 
anger and love, in the gloaming, doing nothing. He 
emptied the bottle, there was not a drop more in it, 
and he cast it in the hearth. Then he fetched down 
his old musket mounted in brass, and getting the vitriol 
bottle from the window, began to rub and polish the 
metal. 

He wearied of that in the end. His mind could 
not be drawn off Glory, and wondering where she was, 
and why she had thus gone away. 

' I love her,' he muttered, as he replaced his gun on 
the nails above the chimney-piece, ' but yet I hate her. 
My very heart is like Grimshoe with love and hate 
warring together, and neither gets the mastery. I 
could clasp her to my breast, but I could tear out her 
heart with my nails, because it will not love me.' He 

z 2 



340 MEHALAH. 

rocked himself Id his seat savagely, and his breatb 
came fast : ' We must work the riddle out between us. 
We can get no help, no light from any others ; she and 
I, and I and she, are each other's best friends and worst 
foes.' 

A firm hand was on the door, it was thrown open, 
and in the grey light stood Mehalah. 

' Where have you been ? ' asked Elijah, hardly able 
to speak, so agitated with fury and disappointed love 
was he. 

' I have been,' she said composedly, ' on the Ray^ 
sitting there and dreaming of the past.' 

' Of the past ! ' shouted Rebow. ' You have been 
dreaming of Greorge ? ' 

' Yes, I have.' 

' I thought it, I knew you were,' he yelled. ' Come 
here, my wife.' 

' I am not your wife. I never will be your wife, 
except in name. I told you so. I can not, and I will 
not love you. I can not, and I will not, be aught to 
you but a housekeeper, a servant. I have taken your 
name to save mine, that is all.' 

' That is all because you love Greorge De Witt.' 

* Greorge De Witt is dead.' 

' I don't care whether he be dead or not, you think 
that he is your double. I tell you, as I have told you 
before, he is not. I am.' 

* I will not listen to more of this,' she said in a hard 
tone. ' Let me pass, let me go to my room.' 

' I will not let you pass,' he swore ; the breath came 
through his nostrils like the snorting of a frightened 
horse ; ' I will not. Hear me, Grlory, my own GloryJ 



THE VIAL OF AVRATH. 341 

hear me you shall.' He grasped her arms between the 
elbow and shoulder with his iron hands, and shook her 
savagely. 

' Listen to me, G-lory, you must and shall. You do 
not love me, Glory, because you do not fear me. The 
■dog whom I beat till it howls with tortm*e creeps up to 
jne and licks my hand. A woman will never love her 
equal, but she will worship her superior. You have 
shown me to-day that you think yourself on a level 
with me. You have donned again your cap of liberty,' 
he raised one hand to her head, plucked off the cap 
and cast it on the floor, ' thinking that now you have 
taken me before the world, you have broken my power 
•over you. You do not know me, Grlory ! you do not 
know me. Listen to me ! ' Through the twilight she 
could see his fierce eyes flaring at her, her hair was 
disturbed by the hot blasts of his labouring lungs. His 
fingers that held her twitched convulsively as he spoke. 

' Listen to me, Grlory ! and know me and respect 
me. I am no more to be escaped from than fate. I 
am mighty over you as a Providence. You may writhe 
and circumvent, but I meet you at every turn, and 
tread you down whenever you think to elude me. 
Listen to me. Glory ! ' He paused, and drew a long 
breath ; ' Listen, I say, to me. Glory I how did you 
lose your money that night that Abraham Dowsing sold 
your sheep ? I feel you stirring and starting in my 
hands. Yes, I took it. You went out with George De 
Witt, and left the purse on the table. When your 
mother left the room, I took the money. You may 
have it back now when you like, now that I have you. 
I took it — you see why. To have you in my power.' 



842 MEHALAH. 

' Coward and thief!' gasped Mehalab. 

' Ah ! call me names if you like ; you do not know 
me yet, and how impossible it is to resist me. You 
thought when you had got the money again, from 
Greorge, that you had escaped me.' 

'Stay!' exclaimed Mehalah. 'It was you,' with 
compressed scorn, ' that fired on Greorge and me in the 
marsh.' 

' I fired at him, not at you ; and had you not 
changed the place of the Ian thorn in the boat, I should 
have shot him.' 

The girl shuddered in his hands. 

' I feel you,' he said with savage exultation. ' You 
are beginning to know me now, and to tremble. 
When you know all, you will kneel to me as to 
your Grod, as almighty over your destiny, irresistible, 
able to crush and kill whom I will, and to conquer 
where I will. George De Witt stood in my way to 
you.' 

Mehalah's heart leaped and then stood still. Her 
pulse ceased to beat. She seemed to be hanging in 
space, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, hearing only,^ 
and only the words of the man before her. 

' He left ^iersea City one night. He left it in my 
boat with qie.' 

^ He paused, rejoicing in her horror at this revelation 
of himself to her. 

' Have you not a question to ask me, " Where he 
now is ? What I know of him ? " ' 

No — she could not speak, she could not even 
breathe. 

' Do you remember when you came on Michaelmas 



THE VIAL OF WRATH. 343 

Day to pay me my rent, how you heard and saw my 
mad brother in the cell there below ? ' 

He paused again, and then chuckled. ' The poor 
wretch died and I buried him there. I brought George 
here, I made him drunk, and chained him in my 
brother's place, and he went mad with his captivity in 
darkness and cold and nakedness.' 

The blood spouted from her heart through every 
artery. She tried to cry but could not, she strove to 
escape his hands, she was unable. She panted, and her 
eyes stood open, fixed as those of a corpse, staring before 
her. 

' You lost your sheep,' he went on, with exultation. 
' I took them. I took them to rob you of every chance 
of paying me, and keeping clear of me.' 

She did not hear him. She cared nothing about 
sheep. She was thinking of Greorge, of his imprison- 
ment and madness. 

*Ab last, when I feared that after all you might 
slip from me by means of that cripple at Wyvenhoe, I 
did more. I watched you on New Year's Eve; I 
waited for you to go to sleep, that I might fire your 
house. You did better than I had thought, you went 
out ; and then I set the Eay Farm in flames. What 
cared I for the loss ? It was nothing. ^ it I gained 
you. I secured you under my roof, by burning, you out 
of the shelter of your own.' He swelled with pride. 
'You know me now, Grlory! Now think you that 
escape from me is possible? No, you do not, you 
cannot. I hedge you in, I undermine the ground you 
tread. I saw away the posts that hold up the roof 
above your head. You know now what I am, irre- 



344 MEHALAH. 

sistible, almighty, as far as you are concerned, your 
fate incarnate. And I know you. I know that you 
are one who will never yield till yoa have found a man 
who is mightier in will and in power than you ; those 
who have fought are best friends after the struggle, 
when each knows his own strength and the full measure 
of the resistance of the other. We have had one wrestle, 
and I have flung you at every round ; you in your pride 
have stood up again, and wiped the blood from your 
heart, and the tears from your eyes, and tried another 
fall with me ; but now, Grlory, you have tried your last. 
Hitherto you fought not knowing the extent of my 
power, thinking that I put forth my full might when I 
spoke, but that I had no strength to act. Now ypu see 
what I can do, and what I have done, and yon will 
abandon the fruitless battle. Grlory ! Grlory ! Come 
to my heart. You fear me now, and fear is the first 
step leading to love. Grlory ! my own Glory ! ' his 
voice faltered, and his fingers worked, 'I love you 
madly. I will do and dare all for you. I will live for 
you and for nothing in the world but you. Never till 
this day in the church have I so much as held your 
hand. Never till this moment, Grlory ! have I held you 
to my heart, never till this moment have I felt it bound- 
ing against mine, never till this moment have I kissed 
those dear, dear lips, as I shall now.' 

He drew her to him. He unloosed his hands to 
throw his arms round her. She felt them closing on 
her like a hoop of iron, she felt his heart beating like 
the strokes of a blacksmith with his hammer ; his 
burning breath was on her cheek. He I He kiss her I 



THE VIAL OF WRATH. 345 

She lie on that heart which had schemed and carried 
out the destruction of her Greorge ! 

She cried out. She found her tongue. ' Let go ! 
I hate you as I never hated you before ! I hate you 
as a mad dog. as a poisonous adder ! Let go ! ' She 
writhed and slipped partly away. 

' Never till I have held you to my breast and kissed 
you,' he said. 

' That never, never ! ' she gasped. She got her 
hands on his breast and forced his arms asunder behind 
her. 

' Ha, ha ! strong,' he laughed, ' but not strong as L' 
He gripped her wrists and bent her arms back. She 
threw herself on the ground, he drew her up. She 
flung herself against the chair, crushing his hand 
against the chimney-piece, so that he let go with it 
for an instant. She groped about with her free hand, 
in the dark, for some weapon, she grasped something. 
He cursed her for the pain she had given him, and 
attempted again to seize her hand. In a moment she 
had struck him — him the coward assailant, him the 
thief, him the murderer — between the brows with the 
weapon her hand had taken. It was a blow with her 
whole force. There followed a crash of glass, then a 
sense as of her hand being plunged into fire. Then 
a shriek loud, tearing through roof and wall, loud, 
agonised, as only a man or a horse can utter in supreme 
moments of torture ; and Eebow fell on the floor, 
writhing like a worm, with his hands over his face and 
eyes. 



346 MEHALAH. 

CHAPTEK XXV. 

IN THE DARKNESS. 

Day by day Elijah Rebow lay, or sat, in the darkened 
oak parlour with his eyes bandaged, a prey to wrath, 
pain, despair. The vitriol from the broken vial had 
got into his eyes, and there was reason to fear had 
blinded them. 

He was obliged to have the burning balls kept from 
the light, but he raged imder the obligation. He 
wanted to see, he could not be patient under restraint. 
He could ill understand that in all things he might 
not have his way, even in such a matter as this. He 
chafed also at having been conquered by Grlory. That 
she should have defied and beaten him, and beaten him 
in such a crushing manner, cut his pride to the quick. 

None knew how the accident had occurred save 
himself and Mehalah. To the doctor he had merely 
said that in getting the vitriol bottle from the shelf, it 
had fallen and broken on his forehead. 

Mrs. Sharland remained in as complete ignorance 
of the truth as the rest, and her lamentations and 
commiserations, poured on Elijah and her daughter, 
angered him and humiliated her. Mehalah had suffered 
in mind agonies equal in acuteness to those endured in 
body by Elijah. 

Horror and hatred of herself predominated. She 
had destroyed, by one outburst of passion, the eyesight 
of a man, and wrecked his life. What henceforth for 
thirty or forty years could life be to Rebow ? — to one 



IN THE DARKNESS. 34T 

who could not endure existence without activity ? She 
had rendered him in a moment helpless as a babe, and 
dependent on herself for everything. She must attend 
to his every want, and manage the farm and his busi- 
ness for him. By a stroke, their relative positions 
were reversed. The wedding night had produced a 
revolution in their places of which she could not have 
dreamed. She felt at once the burden of the responsi- 
bilities that came upon her. She was called upon by 
those on the farm to order and provide for everything 
connected with it. She had to think for the farm, 
and think for the master into whose position she had 
forced her way. 

She hated herself for her rash act. She hated the 
man whom she had mutilated, but more herself. If by 
what she had done she had in one sense made herself 
master, in another she had cast herself into bondage. 
By the terrible injury she had inflicted on Eebow she 
had morally bound herself to him for life to repair that 
injury by self-devotion. Had it been possible for her 
to love him, even to like him, this would have been 
light to her, with her feminine instinct, but as it was 
not possible, the slavery would be inexpressibly painful. 

Love will hallow and lighten the most repulsive 
labours, the most extreme self-sacrifice, but when there 
is no love, only abhorrence, labour and self-sacrifice 
crush mentally and morally. She must bear the most 
fierce and insulting reproaches without an attempt to 
escape them, she had in part deserved them. These 
she could and would endure, but his caresses ! — no ! 
however deeply she might have sinned against him, 
however overflowing her pity for his helpless condition 



348 MEHALAH. 

might be, she could not tolerate affection from the 
man who by his own confession merited her profound 
loathing. He had taken an unoffending man, and had 
imprisoned him and blinded his reason by cruelty ; it 
seemed to her as if Providence had used her hand to 
.exact a just retribution on Rebow by condemning him 
to an equally miserable condition. The recompense 
was justly meted, but would that it had been dealt by 
another hand ! 

In one particular she was blameless, and able to 
excuse herself. She had acted without intent to do 
bodily harm, and in ignorance of the weapon she had 
used. She had been carried away by the instinct of 
self-preservation, and had taken up what was readiest 
at hand, without a wish to do more than emancipate 
herself from the grasp of the man she detested. He 
had brought the consequences on his own eyes by his 
own act. 

But though she quite recognised that he had done 
this, and that he richly deserved the consequences, yet 
she could not relieve her conscience from the gnawings 
of self-reproach, from the scalding blush of shame at 
having executed a savage, unwomanly vengeance on 
the man who had wronged her. Had her victim been 
a woman and a rival, she would perhaps have gloried 
in her act ; but the female mind is perverse in its 
twists and complexion, and it will tingle with pain for 
having hurt a man, however little that man may be 
loved, when it would plume itself for having done the 
same to a woman who has been a friend. A woman 
must think and act rightly towards a man, but can do 
neither towards one of her own sex. 



