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Full text of "Mr. Nobody"

Mr Nobody 



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Mrs f <Jo#n /Cent Spender 



f fiimriTirTirt&Bwata— 







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MR. EOBODY. 



VOL. I. 



NEW AND POPULAR NOVELS 

AT ALL THE LIBRARIES. 



ONLY YESTERDAY. By William Marshall, author 

of ' Strange Chapman,' &c. 3 vols. 

ONE FALSE, BOTH FAIR. By John Berwick 

Harwood, author of 'Lady Flavia,' &c. 3 vols. 

DI FAWCETT. By C. L. Pirkis, author of ' A Very 

Opal,' ' "Wanted, an Heir,' ' Saint and Sibyl,' &c. 3 vols. 

A CHRISTMAS ROSE. By Mrs. Randolph, author of 

' Gentianella,' ' Wild Hyacinth,' ' Woodroffe,' &c. 3 vols. 

JONATHAN SWIFT. By a New Writer. 3 vols. 



HURST & BLACKETT, 13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 



MR. NOBODY 



BY 



MES. JOHN KENT SPENDER 

AUTHOR OF 

godwyn's ordeal," "BOTH in the wrong, 

"HER OWN FAULT," "PARTED LIVES," 

ETC. ETC. 



" It is amazing how small a beam of light redeems a soul from the 
condemnation of utter darkness/' 

Hartley Coleridge. 

" All things tend upwardly, though weak 
Like plants in mines which never saw the sun, 
But dream of him, and guess where he may be, 
And do their best to climb and get to him — 
All this I knew not, and I failed." 

Robert Browning. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON: 
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS, 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 

1884. 

All rights reserved. 



v. I 



i 



PAET I. 



£- • Can the state thrive 

By the destruction of her innocent sons, 
In whom a premature necessity 
-^ Blocks out the forms of nature, preconsumes 

^ The reason, famishes the heart, shuts up 

The infant being in itself, and makes 
Its very spring a season of decay ? 
Can hope look forward to a manhood raised 
On such foundations ? 

Wordsworth 

Oo 



: VOL. I. B 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/mrnobody01spen 



MR. NOBODY. 



CHAPTER I. 

It was in the latter days of December, 1829, 
before the seasons had begun to puzzle and 
discomfort agriculturists, or ' to totter,' as 
Rossetti says, 'in their walk.' It was a time 
when the months were supposed to act up 
fairly to their accustomed character. The 
Yule-log was still expected to blaze at 
Christmas time, and March was more asso- 
ciated with the daffodils, ■ that come before 
the swallows dare,' than with the pale cheeks 
and red nose of youth, or the dust which 
brings tears into the eyes of 'reverend age.' 

B 2 



4 MR. NOBODY. 

The Shakespearian winter, ' when coughing 
drowns the parson's saw,' was still said to be 
succeeded by the mildness of a spring in which 
young people were fabled to bathe their faces 
with dew, and to go a-maying decked in white 
blossoms under sunlit skies. 

Yet the traditions of our fathers were already 
beginning to be shaken. And the nation, which 
was suffering from the bad effects of two un- 
congenial, wet summers, was ill prepared to en- 
counter another January of extraordinary frost 
and snow. August and September had not 
brought the red ripened corn, the warm, sweet 
twilights, or the soft harvest moons; nor had 
the ' happy autumn fields ' of October been as 
genial as usual, with brown nuts, ruddy apples, 
and touches of russet and gold. 

Winter seemed to be setting-in with greater 
virulence than ever, and tramps and beggars 
— who more than fifty years ago were toler- 
ated nuisances to such an extent that Smith, 
the ' king of gipsies,' was followed to his 
grave by a hundred children and grand- 
children — must have had a bad time of it in 



MR. NOBODY. 5 

their wandering life. But these people were 
hardened from childhood to endure all sorts of 
changes of temperature. Not so a poor beggar- 
woman who, at the time of which I write, had 
been wandering for weeks on foot in spite of 
bleak winds, and over almost impassable roads, 
with a patient, careworn face, and a pathetic, 
heavy-laden expression like that of an over- 
driven dumb animal in its silent misery, which 
attracted more than one passer-by. 

When she had set out on her weary walk 
from the neighbourhood of London, her shoe- 
leather and bonnet and shawl had been in fair 
condition ; but now the shoes hardly held to- 
gether, and her shawl — torn here and there in 
strips — scarcely protected her emaciated person. 
The little that was left of the once efficient gar- 
ment was wrapped in folds round the baby 
which she clutched close to her breast, as if she 
would communicate to it the small amount of 
warmth which yet lingered in her own body ; 
and the bonnet, w T hich was so draggled as no 
longer to protect her head, revealed her un- 
kempt hair, which had once been arranged in 



6 MR. NOBODY. 

the fashion of the period, in loose, full curls, 
falling on either side of the face, and only 
parted to show the forehead and eyebrows. 
The forehead was already furrowed, though 
the woman was still young, and the large, 
restless eyes glanced nervously at the clouds 
which were being driven across the sky by the 
pitiless wind that tore at the chimney-stacks of 
the cottagers, sending clattering slates from 
the roofs of the houses, as she passed through 
the village. 

Now and then she begged an alms, and it was 
the poor who gave her from time to time of their 
broken victuals. She was in search of a cottage 
which she had left in her innocent girlhood in 

the neighbourhood of a town in shire, 

and which for the purpose of my story shall be 
misnamed Torringmoor, and she was beginning 
to despair of ever reaching it. She could not tell 
herself how she had lived through that walk of 
nearly two hundred miles. It seemed to her 
that she had walked day and night, eating 
from time to time the dry crusts which the 
pitying poor, so kind to each other, spared from 



3IR. NOBODY. 7 

their own need. She would have lain on the 
ground had it been summer weather, but, as it 
was, she took shelter in sheds and outhouses. 
She had wandered from village to village 
singing for pence. Sometimes she had been 
hospitably received, and sometimes she had 
been driven away from the farmers' houses 
with curses. 

It must be acknowledged that the farmers 
had some reason for being afraid. Tramps 
were sometimes in league with housebreakers 
then as now ; and when it was not an uncommon 
occurrence for men with bludgeons to enter the 
premises of a farmer, bruising and lacerating 
his servants, and decamping with all the provi- 
sions on which it was possible to lay hands, 
the dread of tramps was not unfounded. 

Even in London a lad had but lately been 
promised a gratuity for discovering a cave 
within the iron railings of Leicester Square, in 
which six or seven sturdy beggars had been 
accustomed to crouch, smoking their pipes, upon 
a stone which concealed a number of convenient 
housebreaking instruments. 



8 MR. NOBODY. 

So ignorant was the poor mother of the 
district through which she was travelling that 
more than once she retraced her steps. But 
always a sort of instinct taught her to avoid 
companionship. If she could get out of the 
highway, she preferred the cart-track in the 
fields, or the path in the copses. More than 
once a merciful waggoner had offered her a 
lift, but she invariably had refused by a shake 
of the head. Perhaps she was afraid she would 
have to join iu conversation as a return for 
his hospitality, or perhaps she was aware that 
even hospitality itself might not be safe. It 
was possible that she might have heard the 
tale of how a waggoner lately travelling with 
goods had been attacked by three fellows in 
smock-frocks, who knocked him down, severely 
beating him before they stole his packages, and 
terrifying to death a young woman who had 
been in the waggon during the affray. 

More than once she had been asked, ' Eow 
old is your little boy'?' But she had never 
said, ' Six months.' If she did not exactly re- 
sent the inquiry, she seemed not to hear it, 



MR. NOBODY. 9 

and only answered it by hugging him closer 
to herself. Once or twice, the people who 
passed had joked about it. making coarse 
jokes, but she did not seem to hear them, ex- 
cept for the somewhat savage expression which 
crossed her face as she walked on again, almost 
barefooted, digging her nails into her own 
flesh. 

All the heroism of which she was capable 
was owing to the fact of being a mother. 
Were it not for her child, she would have 
been a poor, helpless thing, and would long 
since have sunk down on the ground to die. 
But as she passed by the happy homes of the 
rich, with their splendid evergreens, grassy 
slopes, and holly-trees glistening with the hoar- 
frost — the ideal old homes for Christmas merry- 
makings — contrasting strangely with the ' dog- 
hutches ' which were considered to be good 
enough for the poor, she felt as if she herself 
was one of the broken shards of ruin only tit 
to be cast into waste places, to add to the use- 
less rubbish-heaps which no sanitary commis- 
sioner as yet had cleared away. Were it not 



10 MR. NOBODY. 

for her child, she would rather have been 
dead. 

Often, in a state of fever and temporary 
delirium, she called on the names of those 
whom she had known in her girlhood, and 
for whom, in some blind way, she was search- 
ing again. And then, as the darkness came 
on, she would feel as if wounded to the heart, 
putting her hand to her side, and moaning. 

That morning she had felt tolerably strong, 
as if she could accomplish the remainder of the 
way. The few people whom she passed did 
not know what to say to her — some of them 
deciding that she was mad, the shadow on her 
eyes betraying the sorrowful thoughts with- 
in. More than one who had met her on the 
road had shunned her, crossing over, and pass- 
ing by on the other side. This solitary, ab- 
sorbed woman — walking straight on, with her 
feet almost bare, on the stony roads, clasping 
her infant so tightly to her, and muttering 
at times to herself with that strange wildness 
in her eyes — was not pleasant to encounter on 
a lonely road. 



MR. NOBODY. 11 

1 The creature is mad,' said more than one of 
the passers-by, with a shrug. * No doubt she 
has brought her troubles on herself.' 

For those were days in which the tender- 
heartedness of our times would have been 
looked upon as a false and foolish sentiment- 
ality. * Mercy,' it was said, * can be no relaxa- 
tion of justice ;' and there were certain fatal 
weaknesses whose criminality seemed to be 
so ingrained into the character that those who 
prided themselves on the superiority of the 
moral sense were ready, w T ith pitiless cruelty, 
to pronounce it incurable, to be cast out, and 
trodden under foot. In this stern sense of 
duty, there remained no room for compassion 
for the criminal. 

And though, in the middle of that day, when 
the unhappy tramp fainted on a doorstep, 
there proved to be one farmer's wife with a 
larger heart, who helped the swooning and 
suffering sister into a homestead, which was 
snug and neat, with a look of smiling hope, 
plenty and comfort about it — every ox and ass 
about the place sharing in the warm domestic 



12 MR. NOBODY. 

feeling, and seeming to know that it was well 
cared for — I am afraid it must be admitted that 
even this gentler and kindlier hostess allowed 
her conscience to reproach her for a self-indul- 
gent impulse, and never stayed to reflect how 
Christ Himself, instead of excommunicating 
publicans and sinners, openly associated with 
them, and tried to benefit them. 

' What is your name ? ' asked the good 
woman of the house, after she had given 
milk to the child, and had told the mother 
that she would kill it if she kept it out in the 
cold. 

8 I — 1 am not going to tell my name to no- 
body — I should like to be somebody else — I 
can't tell why God Almighty created me,' an- 
swered the poor soul, impressed by the benevo- 
lence in the pitying eyes, while something like 
a sob choked in her throat. 

' Hush ! you have been ill — one can see that 
to look at you, and you will bring the fever 
back if you talk like that,' said the farmer's 
wife, involuntarily retreating a little as she put 
the child back in the mother's lap. 



MR. NOBODY. 13 

Footsteps were heard at the door. It was 
the men returning to their dinner. 

* Cover me — hide me — don't let anybody see 
my face — I used to be known in these parts,' 
said the poor unhappy one, rising in alarm 
from her unusual place of luxury; and the good 
woman who listened to her shuddered. 

An hour afterwards she went in search of the 
stranger, whom she had concealed in an out- 
house. She found her crouched with her child 
in the furthest corner of the shelter. 

' Why do you trouble yourself about me V 
was the almost fierce inquiry. 

1 You be sick/ was the answer. 

* It is the first words of pity — as anyone has 

said to me — since — my mother ' and she 

broke off the speech, made with but little of 

the shire accent, in an unaccustomed flood 

of tears. 

1 Ye've been in Lunnon,' answered the elder 
woman, relapsing into the vernacular, and 
noticing that the stranger was much younger 
than she had at first imagined. 

She rose slowly, and looked in a dazed way 
around her. 



14 MR. NOBODY. 

' I will go away,' she said, taking no notice 
of the question. ' I am not good enough for 
sich as you to come near me. How far is it to 
Torriugmoor ? I can walk it quite well — I am 
bound for Torringmoor to-night.' 



15 



CHAPTER II. 

The afternoon had already begun to wane 
when the outcast set out again, nor did her 
hostess try to detain her. 

'How much further am I?' she had asked, 
almost fiercely, turning away from her would- 
be helper, and relapsing once more into the 
silence which is the refuge of suffering souls. 

Wandering folks were supposed to ! overlook' 
people's donkeys and hens, and though the 
very severity of the law against vagrants had 
a tendency to defeat itself, and the vagrants 
were left pretty much alone so long as they 
did not interfere with the farmer's hedges and 
ditches, the kind woman who had sheltered the 
wanderer in her benevolence was inwardly not 
sorry to see her depart. 



16 MR. NOBODY. 

' Yon be weak-like,' she said, as she supplied 
her with an ash stick which one of the farm- 
labourers had cut from the hedges, and which 
she thought might help to steady her steps. 

In summer-time the soft downs over which 
she again began to wander would have been 
pleasant enough bathed in the evening light, 
but now the endlessness of the great moor, 
its vastness, and the immense expanse of 
of sky above, suggesting the infinite distance 
of the plain below, was wearying to the ej*e. 
She — who in old times had been familiar with 
this moor, watered by a river of which now the 
brown aud turbulent water rushed over the 
rocky stones — would have been glad that the 
darkness was setting in, had not the place been 
haunted by ghosts and memories of the past. 

Strange stories were then afloat, and were 
confidently believed by the superstitious, of 
wildernesses infested by evil spirits, the air 
being filled with the clash of instruments and 
with the noisy footsteps of demons ready to 
pounce upon their prey. Some of these familiar 
stories returned to the poor woman's memory. 



MR. NOBODY. 17 

The bare and denuded branches of the little 
vegetation about the place only added to the 
ghostliness of the scene, undisturbed but by 
the cry of a solitary water-hen, beating its 
wings and trailing its legs as it flew out into 
the evening air. 

It was well for the lonely mother that her 
state was almost that of stupefaction, or all the 
strange and haunted sense of a wanderer by 
night — who hears the dead whisper, and can 
almost see them pass by white in the moorland 
mist — would have been hers. Suddenly she 
knew that she was alone, and uttered one cry 
— a mother's cry, instantly stifled by the effort 
which she put upon herself. Only the despair- 
ing could have understood her despair. It was 
but a few miles further to walk. She could see 
the smoke from the chimneys of Torringmoor, 
but her strength was failing her. 

On she went again over dead leaves and dry 
branches, which crackled under her feet, tear- 
ing them and making them bleed. She took 
no notice of the pain ; she might not even have 
felt it. Her eyes were fixed on the distant 

VOL. I. C 



18 MR. NOBODY. 

horizon, on which lingered the tints of the 
wintry sunset — the colours of the Eternal city. 
It brought back faint recollections to her mind. 
How long since she had talked to her own 
mother in childish language of the gates of 
amethyst and pearl, how long — how very long 
— since she had read her Bible. Darker it 
grew, and her consciousness became more than 
ever confused. She murmured names now as 
she pressed the crying child to her bosom — 
tried to comfort and soothe it, but found she 
had no nourishment to give it. Yet mechanic- 
ally, as if she remembered a habit of her girl- 
hood, her eyes began to watch the darkening 
sky, noting a change in it. The skirts of the 
mists, which had begun to gather over the dis- 
tant moon, were now drawn up, revealing 
clouds which fell away and seemed to retire for 
a time till the wind should arise like a giant in 
its fury. She knew that snow was beginning 
to fall by the small particles which she could 
feel in the darkness stinging her face. But, 
by the shorter cut which she had taken, she 
had but a few fields more to traverse, and 



MR. NOBODY. 19 

then she would be able to reach Torringmoor. 

If only her strength had not been exhaust- 
ed ! She was compelled to sit under one of the 
hedges for a few moments, having taken the 
precaution to wrap the child more closely in 
the tattered remnants of the woollen shawl. 
And then, remembering the stick, she tried to 
assist her tottering steps by using it with one 
hand, and propelling herself forwards. It was 
rather limping than walking — limping with 
great strides, each one more exhausting than 
the effort which had preceded it, and rendered 
all the more difficult from the fact that the 
snow was beginning to fall in larger quantities. 
The flakes were wrestling in furious dance 
with the wind, which had risen as she expect- 
ed, and was flinging the powdery white in 
blinding masses not only into her eyes and 
face, but into the closest casements of the 
cottages, so that in the morning it would be 
found drifted high into heaps wherever the 
pitiless wind had flung it. 

She had reason to be alarmed. For there 
had been a night of snow in the preceding year 

C 2 



20 MR. NOBODY. 

which had caused much consternation and con- 
fusion in all parts of the country, at a time 
when the means of locomotion were fewer and 
much more difficult than they are now. If the 
snow were to continue to fall like this, in six or 
seven hours the roads would be impassable, the 
coaches would cease running, the mail-bags 
would have to be brought on horseback at the 
risk of life ; while — on some of the important 
thoroughfares — there might be carts and wag- 
gons buried in snowdrifts, causing an obstruc- 
tion to all traffic. The chance for a solitary 
traveller would be desperate indeed, and in 
spite of the unerring instinct which the human 
mother shares, under peculiar circumstances, 
with brute beasts, she did not feel as if it 
would be of any use for her to fight against 
fate. The cruel blast of the knife-like wind 
seemed to cut her face almost into pieces, and 
every drop of blood in her body felt frozen. 
The child cried loudei than before, and with 
the desperate emergency her consciousness 
partially returned to her, as she sang wild 
snatches of songs in a low voice, that it might 
not be terrified at other sounds. 



MR. NOBODY. 21 

"Was it her fancy, or did the Christmas bells 
— for it was Christmas week — sound mingled 
with that blast of wind as she ceased her 
singing? She was at the outskirts of the town 
of Torringmoor, and the churches were close to 
her. She did not stop to think that the ring- 
ing of bells could scarcely be heard, and that 
the ringers would have ceased practising, as 
it was past ten o'clock. For to the sore-hearted 
mother the thought of pouring out her agony 
at the feet of One born of woman had come 
to her with the sound of those Christmas 
bells ; and a pitying face — as of One crowned 
with thorns — seemed to look down at her 
through the blackness of the clouds. 



22 



CHAPTER III. 

The snow that night did not prove to be so 
serious as had been expected. So furious was 
the rush of wind, when once its power was 
thoroughly stirred, that the common people said 
it had ' drev the snew awaa.' 

So it seemed to a middle-aged nurse, who 
was watching that night in the chamber of 
another young mother, listening to the tumult 
of winds round a house in one of the poorer 
streets of Torringmoor. The woman, who was 
about forty years old, but who looked older 
than she was, was urging flakes of fire up the 
chimney with an enormous pair of bellows. 

There was an expression in her face like 
that in the face of a good but rather sulky dog, 



MR. NOBODY. 23 

■with whom the world has not gone straight, 
and who loves but one thing in it, and that 
a master or mistress whom he is likely to lose. 
And the young lady who lay in the bed — for, 
in spite of her sickness and the poverty of the 
place, she was unmistakably a lady — had spent 
a portion of that night with both her arms 
passed round this faithful creature, relieving 
her overcharged heart in weeping on her neck. 
She saw that, though her nurse returned her 
caresses by stroking and petting — much as the 
dog, in the same case, would have put out its 
tongue to lick — there was a strange look about 
her, and that the eyes, generally good and 
loving, shone like live coal. 

One might have said that, if the intelligence 
had been high enough to allow of the nurturing 
of any far-seeing project, there was vengeance 
in the face, and vengeance of a kind to be 
dreaded. But, however that might be, there 
was certainly nothing but love and gentleness 
in the countenance of the young lady, whom 
the woman had nursed since her childhood, and 
to whom she had returned now that all others 



24 MR. NOBODY. 

bad deserted her. Though the patient had wept 
that night on her nurse's neck, hers was natur- 
ally a buoyant temperament. She had not been 
one of the overthoughtful ones who find it hard 
to rejoice when tales of real suffering are rife, 
and when they can only stand by, with folded 
hands, and watch the apparent triumph of evil 
over good. 

Hers, on the contrary, had been a happy, 
childlike temperament — never perplexed and 
wavering, and never liable to depression. A 
bright and cheerful sense of duty would have 
made duty easy to her, even when it seemed 
hard to others. And though this was what 
the doctor had said would probably be her last 
night on earth, though her dearest wish re- 
mained still ungranted, and in nurse EIs- 
peth's eyes she had endured one of the cruellest 
of wrongs, she could still be confident and 
hopeful. She was one of those who have passed 
from life to death because they love in a sense 
which others cannot comprehend, and because 
their love is stronger than death, and can con- 
quer all wrongs. 



MR. NOBODY. 25 

Had it been her lot to live, she would have 
sought to lighten the troubles of others instead 
of brooding over her own. But the Master had 
not given her so hard a lot. She had suffered 
enough for one so sweet and patient in her 
short, trustful life, and now the Master, who 
had reserved the crown for the brows so young, 
which had borne but a few of the thorns, 
was calling 1 for her. She was listening for 
the sound of His feet, and the sweet, almost 
unearthly smile upon the face which had suc- 
ceeded the fit of weeping, and which was so 
incomprehensible to the lower intelligence of 
the servant, told that she was already conscious 
of it. 

' Nurse, dear,' she said, presently, in a tone 
which, though weak and faint, could have made 
a bystander comprehend how, in the days of 
health and strength, she had possessed, besides 
her physical beauty, and the naive grace of her 
slightest gestures, a childlike intonation in her 
voice, with a fascination in her smile which it 
could not have been easy to resist — 'nurse, 
dear, I do — not think — he will come now ; he 



26 MR. NOBODY. 

said — he — would be here before to-night. I 
am sure — it is not — his fault.' 

The nurse, who was a north-countrywoman, 
did not speak loud enough for her charge to 
hear, but muttered to herself, ' She was a fule 
to thiuk he ever would come.' She did not let 
her young mistress see her face, but relieved 
her anger by making greater efforts with the 
bellows, lashing her indignant feelings into a 
still greater height of fury as she remembered 
the hated face of the man who was mentioned, 
with long falling moustachios, which few people 
wore then, and which, it was the nurse's im- 
pression, were probably worn with the intention 
of not letting the diabolical nature of his smile 
be seen beneath them. 

'T puir crater/ she muttered to herself; and 
then, rocking herself backwards and forwards, 
she groaned, ' Think o' yer sowl,' till a blast of 
the pitiless wind blew down the chimney, and 
made her shudder. 

' I do — think — of it — Elspeth,' said the gentle 
voice from the bed, ' though — I — may not tell 
you — all. It will make no difference — now. 



MR. NOBODY. 27 

You must let — me — speak to you. This is the 
week when God removed — the gulf — between 
me and Himself — when He became flesh like 
my little baby here — when He was seen—and 
handled — born of the Virgin Mary. Do you — 
think — I would deceive — you — though — I may 
not — tell you — all?' 

There was a pause. The nurse did not an- 
swer. Only yesterday some of the servants 
of the man who owned the moustache, and who 
was still so mysteriously absent on his travels, 
had spoken of the marriage as an impossibility, 
and had laughed her to scorn on the subject. 
She knew that the doctor thought the same, 
and who was she to flaunt her opinion in the 
face of her betters ? The world was as bad as 
possible — it could not well be worse. She be- 
lieved in her ' young leddy.' but felt confident, 
at the same time, that the poor lamb had been 
deceived. One peep at her wedding lines 
would have been better than all this talk ; and, 
if her suspicions were not correct, why could 
not her nursling show her the proofs ? 

There was silence in the room. Elspeth, 



28 MR. NOBODY. 

who had risen from attending to the fire, was 
now feeding the little boy, a baby of some five 
or six months old. An outsider might have 
noticed that she eyed it askance when the sick 
lady was not looking, as if it were the enemy 
rather than the child of her mistress. From 
time to time she muttered to herself, in a voice 
too low for the invalid to hear, 'He's noan 
coomin',' — ' Chap to coom at my young leddy,' 
— ' Sich careless craturs,' — ' But he'll be soa 
alius,' — ' Not coomin', not he, and t' puir sowl 
nobbut just deeing.' 

She did not see the smile which shone 
brighter on the face which lay upon the pillow, 
so bright at times that it seemed to illuminate 
the room. Exhaustion of body had subdued 
the lady's power of speaking, but not of recol- 
lection, not of prayer. She seemed again to 
hear her lover pleading. 

1 1 cannot help it if I love you past all com- 
pass and description. The love is as a thing 
outside myself; I could not help it if I would. 
They always wanted me to be married to a 
rich woman — the fortunes of our house required 



MR. NOBODY. 29 

it, they said. Cannot you pity me when I 
tell you they would like me to make a mar- 
riage simply as a business partnership, with- 
out one reference to the impulses of the 
heart '? They would like me to give up one of 
the sweetest and prettiest of girls because a 
sum of hard cash cannot be handed over to me 
on the day of my marriage. It is that which 
makes a coward and a fool of me. But, my 
darling, after we are married, properly married, 
I will outwit them. I will go away and make 
a fortune, and bring it back with me ; and 
meanwhile you must keep our secret, or the 
whole thing will be a failure.' 

She never thought of reproaching him, even 
in her own mind, for the fact that he had been 
absent for so long a time that she had pined 
and died without him. It was characteristic of 
her that she told herself he had nothing to do 
with the catastrophe, since there was consump- 
tion in her family, and she would probably have 
died anyhow. There were times when she had 
not even missed him, with the dim dawning of 
a mysterious other love which made her feel 



30 MR. XOBODY. 

brave with the strength of motherhood. She 
looker! at her baby with a yearning look. It 
had fallen asleep. The whole room was very 
quiet now. For the wind, which earlier in the 
evening had howled down the chimney, shaking 
the bare trees and. stripping them of the few 
russet autumn leaves which yet had remain- 
ed upon them, had now sunk, like her little 
child, to sleep, and the nurse had told her that 
the snow, which a couple of hours before bad 
been driving thickly outside, had also ceased. 

All was quiet save for the dropping of an 
occasional ember in the fireplace, and from the 
shutterless window the dying woman could see 
some of the thousands of worlds taking their 
places again in the sky — where perhaps there 
were schools for the souls of those who should 
attain the resurrection. 

A sense of the wonder at the new and grand- 
er life seemed to be gently opening before her. 
The only trial for one so loving was to go forth 
to it alone. She spoke rather to herself than 
to the nurse, when she said, a little languidly, 

■ I sometimes wish I could take my baby with 



MR. NOBODY. 31 

me. But that would be selfish — his father 
would want hino.' 

What if, when her child was waking in one 
world, she would be waking in another — that 
was the more likely I She felt very feeble, 
very care-worn, going in the path of darkness 
which her Saviour had trodden before her. Had 
He not told her, 'I go to prepare a place for 
you?' Perhaps in one of the many mansions 
which she could see now in the sky ? She spoke 
more feebly. 

'Nurse — when — I am gone — take the baby 
away — at once — this is no place for him — take 
him to his — father's house. I could not tell 
you — the reason — while I was living — but when 
— I am gone — you will find — it out. Take 
him — he is the heir — to the housekeeper's room 
— and undress him — the morning — air — will not 
hurt him. When they see it — they will ac- 
knowledge — him. Promise me, promise.' 

Elspeth gave her one rapid, searching glance, 
and concluded that she was wandering. The 
more so because she said, a few minutes 
afterwards, 



32 MR. NOBODY. 

' I feel— just — as if — I were a child — again, 
hardy — and scampering — over the heather — on 
— the moor. . Open — the window, and — let me 
— breathe the air.' 

The older woman humoured her by pretend- 
ing to let in the cold air, and shutting it out 
again directly, in the same spirit in which 
she would have given any number of required 
promises. 

Yet she was a little awed in spite of herself 
by the rapt expression in the happy face which 
did not seem like that of anyone dying. Some- 
thing in the manner in which the wide open, lus- 
trous eyes gazed through the window, which she 
had begged to have opened, at the stars now 
shining in the sky reminded the nurse of the 
joyous childhood to which she had just alluded, 

' When on some gilded cloud or flower 
Her gazing soul would dwell an hour.' 

' T' puir bairn wur alius a gowk/ she mutter- 
ed again to herself, shivering a little, partly 
with superstitious fear, and partly with the 
cold, as she noticed the unusual expression in 
the shining eyes, which seemed in no way to 



MR. NOBODY. 33 

notice either herself or her child, but to look 
through them and beyond them in a manner 
which alarmed her. 

She would have been surprised if she could 
have been told that her young lady was ab- 
sorbed in prayer — not the sort of prayer to 
which she had been accustomed herself, consist- 
ing mainly in groans and guttural noises, but 
in that leaning of the faithful and loving soul 
upon the Everlasting Arms which are beneath 
it, which from the habit of a lifetime passes in 
hours of weakness beyond the meaning of 
words, and even beyond the need of them, and 
yet realises the Divine Nature in the most per- 
fect way, acting in its uttermost necessity upon 
the human. 

' I cannot pray for myself ; I am so weak. I 
have forgotten the words,' the invalid had 
complained but a few days before. 

But now God Himself seemed to be teaching 
her that the essence of prayer was purely 
spiritual, the appeal from spirit to spirit for 
inward light and quickening help, the coming 
of the child, by a conscious act, into the merci- 

VOL. 1. D 



34 MR. NOBODY. 

ful Father's presence. Even the nurse herself 
seemed to be suddenly conscious of the open- 
ing of a larger window, than that which she 
had sulkily pretended to open, to the super- 
natural, though she could not have guessed 
that just then, if her eyes could have been 
opened like those of Elisba's servant, she would 
have discovered herself to be the least and 
most insignificant of the numerous presences 
in that poverty-stricken room. Suddenly the 
invalid stretched out her arms. The smile, 
which melted into an unconscious but mut- 
tered { Abba, Father,' still more lit up her face. 

'Oh! Elspeth, do you not seeV she cried, 
in a stronger voice. ' They are here — all of 
them Come, Lord Jesus — I ' 

She could not finish the sentence. The col- 
our which had suddenly flushed it crept from 
her face. But the smile still remained. It was 
Life — more abundant in the fullest sense — which 
we so ignorantly call by the name of Death. The 
sentiment of immortality — the conviction that 
that which we call the 'last act' does not end all 
for us, but is really a new beginning of which not 



MR. NOBODY. 35 

only the New Testament, but our own heart 
and reason assures us — became overpowering 
to the more limited intelligence of the looker- 
on, with a strange and weird conception of 
the possible fact that the mistress who lay 
there smiling, in her new, mysterious, frozen 
beauty, might perchance have the power of 
punishing her, if she did not obey her behest 
directly. 

She did not like to think much about death 
herself, but had an idea that her sweet lady, 
who had wronged no one, had been somehow 
badly treated, not only by her fellow-creatures, 
but by the messenger which had so suddenly 
come for her, and which did not seem to her 
to be God's gentle ministrant, tenderly sealing 
the bodily eyes in His holy slumber, while 
gentler angels carried the rejoicing spirit to 
that Paradise described of old in metaphoric 
speech as ' Abraham's bosom.' Rather was it 
something horrible, to be struggled with and 
resisted, and, had it not been for the pride 
which kept her quiet, the angry woman would 
have liked to rend the air with her cries, in- 

D t 



36 MR. NOBODY. 

forming her neighbours, after the manner of 
her more savage ancestors, that Death had 
been let loose upon its ravages. 

But there was no time to be lost. She had 
first of all to perform the last sad offices for 
her dear one, that no one should despise her 
as she lay there, so mysteriously smiling, but 
still undoubtedly maltreated before her time 
by the enemy ; and then she had to carry out 
the promise — which she was rather glad than 
otherwise had been exacted from her — and to 
get rid as quickly as might be of the hated 
baby. 



37 



CHAPTER 17. 

The daylight had scarcely penetrated into the 
little house when Elspeth shuffled as quietly 
as possible down the wooden ladder which led 
from the little chamber. She wished to ac- 
complish her mission as rapidly as possible, 
and to return secretly before the other people 
in the house could discover what had happened. 
The most gloomy evening imaginable had 
been succeeded by a resplendent morning. 
The bells which rang out in Christmas week 
were already ringing again, after an interval 
of silence — now in a hallowed and consecrated 
strain, and now again in a merry din, only 
suitable for a time of human festivities and 
gladness. Elspeth could not have told the 



38 MR. NOBODY. 

names of the hymn tunes which were chiming, 
and awakening no responsive chord in her 
heart, but she knew that the burden of them 
was 'rejoice evermore,' and to her they sounded 
like a mocking injunction, when all that she 
cared for in life seemed to be in ruin and 
collapse. 

The river in the neighbourhood of Torring- 
moor was frozen. It was an unusual occur- 
ence, and she knew that on the following 
evening there was to be a scene of holiday- 
keeping, when a number of men would be 
balancing themselves on steel blades, by the flare 
of torches, and amidst the jocund laughter of 
those who would be sure to detect the awk- 
wardness of the natives. And, though the 
women did not then trust themselves to be 
whirled about on skates, there would be plenty 
of amusement for the fair sex. 

Elspeth could imagine the bustling crowds 
upon the banks of the river, the pedlars selling 
articles of food and dress, and more than one 
charlatan willing to turn a nimble penny. 

Already there were tall young fellows busily 



MR. NOBODY. 3$ 

sweeping the ice, and hanging lamps between 
the ribs of the skeleton trees. 

But all the kindliness in the woman's heart 
had been poisoned. She turned with a sicken- 
ing sensation of envy from the thought of the 
happy actors and friendly spectators in the 
merry scene. Had not her young lady as 
much right to enjoy herself as the best of them? 
The despair and contempt which never yet 
cured any grief were in the faithful, unreason- 
ing creature's heart, with all that tendency to 
querulous fault-finding, all that distress and 
bewilderment at things difficult to be under- 
stood, which, in a more modern stage of 
development, have contributed towards the 
making of many a poor uneducated petroleuse. 

Elspeth had received few kind words and 
few encouraging smiles during her somewhat 
hard, dry life, and these had come from her 
1 young leddy/ who, she was ready to con- 
clude, had been too good for this earth. And 
there was now no one to teach the embittered, 
broken-hearted woman that to dwell on the 
melancholy hopelessness of some aspects of 



40 MR. NOBODY. 

human life, and not to believe side by side with 
it in the loving mercy of a God, is to be dragged 
down to the misery of a suffering brute. 

