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Chapter XIV The Green-Room

Give ower your House, my lady fair,
Give ower your House to me.
Percy Reliques.

“WE have a horrid monster here!” said Sir William, standing aghast in the breakfast-room, with the hat before him on the table. It was an ashen spring morning, and, outside, the east wind fought along the wall with the guardian trees, or sprang in, struggling with the shivering shrubs. Bless me, the poor little statue seemed to be bugling in a mêlée!

Sir William, before his breakfast; the remains of which were upon the table, had crossed to the stable without seeing their unwelcome guest, but on his return heard his confident gabble over a shrill protest from Oughtryn at an open chamber window, and saw his long face stoop and look out. He looked indolent and uneasy, and gave Heans only a half look, as it were, out of his shouted conversation, but at the same instant, his hand had moved slily over the window-sill, and a pebble shot over the flags not more than two feet in front of Heans' trousers. Trivial as was the action, and chance as may have been the aim, Heans, vainly struggling with his dread knowledge of the fellow, and his own private excitement, returned to the room much perturbed by it. A little brooding over and gathering of yesterday's incidents, and he was still inclined to the belief the man was plaguing him personally; and a disquiet began to possess him lest his evident enmity might put a new hazard in three difficult days. Yet it was strange. Neither the soldier nor any one else could know of Carnt's scheme, the ink of which was hardly dry. Had he (Heans) let anything slip in the stable? 'Pon his soul, he considered, he had been most circumspect! He knew life and men, or at least enough, as Carnt would have put it, “for a tolerable defence”; along with this, that one experience of his capture, or the common infirmity of the cabined mind, had instilled in him a rooted scepticism in the good intentions of his keepers; and seeing life and men in their carelessness, envy, selfishness, weakness, sickness, or cynicism, he yet paled, his hair stiffened, and his hand clenched, at the thought of this ruffian and evil-liver,


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this treacherous go between and murderer, loosed upon the quiet house, and, according to Oughtryn, barely pretending his humility. Sir William naturally asked himself why was such a one sent upon so domestic a task? Had “Spars” had the cunning to hide his nature through these thirty years, and valve his poison out of drill-hours? Bah, these men knew what men were! Had he made for himself a sort of work-a-day, wicked trustiness? Such men were valuable to their superiors. Was he the Blackadder to some official Bothwell? “God help me,” said Heans, in self-reprimand, “I am thinking too sourly! The man is ill, and had lost the company of the baggage, his wife. This scrubbing, stable-cleaning, and festooning a bower of roses for my Lady Franklin is by way of a relaxation for a sick wolf.” Yet, by Heaven, it did not sound rightly! And if true, it was hardly fair of fate! Ah, coincidence, coincidence, thou factor in our human or animal doings, as much to be reckoned with as the most cunning and best calculated snare! Coincidence had summoned him (Heans) to Flat Top Tier on the day before his first beggarly run for it; coincidence, it was possible, had brought this sly ruffian to the house three days before the new attempt! With whatever powers, or motive, he was come—were he nothing more than the scrawl upon his order—or were he interpreting, after the manner of a disreputable flunkey, some hostile feeling of superiors rather implied than expressed (for Heans was half persuaded there was mischief in it), Spafield, this time, was not having it all his own way. Coincidence, or something sterner, had sent the pitiable ruffian back to Captain Collins' cottage.

Up to the present we have mentioned no names because the implications in Sir William's letters up to this moment carefully refrain from doing so. We prefer to follow the trend of his mind as he records it. Whatever the reason for Heans' silence, it says a great deal for Mr. Daunt that the former did not credit him with so much dislike for himself that he would descend to sheer evil-doing against him. Does it not say a great deal for human nature that it so reluctantly admits that in a fellow-creature? Hardly do we credit our friend with “running cunning”; at worst we guard against the possibility. And yet, how countless are the catastrophes in the histories occasioned by man's reluctance to relinquish a fellow-being into the hooded den of the wholly-wicked! Watch us trying to explain him (or her) to the last—lending him this, forcing that upon him; fitting upon him these or those little cloaks of weakness or forced probity or hypocrisy or harmless failure; searching round for something— anything—any human rag that will make him seem of us while he is here.

