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RACHEL'S SECRET 



VOL. I. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/rachelssecret01tabo 






RACHEL'S SECRET. 



BY 



THE AUTHOR OF 



THE MASTER OF MART ON. 



Post tenebras lux.' 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON: 

HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS, 

SUCCESSORS TO HENRY COLBURN, 

13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET. 

1866. 

The right of Translation is reserved. 



LONDON 

PRINTED BY MAODONALD AND TUGWELL, BLENHEIM HOUSE. 

BLENHEIM STREET, OXFORD STREET. 



£?3 

St3U 
■ 



CONTENTS 



OF 



THE FIRST VOLUME. 



CHAPTER 

I. The Slough of Despond ......•• 


PAGE 
1 


II. DlJNSTAN DAYNE MAKES A START IN LlFE 


17 


III. The Gate Beautiful 


28 


IV. Poppy and Rue 


39 


V. The Sexton's Tale 


56 


VI. Supper .,.-•• 


75 


VII. The Brook Farm .... 


96 


VIII. By the Trout Stream 


118 


IX. Rachel Dallas . * . 


. 134 


X. Mrs. Doyle's Troubles 


. 156 


XI. DUNSTAN FINDS HIMSELF AT HOME 


. 171 


XII. Dr. Kennedy's Wife 


. 190 


XIII. An English Girl .... 


. 208 


XIV. Four Feet on the Fender 


. 233 


XV. The Squire of Rooklands . 


. 239 









VI CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XVI. The Ivory Gates 257 

XVII. Mrs. Mallinson entertains Quality . . 272 

XVIII. Out on the Moor 288 

XIX. Euphrasy 297 



CHAPTER I. 

THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND. 

TT was a bad fire, certainly, to which Dunstan 
■*■ Dayne had just come home — if, indeed, that 
dingy room in the court of St. Clement's Inn 
might deserve the sweet name of home. And 
when the young man had hung up his damp coat 
on the peg behind the door, and flung his boots 
into a corner, and had sat down, with his feet on 
the fender and his head in his hands, the smoul- 
dering heap in the high narrow grate formed any- 
thing but an agreeable companion. 

It makes a wonderful difference, as everybody 
knows, in the feelings of a man — especially if he 
be poor, and young, and struggling on through the 
world alone — to be greeted when he comes in at 
night by a rollicking, blazing fire, with a ruddy 
VOL. T. B 



2 Rackets Secret. 

core of heat glowing at its centre, and the flames 
flashing and dancing and leaping merrily up the 
chimney. It is like opening the door upon the 
bright face of a friend, and meeting the grasp of 
his ready hand. But, as I said, this was a dull 
fire — a very dull fire — and on this particular even- 
ing was burning in a listless, indifferent fashion, 
as if it had hardly energy enough to keep itself 
alive, to say nothing of getting up an occasional 
sparkle, by way of relief to the thin cloud of 
smoke that was creeping lazily up the dark, yawn- 
ing chasm above. Indeed, when, by-and-by, 
Dunstan raised his head and looked around him 
into the sickly twilight, it seemed as if the whole 
atmosphere of the room had been infected by it, 
for everything looked dreary, dull, and desolate 
alike. 

Not a pleasant aspect of affairs, by any means, 
though, doubtless, it was in part the hue of his 
own spirit that gloomed over them so dismally. For 
hitherto life had been a hard thing for Dunstan 
Dayne, as, indeed, it must be at first to most young 



The Slough of Despond. 3 

men, who, with small means and few friends, are 
yet resolved to struggle upward to a position which 
their ambition and ability alone make it likely 
they will ever reach. And so far, Dunstan's 
efforts to secure for himself a firm footing in the 
world had been doomed to disappointment ; and 
disappointment, too often repeated, takes a great 
deal of stuff out of a man. It empties him of 
courage, pluck, and hope. It lessens that feeling 
of self-help which is the backbone of success. It 
frets his brain, and unstrings his nerves, and relaxes 
his whole mental and muscular fibre, until, instead 
of a brave heart, ready to do battle with everything 
that opposes it, there is a limp dejection, which 
obstacles may chafe into irritation, but have no 
power to rouse to action. 

And to this unpleasant pass had Dunstan Dayne 
been brought on this particular evening from which 
our history begins. 

For the last four years, ever since he had 
found himself, at one-and-twenty, his own master, 
with a slender purse, a proud spirit, and a tolerable 

b2 



4 Racltets Secret. 

acquaintance with the mysteries of engineering as 
his only capital, he had been trying with might 
and main "to get on in the world," and with 
all his efforts had not as yet made a single step 
in the race for riches. Possibly, had he been a 
little less fastidious as to the kind of work that 
he was willing to undertake, or a little less inde- 
pendent in his way of seeking it, he might have 
succeeded better. As it was, he found himself 
now with nothing to do, and no more prospect of 
obtaining anything than he had when, two months 
ago, he had let a capital chance slip through his 
ringers, just because he was too proud to put himself 
under obligation to a gentleman, who, not long be- 
fore, had touched his dignity by passing him in the 
street without a recognition. 

It would have been such a first-rate opening for 
him, just the thing that he had always been longing 
to obtain — an appointment to superintend the for- 
mation of a line of railway about to be laid down 
in a northern county. A work which he knew ho 
could have carried out successfully, and which would 



The Slough of Despond. "> 

have called into play all those talents which he was 
conscious of possessing. And, as he said to himself, 
with the reputation for ability, which he would 
thus have earned, what should hinder him henceforth 
from rising rapidly in his profession ? 

There was stern stuff in the young man. He 
had borne up bravely as long as he could, but this 
last blow had been too heavy for him. For he had 
been so near obtaining the appointment, so sure 
that it would be his ; and then to fail by just one 
or two votes had been a disappointment almost too 
great for him to bear. No wonder if just now he 
saw everything through a fog. 

It was growing late. The misty drizzle which 
had been falling while he was out had settled into 
a steady rain, that beat against the window-panes, 
and dripped upon the sill with a dull, monotonous 
plash. The smoky daylight was dying out, the 
twilight thickening fast, the dark outlines of 
the furniture in the room were fading into an 
indistinguishable gloom, and still Dunstan sat 
brooding moodily over his failure. For the more 



6 Rachels Secret. 

the thought of it vexed and worried him, so much 
the more with perverse persistency he continued to 
suck out of it all the misery that it was capable of 
affording. Each aggravating detail he rolled over 
and over like a sweet morsel under his tongue, 
until at last he almost began to feel as if the 
whole world had set itself in leamie against him. 

Other people, as he said to himself, had been 
successful — why must he be doomed to perpetual 
defeat, left to struggle single-handed with his fate, 
alone there in that dreary London lodging, while 
others had friends to give them a helping hand, 
and homes with mothers and sisters — ay, and wives 
too, of their own ? And with that Dunstan's 
thoughts glanced aside to a certain Fanny Dale, a 
tall, bright-eyed girl, daughter of the curate in his 
native village, who had just achieved a splendid 
match with a wealthy mill-owner in the neigh- 
bourhood. For Dunstan had always intended that 
if ever he did fall in love it should be with Fanny 
Dale, and now, by marrying another, it seemed to 
his vexed imagination as if she had actually inflicted 
a personal injury on himself. 



The Slough of Despond. 7 

It was unreasonable, no doubt, to feel himself 
aggrieved, seeing that the young lady in question 
had been quite unconscious of the contingency 
alluded to. None the less Dunstan felt jnst then 
as if he would have liked to have had her before 
him, that he might upbraid her to his heart's con- 
tent. For now that she was fairly out of his 
reach, he had quite persuaded himself that she 
was the only girl he should ever care to have. 
But she was just like the rest of them. No one 
had a thought for him ; people just kicked him 
out of their way, and if he died like a dog it would 
be all the same to them. 

He was working himself up into a state of 
sullen antagonism to himself and all the world 
beside — foolish, doubtless, but, poor fellow, he 
was weary just then, and bitter, and down-hearted. 
Look which way he would, he saw his path hedged 
up, every avenue closed that might lead him out 
into the broad sunshine of prosperity. It was of 
no use trying any longer. He might as well give 
in at once, and let the tide of ill-luck drift him on 
whither it would. And here the one live ember 



8 Rachels Secret. 

in the grate winked at him maliciously with its 
dull red eye, as if it would say, "I think you 
might as well." 

And yet, at five-and-twenty, the life is still 
strong in a young man's breast. Hope may 
be crushed, but it cannot quite be killed. 
The clock of St. Clement's was striking eight. 
Dnnstan roused himself from his reverie, got up, 
stretched himself, and then took up the poker, and 
gave a random stroke at the great block of coal 
that was choking up the fire. It was a kind of 
satisfaction to attack something, if it were only 
a lump of coal. It formed an outlet to the 
defiant feeling that had been gathering in his 
breast. But he had better have been quiet, for 
the blow only drove out a cloud of grey ashes 
from the bottom of the grate, and quite smothered 
the sickly gleam that had been struggling to keep 
itself alight. 

Dunstan drew back with an impatient gesture ; 
even the fire set him at defiance. He flung down 
the poker, and gave a violent jerk to the bell. 



The Slough of Despond. 9 

There, at least, he had provoked opposition, for it 
answered by a long resounding peal, that startled 
Mrs. Drew, the woman who in a general way 
"did for" the gentlemen of the house, into drop- 
ping a stitch in the stocking she was knitting, and 
roused her husband out of the comfortable nap in 
which he was indulging as he sat before her in his 
elbow-chair. But Mrs. Drew was too well accus- 
tomed to these hasty peals to be permanently 
affected by them. There were so many briefless 
barristers and struggling disappointed men in- 
habiting the chambers of which she had the 
charge, that she had ceased long ago to attach any 
special importance to even an unusually violent 
summons, and had learned to make charitable 
allowance for these little ebullitions of temper. 

" It's yon Mr. Dayne," she said, as she quietly 
picked up the dropped stitch and glanced at the 
bell which was still clinking angrily in the midst 
of the long row that hung just under the kitchen ceil- 
ing. "It's yon Mr. Dayne. There's sumraut wrong 
with that young man, as sure as I'm alive. He's 



10 RacheTs Secret. 

been getting as twisty and as kranky this month 
past as ever he knows how to be. An off his 
victuals, too, he is. Not a bite did he eat, I do 
believe, this morning to his breakfast ; and his tea 
like brandy, it was so strong. An that's a sure 
sign with me. I always says when a young man 
isn't equal to his breakfast of a morning, either he's 
been a-sitting up over night with his grog and his 
cigars, or he's got something on his mind as he's a- 
worrying hisself about. And it's my opinion that's 
just where it is with Mr. Dayne." 

And having made her knitting straight again, 
Mrs. Drew laid it down, and waddled upstairs to 
see what it was that Mr. Dayne might please to 
want. 

" Some sticks here directly to this fire, " 
cried Dunstan, testily, as soon as she appeared. 
" It is a strange thing that I can never leave the 
house, but when I come back I find the fire has 
gone out too." 

Mrs. Drew prudently said nothing in reply. 
She knew very w r ell that she had intended to go 



The Slough of Despond. 11 

and look after it, as soon as she had finished her tea. 
But that meal to-day had lasted longer than usual, 
for she and her husband had had the claws of a 
lobster to pick together, and before they had done 
she had heard Mr. Dayne come in and slam his 
door behind him. 

She went downstairs, and returned a moment 
after, bringing a box of matches in her hand, and 
a basket with some sticks and shavings. In five 
minutes the sticks were crackling in the grate, the 
sparks flying up the chimney, and the coals be- 
ginning to glow in the flame. The hearth was 
swept clean, and the dull fireplace became at last 
a centre of cheerful life in the chill and dreary 
room. 

And now by the ruddy light that is dancing fit- 
fully over the walls and ceiling, casting fantastic 
shadows on the floor, and throwing into sharp re- 
lief each knob and promontory on the shabby, old- 
fashioned furniture, we may look a little at the 
outer man of Dunstan Dayne, who has just pushed 
aside a china shepherdess of somewhat unprepos- 



12 Backers Secret. 

sessing appearance, and is leaning with his elbow 
on the mantelpiece, watching the progress of the 
fire. 

A tall, tawny-haired young fellow, deep-chested 
and fine limbed, who looks as if nature had never 
meant that sinewy right arm of his to hang idly by 
his side. With an honest, impetuous face, clear 
grey eyes, set rather deeply under very level brows, 
and a mouth too full and firm perhaps for one of 
his years, yet with a certain sweetness in the line 
that marked the junction of the lips, which hinted 
at many pleasant possibilities in a character that 
hitherto had been modified by but few of the gentler 
influences of life. 

For Dunstan had never known a father's care, 
and he had but few remembrances. of the mother 
who had died while he was still too young to under- 
stand his loss. She had left her son in the charge of 
her half-brother, who had fulfilled his duty in so 
far as seeing that the boy received an education 
as good as his little patrimony would permit, and 
was afterwards instructed duly in the profession 



The Slough of Despond. 13 

which he was bent on following. Then, having 
seen him fairly started in the world, he had given 
him to understand that for any further advance- 
ment he must look solely to his own resources, which 
Dunstan accordingly had done, so long as he had any 
resources left. But now, unless something speedily 
turned up, there would be nothing for it but either 
to run into debt, or raise money on the crumbling 
old manor-house and garden, which, with its heavy 
mortgages, was all that remained of the once hand- 
some property that during his father's life-time 
had melted away in the successive losses attendant 
on an unlucky speculation in Cornish mines. 

Neither of which courses commended itself to 
Dunstan. And as he stood now, watching the 
play of the dancing names, his thoughts by degrees 
carne crowding back to their old vexatious theme. 

He was fast relapsing into the moody fit from 
which he had been for a moment roused, when 
there came a tap at the door, and Mrs. Drew ap- 
peared again, this time with a bundle of letters in 
her hand, one of which she brought to him. 



14 Rackets Secret. 

Dunstan took it. 

" That will do— that will do," he said gruffly, 
as he broke the seal, for Mrs. Drew was lingering 
a moment in the room, drawing down the blind, 
lighting the gas, straightening the old red table- 
cover which was all awry upon the table, and giv- 
ing various little comfortable touches to the room. 
Mrs. Drew was a motherly old soul, and kind-hearted 
in her way, though she did fail perhaps, sometimes, 
to observe as strictly as she might the law of meum 
and tuum with respect to the contents of the several 
cupboards to which she had access. 

" He's uncommon awkward to-night," she said 
to herself, with an imperceptible shake of her head 
as she went out of the room, closing the door very 
softly after her. "For," as she of ten observed, " when 
gents was a bit cantankerous, they might slam a 
door as hard as they liked theirselves, and be all 
the better for it ; it let off the steam, as you might 
say, but they could never a-bear to have other folks 
do the same." 

Dunstan had heard the clink of the bell, and the 



The Slough of Despond. 15 

sharp tramp of the postman's foot as he came into 
the courtyard, but it was so seldom now that any- 
thing arrived for him, that he had looked up half 
surprised when Mrs. Drew came in with a letter. 
He glanced at the direction. It was in a strange 
hand. Then he opened the envelope with a sort 
of vague expectation that something of importance 
might be contained within it. 

It was not a very long communication. He 
read it over hastily ; then a second time more 
slowly, passing his hand absently across his brow, 
as if hardly yet comprehending the meaning of the 
intelligence conveyed. Yet there it was plain 
enough before his eyes. His fortune had come to 
him at last, unsought. The engineer who had 
been appointed in preference to him had been 
obliged to resign, and being the next in order, the 
post was offered to Dunstan, if he were still in a 
position to accept it. 

Yet somehow his heart did not seem to leap up, 
as might have been supposed, to meet this un- 
expected change in his affairs. To lose the ap- 



16 RacheVs Secret. 

pointment had been a sore vexation, but his spirits 
had been too long sodden in apathy and chagrin 
for him to feel a corresponding elevation now that 
fortune had thrown it at his feet. , Still the news 
had stirred, not unpleasantly, the stagnant waters 
of his life. There was something now to look for- 
ward to, a change at any rate, if it were only leav- 
ing this dingy room in which he had vegetated for 
so long. 

He went to a little painted cupboard that filled 
a recess beside the window, unlocked it, and took 
thence a bottle of bitter beer. He drew the 
cork, poured himself out a glassful ; then he 
lit a cigar — an unwonted indulgence now — and 
sat down a second time before the fire, to meditate 
on the prospect that within the last ten minutes 
had opened out before him. 



17 



CHAPTER II. 

DUNSTAN DAYNE MAKES A START IN LIFE. 

TT was just a fortnight after the events narrated 
A in the previous chapter, that Dunstan Dayne 
was standing, with his leather travelling-case in 
his hand, in the deep bay window of one of the 
parlours in the old George Inn at Bedesby. The 
appointment had been confirmed which had been 
so unexpectedly offered to him, and he was on his 
way now to Glinton, a village some seven miles 
distant, where the operations connected with the 
formation of the line in question were to com- 
mence, and where for the present he was to take 
up his abode. 

He stood now gazing listlessly out of the window, 
and waiting somewhat impatiently for the dinner 
which he had ordered as he came in. 

VOL. I. C 



18 Rachels Secret, 

" A fine old place, but "uncommonly dull," he 
said to himself, as he 'looked down the wide, still 
street, with its quaint houses, many-gabled and 
steep-roofed, their overhanging stories looking 
almost ready to topple down upon the passengers 
below; and then across the Cathedral Square, 
where the great west front of the Minster rose 
greyly before him, its towers and fretted pinnacles 
traced out sharply against the clear afternoon sky. 

It was nearly four o'clock. The bell for prayers 
had just ceased ringing, and a group of white- 
frilled chorister boys were scampering helter-skelter 
up the broad flight of steps, in haste to don their 
little white surplices, before it should be time to 
take their places in the rear of the ecclesiastical 
procession, which in a few minutes would be 
fileing slowly through the great brazen gates into 
the choir. One or two maiden ladies, with their 
prayer-books in their hands, were pacing demurely 
across the Close ; and here and there a stray pas- 
senger might be seen dotting the footway, or a 
tradesman standing with his hands in his pockets 



A Start in Life. 19 

in the doorway of his shop. But with these ex- 
ceptions, the street was as silent and deserted as if 
the little city had been laid under some magician's 
spell, and its inhabitants plunged in an enchanted 
sleep. 

But the cathedral front might be very grand. 
No doubt it was, for everybody said so, and of 
course what everybody said must be true. And the 
Cathedral Square, into which Tower Street opened, 
might also be very fine — at least, so the inhabi- 
tants of Bedesby considered ; and they expected 
everyone else to be of the same opinion with them- 
selves. Still, when a man has breakfasted before 
eight in the morning, and has been travelling 
pretty nearly ever since, he may be excused for 
allowing certain other interests to assert their pre- 
eminence over even the triumphs of architectural 
art. 

Dunstan turned quickly round as the door 
behind him opened, and a whiff of fragrance an- 
nounced the arrival of the hot mutton chops and 
potatoes which the waiter was just bringing in. 

C 2 



20 BacheV s Secret. 

"Wine, sir?" asked the man, as he set down the 
dishes on the table. 

" No," said Dunstan, who, though he would have 
liked a glass or two of good sherry well enough, 
abstained out of consideration to his pocket. "And 
here, waiter, you've forgotten the bread, and look 
sharp about it, for I'm desperately hungry." 

As indeed he was just then, though when he had 
seated himself and begun to eat, he was very soon 
satisfied. The truth was, he was too restless and 
excited to make a hearty meal. For the last fort- 
night his brain had been in a perpetual ferment. 
He had been hurrying hither and thither on busi- 
ness connected with the office in which he had been 
so suddenly installed, having interviews more or 
less satisfactory with committees and directors ; 
sometimes elated by his prospects, at others worry- 
ing himself by groundless fears of his own 
efficiency. And then, poor fellow ! he had but 
half realized the fact of his good fortune, from 
having no one to share it with him ; for among 
the few casual acquaintances whom he had picked 



A Start in Life. 21 

up during his residence in London, none had 
tendered him very hearty congratulations on an 
event which did not concern themselves. 

It must have been the long journey that had 
tired him, or perhaps the strong ale that had made 
him drowsy, for though he had disposed of only a 
solitary chop, yet he found himself still sitting be- 
fore his empty plate when the Minster bell boomed 
out the hour of five. He rubbed his eyes, pushed 
back his chair, rang for the waiter, and then 
lounged again towards the window, where he stood 
with his hands in his pockets, examining with some- 
what more interest than before the carved front of 
the Cathedral, and watching the people, who, 
service over, were just coming out from prayers. 

There was not a very large assemblage. Some 
half-dozen old ladies, as many old men and women, 
and a score or so of choristers and singing boys. 
Then came the old Dean, tottering down the steps, 
three or four clergymen, and a few stragglers, 
who, from the cloaks or bags they carried with 
them, and the way in which they stared curiously 



22 Rachel's Secret. 

around them, were evidently strangers in the 
place. Apparently these had constituted the whole 
of the congregation, for after them came an 
ancient verger with his keys in his hand, who 
carefully locked the door behind him, and then 
set off home, glancing round first to see that no 
stray half-crowns were likely to be picked up from 
some one anxious to obtain admission after the 
usual hours. 

In a few minutes they were all dispersed, and 
then again Dunstan remarked the blank, deserted 
aspect of the street. 

"This town of yours seems a sleepy sort of 
place. Is it always as dull as this ?" he said, ad- 
dressing the waiter, who had just come in. 

" Oh ! dear, no, sir," returned the man, a little 
nettled at Dunstan's disparaging remark. "Not 
by no means. There's company enough in the town, 
I can assure you, sir. But it's the races to-day, 
and everybody's on the course. We shall have 
stir enough here in another hour. There's been 
better nor three thousand people corned in to-day 



A Start in Life. 23 

with trips alone, beside the quality, an' them as 
drives theirselves. Flying Dutchman and Vol- 
tigeur, sir — wonder you haven't heard of it. It's 
making a tremendous excitement — but perhaps 
you're not in the racing line, sir? The town 
hasn't been so full for years. Our beds is all 
took up, and as many out of the house as we could 
get ; an' two or three parties we've had to refuse. 
Couldn't do nothink for them, sir." 

Dunstan looked round rather blankly at this 
last announcement. He had meant to stay at the 
inn all night, and go forward on the morrow to 
Glinton, where he had secured lodgings in a 
farm-house to which he had been recommended. 

"Your beds all full," he echoed, in some dis- 
may. " Why, I want to stay all night here. Could 
you not get me one somewhere ?" 

" I'm afraid not, sir," replied the waiter. " We've 
got as many beds out as ever we could meet with. 
All the houses is the same," he added, not with- 
out a touch of malicious satisfaction that the gen- 
tleman who had spoken so slightingly of the place 



24 Rackets Secret. 

should find himself in so awkward a predicament. 
It was provoking enough, for, as Dunstan soon 
discovered, the man was quite correct. There 
would be no sleeping that night in Bedesby ; and, 
worse still, when he began to make inquiries, he 
found that if there were no accommodation for 
spending the night in the town, neither was there 
any facility for getting out of it. Every horse 
a'nd gig and cab in the place was on the race- 
ground, and would not be back for an hour or 
more, and then there would be but small chance 
of getting a driver to take a tired beast a journey 
of seven or eight miles and back that night. 

There was an omnibus, it was true, that would 
start for Glinton at seven o'clock, only the places, 
unfortunately, were all taken up, both inside and 
out. And there was a carrier's cart, which would 
leave at six. 

" The Glinton Express we calls it, sir," said 
the ostler, a sly grin twisting the corners of his 
mouth. 

But even if the Glinton Express had been a 



A Start in Life. 25 

comfortable means o$ conveyance, it went at the 
rate of only two miles an hour, besides, in all pro- 
bability, it, like the omnibus, would be more than 
full to-night. 

"It's a good step to walk," said the ostler, 
meditatively, "or else that 'ud be the handiest 
way o' getting there. But, lor ! sir," he added, 
with a glance at the young man's lithe, well-knit 
limbs, " you'd do it, I'll be bound, easy enough. 
An' then you needn't be beholden to nobody." 

It was a " good step," certainly. However, there 
seemed nothing else for it but to adopt the suggestion 
of the ostler. And seeing that it was a soft, sunshiny 
May evening, and that he had been cooped up all 
day in a second-class railway carriage, half -stifled 
by smoke and dust, Dunstan thought that it might 
not be amiss upon the whole to refresh himself by 
a long country walk. So he paid his bill, gave 
directions for having his luggage sent after him, 
and having inquired the way, he once more 
shouldered his valise, and in ten minutes' time was 
on his way to Glinton. 



26 Rachels Secret. 

Down the crooked old streets, along which the 
commissioner's water-cart was making a leisurely 
progress, past two or three dingy churches, under 
the abbey gateway, and then he was outside the 
city walls and among the tall suburban residences, 
occupied by the upper-ten-dom of the place. 
Dark, severe -looking houses, that seemed as if they 
were perpetually asserting their dignity, with long 
narrow windows, and heavy cornices, and each 
one guarded by a fierce chevaux de /rise of spiked 
palisades. By-and-by these gave way to more 
modern dwellings, chiefly in the gingerbread- 
Gothic style of architecture, standing back a little 
from the road, with stucco fronts, and bright 
green blinds, and presenting altogether a gene- 
ral air of mushroom opulence. These were the 
" villas " of the more prosperous of the Bedesby 
tradespeople, between whom and the respectable 
classes of the community there existed a tacit and 
perpetual feud. After these, Dunstan passed a 
few ancient mansions standing at ease among their 



A Start in Life. 27 

ancestral elms, and then he had left Bedesby be- 
hind him, and was fairly started on the broad 
dusty road that branched off to Glinton. 



28 



CHAPTER III. 



THE GATE BEAUTIFUL. 



TE walked for more than a mile, just enjoying 
-■-*• the free, rapid motion, and the fresh air, 
scented now with the sweet breath of the May that 
lay like wreaths of snow on the tops of the tall 
thorn hedges. Presently he came to a little hamlet 
by the wayside, just a few scattered cottages, from 
whose chimneys a thin blue smoke was curling up- 
wards above the rosy drifts of apple-blossom that 
tossed themselves over the brown thatched roofs. 

For it was nigh upon six o'clock, and as Dunstan 
glanced through the open doors, he could see in 
every little kitchen busy wives preparing supper 
for the husbands who would soon be home from 
work, while the children crowded round the hearth 
with hungry, expectant eyes. There was some- 



The Gate Beautiful. 29 

thing in the bright gleam of the cottage firesides 
that, like the touch of a kindly hand, warmed the 
young man's heart, and woke within him a vague 
unaccustomed feeling of comfort and content. 
Perhaps it might be a dim sense of kindred with 
his fellows which this glimpse into the midst of 
these cottage homes inspired, loosening the bands 
of isolation and self-seeking, that had been tightened 
around him during those dreary years that he had 
passed in that populous London solitude, where 
day by day he had gone in and out of his dingy 
lodging, with none to care for or to welcome him, 
none to think for 3 none to live for but himself. 

At the gate of one of the gardens stood a comely, 
good-tempered-looking woman, dancing a baby in 
her arms, and looking up the road, as if watching 
for her husband. Dunstan could not resist having 
a word with her as he passed. 

" This is the road to Glinton !" he inquired ; 
not that he wanted information, but obeying a 
blind instinct, that just then was feeling out for 
some companionship, however slight. 



30 RacheTs Secret. 

The woman ceased dancing her child, and turned 
upon him a sunburnt, beaming face. 

" Ay, it's t'way, hard enough," she answered 
in a cheery tone ; " but you're a good bit off o' 
Glinton yet, without you go by t' fields, an' down 
by t' river. It's gainer a deal that way, an' it isn't 
bad to find. You've nobbut got to follow t' path 
over yon stile, an' it'll bring you right out into t' 
road, about a mile this side o' Glinton." 

Dunstan thanked her, and set off again. It 
was pleasant getting out of the dusty road into the 
green pasture-land, and he strode along over the 
springy turf, on which the sunshine lay poured out 
like molten gold, lifting his head into the blythe, 
free air, and half-wondering at the sense of bound- 
ing life which just now made him feel as if every 
pulse was beating in unison with those mysterious 
forces that once again were thrilling the great 
heart of nature. 

For all around was the sweet riot of spring. 
On every tree the fresh foliage was dancing in the 
breeze ; the birch and sycamore were hanging out 



The Gate Beautiful. 31 

their green tassels among the scarce unfolded 
leaves. Here a laburnum shook out its golden 
tresses to the sun, and there a giant oak flung its 
twisted arms aloft. And all the scented air was 
filled with the song of birds, and soft with the 
blended perfume of myriads of opening flowers, 
and quivering with that strange vitality that was 
working like a thought from God in all around, 
weaving from the dead elements for the wakening 
earth its living, myriad-tinted robe. 

Everything so glorious, so beautiful, and so 
busy too, and without knowing it, he quickened 
his pace as he went lightly on. Nature was win- 
ning him to sympathy with this glad toil of hers, 
rousing in him already a feeling of vague im- 
patience to be at his own work also. Only that 
morning he had left London, worried, anxious, 
half afraid of what he was about to undertake, and 
already, bathing his spirit in this tide of spring, he 
felt the life leaping up with a strange new force 
within him. Come what might, it seemed as if 
now he could go on and conquer all. Those long 



32 RacheTs Secret. 

empty days of waiting were over now. He had 
left behind him the petty worries, the small econo- 
mies, the chafing sense of forced inaction. They 
had slipped from him like a withered sheath from 
the bursting bud. He was free at last, and his 
life lay before him, to make the best thing he could 
out of it, which just now was what Dunstan Dayne 
meant to do. 

For more than two miles the path led him over 
the breezy uplands. Then it sloped down into a 
sort of wooded glen, and wound along beside a 
broad and shallow stream, that babbled on musi- 
cally over its pebbly bed, beneath the shadow of 
the alders and grey willows that bent over it from 
the opposite bank. 

The trees here grew thickly overhead, twining 
their branches together into a roof of matted ver- 
dure, through which fell a tender light of sunshine 
filtering through green leaves. Only here and 
there, where the foliage was thinner, it streamed 
brightly down, filling with a mellow radiance the 
cups of the pale primulas and anemones, that 



The Gate Beautiful. 33 

covered with their pearly blossoms the slopes below. 

And all around him, as "Dunstan went on, was 
that hush of sanctity and repose that breathes 
through the woods at eventide. He felt it like an 
unseen hand laid gently on his heart, changing its 
gladness into reverence. For just now, alone with 
himself, the young man's spirit was open to receive 
those pure and living influences that were stream- 
ing in upon him. It seemed to him as if, entering 
those green solitudes, he had passed through a true 
Gate Beautiful, into a temple wherein now he 
walked with bowed head, awed by the sweet glory 
around. Far down in the depths of his soul he 
heard a voice calling him ; one to which, in those 
dreary London lodgings, deafened as he had been 
by the din of the great Babel around, he had 
never listened before, even the voice of God, 
walking, as of old, in the cool of the evening among 
the trees. 

For God is not in these days silent, as some 
would tell us, to his creature man. AVhen the last 
apostle, in the lonely isle, laid down his pen and 

VOL. I. D 



34 Rachel '« Secret. 

closed the record of his vision, the Great Father 
did not cry to his children, " Henceforth attend 
no longer, the oracles are dumb." Nay, this 
very longing which most men have in the spring- 
time, when the year is young, to escape, if but for 
a single day, from their dusty offices, their shops 
and work-rooms, into the fields and woods, is but 
one of those innumerable ways in which He summons 
us through this Gate Beautiful, this porch which 
men call Nature, to worship in the temple of His 
presence. 

And there is no beauty like that of the woods 
in spring, just when the full -leafed May is nearing 
the balmy-breathing June, and the trees, in their 
vivid robe of changing green, are as rich in their 
variety of tone and tint, as when October clothes 
them in their gorgeous garb of russet, gold, and 
purple. 

As Dunstan walked along, it seemed to him as 
if everything had been created anew, so fresh and 
clean, so pure and joyous was all he saw. The 
trees were all new-clad. The larch dropped 



The Gate Beautiful. 35 

its long plumelets like a shower of falling 
foliage to the ground, the Scotch firs stood erect 
and tall, their red boughs gleaming through the 
spiky leaves. Here and there the stem of a birch 
gleamed out with a silver sheen among the trees, 
while hoary oaks and beeches made a thick covert 
of shade, beneath which Dunstan strayed on, un- 
mindful now of his journey's end, gazing with 
eyes that could never see enough, on this mysteri- 
ous pomp of nature, and with a vague feeling with- 
in him of joining in this universal psalm that was 
rising from all created things. 

At length, wearied somewhat by the unaccus- 
tomed length of his walk, he threw himself down 
upon a bed of dried leaves that lay heaped around 
the roots of a spreading beech, and suffered the 
tide of thought that was sweeping through him to 
sway him as it would. 

For awhile he lay gazing idly up into the 
waving vault above him, through which, as from 
time to time the boughs rocked themselves in the 
wind, little rifts were opening into the blue heights 

D 2 



36 ItacheTs Secret. 

beyond. Through the silence lie could hear the 
cooing of the wood-pigeons, the cawing of rooks in 
some distant elms, the soft whisper of the wind 
among the tree tops, the silver lapse of the water 
as it streamed over the stones, all blending into 
one continuous murmur, as if Nature were crooning 
over him, as he lay there in her lap, some old lulla- 
by, which soothed him though he could not tell the 
w T ords. 

And then there came creeping back to him half- 
forgotten memories of the time when he used to 
kneel, a little child beside his mother's lap, and with 
hands folded in hers, repeat his evening prayer. 
He recalled her grave, fair face, her soft caress, 
the long looks of love that rested on him as she 
bent over his little crib to give him her good-night 
kiss. And an infinite tenderness and regret came 
over him, a vague longing after that inward har- 
mony, that childlike sense of innocence and trust 
which, amid the wrong-doing and self-reproach, 
the strife and bitterness and cares of later life, had 
long since passed away. 



The Gate Beautiful. 37 

How long he lay beneath the old beech tree upon 
his bed of leaves, Dunstan hardly knew, but it 
must have been nearly an hour, for when the 
brushing of a squirrel's tail across his face roused 
him from his reverie, the varied hues of the trees 
were blending into one uniform tint of sober green, 
the flowers were closing up their petals, the thick 
embroidery of sunlight had faded from the turf, 
the busy hum of insect life had ceased, and only 
the clear rippling of the stream was to be heard 
amid the deepening hush. 