The passion which possessed her had set her 
usually sallow complexion in a blaze, and she 
was ready to stamp her foot as she remembered 
that that evening, when the men and commoner 
people would be amusing themselves on the 
ice, a splendid ball would be given in Torring- 
moor, at which all the beauty and fashion in 
the neighbourhood would be collected, and in 
which the merry dance was to be kept up to a 
late hour, with every luxury and delicacy of 
the season, so that the New Year should be 
ushered in with heart-felt glee. A number of 
fine ladies would be visiting in the neighbour- 
hood for the purpose, and the woman cursed 
them in her heart. 

' Ech th' owld warld is jest so ill, it wur 
better it wur doon wi' a'together, it nubbut 
graws wurser,' she said to herself, in a mixture 
of her own dialect, and her young lady's south- 
ern speech, little knowing that such sentiments 
would in the future be honoured by the name 



MR. NOBODY. 41 

of * pessimism,' and that philosophical ideas, 
bearing a remarkable resemblance to her own 
dreary lament, would fall glibly from the lips of 
weaklings who would like to be thought wise 
in depreciating human life. 

She gave a long, searching look at the infant, 
and began more than ever to realise how im- 
possible it would be for her to lake the child 
to the big mansion in the neighbourhood, from 
which the master, the only nobleman of whom 
Torriugmoor could boast, was now absent on 
his travels. The common sense on which she 
prided herself had always convinced her that 
her young lady told an incredible story, and 
that the ' proofs ' of which she had spoken 
would prove to be a delusion of the poor girl's 
sick fancy, whilst she herself would be hunted 
from the lodge-gates with insult for venturing 
to speak of the reputed father. 

Sheer fright of the dead body had for the 
time overpowered Elspeth's usual fair share of 
wits, but her sense of the absurdity of the 
situation seemed by degrees to be returning to 
her in the clear, keen, morning air. There 



42 MR. NOBODY. 

would be a ghastly make-believe, a forced joke 
about the thing, which would lead not only to 
cruel observation, but to cynical satire from the 
very men-servants of the establishment. True, 
her lady had told her to inquire for the house- 
keeper, and to seek for the proof of the child's 
birth in the housekeeper's private room. But 
the distinction of rank in a servants' hall, the 
artificial demarcations imitated from masters, 
would quite preclude such a proceeding. 
Elspeth was poorly dressed, the housekeeper 
would spurn her and snub her. 

Hitherto Elspeth had been walking very 
slowly. There seemed to be growing upon her 
a sort of progressive * locomotor ataxy,' — the 
doctor's gorgeous name for failure to direct 
one's own steps — both in the physical and the 
moral sense. But suddenly, as she perceived 
that she was nearing the nobleman's park, the 
remnant of her courage deserted her, and she 
fled. Fled, scarcely knowing or caring w r here 
her footsteps might take her, towards a barren 
upland strewn with boulders, where a few of 
the poorer folks, washerwomen and others, 



MR. NOBODY. 43 

were known to congregate, to pick up a scanty 
living : for they were close upon the moors, 
and this suburb was well suited to the drying 
of linen. 

A dreary, desolate place it was, gleaming 
just now with the cold gleam of snow, which 
had fallen earlier on the previous night, and 
had collected here and there in heaps. The 
wind would be shrieking and moaning here 
when it had ceased to shriek in other places, 
and it had risen a little now, and seemed to be 
playing with a few of the scattered flakes, and 
rushing along with them against their will. A. 
dog, a shepherd's colley, whined pitifully, fol- 
lowing Elspeth ; as, for reasons which she could 
not have given, she passed on with the baby, 
which was cooing, and even attempting to 
make more articulate sounds, so delighted was 
the little fellow with the change from the sick- 
room. 

Elspeth scarcely knew whither she meant to 
take him. She had no respect or sympathy 
for the bright little creature, whom his mother 
had so ardently loved, as a fresh link from the 



44 MR. NOBODY. 

chain let down from heaven to earth from the 
ever-working Spirit. Elspeth, as a pessimist, 
was only reminded by the little one of the 
short time that the joy of many mothers lasts, 
when the babies they love are either parted 
from them betimes, or live to grow up in a 
separation of heart which is often worse than 
death. She remembered that the mother had 
said she wished it had been possible for her to 
take the child with her. 

Elspeth, who had so loved her, re-echoed the 
words,, as, scarcely noticing what she was 
doing, she followed the dog, which, alternating 
its whine with short deep barks, seemed to be 
leading the w 7 ay somewhere, she did not care 
where. Yet she could not help remarking that 
the animal seemed to have its nose close to the 
ground, and that in the direction in which it 
led there were footprints in the snow, as if 
some one else had tramped that way before 
her. 

The dog's whine became more eager, and at 
last it stood quite still before a large and deso- 
late-looking barn, the door of which was ajar. 



MR. NOBODY. 45 

Elspeth pushed it more widely open, her mind 
still in that strained state, and so fully occu- 
pied with keeping back its own woes that she 
troubled herself little about any other grief 
which was foreign to her own private source of 
sorrow. But she could not help noticing that, 
in a sitting posture under the shed, and upon 
a heap of dirty straw, another woman sat with 
another child in her arms, and that the child 
was pressed closely to her bosom, as if she too 
would protect it from the cold. There was 
need to do so, for it was freezing hard, and an 
old neckerchief, more like a rag, which lay 
at this other woman's feet, was stiff and 
frozen. 

1 What a to-do the creature was making ! It 
was no worse for her than for others, and many 
wanderers must have been homeless that dreary 
night,' was the first selfish thought, as Elspeth 
noted the coincidence. But her next idea was 
one of horror, for, on calling to her fellow-suf- 
ferer, the latter did not seem to take notice. 
Her attitude was easy and peaceful as that of 
a child asleep, but, on closer inspection, it was 



46 MR. NOBODY. 

evident that she and the baby in her arms were 
dead. 

To do Elspeth justice, she was not quite des- 
titute of feeling, as she took off her own cloak, 
and tried to pile it on as clothing, hoping that 
the warmth might help to restore vitality. But 
such an event was too common an occurrence, 
in days when the sufferings of the poor were 
thought to be no one's particular business, and 
when Christian benevolence had not taken the 
more active forms which it now so commonly 
assumes. It was easy to see that what had 
happened was nobody's fault, and that no one 
could take in such a wretched creature, not 
feeling sure of what she might be up to. Easy, 
too, to surmise that, when the snow had whirled 
about her during the night, she could not have 
been able to find her way blindfold, and might- 
have been bewildered as to landmarks. But, 
though the Yorkshirewoman had no poetry 
about her, it struck her with some pathos that 
the Eternities, as Carlyle would have expressed 
it, which had looked down on the sons of Time 
during the preceding night, should have wit- 



MR. NOBODY. 47 

nessed the death of two poor mothers of boys 
of much the same age, and resembling one 
another. 

Both the children were of about the same 
size and complexion, while the hair of both was 
brown, and both had that vague indeterminate- 
ness in the other features characteristic of baby- 
life in general. What a good thing it would 
be if both were dead ! 

The thought had no sooner occurred to a 
mind capable of strong emotions, explosive 
passions, but with a want of sufficient principle 
to resist bad suggestions, and hardly able to 
exert any form of self-control, than it was 
followed by another thought with the rapidity 
of lightning. How the poor outcast got into 
that shed was altogether a mystery, and was 
likely to remain a mystery for all the pains 
that people took to inquire into such things. 
The infant in Elspeth's own arms was now 
crying with cold and hunger. A little more 
would suffice to kill it, and it was not Iter 
fault that it had been taken out according 
to its mother's suggestion. Appearances would 



48 MR. NOBODY. 

be all in favour of the plan which seemed to 
be suggested to her by Providence itself. 

She did not wait to parley with temptation, 
but, hastily stripping the infant in her arms 
of its somewhat handsome cloak and em- 
broidered upper garment, she placed it in 
the arms of the dead woman, and — noticing 
that fortune seemed in every way to favour 
her scheme, since the underclothes of both 
children were more or less ragged, from the 
want of means, which had forced her to part 
with some of her lady's baby-linen — she dressed 
the dead child in the warm cloak and long 
embroidered dress, wrapping the other up as 
closely as possible in the woollen, though rag- 
ged shawl. 

No one else but herself had ever looked 
closely at her mistress' child ; no one but the 
doctor and the landlady in whose house they 
lodged had ever been allowed to come at all 
near to it, since not a breath of scandal that 
the servant could prevent had ever been suf- 
fered to cross the threshold. Nor did her 
conscience reproach her much as she fed the 



ME. NOBODY. 49 

living baby once more with some soft cake, 
which she had carried with her for the purpose, 
and noticed that a little colour crept into its 
cheeks. Such religion as she possessed — a 
bitter form of Calvinism — had made her a 
fatalist; and reasoning with herself that, if it 
were the Lord's will, some neighbour enter- 
ing the barn would surely save the child's 
life ; and, if it were not His will, her lady's wish 
would be granted : she placed the little one 
in the dead woman's arms, and, regardless of 
its frightened cries, once more fled. 



VOL. I. 



50 



CHAPTER V. 

HAVING once yielded to a sudden temptation, 
there was not only no going back for Elspeth, 
but no time to be lost in conscientious regrets, 
even had such regrets been likely to occur to 
her. For I must ask my reader to remember 
that this woman had been reared in a compara- 
tively remote period of the century, when such 
things as school-boards were unheard of. She 
had associated with ' factory hands,' whose in- 
stincts were somewhat savage, who were utterly 
unable to read and write, and who, some of 
them, as in Moslem countries, not only re- 
garded women as marketable commodities, to 
be beaten or kicked in the absence of cock- 
fighting, bear-baiting, or other soul-stirring 



MR. NOBODY. 51 

amusements, but thought that mothers, in the 
absence of their proper lords, had more or 
less absolute rights over the persons of their 
offspring. Probably, in spite of the slight 
amount of Calvinism which had been grafted 
upon Elspeth's otherwise heathenish creed, an 
ethnologist of the present day would have 
looked upon her with interest, as a * survival ' 
of the untutored childhood of the nineteenth 
century, just as the stone axe is a relic of 
pre-historic times. 

Had any tender and pitiful remembrance of 
the terrified child, screaming and stretching out 
its little arms to her, been likely to linger in 
her fierce bosom, it would have been ex- 
tinguished by the sight of two pretty, smiling 
women, who were tripping from the steps of 
one of the houses to get into a closed coach, 
as she came back into Torringmoor. They 
were apparently about the age of her own 
young ' leddy,' and the contrast struck her 
cruelly, as she listened to their light laughter. 
One had on a dress-hat of pink satin, orna- 
mented with ostrich feathers. Her pelisse and 



52 MR. NOBODY. 

tippet were trimmed with marten-skin ; a Chan- 
tilly lace veil was drawn over her comely face, 
and her little feet peeped in and out ' like mice ' 
in her fawn-coloured boots. The other had 
a walking-dress of light cashmere, quite un- 
suitable to the weather, as the corset displayed 
a cambric chemisette, only half hidden by a 
chinchilla tippet — sleeves a la Caroline, as they 
were then called — and pale-lavender gloves. 

I fear that Elspeth cursed them in words 
which it would not do to retail here, not only 
from the recollection of another stiff white toi- 
lette on a fairer form in an upper room, but be- 
cause the money which had been spent on their 
' fal-lals ' might have saved the taxes spent on 
such articles as sugar, candles, and soap, taxes 
which were severely felt in such a period of 
distress. 

The hate in her heart seemed to aid her 
natural shrewdness. What had these Jezebels 
to do with such worldly vanities in this life 
which was so full of death ; when but one of 
their expensive fur or feather dainties, sold for 
what it could fetch, would have helped Elspeth 



MR. NOBODY. 53 

to purchase dainties for the sweet soul which 
had been left to die ? She clenched her hand 
and ground her teeth, being in that frame of 
mind which made her thankful for that which 
her minister had told her would be the fact, 
that God would bum up this miserable world, 
and she hoped He would burn it as soon as 
possible. 

She had no one but the doctor to outwit 
now, and her natural shrewdness told her that 
would be pretty easy, since the distress had 
been so great among country practitioners that 
many of them had been unable to keep their 
families, and were embarking for America and 
the settlement on the Swan River. The doctor 
who attended her poor lady had had difficulty 
enough, as Elspeth knew, to provide sufficient 
food for the mouths of his own children. One 
death, more or less, from exposure to cold, 
amongst the common slaughter of innocents 
from causes which were preventible, would not, 
as Elspeth knew, be likely to attract much 
attention. 

And, though she had her tears and lamenta- 



54 MR. NOBODY. 

tions ready, she did not suppose that too much 
attention would be accorded to her trouble as 
she stopped at the doctor's shop, where the 
blue and red lights had been burning all night. 
The most benevolent of all professions had not 
then learnt to be afraid of lowering itself by 
allowing the common people to call its dispen- 
saries ' shops,' nor did it shrink with horror 
from defiling itself by having anything to do 
with exchange and barter. 

As she had expected, the doctor was not too 
sympathetic. 

' What? the mother was dead, and the child 
sick already, and yet you took it out in the cold 
morning air — what a fool you must be !' said 
the young man, whose assistance she thought 
it wise to seek, as she told her plausible tale, 
and he also told her how senseless it would be 
to try to restore life by inadequate means, for 
the boy had been evidently dead more than an 
hour already. ' And the best thing that could 
happen, too, though that does not excuse you 
for your atrocious carelessness, woman,' said 
the young man, as he somewhat roughly uu- 



MR. XOBODY. 55 

fastened for the second time the cloak and 
dress, and in so doing dislodged a tiny parcel 
of something which had been sewed into the 
bosom of the little dress, and which fell down 
at Elspeths feet. She coloured slightly as she 
picked it up, and thrust it into her pocket, 
determining to examine it at leisure when she 
reached her home. 

In spite of her nervousness she was somewhat 
angry with the doctor for his haughty, repellant 
manner, and resented the fact that such a man- 
ner was reserved for the 'tag-rag and bobtail,' 
whilst he could be suave enough to the ' quality/ 
and was not above the snobbishness which 
made him think it a possible stepping-stone to 
a fortune to have a right to feel the pulse of a 
lord, or prescribe for a duchess. 

' There, don't stand blubbering there any 
more — my time is precious, and a mistake of 
this kind can't be undone,' he said, impatiently. 

What could the fool expect of him ? he had 
enough to do to attend to the living. And, in- 
deed, when medical science had still to make 
such strides that the idea of inflating the lungs 



56 MR. NOBODY. 

of still-born children was spoken of as a curious 
experiment only attempted by Paris savants, 
and problematical in its results ; when anony- 
mous letters had sometimes to be written to 
mayors and coroners, before a jury was sum- 
moned to investigate mysterious deaths; and 
when itinerant vendors or other unfortunate 
men could be discovered dead, with their skulls 
fractured, and jurymen trouble themselves so 
little about their fate that, from want of evi- 
dence, they were content to bring in, as their 
most decisive verdict, 'Found dead, but how or 
by what means cannot be determined,' Elspeth 
need not have feared that there would be much 
ado about a baby's death. 

Meanwhile the little one, which had been so 
heartlessly abandoned, was not so forsaken as 
it might have seemed to human ken. Doubt- 
less its guardian angel was watching over it ; 
and without speculating as to the true mean- 
ing of old-world myths, such as that of Romulus 
and Remus, there was certainly another angel 
at hand in the shape of a four-footed brute. 



MR. NOBODY. 57 

The dog — of whom we are ready so hastily to 
assume that it is soulless, because we know 
nothing about the nature of its soul — proved 
itself in this case, as in many other cases 
equally well authenticated, to be kinder 
than a specimen of degraded humanity. 
It was anxious, though excited, as a mo- 
ther might have been, keeping, as it were, 
one eye upon the door of the barn that it 
might watch what was passing outside, and 
another on the child, which at intervals it en- 
deavoured to amuse by wagging its tail and 
barking. 

I am afraid that this latter kindly mark of 
attention, which involved some expenditure of 
strength on the part of the faithful animal, was 
scarcely needed in this instance, as the child 
had hardly reached that stage of existence 
which would have enabled it to appreciate such 
courtesies. A partial mother might have de- 
clared it was ' taking notice,' but it was fortu- 
nate for it that that ' notice,' which had reached 
the extent of enabling it to make odd noises 
when it was in Elspeth's arms in the open air, 



58 MR. XOBODY. 

did not render it at all uncomfortably aware 
of its awful companionship. Had it remained 
with all that was left of its mother in the 
strangely-curtained room, with the mysterious- 
ly-covered elevation on the white-sheeted bed, 
it would still have been in merciful ignorance 
of the spectre, Death. But in this case, after 
it had comforted itself with its cake, and had 
sucked the remnant of the crumbs from its 
podpy fingers, it discovered nothing strange in 
the near neighbourhood of an apparently sleep- 
ing face, from which the premature wrinkles 
had been smoothed. With the absence of 
instinct so characteristic of the human infant, 
it apparently took the face for that of its mo- 
ther, and, having exhausted itself with crying, 
and finding the warmth of the old shawl in this 
protected part of the shed to be better than 
the cold outside, it betook itself philosophically 
to sucking its thumb. 

From the thumb the next stage was that of 
taking an early siesta, a proceeding of which 
the dog appeared to approve. But when the 
nap was followed by the infallible consequence, 



MR. NOBODY. 51> 

that of waking and becoming aware of the 
pangs of hunger, and when its tiny fingers, 
which were somewhat numbed, began to search 
for its mother's face, and only came in contact 
with what w T as marble cold, there was no re- 
source but to burst into a terrified howl. The 
dog caressed it — otherwise licked it — as I sup- 
pose its tender predecessors caressed the dying 
Lazarus ; but the pathetic expression in its 
faithful eyes deepened, as it recognised its 
utter inefficiency under the circumstances. In- 
deed, it had some reason to be depressed in 
spirits, being with all good-will more incapable 
than the fabled she-bear. The infantile howls 
became gradually feebler; the baby was grow- 
ing weak, and the dog, sitting on its haunches, 
and lifting its muzzle as if in appeal, gave 
utterance to one of those long, lamenting, al- 
most human whines which seemed to protest 
against the fate that was hovering over the 
child. 

At that moment a woman, with a plaid shawl 
thrown over her head, after the manner of the 
Yorkshire or Lancashire operatives, was passing 



60 MR. XOBODY. 

the shed. She was not one of the factory 
hands, though, from her appearance, an outsider 
might hastily have concluded so. The expres- 
sion of her face had nothing of that bold, uu- 
sexed, and almost supercilious stare character- 
istic of too many of the women employed at 
the Torringmoor factories. It was, indeed, re- 
markable for its patience and docility. It 
might once have been good-looking, but there 
was now a greyness of the complexion, a lan- 
guor in the carriage of her thin, somewhat 
gawky figure, and an appearance of ill-health 
which told the tale that Mary Burton was no 
native of these parts, and that insufficient 
clothing, poor living, keen air, and the search- 
ing winds of Torringmoor were breaking down 
a constitution ill calculated to endure privation. 
She and ber father had been born and bred in 
the neighbourhood of London, but had been 
unfortunate, like others, in a period of agricul- 
tural depression, when work had been difficult 
to obtain both in Sussex and Middlesex. 

It was not in the vegetable world alone that 
the snows and frosts of two successive winters 



MR. NOBODi', 61 

were beginning to be perceptible. But, among 
the occupants of land in many of the English 
counties, there was said to be a great deal of 
distress. Sadness and disappointment were 
already experienced by those who were beaten 
down by the rigid nature of the laws, and 
seemed fruitlessly to spend their energies upon 
the soil. The Burtons had seen better days ; 
but when starved women had been found in 
wretched habitations near Battersea literally 
famished, with some straw in the corners of 
their rooms, but no covering of any sort, old 
Jem Burton — who had been tempted by the 
account of the lace-work which was going on 

in shire, much as Whittington was tempted 

by fables of gold to be picked up in London 
— had spent his last remaining shilling in de- 
termining to take his daughter to offer the 
assistance of her deft fingers to the lace-workers 
at Torringmoor, rather than remain to starve 
at Battersea. 

He commenced by spending his shillings on 
coach-fares, but, when his little store of silver 
was exhausted, he and his daughter were 



62 MR. NOBODY. 

obliged to trudge. Sanguine still, he had com- 
forted Polly by the reflection that, if they had 
carried more money on their persons, rogues 
might have stolen it. But a short time before, 
as he reminded Polly, a poor working-woman 
had been murdered on this very road for the 
sake of the eight shillings which' she carried 
in her pocket, and which she had earned by 
her honest toil. The verdict had been, ' Acci- 
dental death;' and Jem, who did not read 
his newspaper for nothing, had commented 
on the circumstance to his uncomplaining 
daughter. 

They had reached the El Dorado at last, 
which honest Jem believed in because he 
prided himself on the possession of thews and 
muscles, and was still able enough to perform 
a day's work, while he believed that his Polly 
would be good at the lace-making. But, if 
labour was a little more plentiful for Jem, Polly 
preferred her own quiet modes of life to the 
gossipping, jealous, and immodest ways of some 
of the Torringmoor lace-makers. Rather than 
expose herself to be contaminated by associa- 



MR. NOBODY. 63 

tion with them, she had preferred to do a little 
washing, and to take in some sewing. And 
there was worse than all this, on which the 
woman, who never openly complained, was 
always secretly brooding. Her father's deter- 
mination — a set purpose from which it had 
been impossible to deter him, but which she, 
with her better wisdom, had known from the 
first to be blind and obstinate — of coming to 
a strnnge town, had broken Polly's heart and 
blighted her life. 

The man with whom she had kept company 
for years, and who was angry with her for 
leaving Battersea with her father, and not 
remaining and facing her position with him 
and all its difficulties, had seen her off with 
specious speeches and manifold promises to 
write to her, but had jilted her as soon as 
her back was turned, and had married a more 
comely and younger woman. Since then, 
Polly Burton had tried to face the future with 
a settled determination to make the best of a 
life from which she believed all the brightness 
had gone. She would not deceive herself, or 



64 MR. NOBODY. 

make friends with other people. She be- 
lieved herself to have done with affection 
of all sorts, unless it was that for her aged 
father. 

She was passing this shed this wintry morning 
with a feeling that she had outlived all tender 
desires. The loving flame, which had once 
shone so brightly in her heart, burned very 
low indeed ; the last sparks which made life 
sweet to her were nearly out. And the divine 
love seemed to have almost gone with the 
human, so faint was her interest in anything 
which God had made, so dull and stolid her 
determination to plod through her allotted 
task, so weary her soul. She was almost angry 
with the people who had given her a little 
washing, which involved the painful task of 
fetching it on such a bitterly cold morning. 
The latter stage of existence with this woman 
seemed at present as if it would be worse than 
the former; and yet the former, in which the 
love in her nature had once asserted itself, 
and made toil pleasant to her, had left its 
hand-writing in that look of endurance and 



MR. NOBODY. 65 

docility on the sickly face, and her Father in 
Heaven had not forgotten her. 

She was passing the shed with her head cast 
down, feeling like a machine, capable of so 
many hours work every day, and only a little 
wearier and colder than usual, when the child's 
fatigued wail struck upon her ear. Her first 
thought was the severe one, that it was * all of 
a piece with all the other ill behaviour of these 
set-up hussies,' the way in which they neglect- 
ed their children ; but her second thought 
brought a stirring of some warmth about her 
heart, as the infant's cry recalled a recollection 
of her own childhood, of how carefully she used 
to tend a little baby sister when her mother 
was otherwise occupied, and how she had loved 
it. Her third thought, that if her life had been 
differently ordered she might have had little 
ones of her own to sweeten and beautify it, 
brought a sudden wave of colour to her pale, 
thin cheek. Then she was aware that her 
dress was being gently pulled by the dog, and 
that the colley looked as if it could almost read 
her secret thoughts, and answer, 

VOL. I. F 



6Q MR. NOBODY. 

f No, you are not a machine. You had once 
a passionate, loving nature, with a woman's 
longing after domestic life, for all you pretend 
to be made of cast-iron, and try, in spite of 
your ill health, to be always in working order.' 

She yielded to the dog, and let it draw 
her into the shed, when, lo ! the baby stretched 
out its little arms to her and wept. And, 
though it was a matter-of-fact and rather 
comical travesty of the sweet old idyll of the 
Egyptian princess with heart warming to the 
abandoned babe of the despised Hebrew slave, 
yet the effect was much the same with the like 
6 touch of nature.' In both cases the woman, in 
the simple language of Scripture, ' had com- 
passion,' and in that of Polly Burton it was as 
if a spring was suddenly touched which hither- 
to had been lying dormant in her nature, re- 
vealing a fund of hidden treasure. She was, 
though she knew it not, emphatically a mother, 
though she had never brought forth a child, 
and motherhood in such a case is more unself- 
ish. From the moment that she took the for- 
saken little one, and laid it near to her heart, 



MR. XOBODY. 67 

wrapping it about with her own warmer gar- 
ments, pressing her lips on its lips that she 
might help to keep up the life in it, a new and 
softening influence brought about a change of 
feeling in her. 

Her old father, Jem Burton, found that even- 
ing that he might as well have argued with a 
wilful little girl who had just had a new doll 
given to her, and only hugged it the closer 
when urged to give it up, as to try to remind 
Polly that nobody required her to burden herself 
with f other folks' brats.' 

! Tis a child of ill fame,' muttered old Jem,, 
whose sturdy honesty made him feel as if he 
and his would be decidedly ill-treated if the 
Almighty did not visit the sins of other people 
upon them from generation to generation. His 
daughter refused to argue about it, knowing 
nothing of the perplexing and mysterious ques- 
tion of indwelling and transmitted evil by 
which the finer sense of justice has been chilled. 
She could not answer, because she did not 
know that, if there be evil in the parent, it must 
be transmitted, not by any arbitrary re-intro- 

f2 



68 MR. NOBODY. 

duction of ignominy into the stock of humanity, 
but by the natural and inevitable law which re- 
produces in the brain and character of the 
child, the inherited or acquired peculiarities of 
habit and thought in the brain of the parent. 

* From generation to generation,' repeated 
old Jem, not knowing that he was dabbling in 
the region of metaphysics, and smacking his 
lips with a sense of his own superior righteous- 
ness over the text. ' Tak' my word for it, 
Poll, the little un 'ill be hup to no good. And 
if you tak' 'im, my gell, from those as by 
rights bought to kep 'im, it'll only be the 
prison or the gallows. If ee comes of gaol- 
birds, a gaol-bird ee'll be.' 

Then the woman's heart broke out. 

f Shame on yer, father! As if the Lord 
meant us to keep a-harpin' on that sayin', and 
t' forget the t'other as He comes to save the 
lost.' 

* Ain't it 'gainst yer conscience, gell V per- 
severed the father, honest and ever self-suffici- 
ent, and he went on, as his fashion was, making 
the best of every odd moment, and chanting 



MR. NOBODY. 69 

an old-fashioned hymn to the strokes of his 
axe, as he cut up some wood which his daugh- 
ter had gathered to help with the fire. 

' Some folks talks of their consciences when 
they are fools, and of their dooty when they is 
downright cruel/ answered Polly, who wished 
her father would not sing, as he always sang 
out of tune, and somehow the false notes jarred 
more than ever with the new melody which was 
singing on deep down in her heart that night. 

She had washed the little fellow, fed him 
with milk, and propped him upright with a 
pillow on a fragment of old rug covering the 
stones before the fire. And the baby cooed 
with delight, stretching out its podgy little 
fists to the fire, and making futile attempts to 
catch hold of one of its pink toes and suck it. 

' He be blythe and bright-eyed as a young 
rabbit. And yet his mother was a bad 'un, 
and the parish 'ill hev to bury 'er,' pondered 
Jem, with whom the divine virtue which covers 
a multitude of sins did not come naturally, and 
was no part of his religion. ' That folks as was 
honest should do their best for theirsels,' was 



70 MR. NOBODY. 

his creed, and his head shook a good deal as 
he thought of his daughter's strange and un- 
expected obstinacy, of the injury which she 
was inflicting on the State, according to the 
man's rough politics — and Jem Burton, as a 
London-bred man, liked his pipe and his news- 
paper — by ' encouragin' o' paupers.' 

The recollection of the few hard-gained 
earnings, which Mary had carefully tied up in 
a stocking, did not do much to make him more 
sympathetic, when his daughter, who had not 
the gift of speech, tried to express something 
Avhich she had dimly in her mind about the 
Pharisees, who had their moral sense ' upside 
down, and thought they was a-doing right 
when they was all the time only a-doing 
wrong.' She did not venture to hint that she 
would have been glad to help the poor dead 
creature, whose pathetic face had impressed 
her imagination as it would certainly not have 
impressed it if she had only seen it in life. 
Help in her case would have been too dilatory 
to be efficient. But Polly's sympathies, since 
she had suffered cruelly herself, were all on the 



MR. NOBODY. 71 

woman's side instead of on that of the man ; 
and as she had looked at that forsaken sister, 
and registered a secret vow to cherish her 
child, something in Polly's heart had cried out 
against the man who had been allowed to go 
scot-free, and who had robbed the wretched 
creature of her fame. 

' I'd ha' given her shelter, and hev braved it 
hout wi' 'em all,' she though t, as she remem- 
bered that no one had come to the poor woman's 
help. 



72 



CHAPTER VI. 

Polly Burton never regretted the exceptional 
fit of obstinacy which caused her, in defiance 
of her father, to adopt the dead woman's child. 
True, during that first winter, the room, which 
had been bare of furniture before, became barer 
than ever, now that there was an extra mouth 
to feed. But when the spring came, and the 
March dust was succeeded by warm April rains, 
Polly got out between her hours for washing, 
and admired, as she had never done before, the 
varying shades of green contributed by the 
larch, oak, ash, and chestnut in the pathways 
by the river. She put down the child to crawl 
when she was hanging up her clothes to dry 
near the moor, and she noticed as she had 



MR. NOBODY. 73 

never yet noticed the buttercups and primroses, 
because the boy crowed and tried to gather 
them. It was as if a new spring had come into 
her hitherto blank life, and as if fresh spring 
corn, giving promise of rich aftermath, was 
practically being sown in the poor dead heart. 

As the first few years went on, the struggle 
for the necessaries of life was sometimes a little 
difficult. But the child, who had as yet shown 
none of those evil tendencies at which old Jem 
had so darkly hinted, was always merry as a 
lark, when he had apparently little to satisfy 
his bodily cravings. 

He was naturally small and thin, and could 
not be otherwise than ill-clad, and looked like 
a lamb that had been sheared of its wool before 
it had grown to be a sheep. But, in spite of 
all these drawbacks, the lamb seemed to thrive 
fairly well, and Jem Burton had now an infi- 
nitely better prospect before him than he had 
enjoyed for the last three or four years. He 
was not yet free from anxiety, but could look 
forward to the time when the boy would help 
him. The period was already drawing nigh 



74 MR. NOBODY. 

when ' ile Jem,' as he had been clubbed by the 
neighbours, would be sent for his schooling, 
and as much learning was not considered neces- 
sary for boys who could turn an odd penny in 
the fields fifty years ago, both Polly and her 
father considered that the desired event was 
tolerably near at hand. 

Meanwhile the family, which had been absent 
from Rashleigh Hall, returned to Torringmoor 
when 4 ile Jem ' was four years old. The old 
Sir George was dead, and the new one had 
come into his own, but it was rumoured that 
the present Sir George Rashleigh had never 
been the same man since the death of his first 
wife, while he was absent on his travels. He 
made no secret, after his father's death, of the 
fact which he had always intended to make 
publicly known, that he had been privately 
married, but that his wife and infant child had 
both of them died before he had received the 
news of the birth of the latter. It was con- 
tended on his behalf that the letter had mis- 
carried, but it was also said that he blamed 
himself; and, however that might be, the fact 



MR. NOBODY. 75 

was certain that no one dared allude to the 
circumstances of his early life in George Rash- 
leigh's presence, his temper being uncertain. 

He had married again, as in duty bound, but 
his second wife was not much richer than the 
first. Rumour declared that, in a violent fit 
of anger, he had vowed to his father that he 
would never marry a woman who had money, 
and the same busy rumour hinted again that 
he married his second wife rather from grati- 
tude than love. She was an Italian whom he 
had met abroad — many years older than him- 
self — and report said that the young Sir George 
had been nursed by her through a fever which 
nearly proved fatal, and which had prostrated 
him when he first received the news of the 
death of his former wife and child. He might 
be grateful, but the Torringmoor people con- 
cluded of him that he was neither affectionate 
nor genial to the lady whom he had married 
or anyone else. He had now another infant 
heir, nearly a year old, and the decadence of 
ancient families, with their gradual impoverish- 
ment and consequent decline in honour, was 



76 MR. NOBODY. 

said to press heavily on the spirits ot the 
young father. It seemed to be his doom, as 
well as that of his ancestors, to see his broad 
lands heavily mortgaged, and fated to pass 
into alien hands. Already some of the family 
plate was said to have gone to the collectors, 
and other articles of vertu were destined to 
follow in the same humiliating direction. 

Some of the Rashleighs had been extrava- 
gant, but no one could account for the aggre- 
gate of money which, as the price of land 
had increased, had literally passed through 
their hands, the tenant farmers not seeming 
to be much richer than they who roughly tilled 
the soil years before. It was said that the 
incessant and reckless activity of self-destruc- 
tive force was already beginning to be at 
work in the age, and old tories shook their 
heads. 

The Rashleighs had been a handsome race, 
and the present Sir George Rashleigh was no 
exception to the rule. He was tall and well- 
featured, carrying his head a little forward 
after the manner of the Rashleighs generally. 



MR. NOBODY. 77 

His profile was considered by connoisseurs to 
be exceptionally well cut; and the Italian lady, 
some fifteen years bis senior, was said to have 
fallen in love with him for bis manly beauty. 
The Rashleighs, in the good old times, kept 
pretty w^ell to the rules of life laid down by a 
gay poet ; rules of hunting and banqueting in 
the open-air in autumn and summer, and of 
carousing by the fire in winter days. Of these 
traditions, George Rashleigh retained but one 
extravagance. He came of a hunting race, and 
probably the hunting would be the last thing 
which either he or his descendants would be 
inclined to give up. He still managed to keep 
half-a-dozen hunters, and, when remonstrated 
with on the subject of this outlay, he would 
lose his temper, and declare that — rotten as 
the times might be — it would be long before 
rents and profits would fall to so low an ebb 
that country gentlemen would be obliged to 
deny themselves the solace of their hunters. 

