Skip to main content

Full text of "Sylvia's lovers"

See other formats


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2014 



https://archive.org/details/sylviaslovers03gask_0 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS 



BY 

MRS. GASKELL, 

AUTHOR OF " THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE," " MART BARTON," 
" RUTH," " NORTH AND SOUTH," ETC. 



Oh for thy voice to soothe and bless 
What hope of answer, or redress? 
Behind the veil Behind the veil!— Tennyson. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL. III. 




LONDON: 
* SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL. 



M.DCCC.LXIII. 




[The right of Translation is reserved.] 



•f 7/D 



CONTENTS TO VOL. III. 

Chap. Page 

I. Happy. Days 1 

II. Evil Omens 22 

III. Rescued from the Waves 38 

IV. An Apparition 58 

V. A Reckless Recruit 75 

VI. Things Unutterable 91 

VII. Mysterious Tidings 106 

VIII. Bereavement 130 

IX. The Recognition 147 

X. Confidences v . 165 

XI. An Unexpected Messenger 185 

XII. The Bedesman op St. Sepulchre 197 

XIII. A Fable at Fault 216 

XIV. The Unknown 230 

XV. First Words 247 

XVI. Saved and Lost '. 261 

±mm® 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTER I. 

HAPPY DAYS. 

And now Philip seemed as prosperous as his heart 
could desire. The business flourished, and money 
beyond his moderate wants came in. As for him- 
self he required very little ; but he had always 
looked forward to placing his idol in a befitting 
shrine ; and means for this were now furnished to 
him. The dress, the comforts, the position he had 
desired for Sylvia were all hers. She did not need 
to do a stroke of household work if she preferred 
to " sit in her parlour and sew up a seam." Indeed 
Phoebe resented any interference in the domestic 
labour, which she had performed so long that she 
looked upon the kitchen as a private empire of her 
own. " Mrs. Hepburn " (as Sylvia was now termed) 
had a good dark silk gown -piece in her drawers, as 
TOL. III. 40 



2 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



well as the poor dove-coloured, against the day when 
she chose to leave off mourning ; and stuff for either 
grey or scarlet cloaks was hers at her bidding. 

What she cared for far more were the comforts with 
which it was in her power to surround her mother. In 
this Philip vied with her ; for besides his old love, 
and new pity for his aunt Bell, he never forgot how 
she had welcomed him to Haytersbank, and favoured 
his love to Sylvia, in the yearning days when he 
little hoped he should ever win his cousin to be his 
wife. But even if he had not had these grateful and 
affectionate feelings towards the poor woman, he 
would have done much for her if only to gain the 
sweet, rare smiles which his wife never bestowed 
upon him so freely as when she saw him attending to 
ce mother," for so both of them now called Bell. For 
her creature comforts, her silk gowns, and her 
humble luxury, Sylvia did not care; Philip was 
almost annoyed at the indifference she often mani- 
fested to all his efforts to surround her with such 
things. It was even a hardship to her to leave off 
her country dress, her uncovered hair, her linsey 
petticoat, and loose bed-gown, and to don a stiff and 
stately gown for her morning dress. Sitting in the 
dark parlour at the back of the shop, and doing 
" white work," was much more wearying to her than 



HAPPY DAYS. 



3 



running out into the fields to bring up the cows, or 
spinning wool, or making up butter. She sometimes 
thought to herself that it was a strange kind of life 
where there were no out-door animals to look after ; 
the ce ox and the ass * had hitherto come into all her 
ideas of humanity ; and her care and gentleness had 
made the dumb creatures round her father's home 
into mute friends with loving eyes, looking at her as 
if wistful to speak in words the grateful regard that 
she could read without the poor expression of 
language. 

She missed the free open air, the great dome of sky 
above the fields ; she rebelled against the necessity of 
cc dressing " (as she called it) to go out, although she 
acknowledged that it was a necessity where the first 
step beyond the threshold must be into a populous 
street. 

It is possible that Philip was right at one time 
when he had thought to win her by material advan- 
tages ; but the old vanities had been burnt out of her 
by the hot iron of acute suffering. A great deal of 
passionate feeling still existed, concealed and latent ; 
but at this period it appeared as though she were 
indifferent to most things, and had lost the power of 
either hoping or fearing much. She was stunned 
into a sort of temporary numbness on most points j 

40—2 



4 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



those on which she was sensitive being such as 
referred to the injustice and oppression of her father's 
death, or anything that concerned her mother. 

She was quiet even to passiveness in all her deal- 
ings with Philip ; he would have given a great deal 
for some of the old bursts of impatience, the old pettish- 
ness, which, naughty as they were, had gone to form 
his idea of the former Sylvia. Once or twice he was 
almost vexed with her for her docility ; he wanted 
her so much to have a will of her own, if only that 
he might know how to rouse her to pleasure by 
gratifying it. Indeed he seldom fell asleep at nights 
without his last thoughts being devoted to some 
little plan for the morrow, that he fancied she would 
like ; and when he wakened in the early dawn he 
looked to see if she were indeed sleeping by his side, 
or whether it was not all a dream that he called 
Sylvia " wife." 

He was aware that her affection for him was not to 
be spoken of in the same way as his for her, but he 
found much happiness in only being allowed to love 
and cherish her ; and with the patient perseverance 
that was one remarkable feature in his character, he 
went on striving to deepen and increase her love 
when most other men would have given up the 
endeavour, made themselves content with half a 



HAPPY DAYS. 



5 



hearty and turned to some other object of attainment. 
All this time Philip was troubled by a dream that 
recurred whenever he was over-fatigued, or other- 
wise not in perfect health. Over and over again in 
this first year of married life he dreamt this dream ; 
perhaps as many as eight or nine times, and it never 
varied. It was always of Kinraid's return ; Kinraid 
was full of life in Philip's dream, though, in his 
waking hours he could and did convince himself by 
all the laws of ^probability that his rival was dead. 
He never remembered the exact sequence of events 
in that terrible dream after he had roused himself, 
with a fight and a struggle, from his feverish slum- 
bers. He was generally sitting up in bed when he 
found himself conscious ; his heart beating wildly, with 
a conviction of Kinraid's living presence somewhere 
near him in the darkness. Occasionally Sylvia was 
disturbed by his agitation, and would question him 
about his dreams, having, like most of her class at 
that time, great faith in their prophetic interpretation : 
but Philip never gave her any truth in his reply. 

After all, and though he did not acknowledge it 
even to himself, the long-desired happiness was not 
so delicious and perfect as he had anticipated. Many 
have felt the same in their first year of married life ; 
but the faithful, patient nature that still works on, 



6 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



striving to gain love, and capable itself of steady 
love all the while, is a gift not given to all. 

For many weeks after their wedding, Kester never 
came near them : a chance word or two from Sylvia 
showed Philip that she had noticed this and regretted 
it ; and, accordingly, he made it his business at the 
next leisure opportunity to go to Hay tersbank (never 
saying a word to his wife of his purpose), and seek 
out Kester. 

All the whole place was altered ! It was new 
white-washed, new thatched; the patches of colour 
in the surrounding ground were changed with altered 
tillage; the great geraniums were gone from the 
window, and, instead, was a smart knitted blind. 
Children played before the house door ; a dog lying 
on the step flew at Philip ; all was so strange, that 
it was even the strangest thing of all for Kester to 
appear where everything else was so altered ! 

Philip had to put up with a good deal of crabbed 
behaviour on the part of the latter, before he could 
induce Kester to promise to come down into the town 
and see Sylvia in her new home. 

Somehow, the visit when paid was but a failure ; 
at least, it seemed so at the time, though probably it 
broke the ice of restraint which was forming over the 
familiar intercourse between Kester and Sylvia. The 



HAPPY DAYS. 



7 



old servant was daunted by seeing Sylvia in a strange 
place, and stood, sleeking his hair down, and furtively 
looking about him, instead of seating himself on 
the chair Sylvia had so eagerly brought forward 
for him. 

Then his sense of the estrangement caused by 
their new positions infected her, and she began to 
cry pitifully, saying, — 

m Oh, Kester ! Kester ! tell me about Hayters- 
bank ! Is it just as it used to be in father's days ? " 

• Well, a cannot say as it is," said Kester, thank- 
ful to have a subject started. " They'n ploughed up 
t' oud pasture-field, and are setting it for 'taters. 
They're not for much cattle, isn't Higginses. They'll 
be for corn in it next year, a reckon, and they'll 
just ha' their pains for their payment. But they're 
allays so pig-headed, is folk fra a distance." 

So they went on discoursing on Haytersbank and 
the old days, till Bell Robson, having finished her 
afternoon nap, came slowly downstairs to join them ; 
and after that the conversation became so broken up, 
from the desire of the other two to attend and reply 
as best they could to her fragmentary and disjointed 
talk, that Kester took his leave before long ; falling, 
as he did so, into the formal and unnaturally respect- 
ful manner which he had adopted on first coming in. 



8 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



But Sylvia ran after him, and brought him hack 
from the door. 

" To think of thy going away, Kester, without 
either bit or drink; nay, come back wi' thee, and 
taste wine and cake." 

Kester stood at the door, half shy, half pleased, 
while Sylvia, in all the glow and hurry of a young 
housekeeper's hospitality, sought for the decanter of 
wine, and a wine-glass in the corner cupboard, and 
hastily cut an immense wedge of cake, which she 
crammed into his hand in spite of his remonstrances ; 
and then she poured him out an overflowing glass 
of wine, which Kester would far rather have gone 
without, as he knew manners too well to suppose 
that he might taste it without having gone through 
the preliminary ceremony of wishing the donor 
health and happiness. He stood red and half smiling 
with his cake in one hand, his wine in the other, 
and then began, — 

" Long may ye' live, 
Happy may ye be, 
And blest with a num'rous 
Pro-ge-ny." 

te There, that's poetry for ye as I larnt i' my 
youth. But there's a deal to be said as cannot be 
put int' po'try, an' yet a cannot say it, somehow. 



HAPPY DAYS. 



9 



It would tax a parson t' say all as I've getten i' my 
mind. It's like a heap o' wool just after shearing 
time ; it's worth a deal, but it tak's a vast o' combing, 
and carding, and spinning afore it can be made use 
on. If a were up to t' use o' words, a could say 
a mighty deal ; but somehow a 'm tongue-teed when 
a come to want my words most, so a '11 only just 
mak' bold t' say as a think yo've done pretty well 
for yo'rsel', getten a house-full of furniture, (look- 
ing around him as he said this,) and vittle and 
clothing for t' axing, belike, an' a home for t' 
missus in her time o' need; an' mebbe not such a 
bad husband as a once thought yon man would 
mak'; a 'm not above saying as he's mebbe better 
nor a took him for ; — so here's to ye both, and 
wishing ye health and happiness, ay, and money 
to buy yo' another, as country folk say." 

Having ended his oration much to his own satis- 
faction, Kester tossed off his glass of wine, smacked 
his lips, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, 
pocketed his cake, and made off. 

That night Sylvia spoke of his visit to her hus- 
band. Philip never said how he himself had brought 
it to pass, nor did he name the fact that he had heard 
the old man come in just as he himself had intended 
going into the parlour for tea, but had kept away, 



10 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



as he thought Sylvia and Kester would most enjoy 
their interview undisturbed. And Sylvia felt as if 
her husband's silence was unsympathizing, and shut 
up the feelings that were just beginning to expand 
towards him. She sank again into the listless state 
of indifference from which nothing but some re- 
ference to former days, or present consideration for 
her mother, could rouse her. 

Hester was almost surprised at Sylvia's evident 
liking for her. By slow degrees Hester was learning 
to love the woman, whose position as Philip's wife 
she would have envied so keenly had she not been 
so truly good and pious. But Sylvia seemed as 
though she had given Hester her whole affection 
all at once. Hester could not understand this, 
while she was touched and melted by the trust it 
implied. For one thing Sylvia remembered and 
regretted — her harsh treatment of Hester the rainy, 
stormy night on which the latter had come to 
Haytersbank to seek her and her mother, and bring 
them into Monkshaven to see the imprisoned father 
and husband. Sylvia had been struck with Hester's 
patient endurance of her rudeness, a rudeness which 
she was conscious that she herself should have imme- 
diately and vehemently resented. Sylvia did not 
understand how a totally different character from 



HAPPY BAYS. 



11 



hers might immediately forgive the anger she could 
not forget; and because Hester had been so meek 
at the time, Sylvia, who knew how passing and 
transitory was her own anger, thought that all was 
forgotten; while Hester believed that the words, 
which she herself could not have uttered except 
under deep provocation, meant much more than they 
did, and admired and wondered at Sylvia for having 
so entirely conquered her anger against her. 

Again, the two different women were divergently 
affected by the extreme fondness which Bell had 
shown towards Hester ever since Sylvia's wedding- 
day. Sylvia, who had always received more love 
from others than she knew what to do with, had 
the most entire faith in her own supremacy in 
her mother's heart, though at times Hester would 
do certain things more to the poor old woman's 
satisfaction. Hester, who had craved for the affec- 
tion which had been withheld from her, and had 
from that one circumstance become distrustful of 
her own power of inspiring regard, while she ex- 
aggerated the delight of being beloved, feared lest 
Sylvia should become jealous of her mother's open 
display of great attachment and occasional prefer- 
ence for Hester. But such a thought never entered 
Sylvia's mind. She was more thankful than she 



12 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



knew how to express towards any one who made 
her mother happy; as has been already said, the 
contributing to Bell Robson's pleasures earned Philip 
more of his wife's smiles than anything else. And 
Sylvia threw her whole heart into the words and 
caresses she lavished on Hester whenever poor 
Mrs. Robson spoke of the goodness and kindness 
of the latter. Hester attributed more virtue to these 
sweet words and deeds of gratitude than they 
deserved ; they did not imply in Sylvia any victory 
over evil temptation, as they would have done in 
Hester. 

It seemed to be Sylvia's fate to captivate more 
people than she cared to like back again. She 
turned the heads of John and Jeremiah Foster, 
who could hardly congratulate Philip enough on his 
choice of a wife. 

They had been prepared to be critical on one 
who had interfered with their favourite project of a 
marriage between Philip and Hester; and, though 
full of compassion for the cruelty of Daniel Robson's 
fate, they were too completely men of business not 
to have some apprehension that the connection of 
Philip Hepburn with the daughter of a man who 
was hanged, might injure the shop over which both 
his and their name appeared. But all the possible 



HAPPY DAYS. 



13 



proprieties demanded that they should pay attention 
to the bride of their former shopman and present 
successor; and the very first visitors whom Sylvia 
had received after her marriage had been John 
and Jeremiah Foster, in their sabbath-day clothes. 
They found her in the parlour (so familiar to both 
of them ! ) clear-starching her mother's caps, which 
had to be got up in some particular fashion that 
Sylvia was afraid of dictating to Phoebe. 

She was a little disturbed at her visitors dis- 
covering her at this employment; but she was on 
her own ground, and that gave her self-possession ; 
and she welcomed the two old men so sweetly and 
modestly, and looked so pretty and feminine, and, 
besides, so notable in her handiwork, that she con- 
quered all their prejudices at one blow : and their 
first thought on leaving the shop was how to do 
her honour, by inviting her to a supper party at 
Jeremiah Foster's house. 

Sylvia was dismayed when she was bidden to 
this wedding feast, and Philip had to use all his 
authority, though tenderly, to make her consent to 
go at all. She had been to merry country parties 
like the Corneys', and to bright hay-making romps 
in the open air; but never to a set stately party at a 
friend's house. 



14 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



She would fain have made attendance on her 
mother an excuse ; but Philip knew he must not 
listen to any such plea, and applied to Hester in 
the dilemma, asking her to remain with Mrs. Robson 
while he and Sylvia went out visiting ; and Hester 
had willingly, nay, eagerly consented — it was much 
more to her taste than going out. 

So Philip and Sylvia set out, arm-in-arm, down 
Bridge Street, across the bridge, and then 
clambered up the hill. On the way, he gave her 
the directions she asked for about her behaviour 
as bride and most honoured guest; and altogether 
succeeded, against his intention and will, in fright- 
ening her so completely as to the grandeur and 
importance of the occasion, and the necessity of 
remembering certain set rules, and making certain 
set speeches and attending to them when the right 
time came, that, if any one so naturally graceful 
could have been awkward, Sylvia would have been 
so that night. 

As it was, she sate, pale and weary-looking, on 
the very edge of her chair ; she uttered the formal 
words which Philip had told her were appropriate 
to the occasion, and she heartily wished herself safe 
at home and in bed. Yet she left but one unanimous 
impression on the company when she went away, 



HAPPY DAYS. 



15 



namely, that she was the prettiest and best-behaved 
woman they had ever seen, and that Philip Hep- 
burn had done well in choosing her, felon's daughter 
though she might be. 

Both the hosts had followed her into the lobby 
to help Philip in cloaking her, and putting on her 
pattens. They were full of old-fashioned compli- 
ments and good wishes ; one speech of theirs came 
up to her memory in future years : — 

" JSTow, Sylvia Hepburn," said J eremiah, <e I have 
known thy husband long, and I don't say but what 
thou hast done well in choosing him ; but if he ever 
neglects or ill-uses thee, come to me, and I'll give 
him a sound lecture on his conduct. Mind, I'm thy 
friend from this day forrards, and ready to take 
thy part against him ! " 

Philip smiled as if the day would never come 
when he should neglect or ill-use his darling ; Sylvia 
smiled a little, without much attending to, or caring 
for, the words that were detaining her, tired as she 
was ; John and Jeremiah chuckled over the joke ; but 
the words came up again in after days, as words idly 
spoken sometimes do. 

Before the end of that first year, Philip had learnt 
to be jealous of his wife's new love for Hester. To 
the latter, Sylvia gave the free confidence on many 



16 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



tilings which Philip fancied she withheld from him. 
A suspicion crossed his mind, from time to time, 
that Sylvia might speak of her former lover to 
Hester. It would be not unnatural, he thought, 
if she did so, believing him to be dead; but the idea 
irritated him. 

He was entirely mistaken, however ; Sylvia, with 
all her apparent frankness, kept her deep sorrows to 
herself. She never mentioned her father's name, 
though he was continually present to her mind. Nor 
did she speak of Kinraid to human being, though, 
for his sake, her voice softened when, by chance, she 
spoke to a passing sailor ; and for his sake her eyes 
lingered on such men longer than on others, trying 
to discover in them something of the old familiar 
gait; and partly for his dead sake, and partly because 
of the freedom of the outlook and the freshness of 
the air, she was glad occasionally to escape from the 
comfortable imprisonment of her "parlour," and the 
close streets around the market place, and to mount 
the cliffs and sit on the turf, gazing abroad over the 
wide still expanse of the open sea ; for, at that 
height, even breaking waves only looked like broken 
lines of white foam on the blue watery plain. 

She did not want any companion on these rambles, 
which had somewhat of the delight of stolen plea- 



HAPPY DAYS. 



17 



sures; for all the other respectable matrons and 
town-dwellers whom she knew were content to have 
always a business object for their walk, or else 
to stop at home in their own households ; and Sylvia 
was rather ashamed of her own yearnings for 
solitude and open air, and the sight and sound of 
the mother-like sea. She used to take off her hat, 
and sit there, her hands clasping her knees, the salt 
air lifting her bright curls, gazing at the distant 
horizon over the sea, in a sad dreaminess of thought ; 
if she had been asked on what she meditated, she 
could not have told you. 

But, by-and-by, the time came when she was a 
prisoner in the house ; a prisoner in her room, lying < 
in bed with a little baby by her side — her child, 
Philip's child. His pride, his delight knew no 
bounds : this was a new fast tie between them, this 
would reconcile her to the kind of life that, with all 
its respectability and comfort, was so different from 
what she had lived before, and which Philip had often 
perceived that she had felt to be dull and restrain- 
ing. He already began to trace in the little girl, 
only a few days old, the lovely curves that he knew 
so well by heart in the mother's face. Sylvia, too, 
pale, still, and weak, was very happy; yes, really 
happy for the first time since her irrevocable mar- 

yol. in. 41 



18 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



riage. For its irrevocableness had weighed much 
upon her with a sense of dull hopelessness; she 
felt all Philip's kindness, she was grateful to 
him for his tender regard towards her mother, 
she was learning to love him as well as to like 
and respect him. She did not know what else 
she could have done but marry so true a friend, 
and she and her mother so friendless; but, at the 
same time, it was like lead on her morning spirits 
when she awoke and remembered that the decision 
was made, the deed was done, the choice taken 
which comes to most people but once in their lives. 
Now the little baby came in upon this state of mind 
like a ray of sunlight into a gloomy room. 

Even her mother was rejoiced and proud; even 
with her crazed brain and broken heart, the sight of 
sweet, peaceful infancy brought light to her. All 
the old ways of holding a baby, of hushing it to sleep, 
of tenderly guarding its little limbs from injury, 
came back, like the habits of her youth, to Bell ; and 
she was never so happy or so easy in her mind, or so 
sensible and connected in her ideas, as when she had 
Sylvia's baby in her arms. 

It was a pretty sight to see, however familiar 
to all of us such things may be, the pale, worn 
old woman, in her quaint, old-fashioned country 



HAPPY DAYS. 



19 



dress, holding the little infant on her knees, look- 
ing at its open, unspeculative eyes, and talking 
the little language to it as though it could under- 
derstand ; the father on his knees, kept prisoner by 
a small, small finger curled round his strong and 
sinewy one, and gazing at the tiny creature with 
wondering idolatry; the young mother, fair, pale, 
and smiling, propped up on pillows in order that she, 
too, might see the wonderful babe : it was astonish- 
ing how the doctor could come and go without being 
drawn into the admiring vortex, and look at this 
baby just as if babies came into the world every day. 

(C Philip," said Sylvia, one night, as he sate as still 
as a mouse in her room, imagining her to be asleep. 
He was by her bed-side in a moment. 

" I've been thinking what she's to be called. 
Isabella, after mother ; and what were yo'r mother's 
name ? " 

6e Margaret," said he. 

" Margaret Isabella ; Isabella Margaret. Mother's 
called Bell. She might be called Bella." 

se I could ha' wished her to be called after thee." 

She made a little impatient movement. 

"Nay ; Sylvia's not a lucky name. Best be called 
after thy mother and mine. And I want for to ask 
Hester to be godmother." 

41—2 



20 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" Anything thou likes, sweetheart. Shall we call 
her Kose, after Hester Eose ? " 

" No, no ! " said Sylvia, " she must be called after 
my mother or thine, or both. I should like her to 
be called Bella, after mother, because she's so fond 
of baby." 

" Anything to please thee, darling." 

ee Don't say that as if it didn't signify ; there's a 
deal in having a pretty name," said Sylvia, a little 
annoyed. " I ha' allays hated being called Sylvia. 
It were after father's mother, Sylvia Steele." 

" I niver thought any name in a' the world so 
sweet and pretty as Sylvia," said Philip, fondly ; but 
she was too much absorbed in her own thoughts to 
notice either his manner or his words. 

" There, you'll not mind if it is Bella, because yo' 
see my mother is alive to be pleased by it's being 
named after her, and Hester may be godmother, and 
I'll ha' t' dove-coloured silk as yo' gave me afore 
we were married made up into a cloak for it to go to 
church in." 

"I got it for thee," said Philip, a little disappointed. 
" It will be too good for the baby." 

« Eh ! but I'm so careless, I should be spilling 
something on it ! But if thou got it for me I cannot 
find i' my heart for t' wear it on baby, and I'll have 



HAPPY DAYS. 



21 



it made into a christening-gown for myseP. But I'll 
niver feel at my ease in it, for fear o' spoiling it." 

" Well ! an' if thou does spoil it, love, I'll get thee 
another. I make account of riches only for thee ; 
that I may be able to get thee whativer thou's a 
fancy for, for either thysel', or thy mother." 

She lifted her pale face from her pillow, and put 
up her lips to kiss him for these words. 

Perhaps on that day Philip reached the zenith of 
his life's happiness. 



22 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTEE II. 

EVIL OMENS. 

The first step in Philip's declension happened in this 
way. Sylvia had made rapid progress in her re- 
covery ; but now she seemed at a stationary point of 
weakness ; wakeful nights succeeding to languid 
days. Occasionally she caught a little sleep in the 
afternoons, but she usually awoke startled and 
feverish. 

One afternoon Philip had stolen upstairs to 
look at her and his child; but the efforts he made 
at careful noiselessness made the door creak on its 
hinges as he opened it. The woman employed to 
nurse her had taken the baby into another room that 
no sound might rouse her from her slumber; and 
Philip would probably have been warned against 
entering the chamber where his wife lay sleeping had 
he been perceived by the nurse. As it was he opened 
the door, made a noise, and Sylvia started up, her 
face all one flush, her eyes wild and uncertain ; she 



EVIL OMENS. 



23 



looked about lier as if she did not know where she 
was ; pushed the hair off her hot forehead ; all which 
actions Philip saw, dismayed and regretful. But he 
kept still, hoping that she would lie down and com- 
pose herself. Instead she stretched out her arms 
imploringly, and said in a voice full of yearning and 
tears, 

ee Oh ! Charley ! come to me, come to me ! " and 
then as she more fully became aware of the place 
where she was, her actual situation, she sank back 
and feebly began to cry. Philip's heart boiled 
within him ; any man's would under the circum- 
stances, but he had the sense of guilty concealment 
to aggravate the intensity of his feelings. Her weak 
cry after another man, too, irritated him, partly 
through his anxious love, which made him wise to 
know how much physical harm she was doing herself. 
At this moment he stirred, or unintentionally made 
some sound ; she started up afresh, and called out, 

" Oh, who is there ? Do, for God's sake, tell me 
who yo' are ! " 

" It's me," said Philip, coming forwards, striving 
to keep down the miserable complication of love 
and jealousy, and remorse and anger, that made his 
heart beat so wildly, and almost took him out of 
himself. Indeed, he must have been quite beside 



24 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



himself for the time, or he could never have gone 
on to utter the unwise, cruel words he did. But 
she spoke first, in a distressed and plaintive tone of 
voice. 

"Oh, Philip, I've been asleep, and yet I think I 
was awake ! And I saw Charley Kinraid as plain 
as iver I see thee now, and he wasn't drowned 
at all. I'm sure he's alive somewhere; he were so 
clear and life-like. Oh! what shall I do? what 
shall I do ? " 

She wrung her hands in feverish distress. Urged 
by passionate feelings of various kinds, and also by 
his desire to quench the agitation which was doing 
her harm, Philip spoke, hardly knowing what he 
said. 

" Kinraid's dead, I tell ye, Sylvia ! And what 
kind of a woman are ye to go dreaming of another 
man in this way, and taking on so about him, when 
yo're a wedded wife, with a child as yo've borne 
to another man ? " 

In a moment he could have bitten out his tongue. 
She looked at him with the mute reproach which 
some of us see (God help us!) in the eyes of 
the dead, as they come before our sad memories 
in the night-season; looked at him with such a 
solemn, searching look, never saying a word of 



EVIL OMENS. 



25 



reply or defence. Then she lay down, motion- 
less and silent. He had been instantly stung with 
remorse for his speech ; the words were not beyond 
his lips when an agony had entered his heart ; but 
her steady, dilated eyes had kept him dumb and 
motionless as if by a spell. 

Now he rushed to the bed on which she lay, 
and half knelt, half threw himself upon it, imploring 
her to forgive him; regardless for the time of any 
evil consequences to her, it seemed as if he must 
have her pardon — her relenting — at any price, even 
if they both died in the act of reconciliation. But she 
lay speechless, and, as far as she could be, motion- 
less, the bed trembling under her with the quivering 
she could not still. 

Philip's wild tones caught the nurse's ears, and she 
entered full of the dignified indignation of wisdom. 

" Are yo' for killing yo'r wife, measter ? " she 
asked. fe She's noan so strong as she can bear 
flyting and scolding, nor will she be for many a 
week to come. Go down wi' ye, and leave her in 
peace if yo're a man as can be called a man ! " 

Her anger was rising as she caught sight of 
Sylvia's averted face. It was flushed crimson, her 
eyes full of intense emotion of some kind, her lips 
compressed ; but an involuntary twitching over- 



26 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



mastering her resolute stillness from time to time. 
Philip, who did not see the averted face, nor under- 
stand the real danger in which he was placing his 
wife, felt as though he must have one word, one 
responsive touch of the hand which lay passive in 
his, which was not even drawn away from the kisses 
with which he covered it, any more than if it had 
been an impassive stone. The nurse had fairly to take 
him by the shoulders, and turn him out of the room. 

In half an hour the doctor had to be summoned. 
Of course, the nurse gave him her version of the 
events of the afternoon, with much animus against 
Philip ; and the doctor thought it his duty to have 
some very serious conversation with him. 

" I do assure you, Mr. Hepburn, that, in the state 
your wife has been in for some days, it was little 
less than madness on your part to speak to her about 
anything that could give rise to strong emotion." 

m It was madness, sir ! " replied Philip, in a low, 
miserable tone of voice. The doctor's heart was 
touched, in spite of the nurse's accusations against 
the scolding husband. Yet the danger was now too 
serious for him to mince matters. 

"I must tell you that I cannot answer for her 
life, unless the greatest precautions are taken on 
your part, and unless the measures I shall use 



EVIL OMENS. 27 

ft- ' *'* • 

have the effect I wish for in the next twenty-four 
hours. She is on the verge of a brain fever. Any 
allusion to the subject which has been the final cause 
of the state in which she now is must be most 
cautiously avoided, even to a chance word which 
may bring it to her memory." 

And so on; but Philip seemed to hear only this: 
then he might not express contrition, or sue for 
pardon, he must go on unforgiven through all this 
stress of anxiety; and even if she recovered the 
doctor warned him of the undesirableness of re- 
curring to what had past ! 

Heavy miserable times of endurance and wait- 
ing have to be passed through by all during the 
course of their lives ; and Philip had had his share 
of such seasons, when the heart and the will and the 
speech and the limbs must be bound down with strong 
resolution to patience. 

For many days, nay, for weeks, he was forbidden 
to see Sylvia, as the very sound of his footstep 
brought on a recurrence of the fever and convulsive 
movement. Yet she seemed, from questions she 
feebly asked the nurse, to have forgotten all that 
had happened on the day of her attack from the 
time when she had dropped off to sleep. But how 
much she remembered of after occurrences no one 



28 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



could ascertain. She was quiet enough when at 
length Philip was allowed to see her. But he was 
half-jealous of his child, when he watched how she 
could smile at it, while she never changed a muscle 
of her face at all he could do or say. 

And of a piece with this extreme quietude and 
reserve was her behaviour to him when at length she 
had fully recovered, and was able to go about the 
house again. Philip thought many a time of the 
words she had used long before — before their mar- 
riage. Ominous words they were. 

(S It's not in me to forgive ; I sometimes think it's 
not in me to forget." 

Philip was tender even to humility in his conduct 
towards her. But nothing stirred her from her 
fortress of reserve. And he knew she was so dif- 
ferent ; he knew how loving, nay, passionate was her 
nature — vehement, demonstrative — oh! how could 
he stir her once more into expression, even if the 
first show or speech she made was of anger ! Then 
he tried being angry with her himself ; he was some- 
times unjust to her consciously and of a purpose, in 
order to provoke her into defending herself, and 
appealing against his unkindness. He only seemed 
to drive her love away still more. 

If any one had known all that was passing in 



EVIL OMENS. 



29 



that household, while yet the story of it was not 
ended, nor, indeed, come to its crisis, their hearts 
would have been sorry for the man who lingered 
long at the door of the room in which his wife sate 
cooing and talking to her baby, and sometimes laugh- 
ing back to it, or who was soothing the querulousness 
of failing age with every possible patience of love ; 
sorry for the poor listener who was hungering for 
the profusion of tenderness thus scattered on the 
senseless air, yet only by stealth caught the echoes of 
what ought to have been his. 

It was so difficult to complain, too ; impossible, in 
fact. Everything that a wife could do from duty 
she did ; but the love seemed to have fled, and, in 
such cases, no reproaches or complaints can avail 
to bring it back. So reason out-siders, and are 
convinced of the result before the experiment is 
made. But Philip could not reason, or could not 
yield to reason ; and so he complained and re- 
proached. She did not much answer him; but he 
thought that her eyes expressed the old words, 

" It's not in me to forgive ; I sometimes think it's 
not in me to forget." 

However, it is an old story, an ascertained fact, 
that, even in the most tender and stable masculine 
natures, at the supremest seasons of their lives, there 



30 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



is room for other thoughts and passions than such 
as are connected with love. Even with the most 
domestic and affectionate men, their emotions seem 
to be kept in a cell distinct and away from their 
actual lives. Philip had other thoughts and other 
occupations than those connected with his wife during 
all this time. 

An uncle of his mother's, a Cumberland " states- 
man," of whose existence he was barely conscious, 
died about this time, leaving to his unknown great- 
nephew four or five hundred pounds, which put him 
at once in a different position with regard to his 
business. Henceforward his ambition was roused, — 
such humble ambition as befitted a shop-keeper in a 
country town sixty or seventy years ago. To be re- 
spected by the men around him had always been an 
object with him, and was, perhaps, becoming more so 
than ever now, as a sort of refuge from his deep, 
sorrowful mortification in other directions. He was 
greatly pleased at being made a sidesman ; and, in 
preparation for the further honour of being church- 
warden, he went regularly twice-a-day to church on 
Sundays. There was enough religious feeling in 
him to make him disguise the worldly reason for 
such conduct from himself. He believed that he 
went because he thought it right to attend public 



EVIL OMENS. 



31 



worship in the parish church whenever it was 
offered up; but it may be questioned of him, as 
of many others, how far he would have been as 
regular in attendance in a place where he was not 
known. With this, however, we have nothing to do. 
The fact was that he went regularly to church, and 
he wished his wife to accompany him to the pew, 
newly painted, with his name on the door, where 
he sate in full sight of the clergyman and congrega- 
tion. 

Sylvia had never been in the habit of such regular 
church-going, and she felt it as a hardship, and 
slipped out of the duty as often as ever she could. 
In her unmarried days, she and her parents had gone 
annually to the mother-church of the parish in which 
Haytersbank was situated : on the Monday succeed- 
ing the Sunday next after the Romish Saint's Day 
to whom the church was dedicated, there was a great 
feast or wake held, and, on the Sunday, all the 
parishioners came to church from far and near. 
Frequently, too, in the course of the year, Sylvia 
would accompany one or other of her parents to 
Kirby Moorside afternoon service, — when the hay 
was got in, and the corn not ready for cutting, 
or the cows were dry and there was no afternoon 
milking. Many clergymen were languid in those 



32 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



days, and did not too curiously inquire into the 
reasons which gave them such small congregations in 
country parishes. 

Now she was married, this weekly church-going 
which Philip seemed to expect from her, became 
a tie and a small hardship, which connected itself 
with her life of respectability and prosperity. ee A 
crust of bread and liberty " was much more accordant 
to Sylvia's nature than plenty of creature comforts 
and many restraints. Another wish of Philip's, 
against which she said no word, but constantly 
rebelled in thought and deed, was his desire that the 
servant he had engaged during the time of her 
illness to take charge of the baby, should always 
carry it whenever it was taken out for a walk. 
Sylvia often felt, now she was strong, as if she 
would far rather have been without the responsibility 
of having this nurse-maid, of whom she was, in 
reality, rather afraid. The good side of it was 
that it set her at liberty to attend to her mother 
at times when she would have been otherwise 
occupied with her baby; but Bell required very 
little from any one: she was easily pleased, un- 
exacting, and methodical even in her dotage; pre- 
serving the quiet, undemonstrative habits of her 
earlier life now that the faculty of reason, which had 



EVIL OMENS. 



33 



been at the basis of the formation of such habits, was 
gone. She took great delight in watching the baby, 
and was pleased to have it in her care for a short 
time ; but she dozed so much that it prevented her 
having any strong wish on the subject. 

So Sylvia contrived to get her baby as much as 
possible to herself, in spite of the nurse-maid; and 
above all, she would carry it out, softly cradled in 
her arms, warm pillowed on her breast, and bear it 
to the freedom and solitude of the sea-shore on the 
north side of the town, where the cliffs were not so 
high, and there was a good space of sand and shingle 
at all low tides. 

Once here, she was as happy as she ever ex- 
pected to be in this world. The fresh sea-breeze 
restored something of the colour of former days to 
her cheeks, the old buoyancy to her spirits ; here she 
might talk her heart-full of loving nonsense to her 
baby; here it was all her own; no father to share 
in it, no nurse-maid to dispute the wisdom of any- 
thing she did with it. She sang to it, she tossed it, 
it crowed and it laughed back again, till both were 
weary ; and then she would sit down on a broken 
piece of rock, and fall to gazing on the advancing 
waves catching the sunlight on their crests, advanc- 
ing, receding, for ever and for ever, as they had done 

vol. in. 42 



34 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



all her life long — as they did when she had walked 
with them that once by the side of Kinraid ; those 
cruel waves that, forgetful of the happy lovers' talk 
by the side of their waters, had carried one away, and 
drowned him deep till he was dead. Every time she 
sate down to look at the sea, this process of thought 
was gone through up to this point; the next step 
would, she knew, bring her to the question she dared 
not, must not ask. He was dead ; he must be dead ; 
for was she not Philip's wife ? Then came up the 
recollection of Philip's speech, never forgotten, only 
buried out of sight : " What kind of a woman are 
ye, to go on dreaming of another man, and you a 
wedded wife ! " She used to shudder as if cold steel 
had been plunged into her warm living body as she 
remembered these words ; cruel words, harmlessly 
provoked. They were too much associated with 
physical pains to be dwelt upon ; only their memory 
was always there. She paid for these happy rambles 
with her baby by the depression which awaited her 
on her re-entrance into the dark confined house that 
was her home ; its very fulness of comfort was an 
oppression. Then, when her husband saw her pale 
and fatigued, he was annoyed, and sometimes up- 
braided her for doing what was so unnecessary as to 
load herself with her child. She knew full well it 



EVIL OMENS. 



35 



was not that that caused her weariness. By and by, 
when he inquired and discovered that all these walks 
were taken in one direction, out towards the sea, he 
grew jealous of her love for the inanimate ocean. 
Was it connected in her mind with the thought of 
Kinraid ? Why did she so perseveringly, in wind or 
cold, go out to the sea-shore ; the northern side, too, 
where, if she went but far enough, she would come 
upon the mouth of the Haytersbank gully, the point 
at which she had last seen Kinraid ? Such fancies 
haunted Philip's mind for hours after she had 
acknowledged the direction of her walks. But he 
never said a word that could distinctly tell her he 
disliked her going to the sea, otherwise she would 
have obeyed him in this, as in everything else ; for 
absolute obedience to her husband seemed to be her 
rule of life at this period — obedience to him who 
would so gladly have obeyed her smallest wish had 
she but expressed it ! She never knew that Philip 
had any painful association with the particular point 
on the sea-shore that she instinctively avoided, both 
from a consciousness of wifely duty, and also be- 
cause the sight of it brought up so much sharp 
pain. 

