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Title: Under the Mendips: A Tale

Author: Emma Marshall

Release date: July 25, 2010 [eBook #33257]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Delphine Lettau and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at




By Emma Marshall

Author of In Colston's Days, Life's Aftermath,
In the East Country, &c.


Bristol Harbour Bristol Harbour.


[Pg iv]
[Pg v]


I am greatly indebted to that very interesting book, "Bristol Past and Present," for the details of the Bristol Riots, in the autumn of 1831, which are introduced into this story. It closes with the birth of the new year, 1832; and therefore the special commission appointed to try the prisoners does not come within its limits.

But anyone who may be interested in the fate of Colonel Brereton, may, by referring to "Bristol Past and Present," and other contemporary records, learn his sad and most lamentable end.

Feeling the evidence of the Court Martial was entirely against him, he forestalled his sentence with his own hand, and shot himself through the heart, on Thursday night, January the 14th, 1832.

With all the many complications of Colonel Brereton's position it is not for us to deal, nor judge him harshly for apparent failure in duty at a time when the hearts of many brave men sank within them, for looking on these things which were coming[Pg vi] on their ancient city. But this, his last act, must ever awaken one of the saddest memories of those sad times, casting a shadow over the name of an English officer, and presenting the most painful and pathetic picture of what a man may do, who, in a moment of despair and helplessness, cannot cry to the strong for strength.

Woodside, Leigh Woods,
Clifton, Bristol

Nov. 1, 1885.
[Pg vii]


I.Fair Acres1
II.The City of the Deep Springs31
III.The Palace59
IV.The Lady of Barley Wood83
V.Sunday at Fair Acres108
VI.Amongst the Heather126
VII.On Sion Hill, Clifton150
VIII.Barley Wood176
IX.A Dark Cloud over Fair Acres200
X.The Fifth of November226
XII.On the Road to Bristol285
XIII.A Lull in the Storm314
XIV.The Storm Bursts332
XVI."Fire Seven Times Heated"372
 Chapter the Last. At Abbot's Leigh[Pg viii]405

[Pg 1]


[Pg 2]

An English Home: grey twilight poured
On dewy pastures, dewy trees,
Softer than sleep: all things in order stored;
A haunt of ancient Peace.


[Pg 3]



It was a fair morning of early summer, when the low beams of the eastern sun, threw flickering shadows across the lawn, which lay before Fair Acres Manor, nestling under the shelter of the Mendip Hills, somewhere between Wells and Cheddar.

Truth compels me to say, that the lawn was covered with daisies, and that their bright eyes looked fearlessly up into the blue sky; for mowing machines were unknown, and the old gardener, coachman, and universal out-of-door servant sharpened his scythe, only at long intervals, to lay the heads of the flowers low, so that the daisies grew and flourished, and had a good time of it.

I know that daisy-speckled turf is considered an offence in the eyes of the modern gardener. I know with what zeal the spud is used; how large bare places are regarded with delight; how seed is scat[Pg 4]tered over them, which the birds watch with cunning glances from the neighbouring shrubs and trees, and pounce down upon, as soon as the diligent master of the place, has straightened his aching back and turned it upon the scene of his labours.

The dewy lawn before Fair Acres, with its beautiful mosaic of white and gold, fringed with circles of deepest crimson here and there, would not suit the taste of the conventional gardener of these days; nor would the low, irregular building which overlooked it, be considered an attractive or fitting residence, for the sons and daughters of the small country squire in the ninth decade of the century.

But in the second decade, in which my story opens, things were different. The country squire lived a country life. He farmed his own acres, he walked over his own fields; his 'stock' were individual cows and horses to him; he could pat each one and call it by its name. His house was his home, and the restlessness of travel, and longing for excitement had not as yet, for the most part, disturbed either him or his children.

Now the resonant steam eagle, as it flies across the country side, seems to call upon the dwellers in rural districts to follow where it leads, and an isolated manorial farm like Fair Acres, and a family like the[Pg 5] Falconers who inhabited it, are all but impossible to find nowadays.

Nor would we grumble that the stream of Progress bears us all upon its breast with the strong resistless current, of which we are scarcely conscious. The busy rush of life has its brighter side, for there are wider fields of service opened out for our sons, and the selfishness which was apt to spring from a secluded life in the heart of the hills, is counteracted by contact with many men, and many minds. Human sympathy is quickened, and love is drawn forth, and the labourers who long for work in the harvest field have the way made easy for them; tools are put into the hands of our daughters with which they may, if they will, carve their own lot in life, and none can complain now that life is wasted for lack of opportunity, for opportunities start up on every side in this active, zealous, go-a-head age in which we find ourselves.

But in spite of all such advantages and due acknowledgment of their value, it is refreshing to turn to quiet and peaceful habitations like Fair Acres, and live again a quieter and less complex life than that which we have grown to believe is necessary in these later times.

As the sun threw its level beams from the east across the lawn, thousands of diamond drops sparkled[Pg 6] and shimmered in the light, and it touched with radiance the figure of a young girl who was standing by a white gate which led into a copse sloping upward to the crest of a hill, behind the old manor, and crowned by a belt of fir-trees.

Joyce had her hand on the latch of the gate, but paused for a moment to look back on the landscape which lay stretched out before her.

A peaceful valley was below, where the tower of Fair Acres church rose against a background of trees, now in their first fresh beauty. A few cottages with red roofs clustered round the church, and two or three farms were sprinkled at a farther distance. A rugged outline of hills at a higher level, showed where the Ebbor rocks open out a miniature Cheddar, and on the other side of that little gorge lay the open country, where the city of the deep springs lies, with its noble cathedral, and quaint Close, and stately baronial Palace—the beautiful cathedral village of Wells.

Joyce Falconer was looking forth upon life as upon this goodly landscape. She was in the fresh spring-time of seventeen summers. Her father called her Sunshine, and her brothers Birdie; while her mother, who was a plain, practical person, and who indulged in no flights of fancy, would say, "Joyce is the child's[Pg 7] name; and what can suit her better? I don't like nick-names."

Nevertheless the nick-names held their own, and as Joyce stood by the white gate, a voice was heard resounding from the lawn below:

"Hallo, Sunshine!"

"Father, come up the hill. It is so lovely this morning."

The squire advanced with steady, even footsteps. He was a fine, stalwart man, dressed in a stout suit of corduroy, and with leggings buttoned up to his knees. He carried a gun under his arm—more from habit than from any idea of using it just then—and close at his heels walked, with sedate and leisurely bearing, his chief friend and companion, a large retriever, Duke; while two little terriers, Nip and Pip, bustled about in every direction, scenting with their sharp noses, and occasionally turning upon each other to have a playful passage of arms which, though accompanied by ominous growls, meant nothing but fun.

"I am up first to-day, daddy!" Joyce exclaimed, as she went down the gentle descent and linked her arm in her father's. "I am first, and is not it beautiful to be alive on such a day?"

The squire paused, and putting his arm round his[Pg 8] daughter's waist, he said, looking down at her with eyes of loving pride:

"Beautiful! yes," thinking, though he did not say so, that the most beautiful thing in all that beautiful world was his little Sunshine, his darling Joyce.

"I hope the weather will keep fine for the hay," he said; "but the glass went up with a gallop yesterday; still, it looks fair enough this morning."

"When are we to begin to cut the grass, daddy?"

"To-morrow, in the home meadow," was the reply. "I am going into Wells to-day, for the magistrates' meeting."

"May I come, father?"

"Well, I've no objection, if mother has not," was the answer. "You must ask her leave."

"I expect she will let me come. She is sure to have some shopping to do; and you don't like commissions at shops, daddy."

The squire gave a significant shrug of his broad shoulders, and then the two began to thread their way through the copse, and came out at last on the side of the grass-covered hill, up which Joyce skipped with the light step of a young fawn, with Nip and Pip scuffling along with her in the highest glee, while the squire and Duke followed more slowly.

As she stood there in the light of the morning,[Pg 9] Joyce Falconer was a fair picture of happy, joyous maidenhood. Her figure was lithe and supple, and though I am afraid her lilac cotton frock would be despised as only fit for a maid-servant in these days, it became her well. It was made with a full skirt and a loose body, cut rather low at the neck, with sleeves which were large on the shoulder, gradually tightening to the wrist, and displayed to advantage a well-rounded arm. Joyce's shoes were thick; but though, perhaps, a trifle clumsy, they did not spoil the symmetry of her pretty ankle and high-arched instep. Snowy "tuckers" of crimped muslin were sewn into the neck and wrists of her gown, and she wore an apron with a bib; an old-fashioned apron, guiltless of bows or lace.

Her abundant chestnut hair was gathered on the top of her small head, and fell in curls on either side of her smooth white brow; not concealed now by the large Dunstable straw bonnet, which was hanging to her arm by the strings, and left the gentle breeze of the morning free, to play amongst the clustering curls, at their own sweet will.

Joyce's features were regular, and her complexion rosy and healthy. Indeed, everything about her seemed to tell of youth and the full enjoyment of the gifts which God had given her.[Pg 10]

"A perfect little rustic!" her aunt in the Vicar's close at Wells called her sometimes, and would suggest to her father that a year or two at a "finishing school" would be an advantage.

But the squire could not bring himself to part from his only daughter, and her education had been, I am afraid, sadly neglected.

"Well, little one," Mr. Falconer said, as he seated himself on a rough wooden bench, "what is this?" touching the cover of a book that peeped from her apron pocket.

"It is a book, father, Charlotte lent me: Mrs. Hemans' poems."

"Ah! poetry is a good thing when it is kept in its right place."

"I have been learning a long poem called 'Edith,' and I repeat it when I am darning stockings, picking up a stitch for every word. Don't you understand, father?"

"I never darned a stocking," he said, laughing.

"Ah! happy father! Mother has now given me six pairs of Melville's new socks, to strengthen the heels. In and out, in and out with the long needle; I have to try very hard not to grumble, so I say 'Edith' as a comfort, and to help me on.[Pg 11]"

'The woods—oh! solemn are the boundless woods
Of the great Western world when day declines,
And louder sounds the roll of distant floods,
More deep the rustling of the solemn pines;
When darkness gathers o'er the stilly air,
And mystery seems o'er every leaf to brood,
Awful it is for human heart to bear
The weight and burden of the solitude.'

"Father," she said, suddenly stopping, "you are thinking of something that troubles you. I know it by the deep line on your forehead, between your eyes. May I know, father?"

"Well, Sunshine, I am troubled about Melville; he wants to go and see the world, he says. I have given him as good an education as befits his station in life. He has made little use of it; and the bills for the last term at Oxford have been enormous."

"How shameful!" Joyce exclaimed.

"Things are so different from what they were when I was a boy," the squire said. "Why, I never dreamed of anything beyond doing my duty here. I took the farming business off your grandfather's shoulders before I was five-and-twenty. I was his steward, as Melville ought to be mine, and leave me free. As it is, I have to pay Watson, and look into everything myself, when I have a son of three-and-twenty, who ought to do all this for me. I suppose it can't be[Pg 12] helped," the squire said, stretching out his legs, and taking up the gun which had been resting against the bench, "and as far as I can see the younger boys will be very little, if any, better than Melville."

"Oh! yes, father. Ralph will do anything you wish, I know; and Hal and Bunny are very good at school. Remember what the master said of them at Christmas."

"Yes, yes; they are good little fellows. Then there is poor Piers; he must always be an anxiety, poor boy!"

"I don't think any of us can be happier than Piers," Joyce said. "He never complains because he is lame; and he is as contented as possible, making his collection of moths and butterflies, and bird's eggs, and things. No, father, don't be unhappy about Piers."

"Do you think, Joyce, I ever forget that it was my carelessness which made the boy a cripple? I never forget it."

"No one else thinks of it, dear daddy," Joyce said, slipping her hand into her father's, as it rested on his knee. "No one else thinks of it; and you know the colt had been broken in, and——"

"The child ought never to have put his legs across it, Joyce; and I lifted him on, and told him not to be[Pg 13] a coward. Ah!" said the squire, suddenly starting to his feet. "I cannot speak of it; I dare not."

He began an abrupt descent the way that they had come. Nip and Pip, who had been sleeping with their noses on their paws, and one eye open, raced off, while Duke drew himself into a standing position, and walked demurely down the steep bit of turf, with the brush of his tail waving from side to side as he went.

Joyce did not follow immediately. Her bright face was clouded with the sympathy she felt for her father. It all came back to her: the group before the Manor, the child of eight years old, saying, "I am afraid of riding Rioter, father." Then the father's answer, "Afraid! Don't be a coward, Piers; you have a good seat enough for such a little chap. Here, let me put you on." The boy's white, set face, as he grasped the reins; and Rioter was off like lightning. "His brothers rode long before they were his age," the squire had said; "it won't do to tie him to his mother's apron strings, because he happens to be the youngest." Then the sound of returning horse's feet, and Rioter rushed up the side drive to the stables riderless. Another minute and old Thomas appeared with a lifeless burden in his arms, which the squire took from him, with a groan of remorse, as he turned into[Pg 14] the house with him and said to his wife, "I have killed the boy."

But Piers was not killed. His injuries were life-long, but his life was spared.

Whether it was from an instinctive feeling, that his father considered himself the cause of his lameness and generally invalided condition, or whether the latent buoyancy of his nature asserted itself above all the privations which the accident had brought upon him, or whether both of these causes were at work within him, certain it is that Piers was the most cheerful and most uncomplaining member of the squire's household, and never allowed any one to pity him, or to treat him as an object of compassion. Joyce was right when she said that no one was happier than Piers. Every bird and insect had a charm for him, and were his friends and companions. Books of natural history were rare; but Bewick's Birds sufficed for Piers' needs. The "Natural History of Selborne" and old Isaak Walton's "Angler" were also amongst the boy's scanty library, and keen perception and acute observation supplied the place of extraneous help; and Piers was content.

The cloud soon cleared from Joyce's face as a well-known whistle was heard from the copse, and Joyce answered it with a clear note of welcome:[Pg 15]

"Here, Piers."

Then the quick, even thud of crutches, and Piers came in sight.

In a moment Joyce was springing down the grassy hill-side, and, with a hardly perceptible touch on her brother's shoulder, she joined him as he came up.

"I say, Joyce, if you go to Wells to-day with father, will you take this little sparrow-hawk to old Plume's to be stuffed? Here, rummage in my pocket, left-hand side—there he is! He is a perfect specimen, and a pretty rare one. The stable-boy found him lying on his back under the dove-cot. Perhaps he got the worst of it in a fight. Anyhow, he is dead, and I have a nice nook for him in my big case."

"Poor dear little birdie," Joyce said, stroking the soft feathers. "Oh! Piers, why must everything die? It seems so hard. And this is the puzzle, that we—you and I—may die to-day, next week, any day; and yet we don't really behave as if we believed it. I feel on a morning like this, for instance, so full of life, it is so delicious to live, and as if I never could die. It is so beautiful to be living, so sad to be dead! To think, Piers, of this little bird singing sweetly——"

"Sparrow-hawks don't sing very sweetly; they chirrup and whistle," Piers interrupted.[Pg 16]

"Ah, well, he thought he sang sweetly, and so did his mother; so it came to the same thing. Poor little sweet." And Joyce held the little lifeless bird against her rounded chin and pressed her lips upon it.

Suddenly Piers said:

"What is wrong about Melville; there's something fresh, for I heard my mother talking about it before I was up."

"He says he won't come here and take care of the farm. He wants to travel."

"Well, I don't blame him for that," said Piers.

"But his debts have hampered father dreadfully I know, and he does so detest his fine gentleman airs. It seems to me," said Joyce, vehemently, "to be ashamed of a father like ours is—Oh! I have no word bad enough, and Melville is ashamed, and he does not like mother looking after the dairy and the butter."

"Well," said Piers, tapping his crutch upon the ground, "I think mother does fidget and worry too much in the house and about the place; but it is her way, and no one could alter it."

"I don't know that I wish to alter it," Joyce said, hotly. "Mother has done so much for us, and I hate to think she is slighted by her children. Melville does slight her, and when he talks in that drawling, affected voice, and ties his starched cravats twenty times, and[Pg 17] flings them down again if the bow is crooked. I despise him, and that is the truth."

Piers shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, we must go back to breakfast," he said; "I am hungry, and it must be nearly eight o'clock."

The brother and sister walked slowly towards the house, and as they crossed the lawn, from which the sun had kissed away all the dewdrops, a bell over the stables rang, and a little alert figure appeared in the porch.

"Joyce, Joyce! What are you dawdling for? It is past eight o'clock. Getting your feet drenched with the dew, I'll warrant. No, don't bring any dead birds here, Piers; I won't have it. The house is just like a pigsty with all your rubbish. Take it round to the back kitchen. I have a pretty hard morning's work before me, and you must lend a hand, Joyce, I can tell you."

"Father said I was to go with him to Wells, mother, and do your shopping."

"Well, that won't be till eleven o'clock. There's time enough first to help me to give out the stores and get the linen aired for the boys' room and the spare bedroom, and you forget, I suppose, that your brothers are coming home for the holidays on Friday, and this is Wednesday. I shall be all behindhand, if[Pg 18] I don't look out. I wish Melville's fine gentleman visitor farther!"

Mrs. Falconer spoke rapidly, and in rather a high key. Her accent was decidedly provincial, and she did not measure out her words with the slow precision which her eldest son Melville considered a mark of bon ton.

Mrs. Falconer was the daughter of a large farmer in a neighbouring county, and the squire had married her in haste, though he had never repented at leisure.

She was thoroughly loyal-hearted and true as a wife and mother; brusque and blunt, holding all fine things and fine people in supreme contempt. And yet, according to the perversity of women-kind, she spoiled and indulged the son whose love of fine things seemed likely to be his bane, and brought perpetual trouble upon his good and honourable father.

To make bread and cakes, to skim milk, churn butter, at a pinch, and make all the sweet, cooling drinks for the summer, and elderberry wine for the winter, were domestic duties in which Mrs. Falconer gloried. She would put on a large apron and a pair of dusting-gloves every morning and go the round of the parlours, and rub the old mahogany chair-backs and bureau with vigour, sprinkle the tea-[Pg 19]leaves on stated days, and follow one of her stout maid-servants, as they swept the carpets on their knees, with dustpan and brush, and remove every suspicion of "fluff" from every corner or crevice where it might be supposed to accumulate.

While her children were young these household duties which their mother took upon herself, were considered as a matter of course, but with added years came added wisdom, to some of them at least, and Melville, her eldest son, and her great darling and idol, began to show unmistakable signs of annoyance, at his mother's household accomplishments.

He was at home now, and a stormy scene the night before had deepened the lines on the squire's brow; and hard things Melville had said were as sharp swords to his mother's soul. She was not particularly sensitive, it is true; by no means thin-skinned, or laying herself out—as is the fashion of some women of her temperament, to take offence. Still, Melville had succeeded the night before in wounding her in her tenderest place, reminding her that while his father's pedigree could be stretched out to meet the royal blood of the Saxon kings, the race of sturdy yeomen, from which his mother came, had no blue blood in their veins and were sons of the soil.

There is an old saying that "sharper than a[Pg 20] serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child;" and Mrs. Falconer was still smarting from the wound given her the evening before, when she began to dispense the excellent breakfast, laid in a large, cool hall at the back of the manor, which was connected, by a square opening in the thick wall, with the kitchen.

The squire, who was generally so jovial and cheery, ate his cold pressed beef and drank his glass of "home-brew" in silence. He professed to be engrossed with a Bath paper several days old, and did not invite conversation.

Piers played with some bread-and-milk his mother set before him: his appetite was never good; but Joyce despatched hot rolls and ham with a great appetite, which I am afraid would shock some of our modern notions nowadays.

Tea and coffee were not the staple beverages at breakfast in those times; but when the heavier part of the meal was over Joyce handed her father a fragrant cup, with some thin toast done to a turn, for which Mrs. Falconer called from the kitchen through the window, communicating with it, and fitted with a sliding shutter, which was promptly closed when the tray had been received from the hands of one of the maids.[Pg 21]

"So you are thinking of going into Wells to-day, Arthur?" Mrs. Falconer said when, breakfast drawing to a conclusion, she began to pile the plates together, and put all the scraps on one, for the benefit of Nip and Pip, who had been lying in the window-seat for the past half-hour in a state of suppressed excitement, with their noses on their paws, and their eyes fixed upon that end of the table where their mistress presided.

The noise made by the piling up of the plates was now a decided movement, and Nip and Pip began to wriggle and leap, and finally subside on their hind legs as Joyce called out: "Trust, Nip! trust, Pip!" and then, after what she considered a due time spent in an erect position, the plate was put down before them, and its contents vanished in a twinkling.

"Well, Joyce, will you be ready by eleven o'clock?" Mr. Falconer asked as he left the room.

Joyce was silent, and her mother said:

"Yes, yes, she shall be ready; if she is brisk she can get through all I want." Then Mrs. Falconer began to put all the silver into a wooden bowl, and rubbed it herself with the washleather when it was dried.[Pg 22]

She had just finished this part of her daily routine when the door opened and her son Melville came in. His appearance would be ridiculous in the eyes of the dandies of to-day, but in his own, at least, it was as near perfection as possible.

His hair was curled in tight and very-much-oiled curls on his forehead and round his ears. He wore a high neckcloth, tied evidently with much care, supporting his retreating chin. His coat was of Lincoln green, very short in the waist, with large silver buttons, and turned back with a wide collar to display two waistcoats, the white one only showing an edge beyond the darker one of deep salmon-colour, which opened to set off a frilled shirt. The trousers were tight, and caught at the ankles by straps, and his shoes were tied with large bows. The servile imitators of "the first gentleman in Europe" followed in his steps with as much precision as possible, and Melville Falconer spared no pains to let the county folk of Somersetshire see what the real scion of bon ton looked like.

Melville had a pleasant, weak face; he was almost entirely forgetful of the interests or tastes of anyone but himself, and he had never given up his own wishes for the sake of another in his life.[Pg 23]

He had a ridiculous idea of his own importance, and a supreme contempt for what he called old-fashioned usage; from the vantage-ground of superior wisdom he looked down on the county gentry of Somersetshire, who, in those days, did not frequent London in the season, or tread hard on the heels of the nobility in all their customs, as is now the case.