It was somewhat before the days when mer- 
chants and manufacturers were beginning 
to be munificent patrons of fox-hunting ; 



78 MR. XOBODY. 

but already there were signs that commercial 
prosperity might follow on the depression of 
the agricultural, and George Rashleigh was 
among the number of those enthusiasts who 
would rather have seen their country mansions 
follow in the way of the old monasteries than 
admit that so dire a calamity as the surren- 
dering of sport must be inflicted upon him as 
a punishment for the want of foresight of his 
ancestors. Other modes of economy, however 
drastic, might be adopted, with the exception 
of one — that of inter-marriage with the com- 
mercial classes. In the opinion of his family, 
George had fallen low enough in marrying, as 
his first wife, the penniless orphan daughter 
of an old Yorkshire parson. But just as it 
was necessary that he should ride to cover and 
wage war against the vulpine race, so was 
there the need that he should remember his 
blue blood and the monumental brasses. He 
had angered his father by declining to marry 
a rich lady of title because she had a plain 
face, but he also inherited the prejudices which 
had prevented all the Rashleighs from connect- 



MR. NOBODY. 79 

ing themselves with the ' commercial classes,' 
and so re-invigorating with new blood the 
decaying stock, as well as the ill-supplied cof- 
fers of the Rashleigk family. He shared ano- 
ther tradition with his father, which enabled 
him to keep his hounds. That tradition was, 
that one might borrow, or mortgage, but never 
actually sell, one's estate. 



80 



CHAPTER VII. 

The motto which is usually attributed to 
Madame de Maintenon might have been adopt- 
ed by Sir George Rashleigh — ' After me the 
deluge.' 

It did not serve to improve his temper when, 
on one November afternoon, he rode back from 
a tolerably successful ' run,' and got separated 
from some of his friends, to remember — as he 
passed from the open country into the solitary 
woodlands — that the ' deluge ' must come on his 
infant-heir. The sharp frosts which had set in 
about the end of October had had the effect ot 
bringing the leaves off the trees, so as to make 
the district through which he rode nearly as 
bare as in a dreary December. This was really 



MR. NOBODY. 81 

an advantage, as it prevented George Rash- 
leighfrom losing bis way amongst the innumer- 
able narrow ' rides ' which he had to traverse 
in the wood after leaving the moor. But the 
prospect round him was exceptionally melan- 
choly, and in his present mood he fell into a 
dreary reverie, from which he was startled by 
hearing a little piping voice/ Gi' us a penny, sir/ 
not in the usual dialect of the countryside, but 
in an unmistakable cockney intonation caught 
from the Burtons, who had been in London. 

George Rashleigh could not have described 
the odd and indefinable sensation with which 
he encountered a pair of bright, shrewd eyes, of 
the same colour as the wild hyacinths which 
used to bloom plentifully in the fields round 
Torringmoor in spring time — eyes which glit- 
tered under a brow crowned by matted, curly 
locks, of a dark brown tint mingled with tufts 
which had been bleached fair by the summer 
sun. The eyes and the hair belonged to a 
very small boy of some four or five years 
of age, dressed in a sort of wisp of ragged 
clothing, which clung to the upper part 

VOL. I. G 



82 MR. NOBODY. 

of his person and left the little brown legs 
bare, except where they were covered with 
splashes from the brooks and country roads. 
There was nothing in the little imp to account 
for the odd mixture of feeling with which Sir 
George regarded him, but the child, getting no 
answer, and beginning to suppose that some- 
thing was expected of him, tried to put his 
accomplishments into practice, and turned a 
somersault, rags and all, after the most accre- 
dited manner in which old Jem had trained 
him. The unexpected exploit had the effect of 
startling Sir George's horse, and, with one of 
those quick revulsions of emotion, not unusual 
with passionate people, the baronet raised his 
whip, and shouted, 

' Get out of my way. you little beggar. 
AVhat is your mother thinking of not to send 
you to school?' 

Human consciousness is so complex that, if 
George could have analysed his feeling, he 
would have seen that he had almost involun- 
tarily lashed himself into a rage to escape 
the softer recollections which were so oddly 



MR. NOBODY. 83 

associated with the child — -an experience which, 
I believe, is also not uncommon to irascible dis- 
positions — so strange are the mysteries of the 
inner life, and the conflict of evil and good in 
the hidden nature of a man. 

The tone of his speech had the effect of 
arousing a similar anger in the boy, and, as 
soon as the man had gone, little Jem looked 
after him, clenching his little hands, and with 
ugly wrinkles on his young face. 

But the baronet was a magistrate, and had 
returned to his native place determining to do 
his duty to it, and to get the people into 
better order, ruling them, if possible, with firm- 
ness, as well as justice. He did not see much 
occasion for suavity Avhere the poor were con- 
cerned, but he prided himself on being energetic 
in rectifying abuses, and would have been consi- 
derably astonished if anyone could have told 
him that he appeared to those whom he con- 
sidered to be his inferiors as the hardest of task- 
masters, and that they looked upon him as a 
monster with a heart as hard as a millstone. 

He kept little Jem in his mind, and when he 



84 MR. NOBODY. 

next met the boy with the woman who had 
acted as his mother, and who, since she had 
solaced herself with her scheme of benevo- 
lence, appeared to have a noble as well as a 
pensive face, he told Polly that the little one 
was old enough to be at school, and that he 
should not be allowed to run lazily about these 
rambling outskirts, with cottages straggling as 
if they, like their inhabitants, had no respect for 
law or order. 

4 Send the youngster to school, or he will come 
to no good.' 

The words fell somewhat heavily on Polly's 
ear. They seemed an echo of the dismal pro- 
phecy hazarded years ago by old Jem. But 
the baronet was determined and somewhat 
prejudiced against the child. The fact that his 
reputed mother was not a native of the place, 
but had come from the neighbourhood of Lon- 
don, served to prejudice Sir George, who made 
no further inquiries about the boy. 

And, though Polly had an unreasonable aver- 
sion to the school which had been endowed by 
a former inhabitant of the parish, in which 



MR. NOBODY. 85 

boys and girls were educated gratis — with such 
severity that on one occasion a poor child was 
said to have hidden himself in a dry ditch, and 
to have remained there a conple of days, from 
fear of being cruelly whipped for playing 
truant — she had no adequate excuse for not 
obeying the magistrate. 

And now came the dismal fulfilment of the 
prophecy, for as soon as little Jem went to 
school the evil part of his nature, which had 
before been kept in abeyance, came to the front 
in an amazing and alarming manner. It was 
perhaps somewhat hard on him that he should 
no longer have been allowed to tumble about, a 
dusty imp, amongst the rubbish-heaps near the 
cottages. It was hard to be made to learn 
when incapacity for teaching was too often 
seasoned by hard words and severer blows. 
But harder still, according to old Jem, that a 
child like that should be kept to lessons, 
when he might already be earning some- 
thing, in days when the farm labourers had 
only eight or nine shillings a week. Every 
field had its huge hedgerow, witb pollards for 



86 MR. NOBODY. 

firing, which 'He Jem' could gather — a pro- 
ceeding at which most of the farmers winked, 
so long as the hurdles were not interfered with. 
So little Jem's schooling meant an absence of 
sticks for fuel, as well as an absence of the 
pennies which he had hitherto been accustomed 
proudly to bring home as a reward for his 
cleverness in turning somersaults. 

Polly sent him with much protest. People 
were more strict with children then, and did 
not take the same kindly notice of them as 
they do now ; also the language which they 
used to them was often cruel and profane. 
Polly Burton was aware of this when she in- 
sisted that she ' could larn him herself, for all 
that such a little 'un need larn,' and further 
declared that she ' didn't hold to beating with 
a stick.' Yet it was the stick which was ap- 
plied to the child's back, and that a little 
sharply, when, on the first day of his academic 
studies, he took a field-mouse in his pocket, 
bright-eyed and agile like himself, which raced 
round and round the room, to the consternation 
of the master. It was a bad beginning on both 



MR. NOBODY. 87 

sides, and i He Jem/ who was uncompromising 
iu his dislikes, made up his small mind once 
and for all on the question of learning. It was 
not that actively or outwardly he rebelled, but 
his spirit rose against the bullying treatment, 
and he hated the very sight of a book. 

He would be a truant, and take the conse- 
quences of it, and I am afraid that Polly and 
Jem Burton often connived at this wickedness ; 
for active of limb, frank and honest, and with 
a faculty for enjoying himself, little Jem was 
at least capable and ingenious. He had a hun- 
dred ways of making the best of it when he 
determined to absent himself from school, and 
in those days he could pick up enough to help 
the elder people. For the curriculum of gout 
and rheumatism, never likely to end in this 
world, had commenced for old Jem, and, as the 
years went on, in his readiness to help, the 
little fellow determined to brave the wrath of 
the schoolmaster and of Sir George himself, 
who every now and then appeared in the vil- 
lage, with a good many rings on his fingers, 
a plaid shawl about his shoulders when the 



88 MR. NOBODY. 

weather was cold, and a habit of kicking small 
dogs which got in his path, and of pushing 
children out of his way with a stick. Polly's 
foundling used to stare at him with childish 
wonder in his big eyes. The man's face was 
not feeble, but it was conceited, and the lines 
of temper and discontent in it could hardly 
be concealed. The baronet prided himself on 
knowing the character of almost everyone in 
the neighbourhood. He had set himself deter- 
minately to suppress mendicancy, and the 
child's saltatory tricks, as well as his cleverness 
in running away from school, seemed to merit 
reprobation. 

The insidious disease, which had concealed 
itself so long in Polly Burton's constitution, 
made rapid inroads at last, and, though the 
boy had learnt little, it became necessary to 
keep him at home to help both herself and her 
father. But so ignorant was she, and so care- 
less of new and somewhat necessary regula- 
tions, in her life which had glided by with little 
count of rules or days, that she was not aware 
of the infliction of a fine for truancy, which the 



MR. NOBODY. 89 

magistrate, in his desire to make the people 
grow np virtuous and respectable, had deter- 
mined to enforce as a matter of regularity. As 
to the legality, he cared not. Xo one was 
likely to interfere with his jurisdiction. He 
had called a committee to assist him, and the 
committee had determined on this course. 

It was no secret to any of them that the 
child, which was sometimes called 4 He Jem,* 
and sometimes ' Little Xobody,' had been found 
a greater pickle than the schoolmaster could 
manage ; that, when he had been punished 
concerning the field-mouse, the boy had next 
provided himself with a hedge-hog, and that 
often in summer-time he had been found wan- 
dering about with shoeless little feet, or sleep- 
ing on grounds in which he was trespassing, 
so that it had been necessary to shake him 
to get him awake. Such a case needed stern 
measures, the more so that the gentlemen 
were, one and all of them, by this time ac- 
quainted with Jem's history, which was no 
secret in the place. 

Jem's mother had been a tramp, and the 



90 MR. NOBODY. 

nomadic tendencies were doubtless inherited. 
For children of the criminal classes were sup- 
posed to enter into perdition by a natural 
title ; the curse belonging to their parents was 
handed on to them. 

Sir George really supposed that he was emi- 
nently self-denying in undertaking a nauseous 
task, when, on the return from one of his rides, 
he reined-in his horse, and forced himself to 
speak to the little urchin, who had his tongue 
in his cheek in a manner which w T as certainly 
most abhorrent. It was a cold day, and the 
boy, who had been scantily fed — though he 
required as little for his wants as a sparrow, 
which could pick up a grain here and there — 
was looking thin and sharp-faced, whilst the 
colour in his usually fresh young cheeks had 
turned to violet edges from the keen air and 
want of nourishment. 

' Tell your mother,' said Sir George, ' that 
she has a couple of shillings to pay on account 
of your ill-behaviour, as you have not been at 
school/ 

The boy vouchsafed no other answer than a 



MR. NOBODY. 91 

rapid, somewhat significant glaDce. His tongue 
was still in his cheek — an irritating grimace. 
He bore more than one resemblance to the 
easily-satisfied sparrow. For, like it, he could 
be occasionally pert, though generally inoffensive. 
He did not believe in Mary Burton, who had 
no money to buy food, having to pay fines. 
It was not in his nature to fear, but he was a 
little inclined to laugh. 

' The jackanapes is disrespectful,' thought 
Sir George, as he glanced down at the impish 
figure of this ill-mannered child, who shuffled 
his feet, but made no attempt to doff his hat. 

The waif must have known well enough, as 
the magistrate reflected, that every well-trained 
youngster was expected to pull the front lock 
of his tangled mane when he talked to his 
betters. All the people round cringed to the 
Baronet, and Sir George could not possibly sus- 
pect that by some of the very people who cringed 
the most he was inwardly detested. He did not 
fly into a passion, but, with the conviction that 
anyone who gave the lad a thrashing would 
be doing a good work, he adroitly used the 



92 MR. NOBODY. 

butt-end of his whip to dislodge the hat on 
the impudent young bead, in spite of a mocking 
gesture made by the child. But it seemed as 
if an evil spirit of mischievous glee possessed 
the strange waif; for when Sir George, priding 
himself on his self-command, shouted, in a 
louder tone, 

' Tell her to pay it by next Monday.' 

The boy shouted back : 

' She hasn't got it to pay.' 

And then, dodging about the while, he com- 
menced shying tiny pebbles at the horse's legs, 
the smile curling the corners of his mouth as 
the animal began to rear. 

It was the climax. Sir George, who was a 
powerful man, managed to soothe the horse, 
and then dismounted, holding the bridle with 
his right hand, while he grasped the boy as 
if he had been a puppy with his left, and, 
flinging him a couple of yards, began to slash 
him as if he were made of wood. Swish, 
swish, went the pitiless whip, curling round 
the lithe, uncovered, sunburnt legs of the little 
lad, but the pride in the child not only pre- 



MR. XUBODY. 93 

veuted him from crying out, but even, for the 
time, from feeling. 

' I will teach you to throw stones, and to 
answer me like that — you ragamuffin — you 
beggar's brat!' cried the angry gentleman, with 
little idea of the rage and vengeance which he 
was rousing in the poor boy's heart. 

It was only Mary Burton who could tell, from 
the cut clothing and from the wheals on the 
child's back, that which he purposely concealed 
from anyone else ; only she who could guess 
how the mind, just as it had begun to bud, 
was slowly withering and becoming fit for 
nought but bitterness. 

'Oh, hush!' said the good woman, thorough- 
ly affrighted at the clenching of the little fists 
and at the look of hatred which had been sum- 
moned with a dark frown on the young face, 
'you will make me think that I have spoilt 
you.' 

For already old Jem was shaking his head 
and reminding her how he had told her that 
the parent stock was bad, and that from an ill 
tree like that there could come nought but evil. 



94 



CHAPTER VIII. 

There was as yet little of that precocious 
speculation and intellectual refining which has 
come in with the so-called ' march of know- 
ledge,' and which may make it difficult to im- 
press on the mind of the youngster of the 
future the danger of the violation of the Deca- 
logue. 

There was still a firm belief in the use of the 
rod, and it cannot be said that Sir George's 
conscience reproached him in the least when he 
felt that he had given an ill-taught brat the 
hiding which he deserved. 

Had Polly Burton lived, the love might still 
have conquered the hate. But on one morning 
in the following spring, when the swallows 



MR. NOBODY. 95 

were coining home, and when the scent of 
flowers was on the wind, Polly was found stiff 
and stark, with but little enough of bed and 
bedding. It could not be said that she had 
undergone more privations than others of her 
neighbours. But the winter again had been a 
hard one, and Polly had less constitution than 
others to stand it. Her simple funeral was 
obliged to be at the expense of the parish. It 
was fortunate for old Jem that he was becoming 
a little childish, and, when he was told that the 
kindly heart had ceased to beat, he comforted 
himself by repeating over and over, with the 
simplicity of a child, that she had c gone to 
glory,' and that his 'time,' he thanked God, 
could not be long. He still never did anything 
by halves, and though he sang out of tune with 
his poor old cracked voice, he took especial 
pains with his singing, and piped with odd 
recollections of old melodies about f glory, 
glory/ when the funeral was over, and he 
was left with no other companion than little 
Jem in the house. 

He was beginning to be afraid of the waif, 



96 MR. NOBODY. 

whom his daughter had taken in contrary to his 
approval, and rather winced when he came in 
contact with the child's shrewd, sharp glances. 
But Polly had a truer mourner in the little deso- 
late child whose heart felt as if it would break 
under the burden which oppressed it. 

Old Jem had a way of drowning his sorrows 
which Polly might not have allowed had she 
remained to take care of him. For, though the 
pothouses did not as yet outnumber the cot- 
tages, there was a convenient ( public ' near at 
hand where the farm-labourers and operatives 
could get their pint of beer. ' It were a hog- 
gish sort o' a place,' as Jem the elder sometimes 
declared in a fit of confidence to a boon com- 
panion when he descanted on the greater 
glories of the metropolis. But brandy was for- 
tunately little drunk in it, and almost as rare 
as nectar. The beer was so weak that it could 
not do the old man much harm, and some of 
the neighbours — pitiful at the sight of the 
wreck of such a grand physique — would ' treat 
him ' when the * He Jem ' was out of the way. 

Meanwhile, no one seemed to care what be- 



MR. NOBODY. 97 

came of the child. He was left to pick up as 
he could a scanty means of livelihood from 
gathering the spring flowers, and tying them 
into bundles for sale. His little sunburnt figure, 
bare-footed, with keen face, was well known 
that spring to the visitors at Torringmoor. For 
the child had sense enough to understand that 
if he did not do enough to turn honest pennies, 
old Jem would soon be left to collapse into 
something worse than what Carlyle called a 
1 poor-law Bastille,' and, though there was little 
enough love lost between the two, the boy had 
a dim sense that Polly would not like it, and, 
for the sake of what Polly had done for him, 
he was in duty bound to support her old father. 
The word 'Polly' in those days comprised the 
whole of his religion ; it was a sort of fetish to 
him and served to keep him straight. 

' There's a deal of wickedness in this place,' 
Polly Burton had said to him on the day 
before she died. And, for the sake of the wo- 
man who had acted to him as a mother, he 
would run away as fast as his little bare legs 
could carry him when he heard other mothers 

VOL. I. H 



98 MR. NOBODY. 

execrating their offsprings with volleys of 
curses up the street. He was thankful to think 
he had never had a real mother, if that was 
the way with them. 

For Polly had spoken nothing but good 
words to him. She had left him her old Bible, 
but unfortunately he could not read it. And 
what pleased him since her death best was to 
get out, on the pretence of gathering flowers, 
to the loneliness and isolation of the desolate 
moor. To be there at sunrise, and to see the 
sun striking through the clouds and illuminat- 
ing their dark edges, was always a pleasure to 
him, and a still greater pleasure to watch the 
great ball of fire throwing open the gates of 
heaven as it sank into rest. The mystery of 
interwoven foliage, and of subtle shining re- 
flections in the pools, which suggested the 
neighbourhood of the river, did something also 
to comfort him and to speak with Polly's voice. 
But best of all was the time when it seemed 
to his untutored fancy as if invisible hands 
must be kindling the lights in those far-away 
mansions where his adopted mother had gone 



MR. NOBODY. 99 

to dwell. He scarcely ventured to wait to won- 
der if, when this solemn hour came,, she might 
be allowed to look down upon him and help 
him. For the darkness brought its task, and, 
hastily gathering together the bunches of wild- 
flowers which during the day he had failed to 
sell, he would make his way, under the merciful 
covering of the gloom, to the graveyard in 
which they had hastily buried Polly, with the 
grass not yet grown upon her grave. 

The graveyard was supposed to be closed 
after sunset. But this could make no possible 
difference to the agile little figure, which crept 
along with stealthy steps, and prided itself on 
climbing every sort of fence. Not only was 
the wall no impediment, but the child had a 
sense of having the place to himself as soon 
as the stars came out. And evening after 
evening he brought his bunch of wild-flowers — 
primroses, violets, cowslips, bluebells, and 
marsh marigolds, as the case might be — and 
piled them, as any little idolater might have 
heaped his offerings before a shrine, on Polly's 
grave, pressing his own little face on the turf- 

H2 



100 MR. NOBODY. 

less mound, and watering some of the flowers 
with tears which no one in the world would 
have thought he could shed. For, after he had 
accomplished his pilgrimage, he would return 
moodily from the churchyard, scowling and 
getting out of the way whenever his fellow- 
creatures tried to draw near to him. 

It was scarcely in human nature that this 
sort of thing should continue without any 
change, and, after a few weeks, it occurred to 
the lad that his adopted mother must be tired 
of always seeing the same flowers. He had 
seen ladies who were rich with magnificent 
floral wreaths made of azaleas and camelias ; 
for though as yet the Protestant feeling had 
decreed that it was rather an unsafe thing to 
take to praying' over graves, lest by any chance 
one might be tempted to take to praying for, 
or even to, the souls of the departed, yet love 
overleaped such decrees in its eagerness to give 
its best. 

He had heard a good deal about trespassing, 
but it never impressed him in the least. The 
farmers or the gentlemen round would have 



MR. XOBODY. 101 

found it as easy to catch a hare as this swift 
little trespasser when it pleased him to exercise 
himself in his neighbour's estates. He was 
familiar with all their grounds, and though the 
committee, which in time was to give place to 
a f Town Council,' had lately taken to putting 
up trespass-boards, ' He Jem ' could not read 
them, and so the trespass-boards made no dif- 
ference. 

Old Jem had once tried to impress upon his 
obtuseness that Sir George was a magistrate, 
and had added in his hearing, 

' What was the use o' going into Torring- 
moor for magistrates — wasn't the gen'l'man as 
lived close to them one hisself, as well as the 
parson as cum on Sundays V 

I am sorry to say that this warning effected 
a very different purpose from that which it was 
desired to accomplish, since the child's princi- 
pal wish was to spite Sir George. It flashed 
upon him suddenly that in the garden at Rash- 
leigh were some rare spring flowers, with the 
cultivation of which the gardener had taken 
especial pains. There were double narcissi and 



102 MR. NOBODY. 

some beautiful waxy hyacinths. To pick the 
plants in the greenhouse would have seemed to 
6 Little Nobody' to be a crime. His system of 
ethics was a strange one, but nothing would 
have surprised him more than to be told that 
to pick a flower which grew in the open air, 
and which seemed to belong, as much as the 
stars did to heaven, if they did to anyone, 
would have been looked upon by the magis- 
trate as an act which obviously required 
punishment. 

Evening after evening, after the brilliant idea 
occurred to him, garlands of the golden-centred 
narcissus and of the creamy hyacinth appeared 
on Polly's grave. The depredator first of all 
took three or four, and combined them with 
the wild ones, but after a time he grew bolder. 
The gardener set somebody to watch, by the 
advice of his master ; and the child was caught, 
with his hands full of the blossoms. Even old 
Jem had nothing to say for him, when he was 
told that the punishment would be a fine or 
else a term of imprisonment. 

' Some of 'em holds to being conwarted/ 



MR. NOBODY. 103 

said the old man, over his cups that night at 
the ' public' f I was never one o' that sort, 
but seems to me my Polly was alius conwarted. 
Now this chap comes of a bad lot. I all along 
sed as he'd go to the gallus.' 

It was ungrateful, to say the least of it, of 
old Jem. But the little sense which he once 
had was altogether deserting him. And it 
never occurred to him to think how he was 
to ' get along ' when the swift-footed little 
rascal could no longer run by the side of the 
carriages in Torringmoor, holding out his 
bunches of wild flowers, and exchanging them 
for half-pence. 

It seemed to the little fellow that soon 
everything would be punishable, when he was 
asked if he had seen the trespass-board, and 
read its directions. The comparatively small 
number of men and women who could read 
would have made most of them naturally 
frightened of undecipherable printed directions. 
But little Jem, who had not troubled himself 
about them at all, seemed to be only surly- 
tempered, and had no excuse to offer. He 



104 MR. NOBODY. 

never thought of mentioning the sacred matter 
of Polly's grave, but had somehow an idea 
that the angels, of whom his adopted mother 
had so often talked, would be equal to the 
emergency, and would be sure to protect him 
— the more so that Polly had urged it upon 
him with her last breath to keep honest and 
true and never get into jail. 

The child's silence made the matter worse. 
His case was considered to be one of contu- 
macy. He somehow understood that the police- 
man to whose tender mercies the gardener 
immediately handed him was a functionary of 
the law, and, though he felt fairly crazed when 
he was taken, as a matter of course, to the 
lock-up for the night, he had sense enough 
to know that he could not resist the municipal 
authorities, though he was, as he had been 
often told, in a free country. He had meant 
no harm. But when his pockets were searched, 
and the policeman seemed to think the case 
looked terribly grave, because they contained a 
pocket-knife, two stones, and a ball of string, 
he felt more than ever an apathy of fear, which 



MR. XOBODY. [05 

showed itself by grumpiness and silence. Cases, 
such as that of a man who had recently died 
in Whitecross prison for a debt of fifteen 
shillings, had been discussed before him, as 
well as that of another wretch who, for stealing- 
two odd shoes, had been sentenced to trans- 
portation for seven years. Old Jem did not 
hear the newspapers discussed at the public- 
house for nothing. 

The child was literally stupified by terror. 
On the following morning he was brought up 
to be examined before the magistrates, one 
of whom was a parson (and Polly Burton, who 
had taken her charge to the meeting-house, had 
failed in her duty by not taking him to church), 
another, who had a jerky, genial manner of 
speaking, but who looked properly shocked at 
the appearance of the little beggar, and finally, 
and worst of all, Sir George himself. That 
the form of examination was a farce, and that 
there was a ' foregone conclusion,' as the act 
was undeniable, was evident from the way in 
which the gardener, as witness, stated the case. 

Little Jem had never before heard his char- 



106 MR. NOBODY. 

acter stated in plain terras. He opened his 
eyes wide in his accuser's face, and then 
literally gasped for breath. He began to for- 
get his terror, and his natural shrewdness 
came to his assistance. There was an angry 
glitter in his blue eyes, and more than one 
of the gentlemen who were present could 
not help being struck by the shapeliness of 
his limbs and face, and by the fact that he 
carried himself erect as no cottage-bred lad 
ever carried himself, as he answered, saucily, 
'I am not a vagrant.' 
A friend nudged his elbow. 
* Be wise, and hold your tongue, you young 
rascal,' he whispered. 

Little Jem looked round. There should have 
been many people to speak a good word for 
him, he thought, people who had known him 
since his babyhood, and could have said that he 
meant no harm to anyone ; but somehow or 
other they were not there. He was only aware 
of faces which looked stern and terrible, and he 
knew that all the evidence went to show that 
he had taken the flowers. His only hope seem- 



MR. XOBODY. 107 

eel to be in speaking for himself, as, breathing 
hard, with face white and scared, but looking 
defiantly at his judges, he cried out, 

1 1 never begged from no one. I only sold 
my flowers.' 

It was an unlucky speech, as one of the by- 
standers laughed, and said, in a tone loud 
enough to be heard, 

1 You sold w T hat you had stolen, you young 
vagabond.' 

1 The lad is a good lad,' said a woman, kinder 
than the rest, and who stood up for his defence, 
since she, like Polly Burton, had a natural dis- 
like to the Torringmoor people, and prided her- 
self on retaining more cockney speech. ' You 
would not bracket him with thieves. A beggar 
in course he is, poor brat, but, saving your wor- 
ship's pardon, I don't see how he can be any- 
thing else — coming, as he did, by a wrong tack 
into the world, and taken up by a weaksome, 
cranky creature, as always lived more or less 
on charity. He's down enough in the mouth a'- 
ready, without throwing o' it into his face.' 

1 He is a vagrant — all the mischief comes of 



108 MR. NOBODY. 

his vagrancy,' said one of the magistrates, 
severely. 

' That will do, my good woman — you may 
step down,' answered another. ' We cannot 
allow uneducated people to pamper mendi- 
cancy.' 

There was no other attempt made at little 
Jem's defence. Certainly one neighbour, who 
wished to magnify his own importance, pretend- 
ed afterwards without an atom of truth that 'he 
knawed who did it ; but o' course he warn't a- 
going to blab.' — ' He'd heerd tell,' afterwards 
said another, ' that if folks only looked over a 
gate at a turnip-field,, there'd be other folks 
ready to swear to a whole waggonfield of turnips 
against 'em.' 

In each case it was the rustic, as usual, shut- 
ting his eyes and ears, lest he should be caught 
and dragged in himself by some of the wheels 
and pulleys of this horrible machinery called 
the law. More than one man and woman had 
come into court intending to say a word respect- 
ing the ignorance of the waif and the fact 
which had been guessed by them and confirmed 



MR. NOBODY. 109 

by the sexton that the flowers had been pulled 
in childishness for Polly Burton's grave. But 
each, when summoned to come forward, fell 
back like a coward on assumed stupidity, and 
slipped out of court. 

Meanwhile, the examination, which had made 
the little fellow's head whirl, was quickly over, 
and he had to hear the sentence pronounced 
in this terrible judgment-chamber. 

Tbe gentleman who had the genial manner 
had asked him if he had anything to say for 
himself. But when the boy looked round and 
saw that the neighbours,, who could have 
spoken in an ordinary way to his industry and 
readiness to oblige, were none of them there 
to help, he could only repeat doggedly that he 
did not know he might not be allowed to pick a 
few of the flowers. 

'Then it is time you knew now,' said Sir 
George, who began to speak. And to little 
Jem, who listened, it somehow became plain 
that, because he had stolen the flowers, he might 
some day be guilty of any theft, arson, or mur- 
der, that the mischief was to be beaten out 



110 MR. NOBODY. 

of him, and he was to have twelve days' con- 
finement with hard labour. 

When he heard of the sentence, the pride 
which had hitherto kept him up broke down. 
He burst into a passion of angry tears, striking 
with his fists at the policeman who took him 
out of court. 



Ill 



CHAPTER IX. 

It was but a very unimportant event of every- 
day life in the neighbourhood of Torringmoor. 
Old Jem had gone to the workhouse by the 
time that ' He Jem ' came out of prison. No 
one had thought of what would become of the 
lad, who was more than ever ' Little Nobody,' 
or i Mr. Nobody ' now, as his companions, who 
wished to be witty, had called him. He had 
kept the title to himself as soon as he heard it, 
not knowing that it was already familiar to 
Polly Burton. Why should he be jeered at 
because he was ragged, and had hardly enough 
to eat % 

When he went to look for old Jem, and 
found that he was gone, a fire of impotent rage 



112 MR. NOBODY. 

consumed the boy, and seemed to tear at his 
vitals. It was not that the old man had been 
particularly kind to him, but he had looked 
upon him as a trust, and had promised Polly to 
4 do ' for him. 

The child's life had required wonderfully 
little before the term of imprisonment which 
had branded him as a gaol-bird. A little water, 
a little bread, a little straw or heather to sleep 
ODj had sufficed for his daily wants. He had 
risen with the lark during Mary Burton's life- 
time, and had been an active, bright-eyed crea- 
ture, picking up enough for his daily wants in 
the fields. 

But prison life had changed him more than 
ever, bringing him in contact with fresh people. 
He was conscious of new instincts which made 
him vow revenge, and which told him he could 
do something in the world some day. Had he 
been less clever, it might have fared better with 
him. His retentive memory was far worse for 
him than if he had had the power of covering 
his injuries with oblivion. He had not been 
long enough in confinement to become pallid 



MR. NOBODY. 113 

or heavy-eyed — in fact, he had been fed better 
than usual ; the prison diet was like feasting. 
It was not his body which had suffered, but his 
soul. At the expiration of the twelve days, 
there was not only a wild look in the poor 
boy's face, but all the self-respect had gone out 
of him. He hung his head with a sense of 
shame, as if he could no longer walk erect, and 
the sunlight, of which he had been so fond, 
seemed to dazzle him. But this was not the 
worst. It was not only that life seemed to be 
almost as much over for him as if the last 
planks had been nailed over his little body, but 
that deep down in his heart there slumbered a 
sullen dull instinct of revenge. 

' Blast them ! ' he cried, though he had 
promised Polly he would not use bad lan- 
guage. ' Blast him ! ' as he thought of the 
magistrate, with a sudden frenzy of impotent 
passion. 

The woman who had tried to say a word for 
him was fairly frightened into the belief that 
the child's wits had been scared ' out o' him,' as 
she met him coming away from the tumble- 

VOL. I. T 



114 MR. NOBODY. 

down cottage in which he had lived with old 
Jem. Her explanation was afterwards that he 
was not only grumpy and glum, as if nothing 
would ever make him smile in this life again, 
but that he wandered in his speech, and seemed 
stupid — ' nilly, willy,' as she put it. 

1 1 wish they'd 'ave killed me — it 'ud been 
soon done wi',' he said, rubbing his fists into 
his eyes, in his determination not to disgrace 
his manhood of ten years old. And these were 
the only sensible words which she could get 
out of him. 

As to Sir George — of whom the child had 
heard in prison that he only cared for one 
stratum of humanity, his own, and the rubbish 
which lay beneath it might be kicked at and 
trodden down — he had oddly determined to be 
equal with him, to make his way in the world, 
and by-and-by to defy him. 

The boy was quick enough when he chose 
to learn, and he had proved an apt pupil at his 
new school, the prison. All pains were to be 
taken, all means to be justifiable by which 
tyrants could be met as equals. His ideas 



MR. NOBODY. 115 

were perhaps a little confused, but he had 
almost an iron constitution. From his baby- 
hood he had been used to bear cold, hunger, 
and thirst, to sleep anywhere and anyhow, 
to bend his body into all sorts of extraor- 
dinary positions, to lift heavy weights, and 
endure all sorts of privations. He intended to 
put his abilities to good use. He would emi- 
grate, work hard, learn everything that he 
could, and come back with a fortune to defy 
his would-be masters. 

There was a desperate fellow, who had been 
in Australia, now in the prison, and this man's 
stories, told at nights — in the days when the 
same precautions are not taken as they are 
now, and when the ' non-imprisonment of chil- 
dren ' was a question not even debated — had 
fired the little urchin's imagination. It is 
likely that these tales of adventure, under any 
circumstances, would not have left the boy's 

mind, and the drearier his life in shire, the 

more he probably would have longed after these 
wild exploits of fabulous travel. 

'You're not quite a fool,' one of the map's 



116 MR. NOBODY. 

fellow-prisoners had answered, 'but that kind 
of talk is all my eye.' 