He rose hastily, surprised to see already the red 
gleam of the setting sun through the boughs of an 
old yew which stood before him at a little distance, 
each twig and spray sharply outlined against the 
glowing sky. Refreshed by his long rest, he went 
on now at a more rapid pace, and soon reached a 
footbridge, which, as the woman had told him, led 
across the river, and brought him out into the 
Glinton road. 

The dews were falling now, and a purple mist 
gathering over the distant fields, and toning down 



38 Rachel! s Secret. 

the dark outlines of the woods that rode upon the 
shoulders of the eastern hills. Above them the 
round red moon hung, opposite the sun setting, 
and just before him, nestling greyly among the 
trees, he caught sight of the tower of the village 
church, its brazen vane gleaming in the last light 
of day, and seeming to him just then like a friendly 
hand, which, his long day's journey ended, was 
beckoning him to his home. 



39 



CHAPTER IV. 



POPPY AND RUE. 



ri^HE Brook Farm, whither our traveller was 
-*- bound, lay, as an old man whom he over- 
took hobbling towards the village told him, "a 
piece further on," down a lane that turned out of 
the road just past the church. He walked on till 
he reached the low stone wall that surrounded the 
churchyard, a boundary, but scarcely a fence, for 
even a child might easily climb over ; and there for 
a moment he sat down again, and lifted his hat 
to enjoy the coolness of the breeze, which was 
whispering overhead among the outstretched 
branches of a belt of yews that rose just behind on 
the other side of the wall. 

Ponderous old trees they were, that for the iast 
five hundred years had stood there, presenting the 



40 Rackets Secret. 

same dense front of grim unchanging gloom to the 
winds that in winter swept up keenly from the 
valley, as to the western sunlight that on summer 
afternoons touched, but did not gild, the darkness 
of their foliage. At Christmas time, perhaps, 
when the new-fallen snow lay in myriads of fea- 
thery crystals upon their outspread boughs, turn- 
ing each tuft of black spines into a branch of 
gleaming coral, the old yews might show to more 
advantage. But now, as they gathered the sha- 
dows beneath them, and lifted themselves sullenly 
against the soft evening sky, they looked like a 
frown upon the face of the smiling earth, so little 
sympathy did they seem to have with the spring 
gladness of everything around. 

They grew so close together that the church 
itself, with the exception of a bit of grey buttress 
on the northern side, was quite concealed ; but as 
Dunstan looked around him, he could see between 
their trunks patches of grass dotted over with 
gravestones, many of them mossed with age, and 
half-fallen over the green mounds by which they 



Poppy and Rue. 41 

stood. There is always something about a country 
churchyard which seems to invite a stranger to 
wander for a while within its quiet precincts. 
Dunstan thought that as he was there he might as 
well go through it, and out into the lane on the 
other side, as walk round by the road. He set 
down his travelling-bag upon the mossy coping, and 
strode across to the other side. 

And then he discovered to his regret, that he had 
done mischief by this irregular mode of entrance, 
for he had stepped upon a mound of soft earth, 
and crushed with his feet some of the flowers that 
were growing on it. 

It was a grave that some one had evidently 
tended carefully, for the long rank grass was 
clipped close, so as to form a neat border round the 
little enclosure, which was sown over with poppies, 
just now pushing into bud. There were no other 
flowers, none of the clove-pinks, gilliflowers, and 
pansies, tjiat were blooming in gay patches here 
and there in other parts of the churchyard. Only 
at one end was a large straggling bush, which, as 



42 Rachels Secret. 

Dunstan stooped to efface the footmarks he had 
made, he knew, by its sad odour and dull leafage, 
to be rue. 

Whoever had planted this little plot must have 
had an eye for the deep symbolism of nature. Xo 
laboured epitaph could have told with a finer 
pathos its tale of some long sorrow, that now slept 
quiet in the grave. Dunstan felt at once the touch 
of true poetry in this unwritten language. But 
though he saw the meaning of the symbols, he 
wondered in vain whose history it might be that 
had thus been shadowed forth. For there was no 
headstone to tell who lay below, not even the little 
wooden cross, marked with the initials of the dead, 
that was placed at the foot of many of the 
graves. 

Some poor person, doubtless, it had been, whose 
memory was still embalmed in one heart at least. 
A husband, perhaps, or a mother, who was resting 
there. And it must also have been some time 
since the grave had been disturbed, for Dunstan 
noticed that the plant of rue was old and woody, 



Poppy and Rue. 43 

as if it had been growing there certainly for several 
years. 

He stood for a moment, speculating curiously on 
the quiet tragedy of which, possibly, these six feet 
of earth had seen the close, and then turned away 
to saunter down the churchyard path towards a 
wicket-gate which he saw at the further end. 

A quiet nook was that old churchyard, with its 
girdling yews and shadowing elms, and its gray 
tower, around which lay the dead beneath their 
green and flowery pall. A pleasant place, surely, 
to rest in, for it seemed as if, under that daisied 
sod, there could not but be quiet sleep. 

And Glinton was proud of its churchyard, as 
well it might be, and liked to hear it said that there 
was not such another anywhere about. But its 
chief boast, that which raised it most in its own 
estimation, and which strangers had even been known 
to come from Bedesby on purpose to see, was the 
great porch on the south side of the church. Nay, 
it was only a fortnight ago that some little urchins, 
who were going out bird-nesting on their Saturday 



44 RacheVs Secret. 

half-holiday, had been horrified, though it was 
broad daylight, by the apparition of a black "bogie," 
moving about in a mysterious way beneath the 
churchyard yews. Which "bogie" turned out after- 
wards to be neither more nor less than a travelling 
photographer, who, with his head under the flap 
of his machine, was "focussing" for this very 
porch, and who had informed Mr. Grainger, the 
landlord of the " Glinton Arms," that he had 
actually been engaged by the Archaeological 
Society at Bedesby to take a view of it, as being 
among the noteworthy objects in the neighbour- 
hood. 

And indeed it was a quaint piece of workman- 
ship, so rich in carven imagery and grotesque de- 
vice, that it might have served as a minor entrance 
to even the Cathedral itself. With wealth of leaves 
and flowers twining in sweet restraint along the 
mouldings of the arches, yet with a careless grace 
that nature herself could scarcely have surpassed, 
while, peering out among them, were strange, heads 
and figures, in which the sculptor, whoever he 



Poppy and Rue. 45 

had been, seemed to have given the reins to his 
fancy, and indulged in a perfect revelry of mirth 
and humour. 

u Queer fancies those old monks must have 
had," thought Dunstan, laughing to himself at 
the drollery of a face which he had just espied 
ogling him from behind a cluster of oak-leaves 
that wreathed the deeply-cut capital of one of the 
columns. " There must have been some fun lurk- 
ing in a corner of their shaven pates, and this was 
the way, I suppose, in which it found its way 
out." 

At this moment the big iron-bossed door of the 
church opened from within, and as it creaked 
back upon its hinges, there appeared in the open- 
ing a figure comical enough to have served as 
model to some of those facetious monks. A small, 
wiry old man, clad in a threadbare suit of rusty 
brown, with grizzled hair and beard, bushy eye- 
brows that hung like a pent-house over a pair of 
keen grey eyes, and a mouth which either habit or 
nature had twisted to one side, so as to produce a 



46 RaclieTs Secret. 

whimsical resemblance to some of the stone oddi- 
ties overhead. 

This antiquated individual was Job Dolson, the 
village clerk and sexton, who had just finished 
ringing the eight o'clock bell, which had been sound- 
ing in Dunstan's ears all the time that he had been 
in the churchyard. Not an amiable-looking per- 
son, by any means, as he stood eyeing Dunstan 
askance, while he closed the door again behind 
him, and proceeded to insert into the lock the 
largest key on the bunch which he was carrying. 

But Dunstan had a mind, seeing that the oppor- 
tunity w r as thus afforded him, of taking a look 
round the church into which he had just obtained 
a glimpse. 

" This is a line porch of yours," he began, in a 
propitiatory tone. 

"An' who says it isn't?" snapped the old man. 
turning upon him a glance of crabbed curiosity : 
but the next moment, seeing that Dunstan's hand 
was travelling suggestively in the direction of his 
pocket, he added, dropping his voice a little, 



Poppy and Rue. 47 

" You can come in, if you've a mind. It's a fine 
church an' all." 

Dunstan nodded his head, and slipped a shilling 
into the old man's hand. Job took the coin, 
putting it pro tempore into his mouth, that being a 
convenient receptacle, and more accessible at the 
time than his breeches pocket ; then pushing the 
door open again, he stood by to let Dunstan 
pass in. 

It was a fine church, as the sexton had said, a 
very fine church, rich in quaint carving in wood 
and stone 5 with stained glass in the windows, 
among which were various heraldic devices ; and 
faded hatchments here and there, and one or two 
monumental brasses let into the wall, and several 
crumbling monuments, which showed that in Glin- 
ton church it was not to the poor only that, in 
times gone by, the Gospel had been preached. 

The old man followed Dunstan up the aisle, 
volunteering now and then a gruff remark, though 
he seemed to consider that the office of cicerone was 
one decidedly beneath his dignity. 



48 JRacheFs Secret, 

" Here's something here — I don't rightly know 
what it is," he said, as they came to a little recess 
beside the altar ; " but I believe it's where the 
monks had used to wash their hands. There 
used to be a deal on 'em here when t abbey was 
standing." 

" I beg your pardon," said Dunstan, politely ; 
" is it not the vessel into which the consecrated 
wine was poured after mass f 

Job screwed up his face, and glanced round 
with a look of comical bewilderment. 

" Mebby it is, sir," he said, in a respectful tone. 
u Mebby it is. Ah ! I see you belong to t' Komish 
Church. You've corned from foreign parts, I 
reckon. There's been a deal o' strangers one 
time and another for to see Glinton church." 

Dunstan smiled as he confessed that he had 
travelled no further than from London. How- 
ever, after this the old man opened out wonder- 
fully, and finding that he had an appreciating 
auditor, was at considerable pains to point out 
whatever was worthy of notice. 



Poppy and Rue. 49 

" Here's a tomb here, now," he said, and he 
paused before a monumental effigy that bore date 
nearly two centuries ago. " Here's a tomb here, 
now, an' there's a queer tale belonging it." 

Dunstan stopped to read the inscription on the 
brazen band that ran around it. But it was grow- 
ing dusk now, and being in Latin, he could not 
easily decipher the crabbed, unaccustomed charac- 
ters. There was the name however, 

And further on, the date — 

"Now this here tomb, sir," said the sexton, "be- 
longs one of the Gilmours of Rooklands. You'll 
have heard tell of the Gilmours of Rooklands !" 

Dunstan shook his head. 

" I am a stranger," he said; " I have never been 
in this neighbourhood before." 

" Why, it isn't much of a place to be sure, isn't 
Rooklands," said Job, as if he would make some 
little apology for his companion's ignorance, " nor 
VOL. I. E 



50 RacheVs Secret. 

never was ; and they're poor enough, is the Gil- 

mours, to say that they're to call gentlefolks : but 

they're a good family for all that. Leastways 

they've lived there for as far back as any one can 

tell, though there's been some of 'em as hasn't took 

the best of karacters with them to their grave, an' 

him as lies there was one on 'em." 

"Well," said Dunstan, looking down with a 

touch of curiosity on the ruffled and doubletted 

figure before him, " it is to be hoped his ill-deeds, 

whatever they may have been, lie buried with his 

bones." 

"Ay, sir, it would ha' been a good thing if they 

had," said the sexton, who was polishing with the 

cuff of his coat a corner of the famished brass 

upon the monument. " But they haven't, mare's 

the pity. You see there was a lady as he took in 

with fair words, while she lost her fair fame 

through 'em, an' they say she walks at Rooklands 

to this very day. Anyhow, when she found that 

he'd deceived her, she went mad, an' afore she 

died she cursed him and his house. That's how 



Poppy and Rue. 51 

the tale goes. There's a bit of a rhyme as every- 
body hereabouts knows — 

'When a Gilmour of Rooklands dies in his bed, 
His lands from his line shall be sundered.' " 

" Well, and has the curse fallen ?" asked Dun- 
stan. 

The old man edged a little nearer, and dropped 
his voice mysteriously. 

" That's the queerest part of it, sir. It's down 
in Scriptur' that the curse causeless shall not come, 
and to my mind that's as much as to say that if 
there is a cause it shall. But, however, the White 
Lady didn't curse him for nothing. Whether her 
ghost walks or not, I won't take upon me to say. 
Tve never seen it, though there's them that says 
they have. But one thing's sure, sir — there's never 
been a Gilmour died at Rooklands like a Christian 
in his bed, that ever anybody's heard tell of. The} 
allays comes to their end promiscus. They get 
drown ded, or they drop down suddent, same as t' 
last Mr. Gilmour did, or they're killed in a duel, 



52 RacJiels Secret. 

or somethink. It's queer. But there's a deal o* 
queer things i' this world." 

Dunstan shrugged his shoulders, and stepped 
down into the aisle. It was a gruesome story to he 
listening to there in the dusk beside the dead man's 
grave. There was an odd glitter, too, he fancied, 
in the old man's eyes, as he peered up at him from 
beneath his grizzled brows, that somehow made 
him feel uncomfortable. He paused, however, for 
a moment, as he walked towards the door, to read 
an inscription that had caught his eye in passing. 

It was the shortness of this inscription that had 
attracted his attention ; for though the tablet itself 
was large and massive, and the richness of its 
carving set off by a ponderous slab of polished mar- 
ble, there were upon it these words only — 

In Memory of 
CAROLINE, 

Wife of Laurence Gilmour. 
Who died December 25th, 18 — . aged ~J'2. 

"She was t' squire's wife," said the sexton, jerk- 
ing his elbow towards the monument, as he noticed 



Poppy and Rue. 53 

Dunstan reading it. " That's the Rooklands pew. 
It'll be twenty year come next Christmas since she 
died." 

"He had not much to say about her, apparently," 
said Dunstan. 

u Why, no," returned the sexton drily ; " least- 
ways, if he had he kept it to hisself. Though I 
can't say myself, but what I think it's better for 
folk to say overlittle than overmuch about them 
that's gone, particklar if they hadn't done as well 
as they might by them while they was alive." 

" He did not behave ill to her, surely V said 
Dunstan, glancing again at the inscription. " So 
young, too, and to have been married so short a 
time. He could hardly have had, time, one would 
think, to have grown tired of her." 

" Why, no," replied the sexton, giving a know- 
ing twist to the corner of his mouth. u I won't 
say but what they agreed as well as most folk 
that's shut up together from week end to week 
end. An' he might take on when she died more 
nor what folk thought. There's no telling, for 



54 Rachels Secret. 

he's awful close. I believe if he was a-dying, he'd 
never let on about it to no one, while he'd strength 
to hold his tongue. But you see, sir, it's just 
here — he's a bit queer, is t' squire, an' has been 
ever since his father were took. You see, they'd 
been having words, him an' his son, an' he dropped 
right down while they was agate of it, did the 
old squire, and never spoke again." 

The old man has quite a collection of horrors, 
thought Dunstan to himself. 

" There's some will have it," continued Job, 
" that Mr. Gilmour was that scared, while he's 
never got over it since, an' it may be that ; but it 
lies strong on my mind as he's got something on 
his conscience that he'd be the better for making 
a clean breast on, though I wouldn't go for to say 
as much as that to everybody ; only I can tell by 
t' looks o' you, being a gentleman, that it won't go 
no further than yourself." 

"You are quite safe," said Dunstan, with a 
smile. 

" You see, sir, folks in this place has such a way 



Poppy and Rue. 55 

of saying back what they hear, while there's no 
such a thing as speaking out your mind comfort- 
able. It's a terrible place, is Glinton, for talk. I 
may say freely, there isn't half-a-dozen people in 
it as knows rightly how to hold their tongues, with- 
out it be some of t' men that's hard at work all day, 
an' has no time to let 'em wag." 

They had reached the door by this time, and 
the sexton, with a good deal of humouring of the' 
rusty lock, had turned the key, and stood now in 
the porch, settling his battered hat upon his head, 
and looking as if he had nothing more to stay for ; 
yet, as though having an intelligent auditor, and 
one, too, who seemed able to hold his tongue, he 
would not require much encouragement to carry on 
the conversation, so inauspiciously begun. 



56 



CHAPTER V. 



THE SEXTON S TALE. 



TT was not late yet. The twilight was falling 
-*- softly, and Dunstan was in the mood, after 
the hints which the old man had just thrown out, 
to let him unfold his tale a little further, the more 
so as there was a touch of dry humour in his talk, 
which tickled his fancy, as a spiced- dish might 
please his palate. 

" So the squire has never married again," he 
began, sitting down as he spoke, on the stone bench 
inside the porch ; while Job, with a twinkle of 
satisfaction in his eye, settled himself on the other 
side, and drawing a wooden snuff-box from his 
waistcoat pocket, took a pinch of its contents, by 
way of priming himself for the story that he was 
about to tell. 



The Sexton's Tale. 57 

" Married again ! — not he," said the sexton, jerk- 
ing out the words as if he would imply that such 
an event was hardly within the bounds of possi- 
bility ; u though I daresay, for the matter o' that, 
there's plenty hereabouts that wouldn't take a deal 
o' persuading to have him. She'd a rough carry- 
ing on with him, I reckon, afore she'd done." 

And Job nodded his head towards the church, 
where lay the remains of Caroline Gilmour in the 
vault beneath the Eooklands pew. 

" How came she to marry him, then 1 " asked 
Dunstan. 

"Why, it was just here," replied the sexton, 
and spreading his snuffy handkerchief across his 
knee, he fixed his elbow upon it, and leaned a 
little forward towards his auditor. "You see, 
there was a deal o' debt on the property in his 
father's time. The old squire was a man that had 
played hard when he'd been young, and the estate 
was mortgaged up for very near as much as it was 
worth, and that wasn't a deal, for it's nobbut a bit 
of a place now, isn't Rooklands ; it's been nibbled 



58 Rachels Secret. 

here and nibbled there this good bit back, while 
there isn't much left to speak of. 

a However, things had come to such a pass at 
last, that there seemed nothing for it but selling 
a piece of the land, an' the old man couldn't bring 
hisself to that. He thought a deal about keeping 
it together if he could, what there was left on it. 
So then he set on at his son about marrying this 
young lady on account of her forten, for her father 
had been what they call a cotton lord, and she'd 
just corned in to a mint o' money, that nobody could 
touch but herself. 

" It was an equal match, as you may say. She'd 
the money and he'd the blood, an' folks did say 
her mother had come to live at Bedesby o' purpose 
to get her married into a good family. I can't 
speak for that, but, you see, them that's riz their- 
selves from nothing, and don't as much as know 
who their own grandfather was, allays thinks a 
deal about position an' that, an' the only- chance 
they have o' getting their foot in among real 



The Sexton* s Tale. 5 ( J 

quality is to marry some one that's got a long 
pedigree and a short purse." 

And Job twisted up his face, and looked as if 
he felt that he had made a knowing observation. 

"However," he continued, "Mr. Laurence didn't 
seem as if he'd much notion of paying off the debts 
that way. He hung off, and he hung off, though 
he kept on going to see her, and her mother and 
her used to be staying for weeks at Rooklands, 
while at last he put the old man clean past his 
patience, and he threatened him if he didn't make 
up to her, and marry her right away, that he'd 
sell the property out an' out, and cut him off with 
a shilling. So he begun to think better of it then, 
for he knew, if his father broke his heart over 
it, he would keep his word ; it was say and do 
always with him, so he went and got hisself en- 
gaged there an' then. That was in the summer, 
and the young lady's mother, she stuck to him like 
a burr, and never rested while they got the day 
fixed for his marrying of her. 

"But it was a queer sort of wedding, I never see'd 



60 Rachel's Secret. 

such a one afore or since. For all t' time they was in 
church he was like a man in a swownd, an' when t' 
parson says to him, c Will thou have this woman to be 
thy wedded wife V he had to ax at him twice afore 
ever a word he got out on him ; an' then he mum- 
bled something between his teeth, while nobody 
could tell whether it was 'I will/ or 'I won't/ 
But, Lor' bless you ! she made up for him when it 
come to her turn. i I will /' says she, right up, 
an' as clear, though she'd a soft voice too, while 
you might have heard her to t' far end of t' church. 
And she said it as if she meant it, too. And she 
didn't say it for nothing neither, for if ever there 
was a w r oman had her w T ill in this world, it was her. 
He just give in to her in everything, and whatever 
she set her mind on, that she had. 

" You see they was all to live together, so he 
brought her to the Hall when they was wed, an' rare 
doings there was for a bit — such dinners an' party- 
ings, while you wouldn't ha' known Rooklands for 
the same place as it was ! 

" She was a pleasant young lady, too. The 



The Sextons Tale. 61 

folks hereabouts liked her well enough, though 
you could tell by her tongue an' by her manners, 
that she wasn't quality-bred. I've known her 
come into my house an' sit her down, without as 
much as knocking at the door, or saying ( by your 
leave.' But she meant no ill by it. It was just 
her bringing up. An' there's a deal in bringing 
up. It's just everything is bringing up, particklar 
with women." 

Dunstan nodded, as Job seemed to expect some 
expression of agreement. He was becoming more 
interested than he had supposed likely in the sex- 
ton's tale. 

" But for all the squire let her do as she pleased,*' 
continued Job, " it was easy to see as he cared 
nothing for her. I've heard the servants say he'd 
be for days and never say a word to her. Not as 
they didn't agree, but just he was queer. But, 
Lor' bless you ! it made no odds to her. It was to 
be Lady o' Rooklands as she'd set her mind on all 
along. She'd gotten what she wanted, an' that 
served her. She was like a deal more on 'em. She 



i)2 Rackets Secret. 

married the house, an' took the husband into the 

bargain. 

" However, it didn't last long, for nobbut a bit 

after he'd brought her home, t' old squire dropped 

i 
down suddent, as I was a-telling you, an' that 

stopped my lady's doings for awhile. An' by the 

time another Christmas had corned round, Kook- 

lands was without a Missis again, and Glinton had 

got enough to talk about for many a day." 

Job paused here, and helped himself to another 
pinch of snuff. He took it deliberately, with the 
air of a man who knows that, having matters of 
importance to communicate, he can afford to keep 
his auditor waiting his pleasure. 

When he had treated his nostrils to a leisurely 
sniff or two, and had shaken himself up by a 
hearty sneeze, he settled himself again to proceed 
with his story, leaning forward with his chin upon 
his hands, and peering up into Dunstan's face with 
a look of mysterious confidence on his shrivelled 
features, as if what he had to tell was a thing not 
lightly to be dealt with. 



The Sextons Tale. 63 

"She died?" said Dunstan, as the sexton still 
paused on the threshold of his revelation. And he 
wondered, though he did not ask, whether it could 
have been in some unquiet way that the poor lady 
had come to her end. For he recalled the hint 
which the sexton had thrown out, of there being 
some dark secret connected with the strange, unsocial 
life that for so many years had been led by the 
owner of Rooklands. 

" Ay, she died," said the old man, in a tone that 
seemed to hint at much more that lay behind. 
" She died, an' I helped to let her down into her 
grave. New Year's Day morning it was, as she 
died o' Christmas Day. And the snow drifting on 
to the pall all the time they was acarrying of her 
to the church, while it was as white as the parson's 
surplice, that you might have thought it was a 
maid instead of a wife was being buried. Ay, 
an' a mother she was an' all, poor thing ! though 
she never looked into the bairns' faces to know 
they was her own, for she died the same day as 
they was born. There was twins, a boy an' a girl, 



64 Rackets Secret. 

so, as you may say, the squire got double for what 
he lost. 

" There was to have been rare doings in Glinton, 
for he'd been reckoning a deal on having an heir. 
His wife he cared nothing about, but it was all 
his thought to have a son to heir Rooklands after 
him. There was to have been sheep roasted whole, 
an' a dinner in t' barn, and bonfires on Carlsby 
Hill and Glinton Moor, so as folks might know all 
round that there was an heir to Kooklands. They'd 
gotten them all ready for lighting, but, however, 
all they did was to start ringing the bells, and they 
wasn't agate long of that, afore they had to stop 
'em and ring the dead bell instead." 

" It must have been a strange Christmas for 
them all," said Dunstan. 

"Ay, you may say that," replied the sexton, 
nodding his head significantly. " A strange day 
it was, but you haven't heard the half yet. There 
was a double death that day at Rooklands — a 
young woman, as the squire found hisself, sitting 
stark and stiff, with a child sleeping in her arms, 



The Sexton's Tale. 65 

again' the Hall door, when he opened it in the 
grey of the morning to look out for the doctor 
that a man had rode off to Bedesby to fetch." 

Dunstan gave an involuntary start. 

" What a horrible thing !" he exclaimed. " Surely 
she was not sitting there dead !" 

" Ay, but she w T as," said the sexton, peering still 
into Dunstan's face, " an' had been for a good bit, 
for when the servants in the house heard the mas- 
ter cry, and run to see what was to do, she was as 
cold as any stone. It was a gruesome sight, I 
reckon, for him to set his eyes on. You see, she 
was reared up right again' the door, an' when he 
opened it, she fell back'ards right across him over 
the threshold. 

u There was a deal of talk in Glinton about her, 
an' some folk thought one thing, an' some another, 
but nobody could tell where she came from or who 
she was, only that there was her name, Rachel 
Dallas, marked on her clothes ; an' there was a 
young man, a grocer from Bedesby, that had 
corned over to Glinton to spend Christmas, said 
VOL. I. F 



66 RacheTs Secret. 

he'd passed her on the road about ten o'clock the 
night afore, an' given her a lift in his gig. But 
he knew nothing about her, only he thought she 
looked as if she was partly daft, an' she telled him 
she'd had a long journey that day, for she'd tra- 
velled from as far as Edinburgh since morning." 

" Then she was Scotch ?" said Dunstan, who 
felt the blood prick and tingle in his veins as he 
listened to the sexton's tale. 

" 1 can't say rightly. Mark Grayson — that was 
him as gave her the lift in his gig — said he thought 
by her tongue she was. An' she'd a Scotch 
tartan cloak on that she'd got the little girl 
wrapped up in warm again' her breast. But they 
never made out no more about her. They had a 
crowner's inquest, an' they just brought it in, 
' Found Dead.' The doctor said she'd been 
perished with cold, for it was a terrible keen 
night ; or else she didn't seem to have been any- 
ways weakly or ailing. He said she'd most likely 
just set herself down on the doorstep, an' fallen 
asleep with the child in her arms, an' when folks 



The Sexton's Tale. 67 

does that, they mostly don't wake up again." 

"But what was she doing there?" said Dun- 
stan. "One would have thought, getting in at 
that time of night, with a child, too, that she 
would have stopped at some place in the vil- 
lage." 

"Ay, that's what you may ask," replied the 
sexton, nodding his head slowly up and down ; 
" but you won't get any one to tell you. Dead 
folk keeps their own secrets, and living ones too, 
sometimes, for the matter of that. I've my own 
thoughts about it, though I don't say nothing to 
nobody. Least said is soonest mended." 

And the old man's voice dropped to a whisper, 
and his face puckered up, as if he would say 
that there were things which he could tell if he 
chose. 

" You see the house at Rooklands lies back, an' 
the road past it doesn't lead nowhere but into t' 
planting, and down by t' waterside, as far as t' 
mill, without it be the cottage by the pool, where 
Andrew Gillespie lives. Anyhow, that's where 

F 2 



68 Rackets Secret. 

they took her, for it was just a piece past the Plall, 
and the squire wouldn't have her brought in there 
on no account. There was a deal o' folks cried 
shame on him for it, but he was afraid, mebby, of 
the corpse bringing bad luck with it. However, 
he needn't have turned away the dead from his 
door, for he'd one of his own afore night." 

Dunstan shivered. 

" And the child?" he asked. 

"Why," replied the sexton, "I wouldn't say 
but what it was a good thing for it as it happened. 
For, you see, Andrew Gillespie, being Scotch, and 
living with hisself, him and his housekeeper, and 
never a child of his own, and neither kith nor kin, 
it come over him as he'd keep it. So, when there 
w T as talk of taking it away to Bedesby to the 
workhouse, he offered to do for it, and bring it up 
hisself ; and there was no one to say him nay. 
The parish was overglad to shift the burden of 
the bairn on to some one else's shoulders, and he 
was a respectable man, was Mr. Gillespie. He'd 
been in the Customs, and he'd a pension, let alone 



The Sexton's Tale. 69 

# 

a good bit of money that he'd saved ; so, as you 
may say, it was a lucky thing for Rachel." 

" Then she is living still ?" said Dunstan. 

" Ay," replied the sexton, "and a tall, well-grown 
young woman she is an' all, though she's overdark 
and pale to be what some folks call good-looking. 
You'd have seen her if you'd been here a bit 
sooner. She was down doing up her mother's 
grave. Yon's it set over with poppies by the wall 
there, under yon big yew-tree. It's a queer fancy 
to plant nought but a lot o' rubbishing poppies, 
but she has it like that every year. An' you won't 
persuade her to do it different. Or else I set her 
a rose once unbeknown to her, but she had it took 
up as soon as ever she see'd it. It's just a maggot 
she's got in her head." 

And the sexton turned stiffly round, and pointed 
Dunstan to the same little plot by whose mute 
symbolism he had been arrested as he entered the 
churchyard. 

So, then, he had been listening all the time to 
the story of that quiet sleeper, by whose nameless 



70 RacheVs Secret. 

grave he had lingered awhile ago, wondering what 
tale of sorrow it was that had been thus recorded. 

"She doesn't favour her mother much," con- 
tinued Job, u that is, if she was her mother. I 
see her myself when she was streaked out in Mr. 
Gillespie's house, and a fairer corpse I never had 
to bury. As clear and as fine her face was, as if 
it had been cut out of ivory, and her hair as 
bright as yon bit of saffron sky between the yews 
yonder. She'd been a beauty, I'll wager, when 
she'd been at her best, though it made no odds to 
her, once she'd gotten her coffin lid afore her face." 

And Job shook his head, and took another pinch 
of snuff. 

" But Rachel Dallas, now, is cut out of different 
stuff altogether. There's a summut about her, 
I can't rightly tell what it is, but she isn't like 
other girls, neither in her looks nor in nowt else. 
And she never gathers with them, neither, nor 
never has. Her and the old man lives pretty near 
as still a life all to theirselves in yon cottage down 
by the Rookland's pool, as t' squire does hisself. 



The Sextons Tale. 71 

You see he's bedfast, is old Mr. Gillespie, and has 
been this twelvemonth past, and she just stops up 
in the house with him and does for him, and 
hardly stirs out sometimes from week's end to 
week's end, without it be to come to church of a 
Sunday, an' she doesn't oftens do that now he's so 
bad." 

But the sexton's last words were drowned by 
the sharp clang of the clock. 

" Bless me !" he exclaimed, as the sound smote 
on his ear, "if yon isn't half after eight — how 
time slips by, to be sure, when a man's talking with 
them as has intellecks like himself ! I allays says, 
there isn't a sociabler man in Glinton nor me, 
nobbut I come across my ekals in mental abilities, 
but there isn't a man in this place as is. The 
society that's to be gotten here is nobbut poor, so I 
shuts up mostly, and keeps my tongue within my 
teeth." 

Dunstan smiled, but it was too dusk in the 
shadow of the porch for Job to see the twinkle in 
his companion's eye. 



72 Rachel's Secret. 

" You see," he went on, " the folks hereabouts 
don't make much count o' mental abilities, without 
it be Dr. Kennedy, that's him that lives up at the 
Lodge yonder. Why, when him an' me gets agate 
together, I've known him ax me questions as I've 
had to put on my studying-cap to answer, and it 
isn't a many as '11 do that. He's uncommon 
fond o' nat'ral history, is the Doctor, so we're 
brothers in science, as you may say, for I've a 
klection of my own as I've gathered myself, an' he 
comes down to my place oftens to have a look at 
it. He's a sensible man, is Dr. Kennedy — him 
an' me has a deal o' points in common ; but if you're 
a stranger in Glinton, you mebby won't know him, 
or else him an' you would get on together, I don't 
doubt." 

But Dunstan knew nothing about Dr. Kennedy, 
whose society was so superior, that even Job Dol- 
son himself could find satisfaction in it. 

"You wouldn't be long without knowing the 
looks of him, if you was to be stopping in Glin- . 
ton," said Job. " He's good enough to tell. A 



The Sextons Tale. 73 

well-set man he is, with warmish coloured hair, an' 
broad shoulders he has, an' stoops his head forrard 
rather when he walks. That's with writing so much 
— he's wrote a sight o' books. But you'd tell in a 
minute he was something out o' the common. It's 
neither here nor there, as you may say, but just a 
way he has, that sets on him like a crown." 

" Surely I saw him, then, pass the churchyard 
this evening," said Dunstan ; " and a great hound 
with him, the size of a pony." 

"Ay! that's him," said Job; "an' old Byke 
with him. He makes a deal of that beast, does the 
Doctor — as much as if it was a Christian ; and I 
wouldn't say myself but what it has more sense 
than amany of its betters. But 1 must be off now, 
sir, axingyour pardon. She'll have got t' supper ready, 
will Rebecca ; I've larned her to be partick'lar, an' 
she allays has it set, an' a sup o' beer put on to 
warm, when she hears t' half -hour bell go. It's nob- 
but a step off, isn't my place," and Job pointed to a 
low, brown thatched cottage on the other side of the 
churchyard wall ; and then getting on his legs, he 



74 Rackets Secret. 

stretched himself, put his handkerchief into the 
crown of his hat, put his hat upon his head, and 
taking up the bunch of keys that lay on the bench, 
made a move to go. 

Dunstan, too, arose. It was getting quite dusk 
now, and the moonlight was beginning to shimmer 
whitely on the gravestones that dotted the church- 
yard grass. Internal admonitions also began to 
warn him that supper would not be unacceptable 
to himself also, so he bade the sexton good even- 
ing, expressed a suitable sense of his obligations, 
and the interest with which he had listened to his 
communications, and turned down the lane beside 
Job's cottage, which would bring him, as the old 
man said, in ten minutes' time, to Gideon Doyle's 
farm. 



75 



CHAPTER VI. 

SUPPER. 