The great mercantile wealth which rose into colossal importance, when railway traffic brought the small towns near the large ones, and the large ones near the metropolis, had not begun to overshadow the land; the tide of speculation had not set in; and there was less hastening to be rich and desire to display all that riches could give. It was a time of comparative stagnation, which preceded the great rush, which was to bear on its tide, as the stream of progress and discovery gathered strength, the next generation with relentless power. Of all that lay outside Fair Acres, Mrs. Falconer was almost indifferent, if not ignorant. She liked things as they were, and was averse to change, lest that change should be for the worse. Her tongue, which was a sharp one, had been swift to condemn the establishment of the schools in her neighbourhood, and she resisted all invitations from her husband to make the[Pg 24] acquaintance of Mrs. Hannah More. Teaching lads and lasses to read and write was, in the opinion of Mrs. Falconer, a crying evil. They had enough learning if they kept their church once a week, and as to arithmetic, if they could count their own fingers it was enough; and she, for one, would never take a servant who had schooling. "A pack of nonsense," she called it; and she would tell Mrs. Hannah More so if only she had the chance. Mrs. Falconer turned from her occupation at the table, when her son entered.

"Breakfast!" she exclaimed. "No, indeed; breakfast is over and done with. I can't keep the things about half the morning."

The prototype of the fine gentleman seated himself in a chair at the table, and said in a drawling voice, suppressing a yawn:

"Joyce, get me some clean plates, and go and order a rasher of bacon; and let the eggs be poached; and——"

But Mrs. Falconer pushed Joyce aside:

"No," she said; "your sister has something else to do than wait on you. I'll get your breakfast; and if you have to wait an hour, it will serve you right; lie-a-beds don't generally have sharp appetites."

"Nay, mother," Melville said, "do not let the want of appetite be laid to my door, with so many other[Pg 25] sins; I am particularly hungry this morning. And I beseech you, do not do servant's work for me."

Mrs. Falconer's face betrayed that she felt the thrust.

"Servant's work must be done for folks too lazy to do it for themselves," she said, as she let the heavy door swing behind her, and repaired to the kitchen to prepare, far too carefully, a breakfast for her son.

Joyce hesitated a moment, and then said:

"It always vexes mother when you are late, Melville. I wish you would get up earlier."

"My dear little sister, I should have vexed mother if I had come down at six. She is out of temper with me, and so is my father, simply because I desire to get a little education, to fit me for my position here, you know, when I come into the place."

"Oh, Melville, you have had every advantage; you ought to know everything. But Aunt Letitia was quite right—the money spent upon you at Oxford was wasted."

"Thanks for your high opinion. I ought to be vastly grateful for it. But to speak of other things: I have bidden a friend to stay here for a week. He will like country air, and to drink milk and curds-and-whey. He arrives at Wells by the Bath mail; and[Pg 26] I shall drive in with you and my father, and hire a post-chaise at the Swan to bring him out."

"I hope he is not a fine gentleman," Joyce said.

"He is a very fine gentleman indeed," was the answer; "and, Joyce, persuade mother not to put on that big bib, and make herself look like a housekeeper. It will appal Arundel, and make him feel out of his element."

"If he is to feel that, what does he come for?" Joyce said, angrily. "We want no upstarts here."

"Upstarts! that is fine talking. Arundel comes of one of the oldest families in England. Not older than ours; though, unhappily, we live as if we had sprung from the gutter, and do not get any proper respect."

"Respect!" exclaimed Joyce, indignantly. "Respect! As if father were not respected as a justice! and as if you——" Joyce stopped; she felt too indignant to go on.

"My dear little sister," Melville said, with a grand air of pity—"my dear little sister, you are only ignorant. If you knew a little more of the habits and customs of the higher classes, you would not talk so foolishly."

"I do not wish to know more about them if you have got your habits from associating with them."[Pg 27]

Melville smiled, and did not betray the least irritation.

"My dear," he said, "facts are stubborn things. Does it never strike you, that though my father dines at the houses of the gentry in the county, sits on the bench, and rides to cover, you and my mother are not invited to accompany him. The truth is my good mother dislikes the usages of genteel life."

Melville used that objectionable word with emphasis. Genteel was in those days used as some of us now use words which are scarcely more significant, though generally accepted—"Good form," "A 1," and so forth.

"It is," Melville continued, grandly, "the result of early associations; and so we eat heavy one o'clock meals and nine o'clock suppers, instead of dining at three or four o'clock; and my mother, instead of receiving company in the house, works in it like a servant. It is a vast pity, my dear. It keeps the family down, and destroys your chances in life. So I advise you to try to alter things. Now Arundel is coming, I want to dine at a less outlandish hour, and I——"

Whatever Mr. Melville Falconer wanted Joyce did not stay to hear. She left the large hall by one door as her mother entered by the other, bearing in her hand a tray of delicately prepared breakfast for[Pg 28] her son, who was wholly unworthy of her attentions, and would have been better without them.

"Thank you, mother," Melville said. "I hope the toast is not dried up. There is so much skill even in the poaching of an egg."

"There are two ways of doing everything," was Mrs. Falconer's rejoinder. "Now I must be quick, for I have a deal of work upstairs."

"Why should you have work, mother?"

"Why did you invite a fine gentleman here? You had better answer that question. The best room must be got ready, and the feather bed laid before the fire."

"A fire in this weather!" exclaimed Melville.

"No one ever sleeps in my house in an unaired bed; and never will, while I am mistress of it, that I can tell you. I hope your fine gentleman is not one to scoff at plain people."

"Arundel is far too well bred to make invidious remarks. But for all that, things may strike him as a little odd. I was going to suggest that we should dine at four o'clock while he is here, and that the boys should not sit down with us elders. It is not the custom in great houses."

"It is the custom here, and mine is not a great house: it is a comfortable English home, where[Pg 29] there is no waste, and no extravagance, and no show. I'll warrant your grand friend never slept in a better bed nor between finer sheets than he will to-night. They are as sweet as lavender can make them, and ——"

Melville shrugged his shoulders.

"Nay, spare me, mother, and let us leave the arrangements of bed-chambers to the fitting people. And, if I might suggest it, let all things wear their best appearance when Arundel arrives, including the mistress of the mansion. It is a pity when one so young and comely-looking as my mother should pay such scant heed to the little feminine ornaments which are——Phaugh! what is this? Positively a red ant crawling from the bread-trencher. What a beast! Quick! catch it, mother. I hope we shall have no red ants when Arundel is here."

Mrs. Falconer darted down upon the ant with her forefinger, and speedily despatched it, exclaiming there was a perfect plague of ants in the larder, and she did not know how to be rid of them.

"Disgusting!" said her son, carefully covering the body of the ant with a leaf which had garnished the pat of butter. "It is enough to make one sick. I must have a little brandy to settle myself, or rather, my breakfast, before I start."[Pg 30]

Mrs. Falconer made no response to this request. But the spirit-stand was in the sideboard, and when his mother was gone Melville helped himself to a pretty strong dram, and then lounged about till it was time to mount the "four-wheel" and drive into Wells.[Pg 31]



The squire's high "four-wheel" drew up before the door of the Swan Hotel at Wells about twelve o'clock that day. Mr. Falconer was well-known there, and there was a general rush to meet him. The landlord came briskly to the side of the vehicle to assist Miss Joyce to alight, while the ostler and stable-boy ran to the head of the mare; and in the dark entrance below the portico the landlady and a waiter with a napkin over his arm, were in readiness.

"Good-day to you," said the squire, in a cheery voice.

"We are proud to see you, sir. Nice weather for the hay. Will you please to walk in, sir? and Mrs. Maltby will receive your orders for dinner."

"Thank ye kindly. Dinner for two at one o'clock. My daughter will go up to the Liberty, to her aunt's."[Pg 32]

"Here, you fellow," exclaimed the prototype of the first gentleman in Europe. "Here, can't you get the carriage nearer the pavement? I don't care to set my foot in that puddle."

The ostler backed the horse, and the landlord advanced to give Melville his arm, while a knot of people had assembled in Saddler Street, watching with some curiosity the movements of the smart young gentleman in the back seat.

The squire, provoked at the tone in which his son had spoken, vanished within the dark lobby of the inn, while Joyce said, laughing:

"Melville, surely you don't want to be helped from the carriage!"

"Look at 'im, now," said a poor woman, who was carrying a basket of vegetables to one of the Canon's houses; "did ye ever see the like? His shoes are made of paper; and, lor! what bows!"

"Take care; you'll be heerd," said an old man, who was leaning on his stick. "Take care. Don't 'ee chatter like a magpie. You'll be heerd, Peggy Loxley."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the woman, "I know why you are affrighted; I know. You've got your 'nephy' up to-day afore the justices, and you don't want to affront one of the justices; I see."[Pg 33]

The old man shook his stick at the woman, and meantime Melville had accomplished his descent without splashing his shoes or the edge of his trowsers.

"I shall want a post-chaise ready, in the afternoon, after the Bath mail arrives," he said. "I expect a friend by the coach."

"Very good, sir," said the landlord, who now reappeared; "very good. The squire has ordered dinner for two at one o'clock."

"Where are you off to, Joyce?" Melville said.

"I am going to do some shopping, and to wait at Aunt Letitia's for father." Then Joyce drew a little nearer Melville. "Why can't your friend ride with you in the back seat?"

"Why? Because I don't choose to let him jog over the roads in such a rough conveyance."

Joyce's lip curled.

"It is good enough for father and for me," she said, "and ought to be good enough for you."

Melville arranged his hair, and touched the ends of his lace cravat.

"My dear child, don't make a scene before witnesses, I beseech you."

Joyce waited to hear no more, but tripped away, turning, through a quaint archway, to the[Pg 34] Cathedral Green, where the cathedral stood before her in all its majesty.

The great west front of Wells Cathedral has few rivals, and dull indeed must be the heart that does not respond in some measure to its grandeur.

Involuntarily Joyce said, "How beautiful!" and then, leaving the road, she passed through a turnstile and pursued her way under the shadow of a row of limes, which skirted the wide expanse of turf before the cathedral.

The blue sky of the summer day over-arched the stately church, and a few white clouds sailed above the central tower. There were no jarring sounds of wheels, no tread of many feet, no traffic which could tell of trade. Although it was high noontide, the stillness was profound: the jackdaw's cry, the distant voices of children in the market-square, the rustle of the leaves in the trees, and a faint murmur of tinkling water, only seemed to make the quiet more quiet, the silence more complete.

The great west door was open, and Joyce walked towards it, and passed under it into the cool shadows of the nave. She had often done this before, going out from the north porch into the Close again, but to-day there seemed, she scarcely knew why, the stirring of a new life within her.[Pg 35]

Wells Cathedral. Wells Cathedral.

It was the moment, perhaps, of crossing the barrier which divides childhood from womanhood; the pause which comes in most young lives, when there is, as it were, a hush before the dawn of the coming day.[Pg 36]

Joyce had been silent during the drive from Fair Acres; her father had invited no conversation, and a glance now and then at his profile as he sat on the high box seat at her side, had convinced Joyce that the lines of care on his forehead were not traced there without a reason.

The fop, who condescended to sit in the back seat of the cumbrous vehicle, indulged in sundry grumbles at the bad road, the dust, the slow pace of Mavis the mare, the heat, and such like trifles, which were, however, sufficient to disturb the serenity of Melville Falconer.

Joyce had felt ashamed and annoyed as she had never done before; and when a neighbouring squire jogged past on horseback with his son, and looked back with a smile at the highly-decorated figure in the back seat, Joyce felt sure they were laughing at him! Why could not Melville wear a short riding coat like Charlie Paget, and top-boots, and bear himself like a country gentleman, instead of bringing down London fashions into the heart of Somersetshire, and finding fault with everything in his own home; bring his fine friends there without warning, and behave as if he were indeed monarch of all he surveyed.

Joyce's sweet young face was shadowed with the[Pg 37] awakening sense of responsibility and the longing to do something, which might smooth the rough places in her father's life, which her brother apparently made without the slightest compunction.

As Joyce stood in the cathedral, not far from the north porch, her head raised towards the belfry-tower, which the great inverted arches support, a ray of sunshine entering at a window in the south transept touched her figure, and illuminated it with a subdued and chastened beauty. Her head was thrown back, and the high coal-scuttle or gipsy bonnet did not hide the sweet face, which, when she had walked demurely down the nave, had been hardly visible.

The little quaint figure was motionless, and the old verger turned twice to look at it, with a strange and curious thrill of admiration. Presently the cloister door opposite opened, and the Dean's swift footsteps were heard approaching, with a regular pit-pat, on the floor of the nave.

He, like the verger, was attracted by Joyce's attitude and the rapt expression on her fair face.

"Why, it's Falconer's little girl!" he thought. "She is generally all smiles and sunshine; now she looks like a nun."

As the Dean passed her, Joyce started. The[Pg 38] brightest colour came to her face, and she turned hastily towards the north porch.

The Dean, with old-fashioned and chivalrous courtesy, held the little door, which was cut out of the big one for ordinary use, to let her pass, and then he said:

"Miss Falconer, I think. I hope your good father is well. Is he in Wells to-day?"

"Yes, sir," Joyce replied, bright smiles rippling over her face. "Yes, sir; on magistrates' business."

"Ah, ah! I heard there was some bad case brought in from Mendip. The good lady at Barley Wood will have to learn that much prating about religion ain't what we want. It's like the crackling of thorns under the pot. Let us see you at the Deanery before long; make my compliments to your good father and Mrs. Falconer." And then the Dean ambled away, his thin, black-stockinged legs beneath the decanal coat and apron giving him the appearance of a black stork.

Joyce now hastened towards the Vicar's Close, where her aunt, her father's only sister, lived.

The Vicar's Close at Wells is a sight to delight the heart of the antiquary and the lover of ancient buildings and olden times.

It is entered from the north end of the cathedral[Pg 39] by a wide, low gateway, and on either side of a fairly broad footway stands a row of small, picturesque houses with twisted chimneys and low doorways, round which the clematis and honeysuckle climb at their own sweet will. The Vicar's Close, at the further end, is closed in by a small chapel, which entirely blocks the entrance, for any but foot passengers, who obtain egress into the North Liberty by some uneven stone steps at the side of the chapel, leading into the road a few feet above the level of the Close.

If Wells is quiet outside the Vicar's Close, it is quiet indeed within it. Since the summer day when Joyce went into the little garden before a house half-way up on the right side, the hand of the modern Wells builder and plasterer may have marred the complete effect, with stucco and sash-windows; but for the most part the houses in the second decade of the century were guiltless of plate glass and white-wash, and their antique frontage was, even more than now, one of the most picturesque features of the city of Wells.

Joyce had scarcely touched the bright brass handle of the bell when the door opened, and a girl of two or three and twenty sprang out.

"Oh, Joyce, how glad I am to see you! Come in Aunt Letitia, here is Joyce."[Pg 40]

Miss Falconer was in the parlour on the right-hand side of the little, low-roofed lobby, and rose somewhat feebly from her chair by the wide grate, which was gay with pots of flowers and evergreens.

"Well, my child, welcome. Have you come to Wells with your father?"

"Yes, auntie; and I am come here for dinner, and after dinner may Charlotte come and do some shopping with me? I have a long list of commissions at the china shop and at Wilmott's."

"Charlotte will be pleased to accompany you, dear child; and when you have taken off your bonnet, come and tell me home news."

There were not many stairs to ascend to Charlotte's bedroom, which looked into the gardens at the back of two other houses of some pretension, between the Vicar's Close and the Deanery.[Pg 41]

[Pg 42]Charlotte curled herself up in the deep window-seat, and watched her cousin as she laid aside her large bonnet, smoothed her hair, and arranged her white pelerine over her pelisse. Charlotte had a genuine, if rather romantic, admiration for her cousin Joyce. Though a good girl, she was somewhat given to sentiment and languishing, complained of being fatigued, of headaches, and low spirits. She fed upon romance and poetry—the poetry of albums and[Pg 43] keepsakes, which was then fashionable. Of course she had a hero who figured in her day-dreams; and she would spend hours at the little window of the sitting-room to catch a sight of him as he passed along the Close. Charlotte would have been much better for some active employment; but Miss Falconer was getting old and feeble in health, and if Charlotte was obedient and gentle, she was well satisfied. So she worked covers in cross-stitch for the chairs, knitted her own stockings, read all the light literature which came in her way, and played on the cabinet piano which stood against the wall in the sitting-room, with its crimson silk front gathered into the centre by a large rosette, and displaying, when open, a very narrow keyboard with very yellow keys.

The Vicar's Close, Wells. The Vicar's Close, Wells.

"How sweetly pretty you look to-day, Joyce. I can't help saying so. Don't be angry. I want to read you some verses I have written, called, 'The Drooping Rosebud.'" And Charlotte took out of her pocket the crumpled page of a copy-book.

"You had better not read it now, Charlotte; Aunt Letitia will expect us to go downstairs."

"Only the first verse," Charlotte said, and then she began:[Pg 44]

"'She bent her head in sorrow,
The pretty fragile rose;
She languished for the morrow,
Where light and gladness grows
She languished for a rain drop
To cheer her thirsty heart:
She was so sad and weary;
In joy she had no part.

'As the raindrop to the rosebud,
So is his smile to me;

Here Charlotte stopped and blushed. "You know who I mean by the rosebud, and who the raindrop is?"

Joyce laughed merrily.

"Oh, Charlotte, you must not come to me for sympathy. I can't understand such sentiment. You have never spoken to Mr. Bamfylde in your life."

"Not spoken; no, but there is such a thing as the language of eyes. Joyce, you don't understand."

"No, I don't; and I think, Charlotte, it is nonsense to waste your thoughts on Mr. Bamfylde, who probably has never given you a thought in his life."

"I am not so sure about thoughts, dear. However, I see you don't care about it, or my verses, or me."[Pg 45]

"Come, Charlotte, don't be silly! Of course I care about you, but I don't think I am poetical or romantic. Indeed, we ought to go downstairs."

"You must go first, and I will follow," said poor Charlotte, putting "The Drooping Rosebud" in her pocket again, with a sigh; and Joyce tripped downstairs alone.

"Well, my little rustic," Miss Falconer said; "come and sit down by me, and tell me the news."

"Melville came home last week," Joyce said. "He is determined to travel, and father did so want him to settle down at home and help him with the estate. But, oh! Aunt Lettice, nothing will ever make him into a farmer. He is dressed to-day, to come into Wells, like a fine gentleman. I get so angry with Melville, Aunt Lettice."

"He will come round in time, my dear. Young men are often a little difficult to manage, and then sober down so wonderfully."

"But Melville is twenty-three, nearly twenty-four, Aunt Lettice. Father has given him every advantage, and all he wished for, and now he says he cannot possibly live a country gentleman's life."

"Oxford was a poor preparation for that life, I must own," said Miss Falconer; "only it was natural[Pg 46] perhaps, that your father should yield to your mother's wishes."

"Mother suffers the most," said Joyce hotly, "far, far the most. It makes me so angry when I think of the way mother is treated."

"My dear child, she has spoiled Melville, and this is the result."

"It would not be the result if Melville had an atom of gentleman-like feeling. Looking down on mother, who——" Joyce's voice faltered.

"It was unfortunate that your father married below him in the social scale; he was caught in the rebound, as we say. But all that is over and done with: still, we may deplore it; though no one can respect your dear mother more than I do. Marriage," said Miss Falconer, slowly and deliberately, "has not been successful in our family. Charlotte's mother, our only sister, made a very unwise marriage, and her only child has been thrown upon me to support. Not that I regret it. Charlotte is an amiable, gentle girl, and a companion to me. I have given her such advantages as I could afford, and she is fairly accomplished. I had a visitor yesterday I little expected, at her very advanced age. Mrs. Hannah More paid her first call on our new Bishop, and was so obliging as to come on here. She was speaking of you with interest, my dear."[Pg 47]

"Of me!" exclaimed Joyce. "What does she know of me?"

"She knows about most people in the county; and, naturally, your mother's opposition to Mrs. More's views has reached her. She forbade a dairy-maid to read, who had once been in Mrs. More's school, and when she disobeyed her, dismissed her on the spot. It was much to be regretted. Greatly as I respect your mother, I must confess this act annoyed me."

"Did Mrs. More mention it yesterday, Aunt Lettice?"

"Yes; and she said she would like to have some communication with you. She had seen you riding with your father, and was taken by your looks. She inquired what education you had, and was shocked when I told her absolutely none. I told her I had implored your father to send you to a boarding-school at Clifton, but that he was obstinate. For, with all his good qualities, Joyce, we must concede that your father is obstinate."

"He is determined to do what is right," said Joyce, "if that is obstinacy."

Miss Falconer smiled.

"I have known him longer than you have, little Joyce," she said. "But tell me about this propo[Pg 48]sition of Mrs. More's: is it possible to carry it out? Mrs. More has such frequent attacks of illness, that it is well to lose no time. Shall I write to Mrs. More, and propose that you should spend a week at Barley Wood?"

"Oh! I don't think mother could spare me for a week. Did Mrs. More ask Charlotte?"

"No, but I may suggest it. Probably she thinks Charlotte is in good hands; she knows that I have not neglected her education. She has refined, poetical tastes; she can work beautifully in coloured silks; she can paint flowers, and she can play on the piano very prettily. These are the accomplishments which we look for in a young gentlewoman; and——"

"I have none of them!" Joyce exclaimed; not hopelessly, but almost defiantly: "but, Aunt Lettice, I am not sure that I want them."

"Dear child, I am sure that you do want them," was the reply, with a smile. "There is a want of 'finish' about you; the more to be lamented——"

Miss Falconer's speech was interrupted by the appearance of the neat maid-servant, who laid the cloth, and set out, with the utmost precision, the glasses and plates and dishes.

"We will adjourn to the sitting-room after dinner," Miss Falconer said. "I am glad to be spared coming[Pg 49] down twice in the day. It was fortunate that I was seated in this room yesterday when Mrs. More called; she could not have mounted the stairs. Oh! here is Charlotte. Now we will sit down to the table; say grace, dear Charlotte."

Charlotte obeyed, and then the cover was lifted from a fowl, done to a turn; and Patty handed round the vegetables, and poured out cider for Miss Falconer, while Charlotte had a glass of port-wine, as she had been rather "below par" for a day or two; and Joyce drank water from preference.

Before the meal was concluded, Miss Falconer had decided that she would write to Mrs. More, and propose that her niece from Fair Acres should accept her invitation to Barley Wood, at such time as might be most convenient to her to arrange it. She did not tell Joyce of this decision, but she considered by making it she was conferring a real favour on the "little rustic," whose beauty she was inwardly comparing to that of a wild rose; scarcely the drooping rose of Charlotte's poem!

The two girls set out, soon after dinner, for the market-place, where the shops were situated. The market-place at Wells is not without its picturesque features; old gabled houses skirt the north side and part of the south side, while a cross stands at the[Pg 50] bottom of the square. Clear water, from one of the many springs, which first attracted the College of Priests, in the time of Alfred's son Edward, to found their religious house in Wells, makes soft music as it runs down the streets in crystal streams. Two quaint archways, or, as they were in old documents called, the Palace Eye and the Deanery Eye, stand at the head of the market-square, and between them are two ancient houses, one of which was built by Bishop Beckington, and has rooms over the porch, or gateway, through which foot-passengers pass into the Cathedral Green.

