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Chapter X Discovery of a New and an Old Document

IT was dark when Oughtryn and Sir William Heans rode into the yard, the former taking both horses and bidding Sir William in: a service which he accepted without a word, moving slowly across but not using his cane. In the kitchen candles his fine eyes looked for once sightless and vague.

The soldier was in the stable, and emerged into the door, as Oughtryn led in the beasts. Sir William did not look back, though the yard skellocked to the sudden battery of talk, the brazen confident rattle, almost done, you might have said, and yet laughed at yourself for saying so, with a purpose. The sharp fellow seemed to note Sir William's dejection, for he distinctly gabbled at his back: “A down peg, on my oath!” At the moment Heans thought it singular the man should exercise his resentment when he saw he was discomposed.

In Sir William's dusky room, the tall lamp had been lit, but not turned up, and there was an infinitesimal noise of welcome from the bird cage, as the silent one moved one step away along his perch. A cloth had been laid on the table, which was spread with its usual groaning profusion of oversalted bacon, slices of underdone mutton, calcined eggs, ill-washed butter, and multitudinous preserves in extraordinary china, the jam itself as palatable as jam can be that is made inclusive of stones, skins, and kernels. And yet there was such steady profuseness, such decent generosity, such faithful hospitality in the old prisoner's house, that the waste, the briny meat, the bitter fruit, had come to stand with Heans—a man of fastidious taste—on a level with the quality missed in each.

An elegant decanter, shaped like a swan, and ornamented with many-coloured pimples, two of which stood for eyes, swam in its wonted place beside Heans' glasses, glowing as usual with a somewhat bilious appearance, being filled with an arrangement of Oughtryn's known as “beer”: a fantastic thing of varying and often alarming nature. The ingredients for making tea, excellent cheese, and an immense, tough, home-made loaf, were also


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part of the feast, the former including a green earthenware teapot, remarkably shaped like an elephant, which old Six had given Miss Abelia.

Heans strolled past the groaning board, unbuttoned his pelisse, and threw that, stick, and cap in the iron chair. The fender was full of logs from the hills, but the fire had been forgotten, and was in embers. A pair of kid boots was freezing on the kangaroo-rug behind the wood. Heans knelt and put in some long boughs, waiting there until they flamed. It occurred to him to wonder if the presence of the soldier was responsible for this neglect. On the way up, Oughtryn had remarked, how “the officer there, a-scrubbing of the room—a man of small-conduct to his mind—had act'ally seen Collins' body lying there dead, and seemed troubled by, or was pertendin' to, a disrelish for sleeping above.” And he himself had answered, that “he had caught him at it with Mrs. Quaid, who met him in the morning with her books, and went for him like a vixen.” Well—strange fate!—pimps, blacklegs, turnkeys, spies—all may come and go, for Sir William Heans has nothing left to hide—no broken window-bar to curtain, no hole half-chiselled, to conceal, through which the prisoner fancies he can smell old summers! Poor dungeoned fool, didst dream thou hadst a cleavage in thy chains, and when thou wast roused, and knew it sound, could not but kneel and long again for the lost anguish of thy sleep! He rose and went into the bedroom, where he removed his coat and slept.

He was waked by voices, feeling very cold. Getting up and finding his door ajar, he stood beside it a moment collecting himself and listening to what at first he thought some human quarrel coming from the garden. This little passage ran north and south, and he could feel by the draught and the sour smell of the tobacco-tree that the window at the north end was open. Putting on his coat, he went up the passage, stopping by the window just before his own door. The blind was up, and several stars rested like beacons on the mountain-side. He moved to close the window (it was not usual to find the windows open in the house, and more certainly so early in the summer), when the voluble gabble of the soldier, breaking out just under the sill, made him withdraw his hand. “Ah,” said the man, with a lazy irony, “us redcoats was soft against them, was we! Well, I think we did better alone than when the Black String was on, and you lags put in—though we 'ated the work. ‘Not fittin’ for the King's Regiment's,' as Cap'n Vicary used to say. Our Besses was rusted agin the bushes, and our shoes, being private found, went to pieces on the stones. When we struck, 'owever, we struck, sure enough, Bonnypart. I reclect when me and Roe was two of a military post at Crass's out-station on Cross Marsh.” (Here the soldier paused to strike his flint-steel.) “The scrub


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was so thick, a man with a tomahawk could barely make a quarter-of-a-mile's progress in eight hours. The postman he come running in with his mouth bruised and a spear through his jacket. Out we turns. There was snow on the ground. We come up with them a-squatting in a break around the blaze— men, biddies, and children. The corporal he shouts, 'Alt—‘fire! .…” Sir William saw the ruby of a match rise in the dark, and the image of the man's kèpi and hanging hair, while slowly the window and passage filled with tobacco. “I tell you,” he added, quick and glib, “I've balked at the look of a black ever since.” Heans put forward his hand to close the window, but changed his mind, and turning aside into his sitting-room, shut the door. Here the fire had fallen low again and the room seemed cold. He looked about, thinking he must have caught a chill from his sleep, or from the open passage; but was surprised to find the nearer of the two windows open. This caused him a moment's surprise. He did not remember to have felt the cold when he returned. Oughtryn's high voice, muffled by the sentry-box, was neighing through the blind.