Philip used to wonder if the dream that preceded 
her illness was the suggestive cause that drew her 

42—2 



36 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



so often to the shore. Her illness consequent upon 
that dream had filled his mind, so that for many- 
months he himself had had no haunting vision of 
Kinraid to disturb his slumbers. But now the old 
dream of Kinraid's actual presence by Philip's bed- 
side began to return with fearful vividness. Night 
after night it recurred; each time with some new 
touch of reality, and close approach ; till it was as 
if the fate that overtakes all men, were then, even 
then, knocking at his door. 

In his business Philip prospered. Men praised 
him because he did well to himself. He had the 
perseverance, the capability for head-work and 
calculation, the steadiness and general fore-thought 
which might have made him a great merchant if he 
had lived in a large city. Without any effort of his 
own, almost, too, without Coulson's being aware of it, 
Philip was now in the position of superior partner ; 
the one to suggest and arrange, while Coulson only 
carried out the plans that emanated from Philip. 
The whole work of life was suited to the man ; he 
did not aspire to any different position, only to the 
full development of the capabilities of that which he 
already held. He had originated several fresh 
schemes with regard to the traffic of the shop ; and 
his old masters, with all their love of tried ways, and 



EVIL OMENS. 



37 



distrust of everything new, had been candid enough 
to confess that their successor's plans had resulted in 
success. "Their successors." Philip was content 
with having the power when the exercise of it was 
required, and never named his own important share 
in the new improvements. Possibly, if he had, 
Coulson's vanity might have taken the alarm, and he 
might not have been so acquiescent for the future. 
As it was, he forgot his own subordinate share, and 
always used the imperial " we," " we thought," " it 
struck us," &c. 



38 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTER III. 

RESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 

Meanwhile Hester came and went as usual; in so quiet 
and methodical a way, with so even and undisturbed 
a temper, that she was almost forgotten when every- 
thing went well in the shop or household. She was 
a star, the brightness of which was only recognized in 
times of darkness. She herself was almost surprised 
at her own increasing regard for Sylvia. She had 
not thought she should ever be able to love the 
woman who had been such a laggard in acknow- 
ledging Philip's merits ; and from all she had ever 
heard of Sylvia before she came to know her, from 
the angry words with which Sylvia had received her 
when she had first gone to Haytersbank Farm, 
Hester had intended to remain on friendly terms, but 
to avoid intimacy. But her kindness to Bell Robson 
had won both the mother's and daughter's hearts; 
and in spite of herself, certainly against her own 
mother's advice, she had become the familiar friend 
and welcome guest of the household. 



RESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 39 



Now the very change in Sylvia's whole manner 
and ways, which grieved and vexed Philip, made his 
wife the more attractive to Hester. Brought up 
among Quakers, although not one herself, she ad- 
mired and respected the staidness and outward 
peacefulness common amongst the young women of 
that sect. Sylvia, whom she had expected to find 
volatile, talkative, vain, and wilful, was quiet and 
still, as if she had been born a Friend : she seemed to 
have no will of her own ; she served her mother and 
€hild for love ; she obeyed her husband in all things, 
and never appeared to pine after gaiety or pleasure. 
And yet at times Hester thought, or rather a flash 
came across her mind, as if all things were not as 
right as they seemed. Philip looked older, more 
care-worn ; nay, even Hester was obliged to allow 
to herself that she had heard him speak to his wife in 
sharp aggrieved tones. Innocent Hester ! she could 
not understand how the very qualities she so admired 
in Sylvia were just what were so foreign to her nature 
that the husband, who had known her from a child, 
felt what an unnatural restraint she was putting upon 
herself, and would have hailed petulant words or 
wilful actions with an unspeakable thankfulness for 
relief. 

One day — it was in the spring of 1798 — Hester 



40 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



was engaged to stay to tea with the Hepburns, in 
order that after that early meal she might set to again 
in helping Philip and Coulson to pack away the winter 
cloths and flannels, for which there was no longer any 
nse. The tea-time was half-past four ; about four 
o'clock a heavy April shower came on, the hail patter- 
ing against the window-panes so as to awaken Mrs. 
Robson from her afternoon's nap. She came down 
the corkscrew stairs, and found Phoebe in the parlour 
arranging the tea-things. 

Phoebe and Mrs. Robson were better friends than 
Phoebe and her young mistress; and so they began 
to talk a little together in a comfortable familiar way. 
Once or twice Philip looked in, as if he would be 
glad to see the tea-table in readiness; and then 
Phoebe would put on a spurt ; of busy bustle, which 
ceased almost as soon as his back was turned, so 
eager was she to obtain Mrs. Robson's sympathy 
in some little dispute that had occurred between 
her and the nursemaid. The latter had misappro- 
priated some hot water, prepared and required by 
Phoebe, to the washing of the baby's clothes ; it was 
a long story, and would have tired the patience of 
any one in full possession of their senses ; but the 
details were just within poor Bell's comprehension, 
and she was listening with the greatest sympathy. 



RESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 41 



Both the women were unaware of the lapse of time ; 
but it was of consequence to Philip, as the extra 
labour was not to be begun until after tea, and the 
daylight hours were precious. 

At a quarter to five Hester and he came in, and 
then Phoebe began to hurry. Hester went up to 
sit by Bell and talk to her. Philip spoke to Phoebe 
in the familiar words of country-folk. Indeed, until 
his marriage, Phoebe had always called him by his 
Christian name, and had found it very difficult to 
change it into <c master." 

« Where's Sylvia? " said he. 

" Gone out wi' t' babby," replied Phoebe. 

" Why can't Nancy carry it out ? " asked Philip. 

It was touching on the old grievance : he was tired, 
and he spoke with sharp annoyance. Phoebe might 
easily have told him the real state of the case ; 
Nancy was busy at her washing, which would have 
been reason enough. But the nursemaid had vexed 
her, and she did not like Philip's sharpness, so she 
only said, 

" It's noan o' my business ; it's yo' t' look after 
yo'r own wife and child; but yo'r but a lad 
after a'." 

This was not a conciliatory speech, and just put 
the last stroke to Philip's fit of ill-temper. 



42 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" I'm not for my tea to-night," said he, to Hester, 
when all was ready. " Sylvia's not here, and nothing 
is nice, or as it should be. I'll go and set to on the 
stock-taking. Don't yon hurry, Hester; stop and 
chat a bit with the old lady." 

"Nay, Philip," said Hester, "thou's sadly tired; 
just take this cup o' tea ; Sylvia '11 be grieved if thou 
has not something." 

" Sylvia doesn't care whether I'm full or fasting," 
replied he, impatiently putting aside the cup. "If 
she did she'd ha' taken care to be in, and ha' seen to 
things being as I like them." 

Now in general Philip was the least particular of 
men about meals ; and to do Sylvia justice, she was 
scrupulously attentive to every household duty in 
which old Phoebe would allow her to meddle, and 
always careful to see after her husband's comforts. 
But Philip was too vexed at her absence to perceive 
the injustice of what he was saying, nor was he 
aware how Bell Robson had been attending to what 
he said. But she was sadly discomfited by it, under- 
standing just enough of the grievance in hand to 
think that her daughter was neglectful of those duties 
which she herself had always regarded as paramount 
to all others; nor could Hester convince her that 
Philip had not meant what he said; neither could 



RESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 43 



she turn the poor old woman's thoughts from the 
words which had caused her distress. 

Presently Sylvia came in, bright and cheerful 
although breathless with hurry. 

" Oh," said she, taking off her wet shawl, ee we've 
had to shelter from such a storm of rain, baby and 
me — but see ! she's none the worse for it, as bonny as 
ever, bless her." 

Hester began some speech of admiration for the 
child in order to prevent Bell from delivering the 
lecture she felt sure was coming down on the unsus- 
pecting Sylvia ; but all in vain. 

" Philip has been complaining of thee, Sylvia," 
said Bell, in the way in which she had spoken to her 
daughter when she was a little child; grave and 
severe in tone and look, more than in words. ee I 
forget justly what about, but he spoke on thy neg- 
lecting him continual. *It's not right, my lass, it's 
not right; a woman should — but my head's very 
tired, and all I can think on to say is, it's not right." 

ee Philip been complaining of me, and to mother ! " 
said Sylvia, ready to burst into tears, so grieved and 
angry was she. 

"No!" said Hester, "thy mother has taken it a 
little too strong ; he were vexed like at his tea not 
being ready." 



44 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Sylvia said no more, but the bright colour faded 
from her cheek, and the contraction of care returned 
to her brow. She occupied herself with taking off 
her baby's walking things. Hester lingered, anxious 
to soothe and make peace ; she was looking sorrowfully 
at Sylvia, when she saw tears dropping on the baby's 
cloak, and then it seemed as if she must speak a word 
of comfort before going to the shop-work, where she 
knew she was expected by both Philip and Coulson. 
She poured out a cup of tea, and coming close up to 
Sylvia, and kneeling down by her, she whispered, — 

"Just take him this into the ware-room; it'll 
put all to rights if thou'll take it to him wi' thy 
own hands." 

Sylvia looked up, and Hester then more fully saw 
how she had been crying. She whispered in reply, 
for fear of disturbing her mother, — 

" I don't mind anything but his speaking ill on me 
to mother. I know I'm for iver trying and trying to 
be a good wife to him, an' it's very dull work ; harder 
than yo' think on, Hester, — an' I would ha' been 
home for tea to-night only I was afeard of baby 
getting wet wi' t' storm o' hail as we had down 
on t' shore ; and we sheltered under a rock. It's a 
weary coming home to this dark place, and to find 
my own mother set against me." 



EESCUED FKOM THE WAVES. 



45 



e( Take him his tea, like a good lassie. I'll answer 
for it he'll be all right. A man takes it hardly 
when he comes in tired, a-thinking his wife will be 
there to cheer him up a bit, to find her off, and never 
know nought of t' reason why." 

" I'm glad enough I've getten a baby," said Sylvia, 
" but for ought else I wish I had niver been married, 
I do!" 

" Hush thee, lass ! " said Hester, rising up indig- 
nant ; "now that is a sin. Eh ! if thou only knew 
the lot o' some folk. But let's talk no more on that, 
that cannot be helped ; go take him his tea, for it's a 
sad thing to think on him fasting all this time." 

Hester's voice was raised by the simple fact of her 
change of position; and the word fasting caught 
Mrs. Robson's ear, as she sate at her knitting by the 
chimney-corner. 

"Fasting? he said thou didn't care if he were 
full or fasting. Lassie ! it's not right in thee, I say ; 
go take him his tea at once." 

Sylvia rose, and gave up the baby, which she had 
been suckling, to Nancy, who having done her wash- 
ing, had come for her charge, to put it to bed. Sylvia 
kissed it fondly, making a little moan of sad, passion- 
ate tenderness as she did so. Then she took the cup 
of tea ; but she said, rather defiantly, to Hester,- — 



46 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" I'll go to him with it, because mother bids me, 
and it'll ease her mind." 

Then louder to her mother, she added, — 

(( Mother, I'll take him his tea, though I couldn't 
help the being out." 

If the act itself was conciliatory, the spirit in which 
she was going to do it was the reverse. Hester 
followed her slowly into the ware-room, with inten- 
tional delay, thinking that her presence might be an 
obstacle to their mutally understanding one another. 
Sylvia held the cup and plate of bread and butter 
out to Philip, but avoided meeting his eye, and said 
not a word of explanation or regret, or self-justification. 
If she had spoken, though ever so crossly, Philip 
would have been relieved, and would have preferred 
it to her silence. He wanted to provoke her to 
speech, but did not know how to begin. 

"Thou's been out again wandering on that sea- 
shore ! " said he. She did not answer him. " I 
cannot think what's always taking thee there, when 
one would ha' thought a walk up to Esdale would be 
far more sheltered both for thee and baby in such 
weather as this. Thou'll be having that baby ill 
some of these days." 

At this, she looked up at him, and her lips moved 
as though she were going to say something. Oh, how 



RESCUED EROM THE WAVES. 



47 



he wished she would, that they might come to a 
wholesome quarrel, and a making friends again, and a 
tender kissing, in which he might whisper penitence 
for all his hasty words, or unreasonable vexation. 
But she had come resolved not to speak for fear 
of showing too much passion, too much emotion. 
Only as she was going away she turned and said, 

Cf Philip, mother hasn't many more years to live ; 
dunnot grieve her, and set her against me by finding 
fault wi' me afore her. Our being wed were a great 
mistake ; but before t' poor old widow woman let us 
make as if we were happy." 

" Sylvia ! Sylvia ! " he called after her. She must 
have heard, but she did not turn. He went after her 
and seized her by the arm, rather roughly ; she had 
stung him to the heart with her calm words, which 
seemed to reveal a long-formed conviction. 

€e Sylvia ! " said he, almost fiercely, ee what do you 
mean by what yo've said ? Speak ! I will have an 
answer." 

He almost shook her : she was half frightened by 
his vehemence of behaviour, which she took for pure 
anger, while it was the outburst of agonized and un- 
requited love. 

" Let me go ! Oh, Philip, yo' hurt me ! " 

Just at this moment Hester came up ; Philip was 



48 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



ashamed of his passionate ways in her serene presence, 
and loosened his grasp of his wife, and she ran away; 
ran into her mother's empty room, as to a solitary 
place, and there burst into that sobbing, miserable 
erying which we instinctively know is too surely 
lessening the length of our days on earth to be 
indulged in often. 

When she had exhausted that first burst and lay 
weak and quiet for a time, she listened in dreading 
expectation of the sound of his footstep coming in 
search of her to make friends. But he w T as detained 
below on business, and never came. Instead, her 
mother came clambering up the stairs ; she was now 
in the habit of going to bed between seven and eight, 
and to-night she was retiring at even an earlier 
hour. 

Sylvia sprang up and drew down the window- 
blind, and made her face and manner as composed as 
possible in order to soothe and comfort her mother's 
last waking hours. She helped her to bed with 
gentle patience; the restraint imposed upon her by 
her tender filial love was good for her, though all the 
time she was longing to be alone to have another wild 
outburst. When her mother was going off to sleep, 
Sylvia went to look at her baby, also in a soft sleep. 
Then she gazed out at the evening sky, high above 



RESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 



49 



the tiled roofs of the opposite houses, and the longing 
to be out under the peaceful heavens took possession 
of her once more. 

" It's my only comfort," said she to herself ; " and 
there's no earthly harm in it. I would ha' been at 
home to his tea, if I could; but when he doesn't 
want me, and mother doesn't want me, and baby is 
either in my arms or asleep; why, I'll go and cry my 
fill out under yon great quiet sky. I cannot stay in t' 
house to be choked up wi' my tears, nor yet to have him 
coming about me either for scolding or peace-making." 
" So she put on her things and went out again ; this 
time along the High Street and up the long flights of 
steps towards the parish church, and there she stood 
and thought that here she had first met Kinraid at 
Darley's burying, and she tried to recall the very 
look of all the sad, earnest faces round the open 
grave — the whole scene, in fact ; and let herself give 
way to the miserable regrets she had so often tried to 
control. Then she walked on, crying bitterly, 
almost unawares to herself; on through the high 
bleak fields at the summit of the cliffs ; fields 
bounded by loose stone fences, and far from all sight 
of the habitation of man. But, below, the sea rose 
and raged ; it was high water at the highest tide, and 
the wind blew gustily from the land, vainly com- 

VOL. in. 43 



50 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



bating the great waves that came invincibly up with 
a roar and an impotent furious dash against the base 
of the cliffs below. 

Sylvia heard the sound of the passionate rush and 
rebound of many waters, like the shock of mighty 
guns, whenever the other sound of the blustering 
gusty wind was lulled for an instant. She was more 
quieted by this tempest of the elements than she 
would have been had all nature seemed as still as she 
had imagined it to be while she was yet in-doors and 
only saw a part of the serene sky. 

She fixed on a certain point, in her own mind, 
which she would reach, and then turn back again. 
It was where the outline of the land curved inwards, 
dipping into a little bay. Here the field-path she 
had hitherto followed descended somewhat abruptly 
to a cluster of fishermen's cottages, hardly large 
enough to be called a village ; and then the narrow 
road-way wound up the rising ground till it again 
reached the summit of the cliffs that stretched along 
the coast for many and many a mile. 

Sylvia said to herself that she would turn home- 
wards when she came within sight of this cove, — 
Headlington Cove, they called it. All the way along 
she had met no one since she had left the town, but 
just as she had got over the last stile, or ladder of 



KESCUED EROM THE WAVES. 



51 



stepping-stones, into the field from which the path 
descended, she came upon a number of people, quite 
a crowd, in fact; men moving forward in a steady 
line, hauling at a rope, a chain, or something of that 
kind; boys, children, and women holding babies in 
their arms, as if all were fain to come out, and partake 
in some general interest. 

They kept within a certain distance from the edge 
of the cliff, and Sylvia, advancing a little, now saw 
the reason why. The great cable the men held was 
attached to some part of a smack, which could now be 
seen by her in the waters below, half dismantled, and 
all but a wreck, yet with her deck covered with 
living men, as far as the waning light would allow 
her to see. The vessel strained to get free of the 
strong guiding cable ; the tide was turning, the wind 
was blowing off shore, and Sylvia knew without 
being told, that, almost parallel to this was a line 
of sunken rocks that had been fatal to many a 
ship before now, if she had tried to take the inner 
channel instead of keeping out to sea for miles, and 
then steering in straight for Monkshaven port. And 
the ships that had been thus lost had been in good 
plight and order compared to this vessel, which 
seemed nothing but a hull without mast or sail. 

By this time, the crowd — the fishermen from the 

43—2 



52 



Sylvia's lovers. 



hamlet down below, with their wives and children — 
all had come but the bedridden, — had reached the 
place where Sylvia stood. The women, in a state of 
wild excitement, rushed on, encouraging their hus- 
bands and sons by words, even while they hindered 
them by actions; and, from time to time, one of them 
would run to the edge of the cliff and shout out some 
brave words of hope in her shrill voice to the crew 
on the deck below. Whether these latter heard it 
or not, no one could tell ; but it seemed as if all 
human voice must be lost in the tempestuous stun 
and tumult of wind and wave. It was generally 
a woman with a child in her arms who so employed 
herself. As the strain upon the cable became greater, 
and the ground on which they strove more uneven, 
every hand was needed to hold and push, and all 
those women who were unencumbered held by the dear 
rope on which so many lives were depending. On 
they came, a long line of human beings, black against 
the ruddy sunset sky. As they came near Sylvia, a 
woman cried out, 

" Dunnot stand idle, lass, but hold on wi' us ; there's 
many a bonny life at stake, and many a mother's 
heart a-hanging on this bit o' hemp. Take hold, 
lass, and give a firm grip, and God remember thee 
i' thy need." 



EES CUED EROM THE WAVES. 53 



Sylvia needed no second word ; a place was made 
for her, and in an instant more the rope was pulling 
against her hands till it seemed as though she was 
holding fire in her bare palms. Never a one of 
them thought of letting go for an instant, though 
when all was over many of their hands were raw 
and bleeding. Some strong, experienced fishermen 
passed a word along the line from time to time, 
giving directions as to how it should be held 
according to varying occasions; but few among the 
rest had breath or strength enough to speak. The 
women and children that accompanied them ran on 
before, breaking down the loose stone fences, so as 
to obviate delay or hindrance; they talked con- 
tinually, exhorting, encouraging, explaining. From 
their many words and fragmentary sentences, Sylvia 
learnt that the vessel was supposed to be a Newcastle 
smack sailing from London, that had taken the 
dangerous inner channel to save time, and had been 
caught in the storm, which she was too crazy to 
withstand ; and that if by some daring contrivance 
of the fishermen who had first seen her the cable 
had not been got ashore, she would have been cast 
upon the rocks before this, and " all on board 
perished." 

" It were daylight then," quoth one woman ; e{ a 



54 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



could see their faces, they were so near. They were 
as pale as dead men, and one was praying down on 
his knees. There was a king's officer on board, for I 
saw the gold about him." 

" He'd maybe come from these hom'ard parts, and 
be coming to see his own folk ; else it's no common 
for king's officers to sail in aught but king's ships." 

"Eh! but it's gettin' dark! See there's tf 
lights in t' houses in t' New Town! T' grass is 
crisping wi' t' white frost under our feet. It'll be 
a hard tug round t' point, and then she'll be gettin' 
into still waters." 

One more great push and mighty strain, and the 
danger was past; the vessel — or what remained of 
her — was in the harbour, among the lights and 
cheerful sounds of safety. The fishermen sprang 
down the cliff to the quay side, anxious to see the 
men whose lives they had saved ; the women, weary 
and over-excited, began to cry. Not Sylvia, however ; 
her fount of tears had been exhausted earlier in the 
day : her principal feeling was of gladness and high 
rejoicing that they were saved who had been so near 
to death not half an hour before. 

She would have liked to have seen the men, and 
shaken hands with them all round. But instead she 
must go home, and well would it be with her if she 



EESCUED FROM THE WAVES. 



55 



was in time for her husband's supper, and escaped 
any notice of her absence. So she separated herself 
from the groups of women who sate on the grass 
in the churchyard, awaiting the return of such of their 
husbands as could resist the fascinations of the 
Monkshaven public-houses. As Sylvia went down 
the church steps, she came upon one of the fishermen 
who had helped to tow the vessel into port. 

u There was seventeen men and boys aboard her, 
and a navy-lieutenant as had corned as passenger. 
It were a good job as we could manage her. Good- 
night to thee, thou'll sleep all the sounder for having 
lent a hand." 

The street air felt hot and close after the sharp 
keen atmosphere of the heights above; the decent 
shops and houses had all their shutters put up, and 
were preparing for their early bed-time. Already 
lights shone here and there in the upper chambers, 
and Sylvia scarcely met any one. 

She went round up the passage from the quay 
side, and in by the private door. All was still ; the 
basins of bread and milk that she and her husband 
* were in the habit of having for supper stood in 
the fender before the fire, each with a plate upon 
them. Nanny had gone to bed, Phoebe dozed in the 
kitchen ; Philip was still in the ware-room, arranging 



56 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



goods and taking stock along with Coulson, for 
Hester had gone home to her mother. 

Sylvia was not willing to go and seek out Philip, 
after the manner in which they had parted. All the 
despondency of her life became present to her again 
as she sate down within her home. She had for- 
gotten it in her interest and excitement, but now 
it came back again. 

Still she was hungry, and youthful, and tired. 
She took her basin up, and was eating her supper 
when she heard a cry of her baby upstairs, and 
ran away to attend to it. When it had been fed 
and hushed away to sleep, she went in to see her 
mother, attracted by some unusual noise in her 
room. 

She found Mrs. Robson awake, and restless, and 
ailing ; dwelling much on what Philip had said in 
his anger against Sylvia. It was really necessary 
for her daughter to remain with her; so Sylvia 
stole out, and went quickly downstairs to Philip — 
now sitting tired and worn out, and eating his supper 
with little or no appetite — and told him she meant 
to pass the night with her mother. 

His answer of acquiescence was so short and care- 
less, or so it seemed to her, that she did not tell him 
any more of what she had done or seen that evening, 



EESCUED EKOM THE WAVES. 57 



or even dwell upon any details of her mother's indis- 
position. 

As soon as she had left the room, Philip set down 
his half-finished basin of bread and milk, and sate 
long, his face hidden in his folded arms. The wick 
of the candle grew long and black, and fell, and 
sputtered, and guttered ; he sate on, unheeding either 
it or the pale grey fire that was dying out — dead 
at last. 



58 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTER IV. 

AN APPARITION. 

Mrs. Robson was very poorly all night long. Un- 
easy thoughts seemed to haunt and perplex her brain, 
and she neither slept nor woke, but was restless and 
uneasy in her talk and movements. 

Sylvia lay down by her, but got so little sleep, that 
at length she preferred sitting in the easy chair by 
the bedside. Here she dropped off to slumber in 
spite of herself; the scene of the evening before 
seemed to be repeated ; the cries of the many people, 
heavy roar and dash of the threatening waves, were 
repeated in her ears ; and something was said to her 
through all the conflicting noises, — what .it was she 
could not catch, though she strained to hear the 
hoarse murmur that, in her dream, she believed to 
convey a meaning of the utmost importance to her. 

This dream, that mysterious, only half intelligible 
sound, recurred whenever she dozed, and her inability 
to hear the words uttered distressed her so much, 



AN APPARITION. 



59 



that at length she sate bolt upright, resolved to sleep 
no more. Her mother was talking in a half-conscious 
way ; Philip's speech of the evening before was evi- 
dently running in her mind. 

" Sylvie, if thou're not a good wife to him, it'll just 
break my heart outright. A woman should obey her 
husband, and not go her own gait. I never leave 
the house wi'out telling father, and getting his 
leave." 

And then she began to cry pitifully, and to say 
unconnected things, till Sylvia, to soothe her, took 
her hand, and promised never to leave the house 
without asking her husband's permission, though in 
making this promise, she felt as if she were sacrificing 
her last pleasure to her mother's wish ; for she knew 
well enough that Philip would always raise objec- 
tions to the rambles which reminded her of her old 
free open-air life. 

But to comfort and cherish her mother she would 
have done anything ; yet this very morning that was 
dawning, she must go and ask his permission for 
a simple errand, or break her word. 

She knew from experience that nothing quieted 
her mother so well as balm-tea ; it might be that the 
herb really possessed some sedative power ; it might 
be only early faith, and often repeated experience, but 



60 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



it had always had a tranquillizing effect ; and more 
than once, during the restless hours of the night, 
Mrs. Robson had asked for it ; but Sylvia's stock of 
last year's dead leaves was exhausted. Still she 
knew where a plant of balm grew in the sheltered 
corner of Haytersbank Farm garden ; she knew that 
the tenants who had succeeded them in the occupa- 
tion of the farm had had to leave it in consequence 
of a death, and that the place was unoccupied ; and 
in the darkness she had planned that if she could 
leave her mother after the dawn came, and she had 
attended to her baby, she would walk quickly to the 
old garden and gather the tender sprigs which she 
was sure to find there. 

Now she must go and ask Philip ; and till she held 
her baby to her breast, she bitterly wished that she 
were free from the duties and chains of matrimony. 
But the touch of its waxen fingers, the hold of its 
little mouth, made her relax into docility and gentle- 
ness. She gave it back to Nancy to be dressed, and 
softly opened the door of Philip's bed-room. 

" Philip ! " said she, gently. " Philip ! " 

He started up from dreams of her ; of her, angry. 
He saw her there, rather pale with her night's watch 
and anxiety, but looking meek, and a little beseeching. 

" Mother has had such a bad night ! she fancied 



AN APPARITION. 



61 



once as some balm-tea would do her good — it allays 
used to ; but my dried balm is all gone, and I thought 
there'd be sure to be some in t' old garden at 
Haytersbank. Father planted a bush just for 
mother , where it allays came up early, nigh t' old 
elder-tree ; and if yo'd not mind, I could run there 
while she sleeps, and be back again in an hour, and 
it's not seven now." 

ee Thou's not wear thyself out with running, 
Sylvie," said Philip, eagerly ; " I'll get up and go 
myself, or perhaps," continued he, catching the shadow 
that was coming over her face, "thou'd rather go 
thyself: it's only that I'm so afraid of thy tiring 
thyself." 

ee It'll not tire me," said Sylvia. " Afore I was 
married, I was out often far farther than that, afield 
to fetch up t' kine, before my breakfast." 

"Well, go if thou will," said Philip. "But get 
somewhat to eat first, and don't hurry; there's no 
need for that." 

She had got her hat and shawl, and was off before 
he had finished his last words. 

The long High Street was almost empty of people 
at that early hour ; one side was entirely covered by 
the cool morning shadow which lay on the pavement, 
and crept up the opposite houses till only the topmost 



62 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



story caught the rosy sunlight. Up the hill -road, 
through the gap in the stone wall, across the dewy 
fields, Sylvia went by the very shortest path she 
knew. 

She had only once been at Haytersbank since her 
wedding-day. On that occasion the place had seemed 
strangely and dissonantly changed by the numerous 
children who were diverting themselves before the 
open door, and whose playthings and clothes strewed 
the house-place, and made it one busy scene of con- 
fusion and untidiness, more like the Corneys' kitchen 
in former times, than her mother's orderly and quiet 
abode. Those little children were fatherless now; 
and the house was shut up, awaiting the entry of 
some new tenant. There were no shutters to shut ; 
the long low window was blinking in the rays of the 
morning sun; the house and cow-house doors were 
closed, and no poultry wandered about the field in 
search of stray grains of corn, or early worms. It 
was a strange and unfamiliar silence, and struck 
solemnly on Sylvia's mind. Only a thrush in the old 
orchard down in the hollow, out of sight, whistled 
and gurgled with continual shrill melody. 

Sylvia went slowly past the house and down the 
path leading to the wild, deserted bit of garden. She 
saw that the last tenants had had a pump sunk for 



AN APPARITION. 



63 



them, and resented the innovation, as though the well 
she was passing could feel the insult. Over it grew 
two hawthorn trees ; on the bent trunk of one of them 
she used to sit, long ago : the charm of the position 
being enhanced by the possible danger of falling into 
the well and being drowned. The rusty unused 
chain was wound round the windlass ; the bucket was 
falling to pieces from dryness. A lean cat came from 
some outhouse, and mewed pitifully with hunger; 
accompanying Sylvia to the garden, as if glad of some 
human companionship, yet refusing to allow itself to be 
touched. Primroses grew in the sheltered places, just 
as they formerly did; and made the uncultivated 
ground seem less deserted than the garden, where the 
last year's weeds were rotting away, and cumbering 
the ground. 

Sylvia forced her way through the berry bushes to 
the herb-plot, and plucked the tender leaves she had 
come to seek ; sighing a little all the time. Then she 
retraced her steps ; paused softly before the house- 
door, and entered the porch and kissed the senseless 
wood. 

She tried to tempt the poor gaunt cat into her 
arms, meaning to carry it home and befriend it ; but 
it was scared by her endeavour and ran back to its 
home in the outhouse, making a green path across the 



64 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



white dew of the meadow. Then Sylvia began to 
hasten home, thinking, and remembering — at the style 
that led into the road she was brought short up. 

Some one stood in the lane just on the other side of 
the gap ; his back was to the morning sun ; all she 
saw at first was the uniform of a naval officer, so 
well known in Monkshaven in those days. 

Sylvia went hurrying past him, not looking again, 
although her clothes almost brushed his, as he stood 
there still. She had not gone a yard — no, not half a 
yard — when her heart leaped up and fell again dead 
within her, as if she had been shot. 

" Sylvia ! " he said, in a voice tremulous with joy 
and passionate love. " Sylvia ! " 

She looked round ; he had turned a little, so that 
the light fell straight on his face. It was bronzed, 
and the lines were strengthened; but it was the same 
face she had last seen in Haytersbank Gully three long 
years ago and had never thought to see in life again. 

He was close to her and held out his fond arms ; 
she went fluttering towards their embrace, as if drawn 
by the old fascination ; but when she felt them close 
round her, she started away, and cried out with a 
great pitiful shriek, and put her hands up to her fore- 
head as if trying to clear away some bewildering 
mist 



AN APPARITION. 



65 



Then she looked at him once more, a terrible story 
in her eyes, if he could but have read it. 

Twice she opened her stiff lips to speak, and twice 
the words were overwhelmed by the surges of her 
misery, which bore them back into the depths of her 
heart. 

He thought that he had come upon her too suddenly, 
and he attemped to soothe her with soft murmurs 
of love, and to woo her to his outstretched hungry 
arms once more. But when she saw this motion of 
his, she made a gesture as though pushing him away; 
and with an inarticulate moan of agony she put her 
hands to her head once more, and turning away began 
to run blindly towards the town for protection. 

For a minute or so he was stunned with surprise at 
her behaviour ; and then he thought it accounted for 
by the shock of his accost, and that she needed time 
to understand the unexpected joy. So he followed 
her swiftly, ever keeping her in view T , but not trying 
to overtake her too speedily. 

ec I have frightened my poor love," he kept think- 
ing. And by this thought he tried to repress his 
impatience and check the speed he longed to use; yet 
he was always so near behind that her quickened 
sense heard his well known footsteps following, and a 
mad notion flashed across her brain that she would 

vol. in. 44 



66 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



go to the wide full river, and end the hopeless misery 
she felt enshrouding her. There was a sure hiding 
place from all human reproach and heavy mortal woe 
beneath the rushing waters borne landwards by the 
morning tide. 

No one can tell what changed her course ; perhaps 
the thought of her sucking child; perhaps her mother; 
perhaps an angel of God ; no one on earth knows, but 
as she ran along the quay side she all at once turned 
up an entry, and through an open door. 

He, following all the time, came into a quiet, dark 
parlour, with a cloth and tea things on the table 
ready for breakfast; the change from the bright 
sunny air out of doors to the deep shadow of this 
room made him think for the first moment that she 
had passed on, and that no one was there, and he stood 
for an instant baffled, and hearing no sound but the 
beating of his own heart; but an irrepressible sobbing 
gasp made him look round, and there he saw her 
cowered behind the door, her face covered tight up^ 
and sharp shudders going through her whole frame. 

cc My love, my darling ! " said he, going up to her y 
and trying to raise her, and to loosen her hands 
away from her face. " I have been too sudden for 
thee : it was thoughtless in me ; but I have so looked 
forward to this time, and seeing thee come along the 



AN APPAKITION. 



67 



field, and go past me ; but I should ha' been more 
tender and careful of thee. Nay! let me have 
another look of thy sweet face." 

All this he whispered in the old tones of 
manoeuvring love, in that voice she had yearned and 
hungered to hear in life, and had not heard, for all 
her longing, save in her dreams. 

She tried to crouch more and more into the corner, 
into the hidden shadow — to sink into the ground out 
of sight. 

Once more he spoke, beseeching her to lift up her 
face, to let him hear her speak. 
But she only moaned. 

(e Sylvia ! " said he, thinking he could change his 
tactics, and pique her into speaking, that he would 
make a pretence of suspicion and offence. 

" Sylvia ! one would think you were not glad to 
see me back again at length. I only came in late 
last night, and my first thought on wakening was of 
you ; it has been ever since I left you." 

Sylvia took her hands away from her face ; it was 
grey as the face of death ; her awful eyes were 
passionless in her despair. 

"Where have yo' been?" she asked, in slow, 
hoarse tones, as if her voice were half strangled 
within her. 

44—2 



68 



SYLVIA'S LOVEBS. 



" Been ! " said he, a red light coming into his eyes, 
as he bent his looks upon her; now, indeed, a 
true and not an assumed suspicion entering his 
mind. 

" Been ! " he repeated ; then, coming a step nearer 
to her, and taking her hand, not tenderly this time, 
but with a resolution to be satisfied. 

" Did not your cousin — Hepburn, I mean — did not 
he tell you?— -he saw the press-gang seize me, — I 
gave him a message to you — I bade you keep true to 
me as I would be to you." 

Between every clause of this speech he paused and 
gasped for her answer; but none came. Her eyes 
dilated and held his steady gaze prisoner as with 
.a magical charm — neither could look away from the 
other's wild, searching gaze. When he had ended, 
-she was silent for a moment, then she cried out, 
shrill and fierce, 

" Philip ! " No answer. 

Wilder and shriller still, " Philip ! " she cried. 

He was in the distant ware-room completing the 
last night's work before the regular shop hours 
began ; before breakfast, also, that his wife might not 
find him waiting and impatient. 

He heard her cry ; it cut through doors, and still 
air, and great bales of woollen stuff ; he thought that 



AN APPARITION. 



69 



she had hurt herself, that her mother was worse, that 
her baby was ill, and he hastened to the spot whence 
the cry proceeded. 

On opening the door that separated the shop from 
the sitting-room, he saw the back of a naval officer, 
and his wife on the ground, huddled up in a heap ; 
when she perceived him come in, she dragged herself 
up by means of a chair, groping like a blind person, 
and came and stood facing him. 

The officer turned fiercely round, and would have 
come towards Philip, who was so bewildered by the 
scene that even yet he did not understand who the 
stranger was, did not perceive for an instant that he 
saw the realization of his greatest dread. 

But Sylvia laid her hand on Kinraid's arm, and 
assumed to herself the right of speech. Philip did not 
know her voice, it was so changed. 

" Philip," she said, " this is Kinraid come back 
again to wed me. He is alive ; he has niver been 
dead, only taken by t' press-gang. And he says 
yo' saw it, and knew it all t' time. Speak, was it 
so?" 

Philip knew not what to say, whither to turn, 
under what refuge of words or acts to shelter. 

Sylvia's influence was keeping Kinraid silent, but 
he was rapidly passing beyond it. 



70 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



c( Speak ! " lie cried, loosening himself from 
Sylvia's light grasp, and coming towards Philip, with 
a threatening gesture. " Did I not bid you tell her 
how it was ? did I not bid you say how I would be 
faithful to her, and she was to be faithful to me ? Oh ! 
you damned scoundrel! have you kept it from her 
all that time, and let her think me dead, or false ? 
Take that!" 

His closed fist was up to strike the man, who hung 
his head with bitterest shame and miserable self- 
reproach ; but Sylvia came swift between the blow 
and its victim. 

"Charley, thou shan't strike him," she said. 
" He is a damned scoundrel " (this was said in the 
hardest, quietest tone), " but he is my husband." 

(( Oh ! thou false heart ! " exclaimed Kinraid, 
turning sharp on her. u If ever I trusted woman, I 
trusted you, Sylvia Robson." 

He made as though throwing her from him, with a 
gesture of contempt that stung her to life. 

ee Oh, Charley ! " she cried, springing to him, 
" dunnot cut me to the quick ; have pity on me, 
though he had none. I did so love thee ; it was my 
very heart-strings as gave way when they told me 
thou was drowned — father, and the Corneys, and all, 
iverybody. Thy hat and the bit of ribbon I gave 



AN APPAKITTON. 71 

thee were found drenched and dripping wi' sea- 
water; and I went mourning for thee all the day 
long — dunnot turn away from me ; only hearken 
this once, and then kill me dead, and I'll bless you, — 
and have niver been mysel' since; niver ceased to 
feel the sun grow dark and the air chill and dreary 
when I thought on the time when thou was alive. 
I did, my Charley, my own love ! And I thought that 
thou was dead for iver, and I wished I were lying beside 
thee. Oh, Charley ! Philip, there where he stands, 
could tell you this was true. Philip, wasn't it so ? " 

<e Would God I were dead ! " moaned forth the 
unhappy, guilty man. But she had turned to Kin- 
raid, and was speaking again to him, and neither 
of them heard or heeded him — they were drawing 
closer and closer together — she, with her cheeks and 
eyes aflame, talking eagerly. 

" And father was taken up, and all for setting some 
free as t' press-gang had taken by a foul trick ; and 
he were put in York prison, and tried, and hung ! — 
hung ! Charley ! — good kind father was hung on a 
gallows ; and mother lost her sense and grew silly 
in grief, and we were like to be turned out on t' 
wide world, and poor mother dateless — and I thought 
yo' were dead — oh ! I thought yo' were dead, I did — 
oh, Charley, Charky ! " 



72 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



By this time they were in each other's arms, she 
with her head on his shoulder, crying as if her heart 
would break. 

Philip came forwards and took hold of her to pull 
her away ; but Charley held her tight, mutely defying 
Philip. Unconsciously, she was Philip's protection, in 
that hour of danger, from a blow which might have 
been his death if strong will could have aided it 
to kill. 

