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(3) THE TRUMPET

Towards evening, Sir William rose, dressed, and went into the sitting-room. He felt pretty well, and tramped the floor, testing his ability to perform the long coach journey. His head, bound in a green handkerchief, he found painful, but steady; and was soon confident that, with a good night, it would serve him. He rose about half-past five. The rain had then stopped and he felt more hopeful about the weather. The silver-leaden sky had given way over the hills to a cloth-of-gold cavern. A perpetual noise of steps was in the damp garden, and persons were tramping up and down about the fountain, a sharp melodious “toot” floating out incessantly as they passed the gate. Sir William Heans thought of many things as they went among the clear bushes; how little these merry people made of the groaning old gate; how the grandeur or the sternness that had been was probably part of the amusement—part of the pleasant clamour that came along the passages.

In passing, he has a note remarking how beautiful that night was poor Abelia's red valerian—Bloody Warrior as it is playfully called. On all sides, under the shadows of the motionless bushes, the wet grass was coloured with an old stain of blood. Yes, it was as if the day's rain had washed out of the garden a forgotten discoloration to suit the grim old stones and paths—as the sick ruffian, Spafield, was frightened he might do on the boards of the great room.

Heans had heard the horses leave the yard in the morning, but since then had not seen Oughtryn. He could not detect the red-coat's gabble under the clap of hoofs, but supposed he had departed with it. The man was either subdued or keeping quiet. He had seen the woman, but had not spoken with her. But for a slight outweariedness she was her monumental self. He had some recollection of having seen her face in the night, and from the fact that she expressed no surprise nor barely enquired of his condition, he judged that she had aided Oughtryn in attending him. Abelia he had not seen, nor for a while heard her voice amid the noises of preparation. This was not extraordinary in the quiet girl, but he would have been glad to be made certain in what condition the collision with the villain, and Oughtryn's communications, had left her mind. He was startled by her voice about half-past four.

The occurrence was not quieting. She spoke in the yard, not far from his window, and in a low, clear tremble. He heard her plainly say, “I did not speak to you.”




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And then a voice he hardly recognised: “Come now, Shy, I thought you called to me!”

“No.”

“Well, you looked at me—I thought you wished a word with me.”

“No, soldier—I was just——”

“Just what?”

“Just thinking you were——”

“What was I?”

“Just thinking you were sharp enough.”

“Pretty sharp—why now? But you never seen me sharp—only kind!”

“Something—something tells me, soldier, you're very sharp.”

“Why, miss, you're looking calm as shivering ice at me!”

Sir William rose, flung on his gown, and stood holding by the window. But there was nothing more said. Abelia, perhaps, had turned and gone in. He heard steps move a short distance away and there stop. Leaning forward over his toilette, he saw the vile figure of Spafield, quite close, somewhat turned from the wall. He was drawing a cane across his trousers, the back of his red coat bowed and sulky, the cheek beneath the shako a curious chalky livid. He could not see if Abelia was still there. He pictured her against the wall, shivering and white. In a few moments two men in livery appeared before the stable, and Spafield strolled over, accosting them with folded arms. Heans could not get the picture of her out of his mind all the while he was dressing.

The house was full of a subdued bustle up to a late hour. The woman, as we have said, had little to say, and while the supper-table was undergoing its brief period of array, Sir William sat reading and thinking, and did not intrude upon that monumental silence. He recollected, while she was there, the half-warning, half-entreaty she had made him just previous to his visit to the stable, and though he could not say what point of view she took, he felt his promise to refrain from collision had been broken, and this silence seemed to admit. He said, however, as she was about to mingle with the footsteps and alarm without, that he regretted the anxiety caused last night; it was unavoidable. And whatever she had been told, he begged them to be “shy of all intercourse with the man while he remained.” As for her, she stopped in her slow way, and with the door-handle in her hand, and her proud eyes regarding it, “he should have no fear for them two women,” she said. “Miss and she had got a real fright of the officer.”

He thought that the tone of her voice again insisted that the fear was not for them, but he sat quiet and said no more, and she seemed little more willing, plucking open the door and seeming, in a sort of haste, to stumble out.

