The Dewy Morn

By Richard Jefferies.


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Volume I


The sunbeams streamed over Ashpen Hill into a broad lane, a little after four in the morning. Felise was walking slowly towards the hill, which was yet at some distance, staying every moment to glance aside into the green and dew-laden hedges. On her right the hedge came to the sward; on the left a bank rose, and the hedge went along the summit.

The fragrance of the dew, invisibly evaporating, filled the air she breathed. From sweet-green hawthorn leaves, from heavy grasses drooping, the glittering drops dissolving brought with them the odour of leaf and flower. The larks, long since up, had sung the atmosphere clear of the faint white mist left by the night.

She found blue veronica in a bunch of grass under a dead thorn-branch, blown by the winds months ago out from the hedge. She lifted up the branch to fling it aside, and give the flowers more room and freedom; but she replaced it, reflecting that the thorns would perhaps prevent passing sheep from treading on them.

Upon the bank there was a cowslip; one stalk bore deep orange flowers, the others bunches yet unopened, and clothed in delicate green. Felise took the flower, which no bee had yet sipped, put it to her lips, and then placed it in her dress.

She stepped lightly round the smooth brown boulder-stones with which the lane was dotted in places⁠—rude disjointed efforts at paving⁠—beside which grew bunches of rushes, safe there from the cartwheels. Not even cartwheels could stand the jolt over these iron rocks. She walked sometimes on the elevated sides of the ruts⁠—the earth had been forced up by the crushing weight of wagon-loads; they were grass-grown, and the grass hung over the groove, along which weasels often hunted.

Sometimes she trod the sward by the bank, where it was short, and full of threeleaved clover whose white bloom was not yet out; then, crossing to the opposite side, she sauntered by the hedge there, letting the hawthorn brush her skirt, and the soft green hooks of the young bramble-shoots strive in vain to hold her.

An ash-branch stood out to bar her path. She stopped and touched it, and counted the leaves on the sprays; they were all uneven.

In the grass ahead the pinkish ears of a young rabbit stood up; he was nibbling peacefully, heedless of her approach. Not till she was close did he raise himself to look at her, first sitting on his haunches, then as if about to beg, then away into the burrow.

Her white hand wandered presently among more blue veronica flowering on the slope of the bank. She did not gather⁠—she touched only, and went on. She touched, too, the tips of some brake, freshly-green, and rising rapidly now day by day. A rush of wings⁠—a wood-pigeon came over; he was startled, and, swerving, went higher into the air.

There was honeysuckle on the hedge above the bank, too far to reach. She took a hawthorn leaf, felt it, and dropped it; then pulled a bennet, or grass-stalk, and dropped that; then pulled a rush, and left it. A lover might have tracked her easily by the footmarks on the dewy grass⁠—by the rush thrown down, and by the white handkerchief which she had carried in her hand and unconsciously dropped. A robin came to look at the handkerchief before she had gone many minutes; he thought perhaps there might be a crumb, and he is, too, very inquisitive.

Felise sat down on a great trunk of oak lying in the lane by a gateway, and sighed with very depth of enjoyment. There was a yellowhammer perched on the gate, and he had been singing. When Felise approached, he ceased; but seeing that she was quiet and intended him no harm, he began again. His four or five rising notes, and the long-drawn idle-sounding note with which they conclude, suited so well with the sunshine, they soothed her still further. She sighed again, and let herself sit loosely on the oak-trunk, like the yellowhammer. He had his back humped, and all his body rested comfortably. So did she; she permitted her back to bow, her shoulders to stoop, her limbs to relax, and idle nature to have her own way. After a while she sighed again.

She was bathing in the beauty of the morning⁠—floating upheld on the dewy petals. A swimmer lies on the warm summer water, the softest of couches, extended at full length, the body so gently held that it undulates slightly with the faint swell. So soft is the couch it softens the frame, which becomes supple, flexible, like the water itself.

Felise was lying on the flowers and grass, extended under the sun, steeped in their sweetness. She visibly sat on the oak-trunk⁠—invisibly her nature was reclining, as the swimmer on the sun-warmed sea. Her frame drooped as the soul, which bears it up, flowed outwards, feeling to grass, and flower, and leaf, as the swimmer spreads the arms abroad, and the fingers feel the water. She sighed with deep content, dissolving in the luxurious bath of beauty.

Her strong heart beating, the pulses throbbing, her bosom rising and regularly sinking with the rich waves of life; her supple limbs and roundness filled with the plenty of ripe youth; her white, soft, roseate skin, the surface where the sun touched her hand glistening with the dew of the pore; the bloom upon her⁠—that glow of the morn of life⁠—the hair more lovely than the sunlight; the grace unwritten of perfect form⁠—these produced within her a sense of existence⁠—a consciousness of being, to which she was abandoned; and her lips parted to sigh. The sigh was the expression of feeling herself to be.

To be! To live! To have an intense enjoyment in every inspiration of breath; in every beat of the pulse; in every movement of the limbs; in every sense!

The rugged oak-trunk was pleasant to her. She placed her hand on the brown, stained wood⁠—stained with its own sap, for the bark had been removed. She touched it; and so full of life was her touch, that it found a pleasure in that rude wood. The brown boulder-stone in the lane, ancient, smoothed, and ground in times which have vanished like a cloud, its surface the colour of old polished oak, reflecting the sun with a dull gleam⁠—the very boulder-stone was pleasant to her, so full of life was her sense of sight.

There came a skylark, dropping over the hedge, and alighted on a dusty level spot in the lane. His shadow shot a foot long on the dust, thrown by the level beams of the sun. The dust, in shadow and sunshine⁠—the despised dust⁠—now that the lark drew her glance to it, was pleasant to see.

All things are joyously beautiful to those who feel themselves to be; but it is only given to the chosen of nature to know this exceeding delight.

In herself rapt, the whole face of earth and sky ministered to her, each and all that made up the visible world was flung at her feet. They did homage⁠—Felise, queen of herself, was queen of all.

It was love without a lover⁠—love absorbed in itself. Her whole existence was quivering with love; this intensity of life was love. She was gathering from sunlight, azure sky and grassy fields, from dewy hills and all the morning, an immense strength to love. Her parted lips sighed⁠—there was such store and warmth of love within them. Without a thought she thought deeply, pondering, weighed down on herself with weight of feeling. Her own intense existence absorbed her.

Till looking that way, she saw that there was now a broad space between the lower rim of the sun and the hill she meant to climb; then she got up, and went on. She had started in time to see the sun rise, from its summit, but had idled and dallied with flowers and green boughs on the way, and lost the sunrise.


The lane became more rugged; then there was a sudden dip, and in the hollow of the dip a streamlet ran across. A blackbird had been splashing in the water; and, as she came over the slope, rose up loudly calling. He perched on the hedge, looked towards her impudently from his dark eyes, half a mind to defy her, so bold was he in his beauty of blackest black and tawny bill. But as she stepped nearer he went off, again loudly calling and startling every bird in the field.

The streamlet was so shallow the small flints were only half submerged, and the water was but a few inches wide. The sand which the blackbird had disturbed floated quickly away, leaving it perfectly pure. Felise stooped, dipped her fingers, and watched the drops fall sparkling from them. She felt the water; she liked to touch all things⁠—the sunlight shone the brighter on her hand because it was wet.

Beyond the streamlet the lane rose rapidly, rugged and narrow; the hedges ceased, and only a hawthorn-bush here and there appeared on the banks. Presently it became a deep white groove, worn in chalk.

Felise stepped quickly now, and in a few minutes reached the foot of the hill, where the lane left the straight line, and went up the Downs aslant, so that wagons might be drawn up, which they could not have been had the track been straight.

The moment Felise’s foot touched the sward, she began to run up the hill, making direct for the ridge, like a hare, or a bee bent for the thyme above. Her arched insteps, like springs, threw her forwards; her sinews strung and strong, lifted her easily. Her weight did not press the turf⁠—it was for the time suspended between her swift bounds. Rejoicing, her deep chest opened, the pliant ribs, like opening fingers, made room for cubic feet of purest atmosphere. The air inhaled lifted her; she was lighter and more swift.

Forced into the blood, the strong hill air intoxicated her. She forgot all; she saw nothing⁠—neither the sun, the sky, nor the slope itself; her entire being was occupied in putting forth her strength. Up⁠—from thyme-bunch to thyme-bunch; past grey flat flints; past rusty ironstone fragments; past the parallel paths, a few inches wide, which streaked the hill⁠—up, straight for the summit!

A lark, startled, fled, but immediately began to soar and sing. The landscape widened beneath; there were woods and bright fields. She did not see the fields, or woods, or hear the lark; nor notice the flints which, like lesser milestones, marked her run. Her limbs grew stronger, her bounds more powerful, as her breath was drawn in long, deep inspirations. The labour increased her strength; her appetite for the work grew as she went. She ran and drank the wind to have more of herself⁠—to have the fullness of her own existence. The great heart within her throbbed and bore her, replying to her spirit.

More flints, more thyme⁠—a stonechat flitted away⁠—longer grass, more slippery, the slope steeper, still⁠—up!

Yet the strong limbs could not bound quite so far; the feet fell as swiftly, but the space covered was not so wide. There was effort now.

Brave as may be the heart of woman, yet the high hills must try it. So great was the rush of the aerated blood, it seemed to threaten to suffocate her. The supple knees could not straighten themselves; they remained slightly bent. The pliant ribs, opened to their widest, seemed forced outwards by an expansive power which must break them to get free. Her head was thrown back: she did not look now at the ridge; she looked up at the sky. Surely the summit must be near?

She would have dropped rather than give up; she would have dropped like a hunted animal before she would have yielded.

The time when she knew she must fall was numbered now but by seconds. The strong air which at first gave such a sense of vigour was now too strong; it began to take away her breath. She did not feel her limbs; they moved mechanically, though still quickly. She saw nothing but the sky. Five seconds more, and down she must go: not even that great heart could bear more.

But she was nearer than she knew. Suddenly the slope became less steep, where the summit seemed planed away; her feet went along instead of having to be lifted. She looked and saw the thorn-bush on the ridge before her. She stopped by the bush; she had done it⁠—the hill was conquered.

She could not stand quite still; she walked slowly forwards⁠—the sudden relief to her panting chest was unbearable if she stood. Pant, pant; throb, throb! But her heart sang in its throbs; her eyes gleamed with delight. She walked slowly in a circle, and came back to the old thorn-bush. She could stand now. She looked towards the horizon, blue where it met the descending dome of the sky.

First her gaze went straight out to the farthest, where earth appeared immaterial like the sky; after that it travelled back to her, over woods, the gleam of water, more woods, which were less dense, and had glades of green meadows between them; then rested for awhile on a red roof among sycamores and elms⁠—home⁠—then came nearer. And now she looked down having previously looked out⁠—down on the lane, and on the cornfields; thatched roofs yonder on the left, and early smoke rising; an idle windmill; a church-tower, round which black specks of daws were wheeling; and cornfields, brightly green. Her heart sang within her. She triumphed; she was full of her own life.

In all that vast plain there was not a woman that could have done it, and not two men.

There was nothing large, gigantic, or Amazonian about her; it was the perfection of her physical nature, not size or training. Her natural body had been further perfected by a purely natural life. The wind, the sun, the fields, the hills⁠—freedom, and the spirit which dwells among these, had made her a natural woman; such a woman as Earth meant to live upon her surface, and as Earth intended in the first origin of things: beauty and strength⁠—strength and beauty.

What a latent power of love was there in that richness of blood, that depth of chest, that greatness of heart! Pure love, pure as the springwater that comes from the hills, was there ready to be poured forth⁠—always full, always pouring, always the same and always pure.

Felise walked along the summit of the hill till she reached the place on the other side where it sloped downwards. There the dew had fully dried⁠—it was the eastern slope, and so received the full rays of the sun from his earliest rising. In summer he rises with his full rays, and steps at once in all his fiery strength up over the eastern horizon. The turf was perfectly dry; she sat down, facing eastwards.

Now, for the first time, she heard the larks singing; she had been too full of her own thoughts and efforts to listen before.


She had seen him so little, and yet her passion had taken such hold of her. She knew that she had not come forth to see the sunrise and to bathe in the light of morning. It was to drink deep of the emotion which filled her; she must go out into the broad morning where alone was room enough for the heart to breathe. Filled and overflowing with love, yet such is the insatiable nature of passion that she, who thought of nothing else, went to try and think still more.

All this had come at once, in a few weeks⁠—all this concentration and burst of desiring; and with so little cause, for she had scarcely seen him. This proves that her heart had been full of love to its utmost capacity long before they had met; that incident was merely the outlet.

As she had roamed about the hills, and wandered in the woods, or by the shore, musing in deep enjoyment of the sunlight and the wind, love was coursing through each vein, filling every throb of her heart. It was this which gave such beauty to the flower, such colour to the sky, such pleasant coolness to the stream. She awoke to it in the morning as the swallows came to the eave by the window; they had been coursing long before through the air while she lay sleeping.

She threw open her window and breathed it⁠—the sweet wind from the meadows brought it. All day the sunlight poured it forth upon the green grass and rustling leaves; she moved in it as she moved in the sunbeams. By night it was with her. An inexpressible fullness of passion grew in her breast.

But could this be? Could anyone love without an object? Is it possible for the heart to become full and yet without an image? Not perhaps with a small nature, a narrow mind, a stunted being. With all great hearts and true women it is always the case; they love first in themselves, they love without knowing why, or whom⁠—it is their very life. If such a great and noble woman were enclosed in a prison from youth, and permitted no sight of man, still to the end of existence she would love. The divine flame lighted in her with life would burn on to the last moment.

Felise’s heart was lost before she saw him. She lost it amid the flowers of the meadow, the wind on the hill, by the rushing stream. She lost it in her study among her books, her poetry of old Greece⁠—songs of the “Violet Land”⁠—her “Odyssey” and dramas of Sophocles and Aeschylus; among the stars that swept by over the hill; by the surge that ran up and kissed her feet. The pointed grass stole it from her; the fresh leaves of spring demanded it; all things beautiful took it from her. Her heart was lost long since.

The streamlet in the woods is full before the dove alights to drink at it; the flower in the grass has expanded before the butterfly comes. A great passion does not leap into existence as violets sprang up beneath the white feet of Aphrodite. It has grown first. The grapes have ripened in the sun before they are plucked for wine.

Her vigour of life was very great; yet it was not that that sent her to the fields and woods, to the hilltop and the shore; nor the abounding physical vigour which forced her broad chest through the clear green sea; nor the strong muscle hidden in the rounded arm which drove her boat over the waves. The soul that inspired the effort was the love that was growing within her.

There were women in the country far larger of limb than she was; more bulky of arm and brawny of chest⁠—strong as reapers. They did not swim, though the sea was open to them; they did not row and spend whole days upon the water; they did not climb the hills and wander in the solitary valleys. They had the strength; they could have lifted a heavier weight than she could have done; they could have outworked her in manual tasks, yet they exhibited no energy. Such as were poor remained about their cottages; such as were better off stayed in their farmhouses. The little circumstances of daily life were enough for them, and they were satisfied with the petty gossip of the village and the market-town.

If there were any gala in the town they were eager enough then to don their finest and trudge, or ride as the case might be, thither, earliest to arrive and last to leave. Enterprise enough for that was in them. So totally were they without imagination that a flower-show, or a fête, or a fair roused them to the highest pitch of excitement. The band and the gay dresses, the noise and the crowd supplied what was naturally lacking in their minds. They had no colour within, and so sought it without.

They rushed to the fête or gala; for the rest, day after day, week after week, month after month, they were satisfied indoors with the petty things of the hour. The violets, the honeysuckle, the roses later on, were nothing to them; the sea nothing. It was within walking-distance, as near as the gala-field, but they never went to it.

Therefore it was not Felise’s physical vigour which made her seek the sun and the hills, not that which made her row and swim. Something else beside the abundant young life of the blood was there to give the impulse. The soul of her blood was the passion within.

This gave the vigour to her white limbs as she swam, supplying the force with which they thrust back the clear green sea; this pulled at the oar; this lifted her as she ran up the steep hillside. Her own heart coloured the flower she gathered, and gave a grace to the beech-trees beneath which she wandered. From herself came the brilliance of the sunlight, and the meaning in the books she read.

They did not go out into the fields, or wander in the woods, because they saw nothing there but fields and woods, nothing but grass and trees.

Felise carried with her a fresh colour for each flower, a thought for every tree, a feeling into the depths of the shadowy woods. The beauty of the grasses and the green wheat was in her; she brought the beauty to them. Slowly undulating the wave approached her boat: the grey wave poised itself a moment beside the boat, and immediately bowed itself beneath her. She saw down to the pale furrowed sand, and the seaweed in the shallow. In the clear water there was nothing of itself, but her heart put a feeling there⁠—just as she let her hand droop over into the sea.

With her soul grew her love; this purest of love, and yet strongest of passions. Her young limbs became stronger, her young chest broader, her shoulders and her back finer: a firmer pulse throbbed in her veins. So the soul enlarged as day after day of musing passed, and those long half-conscious reveries which are to the soul as sleep to the frame. She rejoiced in the morning and the sunrise, and felt the glowing beauty of the day; she saw the night and its stars, and knew the grandeur of the earth’s measured onward roll eastwards, the hexameter of heaven.

She saw these things because at her birth love was born with her; the flame was lit with her life, and must burn till the end.

There are but few men, one only they say in many, many years, in whom the fire of genius is clear from youth. These are born⁠—such cannot be educated up from common material. There are but few women (though more in proportion than such men) in whom the divine flame of unutterable love exists from the first moment of consciousness, still growing with their growth. The mark of love was stamped on Felise’s forehead.

Hence the sweetness of the morning to her; hence the joy of swimming in the clear green sea; the pleasure of rowing; of running on the hills; the beauty of the flowers. She brought to all a song⁠—the song of her heart. So that it is true to say that she loved before she had seen the object of her love. Who should have her would have a twofold Felise⁠—the outward beauty of the woman, the inward beauty of her soul.


Felise listened to the larks as they rose and sang⁠—now one, now two, now six or seven at once. They did not soar to a great height; but, starting from a field of clover beneath, came up a little above the level where she sat, and sang like a chorus before her. She listened, and in her heart silently asked the same as they did aloud. Over their nests and their beloved ones they uttered their verses, in melody requiring of the sun and of the earth happiness for these, and for themselves permission to live.

Chanting their welcome to the sun, they breathlessly poured out a prayer demanding, in a thousand trills, that the joy of day and life might descend upon their homes. They sank to the clover, but speedily came up again, restless in their gladness, eager to acknowledge the benefit of day, eager to secure fulfilment of their hopes for their young, fearful lest they had not expressed themselves sufficiently, lest they had seemed ungrateful.

Felise asked in her heart the same as they did. Her overflowing heart asked happiness for the image that now filled it; for herself only that she might contribute to his happiness⁠—that she might sacrifice herself⁠—that she might lay down her life for him.

Of old, old time the classic women in the “Violet Land” of Greece went out to the sunrise, and, singing to Apollo, the sun, prayed that their hearts might be satisfied, and their homes secured; by the fountain they asked of the water that the highest aspirations of their souls might be fulfilled; of the earth they asked an abundance for those whom they loved.

No more the hymn is heard to the sun; no more the stream murmurs in an undertone to the chorus of human hopes; no more the earth sees its wheat and its flowers taken from it to be presented to it again upon the altar in token of gratitude and prayer.

But still the larks, as then, and still the thrushes, the fleeting swallows, and the doves, address themselves to sun, and earth, and stream, and heaven. Their songs vary not, their creed does not change, their prayer goes forth to the same old gods.

Have our hopes and hearts changed in the centuries? No; not one whit.

Felise asked the same as many a deep-breasted maiden in the days of Apollo and Aphrodite. Only her heart was pure, and uncontaminated even by any sensuous myth.

The larks sang out of the fullness of their hearts; they were not conscious that they prayed, though in truth they did. Her heart spoke without volition, she was not aware she was praying. With all her being she demanded that joy might reach her beloved, that she might lie like the dust at his feet, in her sacrifice her triumph.

Came the sun in all his glory, and the wind from the sea; the deep azure sky was over her, the woods and the green wheat below. The hills were all her own; there was no one else to claim them in the morning. She alone looked at the sky, and it was hers. Could she have done so, she would have given the wide earth and all its fruits to her beloved.

The richness of the corn in the plain, and of the luxuriant grasses in the meadow; the ancient oaks and the thousand elms; the hedges hung with honeysuckle, and where the roses were coming; the sweet waters, and the flowers that stood by them; all that grew afar to the horizon. Nor was that enough. The dim blue sea yonder, the bright blue heavens, the glowing light; she would have given him all for his delight, as a goddess of old time might have taken a mortal in her chariot through the ether.

She was leaning on her arm, reclining on the sward, and the throbs of her heart vibrated through her arm to the earth. Quickened by the violence of her run up the hill it beat rapidly, causing her arm to tremble slightly. It was meet that so noble a heart should rest upon the boundless earth. There the rudeness of its beat diminished, and the vehemence of the vibration subsided.

But not so the vehemence of the passion within. The glowing light and pleasant air, the broad green wheat under, all the blue above, the beauty of the world but fed the flame. So much the more she entered into the loveliness of the day, so much the more grew the desire which was her life.

She had gone out at the dawn that she might grasp it from the sun at his rising, that she might steal from the dewy grass and the fresh leaves, and seize her love from the purple sky. The sun had risen and the morning was opening into day, but she was insatiate, still she wished for more. She had fed herself with the light, and dew, and loveliness of the sunny morn, yet her hunger grew with all she fed on. There was no rest for her in the sunlight, on all the wide earth.

If in the time to come she should have her dream, would even then her heart be satisfied? Could she ever love enough to relieve her love?

The one overmastering desire was to give⁠—nothing for herself, all for him. To give him all things; to ask nothing in return. Her desire was immeasurable⁠—she looked greedily on the earth spread out at the base of the hill⁠—that she might pour plenty at his feet, that she might give him the loveliness of all.

The larks were still singing, but she was not listening now. Their notes were far away, as if they sang higher than the clouds. Tears gathered in her eyes, and dimmed the view of the beauteous morn. Her breast heaved once, and her breath paused in her throat, checked by a sigh. A deep prayer can but end in tears⁠—a prayer like this which has no words, but gives a life instead of them. It was not sorrow, it was the unutterable depth of her joy in the love that held her.

He knew it not⁠—what of that? He might never know⁠—what of that? She had given her life to him, and it was a joy to her that she had done so. But with that joy there mingled the undertone of knowledge and of thought, that she should never, never, not even if his arms were about her, be able to fully pour forth her heart, making him understand her. How could he understand her? How could she ever tell him? And all that she could ever do for him under the happiest circumstances could not amount to one hundredth part of what she wished to do. She felt in that moment of tears that the fruition of human wishes can never equal the desire. The limit is reached long, long before. All falls so short.

Her breath came freely again, and she saw the distant sea clearly⁠—the mist in her eyes was gone. Once more the larks sang sweetly, and she listened. If we cannot reach to ideal things, at least we can do much, nearer to earth. The larks cannot rise to the heavens, but they sing high above their nests, and their voices are sweet to all below them.

Felise raised herself higher on her arm, and looked boldly at the blue sea-line. Her heart rose again; the strong courage in her inspired it. Bright and beautiful as the morning she rose to her feet, dauntless and resolute. Her will was strengthened by love, made ten times stronger. Bold as the sun, unabashed as the day, she would have her will; she claimed love as her right. Come what might, she would be his.


The sun had now grown fierce, and Felise, rising from the ground, walked along the hill, whose summit gradually declined. These hills of chalk are generally very steep in front, and laborious to ascend if attempted there; but at the rear they are much easier, and present no difficulty. In this they resemble human life, for the aspiring, whether in letters, politics, or commerce, find the utmost trouble in climbing up the precipitous frowning brow which defends the prize; but once on the top, sigh to observe that the back of the position, which was hidden from them, could have been easily ascended, and that after all they are only elevated in a trifling degree above their neighbours.

Immediately beneath the hill was a field of clover, and beyond that wheat; next came a large wood, extending round the hill to the left: a brightly-gleaming stream ran into and was lost in the shade of the wood. To the right were meadows, reaching as far as the eye could see through the crowded trees in the hedgerows. Among these Felise recognised her home, a mile or more distant, the roof and chimneys only visible above the foliage. The line of the sea appeared where another ridge of hill stooped, and rose again. It was five miles to the shore.

Turning to her left, Felise went over the ridge, and descended the slope, which was very gradual, about halfway, till she reached the shade of a solitary beech-tree growing there. She had been so full of her thoughts, and so insensible to her physical sensations, that the sun had heated her unpleasantly before she was aware of it, and the cool shadow of the beech was a relief. She leaned against its smooth trunk, and looked over a hollow valley, or plain, between several ridges.

They sloped down, one line behind the other, and a third across these; a fourth farther away, drawn along in those gentle outlines that look so easy to copy on paper, and are so difficult. The pencil can rarely hit the exact curve⁠—there is always a tendency to exaggerate; and some of the cleverest draughtsmen say the only method by which these illusive lines can be rendered is to gaze at them, and sketch without looking at the paper⁠—that is, to let the pencil obey the mandate of the eye without the intervening connection of the mind, yielding the faculties entirely to the curve.

This enclosed plain was grass-grown; a few hawthorns were scattered about it, and beneath where she stood three or four beeches grew in an irregular group. She was now facing in the opposite direction⁠—her present right was her former left. A rude track⁠—merely two ruts in the sward⁠—went over the hill on her right.

Just as she was beginning to feel refreshed in the coolness, her glance became sensible of a movement in the distance. Something had crossed over the third ridge, and descended out of sight into the hollow between it and the second. She did not look that way in time to see what it was, but supposed it to have been a shepherd.

While she leaned against the bole of the tree idling, she took out her penknife, a slight thing with a mother-of-pearl handle and a thin narrow blade. Why are ladies’ penknives so feebly made? Directly you begin to cut with one, the blade shakes and turns, or threatens to go right back, in spite of the spring.

Felise took the blade itself between her finger and thumb⁠—as the handle was useless she hafted it with her white fingers⁠—and began to cut out a slice of the bark of the beech.

This tree has a rind, smooth, and readily incised. It is not very thick, yet thick enough for a marked notch to be left if a strip be cut out. Felise forced the tender blade through the bark, and drew two parallel lines; then she loosened and tore out the thin strip between these, leaving a straight perpendicular stroke, or A straight vertical line.. The sap glistened in the groove.

She did it in mere idleness, quite thoughtlessly, and without intent. Now see what follows from one stroke, and how careful people should be before they begin anything. How can you tell where it may lead you?

She contemplated the glistening groove; and then, suddenly taking more interest in the work, began to draw two more parallel lines from the top of the first aslant to the right. This incision was somewhat shorter; it did not descend quite so far as the A straight vertical line.. It was connected with the first at the top. When the strip of bark was peeled out there were two glistening lines of sap, in shape something like half the conventional arrowhead on Government property⁠—A straight vertical line with barb at the top, resembling the left half of an uppercase letter M.

In a minute or two she began to add to this piece of work a further stroke, ascending from the descending one, also to the right, which, when peeled, left a strange Ogham-like character⁠—Three lines that resemble an uppercase letter M without the final vertical line on the right side.

So soon as she had done this she was startled at her own deed, and tried to rub it out with her soft hand, which was unlikely to produce much effect on the bark of a tree. Rub it as hard as she might, there was the incision, and she could not make the bark grow again. It is not so easy to undo what has once been done. The beech would not obliterate that mark in twenty years. The very thought increased her trepidation; her cheek grew warm⁠—everyone who passed would see it for twenty years.

The reflection that although they would see it they might not understand it, did not occur to her. What was so plain to her must be evident to others. Guilty people always imagine everyone is watching them⁠—that everyone detects their secret. Someone might be looking now. She looked up, and immediately drew close to the tree, hiding behind it.

While these labours had been proceeding, the figure which had appeared over the third ridge, to disappear immediately in the hollow, had come up again over the second ridge, gone down into the second hollow, and was at that moment, when she looked up, descending the first slope into the grassy valley at her feet. It was a man on horseback.

When he reached the level sward, he pushed his horse to full speed, and galloped at a great pace straight across the plain. He seemed to be making a beeline across, as if intending to ride up the opposite ascent.

Felise involuntarily grasped her penknife so tightly that the point pricked her finger. This drew her attention to the fact that a beech-tree six or eight inches in diameter is not shield enough to conceal a well-developed form; or else she did not care to hide now; or else she was curious to see which way he was going; or else⁠—a woman has so many reasons for everything she does it needs a volume to record them; but what she did was to step away from the tree, and in front of it, into full view.

Her lips were slightly parted; her form rose a little, for she had drawn herself up unconsciously to her full height. Her eyelids drooped, and a dreamy expression came into the beautiful grey of her eyes. The deep attention with which she gazed partly overcame the involuntary muscles, so that her heart beat slower, and her breath was scarcely drawn.

The horseman rode straight towards the hill, but at the foot turned to the right, and began to go round the valley. He had changed his mind, or thought perhaps that he should find no better place for a gallop than in this natural circus.

Instantly her breath came quicker, and her heart beat faster; the nerves had relieved the muscles. He was not going away yet.

In following the outline of the plain, he must pass close to her, though much lower, and just the other side of the clump of beeches. The curve brought him nearer and nearer, till she thought he must see her; yet he did not appear to do so. Thud, thud⁠—an occasional click as the hoofs struck a stray flint. He was looking straight at her! Surely he saw her? No; he rode on, and his back was turned as the curve of the grassy circus took him away.

Felise sighed, and then frowned; she could not understand it. She was in the full view of everyone who entered the valley; she might have been seen from the opposite side. Certainly their acquaintance was slight; still, he would hardly pass her like that.

He had not, in fact, seen her at all, intent on his gallop, on his horse, and especially upon his own thoughts. But to this circumstance the circular shape of the grassy circus contributed; for it is a curious fact that anyone standing on the side of a round cavity, or inside a round building, may be overlooked.

Suppose a circular room; stand close to the wall, and if a person glance casually in at the door, he will very likely fail to see anyone there. Though she was now full in the glowing morning sunlight, he did not see her; his mind was deeply engaged, and the retina is not so sensitive at such moments. He was riding fast to ride down his own thoughts.

As he came round to the spot where the rude track went over the hill to the right, Felise’s breath came slow again, lest he should turn and go along the wagon-road, which she knew would have led him home. He did not⁠—he came on; and for the second time passed her, unconscious of her presence. The nearer he came the higher grew the colour in her face and on her neck; as the strong horse took him away, so the colour faded. When the sunlight suddenly breaks forth from a cloud, how instantly the flowers bloom afresh!⁠—so the quick rosy flush lit up her delicate neck instantly, but it sank back slowly.

In passing the group of trees he was so close that the expression of his face was visible. His forehead was a little contracted with a frown; the line it caused was not deep, so that he appeared more hesitating than angry. He was undecided; he was seeking decision from the unhesitating stride of his horse.

Comparatively his face was small for his height; he was not all face, as we see some men, whose countenances seem to descend to the last button of their waistcoats. His head was in just proportion, the summit and finish of his shape, as a capital of a column. His hair had a shade like the gold of Felise’s, yet not in the least like hers, for his was deeper, browner, as if the sun had burnt it, as it had his cheek. Had it not been cropped so close, his hair would have curled; in the days of Charles II such hair would have been of priceless value to a cavalier, curled locks flowing to the shoulder.

In outline his countenance was somewhat oval, his features fine⁠—a straight nose and chin well marked, but not heavy. He had a short beard, and his head showed the more to advantage, because he had a good neck, not too thick. His eyes were blue, and framed in firmly-drawn eyebrows and long lashes. Though well built, he was slender rather than stout; his hands were brown, but not large.

The features indicated a temperament almost too sensitive, feelings too delicate for the roughness of life, which still has to be sustained by the rude plough and by labour in all weathers, as in the days of our most remote ancestors.

He rode without a saddle, only a bridle. The horse was a large bay, almost large enough for a weight-carrying hunter; a handsome creature whose flanks might have been polished like fine wood, they shone so. Round spots on the skin were less dark than the adjacent surface⁠—a dappling or graining which varied in hue as the animal turned, and the light was reflected at a different angle.

The third time he came round to the wagon-track he drew rein, as if about to change his course, and walked his horse. Felise impatiently moved her foot, and the dreamy expression in her eyes gave way to one of annoyance. But he went by the wagon-track, and continued along the circus, still at a walking-pace. This time, as he approached the beeches, he saw her.


She knew he did, although no alteration was perceptible in his manner. Watching him so narrowly, she felt that he had seen her, yet there was no visible change. Eyes that love have a way of seeing more than is understood by scientific people, though they may analyze light with the spectrum and the polariscope, and all the other appliances together.

At the beeches he rode slowly up towards her. All at once he turned again, and began to descend the hill away from her; then, as suddenly, slipped off his horse to his feet, and walked towards her up the slope.

“Good morning!”

He did not offer his hand; their previous acquaintance was extremely slight. She held out hers, and he took it.

“Can I direct you?” he said, a little awkwardly.

“Oh, I know the way!”

“I did not know; I thought⁠—”

“I came up to see the sunrise,” she said, explaining; “but I was too late.”

“It is a beautiful morning,” said he.

No very brilliant conversation yet; as a matter of fact, people who are tête-à-tête for the first time in their lives do not talk brilliantly. Much, however, may be conveyed by tone and manner.

He did not look at her more than courtesy demanded: he looked at the sward, at the tree, anywhere but at her; yet his nature was truthful.

She looked straight in his face; she did not disguise her wistful glance. If he could only have let himself gaze into her eyes! But he would not. Her right hand moved restlessly; she almost put it on his shoulder.

They were both bareheaded. She held her hat in her left hand; he had taken off his when he saluted, and had not replaced it. The bright sunlight shone on her golden hair, and on his short brown-gold locks. Their shadows touched on the sward.

“I have been watching you riding,” she said. “I wish I could ride like that without stirrups.” Implied flattery, Felise.

“It is very easy.”

“But you went very fast; and such a big horse, too.”

“So much the easier; the motion is so much more pleasant than with a small horse.”

“Let me stroke him,” she said.

Together they walked a few steps down the slope; the bay had quietly set himself to feed on the sweet sward. She stroked him, and admired him. There was an emphasis in her manner as if she would rather have stroked certain brown-gold locks near her. She asked him twenty questions about his horse Ruy.

He answered all, but merely answered them, without any enthusiasm or desire to continue the conversation. Twice he said time was going on, and touched his watch-chain, but did not look at his watch for courtesy’s sake.

Felise glanced hastily round to find some subject to talk of. The trees⁠—what trees were they? She knew perfectly well.

“Beeches,” he said; “they grow on a chalky soil.”

“Where does that road lead to?” pointing to the wagon-track.

“To Welcombe.”

As if she had not followed it twenty times, till she could look down upon his house. Anything to make him stay, to make him speak, that she might see him, and hear his voice.

“You have not called for a very long time.”

As if he was on visiting terms. He had called once on mere formal business.

“How is Mr. Goring?” he was obliged to ask.

Then followed three or four sentences⁠—three or four moments more⁠—about her uncle’s health, and his fondness for planting trees.

“Why does he not look at me?” she thought. “Can I not make him look at me?” Then aloud, sharply: “Mr. Barnard!”

He could not help but look, at the sound of his name. He saw a face full of wistful meaning upturned to him. Her golden hair had strayed a little on her forehead, three or four glistening threads wandered over it, asking some loving hand to smooth them back. The white brow without a stain, a mark, a line; no kiss there but must be purified by the touch; it was an altar which could not be tainted⁠—which would turn taint to purity. Large grey eyes that seemed to see him only⁠—to whom the whole world, the hills round them, the sky over, was not⁠—eyes that drew his towards them, and held his vision in defiance of his will. If once you look over the side of a boat into the clear sea, you must continue looking⁠—the depth fascinates the mind. Some depth in her rapt gaze fascinated him.

Her eyebrows arched⁠—not too much arched⁠—the curve of the cheek, roseate, almost but not quite smiling, carried his thought downwards to her breathing lips. Her lips were apart, rich, dewy, curved; they kissed him by their expression, if not in deed. In that instant his heart throbbed violently; the beat rose to thrice its usual rate.

The first moment of awaking to a happy morning, the daylight that means a joyful event; the first view of the sea in youth, when the blue expanse brings tears to the eyes⁠—in these there is some parallel to the sudden, the extreme, and the delicious feeling that shot through him. To reach the ideal of human happiness it is necessary to be for the moment unconscious of all, except the cause. For that moment he had no consciousness except of her, such was the power of her passion glowing in her face.

Even Felise, eager to retain him with her, and unhesitatingly employing every means, could not maintain that gaze. Unabashed and bold with love, she was too true, too wholly his, to descend to any art. Her gaze, passionate as it was, was natural and unstudied; therefore it could not continue. Her eyes drooped, and he was released.

Immediately, as if stung to a sense of his honour, he placed his hands on the horse, sprang up, and seated himself. “I⁠—I have much to do,” he said, embarrassed to the last degree, and holding out his hand.

She would not see it. She took the bridle, and stroked Ruy’s neck, placing her cheek almost against the glossy skin. Obeying the pressure of his knee, Ruy began to move slowly. She walked beside him, holding the bridle; but Ruy’s long stride soon threatened to leave her behind. For very shame, he could not but stay. At a touch Ruy halted. She looked up at him; he carefully avoided her glance. The horse, growing restless, began to move again; again, for courtesy’s sake, he was compelled to check him. Not a word had been spoken while this show was proceeding.

Barnard’s face grew hot with impatience, or embarrassment, or a sense that he was doing wrong in some manner not at the moment apparent. Sideways, she saw his glowing cheek. It only inflamed her heart the more; the bright colour, like the scarlet tints in a picture, lit up his face. Next he controlled himself, and forced his features and attitude to an impassive indifference. He would sit like a statue till it pleased her to let him go. Ruy pulled hard to get his neck free that he might feed again.

She stooped and gathered him some grass and gave it to him. Twice she fed him. Barnard remained silent and impassive. Still not a word between them. The third time she gathered a handful of grass, as she rose her shoulder brushed his knee. She stood there, and did not move. Her warm shoulder just touched him, no more; her golden hair was very near. She drew over a tuft of Ruy’s mane, and began to deftly plait it. Barnard’s face, in defiance of himself, flushed scarlet; his very ears burned. He stole half a glance sideways; how lovely her roseate cheek, the threads of her golden hair, against the bay’s neck! Ruy was turning his nostrils round to touch her, and ask for more grass. She swiftly plaited his mane.

At that moment another horse neighed over the hill; they both looked round⁠—no one was in sight. But Ruy answered with a neigh, and in the same instant stepped forward. Barnard pressed his knee; Ruy began to move faster. Barnard bowed; his voice was temporarily inarticulate, and he was gone.

In a few minutes, he gained the wagon-track; and, without looking back, pressed Ruy at a rapid pace up the ascent, and disappeared over the summit. She went back to the beech, and in the shadow watched the next ridge. In five minutes man and horse came into view, climbed, and went down, like a ship at sea beneath the horizon. She saw them for the third time passing over the third ridge, and then, knowing that she should not see them any farther, turned to go. She soon regained the lane, where a farmer on horseback overtook and passed her, raising his hat. It was his horse that had neighed to Ruy.

Felise walked swiftly, and in the centre of the lane. The dew had dried from the blue veronica and the cowslip. Instead of wandering from side to side, looking at the flowers, and touching the green sprays, she went straight on. She did not notice a blackbird’s noisy note as he sprang up startled from among the young brake fern. The oak-trunk which had formed her seat was not looked at. Her mind was full of one thought, and she did not regard outward circumstances.

A shepherd with his dog at a gateway saw her go by; a man riding a thill-horse met her, and forced his horse, with the harness hanging and jingling, up into the nettles and brambles, to give her a royal right of road; ten or twelve haymakers, men and women, were filing across the lane out of one field across to another. They halted, and let her pass through their ranks. Some children with them shouted joyously at the sight of her. Neither the touching of hats, nor the curtseys, nor the voices of the children calling to her, attracted her a moment. Her mind was full of one thought, and she saw nothing.

At home she immediately ran upstairs, shut the door, and sat down. In another moment she got up to look at herself in the glass. Her cheeks were scarlet, partly the exertion, partly sunburn, partly excitement. The sun had scorched her face; love had scorched her heart. What had she done? Was it well, or wrong? Did he understand? He must have understood. Yet, perhaps, he might not have done so; he would not look at her. Their eyes had met but once.

Her face, her neck, flushed scarlet; she felt as if her very fingers tingled with shame. That she should have shown him so plainly her meaning⁠—that she should have actually held his horse by the bridle to stay him from leaving her!

With as violent a revulsion of feeling she laughed, caught up a brush, and brushed her hair, and revelled in the thought of her boldness. She wished she had done more.

“Why did I not hold his hand instead of his horse’s bridle?” she asked herself.

Suddenly she burst into tears, leant back, and became perfectly pale. A faintness came over her; everything before her eyes was black as if it was night. She did not faint⁠—she slowly recovered; and, going to the window, began to sing in a low voice. A girl came round the corner of the house.

“Mary, bring me a rose for my hair.”

In that simple country household, Mary Shaw was their only attendant. She was, however, young and good-looking, pleasant, and almost a friend. There was much affection between them.

“You must be main lear [very hungry],” said Mary, when she brought the rose; “you have been up Ashpen.”

“I am⁠—very hungry,” said Felise.

“Such a nice breakfast waiting for you.”

“I couldn’t eat a morsel,” said Felise. “How long the days are! I wish it was night!”

“It isn’t seven yet,” said Mary.

“Oh dear! These summer days are so long!”

“Yesterday you was saying how glad you were they was so long.”

“So I am.”

“There now! who’s to know what you means? That’s how all good-looking ladies goes on⁠—that’s how they worries the menfolk.”


After Barnard had ridden over the third ridge, uphill and down, at a merciless rate, he checked his speed: first to a trot, then to a walk, and finally halted altogether. Next he turned Ruy’s head away from home (a change Ruy did not much like), and slowly retraced the route he had come away from Felise Goring.

But at first not very rapidly. It is the first few steps that are difficult, even in sweet things: hesitation, trembling, indecision accompanies them. Once well started on the flowery path, and the pace constantly accelerates. In ten minutes he was at full gallop back towards her. He had not the least idea what he was going to do⁠—what excuse he should make for returning⁠—whether he would go so near as to speak, or what.

He soon saw that she had left the spot. He rode up to the solitary beech and dismounted, mechanically repeating what he had done when she was there. So great criminals go through a dumb show in their sleep of guilt; so great pleasure leads us to step again in our happy footmarks. He looked at the beech, because she had been there, and caught sight of the incision in the bark. What was this?

The cuts were so thin, he guessed at once it was her work: a man would have slashed out larger strips. He traced the lines with his finger: one straight descending stroke, and a small V attached to it at the top on the right side. When his finger reached the end of the ascending groove, involuntarily he drew it down the uncut bark, as if another straight stroke had been there, and recognised in an instant what the incomplete character stood for; i.e. M. A capital M⁠—his own initial; Martial Barnard.

He took out his own knife, and cut the stroke necessary to complete the letter.

Hurrying to Ruy, who was feeding, he got up, and rode round the hill, and into the lane. Though so far behind at starting, his speed was thrice hers; he thought he could easily overtake her. But she had progressed farther than he anticipated, and he found himself near her home without seeing anything of her. Then he asked himself what should he do if he did overtake her? Could he ride up⁠—could he speak to her? What could he say?

At this moment when Barnard let his horse walk, Felise was scarcely a hundred yards in front, but concealed by a turn of the lane.

M,” he said to himself, “might stand for many other names⁠—for Martin, for Mark; perhaps, after all, it was only a freak⁠—an accidental resemblance to an M, and no letter was intended.”

But the look⁠—the look which had held him; the depth of those beautiful eyes; the wistful expression of the face⁠—he saw it before him as he saw it at the moment. Should he ever forget it?⁠—he felt that it would never fade. As he thought of it, he looked down, and saw the plaited piece of mane. He cut it off, and put it in his pocketbook.

But in the pocketbook there were dates, and entries referring to⁠—no matter; he took the plait from the pocketbook, and placed it with his watch.

His conduct? To forget past vows; to follow another woman; to let his mind dwell upon this new face⁠—could anything be more despicable?

He turned Ruy with some violence, and walked him back up the lane. But why should he be better than others? Why set up to be so ultra-honourable? Was he not free in the eyes of the world?

As he pondered, still with her face before him, he saw a handkerchief, whits and delicate of texture, almost under Ruy’s hoofs; for the horse, left to himself, had chosen to walk on the sward near the hedge. Martial got down, and picked up the handkerchief. There were the initials F. G. in the corner. It exhaled a slight perfume, the sweet delicate odour of the beautiful woman to whom it belonged, and he kissed it. With this he might ride up to her house even; it would be an excuse.

No; he could not⁠—he must not. He remounted, and pursued his way along the lane, round the hill, back to the solitary beech with the glistening letter cut in its bark.

He reproved himself for permitting himself even to think of her; so he spoke aloud, as it were, mentally. At the same moment he was inquiring. Did that look mean anything? If so, was it real⁠—was it true? Or was she heartless, and merely using a lovely face to play upon him? Surely she was too beautiful; and yet⁠—why should she select him for such a glance? Their acquaintance was but trivial, and Barnard, to do him justice, was without conceit. She could not mean it; and yet, and yet!

And so the summer day wore on. To one it was too long, because she did not know how long it would be before she saw him again; the other took no heed of the glorious sunlight, because a face floated before him.


Some ten or twelve days afterwards Felise started to bathe, telling Shaw to follow in a quarter of an hour with her towels. It was about eleven, and all the dew long since dry; the garden-path was hedged on either side with peonies, whose large flowers hung heavily. Open the folio-petals like the leaves of a book, and you will find the imperial purple of the heavens at sunset deep within the volume.

Beyond the peonies her skirt rustled on grass, grown high under apple-trees, and the shade of the apple-boughs crossed her shoulder as she walked. She saw her uncle, Mr. Goring, at a distance, busy at his bees. A swarm hung from an apple-bough, and, clad in his net, he was charming them into a hive. Gardening and beekeeping, planting trees, and all similar pleasure-work, is of no interest unless you do it yourself. He did everything himself, and knew every shoot, because he had himself pruned the branch.

Felise went on along a filbert-walk⁠—Goring’s own planting⁠—then out by a yew-hedge higher than her head, and past the sundial. On the northern side of the sundial, under a sycamore, with the tall yew-hedge in the rear, a seat was placed; it was Felise’s favourite resort, because there was a view of the distant hills, and in the afternoon of the sunset, from this place. He had planted the grounds so thickly with trees that this was almost the only spot where a view could be obtained.

Next she walked beside a hawthorn-hedge. Goring had made a gravel walk parallel with the hedge, which led through the meadow to a copse at hand. There was a narrow valley between two slopes covered with wood; a copse had always been there, but Goring planted the summit each side with beech, and dotted American scarlet oaks about, besides cutting green walks among the ash, where, on turning a corner, you came unexpectedly on a bed of flowers or strawberries.

So soon as she reached the copse and had put her hand on the wicket-gate she heard the rush of falling waters. For some reason it was not audible till the wicket was reached, thence at every step in the wood it increased in volume of sound. A little stream from the chalk hill ran through the wood; years and years ago it had been banked up, and a pool made, in which there were trout. The pool was large enough for a boathouse; by the boathouse was a special compartment constructed for Felise, for bathing purposes.

Here she had learnt to swim; Goring taught her. Surrounded by wooded hills, and absolutely private, there could not have been a choicer place for bathing. The sea was so near⁠—five miles is very little to country people⁠—and Felise displayed so wilful a resolution to go out upon it at all times and seasons, that Goring never felt safe till she could swim. Of course she beat her teacher. “Papa”⁠—he was only her uncle, though, as she had never known her parents, she called him papa⁠—was getting grey. She could beat him swimming⁠—three to one.

Felise moved more slowly in the ash-wood, listening to the rush of the water as it fell over the hatch of the pond. It rendered her thoughtful. Climbing up the embankment which held the water in, she sat down on the beam of the hatch. Behind her the water dropped in an arch, ten feet deep, into a gully nearly crossed by ferns, which perpetually nodded. The spray struck them and bent them down; they rose up and were struck down again; and so on all day and night.

Before her the pool stretched out, an acre or two, broad at this end and deep, and narrowing up to a point where the stream ran in. The wood came down close on three sides; on the fourth, at her left hand, was a narrow strip of sward. The boathouse, on the right, was in shadow, being overhung by beeches; all the rest of the mere in bright sunshine.

Felise put up her sunshade and listened to the rush of the cataract. Though it seemed to fill the ear, the notes of a blackbird in the wood were distinct above it; they pierced the diffused sound of the waterfall. A chaffinch perched close to her; there were some long-winged flies floating about; the finch darted out and took these almost from under her parasol.

She was thinking. She had been up to the downs, and had visited the beech-tree three times since. She looked for her mark cut in the bark, and found it had been completed. Someone had added the stroke which rendered it intelligible as an M. Who could have done that? Her first thought was that it was Martial; he had returned, seen what she had been doing, guessed, and finished it.

This was what had actually taken place; but first thoughts are not always accepted. If he had done it, then her secret was out. Could it be called a secret after that interview? Her cheeks burned; she had so desired he should know, yet now she supposed he did know, she recoiled. For a moment only, however. If he had guessed and had completed the letter, then she was only too glad.

But had he? He had tried so hard to get away from her. He did not take the least interest in her. Possibly he thought her bold⁠—troublesomely bold; then he would not be likely to have returned to the spot where she had been a weariness to him. It must have been some shepherd lad whiling away the slow hours in the shadow of the beech who had carved the last stroke of the letter.

Yet she did not know. Heart said one thing: thought another. Heart said, “He did it; he is not quite indifferent to me; he has been here; he knows⁠—he understands.” Thought said, “He is entirely indifferent; my face, my form does not please him; why should he come back? Oh no! this was the work of a shepherd lad.” Yet she did not know. But if he had returned once, perhaps he would come again; so she went to the place three times, waited for an hour or two, and saw nothing of him. Of course not; he did not care. He never gave her a thought.

Yet she did not know. He might have revisited the spot at some other time of the day. So the battledore and shuttlecock of argument and suggestion continued in her mind. But the fact was indisputable that she did not see him; nor did he call to see her.

If he really understood her⁠—if he cared to understand her⁠—surely he would have called. Though their families were not on visiting terms, a gentleman can generally make some pretence if he wishes to call. He had not been⁠—he had not even ridden by, for she had been in the garden, and watching the road half the time. He did not want to come. Therefore it was not he who had completed the letter on the tree.

He did not care about her. She picked up a small stone and pitched it at a lazy trout idling at the surface of the still water. The fish shot away into the depths instantly; but her thoughts did not go away into oblivion.

He did not care for her. But he must care for her; she must make him care. It was impossible to influence him unless she could see him, speak to him, convey her heart to him, not only by words, but by those innumerable little ways which speak louder.

The weeks would lengthen into months, the months into years, and still perhaps he would not come; he would never care for her unless she could converse with him. Influence depends wholly on personal contact. No magic is known by which one person can attract another if outside the sphere of personal communication. Unseen, unspoken, how affect?

She began to feel the immeasurable weight of separation which has slowly ground so many weary hearts to the very dust of desolation.

She realized for the first time in her life the powerlessness of women. They cannot stir, they cannot move in the matters that concern them most dearly; they are helpless; at the mercy of the petty events called circumstance. If by any happy chance circumstance threw her into Martial’s society, in time he might love her. By chance only. How many years till that chance happened? Possibly enough it might never occur at all.

Time would go on. He would see fresh faces⁠—faces that pleased him better⁠—he would be wiled away by some other woman, fortunate in the fate of circumstance. A thousand little incidents might drift him farther away than he was now. She could not interfere. Strong and resolute as she was, what could she do?

Felise instinctively glanced all round her; she looked at the wood; at the path down the embankment; the nodding ferns; at the beeches far up on the summit each side; across at the willow-grown streamlet. She felt suddenly alone. She was by herself, not merely in the physical sense of no other person being near, but alone morally. Recognising that she could not command the society she desired, forced her to feel absolutely solitary. A crowd would have made no difference, she would have felt the same.

She could wait? Yes, like “Mariana in the moated grange,” in the sunshine, in the evening, in the morning, still with the same burden on her lips, “He cometh not.”

Hundreds, shall we not say rather thousands, do so wait. I saw a face, a woman’s face, at a window today, as I was strolling past a residence the style of which betokened wealth. Upon that face waiting had set its seal unmistakably. She was waiting⁠—she had been waiting years. No end to waiting. Such faces are common enough. Woman’s life seems to be nothing but waiting, sometimes.

She had unconsciously placed her elbow on her knee, and leant her face on her hand; the very thought of waiting bowed her down into an attitude of pensive regret.

How bitter it is to be a woman sometimes! On the other hand, no one triumphs like a woman when she does triumph. Caesar’s spoils and car rolling through applauding Rome, are but gewgaws to the triumph of a woman.


The very thought of the waiting depressed her; as if a darkness had fallen on her heart in the midst of the sunshine. Her gloom had increased till it verged on anger⁠—the two are near together; gloom and anger are like twins. She grew angry, she knew not with what, and stood up. The blackbird who had been singing uttered a loud ching-ching, as if alarmed at her change of attitude; a moorhen at the other end of the little lake scuttled into the bulrush-flags.

