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APPLEDOEE FAEM. 



APPLEDORE FARM 



KATHARIJSTE S. MAOQUOID 

AUTHOR OF "AT THE RED GLOVE," "AT AN OLD CHATEAU 



IN THREE VOLUMES 

VOL. ir. 



LONDON 
WAED AND DOWNEY 

(Limited) 
12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C 

1894 

lAll rvjhts reserved ] 






V » 



APPLEDOEE FARM. 

aSOOfa tfte Cbirlr {continued), 

CHAPTER I. 

Ween Michael Clifford left Appledore, lie 
I'ode to a Manor House some miles away ; 
lie had business in the neighbourhood, and 
he dined and slept with his friends at the 
Manor House. To-day, on his return to 
Purley, he left his horse at the stables 
which were beside the town-gate, at the 
bottom of the broad, steep street in which 
his house stood. 

It has been said that a man's house, 
and the ordering of it, when his cir- 
cumstances permit him to choose, is 
an indication of his character; when 
Michael Clifford opened his low wide 
entrance door, there was something: 

VOL. II. B 



2 Appledore Farm. 

reassuring and restful in tlie spotless 
space of tlie square hall ; the doors showed 
on all sides that several rooms opened on 
to it ; a round table in its centre held 
writing materials and a neatly arranged 
row of newspapers ; on the right was an 
old-fashioned, easy-going staircase, with a 
mahogany handrail and carved balusters ; 
the staircase looked old, but it was not 
cumbrous, and it contrasted happily with 
the white paint of the doors and skirting, 
and the white distemper of the walls : 
there was something at once moderate 
and useful about this part of the house. 

Clifford's dining-room, his library, and 
also his business-room, were on this 
ground floor ; but when he entered the 
house, he went straight to the staircase, 
and then along a passage which led him to 
a charming spacious room with two win- 
dows at its further end, overlooking the 
open country. The room was comfortably 
and amply furnished, but everything was 
simple ; the sofas and chairs were, perhaps, 
extra luxurious, but the presence of the tiny 



Appledore Farm, 3 

lady lying stretched on one of the sofas, 
wrapped in a soft white shawl, accounted 
for this, as well as for the revolving book- 
shelves placed within her reach, and the 
reading-stand, with its long brass arm, 
close beside her. 

The opening door made the invalid look 
round ; she raised herself into a sitting 
position, and smiled brightly as her brother 
came up to her sofa and kissed her. 

Dorothy Clifford had her brother's dark 
complexion, but there all likeness between 
them ended ; her eyes, instead of being 
a blue-grey, were dark brown, so intense 
in colour that they often looked black ; 
her features were delicate and somewhat 
attenuated, but her little nose had a slight 
upward tilt, and this gave an indescribable 
sauciness to the small dark face. She was 
older than her brother, but she could 
not have been past thirty-five. She was 
a comparative invalid, but she had been 
told that with care she would possibly 
regain the power of walking, which for 
some years had almost left her, though 
B 2 



4 Appledore Farm . 

she could move from room to room, and Tier 
general health was sometimes fairly good. 

" Well, Dolly," her brother said, as he 
came up to her ; '' I know you like to be 
benevolent, so yesterday I took upon 
myself to give an invitation in your name. 
I hope you will endorse it." 

" That depends/' she said, smiling. 

*' Well, I have asked my poor paralyzed 
friend, Bryant, to come and spend a few 
days here, and I have also promised that 
you will take care of him. What do you 
say to that ? — eh, sister ? " 

She looked a little less bright, but she 
still smiled. 

'' We shall be very glad to see Mr. 
Bryant," she said, graciously. *' Was it 
to Mr. Bryant that you said I would take 
care of him ? Men sometimes do not like 
the idea of being taken care of by 
strangers." 

Her nose tilted a little more than usual 
as she uttered this last sentence. 

" I did not say anything to him ; I spoke 
to his daughter." 

Clifford looked away as he spoke ; he 



Appledore Farm. 5 

was impatient under the searching gaze 
which his sister had fixed on his face. 

*' Did you ask Miss Bryant to come too ?" 

There was a. certain mockery in her 
tone, and it seemed to hurt him. 

He turned from her abruptly and 
looked out of window. 

'' I should not venture to invite a lady 
to the house ; that is your province, 
Dorothy," he said, over his shoulder. 

''I do not know Miss Bryant," she 
answered, drily. 

Clifford was not irritable, and his 
sister's manner now helped to keep his 
judgment calm and unprejudiced; but for 
all his calmness, he could sometimes be 
very angry. 

" You do not know Miss Bryant, because 
you will not," he said, so sternly that 
Dorothy felt just a little nervous. " It 
would have been kind of you, charitable, 
too, to show some friendship to a mother- 
less girl, left alone, one may say, since. her 
grandfather died, for her father is not the 
sort of man to give useful advice to a girl 
of her aofe." 



6 Appledore Farm, 

Dorothy was looking at lier delicate 
fingers. 

'' But Miss Bryant lias always had you 
to advise her, Michael ; 1 know little 
about young girls and their ways." 

** Ah, well, you know what I wish, 
Dorothy.'* 

He seemed ashamed of his own stern- 
ness, for he left the window and came 
and sat down beside her. 

" Look here," he said ; '* I believe one 
gains nothing by beating about the 
bush ; I am sure you wish me to be 
happy, Dolly ; it is better to say frankly 
that I cannot be happy without Ruth 
Bryant : I want her to be my wife." 

Dorothy knew it; she had known it 
this long while, and yet it gave her 
exquisite pain to hear it said by her 
brother. She could have shaken him for 
his blind folly, he, as she thought, who 
might marry anyone he chose ; who 
might have the pick of the Purley girls 
— only there was not one good enough in 
Purley for him — he to throw himself away 



Appledore Farm, 7 

on this farmer's daughter, who, if all 
stories were true, was only another man's 
leavings ! 

*' Are you engaged to her ? " 

Her voice told him how vexed she was. 

** I should not have asked her to be my 
wife without giving you some kind of 
warning, Dorothy. I have waited for 
several reasons, one being that I hoped 
for your sympathy; you could not help 
liking Ruth Bryant, if you saw her or 
knew her, but you won't take any interest 
in her." 

*' Perhaps I do know something about 
Miss Bryant ; and, perhaps, what I have 
heard has not made me think well of 
her." 

*' I did not think you, of all people, 
would listen to gossip," he said, angrily. 

*^ I do not think it was gossip, Michael ; 
it came from that poor, hard-worked 
doctor's wife, Mrs. Buchan ; she told me 
that Miss Bryant was very handsome, 
and also that she was very fond of 
flirting." 



8 Appledore Farrii. 

"That is a falsehood," he said, im- 
petuously; ''I have known her ever since 
she was a child, and she never attempted 
to flirt with me." 

*' Very likely not; but that is no proof 
that she does not flirt. Don't you see, 
Michael, she looks on you as an old 
friend. You are probably not the sort of 
man she would venture to flirt with : 
she probably regards you as a brother." 

Michael looked hard at his sister. He 
saw that she was not saying this to tease 
him ; she was evidently in earnest, and 
convinced of the truth of her words. 

He was very much annoyed, but he 
felt that she was trying to save him 
from disappointment, and he tried to 
speak patiently as he answered, — 

" For all that, I shall ask her to be my 
wife, when she is less anxious about her 
father. Now that you know this, Dolly, 
will you not invite her to come and see 
you during her father's visit, or whenever 
you please?" 

Men always manage these matters so 



Appledore Farjit, 9 

clumsily. Micliael did not dream of the 
pain he had given by his announcement, 
and so by his next words he deepened it. 

" If I were you," — Dorothy's nose had a 
decided upward tilt while she spoke, — " I 
should be quite sure, before I offered my- 
self, that there was not someone else in 
the way." 

He turned suddenly, and his voice was 
very stern, — 

" Take care what you are saying, 
Dorothy. I do not want to hear gossip 
repeated about anyone I care for." 

Dorothy was becoming very unhappy. 
She and her brother had sometimes had 
a little dispute, but he had never spoken 
to her in this way, as if he thought she 
was telhng falsehoods for her own ends. 
She had grown very pale while she 
listened to him. 

" I would rather be silent, Michael. I 
can't bear you to be angry with me, and 
yet I feel that you ought not to go blind- 
fold into this affair without any warning. 
I thought you probably knew something 



lo Appledore Farm. 

about it, but I cannot think you do after 
what you've said." 

" What do you mean by * something ' ? 
It would be much better to speak out 
than to make such a mouthing," he said, 
with angry disgust. 

*' I mean about that pupil who lived 
with them — that Mr. Bevington. His 
mother, it seems, found out that he was 
fond of the girl, and that was why he had 
to leave in such a hurry. Were you not 
told why he went away so unexpectedly ? " 

Clifford felt stupefied. Bevington's sud- 
den departure had often puzzled him, and 
Bryant's answer to his question on the 
subject had been unsatisfactory. The 
farmer said that the young fellow's father 
had made other arrangements for him, and 
Clifford told himself that Mr. Bevington 
was not satisfied with the teaching he 
got at Appledore, which was certainly 
an old-fashioned farm, with few modern 
appliances belonging to it. 

*' That is a mere folly," Michael said, 
though his face flushed with burning 



Apple dor e Farm. 1 1 

jealousy. ** Mr. Bryant kept his daughter 
away for some time, and when she re- 
turned, the hours and so forth were so 
arranged that there was little chance 
that she would see much of the pupil." 

Dorothy Clifford smiled and shrugged 
her little shoulders. 

" I hear that she has been seen walking 
in the garden with him, and after he went 
away she met him alone in the Mill 
Valley.'' 

*' That settles me." He rose up from 
his chair in stern indignation. '' The whole 
story is a fabrication. So innocent and 
so beautiful a creature is sure to have 
enemies, and what will not one woman 
say of another when she is jealous of 
her? Ruth Bryant would never meet 
any man alone away from her home, 
unless he were her promised husband. 
Besides, if there had been anything 
between her and that young fellow, do 
you suppose he could have kept away 
all these months from Appledore ? " 

He turned to leave the room, full of 



12 Appledore Farm. 

that whicli he considered to be righteous 
indignation. 

" I must tell you something more, 
Michael," his sister said. She had been 
pained and startled by his anger, but 
it must simply be her duty to warn 
him about Euth Bryant. Dorothy con- 
sidered, judging by what she had been 
told, that the girl had behaved indis- 
creetly ; to say the least of it, she feared 
that she had compromised herself with 
the pupil, and that now she wished to 
patch up her reputation, and also pay her 
father's debts by marrying Michael. 

The small, fragile woman looked very 
determined, as she said : " Mr. Bevington 
rode past the house this morning, 
going towards Church Marshfield. You 
did not go to Appledore this morning, 
or you must have met him on your way 
home." 

Her brother stood staring at her. This 
news had quieted him. 

" How could you see him ? " he said ; 
*' you cannot see who passes." 



Apple dor e Farm, 13 

*' I stayed downstairs this morning to 
finish the half-year's accounts," she 
answered quietly. " I scarcely know why 
I looked out of window, but I did, and 
I saw Mr. Bevington pass ; he was looking 
very angry." 

Michael left the room ; he knew that he 
had been harsh with his sister, but he 
could not bring himself to say so. He 
was disappointed in Dorothy ; he had con- 
sidered her large-minded compared with 
others of her sex, though she had always 
vexed him by her indifference about 
making acquaintance with Euth Bryant. 
That had been caused, he used to think, 
by Dorothy's exaggerated opinion of him 
and of what he had a right to expect in a 
wife. He had often smiled at the thought 
of his sister's surprise when she should be 
presented to Euth. This slander she had 
passed on to him was something quite dif- 
ferent ; if he knew the originator of it, he 
felt that he should like to punish that 
person. As to Dorothy, he should go out 
and stay out till dinner-time, and then he 



14 Appledore Farm, 

should try to meet her as if nothing had 
happened. 

Michael Clifford had always more to do 
than he knew how to accomplish, so that 
he could easily find engagements for this 
afternoon ; but he did not seek for them : 
he was bent on walking out along the 
Appledore road. 

This led down the steep street to the dark 
low-browed archway that was still called 
Broadgate, the last remaining defence of 
the once strongly fortified town of Purley. 
He smiled when he had passed through 
the gateway, and found himself on the 
quickly descending road outside. If he 
disbelieved this scandal, why, he asked 
himself — why was he walking in such a 
hurried way towards Appledore ? The 
road led straight to the bridge across the 
river, and Clifford forced himself to linger 
while he watched the lovely light on the 
water. The river foamed itself into a 
froth of snowy whiteness over the weir 
below the Fulling mill ; on the other side, 
the lofty bank, piled up with huge 



Appledo7^e Farm . 1 5 

irregular blocks of limestone, was half 
hidden by a tall overgrowth of trees. 

Michael stood watching the golden 
patches on the water, as the sunlight 
found its way through gaps between the 
trees. He was telling himself that he had 
been absurdly reticent towards Ruth ; she 
might suppose from his guarded manner 
that he was indifferent about her good 
opinion, that he did not care for her in 
any way. Would it not be wiser, more 
manly, to own his love to her, and tell her 
he would wait patiently till she could love 
him in return ? He sauntered on, debating 
this question, while he climbed the steep 
ascent beyond the bridge. Before he 
reached the top, a horseman came in sight 
on the brow of the hill ; horse and rider 
magnified in size against the clear blue 
sky behind. 

In another moment the horse and rider 
passed Clifford, and he recognized Reginald 
Bevington. The young fellow's hat was 
pulled over his eyes ; he did not seem to 
see Clifford. 



1 6 Appledore Farm. 

Michael turned and stood looking after 
him. 

*' After all," lie said gravely, *' why 
should I be like a woman aad fancy 
what does not exist ? He has most 
likely heard of Mr. Bryant's seizure, and 
naturally he has been over to inquire 
for him. He may be staying in the 
neighbourhood. If there had been any- 
thing between him and Ruth, he would 
have gone to Appledore before now." 



CHAPTER 11. 

Philip Bryant had been a week at Purley. 
Ruth meaawhile was so busy superin- 
tending house-cleaning at Appledore, that, 
except in the evenings, she had not had 
time to feel dull without him. This morn- 
ing she had received two letters : one of 
them only contained a few lines from Mr. 
CHfford, giving an excellent report of her 
father's progress and asking her to spare 
him to them a few days longer. 

Ruth sat down at once and answered 
this request by writing to her father ; and 
then she went out into the garden, and 
walked up and down on the wet, creaking 
gravel below her bedroom window, while 
she read her other letter. 

It was from Mr. Bevington. 

The girl had become aware of Sally 

VOL. II. 



1 8 Appledo7'e Farm. 

Voce's constant watchfulness, and sliekept 
on this side of the house, out of sight, while 
she read. Her cheeks glowed at her lover's 
passionate words. The young fellow wrote 
that he could not live any longer without 
her ; he had fancied he could wait, but he 
found that was impossible; his darling 
must come to him without delay ; surely, 
he went on, she cared enough for him to 
risk something for his sake ; and then he 
gave the details of his plan. He asked 
the girl to meet him, three days from the 
date of his letter, at the old stone on the 
moor, about three miles from Appledore, a 
little way beyond the out-of-the-way village 
called All-Marshfield. The letter was 
tender as well as passionate ; her lover 
said that she would not only make him 
happier than he had ever been in his life, 
but that she would also make a better man 
of him; her sweet, unselfish companion- 
ship would be both a help and an example. 
Ruth kissed the loving words, but she 
felt sorely troubled ; it was hard to refuse 
her lover's passionate request, but she 



Appledore Farm. 19 

could not leave Appledore in lier father's 
absence and without his knowledge, for 
Mr. Bevington said she must not speak of 
his proposal to anyone. She walked up 
and down, trying to judge for the best : 
this was the first time she had been called 
on to decide an urgent question on her 
own responsibility, and she found it for 
some time impossible to come to a decision. 

Mr. Bevington was, of course, his own 
master; he probably was accustomed to 
act without consulting his parents, but 
she felt that her case was very different : 
she could not desert her father when he 
was ill and in such trouble — she could not 
go away to be married without consulting 
him beforehand. 

She had grown tired of walking up and 
down before she arrived at a resolution. 
Sally Voce sent Faith to call her in to 
dinner, but Rath did not heed the sum- 
mons ; at last she roused herself from this 
puzzled reverie and went indoors. 

Mr. Bevington had told her that he was 
going to London, and that she must write 
2 



20 Apple do re Fa7nn. 

to him at his club ; she decided to post 
her letter in the way-side box at All- 
Marshfield, so as to avoid notice. 

She wrote him a sweet, tender little 
letter, thanking him for all his love, but 
she asked him to wait till she had told his 
plans to her father ; if he consented to it, 
she would meet her lover as he wished. 
She added that she must ask Reggy to 
give her father a home, he was too infirm 
at present to be left alone. She blushed 
deeply while she wrote, she was so shy in 
the midst of her tender joy. 

'' Father will consent, I know he will," 
she told herself, while her eyes grew liquid 
with love. " It is not that he is so set on 
Mr. Clifford ; he only wants to be sure that 
I shall have a home of my own ; I'm sure 
he must prefer to see me happy with the 
man I love.'* 

She walked rapidly with her letter to 
the little sequestered village ; it seemed to 
her that something would happen to pre- 
vent the posting of it. When at last she 
dropped it into the little box fixed on the 



Appledore Farm, 2 1 

wall of the lonely parsonage, her heart 
grew light again, though it throbbed with 
hope and with expectation. All at once 
she stood still on the muddy road : a new 
perplexity had come to trouble her. It 
had suddenly occurred to her that her 
lover might refuse to wait till she con- 
sulted her father. She knew how impetuous 
he was ; he might answer her letter in 
person, and insist on taking her away with 
him. What should she do if this hap- 
pened ? 

She repeated this question as she walked 
along the high road. On one side the 
everlasting hills looked down on her from 
their green summits ; on the other, a large 
width of cultivated land intervened before 
the loftier and greyer giants of the region 
broke into the horizon and shortened day- 
light in the valley. 

Euth was twenty-one, but she was still 
a child in her experience of life : she had 
no precedents to guide her ; she had not 
even enjoyed the borrowed experiences of 
a school-taught girl ; she had lived lapped 



22 Appledore Farm, 

in the restf al obscurity of her own village, 
much like a butterfly in the chrysalis 
state of its existence, with only an occa- 
sional sense of wings that mioht unfold 
themselves when they found oppor- 
tunity. 

" If I only knew,'* she said, with pas- 
sionate earnestness, '' what was best for 
me to do ! " 

She soon brought herself to be sure 
that this " best " must be with Reginald 
Bevington ; he loved her so dearly, she 
was sure he would be willing to have her 
father to live with them : she tried to put 
herself and her own joy in her marriage 
out of the question ; she wanted a good 
home for her father, a home in which she 
might be with him ; she had found out in 
this week of separation how anxiously 
her thoughts clung to him ; she was 
always wondering how he could manage 
at Purley without her or Sally ; but Mr. 
Clifford had assured her that he would 
be well cared for, so she could only trust 
all was well. She asked herself why she 



Appledore Farm, 23 

should hesitate to marry her dearly-loved 
Reggy, if she could provide this desired 
home for her father ? She could neither 
answer this question nor bring herself to 
alter the decision which her letter would 
convey to her lover. 

Mrs. Voce was at the gate waiting for 
her. Her small eyes, impinged on by her 
plump, pink cheeks — a plumpness, be it 
remarked, which had certainly increased 
during her stay at Appledore — were round 
with excitement ; her lips were slightly 
parted with an inquisitive expression, as 
she watched for her young mistress's 
approach, and Ruth, as she drew nearer, 
could not help seeing that the old woman's 
expression was furtive. 

" There be a letter for you, Miss Bryant," 
she said ; " I set it on the writing-table 
in the parlour. The rector drove into 
Purley for second post, an' he have got it, 
he says, along o' his." 

She stood aside to let Ruth pass on to 
the house. Her mistress could not help 
smiling at the increase of outward respect 



24 Appledore Farm. 

which had come with Sally's apparent 
suspicions. The girl looked very happy 
when she saw that her letter was from 
Mrs. Whisliaw ; in it lier aunt asked Ruth 
to come and spend the rest of her father's 
absence with her and her cousin. 

" It would be very nice to go," Ruth 
thought ; but she saw that she could not 
leave Appledore during these coming days ; 
she must wait as patiently as she could ; 
Reggy would certainly w^rite, if he did not 
come over; no, she could not go away, 
though she longed to be with her aunt 
and with Peggy, for she thought that, 
without betraying her secret, she might 
sound her aunt on this subject of a secret 
marriage. Ruth did not like her lover's 
plan, but then a great change had come 
into her life since she had refused Mr. 
Bevington's proposal in the Mill Valley. 

She read the letter again, her own long- 
ing to get away, to be safe with her aunt, 
puzzled her. 

" I must be getting weak-headed," she 
thought, smiling. There was something 



Appledore Farm, 25 

still within tlie envelope, and she took it 
out mechanically while she re-read the 
letter ; this was so affectionately worded, 
that Ruth's heart swelled. What a treasure 
her cousin" Peggy possessed in such a 
mother ! The next minute she rebuked 
her own ingratitude. Peggy had lost her 
father so early that she^ could not even 
remember him. 