Oughtryn knocked and edged into the door as he was seated


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before the table. Somewhat blank and secret, he announced, “there was no news of Conapanny, nor did he know where to look for her”; adding “that there was no throwing out the blood-crow either, but honours had ordered him, through Oughtryn, to mind his p's, and this he had told him.” Sir William, dressed with much neatness and seated for this last evening behind his table curiosities, asked a few questions from a brave eyeglass, and was answered careful, high, and breathless from about the door. “He answers me respectful with his arms locked,” said Oughtryn, referring to his words with Spafield, “but he has the look of a marked man; and supernatious in his head again”; he added, “for he tells me the help women have been playing at him, for that he found a candle lit in his bedroom when he went up to-night.” He seemed to add this communication rather as a sort of heartener, and significant point, than a singular thing for Heans' inspection. In any case silence ensued upon it. On this Sir William broke at last (he was sitting back, and he let his glass fall out upon his velvet waistcoat)—broke at last to “suppose that it had been necessary to ride on as far as Gastine's?” and was replied to with a nod.

Oughtryn, having agreed to send in his “chit” during the evening for a few cautioning remarks, withdrew his head, then slowly pushing in again, he placed the green Plutarch on the edge of the table. He had again turned aside when Heans asked if he would take a toast. To this he agreed, Sir William filling a wine-glass and an ancient rum sneaker from the decanter. Elevating the glass with a stern air, Heans proposed “long life to himself and peace in his house”; to which Oughtryn replied with “a roof, honour, and a good end.” He then went away, and Sir William's chin fell upon his cravat.

Yes, Sir William stood by the window, watching the gold pale out of the north, or sat by the fire listening and thinking of the strange things happening and about to happen. He thought of the fellow who had struck him down. It looked a long way over those hills, and the effort was a grave one. And this was grave, and thronging oppressively, this, out of which he was stepping, and armed with vague and arresting talons. The lights in the garden, the low voices, the uncertain under-roll above and below stairs, the sharp trumpeting of the gate (there were times when he unconsciously connected the noise with the call of the little statue on the fountain), these, and the thought of the dangerous fellow about the house, who, if his power had been curbed, had come out of it with hands quite free, were harassed moorings from which to loose a course upon “a tide which had no turn.” He was glad and relieved when Oughtryn shut his shutters, and he was barred for the night in the mild and prosaic company of the Roman soldier, his dove-women, of which he used to say they did him good, for they cast continually into a worldly mind the images of good women, his friend—the empalaced bird, the


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steady, little, feminine clock so overweighted with ornament, and those other curious things which had been his companions.

When the woman had drawn the shades and removed the supper, Sir William's thoughts took a dangerous turn, and he looked about him for that world we call “a book.” There was the Plutarch lying on the angled patterns of the cloth. He rose and took the leather volume, examining the green and brown marbling and the gold-lined sides, and reading a portion here and there. Eventually he returned with it to his bead chair, and elevating it, with his sharpened features towards the lamp, tried with painful precision to follow the lines of print.

But this failed to divert him:—

“It is said that when Lycurgus the orator had delivered Xenocrates the philosopher out of the hands of the tax-gatherers who were hurrying him to prison for the tax paid by strangers, and had prosecuted them for their insolence, Xenocrates afterwards meeting the children of Lycurgus, said to them, ‘Children, I have made a noble return to your father for the service he did me; for all the world praise him for it.’”

And this made him sad:—

“Many persons of rank made their court to Alcibiades; but it is evident that they were charmed and attracted by the beauty of his person. Socrates was the only one whose regards were fixed upon the mind, and bore witness to the young man's virtue and ingenuity, the rays of which he could distinguish through his fine form: and fearing lest the pride of riches and high rank, and the crowd of flatterers, both Athenian and strangers, should corrupt him, he used his best endeavours to prevent it, and took care that so hopeful a plant should not lose its fruit and perish in the very flower. If ever Fortune so enclosed and fortified a man with what are called her goods, as to render him inaccessible to the incision knife of philosophy, and the searching-probe of free advice, surely it was Alcibiades.”

While this unsteadied his mind:—

“After this glorious success, Alcibiades, ambitious to show himself as soon as possible to Tissaphernes, prepared presents and other proper acknowledgments for his friendship and hospitality, and then went to wait upon him with a princely train. But he was not welcomed in the manner he expected: for Tissaphernes, who for some time had been accused by the Lacedæmonians, and was apprehensive that the charge might reach the King's ear, thought the coming of Alcibiades a very seasonable incident, and therefore put him under arrest, and confined him at Sardis, imagining that the injurious proceeding would be a means to clear himself.”