She stood up in the sunshine, lowering her sunshade, drawn to her full height, her features set, a slight flush on her cheeks. A silent and unchangeable resolve had been forming in her mind. She would, she must, she would have him with her. If he did not love her⁠—if he could not love her⁠—there was the end. But he should be in her society; he should feel her presence; he should see the meaning in her eyes; if she had any beauty he should come within reach of its power. He should talk with her, sit by her, do as she was doing; not once, or now and then⁠—continually, till by degrees his heart warmed, if it could warm towards her.

The forms of society were nothing to her⁠—she had already broken them. What the world said did not trouble her. She was reckless, ready for the most violent effort. She did not care; she would. She did not stamp her foot, the resolve was too deep to require a tangible emphasis; there was no fear of its vanishing.

Her features resumed their natural expression, her attitude became easy, but her cheeks grew hotter. Though she looked straight in front she saw nothing. Her whole consciousness was rapt in resolution.

It lasted a moment, and then the question arose, How?

Immediately she raised her sunshade, and sat down again. It is curious that when we act, we stand; when we think, we sit. The difference is discernible in actors on the stage: so long as they address each other standing, the play is followed with interest; the moment they sit down, though the dialogue be ever so brilliant, people take up their opera-glasses and look round them.

Stage-players should always stand⁠—it lends a force to the smallest incident. To lie down is more effective than to sit, it is next to standing; as, for example, the power Sarah Bernhardt exercises extended on a sofa⁠—not a chair.

Felise thought and sat down. She asked herself, How could this be accomplished? She thrust away from her mind the contemplation of the powerlessness of women, and concentrated her ideas upon the way it could be done. She would not submit; she would not wait, to the burden of “He cometh not.” She would force circumstances to her will, and mould her fate in her hands. The precipice was perpendicular, yet she would scale it. It was natural for a woman to attempt the impossible.

All the strength of her limbs seemed to support her resolution. Should she who could race up the steep hillside, who could swim, not only in this level lake, but in the swelling sea, who could run apace with the hounds⁠—should she tamely stand by and see her prize fall to another winner in life’s battle?

The strong limbs, the deep chest, the intense sense of life within her, urged her to the effort, and promised success.

Her face would never be seen at a window as the face I observed. Her nature was too strong, too vehement; if she failed, she would be utterly broken; if she failed, the end would come quickly. She could not live without her love.

Some dim presentiment of this perhaps passed through her mind, for a tear came into her eyes. If he could not love her when she had gained her immediate object, what then? Of that possibility she dared not think.

The question was, How? How obtain access to him⁠—how bring him into her society? Not for once, or twice, but day by day. To be with him hour after hour; her heart beat faster at the idea of it. To look into his face; to hear his voice; to come to understand his thoughts; to have one existence with him⁠—the happiness would be almost too great. That alone⁠—merely to be in his society⁠—would be sufficient reward for all the sacrifice she could make. It must be, but how?

Has anyone thought for an instant upon the extreme difficulty of knowing a person? Really to know him, or her, to speak in a friendly way, to visit and revisit, and converse without reserve, and become company with, and part of their group. Acquaintance is often difficult enough to acquire; to really come to know a stranger, or comparative stranger, is most difficult.

People’s entire destiny depends upon those whom they know. One’s friends lift one or depress one to their level. A genius is raised up to the skies, or struggles unnoticed in the grimy ranks accordingly as his acquaintances happen to be first-class or third-rate. Some men are fortunate from their youth, and are thrust forward upon the gilded shoulders of money and title till the world accepts them. So all-important is it on what level we begin life.

We cannot select our company. Our power in this matter is simply negative; we can avoid what is notoriously bad, but we cannot thrust ourselves in upon the good. A soldier may steadfastly refrain from the canteen, but he cannot invite himself to the officers’ mess.

The greatest difficulty in the world is to know people. How are you even to let them understand that you wish to know them⁠—which would often expedite the desired end very considerably? Reflect upon the vast multitude of people who enter and depart from London every day in 2,200 trains. How can you know any one of these?

There is a pretty woman in every train. This is a physiological fact which I have often observed, but how are you going to get introduced to them?

It is possible to be invited to the same dinner-party, to belong to the same club, the same hunt, to go so far as to salute whenever meeting, and yet not to know one another. The cordial greeting, the pressing invitation, the glad spirit is wanting. It is a nod and nothing more.

But for a woman to introduce herself to a man⁠—to select her acquaintance and her friend from the ranks of the other sex⁠—is it not almost impossible?

We live in little groups. These groups have not been formed upon any definite principle; they have grown up in the course of time, partly from family causes, partly from casual introductions, also from causes that defy analysis. Each of these little groups is complete in itself, and those outside it cannot get in. Observe a train, you will find that it runs upon rails; another train may be near, but cannot move itself upon those rails; each train has its metals. These groups remain in their grooves.

Yet the singularity of the thing is that although perseverance, application and admitted merit will not prevail to get an outsider into such a group, the merest outsider may enter at a moment’s notice by some little chance.

Women consequently marry inside this group, with someone with whom they have been brought into contact through family connections. Or else they leap, as it were, quite beyond the group, and are carried away by a total outsider accidentally met. If they do not belong to any group, and do not meet an outsider, then they have to continue unmarried. They cannot choose their friends, or their partners; they can refuse (the negative); they cannot select.

Some method is clearly required by which people without scandal or solecism might communicate with each other, and make it understood that they wish to be acquainted. At the present moment, even a man cannot ride up to a house and say, “Sir, I admire your niece (or your daughter). Permit me to visit you. So-and-so are my references. I await your reply after you have made inquiries.” But why not? It would be quite reasonable; people would soon agree to the custom.

However, the ladies would demand a corresponding right. Could they not be permitted to send a card with a few lithographed words in a conventional sentence amounting to a permission to visit them?

The very novelists, with all their ingenuity, have been troubled for ages to discover a means of introducing their characters to each other. Sometimes they cause their heroes to break a leg and be carried into a stranger’s house, where they are nursed, and win a heart. Or a horse runs away with the lady, who is gallantly rescued. In real life such events are as rare as legacies. A lady, in Boccaccio’s collection of stories, ingeniously uses the confessional as a means of securing a lover, showing that the difficulty was felt even then.

Half the flower-shows, the working-parties, the “causes” got up and pursued so zealously, are only supported because people unconsciously recognise in them a means of mixing with each other.


There was nothing in the position of Felise Goring or Martial Barnard to prevent their knowing each other. They were much in the same position. Felise depended upon her uncle, who possessed a comfortable house, the most beautiful grounds (laid out and planted by himself); who could provide a bountiful table, but could scarce summon up a coin. She had little beyond some fine pearls, once her mother’s. As for Barnard, he occupied a very large farm; his family had been once well-to-do, but he really had nothing. Outwardly he was a desirable match⁠—his family had had something of a county reputation⁠—financially speaking, he was undesirable. His education, his manners, his ideas, were much above his pocket. An impecunious pair; neither of them had anything to recommend them.

But there was no obstacle whatever in their position to prevent their knowing each other, except the insurmountable one that they did not know each other in the social sense. Their families had not visited; their connections did not belong to the same group. The houses were not more than three miles apart, but they were effectually isolated. Such cases must occur to everyone; there must be thousands of them. There was nothing between⁠—only separation.

They had met thrice. Once in the previous autumn, when Felise was following the harriers on foot, for she ran as swiftly as Atalanta. They sat near each other at lunch. Once Barnard called upon Mr. Goring in the winter in reference to some formal business about the watercourse. The third time was on Ashpen Hill, just after sunrise. There had been no formal introduction, and there was nothing in these accidental meetings likely to lead to their meeting again.

The difficulty lay in the vacancy, as it were⁠—the lack of anything to lay hold of. No slender thread existed by which communication could be effected. Without a doubt Felise would not have hesitated to have gone at once straight up to his halldoor; but then⁠—oh, the cunning of woman!⁠—she knew (their cunning comes without teaching) that to be too openly forward, especially if there were witnesses, as there would be, would probably defeat the object.

Still there was nothing she would not do if necessary. She must; she could not live without his society. But if possible it should be effected insidiously, so that the object might not be too immediately displayed.

Felise ran over several expedients in her mind as she sat on the beam of the hatch. Feigning an interest in some old book, and pretending to have heard that he possessed it, she could call and ask for the loan. Walking a long distance she could become faint and weary while passing, and beg to rest. She might trespass on the grounds and sketch till she was seen. Most likely someone’s curiosity would bring them out to talk to her.

There were some ladies at his house, cousins she believed, not very young; these might be useful if once spoken to. On the other hand, very likely they would detect her purpose, and set obstacles in her way. Or she could whip the stream for trout till she crossed his path as he went his rounds about his farm; he could hardly avoid coming to speak to her. Perhaps he would attend some of the public entertainments occasionally given in the town of Maasbury, a few miles distant. She could manage to leave the building at the same moment, and confront him in the doorway.

She must see him, and he must see her face. Perhaps if he saw it frequently, it might please him.

She went and knelt at the edge of the still pool, and looked over at her own reflection in the water. Felise made no affected secret to herself of her beauty; she knew that she had beauty, and did not conceal it from herself in any form of self-depreciation. She delighted in it; it pleased her intense, vigorous life to look at it. She enjoyed a sensuous repose while contemplating her face, or even her bare arms sometimes as she dressed her hair. She enjoyed herself.

Her eyelids drooped slightly, the expression of her eyes became softer, her lips parted in the very least; it was something like how she looked when love was throbbing in her veins⁠—only not so vehement, because she was receiving instead of giving. Her own existence came back to her. The glow of youth and loveliness was reflected back into her mind.

How beautiful it must be to be beautiful! How delicious it is, even for the plainest of us, to sit before that which is beautiful, and sink into a semi-unconscious state of happiness! For it is happiness to gaze at that which is lovely, whether a living face or a pictured one.

What lovely faces some of the Italian painters have chosen for the Madonna! No theological persuasion is needed to induce us to gaze at her. Such beauty naturally creates a sense of delicate reverence; it delights and purifies at once. An evil thought is impossible before it; the heart, for the moment at least, becomes morally beautiful in correspondence with the pictured face.

Felise gazed down at herself in the still clear water, and enjoyed her own beauty. She loved herself for being beautiful. This was apart from thought of Martial; it was herself for herself; just as she joyed in her strength when she swam, in her swiftness when she ran. A sensuous and yet a delicate pleasure.

And Martial? It was a triumph to her to look at herself⁠—he must see her face frequently; could he refuse to love?

But men vary in their standards of loveliness, and some do not apparently care for it at all. Differ as they may, however, unless perfectly indifferent, there are some whose beauty is so apart and distinct, that it must be acknowledged. Yet not necessarily loved.

If Martial admitted her beauty in time, would he even then love her? He might admire and turn away.

Still gazing at her face, Felise thought she discovered something more there than loveliness; she thought she saw the power to call forth passion in another’s breast. In that thought she dreamed in the midst of the day.

Of all time all that have lived have been covetous of possessing this power; see the legends which have been invented of charms, which concealed about the person rendered the wearer attractive; read the sorceries of ancient Rome; go across then to Scandinavia, and listen to the bugle whose sound drew the maidens to the player. Man and woman alike, so do not condemn woman.

Some failings are far more desirable than that which passes for virtue. This is one of them. Felise did desire to be loved; she acknowledged it to herself; she dreamed in the thought that perhaps she possessed the power⁠—if only he could see her face frequently. If!

Rising from the water’s side she went on to the boathouse, and shut herself in the compartment prepared for dressing.

The idle trout were floating but just beneath the surface of the illumined pool. Now and then one would touch the surface with the tip of his lips, causing the tiniest ripple, which immediately returned to the level. He seemed as if he had a partial mind to the midges which moved to and fro; nothing could be easier for him than to take them. In fact, he had not the least appetite; he was merely idling. Had a skilled angler cast the line so gently as not to cause the least splash, had the most tempting fly been dropped on his very mouth, the trout would have regarded it without interest.

Some greenfinches came down to drink at the shallow edge, where there was a strip of sward. After they had sipped they departed up the valley over the wood, laughing in their gossip as they went. A dove flew up into a beech on the same side of the pool, but did not coo; he remained perched and observant. Several times a thrush brought food for her young who were hidden in the ferns and tall grasses by the sward, and each time returned without descending to them, as if there was a stoat lying in wait.

Among the grey-green bulrushes, farther up the pool where it contracted, the moorhen was now feeding again complacently, and two black little ones swam beside her. Under the shadow of willows by the shore, there the golden lamps of the yellow iris shone. Sunlight lit up the broad clear surface⁠—so clear that the rays penetrated nearly to the bottom even in the deeper parts. Continually flowing, the roar of the cataract over the hatches rose like the excited sound of a multitude crying for the show to begin. A pleasant, soothing rush of splashing water; the very sound diminished the summer heat.


Felise opened the door of the bathing-room, and stepped out upon the platform before it. She stood in the shadow of the beeches behind; all the rest of the pool was in bright light. Her bathing-tunic was blue, bordered with white, and fringed with gold⁠—such a tunic as might have been worn by a Grecian maiden. It was loose about her shoulders, they were nearly bare; her arms quite so. In the shade the whiteness and purity of her skin was wonderfully beautiful. It gleamed in the cool shade, more so than the yellow iris flowers, though they had the advantage of bright colour.

The beauty of a perfect skin is so great, to gaze at it is happiness. The world holds no enjoyment like the view of beauty.

Her white feet were at the very edge of the dull boards, so that her reflection was complete in the water had anyone been looking from the opposite shore. She put up her hands to settle the strings of pearls in her hair, to make certain that they would not come loose. It was Felise’s fancy to wear her pearls⁠—her only jewellery and dowry⁠—when she bathed out of doors in the sunshine. She decked herself for the bath⁠—the bath not only in water, but in the air and light⁠—as if she had been going to a temple in the ancient times.

With her hands employed at the back of her head and arms raised, the contour of her form was accentuated. The deep broad chest, the bust, the hips, filled out. The action of lifting the arms in this manner opens the ribs, decreases the waist, slightly curves the back, and extends and develops every line. A sculptor should have chosen her in such an attitude.

In a moment, lifting her hands and joining them high above her head, she dived⁠—the pearls glistened as she passed out of the shadow into the sunlight, and the water hid her completely.

The dove flew, startled from his branch in the beech; a swallow that had been coming to drink, as he flew, mounted again into the air.

She rose at some distance from the diving-platform, and immediately struck out slowly, swimming on her chest. Her chin was well out of water, and sometimes her neck; her chest held so large a volume of air that she was as buoyant as a waterbird. It needed no effort to keep afloat; all her strength was at liberty to be used in propulsion. Swimming towards the hatch, presently she turned and came back to the platform, then out again into the centre of the pool, where she floated, dived under, and floated again.

Gathering energy from practice and the touch of the water, she now swam on her side, following the margin of the pool all round, so as to have a larger course. Twice she went round without a pause⁠—swimming her swiftest, equal, in a direct line, to several hundred yards. Still joying in the sunlight and the water, she continued again for the third circle. Her passage was even swifter, her vigour grew with the labour.

The water drew back the tunic from her right shoulder, which shone almost at the surface; her white right arm swept backwards, grasping the wave; her left arm was concealed, being under her, and deeper. It is the fastest, the easiest, and the most graceful mode of swimming. In the moment when her rounded right arm was sweeping backwards, clearly visible in the limpid water⁠—just as the stroke was nearly completed⁠—the sculptor might again have obtained an inspiration. For at that moment there was repose in action, the exertion of the stroke finishing, the form gliding easily, the left cheek resting as if reposing on the surface.

At the completion of the third round, Felise swam to the shallow grassy shore, where Shaw was now waiting for her.

“Oh, how you do panck!” (pant), said Shaw, laughing, as Felise walked up out of the water on to the turf, and sat down at the edge of the shadow of the beech. Her breast was heaving with the labour, her deep grey eyes shone as if enlarged; there was a slight increase of colour in her face. She was not in the least exhausted; she was exhilarated to the utmost. Shaw chatted beside her; Felise neither heard nor heeded, she was full of the influence of the air and light and limpid fountain.

There was something almost sacred to her in the limpid water, in the sweet air, and the light of day. The flower in the grass was not only colour, it was alive. The water was not merely a smooth surface, the air not merely an invisible current, the light not merely illumination. As if they had been living powers, so they influenced her. A feeling entered her from them: the light, the air, the water, the soft sward on which her hand rested, life came to her from them.

With them she felt her own life, she knew her own fullness of existence. Like this the maidens of ancient Greece sang to the stream when they filled their urns. Even Socrates the wisest sat pondering in reverence by the stream. Felise was full of the delicious influence of the great powers of nature. This susceptibility rendered her love so rich and deep.

She sat leaning on her left hand, her knees lying sideways, and her right hand on her ankle; the upper part of her form in shadow? her limbs in the brilliant light. The beams fell on her white rounded knees; the right knee being uppermost was entirely in light, but it cast a partial shadow on the left one.

Twins in exquisite whiteness and shape they reposed together, the under one a little in advance. The kneecap (which in woman is small), slipping naturally aside, left a space on the summit of each knee smooth and almost level, perhaps in the least degree concave. Upon these lovely surfaces the light rested lovingly; in the wide earth there was no spot the sun loved so well.

The rounded supple knee is where the form hinges; there all is poised. They are the centres from which beauty rises. With the knee all grace begins; they bend, and at the same moment the neck bows, and the forehead droops. Resting on them firmly the shape rises, the neck is straightened, and the brow thrown back. All is poised on the knee.

Because of its varying mood of grace the knee can with difficulty be seized in sculpture or painting. The least flexure alters the contour. Now from head to foot it is the flesh that is beautiful, that which covers and conceals the bones and muscles under its texture. Such is the rule, to express beauty you must delineate the adipose tissue; the knee is the exception.

Here the bone⁠—the kneecap⁠—is but thinly covered, and there is cartilage and sinew; not much more than the skin hides them. Here is the only place where the bone and sinew can approach the surface⁠—can be recognised⁠—and yet not interfere with the sense of loveliness. Why so?

Because at this centre motion commences; the idea of motion is inseparable from it, motion in graceful lines. In walking it is the knee that gives the step, in the dance, stooping to gather flowers, bending to prayer; from the knee passion springs to the arms of her lover. We have seen these movements and admired them, and the eye transfers their grace to the knee.

But it is also of itself shaped. There alone the bone and sinew assume an exquisite form. I cannot tell you why the human heart yearns towards that which is rounded, smooth, shapely; it is an instinct in the depth of our nature.

The knee is so very human, so nearly sorrowful in its humanity; sorrow seeks its knees, sadness bends on them, love desiring in secret does so on its knees. They have been bent in many moods in so many lands so many many centuries past Human life is centred in the knee. In the knee we recognise all that the heart has experienced.

Beautiful knees, the poise and centre of the form! Were I rich, how gladly I would give a thousand pounds for a true picture of the knee! and if the coloured shadow on convas were worth so much, how many times multiplied the value of the original reality!

However indifferent the person may be⁠—the individual⁠—to see the knee is to love it for itself.

The shadow of the upper one partially encroached on the lower; round about the under knee, too, the short grass rose. Immediately behind, the least way higher than the upper knee, the bullion fringe of the tunic drooped across the white skin. Her left hand rested among the daisies; her feet reached nearly to some golden lotus flowers.

The left, or under foot, was much hidden by the grass; the grass touched warm, having been hours in the sunshine. The upper foot was visible, and two straight strokes⁠—two parallel dimples crossed the large toe (the thumb of the foot) at the second joint.

She held her ankle lightly with her right hand, so that her right arm descended beside her body. Bare from the shoulder in its luxurious fullness, it reposed against her. The slight pressure of its own weight enlarged it midway between the shoulder and the elbow. But the left arm being straightened appeared, on the contrary, largest at the shoulder.

That shoulder⁠—the left⁠—raised a little higher than the other, on account of her position, was partly bare, the tunic having slipped somewhat. Unconsciously she pressed her cheek against it, feeling and caressing it. Her shoulder lifted itself a little to meet the embrace of her cheek, and the tunic slipped still more, giving it and that side of her bust freedom to the air. She liked to feel herself; the soft skin of the shoulder met the softer cheek; her lips touched the place where arm and shoulder are about to mingle.

Shaw thought Felise had finished bathing, and kneeling behind her, undid her hair, which fell and reached the grass. It was somewhat wavy, very thick and long, and delicate in texture. As it descended it concealed the beautiful shoulders like a mantle. She took her strings of pearls from Shaw, and held them in her right hand; she valued them greatly, and scarcely cared to let even Shaw carry them.

A red butterfly came by and hovered about her knee, inclined to alight, but perceiving that it glistened with the water, flew onwards over the pool.

Felise moved her feet among the grass, she liked to feel it; she extended her foot to the golden lotus flowers. But the moment of luxurious enjoyment of the sunlight and the air, the liberty of the tunic, was over; her active nature reasserted itself; she rose and walked towards the bathing apartment to dress.

“There’s a rabbit in the ferns,” said Shaw, following her; “I heard him rustle twice. Wonder why you won’t talk today, now. If I was to run round the water like you swim round, I should die of pancking [panting], I should.”

She looked as if such exertion would overcome her: short, plump, and merry.

Felise took no heed of Shaw’s chatter; she was thinking how to accomplish her resolution.


A few days after Barnard met Felise on Ashpen, he was walking by the side of the little estuary where the trout-stream entered the sea. It was a lonely spot, but he looked round to see that no one was near. Then he took from his pocket Felise’s handkerchief, and the piece of mane which she had plaited; and rolling them carefully up round a heavy pebble, he stepped to the edge of the low cliff and hurled the pebble as far as he could into the sea.

Next, he walked home rapidly, mounted Ruy, and rode up to the solitary beech-tree on the downs, under which Felise had stood. The letter M showed much more plainly now the sap had dried⁠—it appeared very distinct. Barnard got off his horse, and taking out his knife cut a circle round the entire letter, which he then tore off, leaving nothing but a circular mark on the tree. The strip of bark he broke in pieces, and flung in various directions; then remounted, and rode home. Thus he got rid of every trace of that morning’s interview.

He would not be fooled any more; or, rather, he would not fool himself a second time. Why should he persuade himself into a state of feeling that was not natural to him? Felise was nothing to him.

To understand his proceedings it is necessary to very briefly recount a part of his history. Like every young man when he surmounted his teens, he thought it was proper for him to fall in love. There was a young lady in Maasbury town, the daughter and heiress of Mr. Wood, a wealthy wine merchant, from whom the Barnards had had their wine for some years. Rosa was a few months younger than himself, bright and talkative; in appearance of the middle height. She had a low forehead with much dark hair about it⁠—the forehead was not really low, but the hair came down it.

Her eyes were brown, the eyebrows well arched, the lips a little thin, but red and laughing. Perhaps her smile was the most effective of her attractions, but she had a very fair figure, and much of the glow of youth in her cheek. Rose was indeed decidedly good-looking, not so much from any especial quality as the aggregate of her appearance. She was clever, and fond of reading, and she was the heiress to the merchant’s money. No one could have found fault with Barnard’s choice; the lady was eligible in every way.

Accordingly he began to pay his addresses to her in a manner which soon distanced every competitor. In the first place he was handsome, and in rather an unusual style; full of life and animated. He was the present representative of a good family. He rode a splendid horse. It was very nice to go over to the Manor House Farm on a picnic. Then there was no other gentleman in the neighbourhood at all his equal; they were boors in comparison, and a woman naturally likes to carry off the leading individual.

Barnard had received an exceptionally good education, and, what is much more important, he had moved in good society as a lad when manners are formed. Some rich and high-placed friends had taken him with them into houses in London not easy to enter. They had designed him to occupy a forward place, and even talked of Parliament. But a quarrel accidentally arose between them and Barnard’s parents, and the boy had to suffer because his elders disagreed. Barnard returned to the country and the somewhat solitary life of a farmhouse.

By nature his ideas were elevated and aspiring; he read much, and of the most varied authors, and some of the spirit of the great dramatists and poets entered into his mind. Youth is always romantic; Martial’s romance was heightened by a quick imagination which coloured everything. As he moved about the hills, and by the sea, his ideas went with him, and the scene was filled with figures and thoughts.

When he fell in love with Rosa⁠—or believed that he had done so⁠—he transferred these romantic imaginings to her. He surrounded her with a cloud (as the immortal goddesses were enveloped), and hid the real woman from himself by the fervour of his fancy. Though he did not write verses, he looked upon her, and acted towards her, as a poet might. There was a delicate refinement in all the attentions he paid her which could only proceed from a sensitive and highly-wrought nature.

Rosa really loved him, but she was not in the least what he thought; he had conferred upon her attributes which she was incapable even of understanding. She would have made a good wife under ordinary circumstances, but she was commonplace. She loved without passion; she had neither the fire of love nor of ambition. There really was no fault to be found with her; but she was not what Martial fancied she was.

This lad’s courtship continued for some two years, during which he exhausted every extravagance a poetical nature is capable of. Every exalted sentiment in his favourite poets and dramatists he associated with Rosa.

Towards the end of the two years, however, a change began to take place. We all know how slowly the tide rises or ebbs, and so in life. Alterations commence and proceed a considerable length before they are recognised. A certain feeling of weariness overcame him. He went to see her as frequently as ever, yet he found himself less eager to start, and felt a sense of freedom when the evening was over and he rode home.

He received an invitation to visit a friend for a fortnight, and upon his return it seemed to him that Rosa had completely changed. Where was the grace, the beauty, the glow that had fascinated him two years ago? Where was that indefinable attraction he had experienced so powerfully? He could look at her now without emotion.

The truth was the dream was fading, and he was beginning to see the woman as she was, and not as he had painted her to himself. He had poured out all his heart to her⁠—now he had nothing further to give, he saw her as she really existed.

He had met her too soon. If he had not known her till he was forty, possibly he might have married her as a matter of judgment.

Once a lover sees his mistress as commonplace, the spell is over. Rosa wearied him, and he soon found his attendance upon her a burden. Yet he was bound by his own previous conduct to continue it.

An incident now occurred which should have been welcome to him, as giving him his freedom, but which he considered to bind him still more strongly. His cousins, who resided at the Manor House free of expense, required a sum of money to convert a lease into a freehold. Their fortune consisted of the lease of several well-situated houses in a fashionable watering-place, which they sublet to great advantage. The houses had not many years now to run, and they were bemoaning themselves at the prospect of losing their income, when an unexpected opportunity occurred to purchase the freehold at a moderate price.

They begged Barnard to let them have the money in payment of an old debt due from his father to their father. One brother had borrowed from the other, and had never been able to repay the principal without endangering his position. True, he had repaid sums of £50 and £100 on several occasions; true, the children (these ladies), since their father’s death, had resided at the Manor House.

Their education had been paid for, and since they came to womanhood an annual sum equal to the interest on the loan had been handed over to them. The actual loan in these varied ways had been returned over and over again, yet it had never been formally repaid.

Martial was too young and too generous to plead these things, and the extremely exhausted state of his own finances. He promised to let them have the money, but he had to borrow it, and the knowledge of this came to Mr. Wood’s ears.

Mr. Wood had never supposed Barnard to be wealthy; still, when a man lives in a fine house⁠—almost a mansion⁠—keeps a good table, and rides a good horse, even a keen merchant can sometimes scarcely believe he is deep in the abyss of poverty. But when he found that Barnard had been borrowing money he made inquiries, and discovered that the accepted suitor of his daughter and heiress was really penniless.

Mr. Godwin, the agent or steward of the estate of which the Manor House Farm was a part, had even been heard to say that Barnard only remained a tenant upon sufferance, for his rent was in arrear.

As a matter of course, Mr. Wood upon this informed his daughter and Barnard one evening that their engagement must be broken off for the present. If Barnard succeeded some day in regaining a position, he would be welcome indeed. If not, as a gentleman, he must see that Rosa could not be his. Not to prejudice Rosa’s chances, Barnard must in future be more sparing in his visits.

From different causes the lovers received this intelligence calmly enough. Rosa shed a few tears, and then reflected that after all Martial could still call once a week. In time the seasons would alter; there would be good crops, and Martial would have money. Besides, they were both very young, and by-and-by, when Mr. Wood saw how constant she was to Martial, he would relent; she was sure he would. Her estimate of the circumstances was probably accurate. She did not weep any more, but went about her usual employment cheerfully.

Martial worked himself into a fever of excitement (not that he let her see his irritation), but his annoyance was with himself, because he did not feel any indignation. He knew, if he would admit the truth to himself, that it was a welcome release from an irksome position. But he ought to have been burning with indignation⁠—he ought to have called upon all the gods, and at least persuaded Rosa to elope with him.

Instead of which, a sense of complacency stole over him. He could walk and ride and read without the inward necessity of associating every idea with Rosa.

But just in proportion as he felt this sense of complacency, so he resolved to force himself to remain faithful to his first choice, to confirm all his vows, and ultimately to carry them into effect. He wrote in this vein to Rosa, promised eternal constancy, and when he saw her, renewed his promises; yet even in the act of speaking he could not help noticing that her eyes showed no trace of midnight tears, nor did her manner seem the least degree less cheerful.

Still, no matter what he thought, he must conscientiously carry out his plighted word; it was his duty; the duty of every lover. He ought to do it; the fitness of things demanded it. To be constant under all circumstances was the role of his position. Romance ruled him as powerfully as ever, although his illusions had ceased. Each week his one call became more and more a labour; each week he resolved more firmly to fulfil the original understanding to the letter.


About three months after this explanation and the repudiation of the engagement, it happened one day that Martial was following the harriers on the hills, when, to his surprise, he observed a lady running on foot with such speed that she kept pace with the horsemen. He could not help noticing her grace, and admiring the swiftness with which she ran. He saw her quite close several times during the day.

As he rode homewards, he stopped to speak with a friend, who asked him to take some refreshment (a collation had been on the table all day for passing sportsmen), and it so happened that a lady whom Felise had met in the field had brought her there for the same purpose. By accident Martial sat opposite Felise, and her face from that hour was painted irremovably in the chamber of his mind.

He did not see her again in the field, for Felise fancied that she had attracted undue attention. Bold as she was in her own love’s cause, she was sensitive to observation at other times, and she did not run again after the harriers.

But in the winter it happened that a little matter of business arose between Barnard and Mr. Goring about a watercourse in which both were interested, and in order to settle it amicably a personal interview was desirable. Barnard rode over, and for the second time met Felise. On this occasion the interview was even shorter and more formal, but it was long enough to confirm Martial’s first impression.

Week after week, as he sat by Rosa, he saw the face of Felise. He did not feel the least emotion of love for Felise, but he saw her face before him. Day by day his weariness increased, till his position towards Rosa became intolerable. He could not endure her; it was a misery to him to spend even the short time now permitted in her presence. It was not hatred, it was worse⁠—it was utter ennui and dislike. The more this grew upon him, so much the more, according to his code, he was bound to conscientiously attend her.

No fresh-sprung passion for Felise mingled with this revulsion. All his ideas of Felise were simply admiration, the admiration given to a picture. The singular loveliness of her features and the grace of her form took a deep hold of his artistic nature, but his heart did not throb. Her influence was negative. She had not inspired him with passion, but she had thrown up the object of his previous admiration into unpleasant relief.

He now saw only too plainly that Rosa was only pretty; pretty, because she was young. He did not like a low forehead overhung by a quantity of dark hair. Her figure was not full; her shape looked flat to him now; her walk was clumsy; and he observed that she brought down the toe of her boot after the heel, making a second stump distinctly. These two clumping noises irritated him. Somehow her dresses never suited her, though they were expensive; her conversation was insufferably insipid. In fact, he was forever unconsciously comparing her with Felise, and continually finding out additional defects.

All he wanted was to be free; he did not want Felise, but he wished to be free of Rosa.

He looked back upon his extravagances with such disgust as to feel ready to kill himself for having committed them. The quotations, for instance, from his favourite poems, which he had applied to Rosa⁠—he put the very books away out of sight, that they might not remind him. Unless it was necessary, he carefully avoided entering the town, simply because she lived there; yet he called every week, and paid her the same attentions.

The disgust with which he looked back upon his own former sentiments was much stronger than the dislike he felt towards Rosa herself. Though he now saw her defects so distinctly, he could not help owning that she had committed no fault. His anger was with himself.

Despite his efforts to forget, and despite the putting away of his books, every now and then he caught himself applying the old quotations to Felise, to whom they fitted exactly.

This rendered him still more irritable; nothing on earth should ever induce him to commit such fooleries again. He did not love Felise, and he did not want to love her. Had he not read about love he should never have loved at all, nor understood what it meant. Such reading ought to be destroyed, placing, as it did, stilted and unreal ideas into young people’s heads.

A man did not need anything of the kind; a man ought to be quite independent of such fancies; a man should be quite free and independent, and walk about, and whistle, and think of nothing. Fellows who were always paying court to women became effeminate and contemptible. A woman’s servitor, such as he had been⁠—and still was⁠—was despicable. He despised himself thoroughly. He easily found examples in history to support his new views, such as that of Alexander the Great, who conquered the world, and was reported indifferent to women. But Mark Antony quitted the stage at the end of a petticoat. Ignominious!

At the same time, he was always thinking about the beautiful face of the woman he had seen but twice. Several times he rode towards Mr. Goring’s house, thinking that he might see her in the garden as he passed, but on approaching turned back, accusing himself of disloyalty to Rosa. After these rides he had fits of contempt, despising himself for even thinking of a woman.

Still, he reasoned that it was quite possible to admire beauty, and yet to be perfectly heart-whole, and to avoid the absurdities of which he had been guilty. Artists employed the most handsome models they could find, but did not fall in love with them. His admiration of Felise was purely artistic. Any other woman⁠—if as beautiful⁠—would have suited him as well to look at.

Currents of thought or emotion go on for a long time in the mind before a step is taken. The step came at last; Barnard began to omit his weekly call upon Rosa. First, he missed a week, then a fortnight, then three weeks. The commonplace woman for a time was perfectly satisfied with his explanations⁠—the pressure of work in the spring season, and so on. It was quite right he should attend to the farm, since, if not, he could not marry her. The intervals between his visits were tedious, still they passed.

But when Barnard did not call for an entire month, an uneasy feeling came over her. She began to think about him in a different strain, and soon recollected numberless trifling circumstances which increased her anxiety. Rosa had never encouraged his extravagances, but she missed them. Certainly Barnard was not so attentive as he had been.

At last she determined to go over and see him, and did so. He accompanied her home, and, so far as outward manner was concerned, she found him unchanged. Her subtler instincts being aroused, she was all the same confirmed in her dread that Barnard was beginning not to care for her. As he did not call again, nor write, she was sure that he had ceased to love her.

This commonplace woman, accordingly, after weeping silently out of sight at night for a little while, composed herself, and addressed a short letter to her former lover. In a few simple sentences she told him that she saw plainly enough he was tired of her; and that being so, she wished him to consider himself perfectly free. She loved him with her whole heart, and she should always be his. That was all; there was no passion in the letter, but it was strictly true⁠—she would always be his,

Barnard was deeply hurt⁠—not at her conduct⁠—but at his own. He felt a most pitiful coward to have won a woman’s heart and then to have left her like this. He was utterly ashamed of himself⁠—this bitterness was the punishment of his romantic follies. Without the least trace of conceit on his part, he was aware that Rosa really loved him. Wherever he went, or whatever he did, here was a woman always thinking of him, and always adhering to him. Easy to absent himself from her presence, impossible to turn her mental gaze away.

The question may be asked, whether it was not better for him to have broken with her, than to have remained at her side always wishing to be away.

If anyone is disposed to greatly blame Barnard, two things must be borne in mind: firstly, that there had been no viciousness in his conduct; secondly, his youth. Even now he was but five-and-twenty. Not for an instant had he foreseen the result of his folly, and he now sincerely regretted it. Still, there the result was.

The cruelty to Rosa was very great. No fault, no frivolity, an earnest quiet girl, and suddenly cast down from the position of sedate happiness she reasonably expected. The circumstances were very hard upon her. Suppose, for a moment, we exonerate Martial from all blame, how cruel it was to Rosa that Felise should possess so beautiful a face!

The mere fact of Felise’s existence was a cruelty to her. The existence of one woman is incompatible with the happiness of another. But for Felise’s existence Barnard was in no degree responsible; fate had prepared this thing for Rosa to “thole,” that fine old English word which conveys the sense of enduring at the hands of something irresistible.

Martial saw the cruelty of it all to her, and that pity made him feel tenderer towards her than he had done for a long, long time. Forgetting her commonplaceness and his weariness, he thought of her in a sorrowful, far-off way, which, if Rosa could have known and understood, would have burnt her heart like molten iron. But for all his tenderness he did not go to her.

The bitterness of his extravagances recoiled on his own head. Memory constantly brought back to him some sentiment he had uttered, or fancied he experienced, and which now mocked at him.

There is nothing more terrible while it lasts than for a man to despise himself.

After several days spent in this way. Martial said to himself that he must do one of two things⁠—either he must go back to Rosa and honourably carry out his promise, no matter at what cost to himself, or he must sell off the stock and emigrate. In the backwoods of America he could hide himself, and perhaps in time forget.

Though he was the tenant of fifteen hundred acres, his finances were in such a critical condition that to sell off and quit would be perhaps the wisest thing to do while yet fifty pounds remained to his credit. He should not see any beautiful faces in the backwoods. His rifle would console him; he took it down and looked at it⁠—it was one of Lancaster’s small oval bores.


Swayed first one way and then the other, Barnard rose one morning extremely early, bridled Ruy, and started for the hills, resolved to ride to and fro till he had made up his mind, and then to abide by the decision he came to.

Destiny arranged that that very morning Felise, with her heart full of love for him, went up on the hill to see the sun rise.

Now, when Barnard at last saw her, he naturally rode in that direction. As he approached he recollected the unfortunate circumstances in which he was placed, and half turned away. Something, however, caused him to again turn, and speak to her. Yet he could not look at her⁠—he felt like a felon. He tried to leave her⁠—his admiration of her beauty compelled him to stay; yet all the while bitterly conscious of the cruelty to Rosa. With an effort he was conquering the charm, when he met her gaze so full of wistful meaning, charged with passion. Proof as he was to love, his heart beat quick and heavily; he felt dizzy for the moment.

Recovering himself, he remounted his horse, but Felise held the bridle and plaited a lock of Ruy’s mane. His face grew hot with shame and a feeling he could not understand. At last a passing horse neighed, Ruy answered and moved, and Martial went without a word, for in fact, such was the conflux of his feelings, he could not speak.

When he had ridden a mile or two, and was descending towards his own house, suddenly he began to ridicule himself. Why should he not speak to her? Why should he be so sentimental about Rosa? Why should he not have enjoyed the moment? Was he to be bound down more than other men? What other man with such a face before him would have rudely parted without a word?

Round he turned and galloped back after Felise; but, just as he was on the point of overtaking her, his mood again changed, and he rode back.

On finding Felise’s handkerchief, once more her beauty became the uppermost thought; he took it with him, and placed the lock of plaited mane in his pocket⁠—not in his pocketbook, which contained entries of the dates⁠—the epochs of his courtship of Rosa, the first kiss, the whispered “Yes.”

He kept the handkerchief for a few days. That passionate glance dwelt in his memory; every time he thought of it, his heart quickened its pace involuntarily. Barnard had had experience enough to feel that such a look must have a meaning. Yet it could not be, she could not care for him; she had hardly seen him, and with all his faults, Barnard was not so conceited as to suppose that a woman could fall in love with him at first sight.

Was she then a coquette? Never. Such a face could not be that of a flirt. A woman with a face as lovely as the Madonna might, by stress of circumstance, if her heart was deeply engaged, be drawn to folly⁠—if too great love be folly.

But she could not coquet; she could not feign; whatever she was, she must be true. What, then, could she mean? In studying this problem he found himself forgetting the cruelty to Rosa.

All at once he began to abuse himself. What did it matter to him what she meant? he did not feel the least interest in her, except as something to look at? These sentimental questions belonged to that school of love whose tenets he had forsworn. How ever could he be so foolish as to occupy himself again with such follies?

This tendency must be crushed in the beginning. Nothing should induce him to commit such follies, and to submit to such a loss of independence a second time.

So he walked down to the sea, hurled the handkerchief and the lock of Ruy’s mane into the waves, and afterwards cut out the letter M from the beech, getting rid of every material trace of his interview with Felise.

According to some philosophers, human beings should be strictly kept from the view of anything lovely or desirable, in order that they may enjoy peace of mind and devote their lives to duty. It is certainly a fact that if we once see an interesting picture we like to see it again; and if we can, we purchase it, and hang it on our walls to look at day by day.

Martial’s picture being in his mind, could not be hurled into the sea like the handkerchief wrapped round a pebble. Felise’s face, that passionate gaze, haunted him, and argued with him.

The Picture said: “You can look at me without the least harm to yourself. Of course you are quite indifferent now, your heart is dead⁠—it is an extinct volcano. Such ashes as remain are in no danger of ignition. At your time of life, after your experiences, you are superior to that sort of thing. You are able to sit by the fire without burning yourself. As a man, it is your right to enjoy some pleasure in the world. But there, no man would hesitate a moment⁠—you are a coward; you are afraid your fresh resolutions would break down; you cannot trust yourself; you are still full of your original extravagant sentiment.”

“It is false,” said Martial. “I can gaze at you without an emotion.”

“Then do so,” said the Picture, “and prove yourself what you pretend to be.”

“I defy you,” said Barnard; and accordingly, saddling Ruy, away he rode and passed by Mr. Goring’s house, thinking to see Felise in the garden. He repeated this several times, but it so chanced that Felise was not to be seen. Barnard observed that the garden in front by the road was merely a lawn; possibly she would be more frequently in the flower-garden at the rear, or fishing, or boating, at the trout-pond, of whose existence he was aware, having often followed the course of the stream.

For certain reasons, which will appear presently, Barnard had now to make his journeys on foot. One evening he came over, entered the copse (there was no keeper), and, remaining well hidden in the brushwood, succeeded in getting a distant view of Felise.

She was sitting by the sundial, where she could see the sunset.

Next morning Martial made another attempt, and as he was coming through the copse, very nearly stepped out right in front of her, as she sat on the beam of the hatch by the pool.

He crouched down behind the fringe of ferns. Alarmed at his presence the blackbird ceased to sing; the thrush dared not enter the fern to feed her young, which had left the nest; and the dove, though he alighted in the tree, did not coo.

The Picture said: “Here is a splendid opportunity to study me.” Martial studied it. He was so near that every change of expression was visible. He wondered why she had not heard him walking in the wood, but soon saw that she was absorbed in thought.

To know her thought was impossible⁠—to trace its varying course easy. When she stood upright he understood that she was full of resolution. Presently she knelt at the water’s edge and brooded over her own reflection. She was then dreaming, but of what?

Next she went round to the boathouse, and I think if Martial had known what was going to happen he would have taken the opportunity, while her back was turned, to steal away through the wood. I think so. Some things, however, are great temptations; and a very, very great temptation renders a fall worthy, and ennobles the guilty. Still he had no idea but that she was going to row on the little lake.

Suddenly she appeared on the platform in her bathing-tunic, and lifted her arms while she readjusted the pearls.

He said to himself, “If I could only carve that attitude in marble!” The next instant she dived.

A good swimmer himself, he understood and appreciated the grace and strength with which she swam round the pool, especially when on her side. But when she came out of the water on the sward and sat down within three or four yards of the fringe of fern behind which he was concealed, he became so agitated he dreaded every moment he should forget himself and rustle the bushes beside him by some exclamatory movement, for such slight movements are exclamations.

The dew upon her knees, wet from the limpid water, glistened in the sunshine. Till this instant he had never met anything that answered to the poetry⁠—the romance⁠—in his heart. Full as he was of the deepest admiration of beauty, till this moment he had never seen it.

It was his own idea of loveliness⁠—the idea within him⁠—which he had applied to Rosa, and endowed her with what she had not, as the sunset colours a dull wall.

Before those beautiful knees he could have bowed his forehead in the grass, in the purest worship of beauty. They were sacred; a sense of reverence possessed him.

A sudden accession of fresh life filled him, as if he had inhaled some potent life-giving perfume⁠—such as the ancient enchanters threw into the flames.

He had been crouching, now he knelt⁠—the slight rustle he caused was that which Shaw heard. His breathing became so low it seemed to have ceased. It was like the first view of the sunlit sea, never again experienced, never forgotten; a moment of the most exalted life. This wondrous loveliness purified and freed his soul from the grossness of material existence.

Such is woman’s true place, to excite thus the deepest, the best, the most exalted of man’s emotions. At such a moment she is the visible representation of something higher than logical expression can be found for. To use the words in another sense, she is the tangible expression of a “truth higher than the truth of scientific reasoning.”

There never lived anyone more capable of appreciating beauty than Martial; he was almost too sensitive, because the very violence of his emotion prevented him from feeling the pleasure he might have done. It was a passion more than a pleasure.

Fortunate boy to have seen such beauty! Fortunate Paris before whom the three goddesses came; such a moment was worth a thousand years.

After she had gone with Shaw, Martial remained in the fern for some time, basking in the memory of her.

The day that followed he felt exhilarated, as if he were drinking champagne. He had a secret spring of delight within; he had only to recall what he had seen.

He said to himself after a time: “I have seen her, and I do not love her. My follies are over. Her beauty has only caused an aesthetic admiration. She is only a picture to me, and I have convinced myself that I can look safely upon the picture.”

How joyful this was! (The cruelty to Rosa was quite forgotten.) He should never again do anything foolish, never more commit extravagances or cultivate moral sentiment. He was quite superior to it. Never before had he known such freedom; all the casuistry he had imbibed from books of love had disappeared. The proof of it could be observed in this circumstance. It was laid down in all of them that if you looked upon unparalleled beauty you must love it; but he had looked⁠—he had been, and still was, in a trance of admiration⁠—yet he did not love. On the contrary, the sight had given him liberty⁠—perfect freedom of the heart.

He was happier than he had been for two years, because his self-contentment had returned. He had recovered his youth.

He could use every opportunity of studying the picture. But he would not speak to her, nor let her come to an interview with him. He would not be wearied with glances⁠—such follies were at an end. She should be kept at a distance whence, unruffled by frivolity, he could admire her calmly as a work of art.


“You will not have a rise,” said Shaw. “ ’Tis too bright. Let me come and tickle them; the water’s low.” She would have pulled off her shoes and stockings and tickled the trout under the stones in high delight if Felise had permitted. They were standing in the porch, Felise with her fly-rod; Shaw just touching her here and there to complete her toilet, as an artist adds little touches daintily after the picture is finished. Felise had lately been singularly particular about her dress when she went trout-fishing. There was something of a set, preoccupied expression on her face.

On the contrary, Shaw’s round rosy countenance was full of change, lively, with some sly humour. Her blue eyes sparkled; her brown hair was disordered with work and hurry; her neck, without a collar, was soft, white, round⁠—these peasant girls often have good necks; her figure plump, so that hooks and eyes were constantly bursting. She loved her mistress dearly, and yet almost feared her. Shaw’s was one of those faces that prepossess at once, so sweet, good-natured, and happy.

“Where are the flies?” said Felise; “you have forgotten the flies.”

Shaw rushed upstairs and rummaged about. On her return, panting, she declared she could not find them.

“Go and look again!”

Shaw went, and again returned emptyhanded, out of breath, and puffing.

“You are too plump,” said Felise. “I will go and see.”

Shaw blushed at the allusion to her plumpness till her white neck was rosy, but insisted on searching a third time. Before she got upstairs Felise found the fly-book in her pocket, so forgetful had she been.

“Now, isn’t that just like it?” said Shaw. “They would say you was in love,” blushing again herself.

Felise went across the lawn (Goring and his man Abner Brown, as usual, were at work in the garden), and across the road into the meadows opposite. She did not try a cast here, for the stream was shallow and so near the hamlet the boys would be certain to have disturbed everything. Farther down she crossed by a footbridge, and left the bank of the brook to make a short route across by Glads Mill. In the rickyard by the mill she paused a moment to look down into the mill-pool.

To construct the pool it had been necessary to excavate deeply in the chalk; the water was far down, and the precipitous sides arose like walls from the surface. At one end the water entered in a cascade, having been led here by a winding water-carrier. If anyone fell into the pool they could not escape, however well they might swim; to climb up the chalk was impossible, but to prevent such an accident the edge of the pool was fenced.

Scarcely anyone ever passed without at least casting a glance down into the deep dark water, which, it was said, the sunshine never reached. Black and still, unruffled while the wind blew above, it was always the same, and always waiting⁠—waiting like Fate. The chaunt of the old mill-wheel, its quivering boom as it rolled round heavily, was reechoed in the hollow, and the rush of the cascade formed a hissing undertone.

Standing in the doorway, leaning on the hatch, the miller touched his forehead as she went on into the meads again. Some were already mown, and the grass turning to hay; in some the grass rose almost to her knee; then there were pastures full of buttercups. The hot summer sun shone on the brook, and, as Shaw had foreseen, she did not get a rise.

Felise cast where the stream rushed round a boulder; she tried at a fall⁠—at the bend where a streamlet joined the brook, where a shallow broke up the water; but she never threw twice. The fly touched the surface and was snatched away, and she walked on to the next likely place. With a curl of her wrist the line rushed out and dropped, and was immediately withdrawn; so quickly was it done that it hardly interrupted the rapid pace at which she walked. By degrees she began to miss all the places not very attractive, and tried only those which she knew were the best, and which she could not pass while making any pretence at fishing.

Throwing at one of these, her fly caught in a bush on the opposite side. A boy who had been haymaking, but had left his rake to watch the fishing, eagerly rushed forward, and had already one foot in the water to wade across and release it, when she jerked the rod sharply, snapped the gut, and went on. The boy remained sitting on the bank, with one foot in the stream, wondering at her.

Felise did not attach another fly, but cast the line just as it was without a bait. She could walk faster, having to use less care not to entangle the hooks.

From the pools, where the bright sun illumined the bottom, the trout rushed to shelter under dark roots of trees, as her form suddenly appeared on the bank. At the shallows and eddies the trout sought the deeper water or distant stones. Fly-fishers step gently, somewhat back from the bank, careful not to alarm the fish by sudden appearance or any jerking movement. Felise strode on swiftly, dipping her flyless line from time to time. She did not follow the curves of the brook, walking across the bends and so joining it again.

The farther she advanced the less attention she paid to the brook, till she ceased even pretending to cast. Her pace now became slow, and she lingered, especially by pathways; sometimes she walked up and down instead of straight on; sometimes she leaned against a tree, or sat on a rail, all the time glancing round⁠—upon the watch.

These were Martial’s fields. The grass was his by the brook, the green wheat on the hills close by, the copse on the slope.

Presently she wandered from the brook towards the copse, along an old and partly-disused rugged track between green nut-tree bushes that shut out all but the sun above. June roses flowered on the briars arching over the narrow lane, and honeysuckle, creamy-white, touched her shoulders as she passed. Felise, who had been so fond of wildflowers, did not notice the first wild roses, or the honeysuckle. Her heart was dry and heated as the sun heated the ground.

A little way apart from the disused lane stood an ancient barn by the wood. The great doors were gone, the planks as they decayed taken for firewood; the vast hollow within was empty but for a broken plough. Swallows flew in and out carelessly to their nests on the crossbeams. Two high Spanish chestnut-trees stood by the barn, and she sat down under one of them.

In the olden times of farming, when wheat was really golden, there had been a prosperous homestead much farther down in the valley, and the wheat was stored in this great barn. The homestead was now occupied as a cottage by a labourer, the barn was empty, and the farm thrown together with others and joined to Barnard’s large holding. Like many other deserted buildings, the barn was reputed to be haunted⁠—a sort of partial reputation, for if asked no one could say what shape its spectre took, or what crime it was supposed to be expiating. Standing solitary, its desolation alone seemed to have suggested the idea. The places where man’s footsteps and life have once been retain for years a memory of his presence in the guise of shadowy apparitions.

The swallows had the barn by day, the bats by night; the owls had deserted it⁠—they like mice, and there were no mice where there was no grain. The spot was absolutely solitary; hedges and trees hid the brook and meads; the wood on the hill closed the view in front. A rabbit who had been feeding, and at the sound of Felise’s footsteps hid behind some nettles, finding her to stay quiet, came out again to nibble.

There were songs in the wood, though it was now the heat of the day, and the call of the cuckoo; Felise did not hear. When the heart is full it absorbs the senses to itself⁠—hearing, sight, all are possessed by its passion.

This was the fourth time she had been here. The rod was a mere pretence; her object was to cross his path and meet him, as if by accident. But she had not been successful, though she knew he must be frequently in the fields. She had stayed near where his haymakers were at work, near where others were weeding the arable lands; by the paths, and had not seen him. When weary of waiting about, it had become her custom to resort to the solitude of the deserted barn, and there rest unseen.

Since her resolution was formed that morning at the trout-pool before her swim, she had accomplished nothing. Separated, without word or glance, how was it possible to advance her wishes? Felise’s strong and eager nature was already weary of this slow process of waiting till chance should throw him in her way. Sooner or later, if she persevered in haunting the locality, she must meet him; but how long would it be first?

Time seems so much longer in summer; the morning and the evening are far apart, and there is space between them for such a multitude of feelings, or for the same feeling to repeat itself so often. The long days became very heavy upon her; she could not endure the waiting.

Felise started again from the ancient barn, and instead of returning to the brook followed the foot of the hill beside the wood. Some wheatfields succeeded; after awhile she came round the hill and stepped into a private roadway which led direct to the Manor House. Erect and unfaltering she went straight towards Martial’s residence.