There is a delightful sense that life flows easily and peacefully at Wells by the appearance of its citizens. The master of the large shop where the two girls stopped, was standing complacently at the door, his hands in his pockets, calmly surveying the rush of the cathedral choristers across the square, for the first chime had sounded for afternoon service.

[Pg 51]

Joyce was known as Squire Falconer's daughter at Fair Acres, and treated
[Pg 52] with respect. She was conducted to a counter at the end of the dark, low shop, where the head shopwoman waited on her. Joyce's list of commissions was for the most part of the homely and useful kind; but Charlotte was attracted by a display of gauze ribbons, then greatly[Pg 53] in fashion, for the large loops worn on the crown of gipsy bonnets. She was not proof against buying two yards of straw-coloured ribbon with a blue edge, and when the ring was pulled down the ends of her purse again, it slipped off, for there was nothing left in it.

The Market Place. Wells. The Market Place, Wells.

"Look, Joyce, what lovely ribbon! Do get some, Joyce."

But Joyce was intently examining some homely towelling, and weighing the respective merits of bird's-eye and huckaback.

"I don't want any ribbons," she said. "Yes, it is pretty, but what are you going to do with it?" Then turning to the counter: "I want a box of needles—all sizes, and half-a-dozen reels of cotton, and——"

"Joyce, I think I will go to the door while you are finishing all these dull things; and then——"

Joyce glanced at the large clock over the counter:

"Then, I think, we will go to the service, and if we are not too late——"

"Oh, yes," Charlotte said, eagerly. "Do let us go, and come back to the china-shop afterwards."

Charlotte had her own reasons for desiring to go to the cathedral. The hero of her silent worship was Mr. Bamfylde, a new minor Canon, and it was his week for doing the duty.[Pg 54]

Joyce completed her purchases, and left orders for them to be sent to the Swan; and then, just as the last chime was ringing and the old clock struck three, the two girls passed up the nave to the choir.

The work of restoration had not been begun, and the beautiful proportions of the choir of Wells Cathedral, were disfigured by high seats and an ugly pulpit. But Joyce's eyes were not critical, and she gave herself up to the soothing and elevating influence of the place, without any very distinct idea of why it was soothing and elevating. The service was slovenly enough in those days, and the new minor Canon got through it as fast as he could. The choristers straggled in, with no regard to order, and the lay-vicars conversed freely with each other, now and then giving the head of the chorister nearest to them a sharp rap with the corner of an anthem-book, or their own knuckles, through the open desk. The boys' behaviour was a little better than that of the men, for they had a wholesome fear of being reported to the Dean and Chapter, and feeling the weight of the old Grammar School master's birch-rod.

When the service was half over there was a sound of feet and voice's in one of the side aisles, and the Dean, who was in his stall, looked sharply round. The[Pg 55] verger hobbled out to see what his coadjutor outside the choir could be about, to allow such a disturbance. The verger was sound asleep, with his chin upon his capacious breast, and quite unconscious of the presence of the two young gentlemen who were chatting and laughing with each other, in the south transept.

The verger stumped after them, vainly endeavouring to rouse his heavy friend, and said:

"There's service going on; you mustn't make a disturbance, gentlemen; it's contrary to the Dean's wishes."

The elder of the two men answered with a laugh, but the younger said:

"Be quiet, Falconer. Don't you hear they are reading prayers?"

"Well, I am neither reading them nor saying them," was the answer. "I had enough of that at Pembroke. Now, old fellow, keep a civil tongue in your head, will you?" as the verger, angry at the contemptuous disregard of his commands, said:

"I'll turn you out, if you don't go peaceably."

Again another laugh; and the fat verger, who had now recovered from his heavy afternoon nap, came bearing down on the young men.

"You'll walk out this instant," he said, raising[Pg 56] his staff of office. "I wonder you ain't ashamed of yourself."

"No, my good man; on the contrary, I am proud of myself."

"Proud! Yes, a popinjay like you is proud enough, I'll warrant," murmured the other verger.

"Can we get into the choir, Arundel?"

"We had better wait here," was the answer. "The service is nearly over. Come this way into the cloisters. Don't be aggressive, Falconer, and make a row."

"I hate rows as much as you do," was the answer; "but I am not inclined to knock under, to this pair of drivelling old idiots."

I cannot say how this unseemly wrangle might have ended had not the verger in charge of the Dean heard the blowing of the organ pipes, which was a warning that he was to hasten to perform his office, and conduct the Dean back to the Deanery.

Almost immediately the organ sounded, and those who had taken part in the service came out. Joyce and Charlotte were amongst the last of the very scanty congregation.

Melville, for reasons of his own, did not care to introduce his friend at that moment, and Mr. Arundel was quite unconscious that the fair face of which he[Pg 57] caught sight, from under the shadow of the large bonnet, was that of Melville's sister.

"What a sweet face!" he thought; and then, as Joyce turned suddenly towards the spot by the font where the two gentlemen were standing, a bright blush and smile, made her look irresistibly lovely.

"Who is that young lady, Melville? She knows you." For Joyce had made a step forward, and then apparently changed her mind and went towards the north door with Charlotte.

Melville fingered his cravat, and settled his chin in its place above it. "That little girl dressed as if she came out of Noah's ark is my sister! Come, you will have another opportunity of cultivating her acquaintance, and you want to call at the Palace, don't you?"

"My mother charged me to do so; but there is no haste."

"Oh, you had better not lose time, or you may not find your legs under the Bishop's mahogany. We live some miles out, you know."

Mr. Arundel turned his head round twice to take a last look at the retreating figures, and then allowed Melville to tuck his arm in his, and walk down the cloisters with him to the Palace.

Melville was in fact very anxious to show off his intimacy with Mr. Arundel to the bishop, for he[Pg 58] could not hide from himself the fact that the ecclesiastical élite of Wells had not paid him the attention he hoped to receive. The truth was that rumours of Melville's gay and careless life, and the anxiety he had given his father, had reached the ears of some in authority. Heads of colleges reported his behaviour at Oxford, and Melville had been sent down, not for what may be called serious offences; but still the character hung about him of a man who cared for nothing earnestly; reading or rowing, it was all alike. Nothing that Melville did was done with singleness of purpose, except, as his father sometimes said, with a sigh, "dress himself like a mountebank and copy London fashions."[Pg 59]



The old baronial Palace of Wells, surrounded by its moat and reached by a drawbridge—not raised now as in olden times,—is in perfect harmony with the city in which it stands. In it, but not of it; for when once the gateway is passed, the near neighbourhood of the market-place is forgotten, such traffic as this little city knows is left behind; and the gardens of the Palace might well be supposed to be far from all human habitations, so complete is the repose which broods over it. Encircled by battlemented walls, and standing in a wide demesne, a stranger is at once struck with the unusual beauty of its surroundings.

Mr. Arundel's admiration rather disconcerted his friend.

"Come on, Arundel. Don't stare about like that; some of the family may be at the windows."[Pg 60]

But Mr. Arundel did not heed his friend's entreaty.

"Come on; it is so like a country clodhopper to stand looking at a big house, as if you had never seen one before."

"I never have seen one before, in the least like this big house," was the reply; "and what are those ruins? It is odd, Falconer, that you never prepared me for the beautiful things I was to find in Somersetshire."

"It's a mighty damp place," Melville said. "Rheumatism and low fever haunt the servants' quarters, which are on a level with the moat; but, my dear fellow, do come on."

"Can't we cross over to that old wall? It is like a glimpse of Paradise through there."

"No, no, we must go up to the front like well-mannered folk. Come, don't be so obstinate, Arundel."

Whether Melville would have succeeded in his attempts to draw his friend towards the entrance-porch, which stood in the centre of a long line of windows of the lower story of this side of the Palace, I do not know, had not a clerical figure in knee-breeches and shovel hat, been seen advancing over the emerald turf, and approaching the two young men.[Pg 61]

Gateway of the Bishop's Palace, Wells. Gateway of the Bishop's Palace, Wells.

[Pg 62]

Melville began to show signs of nervousness, and the grand air which he maintained to his inferiors[Pg 63] gave place to a rather servile and cringing manner, as he carefully removed his high narrow hat from his curled head and, bowing low, said:

"My lord, my friend Mr. Arundel is anxious to pay his respects to you."

The bishop looked with keen grey eyes at Melville, and said stiffly:

"Mr. Falconer's son, I think?"

"Yes, my lord; your lordship's humble servant," again bowing till the tails of his short-waisted coat stood up like those of a robin-redbreast.

"Arundel, Arundel," the bishop repeated; "Arundel: the name is familiar to me."

"My mother, my lord, had the honour of your lordship's acquaintance some years ago. She was Annabella Thorndeane."

The bishop's somewhat stiff manner changed at once. He extended his hand, and said:

"To have known your mother is to bear her always in affectionate remembrance. Where is she living?"

"Since my father's death, my lord, my mother has had no settled home. She has lived within reach of me, first at Winchester, and then at Oxford. Now she will settle where I do."

"And what profession are you taking, may I inquire?"[Pg 64]

"The law I believe; things are not yet decided, my lord; but there is some notion of a partnership in Bristol, when I have passed the needful examinations."

"Well, well, we must have lawyers, and can no more do without them than doctors, eh?" All this time Melville had fidgeted, and felt annoyed at the bishop's coldness to him. "I am alone just now in the Palace; health, or rather the search for health, has taken the ladies to the east coast, a very distant spot—Cromer in Norfolk. But bracing was recommended, and our Western sea cannot come under that head. But will you walk round; I shall be pleased to show you over the grounds, and the gallery, where the portraits of my predecessors hang. One has the mark of a bullet in his cheek, caught in the battle of Sedgemoor. All our surroundings speak of warlike times, and there are moments now when I feel as if I would gladly pull up my drawbridge and have done with the world without. There is strife in the streets, and storms even in our little tea-cup, I can assure you."

The bishop now led the way round to the gardens at which Arundel had looked with longing eyes through the ruins. Suddenly the bishop turned sharply on Melville, looking him down from head to foot with anything but an approving glance.[Pg 65]

"And what profession, sir, do you mean to take up?—law, like your friend—or what?"

"I am going to travel for a year, my lord."

"Travel! humph! Your good father has several sons, I think?"

"Four younger sons, my lord; so much the worse for me."

"I hope you set them a good example," said the bishop, drily. "I should venture to suggest that your father might want help with his estate."

"He has a steward, my lord, an old servant."

"Stewards mean money, don't they? and a gentleman with a small landed property cannot be overburdened with that article nowadays, more especially if he has five sons."

Melville's brow clouded, and he would fain, if he had dared, given vent to some rather uncomplimentary adjectives, of which "old meddler" was one.

"Here," said the bishop, "are the ruins of the old Hall, where, report says, the last abbot of Glastonbury was hanged. He was tried here by the king's orders, for suppression of some of the church lands which the king had seized. That," pointing to the end of the Palace, "is the part of the building which was blown down, or, rather, the roof blown in, upon[Pg 66] one of my predecessors during the last century. Both Bishop Kidder and his wife were buried in their bed in the ruins. But not to dwell on these memories, I have pleasanter ones to recount. On that terrace walk, where we will now mount and take a view of the surrounding country, the pious Ken—that God-fearing and steadfast man—composed the hymns, which, morning and night, bring him to our minds."

Melville Falconer had forgotten, if he had ever heard, those hymns; but Mr. Arundel said:

"My mother will be interested, indeed, my lord, to hear I have been on the spot where those hymns had birth."

"Ay," said the bishop; "and we must have her here one day and show her this fair place. One can imagine, as he gazed out on this prospect, that the saintly Ken was eager to call on every one to 'shake off dull sloth,' and rise early with the birds to offer the sacrifice of the morning."

It was indeed a fair prospect towards which the bishop waved his hand. Fields of buttercups lay like burnished gold in the summer sunshine. Beyond these fields, known as the Bishop's Fields, was a belt of copse, and further still the grassy slopes of a hill, really of no very exalted height, but from its strongly[Pg 67] defined outline and the sudden elevation of its steep sides from the valley below it, it assumes almost mountainous proportions, and is a striking feature in the landscape as seen from Wells and its neighbourhood. A wooded height, known as Tor Hill, rises nearer to the Palace, and then the line sweeps round to the Mendip range, which shuts in Wells on the north-east, and across which a long, straight road lies in the direction of Bristol.

The bishop continued to chat pleasantly as he led his visitors along the broad terrace walk on the top of the battlemented wall. Then he passed down into the garden, and ascended a spiral stone staircase which led to a small ante-chamber, and then into the long gallery.

This room is one of the principal features of the Palace at Wells, with its long line of small, deep bay windows, and its beautiful groined roof, the walls covered with portraits of many bishops who have held the see.

Archbishop Laud looks down with a somewhat grim face, like a man who had set himself to endure hardness, and never flinch from the line he had marked out for himself. Saintly Ken, too, is there, and keen, thin-lipped Wolsey, who had not learned when he sat for that picture the bitter lesson which[Pg 68] his old age brought him, not to put his trust in princes, or in any child of man.

The war-like bishop, too, with the hole in his cheek, had, a very unwarlike expression.

"A jolly old fellow!" Mr. Arundel remarked; "not like a man who cared to handle a musket or bayonet."

"No; appearances are deceitful at times," the bishop said. "The stairs up which we came, open into my study, from that little ante-chamber; and I confess I should take flight by them and get into the chapel if by chance the Palace is besieged."

"Not much fear of that," Melville said, "in these days."

"These days are not as quiet as they may look, young sir. It strikes me, before you are grey-headed, there will be a desperate struggle between law and anarchy—between the king and the people. The horizon is dark enough. There are graver matters pressing than gewgaws and finery and personal indulgence. We are too much given in Wells to look upon it as the world, and refuse to believe in the near approach of the storm of which there are signs already, and not far from us. But, young gentlemen, I have an appointment, and[Pg 69] must not delay if I wish to be punctual. I shall hope to see you again, Mr. Arundel. How long will you be in our neighbourhood?"

"For a few days, my lord."

"Well, well. I shall come out to Fair Acres with my son, and pay my respects to your excellent parents, Mr. Falconer, of whom I have heard much during my short residence in Wells."

The young men felt that the time for departure had come, and taking leave of the bishop, they passed under the old gateway, and were again on the square of green turf which separated it from the cloister door.

A row of noble elms skirted the moat, and Melville proposed that they should take a turn under them. The moat was full, and the stately swans came sailing towards the sloping bank, where two girls were standing. Quaint figures now we should think they were, with the short, plain skirts of their frocks bordered with a narrow frill, thin white stockings, which sandalled shoes displayed to advantage, and little tippets crossed over their shoulders surmounted by large gipsy hats or bonnets. But nothing could destroy the symmetry of the arm and hand, which was stretched out towards the swans with a bit of bread. And Mr. Arundel exclaimed:[Pg 70]

"There are the two girls we saw in the cathedral Falconer; one is your sister."

Before Melville could rejoin, Joyce had turned, and now came forward to her brother with heightened colour, saying:

"I think my father will be ready to go home now, Melville, and we had better go back to the Swan."

Charlotte all this time had been posing before her grand cousin and his friend, hoping to attract his attention.

"Introduce me, Falconer," Mr. Arundel said, standing with a native grace which characterised him, with his hat in his hand.

"My sister," said Melville, carelessly, "and my cousin, Miss Benson;" and he was passing on to continue his walk towards the Bishop's Fields; but Mr. Arundel did not follow him.

"Your sister says we shall be wanted at the Swan Inn, and must not linger by the live swans."

"Oh, no; we are going to Fair Acres quite independently of my father. I have ordered our carriage; you ought to come to the end of the Moat, there is a fine view of Dulcot."

But Mr. Arundel showed no intention of following his friend. "Nay," he said, "let me see the swans[Pg 71] have the last bit of bun. See, they are coming for it. Do you always bring them buns?"

"Not always; but I had a convenient halfpenny left from the change at Willmott's, so I went to buy a stale bun at the little shop in Saddler Street."

"Happy swans to be so remembered!" Mr. Arundel said, as he watched the last wedge of the stale bun gobbled up by the master of the brood, while his wife gave him a savage peck with her black bill.

"It is a pity they are so greedy; it spoils their beauty," Joyce said. Then, with sudden recollection, she said, "Oh! Charlotte, I have forgotten to take Piers' sparrow-hawk to Mr. Plume's. I must go at once to Aunt Letitia's and fetch it. I left it in the basket there."

"Can I go and fetch the sparrow-hawk, Miss Falconer?" Mr. Arundel began.

"Come, Arundel," Melville interrupted, "you and I can stroll round this moat; we are not returning, as I told you, with Joyce."

But Mr. Arundel deliberately turned in the direction in which Joyce was hastening; and Charlotte, much to her cousin's vexation, was left with him.

A muttered exclamation, which was not fit for ears polite to hear, escaped Melville's lips, and Charlotte's soft speeches were lost on him.[Pg 72]

"It is so nice to see you here, Cousin Melville. Won't you come and pay auntie a visit?"

Melville had particularly desired to escape a visit to the Vicar's Close, but he began to fear it was inevitable.

"Do tell me about college," Charlotte began. "I am dying to hear, because I have a special interest in college now." This was said with a smile and glance which were meant to make an impression. "And do you wear one of those sweet hoods with snow-white fur round it, Cousin Melville? They do look so pretty!"

"Well—no," drawled Melville, evasively; "I have not taken my B.A. yet."

"Mr. Bamfylde, the new minor Canon at the cathedral, wears one; and it is so charming!"

"Humph!" Melville rejoined.

What were all the minor canons in the world to him that he should care whether they wore fur-lined or silk-lined hoods at their backs?

They had reached the turnstile now leading into the Cathedral Green.

"I say," he began, "I think I must bid you good-bye here, Charlotte. I will call on Aunt Letitia another day, for I must look after the carriage. I am afraid there should be some mistake. I want[Pg 73] a pair of greys to post with, and I should not wonder if they tried to pass off two old bays, with their bones just through their skins."

And the next minute the fine gentleman was sauntering off in the opposite direction to poor Charlotte, who went away disconsolate.

Meantime Mr. Arundel and Joyce had walked quickly to the Vicar's Close, and Joyce, having captured her basket with the dead bird, was surprised to find Mr. Arundel waiting for her at the little gate.

"Mr. Plume's shop is in New Street," she said. "It is scarcely to be called a shop, but there are a few stuffed birds in the window. We must go up the steps by the chapel into the North Liberty."

Mr. Arundel was struck with the business-like fashion in which Joyce conducted her interview with Mr. Plume.

He was a little dried-up-looking man, whose front parlour had that peculiar scent which is characteristic of rooms where stuffed animals are kept.

Mr. Plume did not confine himself to birds. A large fox, with gleaming teeth and glassy eyes, stared at the customers from a shelf in a recess by the fire[Pg 74]-place. A badger was on another; and owls of all sizes and colours were standing, with one foot tucked up, and a certain stony stare in their great round, unshadowed eyes.

Mr. Plume did not waste words.

"Sparry-'awk," he said "sparry-'awk; it is of not great value, missie. Humph!" he continued, "it's not a rare speciment, but I'll set it up. How's the young gentleman, eh?"

"Quite well, thank you, Mr. Plume; and please have the bird ready by the next time we come into Wells. We must not stop now; but what a noise those men are making."

As she spoke, Mr. Arundel went out to the door, and Joyce, peeping through the cases in the window, saw a cart being dragged up the hill towards the Bristol Road by four rough-looking men. Another huge man sat in the cart, his head lolling upon his breast, evidently the worse for drink. A few wild-looking men and boys and a lean pony followed; and two or three women, with their hair hanging down their backs, brought up the rear; and all were shouting at the top of their voices some rhyme, the drift of which was, that the justices had got the worst of it, and that Bob was free.

"What does it all mean?" Mr. Arundel said.[Pg 75]

"Oh, it's only some of the rough Mendip folk. One of 'em was taken up for snaring rabbits, and there was a great row. I suppose the justices have let him off—afraid to do anything else. There is a deal of ill-blood in them parts; and they say it's even worse in the cities than what it is in the country. Dear me!" said Mr. Plume, stroking the back of a stuffed spaniel which was handy. "It's a thousand pities folks can't mind their own business, instead of annoying respectable folks. Good-day to you, Miss Falconer. Good-day to you, sir."

When outside the shop Joyce paused and watched the straggling crowd wind up the steep hill.

"It is dreadful to see people like this," she said, with a sigh. "I must ask father about it; for he has been sitting on the bench to-day. I hope they are not angry with him."

"I hope not," Mr. Arundel said; "they look little better than savages, and would knock any one on the head for a trifle."

"We must make haste," Joyce said, "for father does not like to be kept waiting, and mother expects us home to tea. I dare say we shall get to Fair Acres before you do."

"Why can't we all drive together?" Mr. Arundel asked.[Pg 76]

Joyce hesitated a moment, but only for a moment.

"You are thought too grand to drive in our four-wheel," she said, smiling.

"Grand! Who said so?"

"Melville, of course. He said you would be shocked to rumble and jolt over the roads, and that your luggage must go on the roof of the post-chaise."

Mr. Arundel laughed a merry, pleasant laugh, and said:

"I am sorry your brother should have given you such a bad account of me. Poor fellow!"

Joyce looked up quickly.

"Then you don't think exactly as Melville does?"

"No, I hope not," was the reply.

"But he is a friend of yours, is not he?"

"Yes, he is a friend—up to a certain point. Do not think me ungracious."

"Oh! no. I understand."

"Melville thinks a great deal of you, and is so proud that you have come here. I am glad you have come also, now I have seen you, though when I first heard you were coming I dreaded it; and so did mother. But I must not stop to talk any more now, except to ask you to make mother feel as you have made me feel, that you are not so very grand, after all."[Pg 77]

The squire was seen at the door of the Crown as Joyce and Mr. Arundel turned into Saddler Street, and Joyce ran quickly towards him. Her father waved his hand impatiently.

S. Cuthbert's. Wells. S. Cuthbert's, Wells.

"Come, Joyce; come, make haste!"

In another moment she had mounted to her seat by his side, and they were off at a quick trot. The good old horse knew that her head was turned homewards and went cheerily down the High Street, past[Pg 78] the noble church of St. Cuthbert, where there was no traffic to impede its progress.

The squire was silent until they were fairly out of the town, when he said:

"So your grand brother can't ride in his father's carriage! He and his fine friend may pay for the chaise; I shall not."

"I do not think the friend is fine after all," Joyce said; "he laughed at the idea of the post-chaise."