Even though it was followed by this most hopeful passage:—

“Thirty days after, Alcibiades, having by some means or other obtained a horse, escaped from his keepers, and fled to Clazomenæ.”




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He discarded the book thereafter for last week's Courier. And the Courier for his “poniard,” his old weapon of defence, which he unbuttoned from the breast of his clawhammer, and fell to sharpening with his pen-knife. Was this Sir William Heans at this work? How strange he looks! He says himself he felt a “hard feeling of regret.” While so engaged he changed his mind concerning the “mitred figure” upon the handle. He observes a likeness in it to the cocked hat and uniform—and even the narrow face—of the carving in the stable of the ill-fated Governor Collins.

Perhaps the fancy was father to the discovery, and he was too ready to think he had fallen upon the “dagger-knife” fashioned by Walter Surridge.

At seven the house had quieted, and a little later, there came a groping knock at the door, and Abelia felt her way in. Heans backed the bead chair about and half-faced her as she stood by the table. She had in her hand some Wandering Jew, which perhaps she had brought to put in one of her singular vases—one of which, pleasingly mispainted with a bird-cage, was on the table. However, she laid them instead upon the cloth and tried to blink between Sir William and the fire. Grey dress and black apron, brooch and tatted collar. Flat hair—face a trace fallen, as one not easy where she gropes—and the inevitable, pale, fluttering calm. A singular, trembling, precise hand that twists back and forth upon the greenery.

Sir William remarked: “Is that you, Abelia?” and tapping his knee with his book, and speaking rather irritably, he said he was sorry that, after her father's trouble, a bad man was to remain for some days about her home, with special facilities for intrusion. “He wished again to warn her against speaking with him. He begged to know,” and a sort of wheedling laugh crept into his voice, “if she thought she could give him a promise not, of her free will, to speak with him again?”

The girl shrank against the table and gave the required answer. “She promised, if she could prevent it, not again to speak to the soldier. She said she trusted she might never speak with him.”

“Ah,” said Sir William, “there's no relying on such chance acquaintances, my dear. Lord help us, it's a strange world! No, not in any one. Here to-day, Abelia, and gone to-morrow. No trusting, my child—no trusting, miss.”

“It was not that I was confiding,” she said, pale as death and peaceful.

“Well, what was it?” He spoke hoarse.

“It was, we had better be respectful.”

“That is wise, that is the way your father speaks. But take care that him you prove does not prove something unforgettable. … By Heaven, my head is passably painful—there, that's well! So you promise me this. Yes? That's a great relief.


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And I, as your old friend, I wish to kiss your hand, miss, in good-night.”

He half rose from his chair, took her hand, and kissed it, and sank back, staring at the fire.

She stood aside, her eyelids wildly fluttering upon her calm face, and as if they were dragged from her, came the words: “Sir, why is your voice, sir, so heroical sad?”

He did not answer. He sat before the fire, his plaid legs crossed, his chin propped upon the old book.

Abelia pushed slowly to the door, and again stopped while she felt for the handle, her face white and sour-calm.

“Come, miss,” he said, without moving, “are you still there? Abelia, the house is quiet at last. Won't you go and play to me your Robin Adair?

She gropingly pulled open the door and went out. Sir William Heans sat there, and did not move, till he heard the faint tinkle and tang of the piano, when he rose and re-opened it. He stood behind the door and listened. She must have left the stair-door open, for the tune crept in from the hall with unwonted distinctness. It seemed to float away into empty rooms and wander out, falling on little firm cadences, and rising on little scales of seemly and half-shy joyance, taking to air so prudently, alighting to earth so soft and gropingly, like the savour of such a quiet week of a contented life—such provident gaieties and sadness—as should have been lived in such a place. It aspired, it touched and skimmed those old ceilings, it fell a-fingering the air—and sprang peeping at the gentle stars. “Tang-tang-tinkle-tang.” On she played steadily and pretty well. The old house hung about that distant fingering.

Sir William stood by the door, beating time with his book, and making at last a sort of humming. Indeed, what was there sad in the child's playing! Behind him, his friend the bird gave evidences of strange feeling—we hesitate to call it alarm—clambering with a great caution up the minaret. And suddenly, in the midst of a pretty flight, the piano ceased. In the hush there was born in some corner of the house a slow and husky singing:

Murruda, yerrabá, tundy kin ara,
Murruda, yerrabá, min yin guiny wite má lá.

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