" Sylvia ! " said he, grasping her tight. " Listen 
to me. He did not love you as I did. He had 
loved other women. I, you — you alone. He had 
loved other girls before you, and had left off loving 
them. I — I wish God would free my heart from 
the pang ; but it will go on till I die, whether you 
love me or not. And then — where was I? Oh! 
that very night that he was taken, I was a-thinking 
' on you and on him ; and I might ha' given you his 
message, but I heard those speaking of him who 
knew him well ; they talked of his false fickle ways. 
How was I to know he would keep true to thee? 
It might be a sin in me, I cannot say; my heart 
and my sense are gone dead within me. I know 
this, I have loved you as no man but me ever loved 
before. Have some pity and forgiveness on me, if it's 
only because I have been so tormented with my love." 



AN APPAEITION. 



73 



He looked at her with feverish eager wistfulness ; 
it faded away into despair as she made no sign of 
having even heard his words. He let go his hold 
of her, and his arm fell loosely by his side. 

" I may die/' he said, <f for my life is ended ! " 

" Sylvia ! " spoke out Kinraid, bold and fervent, 
" your marriage is no marriage. You were tricked 
into it. You are my wife, not his. I am your 
husband ; we plighted each other our troth. See ! 
here is my half of the sixpence." 

He pulled it out from his bosom, tied by a black 
ribbon round his neck. 

" When they stripped me and searched me in the 
French prison, I managed to keep this. No lies can 
break the oath we swore to each other. I can get 
your pretence of a marriage set aside. I am in 
favour with my admiral, and he will do a deal for 
me, and will back me out. Come with me ; your 
marriage shall be set aside, and we'll be married 
again, all square and above-board. Come away. 
Leave that damned fellow to repent of the trick he 
played an honest sailor ; we'll be true, whatever has 
come and gone. Come, Sylvia." 

His arm was round her waist, and he was drawing 
her towards the door, his face all crimson with eager- 
ness and hope. Just then the baby cried. 



74 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



" Hark ! " said she, starting away from Kinraid, 
"baby is crying for me. His child — yes, it is his 
child — I had forgotten that — forgotten all. I'll make 
my vow now, lest I lose mysel' again. I'll niver 
forgive yon man, nor live with him as his wife again. 
All that's done and ended. He's spoilt my life, — he's 
spoilt it for as long as iver I live on this earth ; but 
neither you nor him shall spoil my soul. It goes 
hard wi' me, Charley, it does indeed. I'll just give 
you one kiss — >one little kiss — and then, so help me 
God, I'll niver see nor hear till — no, not that, not 
that is needed — I'll niver see — sure that's enough — 
I'll niver see yo' again on this side heaven, so help 
me God ! I'm bound and tied, but I have sworn my 
oath to him as well as yo' : there's things I will do, 
and there's things I won't. Kiss me once more. 
God help me, he is gone ! " 



75 



CHAPTER V. 

A RECKLESS RECRUIT. 

She lay across a chair, her arms helplessly stretched 
out, her face unseen. Every now and then a thrill 
ran through her body : she was talking to herself all 
the time with incessant low incontinence of words. 

Philip stood near her, motionless : he did not know 
whether she was conscious of his presence ; in fact, 
he knew nothing but that he and she were sundered 
for ever ; he could only take in that one idea, and 
it numbed all other thought. 

Once more her baby cried for the comfort she 
alone could give. 

She rose to her feet, but staggered when she tried 
to walk; her glazed eyes fell upon Philip as he 
instinctively made a step to hold her steady. No 
light came into her eyes any more than if she had 
looked upon a perfect stranger ; not even was there 
the contraction of dislike. Some other figure filled 
her mind, and she saw him no more than she saw the 



76 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



inanimate table. That way of looking at him 
withered him up more than any sign of aversion 
would have done. 

He watched her laboriously climb the stairs, and 
vanish, out of sight; and sat down with a sudden 
feeling of extreme bodily weakness. 

The door of communication between the parlour 
and the shop was opened. That was the first event 
of which Philip took note ; but Phoebe had come in 
unawares to him, with the intention of removing the 
breakfast things on her return from market, and 
seeing them unused, and knowing that Sylvia had 
sate up all night with her mother, she had gone 
back to the kitchen. Philip had neither seen nor 
heard her. 

Now Coulson came in, amazed at Hepburn's non- 
appearance in the shop. 

"Why! Philip, what's ado? How ill you look, 
man ! " exclaimed he, thoroughly alarmed by Philip's 
ghastly appearance. (( What's the matter ? " 

" I ! " said Philip, slowly gathering his thoughts. 
" Why should there be anything the matter ? " 

His instinct, quicker to act than his reason, made 
him shrink from his misery being noticed, much 
more made any subject for explanation or sympathy. 

" There may be nothing the matter wi' thee," said 



A EECKLESS EECKUIT. 



77 



Coulson, " but thou's the look of a corpse on thy 
face. I was afeard something was wrong, for it's 
half-past nine, and thee so punctual ! " 

He almost guarded Philip into the shop, and kept 
furtively watching him, and perplexing himself with 
Philip's odd, strange ways. 

Hester, too, observed the heavy broken-down ex- 
pression on Philip's ashen face, and her heart ached 
for him ; but after that first glance, which told her 
so much, she avoided all appearance of noticing or 
watching. Only a shadow brooded over her sweet, 
calm face, and once or twice she sighed to herself. 

It was market-day, and people came in and out, 
bringing their store of gossip from the country, or 
the town — from the farm or the quay-side. 

Among the pieces of news, the rescue of the 
smack the night before furnished a large topic ; and 
by-and-by Philip heard a name that startled him into 
attention. 

The landlady of a small public-house much fre- 
quented by sailors was talking to Coulson. 

" There was a sailor aboard of her who knew 
Kinraid by sight, in Shields, years ago; and he 
called him by his name afore they were well out 
of the river. And Kinraid was no ways set up, for 
all his lieutenant's uniform (and eh! but they say 



78 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



he looks handsome in it !) ; but he tells 'em all about 
it — how he was pressed aboard a man-o'-war, and for 
his good conduct were made a warrant officer, boat- 
swain, or something ! " 

All the people in the shop were listening now ; 
Philip alone seemed engrossed in folding up a piece 
of cloth, so as to leave no possible chance of creases 
in it ; yet he lost not a syllable of the good woman's 
narration. 

She, pleased with the enlarged audience her tale 
had attracted, went on with fresh vigour. 

"And there's a gallant captain, one Sir Sidney 
Smith, and he'd a notion o' going right into a French 
port, and carrying off a vessel from right under their 
very noses ; and says he, e Which of you British 
sailors '11 go along with me to death or glory ? ' 
So Kinraid stands up like a man, and e I'll go with 
you, captain,' he says. So they, and some others as 
brave, went off, and did their work, and choose what- 
iver it was, they did it famously; but they got 
caught by them French, and were clapped into a 
prison in France for iver so long; but at last one 
Philip — Philip something (he were a Frenchman, I 
know) — helped 'em to escape, in a fishing-boat. But 
they were welcomed by the whole British squadron 
as was in the Channel for the piece of daring they'd 



A EECKLESS RECRUIT. 



79 



done in cutting out t' sliip from a French port ; 
and Captain Sir Sidney Smith was made an admiral, 
and him as we used to call Charley Kinraid, the 
specksioneer, is made a lieutenant, and a commissioned 
officer in t' King's service ; and is come to great 
glory, and slep in my house this very blessed night 
as is just past ! " 

A murmur of applause and interest and rejoicing 
buzzed all around Philip. All this was publicly 
known about Kinraid, — and how much more ? All 
Monkshaven might hear to-morrow — nay, to-day — 
of Philip's treachery to the hero of the hour ; how 
he had concealed his fate, and supplanted him in his 
love. 

Philip shrank from the burst of popular indig- 
nation which he knew must follow. Any wrong 
done to one who stands on the pinnacle of the 
people's favour is resented by each individual as a 
personal injury ; and among a primitive set of 
country-folk, who recognize the wild passion in 
love, as it exists untamed by the trammels of reason 
and self-restraint, any story of baulked affections, 
or treachery in such matters, spreads like wildt 
fire. 

Philip knew this quite well ; his doom of disgrace 
lay plain before him, if only Kinraid spoke the word. 



80 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



His head was bent down while he thus listened and 
reflected. He half resolved on doing something ; he 
lifted up his head, caught the reflection of his face 
in the little strip of glass on the opposite side, in 
which the women might look at themselves in their 
contemplated purchases, and quite resolved. 

The sight he saw in the mirror was his own long 
sad pale face, made plainer and greyer by the heavy 
pressure of the morning's events. He saw his stoop- 
ing figure, his rounded shoulders, with something 
like a feeling of disgust at his personal appearance 
as he remembered the square, upright build of 
Kinraid ; his fine uniform, with epaulette and sword- 
belt ; his handsome brown face; his dark eyes, 
splendid with the fire of passion and indignation, 
his white teeth gleaming out with the terrible smile 
of scorn. 

The comparison drove Philip from passive hope- 
lessness to active despair. 

He went abruptly from the crowded shop into the 
empty parlour, and on into the kitchen where he 
took up a piece of bread, and heedless of Phoebe's 
look and words, began to eat it before he even left 
the place ; for he needed the strength that food 
would give ; he needed it to carry him out of the 
sight and the knowledge of all who might hear 



A RECKLESS RECRUIT. 



81 



what lie had done, and point out their fingers at 
him. 

He paused a moment in the parlour, and then, 
setting his teeth tight together, he went up-stairs, 

First of all he went into the bit of a room open- 
ing out of theirs, in which his baby slept. He 
dearly loved the child, and many a time would run 
in and play a while with it ; and in such gambols 
he and Sylvia had passed their happiest moments 
of wedded life. 

The little Bella was having her morning slumber ; 
Nancy used to tell long afterwards how he knelt 
down by the side of her cot, and was so strange 
she thought he must have prayed, for all it was nigh 
upon eleven o'clock, and folk in their senses only 
said their prayers when they got up, and when they 
went to bed. 

Then he rose, and stooped over, and gave the 
child a long, lingering, soft, fond kiss. 

And on tip-toe he passed aw T ay into the room 
where his aunt lay ; his aunt who had been so true 
a friend to him ! He was thankful to know that 
in her present state she was safe from the knowledge 
of what was past, safe from the sound of the shame 
to come. 

He had not meant to see Sylvia again ; he dreaded 
vol. in. 45 



82 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



the look of her hatred, her scorn ; but there, out- 
side her mother's bed she lay, apparently asleep. 
Mrs. Robson, too, was sleeping, her face towards the 
wall. Philip could not help it ; he went to have one 
last look at his wife. She was turned towards her 
mother, her face averted from him ; he could see the 
tear-stains, the swollen eye-lids, the lips yet quiver- 
ing : he stooped down, and bent to kiss the little hand 
that lay listless by her side. As his hot breath 
neared that hand it was twitched away, and a shiver 
ran through the whole prostrate body. And then 
he knew that she was not asleep, only worn out by 
her misery, — misery that he had caused. 

He sighed heavily; but he went away, down- 
stairs, and away for ever. Only as he entered the 
parlour his eyes caught on two silhouettes, one of 
himself, one of Sylvia, done in the first month of 
their marriage, by some wandering artist, if so he 
could be called. They were hanging against the 
wall in little oval wooden frames ; black profiles, with 
the lights done in gold ; about as poor semblances 
of humanity as could be conceived : but Philip went 
up, and after looking' for a minute or so at Sylvia's, 
he took it down, and buttoned his waistcoat over it. 

It was the only thing he took away from his home. 

He went down the entry on to the quay. The 



A KECKLESS RECRUIT. 



83 



river was there, and waters, they say, have a luring 
power, and a weird promise of rest in their perpetual 
monotony of sound. But many people were there, 
if such a temptation presented itself to Philip's mind ; 
the sight of his fellow-townsmen, perhaps of Ids 
acquaintances, drove him up another entry — the 
town is burrowed with such — back into the High 
Street, which he straightway crossed into a well- 
known court, out of which rough steps led to the sum- 
mit of the hill, and on to the fells and moors beyond. 

He plunged and panted up this rough ascent. 
From the top he could look down on the whole town 
lying below, severed by the bright shining river 
into two parts. To the right lay the sea, shimmering 
and heaving ; there were the cluster of masts rising 
out of the little port ; the irregular roofs of the 
houses ; which of them, thought he, as he carried 
his eye along the quay side to the market-place, 
which of them was his ? and he singled it out in its 
unfamiliar aspect, and saw the thin blue smoke 
rising from the kitchen chimney, where even now 
Phoebe was cooking the household meal that he never 
more must share. 

Up at that thought and away, he knew not and 
cared not where. He went through the ploughed 
fields where the corn was newly springing ; he came 

45—2 



84 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



down upon the vast sunny sea, and turned his back 
upon it with loathing ; he made his way inland to the 
high green pastures: the short upland turf above 
which the larks hung poised es at heaven's gate." He 
strode along, so straight and heedless of briar and 
bush, that the wild black cattle ceased from grazing, 
and looked after him with their great blank puzzled 
eyes. 

He had passed all enclosures and stone fences now, 
and was fairly on the desolate brown moors ; through 
the withered last year's ling and fern, through the 
prickly gorse, he tramped, crushing down the tender 
shoots of this year's growth, and heedless of the 
startled plover's cry, goaded by the furies. His only 
relief from thought, from the remembrance of Sylvia's 
looks and words, was in violent bodily action. 

So he went on till evening shadows and ruddy 
evening lights came out upon the wild fells. 

He had crossed roads and lanes, w r ith a bitter 
avoidance of men's tracks; but now the strong 
instinct of self-preservation came out, and his aching 
limbs, his weary heart, giving great pants and beats 
for a time, and then ceasing altogether till a mist 
swam and quivered before his aching eyes, warned 
him that he must find some shelter and food, or lie 
down to die. He fell down now, often ; stumbling 



A RECKLESS RECRUIT. 



85 



over the slightest obstacle. He had passed the cattle 
pastures; he was among the black-faced sheep; and 
they, too, ceased nibbling, and looked after him, and 
somehow in his poor wandering imagination their sill y 
faces turned to likenesses of Monkshaven people, — 
people who ought to be far, far away. 

" Thou'll be belated on these fells, if thou doesn't 
tak' heed," shouted some one. 

Philip looked abroad to see from whence the voice 
proceeded. 

An old stiff-legged shepherd, in a smock-frock, was 
within a couple of hundred yards. Philip did not 
answer, but staggered and stumbled towards him. 

ee Good lork ! " said the man, <c where hast ta 
been ? Thou's seen Old Harry, I think, thou looks 
so scared." 

Philip rallied himself, and tried to speak up to the 
old standard of respectability; but the effort was 
pitiful to see, had any one been by, who could have 
understood the pain it caused to restrain cries of 
bodily and mental agony. 

" I've lost my way, that's all." 

" 'Twould ha' been enough too, I'm thinking, if I 
hadn't come out after t' ewes. There's t' Three 
Griffins near at hand : a sup o' Hollands '11 set thee to 
rights." 



86 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



Philip followed faintly. He could not see before 
him, and was guided by the sound of footsteps rather 
than by the sight of the figure moving onwards. He 
kept stumbling ; and he knew that the old shepherd 
swore at him ; but he also knew such curses proceeded 
from no ill-will, only from annoyance at the delay in 
going and " seeing after t' ewes." But had the man's 
words conveyed the utmost expression of hatred, 
Philip would neither have wondered at them, nor 
resented them. 

They came into a wild mountain road, unfenced 
from the fells. A hundred yards off, and there was a 
small public-house, with a broad ruddy oblong of fire- 
light shining across the tract. 

6C There ! " said the old man. (e Thee cannot 
well miss that. A dunno tho', thee bees such a 
gawby." 

So he went on, and delivered Philip safely up to 
the landlord. 

ee Here's a felly as I found on t' fell side, just as one 
as if he were drunk ; but he's sober enough, a reckon^ 
only summat's wrong i' his head, a'm thinking." 

" No ! " said Philip, sitting down on the first chair 
he came to. "I'm right enough; just fairly wearied 
out : lost my way," and he fainted. 

There was a recruiting sergeant of marines sitting 



A EECKLESS RECRUIT. 



87 



in the houseplace, drinking. He, too, like Philip, had 
lost his way ; but was turning his blunder to account 
by telling all manner of wonderful stories to two or 
three rustics who had come in ready to drink on any 
pretence; especially if they could get good liquor 
without paying for it. 

The sergeant rose as Philip fell back, and brought 
up his own mug of beer, into which a noggin of gin 
had been put (called in Yorkshire 6i dog's-nose "). 
He partly poured and partly spilt some of this 
beverage on Philip's face ; some drops went through 
the pale and parted lips, and with a start the worn- 
out man revived. 

ce Bring him some victual, landlord," called out the 
recruiting sergeant. " I'll stand shot." 

They brought some cold bacon and coarse oat-cake. 
The sergeant asked for pepper and salt ; minced the 
food fine and made it savoury, and kept administer- 
ing it by teaspoonfuls ; urging Philip to drink from 
time to time from his own cup of dog's-nose. 

A burning thirst, which needed no stimulant from 
either pepper or salt, took possession of Philip, and he 
drank freely, scarcely recognizing what he drank. It 
took effect on one so habitually sober ; and he was 
soon in that state when the imagination works wildly 
and freely. 



88 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



He saw the sergeant before him, handsome, and 
bright, and active, in his gay red uniform, without a 
care, as it seemed to Philip, taking life lightly; 
admired and respected everywhere because of his 
cloth. 

If Philip were gay, and brisk, well-dressed like 
him, returning with martial glory to Monkshaven, 
would not Sylvia love him once more ? Could not 
he win her heart ? He was brave by nature, and the 
prospect of danger did not daunt him, if ever it pre- 
sented itself to his imagination. 

He thought he was cautious in entering on the 
subject of enlistment with his new friend, the 
sergeant ; but the latter was twenty times as cunning 
as he, and knew by experience how to bait his hook. 

Philip was older by some years than the regulation 
age ; but, at that time of great demand for men, the 
question of age was lightly entertained. The sergeant 
was profuse in statements of the advantages presented 
to a man of education in his branch of the service ; 
how such a one was sure to rise ; in fact, it would 
have seemed from the sergeant's account, as though 
the difficulty consisted in remaining in the ranks. 

Philip's dizzy head thought the subject over and 
over again, each time with failing power of reason. 

At length, almost, as it would seem, by some sleight 



A RECKLESS RECRUIT. 



89 



of hand, he found the fatal shilling in his palm, and 
had promised to go before the nearest magistrate to 
be sworn in as one of his Majesty's marines the next 
morning;. And after that he remembered nothing 
more. 

He wakened up in a little truckle-bed in the same 
room as the sergeant, who lay sleeping the sleep of 
full contentment ; while gradually, drop by drop, the 
bitter recollections of the day before came, filling up 
Philip's cup of agony. 

He knew that he had received the bounty-money ; 
and though he was aware that he had been partly 
tricked into it, and had no hope, no care, indeed, for 
any of the advantages so liberally promised him the 
night before, yet he was resigned, with utterly despon- 
dent passiveness, to the fate to which he had pledged 
himself. Anything was welcome that severed him 
from his former life, that could make him forget it, 
if that were possible; and also welcome anything 
which increased the chances of death without the 
sinfulness of his own participation in the act. He 
found in the dark recess of his mind the dead body 
of his fancy of the previous night; that he might 
come home, handsome and glorious, to win the love 
that had never been his. 

But he only sighed over it, and put it aside out of 



90 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



his sight — so full of despair was he. He could eat 
no breakfast, though the sergeant ordered of the best. 
The latter kept watching his new recruit out of the 
corner of his eye, expecting a remonstrance, or 
dreading a sudden bolt. 

But Philip walked with him the two or three miles 
in the most submissive silence, never uttering a 
syllable of regret or repentance ; and before Justice 
Cholmeley, of Holm-Fell Hall, he was sworn into his 
Majesty's service, under the name of Stephen 
Freeman. With a new name, he began a new life. 
Alas ! the old life lives for ever ! 



91 



CHAPTER VI. 

THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 

After Philip had passed out of the room, Sylvia lay 
perfectly still, from very exhaustion. Her mother 
slept on, happily unconscious of all the turmoil 
that had taken place ; yes, happily, though the heavy 
sleep was to end in death. But of this her daughter 
knew nothing, imagining that it was refreshing 
slumber, instead of an ebbing of life. Both mother and 
daughter lay motionless till Phoebe entered the room 
to tell Sylvia that dinner was on the table. 

Then Sylvia sate up, and put back her hair, 
bewildered and uncertain as to what was to be done 
next ; how she should meet the husband to whom she 
had discarded all allegiance, repudiated the SQlemn 
promise of love and obedience which she had vowed. 

Phoebe came into the room, with natural interest in 
the invalid, scarcely older than herself. 

" How is t' old lady ? " asked she, in a low 
voice. 



92 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Sylvia turned her head round to look ; her mother 
had never moved, but was breathing in a loud un- 
comfortable manner, that made her stoop over her to 
see the averted face more nearly. 

" Phoebe ! " she cried, " come here ! She looks 
strange and odd ; her eyes are open, but do not see 
me. Phoebe! Phoebe!" 

(e Sure enough, she's in a bad way ! " said Phcebe, 
climbing stiffly on the bed to have a nearer view. 
"Hold her head a little up to ease her breathing 
while I go for master ; he'll be for sending for t' 
doctor, I'll be bound." 

Sylvia took her mother's head and laid it fondly 
on her breast, speaking to her and trying to rouse her ; 
but it was of no avail : the hard, stertorous breathing 
grew worse and worse. 

Sylvia cried out for help ; Nancy came, the baby 
in her arms. They had been in several times before 
that morning ; and the child came smiling and 
crowing at its mother, who was supporting her own 
dying parent. 

" Oh, Nancy ! " said Sylvia ; " what is the matter 
with mother ? you can see her face ; tell me 
quick ! " 

Nancy set the baby on the bed for all reply, and 
ran out of the room, crying out, 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



93 



" Master ! master ! Come quick ! T' old missus 
is a-dying ! " 

This appeared to be no news to Sylvia, and yet the 
words came on her with a great shock, but for all 
that she could not cry ; she was surprised herself at 
her own deadness of feeling. 

Her baby crawled to her, and she had to hold and 
guard both her mother and her child. It seemed a long, 
long time before any one came, and then she heard 
muffled voices, and a heavy tramp : it was Phoebe 
leading the doctor upstairs, and Nancy creeping in 
behind to hear his opinion. 

He did not ask many questions, and Phoebe replied 
more frequently to his inquiries than did Sylvia, who 
looked into his face with a blank, tearless, speechless 
despair that gave him more pain than the sight of her 
dying mother. 

The long decay of Mrs. Robson's faculties and 
health, of which he was well aware, had, in a certain 
manner, prepared him for some such sudden termination 
of the life whose duration was hardly desirable, although 
he gave several directions as to her treatment ; but 
the white, pinched face, the great dilated eye, the 
slow comprehension of the younger woman, struck 
him with alarm ; and he went on asking for various 
particulars, more with a view of rousing Sylvia, if 



94 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



even it were to tears, than for any other purpose 
that the information thus obtained could answer. 

" You had best have pillows propped up behind her 
— it will not be for long ; she does not know that 
you are holding her, and it is only tiring you to no 
purpose ! " 

Sylvia's terrible stare continued ; he put his advice 
into action, and gently tried to loosen her clasp, and 
tender hold. This she resisted; laying her cheek 
against her poor mother's unconscious face. 

"Where is Hepburn?" said he. "He ought to 
be here ! " 

Phoebe looked at Nancy, Nancy at Phoebe. It was 
the latter who replied. 

" He's neither i' t' house nor i' t' shop. A seed 
him go past t' kitchen window better nor an hour 
ago; but neither William Coulson or Hester Rose 
knows where he's gone to." 

Dr. Morgan's lips were puckered up into a whistle, 
but he made no sound. 

" Give me baby ! " he said, suddenly. Nancy had 
taken her up off the bed where she had been sitting, 
encircled by her mother's arm. The nursemaid gave 
her to the doctor. He watched the mother's eye, it 
followed her child, and he was rejoiced. He gave 
a little pinch to the baby's soft flesh, and she cried 



THINGS UNUTTEKABLE. 



95 



out piteously ; again the same action, the same result. 
Sylvia laid her mother down, and stretched out 
her arms for her child, hushing it, and moaning 
over it. 

" So far so good ! " said Dr. Morgan to himself. 
" But where is the husband ? He ought to be here." 
He went downstairs to make inquiry for Philip ; that 
poor young creature, about whose health he had 
never felt thoroughly satisfied since the fever after 
her confinement, was in an anxious condition, and 
with an inevitable shock awaiting her. Her hus- 
band ought to be with her, and supporting her to 
bear it. 

Dr. Morgan went into the shop. Hester alone 
was there. Coulson had gone to his comfortable 
dinner at his well-ordered house, with his common- 
place wife. If he had felt anxious about Philip's looks 
and strange disappearance, he had also managed to 
account for them in some indifferent way. 

Hester was alone with the shop-boy; few people 
came in during the universal Monkshaven dinner- 
hour. She was resting her head on her hand, and 
puzzled and distressed about many things — all that 
was implied by the proceedings of the evening 
before between Philip and Sylvia; and that was 
confirmed by Philip's miserable looks, and strange 



96 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



abstracted ways to-day. Oh ! how easy Hester would 
have found it to make him happy ! not merely how 
easy, but what happiness it would have been to her 
to merge her every wish into the one great object 
of fulfilling his will. To her, an on-looker, the 
course of married life, which should lead to perfect 
happiness, seemed so plain ! Alas ! it is often so ; 
and the resisting forces which make all such harmony 
and delight impossible are not recognized by the 
bystanders, hardly by the actors. But if these re- 
sisting forces are only superficial, or constitutional, 
they are but the necessary discipline here, and do 
not radically affect the love which will make all 
things right in heaven. 

Some glimmering of this latter comforting truth 
shed its light on Hester's troubled thoughts from 
time to time. But again, how easy would it have 
been to her to tread the maze that led to Philip's 
happiness ; and how difficult it seemed to the wife 
he had chosen ! 

She was aroused by Dr. Morgan's voice. 

"So both Coulson and Hepburn have left the shop 
to your care, Hester. I want Hepburn, though ; his 
wife is in a very anxious state. Where is he ? can 
you tell me ? " 

" Sylvia in an anxious state ! I have not seen 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



97 



her to-day, but last night she looked as well as 
could be." 

"Ay, ay; but many a thing happens in four- 
and-twenty hours. Her mother is dying, may be 
dead by this time ; and her husband should be there 
with her. Can't you send for him ? " 

" I don't know where he is," said Hester. " He 
went off from here all on a sudden, when there was 
all the market-folks in the shop ; I thought he had 
maybe gone to John Foster's about the money, for 
they was paying a deal in. I'll send there and 
inquire." 

No ! the messenger brought back word that he had 
not been seen at their bank all morning. Further 
inquiries were made by the anxious Hester, by the 
doctor, by Coulson ; all they could learn was that 
Phoebe had seen him pass the kitchen window about 
eleven o'clock, when she was peeling the potatoes 
for dinner; and two lads playing on the quay side 
thought they had seen him among a group of sailors ; 
but these latter, as &tr as they could be identified, 
had no knowledge of his appearance among them. 

Before niffht the whole town was excited about 
his disappearance. Before night Bell Eobson had 
gone to her long home. And Sylvia still lay quiet 
and tearless, apparently more unmoved than any 

vol. in. 46 



98 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



other creature by the events of the day, and the 
strange vanishing of her husband. 

The only thing she seemed to care for was her 
baby ; she held it tight in her arms, and Dr. Morgan 
bade them leave it there, its touch might draw the 
desired tears into her weary, sleepless eyes, and 
charm the aching pain out of them. 

They were afraid lest she should inquire for her 
husband, whose non-appearance at such a time of 
sorrow to his wife must (they thought) seem strange 
to her. And night drew on while they were all in 
this state. She had gone back to her own room 
without a word when they had desired her to do 
so ; caressing her child in her arms, and sitting down 
on the first chair she came to, with a heavy sigh, as 
if even this slight bodily exertion had been too much 
for her. They saw her eyes turn towards the door 
every time it was opened, and they thought it was 
with anxious expectation of one who could not be 
found, though many were seeking for him in all 
probable places. 

When night came some one had to tell her of her 
husband's disappearance ; and Dr. Morgan was the 
person who undertook this. 

He came into her room about nine o'clock; her baby 
was sleeping in her arms ; she herself pale as death, 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



99 



still silent and tearless, though strangely watchful of 
gestures and sounds, and probably cognizant of more 
than they imagined. 

" Well, Mrs. Hepburn," said he, as cheerfully as he 
could, "I should advise your going to bed early; 
for I fancy your husband won't come home to-night. 
Some journey or other, that perhaps Coulson can 
explain better than I can, will most likely keep him 
away till to-morrow. It is very unfortunate that he 
should be away at such a sad time as this, as I am 
sure he will feel when he returns ; but we must 
make the best of it." 

He watched her to see the effect of his words. 

She sighed, that was all. He still remained a little 
while. She lifted her head up a little and asked, 

" How long do yo' think she was unconscious, 
doctor ? Could she hear things, think yo', afore she 
fell into that strange kind o 9 slumber ? " 

<c I cannot tell," said he, shaking his head. u Was 
she breathing in that hard snoring kind of way when 
you left her this morning ? " 

"Yes, I think so; I cannot tell, so much has 
happened." 

" When you came back to her, after your break- 
fast, I think you said she was in much the same 
position ? " 

46—2 



100 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" Yes, and yet I may be telling yo' lies ; if I could 
but think : but it's my bead as is aching so ; doctor, 
I wish yo'd go, for I need being alone, I'm so 
mazed." 

" Good-night, then, for you're a wise woman, I see, 
and mean to go to bed, and have a good night with 
baby there." 

But he went down to Phoebe and told her to go in 
from time to time and see how her mistress was. 

He found Hester Kose and the old servant 
together ; both had been crying, both were evidently 
in great trouble about the death and the mystery of 
the day. 

Hester asked if she might go up and see Sylvia, 
and the doctor gave his leave, talking meanwhile with 
Phoebe over the kitchen fire. Hester came down 
again without seeing Sylvia. The door of the room 
was bolted, and everything quiet inside. 

<( Does she know where her husband is, think 
you ? " asked the doctor at this account of Hester's. 
" She's not anxious about him at any rate ; or else the 
shock of her mother's death has been too much for 
her. "We must hope for some change in the morn- 
ing; a good fit of crying, or a fidget about her 
husband, would be more natural. Good night to you 
both," and off he went. 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



101 



Phoebe and Hester avoided looking at each other 
at these words. Both were conscious of the proba- 
bility of something having gone seriously wrong 
between the husband and wife. Hester had the 
recollection of the previous night, Phoebe the un- 
tasted breakfast of to-day to go upon. 

She spoke first. 

" A just wish he'd come home to still folks' tongues. 
It need niver ha' been known if t' old lady hadn't 
died this day of all others. It's such a thing for t' 
shop t' have one o' t' partners missing, and no one 
for t' know what's corned on him. It niver happened 
i' Fosters' days, that's all I know." 

" He'll maybe come back yet," said Hester. "It's 
not so very late." 

66 It were market day, and a'," continued Phoebe, 
"just as if ivery thing mun go wrong together; and 
a' t' country customers '11 go back wi' fine tale in 
their mouths, as Measter Hepburn was strayed and 
missing just like a beast o' some kind." 

"Hark! isn't that a step?" said Hester suddenly, 
as a footfall sounded in the now quiet street ; but it 
passed the door, and the hope that had arisen on its 
approach fell as the sound died away. 

" He'll noan come to-night," said Phoebe, who had 
been as eager a listener as Hester, however. " Thou'd 



102 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



best go thy ways home ; a shall stay up, for it's not 
seemly for us all to go to our beds, and a corpse in t ? 
house ; and Nancy, as might ha' watched, is gone to 
her bed this hour past, like a lazy boots as she is. A 
can hear, too, if t' measter does come home ; tho' a'll 
be bound he won't ; choose where he is, he'll be in bed 
by now, for it's well on to eleven. I'll let thee out 
by t' shop door, and stand by it till thou's close at 
home, for it's ill for a young woman to be i' t' street 
so late." 

So she held the door open, and shaded the candle 
from the flickering outer air, while Hester went to her 
home with a heavy heart. 

Heavily and hopelessly did they all meet in the 
morning. No news of Philip, no change in Sylvia ; 
an unceasing flow of angling and conjecture and 
gossip radiating from the shop into the town. 

Hester could have entreated Coulson on her knees 
to cease from repeating the details of a story of which 
every word touched on a raw place in her sensitive 
heart ; moreover, when they talked together so eagerly, 
she could not hear the coming footsteps on the pave- 
ment without. 

Once some one hit very near the truth in a chance 
remark. 

" It seems strange," she said, " how as one man 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



103 



turns up another just disappears. Why, it were but 
upo' Tuesday as Kinraid came back, as all his 
own folk had thought to be dead ; and next day 
here's Measter Hepburn as is gone no one knows 
where ! " 

" That's t' way i' this world/' replied Coulson, a 
little sententiously. (e This life is full o' changes o' one 
kind or another ; them that's dead is alive ; and as 
for poor Philip, though he was alive, he looked fitter 
to be dead when he came into t' shop o' Wednesday 
morning." 

" And how does she take it ? " nodding to where 
Sylvia was supposed to be. 

" Oh ! she's not herself, so to say. She were just 
stunned by finding her mother was dying in her very 
arms when she thought as she were only sleeping ; 
yet she's never been able to cry a drop ; so that t' 
sorrow's gone inwards on her brain, and from all 
I can hear, she doesn't rightly understand as her 
husband is missing. T' doctor says if she could 
but cry, she'd come to a juster comprehension of 
things." 

i( And what do John and Jeremiah Foster say 
to it all?" 

" They're down here many a time in t' day to ask 
if he's come back, or how she is ; for they made a 



104 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



deal on 'em both. They're going t' attend t' funeral 
to-morrow, and have given orders as t' shop is to 
be shut up in t' morning." 

To the surprise of every one, Sylvia, who had 
never left her room since the night of her mother's 
death, and was supposed to be almost unconscious of 
all that was going on in the house, declared her 
intention of following her mother to the grave. No 
one could do more than remonstrate: no one had 
sufficient authority to interfere with her. Dr. Mor- 
gan even thought that she might possibly be roused 
to tears by the occasion ; only he begged Hester to 
go with her, that she might have the solace of some 
woman's company. 

She went through the greater part of the ceremony 
in the same hard, unmoved manner in which she had 
received everything for days past. 

But on looking up once, as they formed round the 
open grave, she saw Kester, in his Sunday clothes, 
with a bit of new crape round his hat, crying as 
if his heart would break over the coffin of his good, 
kind mistress. 

His evident distress, the unexpected sight, suddenly 
loosed the fountain of Sylvia's tears, and her sobs 
grew so terrible that Hester feared she would not 
be able to remain until the end of the funeral. But 



THINGS UNUTTERABLE. 



105 



she struggled hard to stay till the last, and then she 
made an effort to go round by the place where 
Kester stood. 

" Come and see me," was all she could say for 
crying : and Kester only nodded his head — he could 
not speak a word. 



106 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



CHAPTER VII. 

MYSTEKIOUS TIDINGS. 

That very evening Kester came, humbly knocking 
at the kitchen-door. Phoebe opened it. He asked 
to see Sylvia. 

"A know not if she'll see thee/' said Phoebe. 
"There's no making her out; sometimes she's for 
one thing, sometimes she's for another." 

" She bid me come and see her," said Kester. 
ee Only this morning, at missus' burying, she telled 
me to come." 

So Phoebe went off to inform Sylvia that Kester 
was there ; and returned with the desire that he 
would walk into the parlour. An instant after he 
was gone, Phoebe heard him return, and carefully 
shut the two doors of communication between the 
kitchen and sitting-room. 

Sylvia was in the latter when Kester came in, 
holding her baby close to her ; indeed, she seldom let 
it go now-a-days to any one else, making Nancy's 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



107 



place quite a sinecure, much to Phoebe's indigna- 
tion. 

Sylvia's face was shrunk, and white, and thin ; 
her lovely eyes alone retained the youthful, almost 
child-like, expression. She went up to Kester, and 
shook his horny hand, she herself trembling all over. 

" Don't talk to me of her," she said hastily. " I 
cannot stand it. It's a blessing for her to be gone, 
but, oh " 

She began to cry, and then cheered herself up, 
and swallowed down her sobs. 

" Kester," she went on, hastily, " Charley Kinraid 
is not dead; dost ta know? He's alive, and he 
were here o' Tuesday— -no, Monday, was it ? I 
cannot tell — but he were here ! " 

e£ A knowed as he weren't dead. Every one is 
a-speaking on it. But a didn't know as thee'd ha' 
seen him. A took comfort i' thinking as thou'd 
ha' been wi' thy mother a' t' time as he were i' t' 
place." 

ee Then he's gone ? " said Sylvia. 

" Gone ; ay, days past. As far as a know, he 
but stopped a' night. A thought to mysel (but yo' 
may be sure a said nought to nobody) he's heard 
as our Sylvie were married, and has put it in his 
pipe, and ta'en hissel' off to smoke it." 



108 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



" Kester ! " said Sylvia, leaning forwards, and 
whispering. " I saw him. He was here. Philip 
saw him. Philip had known as he wasn't dead a' this 
time ! " 

Kester stood up suddenly. 

" By goom, that chap has a deal t' answer 
for." 

A bright red spot was on each of Sylvia's white 
cheeks; and for a minute or so neither of them 
spoke. 

Then she went on, still whispering out her 
words. 

" Kester, I'm more afeared than I dare tell any 
one : can they ha' met, think ye ? T' very thought 
turns me sick. I told Philip my mind, and took a 
vow again him — but it would be awful to think 
on harm happening to him through Kinraid. Yet 
he went out that morning, and has niver been seen 
or heard on sin' ; and Kinraid were just fell again 
him, and as for that matter, so was I ; but " 

The red spot vanished as she faced her own 
imagination. 

Kester spoke. 

" It's a thing as can be easy looked into. What 
day and time were it when Philip left this house ? " 
" Tuesday — the day she died. I saw him in her 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



109 



room that morning between breakfast and dinner ; 
I could a'most swear to its being close after eleven. 
I mind counting t' clock. It was that very morn 
as Kinraid were here." 

"A'll go and have a pint o' beer at t' King's 
Arms, down on quay-side; it were there he put 
up at. And a'm pretty sure as he only stopped one 
night, and left i' t' morning betimes. But a'll 
go see." 

" Do," said Sylvia, " and go out through t' shop ; 
they're all watching and watching me to see how 
I take things ; and daren't let on about t' fire as 
is burning up my heart. Coulson is i' t' shop, but 
he'll not notice thee like Phoebe." 

By-and-by Kester came back. It seemed as 
though Sylvia had never stirred ; she looked eagerly 
at him but did not speak. 