The squire cracked his whip impatiently.

"He may well laugh. Ah! little Joyce, there are many graver questions at issue than the freaks of an over-indulged, reckless boy like Melville. We had a stormy scene in the court to-day. That man who was let off a month, in gaol richly deserved punishment; but there was a division on the bench and my conviction was overruled."

"Oh!" Joyce exclaimed, "I saw a crowd of rough people going up the Bristol Road; they had taken a pony out of a cart, and were dragging it up the hill, with a man in it, who was half asleep."

"Half drunk," said the squire; "that is more likely. They are a rough lot on Mendip, more like savages than the inhabitants of a civilised country."

"What is to be done to make them better, father? Has not Mrs. More tried to get the children taught?"[Pg 79]

"Yes, she has been trying for years to make the schools succeed; but there is plenty of labour and little to show for it."

"Perhaps," said Joyce, "there is some good done, though we don't see it. It is always easier to see bad things than good ones; so easy to see faults in those about us, and to be blind to their goodness."

The squire laughed; between this father and daughter there existed a sympathetic friendship wholly independent of the natural tie of parent and child.

"You are right, Joyce, quite right; but I am afraid one does not need glasses to find out the bad things."

"Father, let us put them on to find the good ones, then," Joyce rejoined.

The squire leaned back, and let the old horse go her own pace, and her own way.

"Ah! my little Joyce, that is wise advice. Thank God, I need no spectacles to find out the good in you. I look to you to keep things smooth at home for the next few days, and to help me to do the same. I am quick-tempered, I know, and when I flare out, I am sorry afterwards."

"You don't often 'flare out,' as you say, to me, dear dad."[Pg 80]

"What did your aunt say to you to-day?—called you her 'rustic,' I'll answer for it."

"Oh, yes, of course she did; and she wants me to pay a grand visit to Barley Wood."

"To Barley Wood!—to Mrs. Hannah More! Mother won't hear of it. Your aunt had better not meddle. What do you think about it yourself?"

"I should like to pay a visit—a short visit—to Barley Wood. That is quite different from going to school. But with the boys coming home, and Melville and his friend at Fair Acres, I doubt if I could be spared. It might do me good to go, father; I mean, make me all the more useful at home afterwards."

"What do you expect Mrs. Hannah More to do to you?—cut you into a pattern, as she would cut an old woman's cloak, eh? However, if you wish to go, and any more is said, I'll manage it for you. Perhaps no more will be said; your aunt is just as likely to forget all about it."

"Yes, I know that," Joyce said, with a little ring of disappointment in her voice.

"I'll tell you what pattern I would not have you cut into on any account; and that is poor die-away, languishing Charlotte Benson. Poor thing! if she is a specimen of boarding-schools and accomplishments, I would sooner have Jane Watson for a daughter."[Pg 81]

"Charlotte paints flowers very well, father," Joyce said; "and she has worked a figure in Berlin wool of a woman in a red gown feeding chickens; and——"

They had been jogging along at a very leisurely pace, and the sound of fast-trotting horses made Joyce look back.

"To the right, father! quick! it's the post-chaise from the Swan."

The squire pulled up towards the high hedge, and the post-chaise dashed past, the luggage behind, and the two young men lying back in it. The gates of Fair Acres were in sight, and the carriage turned in with an imposing flourish of the post-boy's whip.

"Look here, Joyce, that is a sign of the times. That poor foolish popinjay of ours is only drifting on with the tide. He has brought another young fellow, I daresay, as idle as himself, to eat my bread and give himself airs. Well, I will put up with it for a week, and then both have notice to quit; nor do I desire to see either of them darken my door again. Melville shall travel if he likes, but it shall be across the water—to America, where, if a little of this nonsense is not knocked out of him, my name is not Arthur Falconer."

With this outburst of masculine indignation the squire subsided, and then quietly drove round to the[Pg 82] stables, while the post-chaise was being unloaded at the front door; and Melville was giving the post-boy as large a "douceur"—or, as we should have it called in these days, a "tip"—as befitted the imitator of the first gentleman in Europe.[Pg 83]



There was a mixture of dignity and simplicity in the reception which Mrs. Falconer gave her son's friend which did not fail to strike him.

"We sup at nine o'clock, sir," she said, "we dine at one, and take tea at five. Thus it is to the first of these meals that I would bid you welcome, as it is close upon eight o'clock now. Will you follow me to your room?—which I hope you will find comfortable."

"I am sure I shall," said Mr. Arundel, warmly. "It is very good of you, madam, to invite me to Fair Acres."

These few words had passed in the hall; and the tap of Piers' crutches was heard approaching, while Nip and Pip came bustling about the new-comers, their short tails vibrating as if they were screwed on with a wire!

"This is our youngest child, sir—Piers," Mrs. Falconer said.[Pg 84]

"Where is Joyce, mother?" Piers asked.

"Your sister is behind; our chaise passed her close to the gate."

"Why did not you come with her?" Piers asked, bluntly.

"Because I was not allowed to do so," Mr. Arundel said, good-temperedly. "I can tell you what you will be glad to hear, that your sister did not forget your sparrow-hawk."

Melville, who had after all been wrangling with the postboy about his gratuity in a somewhat undignified manner, now came into the hall as his father and Joyce appeared from a door under the wide staircase.

"Well," said the squire, "you seem holding a counsel here; I hope it is peace, not war. Come, Melville, show your friend to his room."

Considering how greatly the squire had been annoyed by his son's driving out in the post-chaise, he spoke kindly and pleasantly; but Melville was already assuming his grand airs.

"Here, Arundel," he said, "I will take you to your room: first door on the left, I suppose?"

"You will allow me to do as I have done all my life, Melville," said his mother. "I always go with my guests to their chambers, to see they are comfortable. Now, Mr. Arundel."[Pg 85]

To Melville's horror, his mother put the accent on the second syllable. And as she tripped away—for her figure was still light and supple—he whispered: "He won't know who she means. Tell her, pray, not to say Arundel."

Joyce was indignant about the proceedings of the whole day, and she said:

"If you think it becoming to correct your mother, do it yourself." Then, going up to her father, she put her hand through his arm. "Come and see the last brood of chickens with me and Piers. They are lovely, dear dad."

Melville turned away with a satirical smile on his lips, thinking it was impossible to do anything with Joyce: she was content to let things remain as they were.

Meantime his friend was conducted to the "best room" Mrs. Falconer had to offer—a spacious square room, with a large four-post bed, hung with white dimity, and so high that a pair of steps by which to climb into it did not seem out of place.

The window was rather small for the size of the room, and the frames thick, but roses and honeysuckle hung their wreaths round it and perfumed the air.

Mrs. Falconer showed Mr. Arundel the high chest of drawers, and pointed to a hanging-closet, one of[Pg 86] the top panels of which was glass, so that it might have a dim light from the room.

"I hope you will be comfortable," she said; "the sheets are well aired, and so were the mattresses and beds, by the fire. I never trust to servants, but see to those things myself. We sup at nine o'clock; and if you want anything please pull the bell."

"You are very kind," Mr. Arundel said. "I hope my visit is not inconvenient."

"Oh, no; the boys are coming home from school to-morrow. Three boys make some difference in a house; but I dare say you will be out a great deal with my son Melville." A scarcely perceptible sigh accompanied the words, and then Mrs. Falconer vanished; on the stairs she met Melville.

"I say, mother, what have you got for supper? I hope there will be something that Arundel can eat. And, by the bye, mother, his name is Arundel, not Arundel."

"Oh, is it, indeed! I don't know that it matters what a man is called. As to the supper, there's a round of beef, and a pie, and a baked custard, and plenty of bread and cheese."

"I wish you could have some made dish to-morrow. Big joints are all very well for a pack of hungry schoolboys."[Pg 87]

Mrs. Falconer did not reply sharply, as she did sometimes. She turned and preceded Melville to his room, which was at the other end of the long passage or corridor, which ran across the house, dividing it into two parts, front and back. Melville followed her, and assumed a careless and indifferent air, throwing himself on the deep window-seat and giving a prolonged yawn.

A pack of cards lay on the drawers, with a dicebox.

"We had high words last night, Melville," his mother began; "and I was sorry——"

"Don't scold or preach any more; I am sick of it. If you'll get my father to let me travel, I'll come back in two years and settle into quite the country-gentleman; but you can't expect a fellow to bury himself here at my age with a set of rustics."

"I have heard all this before," his mother said, in a sad voice, very unlike her usual sharp tones. "What I want to ask is this: you have brought your friend here without so much as consulting your father or me. I ask a plain question, is he a well-behaved man and fit to be the associate of your sister and young brothers?"

"Fit to associate with them! His mother is an Honourable, his grandfather was a peer. Fit to associate with us, indeed, who are nothing but a pack of farmers!"[Pg 88]

"So you said last evening. I don't care a fig for lords and ladies; nor princes either, for that matter: but this I say—if your friend teaches my boys to gamble and drink, and is not to be trusted with your sister, but may talk all kinds of rubbish to her, and you know it, you'll repent bringing him here to your latest day. I must just trust you, Melville, and if you say he is a well-behaved young man, well, I will believe you, and he is welcome to stay here."

"My good mother, you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The fact is Gilbert Arundel is a trifle too good. He has a sort of mission to reform me. He has helped me out of scrapes and—well, I owe him something; and so, as he is of high family, I asked him to come here, as we don't catch such folks often at Fair Acres. He said he would like a week in the country, and he is looking after some place in Bristol, which is handy; so I asked him to come on here. Now are you satisfied?"

"I know looks don't go for much," Mrs. Falconer said, "but I do like his looks very much; and his manners, too."

Mrs. Falconer hesitated, and seemed uncertain what she should say next. She was not given to much demonstration of affection at any time, but her mother's heart yearned over this shallow-pated, self-[Pg 89]indulgent son of hers. It seemed but yesterday that he was seated on her knee and throwing his arms round her neck in his innocent childhood. But yesterday! and yet what a gulf lay between that time and this!

She could not have told why, or what innermost chord was touched, but certain it is that she drew nearer Melville, and putting her hand on his forehead, and brushing back the stiff curls, which were persuaded by pomade to lie in regular order on his head, she kissed him fondly.

"Oh! Melville," she said, "my son, my son, you know how dearly I love you. Do give up all your extravagant ways and high notions, and be a comfort to your father and me, and set your young brothers a good example."

Even Melville was a little touched.

"Yes," he said, kissing his mother in return, "yes, if you will let me off for a year, I will settle down and walk behind the plough, if you wish it then. Will that satisfy you?"

She kissed him again, and saying, "I will see what I can do with father about your travelling," she resumed her accustomed brisk manner and left him.

In spite of the large joint, and the big pie, the supper passed off pleasantly, for Gilbert Arundel[Pg 90] listened to all the squire had to say, and showed an interest in agriculture and farming, and won golden opinions in consequence.

Before the meal was over Mr. and Mrs. Falconer were both wondering how it was that their son and their guest could be friends; except by the law of contrast, a friendship between them seemed so impossible.

The school boys arrived the next day; the first acre of grass was cut, and the weather remained perfect. On the third day there was tea in the hay-field, and every one, from the squire downwards, was in high spirits. No one could resist Gilbert Arundel. His were the free, unrestrained good manners of the true gentleman, who can accommodate himself to every circumstance, and is neither too fine nor too fastidious for anything, which comes in his way.

Ralph, who was the grave-eyed student of the brothers, could not resist Gilbert's genial interest in his history of his success at the school at Exeter, where he was pursuing his education at one of the academies for young gentlemen, which are now a thing of the past.

Bunny and Harry buried him in the hay and nearly smothered him, and Piers found abundant cause for liking him in the attention he gave to the peculiarities[Pg 91] of an insect which he had found under one of the haycocks. Melville was lazily indifferent to what was passing, but he liked to lie full length under a spreading oak by the hedge, and have his tea brought to him in a large mug with a coppery coloured, brilliant surface which blazed in the light and concentrated the rays in a mimic sun on its outer side.

What Mrs. Falconer called 'harvest-cakes' were freely dispersed with cider and mead, and the fields of Fair Acres had never seen a happier party collected at hay-making time than met there on this June day.

Pip and Nip, exhausted with romping and hunting for field-mice, lay close to Melville; and Duke, with his wise head erect, despising rest while his master was astir, surveyed the whole scene with lofty indifference, which rivalled Melville's.

It was about five o'clock when the unusual sound of wheels was heard in the road leading up to the house, and the squire, who was in the further part of the field, said:

"There's a carriage driving up! I think it is Mrs. More's."

"Mrs. More!" exclaimed Mrs. Falconer, sharply. "I hoped I had heard the last of the dairy-maid."

Joyce, who was at that moment seated on a hay[Pg 92]cock, with her rake thrown carelessly at her side, sprang up. "Did you say Mrs. More's carriage, father? Oh, I am afraid—" She stopped.

"Afraid of what?" Gilbert Arundel asked.

"Oh, nothing; only Aunt Letitia said Mrs. More wanted to see me, or, rather, know me. Mother does not like Mrs. More, and Mrs. More thinks her very careless about the maids' education, just as Aunt Letitia thinks she is careless about mine; here comes Sarah."

"If you please, ma'am, I was to say Mrs. More wished you to come and speak to her. She won't get out of the carriage, because her legs are too stiff."

"Come, my dear," the squire said, "make haste, and go round to the front door."

"Not I. I shall not make haste; indeed, I'll send Joyce instead. Go, Joyce, at once. Say we are having a hay-making party, and end with a supper when the last wain is carried; which, I'll be bound, she will call sinful."

Joyce had to free herself from the wisps of hay which clung to her, and to smooth her tangled curls. They were confined by combs and pins, but all had fallen out in the scrimmage in the hay, and they now fell on either side of her flushed face. Perhaps she[Pg 93] had never looked more lovely than at that moment when, turning to her father, she said:

"Do you really wish me to go like this, dear dad?"

"My dear, some one must go; and at once. Mrs. More is not a person to keep waiting."

Joyce did not delay a moment, but went with her quick, light step across the field, and then through a little gate which opened into a belt of low-growing shrubs, beyond which was the carriage-road from the village.

An old-fashioned barouche—old-fashioned even in those days—stood before the door, and sitting in it were two ladies; the elder one upright and alert, the younger leaning back as if to resign herself to the long waiting time, before any of the family appeared.

Although comparatively near neighbours in the county, Joyce never remembered to have seen Mrs. More before. Her name was familiar enough, and her schools, established on all sides, were known by every one, though it cannot be said they were approved by every one.

Mrs. More and her sister had in times past made some overtures towards Mrs. Falconer, but they were coldly repulsed, and a parcel of tracts had even been returned. Later there had been the disagreement about the dairy-maid, and the time for Mrs. Hannah[Pg 94] More to carry the crusade into the enemy's camp was over. She had, in the year 1824, nearly numbered her four-score years; and the loss of her sisters, and repeated attacks of illness, made her more willing to rest from her labours, only taking care that the good seed sown in the days of health and vigour, should be watered and cared for, that it might yield a good harvest.

It had happened that several times during the lovely spring of this year she had met Joyce Falconer driving in the high gig with her father, or trotting by his side on the rough pony, the use of which she shared with all her young brothers. The sweet, frank face had attracted her, and she had inquired about Joyce when on a visit of ceremony at the Palace at Wells a few weeks before.

The result was, as we know, that Miss Falconer gave a melancholy account of her niece's ignorance, which she believed was entirely due to her mother's prejudices as to boarding-schools and her father's over-indulgence and excessive affection for his only daughter.

With her accustomed sympathy with all the young who were just setting forth on life's journey, Mrs. More determined to see something of Mr. Falconer's little daughter, and her aunt's letter had decided her to lose no time in paying a visit to Fair Acres.

As Joyce came up to the steps of the carriage Mrs.[Pg 95] More held out her hand—a white, delicately-formed hand, half covered by a lace mitten.

Joyce had heard Mrs. More spoken of as an old lady of near eighty, and her surprise was written on her lovely face, as she said, simply:

"Are you Mrs. More?"

For the beautiful dark eyes were still lustrous, and the lips, parted with a smile, displayed a row of even teeth which many a young woman in these days might envy. A quantity of white hair was turned back from a round, full forehead, which was shadowed by a drawn-silk riding-hood, with a deep curtain and a wide bow under the chin. Intellect and benevolence shone on the face, which was marked by few lines, and the still young spirit lighted up the whole countenance as Mrs. More said:

"Yes, I am Mrs. More; and I have come to pay my respects to your good father and mother, and to make your acquaintance."

"A great hay-making party is in the home meadow," Joyce said. "My mother bids me present her apology; but my father will be here, I think, shortly. Will you not alight from the carriage?"

"No, thank you kindly, my dear;" and turning to Miss Frowde: "my friend thinks me over-bold to drive so great a distance as this; but a desire to[Pg 96] convey to you an invitation in person has brought me hither, in the delightful cool of the summer afternoon."

"We must be getting home before the dew falls," Miss Frowde said, addressing Joyce for the first time; "I have to take great care of precious Mrs. More."

"Miss Frowde is kindly solicitous," the old lady said; "I should be ungrateful to disobey her orders so if I may ask for a drink of water for the horses, and a cup of cider for the post-boy, we will not delay our departure beyond a few minutes."

"I am so sorry," Joyce began, "that all the people are in the hay-field; but I will send a message for a man who will attend to the horses, if you will excuse me for a moment." She tripped away into the house, and very soon the maid, who had been left in charge, was despatched to the hay-field, while Joyce returned to the carriage with a jug of milk and two glasses on a tray, with some sweet cakes of her own making, and said:

"May I ask you, madam, to take a glass of milk, as a little refreshment?"

Hannah More beamed down upon the sweet young face with her brightest smile. She sipped the milk and told her companion to taste the lightest little cakes she ever ate; then she said:[Pg 97]

"After all, I have not come to the real object of my call. I want your parents to spare you to me for a visit; and that you may not lack company, Miss Frowde will invite your cousin from the Close at Wells to meet you."

"Thank you, madam," Joyce said; "but I fear I cannot be spared during my little brothers' holidays. But here comes father."

The squire made the ladies in the carriage a low bow, and said the water was ordered for the horses, and he much wished Mrs. More would alight from the carriage, and take some refreshment.

"The refreshment has been brought to me by the hands of your young Hebe," Mrs. More said, smiling. "As to alighting, my limbs are stiff with age, and when once ensconced in my easy old chariot I am unwilling to leave it. But, Mr. Falconer, I came with a petition, for what is, I am sure, a precious possession: let me have your daughter at Barley Wood for a month. I hope, God willing, to return your treasure, with interest on the loan. Do not refuse me."

"Thank you kindly, madam," said the squire; "but her mother must be consulted. Her little brothers demand much of her attention in the holidays, and Joyce has to share her mother's labours in many ways.[Pg 98] I fear she cannot be spared. What say you, my Sunshine?"

"I could not be spared yet, father; but later—" adding, with glistening eyes—"I should like to go to Barley Wood."

The squire put his arm round his daughter, and said:

"And I should like you to have the pleasure; but your mother——"

"Well, well," Mrs. More said, "then we will leave it, subject to certain conditions. The Bible meeting at Wrington comes on early in July. I shall have many excellent friends as my guests then, and the little Sunshine—I like that name vastly—might dispense a little brightness amongst us, and receive some solid good from intercourse with my friend. May I hope to see you early in July?"

"We will see about it, madam," the squire said; "and both Sunshine and I feel gratified by your kind proposal."

"Well, then, we leave it so, and I trust to you to drop me a line, my child, when your visit can be made. We shall find a corner for you and your cousin—if only a pigeonhole. You will not grumble, I dare say, but nestle in comfortably."

"The sun is getting low, dearest Mrs. More," Miss Frowde said; "we should be starting homewards."[Pg 99]

"Yes, you are right." Then drawing from a large basket some books, Mrs. More singled out one, and, bending down towards Joyce, said:

"This is the best of books; in it is to be found treasures of riches and knowledge. Accept the Bible from me, as a token of desire that now, in the days of your youth, you may find the Pearl of great price. No one can object to this gift, though objection to other books may be urged."

Joyce took the Bible with a low-spoken "Thank you!" and her father glancing at it, said:

"You are very good to my little daughter, and I, at least, am grateful."

The squire had been secretly hoping that his wife would change her mind and appear, but his hopes were not realised. The carriage rolled off at a leisurely even pace; the good-byes were said, but Mrs. Falconer did not appear.

"It is a pity mother did not come," Joyce said. "What a lovely old lady Mrs. More is."

"Yes," and the squire sighed. "You have got a Bible, Joyce."

"An old one, not like this," Joyce said, "with gilt edges and such a nice purple binding; and I like to have it from Mrs. More. See, father, there are pencil marks in it."[Pg 100]

The squire looked over Joyce's shoulder at the page on which she had opened. It was the last chapter of Proverbs, and the words were underlined: "Her price is above rubies."

"Carry the book upstairs, Joyce; you had better not display it at present. Then come back to the hay-field as fast as you can. Mother will be expecting you."

Joyce did as she was told, and hastened away with her precious book. As she turned over the pages she saw the pencil marks were frequent. It was evidently Mrs. More's way of silent instruction; and for the first time in her young life, Joyce seemed to find in the Bible, words which applied to herself.

"Be not overcome of evil," was underlined; "but overcome evil with good."

"That means I am not to let Melville's ways get the better of me, and make me cross to him and contemptuous. I must try and overcome by being kind; and then——"

She was startled by her mother's voice:

"Joyce, what are you about? come down at once. The men want some more cakes, and you may as well trudge down to the field, as I——"

Joyce ran down immediately, first hiding her Bible in the small drawer of the high chest in her room.[Pg 101]

"I wish you had come sooner, mother, and seen Mrs. More."

"Do you? I waited till I heard the wheels in the road before I came; but now I am here, I mean to stay. I want to make some custards for supper, and whip the cream for a syllabub. Mr. Arundel shan't grumble at his fare."

"Mrs. More is a beautiful old lady," Joyce said.

"She did not give you any tracts, I hope," Mrs. Falconer said. "I won't have any cant, and rank Methodism here. You know my mind, Joyce."

"Yes, mother," Joyce said, gently. "But I should like to pay a visit to Barley Wood. Do you think, when the boys return to school, I may go."

"Well, we will see about it. If you want to gad about you must go, I suppose. You all seem alike now; no rest and no peace unless you are scouring the country like so many wild things. It was very different in my young days. I don't know that I ever slept a night from under my father's roof till I married. I don't mind your going to Barley Wood at the proper time, but I'll have no tracts and no nonsense here, or setting up servant-girls to be wiser than their betters; for all this talk, and preaching, and reading, and writing, the Mendip folk are as bad, as bad can be. Mrs. More has not done much there, anyhow. That[Pg 102] was plain enough the other day, when the man was brought before the justices, and they were a pack of chicken-hearts, and dare not commit him for fear of getting their heads broken as they rode home; your father was the only brave man amongst them, and held out that the rascal should be committed for trial."

