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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS LIBRARY AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
SIR CHARLES DANVERS
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"THE DANVERS JEWELS."
" Es ist eine alte Geschichte."
IN TWO VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
^ubltsfjcts in ©rtrinarg to $?cr Jftajrstg tfjc <&uftn,
(All rights reserved.)
C 4T4 s
SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Dear heart, Miss Ruth, my dear, now
don't ye be a-going yet, and me that hasn't
set eyes on ye this month and more, and as
hardly hears a body speak from morning till
"Come, come, Mrs. Eccles, I am always
rinding people sitting here. I expect to see
the latch go every minute."
"Well, and if they do, and some folks are
always a-dropping in, and a-setting theirselves
down, and a clack-clacking till a body can't
get a bit of peace ! And the things they
say! Eh! Miss Ruth, the things I have
VOL. I. T
2 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
heard folks say, a-setting as it might be
there, in poor Eccles his old chair by the
chimley, as the Lord took him in."
To the uninitiated, Mrs. Eccles' allusion
might have seemed to refer to photography.
But Ruth knew better ; a visitation from the
Lord being synonymous in Slumberleigh
parish with a fall from a ladder, a stroke of
paralysis, or the midnight cart-wheel that
disabled Brown when returning late from
the Blue Dragon "not quite hisself."
"Lor!" resumed Mrs. Eccles, with an
extensive sigh, " there's a deal of talk in the
village now," glancing inquisitively at her
visitor, " about him as succeeds to old Mr.
Dare ; but I never listen to their tales."
They made a pleasant contrast to each
other, the neat old woman, with her shrewd
spectacled eyes and active hard-worked
fingers, and the young girl, tranquil, graceful,
sitting in the shadow, with her slender un-
gloved hands in her lap.
They were not sitting in the front parlour,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 3
because Ruth was an old acquaintance ; but
Mrs. Eccles had a front parlour — a front
parlour with the bottled-up smell in it peculiar
to front parlours ; a parlour with a real
mahogany table, on which photograph albums
and a few select volumes were symmetrically
arranged round an inskstand, nestling in a
very choice woolwork mat ; a parlour with
wax flowers under glass shades on the
mantel-piece, and an avalanche of paper roses
and mixed paper herbs in the fireplace.
Ruth knew that sacred apartment well.
She knew the name of each of the books ;
she had expressed a proper admiration for
the wax flowers ; she had heard, though she
might have forgotten, for she was but young,
the price of the " real Brussels " carpet, and
so she might safely be permitted to sit in
the kitchen, and watch Mrs. Eccles darning
her son's socks.
I am almost afraid Ruth liked the kitchen
best, with its tiled floor and patch of after-
noon sun ; with its tall clock in the corner,
4 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
its line of straining geraniums in the low win-
dow-shelf, and its high mantel-piece crowned
by two china dogs with red lozenges on
them, holding baskets in their mouths.
"Yes, a deal of talk there is, but nobody
rightly seems to know anything for certain,"
continued Mrs. Eccles, spreading out her
hand in the heel of a fresh sock, and
pouncing on a modest hole. " Ye see,
we never gave a thought to him y with
that great hearty Mr. George, his eldest
brother, to succeed when the old gentleman
went. And such a fine figure of a man in
his clothes as poor Mr. George used to be,
and such a favourite with his old uncle !
And then to be took like that, horseback
riding at polar, only six weeks after the old
gentleman ! But I can't hear as anybody's
set eyes on his half-brother as comes in for
the property now. He never came to
Vandon in his uncle's lifetime. They say
old Mr. Dare couldn't bide the French
madam as his brother took when his first
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 5
wife died — a foreigner, with black curls ; it
wasn't likely. He was always partial to Mr.
George, and he took him up when his father
died ; but he never would have anything to
say to this younger one, bein' nothin' in the
world, so folks say, but half a French, and
black, like his mother. I wonder now "
began Mrs. Eccles tentatively, with her
usual love of information.
" I wonder now," interposed Ruth quietly,
" how the rheumatism is getting on ? I saw
you were in church on Sunday evening. "
" Yes, my dear," began Mrs. Eccles, readily
diverted to a subject of such interest as her-
self. " Yes, I always come to the evening
service now, though I won't deny as the
rheumatics are very pinching at times. But,
dear Lord ! I never come up to the stalls
near the chancel, so you ain't likely to see
me. To see them Harrises always a-goin'
up to the very top, it does go agen me. I
don't say as it's everybody as ought to take
the lowest place. The Lord knows I'm
6 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
not proud, but I won't go into them chairs
down by the font myself; but to see them
Harrises that to my certain knowledge hasn't
a bite of butcher's meat in their heads but
onst a week, a-settin theirselves up "
" Now, Mrs. Eccles, you know perfectly
well all the seats are free in the evening."
" And so they may be, Miss Ruth, my
dear — and don't ye be a-getting up yet — and
good Christians, I'm sure, the quality are to
abide it. And it did my heart good to hear
the Honourable John preaching as he did
in his new surplice (as Widder Pegg always
puts too much blue in the surplices to my
thinking), all about rich and poor, and one
with another. A beautiful sermon it was.
But I wouldn't come up like they Harrises.
There's things as is suitable, and there's
things as is not. No, I keep to my own
place; and I had to turn out old Bessie
Pugh this very last Sunday night, as I found
a-cocked up there, tho' I was not a matter
of five minutes late. Bessie Pugh always
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 7
was one to take upon herself, and, as I often
says to her, when I hear her a-goin' on about
free grace and the like, ' Bessie,' I says, 'if
I was a widder on the parish, and not so
much as a pig to fat up for Christmas, and
coming to church reg'lar on Loaf Sunday,
which it's not that I ain't sorry for ye, but
/ wouldn't take upon myself, if I was you, to
talk of things as I'd better leave to them as
is beholden to nobody and pays their rent
reg'lar. I've no patience But eh, dear
Miss Ruth ! look at that gentleman going
down the road, and the dog too. Why, ye
haven't so much as got up. He's gone.
He was a foreigner, and no mistake. Why,
good Lord ! there he is coming back again.
He's seen me through the winder. Mercy
on us ! he's opening the gate ; he's coming
to the door."
As she spoke, a shadow passed before the
window, and some one knocked.
Mrs. Eccles hastily thrust her darning-
needle into the front of her boddice, the
8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
general rendezvous of the pins and needles
of the establishment, and proceeded to open
the door and plant herself in front of it.
Ruth caught a glimpse of an erect light-
grey figure in the sunshine, surmounted by a
brown face, and the lightest of light-grey
hats. Close behind stood a black poodle of
a dignified and self-engrossed deportment,
wearing its body half shaved, but break-
ing out in ruffles round its paws, and a
tuft at the end of a stiffly undemonstrative
" The key of the church is kep' at Joneses
by the pump," said Mrs. Eccles, in the
brusque manner peculiar to the freeborn
Briton when brought in contact with a
" Thank you, madam," was the reply, in
the most courteous of tones, and the grey hat
was off in a moment, showing a very dark,
cropped head, "but I do not look for the
church. I only ask for the way to the house
of the pastor, Mr. Alwynn."
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 9
Mrs. Eccles gave full and comprehensive
directions in a very high key, accompanied
by much gesticulation, and then the grey hat
was replaced, and the grey figure, followed
by the black poodle, marched down the little
garden path again, and disappeared from
Mrs. Eccles drew a long breath, and
turned to her visitor again.
" Well, my dear, and did ye ever see the
like of that ? And his head, Miss Ruth !
Did ye take note of his head ? Not so much
as a shadder of a parting. All the same all
the way over ; and asking the way to the
Rectory. Why, you ain't never going yet ?
Well, good-bye, my dear, and God bless ye !
And now," soliloquized Mrs. Eccles, as Ruth
finally escaped, " I may as well run across to
Joneses, and see if they know anything about
the gentleman, and if he's put up at the
It was a glorious July afternoon, but it
lO SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
was hot. The roads were white, and the
tall hedgerows grey with dust. A waggon-
load of late hay, with a swarm of children
just out from school careering round it, was
coming up the road in a dim cloud of dust.
Ruth, who had been undecided which way to
take, beat a hasty retreat towards the church-
yard, deciding that, if she must hesitate, to
do so among cool tombstones in the shade.
She glanced up at the church clock, as she
selected her tombstone under one of the
many yew trees in the old churchyard.
Half-past four, and already an inner voice
was suggesting tea ! To miss live o'clock
tea on a thirsty afternoon like this was not
to be thought of for a moment. She had
no intention of going back to tea at Ather-
stone, where she was staying with her cousins,
Mr. and Mrs. Danvers. Two alternatives
remained. Should she go to Slumberleigh
Hall close by, and see the Thursbys, who
she knew had all returned from London
yesterday, or should she go across the fields
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 I
to Slumberleigh Rectory, and have tea with
Uncle John and Aunt Fanny ?
She knew that Sir Charles Danvers, Ralph
Danvers's eldest brother, was expected at
Atherstone that afternoon. His aunt, Lady
Mary Cunningham, was also staying there,
partly with a view of meeting him. Ralph
Danvers had not seen his brother or Lady
Mary her nephew for some time, and, judging
by the interest they seemed to feel in his
visit, Ruth had determined not to interrupt a
family meeting, in which she imagined she
might be dc trop.
" My fine tact," she thought, "will enable
them to have a quiet talk among themselves
till nearly dinner-time. But I must not
neglect myself any longer. The Hall is the
nearest, and the drive is shady ; but, to put
against that, Mabel will insist on showing 1
me her new gowns, and Mrs. Thursby will
make her usual remarks about Aunt Fanny.
No ; in spite of that burning expanse of
glebe, I will go to tea at the Rectory. I
12 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
have not seen Uncle John for a week, and —
who knows ? — perhaps Aunt Fanny may be
So the gloves were put on, the crisp white
dress shaken out, the parasol put up, and
Ruth took the narrow church path across the
fields up to Slumberleigh Rectory.
For many years since the death of her
parents, Ruth Deyncourt had lived with
her grandmother, a wealthy, witty, and wise
old lady, whose house had been considered
one of the pleasantest in London by those
to whom pleasant houses are open.
Lady Deyncourt, a beauty in her youth, a
beauty in middle life, a beauty in her old
age, had seen and known all the marked
men of the last two generations, and had
reminiscences to tell which increased in point
and flavour, like old wine, the longer they
were kept. She had frequented as a girl the
Miss Berrys' drawing-room, and people were
wont to say that hers was the nearest ap-
proach to a salon which remained after the
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS, I 3
Miss Berrys disappeared. She had married
a grave politician, a rising man, whom she
had pushed into a knighthood, and at one
time into the ministry. If he had died
before he could make her the wife of a
premier, the disappointment had not been
without its alleviations. She had never
possessed much talent for domestic life, and,
the yoke once removed, she never felt the
least inclination to take it upon herself again.
As a widow, her way through life was one
long triumphal procession. She had daugh-
ters, dull, tall, serious girls, with whom she
had nothing in common, whom she educated
well, brought out, laced in, and then married,
one after another, relinquishing the last with
the utmost cheerfulness, and refusing the
condolences of friends on her lonely position
with her usual frankness.
But her son, her only son, she had loved.
He was like her, and understood her, and
was at ease with her, as her daughters had
never been. The trouble of her life was
14 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
the death of her son. She got over it, as
she got over everything ; but when several
years afterwards his widow, with whom, it is
hardly necessary to say, she was not on
speaking terms, suddenly died (being a faint-
hearted, feeble creature), Lady Deyncourt
immediately took possession of her grand-
children — a boy and two girls — and pro-
ceeded as far as in her lay to ruin the boy
"A woman," she was apt to remark in
after-years, " is not intended by nature to
manage any man except her husband. I am
a warning to the mothers, aunts, and grand-
mothers, particularly the grandmothers, of
the future. A husband is a sufficient field
for the employment of a woman's whole
energies. I went beyond my sphere, and I
And when Raymond Deyncourt finally
disappeared in America for the last time,
having been fished up therefrom on several
occasions, each time in worse case than the
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 5
last, she excommunicated him, and cheerfully
altered her will, dividing the sixty thousand
pounds she had it in her power to leave
between her two granddaughters, and letting
the fact become known, with the result that
Anna was married by the end of her second
season ; and if at the end of five seasons
Ruth was still unmarried, she had, as Lady
Deyncourt took care to inform people, no
one to thank for it but herself.
But in reality, now that Anna was provided
for, Lady Deyncourt was in no hurry to part
with Ruth. She liked her as much as it was
possible for her to like any one — indeed, I
think she even loved her in a way. She
had taken but small notice of her while she
was in the schoolroom, for she cared little
about girls as a rule ; but as she grew up tall,
erect, with the pale, stately beauty of a lily,
Lady Deyncourt's heart went out to her.
None of her own daughters had been so dis-
tinguished-looking, so ornamental. Ruth's
clothes always looked well on her, and she
1 6 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
had a knack of entertaining people, and much
taste in the arrangement of flowers. Though
she had inherited the Deyncourt earnestness
of character, together with their dark serious
eyes and a certain annoying rigidity as to
rieht and wrone, these defects were counter-
balanced by flashes of brightness and humour
which reminded Lady Deyncourt of herself
in her own brilliant youth, and inclined her
tc be lenient, when in her daughters' cases
she would have been sarcastic. The old
woman and the young one had been great
friends, and not the less so perhaps because
of a tacit understanding which existed between
them that certain subjects should be avoided
upon which, each instinctively felt, they were
not likely to agree. And if the shrewd old
woman of the world ever suspected the
existence of a strength of will and depth of
character in Ruth, such as had in her own
early life been a source of annoyance and
perplexity to herself in her dealings with her
husband, she was skilful enough to ignore
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 7
any traces of it that showed themselves in
her granddaughter, and thus avoided those
collisions of will, the result of which she felt
might have been doubtful.
And so Ruth had lived a life full of varied
interests, and among interesting people, and
had been woke up suddenly in a grey and
frosted dawn to find that chapter of her life
closed. Lady Deyncourt, who never thought
of travelling without her maid and footman,
suddenly went on a long journey alone one
wild January morning, starting without any
previous preparation for a land in which she
had never professed much interest hereto-
fore. It seemed a pity that she should have
to die when she had so thoroughly acquired
the art of living with little trouble to her-
self, and much pleasure to others ; but so it
And then in Ruth's confused remembrance
of what followed, all the world seemed to
have turned to black and grey. There was
no colour anywhere, where all had been
VOL. I. 2
1 8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
colour before. Miles of black cloth and
crape seemed to extend before her ; black
horses came and stamped black hoof-marks
in the snow before the door. Endless
arraneements had to be made, endless letters
to be written. Something was carried
heavily downstairs all in black, scoring the
wall at the turn on the stairs in a way which
would have annoyed Lady Deyncourt ex-
ceedingly if she had been there to see it, but
she had left several days before it happened.
The last pale shadow of the kind, gay little
grandmother was gone from the great front
bedroom upstairs. Mr. Alwynn, one of
Ruth's uncles, came up from the country and
went to the funeral, and took Ruth away after-
wards. Her own sister Anna was abroad
with her husband, her brother Raymond had
not been heard of for years. As she drove
away from the house, and looked up at the
windows with wide tearless eyes, she suddenly
realized that this departure was final, that
there would be no coming back, no home left
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 9
for her in the familiar rooms where she and
another had lived so lonor together.
Uncle John was by her side in the carriage,
patting her cold hands and telling her not to
cry, which she felt no inclination to do ; and
then, seeing the blank pallor in her face, he
suddenly found himself fumbling for his own
20 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
On this particular July afternoon, Mr„
Alwynn, or, as his parishioners called him,
" The Honourable John," was sitting in his
arm-chair in the little drawing-room of
Slumberleigh Rectory. Mrs. Honourable
John was pouring out tea ; and here, once
and for all, let it be known that meals, par-
ticularly five o'clock tea, will occupy a large
place in this chronicle, not because of any
importance especially attaching to them, but
because in the country, at least in Slumber-
leigh, the day is not divided by hours but by
the meals that take place therein, and to
write of Slumberleieh and its inhabitants
with disregard to their divisions of time is
" impossible, and cannot be done."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2 1
So I repeat boldly, Mr. and Mrs. Alwynn
were at tea. They were alone together, for
they had no children, and Ruth Deyncourt,
who had been living with them since her
grandmothers death in the winter, was now
staying with her cousin, Mrs. Ralph Danvers,
at Atherstone, a couple of miles away.
If it had occasionally crossed Mr. Alvvynn's
mind during the last few months that he
would have liked to have a daughter like
Ruth, he had kept the sentiment to himself,
as he did most sentiments in the company of
his wife, who, while she complained of his
habit of silence, made up for it nobly herself
at all times and in all places. It had often
been the subject of vague wonder among his
friends, and even at times to Mr. Alwynn
himself, how he had come to marry " Fanny,
Mr. Alwynn dearly loved peace and quiet,
but these dwelt not under the same roof
with Mrs. Alwynn. Nay, I even believe, if
the truth were known, he liked order and
2 2 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
tidiness, judging by the exact arrangement of
his own study, and the rueful glances he
sometimes cast at the litter of wools and
letters on the newspaper table, and the gay
garden hats and goloshes, hidden but not
concealed, under the drawing-room sofa.
Conversation about the dearness of butchers'
meat and the enormities of servants palled
upon him, I think, after a time, but he had
taken his wife's style of conversation for
better for worse when he took her gaily
dressed self under those ominous conditions,
and he never showed impatience. He loved
his wife, but I think it grieved him when
smart-coloured glass vases were strewn
among the cherished bits of old china and
enamel which his soul loved. He did not
like chromo-lithographs or the framed photo-
graphs, which Mrs. Alwynn called her
" momentums of travel," among his rare old
prints either. He bore them, but after their
arrival in company with large and inappro-
priate nails, and especially after the cut glass
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 23
candlesticks appeared on the drawing-room
chimney-piece, he ceased to make his little
occasional purchases of old china and old
silver. The curiosity shops knew him no
more, or if he still at times brought home
some treasure in his hat-box on his return
from Convocation, it was unpacked and
examined in private, and a little place was
made for it among the old Chelsea figures on
the bookcase in his study, which had stood
ever since he had inherited them from his
father on the drawing-room mantel-piece, but
had been silently removed when a pair of
comic china elephants playing on violins had
appeared in their midst.
Mr. Alwynn sighed a little when he looked
at them this afternoon, and shook his head ;
for had he not brought back in his empty
soup tin an old earthenware cow of Dutch
extraction which he had lono: coveted on the
shelf of a parishioner ? He had bought it
very dear, for when in all his life had he
ever bought anything cheap ? And now, as
24 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
he was tenderly wiping a suspicion of beef-
tea off it, he wondered, as he looked round
his study, where he could put it. Not among
the old oriental china, where bits of Wedg-
wood had already elbowed in for want of
room elsewhere. Among his Lowestoft cups
and saucers ? Never. He would rather
not have it than see it there. He had a
vision of a certain bracket, discarded from the
hall, and put aside by his careful hands in
the lowest drawer of the cupboard by the
window, in which he kept little stores of
nails and string and brown paper, among
which " Fanny, my love " performed fearful
ravages when minded to tie up a parcel.
Mr. Alwynn nailed up the bracket under
an old etching, and placed the cow thereon,
and, after contemplating it over his spectacles,
went into the drawing-room to tea with his
Mrs. Alwynn was a stout, florid, good-
humoured looking woman, with a battered
fringe, considerably younger than her husband
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 25
in appearance, and with a tendency to bright
colours in dress.
" Barnes is very poorly, my dear," said
Mr. Alwynn, patiently fishing out one of the
lumps of sugar which his wife had put in his
tea. He took one lump, but she took two
herself, and consequently always gave him
two. " I should say a little strong soup
At this juncture the front door-bell rang,
and a moment afterwards "Mr. Dare" was
The erect, light-grey figure which had
awakened the curiosity of Mrs. Eccles came
in close behind the servant. Mrs. Alwynn
received a deep bow in return for her look
of astonishment ; and then, with an eager
exclamation, the visitor had seized both Mr.
Alwynn's hands, regardless of the neatly
folded slice of bread-and-butter in one of
them, and was shaking them cordially.
Mr. Alwynn looked for a moment as
astonished as his wife, and the blank, depre-
26 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
eating glance he cast at his visitor showed
that he was at a loss.
The latter let go his hands, and spread his
own out with a sudden gesture.
"Ah! you do not know me," he said,
speaking rapidly ; " it is twenty years ago,
and you have forgotten. You do not re-
member Alfred Dare, the little boy whom
you saw last in sailing costume, the little boy
for whom you ^cut the whistles, the son of
your old friend, Henry Dare ? "
" Good gracious !" ejaculated Mr. Alwynn,
with a sudden flash of memory. " Henry's
other son. I remember now. It is Alfred,
and I remember the whistles too. You have
your mother's eyes. And, of course, you
have come to Vandon now that your poor
brother We have all been wondering
when you would turn up. My dear boy, I re-
member you perfectly now ; but it is a long
time ago, and you have changed very much."
" Between eight years and twenty-eight
there is a great step," replied Dare, with a
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2 J
brilliant smile. " How could I expect that
you should remember all at once ? But you
are not changed. I knew you the first
moment. It is the same kind, good face
which I remember well."
Mr. Alwynn blushed a faint blush, which
any word of praise could always call up ; and
then, reminded of the presence of Mrs.
Alwynn by a short cough, which that lady
always had in readiness wherewith to recall
him to a sense of duty, he turned to her
and introduced Dare.
Dare made another beautiful bow ; and
while he accepted a cup of tea from Mrs.
Alwynn, Mr. Alwynn had time to look
attentively at him with his mild grey eyes.
He was a slight, active-looking young man
of middle height, decidedly un-English in
appearance and manner, with dark, roving
eyes, moustaches very much twirled up, and
a lean brown face that was exceedingly
handsome in a style to which Mr. Alwynn
was not accustomed.
28 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
And this was Henry Dare's second son,
the son by his French wife, who had been
brought up abroad, of whom no one had
ever heard or cared to hear, who had now
succeeded, by his half-brother's sudden death,
to Vandon, a property adjoining Slumber-
The eager foreign face was becoming
familiar to Mr. Alwynn. Dare was like his
mother ; but he sat exactly as Mr. Alwynn
had seen his father sit many a time in that
very chair. The attitude was the same.
Ah ! but that flourish of the brown hands !
How unlike anything Henry would have
done ! And those sudden movements ! He
was roused by Dare turning quickly to him
" I am telling Mrs. Alwynn of my journey
here," he began ; " of how I miss my train ;
of how I miss my carriage, sent to meet me
from the inn ; of how I walk on foot up the
long hills ; and when I get there, they think
I am no longer coming. I arrived only last
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 29
night at Vandon. To-day I walk over to
see my old friend at Slumberleigh."
Dare leant forward, laying the tips of his
fingers lightly against his breast.
" You seem to have had a good deal of
walking," said Mr. Alwynn, rather taken
aback, but anxious to be cordial ; " but, at
any rate, you will not walk back. You must
stay the night now you are here, mustn't he,
Dare was delighted — beaming. Then his
face became overcast. His eyebrows went
up. He shook his head. Mr. and Mrs.
Alwynn were most kind — but — he became
more and more dejected — a bag, a simple
It could be sent for.
Ah ! Mr. Alwynn was too good. He
revived again. He showed his even white
teeth. He was about to resume his tea,
when suddenly a tall white figure came lightly
in through the open French window, and a
clear voice began —
3<D SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Oh, Uncle John, there is such a heathen
of a black poodle making excavations in the
flower-beds ! Do "
Ruth stopped suddenly as her eyes fell
upon the stranger. Dare rose instinctively.
"This is Mr. Dare, Ruth," said Mr.
Alwynn. " He has just arrived at Vandon."
Ruth bowed. Dare surpassed himself,
and was silent. All his smiles and flow of
small talk had suddenly deserted him. He
began patting his dog, which had followed
Ruth indoors, and a moment of constraint
fell upon the little party.
" She is shy," said Dare to himself. " She
is adorably shy."
Ruth's quiet, self-possessed voice dispelled
that pleasing illusion.
" I have had a very exhausting afternoon
with Mrs. Eccles, Aunt Fanny, and I have
come to you for a cup of tea before I go
back to Atherstone."
" Why did you walk so far this hot after-
noon, my dear ; and how are Mrs. Danvers
SIR CHARLES DANYERS. 3 1
and Lady Mary ; and is any one else staying
there ; and, my dear, are the dolls finished ? "
" They are," said Ruth. " They are all
outrageously fashionable. Even Molly is
satisfied. There is to be a school-feast here
to-morrow," she added, turning to Dare, who
appeared bewildered at the turn the con-
versation was taking. " All our energies for
the last fortnight have been brought to bear
on dolls. We have been dressing dolls
morning, noon, and night."
" When is it to be, this school-feast ?" said
Dare eagerly. " I will buy one, three dolls."
After a lengthy explanation from Mrs.
Alwynn as to the nature of a school-feast as
distinct from a bazaar, Ruth rose to go, and
Mr. Alwynn offered to accompany her part
of the way.
" And so that is the new Mr. Dare about
whom we have all been speculating," she
said, as they strolled across the fields together.
"He is not like his half-brother."
" No ; he seems to be entirely a French-
32 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
man. You see, he was educated abroad, and
that makes a great difference. He was a
very nice little boy twenty years ago. I
hope he will turn out well, and do his duty
by the place."
The neighbouring property of Vandon,
with its tumbledown cottages, its neglected
people, and hard agent, were often in Mr.
" Oh, Uncle John, he will, he must ! You
must help him and advise," said Ruth eagerly.
"He ought to stay and live on the place, and
look into things for himself."
" I am afraid he will be poor," said Mr.
"Anyhow, he will be richer than he was
before," urged Ruth, "and it is his duty to
do something for his own people."
When Ruth had said it was a duty, she
imagined, like many another young soul
before her, that nothing remained to be said,
having yet to learn how much beside often
remained to be done.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 33
"We shall see," said Mr. Alwynn, who
had seen something of his fellow-creatures ;
and they walked on together in silence.
The person whose duty Ruth had been
discussing so freely, looked after the two
retreating figures till they disappeared, and
then turned to Mrs. Alwynn.
"You and Mr. Alwynn also go to the
school-feast to-morrow ?"
Mrs. Alwynn, a little nettled, explained
that of course she went, that it was her own
school-feast, that Mrs. Thursby at the Hall
had nothing to do with it. (Dare did not
know who Mrs. Thursby was, but he listened
with great attention.) She, Mrs. Alwynn,
gave it herself. Her own cook, who
had been with her five years, made the
cakes, and her own donkey- cart conveyed
the same to the field where the repast was
"Miss Deyncourt, will she be there?"
Mrs. Alwynn explained that all the neigh-
VOL. I. X
34 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
bourhood, including the Thursbys, would be
there ; that she made a point of asking the
" I also will come," said Dare gravely.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 35
Atherstone was a rambling, old-fashioned,
black-and-white house, half covered with ivy,
standing: in a rambling, old-fashioned garden
— a charming garden, with clipped yews, and
grass paths, and straggling flowers and herbs
growing up in unexpected places. In front
of the house, facing the drawing-room
windows, was a bowling-green, across which,
at this time of the afternoon, the house had
laid a cool green shadow.
Two ladies were sitting under its shelter,
each with her work.