Before closing it, he lifted some wood on the fire, and squeezed a fraction more light from the illustrious lamp. A kettle of water had been placed in the fender, and this he put on the mutinous wood. Moving back to the window, he heard Oughtryn cry out: “Not he. Jones was saved by being a cockney, as I remember him a-saying. He took to the surf, the blacks running along the sand and throwing waddies at him, which, he, being street-born, dodged.” Heans harkened a few moments, then softly closed the sash. Instantly it seemed as if the soldier heard it or had seen the reflection of the raised lamp, for from that moment there was an aggressive rise in his narrations penetrating the night, unrelieved by equal returns from his companion, whose voice Heans scarcely again heard.

It may be said that he gave the matter his attention because of what followed in the room. Under the window was a small mahogany table, its round top composed of seven saucers of wood, once used, it was said, by Governor Davey for his plates in rough weather. On this, beside a standish and quills, lay Sir William's new-found Plutarchs in a pile, minus the topmost, which was fallen to the floor. When he had picked up the latter—for he had put his foot upon it in closing the window—and returned it to the pile, he noticed that not only had the first been thrown from its place, but that the whole six volumes had been disarranged as by a blow or fall against the table, while, either by some inadvertence of Mrs. Quaid's, or the intention of an intruder—for he soon connected the open windows with an intruder— something in the nature of a green paper-packet had been shaken out of, or hastily inserted, between the second book and the third. Removing the packet, but never lifting it to the level of the sill, Heans lowered his face once to it, then carried it, with


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the volume which had been under it, to the fire, when, falling upon a chair with his back to the window, he tore it open, keeping the cover of the book about it. The green enveloping paper gave place to a small feminine article, carmine coloured, somewhat too flat for a pin-cushion, somewhat too stout for a book-mark, worked very indecisively in lavender and gold, and bore his monogram and coat-of-arms in many coloured silks. Altogether a gay and brilliant thing, it would have been difficult to place colours together more likely to please or attract the eye. Yet like a beautiful and tender female, designed seemingly to grace and sweeten the earthy garden of life, it held in its tender silks— its pinks, its golds, its greens, its lavender—a stitch or two of black, as if to warn it too were woven of the elements of tragedy. It lay only for an instant in Sir William's hand, for across the upper end of its golden side, a hand had worked in yellow thread:—

“See within.… and help you God.”

Instantly Heans, now pale as death, took a knife from the table, and severed the upper stitches against the pages of the Plutarch. In his effort, the green envelope escaped the book and fell upon the vermilion roses of the carpet. It was addressed:

“SIR WILLIAM HEANS

(per countenance and favour of two ladies)

Charles Oughtryn's Mansion House,

Macquarie Street.”

But Sir William, giving it no heed, found and extracted from within the pad a small folded paper, stamped with official-looking print, which, when opened, revealed, itself a cancelled ticket-of-leave to one “Patrick Clench,” but on the back (over the list of the prisoner's favours) ran a mass of tremulous writing in violet ink, even as stereotype, and close as a missal. Sir William, if he was now looking for something of the kind, would have instantly known it for the writing of Mr. Carnt.

He lay back in the chair, almost upon his left elbow, and a sort of groan escaped his lips as he puzzled out the burden of it. Slowly a tear broke from the corner of his glass, fell upon his cravat, and ran down his velvet waistcoat. Yes, indeed he seemed exalted, and twice corrected a swift, joyous ejaculation with a lift of his gaze and a harkening pause. Presently, at a noisy outburst from the hall, he sat up and rose to his feet. The kettle was bubbling and rattling on the fire. Quickly folding the ticket, he approached the mantel-piece, and raising the statue of the lady with the dove at the left end, placed the paper beneath it; then removing the pad from the book, he took this also, and after carefully extracting with a penknife the direction in yellow stitch, hid it beneath the angel at the other. He then dropped the enveloping paper in the embers.




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After he had done this, he took his pelisse from the chair, and holding it up to the lamp, examined the fur lining with a gleam of interest. He then with some care folded it, and taking out an old Gazette from the catacomb cabinet, wrapped it up, tying it with a piece of blue tape. Afterwards, removing the tea-kettle, he was at some pains to produce, with its aid, and that of various articles about the tea-pot, a cup of tea, sinking the tea in a silver tea measure (artfully contrived to resemble a dromedary), fishing the animal out, and with difficulty extracting the leaves through the howdah, that he might afterwards eat them upon his toast. Indeed, Sir William was at some trouble to come at his meals, from the wealth of ornament that leagured them about. Part of his service was adorned with portraits of “Suffolk Worthies”; part with a many-hued acrostic; each plate demanding the same burning question, till temporarily extinguished under a piece of bread or mutton—once more to be offered inexorably when the appetite was assuaged. His sky-blue tea-cup, lost from the cupboard of some Regency blue, was shaped like a kylix, and stood unsteadily on its little pedestal—indeed, was precarious when its shallow basin held its amber quantum. The very knives with which he now cut the bread or carved the meat were precarious with rough carvings of tigers, snakes, and dying ladies. It seems to have been one of Oughtryn's opinions—aided by Abelia's straying, untutored fancy—that the nobility “was like horses; and would wither away if made to take their food in rude directness,” indeed, only thrived when permitted to approach the board in a circuitous manner.