All this was said in Mrs. Falconer's voluble fashion, while she was engaged in piling up a basket full of harvest cakes, which Joyce soon bore off to the field, where her brothers, and Nip and Pip were still tossing about the sweet hay, and burying themselves and everyone else under it. Piers threw a wisp with the end of his crutch at Joyce as she came, and Bunny rushed to possess himself of the basket and scatter the cakes about, which the younger part of the haymakers scrambled for, head foremost, burrowing in the tussocks of hay, like so many young ferrets, while Nip and Pip barked and danced about in the extremity of their excitement.

The fair weather lasted all through the week, and Sunday dawned in cloudless beauty. Fair Acres did not have the services of one clergyman, but shared the ministrations of the vicar, with another small parish.

The cracked bell began to ring in a querulous, un[Pg 103]certain fashion on Sunday morning, and punctually at half-past ten Mrs. Falconer marshalled her flock down the road to the church.

The church, though small, was architecturally a fine specimen of Early English, and raised a noble tower to the sky; but the interior was dilapidated, and the pillars were covered with many coats of yellow wash, and the pews were hung with moth-eaten cloth. The squire's pew was like a square room, with a fire-place and cushioned seats, and a high desk for the books ran round it.

Mrs. Falconer and her husband sat facing each other on either side of the door of the pew, and the boys were ranged round, while at the further end Joyce sat with Mr. Arundel, a place being left for Melville.

Just as the clergyman had hurried on his very crumpled surplice, and the band in the gallery struck up the familiar air to which the morning hymn was sung, Melville, dressed in his best, came up the uneven pavement of the aisle with the proud consciousness of superiority to the rest of the world. His father threw back the door, and he passed up to the further end of the seat, nodding carelessly to Mr. Arundel, who made no sign in return. Chatting and making engagements for the week was at this[Pg 104] time very common in church. There was scant reverence shown for the house of God. He was a God afar off, and the formal recognition of some sort of allegiance to Him being respectable and necessary for the maintenance of social position, brought people like Mrs. Falconer to church Sunday after Sunday.

Mrs. Falconer and the squire, with their family, were never absent from their places, and Mr. Watson, the squire's agent, acting as sidesman, was also regular in his attendance.

But it was a lifeless mechanical service on the part of both minister and people; and the loud Amens of the old clerk were the only responses to be heard. The Psalms at the end of the book of Common Prayer were used, accompanied by a strangely-assorted band in the worm-eaten gallery, and two or three men and boys supplemented the scraping of the fiddle and bassoon with singing, which might well be called bawling.

Nor was Fair Acres an isolated instance of country parish churches; and city churches, too, at this date. The great tide of the evangelical movement had, it is true, set steadily in, and was soon to cover the kingdom with its healing and reviving waters; but its streams did not penetrate into the heart of the hills, and small outlying villages went on, with no schools and[Pg 105] no resident clergymen, and were contented because they were asleep.

Of course the sound of "the waters of Siloah" were heard in Somersetshire as, one by one, Hannah More's schools grew and flourished, and, one by one, her enemies became her friends. But the apathy at Fair Acres on the part of the clergyman, and the determination of Mrs. Falconer to set her face like a flint against all innovations, was thought to be praiseworthy, and to show a laudable desire to resist methodism in whatever form it took.

Gilbert Arundel's home-training had been very different from that of his friend. His mother had early in life been brought in contact with several of the fathers of the evangelical school, and the spirit had quickened her faith into living heart service.

"How my mother would admire her!" Gilbert thought, as he carried away with him from the church the picture, in his mind, of the squire's young daughter, as she followed the Psalms in the big prayer-book on the desk, and with her arm round Piers to steady him, pointed with her finger to the words, reading the alternate verse with old Simkins, the clerk, in a voice which Gilbert could barely catch, though he strained his ears to do so.

There was an entire absence of self-consciousness[Pg 106] in Joyce; and if the undulations of the small mirror over her high chest of drawers, permitted her to discern anything like the real reflection of her lovely face, she did not give it much thought.

Brothers are not wont to admire their sisters or to tell them they are fair to look upon, and Joyce would have been very much surprised if she had heard that her brother Melville said, she only wanted the accessories of fashionable dress to be accounted a belle at Bath or Clifton, nay, even likely to make a sensation in the great world of London life.

She was a hopeless rustic now, but he saw in her capabilities which few girls possessed.

He had said nothing about Joyce's beauty to Mr. Arundel, because he was, in his folly, ashamed to confess how devoid Joyce was of the ornaments which went so far to form his own estimate of a woman, and Mr. Arundel's silence about Joyce, since that first day at the cathedral, seemed to him to show that he only praised her at first, because she was his sister out of courtesy, and that he was, as every man of taste must be, disappointed with her on nearer acquaintance. Superficial and foolish himself, he was almost unable to appreciate the earnest sincerity of his friend, and on this particular Sunday his temper had been tried by the arrival of a letter from the Palace[Pg 107] at Wells, brought over on the previous evening by a special messenger, in which the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells requested the pleasure of Mr. Arundel's company at dinner on the following Monday, but made no mention of him. He inwardly voted the bishop "a stupid old bat," as every one must be who was blind to his perfections![Pg 108]



The boys, perhaps excepting Ralph and Piers, were invariably more turbulent on Sunday than any other day of the week. There was an attempt made by their mother to enforce discipline on Sunday, from the same reason which made her scrupulous in attending church regularly. Besides, the boys' best Sunday jackets and long tight trousers were in peril, if their usual habits of tree-climbing and birds' egg hunting were not laid aside with their week-day garments.

The large Sunday dinner at one o'clock was always lengthened out to its utmost limit, but when that was over, the time hung heavy on hand.

A smart box on Bunny's ear, administered by Melville, with a hand on which a huge ring glistened, and which left a pretty deep triangular cut on the boy's ear, roused Piers' indignation.

"You coward," he said; "just because he trod on your smart shoe. I would not wear such a shoe for a hundred pounds."[Pg 109]

"You are not very likely to be tried," was Melville's rejoinder. "Your feet are not made for shoes with buckles."

"Oh! Melville," Joyce exclaimed, "how can you be so unkind?" while his father said, in a stern voice, "If you have no brains, sir, I always thought you had a heart."

Mrs. Falconer was rising to follow Bunny, whose loud crying was heard in the hall; but Joyce said:

"Mother, let me go. I had better take all the boys away, mother, and amuse them, if I can. I don't think Bunny need cry like that, though it was too bad to hit him."

"It was indeed," Gilbert Arundel could not help exclaiming fervently, though like all guests in a house, when family disputes are going on, he felt it difficult to know whether to speak or be silent.

"I hate Melville," Piers said fiercely, as he swung himself out of the room after his sister.

Joyce soon persuaded Bunny that he was not much hurt, and said if they would all come up to the seat under the fir-tree she would read to them. The boys willingly consented, and Joyce ran upstairs and fetched the pretty Bible, bound in purple, with its gilt leaves, which she displayed to her admiring brothers.[Pg 110]

"But you are not going to read that, Joyce," Piers said. "Isn't it dull? Can't you find the Pilgrim's Progress?"

"Yes," exclaimed Harry; "I like the Giant Despair part, and the history of all the bones and skulls lying about."

"I will read about a giant," Joyce said, "a very pretty story from the Bible."

"Oh! I know," said Ralph; "very well, I don't mind hearing it again."

Joyce seated herself with her brothers round her, and read the familiar Bible story, with a somewhat slow utterance, but with so much dramatic power in the tones of her voice that her listeners were profoundly attentive. Then she talked to them about David, and said she had read that the story was a type of the great battle we had all to fight against the giant of self. She did not know that she had another listener till her brothers had dispersed, and she was left on the seat with the Bible in her hand. Then Mr. Arundel came through the little gate leading from the copse, and looking up at Joyce, said:

"May I come nearer?"

Joyce started to her feet.

"Take care," she said; "the grass is very dry and slippery;" and as Gilbert Arundel made a rather[Pg 111] scrambling ascent, Joyce advanced and held out her hand to him to help him up the last few yards.

"I have been in hiding behind that tree by the gate," he said; "I did not like to disturb the boys by my presence, after the pains you had taken to keep them quiet."

Joyce's colour rose, and she said:

"I would rather you had let me know you were listening, especially when I was talking to the boys."

"Do not be vexed with me," Mr. Arundel said. "I am so glad to have found you here alone."

"I wanted to speak to you, too," she said, quickly, "about my brother; he is"—she stopped, and then went on; "I think I may say it to you—he is the one cloud over our happy life here at Fair Acres. It used not to be so; he was very different once."

"Yes," Mr. Arundel said, "I can quite imagine it was so. Your brother is very weak of purpose, and he got into a bad set at the university where I found him."

"What made you care for him?" Joyce said, simply; "you are so different from him."

"Well, the story is rather a long one, and I do not know that all of it is fit for your ears, or that I ought to inflict it upon you. Still I think you should know something about it. I feel an interest in poor Melville[Pg 112] much the same interest which a man takes in anything that has cost him some trouble."

"What made you take any trouble about him?" Joyce asked.

"I scarcely know; pity, I think, began it; and who could help pitying him? He got into the hands of an unprincipled man, much older than himself, who is, in fact, a relative of mine, and I did what I could to get him out of his clutches. He got all his money out of him, and then persuaded him to gamble to get more; of course ending in losing it."

"How dreadful!" Joyce exclaimed. "Does father know?"

"He knows about the money part, of course; about the debts and difficulties."

"Yes," Joyce exclaimed, with a sigh, "and it has troubled him greatly."

"What I wanted to say to you was, that I think if Melville went abroad, as he wishes, it might be a good thing, provided a safe companion could be found for him."

"Will you go?" Joyce said, eagerly.

"No, it is impossible; I could not leave my mother: I am all she has in the world. We are going to live in Bristol, where I am to be articled to a good firm of lawyers, and perhaps I may study afterwards for the bar."[Pg 113]

"I thought you were of high family," Joyce said innocently.

"Would that prevent my taking to law?" Gilbert asked, with a smile.

"No; I don't know exactly why it should do so," she said. "Melville talks so much about things which are right for a gentleman to do, and things which a gentleman cannot do; and then he dresses so fashionably, and people remark upon it."

"I don't wonder," Gilbert said, laughing; "but that part of his proceedings is only laughable. Many men are fops in their youth who tone down wonderfully when they get old. Let us hope it will be so with him."

"You know," Joyce said, "that Melville ought to spare father expenses instead of adding to them. There have been two bad harvests and hard winters, and Mr. Watson, the steward, is getting rather past his work. Melville ought to take that place now, and save father, for there is Ralph to be educated, and he ought to have the best, for he is so studious; and then there are the three other boys, and poor Piers is lame, and they all want something."

"You don't seem to want anything yourself," Mr. Arundel said.[Pg 114]

"No: I have a happy home and everything is beautiful about me. What can I want?"

"Not to go to London, or Bath, or to see the world?" he asked.

"I think," said Joyce, simply, "if it came in my way—I mean if there was plenty of money—I should like to travel a little. Can you believe that I have only been to Bath once and to Bristol twice in my life? and I am nearly eighteen. My Cousin Charlotte, who lives at Wells with my aunt, has been to school in Bath, but father never wished me to go to school, so I have no accomplishments. But I need not talk any more about myself, it cannot be interesting."

Gilbert Arundel was beginning a speech to the effect that what she said was most interesting to him, but somehow it died away on his lips. The sweet earnestness of the face which he had been watching while she spoke, the entire absence of self-consciousness, seemed to lift her above the level of compliments or flattery, which the gentlemen of the time considered the rightful inheritance of the young ladies, with whom they trifled for an hour's amusement.

As she sat with her face towards the beautiful landscape over which the westering sun was casting its[Pg 115] level rays, she seemed so far above him and bearing the "lily in her hand" of which a poet of later days than those in which Joyce lived has said that—

"Gates of brass cannot withstand
One touch of that enchanted wand."

The silence which fell over Gilbert was unbroken for a few minutes by any word on either side. At last Joyce said:

"Is there anything I can do for Melville? He has rather a way of looking down on me, and I think I speak crossly to him sometimes. I wish you would tell me if you think I could help father about him."

"If he does not listen to you I should think it hopeless that he would listen to anyone," Gilbert said; "he has a way of looking down on most people."

"Not on you?" Joyce said, with a little innocent laugh. "He made us think you were very grand and that we must alter all our ways to suit you; poor mother was to change the hours for meals, and——"

"I never heard such nonsense," Gilbert said; "but I know where he got those notions from, and I may tell you this much, that the kindest thing you can do is to ask your father, to consent to his going abroad for a year as soon as may be; he will be out of harm's[Pg 116] way. I have had some fears that the person who had such an evil influence over him might follow him here, and I was determined to circumvent him."

"It was very kind of you to take this trouble. Who is the person?"

"He is a step-uncle of mine; my mother's half-brother, Lord Maythorne."

"Quite a grand person, then?" Joyce said.

"Grand in his own eyes; yes, undoubtedly; but there is every hope that, having got what he can out of Melville, he will leave him alone. You do not know how ashamed I am to own him as a relation; and I am anxious to do all I can to atone for the mischief he may have done your brother."

"Was he at Oxford with Melville?"

"No: but, unhappily, he has a small place near Oxford, and was continually coming in."

"Shall I tell father all about what you have told me?"

"I have told him already a good deal. What I want you to do is to use every effort to persuade your father to let Melville start soon."

"It would be far better if I could persuade Melville to stay here, and learn about farming."

"Yes; but that, I am afraid, you will never do; and considering that your father wished him to work[Pg 117] on the estate it was a mistake to send him to Oxford at all."

"Oh, yes; but it was mother's wish, you know," Joyce said, with a heightened colour. "Mother always feels that her family was not considered as good as father's; they were simple, homely, good people, but not what are called gentry, and I think it has always been mother's desire that Melville should have exactly the same advantages as the sons of our neighbours. Charlie Paget went to Oxford; they live at Ebbor Court; and so it seemed her eldest son ought to go. It is so strange that mother should be quite consistent on every subject but one, and that one, the indulgence of Melville; and now I believe he will break her heart."

"No, no, I trust not so bad as that," Mr. Arundel said. "I have hopes that there will be a change for the better, and all this folly and aping his betters will drop off like an old cloak one day."

Joyce sighed.

"I wish I could have hopes too; there is always, I suppose, some cloud in everyone's sky; and we are so happy, that if it were not for Melville, we should have all we wished for. Yesterday in the hay-field I felt as if even to be alive was delicious, everything was so bright and joyful. Then Mrs. Hannah More came[Pg 118] and invited me to Barley Wood. Have you heard of Mrs. More?"

"Yes, I think I have. A very good old lady, who has set up schools for the poor children. My mother knows all about her. Will you like going to Barley Hill?"

"Barley Wood," Joyce corrected. "Yes, I think I shall. Charlotte is to come also; and I dare say I shall like it when I am there, and it may do me good. You know Aunt Letitia always calls me 'a little rustic.' Of course I am, but I do not know that it is of such great consequence as Aunt Letitia thinks."

"It would be a pity, indeed, if you were anything but what you are," Gilbert said earnestly. "A change could hardly be an improvement."

"Oh, do not say that," Joyce said. "I want to know more, and though I read everything I can in father's library, I do not get any new books. Ralph helps me with Latin, and Piers and I learn French together, though I expect our pronunciation would make you laugh. We have just read Madame de Stael's 'Corinne' and a story called 'Matilde,' which Charlotte lent me. Is not Piers wonderful?" she asked; "he is so happy, and have you seen his collection of moths and butterflies? You must come into his room and see them."[Pg 119]

"Yes, I should like to do so very much, if you will be showwoman."

He liked to hear her talk of her simple home pleasures and interests; he liked to watch the ever-changing expression of her lovely face; he felt within himself that this hour on the hill-side, was to remain a bright memory with him for many a day, to which he would recur with pleasure, and over which no cloud could come.

At last the sound of the boys' voices in the copse below, roused them both from their earnest talk, and Joyce's name rang through the still summer air—

"Joyce! Joyce! tea has been ready ever so long. Mother does not like waiting. Do come!"

"Yes, pray come, Joyce; there is no one to pour out tea, or cut the cake. Mother says you ought not to have put sugar on the cake," said Bunny. "I am so glad you did."

Joyce flew swiftly down through the wood, and by the time Mr. Arundel and her brothers had reached the house, she was at her post behind the large bronze urn, and taking up her accustomed duties with a face so bright and winning, that her mother forgot her vexation, merely saying:

"I like punctuality at meals, Joyce, especially on Sunday; for it puts the servants out if they are driven."[Pg 120]

"Why, my Sunshine," her father said, "where have you been hiding? We thought you were lost."

"Joyce has been sitting under the fir-tree with Mr. Arundel," shouted Bunny in his ringing, boyish treble. "They have been there two hours."

Bunny was in advance of the other boys and their guest; and it was Piers who said: "You need not shout as if you were the town-crier!" While Melville dragged himself out of the depths of a large sofa covered with horse-hair, where he had been sleeping off the effects of his large dinner and repeated glasses of ale and wine, and said the boys' voices were a perfect nuisance, and he did not know what Arundel thought of such a hubbub.

A laugh from the person in question, as he passed the open window with Ralph, seemed to point to the fact that Gilbert had as light a heart as any of the young brothers at whom Melville so often took offence.

Family prayers were the exception in many households in these days; but as there was only one service in the church on Sundays, the squire, following his father's custom before him, always assembled the household in the evening, and read a chapter from the old family Bible, and a short dry sermon with a prayer from an old book, in which was written his mother's name. It might be questioned whether the rosy-cheeked[Pg 121] maiden and the stalwart young men from the Farm, who sat with their hands one on each knee, staring at Melville and the visitor, as strange specimens of humanity, could understand a word of the sermon or follow the prayer.

Perhaps Joyce scarcely realised how dry and formal this service was, and yet this evening a new spirit seemed to be stirring within her, an aspiration for something, she hardly knew what, but something which was not outside of her, but touched her inmost heart.

Her mood was subdued and quiet during the rest of the evening, and when she knocked at Piers' door to be admitted, as was her invariable custom, to make his room tidy, and place his crutches near the bed, the boy said:

"Do you like Mr. Arundel, Joyce?"

"Yes, dear; I think I like him very much."

Piers was silent.

"The next thing will be that you like him better than me."

"Nonsense, Piers; is that likely?"

Joyce had finished her labours in the little room now, and had seated herself in the window-seat looking out into the grounds.

The moon, nearly at the full, was lifting her round,[Pg 122] white face above the low-lying range of hills eastward while the colour of the sunset sky still lingered in the west.

The window was open, and from below Joyce heard the sound of her father's voice and Mr. Arundel's. She knew what they were talking about, and she said:

"Of course I like Mr. Arundel, who is so good about Melville, and came here solely to try to be of use to him: very few people would have taken that trouble."

Piers gave a low rejoinder, which might be taken for consent.

"He says, Piers, a man he knows has a bad influence over Melville, and that he is a relation of his, and that he thinks Melville ought to be sent abroad."

"To do just what he likes, as he always does," was Piers' rejoinder. "It is a shame that Melville should bring so much trouble on us."

"Yes, it does seem a shame," Joyce said; and then she went to the bed, and, kneeling down, kissed Piers' hand as it lay upon the counterpane.

"I felt so sorry for you this afternoon, dear," she said. "It gave me a great pain to hear Melville speak as he did to you."

"Never mind, Joy, never mind. What does it[Pg 123] matter?" And the boy stroked his sister's hair fondly. "I don't mind; I would rather have my crooked, helpless legs than be like him. Yes, I really would," he repeated. "But Joyce, don't begin to care for any one more than me; that is what I dread."

"You foolish boy," she answered; "as if I could care for any one as I do for you! And when I come back from Mrs. More's I shall have so much to tell you; and I may get some nice books there, which we will read together."

Piers turned suddenly and threw his arms round his sister's neck. He was not usually demonstrative, but he said, with passionate energy, "While I have you, Joy, I can bear anything. Good-night."

"Good-night, dear; and never take foolish fancies into your head. You may be sure I shall always love you and be all I can to you. Good-night."

There is no doubt that a protecting maternal element in the love of a sister for a brother makes the tie one of the most beautiful that exists. From the time of Piers' accident Joyce had constituted herself his helper and friend. Mrs. Falconer in her busy life could not devote herself to her crippled boy, as mothers of a less energetic and active nature might have done.[Pg 124]

Joyce and she had it is true one aim in common: to hide from the father the sad consequences of that one rash act which had shut Piers out for ever from the free, joyous life of his young vigorous brothers. Mrs. Falconer did this by apparently making light of her boy's ailments, and inability to do what others did.

It was a good thing, she would say, that he could not climb trees and tear his clothes, or get into the stream by Wookey and ruin his boots and socks, or make her anxious by carrying a gun behind his father, in the time of rabbit and rook shooting.

Mrs. Falconer never betrayed what was indeed the truth, that the sound of Piers' crutches as they tapped across the old stone pavement of the hall, sent a thrill of sorrow through her breast, and that when Piers was laid up, as was not unfrequently the case, with an attack of pain in the hip which had been so severely injured, she avoided being much with him, and left him to Joyce, because the sight of his suffering brought back the memory of that morning when she saw him clinging with a frightened face to Rioter's back, and heard her husband say, "Don't make a coward of the boy: his brothers rode long before his age."

She knew too well how bitter had been her[Pg 125] husband's self-reproaches, and she dreaded adding to them by any impulsive, unguarded word of her own.

Thus it was that Joyce was sister, mother, and friend to her lame brother. Their lives were bound up together, and the bond strengthened as time went on.

It was sufficient reward for Joyce to know that, however irritable when in pain, or depressed sometimes by a sudden reminder of his helplessness when contrasted with his brother's independence and vigour, she could always be sufficient to charm away the cloud by her own sunny brightness, and that by making his interests hers, she never let him think she did anything for him, which was not a real pleasure to herself.

The secret of heart service lies in this, that those who are served never know it to its full extent, and that any effort that may be made, or any trouble that may be taken, is so hidden under the mantle of all-pervading love that it is often wholly unsuspected. When the giver is as happy as the receiver, the gift, in whatever form, is sweetened and enhanced a hundred fold.[Pg 126]



Gilbert Arundel's visit to Fair Acres extended far beyond the limit of a week. He felt every day more absorbed by the simple, happy life, in which, as Joyce had said, Melville was the only cloud.