TT was a narrow winding lane, with a high 
■*- thorn hedge, and a row of huge beeches on 
either side, whose branches, meeting overhead, 
formed a pretty dense avenue, beneath which 
Dunstan walked on, till he saw, twinkling among 
the trees, a ruddy glow, as of firelight in some un- 
curtained room. It shone out more clearly by-and- 
by, and a moment after he reached a low stone 
wall, beyond which rose the yellow front of the 
farmhouse. Two tall yews, clipped into the form 
of a pyramid, flanked a gate from which a grass- 
grown path led up to a trellised porch. It was 
plain, however, that no visitors were expected, for 
when Dunstan attempted to lift the latch, he found 
it effectually secured by a piece of rusty chain, 



76 RaclieTs Secret. 

which, in default of a lock, had been wound round 
and round the pillar against which the gate was 
hung. 

Everything looked shadowy, precise, and still. 
Dunstan could see that though the roof was 
thatched, and the rooms must certainly be rather 
low, yet the house was substantial and well kept. 
The lower story was of brick ; the upper one pro- 
jected a little, and was washed of a deep buff 
colour that in the moonlight brought out 
into strong relief the deep carving of its oaken 
timbers. 

He stood for a moment inspecting his future home, 
then made his way round to the back of the house, 
where, doubtless, he would be able to find admis- 
sion. There was no difficulty here. The gate of the 
great pavfed yard that surrounded this part of the 
house was swinging on its hinges, and the door of 
the kitchen that opened into it, was standing 
open, perhaps to admit the cool evening air, for as 
Dunstan passed the unshuttered window, he saw- 
that the light which he had observed proceeded 



Supper. 77 

from a blazing log fire which was shining full 
upon a large-made, ruddy-looking man, who was 
sitting beside a table that seemed to be set ready 
for supper. 

Dunstan stepped across the threshold, and 
knocked at the open door. 

" Wha's there ?" cried a voice from within, in a 
broad rich accent ; and then, as Dunstan came in 
sight, Gideon Doyle, for he it was, rose from his 
three-cornered chair, exclaiming, with a look of 
surprise, 

" Why, it'll be Mr. Dayne, I do believe ! Come 
in, sir — come in, an' sit you down. Missis ! 
Missis !" he added, going to an inner door, and 
shouting to some one out of sight, a here's t' gen- 
tleman corned." 

Gideon was answered by the appearance of his 
wife, a slight, neat little woman, who came in 
looking somewhat disconcerted at this unexpected 
arrival of her lodger, yet prepared, seeing that he 
was there, to make him welcome. 

" You did not expect me quite so soon?" said 



78 RacheVs Secret. 

Dunstan, who had already unstrapped his travelling 
case from his shoulder, and thrown himself down, 
glad of the rest, on a chintz-covered settle that 
stood in a corner beside the fire. " The fact is, 
when I got to Bedesby, I found there were no 
beds to be had there, so I just walked over at 
once." 

" Why, no, sir," she replied ; " we wasn't looking 
for you while to-morrow, to be sure ; but, however, 
it makes no matter, so long as you're comfortable. 
You'll be glad of a bit of supper, I reckon, if you've 
walked out from Bedesby. I'd have had something 
hot for you if I'd known you'd been coming, but I'll 
do you a slice of ham in a minute, if you'd like it. 
We've a beauty just now on the cut." 

"Don't trouble yourself, pray," said Dunstan ; 
" I can make an excellent supper off this bread 
and cheese that you have got on the table. You 
were just going to sit down, I daresay, when I 
came in ?" 

But this went quite against Mrs. Doyle's notions 
of propriety. 



Supper. 79 

" I couldn't think of such a thing, sir," she said, 
" to set a gentleman like you down to a bite of 
bread and cheese, an' come off a journey, too." • 

And as she spoke, without more ado, she reached 
down a half ham that hung from one of the 
rafters, and proceeded to cut off some slices. 

u I daresay you'd as lief stop here awhile, sir," 
she went on ; " or else the best parlour's all ready 
for you, if you'd like to go in. I'll put a match to 
the fire directly, an' it'll burn up by the time sup- 
per's ready." 

But Dunstan was too comfortable in his present 
quarters to have any wish to change them for Mrs. 
Doyle's best parlour, whatever that might be. 

" I will just stay here, if you will allow me," he 
said, " and have supper with you." 

And, as if taking for granted that his proposal 
would be agreeable, he drew off his boots, and 
opening his valise, took out a pair of slippers, 
which, having put on, he stretched himself again 
at full length upon the settle. 

" Ay ! ay, sir, that's right," said the farmer, a 



80 Backers Secret. 

broad smile spreading itself over his face, " make 
yourself at home. I allays likes to see folks com- 
fortable. When Mr. Deakin were with us — that's 
him as we had last back-end — he'd come here of a 
night oftens, an' streek hisself out on that there 
settle, just as you're a-doing now, sir, an' put his 
arms aback of his head, an' says he to me, times 
an' times again, ' Mr. Doyle,' says he, ( there isn't 
a drawing-room in the kingdom can beat the looks 
o' this here kitchen o' yours of an evening.' An' 
I daresay there isn't, though I've never been but 
in one myself, an' that's up at Rooklands yonder ; 
but I know this, I'd a sight sooner sit down here to 
my supper nor what I would in it." 

" We mostly has our suppers here, sir," put in 
Mrs. Doyle, washing probably to explain that the 
farm kitchen was not their only sitting-room. 
"The fire allays seems to draw you like o' nights 
when there isn't one going in the parlour, an' our 
master allays enjoys his pipe better in the chimney- 
corner than any other place in the house." 

No wonder, thought Dunstan, as he lay at ease, 



Supper. 81 

and watched the good woman busying herself in 
her preparations. And in truth the kitchen at the 
Brook Farm was one of which any farmer's wife 
might well be proud. It was large and low, the 
walls spotlessly clean, and stained of a pale buff 
colour which threw back a pleasant glow from 
the firelight that was playing over it. A great 
pine log was burning up the open chimney, sending 
out from time to time sputtering jets of flame that 
illumined every corner of the room, and rendered 
almost superfluous the light from the small oil 
lamp that was burning on the table. 

The ceiling was whitewashed and crossed by 
huge oaken rafters, from one of which hung a 
long row of home-cured hams and sides of bacon. 
Opposite to the fireplace was a snowy deal dresser, 
surmounted by an oaken delf-rack filled with wil- 
low-pattern crockery, and garnished by a number 
of china pitchers and pewter mugs, that hung, 
suspended by their handles, from brass hooks in 
the rails. 

Everything showed signs of thrift and plenty, 
VOL. I. G 



82 Backers Secret. 

of use and comfort, too ; for it was plain that Mrs. 
Doyle was a woman who managed well in her 
house. Not a speck of dust was to be seen on all 
the shining furniture, nor a spot of grease on the 
bright red tiles with which the floor was paved. 
Yet with all this nicety and order, there was also 
such a look of homelike ease and comfort, that 
Dunstan felt as if, whatever life hitherto had been, 
it would be a tolerably pleasant thing to him 
here. 

It was something new to find himself amidst 
such pleasant surroundings, where everything, 
from the round painted face of the clock that 
stood ticking loudly in the comer, to the tin 
dish-covers and bright pewter mugs that hung 
against the wall, seemed to blink at him in a cheer- 
ful, companionable sort of way, as if already they 
had established themselves on a friendly footing 
with the new comer. A strange contrast, truly, 
to that gloomy room in St. Clement's Inn, where 
if a stray sunbeam ever by chance wandered in 
through the smoky windows, it did but serve to 



Supper, 83 

betray the threadbare patches on the carpet, or to 
show more clearly the dust and cracks upon the 
shabby painted mantelshelf. 

Meanwhile the ham which Mrs. Doyle was broil- 
ing began to diffuse a most delicious fragrance 
through the kitchen, that blended delightfully with 
the delicate scent of the burning pinewood, and 
made Dunstan secretly congratulate himself on 
not having succeeded in persuading her to let him 
sup off bread and cheese alone. 

He found a new interest, moreover, in watching 
the progress of the cookery over which Mrs. Doyle 
seemed to be bestowing special pains. The whole thing 
had about it a savour of primitive simplicity that was 
positively refreshing. And when all was ready and set 
upon the table, and when Mrs. Doyle had put down 
another plate and knife and fork, and had brought 
in a large jug of foaming ale, and had given a 
final glance over things in general to see that no- 
thing had been omitted, Dunstan took the chair 
she had drawn up, in such a courteous way, and 
began to fall to upon the good things provided with 

g2 



84 Rachels Secret. 

such evident good will, that any lingering scruples 
which she might have entertained as to setting him 
down to supper in the kitchen, were entirely re- 
moved. 

She could not refrain, however, from expressing 
her regret at there being such a scant bill of fare 
on the occasion. 

" I'm very sorry, sir, I'm sure, to have such a 
poor supper as this. If only I'd known a bit 
sooner that you was coming, I'd have had a chicken 
or something done. A bit of broiled ham's like no- 
thing. It isn't often that we're without a bit of 
cold meat in the house, or a pigeon pie or so at 
night, only we've had two men extra at work to- 
day, and we've had them to meat ; an' being Fri- 
day, they've cleared out everything." 

" Now, Missis," said the farmer, setting down his 
glass after a long draught of the home-brewed, 
and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, 
" don't be worrying yourself. You couldn't have 
had anything better. If a man's hungry he may 
make a good meal enough off a ham like this ; an' 



Supper. 85 

if he isn't, why he'll be the better o' fasting while 
he is." 

" You are right there," said Dunstan, laughing. 
" However, I am not disposed just now to fast, I 
can assure you." 

And certainly he was not. Where the charm 
was he hardly knew ; whether it really was in the 
superior quality of Mrs. Doyle's ham, or in 
the fine flavour of the brown ale, or the sweet- 
ness of the home-made bread, or whether it was 
the hearty good humour of the farmer, or the 
anxious hospitality of his wife, or whether it was 
the novelty of sitting down to eat with others be- 
sides himself, or that his long walk had given him 
an appetite, or perhaps all of these combined, but 
he did quite win the heart of his hostess by the 
ample justice which he did to his repast. For be 
it known to all whom it may concern, that no 
sweeter incense can be offered to the wife of a 
North-country farmer than to evince a practical 
appreciation of her skill in the culinary art, seeing 
that thereby her pet vanity, and everybody has one, 



86 Rachels Secret. 

is flattered in the most effectual manner pos- 
sible. 

They had just finished supper, when some one 
came into the kitchen by the door that was still 
standing open to the yard. 

" Here's Martha," said Mrs. Doyle, rising and 
pushing back her chair from the table. " You can 
take away, Martha, we've done. How many eggs 
have you got ?" 

" Better nor six score," replied the damsel, in a 
gruff, sonorous voice ; and turning about, Dunstan 
saw alarge ungainly woman, with high shoulder bones 
and a hard weather-beaten face that gave but little 
clue, however, to her probable age. She might be not 
more than six or seven and twenty, for hard work 
and exposure to sun, wet and cold, soon take away 
the bloom of youth from a farm-house servant ; or 
she might be nearly forty, though she had still a 
fresh, rather a high colour, and an abundance of 
rough brown hair, which was pushed back behind her 
ears, and twisted up at the back of her head into a 
protuberance, bearing in form and colour a not 



Supper. 87 

inconsiderable resemblance to a good sized po- 
tato. 

She was dressed in a gown of blue spotted cot- 
ton, tucked up round her waist, a linsey petticoat, 
and a large checked apron that covered nearly half 
her dress. She had in her hand two flat market 
baskets, one, which she lifted on to the dresser, 
being filled with eggs ; while in the other were 
ranged, side by side, several couples of fowls, ready 
plucked and trussed. 

"Let me see them, Martha," said Mrs. Doyle. 
" They're nice an' plump," she added, feeling them 
with an experienced hand as Martha brought the 
to her. 

"Ay, they are that. I lay them'll fetch five 
shillings a couple to-morrow," said Martha, eyeing 
them with stern complacency as she packed them 
down again into the basket ; " an' I shan't need to 
stand long behind 'em, neither. They're as fine a 
lot as ever we've had." 

And then, setting down the basket beside the 
other, she unpinned her gown, and shaking it 



88 RaclieVs Secret. 

down, began to clear away the supper things, giv- 
ing in the meanwhile a look of leisurely inspec- 
tion at the stranger. 

"Must I side 'em all?" she asked. "There's 
David isn't back. He'll mebby be wanting a bit 
o' summut when he comes in." 

"You'd better set them away," replied her 
mistress. " He'll get himself a bit when he 
comes in. We're late to-night, an' to-morrow's 
Saturday." 

" He's late, is David," said the farmer. " He's 
hardly been staying at Mallinson's while this time 
o' night." 

" He said he'd mebby go round by Rooklands as 
he come home," answered Mrs. Doyle. 

" What ! he's gone to see Rachel, then, has he ?" 
said the farmer. " He'd better ha' corned in and 
gotten his supper." 

Dunstan fancied there was a shade of uneasiness 
in the farmer's voice, and that he saw a passing 
cloud on Mrs. Doyle's quiet brow. Perhaps, 
however, it was only fancy, for she was just going 



Supper, 89 

out of the kitchen, and when, a moment after, she 
returned, she looked just as placid as before. She 
had brought with her a pair of fine linen sheets 
and pillow-cases, which diffused a sweet odour of 
lavender around, as she proceeded to open them 
out and hang them before the fire over two of the 
high-backed chairs, which she adjusted for the 
purpose. 

While this was going on the farmer had reached 
his pipe from the corner behind the chair, and 
was filling it out of a tobacco-box which stood 
upon a shelf beside the fireplace. 

"Mebby you wouldn't care to join me with a 
pipe?" he said, looking across to Dunstan. 
" Gentlemen like you mostly likes a cigar, I 
reckon, an' I'm sorry that's a thing as I haven't 
got to offer you." 

" No, no," said Dunstan ; " I shall be glad to 
have a pipe with you. But it's a shame, Mrs. 
Doyle, to be smoking by the side of this sweet- 
scented linen of yours. It smells like a garden." 

"Why, sir," replied Mrs. Doyle, with a quiet 



90 Rachels Secret. 

little laugh, et I must say, for my part, I think it's 
pleasanter to lie in lavender than in tobacco. 
However, if you don't mind it, I needn't, for it's 
your own bed I'm going to put them on. Every- 
thing's ready but just that." 

She paused suddenly ; her quick ear had caught 
the sound of a step in the yard, and the next 
moment a young man entered by the outer door, 
which he shut and bolted as he came in. 

" Is that you, David f she exclaimed ; " we was 
beginning to think long of you. This is the gen- 
tleman," she added, as he crossed the kitchen and 
came nearer to the group around the hearth. And 
then, with a glance of motherly pride in her eye, 
she introduced him to Dunstan. 

" It's my son David, Mr. Dayne." 

And a fine specimen of a young English 
yeoman he was, as he stood in the farm kitchen 
with the warm firelight playing over his figure. 
One that his mother might well be proud to call 
her son. Ruddy and robust, like his father, with 
a large, well-filled frame, that conveyed an im- 



Supper. 91 

pression, however, of mere physical force, rather 
than of energy or address. He had an abundance 
of light hair growing low over his forehead, and a 
pair of mild blue eyes, that in a woman would 
have been a beauty, but which in him, so soft and 
sleepy were they, lent a somewhat effeminate 
expression to an otherwise manly countenance. 
Altogether, there was a quiet slowness about his 
looks and manner, as if the soul within were 
encumbered with a body almost too large for it to 
manage ; or perhaps it only needed some great 
impulse to rouse it up, in order more vigorously to 
discharge its duties. 

" Won't you have a bit of supper, David ?" 
said his mother after awhile ; " the things is only 
just sided. I thought you'd likely be late if you 
was gone to Rooklands. How's Mr. Gillespie an' 
Rachel ?" 

" Rachel's very well, but Mr. Gillespie's not 
much to speak on ; but I didn't stay long." And 
as he spoke David walked to the dresser, and took 
up a small tin lamp, which, with two or three 



92 RacJiets Secret. 

others, was standing there. " I think I'll be going 
to bed, mother ; I don't care about supper." 

" But you're like to have a bit of something," 
urged his mother. " There's a corner of berry pie 
in the pantry I had put by at dinner on purpose 
for you. Have that, an' a drop o' cream to it ; or 
there's some ham, though it's neither cold nor hot 
now, I doubt." 

But David was not to be persuaded. Perhaps 
the corner of "berry pie" did not possess sufficient 
attractions, or perhaps he might not like sitting 
down to his supper before a stranger. Anyhow, 
he lit his lamp at once, and nodding goodnight to 
all round, he took his departure. 

"There's something wrong with David," said 
Mrs. Doyle, as she turned the linen with a pre-oc- 
cupied air. " It isn't often he's past his meat." 

The farmer made no remark. He went on 
smoking his pipe in silence, though his face had 
lost its former genial aspect. Something evidently 
had disturbed him, which he preferred just now 
keeping to himself. He puffed on slowly at regu- 



Supper, 93 

lar intervals, gazing abstractedly into the fire, 
which shone over him now with a warm steady 
glow, reflecting itself in the metal ^buttons of his 
red plush waistcoat, and just touching with gold the 
grey hair that grew somewhat thinly now upon his 
temples. Neither was Dunstan much disposed now 
for further conversation. The fatigues of the day, 
added, perhaps, to the effects of Mrs. Doyle's strong 
ale, and the warmth and ease of his position on 
the chintz settle, were gradually inducing a sense 
of drowsiness, which he hardly cared to overcome. 
He certainly caught himself nodding, when Mrs. 
Doyle's voice broke again upon his ear, telling him 
that his room was ready now, whenever he liked 
to go to it. 

Just then the clock in the corner struck eleven, 
in a spasmodic, jerking fashion, as if its internal 
arrangements were such as to render the effort dis- 
tressing to it. ' It was only half -past ten, however, 
in reality, for Mrs. Doyle's clock, like most others 
in farm-house kitchens, was always beforehand in 
the race with time. It gave her plenty of warning, 



94 RacheTs Secret. 

she used to say, besides making her feel as if she 
had always half an hour on hand. 

The farmerf who had been nodding too, rose 
and stretched himself with a resounding yawn. 

u Missis !" he exclaimed, " if yon isn't eleven 
o'clock ! Fine hours for folks to be keeping that has 
to be stirring afore five in the morning. An' here's 
Mr. Dayne looks summut like me, as if he'd be 
glad of a easier place for his head nor the back of 
that settle. I doubt we've been poorish company 
this bit back." 

" It has been my fault, I am afraid," said Dun- 
stan, " that you are all up so late. I will follow 
you, Mrs. Doyle, if you will be good enough to 
show me to my room. Good night, Mr. Doyle." 

" The same to you, sir," said the farmer, as he 
grasped in his horny palm the hand held out to 
him and gave it a hearty shake. " I don't doubt 
but what you'll sleep sound. An' now, Missis, give 
us a light, an' I'll be going an' all." 

Mrs. Doyle gave him the flat oil lamp which 
she held in her hand, first lighting a long mould 



Supper, 95 

candle, which was fixed in a gay japanned candle- 
stick appropriated to the use of her lodgers alone. 
Then going before Dunstan, she ushered him up- 
stairs into his room. 

" I'm sure I hope you'll be comfortable, sir," 
she said, as she set down the candlestick on the 
white dimity covered dressing-table. "And if 
there's anything else as you want, if you'd be so 
kind as mention it, I shall have the greatest of plea- 
sure in getting it for you." 

Then glancing around once more to see that all 
was right, she bade him good night, and groped 
her way downstairs, to make sure that the kitchen 
fire was stirred together, and might safely be left 
to burn out by itself. 



96 



CHAPTER VII. 



THE BROOK FARM. 



THE stir of farmhouse life had long begun when 
Dunstan awoke next morning. The men 
were at work in the fields and fold-yard ; the cows 
had been milked and driven to the pasture. 
Breakfast was over in the great kitchen, and Mr. 
Doyle had finished his and was already some dis- 
tance on the road to Bedesby, jogging steadily 
along in his green spring cart, with his samples of 
wheat tied up in little canvas bags in his side-coat 
pocket, and Martha by his side, sitting stiffly up- 
right, clad in her second best gown and bonnet, 
her green coloury shawl pinned across her high 
square shoulders, and her three market baskets of 
eggs, butter, and poultry, carefully deposited at 
the back of the cart. 



The Brook Farm. 97 

The sun was shining full upon the window, 
casting a trellis-work of shadow from the latticed 
casement on the blind, and filling the room with a 
cool bright light, that enabled Dunstan to see 
clearly all that he had been too tired the night 
before to take much notice of. It was pleasant to 
open his eyes in that fresh clean chamber after 
having been used so long to those dingy close 
apartments in St. Clement's Inn. For this room 
was light and spacious, as were all the others at 
the farm, though the ceiling was low, so low, 
that, standing up, Dunstan could easily touch it 
with his hand. The walls were covered with an 
old-fashioned paper adorned with a running 
pattern of roses and green leaves ; the doors and 
woodwork were painted white ; the floor was of 
dark oak, brightly polished, and carpeted only in 
the middle. The window-curtains and the hang- 
ings of the bed were white dimity, trimmed with a 
curious fringe of little hanging balls of soft cotton. 
Everything was wonderfully neat. As it had been 
in the kitchen, so here, not a speck or stain was 
VOL. I. II 



98 RacheVs Secret. 

anywhere to be descried ; and about the whole room 
was that indescribable air of simplicity and repose 
which gave a charm of its own to this old-fashioned 
chamber, such as one often misses in apartments 
more sumptuously appointed. 

For a moment, as Dunstan opened his eyes, he 
hardly remembered where he was. Then the 
mists of sleep cleared themselves away. This was 
a room in the Brook farm-house, and he had done 
with that miserable, cramped-up London life, and 
had got leave now to work. And a new world lay 
around him, fresh scenes, and fresh faces ; the 
house, and the village, and spring-time in the 
country, and the green fields, through which, 
presently, that railway-line of his would run. 
And as the thought of these things flashed 
through his mind, he felt as if in haste to go forth 
and meet it all. 

A little flaxen-haired girl was sitting at the foot' 
of the stairs as he went down, playing with an old 
sheep dog, whose shaggy ears she was amusing 
herself by tying beneath his chin. She started up 



The Brook Farm. 99 

at the sound of a footstep above her head, then, 
seeing Dunstan, she started off like a frightened 
deer, and took refuge in the kitchen. 

" Mother," he heard her cry, " here's the gentle- 
man !" And the next moment Mrs. Doyle herself 
appeared, and, throwing open a door at the foot of 
the stairs, revealed a pleasant snug room, with 
green panelled walls, and two deep windows looking 
out into the garden. 

A table with a white cloth upon it, stood spread 
ready for breakfast. Everything looked bright 
and cheerful, as did Mrs. Doyle's face, when 
Dunstan assured her that he had slept uncom- 
monly well in his new quarters, and that she 
might bring him his coffee and eggs as soon as she 
liked. 

" So far, things seem as if they mean to turn 
out pretty well," thought Dunstan, as he walked 
to the window and looked out into the gay garden 
before it, and over the low fence to the richly- 
wooded, undulating country beyond. " I couldn't 
have had things more to my liking if I had chosen 

II 2 



100 Rachels Secret. 

them myself. There will be rare shooting 
among those woods by-and-by, if only I can 
contrive to get a day of it. And there ought to 
be trout in that stream that I came along by 
yesterday. Bless me ! to think that I have hardly 
had a rod in my hands since I was twenty, nor 
fired a shot either. What in the world should I 
have turned into by-and-by? A precious old fogy 
I should have been by the time I was thirty ! 
For what is a man good for, I should like to know, 
who has forgotten how to enjoy himself ? And I 
was in a fair way for that, if ever a poor wretch 
was. It is a wonder I didn't knock under alto- 
gether, or turn rogue and cheat, or something 
worse, when I found honesty didn't pay. How- 
ever, here goes for the good time coming ! Yon 
may make a decent thing yet out of this world. 
old boy, if you go the right way about it, and 
needn't lose your chance of another, either P 

For just then, as Dunstan looked through the 
open casement into the sunny garden, and across 
to the orchard that ran down beside it. where the 



The Brook Farm. 101 

apple-trees were full in blossom, their rosy tufts 
set off by a background of rich moist foliage, and 
beyond all the quivering blue of the cloudless sky, 
a train of association, like some old melody, or a 
waft of remembered perfume, brought back to him 
the feeling with which last night he had walked 
through the woods at sunset. He had forgotten it 
till now, but there it was, still sleeping in his 
breast. For it had not died with the hour that 
called it forth. Nothing ever does that is really 
good within us. It lives on, though none may 
know of it but the good God from whom it came, 
in the change that it has wrought within us, just 
as the summer sunshine that falls upon the crude 
green fruit is not lost, but works unceasingly 
within, a living force, through nights of darkness 
and long days of cloud and storm. 

Dunstan's work at his office would not begin 
before the ensuing week, so that he had the whole 
of this, his first day at Glinton, to look about him 
and make acquaintance with the place. The farm- 
house itself was worth a leisurely inspection. It 



102 Backers Secret. 

was a fine old building, erected, as the date on a 
stone over the porch declared, nearly two hundred 
years ago, and looking as if it might weather the 
storms of as many more. A quaint, home-like, 
inconvenient old place, for there were hardly two 
rooms in it that were on the same level. Either 
you had to go up a step or two, or you went down 
one into each ; and the architect, whoever he might 
have been, seemed to have contrived, as far as 
possible, that they should open one into another, 
causing thereby no little embarrassment at times 
to Mrs. Doyle. 

The best bedroom, which was set apart for 
Dunstan, had a staircase all to itself, and so had 
the lumber-room and store-room ; while the attics, 
which, however, were used chiefly as a convenient 
place for spreading out upon the plaster floors the 
winter stores of apples, pears, dried herbs and 
onions, were to be reached only by one leading out 
of that occupied by the farmer and his wife. But 
there was a delightful flavour of originality and 
old-world simplicity about all these little arrange- 



The Brook Farm. 103 

merits which sorted well with the easy-hearted 
ways of the inhabitants, and made Dunstan feel 
from the first as if even the old house itself were 
minded that he should feel himself at home 
within it. 

But Mrs. Doyle's kitchen was the real heart of 
the house, a centre of warm life whose influence 
reached from attic to cellar, and extended even to 
the remotest field on her husband's farm where in 
hay-time or harvest the sweating labourers lay 
down in the shadow of the u stooks " and hedges, 
and enjoyed their blink of rest while they took 
their afternoon " drinkings " — long draughts of 
the home-brewed beer which Mrs. Doyle sent down 
to them in great stone jugs, together with baskets 
filled with huge hunches of cheese, and flat cakes 
of home-made bread. 

For at the Brook Farm everything was either 
home-made or home-raised. "Indeed," as Mrs. 
Doyle used to say, " there was no end of the tew 
and worry in a farm-house. Start work when you 
would, it seemed as if you was never done ; but 



104 Racket 8 Secret. 

she was free to own there was one beauty about it, 
you had everything within yourself." 

And so they had. They sent their own corn to 
be ground at the mill, they killed their own pigs 
and poultry, cured their own hams and bacon, and 
brewed their own beer. Their apples, pears, and 
plums grew in their own orchard. They needed 
no market-gardener, for their kitchen-garden sup- 
plied them with everything they wanted. Milk 
and cream, butter and cheese, were always at hand 
in the dairy. Eggs were brought in every day by 
dozens from the nests about the steading. Rabbits 
were to be had for the shooting, mushrooms for 
gathering from the meadows. Even the wine 
cellar — at least, the great closet under the stairs, 
which served as such — Mrs. Doyle furnished from 
her own resources. Elder-flower, currant, and 
cowslip wine were there, with bottles of goose- 
berry champagne, which Mrs. Green, the house- 
keeper at Sir John Denham's, who often looked in 
and had a glass of it, with a slice of seed cake, de- 
clared was not to be surpassed by the real thing. 



The Brook Farm. 105 

This kitchen was Mrs. Doyle's peculiar domain ; 
for Martha, when not busy sweeping and scrub- 
bing about the house, or milking, or feeding the 
calves, or giving a hand at hay time or harvest, 
carried on her washing and scouring and general 
superintendence of Bessy, the " girl," in what was 
called the back-house, a sort of large kitchen built 
out from the end of the house, where in summer 
time the farm labourers ate their meals, and where 
was also the brewing vat and tubs, the gig harness, 
and the best saddle, which Mr. Doyle and David 
always used when they rode to Bedesby. 

It was always warm by that great fireside, even 
in the coldest days of winter. No wonder the 
farmer thought its chimney corner the most com- 
fortable place in the house. There was a brick 
oven built at the side, in which, twice a week, 
Mrs. Doyle's " baking " was done. And her 
bakings were serious affairs, and no mistake ; for 
besides their own family, there were the five men 
whom they had to " meat." And the consumption 
of food by a north-country farm labourer is some- 



106 Rachel! s Secret. 

thing fabulous. Besides the beef, and boiled pork, 
the potatoes, bread, and beer on which they dulled 
the keener edge of their appetites, there were 
" berry " pies in summer, and apple pies in winter, 
custards baked in crusts on deep plates, beef- 
steak pies, egg and bacon pies, lard cakes, and 
immense cheese-cakes made in round flat tins. 
And all these Mrs. Doyle prepared with her own 
hands, besides more delicate pastry for the parlour 
table ; so that to look into her larder about three 
o'clock in the afternoon of baking-days, when 
everything was out of the oven and duly marshalled 
on the shelves, one might suppose that she had 
been provisioning for a siege. 

In front of the house was the garden, opening 
into the lane, and alongside of this ran an orchard, 
whose blossoming tress made it just now one vast 
posy. Around the back was the paved yard before 
mentioned, the farm buildings, and kitchen garden : 
and beyond these again was a thick planting of 
larch and beech trees, girdling in a ten-acre lot, 
which formed a sort of summer parlour for Mrs. 



The Brook Farm. 107 

Doyle's five milch cows, and where they spent 
their days alternately grazing on the sweet, clover- 
mingled grass, and lying at ease, peacefully rumi- 
nating over their repast. 

Truly, as Dunstan thought to himself when he 
had made a leisurely survey of the whole, the lines 
had fallen to him in a pleasant place, so far at 
least as his abode was concerned. The next thing 
was to go and see the railway yard, a large piece 
of ground which had been fenced off near the end 
of the village, and where already sheds for the 
workmen, and a little brick office for himself, had 
been erected. 

He staid some time here, talking to the people 
about the place, and examining everything with 
the keenest interest. It looked something like 
work. Immense piles of wood were heaped up 
ready to form the " sleepers " on which the rails 
were to be laid. There was the blacksmith's forge, 
quiet enough now, though plenty of stir there would 
be by-and-by, when the clinking of the hammers, 
and the sound of axe and mallet, were heard from 



108 Backers Secret. 

morning till night, waking the echoes far and 
near. 

Dunstan lingered in the railway yard till long 
past noon. Then he went home to dinner; and after 
he had lounged away an hour or two on the chintz- 
covered couch in the bay window at the end of 
his parlour, drowsily drinking in the scent of 
the purple clusters of the Westeria that trailed 
over the wall outside, he set off again to explore a 
little further around his new abode. 

First, however, he went upstairs to turn over his 
portmanteau, which, with a large packing-case, in 
which were bestowed the rest of his worldly goods, 
had been sent on after him from Bedesby. 

He had an impression that somewhere in it 
there was a solitary cigar, if only he could lay his 
hands upon it, which, however, w r as no easy mat- 
ter. He turned out the things upon the floor of 
his room, where they lay piled around him in pro- 
miscuous confusion. Not a bad index, for a shrewd 
observer, to the character of their owner. 

There were no lavender kids, or fancy ties, or 



The Brook Farm, 109 

patent-enamelled boots, or " sweet things in waist- 
coats," among the young man's possessions. 
Whatever pet weakness he might have, and most 
young men have one of some sort or other, it 
evidently did not blossom out in this direction. 

There was a good stock of fine linen, clean and 
white, notwithstanding that it must have been for 
some time past " got up " by a London laundress. 
There were two or three sober-looking suits, and a 
blue flannel cricketing cap which seemed to have 
done duty of late as a smoking-cap. There were a 
pair of fencing-foils and gloves, a leathern knapsack, 
a pair of tall fishing-boots, some tackle, and an 
empty fly-book. A case of mathematical instru- 
ments, a thumbed copy of Shakespeare, some books 
on engineering, and one or two railway novels. 
Finally, Dunstan lighted on the missing cigar-case. 
Then he pushed back the things into the portman- 
teau, dragged the lid over them, and went out to 
see a little more of the country about Glinton. 

He went through the kitchen, that being the 
usual mode of entrance and of exit for evervon<j 



110 Backers Secret. 

in the house. To be sure, the front door could be 
used, but it never was in a general way, for, in 
common with most front doors in old country- 
houses, it had peculiar freaks and fancies of its own. 
It creaked terribly on its hinges, and stuck at 
the top, where the drip from a spout had warped 
the woodwork, so that only by a tremendous 
wrench could it be opened, and then it objected as 
decidedly to being properly closed again. So that 
even when she had gentlemen in the house, Mrs. 
Doyle yielded the point and allowed them to pass 
in and out through the kitchen, unless they chose, 
as they often did, to get out by the best parlour 
window, which opened down nearly to the ground. 

She was standing by the dresser when Dunstan 
went through, her sleeves rolled up, and a white 
apron tied over her gown, busy making tea- 
cakes. 

Mrs. Doyle spent fully one-half of her time 
either in dairy work or in some description or 
other of cookery. She liked it. It gave her an 
opportunity of exercising what she felt to be her 



The Brook Farm. Ill 

peculiar gift, besides which, it formed an outlet 
for that diffusive goodwill which delighted to ex- 
pend itself, no matter how, on the gratification of 
those about her. 

"You're off again, Mr. Dayne?" she said, as 
she went on rubbing her currants into the flour. 

Mrs. Doyle was fond of having a little chat 
now and then with her lodgers, when she could 
enjoy it without interruption to what she was about. 

" It's a nice day for walking," she went on, 
" and Glinton's a pretty place for them that hasn't 
seen it before." 

" Is there not some good fishing in that stream?" 
interrupted Dunstan. "It looked to me as if there 
might be, as I came along it yesterday." 