Ten minutes or so after she had quitted the chestnuts by the barn, Martial himself stepped out from the wood, having waited till he considered she was far enough away not to see him. He followed her at a distance, taking care to keep some hedge, or bush, or other object between them.

The study of this work of art had led him, day after day, on foot down towards Mr. Goring’s, sometimes as far as the trout-pool, sometimes more openly to the mill. He caught a glimpse of her occasionally in the garden or in the road, as she crossed to visit one or other of her cottagers. Presently he discovered that she was fishing the brook, and as he knew every mead and every hedge it was not at all difficult for him to follow her, and yet remain himself unobserved.

Three times he had followed in this way, watching her motions with an opera-glass when he could not safely approach very near. The movement of her arms, the shape of her figure as she cast the fly, her pose when she leaned against a tree or sat down to rest herself⁠—not the least inclination of her beautiful form escaped him. He forgot himself, he lost himself utterly in the abstraction of his intense observation.

The third time (the fourth to Felise) becoming bolder, Martial contrived to pursue closer than he had hitherto done, and he was able to do this because she walked rapidly and did not look behind her. He now began to notice several things: first, she fished down stream, which is contrary to the maxims of the fly-fisher; next, she walked quickly and near the edge of the brook, while fishermen usually move gently and stand back from the bank; thirdly, she never gave a second cast, and she passed several promising places without a trial⁠—but all these, it was true, might arise from her inexperience of fly-fishing.

But when a boy suddenly rose out of the brook⁠—startling him by so sudden an appearance⁠—and offered him the gut and the three flies which he had waded over and secured. Martial began to think there must be something else beside inexperience in all this.

“Her be fishing without any fly,” said the boy.

Martial walked on cogitating, and by-and-by saw that Felise slackened her pace where two or three footpaths crossed the fields he occupied. There she walked up and down, and seemed to be waiting. She had quite forgotten the fishing; she was waiting⁠—for whom?

He saw now that the fishing was merely a pretence⁠—who would attempt fishing in earnest such brilliant mornings, and the water low, too? She was waiting for someone.

Martial did not care for her in the least; she was nothing to him (nor any other woman), a mere stranger afar off, a picture. His indifference to her was absolute. Yet such is the vanity of a man, that when it occurred to him she was seeking a rendezvous with a lover⁠—someone else⁠—his heart thumped and his brow contracted.

He remembered the passionate glance she had once given him; he said to himself bitterly, “These women are all alike, false, deceitful, unworthy of serious consideration. How fortunate that I have done with them!”

Then he settled himself to wait angrily for the appearance of the lover, that he might see how base a woman could be. After a time Felise went away to the barn; he pursued and watched her from the wood. He saw the swallows descending over her head to the great doorway of the barn. He thought he saw a certain sadness in her countenance; doubtless she was disappointed that the lover did not come.

He followed her again when she left the barn: he could not understand where she was going now, when to his astonishment she walked straight up to his house; the door opened, and she disappeared within.

Immediately it flashed across his mind that it might be himself she was endeavouring to meet. Read by such a light the glance she had given him became less deceitful; yet he could not think it. Why should she desire to meet him? He had not sought her. Though he had all the vanity which is proper to and becomes a man, Martial was without the least trace of that conceit⁠—a completely different thing⁠—which leads fools to imagine every woman in love with them.

That a woman might want for some purpose of her own to deceive him with passionate glances he could grant to himself. That a woman should really desire his society he did not think possible.

But why had she gone to his house? Those paths by which she had lingered were on his tenancy; he used them constantly. What was the secret meaning of these acts?

Indifferent as he was to her, he waited impatiently for her to reappear. He would not go in while she was there; to meet and speak to her would be contrary to his resolution to have nothing more to do with such follies. It was some time, perhaps an hour, before Felise came out, the eldest Miss Barnard with her; Miss Barnard took her across the fields, and was evidently showing her a shorter way home (as if Felise did not know).

Martial went indoors and waited for his cousin. He had no need to ask any questions; Miss Barnard commenced at once to tell him how Miss Goring had been trout-fishing, and felt fatigued from the sun, and had begged a glass of milk. How she had stayed and chatted, and how pleasant she was and singularly handsome, and so interested in Dante and all that related to Italy.

Miss Barnard had lent her her album of scraps about Dante, and had been invited to visit at Beechknoll. How delightful it was to make the acquaintance of someone of an intellectual turn at last; you know they are all so prosaic, they talk nothing but corn and sheep at Maasbury⁠—and so on, and so on.

Martial pondered, still more puzzled. Felise weary, Felise fatigued! The woman he had seen keep pace with the harriers, who had gone up on the highest hill to see the sunrise, who swam round and round the trout-pool faster than he could have done himself! Felise weary⁠—never! And if so, why to his house? There was a cottage (the former homestead) nearer. No, there was something else at the bottom of this. Felise had evidently flattered his cousin’s hobby. Deceit again. A work of art might be beautiful, yet it was nothing but false paint.

He did not believe that she had called merely from fatigue, nor that she felt any interest in Dante. What, then, was her object⁠—could it possibly be himself?

How fortunate he was not at home, so that she had not the slightest opportunity of practising her glances upon him! How fortunate that his days of folly were over! Martial congratulated himself; after all, as everyone must commit some foolishness, it was better to have got it over, as he had done, in early youth. The experience was so valuable, and would protect him.

A little restless after all this thinking, Martial did not remain at home, but ascending the hill, watched the picture walking home as far as he could with his opera-glass.

Felise had found the eldest Miss Barnard, who chanced to be at home, a pleasant lady, dark and comfortable-looking, with a manner which at once put people at their ease. She made her unannounced visitor welcome; in such visits, where people do not know each other, they run over a string of subjects to find something to answer for conversation. So Miss Barnard brought out her photographs of Dante subjects, and presently her scrapbook, containing the allusions and references to Dante she had collected from current literature.

This middle-aged English lady, who had never been out of England in her life, and probably never would, had conceived an extraordinary admiration of all that was Dantesque.

I think that those who have an imaginative corner in their hearts are better than those who have not. They have a shrine⁠—to a shrine we bring our aspirations; there they accumulate and secretly influence our lives.

Unscrupulous Felise looked at the Dante collections with kindling interest, listening the while for the creak of an opening door, for the heavier footstep which foretells a man, watching even the spaniel in the armchair, who would be sure to start up at the approach of his master. Unscrupulous Felise⁠—has love ever any scruples?⁠—pressed Miss Barnard to visit them at Beechknoll, and at last, having stayed as long as possible, left, not at all dissatisfied. Although she had not seen Martial she had opened up communication between the two houses. Something had been gained. She walked homewards in a happier, or at least a less restless, condition of mind.


After passing the old mill and the deep, dark pool, she turned aside from her homeward path, and crossed to a cottage by the roadside. She entered the garden by a wicket in the hedge; oak-trees spread their broad boughs above the thatched roof, and the border of the garden was gaudy with tulips, wallflowers, and parti-coloured daisies. Every inch of the enclosed ground was green with some vegetable or other; a minute and microscopic care had evidently been spent on every spadeful of earth the garden contained. One would hardly believe that so small a plot could produce so great a variety.

The flagstones before the door were white and clean; there was no porch, and the door was open. Felise looked in, but there was no one within; she sat down, however, on a stool outside the door, and soon noticed something moving behind the screen of green which concealed the small extent of the garden.

An aged man, much bowed, supporting himself with a hoe and a walking-stick, slowly came towards her; he had been weeding.

“She bean’t at home, she bean’t,” he said, alluding to his wife. “I was a-trying to do a little bit of weeding. And how do Abner do, miss? Do he do now? A’ was a sprack boy. I hope he suits Mr. Goring.”

This hope he had expressed every time Felise had called these four years, during which his son, who was still a boy in his eyes, had assisted Mr. Goring in the garden. Felise petted the old people; Godwin, the estate-agent or land-steward, had been heard to say that she spoiled the whole village.

“Sit down,” said Felise, offering him the stool; but the old man, with trembling eagerness, refused it, and brought himself out another, upon which he crouched, his elbows on his knees.

“You didn’t have much luck a-fishing, now, did you?” he said. “Bless you, miss, there bean’t half the fish there was in the brook when I was a boy, and they bean’t so eager for the fly. As I was a-saying, I hopes Abner be useful now; I don’t know what we should do if it weren’t for he, for I can’t do no work, nor my old missus neither. She be gone to get some wood to bile the kettle; hope as Mr. Godwin won’t catch her. He be a hard man, Miss Goring; ’tis amazing how he can be so hard.”

“You are not allowed to gather the dead wood now, then?”

“Not since Lady Day, miss. No; Mr. Godwin he came round and give them all notice that he should summon any of them as took the wood. There was something I wanted to tell you, miss⁠—didn’t Abner tell ’ee? Maybe you haven’t seen him today. But as I was saying, I hoped to get about and do a bit of hoeing this spring⁠—but bless you, I can’t do it. I got out in the road, and I was obliged to sit down on the flint-heap. ’Tis hard to be old, miss, and be twisted with the rheumatism. Perhaps my missus will recollect what it was when she comes in, if you will wait a moment, miss.”

“The garden looks very nice,” said Felise.

“What a lot of trouble you take with it!”

“Ah, that I do,” said the old man brightly. “I bides in un a’most all the day, and I thinks about un most of the night⁠—I kind o’ lives by he. They will never take me away from my garden, will they, miss? They couldn’t do that now, surely.”

“I should think not, indeed.”

“How be the barley looking, miss? Did you notice as you was agoing along. There be generally some barley at the foot of the hill on Mr. Barnard’s land. A’be a likely young man, but they do say the farm bean’t looked after as it should be. Young blood is young blood, and what with riding about and sporting⁠—let me see, what was I going to say? You knows the barley, miss; it have got black knots on the stalk. Bless you, I could use to do everything with the barley⁠—I was a barleycorn man in my time. I could plough, that was the first thing; and sow the seed, miss; and hoe it, don’t you see, when it came up⁠—it be a pretty plant now the barley, bean’t it? And I could reap it, and thrash it when we used to have the flails, and malt it⁠—that’s what a-many couldn’t do. Many’s a winter I’ve spent a-malting⁠—there’s always a good fire. And I could brew the beer, and drink it too, afterwards⁠—ha! ha!”

The barleycorn man chuckled at the thought of his exploits with the beer.

“Have you got any ale for your dinner?” said Felise.

“Bless ’ee now, where should we get any ale from? Abner don’t bring any home, except what he carries in hisself.”

Felise opened her purse; there was a solitary half-crown in it. The coin had been there this month past, while she deliberated what she should do with it. Coins were very scarce at Beechknoll.

She gave the old man the silver, and told him to buy a pound or so of beefsteak and a little ale.

The poor old fellow was dried up for lack of blood in his veins; his stiffened joints cracked as he moved; his cheeks were a dull yellow like creased parchment; he was alive, but there was scarcely a drop of blood in him. Good juicy meat and the ale to which he had been accustomed in his youth was what he needed. He thanked her, but very quietly, with a subdued voice, very different to the high squeaky treble in which he had been talking; and, after thanking her, he remained silent. His chatter came from his head, which was growing feeble; his silence from his heart, which was yet alive.

“What is it they say about Mr. Barnard’s farm?” said Felise.

“He be young blood, you see, miss,” began the old man, glad to be garrulous again, and to escape from feeling to gossip. “They do say he be short of money; some say he have had to borrow.”

“The Barnards are not very rich, then,” said Felise partly to herself, happy that at least there was not that obstacle between her and Martial, to whom she could bring no dowry.

“Bless ’ee, no; they bean’t rich⁠—” But he was interrupted by a step on the path, and his “missus” came through the wicket in the hedge. “What, ain’t you got no wood?” said the old man.

“He’ve took it away,” said the old lady, curtsying to Felise. “I be terrable glad to see you, miss; there be something I wants to tell you⁠—”

“I knowed there was something,” said the old man.

“Who took your wood away?” asked Felise.

“Why, Mr. Godwin, to be sure. Do you call that a gentleman, now? He took my faggot away from me hisself.”

“Not the dead sticks you had gathered?”

“Yes, he did; he took it away and throwed all the sticks in the hedge, and dared me to touch any more, or to step on his land or the Squire’s land after ’em.”

“It is very arbitrary,” said Felise.

The angry old lady ran on at great length, bitterly reproaching the steward. Mr. Godwin had forbidden them to touch the fallen branches; last autumn he forbade them to gather the acorns, though brought to him for sale. As they no longer worked upon the estate, being too old, they must not gather wood or acorns, or even mushrooms.

“He be the meanest man as ever lived,” said the old woman. “A’be as rich as ever can be. Now, you knows Martha⁠—little Martha; she went a-blackberrying last year, and Godwin he met her and took her blackberries from her⁠—that he did. I suppose the Squire doan’t know nothing about it, but Godwin says ’tis the Squire’s rights. But you come in, miss⁠—you look here!” cried the old woman, rushing indoors and returning, before Felise could follow, with a letter in her hand.

The letter contained a formal notice to quit the cottage and garden. It seemed that the steward had several times warned the aged couple that they must leave; but, no notice being taken of his verbal orders, a legal instrument had at length been sent.

“Ah, I knowed there was something,” said the old man. “But, bless you, they won’t turn I out of my garden, now⁠—will they?”

“That they will, you old fool!” said his wife, shaking him; “you’ll have to go. And there bean’t no place for us but the workus, as I knows on. There bean’t another cottage in this place; they be all full up to the roof.”

“Lodgings must be got for you somewhere,” said Felise, “and Abner will help.”

“But there bean’t no lodgings,” said the old woman; “and my old man, he won’t live away from his garden.”

“They may as well bury me,” said the old man, dropping on his stool. “They there peas be fine to-year; there’ll be another dish there soon. I thinks the apples be set well to-year.”

“I will speak to papa⁠—to Mr. Goring,” said Felise. “Perhaps Abner has told him. We will do what we can for you, be certain. I cannot think Mr. Godwin really means⁠—” she hesitated, for she knew the hardness of his character.

“Ah, yes, he do mean it!” said the old lady. “He be one of they as do mean things, and do ’em too; I hopes as his new horse will pitch him in the road and break his neck!”


“Ah, but I do though! There’s the old man gone pottering down to they peas. It be shameful, bean’t it, how we be served! And after we have a-worked here all our lives⁠—he have a-worked here nigh seventy years, and I have a-worked fifty-five afore I was took bad and couldn’t do no more. It be shameful, miss, it be! and thank you very much, but it ain’t no good you trying⁠—old Godwin be a flint!”

Felise went on homewards, eager with the impetuosity of her nature to do something to right this wrong. I have, in part, literally translated the language in which the old couple spoke, that it might be more easily intelligible; they did not say “ah,” but “aw;” “un” for “him” and “it” indiscriminately; they pronounced “v” for “f,” “aä” for “a,” and so on.

Mr. Godwin was a very hard man, yet he had but slightly strained the unwritten laws of country life in ordering this aged and helpless couple to leave their dwelling. Nine out of ten cottages belong to the landowner, though the immediate supervision⁠—the letting⁠—is entrusted to the tenant on certain conditions. There are, as a rule, fewer cottages than are needed, so that there is a struggle for them, especially on the part of the young who wish to be married. From this scarcity of cottages most young couples reside for years with the parents of the wife or husband, an arrangement never very satisfactory.

The chief condition of cottage-occupation is that the cottager shall work for the farmer upon whose farm the cottage is situate. Or at least, if not for him, for someone on the estate. The moment any difference arises, the labourer has not only to leave his employment but his home. This, if he be a married man, generally means that he must leave the hamlet, because all the other cottages are full. The custom is the last relic of feudal times, for while this condition endures the labourer must still be a serf.

It is a custom fatal to the cottager’s social progress, in reality injurious to the interests of landowner and farmer⁠—especially to the landowner⁠—and diametrically opposed to the interest of the country at large, because it forces the agricultural population to be nomadic instead of settled.

Injurious as it is to those who maintain it, this feudal survival will probably be fought for with the utmost bitterness when the question comes before Parliament. Once abolished, and people will wonder why it ever existed.

This aged and helpless couple broke the unwritten law, for having grown old they could no longer work. They occupied a cottage without giving any return in the shape of labour upon the estate. They were in the way⁠—there was the workhouse for them⁠—they could not want a home at their time of life.

Many a warmhearted old farmer has such a couple in a cottage on his farm, and permits them to linger there till death. The unwritten law is not always so harshly interpreted. Still, it exists, and Godwin, a man of the hardest character, interpreted it according to his nature.

But the occupants of the cottage had broken the law in another manner; their son, Abner, worked for Mr. Goring, who was not a tenant of the Squire, and consequently while Abner lived in a landlord’s cottage he took the power (horsepower if you like) of his muscles off the estate. Someone else had the benefit of his strength.

There was, too, the possibility of Abner marrying and taking his wife home to his parents, after the country fashion. By-and-by he would become the actual occupant, while his horsepower was expended on another’s land. Those who occupied houses on the estate must work for the estate; if not, they must go.

To go, to an aged and helpless couple of eighty-four and seventy, meant the workhouse.

By the most cruel and iniquitous rule it is possible to imagine, it is not permitted to give assistance from the poor-rates to the oldest, the most helpless, and deserving of the population if they dare to live at home. They must go to the poorhouse, that abomination of desolation. This most brutal regulation would arouse the indignation of every educated person in the country if what it means could be plainly exhibited.

Abner’s crime was unpardonable⁠—he was living in a house belonging to the estate, and working for a man independent of the estate. Mr. Goring owned the land he occupied; he was not only independent, but a resolute upholder of every species of independence. He was paying Abner about two shillings a week more than he would have earned if in the employment of a farmer.

The young man was intelligent, and had a loyal manner⁠—I do not know how else to describe it⁠—he took an interest in what he was doing, and therefore to Mr. Goring he was worth more than an ordinary labourer. But this was an extremely unpopular arrangement both with farmers and labourers. The labourers hated to see one of their own class paid better than themselves; the farmers objected because it was an example which might lead other men to ask for more.

Felise knew little of these matters⁠—she had of course heard of them, but you could hardly expect her to enter into such affairs. She was, however, well aware of Godwin’s hardness, and his character for harsh interference. Godwin and her uncle had had many and many a set-to; in fact, quarrels were continually occurring between them. Godwin had frequently threatened litigation, but had never resorted to it, yet with curious inconsistency called once a month on an average to invite Goring and Felise to his house, which was not more than half a mile distant. They had never accepted the invitation.


Entering the garden by a sidepath, Felise heard two voices in loud altercation, or rather one voice stridently asserting itself over the other, and she paused where she could see the disputants through the open window.

Goring in the whitest of white shirtsleeves⁠—just as he had left his spade⁠—was standing by the mantelpiece, resting his firm chin on his hand, and steadfastly regarding the steward. His high forehead, partly bald, and flecked at the temples with grey among the brown of his hair, expressed calm intellect reposing in itself. Not the nervous, eager brain which seeks preferment and must thrust itself to the front; the intellect which reposes and reflects.

There was almost too much mind for action behind that noble forehead; it was the thinker, not the doer. The clear, steel-blue eyes under their thick eyebrows, the set mouth and the firm chin, at the same time indicated an immovable will; a man who would have his way without the least outward noise or ostentation. His strong frame⁠—a trifle bowed, as those of men usually are who work with their hands for pleasure or profit⁠—and great breadth were fully exposed by his negligent costume; his brawny throat, indeed, was visible.

“If only papa would work among men instead of among trees, what a leader he would be!” thought Felise.

Mr. Godwin, with his hat on (not an intentional rudeness), stood by the table on which he struck his fist, clad in dark brown and wearing gaiters. He was of full average height, stout, and strongly built; he appeared capable of exceptional endurance. His fist on the table was brown as a piece of oak that had been exposed all the winter to the action of the weather. His face was neither ruddy, brown, nor black, but a mixture of the three; it was ruddy from a fullness of blood; it was brown from wind and rain; it was black from sun. His face might have been cast in bronze, so remarkable was the appearance of hardihood.

His features were regular, and, except that the cheeks were somewhat too full, might even have been said to be handsome, but they were cast in a set expression; his mouth⁠—the worst feature, being without curve⁠—did not smile; his brow had a line constantly there. This fixidity, and the extremely weather-beaten hue of his complexion, seemed to announce a concentration of character that made most people shrink from him. Mr. Goring was brown from the sun, yet beside Godwin he looked fair.

Godwin’s voice was loud; he hurled his words and shut his lips tight immediately; but his language was correct, for he was well educated. Possibly his exceptionally hardy nature had something to do with his pitiless character. A man with thousands in his pocket, but who was content with a coarse fare of bread and bacon, or even bread and cheese, was not likely to feel much sentimental sympathy for weaker beings.

His family had all been alike; “hard as crab-apples” was the saying of the countryside.

Every tenant upon the estate spoke in the highest terms of Mr. Godwin to his neighbour. At the public dinners Mr. Godwin was mentioned with the deepest respect. “A shrewd, first-rate man, Godwin; knows his business; a good fellow, too, at bottom.” Alone, in private, there was not a man who did not hate him; but not a man would have dared to admit as much even to his wife.

In Mr. Goring’s calm glance there was perhaps some little admixture of amused disdain. Godwin glared with his colourless grey eyes, the angrier because he could not impress the person he was attacking.

“You cannot show a scrap of paper,” Felise heard Godwin saying. “I’m certain there is no such deed. You have no more right to fish than you have to give that rascally labourer of yours more money than anyone else.”

“I believe,” said Mr. Goring, “that the law permits me to pay what wages I please.”

“It does not permit you to trespass and to leave gates open, so that cattle stray and do damage. You’ll have to pay for it, Goring⁠—mark my words! What right has she to trample down the grass and do every species of mischief? Even if you do possess, or claim to possess a right to fish, it does not extend to her.”

“Was it me, then?” asked Felise suddenly, coming to the window.

“You are the culprit,” laughed her uncle. “Why, you have the rod in your hand⁠—you’re caught.”

Godwin looked at her, and instinctively removed his hat. He growled something in his throat. He did not speak, but he had the grace to be silent.

“You are accused of poaching, trespassing, and doing every species of mischief,” said Mr. Goring. “Come in and defend yourself.”

Felise smiled, and went round the house to the front door; but on turning the corner started, became pale, flushed again, and then stepped quickly towards a horse Abner had care of. It was Ruy⁠—Martial’s horse.

Was he here, then?

She stroked Ruy’s neck, looked inside the hall, returned, stroked him again; in her agitation she scarce knew what to do, or say, or think.

“Is Mr. Barnard here?” she said at last.

“No, miss,” replied Abner.


Mr. Godwin came on him,” said the man.

Godwin riding Martial’s favourite⁠—how was this? Felise instantly felt that there was something wrong, and Godwin’s dark face appearing at that moment in the hall seemed sinister to her. His pale grey eyes⁠—colourless like water⁠—shone in the shadow of the doorway. She could not ask him any questions, but she did not withdraw her hand from Ruy’s neck. The horse rubbed his face against her shoulder.

“I’ve just bought him,” said Godwin, softening his voice as much as he could. “Do you like him?”


He began to gather the bridle in his hand, taking it from Abner. Godwin was so near her that her dress touched him. She felt his direct glance beating upon her, as the hard sun beats on an exposed rock. There was no cessation in his glance.

She remembered the remark of the cottager that Barnard was not rich, that young blood spent money. Could it be that Martial was in difficulty? How else came he to part with his horse? Her heart quailed; quick sympathy confused her. She did not move aside that Godwin might mount, but stood by Ruy.

Godwin’s colourless eyes were bent unswervingly upon her face; he had the bridle in his hand, but he was in no haste.

In her agitation Felise did nothing but stroke Ruy, who was growing impatient for his manger⁠—so affection is wasted upon those whose sole thought is provender.

“I am afraid I gave too much for him,” said Godwin.

Mr. Goring smiled; the idea of Godwin giving too much for anything was good.

Felise was running over in her mind everything she could think of that would be likely to draw out the truth, yet without betraying her interest in Barnard.

“Have you had him long?” she asked.

“No, only a week or two.”

“From whom did you buy him?”⁠—as if she did not know.

“Barnard of Manor House.”

“Did you give much?”

“Seventy pounds.”

“Why did he want to sell?”

“Wanted the money; but I dare say there’s something wrong with the horse. I shan’t find it out for a month or two⁠—Barnard’s too sharp for me.”

Mr. Goring, in the porch, smiled sarcastically. If Godwin gave a man the character of sharpness, it went without asking that he was anything but shrewd at such matters as a horse-deal.

Still stroking Ruy⁠—her dress rustling against Godwin, Felise for the second time delayed the impatient horse; just as she had on the hills one morning.

Mr. Godwin wants to mount,” said Goring at last.

“I forgot,” said Felise, and moved away; the steward, however, did not seem in any great hurry. He got up leisurely enough, but reined Ruy with so powerful a hand that the horse stood quiet, and Felise touched his neck once more.

“Will you come over and see us?” said Godwin. “My sister would be very pleased if you would; the meadows are dry now, and the path easy.”

“I will come,” said Felise, to her uncle’s astonishment.


“Tomorrow morning.”

Then she looked up at Godwin’s cast-bronze face, and asked in the most matter-of-fact tone she could assume:

“Why did Barnard sell⁠—why did he want money?”

“Because he’s a fool,” said Godwin rudely. She flushed⁠—he thought it was because of his rudeness.

“Beg pardon,” he said. “You will be sure to come tomorrow morning?”

“I will.”

Still Godwin lingered, Ruy fidgeted; Goring wished to go to his garden-work, but Godwin did not start. A moment passed without a word being spoken, when Felise slightly bowed and went in; Godwin immediately rode off without a word.

“Are you really going to visit them?” asked Mr. Goring.

“Yes, papa; unless you object.”

“No, I don’t object⁠—still, you know the man’s character.”

“That he is a tyrant, yes; but I am going to see Ruy.”


“Oh, I mean the horse. I heard his name just now. He is a beautiful horse, isn’t he?”


Is it best to have a strong imagination, or to be entirely without it? An imaginative mind creates for itself a beautiful world; but upon entering into practical life, at every step, first one and then another portion of the structure is shattered till the entire fabric falls to pieces. Dust under foot and bitterness to the taste are all that remain; a void heart, a hopeless future, a weary present. The commonplace crushes the ideal as a cannonball might a statue.

The world, therefore, has long since decided that the imaginative is to be avoided. Have nothing to do with books, pictures, sculpture, with thought or dream. Above all things be practical.

Those who do not possess an imagination are clearly the gainers in this life; horses, carriages, money, expensive wines, or, if they prefer it, the solid applause of well-to-do folk, are given to them. The imaginative dream of flowers, but the practical possess a garden. The infinite superiority of the non-imaginative is established.

Robert Godwin had never any difficulty in choosing between these two courses⁠—the imaginative and the practical⁠—because he had not even imagination enough to see that there were two courses. By nature he was absolutely devoid of imagination. He took things as he saw them, and the idea of there being anything beyond never occurred to him.

There were the hills visible from his window; he knew by experience that hills were steep, and that a horse had to pull against the collar to draw him over them. The higher they were the thinner the soil, the smaller the crops, and the less rent to be obtained. Occasionally he glanced at them to see if the descending or ascending mist, the clearness or dimness of outline, promised rain or sunshine⁠—and so much for the hills. This practical knowledge completed his concern in these mounds of chalk.

The depth of the rich blue sky, the sweep of the clouds, the sunrise, the colours of sunset, the stars so clear seen at an altitude⁠—these mere imaginative things were invisible to him altogether. He simply did not see them, any more than if a thick curtain had been drawn before his eyes.

The thoughts which flow from the contemplation of the azure, the noble hope of sunrise, the godlike promise of the stars, were to him nonexistent; as he could not see the things that suggested the thought, so his mind was blind to the thought itself.

Yet further, that scarce definable culture⁠—that idea which exists in the heart and soul independent of outward appearances⁠—the sense of a beautiful inner life⁠—so delicate a music was soundless to his ears.

The ground was solid under his feet; the sky afar off a mere translucent roof; the sun a round ball of heat, never seen unless he chanced to be driving westwards towards sunset. He measured trees, and put a red mark against those to be felled, so many every year; they were timber⁠—wood; they were hard, oak some of them; he could tell the cubical contents, and how many feet of planking they would saw up into. The shape of the oak, the shadow, the birds who came to it, all its varied associations⁠—its dream⁠—had no meaning to him. Sometimes he saw the sea, its green plain, from the higher ground; but it did not attract him to the shore.

Through the woods in springtime his feet waded among pools, broad lakes of azure-purple, acres upon acres of bluebells, so crowded they could not swing; he crushed the tender anemone; he passed the white June rose.

Robert Godwin never walked by the sea, nor gathered a flower.

The old books which had accumulated in the house of his forefathers remained upon the shelves untouched. Since his schooldays, when it was compulsory, he had never opened any other book than the almanac.

He handled cattle and sheep, he inspected horses, he visited men at plough, at harrow, at harvest, at building, at sawing, smith’s work, every kind of labour. He attended markets and fairs, he drove and rode to and fro; he kept his accounts; he looked to every detail of the estate and of his own farm. He was always in action; when he returned from a long day’s round, so soon as he alighted he walked briskly down into the garden to see if the gardener had fulfilled a full day’s task.

Robert Godwin drove men as cattle are never driven. For cattle are let linger by the roadside that they may crop the clover which likes to grow in trodden places; cattle are permitted to drink at the pond, and to rest in the shade of the elm-trees. The evening comes and they are turned into a field to graze, and chew the cud, and consider, as it were, till the morning.

No man rested that Robert Godwin could get at to drive. His own farm labourers, the men who did the estate work, the woodcutters, the drain-diggers, the masons and smiths, the very messengers to and fro the Squire’s house and his farm⁠—he drove them all. He would waylay the rural postman at six in the morning, and bully him for not coming at half-past five: what business had he to waste time taking a draught of milk at the farmhouse yonder? He should be reported. Robert Godwin stood at the stile and shouted to the children, and threatened them with the stick if they did not hasten on to school.

Yet when Robert Godwin’s back was turned and the hedge had hidden him from view, the ploughman relaxed his hold on the stilts of his plough, and the team stayed as he listened to the peaceful caw of the rooks. But Godwin’s back was never turned upon himself. He drove himself forever. He was always up at six, often at five; from then till dusk he moved to and fro his own farm, and the estate he managed; after dusk a cheap candle was lit for him, and he worked at his accounts till bedtime. He never listened to the caw, caw of the rooks.

Reading by the open window of a sunny day, when the mind for a moment pauses from its dwelling on the page, and the glance goes out into the light, it is very pleasant to hear them⁠—these peaceful rooks caw, cawing over to their favourite furrows. Doubtless you have heard them and rested. Robert Godwin never heard them.

Incessant physical occupation was a necessity of his existence. But surely there must have been times when, his hands being still and his frame reposing in the early evening, “between the lights,” his mind roamed in reverie, when fancy bore sway, when a dream or thought came to him?

No. When his hands were still and his frame reposed, his mind was simply vacant, like that of a horse looking from his stabledoor, or a dog by his kennel. He saw the wall, or the fireplace, nothing more. His mind was simply quiescent⁠—vacant⁠—like a mirror turned face downwards, as old countryfolk place them on the bed in a storm of thunder and lightning.

In such a position the glass reflects nothing, and so when his hands were still Godwin’s mind reflected nothing. It did not work within itself. Thus it was that on lying down at bedtime he fell instantly asleep, sound, undisturbed, complete, like an animal’s. No long train of aerial fancies passed through his mind; that organ, like a muscle unemployed, fell into perfect repose.

This incessant work was not persevered in as a “religion,” such as it is the fashion nowadays to “dignify” toil for the benefit of those who own factories. Nor was it the restless energy of a great genius, for Godwin had no ambition, and to drive nails in a carpenter’s shop would have contented him as well as to lead the army at Pharsalia, Nor was it nervous restlessness; he was quite without nerves. It was his nature.

Just as rooks fly because they are rooks, so Godwin worked because he was Godwin, worked and accumulated money, and drove himself, and every human being with whom he came into the smallest contact, and knew no more rest or fatigue than the old mill-wheel.

His forefathers had had money; it was a family, a hereditary trait⁠—this faculty for accumulation. Robert got together more, and it was whispered that he had lent a large sum to the Squire. Certainly his will was law on the Cornleigh estate; it was no use appealing to the Squire, who merely referred applicants back to his steward.

There could not have been a more faithful steward. There was not a halfpenny wasted on that property, not the value of a rusty nail. Economy, rigid control, perfect accounts; every shilling brought to the board. Everything organized and in order; no confusion, no uncertainty. Above all, no weak paltering with tenants who had had losses, or suffered from illness or infirmity; no feeble yielding to the entreaties of the widow, or the fatherless children, or the unfortunate. The same rigid rule was applied unfalteringly to all alike, so that there could be no favouritism: “Pay or go.”

The steward allowed no time, consented to no compromise. “Pay or go.” Three omnipotent words, which brought to the Squire’s pockets an unfailing supply of gold twice a year.

Some did, indeed, say that the reputation thereby acquired prevented tenants with large capital from applying when farms were vacant; they would rather go farther and have more freedom and kindliness of treatment. However that might be, for the present, at all events, the Godwin rule was a success.

It was thought that the succession of bad seasons must necessitate a relaxation of this iron government, but fortune sometimes favours the hardest natures, and in this case favoured Robert Godwin. By a piece of good luck that neighbourhood did not suffer so severely at first as many districts; the crops were below the average, but not so seriously; some little allowance had to be made, but not much; the tenants certainly lost money, yet they could not make out a sufficiently pressing case to obtain much reduction of rent. Of late there had been more serious complaint. No appreciable difference was caused in the Godwin government.

He was ever on the alert, just the same, to detect the least infringement of the strict letter of the agreement; ever ready with objections if any expenditure was applied for; always watching for an opportunity to assert the authority of his master.

A labourer began to build a hut on waste ground by the wayside. Godwin had the materials carted away, as he had commenced without permission from the lord of the manor. A cottager had made a garden in a hedge, leaving enough of the fence each side to prevent cattle straying; he worked on the estate, but Godwin spied out the encroachment and had quickset thorns planted among the potatoes.

The thatched roofs of the cottages in one of the hamlets were rotten, and let the rain through; the poor inhabitants begged for repairs. Nothing of the sort: they could buy straw and repair the roofs if they wished; if not, the wet might drip on their beds.

Enclosure of the common had already begun when Mr. Goring came forward and contested the right of Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., to enclose. Godwin blustered and thundered; letters were written on blue paper; but public opinion had been drawn to the question, emissaries from powerful societies appeared on the scene, and the scheme was let drop.

Some day, perhaps, Mr. Goring would leave. These objectors have never much status or stability. They are not fixed like great hereditary owners. The Pope is dead⁠—long live the Pope! The interests of hereditary estates are handed on generation after generation, much like the will of Peter the Great; but objectors, such as Mr. Goring, usually disappear in a few years. The hand that repairs the embankment once withdrawn, the sea soon rushes in.

Godwin was ceaselessly on the alert to extend the authority of his employer. Footpaths were stopped, and odd corners of waste ground enclosed with stone walls costing thrice the value of the land, in order that no one might “squat” and presently assert a right to a few square yards of their own country.

These proceedings were by no means confined to the outlying agricultural places, where the well-to-do people were almost all tenants, and the remainder poor and without organization. Robert Godwin attacked the town with equal zest and equal success. The Cornleigh Cornleigh property included a considerable part of the town, and his “rights” extended more or less over the rest.

Except by long and costly legal process it was impossible to tell where those “rights” really began or ended. The steward made the fullest use of this uncertainty. Old byways and paths were blocked, corners enclosed, possession asserted and taken, and not a voice was raised. The whole town was straitened, and a band as it were drawn tight about it so that it could scarce breathe.

The park was closed, though the inhabitants had used it for a hundred years as a recreation ground, and had undoubted claims to roads across it. Not a voice was raised. Old inhabitants retained a respect for “the family,” and would not oppose its will. Tradespeople wished to enjoy its custom and patronage, though, as a matter of fact, they got neither, as “the family” bought all they required in London; still they did not like to shut the door in their own faces. There were not enough shoemakers in Maasbury.

Long since there had been a glove industry in the surrounding villages⁠—an industry at which the poor folk worked in their own cottages. For the most part it had disappeared, yet to this day the magistrates could distinguish the hamlets where it had once flourished by the records in their books. To this day half the cases brought before them came from these hamlets.

Your artisan who works at home⁠—your cottage glovemaker, or shoemaker⁠—is a terrible radical, a fearful character, a frequenter of taverns, a fisticuff fellow, and above all things a contemner of authority. He will get into trouble for no other purpose than to show his despite of authority. His descendants had it in their blood, and still continued to exhibit the same disposition. But the industry had died out, and there were no shoemakers to speak of in Maasbury town. Consequently Mr. Godwin ruled as he chose.

The result was that the property was trimmed, walled, enclosed, and improved in every possible manner. Had it been set out to sale, the auctioneer could have honestly laid stress on the singular completeness of the estate. It was in perfect order. The “family” reaped that advantage.

A breathless hatred of Robert Godwin prevailed from north to south, east to west, of that broad stretch of land. From the tenant of a thousand acres, and the wealthy tradesman (like Rosa’s father) down to the miserable old woman in her shanty, living on tea and soaked bread, the hatred of Robert Godwin was universal.

The well-to-do exhibited this feeling by asking him to every entertainment they gave⁠—invitations seldom accepted, for Godwin was a solitary man⁠—by publicly praising him at every meeting, by treating him with the greatest respect, and by holding their tongues in private. No one ever abused Robert Godwin.

Even the old women did not curse him, as they do in storybooks, for they have come to learn⁠—these old women⁠—in the nineteenth century that curses are as harmless as thistledown. They looked after him as he passed⁠—simply folded their arms and looked after him.

His mind, hard set upon the subject in hand, was clear and practical, consequently upon agricultural topics, and such as came within his reach, Godwin could make a good speech. He frequently spoke, expressing himself in plain and forcible language; his speeches appeared in full in the local prints, and were even transferred to the London agricultural papers. He possessed a considerable reputation of this kind, and justly so, for he spoke out of the fullness of practical knowledge.


Except I describe Robert Godwin’s works and that which he did, it is impossible to describe him. For he was not a thinker, a dreamer, a man of feeling; there was no light and shade in his character. To understand him you must know not what he felt, but what he did. Now these were the works of Robert Godwin.

I do not think that he intended to be harsh in his dealings with his fellows. It was simply an absolute want of imagination. He was no set villain of a piece, no unscrupulous tyrant for the sake of evil. There was no cruelty in his nature. No one ever saw him thrash his horse mercilessly, or kick his dog.

Of the suffering to human beings caused by his conduct, he was entirely oblivious, nor could you by any possible method have explained it to him. He lacked the imagination to put himself in the place of the wretched.

It was this faculty which enabled the torturers in the Middle Ages to tear human creatures limb from limb, to thrust red-hot iron into the victim, to smash every bone on the wheel, to carry out orders of so ghastly a character that not even the sober historian in our time dares to record them on his page. They remain in Latin⁠—as it were whispered in ancient books.

In our day this faculty is by no means extinct: twelve hundred men announced themselves possessed of it when they applied for the hangman’s office.

I call it a faculty, for really it seems so, instead of the lack of a faculty; just as cold⁠—frost⁠—seems to one’s feelings a real thing, and not merely the absence of heat.

Robert Godwin had not the least idea of the misery he often caused, simply because he possessed the faculty of not seeing⁠—the faculty of no imagination. That he seemed in most cases devoid of rancour was often remarked; after quarrelling most furiously, he would shake hands next day as if nothing had happened. But then there was nothing in his goodwill⁠—he had no goodwill.

He was absolutely honest, except in a horse-deal, in which it is mutually understood that every man shall cheat his neighbour. His mere nod was his bond. The word of Robert Godwin was like the signed and sealed bond of a great railway company⁠—negotiable; his word was negotiable. That is, if a man said Godwin had promised, you dealt on the faith of that bare word.

This much said, last of all, Robert Godwin was no hypocrite. He made no profession of Christian charity; he never entered a church. Not that he was an opponent of the Church; he was simply indifferent.

No one ever got touch of Robert Godwin. The man was always alone. While he measured a tree with the woodman standing by; while he rated the ploughman; while he bargained in the market, hustled and shoved by the crowd; while he spoke in public; if you sat with him in his house, still Robert Godwin was apart, separate, a distinct personality. His spirit never blended with the society about him.

His sister had lived with him as housekeeper year after year, and she knew no more of him than a stranger. He made no mystery of anything, yet he was impenetrable. She had inherited the Godwin faculty of no imagination; her mind, once the household duties over, fell at once into vacancy. She sat still and grew immensely fat.

The reason of Godwin’s intense personality was his concentration. He was fixed, absorbed in himself; he neither saw nor heard anything. He was conscious of himself only. The curving outline of the hills, the white clouds, the sunset, were invisible to him.

Riding away on his new horse Ruy from Mr. Goring’s porch that lovely summer day, Robert Godwin went straight into the town, executed some business there, returned home, put up his horse, and at once walked out into the fields to his men. He never stayed his hand till night; when the last labourers had gone slowly homewards, he was still doing something.

But even the long, long summer evening⁠—Felise passed it sitting by the sundial dreaming⁠—the long summer evening went away at last. Dusky shadows crept out and filled the corners of the fields; the orchards became gloomy; the large bats flew to and fro in the upper air; the lesser bats fluttered round the eaves.

Robert Godwin took his candle up into his bedroom, which was at the same time his study or private office. Probably in his grim father’s time it was the only room in which he could find any peace, and the habit of working there having once been established could not be set aside. The washstand was placed by a small window⁠—a window deep in the embrasure necessitated by a thick old wall. Upon one end of this washstand Robert wrote; it was a large stand intended for two ewers, but only one stood on it, cobwebbed, for it was never used.

At the end of the washstand next the window Robert had his ink, his pens, and blotting-paper; his letters, documents, and papers were on the window-ledge, piles of them which could be seen from the garden beneath. Here he worked every evening, in solitude, by the light of one cheap candle.

This evening Robert worked later than usual, till his sister, weary of waiting, had her supper, and presently retired. By-and-by the last letter was finished, the last account added up, the last note jotted down; there was no more writing to be done. He took his letters out to the gate by the road, where he had a private box cleared by the mail-cart driver who passed about midnight.

Next he went round to the other gate in the garden to see if it was locked. From thence he visited the stables, and heard Ruy move in his stall; and then round the rickyard to see if any wandering vagabond dared to creep under a rick to sleep. As he passed the pump in the yard he tried it, to see if it acted properly; his hands could let nothing alone. Finally, he crossed his arms on the top bar of the gate leading into the meadows, and looked straight out across the fields.

Something, perhaps a hare, rushed away; he did not regard it in the least. The dog in the kennel yawned, shook himself, and looked out at his master, who never stroked him.

Dew was falling thickly, and in the distance a thin white vapour marked the course of the stream. The still trees, heavily laden with their foliage, were silent; there was not the faintest rustle, and nothing appeared to move in their shadows. Once a bird, perhaps a whitethroat, chattered a little in the hedge; but his voice sank quickly. In the warm stillness of the summer night there came a far-off rushing sound, very faint; it was the cascade, at the trout-pool where Felise bathed.

Above, the clear sky was full of stars, and among them the beautiful planet Jupiter shone serene. The sky was of a lovely night-blue; it was an hour to think, to dream, to revere, to love⁠—a time when, if ever it will, the soul reigns, and the coarse rude acts of day are forgotten in the aspirations of the inmost mind.

The Night was calm⁠—still; it was in no haste to do anything⁠—it had nothing it needed to do. To be is enough for the stars.

Robert did not notice any difference in the night; he had seen hundreds of nights. He was listening for the roll of the mail-cart wheels. After a time they came; the cart stopped; the driver collected the letters, and went on. There was no delivery by this mail, only a collection.

Robert returned to his bedroom, took off his coat, looked at his bed, and put on his coat again. He did not care to lie down. He lighted a great stable-lantern, and went out of doors again.

The hasp of the gate against which he had leaned was a little shaky and loose; he found the tools, went to work, and put it to rights. Then he went into the orchard to the garden-house, and examined the gardener’s tools, one by one, to see if they had been roughly used, or injured; if so, the man must pay. The man had been digging; with the lantern in his hand Robert paced the distance dug to see how many yards he had completed.

Robert went to the stable, looked in at Ruy, climbed up into the tallet, and spied about to see if any forage had been stolen. He examined the carter’s collection of horsehair⁠—his perquisite⁠—to see if it was accumulating too fast.

He brought out a stool and saw, and sawed up firewood till he had made a goodly heap. He would have done more, but that would encourage waste. If only a little was cut up, only a little would be used.

He planed a piece of timber intended for the head of a gate. He counted the poles aslant against the woodpile. Nothing else remaining that he could do, he returned to the garden, took off his coat, set the lantern on the grass, and dug where the gardener had left off. While he dug the night went on⁠—the night that was in no haste to do anything; and by degrees a pale light grew up above the eastern horizon. The dawn comes early in summer.

Still Robert dug steadily on till the other mail-cart⁠—the down mail⁠—approached. He stopped and listened; the driver did not pull up, so there were no letters. Robert scraped his boots, put away the spade, blew out the lantern, and went indoors.

By the pale white light he looked again at his bed; but he could not lie down. There was no rest in him that night. He lit his cheap candle and went up into the attic overhead, where he had not been for years. The shutters were perpetually closed up there, so that the place was partly dark, although streaks of dawn came through the chinks. The great bare room was full of ancient lumber.

He set the candle on an oak press and fell to work, sorting the confused mass which strewed the floor. Old chairs⁠—some broken, some perfect⁠—a picture or two, hair-trunks, books, bundles of newspapers, pieces of chain⁠—odd lengths thrown aside⁠—nameless odds and ends, such as candlesticks, parts of implements, the waste of a century, all covered with dust, and dead black cobwebs. Dead cobwebs thick with dust, not the fine clean threads the spider has in use; webs which had been abandoned fifty years ago.

The skeleton of a bird lay at the bottom of a hollow in the pile, perhaps an injured swallow that had crept in there to die. A pair of flintlock pistols, the flints still in the hammers, were in very good condition, scarcely rusted; Robert snicked the locks and examined them carefully. He was black with dust and cobwebs.

Chairs and furniture he threw on one side, boxes on another, papers and books in a corner, and soon began to make order of confusion.

The light of morning came stronger through the chinks; the flame of the candle appeared yellow. The alchemy of light was changing the sky without.

He worked on till footsteps sounded on the paths outside, the carters had come to see to the horses. There was someone at last to drive.

Robert went downstairs, and out to the pump; there he washed himself in the open air, as he had been made to do years and years ago in his stern old father’s time. The habit adhered still; the man was indeed all habit. Then he visited the stables, and began to drive the carters; the night was over, the day had begun.

Overhead and eastwards there shone a glory of blue heaven, illuminated from within with golden light. The deep rich azure was lit up with an inner gold; it was a time to worship, to lift up the heart. Is there anything so wondrously beautiful as the sky just before the sun rises in summer?

There was a sound of carthorses stamping heavily, the rattle and creak of harness, the shuffle of feet; a man came out with a set forehead, grumbling and muttering; the driver was at work.

No one heeded the alchemy proceeding in the east, which drew forth gold and made it shine in the purple.


Since Robert Godwin could not by the effort of a lifetime have summoned up sufficient imagination to tell his own story, I must do the romance for him, and explain why he could not sleep that night. You now know the man, who could rout about dusty lumber that his hands might be employed, who could not see the sky. Here is his romance.

Nine years ago, that very time of the year, Robert Godwin, starting forth into the fields one day, saw a trespasser in a meadow of mowing-grass. A trespasser rolling about in the sacred mowing-grass, wilfully damaging it⁠—with the aid of a dog, too.

To walk among mowing-grass is a guilty thing, you must understand, in country places. This meadow in particular did not concern Godwin, but the fact of trespassing did; he could not have passed a trespasser without ordering the criminal off any more than a dog could pass a bone. He walked rapidly towards the place, full of hard language, bitter words and threats, swelling with eagerness to drive this daring human being. As he came near he was astounded at the absolute abandon of the youthful sinner; she not only trespassed, she revelled in her wickedness.

It was a girl about ten or eleven, tall for her age, and with her a great spaniel; together they were making themselves joyful in the flower-strewn grass.

Sometimes she ran, and leaped, and danced in the beautiful sweet grass which rose above her knees. Sometimes she threw herself at full length in it, lying down on the breast of the earth, as a swimmer lies on the breast of the sea. As children dance and play without much covering on the sands in their innocence, so in her wild gambols her short frock permitted the shape of her limbs to be occasionally seen.

Her hands were full of clover-blossoms; she threw them away and gathered the large daisies; she scattered the daisies and took buttercups and blue veronica; she laughed and whistled⁠—quite a real whistle⁠—she caught her foot and tumbled, and shouted. The spaniel charged her as she lay extended, charged over her and rolled her down again. Together they romped, utterly unaware of the Terror that was approaching them with swift strides.

Her long golden hair, one mass of ringlets, was spread about upon the grass, as she lay on her back⁠—the spaniel had his heavy paws on her chest⁠—one knee was raised among the golden buttercups, and the sun shone on its exquisite whiteness. She was panting and laughing, almost unable to move from the weight of the spaniel and her own exhaustion.

The Terror was very near⁠—the Terror could easily have captured her; but now a singular incident occurred.

At a distance of ten short paces Robert Godwin stopped, looked fixedly, suddenly turned on his heel, and returned the way he had come without a word.

Almost directly his back was turned the spaniel saw him, and began to bark; and the girl sat up and began instinctively to arrange her frock, and get her hair in order. But Robert Godwin did not look back.

The child was Felise Goring, then but recently arrived at her uncle’s upon the loss of her father, whom she could not regret because she had never known him⁠—he had been in India so long. She remembered the grass⁠—just remembered it⁠—about the house she had lived in when she first began to walk. She came to it again from the streets and confinement of a London suburb.

Imagine the child’s delight⁠—the fields to roam in⁠—liberty⁠—the great dog; all the happy sunny freedom children enjoy in the country. No matter how kind their parents may be, no matter how fortunate their circumstances, the children in cities never know the joyousness of the country.

The grass to walk on; the flowers to gather; the horses to watch; the new milk; the delicious butter; the brook to ramble by; the pond to fish in; the hay to throw about; the very ladders to climb; and the thick hedges to get in as if they were woods. No gold can purchase these things in cities. They are to be pitied whose youth has been spent in streets, though they may succeed to the countinghouse where millions are made.

All of you with little children, and who have no need to count expense, or even if you have such need, take them somehow into the country among green grass and yellow wheat⁠—among trees⁠—by hills and streams, if you wish their highest education, that of the heart and the soul, to be completed.

Therein shall they find a Secret⁠—a knowledge not to be written, not to be found in books. They shall know the sun and the wind, the running water, and the breast of the broad earth. Under the green spray, among the hazel boughs where the nightingale sings, they shall find a Secret, a feeling, a sense that fills the heart with an emotion never to be forgotten. They will forget their books⁠—they will never forget the grassy fields.

If you wish your children to think deep things⁠—to know the holiest emotions, take them to the woods and hills, and give them the freedom of the meadows.

It is of no use to palter with your conscience and say, “They have everything; they have expensive toys, storybooks without end; we never go anywhere without bringing them home something to amuse them; they have been to the seaside, and actually to Paris; it is absurd, they cannot want anything more.”

But they do want something more, without which all this expensive spoiling is quite thrown away. They want the unconscious teaching of the country, and without that they will never know the truths of this life. They need to feel⁠—unconsciously⁠—the influence of the air that blows, sun-sweetened, over fragrant hay; to feel the influence of deep shady woods, mile-deep in boughs⁠—the stream⁠—the high hills; they need to revel in long grass. Put away their books, and give them the freedom of the meadows. Do it at any cost or trouble to yourselves, if you wish them to become great men and noble women.

Indulgent to all, Mr. Goring was necessarily yet more indulgent to this great beautiful girl suddenly thrown on his hands. For she was beautiful already, although with that unshapen, uncertain irregularity which promises better in childhood than regularity. If a girls features are regular as a child, if already lovely, it is rare for her to be a beautiful woman. Neither the face nor the form must be finished too soon.

Felise’s face suggested, her form already hinted at, loveliness to come when the bold first strokes of Nature were filled in.

To recognise such strokes of Nature in their inception, and to observe their relation to each other and to the general shape, is a pleasure of the most exquisite kind. If the growth and unfolding of a flower be beautiful, how much more so the growth of a woman!

Robert Godwin’s thought from that hour never varied from the child whom he had intended to have driven with harsh reviling from the meadow. I do not say that he loved her from the moment he saw her; he had no imagination. His heart was not prepared with fancy and ready to love; but his thought dwelt upon her, and love steadily grew within him.

So intensely concentrated a nature could not love by halves⁠—could not admire, or sigh, and pass on and amuse itself elsewhere. Once set, the plant grew and filled his whole life. It came about in time that Robert Godwin never thought of anything else but Felise Goring.

While his hands worked, as you have seen them; while his lips uttered hard words, or while his mind added figure to figure at his washstand-desk, Felise filled his entire inner existence. He lived in a dream, this dreamless man; he was absorbed in one idea⁠—an idea so fixed that his mind was vacant. His hands moved with no consciousness behind them, as the wheels of a machine go round.