There were some early arrivals in the morning: three staid maids with stooping heads and beaver bonnets, accompanied by


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three grooms holding to their hats: all laden with parcels. The latter made several journeys to and from the gate, the maids remaining and filling the passages with conversation. About nine o'clock Heans left his room intending to return to the stable, but as he stepped into the yard he thought he could hear voices within the cave, and next moment his attention was called (by the head and cape of the driver appearing over the gate) to the fact that a fly was drawn up outside the wall. After a few minutes' wait, during which he assured himself there were people in the stable, he stepped across. He felt if he was to escape out of the place during the week he must not shrink from the routs of grooms and gentlemen which would assuredly throng it. As he went, he noted that all the windows of Collins' Chamber were thrown wide, and in one a woman was importantly flapping her duster amid echoes of further activity. Arriving in the wind at the stable door, he found two men in talk, with backs turned, some way in while the man Spafield, quick and bold, in red coat and shako, was pitchforking the hay from the nearer stalls, and labouring with it into the murk of the innermost. Sir William made out as he came in that it was Oughtryn and Mr. Daunt who were talking there: the former in his best oiled boots and buttoned coat, very bland and obsequious; Daunt somewhat shrinking and lost, in a grey cloak and low-crowned hat. The latter advanced along immediately he saw Heans, something of the old, immaculate briskness in his manner. “Sir William,” he said, with quite a pleasant little smile, “come, do not be annoyed with us for making free here. We really must stable the young actors. It is just civil. Oughtryn will send away his nags for the 7th and give us stable room.”

“Why yes, Honour,” said Oughtryn, as if repeating some arrangement for the benefit of Heans; “I'll lead the horses down on Thursday to Deal's or Stully's—my own self.”

“ 'Pon my word, sir,” Daunt went on, “the young actors are in agonies and hysterics over stable and rooms, and though I will yield in the matter of your sitting-room, if you will allow me, I will on no account permit you to be incommoded about the other. Now, sir, grant us this much latitude for the great night.”

Heans, though distressingly taken aback by the news that the horses were to be removed, and by Oughtryn's caution that he was not to aid in it, said steadily enough he yielded the matter into Oughtryn's hands; if he consented, he would remove from his room. Surprised, no doubt, at Daunt's mellowed manners, and troubled by his presence so early in the morning, he looked him in the face an instant; after staring across at Spafield, who was moving quickly in and out of the dusk, gripping a pitchfork used only to a pair of ancient cotton gloves. Oughtryn now approached them in his tall small hat, somewhat crestfallen, yet blinking blandly. He doubtfully tapped one hand with a very small twig which it was his habit to carry in the other when off


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duty (and with which he might be seen bending in the yard, reprimanding cat and dog). “Changing the straw,” observed he, in a manner somewhat sly and aloof, “for the conveniency.”

“Sir William Heans is very civil about the sitting-room,” said Daunt, pitching it back at the other in a shrugging way. “Half the world cares little enough how it disturbs the other half, I'm afraid, and we've all been very greedy after the old house. 'Pon my word, there's so little new going on! I want you and Sir William Heans to understand I won't stick out for any room you want undisturbed. The ladies get their girlish fancies about a thing, and though as we get older, confound it! we are easier weakened, I don't wish to be run into an injustice. That is not one of my faults. At least, not one I boast of. It is, of course, very amiable of you about your room, sir” (turning full on Heans). “Now, come, shall I see if I can place the men's green-room somewhere else?”

He looked at Sir William with a sort of pleasant steadiness, to which, perhaps, his greying hair added an impression of age and compunction. “You see, I am here now,” he said, “to do what I can.”

Sir William stood sitting upon his cane, and swinging his glass. His tails flapped about his rather passé trousers, and he listened, his head fallen a little, baleful and cold. If he was perplexed by so much gentleness, he was not moved by it. “Do you mean, sir, you would be kind enough to secure me the other room?” he asked, with some indifference. “Indeed, sir, you are highly civil. My privacy—I cannot trouble you so much——”

“We and Life grow older, sir,” said Daunt, with a little, comical shrug; “it becomes more difficult to keep from injustice. So much outside selfishness, Sir William Heans—so much egoism! And each one of us with the private career he is husbanding, or indeed ceased to husband. What wonder if we grow bitter with each other—place justice as a habit? Now take us along, Master Oughtryn” (he touched Oughtryn swiftly with his fashionable rattan), “show me to Sir William's room. Let me see it and any other you can replace it with, if possible downstairs. Let us find, if we can, some way to leave your servant alone.” (Again he looked Sir William in the face.) “Now, will that do?” he said. “I do not forget my duty to you or any one?”

Sir William said: “Certainly, certainly, be pleased to come to my room.” He turned away rather sharp, as if he would lead the way, but turning back, “Upon his honour,” he said, “it would not be an irremediable sacrifice to lose the room for one night!” He would not have the ladies troubled in their pleasure. “No, no, let me serve you,” said Daunt; and again touching Oughtryn, moved past Heans into the door. Oughtryn, picking his way out dark and bewildered, called high, “The gentry might have the office under the stairs, given they could persuade the


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women. It was their sewing-room, and they was jealous of it.”