A postscript written across the first 
page of the letter had, on first reading, 
escaped her notice. 

"P.S. — I enclose a newspaper cutting 
from yesterday's Morning Post; a friend 
of Peggy's gave it her. We want to 
know if it refers to your father's pupil, 
Mr. Bevington ? " 

The letter fluttered out of Ruth's fingers 
as she hurried to examine the enclosure. 
She grew pale while she read it, her eye- 
lids drooped, she seemed to shrink to- 
gether, to lose some of her height while 
she stood beside the writing-table. Thi;^ 
was what she read : — 

'*We learn that a marriage has been 



26 Appledo7'e Farm, 

arranged to take place between Reginald 
Louis Alfred Bevington, Esquire, only- 
son of Ralph Boynton Bevington, Esquire, 
of Bevington Manor, near Vixensgrave, 
and Miss Clara Stretton, only child of 
Marmaduke Sydney Stretton, Esquire, of 
Stretton Castle, in the same county." 

Ruth felt unable to move ; her heart 
seemed suddenly stilled from its fluttering. 
At last she put the paper down and passed 
her hand slowly across her forehead: she 
wondered if she had been dreaming. 

The answer came with a shiver that 
ran through her from head to foot. No ! 
She was awake — she had been standing: 
while she read her letter and the bit of 
printed paper. 

She put out her hand for the cutting 
and crumpled it into her pocket. 

What could it mean ? Was it a mere 
bit of gossip ? She had heard that papers 
sometimes put in bits of news which were 
later on contradicted. 

She felt leaden, her feet seemed to be 
soldered to the floor. 



Appledore Farm. 27 

After a pause, so long and painful tbat 
she could hardly bear it, but which she 
dared not disturb even by a movement, 
lest she should tangle the clue which 
began gradually to unravel itself from 
her bewilderment, a sudden remembrance 
came to Ruth of a story she had heard 
during her visit to her aunt. 

At Mrs. Whishaw's request, she had 
gone to see a sick man, a carpenter, who 
occasionally worked at the house. 

The man had turned sullenly away from 
Euth, but his wife, in a burst of grief, had 
told the lady that her husband's illness 
was more mental than bodily. Their only 
daughter had been '* 'ticed away," the 
woman said, by a sweetheart, who had 
promised to marry her. The girl had 
written to her mother about a month after 
she had left her home, to say that her 
lover had deceived and deserted her ; she 
said she meant to put an end to herself, as 
she could not bear the disgrace that had 
fallen on her. Since then, the poor woman 
said, no news had come from the unhappy 



28 Appledore Farm, 

cliild, and the carpenter and his wife had 
given up any hope of seeing her again. 

A mist swam before Ruth's eyes. She 
put out her hand and pressed it firmly on 
the table ; it seemed to lier that she was 
falling ; tlieii she struggled to free herself 
from the doubt that had seized her. She 
wondered how she dared suspect her 
lover because of a mere newspaper report ? 

She could not, however, free herself 
from the torment that newspaper cutting 
had brought. She thought she would 
write to Reginald and tell him what she 
had seen; but this idea was soon rejected. 
She could not have borne that he should 
doubt her ; how, then, could she insult him 
by such an implied doubt of his honour ? 

Mrs. Bevington must be very proud 
of her son ; she would naturally have 
ambitious views for him ; she might 
possibly wish him to marry Miss Stretton, 
and she might have spoken about such a 
marriage to her friends ; and then, some- 
how, Ruth argued to herself, the story had 
taken shape in this newspaper paragraph. 



Apple dor e Farm, 29 

The girl raised her head ; her perplexity 
had cleared, she resolved to trust her lover, 
to try to be patient, ^^gg^ would certainly 
see or hear of this paragraph, and he would 
com cover and explain it. She was inclined 
to smile at her own changeableness : she 
had dreaded his coming, for she had felt it 
would be so hard to resist his pleading, 
and now she was actually longing to see 
him. 

She felt she owed him great amends for 
having doubted him, even for a moment. 



CHAPTER III. 

Mrs. Bevington understood tier son, and 
she trusted to his weakness — a weakness 
which had often helped her to carry out 
her wishes regarding him. She doated on 
this dearly-loved only child, but she knew 
that although he was obstinate, he was 
also extremely impressionable, and that it 
would greatly help her plans, even if it 
did not make this marriage with Miss 
Stretton a certainty, if Reginald could be 
brought thoroughly to realize the com- 
mand of money he must possess as her 
husband. It had not been difficult to do 
this, and Clara's insignificance, added to 
her extreme gentleness, had helped to 
deepen the young fellow's impression that 
she would make a desirable wife ; she was 
not a beauty, but she was pleasant-looking, 



Appledore Farm, 31 

and he could not help being sure that she 
liked him. 

It must be said that in her own way 
Clara Stretton was very fond of her old 
playfellow ; she was one of those women 
who will make dutiful and affectionate 
wives if they are kindly treated, without 
feeling the need of any special affinity be- 
tween themselves and their husbands. 

There was little depth of feeling in Mrs. 
Bevington, but her perception was very 
keen ; she had early sounded the depths of 
Clara's nature, and she had determined 
that the girl should not be allowed to forget 
Eeginald: Clara was likely, she thought, 
if left to herself, to accept the first man 
who presented himself as a prospective 
husband, and Mrs. Bevington had there- 
fore taken good care that she should not 
be allowed to make such a mistake. 

This year Mr. Stretton had suffered so 
constantly from gout, that, to his wife's 
dismay, he elected to spend the spring at 
Stretton Castle, and Mrs. Bevington had 
therefore made the sacrifice of remaining 



32 Apple dor e Farm, 

at the Park daring May and June also, 
except for one fortnight, when she per- 
suaded Clara's parents to allow the girl to 
accompany her to London. 

Reginald went with his mother, and 
before they returned to the country he 
found that he had engaged himself to 
Clara Stretton. 

The day after this event — the languid 
excitement over — he remembered Ruth, 
and he felt thoroughly disgusted with him- 
self and with the world. He went back to 
the country ; but before he saw Clara 
again, in his despair he wrote that letter 
to Ruth ; he determined not to give her up, 
whatever happened ; he did not attempt to 
plan his future, he resigned himself to 
drift ; if Ruth listened to his proposal, and 
came willingly to the meeting-place he had 
appointed, he considered that she would 
have chosen her own lot, he could not be 
held answerable for what might happen ; 
he meant to provide handsomely for the girl 
and for her father ; after all, she would be 
his real wife in everything but name, and 



Appledore Farm, 33 

slie was tlie only woman he had truly loved. 
There was, of course, the chance that Ruth 
might prove restive, and refuse to belong 
to him on those conditions. He did not 
see his way clearly in this last event. 

*' There is no use in forecasting," he 
thought ; '' if the worst comes to the worst, 
sooner than lose her, I must marry her 
privately, and get out of the Stretton busi- 
ness by degrees." 

He vowed to himself he would not give 
up the love that he knew was his ; some 
day he must be his own master, though he 
might have to wait for years. 

In London he fell in with several of his 
men friends ; along talk with one of them, 
Colonel Scudamore, on the afternoon of his 
arrival, made him extremely doubtful about 
the wisdom of marrying Ruth. While her 
letter of refusal warned him that she would 
insist on marriage, and while he listened 
to his fashionable and polished friend— a 
man so deeply versed in the wisdom of this 
world that he at once divined the perplexity 
in which the young fellow stood — Reginald 

VOL. II. ^ 



34 Apple dor e Farm. 

seemed to realize little by little how young 
and ignorant lie was, and how boyish his 
scruples were. His mother had often told 
him that he was " made for society"; if 
he were to commit himself to a private mar- 
riage with Euth, his prospects would be 
ruined, he could not visit any one; and 
yet she was so beautiful, she would attract 
a very undesirable amount of notice. 
Setting aside his mother's opposition, he 
thought he could soon overcome his father's. 
He did not see how he could produce Ruth 
in society as his wife till several years of 
cultivation had passed over her. She was 
unquestionably a lady ; she would not have 
pleased his fastidious taste, he argued, if 
she had been less refined in feeling . 
but he fancied she wanted rather 
more than this ; she wanted conventional 
ideas about dress and the little things 
that fit a woman for society. She was 
almost provokingly simple, and she might 
be slow in taking up new ideas. 

He told himself all this, and then he 
thought of Euth as he had last seen 



Appledore Farm, 35 

her, with the increased charm which 
love had given to her beauty ; he felt that 
he must see her again ; he resolved to go 
down next morning to Appledore. 

There was a station at Church Marsh- 
field, much nearer to the farm than Purley 
Junction, but so few trains stopped at it 
that most people preferred to go to Purley. 
Mr. Bevington, however, had his own 
reasons for wishing to escape observation 
in this visit to Appledore. 

Ruth had felt strangely depressed this 
morning ; perhaps the heavy grey sky 
helped the feeling. She went up the lane 
and stood watching ; she could not help 
expecting her lover, and yet her heavy 
heart warned her that he probably would 
not come. She stood at the end of the 
lane looking towards Purley, so that 
Bevington saw her before she recognized 
him ; she had, indeed, turned back towards 
the farm-house, but about half-way she 
stopped to listen : footsteps were coming 
quickly down the lane, and she knew that 
D 2 



36 Appledore Farm, 

they were her lover's ; a kind of panic seized 
her, her heart began to flutter, and she 
slackened her pace ; she did not look round 
till he came up with her at the bottom of 
the lane. 

He looked anxiously into her eyes as he 
took her hand in his. 

'* Are you not glad to see me, darling ? " 
he said, in a reproachful tone. " Turning 
your back on him is not a warm welcome, 
I must say, to give a fellow. What is 
the meaning of it — eh, you naughty pet? " 

Either the seductive charm of his voice 
or the love in his eyes — who can accu- 
rately define the means by which love 
governs? — conquered Ruth's new reticence, 
and she gave him a winning smile. 

He opened the gate for her ; she passed 
silently into the garden, and then into the 
house ; she felt just a little shy when he 
closed the door of the sitting-room and 
came towards her. 

'' You received my letter ? " she asked. 

He was struck by her formal way of 
speaking ; yet she had not spoken in this 



Appledore Farm, 37 

way consciously ; there was a question in 
his eyes as he looked at her, and he hesi- 
tated to take her in his arms ; he remem- 
bered how different she had been at theii 
last meeting. 

" Yes," he said, *' I had your letter ; 
but, dear child, I cannot agree to your 
terms. I told you I wanted you to come 
to me at once. Your father, if he likes, can 
join you later, but at first I must have you 
all to myself." 

'' I could not go to you without telling 
father beforehand." 

He went up to her, put his arm round 
her waist, and tenderly kissed her. 

'' It is not a question to settle standing 
face to face, as if we were going to quar- 
rel." He drew her to the sofa, and made 
her sit down beside him ; then, as he 
kissed her yet more fondly, he said, " I 
don't seem to know my pet when she 
looks strong-minded ; I am afraid of 
her." 

Euth already felt ashamed of herself, 
and she flushed deeply while he spoke. 



3 5 Appledore Farm, 

She nestled her head on his shoulder, and 
they sat for some time in that delicious 
silence, which to some lovers is far more 
sympathetic than words can ever be — a 
silence full of deep mysfcerious meaning, 
in which hearts become more and more 
closely united. 

At last he said, as if he were answering 
her, — 

''Yes, it is so entirely our own business, 
that there can be no sense in taking an- 
other opinion about it. You will not mind 
living in London, will you, dear girl ? " 

'' I should like it," she answered 
simply ; *' but when I am with you, dear, 
one place will be much the same as 
another." 

The tender thrill in her voice pained 
him ; he turned suddenly away from her 
and walked to the window; her manner 
puzzled him more than ever, and he had 
laid his plans on the certainty that Ruth 
was, after all, just like any other girl. 

Now as he looked at her, and became 
more and more dominated by her actual 



Appledore Farm, 39 

presence, lie felt that no sacrifice could be 
too great to make for tlie possession of 
such a glorious and loving creature. 

While he stood at the window trying to 
free himself from the strange power which 
she exercised over him, Euth sat wonder- 
ing whether she should tell him of the 
newspaper report : there was no trath in 
it, she was sure of that, for he had kissed 
her even more fondly than usual ; she was 
sure, quite sure, he loved her, but then 
if he knew about this report he might con- 
tradict it. He was not obliged to own 
his love for her as he had done, and this 
proved that he had not altered. It would 
be better, she thought, to tell him. And 
yet, brave as she was, Euth could not get 
out her words ; there seemed to her to be 
something so affronting to her lover in 
confessing her knowledge of that which 
was not true, and which had, no doubt, 
sorely vexed him. 

He turned abruptly from the window. 

" When do you expect Mr. Bryant 
homo ? " he said. 



40 Apple dor e Farm. 

" In less tban a week, I think. I will 
write and tell you as soon as I know 
exactly." 

There was another pause, and then he 
came and again sat down beside her. 

^* My Ruth, you must not wait till then ; 
there would be fresh delay while you were 
trying to persuade him to consent, for 
he is sure to object at first — fathers always 
do. You will not be cruel enough to keep 
me waiting for you so long, my precious 
girl ; you will come to me to-morrow." 

He kissed her so passionately that she 
could not at first answer him. She was 
glad of this delay, for it was terribly pain- 
ful to repeat her refusal. She loved him 
very dearly, she would make any sacrifice 
for him, but she would not do that which 
was wrong and also cruel, for she knew 
it would break her father's heart if he came 
home and found that she had deserted 
him. It has been already said that Euth 
was not romantic. In spite of her almost 
quixotic unselfishness, she shrank with a 
sort of horror from anything that could 



Appledore Farm. 41 

not bear the light of day ; the secret be- 
tween them had been a far sorer trial to 
her honest nature than her lover guessed 
at, but to leave home in secret would be, 
she thought, thoroughly disreputable, and 
no future happiness could ever wipe such 
a shadow from her name. Even for her 
lover's sake she could not consent. 

She looked sadly at him. 

*' You are blinded now," she said, " but 
if I were to do what you ask, you would 
afterwards be sorry; you would not re- 
spect me, because I should have done 
something I knew to be wrong." 

Once more he was puzzled as he looked 
at her ; he wondered how she had under- 
stood his letter; it seemed to him she was 
not thinking of marriage with him, and 
yet — he hesitated, he did not know what 
next to say ; one little false step might 
destroy all the progress he hoped he had 
made. 

She glanced quickly at him, for his 
continued silence surprised her; she feared 
her refusal had made him unhappy. Yes, 



42 Appledore Farm, 

he was looking very sad ; she smiled up 
at him. 

" Even if I were to do as you wish," 
she said shyly, " I hardly think any nice 
clergyman would marry us without asking 
questions, and we could not either of us 
say that our parents had consented to our 
marriage." 

He frowned at this and bit his lip, he 
was so utterly disappointed. 

" I hate parsons," he broke out, " and I 
never have anything to do with them that 
can be done without them ; we can be joined 
together just as well at a registry office as 
by a parson. There, little one, are you 
contented ? You are, are you not ? " 

He was kissing her again in a passionate 
way that alarmed her. He had never been 
like this before, and it made her timid 
of contradicting him, lest she should make 
him angry. Poor dear fellow ! there was 
every excuse, she told herself ; -he loved her 
so much that he wished to marry her as 
soon as possible. But for all that Ruth 
did not believe in a marriage unless it was 



Appledore Farm, 43 

celebrated in a church; she said this to 
him. 

He held her a little way from him and 
shook his head. 

" I could not have believed that you 
were such a dreadful little Philistine," he 
said petulantly. *' What possible difference 
can it make how we are joined together ? 
If you are pining after a wedding, with 
favours and orange blossoms and that sort 
of bosh, I can only say you have mistaken 
your man ; I could not submit to such a 
performance. Besides, as our marriage is 
to be kept perfectly private, the other way 
is the only safe one ; parsons will gossip 
like washerwomen, if you give them the 
ghost of a chance." He bent down and 
kissed her blushing cheek. '' There, there, 
never mind what I said. I get cross if I 
speak of parsons. Listen, darling. This is 
what I want you to do: meet me at the place 
I named as early as you can to-morrow ; we 
will go to London from one of the small 
stations, and I promise you, darling, to bring 
you safe home again before your father sets 



44 Appledore Fainn, 

foot in Appledore. You shall tell him 
what we have done as soon as I give you 
leave ; just now I have a special reason for 
asking you to be silent." 

He looked away as lie ended. 

Ruth's heart gave a great jump at his 
last words, and then tlie power which had 
kept lier silent seemed all at once to leave 
her free to speak. She heard the clang of 
the house-place door, and she knew that 
Sally Voce had come back from her visit 
to Little Marshfield. How long he must 
have been with her ! She must send him 
away instead of answering his proposal. 
She said quietly, without a shade of doubt 
in her tone, — 

** Did you see that notice in the paper ? 
I mean, that you were going to marry Miss 
Stretton?" 

" Confound the fools ! Who has told 
you such cursed folly ? " 

He had reddened to his hair, and as she 
looked at him he tried to avoid her eyes. 

Ruth sat still as a stone ; then she drew 
herself away from him, and rose from the 



Appledore Farm. 45 

sofa ; she "had no sense of any feeling ex- 
cept that of stinging shame. 

After a httle she said slowly, " I had 
not believed it ; I did not mean to speak 
of it — I thought it was idle gossip, 
Reggy," she cried, bursting from the 
stupor that had seized upon her, and 
clasping her hands in a passionate appeal 
that distracted him. '' Tell me yourself ; 
say it is a falsehood, and I will believe 

you." 

He stood silent ; her passion had quieted 
his anger. He thought it showed the 
strength of her love ; he believed that this 
revelation might, after all, help him ; her 
feelings would be stronger than her pru- 
dence. He looked at her without a trace 
of compunction, as if he accepted the situ- 
ation. 

'' It is true," he said ; after a little, *' bat 
I had not quite made up my mind to marry 
this lady. Even if I had, she could never 
be to me what you are : you will be always 
my real wife, my sweetest Euth, let me 
marry whom I will." 



46 Appledore Farm, 

He came quite close to her, as if lie meant 
to take her in his arms. 

She put out her hands to repel him ; her 
lips parted with the horror she felt, but 
the rest of her face was set like iron. 

" Ruth, darling, listen an instant.'* 

'' I will say good-bye to you, Mr. Beving- 
ton," she interrupted, speaking very slowly, 
and in a cold, expressionless voice. " I 
must ask you, sir, not to repeat your visit. 
I cannot see any visitor in my father's 
absence." 



BOOK THE FOUETH. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The weather liad suddenly changed, the 
grey lowering sky had as suddenly lifted, 
and a far-off blue, mottled here and there 
with flimsy white vapour that seemed to 
promise heat, had taken the place of the 
heavy, brooding clouds. As Ruth stood 
at the gate waiting for her father, she had 
to shade her eyes with her hand from 
the glare of the sunshine, it was so 
brilliant. 

She felt very strange ; she had not 
come to herself since she parted from Mr. 
Bevington, and just as the body faints 
when some sudden shock arrests the course 
of the blood and jars the nerves, so in hke 
manner the mind, when overtried, will 
sometimes wander from the guidance to 
which it has been accustomed to submit 

VOL. II. E 



50 Appledore Farm, 

itself and its powers. Ruth was at war 
with herself and with every one ; faith and 
hope were alike wrecked, and love seemed 
to her a mere mocking mask, hiding base 
intentions. Feeling was dead in her, ex- 
cept the one feeling of dread, a dread of 
herself and of what she might be tempted 
to do ; and with this dread was an almost 
fierce longing for protection. 

The girl's life had been so quiet and 
retired, that she had lived in ignorance, as 
so many of her sisters do, of the strength 
of her own feelings ; till this sudden wrench 
had aroused them into active struggle, she 
hardly knew she had them. For the time 
she had become callous ; she sent off a 
messenger to Purley with a note for her 
father ; she asked him to come back to 
her, telling him she could not any longer 
do without him. She now stood watching 
the carriage that was bringing him home, as 
it drove slowly down the lane. 

She had not made any plan as to what she 
should say to her father, her mind was still 
too much disordered for coherent thought ; 



Appledore Fa7^in. 5 i 

she could act, but she did not even try to 
think. It may be that, unconsciously, she 
longed for her father's presence as much 
for the distraction from self which the 
very sight of him must bring, as from a 
real belief in his power to protect her. 

Philip Bryant smiled fondly at his 
daughter as he was helped out of the 
carriage. He was evidently stronger, and 
Mrs. Voce asserted, when she had helped 
him into the sitting-room, that " he did 
not lean so heavy by one-half as he did 
afore he left." 

Bryant smiled, but he did not talk to 
Sally ; he seemed anxious to find himself 
alone with his daughter. 

" Well, my lass," he said, when the old 
woman at last departed, " you've had a 
dull time, I'm thinking ; it would put new 
life in you, child, if you could have such a 
visit as I've had. Miss Clifford has been 
as kind and as pleasant as if I were an old 
friend, taken such care of me as would make 
you smile ; it did me sometimes. As to 
Michael — well, there, I'd best not speak 
E 2 I 



f\c II I I lA 



52 Appledore Farm, 

about him, lest I should make a baby of 
myself." 

" I am so glad, dear," — slie bent over 
liim and kissed him, she felt such comfort 
in his presence, — " so very, very glad," she 
murmured, as she placed herself beside 
him. 