6 Little Nobody ' believed in it, and meant to 
prove it. Once, on the day after he came out 
of prison, he saw Sir George's carriage pass, 
the owner driving with his wife and child, and 
looking obtuse and self-complacent. He would 
probably have laughed heartily if he could have 
been informed that the small gaol-bird had 
shaken his fist at the carriage until it vanished, 
that his little body had been contorted with 
rage, as if the boy were in a fit, that his strong 
white teeth had been ground together, and that 
he had tried to pull his once lion-like mane as 
if he would drag it from the roots, and had 
been in a greater rage than ever when he found 
that the prison scissors had only left him short 
stubbly stuff to torture. 

But the sight of the carriage had done 
something. It had intensified his resolution. 
More than ever he was determined that he 
would not stay in the town where he had 
been flogged, and proved guilty of a punish- 
able offence. The punishment which had been 



MR. NOBODY. 117 

administered was shameful and degrading. 
Rather would he walk to his death, with 
suffocating heart and blistered feet. He had 
been used to long-continued hunger, and it 
was nothing to him to plod painfully over hill 
and dale. The walk to Bristol might be a 
long and painful one, and he would have to 
earn his bread upon the way. It was all the 
more painful now that he believed no more 
in Mary Burton's angels. If there were any 
such things as angels, why should they allow 
such things to be ? 

But, if the child did not believe in angels, 
he believed in endurance of suffering. One of 
the men in prison had told a tale of General 
Jackson — how, when he filled the post of 
president in the United States, he and his 
men could bear privations. It was quoted of 
him that once, when warring against the Indians, 
he perceived acorns, which were spread on the 
door of a hut in which they had taken refuge. 

4 Gentlemen,' said Jackson, looking sig- 
nificantly at the acorns, 'we have no reason 
to complain of want of food.' 



118 MR. NOBODY. 

The story — true or not — had photographed 
itself indelibly on the memory of the boy, as 
he thought of the many miles of dusty road 
which lay before him, and which he should be 
forced, shoeless, to tread. 

A little girl, who had loved him, and who 
had been accustomed to play with him in the 
days before Polly Burton's death, when love 
of solitude had not taken possession of the 
unhappy waif, watched for him from one of 
the cottages with large, liquid eyes, and offered 
him a crust of bread. But a better instance 
of the evil which maltreatment had already 
brought on his nature could not have been 
given than by the push which he gave his 
would-be helper, bringing the tears to her eyes, 
as he burst from her grasp. The poor, little, 
puckered, woebegone face controlled itself with 
an effort ; for the child had the intuition of a 
woman, that ■ He Jem ' would never have 
given her that surly push, if they had not 
been cruel to him. 

The girl had belonged to the somewhat par- 
ticular clique of people whom Polly Burton had 
liked to favour. 



MR. NOBODY. 119 

* Yew're glad yew've a-cum out — aren't yew 
now'?' she said, twining her arms again about 
her friend. ' Lord ! who's to pay for yewer vittels 
and drink, if there's nobody as 'ill employ yew V 
she added, with sharp precocity. 

This was a difficulty which had not yet 
occurred to Jem. But, if he needed a further 
proof that the honest and independent peasantry 
would have as little as possible to do with 
prisons, he had it at that moment in the fact 
that a woman appeared at the door, calling 
sharply, and the girl, recognising her mother, 
turned immediately, and went in. 

' And yet I niver knewed the law, and never 
i'tended to go 'gainst it — niver,' thought the 
waif, trying to speak soberly to himself, since 
one of his resolutions — essential to the carry- 
ing out of his deeply-laid plan of vengeance — 
was not again to let his passion visibly get 
the mastery of him, and to learn to read that 
he might try to keep himself closely within 
enactments and statutes, whenever he was 
likely to be found out. Otherwise his hand 
was against everyone, and everyone's hand 



120 MR. NOBODY. 

against him. He forgot all about Polly Bur- 
ton and her precepts as he toiled, jaded, foot- 
sore, and heart-sick for some weary miles, 
covered with dust or wet with rain. Once 
a kind woman, to whom he said that he was 
Avalking to Bristol, gave him a bit of supper 
and offered a barn for him to sleep in for 
the night. But oftener he had to lie down 
in the hay-fields, or by the side of a hedge, 
gathering wild flowers to sell in the day-time, 
but no longer caring for the beauty of them. 
And, during these few days, there was one 
refrain chiming on in his heart, 

i When I be grew'd a man, I'll back to pay 
'im in 'is own coin.' 



PART II. 



A man's a man for a' that. 

Burns. 



123 



CHAPTER I. 

ABOUT thirty-three years afterwards, on a bright 
March afternoon, a man, vigorous in figure, and 
with one of those picturesquely bearded faces 
which have become more common in England 
than they were earlier in the century, with a 
shaggy overgrowth of hair hiding much of the 
features, was driving in a hired carriage in the 
neighbourhood of Torringnioor. This traveller 
had been borne, like other people, on the ' tire- 
less wings ' of the spirit of steam past mine and 
waste and common, past grey rocks and green 
pastures, watered by shining rivers, to the now 
flourishing town of Torringmoor, which not 
only boasted a railway station of its own, and 
had populous suburbs where once there had 



124 MR. NOBODY. 

been fields and flowery lanes, but had even for 
more than thirty years been allowed to have a 
voice in the government of its country. 

The express train which had been tearing 
away at a terrible speed on its south-westward 
journey, carrying passengers from London, did 
not astonish the new-comer, and though the 
Torringmoor people were proud of the rapid 
growth of their town, in which the old land- 
marks seemed to have disappeared, he looked as 
if he thought it a sleepy sort of hole, compared, 
for instance, with such a place as Chicago. 

Wherever he had spent the earlier portion of 
his life, the traveller had certainly been used to 
a world of change and progress, and, if he had 
anything to complain of in this ' tight little 
island,' it would have been that the people in 
it moved too slowly. But he did not, as a 
rule, reason about anything at all. He was not 
sufficiently educated to appreciate the intellec- 
tual development and social improvements 
which he took as a matter of course, and would 
have looked puzzled if any philosopher or 
historian had suggested to him that the present 



MR. NOBODY. 125 

age was one of the most wonderful in the 
history of the world — greater than the age of 
Augustus in Rome, of Leo X. in modern Italy, 
or of Louis XIV. in monarchical France, and 
possibly surpassing in our own country that 
Elizabethan era which is still to the majority of 
Englishmen a period the thought of which 
makes their heart glow with the enthusiasm of 
national exultation and pride. 

Others might crack mental nuts of that sort. 
Reuben Sellwood, as he called himself, was 
more inclined to think that the old country was 
going to the dogs, and considered himself to be 
less of an Englishman than a cosmopolitan. He 
had picked up a sort of polyglot knowledge in 
his contact with adventurers of all nations. He 
prided himself on having little sentiment, and 
was not accustomed to render homage to grand 
old names, or to analyse high-sounding phrases. 
He cared less about the success of the age than 
his own personal success in it, and he would 
have cared little enough about that had he not 
looked upon it as a means to an end. He flat- 
tered himself that he was nearer to the accom- 



126 MR. NOBODY. 

plishmeut of that end than his wildest hopes 
had led him to expect, when — on landing but a 
short time before in England — he had seen the 
announcement for sale of a certain property 
called by its recent owner ' Broadmeads ' — a 
property which was advertised at an enormous 
price, and which was built in close proximity to 
the estate known as 'Rashleigh Park/ That 
park still existed, but it was an open secret that 
its owner was no longer the greatest landowner 
of the parishes of Torringmoor and Waterdale. 

Reuben Sellwood's past history was in a secret 
drawer. No one knew the trick of it, or could 
touch the spring. And his own son could not 
possibly have guessed at the reason why he 
determined instantly on the purchase of * Broad- 
meads,' not even seeing the house and land 
before he closed with the bargain ; still less why 
it should have been a triumphant day for Reu- 
ben when the great mine-owner, who had made 
an almost fabulous fortune, and built for him- 
self that which he intended to be a palatial 
residence which should outshine the glories of 
Rashleigh Park, had suddenly failed, owing to 



MR. NOBODY. 127 

the rashness of his speculations, so that ' Broad- 
meads ' was put up for sale. 

People have their idiosyncracies, and Reuben 
considered he had right to his. He had never 
before talked seriously of residing for any 
length of time in England, though he had sent 
his only child to be educated in the old coun- 
try. But then he had never spoken of his in- 
tentions or plans to anybody. And so im- 
patient was he now to see the place which he 
had purchased that, if the driver had not been 
sure of securing a heavy fare, he would have re- 
sented the way in which this gentleman with 
bronzed face, and beard which seemed to have 
been burnished by too much exposure to the 
sun, kept urging him forward. 

In the opinion of the driver there was not 
much to look at in the old moor that March 
afternoon when, as the sunlight began to fade, 
the north wind got the advantage and began 
stinging their faces. And yet the stranger in 
the carriage, who had not seemed to take any 
notice when he passed through Torringmoor, or 
passed people on the road who might observe 



128 MR. NOBODY. 

his ' queer ways/ would every now and then 
start up and look about him, bending his neck 
as if he would almost dislocate it — a proceeding 
on which he certainly would not have ventured 
had he not looked upon the man on the box- 
seat as a mere machine, not likely to take heed 
of anything. 

Reuben Sellwood was generally no admirer 
of landscapes. He might have observed grimly 
of them (in the same spirit in which he once 
observed of the sea that it ' took too much 
room') that he had seen ' too many of them.' 
Mountain, vale, or wilderness were pretty much 
alike to him, and he would pretend that he 
was so utilitarian in his principles that factories 
and towns like busy ant-hills, with signs of 
man's determination to wrest gifts out of the 
hands of Nature, were the scenes which he 
most appreciated. No sound was so pleasant 
to him as that of the beating of Labour's heart. 
He liked to think that other men had spent 
their lives as he had in the stupid commonplace 
of getting on, and that few had conquered as 
he had done. And yet this man, who had 



MR. NOBODY. 129 

something bourgeois about the sharp expression 
of the little which could be seen of his face, the 
cut of his clothes, and even the shape of his 
boots. Yet he had none of the joyous swagger 
of success which is generally to be found 
amongst the rich bourgeois class. 

As the carriage turned a corner of the road, 
its occupants came in sight of a river, not flow- 
ing quietly, as in the gentlest days of summsr, 
or churned into creamy foam, as it gurgled over 
brown stones, but full of water, which overflowed 
the big boulders — hiding the mosses, which 
could be seen on them when the water was 
lower, and overflowing even the meadows, as 
it came bounding with a joyous rush of white 
through the stony jaws of a little gorge. 

The sight was a fair one, the more so as the 
afternoon sun was declining, and its faint rays 
seemed to fall in oblique lines over the moor, 
which, though it was not now aglow with furze 
and heather, had yet retained a richness of 
colouring from its peat-bogs and deep beds of 
withered bracken — the * red fern ' of the ballad- 
writers. The reeds, the sedgy grass, the stunt- 

VOL. I. K 



130 MR. NOBODY. 

ed oak-trees near the river, and the grey rocks 
in the distance added to the beauty of the 
picture, and yet hardly accounted for the man- 
ner in which Reuben Sell wood drew a deep 
breath, and struck his sun-burnt but well-shaped 
fist against the door of the carriage. Possibly 
he was interested in the surroundings of his 
new property. 

I have said that he prided himself on not 
being romantic, and yet the bifold nature of 
the man — who, like most people, had not only 
a mixture of black and white qualities in his 
character, but in whom the shades were darker 
and the lights stronger than they are in the 
average man — might have been guessed by a 
cunning, analyst of human nature. 

The key-note of the moor was still its lone- 
liness and desolation. Yet the traveller was 
scarcely likely to feel its ineradicable sadness. 
The weird impression of the little arrowy 
torrent dancing in the midst of the desola- 
tion, and of an old tree which had been hewn 
down perhaps some forty years before, but 
which, for some reason, had not been removed, 



MR. NOBODY. 131 

so that the frost and rain of years had split its 
smooth-hewn surface, might have impressed a 
poet or an artist, but seemed to be little in 
keeping with Reuben Sellwood's matter-of-fact 
disposition. He had travelled hard all day, not 
waiting to break his fast ; and though he had 
been used to far more fatiguing journeys, and 
could endure greater bodily hardships, he had 
possibly not counted on the exhaustion which 
might be produced by the excitement of pur- 
chasing his new possessions, and that such 
exhaustion might render it^jnost difficult for 
him to maintain his usual unimpassioned self- 
control. 

As he leant back in the carriage with a 
muttered exclamation, it might have been the 
drowsiness caused by the keen air and long- 
continued exertion which made it a little diffi- 
cult for him to keep his reasoning powers on 
the stretch. And he, who w r as accustomed to 
boast of his contempt for dreamers, lapsed into 
a reverie which was strangely like a dream, 
He dreamed that in the old days, before the 
march of civilization had swept them away, 

k2 



132 MR. NOBODY. 

there had been wolves and red deer on this 
moor ; that there had once been pixies, some- 
times shaped like rolling balls of heather, and 
sometimes shrouded in grey cloud, and that he 
had heard a little child calling to them, 

' Wee folk, good folk, 
Trooping all together, 
Green jacket, red cap, 
And grey cock's feather.' 

The child's voice seemed to haunt him, as 
did an odd idea that where some cottages 
stood in rows there ought to be grand old 
oak trees, remarkable for the strength and 
upward spring of their branches. What had 
become of the wood which seemed as if it 
ought to stand where there were now black- 
berry branches trailing and old tree stumps ? 
How came there to be a growth of rank grass 
on the open where he had dreamed of a pic- 
turesque road, with ruts made by the carts 
of wood-cutters, arched with overspreading 
branches, adorned with the richest foliage in 
summer, and enlivened by a joyous flood of 
bird-music in the young abundance of spring ? 



MR. NOBODY. 133 

He — who prided himself on his want of 
imagination — had done his best to keep back 
these childish fancies, but they seemed to be 
born of his overwearied brain, just as mysteri- 
ous forms, and what Mr. Ruskin would have 
called ' spiritualising ' mists, were born of this 
stream of water and the distant tors. He 
was ready to swear at himself as a fool, especi- 
ally as the silly old doggerel about ' Wee folk ' 
kept jogging on in his head. And with it 
came another shadowy impression that some 
old woman had once told him about a pack of 
spectral hounds, whose cry was said sometimes 
to echo amongst the hollows of the hills. 

The intellectual conception of anything 
spiritual — even of the humorous sort — had 
been for years utterly foreign to the man's 
nature. But, owing to the causes which I 
have mentioned, a superstitious dread, which 
is often to be found in connection with scep- 
ticism — as if the circumscribed nature made 
its protest against being kept within the 
narrow bounds which condemn it never to 
look deeper than the mere material fact of 



134 MR. NOBODY. 

its own life — was strangely gaining on him. 
He was inclined to think his senses were 
fooling him, when suddenly, at the next turn 
of the road, he came upon a huntsman be- 
spattered with mud, riding with impetuous 
speed. The apparition might have been an 
optical delusion, for all he knew to the con- 
trary ; for the driver — who, finding as soon as 
he had left Torringmoor that his new fare, 
so far from inviting confidence, was taciturn 
and a little abrupt, had relapsed into sulky si- 
lence — did not appear to have seen the hunts- 
man at all. The appearance was evidently 
a creation of Reuben's own brain. Surely, if 
the rider had been what the metaphysicians 
call ( objective ' instead of ' subjective,' he would 
have been leisurely returning in a common- 
sense way to his home, at an hour when a 
hunt — if it had taken place at all— must have 
been over. But that the huntsman should still 
be spurring on his tired mare, whose eyes were 
glittering, whose little ears were still erect, 
and nostrils still dilated, as if she and her 
rider had not had the glory, an hour or more 



MR. NOBODY. 135 

before, of being ' in at the death,' was a thing 
impossible. For the mare and her rider — evi- 
dently creatures of Reuben's distempered brain 
— looked a couple to go straight over hedges 
and ditches, when one after another of the 
lesser fry had ceased to follow. 

These thoughts dimly shaped themselves in 
the traveller's mind as the huntsman came 
nearer, and, with a complexion which was 
strangely white, in spite of the healthy red 
which was stamped, like the ruddiness of an 
apple, into his cheeks, dashed past the carriage, 
and disappeared at the turn of the road. 

Reuben would have tried to think no more of 
the apparition, except that his health must for 
once need the care of one of those superfluous 
beings called doctors, had not the huntsman 
been followed, a few moments afterwards, by a 
boy, bare-headed, and running swiftly, with 
every appearance of agitation. The driver 
seemed to wake from the stupor into which he 
also had relapsed, owing to the snubbing which 
he had resented, and shouted to the boy, who, 
more communicative than the gentleman, held 



136 MR. NOBODY. 

out a card with a pencilled message on it, as he 
gasped, short of breath, 

1 It is poor oud Sir George — he be terrible 
bad — a fit, or summut. Mr. Monckton be a- 
going for the doctor at Torringrnoor. But 
there's another as lives nearer, at Tewton, ye 
sees. I be hurryin' for he.' 

'What was the matter with Reuben Sellwood? 
Was he, as he himself fancied, in that state 
from an overstrained nervous system, in which 
the taxed brain can bear no extra pressure? 
Why else should the perspiration break out in 
drops on his forehead, and the deep breaths 
w T hich he had drawn once or twice when look- 
ing at the landscape became quicker and more 
laboured ? Why should his own healthy colour 
fade even more perceptibly than that of Colin 
Monckton, who had been for several years the 
intimate friend of Sir George Rashleigh, and 
w T ho might well reproach himself for allowing 
himself to be separated from the old gentleman 
— having been conscious as usual of the pres- 
ence of neither friend nor foe from the moment 
that the first difficult line offences rose stiff and 



MR. NOBODY. 137 

straight before him that morning. It was all 
very natural for Mr. Monckton to feel it. But 
why should a stranger who prided himself on 
his want of sentiment have to make two or 
three ineffectual efforts to speak, and then ask 
in a quick, sharp tone, and in a voice which did 
not seem to belong to him, 

'What was that?' he said, 'an accident — a 
fit — somebody — injured — ivho V 

1 He'll be a stranger to you — Sir George 
Rashleigh — anyway,' answered the man on the 
box-seat, slackening the speed of his horses, as 
he looked with his mouth wide open at the 
' foreigneering ' gentleman, who for the first 
time seemed to take a real interest in anything. 

' Stranger ! yes, I believe you,' repeated the 
new-comer — who was afterwards described by 
the flyman as a ' queer customer ' — bursting 
into a peal of harsh, unnatural laughter. 

* 'Tis nought to laugh at, as I sees — anyhow, 

he be a-dyin' ' muttered the honest fellow, 

eyeing Reuben Sellwood with something of the 
same expression with which the pilot's boy 
might have looked at the ancient mariner. 



138 MR. NOBODY. 

< Attend to your horses. I laughed at some- 
thing connected with my own affairs/ answered 
Keuhen, angrily, as he resumed his usual harsh, 
arbitrary manner. 

And the man, a little ashamed of his own 
uncharitable fancy that there had been some- 
thing wicked-looking in the expression of the 
face of the unknown gentleman, drove on as he 
was desired. 



139 



CHAPTER If. 

Reubex afterwards heard what the flyman had 
failed to tell him — how that morning the 
rustics near Rashleigh Park had been all agape 
as an army of gentlefolk had invaded the 
village, streaming from all directions, most of 
the ladies gaily dressed and in barouches and 
pony-carriages, and some of the more enter- 
prising damsels mounted on horseback. 

In other words, the placidity of Rashleigh had 
been disturbed by a meet, and Sir George's 
pack, which had no right to be kept up con- 
sidering the impecuniosity of its owner, was 
said to be in * unusually good form ' as it sped 
away in the eastward direction. Torringmoor 
lay to the west, and had other excitements of its 



140 MR. NOBODY. 

own, its more enterprising' inhabitants looking 
down on the hob-nailed Cincinnati who were too 
willing to desert their ploughs to follow the cry 
of the hounds, and to admire the costumes of 
the hunters. But, had Reuben Sellwood cared 
to enter into conversation with the Torringmoor 
people that morning, he would have heard 
many remarks of disapproval, and seen many 
shaking their heads at the rashness of Sir 
George who, in spite of repeated warnings in 
the way of a broken collar-bone on one occasion 
and fractured ribs on another, had yet persisted 
in ignoring the advance of age, which rendered 
feats which had been easy of accomplishment 
when he was younger, absolutely impracticable 
for him now. And it was well-known that it 
required no little quickness of eye and skill in 
horsemanship, to follow hounds over the 
morasses and rock-strewn hills. 

A moraliser, fond of dealing in common- 
place platitudes, could have drawn a good pic- 
ture of the uncertainty of human pleasures from 
a contrast between the neighbourhood of Rash- 



MR. NOBODY. 141 

leigh Park that morning and evening. In the 
morning there had been a bewildering vision 
of carriages filled with bright, expectant faces ; 
groups of men in picturesque costume talking 
eagerly together, and the villagers had been 
delighted by the sound of the huntsman's 
horn, the crack of whips, and the yelp of 
the dogs, with the blue sky above, in the fresh, 
invigorating air. Now the temporary excitement 
was over, the merry party of people which had 
met together that morning having dispersed 
under the influence of the bad news which 
threw a gloom over everything. No one had 
been with Sir George w r hen the accident took 
place. He had seemed to lack his usual 
energy, falling behind the others, as soon as 
the hounds were on the scent. Some surmised 
that he had had a fit, others that he had been 
thrown in carelessly attempting to take a fence 
which presented no such difficulties as to ac- 
count for the catastrophe. Anyhow he had 
been found lying senseless on the grass, with 
his horse standing by looking as sympathetic 
as a human being. His friends were so star- 



142 MR. NOBODY. 

tied at his appearance when they lifted him up, 
that they thought it better not to risk the jolt- 
ing of a carriage, and therefore a litter had been 
hastily improvised and four stalwart men were 
now carrying him to Rashleigh Hall. The 
pony-carriages with their fair drivers had long 
since disappeared. Only one or two sturdy 
horsemen lingered about the park gates to 
see if they ' could be of any use.' But all 
thoughts of selfish amusement, with all chat- 
ter and commonplace talk had ceased long 
before. 

The driver of Reuben Sellwood's carriage 
had again to slacken the speed of his horses 
to save being brought in contact with the last 
remnant of the tag-rag-and-bobtail which — 
attracted by the new excitement — still followed 
the mournful procession at a respectful dis- 
tance. 

The owner of Broadmeads had conquered 
his transient excitement, and leant back on the 
cushioned seat of the carriage with a look of 
passionless indifference almost amounting to 
boredom, as if nothing disturbed him but the 



MR. NOBODY. 143 

slight delay which almost amounted to annoy- 
ance. Had he been a few minutes earlier, he 
would not have been able to help seeing the 
litter carried into Rashleigh, with the figure 
on it, looking gaunt in the evening light, 
though the face had been carefully covered 
up. 

Reuben was on his guard as he gave a 
passing glance at the little crowd near the park, 
and muttered, as if to himself, 

' Well, if report speaks true, he was not in all 
respects such a neighbour as one would 
desire — still I am sorry — it should have come 
to this.'' 

It was the strangest return to the place he 
had bought. 

' A bad omen,' the servants said, who were 
standing in the hall of Broadmeads to meet 
the new master. He told himself that it was 
scarcely surprising he should be dazed by the 
suddenness of the catastrophe; and certainly as 
he drove in through the splendid iron gates — in 
themselves supposed to be a culmination of 
artistic skill, and on which his predecessor had 



144 MR. NOBODY. 

lavished a fabulous sum of money — be scarcely 
noticed their magnificence, nor the beauty of a 
new plantation in which trees of every variety, 
from the deodora to the Wellingtonia, had 
taken root and seemed to flourish. 

His coldness of demeanour was more studied 
than usual as he walked through the entrance- 
hall to the dining-room, and informed the man 
whom he had engaged as butler that he wish- 
ed to be alone, and would require nothing but 
a few biscuits and some brandy and water till 
he rang for him. 

Reuben Sell wood was a temperate man : his 
temperance had stood him in good stead at 
certain crises in his life when it had enabled 
him to triumph over others who were less tem- 
perate. But on this occasion he helped him- 
self to the brandy more than once, though — in 
spite of his long fast — his appetite had disap- 
peared. He did not ring for some time, exhaust- 
ed though he was from want of food. He would 
not have been able to give an account of the 
strange, conflicting emotions which struggled 
within him, but these emotions made him 



MR. NOBODY. 145 

desire to keep by himself. He was so accus- 
tomed to keep a strict watch over himself, and 
if possible to betray no feeling to his fellow- 
men, and so conscious that the storm which was 
convulsing his inner man, and which was mak- 
ing his eyes burn and his strong frame tremble 
in spite of himself, might betray itself in the 
tones of his voice or in some passing glance, 
that he required a little time to recover his 
habitual reserve. 

His wit was too rude, his intelligence too 
uncultivated to enable him to analyse these 
emotions. But now that he was alone, and 
it was no longer necessary to hide the swift 
changes of disappointment, vexation, rage, 
and pity which passed over that usually im- 
passive portion of his face which he had been 
unable to veil from his fellow-men, he rose 
once or twice and walked rapidly up and down 
the room, murmuring something between his 
set teeth, and even bursting into another fit 
of the rather horrible merriment which had so 
disturbed the Torringmoor driver, and which 
made it seem as if for some unaccountable 

YOL. I. L 



146 MR. NOBODY. 

reason the hate and exultation in his 

heart had been shaken into discordant 
laughter. 



147 



CHAPTER III. 

Reuben Sellwood had scarcely noticed the 
place which he had been so eager to purchase 
in the shades of evening. He had to wait for 
the next morning to experience his just keen- 
ness of disappointment in the fact that — seen 
by daylight — the mansion, which was partly 
modern Gothic and partly Jacobean, presented 
too much of that mixture of styles, that aiming 
at the combination of inconsistent novelties, 
which often proves the pitfall for the taste of 
a self-made Englishman. 

The ivory, the purple, and the cedar had been 
brought from different climates as for Solomon, 
but Reuben had heard enough of the ways of the 
aristocracy to see at a glance that the finishing 

L2 



148 MR. NOBODY. 

touch of some well-educated man, or high-bred 
lady was painfully needed, and there was that in 
Reuben's temperament, though he was by no 
means free from vulgarity, which made him 
wince a little as he recognised the want. If 
there had been a receipt for withering the furni- 
ture a little, making it look properly old, with the 
faded lovelinesses which Reuben had some dim 
idea would be natural in great people's houses, 
he might have liked it a little better. But there 
was nothing in this house stately with age, 
and the large gilded mirrors and velvet pile 
carpets reminded him too much of the great 
hotels with which he was already familiar. 

He was not happy in the house, shutting 
himself up as much as possible, though the 
Torringmoor people were ready, as he had ex- 
pected, to bow before his wealth. He only 
scorned them for it, and took little interest in 
any of the cards which were left by the neigh- 
bours, concerning himself about none of them 
but the owner of Rashleigh Hall. 

It seemed a little odd that a man who cared 
so little about his neighbours should trouble 



MR. XOBODY. 149 

himself to inquire constantly about the old 
patrician who lay dying* in the neighbouring 
hall, and that he should appear to take more 
than a little interest in the details of the pain- 
ful bodily suffering caused by those injuries to 
the spine which were expected by slow degrees 
to prove fatal. He listened apparently with 
half-an-ear to the story of how the son, the 
future Sir Ralph, who led a retired life, had not 
been the only son, but had had a twin brother 
who, being by about half an hour the elder, 
would have inherited the title had he lived to 
do so. 

8 But that wur the queer part of the story, as 
I alius ses,' continued the gossiping housekeep- 
er, ' they do say as that lad Richard, as they 
called "im, was quite different from the rest of 
'em, and as how he turned up his nose at 
what he called shabby gentility when he wur 
quite a youngster. There was no sich thing 
as contradicting 'im, but he sets out by hisself 
to some place among the savages to build the 
family fortunes, as he puts it. Well, he marries 
an' all on his own hook, like, and ses as he hates 



150 MR. NOBODY. 

all hartificial ways of living — all shams, as he 
calls 'em — that his sons shall learn to plough 
and his daughters to milk the cows, and all of 
'em to live on together in a sort o' Hirish 
Eden. Then you see, as a body with a bit o' 
sense might ha' known all along, he died of a 
fever, and his gentle lady o' pining. And back 
comes all by herself the most managin' little 
maid, the last left o' the family.' 

'And what became of the child after she 
returned from New Zealand V 

' Well, it wur just for all the world like a 
fairy tale. Home she comes with roses from 
the sea-air on her cheeks, and box packed with 
shells, and seaweed, and feathers, and sich 
things — and some money, which they do say 
the old gen'l'man wasted. But the comfort as 
she wur — that little un with her bright ways, 
and such a managin' head on her shoulders. 
For hafter the death o' his mother it's Mr. Ralph 
who gets married to a furrin lady as was alius a 
grumbling when she found how poor the family 
was. Then she would lie with her black eyes 
a-starm', and little Miss Vere a-tending of her, 



MR. NOBODY. 151 

and she a-dwindling away, accustomed all her 
life to company. And what company could she 
git ? For what comfort,' suggested chatty Mrs. 
Rose, who was glad to gossip about anything 
to which her taciturn bachelor master would 
listen, ' could all they horsey genTmen be to 
she?' 

Reuben tried to hide his inquisitiveness. It 
was no news to him that Ralph had married a 
foreign countess, and that that lady had brought 
no money to replenish the family coffers already 
exhausted by the extravagance of his grand- 
fathered likely to suffer further still — in spite 
of Sir George's pretences at economy in other 
things — on account of his father's mad pro- 
pensity for hunting. But the story of the elder 
brother who — directly he had discovered that 
his chances of doing anything he wanted were 
likely to be ruined by money difficulties in 
England — had shown such a strength of will 
in setting out to do the best for himself and 
for others, was as interesting as that of the 
little girl who, with temper unsoured after the 
death of her parents, seemed to have taken up 



152 MR. NOBODY. 

her father's work, and let her daily thought be 
for the people she lived with. It was easy to 
guess that the bare notion of emigration would 
have been distasteful to the retiring and scholar- 
ly habits of Mr. Ralph. 

' He wur alius one to sit at home, heven when 
his lady wur taken from 'im, though they do 
say as Miss Vere wur a born sick-nurse, and 
that though she wur but ten year old it wur 
pretty to see how she took the charge o' that 
new baby. And I often ses,' continued the good 
soul, ' how if Mr. Ralph's wife had lived, or the 
dowager leddy either, old Sir George 'ud never 
ha' been let ride when he had ought to have 
been sittin' comferble-like in his arm-chair, let 
alone the fac' that he had a letter given to him 
the mornin' of the 'unt — a business letter, as 
they ses, which was disturbin'-like ; but there, 
God A'mighty on'y knows whether he was took 
with a kin' of fit, or whether, when the hoss 
tries to jump and jerks him a bit, he jes' tum- 
bles off cos as how he could not sit — leastways, 
he'll never be the same again, and it is agonies 
as they ses he suffers in his poor old back.' 



MR. NOBODY. 153 

Reuben Sellwood made no remark. He was 
taciturn as usual. But he shifted his chair, and 
sat with his head bent down, and his back to 
the light, as Mrs. Rose, who Jcved nothing so 
well as to spin a yarn of her own, however 
unsympathetic might be her listener, continued 
rapidly, as if she was afraid her communication 
might be interrupted. 

'And most misfortunate is the famelly, sir, 
for Sir Ralph as'll soon be — with the poor old 
genTman having, so to speak, both feet in the 
grave a'ready — is not much above furty, and 
beggin' yer pardin', lookin' older than yerself, 
sir — for not only did he love his lecldy, but his 
heir as should be is a bit of a gell, and no such 
right to what is left as Miss Yere as wur the 
elder brother's child. There be a matter o' ten 
years, as I ses afore, atween the two. They 
du say as the eldest is like a mother to the 
leetle un — bless both their pretty faces. A nice 
little black-eyed gell, a bit like her furrin 
mother, that little un — and yet she 'minds me 
o' un as I buried nigh her age. And her father 
as weighted with the old gen'l'man's debts, as 



154 MR. NOBODY. 

well as his grandfather's that went afore— and 
all that by Mr. Richard's plans — the crushingest 
disappointment. No wonder as Mr. Ralph's 
a bit snarlish-like, he 'ad enufF to worrit him 
if ever a livin' man 'ad — for both the old gen- 
tleman and the one afore him in their ways as 
ye understand — the one a sort o' screw 'bout 
everything but horses, and the other,' here, to 
fill up a rhetorical pause, Mrs. Rose held up 
both her hands, i they were both that extrava- 
gant — the un with his rowdy ways, and 
t'other as alius said he weren r t extravagant 
neither." 

< There, that will do, my good woman,' said 
her master, in a deep voice which came from him 
so suddenly and so sharply that, as Mrs. Rose 
afterwards explained to those whom she called 
her ' busom friends/ it ' went through her like 
a dart, and turned her blood all to cuds-like/ 
'That will do,' said Reuben, with quite un- 
necessary sternness. 'Remember that the one 
thing I can never forgive in a cook is unpunc- 
tuality. Let everything be properly done, and 
spare no expense to do it, but bear in mind 



MR. NOBODY. 155 

that I do not wish to hear anything about it.' 
Mrs. Rose curtseyed and went away mutter- 
ing, yet a little mollified by the judicious clause 
• spare no expense/ which justified her in order- 
ing a new black silk dress,, and a dress cap 
which she had long coveted, though, as she ex- 
plained to her confidants, her new master was 
1 a hodd one.' 

1 A letter,' — he received a letter that morning 
— ' I wonder if it was a lawyer's letter,' thought 
the new-comer, who, without any conceivable 
cause grumbled at all the dishes which were 
served to him that day, and told Mrs. Rose to 
dismiss the cook, though he had hitherto ap- 
peared not to have a fastidious appetite. An out- 
sider might have said that the rich man was trou- 
bled, ashamed in a way which he could scarcely 
explain, ready to hate himself and everything 
about him, and to loathe the new house which 
he had purchased with his savings, if he could 
have seen him with his head resting on his 
arms for hours together, deep in thought, dur- 
ing that day. 