It was hot still, but the shadows were
deepening and lengthening. Away in the
sun, hay was being made and carried, with
crackings of whips and distant voices.
36 SIR CHARLES I) AN VERS.
Beyond the hayfields la)' the silver band of
the river, and beyond again the spire of
Slumberleigh Church and a glimpse among
the trees of Slumberleigh Hall.
" Ralph has started in the dog-cart to
meet Charles. They ought to be here in
half an hour, if the train is punctual," said
She was a graceful woman, with a placid,
gentle face. She might be thirty, but she
looked younger. With her pleasant home,,
and her pleasant husband, and her child to
be mildly anxious about, she might well look
young. She looked particularly so now, as
she sat in her fresh cotton draperies, winding
wool with cool white hands.
The handiwork of some women has a hard
masculine look. If they sew, it is with thick
cotton in some coarse material ; if they knit,
it is with cricket-balls of wool which they
manipulate into wiry stockings and com-
forters. Evelyn's wools, on the contrary,
were always soft, fleecy, liable to weak-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. $7
minded tangles, and to turning after long
periods of time into little feminine futilities
for which it was difficult to divine any
Lady Mary Cunningham, her husband's
aunt, made no immediate reply to her small
remark. Evelyn Danvers was not a little
afraid of that lady, and, in truth, Lady Mary,
with her thin face and commanding manner,
was a very imposing person. Though past
seventy, she sat erect in her chair, her stick
by her side, some elaborate embroidery in
her delicate old ringed hands. Her pale,
colourless eyes were as keen as ever. Her
white hair was covered by a wonderful lace
cap, which no one had ever succeeded in
imitating, that fell in soft lappets and graceful
folds round the severe, dignified face. Molly,
Evelyn's little daughter, stood in great awe
of Lady Mary, who had such a splendid
stick with a silver crook of her very own,
and who made remarks in French in Molly's
presence which that young lady could not
38 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
understand, and felt that it was not intended
she should. She even regarded with a certain
veneration the cap itself, which she had once
met in equivocal circumstances, journeying
with a plait of white hair towards Lady
It was the first time since their marriage,
of which she had not approved, that Lady
Mary had paid a visit to Ralph and Evelyn
at Atherstone. Lady Mary had tried to
marry Ralph in days gone by to a woman
who — but it was an old story and better
forgotten. Ralph had married his first
cousin when he had married Evelyn, and
Lady Mary had strenuously objected to the
match, and had even gone so far as to
threaten to alter certain clauses in her will,
which she had made in favour of Ralph,
her younger nephew, at a time when she
was at da^eers drawn with her eldest
nephew, Charles, now Sir Charles Danvers.
But that was an old story too, and better
SIR CHARLES DANYERS. 39
When Charles succeeded his father some
three years ago, and when after eight years
Molly had still remained an only child,
and one of the wrong kind, of no intrinsic
value to the family, Lady Mary decided that
bygones should be bygones, and became
formally reconciled to Charles, with whom
she had already found it exceedingly incon-
venient, and consequently unchristian, not
to be on speaking terms. As long as he
was the scapegrace son of Sir George
Danvers, her Christian principles remained
in abeyance ; but when he suddenly succeeded
to the baronetcy and Stoke Moreton, the air
of which suited her so well, and, moreover*
to that convenient pied a terre, the house in
Belgrave Square, she allowed feelings, which
she said she had hitherto repressed with
difficulty, their full scope, expressed a Chris-
tian hope that now that he had come to his
estate Charles would put away Bohemian
things, and instantly set to work to find a
suitable wife for him.
40 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
At first Lady Mary felt that the task
which she had imposed upon herself would
(D.V.) be light indeed. Charles received
her overtures with the same courteous
demeanour which had been the chief sting
of their former warfare. He had paid his
creditors no one knew how, for his father
had left nothing to him unentailed ; and once
out of money difficulties, he seemed in no
hurry to plunge into them again. If he had
not as yet thoroughly taken up the life of an
English country gentleman for want of that
necessary adjunct which Lady Mary was so
anxious to supply, at least he lived in
England and in good society. In short,
Lady Mary was fond of telling her friends,
Charles had entirely reformed, hinting at the
same time that she had been the humble
instrument in the hands of an all-wise
Providence which had turned him back into
the way in which the English aristocracy
should walk, and from which he had deviated
so long. But one thing remained — to marry
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 4 1
him. Every one said Charles must marry.
Lady Mary did not say it, but with her
whole soul she meant it. What she intended
to do, she, as a rule, performed ; occasionally
at the expense of those who were little able
to afford it, but still the thing was (always,
of course, by the co-operation of Providence)
done. Ralph certainly had proved an ex-
ception to the rule. He had married Evelyn
against Lady Mary's will, and consequently
without the blessing of Providence. After
that, of course, she had never expected there
would be a son, and with each year her
anxiety to see Charles safely married had
increased. He had seemed so amenable
that at first she could hardly believe that the
steed which she had led to waters of such
divers merit would refuse to drink from any
of them. If rank had no charm for him,
which apparently it had not, she would try
beauty. When beauty failed, even beauty
with money in its hand, Lady Mary hesitated,
and then fell back on goodness. But either
42 SIR CHARLES DANVERSi
the goodness was not good enough, or, as
Lad)- Mary feared, it was not sufficiently
High Church to be really genuine — even
goodness failed. For three years she had
strained every nerve, and at the end of them
she was no nearer the object in view than
when she began.
An inconvenient death of a sister, with
whom she had long since quarrelled about
church matters (and who had now gone
where her folly in differing from Lady Mary
would be fully, if painfully, brought home to
her), had prevented Lady Mary continuing
her designs this year in London. But if
thwarted in one direction, she knew how to
throw her energies into another. The first
words she uttered indicated what that
Evelyn's little remark about the dog-cart,
which had crone to meet Charles, had so
long remained without any response, that she
was about to coin another of about the same
stamp, when Lady Mary suddenly said, with
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 43
a decision that was intended to carry con-
viction to the heart of her companion —
" It is an exceedingly suitable thing."
Evelyn evidently understood what it was
that was so suitable, but she made no reply.
" A few years ago," continued Lady Mary,
" I should have looked higher. I should
have thought Charles might have done
better, but — - — "
"He never could do better than — than,"
said Evelyn, with a little mild flutter. " There
is no one in the world more "
" Yes, yes, my dear, of course, we all know
that," returned the elder lady. " She is
much too eood for him, and all the rest of it.
A few years ago, I was saying, I might not
have regarded it quite in the light I do now.
Charles, with his distinguished appearance
and his position, might have married anybody.
But time passes, and I am becoming seriously
anxious about him ; I am, indeed. He is
eight and thirty. In two years he will be
forty ; and at forty, you never know what a
44 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
man may not do. It is a critical age even
when they are married. Until he is forty, a
man may be led under Providence into form-
ing a connection with a woman of suitable
age and family. After that age he will never
look at any girl out of her teens, and either
perpetrates a folly, or does not marry at all.
If the Danvers family is not to become
extinct, or to be dragged down by a
mdsalliancc, measures must be taken at once."
Evelyn winced at the allusion to the ex-
tinction of the Danvers family, of which
Charles and Ralph were the only repre-
sentatives. She felt keenly having failed to
give Ralph a son, and the sudden smart of
the old hurt added a touch of sharpness to
her usually gentle voice as she said —
" I cannot see what has been left undone."
" No, my dear," said Lady Mary, more
suavely, " you have fallen in with my views
most sensibly. I only hope Ralph "
" Ralph knows nothing about it."
u Quite right. It is very much better he
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 45
should not. Men never can be made to look
at things in their proper light. They have
no power of seeing an inch in front of them.
Even Charles, who is less dense than most
men, has never been allowed to form an idea
of the plans which from time to time I have
made for him. Nothing sets a man more
against a marriage than the idea that it has
been put in his way. They like to think it
is all their own doing, and that the whole
universe will be taken by surprise when the
engagement is given out. Charles is no
exception to the rule. Our duty is to
provide a wife for him, and then allow him
to think his own extraordinary cleverness
found her for himself. How old is this
cousin of yours, Miss Deyncourt ? "
" About three and twenty."
" Exceedingly suitable. Young, and yet
not too young. She is not beautiful, but she
is decidedly handsome, and very high-bred
looking, which is better than beauty. I
know all about her family ; good blood on
46 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
both sides ; no worsted thread. I forget if
there is any money."
This was a pious fraud on Lady Mary's
part, as she was of course aware of the exact
" Lady Deyncourt left her thirty thousand
pounds," said Evelyn unwillingly. She
hated herself for the part she was taking
in her aunt's plans, although she had been
so unable to support her feeble opposition
by any show of reason that it had long
since melted away before the consuming fire
of Lady Mary's determined authority.
" Twelve hundred a year," said that lady.
" I fear Lady Deyncourt was far, very far,
from the truth, but she seems to have made
an equitable will. I am glad Miss Deyn-
court is not entirely without means ; and she
has probably something of her own as well.
The more I see of that girl the more con-
vinced I am that she is the very wife for
Charles. There is no objection to the match
in any way, unless it lies in that disreputable
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 47
brother, who seems to have entirely dis-
appeared. Now, Evelyn, mark my words.
You invited her here at my wish, after I saw
her with that dreadful Alwynn woman at the
flower-show. You will never regret it. I
am seventy-five years of age, and I have
seen something of men and women. Those
two will suit."
" Here comes the dog-cart/' said Evelyn,
with evident relief.
" Where is Miss Deyncourt ? "
" She went off to Slumberleigh, some time
ago. She said she was going to the Rectory,
" It is just as well. Ah ! here is Charles."
A tall, distinguished-looking man in a light
overcoat came slowly round the corner of the
house as she spoke, and joined them on the
lawn. Evelyn went to meet him with evident
affection, which met with as evident a return,
and he then exchanged a more formal greet-
ing with his aunt.
" Come and sit down here," said Evelyn,
48 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
pulling forward a garden chair. " How hot
and tired you look ! "
" I am tired to death, Evelyn. I went to
London in May a comparatively young man.
Aunt Mary said I ought to go, and so, of
course, I went. I have come back not only
sadder and wiser — that I would try to bear
— but visibly aged."
He took off his hat as he spoke, and
wearily pushed back the hair from his fore-
head. Lady Mary looked at him over her
spectacles with grave scrutiny. She had not
seen her nephew for many months, and she
was not pleased with what she saw. His
face looked thin and worn, and she even
feared she could detect a grey hair or two in
the lieht hair and moustache. His tired,
sarcastic eyes met hers.
" I was afraid you would think I had gone
off" he said, half shutting his eyes in the
manner habitual to him. " I fear I took
your exhortations too much to heart, and
overworked myself in the good cause."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 49
" A season is always an exhausting thing,"
said Lady Mary ; " and I dare say London
is very hot now."
" Hot ! It's more than hot. It is a solemn
warning to evildoers ; a foretaste of a future
" I suppose everybody has left town by
this time ? " continued Lady Mary, who
often found it necessary even now to ignore
parts of her nephew's conversation.
" By everybody I know you mean one
family. Yes, they are gone. Left London
to-day. Consequently, I also conveyed my
remains out of town, feeling that I had done
" Where is Ralph ? " asked Evelyn, rising,
dimly conscious that Charles and his aunt
were conversing in an unknown tongue, and
feeling herself de trop.
" I left him in the shrubbery. A stoat
crossed the road before the horse's nose as
we drove up, and Ralph, who seems to have
been specially invented by Providence for
vol. i. 4
50 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
the destruction of small vermin, was in
attendance on it in a moment. I had seen
something of the kind before, so I came on."
Evelyn laid down her work, and went
across the lawn and round the corner of the
house in the direction of the shrubbery, from
which the voice of her lord and master " rose
in snatches," as he plunged in and out among
"And how is Lord Hope Acton?" con-
tinued Lady Mary, with an air of elaborate
unconcern. " I used to know him in old
days as one of the best waltzers in London.
I remember him very slim and elegant-look-
ing ; but I suppose he is quite elderly now,
and has lost his figure, or so some one was
saying ? "
" Not lost, but gone before, I should say,
to judge by appearances," said Charles
meditatively, gazing up into the blue of the
The mixed impiety and indelicacy of her
nephew's remark caused a sudden twitch to
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 5 I
the High Church embroidery in Lady Mary's
hand ; but she went on a moment later in her
" And Lady Hope Acton ? Is she in
stronger health ? "
(( I believe she was fairly well ; not robust,
you know, but, like other fond mothers with
daughters out, ' faint yet pursuing.' "
Lady Mary bit her lip; but long experience
had taught her that it was wiser to refrain
from reproof, even when it was so urgently
" And their daughter, Lady Grace ? How
beautiful she is ! Was she looking as lovely
as usual ? "
" More so," replied Charles with con-
viction. " Her nose is even straighter, her
eyelashes even longer than they were last
summer. I do not hesitate to say that her
complexion is all that her fancy paints it."
" You are so fond of joking, Charles, that
I don't know when you are serious. And
you saw a good deal of her ? "
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
52 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Of course I did. I leant on railings in
the Row, and watched her riding with Lord
Hope Acton, whose personal appearance
you feel such an interest in. At the meeting
of the four-in-hands, was not she on the box-
seat beside me ? At Henley, were we not in
the same boat ? At Hurlingham, did we not
watch polo together, and together drink our
tea ? At Lord's, did not I tear her new
muslin garment in helping her up one of
those poultry ladders on the Torringtons'
drae ? Have I not taken her into dinner
five several times ? Have I not danced
with her at balls innumerable ? Have I not,
in fact, seen as much of her as — of several
others ? "
" Oh, Charles ! " said Lady Mary, " I wish
you would talk seriously for one moment,
and not in that light way. Have you
"In a light way, I should say I had spoken
a good deal ; but, seriously — No. I have
never ventured to be serious."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 53
" But you will be. After all this, you will
ask her ? "
" Aunt Mary," replied Charles, with gentle
reproach, ''a certain delicacy should be
observed in probing the exact state of a
man's young affections. At five and thirty
(I know I am five and thirty, because you
have told people so for the last three years),
there exists a certain reticence in the youthful
heart which declines to lay bare its inmost
feelings even for an aunt to — we won't say
peck at, but — speculate upon. I have told
you all I know. I have done what I was
bidden to do, up to a certain point. I am
now here to recruit, and restore my wasted
energies, and possibly to heal (observe, I say
possibly) my wounded affections in the
intimacy of my family circle. That reminds
me, that little ungrateful imp Molly has not
yet made the slightest demonstration of joy
at my arrival. Where is she ?" and without
waiting for an answer, which he was well
aware would not be forthcoming, Charles
54 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
rose and strolled towards the house with his
hands behind his back.
" Molly ! " he called. " Molly ! " standing
bareheaded in the sunshine, under a certain
latticed window, the iron bars of which
suggested a nursery within.
There was a sudden answering cackle of
delight, and a little brown head was thrust
out amid the ivy.
" Come down this very moment, you little
hard-hearted person, and embrace your old
"I'm comin', Uncle Charles, I'm comin' ; "
and the brown head disappeared, and a few
seconds later a white frock and two slim
black legs rushed round the corner, and
Molly precipitated herself against the waist-
coat of " Uncle Charles."
" What do you mean by not coming down
and paying your respects sooner ? " he said,
when the first enthusiasm of his reception
was over, looking down at Molly with a
great kindness in the keen light eyes which
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 55
had looked so apathetic and sarcastic a
As he spoke, Ralph Danvers, a square,
ruddy man in grey knickerbockers, came
triumphantly round from the shrubbery, hold-
ing by its tail a minute corpse with out-
stretched arms and legs.
" Got him ! " he said, smiling, and wiping
his brow with honest pride. " See, Charles ?
See, Molly ? Got him ! "
" Don't bring it here, Ralph, please. We
are going to have tea," came Evelyn's gentle
voice from the lawn ; and Ralph and the
terrier Vic retired to hang the body of the
slain upon a fir tree on the back premises,
the recognized lone home of stoats, and
weasels at Atherstone.
Molly, in the presence of Lady Mary and
the stick with the silver crook, was always
more or less depressed and shy. She felt
the pale cold eye of that lady was upon her,
as indeed it generally was, if she moved or
spoke. She did not therefore join in the
56 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
conversation as freely as was her wont in the
family circle, but sat on the grass by her
uncle, watching him with adoring eyes, trying
to work the signet ring off his big little
finger, which in the memory of man — of
Molly, I mean— had never been known to
work 'off, while she gave him the benefit of
small pieces of local and personal news in
a half whisper from time to time as they
occurred to her.
" Cousin Ruth is staying here, Uncle
" Indeed," said Charles absently.
His eyes had wandered to Evelyn taking
Ralph his cup of tea, and giving him a look
with it which he returned — the quiet grave
look of mutual confidence which sometimes
passes between married people, and which
for the moment makes the single state seem
very single indeed.
Molly saw that he had not heard, and that
she must try some more exciting topic in
order to rivet his attention.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. S7
" There was a mouse at prayers yesterday,
" There wasrit f "
Uncle Charles was attending again now.
Molly gave an exact account of the great
event, and of how " Nanny " had gathered
her skirts round her, and how James had
laughed, only father did not see him, and
how There was a great deal more, and
the story ended tragically for the mouse,
whose final demise under a shovel when
prayers were over Molly described in graphic
11 And how are the guinea pigs ? " asked
Charles, putting down his cup.
" Come and see them," whispered Molly,
insinuating her small hand delightedly into
his big one ; and they went off together, each
happy in the society of the other. Charles
was introduced to the guinea pigs, which had
multiplied exceedingly since he had presented
them, the one named after him being even
then engaged in rearing a large family.
58 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Then, after Molly had copiously watered
her garden, and Charles's unsuspecting boots
at the same time, objects of interest still
remained to be seen and admired ; con-
fidences had to be exchanged ; inner pockets
in Charles's waistcoat to be explored ; and it
was not till the dressing-bell and the shrill
voice of " Nanny" from an upper window
recalled them, that the friends returned
towards the house.
As they turned to go indoors, Charles saw
a tall white figure skimming across the
stretches of low sunshine and long shadow
in the field beyond the garden, and making
swiftly for the garden gate.
" Oh, Molly, Molly!" he said, in a tone of
sudden consternation, squeezing the little
brown hand in his. " Who is that ? "
Molly looked at him astonished. A moment
ago Uncle Charles had been talking merrily,
and now he looked quite sad.
" It's only Ruth," she said reassuringly.
" Who is Ruth ? "
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 59
" Cousin Ruth," replied Molly. " I told
you she was here."
" She's not staying here ? "
" Yes, she is. She is rather nice, only she
says the guinea pigs smell nasty, which isn't
true. She will be late " — with evident con-
cern — " if she is going to be laced up ; and I
know she is, because I saw it on her bed.
She doesn't see us yet. Let us go and meet
" Run along then," said Charles, in a tone
of deep dejection, loosing Molly's hand. " I
think I'll go indoors,"
6o SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Fve done Uncle Charles a button-hole,
and put it in his water-bottle,"^ said Molly, in
an important affaird whisper, as she came
into Ruth's room a few minutes before dinner,
where Ruth and her maid were struggling
with a black-lace dress. " Mrs. Jones, you
must be very quick. Why do you have pins
in your mouth, Mrs. Jones ? James has got
his coat on, and he is going to ring the bell
in one minute. I told him you had only just
got your hair done ; but he said he could not
help that. Uncle Charles," peeping through
the door, " is going down now, and he's got
on a beautiful white waistcoat. He's brought
that nice Mr. Brown with him that unpacks
his things and plays on the concertina. Ah !
there's the bell ; " and Molly hurried down
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 6 1
to give a description of the exact stage at
which Ruth's toilet had arrived, which Ruth
cut short by appearing hard upon her heels.
" It is a shame to come indoors now, isn't
it ? " said Charles, as he was introduced and
took her in to dinner in the wake of Lady
Mary and Ralph. "Just the first cool time
of the day."
" Is it ? " said Ruth, still rather pink with
her late exertions. "When I heard the
dressing-bell ring across the fields, and the
last gate would not open, and I found
the railings through which I precipitated
myself had been newly painted, I own I
thought it had never been so hot all day."
" How trying it is to be forgotten ! " said
Charles, after a pause. " We have met
before, Miss Deyncourt ; but I see you don't
remember me. I gave you time to recollect
me by throwing out that little remark about
the weather ; but it was no good."
Ruth glanced at him and looked puzzled.
" I am afraid I don't," she said at last, " I
62 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
have seen you playing polo once or twice,
and driving your four-in-hand ; but I thought
I only knew you by sight. When did we
meet before ? "
" You have no recollection of a certain
ball after some theatricals at Stoke Moreton
which you and your sister came to, as little
girls in pigtails ? "
" Of course, I remember that. And were
you there ? "
" Was I there ? Oh, the ingratitude of
woman ! Did not I dance three times with
each of you, and suggest chicken at supper
instead of lobster salad ? Does not the
lobster salad awaken memories ? Surely you
have not forgotten that ? "
Ruth began to smile.
" I remember now. So you were the kind
man, name unknown, who took such care
of Anna and me ? How good-natured you
" Thanks ! You evidently do remember
now, if you say that. I recognized you at
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 63
once when I saw you again, by your likeness
to your brother Raymond. You were very
like him then, but much more so now. How
is he ? "
Ruth's dark-grey eyes shot a sudden
surprised glance at him. People had seldom
of late inquired after Raymond.
" I believe he is quite well," she replied
in a constrained tone. " I have not heard
from him for some time."
" It is some years since I met him," said
Charles, noting but ignoring her change of
tone. " I used to see a good deal of him
before he went to — was it America ? I
heard from him about three years ago. He
was prospecting, I think, at that time."
Ruth remembered that Charles had suc-
ceeded his father about three years ago.
She remembered also Raymond's capacities
for borrowing. A sudden instinct told her
what the drift of that letter had been. The
blood rushed into her face.
" Oh ! he didn't— did he ? "
64 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
The other three people were talking
together ; Lady Mary, opposite, was joining
with a bland smile of inward satisfaction
in the discussion between Ralph and Evelyn
as to the rival merits of " Cochin Chinas "
and " Plymouth Rocks."
" If he did," said Charles quietly, " it was
only what we had often done for each other
before. There was a time, Miss Deyncourt,
when your brother and I both rowed in the
same boat; and both, I fancy, split on the
same rock. It is not so long ago since "
There was a sudden silence. The chicken
question was exhausted. It dropped dead.
Charles left his sentence unfinished, and,
turning to his brother, the conversation
In the evening, when the others had said
good night, Charles and Ralph went out
into the cool half-darkness to smoke, and
paced up and down on the lawn in the soft
summer night. The two brothers had not
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 65
met for some time, and in an undemon-
strative way they had a genuine affection
for each other, which showed itself on this
occasion in walking about together without
exchanging a word.
At last Charles broke the silence. " I
thought, when I settled to come down here,
you said you would be alone ? " There was
a shade of annoyance in his tone.
" Well, now, that is just what I said at
the time," said Ralph sleepily, with a yawn
that would have accommodated a Jonah,
"only I was told I did not understand.
They always say I don't understand, if
they're set on anything. I thought you
wanted a little peace and quietness. I said
so ; but Aunt Mary settled we must have
some one. I say, Charles," with a chuckle
of deep masculine cunning, " you just look
out. There's some mystery up about Ruth.
I believe Aunt Mary got Evelyn to ask her
here with an eye to business."
" I would not do Aunt Mary the injustice
VOL. I. 5
66 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
to doubt that for a moment," replied Charles
rather bitterly ; and they relapsed into
silence and smoke.
Presently Ralph, who had been out all
day, yawned himself into the house, and left
Charles to pace up and down by himself.
If Lady Mary, who was at that moment
composing herself to slumber in the best
spare bedroom, had heard the gist of Ralph's
remarks to his brother, I think she would
have risen up and confronted him then and
there on the stairs. As it was, she meditated
on her couch with much satisfaction, until
the sleep of the just came upon her, little
recking that the clumsy hand of brutal man
had even then torn the veil from her carefully
concealed and deeply laid feminine plans.
Charles, meanwhile, remained on the lawn
till late into the night. After two months
of London smuts, and London smoke, and
London nights, the calm scented darkness
had a peculiar charm for him. The few
lights in the windows were going out one
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 6 J
by one, and thousands and thousands were
coming out in the quiet sky. Through the
still air came the sound of a corncrake
perpetually winding up its watch at regular
intervals in a field hard by. A little desultory
breeze hovered near, and just roused the
sleepy trees to whisper a good night. And
Charles paced and paced, and thought of
Only last night ! His mind went back to
the picture-gallery where he and Lady Grace
had sat, amid a grove of palms and flowers.
Through the open archway at a little distance
came a flood of light, and a surging echo of
plaintive, appealing music. It was late, or
rather early, for morning was looking in with
cold, dispassionate eyes through the long
windows. The gallery was comparatively
empty for a London gathering, for the
balconies and hall were crowded, and the
rooms were thinning. To all intents and
purposes they were alone. How nearly —
how nearly he had asked for what he knew
68 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
would not have been refused ! How nearly
he had decided to do at once what nwht
still be put off till to-morrow ! And he must
marry. He often told himself so. She was
there beside him on the yellow brocade
ottoman. She was much too good for him ;
but she liked him. Should he do it ? Now ?
he asked himself, as he watched the slender
gloved hand swaying the feather fan with
But when he took her back to the ball-
room, back to an expectant, tired mother,
he . had not done it. He should be at
their house in Scotland later. He thought
he would wait till then. He breathed a
long sigh of relief in the quiet darkness
now, at the thought that he had not done
it. He had a haunting presentiment, that
neither in the purple heather, any more than
in a London ball-room, would he be able to
pass beyond that " certain point," to which
in divers companionship, with or without
assistance, he had so often attained.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 69
For Charles was genuinely anxious to
marry. He regarded with the greatest
interest every eligible and ineligible young
woman whom he came across. If Lady
Mary had been aware of the very serious
li^ht in which he had considered Miss Louisa
Smith, youngest daughter of a certain curate
Smith, who in his youth had been originally
extracted from a refreshment room at Liver-
pool to become an ornament of the Church,
that lady would have swooned with horror.
But neither Miss Louisa Smith, with her bun
and sandwich ancestry, nor the eighth Lord
Breakwater's young and lovely sister, though
both willing to undertake the situation, were
either of them finally offered it. Charles
remained free as air, and a dreadful stigma
gradually attached to him as a heartless flirt
and a perverter of young girls' minds from
men of more solid worth. A man who
pleases easily and is hard to please soon gets
a bad name among — mothers. I don't think
Lady Hope Acton thought very kindly of
JO SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
him, as she sped up to Scotland in the night
Perhaps he was not so much to blame as
she thought. Long ago, ten long years ago,
in the reckless days of which Lady Mary had
then made so much and now made so little,
poor Charles had been deeply in love with
a good woman, a gentle quiet girl, who after
a time had married his brother Ralph. No
one had suspected his attachment, Ralph and
Evelyn least of all, but several years elapsed
before he found time to visit them at Ather-
stone ; and I think his fondness for Molly
had its origin in his feeling for her mother.
Even now it sometimes gave him a strange
pang to meet the adoration in Molly's eyes,
which, with their dark lashes, she had copied
so exactly from Evelyn's.