" Yes, I wish you could have been there 
too. I had no notion that Michael was 
so looked up to and respected. Why, 
only yesterday Lord Boscobel rode in 
to see him, a matter of ten miles or 
so, and I saw that he shook hands both 
with Michael and with Miss Clifford, as if 
he thought much of them ; and not only 
that, there's the Archdeacon and all the 
people about take notice of them. It's a 
wonder, and a pleasure too, to see how he's 
looked up to." 

''I am very glad," Ruth said. Her father's 
words seemed to justify the strong trust 
she had always had in Michael ClitFord. 
" His sister must be very proud of him," 
she added. 

Philip Bryant sighed, and looked wist- 
fully at his daughter. 



Apple dor e Farm. 53 

" Yes, poor soul, she worships him." He 
sighed again. " I am sorry for Miss Clifford 
— not for her invalid state, she makes a joke 
of that, she has such lively spirits ; we had 
many a hearty laugh together, I can tell 
you, and she is really stronger. She has a 
rare way of seeing through her neighbours, 
though no one would suspect it of her." 

''Why do you say you are sorry for 
her ? " Ruth asked. 

'' Well, my girl, you have something to 
do with that, I fancy. Miss Clifford loves 
her brother dearly ; there's another brother 
in Scotland, it seems, but he's nothing to 
her, she says, compared with this one ; 
and yet the poor soul told me she was 
afraid she could not make Michael 
happy." 

Ruth listened with a heart-sick con- 
sciousness of the meaniDg of his words : 
it seemed to her that Fate stood behind 
her, driving her on with an iron rod to an 
inevitable future. 

" Miss Clifford seems to have got very 
confidential with you. Why can she not 
make her brother happy ? " 



54 Appledore Farm. 

Her dogged tone struck him, but lie 
went on. 

'' I^m coming to that. She was not 
very friendly at first ; she was polite, but 
stiff, and I felt shy. I thought she was 
perhaps angry that her brother had done 
so much for me; and then, whether 
Michael saw it and spoke to her, or what 
happened, I cannot say, but she altered all 
at once, and we had long talks together." 

He paused and hesitated. Ruth sat 
silent ; it seemed to her that she knew 
what his next words would be, and that 
she had better Hsten to them. Her father 
looked away from her when he spoke again. 

'' Miss Clifford told me she knows her 
brother cannot be happy without you, Ruth ; 
she said she had hoped he would get over 
his love, and she gave that as a reason why 
she had avoided making your acquaintance, 
but she now says there is no hope he will, so 
she has made up her mind that it must be. 
If you will listen to Michael, she will go to 
Scotland and live with her brother David ; 
it appears he has lately lost his wife, and 
has two motherless girls." 



Appledore Farm, 55 

There was a pause, then Ruth asked, — 

'' What did you say, father ? " 

Her voice sounded so weary, that he 
turned to look at her. She was very pale, 
and there was a restless expression in her 
eyes which struck him as unusual. 

" I repeated what you told me, child, the 
last time we spoke on this subject. I said 
you did not wish to marry, but I could 
not help adding on my own account — you 
see, Ruth, she had been so good to me — 
that I love Michael dearly, and that I 
hoped and trusted you and he might one 
day come together. I said I had not long 
to live, and it would greatly help me when 
my time came to feel that you were safe 
with such a man as her brother." 

''Did you say that to Mr. Clifford as 
well as to his sister? " 

He thought she spoke defiantly, and his 
voice was sad as he answered, — 

" ISTo, my girl. I had not forgotten a hint 
you gave me about some one else.'' He 
gave her a yearning, wistful look, as if to 
implore her to spare him this disappoint- 
ment of his hopes. '' Eh, Ruth ? " he said. 



56 Apple dor e Farm. 

tenderly. *• Have you anything to tell 
me?'' 

The girl rose, and walked up and down 
the room. Her face was wrung with pain. 
At last she stood still in front of her 
father. 

" Would you be really happy, dear, if I 
were to say I will marry Mr. Clifford ? " 
she asked, in a low, dejected voice. 

His eyes glistened as he looked at her ; 
there were tears in them as he answered, — 

" More happy than words can tell, my 
darling, and, most of all, because I should 
feel your own happiness was safe ; I should 
not have a sorrow or a care ; but, Ruth, I 
fancied there was some one in the way." 

She moved her head restlessly, as if his 
answer was beside the question, and then 
she said slowly, and without raising her 
eyes,— 

" You are mistaken. But, father, I must 
speak plainly : I have no love to give to Mr. 
CHfford, and you must tell him so. If he 
likes to take me for his wife on those 
terms, I will marry him; but understand. 



Appledore Farm, 57 

father," — she spoke so harshly that he 
stared at her in some alarm, and the in- 
tense gaze he met was not reassuring, — 
'* and make him understand, I have no love 
to give him," she repeated. '' You and Mr. 
Clifford must arrange it between you ; I 
can't have any love scene or nonsense of 
that kind." 

Philip Bryant's sudden joy was crushed, 
and yet he did not venture to remonstrate, 
lest she should withdraw this very unex- 
pected consent to his wishes. 

" Time will alter her feelings," he 
thought. 

" I will do the best I can," he said. 
" Won't you kiss me, darling, and let me 
thank you for your goodness ? " 

She bent down and let him kiss her ; but 
she was glad to make an excuse to leave him. 

"You are tired," she said, "and you 
need rest. I w411 not let you talk any more 
till you have had a nap." 

She arranged his cushions and told 
Sally Voce not to disturb him ; then she 
went into the garden and began to tie 



58 Appledore Farm. 

the crocus grass together, witli a sort of 
feverish haste, as if her days were num- 
bered. She was dry-eyed, her head ached, 
and her mouth was parched. She soon 
gave up her employment, however ; she 
wanted a refuge from thought, and this 
monotonous use of her fingers encouraged 
its presence. 

She went resolutely back to the house. 
It seemed to her that everything had 
come to an end, and that a list ought 
to be made of the furniture and of 
her father's possessions before he left 
Appledore. She could not bring her mind 
in its confused state to grasp facts clearly, 
but she clung to any occupation that pre- 
sented itself as a shelter from the con- 
sideration of the promise she had made ; 
she did not hope to free herself from the 
marriage; nothing mattered to her now. 
All that had made life dear had suddenly 
died, and Ruth felt as if her youth had 
also died with the loss of faith in her 
lover ; it could not matter now what be- 
came of her. 



CHAPTEE y. 

It was a relief to Ruth when Sally Voce 
told her that she had sent for her danghter- 
in-law, and for little George, to occupy her 
empty cottage and keep it aired in her 
absence. '' I'm sure Lucy will take it 
very kind, miss," she said, '' if you will 
go over and see her." 

Huth was glad of the excuse given her ; 
she felt sure that Michael Chfford would 
come over to inquire for her father, and 
she had already determined that she would 
not be at home this afternoon. 

Her father was sitting in the porch, 
smoking, when she went out. 

" I am going to see poor Lucy Voce," 
she said, as she passed him. 

Bryant looked uneasy. 

'' What am I to say to Clifford, if he 



6o Appledore Farm, 

comes over ? " He hesitated as he spoke. 
" It would be much better for you to meet. 
I could let him know that you will listen 
to him." 

''I will keep my promise, father; you 
need not fear that I shall go back from it, 
but I ask you to spare me any kind of a 
scene with Mr. Clifford." 

" Suppose he won't believe my version, 
what then ? Suppose he says he must 
hear it from you ? " Bryant's voice 
sounded fretful. 

Euth looked at him frankly, and tried 
to smile. 

'' You see, father," she said, " I am not 
quite what you think me ; I am not a saint, 
only a very imperfect woman, and I must 
have my own way on some points. If you 
insist on my seeing Michael Clifford, I 
shall probably affront him by my coldness. 
Tell him to write to me ; I will answer his 
letter ; that way seems the easiest, only it 
must be clearly understood that I do not 
love him, and that he is not at present to 
expect me to do so." 



Appledore Farm, 6i 

Philip Bryant sighed at the hard task 
that lay before him. He thought, as he 
watched the girl's firm, graceful walk up 
the lane, how much pleasanter and easier 
life would be if she would look at it from 
his point of view ; she evidently did not 
care for any one else, as he had feared she 
did, or she could not so quickly have 
promised to marry Clifford ; it would be in 
every way so much better if she would stay 
at home this afternoon and let things take 
their natural course, so as to give the poor 
chap a chance of winning her affection. 

The afternoon grew warmer, and Sally 
Voce came out and suggested that Mr. 
Bryant should go indoors ; though he was 
still unable to use his foot, he could 
easily move now with the help of a crutch 
and Sally's strong arm, and she had 
placed him comfortably in his easy-chair 
some time before Mr. Clifford's arrival. 

Sally had been on the look-out for him. 
Botli father and daughter had been very 
silent, and the shrewd old woman felt 
that something unusual had been discussed 



62 Apple dor e Farm. 

between them ; at first slie fancied tliat 
this related to Mr. Be ving ton's visits, but 
she had overheard Ruth's parting words 
as she left her father, and Sally's long- 
cherished hope about Mr. Clifford took 
fresh life ; she became excited as she saw 
him tying up his horse at the gate, and 
she welcomed him with a beaming smile as 
she threw the door open to its widest ex- 
tent and ushered him into the sitting-room. 

It would be difficult to say which of the 
men felt the more nervous as they shook 
hands. Philip Bryant's opinion of his 
friend taught him that Clifford would be 
unvrilling to accept a wife on the terms 
which Ruth had proposed, and yet he dared 
not say more than she had authorized him 
to say. He began by asking after Miss 
Clifford. 

Michael smiled as he answered ; this 
question smoothed the way for what he 
wanted to say. 

'' Dorothy is all right, thank you ; I am 
to give you a message from her. You were 
kind enough to say you should be glad to 



Appledore Farm, 63 

see lier at Appledore, and I was to tell 
you that she will much enjoy coming over, 
whenever Miss Bryant likes to see her." 

Bryant felt uncomfortable. In the 
intense interest and relief of the other 
subject, he had forgotten to speak of a 
meeting between Ruth and Miss Clifford ; 
but he soon recovered himself; if Ruth 
was willing to marry the brother, she had, 
of course, no objection to make acquaint- 
ance with the sister. 

'' I will get Riith to write," he said, and 
then he paused, wondering how he should 
frame his proposal. 

"Is Miss Bryant at home?" Clifford 
asked. 

'' Well, no, she has gone to Little Marsh- 
field ; rather a hot walk to-day." 

" There is a storm in the air,*' Clifford 
said. " I think we are going to have quite 
a lot of rain." 

Another pause, in which Bryant's per- 
plexity so greatly increased that he felt 
tongue-tied. At last he said, — 

** It appears that your sister is willing 



64 Appledore Farm. 

tbat — that — I mean in regard to your 
wishes about Ruth." 

" She told you so, did she ? " His eyes 
sparkled with joyful surprise. 

Bryant at onee understood that her 
brother was not entirely in Dorothy's 
confidence. He cleared his throat with 
a feeling of relief. 

'' Yes, Miss Clifford was very frank. I 
fancy she could not bear to give you up, 
but she said she wanted you to be happy 
your own way, and she hoped you would 
marry Euth, because she knew you so 
much wished it." 

" My wish is only half the battle," said 
Clifford, slowly. 

" My good fellow, do you expect a 
woman to fall into your mouth before you 
have even told her you care about her, 
much less asked her to have you ? " 

Love is blind, but it is also very sensi- 
tive, and something in the farmer's tone 
stirred Michael. 

'* What do you mean?" he said, abruptly. 
Bryant saw his excitement. " Can you 



Appledore Farm. 65 

give me a hope that Ruth will listen to 
me ? Are you sure that she does not care 
for someone else ? " 

" I am sure of that, my boy ; I have 
found that out for you. Last time I spoke 
to you I was still in doubt myself; now I am 
clear about it. If you ask her to be your 
wife, I am pretty sure she will have you." 

Clifford passed his hands over his eyes : 
he felt dazzled by this sudden prospect of 
happiness ; he felt, too, that he must know 
his fate at once. 

" Is this God's truth ? " he asked. 

" Yes." 

" I should probably meet her if I walked 
on to Little Marshfield," he said eagerly. 

*' I am not sure, she might go round by 
Watling Street ; she visits a poor woman 
who lives in the muddy lane they call by 
that grand name. If she does come that 
way, ten to one you would miss her. I 
say, old chap, why do you try to see her ? 
Why can't you write ? If you take my 
advice, you'll write to her ; Ruth is, in 
some ways, a shy girl." 

VOL. II. P 



66 Apple dor e Farm. 

Michael Clifford sat thinking. 

" I could certainly write," he said 
presently, " though I should prefer to 
speak. If I come to-morrow, I might find 
her at home, eh ? No, by-the-bye, I can- 
not come to-morrow." 

Bryant put his hand on his friend's 
shoulder, he looked very much in earnest. 

'* Look you here, Michael ; don't let there 
be any delay ; I have done my best for you, 
and I say strike while the iron is hot, write 
to her at once ; and there is another reason 
why I want the matter settled : I want to 
feel that Euth is safe in your care ; and 
then, old fellow, I shall be ready when my 
summons comes ; it won't be long, you 
may make sure of that." 

Michael was silent. Into the midst of his 
bewildering joy came the suggestion, was 
Euth willing to do this only from worldly 
motives ? Then, as he thought of her 
frank, noble nature, he felt he had 
wronged her ; he could not, however, 
believe that he had won her love, though 



Appltdoi^e Far 711. 6^ 

he thought it possible she might have 
guessed at his own. 

" You have been very frank with me, 
old friend," he said, '* and I will be equally 
frank. You are over-anxious about your- 
self; I hope and believe we shall keep you 
with us many years. Well, then, I should 
like to be less hurried with Ruth ; I should 
like to try and win my precious girl's love 
little by little ; I know how undeserving I 
am of it, but I love her with all my heart." 

Bryant looked very grave ; he had seen 
that this was the very thing from which 
Ruth shrank, and yet, if he said so, he 
might enlist Michael's pride against the 
suddenness of the engagement. He shook 
his head as he answered, — 

" I'm sorry, but it can't be delayed ; I 
couldn't stand it ; I want it settled off- 
hand. Do you suppose I could have lived 
all these years with such a daughter as 
Ruth has been without knowing before- 
hand what the wrench will be of giving 
her up, even to such a husband as I know 
you will make her ? No, Michael, either 
F 2 



68 Appledo7^e Farm, 

wait till I'm under the turf or else take 
her with as little delay as possible. If I 
had my way, I should wish the wedding 
fixed in a fortnight or so." 

Clitford stared at him ; the man's eager- 
ness and the flush of excitement on his 
drawn face showed how deeply he was in 
earnest. 

"After all that must rest with Miss 
Bryant," Clifford said; " whatever you and 
she may determine will satisfy me." He 
paused, and a genial, happy smile overspread 
his face. '^ I can't believe in it yet, it seems 
too good, much too good to be true." 

As he rode back to Purley, Michael's 
heart seemed to brim over with his thank- 
fiilness for the great joy that had so 
unexpectedly come into his life. It was 
not yet quite sure, he knew, that his ardent, 
long-cherished wish would be gratified, but 
he could not think so hardly of Philip 
Bryant as to believe that he would mis- 
lead him about Ruth's consent. He was 
almost sure that she did not yet love him; 



Appledore Fainn, 69 

but then, he argued, a modest girl was not 
likely to know her own mind about a man 
who had hidden his feelings as he had tried 
to hide them ; she might, perhaps, have 
guessed his attachment ; but Michael was 
old-fashioned enough to be high-toned 
about women, and he thought it was only 
due to Ruth that she should have a fit 
amount of courting before she could be 
expected to say she cared for him. 
Bryant's wish for a hurried marriage had 
at first been quite out of keeping with the 
reverent, worshipping character of the 
younger man's love. 

But before he reached Purley, Michael 
began to think differently ; he resolved 
that no time should be lost ; it seemed to 
him that till now Ruth had been out of 
reach, barred away from him by the dis- 
tance which he felt was between them; so 
beautiful a woman, if she only could be seen 
by other men, would, he thought, attract 
a crowd of admirers, and her refinement 
w^ould enable her to adapt herself to any 
station. Why, then, should he run the risk 



yo Appledore Farm. 

of losing her ? Why should he hesitate to 
accept such a heaven of happiness when it 
was put within. his reach ? 

" It is a mere question of vanity that 
makes me hesitate," he said to himself, as 
he reached the end of the long high 
road, and saw the tall, noble-looking tower 
of Purley church on the top of the height 
before him ; ^' I want to be married for 
myself, and I'm afraid that this dear girl 
is only willing to take me for her father's 
sake ; she wants to give him peace of mind 
respecting her. Well, I must take my 
chance ; I have got to make Ruth love 
me, and surely her love is worth all the 
trouble I may find in winning it." 

He set his face resolutely, and dismissed 
the doubt which his sister's news had 
created ; he would stake his life on his 
darling's truth ; if she had cared for any 
one else, she would not have consented to 
her father's wishes. 

He rode up the steep street at a quicker 
pace than usual, impatient to write the 
letter that was to decide his fate, and when 



Appledore Fa7'm» 71 

he readied the old house in Broad Street, 
he went direct to his study, although, he 
longed to share his news with Dorothy. 
Perhaps a remembrance of their last talk 
about his love had something to do with 
his decision. 

He wrote his letter, he pleaded his love 
as he felt it, strongly and simply, he told 
Ruth how long and hopeless it had been ; 
he did not speak of her father's encourage- 
ment, he only said that he could no longer 
bear his own uncertainty, and that unless 
she could give him a hope of winning her, 
he must avoid the chance of seeing her. 
In reference to the haste enjoined by Mr. 
Bryant, he said that if she was good 
enough to listen to him, he thought, for 
her father's sake, a long engagement 
should be avoided, as Mr. Bryant seemed 
averse to delay. 

He went out and posted his letter, but 
he could not at once go home and tell 
Dorothy ; he felt strangely excited, and he 
walked rapidly away from Broad Street, 
and then across the Market-place, till he 



72 Apple dor e Farm, 

reached the massive grey walls that sur- 
round the grand ruins of Purley Castle. 

He did not go in through the frowning, 
low-browed entrance gate, but turning to 
the left, took his way outside the walls, and 
then through a couple of arched openings, 
till he paused on the top of the wooded 
hill from which the castle rises. There 
was a wooden bench here, just outside the 
dark grey wall of what may have been in 
the old days some fair lady's bower, and 
seating himself, he rested his back against 
the rough stone-work, while far below him, 
between the trunks of the stately elms 
that clothed the hill and almost hid the 
old grey towers from curious eyes, he 
could see the lovely river winding its way 
between the slender birches that bent 
across it from either side, or foaming over 
the weir of the Fulling Mill on the opposite 
bank. 

" Is it really true ? " he asked himself ; 
should he be sitting here in a few weeks, 
with Ruth, his own dear wife, beside him ? 
It was an almost bewildering joy to 



Appledore Farm, 73 

look forward to, and yet he still could not 
help wishing that it might be for a while de- 
layed. He pictured to himself the delight 
of watching the growth of Ruth's love ; 
he knew she would be reticent at first ; the 
very strength of her character warned him 
that she could not be otherwise ; it seemed 
a robbery to both of them, that this 
sweet wooing-time should be swept out of 
their lives. All at once he remembered 
Appledore and the new tenant with whom 
he had been in treaty, and who was ready 
to take possession as soon as the Bryants 
could leave the farm. Yes, he must give 
up this wished-for sweetness ; for Ruth's 
sake, as well as for her father's, it would 
be best to avoid delay. Michael accepted 
as a matter of course that Bryant would 
share his daughter's home, and he fancied 
that the relief which the marriage would 
bring to his friend's anxiety might soften 
the pain of leaving the house in which he 
had been born, and in which his life had 
been spent. 

Michael Clifford was always happier 



74 Apple do re Farm. 

when lie could find that the source of his 
own satisfaction was not wholly selfish. 
He rose up and went home to Dorothy. 
He seated himself by her sofa, and 
asked if she had had any visitors in his 
absence. 

She kept her eyes intently fixed on his 
face as she answered, — 

*' No, I have not seen any one ; I 
have been thinking, thinking very hard, 
Michael." Then with a sharp change of 
tone, " How did you find Mr. Bryant, 
and what has he been saying to you ? " 

Her brother started. 

" I often say you are a witch, little one," 
he said tenderly, '' you have such a faculty 
for guessing one's thoughts. I wonder," 
he bent down and kissed her, " whether 
you know how full of gratitude I feel 
towards you for what you told Mr. 
Bryant ? " 

The flush of pleasure that had come 
with the sight of her brother suddenly 
faded and left her paler than usual. 

'' I told Mr. Bryant a good many 



Apple do re Farm, 75 

things," she said coldly ; " but I know 
what you mean, Michael." She raised 
herself and sat upright. *' You have 
come to tell me that you have proposed 
to Miss Bryant?" 

" Yes, I have written to her ; she was 
out while I was at Appledore." 

"Ah ! " She looked keenly at him, and 
then she put her tiny hand on his arm. 
" You poor, dear fellow ; I do hope you 
will be happy, but I can't help fearing." 