" Why, yes, sir, I believe there is, pretty fair. 
Leastways, if there isn't, there ought to be, by the 
trouble that people give theirselves about it. 
You'd hardly credit it, sir, but we'd a gentleman 
• last winter, three days he was here, an' bad wea- 
ther it was all the time, an' if he wasn't out in it 
from morning to night, and called it enjoying his- 



112 Rachels Secret. 

self. I'm sure I used to say, if he'd had to work 
as hard for his living as he did for his pleasure, 
how he'd have grumbled." 

Dunstan smiled at the practical view which Mrs. 
Doyle took of the subject. 

a I recklet one evening in particklar," she went 
on. "He came in wet through, an' very near 
perished with the cold, for he'd been standing good 
part of the day up to his middle in water, an' such 
deed as he made with his wet boots on the kitchen 
floor. And he puts down his rod an' basket upon 
this table, an' he says to our master, ' Mr. Doyle,' 
says he, ( I never enjoyed a day's sport so much in 
all my life.' An' to be sure he had got his basket 
as full of fish as ever it would hold. But, then, 
as I said, where was the good of it all. For there 
was more than we could eat, all of us put together, 
an' I had to do near half of it next day for the 
men's dinners, an' they'd have relished a bit of boiled 
pork just as well, an' better, perhaps, for there 
isn't a deal of taste in fish to my way of thinking. 
It's the sauce as does it." 



The Brook Farm. 113 

And Mrs. Doyle shook some cinnamon into her 
bowl, as if by way of practical commentary on her 
assertion. 

" I daresay," said Dunstan, who was mentally 
regretting that his fishing-tackle, from long disuse, 
was in such bad condition, and speculating on the 
probability of a little place like Glinton supplying 
him w r ith the means of putting it into working 
order. " I must go some evening and try my 

luck " 

But Mrs. Doyle interrupted him. 
"I doubt you won't get leave, sir, anywhere 
near-hand Glinton, without you know some of 
the gentlemen as the streams belongs to. The 
fishing hereabouts is all preserved ; but there's a 
beck about three mile away, up at Etton, as our 
David oftens goes to, an' if you'd a mind, you'd 
be welcome, I'm sure, to the use of his tackle any 
time you was so disposed." 

Dunstan was disappointed. He thanked her, 
however, for, to a lover of the sport, three miles is 
not an insurmountable obstacle in the way of his 
VOL. I. I 



114 Backers Secret. 

seeking it. And in days gone by, angling had been 
one of Dunstan's hobbies. Not one of the lads 
at the Sutton Grammar School was there who 
could have beaten him in the dexterous use of rod 
and line. And then, too, Mrs. Doyle made her 
offer so readily that he felt he would be really 
gratifying her by accepting it. 

It was but a trifle, to be sure, yet it seemed to 
draw him out to this good woman, who treated him 
as one of her own household, and not as a mere 
waif or stray who belonged to no one but him- 
self. It strengthened the pleasant feeling that 
since yesterday had sprung up within him, as if 
suddenly some door beside him had been opened, 
and he had been drawn unawares into the warm 
heart of a home. For it was something so new to 
Dunstan to have anyone to care for him, or do him 
a service that was not expected to be paid 
for. 

He thought, as he stood chatting with Mrs. 
Doyle, watching her as she went on deftly with 
her cake, never pausing for a moment as she 



The Brook Farm, 115 

talked, in what she was about, that he had never 
seen a face which pleased him so much in his life 
before. It was just the kindness which looked 
out, and that makes any woman pleasant to 
behold. 

But Gideon Doyle's wife had a comely face, 
too, though it was nearly five-and-twenty years 
now since her husband had been so bewitched by 
it in the days of their courtship. Good-tempered 
women keep their looks so much longer than others 
do. And though it is true there were silver 
threads mixed here and there in the soft fair hair, 
yet the bloom had not quite faded from the cheeks 
that used to colour up when Gideon had looked a 
little too hard upon them ; nor had a single 
wrinkle come yet to spoil the smooth forehead by its 
tell-tale lines ; and if the blue eyes were not quite 
so bright as once they were, yet the sweet woman- 
hood that looked out of them gave them a charm 
now greater perhaps than even that which they had 
lost. 

There are many such women in the world — 
• i2 



116 Rachel s Secret. 

thank God for them — gentle, faithful souls, busy 
and bright withal, the course of whose life flows on 
within the narrow boundaries of home silently as 
that of the brooklet hidden in the grass, which we 
trace only by the greenness on its banks. Little 
they know of " Woman's Mission," yet they do in 
truth fulfil it. For their daily life, full of gracious 
deeds and willing service, is itself a perpetual 
evangel, subduing by the strong gentleness of love 
the rugged hearts around them, winning and keep- 
ing in the ways of household purity and peace those 
who else might wander far on the dark mountains 
of misery and sin. 

And such a woman was Mrs. Doyle. No wonder 
if that wholesome kindly nature had written itself 
upon her face ; and as Dunstan stood talking to 
her, he found himself instinctively reading it, as 
one would a book of wise and homely thought. 
How it was, he hardly knew, but when he turned 
away at last, and went through the paved yard and 
into the lane, he felt as if for a long time past he 
had been labouring under some preposterous delu- 



The Brook Farm, 117 

sion, and had just found out that really the world 
was a very friendly place, and that the people in it 
were not so bad, after all, as he used once to think. 



118 



CHAPTER VIII. 



BY THE TROUT STREAM. 



TE sauntered down the lane towards the hollow 
-*-*- by the church through which the trout stream 
flowed. True, there was not the prospect now 
of fishing in it, still he thought he would just walk 
along it for a mile or two, if only to satisfy him- 
self of what it was that he had missed. 

It was nearly four o'clock now, a breezy, sun- 
shiny afternoon, and a light wind was ruffling the 
tender foliage on the tops of the beech-trees in the 
lane, and shaking down every now and then upon 
him a shower of falling petals from the apple-trees 
in the cottage-gardens by which he passed. 

He had not far to go before he reached the path 
leading down to the river. It was just a straight, 
steep road, that looked as if it were used chiefly 
• 



By the Trout Stream. 119 

for leading cattle and horses down to water. But 
the hedges on each side were white with May and 
bramble-blossoms, with here and there a bunch of 
honeysuckle hanging out, and long festoons of 
briony clasping themselves among the thorns by 
their curious elastic tendrils. And then, below, 
the banks were all laced over with cunning broidery 
work of flowers, those wayside wildlings, many- 
tinted, many-scented, wherewith the lavish-handed 
Spring loves to decorate such waste places of her 
domains as man has left untouched. Daisies 
held up their little cups to be filled with light, and 
the blue speedwell, and the tiny hedge-gera- 
nium were nestling half hidden among the long 
grass, where the young fronds of the fern were 
beginning to uncurl themselves, and to spread out 
their delicate sprays to the sun which was glinting 
in and out between the waving stems, and drawing 
over the mossy tree trunks a living tracery of green 
and gold. 

No need, surely, for Nature to be amusing herself 
thus with all this useless fancy-work, fringing even 



120 Rackets Secret. 

the ditch at the bottom of the bank with that starry 
border of forget-me-nots. Plenty for her to do, 
one would imagine, in those fields on the other 
side of the hedge. Acres upon acres of young 
wheat bending before the wind, fields of oats and 
barley that had not long begun to hide the brown 
clods with their springing blades ; great patches of 
turnips covering the furrows with their grey-purple 
bloom ; meadows, where already you might wade 
knee-deep through the scented grass, green pas- 
tures, where full-fleeced sheep were browsing 
among their lambs. With all this to attend to, 
she might have spared, one would think, that use- 
less trifling in the lane. 

But no. There is a wise playfulness about 
Dame Nature. The Glinton farmers might trust 
her to look after their crops, none the less that, 
with a sort of sportive recklessness, she would 
amuse herself by planting out these mossy banks 
with all this useless beauty. 

And yet it was not quite useless, for as Dunstan 
passed along, something of this gay luxuriance, 



By the Trout Stream. 121 

this overflow of life, repeated itself within him. 
He was glad, he knew not why. The young 
blood was dancing in his veins. The very feeling 
of life and health and youth, was itself a luxury, 
as enjoyment came pouring in through every 
avenue of sense. And when he reached the end 
of the lane where it widened out towards the 
river, and saw the broad, shallow pools, in which 
long tufts of weeds were swaying to and fro, and 
the sheltered coves beneath the bank, where doubt- 
less, dozens of plumping trout were hiding away 
from the hot sunbeams, he could have clapped his 
hands like a child, as the old passion for the sport 
returned upon him. 

For more than a mile he tracked the stream, 
lured on partly by curiosity, partly by the beauty 
of the wooded glen through which it led him. 
For all was so bright and fresh. The wind was 
careering merrily among the trees, tossing to and 
fro the light branches of the silver-stemmed 
birches, and sweeping down the willow boughs 
until they dipped their long grey tresses in the 



122 RaclieTs Secret 

stream. And the sunlight was flashing down in 
floods of golden rain, sparkling among the moss 
and fern, glinting over the gnarled trunks of the 
old beech-trees, and dancing upon the rippled sur- 
face of the water. And myriads of leafy voices 
were whispering overhead, and birds were trilling 
out a musical reply, and through all the air was a 
sound of life and frolic, as if the old earth had 
grown young again, and was disporting itself 
among the woods on this Saturday half-holiday. 

Dunstan had just finished his cigar, and flung 
the end away, when he found his further progress 
checked by a high paling stretching across the 
whole breadth of the dell. It ran down to the 
water's edge, and was continued on the other side 
of the stream, where it was hidden presently among 
the thick underwood. Evidently it formed the 
boundary of some private grounds, and the spiked 
fence hinted to him plainly enough the propriety 
of retracing his steps. 

But as Dunstan looked over the envious barrier 
into the green sunlit glade that stretched before 



By the Trout Stream. 123 

him, he felt tempted to explore a little further. It 
could not, he thought, be near to any gentleman's 
house, for it was wilder here than in the part of the 
wood through which he had already passed. The 
stream, too, was wilder and shallower and more full 
of those delicious pools suggestive of lurking trout. 
He would risk it. There could be no harm in going 
just a little further, as far at least as that bend, a 
stone's throw distant, where a huge willow, that 
some long past storm had overthrown, lay stretched 
across the stream, with its mossy trunk almost 
dipping into the water. What a delightful place 
there would be among those twisting branches, to 
sit and drop a line into the stream! If only such 
a pleasure were for him ! 

There was a wicket-gate in the fence. Dun- 
stan tried it. It was open. There was nothing to 
hinder him from going through, except of course that 
although he saw no warning to trespassers posted 
up, he felt quite aware that, as school-boys say, he 
was getting out of bounds. 

But then he did not mean to go far, only to that 



124 Rackets Secret. 

willow trunk. And in all probability he would 
meet no one on the way. If he did, why he could 
but turn back, pleading the beauty of the place as 
an extenuation of his fault. 

He unlatched the gate and went in. He thrust 
down his hands into his pockets and sauntered on till 
he got nearly to the willow trunk. A sound of falling 
waters was in his ears, a rush and gurgle mingling 
with the rustle of the wind among the leaves, as 
though the stream were pent in higher up, and 
were forcing its way violently over some obstruct- 
ing rocks. There were flakes of yellow foam, too, 
hurrying down the current, and the water splashed 
and eddied amongst the loose stones that lay in its 
bed, as though it were being urged on by some impe- 
tuous force behind. There was a cascade most likely 
higher up, that was vexing the water into this pretty 
rage. And as he had gone so far, Dunstan thought 
it would be a pity not to see what there was ; and then 
he would certainly return. For though everything 
was still as rugged and careless as if no hand but 
that of nature had meddled with the scene, yet 



By the Trout Stream. 125 

one or two little signs convinced him that there 
was a house not very far away. 

Most likely the path he was in was one leading 
to some pleasure-grounds, for there were choice 
varieties of pine mingling with the common kinds 
that clothed the slopes, and drooping cedars and 
purple beeches here and there. And in the trunk 
of one hollow tree, there had been fitted a rustic 
seat, on which lay a lovely little cluster of spring 
flowers, purple and white violets with a spray of 
the brilliant leaves of the young sycamore, all tied 
together with a blade of grass, and all as fresh as if 
they had only just been gathered. 

Some one must have been here not long ago, 
that was certain. Dunstan resolved to turn back as 
soon as he had satisfied himself of what lay beyond 
this clump of beeches that grew just before him. 
He went on a step or two further, and then he 
stopped, arrested, in admiration and dismay, by a 
picture from which he could not for the moment 
withdraw his eyes. 

For on the other side of the water, standing 



126 Rackets Secret. 

quite down among the loose stones on the brink, 
and framed round by the over-arching foliage of a 
drooping ash, was a young girl, whom Dunstan 
at once divined to be at home in the grounds. She 
was gathering her fluttering dress closely round 
her, and was just setting a little foot, with a per- 
plexed and hesitating air, upon one of a ridge of 
stones that rose here and there above the water, as 
though she were anxious to get to the other side, 
yet hardly dared to trust herself on so slippery a 
standing. 

Dunstan felt provoked beyond measure with 
himself. He would have given anything to have 
been able to beat an effectual retreat. But it was 
too late. Already the young lady had perceived 
him, and had stepped hastily back, shaking down 
her dress around her, and looking somewhat dis- 
concerted at this sudden apparition of a stranger. 
For a moment, too, Dunstan felt himself embar- 
rassed. He was ashamed to turn round and run 
away, yet it was equally difficult to make any satis- 
factory apology for his intrusion. 



By the Trout Stream. 127 

But in the midst of his perplexity he caught 
sight, to his infinite relief, of a little flossy spaniel 
that was struggling in the stream just amongst the 
branches of the prostrate willow tree. It was all 
plain enough now. The young lady's pet had got 
itself into difficulties by some means or other, and 
she had been on the point of wading out into the 
stream to its rescue, when she had been startled 
by perceiving Dunstan. It was a happy chance 
surely which put it thus into his power to make 
some atonement for his fault. In a moment he 
had clambered down the bank, and striding out 
into the stream, had picked up the dripping dog, 
and borne it triumphantly across. 

It was easily accomplished, for the water was 
nowhere more than a foot in depth ; indeed, with 
a little care he might almost have stepped dry shod 
from one to another of the scattered stones. But 
if the water had been up to his middle, and so 
enabled him to give a proof still stronger of his 
gallantry, Dunstan would have been all the better 
pleased. Though, indeed, a young man might have 



128 Backets Secret. 

been excused doing almost any foolish thing for 
the sake of winning such a brilliant smile as 
greeted Dunstan, when with dripping feet he 
reached the other side of the bank, bearing his 
trophy with him. 

For a more charming little creature than the one 
who stood before him, could hardly be imagined. 
Everything about her, from the blue dress flutter- 
ing in the breeze, to the chestnut curls which the 
wind had blown about her face, was so fresh and 
crisp, so full of light and colour. The stream that 
was flowing at her feet, each water-break and 
ripple glancing in the sun, could hardly seem more 
bright and sparkling than she, as she stood with 
the ash tree dropping its green branches around 
her, and looking almost as clear and pure as the bit 
of blue sky that was peeping in between the boughs. 

u Ah ! how kind of you ! — how very kind !" she 
exclaimed, as she stretched out her hands to re- 
ceive her unlucky pet. " My poor little Punch, 
what trouble you have been in !"' And she took 
the little creature, all wet and shivering, into her 



By the Trout Stream. 129 

arms, to the terrible detriment of the blue muslin 
dress. 

" But you must have got sadly wet," she con- 
tinued ; " I am so sorry." And as she spoke, she 
turned a look of prett} r concern on Dunstan, who 
stood before her with his boots full of water, and 
his clothes all splashed by the wet that had run over 
them from the dripping clog. 

Now, on ordinary occasions, our friend Dunstan 
was blessed with a comfortable amount of non- 
chalance and self-possession ; but just at this crisis, 
unluckily, from some cause or other, his customary 
composure altogether failed him. 

"Do not mention it," he stammered out. "It 
is not of the slightest consequence. I am glad I 
happened to be at hand to render you assistance, 
but indeed it was the only apology I could offer 
for being here at all." 

And then, instead of waiting like a sensible 
young man and improving the occasion — for though 
certainly he was in fault, there did not seem much 
fear of his delinquency being visited very heavily 

VOL. I. R 



130 Rackets Secret. 

upon him — he splashed back into the water, utterly 
ignoring the stepping-stones, and trampled over to 
the other side. 

But this time fortune seemed to have taken a 
spite against him, for just as he reached the bank, 
his foot slipped on a bit of treacherous weed that 
was trailing its slippery length over a boulder in the 
stream, so that instead of making a dignified re- 
treat, he found himself thrown tilt among the weeds 
upon the brink. It would not have been particu- 
larly pleasant under any circumstances. As it was, 
Dunstan felt keenly the humiliation of his position. 
For certainly it was rather humiliating to be scram- 
bling up the bank on all fours with those bright 
eyes upon him. He picked himself up as quickly 
as he could, and without pausing to look behind 
him, hurried back, his ears tingling with vexation, 
to the wicket-gate, which just now he was wishing 
most devoutly he had never entered. 

But by-and-by, as he strode along, he found 
his annoyance lessening. There is nothing like 
sharp walking for driving little worries away, and 



By the Trout Stream. 131 

it is these after all which make up the greater part 
of the sum-total of human misery. Those Peri- 
patetic philosophers were wise men in their way. 
They knew — the cunning rogues — that it was 
vastly easier to make Stoics of their disciples while 
they kept them constantly engaged in a sort of 
mild pedestrian tour in the groves of Academus, 
than if they had been trying to prove that the ills 
of life were mere chimeras, to hearers who were 
engaged in kicking their heels on the benches of a 
crowded lecture-hall. 

By the time Dunstan had got back to the farm, 
he had pretty well w T alked down his discomfiture, 
nay, his thoughts, if the truth must be confessed, 
were running now rather on the prospect of getting 
something to eat, no matter what, than on his late 
adventure. For it was such hungry air at Glinton. 
Even when he had dispatched a most unreasonable 
quantity of provision, Dunstan rose from table now 
with a better appetite than in London he had ever sat 
down with to his dreary meals. And among the 
luxuries of life, and the things which go far towards 



1 132 EacheF s Secret. 

putting a man on good terms with himself and all 
the world beside, let none despise that of feeling 
three times a day as if he could make an excellent 
repast on bread and cheese alone, while, at the 
same ~time, he has spread before him all the 
dainties of farm-house fare, such as Mrs. Doyle 
— good woman — had marshalled on our hero's 
table against his return, and on which he fell to at 
once in a manner edifying to behold. 

She informed him that those were the Rook- 
lands grounds into which, as he confessed, he had 
been straying ; also that the young lady he had 
seen must be Miss Winifred herself — a piece of in- 
telligence which rather astonished Dunstan, for 
never, he thought, had he seen a face and figure 
that seemed so to belong to sunshine and flowers 
and fresh air and everything that was bright and 
joyous, as did the one he had seen this afternoon. 
He could hardly believe that she was indeed the 
daughter of this same moody man whose history 
he had heard from the old sexton's lips. 

But Mrs. Doyle had no time now to linger 



By the Trout Stream. 133 

chatting with her lodger. It was Saturday even- 
ing, and she had her market money to reckon up, 
besides numberless little matters to attend to 
that required clearing out of the way against 
Sunday. Dunstan was obliged to restrain his 
curiosity for the present, and content himself with 
the means she had provided for satisfying the very 
excellent appetite which he had brought in from 
his ramble. 



134 



CHAPTER IX. 



RACHEL DALLAS. 



A GOOD many bonnetted and other heads were 
^*- turned towards Gideon Doyle's pew the next 
morning in Glinton church, for already the news 
of Dunstan's arrival had been buzzed about the 
village ; and though, during his progress the day 
before to and from the railway yard, nearly every- 
one had had the chance of catching at least a 
glimpse of him, yet church was naturally considered 
as being the place for making a more leisurely and 
satisfactory inspection of the stranger than could 
otherwise be obtained. 

And Gideon Doyle's pew was conveniently 
placed for observation, being situated at the chan- 
cel end of the church, and commanding almost as 
good a view of the congregation as was to be ob- 



Rachel Dallas. 135 

tained from the pulpit itself. But though, on the 
present occasion, the congregation generally 
availed themselves to the full extent of the oppor- 
tunity afforded them, the object of their regards 
did not seem by any means disposed to return the 
compliment. 

The truth was, that just before him, so close in- 
deed that he could hardly lift his eyes without en- 
countering hers — pews in country churches are 
generally so ingeniously contrived in this respect — 
he saw the brown-haired beauty, who, the day 
before, had been the spectator of that disastrous 
exploit of his. 

There she stood, as radiant and fresh as when, 
played over by the dancing sunbeams, and with 
the breeze tossing her brown curls about her 
face, she had witnessed that unlucky stumble 
which had caused poor Dunstan such distress. 
But now the brown curls were tucked out of sight 
somewhere beneath a little straw bonnet, and the 
long eyelashes veiled those sparkling eyes, which, 
nevertheless, Dunstan felt quite sure, from the 



136 Rackets Secret. 

uncomfortable sensation he experienced, were more 
than once directed towards himself. 

And certainly one cannot help sympathizing 
with him, for Dunstan was quite aware, and 
who will blame him for it, that he was a stalwart 
handsome young fellow ; and the knowledge that 
a pair of bright eyes were falling now and then 
upon him, would have been rather agreeable than 
otherwise, if he could only have divested himself 
of that uncomfortable consciousness of his mis- 
hap. 

It is to be feared that the state of his mind on 
this, his first Sunday in Glinton church, was hardly 
such as to fit him for entering with any great de- 
gree of profit on the devotional exercises in which 
he was apparently, at least, engaged. And this is the 
more to be regretted, inasmuch as he was actually 
conveying a very favourable impression of himself 
to those who were criticising his appearance and 
deportment, an impression based to a consider- 
able extent on the exemplary manner in which 
throughout the greater part of the service he con- 



Rachel Dallas. 137 

fined his attention to the prayer-book which he held 
in his hand. 

He did get an opportunity, however, when the ser- 
mon had commenced, of studying at his leisure the 
bright face before him, for the young lady had changed 
her position a little then, so that he could without 
fear lift his eyes for the view, which, despite his 
vexation, he had all the time been longing to ob- 
tain. 

And there were such lovely lines in that delicate 
profile, such delicious curves of cheek and chin, 
such soft sweep of rippling hair, that Dunstan 
might almost be pardoned if, for awhile, he paid but 
a slight and intermittent attention to the very 
excellent and soporific discourse which the worthy 
> rector was delivering. 

There were two other occupants of the Rook- 
lands pew — one, a pale, slender youth, who, from 
what the sexton had told him the day before, must 
be the twin brother of the young girl. A more 
perfect contrast, however, could hardly be imagined 
than existed between the two; for while she seemed 



138 RacheTs Secret. 

the very embodiment of life and happiness, there 
was about the lad the querulous, restless look of 
habitual ill-health, as if in his case a sickly body 
had produced its effect in a fretful and enfeebled 
state of mind. The only thing in which they re- 
sembled each other was a certain sweetness in the 
mouth, and the large lustrous eyes, which in him 
were of singular brilliancy and beauty, strangely 
at variance, indeed, with the drawn appearance 
of the rest of the face. 

The remaining occupant of the pew was a man 
of fifty or thereabouts, whom Dunstan conjectured 
rightly to be Mr. Gilmour himself, and whose ap- 
pearance accorded well with the impression con- 
veyed by the sexton's story. 

For the whole attitude and aspect cf the man 
were those of a passionate and powerful nature, 
borne down by the weight of some invisible but 
crushing load. There was that in the stoop of the 
broad shoulders, in the bowed head with its tangle- 
ment of iron-grey hair, in the bound face trenched 
by deep lines of unrest and care, which told plainly 



Rachel Dallas. 139 

of a soul in bondage, and a bondage, too, from which 
it was scarcely even struggling to release itself. 

So at least Dunstan fancied, as, recalling the 
story to which he had listened the day before, 
his eye wandered from the fresh pure outlines 
of the daughter's face, to fasten on the hard, 
unquiet features of the father. Or it might be 
only that in his early days some great sorrow or 
perhaps remorse had seized the man's heart in its 
angry grip, crushing out all the sweet, warm life, 
and leaving it now but a shrivelled, sapless thing, 
no longer able to infuse strength and energy into 
his breast. Once only Dunstan saw its expression 
of dreary gloom relax. It was when a sharp dry 
cough drew the father's attention to the sickly 
youth beside him, and then he turned for an in- 
stant on the lad a look of anxious wistfulness, 
which showed that, however he might shut himself 
out from the world, there were some feelings still 
that he possessed in common with his kind. 

An oddly-assorted group, it must be owned, as 
they sat scattered round the great square pew, 



140 RacheF s Secret. 

with its dingy green baize lining, and with the marble 
tablet and the faded hatchment on the wall above 
them, and the soft May sunshine falling on them 
every now and then through the flapping curtains 
of an open window, in patches of rainbow-tinted 
light. It could be only, one would think, in some 
unaccountable freak that Nature had bound up in 
one household bundle three beings apparently so 
dissimilar, for there was not even betw r een them 
that vague resemblance, which, underlying great 
difference of features, may usually be traced 
between those who are united by the ties of 
blood. 

At least, if there was, Dunstan could not detect 
it, and he said as much to Mrs. Doyle that same 
afternoon, when he had joined the farmer and his 
wife as they were having a turn in the garden 
before tea. For already he was beginning to feel 
as if he were quite a part of the little household ; 
and seeing Gideon in his Sunday suit, pacing 
soberly up and down the walks, and his wife 
beside him, dressed to correspond, enjoying to- 



Rachel Dallas. 141 

gether their blink of leisure, he stepped across the 
low window-sill where he was sitting smoking his 
cigar, and gave them his company, much to Mrs. 
Doyle's gratification. For, as she said, it looked 
as if he were making himself at home with them, 
and she was sure it must have been lonesome for 
him, sitting up in the parlour with never a one to 
speak to, like a sparrow without a mate. 

Accordingly, there being no domestic impedi- 
ment this afternoon in the way of a little friendly 
intercourse with her lodger, Mrs. Doyle was quite 
open to follow up any track of conversation on 
which he might be disposed to travel ; and, as we 
have seen, Dunstan improved the opportunity to 
bring up the subject of the family at Rooklands, 
that being the one which, since morning church, 
had been floating like oil upon the surface of his 
thoughts. 

"Ay, she doesn't much favour her father, 
doesn't Miss Winifred," said Mrs. Doyle, in reply 
to Dunstan's observation, "nor her brother 
neither, for the matter of that, for all they're 



142 Rackets Secret. 

twins. But it's been the same since ever they 
were born. He's allays been a sort of rickling, 
has Mr. Lewis. The wonder is that he's lasted as 
long as he has, poor young gentleman." 

"Well, Miss Winny's gotten life enough to 
serve all three on 'em," said Gideon. " She clean 
runs over with it, like a bottle of our Missis's ale 
when the cork's drawn. I allays says she's sucked 
all t' goodness out of t' Rooklands air while there's 
none left for t' others, though how she does to get 
any at all it passes me to tell. It's a queer place, is 
Rooklands. There's some folks has it the house is 
haunted, though I can't say myself for certain 
that it is. Anyhow, it's gotten a bad name, an* 
well it may, for there's been queer things happened 
there. An' then t' Squire being so krankv in his 
ways, it makes folks talk. It was a wonder to see 
him at church this morning. I've known him 
be for months, an' never show his face in the 
village." 

"Ay," said Mrs. Doyle, ik but that's been when 
Mr. Lewis has been badly. He mostly comes 



Rachel Dallas. 143 

with him when he's well enough to be out. He 
thinks a terrible deal of that lad. They do say 
he's that wrapped up in him that it would be his 
death if aught was to happen him. An' Miss 
Winny, that anyone might think would be like 
the apple of his eye, he makes no more count of 
than if she didn't belong to him." 

(i Why, it's just of a piece with all he does," put 
in the farmer. " He seems as if he had it laid 
upon him to take up with the bad, and cast out 
with the good." 

a Well, I pities for him," said his wife, shaking 
her head compassionately. " He can't have a 
deal of good out of his life, one would think. An' 
such a fine, likely-looking young gentleman as he 
used to be afore the old squire died, an' as plea- 
sant an' as free-spoken as you are yourself, Mr. 
Dayne, if you'll excuse me saying so, though, 
mebby, he was proud-spirited rather, an' over-easy 
huffed if anyone went again' him." 

"And so as folks used to reckon," said the 
farmer, " of his father dropping off, an' him com- 



144 RacheTs Secret. 

ing into t' property. He was a queer one, was 
old Mr. Gilmour ; broke hi3 wife's heart, he did, 
and gamed away the estate very near, while he 
was a young man hisself, an' then forced his son 
to marry for money, so as to bring things round 
again. An' he was sweir to do it an' all, poor 
young man, if what folks said was true, though 
I never heerd myself for certain that there was 
any other lady as he'd set his mind on having. 
But he was a' deal away from Rooklands. You 
see him an' t'old squire didn't agree very well to- 
gether." 

"So I have heard," said Dunstan. "The old 
sexton was telling me the whole story yesterday. 
A sad affair, altogether." 

Dunstan started backwards as he spoke. A great 
spray of the lilac tree under which they were passing- 
sway ed down before him, and dashed its scent ed 
bosses in his face. At the same moment a merry 
laugh issued from among the trees which made a 
blossoming fence around the garden, and looking 
up, he spied Susy, Mrs. Doyle's little daughter, 



Rachel Dallas. 145 

who was sitting perched upon a crooked branch, 
and wild with delight at the success of her little 
bit of mischief. 

" Father," she cried, as she pushed aside the 
boughs with her little -fat hands, and peeped upon 
them from her leafy hiding-place — " father, see 
here is my nest. Didn't you ever find it out? and 
I've been sitting here since ever you an' mother 
came into the garden I" 

u Hullo, little un !" cried Gideon, looking up 
to where Susy's face was laughing out from 
among the trees ; " so that's where you've putten 
yourself all this while. I thought you was up to 
summut, you was so still. You can stop where 
you are. There's nobody a-wanting of you clown 
here. Little birds must stay on their nests, an' 
mind their eggs." 

But Mrs. Doyle, more regardful of propriety, 
cast a glance of disapproval upon Susy in her re- 
treat. 

"For shame, Susy! — for shame, you naughty 
girl!" she exclaimed in a tone of mild rebuke. 
VOL. I. L 



146 Rackets Secret. 

" Is that pretty manners to go an' shake the laylac 
boughs in the gentleman's face ? And to think 
of a little girl climbing trees, as if she was a boy ! 
An' your Sunday frock an' all. Come down this 
minute ! You'll make yourself not fit to be 
seen." 

But Susy was too well pleased with her nest to 
be minded to leave it just yet. 

" Mayn't I stop just a little longer — ever such a 
little longer," she pleaded, in the tone of coaxing 
entreaty, which, as she knew by experience, 
generally had the effect of gaining her point with 
her mother. 

But the Sunday frock was a serious considera- 
tion with Mrs. Doyle. 

u Come down, Susy. Come down, now, there's 
a good girl," she urged. " Your frock 'ull be such 
a sight as never was, an' clean on this morning, 
too." . 

Susy looked down, and shifted irresolutely on 
her perch; but while' the balance of victory was 
still unturned, a click was heard at the little white 



Rachel Dallas. 147 



gate which led through the quickset hedge into 
the garden. 

Mrs. Doyle looked up hastily. 

"Bless me!" she exclaimed, "if yon isn't David 
in the yard, an' Rachel Dallas with him. Where's 
ever he fallen in with her this time of clay. An' 
now I think of it, she wasn't at church this morn- • 
ing. Surely the old man isn't worse." 

She hastened towards the gate to meet them, 
Susy, who had scrambled down at the announce- 
ment of a visitor, running on before as fast as her 
little legs would carry her, and the farmer coming 
on at a more leisurely pace behind. Dunstan, too, 
looked eagerly towards the gate, curious to obtain 
a glimpse of Andrew Gillespie's adopted daughter. 

But at first sight he was disappointed. There 
was nothing remarkable in the appearance of the 
tall, pale girl who was quietly shaking hands with 
Mrs. Doyle. A stranger would have passed 
almost without notice that dreamy, yet anxious, 
countenance, though, lured as by some unaccount- 
able fascination, he would probably have returned 



148 Rachel's Secret. 

to study it again more carefully. For there was a 
strange attraction in that twilight face, which, as 
Dunstan drew nearer to the little group, he could 
not help perceiving. Not that it was beautiful — 
for though the features were regular, and the com- 
plexion delicately clear and pure, yet it possessed 
'none of that subtle charm which makes the faces 
of some women, wdio are but passably fair, like a 
lovely poem, which we long to read and read again. 
Perhaps this attraction in the girl's face lay as 
much as anything in the sort of quiet compassion 
which it aroused. ■ For looking upon it, you saw, as 
through a transparent veil, what a sensitive sad 
nature lay beneath. The full tremulous lips, the 
finely cut nostril, the drooping eyelids, the deep- 
set restless eyes, all seemed to tell, that on this girl, 
old beyond her years — for though she could not be 
more than one or two and twenty, she might have 
passed for thirty — the burden of life sat heavily al- 
ready. There were no little coquettish graces 
about her, none of those tricks of dress, or voice, 
or manner, none of those innocent vanities which sit 



Rachel Dallas. 149 

so charmingly on a young lighthearted girl, and 
which, however we may make a grave show of dis- 
approval, we are not seldom won, spite of our- 
selves, to admire. 

But in the appearance of Rachel Dallas there 
was nothing to show that she cared in any way to 
court attention. She was dressed very plainly in 
a shawl and gown of some dark soft material, that 
fell in heavy folds about a figure almost as perfect 
in its symmetry as a Grecian statue. Indeed, there 
was something Greek in the whole aspect of the 
girl, in the level brows, the finely moulded chin, 
and the somewhat heavy cast of countenance, which 
nevertheless showed signs of fine perceptive powers, 
and of a susceptibility intense and keen to influences 
unfelt by ordinary natures. 

" Father !" exclaimed Mrs. Doyle, turning round 
as her husband came within hearing, " here's Mr. 
Gillespie's been taken bad, an' Jean can't stir yet 
with her lame foot, an' Rachel's come to see if 
there's anyone we could tell them of to help to sit 
up with him at nights." 



150 Rackets Secret. 

Gideon looked grave. 