And now that he could come with ease on
what had been forbidden ground, he had
seen of late clearly, with the insight that
comes of dispassionate consideration, that
Evelyn, the only woman whom he had ever
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 7 1
earnestly loved, whom he would have turned
heaven and earth to have been able to marry,
had not been in the least suited to him, and
that to have married her would have entailed
a far more bitter disappointment than the
loss of her had been.
Evelyn made Ralph an admirable wife.
She was so placid, so gentle, and — with the
exception of muddy boots in the drawing-
room — so unexactinof. It was sweet to see
her read to Molly, but did she never take up
a book or a paper ? What she said was
always gracefully put forth ; but oh ! in old
days, used she in that same gentle voice to
utter such platitudes, such little stereotyped
remarks ? Used she in the palmy days that
were no more (when she was not Ralph's
wife), so mildly but so firmly to adhere to a
preconceived opinion ? Had she formerly
such fixed opinions on every subject in
general, and on new laid eggs and the
propriety of chicken-hutches on the lawn in
particular ? Disillusion may be for our good,
72 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
like other disagreeable things, but it is seldom
pleasant at the time, and is apt to leave in all
except the most conceited natures (whose life-
long mistakes are committed for our learning)
a strange self- distrustful caution behind, which
is mortally afraid of making a second mistake
of the same kind.
Charles suddenly checked his pacing.
And yet surely, surely, he said to himself,
there were in the world somewhere, good
women of another stamp, who might be found
for diligent seeking.
He turned impatiently to go indoors.
"Oh, Molly, Molly!" he said half aloud,
gazing at the darkened windows behind which
the body of Molly was sleeping, while her
little soul was frisking away in fairyland,
" why did you complicate matters by being
a little girl ? " With which reflection he
brought his meditations to a close for the
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 7$
Molly awoke early on the following morn-
ing, and early informed the rest of the house-
hold that the weather was satisfactory. She
flew into Ruth's room with the hot water, to
wake her and set her mind at rest on a
subject of such engrossing interest ; she im-
parted it repeatedly to Charles through his
keyhole, until a low incoherent muttering
convinced her that he also was rejoicing in
the good news. She took all the dolls out of
the baskets in which Ruth's careful hands
had packed them the evening before, in the
recognized manner in which dolls travel
without detriment to their toilets, namely,
head downwards, with their orange top boots
turned upwards to the sky. In short,
74 > S H< CHARLES DANVERS.
Molly busied herself in the usual ways in
which an only child finds employment.
It really was a glorious day. Except in
Molly's eyes it was almost too good a day
for a school-feast ; too good a day, Ruth
thought, as she looked out, to be spent
entirely in playing at endless games of
" Sally Water" and "Oranges and Lemons,"
and in pouring out sweet tea in a tent. She
remembered a certain sketch at Arleigh, an
old deserted house in the neighbourhood,
which she had long wished to make. What
a day for a sketch ! But she shut her eyes
to the temptation of the evil one, and went
out into the garden, where Molly's little
brown hands were devastating the beds for
the approaching festival, and Molly's shrill
voice was piping through the fresh morning
There had been rain in the night, and
to-day the earth had all her diamonds on,
just sent down reset from heaven. The
trees came out resplendent, unable to keep
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 75
their leaves still for very vanity, and dropping
gems out of their settings at every rustle.
No one had been forgotten. Every tiniest
shrub and plant had its little tiara to show ;
rare jewels cut by a Master Hand, which at
man's rude touch, or, for that matter, Molly's
either, slid away to tears.
" You don't mean to say, Molly," said
Charles, later in the day, when all the dolls
had been passed in review before him, and
he had criticised each, " that you are going
to leave me all day by myself? What shall
I do between luncheon and tea time, when I
have fed the guinea pigs and watered the
' blue-belia,' as you call it ? — Where has that
imp disappeared to now ? I think," with a
glance at Ruth, who was replacing the cotton
wool on the doll's faces, " I really think,
though I own I fancied I had a previous
engagement, that I shall be obliged to come
to the school-feast too."
" Don't," said Ruth, looking up suddenly
from her work with grey serious eyes. " Be
76 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
advised. No man who respects himself
makes himself common].by attending village
school-feasts and attempting to pour out tea,
which he is never allowed to do in private
" I could hand buns," suggested Charles.
" You take a gloomy view of your fellow-
creatures, Miss Deyncourt. I see you under-
rate my powers with plates of buns."
" Far from it. I only wished to keep you
from quitting your proper sphere."
" What, may I ask, is my proper sphere ? "
" Not to come to school-feasts at all ; or, if
you feel that is beyond you, only to arrive
when you are too late to be of any use ; to
stand about with a hunting-crop in your hand
— for, of course, you will come on horseback
—'and then, after refreshing all of us workers
by a few well-chosen remarks, to go away
again at an easy canter."
" I think I could do that, if it would give
pleasure ; and I am most grateful to you for
pointing out my proper course to me. I
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. J J
have observed it is the prerogative of woman
in general not only to be absolutely convinced
as to her own line of action, but also to be
able to point out that of man to his obtuser
" I believe you are perfectly right," said
Ruth, becoming serious. " If men, especially
prime ministers, were to apply to almost any
woman I know (except, of course, myself) for
advice as to the administration of the realm
or their own family affairs, I have not the
slightest doubt that not one of them would
be sent empty away, but would be furnished
instantly with a complete guide-book as to
his future movements on this side the crave."
" Oh, some people don't stop there," said
Charles. " Aunt Mary, in my young days,
used to think nothing of the 'grave if I had
displeased her. She still revels in a future
court of justice, and an eternal cat-o'-nine-tails
beyond the tomb. Well, Molly, so here you
are, back again ! What's the last news ? "
The news was the extraordinary arrival of
78 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
five new kittens, which, according to Molly,
the old stable cat had just discovered in a
loft, and took the keenest personal interest
in. Charles was dragged away only half
acquiescent, to help in a decision that must
instantly be come to, as to which of the two
spotted or the three plain ones should be kept.
It was a day of delight to Molly. She
had the responsibility and honour of driving
Ruth and the dolls in her own donkey-cart
to the scene of action, where the school
children, and some of the idlest or most
good-natured of Mrs. Alwynn's friends, were
even then assembling, and where Mrs. Alwynn
herself was already dashing from point to
point, buzzing like a large " bumble " bee.
As the donkey-cart crawled up, a grey figure
darted out of the tent, and flew to meet them
from afar. Dare, who had been on the look-
out for them for some time, offered to lift out
Molly, helped out Ruth, held the baskets,
wished to unharness the donkey, let the
wheel go over his patent leather shoe, and in
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 79
short made himself excessively agreeable, if
not in Ruth's, at least in Mollys eyes, who
straightway entered into conversation with
him, and invited him to call upon herself and
the guinea pigs at Atherstone at an early date.
Then ensued the usual scene at festivities
of this description. Tea was poured out like
water (very like warm water), buns, cakes,
and bread and butter were eaten, were
crumbled, were put in pockets, were stamped
underfoot. Large open tarts, covered with
thin sticks of pastry, called by the boys " the
tarts with the grubs on 'em," disappeared
apace, being constantly replaced by others
made in the same image, from which the
protecting but adhesive newspaper had to be
judiciously peeled. When the last limit of the
last child had been reached, the real work of
the day began — the games. Under a blazing
sun for the space of two hours "Sally Water"
or " Nuts in May" must be played, with an
occasional change to "Oranges and Lemons."
Ruth, who had before been staying with
80 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
the Alwynns at the time of their school-feast,
hardened her heart and began that immoral
but popular game of " Sally Water."
"Sally, Sally Water, come sprinkle your pan;
Rise up a husband, a handsome young man.
Rise, Sally, rise, and don't look sad,
You shall have a husband, good or bad."
The last line showing how closely the state
of feeling of village society as regards the
wedded state resembles the view taken of it
in the highest circles.
Other games were already in full swing.
Mrs. Alwynn, flushed and shrill, was organiz-
ing an infant troop. A good-natured curate
was laying up for himself treasure else-
where, by a present expenditure of halfpence
secreted in a tub of bran. Dare, not to be
behindhand, took to swinging little girls w r ith
desperate and heated good-nature. His bright
smile and genial brown face soon gained the
confidence of the children ; and then he swung
them as they had never been swung before.
It was positively the first time that some of
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 8 1
the girls had ever seen their heels above
their heads. And his powers of endurance
were so great. First his coat and then his
waistcoat were cast aside as he warmed to
his work, until at last he draped the sleeve
of his shirt out of the socket, and had to
retire into private life behind a tree, in
company with Mrs. Eccles and a needle and
thread. But he reappeared again, and was
soon swept into a game of cricket that was
being got up among the elder boys ; bowled
the schoolmaster ; batted brilliantly and with
considerable nourish for a few moments, only
to knock his own wickets down with what
seemed singular want of care ; and then
fielded with cat-like activity and an entire
oblivion of the game, receiving a swift ball
on his own person, only to choke, coil himself
up, and recover his equanimity and the ball
in a moment.
All things come to an end, and at last the
Slumberleigh church clock struck four, and
vol. i. 6
82 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Ruth could sink giddily on to a bench,
and push back the few remaining hair-
pins that were left to her, and feebly en-
deavour, with a pin eagerly extracted by
Dare from the back of his neck, to join the
gaping ruin of torn gathers in her dress,
so daintily fresh two hours ago, so dilapi-
" There they come," said Mrs. Alwynn
indignantly, who was fanning herself with
her pocket-handkerchief, which stout women
ought to be forbidden by law to do. " There
are Mrs. Thursby and Mabel. Just like
them, arriving when the games are all over !
And, dear me ! who is that with them ?
Why, it is Sir Charles Danvers. I had no
idea he was staying with them. Brown
particularly told me they had not brought
back any friend with them yesterday. Dear
me ! How odd ! And Brown "
" Sir Charles Danvers is staying at Ather-
stone," said Ruth.
" At Atherstone, is he ? Well, my dear,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 8 3
this is the first I have heard of it, if he is.
I don't see what there is to make a secret
of in that. Most natural he should be staying
there, I should have thought. And if that's
one of Mabel's new gowns, all I can say is
that yours is quite as nice, Ruth, though I
know it is from last year, and those full
fronts as fashionable as ever."
As Mr. and Mrs. Alwynn went forward
to meet the Thursbys, Charles strolled up
to Ruth, and planted himself deliberately in
front of her.
" You observe that I am here ? " he said.
" I do."
" At the proper time ? "
" At the proper time."
" And in my sphere ? I have tampered
with no buns, you will remark, and teapots
have been far from me."
" I am rejoiced my little word in season
has been of such use."
" It has, Miss Deyncourt. The remark
you made this morning I considered honest,
84 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
though poor ; and I laid it to heart accord-
ingly. But," with a change of tone, " you
look tired to death. You have been out in
the sun too long. I am going off now. I
only came because I met the Thursbys,
and they dragged me here. Come home
with me through the woods. You have
no idea how agreeable I am in the open
air. It will be shady all the way, and not
half so fatiguing as being shaken in Molly's
"In the donkey-cart I must return, how-
ever, if I die on the way," said Ruth, with
a tired smile. " I can't leave Molly. Besides,
all is not over yet. The races and prizes
take time ; and when at last they are dis-
missed, a slice of "
" No, Miss Deyncourt, no ! Not more
food ! "
" A slice of cake will be applied externally
to each of the children, which rite brings the
festivities to a close. There ! I see the dolls
are beingr carried out. I must cro ; " and a
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 85
moment later Ruth and Molly and Dare,
who had been hovering near, were busily
unpacking and shaking out the dolls ; and
Charles, after a little desultory conversa-
tion with Mabel Thursby, strolled away,
with his hands behind his back and his
nose in the air in the manner habitual to
And so the day wore itself out at last ;
and after a hymn had been shrieked, the
children were dismissed, and Ruth and Molly
at length drove away.
" Hasn't it been delicious ? " said Molly.
" And my doll was chosen first. Lucy Bigg,
Avith the rash on her face, got it. I wish
little Sarah had had it. I do love Sarah so
very much ; but Sarah had yours, Ruth, with
the real pocket and the handkerchief in it.
That will be a surprise for her when she
gets home. And that new gentleman was
so kind about the teapots, wasn't he ? He
always filled mine first. He's coming to
see me very soon, and to bring a curious
86 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
black dog that he has of his very own,
''Stop, Molly," said Ruth, as the donkey's
head was being sawed round towards the
blazine lwh-road ; " let us go home through
the woods. I know it is longer, but I can't
stand any more sun and dust to-day."
"You do look tired," said Molly, "and
your lips are quite white. My lips turned
white once, before I had measles, and I felt
very curious inside, and then spots came all
over. You don't feel like spots, do you,
Cousin Ruth ? We will go back by the
woods, and I'll open the gates, and you shall
hold the reins. I dare say Balaam will like
it better too."
Molly had called her donkey Balaam partly
owing to a misapprehension of Scripture
narrative, and partly owing to the assurance
of Charles, when in sudden misgiving she
had consulted him on the point, that Balaam
had been an ass.
Balaam's reluctant under-jaw was accord-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. Sj
ingly turned in the direction of the woods,
and, little thinking the drive might prove
an eventful one, Ruth and Molly set off at
that easy amble which a well-fed pampered
donkey will occasionally indulge in.
S$ SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
After the glare and the noise, the shrill
blasts of penny trumpets, and the sustained
beating of penny drums, the silence of the
Slumberleigh woods was delightful to Ruth ;
the comparative silence, that is to say, for
where Molly was, absolute silence need never
Long before the first gate had been
reached Balaam had, of course, returned to
the mode of procedure which suited him and
his race best, and it was only when the road
inclined to be downhill that he could be
urged into anything like a trot.
" Never mind," said Molly consolingly to
Ruth, as he finally settled into a slow lounge,
gracefully waving his ears and tail at the
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 89
army of flies which accompanied him, " when
we get to the place where the firs are, and
the road goes between the rocks, its downhill
all the way, and we'll gallop down."
But it was a long way to the firs, and
Ruth was in no hurry. It was an ideal
afternoon, verging towards evening ; an after-
noon of golden lights and broken shadows,
of vivid greens in shady places. It must
have been on such a day as this, Ruth
thought, that the Almighty walked in the
garden of Eden when the sun was low,
while as yet the tree of knowledge was but
in blossom, while as yet autumn and its
apples were far off, long before fig-leaves
and millinery were thought of.
On either side the bracken and the lady-
fern grew thick and high, almost overlapping
the broad moss-grown path, across which the
young rabbits popped away in their new
brown coats, showing their little white linings
in their lazy haste. A dog-rose had hung
out a whole constellation of pale stars for
9° SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Molly to catch at as they passed. A family
of honeysuckle clung, faint and sweet, just
beyond the reach of the little hand that
stretched after them in turn.
They had reached the top of an ascent
that would have been a level to anything but
the mean spirit of a donkey, when Molly
gave a start.
" Cousin Ruth ! there's something creep-
ing among the trees. Don't you hear it ?
There really was a movement in the
bracken, which grew too thick and high to
allow of anything being easily seen at a little
" If it's a lion," said Molly in a faint
whisper, " and I feel in my heart it is, he
must have Balaam."
Balaam at this moment pricked his large
ears, and Molly and Ruth both heard the
snapping of a twig, and saw a figure slip
behind a tree. Molly's spirits rose, and
Ruth's went down in proportion. The woods
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 9 1
were lonely, and they were nearing the most
"It's only a man," said Ruth rather sharply.
" I expect it is one of the keepers." (Oh,
Ruth !). " Come, Molly, we shall never get
home at this rate. Whip up Balaam, and
let us trot down the hill." -
Much relieved about Balaam's immediate
future, Molly incited him to a really noble
trot, and did not allow him to relapse even
on the flat which followed. Through the
rattling and the jolting, however, Ruth could
still hear a stealthy rustle in the fern and
underwood. The man was following them.
" He's coming after us," whispered Molly,
with round frightened eyes, " and Balaam
will stop in a minute, I know. Oh ! Cousin
Ruth, what shall we do ? "
Ruth hesitated. They were nearing the
steep pitch where the firs overhung the road,
which was cut out between huge boulders of
rock and sandstone. The ground rose rough
and precipitous on their right, and fell away
92 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
to their left. Just over the brow of the hill,
out of sight, was, as she well knew, the
second crate. The noise in the brushwood
had ceased. Turning suddenly, her quick
eye just caught sight of a figure disappearing
behind the slope of the falling ground to the
left. He was a lame man, and he was
running". In a moment she saw that he was
making a short cut, with the intention of
waylaying them at the gate. He would get
there long before they would, and even then
Balaam was beginning the ascent, which
really was an ascent this time, at his slowest
Molly's teeth were chattering in her little
" Now, Molly," said Ruth sharply, " listen
to me, and don't be a baby. He'll wait for
us at the gate, so he can't see us here. Get
out this moment, and we will both run up
the hill to the keeper's cottage at the top
of the bank. We shall get there first, because
he is lame."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 93
They had passed the bracken now, and
were amone the moss and sandstone beneath
the firs. Ruth hastily dragged Molly out
of the cart without stopping Balaam, who
proceeded, twirling his ears, leisurely without
i( Oh, my poor Balaam ! " sobbed Molly,
with a backward glance at that unconscious
favourite marching towards its doom.
" There is no time to think of poor Balaam
now," replied Ruth. " Run on in front of
me, and don't step on anything crackly."
" Never in this world," thought Ruth,
" will I come alone here with Molly again.
Never again will I- — ■ — "
But it was stiff climbing, and the remainder
of the resolution was lost.
They are high to the right above the
white gate now. The keepers cottage is
in sight, built against a ledge of rock, up
to which wide rough steps have been cut
in the sandstone. Ruth looks down at the
gate below. He is waiting — the dreadful
94 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
man is waiting there, as she expected ; and
Balaam, toying with a fern, is at that moment
coming round the corner. She sees that he
takes in the situation instantly. There is
but one way in which they can have fled,
and he knows it. In a moment he comes
halting and pounding up the slope. He sees
their white dresses among the firs. Run,
Molly ! run, Ruth ! Spare no expense. If
your new black sash catches in the briars,
let it catch ; heed it not, for he is making
wonderful play with that lame leg up the
hill. It is an even race. Now for the stone
steps ! How many more there are than there
ever were before ! Quick through the wicket,
and up through the little kitchen garden.
Molly is at the door first, beating upon it,
and calling wildly on the name of Brown.
And then Ruth's heart turns sick within
her. The door is locked. Through the win-
dow, which usually blossoms with geraniums,
she can see the black fireplace and the bare
walls. No Brown within answers to Molly's
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 95
cries. Brown has been turned away for
drinking. Mrs. Brown, who hung a slender
" wash " on the hedge only last week, has
departed with her lord. Brown's cottage is
tenantless. The pursuer must have known
it when he breasted the hill. A mixed sound
as of swearing and stumbling comes from the
direction of the stone steps. The pursuer is
evidently intoxicated, probably lunatic !
" Quick, Molly!" gasps Ruth, "round by
the back, and then cut down towards the
young plantation, and make for the road
again. Don't stop for me."
The little yard, the pigstye, the water-
butt, fly past. Past fly the empty kennels.
Past does not fly the other gate. Locked ;
padlocked. It is like a bad dream. Molly,
with a windmill-like exhibition of black legs,
gives Ruth a lead over. Now for it, Ruth !
The bars are close together and the gate is
high. It is not a time to stick at trifles.
What does it matter if you can get over best
by assuming a masculine equestrian attitude
96 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
for a moment on the top bar ? There !
And now, down the hill again, away to your
left. Take to your heels, and be thankful
they are not high ones. Never mind if your
hair is coming down. You have a thousand
good qualities, Ruth, high principles, and a
tender conscience, but you are not a swift
runner, and you have not played M Sally
Water " all day for nothing. Molly is far in
front now. A heavy trampling is not far
behind ; nay, it is closer than you thought.
And your eyes are becoming misty, Ruth,
and armies of drums are beating every other
sound out of your ears — that shouting behind
you, for instance. The intoxicated, murderous
lunatic is close behind. One minute ! Two
minutes ! How many more seconds can you
keep it up ? Through the young plantation,
down the hill, into the sandy road again, the
sandy, uphill road. How much longer can
you keep it up ?
Charles strolled quietly homewards, enjoy-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 97
ing the beauties of nature, and reflecting on
the quantity of rabbit shooting that Mr.
Thursby must enjoy. He may also have
mused on Lady Grace, for anything that can
be known to the contrary, and have possibly
made a mental note that if it had been she
whom he had asked to walk home with him,
instead of Ruth, he would not have been
alone at that moment. Be that how it may,
he leisurely pursued his path until a fallen
tree beside the bank looked so inviting, that
(Evelyn and Ralph having gone out to
friends at a distance) Charles, who was in
no hurry to return to Lady Mary, seated
himself thereon, with a cigarette to bear him
To him, with rent garments and dust upon
her head, and indeed all over her, suddenly
appeared Molly ; Molly, white with panic,
breathless, unable to articulate, pointing in
the direction from which she had come. In
a moment Charles was tearing down the
road at full speed. A tall, swaying figure
VOL. I. 7
98 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
almost ran against him at the first turn, and
Ruth only avoided him to collapse suddenly
in the dry ditch, her face in the bank, and a
yard of sash biting the dust along the road
Her pursuer stopped short. Charles made
a step towards him, and stopped short also.
The two men stood and looked at each other
When Ruth found herself in a position to
make observations, she discovered that she
was sitting by the roadside, with her head
resting against — was it a tweed arm or the
bank ? She moved a little, and found that
first impressions are apt to prove misleading.
It was the bank. She opened her eyes to
see a brown, red-lined hat on the ground
beside her, half full of water, through which
she could dimly discern the golden submerged
name of the maker. She seemed to have
been contemplating it with vague interest for
about an hour, when she became aware that
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 99
some one was dabbing her forehead with a
wet silk handkerchief.
" Better ? " asked Charles's voice.
" Oh ! " gasped Ruth, suddenly trying to
sit up, but finding the attempt resulted only
in the partial movement of a finger some-
where in the distance. " Have I really —
surely, surely, I was not so abject as to
" Truth," said Charles, with a reassured
look in his quick, anxious eyes, " obliges me
to say you did."
" I thought better of myself than that."
" Pride goes before a fall or a faint."
"Oh, dear!" turning paler than ever.
u Where is Molly ? "
" She is all right," said Charles hastily,
applying the pocket handkerchief again.
" Don't alarm yourself, and pray don't try to
get up. You can see just as much of the
view sitting down. Molly has gone for the
"And that dreadful man ?"
IOO SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" That dreadful man has also departed.
By the way, did you see his face ? Would
you know him again if the policeman succeeds
in finding him ? "
" No ; I never looked round. I only saw,
when he began to run to cut us off at the
gate, that he was lame."
"H'm!" said Charles reflectively. Then
more briskly, with a new access of dabbing,
" How is the faintness going on ?"
" Capitally," replied Ruth, with a faint,
amused smile ; " but — if it does not seem
ungrateful — I should be very thankful if I
might be spared the rest of the water in the
hat, or if it might be poured over me at once,
if you don't wish it to be wasted."
" Have I done too much ? I imagined
my services were invaluable. Let me help
you to find your own handkerchief, if you
would like a dry one for a change. Ah !
what a good shot into that labyrinth of
drapery. You have found it for yourself.
You are certainly better."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. IOI
" But my self-respect," replied Ruth, drying
her face, " is gone for ever."
" I lost mine years ago," said Charles,
carefully dusting Ruth's hat, " but I got over
it. I had no idea those bows were supported
by a wire inside. One lives and learns."
" I never did such a thing before," con-
tinued Ruth ruefully. " I have always felt a
sort of contempt for girls who scream or
faint just when they ought not."
" For my part, I am glad to perceive you
have some little feminine weakness. Your
growing solicitude also as to the state of
your back hair is pleasing in the extreme."
" I am too confused and shaken to retaliate
just now. You are quite right to make hay
while the sun shines ; but, when I am myself
again, beware ! "
"And your gown," continued Charles.
11 What yawning gulfs, what chasms appear ;
and what a quantity of extraneous matter
you have brought away with you. Remi-
niscences of travel — burrs, very perfect speci-
102 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
mens of burrs, thistledown, chips of fir,
several complete spiders' webs ; and your
sash, which seems to have a particularly
adhesive fringe, is a museum in itself. Ah !
here comes that coward of little cowards,
Molly, with Balaam and the donkey-cart."
Molly, who had left Ruth for dead, greeted
her cousin with a transport of affection, and
then proceeded to recount the fearful risks
that Balaam had encountered by being
deserted, and the stoic calm with which he
had waited for them at the gate.
" He's not a common donkey," she said
with pride. " Get in, Ruth. Are you
coming in, Uncle Charles ? There's just
room for you to squeeze in between Ruth
and me — isn't there, Ruth ? Oh, you're not
going to walk beside, are you ? "
But Charles was determined not to let
them out of his sight again, and he walked
beside them the remainder of the way to
Atherstone. He remained silent and pre-
occupied during the evening which followed,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. IO3
pored over a newspaper, and went off to his
room early, leaving Ralph dozing in the
It was a fine moonlight night, still and
clear. He stood at the open window looking
out for a few minutes, and then began
fumbling in a dilapidated old travelling-bag
such as only rich men use.
"Not much," he said to himself, spreading
out a few sovereigns and some silver on the
table ; " but it will do."
He put the money in his pocket, took off
his gold hunting watch, and then went back
to the smoking-room.
" I am going out again, Ralph, as I did
last night. If I come in late, you need not
take me for a burglar."
Ralph murmured something unintelligible,
and Charles ran downstairs, and let himself
out of the drawing-room French window,
that long French window to the ground,
which Evelyn had taken a fancy to in a
neighbours drawing-room, and which she
104 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
could never be made to see was not in keep-
ing with the character of her old black-and-
white house. He put the shutter back after
he had passed through, and carefully drawing
the window to behind him, without actually
closing it, he took a turn or two upon the
bowling-green, and then walked off in the
direction of the Slumberleigh woods.
After the lapse of an hour or more he
returned, as quietly as he had gone, let
himself in, made all secure, and stole up to
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. IO5
Vandon was considered by many people to
be the most beautiful house in shire.
In these days of great brand-new imitation
of intensely old houses, where the amount of
ground covered measures the purse of the
builder, it is pleasant to come upon a place
like Vandon, a quiet old manor-house, neither
large nor small, built of ancient bricks, blent
to a dim purple and a dim red by that subtle
Whoever in the years that were no more
had chosen the place whereon to build had
chosen well. Vandon stood on the slope of
a gentle hill, looking across a sweep of green
valley to the rising woods beyond, which in
days gone by had been a Roman camp, and
106 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
where the curious might still trace the wide
ledges cut among the regular lines of the
Some careful hand had planned the hang-
ing gardens in front of the house, which fell
away to the stream below. Flights of wide
stone steps led down from terrace to terrace,
each built up by its south wall covered with
a wealth of jasmine and ivy and climbing
roses. But all was wild and deserted now.
Weeds had started up between the stone
slabs of the steps, and the roses blossomed
out sweet and profuse, for it was the time of
roses, amid convolvulus and campion. The
quaint old dovecote near the house had
almost disappeared behind the trees that had
crowded up round it, and held aloft its
weathercock in silent protest at their en-
croachment. The stables close at hand, with
their worn-out clock and silent bell, were
tenantless. The coach-houses were full of
useless old chariots and carriages. Into one
splendid court coach the pigeons had found
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. IC>7
their way through an open window, and had
made nests, somewhat to the detriment of
the green-and-white satin fittings.