He drew his arm roughly away and got 
up. That extraordinary spirit of contra- 
diction which, seems to possess a man at 
any mention of the woman he loves had 
seized on Clifford ; he stood very erect in 
front of his sister, ready to disagree with 
her next remark. 

" I fancy your fear is quite unnecessary, 
Dorothy." 

Her eyelashes quivered with the keen 
pain she felt ; Ruth Bryant had already 
come between them ; she could not re- 
member that Michael had ever spoken to 
her in such a tone : she was inclined to 



76 Appledore Farm, 

keep silence, lest she should make him still 
more angry, and then that longing to do 
her duty by speaking out — a longing to 
which so many good women yield, and 
thereby stir up needless strife — overcame 
Dorothy's discretion. 

" I hope so," she said, '* but think for 
a moment what it would be for you to find 
yourself married to a girl who does not 
love you." 

It was probably the presence of his own 
fear — the fear he had thought cast out — 
that made Michael feel suddenly beside 
himself with anger. 

" We had better not discuss this sub- 
ject," he said in a repressed tone. " I used 
to think you were superior to other women, 
Dorothy, but I see women are all alike, 
hard judging and prejudiced about other 
women." 

He turned away and left her, without 
even a glance at her imploring face. 

Dorothy hid her eyes in her little hands. 

" Yes, I am all he says, but it is hard 
to hear him say it," she thought, while 



Appledore Farm. yj 

tears trickled slowly between her fingers ; 
" and I am a fool besides ; I ought to know 
by this time that men are not quite sane 
when they are in love." 

She safc thinking, with a sore aching at 
her heart. Suppose, when she saw Euth 
and her brother together, the girl's 
manner should confirm her fear : what 
could she do ? She could do nothing to 
help Michael, for she knew that his in- 
fatuation would increase with every fresh 
meeting with his fiancee. She clasped 
her hands together in a kind of hopeless 
despair. 

She had spoken of her brother's love to 
Mr. Bryant, because, she hoped to find 
out whether E,uth really cared for Michael, 
but Bryant's uneasy manner, and his 
silence just when he should have spoken, 
had told his keen observer that he was as 
anxious on this point as she was ; it seemed 
impossible to the devoted sister that any 
one could know her brother as well as Ruth 
knew him, and yet remain insensible to 
him, and therefore Dorothy had felt con- 



yS Apple dove Farni. 

firmed in the opinion that Mrs. Buchan's 
story was true, and that the girl had loved 
her father's pupil. It was quite natural, 
Miss Clifford thought, now that every one 
knew of Mr. Bevington's intended mar- 
riage, that Miss Bryant should be willing 
to marry the first man who asked her ; 
but oh, that it had been any other man 
than Michael ! Surely every one must 
admit that he deserved the first and best 
love that a good woman could give him ; 
and although Dorothy tried hard not to be 
prejudiced, she could not bring herself to 
admit that a girl who met her lover 
secretly in the Mill Glen was quite good, 
or even nice ; she certainly was not good 
enough for Michael. 

Dorothy liked Mr. Bryant, and fancied 
she had misjudged him. She had been 
foolish, just for the sake of getting at 
the truth, to tell Mr. Bryant she wished 
Michael to marry his daughter. 

Then with a sudden change of feeling, 
'' I am growing horrid," she said, " full of 
nasty prejudice. If I stay here, I may 



Appledore Farm. 79 

perhaps spoil Michaers happiness ; I will 
leave him in peace ; I will write at once 
and announce my coming to David, he 
will find me plenty to do. I have been 
spoiled by my darling Michael, and in 
return, I have wounded him just where 
he feels it most keenly. I will make 
it straight with him before I go away." 



CHAPTER V. 

Michael's letter, written so fervently, and 
showing how entirely his happiness hung 
in doubt till it was favourably answered, 
gave Rath a feeling of nausea. She had 
gone up to her room to read it, for she 
knew it would contain this declaration, 
aod now she stood leaning back against 
the dark pannelled wall of her bedroom, 
her clasped fingers pressed on her lips. 

"I cannot do it," she said to herself; 
'* I cannot ; I ought not to have pro- 
mised." 

She felt too weak and wretched to 
argue with herself; going quickly down- 
stairs, she found Mrs. Voce clamouring 
for help. Bird bad been making a final 
clearance of the raspberry harvest, and had 
also brought in a huge basketful of shin- 



Appledore Farm. 8f 

ing red currants. Sally Voce was spread- 
ing the ricli-coloured, downy raspberries 
out on cool blue-green cabbage leaves. 
Her face almost matched the colour of the 
fruit, excitement had given it such a purple 
tinge. 

'' 'Drat the man ! Much as I can do," 
she muttered, irritably, ''to get the sugar 
crushed, and the fruit boiled, betime it's 
stripped and ready, 'twill be dinner 
hour." 

Ruth went swiftly into the house-place 
and took her work-apron out of a cup- 
board beside the chimney-piece. She was 
soon back in the kitchen, deftly stripping 
the glassy, scarlet currant berries from 
their slender, tender green stalks, in a huge 
yellow-lined dish which Sally had mean- 
time placed ready for her. Possibly Sally's 
company was a help, though at the time 
the girl did not appreciate it; she would 
rather have been left in peace, but the 
running stream of talk in which Mrs. Voce 
relieved her own mind while she damaged 
her neighbours' reputations, prevented 

VOL. II. G 



82 Appledore Fai^m, 

her young mistress from dwelling on her 
trouble. As the heap of fruit in the 
basket gradually became smaller, Sally's 
tone correspondingly sweetened and her 
face resumed its usual serenity. 

" Thank you, miss," she said, graciously, 
as Ruth strung the last few bunches of cur- 
rants. "I will say o' you, Miss Bryant, what 
can't be said o' many another — you doesn't 
offer, you does it. I shall get that there 
jam done first-rate, no thanks to Bird all 
the same for not takin' me into counsel 
before he plucked the berries. My word, 
the men is all on the same pattern ; don't 
ye find it's so, miss? Fro' 'little George 
uppards, they acts on their own idees, so 
to say, deal more than's needful." 

" You have spoiled George, Sally, and 
it seems to me he must have been master- 
ful before he was short-coated ; he's worse 
than ever since he's had that sailor suit 
I saw him in last Sunday." 

" Ah, but don't he look winsome in it, 
miss ? But that wer no doin' o' mine ; no, 
Miss Bryant, 'twerMr. Cliftbrd gived it me 



Apple dore Farm, 83 

for him, just because I chanced to say as 
you fancied the little lad." 

Ruth turned away, she seemed to be 
hemmed in by this one subject ; her com- 
mon sense, however, had come back ; she 
saw that she had made a mistake in 
calculating her mental strength, but she 
had made this offer to her father, and she 
felt bound to act up to it. Michael Clif- 
ford must have received some encourage- 
ment from her father, or he would not 
have written to her ; well, then, she had no 
right to disappoint him and fling his hopes 
back in his face. 

She went into the sitting-room ; she 
could not write to accept Clifford as her 
husband from her own little desk upstairs, 
on which she had written such tender 
letters to Reginald Bevington, and in 
which she still kept those he had sent her : 
it was the first time since her lover's visit 
to Appledore that she had allowed herself 
to think of him, to see him as it were full- 
length ; hitherto, at the first thought of 
'Reggjy she had turned away to something 
G 2 



84 Appledore Farm, 

likely to blot out the pain of that woful 
mernory ; now with a consciousness 
that this was her last opportunity, 
that in future she must put away from 
her every thought of that past so ex- 
quisitely dear — though she felt it had 
never truly been that which she fondly 
fancied — she sat leaning back, musing and 
lingering over that first avowal of their love 
under the branching apple-trees; then she 
recalled the happy meeting in the Glen. 
Her lover liad meant honestly by her in 
those early days ; oh ! yes, his love had 
then been true, she was sure of it. Why 
should she blame Reginald Bevington for 
having obeyed his parents' wishes with 
regard to Miss Stretton, when she was 
yielding to her father's influence, and con- 
senting to marry a man whom it seemed 
to her she could not love ? And at this 
reflection she forgave him the wrong he 
seemed to have meditated against her- 
self, partly urged by her generous 
nature, partly because she could not 
be certain that he would have finally 



Appledore Farm. 85 

deceived her ; it may be that her 
strongest reason for forgiveness lay in the 
wrong she considered she was going to do 
him — the wrong of bestowing herself on 
another man. 

Suddenly the window, in front of which 
the writing-table stood, was darkened, and 
she saw her father looking in at her. 

He smiled at her, and passed on, his 
crutches crunching into the gravel with so 
rasping a sound that Ruth felt a little 
ashamed of her self-absorption, for she 
had not noticed his approach. She took 
up her pen, and after a few minutes' 
thouo^ht she besfan her answer. 

It was lamentably stiff and formal, but 
the girl felt sure that Michael Clifford 
understood her well enough to know that 
she did not love him. She sighed the next 
minute. '' Poor fellow/' she thought, 
" perhaps he does not know as much about 
love as I do." 

She closed the envelope, and then left her 
letter in the hall, so that her father might 
see she had written ; she could not bring 



86 Appledore Farm, 

herself to tell him in so many words that 
she had accepted Michael Clifford's offer. 

Bryant seemed greatly depressed when 
he came in ; and when he was alone with 
his daughter after supper the evening 
passed almost in silence. 

Ruth rose at the usual time to summon 
Sally to help her father to his room, but 
he stopped her. 

" Stay, dear child," he said ; ''I have a 
word or two to say before we say good- 
night. I have first to say ' Thank you,' for 
being as kind and sensible as I think you 
have been ; and next," he saw that she 
shrank from him, and he wanted to fix her 
attention, '' I — I wanted to give you this." 
He put an envelope in her hand. " N'ot 
worth thanks, child," he said, huskily, 
*' only a fraction of the sum that should 
have been yours; it's thirty pounds for your 
clothes." 

She looked at him and then at the 
envelope ; she could not understand how 
he came to possess such a sum, still less 
could she understand why he gave it to 
her. 



Appledore Farm. 87 

Before slie could utter the question on 
her lips, her father said, eagerly, — 

•' You need not think tlie money came 
to me from — from anyone — it is my own ; 
I — I put it away a long time ago for my 
funeral expenses." 

Rutli burst into sudden tears ; she so 
seldom cried that her father was greatly 
distressed ; he patted her shoulder. 

" What is it ? What is it, dear heart ? " 
he said, tenderly ; then seeing that she was 
drying her eyes and trying to hide her 
agitation, he went on, " I want you to go 
so far as Purley to-morrow, my lass, and 
get your shopping over ; I want you to 
spare me all the delay you can." 

'' I cannot go to Purley," she said, 
cheerfully ; '' I will get what I want, father, 
but I would rather go to some place where 
I don't know people." 

" There's Newbridge," he said, " if 
you don't mind going so far ; there are 
real good shops at Newbridge ; you must 
take either Sally or Faith with you to help 
carry parcels and so on." 

The easily pleased man looked radiant 



88 Appledore Farm. 

with the idea that he had planned a plea- 
sant excursion for his darling. 

" You'd best go from Church Marsh- 
field," he went on, when they had said 
good-night, " then you can leave your 
heavy parcels at the station and get them 
sent out." 

The weather was so bright next morn- 
ing that Ruth started on her journey 
soon after breakfast. She took Faith 
with her instead of Sally Voce ; she felt 
that she was not in a humour for the old 
woman's comments on her purchases and 
the inquiries to which they would give rise. 

They left the station at the foot of the 
bustling, busy High Street of Newbridge, 
and came up the steep hill, past the 
ancient Grammar School, now turned into 
the Town Library, past the flourishing 
hotel, with its old sign-board projected 
over the entrance, while nearly opposite, 
though standing back and partly hidden 
by a square of its own, was the venerable 
lofty spired church. Along the street 
were plenty of thriving shops, many of 



Appledore Fa7nn, 89 

them with quaint sign-boards, and above 
these the ancient gables of half-timbered 
houses ; these became more numerous as 
the street, seemingly tired of its ascent, 
began to go down-hill as steeply as it had 
mounted, to the modern market-house 
below. A qaaint street of old houses 
crossed it here and led down on the right 
to the river. 

It was Wednesday, market-day in New- 
bridge, and Ruth saw how longingly Faith 
looked at the people as they disappeared 
from the street into the market-house. 

*' We will go through," she said, and 
Faith looked radiant. Ruth could not 
have said why she went into the market, 
for she had little time to spare, and the 
crowd within made passage slow. 

On one side were ranged long lines of 
fruit and vegetable stalls, behind which 
the sellers were chiefly women ; on the 
other side was a great and varied display 
of poultry and eggs ; butter of varied 
yellows, set off by cool green leaves ; while 
here and there was the pale primrose of a 



90 Appledore Farm. 

cream cheese, displayed for a while as a 
bait to a passer-by, and then again care- 
fully shrouded in muslin. 

Ruth smiled and sighed as she looked at 
the rosy, eager faces of the market-women, 
some of them evidently welhto-do farmers' 
wives who had come in to sell their own 
farm products. 

" I might have earned something for 
father if I had been brought up to do 
this," the girl thought ; '' we only get half- 
price from that shop at Purley, compared 
with what these people are asking, and we 
might sell far more than we do." 

She sighed again ; it seemed to her that 
she had been brought up above her station 
in life, and she was, in fact, very useless 
compared with the girls, young women, 
and matrons, some of whom, nicely and 
neatly dressed, sat behind their chickens 
and their dairy produce. 

It was too late now, she told herself, for 
regrets ; that part of her life was ended ; 
she should even have to give up her 
favourite employment of gardening ; she 



Appledore Farm. 91 

knew, from what Mr. Clifford told her, that 
there was scarcely any garden to the house 
in Broad Street. 

" Come along, Faith," she said briskly to 
the maid, and she turned to leave the 
market-house by the way they had come in. 

Faith wondered why Miss Bryant sud- 
denly stopped . Looking up at her mistress, 
the maid saw that she had turned pale ; 
Faith thought Miss Bryant was going to 
faint, her paleness was so ghastly ; she 
took firm hold of Ruth's arm and led her 
back to the lower end of the market, which 
was far less crowded than the entrauce 
had been. There was a drinking-foun- 
tain outside, and the girl asked if Miss 
Bryant would not like a drink of cold 
water. ^' 'Twas the heat what made you 
faint-like, miss," she said. 

" I'm all right, thank you," Ruth said, 
slowly, and she went up a side streetthatled 
to the shop she had been making for when 
she turned into the market-place. She 
had walked briskly up the hill from the 
station, but now, though she was on the 



92 Appledoj^e Farm. 

level, lier feet seemed leaden, she felt as if 
she had been stunned by a blow, and truly 
she had received a shock that for the time 
had stupefied her. 

She had seen Reginald Bevington stand- 
ing just within the market ; he was with 
a tall, fair lady, his mother, Ruth believed. 

The sad, gloomy expression on his face 
had gone to the girl's heart ; but for Faith's 
prompt action, she might possibly have 
stood still till the pair came up to her, for 
they were moving in her direction. 



CHAPTER YI. 

Dorothy liad settled to break her journey 
at Carlisle, and stay a few days witli a 
friend she had there ; this halt would be 
useful in several ways — it would give her 
brother David time to expect her, it would 
lessen her own fatigue, and it would give 
her the opportunity of seeing her cherished 
Carlisle friend, whom she had once fondly 
hoped Michael would marry. Miss Letitia 
Vareham had money, and she was good 
and affectionate. Michael had acknow- 
ledged all this, but after he had seen 
Dorothy's paragon he had been perverse 
enough to add that Miss Vareham was 
two years older than he was, and he also 
said that she was very plain. While 
Dorothy superintended the packing of her 
boxes, she was sorrowfully thinking over 
this perversity of Michael's. 

*' It is strange," she said, " he is fasti- 



94 Appledore Far7n. 

dious enough in some things, and yet in a 
matter that surely is of the utmost impor- 
tance to his future happiness he seems 
determined to take everything on trust. 1 
begin to think that love not only blinds a 
man, but also takes away his wits." 

She felt nearly sure that Michael's offer 
had been accepted by Miss Bryant, he had 
looked so happy when he came in to wish 
her good-morning, for she often break- 
fasted in her room. 

Clifford had been troubled when Dorothy 
said she was so soon leaving him, but 
he had not pressed her to stay ; he felt that 
it would be a trial to her to be put in the 
second place, and it was possible that at 
first she and Ruth might not suit one an- 
other. 

" You will come back to us later, dear," 
he said, smiling, as he left her room ; but 
in truth he was too much excited to dwell 
on the parting from his sister, for he had 
received Ruth's answer to his proposal, and 
he was going to Appledore this afternoon 
as soon as he could get away from business. 



Apple dore Farm, 95 

And thougli Dorothy yearned to spend 
every hour of these last days with her 
brother, her good sense warned her that 
he and she were far more Hkely to main- 
tain their old tender relations if they kept 
apart as much as possible during the time 
that was left. 

*' I am simply horrid," she thought ; *' I 
pray against spitefulness and all its nasty 
mean ways, and yet directly I see Michael 
I long to make him think less well of that 
girl. If I could only believe she loved 
him, perhaps I should be better, and yet 
even then I don't know that I should feel 
reconciled. Yes, I am mean and horrid, 
and all these years I have gone on de- 
spising jealous people." 

She sighed, and decided that whatever 
pain this change of home might bring to 
her, it was undoubtedly much happier for 
her brother Michael that she should go 
away from him. 

It was afternoon before Michael Clifford 
could get away to Appledore. Everything 
looked at its best in the mellow sunshine ; 



96 Apple dor e Fai^m. 

a few fleecy, snow- white clouds lay lazily 
as if they were enjoying the warmth ; the 
sky itself was a deeper blue than usual, 
and looked almost hard against the soft 
whiteness of the cloud masses. 

He could scent the honeysuckle from 
the farm-gate as he reached it, and a 
hopeful smile overspread his face as he 
pictured Ruth fastening a spray of the 
sweet flower in his button-hole. He saw 
Philip Bryant sitting in his old place in 
the porch, and looking almost as well as 
ever. 

He even shouted out in his old hearty 
way, when he saw his visitor, for a boy to 
come and take Mr. Olifl'ord's horse. 

'' Send it round to the stable, man," he 
said. " This is jolly ; you are come to 
stay the afternoon, ar'n't you ? " 

The suppressed joy in Bryant's tone 
added to Clifford's hope; he told himself 
that he ought not to have been discouraged 
by the stiffness of Ruth's note ; he could not 
expect her to show any warmth of feeling 
for him till she became more accustomed 



Appledore Farm. 97 

to look on liim as her lover. It was a 
great disappointment to hear that she had 
gone to Newbridge. 

" If you had let me know," he said, " I 
would have gone in and seen her safe 
home.'* 

Bryant smiled at his impatient tone. 

" She'll be back soon, now," he said. 
*' Don't you bother your head about her ; 
Ruth is well able to take care of herself, 
and she has the little maid with her to 
carry her parcels.'* 

Clifford looked dissatisfied ; he talked 
for a few minutes with his friend, but his 
thoughts strayed to Ruth, and at last he 
gave an answer so completely at cross- 
purposes that Bryant laughed. 

" There, go your ways, man," he said, 
" go your ways, your wits have gone astray. 
If you start at once, you're safe to meet her 
near Church Marshfield; she must come 
by this train; the next one won't save 
dayhght." 

He looked graver when Clifford had left 
him to walk towards Marshfield, for he 

VOL. II. fl 



'98 Appledore Farm, 

suddenly remembered that this meeting 
was the sort of thing against which Ruth 
had protested when she asked him to 
spare her a love-scene with Michael CUfford. 

" It can't be helped now,'* he thought; 
" I hope she'll be kind to the poor chap." 

He felt nervous for a while, then he 
laughed at his own scruples ; it was 
nonsense, he thought, the unreal notion of 
a girl who had never had a lover, for 
though he was fairly confident that Ruth 
had had a fancy for some one while she 
stayed at her aunt's, she had said that she 
was free from any engagement; it was 
therefore evident that she had never had an 
accepted lover. After all, the ever hopeful 
man thought, this unexpected meeting 
might prove a useful step in the courtship. 

'' Any way, it gives him no end of a 
chance," the farmer ended, ^' so long as 
he knows how to use it ; but he wants 
devil in this business, does Michael." 

Meanwhile Michael was walking as fast 
as he could along the high road. He 
longed to feast his eyes with the sight of 



Appledore Farm. 99 

his darling ; it was still impossible to liim to 
believe that she had really consented to 
become his wife. He walked at such a 
rapid pace that he was close to the village 
before he saw Ruth coming. 

She did not see him ; she was walking 
with her head bent forward and her eyes 
fixed on the ground ; Faith walked some 
way behind her, with a boy from the station 
carrying the remainder of the parcels ; 
these two were laughing and chatting 
merrily, and Ruth looked sad by contrast. 

Clifford quickened his pace and soon 
joined her ; she smiled faintly as she recog- 
nized him, but he thought she seemed ill at 
ease. This, however, was only a momentary 
idea; his excitement took away his power of 
reflection. They stood still a few minutes 
while he greeted her. Then he said, — 

" Will you not send your parcels on ? 
We can follow more slowly." 

<« Very well," she said in a subdued voice 
that was quite foreign to her bright, saucy 
manner. 