IN THE DARKNESS. 349^' 

Mehalah's bosom was a prey to conflicting emotions. 
She pitied Elijah, and she pitied Greorge. Her deep 
pity for G-eorge forced her to hate his torturer, and 
grudge him no suffering to expiate his offence. When 
she thought of what Greorge de Witt must have endured 
in the vault, of his privations there, of the gradual 
darkening and disturbance of his faculties, and then of 
how Elijah had stepped between him and her, and 
spoiled their mutual dream of happiness, and ruined 
both their lives, the hot blood boiled in her heart, and 
she felt that she could deal Eebow the stroke again,, 
deliberately, knowing what the result must be, as a 
retributive act. But when she heard him, as now, 
pacing the oak parlour, and in his blindness striking 
against the walls, her pity for him moimted and over- 
lapped her wrath. Moreover, she was perplexed about 
the story of Greorge's imprisonment. There was some- 
thing in it she could not reconcile with what she knew. 
Elijah had confessed that on the night of Greorge's 
disappearance he had enticed the young man to Eed 
Hall, made him drunk or drugged him, and then chained 
him in the vault, in the place of his own brother who had 
died. It was Eebow and not De Witt who, that same 
night, had appeared at her window, driven in the glass 
and flung the medal at her feet. But was this possible? 
She knew at what hour Greorge had left the Mussets' 
shop, and she knew about the time when the medal had 
been cast on the floor before her. It was almost in- 
credible that so much had taken place in the interval. 
It was no easy row between Eed Hall and the Eay, to be 
accomplished in half an hour. 

Surely, also, had George De Witt been imprisoned 



-350 MEHALAH. 

below, he could have found some means to make himself 
heard, to communicate with the men about the farm, 
in the absence of Kebow. Would a few months in that 
dark damp cell derange the faculties of a sane man ? 

Mehalah lifted the trap and went down. The vault 
was a cellar not below the soil, but with floor level with 
the marsh outside, or only slightly beneath. It had a 
door fastened from within by a bolt, but also provided 
with a lock ; and there was the circular window already 
described. The shutter had not been replaced, and the 
sunlight entered, and made the den less gloomy and 
horrible than Mehalah had conceived it to be. She 
found the staple to which the chain had been attached, 
away from the door and the window. It was obvious 
how the maniac had got loose. The chain had been 
attached to the staple by a padlock. Elijah sometimes 
unlocked this, when he was cleaning the straw from the 
cell and supplying fresh litter. He had carelessly 
turned the key in the lock, and left it unfastened. The 
madman had found this out after Kebow was gone, and 
had taken advantage of the circumstance to break out 
at the window. The chain and padlock, with the key in 
it, were now hung over the fireplace in the hall, mock- 
ing the inscription below, ' When I take hold, I hold 
fast.' 

Mehalah seated herself in the window of the hall, 
and took up some needlework. Elijah was still pacing 
the parlour and beating against the opposite walls, 
muttering curses when he struck the oak panels. 
Presently she heard him groping along the walls for the 
door, and stumbling over chairs. He turned the handle 
and entered the hall. 



IN THE DAEKNESS. 351 

He stood before her in the doorway of the darkened 
chamber, with extended quivering hands, his head 
bowed, his eyes covered with a thick bandage. He wore 
his red plush waistcoat and long brown coat. His dark 
hair was ruffled and stood up like rushes over a choked 
drain. He turned his head aside and listened. Mehalah 
held her breath. 

' You are there,' he said. ' Although you try to hide 
from me, I know you are there and watching me. I am 
in the dark but I can see. I can see you always and 
everywhere, with your eyes — great angry brown eyes — 
on me, and your hand lifted to strike me into endless 
night.' 

Mehalah did not speak. Why should she? She 
could say nothing that could do either any good. 

'Have you put the hot fire to your tongue and 
scorched it out as you have put it to my eyes ? ' he 
asked. ' Can't you speak ? Must I sit alone in dark- 
ness, or tramp alone up and down in black hell, feeling 
the flames dance in my eye-sockets, but not seeing them, 
and have no one to speak to, no one to touch, no one 
to kick, and beat, and curse ? Gro out and fetch me a 
dog that I may torture it to death and laugh over the 
sport. I must do something. I cannot tramp, tramp, 
and strike my head and shoulders against the walls till 
I am bruised and cut, with no one to speak to, or speak 
to me. By heaven ! it is bad enough in Grrimshoe with 
two in the shiphold mangling each other, but there is 
excitement and sport in that. It is worse in tha 
wooden hold yonder, for there I am all alone.' 

He stopped speaking, and began to feel round the 
room. He came to the chimney and put his fingers into 



352 MEHALAH. 

the letters of the inscription. ' Ha ! ' he muttered^ 
' When I lay hold, I hold fast. I laid hold of you, 
Mehalah, but I have not let go yet, though I have 
burned my fingers.' 

This was the first time lie had called her by her 
christian name. She was surprised. 

' Mehalah ! ' he repeated, * Mehalah ! ' and then 
laughed bitterly to himself. ' You are no more my Griory . 
There is no Glory here for me ; unless, in pity for what 
a ruin you have made, you take me to your heart and 
love me. If you will do that I will pardon all, I will 
not give a thought to my eyes. I can still see you 
standing in the midst of the fire, unhurt like a daughter 
of Grod. I do not care. I shall always see you there, 
and when the fire goes out and only black ashes remain, 
I shall see you there shining like a lamp in the night, 
always the same. I do not care how many years may 
pass, how old you may wax, whether you may become 
bent and broken with infirmities, I shall always see my 
Glory with her rich black shining hair, her large brown 
eyes, and form as elastic and straight as a pine-tree. I 
shall see the blue jersey and the red cap and scarlet 
skirt.' He raised his hands and wrung them in the air 
above his head : ' What do I care for other sights ? 
These long flat marshes have nothing beautiful in them. 
The sea is not here what it is on other coasts, foaming, 
colour-shifting like a peacock's neck ; here it is of one 
tone and grey, and never tosses in waves, but creeps in 
like a thief over the shallow mud-flat, and babbles like 
a dotard over the mean shells and clots of weed on our 
strand. There is nothing worth seeing here. I do not 
heed being blinded, so long as I can see you, and that 



IX THE DARKNESS. 353 

not you nor all your vitriol can extinguish. Heat 
skewers white hot in the fire, and drive them in at the 
eye-sockets through all obstruction into the brain, and 
then, perhaps, you will blind me to that vision. No- 
thing less can do it. Pity me and love me, and I for- 
give all.' 

He crept past the chimney-piece and was close to 
the window. He touched Mehalah with one hand, and 
in a moment had her fast with both. 

' I cannot love you,' she said, ' but I pity you from 
the depth of my soul, and I shall never forgive myself 
for what I have done.' 

' Look here ! ' he snatched his bandages away and 
cast them down. 'This is what you have done. I 
have hold of you, but I cannot see you with my eyes. 
I am looking into a bed of wadding, of white fleeces 
with red ochre smears in them, rank dirty old 
fleeces unscoured — that is all I see. I suppose it is 
the window and the sunshine. I feel the heat of the 
rays ; I cannot see them save as streaks of wool.' 

' Elijah ! ' exclaimed the girl, ' let me bandage your 
eyes again. You were ordered to keep all light ex- 
cluded.' 

' Bah I I know well enough that my eyesight is gone. 
I know what you have done for me. Do you think that 
a few days in darkness can mend them ? I know better. 
Vitriol will eat away iron, and the eyes are softer than 
iron. You knew that when you poured it on them.' 

' I never intended to do you the harm,' said Mehalah 
passionately, and burst into tears. He listened to her 
sobbing with pleasm-e. 

' You are sorry for me ? ' 

A A 



354 MEHALAH. 

' I am more than sorry. I am crushed with shame 
and grief for what I have done.' 

' You wiiriove me now, Mehalah.' 

She shook her head and one of her tears fell on his 
hand ; he raised his hand and put it to his eyes ; then 
sighed. ' I thought one such drop would have restored 
them whole as before. It would, had there been sweet- 
ness in it, but it was all bitter. There was only anger 
with self and no love for me. I must bide on in black- 
ness.' He put his hands on each side of her head, 
twisted his thumbs resting on her cheek-bones, and her 
unrestrained tears ran over them. 

He stood quite still. 

' This is the best medicine I could get,' he said ; 
' better nor all doctor's messes. To listen to your heart 
flowing over, to feel your warm tears trickle, does me 
good. In spite of everything, Griory ! I must love you, 
and yet, Mehalah ! T have every cause to hate you. I 
have made you, who were nothing, my wife, mistress of 
my house and estate, with a property and position above 
everyone else in Salcott and Virley, equal to any of the 
proud yeomen's wives on Mersea Isle. I have made a 
home for your mother, and in return you have plunged 
me in eternal night, and deny me your love.' 

' Let us not recriminate,' said Mehalah through her 
tears, ' or I should have enough to charge you with. I 
never sought to be your wife. You drove me into the 
position in spite of my aversion to it ; in spite of all 
my efforts to escape. You have wounded me in a cruel 
and cowardlv manner past forgiveness. You have 
ruined my life and all my prospects of happiness. 
G-eorge ' 



IN THE DARKNESS, 355 

He shook her furiously. 

' I will not listen to that name,' he said through bis 
teeth. 

' You could bear to hold him in chains there below,' 
she answered. 

* You said. Let us not recriminate, and you pour 
a torrent of recriminations over me,' he gasped. ' If I 
ha've wronged you, you have redressed all with one vial 
of vitriol in the eyes, where man is most sensitive. 
With that firejuice you purged away all the past wrongs, 
I expiated in that liquid flame all the evil I had done 
you. You don't know what I have suffered. You have 
had no such experience of pain as to imagine the tortures 
I have undergone. If the anguisli were all, it would be 
enough atonement ; but it is not all. There is the 
future before me, a future of night. I shall have to 
trust to someone to do everything for me, to be eyes, 
and hands, and feet to me. Whom can I trust ? How 
do I know that I shall not be deserted, and left to die 
in my darkness, a prey to ravenous men ? If you loved 
me, then I could lean on you and be at peace. But 
you do not love me, and you will leave me when it suits 
your pleasure.' 

'No, Elijah,' said Mehalah sadly; 'that I never 
will do. I have robbed you of your sight. I did it 
unwittingly, in self-defence, perhaps also in anger at 
knowing how cruelly, wickedly, cowardly you had be- 
haved to me and to another whom I loved.' 

' Whom you love still ! ' with a cry of rage. 

' One whom I loved,' repeated Mehalah, sadly ; ' and 
I must atone for my mad act as far as lies in my power. 
I will stay by you. I will never forsake you.' 

A A 2 



356 MEHALAH. 

' Listen to me, Mehalah,' said Elijah, with concen- 
trated vehemence ; ' you know what was said — that the 
person you loved went out in a boat and was lost. The 
body was never found. Should the man turn up again.' 

* That is impossible.' 

' I don't care for impossibilities. I live now in a 
dream-world where there is no line drawn between the 
possible and the impossible. Should he reappear, what 
then ? ' 

' Still I would remain at my post of duty,' said the 
girl, humouring his fancy. 

' The post of duty, not of love,' he muttered. 

' I said duty,' she replied ; ^ I will never leave that.' 

His thumbs twitched on her cheek-bones and worked 
their way to the corners of her eyes ; she sharply with- 
drew her head. 

He laughed. ' You thought I was going to gouge 
your eyes out with my thumbnails,' he said, ' that I was 
going to repay you in kind. No, I was not ; but should 
the dead return to life and reclaim you, I may do it. 
You cannot, you shall not escape me. You and I, and 
I and you, must sink or swim together. Say again, 
Mehalah, that you will stand by me.' 

' I promise it you, Elijah, I promise it you here 
solemnly, before Grod,' She sank on her knees. ' I 
have brought you unwittingly into darkness, and in 
that darkness I will hold to you and will cherish 
you.' 

' Ha I ' he shouted. ' At the altar you refused to 
swear that. To love, cherish, and obey is what the 
parson tried to make you say ; but all you swore to 
was to obey, you denied the other, and now you take 



IN THE DAKKNESS. 357 

oath to cherish. The wheel of fate is turning, and you 
will come in time to love where you began to obey and 
went on to cherish.' 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE FORGING OF THE RING, 



Mrs. Siiarland was failing. The excitement of the 
marriage had roused her to activity, but when that was 
over she relapsed, her energy evaporated, and she took 
to her bed with the avowed intention of not leaving it 
again, except for a christening in the family, till carried 
to her grave. She did not understand Mehalah, she 
fretted because the arrangements after the eventful 
day remained the same as before ; her daughter shared 
her room and kept as much away from Elijah as was 
possible, showed him none of the love of a wife to her 
husband, and was distressed when spoken to by her new 
name. 

'You are either Mistress Eebow or you are not,' 
said the old woman peevishly to her daughter one 
night, in their room, ' and if you are not, then I don't 
understand what the ceremony in the church was for. 
You treat Elijah Rebow as coldly and indifferently as 
if he were naught to you but master, and you to him 
were still hired servant. I don't understand your 
goings on.' 

' He and I understand each other, that is enough,' 
answered Mehalah. ' I have married him for his name 
and for nothing else. In no other light will I regard 



358 MEHALAH. 

him than as a master : I told him when I agreed to go 
to church with him that I would be his no further than 
the promise to obey went; I take his name to save 
mine — that is all. He is not my husband, and never 
shall be, in any other w^ay. I will serve him and serve 
him devotedly, but not give him my love. That I 
cannot give. I gave my heart away once for all, and 
it has not been restored to me.' 

' That is all nonsense,' said Mrs. Sharland. ' Didn't 
I love Charles Pettican, and weren't we nigh coming to 
a declaration, only a fit of the ague shivers cut it short ? 
I married your father, and loved him truly as a good 
wife and not as a hired servant, for all that.' 