Great cedars, bent beneath the weight of
years, grew round the house. The patriarch
among them had let fall one of his gnarled
supplicating arms in the winter, and there it
still lay where it had fallen.
Anything more out of keeping with the
dignified old place than its owner could
hardly be imagined, as he stood in his eternal
light-grey suit (with a badge of affliction
lightly borne on his left arm), looking at his
heritage, with his cropped head a little on
The sun was shining, but, like a smile on
a serious face, Vandon caught the light on
all its shuttered windows, and remained
grave, looking out across its terraces to the
"If it were but a villa on the Mediter-
ranean, or a house in London," he said to
himself; "but I have no chance." And he
IOS SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
shrugged his shoulders, and wandered back
into the house again. But if the outside
oppressed him, the interior was not calculated
to raise his spirits.
Dare had an elegant taste, which he had
never hitherto been able to gratify, for blue
satin furniture and gilding ; for large mirrors
and painted ceilings of lovers and cupids,
and similar small deer. The old square hall
at Vandon, with its great stained glass
windows, representing the various quarterings
of the Dare arms, about which he knew
nothing and cared less, oppressed him. So
did the black polished oak floor, and the
walls with their white bas-reliefs of twisting-
wreaths and scrolls, with busts at intervals
of Cicero and Dante, and other severe and
melancholy personages. The rapiers upon
the high white chimney-piece were more to
his taste. He had taken them down the
first day after his arrival, and had stamped and
cut and thrust in the most approved style, in
the presence of Faust, the black poodle.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 109
Dare was not the kind of man to be
touched by it ; but to many minds there
would have been something pathetic in seeing
a house, which had evidently been an object
of the tender love and care of a bygone
generation, going to rack and ruin from
neglect. Careful hands had embroidered in
the fine exquisite work of former days
marvellous coverlets and hangings, which
still adorned the long suites of empty bed-
rooms. Some one had taken an elaborate
pleasure in fitting up those rooms, had put
pot-pourri in tall Oriental jars in the passages,
had covered the old inlaid Dutch chairs with
The Dare who had lived at court, whose
chariot was now the refuge of pigeons, whose
court suits, with the tissue paper still in the
sleeves, yet remained in one of the old oak
chests, and whose jewelled swords still hung
in the hall, had filled one of the rooms with
engravings of the royal family and ministers
of his day. The Dare who had been an
IIO SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
admiral had left his miniature surrounded
by prints of the naval engagements he had
taken part in, and on the oak staircase a
tattered flag still hung, a trophy of unremem-
But they were past and forgotten. The
hands which had arranged their memorials
with such pride and love had long since gone
down to idleness, and forgetfulness also.
Who cared for the family legends now ?
They, too, had gone down into silence.
There was no one to tell Dare that the old
blue enamel bowl in the hall, in which he
gave Faust refreshment, had been brought
back from the loot of the Winter Palace of
Pekin ; or that the drawer in the Heisner
table in the drawing-room was full of treasured
medals and miniatures, and that the key
thereof was rusting in a silver patch-box on
The iron-clamped boxes in the lumber-
room kept the history to themselves of all
the silver plate that had lived in them once
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. Ill
upon a time, although the few odd pieces
remaining hinted at the splendour of what
had been. In one corner of the dining-room
the mahogany tomb still stood of a great
gold racing cup, under the portrait of the
horse that had won it ; but the cup had
followed the silver dinner service, had fol-
lowed the diamonds, had followed in the
wake of a handsome fortune, leaving the
after generations impoverished. If their
money is taken from them, some families are
left poor indeed, and to this class the Dares
belonged. It is curious to notice the occa-
sional real equality underlying the apparent
inequality of different conditions of life. The
unconscious poverty, and even bankruptcy,
of some rich people in every kind of wealth
except money affords an interesting study ;
and it seems doubly hard when those who
have nothing to live upon, and be loved and
respected for except their money, have even
that taken from them. As Dare wandered
through the deserted rooms, the want of
112 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
money of his predecessors, and consequently
of himself, was borne in upon him. It
fell like a shadow across his light pleasure-
loving soul. He had expected so much
from this unlooked-for inheritance, and all
he had found was a melancholy house with
He went aimlessly through the hall into
the library. It was there that his uncle had
lived ; there that he had been found when
death came to look for him ; amone the
books which he had been unable to carry
away with him at his departure ; rare old
tomes and first editions, long shelves of dead
authors, who, it is to be hoped, continue to
write in other worlds for those who read
their lives away in this. Old Mr. Dare's in-
terests and affections had all been bound in
morocco and vellum. A volume lay open on
the table, where the old man had put it down
beside the leather arm-chair where he had
sat, with his back to the light, summer and
winter, winter and summer, for so many years.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I I 3
No one had moved it since. A wavering
pencil-mark had scored the page here and
there. Dare shut it up, and replaced it
amono; its brethren. How triste and silent
the house seemed ! He wondered what the
old uncle had been like, and sauntered into
the staircase hall, where the Dares that had
gone before him lived, much in need of
varnish. But these were too ancient to have
his predecessor among them. He went into
the long oak-panelled dining-room, where,
above the high carved dado, were more
Dares. Perhaps that man with the book
was his namesake, the departed Alfred Dare.
He wondered vaguely how he should look
when he also took his place among his
relations. Nature had favoured him with
a better moustache than most men, but he
had a premonitory feeling that the very
moustache itself, though undeniable in real
life, would look out of keeping among these
bluff, frank, light-haired people, of whom
it seemed he — he who had never been
VOL. i. 8
114 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
near them before — was the living repre-
A sudden access of pleasurable dignity
came over him as he sat on the dining-table,
the great mahogany dining-table which still
showed vestiges of a bygone polish, and was
heavily dinted by long years of hammered
applause. These ancestors of his ! He
would not disgrace them. A few minutes
ago he had been wondering whether Vandon
might not be let. Now, with one of the
rapid transitions habitual to him, he resolved
that he would live at Vandon, that in all
things he would be as they had been. He
would become that vague, indefinable, to him
mythical personage — a " country squire."
Fortunately, he had a neat leg for a stock-
ing. It was lost, so to speak, in his present
mode of dress ; but he felt that it would
appear to advantage in the perpetual knicker-
bockers which he supposed it would be his
lot to wear. It would also become his duty
and his pleasure to marry. For those who
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I I 5
tread in safety the slippery heights of married
life he felt a true esteem. It would be a
strain no doubt, a great effort; but at this
moment he was capable of anything. The
finger of duty was plain. And with that
adorable Miss Ruth, with or without a
fortune Alas ! he trusted she had a
fortune, for, as he came to think thereon,
he remembered that he was desperately
poor. As far as he could make out from
his agent, a grim silent man, who had taken
an evident dislike to him from the first, there
was no money anywhere. The rents would
come in at Michaelmas ; but the interest of
heavy mortgages had to be paid, the estate
had to be kept up. There was succession
duty ; there were debts — long outstanding
debts, which came pouring in now, which
Waters spread before him with an iron smile,
and which poor Dare contemplated with his
head on one side and solemn, arched eye-
brows. When Dare was not smiling, he was
always preternaturally solemn. There was
I 1 6 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
no happy medium in his face, or consequently
in his mind, which was generally gay, but if
not, was involved in a tragic gloom.
" These bills, my friend," he would say at
last, tapping them in deep dejection, and
raising his eyebrows into his hair, " how
do we pay them ? "
But Waters did not know. How should
he, Waters, know ? Waters only knew that
the farmers would want a reduction in these
bad times — Mr. Dare might be sure of that.
And what with arrears, and one thing and
another, he need not expect more than two-
thirds of his rents when they did arrive.
Mr. Dare might lay his account for that.
The only money which Dare received, to
carry on with on his accession to the great
honour and dignity of proprietor of Vandon,
was brought to him by the old dairywoman
of the house, a faithful creature, who pro-
duced out of an old stocking the actual coins
which she had received for the butter and
cheese she had sold, of which she showed
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I I 7
Dare an account, chalked up in some dead
language on the dairy door.
She was a little doubled-up woman, who
had served the family all her life. Dare's
ready smile and handsome face had won her
heart before he had been many days at
Vandon, in spite of " his foreign ways," and
he found himself constantly meeting her
unexpectedly round corners, where she had
been lying in wait for him, each time with
a secret revelation to whisper respecting
what she called the " join's on."
" You'll not tell on me, sir, but it's only
right you should know as Mrs. Smith " (the
housekeeper of whom Dare stood in mortal
terror) "has them fine damask table-cloths
out for the housekeeper's room. I see 'em
myself ; and everything goin' to rag and ruin
in the linen closet ! " Or, " Joseph has took
in another flitch this very day, sir, as Mrs.
Smith sent for, and the old flitch all cut to
waste. Do'e go and look at the flitches, sir,
and the hams. They're in the room over the
Il8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
stables. And it's always butter, butter, butter
in the kitchen ! Not a bit o' dripping used.
There's not a pot of dripping in the larder,
or so much as a skin of lard. Where does
it all go to ? You ask Mrs. Smith, and how
she sleeps in her bed at night I don't know!"
Dare listened, nodded, made his escape,
and did nothing. In the village it was as
bad. Time, which had dealt so kindly with
Vandon itself, had taken the straggling village
in hand too. Nothing could be more pic-
turesque than the crazy black and white
houses, with lichen on their broken-in thatch,
and the plaster peeling off from between the
irregular beams of black wood ; nothing more
picturesque — and nothing more miserable.
When Time puts in his burnt umbers and
brown madders with a lavish hand, and
introduces his beautiful irregularities of out-
line, and his artistic disrepair, he does not
look to the drainage, and takes no thought
for holes in the roof.
Dare could not go out without eager
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 119
women sallying out of cottages as he passed,
begging him just to come in and walk upstairs.
They would say no more — but would the new
squire walk upstairs ? And Dare would
stumble up and see enough to promise
Alas ! how much he promised in those early
days. And in the gloaming, heavy dull-
eyed men met him in the lanes coming back
from their work, and followed him to "beg
pardon, sir, and " lay before the new squire
things that would never reach him through
Waters — bitter things, small injustices, too
trivial to seem worthy of mention, which
serve to widen the gulf between class and
class. They looked to Dare to help them,
to make the crooked straight, to begin a new
rdgime. They looked to the new king to
administer his little realm, the new king, who,
alas ! cared for none of these things. And
Dare promised that he would do what he
could, and looked anxious and interested, and
held out his brown hand, and raised hopes.
But he had no money — no money.
120 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
He spoke to Waters at first ; but he soon
found that was no good. The houses were
bad ? Of course they were bad. Cottage
property did not pay ; and would Mr. Dare
kindly tell him where the money for repairing
them was to come from ? Perhaps Mr. Dare
might like to put a little of his private
fortune into the cottages and the drains and
the new pumps. Dare winced. His fortune
had not gone the time-honoured way of the
fortunes of spirited young men of narrow
means with souls above a sordid economy,
but still it had gone all the same, and in a
manner he did not care to think of.
It was after one of these depressing inter-
views with Waters, that Ralph and Evelyn
found the new owner of Vandon when they
rode over together to call, a day or two after
the school-feast. Poor Dare was sitting on
the low ivy-covered wall of the topmost
terrace, a prey to the deepest dejection. If
he had lived in Spartan days, when it was
possible to conceal gnawing foxes under
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 12 1
wearing apparel, he would have made no use
of the advantages of Grecian dress for such
a purpose. Captivated by Evelyn's gentle-
ness and sympathetic manner (strangers
always thought Evelyn sympathetic), and
impressed by Ralph's kindly, honest face, he
soon found himself telling them something of
his difficulties, of the maze in which he
found himself, of the snubs which Waters
Ralph slapped himself with his whip,
whistled, and gave other masculine signs of
interest and sympathy. Evelyn looked from
one to the other, amiably distressed in her
well-fitting habit. After a long conversation,
in which Evelyn disclosed that Ralph was
possessed of the most extraordinary know-
ledge and experience in such matters, the
two good-natured young people, seeing he
was depressed and lonely, begged him to
come and stay with them at Atherstone the
very next day, when he might discuss his
affairs with Ralph, if so disposed, and take
122 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
counsel with him. Dare accepted with the
most genuine pleasure, and his speaking
countenance was in a moment radiant with
smiles. Was not the little Molly of the
school-feast their child ? and was not Miss
Deyncourt likewise staying with them ?
When his visitors departed, Dare took a
turn at the rapiers ; then opened the piano
with the internal derangement, and sang to
his own accompaniment a series of little con-
fidential French songs, which would have
made the hair of his ancestors stand on end,
if painted hair could do such a thing. And
the " new squire," as he was already called,
shrugged his shoulders, and lowered his voice,
and spread out his expressive rapid hands,
and introduced to Vandon, one after another,
some of those choice little ditties, French and
English, which had made him such a favourite
companion in Paris, so popular in a certain
society in America.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 23
" Sir Charles ?"
" Miss Deyncourt ! "
" I fear," with a glance at the yellow-back
in his hand, " I am interrupting a studious
hour, but "
" Not in the least, I assure you," said
Charles, shutting his novel. " What is
regarded as study by the feminine intellect,
is to the masculine merely relaxation. I
was ' unbending over a book,' that was all."
The process of " unbending " was being
performed in the summer house, whither he
had retired after Evelyn and Ralph had
started on their afternoon's ride to Vandon,
in which he had refused to join.
" I thought I should find you here," con-
124 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
tinued Ruth frankly. " I have been wishing
to speak to you for several days, but you are
as a rule so surrounded and encompassed on
every side by Molly, that I have not had an
It had occurred to Charles once or twice
during the last few days that Molly was
occasionally rather in the way. Now he was
sure of it. As Ruth appeared to hesitate, he
pulled forward a rustic contorted chair for
" No, thanks;" she said. " I shall not long
interrupt the unbending process. I only
came to ask "
" To ask ? " repeated Charles, who had
got up as she was standing, and came and
stood near her.
" You remember the first evening you were
here ? "
" I do."
" And what we spoke of at dinner ? '
" Perfectly. '
" I came to ask you how much you lent
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 25
Raymond ? " Ruth's clear, earnest eyes
were fixed full upon him.
At this moment Charles perceived Lady
Mary at a little distance, propelling herself
gently over the grass in the direction of the
summer-house. In another second she had
perceived Charles and Ruth, and had turned
precipitately, and hobbled away round the
corner with surprising agility.
" Confound her ! " inwardly ejaculated
" I wish to know how much you lent
him ? " said Ruth again, as he did not answer,
happily unconscious of what had been going
on behind her back.
" Only what I was well able to afford."
" And has he paid it back since ? "
" I am sure he understood I should not
expect him to pay it back at once."
" But he has had it three years."
Charles did not answer.
" I feel sure he is not able to pay it. Will
you kindly tell me how much it was ? "
126 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" No, Miss Deyncourt ; I think not."
" Why not ? "
" Because — excuse me, but I perceive that
if I do you will instantly wish to pay it."
" I do wish to pay it."
" I thought so."
There was a short silence.
" I still wish it," said Ruth at last.
Charles was silent. Her pertinacity
annoyed and yet piqued him. Being un-
married, he was not accustomed to oppo-
sition from a woman. He had no intention
of allowing her to pay her brother's debt,
and he wished she would drop the subject
gracefully, now that he had made that fact
" Perhaps you don't know," continued
Ruth, " that I am very well off." (As if he
did not know it. As if Lady Mary had not
casually mentioned Ruth's fortune several
times in his hearing !) " Lady Deyncourt
left me twelve hundred a year, and I have a
little of my own besides. You may not be
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 27
aware that I have fourteen hundred and
sixty-two pounds per annum."
" I am very glad to hear it."
" That is a large sum, you will observe."
" It is riches," assented Charles, " if your
expenditure happens to be less."
" It does happen to be considerably less in
" You are to be congratulated. And yet I
have always understood that society exacts
oreat sacrifices from women, in the sums
they feel obliged to devote to dress."
" Dress is an interesting subject, and I
should be delighted to hear your views on
it another time ; but we are talking of some-
thing else just at this moment."
" I beg your pardon," said Charles quickly,
who did not quite like being brought back
to the case in point. " I — the truth was, I
wished to turn your mind from what we
were speaking of. I don't want you to count
sovereigns into my hand. I really should
dislike it very much."
128 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" You intend me to think from that remark
that it was a small sum," said Ruth, with
unexpected shrewdness. " I now feel sure
it was a large one. It ought to be paid, and
there is no one to do it but me. I know
that what is firmness in a man is obstinacy
in a woman, so do not on your side be too
firm, or, who knows ? you may arouse some
of that obstinacy in me to which I should
like to think myself superior."
" If," said Charles, with sudden eagerness,
as if an idea had just struck him, " if I let
you pay me this debt, will you on your side
allow me to make a condition ? "
" I should like to know the condition first."
" Of course. If I agree " — Charles's light-
grey eyes had become keen and intent — " if
I agree to receive payment of what I lent
Deyncourt three years ago, will you promise
not to pay any other debt of his, or ever to
lend him money without the knowledge and
approval of your relations ? "
Ruth considered for a few minutes.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I2Q.
" I have so few relations," she said at
length, with rather a sad smile, " and they
are all prejudiced against poor Raymond. I
think I am the only friend he has left in the
world. I am afraid I could not promise
" Well," said Charles eagerly, " I won't
insist on relations. I know enough of those
thorns in the flesh myself. I will say instead
'natural advisers.' Come, Miss Deyncourt,
you can't accuse me of firmness now ! "
" My natural advisers," repeated Ruth
slowly. " I feel as if I ought to have natural
advisers somewhere ; but who are they ?
Where are they ? I could not ask my sister
or her husband for advice. I mean, I could
not take it, if I did. I should think I knew
better myself. Uncle John ? Evelyn ?
Lord Polesworth ? Sir Charles, I am afraid
the truth is I have never asked for advice in
my life. I have always tried to do what
seemed best, without troubling to know what
other people thought about it. But as I am
vol. 1. 9
130 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
anxious to yield gracefully, will you substitute
the word ' friends ' for ' natural advisers ' ? I
hope and think I have friends whom I could
" Friends, then, let it be," said Charles.
" Now," holding out his hand, " do you
promise never, et cetera, et cetera, without first
consulting your friends ? "
Ruth put her hand into his.
" I do."
" That is right. How amiable we are
both becoming ! I suppose I must now
inform you that two hundred pounds is the
exact sum I lent your brother ? "
Ruth went back to the house, and in a few
minutes returned with a cheque in her hand.
She held it towards Charles, who took it,
and put it in his pocket-book.
" Thank you," she said, with gratitude in
her eyes and voice.
" We have had a pitched battle," said
Charles, relapsing into his old indifferent
manner. " Neither of us has been actually
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I3I
defeated, for we never called out our reserves,
which I felt would have been hardly fair on
you; but we do not come forth with flying
colours. I fear, from your air of elation, you
actually believe you have been victorious."
" I agree with you that there has been no
defeat," replied Ruth ; " but I won't keep
you any longer from your studies. I am
just going out driving with Lady Mary to
have tea with the Thursbys."
" Miss Deyncourt, don't allow a natural
and most pardonable vanity to delude you to
such an extent. Don't go out driving the
victim of a false impression. If you will
consider one moment "
" Not another moment," replied Ruth ;
"our bugles have sung truce, and I am not
going to put on my war-paint again for any
consideration. There comes the carriage," as
a distant rumbling was heard. " I must not
keep Lady Mary waiting ; " and she was gone.
Charles heard the carriage roll away again,
and when half an hour later he sauntered
132 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
back towards the house, he was surprised to
see Lady Mary sitting in the drawing-room
"What! Not gone, after all!" he ex-
claimed, in a voice in which surprise was
more predominant than pleasure.
" No, Charles," returned Lady Mary in
her measured tones, looking slowly up at him
over her gold-rimmed spectacles. " I felt a
slight return of my old enemy, and Miss
Deyncourt kindly undertook to make my
excuses to Mrs. Thursby."
No one knew what the old enemy was, or
in what manner his mysterious assaults on
Lady Mary were conducted ; but it was an
understood thing that she had private deal-
ings with him, in which he could make him-
self very disagreeable.
" Has Molly gone with her ? "
" No ; Molly is making jam in the kitchen,
I believe. Miss Deyncourt most good-
naturedly offered to take her with her ; but "
(with a shake of the head) " the poor child's
SIR CHARLES DANYERS. 133
totally unrestrained appetites and lamentable
self-will made her prefer to remain where
" I am afraid," said Charles meditatively, as
if the idea were entirely a novel one, " Molly
is getting a little spoilt amongst us. It is
natural in you, of course ; but there is no
excuse for me. There never is. There are,
I confess, moments when I don't regard the
child's immortal welfare sufficiently to make
her present existence less enjoyable. What
a round of gaiety Molly's life is ! She flits
from flower to flower, so to speak ; from me
to cook and the jam-pots ; from the jam-pots
to some fresh delight in the loft or in your
society. Life is one long feast to Molly.
Whatever that old impostor the Future may
have in store for her, at any rate she is
having a good time now."
There was a shade of regretful sadness in
Charles's voice that ruffled his aunt.
" The child is being ruined," she said with
134 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Not a bit of it. I was spoiled as a child,
and look at me ! "
" You are spoilt. I don't spoil you ; but
other people do. Society does. And the
result is that you are so hard to please that
I don't believe you will ever marry. You
look for a perfection in others which is not
to be found in yourself."
" I don't fancy I should appear to advantage
side by side with perfection," said Charles in
his most careless manner ; and he rose and
wandered away into the garden.
He was irritated with Lady Mary, with her
pleased looks during the last few days, with
her annoying celerity that afternoon in the
garden. It was all the more annoying
because he was conscious that Ruth amused
and interested him in no slight degree. She
had the rare quality of being genuine. She
stood for what she was without effort or self-
consciousness. Whether playful or serious,
she was always real. Beneath a reserved
and rather quiet manner there lurked a
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 135
piquant unconventionality. The mixture of
earnestness and humour, which were so closely
interwoven in her nature that he could never
tell which would come uppermost, had a
strange attraction for him. He had crown
accustomed to watch for and try to provoke
the sudden gleam of fun in the serious eyes,
which always preceded a retort given with an
air of the sweetest feminine meekness, which
would make Ralph rub himself all over with
glee, and tell Charles, chuckling, he " would
not get much change out of Ruth."
If only she had not been asked to Ather-
stone on purpose to meet him ! If only
Lady Mary had not arranged it ; if only
Evelyn did not know it ; if only Ralph had
not guessed it ; if only he himself had not
seen it from the first instant ! Ruth and
Molly were the only two unconscious persons
in the house.
" I wonder," said Charles to himself, " why
people can't allow me to manage my own
affairs ? Oh, what a world it is for unmarried
136 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
men with money ! Why did I not marry
fifteen years ago, when every woman with a
straight nose was an angel of light ; when I
felt a noble disregard for such minor details
as character, mind, sympathy, if the hair and
the eyes were the right shade ? Why did I
not marry when I was out of favour with my
father, when I was head over ears in debt,
and when at least I could feel sure no one
would marry me for my money ? Molly," as
that young lady came running towards him
with lingering traces of jam upon her flushed
countenance, " you have arrived just in time.
Uncle Charles was getting so dull without
you. What have you been after all this
time ? "
" Cook and me have made thirty-one pots
and a little one," said Molly, inserting a very
sticky hand into Charles's. " And your Mr.
Brown helped. Cook told him to go along
at first — which wasn't kind, was it ? — but he
stayed all the same ; and I skimmed with a
big spoon, and she poured it in the pots.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 137
Only they aren't covered up with paper yet,
if you want to see them. And oh ! Uncle
Charles, what do you think ? Father and
mother have come back from their ride, and
that nice funny man who was at the school-
feast is coming here to-morrow, and I shall
show him my guinea pigs. He said he
wanted to see them very much."
" Oh, he did, did he ? When was that ? "
" At the school-feast. Oh ! " with en-
thusiasm, "he was so nice, Uncle Charles, so
attentive, and getting things when you want
them ; and the wheel went over his foot
when he was shaking hands, and he did not
mind a bit ; and he filled our teapots for us,
Ruth's big one, you know, that holds such
" Oh ! He filled the big teapot did he ? "
" Yes, and mine too ; and then he helped
us to unpack the dolls. He was so kind to
me and Cousin Ruth."
" Kind to Miss Deyncourt, was he ? "
1 Yes ; and when we went away he ran
1^8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
and opened the gate for us. Oh, there
comes Cousin Ruth back again in the carriage.
I'll run and tell her he's coming. She will
" Aunt Mary is right," said Charles, watch-
ing his niece disappear. " Molly has formed
a habit of expressing herself with unnecessary
freedom. Decidedly she is a little spoilt,"
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 39
Dare arrived at Atherstone the following
afternoon. Evelyn and Ralph, who had
enlarged on the state of morbid depression
of the lonely inhabitant of Vandon, were
rather taken aback by the jaunty appearance
of the sufferer, when he appeared, overflowing
with evident satisfaction and small talk, his
face wreathed with smiles.
" He bears up wonderfully," said Charles
aside to Ruth later in the evening, as Dare
warbled a very discreet selection of his best
songs after dinner. " No one knows better
than myself that many a breaking heart beats
beneath a smiling waistcoat, but unless we
had been told beforehand we should never
have guessed it in his case."
I40 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Dare, who was looking at Ruth, and saw
Charles go and sit down by her, brought his
song to an abrupt conclusion, and made his
way to her also.
"You also sing, Miss Deyncourt ? " he
asked. " I am sure, from your face, you sing."
" I do."
"Thank Heaven!" said Charles fervently.
" I did you an injustice. I thought you were
going to say ' a little.' Every singing young
lady I ever met, when asked that question,
invariably replied 'a little.'"
" I leave my friends to say that for me,"
" Perhaps you yourself sing a little ? " asked
Dare, wishing Charles would leave Ruth's
ball of wool alone.
"No," said Charles; "I have no tricks."
And he rose and went off to the newspaper
table. Dare's songs were all very well, but
really his voice was nothing so very wonder-
ful, and he was not much of an acquisition
in other ways.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 141
Then Dare took his opportunity. He
dropped into Charles's vacant chair ; he
wound wool ; he wished to learn to knit ; his
inquiring mind craved for information respect-
ing shooting stockings. He talked of music ;
of songs, Italian, French, and English ; of
American nigger melodies. Would Miss
Deyncourt sing ? Might he accompany
her ? Ah ! she preferred the simple old
English ballads. He loved the simple English
And Ruth, nothing loth, sang in her fresh,
clear voice one song after another, Dare
accompanying her with rapid sympathy and
Charles put down his paper, and moved
slightly, so that he had a better view of the
piano. Evelyn laid down her work and
looked affectionately at Ruth.
" Exquisite," said Lady Mary from time to
time, who had said the same of Lady Grace's
wavering little soprano.
" You also sing duets ? You sing duets ? "
142 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
eagerly inquired Dare, the music-stool creak-
ing with his suppressed excitement ; and,
without waiting for an answer, he beean
playing the opening chords of " Greeting."
The two voices rose and fell together, now
soft, now triumphant, harmonizing as if they
sung together for years. Dare's second was
low, pathetic, and it blended at once with
Ruth's clear young contralto. Charles won-
dered that the others should applaud when
the duet was finished. Ruth's voice went
best alone in his opinion.