Daunt, as he was caught into the wind beside Sir William, hoarsed, “Ah, the women! If you cannot harness them, man, I can't. Would they,” he turned and cried back, “would they be good enough to accept some compensation from Sir William Heans and myself? Has not Miss Abelia and elegant taste in old Six's china?”

“Ah, she's one that knows her own,” said Oughtryn, feeling out of the stable, sly and subdued; “and a maid to pick and refuse, for all her unbeauteous appearance. Their domestic looks belies 'em.”

Heans, as he hurried, yet endeavoured not to hurry, in front of Daunt, seemed even more sorely hit than the occasion warranted. Twice he restrained his too eager pace, turning mellowly upon Daunt, but his face looked chilled. His glass he put up and dropped. For one thing, among the moment's burden of contraries, he had, just now, experienced a confirmation of his conviction of the soldier's private ill-feeling, and was trying, in his mind, to resolve away its nasty secrecy before he got into his room. As he turned out of the door before the Commandant, a glance back into the scarred cave (one of those glances which elude our vigilance) had passed over Oughtryn, fair upon Spafield, first his tall shako, and then his Tartar face, stooping in the dusk behind the partition of the hay stall, and staring over it through the spread fingers of his right hand. He was looking at himself in a cold, open, private way. It seemed, at the least, that the villain, by this vile old sign, was endeavouring to make plain between them his sly and unappeasable aversion, and intention to further it in a double manner. Sir William could not pass it.

The wind was loud in the gum and the budding shrubs about the yard, but up upon the cliff it seemed as if it would uptear the struggling things and fling them down. The day remained ashen. Heans had gathered his forces as the three pushed across, clinging to their hats. As he unlatched the little panelled door, letting it blow open, he half-turned, asking “if he might enquire” (somewhat cavernously and inscrutably) “whether the soldier fellow in the stable was the man for a delicate position?”

“Indeed!” said Daunt, his voice echoing in the passage as he went in. “Oughtryn was interested to ask me the same question! Pooh, sir, you can't expect soft-sawder from a soldier. Put up with the fellow for the week … now, which door?”

He moved past him along the passage, and opened the door of the darkened sitting-room. Daunt entered, with Heans at his heels; and some seconds afterwards Oughtryn came into the door and wiped his boots, somewhat sinister and mild. Sir William stopped beside the nearer window, his face sharp and still against the rioting garden. Daunt, who with his hat off looked old and pale, stared about him smiling sternly, almost


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kindly. He looked about at the saucer table, the bead chair, the meek bird, the Roman figure, the mantel-piece. A slight look of amusement came into his grizzled face, as if his thoughts were in two places; however, he said softly: “If you wish, gentlemen, I will see the man, Spafield, before I go, and explain, somewhat, the position to him. They are apt to kick above orders. It is not so simple.” He then told Oughtryn to take the man on Thursday with the horses—“keep him occupied.” Sir William (“in sheer fright,” he tells us) was asking himself why had Daunt engineered his way into the room; was he about to ask familiarly, or demand, or search by force of his official power, for the article which he supposed it to hide—that under the marble angel on the right of the clock? He should not have it——

Nay, let us believe Sir William in his tempered doubt of men, in his trepidation, cold hope, and frantic fear, maligned Daunt. He had merely come, in that sort of repentant mood to which we are all subject, to make his way easier for the old beau garçon. What more natural! As he said, “We grow older!” and yet, in his evident striving after a measure of tolerance, of his evident “older-ness,” and mellowing, he could not hide the faint impression, he invariably conveyed, of dark familiarity and faithlessness.

“Aha, Charles Oughtryn,” says he, with his hissing little laugh, “never again attempt to persuade me you are a dark disciplinarian. Tipton and the young fellows must have heard of the room. Upon my faith, I don't often find the prisoner and his master on such terms—though enough begin so!”

“Manifestly more commodious for a gentleman than when you were last here,” said Oughtryn, bowing low, and speaking rather huskily. “My prisoner and I seldom quarrel, and he has done his best to give my daughter some elegance of polishing. His presence here 'as been no trouble to us, and it has been my plan to put about him such articles of magniloquence as would not be faddling to a gentleman. Where's all the money, you ask me? It brings me little. But by these things, you see a gentleman suitably found.” As he spoke he slipped into his beard a surreptitious plug.

“Ah,” said Daunt, still gravely amused, “this is handsome of you. Consult the next gentleman's taste as well, and he will never grow restless. He will spend his existence with you. Indeed, a dazzling wall-paper! Isn't the mantel-piece slightly overburdened? And these books—what does Mr. Fielding, the writer, say: ‘I had rather enjoy my own mind than the fortune of any other man!’ Indeed, Sir William, everything has been granted you, it seems, except two things: resignation and undisturbed possession. What is the good of all the splendour in the world without them? No, we certainly must not disturb you. I must see what can be done with these young gentlemen.”