He was an universal favourite. A man who has been accustomed to yield respect and courtesy to his own mother, seldom fails in yielding it to the mothers of his friends.

If anyone in the household at Fair Acres was dissatisfied it was Melville himself, who found that his friend had been so entirely taken possession of by his brothers and sister, and was held in such high esteem by his father and mother, that his own light was effectually put out.

The twins, Harry and Bunny, came to him about fly-fishing, and Ralph consulted him as to a difficult passage in his Homer; while he spent a whole morning in helping Piers to re-arrange his moths and butterflies, and to look out their names with[Pg 127] greater precision in a book he had actually borrowed from the Palace at Wells, for this purpose.

All the time Joyce went about her accustomed duties: darned Melville's socks, mended the schoolboys' clothes, and was every morning assisting her mother in her household duties.

It was an added charm in Gilbert's eyes that Joyce made no difference in her daily routine, and that what are familiarly called "company manners" were apparently unknown at Fair Acres.

But the last day came of Gilbert Arundel's visit, as the last must come to everything, and the squire proclaimed a holiday for every one and an excursion to Wookey, and a pic-nic to Ebbor. Then there was a great packing of hampers, and loading of one of the spring carts with the boys and the provisions, and the "four-wheel" with the more grown-up members of the party.

Even Mrs. Falconer allowed herself to be enlisted in the service, and to give herself for once a day's pleasure; while Melville put on a riding-coat of the most approved cut, and a pair of wellingtons, and was graciously pleased to lend himself for the occasion, with as much show of satisfaction as was consistent with his dignity.

After depositing the party at Wookey, the squire[Pg 128] kindly drove into Wells in the "four-wheel" to fetch Charlotte from the Vicar's Close, and before the dinner had been laid in the Ebbor Valley he was back again, bearing Charlotte in triumph, in spite of his sister's entreaties that Charlotte would be careful of adders which swarmed at Ebbor amongst the loose stones; and that she was to be sure to sit upon a cloak with four capes, made of large plaid, which Miss Falconer insisted should be put into the carriage.

But nothing spoiled Charlotte's pleasure when fairly off, and she was delighted to be helped down from the carriage by her Cousin Melville, with whose fine ways, and what she would have called "elegant dress," she had keen sympathy. Indeed, the hero of the "drooping rose" was in danger of falling from his pedestal; and the fact of a cousin, who said a great many flattering things to her was, after all, more interesting than a minor Canon, who was to be worshipped from afar, and who when actually introduced to her the day before by her aunt, when he called in virtue of his office in the cathedral, had not seemed to desire to cultivate her acquaintance; certainly had made her no pretty speeches. Melville, on the contrary, made her a great many, and she listened with unquestioning faith, and profound interest to his stories of high life, and the men with titles with whom he[Pg 129] was on familiar terms, and the large wine parties at Oxford to which Maythorne came.

Gilbert caught the sound of that name, and turning quickly, his deep blue eyes shot a warning glance, which could not be mistaken, as he said in a voice audible to those nearest him:

"The less said about him the better."

The day passed quickly, and it was proposed that the younger portion of the party should walk up the uneven road between the rocks, and, taking the rough paths over the flat country, into which the gorge opens, reach Fair Acres by crossing it, a distance of some six miles.

Charlotte was to remain at Fair Acres for the night, but both she and Melville preferred to drive with the squire and Mrs. Falconer and Piers. Charlotte's shoes were too thin for scrambling, and a country walk was not at all to Melville's taste.

"Off with you, then," said the squire, "and mind you keep the road to the left, or you will find yourselves on Mendip, and if it gets dark that may not be so pleasant."

"I know the way, father," Ralph said; "and so do Harry and Bunny. We shall not lose ourselves."

"Perhaps Joyce had better drive," her father said,[Pg 130] just as the five were starting. "Sunshine, what do you think?"

"I think that we are more likely to lose our way, sir," Gilbert said, "if you take the sun from us."

The squire laughed.

"Well, that may be true. Take care of your sister, boys."

The ascent through the Ebbor cliffs is difficult; there is a vast quantity of thin sharp stones, worn by the action of the water from the face of the rocks. Although not nearly so grand as Cheddar, Ebbor has many points of beauty. The rocks are fantastic in form, and as the path winds between them they assume various shapes, like miniature towers and bastions, clothed with ivy, and coloured with dark brown and yellow lichen.

The air, when they were fairly in the open country, was fresh and crisp; the lark sang his sweet song high above their heads, and the sweet, clear notes of distant thrushes and blackbirds came from the low lying copses, which fringe the head of the Ebbor valley.

Harry and Bunny chased moths for Piers: Ralph meditated and repeated to himself some lines of a Greek poet which he wanted to get by heart.

Thus, as was only to be expected, Joyce and Mr Arundel were left to themselves, and in Gilbert's heart at least was the weight of coming separation, and[Pg 131] the uncertainty as to whether he should ever be able to renew the sweet, free intercourse of the past fortnight. He dreaded to change the present happy relations between him and Joyce by telling her what he felt. She confided so entirely in him; she told him so much of her little joys, and home happiness, of Ralph's cleverness, of Harry and Bunny's frantic desires to be sailors, of her father's goodness to Melville, and infinite patience with him. On this last night especially, he felt that he could not bring himself to break the spell, and disturb the serenity of that sweet, pure life, by letting friendship go, to replace it by the more tumultuous and passionate love, which he knew if once this barrier were broken down, he should pour forth on her in a torrent which might distress and almost frighten, one so simple and so unversed in the world's ways.

Whilst Charlotte was always on the look-out for some preux chevalier, who was to be at her feet and vow eternal devotion, Joyce had as yet no such airy castles. Her education had been widely different from her cousin's, and home and home interests had so filled her seventeen years with their joys and pleasures, that she had no time to dream over "keepsakes," and read Miss Burney's romances, or steep herself in the unreality of sentimental verses, which Wordsworth was beginning to break down and send into the[Pg 132] shadows, by bringing out the beauties of creation into the strong light, which his genius threw around them.

Joyce had not wasted her youth in foolish dreams of impossible perfection, but when the real story of her life was ready to unfold itself, she would find a zest and fulness in it, that the sentimental visionary could never know.

That was a memorable walk over the sweet country side, with the west all aglow, and the sky above serenely blue. In after years both looked back on it through that mist of tender sadness, which gathers round the happy past of youth, even though the present is full of the fruition of joy to which that very past led.

"This is our last evening," Gilbert said; "I hope, if I can be of any use, you will write to me."

"Yes," Joyce said, "and I feel as if the worst were over now. If Melville has a year abroad with the gentleman the bishop recommends, he may settle afterwards. Of course it is a great pull upon father's purse; but if Harry and Bunny can get into the navy we shall be able to manage."

"When we are settled in Clifton I hope you will come and see my mother."

"Oh! I should like that very much; but I have a visit[Pg 133] to Barley Wood to come first, and then in the winter I must do all I can to cheer father. He feels the want of out-door exercise now he has given up his hunters. He used to ride to the meet very often."

"I am sorry he has had to give that up, all through Melville's extravagance."

"Yes, and then farming has been so bad the last year or two. I hope it may be a better crop this year; but the wheat in this district is very poor at all times. We must not get too much to the right," she said, "or we shall get near the miners, who are a rough set of people. Mrs. More has had a school in these parts for many years; but there are a great many discontented folks, who seem to think the gentry are their natural enemies. That man we saw the day you came to Wells was from these parts."

Joyce raised her voice in a clear, ringing tone, and called her brothers by name.

"They have gone on so far in front," she said; "but I feel sure this is the right track." She called again, but there was no reply.

"We had better walk faster," she said, "or we shall be left behind;" then she stopped.

"I see a man lying in that dip under the gorse-bushes. I hope he will not beg."

She had scarcely spoken the words when a huge[Pg 134] form rose before them, and stood in the narrow track between the heather and gorse, filling up the path.

"You are Squire Falconer's lass, ain't you?" he said, defiantly.

"Yes," Gilbert answered, "yes; this is Miss Falconer, of Fair Acres. How long are you going to stand there and prevent us from passing you?"

"Till I've settled my score. Your gov'nor was hard on me t'other day; he tried to get me sent to gaol. I'll smash his head for 'im next time I come across 'im, sure as my name is Bob Priday!"

The broad, Somersetshire lingo made the man all but unintelligible to Gilbert; but Joyce understood him well enough.

"Ye hand me out a guinea, now, or a trinket, and I'll let bygones be bygones, specially"—with a horrid leer—"if you'll give me a kiss with 'em; eh?"

In a moment Gilbert had sprung over the bushes which hedged in the track on either side, and had his hand on the man's throat.

"Let this young lady pass, you villain!" he said, shaking the huge form, who, taken unawares, had very little power of resistance. "Let her pass."

There is always something in a brave, strong, young spirit which is too much for the brute force of an untutored giant like Bob Priday. He staggered[Pg 135] and fell back, Gilbert's hand being still at his throat.

Joyce, pale and trembling, did not lose her self-control. "Please let me pass," she said; "I have no money to give you, and if I had it would not be right to bribe you. My father only did his duty on the bench that day. You were guilty, and you know it; you got off unpunished, and you should be thankful, and try to lead a better life."

There was something wonderfully grand in the way Joyce spoke, though her face was white with girlish fear, and her lips quivered, her voice did not falter as she appealed to the huge man who might, she knew, shake off Gilbert's restraining hand, and spring on her at any moment.

"Let me pass," she said, "and this gentleman will——"

At this moment a woman's voice was heard, and a girl with a red handkerchief on her head, with an effort at respectable attire in her short, blue cotton frock, and large, thick boots, came over the tangled mass of heath and ling, and cried:

"Father! What are you about now, father?"

"You mind your own business, you hussy, and leave me alone."

"Oh, father!" the girl said, passionately, "I wish[Pg 136] you would be good. Think how mother used to pray for you! Oh, dear lady," the girl said, bursting into tears, "I am heart-broken about father. Please, sir, let him go."

"Let me go!" said the giant, with a loud, discordant laugh; "I'll see about that." Then, with a mighty effort, he hurled Gilbert from him, and before he could recover his feet, he had seized Joyce's arm. "Give me the money, or I'll be even with your father; curse him!"

But the girl threw herself on her father and held him back, while Gilbert, stunned and bewildered by the force with which he had been hurled over the heather, staggered to his feet again, and, with a well-aimed blow at the back of the man's head, laid him sprawling on the path.

"Oh! I hope he is not hurt!" Joyce exclaimed involuntarily, as the huge form lay motionless; the girl leaning over him.

"He is not hurt," Gilbert said, "any more than he has hurt me; it was in self-defence," he added.

"Father, father!" moaned the girl. "Oh, sir! oh, miss! I don't know what to do!"

"Hold your tongue, and let me get up and at him again," growled the man, struggling to sit upright.

But his daughter had the advantage, and seated[Pg 137] herself on her father's chest, saying to Gilbert, "I'll keep him quiet till you are out of sight, sir; I will indeed. I know you were driven to do it," she said. "Father is always fighting; but, oh! sir, we have a hard time of it. There is no work for the men and boys, and if it were not for the good lady's schools, and the help she gives, I don't know what would become of us. Many were starving last winter, and of course it is kind of hard, to know rich folks have plenty and we are starving. Mother died last fall; and though Mrs. More sent her physic, and the schoolmistress broth, she could not stand up against the fever, and trouble about poor father and Jim, and Dick, and the baby."

Joyce's eyes filled with tears. "What is to be done?" she said, helplessly; "what can be done?"

"I don't know, miss; I don't know. There's plenty of the ore left, but it is no use working it, there's no market for it. Mrs. More teaches us to pray to God and try to trust Him, but He does not seem to hear or help. I have been in service, and could get a place again at a Farm at Publow, through Mrs. More, but since mother is gone, there is none to look after baby. I do love the baby!"

"How long are you going to jaw like this, Sue? Let me get up and settle the question; if not now, I will settle it at last."[Pg 138]

"Come away," Gilbert said, putting his hand on Joyce's arm; "we can do no good. It is getting so dark. Do come!" He put his hand to his head, for he still felt dazed and giddy with his fall.

"Tell me your name," Joyce said, "and where I should find you."

"Susan Priday, Mendip Mines, that's my name, miss."

"I am going to see Mrs. More soon, and I will tell her about you," Joyce said, in a low tone; "and do believe I am sorry for you. How old are you?"

"Eighteen come Christmas," the girl said, looking up into Joyce's beautiful face with undisguised admiration.

"Just my age," Joyce said. "Oh, I should like to make you happy! How old is the baby?"

"Born when mother died—just nine months old; he is so pretty, he is!"

Joyce had seldom, if ever, spoken familiarly to any of the girls about the country side before. Mrs. Falconer had her views on the subject, and the "miner folks" were her especial aversion, while Mrs. More's attempts to civilise them were met with derision and scorn. The gulf set between her and her household of respectable maids, and the rough, half-clothed miner's families, was in her eyes im[Pg 139]passable! What was the use of trying to reclaim those who preferred their own rough and evil ways? They ought to be well punished for raids made on farm yards, and snares set in copses and plantations; but to teach them to read, and talk to them about their duty to God and their neighbour, was in Mrs. Falconer's eyes worse than lost labour; it did harm rather than good.

And not only by Mrs. Falconer was this view of the unclothed and unwashed masses taken! In our days of widely spread and organised charities, and zeal, sometimes I fear hardly tempered with wisdom, it is difficult to throw ourselves back to the beginning of the century now drawing to its close, when efforts like those of the four sisters of the Mendips, of whom Hannah was the leading spirit, were met with scoffs and disapproval; or deep compassion, that educated women could be so misguided, as to wish to teach the boys and girls of their district, anything but to use their legs and arms in the service of their betters!

As I stood by the heavy stone in Wrington churchyard, in the gloom of an autumn afternoon, where the names of the four sisters are inscribed, I could but think of the gratitude we ought to feel to them for their brave efforts to spread the knowledge of the religion of Christ amongst the poor of those 'rolling[Pg 140] hills' and peaceful valleys of Somersetshire. It must have been hard for a woman of culture like Hannah More to be met by opposition, and in some cases fierce denunciation; harder still to be smiled at by those in high places, as a fanatic and a visionary. But turning from the ugly, weather-worn stone, enclosed in high rusty railings, to the beautiful church, where what light there was yet in the sky, came through the many-coloured window lately erected to Hannah More's memory, I thought, that as nothing that is good and beautiful, coming from the Fountain of all beauty and all goodness, can ever die, so the light which Hannah More kindled in many humble hearts was still shining in the eternal kingdom, where those that have lived as in the presence of the Son of God here, shine as the stars for ever in their Heavenly Father's realm.

That touch of Nature which makes the whole world kin brought the two girls near to each other, as Joyce laid her hand upon Susan's, and said:

"I am very sorry for you; I shall not forget you;" then added, looking down on the prostrate form which Susan had so determinedly kept from doing further mischief:

"I am sorry for you, too; it must be hard to want bread—but, but—do try to be good and find work."[Pg 141]

"Find work, find work! If that's all you can say you'd better hold your tongue."

But though the words were rough the tones grew less fierce, and Susan, finding her restraint was no longer needed, stood up and watched Gilbert Arundel and Joyce pursue the narrow track across the heather till they were lost in the shadows of the gathering twilight.

"Do you know your way?" Gilbert asked.

"I think I do," Joyce answered; "our shepherd's cottage is on the next ridge, and when we get there we can see our own valley and the tower of the church."

"Are you very tired?" Gilbert asked again.

"Not very; but I cannot help trembling; it is so silly. Do tell me if that man hurt you."

"He gave me a good shaking. What a giant he is! I felt as your Nip or Pip might feel in Duke's clutches if he were angry."

"What a comfort we had not Charlotte with us, and that the boys had gone on so far! I hope they will not be very anxious at home."

They made but slow progress. Joyce's usually swift, elastic steps were slow and faltering. She took several wrong paths, and they came once to a steep dip in the heather, and were within a few inches of[Pg 142] one of those rocky pits which are frequent on the face of the level country about Cheddar and the neighbouring district. Indeed Cheddar itself begins with one of these small defiles, when entered from the top of the Mendip, and the gradually increasing height of the rocks, and the widening of the gorge as the road winds through it, is one of its most striking features.

Joyce was so wholly unaccustomed to feel tired and unnerved, that she surprised herself, as well as Gilbert, by sitting down helplessly, and bursting into tears.

"Oh! we should have been killed if we had fallen down there. Won't you leave me, and go on to the shepherd's cottage? What can be the matter with me?" she said, sobbing hysterically.

Gilbert hardly knew whether distress at her condition, or delight in having her all to himself to comfort, predominated.

"Do not be frightened,' he said; we shall get on very well if you will let me carry you."

"Oh! no, no," she said, trying to spring up with her accustomed energy. "I will push on again."

But although she summoned all her courage, she was obliged to let Gilbert put his arm round her and support her, and finally she was lifted in his strong arms and carried whether she wished it or not.[Pg 143]

"I shall tire you so dreadfully," Joyce whispered.

"If you do, it is the sweetest tiredness I ever knew; you know that, Joyce."

Then they went on in silence. Gilbert was still suffering from the treatment he had received at Bob Priday's hands, and they made slow progress.

"Just raise your head," he said, after ten minutes' tramp through the narrow track, which he lost at times through the thick tangle of heath and gorse and low-growing bracken. "Raise your head and tell me if you can see the shepherd's cottage. It is getting very dark."

Joyce did as he told her, but, after straining her eyes for a few moments, she said:

"I can't see anything, it is so dark. I don't know where we are. Oh, I don't know!"

"You are safe with me," Gilbert said; and then added, fervently: "I am not afraid for God is with us."

It was so unusual for Joyce to hear that Name spoken. She did not respond, but let her head fall upon his shoulder again.

Presently he said:

"There is a tiny light now—two lights—they must be in the shepherd's cottage. Take heart, my darling. We shall soon be home."[Pg 144]

The word had slipped from his lips unawares.

"I am going away early to-morrow. You will not forget me?"

Once more she raised her face, and in the dim light he saw her beautiful eyes gazing at him with an expression which was half wonder and half joy. But she said, simply:

"No, I will never forget you."

The light was close to them now, and there was a sound of men's feet drawing nearer and then Duke came bounding up.

With a cry of "Father! father!" Joyce struggled to her feet, and threw herself into her father's arms.

"Why, Joyce, my Sunshine, where have you been? We have been very anxious, your mother on thorns, and poor Piers imagining all kinds of disasters. Why did you not keep up with the boys? They had been at home an hour before I started. What has happened sir?" the squire said, turning a little sharply on Gilbert Arundel.

"It is too long a story to tell now, sir," Gilbert said. "Miss Falconer and I fell into bad hands, and we may thank God nothing worse has happened."

"Some of the miners, eh?"

"One of them, sir, who is a host in himself; he[Pg 145] blocked our way, and threatened us; but I would rather not go over it all now. She is so overwrought, though she has been so splendidly brave."

"Oh! father, dearest dad! take me home," Joyce said. "Is it far; is it far?"

"Some two miles, my Sunshine; but I can carry you. Now for it, be brave, my sweet one, and we shall soon be home. Now, then, Sam and Thomas, march on."

"I think I can walk, father now," Joyce said; "and here is Duke, dear Duke!"

"Why, of course, I brought Duke. He is cleverer at finding his way than I am. He soon snuffed you out, good old fellow."

The two other men now turned towards home, with the big lanthorns in their hands, which served for guiding stars. Duke paced slowly between the men, and his master and young mistress, and Gilbert brought up the rear.

The lights of the village were a welcome sight, and the hall door of Fair Acres was open as they came up the road, showing a group of dark, expectant figures, thrown out by the blaze of a wood fire.

"The mistress has lit a fire that we might have a welcome; that is like her wisdom," the squire said.[Pg 146] "A few tallow candles would not have been half as cheerful."

"Here we are; here we are!" the squire called out; and then there was a rush of boyish feet, and a great chorus of rejoicing, and a host of questions.

"We have been so anxious, dying of anxiety," exclaimed Charlotte, thinking it necessary to begin to cry.

"What fools you were to walk over that rough, lonely country," Melville said. While Piers could only hover round Joyce, who, seated on a bench or old-fashioned settle by the side of the wide open hearth, held her mother in a tight embrace.

"The boys ought never to have left you," Piers said. "How could Mr. Arundel find the way?"

"Joyce knew it," said Bunny. "Joyce knew it. We have been over that track several times."

"Yes," echoed Harry, "several times; only Joyce and Mr. Arundel were talking so much, they never thought where they were going."

"'All's well that ends well,'" said the squire. "She had better go to bed, my dear; and this young gentleman looks white enough. You must get him a good hot glass of negus; and I hope supper is ready; but take the poor child to bed first."[Pg 147]

Mrs. Falconer had not said much beyond a few words in Joyce's ear, which no one else heard. Her usual vivacity and quick, sharp words seemed to have suddenly failed her.

"Yes; I'll take her to bed, and there she will have to lie all to-morrow, I expect. It's the last time I'll allow her to separate from the rest of us, when we are out on an excursion. Order the supper in, boys; and Melville, look after your friend; he is as white as a ghost; perhaps he has seen one!"

The tone was a little bitter and satirical. Mrs. Falconer resented the hours' keen anxiety she had endured, and was inclined to lay the fault on Gilbert.

He certainly did look exhausted, and leaned back with his head against the wall, over which a large stag's head with spreading antlers gazed down upon him with liquid, meaningless eyes.

"Mother," Joyce said, as, with her brother's arm round her, she rose to go upstairs; "mother, Mr. Arundel was so very brave; he was thrown down by that dreadful man and nearly stunned; he carried me till we met father; he was—he was—so good to me. Do pray thank him." Then disengaging herself from her mother's grasp, Joyce tottered across to the old oak chair, on which Gilbert had sunk. "Good-[Pg 148]night, and good-bye," she said; "and don't think them ungrateful. Good-bye."

He stood upright, and took one of her hands in his, raised it reverently to his lips; and so they parted.

He was off the next morning early to catch the coach at Wells. Not this time in a post-chaise with scarlet-clad post-boy, but driven by the squire himself, in a high gig, his portmanteau strapped behind. Melville roused himself to come down in a magnificent flowered dressing-gown, to see him off; and the boys were all there. Just as the gig was starting, Mrs. Falconer appeared. It was unusual for her to be later than her household, but she had a good reason, for Joyce had passed a restless night, and she had not liked to leave her. She was asleep now, she said, and a day's rest would restore her.

"I hope we shall see you here again," Mrs. Falconer added, "before long. But you won't be trusted on the Mendips again, I can tell you!"