" And the ' Cold Blast ' ? " asked Dare
immediately afterwards. " The ' Cold Blast '
was here a moment ago " — turning the leaves
over rapidly. " You are not tired, Miss
Deyncourt ? "
"Tired!" replied Ruth, her eyes spark-
ling. "It never tires me to sing. It rests
" Ah ! so it is with me. That is just how
I feel," said Dare. " To sing, or to listen to
the voice of — of "
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 43
" Of what ? Confound him ! " wondered
" Of another" said Dare. " Ah ! here he
is ! " and he pounced on another song, and
lightly touched the opening chords.
" * Oh ! Wert thou in the cold blast,' "
sang Ruth, fresh and sweet.
'" I'd shelter thee,'"
Dare assured her with manly fervour. He
went on to say what he would do if he were
monarch of the realm, affirming that the
brightest jewel of his crown would be his
(" Anyhow, he can't pronounce Scotch,"
" Would be his queen," Dare repeated, with
subdued emotion and an upward glance at
Ruth, which she was too much absorbed in
the song to see, but which did not escape
Charles. Dare's dark sentimental eyes
spoke volumes of — not sermons — at that
144 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
"Oh! Uncle Charles," whispered Molly,
who had been allowed to sit up about two
hours beyond her nominal bedtime, at which
hour she rarely felt disposed to retire ; " oh,
Uncle Charles! 'The brightest jewel in his
crown ! ' Don't you wish you and me could
sing together like that ? "
Charles moved impatiently, and took up
his paper again.
The evening passed all too quickly for
Dare, who loved music and the sound of his
own voice, and he had almost forgotten, until
Charles left him and Ralph alone together in
the smoking-room, that he had come to
discuss his affairs with the latter.
" Dear me," said Evelyn, who had followed
her cousin to her room after they had dis-
persed for the night, and was looking out of
Ruth's window, "that must be Charles
walking up and down on the lawn. Well
now, how thoughtful he is to leave Mr.
Dare and Ralph together. You know, Ruth,
poor Mr. Dare's affairs are in a very bad
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 45
way, and he has come to talk things over
with my Ralph."
" I hope Ralph will make him put his
cottages in order," said Ruth with sudden
interest, shaking back her hair from her
shoulders. " Do you think he will ? "
" Whatever Ralph advises will be sure to
be right," replied Evelyn, with the soft convic-
tion of his infallibility which caused her to
be considered by most of Ralph's masculine
friends an ideal wife. It is women without
reasoning powers of any kind whom the
nobler sex should be careful to marry, if they
wish to be regarded through life in this
delightful way by their wives. Men not
particularly heroic in themselves, who yet
are anxious to pose as heroes in their
domestic circle, should remember that the
smallest modicum of common sense on the
part of the worshipper will inevitably mar
a happiness, the very existence of which
depends entirely on a blind unreasoning
devotion. In middle life the absence of
VOL. I. IO
146 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
reason begins perhaps to be felt ; but why
in youth take thought for such a far-off
" I hope he will," said Ruth, half to herself.
'* What an opportunity that man has if he
only sees it. There is so much to be done,
and it is all in his hands."
" Yes, it's not entailed ; but I don't think
there is so very much," said Evelyn. " But
then, so long as people are nice, I never care
whether they are rich or poor. That is the
first question I ask when people come into
the neighbourhood. Are they really nice ?
Dear me, Ruth, what beautiful hair you
have ; and mine coining off so ! And, talking
of hair, did you ever see anything like Mr.
Dare's ? Somebody must really speak to
him about it. If he would keep his hands
still, and not talk so quick, and let his hair
grow a little, I really think he would not
look so like a foreigner."
" I don't suppose he minds looking like
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 147
" My dear ! "
" His mother was a Frenchwoman, wasn't
she ? I am sure I have heard so fifty times
since his uncle died."
" And if she was," said Evelyn reprovingly,
" is not that an extra reason for his giving
up anything that will remind people of it ?
And we ought to try and forget it, Ruth, and
behave just the same to him as if she had
been an Englishwoman. I wonder if he is a
Roman Catholic ? "
" Ask him."
" I hope he is not," continued Evelyn,
taking up her candle to go. "We never had
one to stay in the house before. I don't
mean," catching a glimpse of Ruth's face,
" that Catholics are — well — I don't mean
that. But still, you know, one would not like
to make great friends with a Catholic, would
one, Ruth ? And he is so nice and so amusing
that I do hope, as he is going to be a neigh-
bour, he is a Protestant." And after a few
more remarks of about the same calibre from
I48 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Evelyn, the two cousins kissed and parted
for the night.
"Will he do it?" said Ruth to herself,
when she was alone. " Has he character
enough, and perseverance enough, and money
enough ? Oh ! I wish Uncle John would
talk to him."
Ruth was not aware that one word from
herself would have more weight with a man
like Dare than any number from an angel of
heaven, if that an^el were of the masculine
gender. If at the other side of the house
Dare could have known how earnestly Ruth
was thinking about him, he would not have
been surprised (for he was not without ex-
perience), but he would have felt immensely
Vandon lay in a distant part of Mr.
Alwynn's parish, and a perpetual curate had
charge of the district. Mr. Alwynn con-
sequently seldom went there, but on the few
occasions on which Ruth had accompanied
him in his periodical visits, she had seen
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 49
enough. Who cares for a recital of what she
saw ? Misery and want are so common.
We can see them for ourselves any day. In
Ruth's heart a great indignation had kindled
against old Mr. Dare, of Vandon, who was
inaccessible as a ^host in his own house,
haunting the same rooms, but never to be
found when Mr. Alwynn called upon him to
"put things before him in their true light."
And when Mr. Dare descended to the
Vandon vault, all Mr. Alwynn's interest, and
consequently a good deal of Ruth's, had
centred in the new heir, who was so difficult
to find, and who ultimately turned up from
the other end of nowhere just when people
were beginning to despair of his ever turning
up at all.
And now that he had come. Would
he make the crooked straight ? Would the
new broom sweep clean ? Ruth recalled
the new broom's brown handsome face, with
the eager eyes and raised eyebrows, and
involuntarily shook her head. It is difficult
I50 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
to be an impartial judge of any one with a
feeling for music, and a pathetic tenor voice ;
but the face she had called to mind did not
inspire her with confidence. It was kindly,
amiable, pleasant ; but was it strong ? In
other words, was it not a trifle weak ?
She found herself comparing it with
another, a thin, reserved face, with keen
light eyes and a firm mouth ; a mouth with
a cigar in it at that moment on the lawn.
The comparison, however, did not help her
meditations much, being decidedly prejudicial
to the "new broom ; " and the faint chime of
the clock on the dressing-table breaking in
on them at the same moment, she dismissed
them for the night, and proceeded to busy
herself in putting to bed her various little
articles of jewellery before betaking herself
Any doubts entertained by Evelyn about
Dare's religious views were completely set at
rest the following morning, which happened
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 15 T
to be a Sunday. He appeared at breakfast
in a black frock coat, the splendour of which
quite threw Ralph's ancient Sunday garment
into the shade. He wore also a chastened,
decorous aspect, which seemed unfamiliar to
his mobile face, and rather ill suited to it.
After breakfast he inquired when service
would be, and expressed a wish to attend
it. He brought down a hiorh hat and an
enormous Prayer-book, and figured with them
in the garden.
" Who is going to Greenacre, and who is
going to Slumberleigh ? " called out Ralph
from the smoking-room window. " Because,
if any of you are going to foot it to Slumber-
leigh, you had better be starting. Which
are you going to, Charles ? "
" I am going where Molly goes. Which
is it to be, Molly ? "
" Slumberleigh," said Molly with decision,
" because it's the shortest sermon, and I
want to see the little foal in Brown's field."
" Slumberleigh be it," said Charles. " Now,
152 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Miss Deyncourt," as Ruth appeared, "which
church are you going to support — Greenacre,
which is close in more senses than one,
where they never open the windows, and the
clergyman preaches for an hour ; or Slumber-
leigh, shady, airy, cool, lying past a meadow
with a foal in it ? If I may offer that as any
inducement, Molly and I intend to patronize
Ruth said she would do the same.
" Now, Dare, you will be able to decide
whether Greenacre, with a little fat tower, or
Slumberleigh, with a beautiful tall steeple,
suits your religious views best."
" I will also go to Slumberleigh," said
Dare, without a moment's hesitation.
" I thought so. I suppose " — to Ralph and
Evelyn — " you are going to Greenacre with
Aunt Mary ? Tell her I have gone to
church, will you ? It will cheer her up.
Sunday is a very depressing day with her,
I know. She thinks of all she has done in
the week, preparatory to doing a little more
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 153
on Monday. Good-bye. Now then, Molly,
have you got your Prayer-book ? Miss
Deyncourt, I don't see yours anywhere.
Oh, there it is! No, don't let Dare carry
it for you. Give it me. He will have
enough to do, poor fellow, to travel with his
own. Come, Molly ! Is Vic chained up ?
Yes, I can hear him howling. The craving
for church privileges of that dumb animal,
Miss Deyncourt, is an example to us Chris-
tians. Molly, have you got your penny ?
Miss Deyncourt, can I accommodate you
with a threepenny bit ? Now, arc we all
ready to start ? "
" When this outburst of eloquence has
subsided," said Ruth, " the audience will be
happy to move on."
And so they started across the fields,
where the grass was already springing faint
and green after the haymaking. There was
a fresh wandering air, which fluttered the
ribbons in Molly's hat, as she danced on
ahead, frisking in her short white skirt
154 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
beside her uncle, her hand in his. Charles
was the essence of wit to Molly, with his
grave face that so seldom smiled, and the
twinkle in the kind eyes, that always went
before those wonderful delightful jokes which
he alone could make. Sometimes, as she
laughed, she looked back at Ruth and Dare,
half a field behind, in pity at what they were
" Shall we wait and tell them that story,
Uncle Charles ?"
" No, Molly. I dare say he is telling her
another which is just as good."
" I don't think he knows any like
" Some people like the old, old story
" Do I know the old, old one, Uncle
Charles ? "
" Can you tell it ? "
" No. I have never been able to tell that
SIR CHARLES DAXVERS. 1 55
"And do you really think he is telling it
to her now ? " with a backward glance.
" Not at this moment. It's no good
running back. He's only thinking about it
now. He will tell it her in about a month
or six weeks' time."
" I hope I shall be there when he tells it."
" I hope you may ; but I don't think it is
likely. And now, Molly, set your hat straight,
and leave off jumping. I never jump when
I go to church with Aunt Mary. Quietly
now, for there's the church, and Mr. Alwynn's
looking out of the window."
Dare, meanwhile, walking with Ruth,
caught sight of the church and lych-gate
with heartfelt regret. The stretches of sunny
meadow land, the faint clamour of church
bells, the pale, refined face beside him, had
each individually and all three together
appealed to his imagination, always vivid
when he himself was concerned. He sud-
denly felt as if a great gulf had fixed itself,
without any will of his own, between his old
156 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
easy-going life and the new existence that
was opening out before him. He had
crossed from the old to the new without any
perception of such a gulf, and now, as he
looked back, it seemed to yawn between him
and all that hitherto he had been. He did
not care to look back, so he looked forward.
He felt as if he were the central figure (when
was he not a central figure ?) in a new drama.
He was fond of acting, on and off the stage,
and now he seemed to be playing a new
part, in which he was not yet thoroughly at
ease, but which he rather suspected would
become him exceedingly well. It amused
him to see himself going to church — to
church ! to hear himself conversing on
flowers and music with a young English girl.
The idea that he was rapidly falling in love
was specially delightful. He called himself a
vieux scdldrat, and watched the progress of
feelings which he felt did him credit with
extreme satisfaction. He and Ruth arrived
at the church porch all too soon for Dare ;
SIR CHARLES DAXVERS. 157
and though he had the pleasure of sitting on
one side of her during the service, he would
have preferred that Charles, of whom he felt
a vague distrust, had not happened to be on
158 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
"My dear," said Mrs. Alwynn to her husband
that morning, as they started for church
across the glebe, " if any of the Atherstone
party are in church, as they ought to be, for
I hear from Mrs. Smith that they are not at
all regular at Greenacre — only went once last
Sunday, and then late — I shall just tell Ruth
that she is to come back to me to-morrow.
A few days won't make any difference to
her, and it will fit in so nicely her coming
back the day you go to the palace. After
all I've done for Ruth, new curtains to her
room, and the piano tuned and everything, I
don't think she would like to stay there with
friends, and me all by myself, without a
creature to speak to. Ruth may be only a
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 159
niece by marriage, but she will see in a
And in fact she did. When Mrs. Alwynn
took her aside after church, and explained
the case in the all-pervading whisper for
which she had apparently taken out a patent,
Ruth could not grasp any reason why she
should return to Slumberleigh three days
before the time, but she saw at once that
return she must if Mrs. Alwynn chose to
demand it ; and so she yielded with a good
grace, and sent Mrs. Alwynn back smiling to
the lych-gate, where Mr. Alwynn and Mabel
Thursby were talking with Dare and Molly,
while Charles interviewed the village police-
man at a little distance.
" No news of the tramp," said Charles,
meeting Ruth at the gate ; and they started
homewards in different order to that in which
they had come, in spite of a great effort at
the last moment on the part of Dare, who
thought the old way was better. " The
policeman has seen nothing of him. He has
gone off to pastures new, I expect."
l6o SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" I hope he has."
" Mrs. Alwynn does not want you to leave
Atherstone to-morrow, does she ? "
" I am sorry to say she does."
11 But you won't go ? "
" I must not only go, but I must do it as
if I liked it."
" I hope Evelyn won't allow it."
" While I am living with Mrs. Alwynn, I
am bound to do what she likes in small
" H'm ! "
" I should have thought, Sir Charles, that
this particularly feminine and submissive
sentiment would have met with your
(t It does; it does," said Charles hastily.
" Only, after the stubborn rigidity of your
— shall I say your — week-day character,
especially as regards money, this softened
Sabbath mood took me by surprise for a
" You should see me at Slumberleigh,"
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. l6l
said Ruth, with a smile half sad, half
humorous. " You should see me tying up
Uncle John's flowers, or holding Aunt
Fanny's wools. Nothing more entirely femi-
nine and young ladylike can be imagined."
" It must be a great change, after living
with a woman like Lady Deyncourt — to
whose house I often went years ago, when
her son was living — to come to a place like
"It is a great change. I am ashamed to
say how much I felt it at first. I don't know
how to express it ; but everything down here
seems so small and local, and hard and fast."
" I know," said Charles gently ; and they
walked on in silence. " And yet," he said at
last, " it seems to me, and I should have
thought you would have felt the same, that
life is very small, very narrow and circum-
scribed everywhere ; though perhaps more
obviously so in Cranfords and Slumberleighs.
I have seen a good deal during the last
fifteen years. I have mixed with many sorts
VOL. I. II
1 62 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
and conditions of men, but in no class or
grade of society have I yet found independent
men and women. The groove is as narrow
in one class as in another, though in some it
is better concealed. I sometimes feel as if I
were walking in a ball-room full of people all
dancing the lancers. There are different sets
of course — fashionable, political, artistic — but
the people in them are all crossing over, all
advancing and retiring, with the same ap-
parent aimlessness, or setting to partners."
"There is occasionally an aim in that."
Charles smiled grimly.
" They follow the music in that as in
everything else. You go away for ten years,
and still find them on your return, going
through the same figures to new tunes. I
wonder if there are any people anywhere in
the world who stand on their own feet, and
think and act for themselves ; who don't set
their watches by other people's ; who don't live
and marry and die by rote, expecting to go
straight up to heaven by rote afterwards ! "
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 63
" I believe there are such people," said
Ruth earnestly ; " I have had glimpses of
them, but the real ones look like the shadows,
and the shadows like the real ones, and — we
miss them in the crowd."
" Or one thinks one finds them, and they
turn out only clever imitations after all. In
these days there is a mania for shamming
originality of some kind. I am always
imagining people I meet are real, and not
shadows, until one day I unintentionally put
my hand through them, and find out my mis-
take. I am getting tired of being taken in."
" And some day you will get tired of being
" I am very much obliged to you for your
hopeful view of my future. You evidently
imagine that I have gone in for the fashion-
able creed of the young man of the present
day. I am not young enough to take
pleasure in high collars and cheap cynicism,
Miss Deyncourt. Cynical people are never
disappointed in others, as I so often am,
164 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
because they expect the worst. In theory I
respect and admire my fellow-creatures, but
they continually exasperate me because they
won't allow me to do so in real life. I have
still — I blush to own it — a lingering respect
for women, though they have taken pains to
show me, time after time, what a fool I am
for such a weakness."
Charles looked intently at Ruth. Women
are so terribly apt in handling any subject to
make it personal. Would she fire up, or
would she, like so many women, join in abuse
of her own sex ? She did neither. She was
looking straight in front of her, absently
watching the figures of Dare and Molly in
the next field. Then she turned her grave,
thoughtful crlance towards him.
" I think respect is never weakness," she
said. " It is a sign of strength, even when it
is misplaced. There is not much to admire
in cunning people who are never taken in.
The best people I have known, the people
whom it did me good to be with, have been
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 65
those who respected others and themselves.
Do not be in too great a hurry to get rid of
any little fragment that still remains. You
may want it when it is gone."
Charles's apathetic face had become
strangely earnest. There was a keen
searching look in his tired, restless eyes.
He was about to make some answer, when
he suddenly became aware of Dare and
Molly sitting perched on a gate close at
hand waiting for them. Never had he per-
ceived Molly's little brown face with less
pleasure than at that moment. She scrambled
down with a noble disregard of appearances,
and tried to take his hand. But it was
coolly withdrawn. Charles fell behind on
some pretence of fastening the gate, and
Molly had to content herself with Ruth's
and Dare's society for the remainder of the
Ruth had almost forgotten, until Molly
suggested at luncheon a picnic for the
following day, that she was returning to
I 66 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Slumberleigh on Monday morning; and when
she made the fact known, Ralph had to be
" hushed " several times by Evelyn for
muttering opinions behind the sirloin respect-
ing Mrs. Alwynn, which Evelyn seemed to
have heard before, and to consider unsuited
to the ears of that lady's niece.
" But if you go away, Cousin Ruth, we can't
have the picnic ; can we, Uncle Charles ? "
" Impossible, Molly. Rather bread-and-
butter at home, than a mixed biscuit in the
open air without Miss Deyncourt."
" Is Mrs. Alwynn suffering ? " asked Lady
Mary politely down the table.
Ruth explained that she was not in ill
health, but that she did not wish to be left
alone ; and Ralph was " hushed " again.
Lady Mary was annoyed, or more properly
speaking, she was " moved in the spirit,''
which in a Churchwoman seems to be the
same thing as annoyance in the unregenerate
or unorthodox mind. She regretted Ruth's
departure more than any one, except perhaps
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 167
Ruth herself. She had watched the girl very
narrowly, and she had seen nothing to make
her alter the opinion she had formed of her ;
indeed, she was inclined to advance beyond
it. Even she could not suspect that Ruth
had " played her cards well ; " although she
would have aided and abetted her in any
way in her power, if Ruth had shown the
slightest consciousness of holding cards at
all, or being desirous of playing them. Her
frank yet reserved manner, her distinguished
appearance, her sense of humour (which
Lady Mary did not understand, but which
she perceived others did), and the quiet
savoir faire of her treatment of Dare's
advances, all enhanced her greatly in the
eyes of her would-be aunt. She bade her
good-bye with genuine regret. The only
person who bore her departure without a
shade of compunction being Dare, who stood
by the carriage till the last moment, assuring
Ruth that he hoped to come over to the
Rectory very shortly ; while Charles and
1 68 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Molly held the gate open meanwhile, at the
end of the short drive.
" I know that Frenchman means business,"
said Lady Mary wrathfully to herself, as she
watched the scene from the garden. Her
mind, from the very severity of its tension,
was liable to occasional lapses of this painful
kind from the spiritual and ecclesiastical to
the mundane and transitory. " I saw it
directly he came into the house ; and with
his opportunities, and living within a stone's
throw, I should not wonder if he were to
succeed. Any man would fetch a fancy
price at Slumberleigh ; and the most fastidious
woman in the world ceases to be critical, if
she is reduced to the proper state of dulness.
He is handsome, too, in his foreign way.
But she does not like him now. She is
inclined to like Charles, though she does not
know it. There is an attraction between the
two. I knew there would be. And he likes
her. Oh, what fools men are! He will go
away ; and Dare, on the contrary, will ride
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 69
over to Slumberleigh every day, and by the
time he is engaged to her Charles will see
her a^ain, and find out that he is in love
with her himself. Oh, the folly, the density,
of unmarried men ! and, indeed " (with a
sudden recollection of the deceased Mr.
Cunningham), " of the whole race of them !
But of all men I have ever known, I really
think the most provoking is Charles."
"Musing?" inquired her nephew, saunter-
ing up to her.
" I was thinking that we had just lost the
pleasantest person of our little party," said
Lady Mary, viciously seizing up her work.
" I am still here," suggested Charles, by
way of consolation. " I don't start for
Norway in Wyndham's yacht for three days
" Do you mean to say you are going to
Norway ? "
" I forget whether it was to be Norway ;
but I know I'm booked to go yachting
somewhere. It's Wyndham's new toy. He
I70 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
paid through the parental nose for it, and
he made me promise in London to go with
him on his first cruise. I believe a very
charming Miss Wyndham is to be of the
"And how long, pray, are you going to
yacht with Miss Wyndham ? "
"It is with her brother I propose to go.
I thought I had explained that before. I
shall probably cruise about, let me see, for
three weeks or so, till the grouse shooting
begins. Then I am due in Scotland, at the
Hope Actons, and several other places."
Lady Mary laid down her work, and rose
to her feet, her thin hand closing tightly
over the silver crook of her stick.
" Charles," she said, in a voice trembling
with anger, looking him full in the face,
" you are a fool ! " and she passed him with-
out another word, and hobbled away rapidly
into the house.
" Am I ? " said Charles, half aloud to him-
self, when the last fold of her garment had
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 71
been twitched out of sight through the
window. Ami? Molly," with great gravity,
as Molly appeared, " yes, you may sit on my
knee ; but don't wriggle. Molly, what is a
fool ? "
" I think its Raca, only worse," said Molly.
" Uncle Charles, Mr. Dare is going away
too. His dog-cart has just come into the
" Has it ? I hope he won't keep it
" You are not going away, are you ? "
"Not for three days more."
" Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Why,
they will be gone in a moment."
But to Charles they seemed three very
long days indeed. He was annoyed with
himself for having made so many engage-
ments before he left London. At the time
there did not seem anything better to be
done, and he supposed he must go some-
where ; but now he thought he would have
liked to stay on at Atherstone, though he
172 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
would not have said so to Lady Mary for
worlds. He was tired of rushing up and
down. He was not so fond of yachting,
after all ; and he remembered that he had
been many times to Norway.
" I would get out of it, if I could," he said
to Lady Mary on the last morning ; " and of
this blue serge suit too (you should see Miss
Wyndham in blue serge !) ; but it is not a
question of pleasure, but of principle. I
don't like to throw over Wyndham at the
last moment, after what you said when I
failed the Hope Actons last year. Twins
could not feel more exactly together than
you and I do where a principle is involved.
I see you are about to advise me to keep
my engagement. Do not trouble to do so.
I am going to Portsmouth by the midday
train. Brown is at this moment packing my
telescope and life-belt."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 73
It was the end of August. The little lawn
at Slumberleigh Rectory was parched and
brown. The glebe beyond was brown. So
was the field beyond that. The thirsty road
was ash white between its grey hedgerows.
It was hotter in the open air than in the
house, but Ruth had brought her books out
into the garden all the same, and had made
a conscientious effort to read under the
For under the same roof with Mrs. Alwynn
she had soon learned that application or
study of any kind was an impossibility.
Mrs. Alwynn had several maxims as to the
conduct of herself, and consequently of every
one else, and one of those to which she most
174 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
frequently gave utterance was that "young
people should always be cheery and sociable,
and should not be left too much to them-
When in the winter Mr. Alwynn had
brought home Ruth, quite overwhelmed for
the time by the shock of the first real trouble
she had known, Mrs. Alwynn was kindness
itself in the way of food and warm rooms,
but the only thing Ruth craved for, to be
left alone, she would not allow for a moment.
No ! Mrs. Alwynn was cheerful, brisk, and
pious, at intervals. If she found her niece
was sitting in her own room, she bustled
upstairs, poked the fire, gave her a kiss, and
finally brought her down to the drawing-
room, where she told her she would be as
quiet as in her own room. She need not be
afraid her uncle would come in ; and she
must not allow herself to get moped. What
would she, Mrs. Alwynn, have done, she
would like to know, if, when she was in
trouble — and she knew what trouble meant,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 75
if any one did — she had allowed herself to
get moped. Ruth must try and bear up.
And at Lady Deyncourt's age it was quite
to be expected. And Ruth must remember
she still had a sister, and that there was a
happy home above. And now, if she would
get that green wool out of the red plush
iron (which really was a work-box — such a
droll idea, wasn't it ?), Ruth should hold the
wool, and they would have a cosy little chat
till luncheon time.
And so Mrs. Alwynn did her duty by
her niece ; and Ruth, in the dark days that
followed her grandmother's death, took all
the little kindnesses in the spirit in which
they were meant, and did her duty by her
But after a time Mrs. Alwynn became
more exacting. Ruth was visibly recovering
from what Mrs. Alwynn called "her bereave-
ment." She could smile again without an
effort ; she took long walks with Mr. Alwynn,
and, later in the spring, paid a visit to her
176 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
uncle, Lord Polesworth. It was after this
visit that Mrs. Alwynn became more exact-
ing. She had borne with half attention and
a lack of interest in crewel-work while Ruth
was still " fretting," as she termed it. But
when a person lays aside crape, and goes
into half-mourning, the time has come when
she may — nay, when she ought to be
" chatty." This time had come with Ruth,
but she was not " chatty." Like Mrs. Dom-
bey, she did not make an effort, and as the
months passed on, Mrs. Alwynn began to
shake her head, and to fear that " there was
some officer or something on her mind."
Mrs. Alwynn always called soldiers officers,
and doctors physicians.
Ruth on her side was vaguely aware that
she did not give satisfaction. The small
talk, the perpetual demand on her attention,
the constant interruptions seemed to benumb
what faculties she had. Her mind became
like a machine out of work — rusty, creaking,
difficult to set going. If she had half an
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. I 77
hour of leisure she could not fix her attention
to anything. She, who in her grandmother's
time had been so keen and alert, seemed
to have drifted, in Mrs. Alwynn's society,
into a torpid state, from which she made
vain attempts to emerge, only to sink the
When she stood once more, fresh from a
fortnight of pleasant intercourse with pleasant
people, in the little ornate drawing-room at
Slumberleigh, on her return from Atherstone,
the remembrance of the dulled, confused
state in which she had been living with her
aunt returned forcibly to her mind. The
various articles of furniture, the red silk
handkerchiefs dabbed behind pendent plates,
the musical elephants on the mantel-piece,
the imitation Eastern antimacassars, the
shocking fate in the way of nailed and glued
pictorial ornamentation that had overtaken
the back of the cottage piano — indeed, all the
various objects of luxury and vertu with
which Mrs. Alwynn had surrounded herself,
VOL. I. 12
178 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
seemed to recall to Ruth — as the apparatus
of the sick-room recalls the illness to the
patient, the stupor into which she had fallen
in their company. With her eyes fixed upon
the new brass pig (that was at heart a pen-
wiper) which Mrs. Alwynn had pointed out
as the gift of Mabel Thursby, who always
brought her back some little " tasty thing
from London " — with her eyes on the brass
pig, Ruth resolved that, come what would,
she would not allow herself to sink into such
a state of mental paralysis again.