Work over, he slept at once without any interval of love-like reverie; for he carried Felise instantly with him into his slumber, so fixed was her image in his mind. His abstraction was complete. The form of Robert Godwin walked among the fields, and rode along the roads; the lips of Robert Godwin gave forth articulate sound; the signature of Robert Godwin was traced upon the cheque⁠—but Robert Godwin, the personality, was not there. His mind was with Felise.

It is said that women above all things like to be loved. Very rarely is a woman loved as Godwin loved, such utter abstraction, such loss of self-existence, such death of self-existence. The woman that he loved should have been happy. But in Paris they say, that woman is indeed happy to be loved, but only when the lover can minister to her vanity.

Robert Godwin had no knowledge whatever of such studies of woman’s heart, some base and worthless, some true; yet his clearness of intellect (consequent upon the shortness of his view, not its breadth; he held everything, as it were, close to his mind, as people with dim sight hold all things close to their eyes)⁠—his clearness of intellect instinctively told him that Felise was not for him; he could never be anything to her.

The Parisian would put it in this way: He comprehended that there was nothing about him that could flatter or excite her vanity.

He loved her and gave her up at the same time. He loved her more and more as the years drew on, and year by year he acknowledged to himself that the gulf between them grew more and more impassable.

At that moment in the meadow he was already forty; she was ten or eleven. Yet it was not the difference of age; it was the total, worldwide difference of personality.

Now he was forty-nine, Felise nineteen⁠—nearly twenty. Nine great wedges had been driven in by Time to split their lives asunder.

Upright, strong, without one grey fleck in his dark hair, Godwin had not altered an atom in those nine years. He was as vigorous, as full of manhood as at twenty-one. But still he was forty-nine; he was on the verge of fifty.

Can you imagine a woman in solitude weighing these words on her lips, “He is on the verge of fifty”?

Yet it was not the years; it was the total, the worldwide difference of personality. Godwin, all these nine years, had held the matter up close to his mind, and every day the certainty grew more certain, the fact more palpable, that she was not for him. By no possible manner of means could Felise ever come to care for Robert Godwin.

In all that time scarcely a day went by that he did not see her. The two houses were hardly half a mile apart; the girl was in the fields constantly, and he was always riding or walking across them. He never purposely approached her, but his path frequently brought him near; sometimes they met. Her existence was always before his eyes.


She thought of nothing but the sun and wind, the flowers and the running stream. She listened to the wind in the trees and began herself to sing. The child was led along by unknown impulses, as if voices issued from the woods calling her to enter. It would have been impossible for her to tell why she was so happy in the freedom of the fields.

Not once now and then, or one day only, when the smiling hours of early June lit the meadows, but every day, the year round, Felise went forth with the same joy.

She trod the paths to their utmost ending, through meads and wheatfields, round the skirt of copses where pheasants feeding hurried in at her coming, or wood-pigeons rose with a clatter from the firs. Climbing the rugged stiles, treading the bending plank stretched across the streamlet, stepping from stone to stone in the watery ways where woods and marshes met, up the steep hill where the shepherds had cut steps in the turf, she traced the path to its ending. Through the long lanes, hazel-boughs on one side, hawthorn on the other; along the rude wagon-tracks winding in and out the corn; by shadowy green arcades of the covers; by deep valleys, sunless because of the massy beeches high on the slopes.

There was not a spot made beautiful by trees and hedges, by grass and flowers, and sun and shade, that she had not visited and lingered in. She knew when each would look at its loveliest⁠—the corner of maple-bushes when the first frosts had yellowed the spray and strewn the sward with colour of leaves; the row of oaks when the acorns were ripe, and the rooks above and the pheasants beneath were feasting; the meadow where the purple orchis grew in the first days of May; the osier-beds where the marsh marigolds flowered, and again in the time of the yellow iris.

She knew where the hill, lifting itself in a bold brow thrown forward from the range, gave a view over the wooded plain almost to the horizon; where the downs opening in a pass, the broad green sea gleamed out to the clouds.

The place where the stream ran at the foot of a cliff, overshadowed by the trees on the summit; where it came again to sweet meads, moving between its banks without a sound except what the birds made for it calling in the sedges.

The time when the fields were fullest of flowers; the time when the green wheat began to grow tall, and to contain wheatears like hidden treasures among its innumerable stalks; the time when it became golden; the time when the partridges called at even in the short stubble.

The sound of the wind in the oaks and in the pines; the rush it came with across the grass; the rustle of the dry corn swinging.

The light of the sun shining on the green sward, on the treetops, on the clouds at sunset.

Storms darkening the face of heaven; strong gales casting fragments of branches afar from the trees; thunder rolling back in heavier echoes from the hills; lightning springing athwart the darkness.

The blackness of frost; the white of the snow; the crystal rime in the early morning; the heavy days of long, long rain; moaning wind in the elms.

The first swallow, and the hawthorn leaf green on the dark bough; the song of the nightingale; the first call of the cuckoo; the first apple-bloom; the first scent of the hay; the first sheaf of wheat; the first beech-boughs turning red and gold.

The coming of the redwings, and the fieldfares; the thrushes singing again in the mild autumn days; the last harebell from the hill.

The stars rising, constellation by constellation, as the year went on; those that had fulfilled their time of shining in the evening sky marching to the westwards, while others came up in the east. The visible path of the earth rolling onward in space, made visible by night to those who watch the stars⁠—visible by day in the shortening shadows of summer noon, and the long shadows of winter.

The glowing planets⁠—calm Jupiter, red Mars, silvery Venus⁠—glowing over the trees in the evening.

Swallows building under the eaves⁠—swallows building in the chimneys; thrushes in the hawthorn-bushes; great missel-thrushes in the apple-trees of the orchard; the blue sparrow’s egg in the hedge; the chaffinch’s moss and lichen nest against the elm; the dove’s nest up in the copse, fearlessly building because no rude hand disturbed them; the pheasant’s eggs carelessly left on the ground by the bramble-bush, the corncrake’s found by the mower; the moorhen’s nest by the trout-pool.

She knew and loved them all⁠—the colour and sound and light, the changing days, the creatures of the wood and of the field. With these she lived, and they became familiar to her, as the threads of the pattern are known to those who sit the livelong day embroidering⁠—the woven embroidery of the earth; so beautiful, because without design.

Not so much the actual realities, the woods and hills, as the mystery that brooded among them. Yet “mystery” does not convey what she felt, for there was nothing concealed; rather it was the openness, the pure frankness of nature which drew her. Perhaps “glamour” would be better⁠—the glamour of the woodland and the grassy solitude.

It was noticed that she gathered very few flowers, sometimes only bringing home some fragment of spray; it was what she felt among them that was so dear to her.

There were no women at Mr. Goring’s to show her the delicate lines that divide decorum from impropriety. He dreaded at first lest she should insensibly contract the manners of the village girls, although she did not consort with them; but he was soon set at rest on that point. Her manners remained as in the beginning; all the freedom of the fields did not induce the slightest change. Except that she romped with the great spaniel now and then, there was nothing she did the most fastidious could find fault with. Relieved of this fear, he let her wander whither she listed. Once only she overstepped the unwritten law of the country; she rode her pony into some young wheat, and galloped him to and fro.

It was Robert Godwin’s wheat, and he watched her do it in the wild delight of her youth. She had no thought of injury; she had found a broad open space, and she liked to spurn the earth and the fresh green blades of wheat beneath the pony’s hoofs.

He did not interfere; he let her trample it as much as she pleased. She was the only human being he did not drive.

Felise was very contrite when it was explained to her at home that she had done wrong; this happened in early days, not long after her arrival at Beechknoll.

Always out in the garden, or the field, or the copse with her uncle Goring, whom she called “papa,” he taught her the names of the trees and plants, the ways of the birds, the signs of spring, the indications of autumn. Sometimes he was trimming the shrubs in the garden, sometimes mending a gate, sometimes chopping poles with an axe in the copse. She brought a book and sat near him, every now and then asking questions⁠—called every now and then to observe something.

The birds were bolder in this copse than elsewhere, for no gun was ever fired; even the herons came to the pool and the stream unchecked. Nothing was interfered with; not even the weasels. Yet every wild creature abounded, despite the absence of trap, gin, and gun.

To Felise, this man who knew so much was an interpreter⁠—translating for her the language of the trees, the words of the wind, the song of the sun at his rising and his setting, the still calm intent of the stars. His gardening and planting was in reality only a manner of self-employment, so that he might be ever under the sun by day, under the stars in the evening, that he might be out-of-doors face to face with the wonders of the earth and sky.

So that it was not only the physical joy of her strong limbs that led her to the hill to climb and run with the wind. It was the open secret of the day, the glamour of the light; it was her heart and soul as much and more than those strong limbs which gloried in the free air.

Felise grew and became beautiful.

There were books at Beechknoll such as are seldom read outside the circle of the learned, though they are books far more interesting than those of modern days. The reason the classics are not read is because there still lingers a tradition, handed down from the eighteenth century, that it is useless to read them unless in the original. A tone of sarcastic contempt is maintained towards the person who shall presume to peruse Xenophon not in the original Greek, or Virgil not in the original Latin.

In the view of these critics it is the Greek, it is the Latin, that is valuable, not the contents of the volume. Shakespeare, however, the greatest genius of England, thought otherwise. It is known that his ideas of Grecian and Roman history were derived from somewhat rude translations, yet it is acknowledged that the spirit of the ancient warriors and of the ancient luxury lives in his “Antony and Cleopatra,” and nowhere in all the ancient writers is there a poem breathing the idea of Aphrodite like his “Venus and Adonis.” The example of so great a genius may shield us in an effort to free the modern mind from this eighteenth century incubus.

The truth is, the classics are much better understood in a good translation than in the original. To obtain a sufficient knowledge of Greek, for instance, to accurately translate is almost the work of a lifetime. Concentration upon this one pursuit gradually contracts the general perceptions, and it has often happened that an excellent scholar has been deficient in common knowledge, as shown by the singular character of his own notes. But his work of translation in itself is another matter.

It is a treasure; from it poets derive their illustrations; dramatists their plots; painters their pictures. A young mind full of intelligence, coming to such a translation, enters at once into the spirit of the ancient writer. A good translation is thus better than the original.

Such books Mr. Goring had accumulated for his own study; they were now opened to Felise by the same kindly hand and voice that had opened to her the knowledge of the fields and woods.

She read the beautiful memoirs of Socrates, some parts of Plato, most of the histories, and the higher and purer poets. Therein she found expressed in words and metre the very ideas, the very feelings which had come to her in the flowery meadows and woodland solitudes; ideas and feelings that floated in her mind, but which she could not utter. Here they were⁠—written down at the lips of the flowers that had faded two thousand years ago.

The soul of Greece⁠—the pure soul of antique Greece⁠—visited her as she read and dreamed.

Felise grew and became yet more beautiful.

Her heart, too, had grown within her⁠—the heart of a woman as it is in its purest nature. She was unconvinced. No specious casuistry of the vain world or the false priest, no arguments of the tyrannic science of the nineteenth century, nothing could convince her that the emotion of her heart was wrong. She was unconvinced. All the sophistry and chicanery, all the philosophy and the sociology, all the statutes on the statute book, all the Acts of Parliament, would have utterly failed for one instant to shake that heart, would have failed to convince her that wrong was right, or that a lie was the truth.

Felise was unswervingly true to herself.


And while her physical frame grew, and her moral being was strengthened, all these nine years from girlhood to womanhood, a colourless eye watched her⁠—the eye of Robert Godwin. There is something grim⁠—weird⁠—almost terrible in the thought that even this pure and beautiful creature could not exist without so opposite a nature stealthily regarding it.

Not the faintest suspicion that Robert Godwin cared for Felise, or indeed for any woman, ever occurred to anyone. The man was so absolutely concentrated, it precluded the very idea of his thinking of a second person.

Had Godwin’s concentration upon one fixed idea any influence in producing the hardness of his conduct towards those who happened to come under his sway? Rendering him more abstracted than he would otherwise have been, it closed his eyes to everything but his own will. Robert Godwin was hard enough; Robert Godwin riding and walking, and acting in bodily form while his mind was absent, became a mere figure of stone.

Imaginative persons are commonly reproached with gazing at the stars and overlooking the road at their feet. Here, by a singular reversal, was a man incapable of imagination, whose life was in the work of his hands, who saw nothing but mounds of chalk and pieces of timber where there were woods and hills, and yet he was more under the influence of a distant and unattainable object than the most veritable dreamer.

Each year as Felise grew, so grew his conviction that she was not for him. He held this question up close to his mind (closer and closer as he became mentally shorter of sight) and observed with more vivid perception her perfection and beauty.

This concentration in time produced a reflex action. He could not have her⁠—he was ready, like a tiger, to tear to pieces, anything or anyone she preferred, to oppose her, to cross her, and almost injure her.

As a lover he should, in accordance with all precedent, have sought to gratify her and render himself pleasant. By simple courtesy towards Mr. Goring he could have seen her continually, and had every opportunity of influencing her mind in his favour. On the contrary, he never omitted an opportunity of annoying Mr. Goring; he quarrelled with him about fences, attempted to cut off the supply of water to the trout-pond, and made himself disagreeable in every petty way possible.

His notice to Abner’s parents was intended as a sidelong thrust at Mr. Goring, who employed the young man as his assistant. He saw Felise fishing (or rather making a pretence of fishing) down the stream, and seized the opportunity of raking up an old dispute as to the right of taking trout, with the more eagerness because it afforded him a chance of personally abusing her uncle face to face.

There could scarcely have been a more remarkable instance of the reversal of the normal condition of the mind caused by suppressed passion. A lover would at least have said nothing; if possible he would have contrived means to enable her to enjoy fishing in the best reaches of the stream. Robert Godwin, whose mind was wholly occupied by Felise, fell into a fury, and denounced and threatened Mr. Goring in unmeasured terms.

The latter regarded him with something like curiosity instead of turning him out of doors. Another reason Mr. Goring did not wish to break off amenities with the steward was because he was the steward whom he had fought so often on public grounds. Now, if you personally quarrel with your enemy and order him off your premises, you lose half the value of your victory over him. He becomes distant⁠—no longer a man, but a mere figure. Mr. Goring opposed Robert Godwin, yet his house was at any time open to him as a neighbour. Nor, indeed, did Mr. Goring feel any vindictiveness against him; he looked upon him as a study.

While Robert Godwin was storming about Felise, in his heart he was abstracted from himself with hopeless love.

This reflex action of the mind led him to oppose the very creature who could have commanded his life. Such cases occasionally occur where parents who have doted upon their children destroy them in an hour of temporary distress lest those they loved so much should suffer. Something of this reflex action may be found in the suicide who sets a value upon the good things of the world⁠—upon money, power, place, credit⁠—a value so high, as they are at the moment beyond his reach, that he determines to extinguish himself in order that he may never possess them. A backward, reflex action of the mind is often dangerous to mental equilibrium.

Never before had Robert Godwin stood so near the woman who had his whole existence in her hands as at the moment when she was stroking Ruy and inquiring how he became possessed of the horse. Her presence, the touch of her dress, the faint warmth of her breath⁠—he felt her; it was almost an embrace. He had kept himself so much at a distance that the accidental touch of her dress was a caress. Having no imagination his love was not a sentiment; it was a reality of life, like the blood in his veins.

Ancient philosophers had a theory that the vital spirits were dispersed about the body, and flowed through it as the blood flowed. Perhaps there really is a germ of truth in this old idea; possibly there is a circulation⁠—a current of the electricity of life throughout the nerves. At that moment this current stopped in Robert Godwin⁠—his life stood still; his concentration, his abstraction was so intense that he was in a manner dead. His nervous force was withdrawn from his limbs and frame, and concentrated upon her.

He was not conscious of hearing what she asked him, although he answered correctly. He had no idea how he left, or how he came to be riding along the road. His duties for the rest of the day were performed in a faultless manner⁠—nothing omitted, nothing slurred; down to the last item everything was entered by the light of the candle on the cobwebbed washstand. But the dial of time had stood still for Robert Godwin. He did not know if it were day or night.

She had promised to come over to his house on the morrow.

Her dress had touched him; her breath had reached his cheek.

She was coming tomorrow⁠—after nine years she was coming tomorrow! Only to see a horse; but she was coming⁠—she would stand by him again.

There was no sentiment in this feeling; it was a matter of reality.

He might again feel her breath; he might hear her dress rustle beside him. He would again meet the gaze of the deep, dreamy, grey eyes.

Yet it was not Felise; it was Robert Godwin all the time. His feelings were of himself; concentration became ten times more concentrated.

Robert Godwin did not inquire into the possibilities of the incident; but, despite his self-depreciation and conviction that he could never be anything to her, hope sprang in his secret heart.

Great indeed is the commotion hope arouses when it has been absent many years. Nine years had passed without hope⁠—now hope returned.

The man could not rest. He worked with his hands the night through. He mended the gate; he arranged the ancient lumber in the attic; he was out to the carters at sunrise, relieved to have someone to drive.

Hope! This was why he could not rest⁠—why he dug by the light of the lantern in the garden, as if searching for hidden treasure at midnight.

Felise, uneasy about Martial, had not ceased to think of Ruy; Martial must really be in difficulties to part with him. Her passion was completed by this thought. In real affection, if the loved one is in trouble, oil is poured upon the flame.

Mr. Goring could not tell her anything about Bernard’s difficulties. He knew in a general way that he was not wealthy, and that was all. Abner, the gardener, brought in all the gossip of the village, but had not mentioned this.

Felise questioned Mary Shaw⁠—these village girls are such terrible gossips; but Shaw knew nothing, except that Mr. Barnard was very good-looking. The hussy did not add that once or twice lately she had had some conversation with that young gentleman. She omitted, too, to say that he had crossed her plump hand with a piece of silver, in gypsy style, for telling him secrets; also that she had received a kiss with equanimity in the dusk of a summer evening.

Felise was still dwelling upon Martial’s trouble, when in the morning she took half a dozen apples from the storeroom, and started over to see Ruy. Mr. Goring was choice in apples. His trees were famous; he had all kinds, some that would keep till the autumn came twice.

As she went out Felise noticed several women of the hamlet standing in a group in the private roadway, each carrying a bucket. They were talking and gesticulating; they curtsied, but Felise did not stay to talk with them.

Farther along the path she met four or five more, also carrying buckets; one of these being Shaw’s mother, presumed upon that connection to stand in front of Felise, and begin abusing Mr. Robert Godwin.

What was the matter now? asked Felise, full of her own thoughts and not in the mood to listen to grievances.

Matter enough⁠—Godwin had railed in and padlocked the hamlet spring, and they could not get at it. True, the stream ran past the hamlet, but it was very shallow; and, till a dipping-place was constructed, it was not easy to get water from it unless they went half a mile to the first pool. Half a mile is a long way to stagger under a yoke in hot summer weather.

The railings round the spring had been in process of erection for a fortnight; they were high, and not to be climbed. But the carpenters were either in ignorance themselves, or had been bribed to conceal the truth, for it had been given out that these railings were only erected to prevent cattle from soiling the pure water. There would be a wicket-gate for the folk.

At the last moment, instead of a gate the opening was nailed up, and the spring completely enclosed. A placard was posted announcing that the spring was private, and warning all whom it might concern that damage to the fencing would be visited with the utmost rigour of the law⁠—Mr. Robert Godwin’s latest movement in the interest of his employer. If usage was established, the property might suffer at some future time.

Like a flock of sheep who cannot get through a gateway, the village women crowded round outside the high railings through which they could see the spring, set down their buckets, and fell to abuse.

By-and-by a man came along; and, after deliberately inspecting the railings, shaking them to see if they were sound, and spelling through the placard, he advised them to go to Mr. Goring⁠—the general refuge in difficulty.

Away they went accordingly to Mr. Goring, who at once threw open his gates, and told all to help themselves from the pump, which was supplied with good water from the same source as the spring.

He then put on his coat, being usually in his snowy shirtsleeves in summer, had the pony harnessed, and drove away into the town to consult with his lawyer as to the legality of this encroachment.

Robert Godwin’s real object in enclosing the spring was known only to himself⁠—it was to spite and annoy Felise’s nearest friend. The path to the spring was so short it could scarcely be said to trespass on the Squire’s property⁠—that was only the pretence. Well he knew that nothing would so excite Mr. Goring’s indignation as so wanton a piece of tyranny. That Goring would at once take an axe and proceed to hew down the railings was what he fully hoped and expected. Such an act would involve Felise’s friend in endless litigation⁠—such was the trap he had set.

But Mr. Goring did not fall into it. A man of a reflective mind, he had heard of these posts and railings, and soon began to question the motive alleged for their erection. Measures for the convenience and good of others, like protecting water from contamination, were not in accordance with the recent history of the Cornleigh estate. He suspected what afterwards happened. His indignation was none the less; but he was cool, and he did not seize his axe and rush to destroy the obstruction. It was best to go about the work calmly and legally; even with a good cause, and right on our side, violence often recoils upon the striker.

Martial⁠—Martial⁠—the thought of Martial compelled Felise to shut her eyes to these things. If Robert Godwin had been the cruellest tyrant since the world began, she must have gone that morning to see Martial’s horse, and if possible to learn more about his former owner.

“I want to see your horse again,” said Felise, almost immediately she arrived.

Robert led Ruy out for her inspection down to the garden, where his hoofs trampled the sward of the path.


Felise gave Ruy an apple, and then another till the six were gone. He thrust his nostrils into her hand, and pushed her with his face for more. As he moved it brought Robert, who held him, close to Felise. Once again he felt the caress of her dress, even the touch of her arm.

The contrast between them was very marked. Her clear complexion, her golden hair; her form so beautifully shaped that even the loveliness of her face was overlooked. You must forget her form before you could see her features.

His black countenance⁠—black like a piece of wood that has lain for years in the rain; his colourless eye; his round stout frame expressive of ungraceful strength.

But Ruy, greedy for more apples, would not stand still. Robert lost the touch of her arm, and the caress of her dress.

“He is a fine horse,” said Felise; “I cannot understand why his owner sold him. Did you not say he wanted money?”

“His rent was overdue,” said Robert. At ordinary times he would not have let this out; at the moment he was abstracted from himself to such a degree that his lips answered without the consent of his mind. “His Lady Day rent was overdue⁠—and⁠—and I bought the horse.”

“That he might have the money to pay.”


“And the price was?”

“Sixty pounds.”

“I thought you said seventy yesterday.”

“No⁠—did I?”

The horse-dealer’s instinct had for the time deserted him. He forgot to add ten pounds to the sum he had really given.

“Is he very much in difficulty?” asked Felise, growing bolder.

“I am not sure” (this was the truth); “I should like to know.”

Felise was obliged to move, as Ruy worked his face too forcibly against her. She walked with Robert towards the stables, thinking if there was any other leading question she could put. She could not think of another.

“Now may I ask you a favour?” said Felise, as Robert, having handed Ruy over to the charge of a carter, was returning with her towards the house.


“Will you not let old Abner Brown stay in his cottage? He cannot live very much longer.”

Robert’s mental condition stiffened instantly. The request brought him back from the glamour into which he had been thrown.

“He has already been there much longer than he ought,” he said. “I believe it is a year since he ceased to work.”

“Yes⁠—think; he worked up to within one year of eighty-four⁠—surely that should plead for him.”

“I have to consider the estate,” said Robert. “You know the circumstances⁠—he cannot do any work, nor can his wife; we want the cottage for those who can.”

“But has he not earned a little repose, Mr. Godwin?”

“He can have it in the workhouse.”

“Do not say so⁠—do not mention that dreadful place. It would kill the old man to leave his garden.”

“They will let him sweep up the leaves and weed the paths at the workhouse.”

“He is very, very old, Mr. Godwin; he has lived in that cottage more than forty years, and all the trees in the garden are his own planting⁠—there are apples, and a cherry⁠—”

“We want the cottage⁠—we must have it; I know several who will be glad of it.”

“They are no expense,” continued Felise, “because their son keeps them; let them stay.”

“It is impossible! as for young Abner, he ought not to live in our cottage and work off the estate.”

“He works for Mr. Goring,” said Felise, beginning to grow angry; but she checked it for the sake of the aged couple. “Mr. Godwin, I will pay you⁠—what is the rent of the cottage?”

“Two shillings a week.”

“I will pay it, then you will lose nothing.”

“The rent is paid now,” said Godwin. “You misunderstand; we lose the man’s work who should live there.”

“Oh, but they are so old!”

“There is the workhouse.”

“They will never go there.”

“They must; the parish will not allow outdoor relief.”

Mr. Godwin, do let them stay; I have set my heart upon it.”

Who else could have resisted her? The argument and the trace of anger which had begun to rise had brightened her colour and warmed her whole appearance. Robert refused her point-blank. The stored-up passion of so many years, causing an irresistible reflex action, forced him to oppose her. After this appeal from her, now he knew she wished it, had a sign shone in the heavens still he would not have yielded.

Felise, recognising his stubborn mood, forbore to press further; she spoke for a few minutes with Miss Godwin, and left.

In the afternoon Mr. Goring came home, having consulted his solicitor, who thought that probably there was a right to enclose the spring, as it was on private property, though within a few yards of the highway. The question would be an awkward one; it might cost hundreds of pounds to decide it; he advised his client to have nothing to do with it.

“This is indeed a right!” said Mr. Goring “Time it is that such ‘rights’ should be abolished⁠—the word itself is reversed in alluding to them. Has any man a ‘right,’ then, to enclose the air, the light? Doubtless, if it could be done, there are those who would enclose the ocean and claim it as private property.”

He set out that very evening with Abner to construct a dipping-place in a part of the stream that passed through his little property, intending also to open a footpath to it for the use of the inhabitants.

Felise inquired if he had heard anything in Maasbury about Mr. Barnard’s alleged pecuniary difficulties.

“No,” said Goring. “Why do you wish to know?”

“There seems so much trouble about us,” replied Felise discreetly. “So many farmers failing⁠—that is all.”

Nor had Mary Shaw discovered anything.

Felise turned over Miss Barnard’s Dante scrapbook, wishing the owner would come for it.

Next morning she went over again to Godwin’s, fed Ruy with apples, petted him and praised him, talked a little while with Robert, and begged for old Abner’s cottage. In vain.

Four times in succession she visited Ruy, fed him, petted him, stroked him, and seemed more and more loth to leave him.

The fifth morning she did not come; Robert waited and worked with his hands, but she did not come. This was the Saturday; Sunday he did not think it at all likely she would come. He never slept, nor even attempted to do so on the Saturday or Sunday night. How he passed them it is difficult to tell, but he constantly moved something or other about with his hands. Two nights without sleep did not leave much trace on his bronze face; but his heart’s bitterness was worn deeper within him, as a storm wears gullies in the rock.

Already, so swift is gossip, the hamlet had begun to talk of Miss Goring and Mr. Godwin. Though Felise had helped them in so many ways, though her uncle was actually at that moment working for them, they could not say a good word, they could not credit her with any motive but greed of money.

“She be a-looking after old Godwin’s gold.” “Selling herself to the old miser.” “Hope his money will choke her.” “Never thought there was much in her, did you?”

Such was the tone of their comments.

Felise was disappointed; Miss Barnard had not called for the Dante scrapbook; after her bold effort she seemed no nearer her object. But an idea had been gradually forming itself in her mind, and on Monday she started, always impetuous, to put it into practice.

She went over and fed Ruy once more with apples, Ruy was as greedy of them as a miser of coin; she talked with Robert, and presently asked him for how much he would sell the horse?

“Seventy pounds,” said Robert.

“But you only gave sixty for him.”

“I have to make my turn⁠—my profit,” said Robert.

“Will you sell him to me?”

“Of course.”

“I will buy him,” said Felise.

“You shall have him⁠—seventy pounds.”






“I couldn’t.”

“Sixty-seven⁠—that is seven pounds profit, and all in a few days,” said Felise.

“Seventy pounds,” said Robert decidedly, and Felise saw that it was no use to bargain.

“Very well, seventy⁠—I will bring you the money this evening; you will not part with him to anyone else in the meantime?”

“Why, no⁠—certainly not.”

“I will come then, this evening.”

She returned home, and asked Mr. Goring for the pony-carriage to drive into the town; it was prepared, and she started alone.

So soon as she had left, Robert Godwin said to himself that he had been foolish to part with the horse so easily. She had so set her mind on the horse, he might have asked ninety safely. If he had kept him till the hunting-season some gentleman might have taken a fancy for him and gone still higher, perhaps a hundred and twenty. For the price of a horse is the price of a fancy, and goes up like stocks and shares when buyers are in the vein. Why, very likely she knew of someone who would give her ninety or a hundred for such a horse; very likely that was the secret of her eagerness to secure him. Robert felt that he had been “had;” it hurt his semiprofessional pride as a horse-dealer now and then, generally heavily to his gain.

The miser and the lover⁠—despair, hope, and anger⁠—were they not strangely mingled in this man?

A passionate lover would have given his lady the horse in a moment, especially if as rich as Robert Godwin. With all his riches, and his secret passion, he had but once given her a present. One fair-day⁠—eight years since⁠—for a marvel he spent fourpence (the groat is still a unit in country places) at a stall on “fairings,” a sort of sweet biscuit, thinking he might see her as he came home. He did see her, and gave her the groat’s worth of “fairings;” the child took them silently, not without some awe of his black face.

He had cleared ten pounds profit, and he was torturing himself because he feared he had missed an opportunity to make twenty.

Yet his hands were never still because of his unmanageable passion⁠—he must work with them constantly; his heart’s bitterness was full to overflowing because he could not have her; the hope her presence gave was like a sword splitting his very heart in two. She stood by him and his lips were dumb⁠—commonplaces are dumbness⁠—his lips were closed with iron-bolts; he could not say one word to indicate his meaning, to seek her favour.

Are we cynical moderns right, after all, in our discredit of Fate? Could there possibly be some fate here, some of that irresistible destiny which in Sophocles carries its tyrant will through generation after generation? Petty circumstances unregarded lead men on, from step to step, from thought to thought, action to action; is this Fate?

The greed of the miser; the agony of the lover who knows that he cannot be loved; the pitiless animosity of the tyrant turning by reflex action against the creature of his love; the sharp sword of a hope that only shows what might be if⁠—these are terrible goads.


Hurrying into the town as fast as her pony could take her, Felise was in deep anxiety, for she had bought the horse without the money to pay for him. She was so fearful lest Godwin should sell to someone else, lest Ruy should be sent away to some market at a distance and disappear, that she bid for him before she had made arrangements to obtain the money.

When she was brought a child to Mr. Goring, her fortune consisted of some fifty pounds and a set of pearls. Of the fifty pounds Goring had been obliged to spend four from time to time on necessities for his charge. At sixteen, he placed the remainder in a private savings-bank for her, and gave her the passbook. Since then she had drawn four more; there were consequently forty-two pounds remaining. The value of the pearls was one hundred and fifty, so they had been estimated; in fact, they had originally cost more. If only she could find someone to advance her twenty-eight pounds on these pearls, she could complete her purchase. She feared the difficulty arising from her sex, and from the fact that she was not yet of age.

She had no choice of persons, for there was but one to whom she could apply⁠—a silversmith who was known to be wealthy. He hopped a little, or halted in some way in his gait; after advancing a step he paused, and drew his other foot up level in a sort of plaintive style, as much as to say, “I should indeed be a man if it were not for this infirmity.” This deliberative motion, extending into his ideas, had enabled him to accumulate a considerable fortune.

Now the silversmith had always shown a kind of friendship for Mr. Goring, inviting him into his private room if the latter brought his watch to be repaired, and now and then calling at Beechknoll as he drove past to regulate someone’s clock. Secretly he gave Mr. Goring to understand that, although his business position forbade him to openly take any part, their views really coincided. He looked on the Cornleigh family as an incubus, and their ways as despotic.

At heart he owned he was a radical, though Mrs. Cornleigh herself sometimes called at the shop if she wanted a pin put in a brooch, or some similar trifle; for all their silver and electro “the family” went to London, and never spent a pound in the town.

The fact was the silversmith, halting at every step and considering, had noticed that Mr. Goring’s little property lay like a wedge between two sections of the Cornleigh estate. The little property was so small he thought Goring could never live on it long without borrowing money, and who should he go to for a loan but his friend the silversmith?

Loans mount up; in time, Goring would have to part with the place at a low price⁠—the silversmith’s price; then, once in possession, the silversmith could resell to the Cornleighs at a great advance⁠—perhaps double, for it was well known to him that the Squire, or the Squire’s agent, Robert Godwin, had fixed his heart on this fragment of land to round off the estate.

The silversmith dwelt much in secret upon this idea, for it promised in one coup to give him more than he could make in ten years’ sale of the goods in his shopwindow. More than once he had hinted at an advance; but Goring either had not understood him, or purposely turned the subject. The years were rolling on; the silversmith’s hair was as white now as the frosted silver in his cases, and his ingenious scheme had not visibly progressed a jot. With increasing age he drew his lame foot forward with a slower and more pathetic limp, and waited. By-and-by it would happen. To this man Felise was hastening with her pearls.

As she drove into the precincts of the town, she glanced at a fine display of flowers in the bow-window of a private residence. The flowers suggested unusual skill in selection, and unlimited care. Felise saw the blue, and yellow, and scarlet of the flowers, but did not observe the face behind them.

It was the face of Rosa Wood. The merchant’s daughter, in her unhappiness, had taken to passing much of her time at this window, which commanded a view of the street, to enjoy the poor pleasure⁠—if pleasure it was⁠—of seeing Martial pass at rare intervals. Unless upon some necessary business he never entered the town, the very name of which was now distasteful to him.

But, as she had no other means of seeing him, Rosa kept a constant watch at the window, or in the garden in front of it; and, lest people should notice her being there so much, and to while away the time, she occupied herself with flowers. It was not so sad as the story of the pot of basil, and yet there was a dead hope concealed under the coloured petals so sedulously tended. Flowers so often screen unhappiness.

For many days Rosa had endeavoured to discover for whom Martial had deserted her; a woman herself, she never doubted but that his conduct was due to some other woman. A woman always blames a woman.

Some one obtained a reputation for astuteness by remarking when he heard of mischief, “Who is the woman?” Instead of which he thereby proved the inferiority of the masculine intellect, since it required great talent to point out a clue which has always been obvious to the feminine mind. Let a man be, in fact, never so innocent⁠—let him be really at his club, or in Paris on business, or gone to see a fellow about a dog⁠—his wife, or his fiancée is sure to suspect a woman.

Rosa could not find the woman. Though she no longer visited at the Manor House, the Misses Barnard called upon her just the same as during their brother’s engagement; but these ladies, too, were at fault. Three of them together could not find out the other woman.

That afternoon however, at the sound of wheels, Rosa looked up, saw Felise, and said to herself instantly, “There she is.”

It is impossible for me to explain how she arrived at this conclusion, for no one but a woman could experience such intuition.

Rosa turned pale, then she started up; her knees failed her, and she sat down again. But the next moment she recovered herself, and hastened, still trembling, into the garden; whence, behind the shrubs, she could see where the pony-carriage stopped. It stopped about midway up the street; she could not distinguish the shop. She called a man who worked in the garden, and despatched him to find out to whom the pony-carriage belonged. He returned in a few minutes, having recognised it as Mr. Goring’s.

Miss Goring, then, was the other woman.

Felise never attended the concerts, balls, or amusements which were given in Maasbury, nor did Mr. Goring ever enter the place except on business. Consequently Rosa had not remembered this family when she ran over, time after time, all the families of the neighbourhood, and checked them on her fingers.

Although the Manor House was no great distance from Maasbury, there was a range of downs between, and the people of the two places seemed to belong to different provinces, having so little intercourse. Everything is very local in the country. The Misses Barnard had scarcely heard of Felise, even by name, till that day when, overcome by fatigue, she walked up to the front-door.

But without doubt this was the woman.

Her face burning, her hands cold, her heart throbbing, Rosa returned to the window and waited to catch another view of her rival as she left the town.

Felise drove straight to the silversmith’s door, and was received with beaming politeness. The old gentleman really possessed a certain air of fashion, an impressive, magnificent kind of courtesy⁠—there was a style in the very way he placed a chair for his visitor. His frosted hair, his faultless dress, his exquisite limp and plaintive expression were far above the stage on which he played his part. Felise was shown into the private room behind the counter⁠—a room elegantly furnished⁠—before she could utter a word on business.

The silversmith’s expectations were high.

“At last,” he thought, “she has come to open negotiations⁠—to prepare the way; just as I expected. Now for the loan!”

At this moment Felise produced a casket from her bag, and placed it on the table. The silversmith’s heart fell; it was not the loan then, only some trifling repairs.

But at the sight of the pearls which she drew forth and placed upon the table, the eye of the old usurer (for such, in fact, he was) glistened again. Felise went to the point at once, and asked him to advance upon them as much money as he could. Here by her inexperience she committed a mistake by leaving him to fix the amount; she should have fixed it herself, and as high as possible. Felise was happily ignorant of the craft and subtleity of the world.

Humming and hawing as he handled the pearls, the silversmith raised his eyebrows in his most plaintive and deprecatory manner, and regretted that it would not be possible to advance much upon them. Pearls had dropped, pearls were not nearly so valuable; another pearl-fishery had just been discovered; there were large stocks now that could not be sold, and so forth.

“But they are worth a hundred and fifty pounds,” said Felise, beginning to feel very miserable. “Tell me now how much you can lend me.”

“Well,” said the silversmith, very, very deliberately, “it is unpleasant⁠—it is hard to refuse; but really, Miss Goring, as a matter of business I don’t think I could advance anything.”

“Nothing!” said Felise, in blank despair.

“Not in the way of business,” said the silversmith, in the most caressing tones of a naturally low voice. “But still with a friend it is different.”

Felise began to sit very upright in her chair; she had a sense of insult, as if she was being put under an obligation.

“And for you or Mr. Goring’s convenience,” he continued, “of course I shall be most happy if you will permit me, as a favour to me, to advance a small sum upon them.”

Felise sank back again in her chair; he had put it the other way, as if he should be under an obligation to her.

“I should be very glad,” she said. “And how much?”

“Would now, let me see⁠—ten pounds⁠—”

“Oh dear no!” cried Felise. “Not nearly enough.”

“Fifteen pounds⁠—”

“I want twice as much,” said Felise hastily, “I want thirty pounds⁠—I mean I want twenty-eight pounds, if you please.”

This was another mistake; twenty-eight pounds, he saw at once, was the sum she would be satisfied with.

He paused and seemed to weigh the matter in his mind.

“Does Mr. Goring⁠—excuse me⁠—does Mr. Goring know you are bringing me these pearls?” he asked.

“No⁠—no⁠—that is⁠—but they are mine, quite mine. They were my mother’s; I can do as I like with them.”

“And, pardon me again, are you of age?”

Felise’s heart fell as she faltered a negative.

“I am obliged to make these inquiries,” said the silversmith; “you must really pardon me. Under the circumstances, I think we had better let this be a purely friendly transaction, without any formal record. If I am willing to trust you with my money on your word that these are your pearls, will you trust them to me?”

“Of course I will⁠—of course I will trust them to you.”

“Then there need be no writing at all; I will give you the twenty-eight pounds; you shall yourself put the pearls in my safe, and there they will remain. In six months’ time you will repay me the twenty-eight pounds with five percent interest, and I will restore you the pearls. Will that do?”

“Yes,” said Felise, though at the same time it occurred to her that there was no prospect whatever of her possessing the money at that date.

The silversmith had considered within himself that this transaction was one of those which could not be made valid by any ingenuity of terms. He looked for his profit in the influence he should possess with Miss Goring, who would forward his views if the little scheme alluded to came to be realised; he protected himself and would escape obloquy, if the transaction became known, by charging a merely nominal interest (for usurers); he further protected himself because there was not a scrap of writing to show that he had ever had the pearls. He felt certain they were worth fully two hundred pounds.

With her own hands Felise placed the casket in the safe, as if permission to personally deposit them was a guarantee of good faith on behalf of the receiver, and twenty-eight sovereigns were counted down on the table. The usurer in his most courtier-like manner took her to her pony-carriage, gave her the reins, and bowed in good style as she drove off.

Round the corner of the street Felise stopped at the private savings bank; she was barely in time; in fact, the hour for closing had struck, and to an ordinary customer it would have been too late. Felise’s presence seemed to fill the dingy room with so unusual a light that the cashier, dumb and nervous, hurried to carry out her wishes. Forty pounds were paid to her in notes, two pounds in gold; this made up the seventy pounds for Ruy. The pony-carriage went rattling down the street; Felise was happy, she had succeeded. Had the pearls been worth a thousand pounds, she would have left them for the twenty-eight.

For the craft and subtleity of this world are too deep for most of us. For instance, who would suspect an oyster of deceit? Yet the other afternoon, while looking at some red mullet in a fishmonger’s shop⁠—red mullet are very nice, if you can persuade the cook to split them and remove the bitter substance which generally spoils them; you must have this done most carefully⁠—while I was looking at the red mullet and feeling the slenderness of my purse, and thinking of Lucullus and Trimalchio’s banquet, and how red mullet really are very good⁠—in short, while temptation trod on the heels of prudence, in steps an important old gentleman.

He had an air of wrath and ire; a rich, nervous, irritable, insist-upon-my-rights sort of personage; a gold-mounted eyeglass swung on his chest one moment, and was up at his eye the next; his Java cane came down thump on the sanded floor; a man no fishmonger dared baulk of his whim.

“Oysters,” he said.

The fishmonger bowed, rubbed his hands, quite shone with obsequiousness.

“Natives,” continued the old gentleman. “Two dozen, and mind, they are to be opened at my door.”

“Certainly, sir; with pleasure, sir. Anything else, sir; fine turbot, sir⁠—ah⁠—hum!”

The old gentleman had gone down the street.

“Don’t see how it’s to be done,” said a shop-assistant.

“Take a knife with you and open them on the area windowsill.”

But why should the old gentleman wish the oysters opened at his door? Could they possess the power of transforming themselves on the way from natives into bluepoints? Or could it be possible that mistakes occasionally occur when quantities are opened at shops, and “natives” and other varieties get mixed? The old gentleman wanted them to arrive at his house in the shell they had been dredged up in; he feared the craft and subtleity of the wicked oyster.

The lame silversmith was a sort of person with whom, if you had dealings, it was as well to have the oysters opened at your door.

Volume II


Felise drove rapidly out of the town, and as she passed glanced carelessly once more at the brilliant flowers in the bow-window.

“Ah, she knows I live here⁠—she is triumphing over me!” said Rosa to herself, writhing, the cruel fangs of jealousy striking deeply into her. Rosa went to the mirror, looked at herself, and turned away trembling. The truth went home to her like a thrust from a poniard⁠—she had but prettiness, her rival was beautiful. It was a beauty with which competition was impossible.

Till now the poor girl had held on to a secret hope; in time, long time, still perhaps in time, some remembrance of the face he once praised, some memory of the features which had once delighted him might move Martial, might bring him repentant to her side.

He had tired of her face; well, in time he might tire of another’s face. After all, the other was only a woman like herself.

This woman was not like herself.

Rosa recognised it in a moment. A woman can see a woman so clearly⁠—faults, excellences, details, all are so clear to her. Rosa recognised the loveliness of the face, the nobleness of the proportioned head, the form, the very way she sat in the plain, old-fashioned pony-carriage was sufficient. This woman was not like herself. This was a woman with whom she could never enter into competition.

Martial was gone from her forever. No use any more to cultivate these poor flowers, to watch him passing once now and then; all was over.

The bitter tears flowed, and were not checked; the brave woman who had borne up against all else broke down utterly now.

She could not have put it into words, but she felt that she was fighting against something stronger than human beings⁠—against an influence⁠—a power which directed circumstances against her. It was not her own fault, not even her lack of singular and exceptional loveliness, not Martial’s fickleness; it was the irresistible Event which decides life. For all might have been⁠—all would have been well had not Felise existed.

The fact of Felise’s existence⁠—her birth, her life, her breathing existence at that moment⁠—was the cruel fact that sternly shut her out from happiness. Nothing that Felise had done⁠—no act of hers⁠—simply because she was; that was enough.

Rosa was weeping the iron tyranny of the universe⁠—of the laws of life which decree pain and unhappiness for no cause whatsoever upon those whom chance selects.

Rosa had done no wrong⁠—why should she suffer? There never lived a better woman; yet she was punished and tortured to the very heart’s core.

Human dramatists arrange for all their characters to find happiness in the end. If there be any difficulty someone transfers his or her love with the greatest facility to another person; and thus being all paired off, they dance down the stage to the tune of “Sir Roger de Coverley.”

The drama of real life never ends like this. Someone has to suffer⁠—always someone has to suffer.

The old Greeks dwelt on the tendency of human affairs to drift downwards irresistibly to unhappiness. Guilt⁠—that is, untoward and often involuntary actions⁠—pulls generation after generation heavily as lead down, down, down. Sophocles, Aeschylus⁠—take which you will, still the same thought pervades their sculptured groups (for they are sculptured in words, nude, noble, unhappy). Grief falls upon human beings as the rain, not selecting good or evil, visiting the innocent, condemning those who have done no wrong.

Rosa, presently becoming calmer, began to reflect, and thought how admirably this beautiful woman would fit in with those poetical fancies of Martial. She had listened to him unmoved; she knew she did not care for these delicate sentiments⁠—these dreams of the imagination. If only she could have taken an interest in them, perhaps this might have been averted. Martial doubtless had at last found that she was not the ideal goddess of his fancy.

But this woman⁠—this Felise, with her features, her beautiful head, her form⁠—this was the ideal Martial imagined. To her he would joyfully transfer his poetical reveries; and to her, Rosa owned bitterly to herself⁠—to her they were fitted.

Another mood, and now losing touch of the deep chords of life which dignified her sorrow, Rosa fell to the level of a mere woman. Martial had not been taken from her by fair means⁠—he had been inveigled, trapped with golden hair, with sweet, false smiles, warm hints of unutterable love. Shameless coquetry⁠—she could see it all⁠—bold advances. How should a man distinguish the false from the true?

A man was so easily beguiled⁠—a man could not see a woman as a woman saw her. These trickeries and soft enchantments⁠—so bold and obvious to a woman⁠—to a man were real. It was a shame. She was indignant he should have been so deceived. For doubtless with this creature’s singular outward loveliness there went a corresponding degree of evil fascination.

Rosa hated her as a jealous woman only can hate. Felise’s meanness was even worse than her shamelessness. Rosa easily learned from the merchant that Goring was by no means well-to-do; this penniless wretch, then, was in reality aiming at Martial’s house and home far more than at him. It was simply disgusting. Rosa felt righteous in her own ample dower.


Felise was not long reaching home, and Abner came to take charge of the pony. She asked him to meet her that evening at seven o’clock at Mr. Godwin’s, just outside in the path, and not to mention to anyone that he was going there. The good-natured, loyal fellow promised to do so; it was indeed a pleasure to him to do anything for her.

Upstairs in her room Felise printed a few words with pen and ink on a slip of notepaper, so that the writer could not be guessed from the handwriting; and then waited till seven, which hour she had chosen because Abner would have finished his work.

He was waiting for her just outside Godwin’s premises, ready to do her bidding, let it be what it might.

“Here is the money,” said Felise, handing a bag heavy with gold to Robert Godwin in the little side parlour to which he had conducted her.

They were alone. Robert counted it methodically, and began to write a receipt.

“Do not put my name in the receipt,” said Felise, a sudden thought occurring to her.

Robert did as he was bid, and omitted the name. The receipt simply ran, “Received £70 for the bay horse, Ruy. — Robert Godwin.”

“Now give me the horse,” said she, taking up the paper.

“Tonight? I will have him groomed and sent over⁠—”

“No, no⁠—now. Come,” rising and going to the door.

Robert could not refuse. He walked as slowly as he could, wishing to make her stay as long as possible, for she came and went like the wind. Felise with her own hand took Ruy’s halter⁠—he was nothing loth to come with her, remembering the apples⁠—and led him towards the gate.

“But you will permit me to help you; let me go with you⁠—”

“There is no need; I have Abner waiting outside.”

Robert Godwin’s face at the name became black as night; he said not another word, but merely accompanied her to the gate, and raised his hat in silence.

Felise did not relinquish her hold of the halter, though Abner immediately joined her, till a turn of the lane hid them from Robert Godwin’s view.

“Abner,” said Felise, stopping, “I think⁠—I believe you would be true to me.”

“That indeed I would, miss!” His blue eyes lit up, and his countenance grew for the moment handsome with earnestness.

“I want you to do something for me, and not to tell a single person⁠—not one, mind⁠—not even your sweetheart.”

Abner grew red⁠—Felise did not know whether he had or had not a sweetheart. His face looked guilty.

“I won’t tell nobody⁠—not a word, miss; bless you, you may be sure of I.”

“I believe I may.” She took the receipt for Ruy, and doubled it up inside the slip of paper with the printed message in the form of a note, and gave it to Abner.

“I want you to take this horse over to the Manor House, and leave him in Mr. Barnard’s stables; and then go up to the house and see him⁠—wait till you do see him⁠—and give him the note, and come away without a word. Don’t answer a single question; if he asks any, if anyone asks any⁠—say⁠—let me see⁠—say⁠—say, another man gave you sixpence to bring the horse because he was tired. On the road you met him, you know, by chance, and so you don’t know anything.”

“All right, miss; I’ll tell ’em a tale⁠—never fear.”

“And then I shall want to know if you have done it; but I don’t want you to call at our house⁠—ah! what is that tune you are always whistling?”

“ ‘Jump Into the Wagon’?”

“Yes, ‘Phyllis Dear’⁠—that’s it. Now, when you come back, stop outside our gate and whistle it as hard as you can, and I shall understand.”

“So I will.”

“I shall have two shillings on Saturday, and you shall have them.”

“No, miss; if you please, I don’t want no money⁠—you have a-been terrable good to our folk.”

“But you shall have the two shillings.”

“Bless you, miss, sixpence will be aplenty for such a little job as this here!”

“Well, well! wait till Saturday,” said Felise, determined he should have the two shillings all the same. “Now, you’re sure you quite understand?”

“I understands; all right, miss; I shall do it famous.” He touched his cap and started.

Felise watched him and Ruy till they turned the corner, and then returned home. She found Mr. Goring in some anxiety about Mary Shaw, who had had a fainting-fit and was lying on the sofa. Felise ran to her side and found poor Mary, usually red as a peony, as white as a sheet; she had fainted all at once as she was running in from the garden, hearing Mr. Goring call.

“And you fell upstairs yesterday.”

“That’s lucky,” said Mary, with a faint smile.

“And you’re always complaining of a pain in your side.”

“It’s nothing⁠—it’s the heat⁠—and I ate too many cherries.”

“Well, if it happens again you must see the doctor.”

At which terrible word Mary burst into tears.

“Oh, don’t you let I see the doctor⁠—now don’t you! I should die of fright, I knows I should; you don’t mean that now⁠—do you, now? Say as you don’t mean it. I can’t abear no doctors.”

To pacify her, for she was trembling all over, Felise promised that the doctor should not be called in unless it was a very bad case indeed.

Quite suddenly Mary sat up, and declared she felt as well as ever; and certainly her colour began to return, and she laughed at her tumbling down.

“I fell⁠—whop! like a sack out of window⁠—like them sacks the miller pitches out of his window into a cart.”

In ten minutes she was humming merrily as she went about the house. But these little incidents made Felise fear that the girl⁠—to whom she was much attached⁠—had overgrown herself, and that in spite of her stoutness and rosiness she was not really very strong. She was remarkably timid, but all cottage folk (and indeed most country people) dislike the idea of a doctor because they seldom resort to one except in serious illness, and the doctor is associated with great troubles.

After awhile Abner reflected that the horse might as well carry him, and by the help of a gate got on Ruy’s back, and so arrived very pleasantly at the Manor House. There was but one labourer about, who showed him the stable, and whose questions he easily parried. He had, however, to wait some time for Martial, and spoke to him at last at the porch; Martial, who was not in a good-humour, thrust the note in his pocket on hearing no answer was expected, and thought no more about it, supposing it to be some trifling business. Some hours consequently elapsed before he opened it; he remembered it just as he was about to retire.

The note contained the printed message: “One who thinks of you returns you your favourite,” and the receipt for Ruy, £70, signed Robert Godwin.

Martial rushed to the stable, and there found his favourite comfortably munching in his old stall. His surprise and delight were about equal. He stayed with Ruy a long time, wondering who it could have been who had made him this magnificent present. Young as he was, it was years now since he had received the least kindness from anyone; the mercenary manner in which the old merchant had broken off the engagement with Rosa on finding out his poverty was not calculated to increase his faith in the generosity of the world generally.

The note itself gave him no clue; the letters might have been printed by a man or woman⁠—indeed, by a child; the watermark, as he held the strip up to the lantern, was partly visible, but the same watermark is impressed on tons of paper. From the labourer who had received the horse not the slightest information could be obtained, and the messenger who had brought him had disappeared hours ago. It was dark when the man gave him the note, and he would not know him again; indeed, he had taken no notice of him whatever.

Robert Godwin could tell him, no doubt; but Martial instantly decided that Robert Godwin would shut his lips and absolutely refuse. He knew the man too well. It could only have been⁠—it must have been one or other of those wealthy London friends who had petted him in boyhood, and deserted him when of an age to appreciate assistance. They had not then forgotten him.

With this conclusion Martial returned to bed, but woke up in the night with the sudden thought that it was Rosa. She had plenty of money; she knew how fond he was of Ruy; she had bought him back. He jumped up and partly dressed; he was so annoyed at the thought that he was ready to return Ruy that very night to Godwin. It would look rather absurd riding over to Godwin’s at three in the morning, so he decided to wait till breakfast. By breakfast-time, after a look at Ruy and at the downs they had so often breasted together, his attachment for the horse conquered his pride; he could not send him away.