At something in what he said, Heans' nerve seems to have


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failed him, and even while he was speaking, he left the window— too pale for mere indignation—and putting himself before the fire (Daunt being at the bottom of the table) removed a pair of grey cotton gloves, and laid them somewhat aimlessly upon the mantel-piece, beside one of the marble figures. Had he recollected who was there speaking so pleasantly—one of the sharpest policemen in Tasmania? With a hand leaning by them, he turned inward a little to the fire, a varnished boot upon the fender, yet standing in a grey chilled way, as if his shrunken finenesses of costume were too thin for this windy weather.

“Indeed,” he said, in a hoarse yet gracious voice, which he seemed to strive in vain to keep steady and aloof, “you are right of my resignation of mind. I would cut and run to-morrow if I could. Well, sir” (with a short, trembling laugh), “take the room if you desire it. Take my pretty ornaments for you bal paré and deck the old Chamber with them. Take my clock, my bird, my green lustres, my two ladies with the doves.” He catalogued them, staring at them one by one. Afterward he turned and looked at Daunt, very cowed, grey and gracious. “Yes, let them have the room, sir,” said he. “Take anything you want.” Daunt gave a little glance up at him—a sort of mournful, bitter glance. “Come, I know you, Heans,” said he, “better than you know yourself. You are an irreconcilable man. 'Pon my faith, sir, you hug it to yourself! I should never be surprised at any sudden recklessness from you. A report! A catastrophe! Ah, it is Sir William Heans! Just as A said—just as B prophesied! Tut—tut—it delights you, I think, not to be circumspect, and help yourself. I am persuaded you shall not pleasure yourself with a fresh mortification and hug a new reason for reckless speaking—not by my word, if we can fob Tipton off! Come, sir, you will be yet frank enough to admit with your old master Oughtryn that our care of you is as just as our punishment. Here is one who is rich from his firm belief in our good intentions.” He turned to Oughtryn, adding: “Still quite unassailable, Oughtryn, I am sure?” And he laughed gravely, but how sternly he said it, with a parting glance into the room and round at the two windows, his pale little hand upon the table! Suddenly, while he spoke, the noise of someone knocking rattled into the wind, and Oughtryn, while he backed to the door, remarked, “since Mr. Daunt was pleased to ask, he was the same as ever he was.” But as he felt for the handle, his air was puzzled and pale. He added, in his shrill voice: “I look for highness from my masters. Honours, but a gentleman cannot always show his hand. I've suffered little and gained much from my masters, gentry, but by them as to which my masters delegates their mastering I've suffered hell. A gentleman cannot give his mastering.”

When he opened the door, the woman herself was standing against it, her sleeves up, her massed hair awry, but her air as


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immovable and remote as usual. For the moment she seemed to personify rather a beckoning than a patient Fate. Ignoring both Oughtryn and Daunt (over whom she passed a blind look), she informed Heans, slow and direct, “that Mrs. Quaid was outside about a fur coat—a perliss—and would prefer not to go without it.”

Heans coldly excused himself to Daunt (who turned politely to the window), and moving to the writing-press, unlocked and removed from its shelves a parcel, which he brought to the door, and was about to give it into the woman's hands, when Daunt flashed about, crying: “Hold, I beg; this is pure pride! Allow me to protest against what I think Sir William Heans is doing. Do not, Sir William Heans. Do not let that coat go out of your hands. Foolish gentleman, you do this before me to irritate me. No, come—come. For Heaven's sake, pity my position, sir, and let me feel a little happiness in thinking I did this! I have—we all have—seen this handsome coat. I know what you are doing, sir. Let me—let me (so much a stranger now) do this small act of help. Come—please.”

He advanced and put his glove on the parcel—his eyes on Heans' face. Sir William was at the instant about to give it to the woman. Daunt's air was stern, comradely, and appealingly.

“Ah—ah, highly civil, sir. No, no, certainly not!” said Heans, ceremoniously parting with the parcel, and Daunt, snatching back his glove, turned again to the window. Oughtryn, standing to attention to the left of the door, and only occasionally turning his quid, seemed as if he would have interjected some explanation of the peculiar delicacy of Sir William's affairs, but he did not, his strained eyes returning towards Daunt only more crestfallen. He did at last say, as if unable to keep entirely aloof: “Appears to have been a exchange of them books by your 'and, sir, between Sir William Heans and the old 'ag.” Daunt possibly was wiser, remembering the ring given to Shaxton in the stable. He remarked, however, “Gad, for these books!” and gave a lame laugh as he fingered them: adding “These old women will cadge your very handkerchief from your pocket. The reward is inadequate.” He thereupon wheeled about, asking to be shown the room under the stairs, and turning to Heans, added: “No, Sir William Heans, let us see what can be done with the beau sexe. Let me beg your veteran help. Oughtryn, where shall we find your daughter?”