To read a book of any description was out
of the question in the society of Mrs. Alwynn.
But Ruth, with the connivance of Mr.
Alwynn, devised a means of eluding her
aunt. At certain hours in the day she was
lost regularly, and not to be found. It was
summer, and the world, or at least the neigh-
bourhood of Slumberleigh Rectory, which was
the same thing, was all before her where to
choose. In after-years she used to say that
some books had always remained associated
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 79
with certain places in her mind. With
Emerson she learned to associate the scent
of hay, the desultory remarks of hens, and
the sudden choruses of ducks. Carlyle's
" Sartor Resartus," which she read for the
first time this year, always recalled to her
afterwards the leathern odour of the box-
room, with an occasional soupcon of damp
flapping linen in the orchard, which spot was
not visible from the Rectory windows.
Gradually Mrs. Alwynn became aware of
the fact that Ruth was never to be seen with
a book in her hand, and she expressed fears
that the latter was not keeping up her
" And if you don't like to read to yourself,
my dear, you can read to me while I work.
German, now. I like the sound of German
very well. It brings back the time when your
Uncle John and I went up the Rhine on our
honeymoon. And then, for English read-
ing there's a very nice book Uncle John
has somewhere on natural history, called
l8o SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Animals of a Quiet Life," by a Mr. Hare,
too — so comical, I always think. It's good
for you to be reading something. It is what
your poor dear granny would have wished if
she had been alive. Only it must not be
poetry, Ruth, not poetry."
Mrs. Alwynn did not approve of poetry.
She was wont to say that for her part she
liked only what was perfectly true, by which
it is believed she meant prose.
She had no books of her own. In times
of illness she borrowed from Mrs. Thursby
(who had all Miss Young's works, and selec-
tions from the publications of the S.P.C.K.).
On Sundays, when she could not work, she
read, half aloud, of course, with sighs at
intervals, a little manual called " Gold Dust,"
or a smaller one still, called " Pearls of Great
Price," which she had once recommended to
Charles, whom she knew slightly, and about
whom she affected to know a great deal,
which nothing (except pressing) would induce
her to repeat; which rendered the application
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. iS I
of the " Pearls," to be followed by the
" Dust," most essential to his future welfare.
On this particular morning in August,
Ruth had slipped out as far as the chestnut-
tree, the lower part of which was hidden from
the Rectory windows by a blessed yew
hedge. It was too hot to walk, it was too
hot to draw, it was even too hot to read. It
did not seem, however, to be too hot to
ride, for presently she heard a horse's hoofs
clattering across the stones of the stable-
yard, and she knew, from the familiarity of
the sound at that hour of the day, that Dare
had probably ridden over, and, more probably
still, would stay to luncheon.
The foreign gentleman, as all the village
people called him, had by this time become
quite an institution in the neighbourhood of
Vandon. Every one liked him, and he liked
every one. Like the sun, he shone upon the
just and the unjust. He went to every tennis
party to which he was invited. He was
pleased if people were at home when he
1 82 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
called. He became in many houses a
privileged person, and he never abused his
privileges. Women especially liked him.
He had what Mrs. Eccles denned as " such
a way with him ; " his way being to make
every woman he met think that she was
particularly interesting in his eyes — for the
time being. Men did not, of course, care for
him so much. When he stayed anywhere, it
was vaguely felt by the sterner sex of the
party that he stole a march upon them.
While they were smoking, after their kind,
in clusters on the lawn, it would suddenly be
observed that he was sitting" in the drawing-
room, giving a lesson in netting, or trying
over a new song encircled by young lady-
hood. It was felt that he took an unfair
advantage. Wnat business had he to come
down to tea in that absurd amber plush
smoking suit, just because the elder ladies
had begged to see it ? It was all the more
annoying, because he looked so handsome
in it. Like most men who are admired
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 83
by women, he was not much liked by
But the house to which he came the
oftenest was Slumberleigh Rectory. He was
faithful to his early admiration of Ruth ; and
the only obstacle to his making her (in his
opinion) happy among women, namely, her
possible want of fortune, had long since been
removed by the confidential remarks of Mrs.
Alwynn. To his foreign habits and ideas,
fourteen or fifteen hundred a year represented
a very large sum. In his eyes Ruth was an
heiress, and in all good earnest he set himself
to win her. Mr. Alwynn had now become
the proper person to consult regarding his
property ; and at first, to Ruth's undisguised
satisfaction, he consulted him nearly every
other day, his horse at last taking the turn
for Slumberleigh as a matter of course.
Many a time in these August days might
Mrs. Eccles and all the other inhabitants of
Slumberleigh have seen Dare ride up the
little street, taking as much active exercise
184 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
as his horse, only skywards ; the saddle being-
to him merely a point of rebound.
But if the object of his frequent visits was
misunderstood by Ruth at first, Dare did not
allow it to remain so long. And not only
Ruth herself, but Mr. and Mrs. Alwynn, and
the Rectory servants, and half the parish were
soon made aware of the state of his affections.
What was the good of being in love, of
having in view a social aim of such a praise-
worthy nature, if no one were aware of the
same ? Dare was not the man to hide even
a nightlight under a bushel ; how much less a
burning and a shining hymeneal torch such as
this. His sentiments were strictly honourable.
If he raised expectations, he was also quite
prepared to fulfil them. Miss Deyncourt was
quite right to treat him with her adorable,
placid assumption of indifference, until his
intentions were more avowed. In the mean-
while, she was an angel, a lily, a pearl, a
star, and several other things, animal, vege-
table, and mineral, which his vivid imagination
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 85
chose to picture her. But whatever Dare's
faults may have been — and Ruth was not
blind to them— he was at least head over
ears in love with her, fortune or none ; and
as his attachment deepened, it burned up
like fire all the little follies with which it had
A clergyman has been said to have made
love to the helpmeet of his choice out of the
Epistle to the Galatians. Dare made his
out of material hardly more promising — plans
for cottages, and estimate of repairs. He
had quickly seen how to interest Ruth,
though the reason for such an eccentric
interest puzzled him. However, he turned
it to his advantage. Ruth encouraged, sug-
gested, sympathized in all the little he was
already doing, and the much that he proposed
Of late, however, a certain not ungrounded
suspicion had gradually forced itself upon her
which had led her to withdraw as much as she
could from her former intercourse with Dare ;
[86 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
but her change of manner had not quite the
effect she had intended.
" She thinks I am not serious," Dare had
said to himself ; " she thinks that I play
with her feelings. She does not know me.
To-morrow I ride over ; I set her mind at
rest. To-morrow I propose ; I make an
offer ; I claim that adored hand ; I — become
Accordingly, not long after the clatter of
horse's hoofs in the stable-yard, Dare himself
appeared in the garden, and perceiving Ruth,
for whom he was evidently looking, informed
her that he had ridden over to ask Mr.
Alwynn to support him at a dinner his
tenants were giving in his honour — a custom
of the Vandon tenantry from time immemorial,
on the accession of a new landlord. He
spoke absently ; and Ruth, looking at him
more closely as he stood before her, wondered
at his altered manner. He had a rose in
his button-hole. He always had a rose in
his button-hole ; but somehow this was more
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 187
of a rose than usual. His moustaches were
twirled up with unusual grace.
"You will find Mr. Alwynn in the study,"
said Ruth hurriedly.
His only answer was to cast aside his whip
and gloves, as possible impedimenta later on,
and to settle himself, with an elegant arrange-
ment of the choicest gaiters, on the grass at
It is probably very disagreeable to repeat
in any form, however discreetly worded, the
old phrase —
" The reason why I cannot tell,
But I don't like you, Doctor Fell."
But it must be especially disagreeable, if a
refusal is at first not taken seriously, to be
obliged to repeat it, still more plainly, a
second time. It was Ruth's fate to be
obliged to do this, and to do it hurriedly,
or she foresaw complications might arise.
At last Dare understood, and the sudden
utter blankness of his expression smote Ruth
155 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
to the heart. He had loved her in his way-
after all. It is a bitter thing to be refused.
She felt that she had been almost brutal in
her direct explicitness, called forth at the
moment by an instinct that he would proceed
to extreme measures unless peremptorily
" I am so sorry," she said involuntarily.
Poor Dare, who had recovered a certain
amount of self-possession now that he was
on his feet again, took up his gloves and
riding-whip in silence. All his jaunty self-
assurance had left him. He seemed quite
stunned. His face under his brown skin
was very pale.
" I am so sorry," said Ruth again, feeling
"It is I who am sorry," he said humbly.
" I have made a great mistake, for which I
ask pardon ; " and, after looking at her for a
moment, in blank incertitude as to whether
she could really be the same person whom
he had come to seek in such happy confidence
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 189
half an hour before, he raised his hat, his
new light-grey hat, and was gone.
Ruth watched him go, and when he had
disappeared, she sat down again mechanically
in the chair from which she had risen a few
moments before, and pressed her hands
tightly together. She ought not to have
allowed such a thing to happen, she said to
herself. Somehow it had never presented
itself to her in its serious aspect before. It
is difficult to take a vain man seriously.
Poor Mr. Dare ! She had not known he was
capable of caring so much about anything.
He had never appeared to such advantage in
her eyes as he had done when he had left
her the moment before, grave and silent.
She felt she had misjudged him. He was
not so frivolous, after all. And now that
her influence was at an end, who would keep
him up to the mark about the various duties
which she knew now he had begun to fulfil
only to please her ? Oh, who would help
and encourage him in that most difficult of
I90 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
positions, a landowner without means sufficient
for doing the best by land and tenantry ?
She instinctively felt that he could not be
relied upon for continuous exertion by
" I wish I could have liked him," said
Ruth to herself. " I wish, I wish I could ! "
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. IQI
During the whole of the following week
Dare appeared no more at Slumberleigh.
Mrs. Alwynn, whose time was much occupied
as a rule in commenting on the smallest
doings of her neighbours, or in wondering
why they left undone certain actions which
she herself would have performed in their
place, Mrs. Alwynn would infallibly have
remarked upon his absence many times
during every hour of the day, had not her
attention been distracted for the time being
by a one-horse fly which she had seen go
up the road on the afternoon of the day of
Dare's last visit, the destination of which
had filled her soul with anxious conjecture.
She did not ascertain till the following day
19- SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
that it had been ordered for Mrs. Smith of
Greenacre ; though, as she told Ruth, she
might have known that, as Mr. Smith was
going for a holiday with Mrs. Smith, and
their pony lame in its feet, that they would
have to have a fly, and with that hill up to
Greenacre she was surprised one horse was
When the question of the fly had been
thus satisfactorily settled, and Mrs. Alwynn
had ceased wondering whether the Smiths
had gone to Tenby or to Rhyl (she always
imagined people went to one or other of
these two places), her whole attention reverted
to a screen which she was making, the
elegance and novelty of which supplied her
with a congenial subject of conversation for
" There is something so new in a screen,
an entire screen of Christmas cards," Mrs.
Alwynn would remark. " Now, Mrs.
Thursby's new screen is all pictures out of
the Graphic, and those coloured Christinas
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 93
numbers. She has put all her cards in a
book. There is something rather passy about
those albums, I think. Now I fancy this
screen will look quite out of the common,
Ruth ; and when it is done, I shall get some
of those Japanese cranes, and stand them on
the top. Their claws are made to twist
round, you know, and I shall put some
monkeys — you know those droll chenille
monkeys, Ruth — creeping up the sides to
meet the cranes. I don't honestly think,
my dear" — with complacency — "that many
people will have anything like it."
Ruth did not hesitate to say that she felt
certain very few would.
Mrs. Alwynn was delighted at the interest
she took in her new work. Ruth was coming
out at last, she told her husband ; and she
passed many happy hours entirely absorbed
in the arrangement of the cards upon the
panels. Ruth, thankful that her attention
had been providentially distracted from the
matter that filled her own thoughts in a way
vol. i. 13
194 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
that surprised and annoyed her, sorted, and
snipped, and pasted, and decided weighty
questions as to whether a goitred robin on a
twig should be placed next to a smiling plum-
pudding, dancing a polka with a turkey, or
whether a congealed cross with " Christian
greeting " in icicles on it, should separate the
To her uncle Ruth told what had happened ;
and as he slowly wended his way to Vandon
on the day fixed for the tenants' dinner, Mr.
Alwynn mused thereon, and I believe, if the
truth were known, 'he was sorry that Dare
had been refused. He was a little before
his time, and he stopped on the bridge, and
looked at the river, as it came churning and
sweeping below, fretted out of its usual calm
by the mill above. I think that as he leaned
over the low stone parapet he made many
quiet little reflections, besides the involuntary
one of himself in the water below. He
would have liked (he was conscious that it
was selfish, but yet he would have liked) to
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 195
have Ruth near him always. He would
have liked to see this strange son of his old
friend in good hands, that would lead him —
as it is popularly supposed a woman's hand
sometimes can — in the way of all others, in
which Mr. Alwynn was anxious that he
should walk ; a way in which he sometimes
feared that Dare had not made any great
progress as yet. Mr. Alwynn felt at times,
when conversing with him, that Dare's life
could not have been one in which the nobler
feelings of his nature had been much brought
into play, so crude and unformed were his
ideas of principle and responsibility, so slack
and easy-going his views of life.
But if Mr. Alwynn felt an occasional
twinge of anxiety and misgiving about his
young friend, it speedily turned to self-
upbraiding for indulging in a cynical, un-
worthy spirit, which was ever ready to seek
out the evil and overlook the good ; and he
gradually convinced himself that only favour-
able circumstances were required for the
I96 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
blossoming forth of those noble attributes, of
which the faintest indications on Dare's part
were speedily magnified by the powerful lens
of Mr. Alwynn's charity to an extent which
would have filled Dare with satisfaction, and
would have overwhelmed a more humble
nature with shame.
And Ruth would not have him ! Mr.
Alwynn remembered a certain passage in his
own youth, a long time ago, when somebody
(a very foolish somebody, I think) would not
have him either ; and it was with that
remembrance still in his mind that he met
Dare, who had come as far as the lodge
gates to meet him, and whose forlorn appear-
ance touched Mr. Alwynn's heart the moment
he saw him.
There was not time for much conversation.
To his astonishment, Mr. Alwynn found
Dare actually nervous about the coming
ordeal ; and on the way to the Green
Dragon, where the dinner was to be given,
he reassured him as best he could, and
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 197
suggested the kind of answer he should
make when his health was drunk.
When, a couple of hours later, all was
satisfactorily over, when the last health had
been drunk, the last song sung, and Dare
was driving Mr. Alywnn home in the shabby
old Vandon dog-cart, both men were at first
too much overcome by the fumes of tobacco,
in which they had been hidden, to say a
word to each other. At last, however, Mr.
Alwynn drew a long breath, and said faintly —
" I trust I may never be so hot again.
Drive slowly under these trees, Dare. It is
cooling to look at them, after sitting behind
that steaming volcano of a turkey. How is
your head getting on ? I saw you went in
"Was that punch?" said Dare. "Then
I take no more punch in the future."
" You spoke capitally, and brought in the
right sentiment, that there is no place like
home, in first-rate style. You see, you need
not have been nervous."
I98 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Ah ! but it was you who spoke really
well," said Dare, with something of his old
eager manner. "You know these people.
You know their heart. You understand them.
Now, for me, I said what you tell me, and
they were pleased, but I can never be with
them like you. I understand the words they
speak, but themselves I do not understand."
" It will come."
"No," with a rare accession of humility. "I
have cared for none of these things till — till
I came to hear them spoken of at Slumber-
leigh by you and — and now at first it is
smooth because I say I will do what I can,
but soon they will find out I cannot do much,
and then " He shrugged his shoulders.
They drove on in silence.
" But these things are nothing — nothing,"
burst out Dare at last in a tremulous voice,
" to the one thing I think of all night, all
day — how I love Miss Deyncourt, and how,"
with a simplicity which touched Mr. Alwynn,
" she does not love me at all."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 1 99
There is something pathetic in seeing any
cheerful, light-hearted animal reduced to
silence and depression. To watch a barking,
worrying, jovial puppy suddenly desist from
parachute expeditions on unsteady legs, and
from shaking imaginary rats, and creep, tail
close at home, overcome by affliction, into
obscurity, is a sad sight. Mr. Alwynn felt
much the same kind of pity for Dare, as he
glanced at him, resignedly blighted, hand-
somely forlorn, who but a short time ago had
taken life as gaily and easily as a boy home
for the holidays.
" Sometimes," said Mr. Alwynn, addressing
himself to the mill, and the bridge, and the
world in general, " young people change their
minds. I have known such things happen."
" I shall never change mine."
" Perhaps not; but others might."
" Ah! "and Dare turned sharply towards
Mr. Alwynn, scanning his face with sudden
eagerness. " You think — you think pos-
200 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" I don't think anything at all," interposed
Mr. Alwynn, rather taken aback at the
evident impression his vague words had
made, and anxious to qualify them. " I was
only speaking generally ; but — ahem ! there
is one point, as we are on the subject
" Yes, yes ? "
" Whether you consider any decision as
final or not," Mr. Alwynn addressed the
clouds in the sky, " I think, if you do not
wish it to be known that anything has taken
place, you had better come and see me
occasionally at Slumberleigh. I have missed
your visits for the past week. The fact is,
Mrs. Alwynn has a way of interesting herself
in all her friends. She has a kind heart, and
— you understand — any little difference in
their behaviour might be observed by her,
and might possibly — might possibly " — Mr.
Alwynn was at a loss for a word — " be, in short,
commented on to others. Suppose now you
were to come back with me to tea to-day?"
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 201
And Dare went, nothing loth, and arrived
at a critical moment in the manufacture of
the screen, when all the thickest Christmas
cards threatened to resist the influence of
paste, and to curl up, to the great anxiety of
One of the principal reasons of Dare's
popularity was the way in which he threw
his whole heart into whatever he was doing,
for the time ; never for a long time, certainly,
for he rarely bored himself or others by
adherence to one set of ideas after its novelty
had worn off.
And now, as if nothing else existed in the
world, and with a grave manner suggesting
repressed suffering and manly resignation, he
concentrated his whole mind on Mrs. Alwynn's
recalcitrant cards, and made Ruth grateful to
him by his tact in devoting himself to her
aunt and the screen.
"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Alwynn, after
he was gone. " I never did see any one like
Mr. Dare. I declare he has made the church
202 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
stick, Ruth, and ' Blessings on my friend,'
which turned up at the corners twice when
you put it on, and the big middle one of the
kittens skating too ! Dear me ! I am pleased.
I hope Mrs. Thursby won't call till it's
finished. But he did not look well, Ruth,
did he ? Rather pale now, I thought."
" He has had a tiring day," said Ruth.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 203
At Slumberleigh you have time to notice the
change of the seasons. There is no hurry
at Slumberleigh. Spring, summer, autumn,
and winter, each in their turn, take quite a
year to come and go. Three months ago
it was August ; now September had arrived.
It was actually the time of damsons. Those
damsons which Ruth had seen dangling for
at least three years in the cottage orchards
were ripe at last. It seemed ages ago since
April, when the village was a foaming mass
of damson blossom, and the " plum winter "
had set in just when spring really seemed
to have arrived for good. It was a well-
known thing in Slumberleigh, though Ruth
till last April had not been aware of it, that
204 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
God Almighty always sent cold weather
when the Slumberleigh damsons were in
bloom, to harden the fruit. And now, the
lame, the halt, and the aged of Slumberleigh
all with one consent mounted on tottering
ladders to pick their damsons, or that mys-
terious fruit, closely akin to the same, called
" black Lamas ploums."
There were plum accidents, of course, in
plenty. The Lord took Mrs. Eccles' own
uncle from his half-filled basket to another
world, for which, as a " tea and coffee totaller,"
he was, no doubt, well prepared. The too
receptive organisms of unsuspecting infancy
suffered in their turn. In short, it was a
busy season for Mr. and Mrs. Alwynn.
Ruth had plenty of opportunities now for
making her long-projected sketch of the
ruined house of Arleigh, for the old woman
who lived in the lodge close by, and had
charge of the place, had " ricked " her back
in a damson tree, and Ruth often went to
see her. She had been Ruth's nurse in her
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 205
childhood, and having originally come from
Slumberleigh, returned there when the Deyn-
court children grew up, and lived happily
ever after, with the very blind and entirely
deaf old husband of her choice, in the grey
stone lodge at Arleigh.
It was on her return from one of these
almost daily visits that Mrs. Eccles pounced
on Ruth as she passed her gate, and under
pretence of inquiring after Mrs. Cotton, in-
formed her that she herself was suffering in
no slight degree. Ruth, who suddenly re-
membered that she had been remiss in
" dropping in " on Mrs. Eccles of late,
dropped in then and there to make up for
" Is it rheumatism again ? " she asked, as
Mrs. Eccles seemed inclined to run off at
once into a report of the goings on of Widow
" Not that, my dear, so much as a sinking,"
said Mrs. Eccles, passing her hand slowly
over what seemed more like a rising than
206 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
a depression in her ample figure. " But
there ! I've not been myself since the Lord
took old Samiwell Price, and that's the truth."
Samuel Price was the relation who had
entered into rest off a ladder, and Ruth
looked duly serious.
" I have no doubt it upset you very much,"
" Well, miss," returned Mrs. Eccles with
dignity, "it's not as if I'd had my 'ealth
before. I've had something wrong in the
cistern" (Ruth wondered whether she meant
system) " these many years. From a gell
I suffered in my inside. But lor ! I was
born to trouble, baptized in a bucket, and
taken with collects at a week old. And how
did you say Mrs. Cotton of the lodge might
be, miss, as I hear is but poorly too ? "
Ruth replied that she was better.
" She's no size to keep her in 'ealth," said
Mrs. Eccles, "and so bent as she does grow
to be sure. Eh, dear, but it's a good thing
to be tall. I always think little folks they're
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2C»7
like them little watches, they've no room for
their insides. And I wonder now" — Mrs.
Eccles was coming to the point that had
made her entrap Ruth on her way past —
" I wonder now "
Ruth did not help her. She knew too
well the universal desire for knowledge of
good and evil peculiar to her sex, to doubt
for a moment that Mrs. Eccles had begged
her to " step in " only to obtain some piece
of information, about which her curiosity had
" I wonder, now, if Cotton at the lodge
has heard anything of the poachers again
this year, round Arleigh way ? "
" Not that I know of," said Ruth, surprised
at the simplicity of the question.
" Dear sakes ! and to think of 'em at
Vandon last night, and Mr. Dare and the
keepers out all night after 'em."
Ruth was interested in spite of herself.
"And the doctor sent for in the middle
of the night," continued Mrs. Eccles, covertly
208 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
eyeing Ruth. " Poor young gentleman !
For all his forrin ways, there's a many in
Vandon as sets store by him."
" I don't think you need be uneasy about
Mr. Dare," said Ruth coldly, conscious that
Mrs. Eccles was dying to see her change
colour. " If anything had happened to him,
Mr. Alwynn would have heard of it. And
now," rising, " I must be going ; and if I
were you, Mrs. Eccles, I should not listen to
all the gossip of the village."
" Me listen ! " said Mrs. Eccles, much
offended. " Me, as is too poorly so much as
to put my foot out of the door ! But, dear
heart ! " with her usual quickness of vision,
" if there isn't Mr. Alwynn and Dr. Brown
riding up the street now in Dr. Brown's
gig ! Well, I never ! and Mr. Alwynn
a-getting out, and a-talking as grave as can
be to Dr. Brown. Poor Mr. Dare ! Poor
dear young gentleman ! "
Ruth was conscious that she beat rather a
hurried retreat from Mrs. Eccles' cottage,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 20<)
and that her voice was not quite so steady as
usual when she asked the doctor if it were
true that Mr. Dare had been hurt.
"All the village will have it that he is
killed ; but he is all right, I assure you, Miss
Deyncourt," said the kind old doctor, so
soothingly and reassuringly that Ruth grew
pink with annoyance at the tone. " Not a
scratch. He was out with his keepers last
night, and they had a brush with poachers ;
and Martin, the head keeper, was shot in the
leg. Bled a good deal, so they sent for me ;
but no danger. I picked up your uncle here
on his way to see him, and so I gave him a
lift there and back. That is all, I assure you. "
And Dr. Brown and Mrs. Eccles, straining
over her geraniums, both came to the same
conclusion, namely, that, as Mrs. Eccles
elegantly expressed it, " Miss Ruth wanted
"And he'll have her, too, I'm thinking,
one of these days," Mrs. Eccles would remark
to the circle of her acquaintance.
vol. i. 14
2IO SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Indeed, the match was discussed on
numerous ladders, with almost as much
interest as the unfailing theme of the damsons
And Dare rode over to the Rectory as
often as he used to do before a certain day
in August, when he had found Ruth under
the chestnut-tree ; the very day before Mrs.
Alwynn started on her screen, now the com-
pleted glory of the drawing-room.
And was Ruth beginning to like him ?
As it had not occurred to her to ask
herself that question, I suppose she was not.
Dare had grown very quiet and silent of
late, and showed a growing tendency to dark
hats. His refusal had been so unexpected,
that the blow, when it came, fell with all the
more crushing force. His self-love and self-
esteem had been wounded ; but so had some-
thing else. Under the velvet corduroy
waistcoat, which he wore in imitation of
Ralph, he had a heart. Whether it was one
of the very best of its kind or warranted to
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 211
wear well is not for us to judge ; but, at any
rate, it was large enough to take in a very
real affection, and to feel a very sharp pang.
Dare's manner to Ruth was now as diffident
as it had formerly been assured. To some
minds there is nothing more touching than a
sudden access of humility on the part of a
Whether Ruth's mind was one of this
class or not we do not pretend to know.
2 12 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
It was Sunday morning- at Atherstone. In
the dining-room, breakfasting alone, for he
had come down late, was Sir Charles Danvers.
His sudden arrival on the previous Saturday
was easily accounted for. When he had
casually walked into the drawing-room late
in the evening, he had immediately and
thoroughly explained the reasons of his un-
expected arrival. It seemed odd that he
should have come to Atherstone, in the
midland counties, "on his way" between
two shooting visits in the north, but so it
was. It might have been thought that one
of his friends would have been willing to
keep him two days longer, or receive him
two days earlier ; but no doubt every one
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 213
knows his own affairs best, and Charles
might certainly, " at his age," as he was so
fond of saying, be expected to know his.
Anyhow, there he was, leaning against
the open window, coffee-cup in hand, lazily
watching the dwindling figures of Ralph and
Evelyn, with Molly between them, disappear-
ing in the direction of Greenacre church
The morning mist still lingered on the
land, and veiled the distance with a tender
blue. And up across the silver fields, and
across the standing armies of the yellowing
corn, the sound of church bells came from
Slumberleigh, beyond the river ; bringing
back to Charles, as to us all, old memories,
old hopes, old visions of early youth, long
cherished, long forgotten.