" I misdoubted," said he, " there was something 
wrong when I see'd you coming up. What, has 
David gotten his rheumatics worse again ?" 

" No," answered Rachel, in a dull, pained voice. 
"It is worse than that, I am afraid, though it 
is not so bad to bear. He was taken with a fit on 
Friday night. I've never known him to be so bad 
before." 

" But I wouldn't take on about it so, Rachel," 
said Mrs. Doyle in a consolatory tone. " He's had 
a good few bad bouts, has old Mr. Gillespie, an" 
corned round again. You mustn't meet a trouble 
afore it's here." 

" Ay," said the farmer, putting in his word. 
•" You must cheer up and look on t' bright side o' 
things. It's allays a bad plan for folks to saddle 
theirselves with to-morrow's trouble, as well as to- 
day's. It weakens the sperrits while they can't 
bear up under what's laid upon "em. But what 
does the doctor say about him ?" 

" He won't say much," answered Rachel, " only 



Rachel Dallas. 151 

that we must hope for the best ; but it seems to me 
that is only another way of saying that we must 
fear the worst. I was sitting up with him all last 
night. He was asleep when I came away, or I 
should not have liked to have left him. And he 
does sleep a deal, but I am afraid, from what the 
doctor says, that is not a good sign in his case." 

" Dear, dear !" said Mrs. Doyle, in a tone of 
grave concern, u to think of his having been taken 
in that way, and us never to have heard of it. But 
you're so out of the way yonder at Rooklands. 
He might have died, and we should none of us 
have known to have come down to you. But I've 
been thinking, Rachel, there's the widow Greaves 
would be most thankful to come in and help you 
a bit, while Jean gets about again. A nice respect- 
able woman, an' quiet to go into a house, an' a 
person that you might trust to do for Mr. Gillespie 
when you was laid down, for she had her husband 
bedfast over two year before he died, an' so com- 
fortable as she kept him, an' did all for him herself, 
I'll see her myself before church ; it's a good piece 



152 Rackets Secret. 

out of your way to go to her, and I can tell her to 
come, if you like." 

" It would be a great comfort to have her," said 
Rachel, looking immensely relieved, " if you think 
she could come." 

" Oh ! I make no doubt of that," answered Mrs. 
Doyle, " and glad to do it, top. But come into the 
house, and sit you down a bit. You'll stop and 
have your tea, now you're here." 

" I must not do that," said Rachel. " I should 
like to get back as soon as possible." 

"But you're like to come in an' rest?" said 
David, who had stood silent until now. "It's a 
good step from the cottage, an' to have been sitting 
up all night, an' all. You'd better step in." 

" Ay, do, and have a bit of cake, and a glass of 
wine," said Mrs. Doyle, with friendly urgency ; 
for she was not a woman who would ever willingly 
let a guest depart until the rites of hospitality had 
been duly administered. 

" No, no, you are very kind," answered Rachel, 
nervously, "but I would rather not, if you will 



Rachel Dallas. 153 

excuse me. I am not tired at all, and I should 
only feel uneasy." 

"Well, I won't press you," returned Mrs. 
Doyle, " if you think you really must be going, or 
else five minutes wouldn't have made a deal of 
difference, and you'd have got back all the sooner, 
mebby, for having had a bit of rest before you 
started. I'll see Mrs. Greaves, then, Rachel, and 
if there's anything hinders her that she can't come 
to-night, I'll just step down myself." 

" You are very kind," said Rachel, and the girl's 
lip trembled as she spoke. " There was no one 
else I knew that I could come to, and I don't 
know what we should have done if I had got knocked 
up myself. Poor Jean is almost helpless just now. 
She makes a greater trouble of it than I do." 

" I daresay," replied Mrs. Doyle ; " but it's a 
sad let down to you just now, having her so lame, 
and Mr. Gillespie so badly." 

And then they said good-bye all round, for Mrs. 
Doyle saw that it would be no kindness to detain her 
visitor any longer. 



154 Rackets Secret. 

But David did not give her his hand with the 
rest. 

" I'll set you a piece of the way down the lane, 
Rachel," he said. "It's a long walk by your- 
self." 

Rachel looked distressed. 

" Pray don't," she said ; " I shall keep you from 
your tea, and I'd rather go alone." 

But David had opened the gate already, and was 
standing outside in the lane as if he had made up 
his mind to go. 

" There's plenty of time," he said. " Tea won't 
be fit yet a bit, and I'll only go a piece of the 
way !" 

Rachel saw, perhaps, that there was not much 
chance of escaping her proffered escort. She said 
" good-bye " again to the farmer and his wife, just 
moved to Dunstan who had been standing by 
them all the while ; and stooping down to kiss the 
rosy mouth that Susy was holding up, she went 
through the gate to David, who was waiting for 
her with an uneasy, anxious look, as if he felt that 



Rachel Dallas. 155 

he was performing an unwelcome service, yet could 
not persuade himself to refrain. 

The little group stood for awhile watching the 
pair, as they walked quickly down the lane, Susy 
being mounted upon the palings, where she was 
balancing herelf somewhat unsteadily on one of 
the upper rails. 

" Good-bye, David ! Good-bye, Kachel !" she 
cried, clapping her hands, as the two disappeared 
behind a bend in the road ; and then, jumping 
down, she put her hand in Dunstan's, with whom 
she had already tossed up quite a friendship, and 
turned back with him into the garden, 



156 



CHAPTER X. 

MRS, DOYLE'S TROUBLES. 

GIDEON and his wife went sickly into the 
house together, neither of them seeming to 
care much about going back into the garden to 
finish their inspection of the tulips and pansy beds, 
or to mark the growth during the week of the young 
peas and cauliflowers, the Windsor beans, asparagus, 
and spinach, that flourished in close proximity to 
the well-filled borders. 

"It'll be a bad job for Rachel," said the farmer 
at last, breaking the silence that had fallen between 
them. " It'll be a bad job for Rachel, if aught 
happens to old Mr. Gillespie. It's all the home she 
has." 

" It's all she has now," returned his wife ; " but 
my mind misgives me, Gideon, that our David will 



Mrs. Doyle s Troubles. 157 

be giving her the chance of another before long. 
He's set his heart on Rachel, as sure as I'm here 
to say it. I've had my doubts this while back 
that he's been hankering after her, though he's 
never let on to me about it. But this afternoon it 
come over me as clear as daylight. I see it in the 
look he cast upon her as he stood waiting for her 
at the gate. An' he's a lad, is David, that when 
he gets set on a thing, he is none so easy turned off 
it." 

" I've thought as much myself," said Gideon, 
thrusting his hands deep into his pockets, and seat- 
ing himself with an abstracted air in his three- 
cornered chair. 

They had come in now, but the bright roomy 
kitchen, always clean and still on a Sunday after- 
noon, looked too inviting for him to care to go 
through into the parlour, where he could hear 
Martha already clinking the cups and saucers as 
she set the table for tea. For it was more than 
half- past three by the day, and on Sundays they 
always had tea a little before four, so as to allow 



158 JRacheF s Secret. 

time for getting all cleared away and the milking 
over before church went in at six o'clock. 

And this afternoon it looked particularly plea- 
sant, for the spring cleaning having been accom- 
plished, everything that could shine was doing so 
with renewed effect, and twinkling merrily in the 
sunshine which had crept round now to the side of 
the house and was pouring in a broadside of 
beams through the long low window, that almost 
put out the fire, over which a kettle was 
droning its sleepy song to an accompaniment from 
a great tortoise-shell cat, who was sitting upright 
in the middle of the hearth, purring as if she 
felt that the lines had fallen to her in pleasant 
places, and that it behoved her to express her 
satisfaction with her lot. 

There was an appetising odour also diffusing 
itself through the air, suggestive of the crisp lard 
cakes which were being made hot in the oven, and 
whose fragrance was quite overpowering that of 
the great posy of red and white lilacs which Mrs. 
Doyle had gathered the day before and put into 



Mrs. Doyle's Troubles. 159 

the blue and gold china jug that stood on the table 
underneath the window. 

It might perhaps have been this agreeable com- 
bination of outward circumstances which disposed 
Gideon to take a more favourable view of matters 
than his wife. 

" I've thought as much myself," he repeated, as 
if he felt it a relief to have the subject fairly 
broached, even if it was not in all respects a plea- 
sant one. "It's a bad job, but, however, it might 
be worse. She's a steady girl, is Kachel Dallas, 
an's had a good bringing up, and she's not so bad- 
looking, for them that fancies that sort of face, 
though I can't say that I much matter it myself. 
It's overlittle life an' colour in it to suit my taste." 

But it was a question of far greater moment than 
that of mere looks, well-favoured or the reverse, that 
just now was agitating Mrs. Doyle's maternal bosom, 
causing therein a painful distraction between her 
native kindliness of heart and the prejudices which 
made David's suspected choice a matter of real 
distress to the worthy woman. 



160 Rachels Secret. 

"It isn't that as troubles me," she said. "I 
should have nothing again' Rachel if it wasn't 
on account of David. There's something about 
her which makes you that you can't help being 
drawn to her, though she's no more like other girls 
than a vilet's like a buttercup. But it would be 
such a let-down for David if he was to take up with 
her, an' him come of a good stock on both sides, 
and his forbears people that's been respected and 
looked up to in all the country side for this two 
hundred years an' more. I couldn't abide for 
his children to have it cast up at them as their 
mother was brought up on charity, an' didn't as 
much as know who her own father was. Not as 
it's any fault of -hers, either," she added, as if, 
gentle soul, she could not bear to cast even the 
shadow of reproach, without adding some saving 
clause. 

"To be sure not," responded the fanner, 
briskly. "She didn't have the choosing of her 
kin, I reckon, no more than any of the rest of us. 
Rachel Dallas 'ud be no disgrace to any father, 



Mrs. Doyle's Troubles. 161 

whoever he might be. But for all that, I'd as lief 
David hadn't taken a fancy to have her. She's 
made of t' right sort of stuff for a lady, but she 
isn't cut out for a farmer's wife, no more than I 
was cut out to sell ribbons an' stay-laces behind a 
counter. Her hands is overjimpan' white to serve 
her at farm-work. An' she's got just the trick o' 
the tongue an' all, that the quality has. She 
speaks very near as pretty as Miss Winifred her- 
self ; but then, what good will that do her when 
she hasn't to live among them ? It won't help 
her to manage a dairy, I reckon, nor to brew good 
beer." 

And Gideon shook his head. He liked Kachel 
Dallas well enough, but not enough to wish to 
have her for his daughter-in-law. 

" I doubt David's made nobbut a badpick,"he went 
on to say, "an' so many nice girls as there is about 
here that he might have chose out of. However, 
it's his own look-out, an' I won't go again' 
him, if so be as he's bent on having her. It's a 
thing that he's a right to please himself about, I 

VOL. I. M 



162 Rachels Secret. 

know I thought as much when I went courting, 
an' I wasn't so far wrong neither. But as like as 
not w T e're worretting werselves for naught. A 
young man will often try it on with two or three 
afore he lights on the one as fits. Mebby it's no 
more than that with Rachel, an' w T e'll see him take 
up with Lizzie Raimes after all. She's a likely lass 
is Lizzie." 

But Mrs. Doyle was not disposed to take such a 
cheerful view of things, and all the time she was in 
church she was meditating in her own mind how 
best she might approach the subject with David 
himself, so that if, as she feared, her suspicions 
were correct, she might endeavour by^rgument or 
entreaty to turn him from his purpose. 

She had not long to wait for the coveted oppor- 
tunity. That same evening, when supper was 
over and the things cleared away, and when the 
farmer had had his pipe, and the household was 
moving off upstairs to bed, David lingered for a 
moment behind the rest, and remained standing 
before the fire with his arms folded upon his breast. 



Mrs. Doyle s Troubles. Kio 

as if he were waiting there till every one was 
gone. 

His mother's heart beat fast. Now was the 
time, she thought, as she moved nervously about 
the kitchen, setting back the chairs against the 
wall, and putting into their places the few things 
that had been left standing about. But David 
spared her the trouble of being the first to speak. 

" Mother," he said, without moving his position 
before the fire, "I thought 1 might as well tell 
you. I've made up my mind — I mean to marry 
Rachel Dallas;' 

Poor Mrs. Doyle ! The words sank like lead 
into her heart. 

" Rachel Dallas !" she echoed, all the mother 
rising in her breast and uttering itself in the tone 
of anxious, pained remonstrance with which she 
repeated Rachel's name. 

But David made no response. He stood look- 
ing down into the fire, which, now that the candles 
were taken away, shone out with a warm still glow 
through the kitchen, glistening here and there upon 

M 2 



164 Rachel's Secret. 

the polished surface of the well-rubbed furniture, 
or on the tins and covers that hung against the 
wall. 

"I'd think better of it, David," she began again; 
"I doubt Rachel Dallas isn't the wife for you. 
You might as good take a cambric handkerchief 
to make a sack as put her to the work of a farm-house. 
It 'ud just wear her clean out if she had it laid 
upon her constant. She knows no more about 
dairy work and poultry and that, than the babe 
in the creddle." 

"She'd soon learn. She isn't daft, I reckon," 
said David, " and she could work an' all, if she 
had it to do. An' if she can't, I'm strong enough 
to work both for her an' for myself." 

He spoke in a moody determined voice, very 
different from his usual easy, good-natured accents. 
Mrs. Doyle felt that for once her arguments had 
failed to move him. But she was not to be baffled 
yet. She came near him and laid her hand upon his 
shoulder with a gesture of fond entreaty, just as 
she had done before over and over again, when 



Mrs. Doyle s Troubles. 165 

she had wanted to persuade him into taking her 
way instead of his own in any matter that he had 
set his mind on. 

"But there's other things, David," she con- 
tinued in a pleading tone. "Not as I'd say aught 
again' Rachel, for it is no doing of hers, poor thing ; 
but to take a girl as belongs to nobody, an' hasn't 
so much as a name of her own ! I'd think better 
of it, David, I would indeed." 

Think better of it ! as well try to put out a 
blazing stack by throwing over it a bucketfull of 
water, as to quench by her motherly advice the 
flame that was burning in the young man's breast. 
He shook off impatiently the hand that rested on 
his shoulder, 

" Mother," he said, in a husky voice, and turn- 
ing full upon her now, u it's to no use trying to 
put me off o' marrying Rachel Dallas. Neither 
you nor nobody else shall keep me from her. 
There's not a hair on her head that isn't worth 
more to me than all the world beside. An' as to 
her belonging to nobody, you'd better not say that 



166 RaclieVs Secret. 

again. I'd like to see the man, or woman either, 
that 'ud dare cast that in her face, an' me to the 
fore. She'll belong to me when I get her, an' have 
her I will, if I die for it. It'll be no matter 
whose daughter she is, I reckon, when she's my 
wife." 

Mrs. Doyle was silent, half frightened by this 
unaccustomed vehemence. She had never seen 
David so moved as this. It was the first time, too, 
that he had spoken so carelessly, even rudely to her. 
Indeed, David was usually of too phlegmatic a dis- 
position to be easily warmed into a display of temper 
towards anyone, much less his mother, who had 
always retained .her place in the affections of her 
first-born, from the time when he used to toddle 
after her, a little urchin in petticoats, following her 
assiduously wherever she might be, from the 
pantry to the brewhouse, and from the brewhouse 
to the dairy, and receiving the reward of his devotion 
in a frequent largesse of any stray comestible that 
chanced to be at hand. 

A dull pain stole round her heart as she drew 



Mrs. Doyle s Troubles. 1G7 

away her hand. It shut out for the time even her 
regret at the choice which David had thus defiantly 
declared. She must stand aside now, and let 
another take her place. A mightier than his 
mother's love was sweeping now across the young 
man's breast, driving out before it all save the pas- 
sionate resolve to compass his determined end. 
Yet she longed to say something that might bridge, 
even now, the gulf that had opened thus suddenly 
between them. But nothing came, only a troubled 
tear that gathered in her eye, and which David did 
not perceive; for without another word he strode 
past her, and the next moment, as she stood alone, 
only the heavy sound of his step, as he mounted 
the stair, broke the silence of the house. 

She sat down on her husband's chair, wounded 
and heart-sick, and, covering her face with her 
apron, had a quiet cry by herself. Then she fas- 
tened the kitchen door, and crept up to bed. 

But things looked better the next day, as they 
generally do by morning light. Mrs. Doyle had 
told her husband what she had learned from David 






168 BacheV s Secret. 

the night before, keeping back, of course, all that 
she thought would be best left unrepeated, and she 
felt the easier for it. For though Gideon was 
concerned to know for certain that things stood as 
they did, yet he had not made such a trouble of the 
matter as she had feared. 

The girl was well enough, he said, and for his 
part he had rather David took up with her as be 
at a loose end and up to all sorts of tricks, like a 
deal of young men before they got settled with a 
house of their own. If they stood out against his 
having her, and he was to go wrong, as there was 
no telliu£ but what he might, f or there was nothing 
made a lad so desperate as being crossed in these 
matters, they would feel it laid upon them that the 
fault was at their own door, and that would be 
worse to bide than having him bring Rachel to 
them for a daughter. 

And Mrs. Doyle had confessed, with a sigh, 
that such would be the case ; and like a wise woman 
and a good mother, resolved forthwith to bring 
her mind to her circumstances, and since she could 



Mrs. Doyle s Troubles. 169 

not alter David's choice, at any rate to make the 
best of it. 

But peace returned, if not quite content, when 
a day or two after, David stopped in the kitchen 
for a moment, as he was following his father out 
after breakfast to the field. 

" Mother," he said, " I was a bit sharp, I doubt, 
o' Sunday night, but you mustn't think no more 
about it. I'd got angered on account o' Rachel, 
so as I'd no thought o' what I was saying." 

" Nay, nay, my lad — say no more ; let bygones 
be bygones. I daresay we was both of us partly 
in the wrong, an' so as Rachel makes you a good 
wife, neither me nor your f ather'll go again' your 
having her. We've no wish but to do for the best 
for our children, an' I daresay, whoever you 
might choose, there'd have been something as we 
could have wished different. It's ill marrying 
without love ; there's nought but misery ever 
comes of it, an' so as you and Rachel's as happy 
together as me an' your father's been before you, 
I wouldn't wish anything better for you." 



170 RaclieTs Secret. 

There was a tear trembling again in "Mrs. 
Doyle's eye when she had finished, but this time it 
dried up before it fell, for with an unwonted 
impulse, David stooped down and kissed the lips 
that were trembling a little with motherly emo- 
tion. Just as he used to do years ago, when, after 
mis-behaving in some childish fashion, he would 
creep up to make peace in this way before ventur- 
ing again on preferring his requests. 

And the last tinge of bitterness passed out of 
her heart as she thought that, after all, her boy's 
heart might be large enough to hold a wife, and 
yet leave room within it for his mother too. 



171 



CHAPTER XI. 

DUNSTAN FINDS HIMSELF AT HOME. 

"FvUNSTAN had not been long in Glinton 
^ before he# began to feel as much at home in 
the place as if he had lived in it all his life. The 
secret, no doubt, of this comfortable mood was 
that at last he was heartily at work and giving his 
mind thoroughly to what he was about. No fear 
now of his being compelled to rust in idleness ; 
and day by day, and all day long, he flung 
himself with might and main upon his welcome 
task. 

Each morning found him at his post, directing 
and controlling the progress of affairs, keeping a 
keen eye on all that was going forward, letting the 
men see that, young as he was, he was master of 



172 Rackets Secret. 

the situation, and yet with a bright glance and a 
hearty word for all, that made him popular among 
even the rough " navvies " who were u banking " 
a few rods further up the line, and who, with 
their flannel blouses and red caps, their huge 
limbs, and swarthy, unshorn faces, might have- 
passed for bandits in disguise. 

There was tough work to be got through, the 
tougher the better, for with each emergency Dun- 
stan's spirits rose to meet it ; indeed, he rather 
liked to grapple with a difficulty, and show to 
others that he was man enough to master it. For 
it was quite true that the young man had got into 
the right groove at last. The very faults of his 
character, his overplus of energy and resistance, 
his too resolute will, his eagerness to stand well in 
the opinion of others, were all in his favour here. 
They lent him force ; they spurred him on to do 
his best ; they gave him a certain sway over those 
about him, which made it easy for him to carry 
out his purposes. And when a strong will is 
firmly bent in one direction, it is amazing how 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 173 

even difficulties themselves do but seem to pave 
the way to success. 

And as life began to rush more freely through 
him, and as he learned to lift his head with the 
pleasant consciousness that each day as it passed 
left behind it a definite residuum of something 
done, so also Dunstan found himself going forth 
more freely to those around him. Every man, 
woman, and child he met, seemed to him to wear a 
friendly aspect. If even a little girl going to 
school dropped him a smiling curtsey, or a 
labourer said " good day " as he met him on the 
road, he would nod back and say " good day " 
again with such unmistakeable good will, that he 
had soon won for himself the suffrages of all the 
village people. 

It was a hearty, natural, wholesome life that he 
was leading during these first weeks of his sojourn 
in Glinton — a life that was good for soul and 
body both. And Dunstan expanded under its 
influence, and spread himself forth to the light 
and warmth, and went in and out with such a 



174 Rachel's Secret. 

firm free tread, such a blythe face and ringing 
voice, that any one who had seen him only, fretted 
and careworn in those London lodgings, would 
hardly have recognised him for the same. For 
there was nothing now in his way of life that 
jarred upon him, nothing that offended his taste, 
nothing, as it seemed to him just then, that was 
lacking. His days were rounded and complete, 
filled up just as he would have them filled up, 
with work enough to satisfy his restless hands and 
busy brain, yet with not so much as to become a 
toil. 

Everything pleased him. He liked the farm- 
house life, the simple household ways, the homely 
kindness that he received. For it was pleasant, 
certainly, to know that he was thought about and 
cared for, and in every way made so much of as 
he was by the good people at the Brook farm- 
house. Indeed, Mrs. Doyle, on one occasion, ex- 
pressed with such emphasis to her husband her 
opinion that there never was a young gentleman 
had so few airs, or made himself so agreeable as 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 175 

Mr. Dayne, that Gideon, who was fond of a sly 
joke now and then, could not resist the opportunity 
of having one. 

" Why, Polly," he exclaimed, bringing down his 
broad palm with a thump upon her shoulder, " if 
things goes on this gate, I shall be having thee fall 
in love with him thyself. I mun look a bit sharper 
after thee, I doubt. There's mebby others beside 
me that's thinking thou hasn't lost all thy good 
looks yet." 

But Mrs. Doyle went on quietly clicking her 
needles over the grey ribbed stocking that she was 
" footing " for David. She was accustomed to 
these little pleasantries of her husband's, as well 
as to the compliments that he generally contrived 
to edge in with them. For though Gideon's court- 
ing days were over, he knew well enough that his 
wife was as fond as any woman of a word or two 
of praise ; nor was he above humouring her 
now and then himself by a little sugared non- 
sense. 

As he said one day to his neighbour, Mark 



176 RacheVs Secret. 

Bray, who was inclined to remonstrate with him 
on the folly of being u sweet " upon his wife, 

" There's naught pays better than that sort of 
thing, nobbut a man's picked the right sort o' wo- 
man for his wife." Mark winced a little, for it 
was well known that Mrs. Bray was a bit of a 
termagant. " Why, if I was to start an' be con- 
trary with my Missis, like some as I could name, 
I should knock all the sperrit out of her in no 
time. She'd go squash, like a pricked bladder, if 
I was to give her a sharp word. But nobbut 
stroke her down a bit, and make her believe as I 
think all the world of her — an' it wouldn't be so 
far from true neither — an' she'll work herself 
to death sooner nor I shall find out as I've been 
wrong. So you see, if owt goes again' me, an' I 
get a bit riled, as you may say, why, I goes and 
lets off at some one else, but I allays keeps a fair 
tongue for her. You may take my word for it, 
it's a thing as pays. Anyways, that's my ex- 
perience, an' I've tried it now this twenty year 
and more." 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 177 

The only person in the house who still kept 
Dunstan at arm's length was Martha, who, though 
a jewel of a servant, and a perfect marvel of clean- 
liness and despatch, was still, as Gideon used to 
say, " a bit cantankerous in her temper — some- 
thing like yon red waggon as David bought at 
Bedesby Fair, that would creak in the wheels, 
whether they was oiled or no." 

Dunstan had made several attempts to dislodge 
her from her entrenchments; but Martha was not 
to be won over by any amount of fair speeches, or 
consideration even in such matters as abstaining 
from leaving a wet footprint on her freshly-sanded 
flags. 

The extra work was a thing she cared nothing 
about, but she did not approve, and never had, of 
her mistress "demeaning" herself by keeping 
lodgers. It was what no other farmer's wife did 
anywhere about, and in Martha's opinion was a 
great " let-down " to the respectability of the 
family. 

So Mr. Dayne might admire as much as he 

VOL. I. N 



178 Rachels Secret. 

pleased that black Spanish hen with her brood of 
chickens, and praise the splendour of the green 
drake's head, and inquire whether she or her mis- 
tress had the chief hand in the brewing of that 
capital ale of theirs — Martba let him see all the 
same that she looked upon him as an intruder in 
the house, and a person whose presence might 
be put up with, but was by no means to be re- 
garded with anything like complacency. 

But though, with this exception, Dunstan had 
established himself thus firmly in the good graces 
of the family at the Brook Farm, and was both 
liked and looked up to by the men at the railway 
yard, and never missed a friendly salute when he 
encountered any of the village folk, yet he had not 
as yet either gained or sought admittance into the 
little world of Glinton society — by which term must, 
of course, be understood either such members of 
the community as got their living by doing no- 
thing, which, in Glinton,' as elsewhere, was looked 
upon as being decidedly the most genteel method 
of obtaining it, or those who earned it in some re- 



Dunstan finds himself at Home, 179 

spectable, that is professional way, of which section 
the rector, the curate, Dr. Kennedy, and perhaps 
Mr. Strangways, the surgeon, were the sole repre- 
sentatives. 

There was no doubt, however, that Glinton 
society, such as it was, would have been only too 
happy to have held out to Dunstan the right hand 
of fellowship, if only he had been properly intro- 
duced — that process being unfortunately indispens- 
able in order to obtain admission to its various 
privileges. 

For, independently of his position, which, so far 
as it went, was perfectly unexceptionable, he had 
been subjected to a severe scrutiny on two succes- 
sive Sundays during his attendance at church, the 
result of which had been that everyone, with the 
exception, perhaps, of Mrs. MacWirther, whose 
conversation was always slightly depreciating, pro- 
nounced him to be a young man of decidedly pre- 
possessing appearance, and one who seemed likely 
to be quite an addition to the place. 

It was observed by those who were skilled in 

N 2 



180 Rackets Secret. 

such matters, and knew what conclusions might 
legitimately be drawn therefrom, that his linen 
was admirably fine and white, his pocket-hand- 
kerchiefs unexceptionable, his coat well-cut and 
well-brushed, and his necktie modestly unobtru- 
sive in size and colour. Also that he stood straight 
up, instead of lolling with his arm on the side of 
the pew, during those portions of the service in 
which the congregation are instructed to stand, and 
that he kept his eyes discreetly at home during 
sermon time and the reading of the lessons, in- 
stead of allowing them to wander perpetually to- 
wards the front seat in the gallery, where sat the 
two Miss Hillyards, the belles of Glinton, blonde 
beauties, with languishing eyes and complexions 
like a ripe peach, who were not only quite con- 
scious of their good looks, but generally succeeded 
in attracting to themselves a degree of attention 
that not a little scandalized the less favoured portion 
of the feminine half of the congregation ; though 
it would be more correct, perhaps, to say the femi- 
nine three-quarters, for there was the same pre- 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 181 

ponderance of the female element in Glinton that 
may be noticed by even the most superficial ob- 
servers to prevail in most other places. 

This preponderance might possibly be even more 
marked in Glinton than elsewhere, owing to the 
multitude of maiden ladies, of certain or uncertain 
age, who singly, in pairs, or even triplets, occupied 
the group of Gothic cottages which some few years 
ago had been erected by an enterprising builder in 
Bedesby, who having in his possession a strip of 
land just at the end of the village, had built there- 
on a number of elegant little tenements which 
formed almost a suburb in themselves. These 
cottages being, as the advertisements set forth, at 
once genteel in their appearance, and of unusually 
moderate rent, had been immediately swarmed into 
by tenants, chiefly widows and spinsters, whose 
means and requirements corresponded with these 
advantages, their limited incomes and superior 
family connexions, compelling them to keep up an 
u appearance " at the smallest possible outlay. 

Of course such an influx had sadly disturbed the 



182 Rachel a Secret. 

balance that had previously existed in at least a 
respectable degree between the two elements of 
society. It was no longer possible at a Glinton 
entertainment for the hostess to pair off her guests 
to the dinner or the supper-table, a silk dress and 
a dress-coat, a silk dress and a dress-coat, until the 
procession was complete. Indeed, the ladies were 
fast becoming such an overwhelming majority, 
that Dr. Kennedy, who was troubled with facetious- 
ness, and who was apt sometimes to trouble others 
with it too, had been known on one occasion to have 
declared that it would be an unspeakable advan- 
tage tojdie place if some respectable Briareus were 
to settle there, whose hundred arms might afford 
accommodation to as many ladies, seeing that a gen- 
tleman with only two of those appendages found 
himself at times seriously at a loss in the midst of 
such a bevy of unappropriated damsels. 

Not very gallant, certainly, though it must be 
owned that there were extenuating circumstances 
connected with this lapsus linguae of the worthy Doc- 
tor, seeing that he had only the evening before been 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 183 

dragged from his study fire, and compelled to leave 
an uncut Quarterly containing a brilliant contri- 
bution of his own, in order to assist at a muffin 
struggle, where for four mortal hours he and the 
curate had had to do the agreeable or disagreeable, 
as the case might be, to no fewer than eleven of 
the weaker vessels who were assembled to receive 
him. 

It will be obvious from these remarks that the 
advent in Glinton of an eligible single gentleman 
competent to go out to evening parties, and who 
might be bowed to by the most respectable inhabi- 
tants of the place without any serious compromise 
of their position, was an event of considerable im- 
portance to all whom it concerned. 

It was, therefore, from no backwardness on the 
part of the inhabitants themselves that, after a fort- 
night's residence at the Brook Farm, Dunstan found 
himself still on the outside of the bristling fence of 
proprieties with which Glinton society made it a 
point of conscience to surround itself. The truth 
was, Dunstan did not care to put himself out of the 



184 Racheh Seer 



et. 



way in order to obtain what he had no special 
wish to possess. And though some of my readers 
may pronounce him to have been a young man of 
shockingly low tastes, and wonder how he could 
possibly find any pleasure in intercourse with peo- 
ple who were accustomed to take their meals in their 
kitchen, who spoke in such a broad north-country 
accent, talked of " heggs " and " honions," drank 
their tea out of their saucers, and ate their food with 
their knives — all which enormities truth compels 
this chronicler to admit were not unfrequently per- 
petrated in the Brook farm-house, yet Dunstan did 
nevertheless find himself quite content with such 
society as it afforded. 

There was nothing he liked better than to stand 
for ten minutes chatting with Mrs. Doyle as he 
passed through the kitchen, or to listen to the racy 
talk of the farmer as he sat smoking his pipe of 
an evening in the chimney-corner or on the bench 
outside the house. And no wonder, for though these 
north -country farmers are uncouth and rugged in 
their words and ways, yet they are a shrewd, observ- 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 185 

ant set of men ; and, living as they do next door to 
nature and to human nature, their speech acquires 
a fine flavour of mingled sense and humour, with 
sometimes a picturesque force of expression such 
as might be sought for in vain among those whose 
horizon is bounded for the most part by only bricks 
and mortar, and who seldom meet their fellows ex- 
cept upon the steps of the social treadmill. 

But though Dunstan did not go forth himself 
to meet society, society came to him, and it pre- 
sented itself in the person of Mrs. Kennedy, who 
appeared at the door of Mrs. Doyle's kitchen one 
evening when Dunstan was seated on the top of 
the long deal-table that stood under the window, 
engaged in turning over the contents of a box full 
of odds and ends which Susy had just brought him, 
in the hopes of finding therein a bit of green silk 
that might serve for the tail of a fly which he was 
making. 

"Why, it's Mrs. Kennedy, I do declare!" said 
Mrs. Doyle, who was sitting at the further end of 
the table, picking green gooseberries into a collan- 



186 Rackets Secret. 

der, against her great baking next day. And 
she stood up, shook out her apron, and hastened to 
the door to admit her visitor. 

But Mrs. Kennedy's business with Mrs. Doyle her- 
self was soon disposed of. It was only to inquire if 
she would save her a couple of cream cheeses that 
week, which Mrs. Doyle promised with a smile to 
do. No one about Glinton, everybody said, made 
such delicious cream cheeses as those which came 
from the dairy at the Brook Farm, and the good 
woman liked having them bespoken in good time — 
it looked as if they were properly appreciated. 

" And this is Mr. Dayne, I am sure ?" said Mrs. 
Kennedy, turning to Dunstan, and extending to 
him a well-turned, well-gloved hand with a sort of 
careless, queenly air that sat well upon her ; for 
she was a tall, handsome woman, with a frank, 
animated countenance, and a voice which, though 
very clear and pleasant, had in it a certain ring as 
of one who was well accustomed to be obeyed. 

Dunstan bowed, with a half-start of pleased 
surprise — he had descended from his perch upon 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 187 

the table as soon as Mrs. Kennedy had entered, and 
took the hand thus smilingly accorded. 

u We have been hoping to make your acquain- 
tance," she continued, "ever since we heard that you 
were coming to Glinton. You are not aware, perhaps, 
that Dr. Kennedy and your father were old college 
friends." 

Dunstan's face kindled with delight. It was 
such an unexpected pleasure, and he expressed it 
very warmly, to meet thus with one who was as- 
sociated in any way with the memory of either of 
his parents. There were so few things or people in 
the world that were links between him and them, 
and these words of Mrs. Kennedy's seemed to throw 
down at once the barrier of strangerhood, and make 
him feel as if in the Doctor's wife it was some old 
acquaintance that he had found again. 

"Wesawyouin church," she wenton, "the Sunday 
after you arrived. Dr. Kennedy recognized you at 
once, by your resemblance to your father. Indeed, 
he had hoped to have called upon you before now, 
but he has been from home for the last ten days, as 



188 Rackets Secret. 

you may be aware, perhaps. When he returns, I 
trust we shall have the pleasure of seeing you at the 
Lodge." 