It must be enough to state, for the moment, that something in Carnt's communication had turned Sir William's thoughts with gratitude towards the black woman, Conapanny. Not that she wholly occupied them—the sharpened air, the energy which had gripped his frame, the swift fallings of face and sudden exaltations, had their goad and spur elsewhere; yet there was something in what had happened, something in the room or its appearance, which pulled Sir William repeatedly into the actual and stumbled him against his old landlady and that brown woman. Once he rose from the table (where, hardly seeming to do either, he was steadily eating ham and drinking tea), opened the door and peered into the passage towards the open window; and once more, when he had shut out the evil tobacco, he paused by the left window in his own room before returning to his seat. A few moments after, he went again to that window, and returned with Fate in his hands—a volume of the Ancients—which, holding up with one hand, he began to read, the while attending to his inner man, his whole air showing a pallid effort to concentrate his mind upon the fate of that most noble Newton of the Greeks:—

“But what most of all afflicted Marcellus, was the unhappy


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fate of Archimedes, who was at that time in his study, engaged in mathematical researches; and his mind, as well as his eye, was so intent upon his diagram, that he neither heard the tumultuous noise of the Romans, nor perceived that the city was taken. A soldier suddenly entered his room, and ordered him to follow him to Marcellus; and Archimedes refusing to do it till he had finished his problem, and brought his demonstration to bear, the soldier, in a passion, drew his sword and killed him. Others say, the soldier came up to him at first with a drawn sword to kill him, and Archimedes, perceiving him, begged he would hold his hand a moment, that he might not leave his theorem imperfect; but the soldier, neither regarding him nor his theorem, laid him dead at his feet. A third account of the matter is, that, as Archimedes was carrying in a box some mathematical instruments to Marcellus, as sun-dials, spheres, and quadrants, by which the eye might measure the magnitude of the sun, some soldiers met him, and imagining that there was gold in the box, took away his life for it.…”

Whether or not it was the odour of the man's pipe, pervading the room, or his unending, fluting jabber, which forced his image on Heans' thoughts, he found himself defeated in his attempts to read; and not for the first time during his repast, reverted to the violent scene between man and black which had so affrighted Abelia that morning. Conapanny's wailing, too, rung on his mind with a strange persistency. Now came that faint familiarity in the name “Spafield,” and the insistent feeling that it was connected in his memory with a black woman and a hole in masonry.… He made another attempt to lose himself in the fate of the ancient engineer, when he was reminded that the book in his hand was one of those recognised before the door by the soldier, who hinted at some unpleasing tragedy or superstition connected with it; and it was with this in mind that Sir William Heans began to turn it in his hand and examine the gilded back. Was the book a possession of that same Governor Collins whose body was seen by Spafield lying in the Chamber? He turned the leaves, searching for signs of former ownership—for fates other than that of the ingenious defeater of Marcellus—only to remember with a feeling of curious alarm that there had been a scrawl at the end of one of the volumes; whereon, searching the end-papers of the book, and finding nothing but an old superscription, he rose and returned to the window. Two of the volumes on the table yielded nothing more. There was nothing in the third. Only against the blistered back of the bottom one was the object of his search—the old letter—and though he could not decipher it in the faint moon, its poignancy and wild threats came back to him as he stood staring at the curious printed characters. He did not at once seek the lamplight. The appearance of it recalled enough of the burden to enchain him. He remembered the stolen meetings—the


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passionate attachment amid the lack of food—the threat against the usurous boy, Joe Spars. He recalled how the book—the volume in his hand—had been given to Joe Spars to put in the waterway. If it was still here with its fellows—could Spars have put it there?

He approached close to the blind, and lifting a slat stared through it towards the heliotrope, and then the other way; but here his view was impeded by the triangular side of the sentry-box. The two men were still talking, but their voices sounded short and angry. In the instant that he harkened, Oughtryn's voice piped out: “You'll never manage it. The likes of you can't do it.” To which the other gabbled softly: “What's there in it! I've known worse than me 'as rose flash—aye, played long-coat, clergy, and company manners, after shooting a crow 'en in a tree.” Heans moved slowly to the other window. The blind was down and he took the cord and raised it. Just below the sill, on the mossy path, was the carven stone on which poor Abelia had fallen; a kind of corbel, of which the flat back stood towards the house, its round, grooved front in the moon. Was it a neglected example? To support what groined wonder had it been wistfully foreshadowed? Leaning on the sill, he stared down upon it, enwrapped and grave. He then lifted his glance over the garden, clear-pathed, and backed by beckoning hills… Of course he could not see the face, but there it was, the small stone image, with the raised, black trumpet. At that moment Heans was amazed to hear a note of muffled music. There had sounded a distinct three or four notes, rather rapid and tinny. And then, when suddenly there came a knock at his door, and the woman appeared asking if she might remove the cloth, and as he (Heans) turned nodding to the fire, he was agreeably relieved to hear Abelia playing her Spanish songs.