His cousins had of course heard of the mysterious return of Ruy, and plied him with questions. Martial did not show them the note, but could not conceal the facts. “It was Rosa, of course,” they said. “What a dear good girl she is, and what a time it is since we have seen her! We must go and call on her.”

Martial left the room in anger. He saddled Ruy; yet even the freshness and beauty of the morning, and the pleasure of riding his favourite once more, could not overcome the bitterness of the thought that he owed that delight to Rosa. So entirely had his nature turned against the woman he once adored.

Wait for the Wagon” echoed in the stillness of the night round the gables of Beechknoll⁠—the jolly old tune, mellow and loud. Three times Abner whistled it, and Felise, listening in her chamber, knew that Martial had received the horse. Someone else heard the tune too; a window was gently opened, and a low voice called:

“Good night, Ab.”

“Night, you,” said Abner, stumping on down the road.


The miller of Glads Mill was a happy man. How many times in her girlhood had the little Felise, wandering round the hamlet, stayed to listen to the rumble of the great wheel, and to glance furtively at the whitened half-length of the miller leaning on the hatch! So few doors now are constructed in this manner that, for the miller’s attitude to be understood, it is almost necessary to explain that a hatch is a door which shuts in two pieces. The upper half may be left open to admit air, while the lower half is closed; and it was upon the top of this lower half that the miller leant his arms and razed steadfastly outwards. This attitude has been the chosen one of millers for many generations.

Luke Bond, the miller of Glads Mill, was seldom seen in any other position. He was there most of the day, and far into the evening, rarely going down into the hamlet. Stout, short, redheaded, and broad of face, his arms, shoulders, and big head filled the upper half of the doorway.

Innumerable wooden witticisms were showered on him by the hamlet youth; he was compared to the moon rising in a fog; sometimes they shouted “Sunset” at him; they alleged that of a dark evening they came up there to see their watches by the light of his red head. Old Bond never took the least heed; he continued to rise, and set, and shine in the doorway more steadfast than all the other luminaries.

The little Felise looked at him furtively, almost afraid; then, as a dog passed by the door and he did not hurt it, by degrees she gathered courage and ventured to stand by the great waterwheel.

Driven by the pent-up force of water in the deep black pool above, the moss-grown, dripping wheel rolled round and round, the ground trembled under her feet, and the spray and splash beneath foamed white at the foot of the circle.

Forth from a narrow window, like an arrow-slit in the dark wall above the wheel, there drifted out an impalpable dust of flour, which settled on the grass and ivy and blue veronica flowers, and on Felise’s jacket. The hard nether millstone ground small and relentlessly, and the white powder of the crushed wheat floated out into the air.

She would stand there for half an hour at a time, watching the green wheel rolling on itself, listening to the musical rhythm of the hopper beating time to the heavy rumble and the splash. Old Bond’s eye never moved from her.

Sometimes she went round up the steps to the edge of the black pool in the rickyard, and gazed down into the dark water. If she stayed there too long old Bond used to come up after her and say, “Now, miss, your uncle will be a-wanting of you.” He did not like her to look earnestly down into the pool. There is an old country superstition that if you gaze too long and too intently at water, ultimately it will draw you into it. Old Bond would not let her stay there long. Felise made no resistance, but went away whenever he wished.

Once when she came she had three red roses in her hand; and, after looking awhile at the green wheel, presently she went quickly up to old Bond, and put the three roses into his hand. Before he could open his slow mouth to speak she was gone. The ploughboys used to say that if you wanted Luke to look at anything you must get someone with a lever to turn his head for him, as sailors turn a capstan.

Bond never forgot the three red roses. “She be a lady, she be,” he said.

He had drilled his under-worker into wheel-like regularity. The fellow had no volition; he minded the millstones, and the hopper, and the bins as if he had been a pear-tree cog himself in the machinery of the mill, while Bond shone at the doorway the day through.

But in the evenings of summer this happy man shot rats, hiding himself behind a low rick of stubble near the black pool in the rickyard, so as to fire down upon them as they scampered across to his pigsties⁠—these were land-rats, ordinary rascals⁠—or thinning out the brown water-rats as they swam in the brooklet below the mill. Sitting on a log Bond waited so quiet, so patient, so still, that in the end the rats were no match for him. The most patient creature in the world is the toad, which will squat a whole day till he catches his fly. Bond was not one whit behind the toad.

Every beast of the wood, or the hedge, or the burrow, over and above the beasts of the chase and of the warren, according to the ancient writers, is to be called “rascal.” Bond applied that term freely both to land and water rats, for the first took his barley-meal, and the second was forever drilling holes in the banks of the stream and wasting the water. He watched for them with the patience of relentless hatred. Ofttimes he sat there through the long stilly evenings of summer, till the solitary candle of the mill was lit and shone feebly forth upon the green wheel under him, casting vast, uncertain, and moving shadows on the wall and dam.

Thus the miller of Glads Mill was a happy man, for he possessed an inexhaustible fund of stolidity. No nervousness and haste, no rushing to and fro, no worry and wear and tear; nor any aspiration deep and high after the beautiful or the true. No longing for any man’s applause; no sigh for the light in any woman’s eye. He was complete in himself, like a tree.

If a man could select his fate, what better could he choose than this?

To be in strong, good health; to have plenty of simple food and a never-failing appetite; to sleep like the wall of the mill; to feel no anxiety for wife or children; to labour for no ever-receding ideal of fortune or art; above all, to be content.

See the thin fallen cheek of the man who labours with thought; see the brow from which the hair wears at the temples; see the dark rims beneath the eyelids; the stoop, the ever-increasing ailments that undermine the constitution. Compare these with the oaklike health of the stolid miller.

Beauty⁠—what is beauty, forsooth? Form and colour; that is, surface only. Fortune⁠—what is fortune? Nothing is ever a pleasure or a real profit to him who has to labour for it. Truth⁠—you die in the pursuit, and the sea beats the beach as It did a thousand years ago.

The stolid are alone happy. Yet there drops from the azure heaven a beam of light, and whomsoever that ray touches must follow it to the end, though cheeks grow pale, though shoulders stoop, though ache and pain increase. The path of the gods pursues beauty, but the stolid are alone happy.

The miller existed, and in his existence⁠—in all the years the heavy wheel had rolled round, till now that streaks of grey appeared in his hair⁠—he had never known but one moment when a flash from the world of romance lit up the neutral tones of his life. This was when Felise put the three red roses in his hand. These were the only flowers planted in his path, but these had never faded.

He never forgot the gift. Clad in immovable content, nothing could rouse any latent aspiration in his heart; but still he dwelt much upon these roses in his quiet mind, wondered about them, puzzled over the memory of them, tried to understand what they meant. There are some flowers that never die.


The miller did not shoot the rascal rats on Sundays; but habit led him one Sunday evening to take his place on the log by the stubble-rick. It was thus he became conscious that some other creatures besides rats were about, and stealthily shifting himself along the log till he could see round into the rickyard⁠—between the rick and an elder-bush⁠—he watched them without difficulty.

Mary Shaw and Abner Brown had made this retired spot their trysting-place. As a rule, people in the dusk of the evening rather avoided the neighbourhood of the deep and dangerous mill-pool. This suited them very nicely, and here they spent an hour or so on Sunday evenings in amorous converse.

Miller Bond did not interfere or spoil the game; in a rude sort of way he rather liked to see it, never having had experience in this line. Nor did he spy on them at all in the spy’s spirit; he looked occasionally, grinned, and said nothing to anyone.

There was scarce another man in his condition in the hamlet who would have been as kindly as this. Had anyone else discovered the lovers, there would have been some horseplay, some trick or other played upon them. The discreditable knaves who loiter about hamlets on Sundays, often make it their especial business to watch those who go off in couples, to track them secretly, and presently annoy them. It is difficult to imagine a practice more low.

Miller Bond chuckled and said nothing. He chuckled first at the loving passages, and secondly because Polly Shaw had rather the character of a prude⁠—not a common character in hamlets. Prude is not exactly the word; she was not a coquette then, and she bore a stainless reputation.

You might on a Sunday see Mary coming down the road, dressed in her best (and she dressed very well, having caught the idea of it from Felise), with her parasol in her hand, swinging it like a walking-stick, so that the tip just touched the grass at the side, tossing her proud little head disdainfully as the hamlet lads made loud remarks on her personal appearance.

A very pretty, plump, merry little girl she looked; the pink of neatness, with her laughing eyes and rosy cheeks, her hair so cleverly arranged, and a silver brooch⁠—real silver (Felise’s present)⁠—at her neck, and an air as much as to say, “I’m Mary Shaw; you may laugh, and I will laugh with you, but none of your coarse jests for me. Hands off!”

It had always been “hands off” with pretty Polly Shaw.

A hamlet girl of the cottage order has a rude ordeal to go through as she enters her teens, and few of them succeed in preserving their modesty, not to mention their reputation.

One harvest, not long before Mary entered service at Mr. Goring’s, she was tying up sheaves in the wheatfield, and happened to be quite alone. By-and-by Mr. Robert Godwin walked up, and without any preamble or preliminary courting made her a dishonourable proposal, at the same time holding out his hand on which glittered a silver sixpence. Always the miser.

Polly snatched up a reaping-hook that was lying near and cut at him; it was only by jumping aside that he escaped a fearful gash. He swore at and threatened her with the law for assault, but of course nothing came of it. He never spoke to her again, but he did not forget or forgive.

A rejected lover has the quickest of eyes, second only to those of a jealous woman; and long afterwards Robert Godwin was the only one who suspected Mary Shaw and Abner Brown. From that hour he determined the old couple should be turned out, in order to injure Mary’s prospects as much as possible. He knew there was no other cottage available for them in the hamlet: they could be married and go home there; but if that was shut to them, their future was gloomy and uncertain.

Shaw’s mother, when the girl told her of the incident in the wheatfield, severely rebuked her for being such a fool, and missing such a chance. Measter Godwin had heaps of money; she might never catch such a one as he again.

The mother, in fact, would gladly have sold her daughter. All she expressed indignation about was the sixpence.

These morals are born of generations of cruel poverty, and they are perpetuated by the brutal modern system which leaves for the worn-out labourer or labourer’s wife no refuge but the workhouse or the grave. Workhouse and grave lower in the distance all their lives, as a cloud lowers on the horizon. They snatch, therefore, at any means of present enjoyment⁠—drink, or worse; why not? They have no hereafter on earth; no age of ease and comfort. “Hang it, let’s take what us can!” is their maxim.

Some will say, I suppose, that I am painting Robert Godwin in too black colours, and that to be true to nature he ought to have one redeeming trait.

This is one of the special cants of the nineteenth century. A drunken blackguard navvy or low seaman stabs his woman, then he begs for a lock of her hair. An extraordinary brute⁠—extraordinary even among a collection of brutes⁠—the other day took up a heavy hammer and smashed his own children on their mother’s breast; but as some redeeming trait⁠—some redeeming cant⁠—was found in his character, he was reprieved from the gallows. A bank secretary steals thousands of pounds which people had deposited for safety; when he is in prison he begs that they will not confiscate his sister’s property. I fail to see anything redeeming in it; it seems to me the most infernal humbug.

Robert Godwin had no such redeeming trait, and to my idea that was the best thing about him⁠—he was no hypocrite. He was absolutely without any redeeming trait.

He was simply true to his nature. Nor was there anything exceptionally bad in his proffer to Mary Shaw; it in no degree stamped him as unusually evil; it was only what others do. Of course that makes it no better; still this is the real state of things. Such proffers are made every day of the year by the dozen to such poor girls, both by the rich and by those in their own rank of life. Mary herself had had five or six from various individuals. If you had explained to Robert Godwin that he had done a very wicked thing he would have been unfeignedly surprised, for he had never seen it in that light.

Mary was really a good girl, incapable of baseness. She was not to be bought or tempted; but she loved with all her heart, and she had a very warm, generous, affectionate heart. Big, broad-chested, loyal Abner and pretty Polly Shaw made in every way a desirable couple.

He was always in the garden, Polly was always running in and out; it was no wonder the flame was communicated to the tinder. Mr. Goring, full of his trees and his philosophies, never noticed it. Felise, dreaming of Martial, never noticed it; but the colourless eye of Robert Godwin⁠—the rejected⁠—saw it, and hated Abner.

After a time Miller Bond made another discovery while engaged with these rascal rats, and this was that a second individual occasionally met Mary Shaw in the rickyard by the mill-pool. Mary was frequently sent down into the hamlet; she had always the excuse of calling for a minute on her mother if she wished to run out after work was over, and Felise never said no. So she had plenty of opportunities.

Who this second man was, Bond did not know; he had so long been isolated at the mill that he knew scarcely any except those who lived in the hamlet, or sent their corn to be ground. It was a gentleman evidently⁠—a gentleman who whispered with Mary Shaw for a few minutes, and gave her silver money, and sometimes stole a kiss, Mary not making much resistance. Why should she? What’s in a kiss unseen?⁠—a gentleman, too.

Miller Bond said nothing, but was careful how he fired at the rats not to disturb this pretty little comedy in the rickyard.

It was Martial Barnard who met Mary Shaw in the rickyard, and his object was to learn beforehand the best opportunities of studying the Picture.

Martial had found it difficult to study the Picture because of Felise’s uncertain movements, so that he seldom knew where or when to waylay her. By making friends with Felise’s maid⁠—not a difficult task to a handsome young gentleman free with his silver⁠—he managed to discover what Felise was likely to do, and where she would probably walk on the following day; information which Mary extracted by sly questions from her unsuspecting mistress.

Mary was only too delighted to play her part in helping Felise to a lover. In her opinion so beautiful a young lady, and so kind and nice and unaffected, ought to have had several long before now. She was really happy in the idea that she was furthering her dear mistress’s interest, for of course she put down Martial as a lover; she could not have understood the fine divisions which Martial had drawn in his mind.

She only wondered why Martial, who was not at all shy with her, did not follow up his lady boldly and openly; that was her idea of making love, following up, and it was not a bad one.

Mary, however, was shrewd enough not to tell Martial of Felise’s morning visits to Robert Godwin’s, thinking that she might cause mischief; for Mary, who had hitherto believed her mistress heart-whole, could not at all understand these visits. Felise quite threw out her calculations by suddenly going into Maasbury (to the silversmith’s), and the result was that on that day Martial missed seeing the Picture, which was the cause of his lack of good-humour when Abner gave him the note about Ruy at his porch.


“If I was to tell you something now,” said Mary Shaw, as she brushed Felise’s hair one morning, “should you be very angry?” blushing scarlet all over her neck, and even partly up her forehead as she spoke.

“You’ve a sweetheart,” said Felise, laughing at the blush which she saw reflected in the mirror. “I can see it in your face.”

“Well, perhaps,” said Mary; and, encouraged by her mistress’s smile, went on to tell her by little and little of her engagement to Abner.

“How sly you have been!” said Felise; “and no one ever suspected you.”

“I didn’t know how you would like it,” pleaded Mary; and, the confession over, went on to explain the trouble they were in, and to beg Felise’s help.

If Abner’s aged parents were turned out of the cottage there would be no possibility of Mary’s marriage with Abner, for he would have no home to give her.

A separate home was out of the question⁠—it could not be got; the utmost they (or other village lovers) could expect was to live with the parents of bride or bridegroom. At Abner’s home there was room; at Mary Shaw’s there was no room. The Shaw cottage was very small, and fully occupied by her own parents, an aged uncle who had a sort of right to reside with the family, and a crippled cousin (a girl). No place could be found for a fresh couple.

Once old Abner and his wife were turned out of doors, and their hope of future union dissolved altogether. There was no other home for them. Abner might get a bed somewhere, or he could sleep in a tallet (the room over a stable), but cottage there would be none for wife or children.

So bitterly does the scarcity of homes weigh on the labouring class in the country⁠—a scarcity consequent upon the fact that almost all existing cottages belong to the landowners. Labourers are not able to erect houses for themselves, chiefly because they cannot get the land for the purpose. The few square yards necessary to put a cottage on are inaccessible, no one will sell them such a plot, most waste places have long since been claimed, and squatters are warned off those that remain.

The policy of landowners (or landowners’ agents) has for many years been directed to keep down the population, or rather so to manage it as to retain control over it. There has been a strong current setting against the small proprietor, who has not been permitted to come into existence. No man has been allowed to settle in a parish unless under the immediate thumb of the landowner or his tenants.

Now Abner was in ill-favour with the steward, and there was no chance for him.

Already solicitous enough for the poor old man and his wife, Felise became still more anxious when she understood how Mary’s future was concerned. She could not think what to do; she had already applied to Robert Godwin, and been firmly, almost rudely denied.

Mary now came to the pith of her communication. Old Abner Brown was under the impression that if he could but see the Squire in person, he should succeed. The old man dwelt much upon the familiar intercourse he had held with the Squire’s grandfather in the olden times, when the distinction between the cottage and the mansion was not so sharply drawn.

He had had small “deals” with the old Squire; he had run beside the pony when the present Squire’s father was learning to ride; he had worked half a century ago in the gardens attached to the mansion at Maasbury. If he could but see “t’Squire” face to face and speak with him, he felt sure he should not be turned out of his cottage and garden.

To Felise, unlearned in the ways of the world, this seemed reasonable, and she went at once to Mr. Goring, to ask him how best they could obtain an audience of “t’Squire.”

Mr. Goring, in snowy shirtsleeves, was sitting under his favourite russet apple-tree, taking his luncheon, which consisted of fruit, bread, and a little Burgundy in a tall old glass. From that spot there was a pleasant glimpse⁠—not a view⁠—a glimpse of the meadows which came up to the orchard fence.

He laughed at the idea of “t’Squire” taking into account the services old Abner had rendered to his grandfather. Besides, he would be in London, as Parliament was sitting⁠—no, on second thoughts, he remembered Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., was at home pending some political proceedings in contemplation, of which more presently. The man was at home, and could be seen every Wednesday⁠—this was Wednesday⁠—about noon in the justice-room at The House.

He sat there when at home to administer the law upon rogues and vagabonds⁠—such offences as could be dealt with by one magistrate; the petty sessions being held once a fortnight. It would be easy to see him there, and old Abner no doubt could make his application as soon as the rogues were disposed of; but it was perfectly useless.

Felise wished to try⁠—Mr. Goring would not say he did not mind her trying, and yet he did not say she should not. In truth, any application to such a person was distasteful to him; yet there was the incontrovertible fact of his being in authority, and no one else could save poor old Abner from his doom. While Goring hesitated, Felise ran and ordered the pony-carriage, and sent Shaw down to tell the old man she would call for him in ten minutes.

Mr. Goring sat by his luncheon, which was now unheeded, and heard the pony-carriage go rattling down the road. The glass of Burgundy was untouched⁠—a wasp came to the fruit upon his plate.

This was one of the bitter moments of his life, bringing home to him his impotence to do good. Had he bustled about in the world, perhaps by this time he would have made sufficient money to enable him to carry out his wishes. How easily a cottage might have been built had he but had a hundred and fifty pounds at his disposal!

He had neglected to struggle with the world, and the world was his master. He had retired out of the dust of the battle, weary of the selfishness, the sham, and cant. As a result, in the midst of his peaceful trees, he was powerless. He had not even made political capital of his views, and had no circle of friends to back him up.

If anyone elects to dwell with himself alone in a garden planted with his own trees, and a mind stocked with his own ideas, he must suffer this deprivation.

It was not the first time he had felt this; but he thought he had shut out the world behind his trees, and behind his own advancing years. Now he found he had not done so.

Meditating thus the wine became tasteless, the fruit sour; his trees appeared but timber, the meadow only grass⁠—the idea, the thought, the fancy was gone from all. Had he then wasted upon these the mind that should have been devoted to his fellow-creatures?

One thing he determined upon; he would no longer remain silent. He would make the wants and the sufferings of these poor people known; he would appeal to old friends whose letters had ceased to reach him these twenty years; he would stir, and act, and speak as well as dream among his flowers and trees.


“I knowed there was something as I had to tell you,” said old Abner, crouched in the pony-carriage, his knees nearly touching his chin, and holding one of his sticks with both hands. “I knowed there was something when you called that day. But bless you, they won’t never turn I out of that there garden.”

Entering the outskirts of the town they saw Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh, a shaven young cleric with her, just coming from a model farm-building. Felise glanced at her, half drew rein, hesitated, and drove on again. To appeal to a woman would in theory be the best proceeding, yet Felise did not do so. Something prevented her from making the attempt, partly perhaps the reluctance one woman feels to beg anything of another woman⁠—partly some recollection of the character Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh bore.

A handsome woman, she had not the least beauty. Letitia Cornleigh Cornleigh possessed a good figure; a little full perhaps, but not so full as is usual at her age, for she had long passed forty. Indeed, an air of hard self-preservation was her most pronounced expression. She seemed, as you looked at her, to defy you and Time and all alike.

Her features were small, well-cut, and regular; her teeth singularly good, and pearly; her hair pale yellow; her eyes a clear light blue, with long lashes. She had most of the groundwork and foundation of loveliness; she was handsome, yet without beauty. Perhaps it was her haughty boldness which repelled the observer⁠—the so haughty boldness which said, “I am so high, so irreproachable, I can say anything, do anything, go anywhere, because I am Letitia Cornleigh Cornleigh.”

At a distance this expression was not seen; looked at, for instance, by gaslight from the balcony of a ballroom, Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh appeared superb. Could she have been painted from a distance she would have been pronounced an exceptionally handsome woman.

This haughty, innocent boldness sometimes led to queer positions, as when she questioned the veterinary surgeon so closely respecting a horse they were examining as to put the poor man to the blush.

Letitia was very clever, very clever; and it was quite understood that she was the ruler⁠—Cornleigh reigned, and Letitia governed. In fact, she had been selected (being almost dowerless) for this purpose, for Cornleigh’s parents and friends were aware that someone with a strong will was needed to guide him. So the marriage was negotiated, and everyone said, “What a good thing it was for Cornleigh! Wonderful woman of business! Capital thing for Cornleigh!”

The phrase became established, and it was the regular thing to remark, whenever the improvements at Maasbury town were mentioned, or any allusion made to the family, “By the by, what a good thing it was for Cornleigh when he married Letitia! Capital thing for Cornleigh!”

All the improvements which had straitened the old town, depriving it of its pleasant appearance and of its ancient freedom, sprang from Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh.

With her, too, there came into existence a new law, especially applicable to and enforced in the country part of the estate; but whether this law originated with her, or from the swarm of shaven clericalism around her, was never quite clear. With her reign, at all events, it was first promulgated, and had since been carried out with the utmost severity. As she was undoubtedly the master-spirit at The House, popular opinion appeared in the right in attributing the execution⁠—if not the inception⁠—to Letitia.

This statute ordained that if any cottage girl disgraced herself and became the mother of illegitimate offspring, forthwith the cottage was to be cleared of all its inhabitants. The girl, the parents, the grandfather, all and single who chanced to dwell within its walls were summarily cleared out, and denied any residence upon the estate. If the marriage ceremony had been performed⁠—however late in the day⁠—the matter was permitted to drop. If not, if it had been omitted⁠—no matter what the extenuating circumstances⁠—out they must turn, bag and baggage, young, middle-aged, and decrepit, to take their chance in the world.

Punishment was thus dealt out in a retrospective manner to everyone, however remotely concerned, and might fall on four generations: on the helpless infant, the mother, her parents, and grandparents. It would be impossible to imagine anything more cruel, more unjust, more utterly inhuman.

The cottage was simply cleaned out, as it might be for sanitary purposes during a plague, and the whole family swept as if with a broom from off the countryside.

This inhuman and abominable law, surpassing all that transpires in the darkest places of Russia, was strictly enforced.

The rulers at The House, whether the haughty lady or her shaven advisers, looked with such sacerdotal horror upon this inexpiable crime that nothing less than absolute extinction could suffice. The estate⁠—the lands of Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq.⁠—must be made sweet and clean. Such horrible contamination must be removed from the surface of that part of the earth which he possessed.

Village girls are exposed to great temptation, and have to go through a rude ordeal.

Besides which they have feelings, these poor girls, and sometimes succumb to love; you would scarce believe it, would you? The scarcity of cottages, and the difficulty of obtaining possession of one, often put an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of marriage, which obstacle is mainly due to the policy of keeping cottages under the tenant-farmer’s control for the supposed benefit of the estate. The House thus kept the population short of cottages, and then punished those who transgressed for want of a home of their own.

This law had been put in force several times since Felise came as a child to Beechknoll, but she had never heard of it. No one ever spoke to her of such things. Something in the child’s aspect stilled the giddy tongues that gossiped so freely. To the woman grown, no one⁠—not even Mary Shaw, favourite as she was⁠—would have presumed to mention it. Her pure beauty surrounded her with a rampart across which no evil could penetrate.

Feudal statutes of this kind still exist here and there, although this particular law is not common. Not only the law, but the power to make the law was the wrong in Mr. Goring’s opinion. Why should any one person possess the power to issue such a ukase? They do possess the power, and will do so while nine-tenths of each agricultural hamlet are at the absolute disposal of the proprietor of the soil.

If the people lived in their own houses, however humble those houses might be, nothing of the sort would be possible. But they do not live in their own houses. All the efforts of generations after generations of Cornleigh Cornleighs have been directed to compel them to dwell in landowners’ houses, under the thumb of the tenant-farmer and the steward.

It may be said, there is nothing to prevent a man living in his own house; but how can you build a house without land to put it on? How can you get that land if Cornleigh Cornleigh will not sell it to you?

Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., had got the land.

Felise glanced at the upright form of Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh, and decided not to appeal to her. She drove on to the lodge-gates, and asked there for the justice-room; at that word she was rudely told to go round to the back, and left to find her way to the back as well as she might. A passerby gave her the information⁠—he was a young man, and glad to assist beauty.

They had to go round some distance and approach The House from another quarter up a long lane; but found a high iron gate across the lane, and had to wait till it pleased a woman to open it. Then it was a regulation that no horse or vehicle must pass farther; the pony-carriage had to be left there, just inside the gate, to fare as it might. Felise and her client went down the lane afoot; there was a wall twenty feet high each side.


The old man walked very slowly with two sticks, and paused each step to look about him. He was puzzled; he had not been into the town for years, and the place was so altered he did not know it.

“Why, this lane,” he said presently, speaking in his own dialect which I translate, “used to be a public road, and that side was the park; it was all open then. What, won’t they let nobody go in the park, then? That side there was a row of big elms; they be cut down then, and that there wall builded. Well, to be sure! Where’s the church?” he asked, as they came to a turning. “Be he gone, then?”

He had forgotten that he had heard all about the changes from others. To the very aged, as to children, to hear of a thing is very different to seeing it; they do not realise it till they see it.

The church was gone, sure enough, and nothing left to mark the site; tombs, stones, all moved out of the way. It dated from the twelfth century, and was considered an architectural treasure; it was, too, pleasant to look at, with its ivy, the great elms adjacent, and the rookery in them, where the rooks in springtime caw, caw, and the jackdaws jack, jack, daw⁠—made such a noise to compensate for the silence of the dead under them.

Wood-pigeons came to the elms sometimes; thrushes sang in the ancient gnarled hawthorns, old as the days of matchlocks; they came, too, to the walls of the old church for the ivy-berries. There were grey buttresses propping up the bank of the graveyard, and in these grey buttresses the blue tits had nests deep in the cavities. Old Abner minded taking a tit’s nest there when he was a boy⁠—seventy years ago.

The church was gone; the graveyard clean dug away, buttresses and all; the elms down, and the site occupied by the various “offices” common to the precincts of a mansion.

Letitia did not like the church⁠—that grey antiquity⁠—so near the drawing-room; there were funerals in churches, babies brought to be christened, and bells were rung. Besides, it obstructed that clear sweep which ought to be found round a mansion; in short, it was in the way: there could be no ring-fence while it stood there with the public road leading up to it.

Her shaven advisers hailed the idea of removing it⁠—which entailed building a new one elsewhere⁠—with vast delight. To build a great new church was to them an immense profit⁠—the profit of the personal social influence which repays those who “labour” in these movements. Such is the secret motive in half the church restorations throughout the country⁠—the glorification of the “labourer” who sets all this afoot.

Those who understand human nature will readily perceive that the town subscribed liberally to this work which was to deprive it of its chief feature, to shut up its park, and to close a valuable right of way.

Many a painter had come to look at and sketch the ancient building. Therein reposed the entire history of Maasbury town. The births, the marriages, the deaths of six hundred years were enclosed in it like a casket. All the associations of the old families of the town were bound up in it.

The children for hundreds of years had played in the park, gathering the buttercups, inhaling the fresh sweet air, building up their little frames with store of health.

The open lane gave access to one side of the town⁠—the only access for vehicles without going round a long distance.

To deprive themselves of these advantages the inhabitants subscribed most liberally; they held public meetings to give the necessary sanction to the enterprise; they signed petitions and memorials, and never ceased to agitate till it was accomplished. Nor were they satisfied till the very bones of their ancestors had been shovelled away and stables built on the site of their ancient altar. Such is Public Spirit.

Those who do not understand human nature would have expected a strenuous opposition to be offered to these changes. Very likely they will, too, repeat the satisfied remark we so often hear about our successful system of self-government.

Our towns are governed by servility or clique; true self-government is totally unknown.

“Where’s the mill?” was the old man’s next inquiry.

The mill which stood under the elms and rookery, and was remarkable for a curious wheel, was gone too.

“Where’s the dove-cot?” said he.

The dove-cot, which the monks had erected four hundred years since, had disappeared.

Letitia had succeeded in forming a clear sweep round the mansion, and its privacy was now complete. It was absolutely isolated, and guarded by lodge-keepers in every direction.

High walls shut in the view, and led the intruder, like a covered way, to a narrow passage, damp and cold even on a summer’s day, in which was a door and bell. On justice-room days if you rang the bell you were admitted to the justice-room.

When people saw how Letitia was enclosing the mansion, making all things modern and taking an iron grip of Maasbury, they said, “Capital thing for Cornleigh! Just the wife for Cornleigh!”

It took Felise full a quarter of an hour to get the old man along from the iron gate to the door in the damp passage, so exercised was he over these changes. They seemed to quite turn his brain, and set his mind upside down⁠—as the world had been turned since his day.

Inside the door they mounted a flight of dark steps, and emerged in the justice-room.

There were two large windows in it looking on the “offices” which covered the site of the ancient church; a large table in the centre at which were two chairs, one an armchair; a bookcase, and a form against the wall. About the table there was a carpet: that part of the room where the public stood was carpetless.

The bookcase, curiously enough, stood near the door by which the public entered. It was filled from the top to the bottom shelf with a set of volumes exactly alike, bound in morocco; and Felise, as she passed it, noticed that the backs of the books were lettered in gold, The Sporting Calendar.

Cornleigh Cornleigh was very exact in this particular: The Sporting Calendar was specially bound for him year after year in the same style, and deposited in this bookcase. One would have fancied that a favourite work would have been kept in the library, or in the Squire’s private study, not in a semi-public apartment, bare and comfortless.

This was one of the Cornleigh Cornleigh anomalies; and yet perhaps it was not so singular, as the Squire never entered the library, and had no private study, nor did he ever open these sporting volumes he so carefully accumulated. He had been to racecourses, and had heard the slang of the ring from his youth up; but he had never made a bet in his life.

The Sporting Calendar was absolutely useless to him. You may frequently observe analogous cases⁠—valuable volumes on the shelves of persons who never consult them, while genuine students can scarcely obtain an extract. Why Cornleigh Cornleigh put so much stress upon the possession of The Sporting Calendar, why he did this and many other things, is not to be easily come at.

“T’ Squire!” ejaculated old Abner, as he caught sight of the magistrate at the table.

“Silence!” cried a constable; then seeing Felise, his aggressive voice dropped, and he motioned them to a hard wooden form placed against the wall opposite the table. There they sat down⁠—Felise and the ancient labourer⁠—side by side, like Beauty and the Beast.

Some uninteresting cases were being disposed of; they must wait till public business was finished.


Cornleigh Cornleigh sat sideways in his armchair, facing a little towards the window, and apparently listened with the deepest attention to the details of the prosecution. His whole mind seemed to be concentrated upon the business before him.

His youthful face was rather prepossessing; he was a blonde man, and his features had an expression of ingenuousness, such as is proper to youth. The countenance of eighteen had been carried on through the years, and remained set on the shoulders of the man of fifty. The face had not grown with time.

His light hair was parted at the side, and brushed back precisely as his fond mother had parted it and brushed it back in his schooldays. It had never obtained a distinctive set and character. Nor was there the least trace of beard or moustache.

A line⁠—one single thin line⁠—ran up his forehead, and remained there always, the groove of effort, of mental labour. A little mind has to work harder than a great one, and such work leaves traces behind it. His chin was the best part, being well cut, and somewhat indicative of will, an indication it so far fulfilled that although he was the worst hand at speechmaking in the world, he never shrank from the task, and it was whispered that even Letitia had discovered he could not be driven beyond a certain point.

A habit of always looking downwards, as if listening to a sermon, concealed very good blue eyes, which, half-closed in this way, were conspicuously fringed with whitish eyelashes.

You saw nothing but the eyelids and the whitish eyelashes.

It was his way to sit sideways in this manner, his hands folded, ingenuously looking downwards, in a state of the profoundest attention⁠—or of the most perfect indifference.

Not a trace of his fifty years appeared in his countenance or hair; he looked not a day over thirty. His dress was faultless, marked with a red-silk handkerchief, the corner of which always projected from the breast-pocket. Only long practice and great skill could have so folded the inevitable red-silk handkerchief, that precisely the same extent of its edge should invariably be visible. In this particular, as in “The Sporting Calendar,” the Squire was very exact.

Nothing in his attitude betrayed the slightest interest in the entry of Felise, although such a person was seldom indeed to be seen in the justice-room. No curiosity was shown by casual glances in her direction; it might have been a matter of conjecture if he had or had not seen her come in. The fringe of whitish eyelashes was not raised⁠—not the faintest sparkle of inquiry could be traced in the expression of his face.

Yet they were a singular and unique pair, these two sitting upon the hard wooden form, side by side in the justice-room, at the rear of constables, and ill-savoured rogues and vagabonds standing up for sentence.

Clad in the simplest and plainest of black dresses, Felise’s exceptional loveliness only shone the purer.

His two sticks in one withered hand, his chin not far from his knees, his shrunken cheeks the hue of clay, colourless for lack of blood⁠—of beefsteaks and ale⁠—the patriarch swung his body to and fro, muttering to himself, “I knowed yer grandfather.”

The magistrate’s clerk, who also sat at the table, was quite alive to the contrast, and frequently glanced towards the form; so did the sergeant of police present, and even the rogue and vagabond in the corner just sentenced to fourteen days for begging.

But whether Cornleigh Cornleigh saw Felise or not, it was impossible to determine. The man was inscrutable.

People for years past had asked themselves similar questions about Cornleigh; if he saw, or did not see? whether he saw and kept things to himself, or whether his mind was a blank? He seemed to be listening intently, to be pondering profoundly, but nothing ever came of it.

The gamekeeper, who knew him best, used to puzzle in his cups over the point, and told many anecdotes illustrating the subject. When out alone with the Squire shooting, he had seen a hare run right between Cornleigh’s legs, and Cornleigh never so much as took his gun from under his arm. The hare ran by and escaped. “For, of course, I couldn’t fire till he did,” said the keeper; “I couldn’t take the game out of his mouth. But he never lifted his gun.”

Another time the Squire did put up his gun and aim at a partridge, or at least point it at a covey; and after a minute or two, during which the birds flew out of range, he took it down again without pulling the trigger. On the other hand, when there was a party of sportsmen out with him, the Squire shot better than any of them, and was noted as a marksman.

“Nobody can’t make him out,” said the keeper. “But let folk say what they likes agen him, there’s one thing as I can say. He have never give me nothing⁠—he bean’t freehanded loike some gennelmen⁠—but he never don’t find no fault. He comes and looks at the chicks or at the puppies, but he never finds no fault. He don’t nag. I have been with him nineteen year, and he have never said a word to I.”

This, however, did not decide the question as to whether the Squire did or did not see things.

“But you look here,” went on the keeper, growing warm over his ale. “ ’Tis very well knowed as he takes after his grandfather in his face⁠—well, now you look here. His grandfather, as folk says, knowed all the pretty wenches for ten mile round, and knowed a deuced sight too much about ’em. But this yer one never looks at no girls.”

Inscrutability was the Squire’s chief characteristic.

Ingenuous and docile, he had always done as he was bid. He obeyed his mother without question; he married Letitia because the sagacious old lady bade him. Since then he had obeyed Letitia.

He did as he was bid by his steward, Robert Godwin. He did as he was bid by his solicitor, who prompted him at public meetings. By virtue of his position, he sat as chairman at the Petty Sessions, and pronounced the sentences whispered to him by his right-hand man. He did as he was bid by the party-whip in Parliament.

“Just the thing for Cornleigh! Capital thing for Cornleigh! Just the wife for Cornleigh!” they said when it was seen how she was leading him in the correct path; how the waste lands were claimed; the lanes diverted; the estate enclosed in a rigid ring-fence; the town straitened⁠—all for the profit of the property. “Most energetic woman, and just the wife for Cornleigh!”

There were ladies in the town who, in strict privacy, could not endure Letitia. “So masterful you know, dear;” because, in short, she was the grey mare. Every woman likes her own way, but no woman can endure to see another woman master even over a man who does not concern her. They hated the grey mare, and very carefully copied the dresses she wore.

Hard sentences were frequently pronounced at the Petty Sessions where Cornleigh sat as chairman⁠—justice’s justice⁠—it was not peculiar to Maasbury. Cornleigh delivered them sitting sideways with folded hands, looking downwards, and every now and then raising the whitish fringe of his eyelids and jerking his words out, to again relapse into the downward gaze. Not the slightest sympathy, pity, or interest ever appeared in his face or in the tones of his voice. With right and equity he had nothing to do; he simply said what was put into his mouth.

Some of the old folk in the town, well-to-do folk who remembered his handsome grandfather⁠—said to have disputed the first place for nobility of appearance with Byron⁠—felt a sneaking kindness for the Squire in spite of the straitened town, in spite of his absolute lack of interest in the place which belonged to him, and the innumerable petty acts of oppression perpetrated under his authority.

There was not one of these old families that had not at different times rendered services to the House of Cornleigh. They would have been amply satisfied with recognition in the streets, with a nod, a wave of the hand; they fancied they were entitled to this. They did not receive it.

Cornleigh never saw them; he passed them just as he passed the pillar-box; he would look them right in the face without knowing it. Yet if he was spoken to he would answer affably, and even offer a cigar, and the next day go by the same individual without turning his head.

As for Letitia, she trampled on them in contemptuous indifference. “Such a capital thing for Cornleigh! Just the wife for Cornleigh!” Now in course of time it usually happens that great houses, even houses like the House of Cornleigh, come to need friends: Letitia’s was hardly the way to secure them.

But there are people in this servile world who will endure any trampling, and at the first beck rush delightedly to proffer their assistance. Perhaps Letitia understood this. These old folk⁠—in order to disguise their inborn servility from themselves⁠—used to say that after all it was not Cornleigh; he was all right; he did not do these things, only his agents, and of course a gentleman could not be expected to know everything his groom was about. If only Cornleigh Cornleigh could be got at he would be a very good fellow indeed.

The Squire was inimitable in doing nothing. He pottered about in a way not easily described, because to describe you must mention something, and Cornleigh did nothing to mention. If he took up the newspaper he did not read it; in fact, he never read anything. He sat about, and presently strolled down to the estate-office; then came out and stood in the doorway, and lit his cigar and looked up and down the street, seeing no one.

His cigar was always an especially good one⁠—Cornleigh was exact in his cigars as in his “Sporting Calendar;” it was a common remark in the hotel bars, “This cigar is equal to Cornleigh’s!”


His morning cigar usually led him across the now secluded and private park, and along a narrow wagon-track to the gamekeeper’s. After looking at the puppies or the coops without a word, the Squire would go back into the wagon-track, and post himself against a gate under an oak-tree.

He often had dogs with him; and, as he began his second cigar, he let these dogs hunt as they listed, driving pheasants one way, chicks another, giving tongue at rabbits, “and jest playing old Harry, hang ’em!” said the keeper, with an accent on “ ’em” that made it sound perilously like “him.” Here the Squire enjoyed his cigar in the sunshine, and looked downwards at nothing. He was often here for an hour at a time.

Sometimes the dogs would come back to his feet, fawn on him, and streak his trousers with their sandy paws; finding he took no notice, away they ran again to chivy everything in the hedge.

Occasionally a blue jay crossed over from the firs and screamed to his fellow just as he reached the ash cover. Squirrels darted out into the lane, limping along the ground, and rushed back at the sound of the scampering dogs.

The white clouds drifted over⁠—shadow and sunshine; light airs rustled the oak leaves; sweet summer sounds whispered over grass and spray.

Enclosed within its thick bark the oak was passive to the beauty of the summer hours. As unobservant as the oak, it seemed that the man, enclosed in a thick bark of indifference, was passive as the timber; he neither saw nor heard.

A maxim, well established, is that the man or the woman always come out in their deeds. Whatever they may profess, in time the act betrays them, and upon that outward act and deed the world invariably bases its opinion of their character. Is this just?

Do you always do as you would like to do were it in your power? I find that circumstances force me often to act in a manner quite opposite to what I should prefer; I am of course judged by my acts, but do they really afford a true key to my character? I think not.

What passes in a man’s mind it is not possible to tell, and in despite of Cornleigh’s apparent indifference, it occurs to me to hazard the inquiry whether after all, he did not see the sunshine, the green leaf, the flower-grown grass. Did he in some dim way enter into the frolic joy of his dogs, released from control? Did he enjoy the quiet⁠—the absolute do-nothing of the lane? Did he slumber awake under the rich colour of the sky, seeing it without looking?

There was no Letitia in nature; no one with a loud voice who must be obeyed.

The keeper believed the Squire, when the family were at their house in London, made up pretences to rund own a day or two, just to come and do his cigar in the lane. “He likes to do nothing with nobody to help him,” said the keeper.

There was some resemblance in this to the oak’s passive happiness in self-absorption⁠—receiving the sun’s rays, receiving the air as it blew; silent under the song of birds; doing nothing, saying nothing; simply existing. So it seemed as if Cornleigh simply existed.

Wits in the town asked the question if Cornleigh did or did not know himself to be a fool? Some thought his mind so perfect a blank as to be also oblivious to his own failings. Others thought they detected a painful consciousness of his own defects, and averred that his supineness was only a cloak. The dispute was never settled.

A French saying, I think, points out that everyone has his own way of getting out of the rain. Possibly quiescence⁠—doing as he was bid, without will of his own⁠—was Cornleigh’s method.

But if indeed the man was conscious, or partly conscious of mental deficiency, then a great sadness is wound up with the lot of Cornleigh Cornleigh, master of so many many acres; a mere helpless jelly in the hands of Letitia.

How singularly just and thoughtful the world was in its way! “Just the thing for Cornleigh! Capital thing for Cornleigh! Most energetic woman⁠—just the thing for Cornleigh!”

The oak’s passive existence was perhaps his only refuge. There was, indeed, a whisper that Letitia even could not drive him beyond a certain point; he would have his ease; he would not work and slave in society all the year round; he would smoke his cigar in the lane. Wise in her generation, Letitia soon learned to let him alone in this one particular.

The dogs came back again and fawned upon him⁠—he did not stroke them⁠—they rolled on the grass and left him once more for the hedges. All dogs and animals were very fond of him, though he showed not the slightest interest in them; perhaps they saw some companionship in his helpless state to their own dumb condition.

Yet you must understand that there was no deficiency you could fix on. Cornleigh could write a letter, add up accounts, go through all the routine of life as perfectly as Letitia herself. Those who most bitterly denounced the fool could not mention a single foolish whim, a single foolish word, not so much as a false step of which he had been guilty.

The fool was very self-possessed and reasonable in all his ways and actions.

Cornleigh Cornleigh was taken a wide round of travel by the most energetic woman, but he saw nothing in the countries he was carried through. He was once heard to remark that there were a good many fir-trees in Russia⁠—having ridden in a train for six hundred miles through fir-woods⁠—but that was the only circumstance he had noticed.

His speeches at election-times were written out for him by his solicitor and Letitia; he learned them by heart and jerked them out, bits at a time, interspersed with hums and haws. This had not mattered in the least; the place had been under Robert Godwin’s thumb, and his return had been certain. If the Squire had held up a dog in his arms to bark for him to the crowd, his success would have been equally great. Some awkward changes, however, had of late begun to creep even into Maasbury. He had sat already nearly twenty-five years in Parliament without once opening his lips, but he was punctually there at the divisions, and invariably on the right side.

The question was once propounded⁠—so many questions were propounded about Cornleigh⁠—why on earth such a man as this was chosen by the gentry as the representative of the Borough and Hundreds of Maasbury? Could they not pick a smarter man than this from their ranks?

Analysis was made, and it was found that there were about fourteen other landowners and J. P.’s in that district, each of whom was possessed of sufficient wealth to sit in the House of Commons. Yet these fourteen had selected Cornleigh⁠—for the crowd of voters merely recorded their selection. How could this be.

On examining the characters of each one of these fourteen magnates, however, a remarkable discovery was made. Every one of these possessed qualities of stupidity more marked than Cornleigh’s; little acts, words, ways, could be mentioned by which each had branded himself as a more or less consummate ass.

The reason was now apparent why Cornleigh was chosen; he was the least foolish of the lot.

What the state of their minds must have been, considering that Cornleigh Cornleigh stood out as the most sensible of the number, it is difficult to conjecture. What ever could these other fourteen have been like?

From the date when this discovery was made Cornleigh rose considerably in the estimation of Maasbury; they began to be proud of him, and as someone said, “After all, silence is golden.”

Moreover, the world always appreciates a solid plum, and approves those who get the solid plum. Now it was understood that Cornleigh’s patient voting on the right side in every division for five-and-twenty years had at last aroused his party to the necessity of rewarding such diligence, to encourage the others. A promise of a baronetage had been made, and if only Cornleigh could hold on, and appear in Parliament when next his party obtained the Government, he would be Sir Edward Cornleigh Cornleigh, Bart., to a certainty. My Lady Letitia Cornleigh already claimed all the precedence the title could give her.

A baronetage is a baronetage, or it is not a baronetage. Conferred upon an upstart millionaire it is nothing; conferred upon an ancient county family it indicates very considerable social rank. The antiquity of the house gilds the title. There was no questioning the fact that the House of Cornleigh was one of the most ancient in the county.

When it was known that such a promise had been given in the responsible quarter, a great many wise old fogies, who had never looked upon Cornleigh as very bright, began to change their tone, and “By Jove, you know, there must be something in the fellow after all! But of course it’s all Letitia’s doing. Wonderful woman⁠—most energetic woman⁠—just the woman for Cornleigh!”

Some manoeuvres in connection with the political future rendered Cornleigh’s presence in the county desirable just now. This was why he was at home while Parliament was sitting; he ran up to vote in important divisions, and returned to his cigar in the lane.


A spectre had risen up of recent years to disturb the repose of the House of Cornleigh. Since the passing of the Ballot Act, Letitia had never felt quite secure upon her throne, for it seemed to her that it threatened to cut the very ground away from under their feet, especially if, as was threatened, the power to vote was extended to the agricultural labourers.

If the agricultural labourer was allowed to vote⁠—in secret and free from control by aid of the Ballot⁠—what would he do to the House of Cornleigh?

Robert Godwin reassured her, the family solicitor reassured her, the fourteen other district magnates reassured her; but Letitia was a clever woman, and she had instincts which far surpassed, in clearness of insight, all their logical training and boasted masculine superiority. Letitia was certain that the Ballot, if the labourers obtained votes, would put the axe to the root of the tree of Cornleigh.

After the promise of the baronetage her anxiety redoubled, for it became an object of the utmost importance that Cornleigh should be returned once more to Parliament. Even supposing his party did not enter into power, still they retained great influence in a high quarter, and it was morally certain that he would become Sir Edward.

Bitterness therefore was heaped upon the abominable Ballot Act: it was the symbol of all things vile in the eyes of the Cornleigh party, it was un-English, it was directed against the dearest traditions of our country; in short, the Ballot Act, as Gambetta said of something else, was the Enemy.

The Ballot Act is the Act which enables every person to go and record his vote without fear of after-consequences from the vengeance of any party whose wishes he has crossed.

The Ballot Act is the Magna Charta of modern days.

Under it a man can act as he thinks and feels, and knows to be right, and is not to be overawed by any threat, fear, or authority.

It secures to every Englishman genuine liberty, and under it free voting took place for the first time in all English history.

The boast of Britain is freedom, but there was no freedom till the Ballot became law.

I went as a boy to an election to see the fighting. Boys like to see fighting; it is their nature. There was a crowd about the polling booths armed with stout sticks, and all wearing a certain colour. If any man dared to so much as pass by whose colour was not their colour, he was set upon and beaten.

I retain a vivid mental picture of one man on a white horse, who boldly rode up to record his vote with his colour⁠—not the crowd’s colour⁠—in his buttonhole. They swarmed round him, these noble freeborn people armed with sticks; they beat him on his horse, and they beat his horse; they dragged him off his horse and beat him, holding him up for the purpose; at last he fell down and they beat him on the ground, and presently began to drag and haul him along like a sack, helpless and insensible as he was. I lost sight of him in the surging mass of freeborn electors, and what became of him I do not know.

This was fine fun for boys to look at. Now I went to see the fighting, but I never forgot the man on the white horse.

To call this freedom appeared to me ever afterwards as simply a deliberate lie.

Instead of freedom it was despotism of the worst and most tyrannous description.

Under the Ballot Act the man on the white horse, if still living, can go up and record his vote in perfect safety; the vote he has given will never be known; and no Robert Godwin can harass him for acting according to his conscience.

So deep is the impression made on the popular mind by the oppressions visited on those who dared to vote as they thought, that even now at this day, people have but partly rid themselves of the fear that someone will seek private and secret vengeance on them for doing as they believe right. Those who desire to uphold the cause of liberty should see that the secrecy of the Ballot is really secrecy, for suspicions have got about that it is not always so even now.

You can now understand how an enormous power was taken from the hands of Robert Godwin when the new Magna Charta was passed, and why Letitia, clever woman as she was, dreaded the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourer.

The view taken by the Cornleigh party was that the Ballot (which secures freedom) was demoralising (now just think!) in its action on the people, who had always hitherto been accustomed to an atmosphere of freedom.

Is not this a deliberate lie?

This sentence written out by Letitia was acquired by heart by the Squire, and introduced as a climax upon every public occasion. The respectable inhabitants of Maasbury applauded it to the echo.

This deliberate lie became the motto of the Cornleigh party. It is a lie so flagrant⁠—so palpable⁠—so coarse and unscrupulous, that it is a marvel any English gentleman can make up his mind to utter it.

Though there was no special trade in Maasbury⁠—and not many shoemakers with their radical awls⁠—still there were large workshops, there was a railway station and its attendant workmen, there were bricklayers (fearfully wicked, self-willed people, bricklayers⁠—nearly as bad as shoemakers), and some very large brickfields, the home of desperation, according to the Cornleigh creed.

At the last election these folk, voting at last without fear of Robert Godwin and his agents (wonderful it is that such men should find so many willing tools in the practice of oppression), these men ran Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., very hard indeed, and reduced his usual majority to a mere handful.

Was it not natural then that Letitia, with the title of “My Lady” hanging before her eyes, should be fearful of the next election?

Even if the next election came and found the agricultural labourers still without the right to vote, it must not be forgotten that it would be Cornleigh’s final chance. The labourers’ claims could not be postponed any longer; if not at the next election, at the next after that they would be sure to vote, and how then with Cornleigh Cornleigh?

And there was another consideration. An election is a costly matter: if he was secure of return, the money was well spent; but if Cornleigh’s narrow majority melted away and he lost it, the money would be wasted.

The diabolical Ballot Act⁠—the abominable Ballot Act⁠—with its demoralising influence on a people hitherto accustomed to an atmosphere of freedom!

There had been rumours flying about for some time that in despite of having married so energetic a woman, and in despite of having wrung the last shilling from the tenants, Cornleigh was not so rich as he ought to be, considering the extent of his property. Seasons had been bad, and although the district had partially escaped at first, still they had been trying and unprofitable, and there was now very serious trouble among the tenants. The expenses of the exquisite Letitia, and of the young Cornleigh boys and girls, were no trifle. Personally the Squire never seemed to spend a shilling, unless for a new silk handkerchief for his coat-pocket.

Yet there were rumours of borrowed money; rumours of the mansion being about to be let⁠—imagine the loss to the town in the absence of “the family” on the Continent!⁠—rumours of the Squire’s being afraid to face the cost of another and perhaps dubious election; rumours of his having intimated an intention of not appearing again as a candidate unless the party liberally supported him with money.

These rumours had so far an aspect of truth, that the Squire, instead of being in London, was at home while Parliament was sitting. But everyone was confident that Letitia would manage things: “Just the woman for Cornleigh! Capital thing for Cornleigh!”


But some thought it strange that the House of Cornleigh should fear the serfs upon its wide domain⁠—those serfs who had enjoyed for so many centuries its fostering care. Why fear those poor helpless cottagers whose destinies they had swayed so long⁠—whose hearts they had doubtless gained by centuries of kindness?