Dunstan bowed again, and acknowledged her cour- 
tesy with such evident gratification, that Mrs.Kenne- 
dy was moved to enter into further conversation. A nd 
being in his happiest mood, and there being nothing 
just then to prevent him from appearing to the 
best advantage, he so commended himself to her 
good opinion, that before she went away she had 
renewed her invitation, and begged him to come 
up to the Lodge on the following Saturday to 
dine. 

" For," she said, "Dr. Kennedy is sure to have re- 
turned by then, and I should like to secure you as 
soon as possible. You will come, will you not?" 
she inquired, with a look that said plainly enough, 
" Of course you will — there can be not the slightest 
doubt about it :" and yet with a certain bright per- 
suasive glance, which seemed to imply that by ac- 
cepting her invitation, he would be as much con- 
ferring a favour as accepting one. 



Dunstan finds himself at Home. 189 

But Dunstan was in nowise minded to refuse 
her request, for there was a cordial grace in the 
lady's manner which was quite irresistible to the 
young man, and made the prospect of spending an 
evening at the Lodge too full of attraction for 
him to do other than accept it. Altogether, when 
Mrs. Kennedy took her leave at last, and Dun- 
stan stood bareheaded at the gate and bowed 
to her as she turned to give him a bright part- 
ing glance, he felt as if he could not con- 
gratulate himself enough on the happy chance 
which had thrown in his way what seemed 
likely to be one of the pleasantest acquaintances 
he had ever made. Poor fellow ! he had not 
made many during his life. Fortune seemed 
to have taken a kindness to him now, and 
to be showering all her favours down at once. 



190 



CHAPTER XII. 

dr. Kennedy's wife. 

A GREEN nest of a house, completely swathed 
-^*- in ivy, with a trellised porch covered by 
a tangled mass of honey-suckle and climbing roses, 
whose pale pink clusters were already full in 
bloom. Around it was a gay old-fashioned 
English garden, fenced in by a tall stone wall, 
on whose broad coping flourished a luxuriant 
crop of wall-flowers, snap-dragon, and golden 
moss. And beyond the whole rose a back-ground 
of magnificent elms, in whose branches there 
was going on just now a great cawing and 
general commotion amongst an extensive colony 
of rooks, whose ragged nests were built pretty 
thickly together in the topmost boughs. 

A comfortable place to live in, quaint, quiet. 



Dr. Kennedys Wife. 191 

homelike, shut out as it was from the stir of 
even village life ; bright and cheerful neverthe- 
less. Just the sort of house to make you feel 
as if certainly they must be pleasant people by> 
whom it was inhabited ; people whose acquain- 
ance, if you could, you would like to make. 

This was the Old Lodge, to which, five-and- 
twenty years ago, Dr. Kennedy had brought his 
pretty girl-wife, and where they had lived on ever 
since, though fortune smiled more brightly on them 
now than it had done then, and they might, if the}' 
had cared to do so, have established themselves 
long ago in a more commodious and ambitious 
dwelling. But they loved the old spot where 
they had tasted together the bitters and the sweets 
of life, where their children had been born, where 
one, their little May, had died, and where every 
nook and corner was endeared to them by its as- 
sociation with the past ; loved it too well to leave it. 
And living in it through so many years, the whole 
place seemed to have drunk in something of the 
family life, and to have acquired a character of its 



192 Rackets Secret. 

own, corresponding in some sort to that of its in- 
habitants, as if they had grown and fitted themselves 
together like a lobster and its shell. 

And of all this Dunstan unconsciously took note 
as he passed through the gate in the tall laurel 
hedge, and walked up to the house on this his 
first visit to the Lodge. There was a curi- 
ous medley in the furniture and appointments 
of the room into which he was shown on his 
arrival, for the place had been furnished by de- 
grees, as the means had increased wherewith to 
add luxuries to necessaries. The hard stuffed 
couch, the faded carpet and the great leathern chair, 
in which, as Dunstan opined, the Doctor usually 
sat — for there was a worn place on one side of the 
cushion as if a tired head were wont to turn itself 
there for rest — hardly corresponded with the rich- 
ness of the inlaid Indian cabinets, the beauty of 
the oak carving on the picture frames and brackets, 
and the profusion of choice treasures of art that 
were gathered together. And choice indeed 
they were — queer old etchings, whose fabu- 
lous value none but a connoisseur could ap- 



Dr. Kennedy's Wife. 193 

predate, proof-engravings of some of the great 
modern master-pieces, and statuettes of the most 
faultless workmanship and exquisite design. 

And yet, incongruous as the various details 
were, there was that indescribable air of ease and 
harmony pervading the apartment which betrays 
infallibly the touch of some fine artistic hand, and 
which mere upholstery can never give. Books 
there were, too, littered on every table, and shining 
resplendent in gold and morocco from their shelves 
against the walls ; and by the open French win- 
dow there stood a large raised basket, which exhaled 
a delicious perfume from the wealth of wild hy- 
acinths with which it was filled. 

" Take care of my flowers, Geordie !" 

But before Dunstan could turn to see whence 
the voice proceeded — for he was standing with his 
back to the window examining an engraving of 
Maclise's picture, " The Play-scene in Hamlet" — a 
small brown terrier had rushed out of the garden into 
the room, followed by a sturdy little fellow in a tar- 
tan frock ; and then Mrs. Kennedy herself stepped 

VOL. I. 



194 RacheTs Secret. 

into the room, and with her the Doctor, who looked 
at the moment very much as if, which was really 
the case, he, the terrier, and the child, had all been 
having a game of romps together. 

But there was a native dignity about the Doctor, 
which nothing could derange. He shot a keen 
glance at Dunstan as he entered, and then, his 
wife having introduced -him to their visitor, came 
up and greeted him with an air of genial courtesy 
that made the young man feel himself at once a 
welcome guest. 

But though Mrs. Kennedy merely pronounced 
her husband's name when she presented him to 
Dunstan, it would be altogether unbecoming in me 
to dismiss him with an equally curt introduction 
on this, his first appearance in person upon the 
stage of my history. 

Dr. Kennedy, then, was a man of fine parts, and 
of goodly presence, a keen critic, and a genial com- 
panion; somewhat averse, perhaps, to thinking more 
highly of other men, or women either, than Scrip- 
ture enjoins every man to think of himself, yet 



Dr. Kennedy s Wife. 195 

withal of a nature so generous and kindly that he 
was not undeservedly popular with all the inhabit- 
ants of Glinton, little boys and dogs included. 

He had been senior wrangler at Oxford, and 
had left behind him at his college a name sur- 
rounded still by a halo of proud remembrance, 
and a reputation for scholarship which in after 
years had proved of no small service to him. 

For Dr. Kennedy had had the misfortune to be 
brought up with expectations, instead of to a pro- 
fession — the consequence of which was that he had 
found himself at the outset of life with expensive 
tastes, a penniless young wife, and nothing on 
which to maintain them, except his wits and a pa- 
trimony of some two or three hundred a year in 
place of as many thousands. He was too honour- 
able to enter the Church only for a living, and it 
was too late to studv for anything else. Accord- 
ingly, he had directed his steps into the thorny 
paths of literature, and by the sweat of his brain 
had succeeded at length in obtaining therein both 
name and fame, together with a somewhat larger 

2 



196 Rackets Secret. 

modicum than usual of that worldly pelf by which 
they are not invariably accompanied. 

True, for a long time after their marriage, 
expenses had increased much faster than the 
means of meeting them, and it was not until two 
or three stout roly polies had emerged in jacket 
and trousers from the nursery, that the pair had 
arrived at a satisfactory solution of the great 
modern problem of making both ends to meet. 
They had succeeded, however, at last ; and now it 
would be hard anywhere to find a brighter home, 
or one into which fewer of the cares of this 
troublesome world seemed to find an entrance, 
than that of the Doctor and his wife. 

One great trial they had had. Seven years ago 
they had laid their only daughter May in a little 
grave beneath the churchyard yews. The mother 
had mourned as only mothers can, and then had 
consoled herself in her three handsome boys, but 
the iron had entered into the father s soul ; the 
strongman had bowed himself, and had never risen 
again to quite his former stature. For though he 



Dr. Kennedys Wife. 197 

was proud, as well he might be, of his sons, yet all 
the passionate tenderness of his nature had been 
lavished on the fair frail child, in whose daisy- 
sodded grave his sweetest hopes lay buried. 

Outwardly, however, little change had passed 
upon him, except that he was more gentle, peace- 
able, and easy to be entreated than of old, toiled 
less strenuously with his pen, and had fewer of 
those fitful moods which used to tax so severely 
the patience of his wife. But to-day he seemed 
bent on justifying to Dunstan the eulogium which 
the old sexton had been pleased to pass upon him, 
for right royally did he feast his guest with the 
choicest stores of his richly-furnished mind. He 
was in one of his happiest veins this evening, the 
result, perhaps, in part, of a certain critique 
which had appeared that morning in a column 
in the Times ; and now he poured forth, with 
almost princely prodigality, such a mingled 
stream of wit, wisdom, pathos, and humour, that 
Dunstan, to whom this w T as altogether a novel 
experience, as different from the meagreness of 



198 Rachel 8 Secret. 

his London life as from the homely heartiness 
of that at the farm, found himself again and 
again fairly carried away by the excitement of 
the moment. 

" And now, Mr. Dayne," said the Doctor, as 
they rose from their wine, "I must hand you 
over, I am afraid, for half an hour, to the 
tender mercies of my wife. I have some letters 
to write, which must be ready by the time the 
postman passes on his way to Bedesby. Geordie, 
you stand sentinel at the gate, and the moment 
you see his red coat in the distance, signalize 
the same to me, and I shall be ready by the 
time he gets up to the house." 

Geordie rushed off at once, and the Doctor 
strode out through the French window on to 
the lawn below, and called to his wife, who 
was at the other end of the garden, giving 
directions, apparently, about some arrangements 
in her flower-beds, to an old man who stood in 
his shirt sleeves, wiping down his forehead with 
the back of his hand, and listening in respectful 



Dr. Kennedys Wife. 199 

silence to her instructions. She looked round 
at the sound of her husband's voice, 

" That is right," she exclaimed, advancing 
towards them. "Now, Mr. Dayne, T shall 
carry you off and have you all to myself. I 
feel quite indignant at the way in which the 
Doctor has been monopolising you ever since 
you came. He ought to have considered, you 
know, that this time you are my guest rather 
than his." 

"Such nonsense, Hester!" said the Doctor, 
with a deprecatory wave of his hand, " as if a 
woman could have property in anything apart 
from her husband." 

" So like one of your crotchets !" laughed the 
lady, with a glance of gay resistance. " And 
why not, may I ask ?" 

"My dear, because the law forbids her," 
returned the Doctor, with triumphant gravity. 
" That is, with one exception." 

" And pray what is that f ' demanded his 
wife. 



200 RacMs Secret. 

"Her own way," replied the Doctor, with a 
humorous twinkle in his eye. 

" Well," said Dunstan, venturing into the 
discussion, "I suppose she may be content to 
surrender everything else, so long as she is al- 
lowed to have that." 

"If she did but get it," sighed Mrs. Ken- 
nedy. " But, Mr. Dayne, I shall not allow 
you to talk any longer to the Doctor now. 
You may possibly have a wife of your own 
some day, and I should be sorry, you know, if 
he were to teach you to tyrannise over her — " 

"As you do over me," interrupted the Doc- 
tor, lifting his eyebrows with a gesture of mock 
distress. " My young friend, be warned in time, 
only I fear you won't. You know, don't you. 
what Chaucer says about matrimony ?" 

" No," replied Dunstan, inquiringly, for he 
saw that the Doctor was in a frolicsome 
mood. 

" Why, this — ' Marriage is such a rabble rout, 
that those who are out are fain to get in, and 



Dr. Kennedy s Wife. 201 

those who are in are fain to get out.' Now, 
what do you think of that? And Chaucer, I 
suppose, is an authority not to be despised." 

" Why, I think," replied Dunstan, " that there 
are some sayings, even of great men, which 
are more honoured by being forgotten than re- 
peated." 

The Doctor shrugged his shoulders, and as 
an apt retort did not at the moment present 
itself, he stepped back, and retreating over the 
window-sill into the dining-room, took refuge in 
his letters, leaving his wife and guest to stroll 
round the garden at their leisure." 

So for the second time Dunstan was left 
to a tete-a-tete with the Doctor's wife ; and when 
Mrs. Kennedy was minded to make herself 
agreeable, she could succeed as well as her 
husband in doing so. Indeed, there were few 
women who had more subtle tact than herself 
in drawing others, as by some irresistible attrac- 
tion, into close and intimate relations with her- 
self. As the two walked and chatted together, 



202 Rackets Secret. 

Dunstan began to find something strangely 
piquant to his mental palate in her conversa- 
tion, so sparkling, flowing, full of that in- 
definable charm wherewith some women manage 
to invest even the slightest gossip, but captivat- 
ing him, above all, by its graceful interest in 
himself. And it was so new to Dunstan to 
meet with anyone who showed any sort of 
friendly solicitude in what concerned himself 
alone, that before he was aware, she had 
drawn him out to speak quite freely to her of 
his affairs, his position in life, his hopes and 
prospects, his vexations and disappointments, with 
the exception, indeed, of that little episode of 
the curate's daughter, and that was a subject 
which he carefully avoided. 

So that by the time they had rambled to- 
gether for half an hour through the quiet, old- 
fashioned garden and shrubbery, Mrs. Ken- 
nedy had quite won the confidence of her compan- 
ion, and made herself acquainted with the main 
facts, at least, of the young man's previous history. 



Dr. Kennedys Wife. 203 

Not that Dunstan would have been equally 
communicative under any other circumstances ; 
his mind not being constructed on the prin- 
ciple of an American clock, whose interior 
mechanism is so arranged as to be open to 
indiscriminate inspection. It was just the effect 
of that species of fascination which a clever, 
fine-toned, sunny-hearted woman is pretty sure 
to exert where she is disposed to please, es- 
pecially upon those who, like our friend Dun- 
stan, are perhaps the more susceptible to 
female influence, from having been hitherto 
exposed but little to its power. 

And on her part, also, Mrs. Kennedy, it 
must be owned, was not ill-pleased to note 
in the young man's kindling eye and frank 
discourse, the evidence of that sway which she 
was quite aware she had it in her power to 
wield. For there was no mistake about the fact 
that wherever she went, the Doctor's wife was 
the centre of any circle that she might be in. 
And this not because of any strong-mindedness 



204 MacheTs Secret. 

or domineering force of will, but just by virtue 
of her bountiful overflow of life, her keen, 
bright sympathy with everything and every- 
one around her, and perhaps also of a cer- 
tain love of distinction and ambitiousness of 
disposition, which more than most women she 
possessed. 

And Mrs. Kennedy was one able to make the 
most of whatever faculties she possessed. She was 
blessed with a fine flow of spirits, was never down- 
cast or desponding, never troubled with nervousness 
or headaches or any of those multitudinous minor 
maladies which would seem to have been exclusively 
appropriated by the feebler sex. Helpful, even-tem- 
pered, always buoyant and bright, those only who 
knew her well could detect, now and then, amid 
the glad ring of that musical nature, the soft under- 
tone of tenderness which just hinted and no more 
of the depths of genuine feeling which lay beneath. 
Just the wife, people said, for the Doctor, who was 
oneof those large -brained, humorous, but withal often 
heavy-hearted men, who live too intensely for either 



Dr. Kennedy's Wife. 205 

mind or body to be able always to bear the strain 
imposed upon them, and who are therefore depend- 
ent more than most for peace and comfort upon the 
ministrations of women, whose yielding and elastic 
natures adapt themselves with ease to the varying 
moods of those with whom they have to deal. 

" And now, Mr. Dayne," said the lady, as they 
took a final turn up and down the green beechen 
alley at the end of the garden, "before we go into the 
house to tea, I hope you will remember that while 
you stay in Glinton, you may always be sure of a 
welcome at the Lodge ; or if ever you find your- 
self in a particularly friendless mood, pray come 
up here and let us try to dispel it. You know, if 
it were only for your father' s sake, I should like 
you to feel at home with us ; his friendship was 
a great boon to my husband in his younger 
days, and it would be a pleasure to me to be 
able to repay to his son what we both of us owe 
to him." 

There was a good deal of perception of character 
as well as kindliness of disposition about the Doc- 



206 Rachels Secret. 

tor's wife, and, during her brief intercourse with 
Dunstan, she had been casting in her sounding line, 
and had found already that he was a young man 
well worth cultivating. 

For there was a freshness about him altogether, 
a sort of infectious gladness now in his honest 
sunny face, a certain gusto in even the outspoken 
brusquerie with which he would occasionally oppose 
anything that did not chime in exactly with his 
way of thinking, that was not without its attraction 
to one, who, like Mrs. Kennedy, found the hum- 
drum society of a stagnant little village at times 
oppressively dull. 

" Come any evening," she added, for she could 
see that Dunstan was somewhat doubtful as to 
how far he might avail himself of the privilege 
which she had thus largely accorded ; " come 
any evening. The Doctor seldom goes into his 
study after dinner, and after such taskwork as 
his, a little society is positively a relief to him, 
and Glinton, I am sorry to say, has not very 
much to offer in that direction. Besides," she 



Dr. Kennedy s Wife. 207 

continued with a smile, and perhaps just a 
soupcon of patronage in her tone, "I can see 
that you have made already quite a favourable 
impression on him." 



208 



CHAPTEE XIIL 



AN ENGLISH GIRL. 



T)UT Mrs. Kennedy's last words were lost on 
■^ an unlistening ear, for even while she spoke 
there was heard behind the hedge a peal of 
lojv light laughter, and the tones of a soft 
ringing voice mingling with the Doctor's deeper 
accents ; and then for a second or two the young 
man was conscious of nothing except that there 
stood before him the same radiant girlish figure 
which he had seen for the first time beside the 
stream, the day after his arrival at Glinton, with 
the same blue floating dress, and wide-brimmed 
straw hat, from beneath which fell a shower of 
sunny curls around the fair bright face. 

That was all. The green, flowery garden, 
the Doctor's broad figure, Mrs. Kenned}', every- 



An English Girl. 209 

thing was blotted out except this shining vision 
that had just appeared before him. It was but 
for an instant, though. Through the buzz of 
greeting that succeeded this interruption of their 
tete-a-tete, Dunstan heard Mrs. Kennedy's voice 
pronouncing the words, 

" Mr. Dayne — Miss Gilmour." 

And then he felt a little gloved hand within 
his own, and heard its owner saying, 

" This is not the first time we have ' met, I 
think." 

And then all at once he was himself again, 
bowing low over the hand which he was just 
relinquishing, with the Doctor and Mrs. Kennedy 
standing beside him, and a young lady, who 
was neither a dream nor a vision, but just Miss 
Gilmour of Rooklands, to whom it was necessary 
to say something in reply to the words which 
she had just addressed to him. 

But she spared him the trouble, for already, 
in reply to Mrs. Kennedy's inquiring looks, 
she was explaining how very kind Mr. Dayne 
VOL. I. P 



210 Backers Secret 

had been the other day, for that she was 
sure her poor little Punch must have been 
drowned if he had not come to his assist- 
ance. 

"And I am so glad to be able to thank 
you properly," she went on, turning to Dun- 
stan ; "for I was afraid afterwards that you 
would think I was so rude and ungrateful, 
when you had taken so much trouble to save 
him. But he was so wet and cold, poor 
little fellow, that just at first I was quite 
taken up with him ; and then, when I would 
have thanked you, you were gone. But indeed 
I was very vexed with myself; and you must 
have got sadly wet, too, I am sure, for the 
water is deep there, just against the willow 
trunk." 

" Do not speak of it," said Dunstan, quite 
at his ease now, for the frank way in which 
the girl had expressed her thanks had been 
already like balm to his wounded pride, dis- 
persing any feelings of mortification that might 



An English Girl 211 



have lingered from the remembrance of his little 
misadventure. "Do not speak of it, pray. It 
is I who ought to make an apology, for indeed 
I suspected from the first that I was intruding 
upon private grounds. But that stream was so 
suggestive of trout fishing that I was tempted 
to follow it a little further up." 

" You are fond of fishing, then 9" said the 
Doctor. 

" I daresay the taste survives," replied Dun- 
stan, laughing ; u but to tell the truth, I have 
not handled a rod for years, so that I can 
hardly speak positively on the subject. I have 
so seldom had the opportunity lately of indulg- 
ing myself in that direction." 

"That is a pity," said the Doctor, "for it is 
an art that is lost, like most others, by want 
of practice. It does not require a man to be 
much of an adept, though, in order to catch 
trout in the Skilbeck." 

"Indeed, it does not," said Winn}'. "You 
might think they had been trained to let tliem- 

p 2 



212 Rachels Secret. 

selves be caught, they come up so foolishly 
to take the bait. However, Mr. Dayne, if you 
are fond of the sport, I am sure papa would 
be pleased for you to fish up the Skilbeck 
as far as it lies in our grounds, whenever you 
are so disposed." 

The very thing that Dunstan had been long- 
ing for so much. 

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure,"' 
he answered, wdiile the bright look that crossed 
his face showed plainly enough that his words 
were truth. "But I should be sorry to intrude 
on Mr. Gilmour's kindness." 

" Oh ! you need not be afraid of that," she 
answered. " Lewis was telling him only the 
other day that the stream was getting over- 
stocked. It ought to be fished in more fre- 
quently than it is." 

"Then why not practise a little yourself ? " 
asked the Doctor. "The gentle craft ought not, 
one would think, to be without its charms for 
ladies." 



An English Girl 213 

"I did try once," said Winny, laughing, 
"to please Lewis. He said he did not care to 
go fishing by himself, although he is so fond of 
it. It was so dull," he said, " going alone, and 
he persuaded me to learn, just to be company for 
him, you know. But I was so stupid over it. 
I tangled the line, and got the hook fast in 
the bushes, and all sorts of disasters, and then 
he got out of patience, and said it was not 
worth the trouble of teaching me." 

"I don't suppose it would be," returned the 
Doctor gravely. "You were always a dull 
child, Winny." 

" I know it," she answered, dropping her 
eyes with a demure pretence of humility. 
" But it is not kind of you to remind me of 
the fact. I never tell you disagreeable things. 
For instance, how grey your hair is getting 
just over your temples, like snow in fire, you 
know. It would hurt your feelings, and I should 
be so sorry to do that." 

"Yes, yes. Well, we won't quarrel, little 



214 EacheF s Secret. 

lady," said the Doctor. "We might not make 
it up again, and that would be unfortunate. 
And now come into the house, and let me see 
whether you have practised your part well in 
that duet of Mendelssohn's. You sang it very 
badly the last time I heard you." 

" Oh ! yes, I wanted to have done it better, 
but it was not my fault, exactly. You see 
Lewis had not been in the mood for singing, 
and it is such wretched work hobbling through 
a duet alone. However, I know it quite per- 
fectly now — I do, indeed ! I could sing it all 
through without my notes or anything. Eachel 
Dallas came up to the Hall on Thursday, and 
she tried it over and over with me until I 
knew it by heart. And that reminds me of 
something I had meant to tell you, only I am 
so careless I might have gone away and said 
nothing about it. She says old Mr. Gillespie is 
very ill. He had a sort of fit, or something, 
not long since, and they don't think he will get 
over it." 



An English Girl. 215 

" Poor old man !" said the Doctor. " I had 
not heard of it. So they think he is dying, 
do they? Well, one might almost be thankful 
for it. Life must have been a sore burden to 
him for a long time past. I have wondered, 
sometimes, why he has been allowed to linger as 
he has, unless it were to try the patience of 
both himself and others. Rachel must have 
had a hard task with him." 

" She must, indeed," said Mrs. Kennedy, who, 
with Dunstan, had been listening apart to what 
was going on. " There are very few daughters 
who would have behaved as admirably as she has 
done. The verv sight f such incessant suffer- 
ing must itself have been almost unendurable, 
at times. But there always seems such an im- 
movable passivity about that girl. She is a 
perfect mystery to me. Nothing ever seems 
to take the slightest effect upon her, either 
in one way or another. And yet I can 
hardly think it is because she is destitute of 
feeling." 



216 Backers Secret. 

"I am sure it is not," said the Doctor, 
"only there is not spring enough in her to 
cast off the weight of circumstances. Hers is a 
nature which needs a more than common share 
of happiness in order to develope it, and, in- 
stead of that, she has always led a singularly 
cheerless, saddened life." 

"Rachel Dallas!" said Dunstan, who had been 
listening with interest to the conversation. 
"That is surely the young person who came 
the other Sunday to the farm. She has a 
rather romantic history, has she not?" 

"'Very," replied the Doctor. And there he 
seemed disposed to let the subject drop, for he 
turned again to Winny, bidding her come into 
the house. 

"It begins to be rather chill," he said, 
" standing about out of doors, and yon great 
fire that I see shining through the parlour- 
window, looks decidedly inviting. Come along, 
Winny, and the others will follow." 

But Winny drew back reluctantly. 



An English Girl. 217 

" I should like to stay," she said ; " but I must 
go home. I must, indeed !" 

" Why ' must' ?" said Mrs. Kennedy, with a 
smile. " Is there anything going on at Rook- 
lands to make your presence such a matter of 
necessity that you cannot spare us so much as 
half an hour?" 

" Oh ! no," answered Winny ; " only, if I 
don't go back directly it will be quite dusk 
before I get home. Don't ask me, please," she 
went on, in a tone of pretty entreaty ; " I would 
so much rather go, if you will allow me ! " 

" If we will allow you ! — of course we will 
allow you, if you have made up your mind to 
go. You would be disagreeable otherwise, 
probably, and spoil our evening," said the 
Doctor; "but I don't see why you need be in 
such a hurry to get away. It will be light for 
an hour or two yet." 

" I know what it is !" burst in Geordie, who 
had been careering about the garden with 
Ponto, Winny's dog. " She doesn't like going 



218 Rachels Secret. 

down the Cedar Walk after sunset. They 
have seen the ghost there again, and everybody 
is talking about it. Fred Stacey told me that 
old Stead, the tailor up at Edge-end, saw it 
one night last week when he had been taking 
home a coat for Michael, and it gave him 
such a turn that he had to go into the 
' Chequers ' for a glass of something to bring 
him round." 

"I am afraid old Stead would find as bad 
spirits at the ( Chequers ' as any he would 
meet with in the Cedar Walk," said Mrs. 
Kennedy. " But you need not try to frighten 
Miss Gilmour, Geordie, with all the ghost-tales 
you hear in the village." 

"Oh! but I don't frighten her, mamma, she 
was frightened before. Nobody likes to go 
down the Cedar Walk now. Fred Stacey says 
so. Not unless they have some one with them." 

"Nonsense, Geordie," said Winny. "There 
is no ghost, and I don't suppose I should meet 
it if there were." 



An English Girl. 219 

But though she tried to laugh away Geordie's 
insinuation, a tell-tale blush, that rose unbidden 
to her face, seemed to imply that Winny was 
not quite proof against the fears inspired by the 
weird frequenter of the Cedar , Walk. 

u Nonsense, Geordie," echoed his mother. 
"Little boys believe anything that is told 
them." 

"It isn't nonsense, though," persisted Geordie, 
who was seldom to be dispossessed, except by main 
force, of an idea that he had once acquired. 
" You can ask anybody you like, and they will 
tell you there is a ghost at Rooklands, and 
has been for hundreds of years." 

"That will do, Geordie, that will do," said 
his father. " We don't want to hear anything 
more about the ghost at present. Take Ponto 
and have a race with him in the paddock. 
Miss Gilmour won't want him just yet." 

Geordie went off in silence with the dog. 
No one ever disobeyed the Doctor. 

" And now, Winny, come away into the house, 



220 Backers Secret. 

and let us find something livelier to talk about 
than this ghost of Geordie's. Why, child, you 
are looking almost as scared as if you had seen 
it yourself." 

And so she did. For the sudden flush had 
died away, and there was a dubious quiver on 
the curved under-lip which might resolve itself 
into a smile, but was just as likely to end in 
something quite the reverse. For Winny's was 
one of those guileless, transparent natures, too 
innocent to hide by art anything by which she 
was either distressed or pleased. And it was 
evident just now that this passing cloud had 
overcast the little soul, a moment ago so bright. 

" Don't send Ponto away," she pleaded ; u I 
want him to go back with me. I am sure it 
will be dark in the plantation before I get 
home." 

. " In the Cedar Walk you mean," said the 
Doctor. '" Now, Winny, listen to reason. You 
come into the house with us, and take off your 
hat and cloak, and behave yourself like a sen- 



An English Girl 221 

sible girl, as you are, and Mr. Dayne shall take 
you home after awhile ; and then if you should 
chance to meet with anything on the way, you 
can run away in company. That will be much 
better than you and Ponto trotting off by your- 
selves. Mr. Dayne will oblige me, I am sure." 
Of course Mr. Dayne would be only too 
happy to render such a pleasant service both to 
Dr. Kennedy and to Miss Gilmour also, if the 
young lady would do him the honour to accept 
him as an escort. Indeed, though he did not 
say so much as this, Dunstan thought that no- 
thing in the world could have been more agree- 
able to him just then than this proposal of the 
Doctor's. For he had great confidence in his 
powers of pleasing, and even while the little 
colloquy was going on, had resolved within him- 
self to make a better use of this opportunity than 
of his former one, and, if possible, to commend 
himself as effect nally to her good graces, as she 
had already commended herself to his. A con- 
sideration which made him reply so readily to 



222 Rochets Secret. 

Dr. Kennedy's proposal, that Winny smilingly 
withdrew her hesitating protest against troubling 
him with so long a walk on her account ; and 
the matter being settled to everybody's satisfac- 
tion, the little party went indoors, where there 
was a blazing fire rollicking in the parlour 
grate, and all the means and appliances for 
spending a choice and cozy hour. 

" Now, Winny," said the Doctor, when the tea 
urn had been sent out, and all were settled 
down again, "look out your music from that 
portfolio, and let us hear what you have been 
doing." 

" No, no," said Winny, shaking her head, 
" please don't! I would much rather not. Let 
us sit down here and talk ; it would be so much 
nicer. And it has been so dull at Rooklands ; 
I have had hardly anyone all day long to talk to 
except Punch." 

" And what have you been talking about ? " 
asked Mrs. Kennedy with a laugh. 

"Are you sure you don't tell him any 



An English Girl 223 

secrets ?" said the Doctor. " He might not 
keep them perhaps, and then he would get you 
into trouble." 

" He can't, for I haven't any to tell him," 
said Winny ; " but if I had, 1 would trust him 
with them as soon as anybody else. Punch is 
a very good dog. You don't know him so well 
as I do. And he is not at all bad company. 
I am quite sure he understands what I say to 
him ; indeed he does almost everything but talk 
himself." 

"Well, well, we won't depreciate Punch. 
No doubt he is a dog of good average abili- 
ties — but where is this music? We have got 
company to-night, and Mr, Dayne expects, no 
doubt, to be entertained. Come, we are wait- 
ing." 

"I can't to-night, I am not in the mood," 
answered Winn}", with a look of entreaty, 
half piteous, half perverse. "And, besides, I 
don't like singing before " 

"Finish your sentence, Miss Gihnour," said 



224 RacheVs Secret. 

Dunstan, smiling in spite of himself. " You 
were going to say, you don't like singing be- 
fore strangers ; and I am afraid at present I 
must plead guilty to being one, though I hope 
I shall not continue so very long. But it would 
be too cruel to punish me for what is no fault 
of mine." 

"Oh no," said Winny in some confusion. 
" I did not mean that exactly ; but I really 
don't feel like singing to-night. Pray ask Doc- 
tor Kennedy not to make me. He is so tyran- 
nical over me," and she glanced archly at 
the Doctor, "perhaps he will attend to 
you." 

"Because I am a stranger?" asked Dun- 
stan. 

"I suppose so. But would it not be much 
nicer for us all to sit and talk round this 
charming fire than to drag you away to the 
piano to admire my bad singing." 

"Very much better," answered Dunstan, 
bowing profoundly, and thinking in his heart 



An English Girl 225 

that nothing could be more pleasant than listen- 
ing to the merry badinage that was going 
around him. Not that Winny ever said any- 
thing specially striking or original, for she 
was not at all what people would call a 
"superior" girl, indeed, if anything, she was 
rather the reverse, her faculties, what she had, 
lying at present at least, much more in the 
region of the heart than of tne head. But 
everyone knows what a charm there often is 
about the pretty nothings that fall from such 
a pair of rosy lips as Winny's, especially when 
accompanied by all the attendant witchery of 
dimpling smiles, and bewildering little gestures, 
and sweet, stray glances from laughter-loving 
eyes. 

"Very much better," he repeated. And 
Winny, having gained her point at last, 
clapped her little hands, and darted a trium- 
phant glance across the fireplace at the Doctor, 
who returned it by a gesture of mock sub- 
mission, and then threw himself back resignedly 

VOL. I. Q 



226 Backers Secret. 

into the cushioned recesses of his chair, as if 
he might as well, perhaps, make up his mind 
to endure the infliction of small talk, which he 
saw to be inevitable. 

The Doctor was still a noble-looking man, 
though he was on the verge of fifty, and as 
Winny had said, was getting decidedly grey 
upon the temples. He had the broad cogita- 
tive nose of a man who thinks much, and 
to the point ; the sensitive mouth and finely 
moulded chin of one in whom the strength 
of manhood is tempered with something of a 
woman's tenderness and fineness ; the even brow 
and luminous, deep-set eyes, which, when found 
together, usually indicate a mind possessing 
equally the power of self-control, and the faculty 
of bringing others into relation with itself. 
And now, as the firelight shone upon his head, 
thrown out as it was into relief by the crim- 
son cushion behind it, its aspect of content- 
ment and repose seemed to bring out into 
more vivid contrast the expression of abound- 



An English Girl 227 

ing untried life that looked forth from the 
faces of his young companions. Winny, so 
full of buoyant grace, sparkling and changing 
at every instant, and the other with that proud 
tawny head, and the bright, somewhat defiant 
face, which told plainly enough of a spirit not 
yet broken in to obey reason rather than impulse, 
one which would need some bruisings and fall- 
ings in the mire before it had learned that 
it is at times infinitely harder for a man to 
get the mastery over himself than to overcome 
any amount of adverse circumstances. 