They walked immediately into the small passage, Oughtryn leading. As they turned into the larger, they were met by the woman, returning with something in her hand. Without pause or hesitation she strode past Daunt and Oughtryn, and approaching Heans, gave into his hand a handful of small articles, with the loud remark that “Mrs. Quaid had found them in the pocket of the coat, and ‘was frightened they might incriminate her.’ ” Heans, who saw even in the half-light of the passage that one


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was a folded silk handkerchief of a kind once used by himself, immediately placed that, and the papers that accompanied it, in his pocket, laughing his thanks. (“Very remiss of me,” thought he, though he was certain he had emptied the coat on the previous night, and he did not think he could have mislaid in that coat one of a set of valued handkerchiefs now for some time regretted. In the flash of his reflection he had thoughts of a new message. At the same time he did not think that Carnt would have sent him anything of importance in this reckless manner, nor the old woman have passed it in with the Commandant in his very room—unless, indeed, it was, for some reason, urgent. Could it refer to Daunt himself?)

Daunt, after a quiet stare, turned and walked on.

“Where shall we find the girl, Oughtryn,” he asked again; “in the kitchen here, or enlisted among the helpers?” He spoke sharply.

“Where is Abelia?” Oughtryn demanded of the woman. “The gentleman has a petition to put. Is she hiding in the kitchen?”

“No,” answered the woman, giving a glance back into the kitchen. “Maybe she is in the Chamber. Abelia—she's been sickening for the horses, and mislikes the presence of a stranger with them. She's been hanging to and fro all morning, plucking up her courage. Maybe she's taken heart and gone over with an apple.”

Sir William exclaimed: “Not in the stable!”

Immediately the woman led the way along the passage, and into the hall, from which the drugget and furniture had been removed, and upon the wooden floor of which two elderly servants knelt before pails. The back door was closed, but the front was open, showing the ashen sky and some furniture grouped about the stone sphere. The three men stopped in the hall, but the woman went on into the Chamber, quickly returning with the information that Abelia was not there, and might be in the garden. From where they were standing, there was visible the south side of the Chamber, in which, among other preparations, curtains were being hanged, their pretty blue folds ballooning in the wind of each half-open sash. At the farther end two bonneted ladies were standing in the shadow, superintending the arrangement of the valances by a maid-servant and an old butler in brown. A second manservant was on his knees by the door, polishing at the floor with candle powder.

The two ladies curtised grandly to Mr. Daunt's salute, and as Oughtryn despatched the woman to seek the girl in garden or stall, Daunt very gravely excused himself, and requesting to be summoned when the girl was found, traversed the Chamber to pay his duty to the visitors. There he stood in the window in his grey cloak, listening half quizzically to his chill observing acquaintance. As Daunt left them, Sir William stepped to the


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back door of the hall, and slipping back the bolt, pulled it open against himself. As he did so, he saw the woman flutter past in the wind of the yard; while across, in the door of the cave, stood the lost Abelia, drooping shyly, with the house cat in her arms; also, a little within, appeared the maroon of Spafield's coat, and his bandaged wrist as he leant upon the hay-fork. Heans, in the instant he stood looking over, heard the man raise his voice at her in a pretence of hectoring, and the girl bend with the pretty crushed laugh familiar with her. A dismayed crying from the charwomen, as the wind caught them, brought Oughtryn up beside Heans, who for a moment neither heeded the pleadings of the former nor the master's shrill warning that “by opening in the litter he was crossing the scolds!'

Heans made to close the door, but hesitating, beckoned the old convict to look over, which he did, crying: “The woman was right. Bother my jacket, if the chit hasn't crept over to the horses!”

“Very strange,” protested Sir William, “as if Miss Abelia had lost all fear of the fellow!”

“Yes, there is my darter at the stable door,” said Oughtryn, heavily. He put up his hand and shut the door.

“Miss should avoid that rascal,” Heans exclaimed.

“Nay, honour, a girl gets friendly with a man when she's doctored his hand,” said the other. “They don't deal as we do. This morning early there they was slying with him at the kitchen door.”

“Upon my soul,” said Heans, in a low voice, “so innocent and so young!”

Oughtryn seemed to consider. “Let the chit be,” said he, as one deciding, shrill and heavy.