Oh foolish House of Cornleigh! Foolish Houses of Cornleigh⁠—very much in the plural, for they are a multitude in number⁠—not to have made friends with Flesh and Blood, instead of grasping so blindly only at the mud underneath; neglecting and utterly ignoring the hearts that beat in the homesteads, laying hands so ambitiously on the mere surface of the earth.

Assuredly the Houses of Cornleigh will be swept away when the Browns and Shaws and similar folk can give utterance to their minds in the practical form of the vote under the shelter of Modern Magna Charta.

There is nothing so good as Law; nothing so evil as the Letter of the Law. Sitting alone in his justice-room, or in the midst of the fourteen other magnates at the Petty Sessions, Cornleigh administered the Letter of the Law in its harshest form to the labourers and poor folk who came under the jurisdiction of his tribunal. Most unjust⁠—though strictly legal⁠—were the sentences delivered upon the men who had nominally broken their contracts of service with the tenant farmers.

It was policy⁠—deep statesmanship⁠—on the part of the landowning Petty Sessions in every case to strictly administer the Law in favour of their own tenants. Nor were the tenants themselves blameless in bringing such charges⁠—legally, yet foolishly⁠—against their men, well knowing that the men would not receive equity.

Foolish Houses of Cornleigh, making yourselves infamous for unjust justice.

The wits in Maasbury dubbed the Squire, Mr. Justice Shallow Cornleigh.

The name stuck, but it was unjust to Shakespeare’s Justice Shallow; for it is a remarkable fact that in Shakespeare even the despicable characters have traits of manliness. Even Pistol beat a man.

Justice Shallow had heard the chimes at midnight, had made the acquaintance of the bona robas, had been intoxicated (by inference), had sown wild oats in his youth.

Mr. Justice Shallow Cornleigh had never been man enough to hear the chimes at midnight, nor to sow wild oats. His youth was blameless.

Justice Shallow had corn and beeves⁠—riches gained by his own perseverance and parsimony in his settled middle-age.

Mr. Justice Shallow Cornleigh had indeed land and beeves, but he had them in the same way as the puppy gets the hearthrug⁠—because he was born in the family, not because of any exertions of his own.

Justice Shallow had spirit enough left in his old days to lend Falstaff a thousand pounds to push him at Court.

Mr. Justice Shallow Cornleigh scrupulously bound every volume of “The Sporting Calendar,” but had never made a bet.

Justice Shallow, lean and foolish, had traits of manliness; but of Cornleigh nothing of the sort had ever been recorded. The head of the House of Cornleigh was a nonentity.

This was his fault, his guilt, his crime, in that he did nothing⁠—that he left all things to his steward Robert Godwin, to his Letitia, to the fourteen other magnates whose sentences he pronounced in Petty Sessions.

With his authority he stamped their folly, and became responsible for it. Iniquity was done in his name, and he cast down his eyes and did not see it.

It is a terrible thing when a fool sits in the place of power. Oppression is done without redress.

The system is beyond defence which permits fools to sit in the place of power.

Cornleigh himself was personally guiltless, but he made possible the crimes of others; he signed his name and sanctioned their tyrannies. Yet even in Maasbury, where so much had been done to alienate everyone, there was no animosity against the Squire himself. It was felt that it was not him.

“Just the thing for Cornleigh! Capital thing for Cornleigh! Most energetic woman⁠—just the woman for Cornleigh!”

Whenever an important division was at hand, the Squire ran up to town, patiently sat out the debate, recorded his vote on the right side, and came down home again to his morning cigar in the lane.

His morning cigar in the lane under the oak was Cornleigh’s real life. Cast down upon the sward, his gaze did not appear conscious of the sunshine or the shade, the white clouds drifting over, the squirrels leaping, the blackbirds passing from time to time. But we do not see with our eyes only; we possess a sense which enables us to feel that things are there without actually seeing them. The outward appearance is not always an indication of the inner feelings, any more than the acts by which the world judges are always of our own free will. The inscrutable Squire may have seen, may have felt, and understood much more than he was credited with. “He never looks at no girls,” said the keeper.

Possibly Cornleigh saw the “girls” without exhibiting signs of admiration; possibly he had sometimes met women whose gentleness of demeanour reminded him that a happier fate might have been his had not a Letitia appeared; possibly sweeter feminine influences might have led him to act a little for himself, to examine and think before he affixed his signature to documents, of the real effect of which he was now profoundly ignorant or indifferent.

Still she was “just the woman for Cornleigh.”

Possibly the Squire, sitting sideways in his justice-room, was really perfectly conscious of Felise’s presence, and not insensible to her loveliness.

When at last the business was over, and someone asked if anyone wished to make an application to the magistrate, Felise motioned old Abner to rise, and advanced with him to the table. For a moment the Squire glanced at her, instantly resuming his downward look.

“You wish to make an application?” said the magistrate’s clerk. Old Abner did not answer him, but stared hard at Cornleigh.

“I knowed yer grandfeyther,” he said, shaking as he held on to the edge of the table in lieu of his sticks. For once I must write the words as he spoke them.

The Squire did not reply.

“I knowed yer grandfeyther,” repeated the old labourer. “You bean’t such a man as he wur.”

“What is it you want?” asked the clerk.

“State what you want,” repeated Cornleigh.

“You bean’t half the man yer grandfeyther wur,” said old Abner. “Why doan’t yer do summat? Why be yer allus at home? Yer grandfeyther used to come round to us folk.”

“This is irrelevant,” said the clerk.

“Irrelevant,” said the Squire.

“Don’t you know what you want?” asked the clerk. Had not Felise been there they would have quickly hustled the old fellow away.

“Want! of course I knows. I wants to know why he doan’t do summat. There be a passel [parcel] of fools about, I can tell ’ee.”

“His worship cannot sit here to listen to this,” said the clerk.

“Why bean’t yer gone up to Parliament House?” said old Brown, quite heedless of the clerk.

“Perhaps you will be good enough to explain what the man wants,” said the clerk, addressing Felise.

A little confused by the unfamiliar surroundings, Felise tried to make them understand. The clerk helped her by cross-questioning, and at last it was clear that the application was for permission for the aged labourer to end his days in his cottage.

“He has made such a capital garden,” said Felise, able to speak now. “He will never be able to live away from his garden. Could you not let him stay, Mr. Cornleigh? He worked for your grandfather and for your father⁠—he really has been a faithful old servant, and he cannot have much longer to live. It is not a great thing to grant. Do, please, think how very old and helpless he is!”

The Squire glanced at her⁠—the excitement had flushed her cheek; she was radiantly beautiful⁠—and as quickly looked down again.

“It is clearly a matter for Mr. Godwin,” said the clerk.

“Evidently it is a matter for Godwin,” said the Squire, who always repeated what his advisers had said for him.

“No, no,” said Felise quickly. “Do, please, decide this one little thing yourself, Mr. Cornleigh.”

The Squire got up and went into the next room, followed by the clerk; they held a short consultation, and returned again.

“His worship will confer with his steward,” said the clerk.

“But⁠—but,” said Felise, “if you would look into it yourself, Mr. Cornleigh, you would see⁠—you would⁠—”

Mr. Cornleigh will confer with his steward,” said the clerk, closing his book and rising.

“I⁠—I⁠—hum⁠—ah⁠—I mean,” said the Squire, as he too rose and began to retreat, glancing momentarily, “I will confer with my steward.”

“But doan’t you know I?” said old Abner, as the Squire turned his back. “Doan’t you know I? Bless ’ee, I bought pegs of yer grandfeyther!”

Squire and clerk were gone together; old Abner became very indignant.

“Why didn’t he speak to I?” he grumbled. “I knowed his grandfeyther. Why doan’t he do summat hisself? A bean’t half the man his grandfeyther wur.”

Felise could not persuade him to come away till the sergeant of police approached, and taking the old man by the arm quietly led him downstairs, and out into the roadway. There he went quietly with her, still muttering to himself about the Squire’s “grandfeyther.” She drove him home, and left him at the cottage.

Mr. Goring was not in the least surprised at the failure of the attempt; for they considered it a failure since the Squire was going to consult with Mr. Godwin.

Mary Shaw was very dull and downhearted when she heard about it; she had had such hopes in her mistress, believing that her beauty would be sure to carry the day.

In his cottage old Abner was complaining to his wife of Felise’s interference and bad management. He was sure he should have got on all right if he had seen the Squire by himself, but she spoilt everything. “Hur would keep talking,” he said. “Hur kept on talk, talk, talk.” The truth being that he could say nothing for himself, and Felise had explained everything.

Ingratitude is the nature of old Abner’s race; so many hundred years of hard poverty and petty oppression have crushed out the better feelings, especially in the aged. For one act of kindness in eighty years, why should they feel grateful?

Still the fact remains that they are ungrateful, speaking ill of those who wish them well, incapable of understanding goodness of heart; the fact remains and renders them uninteresting and repellent, so that sympathy cannot attach itself to them. A little experience of their ways is sufficient to destroy the interest of the kindest-hearted.


Felise was sitting with Martial in the shade of the trees in Robert Godwin’s garden. This was a week after the return of Ruy, whose return had in fact brought it about, though in a manner unknown to either of them. The scanty foliage of the tall poplars and dying sycamores scarce gave them shelter from the slant rays of the evening sun.

In that garden nothing had been planted afresh for generations; the boughs fell away with age, and no new spray grew to fill the interstice, till by degrees there was not much left beyond the trunks, stark and sere-tipped.

The apples had ceased to bear, and the plums, as the felt slips rotted from the nails, drooped forward from the wall, destroying themselves with their own weight.

The caterpillar had worked its fell intent, and the leaves remaining were shrivelled and brown.

Mosses grew along the coping of the wall, and marked with green lines the mortar between the stones.

A ragged hedge had encroached inwards on the grass plot; briars and brambles laid their hands on the turf.

The sward was whitish-green; neglected for twenty years, it had been recently mown, and the stalks of the grasses gave it this colour.

A sense of scantiness⁠—meanness and scantiness⁠—was everywhere about the place. Before them was the end wall of the house; it was narrow and low, and the roof sharp-pitched; the grey-stone slates weighed heavily on it. Some lichen had partly covered the brick against which the red sunset had shone so many years. The one small window at this end overlooking the garden was discoloured, and the panes seemed to have lost their transparency.

Beyond the house the farm-buildings and ricks stood out plainly; no trees intervened to give seclusion to the homestead.

The mean and scanty house, the bare trees, the whitish-green grass plot, the entire absence of flowers, the gravel path unweeded, the neglect and desolation indicated that the owners for generations had found their solace elsewhere than in the culture of home.

The butterflies from the meadows at hand floated over, and left this sullen patch in the midst of the summer cloth of gold far behind them. The swallows did not descend to the eaves, for their nests had been thrust down with poles year after year till their affectionate clinging had at last been repulsed.

All the glory of the summer evening could not light up the meanness of the place.

A great passion renders the eyes of the imaginative as unobservant as those who possess no imagination. Felise did not see the scanty foliage which hardly prevented the sun from burning her cheek, the mean and flowerless garden, or the narrow and discoloured window. Her heart was occupied, and the sterile scene was nothing. Martial was there, and that was enough.

They were talking of things not in the least relevant to their thoughts, as is often the case when the world, if it could see, would smile and say, “They are lovemaking.” Deeds in no degree exhibit the real character, nor do words express the ideas in the inmost mind. Even the deepest lovers whose hearts are as one often talk quite apart from their thoughts. But Martial was not a lover.

“I like to see Shakespeare played,” Martial was saying, “without any scenery or accessories.”

Newspaper topics, the passing book, some allusion to the theatre⁠—these were the subjects they had discussed, as chance acquaintances discuss them. Felise happened to remark that she much wished to see Shakespeare on the stage.

“He is spoiled,” said Martial, “with rich dresses and diamond rings on the actresses’ fingers, with gorgeous scenery, with the very accuracy of the imitation of his era. It is not Shakespeare⁠—it is dress and glitter, and strut and mouthing; and you can never forget the advertisements which tell you you must admire it, it is so real, so lifelike. But that is just what makes it so unreal.”

“Too mechanical,” said Felise.

“Yes, that is it, too much machinery and upholstery⁠—the spirit of the play buried under Turkey-pile carpets, smothered and lost. But if you can only see Shakespeare on bare planks, in a common room⁠—a mere bare platform⁠—and perhaps but badly lighted, and the players in their ordinary dresses, or but just distinguished with a sword, or some emblem, and without any scenery at all, then, indeed, it is most beautiful.”

“He is full of beautiful thoughts,” she said.

“And then those beautiful thoughts come straight to you,” he went on, “and you feel them and think with them. It does not matter in the least if the actors are good or bad, indeed it does not want any acting at all⁠—the words are enough; and as you listen, lo! the bare planks of the platform fade away, and the depth of the green forest comes, and you hear the sound of falling water, and the song of birds, and yonder are deer in the glade. Something goes right to your heart, and it is so real and so true that the tears rise in your eyes⁠—for there is something sad in life always, and there is something sad in the very joyfulness of Shakespeare’s songs. When they sing, ‘For love is crowned with the prime’⁠—you remember ‘Between the acres of the rye’⁠—you can see the green corn and hear the nightingale, who sings while the corn is green. It is so beautiful, and yet it is so sad.”

“I wish I could see it played like that.”

“There are no actors then⁠—Shakespeare plays to you,” said Martial. “He plays himself, and speaks to you. It needs no actors. The best actors are in the way, they interfere; you see them and not Shakespeare. It is very wonderful, I cannot understand it, but there is that in Shakespeare which is not in any other book⁠—something that makes things real, as when Juliet tears down the artificial green leaves and throws them to Romeo; the leaves are as real as real can be.”

“I will try and hear the plays without good actors,” said Felise.

“You can see the stars plainly when Jessica’s lover speaks of them,” went on Martial, excited with a favourite subject and all aglow with his fired imagination; “you can see the heavens inlaid. You have seen the sky, I am sure you have, thickly studded with stars, so close together that the point of a needle would scarcely go between them. Once now and then the sky is like this. When I hear the words spoken on the stage I can shut my eyes and see the sky white with these myriads of stars. Shakespeare was always out-of-doors, in the fields and woods, and on the hills⁠—you may be certain that he was; some of his plays ought to be played in a green meadow. And the poems, they are hawthorn and June roses. But no one seems to care about them now⁠—no one cares for anything outside cities. In the sonnets⁠—” he stopped suddenly, and looked at his watch. “Mr. Godwin is a long time,” in a different and ordinary tone of voice.

Martial had caught himself at his old extravagances, his old romancing, his old ideals coming up again, and beside a woman. This would not do. He would guard himself carefully in future, and talk of anything but the ideal or imaginative.

All that Felise had once found in her solitary communings among the woods and far hills, now came to her in the tones of his voice. Yet she had scarcely heard the words he had uttered, and barely followed their meaning. She was thinking so deeply of the man, she could not think of what he said; she was silent for some time after he ceased.

Presently, remembering he was one of Cornleigh’s largest tenants, she mentioned the case of old Abner, and asked if Martial would use his influence with the Squire.

“I have no influence,” said Martial; “I am very sorry. I can do nothing. Don’t you know that farmers are despised? This Cornleigh Cornleigh was once asked by a tenant to put down a plank-floor in his house, as he suffered from rheumatism, and the stone-floor was cold. The Squire said stone-floors were good enough for farmers.”

“I have heard that Mrs. Cornleigh says it is ridiculous farmers’ daughters should be called ‘Miss.’ ”

“There is not the least chance for your aged cottager,” said Martial. “To the workhouse he must go; it’s good enough for him, you see. It is brutally cruel.”

“Why are people so unfeeling?” said Felise. “I cannot understand why they are so harsh.”

“Perhaps it is a lack of perception,” said Martial. “They do not see the misery they are causing; they cannot put themselves in someone else’s place. Has Mr. Goring been asked to sign the requisition and subscribe to the testimonial?”


“To Edward Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., for his long and faithful service in Parliament. There is to be a grand demonstration to induce him to continue our representative. Everybody will go to Maasbury that day.”

“Papa⁠—I mean Mr. Goring⁠—will not subscribe, I am sure.”

Of trifles like these they talked while the sun declined, conversing not of what was in their thoughts, but making up little speeches addressed to the audience, as it were.


Felise was thinking: “How well he talks⁠—what ideas he has! his voice is low, but it is deep and strong; his lips are well-shaped⁠—I should like a kiss. That is a shabby old coat; yes, your coat is much worn, sir, but it suits you; you look a gentleman all the more, perhaps. How I should like to give you a new one! Who gave you that gold pin in your tie, I wonder⁠—some woman? His ears are good; most men have ill-formed ears. His hair is very fine, like silk. I wonder what he is thinking of⁠—me⁠—is he thinking of me at all? There is a small mole on his neck. Why doesn’t he look at me⁠—he has such fine eyes? Your hands are not small, sir, nor are they white. I do not like white hands; they look as if they could not do anything. Your hands are a little sun-browned, and they are not small and feeble; I think you could give anyone a hard knock, though you are not very big. Why don’t you look at me? Look at me straight in the face, now do, there’s a dear! I hope he is trustful, but why does he look away?⁠—he looks anywhere rather than at me. Yes, you have a very good neck⁠—that makes your head appear so good. Why do you want to hide your eyes? I wish my hair was just the same shade as his; how nice it must be to have hair that colour! His boots have been mended. Ah! it is hard times with him⁠—wish I was sharing them! His handkerchief wants darning. How glad I am I gave him his horse again! How angry papa will be when he finds out what I did! He is handsome⁠—I wonder how many girls have flattered him! I dare say he is quite spoilt. Will he ever like me? He will not look at me; I will contradict him presently, then perhaps he will.”

Martial was thinking: “How fortunate I exhausted all my romance before I met her! There is no knowing to what lengths I should have gone; but luckily all those extravagances are gone by. These are very common old Windsor chairs. I don’t believe our miserly steward has a respectable chair in his dog-kennel, i.e. his house⁠—wretched hard old chairs; but how gracefully she rests herself in hers! Her body seems to poise on itself and repose without the chair, as if the chair was merely put there to content the eye of the spectator; she rests like an Immortal on the ether. Really she does do things nicely⁠—to see her walk, it is a picture. I think she sighs now and then. I believe she breathed more deeply just then; of course she does that because it makes her bust swell and fall more. Oh yes, the cunning of these women is something beyond the power of man to circumvent. Breathe as deeply as you like, it is no use. I am case-hardened. I have been through all these experiences⁠—old birds and chaff, you have heard. Very beautiful no doubt, but still a woman. Very interesting indeed. I know more than you think. What a lovely shoulder she has beneath that dress⁠—I shall never forget it. You don’t know what a view I had when you were bathing. And her hair reaches down to her knee, very nearly; thick, too, wavy and fine. But that is nothing to her shape and her knee⁠—there, she has just moved her knee. I can see it quite plainly through the dress as I saw it then, white and dewy from the water. She makes believe to listen to everything I say⁠—just as if she cared, just as if she liked what I say about things. What a stupid I am to talk to her of anything beside a bonnet! I can feel she keeps looking at me; very likely she wants to try another glance on me⁠—long and passionate. No, no, nothing of the kind; I won’t permit you. I will keep my eyes on the grass or the trees as firm as possible. In the sonnets there is a line⁠—pooh! I will not remember such folly. I wish she would move a little farther away. I can feel her sitting near me. I don’t like this⁠—when’s Godwin coming? I must get out of it. Her shoulder and her neck, and her white knee⁠—her dress is quite transparent to me. I never could have thought there was anyone so lovely in the world. Now her hand⁠—there it is drooping; it is not only white, it is lit up within with some delicious light⁠—some clearness, as if it was the dawn under the skin. There, she has raised her hand; she rests her head against it a moment. Now see, it is not transparent like that of anyone very ill; it is plump, but it is alight, aglow⁠—the dawn is inside it. She is Greek, and yet she is not; she is English-Greek; the mingling of the styles of the antique and the English produces the greatest beauty. She feels delicious to sit by; something seems to influence me; it is extraordinarily pleasant sitting by her. There is something dreamy in it, as if she were Cytherea. Here, what am I at! Romancing. She’s only a woman. However, I need not worry myself about occasional lapses. I am hardened enough, in all conscience. This sort of creature is very well as a Picture; you don’t want to get excited over it. She looked straight at me then. No, I am not going to look at you⁠—much too cold for that. Must say something, I suppose. Now I have sat by her once, I could do so every day without the least danger. There, the sunlight has touched her hair⁠—”

Aloud he said: “The sun is still very warm, although sinking.”

“The warm weather is welcome to you, I suppose; it is good for your wheat, is it not?” she replied.

“Yes, it is; still it is not much use. It is too late⁠—or seems so. Any weather is good enough for a despised farmer.”

“I do not see why they should be despised.”

“I am weary of it,” said Martial, suddenly throwing off his air of studied indifference. “We go on⁠—at least I do⁠—from hand to mouth, year after year; it is a most unpleasant position. We are permitted to exist⁠—on charity. As a great favour, out of his gracious benevolence our landlord presents us with ten percent⁠—as a present, not as our right. I think I shall get out of it. I am very much inclined to sell off and go to the States⁠—”

“The States!” repeated Felise in a low voice, shocked and alarmed.

“Yes, I think so. This system of touch-the-hat is too much for me. Certainly the farmers are very much to blame; it is perfectly sickening to see their servility, all praising and be-lauding and applauding the very men they hate. There is nothing sturdy or independent about the British farmer of our day⁠—truckling to the landlord, and truckling to the steward, and truckling to the solicitor, and truckling to the parson; it is most contemptible. If they had had the courage to say what they thought, and if they had had the common sense to combine together, they could have done whatever they chose. But as for combination, they are incapable of it. Now it is too late.

“Why too late?”

“The labourers⁠—your old cottager, for instance⁠—are going to have votes, and in future the country, I mean the rural districts, will be in their hands. The farmers as a governing class will disappear.”

“Then old Abner will be able to stay in his cottage,” said Felise, naturally jumping to a conclusion.

“Events will not move quick enough to serve him, I fear,” said Martial. “His wrong is but one among so many. What rouses my indignation is the complacent assertion that there is really nothing wrong. So much philanthropy, and so many reforms in workhouses and prisons, and in the laws, they say, have removed everything cruel and harsh, while I believe it is just the reverse; I believe there is just as much cruelty and harshness in the workhouses and prisons and infirmaries⁠—in the whole system⁠—as ever there was. Really, I do think that the more philanthropy is talked about, and especially scientific philanthropy, the more individual suffering there is. It is all so vague. They give thousands to hospitals⁠—not a penny to a poor man. Cornleigh Cornleigh would subscribe a hundred pounds to a new hospital, but he would not permit your aged cottager to stay in his home⁠—nothing of the sort; drive him to the workhouse. There is nothing so cold-hearted as philanthropy.”

“You mean it is all given to the buildings, and not to the sufferers.”

“That is it; but I am afraid the sun is too warm for you.” The sunset-glow now came full upon Felise’s face.

“No, not at all. Besides, I have my sunshade.”

She had her sunshade, indeed, and had thrown it carelessly over her shoulder, so that if the sun had been shining at her back it would have protected her; but the rays came from the right hand⁠—across Martial⁠—so that the parasol was useless in the position she had it. If she had shaded herself from the sun she could not have seen him, as the parasol would intervene⁠—that was the reason of her apparent carelessness.

The door of the house creaked, and Robert Godwin came out; they rose and met him. He said that he should not require Martial’s services further that evening⁠—would he come the day after next? Martial agreed, and went to fetch Ruy from the stable. Both of them accompanied Felise some way towards her home, then wished her “good evening,” and parted.

The same scene occurred on the next occasion of Barnard’s visit to Godwin; Martial and Felise sat in the scanty shade of the poplars on the white-green lawn, thinking of one thing, and talking of another.

That the altered position of their affairs might be thrown into relief, it seemed best to delineate the circumstances first before explaining them; just as actors come on the stage and begin to tell their story afterwards. Robert Godwin had contrived this, and every other evening Felise and Martial, in the shade of the tall poplar, sat on his lawn, idle, side by side, till the glow of the sunset touched her cheek.


If our old habits are suspended, how rapidly the touch of living hands disappears from our inanimate surroundings. Almost the instant the living hand is withdrawn, dust settles on the furniture and the room.

Dust thickens in the ink; the pen corrodes; papers become gritty; the moisture of the air or the heat of the sun curls photographs; desolation dwells in every nook and corner.

The smooth surface of the polished table is strewn with the fine particles deposited by the atmosphere; it is sown with dust. Time so soon asserts his reign. But a day or two is sufficient; the flowers left in the vase wither, and the air becomes dull and lifeless let but the door be closed for three days.

When I return to my chamber and find it thus, I hasten to push the books aslant from the positions in which they have been lying, to upset some of the papers and give them a new aspect, to flick the dust from the table, to open the window. The change is instant; immediately the chairs appear comfortable, and the room a habitation for the living. Yet it is sorrowful to reflect how soon⁠—but a day or two⁠—and already the dust has gathered over the place we filled.

Robert Godwin was sitting at his desk in his bedroom⁠—his desk you will remember was the washstand, and stood by the narrow window. Half the embrasure of the window⁠—deep in the thick wall⁠—was lit by the slant rays of the evening sun. Cobwebs had grown in the corner of the casement, and stretched out over the piles of papers.

They were gritty with dust; they had not been touched lately. Dust was thickening the ink; the pen was corroding; fragments of a torn-up envelope lay on the floor. He sat there, but the desk and the window were full of desolation. Old habits were suspended; the touch of the living hand was withdrawn. The pen was not dipped in the ink, the papers remained unmoved, and dust collected in the folds, and spiders spun threads about them.

He sat with his left arm on the washstand in such a position that he could see what was doing in the garden underneath. He was watching Felise and Martial, whom he had himself set there to be watched.

The slow sun scarcely moved in the western sky, and the lines of shade cast by the bars of the casement dragged upwards. Flies buzzed against the pane⁠—buzzed and crawled and buzzed again⁠—the only sound in the still room.

Fixed and intent upon the pair in the shade of the grey poplar-tree, Robert Godwin sat and watched and watched, and held this thing up close and closer to his mind to see and understand it.

He had worked it out in this way: so soon as Felise had purchased Ruy she ceased to walk over; that was reasonable enough, because there was nothing to attract her. But what had become of the horse? She did not ride him, and Godwin could not hear that it was at Mr. Goring’s. There were plenty to bring him information, for although they hated him they hastened to serve his will.

This is man. Not man as he would be if his aspirations were encouraged instead of being beaten out of him, but man as he exists on sufferance, the slave-man. His meanest and basest parts are encouraged, his servility rewarded, his treachery accounted a merit. This is the slave-man.

No tyrant, however evil, has yet lacked ready hands to execute his most abominable will. To read how eagerly men have rushed to serve the despot is the bitterest, the saddest matter of history; it is the saddest sight in our own day.

Godwin had mean tools enough ready to serve him with hand or tongue; yet he never paid them. They received no reward, to serve him was its own reward⁠—to such a depth of degradation does the slave-man descend.

These miserable village wretches, from whom this despot took away the spring, from whom he had tried to take their common, over whom he had domineered so long, were only too proud and glad if they could do him some mean service. He paid his labourers the lowest of all the farmers, yet he never wanted for ploughman or carter. They would work for him sixpence cheaper than for any other, and overtime for nothing; they would submit to be driven and hectored; they clung to his employment as a glad thing.

The meanness of man⁠—slave-man⁠—is inexpressible. Some, I verily believe, delight to be slave-men; it is a joy to them, and they would not change their condition; not only miserable village wretches, but men in good position, well-to-do sycophants.

Godwin had but to ask once if Ruy was at Mr. Goring’s, and several tongues informed him that the horse had never been there.

Three or four days afterwards he met Martial on Ruy. Neither of them said anything about the horse⁠—Martial, because he knew the man well, and that he would not give him any information; Robert, for several reasons.

With the clue in his hands, and behind the scenes, Godwin easily understood how Ruy had passed back into Martial’s possession.

Felise had bought the horse to give him to her lover.

She had come over morning after morning to feed the bay with apples because she loved his original owner. She stroked his neck⁠—it was as if she had stroked Martial’s head; she spoke to him gently as if she caressed her lover; she walked beside him, and reluctantly left him at the stall.

She was poor, yet she had got seventy pounds together to return her lover his favourite.

This thing then had been in her mind that sleepless night when he delved by the lantern, when after nine years hope began to shine like a sunrise upon him.

This was in her mind as she stood at his side, when he felt the touch of her dress, and inhaled the sweetness of her breath. While the sunrise of hope shone upon him, her heart was given to another; given, too, in the boldest, the most open manner⁠—a manner at which the world would make mock and mouthing as beyond a modest affection.

The lash was laid upon his naked heart; it cut deeply, but he made no sign.

It would have been easy for him to set mischief afoot; he had no doubt Felise had kept her uncle in ignorance of what she had done. But he said nothing; he watched and waited.

He held a secret with Felise; this was a strong position. In a measure she was in his power.

He would not play into her hands and let another man⁠—let Martial know that she had done this for love of him.

Would any woman now have let another woman know that a man had in secret gone to some great length for her?

The solace of his hands was lost; no occupation could numb the biting of the sharp pain within. From his workmen he suddenly snatched their tools, and beat his heart as it were against solid stone and timber. From the stone-breaker in the yard he seized his hammer and broke the very stones⁠—the hard flints⁠—shattering them as if the blow destroyed the nerve. He used the saw and the axe; he stooped and put his shoulder to the heavy beams and trunks of timber; with vehement energy he strove to overcome.

There were always works in progress upon the estate; he visited them, and threw his body against the weight and inertia of dull matter. It availed nothing; the pain was not to be beaten out.

One thing only he could not do now⁠—he could not write. The pen was laid aside, and the dust thickened in the ink, and rendered the papers gritty.

The carpenter can plane and hammer, and the mason can use his trowel; the blacksmith can swing his sledge and whistle at his bellows; the ploughman can follow his plough though the load of sorrow be at his heart, and the grief, never to be wholly healed, remain open. But to write⁠—who can write? The spectre rises between the mind and the paper; letters may be traced, but meaning flies before it can be transcribed.

There is no labour so heavy as writing when the heart is cruelly hurt.

He could not do it; nothing else was neglected, but letters accumulated and piles of accounts lay as they were thrown in the ledge of the window.

So long as he had Felise to himself, so long he had endured. For, in a sense, he had had her to himself.

Dwelling upon her the whole day through, and day after day, month after month, for nine years, she had come to be his own. Bitter as his thought was, he had poured it all out upon her⁠—he had surrounded her with his feelings; she was unconscious of it, but it was the same to him as if she had known. Round her he had thrown a circle of his bitterness⁠—an invisible ring; enclosed in that circle she was inaccessible to him, but no one else had her.

She no longer walked alone.

Upon a ledge high up an inaccessible cliff there was a great treasure of gold. A man saw it⁠—it was his discovery; but he was not strong enough to climb to it. He passed beneath every day and looked at it. In time another man came, stronger or cleverer than he, who climbed up and seized the treasure.

Robert Godwin had discovered this woman in her girlhood. He could not obtain her; he had watched her growth; then came another and bore her away.

The cruelty to Rosa of Felise’s existence was surpassed by the cruelty to Godwin of Martial’s existence. Godwin had done him no wrong; he received this terrible blow.

As Felise had been to Rosa, so was Martial to Godwin. The dramatist renders all his characters happy; human life leaves half at least in sorrow.

There was no solace in his hands, nor in riding to and fro, nor in aught that he could do. His candle burned through the night, for he could not sleep; but he did not seek to pass the hours in working with his hands. The hours passed; that was all.


A reflex action caused by the continual concentration and self-suppression had made Robert Godwin bitter towards those whom he should have cultivated. He rendered himself odious of set purpose in the sight of the woman he loved. The same reflex action now led him on to desire the strangest of strange things. He desired to see with his own eyes the love that passed between Felise and Martial.

Can there be anything more bitter than the view of happiness to the miserable? To the hungry to watch the banquet, to the thirsty to see the spring, to the sleepless to watch the slumberer; but these are little indeed to the torture of the jealous. The kiss that thrills the heart of the one, sears the senses of the other, as though molten iron had flowed in its sweet dew.

This was the molten iron that Robert Godwin proposed to pour over his naked heart.

Reflex action of the mind was taking him backwards along the path, setting his steps opposite to the goal; leading him to a darkness and a terror.

He contrived it: he fastened himself to the leathern bed of torture; he turned the screws; he stretched the sinews of his limbs upon the rack; while his spectre⁠—his double⁠—watched the writhing of the victim⁠—of himself.

Why are these miserable things? Why cannot we be happy? Why is it so rare? There are some who consider a certain amount of pain and misery as part and parcel of the very scheme of existence; they find some considerable pleasure in observing torture, for they see in every pang a confirmation of their favourite belief; how pleasant it is to find ourselves in the right! So, no doubt, the Inquisitors watched the flare of the faggots and the agony of the wretch at the stake; his sufferings confirmed their faith; they went home well satisfied, having carried out the scheme of the universe, which ordains that there must be pain.

Godwin tortured himself without conscious knowledge of what he was doing: he was driven along⁠—a force had fastened on him and urged him.

There had been something mooted about an average being taken of the wheat-crop on the Cornleigh estate; the idea had been started by some scientific agriculturist who thought that such statistics would “be of the utmost value.” Such is the invariable phrase⁠—“of the utmost value.” Godwin had begun to work out this average from returns furnished to him by the various tenants, and one day he went to the Manor House and asked Martial to assist him. Barnard disliked the steward; still he was the steward, and the request was civilly put. He consented, and it was arranged that he should come to Godwin’s every other afternoon, and spend two hours or so upon the papers.

Next Godwin ordered his sister, who never inquired into his objects, much less disputed his will, to go and beg Miss Goring to call upon them, “as Ruy was there again.”

Felise was naturally extremely surprised, and could not imagine how this had happened. She was easily entrapped into going, and found not only Ruy, but Martial. Godwin proposed that they should stroll round the garden; seats had been placed for them. By-and-by he begged them to rest; he would rejoin them in ten minutes. They sat down⁠—he went to his window. Ten minutes reached on to half-an-hour; on again, and an hour had passed before he returned.

Any trap is good enough for birds that desire to be caught. Felise was only too eager; Martial not unwilling. What had happened once happened again and again⁠—it is unnecessary to recount the little circumstances which attended each particular meeting. That no pretext might be wanting, Godwin, who had caused the lawn to be mown after so many years’ neglect, actually furnished it with tennis. Evening after evening they played and rested, played and rested before him.

From his window behind the accumulated papers, with his left arm on the washstand, he watched the scene in the garden. He could not hear what they said; he had no doubt they conversed of their love. He stretched himself on the leathern bed of torture; he turned the screws and tore himself on the rack. He gloated over his own misery.

Two facts by degrees became impressed upon his mind: the first was that Felise was the lover; Felise was courting, not courted; Felise was the passionate one. Martial received her love rather than sought it; she pressed herself upon him; he quietly accepted without enthusiasm. Sometimes Godwin asked himself if Martial loved at all.

To the struggling man, labouring for mere subsistence, can there be greater provocation than to hear of another already well to do receiving a large legacy of no value to him?

Martial did not care for her, did not value her; yet he had her⁠—for nothing.

Godwin, who would have given his life for her, was despised.

The question occurred to him by-and-by, did Martial in reality know who had returned him the horse? Was that why he had never mentioned the subject, or made inquiries? it looked like previous knowledge.

Godwin snorted at the meanness of the man who could knowingly permit a penniless girl to go to so great a sacrifice on his behalf.

Martial took the gift of Ruy as a matter of course; he had Felise at his beck and call⁠—a mere mistress to him.

For step by step, Robert Godwin studying these two⁠—holding them up close and closer to his mental vision as those with weak sight hold up objects to their eyes⁠—step by step, thought by thought came at last to believe that Martial’s indifference could only arise from possession. How else could he be indifferent to such beauty? How else except he was cloyed?

She was Martial’s mistress⁠—his willing mistress. This was the secret, and explained all.

Many observed in these days that Robert Godwin, as he rode through the town, was black in the face, as if an invisible hand gripped him by the throat and choked him. They said he was apoplectic; yet apopletic people were purple, but Godwin’s face was black. “He looks like a black ram,” said the shepherd in the fold.

The evening sun shone upon the whitish-green lawn, the tall grey poplar cast its narrow shadow, the angular scanty house stood gaunt and unsupported. Not all the glory of the summer could illumine the meanness, the scantiness, the harshness of the leafless place.

Dust thickened in the ink, dust thickened among the folds of the papers in the window-ledge, dust strewed the desk except where Robert Godwin’s left arm rested.

One thing leads to another. It was natural that Martial should walk a little way home with Felise; it was an easy step to go as far as the wicket-gate; easy to meet Mr. Goring; not difficult to enter. But a short time elapsed before Martial was a frequent guest at Beechknoll, He did not conceal his opinions, and Mr. Goring found them in a great measure to coincide with his own. He knew a great deal about botany; Mr. Goring was a gardener for his own amusement⁠—a grower of trees and of flowers. Besides, Felise’s will was law and government; her uncle could not have thwarted her in anything.

Seeing this, Robert Godwin abandoned the statistics under pretence that the materials were incomplete, and released Martial from his attendance. Instead of meeting at Godwin’s, they met at Felise’s home still more frequently, with still less restraint, with far more opportunities. Robert Godwin knew that they sat among the flowers, and by the sundial⁠—that they strolled in the copse by the trout-pond; the sweet dew of their kisses was as molten iron on his lips.

He knew these things as he sat at his window, gazing down upon the now vacant lawn. What they talked of, what they did, the close embrace too ardent for words⁠—he knew all; in his mind he saw all gazing from his window.

The narrow shadow of the poplar faded as the sun went down into the dusk of night. His candle burned on till the dawn.

He must have slept at times, but he did not know it.

At last, in the midst of the night Robert Godwin found some work for his hands to do. In the attic where he had arranged and sorted the lumber, the two old flintlock pistols he had turned up were lying on an oaken press, as he had left them. With sand he rubbed away the rust from the barrels⁠—there was not much, for they had been in a dry place⁠—with oil he loosened the locks. In the road by daylight he found splinters of flint, and fitted them to the weapons. As he tried the trigger the sparks flew; had there been powder in the pans it would have exploded.

They were ordinary pistols, such as people commonly carried when they drove on a journey in the days before railways⁠—in the beginning of the century. They were in perfect preservation, and would send a ball almost as true as ever. They were the only firearms in the house, for he had never been a sportsman.

In the midst of the night Robert Godwin polished and scoured them, oiled the locks, and fitted the flints.


In August the loveliest day is when the thunder booms far off at sea, while over the cornfields the sun shines with increased brilliance. The sky over the wheat is blue, but in the distance some large clouds stay motionless. The upper slopes of these mount-like vapours reflect the rays of the sun, beneath they melt away in an indefinite mist which does not throw back the light. The massy ridges above have no foundation beneath reaching to the horizon; they do not threaten; they add to the beauty of the level azure, as hills about a plain.

Rolling in from the south comes, the wave of heavy sound, too distant to cause uneasiness⁠—the boom of an immense breaker on the shore of heaven. After each burst the sun seems to glow fiercer, the warm haze thickens, the rich blue sky is richer, the insects in the air vibrate their wings more rapidly, and a shriller hum arises; butterflies are busier, and in the wheat the reapers bend, cutting at the yellow straw.

Instead of uneasiness the thunder increases the sense of luxurious, tropical sunlight, colour, and glowing life. All things appear aware that the lightning will not approach⁠—it will remain miles at sea⁠—and they throb and pant with pulses quickened by the discharge of electricity.

The lovers were sitting on a green dry bank near the sundial, in the shade of a beech. Round spots of sunlight came through its branches and dotted the grass at their feet. Behind them there was a belt of beeches, on the right hand a thick and high yew-hedge, on the left a great thicket of hawthorn trees; so that they were enclosed on three sides, but in front the view was open. A square of green sward, raised like a terrace, was before them; at its edge the ground dropped a few feet, and the meadows commenced. Far down their slope the brook passed, and beyond it were the cornfields, undulating away to the hills.

Meadow and brook, wheatfields and hills⁠—a simple landscape, yet such as is not to be surpassed by any on the earth. A common landscape⁠—there are hundreds such in our England⁠—yet beyond compare. There are none like it elsewhere in the wide world.

This green raised platform, like a deck, was the only spot at Beechknoll where a view could be obtained without ascending the steep coombeside by the copse. Mr. Goring had planted himself so round about with trees that nothing could be seen beyond them except in this one place. He had placed a trunk of oak, prepared as a seat, near the sundial under a sycamore by the yew-hedge, but the lovers today preferred the dry green bank.

Beyond the brook in the rising field reapers were labouring at the wheat; afar off the yellow slopes were scarce distinguishable in the August haze. It was one of those loveliest of August mornings when the idle thunder booms at sea.

Felise had dreamed here so many, many times in the past, it was natural she should bring him here. Nominally they were examining a broad portfolio of etchings; in truth they were purely idle.

The reapers were working hard in the dry, hot wheat, the straw warm to the touch, the earth warm beneath and opening in crevices with heat; a dry rustling of straw; a dry impalpable dust filling their throats. The days are long in August, but never long enough for the reapers.

On the greenish face of the sundial, weather-stained and tarnished, the shadow of the gnomon seemed to rest, so slowly the sun moved on his high summer circle. Love and Time were idle, but the reapers toiled in the corn.

Red berries and pink flowers were on the sprays of the brambles that thrust forth from the thicket of hawthorn. There were nuts on the hazel-rods among the hawthorns, and along the edge of the grass disks of knapweed, and yellow bedstraw, and purple vetch. Where the terrace sloped to the meadow two or three harebells drooped; the light air scarcely swung them.

Butterflies, whose blue wings were edged with another blue, came up the terrace, and fluttered along its verge. Bees visited the clover still flowering in the long grass. In the air, invisible, many thousand insect-wings vibrating: beat it to a continuous hum.

The light feet of squirrels in the beeches and among the ferns and moss scarcely made a rustle, unless they moved a dry leaf; the rushing of the water over the hatch at the trout-pond farther away now lifted itself and now decreased, the sound floated among the tree-trunks. As the dry, warm air came from the corn, the round dots of sunlight shot to and fro on the sward, following the leaves above.

A fervour of heat and light glowed in the atmosphere and was caught and held in the haze. Over the beech-tree the blue shone with light. Rolling along, the boom from the sea passed like a great organ-note, and the earth and air, the grass and living things responded; the light was yet more brilliant, the colours yet more warm; the earth offered the fullness of the harvest.

Two lovers, but one only loving. Martial had yielded and slumbered at the feet of love, yet he did not love. As the vehement August heat causes a slumberous feeling, so the vehement passion of Felise overthrew him, and his nature slumbered at her feet. He was there, and yet he was not hers.

Felise made no inquiry. It was enough that he was there; she wanted him, she did not ask if he needed her. All she required was that he should be where she could give herself to him.

For she had given herself to him from the depth of her soul. With tenfold quickened perceptions she saw the beauty of the earth, and with that beauty she loved.

She saw the clear definition of the trees, their colour, and the fineness of the extended branches⁠—she was aware of the delicate leaves; she saw the hues of the wheat, shading from pale yellow to ruddy gold; her senses were alive to the minutest difference of tint or sound; to the rustle of the squirrel touching the dry leaf, the rush of the falling water, the hum of the insect-wing; keen to the difference of motion, the gliding of the dots of sunlight on the sward, the broad flutter of the peacock-butterfly, the quick vibration of the wasp-fly’s vane. Her exalted passion strung her naturally fine and sensitive nature; she seemed to feel the sun’s majestic onward sweep in the deep azure⁠—her love made earth divine.

Sometimes under the power of sweet music from an organ⁠—sweet, yet deep and noble⁠—there wakes up within the heart another consciousness, till we seem capable of perceiving more than is usually apparent to the senses. Invisible things are shadowed forth and stand in the air.

Tenfold more so her heart, listening to the music of its own passion, was able to perceive the deeper knowledge shut and closed except to love. This was inwardly; outwardly she saw hitherto unknown glories in the light and beauty of the day, an art divine in these things.

There came the low boom of the distant thunder; but the hills slumbered, and the clouds were still. The reapers laboured in the corn.

All the unwritten and inexpressible aspirations of her nature, her noble nature, crowded into this one emotion. In her love was her all, her existence, her breath, her thought, the very expression of her form; as a flower grows and bears its one colour and perfume, so she lived and bore this one feeling. Of all else, of the world and of herself, she was utterly careless and unconcerned.

So great was her joy in her love, it seemed the width of the dome of the sky was not wide enough to express it.

Upon the green and tarnished face of the ancient sundial there was written in worn letters, Nihil nisi umbra⁠—Nothing without shadow; no, not even love. The fervour of passion must needs cast the deepest shadow beside it. Let us welcome the shadow if only we can have the sunlight of love.

Through Martial’s mind, as he reclined beside her, there passed images of ancient Greece⁠—of the ideal of human beauty expressed in marble as Aphrodite sought the bath, expressed in words resounding to this day. The idea of perfect human beauty⁠—the idea of shape and curve and motion⁠—flows through all their works, even those of pure thought, as Plato’s. Without direct mention or description, still the idea is there. These images passed through Martial’s mind⁠—this beauty was hers. In life, in flesh and blood, and actual reality, the ideal was there with him. He worshipped her beauty, and said to himself, “I do not love.”

Her soul pursued his. She felt as if his man’s intellect gave a godlike meaning to the beauty of the sunlight and of the earth. In the expanse of loveliness through which she had wandered dreaming for years⁠—through wood and mead, by stream and hill and wide sea⁠—she had found the central figure, that which made all things plain and completed them.

Till he came the fields, the woods, the hills, the broad sea were incomplete; to all he gave a meaning. She endowed him with all that she perceived in the glory and mystery around her by day and by night.

Of old time the shadow of the gnomon glided over marble; sometimes they built great structures to show the passage of the shadow more distinctly⁠—observatories of shadow. Not only on this round horizontal disk of greenish metal, not only on those ancient marble slabs, but over the whole earth the shadow advances, for the earth is the gnomon of night. The sunlight and the night, year by year, century by century, cycle by cycle; how long is it? Can anyone say? So long has love, too, endured, passing on and handed down from heart to heart.

The long Roll of Love reaching back into the profoundest abyss of Time, upon it fresh names are written day by day.

Felise’s love was pure indeed; yet what is there that the purest love is not capable of for the one to whom the soul is devoted?

Self-immolation, self-sacrifice, death⁠—is there anything love refuses?

Still the shadow slips on the green rust of the dial. Let even life pass from us if only we can have love.

Felise saw the beauty of the earth, and with that beauty she loved; the cool green flags in the meadow-brook; the reeds which moved forward and advanced as if about to step forth from the water as they swayed; the deep blue of the sky; the ruddy gold of the wheat under the pale yellow haze.

The rolling boom of the thunder came through the fields of light, the earth glowed warmer.

That the wonderful mechanism of the mind, the heart, of life, should be capable of emotion so divine, and yet should so soon perish⁠—is it not unutterably cruel?

So many, and so many, who have loved in the long passage of time, but are gone as the shadow goes from the dial when the sun sinks. Are, then, our noblest feelings to fade and become void?

Upon the sundial there were curious graven circles and interwoven angles, remnants of the ancient lore which saw fate in the stars and read things above nature in nature. Symbols and signs are still needed, for the earth and life are still mysterious; they cannot be written, they require the inarticulate sign of the magician.

Let us not outlive love in our days, and come to look back with sorrow on those times.

You have seen the ships upon the sea; they sail hither and thither thousands of miles. Do they find aught equal to love? Can they bring back precious gems to rival it from the rich south?

The reapers have been in the corn these thousand years, the miners in the earth, the toilers in the city; in all the labour and long-suffering is there anything like unto love? Any reward or profit in the ships, the mines, the warehouses?

What are the institutions of man, the tawdry state, the false law, the subsidized superstition, and poor morality, that pale shadow of truth⁠—what are these by love?

Could but love stay, could but love have its will, and no more would be needed for eternity.

Overcome with her beauty, he was at her feet as at the feet of an immortal, such as moved among the violets in the early days.

Her dress was transparent to his eyes⁠—the image of the beautiful knees dewy from the bath could never fade. No dress could hide her. He slumbered in worship at her knees.

The reapers laboured cutting at the wheat, and with bowed backs bound up the sheaves; the doves came out from the copse and fed among the stubble. Among the beech-trees there floated the sound of the falling of water on its way to the cool green flags of the brook. Faint rustling of squirrels’ feet, the hum of invisible insects, the flutter of butterflies’ wings, the hum of a humble bee wandering among the fern, the call of the grasshoppers in the grass, the amorous sigh of the breeze, the quick maze of the sunlight dots, the sense of all summer things, the distant thunder deepening with the pressure of its note the voices of the sunlit earth, the fullness of the harvest, the touch of a loving hand.

His head rested upon her left knee⁠—not on her lap, but on her left knee. His weight had been there so long it had compressed a vein, and her limb was growing numb. What of that? if the limb had been dying she would not have moved, she would not have changed her position one iota. She was sitting higher on the bank than he was, so that his head naturally rested there. He remembered the white knee dewy from the water; it was on that he really rested. Her arms like a bower hung over embracing; he looked up, he saw her loving eyes; her lips descended upon his.


The happiest lady in the land is the lady who can sing like the adorable Patti. The construction of this sentence is not harmonious, and yet perhaps it will convey the meaning better than if it had been studied. She who can sing like Patti.

Upon the sounds of her sweet throat the multitude hang entranced, and for the song they half worship the singer. To be thus courted, thus admired, must indeed be a pleasure, because it is for something personal and genuine, not for any adventitious advantage of position, not because of a crown or wealth, simply for one’s self. She may be excused⁠—nay, she may be praised for pride and vanity in so glorious a possession.

Such joy⁠—such supreme triumph⁠—is only for woman; for man there is no similar altitude, he cannot climb so high. It is not for any man to be like this.

For him the nearest approach⁠—many miles asunder⁠—is to be able to write a really good Opera Bouffe. Something that will set the feet of all a-shuffling, the eyes gleaming, the ears tingling, the whole body aglow with music, and hearts the better for a merry hour. Nothing so good as a good Opera Bouffe. The music, the crossing of the intertwining feet, the graceful chorus-dancing, the changing colour⁠—there is nothing so good as this in our days.

How many hundred dozen Archbishops of Canterbury would it take to equal one bar of “Madame Angot”?

But then this is far, very far beneath the singer who can sing like the adorable Patti. To her must the foremost position in all the world be given. For crowned heads are only bowed to because they are crowned, statesmen because they are in place, generals because they are in command, millionaires because they have money. But the singer⁠—the divine singer, the divine Patti⁠—is worshipped because of herself. How delicious to be a little like her! Even to be a little like her is reserved for woman; a man is out of the competition.

I came to these conclusions while I was endeavouring to construct this book in such a manner that the reader should see the events and the people, one after the other, without any wearisome explanations between as to how it came to be so. While I was considering and trying to surmount the difficulty it occurred to me how happy the dramatist must be, since he places his hero and his heroine in living shape at once before you.

There they are on the stage⁠—you see them, they walk, they breathe, they talk, they accompany their words with appropriate action, and convey their meaning in an indisputable manner.

They stand there before you at once in their full growth. The dramatist has not to present his heroine to you at first as an infant in arms, then as a girl at boarding-school, finally as a full-grown woman. You understand her at once.

The unfortunate narrator is not permitted these advantages. It takes me pages upon pages to describe a single character, and then very probably you do not see half what I hoped you would see. There is no sound of voice, no movement or gesture to convey the impression. But this is not all.

The happy dramatist lets down the curtain upon one scene in town, and lifts it upon another scene in the country; the curtain falls in England and rises in the backwoods of America, and the change is accepted instantly. He has not to set someone before the footlights to laboriously explain (while the scenes are shifted) how his people get into a train and go down to Somerset, or to follow them three thousand miles, day by day, across the Atlantic. Up rolls the curtain, and there they are at once.

The unfortunate narrator has to tell you how the change came about, why it came about, and when; and to explain every little circumstance, or else it would appear that he was violating probability. He has to show you the why and wherefore, and to tell you how certain people got into certain positions at a certain time. My arm and hand very often ache with the labour of writing just to explain the simplest set of circumstances, which upon the stage would not have been thought of. They would be taken for granted. This is very hard upon me, I think. Could not you let me write my scenes one after the other, and supply the connecting-links for me out of your own imagination, as you do on the stage?

We left Felise and Martial in a very loving attitude, which, however, was not observable at a distance because of the shadow of the beech-tree. But the next day Martial did not return, nor did he appear the day after, leaving Felise to a wearisome uncertainty. Several days passed, and still he did not come.

She was almost inclined to boldly go over to the Manor House and try and see him, but a trifling circumstance had occurred which deterred her. Miss Barnard sent for the album of Dante instead of fetching it herself, as she had promised to do. Felise fancied this was an indication of disapproval⁠—a silent declaration of opposition. His cousins then had discovered her secret; they considered their Martial might do better.

Her conjecture was correct. When the younger Miss Barnard came home and heard the elder’s account of Felise’s visit, she at once pronounced that there must be some concealed motive. The elder sister, full of Dante, looked over and above the lesser motives which animate people, and took them at their word. Her ideal so far elevated her that she regarded affairs with pure eyes, and did not search for pettiness. Such is the effect of an ideal; let us all try and possess some ideal for this reason.