It was often his habit, rather than smoke his tobacco-pipe among finery, or for the silent company of the horses, to carry it to the stable; and now, while the monumental woman was leisurely denuding the table, he took from the door a plaid shooting-jacket, and sought cap and tobacco-box. Before he left the room, however, he carried the volume of Plutarch to the lamp, and examined the messages, and the resulting cry of anguish, of the malign carver. A prisoner. A stone-cutter, who hewed his creatures in a garden near which were “caves.” Finally a captive in them, still attended by the usurous boy Joe Spars. Standing stiff and tense, Heans read it through: “I am to be whipped and confined for the while—perhaps forever—out of the garden. They have shut me in the caves…” Here he paused, shutting the cover a moment, and glaring aside. Thereafter lifting his glass—which had dropped—to his eye, he read, “Damnation seize them—if they let me have my chisel again, I shall do something awful!” (He gave a sharp exclamation


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as the woman dropped an array of spoons, but bowed as of habit, as this fate-like personage begged a remote and symbolical pardon.) The soldier's malicious laugh broke again upon the window, intermingling with the tang-tinkle-tang of the buried piano. He read very slowly; “His Honour shall know of me.”

Afterwards he went over to the standish, thinking deeply and twisting a pen in his fingers. Abruptly he took a dip of ink, and returned to the cabinet, where above the name “Spars” in the postscript of Surridge's letter, he made the entry “Joseph Spafield,” and the date “Nov. 4th 1841.” So the document remains in the old book with his addition in scarce darker ink.

He now closed the book on a piece of blotting-paper, leaving it on the catacomb cabinet. The little wizen face of the clock informed him from its weary weight of ornament that it was nine. He could not find his pipe on the stone sill where he usually laid it, nevertheless he moved on the door, where, turning, he asked the woman for the lantern, as he had mislaid one of his smoking appliances. She left the room, and he heard her slow tread stop and resume as she engaged in a whispering in the passage. A high cry of, “I was a young boy afore you in and out of these old rooms,” informed him who had stopped her. While she was away, he found his pipe on the drum held by his whiskered friend, the Roman, but before she returned he had concealed it, and when she fetched the lantern ready lit, he did not extinguish it. Before he departed, however, he asked the woman if it were true, what was said about the old black, Conapanny, that she spoke like an educated women? And they had a few words about it, the woman waiting a moment over the folded cloth, and speaking with more than usual reluctance.

“Conapanny can speak elegant enough when she likes,” said she, and would have moved leisurely away.

“Miss Abelia is better?” asked Heans. “I hear her at the pianoforte.”

“Yes, she is well.”

“It was she who told me the black carried a book about her?”

The woman paused at the drawer of the beaufet, and seemed to consider. Finally she muttered, rather than said, “she carried in her nets a book called ‘Colonel Jack,’ she thought, but she did not think her reading of it was more than a penance.”

“Penance! Then it is indeed she I hear crying. I cannot get it out of my mind that she has been injured.”

“Nay—you don't need to have done crime to be made to weep,” said the woman, in a distinct, low tone. “Maybe she weeps for her kith—like.”

“That is so,” answered Sir William, and for a moment he seemed about to speak further, but changed his mind, and went out into the passage. When yet in his door, he saw the white shoulder-pads of the man in the window, and moving with relief to the entrance, stepped out into the yard. The night was


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quiet and cold. The soft fingers of the moon had the foliaged cliff and the doors beneath, but the hulk of the great dwelling behind him was dark, only for one candle in the kitchen. Heans stepped swiftly across, dodging the wet grass among the flags. The remnant gum wafted a forest breath in the walled yard. Where his light touched the built-in stone about the doors, he actually records noticing a yellow streak near the upper hinge of the first, which he does not remember to have before seen, but does not stop to look now. In haste, he wrenched back, rather than pulled, the bolts, making his entrance into the stable so suddenly that Oughtryn's great dapple gelding strangled up upon his feet. It was at this moment he found he was clutching a cane along with the lantern, and connecting this unconscious arming of himself with to-night's news and Spafield's intention to sleep here, he lit his way hurriedly through the arch of the harness-room. The man had as yet made no preparations, excepting a few sacks taken from the chain and thrown in a corner, showing where he was making possibly a sort of trial of it. (He had not then heard of Spafield's hurt.) With Sir William, we may wonder whether Spafield, when he removed the sacks, noticed the ringing of the walled chain. In reference to this curious discovery, Sir William had become possessed of a rather terrible idea, and we now tell how he made haste to test it.