He thought this dutiful submissiveness 
H 2 



lOO Apple dor e Farm. 

was very sweet, but while Ruth was telling 
Faith and the boy to hurry home, and 
while she stood aside to let them pass, 
Michael was wishing that the old manner 
would come back : the saucy, provoking 
Ruth was the girl who had won his love 
years ago; this quiet, subdued Ruth was 
quite another person. He felt piqued to 
try and provoke at any rate a saucy 
answer. 

"I have to thank you very much," he 
said, '' for your most kind answer to my 
hopes. I know." he went on with increasing 
fervour, for as he looked at Ruth and 
realized the prize he had almost won, his 
manner became more and more earnest, — 
" I know, and I deeply feel that I am un- 
worthy of you, but if you will let me, dear 
girl, I think I can make you happy." 

He paused, but she walked on beside him 
in silence, her eyes fixed on the ground ; 
she was evidently listening to him, and he 
felt encouraged to go on with, for him, 
very unusual eloquence. 

*'I have not loved you for so long, 



Appledore Farm, loi 

dearest Ruth ;" his voice had sunk to alow 
tender tone that puzzled his companion, 
she had not guessed at this depth of feeling 
in a " business man,'* as she called Michael 
Clifford, and it troubled her, it seemed a 
mere mockery of that other love she knew 
so well, but at the same time it warned her 
that her life with this husband would be 
more difficult than she had counted on ; 
" it sometimes seems as if I could not re- 
member a time when I did not love you, 
Ruth." 

She felt obliged to make some answer, 
and she murmured that she was grateful 
to him for his devotion ; she raised her 
eyes as she said this, and met so much 
ardour expressed in his, that she instantly 
looked away, lest she should betray the 
shrinking she felt from him. 

flis mood had changed; he felt rashly 
determined to find out what she really felt 
towards him. 

*' I should have preferred to wait," he 
said, '' till I could have a more decided 
hope that you — you cared for me, but 



102 Apple dor e Farm. 

when I consulted your father he urged me 
not to delay, he seemed to think I had lost 
time already ; I know this sounds cowardly, 
as if I were trying to shelter myself for 
my faint-heartedness. Well, dear girl," 
he went on, a passion of tenderness rising 
in his voice, ^'I own that I am a coward 
about vexing or thwarting you in any way ; 
your kind answer was a great relief, for it 
showed me that I had not vexed yo a; I 
have told my dear old friend that I leave 
you to settle the — the length of our engage- 
ment ; " he paused, but she still listened 
quietly, without raising her eyes ; " I think 
you will agree with me that it is better 
in all ways so to arrange that your father 
will only have one removal ; I mean, had 
he not better go straight from Appledore 
to Broad Street?" 

She looked up quickly. 

" How about your sister ? " 

Her calm, matter-of-fact tone startled 
and chilled him. 

" My sister leaves me on Thursday for 
Scotland," he said ; ''it is her own choice, 



Appledore Farm. 103 

she wishes to go, she is only happy when she 
is useful, and she can be very useful to my 
brother David's children ; he has lost his 
wife. I was to say from Dorothy that she 
regrets being unable to make your ac- 
quaintance, but there is no help for it." 

Ruth was growing desperate ; that 
glimpse at Reginald Bevington's sad, and, as 
she thought, repentant, face had shown her 
how passionately she still loved him, and 
had suddenly opened her eyes to the awful 
reality of what she was doing and what she 
had promised to do. She must free herself 
from this danger. How could she marry 
Clifford, when even his talk of love sickened 
her so that she longed for any means of 
escape from him ? While she struggled 
with this longing, she remembered that now 
the hay was cut, there was a short way 
home across one of the Appledore meadows, 
and that they were drawing near the stile 
which led from this meadow into the road. 
This remembrance restored her self-control, 
and when Michael went on speaking she 
listened with less preoccupation. 



I04 Appledo7'e Farm, 

** Do you agree with me," he said, 
" that our marriage had better take place 
before your father gives up the farm ? " 

Every step was bringing them nearer 
the stile, and Ruth felt nerved to speak 
more boldly than she could have spoken if 
she had had the prospect of walking 
another half-mile beside him. 

With the hope of escape her mind be- 
came freer, more able to see things really. 
It was, she felt, deceitful, and therefore 
degrading, to allow Michael Clifford to go 
on in ignorance of her real feelings to- 
wards him ; it was acting a falsehood. 

Her continued silence was trying him, 
however, almost beyond his power of en- 
durance. 

" You will understand," he said nervously, 
" that your feeling in this matter will guide 
me, far more than my regard for what is 
probably likely to be best for your father ? " 

They were close to the stile. Ruth 
stood still, and looked at him fully, and she 
kept her eyes fixed unflinchingly on his in 
spite of the love she saw glowing in them ; 



Appledore Farm, 105 

sbe Lad made up her mind. She dared not 
tell Mr. Clifford all the truth ; it seemed 
to her that what had passed between her 
and Reginald Bevington was her own ; it 
only concerDed her now, and no one had a 
right to share that sorrowful, yet sweet 
memory ; but she could not be so false as to 
let this man suppose that she had any love 
for him ; it was a struggle to begin to say 
this, but when she had begun, her words 
came far more easily than she had expected ; 
she was so little in sympathy with Clifford 
at this moment that she could not realize 
the pain she gave. 

" I am not anxious for delay," she said 
calmly, " but I wish you not to expect 
more from me than I can now give you. 
This has all come so suddenly upon me that 
I have hardly had time to think about my 
feelings." Her eyes fell at last under his 
searching glance ; her words were in a 
sense true, but she knew they did not 
contain the whole truth about her feelings. 
*' You know — you must know," the appeal 
in her voice moved him, " that I think of 



io6 Appledore Fai^m, 

you as my father's, as our best friend, 
and " — she looked up at hira — " I will try 
to be a good and faithful wife to you, but 
be patient with me, please — I only ask you 
not to take me away from my father, even 
for a day, till his strength comes back and 
he is quite himself again." 

Clifford was deeply touched, but that 
did not prevent him from being greatly 
cast down. 

*' Surely," he said pleadingly, "you 
will not mind leaving him for a week ? 
You were not with him while he was at 
Purley. I propose that he should go with 
us from the church to Broad Street, and 
that we should leave him there in charge 
of Mrs. Voce until we come back ; you see, 
he would not feel strange, having been 
there so lately." 

Ruth shook her head. 

" Please don't think me obstinate," she 
said firmly, but gently ; *' I cannot leave 
father even for that short time ; I am sure 
all this change will excite and agitate him ; 
who can say that a moment after we have 



Appledore Farm, 107 

left him he may not be again struck down ? 
I should not have a peaceful moment if I 
were to leave him at such a time ; if — if 
anything were to happen to him, I could 
never forgive myself, it would sadden all 
my life. Indeed, I cannot leave him." 

He bent his head ; he was utterly dis- 
appointed, but he felt powerless to resist 
her wishes. 

^' It shall be as you wish," he said slowly ; 
then, as if he struggled with his own self- 
control, " Am I to understand that you 
will fix a date with Mr. Bryant, and that 
you wish me to arrange everything with 
him?" 

She gave him a bright smile, the first 
brightness he had seen in her face since 
their meeting. 

"Thank you, yes, that will be very 
kind." They had reached the stile, and 
she turned towards it. " Please do not 
think me ungracious," she said, "but I 
want to be alone ; I have had a tiring day, 
and my head aches past bearing ; I will go 
this way. Good-bye." 



Tc8 Appledore Farm, 

Slie nodded, and then, without further 
leave-taking, she vaulted over the stile and 
was speeding across the meadow with long, 
gliding steps, before he had recovered from 
his surprise at this sudden desertion. 

He stood looking after her, ready to 
gnash his teeth with anger at his own 
stupidity; he told himself he ought to 
have spoken out when she gave him such 
a chance, he ought to have said that he 
was not willing to take her for a wife on 
such terms; he might have told her he 
was willing to wait any time she chose to 
name for the joy of calling her his wife 
when she could feel more tenderly towards 
him, but that he would not marry a woman 
who was only willing to take him from a 
feeling of gratitude. 

While he stood debating with himself 
whether he should follow her and tell 
her he retracted his offer, Ruth passed out 
of sight, and, by some strange magic, now 
that he could no longer see her in actual 
presence, the remembrance of her beauty, 
of all that made her to him so irresistible, 



Appledore Farm, 109 

so bewitcliing, seized him with renewed 
strength ; he began to chide himself for 
faint-heartedness ; she must think him a 
timid fool ; he had not even held her hand 
in his, he had not attempted the slightest 
approach to a caress ; no true woman 
would allow herself to be won in such a 
tepid way as that. 

He resolved that the next meeting should 
happen indoors ; he would then try whether 
a tenderer, warmer mode of wooing would 
not soften her and break down the terrible 
barrier which now seemed to keep them so 
coldly apart. 



CHAPTER YII. 

Michael's resolution was not carried into 
action. He saw his sister off next morn- 
ing, and in the afternoon he received a 
note from Appledore, written by Euth 
from her father's dictation. The marriage 
was fixed for that day three weeks, and 
Philip Bryant asked that it might not 
be delayed beyond that period ; he wrote 
that he was willing to leave the farm on 
Michael's wedding-day, if this was thought 
advisable. Inside the envelope, on a 
crumpled bit of paper and in a crabbed 
writing, were these words : '' Leave Ruth 
alone a couple of days ; she's shy. P. B." 
Michael twisted the bit of paper 
angrily between his fingers, and then tore 
it into fragments, he felt angry and im- 
patient. If Ruth were shy, that was only a 
natural womanish feeling, far more likely to 



Appledore Farm, 1 1 1 

be overcome by bis presence than in bis 
absence. He was half tempted to dis- 
regard tbe foolish suggestion, and to ride 
over at once to Appledore, for he should 
have to spend the next day at New- 
bridge, where he would probably sleep. 
He reflected, however, that the note 
might have been suggested by Ruth, 
although she did not write it, and he 
felt that it would be unkind to thwart 
her. He once more read the letter ; 
it seemed incredible that in three 
weeks she would be his own, his wife ; 
thenceforth nothing need evermore part 
them. His eyes brightened, his chest 
swelled and broadened, the man's whole 
figure seemed to dilate with an ineffable 
sense of joy and triumph as he murmured 
the refrain of a German song which he 
had sometimes sung to please Dorothy, — 

*' She is mine, she is mine ; she has told 
me she is mine." 

The last phrase was true, but not in the 
sense he desired. 

** Well," he had stood thinking for 



1 1 2 Appledore Farm. 

awhile; ''I believe I expect too much. 
A French girl is not expected to love 
her future husband till after the ceremony 
of marriage ; it must surely be my own 
fault if I cannot teach my darling to love 
me in the future." 

He did not note that the naming of his 
wedding-day, with the secure feeling it 
had given him, had completely blothed 
out his desire to wait for his happiness 
till Ruth had learned to love him. 

Michael Clifford was an untiring man 
of business, but he always found time 
before he left his room to read each morn- 
ing a few verses from a book given him 
by his mother. This morning his reading 
had ended with the verse : ** For man 
proposes, but God disposes ; for man's 
way is not in himself." He had a slightly 
uneasy feeling as he put down the book, 
but he had to hurry over his breakfast to 
get the early train for Newbridge ; he 
had also to see the paperhanger and the 
plasterer; then he gave orders to some 
other workpeople about various altera- 



Appledore Farm, 113 

tions he wished completed in the house 
before Ruth became its mistress. 

When all these orders were given, he 
started for Newbridge. He thought that 
if all went well, and he found the people 
he had to see there disengaged, he might 
get back to Purley that night by the last 
train, or at any rate he should get one 
which left Newbridge at five in the 
morning ; but of this there was no cer- 
tainty. He felt full of energy and deter- 
mination, as he saw how much had to 
be done before his marriage; he decided 
that if Ruth still refused to leave her 
father, they would take Mr. Bryant away 
with them, for he longed to get a few 
days' holiday with his wife before he 
settled down to regular work-a-day ex- 
istence as a married man. They would go, 
he thought, if Ruth approved of the plan, 
to a little sea-side place on the Welsh 
coast, not too long a journey for the 
invalid, where the scenery would dehght 
Ruth and the fine air would strengthen 
her father. 

VOL. II. I 



114 Appledore Farm. 

He was planning all this as he sat in 
the railway carriage, and unconsciously 
repeated to himself the refrain of the 
song. All at once the vision that had 
previously filled his mind left him, and he 
seemed to hear the words " man proposes, 
man proposes," and nothing else, except the 
shrill whistle of the engine as it neared 
a tunnel. 

When he reached Newbridge, his busi- 
ness soon absorbed him, to the exclusion 
of every other thought. It was, doubt- 
less, this valuable power of concentration 
that enabled Michael Clifford to grasp 
all questions submitted to him so con- 
clusively and so firmly, that his opinion 
on, or his solution of, a difiiculty, at once 
carried weight with it. His reputation 
already extended beyond his own county. 
To-day, before he had half finislied his 
business in Newbridge, he was met by a 
request that he would go on next morning 
to Chester, his presence there being, he 
was told by one of his clients, absolutely 
necessary in regard to the valuation of an 



Appledore Farm. 1 1 5 

estate about to be purcliased by tlie brother 
of the said client. 

He did not, therefore, return to Purley 
till late in the afternoon of the day after 
he had left it, too late, he knew, to go 
on to Appledore. 

At breakfast next day a letter reached 
him from Miss Letitia Yareham ; it begged 
him to come at once to his sister Dorothy. 
Dorothy had seemed ill on her first arrival, 
the writer said, but th^ next morning she 
was in such an excited and fevered state 
that Miss Vareham had sent for a doctor; he 
pronounced the patient to be very seriously 
ill, and suggested that a nurse should be 
sent for. Michael rubbed his forehead 
with the palm of his strong brown hand : 
he loved Dorothy very dearly, but he was 
only human ; to-morrow was Sunday, and 
he had counted on spending it at Apple- 
dore. 

Obstacles seemed to be thickening on 

the path of a better understanding with 

his darling Ruth. He smiled at himself. 

Was not all this contradiction and thwart- 

I 2 



Ii6 Appledore Far7n, 

iiig of purpose an omen of future happi- 
ness ? The course of true love was pro- 
verbially hindered, he told himself ; only 
the arranged and wealthy marriages, in 
which love was not a necessary condition, 
went on evenly without let or hindrance 
till they were accomplished : it was the 
afterwards with them that was full of 
thorny disappointment. 

But by the time Clifford was half-way 
on his journey to Carlisle he was thinking 
more of Dorothy than of E-uth. Dorothy 
had always been so good to him ; she had 
never said so to Michael, but his brother 
David had told him years ago that their 
sister might have been married if she 
had not devoted herself to make a home 
for her youngest brother when her father 
died. He rejoiced that he had not con- 
sented to Dorothy's idea of leaving him ; 
and he resolved, when he had gained Euth's 
love, to try and persuade his sister to spend 
a large part of every year with them, even 
if she would not consent to look on the old 
house in Broad Street as her home. 



Apple dor e Farm, 1 1 7 

It was a terrible sliook, when lie reached 
his destination, to find that Dorothy was so 
ill that she did not recos^nize him. It was 
not possible that he could leave her till 
there was a favourable change. 

He wrote to Mr. Bryant and to Ruth to 
explain the reason of his continued absence 
from Appledore. He also wrote to a friend 
of his in Purley, to ask him to keep 
watch on the workpeople he was employ- 
ing about his house, so that all might 
be ready. He had engaged this friend 
to be his best man at the wedding, and 
he still hoped that Dorothy would recover, 
so that it might take place at the ap- 
pointed time. 



CHAPTEE Viri. 

The news of Miss Clifford's illness had 
come to Rutli with the relief of a reprieve ; 
it seemed to the girl that it must defer 
the wedding ; but when she learned that 
the crisis of the fever was over, and that 
Dorothy was pronounced out of danger, the 
revulsion came. The girl saw the extent 
of her mistake ; she was entangled in a net 
of her own making, and she longed with 
all the strength of her nature to be free 
from her promise to marry Clifford. 

This longing had been greatly increased 
a few days ago; Michael Clifford had 
returned to Purley, and had come over 
next day to Appledore. Ruth forced 
herself to receive him kindly ; she found 
this easier than she had expected, because 
she was not alone with him. Philip Bryant 
was not so well, and he lay on the sofa 



Appledore Farm, 1 1 9 

during Michael's visit. Ruth went to tlie 
door with Mr. Clifford, but she talked per- 
sistently of his sister and her illness ; he 
held her hand a moment as they parted, 
and then he bent over her and kissed her 
cheek. 

She did not draw back, but a deep flush 
overspread her face, and she kept her eyes 
fixed on the ground. 

She had not seen him since, for an ac- 
cumulation of business kept him at work 
from early morning till late evening. 

It was the day before the wedding. 
Ruth had been restless since early morn- 
ing. She had risen about five o'clock, and 
had gone round the farm, visiting every 
little well-known nook and corner of the 
place in which she had spent her young 
life. 

She was in sore distress as she now 
walked up and down the gravel path 
beneath her window. She had at first 
begun by reasoning with herself on the 
almost childish repugnance she felt towards 



1 20 Apple do re Farm. 

her marriago ; bat her efforts at this self- 
conquest were fruitless, they seemed to re- 
coil on herself, and to stir up a feeling of 
intolerable shrinking from Michael CUfford. 
She looked up at her window as she passed 
beneath it, and pictured the figure of 
Reginald Bevington pausing below it as 
he had so often done, till she seemed to 
hear his soft, refined voice, calling her to 
come out. . . . She shivered and suddenly 
broke loose from all the specious reason- 
ing she had been repeating so mechanically 
to herself. 

" I cannot do it, I will not do it; it is 
unnatural, it is horrible . , , ." 

In the midst of this tempest of feeling 
that seemed to sway her to and fro, as the 
west wind sways some tall and slender 
tree, she was trying to keep an outward 
calm. '* Besides, I know it will make me 
wicked ; I — I shall learn to hate Michael 
when he is really -m^ husband, I — I shall 
wish he were E-eggy." She stood still a 
moment thinking. ''It must be stopped,'' 
she said firmly ; ''I could not answer for 



Appledore Farm, 121 

mj^self if I TYere to be made so miserable. 
Who knows ? — I might be tempted to put 
an end to my life, or to run away. Such 
a marriage cannot bring happiness to 
Michael or to anyone else. I shall speak 
to him to-night. I shall warn him what 
might happen else." 

A soothing calm passed over her as she 
saw a chance of escape ; she walked up 
and down, trying to plan some way of 
effecting it. In her present mood she felt 
desperate enough to make an appeal to 
Michael ; surely, if she confessed the truth, 
and told him she still loved Keginald 
Bevington, he would set her free. But 
almost as the idea came she saw she must 
have her father's sanction for such an 
appeal ; a sudden withdrawal on Michael's 
part might bring back the trouble of mind 
which had caused his illness in the spring. 
Ruth had not now much reliance on her 
father's judgment, but he was her father, 
and children seem to have sometimes a 
superstitious belief in the reserves of a 
parent's wisdom : this, be it said, when they 



122 Appledore Farm, 

are themselves in trouble, and think that 
father and mother are bound to help 
them. 

She went in to seek her father ; he was 
not in his usual place in the porch, she 
found him on the sofa in the parlour, not 
lying down, but leaning against the 
cushions, he was pale, and had a look of 
suffering on his face. 

''What is it, dear?" she said, ten- 
derly. 

'' Only my head," he answered; '' I feel 
faint and dizzy." 

She saw that he must not be disturbed, 
and she determined to wait till after his 
afternoon nap. At dinner-time he said he 
felt all right again, and afterwards he de- 
clined Euth's proposal that he should lie 
down as usual in his own room. 

'' Well, no, child," he answered ; " this 
is our last day, let us be together." 

She rose and kissed him even more 
affectionately than usual, and then, when 
she had placed him comfortably on his 
sofa, they talked for a while about ordinary 



Appledore Farm, 123 

things, which had no interest for either of 
them. 

Ruth's restlessness had increased as the 
day wore on. She now began to walk up 
and down the room till she taxed her 
father's patience. 

'* What ails you, darling ? " he said. '' I 
thought I was fidgety enough, but you 
beat me ; your dear mother would have 
said you must have got quicksilver in your 
boots." 

She stopped and, turning round, she 
smiled at him, but he thought she was 
sad. 

" I believe," she said, in a hurried, 
nervous tone, that was wholly foreign to 
her, '' in fact, I know that I cannot 
rest or be at peace until I have spoken to 
you, father, only I am afraid of worry- 
ing you and of trying your head." 

" My head is right enough now," he 
said ; '* tell out your trouble, my girl, if it 
will ease you." 

Her way was clear enough now, yet 
she could not speak ; her lips felt parched 



124 Appledore Farm, 

and dry, and her tongue seemed powerless. 
She tried to speak, but no words came, 
and her sad eyes fixed themselves on her 
father in a strained gaze, almost like that 
of some poor hunted creature in dread of 
pursuit. 

Her father's face reflected the trouble 
he saw in her eyes, and unconsciously he 
broke the spell that chained her tongue. 

''What is it, my Euthie?" he said 
tenderly. '' Tell your father, won't you, pet, 
what it is that's troubling you ? A trouble 
is half the weight to carry when it's 
shared, honey." 