The younger sister, having no Dante, thought more of petty ambitions, and instantly suspected Felise of designs upon Martial. Now as a sharp woman, this young lady (young by comparison) much desired Martial’s marriage with Rosa, whose wealth would be so useful in the family, and would enable them to enter more into society. In short, she quite hoped, under the cover, as it were, of this advantageous connection, to be some day advanced to the marriage state herself.

On seeing Rosa, and hearing Rosa’s conjecture that Felise was the woman, she at once agreed; there could not be a doubt about it: besides, they tracked him and ascertained the direction in which he went. Between them, no doubt, they would have found out that it was Felise who sent back Ruy as a present, had not their eyes been blinded by their own estimate of money. They knew Felise was poor, and it never occurred to them that the poor in purse but great in spirit are capable of efforts which the rich become too indolent to make.

The younger sister, being overbearing and masterful, bore down the elder’s admiration of Felise, and persuaded her not to go for the album. Felise was right in supposing the sending, instead of coming for it, an indication of hostility. Meantime the younger Miss Barnard left no opportunity of openly proclaiming in Martial’s hearing how mean a proceeding it was for a man who had no money to marry a girl with none, and so to drag her down to share his own pitiable condition. Apart, two poor persons might get on; together, they must sink.

These remarks were not very palatable to Martial; besides, he was aware that his cousins sympathized with Rosa, that they visited her, condoled with her, and regarded his conduct as cruel in the extreme.

Just at this time a curious event occurred: Rosa (who was rich already) received a legacy of four thousand pounds, so devised as to be entirely at her own disposal. It is a very different thing to be rich through another person, as Rosa was in the existence of her father, and to be rich one’s self. By this legacy Rosa’s position became exalted beyond all competition In Maasbury. Being of age, she could do exactly what she chose with the money. Such is the irony of life⁠—to those who have, more comes; yet, as in Rosa’s case, it often happens that they cannot enjoy it.

Rosa, poor girl, felt this legacy as the bitterest blow she had yet received. It mocked her. The day she saw Felise pass and recognised her as “the other woman,” she fancied she found some consolation in the thought of her money, which gave her a sense of injured righteousness. That had faded, and now this announcement struck her heavily.

Four thousand pounds, entirely her own, absolutely at her fingers’-ends; four thousand pounds, and not one moment of happiness! Though the legacy could not be paid over till the usual period, still, as the daughter of a commercial man, she well knew she could obtain a large portion of it as an advance. But with all that money she could not buy one moment’s peace of heart.

She reflected that if she had possessed this money but a short time ago, she need not have consented to a postponement of her engagement with Martial. It would have been enough to have freed his farm from every embarrassment; and if her father had objected, he could not have prevented her from doing as she chose. In her misery Rosa was not so dutiful in her ideas as she had been in her days of moderate happiness. She would have defied her father now.

Too late. The money had come too late; her character had strengthened too late⁠—it was a bitter irony.

Since this had happened, of course the Misses Barnard (or the younger and more practical of them) still more earnestly desired the renewal of Martial’s engagement with Rosa, and would have done anything feminine spite could devise to have destroyed his increasing admiration of Felise. Martial heard much in an indirect way of Rosa’s sufferings, of her improved personal appearance, of the forwardness of women who relied upon their assurance, and so forth, till it was with the utmost difficulty he restrained his inclination to order the backbiters out of his house.

But he had other matters to trouble him; he had made no secret to Felise, nor indeed to Mr. Goring, of his financial difficulties. Ever since so large a sum had been borrowed for the purchase of the houses for the Misses Barnard⁠—a piece of unpractical generosity on his part⁠—things had gone from bad to worse. The harvest, beautiful to look at, was worth so little in the market that it scarcely repaid the cost of cultivation. Heavy tithes⁠—the curse of agriculture⁠—had to be deducted from it.

The deduction allowed from the rent was too small to be of practical value, just enough to enable the landlord to pose as a benevolent friend of the farmers. When land itself has fallen from 25 to 50 percent in value, the return of 10 or 15 percent of the rent is evidently far below the true proportion. To correspond with the fall in freehold value, it ought not to be less than twice as much. Disease was among the cattle and sheep, and those that were healthy could scarcely be sold because the markets were closed.

Martial was at the end of his resources, and had not cash to pay the reapers labouring in the wheat, while Love and Time were idle, the sun glowed, and the distant thunder rolled in from the sea.

Felise counselled him to sell his horse again, and he was obliged to do it. Little did he imagine that he was selling her present. Ruy returned to Robert Godwin, and the reapers were paid.

These influences were not without effect; they rendered Martial more sensitive than usual. He felt that he ought not to go into the society of a beautiful woman whom he could not marry, and of whom he said to himself, “I do not love her,” merely because he worshipped her beauty. Yet he went.

After the delirium of exquisite pleasure that lovely morning under the shade of the beech, when ideal beauty came to him unsought, when the dream of his life descended to him in actual reality, as the Immortals descended in the early days of Greece to favoured man, he forcibly woke himself up with a strong wrench.

He would not see her, he would not enter into the circle of her power; he would resist it and retain his freedom, that freedom so dearly bought before with loss of self-respect. By sheer strength of will he resolved to retain his individuality⁠—to stand clear of dreams and ideals⁠—to be himself alone.

For some days, with severe self-restraint, he continued in this resolution; but at last, so deeply ingrained in his nature was his worship of the beautiful, he was compelled to own to himself that he must look upon the Picture. He would not go near it or speak to it, but he must look at it.

Wednesday evening he knew was the time when Mary Shaw could generally be found in the rickyard (it was her evening out). She would obtain him a glance at the Picture.


Miller Bond had long since found out, in an indirect way, who the gentleman was that met the hamlet prude Mary Shaw in the rickyard by the mill-pool. He had observed, too, that of late this gentleman had ceased to come, and he had heard through his assistant (who watched the machinery while Bond looked over the hatch) of Barnard’s frequent visits to Beechknoll.

It was a matter of common hamlet gossip how Miss Felise had thrown over Mr. Godwin “all of a sudden” and “took” to “that there idle Barnard fellow”; not much of a change for her either, but “hur be a flighty one, hur be,” was their comment.

The miller had noticed, too, that when Mary Shaw and Abner met in the rickyard, their courting generally ended in Mary’s having a burst of crying, sometimes passionately weeping, and becoming so convulsed and overcome that it was with difficulty he could soothe her.

One evening⁠—it was Wednesday⁠—after witnessing such a scene from behind the stubble-rick and elder-bush, the miller saw Abner and Mary start to go away, Mary still hanging upon him, and apparently sobbing. After they had gone the miller composed himself upon the log of timber, hoisted up his gun on his knees, and prepared to shoot the first rat that ventured out now he could do so without disturbing the lovers.

Two or three minutes afterwards he heard a slight cry and a great splash in the mill-pool, and jumped up in alarm to see what it could be. He had to run some yards before he could see down into the pool. Leaning over the fence he strained his short neck and saw Mary Shaw struggling and gasping in the water.

Some kind of shout or loud exclamation issued from his lips, and then, as if by mechanism, he put his gun to his shoulder and fired up in the air.

At the same moment Martial came up⁠—looked over⁠—exclaimed⁠—tore off his coat, and then paused, for he remembered his heavy boots. They were laced and tied tightly; he got his penknife and slit the laces, kicked them off, stepped upon the fence, balanced himself a second, and sprang forward.

The miller, at the sound of the splash when Martial struck the surface, hurled his gun away and set up another shout. He then began dancing, stamping his feet up and down like a child in a rage.

Martial went down feet first, holding his breath; the water closed over him. In another second he rose and began to swim, and in half a minute⁠—he had to go round a little to seize her properly⁠—he had hold of poor Mary. She fainted immediately after he touched her.

Martial instantly swam with her towards the side of the pool, for a moment forgetting that he could not land on a perpendicular wall of chalk. As he neared the side he looked up and remembered that there were no means of exit from the pool, which was, in fact, a very large well. He began to tread water and paddle with one hand (holding Mary with the other) while he considered how to get out.

He could not see a way out; steep walls of chalk enclosed him on every side. Another face was now gazing down at him; the miller’s man had run up at the sound of the gun, expecting to see a dead rat, instead of which there were two human beings in a trap.

“Is there no way to get out?” said Martial.

“No, that there bean’t,” said the miller’s man. “There bean’t no way out. You be drownded.”

The miller himself stopped dancing with his feet, and now sucked the forefinger first of one hand and then of the other, staring the while without blinking at the pair in the water. First he thrust one finger in his mouth, and then the other, and pulled them out with a sucking sound. His shock head of red hair, as he strained his neck over the fence, was dimly reflected on the ripples of the pool. Martial’s movements sent ripples breaking against the cliffs of chalk.

So far as Martial could see there was not a root, nor a piece of ivy, nor any plant, nor even a blade of grass in a crevice to which he could cling. There was no hatch in the pool; it was outside where the water ran from a culvert into the mill-wheel trough.

So long as he could tread water, or swim to and fro, he should survive; as his strength decreased he must sink unless help came. The two fools looking down were evidently too stupid to assist him.

“Help!” shouted Martial at the top of his voice. “Help! help!” hoping someone passing might hear and bring the aid of intelligence to direct mere muscles. The perpendicular wall-like sides of chalk sent his voice straight up; it rose into the air instead of spreading laterally. No one could have heard at a short distance from the edge of the pool.

“Us can’t help,” said the miller’s man, stolidly looking down, with his arms crossed miller-fashion on the fence. “You be drownded.”

“Fetch someone else!” said Martial, angry and anxious.

“Bean’t no good. Bean’t nobody about.”

Aware that he could not possibly hold out very long with Mary’s dead-weight to support, Martial began to swim with her slowly round the pool, eagerly scanning the chalk walls for some hole or chink or ledge upon which he could rest his hand and so support himself. There was none. He tried to scrape a hole⁠—the chalk crumbled a little, but was hard under the immediate surface; his nails would be worn to the quick, and even then he could not do it. He might perhaps have done it with his penknife, but he had dropped it on the grass after cutting his laces.

“Be quick!” he called. “Fetch someone⁠—quick!”

“They be all gone to Jones’s sale,” said the miller’s man. “You won’t last long.”

Had not Martial been in so dangerous a position I doubt not he would have cursed him with set teeth. But extreme danger silences anger; now danger was increasing every moment, Martial lost his rage at their stupidity. He ceased to regard them as human beings whose disposition concerned him, at whose senselessness he should feel annoyed, or hurt at their callousness. All his faculties were strained to discover means of escape, and the personal characters of the fools on the brink above faded out of sight. He forgot them as men; he looked at them as machines.

Could he animate these stolidities? Could he set their slow minds in operation by any suggestion?

He asked himself, as he again trod water and paddled with one hand, what he should try to do if he were in their place on the bank and others were in peril.

“Get a rope!” he shouted immediately, as the answer to his thought.

“A raup?”

“Yes, a rope⁠—quick!”

The miller’s man looked over his shoulder once or twice, lifted his greasy hat and scratched his head; then he turned and walked slowly away to try and find a rope.

Though it was the height of the summer the water was cold; the rays of the sun never reached it, and Martial felt a distinct loss of heat. It suggested a calculation. How long could he endure?

He crushed down the thought, and addressed himself again to the task of animating the other stolidity on the bank above.

“Miller! throw me something to hold⁠—something that will float!”

“You be Miss Goring’s man,” said Bond, finding speech at last.

“Throw me a plank⁠—a pole⁠—a rail⁠—”

“You be hur man. I knows who you be.”

“Fling me something⁠—a log⁠—a gate⁠—anything!”

“Hur will go mad,” said the miller, to whom Martial’s death by drowning was a foregone and accepted conclusion.

He thought not of Martial, but of Felise⁠—Felise who had once given him three red roses.

The sight of Mary in the pool had upset the balance of his brain, which had hung level like scales not in use so many years. This rude jolt sent his mind oscillating up and down as if the scales had been struck with a fist. Off went his gun⁠—bang! He danced with his feet. He sucked his forefingers.

By degrees the scales settled, and he grasped the terrible meaning Martial’s death would have to the child who had given him the three red roses. Now Miller Bond would gladly have worked day and night for her sake; he would have faced great danger; he would have done anything for her; his heart was still grateful for those flowers. This very anxiety upset the scales again; and, in short. Miller Bond lost his head.

“A gate,” said Martial; “unhinge a gate! Throw me something that will float!”

“Thur,” said the miller with an idiotic grin, plucking off his hat and hurling it into the water, as if Martial could cling to the greasy felt⁠—a straw indeed for a drowning man.

Next came his apron, then a shower of little sticks torn from the fence, then a handful of dock leaves; then he ran to and fro and returned with a heavy iron sheep-trough, which he raised above his head.

“Take care!” shouted Martial, for if the trough struck him it would stun him, perhaps kill him instantly.

Splash came the trough, raising a wave which washed Martial and his burden to and fro; the trough sank immediately.

“Wood!” shouted Martial; “not iron⁠—iron sinks.” Danger made him as patient as a mother explaining the properties of things to a little child. “Get some wood.”

“Hur will go mad,” said the miller, whose brain-scales were settling again. He paused, and gazed down at the pair in the water.

“Thur bean’t no raup,” said the miller’s man, coming back.


“No rope!” cried Martial; “then get a chain.”

“Gawd!” said the miller’s man. “A chain. To be zure.”

As if the substitution of a chain for a rope was indeed a wonderful idea. He started again for a chain⁠—this time more quickly; Martial had begun to animate him. These slow and stolid minds, while under the immediate influence of a stronger intelligence, can be forced into activity; but once let that stronger intelligence go far enough away for them to escape its personal influence and they sink back into immovability.

The marvellous intellect of the great Julius Caesar exercised the most extraordinary power over the men with whom he was surrounded, insomuch that nothing was too much for them, no danger too great, no fatigue too prolonged, no rapidity of movement too trying. But when once the sea divided him from part of his forces, those very men fell by degrees into stolid immovability, so that neither orders, threats, nor persuasions could for months induce them to sail to his assistance, though they well understood his danger. It is recorded of him that he had his eyes turned day and night towards the sea; still they delayed to send, so dense already had their stolidity become. So, too, when a great genius who has stirred the world and wakened its dull heart ceases to address it, it speedily falls back into stolidity.

The miller’s man started quickly for the chain; but, out of sight of Martial, his feet resumed their accustomed slowness of motion.

“Wood⁠—throw something of wood⁠—timber!” cried Martial again to the miller, whose red head projected over the fence.

“When was you and she going to be married?” said the miller.

“Wood⁠—rails⁠—posts!” reiterated Martial. “Chain,” said the miller’s man, appearing with a set of chain-traces such as are used on wagons. He let the end of the chain down, Martial grasped it. The miller took hold above behind his man, and they began to haul; but Martial was obliged to let the chain slip through his fingers⁠—his wrist was not strong enough. When he and Mary began to rise out of the water their combined weight was too much for his sinews. In endeavouring to get out of the water, as for instance into a boat, the weight of the body seems suddenly increased.

Martial was not Herculean in proportions or strength; he was sinewy and able to bear fatigue, but not powerful in the manner of a dray-horse. There was nothing gigantic in his muscles.

Already wearied and chilled by the icy well-water, he could not endure so great a strain. They ceased hauling; he held the chain, and it was so far an advantage to him that it supported him; he had not to tread water or paddle.

Once more with some failing at heart, he tried to think. What could he do if in their place? Endeavouring to reverse the actual condition of things, he said to himself, “I am trying to get out: suppose I was trying to get in safely, what should I do? I should put down a ladder.”

“A ladder!” he shouted. “Fetch a ladder!”

“Gawd!” cried the miller’s man, opening his mouth, overcome with amazement that anyone should have so many ideas. “Come, master; takes two with a long ladder.”

The miller turned to go with his man.

“Fasten the chain first,” said Martial.

But their minds were occupied with the new notion of a ladder, and they forgot the chain. It slipped from the fence and immediately sank; had they fastened it Martial could have clung to it. He was obliged to recommence treading water; then, weary of that, he began to swim slowly in a circle.

Chilled so as to have lost feeling in his extremities, his arms were growing stiff, and he felt that his chest did not inflate itself fully, so that he lost the sense of buoyancy proper to a swimmer. The store of force inherent in his frame was slipping from him; the limbs were there and the muscles remained, but the invisible power which moves them oozed away. Round the dark pool he partly dragged, partly supported his burden; it was better to swim on than to try and keep in one spot.

Would they never come with the ladder? Perhaps they would not find one in time. Someone might have called at the mill, and they were stopping to load his cart with sacks of flour before they returned to assist him.

The pool was in deep shadow, being under a hill. Blackness everywhere about him; no gleam or glisten on the surface; the shadow was heavy on the pool.

Would they never come with the ladder? The mill-clack was audible in the well-like cavity of the pool; it beat time⁠—time that was ebbing fast. How slow they were!

The shadow had been idle on the dial in the hour of love; now it shot forward, racing to the edge, slipping from which it would disappear and end with the ending of life.

Suddenly a glow of lovely light poured down into the darksome pit, a delicate rosy brilliance gleaming on the ripples of his progress, tinting the white chalk walls. He looked up and saw overhead a cloud, which by some magic had been filled with the hues of the sunset, and reflected them like a mirror down upon him. Mary’s pale inanimate face, washed by the cold water, seemed to take upon itself the colours of happy childhood⁠—the roseate tint of laughing joyfulness. The sunset was thrown from the sky into the depth of the pit.

His heart awoke again at the sight of it; the old, old love of the beautiful⁠—the strength of the hills filled with the light of the sun⁠—all the strong desire of life and colour and loveliness filled him again with fresh effort.

Felise appeared to his mind in the glow of the rosy cloud. Till that moment, absorbed in the struggle, he had not thought of her. She came to him with the light. A low sound escaped from his lips. He should lose her⁠—if he sank he should lose her; she would not be his.

The greatest gift, the most wonderful and precious given to man; the deep love, the ideal beauty⁠—he should lose it. He had himself purposely kept away from her. Oh, the folly of his scrupulous fancy! His freedom; his poverty; his paltry excuses to himself⁠—the folly, the exceeding folly of it! Felise!⁠—he spoke the name on his lips, yet the word did not issue as sound. If only those moments would return again, but it was too late.

It was unfortunate for him that he had thought of Felise; It weakened him; it affected his heart. His head seemed to become a blank⁠—the pit, the chalk walls, the rosy cloud disappeared; all was blank, as it felt to him, for an illimitable length of time, really the one-hundredth of a second; for that fragmentary moment he had fainted. But his heart beat again, and he saw a ladder descending, as it were, from the rosy glow above.

Felise! he tried to say, as he grasped it; he clung to it; he got his foot on it, and paused and breathed⁠—breathed fully. He began to go up carrying poor Mary; he paused again and breathed. Up again; they hauled him over the fence, and he fell on the grass exhausted.

“Hur’s dead,” said the miller’s man, pushing Mary as she lay, having dropped from Martial’s arms, with his foot. His heavy shoe partly rolled her over; as he withdrew it she rolled back again.

“All auver with hur,” he said.

At this Martial stood up, collecting his energies, and insisted upon one of them going for assistance. Then on the spot he began at once to follow the instructions for resuscitation, which he fortunately remembered. She soon showed signs of life⁠—animation had not been really suspended at all, and they carried her down to the mill.

Naturally what followed was confused; women came, and Mary was put to bed with blankets and brandy, A group stood about the mill-door. Martial, as soon as he was certain Mary was safe, was going, when the women above called for a doctor. A horse was found, and Martial rode in his wet clothes over to Maasbury for medical help. Thence he went home as quick as he could in a hired conveyance, but his dress had dried almost by the time he reached the Manor House.

Towards the morning Mary gave birth to a female child, which appeared healthy and strong, despite its untimely arrival. Mary never saw it. She had been conscious at intervals, and told the doctor and the women something which agitated them; but after the birth she sank, and died in about two hours.


By the old barn under one of the Spanish chestnut-trees, Felise sat down to wait for Martial. She was clad in black⁠—mourning for Mary Shaw. The thickness of the chestnut spray did not permit a single ray of the morning sun to reach her, as the beech had done. No rounded dot of sunshine lit up the black shadow of her dress under the green boughs. The swallows were still about the barn, as they had been when she came with her rod along the brook. They would never quite leave it till they flew to warmer lands; even in October they would rest in a row on the ridge, and twitter of their coming journey. But the songs in the wood hard-by were silent, the thrush and the blackbird had ceased, and the cuckoo had long been gone. There was no music of sweet birds’ throats as dry August stooped under her sheaves.

The prickly green fruit of the chestnuts was visible among the boughs, and in the hedge by the copse the red berries of the bryony clustered thickly. Pouting at the top, the thistles which always strew the sward by a wood were ready to pour forth a shower of thistledown. Two large dragonflies shot to and fro, excited into swiftest motion by the heat. Once a green and golden woodpecker passed, sweeping downwards in his flight almost to the ground, and rising again to the height of the trees.

From afar came the hum of a threshing-machine, winnowing out the fresh corn from the ear. A hum that sank to a mournful note and rose again⁠—a curve of sound. There is something inarticulately human in the cry of the threshing-machine. Wheat and bread⁠—labour and life⁠—the past of the sowing, the future of the uncertain autumn, hazy and deepening into the gloom of winter. In the glow, and light, and heat of today, forget not that the leaves shall fall and the stubble be beaten by the rains and whitened by the snow; yet hope on, because the sunlight and the flowers shall assuredly succeed again. Inarticulately expressing the meaning of the years and the rise and fall of time, the low hum stretches itself across the wide fields of grain.

The sparrows that had chattered so loudly round the eaves of the barn had gone out into the wheat. The swallows came at intervals and again soared into the air. Only the two dragonflies remained, rushing to and fro.

Martial had told her all, manfully laying bare the recesses of his heart; warned thereto by his experience of the mill-pool, which told him not to trifle longer with the shadow on the dial. While we linger⁠—while we stay⁠—the shadow slips from the edge of the disk into universal night.

“He cannot love me;” this was the burden of her thoughts. “He cannot love me.”

He could admire her, he could worship her beauty, he could appreciate her worth, he could value her love, he could and would labour for her with all his powers, but he could not love.

He had loved another woman before her, and the spring of love was dry.

A woman will be able to understand the bitterness of this to her⁠—he had loved another, therefore he could not love her.

A creaking of wagon-wheels went by in the narrow lane, it was a load of yellow sheaves, heavily jolting over the ruts, crushing the rushes that had grown in the way, the sheaves brushing against the wild clematis still flowering high up the bushes. She could see the top of the load above the hawthorn and hazel, slowly ascending the hill by the wood.

“He cannot love me.”

He was hers, and yet he was not hers.

Thus Rosa was in part avenged, and returned bitterness for bitterness to the heart of her rival. Though now forsaken, she had received the first-fruits of love, and they could not be given to another. If Felise’s existence was cruel to Rosa, so now Rosa’s existence was cruel to Felise⁠—yet not so cruel.

For with a deep sigh Felise became content.

“It is better,” she said⁠—“it is better than not to have him at all. Had that been so, if I could not have had him, then it would have been best that the deep sea should cover me.”

To the bitter jealousy of his first love given to another, she became superior, and overcame the sting and venom of the thought.

It mattered not⁠—he was Martial⁠—he was hers.

But this was not all that her love had overcome. Rumours had been spread abroad since Mary Shaw’s death, of a kind which might have easily caused years of misunderstanding, might even have changed the course of their lives, had it not been for the steadfastness of Felise.

There was a scandal in the hamlet, that the child of Mary Shaw could claim another parent than the common labourer, Abner Brown. A gentleman had been seen to meet her clandestinely. Miller Bond had done this mischief unwittingly. At the inquest they cross-questioned and worried him; they ascertained that Abner was the last person seen with her, and also that another person⁠—Martial Barnard⁠—had frequently met her there. The jury returned a verdict of suicide, but immediately afterwards Abner was arrested by the police on suspicion of murder, and put in the cell at Maasbury.

No one had seen Mary leap in. She had admitted herself on her deathbed that she did so, but that might be to shield Abner. At all events he would have to go before the magistrates and explain where he was when she did it. Abner said he had walked down into the road on quitting Mary, and heard nothing of the event till hours afterwards. He had left her to go home by herself in the same manner scores of times. Still he was in the cell at Maasbury.

The official theory was very simple and suggestive. They said, “Here is a poor girl who has a gentleman lover and a labourer lover. It is easy to see that the common labourer would be jealous of the gentleman. On this fateful evening the gentleman is said to have come after the labourer had left. But we are not bound to believe this; the gentleman may have been there first⁠—the labourer may have seen him. Certainly the miller declares the labourer went away; but then he owns he did not look any longer, so that it is possible the labourer may have returned and thrown her in. Miller Bond states he heard a cry, showing the girl’s terror as Abner seized her. These conjectures are sufficient to justify the committal of Abner Brown to await examination. As for the dying admissions of the girl, they are much lessened in value by the extraordinary statement she also made, and which cannot be taken into consideration for a moment. A girl who could say such a thing cannot be believed even on her deathbed.”

So Abner went to the cell at Maasbury, and scandal was very rife at the hamlet, waxing bigger every hour. Miller Bond was in no small degree responsible for this. His confused statements could so easily be twisted to their purpose by malignant minds. In his heart he was anxious above all others to please Felise; as a fact he did or said exactly what was most calculated to give her pain.

The hamlet would not believe Abner, and would not believe the dead; it fastened eagerly on a scandal which implicated a gentleman. It was not without foundation, because Martial could not publicly explain why he had met Mary Shaw.

Robert Godwin saw in these circumstances, which had so suddenly arisen, a means of gratifying the reflex action in his mind, which prompted him to injure the very person he loved. At his suggestion the police acted in securing Abner; he pointed out the possibility of Abner’s guilt; without much possibility a hint from such a quarter was sufficient. This was a savage cut at the unfortunate labourer, and at the same time an unpleasant incident for Mr. Goring.

But it was Felise whom he desired to reach. The hamlet gossips gladly carried the tale to Beechknoll. That the shaft might go home Robert Godwin himself came over. He found Mr. Goring in the garden, and in despite of the other’s plainspoken desire to avoid him, forced him to hear the story. That Martial, while paying attentions to Miss Goring, had taken an unmanly advantage of this poor girl. Goring, as usual, was working in the garden when Robert would not be shaken off.

“The whole story is an abominable falsehood,” said Mr. Goring. “Mr. Barnard is incapable of such a thing. I know the real reason for the meetings between them. I must really decline, Mr. Godwin, to discuss the matter further with you.”

“Barnard will have to tell the truth before the magistrates,” said Godwin, not in the least abashed. “This is not the first discreditable transaction in which he has been engaged. He promised marriage to Miss Rosa Wood, and jilted her. He has wasted his substance and that of his cousins⁠—he is a spendthrift and a scoundrel!”

“Sir, I request you to quit my premises!”

“Sir, your name, and that of your niece, will figure largely in the public investigation.”

“Investigation! I bid you beware of investigation. The world knows already why Mary Shaw committed suicide.”

“I dare anyone to repeat that statement; they shall be prosecuted for slander.”

“I repeat the statement. Mary Shaw committed suicide because she knew that her aged father and mother, and all her family, would be expelled from their cottage if her disgrace became known. The poor girl died to save their home for them.”

“Most infamous!⁠—you shall certainly be prosecuted for slander.”

“Most infamous, certainly⁠—I cast the word in your teeth, Mr. Godwin. I despise you. You left this poor girl no refuge. You ordered her lover’s parents to quit their home⁠—there was no possibility of their marriage. She was aware of the penalty if she was not married. Rather than see her aged parents turned into the road⁠—to starve or end their broken days in the workhouse⁠—she did this dreadful thing-.”

“You shall be served for slander immediately.”

“By all means let me be served⁠—I desire nothing better. So much the quicker will your reign come to an end. And now, quit my premises!”

Having no further threat or disclosure to make, Godwin at last retired, so far discomfited.

Martial had acquainted Felise and Mr. Goring with every circumstance the instant after the inquest. Consequently Godwin could make no impression; yet, as he retired discomfited and burning with anger, he reflected that at least he had given form, shape, and substance to an indefinite rumour. He had delivered it at his opponent’s gates, and thrust it home.

Far less causes have led to lifelong separations.

Deeply hurt by poor Mary’s untimely death, Felise could not do enough to satisfy herself for the infant at the mill. She engaged a nurse for it, and saw that every necessity was supplied.

“If she had only told me,” Felise repeated; “if she had only told me, all would then have been prevented.”

“I would have sold my land but that they should have had a home,” said Mr. Goring. “I blame Abner greatly. He should have told me. But we were all blind⁠—we should have guessed. Mary could hardly walk upstairs sometimes⁠—and her fainting-fit. Poor child!⁠—poor child!”

The shock of Mary’s death, the imputations against Martial, the arrest of Abner, came very heavily upon Felise. Martial she never doubted for an instant; yet, certain of his innocence as she was, these envenomed shafts always leave a wound. An unwonted gloom fell upon her. The shadow had grown deep and dark upon the dial.

Her love carried her straight past the pitfall of doubt which had been opened beside her path. Her love shone the brighter and the steadier as she overcame. But she had known sorrow.

Again Rosa was avenged⁠—her rival had known sorrow.

A lesser love might have doubted, might have made inquiries; words might have been spoken never to be forgotten. But this great heart was untouched. Had these insinuations been true, and had she known them to be true, it would have made no difference. No matter what he had done, he would still have been hers. But her glory was that she had not doubted.

Still she had known sorrow, and her head drooped as she waited under the Spanish chestnut. There were no songs in the copse now.

“He cannot love me,” she thought. “He is mine, but he cannot love me.”

Once, gazing into the clear water of the trout-pool and seeing her own face reflected, she had triumphantly believed in her power to make him love her. She had failed.

Opposite to her the interior of the barn opened wide and gaunt where the great doors had formerly been. Diffused light lit the interior immediately opposite; farther in there was shadow in the summer day. Burnt by sun and beaten by rain, the red tiles of the broad roof, coated with orange moss, glowed under the fervent heat of the August morning. The surface of the roof seemed to fluctuate, as if the colour came and went⁠—now deep, now paler, red-orange alight with sunbeams. Almost touching it, the boughs of the other chestnut massed their cool green against the tiles. Underneath was the shadow of the vast cavern-like interior.

Since Martial had returned and told her all, it seemed as if she could not part from him. Perhaps the sudden loss of Mary had unconsciously rendered her anxious⁠—snatched away without warning; perhaps she feared for him too, so that, though he came every day, yet she dreaded the moment of parting. She had got into the habit of walking with him as far as the old barn on his way home in the evening, and of coming as far as that to meet him in the morning.

As she sat opposite the barn suddenly she looked up⁠—some slight movement in the cavern-like interior had caught her eye; but, on gazing steadily, she could not see anything. It must have been fancy. She recollected the idle tale that the barn was haunted, only to accuse herself of nervousness. Besides, it was broad daylight.

Immediately afterwards the sound of a shot in the copse startled her; but she smiled, knowing who had fired. Three minutes afterwards Martial came towards her, carrying his little oval-bore rook and rabbit rifle. It was too early for game, but the young rabbits were now ready.

They did not sit down, but walked on towards Beechknoll, past the still elms of the meadows, past the gnarled oaks, by the copses, by the green flags of the brook, pausing now and then in the shade for those glances which speak so much silently. Be sure she did not think the less of him because he had risked his life in the mill-pool. Natural enough that she should exalt his deed into heroism. When we think so highly of another, it seems impossible but that they must in some degree incline to our wishes. We transfer our feelings to them.

In the dreamy woodlands, by the running brook, it seemed to her that by-and-by surely he must love her.


The key turned, the heavy door of the cell swung open, and the constable who had just come on guard-duty looked in upon Abner.

“They’ve put her in,” he said. “It’s all over.”

“Yes,” said Abner, without lifting his gaze. He understood what was meant.

“They’ve planted her,” said the constable; his words to us would have sounded hard and cruel in their bareness and naked meaning, but he meant kindly. “They’ve planted her.”

Mary Shaw had been interred. Abner still said nothing.

“Her was buried in oak,” continued the constable. “Not many of her sort as has oak planking.”

“Who did that?” asked the prisoner, looking up.

“Miss Goring paid for it. Leastways her had it done; s’pose Mr. Goring paid for it. She said she could not abear her to be buried in deal like the workhouse folk. So her lies in oak. The kid is all right; Miss Goring have had it seed to. Don’t you fret; there ain’t no case agen you when it comes to a full bench.”

Abner had been simply remanded by Cornleigh Cornleigh till the day of the magistrates’ meeting.

“I knows that,” said the prisoner. “You knows I didn’t do it; they must be fools as says so.”

“Well, I told you I’d tell you all as there was,” said the constable, preparing to lock the door. “She could not have been buried nicer if she’d been a young lady. You’ll be discharged directly you sees the Bench.” The cell-door was closed.

The prisoner’s chin drooped on his broad chest. Out from his silent sorrow flowed warm tears, tears which neither the bitter loss of Mary nor the insult and injustice of his confinement could cause, but which flowed at a touch of kindness, Felise’s kindness went to his heart, already growing stubborn under the stony handling of fate.

To the dead there is no difference between deal and oak, or elm⁠—a ditch is the same as a tomb; but to the living, who will one day die, there is every difference. Depend upon it, too great respect cannot be paid to the dead. Therein the deepest, the most subtle of the chords of human nature is touched.

In London the coffins of the “pauper” dead (let the word “pauper” be accursed!) have been seen to tumble into the stony street; a heap of the dead carted at once, like the carcases of animals, till they broke down the carriage. What terrible folly our boasted self-government of boards is capable of⁠—this uttermost folly of destroying respect for the dead to save a few miserable shillings!

Abner Brown was by nature loyal and true⁠—of that “grit” and character of which Nelson’s worthies were made. He was willing to work and to laugh in his work, and to serve with faithful service for three score years and ten. Do you not think he had cause to be grateful? He had three principal causes of gratitude.

His aged and helpless parents were to be turned into the road.

His sweetheart had committed suicide because her parents should not be punished for her disgrace.

He was himself in prison, labelled forever as a suspected murderer, simply because he was poor; for no man who wore broadcloth and gold watch-chain would have been committed on so unsupported a charge.


The day of the great presentation to Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., happening just now, Mr. Goring drove Felise in to Maasbury to attend the meeting. For five-and-twenty years he had avoided all such movements, retired among his trees, till at the moment when he desired to act he found himself powerless. Absolute silence⁠—absolute retirement, destroys a man’s hold on the world. Not for the best of all objects could he now obtain the attention of the well-disposed; he could call no one to assist the innocent and helpless.

Alone, a man is powerless. It is when his voice acts like a lever that he is mighty; a lever that stirs those that hear it, and in their turn they stir others, till the circle widening, an irresistible wave is formed. He had to begin again at the beginning; first, to see and be present at what was going on; next, to make friends; and finally, to set foot in the ring and do battle.

Though happy with Martial, Felise, when by herself, was greatly depressed by the loss of Mary. If I have not set forth her sorrow in so many words, it is because it must be apparent that a nature like hers would be deeply grieved. Mr. Goring did not like her to remain at home alone, and persuaded her to accompany him into the town, thinking it would be in some degree a change. Martial was to join them there and return with them.

At the door of the assembly-room, in Maasbury, they were advised to go up in the gallery, as there was a considerable gathering of the opposition party, and a fight was probable. The gallery was reserved for ladies, or those who wished to be spectators merely. They went up, and found it already crowded with ladies, many of whom felt an interest in certain proceedings which were to precede the presentation.

Rosa was there, and saw Felise immediately⁠—from that moment her eyes were fixed upon Felise⁠—her glance crossed the looks of all others in the gallery: their eyes were bent upon the platform or the scene beneath; Rosa’s glance was across their line of sight. Felise was unconscious of Rosa’s presence, and was occupied in looking for Martial in the crowd below; at length Mr. Goring pointed him out on the platform.

When an eye looks steadily across the general line of view there seems something sinister in its gaze. Have you never chanced to look aside for a moment from the stage, or the concert, and accidentally caught such a glance regarding someone pitilessly? Your thought has just been filled with noble sentiment, or the ear with sweet sound; this interrupted glance reminds you that behind the scene of life passions or resentments are still burning.

The front of the crowd in the hall beneath was composed of farmers, or the farming interest, and of respectable tradesmen of Maasbury, who supported the platform with a firm cordon of the “right sort.” For some depth it was in fact packed with the Cornleigh Cornleigh party. But on the left side there began the thin end of the wedge of opposition, which gradually thickened till at the rear it widened out and held the whole hall by the doorway.

Anyone in the gallery with an eye for tactics could see that if danger was brewing, it would take effect through the thin end of the wedge, which went up within four or five of the platform. If this end were forced forwards by the thick part of the wedge behind, the opposition might very likely succeed in storming the platform.

To defend a position like a platform effectually you require a very stout cordon in front of it⁠—a cordon equally thick everywhere, and a second body posted towards the other end of the hall to take assailants in flank. Military talent was, however, scarcely to be expected in Maasbury. Robert Godwin was on the platform, of course.

The opposition was composed of smaller tradesmen, work-people, lower middle-class people living in their own houses, men working in small factories, some very respectable persons from the villages (independent freeholders in a small way), a few labourers of strong political opinion who had stumped in and stood with their hands in their pockets, the tenants of rows of little houses that had been built in the suburbs on ground that did not belong to Cornleigh Cornleigh; in short, of “all sorts and conditions of men.”

Some rushes had occurred already, and a woman who had foolishly ventured into the hall had to be dragged out fainting.

“Quite a different scene, I assure you,” whispered Cornleigh Cornleigh’s solicitor (and prompter) to a London visitor at The House who was on the platform⁠—“altogether a different scene to what we used to have at public meetings a few years ago. We used to have such orderly pleasant meetings, and everything went off smoothly and as you would wish. This is all owing to the ballot, you know; devilish thing, sir, the ballot!”

Somehow the Maasbury world had begun to lose its reverent awe of Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq.

Felise was full of wonder at what she saw beneath her; she could not understand it. She had read the great speeches of Demosthenes; they read so calm and composed, as if delivered in an atmosphere of perfect peace. They soothed the mind and disposed it to think, and thought is quiet. Why did these people on the floor of the hall appear to hate each other so intensely? Why did they push and jostle with brutal rudeness, and use expressions of savage violence? It did not look human.

That men, each in the same likeness, clad alike, speaking the same tongue, living in the same neighbourhood, should be ready to treat each other as blocks of timber to be kicked, pushed, shoved, and thrust about, was inexplicable to her.

The first view of an excited public meeting is very puzzling and disappointing to a mind accustomed to study and to hold opinions without rancour.

Felise felt hurt at the spectacle. It was not right. There was not the least necessity for this roughness⁠—no cause whatever. It seemed to lower humanity.

“This is mildness itself, as yet,” said Mr. Goring, replying to her. “I remember scenes at elections thirty years ago which made one’s blood curdle. The brutality used to be rather encouraged. The more brutal you could be the better you were esteemed. Now you see why the ballot is such an advance; people can honestly express their views without this personal violence.”

“Is it quite safe for Martial?” asked Felise, anxious about him; the roar of the surging crowd seemed to threaten him most, because it was of him she thought.

“Not the least danger at present.”

“I wish he would leave the platform,” said Felise. “I do not like it; these people seem as if they would crush anyone who displeased them.”

Ostensibly the meeting had been called for two objects: first, for the formation of a Society for the Encouragement of Art Culture in the Homes of the Poor; secondly, for the presentation of a testimonial to Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., on the completion of his twenty-fifth year of Parliamentary service. In reality it was the commencement of a series of operations designed to raise up and unite the supporters of Cornleigh Cornleigh, and the cause he represented.

It had long been felt in the select circle that worked the party thereabouts that something must be done. A certain amount of apathy had manifested itself even among the farmers; they did not exactly say so, but they seemed to lay the losses and in some cases the ruin that had overtaken them at the door of the landowners, and to the Toryism they represented. Enthusiasm was absent; there was a coldness among the sturdiest of them. A race remarkable for loyalty even to a bad cause or to a bad man, they stood somewhat aloof.

Speeches had been made by some of them of an advanced character, not at all of a resigned and praise-the-authorities-that-be description. Something must be done to stir them up, to get them together and talk to them. Much is sometimes accomplished by getting people together and talking to them.

Besides encouraging their own ranks, there was still harder work to be carried out among the small voters, who had much increased in the neighbourhood of the town; there was the terrible Ballot Act to be countermined; and lastly, there was the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourer looming within “measurable distance.”

Mrs. Cornleigh Cornleigh was in high spirits at the success of her political management. A hint had been dropped, that owing to diminished income, the Squire thought of retiring from the representation at the next election, and this, too, on the eve of his baronetcy. The fourteen other magnates were much discomposed at this; there was no one among themselves with Cornleigh’s prestige to take his place, and they did not want a stranger sent down by the London clubs; they naturally wished to keep the thing a close preserve. Accordingly purses were opened more freely than could have been expected, and a guarantee fund was formed; besides which an additional amount was subscribed for immediate political or politico-social work.

“We want to get into the houses of the working-classes and of the labourers,” said Letitia. “We want to lift up their ideas, to raise their aspirations. Let us begin with Art.”

The proposed Society for the Encouragement of Art Culture in the Homes of the Poor was to furnish the labourer’s cottage with an approved selection of prints and engravings from the works of the great masters, together with watercolours executed by members of the organization. The latter idea proved a great bait, and attracted all the amateurs in the town; every lady who dabbled in paint looked forward to seeing her picture hung at an exhibition that was presently to be held in the house of Cornleigh Cornleigh.

Of all the odd movements that have been started in the last few years, this for ornamenting the cottage with works of art is the most grotesque. To suppose that any man is likely to be the better because a picture is graciously hung on his walls above the heads of squalling children, and over the table scarcely supplied with bread, is indeed a monstrous perversion of common sense.

Unless he be a slave-man out of whom poverty has ground all independence, he is much more likely to curse it, to tear it down and trample it under foot, and to abominate the name of Art as synonymous with insult ever afterwards.

Insult it is of the cruellest and harshest kind. The wretched beings require food, and you give them a picture.

Felise gave old Abner Brown half-a-crown to purchase himself a beefsteak and a quart of good ale; that is to say, to buy himself fresh blood to circulate in those old and withered limbs.

Good beef and beer are what the poor want, and you would find it difficult to supply too much of it.

But somehow or other your modern philanthropist cannot endure the idea of beef and beer.

He organizes societies to teach the poor how to cook (ye gods, how to cook! with nothing in the frying-pan nor any lard to grease it), and offers them a cold drink from the pump. In the midst of squalling children, over the deal table scarce supplied with bread, he hangs up a picture.

For the enjoyment of art it is first of all necessary to have a full belly.

May I inquire, too, of any painter, if such chances to light on these pages, whether he would consider it likely to encourage a love of art merely to hang a picture on a wall? whether he has not known even well educated and wealthy people who possessed scores of valuable pictures without the least love of art? whether, in short, even he, a painter of pictures, considered pictures the whole end and aim of art?

Is not art rather in the man than on the wall?

Once now and then I have been into the cottages of farm labourers (who had the good fortune to possess security of tenure) and found old oak furniture; curious grotesque crockery, generally much coloured⁠—the favourite colour red; ancient brazen-faced upright clocks ticking slowly, as the stars go slowly past in the quiet hours of night; odd things on the mantelpiece; an old gun with brass fittings, polished brass ornaments; two or three old books with leather bindings; on the walls quaint smoke-tinted pictures threescore years old.

Outside, trees in the garden⁠—plums, pears, damsons⁠—trees planted by the owner for fruit and shade, but mostly for solace, since it is a pleasant thing to see a tree grow. These people, having no fear of being turned out of doors, had accumulated such treasures, a chair at a time, making the interior homelike. And out of doors they had planted trees; without love of trees, I doubt if there be any art. Of art itself in itself they had had no thought; not one had ever tried to draw or paint. They had coloured their strips of flower-garden or bordering with bright yellow flowers; that was all the paint they knew.

Yet I think this home-life in itself was something like true art. There was a sense of the fitness of things, and good instinctive taste in the selection of interior fittings, furniture, and even of colour.

Oak is our national wood, old oak, dark and deep-shaded⁠—Rembrandt oak⁠—oak is part of our national art. Brass polishes and gleams in sunlight through the window, or glows in the sparkle from winter’s fire. It sets off the black oak. Red-coloured chinaware (perhaps it is a shade of pink) is gay and bright under low-pitched ceilings with dark wood beams and no white ceiling. Yellow flowers light up the brown mould. Altogether a realistic picture painted in actual dark oak, actual brass, actual red china, and actual yellow flowers.

Here then there was art in the man. Can you put that taste in by hanging a picture on the wall? Letitia’s pictures were chiefly of the pre-Raphaelite ecclesiastical order⁠—saints, saints’ lives and deaths, such as were painted in the fourteenth century, and with which life at the present day has no sort of sympathy.

There was not a cottage-tenant on the estate of Cornleigh Cornleigh who could call his cottage his own securely for more than six months. How then was it possible for taste to grow up, or to exercise itself if it was there?

There can be no art in a people who know that at any moment they may be thrust out of doors. Art is of slow growth.

Up in the north they say there is a district where the labourers spend their idle hours in cutting out and sticking together fiddles. I do not care twopence for a fiddle as a fiddle; but still I think if a labouring man coming home from plough, and exposure to rough wind, and living on coarse fare, can still have spirit enough left to sit down and patiently carve out bits of maple wood and fit them together into a complete and tunable fiddle, then he must have within him some of the true idea of art, and that fiddle is in itself a work of art.

Nothing of the sort will ever be possible in our cottage homes till the people in them know that they can live therein as long as they please provided they pay the rent, and are not liable to be ordered off into the next county or anywhere because they have displeased someone.

However, the movement in Maasbury had proved a social success; it was already well patronized; there were many amateurs up in the gallery who had begun to study for the honour of exhibiting in the house of Cornleigh Cornleigh.

Looking down upon the crowd in the hall from the gallery, it did not appear to care much for art⁠—which is quiet. The hubbub increased, and the jostling was renewed at short intervals; the meeting was impatient and wanted things to begin.

The first speakers in nowise concern us; they were heard sometimes with cheers, and now and then with hoots; they explained the general organization of the Society.


At length Cornleigh Cornleigh rose and said:

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen⁠—Upon this very important occasion, I⁠—I⁠—hum⁠—ha [‘think,’ whispered the family solicitor behind him]⁠—I think⁠—the⁠—ah⁠—the [‘sympathies,’ whisper] sympathies of all right-minded persons, to whichever party they [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo! ‘Hoo, hoo!’ will do for groans⁠—modern meetings do not groan, they ‘hoo, hoo!’] There is no doubt that in the future of this great country [hear, hear!]⁠—textile fabrics very important⁠—commercial interest⁠—depend on knowledge of colour⁠—education of the eye⁠—practical value⁠—I⁠—I think⁠—hum⁠—ha⁠—ha⁠—that is [‘competition,’ whisper]⁠—enable us to compete successfully with foreign artists, traders⁠—manufacturers⁠—they should be able to choose the right form, the right hue, and the right place. [Hear, hear!] Connection between agriculture and commerce now⁠—now [‘admitted,’ whisper]⁠—admitted, and the depression of farming [hear, hear!] seen to be injurious, and to⁠—to [‘react,’ whisper]⁠—react upon trade as in this town no doubt [hear, hear! from the tradesmen]⁠—most sincerely hope the worst time past⁠—the spending classes restricted⁠—money⁠—circulation, disastrous⁠—disastrous to working men. [Hoo, hoo, hoo!] The object of this Society is to elevate the artistic ideas of the agricultural labourer [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]⁠—contemplation of art⁠—require surroundings⁠—support art manufacture. But incomparably the⁠—the⁠—the⁠—hum⁠—ha [‘highest influence,’ whisper]⁠—the highest effect⁠—influence⁠—art is on the moral and social well-being of the community, and I, for one, Mr. Chairman, shall be delighted to forward the movement to the utmost of my power. [Hear, hear!] This is not a political meeting [hoo, hoo, hoo!], else I might be tempted to address you. In anticipation of the course of Parliamentary discussion⁠—not a good plan⁠—stupid to⁠—I mean awkward⁠—before subject well-threshed out. Still [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]⁠—still [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]⁠—still [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo, hoo!] But [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]⁠—may be permitted, as appealing to the grand sympathies of Englishmen⁠—Englishmen⁠—to allude in the briefest possible manner to innovation⁠—I⁠—hum⁠—ha⁠—ha⁠—I⁠—the [‘From earliest times,’ whisper]⁠—From earliest times the grand boast of the Englishman has been freedom⁠—freedom to express, and say what he likes, voting⁠—open air⁠—light of day [hear, hear!]⁠—no sneaking behind anonymous [hear, hear!]⁠—go to the poll like men⁠—honest men [hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]⁠—there can be no doubt⁠—I believe the Ballot Act to be demoralizing in its action on the people who have hitherto been accustomed⁠—accustomed⁠—I⁠—ah⁠—hum⁠—[‘atmosphere,’ whisper]⁠—atmosphere of freedom! [Hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!] The time is coming when that measure, so obnoxious and so⁠—I⁠—I⁠—[‘injurious,’ whisper]⁠—in its action⁠—must be⁠—repealed. [Hoo, hoo!⁠—hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo⁠—a rush towards the platform with difficulty repelled.] I⁠—I⁠—anxious to calm⁠—I am sincerely desirous [hoo, hoo!] ever to promote the⁠—the⁠—ah⁠—beneficial⁠—and as I enjoy remarkable good health the late hours of the House of Commons not so⁠—ah⁠—ah⁠—I⁠—able to attend to my duties, and to vote [hoo, hoo!]⁠—your interests⁠—acknowledging your very kind reception, I⁠—I⁠—ah⁠—” the speaker sat down in the midst of a perfect howl of hear, hear! and hoo, hoo!

This was a very long and successful speech for Cornleigh Cornleigh. He delivered it by bending his body forwards at each sentence and jerking the words out⁠—throwing them across the hall. The speech had been written for him by Letitia, and was well expressed in the draft; but his memory, which retained the principal words, forgot the connecting links.

There was a great uproar as he concluded, and one man in the crowd wished to mount the platform and address the meeting on the Ballot; but this the chairman would not permit, on the pretext that the assemblage was nonpolitical. A rush was again made and repelled; suddenly the chairman asked for a show of hands, and some resolution or other was declared carried. A storm of hisses came from near the doorway, met with cries of “Turn them out!”

Cornleigh did not appear to hear the disturbance. He sat near the chairman in full view of all, his hands folded, his eyes cast down; the most marked point about him was the red silk handkerchief projecting from his breast-pocket. It would have been difficult to decide whether the utter quietude of his attitude and expression was due to insensibility, to mere incapacity, or to studied purpose. Cornleigh was inscrutable.

Felise saw Cornleigh’s solicitor (and prompter) place a piece of paper in Martial’s hand. Martial seemed to remonstrate and wish to return it; but it was pressed upon him.

The Society being now formally established, next came the presentation proceedings. The Vicar of Maasbury advanced and began to speak with the volubility of his order. They had all known the House of Cornleigh [A voice: “Too long!”]⁠—it was established in the midst of them, and was endeared to them all by a thousand deeds of kindness and sympathy; it was interlaced with the prosperity of the town at large; it was interwoven with the progress of every individual inhabitant. For seven hundred years the House of Cornleigh [“What good have ’em done all that time?”] had dwelt in their midst [“Who shut up the park?”], and they were all proud of the historic interest conferred upon the place by that ancient mansion. [“Who stopped up the road?”] In all that lapse of time there was not on record a single instance of their refusing to assist and to lead with all their prestige movements valuable to the people, or to the trade and manufacture of the town. [“Who buys all their grocery in London?”] That beautiful⁠—that noble⁠—that magnificent new parish church of which they were all so proud [“Where’s the old church?” “Where’s the old bones?” “Who built a stable in the churchyard?”] owed its origin to the initiation of a lady, to mention whose name was at once sufficient [hoo⁠—hoo!⁠—“The grey mare!”] to secure the heartiest applause. [Hoo, hoo, hoo!] Were he to recount but one half of what the family of Cornleigh had accomplished for the benefit of Maasbury [Hoo, hoo, hoo!⁠—hear, hear, hear!⁠—two rushes and several free fights.] But the immediate object of his addressing them that afternoon was to recall to their memories⁠—if indeed it wanted recalling, if it was not fresh in their minds⁠—to recall to their memories the services Edward Cornleigh Cornleigh had rendered to them, to the town, to the neighbourhood, to agriculture, and to the country at large by his long, patient, and laborious attendance in the House of Commons as their representative. [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear! The Cornleigh party yelled till they overcame the hooting for once.] Fortunately for them Mr. Cornleigh was peculiarly fitted for Parliamentary duties, being blessed with remarkably good health [“So are cows!”], which good health he devoted with unremitting and disinterested assiduity to the service of his constituency. [Oh, oh!] There was reason to believe that this unremitting attention would, in a short time, receive a reward [“Yah! my Lady Letitia!”] by no means equal to the efforts he had made, but sufficient nevertheless to cast a reflected lustre over the constituency which had returned him for five-and-twenty years. [“And won’t do it again!”] Some persons of a flippant turn of mind were easily captured with long speeches⁠—with mere wind and bombast⁠—but men of a right way of thinking valued actions, valued deeds, beyond the mere piling of words upon words. The manner in which Mr. Cornleigh had sat through the wearisome debates, the manner in which he had recorded his vote [“Against everything any good of!”]⁠—these patient actions far surpassed the vain ambitions of talkative politicians. [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear!⁠—free fights⁠—a hat thrown on the platform.] Sufficient notice, indeed, could not be taken of this noble exception to the current vice of the day⁠—the vice of self-advertisement⁠—the talk, talk, talking of one’s self into observation. [“He’d talk if he could!”] It was no wonder that the subscriptions to the testimonial had proved so large⁠—no wonder that it had extended far beyond the expectations of the most sanguine, when they looked back in this way upon the services of Mr. Cornleigh to the town and to agriculture. [Hear, hear! from the compact body of tenant-farmers.] Around the town of Maasbury there reached a wide domain⁠—the domain of the House of Cornleigh, which, under their fostering care, had reached a pitch of cultivation rarely seen. [Cheers from the tenant-farmers.] Upon that domain they saw smiling homesteads in the midst of trees, or under the hills, surrounded with corn and grass lands, with groups of cattle in the fields and well-paid labourers [hoo, hoo!⁠—hoo, hoo!]; and they saw fields drained and in the utmost order⁠—they saw the smoke curling upwards from the peaceful villages, so contented and prosperous under Mr. Cornleigh’s rule⁠—a rule which was a happy mingling of lenity and severity, such as a good parent displayed. [Oh, oh! “Pull him down!” “Robert Godwin!” Hiss! Robert was on the platform.] When they saw these things they realised the blessing of a landlord [hoo, hoo, hoo!]⁠—they realised the blessing of a system of land-ownership which it was now so madly desired to destroy⁠—a system which enabled a benevolent and clear-sighted man to arbitrate in all cases of dispute, to eliminate seeds of discord, and to create around him a fortunate, a happy, and a contented tenantry. [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear! The tenant-farmers howled their loudest applause.] But not content with what he and his predecessors had accomplished, Mr., Cornleigh, ably assisted by his talented and beloved lady, desired to still farther extend the sphere of his usefulness and benevolence by entering into the cottage home, and placing upon the wall the images of those sainted men and women which the greatest masters of art had handed down to us, in order that the ploughman and the carter might enjoy privileges as great as those of the wealthiest, in order that they might lift up their aspirations, in order [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear.] He would not trespass longer upon them⁠—he had to propose that a testimonial be presented to Edward Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., in recognition of his long and faithful service in Parliament, and of his devoted labours for the benefit of the town of Maasbury and of agriculture. [Hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo!]