' Elijah and I understand each other,' answered 
Mehalah. ' I suppose there is something of truth in 
what he says over and over again, that he and I are 
different from others, and that there's none can under- 
stand us but our two selves.' 

• Then you are made for one another.' 

' So he says, but I will not believe it. No. That 
cannot be. Some have peace and happiness drop into 
their lap, others have to fight their way to it, and that 
is our fate. But that we shall find it in each other, 

that 1 never will admit. In George ' she covered 

her ejes, and left her sentence unfinished. 

The charge of Mrs. Sharland was, to some extent, 
unjust. Mehalah did attend to Elijah with as much 
care and as assiduously as she was able, considering the 
amount of work which had devolved upon her. Her 
mother was ill and in bed, Elijah helpless. She had to 
see after and direct everything about the farm and 
house, beside ministering to the two invalids. Conse- 



THE FORGING OF THE KING. 359 

quently slie was unable to devote much time to Elijah, 
but whenever she had a few moments of relief from 
work she devoted them to him. She took her needle- 
work either to him in the oak parlour, or brought him 
into the hall. She had now somewhat lightened her 
labours by engaging a charwoman, and was therefore 
more able than before to be with Kebow and her 
mother. Each complained if left long alone, and she 
had much difficulty in portioning her time between 
them. She tried, but tried in vain, to induce her 
mother to make an effort and come downstairs, so that 
she might sit with both at once ; this would save her 
from distraction between two exacting and conflicting 
claims, and some restraint would be placed on the 
intercourse between Kebow and herself by the presence 
in the room of a third party. 

Elijah was not entirely blinded, he was plunged not 
in darkness but in mist. He could see objects hazily, 
when, near ; he could distinguish figures, but not faces, 
when within a few yards of him, but nothing distant. 
The wall and a black cloud on the horizon were equally 
remote to his vision. 

He wandered about, with a stick, and visited his 
cattle sheds and workmen ; or sat under the south wall 
of his house in the sun. The pump was there, and to 
it Mehalah sometimes came. He listened for her step. 
He could distinguisli her tread from that of the char- 
woman. He took no notice of this woman, though she 
came up to him occasionally and said a few commiser- 
ating words. 

The men thought that he was gentler in his aflBiction 
than he had been before. He did not curse them, as 



360 MEHALAH. 

had been his wont. He asked about the cattle, and 
the farm, and went his way. Mehalah also noticed 
that he was less fierce ; she was able also to attribute 
this softening to its right cause, to her own influence. 
He was, to some extent, happy, because she was often 
with him, sought him instead of shunning him, spoke 
to him kindly, instead of rebuffing him when he ad- 
dressed her, and let him know and feel that she thought 
of him, and was endeavouring to make him comfortable 
in his great deprivation. 

As he sat in the sun and looked up at the bright 
orb, which he saw only as a nebulous mass of light, she 
was ever present before his inward eye, she in her pride 
and beauty. He did not think ; he sat hour by hour, 
simply looking at her — at the image ever before him, 
and listening for her step or voice. An expression of 
almost content stole across his strongly marked features, 
but was occasionally blurred and broken by an uneasy, 
eager, enquiring look, as if he were peering and heark- 
ening for something which he dreaded. In fact, he was 
not satisfied that Greorge De Witt would never reappear. 
Had he been set at rest on this point, he could have 
been happy. 

Mehalah was touched by his patience, his forgiveness 
of the irreparable wrong she had done him. He had 
said that if she loved him he would pardon all. He 
was ready to do this at a less price ; though he 
craved for her love, he was contented, at least for the 
present, with her solicitude. He had been accustomed 
to open hostility and undisguised antipathy. Now that 
he met with consideration and tenderness from her, 
he became docile, and a transformation began to be 



THE FOEGING OF THE RING. 361 

operated in his nature. Love him, she could not, but 
she felt that but for what he had done to Greorge, she 
could regard him without repugnance. Pity might 
ripen into friendship. Into a deeper and more rich 
feeling it never could, for he had barred the way to this 
possibility by his dealing with De Witt. 

She ventured occasionally to approach the subject, 
but it always produced such agitation in the manner of 
Eebow that she was obliged to desist from seeking ex- 
planation of the particulars which perplexed her. The 
slightest allusion to Greorge De Witt troubled the 
master of Eed Hall, made his face darken, and brought 
on an access of his old violence, from which he did not 
recover for a day or two. 

Mrs. De Witt came to see him. 

' Lawk a day ! ' she said ; ' what a job to find you 
in this predicament ! ' 

He turned his whitened eyes on her, with a nervous 
twitch in the muscles and a tremour of the lips. ' Well ! 
What news ? ' 

' News ! ' echoed the lady ; ' dear sackalive ! who'd 
expect to find news in Mersea ? you might as well drag 
for oysters in a horsepond.' 

He was satisfied, and let her talk on without attend- 
ing to her. 

A few days later, he called the charwoman to him as 
she was going to the pump. 

' What is your name ? ' 

'Susan Underwood. I'm a married woman, with 
three small children, and another on its way.' 

He fumbled in his pocket, and took out a crown. 

' Any news ? — from Mersea, I mean.' 



362 MEHALAH. 

' I don't come from Mersea. Thank your honour 
all the same.' 

' But if there were news there it would get to Virley 
or Salcott, or wherever you live.' 

' It would be sure. I did hear,' she said, ' that 
Farmer Pooley has been a-wisiting a little more nor he 
ought at widow Siggars' cottage, her as has a handsome 
daughter, and so, they do say, has Farmer Pudney ; and 
the other day they met there, and was so mad each 
to iSnd the other, that the one up with his hunting 
whip and the other with his bible and knocked each 
other down, and each had to be carried home on a 
shutter.' 

' Gro and tell those tales to the old woman upstairs. 
I have no patience to listen to them. That's the 
sort of garbage women feed on, as maggots on rotten 
meat.' 

' But it is true.' 

' Who cares whether true or not ? It is all the 
same to me. Has anyone arrived at Mersea ? ' 

' Not yet, sir, but they do say that the parson's wife 
has expectations.' 

' Go back to the kitchen,' growled Elijah, and re- 
lapsed into his dream. 

A few minutes after, Mehalah came out, and seated 
herself on the bench beside him. She was knitting. 
He put out his hand and felt her, and smiled. He 
raised his hand to her head. 

* Glory ! when you wear the red cap in the sun I 
know it, I see a scarlet light like a poppy, and it 
pleases me. Let me hold the ball, then I can feel every 
stitch you take with your fingers.' 

She put the wool gently into his palm ; and began 



THE FOEGING OF THE EING. 363 

to talk to him concerning the farm. He listened, and 
spoke in a tone and with a manner different from his 
habit formerly. 

Presently his hand stole up the thread, and he 
caught her fingers and drew her hand down on her lap. 
Her first impulse was to snatch it away, but she con- 
quered it, and let him feel over her hand without a 
movement of dislike. 

' You have not yet a ring,' he said ; ' you have no 
gold wedding circle like other married women.' 

' Our union is unlike all others,' she said. 

' That is true ; but you must wear my ring. I shall 
not be happy till you do. I shall think you will cast 
me off unless I can feel the ring that has no ending 
round your finger. Where is the link with which I 
married you ? ' 

' I have it here,' she said ; ' I have not cast it off, 
and I shall not cast you off. I have fastened it by a 
string and carry it in my bosom.' 

He seemed pleased. ' You wear it for my sake.' 

' I wear it,' she replied, truthfully, ' because I took 
a solemn oath on that day, and I will not go from it. 
What I undertook that I will fulfil, neither more nor 
less. What I did not promise I will not do, what I did 
undertake that I will execute.' 

' And you bear the ring in your bosom ' 

' As a reminder to me of my promise. I will not 
be false to myself or to you. Do not press me further. 
You know what to expect and what not to expect. If 
I could love you I would ; but I cannot. I did not 
promise that then and I will not promise it now, for I 
know the performance is out of my power.' 

' You must wear the wedding ring on your finger.' 



364 MEHALAH. 

' I cannot wear this link, it is too large.' 

' I will get you a gold ring, such as other women 
wear.' 

' No. I cannot wear a lie ; the gold ring belongs to 
the perfect marriage, to the union of hearts. It befits 
not ours.' 

' You are right,' he said, and sighed. He still held 
her hand ; she made a slight effort to withdraw it, but 
he clasped the hand the tighter. 

' Let me touch and hold you, Grlory,' he said. ' Ee- 
member I can no more see you, except mistily. You 
must allow me some compensation. I know what you 
are now, sitting here in the sun, with your hair full of 
rich coppery gleams, and your eyes full of light and 
darkness at once, and your cheek like a ripe apricot. 
I know what you are, splendid, noble, as no other girl 
in the whole world ; but you have shut my eyes, that I 
may not see you, so allow me, at least, to feel you.' 
He paused. Then he went on : ' You are right, our 
union is unlike any other, as you and I are different 
from all others in the world. The married life of some 
is smooth and shining and rustless like the gold, but 
ours is quite contrary, it is rough and dark and full of 

blisters and canker. It may be different some day ' 

he turned his dim eyes enquiringly at her, 'but not 
now, not now. Nevertheless as the ring is without an 
end so is our union. Grive me the link of iron, Grlory, 
and come with me to the forge. I will beat out a bit 
of the metal into a ring, one small enough and light 
enough for you to wear.' 

He got up, and holding her hand, bade her lead him 
to the forge. 



THE FOKGING OF THE RING. 365 

Near the bakehouse was a small smithy, fitted up 
with all necessary appliances. Eebow was a skilful 
workman at the anvil, and shod his own horses, and 
made all that was needed in iron for the house and 
farm. 

Mehalah conducted him to the shop, and brought 
iire from the kitchen for the forge, she worked the 
bellows and blew the fire into size and strength, whilst 
Elijah raked the coals together. 

' Where is the link. Glory ? ' he asked, and went up 
to her. He put his hand to her neck, before she did, 
and drew out of her bosom something. 

' That is not the link, Elijah,' she said ; ' it is my 
medal — the medal that ' 

He uttered a fierce cry, and wrenching it off, dashed 
it on the ground. He would have stamped on it had 
he been able to see it. 

Mehalah' s cheek flushed, but she said nothing. 
She saw where the coin had rolled. She stooped, 
picked it up, impressed a kiss upon it, and hid it once 
more in her bosom. 

' Here is the iron link,' she said ; he took it from 
her sullenly. 

The flame gleamed up blue above the wetted coal, 
and glared out white through the crevices in the clot, 
as the bellows panted, and Eebow drew the coals to- 
gether or broke into the glaring mass with an iron 
rod. 

' I heard a preacher once take as his text,' said he, 
' Our Grod is a consuming fire ; and he told all in the 
chapel that this was writ in Scripture and therefore 
must be true to the letter, for Grod wrote it Himself, 



366 MEHALAH. 

and He knew what He was better than any man. He 
said that fire warms and illumines at a distance, but 
if you come too close it dazzles and burns up. And he 
told us it was so with Grod. You can't keep too far off 
of Him to be comfortable and safe ; the nearer you get, 
the worse it is for you ; and to my thinking that is 
Hell, when you get sucked into the very core of the 
fire in the heart of Grod. You must be consumed 
because you are not divine, fire alone can live in fire ; 
most folks are clay and water, and they are good 
enough, they get light and warmth, but when they die 
they burn up like this dock of coke. But there are 
other folk, like you and me, Grlory ! who are made of 
fire and clay ; it takes but a word or a tliought to 
make us roar and blaze and glow like this furnace. 
There is passion in us — and that is a spark of the 
divine. I do not care what the passion be, love or 
hate, or jealousy or anger, if it be hot and red and con- 
suming so that it melts and burns all that opposes it, 
that fiery passion is of Grod and will live, live on for 
ever, in the central heart and furnace, which is Grod. 
When you and I die. Grlory ! and are sucked into the 
great fiery whirlpool, we shall not be burnt up alto- 
gether, but intensified. If I love you with fiery passion 
here I shall love you with fiery passion ten thousand 
times hotter hereafter ; my passion will turn to glaring 
white heat, and never go out for all everlasting, for it 
will be burning, blazing in Grod who is eternal. If you 
hate me, you will be whirled in, and your fury fanned 
and raked into a fiery phrenzy which will rage on for 
ages on ages, and cannot go out, for it will be burning 
in the everlasting furnace of God. If I love, and you 



THE FORGING OF THE RING. 367 

hate with infinite intensity for an infinity of time — 
that is Hell. But if you love and I love, our love 
grows hotter and blazes and roars and spurts into one 
tongue, cloven like the tongues at Pentecost, twain yet 
one, and that is Heaven. My love eating into yours 
and encircling it, and yours into mine, and neither 
containing nor consuming the other, but going on in 
growing intensity of fiery fury of love from everlasting 
to everlasting, that is Heaven of Heavens.' 

He was heating the link, held between the teeth of 
long shanked pincers, and then withdrawing it, and 
forging it on the anvil as he spoke. 

' Grlory I ' he said ; •• tell me, you do not hate me ? ' 

She hesitated. 

' Grlory ! ' he repeated, and laid hammer and pincer 
on the anvil, and leaned his head towards her, as she 
shrank into the dark corner by the bellows, ' Grlory I 
tell me, you do not hate me.' 

' Elijah,' she said, ' I must be candid with you. 
When I think of what, by your own confession, you 
have done to him whom I loved more than all the 
world ' 

He raised his hammer and brought it down on the 
link, cutting it in half, and sending one fiery half across 
the smithy. 