The single bell of Greenacre was giving
forth a slow, persistent, cracked invitation to
true believers, as an appropriate prelude to
Mr. Smith's eloquence ; but Charles did not
hear its testimony.
214 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
He was listening to the Slumberleieh bells.
Was that the first chime or the second ?
Suddenly a thought crossed his mind.
Should he go to church ?
He smiled at the idea. It was a little late
to think of that. Besides, he had let the
others start, and he disliked that refuse of
mildew and dust, 'Greenacre.
There was Slumberleieh !
There went the bells again !
Slumberleigh ! Absurd ! Why, he should
positively have to run to get there before the
First Lesson ; and that mist meant heat, or
he was much mistaken.
Charles contemplated the mist for a few
Tang, teng, ting, tong, tung !
He certainly always made a point of going
to church at his own home. A good example
is, after all, just as important in one place as
Tang, tong, teng, tung, ting ! went the
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2 15
" Why not run ? " suggested an inner
voice. " Put down your cup. There ! Now !
Your hat's in the hall, with your gloves
beside it. Never mind about your Prayer-
book. Dear me ! Don't waste time looking
for your own stick. Take any. Quick ! out
through the garden gate! No one can see
you. The servants have all gone to church
except the cook, and the kitchen looks out
on the yew hedge."
"Over the first stile," said Charles to
himself. " I am out of sight of the house
now. Let us be thankful for small mercies.
I shall do it yet. Oh, what a fool I am !
I'm worse than Raca, as Molly said. I shall
be rushing precipitately down a steep place
into the sea next. Confound this gate !
Why can't people leave them open ? At
any rate, it will remain open now. I am
not going to have my devotions curtailed by
a gate. I fancied it would be hot, but never
anything half as hot as this. I hope I shan't
meet Brown taking a morning stroll. I
2l6 SIR CHARLES DANVFRS.
value Brown ; but I should have to dismiss
him if he saw me now. I could never meet
his eye again. What on earth shall I say to
Ralph and Evelyn when I get back ? What
a merciful Providence it is that Aunt Mary
is at this moment intoning a response in the
highest church in Scarborough ! "
Ting, ting, ting I
" Mr. Alwynn is getting on his surplice, is
he ? Well, and if he is, I can make a final
rush through the corn, can't I ? there's not
a creature in sight. The bell's down ? What
of that ? There is the voluntary. Easy
over the last fields. There are houses in
sight, and there may be wicked Sabbath-
breakers looking out of windows. Brown's
foal has grown since July. Here we are !
I am not the only Christian hurrying among
the tombs. I shall get in with ' the wicked
man ' after all."
Some people do not look round in church ;
others do, Mrs. Alwynn always did, partly
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 21 7
because she wished to see what was going
on behind her, and partly because, in turning
back again, she could take a stealthy survey
of Mrs. Thursby's bonnet, in which she
always felt a burning interest, which she
would not for worlds have allowed that lady
If the turning round had been all, it would
have mattered little; but Mrs. Alwynn suffered
so intensely from keeping silence, that she
was obliged to relieve herself at intervals by
short whispered comments to Ruth,
On this particular morning it seemed as if
the comments would never end.
<( I am so elad we asked Mr. Dare into
our pew, Ruth, The Thursbys are full.
That's Mrs, Thursby's sister in the red
Ruth made no reply. She was following
the responses in the psalms with a marked
attention, purposely marked to check con-
versation, and sufficient to have daunted
anybody but her aunt.
21 8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Mrs. Alwynn took a spasmodic interest in
the psalm, but it did not last.
" Only two basses in the choir, and the
new Te Deum> Ruth ! How vexed Mr.
Alwynn will be ! "
No response from Ruth. Mrs. Alwynn
took another turn at her Prayer-book, and
then at the con cremation.
" ' I am become as it were a monster
unto ' Ruth! Ruth!"
Ruth at last turned her head a quarter
of an inch.
" Sir Charles Danvers is sitting in the free
seats by the font."
Ruth nailed her eyes to her book, and
would vouchsafe no further si^n of attention
during the rest of the service ; and Dare, on
the other side, anxious to copy Ruth in
everything, being equally obdurate, Mrs.
Alwynn had no resource left but to follow
the service half aloud to herself, at the times
when the congregation were not supposed to
join in, putting great emphasis on certain
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2IO,
words which she felt applicable to herself, in
a manner that effectually prevented any one
near her from attending to the service at all.
It was with a sudden pang that Dare,
following Ruth out into the sunshine after
service, perceived for the first time Charles,
standing, tall and distinguished-looking, be-
side the rather insignificant heir of all the
Thursbys, who regarded him with the mixed
admiration and gnawing envy of a very
young man for a man no longer young.
And then — Charles never quite knew how
it happened, but with the full intention of
walking back to the Rectory with the
Alwynns, and staying to luncheon, he actually
found himself in Ruth's very presence ac-
cepting a cordial invitation to luncheon at
Slumberleigh Hall. For the first time during
the last • ten years he had done a thing he
had no intention of doing. A temporary
long-lost feeling of shyness had seized upon
him as he saw Ruth coming out, tall and
pale and graceful, from the shadow of the
2 20 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
church porch into the blaze of the midday
sunshine. He had not calculated either for
that sudden disconcerting leap of the heart
as her eyes met his. He had an idiotic
feeling that she must be aware that he had
run most of the way to church, and that he
had contemplated the burnished circles of
her back hair for two hours, without a
glance at the fashionably scraped-up head-
dress of Mabel Thursby, with its hogged
mane of little wire curls in the nape of the
neck. He felt he still looked hot and dusty,
though he had imagined he was quite cool
the moment before. To his own astonish-
ment, he actually found his self-possession
leaving him; and though its desertion proved
only momentary, in that moment he found
himself walking away with the Thursbys in
the direction of the Hall. He was provoked,
angry with himself, with the Thursbys, and,
most of all, with Mr. Alwynn, who had come
up a second later, and asked him to luncheon
as a matter of course, also Dare, who ac-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 22 1
cepted with evident gratitude. Charles felt
that he had not gone steeplechasing over the
country only to talk to Mrs. Thursby, and to
see Ruth stroll away over the fields with
Dare towards the Rectory.
However, he made himself extremely
agreeable, which was with him more a matter
of habit than those who occasionally profited
by it would have cared to know. He asked
young Thursby his opinion on E.C. car-
tridges ; he condoled with Mrs. Thursby on
the loss of her last butler, and recounted
some alarming anecdotes of his own French
cook. He admired a pallid water-colour
drawing of Venice, in an enormous frame on
an enormous easel, which he rightly supposed
to be the manual labour of Mabel Thursby.
When he rose to take his leave, young
Thursby, intensely flattered by having been
asked for that opinion on cartridges by so
renowned a shot as Charles, offered to walk
part of the way back with him.
" I am afraid I am not going home yet,"
22 2 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
said Charles lightly. " Duty points in the
opposite direction. I have to call at the
Rectory. I want Mr. Alwynn's opinion on
a point of clerical etiquette, which is setting
my young spiritual shepherd at Stoke
Moreton against his principal sheep, namely,
And Charles took his departure, leaving
golden opinions behind him, and a deter-
mination to invite him once more to shoot,
in spite of his many courteous refusals of the
last few years.
Mrs. Alwynn always took a nap after
luncheon, in her smart Sunday gown, among
the mustard-coloured cushions of her hicrh-
art sofa. Mr. Alwynn, also, was apt at the
same time to sink into a subdued, almost
apologetic, doze in the old arm-chair which
alone had resisted the march of discomfort
and so called " taste " which had invaded the
rest of the little drawing-room of Slumber-
leigh Rectory. Ruth was sitting with her
dark head leant against the open window-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 223
frame. Dare had not stayed after luncheon,
being at times nervously afraid of giving her
too much of his society, and she was at
liberty to read over again, if she chose, the
solitary letter which the Sunday post had
brought her. But she did not do so ; she
And so her sister Anna was actually re-
turning to England at last ! She and her
husband had taken a house in Rome, and
had arranged that Ruth should join them in
London in November, and go abroad with
them after Christmas for the remainder of
the winter. She had pleasant recollections
of previous winters in Rome, or on the
Riviera with her grandmother, and she was
surprised that she did not feel more interested
in the prospect. She supposed she would
like it when the time came, but she seemed
to care very little about it at the present
moment. It had become very natural to live
at Slumberleigh, and although there were
drawbacks — here she glanced involuntarily
224 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
at her aunt, who was making her slumbers
vocal by a running commentary on them
through her nose — still she would be sorry
to go. Mr. Alwynn gave the ghost of a
miniature snore, and, opening his eyes, found
Ruth's bent affectionately upon him. Her
mind went back to another point in Anna's
letter. After dilating on the extreme admira-
tion and regard entertained for herself by
her husband, his readiness with shawls, etc.,
she went on to ask whether Ruth had heard
any news of Raymond.
Ruth sighed. Would there ever be any
news of Raymond ? The old nurse at
Arleigh always asked the same question.
"Any news of Master Raymond ?" It was
with a tired ache of the heart that Ruth
heard that question, and always gave the
same answer. Once she had heard from
him since Lady Deyncourt's death, after she
had written to tell him, as gently as she
could, that she and Anna had inherited all
their grandmother had to leave. A couple
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 225
of months later she had received a hurried
note in reply, inveighing against Lady
Deyncourt's injustice, saying (as usual) that
he was hard up for money, and that, when he
knew where it might safely be sent, he should
expect her and her sister to make up to him
for his disappointment. And since then,
since April — not a word. June, July, August,
September. Four months and no sign.
When he was in want of money his letters
heretofore had made but little delay. Had
he fallen ill, and died out there, or met his
death suddenly perhaps in some wild adven-
ture under an assumed name ? Her lips
tightened, and her white brows contracted
over her absent eyes. It was an old anxiety,
but none the less wearing because it was old.
Ruth put it wearily from her, and took up
the first book which came to her hand, to
distract her attention.
It was a manual out of which Mrs. Alwynn
had been reading extracts to her in the
morning, while Ruth had been engaged in
vol. 1. 15
2 26 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
preparing- herself to teach in the Sunday
school. She wondered vaguely how pleasure
could be derived, even by the most religious
persons, from seeing favourite texts twined in
and out among forget-me-nots, or falling
aslant in old English letters off bunches of
violets ; but she was old enough and wise
enough to know that one man's religion is
another man's occasion of stumbling. Books
are made to fit all minds, and small minds
lose themselves in large-minded books. The
thousands in which these little manuals are
sold, and the confidence with which their
readers recommend them to others, indicate
the calibre of the average mind, and shows
that they meet a want possibly " not known
before," but which they alone, with their
little gilt edges, can adequately fill. Ruth
was gazing in absent wonder at the volume
which supplied all her aunt's spiritual needs,
when she heard the wire of the front door
bell squeak faintly. It was a stiff-necked
and obdurate bell, which for several years
Mr. Alwynn had determined to see about.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 22 7
A few moments later, James, the new and
inexperienced footman, opened the door
about half a foot, put in his head, murmured
something inaudible, and withdrew it again.
A tall figure appeared in the doorway, and
advanced to meet her, then stopped midway.
Ruth rose hastily, and stood where she had
risen, her eyes glancing first at Mr. and then
at Mrs. Alwynn.
The alien presence of a visitor had not
disturbed them. Mrs. Alwynn, her head
well forward, and a succession of chins
undulating in perfect repose upon her chest,
was sleeping as a stout person only can — all
over. Mr. Alwynn, opposite, his thin hands
clasped listlessly over his knee, was as un-
conscious of the two pairs of eyes fixed upon
him as Nelson himself, laid out in Madame
Charles's eyes, twinkling with suppressed
amusement, met Ruth's. He shook his head
energetically, as she made a slight movement
as if to wake them, and stepping forward,
2 28 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
pointed with his hat towards the open
window, which reached to the ground. Ruth
understood, but she hesitated. At this
moment Mrs. Alwyrin began a variation on
the simple theme in which she had been
indulging, and in so much higher a key, that
all hesitation vanished. She stepped hastily
out through the window, and Charles
followed. They stood together for a moment
in the blazing sunshine, both too much
amused to speak.
"You are bareheaded," he said suddenly ;
" is there any " — looking round — " any shade
we could take refuge under ? "
Ruth led the way round the yew hedge to
the horse chestnut; that horse chestnut under
which Dare had once lost his self-esteem.
" I am afraid," said Charles, " I arrived at
an inopportune moment. As I was lunching
with the Thursbys, I came up in the hope of
finding Mr. Alwynn, whom I wanted to
consult about a small matter in my own
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 2 29
Charles was quite pleased with this
sentence, when he had airily given it out.
It had a true ring about it he fancied, which
he remembered with trratitude was more than
the door bell had. Peace be with that door
bell, and with the engaging youth who
" I wish you had let me wake Mr.
Alwynn," said Ruth. "He will sleep on
now till the bells begin. "
" On no account. I should have been
shocked if you had disturbed him. I assure
you I can easily wait until he naturally wakes
up ; that is," with a glance at the book in
her hand, " if I am not disturbing you — if
you are not engaged in improving yourself
at this moment."
" No. I have improved myself for the
day, thanks. I can safely afford to relax
a little now."
"So can I. I resemble Lady Mary in
that. On Sunday mornings she reflects on
her own shortcomings ; on Sunday afternoons
23O SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
she finds an innocent relaxation in pointing-
" Where is Lady Mary now ? "
" I should say she was in her bath chair
on the Scarborough sands at this moment."
" I like her," said Ruth with decision.
" Tastes differ. Some people feel drawn
towards wet blankets, and others have a
leaning towards pokers. Do you know why
you like her ? "
" I never thought about it, but I suppose
it was because she seemed to like nie."
" Exactly. You admired her good taste.
A very natural vanity, most pardonable in
the young, was gratified at seeing marks of
favour so well bestowed."
" I dare say you are right. At any rate,
you seem so familiar with the workings of
vanity in the human breast that it would be
a pity to contradict you."
" By the way," said Charles, speaking in
the way people do who have nothing to say,
and are trying to hit on any subject of con-
SIR CHARLES BANVERS. 23 1
versation, " have you heard any more of
your tramp ? There was no news of him
when I left. I asked the Slumberleigh
policeman about him again on my way to
" I have heard no more of him, though
I keep his memory green. I have not for-
gotten the fright he gave me. I had always
imagined I was rather a self-possessed person
till that day."
" I am a coward myself when I am
frightened," said Charles consolingly, "though
at other times as bold as a lion."
They were both sitting under the nickering
shadow of the already yellowing horse
chestnut tree, the first of all the trees to set
the gorgeous autumn fashions. But as yet
it was paling only at the edges of its slender
fans. The air was sweet and soft, with a
voiceless whisper of melancholy in it, as if
the summer knew, for all her smiles, her hour
had well-nigh come.
The Rectory cows, the mottled one, and
232 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
the red one, and the big white one that was
always milked first, came slowly past on their
way to the pond, blinking their white eye-
lashes leisurely at Charles and Ruth.
44 It is almost as hot as that Sunday in
July when we walked over from Atherstone.
Do you remember ? " said Charles suddenly.
She knew he was thinking of their last
conversation, and she felt a momentary sur-
prise that he had remembered it.
44 We never finished that conversation," he
said, after a pause.
" No ; but then, conversations never are
finished, are they ? They always seem to
break off just when they are coming to the
beginning. A bell rings, or there is an
interruption, or one is told it is bedtime."
" Or fools rush in with their word where
you and I should fear to tread, and spoil
" And have you been holding the wool and
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 233
tying up the flowers, as you so graphically
described, ever since you left Atherstone in
July ? "
44 I hope I have ; I have tried."
" I am sure of that," he said with sudden
earnestness ; then added more slowly, " I
have not wound any wool ; I have only
" Perhaps," said Ruth, turning her clear
frank gaze upon him, " that may have been
the harder work of the two ; it sometimes is."
His light restless eyes, with the searching
look in them which she had seen before,
met hers, and then wandered away again
to the level meadows, and the woods, and
the faint sky.
" 1 think it was," he said at last ; and
both were silent. He reflected that his con-
versations with Ruth had a way of beginning
in fun, becoming more serious, and ending in
The bells rang out suddenly.
Charles thought they were full early.
234 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" Mr. Alwynn will wake up now," said
Ruth. " I will tell him you are here."
But before she had time to do more than
rise from her chair, Mr. Alwynn came slowly
round the yew hedge, and stopped suddenly
in front of the chestnut tree, amazed at what
he saw beneath it. His mild eyes gazed
blankly at Charles through his spectacles,
gathering a pained expression as they peered
over the top of them, which did not lessen
when they fell on Ruth.
Charles explained in a few words the
purport of his visit, which had already ex-
plained itself quite sufficiently to Mr. Alwynn ;
and mentioning that he had waited in the
hope of presently finding Mr. Alwynn •' dis-
engaged " (at this Mr. Alwynn blushed a
little), asked leave to walk as far as the
church with him to consult him on a small
matter, etc., etc. It was a neat sentence, but
it did not sound quite so well the third time.
It had lost by the heathenish and vain
repetitions to which it had been subjected.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 235
" Certainly, certainly," said Mr. Alwynn ;
mollified but still discomposed. " You should
have waked me, Ruth," turning reproachfully
to his niece, whose conduct had never in his
eyes fallen short of perfection till this moment.
" Little nap after luncheon. Hardly asleep.
You should have waked me."
" There was Aunt Fanny," said Ruth,
feeling as if she had committed some grave
" Ah-h ! " said Mr. Alwynn, as if her reason
were a weighty one, his memory possibly
recalling the orchestral nourish which as a
rule heralded his wife's return to conscious-
ness. " True, true, my dear. I must be
going," as the chime ceased. " Are you
coming to church this afternoon ? "
Ruth replied that she was not ; and Mr.
Alwynn and Charles departed together,
Charles ruefully remembering that he had
still to ask advice on a subject the triviality
of which would hardly allow of two opinions.
Ruth watched them walk away together,
236 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
and then went back noiselessly into the
Mrs. Alwynn was sitting bolt upright, her
feet upon the floor, her gown upon the
sofa. Her astonished eyes were fixed upon
the dwindling figures of Mr. Alwynn and
" Goodness, Ruth ! " she exclaimed, u who
is that white waistcoat walking with your
uncle ? "
" Dear me ! And as likely as not he came
to see the new screen. I know Mrs. Thursby
tells everybody about it. And his own house
so full of beautiful things too. Was ever
anything so annoying ! We should have had
so much in common, for I hear his taste is
quite — well, really quite out of the way.
How contrairy things are, Ruth ! You awake,
and me asleep, when it might just as well
have been the other way. But it is Sunday,
my dear, so we must not complain. And
now, as we have missed church, I will lie
SIR CHARLES DAN VERS. 237
down again, and you shall read me that nice
sermon, which I always like to hear when I
can't go to church, the one in the green book,
about Nabob's vineyard."
8 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
Great philosophers and profound meta-
physicians should by rights have lived at
Slumberleigh. Those whose lines have
fallen to them " ten miles from a lemon,"
have time to think, if so inclined.
Only elementary natures complain of their
surroundings ; and though at first Ruth had
been impatient and depressed, after a time
she found that, better than to live in an
atmosphere of thought, was to be thrown
entirely on her own resources, and to do her
thinking for herself.
Some minds of course sink into inanition if
an outward supply of nutriment is withheld.
Others get up and begin to forage for them-
selves. Happy are these — when the transi-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 239
tion period is over — when, after a time, the
first and worst mistakes have been made
and suffered for, and the only teaching that
profits anything at all, the bitter teaching of
experience, has been laid to heart.
Such a nature was Ruth's, upright, self-
reliant, without the impetuosity and impulsive-
ness that so often accompanies an independent
nature, but accustomed to look at every thing-
through her own eyes, and to think, but not
till now to act for herself.
She had been brought up by her grand-
mother to believe that before all things
noblesse oblige; to despise a dishonourable
action, to have her feelings entirely under
control, to be intimate with few, to be
courteous to all. But to help others, to give
up anything for them, to love an unfashion-
able or middle-class neighbour, or to feel a
personal interest in religion, except as a
subject of conversation, had never found a
place in Lady Deyncourt's code, or con-
sequently in Ruth's, though, as was natural
24O SIR CHARLES DANYERS.
with a generous nature, the girl did many
little kindnesses to those about her, and was
personally unselfish, as those who live with
self-centred people are bound to be if there
is to be any semblance of peace in the
But now, new thoughts were stirring within
her, were leavening her whole mind. All
through these monotonous months she had
watched the quiet routine of patient effort
that went to make up the sum of Mr.
Alwynn's life. He was a shy man. He
seldom spoke of religion out of the pulpit,
but all through these long months he preached
it without words to Ruth, as she had never
heard it preached before, by
" The best portion of a good man's life —
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love."
It was the first time that she had come into
close contact with a life spent for others, and
its beauty appealed to her with a new force,
and gradually but surely changed the current
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 24 1
of her thoughts, until, as " we needs must
love the highest when we see it," she un-
consciously fell in love with self-sacrifice.
The opinions of most young persons, how-
ever loudly and injudiciously proclaimed,
rarely do the possessors much harm, because
they are not as a rule acted upon ; but with
some few people a change of views means a
change of life. Ruth was on the edge of a
greater change than she knew.
At first she had often regretted the chapter
of her life that had been closed by Lady
Deyncourt's death. Now, she felt she could
not go back to it, and find it all-sufficient as
of old. It would need an added element,
without which she began to see that any sort
or condition of life is but a stony, dusty
concern after all — an element which made
even Mr. Alwynn's colourless existence a
contented and happy one.
Ruth had been telling him one day, as
they were walking together, of her sister's
plans for the winter, and that she was sorry
vol. 1. 16
242 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
to think her time at Slumberleigh was
drawing- to a close.
" I am afraid," he said, " in spite of all you
say, my dear, it has been very dull for you
here. No little gaieties or enjoyments such
as it is right young people should have. I
wish we had had a picnic, or a garden party,
or something. Mabel Thursby cannot be
happy without these things, and it is natural
at your age that you should wish for them.
Your aunt and I lead very quiet lives. It
suits us, but it is different for young people."
" Does it suit you ? " asked Ruth with
sudden earnestness. " Do you really like it,
or do you sometimes get tired of it ? "
Mr. Alwynn looked a little alarmed and
disconcerted. He never cared to talk about
" I used to get tired," he said at last, with
reluctance, " when I was younger. There
were times when I foolishly expected more
from life than — than, in fact, I quite got, my
dear ; and the result was, I fear I had a very
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 243
discontented spirit — an unthankful, discon-
tented spirit/' he repeated with sad retro-
Something in his tone touched Ruth to
" And now ?"
" I am content now."
" Uncle John, tell me. How did you
grow to feel content ? "
He saw there were tears in her eyes.
" It took a long time," he said. " Any-
thing that is worth knowing, Ruth, takes a
long time to learn. I think I found in the
end, my dear, that the only way was to put
my whole heart into what I was doing " (Mr.
Alwynn's voice was simple and earnest, as if
he were imparting to Ruth a great discovery).
" I had tried before, from time to time, of
course, but never quite as hard as I might
have done. That was where I failed. When
I put myself on one side, and really settled
down to do what I could for others, life
became much simpler and happier."
244 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
He turned his grave, patient eyes to Ruth's
again. Was something troubling her ?
" I have often thought since then," he went
on, speaking more to himself than to her,
" that we should consider well what we are
keeping back our strength for, if we find
ourselves refusing to put the whole of it into
our work. When at last one does start, one
feels it is such a pity one did not do it earlier
in life. When I look at all the young faces
growing up around me, I often hope, Ruth,
they won't waste as much time as I did."
How simple it seemed while she listened
to him ; how easy, how natural, this life for
She could not answer. One sentence of
Mr. Alwynn's was knocking at the door of
her heart for admission ; was drowning with
its loud beating the sound of all the rest —
" We should consider well what we are
keeping back onr strength for, if we refuse to
put the whole of it into our work!'
She and Mr. Alwynn walked on in silence ;
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 245
and, after a time, always afraid of speaking
much on the subject that was first in his own
mind, he began to talk again on trivial
matters, to tell her how he had met Dare
that morning, and had promised on her behalf
that she would sing at a little local concert
which the Vandon schoolmaster was getting
up that week to defray the annual expense of
the Vandon cricket club, and in which Dare
was taking a vivid interest.
" You won't mind singing, will you, Ruth ? "
asked Mr. Alwynn, wishing she would show a
little more interest in Dare and his concert.
" Oh no, of course not," rather hurriedly.
" I should be glad to help in any way."
" And I thought, my dear, as it would be
getting late, we had better accept his offer of
staying the night at Vandon."
Ruth assented, but so absently that Mr.
Alwynn dropped the subject with a sigh,
and walked on, revolving weighty matters
in his mind. They had left the woods now,
and were crossing the field where, two
246 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
months ago, the school-feast had been held.
Mr. Alwynn made some slight allusion to it,
and then coughed. Ruth's attenton, which
had been distracted, came back in a moment.
She knew her uncle had something which he
did not like, something which yet he felt it
his duty to say, when he gave that particular
" That was when you were staying with
the Danvers, wasn't it, Ruth ? " in a would-be
casual, disengaged tone.
" Yes ; I came over from Atherstone with
" I remember," said Mr. Alwynn, looking
extremely uncomfortable ; " and — if I am not
mistaken — ahem ! Sir Charles Danvers was
staying there at the same time ? "
" Certainly he was."
" Yes, and I dare say, Ruth — I am not
finding fault, far from it — I dare say he made
himself very agreeable for the time being ? "
" I don't think he made himself so. I
should have said he was naturally so, without
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 247
any effort, just as some people are naturally
" Indeed ! Well, I have always heard he
was most agreeable; but I am afraid — I
think perhaps it is just as well you should
know — forewarned is forearmed, you know —
that, in fact, he says a great deal more than
he means sometimes."
" Does he ? I dare say he does."
"He has a habit of appearing to take a
great interest in people, which I am afraid
means very little. I dare say he is not fully
aware of it, or I am sure he would struggle
against it, and we must not judge him ; but
still, his manner does a great deal of harm.
It is peculiarly open to misconstruction. For
instance," continued Mr. Alwynn, making
a rush as his courage began to fail him, " it
struck me, Ruth, the other day — Sunday, was
it ? Yes, I think it was Sunday — that really
he had not much to ask me about his week-
day services. I — ahem ! I thought he need
not have called."
248 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" I dare say not."
" But now, that is just the kind of thing he
does — calls, and, er — under chestnut-trees, and
that sort of thing — and how are young people
to know unless their elders tell them that it
is only his way, and that he has done just
the same ever so often before ? "
" And will again," said Ruth, trying to keep
down a smile. " Is it true (Mabel is full of
it) that he is engaged, or on the point of
being so, to one of Lord Hope Acton's
daughters ? "
" People are always saying he is engaged,
to first one person and then another," said
Mr. Alwynn, breathing more freely now that
his duty was discharged. " It often grieves
me that your aunt mentions his engagement
so confidently to friends, because it gives
people the impression that we know, and we
really don't. He is a great deal talked about,
because he is such a conspicuous man in the
county, on account of his wealth and his
place, and the odd things he says and does.
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 249
There is something about him that is different
from other people. I am sure I don't know-
why it is, but I like him very much myself.