She knelt down beside him, and hid her 
eyes on his shoulder. 

" I don't know in my case," she said 
wearily ; she felt her burden was too heavy 
to carry any further. " I'm afraid, sorely 
afraid that in telling I simply shift sorrow 
from myself to you; well, dear, it's this. 
Please forgive me, but I cannot keep my 
promise ; I must tell Michael Clifford when 
he comes that I cannot be his wife to- 
morrow." 



Appledore Farm. 125 

Bryant's face flushed so deeply that the 
girl felt frightened ; when he at last spoke, 
his voice sounded thick and broken, like 
that of a drunkard. 

" God help me, then ! I'm ruined ; a 
ruined, disgraced man, I can never show 
my face again to decent folk ; I'm ruined 
by my own child. Ruth, Euth, I could not 
have expected this of you." 

He pressed his hand over his eyes and 
sank back on the sofa cushions. 

Ruth rose from her knees ; she felt like 
a criminal ; she could not plead her own 
cause, for the agony in her father's tone 
had completely unnerved her. There was 
a silence, then all at once he sat upright 
and looked sternly at her. 

" What is your reason for this extraor- 
dinary change ? " he said, in a calmer tone 
than she expected. 

She had resolved to tell him her secret, 
but even if she had not so determined, she 
was too much overwrought by this time to 
hesitate : she had grown very pale. 

'' I love another man, father." 



126 Apple do re Fa rm . 

Her voice was steady and slie kept lier 
eyes fixed on bis face, from which the deep 
flush had not yet faded. 

Her father did Dot answer at once ; he 
sat feebly rubbing his hands one against the 
other, he seemed to be lost in thought. 

Then he said slowly, " This man you 
love, loves you, I suppose ? " She bent her 
head. '' He is, perhaps, not rich enough to 
marry you for some time to come, is that 
so ? You told a falsehood when you said 
you were free." 

This was the question she had dreaded. 
She hung her head, she could not meet her 
father's eyes as she answered, — 

" I am free in tbat way ; I have no 
hope that he will ever be able to marry 
me — but I love him." 

Her father's face changed ; a heavy 
frown settled on it. 

" Then you Lave no right to go on 
caring for him ; he must be a mere trifler, 
a weak, philandering fool, worse still, I 
doubt. How dared the fellow engage 
the affections of such a girl as you 



Apple dore Fa^nn. 127 

are ? " He uttered an oath which alarmed 
her, it was so unlike him. *' You are not 
the girl likely to fling yourself in the way 
of a man who did not seek you, I've seen 
that for myself." 

" Perhaps I — " she began, but he 
checked her. 

" Let that subject be dead and buried," 
he burst out angrily, so very angrily, that 
she remembered with terror the doctor's 
warning that he must never be allowed to 
excite himself. ''I do not wish another 
syllable about your folly ; you have lowered 
my opinion of your sense in letting me 
know that you yielded to such an infatua- 
tion ; never speak of it to anyone. Turn 
your back on it, and thank God that only 
your father has learned it from you." 

Whether her confession had cost her 
more strength than she had to spare, or 
whether this new, strange eloquence in 
her father had frightened away the deter- 
mined resolution with which she had 
strung herself up to speak, E-ufch felt 
stupefied and helpless ; the net from which 



128 Appledore Farm. 

she had momentarily freed herself closed 
round her more tightly than before, and 
as her father went on speaking, the hope 
of possible escape faded away. 

'' You have told me your story, Euth," 
he went on more quietly, ''now I will tell 
you mine ; you have heard some of it 
already ; but my task has become heavier. 
Did I make you fully understand that 
Michael is my only creditor — that every- 
thing we have, the very clothes we wear, 
are all paid for by his money ? If he with- 
draws his help, I must either go to the 
workhouse or die in a ditch. Perhaps I 
told you this before — I am in a far worse 
position now. ..." 

He stopped abruptly, with such a look 
of utter misery on his face that Euth 
feared some fresh misfortune had fallen on 
him. 

** Tell me what has made things worse, 
father," she said. 

He shrugged his shoulders with discon- 
tent. 

" Such a question to ask ! As easy for 



Appledoj^e Farm, 129 

you to know as for ine ; " he thought 
she was affecting this ignorance, and so 
making it more painful to him to explain. 

Philip Bryant had not been considered 
selfish by those who loved him, because of 
his singularly genial and winnino; manner ; 
even Sally Voce, prejudiced as she had 
been against him, had grown devoted to 
his service since she had been in daily 
contact with him ; and in her present 
extremity Ruth blamed herself far more 
for having agreed to her father's wishes, 
than she blamed him for having urged 
Michael's suit on her acceptance. She 
waited now for him to go on speaking ; she 
had, by this time, learned that he would 
not bear a grievance in silence. 

"The only hope I had of paying that 
poor chap back, or of making him any sort 
of compensation, was in your being good 
to him, Euth ; you said you were free, 
and so I took it for granted you 
would be able to care for him ; instead of 
that, youVe gone and done what I never 
looked to see your mother's daughter do, 

VOL. II. K 



130 Appledore Farm. 

you've led the poor fellow on, youVe 
cherished his hopes, I may say, till he's a 
hundred times more in love with you than 
he was a month ago ; he has begun to feel 
sure of you, and now you want to dash all 
his hopes. Ruth, Euth, I never thought 
you'd prove so heartless — never." 

Something in Euth protested against 
this charge, but as she looked at his 
saddened face, still slightly drawn on 
one side, she felt that her opposition was 
selfish ; she could only be unhappy, well, 
she was that already, and there was, 
so far as she could see, no brightness in 
the solitary life that lay before her. She 
could evidently make her father happy if 
she gave up her own will in this matter, 
and Michael had said he would be satisfied 
if she would try to love him: but would he 
be happy if he knew the truth? Before 
she could satisfy herself on this head, her 
father began to speak again — his voice 
trembled with agitation. 

" You must take your choice, Michael 
will soon be here, so you have not much 



Appledore Farm, 1 3 1 

time to decide in; I want you to understand 
fully Tvliat you are about in your decision ; 
the disgrace of finding myself a pauper, 
unable to pay a penny that I owe, will cer- 
tainly kill me, it is not possible that I can 
survive such a shock ; but I do not want to 
be selfish, my girl," he said in a gentler 
tone than he had used since the beginning of 
the talk, for he felt just now full of heroic 
self-sacrifice. " I am trying to study you 
entirely in this affair ; you have got to 
choose between the indulgence of this 
hopeless fancy — I understood you to say 
that it is a hopeless fancy — and my 
life." 

He had so exhausted himself that he 
burst into tears, and covered his face with 
his handkerchief. 

Ruth felt a touch of anger ; she thought 
her father must know that she could not 
hesitate in the choice he offered her ; but 
her anger passed quickly as she put her 
arms round him and felt that he was 
quivering with emotion. 

" Hush, dear, dearest father," she 
K 2 



132 Apple dor e Farm, 

whispered, " forget what I told you ; I see 
there is no way but this one, you must 
forget what I said." 

** God bless you, my dear, good child." 

He kissed her fondly as he spoke, but 
his words sank like lead upon her heart ; 
she could hardly return his loving kisses ; 
she felt crushed, enslaved, all spontaneous 
power of action or expression had left her, 
she put her hand on the back of the 
nearest chair, for she was faint and un- 
steady. 

Her father saw her sudden paleness, but 
he would not allude to it. 

" You had better rest, darling," he said 
tenderly ; '* you tire yourself by too much 
standing, go and lie down. Michael is 
coming to settle several matters with me, 
I will send for you when he and I have 
finished our talk." 

Philip Bryant's excitement seemed to 
have braced him ; he sat thinking, after 
Ruth had left him, how he had better act 
in this difl&cult matter. 

Michael was keen-eyed and observant, 



Appledore Farm . 133 

if be were to suspect any real repugnance 
in Euth, lie was capable of setting her 
free. The anxious father finally decided 
not to give Ruth the chance of speaking 
to Michael Clifford except in his own 
presence. 

" I'm doing it for her own good," he 
thought. '* When they are man and wife 
she will soon learn to love him, and she 
will hold her tongue for her own sake." 

Mrs. Voce came in presently to look for 
Miss Bryant, the rector had sent her a 
present. Her father said Ruth was to be 
left undisturbed, she was not even to be 
told when Mr. Clifford came. 

" Show Mr. Clifford in to me, Sally, I 
have to speak to him alone ; you can fetch 
Miss Ruth when I tell you to do so." 

He spoke with so much dignity that the 
old woman looked surprised. 

*' The idee that that poor man should 
take to being masterful," she said to herself, 
as she went back to her kitchen. 

Sally made up for want of feeling by 
sharpness of observation ; her keen per- 



134 Apple dove Farm . 

ception led her to almost as correct a con- 
clusion as the most sympathetic insight 
would have done; she was entirely dis- 
satisfied with Mr. Clifford's courtship ; he 
might have stayed a day or two with his 
sister, she thought, but to " neglect Miss 
Euth and his reg'lar opportoonities, in 
the way he had done, was something un- 
heard of, and out of natur','* she told her- 
self, '* considerin' how very short the 
courting time has been. 'Tis enough to 
set Miss Ruth agin him. And his gifts, 
poor man, isn't up to the mark neither ; 
there now ! I'd have liked to see Voce 
bringin' me a parcel of books in place of 
trinkets an' such-like when he was coortin'. 
Lor', I'd pretty quick have given him the 
cold shoulder. I grant he's as good as 
gold, is Mr. Clifford, but he knows no more 
about young wimin's fancies than a Jew 
knows about pork ; maybe, he'll be wiser 
by-and-by : Lor', you can't roast a j'int 
without practice." 

Sally had even begun to entertain a 
doubt about the warmth of Clifford's love ; 



Apple dor e Farm. 135 

but wlien lie at last arrived at the farm, 
he looked so radiantly happy that she felt 
ashamed of having wronged him. 

Ruth pinched her pale cheeks to bring 
colour to them, as she went downstairs in 
answer to her father's summons. 

Michael had come out into the hall to 
meet \ier, and he stood at the foot of the 
stairs ; she let him kiss her, and put his 
arm round her for a moment without any 
sign of annoyance ; she did not, however, 
linger with him, but passed on into the 
parlour, where her father sat anxiously 
looking for her. . . . 

" Michael and I have settled it all, my 
dear," he said gravely ; " and now you 
must open the rector's parcel, and see 
what he has been good enough to send 

you." 

Euth looked at him gratefully. The 
parcel took some time to open, and when 
the Bible and Prayer-book it contained 
had been duly admired, they had to be 
replaced in their numerous wrappings. 
Then there were inquiries to be made for 



136 Appledore Far7n. 

Dorotliy ; and after that Ruth did not 
know what next to say. 

Once more her father came to her help ; 
he began a series of anecdotes about his 
sister, Mrs. Whishaw's weddmg ; and after 
these were exhausted he talked about his 
own marriage-day. This last topic checked 
his sudden flow of gaiety ; but after a short 
silence he began to question Michael about 
the seaside place to which they were going 
to-morrow. 

Ruth tried to be cheerful, but Michael 
felt that it was hard to expect gaiety from 
either father or daughter on the eve of 
leaving their old home : he wished that it 
had not been so arranged, but it was too 
late now to alter plans. Soon after tea 
he rose to say Good-bye, feeling that father 
and daughter would probably like to be 
together on this last evening. 

He went to the sofa and shook hands 
with Philip Bryant, then he turned to the 
door, in the hope that Ruth would follow 
him into the hall for leave-taking. 

Ruth, however, saw no reason why she 



Appledore Farm. 137 

should not bid liim Good-bye before her 
father. She put her hand in his, but his 
warm clasp did not bring a flush to her 
cheek, and to his surprise she held up 
her face to be kissed. 

There was nothing to complain of, and 
yet he felt dissatisfied ; he did not care 
for this formal show of affection, and as 
he mounted his horse he told himself that 
Ruth might have given him a few minutes 
alone with her. Presently, as he rode 
along the quiet high road, already whitened 
by the rising moon, he rebuked himself : 
Ruth knew that she would belong to him 
to-morrow ; she had been unwilling to rob 
her father of a moment of the time in 
which she was still entirely his. 

" Come here, darling," Bryant said, 
when he and Ruth were left alone. " Kiss 
me, my Ruth, you have behaved nobly in 
this matter. I pray God may bless you 
for your goodness, and He will; you are 
sure of a good husband, and a far better 
home than your poor ruined father could 



138 Apple dor e Farm. 

ever liave given you, child." He paused 
and wiped his eyes ; then in a more cheer- 
ful tone, '' You will bless this day, child ; 
and before so very long either, you will 
bless your father for the part he took in 
bringing it about." 

He looked at her wistfully, as if he 
hoped, even then, for thanks, but Ruth's 
strength was spent, she smiled in answer, 
but she only said, — 

'' I think you have had discussion 
enough to-day, father, won't you go to 
bed earlier than usual, so that you may 
not be over-tired to-morrow? " 

He answered that he was not tired, but 
he looked excited, and Ruth rang for 
Sally Voce to help him to his room. She 
bade him Good-night, and then she abruptly 
left him, so as to meet Sally in the hall. 

The old woman came out of the door 
leading to the house-place rubbing her 
small eyes with the backs of her chubby 
pink fists till it seemed as if she must 
pound them into her head. 

" Please leave the front door un- 



Apple dor e Farm, 139 

fastened," Ruth said in a low voice ; *' I 
want to take a last turn round the place 
in the moonlight; there'll not be time 
to-morrow, but you need not speak of it 
to father, Sally, he's sad enough already 
at leaving. Good-night, I'll lock up all 
right when I come in." 

Sally Voce stared suspiciously out of 
her small eyes as she said good-night to 
Miss Bryant. '* What is the gal up to 
now?" the old woman wondered; "she 
looks just as white and miserable as a 
body can look, not a scrap like a happy 
bride, the evening before marriage. I 
shall just keep an eye on her, and I've 
more than half a mind to tell Mr. 
Bryant." 

Meantime Ruth had gone upstairs; 
there was no hope of escape for her now, 
and her despair made her reckless — only the 
thought of her father kept her from going 
away, out alone into the world. It seemed 
to her that to walk on and on along the 
road till she dropped lifeless from ex- 
haustion, would be a far happier fate 



140 Appledore Far7}i. 

than to become Michael Clifford's wife 
while she still loved Reginald Bevington. 
She felt that she must love him, she 
could not help it ; she gave herself up to 
the thought of him, and when she reached 
her room, she changed the dress she wore 
for that blue gown which suited her so 
well and in which he had liked to see her. 
She had never worn the gown since his 
last visit ; now she put it on with a 
sort of despairing tenderness. . . . She 
passed quietly down the stairs, out at the 
front door and along the narrow alley that 
led to the orchard. The side window of 
her father's room looked this way, and in- 
stinctively Ruth glanced in that direction ; 
his light was out, and she sighed with 
relief, for she hoped he was asleep. 

The orchard was bathed in moonlio^ht, 
the foliage of the apple-trees, as white as if 
hoar-frost lay on it, the dark stems beneath 
showing a bluish silver where the light 
touched them ; stretched out here and there 
their quaint, gnarled arms looked goblin- 
shaped in the unwonted radiance, a cold 



Appledore Farm. 141 

weird radiance, that chilled while it fascin- 
ated the eye. Ruth was utterly heedless of 
observation, as she made her way to the 
centre of the orchard, to the spot where 
little more than a year ago her lover had 
made her confess that she loved him, and 
had held her in his arms. 

" If I could have died then ! if I could 
only have died ! " she moaned ; she leaned 
her head against the rough bark of an old 
tree, heedless of its rasping graze against 
her tender cheek ; she enjoyed the pain- 
ful feeling, it was in harmony with her 
thoughts. She would be sad to-night, 
there was no one to let or to hinder ; it 
could harm no one if she gave free course 
to her sorrow. 

Yet something seemed to tell her that 
her sorrow was rebellious ; something 
faintly whispered that if she tried to cast 
out the thought of her young lover, her 
mind would be clearer as to what she 
ought to do ; but she did not Ksten, 
she resolutely hardened herself, even 
against the feeling that she was going 



142 Apple dor e Far 771. 

to do a wrong in marrying Michael 
Clifford ; the whisper died away, and she 
was left to herself. She felt hard and 
defiant as she told herself that after to- 
morrow she must always lead a life of 
formal duty ; she had then a right to 
give herself up to-night to the wild, 
passionate longings that racked her. She 
let herself go, she forgot alike place and 
time ; she clasped her arms round the 
hoary trunk beside her, and wished that 
she could die ; if she could only be lying 
cold and dead beside her young mother in 
the churchyard ! 

When at last E,uth turned to leave the 
orchard, she shivered at the chill that filled 
the air, the moon had been some while 
ago hidden by a bank of threatening 
cloud ; the stars were fading out of sight. 
A pale glimmer in the East told her that 
morning was on its way — her wedding-day 
had dawned. 



BOOK THE EIFTH. 



CHAPTER IX. 

It was evident on this fifteenth of July 
that Saint Swithun remembered his ancient 
grievance. 

Mrs. Bevington sat near the wiri"dow of 
her drawing-room, and every now and 
then, as she raised her eyes from the 
paper she was reading, the sight that met 
them was that of a continued downpour, 
so violent that a series of small puddles 
were forming on the gravelled terrace 
below. It was an extraordinary change, 
for two days before, on Ruth's wedding 
morning, the sky had been a cloudless 
blue, and the sunshine intense and scorch- 
ing. 

There was no one to see Mrs. Bevington, 
and she yawned from sheer weariness of 
the dreary outlook ; she wondered whether 

VOL. II. L 



146 Apple dor e Far7n, 

anj mother had ever been tried as she 
had been : a bad son, a profligate or a 
drunkard, a man who had got into a card 
scandal and had been sent to Coventry by 
Society, these were cases that Mrs. Beving- 
ton had heard of, and she had always 
pitied the mothers of such sons, and had 
been pathetic over the sad mistakes which 
she considered the said mothers must have 
made in bringing up their black sheep. 
Her own case was so very different : she 
had taken all possible care in bringing 
up her son, and he was in her eyes almost 
perfect. If Reginald's father had not 
made the mistake of placing him with that 
superior sort of farmer without taking the 
trouble to ascertain whether the farmer had 
an attractive daughter, all would have gone 
as his mother wished it to go ; by this 
time Reggy would have been the contented 
husband of Clara Stretton. Poor dear 
Reggy had been very badly used, first by 
this designing farm-house beauty, who 
had evidently expected to marry him, and 
then bv the Strettons who had broken off 



Apple dore Farm, 147 

his engagement to Clara wlien some 
gossip from Parley had reached them re- 
specting Reginald's visits to Miss Bryant. 

Reginald's carelessness had enabled 
Mrs. Bevington to read some of Ruth's 
letters. When they came into her hands 
she felt it was her duty to read them, and 
as she read, the anxious mother plainly 
saw that the girl was either very design- 
ing, or very innocent ; she also saw that 
Ruth believed herself to be engaged to 
Reginald. 

She sighed deeply as a tall, stylish- 
looking woman came gliding into the 
room and sank into a luxurious chair 
beside her hostess. Mrs. Bevington looked 
sadly at the new-comer ; she had few 
secrets that she did not share with this 
cousin ; she knew that she could safely 
speak of her troubles to one who had 
before now confided to her keeping some 
decidedly ** risky " passages of her own 
life. Lady Emily Walton had married 
young, and had had an unhappy married 
existence ; she was now middle-aged and 
L 2 



148 Apple dor e Farm. 

free, and, for the first time since lier 
widowhood, she had come to stay at 
Bevington Manor-house. 

Lady Emily moved so well, the pose of 
her head was so perfect that the mingled 
grace and dignity of her tall figure gave 
more pleasure to the observer than the 
contemplation of a mere pretty face would 
have given. She dressed well, too, just now 
in black, though without the show of deep 
mourning that might have been thought 
consistent with the loss of a husband who 
had died rather less than a year ago. 
There was fashion enough in her dress to 
suit even an exacting person in such a 
matter; but it was fashion adapted to the 
person of the wearer, instead of the wearer 
being adapted to the rules of fashion. 

It must, however, be said that Lady 
Emily's figure, whether it were the product 
of art or of nature, set off everything she 
wore to the best advantage. She had large, 
bright eyes; they were, perhaps, rather hard 
and audacious in expression ; a mouth that 
looked as greedy as that of a fish, though 
her lips were still red and her teeth white ; 



Appledo7'e Farm, 149 

a large and singularly thin aquiline nose, 
which seemed bent on acquiring ; it was, 
perhaps, this acquisitive expression that 
prevented her from being handsome. 

'' Sighing again, Rosamond ? " She 
wheeled her chair near her cousin, her 
skirt falling in long sweeping folds that 
would have delighted a figure painter. 
" Is it always the same tune that you sigh 
to — ' Oh, that naughty, darling boy ' ? " 

''In a way, yes, I was sighing about 
Eeggy. I have just discovered a new 
feature in the case ; you will say I ought 
to rejoice at it, but I am not sure ; I want 
you to advise me what to do." 