^ When I think of what you have done to him, I 
feel that I do hate you, and that I have every cause 
and right to hate you. I could forgive everything else. 
I have turned over in my mind all that you have done 
to me, the cruel way in which you worked till you had 
brought me within your power, the heartless way in 
which you got my good name to be evil spoken of, and 



368 MEHALAH. 

drove me out of self-defence to take your hand before 
the altar of Grod, I have thought of all this, and I feel 
that my act — unintentional though it was — yet my act, 
which has blinded you, has expiated all those offences. 
You have wronged me, and I have wronged you. I 
have ruined your life, but you have also ruined mine. 
We are quits so far. You have my frank forgiveness. 
I blot out all the past, as far as it concerns me, from 
my memory. It shall no more rankle in my heart. 
You have shown me a generous forgiveness of my 
misdeed, and I would imitate you. But what you did 
to George is not to be expiated. You sinned against 
him more terribly, more wickedly than against me, and 
he alone can pardon you. That I cannot forgive ; and 
for that crime I must still hate you.' 

He stood trembling — a strange weakness came 
over him — he was not angry, savage, morose ; he 
seemed a prey to fear and uncertainty. 

' Tell me, tell me truly, Grlory ! Does that alone 
prevent you from loving me ? Had I never done what 
I said I had done, could you love me ? ' 

' I do not say that,' she replied. ' As I have told 
you before, I gave my heart once for all to George De 
Witt. I never could love you with my fresh full heart, 
as a woman should love her husband, but I feel that I 
could like you as a friend. I do pity you. God knows 
how bitterly I have suffered from remorse for what I 
did unwittingly, and how sincere I am in my repentance 
and desire to deal tenderly and truly by you, Elijah. 
I feel sometimes as if I could like you ; I do acknow- 
ledge that you and I stand apart from others, and alone 
can understand each other ; but then that great crime 



THE FOKGING OF THE EING. 369 

of your life against Greorge rises up before me and 
drives back my rising compassion.' 

Rebow worked again at the link, beating out the 
fragment into a wire, and cutting it again. He was 
thinking whilst he wrought. 

' Sooner or later,' he muttered at last, ' all will out.' 

He worked with difficulty, and slowly, as he could 
not see, and was obliged to feel the iron, and cool 
it repeatedly to ascertain whether it was as he desired it. 

' Look here, Glory ! ' he said, ' when iron is taken 
from the smelting furnace it is crystalline and brittle ; 
there is no thread and texture in it, but we burn it 
and beat it, and as we work we beat our stubborn pur- 
pose into the metal, and it is the will of the smith 
which goes through his arm and hammer into the iron 
and converts it to steel ; he drives his will into the 
metal, and that becomes the fibre in it. You don't 
find it so in nature. The human soul must part with 
something and transfuse it into the inanimate iron, 
and there it will lie and last, for the will of man is 
divine and eternal. It is much the same with all with 
which we have to do. I have spent time and labour 
over you, and thought and purpose have been con- 
sumed in making you my wife ; they are none of them 
lost, they are all in you, they have become fibres in 
your soul. You may not be aware of it, but there they 
all are. The more one thinks and labours for the 
other the more he ingrafts himself in the nature of the 
other. I have heard of sound men having their healthy 
blood drawn off and injected into the veins of the sick, 
and restoring them thus to activity and health. We 
are always doing this with our wills, injecting their 

B B 



370 MEHALAH. 

fire into the hearts of others, and so by degrees trans- 
fusing their natures. You are pouring yourself into 
me, and I into jou, whether we know it or not, till in 
time we are alike in colour and tone and temperature.' 

He had worked the piece of steel into a rude ring, 
not very cumbrous, and he bade Mehalah try it on her 
finger. It was too small. He easily enlarged it, and 
then got a file to smooth off the roughnesses. 

' I had rather you wore this than a ring of gold,' 
he said, ' for there is part of my soul in this iron. I 
have made it in spite of my blindness, because I had 
the will to do so. The whole metal is full of my pur- 
pose, which tinctures it as wine stains water ; and with 
it goes my resolve that you shall be mine altogether in 
heart and soul, in love as well as in pity, for now and 
for all eternity. You will wear that on your finger, the 
finger that has a nerve leading from the heart. Stretch 
out your hand, Griofy, and let me put it on. Stretch 
out your hand over the hearth, above the fire, our God 
is a consuming fire, and this is His proper altar.' 

He stood on one side of the furnace, she on the 
other; the angry red coals glowed below, and a hot 
smoke rose from them. 

She extended her hand to him, and he grasped it with 
the left above the fire, and held the steel ring in his right. 

' Griory ! ' he said in a tremulous voice. ' At the 
altar in the church you swore to obey me. In the hall 
you knelt and swore to cherish me ; here, over the fire, 
the figure of our Grod, as I put the iron ring on, swear 
to me also to love me.' 

She did not answer. She stood as though frozen to 
ice ; with her eyes on the door of the smithy, where 
stood a figure — the figure of a man. 



THE FORaiNO OF THE RING-. 371 

Suddenly she uttered a piercing cry. ' Greorge ! 
my Greorge ! my George ! ' and withdrew her hand from 
the grasp of Elijah. The iron ring fell from his fingers 
into the red fire below and was lost. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE EETUKN OF THE LOST. 



Mehalah was clasped in the arms of George De Witt. 

'Who is there? Where is he?' shouted Elijah, 
staggering forward with his great pincers raised ready 
to strike. 

George drew the girl out of the way, and let the 
angry man burst out of the door and pass, beating the 
air with his iron tool. He put his arm round her, and 
led her from the house. She could not speak, she 
could only look up at him as at one risen from the 
dead. He led her towards the sea-wall, looking behind 
him at the figure of the blind man, rushing about, and 
smiting recklessly in his jealousy and fury, and hitting 
bushes, rails, walls, anything in hopes of smiting down 
the man whose name he had heard, and who he knew 
had come back to break in on and ruin his hopes. 

George De Witt walked lamely, he had a somewhat 
stifi" leg ; otherwise he seemed well. 

' How manly you have grown ! ' exclaimed Mehalah, 
holding him at arms' length, and contemplating him 
with pride. 

' And you, Glory, have become more womanly ; but 
in all else are the same.' 

B B 2 



372 MEHALAH. 

' Where have you been, Greorge ? ' 

' At sea, Grlory, and smelt powder. I have been a 
sailor in His Majesty's Royal Navy, in the Duke of 
Clarence^ and I am pensioned off, because of my leg.' 

* Have you been wounded ? ' 

' Not exactly. A cannon-ball, as we were loading, 
struck me on the shin and bruised the bone, so that I 
have been invalided with swellings and ulcerations. I 
ain't fit for active service, but I'm not exactly a cripple.' 

' But Greorge ! when did this take place ? I do not 
understand. After your escape ? ' 

' Escape, Grlory ? I have had no escape.' 

' From confinement in Red Hall,' she added. 

* I never was confined there. I do not know what 
you are talking about.' 

Mehalah passed her hand over her face. 

' Greorge ! I thought that Elijah had made you drunk 
and then put you in his cellar, chained there till you 
went mad.' 

' There is not a word of truth in this,' said De Witt. 
' Who told you such a tale ? ' 

' Elijah himself.' 

' Elijah is a rascal. I have enough cause against 
him without that.' 

' Then tell me about yourself. I am bewildered. 
How came you to disappear ? ' 

' Let us walk together to the spit by the wind- 
mill, and I will tell you all.' 

They turned the way he said, and he did not speak 
again till they had reached the spot. 

' We will sit down, Glory ; I suffer still somewhat 
from my leg, so that I am always glad to rest. Now I 



THE EETURN OF THE LOST. 373 

will tell you the whole story. You lemember the even- 
ing when we quarrelled. You had behaved rather 
roughly to Phoebe Musset.' 

' I remember it only too well, Greorge.' 

' After you had left, I went to the Mussets' house to 
inquire after Phoebe, who had been well soused in the 
sea by you ; and on my return I fell in with Elijah 
Rebow. He took me to task for not having gone after 
you and patched up our little difCerence. He said that 
a quarrel should never be allowed to cool, but mended 
while hot. He persuaded me to let him row me in his 
boat to the Ray. He said he was going there after 
ducks or something of that sort, 1 do not remember 
exactly. I agreed, and got into his punt with him, and 
we made for the Rhyn. We had scarcely entered the 
channel when a lugger full of men ran across our bows 
and had us fast in a jiffy. I was overpowered before I 
knew where I was, and taken by the men in their boat.' 

' Who were they, Greorge ? ' asked Mehalah, breath- 
lessly. 

' They were some of the crew of the Salamander^ a 
war schooner then lying in the oflSng, come to press me 
into the service with Captain Macpherson, who had been 
on the coast-guard, but was appointed to the command. 
I was carried off as many another man has been, without 
my consent, and made to serve His Majesty on com- 
pulsion.' 

' But, Greorge ! how about your medal that I gave 
you ? That was returned to me the same night.' 

' I suppose it was,' he replied coolly. ' As I was 
taken, Elijah said to me, •' Have you no token to send 
back to Grlory ? " I bade him tell you how I was im- 



374 MEHALAH. 

pressed, and how I would return to you whenever the 
war was over and I was paid off ; but he asked for some 
token, that you might believe him. Well, Grlory ! I 
had nothing by me save your medal, and I handed it to 
him and told him to give it to you with my love.' 

Mehalah wrung her hands and moaned. 

' I have a notion,' continued George, ' that Eebow 
was somehow privy to my being pressed ; for he went 
out that afternoon 'to the Salamander in his cutter, 
and had a private talk with Captain Macpherson, who 
was short of men. Now I fancy, though I can't prove 
it, that he schemed with the captain how he should 
catch me, and that Elijah with set purpose took me into 
the trap set for me. He is deep enough to do such a 
dirty trick.' 

Mehalah's head sank on her knees, and she sobbed 
aloud. 

' And now, Grlory, dearest ! ' he went on, ' the rascal 
has got you to marry him, I am told. How could you 
take him ? Why did you not wait for me ? You were 
promised to me, and we looked on one another as soon 
to be husband and wife. You must have soon forgotten 
your promise.' 

' I thought you were dead,' she gasped. 

' So did my mother. I do not understand. Elijah 
knew better.' 

' But he told no one. He allowed us all to suppose 
you were drowned in one of the fleets.' 

' It is very hard,' said George, ' for a fellow to return 
from the wars to reclaim his girl, and to find her no 
longer his. It is a great blow to me, Glory ! I did so 
love and admire you.' 



THE EETURN OF THE LOST. 375 

She could only sway to and fro in her distress. 

' It is very disappointing to a chap,' said Greorge, 
putting a quid in his cheek. ' When he has calculated 
on getting a nice girl as his wife, and in battle and 
storm has had the thoughts of her to cheer and 
encourage him ; when he has some prize-money in his 
pocket, and hopes to spend it on her — well, it is hard.' 

' Greorge,' said she between her sobs, ' why did you 
return the medal ? I gave it you, and you swore never 
to part with it. You should not have sent it to me.' 

' Did I really swear that, Grlory ? ' he answered ; ' if 
so, I had forgotten. You see I was so set upon and 
flustered that night, I did not rightly consider things as 
they should have been considered.' He stopped. 

' Well ? ' asked Mehalah, eagerly. 

' Don't catch me up. Glory. I only stopped to turn 
the quid. As I was about to say, I did not remember 
what I had promised. I had nothing else to send you 
that would serve as a token. The medal was an article 
about which there could be no mistake. I knew when 
you saw that you would make sure Elijah's story was 
true, and my promise would be sacred — I have kept it, 
I have returned to you, Grlory, and if you were not 
married I should make you my wife. I love you still, 
as I always did love you. I've seen a sight of fine girls 
since I left Mersea. There's more fish in the sea than 
come out of it ; but I'm darned if I have seen a finer 
anywhere, or more to my liking than you, Grlory. You 
were my first love, and the sight of you brings back 
pleasant memories. The more I look at you now, the 
more I feel inclined to wring that old prophet's neck 
You are too good for such a chap as he ; you should 



376 MEHALAH. 

have waited for me. You had promised, and might 
have had patience. But, Lord bless me ! how the girls 
do run after the men ! Grlory ! I have seen the world 
since I left Mersea, and I know more of it than I did. 
I suppose you thought that as I was gone to Davy 
Jones's locker you must catch whom you could.' 

' Greorge ! ' exclaimed Mehalah, ' do not speak to me 
thus. I cannot bear it. I know you are only talking 
in this way to try me, and because you resent my 
marriage. I promised once to be true to you. I gave 
you my heart, and I have remained, and I will remain, 
true to you ; my heart is yours, and I can never recover 
it and give it to another.' 

' This is very fine and sentimental, Glory,' said 
George ; ' I've smelt powder and I know the colour of 
blood. I've seen the world, and know what sentiment 
is worth ; it is blank cartridge firing ; it breaks no 
bones, but it makes a noise and a flash. I don't see 
how you can call it keeping true to me when you marry 
another man for his money/ 

' You are determined to drive me mad,' exclaimed 
Mehalah. 'Have mercy on me, my own George, my 
only George ! I have loved and suffered for you. God 
can see into my heart, and knows how deeply it has been 
cut, and how profusely it has bled for you. You must 
spare me. I have thought of you. I have lived only 
in a dream of you. The world without you has been 
dead and blank. I have not had a moment of real joy 
since your disappearance ; it seems to me as though a 
century of torment had drawn its slow course since then. 
No, George ! I have married for nothing but to save 
my self-respect. I was forced by that man, whom I 



THE EETUEN OF THE LOST. 377 

will not name now, so hateful and horrible to me is the 
thought of him — I was forced by him from my home 
on the Eay to lodge under his roof. He smoked my 
mother and me out of our house as if we were foxes. 
When he had me secure he drew a magician's circle 
round me, and I could not break through it. My 
character, my name were tarnished, there was nothing 
for it but for me to marry him. I did so, but I did so 
under stipulations. I took his name, but I am not, and 
never shall be, more to him than his wife in the register 
of the parish. I have never loved him — I never 
undertook to love him.' 