I have known him do such kind things.
Dear me ! What a pleasant week I had at
Stoke Moreton last year. It is beautiful,
Ruth ; and the collection of old papers and
manuscripts unique ! Your aunt was in
Devonshire with friends at the time. I wish
he would ask me again this autumn, to see
those charters of Edward IV.'s reign that
have been found in the secret drawer of an
old cabinet. I hear they are quite small, and
have green seals. I wish I had thought of
asking him about them on Sunday. If they
are really small, but it was only Archdeacon
Eldon who told me about them, and he never
sees anything any particular size — if they
should happen to be really small " And
Mr. Alwynn turned eagerly to the all-engross-
ing subject of the Stoke Moreton charters,
which furnished him with conversation till
they reached home.
250 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" We should consider ivell what we are keep-
ing back our strength for, if we refuse to put
the whole of it into our work!'
All through the afternoon and the quiet
monotonous evening, these words followed
Ruth. She read them between the lines of
the book she took up. She stitched them
into her sewing. They went upstairs with
her at night, they followed her into her room,
and would not be denied. When she had
sent away her maid, she sat down by the
window, and, with the full harvest moon for
company, faced them and asked them what
they meant. But they only repeated them-
selves over and over again. What had they
to do with her ? Her mind tried to grapple
with them in vain. As often as she came to
close quarters with them they eluded her and
disappeared, only to return with the old
Her thoughts drifted away at last to what
Mr. Alwynn had said of Charles, and all the
disagreeable things which Mabel had come
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 25 I
up on Monday morning, with a bunch of late
roses, on purpose to tell her respecting him.
She had taken Mabel's information at its true
worth, which I fear was but small ; but she
felt annoyed that both Mabel and Mr.
Alwynn should have thought it necessary
to warn her. As if, she said to herself, she
had not known ! Really, she had not been
born and bred in Slumberleigh, nor had she
lived there all her life. She had met men of
that kind before. She always liked them.
Charles especially amused her, and she could
see that she amused him ; and, now she came
to think of it, she supposed he had paid her
a good deal of attention at Atherstone, and
perhaps he had not come over to Slumber-
leigh expressly to see Mr. Alwynn. It was
as natural to men like Charles to be always
interested in some one, as it would be un-
natural in others ever to be so, except as
the result of long forethought, and with a
wedding ring and a set of bridesmaids well
in view. But to attach any importance to
252 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
the fact that Charles liked to talk to her
would have been absurd. With another man
it miofht have meant much ; but she had
heard of Charles and his misdoings long
before she had met him, and knew what to
expect. Lord Breakwater's sister had con-
fided to her many things respecting him, and
had wept bitter tears on her shoulder, when
he suddenly went off to shoot grizzlies in the
"He has not sufficient vanity to know that
he is exceedingly popular," said Ruth to her-
self. " I should think there are few men,
handicapped as he is, who have been liked
more entirely for themselves, and less for
their belongings ; but all the time he probably
imagines people admire his name, or his
place, or his income, and not himself, and
consequently he does not care much what he
says or does. I am certain he does not
mean to do any harm. His manner never
deceived me for a moment. I can't see why
it should others ; but from all accounts he
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 253
seems to be frequently misunderstood. That
is just the right word for him. He is mis-
understood. At any rate I never misunder-
stood him. That Sunday call might have
made me suspicious of any ordinary mortal ;
but I knew no common rule could apply to
such an exception as he is. I only wonder,
when he really does find himself in earnest,
how he is to convey his meaning to the future
Lady Danvers. What words would be
strong enough ; what ink would be black
enough to carry conviction to her mind ? "
She smiled at the thought, and, as she
smiled, another face rose suddenly before
her — Dare's, pale and serious, as it had been
of late, with the wistful anxious eyes. He,
at least, had meant a great deal, she thought
with remorse. He had been in earnest,
sufficiently in earnest to make himself very
unhappy, and on her account.
Ruth had known for some time that Dare
loved her ; but to-night that simple un-
obtrusive fact suddenly took larger propor-
2 54 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
tions, came boldly out of the shadow, and
looked her in the face.
He loved her. Well, what then ?
She turned giddy, and leaned her head
against the open shutter.
In the silence the words that had haunted
her all the afternoon came back ; not loud as
heretofore, but in a whisper, speaking to her
heart, which had begun to beat fast and
" We should consider well what we are
keeping back our strength for, if we refuse to
put the whole of it into our work."
What work was there for her to do ?
The giddiness and the whirl in her mind
died down suddenly, like a great gust on the
surface of a lake, and left it still and clear
The misery of the world and the inability
to meet it had so often confused and weighed
her down, that she had come back humbly of
late to the only possibility with which it was
in her power to deal, come back to the well-
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 255
worn groove of earnest determination to do
as much as in her lay, close at hand, when
she could find a field to labour in. And now
she suddenly saw, or thought she saw, that
she had found it. She had been very anxious
as to whether Dare would do his duty, but
till this moment it had never struck her that
it might be her duty to help him.
She liked him ; and he was poor — too
poor to do much for the people who were
dependent on him, the poor struggling people
of Vandon. Their sullen, miserable faces
rose up before her, and their crazy houses.
Fever had broken out again in the cottages
by the river. He needed help and en-
couragement, for he had a difficult time
before him. And she had these to give, and
money too. Could she do better with them ?
She knew Mr. Alwynn wished it. And as
to herself ? Was she never going to put self
on one side ? She had never liked any one
very much — at least, not in that way — but
she liked him.
256 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
The words came like a loud voice in the
silence. She liked him. Well, what then ?
She shut her eyes, but she only shut out
the moon's pale photographs of the fields and
woods. She could not shut out these stern
What was she holding back for ? For
some possible ideal romantic future ; for the
prince of a fairy story ? No ? Well, then,
for what ?
The moon went behind a cloud, and took
all her photographs with her. The night
had turned very cold.
" To-morrow," said Ruth to herself, rising
slowly ; " I am too tired to think now. To-
morrow ! "
And as she spoke the faint chime of the
clock upon her table warned her that already
it was to-morrow.
And soon, in a moment, as it seemed
to her, before she had had time to think, it
was again to-morrow, a wet, dim to-morrow,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 257
and she was at Vandon, running up the wide
stone steps in the starlight, under Dare's
protecting umbrella, and allowing him to
take her wraps from her before the hall fire.
The concert had gone off well. Ruth was
pleased, Mr. Alwynn was pleased. Dare was
in a state of repressed excitement, now flying
into the drawing-room to see if there were
a good fire, as it was a chilly evening ; now
rushing thence to the dining-room to satisfy
himself that all the immense and elaborate
preparations which he had enjoined on the
cook had been made. Then, Ruth must be
shown to her room. Who was to do it ?
He flew to find the housekeeper, and after
repeated injunctions to the housemaid, whom
he met in the passage, not to forget the hot
water, took Mr. Alwynn off to his apartment.
The concert had begun, as concerts always
seem to do, at the exact time at which it is
usual to dine, so that it was late before the
principal performers and Mr. Alwynn reached
Vandon. It was later still before supper
vol. 1. 17
258 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
came, but when it came it was splendid.
Dare looked with anxious satisfaction over
a soup tureen at the various spiced and
glazed forms of indigestion, sufficient for a
dozen people, which covered the table. It
grieved him that Ruth, confronted by a
spreading ham, and Mr. Alwynn, half hidden
by a boulder of turkey, should have such
moderate appetites. But at least she was
there, under his roof, at his table. It was
not surprising that he could eat nothing
After supper, Mr. Alwynn, who combined
the wisdom of the worldly serpent with the
harmlessness of the clerical dove, fell — not
too suddenly — asleep by the fire in the draw-
ing-room, and Ruth and Dare went into the
hall, where the piano was. Dare opened it
and struck a few minor chords. Ruth sat
down in a great carved arm-chair beside the
The hall was only lighted by a few tall
lamps high on pedestals against the walls,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 259
which threw great profiles of the various
busts upon the dim bas-reliefs of twining
scroll-work ; and Dare, with his eyes fixed
on Ruth, began to play.
There is in some music a strange appeal
beyond the reach of words. Those mys-
terious sharps and flats, and major and minor
chords, are an alphabet that in some occult
combinations forms another higher language
than that of speech, a language which, as we
listen, thrills us to the heart.
It was an old piano, with an impediment
in its speech, out of the yellow notes of which
Ruth could have made nothing ; but in Dare's
hands it spoke for him as he never could
have spoken for himself.
His eyes never left her. He feared to
look away, lest he should find the presence
of that quiet graceful figure by his fireside
had been a dream, and that he was alone
again with the dim lamps, alone with Dante,
and Cicero, and Seneca.
The firelight dwelt ruddily upon her grave,
260 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
clear-cut face and level brows, and upon the
folds of her white gown. It touched the
slender hands clasped lightly together on her
knee, and drew sudden sparks and gleams
out of the diamond pin at her throat.
His hands trembled on the keys, and as
he looked his heart beat high and higher,
loud and louder, till it drowned the rhythm
of the music. And as he looked, her calm
eyes met his.
In another moment he was on his knees
beside her, her hands caught in his trembling
clasp, and his head pressed down upon them.
" I know," he gasped, " it is no good.
You have told me so once. You will tell
me so again. I am not good enough. I am
not worthy. But I love you ; I love you ! "
In moments of real feeling the old words
hold their own against all modern new-
comers. Dare repeated them over and over
again in a paroxysm of overwhelming emo-
tion which shook him from head to foot.
Something in his boyish attitude and in
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 26 1
his entire loss of self-control touched Ruth
strangely. She knew he was five or six
years her senior, but at the moment she felt
as if she were much older than he, and a
sudden vague wish passed through her mind
that he had been nearer her in age ; not
quite so young.
" Well ? " she said gently ; and he felt her
cool, passive hands tremble a little in his.
Something in the tone of her voice made
him raise his head, and meet her eyes look-
ing down at him, earnestly, and with a great
kindness in them.
A sudden eager light leapt into his face.
"Will you?" he whispered breathlessly,
his hands tightening their hold of hers.
There was a moment's pause, in which the
whole world seemed to stand quite still and
wait for her answer.
" Yes," she said at last, " I will."
" I am glad I did it," she said to herself
262 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
half an hour later, as she leaned her tired
head against the carved oak chimney-piece
in her bedroom, and absently traced with her
finger the Latin inscription over the fireplace.
" I like him very much. I am glad I did it."
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 263
For many years nothing had given Mr.
Alwynn such heartfelt pleasure as the news
Ruth had to tell him, as he drove her back
next morning to Slumberleigh, behind Mrs.
Alwynn's long-tailed ponies.
It was a still September morning, with a
faint pearl sky and half-veiled silver sun.
Pale gleams of sunshine wandered across the
busy harvest fields, and burnished the steel
of the river.
Decisions of any kind rarely look their
best after a sleepless night ; but as Ruth saw
the expression of happiness and relief that
came into her uncle's face, when she told him
what had happened, she felt again that she
was glad — very glad.
264 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
" Oh, my dear ! my dear ! " — Mr. Alwynn
was driving the ponies first against the bank,
and then into the opposite ditch — " how-
glad I am ; how thankful ! I had almost
hoped, certainly ; I wished so much to think
it possible ; but then, one can never tell.
Poor Dare ! poor fellow ! I used to be so
sorry for him. And how much you will be
able to do at Vandon among the people. It
will be a different place. And it is such a
relief to think that the poor old house will be
looked after. It went to my heart to see the
way it had been neglected. I ventured this
morning, as I was down early, to move some
of that dear old Worcester further back into
the cabinet. They really were so near the
edge, I could not bear to see them ; and I
found a Sevres saucer, my dear, in the
library, that belonged to one of those beau-
tiful cups in the drawing-room. I hope it
was not very wrong, but I had to put it
among its relations. It was sitting with a
Delf mug on it, poor thing. Dear me ! I
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 265
little thought then — Really, I have never
been so glad about anything before."
After a little more conversation, and after
Mr. Alwynn had been persuaded to give the
reins to his niece, who was far more com-
posed than himself, his mind reverted to his
" I think, my dear, until your engagement
is more settled, till I have had a talk with
Dare on the subject (which will be necessary
before you write to your Uncle Francis), it
would be as well not to refer to it before — in
fact, not to mention it to Mrs. Alwynn.
Your dear aunt's warm heart and conversa-
tional bent make it almost impossible for her
to refrain from speaking of anything that
interests her ; and indeed, even if she does
not say anything in so many words, I have
observed that opinions are sometimes formed
by others as to the subject on which she is
silent, by her manner when any chance
allusion is made to it."
Ruth heartily agreed. She had been
266 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
dreading the searching catechism through
which Mrs. Alwynn would certainly put her
— the minute inquiries as to her dress, the
hour, the place ; whether it had been " stand-
ing up or sitting down ; " all her questions of
course interwoven with personal remi-
niscences of " how John had done it," and her
own emotion at the time.
It was with no small degree of relief at
the postponement of that evil hour that Ruth
entered the house. As she did so a faint
sound reached her ear. It was that of a
" Dear ! dear ! " said Mr. Alwynn, as he
followed her. " It is a fine day. Your aunt
must be ill."
For the moment Ruth did not understand
the connection of ideas in his mind, until she
suddenly remembered the musical-box, which,
Mrs. Alwynn had often told her, was " so nice
and cheery on a wet day, or in time of
She hurriedly entered the drawing-room,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 267
followed by Mr. Alwynn, where the first
object that met her view was Mrs. Alwynn
extended on the sofa, arrayed in what she
called her tea-gown, a loose robe of blue
cretonne, with a large vine-leaf pattern
twining over it, which broke out into grapes
at intervals. Ruth knew that garment well.
It came on only when Mrs. Alwynn was
suffering. She had worn it last during a
period of entire mental prostration, which
had succeeded all too soon an exciting
discovery of mushrooms in the glebe. Mr.
Alwynn's heart and Ruth's sank as they
caught sight of it again.
With a dignity befitting the occasion,
Mrs. Alwynn recounted in detail the various
ways in which she had employed herself
after their departure the previous evening,
up to the exact moment when she slipped
going upstairs, and sprained her ankle, in
a blue and green manner that had quite
alarmed the doctor when he had seen it,
and compared with which Mrs. Thursby's
268 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
gathered finger in the spring was a mere
" Mrs. Thursby stayed in bed when her
finger was bad," said Mrs. Alwynn to Ruth,
when Mr. Alwynn had condoled, and had
made his escape to his study. " She always
gives way so ; but I never was like that. I
was up all the same, my dear."
" I hope it does not hurt very much," said
Ruth, anxious to be sympathetic, but suc-
ceeding only in being commonplace.
" It's not only the pain," said Mrs. Alwynn,
in the gentle resigned voice which she always
used when indisposed — the voice of one at
peace with all the world, and ready to depart
from a scene consequently so devoid of
interest ; " but to a person of my habits, Ruth
— never a day without going into the larder,
and always seeing after the servants as I do
— first one duty and then another — and the
chickens and all. It seems a strange thing
that I should be laid aside."
Mrs. Alwynn paused, as if she had not for
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 269
the nonce fathomed the ulterior reasons for
this special move on the part of Providence,
which had crippled her, while it left Ruth and
Mrs. Thursby with the use of their limbs.
" However," she continued, " I am not
one to repine. Always cheery and busy,
Ruth, that is my motto. And now, my dear,
if you will wind up the musical-box, and then
read me a little bit out of 'Texts with
Tender Twinings ' " (the new floral manual
which had lately superseded the " Pearls "),
" after that we will start on one of my scrap-
books, and you shall tell me all about your
visit to Vandon."
It was not the time Ruth would have
chosen for a tete-a-tete with her aunt. She
was longing to be alone, to think quietly over
what had happened, and it was difficult to
concentrate her attention on pink and yellow
calico, and cut out coloured royal families,
and foreign birds with a good grace.
Happily Mrs. Alwynn, though always re-
quiring attention, was quite content with the
27O SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
half of what she required ; and, with the
"Buffalo Girls," and the "Danube River"
tinkling on the table, conversation was some-
In the afternoon Dare came, but he was
waylaid in the hall by Mr. Alwynn, and taken
into the study before he could commit him-
self in Mrs. Alwynn's presence. Mrs.
Thursby and Mabel also called to condole,
and a little later Mrs. Smith of Greenacre,
who had heard the news of the accident from
the doctor. Altogether it was a delightful
afternoon for Mrs. Alwynn, who assumed for
the time an air of superiority over Mrs.
Thursby to which that lady's well-known
chronic ill-health seldom allowed her to lay
Mrs. Alwynn and Mrs. Thursby had
remained friends since they had both arrived
together as brides at Slumberleigh, in spite
of a difference of opinion which had at one
time strained friendly relations to a painful
degree, as to the propriety of wearing the
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 27 1
hair over the top of the ear. The hair
question settled, a temporary difficulty, ex-
tending over a few years, had sprung up in
its place, respecting what Mrs. Thursby
called " family." Mrs. Alwynn's family was
not her strong point, nor was its position
strengthened by her assertion (unsupported
by Mrs. Markham), that she was directly
descended from Queen Elizabeth. Conse-
quently, it was trying to Mrs. Thursby — who,
as every one knows, was one of the brainless
Copleys of Copley— that Mrs. Alwynn, who
in the lottery of marriage had drawn an
honourable, should take precedence of her-
self. To obviate this difficulty, Mrs. Thursby,
with the ingenuity of her sex, had at one time
introduced Mr. and Mrs. Alwynn as " our
Rector," and " our Rectors wife," thus
denying them their name altogether, for fear
lest its connection with Lord Polesworth
should be remembered, and the fact that Mr.
Alwynn was his brother, and consequently
an honourable, should transpire.
272 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
This peculiarity of etiquette entirely escaped
Mr. Alwynn, but aroused feelings in the
breast of his wife which might have brought
about one of those deeply rooted feuds, which
so often exist between the squire's and
clergyman's families, if it had not been for
the timely and serious illness in which Mrs.
Thursby lost her health, and the principal
part of the other subject of disagreement —
Then Queen Elizabeth and the honour-
able were alike forgotten. With her own
hands Mrs. Alwynn made a certain jelly,
which Mrs. Thursby praised in the highest
manner, saying she only wished that it had
been the habit in her family to learn to do
anything so useful. Mrs. Thursby's new
gowns were no longer kept a secret from
Mrs. Alwynn, to be suddenly sprung upon
her at a garden party, when, possibly in an
old garment herself, she was least able to
bear the shock. Bygones were bygones,
and, greatly to the relief of the two husbands,
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 273
their respective wives made up their differ-
" And a very pleasant afternoon it has
been," said Mrs. Alwynn, when the Thursbys
and Dare, who had been loth to go, had
taken their departure. " Mrs. Thursby and
Mabel, and Mrs. Smith and Mr. Dare. Four
to tea. Quite a little party, wasn't it, Ruth ?
And so informal and nice ; and the buns came
in as naturally as possible, which no one
heard me whisper to James for. I think
those little citron buns are nicer than a great
cake like Mrs. Thursby's ; and hers are
always so black and over-baked. That is
why the cook sifts such a lot of sugar over
them. I do think one should be real, and
not try to cover up things. And Mr. Dare
so pleasant. Quite sorry to go he seemed.
I often wonder whether it will be you or
Mabel in the end. He ought to be making
up his mind. I expect I shall have a
little joke with him about it before long.
And such an interest he took in the
vol. 1. 18
2 74 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
scrap-book. I asked him to come again
" I don't expect he will be able to do so,"
said Mr. Alwynn. " I rather think he will
have to go to town on business.''
Later in the evening, Mr. Alwynn told
Ruth that in the course of his interview he
had found that Dare had the very vaguest
ideas as to the necessity of settlements ; had
evidently never given the subject a thought,
and did not even know what he actually
Mr. Alwynn was secretly afraid of what
Ruth's trustee, his brother, Lord Polesworth
(now absent shooting in the Rocky Moun-
tains), would say if, during his absence, their
niece was allowed to engage herself without
suitable provision ; and he begged Ruth not
" to do anything rash" in the way of speaking
of her engagement, until Dare could, with the
help of his lawyer, see his way to making
" I know he has no money," said Ruth
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 275
quietly ; " that is one of the reasons why I
am going to marry him."
Mr. Alwynn, to whom this seemed the
most natural reason in the world, was not
sure whether it would strike his brother with
equal force. He had a suspicion that when
Lord Polesworth's attention should be turned
from white eoats and brown bears to the fact
that his niece, who had means of her own,
had been allowed to engage herself to a poor
man, and that Mr. Alwynn had greatly
encouraged the match, unpleasant questions
might be asked.
" Francis will be back in November," said
Mr. Alwynn. " I think, Ruth, we had better
wait till his return before we do anything
" Anything more definite, you mean," said
Ruth. " I have been very definite already,
I think. I shall be glad to wait till he comes
back, if you wish it, Uncle John. I shall try
to do what you both advise. But at the
same time I am of age ; and if my word is
2y6 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
worth anything, you know I have given that
Dare felt no call to go to London by the
early train on the following morning, so he
found himself at liberty to spend an hour at
Slumberleigh Rectory on his way to the
station, and by the advice of Mr. Alwynn
went into the garden, where the sound of the
musical-box reached the ear but in faint
echoes, and where Ruth presently joined
In his heart Dare was secretly afraid of
Ruth"; though, as he often told himself, it was
more than probable she was equally afraid of
him. If that was so, she controlled her feel-
ings wonderfully, for, as she came to meet
him, nothing could have been more frankly
kind, more friendly, or more composed than
her manner towards him. He took her out-
stretched hand and kissed it. It was not
quite the way in which he had pictured to
himself that they would meet ; but if his
imagination had taken a somewhat bolder
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 277
flight in her absence, he felt now, as she
stood before him, that it had taken that flight
in vain. He kept her hand, and looked
intently at her. She did not change colour,
nor did that disappointing friendliness leave
her steady eyes.
" She does not love me," he said to him-
self. " It is strange, but she does not. But
the day will come."
" You are going to London, are you not ? "
asked Ruth, withdrawing her hand at last ;
and after hearing a detailed account of his
difficulties and anxieties about money matters,
and after taking an immense weight off his
mind by telling him that they would have no
influence in causing her to alter her decision,
she sent him beaming and rejoicing on his
way, quite a different person to the victim of
anxiety and depression who had arrived at
Slumberleigh an hour before.
Mrs. Alwynn was much annoyed at Dare's
entire want of heart in leaving the house
without coming to see her, and during the
278 SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
remainder of the morning she did not cease
to comment on the differences that exist
between what people really are and what
they seem to be, until, in her satisfaction at
recounting the accident to Evelyn Danvers,
a new and sympathetic listener, she for-
tunately forgot the slight put upon her ankle
earlier in the day. The complete enjoyment
of her sufferings was, however, destined to
sustain a severe shock the following morning.
She and Ruth were reading their letters,
Mrs. Alwynn, of course, giving Ruth the
benefit of the various statements respecting
the weather which her correspondents had
confided to her, when Mr. Alwynn came in
from the study, an open letter in his hand.
He was quite pink with pleasure.
"He has asked me to sfo and see them,"
he said, " and they are small, and have green
seals, all excepting one " — referring to the
letter — " which has a big red seal in a tin
box, attached by a tape. Ruth, I am per-
fectly convinced beforehand that those charters
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 279
are grants of land of the fourteenth or
fifteenth century. Sir Charles mentions that
they are in black letter, and only a few lines
on each, but he says he won't describe them
in full, as I must come and see them for
myself. Dear me ! how I shall enjoy
arranging them for him, which he asks me
to do. I had really become so anxious about
them, that a few days ago I determined to
set my mind at rest, and I wrote to him to
ask for particulars, and that is his answer."
Mr. Alwynn put Charles's letter into her
hand, and she glanced over it.
"Why, Uncle John, he asks Aunt Fanny
as well ; and — ' if Miss Deyncourt is still with
you, pleasure,' etc. — and vie, too."
"When is it for?" asked Mrs. Alwynn,
suddenly sitting bolt upright.
"Let me see. 'Black letter size about'
— where is it? Here. ' Tuesday, the 25th,
for three nights. Leaving home following
week for some time. Excuse short notice,'
etc. It is next week, Aunt Fanny."
28o SIR CHARLES DANVERS.
" I shall not be able to go," gasped Mrs.
Alwynn, sinking back on her sofa, while
something very like tears came into her eyes ;
"and I've never been there, Ruth. The
Thursbys went once, in old Sir George's time,
and Mrs. Thursby always says it is the show
place in the county, and that it is such a pity
I have not seen it. And last autumn, when
John went, I was in Devonshire, and never
even heard of his going till I got home,
or I'd have come back. Oh, Ruth ! oh,
dear ! "
Mrs. Alwynn let her letters fall into her
lap, and drew forth the coloured pocket-hand-
kerchief which she wore, in imitation of
Mabel Thursby, stuck into the bodice of her
gown, and at • the ominous appearance of
which Mr. Alwynn suddenly recollected a
duty in the study and retreated.
With an unerring instinct Ruth flew to the
musical-box and set it going, and then knelt
down by the prostrate figure of her aunt, and
administered what sympathy and consolation
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 251
she could, to the " cheery " accompaniment
of the " Buffalo Girls."
" Never mind, dear Aunt Fanny. Per-
haps he will ask you again when you are
better. There will be other opportunities."
" I always was unlucky," said Mrs. Alwynn
faintly. " I had a swelled face up the Rhine
on our honeymoon. Things always happen
like that with me. * At any rate " — after a
pause — "there is one thing. We ought to
try and look at the bright side. It is not as
if we had not been asked. We have not
" No," said Ruth promptly ; and in her own
mind she registered a vow that in her future
home she would never give the pain that
being overlooked by the larger house can
cause to the smaller house.
" And I will stay with you, Aunt Fanny,"
she went on cheerfully. " Uncle John can
go by himself, and we will do just what we
like while he is away, won't we ? "
But at this Mrs. Alwynn demurred. She
282 SIR CHARLES DAN VERS.
was determined that if she played the role of
a martyr she would do it well. She insisted
that Ruth should accompany Mr. Alwynn.
She secretly looked forward to telling Mabel
that Ruth was going. She did not mind
being left alone, she said. She desired, with
a sigh of self-sacrifice, that Mr. Alwynn
should accept for himself and his niece. She
had not been brought up- to consider herself,
thank God. She had her faults, she knew.
No one was more fully aware of them than
herself; but she was not going to prevent
others enjoying themselves because she her-
self was laid aside.
" And now, my dear," she said, with a
sudden return to mundane interests that suc-
ceeded rather unexpectedly to the celestial
spirit of her previous remarks, " you must be
thinking about your gowns. If I had been
going, I should have had my ruby satin done
up — so beautiful by candlelight. What have
you to wear ? That white lace tea-gown with
the silver grey train is very nice ; but you
SIR CHARLES DANVERS. 28
ought not to be in half mourning now. I
like to see young people in colours. And
then there is that crolcl-and- white brocade,
Ruth, that you wore at the drawing-room last
year. It is a beautiful dress, but rather too
quiet. Could not you brighten it up with
a few cherry-coloured bows about it, or a
sash ? I always think a sash is so becoming.
If you were to bring it down, I dare say I
could suggest something. And you must
be well dressed, for though he only says
' friends,' you never can tell whom you may
not meet at a place like that."
END of vol. 1.
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