"He went away i' Rob Mason's mail-cart, him 
as takes t' letters to Hartlepool. T' lieutenant (as 
they call him down at t' King's Arms ; they're 
as proud on his uniform as if it had been a new 
painted sign to swing o'er their doors), t' lieutenant 
had reckoned upo' staying longer wi' 'em ; but he 
went out betimes o' Tuesday morning, and came 
back all ruffled up, and paid his bill — paid for his 
breakfast, though he touched none on it — and went 



110 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



off i' Rob postman's mail-cart, as starts regular at ten 
o'clock. Corneys has been there asking for him, and 
making a piece o' work, as he niver went near 
'em ; and they bees cousins. Niver a one amongst 
'em knows as he were here as far as a could mak' 
out." 

" Thank yo', Kester," said Sylvia, falling back in 
her chair, as if all the energy that had kept her 
stiff and upright was gone now that her anxiety was 
relieved. 

She was silent for a long time ; her eyes shut, her 
cheek laid on her child's head. Kester spoke 
next. 

" A think it's pretty clear as they'n niver met. 
But it's a' t' more wonder where thy husband's gone 
to. Thee and him had words about it, and thou 
telled him thy mind, thou said ? " 

" Yes," said Sylvia, not moving. " I'm afeared lest 
mother knows what I said to him, there, where she's 
gone to — I am — " the tears filled her shut eyes, and 
came softly overflowing down her cheeks ; " and yet 
it were true, what I said, I cannot forgive him ; he's 
just spoilt my life, and I'm not one and twenty yet, 
and he knowed how wretched, how very wretched, I 
were. A word fra' him would ha' mended it a' ; and 
Charley had bid him speak the word, and give 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



Ill 



me his faithful love, and Philip saw my heart ache 
day after day, and niver let on as him I was mourn- 
ing for was alive, and had sent me word as he'd keep 
true to me, as I were to do to him." 

" A wish a'd been there ; a'd ha' felled him to t' 
ground," said Kester, clenching his stiff, hard hand 
with indignation. 

Sylvia was silent again ; pale and weary she sate, 
her eyes still shut. 

Then she said, 

" Yet he were so good to mother ; and mother 
loved him so. Oh, Kester! " lifting herself up, open- 
ing her great wistful eyes, " it's well for folks as can 
die ; they're spared a deal o' misery." 

cf Ay ! " said he. " But there's folk as one would 
like to keep fra' shirking their misery. Think ye 
now as Philip is living ? " 

Sylvia shivered all over, and hesitated before she 
replied. 

" I don't know. I said such things ; he deserved 
'em all " 

" Well, well, lass ! " said Kester, sorry that he 
had asked the question which was producing so much 
emotion of one kind or another. ee Neither thee nor 
me can tell ; we can neither help nor hinder, seeing 
as he's ta'en hissel' off out on our sight, we'd best 



112 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



not think on him. A'll try and tell thee some news, 
if a can think on it wi' my mind so full. Thou 
know's Haytersbank folk ha' flitted, and t' oud place 
is empty ? " 

" Yes ! " said Sylvia, with the indifference of one 
wearied out with feeling;. 

" A only telled yo' t' account like for me being at 
a loose end i' Monkshaven. My sister, her as lived 
at Dale End and is a widow, has corned int' town to 
live ; and a'm lodging wi' her, and jobbing about. 
A'm getting pretty well to do, and a'm noan far t' 
seek, and a'm going now : only first a just wanted 
for t' say as a'm thy oldest friend, a reckon, and if a 
can do a turn for thee, or go an errand, like as a've 
done to-day, or if it's any comfort to talk a bit to 
one who's known thy life from a babby, why yo've 
only t' send for me, and a'd come if it were twenty 
mile. A'm lodging at Peggy Dawson's, t' lath and 
plaster cottage at t' right hand o' t' bridge, a' among 
t' new houses, as they're thinking of building near t' 
sea : no one can miss it." 

He stood up and shook hands with her. As he 
did so, he looked at her sleeping baby. 

" She's liker yo' than him. A think a'll say God 
bless her." 

With the heavy sound of his out-going footsteps, 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



113 



babv awoke. She ought before this time to have 
been asleep in her bed, and the disturbance made her 
cry fretfully. 

" Hush thee, darling, hush thee ! " murmured her 
mother ; " there's no one left to love me but thee, and 
I cannot stand thy weeping, my pretty one. Hush 
thee, my babe, hush thee ! " 

She whispered soft in the little one's ear as she 
took her upstairs to bed. 

About three weeks after the miserable date of Bell 
Robson's death and Philip's disappearance, Hester 
Rose received a letter from him. She knew the 
writing on the address well ; and it made her tremble 
so much that it was many minutes before she dared 
to open it, and make herself acquainted with the facts 
it might disclose. 

But she need not have feared ; there were no facts 
told, unless the vague date of "London" might be 
something to learn. Even that much might have 
been found out by the post-mark, only she had been 
too much taken by surprise to examine it. 

It ran as follows : — 

"Dear Hestek, — 

" Tell those whom it may concern, that I have 
left Monkshaven for ever. No one need trouble 
vol. in. 47 



114 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



themselves about me ; I am provided for. Please to 
make my humble apologies to my kind friends, the 
Messrs. Foster, and to my partner, William Coulson. 
Please to accept of my love, and to join the same to 
your mother. Please to give my particular and 
respectful duty and kind love to my aunt Isabella 
Robson. Her daughter Sylvia knows what I have 
always felt, and shall always feel, for her better than 
I can ever put into language, so I send her no mes- 
sage : God bless and keep my child. You must all 
look on me as one dead ; as I am to you, and maybe 
shall soon be in reality. 

"Your affectionate and obedient friend to com- 
mand, 

"Philip Hepburn. 

"P.S. — Oh, Hester! for God's sake, and mine, 
look after ( f my wife,' scratched out) Sylvia, and my 
child. I think Jeremiah Foster will help you to be 
a friend to them. This is the last solemn request of 
P. H. She is but very young." 

Hester read this letter again and again, till her 
heart caught the echo of its hopelessness, and sank 
within her. She put it in her pocket, and reflected 
upon it all the day long as she served in the shop. 

The customers found her as gentle, but far more 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



115 



inattentive, than usual. She thought that in the 
evening she would go across the bridge and consult 
with the two good old brothers Foster. But some- 
thing occurred to put off the fulfilment of this 
plan. 

That same morning Sylvia had preceded her, with 
no one to consult, because consultation would have 
required previous confidence, and confidence would 
have necessitated such a confession about Kinraid as 
it was most difficult for Sylvia to make. The poor 
young wife yet felt that some step must be taken by 
her ; and what it was to be she could not imagine. 

She had no home to go to ; for as Philip was gone 
away, she remained where she was only on suffer- 
ance ; she did not know what means of livelihood she 
had ; she was willing to work, nay, would be thank- 
ful to take up her old life of country labour; but 
with her baby, what could she do ? 

In this dilemma, the recollection of the old man's 
kindly speech and offer of assistance, made, it is true, 
half in joke, at the end of her wedding visit, came 
into her mind ; and she resolved to go and ask for 
some of the friendly counsel and assistance then 
offered. 

It would be the first time of her going out since 
her mother's funeral, and she dreaded the effort on 

47—2 



116 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



that account. More even than on that account did 
she shrink from going into the streets again. She 
could not get over the impression that Kinraid must 
be lingering near ; and she distrusted herself so much 
that it was a positive terror to think of meeting him 
again. She felt as though, if she only caught a 
sight of him, the glitter of his uniform, or heard his 
well-known voice in only a distant syllable of talk, 
her heart would stop, and she should die from 
very fright of what would come next. Or rather 
so she felt, and so she thought before she took her 
baby in her arms, as Nancy gave it to her after 
putting on its out-of-door attire. 

With it in her arms she was protected, and the 
whole current of her thoughts was changed. The 
infant was wailing and suffering with its teething, 
and the mother's heart was so occupied in soothing 
and consoling her moaning child, that the dangerous 
quay-side and the bridge were passed almost be- 
fore she was aware ; nor did she notice the eager 
curiosity and respectful attention of those she met 
who recognized her even through the heavy veil 
which formed part of the draping mourning provided 
for her by Hester and Coulson, in the first uncon- 
scious days after her mother's death. 

Though public opinion as yet reserved its verdict 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



117 



upon Philip's disappearance — warned possibly by 
Kinraid's story against hasty decisions and judg- 
ments in such times as those of war and general 
disturbance — yet every one agreed that no more 
pitiful fate could have befallen Philip's wife. 

Marked out by her striking beauty as an object 
of admiring interest even in those days when she 
sate in girlhood's smiling peace by her mother at 
the Market Cross — her father had lost his life in a 
popular cause, and ignominious as the manner of 
his death might be, he was looked upon as a martyr 
to his zeal in avenging the wrongs of his townsmen — 
Sylvia had married amongst them too, and her quiet 
daily life was well known to them ; and now her 
husband had been carried off from her side just on 
the very day when she needed his comfort most. 

For the general opinion was that Philip had been 
"carried off" — in sea-port towns such occurrences 
were not uncommon in those days — either by land- 
crimps or water-crimps. 

So Sylvia was treated with silent reverence, as one 
sorely afflicted, by all the unheeded people she met in 
her faltering; walk to Jeremiah Foster's. 

She had calculated her time so as to fall in with 
him at his dinner hour, even though it obliged her to 
go to his own house rather than to the bank where 



118 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



he and his brother spent all the business hours of 
the day. 

Sylvia was so nearly exhausted by the length of 
her walk and the weight of her baby, that all she 
could do when the door was opened was to totter 
into the nearest seat, sit down, and begin to cry. 

In an instant kind hands were about her, loosening 
her heavy cloak, offering to relieve her of her child, 
who clung to her all the more firmly, and some one 
was pressing a glass of wine against her lips. 

ee No, sir, 1 cannot take it ; wine allays gives me 
the headache ; if I might have just a drink o' water. 
Thank you, ma'am " (to the respectable-looking old 
servant), " I'm well enough now ; and perhaps, sir, I 
might speak a word with you, for it's that I've 
come for." 

" It's a pity, Sylvia Hepburn, as thee didst not come 
to me at the bank, for it's been a long toil for thee all 
this way in the heat, with thy child. But if there's 
aught I can do or say for thee, thou hast but to name 
it, I am sure. Martha ! wilt thou relieve her of her 
child while she comes with me into the parlour ? " 

But the wilful little Bella stoutly refused to go to 
any one, and Sylvia was not willing to part with her, 
tired though she was. 

So the baby was carried into the parlour, and 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



119 



much of her after-life depended on this trivial 
fact. 

Once installed in the easy chair, and face to face 
with Jeremiah, Sylvia did not know how to begin. 

Jeremiah saw this, and kindly gave her time to 
recover herself, by pulling out his great gold watch, 
and letting the seal dangle before the child's eyes, 
almost within reach of the child's eager little fingers. 

" She favours you a deal," said he, at last. " More 
than her father," he went on, purposely introducing 
Philip's name, so as to break the ice ; for he rightly 
conjectured she had come to speak to him about 
something connected with her husband. 

Still Sylvia said nothing; she was choking down 
tears and shyness, and unwillingness to take as confi- 
dant a man of whom she knew so little, on such 
slight ground (as she now felt it to be) as the little 
kindly speech with which she had been dismissed 
from that house the last time that she entered it. 

"It's no use keeping you, sir," she broke out at 
last. ee It's about Philip as I corned to speak. Do 
yo' know anything whatsomever about him? He 
niver had a chance o' saying anything, I know ; but 
maybe he's written ? " 

" Not a line, my poor young woman ! " said 
J eremiah, hastily putting an end to that vain idea. 



120 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" Then he's either dead or gone away for iver," 
she whispered. " I mun be both father and mother 
to my child." 

" Oh ! thee must not give it up/' replied he. 
"Many a one is carried off to the wars, or to the 
tenders o' men-o'-war ; and then they turn out to be 
unfit for service, and are sent home. Philip will 
come back before the year's out ; thee'lt see that." 

"No; he'll nivef come back. And I'm not sure 
as I should iver wish him to come back, if I could 
but know what was gone with him. Yo' see, sir, 
though I were sore set again him, I shouldn't like 
harm to happen him." 

" There is something behind all this that I do not 
understand. Can thee tell me what it is ? " 

(e I must, sir, if yo're to help me wi' your counsel ; 
and I came up here to ask for it." 

Another long pause, during which Jeremiah made 
a feint of playing with the child, who danced and 
shouted with tantalized impatience at not being able 
to obtain possession of the seal, and at length stretched 
out her soft round little arms to go to the owner 
of the coveted possession. Surprise at this action 
roused Sylvia, and she made some comment upon it. 

" I niver knew her to go to any one afore. I hope 
she'll not be troublesome to you, sir ? " 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



121 



The old man, who had often longed for a child 
of his own in days gone by, was highly pleased by 
this mark of baby's confidence, and almost forgot, 
in trying to strengthen her regard by all the winning 
wiles in his power, how her poor mother was still 
lingering over some painful story which she could 
not bring herself to tell. 

" I'm afeared of speaking wrong against any one, 
sir. And mother were so fond o' Philip ; but he kept 
something from me as would ha' made me a different 
woman, and some one else, happen, a different man. 
I were troth-plighted wi' Kinraid the specksioneer, 
him that was cousin to the Corneys o' Moss Brow, 
and corned back lieutenant i' t' navy last Tuesday 
three weeks, after ivery one had thought him dead 
and gone these three years." 

She paused. 

" Well ? " said John with interest ; although his 
attention appeared to be divided between the mother's 
story and the eager playfulness of the baby on his 
knee. 

" Philip knew he were alive ; he'd seen him taken 
by t' press-gang, and Charley had sent a message to 
me by Philip." 

Her white face was reddening, her eyes flashing at 
this point of her story. 



122 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" And he niver told me a word on it, not when 
he saw me like to break my heart in thinking as 
Kinraid were dead ; he kept it a' to hissel' ; and 
watched me cry, and niver said a word to comfort me 
wi' the truth. It would ha' been a great comfort, sir, 
only to have had his message if I'd niver ha' been to 
see him again. But Philip niver let on to any one, 
as I iver heared on, that he'd seen Charley that morn- 
ing as t' press-gang took him. Yo' know about 
father's death, and how friendless mother and me was 
left ? and so I married him ; for he were a good 
friend to us then, and I were dazed like wi' sorrow, 
and could see naught else to do for mother. He were 
allays very tender and good to her, for sure." 

Again a long pause of silent recollection, broken by 
one or two deep sighs. 

" If I go on, sir, now, I mun ask yo' to promise as 
yo'll niver tell. I do so need some one to tell me 
what I ought to do, and I were led here, like, else I 
would ha' died wi' it all within my teeth. Yo'll 
promise, sir ? " 

Jeremiah Foster looked in her face, and seeing the 
wistful, eager look, he was touched almost against his 
judgment into giving the promise required; she 
went on, 

"Upon a Tuesday morning, three weeks ago, I 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



123 



think, tho' for t' matter o' time it might ha' been 
three years, Kinraid came home ; came back for to 
claim me as his wife, and I were wed to Philip ! I 
met him i' t' road at first; and I couldn't tell him 
there. He followed me into t' house — Philip's house, 
sir, behind t' shop — and somehow I told him all, how I 
were a wedded wife to another. Then he up and said 
I had a false heart — me false, sir, as had eaten my 
daily bread in bitterness, and had wept t' nights 
through, all for sorrow and mourning for his death ! 
Then he said as Philip knowed all t' time he were 
alive and coming back for me; and I couldn't 
believe it, and I called Philip, and he came, and a' 
that Charley had said were true ; and yet I were 
Philip's wife ! So I took a mighty oath, and I said as 
I would niver hold Philip to be my lawful husband 
again, nor iver forgive him for t' evil he had wrought 
us, but hold him as a stranger and one who had done 
me a heavy wrong." 

She stopped speaking ; her story seemed to 
her to end there. But her listener said, after a 
pause, 

" It were a cruel wrong, I grant thee that ; but thy 
oath were a sin, and thy words were evil, my poor 
lass. What happened next ? " 

"I don't justly remember," she said wearily. 



124 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" Kinraid went away, and mother cried out ; and I 
went to her. She were asleep, I thought, so I lay 
down by her, to wish that I were dead, and to think 
on what would come on my child if I died; and 
Philip came in softly, and I made as if I were asleep; 
and that's t' very last as I've iver seen or heard of 
him." 

Jeremiah Foster groaned as she ended her story. 
Then he pulled himself up, and said in a cheerful tone 
of voice, 

ee He'll come back, Sylvia Hepburn. He'll think 
better of it : never fear ! " 

" I fear his coming back ! " said she. " That's 
what I'm feared on ; I would wish as I knew on his 
well doing i' some other place ; but him and me can 
niver live together again." 

" Nay," pleaded Jeremiah. " Thee art sorry for 
what thee said ; thee were sore put about, or thee 
would not have said it." 

He was trying to be a peace-maker and to heal 
over conjugal differences ; but he did not go deep 
enough. 

" I'm not sorry," said she, slowly. cs I were too 
deeply wronged to be e put about ; ' that would go off 
wi' a night's sleep. It's only the thought of mother 
(she's dead and happy, and knows nought of all this, 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



125 



I trust) that comes between me and hating Philip. 
I'm not sorry for what I said." 

Jeremiah had never met with any one so frank and 
undisguised in expressions of wrong feeling, and he 
scarcely knew what to say. 

He looked extremely grieved, and not a little 
shocked. So pretty and delicate a young creature to 
use such strong relentless language ! 

She seemed to read his thoughts, for she made 
answer to them. 

" I daresay you think I'm very wicked, sir, not to 
be sorry. Perhaps I am. I can't think o' that for 
remembering how I have suffered ; and he knew how 
miserable I was, and might ha' cleared my misery 
away wi' a word ; and he held his peace, and now it's 
too late ! I'm sick o' men and their cruel, deceitful 
ways. I wish that I were dead." 

She was crying before she had ended this speech, 
and seeing her tears, the child began to cry too, 
stretching out its little arms to go back to its mother. 
The hard stony look on her face melted away into 
the softest* tenderest love as she clasped the little 
one to her, and tried to soothe its frightened 
sobs. 

A bright thought came into the old man's mind. 
He had been taking a complete dislike to her till 



126 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



her pretty way with her baby showed him that she 
had a heart of flesh within her. 

"Poor little one ! " said he, "thy mother had need 
love thee, for she's deprived thee of thy father's love. 
Thou art half-way to being an orphan ; yet I cannot 
call thee one of the fatherless to whom God will be 
a father. Thou art a desolate babe, thou mayst well 
cry ; thine earthly parents have forsaken thee, and 
I know not if the Lord will take thee up." 

Sylvia looked up at him affrighted; holding her 
baby tighter to her, she exclaimed, 

" Don't speak so, sir ! it's cursing, sir ! I have 
not forsaken her ! Oh, sir ! those are awful say- 
ings." 

" Thee hast sworn never to forgive thy husband, 
nor to live with him again. Dost thee know that 
by the law of the land, he may claim his child ; and 
then thou will have to forsake it or to be forsworn ? 
Poor little maiden ! " continued he, once more luring 
the baby to him with the temptation of the watch 
and chain. 

Sylvia thought for awhile before speaking. Then 
she said, 

" I cannot tell what ways to take. Whiles I think 
my head is crazed. It were a cruel turn he 
did me ! " 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



127 



" It was. I could not have thought him guilty of 
such baseness." 

This acquiescence, which was perfectly honest on 
Jeremiah's part, almost took Sylvia by surprise. 
Why might she not hate one who had been both 
cruel and base in his treatment of her? And yet 
she recoiled from the application of such hard terms 
by another to Philip, by a cool-judging and in- 
different person, as she esteemed Jeremiah to be. 
From some inscrutable turn in her thoughts, she 
began to defend him, or at least to palliate the harsh 
judgment which she herself had been the first to 
pronounce. 

ee He were so tender to mother ; she were dearly 
fond on him ; he niver spared ought he could do for 
her, else I would niver ha' married him." 

" He was a good and kind-hearted lad from the 
time he was fifteen. And I never found him out in 
any falsehood, no more did my brother." 

" But it were all the same as a lie," said Sylvia, 
swiftly changing her ground, " to leave me to think 
as Charley were dead, when he knowed all t' time 
he were alive." 

" It was. It was a self-seeking lie ; putting thee 
to pain to get his own ends. And the end of it has 
been that he is driven forth like Cain." 



128 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" I niver told him to go, sir." 

66 But thy words sent him forth, Sylvia." 

" I cannot unsay them, sir ; and I believe as I 
should say them again." 

But she said this as one who rather hopes for a 
contradiction. 

All Jeremiah replied, however, was, ee Poor 
wee child!" in a pitiful tone, addressed to the 
baby. 

Sylvia's eyes filled with tears. 

w Oh, sir, I'll do anything as iver you can tell me 
for her. That's what I came for t' ask ye. I know 
I must not stay there, and Philip gone away ; and I 
don't know what to do: and I'll do aught, only I 
must keep her with me. Whativer can I do, sir ? " 

Jeremiah thought it over for a minute or two. 
Then he replied, 

" I must have time to think. I must talk it over 
with brother John." 

" But yo've given me yo'r word, sir ! " exclaimed 
she. 

cc I have given thee my word never to tell any 
one of what has passed between thee and thy hus- 
band, but I must take counsel with my brother as 
to what is to be done with thee and thy child, now 
that thy husband has left the shop." 



MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS. 



129 



This was said so gravely as almost to be a re- 
proach, and he got up, as a sign that the interview 
was ended. 

He gave the baby back to its mother ; but not 
without a solemn blessing, so solemn that to Sylvia's 
superstitious and excited mind, it undid the terrors 
of what she had esteemed to be a curse. 

" The Lord bless thee and keep thee ! The Lord 
make His face to shine upon thee ! " 

All the way down the hill-side, Sylvia kept 
kissing the child, and whispering to its unconscious 
ears, — 

(£ I will love thee for both, my treasure, I will. 
I will hap thee round with my love, so that thou 
shall never need a father's." 



YOL. in. 



48 



130 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

BEREAVEMENT. 

Hester had been prevented by her mother's indis- 
position from taking Philip's letter to the Fosters, 
to hold a consultation with them over its contents. 

Alice Rose was slowly failing, and the long days 
which she had to spend alone told much upon her 
spirits, and consequently upon her health. 

All this came out in the conversation which ensued 
after reading Hepburn's letter in the little parlour at 
the bank on the day after Sylvia had had her con- 
fidential interview with Jeremiah Foster. 

He was a true man of honour, and never so much 
as alluded to her visit to him ; but what she had 
then told him influenced him very much in the 
formation of the project which he proposed to his 
brother and Hester. 

He recommended her remaining where she was, 
living still in the house behind the shop ; for he 



BEREAVEMENT. 



131 



thought within himself that she might have 
exaggerated the effect of her words upon Philip ; 
that, after all, it might have been some cause totally 
disconnected with them, which had blotted out her 
husband's place among the men of Monkshaven ; and 
that it would be so much easier for both to resume 
their natural relations, both towards each other and 
towards the world, if Sylvia remained where her 
husband had left her — in an expectant attitude, so to 
speak. 

Jeremiah Foster questioned Hester straitly about 
.her letter: whether she had made known its con- 
tents to any one. No, not to any one. Neither 
to her mother nor to William Coulson? No, to 
neither. 

She looked at him as she replied to his inquiries, 
and he looked at her, each wondering if the other 
could be in the least aware that a conjugal quarrel 
might be at the root of the dilemma in which 
they were placed by Hepburn's disappearance. 

But neither Hester, who had witnessed the] mis- 
understanding between the husband and wife on the 
evening before the morning on whichJPhilip went 
away, nor Jeremiah Foster, who had learnt from 
Sylvia the true reason of her husband's disappearance, 
gave the slightest reason to the other to think that 

48—2 



132 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



they each supposed they had a clue to the reason 
of Hepburn's sudden departure. 

What Jeremiah Foster, after a night's conside- 
ration, had to propose was this : that Hester and her 
mother should come and occupy the house in the 
market place, conjointly with Sylvia and her child. 
Hester's interest in the shop was by this time 
acknowledged. Jeremiah had made over to her so 
much of his share in the business, that she had a 
right to be considered as a kind of partner ; and she 
had long been the superintendent of that department 
of goods which were exclusively devoted to women. 
So her daily presence was requisite for more reasons 
than one. 

Yet her mother's health and spirits were such as to 
render it unadvisable that the old woman should be 
too much left alone ; and Sylvia's devotion to her 
own mother seemed to point her out as the very 
person who could be a gentle and tender companion 
to Alice Rose during those hours when her own 
daughter would necessarily be engaged in the shop. 

So many desirable objects seemed to be gained by 
this removal of Alice : an occupation was provided 
for Sylvia, which would detain her in the place 
where her husband had left her, and where (Jeremiah 
Foster fairly expected in spite of his letter) he was 



BEREAVEMENT. 



133 



likely to come back to find her ; and Alice Hose, the 
early love of one of the brothers, the old friend of 
the other, would be well cared for, and under her 
daughter's immediate supervision during the whole of 
the time that she was occupied in the shop. 

Philip's share of the business, augmented by the 
money which he had put in from the legacy of 
his old Cumberland uncle, would bring in profits 
enough to support Sylvia and her child in ease 
and comfort until that time, which they all antici- 
pated, when he should return from his mysterious 
wandering — mysterious, whether his going forth had 
been voluntary or involuntary. 

Thus far was settled ; and Jeremiah Foster went to 
tell Sylvia of the plan. 

She was too much a child, too entirely unac- 
customed to any independence of action, to do any- 
thing but leave herself in his hands. Her very con- 
fession, made to him the day before, when she sought 
his counsel, seemed to place her at his disposal. 
Otherwise, she had had notions of the possibility of a 
free country life once more — how provided for and 
arranged she hardly knew ; but Haytersbank was to 
let, and Kester disengaged, and it had just seemed 
possible that she might have to return to her early 
home, and to her old life. She knew that it would 



134 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



take much money to stock the farm again, and that 
her hands were tied from much useful activity by the 
love and care she owed to her baby. But still, 
somehow, she hoped and she fancied, till Jeremiah 
Foster's measured words and carefully-arranged plan 
made her silently relinquish her green, breezy 
vision. 

Hester, too, had her own private rebellion — 
hushed into submission by her gentle piety. If 
Sylvia had been able to make Philip happy, Hester 
could have felt lovingly and almost gratefully towards 
her ; but Sylvia had failed in this. 

Philip had been made unhappy, and was driven 
forth a wanderer into the wide world — never to come 
back ! And his last words to Hester, the postscript of 
his letter, containing the very pith of it, was to ask 
her to take charge and care of the wife whose want 
of love towards him had uprooted him from the place 
where he was valued and honoured. 

It cost Hester many a struggle and many a self- 
reproach before she could make herself feel what she 
saw all along — that in everything Philip treated her 
like a sister. But even a sister might well be 
indignant if she saw her brother's love disregarded 
and slighted, and his life embittered by the thought- 
less conduct of a wife ! Still Hester fought against 



BEREAVEMENT. 



135 



herself, and for Philip's sake she sought to see the 

good in Sylvia, and she strove to love her as well as 

to take care of her. 

With the baby, of course, the case was different. 

Without thought, or struggle, or reason, every one 

loved the little girl. Coulson and his buxom wife, 

who were childless, were never weary of making 

much of her. Hester's happiest hours were spent 

with that little child. Jeremiah Foster almost looked 

» 

upon her as his own from the day when she honoured 
him by yielding to the temptation of the chain and 
seal, and coming to his knee ; not a customer to the 
shop but knew the smiling child's sad history, and 
many a country-woman would save a rosy-cheeked 
apple from out her store that autumn to bring it on 
next market-day for " Philip Hepburn's baby, as had 
lost its father, bless it." 

Even stern Alice Rose was graciously inclined 
towards the little Bella ; and though her idea of 
the number of the elect was growing narrower and 
narrower every day, she would have been loth to 
exclude the innocent little child, that stroked her 
wrinkled cheeks so softly every night in return for 
her blessing, from the^ few that should be saved. 
Nay, for the child's sake, she relented towards the 
mother ; and strove to have Sylvia rescued from the 



136 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



many cast-aways with fervent prayer, or, as she 
phrased it, " wrestling with the Lord." 

Alice had a sort of instinct that the little child, 
so tenderly loved by, so fondly loving, the mother 
whose ewe-lamb she was, could not be even in 
heaven without yearning for the creature she had 
loved best on earth; and the old woman believed 
that this was the principal reason for her prayers 
for Sylvia ; but unconsciously to herself, Alice Rose 
was touched by the filial attentions she constantly 
received from the young mother, whom she believed 
to be foredoomed to condemnation. 

Sylvia rarely went to church or chapel, nor did 
she read her Bible; for though she spoke little of 
her ignorance, and would fain, for her child's sake, 
have remedied it now it was too late, she had lost 
what little fluency of reading she had ever had, and 
could only make out her words with much spelling 
and difficulty. So the taking her Bible in hand 
would have been a mere form ; though of this Alice 
Rose knew nothing. 

No one knew much of what was passing in Sylvia ; 
she did not know herself. Sometimes in the nights 
she would waken, crying, with a terrible sense of 
desolation ; every one who loved her, or whom she 
had loved, had vanished out of her life ; every one 



BEREAVEMENT. 



137 



but her child, who lay in her arms, warm and 
soft. 

But then J eremiah Foster's words came upon her ; 
words that she had taken for cursing at the time; 
and she would so gladly have had some clue by 
which to penetrate the darkness of the unknown 
region from whence both blessing and cursing came, 
and to know if she had indeed done something which 
should cause her sin to be visited on that soft, sweet, 
innocent darling. 

If any one would teach her to read ! If 
any one would explain to her the hard words 
she heard in church or chapel, so that she might 
find out the meaning of sin and godliness ! — words 
that had only passed over the surface of her 
mind till now ! For her child's sake she should 
like to do the will of God, if she only knew what 
that was, and how to be worked out in her daily life. 

But there was no one she dared confess her 
ignorance to and ask information from. Jeremiah 
Foster had spoken as if her child, sweet little merry 
Bella, with a loving word and a kiss for every 
one, was to suffer heavily for the just and true 
words her wronged and indignant mother had 
spoken. Alice always spoke as if there were no 
hope for her ; and blamed her, nevertheless, for not 



138 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



using the means of grace that it was not in her 
power to avail herself of. 

And Hester, that Sylvia would fain have loved for 
her uniform gentleness and patience with all around 
her, seemed so cold in her unruffled and undemon- 
strative behaviour ; and moreover, Sylvia felt that 
Hester blamed her perpetual silence regarding Philip's 
absence without knowing how bitter a cause Sylvia 
had for casting him off. 

The only person who seemed to have pity upon 
her was Kester ; and his pity was shown in looks 
rather than words; for when he came to see her, 
which he did from time to time, by a kind of mutual 
tacit consent, they spoke but little of former days. 

He was still lodging with his sister, widow Moore, 
working at odd jobs, some of which took him into 
the country for weeks at a time. But on his re- 
turns to Monkshaven he was sure to come and see 
her and the little Bella; indeed, when his employ- 
ment was in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
town, he never allowed a week to pass away without 
a visit. 

There was not much conversation between him 
and Sylvia at such times. They skimmed over the 
surface of the small events in which both took an 
interest; only now and then a sudden glance, a 



BEREAVEMENT. 



139 



checked speech, told each that there were deeps not 
forgotten, although they were never mentioned. 

Twice Sylvia — below her breath — had asked 
Kester, just as she was holding the door open for 
his departure, if anything had ever been heard of 
Kinraid since his one night's visit to Monkshaven : 
each time (and there was an interval of some 
months between the inquiries) the answer had been 
simply, no. 

To no one else would Sylvia ever have named his 
nanie. But indeed she had not the chance, had she 
wished it ever so much, of asking any questions 
about him from any one likely to know. The 
Corneys had left Moss Brow at Martinmas, and 
gone many miles away towards Horncastle. Bessie 
Corney, it is true, was married and left behind in the 
neighbourhood ; but with her Sylvia had never been 
intimate ; and what girlish friendship there might 
have been between them had cooled very much at 
the time of Kinraid's supposed death three years 
before. 

One day before Christmas in this year, 1798, 
Sylvia was called into the shop by Coulson, who, 
with his assistant, was busy undoing the bales of 
winter goods supplied to them from the West Riding, 
and other places. He was looking at a fine Irish 



140 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



poplin dress-piece when Sylvia answered to his 
call. 

" Here ! do you know this again ? " asked he, in 
the cheerful tone of one sure of giving pleasure. 

" ISTo ! have I ever seen it afore ? " 

" Not this, but one for all the world like it." 

She did not rouse up to much interest, but looked 
at it as if trying to recollect where she could have 
seen its like. 

" My missus had one on at the party at John 
Foster's last March, and you admired it a deal, 
And Philip, he thought o' nothing but how he could 
get you just such another, and he set a vast o' folk 
agait for to meet wi' its marrow ; and what he did 
just the very day afore he went away so mysterious 
was to write through Dawson Brothers, of Wakefield, 
to Dublin, and order that one should be woven for 
you. Jemima had to cut a bit off hers for to give 
him t' exact colour." 

Sylvia did not say anything but that it was very 
pretty, in a low voice, and then she quickly left the 
shop, much to Coulson's displeasure. 

All the afternoon she was unusually quiet and 
depressed. 

Alice Rose, sitting helpless in her chair, watched 
her with keen eyes. 



BEEEAVEMENT. 



141 



At length, after one of Sylvia's deep, unconscious 
sighs, the old woman spoke : 

"It's religion as must comfort thee, child, as it's 
done many a one afore thee." 

(( How ? " said Sylvia, looking up, startled to find 
herself an object of notice. 

" How ? " (The answer was not quite so ready as 
the precept had been.) " Read thy Bible, and thou 
wilt learn." 

" But I cannot read," said Sylvia, too desperate 
any longer to conceal her ignorance. 

"Not read! and thee Philip's wife as was such 
a great scholar ! Of a surety the ways o' this life 
are crooked! There was our Hester, as can read 
as well as any minister, and Philip passes over her 
to go and choose a young lass as cannot read her 
Bible." 

" Was Philip and Hester " 

Sylvia paused, for though a new curiosity had 
dawned upon her, she did not know how to word 
her question. 

" Many a time and oft have I seen Hester take 
comfort in her Bible when Philip was following 
after thee. She knew where to go for consola- 
tion." 

" I would fain read," said Sylvia, humbly, " if any 



142 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



one would learn me; for perhaps it might do me 
good ; I'm noan so happy." 

Her eyes, as she looked up at Alice's stern coun- 
tenance, were full of tears. 

The old woman saw it, and was touched, although 
she did not immediately show her sympathy. But 
she took her own time, and made no reply. 

The next day, however, she hade Sylvia come 
to her, and then and there, as if her pupil had heen 
a little child, she began to teach Sylvia to read the 
first chapter of Genesis ; for all other reading but 
the Scriptures was as vanity to her, and she would 
not condescend to the weakness of home books. 
Sylvia was now, as ever, slow at book-learning ; 
but she was meek and desirous to be taught, and 
her willingness in this respect pleased Alice, and 
drew her singularly towards one who, from being 
a pupil, might become a convert. 

All this time Sylvia never lost the curiosity that 
had been excited by the few words that Alice had 
let drop about Hester and Philip, and by degrees 
she approached the subject again, and had the idea 
then started confirmed by Alice, who had no scruple 
in using the past experience of her own, of her daugh- 
ter's, or of any one's life, as an instrument to prove 
the vanity of setting the heart on anything earthly. 



BEREAVEMENT. 



143 



This knowledge, unsuspected before, sank deep into 
Sylvia's thoughts, and gave her a strange interest in 
Hester — poor Hester, whose life she had so crossed 
and blighted, even by the very blighting of her own. 
She gave Hester her own former passionate feelings 
for Kinraid, and wondered how she herself should 
have felt towards any one who had come between her 
and him, and wiled his love away. When she re- 
membered Hester's unfailing sweetness and kindness 
towards herself from the very first, she could better 
bear the comparative coldness of her present behaviour. 

She tried, indeed, hard to win back the favour she 
had lost; but the very means she took were blunders, 
and only made it seem to her as if she could never 
again do right in Hester's eyes. 

For instance, she begged her to accept and wear 
the pretty poplin gown which had been Philip's 
especial choice ; feeling within herself as if she should 
never wish to put it on, and as if the best thing she 
could do with it was to offer it to Hester. But 
Hester rejected the proffered gift with as much hard- 
ness of manner as she was capable of assuming ; and 
Sylvia had to carry it upstairs and lay it by for the 
little daughter, who, Hester said, might perhaps learn 
to value things that her father had given especial 
thought to. 



144 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Yet Sylvia went on trying to win Hester to like 
her once more ; it was one of her great labours, and 
learning to read from Hester's mother was another. 

Alice, indeed, in her solemn way, was becoming 
quite fond of Sylvia ; if she could not read or write, 
she had a deftness and gentleness of motion, a capa- 
city for the household matters which fell into her 
department, that had a great effect on the old woman, 
and for her dear mother's sake Sylvia had a stock of 
patient love ready in her heart for all the aged and 
infirm that fell in her way. She never thought 
of seeking them out, as she knew that Hester did ; 
but then she looked up to Hester as some one very 
remarkable for her goodness. If only she could have 
liked her ! 

Hester tried to do all she could for Sylvia ; Philip 
had told her to take care of his wife and child ; but 
she had the conviction that Sylvia had so materially 
failed in her duties as to have made her husband an 
exile from his home — a penniless wanderer, wifeless 
and childless, in some strange country, whose very 
aspect was friendless, while the cause of all lived on 
in the comfortable home that he had placed her in, 
wanting for nothing — an object of interest and regard 
to many friends — with a lovely little child to give her 
joy for the present, and hope for the future ; while he, 



BEREAVEMENT. 



145 



the poor outcast, might even lie dead by the wayside. 
How could Hester love Sylvia ? 

Yet they were frequent companions that ensuing 
spring. Hester was not well ; and the doctors said 
that the constant occupation in the shop was too much 
for her, and that she must, for a time at least, take 
daily walks into the country. 

Sylvia used to beg to accompany her : she and the 
little girl often went with Hester up the valley of the 
river to some of the nestling farms that were hidden 
in the more sheltered nooks — for Hester was bidden 
to drink milk warm from the cow ; and to go into the 
familiar haunts about a farm was one of the few things 
in which Sylvia seemed to take much pleasure. She 
would let little Bella toddle about while Hester sate 
and rested: and she herself would beg to milk the 
cow destined to give the invalid her draught. 

One May evening the three had been out on some 
such expedition ; the country side still looked grey 
and bare, though the leaves were showing on the 
willow and blackthorn and sloe, and by the tinkling 
runnels, making hidden music along the copse side, the 
pale delicate primrose buds were showing amid their 
fresh, green, crinkled leaves. The larks had been 
singing all the afternoon, but were now dropping down 
into their nests in the pasture fields ; the air had just 

vol. in. 49 



146 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



the sharpness in it which goes along with a cloudless 
evening sky at that time of the year. 

But Hester walked homewards slowly and lan- 
guidly, speaking no word. Sylvia noticed this at first 
without venturing to speak, for Hester was one who 
disliked having her ailments noticed. But after a 
while Hester stood still in a sort of weary dreamy 
abstraction ; and Sylvia said to her, 

ce I'm afeared yo're sadly tired. Maybe we've been 
too far." 

Hester almost started. 