Listening for a moment towards the house, where the piano was faintly tinkling, he pushed up to the back of the cave, and here fixed the lantern about neck-high in the lower crack. He then did a very simple thing, and one we may well wonder he had not thought of before—he put up his hand and pulled steadily at one only of the two strings which ran from the sack-chain up into the wall. As he had anticipated, after a pull or two, it gave and ran steadily, the link of the sack-chain acting as a pulley, and the weight of it keeping the strings taut. The walled chain no longer rattled, as, steadily watching its place of outlet, he paid in the string through a pair of grey cotton gloves. With five or six pulls, however, the thing stuck, and after a tug or two, he relinquished the pressure upon it, loth to risk force. Now pushing back till his shoulders met the sack-chain, he pulled that upon them, thus taking the weight off the strings, while, with his hand, he swung the latter in the crack—as a fisherman might his fouled line. On this there was a ‘clink,’ and then a loud ‘clash,’ and a glittering metallic shower fell out of the crack, splashing on the floor and on the wheat-sacks below. Stooping, Heans picked a fragment from a sack and held it to the lamp. It was a piece of yellow glass, portion, he judged, of a flattish bottle or jar. Stretching up, he again tried the string, and it running steadily, from the crack appeared the neck of a small flask, such as might once have contained Tokay. It was fastened by a bit of dirty rag. Heans, however, had hardly this to hand, when the strings, again sticking above the outlet, gave sharply to an increasing


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pressure, and much exalted, he hauled at something which came uneasily—indeed bunching like a garment—till a dusty object dropped out into the cave, about the size of a man's head: an old officer's hat, as he afterwards found, cocked at front and back, the front cock being torn away and bound over the head-hole, making a rough wallet. For the instant, he was prevented from handling it by the bottle-neck: that fouling the sack-chain. To get at the second arrival, Heans had to mount upon a sack, from that height being near enough to sever the attaching cord— a bit of ribbed maroon ribbon—and bring the thing down to the candle. Much litter had been knocked off in the descent, and he considered by the edgings of the flaps, and the stains upon the felt, that it had been an old hat before it was tied upon the strings. He remembered such hats worn by officers in his childhood; indeed, similar to that worn by the carven officer over the stalls in the stables. The ribbon which had attached it to the thongs, also held the cock or lid in place over the head hole; but though severed with a penknife, the mossing of small webs about the tie-holes, and in the ribs of the tie, still held the lid. When Heans attempted to open it, he found the ribbon still further stiffened by some substance with which it was coated, and which had stained a part of it black, and it was only by exerting his strength that he forced it apart. The inside was in fair preservation, though stained with dirt and perspiration. It had once been a fine hat, and a ragged piece of pleated satin still clung to one side: white once, now stained enough. A fine circle of ribbed silk lined the crown, and on this lay a small article or tool about the size of a four-inch nail, of which the last inch had been filed and rubbed down till it was not much thicker than a sailor's needle. Its tip was still stained with some dark pigment. Besides this there was no other object in the hat but a piece of dried fern of the kind known as ‘maiden-hair.’ When he had lifted out the tool from the bottom, he spelled out the hatter's name, half-quagged in the discoloured silk:

STANTON & BEDYLL,

SIDE ARMS AND CHAPEAU

(PORTUGAL SNUFF, SCOTCH RAPEE),

24 SHOE LANE.

And here, his eyes grown sharp in searching after the printed letters, came suddenly upon the words, “Pull my body down,” written in a darkish ink, above the advertisement; whereon, putting the hat nearer the light, he read without difficulty: “Pull my body down. The cleft's cut.” Not long afterwards, his eyes discovered above, in a small blotched, straggling print (as though done by a hand practising with a new, perhaps unfinished tool), “W. Surridge,” and the word “faithful.” Heans made out


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nothing more at the top of the circle of silk, though there were two or three unmistakable blotches of ink concealing letters if not words. Underneath the advertisement, however, but somewhat to the right, was a plain direction, though unfinished, and somehow fraught with sadness. It appeared to read: “Over on the back see what I did. I said——” and there it ended, or seemed to end. Finally, after five minutes' further examination of this surface, Sir William inserted his fingers under the bottom of the silk and began to separate it from the crown. He found it came easily away, excepting the top side, where it was still sewn to the felt. He was, however, considerably surprised to find the under surface of the material white, clean (but for a few blots) and bare of hieroglyphic. It was not till, in thoroughly searching it, he drew it out of the hat to its full stretch, that at the extreme top, under a few words in hand print, badly blotched, he found a second careful direction: ‘Damp defeated me. Muslin runs. Try on the leather.”

For a moment at sea, Sir William laid back the satin in the crown. What leather was referred to? Had it been lost or dropped above? There was a narrow kid head band, stained almost blue, and if anything had been written there in explanation it was unreadable. Not a word or letter was to be found. Pulling a corner of the leather up, he thought he could see something peculiar in the colouration of the under side, and instantly, he ran his hand round underneath it, wresting it up as he went. Inside the band was undressed, tough as parchment, and near white as the day it was sewn, while upon its even surface a mass of close minute hand-print wound its spidery way about the circlet. Hardly touched by the sea-damp, the MS. was even readable in the candle. There was one slit in the leather, where the ends of the band met at the back of the head, and in the left top corner on the right of this, a rough drawing of a head with wings, such as we see on ancient tombs, seemed to indicate the beginning of the manuscript. Heans, without difficulty, spelt out the first words in the lamp: “Here's to you, Carrow, and you, black Derrick, or Hammes, or any other desperate man. If ever you return, see what it came to after all; and if not you, for I know not what they'll do now, some poor wretch wild enough to try, and slim enough to break his luck.” Before reading further, Sir William glanced down the lines for the name Spars, and found it occurring near the bottom of the leather. Before he desisted he had found also that of another. He now lit his tobacco-pipe at the lantern, and picking his way with the latter to the arch, there blew it out. He had the chapeau in his hand, and leaving that against the lantern by the arch, he went into the stable, there standing for some half-an-hour smoking beside the door.