In a few moments a door banged above the knocking of the windows, and presently the woman emerged from the passage, followed by Abelia. They had hardly come into the hall— Abelia now pallid, her lids low and troubled—when Daunt made his bow to the women, and came quickly out of the Chamber. While the Commandant was approaching, Oughtryn acquainted the women with what was in the wind about the sewing-room, and how it might be wanted in lieu of Sir William's chamber. Heans himself neither urged nor protested, standing with his hat poised in his much-cleaned glove, his eyes sharp upon this ashen day. Mr, Daunt had also, for an instant, other matters in view. Advancing, brisk and absent, he shook hands with Abelia, and then, with a swift apology for the abruptness of his demand, announced that the lady yonder (indicating the lady with the blue feather), Mrs. Scudamore, was most desirous a message should be delivered this afternoon at Miss Newry's, Tregaron, below the barracks, and he had promised that Miss Abelia would be kind enough to ride down with it. While speaking he gave a hostile look at Heans, as much as to say, “I


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am aware you will make a favour of this, also;” but he looked so desirous and grimly kind, and in such momentary trouble with his ladies, that he carried his way on the wave of it, and while Oughtryn harshly consented, Abelia repeated after him the message she was to carry: “Mrs. Scudamore's compliments, and would Miss Newry be good enough to send immediately the short yellow fringes.”

Daunt appeared so engrossed with small worries, that for a moment it seemed as if he would depart down the hall, altogether dropping Heans' affairs; he suddenly, however, returned to them, with the remark that his time was short, but if Abelia could be persuaded to resign the room for Friday night, the young actors might make shift with it, and Sir William Heans' privacy be undisturbed. It was his desire that no irritation should be aroused by the réunion of an evening. He was sure (in his stern way) she would aid her cavalier of many pleasant rides in anything helping to his tranquillity.

Abelia, after a fluttering silence, in which she never raised her quiet face, answered that it was only a little room, and they had intended to use it as a storing cupboard for father's sitting-room, which the ladies begged to have cleared. The woman, who stood holding by the banisters in the rear, put in at once, “that the ladies were not satisfied with the size of the small sitting-room.” “That is so,” said Daunt, glancing down the hall, “yet we want for his Excellency that room on the right of the door.”

“My girl is happy his Excellency, the Governor, will make use of her room,” said Oughtryn. “This is a raising of the house, which they tell me has seen Governors before—though I know, sir, you don't credit with that. Lord above, they say the old Captain walks in one of these rooms! though the fine ladies won't believe it, and as for me, I don't hold with such proceedings—unless perhaps when the man's an ill man, and then the dead they punish him.”

“Ah, we'll be a long time waiting for the dead to punish,” said Daunt, with a little hearty laugh. “If you can produce the old gentleman's wraith, Oughtryn, I am sure we all—Sir John included—will be delighted to entertain him as a guest.” (He swung back towards the staircase.) “Come, Miss Abelia, show me the sewing-room! I believe Sir William Heans will be willing that you store the furniture in his bedroom, and if this is large enough, that may clear the matter.”

They made through the stair door to one on the right, which the woman threw open, disclosing a small square closet, with some shelving, some plain chairs, and a table on which was a work-box. Daunt, walking in, sharply examined the place, and presently summoned Abelia, who felt her way to the table, the woman coming into the door behind her. The wind clapped


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and rattled at the window, which looked through a pair of dusky curtains upon the back of an old watercask lashed by a hawthorn bush.

“Capital—capital! Oh, you must let us in here!” said Daunt, throwing open his cloak and fanning his harsh face with his hat. “We can move the table under the window, and you must let us have these shelves. Now, if I can persuade the young fellows to change the room, have I gained your sanction, young Miss Oughtryn? One more intrusion, but the last, I promise you. Will you” (lowering his voice and staring round) “and Madame Inscrutable here—will you be quick enough to perceive something grave under my visit! It is to spare an intrusion upon another who, people are only too ready to say, is being made uncomfortable, nay, too likely silly or desperate, by a piece of harmless fun and pleasuring. I mean there shan't be one hint of this. Now help me to get on the right side of the book and secure that man his privacy.”

He spoke low, but harsh, and not very good tempered. His air was persuasive and not disrespectful, yet beneath his harsh persuasiveness, there was ever something mocking and outwearied, which either he could not hide, or did not trouble to, or specially used, while he was in the room, to cover a shyness he was in before the women. Abelia stood in the grey room, groping at his harsh and humid face as a bird hangs, poising, in a pale sky. It was the woman, however, wonderful and statuesque, with her fine pale hair—a blind look also in those fateful, care-nothing eyes—who spoke for her. “Yes,” she said, in her slow voice, “they were glad it was not too little for the gentlemen. Oh, yes, it was provoking it was so small!”