Lady Emily's face brightened, for she 
scented amusement ; she had a real 
regard for her cousin, but when she 
promised to come to Bevington, she by 
no means intended to be the only visitor 
at the Manor-house. On her arrival 
she was dismayed to find that Mr. 
Bevington was away yachting, and that 
for a fortnight no other guests were ex- 
pected. She was, however, a thorough 
woman of the world, and, except towards 



150 Apple dor e Farm. 

her late husband, she always showed 
herself to be gifted with remarkable 
tact and good temper. At the sight of 
Mrs. Bevington's disturbed face, she took 
a cheerful, almost a jovial tone, and 
patted her cousin's shoulder; there was 
something enlivening in the prospect of a 
new feature in what she had playfully 
named " Reggy's bewitchment." 

"You must tell me, dear child — but 
the first thing to be attended to is your 
forehead. Lord ! Eosamond, if you frown 
in that way when you are puzzled, you 
will have wrinkles before you are a year 
older. Look at my forehead, you see how 
smooth it is, and you know what I have had 
to go through. I never allow anything to 
puzzle or fret me seriously, life isn't worth 
it, dear. I want you to consider this little 
affair reasonably, you are inclined to treat it 
as an affaire de coeur ; in my opinion it was 
simply the consequence of propinquity : a 
pretty girl, and a charming young fellow 
— for when he is in good spirits, ^Qggj is 
very charming, even to a woman of my 
standing. Well, then, this young fellow 



Appledore Farm. 151 

finds himself in an out-of-tlie-way country 
place, with no one to talk to, except an 
occasional plough-boy or farm hand, and 
the farmer who is his instructor in agri- 
cultural matters, and who probably dis- 
courses from morning till night on the 
respective merits of shorthorns and of 
Southdown sheep. I remember though, 
you said he had known better days." Mrs. 
Bevington bent her head. " Well, that 
circumstance would not tend to make him 
more lively, and so the unlucky pupil got 
these bucolic subjects on his nerves — I fancy 
I can see the poor fellow yawning ; all at 
once the much enduring and wholly bored 
youth finds out that a very handsome girl 
is living under the same roof. Their first 
meeting must have been a complete cowp 
de theatre. Think of the raptures of 
these children ! of course, propinquity and 
opportunity did the rest. According to 
the ]aw of nature, the only possible out- 
come of the situation was for the young 
fellow to fall in love ; the girl you may be 
sure had already set him the example. 
You may trust me, Rosamond, I once 



152 Appledore Farm, 

wrote a novel, and I regularly got up the 
subject of love ; bless you, 1 know all 
the ins and outs of it." 

Mrs. Bevington gave a meaning smile. 

*' If ^^gg^ were not my son, I suppose 
' the bewitchment,' as you call it, would 
seem amusing to me ; now I feel he was 
sinned against by being allowed to stay so 
long at Appledore." 

'* And it seems to me, on the contrary, 
that at his age it was a mistake to inter- 
fere at all. You were hardly so judicious 
as usual, perhaps, when you summoned 
the young fellow home in such a hurry ; 
you simply precipitated matters. Probably 
if you had left them alone, the love-making 
would have come to the father's know- 
ledge, there would have been a scene, and 
an explanation ; the farmer would have 
known that naturally ^^gg'^ did not mean 
marriage, and he might have kicked him 
out of the house : some of those sort of 
people are strait-laced, you know, and they 
express their ideas rudely : an expulsion 
of that kind would have cured our fastidi- 
ous Reggy, you may be sure. Or else, and 



Appledore Farm, 1 5 3 

I believe that is more likely, the father 
would have kept his eyes shut, and in 
the end Reggy would have tired of his 
mistress. It was very risky to thwart him ; 
friction of any sort always rekindles that 
sort of flame. I fear, from what you say, 
that ^Qggj still hankers after the girl." 

" Just after his engagement to Clara, 
about a month ago, he went to see this 
Euth Bryant," Mrs. Bevington sighed as 
she spoke, '* that is the reason the 
Strettons give for breaking off the engage- 
ment ; Mr. Stretton's gout makes him so 
very irritable, you see." 

Her cousin laughed. '' Everything 
comes right if one only knows how to wait. 
I had a letter from Geraldine Yavasour this 
morning, and she tells me she was at 
Stretton last Monday ; Clara scarcely 
spoke, she says, and looked wretched. 
Leave Clara and her father alone, my dear, 
and she'll be only too happy to forgive her 
naughty boy when he gives up the farm 
beauty ; you really think too much about 
such a trifling contretemps,^^ 

She leaned back in her easy chair and 



154 Appledore Farm, 

yawned ; slie was far more distinguislied- 
looking than Mrs. Beyington was, but far 
less punctilious, except when she was on 
parade. She yawned now till her mouth 
looked like that of a voracious pike, and 
she put up one shapely hand before it. 
Then all at once she remembered Mrs. 
Bevington's words, and she looked bright 
again. 

"But tell me what is this about a new 
feature in ' the bewitchment ' ? Please 
begin ; lam really interested about it all." 

Mrs. Bevington glanced at the paper she 
had been reading. 

" The farm-house girl's marriage is 
announced in the local paper," she said, 
" and there is a paragraph about the 
alarming illness of Mr. Bryant, the father, 
on the return of the wedding-party from 
church." 

Lady Emily laughed. 

*' Capital ! " she said, '* I am so glad she's 
married, for your sake, I mean. I con- 
fess I had become interested in the little 
romance; now, of course, it Is over; ^Qggj 
will naturally be disgusted at being jilted 



Appledore Farm. 155 

for some clodhopper. He will be tiresome, 
poor fellow, but you will know how to 
manage him ; just a case for your judicious 
handling, Eosamond. My poor husband 
used to say you were perfect at dotting 
your i's and crossing your t's." 

Mrs. Bevington's face had cleared at the 
first part of her cousin's sentence. '' I had 
not thought of it in that way ; my fear 
was that as Reggy likes the father, he 
would go over to inquire for him, and then 
he would see the girl ; there is no mother, 
and this Ruth is said to be such a devoted 
daughter, that, of course, she is at Apple- 
dore nursing Mr. Bryant. I don't want 
^®ggy to run the risk of seeing her 
again." 

" You forget an important item ; the 
husband, the clodhopper, he will certainly 
be to the fore." 

** He is not a clodhopper, Emily, he is 
a Mr. Clifford, a most respectable man ; I 
remember he lunched here some time ago. 
He is, I believe, looked up to in the county, 
knows about land and that sort of thing. 
He is quite well-to-do, I should think." 



156 App le dor e Farm. 

Lady Emily sat upright and looked very 
cheerfully at her cousin. 

" You need not worry yourself at all, 
this sort of man knows everything ; 
middle-class people are always so clever, 
don't you know ? The girl has married 
him because he is well off and well-con- 
sidered ; for her own sake she will not do 
anything risky so soon after marriage. I 
really advise you to show ^Q^gj that 
newspaper paragraph, some kind friend 
is sure to tell him of it, I find people so 
extremely considerate in that way." She 
checked a sigh, and then as she looked 
out of the window, she said, " Here comes 
Eeggy streaming with water, I shall 
depart, so as not to meet him, I would as 
soon come in contact with Bruno after a 
swim in the Severn." 

She left the room smiling at the coming 
interview between mother and son, she felt 
sure that it would be stormy. Meanwhile, 
Mrs. Beviugton, with a somewhat light- 
ened heart, began to consider how she 
could best tell Reginald that Ruth Bryant 
had become Mrs. Clifford. 



CHAPTER X. 

The newspaper report was a true one. 
On his return from churcli, Philip Bryant 
had suddenly turned giddy, and soon after 
a second stroke of paralysis had seized 
him. The insensible man was taken into 
the house, to all outward appearance, dead ; 
and Euth, who had hastily changed her 
wedding-gown, took her place by his bed- 
side. This time the doctor was not so 
hopeful of even partial recovery. 

Michael Clifford gave all necessary 
directions, and then rode over to Purley 
to countermand instructions, and to order 
what was wanted in these changed cir- 
cumstances. '* Man proposes," he said to 
himself, not so bitterly now, as when 
Dorothy's illness had summoned him 
away from Purley ; he said it to-day with 
a sort of reverent fear. The shock had at 
first been very great, and the disappoint- 



158 Apple dor e Fa^nn, 

ment keen, almost beyond bearing, but his 
ride gave him time for thought, and when 
he had executed his various commissions, 
and had written certain necessary letters 
connected with this change of plans, he 
felt calmer and more resigned. 

He was almost tranquil as he rode back 
in the evening to Appledore. He grieved 
for Ruth's sorrow and for his friend, but 
the doctor told him that under any cir- 
cumstances this attack must have come 
before long. Michael reminded himself 
how ardently he had wished, when he met 
Ruth on her return from Newbridge, that 
the marriage could be delayed, so that he 
might have more chance of winning his 
wife's love beforehand ; that chance was 
now given him, and though he felt that 
the idea was in a way selfish, Michael knew 
that during the farmer's illness, and in the 
interval that must elapse before Ruth would 
be free to come and live with him at Purley, 
he should have far more opportunity of 
proving his devotion than he might have 
found in the little wedding holiday he had 



Appledore Farm, 159 

planned at the seaside. Ruth was his 
wife, he was therefore justified by duty, 
as well as by inclination, in making her 
claims on him paramount to those of any 
other person. 

He did not believe his poor old friend 
would long survive this last shock. Michael 
shuddered as he remembered the scene ; 
if he had not been standing near, Philip 
Bryant must have fallen on the stones that 
paved the porch. This was a sad begin- 
ning to his darling's new life, but he hoped 
that time would console her, and that little 
by little she would learn to care for his de- 
voted love, and would at last return it; 
meantime, he could not expect to come 
between her and her father. 

He went into Appledore by the farm- 
yard ; he did not wish to disturb his wife, 
and he wanted to speak to John Bird, who 
was to have been left in charge of the 
farm-house and its accessories, conjointly 
with Mrs. Yoce, till the arrival of the new 
tenants. 

Bird was standing in the yard, chewing 



i6o Apple dove Farm. 

a straw between his strong white teeth, 
his luxuriant brown hair and beard shone 
ruddy in the warm sunlight, his rich brown 
eyes and sunburnt face glowed with colour, 
he looked the personification of happy 
leisure as he stood, with the sleeves of his 
blue shirt partly rolled up, and showing far 
more brawn on his arms than his string- 
tied fustian trousers vouched for in respect 
of legs. He made a superb contrast to the 
tired, jaded-looking man who came up to 
him. 

Bird felt more awe for Mr. CliflPord than 
he had ever felt for his master ; he knew 
well enough that Mr. Bryant was willing 
to accept eye service, and to take the will 
for the deed, while Bird had seen for him- 
self that Mr. Clifford looked into the inside 
of everything, from the building of a rick, 
to the cleanliness of a byre or a pig- stye. 
Bird and Sally Voce disagreed about Miss 
Euth's husband. Bird had promised him- 
self at least a week of delightful idleness, 
he was now half surly when Mr. Clifford 
spoke to him. 



Appfedore Farm, \ 6 1 

Michael was too macli absorbed in his 
own thouo^hts to notice the man's manner. 

*' This is a sad ending to a wedding, 
Bird," he said, " but you will get some 
supper, and a cake for the children ; you 
will, of course, go on here as usual, till 
Mrs. Clifford thinks it safe to move her 
father." 

'' Thank'ee, sir." 

Bird stood looking after him as he passed 
on to the house. 

" Mrs. CUiford ! " he gave a coarse laugh ; 
"Muster Clifford seems mighty pat with the 
new title, he do; I'm thinkin', 'twad ha' been 
different wiv t'other one. Miss Ruth 'ood 
ha' left her father for a day or so; Old Sally 
Voce an' the doctor's enough for the poor 
chap till he comes to hisself, an' that won't 
be just yet, the doctor telled me as much. 
Dang it all ! I knows what I knows, an' if 
yon man," he nodded his head towards 
Michael, as he passed in by the door of the 
house- place, "I says, if yon man, what takes 
so much on hisself, if he cared as he should 
for Miss Ruth, like t'other one did, why he'd 

VOL. II. M 



1 62 Appledore Far in, 

go in, an' lie'd take her right away for a 
bit, he 'ood, till such time as the poor old 
master comes to hisself, an' my missus is 
of the same mind as me, she is." 

Bird had that day drunk Miss Bryant's 
health in so many mugs of ale, that it may 
be fairly supposed he was not in need of 
any more, or of the plentiful supper which 
Kuth had provided, but which she now 
sent word should be taken to the men's 
houses, in place of the general meal she 
had planned, and which Mrs. Yoce was to 
have presided over at the farmhouse. The 
loss of this convivial gathering had dis- 
appointed George Bird. " 'Tis the jollity, 
not the drink, as I craves arter," he 
growled while he chewed the golden straw- 
blade. 

Ruth met her husband at the door of 
the sick room ; she looked more cheerful 
than he expected, but she shook her head 
when he asked her if there was any decided 
improvement in her patient. 

She led the way into the hall, leaving 
the door ajar behind her. 



A pp led ore Farm, 163 

** Hardly," she said ; " I hoped you 
would not have come back, it is so sadly 
dull for you ; you seel dare not leave him; 
I have a feeling that consciousness will re- 
turn more quickly this time, though Dr. 
Buchan did not seem to think so. I fan- 
cied just now that there was a slight move- 
ment in one of the eyelids ; I must go back 
directly, please, but if you really mean 
to stay, I will give orders to Sally about 
it." 

'' Do yoR think I could leave you, my 
darling, my precious wife ? " 

He put his arm round her, and his pas- 
sionate kiss made Ruth shrink away from 
him with almost a shudder ; for the time 
she had forgotten that he was her husband, 
'* Do not trouble about anything, darling," 
he said, '' Mrs. Voce and I are old ac- 
quaintances, she will make it all right for 
me." 

She did not ask him to come and look 
at her father, and he did not like to in- 
trude; something warned him that it was 
wiser not to assume any rights over his 
M 2 



1 64 Apple dore Farm, 

wife beyond the riglit of aiding and pro- 
tecting lier to the utmost of his power. 

'' I will come and see how he is before 
I turn in/* he said, cheerfully ; '* and, dar- 
ling, take all the rest you can, you will not 
be fit to go on nursing to-morrow, unless 
you rest.*' 

He said this so tenderly that she felt 
ashamed of her harsh, cold feelings to- 
wards him; she looked up with a smile. 

'' I promise you I will be careful," she 
said, '' but I can rest better if T am left 
quite alone ; I am not at all nervous, and 
if I want help I will call you." 

She held out her hand, and he felt him- 
self dismissed; he raised it to his lips, and 
so they parted. 



CHAPTEH XL 

Dr. Buchan's brown, clean-shaved face, 
looked almost handsome with pleasure as 
he fixed his sharp eyes on Ruth. 

'' I congratulate you on your nursing, 
Mrs. Clifford, I really did not expect your 
dear father to have made such a good re- 
covery ; if he goes on as he has begun, it 
will not be long before you can take him 
home with you to Purley." 

Ruth had turned abruptly away from 
the doctor ; she did not want this keen 
observer to watch her face. She felt she 
was growing pale and faint, and he would 
think she ought to smile ; it was terrible to 
her that she could not rejoice in hearing 
this opinion of her father's state. 

" Do not let us move him too soon," she 
said ; '' I have sometimes thought that the 



1 66 Appledore Farm. 

idea of leaving Appledore was partly the 
cause of this last attack. I am sure he 
ought not to move till he wishes to do 
so." 

The doctor bowed rather stiffly. 

** I do not presume to advise," there was 

a vexed tone in his voice ; '' perhaps I was 

considering the matter more from my 

friend Clifford's point of view : he told me 

the incoming tenant was tired of waiting, 

and would ' cry off ' if he were kept much 

longer from taking possession of the farm." 

" I had not thought of that," the girl 

said frankly. She liked Dr. Buchan, and 

his changed tone had pained her, but she 

could not set herself right in his opinion 

by affecting a wish to go to her husband's 

house. 

When the dapper little doctor had taken 
leave, Ruth stood thinking, her eyes bent 
on the flower-bed below the latticed case- 
ment : she had left her father in charo^e of 
Sally Voce, but he was awake, and she 
knew she should get no thinking-time when 
she rejoined him. 



Appledore Farm, i6y 

The doctor's words had giv^en her a rude 
awakening. At first, when her agony of 
alarm was quieted by the signs of her 
father's returning life, she had told herself 
that this was a merciful reprieve, and she 
had tried to put the memory of her mar- 
riage in the background. Little by little 
she had succeeded in bringing back the 
barrier between herself and Michael Clif- 
ford which had so tormented him daring 
their engagement ; lately, indeed, she had 
always rung for Sally Voce to open the 
door for him, so as to curtail as much as 
possible any affectionate leave-taking. 

It had seemed to her that although her 
father had recovered consciousness sooner 
than he had done in the spring, he had 
less recuperative power, and that it might 
be long before he was able to leave his 
bed. 

More than one plan of freeing herself 
from her husband had passed through 
her brain, but her father required such 
constant attention that she had decided to 
watch and wait. A few days ago, how- 



1 68 Appledore Farm, 

ever, Michael had made a suggestion that 
gave her a hope of escape. 

One of his clients, he told her, was in 
treaty for a large property in Burgundy, 
and had said that he could not decide on 
the purchase without Mr. Clifford's opinion. 
Michael told Ruth that but for her un- 
willingness to leave her father he should 
have enjoyed making the journey with 
her, he also said that the affair would be 
extremely remunerative. 

The girl thought he looked pained when 
she urged him to go alone, he turned away 
without giving her an answer. She was 
thinking of this as she stood looking 
at the flower border where deep tinted 
autumn blossoms had taken the place of 
paler petalled flowers. If Michael loved 
her, and there was no doubt of that, 
though certainly for some days past 
his manner had been cold and uncertain ; 
still, if he loved her, she must have some 
influence with him; why then should she 
not use this influence, and persuade him to 
go away ? She was still so honest that she 
flushed at the consciousness that this per- 



Appledore Farm, 169 

suasion must necessarily be deceitful, but 
she could not help that ; her one over- 
mastering idea was to free herself, to escape 
this daily visit, which was rapidly becoming 
intolerable to her. When Michael was 
safe in Burgundy, and she had no personal 
explanations to shrink from, she deter- 
mined to write to him, and tell him all the 
truth, she hoped that he would then volun- 
tarily separate from her. She would not 
allow herself to see that it was quite 
possible to have made this appeal sooner ; 
the very thought of his face, stiffened 
into sternness by his contempt of her 
conduct, had made a coward of the once 
brave girl. 

The doctor's words had shown her she 
had no time to lose ; she also knew that 
Clifford's client was urgent ; she had only 
to persuade her husband to go abroad 
without further delay, so that her father 
might be strong enough to leave Apple- 
dore when Michael came back from France. 
There could be no deceit in keeping the 
doctor's opinion to herself. 

Since his father-in-law had been pro- 



I/O Appledore Fa7'm, 

nounced better Micliael had slept in Parley. 
Ruth's increasing hardness and avoidance 
made him unhappy, so that he resolved to 
see as little of her as possible, for, under 
present circumstances, their intercourse was 
becoming painfully strained ; he had lately 
come over to Appledore for an hour or so 
in the afternoon, when Ruth was likely to 
be out walking. To-day her reverie after 
the doctor's visit had delayed her, and she 
was going out of the gate when Clifford 
rode down the lane. 

He got off his horse and walked beside 
her. 

*' Don't let me stop your walk," he said, 
for in pursuance of her plan she had 
turned to go indoors again. " I want to 
see your father. I met Buchan, he gives a 
very good report indeed." 

'' I fancy Dr. Buchan speaks as he 
wishes," she said, coldly. " I am sure my 
father is not at all fit to be moved." 

He looked searchingly at her, but she 
would not even smile ; he thought he had 
never seen her look so hard. 



Appledore Farm, 1 7 1 

She was really angry with her own 
manner, for she knew that this was not the 
way to influence Michael, and yet if she 
smiled he might altogether mistake her. 

" Good-bye for the present," he said 
gravely, " go, and take your walk, I will 
talk to you when you come in ; I will stay a 
little later on purpose." 

Instead of turning away, to his surprise 
she put her hand lightly on his arm. The 
touch thrilled him with a feeling of yearn- 
ing tenderness ; had he been mistaken ? 
and was her reserve with him only the 
shyness natural in the unusual state in 
which she found herself ? But he had re- 
ceived too many rebuffs from her of late to 
be completely reassured by this advance, 
and as he listened he congratulated himself 
on his reticence. 

*' I want to talk to you," her voice 
sounded timid, and he thought her smile 
was forced, it wanted the lovely glow he 
so well remembered. " I was thinking this 
would be a good time for you to take that 
French journey you talked of ; you could 



172 Appledore Farm, 

leave us now witlioiit any anxiety, and my 
father would be able to move by the time 
you came back. It would " — she began to 
stammer — " it would shorten the waiting 
for you." 

"When she had ended, her eyes fell under 
his, and still clinging, almost desperately, 
to his new theory of her extreme timidity, 
he gently took her hand and pressed it. 

" I will think it over, sweetheart," he 
said ; " when you come back you shall find 
that I have settled everything with your 
father, and then, if you don't approve, we 
must alter plans to please you. Is my 
darling satisfied ? " 

She nodded, and turned quickly away ; 
the fondness of his tone had irritated her, 
and she could hardly help frowning. He* 
on the contrary, stood looking after her in 
a blissful state of surprise at his own 
blindness. He waited till she was out 
of sight before he went in to see Philip 
Bryant. 