Towards the end of that time, a second light appeared in a window above the Chamber. It was a dim light, the window,


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as well as being shaded, appearing to be coated with dust. Presently after Sir William saw this window darken, but almost instantly the blind next on the right was lit from behind. This, however, only for half a minute. The next it was dark again, and suddenly he noticed that the gaps in the first jalousie were once more illuminated. A few seconds after, Heans stepped back from the door as the slats of this jalousie ran crookedly up, and the white facings of the soldier's coat appeared close against the glass. Afterwards there was a patient manœuvring with the catch, and at last the damp-swelled window was heavily raised.

It was a still, dewy night, the crescent moon running shyly among mackerel clouds, to which clung a few bright stars like diamonds among wadding. Sir William distinctly heard Spafield pull a hoarse breath, and mutter gloomily to himself. Though he could see his features but vaguely, he considered by the foreshortening of the breast of his coat, that he was bending down and looking under the window at the stable. He remained in this posture for one or two minutes, breathing at intervals in a curious, whale-like way, and then suddenly called “Mate,” loud and distinct, presently repeating it lower yet sharper.

Sir William did not answer, and he could see the man, after a short silence, press into the window and throw his leg over the sill. His head was now outside and facing away from the gate, and he leant still further out, holding to the window with his left hand. From this position he began calling in an insistent, powerful flute, at first quietly, then louder and more obstinate, “Halloo, Oughtryn—halloo—halloo!” till finally, with an oath, leaning in, as no one answered, and the kitchen light remained passive, he handled and cast out along the wall, hallooing all the time, what sounded from their “hocking” fall in the yard like a pair of shoes, and after them, something that flashed in the kitchen window, and fell almost against the door with a wonderful, vicious clattering. At this there was a cry within, and something like a chair falling, and presently Oughtryn stood sleepily at the door, muttering and crying high and anxious:

“Did I 'ear any one, now? 'As you spoke, please?”

Instantly Spafield hissed from his window: “Devil take your soul, 'ave you locked me in here?” Oughtryn started and turned slowly round. For a few seconds he examined him, seeing him plainly no doubt in the light from the room. “You know I haven't,” he said, somewhat between wheedling and hectoring. “I said I'd leave the door open.”

“Them hall doors is locked.”

“You were using the Chamber. I left that one open.”

“Suspicious, mate! You locked me out of your parts after I came up?”

“I haven't locked the passage under the stair. Presently I'll be going up.”




  ― 203 ―

“Well, I saw someone go through there. It was locked when I tried it.”

“Perhaps the women locked it—you being a stranger. They're not gone yet.”

“No, it wasn't one of them I seen——”

“You seen—did you? Come now—bad agin!”

“Yes, I've had a poisonful, mate. I hoped it was you done it.”

“What's this! What 'ave you been doing? Luny about the 'ouse again! Come now, 'ave you trooly seen his Honour Governor Collings' walking, living ghost!”

“Break your 'art—if I told you, you wouldn't believe it!”

“Ho well—you can tell me—if you please.”

“Ha-ha—well—if I told you I seen a black on them stairs, what would you say?”

“Go it, yer cripple. Crutches is cheap,” called the old convict, heavily ironic.

“Rot you—I knew you'd bilk!”

“Saw a black?”

“A black woman. I told you they was poison to me. I hear something, and I comes out of my room. I sees her standing by the wall next the stairs. Afore I could move, she steps down.”

“And you goes down after that, a man of conduct?”

“Poison-quick, I went. There was a glint in the front hall. As I come down, I see, underneath, something pass through the door. But when I come, there it was locked.”

“This is something pretensed by your mind,” said Oughtryn, after a sceptical pause. “I've known of it before. Rum and yarns on your disease 'ave done you this. Give yourself and the 'ouse justice, officer. Wait.” (He spat out his quid.) “I'll go in and try the door myself.”

He turned and made for the lit kitchen—pausing however to stoop and feel along the flags for a bright object which he had kicked with his foot, but which he eventually found and held to his eyes. It was a naked bayonet, and he disappeared, shaking it doubtfully in his hand.

The soldier remained in the high window, staring over towards the cliff, and now and then kicking the skirting within with a heavy thudding. The foliage in the yard made an infinitesimal rustling. In the stables, Sir William Heans moved to the small square hole on the left of the door—that he might command a view of Spafield's face. As he stopped and looked through, his lips moved. He said, “God pity you—Joseph Spafield!”

Almost instantly Oughtryn came out of the kitchen.

“You had 'er on your mind,” neighed he, turning and blinking up under his hand. “It's not locked. Too much yarning about them sometimes punishes you in that way—unless you done 'er a bad turn.”




  ― 204 ―

“Ah,” said the soldier, speaking after a long silence in which his foot could be heard banging against the wood, “black-bottle, you're thinking?”