'This is a queer state of things,' said Greorge. 
' Dashed if, in all my experience of life and of girls, I 
came across anything similar, and I have seen something. 
I have not spent all my days in Mersea. I've been to 
the West Indies. I've seen white girls, and yellow girls, 
and brown girls, and copper-coloured girls, and black 
ones — black as rotted seaweed. I have — they are all 
much of a muchness, but this beats my experience. 
You are not like others.' 

' So he says ; he and I are alone in the world, and 
alone can understand one another. Do you understand 
me, George ? ' 

' I'm blessed if I do.' 

She was silent. She was very unhappy. She did 
not like his tone : there was an insincerity, a priggish- 
ness about it which jarred with her reality and depth of 
feeling. But she could not analyse what offended her. 
She thought he was angry with her, and had assumed a 
taunting air to cover his mortification. 

She drew the medal from her bosom. 



378 MEHALAH, 

' Greorge ! dear, dear Greorge ! ' she said vehemently^ 
' take the pledge again. I give it you with my whole 
heart once more. I believe it saved you once, it may 
save you again. At all events, it is a token to you that 
my heart is the same, that I care for and love none but 
you in the whole wide world.' 

He took it and susj^ended it round his neck. 

' I will keep it for your sake,' he said ; ' you may be 
sure it will be treasured by me.' 

' Keep it better than you did before.' 

' Certainly I will. I shall value it inexpressibly.' 

' Greorge ! ' she went on, trembling in all her limbs, 
and rising to her feet. ' Greorge ! my first and only 
love ! as I give it you back now, I make you the same 
promise that I made you before. I will love — love — 
love you and you only, eternally. I swore then to be 
true to you, and I have been true. Swear again to me 
the same.' 

' Certainly. I shall always love you, Grlory ! I'm 
damned if it is possible for a fellow not to, you are so 
handsome with those flashing eyes and glowing cheeks. 
A fellow must be made of ice not to love you.' 

' Be true to me, as I to you.' 

' To be sure I will. Glory ! ' and added in an under- 
tone, ' rum sort of truth hers, to go and marry another 
chap.' 

' What is that you say, George ? ' 

' Take care, Glory I ' exclaimed the sailor ; ' here 
comes the old prophet with a pair of tongs over his 
shoulder, staggering along the wall towards us. I had 
better sheer off. He don't look amiable. Good-bye, 
Glory!' 



THE RETUKN OF THE LOST. 379 

* Oh, George ! I must see you again.' 

' 1 will come again. You will see rae often enough. 
Sailors can no more keep away from handsome girls 
than bees from clover.' 

' Greorge, George ! ' 

Elijah came up, his face black with passion. 

' Mehalah ! ' he roared, as he swung his iron pincers. 

She caught his wrist and disarmed him. 

' I could bite you, and tear your flesh with my teeth, ' 
he raged. ' All was so peaceful and beautiful, and then 
he came from the dead and broke it into shivers. 
Where are you ? ' He put out his hands to grasp her. 

'Do not touch me! ' she cried, loathing in her voice. 
' With my whole soul I abhor you, you base coward. 
You lied to me about George, a hateful lie that made 
me mad, and yet the reality is almost as bad — it is 
worse. He is alive and free, and I am bound, bound 
hand and foot, to you.' 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

timothy's tidings. 



'Mehalah!' roared the wretched man, smiting at her 
with both his clenched lists, and nearly precipitating 
himself into the mud, by missing his object, 'Mehalah ! 
where are you ? Come near, and let me beat and kill 
you.' 

' Why are you angry, Elijah ? ' asked the girl. ' The 
man you betrayed to the pressgang has returned, are you 
vexed at that ? ' 



380 MEHALAH. 

' Come near me,' he shouted. 

' You have gained your end, and may well be content 
that he is alive. You have separated us lor ever ; what 
more could you desire ? His hopes and mine are alike 
shattered by your act. You lied to me about his mad- 
ness, but though that wickedness was not wrought to 
which you pretended, you have done that which passes 
forgiveness.' 

' Where is he ? ' 

' He is gone. He would not meet you. He could 
not deal the punishment you deserve on a blinded man.' 

• You have been discussing me — the blinded man,' 
raved Elijah. ' Yes, you first blind me that I may not 
see, and then you meet and intrigue with your old lover, 
in security, knowing I cannot watch, and pursue, and 
punish you.' 

' Gro back to the house, Elijah. You are in no fit 
temper to speak to on this subject.' 

' Oh yes I go back and sit in the hall alone, whilst 
you are with him — your Greorge I No, Mehalah ! I tell 
you this. I will not be deceived. Though I be blind, 
I can and will see and follow you. I will sell my soul 
to the devil for twenty-four hours' vision, that I may 
track and catch and crush your two heads together, and 
trample the lite out of you with my big iron-heeled 
boots. You shall not see him, you shall never see him 
again. Give me back my pincers, and I will make an 
end of it all.' 

' Elijah, you must trust me. I married you in self- 
respect, and I shall never forget the respect I owe to 
myself.' 

' I cannot trust you,' he answered, ' because you are 



TIMOTHY'S TIDINGS. 381 

just one of those whose movements no one can calculate. 
I tell you what, Mehalah. Grod made most folks of clock- 
work and stuck them on their little plots of soil to spin 
round and run their courses, like the figures on an Italian 
barrel-organ. You look at Mersea island, that is the 
board of such a contrivance, and on it are so many dolls ; 
they twist about, and you know that if Grod turns the 
handle for ten minutes or for ten years, or for ten times 
ten years, they will do exactly the same things in exactly 
the same ways, just as He made them and set them to 
spin. But as He was making the dolls that were to twirl 
and pirouette His breath got into some, and they are dif- 
ferent from the rest. They don't go according to the 
clockwork, and don't follow the circles of the machine, 
as set agoing by the organ-handle. Grod himself can't 
count on them, for they have free wills, and His breath 
is genius and independence in their hearts. They go 
where they list, and do what they will, they follow the 
impulse of the breath of Grod within, and not the wires 
that fasten them to the social mechanism. I do not 
know what I may do. I do not know what you may do. 
We have the breath of God in us. I am sure that you 
have, and I am sure that I have ; but I know that there 
is none in your mother, none in such as Greorge De Witt. 
The laws of the land and of religion are the slits in the 
board on which the dolls dance, and they only move 
along these slits ; but you and I, and such as have free 
souls, go anywhere, and do anything. We have no law. 
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not 
tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth ; so is every- 
one that is born of the Spirit. I heard a preacher once 
explain that text, and he said that the wind was the 



382 MEHALAH. 

Spirit of God and it went where it willed, and so all 
who were born of the Spirit followed their wills, and 
there was neither right nor wrong to them, for they were 
blown about, across and up and down, where others not 
so born dare not step, and they never forfeited their son- 
ships whatever they did, for it was not they, but the 
divine will in them that drove them, Mehalah ! you 
are one with a free, headlong will, and how can I count 
on what you will do ? There is no cut track along which 
you must run. The puppets dance their rounds, but 
you rush in and out and upset those that are in your 
way. I am the same. You have seen and learned my 
way. Who could reckon on me ? I never mapped out 
my course, but went on as I was impelled ; and so will 
you. But be sure of this, Mehalah ! I shall not en- 
dure your desertion of me. Beware how you meet and 
speak to Greorge De Witt again.' 

' Elijah,' said the girl ; ' I give you only what I 
promised you, my obedience, never expect more. Your 
crooked courses are not such as can gain respect, much 
less regard. You say that you act on impulse, and 
have not mapped your course. I do not believe you. 
You have worked with a set purpose before you to get 
rid of George, and obtain hold over me. Your purpose 
was deliberate, your plans laid in cold blood. You 
have got as much as you can get. You have obtained 
some sort of control over me, but my soul is free, my 
heart is free, and these you shall never bring into slavery.' 

' I wds ready half an hour ago to forgive you for 
having blinded me. I cannot forgive you now. You 
have done me a wicked wrong. You acted on impulse, 
without purpose, you say. I do not believe it. There 



TIMOTHYS TIDIXGS. 383 

was set design and cold scheming in it all. You knew 
that Greorge De Witt was not dead — or you thought he 
might be yet alive and might return, so you dashed the 
firejuice into my eyes to blind them to what would 
take place on his reappearance.' 

' This is false ! ' exclaimed Mehalah indignantly. 

' So is it false that I schemed and worked,' he said. 
' Do you not understand, Mehalah, that what we do, we 
do for an end which we do not see ? We act on the 
spur of passion, and the acts link together, and make a 
complete chain in the end. I did at the moment what 
I thought must be done, and so it was brought about 
that you became my wife. You acted as anger and 
love inspired, and now I am made helpless, whilst you 
sport with your lover. But I tell you, Mehalah, I will 
not endure this. I don't care if you die and I die, but 
parted we shall not be. You and I must find our 
heaven in each other and nowhere else. You are going- 
after wandering lights if you expect a port away from 
my heart. Wrecking lights attached to asses' heads.' 
He stamped and caught at her. 

' My heart was given to George before I knew you,' 
said Glory sadly ; ' I have long known him, and we had 
long been promised to each other. We had hoped to 
be married this spring and then we should have been 
happy, unspeakably happy. He has been true to me 
and I will be true to him. We cannot now marry. 
You have prevented that; but we can still love one 
another and be true to each other, and live in the 
thought and confidence of the other. He trusts me 
and I trust him. He is now bitterly distressed to find 
that you have separated us, but in time he'^vill be 



384 MEHALAH. 

reconciled, and then it will be as of old, when I was 
on the Kay. We shall see one another, and we shall 
be true, loving friends, but nothing more ; nothing 
more is possible. You have barred that.' 

' Is this your resolve ? ' he asked, turning livid with 
anger ; even his lips a dead leaden tint. 

' It is not a resolve, it is what must be. I must 
love him, I cannot help it. We must see each other. 
We can never be man and wife, that you have suc- 
ceeded in preventing, and for that I shall never forgive 
you. But I will not be false to my oath. I will still 
serve you, and I will cherish you in your wretchedness 
and blindness.' 

'This will not do,' he cried. ^My whole nature, 
my entire soul, cries out and hungers for you, for your 
nature, for your soul. I must have your whole being 
as mine, I will not be master of a divided Grlory! 
allegiance here, love there, cold obedience to me and 
gushing devotion to him. The thought is unendurable. 
Grod ! ' he burst forth in an agony, ' why did I not 
take you in my arms when the Eay house was burning, 
and spring with you into the flames and hold you there 
in the yellow wavering tongue of fire, till we melted 
into one lump ? Then we should botli have been at 
peace now, both in one, and happy in our unity.' He 
strode up and down, with his head down. 

' Mehalah ! have you seen water poured on lime ? 
What a fume and boiling takes place, the two fight 
together which shall obtain the mastery, but neither 
gets it all its own way in the end, but one enters into 
and penetrates every pore of the other, and the heat 
and the steam only continue till every part of one is 



TIMOTHY'S TIDINGS. 385 

impregnated with the other. You and I are mixing 
like water and lime, and we rage and smoke, but there 
is peace at the end, in view, when we are infused the 
one into the other, when it is neither I nor yon, but 
one being The mixture must be complete some day, 
in this life or the next ; and then we shall clot into 
one hard rock, imperishable and indivisible.' 

' Elijah ! try to take interest in something else ; 
think of something beside me. I can be nothing more 
to you than what I am, so rest contented with what 
you have got, and turn your thoughts to your farm, or 
anything else.' 

' I cannot do it, Mehalah. T put a little plant once 
in a pot and filled the vessel with rich mould, and the 
plant grew and at last broke the pot into a hundred 
pieces, and I found within a dense mat of fibres ; the 
root had eaten up and displaced all the soil and swelled 
till it rent the vessel. It has been so with my love of 
you. It got planted, how I know not, in my heart, and 
it has thrown its roots through the whole chamber, and 
devoured all the substance, and woven a net of fibres in 
and out and up and down, and has swelled and is thrust- 
ing against the walls, till there is scarce love there any 
more but horrible, biting, wearing pain. I cannot kill 
the plant and pluck it out, or it will leave a great void. 
I must let it grow till it has broken up the vessel. It 
grows and makes root, but will not flower. There has 
been scarce leaf, certainly no blossom, to my love. It 
is all downward, inward, clogging, bursting tangle of 
fibre. Can you say it is so with you ? You cannot. 
Your care for that fool Greorge is but a slip struck in 
that may root or not, that must be nursed or it will 

c c 



386 MEHALAH. 

wither. Tear it up and cast it away. It is not worthy 
of you. George is a simple fool. I know him. A clown 
without a soul. Why, Glory ! there are none hereabouts 
with souls but you and me. Your mother has none, 
Mrs. De Witt has none, Abraham has none. They can't 
understand the ways and workings of those that have 
souls. They are bodies, ruled by bodily wants, and look 
at all things out of bodily eyes, and interpret by bodily 
instincts all things done by those spiritually above them.. 
But you understand me, and I understand you. Soul 
speaks to soul. I've heard a preacher say that once on a 
time the sons of God went in unto the daughters of men, 
and what they begat of them were cursed of heaven. 
That means that men with souls married vulgar women 
with only instincts and appetites, and such unions are 
unnatural. The sons of God must marry the daughters 
of God, and leave the animal men and women to pig- 
together and breed listless, dull-eyed, muddle-headed, 
dough-hearted, scandal-mongering generations. The 
cul-se of God would have rested upon you if you had 
married George De Witt. I have saved you from that. 
You have mated with your equal.' 