Naturally enough the tragic catastrophe 



156 MR. NOBODY. 

"which had happened to the great man of the 
neighbourhood, whose impoverished fortunes 
had often before furnished a subject for conver- 
sation, was the principal theme of talk in the 
mouths of the few visitors to whom Reuben 
could not well refuse admission. 

e A more melancholy state of things it would 
be scarcely possible to picture to yourself,' said 
one of the Torringmoor manufacturers who 
volunteered his information to the owner of 
Broadmeads — Reuben being too downright to 
excuse himself by the fashionable lady's fib of 
' not at home,' and having no excuse for refusing 
to see a man who sent in his card that he was 
a bachelor, and would like to make his acquain- 
tance. ' One might think that a curse had 
alighted on the family, though it is one of the 

oldest ones in shire. You see, the father 

and grandfather of the man who will soon have 
the title were both equally selfish. The former 
fellow was decidedly the most extravagant, 
but, though Sir George knew how things were 
going, he was such a dab at fox-hunting, and 
liked to keep up the name for taking the lead in 



MR. NOBODY. 157 

that sort of thing in this part of the comity, 
that there is no doubt he launched out 
too much in that direction, whilst he was pre- 
tending to curtail in another. They do say,' he 
added, dropping his voice, ' that the property is 
heavily mortgaged, and that much of it will be- 
long to Sir Ralph only in appearance. Sooner 
or later it must pass into other hands — there is 
some mystery about the mortgagee — these 
things generally pass into the hands of several 
people — but they do say ' 

An acute observer might have seen a 
glance keen as steel dart from the dark blue 
eyes of Reuben Sellwood, as a change of some 
sort, like a ripple caused by a sudden gust 
on ordinary impassive water, passed over his 
face, and, seeming to deprecate further informa- 
tion, he held up his hand as if to impose 
that reticence which he was known to practise 
habitually himself. 

The Torringmoor manufacturer was not an 
acute observer, and did not notice how Reuben 
managed again to bring up the subject 
which he appeared to have dropped, though he 



158 MR. NOBODY. 

seemed as usual to be lending only half an ear 
to the chatter of his guest. 

'Hard lines for the future Sir Ralph/ re- 
marked Reuben, with a yawn. The manufac- 
turer afterwards said to his wife that he was a 
* rough sort of customer,' and had not learnt 
manners in being battered about the world. 
To the rich man he answered, politely, 

'Yes, a laborious sort of fellow — does his 
best under the circumstances, but proud — proud 
as Lucifer ; just the sort of man to make an 
excuse for shutting up his place, and living 
quietly abroad, because he can't meet the ex- 
penses. A vast improvement on poor Sir 
George, who didn't manage to keep out of 
scrapes himself, though he was a blustering 
sort of magistrate, and hard enough on the 
peccadilloes of the poorer folk whom he had to 
deal with. When Sir Ralph comes into what 
they call the property, he will find that one 
half already has taken to itself wings, and the 
other half is hypothetical. Most of it is mort- 
gaged, and the curious part of it is that they 
say there are not many creditors, but that 



MR. NOBODY. 159 

the whole is likely to pass to one man, and he 
a foreigner.' 

• Warranted to go on like a barrel-organ for 
hours/ thought Reuben, whom nothing irritated 
like small talk. Yet a refrain of the barrel- 
organ rang in his ears, and even haunted him 
in his dreams that night. 'One might almost 
think there was a curse on the family.' 

The attitude of the cynical new-comer during 
the next few weeks hardly seemed to justify 
him in trying to usurp for himself the character 
of a Diogenes, or even to allow him to class 
himself with that half of the world which, ac- 
cording to the celebrated saying of Talleyrand, 
rejoices at the misfortunes of its neighbours. 
That the owner of Rashleigh Park was writh- 
ing day after day in sufferings which medical 
skill was almost powerless to alleviate, seemed 
to affect him in a singular way, as if he could 
give little attention to anything else. 

In accordance with the directions which he 
had given to Mrs. Rose, gardeners — chipping, 
chopping, planting fresh flowers, and mowing 
the beautiful lawns — were busy day after day in 



100 MR. NOBODY. 

the gardens of Broadrneads. But though spring 
was coming in with its golden daffodils, its 
white narcissi in the gardens, its little pink- 
headed daisies and its yellow and blue hearts- 
ease, and though the simple-hearted people in 
the neighbourhood could enjoy themselves in 
their little plots of ground — the poorer sort 
sending their little ones into the green fields to 
gather the pale cuckoo-flower and bells of blue 
hyacinth with the yellow primrose and golden 
kingcup — a heavy weight seemed to lie upon 
the heart of the man who, avowedly by his 
own exertions, had been able to beautify his 
life with such surroundings as few can enjoy. 
One might have said that the motive which had 
made exertion pleasant to him, and the fruits 
of exertion worth coveting, had been suddenly 
withdrawn. 

Reuben Sellwood still kept up the mask in 
the presence of others. But, when he was 
alone, he lapsed into the dulness of languor. 
The poor peasant in the neighbourhood of 
Torringmoor, invited that spring by the Divine 
Master to a feast of beauties which is our ear- 



MR. XOBODY. 161 

nest in this life of greater and higher delights, 
was happier than Reuben. Nature's ritual, 
with its odorous breezes, its blended tints, and 
its rush of harmonious sound, did absolutely 
nothiug to satisfy him ; the feast was spread in 
vain. He sat alone, and no one could guess 
that he was secretly troubled by the thought of 
the poor, disappointed, heart-broken old man 
who was dying slowly in protracted agonies 
in a neighbouring mansion. He would not 
admit that the matter was of any consequence 
to him, who had prided himself on the fact that 
his heart had been shut for years to the griev- 
ances of any of his fellow-creatures. Possibly 
it was, because he was unused to most of the 
recreations with which others are accustomed 
to beguile their leisure, that this event which, 
if he had heard of it at a distance, would 
have seemed to be nothing to him, had the 
power to disturb his peace when he realised it 
in detail. 



VOL. I. M 



162 



CHAPTER IV. 

Though, after a time, Reuben Sell wood had 
judiciously determined not to draw attention 
to himself by appearing to be too much of an 
anchorite, and refusing to see the people who 
called on him from Torringmoor, it could not 
fail to be a matter of remark that those who 
had speech with the new-comer knew no more 
about him than if they had abstained from 
seeking his acquaintance. 

Had he wife and family, as most respectable 
men were supposed to have ? Did he hail from 
America or Australia, and had he made his 
money in trade ? It was remarkable that no 
one dared to put these questions point-blank. 
Many had beaten about the bush, and one en- 



MR. NOBODY. 163 

terprising lady from Torringrnoor, more dar- 
ing than the rest, had ventured upon a sort 
of prefatory catechism, only to discover that the 
' enigma ' — as Mr. Sellwood began to be nick- 
named — however deficient he might be in other 
sciences, was a scientific adept in the art of ver- 
bal fencing. 

One thing was certain, that the e enigma ' 
made no pretence to be other than a self-made 
man. Yet it could not fail to be noticed that, 
though he was ready enough to announce this 
fact, he never told a single anecdote of his 
earlier life, and parried all inquiries with a reti- 
cence which he practised to such an extent that 
the gossips decided with a sigh of despair that 
even his nationality seemed to be a point which 
must be kept shrouded in uncertainty. He 
called himself a ' cosmopolitan,' an explanation 
which they were fain to accept. 

' Even supposing he is an American/ remarked 
one pompous man, deigniug to explain for the 
benefit of the weaker sex, ' you see, it would 
not make him a foreigner, for the English- 
speaking folk, wherever they dwell, and under 

m2 



164 MR. NOBODY. 

whatever government, must be still our people.' 

The name ' Reuben ' was felt to be misleading. 
The man was fair, and had not the unmistak- 
able physiognomy to be seen now in flesh and 
blood, little altered since it was carved on the 
stones of Nineveh. The men of Torringmoor 
shook their heads, and again explained to the 
women, who were inclined to invent a romance 
like that of the Rothschilds, 

'The fellow is no great commercial prince, 
no Haroun-el-Raschid, and no great Hebrew 
financier either, however he may have chosen 
to adopt a Jewish name.' 

So the tongues wagged for a little while and 
then found they had nothing further to wag 
about. 

Little difficulty was made about admitting 
the rich man to the club at Torringmoor, al- 
though that club — like most in provincial 
towns — had prided itself on its narrow ex- 
clusiveness, apparently because no name had 
yet been enrolled upon its list which was of 
any consequence to the world at large. It 
was difficult for anyone not amongst the 



MR. NOBODY. 165 

initiated to steer bis social course so as to keep 
out of all the little eddies and currents of pre- 
judices, conservative respectabilities, and sec- 
tarian sbibboletbs which a new-comer could by 
no means afford to defy. But Reuben Sell- 
wood did not defy them ; he simply ignored 
them. And, unpolished as was his address, he 
had talents of his own which marked him out 
from the common ruck. Business men who 
made his acquaintance soon discovered that he 
had an aptitude for mechanical invention, and 
was able instantly to suggest some small im- 
provements in the machinery they employed, 
which proved lucrative in the long run, and 
made them wonder less that he himself should 
have been able in the course of years to amass 
a not inconsiderable fortune. 

' They do these things better than we do in 
America,' was once more tentatively said. 

1 So I have heard,' answered the man, who 
was never off his guard, and who was careful 
never to let slip words which should betray 
his familiarity with the newer as well as the 
older side of the ocean, although he was con- 



166 MR. NOBODY. 

tinually and almost unconsciously making com- 
parisons — comparisons which were not alto- 
gether to the credit of the provincial people, 
who, with a narrow and unjust heedlessness of 
the opinions of other nations, were nursing 
their little prejudices and their insular pride in 
this out-of-the-way corner of the world, which 
seemed stirring enough to them, but to which, 
as Reuben scornfully thought, they could retire 
like lobsters who had cast their shells and 
were afraid of being rubbed by too active con- 
tact with their more enterprising fellows. 

Power is sweet, and flattery not unacceptable 
to most of us. Reuben had always looked for- 
ward to enjoying it, and was not philosopher 
enough to understand the sudden sense of 
satiety and reaction, which was already making 
the fruit taste bitter which he had left so long 
to ripen. 

The man, as his new acquaintances reasoned, 
had probably gone through much, and been 
moulded by many experiences. He held his 
head erect, and looked, they said, as if his hair, 
as well as his complexion, had been subjected 



MR. NOBODY. 167 

to the scorching processes of a tropical sun, 
whilst his broad chest and powerful physique 
seemed to tell the tale of his having been braced 
by more than ordinary exposure and fatigue. 
His words were energetic and definite, but 
generally few. They went, said the more 
sentimental of the Torringmoor folk, like rifle- 
shot straight to the mark. He disliked what 
he called hollow babble, and did not mince his 
speech. ' Poltroons, idiots !' he muttered more 
than once to himself, as be winced at what he 
called their ' hollow babble/ And yet he smiled 
rather grimly to himself when he found that 
other men deferred, not only to his wealth, but 
to a capability which was new to them, and 
consequently rather startling. He owed, as he 
felt, nothing to anyone, and was scarcely aware 
how he in his turn had begun to look down on 
all the little fry of butchers, bakers, and candle- 
stick-makers, being tyrannical in his dealings 
with them, and never brooking interference 
from anyone beneath him. From a habit of 
watching affairs with an amount of keenness 
which approximated to genius, he had become 



168 MR. NOBODY. 

accustomed to consider his own power as omni- 
potent, and those who sought his advice found 
him skilled in the secret of screwing down to the 
lowest the wages of the most competent work- 
men, with a decision of will and toughness of 
heart which had hitherto been unprecedented 
at Torringmoor. 

It was an ill compliment to that class which 
is accustomed to be called the higher one, that 
this tendency to injustice to those beneath him, 
and also a certain contemptuous inclination to 
keep aloof from those aspiring citizens who had 
just cast the chrysalis of the shop, and had 
retired in the newly-acquired butterfly state to 
gorgeous suburban villas, should have been 
taken as a sort of indication that a strain of 
nobler blood, possibly communicated to him 
from some remote ancestor, ran in the veins of 
the owner of Broadmeads. 

' I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs 
of my family,' answered Reuben, with ready 
aplomb, when some fresh adventuress, credited, 
according to the old tradition, with the curi- 
osity of Eve, remarked graciously on the pro- 



MR. NOBODY. 169 

bability of Mr. Sellwood belonging to that 
branch of the family of Sell woods which was 
well-known in Dorsetshire. * Madam, I was not 
aware that there were any Sellwoods in Dorset- 
shire.' 

His voice sounded so very determined and 
defiant, and the look of severity, coupled with 
keen observation, which formed the main char- 
acteristic of Mr. Sell wood's face, w r as so terrific 
that the good lady forgot to detect the owner 
of Broadmeads in his first unwise admission. 

Reuben was himself aware of the ' slip/ and 
chafed over it in secret. It worried him nearly 
as much as the weary feeling which he had 
had lately, as if the principal concern in his life 
was over, had worried him lately. 

Meanwhile the crisis of the tragedy w r as fast 
approaching at Rashleigh Hall. 

On a night towards the close of April, a group 
of figures was gathered round the bed on which 
the form, which looked a little more gaunt and 
tall, had been lying since the beginning of the 
illness. Sir George had not asked any ques- 



170 MR. NOBODY. 

tions, or seemed to take much notice of any- 
thing which had passed since his accident. But 
now that waking-up of the intelligence, which 
the doctors had prophesied would come before 
the end, warned the watchers that that end 
was nearer than they had expected. And as 
the sufferer began to toss about, clutching at 
the counterpane, he muttered for the first time 
articulate sounds. 

His son bent down to catch the words, and 
started as he heard that the revelations which 
had been dimly hinted at were all too true, 
; Could not help it— it was the debts ; could not 
pay the money — all the estates' 



171 



CHAPTER V. 

Reuben Sellwood was reputed to love no one, 
but the world was wrong in so judging. He 
had a soft place in his heart for his only son. 
He would have increased his reputation for 
cynicism if he could have told how — in being 
battered about in different countries, and com- 
ing into contact with much of that evil which is 
so difficult to disentangle from the remnants of 
good — his experience of women had been unfor- 
tunate. He had been shaken out of all his 
finer theories about the sex, and, as soon as he 
became a victim to that devastating doubt 
which will sometimes make itself felt in morals, 
as well as in mental difficulties, he was wont to 
say, 



172 MR. NOBODY. 

'Some of them may be angels, but the 
larger proportion are — not to use a stronger 
word — wretched hypocrites. You can't trust 
'em, and it is no use to make companions of 
'em.' 

And yet he had married, when fortune began 
to smile upon him — a girl who was supposed to 
be somewhat above him in birth. He had no 
intention of making a friend of her, or of trying 
to sheath his own rough nature in the softer 
tissues of hers, but he liked her to be dressed 
luxuriously, and always to drive in a carriage, 
and he would boast that she had quite an ' east- 
ern' love of luxury. So far from not humour- 
ing her extravagance, he would talk largely of 
that extravagance as of something s oriental,' 
which reflected a sort of glamour upon 
him. 

In this sort of talk he showed his weakness, 
but in most respects his tact helped him to 
avoid any solecisms in manners. Whether or 
not, as the theory was, he had educated him- 
self, he was certainly fairly well educated. 
Probably it was owing to a habit of reading 



MR. NOBODY. 173 

Shakespeare in his leisure hours that — except 
for an occasional expression, which, as he was 
always on his guard, he seldom let slip before 
strangers — his style in English was far from bad. 
Better in some cases in its terseness and even in 
its abruptness, than the style of others who had 
received a more classical education, — had it not 
been for the lapses in grammar. 

The wife died ; she was kept for a few years 
like a canary bird in a cage which was supplied 
with plenty of seed, cake, and groundsel. She 
was expected to chirp and not to cry, but possi- 
bly she pined, as canaries are apt to do, for a 
little human love, or the companionship of her 
mate. 

Her boy was delicate like herself. He resem- 
bled his mother in his fairness of complexion 
and his delicately-cut features, and he had blue 
eyes like the father's. His hands were a trifle 
too white and effeminate in size, possibly it 
was hard manual labour which had made the 
father's grow large and bony. 

Reuben had not shown his usual severity to 
this child, possibly because he had lost two 



174 MR. NOBODY. 

others, who died in infancy. The boy had been 
remarkable before he left school, for a dreamy 
look in his face — * visionary,' some people called 
it. He had been apt to wander about for hours 
by himself, and his father— concluding some- 
what disdainfully of the lad that he would be 
like his mother in ' building air-castles and not 
realities,' and in taking sickly imaginings for 
reasoning power — had nicknamed him, with 
tender condescension, his ' poet.' 

' Poets must not work, they must have others 
to give them everything,' he would say, as he 
loaded the child with pocket-money. 

This fair-haired, gentle-looking boy was his 
only toy in the earlier days when, though he 
had some capital at his command, he had not 
achieved his present success. He liked to be 
seen in public with the lad, as if he knew that 
the juxtaposition was picturesque. He sent 
him to England before he returned to the old 
country himself, that he might be educated 
at Eton and afterwards at Oxford. He was 
almost sorry when Godfrey — as the boy had 
been called to gratify a fancy of the mother's — 



MR. NOBODY. 175 

had grown hardier in the course of years so as 
to lose something of the look of exceeding 
refinement which the practised eye of a medical 
man would have recognised as the sign of a 
state of delicate health. 

It was now seven or eight years since God- 
frey had begun to think, and had understood 
that little was known respecting his father's 
antecedents. 

' Don't trouble yourself with what does not 
concern you,' Keuben had answered, a little 
sternly, when the lad asked a few questions. 
* You worry yourself with fancies. It is too 
early yet. You will have time for all that non- 
sense when, at the university, you take up that 
humbug called metaphysics.' 

He seldom reproved his son, and, though he 
privately despised all his youthful enthusiasms, 
he yet abstained from throwing cold water on 
them. Nonsensical aspirations were to be ex- 
cused in ' poets/ And though this was a nick- 
name which Godfrey would willingly have for- 
gotten, and his father could have adopted no 
better method to deter the lad from writing a 



176 MR. XOBODY. 

line of verse, yet there was something in his 
character — which tallied with his frail physique, 
and which seemed to be shadowed by the 
memories of his mother's long-continued sick- 
ness, and his own early life — which gave a satiric 
sting to the title. 

Reuben put a tolerably high price on this 
article of his own 'turning out.' 

'I have spared no expense to make him what 
he is,' he would say to himself of his elegant 
son, whom he believed to be a thoroughbred 
product of this highly-strung modern civiliza- 
tion. 'I cannot talk their language,' he would 
think to himself. ' There is something which 
one feels but cannot articulate. But he — he 
has been brought up to it — he can chatter 
all their jargon. It is he who shall right me 
and show that he can hold his own amongst 
people of any rank. They shall bow down to 
him. He shall claim a share in their great 
memories.' 

He tried to repeat this cherished idea to 
himself on the morning of the day when Sir 
George's funeral passed a road leading to the 



MR. NOBODY. 177 

little churchyard which could be seen from the 
windows of the house at Broadmeads. It was a 
windy day with showers of rain, and the cor- 
tege, swelled by many of the carriages of the 
gentry in the neighbourhood, had to contend 
with stormy gusts which threatened to blow 
over the hearse with long black plumes, which 
the protests of Dickens and other writers 
had not yet rendered obsolete. Reuben, who 
stood at the window which overlooked the 
road, shuddered and turned away as he 
thought for the hundredth time of that lawyer's 
letter, and wondered whether without its inter- 
vention that man in his old age would have 
been doomed to a wretched death. Somehow, 
the bloom had been rubbed off his triumph. It 
was in vain to puzzle out the causes of his 
failure. But, as he turned away from looking 
at the funeral, the turmoil in his mind went on 
as badly as ever. And Reuben wondered if he 
was growing superstitious as he felt himself 
strangely sore at heart and bruised, as if he had 
just been freed from the assault of visible evil 
spirits. 

VOL. I. N 



178 MR. NOBODY. 

A few days afterwards Sir Ralph was closeted 
with the family lawyer, and heard for the first 
time the full extent of the disaster which was a 
part of his inheritance. That the estate had 
-already dwindled to a very meagre portion of 
what it had been centuries before, was no infor- 
mation to the new baronet. Aware of the diffi- 
culties which might befall him, and at the same 
time not without a rather overweening sense of 
his own importance and the value to be attached 
to the home of his ancestors, Ralph Rashleigh 
had struggled and striven even during the life- 
time of his father, to perform his own not unim- 
portant part in diminishing the sorrow which 
threatened him. But the load of debt seemed 
like a living thing to take hold of him, and to 
be for ever pulling himself and his father 
down — a thing from which he could not escape. 
Of late days, he and the older man had ceased 
to have altercations on a subject which was 
painful to them both. That the place had 
been heavily mortgaged was no secret to the 
son, but that more and more of the land was 
still being mortgaged was a fact that his father 



MR. NOBODY. 179 

thought unnecessary to confide to him, know- 
ing that the estate was as dear to Ralph as it 
had been to any of his forefathers. The dreary 
suggestion of a fear as to the possibility of 
losing it, had more than once presented itself 
like a nightmare to his morbid imagination, 
but Ralph refused to be haunted by any such 
wild suggestion. 

And now as he sat alone, after the lawyer 
had had his lunch and departed with papers 
and baggage in the trap to catch the London 
train — looking cherubic and self-satisfied as if 
there were no such thing as mortgages and 
family property in the world — Sir Ralph felt as 
if the walls of the room and everything about 
him were falling like a pack of cards. 

It was characteristic of the new Baronet that 
he sat perfectly still, though the discovery which 
he had just made was a bitter one. Who could 
help it ? When Sir George had succeeded to 
the estate, it was already a rapidly dwindling 
one. Energy and self-denial might have done 
much to right things then. But now it was so 
heavily encumbered that there might be nothing 

n2 



180 MR. NOBODY. 

for Sir Ralph to leave to his daughter or his 
niece. He could wrestle for his own part with 
the encroaching poverty. But he had loved 
the land and the surrounding country for the 
sake of his ancestors. He had ever been a 
good landlord, caring for the interests of his 
tenants. And it was a question if he could any 
longer speak of tenants depending on him. 
There were, in fact, three sets of people 
to be considered in a question of this kind 
— the landlord, the tenants, and the land- 
lord's creditor. It would be a question for the 
future whether the landlord's creditor would be 
harder on the tenants than the landlord. For 
the latter was a man of straw, existing only in 
the name. It would certainly have been bet- 
ter to have no property at all than the miser- 
able parings which were, after all, his sole in- 
heritance ; he was thankful for the first time 
that there was no heir to carry on the family 
name. 

More than once during this sad soliloquy his 
fair-haired niece, with the roses blooming on 
her cheeks, and eyes of the softest Norwegian 



MR. NOBODY. 181 

blue — true and tender, with long dark lashes — ■> 
had looked anxiously into the room. But he 
sent her away somewhat sternly, for the very 
reason that his heart was yearning over her, 
and that he had not the courage to inform 
the girl of the state of his affairs. In his 
honesty he was most anxious to pay off certain 
creditors, but to do so he must be involved still 
further in the clutches of the outlandish neigh- 
bour who was the real owner of nearly all that 
surrounded him. Ralph Kashleigh clenched his 
fist aud brought it heavily to bear on the desk 
which, till lately, had hidden the much-detested 
papers, as he muttered to himself, 

' Who would have dreamt that the fellow 
could first of all spin his web with such pre- 
caution, like a spider to catch a fly ? And 
then that he would come near to us — he of all 
others, when he knows that the greater part of 
the land is Ms V 

He was almost ready to curse the strange 
luck which had caused the mortgages to be 
nearly all purchased by one man, and he a 
stranger, and to think his father was to blame 



182 MR. NOBODY. 

for placing them so unreservedly at his disposal. 
Further thought made him realise how irration- 
al was this bitterness, and acknowledge that 
the lawyers who were entrusted with the sale 
could not pick and choose their purchasers, and 
that if one man — living abroad and having a 
fancy for the thing — had come forward through 
his agents on each occasion, never quarrelling 
with the price, tbey had no alternative but to 
sell. 

Was it instinct or was it suspicion which 
made Sir Ralph conjecture, as perhaps his father 
had conjectured on the fatal morning, that 
something was wrong, and that the freehanded- 
ness which was so eccentric in this fellow might 
possibly be harmful ? 

Sir Ralph's own keen sensitiveness made him 
nervously aware of some steady and possibly 
baneful purpose in the transaction from which 
his own finer nature revolted. How long his 
melancholy reverie might have continued is 
doubtful. It was suddenly interrupted by 
another tap at the door, and a merry little 
ten-year-old child, so small as to resemble a 



MR. NOBODY. 183 

large wax doll, with dark brown eyes looking 
black through the long lashes, surmounted by 
a curly fringe, and a crape dress fancifully cut 
so as to display to full advantage the graceful 
little legs, daintily encased in black silk stock- 
ings, ran into the room, and, taking no rebuff, 
leaped like a small fairy on her father's knee. 

'Whatever happens, my Dot, nothing shall 
harm thee/ said the father, laying a caressing 
hand on the glossy dark hair, and looking as if 
he were half relieved from his burden as he 
glanced at the sparkling eyes and red lips of 
the little one. 

' It was Vere who sent me,' said the child, 
stroking his face with loving action in return. 
' She said you had been too much alone.' 

The cloud returned to his face. 

' Vere,' he muttered, ' the girl knows too 
much. It is bad enough for men to be annoyed 
by things of this sort — but — women ' 



PART III. 

Say not no to such a suitor, 
All I ask is — bless mine, purest of ambitions, 
Grant me leave to make my kind wise, free, and happy. 

Browning. 



187 



CHAPTER I. 

It was the ' eights ' week at Oxford. 

It is needless to say that the unique city, with 
its host of historical memories — set in by moist 
green fields and stately trees in the angle 
formed by the junction of the Cherwell and the 
Isis — is more beautiful than usual, like its sister 
university, in the month of May. In the lonely 
walks of the college gardens, the flame-coloured 
pyrus, the sprays of the wistaria adorning the 
old walls, the laburnums beginning to drop 
their ' wells of gold,' and the opening lilac- 
blossoms, hanging like plumes upon the bushes, 
were lighting up the dignified solitudes with 
brilliancy of colour. While some old chestnuts 
with wide-spreading branches — under whose 



188 MR. NOBODY. 

shadow perhaps a Heber, a Keble, or divines 
and scholars of earlier renown, had nursed high 
thoughts or meditated noble deeds — were put- 
ting forth their leafy fans, hidden so long within 
the shining buds. 

The genius of university life has changed, 
let us acknowledge, in most respects for the 
better. And nothing on this afternoon in May 
could be more significant of the changes which 
have revolutionised Oxford, identifying it with 
the entire English nation, instead of limiting it 
to certain sections, than the appearance of the 
crowds of bustling, well-dressed, happy-looking 
people who were hurrying down Corn-Market 
Street in the direction of Christchurch. If the 
'Philistine' element did not preponderate, it 
was pretty clearly to be traced in a good many 
faces of the fathers, mothers, sisters, and friends 
who seemed, as they streamed through the 
town, completely to destroy the quasi-monastic 
appearance of the ancient walls and buildings. 
They were merry enough as they crowded 
down the ' avenue ' on their way to the barges, 
but few among them took heed of the beautiful 



MR. NOBODY. 189 

openings between the trees, or the distant vistas 
of scenery. 

A cynic might have grumbled at the c ag- 
gressive juvenility ' of some of the youths 
who were entering for their minor Olympian 
stakes, with almost as much excitement as if it 
were that more important race which — as a 
subject of newspaper chronicling and specula- 
tion — ranks only second to the Derby day. And 
if the atmosphere of jollity seemed to have 
little in common with the medievalism so elo- 
quently described by Matthew Arnold, and said 
still to linger in dreamy precincts and seques- 
tered nooks, it might have pleased Mr. Ruskin 
as a proof that there is no decadence in our 
national love of sport. 

It had been raining warm, soft showers that 
morning. But the rain had only left the spring 
verdure at its freshest and best. The sky had 
cleared, and there were cool whispers of soft 
breezes stirring the leaves of some of the trees 
in the narrower and more beautiful walks, 
where lazy undergraduates, ' clad all in virgin 
while,' had been indulging themselves by sleep- 



190 MR. NOBODY. 

ily reclining at the bottoms of their punts, lis- 
tening to the ' soft, sweet pipings ' of birds in 

' . . . glades all haunted by grey rams, 
And footfalls of the falling shower.' 

A little while afterwards they were routed from 
their lairs by the more industrious of their com- 
rades, as the barges became thronged with 
anxious spectators, and the boats for their races 
started, the various inmates trying to look as 
if they were quite superior to the conscious- 
ness of the becoming nature of their costumes. 
Mothers and sweethearts, not so reticent, mur- 
mured to each other their approval of the pale 
blue, the pretty pink, the mauve and white, the 
magenta, or the bright scarlet, as the case 
might be. In a short time the excitement com- 
menced. Why describe a spectacle known to 
so many who have carried memories with them 
through life of such spring days? 

' One is not always young,' as a smiling, 
match-making matron confided to another 
mother, in excuse for the very evident flirta- 
tion of Kate and Jennie with James and Harry, 
whom ' they might never see again,' as, a 
minute afterwards, she sentimentally added, 



MR. NOBODY. 191 

(sharp enough to notice that James had offered 
a bunch of daffodils to Kate, which the latter, 
with pink cheeks, was pinning to her dress. 

Had she not made great exertions to secure 
a place for herself and her girls on the 'Varsity 
barge, or, failing that, on one of the college 
barges which were ranged in a row, and to-day 
were looking more gay than usual ; and had she 
not wished it were possible to intrigue in some 
way with the weather, knowing that the spring 
toilette which she had taken such pains to 
secure for her girls would make them look 
all the prettier if they could throw off the 
wraps which had been rendered necessary by 
the rain, and a lingering sharpness in the May 
wind, telling of a recent severity in the weather. 
Ah ! let us not be too cynical on the weak 
short-sightedness of all such manoeuvres, for, 
as another lady observed with a sigh, ' It is 
not always May,' as memories recurred to her 
of her own young days, and a miserable climax 
to such plotting in her own particular case. 

Close to them was a third mother, a Mrs. 
Vernon-Smith, who had stinted her ill-dressed, 
pale-looking girls that every farthing that could 



192 MR. NOBODY. 

be spared from the merest necessities of life 
should go to young Hay ward Vernon-Smith, 
not that he should achieve success in the 
schools or fit himself for any calling whatever, 
but win for himself a place in the university 
eight — a circumstance which was about as 
likely to take place as that the cow in the old 
nursery rhyme should jump over the moon. 
Only that very morning Mr. Vernon-Smith had 
informed his better-half that she had made a 
fool of herself in pinching the family for the 
superstition of a college education for her 
spoilt darling, when Mary Ann had been order- 
ed port wine, and they could not afford to give 
it to her, and the i young dog ' was as likely to 
be as great a stick at rowing as at classics and 
mathematics. 

Poor Mrs. Smith had too high an opinion of 
her offspring to be daunted by these insinuations, 
but her hand shook and her heart misgave her, 
as the parasols which had been raised to shel- 
ter some of the young faces from a glint 
of sunshine were as suddenly lowered, and 
the boats were shooting past before the ner- 



MB. NOBODY. 193 

vous lady thoroughly understood which were 
her son's colours and what all the excitement 
was about. 

Poor Mrs. Smith positively closed her eyes, 
as the boats with their stalwart figures seemed 
to swim before her dazzled vision. She after- 
wards declared that she had seen the pink and 
violet caps of the Balliol and New College 
men, with the scarlet of Magdalen — the athletic 
forms looking to good advantage as they shot 
past the barges with a clean and even sweep of 
their oars. But she could not look at the 
Exeter boat in which her own son was stroke, 
knowing that this race bore the same analogy 
to the greater race which she coveted for her 
boy, as the Bath races bear to Ascot. She heard 
nothing but a rush of feet on the banks, deafening 
shouts, ' Well done, New,'— 4 Well done, Exeter/ 
and cries of half the names of the colleges, after 
which she seemed to wake again to hear that 
her boy's boat had been * bumped ' to a more 
ignominious place on the river. 

1 And the last day too,' said somebody near 
her, who seemed to have an interest in the 

VOL. I. O 



194 MR. NOBODY. 

same boat. ' They say that stroke lost his 
head.' 

4 Do you hear that, ma V asked Mary Ann, 
not altogether sorry to retort on her mother, 
* I always told you he would never do it. 
Why, he lost his head in the same way when we 
wanted him to take the poker and go down to 
attack the thief. I heard somebody saying that 
they should never have a stroke who is liable 
to loss of nerve, and who hasn't a good lot of 
stay.' 

Mrs. Smith was too crushed to put down her 
daughter with the spirit which she usually 
showed when Mary Ann opposed her. Terrible 
recollections of Hay ward's { Battells ' which had 
amounted to so much more for the last term 
than she expected, that she could scarcely 
now summon courage to tell his father, made 
her silent and absent-minded. 

But Hayward Vernon-Smith was not the only 
man disappointed. 

' Well, Sell wood,' said a friend, about half an 
hour afterwards to a disconsolate-looking man 
who was walking home with the crowd, and 



MR. NOBODY. 195 

speaking to no one, ' you did not do as well as 
we expected.' 

' I never do,' was the reply. e I ought to 
have been firm enough not to have rowed 
at all, coming just at this time. 1 have 
made a worse mess of my " Greats " in con- 
sequence.' 

' But it does not matter to you,' was the 
answer. 

Sellwood shrugged. If he could have spoken 
his secret thoughts, he would have said that was 
the pity of it. If he had ever had any relation 
to encourage him, and to care if he made a 
success or not, instead of being simply told to 
make friends and to spend an unlimited amount 
of money — he might have done better in every- 
thing. 

They were going with the multitude past the 
beautiful Christchurch meadows. Even the 
fools who had just struggled out of the water, 
having upset their boats from the desire to 
distinguish themselves, had more friends after all 
than he had, in spite of his father's urgent mes- 
sages that he would ensure for himself brilliant 

02 



196 MR. NOBODY. 

acquaintances who would be useful to him in 
his future life. 