C{ No ! " said she, " it's only my headache which 
is worse to-night. It has been bad all day ; but since 
I came out it has felt just as if there were great guns 
booming, till I could almost pray them to be quiet. I 
am so weary of the sound." 

She stepped out quickly towards home after she 
had said this, as if she wished for neither pity nor 
comment on what she had said. 



147 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE EECOGNITION. 

Far away, over sea and land, over sunny sea again, 
great guns were booming on that 7th of May, 1799. 

The Mediterranean came up with a long roar on 
a beach glittering white with snowy sand, and the 
fragments of innumerable sea-shells, delicate and 
shining as porcelain. Looking at that shore from the 
-sea, a long ridge of upland ground, beginning from an 
inland depth, stretched far away into the ocean on the 
right, till it ended in a great mountainous bluff, 
crowned with the white buildings of a convent, 
sloping rapidly down into the blue water at its 
base. 

In the clear eastern air, the different characters of 
the foliage that clothed the sides of that sea-washed 
mountain might be discerned from a long distance by 
the naked eye ; the silver grey of the olive-trees near 
its summit ; the heavy green and bossy forms of the 
sycamores lower down ; broken here and there by a 

49—2 



148 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



solitary terebinth or ilex tree, of a deeper green and 
a wider spread ; till the eye fell below on the maritime 
plain, edged with the white sea-board and the sandy 
hillocks ; with here and there feathery palm-trees, 
either isolated or in groups—motionless and distinct 
against the hot purple air. 

Look again : a little to the left on the sea-shore 
there are the white walls of a fortified town, glittering 
in sunlight, or black in shadow. 

The fortifications themselves run out into the sea, 
forming a port and a haven against the wild Levan- 
tine storms ; and a lighthouse rises out of the waves 
to guide mariners into safety. 

Beyond this walled city, and far away to the left 
still, there is the same wide plain shut in by the 
distant rising ground, till the upland circuit comes 
closing in to the north, and the great white rocks 
meet the deep tideless ocean with its intensity of blue 
colour. 

Above, the sky is literally purple with heat ; and 
the pitiless light smites the gazer's weary eye as it 
comes back from the white shore. JSTor does the 
plain country in that land offer the refuge and rest of 
our own soft -green. The limestone rock underlies 
the vegetation, and gives a glittering, ashen hue to all 
the bare patches, and even to the cultivated parts 



THE RECOGNITION. 



149 



which are burnt up early in the year. In spring 
time alone does the country look rich and fruitful ; 
then the corn-fields of the plain show their capability 
of bearing, " some fifty, some an hundred fold ; " 
down by the brook Kishon, flowing not far from 
the base of the mountainous promontory to the south, 
there grow the broad green fig-trees, cool and fresh 
to look upon ; the orchards are full of glossy-leaved 
cherry-trees; the tall amaryllis puts forth crimson 
and yellow glories in the fields, rivalling the pomp of 
King Solomon ; the daisies and the hyacinths spread 
their myriad flowers ; the anemones, scarlet as blood, 
run hither and thither over the ground like dazzling 
flames of fire. 

A spicy odour lingers in the heated air it comes 
from the multitude of aromatic flowers that blossom 
in the early spring. Later on they will have withered 
and faded, and the corn will have been gathered, and 
the deep green of the eastern foliage will have 
assumed a kind of grey-bleached tint. 

Even now in May, the hot sparkle of the ever- 
lasting sea, the terribly clear outline of all objects, 
whether near or distant, the fierce sun right over- 
head, the dazzling air around, were inexpressibly 
wearying to the English eyes that kept their skilled 
watch, day and night, on the strongly-fortified coast 



150 SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 

town that lay out a little to the northward of where 
the British ships were anchored. 

They had kept up a flanking fire for many days in 
aid of those besieged in St. Jean d'Acre; and at 
intervals had listened, impatient, to the sound of the 
heavy siege guns, or the sharper rattle of the French 
musketry. 

In the morning, on the 7th of May, a man at the 
masthead of the Tigre sang out that he saw ships in 
the offing ; and in reply to the signal that was hastily 
run up, he saw the distant vessels hoist friendly flags. 
That May morning was a busy time. The besieged 
Turks took heart of grace ; the French outside, under 
the command of their great general, made hasty pre- 
parations for a more vigorous assault than all the 
many, both vigorous and bloody, that had gone 
before (for the siege was now at its fifty-first day), 
in hopes of carrying the town by storm before the 
reinforcement coming by sea could arrive; and Sir 
Sidney Smith, aware of Buonaparte's desperate 
intention, ordered all the men, both sailors and 
marines, that could be spared from the necessity of 
keeping up a continual flanking fire from the ships 
upon the French, to land, and assist the Turks and 
the British forces already there in the defence of the 
old historic city. 



THE RECOGNITION. 



151 



Lieutenant Kinraid, who had shared his captain's 
daring adventure off the coast of France three years 
before, who had been a prisoner with him and 
Westley Wright, in the Temple at Paris, and had 
escaped with them, and, through Sir Sidney's earnest 
recommendation, been promoted from being a warrant 
officer to the rank of lieutenant, received on this day 
the honour from his admiral of being appointed to an 
especial post of danger. His heart was like a war- 
horse, and said, Ha, ha! as the. boat bounded over 
the waves that was to land him under the ancient 
niachicolated walls where the Crusaders made their 
last stand in the Holy Land. Not that Kinraid 
knew, or cared one jot about those gallant knights 
of old: all he knew was, that the French, under 
Boney, were trying to take the town from the Turks, 
and that his admiral said they must not, and so they 
should not. 

He and his men landed on that sandy shore, and 
entered the town by the water-port gate; he was 
singing to himself his own country song, — 

" Weel may the keel row, the keel row," &c., 

and his men, with sailors' aptitude for music, caught 
up the air, and joined in the burden with inarticulate 
sounds. 



152 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



So, with merry hearts, they threaded the narrow 
streets of Acre, hemmed in on either side by the 
white walls of Turkish houses, with small grated 
openings high up, above all chance of peeping in- 
trusion. 

Here and there they met an ample-robed and 
turbaned Turk, going along with as much haste as 
his stately self-possession would allow. But the 
majority of the male inhabitants were gathered to- 
gether to defend the breach, where the French guns 
thundered out far above the heads of the sailors. 

They went along none the less merrily for the 
sound to Djezzar Pacha's garden, where the old 
Turk sate on his carpet, beneath the shade of a 
great terebinth tree, listening to the interpreter, who 
made known to him the meaning of the eager 
speeches of Sir Sidney Smith and the colonel of the 
marines. 

As soon as the admiral saw the gallant sailors of 
H.M.S. Tigre, he interrupted the council of war 
without much ceremony, and going to Kinraid, he 
despatched them, as before arranged, to the North 
Eavelin, showing them the way with rapid, clear 
directions. 

Out of respect to him, they had kept silent while 
in the strange, desolate garden ; but once again in 



THE RECOGNITION. 



153 



the streets, the old Newcastle song rose up again till 
the men were, perforce, silenced by the haste with 
which they went to the post of danger. 

It was three o'clock in the afternoon. For many 
a day these very men had been swearing at the 
terrific heat at this hour — even when at sea, fanned 
by the soft breeze; but now, in the midst of hot 
smoke, with former carnage tainting the air, and with 
the rush and whizz of death perpetually whistling in 
their ears, they were uncomplaining and light- 
hearted. Many an old joke, and some new ones, 
came, brave and hearty, on their cheerful voices, even 
though the speaker was veiled from sight in great 
clouds of smoke, cloven only by the bright flames of 
death. 

A sudden message came: as many of the crew 
of the Tigre as were under Lieutenant Kinraid's 
command were to go down to the Mole, to assist the 
new reinforcements (seen by the sailor from the 
masthead at day-dawn), under command of Hassan 
Bey, to land at the Mole, where Sir Sidney then 
was. 

Off they went, almost as bright and thoughtless as 
ever, though two of their number lay silent for ever 
at the North Ravelin — silenced in that one little half- 
hour. And one went along with the rest, swearing 



154 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



lustily at his ill-luck in having his right arm broken^ 
but ready to do good business with his left. 

They helped the Turkish troops to land more with 
good-will than tenderness ; and then, led by Sir 
Sidney, they went under the shelter of English 
guns to the fatal breach, so often assailed, so gallantly 
defended^ but never so fiercely contested as on this 
burning afternoon. The ruins of the massive wall 
that here had been broken down by the French, were 
used by them as stepping stones to get on a level 
with the besieged, and so to escape the heavy stones 
which the latter hurled down; nay, even the dead 
bodies of the morning's comrades were made into 
ghastly stairs. 

When Djezzar Pacha heard that the British sailors 
were defending the breach, headed by Sir Sidney 
Smith, he left his station in the palace garden, 
gathered up his robes in haste, and hurried to the 
breach ; where, with his own hands, and with right 
hearty good-will, he pulled the sailors down from the 
post of danger, saying that if he lost his English 
friends he lost all ! 

But little recked the crew of the Tigre of the one 
old man — Pacha or otherwise — who tried to hold 
them back from the fight ; they were up and at the 
French assailants clambering over the breach in an 



THE EECOGNITION. 



155 



instant; and so they went on, as if it were some 
game at play instead of a deadly combat, until 
Kinraid and his men were called off by Sir Sidney, 
as the reinforcement of Turkish troops under Hassan 
Bey were now sufficient for the defence of that old 
breach in the walls, which was no longer the prin- 
cipal object of the French attack ; for the besiegers 
had made a new and more formidable breach by 
their incessant fire, knocking down whole streets of 
the city wails. 

ee Fight your best, Kinraid ! " said Sir Sidney ; 
u for there's Boney on yonder hill looking at you." 

And sure enough, on a rising ground, called 
Richard Coeur de Lion's Mount, there was a half- 
circle of French generals, on horseback, all defer- 
entially attending to the motions, and apparently to 
the words, of a little man in their centre ; at whose 
bidding the aide-de-camp galloped swift with messages 
to the more distant French camp. 

The two ravelins which Kinraid and his men had 
to occupy, for the purpose of sending a flanking fire 
upon the enemy, were not ten yards from that 
enemy's van. 

But at length there was a sudden rush of the 
French to that part of the wall where they imagined 
they could enter unopposed. 



156 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



Surprised at this movement, Kinraid ventured out 
of the shelter of the ravelin to ascertain the cause ; 
he, safe and untouched during that long afternoon of 
carnage, fell now, under a stray musket shot, and 
lay helpless and exposed upon the ground undiscerned 
by his men, who were recalled to help in the hot 
reception which had been planned for the French; 
who, descending the city walls into the Pacha's 
garden, were attacked with sabre and dagger, and 
lay headless corpses under the flowering rose-bushes, 
and by the fountain side. 

Kinraid lay beyond the ravelins, many yards out- 
side the city walls. 

He was utterly helpless, for the shot had broken 
his leg. Dead bodies of Frenchmen lay strewn 
around him ; no Englishman had ventured out so 
far, 

All the wounded men that he could see were 
French ; and many of these, furious with pain, 
gnashed their teeth at him, and cursed him aloud, 
till he thought that his best course was to assume the 
semblance of death ; for some among these men 
were still capable of dragging themselves up to him, 
and by concentrating all their failing energies into 
Gne blow, put him to a speedy end. 

The outlying pickets of the French army were 



THE RECOGNITION. 



157 



within easy rifle shot ; and his uniform, although less 
conspicuous in colour than that of the marines, by 
whose sides he had been fighting, would make him a 
sure mark if he so much as moved his arm. Yet 
how he longed to turn, if ever so slightly, so that the 
cruel slanting sun might not beat full into his aching 
eyes. Fever, too, was coming upon him ; the pain 
in his leg was every moment becoming more severe ; 
the terrible thirst of the wounded, added to the heat 
and fatigue of the day, made his lips and tongue feel 
baked and dry, and his whole throat seemed parched 
and wooden. Thoughts of other days, of cool 
Greenland seas, where ice abounded, of grassy English 
homes, began to make the past more real than the 
present. 

With a great effort he brought his wandering senses 
back ; he knew where he was now, and could weigh 
the chances of his life, which were but small : the 
unwonted tears came to his eyes as he thought of the 
newly-made wife in her English home, who might 
never know how he died thinking of her. 

Suddenly he saw a party of English marines 
advance, under shelter of the ravelin, to pick up the 
wounded, and bear them within the walls for surgical 
help. They were so near he could see their faces, 
could hear them speak ; yet he durst not make any 



158 SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



sign to them when he lay within range of the French 
picket's fire. 

For one moment he conld not resist raising his 
head, to give himself a chance for life; before the 
unclean creatures that infest a camp, came round in 
the darkness of the night to strip and insult the 
dead bodies, and to put to death such as had yet the 
breath of life within them. But the setting sun came 
full into his face, and he saw nothing of what he 
longed to see. 

He fell back in despair ; he lay there to die. 

That strong clear sunbeam had wrought his salva- 
tion. 

He had been recognized as men are recognized 
when they stand in the red glare of a house 
on fire ; the same despair of help, of hopeless fare- 
well to life, stamped on their faces in blood-red 
light. 

One man left his fellows, and came running for- 
wards, forwards in among the enemy's wounded, 
within range of their guns : he bent down over 
Kinraid ; he seemed to understand without a word, he 
lifted him up, carrying him like a child ; and with the 
vehement energy that is more from the force of will 
than the strength of body, he bore him back to 
within the shelter of the ravelin — not without many 



THE RECOGNITION. 



159 



shots being aimed at them, one of which hit Kinraid 
in the fleshy part of his arm. 

Kinraid was racked with agony from his dangling 
broken leg, and his very life seemed leaving him ; 
yet he remembered afterwards how the marine re- 
called his fellows, and how, in the pause before they 
returned, his face became like one formerly known to 
the sick senses of Kinraid ; yet it was too like a dream, 
too utterly improbable to be real. 

Yet the few words this man said, as he stood 
breathless and alone by the fainting Kinraid, fitted 
in well with the belief conjured up by his personal 
appearance. He panted out, — 

ec I niver thought you would ha' kept true to her ! " 

And then the others came up ; and while they were 
making a sling of their belts, Kinraid fainted utterly 
away, and the next time that he was fully conscious, 
he was lying in his berth in the Tigre, with the 
ship surgeon setting his leg. After that he was too 
feverish for several days to collect his senses. When 
he could first remember, and form a judgment upon 
his recollections, he called the man especially charged 
to attend upon him, and bade him go and make 
inquiry in every possible manner for a marine named 
Philip Hepburn, and, when he was found, to entreat 
him to come and see Kinraid. 



160 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



The sailor was away the greater part of the day, 
and returned unsuccessful in his search ; he had been 
from ship to ship, hither and thither ; he had ques- 
tioned all the marines he had met with, no one knew 
anything of any Philip Hepburn. 

Kinraid passed a miserably feverish night, and 
when the doctor exclaimed the next morning at his 
retrogression, he told him, with some irritation, of the 
ill-success of his servant; he accused the man of 
stupidity, and wished fervently that he were able to 
go himself. 

Partly to soothe him, the doctor promised that he 
would undertake the search for Hepburn, and he 
engaged faithfully to follow all Kinraid's eager direc- 
tions ; not to be satisfied with men's careless words, 
but to look over muster-rolls and ships' books. 

He too brought the same answer, however unwill- 
ingly given. 

He had set out upon the search so confident of 
success, that he felt doubly discomfited by failure. 
However, he had persuaded himself that the lieu- 
tenant had been partially delirious from the effects 
of his wound, and the power of the sun shining down 
just where he lay. There had, indeed, been slight 
symptoms of Kinraid's having received a sun-stroke ; 
and the doctor dwelt largely on these in his endeavour 



THE KECOGNITION. 



161 



to persuade his patient that it was his imagination 
which had indued a stranger with the lineaments 
of some former friend. 

Kinraid threw his arms out of bed with impatience 
at all this plausible talk, which was even more 
irritating than the fact that Hepburn was still un- 
discovered. 

" The man was no friend of mine ; I was like to 
have killed him when last I saw him. He was a 
shopkeeper in a country town in England. I had 
seen little enough of him ; but enough to make me 
able to swear to him anywhere, even in a marine's 
uniform, and in this sweltering country." 

" Faces once seen, especially in excitement, are 
apt to return upon the memory in cases of fever," 
quoth the doctor, sententiously. 

The attendant sailor, reinstalled to some compla- 
cency by the failure of another in the search in which 
he himself had been unsuccessful, now put in his 
explanation. 

" Maybe it was a spirit. It's not the first time 
as I've heard of a spirit coming upon earth to save 
a man's life in time of need. My father had an 
uncle, a west country grazier. He was a coming 
over Dartmoor in Devonshire one moonlight night 
with a power of money as he had got for his sheep 

vol. in. 50 



162 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



at the fair. It were stowed in leather bags under; 
the seat of the gig. It were a rough kind of road, 
both as a road and in character, for there had been 
many robberies there of late, and the great rocks 
stood convenient for hiding-places. All at once 
father's uncle feels as if some one were sitting be- 
side him on the empty seat ; and he turns his head 
and looks, and there he sees his brother sitting — his 
brother as had been dead twelve year and more. So 
he turns his head back again, eyes right, and never 
says a word, but wonders what it all means. All of 
a sudden two fellows come out upon the white road 
from some black shadow, and they look, and they let 
the gig go past, father's uncle driving hard, I'll warrant 
him. But for all that he heard one say to t' other, 

* By , there's two of them ! ' Straight on he 

drove faster than ever, till he saw the far lights 
of some town or other. I forget its name, though 
I've heard it many a time ; and then he drew a 
long breath, and turned his head to look at his 
brother, and ask him how he'd managed to come 
out of his grave in Barum churchyard, and the seat 
was as empty as it had been when he set out ; and 
then he knew that it were a spirit come to help him 
against the men who thought to rob him, and would 
likely enough have murdered him." 



THE RECOGNITION. 



163 



Kinraid had kept quiet through this story. But 
when the sailor began to draw the moral, and to 
say, " And I think I may make bold to say, sir, as 
the marine who carried you out of the Frenchy's gun 
shot was just a spirit come to help you," he exclaimed 
impatiently, swearing a great oath as he did so, ee It 
was no spirit, I tell you; and I was in my full 
senses. It was a man named Philip Hepburn. He 
said words to me, or over me, as hone but himself 
would have said. Yet we hated each other like 
poison ; and I can't make out why he should be there 
and putting himself in danger to save me. But so it 
was ; and as you can't find him, let me hear no more 
of your nonsense. It was him, and not my fancy, 
doctor. It was flesh and blood, and not a spirit, Jack. 
So get along with you, and leave me quiet." 

All this time Stephen Freeman lay friendless, sick, 
and shattered, on board the Theseus. 

He had been about his duty close to some shells 
that were placed on her deck ; a gay young midship- 
man was thoughtlessly striving to get the fusee out of 
one of these by a mallet and spike-nail that lay close 
at hand ; and a fearful explosion ensued, in which the 
poor marine, cleaning his bayonet near, was shock- 
ingly burnt and disfigured, the very skin of all the 
lower part of his face being utterly destroyed by 

50—2 



164 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



gunpowder. They said it was a mercy that his eyes 
were spared ; but he could hardly feel anything to be 
a mercy, as he lay tossing in agony, burnt by the 
explosion, wounded by splinters, and feeling that he 
was disabled for life, if life itself were preserved. Of 
all that suffered by that fearful accident (and they 
were many) none was so forsaken, so hopeless, so 
desolate, as the Philip Hepburn about whom such 
anxious inquiries were being made at that very 
time. 



165 



CHAPTER X. 

CONFIDENCES. 

It was a little later on in that same summer that 
Mrs. Brunton came to visit her sister Bessy. 

Bessy was married to a tolerably well-to-do farmer 
who lived at an almost equal distance between Monks- 
haven and Hartswell ; but from old habit and con- 
venience the latter was regarded as the Dawsons' 
market-town ; so Bessy seldom or never saw her old 
friends in Monkshaven. 

But Mrs. Brunton was far too flourishing a person 
not to speak out her wishes, and have her own way. 
She had no notion, she said, of coming such a long 
journey only to see Bessy and her husband, and not 
to have a sight of her former acquaintances at Monks- 
haven. She might have added that her new bonnet 
and cloak would be as good as lost if it was not 
displayed among those who, knowing her as Molly 
Corney, and being less fortunate in matrimony than 



166 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



she was, would look upon it with wondering admira- 
tion, if not with envy. 

So one day Farmer Dawson's market cart deposited 
Mrs. Brunton in all her bravery at the shop in the 
market-place, over which Hepburn and Coulson's 
names still flourished in joint partnership. 

After a few words of brisk recognition to Coulson 
and Hester, Mrs. Brunton passed on into the parlour 
and greeted Sylvia with boisterous heartiness. 

It was now four years and more since the friends 
had met ; and each secretly wondered how they had 
ever come to be friends. Sylvia had a country, raw, 
spiritless look to Mrs. Brunton's eye ; Molly was loud 
and talkative, and altogether distasteful to Sylvia, 
trained in daily companionship with Hester to appre- 
ciate soft slow speech, and grave thoughtful ways. 

However, they kept up the forms of their old 
friendship, though their hearts had drifted far apart. 
They sat hand in hand while each looked at the other 
with eyes inquisitive as to the changes which time had 
made. Molly was the first to speak. 

e£ Well, to be sure ! how thin and pale yo've grown, 
Sylvia ! Matrimony hasn't agreed wi' you as well 
as it's done wi' me. Brunton is allays saying (yo' 
know what a man he is for his joke), that if he'd ha' 
known how many yards o' silk I should ha' ta'en for 



CONFIDENCES. 



167 



a gown, he'd ha' thought twice afore he'd ha' married 
me. Why I've gained a matter of thirty pound of 
flesh sin' I were married ! " 

" Yo' do look brave and hearty ! " said Sylvia, 
putting her sense of her companion's capacious size 
and high colour into the prettiest words she could. 

" Eh ! Sylvia ! but I know what it is," said Molly, 
shaking her head. " It's just because of that husband 
of thine as has gone and left thee ; thou's pining after 
him, and he's not worth it. Brunton said, when he 
heard of it — I mind he was smoking at the time, and 
he took his pipe out of his mouth, and shook out the 
ashes as grave as any judge — e The man,' says he, 
*as can desert a wife like Sylvia Robson as was, 
deserves hanging ! ' That's what he says ! Eh ! 
Sylvia, but speaking o' hanging, I was so grieved for 
yo' when I heard of yo'r poor father ! Such an end 
for a decent man to come to ! Many a one came and 
called on me o' purpose to hear all I could tell 'em 
about him ! " 

" Please don't speak on it ! " said Sylvia, trembling 
all over. 

(( Well, poor creature, I won't. It is hard on thee, 
I grant. But to give t' devil his due, it were good 
in Hepburn to marry thee, and so soon after there 
was a' that talk about thy father. Many a man 



168 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



would lia' drawn back, choose however far they'd 
gone. I'm noan so sure about Charley Kinraid. Eh, 
Sylvia ! only think on his being alive after all ! I 
doubt if our Bessy would ha' wed Frank Dawson if 
she'd known as he wasn't drowned. But it's as well 
she did, for Dawson's a man o' property, and has gotten 
twelve cows in his cow-house, beside three right down 
good horses ; and Kinraid were allays a fellow wi' 
two strings to his bow. I've allays said, and do 
maintain, that he went on pretty strong w 7 i' you, 
Sylvie ; and I will say I think he cared more for you 
than for our Bessy, though it were only yesterday at 
e'en she were standing out that he liked her better 
than you. Yo'll ha' heared on his grand marriage ? " 

" No ! " said Sylvia, with eager painful cu- 
riosity. 

" No ! It was in all t' papers ! I wonder as yo' 
didn't see it. Wait a minute ■! I cut it out o' t' 
Gentlemaris Magazine, as Brunton bought o' purpose, 
and put it in my pocket-book when I were a coming 
here : I know I've got it somewhere." 

She took out her smart crimson pocket-book, and 
rummaged in the pocket until she produced a little 
crumpled bit of printed paper, from which she read 
aloud, 

"On January the third, at St. Mary RedclifFe, 



CONFIDENCES. 



169 



Bristol, Charles Kinraid, Esq., lieutenant Royal Navy, 
to Miss Clarinda Jackson, with a fortune of 10,000/." 

" There ! " said she, triumphantly, " it's something, 
as Brunton says, to be cousin to that." 

" Would yo' let me see it ? " said Sylvia, timidly. 

Mrs. Brunton graciously consented ; and Sylvia 
brought her newly acquired reading -knowledge, 
hitherto principally exercised on the Old Testament, 
to bear on these words. 

There was nothing wonderful in them, nothing 
that she might not have expected ; and yet the 
surprise turned her giddy for a moment or two. She 
never thought of seeing him again — never. But to 
think of his caring for another woman as much as he 
had done for her, nay, perhaps more ! 

The idea was irresistibly forced upon her that 
Philip would not have acted so : it would have taken 
long years before he could have been induced to put 
another on the throne she had once occupied. For the 
first time in her life she seemed to recognize the real 
nature of Philip's love. 

But she said nothing but " Thank you " when she 
gave the scrap of paper back to Molly Brunton. 
And the latter continued giving her information 
about Kinraid's marriage. 

"He were down in t' west, Plymouth or some- 



170 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



where, when he met with her. She's no father; 
he'd been in t' sugar-baking business ; but from 
what Kinraid wrote to old Turner, the uncle who 
brought him up at Cullercoats, she's had t' best 
of educations : can play on t' instrument and 
dance t' shawl dance ; and Kinraid had all her 
money settled on her, though she said she'd rather 
give it all to him, which I must say, being his 
cousin, was very pretty on her. He's left her now, 
having to go off in t' Tigre, as is his ship, to t' Medi- 
terranean seas ; and she's written to offer to come and 
see old Turner, and make friends with his relations, 
and Brunton is going to give me a crimson satin as 
soon as we know for certain when she's coming, for 
we're sure to be asked out to Culler coats." 

ee I wonder if she's very pretty ? " asked Sylvia, 
faintly, in the first pause in this torrent of talk. 

ee Oh ! she's a perfect beauty, as I understand. 
There was a traveller as came to our shop as had been 
at York, and knew some of her cousins there, that 
were in t' grocery line — her mother was a York lady 
• — and they said she was just a picture of a woman, and 
ever so many gentlemen had been wanting to marry 
her, but she just waited for Charley Kinraid, yo' see ! " 

" Well, I hope they'll be happy ; I'm sure I do ! " 
said Sylvia. 



CONFIDENCES. 



171 



" That's just luck. Some folks is happy in mar- 
riage, and some isn't. It's just luck, and there's 
no forecasting it. Men is such unaccountable 
animals, there's no prophesying upon 'em. Who'd 
ha' thought of yo'r husband, him as was so slow 
and sure — steady Philip, as we lasses used to call 
him — -making a moonlight flitting, and leaving yo' to 
be a widow bewitched ! " 

ee He didn't go at night," said Sylvia, taking the 
words e£ moonlight flitting " in their literal sense. 

" No ! Well, I only said e moonlight flitting ' just 
because it come uppermost and I knowed no better. 
Tell me all about it, Sylvie, for I can't make it 
out from what Bessy says. Had he and yo' had 
words ? — but in course yo' had." 

At this moment Hester came into the room ; and 
Sylvia joyfully availed herself of the pretext for 
breaking off the conversation that had reached 
this painful and awkward point. She detained 
Hester in the room for fear lest Mrs. Brunton should 
repeat her inquiry as to how it all happened that 
Philip had gone away ; but the presence of a third 
person seemed as though it would be but little 
restraint upon the inquisitive Molly, who repeatedly 
bore down upon the same questions till she nearly 
drove Sylvia distracted, between her astonishment 



172 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



at the news of Kinraid's marriage ; her wish to be 
alone and quiet, so as to realize the full meaning of 
that piece of intelligence ; her desire to retain Hester 
in the conversation; her efforts to prevent Molly's 
recurrence to the circumstances of Philip's disappear- 
ance, and the longing — more vehement every minute 
— for her visitor to go away and leave her in peace. 
She became so disturbed with all these thoughts and 
feelings that she hardly knew what she was saying, 
and assented or dissented to speeches without there 
being either any reason or truth in her w r ords. 

Mrs. Brunton had arranged to remain with Sylvia 
while the horse rested, and had no compunction about 
the length of her visit. She expected to be asked to 
tea, as Sylvia found out at last, and this she felt 
would be the worst of all, as Alice Rose was not one to 
tolerate the coarse, careless talk of such a woman 
as Mrs. Brunton without uplifting her voice in 
many a testimony against it. Syrvia sate holding 
Hester's gown tight in order to prevent her leaving 
the room, and trying to arrange her little plans 
so that too much discordance should not arise to 
the surface. Just then the door opened, and little 
Bella came in from the kitchen in all the pretty, 
sturdy dignity of two years old, Alice following 
her with careful steps, and protecting, outstretched 



CONFIDENCES. 



173 



arms, a slow smile softening the sternness of her grave 
face ; for the child was the unconscious darling of 
the household, and all eyes softened into love as they 
looked on her. She made straight for her mother 
with something grasped in her little dimpled fist ; 
but half way across the room she seemed to have 
become suddenly aw T are of the presence of a stranger, 
and she stopped short, fixing her serious eyes full 
on Mrs. Brunton, as if to take in her appearance, 
nay, as if to penetrate down into her very real 
self, and then, stretching out her disengaged hand, 
the baby spoke out the words that had been hovering 
about her mother's lips for an hour past. 

ee Do away ! " said Bella, decisively. 

* 6 "What a perfect love," said Mrs. Brunton, half 
in real admiration, half in patronage. As she spoke, 
she got up and went towards the child, as if to take 
her up. 

" Do away ! do away ! " cried Bella, in shrill 
affright at this movement. 

u Don't," said Sylvia, " she is shy ; she doesn't 
know strangers." 

But Mrs. Brunton had grasped the struggling, 
kicking child by this time, and her reward for this 
was a vehement little slap in the face. 

"Yo' naughty little spoilt thing!" said she, 



174 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



setting Bella down in a hurry. " Yo' deserve a 
good whipping, yo' do, and if yo' were mine yo' 
should have it." 

Sylvia had no need to stand up for the baby who 
had run to her arms, and was soothing herself 
with sobbing on her mother's breast ; for Alice 
took up the defence. 

" The child said, as plain as words could say, c go 
away,' and if thou wouldst follow thine own will 
instead of heeding her wish, thou must put up with 
the wilfulness of the old Adam, of which it seems to 
me thee hast getten thy share at thirty as well as 
little Bella at two." 

(e Thirty ! " said Mrs. Brunton, now fairly affronted. 
" Thirty ! why, Sylvia, yo' know I'm but two years 
older than yo' ;• speak to that woman and tell 
her that I'm only four and twenty. Thirty, in- 
deed!" 

(( Molly's but four and twenty," said Sylvia, in a 
pacificatory tone. 

" Whether she be twenty, or thirty, or forty, is 
alike to me," said Alice. " I meant no harm. I 
meant but for t' say as her angry words to the child 
bespoke her to be one of the foolish. I know not 
who she is, nor what her age may be." 

m She's an old friend of mine," said Sylvia. 



CONFIDENCES. 



175 



" She's Mrs. Brunton now, but when I knowed her 
she was Molly Corney." 

ee Ay ! and yo' were Sylvia Robson, and as bonny 
and light-hearted a lass as any in all t' Riding, 
though now yo're a poor widow bewitched, left 
wi' a child as I mustn't speak a word about, and 
living with folk as talk about t' old Adam as if he 
wasn't dead and done with long ago ! It's a change, 
Sylvia, as makes my heart ache for ye, to think on 
them old days when yo' were so thought on yo' 
might have had any man, as Brunton often says ; it 
were a great mistake as yo' ever took up wi' yon 
man as has run away. But seven year '11 soon be 
past from the time he went off, and yo' only be six 
and twenty then ; and there'll be a chance of a better 
husband for yo' after all, so keep up yo'r heart, 
Sylvia." 

Molly Brunton had put as much venom as she 
knew how into this speech, meaning it as a vengeful 
payment for the supposition of her being thirty, even 
more than for the reproof for her angry words about 
the child. She thought that Alice Rose must be either 
mother or aunt to Philip, from the serious cast of 
countenance that was remarkable in both ; and she 
rather exulted in the allusion to a happier second 
marriage for Sylvia, with which she had concluded 



176 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



her speech. It roused Alice, however, as effectually 
as if she had been really a blood relation to Philip ; 
but for a different reason. She was not slow to detect 
the intentional offensiveness to herself in what had 
been said ; she was indignant at Sylvia for suffering 
the words spoken to pass unanswered ; but in truth 
they were too much in keeping with Molly Brunton's 
character to make as much impression on Sylvia as 
they did on a stranger ; and besides, she felt as if the 
less reply Molly received, the less likely would it be 
that she would go on in the same strain. So she 
coaxed and chattered to her child and behaved like a 
little coward in trying to draw out of the conver- 
sation, while at the same time listening attentively. 

"As for Sylvia Hepburn as was Sylvia Robson, 
she knows my mind," said Alice, in grim indig- 
nation. 6{ She's humbling herself now, I trust and 
pray, but she was light-minded and full of vanity 
when Philip married her, and it might ha' been a 
lift towards her salvation in one way ; but it 
pleased the Lord to work in a different way, and 
she must wear her sackcloth and ashes in patience. 
So I'll say naught more about her. But for him as 
is absent, as thee hast spoken on so lightly and 
reproachfully, I'd have thee to know he were one of 
a different kind to any thee ever knew, I reckon. 



CONFIDENCES. 



177 



If he were led away by a pretty face to slight one as 
was fitter for him, and who had loved him as the 
apple of her eye, it's him as is suffering for it, inas- 
much as he is a wanderer from his home, and an 
outcast from wife and child." 

To the surprise of all, Molly's words of reply were 
cut short even when they were on her lips by Sylvia. 
Pale, fire-eyed, and excited, with Philip's child on one 
arm, and the other stretched out, she said, — 

" None can tell — none know. No one shall speak 
a judgment betwixt Philip and me. He acted cruel 
and wrong by me. But I have said my words ; to 
him hissel', and I'm noan going to make any plaint 
to others ; only them as knows should judge. And 
it's not fitting, it's not," (almost sobbing), " to go 
on with talk like this afore me." 

The two. — for Hester, who was aware that her 
presence had only been desired by Sylvia as a check 
to an unpleasant tete-a-tete conversation, had slipped 
back to her business as soon as her mother came 
in, — the two looked with surprise at Sylvia; her 
words, her whole manner belonged to a phase of her 
character which seldom came uppermost, and which 
had not been perceived by either of them before. 

Alice Rose, though astonished, rather approved of 
Sylvia's speech; it showed that she had more 

VOL. in. 51 



178 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



serious thought and feeling on the subject than the 
old woman had given her credit for ; her general 
silence on the subject of her husband had led Alice 
to think that she was too childish to have received 
any deep impression from the event. Molly Brunton 
gave vent to her opinion on Sylvia's speech in the 
following words : — 

" Hoighty-toighty. That tells tales, lass. If yo' 
treated steady Philip to many such looks and speeches 
as yo've given us now, it's easy to see why he took 
hisself off. Why, Sylvia, I never saw it in yo' 
when yo' was a girl, — yo're grown into a regular 
little vixen, there where yo' stand ! " 

Indeed she did look defiant, with the swift colour 
flushing her cheeks to crimson on its return, and the 
fire in her eyes not yet died away. But at Molly's 
jesting words she sank back into her usual look and 
manner, only saying quietly, — 

(c It's for noan to say whether I'm vixen or not, as 
doesn't know the past things as is buried in my 
heart. But I cannot hold them as my friends as go 
on talking on either my husband or me before my 
very face. What he was I know, and what I am, I 
reckon he knows. And now I'll go hurry tea, for 
yo'll be needing it, Molly ! " 

The last clause of this speech was meant to make 



CONFIDENCES. 



179 



peace ; but Molly was in twenty minds as to whether 
she should accept the olive-branch or not. Her 
temper, however, was of that obtuse kind which 
is not easily ruffled ; her mind, stagnant in itself, 
enjoyed excitement from without; and her appetite 
was invariably good, so she stayed in spite of the 
inevitable tete-a-tete with Alice. The latter, how- 
ever, refused to be drawn into conversation again; 
replying to Mrs. Brunton's speeches with a curt yes 
or no, when, indeed, she replied at all. 

When all were gathered at tea, Sylvia was quite 
calm again; rather paler than usual, and very 
attentive and subdued in her behaviour to Alice ; 
she would evidently fain have been silent, but as 
Molly washer own especial guest, that could not be, 
so all her endeavours went towards steering the con- 
versation away from any awkward points. But each 
of the four, let alone little Bella, was thankful when 
the market-cart drew up at the shop door, that was 
to take Mrs. Brunton back to her sister's house. 

When she w 7 as fairly off, Alice Rose opened her 
mouth in strong condemnation ; winding up with — 

66 And if aught in my words gave thee cause 
for offence, Sylvia, it was because my heart rose 
within me at the kind of talk thee and she had been 
having about Philip ; and her evil and light-minded 

51~2 



180 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



counsel to thee about waiting seven years, and then 
wedding another." 

Hard as these words may seem when repeated, 
there was something of a nearer approach to an 
apology in Mrs. Eose's manner than Sylvia had ever 
seen in it before. She was silent for a few moments, 
then she said, 

" I ha' often thought of telling yo' and Hester, 
special-like when yo've been so kind to my little 
Bella, that Philip and me could never come to- 
gether again, no, not if he came home this very 
night " 

She would have gone on speaking, but Hester 
interrupted her with a low cry of dismay. 

Alice said, # 

"Hush thee, Hester. It's no business o' thine. 
Sylvia Hepburn, thou'rt speaking like a silly child." 

" No. I'm speaking like a woman ; like a woman 
who finds out she's been cheated by men as she 
trusted; and who has no help for it. I'm noan 
going to say any more about it. It's me as has been 
wronged, and as has to bear it : only I thought I'd 
tell yo' both this much, that yo' might know some- 
what why he went away, and how I said my last 
word about it." 

So indeed it seemed. To all questions andremon- 



CONFIDENCES. 



181 



strances from Alice, Sylvia turned a deaf ear. She 
averted her face from Hester's sad wistful looks ; 
only when they were parting for the night, at the 
top of the little staircase, she turned, and putting her 
arms round Hester's neck she laid her head on her 
neck, and whispered, 

ee Poor Hester — poor, poor, Hester ! if yo' and he 
had but been married together what a deal o' sorrow 
would ha' been spared to us all ! " 

Hester pushed her away as she finished these 
words ; looked searchingly into her face, her eyes, 
and then followed Sylvia into her room, where Bella 
lay sleeping ; shut the door, and almost knelt down 
at Sylvia's feet, clasping her, and hiding her face in 
the folds of the other's gown. 

cc Sylvia, Sylvia," she murmured, (e some one has 
told you — I thought no one knew — it's no sin — it's 
done away with now — indeed it is — it was long ago — 
before yo' were married ; but I cannot forget. It 
was a shame, perhaps, to have thought on it ever, 
when he never thought o' me ; bat I never believed 
as any one could ha' found it out. I'm just fit to 
sink into t' ground, what with my sorrow and my 
shame." 