And Abelia echoed in a murmur tremulous and precise: “They thought it vexations for their gentleman that he should lose the breakfast-room.”

“Ah, fickle lady, she remembers her riding-master!” said Daunt, harshly. (Was it from a carelessness of relief, or that old weakness of his, that he grew less polite?) “I knew you would not place us or your old beau in a danger; and yet” (speaking lower) “you must be cautious, you women, too; not too much sugar and petting or you will bring him into trouble. Petting was the cause of the last mistake, aye, indeed, and his first too. I speak frankly—warning—warning—something's wrong—not too much cooking and soft-sawder. As I said to Oughtryn: ‘Cut a dash with him, but don't spoil him. That is all we police ask.’ ”

He stepped back, his grave face making for finality, and, pulling his handkerchief from his coat, moved over and measured with it the window-wall.

It may be said that Hate, as well as Love, breeds extraordinary cunning and dissimulation in the simplest of women. Abelia stood with that groping hand of hers steadying her timid face,


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which reddened slowly to her smooth and peaceful forehead, product of retired, uneventful rooms. Still she tried to see Daunt through striving lids. The woman pushed herself from the door and came behind her, muttering over the unceasing struggling of the wind, “Nay, he's not so easy petted, sir. A hard one to please, but complains little to us. A proud sperrit.”

“I am aware of that,” said Daunt, nodding his head and laughing. “I advise you to be cautious, Madame Inscrutable and Miss Abelia. I have not done with you yet, my dear young women.”

“He is crotchety. Little worries provoke the old gentleman,” went on the woman, in a calm, low voice, yet staring after his face as it moved about in a quiet inquiry. “We think there are them that perceives this.”

“Ah, good woman, we are all provoked in that fashion,” says he, smiling rather mockingly, as he examined a cupboard on the right. “I'll speak to Cadet Tipton about this place.”

There was a moment's silence in this woman's sanctuary, and at that instant, the voice of Oughtryn rose somewhat shy and formal in the passage above the gossiping of the charwomen and the wind. “Speaking under correction,” came the words, somewhat stilted as from one talking warily to kill a trying moment, “for he knew as little as any one on such a subject, he'd heard say if a ghost came out of a room, he was against rules—let alone a-runnin' up and down stairs as he chose of his own determination.”

“We know our gentleman pretty confidential,” persisted the woman, in her stern way. “We have bepitied him hearty. He never seems to get used to it.”

“It might be very tragical with him. It is his delicacy of mind,” said pale Abelia, fluttering up her shy and drooping face on Daunt's. “Oh yes, sir, at any time, something intrusive or degrading might put him out and make a desperate man of him!”

“Tut—you seem as jealous for the old fellow as he is for his pupil,” said Daunt, gently; “we do as kindly as we are able. Meddle too much and you make a sad mess of it.”

“I think, sir—I think those who do not like him perceive he is very proud and gentleman-like,” said the girl, showing a sort of troubled spirit—her face darkening and turning aside.

The women put their arms on one another in a kind of quiet expectation, staring at the man's harsh face, awaiting something, and yet not awaiting, significant, persuadable, fateful, inscrutable, crediting, cynical—as we sometimes seem to see them. Mr. Daunt too was silent, his small hand on the table, toying with the green shells in the lid of the workbox.

Just then, above the dragging of furniture, and the plugging of the wind, a covert shrilling from Oughtryn broke in from he passage. “Speaking under correction, gentlemen,” he was


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saying, “their word of honour is used by them like the oaths of most people, and they tires of probity just as soon as they can rise no further on it.”

A stern mocking smile broke over Daunt's face. “I see,” he said, “your model father has glanced off the subject of ghosts to that of men. Curious beings, my little blind Abelia. Those modest eyes will be happier occupying themselves with shells and needles. But you will never let an old fellow advise—will you? Even we chamber mice must out and pretty it when we are young. Pooh! so shy and timid, you know all the world already!”

He raised his eyes, looking grey and steady into theirs.

He then put his hat on his greying hair, and began to do up his cape. “Gracious G—d,” he laughed, “we mustn't forget Mrs. Scudamore's fringes! Kindly say it again, Miss Oughtryn.”

Abelia repeated the message in a tremulous yet precise whisper, and Daunt, bowing to them both, went out into the passage.