“Well, you've had your drink to-day. You lie down. You won't see them black charmers any more… I've lived here four years, and never seen no ghost to stare me out.”

“Devil take her soul, so long as I don't hear her! I heard her feet.”

“You've been like that all evening, officer. The mind's a fickle thing. You're hanging too much on them blacks. You can spit 'em from your mind when you like—hear that. That's what I tells you.”

“Friendly with me now,” gabbled the man; “spit 'em from my mind, can I! Ha” (more sharp and malign), “I've been foul chid enough by an old lag! Condemn the house, will I! Faith, I've given you a queer dance, old mate, what with my ailment and my unhappy life! Come now, keep it from the girls. They'll be laffin' old Sly out. Devil take your soul, I'll spit it out, will I! Ha-ha! Where's the old beau—gone a bye-bye? 'Appy dreams! I tell ye the place is past damning!”

In this half jocular strain he threw in his leg over the sill, but leant out again to ask the other, “That my gully in your 'and? Is 'e damaged?”

“Not beyond a dent,” said Oughtryn. “He'll do you for the spirits yet.” With that he went indoors, and Spafield, after moving a little about his room, and once returning to the window, shut it.

It was after the half-hour when Heans returned across the yard, and as he passed up the passage, he heard Oughtryn moving uneasily in the kitchen. It was a night's custom with Oughtryn to hail him from that obscurity with a “My duty to your honour, and a sheltered night,” or “Calm repose and four walls, honour”; but now, standing in the kitchen door, he stopped him with the words: “You was in the stable, I know. I hope you don't let the man disturb you.”

“He has not yet intruded upon me,” said Sir William, tightening on the old chapeau under the lapel of his jacket: “a man with a very scandalous mouth. And a coward too.”

“He seems frightened of the old house,” repeated Oughtryn; and he related how the man had alarmed the women by his flurry in the Chamber. “Lost his bad woman, as I told you,” said he, “and gone sour and angry like without her.”

“Do you believe that?” called Sir William, casually.

For a moment Oughtryn said nothing—standing in his door just able to see Sir William as he stood by his.

“There's something amiss with him,” he presently remarked. ‘He's not a nat'rally scared man. He's bore a bold life. I should


  ― 205 ―
—speaking under correction—I should say fate was worriting him for something he's adone.”

“We must put up with him? I believe you wish me to understand that?”

“A powerful man—I'd 'ardly dare provoke with one who's plainly got privilege.”

“What makes you think that, sir?”

“Oh, I know. I know when humility is scarcely pretensed.”

“So we must bow to the dust. Is that the Order?”

“It's in his v'ice and manners, Sir William Heans,” said Oughtryn, somewhat hoarse and shaken. “He doesn't need to care. Perhaps, if others can't, God Almighty is a-provokin' him.”

“Perhaps He is,” said Heans.

They parted and Sir William went into the sitting-room. Oughtryn came along to the back door and locked it with a tremendous clap. It was his notion of the fitting to remain in hiding till Sir William had gone. He had slithered back into the kitchen passage, and extinguished a dim light there, when Sir William re-opened his door. “What do the women think of it, Oughtryn?” he called.

“Oh,” said Oughtryn, in a small, haggish voice and coming to the corner of his passage as fearing an eavesdropper, “the woman—she slides away from the subject, calling him ‘a well set-up army officer,’ but the two are resting down to-night.”

“And Miss Abelia—how does she take it?”

“Well, women seldom spurns the sick man, even if he's a ill one,” he said; “and since she's been a-tendin' of his wrist, Abelia, she says he's ‘a brave bold man,’ she thinks… But I'll ask you, sir, to read the back-hand for yourself.” So the cautious fellow said “Good-night,” and Heans heard his steps dwindle along the flagged passage and the stair door slam.

When he turned into his room, he felt a half-chill which told him at once one of the windows was again open. He was of course much surprised. The green blinds were now down, and the room lay serenely in its illustrious half-light, the fire burning quiet. The chill from the window was unpleasantly sharp. He put the old chapeau on the table and turned to shut it. He was not, however, done with the horse happenings of that day.

Thinking he heard the left jalousie flapping, he went first to that, but stooped first to raise the books, two of which had again fallen from the table. This startling him, he turned to the cabinet, on which he had left Surridge's volume of the Plutarch. It was gone. At the same moment he noticed that a thin-necked vase, top-heavily stuck with rose-apples, had been overturned upon the table. He picked up the vase, searched the room for the missing volume, and then returned to the window. He now noted that the little table had been pushed to the left of the sill, occasioning perhaps the fall of the books. He put his hand on the cord and pulled the blind. The window had been thrown


  ― 206 ―
up to the limit of the lintel. Of the cedar shutters (nightly fastened by Oughtryn from outside), the right was still open, and leaning forward, he saw, in the soft moon against the wall, the cloth-enwrapped face and shawled shoulders of a black-woman. She seemed like a small beast that crouches in, half fascinated, half terrified into courage. Her large eyes, at first unseeingly upon the garden, when she turned them upon himself, she either could not or would not move as the fear in them prompted—nay, importuned. As, in the surprise of the instant, he drew back into the room, and again looked through the shutter, a faint sound, something between threat and bleat, escaped her frozen figure. Sir William saw with a sudden and dreadful sense of shock that beside her bundles, by the corbel, the Plutarch lay upon the path.