There was scarcely a soul whom he cared 
for in all this crowd. What a motley throng 
of people it was streaming up the far- 
famed walk, whilst now at every Christchurch 
window, over banks of flowers, peeped out 
youog faces, merry, critical, or even cynical, as 
the case might be, but few of them jaundiced 
with the midnight oil. He thought a little bit- 
terly, as he glanced up at them, that these were 
the swells with whom his father would have 
liked him to be thick, and that it was a 
contemptible thing, altogether lowering to a 
man's self-respect, to be commanded to ' make 
friends' with any persons, as if such friendships 
would be of material advantage to his future. 
It seemed to him that his father must be of an 
uncommonly sanguine disposition to persist in 
still clinging to the vague hope that he would 
attach himself to sprigs of the nobility, when 
evidently his own antecedents would not bear 
inspection, and no one but a madman would 
expect money to do everythiug. In fact, God- 



MR. NOBODY. 197 

frey Sellwood's only objection to the dark, 
energetic, well-knit young fellow who was 
now walking by hisside, and whose appearance 
bore a marked contrast to his own fair-haired, 
fair-skinned, and somewhat graceful but languid 
face, was that Charles Lloyd was an Honour- 
able and the younger son of a lord. Charles 
was a marked contrast to him in every way. 
Bright and brilliant in his manner, with all the 
confidence which came to him from the fact 
that he was well-born if not particularly well- 
provided in this world's goods, he had not only 
found Godfrey a valuable ally, always ready 
with money for every conceivable thing, but a 
sympathetic friend. For, as he acknowledged 
to himself, Sellwood — whose connections were 
probably ' fishy/ from the fact, that though he 
mentioned a father, the ' old boy ' had never 
shown himself, and was therefore probably un- 
presentable — had as much of the manners and 
tone of real gentlefolk as if he had been accus- 
tomed to mix with them from his infancy. 

Why Sellwood had not done more was a 
mystery not only to Lloyd but to most people. 



198 MR. NOBODY. 

Great things had been prophesied of him when 
he was a freshman at St. Anne's. But it could 
not be said that he had verified any of these 
prophecies. He had begun well by standing 
pretty high in an examination for the Hertford, 
though he himself always declared that the 
' mention ' was owing to a lucky hit. He cer- 
tainly went-in for the Ireland, and was nowhere 
at all, though his Greek was generally better 
than his Latin, and though ' he,' as Charles 
Lloyd was wont to remark, with the repetition 
of a hackneyed joke, ' was born with no natural 
aversion to that wretched Aristotle who wrote 
his horrid philosophy on purpose to stagger 
men with wits, or that over-estimated Plato 
with whom most folks were dinned till they 
were quite as ready to swallow poison as ever 
Socrates was.' 

4 No, it looked a little fishy,' that friend was 
wont to declare, with the usual candour of 
friends, * that Sellwood actually stood well for 
the Hertford in his first year, and then went-in 
and did nothing the next. Somehow he lost 
his first in " Mods," and after that he got dis- 



MR. NOBODY. 199 

gusted with the whole thing, and found out, as 
I could have told him before, that classical 
education was all a mistake. Why, it makes 
one shudder to think, if there had not been a 
bonfire of that Alexandrian library, there would 
have been a lot more red-ink lines and wretched 
notes for us to make; 

That was Charlie's explanation of his friend's 
apparent failure, and probably it was not so far 
from the truth. After the discovery that clas- 
sical education was a mistake, Sellwood had 
taken a little to the sports. He was a ' fair 
bat,' a ' fair oar,' but not absolutely good at 
either. Probably because he did not take the 
pains, and preferred lying lazily on his back, 
and reading poetry in one of those hiding-places 
amongst the grasses, to be discovered beside 
the little Cherwell before it falls into the Isis. 
Punting on a summer's day in a white flannel 
suit involves no great exertion of strength, and 
seemed to be congenial to Godfrey Sellwood's 
retiring nature. There were occasions, how- 
ever, on which he could emerge from his ordi- 
nary shyness, and he had even been known to 



200 MR. NOBODY. 

give Lints to his friend, Charlie Lloyd, when 
the latter was preparing his brilliant speeches 
for the Union. 

But even at the Union Sellwood had not dis- 
tinguished himself. His delivery was that of a 
man who was struggling with his ideas, think- 
ing, as it were, the thought over and over 
again, aud labouring to clothe it with such 
expression as should represent it to his fellows. 
Nor did it add to his popularity that, though 
words were not always ready with him, he was 
fastidious about their right use, and quick to 
detect the weak part of an epigram, or the 
confusion of metaphors — marring the construc- 
tion of some high-sounding sentence, which, 
picked to pieces, could be proved to mean 
nothing at all. Unlike the Honourable Charles 
(who was accused of having ' ratted ' in his 
political creed since he came to Oxford, his 
family traditions having been in favour of 
Toryism, whilst the majority of the more 
original speakers were Radicals), Sellwood 
seldom changed his opinions, and clung to 
ideas which he had formed from boyhood with 



MR. NOBODY. 201 

a tenacity unusual for one so young. He sel- 
dom volunteered a remark in company unless 
he had something to say. And, although he 
had joined the debating club, — where the grave 
questions of whether Mr. Disraeli was or was 
not a traitor to his country, and whether the 
Oxford youth should lend its patronage to 
Church and State, were discussed and settled 
with a vehemence which was perfectly inno- 
cent, and proved a whetstone for sharpening 
wits, — he never made more than one speech of 
any length. A speech which led to the report 
that he not only stammered, but had something 
wrong in his bronchial arrangements, when, 
after all, he was merely nervous, merely in 
search of the right words. 

In company he had been somewhat silent, 
having no taste for wines or breakfast-parties, 
not intending to be unsocial, but preferring the 
friendship of a few. Perhaps the natural indo- 
lence of his constitution, which made it some- 
what hard for him to exert himself to overcome 
obstacles, had much to do with this love 
of retirement ; perhaps it was that the hurry 



202 MR. NOBODY. 

and fulness of modern life, the crowd of fresh 
thoughts, the new discoveries in science, and 
the desire to grapple with the problems of his 
age, were together somewhat overpowering to 
a man of his temperament, and he required to 
realise them in solitude. 

Alone with young Lloyd he was perfectly at 
his ease. The ' burden of the mystery ' of life 
ceased to oppress him, and the crux of how to 
reconcile religion and politics, looking upon 
them as one, could for a time be put on one side. 
The two friends were each moved in different 
ways by the ' Zeit-geist,' though they might in- 
terpret it in a different manner. They enjoyed 
their battles-royal, their skirmishes of words 
which did not become seriously warlike, for 
both at heart were Radicals, with a natural love 
for social equality and a desire to meet others 
on the same level and enter into their griev- 
ances. It mattered little by what party names 
they called themselves. The truest statesman, 
Conservative or not, must have sympathised 
with their burning enthusiasm to snap Gordian 
knots which their fathers had tried to untie in 



MR. NOBODY. 203 

vain, whilst be might have smiled a little sadly 
at their somewhat crude impatience to set right 
those complicated social problems, whether of 
land, property, or national health which bad 
baffled many and harder heads. It was the 
desire for brotherhood and comradeship which 
was the hopeful element in their case. And 
though it pleased Charlie Lloyd to draw back 
on occasions, or to make a great deal of the few 
questions on which he had thought it desirable 
to give out that he had changed his opinions, 
with a pugnacity that was pertinacious, this 
was all the more invigorating. 

' 1 shall come up to your rooms for coffee, 
after hall to-night/ said the latter with a nod, 
as the two men separated in High Street, 
Godfrey Sellwood turning into the quadrangle 
of St Anne's, and Charlie Lloyd crossing over 

to college, with its queer Dutch windows 

to the chapel, and its Common room where old 
Sam Johnson, according to his boast, had some- 
times f drunk off three bottles of port without 
beiug the worse for it.' 



204 



CHAPTER II. 

Charlie Lloyd did not ( look in ' quite so early 
that evening as he had promised, a matter 
which did not cause Godfrey much surprise. 
For was not Lloyd one of the most popular 
men at Oxford ; not a ' fast ' man in the ordinary 
sense, but up to all the fun which was going on ; 
not a wine-bibber to any serious extent, but the 
life of a wine-party? Was it not the ambition 
of many, who found it difficult to maintain their 
own standing in a place which shifted its popu- 
lation every three years, to be seen arm-in-arm 
as if they were on the closest terms of intimacy 
with this well-looking, well-born young fellow, 
who took his social ' honours' in a way which 
was peculiar to himself. 



MR. NOBODY. 205 

Godfrey was not in the best of spirits as he 
sat alone waiting for him in his picturesque 
room, which was one of the finest in the quad- 
rangle, large if low-roofed, and with cushioned 
window-seats commanding a peaceful view of 
an old moss-grown churchyard, on which the 
setting sun had but a short time before cast its 
golden rays. The stars were coming out now, 
and Godfrey, who had chosen to dine alone — with 
his dinner laid by a solemn scout, who looked as 
if he himself had graduated in all the learning 
of the university-— now retired from the window, 
and seated himself in a cozy arm-chair by his 
reading-lamp. 

It was before the modern revival of domestic 
art, when ' sestheticism ' as it is called, could be 
paraded as an excuse for organized attacks on 
the persons of undergraduates, who burn in- 
cense or worship peacock's-feathers. It did not 
occur to Godfrey to have lilies in his room 
and to offer reverence to them more than to 
other flowers. But flowers were crowded to- 
gether in profusion on one of his tables, simply 
because he cared for those beautiful things 



206 MR. NOBODY. 

which seem to be bora of the air and the sun- 
shine almost as much as the tints of the rain- 
bow, and had given orders to his scout to see 
that he was always to be supplied with them. 
Of course he was cheated about the prices for 
them, as he was about most things. But, as his 
father wished him to make a sensation by- 
spending as much money as possible on the 
Oxford tradespeople, this was a matter of no 
consequence. Godfrey was fleeced with im- 
punity, but the c sensation ' was far off still. 

All that could be said in excuse of this lavish 
expenditure was that his room was furnished 
with scholarly taste. Of old china, which was 
one of the lad's hobbies, there was a plentiful 
supply (not of plates, as now, crawling up the 
walls, or hanging from the ceiling in a way to 
make nervous people feel as if they are stand- 
ing beneath so many swords of Damocles) but 
of vases standing on the floor, of various sizes 
and beautiful shapes. There were pictures, 
exquisitely selected, of water-colour and oil on 
the walls, with a few rare line engravings. A 
glass lamp of artistic design (where now there 



MR. NOBODY. 207 

would be a Japanese one) was suspended from 
the ceiling; and a piano with a finely carved 
case (it had not occurred to Godfrey to fling an 
Indian scarf over it) stood open with a vio- 
lin near it, and some of Mendelssohn's and 
Beethoven's music on the stand. Iu one corner 
of the room there was a trophy of pipes, and 
musical instruments, amongst which was a 
Syrian drum. Godfrey was a member of a 
glee club which on the previous evening had 
performed for a temperance society. They had 
chosen Mendelssohn's vintage song, as peculiar- 
ly appropriate for the occasion, and had entered 
it on the programme as ' Selections from 
Lorelei.' 

Side by side with the defects in the young 
fellow's nature were many high qualities — keen- 
ness of perception, a temperament yielding 
readily to culture, an organisation as acutely 
sensitive to changes in the social atmosphere 
as his musical ear was fine to changes of sound, 
an inclination to choose employments which 
were congenial to him, and a retiring tendency 
which perhaps might have been inherited fron-> 



208 MR. NOBODY. 

his mother, or perhaps was a result of his 
peculiar education. To those skilful apprai- 
sers of character who pride themselves on cata- 
loguing a man or a woman according to their 
surroundings in the rooms which they generally 
inhabit,— forgetting that such things may be 
studied even when they appear most careless — 
it would have been easy to form a tolerably 
accurate estimate of the versatility of Godfrey 
Sellwoocl. His very books told a tale. English 
literature figured largely as well as German 
and French, threatening to outnumber the con- 
ventional Latin- and Greek. And amongst 
them were rare editions of the best illustrat- 
ed literature of the day, and a splendidly 
bound copy of Turner's ' Liber Studiorum,' for 
which he was said to have given an almost 
fabulous price. Probably if the lad had been 
poor, or if he had had relations to be interested 
in his success, he might have made a speciality 
of one of his many gifts. But as he sat with 
his slippers on, waiting for Lloyd to come in 
and have one of his usual talks, and as he 
watched his own thoughts as it were in a cloud 



MR. NOBODY. 209 

of curling smoke (having no aunt, cousin, or 
sister to inform him that smoking was an 
illicit practice), the provoking part of it was 
that he saw as plainly as anyone else could 
have told him, how— because his wages had 
been a free gift to him, and he had had nothing* 
to stimulate him — he had been too lazy to do 
anything. 

' Put your Irishman in a free cottage, with 
lots of potatoes to eat, and he'll never rise any 
higher,' he said to himself — that being one of the 
questions under dispute between himself and 
young Lloyd, which one or the other was going 
to settle for the good of the community. 

' Now it was the Pater's mistake to keep 
me like a prince, when he himself probably 
worked hard enough in his time.' The shifting 
of the responsibility in this way on -the Pater/ 
led him for the hundredth time into another 
reverie. Why, if there was anything in the 
doctrine of heredity, did he and * the Pater,' 
have so little in common? His father made 
no secret of having sprung from the peo- 
ple, and seemed at times to be proud of it. 

YOL. I. P 



210 MR. NOBODY. 

According to Godfrey's theories it was a thing 
to be proud of — a self-made man had nothing to 
be ashamed of. But why was there a mystery ? 
Why did his father seem to have positively 
no connections? His own experience of the 
first year of his university training had furnish- 
ed him with an acute instinct which advised 
him of the impossibility of attempting to intro- 
duce people to each other, in the case of the 
one set being refined, and the other utterly un- 
presentable. But not only did the young 
blood in him rise in a sort of scorn against 
any such meanness as that which disallows 
honest kith and kin for the sake of a little 
inconvenience happening to oneself; he was 
confronted with another difficulty. He could 
just remember his mother in some foreign 
country, a pale delicate woman, rather crushed 
and feeble, but apparently with all the habits of 
a lady. 

As far as he could recall it, his mother had 
never had reason to complain of ill-treatment. 
She had simply been neglected, and his fear 
was that she had died, as some plants do, from 



MR. NOBODY. 211 

the absence of light and sunshine. She could 
not presumably have had anything in common 
with the stern, self-reliant man who treated her 
with deferential politeness, but had apparently 
centred his attentions on his child. In this 
case it had not been the usual cause and effect 
of love begetting love. The young fellow 
was inclined bitterly to resent, for his mother's 
sake, a course of conduct which it seemed to 
him was lowering to womanhood in general. 
That he himself should be valued was of small 
importance to him. He knew nothing about 
his father's antecedents. He did not even 
know the extent of his fortune, nor did Reuben 
become more communicative as his son grew 
up. His father's reputation as a business man 
had apparently been without a stain. He made 
a point of keeping his word with his servants 
and dependents, and, so far as Godfrey knew, 
he had never wronged a single person. His 
actions might be a trifle less hard than his 
words to the people who were beneath him, 
but words and actions were both hard enough. 
How would he and his father * hit it off' when 

p2 



212 MR. NOBODY. 

they happened to come together, seeing that 
they held different opinions about nearly every- 
thing under the sun? He had tried to put off 
the evil day as long as possible, but now it was 
close upon him. 

Godfrey's soliloquy was interrupted by a 
sharp, quick rap at the door of his room. 

' Come in,' he said, not sorry to hear the rap, 
and to welcome the brisk man with the big 
forehead, bright expression of face, and clear 
brown eyes, whose company was always wel- 
come to him. ' Hullo, Lloyd ! you won't find 
most people in the world as patient as I am — 
coffee gone cold.' 

'I don't exjDecfc to find many as dreamy,' 
answered the other. 4 No, not that thing with 
the carved back ; I broke it the last time I was 
here,' he continued, pushing away the high- 
backed chair, and flinging himself down on the 
sofa. ' You are like Carlyle, you know — quite 
superior to time and space, and all those world- 
enveloping appearances.' 

' Space !' said the other, interrogatively, as 
he looked, in his meditative way, at the 



MR. NOBODY. 213 

smoke from his cigar. ■ I'm not a ghost yet.' 

* Yes, you are — a ghost in a body. But you, 
with your riches, can reduce to a minimum the 
inconvenience of that body. You can travel 
almost as quickly as Puck, if it so pleases 
you ; whilst I, poor wretch, a younger son, 
and not beiug afflicted with the chronic malady 
of too many thousands, am doomed to be con- 
tent with Lincoln's Inn, celibacy, and the Bar/ 

'The Bar?' rejoined Sellwood, to whom the 
information was new. ' So you have made up 
your mind? It's a road that begins seduc- 
tively, and ends — where?' 

' Well, it leads to most things.' 

' To those who win/ 

Hitherto Charlie Lloyd, with all his expan- 
siveness, had had a certain shyness about his 
plans for the future, with which his friends did 
not interfere. At one time he had planned to 
remain at Oxford, but academic life began to 
pall upon him, and he longed for a wider arena, 
directly it was found that he had taken a de- 
gree which was not so good as had been 
expected. 



214 MR. NOBODY. 

' I mean to win,' he responded, with his 
brightest smile. ' Of course there'll be lots of 
snubbings to which one has not been used, but 
they are good for the moral constitution — and 
there's a chance of being left by the receding 
tide.' 

* High and dry, like some of the rubbish left 
behind from a wreck. No, that will be quite 
impossible for you,' answered Sellwood, with a 
shake of the head, and looking at him with 
approving eyes. 

' Well, I must take my chance of it ; it's a 
refuge for the destitute, the best I can get. 
After all, it's the political life which has most 
temptation for me.' 

' A future representative of your country,' 
answered Godfrey, with a smile; 'you must 
change your ideas a little before that time 
comes.' 

' I must be a disciple of patience, to say the 
least of it,' answered the other, with a sigh, 
' wedded to my ink-bottle and musty law- 
books for the ' 

4 Doubtful hope of becoming a Q.C.,' interrup- 



MR. NOBODY. 215 

ted Sellwood, waking into life and throwing 
away the end of his now finished cigar, ' oh, you 
won't see much of the chambers in which you 
will be supposed to spend your life — there will 
be balls, and dinners, and conversaziones, or 
whatever else you call them, and then you have 
your eye upon politics. Good ! You will fight 
your battles and succeed in them as you suc- 
ceed in everything you take up. You have the 
power of concentration — ay, and of fascination 
too — the fates have denied them both to me. 
It will be simply for you to go in and win in 
literature and everything else, just as you have 
won at the debates here in a certain sense — 
though you have talked a lot of bosh — you were 
made for success.'' 

' Stop, my good fellow — if it's the literature, 
the cutting language, and anonymous vivi- 
section of the review which is to deprive some 
poor devil of an author of this night's rest, I 
should say it was a precious deal more in your 
line than mine.' 

1 1 — I have made a mull of everything. My 
" Greats " are sure to be mulled, and I spoilt the 



216 MR. NOBODY. 

chances of our boat because I bad not the cou- 
rage to say " no " about attempting both. No, 
I am off at once. I feel half ashamed to show 
my face.' 

' Don't you wait for Commem V 

' Why should I ? If the jokes were worth 
anything — but they are sure to be stale as well 
as noisy. It's not quite so bad as it used to be 
when the noise was like the row in a theatre on 
Boxing-night. But one can still read in the 
newspapers about the ' man in the straw hat.' 
They have established a precedent to let the fel- 
lows make fools of themselves, and precedents 
in my opinion are always a mistake.' 

'Not always? answered Lloyd. In spite of 
being impregnated with the young reforming 
spirit which likes to sweep away old abuses and 
to introduce anything new — speculating a little 
too rashly and perhaps too familiarly on all 
sorts of subjects hitherto supposed to be unas- 
sailable — Charlie Lloyd had, as I have hinted 
before, his own little reserves on which the 
popular Iconoclasm was not to be exercised. * I 
can't agree with you,' he continued, with his 



MR. NOBODY. 217 

usual combativeness, springing to his feet as if 
ready for a battle. ' Precedents are not always 
a mistake. For instance, the law of primogeni- 
ture is a capital one, though I would not stand 
in my brother's shoes for something, I can 
tell you.' 

1 A good many other people would,' answered 
Sellwood, who was too much out of spirits to 
take up the glove which he knew had been flung 
down to him for championship.' 

1 They wouldn't if they knew all. Call a lord 
free ? Why, he is a slave — the puppet of the 
people — ten times less free than the peasant 
who earns enough and no more for his daily 
meals.' 

Sellwood simply shrugged his shoulders at 
this outburst, and lit another cigar, while his 
friend — now standing on his feet with his 
brown eyes sparkling and looking so much like 
a young war-horse scenting the battle, that 
Godfrey almost expected to see his ears go up 
and his nostrils dilate — went on, as if expecting 
to be contradicted. 

1 Free ! Why, I'm the free one. I assure you 



218 MR. NOBODY. 

I feel sometimes when I am with Newderry as 
if I have an air of quite impertinent indepen- 
dence. It is he who has to sacrifice himself 
for the good of his country — his very name and 
the way in which people look at him is an 
infliction ' 

1 Only to be borne by one of a great nature/ 
said Sellwood, drily. 

1 Ah, yes ; why, when they see us together, the 
very cut of his clothes and the set of his neck- 
tie become matters for criticism — he can hardly 
ever look right, that's because they whisper, 
Si Look at him, he's the lord." Would you expect 
a lord to be short, or at all mean in appearance 1 
The 6l ttoWoI say no, and condemn Newderry 
accordingly. If the poor wretch is tired they 
shake their heads and say " dissipated," while 
as for me I'm let off lightly — " that's his brother, 
you know, nothing." ' 

' You're always let off lightly.' 

s I'm used to it, you see, from the time I used 
to play football, and, not having enough weight 
to be a " forward," learned to slip in between 
the fellows' arms and legs like an eel. But 



MR. NOBODY. 219 

between ourselves, you know, I expect they'll 
alter a good deal of all this by-and-by. When 
lords get sick of state and long for a seat in 
the lower Parliament where they can express 
themselves with better effect — it may be only a 
feather, yet it shows ' 

1 That a tedious parade of greatness begins to 
pall on them V said Sell wood, interrogatively. 
From long habit he had been accustomed to 
finish young Lloyd's disjointed sentences, who, 
also from habit, expected it of him. 

Both men were well aware that this conver- 
sation on an old topic which was pretty well 
threadbare, was kept up with a show of excite- 
ment on Charlie's part, purposely to ward off 
another undebateable subject which was upper- 
most in the minds of both. For as soon as 
Lloyd had heard, a few weeks before, that Sell- 
wood's father had settled in shire he had 

invited himself, as a matter of course, to spend a 
portion of his summer holiday at Broadmeads, 
and had met with a discouragement. Now 
without any vulgar fawning upon wealth, 
Charlie Lloyd was unaffectedly fond of Sell- 



220 MR. NOBODY. 

wood, and the latter was too good and useful a 
friend to be easily lost sight of. 

Yet Sellwood was now leaving Oxford for 
good. He, on his own part, had declined 
Lloyd's offers of hospitality with a decision 
which could not fail to cause surprise; and now, 
while etiquette forbade that Lloyd should again 
introduce the subject of his own proffered visit 
to Broadmeads, Sellwood remained stubbornly 
silent. 

The latter suffered acutely in maintaining a 
silence which he knew would be misinterpreted. 
For, if Lloyd cared for him, he cared ten times 
more for Lloyd ; his being one of those deep- 
hearted, sensitive natures, whose loyalty is un- 
obtrusive and whose love was 'passing the 
love' of — well, at any rate, of some women. No 
sour envy had been allowed to mar the good- 
will which Godfrey had ever felt for his more 
popular and prosperous friend. To part from 
him would be one of the keenest trials of his 
life. If the two friends were to be torn apart, 
it was Sellwood's nature and not Lloyd's which 
would be left bleeding at the pith. And yet, 



MR. NOBODY. 221 

when Charlie Lloyd broke off in his rattling 
speech, there was an awkward pause for a min- 
ute. In that minute Sellwood had for the last 
time turned it over iu his mind and decided — 
he could not ask Lloyd to come to Broadmeads 
— he could not introduce him to his father. 

* What a strange and yet universal law it 
seems, that other people's lots in life always 
appear to us better than our own,' he said, a 
little wearily, by way of breaking the silence. 
1 This rank, you think, and these vested inter- 
ests — with which I cannot say I sympathise — 
bring their own curse. Very likely, but how much 
greater is the curse of being a sort of social 
pariah. Do not think I am not proud of the 
fact that no blood but that of the people runs in 
my veins. I have often said so, but to have no 
one belonging to one with whom one can ' 

It was like himself to stammer a little, but 
unlike himself to leave his sentence in his turn 
unfinished ; probably to regret that he had 
commenced it. Lloyd gave him a rapid glance, 
which he immediately regretted, as the colour 
sprang to the Saxon face, and spread to the 



222 MR. NOBODY. 

roots of the fair hair, though Sellwood still pre- 
served his meditative attitude. 

' Surely you would never misunderstand me 
like that,' flashed out the quick-spoken Charlie, 
— with about as much thought as when he had 
ventured a celebrated simile concerning the 
'pendulum of liberty going jog-trot on the 
plains of time' — ' We've been too close friends, 
you and I, for our friendship to be allowed to — ' 

'Allowed to what?' asked Sellwood, with his 
brightest smile, whilst Charlie, unassisted, mut- 
tered something about the ' absurdity of being 
influenced by a hair's breadth of difference here 
and there in social distinctions.' 

f Getting to your weights and pendulums 
once more V asked Godfrey. 'Are you going 
to tell me again " You are one of those people 
who walk through life on a ladder of paradox," 
or "You and I are like two mill-stones, grinding 
one another away till we become like Kilkenny 
cats"?' 

And both men were not sorry to break out 
into one of those hearty laughs which made the 
parting between them easier. 



223 



CHAPTER III. 

Meanwhile it could not be said that matters 
went on smoothly between the owners of Broad- 
meads and Rashleigh Park. 

1 They are neighbours,' said the Torringmoor 
people, ' but so uncongenial.' 

Sir Ralph was low-spirited and wretched : 
the wrinkles began to show deeply on his 
pallid face. Other men, less fastidious, might 
have fonnd some way of wriggling out of the 
network with which he had been so skilfully 
surrounded, but the baronet was too honourable 
about debt to avail himself of the numerous 
plans for evading his increasing difficulties which 
modern subtlety might have suggested. Having 



224 MR. NOBODY. 

a conscience which would reproach him for 
devising means of escape of which other men 
would not have been ashamed, he tried to think 
of it as a morbid thing which had done him an 
ill turn. But the conscience stood firmly in 
spite of his efforts to be free to it, and he could 
only vent his vexation on those around him. 
Misfortune had been to Sir Ralph no sweetener 
of the temper. He had passed through much 
suffering in his life, and the suffering had been 
all the more terrible because it had been quiet, 
but it had left its marks on him nevertheless. 

He showed these marks more than usual on 
one evening towards the end of May, when he 
was sitting alone in his study with a pile of 
papers before him, and with a very traceable 
likeness to some of his ancestors whose portraits 
decorated the walls of the room, aud who seem- 
ed to stare at him with surprise and dis- 
approval. 

The impossibility of spending any extra 
shillings on keeping up the necessary repairs 
of the house was noticeable from the state of 
those paintings, as well as that of the tapestry- 



MR. NOBODY. 225 

covered arm-chair on which Sir Ralph was 
reclining, and which bore many signs of the 
depredations of moths, the horsehair protrud- 
ing unpleasantly in several places. The por- 
traits were cracked and faded, displaying the 
canvas here and there. Some of the worthies 
had received injuries to their noses, and others 
to their eyes ; but all stared, and some smiled 
with cold equanimity. The sadness and soli- 
tude of the night, the dull light of the wax 
candles which were burning low in their sockets, 
and the funereal company of his ancestors_, were 
overcoming Sir Ralph with the melancholy 
which had been too constantly his companion 
of late — when he gave a scarcely perceptible 
start. He was too accustomed to his niece's 
noiseless tread to be much surprised when he 
saw that Vere was standing near him. She 
often glided into the room with a determina- 
tion to resist his cynicism, though he sometimes 
resented her intrusion. 

1 Uncle, it is late, and you are bothering 
yourself again about those stupid letters,' she 
said, trying to speak merrily, but with a little 

VOL. I. Q 



226 MR. NOBODY. 

catch in her breath which proved that the effort 
of intruding upon his privacy had cost her 
something. 

Hers was not one of those weak natures 
which acquiesce in all that is arranged for them. 
On the contrary, an energy which was uncon- 
querable, and a will which was capable of 
endurance, might have been discerned by a 
skilled physiognomist in her firm lips and 
steadfast eyes. The face, if it was not exactly 
bright, because it had a look of care in it 
scarcely natural for one so young, was soft- 
ened by an expression of pitying tenderness, as 
she stood gazing down upon him with her fair 
hair thrown into vivid relief by the dark oak 
panelling of the old room. She could deny 
herself willingly for those whom she loved, 
though subjection of a slavish sort would have 
been impossible to her. 

But it was characteristic of Sir Ralph, and in 
keeping with his chronic state of petulant dis- 
satisfaction, that he not only noticed with a 
pang of disapproval the dark-stuff dress trimmed 



MR. NOBODY. 227 

with rusty crape, when he would have liked to 
see folds of some delicate muslin, just open to 
display the white gleaming of her neck ; but 
that he told himself the bright flush which went 
and came with the varying emotions of the 
speaker, and the unusual lustre of the blue 

eyes, were due to the shire climate — an 

evanescent lustre of flesh and blood, a mere 
glory of colour for which a skilful judge would 
prophesy a very limited duration. 

' She will be nothing to look at in a few 
years' time, and I cannot afford to bring her 
out properly. They will say that I neglected 
poor Richard's child,' he was thinking to him- 
self, as he said aloud, a little querulously, 

' How often have I asked you to dress your- 
self more prettily? The very servants must 
blame me, when they see you going about like 
that,' 

Another girl, proud as himself, might have 
resented the speech. For she knew that he 
knew, as well as she knew herself, that he had 
supplied her with no pin-money for pretty 

Q2 



228 MR. NOBODY. 

evening toilettes, and that it was only owing 
to the most dexterous management of domestic 
details that she was able to keep her little 
cousin tidy, and supply the wages for the ser- 
vants. 

It was only with a deeper flush and with 
a tender, little, protective air, gracious all the 
more because she was homely in her dignity, 
that she answered him, 

' We are in mourning, you know.' 

* You are in mourning, but you need not be 
shabby; there is nothing left for you poor 
children but the scrag-ends, instead of meat.' 

He covered his face with his hand. She did 
not answer, but drew a chair close to his. She 
had heard that some people loved each other so 
well that to be near each other was enough ; 
their love was of the trusting kind, they did 
not need to speak. And there was a great 
yearning for love in the heart of this orphan 
girl, shut out by her poverty and the circum- 
stances of her life from the society which her 
uncle considered to be suitable for one of her 
birth, and equally debarred from making friend- 



MR. NOBODY. 229 

ships with those whom he supposed to be 
beneath her. 

e You ought to be in bed,' he said, after a 
pause. 

1 1 thought,' she answered, timorously, ' that 
perhaps I could help you V 

' About what V (a little sharply) 

' About those — letters.' 

1 Have I not told you again and again that 
women have nothing to do with business V 

'But you know what the doctors say, and, 
if your heart is not strong, you ought not sure- 
ly to be sitting up and worrying yourself in this 
way.' 

' Who dares to say I worry ? Is it likely 
that I would degrade myself to be worried — 
actually worried — by the little gnat-like stings 
of that pettifogging creature who has come to 
live near us ? They say he is reserved — reserved 
indeed — when he is always troubling me with 
his vulgar, interfering letters. He knows that 
I do not keep an agent, and so he takes ad- 
vantage to write like one of those people who 
have risen and who do not know the manners of 



230 MR. NOBODY. 

gentlemen. Our estates, forsooth, join each 
other, and he has unlimited resources at his 
command. So at one time he complains of 
that tower in our grounds, because, forsooth, 
it obstructs his view ; at another he advises me 
to thin my timber, because it interferes with a 
free current of air so that it cannot be good for 
myself; and at another it is that a pond should 
be drained, and then he talks nonsense about 
sanitary commissioners. The fussy, restless 
interference of these people who are nobodies, 
just because they happen to have made a little 
money ! There — I will show you my answers, 
if you care to look at them — I have kept copies,' 
and he pushed them before her. 

She read, 

4 It is nonsense to suppose that you must build 
up a high wall, because our old summer-house 
— called the Tower — overlooks your grounds. 
The Tower is rarely used and has stood there 
for more than a hundred years. If you were 
to consult the antiquarians, you would hear that 
some of them think its foundations date from 
the seventeenth century. It would be madness 



MR. NOBODY. 231 

to pull it down, while if you build a wall it 
will be greater folly to shut out my air aud im- 
pede my view.' 

And again, 

' I can by no means agree with you as to 
the propriety of denying the people the right of 
way, which they have had ever since I can re- 
member, in a footpath through the park. We 
Kashleighs have always prided ourselves on con- 
ceding these privileges to the poor. It is not 
my fault that the increasing numbers on the 
estate have to toil in a state of squalor from 
year to year, since these have no longer the 
monopoly of poverty. But while many of 
their wants might be neutralised by prompt 
attention on the part of a really rich man like 
yourself, — the actual owner of a large part of 
the property — I consider it a piece of selfish 
interference to deny the poor a right which 
they have always had/ 

' Oh, uncle, I don't think that will exactly do,' 
remonstrated Yere, ' do you think it wise to 
irritate him like that V 

1 He irritates me,' said Sir Ralph, angrily. 



232 MR. NOBODY. 

4 These nonsensical, caddish nouveaux-riches are 
always interfering with that u longing for con- 
firmed tranquillity " which, if you had come to 
my age, child, you would " know," as Words- 
worth said, "to be one of the inherent wants 
of humanity." ' 

An outsider would have seen the humorous 
side in the disputes which were ever cropping 
up between the combatants, with the victory 
remaining undecided. More than once the two 
neighbours had met in their walks through the 
village with no further result than the meeting 
of two evenly-matched dogs who growl, show 
their teeth, and after all turn tail without 
coming to actual encounter. 

But Vere looked sufficiently grave as she 
glanced at the correspondence which had been 
a fruitful source of sleepless nights to her irri- 
tated uncle. 

' Fancy the impudence of a fellow,' he 
continued, ' who could write me such a thing 
as this, " The trees want thinning on your 
grounds — the fir-walk especially is in a very 
bad state." And when I answer, " Thanks, but 



MR. NOBODY. 233 

my fir-walk pleases me/' has the positive in- 
solence to write again, " If yon change your 
mind, and would like to sell your timber, I will 
offer you a good price for it." ' 

1 Perhaps he knows — ' began Vere, and then 
faltered, fearing the expression on her uncle's 
face, and unable to finish her speech. 