Hester was stopped by her own rising sobs, imme- 
diately she was in Sylvia's arms Sylvia was sitting 



162 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



on the ground holding her, and soothing her with 
caresses and broken words. 

Cf I'm allays saying t' wrong things," said she. 
(e It seems as if I were all upset to-day ; and indeed I 
am ! " she added, alluding to the news of Kinraid's 
marriage she had yet to think upon. 

" But it was not yo', Hester ; it were nothing yo 5 
ever said, or did, or looked, for that matter. It were 
your mother as let it out." 

ee Oh mother ! mother ; " wailed out Hester ; " I 
never thought as any one but God would ha' known 
that I had ever for a day thought on his being more 
to me than a brother." 

Sylvia made no reply, only went on stroking 
Hester's smooth brown hair, off which her cap had 
fallen. Sylvia was thinking how strange life was, 
and how love seemed to go all at cross purposes; and 
was losing herself in bewilderment at the mystery of 
the world ; she was almost startled when Hester rose 
up, and taking Sylvia's hands in both of hers, and 
looking solemnly at her, said, 

" Sylvia, you know what has been my trouble and 
my shame, and I'm sure yo' are sorry for me — for I 
will humble myself to yo', and own that for many 
months before yo' were married, I felt my disap- 
pointment like a heavy burden laid on me by day 



CONFIDENCES. 



183 



and by night; but now I ask yo' if yo' have any 
pity for me for what I went through, or if yo' have 
any love for me because of your dead mother's love 
for me, or because of any fellowship, or daily bread- 
liness between us two, — put the hard thoughts of 
Philip away from out yo'r heart ; he may ha' done 
yo' wrong, anyway yo' think that he has ; I never 
knew him ought but kind and good ; but if he comes 
back from wherever in the wide world he is gone to 
(and there's not a night but I pray God to keep him, 
and send him safe back), yo' put away the memory 
of past injury, and forgive it all, and be, what yo' 
can be, Sylvia, if yo've a mind to, just the kind, 
good wife he ought to have." 

" I cannot ; yo' know nothing about it, Hester." 

" Tell me then," pleaded Hester. 

" No ! " said Sylvia, after a moment's hesitation ; 
"I'd do a deal for yo', I would, but I daren't for- 
give Philip, even if I could; I took a great oath 
against him. Ay, you may look shocked at me, 
but it's him as yo' ought for to be shocked at if yo' 
knew all. I said I'd never forgive him ; I shall keep 
to my word." 

" I think I'd better pray for his death then," said 
Hester, hopelessly, and almost bitterly, loosing her 
hold of Sylvia's hands. 



184 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" If it weren't for baby there, 1 could think as it 
were my death as would be best. Them as one 
thinks the most on, forgets one soonest." 

It was Kinnaird to whom she was alluding; but 
Hester did not understand her; and after standing 
for a moment in silence, she kissed her, and left her 
for the night. 



185 



CHAPTER XI. 

AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER. 

After this agitation, and these partial confidences, 
no more was said on the subject of Philip for many 
weeks. They avoided even the slightest allusion to 
him ; and none of them knew how seldom or how 
often he might be present in the minds of the others. 

One day the little Bella was unusually fractious 
with some slight childish indisposition, and Sylvia 
was obliged to have recourse to a never-failing piece 
of amusement; namely, to take the child into the 
shop, when the number of new, bright-coloured 
articles was sure to beguile the little girl out of her 
fretfulness. She was walking along the high terrace 
of the counter, kept steady by her mother's hand, 
when Mr. Dawson's market-cart once more stopped 
before the door. But it was not Mrs. Brunton who 
alighted now; it was a very smartly-dressed, very 
pretty young lady, who put one dainty foot before the 
other with care, as if descending from such a primi- 



186 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



tive vehicle were a new occurrence in her life. Then 
she looked up at the names above the shop door, and 
after ascertaining that this was indeed the place she 
desired to find., she came in blushing. 

" Is Mrs. Hepburn at home?" she asked of Hester, 
whose position in the shop brought her forwards to 
receive the customers, while Sylvia drew Bella out of 
sight behind some great bales of red flannel. 

" Can I see her ? " the sweet, south-country voice 
went on, still addressing Hester. Sylvia heard the 
inquiry, and came forwards, with a little rustic awk- 
wardness, feeling both shy and curious. 

66 Will you please walk this way, ma'am ? " said 
she, leading her visitor back into her own dominion 
of the parlour, and leaving Bella to Hester's willing 
care. 

" You don't know me ! " said the pretty young 
lady, joyously. " But I think you knew my husband. 
I am Mrs. Kinraid ! " 

A sob of surprise rose to Sylvia's lips — she choked 
it down, however, and tried to conceal any emotion 
she might feel in placing a chair for her visitor, 
and trying to make her feel welcome, although, if 
the truth must be told, Sylvia was wondering all 
the time why her visitor came, and how soon she 
would go. 



AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGEK. 



187 



" You knew Captain Kinraid, did you not ? " said 
the young lady, with innocent inquiry ; to which 
Sylvia's lips formed the answer, u Yes/' but no clear 
sound issued therefrom. 

ee But I know your husband knew the captain ; is 
he at home yet ? Can I speak to him ? I do so want 
to see him." 

Sylvia was utterly bewildered ; Mrs. Kinraid, this 
pretty, joyous, prosperous little bird of a woman, 
Philip, Charley's wife, what could they have in 
common? what could they know of each other? 
All she could say in answer to Mrs. Kinraid's eager 
questions, and still more eager looks, was, that her 
husband was from home, had been long from home : 
she did not know where he was, she did not know 
when he would come back. * 

Mrs. Kinraid's face fell a little, partly from her 
own real disappointment, partly out of sympathy 
with the hopeless, indifferent tone of Sylvia's replies. 

" Mrs. Dawson told me he had gone away rather 
suddenly a year ago, but I thought he might be 
come home by now. I am expecting the captain early 
next month. Oh ! how I should have liked to see 
Mr. Hepburn, and to thank him for saving the 
captain's life ! " 

" What do you mean ? " asked Sylvia, stirred out 



188 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



of all assumed indifference. " The captain ! is that " 
(not " Charley," she could* not use that familiar 
name to the pretty young wife before her) "your 
husband ? " 

" Yes, you knew him, did not you ? when he used 
to be staying with Mr. Corney, his uncle? " 

(i Yes, I knew him ; but I don't understand. Will 
you please to tell me all about it, ma'am?" said 
Sylvia, faintly. 

" I thought your husband would have told you all 
about it ; I hardly know where to begin. You know 
my husband is a sailor ? " 

Sylvia nodded assent, listening greedily, her heart 
beating thick all the time. 

(( And he's now a Commander in the Royal Navy, 
all earned by his own bravery ! Oh ! I am so proud 
of him!" 

So could Sylvia have been if she had been his 
wife ; as it was, she thought how often she had felt 
sure that he would be a great man some day. 

" And he has been at the Siege of Acre. " 

Sylvia looked perplexed at these strange words, 
and Mrs. Kinraid caught the look. 

"St. Jean d'Acre, you know — though it's fine 
saying c you know,' when I did not know a bit about 
it myself till the captain's ship was ordered there, 



AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER. 189 

though I was the head girl at Miss Dobbin's in the 
geography class — Acre is a seaport town, not far 
from Jaffa, which is the modern name for Joppa, 
where St. Paul went to long ago ; you've read of 
that I'm sure, and Mount Carmel, where the prophet 
Elijah was once, all in Palestine you know, only the 
Turks have got it now ? " 

" But I don't understand yet," said Sylvia, plain- 
tively, " I daresay it's all very true about St. Paul, 
but, please ma'am, will you tell me about your hus- 
band and mine — have they met again ? " 

" Yes, at Acre, I tell you," said Mrs. Kinraid, with 
pretty petulance. 66 The Turks held the town, and 
the French wanted to take it; and we, that is the 
British Fleet, would not let them. So Sir Sidney 
Smith, a commodore and a great friend of the 
captain's, landed in order to fight the French ; and 
the captain and many of the sailors landed with him ; 
and it was burning hot ; and the poor captain was 
wounded, and lay a-dying of pain and thirst within 
the enemy's — that is the French — fire ; so that they 
were ready to shoot any one of his own side who 
came near him. They thought he was dead himself, 
you see, as he was very near ; and would have been 
too, if your husband had not come out of shelter, and 
taken him up in his arms or on his back (I could not 



190 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



make out which), and carried him safe within the 
walls." 

"It couldn't have been Philip," said Sylvia, 
dubiously. 

" But it was. The captain says so ; and he's not 
a man to be mistaken. I thought I had got his letter 
with me, and I would have read you a part of it, but 
I left it at Mrs. Dawson's in my desk ; and I can't 
send it to you," blushing as she remembered certain 
passages in which " the captain " wrote very much 
like a lover, "or else I would. But you may be 
quite sure it was your husband that ventured into 
all that danger to save his old friend's life, or the 
captain would not have said so." 

6S But they were not — they were not — not to call 
great friends." 

ee I wish I had got the letter here ; I can't think 
how I could be so stupid ; I think I can almost 
remember the very words, though — I've read them 
over so often. He says, 6 J ust as I gave up all hope, 
I saw one Philip Hepburn, a man whom I had 
known at Monkshaven, and whom I had some 
reason to remember well,' (I am sure he says so — 
6 remember well'), c he saw me too, and came at the 
risk of his life to where I lay. I fully expected he 
would be shot down ; and I shut my eyes not to see 



AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGEK, 191 



the end of my last chance. The shot rained about 
him, and I think he was hit ; but he took me up and 
carried me under cover.' I am sure he says that, 
I have read it over so often ; and he goes on and 
says how he hunted for Mr. Hepburn all through the 
ships, as soon as ever he could; but he could hear 
nothing of him, either alive or dead. Don't go so 
white for pity's sake," said she, suddenly startled by 
Sylvia's blanching colour. se You see, because he 
could not find him alive is no reason for giving him 
up as dead ; because his name was not to be found 
on any of the ships' books, so the captain thinks he 
must have been known by a different name to his 
real one. Only he says he should like to have seen 
him to have thanked him ; and he says he would give 
a deal to know what has become of him; and as 
I was staying two days at Mrs. Dawson's, I told 
them I must come over to Monkshaven, if only for 
five minutes, just to hear if your good husband was 
come home, and to shake his hands, that helped to 
save my own dear captain." 

<c I don't think it could have been Philip," reiterated 
Sylvia. 

" Why not ? " asked her visitor, e: you say you 
don't know where he is ; why might not he have 
been there where the captain says he was ? " 



192 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" But he wasn't a sailor, nor yet a soldier." 

" Oh ! but he was. I think somewhere the captain 
calls him a marine ; that's neither one nor the other, 
but a little of both. He'll be coming home some day 
soon ; and then you'll see ! " 

Alice Rose came in at this minute, and Mrs. 
Kinraid jumped to the conclusion that she was 
Sylvia's mother, and in her overflowing gratitude 
and friendliness to all the family of him who had 
" saved the captain " she went forward, and shook 
the old woman's hand in that pleasant confiding way 
that wins all hearts. 

" Here's your daughter, ma'am ! " said she to the 
half astonished, half pleased Alice. " I'm Mrs. 
Kinraid, the wife of the captain that used to be 
in these parts, and I'm come to bring her news of 
her husband, and she don't half believe me, though 
it's all to his credit, I'm sure." 

Alice looked so perplexed that Sylvia felt herself 
bound to explain. 

" She says he's either a soldier or a sailor, and 
a long way off at some place named in t' Bible." 

" Philip Hepburn led away to be a soldier ? " said 
she, " who had once been a Quaker." 

"Yes, and a very brave one too, and one that 
it would do my heart good to look upon," exclaimed 



AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER. 



193 



Mrs. Kinraid. e£ He's been saving my husband's 
life in the Holy Land, where Jerusalem is, you know." 

(e Nay ! " said Alice, a little scornfully. " I can 
forgive Sylvia for not being over keen to credit thy 
news. Her man of peace becoming a man of war ; 
and suffered to enter Jerusalem, which is a heavenly 
and a typical city at this time ; while me, as is one 
of the elect, is obliged to go on dwelling in Monks- 
haven, just like any other body." 

ei Nay, but," said Mrs. Kinraid, gently, seeing she 
was touching on delicate ground, ts I did not say 
he had gone to Jerusalem, but my husband saw 
him in those parts, and he was doing his duty like 
a brave, good man; ay, and more than his duty; 
and, you may take my word for it, he'll be at home 
some day soon, and all I beg is that you'll let 
the captain and me know, for I'm sure if we can, 
we'll both come and pay our respects to him. And 
I'm very glad I've seen you," said she, rising to go, 
and putting out her hand to shake that of Sylvia ; 
" for, besides being Hepburn's wife, I'm pretty sure 
I've heard the captain speak of you ; and if ever you 
come to Bristol I hope you'll come and see us on 
Clifton Downs." 

She went away, leaving Sylvia almost stunned 
by the new ideas presented to her. Philip a soldier ! 

vol. in. 52 



194 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Philip in a battle, risking his life. Most strange 
of all, Charley and Philip once more meeting 
together, not as rivals or as foes, hut as saviour 
and saved ! Add to all this the conviction, strength- 
ened by every word that happy, loving wife had 
uttered, that Kinraid's old, passionate love for herself 
had faded away and vanished utterly : its very 
existence apparently blotted out of his memory. 
She had torn up her love for him by the roots, 
but she felt as if she could never forget that it had 
been. 

Hester brought back Bella to her mother. She 
had not liked to interrupt the conversation with 
the strange lady before; and now she found her 
mother in an obvious state of excitement ; Sylvia 
quieter than usual. 

s( That was Kinraid's wife, Hester ! Him that 
was the specksioneer as made such a noise about 
the place at the time of Darley's death. He is 
now a captain— a navy captain, according to what 
she says. And she would fain have us believe that 
Philip is abiding in all manner of Scripture places ; 
places as has been long done away with, but the 
similitude whereof is in the heavens, where the 
elect shall one day see them. And she says Philip 
is there, and a soldier, and that he saved her 



AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER. 



195 



husband's life, and is coming home soon. I wonder 
what John and Jeremiah will say to his soldiering 
then ? It '11 noan be to their taste, I'm thinking." 

This was all very unintelligible to Hester, and 
she would dearly have liked to question Sylvia ; 
but Sylvia sate a little apart, with Bella on her 
knee, her cheek resting on her child's golden curls, 
and her eyes fixed and almost trance-like, as if 
she were seeing things not present. 

So Hester had to be content with asking her 
mother as many elucidatory questions as she could ; 
and after all did not gain a very clear idea of what 
had really been said by Mrs. Kinraid, as her mother 
was more full of the apparent injustice of Philip's 
being allowed the privilege of treading on holy 
ground — if, indeed, that holy ground existed on this 
side heaven, which she was inclined to dispute — than 
to confine herself to the repetition of words, or narra- 
tion of facts. 

Suddenly Sylvia roused herself to a sense of 
Hester's deep interest and balked inquiries, and she 
went over the ground rapidly. 

" Yo'r mother says right — she is his wife. And 
he's away fighting; and got too near t' French 
as was shooting and firing all round him ; and just 
then, according to her story, Philip saw him, and 

52—2 



196 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



went straight into t' midst o' t' shots, and fetched 
him out o' danger. That's what she says, and 
upholds." 

ee And why should it not be ? " asked Hester, her 
cheek flushing. 

But Sylvia only shook her head, and said, 

" I cannot tell. It may be so. But they had little 
cause to be friends, and it seems all so strange — 
Philip a soldier, and them meeting there after all ! " 

Hester laid the story of Philip's bravery to her 
heart — she fully believed in it. Sylvia pondered 
it more deeply still ; the causes for her disbelief, or, 
at any rate, for her wonder,, were unknown to 
Hester ! Many a time she sank to sleep with the 
picture of the event narrated by Mrs. Kinraid as 
present to her mind as her imagination or experience 
could make it : first one figure prominent, then 
another. Many a morning she wakened up, her 
heart beating wildly, why, she knew not, till she 
shuddered at the remembrance of the scenes that 
had passed in her dreams : scenes that might be 
acted in reality that very day; for Philip might 
come back, and then ? 

And where was Philip all this time, these many 
weeks, these heavily passing months ? 



197 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHKE. 

Philip lay long ill on board the hospital ship. If 
his heart had been light, he might have rallied 
sooner ; but he was so depressed he did not care 
to live. His shattered jawbone, his burnt and 
blackened face, his many injuries of body, were 
torture to both his physical frame, and his sick, 
weary heart. No more chance for him, if indeed 
there ever had been any, of returning gay and 
gallant, and thus regaining his wife's love. This had 
been his poor, foolish vision in the first hour of his 
enlistment ; and the vain dream had recurred more 
than once in the feverish stage of excitement which 
the new scenes into which he had been hurried as a 
recruit had called forth. But that was all over now. 
He knew that it was the most unlikely thing in the 
world to have come to pass ; and yet those were 
happy days when he could think of it as barely 
possible. Now all he could look forward to was dis- 



198 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



figurement, feebleness, and the bare pittance that 
keeps pensioners from absolute want. 

Those around him were kind enough to him in 
their fashion, and attended to his bodily requirements ; 
but they had no notion of listening to any revelations 
of unhappiness, if Philip had been the man to make 
confidences of that kind. As it was, he lay very still 
in his berth, seldom asking for anything, and always 
saying he was better, when the ship-surgeon came 
round with his daily inquiries. But he did not care 
to rally, and was rather sorry to find that his case 
was considered so interesting in a surgical point of 
view, that he was likely to receive a good deal more 
than the average amount of attention. Perhaps it 
was owing to this that he recovered at all. The 
doctors said it was the heat that made him lan- 
guid., for that his wounds and burns were all doing 
well at last; and by-and-by they told him they 
had ordered him " home." His pulse sank under 
the surgeon's finger at the mention of the word ; but 
he did not say a word. He was too indifferent to 
life and the world to have a will; otherwise they 
might have kept their pet patient a little longer 
where he was. 

Slowly passing from ship to ship as occasion 
served ; resting here and there in garrison hospitals, 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 199 



Philip at length reached Portsmouth in England 
on the evening of a September day in 1799. The 
transport-ship in which he was, was loaded with 
wounded and invalided soldiers and sailors ; all who 
could manage it in any way struggled on deck to 
catch the first view of the white coasts of England. 
One man lifted his arm, took off his cap, and feebly 
waved it aloft crying, u Old England for ever ! " in a 
faint shrill voice, and then burst into tears and 
sobbed aloud. Others tried to pipe up fe Rule, 
Britannia," while more sate, weak and motionless, 
looking towards the shores that once, not so long 
ago, they never thought to see again. Philip was 
one of these ; his place a little apart from the other 
men. He was muffled up in a great military cloak 
that had been given him by one of his officers ; he 
felt the September breeze chill after his sojourn in a 
warmer climate, and in his shattered state of health. 

As the ship came in sight of Portsmouth harbour, 
the signal flags ran up the ropes ; the beloved Union 
Jack floated triumphantly over all. Return signals 
were made from the harbour; on board all became 
bustle and preparation for landing; while on shore 
there was the evident movement of expectation, and 
men in uniform were seen pressing their way to 
the front, as if to them belonged the right of re- 



200 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



ception. They were the men from the barrack 
hospital, that had been signalled for, come down 
with ambulance litters and other marks of fore- 
thought for the sick and wounded, who were return- 
ing to the country for which they had fought and 
suffered. 

With a dash and a great rocking swing the vessel 
came up to her appointed place, and was safely 
moored. Philip sat still, almost as if he had no part 
in the cries of welcome, the bustling care, the loud 
directions that cut the air around him, and pierced 
his nerves through and through. But one in authority 
gave the order ; and Philip, disciplined to obedience, 
rose to find his knapsack and leave the ship. 
Passive as he seemed to be, he had his likings for 
particular comrades ; there was one especially, a man 
as different from Philip as well could be, to whom the 
latter had always attached himself; a merry fellow 
from Somersetshire, who was almost always cheerful 
and bright, though Philip had overheard the doctors 
say he would never be the man he was before he had 
that shot through the side. This marine would 
often sit making his fellows laugh, and laughing 
himself at his own good-humoured jokes, till so 
terrible a fit of coughing came on that those around 
hi m feared that he would die in the paroxysm. 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 201 



After one of these fits he had gasped out some 
words, which led Philip to question him a little ; and 
it turned out that in the quiet little village of Pot- 
terne, far inland, nestled beneath the high stretches 
of Salisbury Plain, he had a wife, and a child, a little 
girl, just the same age even to a week as Philip's own 
little Bella. It was this that drew Philip towards the 
man ; and this that made Philip wait and go ashore 
along with the poor consumptive marine. 

The litters had moved off towards the hospital, 
the sergeant in charge had given his words of com- 
mand to the remaining invalids who tried to obey 
them to the best of their power, falling into something 
like military order for their march ; but soon, very 
soon, the weakest broke step, and lagged behind; and 
felt as if the rough welcomes and rude expressions of 
sympathy from the crowd around were almost too 
much for them. Philip and his companion were 
about midway, when suddenly a young woman with 
a child in her arms forced herself through the people, 
between the soldiers who kept pressing on either side, 
and threw herself on the neck of Philip's friend. 

"Oh, Jem!" she sobbed, "I've walked all the 
road from Potterne. I've never stopped but for food 
and rest for Nelly, and now I've got you once again, 
I've got you once again, bless God for it ! " 



202 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



She did not seem to see the deadly change that 
had come over her husband since she parted with 
him a ruddy young labourer ; she had got him once 
again, as she phrased it, and that was enough for 
her; she kissed his face, his hands, his very coat, 
nor would she be repulsed from walking beside 
him and holding his hand, while her little girl ran 
along scared by the voices and the strange faces, and 
clinging to her mammy's gown. 

Jem coughed, poor fellow ! he coughed his church- 
yard cough ; and Philip bitterly envied him — envied 
his life, envied his approaching death ; for was he 
not wrapped round with that woman's tender love, 
and is not such love stronger than death? Philip 
had felt as if his own heart was grown numb, and as 
though it had changed to a cold, heavy stone. But 
at the contrast of this man's lot to his own, he felt 
that he had yet the power of suffering left to him. 

The road they had to go was full of people, kept 
off in some measure by the guard of soldiers. All 
sorts of kindly speeches, and many a curious question 
were addressed to the poor invalids as they walked 
along. Philip's jaw, and the lower part of his face, 
were bandaged up ; his cap was slouched down ; he 
held his cloak about him, and shivered within its 
folds. 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 203 



They came to a standstill from some slight obstacle 
at the corner of a street. Down the causeway of 
this street a naval officer with a lady on his arm was 
walking briskly, with a step that told of health and a 
light heart. He stayed his progress though, when 
he saw the convoy of maimed and wounded men ; he 
said something, of which Philip only caught the 
words, (( same uniform," (S for his sake," to the young 
lady, whose cheek blanched a little, but whose eyes 
kindled. Then leaving her for an instant, he pressed 
forward ; he was close to Philip, — poor sad Philip 
absorbed in his own thoughts, — so absorbed that he 
noticed nothing till he heard a voice at his ear, having 
the Northumbrian burr, the Newcastle inflections 
that he knew of old, and that were to him like the 
sick memory of a deadly illness ; and then he turned 
his muffled face to the speaker, though he knew well 
enough who it was, and averted his eyes after one 
sight of the handsome, happy man, — the man whose 
life he had saved once, and would save again, at the 
risk of his own, but whom, for all that, he prayed that 
he might never meet more on earth. 

" Here, my fine fellow, take this," forcing a crown 
piece into Philip's hand. " I wish it were more ; I'd 
give you a pound if I had it with me." 

Philip muttered something, and held out the coin 



204 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



to Captain Kinraid, of course in vain ; nor was there 
time to urge it back upon the giver, for the obstacle 
to their progress was suddenly removed, the crowd 
pressed on the captain and his wife, the procession 
moved on, and Philip along with it, holding the piece 
in his hand, and longing to throw it far away. 
Indeed he was on the point of dropping it, hoping to 
do so unperceived, wdien he bethought him of giving 
it to Jem's wife, the footsore woman, limping happily 
along by her husband's side. They thanked him, 
and spoke in his praise more than he could well bear. 
It was no credit to him to give that away which 
burned his fingers as long as he kept it. 

Philip knew that the injuries he had received in 
the explosion on board the Theseus, would oblige him 
to leave the service. He also believed that they 
would entitle him to a pension. But he had little 
interest in his future life ; he was without hope, and 
in a depressed state of health. He remained for 
some little time stationary, and then went through 
all the forms of dismissal on account of wounds re- 
ceived in service, and was turned out loose upon the 
world, uncertain where to go, indifferent as to what 
became of him. 

It was fine, warm October weather as he turned 
his back upon the coast, and set off on his walk 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 205 



northwards. Green leaves were yet upon the trees ; 
the hedges were one flush of foliage and the wild 
rough-flavoured fruits of different kinds ; the fields 
were tawny with the uncleared-off stubble, or emerald 
green with the growth of the aftermath. The 
roadside cottage gardens were gay with hollyhocks 
and Michaelmas daisies and marigolds, and the 
bright panes of the windows glittered through a veil 
of China roses. 

The war was a popular one, and, as a natural 
consequence, soldiers and sailors were heroes every- 
where. Philip's long drooping form, his arm hung 
in a sling, his face scarred and blackened, his 
jaw bound up with a black silk handkerchief ; 
these marks of active service were reverenced 
by the rustic cottagers as though they had been 
crowns and sceptres. Many a hard-handed labourer 
left his seat by the chimney corner and came to his 
door to have a look at one who had been fighting 
the French, and pushed forward to have a grasp of 
the stranger's hand as he gave back the empty cup 
into the good wife's keeping, for the kind homely 
women were ever ready with milk or homebrewed 
to slake the feverish traveller's thirst when he 
stopped at their doors and asked for a drink of 
water. 



206 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



At the village public-house he had a welcome of a 
more interested character, for the landlord knew full 
well that his circle of customers would be large that 
night, if it was only known that he had within his 
doors a soldier or a sailor who had seen service. 
The rustic politicians would gather round Philip, and 
smoke and drink, and then question and discuss till 
they were drouthy again ; and in their sturdy obtuse 
minds they set down the extra glass and the super- 
numerary pipe to the score of patriotism. 

Altogether, human nature turned its sunny side 
out to Philip just now ; and not before he needed the 
warmth of brotherly kindness to cheer his shivering 
soul. Day after day he drifted northwards, making 
but the slow progress of a feeble man, and yet this 
short daily walk tired him so much that he longed 
for rest — for the morning to come when he needed 
not to feel that in the course of an hour or two he 
must be up and away. 

He was toiling on with this longing at his heart 
when he saw that he was drawing near a stately city, 
with a great old cathedral in the centre keeping 
solemn guard. This place might be yet two or three 
miles distant; he was on a rising ground looking 
down upon it. A labouring man passing by, ob- 
served his pallid looks, and his languid attitude, 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 207 



and told him for his comfort, that if he turned down 
a lane to the left a few steps further on, he would 
find himself at the Hospital of St. Sepulchre, where 
bread and beer were given to all comers, and where 
he might sit him down and rest awhile on the old 
stone benches within the shadow of the gateway. 
Obeying these directions, Philip came upon a build- 
ing which dated from the time of Henry the Fifth. 
Some knight, who had fought in the French wars of 
that time, and had survived his battles and come 
home to his old halls, had been stirred up by his con- 
science, or by what was equivalent in those days, his 
confessor, to build and endow a hospital for twelve 
decayed soldiers, and a chapel wherein they were to 
attend the daily masses he ordained to be said till the 
end of all time (which eternity lasted rather more 
than a century, pretty well for an eternity bespoken 
by a man), for his soul and the souls of those whom 
he had slain. There was a large division of the 
quadrangular building set apart for the priest who 
was to say these masses ; and to watch over the 
well-being of the bedesmen. In process of years the 
origin and primary purpose of the hospital had been 
forgotten by all excepting the local antiquaries ; and 
the place itself came to be regarded as a very 
pleasant quaint set of almshouses ; and the warden's 



208 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



office (he who should have said or sung his daily 
masses was now called the warden, and read daily 
prayers and preached a sermon on Sundays), an 
agreeable sinecure. 

Another legacy of old Sir Simon Bray was that of 
a small croft of land, the rent or profits of which 
were to go towards giving to all who asked for it a 
manchet of bread and a cup of good beer. This 
beer was, so Sir Simon ordained, to be made after a 
certain receipt which he left, in which ground ivy 
took the place of hops. But the receipt, as well as 
the masses, was modernized according to the progress 
of time. 

Philip stood under a great broad stone archway ; 
the back-door into the warden's house was on the 
right side; a kind of buttery-hatch was placed by 
the porter's door on the opposite side. After some 
consideration, Philip knocked at the closed shutter, 
and the signal seemed to be well understood. He 
heard a movement within; the hatch was drawn 
aside, and his bread and beer were handed to him by 
a pleasant-looking old man, who proved himself not 
at all disinclined for conversation. 

"You may sit down on yonder bench," said he. 
"Nay, man! sit i' the sun, for it's a chilly place 
this, and then you can look through the grate 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHKE. 209 

and watch the old fellows toddling about in the 
quad." 

Philip sat down where the warm October sun 
slanted upon, him, and looked through the iron 
railing at the peaceful sight. 

A great square of velvet lawn, intersected 
diagonally with broad flag-paved walks, the same 
kind of walk going all round the quadrangle; low 
two-storied brick houses, tinted grey and yellow by 
age, and in many places almost covered with vines, 
Virginian creepers, and monthly roses ; before each 
house a little plot of garden ground, bright with 
flowers, and evidently tended with the utmost care ; 
on the farther side the massive chapel ; here and 
there an old or infirm man sunning himself, or 
leisurely doing a bit of gardening, or talking to one 
of his comrades — the place looked as if care and 
want, and even sorrow, were locked out and ex- 
cluded by the ponderous gate through which Philip 
was gazing. 

" It's a nice enough place, bean't it ? " said the 
porter, interpreting Philip's looks pretty accurately. 
<e Least ways, for them as likes it. I've got a bit- 
weary of it myself ; it's so far from the world, as a 
man may say ; not a decent public within a mile and 
a half, where one can hear a bit of news of an evening.' 5 

vol. in. 53 



210 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" I think I could make myself very content here," 
replied Philip. " That's to say, if one were easy in 
one's mind." 

(i Ay, ay, my man. That's it everywhere. Why, 
I don't think that I could enjoy myself — not even 
at the White Hart, where they give you as good 
a glass of ale for twopence as anywhere in the 
four kingdoms — I couldn't, to say, flavour my ale 
even there, if my old woman lay a-dying ; which is 
a sign as it's the heart, and not the ale, -as makes 
the drink." 

Just then the warden's back-door opened, and 
out came the warden himself, dressed in full clerical 
costume. 

He was going into the neighbouring city, but he 
stopped to speak to Philip, the wounded soldier ; 
and all the more readily because his old faded 
uniform told the warden's experienced eye that he 
had belonged to the Marines. 

cc I hope you enjoy the victual provided for you 
by the founder of St. Sepulchre," said he, kindly. 
" You look but poorly, my good fellow, and as if a 
slice of good cold meat would help your bread 
down." 

iS Thank you, sir ! " said Philip. " I'm not hungry, 
only weary, and glad of a draught of beer. 1 ' 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 211 

es You've been in the Marines, I see. Where have 
you been serving ? " 

" I was at the siege of Acre, last May, sir." 

s: At Acre ! W ere you, indeed ! Then perhaps 
you know my boy Harry ? He was in the — th." 

e{ It was my regiment," said Philip, warming up 
a little. Looking back upon his soldier's life, it 
seemed to him to have many charms, because it was 
so full of small daily interests. 

"Then,- did you know my son, Lieutenant 
Pennington ? " 

" It was he that gave me this cloak, sir, when 
they were sending me back to England. I had 
been his servant for a short time before I was 
wounded by the explosion on board the Theseus, 
and he said I should feel the cold of the voyage. 
He is very kind ; and I've heard say he promises to 
be a first-rate officer." 

ce You shall have a slice of roast beef, whether 
you want it or not," said the warden, ringing the 
bell at his own back-door. "I recognize the cloak 
now — the young scamp ! How soon he has made it 
shabby ; though," he continned, taking up a corner 
where there was an immense tear, "not too well 
botched up. And so you were on board the Theseus 
at the time of the explosion ? Bring some cold meat 

53—2 



212 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



here for the good man — or stay ! Come in with me, 
and then you can tell Mrs. Pennington and the 
young ladies all you know about Harry , — and the 
siege, — and the explosion." 

So Philip w r as ushered into the warden's house 
and made to eat roast beef, almost against his will ; 
and he was questioned and cross-questioned by three 
eager ladies, all at the same time, as it seemed to 
him. He had given all possible details on the 
subjects about which they were curious; and was 
beginning to consider how he could best make his 
retreat, when the younger Miss Pennington went up 
to her father — who had all this time stood, with his 
hat on, holding his coat-tails over his arms, with his 
back to the fire. He bent his ear down a very little 
to hear some whispered suggestion of his daughter's, 
nodded his head, and then went on questioning 
Philip, w T ith kindly inquisitiveness and patronage, 
as the rich do question the poor. 

(i And where are you going to now ? " 

Philip did not answer directly. He wondered in 
his own mind where he was going. At length he said, 

"Northwards, I believe. But perhaps I shall 
never reach there." 

" Have not you friends ? Aren't you going to 
them?" 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 213 

There was again a pause ; a cloud came over 
Philip's countenance. He said, 

" No ! I am not going to my friends. I do not 
know that I've got any left." 

They interpreted his looks and this speech to 
mean that he had either lost his friends by death, 
or offended them by enlisting. 

The warden went on, 

" I ask, because we have got a cottage vacant in 
the mead. Old Dobson, who was with General 
Wolfe at the taking of Quebec, died a fortnight ago. 
With such injuries as yours, I fear you will never 
be able to work again. But we require strict testi- 
monials as to character," he added, with as pene- 
trating a look as he could summon up at Philip. 

Philip looked unmoved, either by the offer of the 
cottage, or the allusion to the possibility of his 
character not being satisfactory. He was grateful 
enough in reality, but too heavy at heart to care 
very much what became of him. 

The warden and his family, who were accus- 
tomed to consider a settlement at St. Sepulchre's as 
the sum of all good to a worn-out soldier, were a 
little annoyed at Philip's cool way of receiving the 
proposition. The warden went on to name the con- 
tingent advantages. 



214 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" Besides the cottage, you would have a load of 
wood for firing on All Saints', or Christmas, and on 
Candlemas days — a blue gown and suit of clothes to 
match every Michaelmas, and a shilling a day to 
keep yourself in all other things. Your dinner you 
would have with the other men, in hall." 

"The warden himself goes into hall every day, 
and sees that everything is comfortable, and says 
grace/' added the warden's lady. 

" I know I seem stupid," said Philip, almost 
humbly, " not to be more grateful, for it's far beyond 
what I ever expected or thought for again, and it's a 
great temptation, for I'm just worn out w r ith fatigue. 
Several times I have thought I must lie down under 
a hedge, and just die for very weariness. But once 
I had a wife and a child up in the north," he 
stopped. 

" And are they dead ? " asked one of the young 
ladies in a soft sympathizing tone. Her eyes met 
Philip's, full of dumb woe. He tried to speak ; he 
wanted to explain more fully, yet not to reveal the 
truth. 

"Well!" said the warden, thinking he perceived 
the real state of things, "what I propose is this. 
You shall go into old Dobson's house at once, as a 
kind of probationary bedesman. I will write to 



THE BEDESMAN OF ST. SEPULCHRE. 215 



Harry, and get your character from him. Stephen 
Freeman I think you said your name was ? Before I 
can receive his reply you will have been able to tell 
how you would like the kind of life ; and at any rate 
you will have the rest you seem to require in the mean- 
time. You see, I take Harry's having given you that 
cloak as a kind of character," added he, smiling kindly. 
" Of course you'll have to conform to rules just like 
all the rest, — chapel at eight, dinner at twelve, lights 
out at nine, but I'll tell you the remainder of our 
regulations as we walk across quad to your new 
quarters." 

And thus Philip, almost in spite of himself, became 
installed in a bedesman's house at St. Sepulchre. 



216 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



CHAPTER XIIL 

A FABLE AT FAULT. 

Philip took possession of the two rooms which had 
belonged to the dead Sergeant Dobson. They were 
furnished sufficiently for every comfort by the 
trustees of the hospital. Some little fragments of 
ornament, some small articles picked up in distant 
countries, a few tattered books, remained in the 
rooms as legacies from their former occupant. 

At first the repose of the life and the place was 
inexpressibly grateful to Philip. He had always 
shrunk from encountering strangers, and displaying 
his blackened and scarred countenance to them, even 
where such disfigurement was most regarded as a 
mark of honour. In St. Sepulchre's he met none 
but the same set day after day, and when he had 
once told the tale of how it happened and submitted 
to their gaze, it was over for ever, if he so minded. 
The slight employment his garden gave him — there 
was a kitchen-garden behind each house, as well as 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 



217 



the flower-plot in front — and the daily arrangement 
of his parlour and chamber were, at the beginning of 
his time of occupation, as much bodily labour as he 
could manage. There was something stately and 
utterly removed from all Philip's previous existence 
in the forms observed at every day's dinner, when the 
twelve bedesmen met in the large quaint hall and 
the warden came in in his college-cap and gown to 
say the long Latin grace which wound up with some- 
thing very like a prayer for the soul of Sir Simon 
Bray. It took some time to get a reply to ship 
letters in those times when no one could exactly say 
where the fleet might be found. 

And before Dr. Pennington had received the ex- 
cellent character of Stephen Freeman, which his son 
gladly sent in answer to his father's inquiries, Philip 
had become restless and uneasy in the midst of all 
this peace and comfort. 

Sitting alone over his fire in the long winter even- 
ings, the scenes of his past life rose before him ; his 
childhood ; his aunt Robson's care of him ; his first 
going to Foster's shop in Monkshaven ; Hay tersbank 
Farm, and the spelling lessons in the bright warm 
kitchen there ; Kinraid's appearance ; the miserable 
night of the Corney's party; the farewell he had 
witnessed on Monkshaven sands ; the press-gang, and 



218 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



all the long consequences of that act of concealment ; 
poor Daniel Robson's trial and execution; Philip's 
marriage ; his child's birth, and then he came to that 
last day at Monkshaven : and he went over and over 
again the torturing details, the looks of contempt and 
anger, the words of loathing indignation, till he 
almost brought himself, out of his extreme sympathy 
with Sylvia, to believe that he was indeed the wretch 
she had considered him to be. 

He forgot his own excuses for having acted as he 
had done ; though these excuses had at one time 
seemed to him to wear the garb of reasons. After 
long thought and bitter memory came some wonder. 
What was Sylvia doing now ? Where was she ? 
What was his child like ? — his child as well as hers. 
And then he remembered the poor footsore wife 
and the little girl she carried in her arms, that 
was just the age of Bella ; he wished he had noticed 
that child more, that a clear vision of it might 
rise up when he wanted to picture Bella. 