A still more violent attempt was made to storm the platform as the speaker concluded. It was frustrated by the compact body of tenants in the front, but the result of all this pushing was that the thin end of the wedge had become much thickened. On the platform Robert Godwin had fixed his glance upon Martial somewhat in the same way as Rosa had fastened hers upon Felise. His colourless eyes, like those of a fish, never moved from Barnard.

“Look, Martial is going to speak!” said Felise. Martial had advanced to the edge of the platform; at this even Rosa looked that way. In his hand he held a piece of paper; he had, in fact, been selected by the solicitor to the House of Cornleigh to second the resolution moved by the last speaker. He had remonstrated, but they would take no denial. The largest tenant upon the estate was ill; it fell to him as the next on the roll to laud the House of Cornleigh.

He was cheered by the compact body of tenant-farmers in front; at the rear they did not know him, and shouted “Who are you?”


“Gentlemen,” said Martial in a faltering voice, nervously twisting the piece of paper, “this piece of paper has been put into my hands much against my will [‘Speak up!’]⁠—much against my will. [‘Throw it down then!’] It contains the words in which I am to second the resolution. But I really feel⁠—I do not wish⁠—I am in an awkward position [‘Go home to bed!’], you must understand. [‘Yah! Open your mouth,’ from the opposition. Hear, hear! ‘Let him speak! Fair play⁠—fair play!’ from the tenant-farmers.] My private opinions, then, are not⁠—are not⁠—I [Hear, hear!⁠—hoo, hoo! ‘Why can’t you say what you mean?’] So I will, gentlemen,” said Martial, his face flushed, and his temper rising and overcoming his nervousness; “I will do as that gentleman recommends, I will say what I mean, which is the best thing to do after all. We have just listened to a long and I suppose we must call it an eloquent speech [hear, hear!], the burden of which was the great advantage we all derive⁠—and especially agriculturists like myself⁠—from the interest taken in us by Mr. Cornleigh, [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear! from the tenant-farmers.] I suppose you all know I am a farmer. I will now give you a fact⁠—not a speech but a fact⁠—in illustration, or rather as a practical comment upon that eloquent speech. [Hear, hear!⁠—hear, hear! from the tenant-farmers.] Gentlemen, this afternoon before I entered this hall I posted a letter formally stating that I intended⁠—that I was compelled⁠—to give up my farm [sensation], and of course that will be followed by a sale by auction of my stock and effects. Gentlemen, I am ruined. Gentlemen, I do not believe I shall have fifty pounds over when the auction takes place. I beg you to receive this as a practical comment upon the eloquent speech to which you have just listened. [Hear, hear!⁠—cheers from the opposition; tenant-farmers in dead silence; whispering on the platform.] You will now understand why I shrank from seconding a resolution to the terms of which I could not conscientiously subscribe. [Hear, hear!⁠—opposition cheers.] But as it has been forced upon me, I feel entitled to speak out. [‘Goon⁠—go on!⁠—hurrah!’ tremendous opposition applause; dead silence among the tenant-farmers; agitation on the platform.] It was well⁠—it was appropriate⁠—it was fitting that the eloquent speech we have just heard should have been addressed to you by a person interested in maintaining a subsidised falsehood [shouts of applause from the opposition]⁠—by a person interested in maintaining that huge octopus, the Church⁠—that huge octopus which saps with its innumerable suckers the strength out of the land. It was well and it was fitting that the Church which takes our substance in its tithes should eloquently support the landowner who takes our substance in rent. [Frantic applause from the opposition; hoots and yells from the tenant-farmers; another great push for the platform; free fights; Robert Godwin conferring with the solicitor, Cornleigh’s prompter.] Gentlemen, for long years past we have been suffering heavy losses from various causes which fall under two divisions, prominent in the first division being the inclement seasons and the enormous competition of America; for these no man is responsible, and I lay no blame at any man’s door. In the second division of the causes which have increased the depression, there stands out in strong relief the high and disproportionate rents which we were compelled to pay in seasons of prosperity. There stands out in strong relief the tithes which in seasons of prosperity and adversity alike we have been compelled to pay to the Church. These two together are more than equal to the incidence of competition and the failure of sunshine. In our years of prosperity the landlord forced from us the last shilling, so that we were unable to lay by savings for the future. When times of adversity came we had no reserve to meet them with. Tardily, very tardily, the landlord has at length somewhat lowered his rent, but this relief has come too late; slight in itself, grudgingly given, it is too late. [Hear, hear! from the opposition.] But if the landlord has at last, under irresistible pressure⁠—bear this in mind, under irresistible pressure and not from any benevolence⁠—if at last he has reduced his rent, the Church has not reduced its rent. No, not one penny⁠—not one penny⁠—after all that it has received from the tenant-farmers in years gone by, the subscriptions, the moral and physical support⁠—in our distress this Church, which preaches kindness and consideration for others, has not abated one single penny, but has taken from our sides its pound of flesh. [Shouts from the opposition; shouts from the tenant-farmers, and indescribable uproar. Robert Godwin advanced and put his hand on Martial’s shoulder, but Cornleigh’s solicitor drew him back.] I repeat, its pound of flesh; for there are men whom I know, men with families, with growing sons and daughters, and with little children who have been forced, first to partially starve themselves and their children, and finally to go forth penniless into the world. Let me ask you whether we ought to feel grateful? [Uproar and fighting. ‘Pull him down!’ from the tenant-farmers; ‘Go on!’ from the opposition.] Gentlemen, I do not hesitate to denounce the whole system as a cruel farce. [‘Pull him down!’ from the tenants.] We have often, very often, at our public dinners and meetings, heard persons get up and make eloquent speeches, attributing every species of benevolence to our landlords and to our landlords’ agents. [‘Robert Godwin!’ hoo, hoo, hoo! from the opposition.] The truth, as we all know, is exactly the reverse. In return for our loyalty they have oppressed us, and, I will add, they have insulted us in every possible manner. We have been less than dogs [‘Pull him down!’ from the tenant-farmers]; we have been expected to cringe with our hats off [hiss, hiss! from the tenant-farmers: ‘Let him speak!’ ‘Fair play; fair play!’ from the opposition]; we have been expected to look down humbly and to be only too thankful to be noticed, like a dog you pat with your hand [hoo, hoo, hoo! from the tenant-farmers. Angry cries from the opposition: ‘Let him speak, or we’ll drive everyone off the platform!’]; we have been expected to kowtow to our landlords, and not only to them, but to all their agents, friends, and hangers-on; to stand hat in hand before their parsons, and before their solicitors, and before their stewards, and before their gardeners and their gamekeepers⁠—before their very grooms! I deeply regret to say⁠—the truth is forced from me⁠—gentlemen, I deeply regret to own to you that a very large proportion of farmers have consented to this kowtowing, this hat-touching, this contemptible humility. [Yells from the tenant-farmers, who made an effort to tear Barnard from the platform, but were pulled back by the opposition: fighting and hard blows exchanged; at length comparative quiet.] The very memory of it fills me with disgust; such servility has probably never been equalled on the part of free men⁠—such servility as that exhibited by the mass of farmers to their landlord’s circle, down to his very gardener! But why was there this servility? Does anyone suppose that farmers humiliated themselves in this manner of their own free will? No, indeed. The guilt⁠—for it is nothing less than guilt⁠—lies with the landlords, who, through their agents, forced us to this infamy. [Hear, hear! from the Opposition; cheers and counter-cheers.] I say “guilt,” because it is a criminal thing to force a man to part with his own self-respect. [Cheers and uproar.] Either bow the knee and touch the hat⁠—either do as we bid you, vote as we please, give up your very conscience⁠—either bow the knee and touch your hat or leave your farm. [‘Shame!’ cheers and yelling.] We have been asked by a clergyman in an eloquent speech to acknowledge the advantages we have derived from a landlord. I ask you again whether you think we have reason to be grateful? [‘No, no!’ cheers; hoo-hooing from the tenant-farmers.] Gentlemen, I cannot express my astonishment that a member of a Church which professes to hold a falsehood as an abomination [cheers] can have the cool assurance to stand here in the light of day and deliver statements so absolutely at variance with fact. [Agitation on the platform; Robert Godwin held back by the solicitor.] I tell you⁠—and you are, most of you, aware of the fact yourselves⁠—that there does not exist a race of free men on the face of the earth who have been so completely under the thumb as farmers. There are many tenants of Mr. Cornleigh’s here this afternoon. There is not one of these who would dare, were voting not now secret under the Ballot Act, to vote contrary to Mr. Cornleigh’s wishes. [Uproar⁠—savage blows exchanged; Robert Godwin seizes Martial by the shoulder; excited cries, “Let him alone⁠—let him speak!” Martial shakes Robert off roughly.] You see how much liberty⁠—you see we should not be allowed even to speak! [Cheers.] Till the Ballot Act was passed not a farmer dared to vote contrary to his landlord’s opinion; I warn you all that the Ballot Act is not perfect; the secrets of voting are allowed to leak out, and pressure is still put on. I warn you of this! I say that the man who discloses the secret of another man’s vote, deserves as severe a punishment as is awarded to perjury. [Hear, hear! from the opposition; uproar from the tenant-farmers.] We hear very much nowadays of this or that landlord having reduced rent, or having returned ten, twenty, or thirty percent, at audit. This is generous indeed, is it not? For the very same land has fallen in value fifty percent. — an acre that was worth £70 is now hardly worth £35, and in fact you cannot get a purchaser at all. What better proof could there be that the letting value must have depreciated equally? We know that the trade and commerce of this country are declining; it is traced to the depression of farming, and who is responsible for the depression of farming? [Shouts of ‘Cornleigh, Cornleigh!’] Now let us kowtow and bend the knee and touch the hat to our landlords’ grooms and gardeners, stewards, solicitors, agents, and sycophants. [Uproar.] We hear now of landlords seeking tenants; using every blandishment, offering every advantage⁠—even the shooting⁠—fancy, permission to shoot!⁠—lowering rents, and doing everything possible to attract tenants now they find their rent-rolls diminishing and their cash disappearing. Was there ever anything more despicable? To grind us and oppress us, to insult us and ride over us in their time of prosperity; and now to fawn on us and treat us as equals, to beckon to us, and to hope to get over us with such manifestations of affection! [Cheers from the opposition; groans from the tenant-farmers.] The whole thing is a farce, a disgraceful farce and national shame [cheers, met with frantic yelling from the farmers]; a disgraceful farce⁠—I am disgusted with it⁠—I see you are disgusted with it⁠—every man of commonsense in the country is disgusted with it. There never will be any more prosperity in English agriculture till the entire system is revised; till a man can cultivate the land free from vexatious hindrances, medieval hindrances, superstitious hindrances, and burdens such as tithes, ordinary and extraordinary; till there be nothing to contend against but the seasons and the honest competition of the United States. I am thankful to say I have done with it. To me it is not so serious a matter as it is to many. I am young; I can work [cheers from the opposition]; if need be, I can emigrate to those United States. But it is a bitter thing to older men thus forced from their homesteads. To me, too, it will be a bitter thing to quit the old home where I was born, where my father lived, where my grandfather lived, with which all my associations are bound up; but there will be one great compensation for me⁠—from this afternoon I have done with the landlord’s agent; I have done with the steward, with the solicitor, with the parson, with the gardener and the gamekeeper; I have done with the groom, and the whole circle of despicable sycophants!”

Tremendous cheering and groaning, in the midst of which Martial got off the platform into the crowd. Felise drew her breath, for to her it seemed that in the surging mass he was knocked to and fro like a tennis-ball. The opposition helped him towards the door; the tenant-farmers pushed and struggled and struck to crush him, hooting their loudest at the man who had expressed the very thoughts in their own hearts. He got out at last without hurt, having lost his hat; his coat, having been torn open violently, was split. At the foot of the gallery staircase he found Mr. Goring and Felise; he had to buy a new hat before they started for Beechknoll. The meeting continued for some time, and several speeches were made; but the testimonial was declared to be voted unanimously.

“It is the first time the truth has been spoken in Maasbury since⁠—since the Crusades,” said Mr. Goring, as they drove homewards. “Did you notice Cornleigh?”

“I never thought of him⁠—personally,” said Martial. “It was the whole system I thought of.”

“Well, there he sat demurely all the time, with that faint scarce perceptible smile on his face. I wonder whether it is conceit or stupidity⁠—his hands folded, and looking down in the same innocent manner as if it did not concern him in the least?”

“Are you quite sure you are not hurt?” said Felise.

“My shoulder is bruised a little⁠—nothing else.”

Presently they saw in the distance the village church by which Mary Shaw was buried.

“Could there be anything more grotesque⁠—more hideous in its mockery?” said Mr. Goring, “than to hang up pictures in cottages, and Mary lying there for want of a home?”


A few days afterwards Felise started early in the morning to meet Martial. She was half an hour before the usual time; she was restless and anxious, and could not wait. There was no definite cause for her anxiety⁠—it was a vague feeling of uneasiness, traceable in a great measure to the unhappy death of Mary. By that sudden loss her confidence in the future had been shaken.

Till some sharp sorrow comes we look forward frankly, and never question the certainty that tomorrow will bring the same settled and pleasant circumstances which surround us today.

Her confidence in the future was shaken. Martial was hers now⁠—but tomorrow?

Mary had only left the house an hour, when under the uncontrollable impulse of her secret unhappiness she leaped into the mill-pool.

Felise could not bear Martial to be away from her; so long as he was near, her heart was at peace; the instant he was gone, her uneasiness returned. She could not wait till the usual time, but started too soon.

There was also the thought that now Martial had given up his farm, in a little while he would leave his house, and would perhaps go from her for months⁠—no one could say for how long.

The brook by which she walked flowed on through the meadow, now with its waters level with the sward, now deep between steep banks where the current had worn away the earth. Sometimes a blackbird rushed out from under a hawthorn-bush at her approach; the blackbird loves the water always, and most of all in the warm August days. Now and again the breeze rustled the green flags, tipped with brown, and the tall reeds in the corner seemed to advance and step towards her as they bowed. Felise walked musing by the brook, dreaming in the sunshine, through the shadow of the willows and alders, by the purple loosestrife lifting its spires almost to her hand, by the green rushes where the furrow came to the stream.

Far, far up in the azure there were thin wisps of white cloud idling motionless in the air, flecks such as a painter might throw from his brush; and between them yet more faint and extended webs of vapour. It was hardly cloud⁠—it was thistledown cloud⁠—so fine, delicate, and vanishing, the eye could scarcely trace the lines and pencilling on the sky.

Less brilliantly white because it passed through these, the sunshine fell softly upon the aftermath⁠—on the short grass; and in the brook, looking down from the high bank, she saw the image of the sun, shorn of his dazzling rays, reflected in the water.

The heat was not so overwhelming, the light not so fiery and white-hot; the breeze which blew at times came almost cool, and the rustling of the flags sounded dreamily. A softness and repose had settled on the aftermath and on the stubble; there was haze in the distance, and the masses of elm foliage were rounded and smooth.

The cawing of the rooks going over scarce disturbed the silence of the morning; there was a tone of complacent rest in their calls to each other. Nothing was quick or suggested haste but the hist-hist of a wood-pigeon’s wings cleaving the air with vehement strokes.

Flags and tall grasses and green things, growing down to the water’s edge and encroaching on the bank, hid the forget-me-nots under their tangled cover.

Once again the shadow was idle on the dial; Time was idle, drowsy in summer indolence.

Away in the stubble women were gleaning, gathering ears of wheat from among the streaked convolvulus and the pale field veronica. A sound of pastoral things stays in the word “gleaning;” yet It is the most aching of labours⁠—stoop, stoop, stoop. They laboured and sought the ears of wheat while the summer was slumbering around them.

Love lingered by the brook and watched the running water, touching the reeds and letting them slip through the fingers, pausing to gather a flower, and then in the act sparing it. Let it bloom; do not injure a flower; let it stay in the sunshine by the running stream.

All things seem possible in the open air.

By the water some part of her old faith returned to her. The voice of the sunshine was hope; in the breeze there was a soothing reassurance; a swallow flew before her, following the winding brook low over the sward, and thought shot forward swifter than he.

There are moments when the earth is so beautiful that sorrow seems a dream. It cannot be⁠—it is not real, this regret; we have fancied it, or surely the sun would not shine, the water sparkle like this. To the beautiful, sadness is unknown⁠—it is not in its sphere; is this why we instinctively cling to loveliness?

He had said that he could not love her; yet by the running water, in the soft light of the cloud-shaded sunshine, she felt that it was not true: he would love her, he must love. Some day he must love her.

So by the stream and through the woodlands Felise came to the old barn, and sat down under the chestnut-tree. A jackdaw flew from it, calling jack-jack-daw as he passed over the ridge of yellow-red tiles. In a minute or two she got up⁠—she had sat down opposite the cavernous space where the doors of the barn had been⁠—and went round the tree and sat down so as to have it between her and the barn. Either there had been some slight scarce perceptible movement of something in the barn, or the shadow had deepened, or her imagination, more nervous than usual, fancied it. Of course it was nothing⁠—she would have laughed at the idea of the barn being haunted; yet she went round and sat down behind the chestnut.

Almost immediately a hand was placed on her shoulder; she started, and, as happens in sudden alarm, her lips parted. Before she could cry out a handkerchief was thrust between her teeth, choking the sound in her throat. A loop of stout cord descended round her shoulders and was drawn tight effectually pinioning her arms. Savage force was used to throw her on the ground, and the cord rapidly wound round and round her body to her ankles till she lay swathed in rope. So swiftly was it done that she was helpless before she recognised Robert Godwin.

He knew her strength; it would have been difficult even for him, powerful as he was, to have mastered her in fair wrestling: at least it would have taken time⁠—there would have been a struggle.

But the sudden gag in her mouth not only prevented her crying out, it seemed for the moment to stop her breath; she was, too, sitting down, a position unfavourable to effort. The loop of rope fastened her arms; she was thrown and bound, at his mercy.

Roughly turning her over and over to wind the cord about her, he had not recked that her beautiful face must touch the earth. Now she lay as he had left her on her back, extended at full length; there were marks where a root had pressed into the soft cheek, and a dry leaf adhered to her forehead. Her hat had fallen off⁠—her head was bare.

From below the shoulder to her ankles she was wrapped in a spiral of rope, preventing all movement of her limbs; she could lift her head, her limbs were powerless.

An undulation⁠—a wave of muscular exertion went along her form; with all her strength she strove to burst the cords. They would not yield; her breast heaved⁠—her torso seemed to enlarge as she inflated her chest, and setting her shoulders firmly, arched her back and lifted herself, suspended between the neck and the feet. Twice the undulation passed along her form⁠—twice she raised herself on her neck and heels, the body suspended between⁠—arched⁠—and with her limbs pressed outwards against her bonds. All the strength of her beautiful torso⁠—all the strength inhaled upon the hills⁠—was put forth in those great efforts; the rope stretched, but would not give way. Then she lay still and looked up at Godwin.

His face, usually so black, was blanched to a ghastly paleness⁠—a paleness behind which the dark and sombre expression still remained. Without a word he rushed inside the barn and brought out Ruy, who had been tethered to the broken plough inside.

The reflex action⁠—the brooding⁠—had done this. It was his duty to punish her.

The evil thought had grown in his mind⁠—all her conduct had strengthened his belief that she was Martial’s mistress.

His unapproachable idol had degraded herself⁠—she must be punished⁠—her beauty must be broken as idols were broken. Not in revenge for her loving another, but because she had destroyed her ideal self. She was guilty of crime against herself, and that beauty which she had debased must be ground out of her face forever with Ruy’s iron hoof.

Her lover’s horse⁠—the horse she had fed and petted; yes, under Ruy’s hoof her beauty should perish. One stamp of that hoof and the lovely mould of her features would become indistinguishable. To kill her was nothing; he did not intend that, but that she should live in her crushed shame.

There could have been no more distinct proof of his insanity than his thinking to break the mould without inflicting death, for Ruy’s weight would press down the very brain.

For this chance he had watched morning after morning; but Martial had come too soon, or she had sat looking towards his place of ambush⁠—some little circumstance had delayed him. It was his or Ruy’s movements in the shadow that Felise had seen.

Holding the bridle, he stood a moment and looked down upon the captive.

One glance of intolerable indignation shot from her eyes; then she lifted her head and looked towards the wood⁠—looking for Martial.

He understood, and drew Ruy forward; the horse hesitated to advance, seeing her on the ground almost under him. At the trampling of his hoofs she turned her head again, and comprehended what Godwin intended to do. Her features flushed⁠—it was the suppression of the cry which her gagged lips endeavoured to utter.

Godwin pulled at the bridle. Ruy came up till his hoof cut the sward within a few inches of her ear, but would not step farther. Godwin struggled with the horse and tugged at the bridle. Ruy drew back; for the third time the man conquered and dragged him to her.

In that moment the undulation passed along her form, and she struggled to roll over⁠—to shield her face, to turn it to the ground. Godwin put his foot upon her chest, and pressing firmly prevented her. Dragging at the bridle he had aroused Ruy’s temper; Ruy jerked his head and would not come. Godwin paused and took out his pocketknife, intending to stab the horse and drive him by sudden pain over her.

His foot pressed heavily on her chest.

She raised her head; she saw a quick something pass through the air; it was in itself invisible, yet something passed; there was a sharp report, and she fainted.

The bullet struck Ruy by the temple; he staggered back, reared, and fell over on his side. By main strength Martial dragged Felise away along the ground, lest the last plunging kicks of the horse should strike her; but Ruy did not turn after he fell⁠—he was dead almost instantly. Robert had rushed from the spot at the sound of the rifle.

The little Lancaster oval-bore from which the shot had been fired lay among the thistles at the edge of the copse where Martial had dropped it. Emerging from the wood as he came to meet Felise, he saw Godwin’s foot upon her breast and the horse angrily jerking at his bridle. A shout died on his lips, and the rifle came up to his shoulder. As Robert took out his knife the tube was levelled, and in another instant the ball would have crashed through his brain. But Martial’s good genius, at the instant his finger felt the trigger, caused him to change his aim from the man to the horse; the tube scarcely moved a quarter of an inch, but that quarter of an inch made the entire difference.

In after-days he shuddered at the recollection that in his anger and fear for Felise he might have shot Godwin; the deed might be justifiable, still it would have been homicide, and a weight on his mind for years. The mere change of his thought⁠—a change effected in the hundredth part of a second⁠—had saved him from this.

He cut the rope; he lifted her head; he called upon her name. His kisses fell fast on her lips, and under those kisses she awoke to the consciousness of a stream of incoherent words full of one meaning⁠—love. Passion poured upon her⁠—a flood of love fell upon her heart. His trembling arms held her to his breast, his eyes swam with tears; she knew that he loved her, and her joy was supreme.


Except that the mark lingered on her cheek where the root had pressed against it, and that her limbs shook a little, Felise sustained no injury. The shock and terror, great as it was, was overcome by the happiness which so quickly followed it.

Martial loved her. In his struggle with the water in the dark mill-pool, in his struggle with the stolidity and stupidity which are difficult as fate to overcome⁠—when death drew near him he saw clearly how great and noble, how precious she was, how inestimable her love. Her value was made known to him with that distinctness of mental vision which comes in the last apparent moments of life. The thought that he should lose her was more bitter than death⁠—so bitter, so keen that he thought not of death, but of his loss in it. From that instant he was hers; but yet even then his own peril had not forced him to admit that he himself loved her. He valued her⁠—he did not love her.

But her peril changed all things. Instantly there fell from him the artificial restraints he had cultivated, and his heart burst forth. His passion, so long kept back, overcame him utterly.

In truth, he had loved her from the first. Not only her loveliness, but that indefinable personality which is stronger than beauty had seized upon his mind from the very beginning. Denying it to himself, fighting against it, fleeing from it, still it was there. Her peril forced him to own his passion. The past was utterly gone, and he worshipped her with all the fervour of his heart.

So overcome was he with the violence of his emotion that instead of supporting her, she supported him. Her physical exhaustion disappeared quickly; his moral excitement could not subside. She held his head upon her breast; she soothed him; she whispered gently; her strong arms were about him.

Once again they knew no Time. The shadow of the chestnut-tree swung slowly round; the doves came to the wood from the stubble; a blue kingfisher passed, going to the brook; the gleaners rested in the field.

When at last they moved homewards it was beyond noon; they walked through the woodlands beneath the shade, they stayed beneath the oaks, they lingered at the curves of the brook: the breeze whispered their love in the trees; the murmur of the water sang to them; to the sunshine their love gave a meaning. The swallow flew before, but just above the grass; their hearts were swifter than he to respond to each other’s thought.

At home they had much to tell Mr. Goring of Godwin’s insanity. He could scarcely credit it, because he knew no reason for his madness; paradox as it appears, this is correct⁠—we instinctively search for a reason for madness. While they talked in the little room, the window in which looked out on the garden, there was the sound of wheels, and a carriage stopped at the gate. In a moment Mr. Cornleigh Cornleigh was announced, and immediately afterwards entered; he carried a parcel under his arm.

“Morning, Goring,” he said in his jerky disconnected way, bowing to Felise at the same time very politely. “Fine weather⁠—harvest⁠—eh! Most of the corn got in about here⁠—eh! Happened to be driving along the road⁠—thought I would just call⁠—excuse intrusion.”

Mr. Goring put a chair for him, and the Squire seated himself comfortably, facing Felise.

“The fact is,” continued Cornleigh, aware that they were waiting for him to explain, “I’ve some pictures here,” undoing his parcel.

“Fine engravings⁠—first-rate⁠—high art⁠—great masters⁠—raise their aspirations⁠—labourers I mean. Were you at our meeting?”

I was,” said Martial meaningly.

Cornleigh did not apparently notice the remark.

“Want you to help us,” continued Cornleigh, handing one of the engravings to Mr. Goring. “Distribute them, you know⁠—worthy people; have heard you take great interest⁠—charitable⁠—so on. Really fine works,” turning to Felise. “Just look,” spreading them on the table. Felise could not do less than advance and look at the engravings.

Of all the people in the world Cornleigh Cornleigh, Esq., was the last person Goring would have expected to call upon him. No one could ever quite fathom Cornleigh, but there was an explanation of this move. His political prompter⁠—the family solicitor⁠—a man of much broader knowledge of the world than Godwin, had advised him some time since, in view of the next election, to endeavour to gain over certain opponents by a little cheap attention. Amongst these was Goring. The political prompter understood human nature well. He knew that the bitterest and coarsest opponent is often only an opponent because he has not been noticed; wounded vanity and overwhelming conceit is often at the bottom of it. Let the Squire call, or Letitia, and half the enmity would vanish. He was right in nine out of ten cases; Mr. Goring was the tenth, and the exception. This at least was the pretext Cornleigh put forward to Letitia.

But perhaps Cornleigh, sitting so quiet and demurely looking downwards that day in the justice-room, had seen Felise; perhaps he had made inquiries; perhaps he had seized the first opportunity to call and see her, to speak with her, so opposite as she was to the lady whom the world cheerfully pronounced to be “just the woman for Cornleigh.”

The engravings were really very good; Felise said so.

“Important to raise aspirations, you see,” said Cornleigh. “Textile fabrics” (recurring to his speech), “manufactures, trade⁠—hum⁠—ha⁠—hum⁠—supported by agriculture. Hope you will help us, Miss Goring.”

Mr. Cornleigh, I think the poor people need something to eat more than they do pictures,” replied Felise.

“Heard you were very charitable,” said Cornleigh. “Here’s sovereign.” laying the coin on the pictures. “Oblige me⁠—give someone you know.” Then turning to Martial: “Sorry you can’t get on⁠—no need to leave⁠—see steward⁠—arrangements can be made about the farm. Really didn’t know myself⁠—anything wrong.”

“I am much obliged,” said Martial, “but I must decline; I have determined to have nothing more to do with farming under present conditions.”

“Mistake somewhere,” said Cornleigh⁠—“mistake⁠—think it over⁠—come and see me⁠—will speak to steward⁠—put it right.”

This in spite of Martial’s speech! It can hardly be supposed that the Squire was really so obtuse as not to have felt the point of the remarks Martial made at the meeting, and yet it was always difficult to tell whether he did or did not understand anything. Perhaps Letitia had begun to be alarmed at the loss of income as farmer after farmer quitted his tenancy, and had determined that Martial should stay as an instance of a landlord’s clemency and conciliation. Doubtless she had been talking to the Squire about it. As was observed at the Maasbury meeting, now the rents are diminishing it is remarkable how the landlord fawns on the tenant.

“I cannot turn back,” said Martial. “Thank you very much, but I have made up my mind.”

“Abner!” cried Felise; “why, there’s Abner!”

He was walking across the garden; she beckoned to him, and he came to the window.

“Why, that’s the man⁠—yesterday before me⁠—police withdrew charge. Sad case. Give him sovereign⁠—eh!”⁠—Cornleigh offered a picture and the sovereign on it to the labourer.

“Not from you, Squire,” said Abner. “I can’t take nothing from you.”

At that moment Robert Godwin burst in among them, followed by the village constable. Godwin’s coat was torn and his face scratched, for he had forced his way through the hedges in his frenzied state; he was, too, soaking wet, having waded across the stream. When he rushed from the barn he ran and walked miles in a straight line, regardless of obstacles; presently he came back and got the policeman.


They all rose at this sudden interruption.

“Arrest him!” said Godwin, pointing to Martial.

“Arrest! What do you mean?” said Mr. Goring.

“I⁠—I⁠—ha⁠—ha⁠—hum!” said Cornleigh.

“That’s the man⁠—take him! Where’s your handcuffs?” shouted Godwin.

“On what charge?” said Mr. Goring.

“On what charge?” asked Cornleigh, naturally repeating, as he had done for so many years.

“I charge him with attempted murder⁠—he fired at me! come, seize him!”

—Godwin thrust the policeman forward; the constable hesitated and looked towards the magistrate for instructions.

“I charge you with the most brutal assault,” said Martial. “You tried to make the horse trample on Felise”⁠—he held Felise’s arm as if it were necessary to protect her even there, “I say arrest him!” shouted Godwin. “Quick⁠—the handcuffs!”

Martial stepped forward with flushed face, but Mr. Goring intervened and held him back.

“Robert Godwin, leave this house!” he cried sternly.

“Leave the house!” repeated Cornleigh.

“He is a spendthrift rascal!” shouted Godwin, pushing to get past Goring, and so at Martial.

Martial tried to get at the fellow. “Keep them apart!” cried Goring.

“Keep them apart!” cried Cornleigh, seizing Godwin’s right arm, while the constable held his left.

“You ruined your cousins⁠—you have brought the Miss Barnards to ruin! You have wasted your substance⁠—you spendthrift rascal!” screamed the steward.

“Martial⁠—Martial!” cried Felise; “don’t, dear! don’t strike him⁠—he is insane!”

Martial ceased to press towards the intruder, but Godwin, in his ungovernable fury, dragged Cornleigh and the constable by main force past the window. From the window a stern hand seized the steward’s collar⁠—it was Abner. Godwin turned fiercely towards him.

“You be the man as killed my Mary,” said Abner.


“ ’Twas through you and he” (nodding towards Cornleigh) “as she jumped in the mill-pool. Thank you, miss, for the oak coffin as you give her. Measter Godwin, you knows what you said to Mary in the field once.”

With a great effort Godwin forced himself free from Cornleigh and the constable, upsetting some flowers in the window; he struck wildly at Abner as he passed⁠—Abner drew back and let the blow expend itself⁠—and rushed at Martial. Felise sprang in front of Martial and received a skirting blow on her arm; she cried out. Martial, Mr. Goring, Cornleigh, and the constable together seized the madman.

Yet such was his immense strength that he dragged them to and fro⁠—he swung them to and fro⁠—the table cracked as their weight pressed on it, the partition-wall trembled as they came against it. Felise beckoned Abner⁠—he ran in and helped. At last the paroxysm decreased; the four of them held Godwin somewhat still, but he continued to shout forth accusations at Martial, They pinioned him against the wall; he ground his teeth and foamed at the mouth, his face was black as night, his colourless eyes glared at Felise.

“You gave him the horse as a present,” he panted. “Disgraceful! You gave him Ruy as a present, and he⁠—he⁠—he jilted Rosa Wood. He did⁠—there⁠—he was engaged to her⁠—he jilted her!”

“He did not,” said a voice, and Rosa Wood entered. She had knocked several times, but no one answered, and, hearing voices, she had ventured to enter. “He did not. My father broke off the engagement. It was not Martial.”

“I say arrest him!” shouted Godwin, again struggling.

“You are excited⁠—wait till tomorrow,” said Mr. Goring, hoping to reason with him.

“Wait till tomorrow,” repeated Cornleigh.

“What⁠—you?” cried the steward, as if at last recognising his employer.

“You are excited,” repeated Cornleigh.

“What!” cried Godwin, as if this was too much; that the man he had served so long should turn against and hold him.

“Wait till tomorrow⁠—tomorrow,” repeated Cornleigh.

“Why, he insulted you on the platform at the meeting,” said Godwin.

“Try and be calm,” said Mr. Goring.

“Try and be calm,” repeated Cornleigh.

“Let me go,” said Robert, suddenly ceasing to struggle. They left holding him; he walked out of the room and across the lawn, bareheaded in the sunshine.

“ ’Twas you as killed my Mary!” shouted Abner after him; he did not look back.

“He’ll come to hisself presently,” said the constable; “I’ll just see him home.” He went after the steward.

As the agitation in the room subsided, Rosa felt the necessity of explaining her appearance.

“I had something to say to Martial and you,” she said to Mr. Goring. “But I am glad Mr. Cornleigh is here.”

“I am sorry you found things in such disorder among us,” said Mr. Goring, offering her a chair, but she continued standing near Felise. She had evidently strung up her resolution, and wished to speak at once.

“Martial!” she said.

“Rosa!” his tone was somewhat constrained.

“It is not true that he wasted the Miss Barnards’ money,” said Rosa, turning a little and speaking towards Mr. Goring. “The truth is just the reverse⁠—he straitened his own means for their sake. Martial! Martial!” (she spoke to him by name, but her face was towards Mr. Goring), “I⁠—I did not know till the meeting that you were in such trouble. I⁠—I am very, very sorry⁠—don’t leave the old farm. I will lend you my money⁠—it is four thousand⁠—and you can settle” (she could not say “marry”)⁠—“I mean you can stay. Mr. Cornleigh, you will let him, won’t you?”

“Of course,” said Cornleigh. “I⁠—I have just mentioned the matter. Barnard, think it over.”

“No,” said Martial, “I cannot do it; I cannot go back; I will not submit again.”

“Can be arranged,” said Cornleigh. “Mistake put right, you know; all a mistake.”

“Do take it!” said Rosa. “It is my own⁠—no one can stop me; but no one wishes to, for I have told papa. Do take it! it is four thousand⁠—it is plenty.”

“This is very noble of you,” said Felise. “I hate you!” whispered Rosa aside.

“Oh!” Felise drew back. She understood instantly⁠—a whisper, the sound of which the rest had heard, but had not caught the words, was enough for a woman.

“I cannot take it, Rosa,” said Martial. “It is too much to thank you for⁠—it is beyond thanks; but I cannot⁠—I would rather work with my hands than return.”

“But you must have it⁠—I shall not be happy unless. There, I have said it⁠—I will write⁠—” her voice faltered a little. “Mr. Goring, will you come with me?” Mr. Goring accompanied her to her carriage, she repeated it to him more fully, and begged him to use his influence with Martial, and not to let him leave the old house. He promised to do his best.

Meantime, Cornleigh was fidgeting with his hat; though he was present, Martial could not quite suppress his feelings, and was perhaps more anxious than absolutely necessary in his inquiries if Felise’s arm was hurt. She assured him it was not. Perhaps Cornleigh did not appreciate these attentions to her.

“Must be going,” he said, rising. “Have engagements. Miss Goring⁠—feel sure I can rely on you to distribute these [the pictures]⁠—worthy people. Good morning [bowing]⁠—most important, you know⁠—raise aspirations⁠—I⁠—I⁠—ha⁠—hum⁠—” and so exeunt.

Rosa had heard Martial’s speech at the meeting in bitter misery; he was leaving his forefathers’ home for lack of the money which she possessed so abundantly. If only he had loved her! Her love for him rose stronger than ever⁠—in his ruin, and now that he loved another⁠—he was dearer than ever. This noble woman⁠—noble notwithstanding occasional pettiness⁠—resolved that anyway he should be happy; and after a tearful interview with her father, she drove over to the Manor House; thence, as Martial was not at home, she conquered her jealousy, and actually followed him to Beechknoll.

Anyway he should be happy⁠—even with her. With this money he could marry and stay. The sight of Felise almost staggered her, but she was brave. She could not resist delivering that side-thrust, “I hate you!”⁠—still she adhered to her resolution.

By-and-by the constable came back, just to say (and get a glass of ale) that he had seen Mr. Godwin home; he was quite quiet-like now, and had gone up in his room to do some writing. “He will be hisself again tomorrow.”


The yellow moon rising above the hill cast long shadows of the chestnut-trees, and illuminated a section of the barn through the space where the great doors had been. The haze of August seemed to have lingered in the atmosphere after the sun had set, and streaming through it the disk of the moon took a yellowish tint. Thus the harvest colour stayed on into the night; burnt by the sun’s heat into the wheat and stubble, as hues are burnt in by the potter’s furnace, this hazy yellow remained. There was a faint yellow in the stubble under the moonlight; the dried grass retained a faint hint of it; the broad roof of the barn was yellowish-red.

Over the fields all things appeared dim and indistinct; the haze of day had settled down into the night. At hand the increasing brilliance of the moon⁠—nearly full⁠—lit up each leaf of the chestnut-trees. A star by the zenith, and one or two low down in the south, shone with the peculiar light of summer⁠—they flickered slowly, and at each scintillation seemed nearly gone; their light was not equal to their size, and there were wide plains of the sky without a visible star.

The owl had gone past, and the bats had exhausted the excitement which seizes them at dusk. There was no sound of any living thing; the wind had fallen, and the low murmur of the brook among its green flags did not reach so far. Under the hill the copse was touched with moonlight down the slope of the treetops; their recesses were in the deepest shadow. For while the beams of the moon illumine the side towards it⁠—that which immediately receives its rays⁠—they are accompanied with little diffused light, and away from the actual impact of the rays there is always a darkness. Each leaf of the chestnut-trees on the side towards the east was brightly lighted, but behind each leaf there was shadow. By day the sunbeams would have gone, as it were, round and under the leaf, and there would have been light everywhere; by night there was a lit-up surface in front, and darkness behind.

Ruy lay as he had fallen, and was stiffening in the moonbeams before the chestnut-tree. Two night-crows were busy upon him; his eyes were already gone.

The crows moved uneasily at the sound of footsteps in the narrow lane, but did not rise till a man emerged from the shadow and came towards the tree. Silently the crows flew away into the dark by the copse; there were dots of white, too, now moving among the thistles by the verge of the wood⁠—these were the white tails of rabbits rushing away to their burrows.

Robert Godwin walked straight to the chestnut-tree, and, pausing on the spot where he had thrown Felise, drew from his pocket one of the old flintlock pistols he had so carefully cleaned. Without a moment’s delay, and in the most matter-of-fact manner, he placed the muzzle of the pistol against his breast and touched the trigger. There was a flash as the powder ignited in the pan, but the charge did not explode. At the flash a bird fluttered out from the tree into the night.

Godwin did not hesitate in his fatal purpose because of this accidental reprieve from his own violence. He opened the pan and poured fresh gunpowder into it from some which he carried in a screw of newspaper in his waistcoat-pocket. With a pin he cleaned the touch-hole, and then patiently thrust the grains of powder as well as he could into the aperture, in order that the flame might next time communicate with the charge.

Some time since he had purchased two ounces of loose gunpowder at an ironmonger’s in Maasbury⁠—cheap powder, such as is sold for birdkeepers’ guns; he would not go to the expense of Curtis and Harvey’s diamond-grain. He did not quite know when he bought it whether it was to be used against himself or Martial, or against both.

When he thought he had primed the pistol he closed the pan, again put the muzzle to his breast, and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered his heart and he fell dead; his face struck a bunch of yellow fungi growing in the grass, and lay still there.


He had not stayed to look at the stars, or to consider before his deed in the shadow of the chestnut tree. His purpose was death, and he had walked to it straight without looking to the right or to the left. The dim outline of the hills was nothing to him; he had seen in the hills nothing but mounds of chalk in life, why gaze at them on the eve of death? In the years of his life he had never lifted his eyes to the stars except to see if the sky was clear from cloud.

There was no meaning to him in the stars, or in the hills, or in the sea whose long low surge beat the beach beyond them. The idea of immortality had never been grasped, nor the idea of anything beyond the material and tangible. It is questionable whether he had ever grasped even the idea of a gas, as it is invisible⁠—that which he could see and touch was all that Godwin knew.

There are many who repeat words of the like import freely, and have no conception of their meaning any more than veritable parrots.

Godwin was true to himself, and repeated no words the import of which he did not understand.

He had been insane when he attacked Felise; he had been insane when he struggled so violently in the room at Beechknoll; but he was not insane at the moment of his death.

The fit had passed from him, and he saw things clearly. As thunder dispels the heaviness of the atmosphere, so the sultry gloom of his brain had been dispelled by that vehement passage of hate and personal violence. His brooding burst out in uncontrollable action, and immediately afterwards his mind was relieved.

He knew then that the last nine years of his life had been in vain; that he might as well have been dead those nine years; that he might as well have been dead from the very moment he beheld her, and his unattainable love began.

How powerful, and yet how uncontrollable by ourselves, is the influence of our life upon the lives of others! To Robert Godwin the life⁠—the mere existence of Felise had been a terrible fate. For aught you can tell, your existence may be a fate to another⁠—another’s to you.

From that instant he might as well have been dead, for his existence since had merely been an increasing madness of desire for the unattainable.

If anyone could have argued with him and pointed out that however great his trouble now, in time⁠—slow time⁠—the trouble would wear away; in time⁠—slow time⁠—the memory itself would become dull and the vivid impressions fade; that he would come to live again, and to go about his duties as of old⁠—then Robert Godwin would have laughed in derision.

He did not want his trouble to wear away, nor to return to his former self. So deep and so organic was the change produced by inalienable passion that his former condition before it commenced, even in his unhappiness, appeared to him worthless. He would not have returned to it if he could have done so.

The moment he came to himself and saw how hopeless his life had been these nine years past, he was dead. The act had not been committed, but he was dead of intent. He saw that, according to the strict logic of his nature, he should have slain himself nine years since.

The absence of imagination prevented him from amusing himself with possibilities of another life in another land, of finding a face some day in another country which might in part be to him as this one had been. This absence of imagination prevented him from seeing anything that was not immediately before him; it slew him, but it rendered him faithful to his passion and to himself in his death.

His death atoned for nothing. The manner and the time of it were absolutely and purely selfish. He died for himself and for no other.

It rendered no reparation⁠—even imaginary or sentimental⁠—for poor Mary Shaw; it had no appearance even of sacrifice for the sake of those whom he had so harshly treated; there was no redeeming regret. There was no nobility, however mistaken, nor elevation in it; with no thought of any other but himself he died, and it seemed to be no matter to the earth any more than the death of the horse beside which he lay.

By-and-by the night-crows returned to the carcase of the horse in the moonbeams before the chestnut-tree.

Godwin had left his papers in perfect order, notwithstanding the fact that he had done no pen-work for some time. They were all sorted and filed, and a memorandum had been drawn up stating where the money in hand was to be found, and directing the person who should be deputed for the purpose how to make up the accounts from the sorted papers. Not one sixpence of Cornleigh Cornleigh’s money was missing, so faithful a servant had he had. The mechanical precision with which this had been done was characteristic of the man.

This was the writing which he had gone upstairs to do, as the constable said, quite quiet and like a lamb. It had occupied him⁠—with intervals of thought⁠—till dusk. He sat awhile after it was finished, then took one of the pistols from the attic where he had accidentally found them, and walked to the barn. As for the act, it scarcely took three minutes till he was stretched lifeless with his face crushing the yellow fungi.

The silence about the chestnuts and the barn was unbroken till in the morning the rooks awoke in the wood on the hill and flew out over the fields.

Godwin’s will had been drawn up years before; it left his property to his sister, with the strictest proviso that in case of her marriage the money should devolve upon her children. Beyond receiving the interest, her power over it was little. His estate, real and personal, was estimated at about twenty thousand pounds; an immense sum to be accumulated under such conditions, for sums must be measured by circumstances. That which is a trifle to the financial monarchs of London is a vast amount in the country. What grinding self-denial, what harsh economy to himself and others that twenty thousand pounds represented!

When it became known in the morning that Godwin had destroyed himself, Mr. Goring and Martial reproached themselves for not at least having endeavoured to obtain his arrest. The circumstances of the assault on Felise, if sworn to before a magistrate, would have secured his detention, and might thus have saved his life.

That they should have thought thus, again shows how little we understand even those who live close to us, and whose actions appear to give a clue to their minds. Had Robert Godwin been confined in a cell for a month, or six months, it would not have altered his purpose. At the first opportunity he would have carried out his determination. Martial had been eager to bring him to answer for his conduct, but Felise had begged so hard that if possible the matter might not be made public, he had submitted.

Artistically speaking, Robert Godwin ought not to have committed suicide; he should have removed himself in some other way⁠—he might have gone off to America, or disappeared. He rather spoils the narrative, giving a cold deadly sensation to the finale; but he really could not help it⁠—it was his nature.

Martial received a notification through Cornleigh’s solicitor, that if he would reconsider his resolution matters could be arranged for him. Either the Squire was advised to make friends with the enemy, or it was feared that Martial’s example might spread, and others leave. Too many had gone already. There seemed the greatest reluctance to part with a tenant, a state of sentiment which to the older farmers contrasted singularly with the treatment they had received a very few years ago.

Rosa wrote him a letter repeating her noble offer; but despite these persuasions Martial remained unmoved, and took steps to leave the old place. Generous as Rosa’s offer was, he could not endure the idea of marrying with the aid of her money. Nothing could induce him to accept it; Rosa had not even this mournful pleasure.

What he should do when the stock was sold, and he stepped for the last time over the threshold of the house his forefathers had dwelt in, Martial had but the vaguest idea. While he was considering one plan and another the thing was settled for him.

A report of his speech at the Maasbury meeting got into the hands of his former London friends, who were so delighted with his independent spirit and opinions⁠—particularly as these chanced to fit their own⁠—that they sent for him to town. The former understanding was renewed, and the old quarrel forgotten. As the years had stolen on, the old folk too began to consider the end; they had no other natural heir but Martial, and with him personally had never disagreed.

An allowance⁠—a very handsome one⁠—was offered to him; but he refused to accept it unless employed in some way. The upshot was he was engaged in the design department of the great firm of marine engineers in which his friends were the principals. Here his ingenious turn of mind soon found scope. His time was really his own, and he was naturally often at Beechknoll. His friends have given him to understand that at the next election, if it can be arranged, he will be put forward to contest Maasbury independently.

Before the golden tints had faded from the trees, Felise and Martial were married.


Out of the dusk which lingered on the earth, while in the sky the light was approaching, a lark sprang up and, soaring above the darkness, sang by Beechknoll. It was a very early morning in May, and Felise, in her dressing-gown, had stolen quietly to the window, and sat there watching the dawn. Martial was sleeping. They had come down for awhile to be with Mr., Goring, who was lonely even among his trees. The man slept; the woman, wakeful in her happiness, stole to the window where she had so often sat of old time.

Upon the ground there lay a stratum of darkness which seemed scarcely to rise so high as the eaves⁠—a darkness visible like a mist, thickening in the corners and by the trees. Through this the lark soaring sang in the clear air above.

Afar along the ridge of the hills there was a white light⁠—the dawn⁠—which imperceptibly rushed rapidly through the atmosphere, not only rising to the zenith but spreading horizontally over the fields. The trees that were towards the east began to have beneath them the dim outline of their own shadow on the grass. Already these dim outlines of masses of foliage shadowed on the sward were visible through the sinking stratum of darkness.

Another lark sang at a distance, and then a third; their notes fell with the last rays of the stars. So long as the night-blue tint of the sky continued the stars shone; as the dawn-beams shot upwards and increased in brightness this night-blue tint began to change, and with it the stars retired into the depths of space. There was a gleam like dew on the pearls lying by the mirror; Martial had redeemed them, and she had worn them the previous evening.

In a moment, as it seemed to Felise, the darkness on the ground vanished, and all things appeared distinct and clear. Really the change had been gradually advancing⁠—in appearance it seemed effected almost suddenly.

Immediately a thrush commenced to call in the thickets that had been planted so abundantly about the house, a second answered; a blackbird called; then, as if at a signal, the whole choir began to sing. There was a score of them, thrushes and blackbirds; all started at once; their chorus burst upon the dawn.

The stars were gone, and the deep azure of the morning filled the sky. By the ridge of the hill the white light shone brightly; above it a purple mingled luminously with the blue; towards the zenith the loveliness of the colour is not to be written.

The man slept, but the woman, wakeful in happiness, sat by the window. The dawn shone on her face, and upon the beautiful golden hair drooping to her knees. Her hands were folded, the same attitude in great happiness as in inconsolable sorrow; the dawn glistened upon the tears in her eyes.

Her feeling was perhaps the deeper because he slept, because she was alone and yet with him. She did not strive, womanlike, to mould her feelings to his mood⁠—she gave way to her own.

Her joy was so great because her life was fulfilled. So soon in the springtime of youth her life was fulfilled; there was nothing more beyond to strive or hope for. It was the joy of intense rest in possession.

The man knows no such feeling. To him the joy of existence is in pursuit and conquest; while he is succeeding, while pursuing and gaining in pursuit he rejoices⁠—the mere possession is little or nothing. The more active his days⁠—the greater his scheme of the future⁠—so much the more he loves the woman he has chosen.

But the woman has no future. Her all is here. In possession is everything; in that her life is fulfilled.

As the miser gloats over his gold, not for what it will purchase, but for its own sake, so the woman gloats over possession, not for any future success, but because he is hers now.

Of what the day might bring forth she thought nothing, whether it should be profit or failure, so long only as he was there. Of what the years might have in store, wealth or poverty, concerned her nothing so long as he was with her.

A pure rest had come to her life.

Except to love and to love fulfilled, and then only to woman, is such rest ever given. For the heart, and the hand, and the mind of a man are forever driving onwards, and no profundity of rest ever comes to his inmost consciousness. At dawn he looks forward to the noonday.

So that true and restful happiness is for woman only, though it is given to her by man.

A golden breath came up among the bright whiteness of the light over the ridge of the hill; there were scarlet streaks, the lips of the morning. In the glorious beauty of the sunrise her heart brimmed to the full of love.


Her answer was a kiss amid the dew of loving tears.


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The Dewy Morn
was published in 1884 by
Richard Jefferies.

This ebook was transcribed and produced for
Standard Ebooks
Brian Evans,
and is based on digital scans from the
Internet Archive.

The cover page is adapted from
Bradbury’s Mill Pond, No. 2,
a painting completed in 1903 by
Henry Ward Ranger.
The cover and title pages feature the
League Spartan and Sorts Mill Goudy
typefaces created in 2014 and 2009 by
The League of Moveable Type.

The first edition of this ebook was released on
May 16, 2023, 5:29 p.m.
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May you do good and not evil.
May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others.
May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

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