' Perhaps he knows F thundered Sir Ralph. 
* If he does, he has no right to brag about it. 
Depend upon it I know my " Evelyn " on trees 
fifty times better than he with his vulgar 
modern theories. I thought you had more 
spirit, that yon resented as much as I do the 
change in the old country when a beggar's son 
can be a millionaire and a good old family 
reduced to beggary. How can you twit me 
with " perhaps he knows V ' 

And he, who had been pacing about the room 
restlessly, while his niece looked at the letters, 
now sat down again hopelessly, and covered 
his face with his hands. 

There was nothing more to be done, as Vere 
knew from sad experience, when once she had 
blundered on an unfortunate speech. The same 



234 MR. NOBODY. 

experience had taught her to avoid altercation, 
and the unfortunate uncle was positively re- 
lieved when, on changing his attitude a few 
minutes afterwards, he found that he 'was 
alone. 

1 She has obeyed me, and gone to bed,' he 
said to himself. ' She is much more obedient 
than my own child. I have not much to com- 
plain of.' 

And then — though the figures were literally 
dancing before his eyes — he sat down again to 
his account-book, telling himself that it was his 
increasing duty to place his affairs before him- 
self without reserve. 

It was past one o'clock when he spread another 
note out before his tired eyes in the hand- 
writing which was so odious to him, and which 
had been received but the day before from his 
neighbour. It convinced him that the man, who 
seemed to have eyes as sharp and arms as far- 
reaching as the octopus, was aware of a further 
loss which had happened to him lately — a 
disaster which he had supposed to be known 
only to himself. 



MR. NOBODY. 235 

'I wonder bow he, who enjoys a reputation 
of omnipotence, and who could not endure the 
slightest reverse, would like to have this sort of 
patronising letter himself,' he said, shrugging 
his shoulders. Yet the note might have seemed 
a kind one to outsiders who knew nothing of 
the curious relations between the two men. 

It closed with offering the Baronet a loan of 
ten thousand pounds, if be wished to recoup 
himself for his loss, and was signed, as it seemed 
to him. in mockery, 

'I have the honour to be, your obedient 
servant, Reuben Sellwood.' 

Sir Ralph felt a shiver down his back as he 
read the words and the signature. Destiny 
seemed to be against him. He looked round 
the room, with which he had been so familiarly 
acquainted since his boyhood, with the unsym- 
pathetic ancestors staring down at him, and 
felt as if he were one of those victims exposed 
to a peculiar form of torture in the middle ages. 
For the walls seemed to be slowly advancing 
and closing in upon him, the floor appeared to 
be rising, and the ceiling, sinking. He would 



236 MR. NOBODY. 

soon be crushed between the complex machinery 
which had been devised to grind him to powder. 
If he accepted this loan, he would then be more 
fully than ever in the power of an upstart 
whom he hated. If he did not accept, he would 
be in his power still, and some people might 
consider his refusal to be graceless. 

The painful emotions of pride and agony 
had never been contending more strongly in 
his heart than when he seized the pen, and 
humiliated himself by sa}'ing what was not 
true, that he was much obliged for the offer, 
and asking to be given a few days for reflec- 
tion before he availed himself of it. 



237 



CHAPTER IV. 

Godfrey shirked ' Commemoration,' as he had 
intended, and returned to Broadmeads by the 
end of May. 

Had the lad been returning from South 
Africa, his father could not have made more 
pompous preparations to receive him ; but, in 
truth, South Africa or the North Pole would 
have been all the same to Reuben Sellwood. 
He had been rather proud than otherwise when 
his son had shown the slightest tendency to- 
wards extravagance. 

This had been all very well at a distance. 
It was years since the father and the son had 
met, the latter spending his holidays on the 



238 MR. NOBODY. 

Continent, and the former supplying him with 
lavish money for his travelling expenses, 
like a King Log from the other side of the 
Atlantic. 

Godfrey knew little more of his father than 
if he had been King Log. His childhood still 
haunted him with a number of shadowy recol- 
lections, amongst which he himself — a very 
white and solemn child with a good deal of 
individuality and embryonic philosophy — had 
seemed to creep, a pale little figure, among the 
shadows. 

Few children had lived in a more sunless 
atmosphere. And yet there had been a sort 
of uncompromising down-rightness about the 
boy which made him long to get to the heart 
of things. A longing which was rather in- 
creased than otherwise, when, as Reuben sar- 
castically expressed it, the lad had taken ' intel- 
lectual measles.' Then it was that he found he 
had nothing in common with the reserved, 
defiant man, who came across the seas to 
visit him once when he was at school, who 



MR. NOBODY. 239 

seemed to have lapsed into an indifference, 
as bad as the worst forms of cynicism. God- 
frey conld not know that the indifference 
was studied; he was only too well aware 
that his father would try to crush his own in- 
quiring spirit, and that he might as well keep 
to himself all questions which he was ready to 
venture respecting his birth-place, and the 
memories which they might be supposed to 
share in common. 

The two met as if they had been strangers 
in the new house at Broadmeads on an evening 
late in May. A dispassionate spectator might 
have discerned something pathetic in the re- 
strained feeling on either side which manifested 
itself in the deferential manner of the son, and 
in the little expressions which escaped him 
betraying the tenor of his thoughts, and mak- 
ing his father conclude that the lad was fear- 
fully sensitive, just like his mother. Reuben 
was rather pleased to observe this trait of 
character, which proved to him that he possess- 
ed a piece of Parian marble which would re- 



240 MR. NOBODY. 

quire more gentle handling than usual, and 
was quite unconscious that he himself was 
trembling with some strange repressed feeling, 
and was scarcely able to articulate at times from 
excitement. Unknown to himself, he had been 
queerly anxious about the appearance of his 
' poet.' By the light of the flaring gas, which 
Godfrey mentally likened to that of a first-class 
waiting-room at a railway station, Reuben saw 
a tall young fellow with sloping shoulders, a 
little pale but with features which had been 
pronounced good by the sex that ought to 
know, with a build which was slender and mus- 
cular, brilliant eyes, and a maturity of fore- 
head which was startling in one so young. He 
was scarcely familiar with the type, but he 
looked at him with pride; while the young man 
himself was relieved to find that his father 
was not, as he had supposed, vulgar by nature, 
but was evidently possessed of a good deal of 
character, 

Godfrey was up betimes on the following 
morning. He escaped from the brand-new 
house, with the colours which set his teeth on 



MR. NOBODY. 241 

edge, and even from the pictures -which his 
father had selected, to watch the promise of 
cloudless splendour in the early dawn, and to 
console himself for a somewhat sleepless night 
by listening to the gush of bird-music which 
filled the pauses of his thoughts, as the first 
sun-shafts glanced down on the slopes and 
lawns of freshest grass. 

Even then, it was not the newly planted 
evergreens which attracted him, nor the green- 
houses, which were full of pyramids of rose- 
hued azaleas. Instinctively he bent his steps 
to the oldest part of the park — that which had 
not been newly planted, but was a part of the 
property which had originally belonged to the 
Rashleighs. He had heard nothing of the 
story, but his fastidious taste was gratified by 
the grey trunks of the old oak-trees, and the 
moss-stained boles of the beeches with glimpses 
between them of far-off reaches of the river. 
Beyond the river was the purple moorland 
melting away into the distance, and from an 
old gate which led away from his father's 
grounds, could be seen the roofs of cottages 

VOL. I. B 



242 MR. NOBODY. 

and orchards with clustering trees still bearing 
here and there traces of lingering blossom. 
Something of easy grace in his son's attitude 
caught Reuben's eye, as he hurried up to him, 
and saw him leauing against the gate. 

'Well?' he said to him, with a well pleased 
smile. 'Pleased with the prospect ? I thought 
as much. By-and-by you will be monarch 
of all you survey.' 

He forgot himself a little, and rubbed his 
hands. Something in the action, as well as the 
quotation which betrayed the direction of his 
father's thoughts, jarred on the young mau's 
mood. He shifted his attitude a little im- 
patiently, and made no longer an attractive 
foreground to the picture, as he answered, 

'Does it not strike you that we can ad- 
mire things just as well when we don't pos- 
sess them? It is surely a poverty-stricken 
and a selfish spirit, which wo aid lead us to 
appreciate because we can appropriate V 

He regretted the speech as soon as it was 
uttered, remembering how, in his childhood, his 
father had never been contradicted, but had' 



MR. NOBODY. 243 

been absolute master in bis mother's eyes, just 
as if they had lived in feudal times. The re- 
collection gave him a pang, when he recalled 
the figure of his gentle mother who had been 
apparentely a refined woman, but who had 
always contented herself with the secondary 
part, watching carefully for her husband's 
meaning, glossing over his inaccuracies of 
speech, and endeavouring so to lead up to his 
best effects that it seemed to Reuben himself 
as if he had said a fine thing when he had 
only uttered some bald truism. The remem- 
brance of the surprising assistance which 
could be given by a sj'mpathetic wife in 
doing nothing to irritate an overbearing man, 
softened Godfrey a little. For his mother's 
sake he would not wrangle more than he 
could help over his father's sayings. He would 
look upon him as much as possible as a dia- 
mond, though a rough one, and try to ignore 
the fact that he and his father were opposed 
to each other in traditions, ideas, religion — 
everything. 

'I did not mean/ he began, apologetically, 

r2 



244 MR. NOBODY. 

f that it is not a fine thing for a man by his own 
nervous energy to be able to push on, and 
make the best of every opportunity. In that 
sense great wealth may represent great labours 
and achievements — of course it is in the highest 
degree honourable.' 

4 Eh !' said Reuben, to whom these niceties 
of expression were almost as incomprehensible 
as if he had been physically deaf — so near is 
moral deafness to physical — but who had been 
listening to his son's explanation as if he were 
hearing some air at the opera. 'I didn't think 
you could be such a fool as not to appreciate it. 
Ah ! all the good things in life come to the 
young people in the present day. It is the 
parents who slave, who are ready to cut them- 
selves up into pieces to please their offspring, 
and after all — well, everything is taken without 
a thauk-you.' 

Hitherto, the father and the son had so little 
understood each other that there had been a 
sort of fear — unacknowledged on the part of 
Reuben — always between them. 

The orthography of the father's letters had 



MR. NOBODY. 245 

been somewhat extraordinary. And now that 
he counted on displaying the fields and the 
timber which he had always coveted to his son, 
he was conscious of being constrained and un- 
comfortable. He had been revolving many- 
thoughts — very earthy and entirely unsenti- 
mental — in his head, and felt that now he had 
broken ground it would be his duty to go 
through with them. He had not been able to 
shake off his reserve for many a long day, and 
it would be something to be able to throw off 
the mask a little in the presence of his own 
flesh and blood. His spirits were scarcely equal 
to the occasion, and yet he administered a 
thumping blow in the mid-chest to his son, at 
which Godfrey did not stagger, though he 
looked as if he could have dispensed with it. 

* Yes, it'll all belong to you,' he said, ' thanks 
to what I have done for you — a good part of 
the moor, with the cottages as far as you can 
see — you can cut down the trees if you like ; 
you can leave your mark on it, anyhow.' 

There was an odd expression in the young 
man's face as he looked curiously at his father, 



246 MR. NOBODY. 

with a significantly humorous curl of the some- 
what too flexuous lips. 

'I wonder where the right ends? If I were 
to burn down the cottages, for instance, I sup- 
pose it would not exactly be legal V 

Again Reuben did not follow him. He was 
thinking, 

* What a good thiug it is that he should take 
to early-rising, a virtue,' — as he added to him- 
self — ' in which many of those Oxford chaps are 
wretchedly deficient.' 

But Godfrey's spirits sank as his father's rose, 
and on the following morning his usual languor 
had gained on him. He had not sufficient 
energy to turn out of bed. Nature's normal 
school of sentiment, the family, seemed to be, 
like other things, a failure. It is a consequence 
of our rapid civilization that the younger gene- 
ration should in many cases outstep the elder, 
and that the sons should be keenly conscious of 
the ignorance of the fathers. And it is probably 
only where a son is sensitive that such a con- 
sequence should seem to take the bloom off the 
flowers of life. 



MR. NOBODY. 247 

The table was heaped with dainties, and 
adorned with the brightest silver and the finest 
linen, when Godfrey made his appearance late 
at the breakfast-table the next morning. But, 
with a keen sense of what pleased the lad, 
Reuben saw that his eyes were directed to a 
bunch of hothouse flowers whose tender, waxen 
petals adorned a crystal vase in the centre of 
the table. 

' Ah, that's somethiug better than picking a 
lot of rubbish out of the hedges as most folks is 
obliged to do,' said Reuben, sharply. And again 
he was conscious that he had managed to touch 
some wrong chord. 

It was probably his state of exhilaration 
which accounted for the lapse in his grammar — 
an unusual one with Reuben, who generally 
kept too strict a watch over himself to be guilty 
of any such solecism. He coughed as if he were 
aware of the mistake directly he uttered it, and 
Godfrey hated himself for colouring to the 
roots of his hair, and becoming suddenly un- 
comfortably conscious of the presence of two 
tall footmen who handed the breakfast dishes, 



248 MR. NOBODY. 

and who seemed to him most unnecessary ap- 
pendages to the formality of the meal. 

' Thanks, I prefer something simpler,' he 
said, as he declined an elaborate dish prepared by 
the French cook. ' They are pretty enough,' 
he said a little coldly, to his father in the same 
breath, ' but I must say I like the plain things. 
I don't call them rubbish.' 

'As you like a plain egg,' said Reuben, trying 
to laugh, 'I like it myself.' 

' Ah, that's the bore of all these luxuries — we 
cease to relish them,' muttered Godfrey. 

The big room, which was far too big for two 
men to take their meals in, was a nuisance to 
him as the rich food was, which Reubeu disliked 
himself, but had had prepared to suit the dainty 
appetite of his son. Neither could Godfrey 
praise the pictures which his father had pur- 
chased at great cost. The fault might be 
in the purchaser, but the ambitious historical 
canvases themselves seemed to prove to the 
young man how sadly we as a nation had 
fallen frqm pictorial art of the highest kind, 
stringing up our taste to concert pitch, and too 



MB. NOBODY. 249 

often souDdiDg the keynote while we are 
unable to get at the tune. 

With the furniture it fared no better, and 
here Godfrey was outspoken. 

1 1 hate machine-made work. Symmetry, yes, 
but manufacture of things of this sort is de- 
structive — fatal to art. I would give more for 
a little bit of work, real and true like it was in 
the good old times, coming out of the carver's 
brain.' 

Reuben began to feel that matters were again 
going wrong between them. 

1 You can't make men all o' one build and 
height,' he tried to say, reassuringly, to himself. 
He reflected that he could part with the furni- 
ture and purchase new, and that he had known 
it was not f properly faded-like ' all along, 
whilst his son was brooding over the hideous 
arsenic greeas and magenta dyes, and the 
wretched decorative sham art of the richer mid- 
dle class. 

What was the matter? Reuben Sellwood 
did not exactly know. And Godfrey, who had 
often lamented his loneliness and his want of 



250 MR. NOBODY. 

any near relations, reproached himself for not 
taking everything in belter part. 

It was not his fault that he was artistic, like 
ing everything that was pleasing to the moral 
rather than the physical palate, and that he 
had an involuntary recoil from all that was 
coarse and trifling. His artistic nature could 
find plenty of food in studying the moors, 
the river, and the trees. He was easily dis- 
gusted at his own amateur efforts in oil or 
water-colour, and concluded that he had not 
been endowed with any creative power. But 
this morning, partly from the want of any- 
thing better to do, and partly from the revul- 
sion of feeling which had made him shrink 
from the unspeakable ugliness of the few 
gaudy landscapes which had been painted ex- 
pressly to meet the demand of cotton-spinners 
at an English manufacturing town, he drew his 
sketch-book out of his pocket and commenced 
jotting down pencil notes. 

So his father found him a few hours after- 
wards, with his dreamy eyes turned towards the 



MR. NOBODY. 251 

shadowy moor, just where the grey turrets of 
the old Hall could be seen against the softer 
grey sky. towering over the green woods which 
nestled beneath it. 

'It is beautiful.' said the young man, desist- 
ing from his task, bat too intent upon the view 
to notice the slight shadow which flitted across 
Eeuben's face. 

' What is beautiful V asked the elder man, a 
little grudgingly, 

'Why, the old Hall, with its picturesque tur- 
rets, and iis curious mixture of architecture — in 
every way delightful. Who would think that 
there could be anything so extraordinarily beau- 
tiful in the process of decay, in the many-co- 
loured mosses, aud the varying tints on those 
walls which are mouldering with age.' 

'Ah, you would like to possess it,?' 

The light, which had been growing brighter in 
the young man's face, faded a little as he con- 
tinued. 

6 1 can admire without possessing. The 
place must be full of memories. Think of the 



252 MR. NOBODY. 

many who must have lived and died in 

it; 

' A queer reason for liking it. I should like 
the doghole to belong to you, and then, when 
it got too narrow for you, I would have you 
build on it a palace that should rival any place 
in New York. 1 hate the place,' Reuben con- 
tinued, thinking of the spindle-legged tables, 
the worm-eaten oak furniture, and the moth- 
riddled tapestry, which he had despised as 
only fit for an old Jew shop on one occasion 
when he had been admitted to write a business 
message when the master of Rashleigh had not 
been at home. 

'Well, tastes differ, you see, and, as I am 
never likely to possess it, we needn't quarrel 
over it. To my mind, there is something- 
stately in old age,' continued the young man, 
warming to his topic, and making up his mind 
not to let his father's odd ways seem repug- 
nant to him, and never to be repelled by his 
strange words. l Now, if there is any sort of 
fetishism which / could tolerate, it would be 
the worship of antiquities. What sort of people 



MR. NOBODY. 253 

live in that house 1 Couldn't we get to know 
them? Are they as antique as their belongings?' 

He looked more like the radiant young 
Apollo which his father wished him to resemble 
than he had looked at all since he came to 
Broadroeads as he asked the question, with fun 
dancing in his eyes. 

'What sort of people?' repeated Reuben, 
with one of those sudden flashes of passion 
which proved a safety-valve for the pent-up 
forces within him. ' The man who owns it is 
a contemptible fool.' 

Godfrey arched his brows. 

'Then of course you don't know him. — That 
would be hardly a kind or flattering way in 
Avhich to speak of a friend,' he added, beneath 
his breath, deciding that his father might be 
classified amongst the professors of strong 
language. 

4 1 know him I Ah ! just for my own conveni- 
ence,' answered Reuben, as his son stood 
motionless and perplexed. 'It is to serve my 
own purposes that I know him.' 

If Reuben's lips were compressed ironically, 



254 MR. NOBODY. 

and if he indulged in a sarcastic smile, it was 
an aside to himself. The moustache disguised 
the mouth, but the look on the upper part of 
the man's face disconcerted his son. It was as 
if he strove for speech as he laid his hand on 
his son's arm, and said at last, as the words 
came slowly. 

1 1 will tell you a secret ; do not talk about it 
— though, if things go on as they are, it will 
pretty soon be an open secret,' added Reuben, 
his voice shaken with some emotion which 
seemed to be difficult to control. ' You admire 
the place — in time it will be yours.' 

' Good heavens ! does there happen to be 
some curse about me that, immediately I look 
at anything. I must be told it is mine?' thought 
Godfrey, half fearful of the detaining arm, the 
eyes that glittered strangely as they looked 
into his face, and the breath, ordinarily so 
quiet, which now came in quick gasps. Aloud 
he said, 

' You must be joking. Do you think I have 
the evil eye, that I covet everything? I was 
only admiring the colours of the old building, 



MR. NOBODY. 255 

which time aud weather seem to have arranged 
with about as much intention as a bird has 
when it chooses the mosses for its nest. God 
forbid that I or anyone should wish to pilfer 
the nest.' 

So determined was he to treat the whole 
thing as a delusion, that Reuben — if he had 
been ready with a confidence — drew again into 
his shell. 

' We resemble each other very little,' mur- 
mured the older man, in disappointment, as he 
took the younger one to look at the different 
points of interest in his grounds. 

1 It is very big, certainly ; but that part of it 
is too new. I like things a little untidy, over- 
grown — don't you think so V 

1 Newness is like youth, my boy — a fault that's 
mended in time.' 

"That's true; but there is the lake, with 
the overhanging trees, where the wild-flowers 
grow. I call that really beautiful,' answered 
Godfrey, cordially. 

' The lake— it is a fever-bed. I mean to have 
it drained.' 



256 MR. NOBODY. 

'Really! It does Dot look as if there was 
anything malarious about it.' 

'It used to belong to the Rashleighs, with a 
ghost's walk, and all the rest of it, and is in a 
wretched state, like everything that belonged 
to them. Cleared out it must be, and as quick- 
ly as possible. I mean to have a landscape 
gardener down from Loudon. A large sheet 
o' clear water, rockeries, and asphalt e.' 

' Do you mean to say that you would do away 
with the bulrushes and forget-me-nots, and all 
those charming grasses?' 

' What, the weeds !' cried Reuben in utter as- 
tonishment. ' In the conservatory you can have 
fine growths of ' 

*I know — of all sorts of hothouse beauties, 
from the azalea to the rarest orchis, and they 
are fine ones/ said Godfrey a little sadly, ' they 
do to look at in a drawing-room or under glass, 
but do you really think I care for those 
cultivated beauties so much as for a tangled 
growth of the good old English wild-flowers? 
Father, you must get it out of your head that 
I am at all ambitious. If the doctors tell you 



MR. NOBODY. 257 

to drain the lake, do so if necessary, but for 
my sake you need not change it. I like it 
better as it is. And I would respect the feel- 
ings of the Rashleighs. It is easier to demo- 
lish a family ghost than to restore it.' 

Again Reuben bit his lip. 

1 Acknowledge,' he said, 4 that, after all I have 
done for you, you only despise me for it, and 
look down upon my way o' doing it.' 

6 On the contrary, I try to understand what 
you like." 



VOL. I. 



258 



CHAPTER V. 

LOVE founded on duty — on the natural obliga- 
tions arising out of the ties of blood and of 
nature — is not for that reason less necessary to 
be based on real sympathy and regard. It is a 
mockery to wear a fair outside show to meet 
the claims of a social ritual, while the inner har- 
mony of the affections is wanting. 

Godfrey found himself thinking something 
of this kind when the question occurred to him 
day after day of how it would be possible for 
him to make his father understand the sort of 
life which it seemed to him would be tolerable 
at Broadmeads. Gifted with a strong religious 
tendency, so that actual negation was distasteful 
to him, the lad found himself constantly moved 



MR. NOBODY. 259 

to indignation, bordering on disgust, by the 
expressions of cynicism which seemed to him 
little less than blasphemous. There were 
utterances to which Reuben gave vent only in 
the presence of his son. How could Godfrey 
tell his father that he saw and resented the 
satiric intention with which these speeches were 
barbed, and that it semed to him occasionally 
as if the words betrayed inconceivable heart- 
lessness? And how could Reuben tell God- 
frey that he considered his self-communings to 
be ridiculous, and that his son's meaningless 
scruples roused his risibility. 

The men were so divided from each other 
in spirit that an outsider might have indulged 
in hilarity at the absurdity, and the utter hope- 
lessness of their attempting to understand one 
another. Reuben had at times a faint and 
somewhat sorrowful perception of the fact 
that there was a far-away look in his son's 
eyes, as if he were miles away from him. For 
there were a thousand ideas and sensations 
familiar to Godfrey at which Reuben would 
have sneered had he attempted to speak of them. 

s2 



260 MR. NOBODY. 

As to the older man's own religion, Fichte 
might have said of it, das gar nicht existirte. 
But though he prided himself on the possession 
of a certain number of ideas to which he ad- 
hered with the tenacity of a genius in business — 
driven like hard nails into his granite head — 
he was secretly pleased to feel himself eclipsed 
by the more brilliant qualities of the youth. 
It even struck him as quite the proper thing 
that Godfrey should devote a certain portion 
of his time to the study of church music. All 
such fancies would have been antipathetic to 
Reuben, but then he had an undefined idea 
that benevolent schemes and religious theo- 
ries were somehow characteristic of the upper 
stratum of society, and that to take a part 
in these unpractical notions would fit the 
piece of Parian marble which he prided himself 
on having produced, for taking its place on an 
upper shelf where it could be regarded with 
admiration. Yet his pride in the superiority 
of the article which he had turned out did not 
make him patient with some of the new and 
startling opinions on the most burning political 



MR. NOBODY. 261 

questions of the day, which came naturally to 
a young combatant fresh from an atmosphere 
of keen debate. 

The older man, who had been almost de- 
nationalised by long expatriation, did not 
trouble himself to fight under any particular 
political banner, or to help in the solution of any 
of these questions. Yet he winced when God- 
frey exclaimed, one morning, 

'Yes, we are of the people. I am proud of 
belonging to the people. I have a better excuse 
for loving them and working for them because 
I belong to them.' 

Sheer astonishment seemed to take away 
Reuben's breath. He stared in utter amaze- 
ment as his son continued, 

' You know I do not care to be a large land- 
owner, but, if I am to have responsibilities of 
this kind by-and-by, the sooner I get some sort 
of knowledge about farming the better.' 

Reuben's face was an utter blank for the next 
few moments. His jaw dropped as he was 
slowly taking in the idea, that — whilst he, with 
all the partiality of a mother, had been bent on 



2Q2 MR. NOBODY. 

raising his son, and priding himself on his com- 
pleteness in education, appearance, and demean- 
our — the lad was determined to depreciate his 
own market value. 

' Humbug/ he said, impatiently ; ' they are 
some o' them — these others — born in the mud 
and doomed to live in the mud — like reptiles as 
relish the shiny ooze and can't wriggle their 
tails out o' it. But you — to talk like that — 
why, I slaved and toiled for you or ever you 
were born — and you to talk of yourself as if 
you were a common farmer.' 

'Ah, I have no doubt. One can see that 
some strong desire must have acted upon you 
to make you work with a dozen times the 
energy of the average man. The energy was 
admirable — I envy it. But I reproach myself 
for letting you work in such a way for me.' 

4 Why not? there are two classes of chaps — 
the chaps who work and the chaps who don't 
work, but just sit down and sun themselves 
like kings. I always intended ye to belong to 
the idle uns: 

* Thanks,' said Godfrey, repressing his in- 



MR. XOBODY. 263 

clination to betray his scorn. (It seemed to 
him impossible to conceive anything much 
more prosaic or contemptible than the role 
which his father had so kindly assigned to 
him.) 'I fear the toiling has hitherto been on 
one side. I was just telling you that I reproach- 
ed myself for leaving St. Anne's in something 
very like ill-favour, because I had done none of 
the things which were expected of me ' 

'A fact to be proud of,' said Reuben, slapping 
him on the back. ' I sent you there to be amongst 
gentlemen, not to be drenched with learning. A 
vicious thing that cramming — your Shakespeare 
and Burns didn't cram. Why, the ancients 
were for drawing out a man, and the moderns 
all for putting into him. I heard that sayin' 
when I was a boy, but I had precious little 
Greek and Latin to spoil my English.' 

' That's true. I was going on to say that I 
didn't take a sufficiently good degree to go to 
the Bar, and I should not like the responsibility 
of being a doctor, but that — I ought not to lie 
quite fallow, and leave you all the laurels. It 
strikes me that I might do something to help 



264 MR. NOBODY. 

you in business which you leave to stewards. 
Other men have taken up the vexed question of 
how to help the working classes.' 

• As how V demanded Reuben, lapsing into 
the vernacular. 

' Well, you tell me 1 shall probably be a 
landed proprietor some day.' 

* A precious large one,' answered Reuben, 
with glittering eyes. 

' A landed proprietor should know something 
of agricultural progress. He should have a 
scientific training which even now it may be 
possible for me to get. Sometimes I think 
that if we had consulted over this before, if I 
had not been too young to properly understand 
it, we should both have decided that the uni- 
versity was not exactly the place for me to 
gain my experience. Why, look at the amount 
of probation which is required for either of the 
learned professions, and yet, of all human occu- 
pations, the one that stands most in need of 
the safeguards of training and skill is that of 
tilling the ground and feeding cattle.' 

He did not intend hrs sentence to end in 



MR. NOBODY. 265 

bathos, as he felt it had ; nor that his father 
should stand stock still and look at him as if 
he were a fit inmate for a lunatic asylum. In 
default of any other answer, Reuben Sell wood 
began to laugh. 

4 Stick to your club, my boy, and your music 
and kickshaws. Some of us were born to be 
the working-bees, and the rest to be worked for 
and sit quiet.' 

1 The club may be all very well in its way ; I 
am for the free expression and ventilation of 
opinion,' muttered Godfrey to himself, as a 
vision floated before his eyes of the highly 
respectable Torringmoor club to which he had 
just been duly elected, with all its wonderfully 
fine decorations, and the newspapers — dailies, 
weeklies, and monthlies — with what they said 
repeated in a heavier way by the quarterlies. 
' I should like to have a free library in Torring- 
moor, and a lecture-room for working-men,' he 
said, aloud ; ' the sooner we get them the 
better.' 

It is doubtful what Reuben's answer might 
have been, for at that moment the con versa- 



266 MR. NOBODY. 

tion was interrupted by cries of distress, and 
at a little distance one of the gardeners could 
be seen, apparently out of breath, and dragging 
a terror-stricken, ragged urchin, who had been 
trespassing on the property, and who held 
something huddled up in a basket close to his 
face. 

The boy was followed by a tiny, round- 
eyed, wide-mouthed girl, who trotted after him 
as rapidly as her legs could carry her, and who 
was howling as loudly as her lungs would allow 
her to howl. Both children had a wretched, 
ill-fed appearance, with shrivelled skins and 
thin limbs, instead of being healthy country 
children. 

'I tell my gardeners to frighten the brats 
when they find 'em trespassing here,' said 
Reuben, in explanation to Godfrey, to whom 
the sight seemed to have given a shock, as if 
he were roused out of his usual listlessness by 
a discord which came into sharp collision with 
his theories about the future, and his dream- 
world. 

' I thought I understood you to say,' he fal- 



MR. NOBODY. 267 

tered, in a low voice, as be placed his hand on 
his father's arm, i that — this place would belong- 
to me — some day?' 

'Well, what of that?' 

1 It's nonsense about the place really belong- 
ing to me, if the poor can have no right of way 
in it. And look — he has been filling his basket 
with nothing but a few harmless flowers ; per- 
haps there is a sick mother at home, and he 
wants to cheer her with them. It is not such 
a very terrible offence.' 

A flash of expression lit Reuben's usually 
impassive lace, which was gone as instantly as 
it appeared. Was it a revelation of something 
concealed even from his son — the same ' some- 
thing ' which made Godfrey often wonder why 
a chance word or look should make his father 
fire-up when there seemed to be nothing to 
offend him ? 

' Eh V he asked, as if to gain time to cover 
his confusion, and conscious of the altered tone 
in his own voice. 'I told the gardeners to 
make an exception if ever a poor brat wanted 
a flower. Eh? but don't you think I am a 



268 MR. NOBODY. 

d — d fool to be so weak about flowers ? There 
were folks in ray day who would have be- 
laboured that young un till he could scarcely 
stand — it was scant mercy then. All they 
wanted was to rid the world of such vermin, 
and then pretend they had performed a service 
to humanity. I knew a boy once — ' he com- 
menced, looking before him as if he had for- 
gotten the presence of his son. And then he 
suddenly pulled himself up, as if he had changed 
his mind about repeating a story. 

* What were you going to tell me ? You 
knew a boy once — V said Godfrey, after a 
pause, in a puzzled undertone. 

'Nothing. I shouldn't think of boring you 
with an idle story. Tales do for old women,' he 
said, looking after the retreating child, who was 
making good his escape. 

'Ah, to be sure,' answered his son, with that 
wideness of assent which relieved him from the 
necessity of pressing for further details. He 
stood stroking his upper lip, deep in thought, 
while he watched his father's face with a 



MR. NOBODY. 269 

curious mixture of fanciful speculation — consist- 
ing at once of attraction and repulsion, fear and 
pity, trust and distrust — and the sense of some- 
thing like a shadow falling on him as he stood 
in the sunlight. 

He drew a long breath as he asked him- 
self, 

' What could the antecedents have been 
which led to that expression on Reuben's face, 
something like the look of a fag turned into a 
bully V 

It was true that there was a widening gulf of 
silence and unsociability opening more and more 
between them. Reuben's secrets, whatever they 
might be, were locked and double-locked in 
his own breast, and Godfrey had no cabalistic 
spell. 

Neither of the two was communicative. 
Reuben gave instructions to the gardeners to 
let the child be free of the place and help him- 
self to a few flowers, much to the astonish- 
ment of the gardeners ; and Godfrey, knowing 
nothing of Reuben's queer fit of indulgence, 



270 MR. NOBODY. 

made a point of finding out the name of the boy 
and visiting him at his own cottage to give 
him a present of money. It was Godfrey's first 
experience of the miserable state of the peasan- 
try in that part of shire. But he be- 
came less interested in mediaeval details and in 
sketching the scenery of the neighbourhood 
and the artistic contours of the Hall, now that 
he awoke to the fact of Reuben's tyranny. 

' If flunk eydom is worse than swelldom, surely 
plutocracy is more insufferable than aristocracy.' 
thought the young man, with a shiver to 
himself. 

For many of his father's notions were absurd 
and superannuated, and yet — as familiarity 
without much expansion increased by degrees on 
either side — it became daily more evident that 
Reuben could not bear a syllable of contradiction. 
Though he knew little about politics, he would 
have liked to have had to settle Ireland or any 
given number of countries in his own way, but 
his measures would have been drastic. He was 
acutely conscious of the deficiencies of those 
untrained masses of the people, from whom he 



3m. XOBODY. 271 

boasted he had risen. He adopted a style of 
conviction on all possible subjects which was 
galling to the younger and more impulsive 
mind of his son — a conviction too pronounced 
for the trimming of practical politics. He had 
tested his own faculties in a varied school, and 
had a contempt for those of his neighbours. 
He had no charitable tolerance for contrary 
beings, and no rhetorical blandishments to deck 
the sternness of his views. 

1 This chap of mine will be riding a hobby to 
death," he said, when Godfrey propounded a 
few of those notions which his father consider- 
ed to be utterly subversive and destructive to 
society. f I don't want to encourage paupers, 
vaunting their rags and sores, but the men who 
can raise themselves. If there was any of the 
right sort of stuff in them, they would cease to 
be paupers. Wait till you are a public man 
before you take up these sort of questions.' 