'What happiness, what blessing has attended our 
union ? ' she asked bitterly. 

' None,' he replied, ' because you oppose your will to 
the inevitable. We must be united entirely, and blended 
into one, but you resist, and so misery ensues. I am 
blinded and wretched, and you, you ' 

' I am wretched also,' she said ; ' but stay ! here 
comes someone to speak to us.' 

' Who is it ? ' 

' I do not know exactly. A young man who came 
here one day with Phoebe Musset.' 



TIMOTHY'S TIDINGS. 387 

' What does he want with us? I will have no young 
men coming here.' 

The person who approached was Timothy Spark, 
' cousin ' to Admonition Pettican. He was dressed in a 
new suit of mourning. He lounged along the sea-wall 
with his hands in his pockets. 

' Your servant, master,' he said to Elijah as he came 
up. ' Your most devoted servant,' he added with a bow 
to Mehalah, and a simper. 'Charmed to see my dear 
and beautiful cousin so well.' 

' Cousin I ' exclaimed Eebow, stepping back and 
frowning. 

' Certainly, certainly,' said Timothy. ' I am cousin 
to Admonition, wife, or rather let me say widow of the 
late lamented Charles Pettican, and he was first cousin 
to Mrs. Sharland, so my pretty cousin Mehalah will not, 
I am sure, deny the relationship. Let me offer you an 
arm,' he wedged his way between Rebow and Griory. 

' First cousin once and a half removed,' he said. 
' Drop the fractions and say cousin, broadly. Certainly, 
certainly so. Is it not so, my dear ? ' In an undertone 
and aside to Mehalah. 'Let us drop the old fellow 
behind. I have a word to say in your ear, cousin 
Mehalah ! By the way, how do you shorten that long 
name ? It is such a mouthful. But I forget, where is 
my memory going? Griory is the name you go by 
among relatives and friends. Come along, Griory ! Lean 
on my arm. The blind gentleman is a little unsteady 
on his pins and can't keep up with us. He will be more 
comfortable taking his airing slowly by himself; we 
shall distract him with our frolicsome talk. He is in a 
serious mood, perhaps pious.' 

c c 2 



388 MEHALAH. 

' Say what you have to say at once,' said Elijah 
surlily. ' I must hear it. What did you say about late 
Charles Pettican ? ' 

' The poor gentleman is deceased,' said Timothy ; 
' and his disconsolate widow is drinking down her grief 
in hot toddy.' 

' Mr. Charles Pettican dead ! ' exclaimed Mehalah 
with grief. 

' Dead as Nebuchadnezzar,' replied Timothj^ ; ' rather 
rapid at the last, the paralysis attacked his vitals, 
and then it was all over with him in a snap. For- 
tunately, he had made his will. You haven't taken my 
arm yet, my pretty cousin. You won't? well then, I 
will continue. I flatter myself that my influence pre- 
vailed, and he made a will not in favour of Admonition, 
who had really become too exacting towards myself, and 
inconsiderate towards him, for us to endure it much 
longer. He threw himself on my honour, and I told 
him T relied on his gratitude. We put our heads 
together. Admonition has had a fall. She gets only 
a hundred pounds. My friend Charles, in token of my 
friendship, has kindly, I may say handsomely, remem- 
bered me, — and all the bulk of his property he has 
bequeathed to my good cousin here, Grlory. I need 
hardly say that this has proved as great a surprise to 
Admonition as it must be to you. Admonition brought 
it on herself. She should not have attempted to divS- 
place me ; I am not a person so unimportant as to be 
dispensed with at pleasure. Admonition cannot recover 
from the shock and mortification, and I left her at 
Wyvenhoe, venting it in language not flattering to the 
late lamented. She led me a dance, and him she treated 



TIMOTHY'S TIDINGS. 389 

like a galley-slave, so that she has got her deserts. I 
saw that she was carrying it on a little too far for the 
endurance of Charles, so I had a talk with him on the 
matter, and offered to help him in the management of 
his affairs for a trifling salary, and he was good enough 
to see how advantageous it would be to him to have me 
as a friend and adviser ; so we put our heads together, 
and then Admonition tried to bundle me out of the 
house, and much to her surprise learned that I was 
as securely installed therein as herself. I was private 
secretary and accountant to Charles, and cousin Admo- 
nition had to knuckle under then. Curiously enough, 
she had picked up another cousin about that time, one 
I had never heard of before in my life, and she wanted 
to bring him into the house in my place ; I did not 
allow that game to be played. I kept my berth, and 
Admonition was in a pretty temper about it, you 
may be sure. How Charles chuckled ! He enjoyed it. 
Upon my word I believe he chuckles in his grave 
to think how he has done Admonition in the end ; 
and he smirks doubtless to consider also how he has 
served me.' 

' What has he left Mehalah ? ' asked Rebow surlily. 

' I cannot tell you exactly, but I suspect about two 
hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds a year ; a 
nice little fortune, and dropping in very unexpectedly, 
I presume. I am executor, and shall have the choicest 
pleasure in explaining all to my sweet cousin. Is it not 
near about your dinner-time ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' Then I don't mind picking a bone and drinking 
a glass with you. The drive is long from Wyvenhoe. 



390 MEHALAH. 

You happen perhaps to have a spare room in the 
house ? ' 

No answer was given to this question. 

'Because I have brought over my little traps. I 
thought it best. We can talk over matters, and I will 
show you what the amount of property is that Charles 
has left. I have the will with me, it is not proved yet. 
I shall do that shortly.' 

'There's an inn at Salcott. The " Eising Sun." 
You can go there. We do not take in strangers.' 

' Certainly, certainly ! only you see,' touching Elijah 
knowingly in the ribs, ' I'm not a stranger, but a friend 
and relative of the family, a cousin ; you understand, a 
cousin, and ready to make myself agreeable to one,' with 
a bow to Mehalah, ' and useful to the other,' with a tap 
on Rebow's arm. 

' You can settle all you have to say on business in 
an hour if you stick to it, and then you can be gone,' 
said Elijah in ill-temper, withdrawing his arm from the 
familiar touch. 

' Certainly, certainly,' said Timothy. ' But then, I 
must call again, and yet again, always I am sure, with in- 
creasing pleasure, but still at some inconvenience to my- 
self. I thought I might just settle in here, you might 
give me a shake-down in any nook, and I would make 
myself a most invaluable member of the family. You, 
old gentleman, with your affliction, want an overlooker 
to the farm, and who could serve your purpose better 
than myself, a friend and a relation, a cousin, almost 
first cousin, with just a remove or so between, not 
worth particularising. I could devote my time to your 
affairs ' 



TIMOTHY'S TIDINGS. 391 

' I don't want you. I will not have you ! ' exclaimed 
Rebow angrily. ' Why have you come here, you 
meddling puppy ? Did I ask you to come ? Did 
Mehalah want you ? I know you and your ways. You 
got into Pettican's house hanging on to the skirts of 
his wife, and then made mischief between man and 
wife ; and now you come here to play the same game ; 
you come because I am blind and helpless, and sneak- 
ing behind my Glory ; you want to steal in to play the 
fool with her and set us one against the other. We want 
none of you here. We are not so tender together that 
we desire another element of discord to enter into the 
jangled clash of bells. Be off with you. As for the 
matter of Mehalah 's inheritance, the lawyers shall com- 
municate with us, and between you and her. I will 
not have you set your foot inside my house.' 

' Stay,' said Grlory ; ' I must know if this be really 
true. Am I really inheritor of such a fortune ? ' 

' I have the will in my pocket.' 

' Show it me.' 

Timothy produced the document and read it to 
Elijah and Mehalah. Both drew near. 

' Let me see it ! ' said Eebow vehemently, and 
grasped at the paper with nervous hand. 

' My good friend,' remarked Timothy patronisingly ; 
' the state of your eyes, if I mistake not, will prevent 
your being able to read it.' 

' I must feel it then.' 

He grasped it fiercely and in a moment tore it 
with his hands, and then, biting the fragments, rent it 
further and further. 



392 MEHALAH. 

' For heaven's sake ! ' exclaimed the young man in 
dismay. 

' Ha ! Glory ! Did you suppose you were to be made 
independent of me ? Did you think I would let you 
get a fortune of your own, to emancipate you from me ? 
That you might go off with it, and enjoy it along with 
your Greorge De Witt ? ' 

He dashed the tatters about him. 

' You mad fool ! ' exclaimed Timothy Spark. ' Do 
you suppose that by such a scurvy trick as this you will 
despoil my pretty cousin of her money, and perhaps of 
her liberty ? ' 

' I have done it,' shouted Eebow wrathfuUy. ' You 
cannot make the will whole, I have chewed and 
swallowed portions, and others the winds have taken 
into the sea.' 

* Indeed ! ' said Timothy. ' Do you suppose that 
this is the original ? Of course not. It is an authenti- 
cated copy. The original will is left with Morrell the 
lawyer, and this is but a transcript.' 

Rebow gnashed his teeth. 

' It seems to me,' said Timothy, * that after all I 
shall be called upon to step in between husband and 
wife, and to protect my pretty dark-eyed, rosy-lipped 
cousin. I am sure you have a spare room where I can 
have a shake-down.' 



393 
CHAPTER XXIX. 

TEMPTATION. 

Elijah Rebow sank into a sullen fierce silence. He 
scarcely stirred from the house except to the forge, 
where he groped among the dead ashes for the iron 
ring, which however he never found. He sat in his 
hall, smoking, his elbows on the arms of his chair, his 
head sunk on his breast, with his dull eyes on the floor. 
He seemed brooding over something, which occupied 
all his thoughts, and he rarely spoke. 

There had been little difficulty in getting rid of 
Timothy. He lingered a day or two about Salcott and 
Red Hall, but as he met with angry repulse from 
Rebow, and no encouragement from Mehalah, he 
abandoned the ground as unproductive. He was an 
idle, good-for-nothing young man, hating work, and 
when he was obliged to leave comfortable quarters at 
Wyvenhoe, hoped to settle himself into a similar posi- 
tion at Salcott. He was conceited, and fancied himself 
able to make conquests when he liked, and never for a 
moment doubted that his looks and address would have 
ingratiated him with Mehalah, and won him a lodgment 
in the house. He had been hovering about Phoebe 
Musset for some time, as she was thought to have 
money. Her parents had no other child, and the farm 
and shop would have suited him. When he met with 
a rebuff at Red Hall he betook himself to Mersea, 
and was much surprised to be received there with cold- 
ness where he had expected warmth. The reason was 



394 MEHALAH. 

that Greorge De Witt had returned, a sailor in the Koyal 
Navy, covered with glory according to his own account^ 
and Phoebe was more disposed to set her cap at him 
than flirt with the shore-loafer, Timothy Spark. 

As Mehalah was crossing the farmyard one day, old 
Abraham Dowsing stopped her. 

' I want to speak along of you,' he said in his un- 
couth, abrupt manner. ' What does the master mean 
by his goings on ? I saw him to-day after his dinner 
sitting with the great knife in his hand. The door was 
open and I was at the bottom of the steps, and I looked 
up, and there he was making stabs with it into the air. 
Then he got up, and holding the knife behind him, he 
crept over towards your mother's leather- backed chair. 
I seed him feel at it, and when he did touch it, then 
there came a wild look over his face, and he out with 
the carving knife, quick as thought, and he clutched 
the back of the chair with his left, and dug the blade 
right into the leather, and it came through at the back. 
You look next time you go into the hali. I guess he's 
going as his brother did.' 

' Going out of his mind, Abraham ? ' 

' Yes, I reckon. What else does it all mean ? It is 
either that, or there is something that deadly angers him.' 

He looked with a cunning covert glance at her. 

' It is not that these matters concern me, over much, 
but I don't want to change places in my old age. I'm 
comfortable enough here. I gets my wittles regular, 
and my swipes of ale. Take care of yourself, Mistress. 
I've heard as how the master got somebody pressed 
when he was in the way, — there's a tale about it abroad. 
He won't stand that party about here much, and I 
wouldn't adwise the encouragement of him.' 



TEMPTATION. 395 

' Greorge De Witt is my friend. He may come when 
he likes,' said Mehalah gravely. ' He and I have 
known one another since we were children, and my 
marriage need not destroy an old friendship.' 

' I mentioned no names,' said the old man. ' You 
can't say I did. One thing I be sm-e of. Whenever 
somebody comes here, the master knows it ; he knows 
it by a sort of instinct, I fancy. I see him at the head 
of the steps looking out as though he could see, and 
biting at the air, just as a mad dog snaps at everything 
and nothing.' 

' There is Greorge ! ' suddenly exclaimed Mehalah, 

as she saw the young sailor's figure rise on the sea-wall. 

' And there is the master,' muttered Abraham, 

pointing to Elijah, who appeared at his door, peering 

about, and holding his hand to his ear. 

Mehalah hesitated a moment, and then went up the 
steps to him. 

' Do you want to come down ? ' she asked ; ' shall I 
lead you ? ' 

' Yes, help me.' He clutched her hand by the wrist 
and came out and stood on the stair. Then he grasped 
her shoulder with the other hand, and he began to shake 
and twist her. 