One night he had gone round this mill-wheel 
circle of ideas till he was weary to the very marrow 
of his bones. To shake off the monotonous impression 
he rose to look for a book amongst the old tattered 
volumes, hoping that he might find something that 
would sufficiently lay hold of him to change the 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 



219 



current of his thoughts. There was an odd volume 
of Peregrine Pickle ; a book of sermons ; half an 
army list of 1774, and the Seven Champions of 
Christendom. Philip took up this last, which he had 
never seen before. In it he read how Sir Guy, 
Earl of Warwick, went to fight the Paynim in his 
own country, and was away for seven long years ; 
and when he came back his own wife Phillis, the 
countess in her castle, did not know the poor 
travel-worn hermit, who came daily to seek his 
dole of bread at her hands along with many beggars 
and much poor. But at last, when he lay a-dying 
in his cave in the rock, he sent for her by a secret 
sign known but to them twain. And she came with 
great speed, for she knew it was her lord who 
had sent for her; and they had many sweet and 
holy words together before he gave up the ghost, 
his head lying on her bosom. 

The old story known to most people from their 
childhood was all new and fresh to Philip. He did 
not quite believe in the truth of it, because the 
fictitious nature of the histories of some of the other 
Champions of Christendom was too patent. But 
he could not help thinking that this one might be 
true ; and that Guy and Phillis might have been 
as real flesh and blood long, long ago, as he and 



220 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Sylvia had even been. The old room, the quiet 
moonlit quadrangle into which the cross-barred case- 
ment looked, the quaint aspect of everything that he 
had seen for weeks and weeks ; all this predisposed 
Philip to dwell upon the story he had just been 
reading as a faithful legend of two lovers whose 
bones were long since dust. He thought that if 
he could thus see Sylvia, himself unknown, un- 
seen—could live at her gates, so to speak, and 
gaze upon her and his child — some day too, when 
he lay a-dying, might send for her, and in soft 
words of mutual forgiveness breathe his life away 
in her arms. Or perhaps— — and so he lost himself, 
and from thinking passed on to dreaming. All 
night long Guy and Phillis, Sylvia and his child, 
passed in and out of his visions ; it was impossible to 
make the fragments of his dreams cohere; but the 
impression made upon him by them was not the 
less strong for this. He felt as if he were called 
to Monkshaven, wanted at Monkshaven, and to 
Monkshaven he resolved to go; although when his 
reason overtook his feeling, he knew perfectly how 
unwise it was to leave a home of peace and tran- 
quillity and surrounding friendliness, to go to a 
place where nothing but want and wretchedness 
awaited him unless he made himself known; and 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 221 

if he did, a deeper want, a more woeful wretched- 
ness, would in all probability be his portion. 

In the small oblong of looking-glass hung against 
the wall, Philip caught the reflection of his own 
face, and laughed scornfully at the sight. The 
thin hair lay upon his temples in the flakes that 
betoken long ill health; his eyes were the same 
as ever, and they had always been considered the 
best feature in his face; but they were sunk in 
their orbits, and looked hollow and gloomy. As 
for the lower part of his face, blackened, contracted, 
drawn away from his teeth, the outline entirely 
changed by the breakage of his jaw-bone, he was 
indeed a fool if he thought himself fit to go forth 
to win back that love which Sylvia had forsworn. 
As a hermit and a beggar, he must return to 
Monkshaven, and fall perforce into the same position 
which Guy of Warwick had only assumed. But still 
he should see his Phillis, and might feast his sad 
hopeless eyes from time to time with the sight of 
his child. His small pension of sixpence a day 
would keep him from absolute want of neces- 
saries. 

So that very day he went to the warden and 
told him he thought of giving up his share in 
the bequest of Sir Simon Bray. Such a relinquish- 



222 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



ment had never occurred before in all the warden's 
experience ; and he was very much inclined to be 
offended. 

" I must say that for a man not to be satisfied 
as a bedesman of St. Sepulchre's argues a very 
wrong state of mind, and a very ungrateful 
heart." 

" I am sure, sir, it is not from any ingratitude, 
for I can hardly feel thankful enough to you and to 
Sir Simon, and to madam, and the young ladies, and 
all my comrades in the hospital, and I never expect 
to be either so comfortable or so peaceful again, 
but " 

"But? What can you have to say against the 
place, then ? Not but what there are always plenty 
of applicants for every vacancy; only I thought 
I was doing a kindness to a man out of Harry's 
regiment. And you'll not see Harry either; he's 
got his leave in March ! " 

"I'm very sorry. I should like to have seen 
the lieutenant again. But I cannot rest any longer 
so far away from — people I once knew. 

" Ten to one they're dead, or removed, or some- 
thing or other by this time ; and it will serve 
you right if they are. Mind ! no one can be chosen 
twice to be a bedesman of St. Sepulchre's." 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 



223 



The warden turned away ; and Philip, uneasy at 
staying, disheartened at leaving, went to make his 
few preparations for setting out once more on his 
journey northwards. He had to give notice of 
his change of residence to the local distributor of 
pensions ; and one or two farewells had to be taken, 
with more than usual sadness at the necessity; for 
Philip, under his name of Stephen Freeman, had 
attached some of the older bedesmen a good deal to 
him, from his unselfishness, his willingness to read 
to them, and to render them many little services, 
and, perhaps, as much as anything, by his habitual 
silence, which made him a convenient recipient of 
all their garrulousness. So before the time for 
his departure came, he had the opportunity of one 
more interview with the warden, of a more friendly 
character than that in which he gave up his bedes- 
manship. And so far it was well; and Philip 
turned his back upon St. Sepulchre's with his sore 
heart partly healed by his four months' residence 
there. 

He w r as stronger, too, in body, more capable of 
the day-after- day walks that were required of him. 
He had saved some money from his allowance as 
bedesman and from his pension, and might occa- 
sionally have taken an outside place on a coach, 



224 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



had it not been that he shrank from the first look of 
every stranger upon his disfigured face. Yet the 
gentle, wistful eyes, and the white and faultless 
teeth always did away with the first impression as 
soon as people became a little acquainted with his 
appearance. 

It was February when Philip left St. Sepulchre's. 
It was the first week in April when he began to 
recognize the familiar objects between York and 
Monkshaven. And now he began to hang back, 
and to question the wisdom of what he had done 
— just as the warden had prophesied that he would. 
The last night of his two hundred mile walk, he 
slept at the little inn at which he had been enlisted 
nearly two years before. It was by no intention 
of his that he rested at that identical place. Night 
was drawing on ; and, in making, as he thought, 
a short cut, he had missed his way, and was fain 
to seek shelter where he might find it. But it 
brought him very straight face to face with his 
life at that time, and ever since. His mad, wild 
hopes— half the result of intoxication, as he now 
knew — all dead and gone; the career then freshly 
opening shut up against him now; his youthful 
strength and health changed into premature infirmity, 
and the home and the love that should have opened 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 



225 



wide its doors to console him for all., why in two 
years Death might have been busy, and taken away 
from him his last feeble chance of the faint happiness 
of seeing his beloved without being seen or known 
of her. All that night and all the next day, the 
fear of Sylvia's possible death overclouded his heart. 
It was strange that he had hardly ever thought of 
this before; so strange, that now, when the terror 
came, it took possession of him, and he could almost 
have sworn that she must be lying dead in Monks- 
haven churchyard. Or was it little Bella, that 
blooming, lovely babe, whom he was never to see 
again? There was the tolling of mournful bells 
in the distant air to his disturbed fancy, and the 
cry of the happy birds, the plaintive bleating of the 
new-dropped lambs, were all omens of evil import 
to him. 

As well as he could, he found his way back to 
Monkshaven, over the wild heights and moors he 
had crossed on that bleak day of misery ; why he 
should have chosen that path he could not tell — it 
was as if he were led, and had no free will of his own. 

The soft clear evening was drawing on, and his 
heart beat thick, and then stopped, only to start 
again with fresh violence. There he was, at the 
top of the long, steep lane that was in some parts 

vol. nr. 54 



226 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



a literal staircase leading down from the hill-top 
into the High Street, through the very entry up 
which he had passed when he shrank away from 
his former and his then present life. There he stood, 
looking down once more at the numerous irregular 
roofs, the many stacks of chimneys below him, 
seeking out that which had once been his own 
dwelling, — who dwelt there now ? 

The yellower gleams grew narrower ; the evening 
shadows broader, and Philip crept down the lane a 
weary, woeful man. At every gap in the close- 
packed buildings he heard the merry music of a 
band, the cheerful sound of excited voices. Still he 
descended slowly, scarcely wondering what it could 
be, for it was not associated in his mind with the one 
pervading thought of Sylvia. 

When he came to the angle of junction between 
the lane and the High Street, he seemed plunged all 
at once into the very centre of the bustle, and he 
drew himself up into a corner of deep shadow from 
whence he could look out upon the street. 

A circus was making its grand entry into Monks- 
haven, with all the pomp of colour and of noise that 
it could muster. Trumpeters in parti- coloured clothes 
rode first, blaring out triumphant discord. Next 
came a goid-and-scarlet chariot drawn by six piebald 



A TABLE AT FAULT. 



227 



horses, and the windings of this team through the 
tortuous narrow street were pretty enough to look 
upon. In the chariot sate kings and queens, heroes 
and heroines, or what were meant for such ; all the 
little boys and girls running alongside of the chariot 
envied them ; but they themselves were very much 
tired, and shivering with cold in their heroic pomp of 
classic clothing. All this Philip might have seen; 
did see in fact; but heeded not one jot. Almost 
opposite to him, not ten yards apart, standing on th 
raised step at the well-known shop-door, was Sylvia, 
holding a child, a merry dancing child, up in her arms 
to see the show. She too, Sylvia, was laughing for 
pleasure and for sympathy with pleasure. She held 
the little Bella aloft that the child might see the 
gaudy procession the better and the longer, looking 
at it herself with red lips apart and white teeth 
glancing through ; then she turned to speak to some 
one behind her — Coulson, as Philip saw the moment 
afterwards ; his answer made her laugh once again. 
Philip saw it all ; her bonny careless looks, her pretty 
matronly form, her evident ease of mind and pros- 
perous outward circumstances. The years that he 
had spent in gloomy sorrow, amongst wild scenes, on 
land or by sea, his life in frequent peril of a bloody 
end, had gone by with her like sunny days ; all the 

54—2 



228 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



more sunny because lie was not there. So bitterly 
thought the poor disabled marine as, weary and de- 
spairing, he stood in the cold shadow and looked upon 
the home that should have been his haven, the wife 
that should have welcomed him, the child that should 
have been his comfort. He had banished himself 
from his home; his wife had forsworn him; his child 
was blossoming into intelligence unwitting of any 
father. Wife, and child, and home, were all doing 
well without him ; what madness had tempted him 
thither ? An hour ago, like a fanciful fool, he had 
thought she might be dead— dead with sad penitence 
for her cruel words at her heart — with mournful 
wonder at the unaccounted-for absence of her child's 
father preying on her spirits and in some measure 
causing the death he had apprehended. But to look 
at her there where she stood, it did not seem as if she 
had had an hour's painful thought in all her blooming 
life. 

Ay ! go in to the warm hearth, mother and child, 
now the gay calvacade has gone out of sight, and the 
chill of night has succeeded to the sun's setting. 
Husband and father, steal out into the cold dark 
street, and seek some poor cheap lodging where you 
may rest your weary bones, and cheat your more 
weary heart into forgetfulness in sleep. The pretty 



A FABLE AT FAULT. 



229 



story of the Countess Phillis, who mourned for her 
husband's absence so long, is a fable of old times ; or 
rather say Earl Guy never wedded his wife, knowing 
that one she loved better than him was alive all the 
time she had believed him to be dead. 



230 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE UNKNOWN. 

A few days before that on which Philip arrived at 
Monkshaven, Kester had come to pay Sylvia a visit. 
As the earliest friend she had, and also as one who 
knew the real secrets of her life, Sylvia always 
gave him the warm welcome, the cordial w T ords, and 
the sweet looks in which the old man delighted. 
He had a sort of delicacy of his own which kept 
him from going to see her too often, even when 
he was stationary at Monkshaven ; but he looked 
forward to the times when he allowed himself this 
pleasure as a child at school looks forward to its 
holidays. The time of his service at Haytersbank 
had, on the whole, been the happiest in all his long 
monotonous years of daily labour. Sylvia's father 
had always treated him with the rough kindness of 
fellowship ; Sylvia's mother had never stinted him 
in his meat or grudged him his share of the best 



THE UNKNOWN. 



231 



that was going; and once, when he was ill for a 
few days in the loft above the cow-house, she had 
made him possets, and nursed him with the same 
tenderness which he remembered his mother show- 
ing to him when he was a little child, but which 
he had never experienced since then. He had 
known Sylvia herself, as bud, and sweet promise 
of blossom; and just as she was opening into the 
full-blown rose, and, if she had been happy and 
prosperous, might have passed out of the narrow 
circle of Kester's interests, one sorrow after another 
came down upon her pretty innocent head, and 
Kester's period of service to Daniel Robson, her 
father, was tragically cut short. All this made 
Sylvia the great centre of the faithful herdsman's 
affection ; and Bella, who reminded him of what 
Sylvia was when first Kester knew her, only occu- 
pied the second place in his heart, although to the 
child he was much more demonstrative of his regard 
than to the mother. 

He had dressed himself in his Sunday best, and 
although it was only Thursday had forestalled his 
Saturday's shaving ; he had provided himself with 
a paper of humbugs for the child — " humbugs " 
being the north-country term for certain lumps of 
tony, well-flavoured with peppermint — and now he 



232 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



sat in the accustomed chair, as near to the door 
as might be, in Sylvia's presence, coaxing the little 
one, who was not quite sure of his identity, to come 
to him, by opening the paper parcel, and letting 
its sweet contents be seen. 

" She's like thee — and yet she favours her father," 
said he ; and the moment he had uttered the 
incautious words, he looked up to see how Sylvia 
had taken the unpremeditated, unusual reference to 
her husband. His stealthy glance did not meet 
her eye; but though he thought she had coloured 
a little, she did not seem offended as he had feared. 
It was true that Bella had her father's grave, 
thoughtful, dark eyes, instead of her mother's grey 
ones, out of which the childlike expression of wonder 
would never entirely pass away. And as Bella 
slowly and half distrustfully made her way towards 
the temptation offered her, she looked at Kester with 
just her father's look. 

Sylvia said nothing in direct reply ; Kester almost 
thought she could not have heard him. But, 
by-and-by, she said, — 

" Yo'll have heard how Kinraid — who's a captain 
now, and a grand officer — has gone and got married." 

" Nay ! " said Kester, in genuine surprise. " He 
never lias, for sure ! " 



THE UNKNOWN. 



233 



" Ay, but he has," said Sylvia. ce And I'm sure 
I don't see why he shouldn't." 

<( Well, well ! " said Kester, not looking up at her, 
for he caught the inflections in the tones of her 
voice. " He were a fine stirring chap, yon ; and he 
were allays for doing summut ; and when he found 
he couldn't have one thing as he'd set his mind on, 
I reckon he thought he must put up wi' another." 

" It would be no e putting up,' " said Sylvia, 
" She was staying at Bessy Dawson's, and she came 
here to see me — she's as pretty a young lady as 
yo'd see on a summer's day ; and a real lady, too, 
with a fortune. She didn't speak two words without 
bringing in her husband's name, — the e captain,' as 
she called him." 

" And she came to see thee ? " said Kester, cocking 
his eye at Sylvia with the old shrewd look. ee That 
were summut queer, weren't it ?" 

Sylvia reddened a good deal. 

" He's too fause to have spoken to her or me, 
in t' old way, — as he used for t' speak to me. I 
were nought to her but Philip's wife." 

" And what t' dickins had she to do wi' Philip ? " 
asked Kester, in intense surprise ; and so absorbed 
in curiosity that he let the humbugs all fall out 
of the paper upon the floor, and the little Bella sat 



234 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



down, plump, in the midst of treasures as great 
as those fabled to exist on Tom Tiddler's ground. 

Sylvia was again silent ; but Kester, knowing her 
well, was sure that she was struggling to speak, 
and bided his time without repeating his question. 

" She said— and I think her tale were true, though 
I cannot get to t' rights on it, think on it as I will — 
as Philip saved her husband's life somewhere near- 
abouts to Jerusalem. She would have it that t' 
captain — for I think I'll niver call him Kinraid 
again — was in a great battle, and were near upon 
being shot by the French, when Philip — our Philip 
— came up and went right into t' fire o' t' guns, 
and saved her husband's life. And she spoke as 
if both she and t' captain were more beholden to 
Philip than words could tell. And she came to see 
me, to try and get news on him." 

" It's a queer kind o' story," said Kester, medi- 
tatively. "A should ha' thought as Philip were 
more likely to ha' gi'en him a shove into t' thick 
on it, than to help him out o' t' scrape." 

"Nay!" said Sylvia, suddenly looking straight at 
Kester ; " yo're out there. Philip had a deal o' 
good in him. And I dunnot think as he would have 
gone and married another woman so soon, if he'd 
been i' Kinraid's place." 



THE UNKNOWN. 



235 



"An' yo've niver heerd on Philip sin' he left?" 
asked Kester, after a while. 

ee Niver ; nought but what she told me. And she 
said that t' captain made inquiry for him right and 
left, as soon after that happened as might be, and 
could hear niver a word about him. No one had 
seen him, or knowed his name." 

(e Yo' never heard of his going for to be a soldier ?" 
persevered Kester. 

"Niver. I've told yo' once. It were unlike 
Philip to think o' such a thing." 

" But thou must ha' been thinking on him at times 
in a' these years. Bad as he had behaved hissel', 
he were t' father o' thy little one. What didst ta 
think he had been agait on when he left here ? " 

" I didn't know. I were noan so keen a-thinking 
on him at first. I tried to put him out o' my thoughts 
a'together, for it made me like mad to think how he 
had stood between me and — that other. But I'd begun 
to wonder and to wonder about him, and to think I 
should like to hear as he were doing well. I reckon 
I thought he were i' London, where he'd been that 
time afore, yo' know, and had allays spoke as if he'd 
enjoyed hissel tolerable; and then Molly Brunton 
told me on t' other one's marriage; and, somehow, 
it gave me a shake in my heart, and I began for to 



236 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



wish I hadn't said all them words i' my passion ; 
and then that fine young lady came wi' her story — 
and I've thought a deal on it since, — and my mind 
has come out clear. Philip's dead, and it were his 
spirit as came to t' other's help in his time o' need. 
I've heard father say as spirits cannot rest i' their 
graves for trying to undo t' wrongs they've done 
i' their bodies." 

" Them's my conclusions," said Kester, solemnly. 
" A was fain for to hear what were yo'r judgments 
first ; but them is the conclusions I corned to as soon 
as I heered t' tale." 

(e Let alone that one thing," said Sylvia, " he were 
a kind, good man." 

(e It were a big deal on a e one thing,' though," said 
Kester. " It just spoilt yo'r life, my poor lass ; and 
might ha' gone near to spoiling Charley Kinraid's." 

ee Men takes a deal more nor women to spoil their 
lives," said Sylvia, bitterly. 

"Not a' mak' o' men. I reckon, lass, Philip's 
life were pretty well on for bein' spoilt at after he 
left here ; and it were, mebbe, a good thing he got 
rid on it so soon." 

" I wish I'd just had a few kind words wi' him, I 
do," said Sylvia, almost on the point of crying. 

" Come, lass, it's as ill moaning after what's past 



THE UNKNOWN. 



237 



as it would be for me t' fill my eyes wi' weeping 
after t' humbugs as this little wench o' thine has 
grubbed up whilst we ha' been talking. Why, 
there's not one on 'em left ! " 

" She's a sad spoilt little puss ! " said Sylvia, 
holding out her arms to the child, who ran into 
them, and began patting her mother's cheeks, and 
pulling at the soft brown curls tucked away beneath 
the matronly cap. <e Mammy spoils her, and Hester 
spoils her " 

"Granny Rose doesn't spoil me," said the child, 
with quick, intelligent discrimination, interrupting 
her mother's list. 

"No; but John Foster does above a bit. He'll 
come in from t' Bank, Kester, and ask for her, 
a'most every day. And he'll bring her things in his 
pocket ; and she's so fause, she allays goes straight 
to peep in, and then he shifts t' apple or t' toy 
into another. Eh ! but she's a little fause one," — 
half devouring the child with her kisses. " And he 
comes and takes her a walk oftentimes, and he goes 
as slow as if he were quite an old man, to keep pace 
wi' Bella's steps. I often run upstairs and watch 
'em out o' t' window ; he doesn't care to have me 
with 'em, he's so fain t' have t' child all to 
hisself." 



238 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" She's a bonny one, for sure/' said Kester ; " but 
not so pretty as thou was, Sylvia. A've never tell'd 
thee what a came for tho', and it's about time for 
me to be going. A'm off to t' Cheviots to-morrow 
morn to fetch home some sheep as Jonas Blundell 
has purchased. It '11 be a job o' better nor two 
months a reckon." 

" It '11 be a nice time o' year," said Sylvia, a 
little surprised at Kester's evident discouragement at 
the prospect of the journey or absence ; he had often 
been away from Monkshaven for a longer time 
without seeming to care so much about it. 

" Well, yo' see it's a bit hard upon me for to leave 
my sister — she as is t' widow-woman, where a put 
up when a'm at home. Things is main and dear ; 
four-pound loaves is at sixteenpence ; and there's a 
deal o' talk on a famine in t' land ; and whaten 
a paid for my victual, and t' bed i' t' lean-to helped 
t' oud woman a bit, — and she's sadly down i' t' 
mouth, for she cannot hear on a lodger for t' take 
my place, for all she's moved o'er to t' other side 
o' t' bridge for t' be nearer new buildings, and t' 
grand new walk they're making round t' cliffs, think- 
ing she'd be likelier to pick up a labourer as would 
be glad on a bed near his work. A'd ha' liked to 
ha' set her agait wi' a 'sponsible lodger afore a'd ha* 



THE UNKNOWN. 



239 



left, for she's just so soft-hearted, any scamp may 
put upon her if he nobbut gets hold on her blind 
side." 

" Can I help her ? " said Sylvia, in her eager way. 
e( I should be so glad ; and I've a deal of money by 
me " 

ee Nay, my lass," said Kester, e{ thou munnot go 
off so fast; it were just what I were feared on i ? 
telling thee. I've left her a bit o' money, and I'll 
make shift to send her more ; it's just a kind word, 
to keep up her heart when I'm gone, as I want. If 
thou'd step in and see her fra time to time, and cheer 
her up a bit wi' talking to her on me, I'd take it 
very kind, and I'd go off wi' a lighter heart." 

" Then I'm sure I'll do it for yo', Kester. I niver 
justly feel like mysel' when yo're away, for I'm 
lonesome enough at times. She and I will talk all 
the better about yo' for both on us grieving after 

yo'." 

So Kester took his leave, his mind set at ease by 
Sylvia's promise to go and see his sister pretty often 
during his absence in the North. 

But Sylvia's habits were changed since she, as 
a girl at Haytersbank, liked to spend half her time 
in the open air, running out perpetually without 
anything on to scatter crumbs to the poultry, or 



240 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



to take a piece of bread to the old cart-horse, to 
go up to the garden for a handful of herbs, or to 
clamber to the highest point around to blow the 
horn which summoned her father and Kester home 
to dinner. Living in a town where it was necessary 
to put on hat and cloak before going out into the 
street, and then to walk in a steady and decorous 
fashion, she had only cared to escape down to the 
freedom of the sea-shore until Philip went away ; 
and after that time she had learnt so to fear observa- 
tion as a deserted wife, that nothing but Bella's 
health would have been a sufficient motive to take 
her out of doors. And, as she had told Kester, the 
necessity of giving the little girl a daily walk was 
very much lightened by the great love and affection 
which Jeremiah Foster now bore to the child. Ever 
since the day when the baby had come to his knee, 
allured by the temptation of his watch, he had 
apparently considered her as in some sort belonging 
to him ; and now he had almost come to think that 
he had a right to claim her as his companion in his 
walk back from the bank to his early dinner, where 
a high chair was always placed ready for the chance 
of her coming to share his meal. On these occasions 
he generally brought her back to the shop-door 
when he returned to his afternoon's work at the 



THE UNKNOWN. 



24 L 



bank. Sometimes, however, he would leave word 
that she was to be sent for from his house in the 
New Town, as his business at the bank for that day 
was ended. Then Sylvia was compelled to put on her 
things, and fetch back her darling ; and excepting for 
this errand she seldom went out at all on week-days. 

About a fortnight after Kester's farewell call, 
this need for her visit to Jeremiah Foster's arose ; 
and it seemed to Sylvia that there could not be 
a better opportunity of fulfilling her promise and 
going to see the widow Dobson, whose cottage was 
on the other side of the river, low down on the 
cliff side, just at the bend and rush of the full stream 
into the open sea. She set off pretty early in order 
to go there first. She found the widow with her 
house-place tidied up after the midday meal, and 
busy knitting at the open door — not looking at her 
rapid- clicking needles, but gazing at the rush and 
recession of the waves before her; yet not seeing 
them either, — rather seeing days long past. 

She started into active civility as soon as she 
recognized Sylvia, who was to her as a great lady, 
never having known Sylvia Robson in her wild 
childish days. Widow Dobson was always a little 
scandalized at her brother Christopher's familiarity 
with Mrs. Hepburn. 

vol. in. 55 



242 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



She dusted a chair which needed no dusting, and 
placed it for Sylvia, sitting down herself on a three- 
legged stool to mark her sense of the difference 
in their conditions, for there was another chair or 
two in the humble dwelling ; and then the two fell 
into talk — first about Kester, whom his sister would 
persist in calling Christopher, as if his dignity as 
her elder brother was compromised by any familiar 
abbreviation; and by-and-by she opened her heart 
a little more. 

"A could wish as a'd learned write-of-hand," 
said she ; " for a've that for to tell Christopher as 
might set his mind at ease. But yo' see, if a wrote 
him a letter he couldn't read it ; so a just comfort 
mysel' wi' thinking nobody need learn writing unless 
they has got friends as can read. But a reckon 
he'd ha' been glad to hear as a've getten a lodger." 
Here she nodded her head in the direction of the 
door opening out of the house-place into the i( lean- 
to," which Sylvia had observed on drawing near the 
cottage, and the recollection of the mention of which 
by Kester had enabled her to identify widow 
Dobson's dwelling. " He's a-bed yonder," the latter 
continued, dropping her voice. w He's a queer-look- 
ing tyke, but a don't think as he's a bad one." 

(i When did he come ? " said Sylvia, remembering 



THE UNKNOWN. 



243 



Kester's account of his sister's character, and feel- 
ing as though it behoved her, as Kester's confi- 
dante on this head, to give cautious and prudent 
advice. 

" Eh ! a matter of a s'ennight ago. A'm noan good 
at minding time; he's paid me his rent twice, but 
then he were keen to pay aforehand. He'd corned 
in one night, and sate him down afore he could 
speak, he were so done up ; he'd been on tramp 
this many a day, a reckon. 'Can yo' give me a 
bed ? ' says he, panting like, after a bit. e A chap as 
a met near here says as yo've a lodging for t' let.' 
< Ay,' says a, e a ha' that ; but yo' mun pay me 
a shilling a week for 't.' Then my mind misgive 
me, for a thought he hadn't a shilling i' t' world, 
and yet if he hadn't a should just ha' gi'en him t' 
bed a' t' same : a'm not one as can turn a dog out 
if he comes t' me wearied o' his life. So he outs 
wi' a shilling, and lays it down on t' table, 'bout 
a word. e A'll not trouble yo' long,' says he. e A'm 
one as is best out o' t' world,' he says. Then a 
thought as a'd been a bit hard upon him. And says 
a, 6 a'm a widow-woman, and one as has gotten 
but few friends : ' for yo' see a were low about our 
Christopher's going away north ; * so a'm forced-like 
to speak hard to folk ; but a've made mysel' some 

55—2 



244 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



stirabout for my supper ; and if tliou'd like t' share 
and share about wi' me, it's but putting a sup more 
watter to 't, and God's blessing '11 be on % just as 
same as if 't were meal'. So he ups wi' his hand 
afore his e'en, and says not a word. At last, he 
says, e Missus,' says he, e can God's blessing be shared 
by a sinner — one on t' devil's children ? ' says he. 
* For the Scripture says he's t' fayther o' lies.' So a 
were puzzled-like ; and at length a says, ( Thou 
mun ask t' parson that ; a'm but a poor faint- 
hearted widow-woman ; but a've allays had God's 
blessing somehow, now a bethink me, an' a'll share 
it wi' thee as far as my will goes.' So he raxes his 
hand across t' table, and mutters summat, as he 
grips mine. A thought it were Scripture as he said, 
but a'd needed a' my strength just then for t' lift t' 
pot off t' fire — it were t' first vittle a'd tasted sin' 
morn, for t' famine comes down like stones on t' 
head o' us poor folk : and all a said were just e Coom 
along, chap, an' fa' to ; and God's blessing be on him 
as eats most.' And sin' that day him and me has 
been as thick as thieves, only he's niver telled me 
nought of who he is, or where he comes fra. But 
a think he's one o' them poor colliers, as has getten 
brunt i' t' coal-pits; for, t' be sure, his face is a' 
black wi' fire-marks ; an* o' late days he's ta'en t' his 



THE UNKNOWN. 245 



bed, an' just lies there sighing — for one can hear him 
plain as daylight thro' t' bit partition wa'." 

As a proof of this, a sigh — almost a groan — startled 
the two women at this very moment. 

" Poor fellow ! " said Sylvia, in a soft whisper. 
"There's more sore hearts in t' world than one 
reckons for ! " But, after a while, she bethought her 
again of Kester's account of his sister's " softness ; " 
and she thought that it behoved her to give some 
good advice. So she added, in a sterner, harder 
tone — " Still, yo' say yo' know nought about him ; 
and tramps is tramps a' t' world over ; and yo're a 
widow, and it behoves yo' to be careful. I think 
I'd just send him off as soon as he's a bit rested. 
Yo' say he's plenty o' money ? " 

" Nay ! A never said that. A know nought 
about it. He pays me aforehand; and he pays 
me down for whatever a've getten for him ; but 
that's but little; he's noan up t' his vittle, though 
a've made him some broth as good as a could make 
'em." 

e( I wouldn't send him away till he was well 
again, if I were yo' ; but I think yo'd be better rid 
on him," said Sylvia. " It would be different if 
yo'r brother were in Monkshaven." As she spoke 
she rose to go. 



246 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



Widow Dobson held lier hand in hers for a 
minute, then the humble woman said,- — 

" Yo'll noan be vexed wi' me, missus, if a cannot 
find i' my heart t' turn him out till he wants to go 
hissel' ? For a wouldn't like to vex yo', for Chris- 
topher's sake ; but a know what it is for t' feel for 
friendless folk, and, choose what may come on it, I 
cannot send him away." 

« No ! " said Sylvia. " Why should I be vexed ? 
It's no business o' mine. Only I should send him 
away if I was yo'. He might go lodge where there 
was men-folk, who know t' ways o' tramps, and 
are up to them." 

Into the sunshine went Sylvia. In the cold 
shadow the miserable tramp lay sighing. She did 
not know that she had been so near to him towards 
whom her heart was softening, day by day. 



CHAPTER XV. 



FIRST WORDS, 

It was the spring of 1800. Old people yet can tell 
of the hard famine of that year. The harvest of the 
autumn before had failed ; the war and the corn laws 
had brought the price of corn up to a famine rate ; 
and much of what came into the market was un- 
sound, and consequently unfit for food, yet hungry 
creatures bought it eagerly, and tried to cheat 
disease by mixing the damp, sweet, clammy flour 
with rice or potato meal. Rich families denied 
themselves pastry and all unnecessary and luxurious 
uses of wheat in any shape; the duty on hair-powder 
was increased ; and all these palliatives were but as 
drops in the ocean of the great want of the people. 

Philip, in spite of himself, recovered and grew 
stronger ; and as he grew stronger hunger took the 
place of loathing dislike to food. But his money 
was all spent; and what was his poor pension of 



248 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



sixpence a day in that terrible year of famine? 
Many a summer's night he walked for hours and 
hours round the house which once was his, which 
might be his now, with all its homely, blessed com- 
forts, could he but go and assert his right to it. 
But to go with authority, and in his poor, maimed 
guise assert that right, he had need be other than 
Philip Hepburn. So he stood in the old shelter of 
the steep, crooked lane opening on to the hill out of 
the market-place, and watched the soft fading of the 
summer's eve into night; the closing of the once 
familiar shop ; the exit of good, comfortable William 
Coulson, going to his own home, his own wife, his 
comfortable, plentiful supper. Then Philip — there 
were no police in those days, and scarcely an old 
watchman in that primitive little town — would go 
round on the shady sides of streets, and, quickly 
glancing about him, cross the bridge, looking on the 
quiet, rippling stream, the grey shimmer foretelling 
the coming dawn over the sea, the black masts and 
rigging of the still vessels against the sky ; he could 
see with his wistful, eager eyes the shape of the win- 
dows — the window of the very room in which his wife 
and child slept, unheeding of him, the hungry, broken- 
hearted outcast. He would go back to his lodging, 
and softly lift the latch of the door ; still more softly, 



FIRST WOEDS. 



249 



but never without an unspoken, grateful prayer, 
pass by the poor sleeping woman who had given him 
a shelter and her share of God's blessing — she, who, 
like him, knew not the feeling of satisfied hunger ; 
and then he laid him down on the narrow pallet in 
the lean-to, and again gave Sylvia happy lessons 
in the kitchen at Haytersbank, and the dead were 
alive; and Charley Kinraid, the specksioneer, had 
never come to trouble the hopeful, gentle peace. 

For widow Dobson had never taken Sylvia's 
advice. The tramp known to her by the name of 
Freeman — that in which he received his pension — 
lodged with her still, and paid his meagre shilling 
in advance, weekly. A shilling was meagre in those 
hard days of scarcity. A hungry man might easily 
eat the produce of a shilling in a day. 

Widow Dobson pleaded this to Sylvia as an 
excuse for keeping her lodger on ; to a more cal- 
culating head it might have seemed a reason for 
sending him away. 

" Yo' see, missus," said she, apologetically, to 
Sylvia, one evening, as the latter called upon the 
poor widow before going to fetch little Bella (it was 
now too hot for the child to cross the bridge in the 
full heat of the summer sun, and Jeremiah would 
take her up to her supper instead) - — " Yo' see, 



250 SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 

missus, there's not a many as would take him in 
for a shilling when it goes so little way ; or if they 
did, they'd take it out on him some other way, and 
he's not getten much else a reckon. He ca's me 
granny, but a'm vast mista'en if he's ten year 
younger nor me ; but he's getten a fine appetite of 
his own, choose how young he may be ; and a can 
see as he could eat a deal more nor he's getten 
money to buy, and it's few as can mak' victual go 
farther nor me. Eh, missus, but yo' may trust me 
a'll send him off when times is better ; but just now 
it would be sending him to his death ; for a ha' 
plenty and to spare, thanks be to God and yo'r 
bonny face." 

So Sylvia had to be content with the knowledge 
that the money she gladly gave to Kester's sister 
went partly to feed the lodger who was neither 
labourer nor neighbour, but only just a tramp, who, 
she feared, was preying on the good old woman. 
Still the cruel famine cut sharp enough to penetrate 
all hearts ; and Sylvia, an hour after the conversa- 
tion recorded above, was much touched, on her 
return from Jeremiah Foster's with the little merry, 
chattering Bella, at seeing the feeble steps of one, 
whom she knew by description must be widow 
Dobson's lodger, turn up from the newly-cut road 



FIRST WORDS. 



251 



which was to lead to the terrace walk round the 
North Cliff, a road which led to no dwelling but 
widow Dobson's. Tramp, and vagrant, he might 
be in the ejes of the law ; but, whatever his 
character, Sylvia could see him before her in the 
soft dusk, creeping along, over the bridge, often 
stopping to rest and hold by some support, and 
then going on again towards the town, to which 
she and happy little Bella were wending. 

A thought came over her : she had always fancied 
that this unknown man was some fierce vagabond, 
and had dreaded lest in the lonely bit of road between 
widow Dobson's cottage and the peopled highway, 
he should fall upon her and rob her, if he learnt 
that she had money with her ; and several times she 
had gone away without leaving the little gift she had 
intended, because she imagined that she had seen 
the door of the small chamber in the " lean-to " open 
softly while she was there, as if the occupant (whom 
widow Dobson spoke of as never leaving the house 
before dusk, excepting once a week) were listening 
for the chink of the coin in her little leathern purse. 
Now that she saw him walking before her with 
heavy languid steps, this fear gave place to pity ; 
she remembered her mother's gentle superstition 
which had prevented her from ever sending the 



252 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



hungry empty away, for fear lest she herself should 
come to need bread. 

(e Lassie," said she to little Bella, who held a cake 
which Jeremiah's housekeeper had given her tight 
in her hand, "yon poor man there is hungry; will 
Bella give him her cake, and mother will make her 
another to-morrow twice as big ? " 

For this consideration, and with the feeling of 
satisfaction which a good supper not an hour ago 
gives even to the hungry stomach of a child of 
three years old, Bella, after some thought, graciously 
assented to the sacrifice. 

Sylvia stopped, the cake in her hand, and turned 
her back to the town, and to the slow wayfarer in 
front. Under the cover of her shawl she slipped 
a half-crown deep into the crumb of the cake, and 
then restoring it to little Bella, she gave her her 
directions. 

" Mammy will carry Bella ; and when Bella goes 
past the poor man, she shall give him the cake over 
mammy's shoulder. Poor man is so hungry ; and 
Bella and mammy have plenty to eat, and to spare." 

The child's heart was touched by the idea of 
hunger, and her little arm was outstretched ready 
for the moment her mother's hurried steps took her 
brushing past the startled, trembling Philip. 



FIRST WORDS. 



253 



" Poor man, eat this ; Bella not hungry." 

They were the first words he had ever heard his 
child utter. The echoes of them rang in his ears 
as he stood endeavouring to hide his disfigured face 
by looking over the parapet of the bridge down upon 
the stream running away towards the ocean, into 
which his hot tears slowly fell, unheeded by the 
weeper. Then he changed the intention with 
which he had set out upon his nightly walk, and 
turned back to his lodging. 

Of course the case was different with Sylvia ; she 
would have forgotten the whole, affair very speedily, 
if it had not been for little Bella's frequent recur- 
rence to the story of the hungry man, which had 
touched her small sympathies with the sense of an 
intelligible misfortune. She liked to act the drop- 
ping of the bun into the poor man's hand as she 
went past him, and would take up any article near 
her in order to illustrate the gesture she had used. 
One day she got hold of Hester's watch for this 
purpose, as being of the same round shape as the 
cake ; and though Hester, for whose benefit the 
child was repeating the story in her broken language 
for the third or fourth time, tried to catch the watch 
as it was intended that she should (she being the 
representative of the " hungry man " for the time 



254 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



being), it went to the ground with a smash that 
frightened the little girl, and she began to cry at 
the mischief she had done. 

" Don't cry, Bella," said Hester. 66 Never play 
with watches again. I didn't see thee at mine, 
or I'd ha' stopped thee in time. But I'll take it 
to old Darley's on the quay-side, and maybe he'll 
soon set it to rights again. Only Bella must never 
play with watches again." 