' I don't want to be a public man,' laughed 
Godfrey in reply. ' What is it to be a public 
man ? To run a chance of having your name 
placarded against a wall and bespattered with 



272 MR. NOBODY. 

abuse in a daily paper, to have to meet your 
greatest enemy at a dinner, or hear yourself 
railed at by your opposite neighbour in a rail- 
way carnage. No, I prefer to do things in a 
smaller way.' 

And then he attempted in vain to speak to 
his father of failing harvests, and the heavy 
losses of the poorer people. 

1 There are some landlords who pay more 
attention to their partridges than their fellow- 
men, but you at least should know better,' he 
tried to say. 

The words had little effect upon Reuben, but 
unconsciously he was softened. Perhaps it 
was the effect of Godfrey's violin music, with 
its infinite variety of passion and pathos, which 
Reuben had always professed to scorn, but to 
which he had listened lately, unknown t3 the 
performer, in an adjacent room. 

Godfrey thought little of his own perform- 
ance as that of an amateur. But the instru- 
ment formed a vent for the passionate artistic 
fervour which the younger man concealed as 
a rule from others, and combined with other 



MR. NOBODY. 273 

ideas of his own which were often unformed. 
He could scarcely have existed himself without 
music. But he would have wondered greatly 
if he could have known that when he sang a 
favourite song from Handel's ' Samson ' his 
father's attention was singularly arrested. 

' Honour and arms scorn such a foe,' 

Eeuben hummed, in imitation of Godfrey's bass 
runs and trills, when he was alone, 

' Though I could end thee at a blow, 
Poor victory ! 

Vanquish a foe that is half slain , 
So mean a triumph I disdain.' 

How was it that Reuben could not get this 

special stanza out of his head ! ' Poor victory !' 

It rang in his ears in the intervals of his sleep. 

It haunted him when he looked at the turrets 

of the Hall. 

' Honour and arms scorn such a foe, 
Poor victory ! 

To conquer thee, 
Or glory in thine overthrow.' 

' Ah, I have it/ he said to himself one morn- 
ing, when, at the sightof a youthful figure in 
VOL. I. T 



274 MR. NOBODY. 

deep mourning flitting up the avenue of beech 
trees which led into Rashleigh Park, a whimsi- 
cal solution occurred to him of his difficulty. 
4 1 shall triumph still — and yet the sleeping 
dogs will be let lie.' 



275 



CHAPTER VI. 

In process of time the two neighbours became 
acquainted. The acquaintance was in fact 
inevitable as their grounds 'adjoined each 
other, and it became necessary that certain 
little matters should be settled which were 
from time to time cropping up, and which Sir 
Ralph was not rich enough to be able to en- 
trust, as he otherwise might have done, to the 
management of a solicitor. 

There was a picturesque little wooden bridge 
joining the two estates, which Reuben with 
characteristic effrontery had ordered to be pull- 
ed down. The estates still remained 8 two ' in 
the eyes of the world, especially as Reuben had 
commenced building the wall which he had 

t 2 



276 MR. NOBODY. 

threatened, regardless of the fact that the 
noise was annoying to the baronet. Yet it was 
an open secret that the large number of mort- 
gages on the Rashleigh demesne had somehow 
fallen into the hands of the interloper who had 
purchased the place vulgarly called Broad- 
meads, with a Philistine smack about its very 
title. 

But a portion of the old property was still 
intact. And, when it became a nice question of 
law as to whether the new-comer could claim a 
right of way for himself and for his people over 
the somewhat venerable bridge, it seemed the 
easiest way of settling the matter to order the 
bridge — that stood on the portion of ground 
which Reuben had purchased, but which his 
servants might not use without so much dis- 
cord — to be pulled down. It was removed in 
the dead of the night by Reuben's orders, and 
there were tears of resentment and fury in the 
baronet's eyes as he recognised his inability to 
punish the offender. For, whenever it was 
possible to adopt a high-handed course, the 
owner of Broadmeads did so. A direct appeal 



MR. NOBODY. 277 

to him would have been useless, had the baron- 
et been able to conquer his pride sufficiently to 
make it. 

Yet in the course of the dispute, which was 
conducted with as little outward show of an- 
tagonism as possible, the two men met for the 
first time, Sir Halph, with circles round his eyes 
and wrinkles caused by anxiety, apparently 
the elder of the two. 

He — having led a retired life, and having 
thought it right, early in his career, to make a 
sort of protest by relenquishing the hunting- 
field and other healthful pursuits of which his 
father had been so fond — had become more or 
less a valetudinarian. His aquiline-featured, 
clean-shaven face was never free from the pallor 
of sickliness, and he looked with some secret- 
envy at the better braced and more muscular 
frame of the stranger. Ralph — who was un- 
social even to people of his own rank, and who 
was accustomed to look down on anything 
which took the form of exchange and barter — in 
his heart cursed the fate that obliged him to 
condescend to have business talks with his 



278 MR. NOBODY. 

neighbour, or that disturbed the peaceful life 
in which, previous to the death of his father, 
he had been more or less successful in keeping 
disagreeable facts from his recollection. 

Sir Ralph was, as the people of Torriugmoor 
expressed it, a ' high-tempered ' man. His 
father had been high-tempered before him, and 
it was somehow considered that to be high-tem- 
pered savoured of aristocracy. The temper, in 
this case, extended itself even to the beautiful 
collie-dog which constantly accompanied Sir 
Ralph, and which had the family habit of bark- 
ing at people whom his master did not favour. 
The meeting with such a fellow as Reuben Sell- 
wood — who seemed to be the visible embodiment 
of all his troubles, and whose very presence in- 
terfered with Sir Ralph's sedulous avoidance of 
anything like exposure of the family vicissitudes 
which might come before the public — could 
not fail to be annoying to Ralph. 

He had still the house and many acres of 
fine pasture-land to fall back upon, but the very 
appearance of this wily neighbour, who had 
established himself so close to him that he 



MR. NOBODY. 279 

might continually sting him like a gadfly, was 
a reminder that a large part of the old property 
had been sold, and that the mansion which had 
been named by the ridiculous title of 'Broad- 
meads ' — as if those who built it had gloried in 
their prosperity — was actually built upon the 
land which had belonged for centuries to his 
forefathers. Sir Ralph's proud and distinguish- 
ed head — well poised on his shoulders — was 
held a little more stiffly than usual in spite of 
his delicate health when he met the plebeian. 

Reuben laughed in his sleeve. What did the 
other man's petty pretences signify? Plebeian 
as he was, he had already become his creditor. 
He already possessed three quarters of the land 
which had originally been owned by the Rash- 
leighs, and he had sworn to become possessor 
of the other quarter. 

The interview was an amusing one. It was 
a case of Greek meeting Greek. If Sir Ralph 
was proud, his antagonist was equally so, and, 
though it was easy to condemn the latter as a 
1 born cad,' it appeared that cads were no more 
free than aristocrats from the ' glorious fault of 



280 MR. NOBODY. 

angels and of gods.' It would have been better 
policy for Sir Ralph to restrain that ' high 
temper ' which was reputed to be an equally 
glorious heritage handed down to him from a 
long line of ancestors. He made many, but 
somewhat ineffectual, efforts to do so. For 
Reuben's blue eyes were cold as steel, express- 
ing the strength of a will against which the other 
man's passionate insolence would prove weak 
as clouds of spray perpetually dashing them- 
selves against an iron coast. 

He spoke little, availing himself on these 
occasions of a certain number of formulas which 
he had become accustomed to repeat. He 
uttered them in a deep voice, with a careful, 
monotonous intonation, guarding against too 
great a freedom of speech, and keeping his 
adversary at a distance. 

In every respect Reuben had the best of 
it. One might have said that he — having 
become used to restraining his own temper for 
his own purposes — betrayed more than once by 
a humorous twinkle of the eye his consciousness 
that the more irritable baronet was proving, by 



MR. XOBODY. 281 

this very evident manifestation of the old Adam 
from which he had sprung, his knowledge that 
both were, after all, descended from a common 
stock. 

By degrees Sir Ralph grew less irascible as 
the other proved a skilful strategist. Every- 
thing which Reuben answered seemed perfectly 
natural, except a chance expression to which he 
gave utterance, as both men stood together in 
the grounds of Rashleigh Park where their ap- 
pointment had been made, Sir Ralph being de- 
termined on this occasion not to invite the 
new-comer to walk into his house. 

' It used not to have so much moss about it, 
surely,' Reuben had said, as he gazed at the 
old grey pile of buildings which looked pic- 
turesque and beautiful as in a fairy-tale in the 
evening light, with its stones stained by lichen 
and rain into every variety of tint. 

1 Used not to V asked Ralph, looking at him 
sharply. 'I did not know you had ever seen 
it before.' 

* One would think I had seen it before/ an- 
swered Reuben, righting himself instantly ; ' but 



282 MR. NOBODY. 

the fact is, since I have come back to the old 
country, I have had a hankering after old build- 
ings of this sort, and, when you have seen one, 
it is like seeing a lot of them.' 

' Oh ! I heard you caught at the adjoining- 
estate directly it was put up to auction. A 
man of your sort can appreciate the historical 
interest belonging to places of this sort,' 
answered Sir Ralph, a little mollified. 

Reuben nodded. 

' Well, and you have also a geometric eye, and 
your own theory about natural frontiers ; but I 
shall keep what came to me from my ancestors.' 

' It was not my fault ; the theory was — I had 
the best advice — Mr. ' 

'I can do without lawyers/ 

i I also. Lawyers are not much in my way. 
I am a square man, and I only get on with 
people who are square like myself. Peace is 
the best thing in the world, still to have peace 
I must first establish my rights,' said Reuben, 
firmly. 

The baronet winced. Here was a man out- 
spoken, but not so vulgar as he had anticipated, 



MR. NOBODY. 283 

a man who was so uncommunicative that no 
one knew the full extent of his fortune ; a man 
who had him to a certain extent in his power, 
but whose actions might be less hard than his 
threats. Square enough he looked, without 
the appearance of being fagged-out — whatever 
he had gone through in his life — with shoulders 
big enough to carry the Alps, if not the world. 
Whilst Sir Kalph himself had felt for a long time 
as if the machine were wearing out, and began 
to require rest. Might it not be to his interest 
to conciliate the unknown Atlas ? 

' It's a tine old place — none better in the 
country/ he said, with a sigh, and yet with 
that sort of secret satisfaction which a man 
always has when he hears a thing praised that 
is nearest to his heart. 

1 Humph !' answered Reuben, speaking a 
little slowly, as if he were well aware that 
the sting of each of his words would penetrate 
through the armour in which the aristocrat had 
encased himself — * requires a lot of money to 
keep it up, so I've heard say. That's the worst 
of these old places.' 



284 MR. NOBODY. 

Sir Ralph drew himself up ; but that his sen- 
sitive pride had been Avounded was proved by 
his face changing colour. He shut himself in 
too continually with his books and the old 
pictures to have any mask of sunburn like that 
which Reuben had brought from over the seas, 
to help him to dissemble his emotions. 

It was one of Sellwood's maxims to abstain 
from pushing a triumph to its utmost, and 
never to gather grapes till they were ripe. But 
on this occasion the temptation of regularly 
rousing the temper of the other, who prided 
himself on his dignity, proved to be too much 
for him. 

And, as if it was pleasant to see that his 
neighbour winced, he continued, 

' You should go over to America or New 
Zealand, you people whose fortunes in the old 
country are going to rags. You could lead a 
patriarchal life there, feeding your sheep and 
oxen. Xo come-down in that.' 

Sir Ralph's unwholesome-looking complexion 
was pink like that of a woman at what he sup- 
posed to be the coarseness of the taunt. If the 



MR. NOBODY. 285 

baronet could have given orders to his butler 
(one man-servant with that title — a sort of 
survival of grandeur — had sufficed since Sir 
George's death to clean the boots, and do work 
of all sorts except that which fell to the coachman 
and gardener) to kick the fellow out of his 
grounds, his rage would scarcely have been 
satisfied. But, in the midst of his ire, he was 
forced to remember that he was in this wretch's 
power, and that to be summoned by him for 
assault, to say nothing of worse possibilities, 
would not improve matters with the people at 
Torringmoor. He made a feeble attempt at 
meeting him with what he supposed to be his 
own weapons, and said, with an unamiable smile, 

' Certainly — no come-down in that, if, as 
report says, Torringmoor ought to be pleased 
to acknowledge that — that you ' 

' I know that all sorts of reports are about, 
but by what right, sir,' asked Reuben, apparent- 
ly not discomposed — for, to do him justice, he 
had intended no allusion to injure Sir Ralph's 
self-respect — ' by what right do people meddle 
with what I do not care to reveal V 



28 1) MR. NOBODY. 

' And by what right,' roared the baronet, ' do 
people venture to discuss my private affairs. 
You and your financial successes are nothing 
to me. It is a sheer piece of impertinence for 
anyone to venture to allude to my difficulties.' 

Again the mask of sunburn, with which kindly 
Nature still veiled Reuben's countenance, stood 
him in good stead, as, making a greater effort 
to conceal the testiness which might otherwise 
have betrayed itself in his voice, he answered 
with a shrug, 

' Ah, as to that, I meant to make a sugges- 
tion which might stand you in good stead. I 
thought with the free air around us we might 
talk like men. Prejudices you must have — you 
have a lot of them, no doubt — but my right is 
as clear as possible, and I might have been able 
to put something before you which would have 
been to your advantage, still ' 

He broke off with a meaning shrug, as if — 
though it was about the longest speech which 
he had been known to make since he came to 
Broadmeads — it was not in his power to make it 
longer. 



MR. NOBODY. 287 

The shrug, however, was better than rhetoric, 
and the manner in which he turned on his heel, 
leaving the fuming baronet to admit that he 
had made a fool of himself, more eloquent still. 

• So the jackass thought I was going to pour 
out the story of my life into his long ears,' he 
chuckled to himself, as he reached his own 
grounds, ' not so fast : perhaps, when our inter- 
ests are identical, he may hear a good deal 
w T hich will make his ass's ears tingle.' 



2W 



CHAPTER VII. 

June roses were blowing on the walls of the 
cottages at Torringmoor. Tall white lilies with 
golden centres and waxen petals were growing 
in the cottage gardens, in singular contrast 
with the blazing ribbon-like adornment of the 
bedding-out system which had been adopted in 
the conventional flower-beds at Broadmeads. 
Whilst beyond on the blue moor the river rip- 
pled merrily over the mossy stones. Cattle were 
grazing in the lowlands, and labourers were 
slouching home from their work in the evening 
light, as Reuben — who in his secret heart cared 
no more than Godfrey for the buhl cabinets, 
inlaid tables, tall mirrors, and elaborate cur- 



MR. NOBODY. 289 

tains with which the upholsterer had told him 
it was proper to adorn his new house — crept 
out into the lanes and fields which surrounded 
his park. 

The sun was setting in clouds of purple and 
amethyst as Reuben left behind him the great 
iron gates. Absorbed in his own thoughts, and 
feeling no necessity when he found himself 
alone for keeping up that appearance of stolidity 
which he did not generally allow himself to 
drop even in the presence of his son, the man 
hurried along, his head bent upon his shoulders, 
and his eyes cast down. Now and then he 
glanced at the wild flowers, which seemed 
mysteriously to bring back the dead past, and 
to be associated in an odd way with that which 
he tried to think was the triumphant and pros- 
perous present. There was the ' gypsy rose,' the 
1 ragged robin,' the ' clematis,' the 4 moon daisy,' 
the ' monkshood,' and there the blossoms were 
just coming into bud which he remembered used 
to be vulgarly called 'kiss-me-quick.' It was 
astonishing how much in his secret heart he 
agreed with his son in preferring these simple 

VOL. I. U 



290 MR. NOBODY. 

things with the good old-fashioned names to all 
the wonders accomplished by horticultural art 
which he had left behind him at Broadmeads. 

The sunset, though beautiful in colour, had 
been stormy, and now the clouds iucreased and 
rain was threatening. The wind began to blow 
coldly over the desolate moor, but the wind was 
not more bitter than his own miserable thoughts, 
much as he was inclined to take praise to himself 
for the new scheme suggested to him by Han- 
del's music — a compromise which would still 
allow him to keep up the unforgiving spirit 
that could not dwell with love. He was 
bitter at the acknowledgment which he was 
compelled to make to himself, that regions and 
regions of separate existence — with ideas that he 
could not fathom and motives which he had no 
means of proving — lay between him and the 
only creature on earth for whom he cared. 

He was inclined to curse the fate which 
brought his boy no nearer to him in reality — 
for, though the lad might prove too dutiful to 
leave him, there was always an uncomfortable 
gulf between them. It did not occur to him to 



MR. NOBODY. 291 

reflect that an abyss of black nothingness, from 
which he might shrink back appalled could it 
be revealed to him, lay yet between his own 
spirit aud that of the Eternal Father. Strange 
thoughts were stirring in him, born possibly of 
that music which reveals yearnings so little 
understood in the hearts of the worst of us. And 
Reuben did not consider himself by any means 
the worst. He prided himself on his heroic endur- 
ance, on the fact that through a course of years 
he had grown a hard skin over wounds on 
which, at Godfrey's age, he would not have 
been able to endure a touch. Misfortune had 
been to him, as it is to many of us, no sweetener 
of the temper. He had passed through terrible 
suffering — all the more terrible that it had 
been quiet ; but it had left its mark upon him. 
Few would have guessed that he had been 
through any ordeal. The people who met him 
in an ordinary way respected him as a reticent, 
but keen, business man, whose opinion on many 
subjects might be valuable, but credited him 
with no sentiment beyond a recollection of his 
adventures. 

u2 



292 MR. NOBODY. 

' I care about as much for the lot of 'em as I 
cared about the opossums,' he said, with a 
bitter laugh, when he met any of these people, 
telling himself for the hundredth time that he 
hated his own kind, and that the exception in 
Godfrey's case was because the boy was all his 
own — flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone — 
and yet, by some cruel trick of Fate, in heart 
and brain divided from him. 

' I'll meet Sir Ralph in his own way ; I couldn't 
propose to him the other thing. After all, 
perhaps it 'ud be, as the music said, a poorish 
victory,' he thought, as he found his way, as if 
by instinct in the fading light, to the path 
over the heath which led to Torringmoor. 

Much of the way was bare and lonely, with 
no stars to illumine it, and only a vaporous, 
watery-looking moon gazing down upon him, 
with pale, cold face, as he sauntered on. He 
loitered once by the river, where the perfume 
of the meadow-sweet and the penny-royal 
seemed to bring back some of those recollec- 
tions which are so strangely associated with 
the sense of smell. And then, with a muttered 



MR. NOBODY. 293 

curse at his own absurdity, he hurried on till 
he came to a little ruined cottage closely ad- 
joining the moor, and not more than a mile 
from the gates of his estate. A funny old 
cottage, which was a very unenlivening sight, 
naked and miserable, but with traces of former 
occupation still to be seen in a poor little iron 
gate which swung open by the ruined wall, and 
was half eaten through with rust. More than one 
visitor to Torringmoor had asked why they did 
not pull it down, and begin building on the 
site a line of villas — as had been proposed by 
one of the more stirring inhabitants of the 
place. But there it stood, windowless and 
doorless, with the four winds of heaven blow- 
ing through its broken thatch, and birds 
building their nests in one corner of the 
broken chimney. 

A town-councillor who was asked to account 
for this eyesore generally laughed and shrugged 
his shoulders. If it pleased that lavish gentle- 
man who had come to live at Broadmeads to 
offer a sum which would almost beggar other 
people for ' this bit of a ruined barn,' just as 



294 MR. NOBODY. 

folks were intending to put up the land for 
auction, it was really, as he answered, ' no busi- 
ness of his ;' the new owner of Broadmeads had 
either lost his head in his covetousness for 
every spare bit of land which he seemed to 
make a rule of buying up, or he wished to 
astonish folks with one of the showy vagaries 
of a millionaire. All that the Broadmeads 
Town-Council knew was that one day they 
received a letter from Reuben Sellwood, saying 
that, as his son was a 'bit of an amateur artist,' 
and had a fancy for sketching all sorts of queer 
places, he would buy up the cottage and the 
piece of land on which it stood. Of course 
they asked a ' fancy ' price, which Mr. Sell- 
wood readily paid. He never said anything 
more about it, but the good people of Torring- 
moor would certainly have thought he was 
crazed, if they could have known that he came 
pretty often to gaze at the cranky thing by 
moonlight. 

They would have said, as you, my good, 
critical reader, will probably say, that it was 
not consistent with character. But the perfect 



MR. NOBODY. 295 

consistency of a ' character role '—to borrow an 
expression from our continental neighbours — is 
somehow the rarest thing in the world. If an 
outsider can predicate the actions of nine 
people out of ten, he is likely to be utterly at 
sea when he comes to the tenth. I do not 
pretend to moralise on this infinite variety of 
human nature. 

But whatever of tenderness, pathos, sin, or 
suffering lay in the past history of this man — 
who had so far succeeded in eradicating from 
his heart the mystery which lies hid in all of us, 
that he was classed amongst the most prosaic of 
the matter-of-fact — welled up in his memory and 
imagination now. He seemed to hear again 
the song of the nightingale which had once 
come to soothe the agony of a weary sufferer 
on a bed of pain, and must have chanted from 
some trees that once grew on the very spot 
on which he stood. 

No twitter of birds disturbed the solitude 
now. It was as quiet as if pains, toils, and 
passions had never been enacted in it, — quiet 
as the burying-ground of the poor which Reu- 



296 MR. NOBODY. 

ben visited as stealthily afterwards, where a 
mound, no longer distinguishable from those 
which surrounded it, might have reminded him 
of the pathetic ending of all heart-burnings, 
revenges, and sorrows. But Reuben gained 
nothing from the story of rest which might 
have been preached to him by that moulder- 
ing earth. He was thinking again of his son 
■who was so superior to the common ruck of 
men — he must be careful not to jar on him. 
But the plan which he had to propose was 
no cruel one — it was benevolent — it would 
approve itself to everyone, he told himself, as 
he returned by the familiar paths past the 
gorse and the heather, and past the quietly 
rippling river to the roadside, where the 
great laurel-trees which he had planted on 
his own estate, backed by a fir plantation, 
loomed darkly in the night air. 

' There is no time like the present. I 
shall catch him in now, and if any soul on 
earth has a right to tackle him, I have,' he 
had been saying to himself more than once, as 
he had been walking across the heath. 



•MR. NOBODY. 207 

He bad hitherto been too skilful a strategist 
to intrude himself on Sir Ralph's solitude. But 
matters bad come to a crisis now, and he smil- 
ed a little grimly to himself as he walked on 
a little further, and handed in what he scorn- 
fully called his £ nonsensical pasteboard ' to the 
shabbily-dressed butler at Eashleigh Hall. He 
knew perfectly well that this would be about 
the time when Sir Ralph would have finished 
his dinner, and when he would be sitting mood- 
ily over his wine — if indeed his circumstances 
had not compelled him to make a virtue of 
necessity, and join that teetotal movement 
which, as Reuben said cynically to himself, was 
now the cream of the fashion since so many 
bishops and grandees had joined it. 

s Why, he may even run a chance of having 
his portrait figuring in the most popular re- 
views, and may take the chair as president at 
the what-d'ye-call-it — Social Science Congress, 
and all because he hadn't enough tin to spare 
for the stocking of his cellar,' chuckled Reuben 
to himself, as the man-servant went in with his 
card, knowing perfectly well that — however his 



298 MR. NOBODY. 

neighbour's intrusion might rouse Sir Ralph's 
temper — the latter would not dare to refuse him- 
self to him. Had not the baronet been compelled 
to borrow the offered loan of his money, when 
creditors had pressed upon him so heavily, that 
the question of whether he should avail himself 
of the accommodation or not had been one which 
no longer brooked weighing in the balance 1 

The baronet's pride compelled him to allude 
to the circumstance as he invited in the un- 
welcome guest, who — in the softened light of 
the candles which left dark shadows in the 
great room — could not help admiring the old 
oak side-board, carved with the arms of the 
Rashleigh family, and still seeming to tell of 
former splendours. It was in keeping with the 
equally old massive chairs, and the spare figure, 
with its worn face of somewhat ascetic expres- 
sion, which sat, as Reuben had expected, alone 
at the head of the frugal board. 

Reuben's eyes wandered to the corners of 
the ancient banqueting-room where there was 
still the faded tapestry and the damaged old 
family portraits. The place could have told se- 
crets had it been in a communicative mood. He 



MR. NOBODY. 299 

bad beard descriptions of it by Mrs. Rose, though 
be bad never set foot in it before. Wbat bad 
become of tbe great cbina bowls wbicb bad 
been so long in tbe family, and wbicb bad 
apparently gone tbe way of all flesh, as if tbey 
bad made up their minds tbat tbey bad lived 
long enougb ? Had tbey gone tbe same way 
as tbe grand old clock wbicb one oftheRash- 
leigbs w r as said to bave brought from Bruges, 
with figures which used to come from bidden 
places and make their obeisances whenever 
an hour was struck 1 There was a pretence in 
tbe family tbat tbe new baronet's greyhound 
had knocked down many of the articles of virtu. 
Certainly they had vanished one by one, but it 
would bave increased Sir Ralph's iciness, which 
was worse than bis occasional fits of irritabili- 
ty, if Vere herself had dared to hint that he had 
been compelled to part with them. 

This little fiction of maintaining the dignity 
of the family was perfectly understood by bis 
niece. It kept her reticent, courageous, and 
accustomed to exert herself, forgetting herself 
in others, and ready to hide her own great un- 



300 }IR. NOBODY. 

selfishness, which was ever present as a hidden 
force behind her restrained feelings. 

* I was charmed to oblige ye with the loan 
that ye required,' said Reuben, slowly, after he 
had gazed his fill, with a nod which contrasted 
somewhat oddly with the stiff, aristocratic 
bow. 

'Without disobliging yourself?' Sir Ralph 
said, slowly. ' My friend, if I judge you right- 
ly, you are not the man to do things impulsive- 
ly. You have some motive for parting with 
all this money? You are too shrewd a fellow 
to throw it away.' 

Sir Ralph, who had been brooding over the 
matter for some days, had at least as good a 
comprehension of Reuben's character as Reuben 
had himself. 

' Oh, a good bargain pleases two people/ 
answered the latter, in no way abashed ; " I 
don't see why all this should make any differ- 
ence 'twixt you and me.' 

His perfect self-assurance, and the easy way 
in which he added, f I don't see why you and 
me should quarrel,' acted as a moral stiffen er 



MR. NOBODY. 301 

upon Sir Ralph, who, sitting bolt upright and 
speaking much as one of Holbein's portraits, if 
it had been suddenly transformed into life, 
might be expected to speak, said, 

1 Let us come to business? Do you propose 
to pay yourself by taking my whole estate V 

1 To put it plainly, I don't see why our inter- 
ests shouldn't run together.' 

Sir Ralph raised his eyebrows. To his way 
of thinking, there was but one line of demar- 
cation in the world which signified very much 
— that between the man who had a grandfather 
and the man who had none. Now, so far as he 
had heard, the impudent creditor who had 
forced himself into his presence had not even a 
father, and yet he had the cool insolence to 
speak of their interests as identical. Sir Ralph 
was a little afraid of the self-made man, never- 
theless. Was he not in his power 1 And, 
though the sherry was poor enough which stood 
before him on the table, he was so far from 
openly resenting Reuben's speech that he 
said, 

i A glass of wine with you ' adhering to 

an old custom. 



302 MR. NOBODY. 

' In real truth, I'm downright sorry for ye,' 
said Reuben, a few moments afterwards, bal- 
ancing the wine-glass, which he forced himself 
by way of compliment to empty, between his 
fingers, 'but you couldn't tide over such diffi- 
culties. It wasn't you who got into them, but 
you found them made for you — that's the long 
and short of it.' 

' The situation was created for me,' answered 
Sir Ralph, with a chilling smile. 

It w T as evident that he was now fairly sub- 
dued in temper, and saw that there was nothing 
to be gained by recrimination. 

i Yes, and 1 don't see how you can flounder 
out o' it. It'll take a deal to build up the 
fortunes of this house, but you will not find 
me a hard-fisted creditor. Indeed, on one con- 
sideration — but I don't know how exactly to 
expound it to ye/ 

'Proceed,' said the baronet, haughtily, 'I am 
ready to listen.' 

'But I may shock your prejudices.' 

' Prejudices cost us dear. Poor people have 
no business with them.' 



MR. NOBODY. 303 

' You have old-fashioned opinions.' 

' Do you think so ? You may be mistaken, 
and opinions are not prejudices.' 

'According to my way of thinking, folks 
must move a little bit with the times. If you 
don't keep pace with them, you'll be left out o' 
the running.'" 

'Ah, that's your system of ethics. I admit 
the altered conditions/ said Sir Ralph, growing 
if possible more erect and poker-like, as he 
looked opposite at the rich man sitting on his 
easiest chair, boasting of his prospects, and re- 
peating his crude theories. The state of things 
at Rashleigh must be altered indeed, or else it 
must all be a hideous nightmare. 

'Good!' 

Reuben's eyes gleamed. He was evidently 
labouring under some excitement which made 
his hand a little unsteady and his breathing 
audible. 

'Good,' he repeated. f l see it is possible 
we may agree better than I expected. Our 
interests, as I said, may end by being the same. 
I have money enough for both.' 



304 MR. NOBODY. 

' If you have, you needn't brag about it,' mut- 
tered Sir Ralph, a little huffily. 

'• No, I say share and share alike. I don't 
want to harm ye. Why shouldn't we be 
friends? He dropped his voice—his agitation 
had evidently increased. ' On one considera- 
tion it is possible I may defer all claim.' 

' And that V said the baronet, whose heart was 
beating more loudly than he cared to admit. 

1 You have a niece like a Hebe ' (Reuben pro- 
nounced it Heeb). ' Now, why shouldn't she 
become the so-called " angel" which every young 
woman may be to a young fellow fond o' poetry, 
just fresh from his University trainin', and why 
shouldn't the two together promise to look 
after the interests of your own little lass? Keep 
the estate together and share alike, no one 
the wiser.' 

The absolute pain which could no longer be 
concealed made it impossible for Sir Ralph to 
answer, as the full tide of recollection — of the 
ignominy of poverty, and the humiliation to 
which this niece, confided to his care in infancy, 
had already been subjected — rushed back upon 



MR. XOBODY. 305 

him. He waved the impudent intruder into 
silence with a gesture that seemed to say, 
4 Why do you profane my private griefs V 

But Reuben's ardour to propound his scheme 
and his consciousness that he himself had 
emerged from social twilight, and had passed — 
not only that shadowy line which, in the eyes of 
the Torringmoor folk, divided the retail trader 
from the wholesale merchant, but the further 
line of demarcation which separated the whole- 
sale merchant from the large capitalist — made 
him answer, w T ith equal pride, 

' And if 1 mention that I have a son, it will 
be fair to say that he in no way resembles 
myself, but is in appearance, education, breed- 
ing — in everything of which you could think — 
a fit match for the daughter of a queen.' 

The reserve and hauteur of the one man had 
been rivalled by the high tone adopted by the 
other. Yet Sir Ralph's hard breathing, and the 
way in which he stared at the speaker, seemed 
to intimate that Reuben had committed an 
offence for which it would be in vain to essay 
reparation. The drops of perspiration stood in 
VOL. I. X 



306 MR. NOBODY. 

beads upon the baronet's forehead. He had no 
great appreciation of the finer qualities of Vere's 
character, but as she was still his niece, and the 
daughter of the elder brother of the house, it 
had been an offence to mention her name in a 
talk like this. To think that the sight of Vere 
should have touched the heart of an old myso- 
gynist, for Reuben was a professed woman- 
hater, was in itself insufferable to him. Why 
had he not managed to send the girl away from 
home : why should he be compelled to submit to 
such an indignity ? 

' Impossible,' he said, when he was able to 
speak. ' You do not even know ray niece.' 

' Oh, don't trouble about that,' answered 
Reuben, with a vague sense of disappointment 
at the cold scrutiny of the baronet's gaze. 
' I've heerd a lot o' the lass, and ha' had mere 
than one peep at her, and it 'ud go against me 
if she was to be left unprovided-for.' 

And he rubbed his hands together with a 
pleasant glow of generosity which was quite a 
new sensation to him. 

Sir Ralph groaned. It was as if a bombshell 



MR. NOBODY. 307 

Lad fallen at his feet. He had preserved his 
dignity sufficiently to prevent his start from 
being noticeable. But he was no longer erect 
and poker-like. His cheeks and brow were 
flushed. 

'Disreputable!' he muttered, beneath his 
breath. And then, clutching his chair with 
both his hands, he smiled blandly into Reuben's 
face, recognising that the more he betrayed his 
mortification or showed any excitement of feel- 
ing the calmer would his inquisitor become, and 
the more inexorable in tightening the torture- 
screw. 

' You had better think of it/ he said, as he 
rose to leave. It seemed to him that the ad- 
vantage of the proposal might be supposed to 
be on his side. 

( Give me some days for reflection — the thing 
strikes me as so extraordinary — so foreign to 
our English customs. I think you have no 
right to propose anything of the kind. "Why 
bring my niece's name into the question V 

1 1 wish her nothing but good. I wouldn't 
hurt a hair of her pretty head if it were ever so. 



308 MR. NOBODY. 

It's not as if she'd have to many my lad 
straight off the reel. Give 'em time, that's 
what I say ; it's my belief they were made for 
each other.' 

Sir Ralph winced as if from a physical blow, 
and then remembered that ruin and misery, not 
to say starvation and humiliation, seemed to 
stare him in the face, and that the critical 
emergency could no longer be tided over. 

1 If only the man were a gentleman, and not 
such a horrible cad.' 

He shook hands with him, nevertheless, try- 
ing to master the indignation and astonishment 
which were still betrayed by his eyes. 

1 It means thousands — I might almost say 
millions. There are folk who talk against 
money — braying like asses a meaningless bray 
— when they forget all that it has done to 
benefit the human race. It means in this case 
that I shall be set free from the curse of my 
wearing anxieties — free to feel the pure air of 
heaven blowing round me again without any of 
those carking cares/ he said to himself, sitting 
still for hours after Reuben had left him. 



MR. NOBODY. 309 

Whilst Mr. Sellwood — well pleased with his 
evening's work, and with unruffled features 
which told of nothing that had taken place — 
had endured to be dismissed with a royal 
1 Leave me,' was walking home with a con- 
viction that his banishment could not last 
long. 



END OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



LONDON : PRINTED BY DUNCAN MACDONALD, BLENHEIM HOUSE 



\v