"Let bygones be bygones, that's my motto," said the squire, as the gig went swinging out through the white gates near the house, and turned into the road which led through the village.

"And 'all's well that ends well,'" Gilbert said, as he waved his hat in token of farewell.[Pg 149]

That evening, when the squire and his wife were alone together, Mrs. Falconer said:

"Did Mr. Arundel say anything to you as he drove into Wells?"

"Say!" exclaimed the squire. "Well, he is not dumb. He said his head ached, for one thing."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Falconer; "he did not say any thing about his heart?"

The squire puffed a little smoke from his long clay pipe; for he indulged in a pipe sometimes, though the amount of tobacco consumed in the present day would have amazed him, and shocked him also, had he known that the greatest smokers were the young men and boys, to whom, sixty years ago, smoking was forbidden. He did not seem inclined to say anything in reply to his wife's last question.

"Because," said Mrs. Falconer, with that far-seeing and oracular wisdom in which men hope in vain to rival us in these matters, at least; "because I believe Gilbert Arundel is in love with our Joyce."

"Well," said the squire, "that would be no wonder to me; but I daresay it is only one of your fancies, Kate."

"We shall see; we shall see," said Mrs. Falconer. "I only hope he has not trifled with my child, and that my 'fancies,' as you call them, are fancies, that is all."[Pg 150]



Gilbert Arundel was to meet his mother in Clifton, where arrangements were to be made for their permanent residence there. Clifton was at this time gradually changing its position, or rather enlarging its borders! At the close of the preceding century, or during the latter half of it, Clifton Spa was the chief attraction. To these healing waters, as we know by Mason's celebrated epitaph, a sorrowing husband brought his fading wife. Dowry Square and Dowry Parade, with their little quaint pillars and balconies were in great request for invalids and visitors, from their near neighbourhood to the pump room.

Consumptive patients might be seen slowly walking under the row of trees by the banks of the muddy Avon, and gazing across at the deep recesses of the Leigh Woods with wistful eyes. To the weak and the ailing Nightingale Valley was then, though so near, very far off for them, and only the robust and vigorous could cross the river by Rownham Ferry,[Pg 151] and scale the wooded heights which at all times and in all seasons are so fair to look upon.

But at the time of which I write the tide of visitors was setting in upwards. The word "relaxing" was coming into fashion, and enterprising builders had raised, halfway up the hill, Windsor Terrace and the Paragon, that circular range of houses which, entered from the level road before Prince's Buildings, ends abruptly in a house which may indeed be said to "be built upon a rock," the windows looking straight down its precipitous sides.

Along the road which I have mentioned, which follows the course of the river, though high above it, was erected 'Prince's Buildings;' the 'first gentleman in Europe' during his long regency appears to have supplied the names of many streets and terraces in this neighbourhood.

Coronation Road beneath commemorates the auspicious event when Queen Caroline was shut out from her rights, and Prince's Buildings above was also previously named in his honour. Crescents and terraces were quick to follow one another on the heights, and the glories of the Hot wells, and the salubrity of the waters, became things of the past.

Bracing air began to be the panacea for ailments, and the Clifton Downs, now secured to the citizens[Pg 152] of Bristol by the merchant venturers for ever, were sought by many who, a few years before, would have buried themselves and their hopes of recovery under the shadow of the rocky heights, instead of facing the keen air upon their summit.

There was a medium preserved, however—Prince's Buildings, and the houses built on the slope of Sion Hill, were sheltered at the back and from the front commanded a view of the Leigh Woods before them, and a shoulder of the great St. Vincent Rock to their right, which might well excite the admiration of those who saw it for the first time.

After Gilbert Arundel had stepped less briskly than sometimes up the steep slope of Granby Hill, leaving the Crescent to his right, he passed along the back of Prince's Buildings and up Sion Hill, where his mother had taken up her temporary abode.

These houses are built with old-fashioned bow windows, some of them running up from the basement to the roof, and one or two with circular balconies on the second story.

[Pg 153]
[Pg 154]

As Gilbert was beginning to consider which number his mother had given as her address, he heard his name called from above, and looking up, a tall, fashionably dressed young lady said:

"Gilbert, we thought you were never coming from[Pg 155] Fair Acres. There must have been some great attraction."

St Vincent's Rock From Leigh Woods. St Vincent's Rock, From Leigh Woods.

Gilbert did not care to have his personal history proclaimed to the people who were seated on benches at the top of the Zig-zag—a path now cut in the rock and made easier of ascent by means of flights of steps, but then scarcely more than a bridle path, rough and slippery to the feet.

The door was open and Gilbert walked in, and walked upstairs. His mother was on the watch, and came to the head of the stairs to meet him, kissing him affectionately.

"Well, my dear son, are you pleased with our quarters? But, Gilbert, you do not look well; what is the matter?"

"Nothing; I had a tussle with a Somersetshire miner last evening, and feel as if I had got the worst of it to-day. What a lovely view you have from the window!"

The young lady who had spoken to him on the balcony now stepped into the room.

"Well, Gilbert, Aunt Annabella and I had quite given you up. My dear cousin, you look very lugubrious."

"Do I?" Gilbert replied. "A head-ache is a lugubrious thing; and how are you, Gratian?"[Pg 156]

"Pretty well. I have been rather out of sorts; but I shall soon recover, now you are come."

"That is a very pretty speech, Gratian, only I can't quite believe it."

"Well, I am going to take a walk abroad now, and leave you and your mother to have a chat together, all about Fairy Acre, or Fair Acre; which is it? I am very stupid; pray forgive me. Any commissions in the Mall or Regent Street, Aunt Bella?"

Mrs. Arundel, who had been getting her son some refreshment from one of the deep cupboards by the fire place, and was anxious to administer a glass of wine, now turned towards her niece. "No. Are you going alone, Gratian?"

"Yes, I am starting alone; I don't mean to fall over the rocks. Good-bye."

Gratian Anson was long past her première jeunesse, and had never been actually pretty; but she was one of those women who exercise an extraordinary fascination apparently without any effort, and have their prey in their net, before there is any suspicion that the net is spread.

Gratian dressed fashionably, and one of her perfections was a tall and well-proportioned figure. We might not, now-a-days, think it was set off by her short and full-flounced muslin gown, made with a[Pg 157] short waist, the body cut low, while over it she wore an enormous pelerine of muslin, edged with lace, which was crossed ever her breast and fastened with a curious antique brooch.

Even Gratian's tall figure could scarcely bear gracefully the width which fashion had decreed; and all was surmounted by a hat with a sugar-loaf crown, and a deep brim caught up on the left side by a large red rosette.

As she drew on her long, loose gloves, she surveyed her cousin with an appraising, searching glance. Her eyes were at all times too keen, and her wide mouth displayed a row of white teeth more fully than was quite agreeable.

"Ah!" she said, tapping Gilbert's shoulder; "ah! he is in love. I have no doubt of it! Adieu; au revoir, cher cousin!"

"The same as ever!" Gilbert said. "Thank you, dear mother," he said, rising with his accustomed courtesy to take the glass of wine from her hand. "Thanks. I confess I am rather knocked up; and if I had known Sion Hill was so far from the Bristol coach office I should have come up in a hackney, I think, instead of sending my luggage by the carrier. But how beautiful this is!" he said, stepping on the balcony and looking out upon the scene before him.

No piers had yet been raised for the great design[Pg 158] of the Suspension Bridge—that vast dream of Brunel's, which for so many years seemed fated to remain only a dream; while the naked buttresses, in all their huge proportions, stood like giants on either side of the gorge, connected only by a rod of iron, over which a few people with strong nerves were allowed to pass in a sliding basket.

Gilbert looked out on a scene which can hardly be equalled for the unusual beauty of its salient points.

"We shall be happy to live here, mother," Gilbert said.

"You have no misgivings, my dear son."

"No, it is clear I must make my living in some practical way, and why not by the law?"

"There is the drudgery of the office first, and then the passing of examinations."

"I have weighed all the pros and cons with you before; why do you go over them again?" This was said in an irritable tone.

"I would as soon be a man of law as anything; and I want to make a home"—he paused—"for you, and for one whom I have found under the Mendips."

His mother had seated herself by his side, on a bench which stood in the verandah or balcony.

"It can't be thought of yet," he said; "she is Falconer's sister! He never told me he had a sister, or, rather, I should say, such a sister. How should[Pg 159] he be able to see what she is? I don't want to talk sentiment, mother, but I will say I did not know how beautiful and simple hearted she was, and how her beauty was supreme with no fine dress, till I saw Gratian just now."

His mother laid her hand on his. "What is her name, Gilbert?"

"Joyce: it suits her as no other name could. Joyce!" he repeated. "Joy, Sunshine, Birdie; they call her all these names at Fair Acres. Some day, when we are settled at Bristol, will you ask her to visit you, mother? and when you see her you will love her."

"I shall love her for your sake," his mother said, gently.

They had been all in all to each other for twenty-three years; and though Mrs. Arundel had told herself a hundred times that she desired nothing so much for Gilbert as the love of a true hearted woman, still she was conscious of a little thrill of pain; for she must, in the natural course of things, be second now.

"I could not describe her if I tried," he went on, with lover-like enthusiasm. "Then there is such strength in her as well as sweetness. Last night we were attacked by a ruffian whom her father, who is a magistrate, had offended, and her presence of mind[Pg 160] and calmness were wonderful. The man knocked me down, and I returned the compliment, which is the cause of my stupidity to-day."

His mother scanned his face anxiously. "Have you told her of your love?"

"Not formally; but I feel she must know it."

"One word more, Gilbert, has she the real spring of all beauty and goodness within. Has she chosen the right path, following her Master?"

Gilbert was silent for a minute.

"It is not a religious household," he said. "They have no prayers, except on Sundays. It is a miserable church, with an old drone of a parson, who gallops through the service; but, I think, Joyce is ready to follow, if led in the right way."

"And you are strong enough to lead, Gilbert?"

"I hope so," he said earnestly; and then mother and son were silent for a few minutes. Afterwards they began to speak of Melville, and all the past, in which Gilbert had borne such a noble part.

"I have separated him from Maythorne, and at least that is a step in the right direction; but he is so weak. How he came to be her brother, I can't imagine; he is crazed on the subject of titles, and will roll off a list of intimate friends, when he thinks I am not listening, to whom he never spoke ten words[Pg 161] in his life. I dined at the palace, and the bishop sent you his love, and so did his son, who lives with him—two courteous gentlemen, with well-turned compliments at their tongue's end. The bishop said I was like you, and that I had followed in the lines of one of the most beautiful women he ever met."

"What bare-faced flattery!" Mrs. Arundel said, laughing. "I never was a beauty. Your good looks come from the other side of the house."

"Who is flattering now?" Gilbert asked; "but seriously, mother, you shall accept an invitation to the Wells Palace, you must promise to do so. The bishop said something about November, if you did not mind the falling leaves."

"I shall wait till I am asked," Mrs. Arundel said. "If his lordship has buried me in the dust of years—out of sight and out of mind—I don't see why he should unearth me now."

"And yet you sent your son to call you to mind; now that is unfair, mother. You urged me to go to the Palace at Wells, and now you won't take advantage of what is growing out of it. But to go back to Falconer; a stout, middle-aged gentleman, of small means and weak chest, wants to travel for a year. The bishop suggested Mr. Falconer should give him his son to lead about, as he had[Pg 162] previously washed several black sheep to a very fair whiteness, paying expenses, but no further remuneration. If Melville can be got off under such auspices, it will be a grand step in the right direction. Poor fellow! he has got into his head the absolute necessity of seeing the world, and I, who know him pretty well, think that there would be less danger of mischief if he were allowed to follow his bent, than if he were to be forced to follow the pursuits of a country life at Fair Acres, which he thinks it grand to despise. He talks with amazing coolness of all he shall do when he does come, and till he has learned a lesson, he would be a frightful nuisance to them all. The airs he gives himself to the poor old steward are preposterous; but the worst thing about him is the way he speaks to his mother."

"What is she like?"

"She is a very good woman, rather priding herself on setting aside all conventionality, and bustling about the house, and keeping everyone up to their duty but her son! Is it not extraordinary? She has ruined him with stupid indulgence, and yet she is strict enough with the rest—even with——"

"Joyce!" His mother supplied the word with a smile.

"Yes, even with Joyce," he rejoined; but starting up, with an exclamation of dismay:[Pg 163]

"Did you know Maythorne was in Clifton, mother?"

Mrs. Arundel followed the direction of her son's eyes, and there on the broken, uneven slopes which lay before Sion Hill, came Gratian, chatting gaily to a man of some six-and-thirty or forty, who answered very well to the description a poet gave some years after of "the dandy despot, the jewelled mass of millinery, oiled and curled, and smelling of musk and insolence."

"I am very sorry he has come to Clifton," Mrs. Arundel said quickly. "I suppose he is at the hotel."

"Gratian looks satisfied. I hope I shan't get very savage with him, mother. When we last parted it was the night when I—but I need not talk about it—he got that weak, foolish boy into his hands, and I helped to get him out, so he bears me a grudge."

"Never mind that, my dear son; and, Gilbert, remember an old watchword: 'He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.'"

"I know I do flare out at Maythorne sometimes; but then was there not a cause?"

"Ah! Gilbert, there is never a cause or an excuse for wrath indulged; indignation against wrong is one thing, rage against the wrong-doer another."

And now steps were heard in the hall, and Gratian's[Pg 164] laugh. She threw open the door and said in a half-mocking tone:

"My Lord Maythorne."

Mrs. Arundel advanced to meet her brother, and greeted him kindly, but with no profession of extreme delight.

"Well, my dear sister," Lord Maythorne said, "I have taken Clifton en route to Plymouth, and wandering aimlessly on the Downs I met your fair visitor, my kinswoman, Gratian. What a quaint little snuggery you have got, Annabella, upon my word; and Gratian tells me my hopeful nephew is here, looking after his future prospects, eh? A little Methodism mixed with law, eh?" And Lord Maythorne produced an elegant gold snuff-box, tapped the lid, and took a delicate pinch between his forefinger and thumb, in the most approved fashion of the time.

"Ha! Gilbert, how do? Where is your cub, that you were leading about with such good intentions. Have you brought him to introduce to your mother, eh?" Waiting for no answer, and just touching Gilbert's hand with his finger tips, he went on:

"Have you dined, Annabella?"

"Long ago; we keep early hours."

"Well then, I'll return to my hotel to dine, and Gilbert shall accompany me."[Pg 165]

"No thank you," Gilbert said, "I shall sup with my mother, and go early to bed."

"You had better accept the invitation, Gilbert. Our supper will not be very recherché," Gratian said; "we do not sit down to a royal feast here, we live above such vanities."

"I dare say he will not be fastidious after his farmhouse life," said Lord Maythorne, scornfully. "How was your charge; is he walking without leading strings yet?"

Gilbert bit his lip and struggled for composure; but his mother watched him anxiously. Lord Maythorne's irony was hard for her to bear sometimes, and she never knew how Gilbert would take it.

"My dear boy, there is a wise proverb which in English sounds a little harsh, scarcely courteous; in French it is less abrupt: 'Chargez de vos affaires.' There are other renderings: 'Don't put your fingers into other people's pies.'"

Poor Gilbert sprang forward and raising his voice said:

"I will not submit to your impertinence. What right have you to treat me like this? I saw you, a man almost double my age—"

"Gently, gently my dear boy, not double; nay, nay—"[Pg 166]

"I say, I saw you trying to ruin a poor, weak fellow, who, weak as he was, trusted you, and I tried to save him. I wonder you are not ashamed to speak thus; you are—"

The fierce torrent of angry words suddenly stopped. His mother laid her hand upon his arm, and with a great effort he regained his composure.

"I beg your pardon, mother, for brawling here, in your presence, and in yours, Gratian, also; it is very unseemly."

A mocking laugh from Lord Maythorne was his only response, and Gratian left the room saying:

"Adieu! I hope to find you in a better temper at supper, Gilbert," which was scarcely less irritating.

Gilbert followed her, and left his mother and her brother together.

Lord Maythorne was an utterly selfish man of the world; he was the son of his father's second marriage, and therefore much younger than Mrs. Arundel. He was of the type very common in those days, of an openly avowed scoffer at all that was good. Handsome, and with gentleman-like manners when it suited him, he was unscrupulous as to truth, and could send the shafts of his satire, dipped in gall, with a smiling face of indifference. He took a strange pleasure in entrapping the weak and the foolish, and[Pg 167] as we know, poor Melville Falconer had not escaped. Gilbert had been roused to indignation against his uncle, and pity for his victim, and he had done his best to open Melville's eyes, and had not altogether failed.

The straightforward manliness of Gilbert had an attraction for many besides Melville, and without any pretension or assumption of superiority, or many words about religion, he showed the Power that was in him was sufficient for him. His hot temper was governed, and a torrent of angry words was often checked; while he did his best to trample out the dislike it was impossible not to feel for his uncle.

When Mrs. Arundel was left alone with her brother, he threw himself carelessly on a sofa, and again drew out his snuff-box.

"So you have quite decided on the law for that boy," he said.

"Yes; this seems a good beginning here, and I have been able to article him to a most respectable firm of solicitors."

"They are a dirty lot generally; however, I am glad that young fellow is really going to earn his living, and make his own way in the world. It would be a pity if he trusted to us."

"It is very unlikely he would trust to you," Mrs. Arundel said.[Pg 168]

"It would be leaning on a broken reed, you think; well, I will not contradict you, Annabella. In fact, I am a little short of cash, ready cash, just now. I suppose you do not happen to have a hundred pounds you don't know what to do with?"

"Certainly not; I cannot imagine, Maythorne, how you can think of such a thing."

"Well, I know you send a lot to convert the niggers and Hindoos, and that you subscribe to a society for the flinging about of Bibles, which no one reads."

"Stop, please, Maythorne; I could not listen to any more conversation like this; I will not take part in it. I can lend you no money; but once more, for our father's sake, I cannot help begging, entreating you to turn from the ways of sin."

"No cant, please, Annabella; it makes me savage, and I don't want to affront you."

"I do not care whether you are affronted or not," Mrs. Arundel said, earnestly. "I cannot help feeling that we are of the same blood, and that if you were a worthy successor of my father you might be a joy and support to me. Instead of this, I have to try to keep my son from your influence, and dread that even by hearing your irreverent way of treating sacred things, he may grow accustomed to what is wrong. Oh! it is not too late; you are still a young man, still[Pg 169] in your prime; let me entreat you to break off the chains which bind you, or rather, turn to God to free you from the bondage of sin—the slavery of sin—for it is slavery, Maythorne."

"I am very much obliged to you, Annabella, for your kindly interest, but I rather prefer deeds to words. Maythornes is pretty well stripped of trees now, and I have all but exhausted the possibility of raising money on it; but laisser aller is my motto, and I am not the one to mourn over a dark, old-fashioned house, and lands which yield no produce; if possible, I shall cut the whole concern. Well, ta-ta, till to-morrow. I have promised to hire horses and trot out Gratian over the Downs."

Mrs. Arundel felt that to say anything more would be worse than useless, and yet, as she watched her brother lounge across the road and stand on the slope looking over the river, her eyes filled with tears.

"To think what he might have been. May God guard my boy from men like him."

Gilbert had gone quickly away from Sion Hill, and found himself on the lower Downs—then not skirted by handsome houses, but with glades and grassy slopes covered with hawthorn bushes, whitened in May-time with blossoms like snow, and covered in autumn with[Pg 170] feathery masses of the wild clematis, or traveller's joy.

Gilbert found the place suited his mood, and he gave himself up to thoughts of Joyce, and forgot the late encounter with his uncle.

How delightful it was to build castles for the future—to think of a home near all this loveliness, where Joyce would reign in all her sweet beauty as his wife. The time had been when Gilbert had admired his cousin Gratian Anson, who was the daughter of his mother's aunt, and therefore his cousin only in the second degree. Now her free, bold bearing, her ringing voice, her fashionable dress and banter, jarred on him. Her laugh was like the rattle of a noisy brook over innumerable stones, when compared to Joyce's musical ripple, which was so real, and so entirely the outcome of her own happiness. Then how charming was her unconsciousness, and how her beauty was enhanced by the absence of all affectation; how pretty was her affection for her father and Piers, and how gracefully and simply she did all the little household duties which her mother expected from her! Some words of a favourite poet of his mother's recurred to him, as he pictured Joyce in her little, short, lilac frock, with an apron, as he had seen her one morning, and her round white arms bare, as[Pg 171] she came out of the dairy, and said she had made up twenty pats of butter while he had been asleep. Surely George Herbert's words were verified.

The action was made fine by the spirit, which was done as a loving token of obedience to the will of another.

"Mother wished me to do it, so I got up an hour earlier," she had said, as she cut a slice from one of the rolls made for breakfast and offered it to him, spread with the butter she had made, with a cup of milk, before it had been skimmed.

Dreams of first love are very sweet; and Gilbert wondered if he had been wise to leave Fair Acres without getting a definite answer from Joyce herself.

Honourable and straightforward, he determined not to return to Fair Acres unless prepared to ask her father's permission to lay all he had at her feet. He was conscious that at present that all did not imply much, and besides, he had his mother to think of, and he must not marry till he was really in a position to support a wife in that station of life to which he had been called. He could wait for seven years, like Jacob of old—waiting for Joyce was worth any sacrifice. But what if, when she emerged from her retirement and went to Barley Wood, some one else might set his heart on the prize and win it. Then he recalled[Pg 172] her words, spoken in answer to his question as he carried her towards home the evening before:

"No; I will not forget you."

They seemed to possess a double meaning as he repeated them again and again, as he retraced his steps over the observatory towards Sion Hill. They were heard in the late voices of the thrushes in the woods across the river—those dark, mysterious Leigh woods which, in the dim and fading light, clothed the opposite heights with dim and motionless masses; they were heard in the call of the sailor boys from the full river below St. Vincent's Rock, on whose summit he stood; they seemed to wrap him round with a certainty that the giant rock, from which he looked over the fading landscape lying to his left, encircled by a line of hills, on which the fine tower of Dundry stood like a black sentinel against the clear sky, was not more steadfast than would Joyce's heart be, were it once given to him.

There were then no railings to protect passers-by from approaching too near the edge of the precipice which falls sheer down from this point a distance of three hundred feet, and Gilbert was startled from his dream by a voice near:

"You are perilously near the edge, unless you wish to go over!"[Pg 173]

He turned with a sudden gesture, and, to his surprise, saw Gratian.

"I saw you wander over here from my window," she said. "Look! there are our houses, and I came to look after you."

"That was very obliging," Gilbert said, a little satirically.