But this evening everything seemed just fitted 
to bring into play all that was most bright 
and kindly in the young man's disposition. For 
certainly there was something in the very at- 
mosphere of the Lodge that caused the fairest 
self of everyone gathered there to blossom 
out. Dull people found there that they had 
something to say; shy ones felt themselves at 
ease ; stiff ones found the backbone of self- 
assertion begin to bend; in short, by some 

Q2 



228 Backers Secret. 

happy infection, the Doctors guests usually 
became oblivious of themselves, and proportion- 
ately alive to all that was pleasant in those 
around them. 

And to-night the Doctor was in one of his 
most genial moods, and Mrs. Kennedy even 
more gracious and bountiful than usual, and 
Winny — but nothing, Dunstan thought, could 
possibly be more delightful than to look at her 
as she sat on a low seat by the side of Mrs. 
Kennedy's chair, to watch that pretty girlish 
face with its changing play of quietness and 
mirth, and to listen for the dimpling laugh that 
greeted each quaint sally of the Doctor's. 

Some one has said, I do not know how truly, 
that England is the only country in the world 
where, on a summer's day, a man may enjoy 
the luxury of lying out of doors in the sun- 
shine. Everywhere else it is so hot that you 
are nearly broiled, or so damp and cold that 
you must do it at the risk of rheumatism or 
catarrh. It may be so, I cannot tell, but this 



An English Girl. 229 

may be received as an undoubted fact, that in 
no other land can there be found anything 
equivalent to a genuine English girl — such a 
girl, for instance, as was Winifred Gilmour. 
There are charming women, no doubt, and 
lovely children elsewhere, but only here do we 
meet with that delicious blending of woman- 
hood and childhood, the dewy freshness of the 
one lingering into the bloom and ripeness of 
the other, which belongs to the maidens of this 
sea-girt isle alone. 

Winifred Gilmour was more than nineteen, 
so that she could not by any accommodation of 
the term be called a child. I have seen sober 
matrons, wearing with dignity and discretion 
the meek crown of wifehood and motherhood, 
who had not counted more summers than 
Winny. And yet there was really very little 
of the woman about her beyond the sweet 
rounded form, moulded as it was after the 
most perfect pattern of feminine grace, and her 
voice, which was singularly rich and soft, full 



230 RaclieTs Secret. 

of cadences and vibrations that gave to even 
her lightest chatter a certain air of sweetness 
and repose; a voice which, when she spoke, 
seemed to touch and surround you like a frag- 
rant floating vapour; one, indeed, that seemed 
hardly in keeping with everything else about 
her, for tones like these are usually the index 
to a nature at once intense and sensitive, capa- 
ble of profound and passionate emotion ; and 
looking into Winny's sunny face, it seemed 
hardly possible to imagine that even a passing 
cloud should ever have leave to cast its shadow 
over it. 

For a sunny face it was, with a pair of the 
merriest blue eyes, through which the happy 
little soul seemed to be always looking gladly 
out, and a cunning dimple that appeared in 
each rosy cheek every time she laughed, which 
she did very often, showing all her white teeth, 
so that her mouth became then almost as bright 
as her eyes. 

So Dunstan sat there, and looked and 



An English Girl 231 

listened, and took his part in all that was 
going on, with a zest that showed how keenly 
he was relishing this blink of society; and felt, 
on the whole, much as a tropical plant might 
be supposed to feel, which has been raised in some 
bleak unkindly atmosphere, and then is sud- 
denly transported to its own native land, where 
a richer life thrills through the balmy air, and 
the lavish sunshine warms each pinched blossom 
into beauty. 

But while the fun was still flowing thick and 
fast — for to-night the Doctor was in one of his 
maddest, merriest moods, and, as was always 
the case, brought everyone else into the same 
humour as himself — the bronze timepiece on the 
mantelshelf tinkled out the hour of nine, and 
Winny started up, exclaiming that really she 
must not stay any longer; they would be get- 
ting uneasy at home about her, for she had not 
even told them where she was going. It was of 
no use trying now to persuade her to remain. 
The little lady could be decided when she 



232 Rackets Secret. 

pleased, only when Mrs. Kennedy said that it 
would be taking Mr. Dayne away so very early, 
she looked perplexed, as if this was a thought 
that had not occurred to her before. 

"Let her go — let her go," said the Doctor. 
" They will be sending some one, perhaps, to 
seek her;" and with that he rose and stretched 
and shook himself, as if he had just escaped 
from some tedious infliction. "She had better 
go, if Mr. Dayne will excuse our dismissing 
him so early." 

So Winny got leave to depart, and then 
Dunstan took her under his protection and set 
off towards Eooklands, feeling, if the truth 
were told, not altogether dissatisfied with the 
way in which his evening at the Lodge had 
been cut short. 



233 



CHAPTER XIV. 

FOUR FEET ON THE FENDEE. 

" T LIKE that young man exceedingly," said 
-*- the Doctor, when they had settled down 
again, after seeing their guests depart. "There is 
the right sort of stuff in him, if I am not mis- 
taken. Plenty of grit, and yet you can see at 
a glance that his mother has been a woman to 
be loved. Poor girl! How Dayne used to hold 
forth to me at College about her, and I daresay 
she was all he thought her, too. We will have 
him down here pretty often, Hetty. It will do 
us good to import a little young life among us, 
I was feeling the other day as if I were beginn- 
ing to get into years. There is nothing so good 
for a middle-aged man like me as having young 



234 BacheFs Secret. 

folks about him. It keeps the youth in him 
better than anything else that I know of." 

"We have Winny Gilmour here often 
enough," observed Mrs. Kennedy, somewhat ab- 
sently for her. 

" Ah, yes ! Winny, poor child ! " said the Doc- 
tor. " She is a good little thing as far as she goes. 
But she is but a girl, and besides there is too 
much of the saccharine element about her at pre- 
sent. She wants just a little mixture of the 
acid and the bitter. There is no such thing 
as stirring her up to anything like having a will 
or a way of her own. It spoils her completely. 
A girl is good for nothing unless she has a 
little resistance in her composition ; there is 
nothing to lay hold of if she hasn't. You may 
as well try to made a meal of the pink froth 
on the top of a trifle. Pretty to look at, and 
nothing more." 

"It is very true," said his wife, who was still 
seated gazing into the fire, as if she were seek- 
ing something among the glowing coals. 



Four Feet on the Fender. 235 

"1 don't feel at all satisfied, about it," pur- 
sued the Doctor. "It is a bad thing for her, 
I am sure it is, living shut up so constantly in 
that gloomy old place. She never gets the least 
glimpse of society anywhere but here. We must 
try to bring her out a little more, Hester, and give 
her more confidence in herself. She really 
wants it. She is as much of a child now in 
her ways, as most girls are at fifteen." 

"So she is," answered Mrs. Kennedy. And 
there the conversation dropped. The Doctor 
reached himself a pamphlet that he had half 
finished reading, and the lady relapsed into the 
reverie which his remark had hardly interrupted. 

Yes, as the Doctor had said, Winny was a 
dear little thing, though there was almost too 
much simplicity about her. No one could help 
loving her. And as Mrs. Kennedy mused on, 
the woman's heart within her went out tenderly 
after the motherless girl. But yet — Cyril was 
her eldest born, the very joy and glory of her 
life, and a young man's success in life depended 



236 Backers Secret. 

so much upon the sort of wife he got. Winny 
would never have dignity enough to assist him 
in maintaining anything like a position in society. 
And portionless as well ! 

And Mrs. Kennedy's thoughts ran back to her 
own early married life, with its privations and 
many cares, and she remembered how anxiety 
and overwork and strife with poverty, had fur- 
rowed her husband's brow, and bowed his head, 
and fretted his nerves before he had even 
reached his prime. Her brave bright Cyril! 
No, it could not be ; and yet she trembled lest 
what she hoped was fancy only might ripen in- 
to love. Of one thing she was certain. Winny 
had not lost her heart, at all events. But then 
she was such a gentle little thing, she never 
could bear to give pain to anything, not even 
to a dog, and if Cyril were to urge his suit, 
she would be sure not to deny it. 

So Mrs. Kennedy felt assured. What mother 
of a son like Cyril ever imagined it possible 
that her boy should choose in vain ? 



Four Feet on the Fender. 237 

And in August he was coming home. She 
sighed, and the Doctor looked up and glanced 
inquiringly at her for an instant ; then turned to 
his book again. 

But Mrs. Kennedy did not always tell her 
husband what was passing in her mind. Women 
seldom do. Perhaps too, after this stage, her 
thoughts, if such they could be called, were 
too vague and shadowy to be able exactly to 
shape themselves in words. 

Yes, it was better for Cyril that he should 
bear the momentary pain of losing Winny than 
be trammelled all his life by the results of an 
imprudent marriage. And this Mr. Dayne was 
all that could be wished for in a young man, 
except of course that at present he was poor. 
But then his prospects were good, and he was 
one who would be sure to make his way in time. 
And Winny was young, only nineteen. Four 
or five years' time would still be soon enough 
for her to marry. 

But at this point in her meditations, Mrs. 



238 Rachel? 8 Secret. 

Kennedy rose hastily, as if half-ashamed of 
the direction in which her thoughts had wan- 
dered, took the pamphlet out of her husband's 
half-reluctant hands, and sat down beside him 
to finish aloud the last chapters of a new novel 
that they had been reading together the evening 
before. 



239 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE SQUIRE OF ROOKLANDS. 

OF course everyone knows, or if they do not, 
they are hereby advised of the fact, that 
a moonlight walk on a soft May evening, 
with such a charming little companion as Winny 
Gilmour, is a thing that may fairly be reckoned 
among the luxuries of life. 

So Dunstan thought, at all events, when 
they had looked back to the open door where 
Mrs. Kennedy and the Doctor stood nodding 
them a bright farewell, and were fairly started, 
side by side, on the road which led to Rook- 
lands. 

" Did you know Doctor Kennedy before you 
came here?" said Winny, after a little scattered 
talk had passed between them. » 



240 Rackets Secret. 

" No," said Dunstan ; " I never even spoke 
to him until to-day, though he was an old 
friend of my father's. They were at college 
together." 

" Ah ! that must be a long time ago," said 
Winny, softly. "Then is your father dead, 
Mr. Dayne?" 

"Yes, he died not long after I was born. I 
don't remember him at all." 

Winny was silent for an instant. 

"And your mother?" she asked, in a half- 
hesitating tone. 

"She died too, not long after. I can only 
just remember her." 

"And have you no brothers or sisters?" 

"No one," replied Dunstan; "nor aunt nor 
cousin, nor anyone belonging to me, except an 
old half-uncle, who, I daresay, hardly knows 
whether I am alive or dead." 

"That must feel very strange," said Winny 
gravely, as if she were trying to realise the 
situation, "to have no relations at all. What 



The Squire of Rooklands. 241 

should you do if you were to be ill? I mean, 
very ill indeed ? " 

"I don't know," answered Dunstan, smiling 
at the girl's simplicity; "I never thought about 
it. I suppose I should die, or perhaps get 
better." 

It was not a particularly bright subject that 
they had contrived to hit upon. 

"But suppose you didn't get better," she 
said, in a musing voice; "there would be no 
one to be sorry for you if you died. That 
must be very bad. I should not like it myself 
at all." 

" But what difference could it make to you ?" 
said Dunstan. "You would not be here to know 
anything about it." 

" No, to be sure," she answered ; " still, I 
should not like it." 

And then for awhile both were silent, 
and only the sound of Winny's tripping steps 
and of her companion's firmer tread wore 
to be heard. 4 

VOL. I. R 



242 Rackets Secret. 

But by-and-by the soft voice began again. 

li Don't you like Doctor Kennedy very much?" 

" Very much," answered Dunstan, " what 
little I have seen of him. He is a fine man. 
One does not often meet with his equal." 

" And Mrs. Kennedy too," said Winny ; 
" she is so bright and so kind. She always 
makes you feel as if the sun were shining. 
I don't think* anything in the world could 
make her dull or still like some people. She 
is always just the same as she was to-night. 
And I have known her for a great many years 
— ever since I was quite a little girl. Before 
Lewis had his tutor, he and I used to go 
to the Lodge to have our lessons with Ber- 
tie — that is their second boy ; he is at Eton 
now ; and afterwards Mrs. Kennedy was so 
kind as to teach me to play and sing. You 
know, there is not anyone in Glinton who 
teaches music ; and she said it would be such 
a pity for me not to learn. Was it not good 
of her to take so much trouble ! And she 



The Squire of Rooklands. 243 

sings so beautifully. Did you hear her sing to- 
day r 

"No," said Dunstan ; "I had no opportunity. 
We were only just going into the house when 
you came to us." 

" Ah ! that is a pity. The next time you 
go, you must ask her to let you hear her. 
It was so nice when Cyril was at home. We 
used all three to sing together." 

' 'Cyril — who is he?" asked Dunstan. 

" Oh ! don't you know ? He is their eldest 
son. But he is not at home now. He is 
in London ; he is going to be a barrister, and 
everybody thinks so much about him, he is so 
very clever. Why, he got the Clifford medal 
when there were nearly tw r o hundred candidates 
trying for it besides himself." 

" Indeed !" said Dunstan, who did not know 
exactly what the Clifford medal was, though he 
felt at the moment as if he had rather it had 
been any other of the two hundred candidates 



who had succeeded in obtaining it. 



R 2 



244 Rachel! & Secret, 

" But you know," she went on, " you would 
never tell that he was so clever, for he is not 
proud in the least, he is just as nice as if he 
were only like other people. And when he is 
at home he makes such fun for us. He is 
always thinking of something to amuse us. 
We acted a play last Christmas when he 
was here ; we had it in the oak dining- 
room at home, and we had proper dresses 
and everything. It was so nice, }'ou can't 
imagine !" 

" And did you perform too ?" asked Dun- 
stan. 

" Oh ! yes, only I could not help laughing, 
and spoiled my part But Cyril was very good. 
He said it was not as if it had been real act- 
ing, for we were only doing it for our own 
amusement, and if we did but enjoy ourselves, 
it was just the same as if we played ever so 
well." 

"But you had an audience, surely?" said 
Dunstan. 



The Squire of Rooklands. 245 

" Ah ! that was the worst of it. We had 
papa and Lewis, and we let old Michael and 
Phipps and Mrs. Bray come in — they are the 
servants; but, you see, we never do have com- 
pany at home, papa does not like it, and 
there was nobody we knew in the village that 
we could invite, except two or three whom 
we wanted for actors. But we did just as 
well without an audience, only that there was 
no clapping. I suppose the servants did not 
exactly like to clap, and papa and Lewis 
scarcely ever do care for anything. It was very 
good of them to look on." 

This father of hers must be an uncomfort- 
able sort of man, said Dunstan to himself, 
and as he looked round in the dusk at 
Winny's soft, bright face, and listened to her 
innocent talk, he half wondered how so fair 
a flower could have sprung up at all on such 
an .unkindly soil as that Rooklands home of 
hers. 

" You know," she went on, " Lewis can't 



246 Rackets Secret. 

enjoy himself like other people, because he is 
not strong, and Doctor Hansford says that 
exertion, perhaps, might injure him. The only 
thin^ that he is reallv fond of is fishing- it 
does not fatigue him at all ; but then he says 
it is so dull going out by himself, and there 
is no one that he can ask to join him, except 
Cyril, when he is at home. That made me 
so glad when you said you liked it too, be- 
cause I thought if you could get to know 
each other, you would be such nice company 
for him." 

" What an innocent little thing it is, to be 
sure," thought Dunstan, with an inward smile, 
though he was glad enough to hear her renew 
the subject, which, in truth, he had almost for- 
gotten till thus reminded of it. 

For certainly it was a great piece of good- 
fortune to have entered thus easily on a 
privilege which he could hardly have ventured 
awhile ago to have even hoped for. And 
though possibly the young heir of Rooklands 



The Squire of Rooklands. 247 

might not be quite so pleasant a companion as 
his sister, they might have some very good 
sport together nevertheless. 

But by this time they had reached the tall 

i 

spiked fence which marked the boundary of the 
grounds around the Hall. 

"This is the gate," said Winny, when they 
had gone on a little further. 

It opened with a rusty groan, as Dunstan 
pushed it back upon its hinges, and then they 
found themselves in the Cedar Walk. And 
certainly, any one given to superstitious fears 
might have been almost pardoned for indulg- 
ing them in this eerie solitude. Winny hushed 
her chatter as the shadows of the tall sepul- 
chral trees closed over them. Even Dunstan 
felt oppressed by the unquiet silence that 
reigned around, and chilled through by the 
influence that seemed to distil from the gaunt 
black trunks, and the fibrous foliage through 
which the moonbeams were trickling sparsely 
with a w T an, cold light. 



248 Rachels Secret. 

Involuntarily they quickened their steps, till, 
in a few moments, they emerged into the open 
space, half lawn, half shrubbery, that lay before 
the house. 

The moon shone down here so sharp and 
"bright, that Dunstan could perceive distinctly 
even the details of the building. It was a 
rambling, ragged-looking place, with that inde- 
finable air about it which one may observe 
in houses as in persons, of having once known 
better days, but as if it had reached at last that 
state of apathy in which it had ceased to be 
any longer mindful of keeping up appearances. 
The stonework was damp, decayed, and stained 
in places with a greenish moss ; untidy creepers 
straggled over the walls, and at one end several 
of the windows had been rudely boarded up, 
while the overgrown shrubbery, the shaggy lawn, 
and the untended borders, seem to have been 
long abandoned to neglect, though here and 
there, amid the rank luxuriance of unpruned 
roses, honeysuckles and flowering shrubs, a patch, 



The Squire of RooMands, 249 

less untidy than the rest, seems to hint at some 
feeble effort to subdue the prevalent disorder. 

Winny passed by the front of the house, 
where a broad weedy road led up to a large 
recessed door surmounted by a crumbling coat 
of arms, and went round by a more frequented 
path to a smaller side entrance. A belt of im- 
mense Portugal laurels, which must have been 
a hundred years at least in attaining their pre- 
sent unwieldy growth, flanked this side of the 
house ; and on the gravel path beneath them, 
half hidden in the shadow that they cast, a 
dark figure was pacing slowly up and down. 

" There is papa !" cried Winny, and leaving 
Dunstan to follow, she ran up to him. 

" I have been at the Lodge, papa. I was so 
afraid you would be wondering where I was." 

He stood still, and looked up at the sound of 
her voice. 

" Is that you, Winifred ? " he said. " I judged 
where yon would be ; but you should not have 
staid away so long without letting us know. I 



250 Rachels Secret. 

have just sent Michael there to seek you." 

" I am very sorry, but I could not help it," 
said Winny. " They would make me stay, and 
Dr. Kennedy said I should not come back 
alone." 

She turned to Dunstan, as if for the moment 
she had forgotten him, and introduced him to 
her father. 

"This is Mr. Dayne, papa. It is the gentle- 
man who saved poor little Punch from drown- 
ing. He has been so kind as to bring me 
home." 

Mr. Gilmour bowed and gave his hand to 
Dunstan, as he acknowledged, though without 
the slightest touch of cordiality, the services of 
his daughter's escort. 

" We are much obliged to you," he said ; " but 
I am afraid you have been brought some dis- 
tance out of your way." 

"I am not sure," said Dunstan, "for I am a 
stranger in the neighbourhood and scarcely 
know as yet how the roads lie ; but if I have. 



The Squire of Roohlands. 251 

it is of no consequence. I am happy to have 
had it in my power to render Miss Gilmour any 
service." 

And as he had now accomplished his ap- 
pointed task of bringing the young lady safely 
home, Dunstan was preparing, with these words, 
to take his leave. But Winny interrupted him, 
for drawing her father a little aside, she said 
something to him in an undertone. 

" Certainly," he replied aloud ; " if Mr. Dayne 
is fond of fishing, he is perfectly welcome to 
any sport which he may find in the stream 
here; and if he will do Lewis the favour now 
and then to accompany him, it will be a great 
kindness, I am sure." 

There was a stately indifference altogether in 
the way in which the desired permission was 
accorded, that jarred slightly on Dunstan, though 
he was not disposed on that account to refuse 
the proffered courtesy. 

"I shall be glad to avail myself of your per- 
mission," he said. "There is nothing which I 



252 Rachels Secret. 

enjoy more than an hour's fishing now and 
then, but I must not trespass too often on your 
kindness." 

"You will not do that," replied Mr. Gil- 
mour. " I believe the stream is overstocked 
already. Lewis was saying so this morning." 

As he spoke, a casement in the mullioned 
window behind them opened, and the same 
slight, fair-haired lad looked out, whom Dunstan 
had seen the other morning in the church. 

" So you have come home at last, Win," he 
said, in a thin, boyish voice. " Where have you 
been hiding yourself all this time — we thought 
you were lost?" 

" I have only been at the Lodge," she 
answered; "I could not get away sooner. .But 
come out, Lewis, we have something to tell 
you." 

" Stay where you are, Lewis," said his 
father. "What are you thinking of, Wini- 
fred, to bring him out into the night air. 
Mr. Dayne will, perhaps, go in with us." 



The Squire of Rooklands. 253 

Dunstan hesitated, pleading the lateness 
of the hour as an excuse for not intrud- 
ing. 

" You will not intrude," said Mr. Gilmour ; 
" we shall be glad if you will go in." 

And turning, he led the way into the 
house, followed, not unwillingly, by Dun- 
stan. 

They went in, and crossing a wide hall, 
entered what seemed to be a library, though it 
was not easy to distinguish anything in it, 
there being no light beyond that afforded by 
a dull red fire and the slant moonbeams 
which fell through the window across the 
floor. 

" How gloomy it is in here," cried Winny. 

And going to the fire, she stirred it to a 
dancing blaze which gleamed merrily on the 
little group around it. 

The lad's face looked pleasanter, Dunstan 
fancied, than when he had seen it in the 
pew at church. The restless, querulous expres- 



254 Rachel! s Secret, 

sion was gone, and as they began to talk of 
the fishing, which had brought about this un- 
expected introduction, it lit up with an eager 
delight that gave it at times a faint resem- 
blance to the bright countenance of his 
sister. 

Even the stern features of Mr. Gilmour 
seemed to relax, as he stood leaning with his 
elbow on the mantel-shelf, listening to the 
plans which already the two young men were 
making for going out together the very next 
evening ; and a gleam of strange tenderness stole 
into his eye as it rested on the pale face of the 
lad. 

Dunstan, glancing aside for an instant, was 
struck by that same expression of intense and 
yearning fondness which he had noticed in the 
church, as if, indeed, this passionate attachment 
to his son were the one living spot in the dead 
and frozen nature of the man. Which, in truth, 
it was ; and the doors of Rooklands might have 
been barred for ever against Dunstan, had it 



The Squire of Rooklauds. 255 

not been for the thought that by admitting him 
he might open the way to some gratification for 
the lad. 

Whether it was the idea of the fishing ex- 
cursion that excited Lewis, or whether, as Mrs. 
Doyle would say, that Mr. Dayne was such a 
gracious young man, and perhaps more so than 
usual to-night, but certainly during the ten 
minutes that Dunstan staid, Lewis seemed to 
have conceived already a liking for him, enough, 
at all events, to make Mr. Gilmour second, 
with something almost of warmth in his man- 
ner, the parting request that Dunstan would 
not forget the engagement, but appear as 
early as might be on the following evening ; 
a promise which he was in no wise loath to 
make. 

Another moment, and the door was closed 
behind him, and Dunstan was out again under 
the stars, hurrying on towards the Ghost's 
Avenue, too well pleased both with himself and 
his evenings adventures to cast more than a 



256 Rackets Secret. 

passing glance towards the sombre front of the 
house, on which now the moonlight gleamed 
with a cold relentless stare, casting sharp 
shadows under the eaves and within the re- 
cess of the unused portico, towards which a 
tall elm that stood not far away thrust down a 
lank and leafless arm, as if for ever pointing 
mutely to the spot where twenty years ago the 
dead woman had sat through the winter night, 
leaning against the oaken panels of the door, 
which the master of Rooklands himself had 
opened in the pale morning light to receive his 
ghastly guest. 

But of all this Dunstan thought nothing ; as 
indeed, how should he, with the remembrance 
of such an evening as he had just spent to 
look back upon, and the prospect of others, 
brighter still, perhaps, which stretched in inde- 
finite succession before him. Yes, it seemed as 
if life really was beginning now to be a very 
pleasant thing. 



257 



CHAPTER XVI. 



THE IVORY GATE 



TT often happens that a common interest 
■*■ will rapidly bind quite opposite natures 
into very intimate relations with each other, 
and so it was, that after this somewhat odd 
and unexpected introduction to the family at 
Rooklands, Dunstan found himself a pretty con- 
stant visitor at the house. For now that he 
had met with a companion who pleased his 
fancy, Lewis Gilmour had taken to fishing 
with the wayward eagerness of a spoiled and 
petted lad, who has been brought up in the 
fixed idea that to please himself is' the sole 
aim of life, and who not unfrequently finds 
the task more irksome than agreeable. 

The mornings might still hang heavily upon 
VOL. I. S 



258 Backers Secret 

his hands as he lounged idly through the 
empty hours ; but when with the slant sunbeams 
Dunstan came, and the two set off together to 
the stream with rod and creel, there was no- 
thing wanting to his enjoyment. And there 
was really much that was very pleasant about 
the lad, when, as now, there was nothing to 
cross his humour; much too that was bright 
and intelligent, even beyond his years, so that 
despite the disparity between them, Dunstan 
found himself wonderfully content with his young 
companion. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Gilmour looked on apart 
in silent satisfaction. Lewis had got some- 
thing at last in which he took an actual 
interest. That was sufficient. So long as it 
lasted, Mr. Dayne might come as often as he 
pleased to Kooklands ; he would be always 
sure of at least a tacit welcome from its 
austere master. 

And pressed by Lewis, Dunstan did come 
often ; indeed, almost every evening, except 



The Ivory Gates. 259 

when he went to the Lodge to spend it with 
the Doctor and his wife. And after being on 
the stretch all day — for though Dunstan en- 
joyed his work, it was none the less a strain 
at first upon him — he thoroughly enjoyed his 
evenings, and set off with Lewis to try his 
luck at angling, with as much zest as a school- 
boy just released from grammar and the rule 
of three, rushes off to taws or cricket. 

And no wonder,* for to a lover of the 
craft, what could be more delightful than to 
loll upon a sunny bank beneath some droop- 
ing ash or willow, and rod in hand, to watch 
the sleepy ripple of the stream as it slipped 
along over its pebbly bed, just rousing up from 
time to time, as a tug at his line warns him 
that some unlucky trout is nibbling at his 
bait. 

Still it was not altogether for the pleasure 
of the sport, nor yet for the sake of Lewis's 
society, nor even to be honoured by the grim 
hospitality of the master of Kooklands, that 

s2 



260 RacheTs Secret. 

Dunstan bent his steps so often towards the 
Hall, when the labours of the day were ended. 
It was an' attraction more subtle and more 
potent still that drew him there, for was 
there not always the secret hope that Winny 
might be somewhere near when he arrived ? 
And ever, if he left without having had a 
smile or a word from her, or at least with- 
out having caught sight of her light figure 
and fluttering dress amon^f the trees in the 
shrubbery or garden, there would be a vague 
sense of incompleteness in his mind, mar- 
ring the remembrance of the evening he had 
passed. 

But sometimes the sum of his enjoyment 
would be complete, for she would join them 
when they went down to the river, and then 
usually it was but little fish that found its 
way into the basket that Dunstan took back 
with him to empty upon Mrs. Doyles' kitchen 
table ; for as they all sat chatting merrily to- 
gether, he would so forget what lie was about, 



The Ivory Gates. 261 

that his float would lie upon the water un- 
noticed for half an hour together. 

Or if she left them, as she often did, to 
ramble down beside the stream, it would be 
just the same, for his eye would keep following 
her wherever she might go, alighting on her as 
a bee upon the flowers. He could not help it. 
It was so pleasant to watch her as she tripped 
up and down the green slopes, stooping now 
and then to gather the forget-me-nots and 
grasses that grew beside the water, or calling 
to them, her face all aglow, when she had 
found some blossom of unusual size and beauty, 
and then running up to show her treasures 
and enjoy their admiration. 

For there was nothing timid or constrained 
in Winny's manner towards her brother's friend. 
There was in it all the sweet fearlessness of 
perfect innocence of heart and thought. And 
though, as Dr. Kennedy had said, she was perhaps, 
from the way in which she had been brought 
up, too childlike for her years, yet it would 



262 EacheFs Secret. 

have been hard for the most captious critic 
to find fault seriously with the graceful, wild 
abandon of her ways, or do other than smile 
at the wayward vanities which sat so prettily 
upon her. And surely, too, it must have been 
a lovely soul that had sought so fair a home 
in which to dwell. For Winny's was not the 
mere waxen prettiness of form and feature. 
There was something in every look and ges- 
ture which made you feel instinctively that the 
charming face belonged to a nature more 
charming still. 

At all events, Dunstan felt quite sure about 
it, and one can hardly wonder either at his 
arriving at the conclusion, for as anyone may 
see, who has any experience in such matters, the 
young man was breathing just now a very 
dangerous atmosphere. For, as we have seen, 
his nature, long frozen up by that chill Lon- 
don life, had been warmed and softened by 
his recent prosperity, by the wholesome in- 



The Ivory Gates. 263 

fluence of work, still more by the homely 
kindness that had surrounded him at the 
farm-house, and by the friendliness of Dr. 
Kennedy and his wife. And now, like 
seed into a soil prepared for its reception, 
there fell these bright looks of Winny's, the 
merry laughter and the girlish talk, half shy, 
half gay, which every time he saw her seemed 
a thousand-fold more charming than before. 

In short, he was admiring her too much not to 
be loving her a little, though this was what he 
no more thought of than he thought of the 
heart that was beating in his breast. But, 
indeed, a young man, if set down as Dun- 
stan was now, where he has leave to put 
himself forth on every side, pleased with him- 
self, and, as a matter of course, disposed also to 
be pleased with everybody else, is pretty sure, 
as the phrase goes, to fall in love with some- 
one or other. He may keep his secret to 
himself, but always, through the lattice of his 



264 Rachels Secret, 

thoughts, some woman's face will be looking 
in upon him. Not a fair one, perhaps ; none 
the less will he see a beauty in it there for 
himself alone. He cannot help himself. He does 
not often try. His fate carries him forwards, 
almost without his will, to some end unknown. 
Nay, it seems indeed sometimes as if the will 
were passive altogether. 

Winnj Gilmour was a dear little thing, 
and a good little thing, as Dunstan said to 
himself a hundred times a day; and well it 
was that he could say so. But if that fair 
face of hers had been like a draft on an 
empty bank, a mere promise to pay, and no- 
thing more, it would have been all the same 
to him. He had felt its witchery ; and there 
was nothing for him but to yield. And yield 
he did, as, indeed, under the circumstances, 
what better could he do? 

There are, no doubt, sensible, practical, 
matter-of-fact individuals, who ignore completely 
any such weakness as that of "falling in 



The Ivory Gates. 265 

love," and who, if the estate of matrimony be 
one that commends itself to their approval, 
will walk soberly into the great modern wo- 
man-market of u society," and with a judici- 
ous regard to pecuniary and other considera- 
tions, select therefrom the article of which 
they are in quest. But this prospective pru- 
dence, which has an eye mainly to the wine- 
cellar and the money-bags, and which requires 
the aid of the lawyer as much as of the 
priest, to tie the marriage knot, is no more 
allied to the sweet madness of love than the 
odour of a barber's shop resembles the fra- 
grance of a bank of violets. For what does 
the sensible, practical, matter-of-fact individual 
know of that divine visitation to the heart and 
soul which creates for him all things anew, 
which makes this dull old earth all radiant 
with purple light, which thrills him with such 
mysterious delight if the fluttering hem of 
the loved one's robe does but touch his feet? 
Nothing at all. Indeed it may be questioned 



266 Rachel! s Secret. 

if these things are even compatible with a 
due appreciation of the three-per-cent Consols 
and the rate of discount. Though, after all, 
since our whole life is said to be but a selection, 
and men must perforce, for the sake of some 
things, go without others that they fain would 
have, there is doubtless a wisdom of its own, 
even in the conduct of such philosophers as 
these. 

But it was a wisdom to which our hero had 
not attained. All he knew was, that this life 
of his, which awhile ago had lain dead and 
barren as a November field, had now become 
all flushed with warmth and beauty. These 
leafy blossoming June days held no harsh 
realities for him. He walked through this 
troublesome world as through an enchanted 
land. Everything he set his hand to seemed 
to prosper. Difficulties smoothed themselves 
away before him. He went to and from his 
office at the railway-yard, feeling as if it were 
hardly possible for anything to go wrong. And 



The Ivory Gates. 267 

surely there was some charm that kept them 
from ever getting out of the right track, for so 
prosperously did the works advance, so steadily 
did each man plod on in his appointed groove, 
that but for his presence and his eye, as Dun- 
stan said sometimes to Dr. Kennedy, he 
thought he hardly need be there at all, so 
little did there seem to be for him to arrange 
or interfere with. 

There mio;ht be vexations connected with his 
work. No doubt there were. With a set of untu- 
tored " navvies " to be dealt with, not to speak of 
various under-clerks and overlookers, besides 
the Local Committee and London Board of 
Direction ; and with occasional small bogs to 
fill up, and embankments to be made, and a 
plaguy stream that ran into the river just 
below Glinton, over which a bridge had to be 
carried, it was hardly to be expected that 
vexations of some kind should not at times 
occur. 

But Dunstan was never disturbed by them. 



268 Rackets Secret. 

They slipped from him without his perceiving 
them, like water off a duck's back. It was a 
time to which, in after years, when the cares 
of middle life had begun to repeat in them- 
selves some of the troubles of his youth, 
Dunstan looked back, as we look back amid 
the heat and flush of summer, to some first 
glad burst of sunny days, when, after a bleak 
and clouded March, the sweet spring comes 
upon us at unawares, and, almost before the 
last grey streak of drifted snow is melted 
in the hollows, has slipped over the bare brown 
hedges her robe of tender green, and spangled 
every bank and meadow with primroses and 
daisies. 