Sir William leant, high and graceful, under the rise of the stair, looking, with his glass up in his thin, hot face, his tilted hat, and his air of weary scorn, very much as he had just been described to the two women. As Daunt came out, he turned sharply, and made a fine pretence of examining him, which the first sight of the other's face withered stiffly into the baleful. It was the same with Oughtryn, who, as the Superintendent emerged, was gossiping in the stair door (steady and distant as you could wish), but as he stepped upon the slates, put his hand upon his mouth, becoming bland and puzzled. Daunt made himself pleasant enough (if on the hop to get away,) saying, “Your hand, Oughtryn—the place is small, but I think we shall squeeze into it.” Oughtryn shifted his stick, and fumbled off his hat, shaking Daunt's fingers, blank, blind, and tremulous. “Why, Oughtryn,” added he, “you, and your respected assignee, are superannuated, I think. Your women are so amiable and respectable, I feel ashamed of having cadged another room from them. I did not wish to alarm.”

Daunt then turned to Heans. “I think, sir, you are very rarely placed. The two women talk of you almost with affection. There, sir,” he said, his face gathering from a grave smile; “owing to certain misrepresentations which have been brought to my notice since our meeting in the stable, I took the trouble to see that all was done to put myself on the right of the book, and you undisturbed. I think all will be well now. But by what God you worship, sir” (speaking quick and quietly), “let me beg of you to grasp plainly that this civility of mine is no soft-sawder!” He bowed to Heans, looking the veteran he was, lined, resigned, and tolerant to a mark; then turned and traversed the passage past the kitchen, and so to his right to the yard door. The women saw him, from the window of the


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small room, almost blown into the cave; so he did not even forget his promise to speak to the billet.

Sir William experienced inexpressible relief when the door banged, and started without a word in Daunt's footseps. He turned into the breakfast-room still trembling with anxiety, not much lessened by a glum remark of Oughtryn's: “Fine days these, honour—but I like them worse than I did.” In the breakfast-room, he went straightway to the fire, but had not stood there more than seven seconds, before dropping his stick. He tilted the marble effigy on the left of the clock, and extracting Carnt's old pass, examined it, tore it into pieces, and dropped them on the live wood. The black pellets he ground into the ashes, and covered with fresh logs. Afterwards he approached the other effigy, but did not touch it. He stood there, with his neat glove on the mantel, staring fixedly upon the serene breast of the Peace, and twice searchingly about the room. He seemed in doubt whether to freshly hide the pad, and where. At this moment, in his perplexity, it occurred to him to examine the articles which Mrs. Quaid had sent him, and turning to the table, he pulled the little bundle from his coat-tails. Among five or six passes bearing Oughtryn's signature, the handkerchiefs, a pocket-mirror (which he was certain he had never seen before), and a glass-string, was a soiled letter, addressed to him in a handwriting once more familiar, that of Captain Hyde-Shaxton. The seal had been broken, and the inside was only slightly less soiled than the out. It was a year and more since he had received a communication from Captain Shaxton. There were but two outside pockets to the pelisse, and these were large, and hung low to the hand. He knew, of course, this letter had not lain in them more than a few minutes.

He was about to read it, when the door resounding with a knock, the woman's voice rose above the worn lowing of the wind, begging permission to set the table. This he gave, pocketing the articles and moving with them and the note to the east of the windows. She entered with her grim face behind a tray bearing many remarkable and homely objects. While she went in her proud, slow way about the table—unchangable for wind, riot, the World's no, or Hell's yes—he read this grim request:—

WORTHY SIR,

I am in a bit of a pickle. The old lady told you how I called the night after you and I met, and had a look at the pad. Well, I took a funny way of my own to let the town know I'd seen it, but some one (the police saw her early) floated the counter that the old woman denied it; and, last night, at Magruder's, old Chedsey informed me several, to put a stop to it, had been to see, and when questioned, she said you had it, putting a doubt on the whole thing (you understand) and giving


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me the lie. When I went down this morning, upon my word, I found she actually had sent it to you! When I learned this (you see I and my wife are in a bad position if it is lost, many being furious at my joking way with Daunt now they hear it isn't to be found, and at second introduction of you), when she saw what a hurry I was in, being en suite at eleven, the old cadge said she was to fetch away a coat in exchange for it, and would I make it good to her to pass a letter back to you as being found in the pocket; so now I warn you put it in a safe place—a place there's no doubt about till I can run up to-night and get it. I didn't ask the woman why you took it. It is not difficult for a man learning life as fast as me, to make a guess why you took it into your possession. But I go one worse now. I ask, “Is it safe with you?” There's a hellish insinuation! Captain Shaxton do be serious! Ah, I'm a very comical man when I start—a comical man! But don't you interfere, friend, to prevent that.

Till I see you, with respect,

Dear Sir,

Your most obliged,

PAUL HYDE-SHAXTON.

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