" Niver no more ! " promised the little sobbing 
child. And that evening Hester took her watch 
down to old Darley's. 

This William Darley was the brother of the gar- 
dener at the rectory ; the uncle to the sailor who 
had been shot by the press-gang years before, and 
to his bed-ridden sister. He was a clever mecha- 
nician, and his skill as a repairer of watches and 
chronometers was great among the sailors, with 
whom he did a very irregular sort of traffic, con- 
ducted often without much use of money, but rather 
on the principal of barter, they bringing him foreign 
coins and odd curiosities picked up on their travels 
in exchange for his services to their nautical instru- 
ments or their watches. If he had ever had capital 
to extend his business, he might have been a rich 
man ; but it is to be doubted if he would have been 



FIRST WORDS. 



255 



as happy as he was now in his queer little habitation 
of two rooms, the front one being both shop and 
workshop, the other serving the double purpose of 
bedroom and museum. 

The skill of this odd-tempered, shabby old man 
was sometimes sought by the jeweller who kept the 
more ostentatious shop in the High Street ; but 
before Darley would undertake any " tickle " piece of 
delicate workmanship for the other, he sneered at 
his ignorance, and taunted and abused him well. 
Yet he had soft places in his heart, and Hester 
Rose had found her way to one by her patient, 
enduring kindness to his bed-ridden niece. He 
never snarled at her as he did at too many; and 
on the few occasions when she had asked him to 
do anything for her, he had seemed as if she were 
conferring the favour on him, not he on her, and 
only made the smallest possible charge. 

She found him now sitting where he could catch 
the most light for his work, spectacles on nose, and 
microscope in hand. 

He took her watch, and examined it carefully 
without a word in reply to her. Then he began 
to open it and take it to pieces, in order to ascertain 
the nature of the mischief. 

Suddenly he heard her catch her breath with a 



256 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



checked sound of surprise. He looked at her from 
above his spectacles ; she was holding a watch in 
her hand which she had just taken up off the 
counter. 

" What's amiss wi' thee now ? " said Darley. 
" Hast ta never seen a watch o' that mak' afore ? 
or is it them letters on t' back, as is so won- 
derful?" 

Yes, it was those letters — that interlaced, old- 
fashioned cipher. That Z. H. that she knew of 
old stood for Zachary Hepburn, Philip's father. She 
knew how Philip valued this watch. She remem- 
bered having seen it in his hands the very day 
before his disappearance, when he was looking at 
the time in his annoyance at Sylvia's detention in 
her walk with baby. Hester had no doubt that 
he had taken this watch as a matter of course 
away with him. She felt sure that he would not 
part with this relic of his dead father on any slight 
necessity. Where, then, was Philip ? — by what 
chance of life or death had this, his valued property, 
found its way once more to Monkshaven ? 

" Where did yo' get this ? " she asked, in as quiet 
a manner as she could assume, sick with eagerness as 
she was. 

To no one else would Darley have answered such 



FIRST WORDS. 



257 



a question. He made a mystery of most of his 
dealings ; not that he had anything to conceal, but 
simply because he delighted in concealment. He 
took it out of her hands, looked at the number 
marked inside, and the maker's name — "Natteau 
Gent, York " — and then replied, — 

" A man brought it me yesterday, at nightfall, for 
t' sell it. It's a matter o' forty years old. Natteau 
Gent has been dead and in his grave pretty nigh as 
long as that. But he did his work well when he 
were alive ; and so I gave him as brought it for t' 
sell about as much as it were worth, i' good coin. 
A tried him first i' t' bartering line, but he wouldn't 
bite ; like enough he wanted food, — many a one does 
now-a-days." 

" Who was he ? " gasped Hester. 

" Bless t' woman ! how should I know ? " 

" What was he like ? — how old ? — tell me." 

" My lass, a've summut else to do wi' my eyes 
than go peering into men's faces i' t' dusk light." 

" But yo' must ha' had light for t' judge about the 
watch." 

" Eh ! how sharp we are ! A'd a candle close 
to my nose. But a didn't tak' it up for to gaze 
int' his face. That wouldn't be manners, to my 
thinking." 

vol. in. 56 



258 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



Hester was silent. Then Darley's heart relented. 

" If yo're so set upo' knowing who t' fellow was, 
a could, mebbe, put yo' on his tracks." 

" How ? " said Hester, eagerly. ee I do want to 
know. I want to know very much, and for a good 
reason." 

" Well, then, a'll tell yo. He's a queer tyke, that 
one is. A'll be bound he were sore pressed for t' 
brass ; yet he out's wi' a good half-crown, all 
wrapped up i' paper, and he axes me t' make a hole 
in it. Says a, e It's marring good king's coin ; at 
after a've made a hole in't, it'll never pass current 
again.' So he mumbles, and mumbles, but for all 
that it must needs be done ; and he's left it here, 
and is t' call for't to-morrow at e'en." 

" Oh, William Darley ! " said Hester, clasping her 
hands tight together. " Find out who he is, where 
he is — anything — everything about him — and I will 
so bless yo.' " 

Darley looked at her sharply, but with some signs 
of sympathy on his grave face. 

" My woman," he said, es a could ha' wished as 
yo'd niver seen t' watch. It's poor, thankless work 
thinking too much on one o' God's creatures. But 
a'll do thy bidding," he continued, in a lighter and 
different tone. (t A'm a 'cute old badger when need 



FIRST WORDS. 



259 



be. Come for thy watch in a couple o' days, and 
a'll tell yo' all as a've learnt." 

So Hester went away, her heart beating with the 
promise of knowing something about Philip, — how 
much, how little, in these first moments, she dared 
not say even to herself. Some sailor newly landed 
from distant seas might have become possessed of 
Philip's watch in far-off latitudes; in which case 
Philip would be dead. That might be. She tried 
to think that this was the most probable way of 
accounting for the watch. She could be certain as 
to the positive identity of the watch — being in 
William Darley's possession. Again, it might be 
that Philip himself was near at hand — was here in 
this very place — starving, as too many were, for 
insufficiency of means to buy the high-priced food. 
And then her heart burnt within her as she thought 
of the succulent, comfortable meals which Sylvia 
provided every day — nay, three times a day—for the 
household in the market-place, at the head of which 
Philip ought to have been ; but his place knew him 
not. For Sylvia had inherited her mother's talent 
for housekeeping, and on her, in Alice's decrepitude 
and Hester's other occupations in the shop, devolved 
the cares of due provision for the somewhat hetero- 
geneous family. 

56—2 



260 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



And Sylvia ! Hester groaned in heart over the 
remembrance of Sylvia's words, " I can niver 
forgive him the wrong he did to me," that night 
when Hester had come, and clang to her, making 
the sad, shameful confession of her unreturned love. 

What could ever bring these two together again ? 
Could Hester herself — ignorant of the strange mystery 
of Sylvia's heart, as those who are guided solely by 
obedience to principle must ever be of the clue 
to the actions of those who are led by the passionate 
ebb and flow of impulse? Could Hester herself? 
Oh ! how should she speak, how should she act, 
if Philip were near — if Philip were sad and in 
miserable estate? Her own misery at this contem- 
plation of the case was too great to bear ; and she 
sought her usual refuge in the thought of some text, 
some promise of Scripture, which should strengthen 
her faith. 

" With God all things are possible," said she, 
repeating the words as though to lull her anxiety 
to rest. 

Yes ; with God all things are possible. But 
oft times He does his work with awful instruments. 
There is a peacemaker whose name is Death. 



261 



CHAPTER XVI. 

SAVED AND LOST. 

Hester went out on the evening of the day after 
that on which the unknown owner of the half-crown 
had appointed to call for it again at William D alley's. 
She had schooled herself to believe that time and 
patience would serve her best. Her plan was to 
obtain all the knowledge about Philip that she could 
in the first instance ; and then, if circumstances 
allowed it, as in all probability they would, to let 
drop by drop of healing, peacemaking words and 
thoughts fall on Sylvia's obdurate, unforgiving heart. 
So Hester put on her things and went out down 
towards the old quay-side on that evening after the 
shop was closed. 

Poor little Sylvia ! She was unforgiving, but not 
obdurate to the full extent of what Hester believed. 
Many a time since Philip went away had she 
unconsciously missed his protecting love ; when folks 



262 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



spoke shortly to her, when Alice scolded her as 
one of the non-elect, when Hester's gentle gravity 
had something of severity in it; when her own 
heart failed her as to whether her mother would 
have judged that she had done well, could that 
mother have known all, as possibly she did by this 
time. Philip had never spoken otherwise than 
tenderly to her during the eighteen months of their 
married life, except on the two occasions before 
recorded: once when she referred to her dream of 
Kinraid's possible return, and once again on the 
evening of the day before her discovery of his 
concealment of the secret of Kinraid's involuntary 
disappearance. 

After she had learnt that Kinraid was married^ 
her heart had still more strongly turned to Philip ; 
she thought that he had judged rightly in what 
he had given as the excuse for his double dealing ; 
she was even more indignant at Kinraid's feebleness 
than she had any reason to be ; and she began to 
learn the value of such enduring love as Philip's 
had been — lasting ever since the days when she first 
began to fancy what a man's love for a woman should 
be, when she had first shrunk from the tone of tender- 
ness he put into his especial term for her, a girl of 
twelve, 66 Little lassie," as he was wont to call her. 



SAVED AND LOST. 263 

But across all this relenting came the shadow 
of her vow — like the chill of a great cloud passing 
over a sunny plain. How should she decide ? what 
would be her duty, if he came again, and once 
more called her wife? She shrunk from such a 
possibility with all the weakness and superstition 
of her nature ; and this it was which made her 
strengthen herself with the re-utterance of unfor- 
giving words ; and shun all recurrence to the subject 
on the rare occasion when Hester had tried to bring 
it back, with a hope of softening the heart which to 
her appeared altogether hardened on this one point. 

Now, on this bright summer evening, while Hester 
had gone down to the quay-side, Sylvia stood with 
her out-of-door things on in the parlour, rather 
impatiently watching the sky, full of hurrying 
clouds, and flushing with the warm tints of the 
approaching sunset. She could not leave Alice: 
the old woman had grown so infirm that she was 
never left by her daughter and Sylvia at the same 
time ; yet Sylvia had to fetch her little girl from the 
New Town, where she had been to her supper at 
Jeremiah Foster's. Hester had said that she should 
not be away more than a quarter of an hour ; and 
Hester was generally so punctual that any failure 
of hers, in this respect, appeared almost in the 



264 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



light of an injury on those who had learnt to rely 
upon her. Sylvia wanted to go and see widow 
Dobson, and to learn when Kester might be 
expected home. His two months were long past ; 
and Sylvia had heard through the Fosters of some 
suitable and profitable employment for him, of which 
she thought he would be glad to know as soon as 
possible. It was now some time since she had been 
able to get so far as across the bridge; and, for 
aught she knew, Kester might already be come back 
from his expedition to the Cheviots. Kester was 
come back. Scarce five minutes had elapsed after 
these thoughts had passed through her mind before 
his hasty hand lifted the latch of the kitchen- 
door, his hurried steps brought him face to face 
with her. The smile of greeting was arrested on 
her lips by one look at him : his eyes staring wide, 
the expression on his face wild, and yet pitiful. 

" That's right," said he, seeing that her things 
were already on. " Thou're wanted sore. Come 
along." 

" Oh ! dear God ! my child ! " cried Sylvia, 
clutching at the chair near her ; but recovering her 
eddying senses, with the strong fact before her that 
whatever the terror was, she was needed to com- 
bat it. 



SAVED AND LOST. 



265 



e: Ay ; thy cliild ! " said Kester, taking her almost 
roughly by the arm, and drawing her away with 
him out through the open doors on to the quay- 
side. 

" Tell me ! " said Sylvia, faintly, " is she dead? " 

" She's safe now," said Kester. " It's not her, 
it's him as saved her as needs yo', if iver husband 
needed a wife." 

"He?— who? O Philip! Philip! is it yo' at 
last ? " 

Unheeding what spectators might see her move- 
ments, she threw up her arms, and staggered against 
the parapet of the bridge they were then crossing. 

" He !— Philip !— saved Bella ? Bella, our little 
Bella, as got her dinner by my side, and went out 
wi' Jeremiah, as well as could be. I can't take it 
in; tell me, Kester." She kept trembling so much 
in voice and in body, that he saw she could not stir 
without danger of falling until she was calmed ; as 
it was, her eyes became filmy from time to time, 
and she drew her breath in great, heavy pants, 
leaning all the while against the wall of the 
bridge. 

"It were no illness," Kester began. " T little 
one had gone for a walk wi' Jeremiah Foster, and he 
were drawn for to go round t' edge o' t' cliff, where 



266 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



they's making t' new walk right o'er t' sea. But 
it's but a bit on a pathway now; and t' one was 
too oud, and t' other too young for t' see the watter 
coming along wi' great leaps ; it's allays for coming 
high up again' t' cliff, and this spring-tide it's coming 
in i' terrible big waves. Some one said as they 
passed t' man a-sitting on a bit on a rock up 
above — a dunnot know, a only know as a heerd 
a great fearful screech i' t' air. A were just a-rest- 
ing me at after a'd corned in, not half an hour 
i' t' place. A've walked better nor a dozen mile 
to-day ; and a ran out, and a looked, and just on 
t' walk, at t' turn, was t' swish of a wave running 
back as quick as t' mischief int' t' sea, and old 
Jeremiah standing like one crazy, looking o'er int' 
t' watter ; and like a stroke o' leeghtnin' comes a 
man, and int' t' very midst on t' great waves like a 
shot ; and then a knowed summut were in t' watter 
as were nearer death than life ; and a seemed to 
misdoubt me that it were our Bella ; and a shouts 
and a cries for help, and a goes mysel' to t' very 
edge on t' cliff, and a bids oud Jeremiah, as was 
like one beside hissel', hold tight on me, for he 
were good for nought else ; and a bides my time, 
and when a sees two arms holding out a little drip- 
pin', streamin' child, a clutches her by her waist- 



SAVED AND LOST. 



267 



band, and hauls her to land. She's noan t' worse 
for her bath, a'll be bound." 

" I must go — let me," said Sylvia, struggling with 
his detaining hand, which he had laid upon her in 
the fear that she would slip down to the ground 
in a faint, so ashen-grey was her face. " Let me, — - 
Bella, I must go see her." 

He let go, and she stood still, suddenly feeling 
herself too weak to stir. 

ee Now, if yo'll try a bit to be quiet, a'll lead yo' 
along ; but yo' must be a steady and brave lass." 

" I'll be aught if yo' only let me see Bella," said 
Sylvia, humbly. 

"An' yo' niver ask at after him as saved her," 
said Kester, reproachfully. 

" I know it's Philip," she whispered, " and yo' 
said he wanted me ; so I know he's safe ; and, 
Kester, I think I'm 'feared on him, and I'd like 
to gather courage afore seeing him, and a look at 
Bella would give me courage. It were a terrible 
time when I saw him last, and I did say " 

ce Niver think on what thou did say ; think on 
what thou will say to him now, for he lies a-dying ! 
He were dashed again t' cliff and bruised sore in his 
innards afore t' men as came wi' a boat could pick 
him up." 



268 



Sylvia's lovers. 



She did not speak ; she did not even tremble now ; 
she set her teeth together, and, holding tight by 
Kester, she urged him on ; but when they came to 
the end of the bridge, she seemed uncertain which 
way to turn. 

" This way," said Kester. " He's been lodgin' 
wi' Sally this nine week, and never a one about 
t ! place as knowed him ; he's been i' t' wars and 
getten his face brunt." 

ee And he was short o' food," moaned Sylvia, " and 
we had plenty, and I tried to make your sister turn 
him out, and send him away. Oh! will God iver 
forgive me ? " 

Muttering to herself, breaking her mutterings 
with sharp cries of pain, Sylvia, with Kester's help, 
reached widow Dobson's house. It was no longer 
a quiet, lonely dwelling. Several sailors stood about 
the door, awaiting, in silent anxiety, for the verdict 
of the doctor, who was even now examining Philip's 
injuries. Two or three women stood talking eagerly, 
in low voices, in the doorway. 

But when Sylvia drew near the men fell back ; 
and the women moved aside as though to allow her 
to pass, all looking upon her with a certain amount 
of sympathy, but perhaps with rather more of anta- 
gonistic wonder as to how she was taking it — she 



SAVED AND LOST. 



269 



who had been living in ease and comfort while her 
husband's shelter was little better than a hovel, her 
husband's daily life a struggle with starvation ; for so 
much of the lodger at widow Dobson's was popularly 
known ; and any distrust of him as a stranger and a 
tramp was quite forgotten now. 

Sylvia felt the hardness of their looks, the hardness 
of their silence ; but it was as nothing to her. If 
such things could have touched her at this moment, 
she would not have stood still right in the midst of 
their averted hearts, and murmured something to 
Kester. He could not hear the words uttered by 
that hoarse choked voice, until he had stooped down 
and brought his ear to the level of her mouth. 

" We'd better wait for t' doctors to come out," she 
said again. She stood by the door, shivering all 
over, almost facing the people in the road, but with 
her face turned a little to the right, so that they 
thought she was looking at the pathway on the cliff- 
side, a hundred yards or so distant, below which the 
hungry waves still lashed themselves into high as- 
cending spray ; while nearer to the cottage, where their 
force was broken by the bar at the entrance to the 
river, they came softly lapping up the shelving shore. 

Sylvia saw nothing of all this, though it was 
straight before her eyes. She only saw a blurred 



270 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



mist ; she heard no sound of waters, though it filled 
the ears of those around. Instead she heard low 
whispers pronouncing Philip's earthly doom. 

For the doctors were both agreed ; his internal 
injury was of a mortal kind, although, as the spine 
was severely injured above the seat of the fatal 
bruise, he had no pain in the lower half of his 
body. 

They had spoken in so low a tone that John Foster, 
standing only a foot or so away, had not been able to 
hear their words. But Sylvia heard each syllable 
there where she stood outside, shivering all over in 
the sultry summer evening. She turned round to 
Kester. 

ce I must go to him, Kester ; thou'll see that noan 
come in to us, when t' doctors come out." 

She spoke in a soft calm voice; and he, not 
knowing what she had heard, made some easy con- 
ditional promise. Then those opposite to the cottage 
door fell back, for they could see the grave doctors 
coming out, and John Foster, graver, sadder still, 
following them. Without a word to them, — with- 
out a word even of inquiry — which many outside 
thought and spoke of as strange — white -faced, 
dry-eyed, Sylvia slipped into the house out of their 
sight. 



SAVED AND LOST. 



271 



And the waves kept lapping on the shelving 
shore. 

The room inside was dark, all except the little halo 
or circle of light made by a dip candle. Widow 
Dobson had her back to the bed — her bed — on to 
which Philip had been borne in the hurry of terror 
as to whether he was alive or whether he was dead. 
She was crying — crying quietly, but the tears down- 
falling fast, as, with her back to the lowly bed, she 
was gathering up the dripping clothes cut off from 
the poor maimed body by the doctors' orders. She 
only shook her head as she saw Sylvia, spirit-like, 
steal in — white, noiseless, and upborne from earth. 

But noiseless as her step might be, he heard, 
he recognized, and with a sigh he turned his poor 
disfigured face to the wall, hiding it in the 
shadow. 

He knew that she was by him ; that she had knelt 
down by his bed ; that she was kissing his hand, over 
which the languor of approaching death was stealing. 
But no one spoke. 

At length he said, his face still averted, speaking 
with an effort, 

"Little lassie, forgive me now ! I cannot live to see 
the morn ! " 

There was no answer, only a long miserable sigh, 



272 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



and he felt her soft cheek laid upon his hand, and the 
quiver that ran through her whole body. 

" I did thee a cruel wrong," he said, at length. "I 
see it now. But I am a dying man. I think that 
God will forgive me — and I have sinned against Him ; 
try, lassie — try, my Sylvie — will not thou forgive 
me?" 

He listened intently for a moment. He heard 
through the open window the waves lapping on the 
shelving shore. But there came no word from her ; 
only that same long shivering,, miserable sigh, broke 
from her lips at length. 

" Child," said he, once more. " I ha' made thee 
my idol; and if I could live my life o'er again I 
would love my God more, and thee less ; and then 
I shouldn't have sinned this sin against thee. But 
speak one word of love to me — one little word, that 
I may know I have thy pardon." 

" Oh, Philip ! Philip ! " she moaned, thus adjured. 

Then she lifted her head, and said, 

" Them were wicked, wicked words, as I said ; and 
a wicked vow as I vowed ; and Lord God Almighty 
has ta'en me at my word. I'm sorely punished, 
Philip, I am indeed." 

Pie pressed her hand, he stroked her cheek. But 
he asked for yet another word. 



SAVED ATO LOST. 



273 



" I did tliee a wrong. In my lying heart I forgot 
to do to thee as I would have had thee to do to me. 
And I judged Kinraid in my heart." 

" Thou thought as he was faithless and fickle/' 
she answered quickly ; ee and so he were. He w r ere 
married to another woman not so many weeks at after 
thou went away. Oh, Philip, Philip ! and now I 
have thee back, and " 

tf Dying " was the word she would have said, but 
first the dread of telling him what she believed 
lie did not know, and next her passionate sobs, 
choked her. 

" I know," said he, once more stroking her cheek, 
and soothing her with gentle, caressing hand. 
" Little lassie ! " he said, after a while when she was 
quiet from very exhaustion, " I niver thought to be 
so happy again. God is very merciful." 

She lifted up her head, and asked wildly, (e Will He 
ever forgive me, think yo'? I drove yo' out fra yo'r 
home, and sent yo' away to t' wars, where yo' might 
ha' getten yo'r death ; and when yo' came back, poor 
and lone, and weary, I told her for t' turn yo' out, for 
a' I knew yo' must be starving in these famine times. 
I think I shall go about among them as gnash their 
teeth for iver, while yo' are where all tears are wiped 
away." 

vol. in. 57 



274 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



" No ! " said Philip, turning round his face, forget- 
ful of himself in his desire to comfort her. ee God 
pities us as a father pities his poor wandering children; 
the nearer I come to death the clearer I see Him. 
But you and me have done wrong to each other; yet 
we can see now how we were led to it ; we can pity 
and forgive one another. I'm getting low and faints 
lassie; but thou must remember this; God knows 
more, and is more forgiving than either you to me, or 
me to you. I think and do believe as we shall meet 
together before His face : but then I shall ha' learnt 
to love thee second to Him ; not first, as I have done 
here upon the earth." 

Then he was silent — very still. Sylvia knew — 
widow Dobson had brought it in — that there was 
some kind of medicine, sent by the hopeless doctors, 
lying upon the table hard by, and she softly rose and 
poured it out and dropped it into the half-open 
mouth. Then she knelt down again, holding the hand 
feebly stretched out to her, and watching the faint 
light in the wistful loving eyes. And in the stillness 
she heard the ceaseless waves lapping against the 
shelving shore. 

Something like an hour before this time, which 
was the deepest midnight of the summer's night, 
Hester Rose had come hurrying up the road to 



SAVED AND LOST. 



275 



where Kester and his sister sate outside the open 
door, keeping their watch under the star-lit sky, all 
others having gone away, one by one, even John 
and Jeremiah Foster having returned to their own 
house, where the little Bella lay, sleeping a sound 
and healthy slumber after her perilous adventure. 

Hester had heard but little from William Darley 
as to the owner of the watch and the half-crown ; 
but he was chagrined at the failure of all his skilful 
interrogations to elicit the truth, and promised her 
further information in a few days, with all the more 
vehemence because he was unaccustomed to be 
baffled. And Hester had again whispered to herself 
" Patience ! Patience ! " and had slowly returned 
back to her home to find that Sylvia had left it, why 
she did not at once discover. But, growing uneasy 
as the advancing hours neither brought Sylvia nor 
little Bella to their home, she had set out for Jere- 
miah Foster's as soon as she had seen her mother 
comfortably asleep in her bed; and then she had 
learnt the whole story, bit by bit, as each person who 
spoke broke in upon the previous narration with some 
new particular. But from no one did she clearly 
learn whether Sylvia was with her husband, or not ; 
and so she came speeding along the road, breathless, 
to where Kester sate in wakeful, mournful silence, his 

57—2 



276 



Sylvia's lovers. 



sister's sleeping head lying on his shoulder, the 
cottage door open, both for air and that there might 
be help within call if needed ; and the dim slanting 
oblong of the interior light lying across the road. 

Hester came panting up, too agitated and breath- 
less to ask how much was truth of the fatal, hopeless 
tale which she had heard. Kester looked at her 
without a word. Through this solemn momentary 
silence the lapping of the ceaseless waves was heard, 
as they came up close on the shelving shore. 

" He ? Philip ? " said she. Kester shook his head 
sadly. 

" And his wife — Sylvia? " said Hester. 
"In there with him, alone," whispered Kester. 
Hester turned away, and wrung her hands 
together. 

" Oh, Lord God Almighty ! " said she, " was I not 
even worthy to bring them together at last ? " 
And she went away slowly and heavily back to the 
side of her sleeping mother. But " Thy will be 
done " was on her quivering lips before she lay down 
to her rest. 

The soft grey dawn lightens the darkness of a 
midsummer night soon after two o'clock. Philip 
watched it come, knowing that it was his last sight of 
day, — as we reckon days on earth. 



SAVED AND LOST. 



277 



He Iiad been often near death as a soldier ; once 
or twice, as when he rushed into fire to save Kinraid, 
his chances of life had been as one to a hundred ; 
but yet he had had a chance. But now there was 
the new feeling — the last new feeling which we shall 
any of us experience in this world — that death was 
not only close at hand but inevitable. 

He felt its numbness stealing up him — stealing 
up him. But the head was clear, the brain more 
than commonly active in producing vivid impres- 
sions. 

It seemed but yesterday since he was a little boy at 
his mother's knee, wishing with all the earnestness of 
his childish heart to be like Abraham, who w r as called 
the friend of God, or David, who was said to be the 
man after God's own heart, or St. John, who was 
called " the Beloved." As very present seemed the 
day on which he made resolutions of trying to be 
like them ; it was in the spring, and some one had 
brought in cowslips ; and the scent of those flowers 
was in his nostrils now, as he lay a-dying — his life 
ended, his battles fought, his time for " being good " 
over and gone — the opportunity, once given in all 
eternity, past. 

All the temptations that had beset him rose clearly 
before him ; the scenes themselves stood up in their 



278 



SYLVIA'S LOVEES. 



solid materialism — lie could have touched the places ; 
the people, the thoughts, the arguments that Satan 
had urged in behalf of sin, were reproduced with the 
vividness of a present time. And he knew that the 
thoughts were illusions, the arguments false and 
hollow; for in that hour came the perfect vision 
of the perfect truth : he saw the i( way to escape " 
which had come along with the temptation ; now, 
the strong resolve of an ardent boyhood, with all 
a life before it to show the world e f what a Christian 
might be ; " and then the swift, terrible now, when 
his naked, guilty soul shrank into the shadow of 
God's mercy-seat, out of the blaze of His anger 
against all those who act a lie. 

His mind was wandering, and he plucked it back. 
Was this death in very deed? He tried to grasp 
at the present, the earthly present, fading quick 
away. He lay there on the bed — on Sally Dobson's 
bed in the houseplace, not on his accustomed pallet 
in the lean-to. He knew that much. And the door 
was open into the still, dusk night ; and through the 
open casement he could hear the lapping of the 
waves on the shelving shore, could see the soft grey 
dawn over the sea — he knew it was over the sea — 
he saw what lay unseen behind the poor walls 
of the cottage. And it was Sylvia who held his 



SAVED AND LOST. 



279 



hand tight in her warm, living grasp; it was his 
wife whose arm was thrown around him, whose 
sobbing sighs shook his numbed frame from time 
to time. 

" God bless and comfort my darling," he said to 
himself. ee She knows me now. All will be right 
in heaven — in the light of God's mercy." 

And then he tried to remember all that he had 
ever read about God, and all that the blessed Christ 
— that bringeth glad tidings of great joy unto all 
people, had said of the Father, from whom He came. 
Those sayings came like balm down upon his troubled 
heart and brain. He remembered his mother, and 
how she had loved him ; and he was going to a love 
wiser, tenderer, deeper than hers. 

As he thought this, he moved his hands as if to 
pray ; but Sylvia clenched her hold, and he lay still, 
praying all the same for her, for his child, and for 
himself. Then he saw the sky redden with the first 
flush of dawn ; he heard Kester's long-drawn sigh of 
weariness outside the open door. 

He had seen widow Dobson pass through long 
before to keep the remainder of her watch on the 
bed in the lean-to, which had been his for many 
and many a sleepless and tearful night. Those 
nights were over — he should never see that poor 



280 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



chamber again, though it was scarce two feet distant. 
He began to lose all sense of the comparative dura- 
tion of time: it seemed as long since kind Sally 
Dobson had bent over him with soft, lingering look, 
before going into the humble sleeping-room — as long 
as it was since his boyhood, when he stood by his 
mother dreaming of the life that should be his, 
with the scent of the cowslips tempting him to be 
off to the woodlands where they grew. Then there 
came a rush and an eddying through his brain — his 
soul trying her wings for the long flight. Again 
he was in the present : he heard the waves lapping 
against the shelving shore once again. 

And now his thoughts came back to Sylvia. 
Once more he spoke aloud, in a strange and terrible 
voice, which was not his. Every sound came with 
efforts that were new to him. 

K My wife ! Sylvie ! Once more — forgive me all." 

She sprang up, she kissed his poor burnt lips ; she 
held him in her arms, she moaned, and said, 

" Oh, wicked me ! forgive me — me — Philip ! " 

Then he spoke, and said, "Lord, forgive us 
our trespasses as we forgive each other ! " And 
after that the power of speech was conquered by the 
coming death. He lay very still, his consciousness 
fast fading away, yet coming back in throbs, so that 



SAVED AND LOST. 



281 



lie knew it was Sylvia who touched his lips with 
cordial, and that it was Sylvia who murmured words 
of love in his ear. He seemed to sleep at last, and 
so he did — a kind of sleep, but the light of the red 
morning sun fell on his eyes, and with one strong 
effort he rose up, and turned so as once more to see 
his wife's pale face of misery. 

" In heaven," he cried, and a bright smile came 
on his face, as he fell back on his pillow. 

Not long after Hester came, the little Bella scarce 
awake in her arms, with the purpose of bringing his 
child to see him ere yet he passed away. Hester 
had watched and prayed through the live -long night. 
And now she found him dead, and Sylvia, tearless 
and almost unconscious, lying by him, her hand 
holding his, her other thrown around him. 

Kester, poor old man, was sobbing bitterly ; but 
she not at all. 

Then Hester bore her child to her, and Sylvia 
opened wide her miserable eyes, and only stared, as 
if all sense was gone from her. But Bella suddenly 
rousing up at the sight of the poor scarred, peaceful 
face, cried out, 

" Poor man who was so hungry. Is he not hungry 
now ?" 

"No," said Hester softly. "The former things 



282 



SYLVIA'S LOVEKS. 



are passed away, — and he is gone where there is no 
more sorrow, and no more pain." 

But then she broke down into weeping and crying. 
Sylvia sat up and looked at her. 

" Why do yo' cry, Hester ? " she said. " Yo' 
niver said that yo' wouldn't forgive him as long as 
yo' lived. Yo' never broke the heart of him that 
loved yo', and let him almost starve at yo'r very 
door. Oh, Philip ! my Philip, tender and true." 

Then Hester came round and closed the sad half- 
open eyes ; kissing the calm brow with a long farewell 
kiss. As she did so, her eye fell on a black ribbon 
round his neck. She partly lifted it out ; to it was 
hung a half-crown piece. 

"This is the piece he left at William Darley's 
to be bored," said she, " not many days ago. " 

Bella had crept to her mother's arms as a known 
haven in this strange place; and the touch of his 
child loosened the fountains of her tears. She 
stretched out her hand for the black ribbon, put it 
round her own neck ; after a while she said, 

* If I live very long, and try hard to be very good 
all that time, do yo' think Hester as God will let me 

to him where he is ? " 

***** 



SAVED AND LOST. 



283 



Monkshaven is altered now into a rising bathing 
place. Yet, standing near the site of widow Dobson's 
house on a summer's night, at the ebb of a spring- 
tide, you may hear the waves come lapping up 
the shelving shore with the same ceaseless, ever- 
recurrent sound, as that which Philip listened to in 
the pauses between life and death. 

And so it will be until "there shall be no more 
sea." 

But the memory of man fades away. A few old 
people can still tell you the tradition of the man who 
died in a cottage somewhere about this spot, died of 
starvation while his wife lived in hard-hearted plenty 
not two good stone's throw away. This is the form 
into which popular feeling, and ignorance of the real 
facts, have moulded the story. Not long since a lady 
went to the " Public Baths, " a handsome stone 
building erected on the very site of widow Dobson's 
cottage, and finding all the rooms engaged she sat 
down and had some talk with the bathing woman ; 
and, as it chanced, the conversation fell on Philip 
Hepburn and the legend of his fate. 

ee I knew an old man when I was a girl," said the 
bathing woman, " as could never abide to hear the 
wife blamed. He would say nothing again the hus- 
band ; he used to say as it were not fit for men to be 



284 



SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 



judging ; that she had had her sore trials as well as 
Hepburn hisself." 

The lady asked, " What became of the wife ? " 

" She was a pale, sad woman, always dressed in 
black. I can just remember her when I was a little 
child, but she died before her daughter was well 
grown up; and Miss Rose took the lassie, as had 
always been like her own." 

"Miss Rose?" 

"Hester Rose ! have you niver heard of Hester 
Rose, she as founded the alms-houses for poor dis- 
abled sailors and soldiers on the Horncastle road? 
There's a piece of stone in front to say that e This 
building is erected in memory of P. H.' — and some 
folk will have it P. H. stands for the name of the 
man as was starved to death." 

"And the daughter?" 

"One of the Fosters, them as founded the Old 
Bank, left her a vast o' money ; and she were married 
to a distant cousin of theirs, and went off to settle in 
America many and many a year ago." 

THE END. 



London: Smith, Elder and Co., Little Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey, E.C. 



By the same Author, 
THE 

LIFE OF CHAELOTTE BRONTE, 

Author of " Jane Eyre," " Shirley," " Yillette," &c. With 
Portrait. Post 8vo. Price 75. 6d. cloth. 

Also a Cheap Edition. Fcap 8vo. Price 2s. 6d. cloth. 

%* A few Copies of the Library Edition, in Two Volumes, 
Post 8vo, price 24s. cloth, may still be had. 



OPINIONS OF THE PRESS. 



(Times.) 

" It is rarely that we find a portrait of literary character with such 
a remarkable setting, and as rare to find an author whose works are 
so popular, so vivid, and distinctive, and whose personal history was 
so utterly unknown. A sister authoress, gifted herself with superior 
powers, has described, with true woman's sympathy and eagerness, 
the whole course of the life which is now closed for ever. We regard 
the record as a monument of courage and endurance, of suffering and 

triumph All the secrets of the literary workmanship of the 

authoress of c Jane Eyre ' are unfolded in the course of this extra- 
ordinary narrative." 



2 



(Eraser's Magazine.) 
" Mrs. Gaskell has done her work well. Her narrative is simple, 
direct, and unaffected. She dwells on her friend's character with 
womanly tact, thorough understanding, and delicate, sisterly tender- 
ness. The extracts from the letters are excellently selected, and they 
are remarkable letters. Many parts of the book cannot be read with- 
out deep, even painful emotion. It is a life always womanly ; and 
we are thankful that such a life should have been written by the 
author of c Buth.' No one else could have paid so tender and dis- 
cerning a tribute to the memory of Charlotte Bronte." 

(Athenaeum.) 

" The story of a woman's life, unfolded in this book, is calculated 

to make the old feel young, and the young old By all this 

book will be read with interest Mrs. Gaskell has produced 

one of the best biographies of a woman by a woman which we can 
recall to mind." 

(Daily News.) 

" Thoroughly well and artistically has the work been accomplished ; 
an informing method presides over the whole ; there is no feebleness 
or redundancy; every circumstance has a direct bearing on the main 
object of painting, vigorously and accurately, a real picture of the 
woman as she was." 

(Spectator.) 

" The profound pathos, the tragic interest, of this book lies in the 
terrible struggle that life was to a woman endowed with Charlotte 
Bronte's conscientiousness, affection for her family, and literary 
ambition, and continually curbed and thrown back by physical 
wretchedness. Its moral is, the unconquerable strength of genius 
and goodness." 



3 



(Globe.) 

" Mrs. GaskelPs ' Life of Charlotte Bronte ' has placed her on a 
level with the best biographers of any country. It is a truthful and 
beautiful work. . . . No one can read it without feeling strengthened 
and purified." 

(Saturday Review.) 
" If any one wishes to see how a woman possessed of the highest 
intellectual power can disregard every temptation which intellect 
throws in the way of women, how generously and nobly a human 
being can live under the pressure of accumulated misfortunes — the 
record is at hand in the ' Life of Charlotte Bronte.' " 

(Economist.) 

" We have before us the life of a truly great and noble woman, 
written by one who has sufficient moral sympathy to understand her 
character, and sufficient intellectual insight to appreciate her genius. 
Such a work cannot fail to be of the deepest interest ; and it has a 
special interest for female readers." 

(Literary Gazette.) 

" These volumes supply ample information respecting the author of 
* Jane Eyre/ The life itself possesses a tearful interest, that deepens 
as it advances towards its close. It is singularly touching, and sinks 
into the heart of the reader." 

(Examiner.) 

" We can be sincere in our praise of this book, and must not part 
from it without saying how often we have been touched by the tone 
of loving sympathy in which it is written, and how keenly, in the 
chapters dwelling upon events distant enough to be as much studied 



4 



as felt, we have enjoyed the acute perception of those points which 
are most characteristic of a life — the well-timed production from a 
store of materials of that anecdote or fragment which tells what 
needs most to be told with the most perfect clearness and in fewest 
words." 

(British Quarterly Eeview.) 
" The story of this remarkable woman, told with such deep and 
simple pathos by her gifted and affectionate biographer, is as inter- 
esting as the tale of a second 'Jane Eyre.' The memoir has almost 
the charm of an autobiography; for in the half-unconscious revela- 
tions of the letters written to her friends, we may trace the formation 
of her peculiar intellectual power." 

(National Eeview.) 
" We echo the universal opinion as to the skill with which a diffi- 
cult work has been executed, and an absorbing interest given to the 

narrative Whatever can be derived from sequence of events, 

external description, and such indications of personal character as 
letters afford, is furnished in the fullest abundance. The biographer's 
command of language, and her talent of description at once powerful 
and delicate, enable her to depict with wondrous vividness, the scenes 
in which this painful and secluded drama of life was presented, and 
the conditions under which it was played out to its melancholy 
close." 



LONDON : SMITH, ELDER & CO., 65, CORNHILL. 



This book is DUE on the last date stamped below 



MAY 2 3 195C 



1# 



NON-RENEWABLE 

MAY 61994 

FROM DATE RECEIVED 



OCT osm 



™ NOV 2 5 1986^ 



RENEWAL 

LD URL M^*' 



^yb 81990 



Form L-9-15m-7,'31 



r (H jan 1 1 




3 1158 00717 6422