She could see into his heart as into clear water, 
to the ugly snags and creeping things at the bottom. 
She saw that the temptation had come on him to fling 
her down : but she saw also that it was immediately 
overcome. He knew she read his thoughts. 'The 
height is not much,' he muttered ; ' you might sprain 
an ankle but not break your neck. I will not hurt you, 
do not fear. Hurt you ! Grood Grod ! I would not hurt 
you, not give you one moment's pain, I would bear 



396 MEHALAH. 

hours of agony rather than make you suffer for one 
second. But what must be, must be ! There is no way 
out of the marsh but over the dyke. There is no peace 
which is not won by a fight and wounds. Let me go 
back.' He drew her in at the door, a ferocious ex- 
pression flickered over his face, like phosphorescent 
illumination over dead fish. 

' I cannot endure this longer. Mehalah ! you are 
killing me. This is worse than the fire-juice in my 
eyes, you are drenching my heart and brain in vitriol, 
I feel it gnawing and stinging and blackening as 
it consumes a way to the inner core, leaving charred 
matter behind.' 

' What am 1 doing, to make you suffer ? ' she asked. 

' You are doing all you can. I cannot, I will not 
endure that agony. Have you seen the coal heap in 
the forge, how the fire rages and glows within before 
the blast ? Water is thrown on without quenching the 
fire, it only intensifies its heat. At last the black mass 
cracks on all sides and the white fury shoots out in spits 
and knives of flame. It is so with me. The fire is 
here.' He smote his breast and then his brain. ' It is 
raging, panting, whitening, intensifying, and at last it 
will break out on all sides. Who is blowing the fire 
into vehemence ? It is you — you — you I ' 

He gathered liimself up, like a crouching beast, as 
though to spring on her and strangle or tear her ; but 
she stepped back beyond his spring. 

' I give you no occasion for this,' she said ; 'you speak 
and act like a madman.' 

' It is you who drive me to act and speak like one,' 
he cried. ' You are now mistress of yourself, you have 



TEMPTATION. 397 

money — as much as you want ; now you will shake me 
off. Now you will desert the man who stood between 
you and your fool. You will go off with him and forget 
me. It shall not be.' He clutched his hands into his 
sides. ' It never shall be.' 

' I will not listen to this. I will not endure such 
words,' she exclaimed. ' Eemain here and cool.' Then 
she left the room, and, walking across the pasture to 
the landing-place, extended her hand with a smile to 
Greorge. It was a relief to her to be away for a while 
from the gloom and savagery of the man to whom she 
was bound for life. In her simplicity and guilelessness 
she would not believe that there was any wrong in meet- 
ing the friend of her childhood, her almost brother. 
She needed some light on her sad life, and the light 
shone from him. 

' My dear Grlory,' he said, ' I am delighted to see you. 
What a colour there is in your cheeks. Has the prophet 
been in his frenzies again ? I fear so. You must not 
allow it. You should not endure it.' 

'How can I help it, Greorge? it is the man's nature 
to rave ; he has it in his blood. I almost fear he will 
go mad like his poor brother.' 

' The sooner the better.' 

' Do not say that. You do not know how dreadful 
was the condition of that miserable wretch.' 

' I do say it, Grlory, dearest ! I say it, because the 
sooner you are freed from this tyranny and torture, the 
better for both of us.' 

' How so 9 ' 

' Grlory, dear ! is it true that you have been left a 
small fortune ? ' 



398 MEHALAH. 

' Yes, it is true. It seems that there is money in 
various securities, the savings of Charles Pettican's life, 
and they bring in something like three hundred pounds 
a year. Sometimes it may be less, sometimes perhaps 
more.' 

' And is this money absolutely your own ? ' 

' Entirely.' 

' You may do with it what you like ? ' 

' Yes, altogether ; even Elijah cannot touch it. I 
will give you all if you like, or as much as you like.' 

' I would not touch it without you, Grlory.' 

She sighed. 

' Oh, Greorge, George ! to think how happy we might 
have been ! ' 

' We may be, Grlory.' 

' I do not see how that is possible. I have no more 
any hopes, but it is a great pleasure to me to see you 
and to hear you talk. I think of old days and old 
dreams of happiness.' 

' Why, Grlory ! with three hundred a year we might 
have lived as gentlefolks, doing nothing. We might 
have bought a little house and garden just anywhere, at 
the other end of England, in Scotland, or where you 
liked, away from all ugly sights and memories.' 

' I had no ugly memories in the old days,' she said 
sorrowfully. 

' I suppose not. But you have now. My Glory ! 
how delightful it would be to cast all the horrible past 
away like a bad dream ; all the past from when I was 
pressed into the service, to now — to drop it all out of 
memory as though it never had been, and to take up 
the story of life from that interruption.' 



TEMPTATION. 399 

' Ob, Greorge ! ' She trembled and gave one great 
sob, that shook her. 

' How we should live to one another, live in one 
another, and love one another. Why, Grlory ! we should 
not care for any others to come and disturb us, we 
should be so happy ' 

She covered her face. 

' On three hundred a year,' he went on. ' That is a 
beautiful sum. I suppose you need not live here on it : 
you might live where you liked on the money. It is 
not laid out on land in Wy venhoe ? ' 

' No, no.' 

'You might take, let us suppose, a cottage by 
Plymouth Harbour. I have been there ; it is a lovely 
spot, where you would see ships of all sorts sailing by ; 
and just draw your money and live at ease.' 

' I suppose so.' 

' And nobody there would know you, whence you 
came, and what your history. They would not care to 
ask. That would be a new life, and in it all the past 
would be forgotten.' 

' Why do you talk like this to me, George ? I can- 
not bear it. You raise pictures before me which never 
can exist. All I want is to live on here in my sorrow 
and difficulties, and just now and then to see you and 
talk to you, and thus to get refreshed and go back to 
my duties again with a lighter heart, and strengthened 
to bear my burden.' 

' I do not understand what you mean by duties,' he 
said. ' You have told me more than once that you 
have only formally taken Elijah Eebow as a husband, 
but that he is nothing to you in reality, you do not 



400 MEHALAH. 

love him, and have no tie to bind you to him save the 
farce you went through with him in church.' 

' There is another,' said Mehalah in a faint tone. 

' What other ? What other can there be ? You do 
not look on him as your husband, do you ? ' 

' No I do not, and I never will.' 

' You do not even wear a wedding ring.' 

«No.' 

' He understood that he was to be regarded by you 
in no other light than as one who gave his name to you 
in consideration for some service.' 

' That was all.' 

' Then I cannot see that you are not free. You 
promised to be my wife, quite as solemnly as you have 
promised anything to Elijah, and you made your agree- 
ment with him on the supposition that I was dead. 
He knew he was deceiving you, and that I was alive to 
claim the fulfilment of your oath to me. He got your 
promise from you under false representations, and it 
cannot stand. You did not know how matters stood, 
or you would never have taken it.' 

' Never, never ! ' 

' Through all, you say, you have held true to me.' 

' Indeed T have, Greorge.' 

' Then Grlory, my dearest, our course is quite clear. 
You are not bound to this man, but you are bound to 
me. Your tie to him is worthless and is snapped ; 
your tie to me is strong and holds. I insist on the 
fulfilment, I have a right to do so. I must have you 
as my own. Come away with me. Come to any part 
of England, where you will, where we are not known, 
where our names have never been heard, and we will 



TEMPTATION 401 

be properly married in a church, and live together 
happily the rest of our lives. As for your mother, she 
is failing fast. I will wait till her death, or we can 
take her away at once with us.' 

' Oh, Greorge, Greorge 1 ' Mehalah's tones were those 
of one in acute pain. She flung herself on the ground 
at his feet, and clasped her hands on her brow. 

He looked at her with some surprise : ' This will be 
a change for the better. You will escape out of dark- 
ness into sunshine, and leave all your miseries in this 
hateful marsh behind your back.' 

' Greorge ! Greorge ! ' she moaned. 

' Elijah deserves not a thought,' he went on. ' He 
has behaved like a villain from beginning to end, and 
if he is served out now, no one will pity him.' 

' It is impossible, George ! ' exclaimed Mehalah, lift- 
ing herself on her knees and holding her knitted fingers 
against her heart. ' It cannot be, Greorge. It never 
can be. There is another tie that I cannot break.' 

' What tie ? ' 

' I must own it, though it steep me in shame. It 
was I, George, who blinded him, I in mad fear and anger 
mingled, not knowing what I did, poured the vitriol 
over his eyes.' 

George De Witt drew back from her. 

' Glory ! how dreadful ! ' 

' It is dreadful, but it was done without premedita- 
tion. He had me in his arms and told me what he had done 
to you — ' she corrected herself — ' what he pretended he 
had done to you, and then he tried to kiss me, and in a 
moment of loathing and effort to escape I did the deed. 
I did not know what was in the bottle. I did not know 
what I laid hold of.' d d 



402 MEHALAH. 

' You are a dangerous person to deal with, Glory. 
I should be sorry to provoke you. I do not understand 
you.' 

' I suppose you do not,' she said, with a sob ; ' but 
you must see this, G-eorge. I have blinded him and 
made him a helpless creature dependent on me. I did 
it, and I must atone for it. I brought him into this 
condition, and I must expiate what I did by helping 
him to bear the affliction.' 

' He exasperated you.' 

' Yes, but think what he is now, a wreck. I must 
tow the wreck into port. There is no help for it ; I 
cannot leave him, I have brought this on myself, and I 
must bear it.' 

' Glory ! what nonsense ! You do not love me or you 
would at once come away with me, and leave him to his 
fate. He has richly deserved it.' 

* I not love you ! ' she cried. ' Oh, George ! how can 
you doubt that I do ? I have suffered for you, dreamed 
of you, lived for you. My world without you is a world 
without a sun.' 

' Then come with me.' 

' I cannot do it. I have done that which binds me 
to Elijah. I must not leave him.' 

' You will not. Hark ! ' A burst of merry bells 
from West Mersea church tower swept over the water. 
' There is a wedding to-day yonder, and the bells are 
being pealed in honour of it. Pid the bells peal when 
you were married ? ' 

' No.' 

'They shall when you become mine. Not those 
Mersea bells, but some others where we are not known.' 



TEMPTATION. * 403 

' It cannot, it cannot be. Greorge ! do not tempt 
and torture me. I must not leave Elijah. I have linked 
my fate to his by my own mad act, and that cannot be 
undone. Oh, Greorge ! if it had not been for that, I might 
have listened to you and followed you ; for I am not, and 
never will be his ; but now I cannot desert him in his 
darkness and despair. I could not be happy with you 
if I were to leave him.' 

' This is too bad of you,' said the young man angrily. 
' You are to me an incomprehensible girl.' 

' Can we not live on as we are at present, true to each 
other yet separated ? ' 

' No, we cannot. It is not in nature. I will tell you 
what, Grlory ! If you do not come away with me and 
marry me, I will marry someone else. There are more 
fish in the sea than come out of it.' 

She rose to her feet and stood back, and looked at 
him with wide open eyes. ' Greorge, this is a cruel jest. 
It should not be uttered.' 

' It is no jest, but sober earnest,' he answered sullenly. 
' Grlory ! I don't see why I should not marry as well as 
you.' 

' Oh, Greorge ! George ! do not speak to me in this 
way. I have been true to you, and you have promised 
to be true to me.' 

' Conditionally,' he interjected. 

' You could not do it. You could not take another 
woman to your heart. George ! you talk of impossi- 
bilities.' 

' Indeed ! Do you think that another girl would not 
have me ? If so, you are mistaken.' 

' You could not do it,' she persisted. ' If you were 

D D 2 



404 MEHALAH. 

to, it would not be the George I knew and loved and 
lost, but another. The George I knew and loved and 
lost was true to me as I to him ; he could no more take 
another to his heart than can I.' 

' But you have, Glory.' 

' I have not. Elijah sits nowhere near my heart.' 

' I do not believe it. If he did not, you would shake 
him off without another thought and follow me.' 

' Do you not see,' she cried passionately, holding out 
both her palms, and trembling with her vehemence, 
' that I cannot. I by my own act have made him help- 
less, and would you have me desert him in his helpless- 
ness ? I cannot do it. There is something in here, in 
my bosom, I know not what it is, but it will not let 
me. If I were to go against that I should never be at 
ease.' 

* You are not at ease now.' 

' That would be different. I have my sorrow now, 
but my distress then would be of another sort and 
utterly unendurable. I cannot explain myself. George ! 
you ought to understand me. If I were to say these 
words to Elijah he would see through my heart at once, 
and all the thoughts in it would be visible to him as 
painted figures in a church window. To you they seem 
all broken and jumbled and meaningless.' 

' I tell you again. Glory, I do not understand you. 
Perhaps it is as well that we should live apart. I 
hate to have a knot in my hands I can't untie. If 
Elijah understands you, keep to him. I shall look for 
a mate elsewhere.' 

'George!' she said plaintively, 'You are angry 
and offended. I am sorry for it. I will do anything 



TEMPTATION. 405 

for you. True to you I must and will remain, but 
I will Dot leave Elijah and follow you. I could not 
do it.' 

' Very well then, 1 shall look for a wife elsewhere.' 

' You cannot do it,* she said. 

' Can I not ? ' echoed George De Witt with a laugh ; 
* I rather believe there is a nice girl at Mersea who 
only wants to be asked to jump into my arms. It seems 
to me that I owe her reparation for your treatment of 
her once on my boat.' 

* What I' 

'Now, Glory! let us understand one another. If 
you will run off with me — and I see nothing but some 
silly sentiment to hinder you — then we will be married 
and live happily together on your little fortune and my 
pension and what I can pick up.' 

