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" Es ist eine alte Geschichte." 

VOL. I. 


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" 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 


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, 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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." 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
for life. 

"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 
am punished." 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
pocket handkerchief. 



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." 


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, 
my love." 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
would " 

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- 


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 


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. 


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 


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, 
Fanny ?" 

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 
valise — 

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 — 


" 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 


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- 


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. 
Alwynn's thoughts. 

" 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. 
Alwynn meditatively. 

"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. 


"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?" 
asked Dare. 

Mrs. Alwynn explained that all the neigh- 

VOL. I. X 


bourhood, including the Thursbys, would be 
there ; that she made a point of asking the 

" I also will come," said Dare gravely. 



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. 


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 
Mrs. Ralph. 

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- 


minded tangles, and to turning after long 
periods of time into little feminine futilities 
for which it was difficult to divine any 
possible use. 

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 


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 
Mary's rooms. 

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 


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. 


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 


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 


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 
direction was. 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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, 
I believe." 

" 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, 


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." 


" 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 
my duty." 

" 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 


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 
the laurels. 

"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 
summer sky. 

The mixed impiety and indelicacy of her 
nephew's remark caused a sudden twitch to 


the High Church embroidery in Lady Mary's 
hand ; but she went on a moment later in her 
usual tone. 

" 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 ? " 




" 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 
spoken ?" 

"In a light way, I should say I had spoken 
a good deal ; but, seriously — No. I have 
never ventured to be serious." 


" 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 


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 


had looked so apathetic and sarcastic a 
moment before. 

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 


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. 


" There was a mouse at prayers yesterday, 
Uncle Charles." 

" 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. 


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 ? " 


" 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," 



" 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 


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 


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 
were ! 

" Thanks ! You evidently do remember 
now, if you say that. I recognized you at 


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 ? " 


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 
became general. 

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 


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 


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 


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 
many things. 

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 


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 
monotonous languor. 

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. 


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 


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 


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, 


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 



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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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- 
dated now. 

" 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, 


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, 


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 


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 


black dog that he has of his very own, 
called " 

''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- 


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. 



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 
be feared. 

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 


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 


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 


were lonely, and they were nearing the most 
lonely part. 

"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 


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." 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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 


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 
behind her. 

Her pursuer stopped short. Charles made 
a step towards him, and stopped short also. 
The two men stood and looked at each other 
without speaking. 

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 


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 
faint f" 

" 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 ?" 


" 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." 


" 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- 


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, 


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 


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 
his room. 



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 
craftsman Time. 

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 


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 


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 
one side. 

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 


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. 


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 
dim needlework. 

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 


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- 
bered victory. 

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 writing-table. 

The iron-clamped boxes in the lumber- 
room kept the history to themselves of all 
the silver plate that had lived in them once 


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 


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 
a past. 

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. 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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 


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 
had administered. 

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 


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 ?" 

" 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- 


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 


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 ? " 


" 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 


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 
my case." 

" 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." 


" 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. 


" 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 


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 


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 


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 


totally unrestrained appetites and lamentable 
self-will made her prefer to remain where 
she was." 

" 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 
resigned bitterness. 


" 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 


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 


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. 


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 
a lot." 

" 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 



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 
be glad." 

" 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," 



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." 


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," 
said Ruth. 

" 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. 


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 ? " 


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 " 


" 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," 
Charles thought.) 

" 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 


"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 


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 



reason begins perhaps to be felt ; but why 
in youth take thought for such a far-off 
morrow ! 

" 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 


" 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 


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 


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 


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 
there also. 

Any doubts entertained by Evelyn about 
Dare's religious views were completely set at 
rest the following morning, which happened 


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, 


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 


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 


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 ? " 

"No, Molly." 

" Can you tell it ? " 

" No. I have never been able to tell that 
particular story." 


"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 


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 ; 


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 
the other. 



"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 


niece by marriage, but she will see in a 
moment " 

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." 


" 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," 


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 



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 ! " 


" 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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
to come." 

" 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 


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 


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 


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." 



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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


" 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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
to do. 

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 ; 


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 


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 
her feet. 

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 


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 
horribly guilty. 

"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 


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 


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 ! " 



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 


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 
enough ! 

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 
many days. 

" 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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 
for punch." 

"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." 


" 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." 


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- 
sibly » 


" 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 
that " 

" 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?" 


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 
Mrs. Alwynn. 

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 


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. 



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 


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 


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 
past delinquencies. 

" 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 
Jones's Sally. 

" Not that, my dear, so much as a sinking," 
said Mrs. Eccles, passing her hand slowly 
over what seemed more like a rising than 


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," 
she said. 

" 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 


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 
been aroused. 

" 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 


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, 


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 
Mr. Dare." 

"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 


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 


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 
vain man. 

Whether Ruth's mind was one of this 
class or not we do not pretend to know. 



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 


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 
hard by. 

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. 


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 


" 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 


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 


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 
to suspect. 

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. 


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 


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 


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- 


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," 


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, 
myself. ' 

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- 


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 
was thinking. 

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 


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 


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 


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 

o o 

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. 


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, 


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 


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 
answered it. 

" 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 


she finds an innocent relaxation in pointing- 
out mine." 

" 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- 


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 
the station." 

" 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 


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 

4 <Yes." 

" And have you been holding the wool and 


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 
enjoyed myself." 

" 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. 


" 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. 


" 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, 


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 ? " 

Ruth explained. 

" 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 


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." 



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- 


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 


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 


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 


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 


discontented spirit — an unthankful, discon- 
tented spirit/' he repeated with sad retro- 

Something in his tone touched Ruth to 
the quick. 

" 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." 


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 
others ! 

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 ; 


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 


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 
Molly Danvers." 

" 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 


any effort, just as some people are naturally 
the reverse." 

" 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." 


" 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. 


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. 


" 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 


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 


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 
Rocky Mountains. 

"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 


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- 


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 
and cold. 

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- 


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. 


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 
besieging thoughts. 

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, 


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 


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, 


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, 


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 


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. 
"Will you?" 

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 


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." 



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. 


" 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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


half of what she required ; and, with the 
"Buffalo Girls," and the "Danube River" 
tinkling on the table, conversation was some- 
what superfluous. 

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 


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. 


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 — 
her hair. 

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, 


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 


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 
some arrangement. 

" I know he has no money," said Ruth 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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." 


" 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 


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 
been overlooked." 

" 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 


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 


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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