“Why,” said he (as he relates), speaking as carelessly as he could, “so it is you, Conapanny! What can I give you for bringing me my precious package to-day?”

She said nothing, though once more that curious sound escaped her; and she moved, as with a vast effort, perhaps a foot nearer to him. The moon fell from a mackerel cloud, and she put up her hand to shield her face. In a moment it was gone, yet as if her movement had freed her from the spell of a stricken hour, and still shielding her face though the terrace was beshadowed, she bent down, and raising the book from the path, stretched forward and held it to the sill by Heans' hand. He gently put out his hand and pushed it back.

She slowly drew back her hand with the book in it. Her eyes were on him. At last her voice issued from her lips—panting, low, entreating: “Conapanny know old house—old book. In old time Conapanny Moicrime. Moicrime go away——” Her voice broke, and she fumbled open the cover of the book, holding Surridge's letter up to him on a level with the sill. “You take Mitta Tuso,” she entreated. “Conapanny see book in window— afternoon. Me come see you to-night. Me read what poor Walter wrote.”

“How many years ago was this written?” asked Heans, taking the book from her, and pretending to peruse the letter, yet at a loss what to say, seeing what he knew.

“O—oh, thirty-three — thirty four — thirty-five year,” said Conapanny, dropping to the native's droning way. “Gubner Collins—Gubner Davey—Gubner Arthur, all gone. Gubner Franklin now. Collins—him die.——” And she stopped short, rose without a sound, and looked along the front of the sleeping house.

“You call him ‘poor Walter?’ ” asked Sir William Heans, sharply. “Why do you think him lost to you?”

“He no alive,” said she. “Years ago—gone. Moicrime look long time. She not know yet.”

“What doesn't she know yet?”

“She not know yet—how!”




  ― 207 ―

“Does Moicrime think any one—knows?”

“Some one know.”

“Why should she think he died so long ago as that?”

“Not forget,” she said, in a faint, harsh whisper at the bottom of her throat, and she shrank back once more into the wall.

Sir William—waiting there with his unhallowed knowledge— was too moved for a while to continue. “Do you mean,” he said unsteadily, “that—after so many years—you are still looking for someone to tell you what happened to Walter Surridge?”

“Yes, Mitta Tuso,” she said, staring at him. Before he could continue, she suddenly rose by the window, and snatching the book which Heans had replaced, opened and examined it in the faint moon. Turning then with her finger on a word in the postscript of the letter, she elevated the book towards Heans' face.

“That bad wite,” she said, “him know how Walter go from Moicrime.”

Sir William bent his eyes to the name by which her finger rested, but whether by accident or design, she was pointing not to the name in the old document, but the one beneath it, the ink of which was hardly dry.

“Years ago, Moicrime try make him speak. No. Old Conapanny—she ask him about Moicrime—Walter—other day— to-day—no. She ask old Gubner Collins' house—old house dumb. She ask book, book speak——”

Sir William could barely brook her figure hanging by the window, and turned back into the room, folding his arms. When angry at his ineptitude, his powerlessness to speak of Surridge's brave end because of the deed he believed had led to it (not knowing whether this silent spirit of the past had had time, or yet allowed herself, to connect threats with death), when rendered bitter with his locked mouth, he turned to the window, his heart heavy with its burden, yet half inclined to speak something of the entombment of lost Walter—there was the corbel lying by the wall, but no sign of Conapanny or her beribboned bags. She was gone. In the soft moon, the gilt-framed book lay foreignly on the edge of the stone sill.

Then, across the garden, he caught the shadow of her, striding under her bundles by the Orphanage wall. Near the heliotrope she disappeared. Nay, she has turned west. There she goes (he pulls the shutter closer) between bush and tree, her head in its white kerchief on a level with her burden. Her hate or agony have brought the sweat upon her face and its dark skin glitters. Now, past the medlar-tree, she turns down beside the fountain, her eyes bent upon the periwinkle in its broken basin, where once the water had reflected her young face.

How still are these old gardens in the night! How indurate, scarred, and meaning are their once graceful ornament! For how long can they nurse a wrong in their old bosoms! Queen


  ― 208 ―
Elizabeth (we read in history) expressed a doubt to her General in France of the wisdom of turning persons out of their houses that Havre might be safer held; she ‘doubted,’ if they were driven from their homes, ‘whether God would be contented with the rest that would follow.’ History tells us what happened to the garrison in Havre, and by what they were defeated.

Perhaps Sir William Heans, as he glared about the garden upon this and that, upon its heroic arrangement, its wrestling roses, its finger-marked rocks half swallowed in weeds, its blackened, corroded, presiding figurette, realised a little plainer than “brother Warwick” of the old day with what strange line and rule the Almighty works. Heans relates how later he had a vision of Moicrime, slim and straight, in a blue, high-waisted dress. (Poor, pretty, vivacious Moicrime!) But this, we think, was only his poetic way of putting it, unless, indeed, his tired fancy had gotten the better of him after he had read the writing in the chapeau.

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