She shook her head. 

' If you will not, why then, I shall go straight from 
here to Phoebe Musset, and ask her to be my wife; 
and you may take my word for it that in three weeks 
the bells that are now pealing from Mersea tower will 
be pealing again for us.' 

' You could not do it.' 

' Indeed I will. I shall go direct to her. My mother 
wishes it and I know that Phoebe is ready with her 
yes.' 

' You can take her, her, to your heart ? ' 

' Delighted to do so.' 

* Then, George I I never knew you, I never under- 
stood you.' 

' I dare say not, no more than I can understand you. 
Once again, will you come with me ? ' 



406 MEHALAH. 



' No, never. 



' You never loved me. I shall go to Phoebe and 
have done with Grlory.' 

She lifted her hands to heaven, pressed them to her 
heart, and then ran with extended arms back to Eed 
Hall, stumbling and recovering herself, and fluttering 
on, still with arms outstretched, like a wounded bird 
trying to rise but unable, seeking a covert where it may 
hide its head and die. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

TO WEDDING BELLS. 



She ran on. Red Hall was before her. The sun had 
set, and scarlet, amber, and amethyst were the tints 
of the sky, blotted by the great bulk of the old house 
standing up alone against the horizon. 

She ran on, and the wedding bells of Mersea steeple 
chanted joyously in the summer evening air, and the 
notes flew over the flats like melodious wildfowl. 

She ran up the steps, in at the door of the hall, 
where sat Elijah with his finger feeling the inscription 
on the chimney-piece, with the red light glaring through 
the western window on his forehead, staining it crimson. 

She cast herself at his feet ; she placed her elbows 
on his knees, and laid her head upon them. Dimly he 
saw the scarlet cap like a broken poppy droop and fall 
before him, he put out his hand and it rested upon it. 



TO WEDDING BELLS. 407 

She had come to him, to the only heart that was 
constant, that was not to be shaken and moved from its 
anchorage ; to the only soul that answered to her own, 
to the only mind that read her thoughts. The George 
of her fancy, the ideal of truth and steadfastness, was 
dissolved, and had disappeared leaving a mean vulgar 
object behind from which she shrank. To him whom 
she had hated, with whom she had fought and against 
whom she had stiffened her back, she now flew as her 
only support, her only anchorage. 

She could not speak, her thoughts chased through 
her head in wild disorder like the clouds when there 
are cross currents in the sky. 

Now and then a spasmodic sob broke from her and 
shook her. 

' What is the matter, Mehalah ? Where have you 
been ? ' 

She did not answer. She could not. She was 
choking. Perhaps she did not hear him, or hearing did 
not understand the import of his words. 

She saw only the falling to pieces into dust of an 
idol. Better had Greorge died, and she had lived on 
looking upon him as her ideal of manhood, noble, 
straightforward, truthful, constant. She would have 
been content to drudge on in her weary life at Eed 
Hall and would have borne Elijah's humours and her 
mother's fretfulness, without a hope herself, if only she 
might still have maintained intact her image of all 
that was honourable and steadfast. She could not bear 
the revulsion of feeling. She was like a religionist 
who, on lifting the purple veil of the sanctuary, has 



408 MEHALAH. 

found his Grod, before whom he had offered libations 
and prayers, to be some grovelling beast. 

' Where have you been ? ' again asked Elijah placing 
his hands on her shoulders. 

She raised her head, and gasped for breath, she 
essayed to speak but could not. 

' Why do you not answer me ? ' he asked, not with 
fierceness in his tone, but with iron resolve. 

* Mehalah ! ' he said firmly, solemnly. ' There have 
passed many days since Greorge De Witt returned, and 
since Charles Pettican's bequest has rendered you in- 
dependent of me. I have waited, and wanted to hold 
you, as I hold you now, firmly, fast in my strong hands. 
You feel them on your shoulders. They shall never let 
go. Now that I hold I shall hold fast. Mehalah 1 we 
have old scores to wipe out. Days and weeks of blind 
agony in me, hours, days of horrible internal torture 
whilst Greorge De Witt has been here. I hold you now 
and all must now be made square between us.' 

She tried to raise her hands, but he held her 
shoulders so tightly she could not move them. 

' Elijah ! ' she said, ' do with me what you will. It 
is all one to me.' 

' Where have you been ? with whom have you 
been ? ' 

' I have been with him.' 

' I knew it. You shall never be with him again.' 

She sighed. She knew that he spoke truly. Never 
could she see him again, in the old light ; she never 
could meet him again on the old footing. 

' Mehalah ! ' he went on, and his hands shook, and 
shook her ; ' I have -loved you ; but now I hate and 



TO WEDDING BELLS. 409 

love you at the same time. You have caused me to 
suffer tortures, the like of which I could not suppose it 
possible any man could have endured, and have lived. 
You little knew and less cared what I endured in my 
eyes when they were burnt out. You little know and 
less care what I have endured in my soul since Greorge 
De Witt has been back.' 

' Elijah,' she said raising her heavy head, ' let me 
speak. Greorge ' 

' No never,' he interrupted, ' never shall you utter 
his name again.' He covered her mouth with his 
hand. 

' No, I could not bear it,' he went on. ' Mehalah ! 
your heart has never been mine, and I will not endure 
to be longer without it. Could you come to my breast 
and let my arms lap round you and our hearts beat 
against each other's bosom, and glue your lips to mine ? 
No, no,' he answered himself. ^ Not now, I cannot 
expect it. He has stood in my path, he has risen out 
of the waters to part us. Whilst we are on the earth 
we cannot be united, because he intercepts the current 
which runs from my heart to yours, and from yours to 
mine. Although he might be far away, a thousand 
miles distant, yet the tide of your affection would set 
to him. The moon they tell us is some hundreds of 
thousands of miles from the ocean, and yet the water 
throbs and rises, and falls and retreats responsive to the 
impulse of the moon, because moon and earth are both 
in one sphere. As loug as you and he are together in 
one orb, there is no peace for me, your love will never 
flow to me and dance and sparkle about me. I must look 
elsewhere for peace, elsewhere for union, without which 



410 MEHALAH. 

there is no peace. Lift up your head, Mehalah ! Why 
is it resting thus heavily on my knee ? I do not know 
what has come over you. Yes — ' he said suddenly, in a 
louder tone, 'Yes I do know what it is. It is the 
shadow of the cloud, the scent before the rain. You 
have crept to me, you have cast yourself at my feet, 
you have leaned your head on my knee, you lift your 
arms to my heart, for the consummation is at hand. 
Mehalah ! Do you understand me ? ' 

'Yes.' 

' Yes. We two understand each other, and none 
others can. Now, Mehalah ! Griory ! you shall not 
escape me. Giory ! will you kiss me ? ' 

He put his hand to her head, and felt it shaken in 
the negative. 

'No. I did not suppose you would. You would 
kiss Greorge, but not me ; but you never shall belong 
to another but me. Hold up your face. Glory ! ' 

He lifted it with one hand, and peered at it through 
the haze that ever attended him. 

' Griory ! ' he said. ' Will you swear to me, if I let 
you go one minute, that you will place yourself here, 
at my feet, in my hands, as you lie now ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' It is dark, is it not ? I can see nothing, not your 
flaming cap. I will let you go. I can trust your 
lightest word. Go and kindle me a candle.' He 
relaxed his grasp, and she staggered to her feet, and 
dully, in a dream obeyed. There was a candle on the 
chimney-piece, she took it to the hearth in the kitchen 
and lighted it there. The charwoman was gone. 

' Go upstairs,' he said. ' There has been no sound 



TO WEDDING BELLS. 411 

in the house this hour. Gro and kiss your mother and 
come back.' 

She obeyed again, and crept lifelessly up the stairs ; 
in another moment he heard a low long muffled wail. 

He listened. She did not return. 

' Mehalah ! ' he called. 

He waited a minute and then called again. 

She came down bearing the light. He did not see, 
but the candle glittered in tears rolling down her cheeks. 

' Come to your place,' he ordered. ' Kemember you 
swore.' 

She threw herself at his feet. 

' My mother ! my mother ! ' 

' She is dead,' said Elijah. ' I knew it. I heard 
her feebly cry for you, an hour ago, and I crept upstairs, 
and I listened by her bed, and held my hand to her heart 
till it ceased.' 

^lehalah did not speak, her frame shook with 
emotion. 

He took the candle, raised her face with his hand 
under the chin and held the light close to it. 

' I cannot see much,' he said ; ' I can see scarce any- 
thing of the dear face, of the great brown eyes I loved 
so well, I can see only something flame there. That is 
the cap.' He took it off and passed his hand through 
her rich hair. ' I can see, I think I can see, the flicker 
of the candle flame in the eyes. I can see the mouth, 
that mouth I have never touched, but I see it only as a 
red evening cloud across the sky.' 

' Let me go ! ' she wailed. ' My mother ! my mother ! ' 

' We will go together to her, ' he answered ; ' stay one 
moment.' 



412 MEHALAH. 

He put down the candle, and once more laid his 
hand on her head, and now he pressed it back with his 
left hand. Did she see in the dull eyes a gathering 
moisture, the rising of a tide ? A tear ran down each 
of his rugged cheeks. Then he suddenly rose, and he 
struck her full in the forehead with his iron fist, heavy 
as a sledge hammer. She dropped in a heap on the 
floor. 

' Grlory ! my own, own Glory ! ' he cried, and listened. 

There was no answer. 

'Grlory! my love! my pride! my second self! my 
double ! ' 

He caught her up, and she hung across his knee. 
He held his ear to her mouth and hearkened. 

' Oh Glory ! my own ! my ow^n ! ' 

He stretched his hand above the mantelpiece and 
plucked down the chain and padlock ; he secured the 
key. Then he cast the chain over his arm and drew 
the inanimate girl to him and held her in his firm 
grasp, and lifted her over his shoulder, and felt his way 
out at the door and down the steps. 

No one was in the yard. No one on the pasture. 

The sun had set some time, but there was blood and 
fire on the horizon, clouds seamed with flame, and 
streaks of burning crimson. 

He cautiously descended the stairs, and crossing 
the yard, made his way over the pasture to the 
landing place. He knew the path well. He could 
have trod it in the darkest night without error. He 
came to the sea-wall, and there he laid,Mehalah, whilst 
he groped for his boat, and unloosed the rope that 
attached it to the shore. 



TO WEDDING BELLS. 413 

He returned, and took up the still unconscious 
girl. 

He felt her feeble breath on his cheek as he carried 
her. but he did not see the spot of returning colour in 
her face. He was eager, and hasty. He knew no delay, 
but pressed on. He carried her into the boat and 
took his oars and began to row, with her lying in the 
bottom. 

The tide was running out. His instinct guided him. 

The bells of Mersea tower were dancing a merry 
peal. 

The windows of the ' Leather Bottle ' were lighted 
up, and the topers were drinking prosperity to the 
married pair. 

Greorge pe Witt was making his way to the Mussets, 
little conscious that Mehalah was lying in a boat, 
stunned, and being carried out seaward. 

Presently Elijah felt sure by the fresher breeze and 
increased motion that he was out cf the fleet in deep 
water. Then he quietly shipped his oars. 

He lifted Mehalah, and drew her into his arms and 
laid her against his heart. 

• ]My Grlory ! my own dearest ! my only one I ' he 
moaned. ' I could not help it. You would have left 
me had I not done this. There was no other way out 
of the tangle, there was no other path into the light. 
Glory ! we were created for each other, but a perverse 
fortune has separated your heart from mine here. We 
shall meet and unite in another world. We must do so, 
we were born for each other. Glory ! Glory ! ' 

She stirred and opened her eyes, and drew a long 
breath. 



414 MEHALAH. 

' Are you waking, Grlory ? ' he asked. ' Hark, hark! 
the marriage bells are ringing, ringing, ringing, for you 
and me. Now Grlory ! now only is our marriage ! now 
only, locked together, shall we find rest.' 

He took the iron chain, and wound it round her and 
him, tying them together tight, and then he fastened 
the padlock and flung the key into the sea. 

' Once I turned the key in the lock carelessly, and 
he who was bound by this chain escaped. I have fastened 
it firmly now, it will not fall apart for all eternity. 
Now Grlory ! Now we are bound together for everlasting.' 

She sighed. 

' Do you hear me ? ' he asked. ' It is well. Grlory ! 
one kiss ? ' 

He put down his hand into the bottom of the boat, 
and drew out the plug, and tossed it overboard. At 
once the cold sea-water rushed in and overflowed his 
feet. 

' Grlory!' he cried, and he folded her to his heart, and 
fastened his lips fiercely, ravenously to hers. 

He felt her heart throb, faintly indeed, but really. 

Merrily pealed the musical bells. Cans of ale had 
been supplied the ringers, and they dashed the ropes 
about in a fever of intoxication and sympathy. Joy to 
the wedded pair ! Long life and close union and happi- 
ness without end ! The topers at the ' Leather Bottle ' 
brimmed their pewter mugs and drank the toast with 
three cheers. 

The water boiled up, through the plughole, and the 
boat sank deeper. Life was beginning to return to 
Mehalah, but she neither saw nor knew aught. Her 



TO WEDDING BELLS. 415 

eyes were open and turned seaward, to the far away 
horizon, and Elijah relaxed his hold one instant. 
' Elijah ! ' she suddenly exclaimed, ' How cold !' 
' Grlory ! Glory ! It is fire ! We are one ! ' 
The bells pealed over the rolling sea — no boat was 
on it, only a sea-mew skimming and crying. 



THE END. 



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