Michael warmly congratulated the in- 
valid on the doctor's report. 



Appledore Farm, i 'j'^ 

' '' I believe before long," lie said, " I shall 
be welcoming you to Parley." 

Bryant shook his head wearily. 

"The doctor may be right, Michael, but 
I am sadly weak. I feel as if any change 
would be too much for me, so short a time 
as I have left, too, at my age, it seems a 
pity to — " 

He stopped with an imploring look at 
his companion. 

Michael understood, but he thought this 
putting off might go on for months ; he 
thought, too, that his friend would cer- 
tainly be benefited by the change if he 
could only bring himself to consent to the 
wrench of leaving his old home. It was 
difl&cult to avoid wounding him ; yet Clif- 
ford knew there was no one else who could 
really influence Philip Bryant on this 
subject as well as he could. 

" The difficulty is, you see, whether we 
can get that fellow Chapman to wait much 
longer ; he grumbled at the delay — but that 
does not signify after all, if you are not up 
to making the change." 



1 74 Appledo7'e Farm, 

Bryant was lying outside his bed, prop- 
ped up by pillows : his head sank back 
among them, and he was silent a few 
minutes. 

''Do you mean," he said very sadly, 
"that my illness will have lost you the 
tenant you had found for Appledore ? " 

Clifford smiled and tried to speak re- 
assuringly. 

*' I don't say that : he wants a little 
smoothing down, I think; perhaps if I 
could fix a definite time he would 
wait, but any way, dear old fellow, 
you must not worry about it. I shall 
probably find some one else, or, failing 
that, I may come to some arrangement 
with your landlord ; you must leave that 
to me. You know," he added with a 
bright smile, " I consider you my client 
in this matter." 

Bryant raised his head, and looked at 
him earnestly. 

" I know one thing," he said, '' and tbat 
is, that you are the best friend a ruined 
man ever had, and I pray that God may 



Appledore Farm, 1 75 

bless jou for your goodness. I will not 
be a hindrance to you, Michael, you ought 
long ago to have taken your wife horae ; 
hardly any other man would have spared 
her so long. Why, you might have left me 
with a nurse, and I could not have had 
a word against it ! " 

He paused, and a look of weariness 
showed in his eyes. 

'* You must not talk any more just 
now," Michael said. '' You and Ruth shall 
settle it when you are able ; you shall 
not be hurried, let the doctor say what 
he will." 

Bryant was looking anxious. 

" No," he said, feebly, " not that, I'd 
rather you settled it with Ruth. There, 
old friend, don't mind what I said, I 
believe the sooner the move's made the 
better, only I can't settle it, you and she 
must ^^ it up by yourselves. She'll be in 
the parlour by now." 

After a few more words, Michael went into 
the parlour to wait for his wife's return, 
his heart beating with the hope that the 



1 76 Appledore Farm. 

coming talk might lead to a better under- 
standing between them. . . . 

He had forgotten *' Eor man proposes, 
but God disposes," as he sat with half- 
closed eyes waiting for the coming of his 
dearly-loved wife, so far, a wife in idea 
more than in reality. 

He counted the minutes while he sat 
there, his heart was throbbing with hope. 



CHAPTER XII. 

The dreaded dull fortnight was oyer at 
tlie Manor-house, Mr. Bevington had 
come back, and the house was full of 
visitors. Ladj Emily was radiant, the 
life of the party, in spite of the youth 
and extreme attractiveness of two of the 
other ladies. 

To-night when Mrs. Bevington was 
having a confidential chat with her cousin 
in Lady Emily's room, she complimented 
her on this subject. 

" I am so sorry you talk of leaving," 
she said, " we shall all miss you dread- 
fully ; as to B.eggj, I do not see who there 
will be left for him to talk to ; he says 
you are more than delightful, you have no 
caprices, and you are so sympathetic." 

Lady Emily had risen to put back a 

VOL. II. N 



178 Appledore Far^n. 

miniature slie had been examining ; slie 
made her cousin a low curtsey. 

" I feel honoured, but do you think I 
am a wholesome taste for Reggy, Rosa- 
mond ? if you want him later on to ap- 
preciate Clara Stretton, you should get 
him to cultivate Georgina Sneyd, or Mrs. 
Courthope, they are both so handsome, 
they are not clever, but what is more to 
the point, they are extremely correct." 

*'Yes,I know, but he says they don't amuse 
him : don't you think all men, old or young, 
like amusement when they can get it ? " 

" Of course they do, the poor things 
depend on us for it. By the way, is it 
not a mistake to ask such a beautiful 
creature as Mrs. Courthope on a visit with 
her husband ? " 

" I do not see how I could help myself, 
they have only been married a year." 

Lady Emily shook her head at her 
cousin. 

" You are so clever, Rosamond, that you 
know perfectly well how to make use of 
opportunities ; you might have waited to 



App le do re Fainn . 179 

ask tliem till it was close on the 12tb, I 
find that the husband is devoted to grouse- 
shooting. Can you not persuade her to 
stay on ? Reggy will find her a more lively 
companion when the husband is off guard ; 
that sort of thing helps to form a man." 

Mrs. Bevington tried to look grave, she 
ended by smiling. 

** Georgina Sneyd has asked to stay on 
a week by herself," she said, '* but she 
and her husband are still such lovers, that 
she will be probably even less amusing in 
his absence than she is now." 

Her cousin laughed heartily. 

'^ Remember, dear, the old motto 
a king once scratched on a pane of glass," 
she said gaily. '' My experience tells me 
that women vary according to circum- 
stances. I try to keep Reggy amused to 
prevent him from maundering about his 
Dalcinea; he has looked dolefully dismal 
ever since he heard of the marriage ; my 
only wonder is that he has not gone off to 
see her ; if you want to prevent this, get 
rid of the honourable Mostyn Courthope 
N 2 



i8o Appledore Farm, 

for a week or so. I promise you that Reggy 
will quickly console himself for my de- 
sertion. The farmer's daughter cannot be 
so lovely as this young creature is, and 
how exquisitely she dresses, or I should 
say is dressed, for that French maid of 
hers is the deftest, cleverest-looking 
woman I have seen for many a day. I 
should try to get her, but I could not hope 
to top Mrs. Courthope's wages. Poor 
child, how can she help being dull? she 
must have found out long ago that her 
husband is made of money, and nothingelse." 

'' Has there been any talk between you 
and Reggy about that affair ? " 

" No," her cousin said drily, " and yet 
I assure you, I have tried to sound him. 
He seems to shy like a nervous horse 
when we get near the subject. At dinner 
to-day, however, he said something that 
made me hopeful ; if you can manage to 
pair him off with me to-morrow, I think 
the ice may be finally broken between us." 

" Do try, dear ; " Mrs. Bevington kissed 
her with efLUsion, " you can say so much 



Appledoi'e Farm, 1 8 r 

more than I can, because you are not liis 
mother, and because you have not any 
sore feehng on the subject ; I envy you 
your excellent temper, Emily, you never 
seem to take anything to heart." 

'^ lam a philosopher," her cousin smiled 
delightfully, " not about heat or cold, or 
discomfort, those are things which I do not 
choose to bear, so I take means to avoid 
them : T never, as you know, winter in 
England, but I take good care to be pro- 
vided with English comforts abroad : as 
a philosopher I see that I cannot rule the 
universe, and I should be very sorry if I 
had the trouble of doing so; I accept 
things as they come, and get the best out 
of everything." 

Mrs. Bevington was looking pensive. 

'' I am trying to see," she said, ^' how 
your philosophy would have helped you 
in this affair of Reggy's, supposing that 
you had been his mother ? " 

Lady Emily held up both her long slender 
hands. 

'' Heaven forbid such a position, my dear 



1 82 Appledore Farm, 

Eosamond, the one accident of my life for 
which I thank Providence, is that I have 
been spared the torment of a child. No 
philosophy can cope with the chaos a 
child creates in its mother's peace; a child 
makes life from its first beginning a 
continued pain ; you know it does, though 
you would never own it." 

" Ah, but, my dear, you leave out the 
ompensations? '* 

" What are they ? a few baby kisses, 
and, in the case of a boy, perhaps a 
few school or college successes, though 
these are safe to be blotted out by the 
bills you are called on to pay for your 
son's extravagances. After that your life 
is a continual martyrdom, you are reduced 
to the condition of a shuttle-cock between 
son and husband — even when your son is 
as well-behaved and nice as Reggy is ; 
and daughters are worse, there is so much 
more daily friction with them. No, to 
the last day of my life, I shall continue to 
thank Heaven that it has spared me such 
a domestic infliction as a child." 

Mrs. Bevington knew that she was no 



Apple do re Farm, 183 

matcli for her cousin when Lady Emily 
aired a theory ; she had a way of giving 
her ideas vent as they came, just to hear 
how they sounded, though at the moment 
she beheved herself to be in earnest. Her 
cousin, therefore, bent her head silently, 
and made no effort to contradict her. 

'* If I cannot persuade you to stay," 
Mrs. Bevington said gently, " I wish you 
could persuade Reggy to go with the 
other men to Scotland ; it would give him 
a change of scene and of ideas, and — and, 
it would take him out of Marchshire ; now 
his father is at home, I can do without 
him." 

She spoke sorrowfully, and her cousin 
knew how happy her son's more presence 
made this devoted mother. 

" I will try," Lady Emily said, " but I 
am not hopeful of success ; I am not quite 
sure that it would not be better to let 
Reggy cure himself in his own way. I 
fancy it's the best plan with a man. Well, 
good-night, dear, it is unconscionably late, 
and you ought to be in bed." 

When ber cousin had left her, the 



184 A pp led ore Farm, 

philosopher laughed heartily. It seemed to 
her that far too much fuss had been made 
about this fancy of Reggy's ; it would be 
better for him to end it his own way. If 
he were to go and see the newly married 
Dulcinea, she might perhaps snub him, 
and so effectually cool his ardour, or again 
she might listen to him, and allow him to 
visit her, in which case the husband would 
probably horsewhip him ; either way would 
settle what was a yery natural fancy on 
the young fellow's part; but, as the affair 
evidently worried his mother, the sooner a 
cure could be found for it the better for 
the sake of her cousin's peace. 

*' If I had as fully appreciated the comfort 
of peace in poor Walton's time," "Walton's 
widow thought as her maid brushed her 
long hair, plentifully streaked with grey, 
'' we should both have led easier lives ; 
peace is worth having at any price." 

An excursion had been planned to visit 
the ruins of a famous Abbey, and the 
weather next day was so bright and 
beautiful that at breakfast the expedition 
was decided on. 



App!edore Fanii, 185 

]\lrs. Bevington and three of her guests 
were to drive ; the gentlemen agreed to 
walk for tlie sake of a celebrated view 
from the ridge of the lofty downs above 
the road. 

Lady Emily was proud of her walking 
powers, and she and Reggy soon paired 
off, and allowed the others to precede 
them. 

" This is our last walk," she said, *^ I 
am really sorry to go." 

" Are you ? " he stared at her in sur- 
prise, '' it is nice of you to say so ; my 
wonder is that you have managed to stay 
so long in such a dull hole as Bevington ; 
I for one have sometimes felt inclined to 
put an end to myself more than once this 
year." 

" You, my dear fellow ! I should have 
thought you a very happy-minded person." 

" You are chaffing, you know better 
than that ; just consider the vexing 
things that have happened to me this 
year ; enough to upset any man." 

'' You mean your godfather's marriage ? 
yes, I was very sorry; that was a serious 



l86 Apple do re Farm, 

disappointment; but, ^^g^j^ such a man 
as you are can always mend his fortunes 
by marriage, that is if he wishes to do so." 

He looked keenly at her : " Surely you 
know I was engaged, and that the engage- 
ment is broken off ? '* 

"I heard something of the sort, and 
it puzzled me ; I fancied you must know 
that, if you choose to persevere, no girl 
of taste will persist in refusing to be 
your wife. Perhaps you were not devoted 
enough to jour fiancee, was that it ? " 

The path along which they walked on 
the top of the wooded ridge was bordered 
on either side by tall grasses, and the young 
man cut angrily at these with his stick, 
though at his companion's first words he 
had flushed with pleasure. 

'' I daresay I seemed cold, I am not 
fond of shamming; that's why I will not 
go up to the moors with Mostyn Court- 
hope, I can't stand the fellow, and he. 
would soon spot it if we were all day 
together." 

Lady Emily waited a few minutes ; then 



Appledore Farm, 187 

she said : " Why could you not devote 
yourself to Miss Stretton? Was there 
any special reason ? Don't think me im- 
pertinent, my dear fellow, you see I have 
known you so long that I take liberties." 

His small bright eyes narrowed to mere 
slits as he looked at her. 

" You want me to be frank with you," 
he said, ''and yet you are not frank with 
me. You know why I could not get fond 
of Clara." 

She looked fully at him ; there was a 
touch of wounded dignity in her tone as 
she answered, — 

'' I hoped we were real friends. I care 
so much for you, Eeggy, that I put full 
trust in you. For instance, just now you 
said, that your reason for not going to 
the moors is that you dislike your pro- 
posed companion " — he winced under her 
steady gaze — " well, I implicitly believed 
you ; your mother, perhaps, tells me more 
than she tells others, but she is extremely 
reticent. There was a certain marriage 
announced in a local paper, and I gathered 



i88 Appledore Farm. 

from lier that you knew the Miss — Miss, 
what was her name ? " 

''Miss Bryant," he said sternly; '*the 
most beautiful creature a man ever 
loved, and understand me, cousin, she 
is as good as she is beautiful." 

Lady Emily's face never showed any 
emotion, unless, indeed, she was seriously 
displeased, but the young fellow felt that 
his assurance was needful ; he knew by a 
kind of instinct that his companion would 
be disposed to speak slightingly of Ruth. 

" Ah," she said simply ; *' those country 
girls often have wonderful complexions." 

" I tell you, cousin, she is as beautiful as 
she is good ; she would be considered a 
beauty even in London. She's the best girl 
a man could find ; if I had been free I 
would have married her." 

" Eeally ! I suppose there is no saying 
how much education, and association, and 
all that sort of thing might do for a girl, 
in her position. I should like to have seen 
your Euth," she said, in an interested tone. 

" Would you ? " his eyes sparkled. " If 
I could only have known that when you 



Apple dor e Farm, 189 

first came here, it miglit have been possible 
to take you over to Appledore; now it is 
too late, she has married a man she does 
not care for, only for her father's sake." 

He gave a sort of groan, and relapsed 
into silence. His cousin walked on beside 
him, outwardly grave, but secretly de- 
lighted with his confidence. 

'* Poor dear '^Qgg^^'' she said presently 
in a low voice ; " I wish I had known this 
sooner." 

*' And I wish," he burst out impetuously, 
** that my mother were more like you. I 
don't want to fiud fault with my mother, 
she is admirable, and she loves me better 
than I deserve, but on this point she is 
entirely out of sympathy with my feelings. 
I believe she thinks Miss Bryant's marriage 
a God-send, judging by the way she told 
me of it." 

Another pause ; then Lady Emily said 
very softly, — 

" I have been thinking, Heggy — perhaps 
I hardly understand — but is your position 
altered by this marriage ? If you felt that 
you were unable to marry your Ruth, and 



190 Appledore Farm, 

you think that she still loves you better than 
she loves her husband, it seems to me that 
the situation remains really the same. I 
should say that a married woman who 
does not care for her husband is easier to 
win than an unmarried girl is. Ah ! look, 
Eeggy, that is surely your father beckon- 
ing to us." 

Reggy looked, but he could only see a 
stalwart countryman comingtowards them, 
a man half as big again as the owner of 
Bevington Manor; but the young fellow 
took his companion's hint and walked 
faster. He wanted to join the others, 
so that he might get away by himself, 
and think over Lady Emily's words. 

** Look," she said presently ; " I told 
you they would be waiting for us." 

Mr. Bevington and his companions 
were now in sight, but they did not 
seem to be waiting impatiently, they 
were all smoking ; two of them sat on 
a felled tree-trunk, the others were 
leaning against a five-barred gate, the 
top of the ridge was bare, and the eye 



Apple dor e Farm, 1 9 1 

commanded from this spot a far-stretcliing 
view of hill and dale, of green hills some- 
times purple with ling, sometimes golden 
with gorse blossoms. These were varied 
by a harsher prospect of rugged limestone 
crags, showing bare grey shoulders through 
a sparse covering of turf. There were 
valleys, too, their course indicated by a 
veil of blue mist, which hinted the pre- 
sence of a brook or rivulet below. On 
some of the hills the dull green of August 
foliage was contrasted by the rich and 
bluer tint of the pines. Here and there, 
sometimes rather near, but more often in 
extreme distance, a long-sighted observer 
could trace blots, brown and red and 
white, blots that told of villages and 
townships far away. There rested over 
one of these blots a grey cloud, and as 
P^^o^J and his companion came up, Mr. 
Mostyn Oourthope took his cigar from 
between his lips, and said, " Do you see 
that smoke over there? that's Purley." 

Lady Emily looked quickly at her com- 
panion, he had turned away. Mr. Sneyd 



192 Appledore Fa rin . 

offered her a cigarette, and she began to 
smoke with the others, seating herself on 
the felled trunk. 

" This sort of thing does one good," she 
said ; " the air is magnificent up here." 

Reginald Bevington had gone on, he 
wanted to get away from every one ; he felt 
utterly miserable as he looked at the grey 
far-off blur, and pictured to himself that 
Ruth probably was sorrowing at this 
moment in her Purley home over her love 
for him, and was longing for his presence. 

Why did he not go and see her? She 
was married, but he knew that he was 
far more to her than her husband was. 
If he had married Clara Stretton he 
should not have given up Euth, why 
then need she give him up because she 
had been forced by circumstances to marry 
a man she did not love? Lady Emily's 
words had opened his eyes to his own 
faint-heartedness towards the girl he loved. 

His mother had shown him the news- 
paper with the marriage in it, and there 
had been a painful scene between them. 



Appledore Farm. 193 

He had angrily left her, telling her that 
she had spoiled the happiness of his 
life, and since then the mother and son 
had scarcely spoken to one another. 
Eeginald felt unhappy, and he knew 
that his mother was wretched ; but he 
could not set matters straight; he 
knew she wanted him to say he had 
given up his love for Ruth. He had been 
very sullen and very miserable, but till 
to-day he had not had any definite 
hope or plan for the future. He had 
told himself that Ruth was so good, so 
high-minded, he dared not risk offend- 
ins: her when he remembered how she had 
looked when they last parted. But now 
Lady Emily's words had enlightened him ; 
a clever woman was safe to understand 
other women better than a man could. 
He saw that Rnth was now no longer 
a timid, scrupulous girl, she was a woman 
w^ho had become the wife of one man 
while she still loved another, and, as lie 
called up the looks that had assured him 
of her love, he longed to be able to fly then 
VOL. II. 



194 Appledore Farm, 

and there over the wide vista of hill 
aod dale, of wood and stream that 
divided them, and clasp his darling to his 
heart . . . 

The sound of voices behind came as a 
warning that his companions were again 
on their feet, it brought back, too, the 
trammels in which he lived, and made 
him conscious of a sudden shock. 

He told himself he could not injure 
Ruth, he loved her too dearlj. He 
hated and despised Michael Clifford ; the 
mean hound, he told himself, must surely 
have guessed the truth about his wife 
before he married her ; yet when he 
thought of Ruth, as she might have been, 
in the midst of debt and poverty, he 
rejoiced that she was safe from the conse- 
quences of her father's troubles. He 
dared not tempt her to give up her 
position for his sake, and, therefore, he 
had better not try to see her. The 
change of mind did him good ; by the time 
they reached the Abbey ruins he had 
recovered himself. He went up to his 



Apple do re Farm, 195 

motter, and talked to her, he put her 
into the carriage when it was time to 
start homewards, and in the walk home 
he was as gay as Lady Emily herself. 
He told himself he should not forecast ; 
who could say what life held for him ? it 
w^as better to drift along with the tide, 
and see what happened. 

Going home, they walked across the 
Downs six abreast, taking a shorter way 
than that by which they had come. The 
young fellow's change of manner had 
made his cousin curious, but he did not 
give her a chance of asking him questions. 

At parting next day she kept his hand a 
moment in hers, when he had put her in 
the carriage which was to drive her to the 
great house she was going to visit. 

" Write to me, Eeggy," she said af- 
fectionately, as she fixed her fine eyes on 
his ; " I am impatient to hear that you 
have seen your beautiful Euth ; you cer- 
tainly ought to make sure that she is 
happy, or she will not consider you a true 
friend. Good-bye." 



199 Apple dor e Far7?i, 

'' All right," he said ; " good-bye." 
She kissed her fingers to him, and 
then leaned back in the carriage as it 
rolled away, and laughed softly to her- 
self. 

" There's no danger in giving such 
advice to him, he is far too much of a 
muff to make love to a married woman ; 
perhaps under his mother's wing he 
may do a little decorous flirtation with 
that lovely Mary Courthope ; as to the 
farmer's daughter, he knows it was only 
my joke." 



END OF VOL. II. 



UNIVERSITY OF ILUNOIS-URBANA 




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