For around him and within him the winter 
was past and the rain was over and gone, the 
flowers had appeared on the earth, and the 
time of the sinking of birds was come. And 
all day long, and even in his dreams, there 
sang on within his breast a low mysterious 
song, unheard before, with strange cadences 



The Ivory Gates. 269 

that blent in subtle unison with the manifold 
sweet sounds of nature. The whispering of 
the wind among the poplar leaves, the twitter- 
ing of the swallows that had built under the 
eaves above his window, the low call of the 
cushat-dove, the clear carol of the lark, the 
plash of the river swirling round its stones, 
seemed now to him but as parts of a soft full 
chorus, of which the thought of Winny Gil- 
mour supplied the constant theme. 

For though as yet Dunstan was hardly con- 
scious of the fact, yet this thought of Wini- 
fred was gradually creeping into his breast, a 
vague, impalpable presence, unfelt often and 
unseen, yet filling all the trembling air with 
a new strange secret of delight. Through his 
whole life there streamed a mild auroral light, 
not as yet dazzling enough to blind him to 
everything save its own exceeding splendour; 
but like the rosy flush of dawn stealing 
gently from out the dusk, and warming into 
beauty all it touched. 



270 Rachel 's Secret. 

But of anything like "intentions" towards 
Winny, Dunstan was guiltless altogether. The 
idea of marrying and settling, the prose de- 
tails of house-rent and furnishing, the vexed 
question of supplies, and the calculation of how 
little it may be possible for two people to 
keep body and soul together upon, had never 
entered his mind in connection with the thought 
of her. If they had, he would probably have 
at once dismissed them. For Dunstan was 
proud as well as poor, and though good 
blood and good prospects are very well in 
their way, still a young man cannot exactly 
make use of them to pay his tradesmen's bills ; 
and to ask a woman to share his home until 
he had one to offer her, was a meanness of 
which Dunstan, for one, never would be 
guilty. 

So he thought, or so at least he would have 
thought, though, as everyone knows, complica- 
tions in the sequence of events do at times 



The Ivory Gates. 271 

arise, which make it not easy for a man to 
answer for the course which, under certain cir- 
cumstances, he may pursue. 



272 



CHAPTER XVII. 

IN WHICH MRS. MALLINSON ENTERTAIN- 
QUALITY. 

TT was one evening towards the close of July, 
-*- just late enough for the sunlight to lie in 
long golden streaks among the reeds and wil- 
lows that fringed the bank of the river where 
Lewis and Dunstan sat with their fishing tackle. 
Lewis's little green float lay uselessly enough 
on the surface of the water, for the trout were 
either too idle or too discreet to venture on 
more than a passing nibble. His ill-success did 
not trouble the angler, though. He was in a 
lazy mood to-day, and to lie on that green 
bank amongst the fern and moss, watching the 
float quiver up and down with the gentle mo- 
tion of the current, and listening to the cool 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 273 

plash of the water round the boulders which 
here and there vexed its course, was enjoyment 
enough for him. 

Neither did Dunstan care very much whether 
the basket by his side returned full or empty 
to the farm, for was not Winifred Gilmour 
sitting by them, amusing herself by pulling off 
little bits of bark from the old willow stump, 
and sending them down the stream ? And did 
not her girlish voice keep breaking in like 
merry music upon their long spells of silence ? 
And where Winifred's voice and Winifred's 
presence came, there for Dunstan, neither weari- 
ness nor dulness could ever be. 

"Winifred," said Lewis; and there the lad 
stopped, for the float dipped beneath the water. 
It was only one of Winifred's bits of bark, 
though, that had hit it. 

a Well V inquired his sister, for having paused, 
it seemed as if Lewis were meaning not to go 
on again at all. 

"I was thinking we might have that evening 

VOL. I. T 



274 Backers Secret. 

at Strensall that we have been talking about so 
long. Mrs. Kennedy says the heather is just in 
its beauty now. Mr. Dayne, will you go, if we 
can manage it, next week? We always go for 
an evening every July. Doctor and Mrs. Ken- 
nedy will go with us, but I shall take Prince, 
I like riding so much better than walking, and 
so there will just be room for you, and Geordie 
can be packed in somewhere, though he does 
get bigger now than he used to be." 

Dun stan looked for his invitation in Winny's 
face, and found it, too for she brightened up 
as she said, 

" Yes, Lewis likes riding by himself, because 
then he is not obliged to talk unless he likes ; 
and if you could enjoy it, Mr. Dayne, it would 
be very nice for us all to go together. Stren- 
sall is such a pleasant place to go to, and the 
kindest old woman in the world gives us our 
tea, or whatever else we choose to have. And 
then we go rambling over the moor, and try to 
fancy ourselves in Scotland. Some people say 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 275 

it is rather like Scottish scenery, except the 
mountains and the lakes." 

Dunstan thought that was rather an impor- 
tant exception, but he did not say so, for a day 
with Winny would be worth all the lakes and 
mountains in the British islands, and gladly 
enough he accepted the invitation she had so 
frankly seconded. 

So it was all settled. Winny went next 
morning to the Lodge, and fixed a day for the 
expedition ; a day when, as the Doctor said that 
he expected to be about knocked up by a tough 
article for the "Home and Foreign Quarterly," 
on which he was writing now from dawn to 
sunset, he would have no scruples about 
devoting to enjoyment time that could not be 
used »for work. And Mrs. Burd, the house- 
keeper at Kooklands, was directed to make 
half a dozen little savoury pies such as the 
Doctor delighted in, and as many apoplectic 
puffs in Geordie's behalf, and Mrs. Kennedy 
came forward with a handsome contribution of 

T 2 



276 ' Rackets Secret. 

Winny's favourite sweet biscuits ; and Winny 
had her braided pink gingham suit got up for 
the occasion, and finally a letter was sent to 
Nancy Mallinson, bidding her have the kettle 
boiling at five of the clock on Saturday after- 
noon, Dr. Kennedy's useless day. 

Which epistle, written by Winny's hand on 
the daintiest of creamdaid note, and sealed with 
a tiny seal bearing the crest of Rooklands, was 
read and inwardly digested* by the worthy wo- 
man to whom it was addressed, with feelings in 
which it would be hard to say whether exulta- 
tion or affection most largely mingled. For if 
there w;as one day in all the year whose re- 
cord was inscribed in golden characters on the 
tablets of her honest old heart, it was this, on 
which the " quality from Glinton " came to pay 
her their annual visit. As her husband used to 
say, with a curious mixture of pity and fond- 
ness, 

" She's nobbut a woman, isn't Nancy, bless 
her!" 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 211 

And she had a woman's innocent love of distinc- 
tion and admiration. No duchess, standing velvet- 
robed in her ancestral halls to welcome a visit 
from Royalty itself, could have felt her bosom 
swell with prouder emotion than that which 
caused Nancy Mallinson's lilac kerchief to 
tremble over the womanly heart which it 
covered, when Mr. Gilmour's four-wheel drew 
up before her cottage door, and Winny, who, 
in consideration of the old woman's little weak- 
ness, always came in a carefully-prepared costume, 
fluttered the pretty draperies in the flagged 
kitchen, or walked side by side with her de- 
lighted hostess over the six-acre farm, admiring 
the poultry, inquiring after the welfare of the 
pigs, or praising the brindled cow who stared so 
patiently at them from under the great elm- 
tree at the bottom of the willow pasture. 

But Nancy's greatest triumph, the time at 
which her honest pride reached its culmi- 
nating point, was towards the close of the even- 
ing, when the anxiety consequent on hospit- 



278 RacheVs Secret. 

able cares having subsided, she used to put 
on her best bonnet and cloak, and take her 
company round the village, professedly to show 
them some remarkably resplendent garden be- 
longing to one of the cottages, or to see some 
little alterations which had been made since 
their last visit, but in reality to exhibit to the 
awe-stricken gaze of the rustic population Mrs. 
Kennedy's real silk gown with trimming half-a- 
yard up the bottom, and Miss Winifred's Leg- 
horn hat, "all the way from London, an' the 
beautifullest feather ever was see'd, hiding itself 
among her bonny brown curls." 

Oh ! how proud Nancy felt then. How the 
bow on her time-worn black bonnet quivered in 
triumph as the dirty children scampered off one 
after another to their mothers, with the intelli- 
gence that "old Mrs. Mallinson were bringing 
the quality from Glinton up the street." Which 
intelligence was always followed by much sub- 
dued peeping out of half-closed doors, and whis- 
pered exclamations of, 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 279 

" Laws now ! But don't they look beau- 
tiful." 

Poor Nancy Mallinson ! " Nobbut a woman," 
truly, but one of the simplest, honestest of the 
sisterhood that was ever looked down upon from 
man's superior attitude. 

" Ye ought to ha' corned to your dinners," 
she said, as the Doctor and Mrs. Kennedy, 
with Winny, Lewis, and Dunstan, having 
sauntered over the farm, and duly admired 
the stock, had seated themselves round the 
table in Nancy's clean little kitchen, where 
a nondescript meal, half-dinner, half-tea, was 
spread out on a table covered by a spotless 
" huckaback" cloth. "Ye ought to ha' corned 
to your dinners, an' me fettling up such a rare 
un' as I'd done. A fowl as my master and me's 
been feeding of this month back for Bedesby 
market, an' a bit o' salt beef, an' a batter 
pudden as you never set eyes on such a one 
for lightness, and then to go an' put one off 
wi' naught but coming to your teas, an' bring- 



280 Rackets Secret. 

ing your own stuff with you, as if you wasn't 
sure of a welcome to the best my master and 
me could get." 

"But, Nancy, we told you only to have the 
kettle boiling, you know. Nothing else but 
that," said Winny, who had noticed Nancy's 
grieved look as the savoury pies, the puffs, and 
the biscuits made their exit from the basket 
in which Mrs. Burd had packed them. "Just 
the kettle boiling, you know — we didn't mean to 
come to dinner, or we would have sent you 
word." 

u Whisht, whisht, honey! Folks can't live 
on kettles of boiling water as I ever heerd tell 
on, and I looked for it as you'd be here by 
noon, and I'd gathered up all the knives as I 
could find, for you know, Miss Winifred, you 
never corned no more nor five of you afore, 
and I'd just knives enough to fix you then." 

And Nancy, whose greatest earthly wish was 
to see her pet comfortably married, cast a scru- 
tinizing glance towards Dunstan, balancing, 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 281 

doubtless, in her own mind between him and 
Mr. Cyril Kennedy. For Mrs. Kennedy was 
not the only person in the world to whose mind 
certain contingencies respecting her son had 
suggested themselves. Dunstan, however, did not 
see Nancy's glance, for he was caressing a big 
sheep-dog who had just come in to pay his 
respects to the "quality from Glinton," but 
Mrs. Kennedy did, and, with a woman's free- 
masonry, she no doubt comprehended it. 

" And I borrowed two or three platters o' 
Mrs. Wiggins," continued Nancy ; u not as I'd 
go for to tell her I hadn't plenty, an' her the 
proudest woman in all the parish o' Strensall, 
as I should never have heard the last on it, if 
she thought I hadn't as much of everything as 
herself. But I telled her I'd got some o' the 
Glinton gentlefolks a-coming to see me, as I'd 
promised to let them see that old delf of hers 
she sets such store by. And law ! she fetched 
it out as pleased as pleased, for if there's a 
woman more nor another in this parish as likes 



282 Racked Secret. 

to creep up quality's sleeve, it's Mrs. Wiggins." 

And Nancy, who prided herself on never 
creeping up quality's sleeve, or, indeed, being in 
any way affected by their influence, looked dis- 
dainful. 

" I didn't need to borrow for spoons, though," 
she said, after a little interval, during which she 
had been into the back kitchen to fetch the 
tea-pot. "Them spoons as you're a-supping 
with, Miss Winifred, is real silver, none of your 
'lectry plate, as folks calls it, just a bit of sum- 
mut good on t' outside, like folks' manners as 
hasn't good blood in their veins. I had them there 
spoons in a present, Miss Winifred, when I lived 
maid with your father's own aunt, forty year ago 
an' more. She give 'em me herself for house- 
keeping as soon as she knew I'd gotten a young 
man as was likely. They was old-fashioned 
even then, for she'd had 'em laid by a good bit, 
but they're the real thing, good through an' 
through. I allays feels myself sort o' respect- 
able when I looks at them there spoons. It's a 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 283 

fine thing is old plate, for giving a family a 
good look." 

And then Nancy bustled away to fill the tea- 
pot, coming back again to the spoons, however, 
as soon as she returned. 

"I cleans 'em reg'lar of a Saturday, though 
1 don't never use 'em, let alone when the 
quality comes to see me once a year. And 
then, when they're polished up I lays 'em down 
in a row, an' I looks at 'em, an' sometimes, 
when I sees Mrs. Wiggins a-coming up the 
town, I nips 'em out and begins rubbing of 'em 
at the window, so as she can see 'em going by. 
For Mrs. Wiggins hasn't got no plate, for all 
she's as proud as there isn't another woman in 
the parish prouder. And I allays thinks it 
keeps her a bit humble to see other folk's 
things as she hasn't got so good. Folks had 
ought to be kep' humble, as our clergyman 
allays says." 

"But what shall you do with them when 
you die*?" asked Winny, as she listened to the 



284 RacheFs Secret. 

honest woman's discourse upon her spoons ; those 
quaint, old-fashioned spoons, which fingers long 
ago mouldered in the Eookland vault at Glinton 
Church, had once played with, as hers played 
with them now. 

"Ay, Miss!" and a somewhat perplexed look 
came over Nancy's face. "That's what's laid 
hard upon my mind this good bit past. There's 
a niece of mine lives out in place as I didn't 
know but what I should let her have them, seeing 
she's all the kin I have left, and a likely young 
woman too, and one as would pay a proper re- 
spect to having of 'em cleaned and waited on as 
old plate has a right to. An' I telled her last 
back-end as I'd about fixed 'em to her. But 
she's got a young man as isn't to my way o' 
thinking, an' I says to her last time she was 
here — you see, knowing as the spoons is to be 
left, she comes pretty oft — ' Bessy,' says I, 'if 
you get that there young man you don't get no 
spoons o' mine.' Because you see, Miss Winny, 
though there was naught about him to take 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 285 

hold on, yet it lay strong on my mind as he 
was the sort to take to liquor, and then the 
spoons 'ud be melted up in no time, for it's a 
terrible thing is drink for melting up plate, let 
alone the respectability as belongs to it. So 
says I to her, i Bessy,' says I, 'the spoons goes, 
or the young man goes, which you like, but 
you don't get 'em both.' " 

" And which did she keep, Nancy ?" asked 
Dunstan with a smile. 

"The young man, sir, an' more to blame 
she, for saving your presence, sir, men is 
plentiful enough for any young woman who 
bides her time an' behaves respectful; but it 
isn't everyone who has a chance of six real 
silver spoons to set themselves up with. And 
so there the spoons is, and I don't know, Miss 
Winifred, but what you've a chance to get 
'em yourself." 

At last Mrs. Kennedy said they must set 
off to the moor, or sunset would be over. 
Even now the queer old Dutch clock that 



286 BacheV s Secret, 

stood by the chimney-corner was upon the 
stroke of six, and it was a long way to the 
moor, not less than a mile, to take the nearest 
path across the fields. 

Nancy looked disappointed as the little 
party began to prepare for setting out. She 
dearly loved to talk to the quality, to have 
them sitting in that comfortable front kitchen 
of hers, with the door just open that stray 
passers-by might see the sheen of silken rai- 
ment, and catch the dainty accents of high- 
born voices in speech so different from their 
rustic tongue. 

"You'll come back soon," she said, as Winny 
tied on her hat. "You'll come back soon, 
leddies. Mrs. Kennedy will none think of 
your going home without seeing the new 
cottages at the top of the village, and there's 
Mrs. Wiggins has the beautifullest lot of 
young chickens come off night afore last, as 
she'd be proud to show 'em to Miss Wini- 
fred, an' give her t' pick of 'em if she fancied 



Mrs. Mallinson Entertains Quality. 287 

one. You're like to see 'em, Miss, afore you 
go, an' it's a good step to Mrs. Wiggins'." 

Certainly it was, and Nancy, innocent dip- 
lomatist, was in nowise disposed to lose the 
opportunity of walking with her " quality" down 
the village. So Mrs. Kennedy promised to be 
back in time, and then they all set off to the 
moor. 



288 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

OUT ON THE MOOR. 

HTRENSALL MOOR was a rugged un- 
U claimed tract of land, which stretched 
away northward of the village until it skirted 
the rugged sides of the Blackstone hills. It was 
not beautiful, save when, as now, the heather 
bloomed upon it, and the July sunset warmed 
into a purple glow those great sweeps of 
furzy common which in spring and winter 
looked so desolate and defiant. There were 
no leafy glens, or primrose-covered banks, or 
streams on whose quiet waters lilies swayed 
in rest, and blue forget-me-nots bloomed upon 
the brink. Instead, there was ridge after 
ridge of billowy hillocks covered with long 
wiry grass, or purpled, as now, by the hea- 



Out on the Moor. 289 

ther ; tall clumps of yellow gorse, and ferny 
hollows where you might lie for hours, hear- 
ing no sound of life beyond the plover's 
scream, or the drowsy humming of the bees. 

This was what the little party saw as they 
wandered on and on, till at last Lewis threw 
himself down on a bed of fern, declaring 
himself too tired to go any further; and Mrs. 
Kennedy followed his example, saying that the 
others, if they liked, could ramble on together, 
leaving her and Lewis to return by themselves. 
So, with some little demur from Winny, they 
agreed to separate, and, with the understanding 
that by eight o'clock they were all to be at 
Nancy's cottage again, she and the Doctor, 
with Dunstan, set off to explore a little on 
their own account. 

But they had not gone far before Winny 
began to wish that she had stayed behind 
with Mrs. Kennedy and her brother. The 
Doctor, as we have already hinted, was not 
without some little peculiarities of his own, 
VOL. I, U 



290 Backers Secret. 

one of which was an innocent and perfectly- 
natural aversion to finding himself, under any 
circumstances, a person of secondary considera- 
tion in whatever company he might chance to 
be. It disturbed his equanimity, if so much 
as a dog indicated a preference for being 
patted by any other hand than his. A gra- 
cious weakness, over which the mantle of 
charity may lovingly be cast, seeing that in 
his case it sprang, not from vanity or self- 
display, but from an almost womanly delight 
in sunning himself in the favour and good- 
will of those about him. Still it was a weak- 
ness, and one which, on the present occasion, 
Dunstan unwittingly called into play. 

For how could he be expected to be chiefly, 
not to say entirely, engrossed by the conver- 
sation of a middle-aged gentleman who was 
getting gray upon the temples, even if the 
middle-aged gentleman was Doctor Kennedy 
himself, when by the Doctors side Winifred 
Gilmour was tripping along in that pretty 



Out on the Moor. 291 

pink gingham which she had put on to please 
old Nancy Mallinson, dancing off every now 
and then to pluck some noble fox-glove spire, 
or to get such a dear little spray of heath, 
with the loveliest cluster of purple bells, that 
might do to ring for a fairy's wedding, or 
stepping cautiously down some ferny bank to 
reach a tuft of emerald-tinted moss, a stray 
breeze the while fluttering away the braided 
gingham, and discovering a foot so dainty that 
it seemed almost to caress the flowers it trod 
upon. 

But the Doctor, having his head still full 
of the article on the Crimean war which was 
even then passing through the post on its 
way to the London editor, was a little put 
out at the intermitting attention paid by Dun- 
stan to a somewhat detailed exposition of the 
views therein propounded, and perceiving its 
cause, was minded, with a touch of perversity, 
to visit his companion's absent mood on Wini- 
fred's unconscious head. 

U 2 



292 Rackets Secret. 

So the girl, finding that he said only 
" Pish !" and " Pshaw !" when she interrupted 
them with her little appeals for admiration of 
her treasures — Winny was such a warm- 
hearted, sociable little thing that she never 
could properly enjoy anything, even the find- 
ing of a blue-bell, unless she could share 
her pleasure with some one else — began to sub- 
side a little from her joyous mood, and walked 
along more soberly beside the Doctor, carry- 
ing her bunch of heath and fox-glove in her 
hand. 

But she did not understand at all the sub- 
ject of their conversation. As I think I have 
said before, Winny was not at all "superior," 
and " tactics " and " foreign policy " and the 
like, did not sound half so nice, she was sure, 
as even Nancy's discourse about her spoons. 
She almost wished she had stayed behind, for 
neither of them took any notice of her, and it 
felt even duller than if she had been quite alone. 

It was the " article " about which the Doc- 



Out on the Moor. 293 

tor was talking so confidentially to Dunstan ; 
she knew that, and fancying from his subdued 
tone that she was not meant to hear what 
was going on, she took the hint — for Winny 
was very sensitive about intruding herself where 
her company was not desired — and fell a little 
in the rear. Dunstan would have liked to 
have fallen behind too, but the Doctor had 
got him, figuratively speaking, by the button- 
hole, so that there was no release. He could 
only submit to his fate with the best grace 
he could, and mentally wish the Doctor in his 
study at home, working still upon this un- 
palatable article. 

But Winny soon consoled herself, for pre- 
sently she spied, upon a spray of fern, a splen- 
did blue butterfly, of a kind that was to be 
met with only on the moor. Such a beauty, 
with his wings outspread, and Lewis had been 
wanting so to see one of these blue butter- 
flies. It would be so easy to catch it, for 
it seemed to be asleep upon the fern. She 



294 Rachels Secret. 

took her little cambric handkerchief and dropped 
it lightly over the leaf. Her eves sparkled with 
delight. She had it safe ! And now, how to 
carry it away, for if she took it in the hand- 
kerchief, it would get its wings, poor thing, 
so crushed and spoiled? She remembered that 
she had Mrs. Kennedy's note in the pocket 
of her frock. She took it out, and sitting 
down upon the bank, in a moment or two 
she had a little paper box, such as the chil- 
dren call a "fly-cage," cleverly constructed. She 
could carry her prize safe enough in that, if 
she could but get it nicely in. Yes, there it 
was, so comfortably shut up inside, with a 
little bit of heath and fern as well. And now 
she must get up and follow her companions, 
who must be some way ahead of her by this 
time. 

They were indeed ahead of her. She had 
sat longer than she had imagined, and when 
she looked up they were nowhere to be seen. 
They must be beyond some of those furzy 



Out on the Moor. 295 

mounds, she thought. It was so easy to lose 
sight of one another among the hills and 
hollows on the moor, and, carrying her box 
very carefully, she ran on as fast as she could, 
hoping to find them soon again. 

But she passed one after another of the tall 
clumps of heath and furze, and still no Doctor 
Kennedy or Mr. Dayne appeared in view. 
They could not be very far away, however, 
and seeing, a little further on, a bit of high 
craggy ground, whence she could command a 
prospect for some distance round, she made her 
way to it, sure that then she should discover 
them. 

But the bit of crag was not so near as she 
supposed. It seemed almost to recede as she 
advanced, and even when, at last, she reached 
it, tired and out of breath, she was as far as 
ever from success. And now she began to 
feel a little perplexed. She stood still and 
called aloud. No answer came. She should 
have done that sooner ; thev were out of 



296 Rachels Secret. 

hearing now, as well as out of sight. The 
only thing would be to go back alone ; but 
then, doubtless, they also would be seeking her. 
She would go just a little further, and then, 
if she did not see them, she must return alone, 
or it would be too late to go down the village 
with Nancy, and it would be such a pity to 
disappoint the old woman of her walk. 

But there was little chance now, in that 
furzy wilderness, of finding her companions. 
She walked on a little while, feeling rather 
uncomfortable. It was so careless of her to 
have let them get out of sight before she went 
after them. But then Lewis would be so 
pleased with the blue butterfly. And Winny 
opened her box a little, and peeped in very 
cautiously, and then, with one final look of 
survey, she turned and set off by herself again 
towards Nancy's cottage. 



297 



CHAPTER XIX. 



EUPHRASY. 



TI7INNY went back a few steps, and then 
' * came to a stand in some little per- 
plexity. For, to reach that bit of crag, she 
had gone out of the narrow track that 
threaded the moor, and now she was not quite 
sure which way to turn in order to get into 
it again. She paused a moment, considering, 
and then, plunging through a sea of billowing 
fern, found herself presently in a path, though 
whether, after all, it was the right one or 
not, she could not quite determine. It seemed, 
iiowever, to lead towards the sunsetting, and 
Nancy's cottage, she remembered, was some- 
where in that direction. She would try it, at 
all events. 



298 Rackets Secret. 

But as she went on it seemed unfamiliar 
to her, and by-and-by it took a bend, and 
then she came to a little pool that lay beside 
it, its banks feathered by bracken and fox- 
glove. Certainly she had not passed this pool 
before. She must be wrong somehow, and 
yet how to get right she could not tell. She 
wandered on awhile, but there seemed to be 
no other path leading out of it. And it 
was so long, much longer, she was sure, than 
that by which they had come. She began to 
feel uneasy. It must be growing late too, 
past eight o'clock, she was sure, for the red 
glow of sunset was fading from the western 
skjr, and the distant clumps of gorse and 
heather had begun already to blacken in the 
twilight. 

She grew more than uneasy now. Suppose 
she should lose her way ! And with the thought 
she hurried on more rapidly, in the vague 
hope of meeting with something or some one 
that should guide her steps aright. But she 



Eupltrasy. 299 

only seemed to get further and further wrong. 
The mists, too, began to rise, filling the hollows 
with a dense white vapour, above which rose 
the dark knolls of furze and heather. And 
every moment it grew more dusk and damp, 
though still she toiled on, trembling now with 
weariness and excitement, and not knowing 
whether each step she took might not in 
reality be leading her only further away from 
where she wished to be. 

She sat down at last on a bit of stone, too 
spent to go on any further. And now she 
began to feel herself chill as well as tired, 
for the long grass was wet with dew, and the 
air damp with the mists that were fast 
thickening over the moor, and blotting out 
every landmark by which she might steer her 
doubtful way. 

She rested for a moment or two, and then 
got up and pushed on desperately for awhile. 
But again her forces failed her. She had been 
wandering about now for nearly two hours 



300 Backers Secret. 

since the sun had gone down behind the 
distant hills, and both her strength and courage 
were exhausted. She sank down on a knoll of 
heath, wearied and footsore, but shrinking, 
above all, from the thought that she might 
have to spend the whole long night alone out 
on that desolate moor. 

Where were they all % Surely some one would 
find her before it got quite dark! And if 
they did not? She set her face and listened. 
Perhaps they might be somewhere calling her. 
She felt too faint and frightened now to call 
out again very loudly herself. But she heard 
nothing, save the whistle of the night wind 
through the crisp heather stalks. Oh ! what 
should she do % It was getting so cold, too, 
and her thin gingham frock was all limp 
with damp. She pulled her little cloak shud- 
deringly over her shoulders, and crouching back 
against a rough furze bush that grew up 
behind her, she leaned down her face into her 
hands, and began to cry. 



Euphrasy. 301 

She thought nothing, poor child, of the 
actual danger of her position. All she was 
longing for was to be warm, just to be warm, 
and to have some one near her in this terrible 
gloom. For now eerie fancies came swarming 
round her like ghosts in the pale glimmering 
light. She thought of the story of the dead 
woman and her baby; of the White Lady 
that was said to walk the Cedar Avenue ; 
and the tall black whins and creeping mists 
seemed to her excited imagination to change 
themselves into shadowy half-human forms, as 
she glanced fearfully around her. 

She moaned aloud ; but the sound of her 
own voice through the silence frightened her. 
She dare not move. Oh, for some one to be 
with her ! even the dog ; something living 
and familiar, that she should not be afraid to 
touch ; anything, no matter what, to save 
her from this terrible sensation of being 
alone, yet not alone, on that dark desolate 
moor. 



302 Rachels Secret. 

Look where she would, that spectral figure 
seemed to loom before her with the moon- 
light shimmering on its ghastly face. She shut 
her eyes, but the tormenting vision still was there. 
With a kind of wild longing, she thought of 
the blazing fire in Nancy's cottage, and of the 
warm seat within the chimney corner. But 
always opposite to her there sat the stark 
figure with the baby in its arms. She shriek- 
ed out, and then hushed herself, as again her 
voice sounded strangely amid the low hissing 
of the wind. She could feel the blood curd- 
ling round her heart — creeping coldly through 
her veins. Her forces left her, the life was 
shuddering within her, strange weird sounds 
seemed hissing round her through the dusk, 
and then suddenly a ruddy light gleamed 
across her eyes, a voice near at hand pro- 
nounced her name ; she looked up, and Dun- 
stan Dayne stood before her, with a lantern 
in his hand, whose light he had just cast full 
upon her face. 



Euphrasy. 303 

That dreadful shape was gone. Some one 
was near her — who it mattered not — but she was 
no longer alone there in the night. She closed 
her eyes, and with a sobbing sigh leaned back 
against the bush of furze. The spent forces 
could do no more. She was safe, and that 
was enough. 

It was Dunstan who was frightened now. 
Close upon the quick thrill that ran through 
him as he caught sight of her sitting there 
upon the ground, was alarm at her pale and 
languid ' look. He sought hurriedly for the 
flask with which Mrs. Kennedy had provided 
him. But to his dismay the pocket he had 
put it in was empty ! It must have fallen 
out as he was clambering some of those steep 
crags. 

"Miss Gilmour! — Miss Gilmour!" he cried, 
for she looked as if she was just ready to 
faint. 

But Winny seemed not to hear. Her eyes 
were closed, her head fallen back, her arms 



304 Rackets Secret. 

dropped heavily by her side. But she was not 
fainting, however, though she looked as if she were. 
She was simply overcome by that sudden shock 
of relief, in which, for the moment, everything 
resolved itself into the one intense consciousness 
that she was safe at last. 

Dunstan was rather perplexed. To the 
best of his knowledge, when ladies fainted, it 
was generally in church, and then they had to 
be carried out. That was about the extent of 
his experience. But though they were not 
much more than a mile from Nancy's cottage — 
for Winny had wandered, unconscious of the 
fact, almost to the edge of the moor — yet 
he could not very well take her up and carry 
her there himself. People seldom do that sort 
of thing except in story-books, and Dunstan was 
not in a story book, but standing out there 
among the whin bushes on the moor, with a 
lantern in his hand. 

But while he stood looking doubtfully upon 
her, uncertain what he had better do, she opened 



Euphrasy. 305 

her eyes, and then slowly, recollection seemed to 
return. 

" I was so frightened," she said, in a sobbing, 
trembling voice, " I was so frightened, and it got 
so cold!" 

There was something, at all events, to do. 
Dunstan pulled off his light overcoat, and 
wrapped it round her as well as he could. It 
hung rather awkwardly, to be sure, with the empty 
sleeves dangling outside, but it felt warm round 
the little starved shoulders, and it seemed to 
shake her back to life, for she smiled, and said 
in a tone more like herself, 

" I had lost myself. Where are we ? It must 
be very late." 

" Past ten, I should think," said Dunstan ; 
" but you are not far from home. We are 
just at the edge of the moor. Only I am 
afraid you are hardly able to walk just yet." 

"Oh! yes, I am," she answered, rousing up 
now, as her spirits returned with the feeling of 
security ; " let us go." 

VOL. I. X 



306 Rackets Secret. 

And she rose, but not very steadily, and 
took a step or two as if anxious to be 
gone. 

Dunstan offered her his arm. 

" It will help you a little," he said ; " you must 
be dreadfully tired." 

Winny took it. Indeed, she could not have 
gone many steps without assistance, for she was 
still faint and weary, and her little feet were 
sore with walking so long over the slippery 
heather. But Dunstan's strength was sufficient 
for them both. He did not talk to her, or in- 
quire how it was that she had missed them. 
He saw she was too tired for that, and that the 
greatest kindness would be to let her be still ; 
but he made her lean upon him, and when her 
footsteps flagged, he helped her on — and so, 
half-walking, half-carried, poor Winny found 
herself at last safe at the door of Nancy's cot- 
tage, to the infinite relief of the old woman 
and of Mrs. Kennedy. 

Dr. Kennedy was not there to welcome them. 



Euphrasy. 307 

He was out on the moor with Robin, Nancy's 
husband, and several people from the village 
who had gone to help them in their search. 
Lewis, too, had returned to Glinton on his 
pony; for Mrs. Kennedy, who was a woman of 
great tact and presence of mind, and always 
knew exactly what to do on an emergency, had 
dispatched him for Mr. Strangways, the surgeon, 
so that, if need be, his services might be forth- 
coming. 

Happily Winny did not require them, and 
when she had drunk the hot mulled wine which 
had been prepared in readiness for her, and had 
had something to eat, she brightened up and 
declared herself quite fresh again, and would by 
no means listen to Mrs. Kennedy's proposal 
that she should be put at once into Nancy's 
own bed, to sleep off there the effects of her 
nocturnal ramble. 

So the phaeton, which had been standing 
ready to start for the last hour and a half, was 
brought round to the door. Mrs. Kennedy 



308 RacheTs Secret. 

said they had better not wait until Dr. Kennedy 
came in, but leave him to return with Mr. 
Strangways in his gig. And Winny, after much 
protestation on her part, was settled as com- 
fortably as possible in the roomy front seat, 
and Mrs. Kennedy took her place behind, and 
with Dunstan to drive, they set off home, while 
old Nancy, with tears in her eyes, stood at her 
door, and watched her darling away. 

They drove on quickly, but whether from the 
effects of the hot mulled wine, or from having 
been so thoroughly wearied out, Winny, long 
before they reached the gates of Rooklands, 
was leaning back with her head against the 
cushion of the carriage, fast asleep. Again and 
again Dunstan looked round at the fair young 
face so clear and still as it lay with the glow 
of the carriage lamp falling on it, and as he 
looked, there crept into his soul a feeling of 
yearning tenderness for the little helpless crea- 
ture beside him, a feeling touched for the mo- 
ment by no thought of her beauty, pure as that 



Euphrasy, 309 

of the mother for the infant sleeping on her 
breast ; one that he had felt for no other wo- 
man in his life before. It was just a great 
longing, unknown till now, to take that little 
fragile form once and for ever into his own 
safe keeping, and cover that fair head with the 
shield of a love strong enough to defend it 
from everything that might harm. For Dunstan 
knew now, what he had never known before, 
that if he ever married, it was Winifred Gil- 
mour whom he would choose out of all the 
world to be his wife. 



END OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



LONDON : PRINTED BY MACDONALD AND TUGWELL, BLENHEEVI HOUSK. 



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