"Now, don't be so high and mighty. I wish to be your friend, as I have always been, Gilbert. I was very sorry for you when you were so shamefully teazed by your young uncle; he does not like to be called old. I hope you noticed that."

"Oh! it is over now. I had no right to get into a rage."

"I think you had every right," Gratian said. "He is too provoking; worse, since he has been so much in London, and welcomed, so we hear, by some boon companions of His Majesty. But do not let us talk of him; let us talk of you. No; I don't choose to walk so near the edge of the rocks, if you do. Tell me about the people where you have been;—tell me about the place. Is it a fine house, or a nice big farm? Fair Acres is a pretty name, and are there no fair maidens as well as acres? Come, Gilbert, you were not always so cross to me." This was said with a gentle pressure on his arm.[Pg 174]

"I don't mean to be cross; but there is nothing at Fair Acres that would interest you. You know about poor Melville already."

"I have heard of him," she said, "and of your taking upon yourself to reform him. Well, who are the others?"

"There are two fine boys, who want to be sailors, but they are too old, I am afraid, for the navy; they are thirteen."

"They—both thirteen!"

"Yes, they are twins. Then there is a lame boy, Piers, a year younger. And oh, I forgot! a quiet, silent fellow, Ralph, he is sixteen."

"And does the great Melville, come next to him?"

"Two little girls died. But there is a daughter of seventeen."

"Ah!" exclaimed Gratian; "I knew there was a daughter. Did I not tell you I knew you were in love? Tell me her name. Come! We are such old friends. Surely you might tell me."

"Really, Gratian, I will tell you Miss Falconer's name if you so particularly wish to hear it. I—"

"I will guess it. Let me see. I love my love with an A, because she is amiable, and I took her to the sign of the Archer, and fed her with apples, and her[Pg 175] name is Angela. Not right? Well, I will go through the alphabet, and I must surely be right at last. I love my love with a B——."

"Pray stop," Gilbert said. "I don't feel in a jesting mood, somehow."

"Not ready to wear a cap and bells? Poor Gilbert. You feel more like sitting under a willow tree and singing 'Poor Mary Anne.'"

"Which is our house?" Gilbert asked.

"Not that one; not up the steps. But you shall not go in till you tell me her name."

"She is called Joyce," Gilbert said, in despair.

"Ah! then you allow there is only one she for you in all the world, and she is called Joyce."

"Now, I do hope you are satisfied," Gilbert said.

She laughed that loud, ringing laugh, as she ran upstairs before him. "Oh! of course I am satisfied," she said.[Pg 176]



Great preparations were made in the Vicar's Close at Wells for Charlotte's visit to Barley Wood. Her aunt gave her orders as to what she was to wear every day; how she was to be sure to make a proper curtsey at the door of the drawing-room when she entered Mrs. More's presence; that she was to play on the piano, and exhibit the screens she had just painted; and if Mrs. More admired them, she was to beg her to do her the favour to accept them.

"Do not let Joyce commit herself by any rustic manners; you who have been carefully educated, my dear Charlotte, must try to do me credit, and give Joyce a hint—"

"Joyce is so lovely!" Charlotte exclaimed, "it scarcely matters what she says, or wears."

"My dear, Joyce has no style, and is given to express herself too freely; and, I think, her voice is sometimes pitched in too high a key. Yours is gentle and well modulated; now do me credit at Barley Wood,[Pg 177] Charlotte; I have taken so much pains to form you on the model of a true gentlewoman; and you must remember how many girls would think it a great honour to pay a visit to Mrs. Hannah More."

Charlotte promised to do her best; and when her uncle called to take her to the "Swan," where the four-wheel was waiting, she was in a flutter of excitement.

Mr. Falconer greeted his sister in his usual frank kindly manner; and while Charlotte ran upstairs to get ready, Miss Falconer said:

"I am glad to hear Melville is gone."

The squire sighed.

"Yes, he is gone, and his mother finds it hard to part from him."

"Hard to part from him! Really, Arthur, when one considers how much anxiety he has caused, I wonder you should say that."

"Ah! Letitia, that is all very well; but mothers' hearts are the same, whether their sons are good or bad. It seems to me that mothers generally love the children best, that give them the most trouble. However, the poor fellow is gone, bag and baggage. I went to Bath with him, and delivered him over to Mr. Crawford, a steady-going man he seems, and Melville will not have a chance of getting into mis[Pg 178]chief under his care, I hope. But it is an expensive matter. I had to put a hundred pounds into Crawford's keeping as a start; besides twenty I gave Melville."

"You ought not to have given him more than five pounds," Miss Falconer said. "The whole management of Melville has been a mistake."

"So you have told me before," said the squire. "My dear Letitia, single women always think they know a great deal about the affairs of married people, and, as experience is wanting, they commonly know nothing."

"I have long since given up arguing the point with you, Arthur; however, let us say no more. I only hope that Melville may return a changed character, and then you will not regret this outlay for him. I only wish Joyce had some of the money spent on her."

"Joyce!" the squire exclaimed—a smile breaking over his fine face; "Joyce! all the money in the world could not improve her. She is my joy and comfort. I half grudge letting her go to Barley Wood, even for a short visit."

"You ought to be glad that she has had such an invitation; and, really, you have to thank me for it, Arthur. I take such a deep interest in Joyce. I have[Pg 179] often tried to put before you what she needs, and now I have great hope that Mrs. More may suggest some plan for her."

The squire began to feel very impatient; his sister's interest in his children was undoubted, but he did not want to have it perpetually brought before him. Miss Falconer had an unfortunate habit of sounding her own excellencies, especially with regard to her nieces and nephews. Then there were often little side hits at his wife; and it is always hard for a man like the squire, to be reminded that his sisters do not consider his wife their equal in the social scale, and the nearer the truth the less palatable is the assertion of it.

"Is not Charlotte ready?" he exclaimed. "Joyce will be waiting at Draycot, where we are to pick her up. Thomas was to drive her there with her box, as he had an errand at Farmer Scott's."

"In what did Joyce drive?"

"In the gig; and Joyce likes to pay Mrs. Scott, who is a sad cripple, a visit sometimes, so it all fitted in very well. Come Charlotte, my dear," he said, turning to his niece. "We shall find the four-wheel at the 'Swan,' and I've the ostler at the Close gate waiting to take your luggage. Two boxes! Joyce only took one."

"Charlotte was obliged to have a bonnet-box," her[Pg 180] aunt said. "Her Tuscan bonnet would have been ruined with the dust if she had worn it."

The squire was already in the little lobby, and, cutting short good-byes, he strode down the Close, while Charlotte ran back twice, to kiss her aunt and say in a tearful voice:

"I cannot endure to leave you, sweet auntie."

"Good-bye, my treasure, good-bye," Miss Falconer repeated again and again, and very genuine tears were on her own cheeks. They were a very demonstrative pair, and, as we should say in these days, "gushed" over each other, but real love did underlie the fanciful expression of it; and Miss Falconer looked on Charlotte with the pride that a modeller in plastic clay, looks upon the work of his hands, and remembers how carefully every detail has been wrought out, and how, in spite of a little flaw here and there, the result is satisfactory.

Joyce was watching for her father at the door of Mr. Scott's farm, and came running down the garden between the lavender bushes and high shrub-fuschias, which were glowing scarlet in the sunshine.

The squire waved his hand to the farmer's wife, who, crippled with rheumatism, could not leave her seat in the porch to come towards him. A farmboy lifted Joyce's box to the back seat, where she[Pg 181] soon mounted with a quick, alert spring, and then, with a shilling handed to the boy, the squire drove off.

Joyce's heart sank a little when they turned in at the gates of Barley Wood.

"Are you coming in with us, father?"

"No, no, my dear; I must get back as fast as I can. It is a good many miles for Mavis at a stretch."

They drew up at the door, and an old servant answered the ringing of the bell, which Joyce had jumped down to pull by a handle, made of a deer's foot. The servant's face was not very pleasant, and a forbidding looking woman called out:

"Company! yes, there's nothing but company. There's no rest from it."

The boxes were taken down, and the squire, unwilling to prolong the parting, which he felt more keenly than he cared to own, waved his whip, and saying "Good bye, my Sunshine, good-bye," drove off.

"This way," the woman said, passing across the hall and opening the door of a low, pretty room, sweet with that scent of rose leaves and lavender, which always belonged to the atmosphere of a country house long ago. It was an aroma in which many scents blended, with no very great strength—a fragrance which dwells in the memory amongst the pleasant things of early days.[Pg 182]

There was nothing very striking about Barley Wood; it was simply a pretty country residence—a place to live and die in. There was an air of tranquility about it, and an absence of anything like fashion or show, which was very refreshing.

Miss Frowde rose to greet the two girls, and, saying that Mrs. More would see them after dinner, she led them to two rooms at the back of the house, near the servants' quarters.

"The house will be full next week for the Bible meeting at Wrington, so we thought you would not object to these rooms. I hope you will be comfortable."

The rooms opened out of each other, and were very plain in their furniture. Joyce, accustomed to her mother's scrupulous care about every little detail, noticed that the counterpane on her bed was a good deal rumpled, and there were rims of dust on the bosses of the old-fashioned round mirror. Evidently the servants at Barley Wood had not taken much trouble about the guests.

Indeed, the shameful neglect of Mrs. More's servants, and their bad conduct, had even then been canvassed by outsiders, though the old lady herself was perfectly unconscious of it.

The ingratitude of her servants, whom she had[Pg 183] spoiled with such excessive indulgence, was a dark cloud over Hannah More's last days, and sent her forth at last, with all the weight of her years upon her, to seek a new home, and turn her back on Barley Wood for ever.

The girls made a quick toilette and then went down, linked arm in arm, to the dining room, where Miss Frowde awaited them.

The beautiful valley in which Wrington lies, stretched out before the windows, and the range of hills which enclosed it were shining in the full light of the July afternoon.

Miss Frowde was not very conversational; she asked a few common-place questions, to which Joyce exerted herself to reply, but Charlotte took refuge in silence; she was far too much occupied with considering what impression she was making, to talk easily and naturally, as her cousin did.

"I dare say you would like a turn in the grounds, after dinner," Miss Frowde said, "and I will inquire when dear Mrs. More would like to see you. It will only be one at a time; she is husbanding her strength for the Bible meeting, when seventeen or eighteen friends will dine here."

Presently one of the maid servants came into the room.[Pg 184]

"Mrs. More wishes to see Miss Forkner, and I was to say that the other might go into the village with you, Miss Frowde, if she pleased."

"You had better go immediately," Miss Frowde said to Joyce. "Dear Mrs. More does not like to be kept waiting."

Joyce rose at once and followed the maid to a small sitting room, where Mrs. More was seated in a deep armchair.

A large table was near her, covered with books and papers, and a small fire burned upon the hearth.

Joyce felt as if she were going into the presence of royalty, and far more in awe of Mrs. More, than she had done when offering her the milk at the carriage door, before Fair Acres.

Indeed Hannah More had a certain queenly dignity about her, and the reflection of those palmy days when she was the admired of all admirers in the gay London world, the friend of Garrick and the great Dr. Johnson, did, in some degree, remain with her always.

The spiritual life in which she had lived and moved for so many years, had lifted her far above the interests and pursuits which once she held to be the end and aim of life. Her religion was eminently practical, and to do good and to communicate was never forgotten.[Pg 185] Nevertheless, the literary efforts which had made her famous, her brilliant conversation, her intellectual powers, had given her a certain tone and dignity, which while attractive, might yet be called the air of superiority, which in those days was conceded, to be as quite the proper attitude for any woman who had made herself a name. Now, in the great crowd of authors and craftswomen of the pen, it is hard for anyone to lift her head above her neighbours.

A thing of the past indeed it is to remember how famous "the little Burney," as Dr. Johnson called her, became; how flattery was poured upon her, how no one dared to be jealous, because no one would dare to emulate her performances. To be great in London Society in Hannah More's early days, was to be great indeed. The author of "Percy" was presented with a laurel crown, the stems confined within an elegant ring, and Garrick himself read aloud the play to a select circle of admiring listeners!

But though history repeats itself, and fashion ruled then as now, in literature as in other things, I think there was more honest and kindly appreciation of the work of others than we have now-a-days.

The literary field was narrower, it is true, and therefore was not broken up into plots, each plot hedged in by various conceits—a barrier the un[Pg 186]initiated cannot pass. All flowers growing outside the barrier are called weeds; and if they are fragrant, they are pronounced sickly; if bright and vivid in colour, common. I may be wrong, but I think this self-sufficient, dogmatic criticism is very much on the increase, and that the little jealousies and rivalries amongst men and women who follow the same profession in art or literature grow more frequent. Tongue and pen are often both too sharp; and the superficial chatter about books and authors, pictures and music—both English and foreign—is too often passed as the real coin of the great realm of literature, when it is but a base imitation, stamped, it may be, on a showy surface with the same token, but utterly worthless when the first brilliancy is worn off.

"Come, my dear Miss Falconer," was Mrs. More's greeting to Joyce; "come and sit near me, that we may have a pleasant chat. Tell me how you have sped since I saw you, and whether you have studied the Book I gave you."

"Yes, madam," Joyce said, as she seated herself on a high Chippendale chair, the seat covered with fine cross-stitch, close to Mrs. More; "yes, madam, I have read all the passages you marked; and I had no notion before that the Bible was so beautiful."

"Ah, my child, it is a deep mine; its treasures do[Pg 187] not lie on the surface; and let me tell you that I, who have drunk of the waters at many springs, find in the Bible alone, the living fountain of water. Your aunt told me she was anxious as to your education; she thought you needed more than your good father found it convenient to give you."

"Father has so many boys," Joyce said, "and, of course, boarding schools are very expensive. I have had to help mother a great deal at home, and I never wished to go to school. I think Aunt Letitia means by education accomplishments like Charlotte's, and I have none of them. But," Joyce went on, "I have a very clever brother, Ralph, and, when he is at home for the holidays, I write his Latin exercises, and he corrects them, and I can read French with him; and then I know a good deal of natural history—because my brother Piers is lame, and nothing amuses him like collections of birds, and moths, and insects."

"Well," Hannah More said, smiling, "I think you have laid a very good foundation; upon this, as you grow older, you can build up many fair temples of knowledge, and I hope they will be ornamented by wisdom. You know my story, I dare say."

Joyce hesitated, "I know you write plays and books. We have 'Christian Morals,' and 'Village Politics.' But——"[Pg 188]

"Oh," Hannah More said, "those are my published works. I was alluding to the story of my own life. I always like to bring it before the young, because I can say to them, I have tasted all the world can give, and found it vanity. My dear, if I were now depending on the favours of the great for happiness, or the showering upon me of the fame which my literary work brought me, where should I be? An old woman in her eightieth year, can no longer dine with bishops and princes of the land. She can take no part in routs, and theatres would be a weariness; but, thank God, and I beg you, my child, to mark this, I turned from those vanities to strive to serve the living God when I was in my heyday. And why? Because I felt them then to be but vanity, often vexation of spirit, and the higher part of me loathed the false lustre of the gay world."

Joyce listened attentively to every word Mrs. More said, and her young heart gave in its allegiance to the beautiful old lady who, in her own brilliant style, told her of the days of her youth, and of many little incidents connected with the names of distinguished men and women who had passed away.

"I expected opposition," she said with a sigh, "but we were a fourfold band of sisters then, and we could meet a legion of objectors with a bright[Pg 189] face. Now, I alone am left, and can no longer give personal care to the work. But I have kindled the spark, with God's help, and I do trust the light will shine over the hills of Somersetshire when I am laid in yonder churchyard. The Mendip miners give me the most uneasiness; they are so rough, and wild, and lawless."

"Yes," Joyce said. "We, that is, Mr. Arundel and I, met the man who had been brought before the magistrates at Wells, and he knocked down Mr. Arundel, and——"

"I heard of that. Poor Susan Priday, the man's daughter, has been a good girl, and has had a sad life indeed."

"I felt so sorry for her," Joyce said, "and I should like to help her. She must be so unhappy with a bad father. If mother would let me, I should like to have her in the kitchen; but I know she would not allow it."

Mrs. More smiled.

"I suppose your good mother thinks the education in our school has spoiled Susan for service.

"Mother is a good mistress," Joyce ventured to say, "and cares for the maids, as maids, but she has a notion that people who have to earn their bread, ought not to be able to read."

"Ah! that is a notion many have shared with[Pg 190] your mother. Why, when the great Edward Colston first proposed to begin the good work of education in Bristol, he was voted by the Mayor and Aldermen as a dangerous person, likely to turn the sons of the poor into vipers, who should sting the rich when once they were raised out of ignorance. All that feeling has passed away in Bristol, as it will pass away in time in the country districts. Edward Colston's name is held now in honour; his school sends out useful members of society year by year. Then there is Robert Raikes at Gloucester, how his work has taken root. So I comfort myself with thinking that before this century has counted out its last year, Hannah More's schools for the sons of the soil under Mendip, will have won their way humbly but steadily to swell the great tide of progress which is bearing us on its breast. It is a wonderful age!" she continued. "God has shown us marvellous things. Steam has become our servant, and its concentrated force seems likely to move kingdoms, and verify the prophecy that men shall go to and fro on the earth. Then in our cities coal-gas is captured, and turns night into day. Who shall say what hidden forces yet lie undiscovered, needing only the brain to conceive, and the hand of some Watt to demonstrate the power, lying concealed in the mysteries of God's natural kingdom. Who was with[Pg 191] you on Mendip when the rough fellow attacked you?"

"Mr. Arundel," Joyce said, in a low voice, the colour rising to her face.

Hannah More smiled, and said:

"Was he your preux chevalier?"

Joyce blushed a still rosier red.

"I don't understand," she said, simply.

"Your devoted knight!"

"Of course, how stupid; but I so seldom hear French spoken; and I expect Ralph and I have a strange pronunciation."

"French pronunciation can only be acquired by much speaking; and now finish the story of your knight."

"Oh, it was only that the man, Susan's father, was angry, and wanted to force me to give him money; and Mr. Arundel made him move out of the way, and then, of course, the man was furious, and hurled him down upon the heather and gorse. We had lost our way, and father had to come out with two men, and lanthorns to look for us."

All the time Joyce was speaking she felt those dark eyes were fixed on her, and she hurried on to the end of her story. Hannah More was too keen an observer of faces not to read what was written on Joyce's; but she only stroked the fair, rounded cheek gently, and said;[Pg 192] "We shall be friends, I hope; there is only a short space in earth left for me, but, long or short, you may reckon on my sympathy. We will talk about education to-morrow. I have some letters demanding attention. That pile is yet unread; many are begging letters, some are even less pleasant than that;" and the old lady sighed. Even then the dishonesty and extravagance of her household were beginning to be noticed outside Barley Wood. Although her own eyes were blinded as to the cause, she felt the results keenly.

This first day at Barley Wood was the beginning of a new life to Joyce. While Charlotte in her secret heart found the country dull, and almost wished herself back in Wells, a new world opened for Joyce. Mrs. More would recite passages from Milton's "Paradise Lost," and fill Joyce's mind with the beauties of the Garden of Eden, till she had thoughts for nothing else. Mrs. More told her she reminded her of a great man who on reading Milton for the first time, said he forgot that there was anyone else in the world but himself and Adam and Eve!

Charlotte dawdled over a bit of fancy work, which her aunt had hoped would awake Mrs. More's admiration, but as it met with but faint praise, Charlotte felt herself aggrieved, and made various uncomplimentary remarks, in private, upon the coarse aprons[Pg 193] which Miss Frowde produced as needlework which was really wanted. But the stories of London life pleased Charlotte, and she would wake up to interest when Mrs. More described the grand routs where the élite of London were gathered; of Johnson and his witty speeches; of Garrick, and of the continual round of gaiety which she had led, till she awoke from a dream to realities, and from those vanities to serve the living God.

The Bible meeting at Wrington was the great event of the year, and the village was in holiday trim. The bells rang from the noble church tower; the school children, in clean white tippets and blue cotton frocks, walked in procession to Barley Wood, where tea was provided for parents and teachers, and several of those who had come to the meeting addressed them in simple words. Sir Thomas Acland had brought with him the Bishop of Ohio, and the good old man looked upon the scene before him, with eyes dim with emotion. Here in this Somersetshire village, lying under the range of low hills, had the influence of a good woman been felt. She had borne bitter scoffs and rudeness from her enemies; she had been laughed at even by her friends, and yet she had carried the banner of the Lord onward, and now in her old age the victory was won. The people[Pg 194] loved her, and though there were malcontents in Wrington, as in every other place, still the feeling for the good work the four sisters had done, was stronger than that which was against it, and the Bible had become a treasure in many humble homes. No longer like that of which Joyce had spoken at Fair Acres—rarely opened and seldom read—nor like the one described by Hannah More herself as the only one she found at Cheddar, used to prop up a flower-pot in the window!

There was a large dinner-party of seventeen at Barley Wood after the meeting, and this was a novelty to the two girls, who had never before sat down with so many at a table. Charlotte was in good spirits, having captured a pale-faced young clergyman, to whom she talked in her sentimental fashion, and who seemed almost as much fascinated by her, as she intended he should be.

Joyce, on the contrary, had no time to think of herself. She was intently listening to all that was said, and the conversation of those refined and educated gentlemen charmed her. It was impossible not to be struck with her beautiful face, glowing with interest and, though silent herself, showing that she was drinking in all that was said around her.

It was the same afterwards in Mrs. More's sitting-[Pg 195]room, where all the guests gathered to sip fragrant tea and coffee, and talk over the burning questions of the day.

The good Bishop of Ohio, who had laboured long in the field abroad, as Hannah More had laboured at home, knew well how rough was the road, which those who desire the highest good of others, must ever tread.

Hannah More was speaking of the deep anxiety that the condition of the Mendip miners caused her, and how, of all her work, that seemed to be bringing forth the least fruit.

"An ear here and there is gathered," she said; "but the harvest is scant indeed."

Joyce, who had been listening earnestly, said:

"Susan Priday is an 'ear,' I am sure. She seemed to try to do all she could, and—"

The Bishop turned quickly. Joyce almost thought she ought not to have spoken, and that the Bishop and Mrs. More would think her forward, but the good old man said:

"That is right, my dear young lady. It is well to remind our dear friend that the grains she has scattered are not all in vain. Some will fall on the good ground, and by God's blessing spring up and bear fruit. Who is Susan Priday?"[Pg 196]

"Come nearer the Bishop, Joyce," Mrs. More said, kindly, "and tell him your experience of Mendip miners, and of Susan also."

Joyce did as she was told, and soon forgot her nervousness at being called upon to talk to so great a person as a Bishop, as she narrated with sweet simplicity, and yet with dramatic power, the story which we already know.

By degrees the voices of people in other parts of the room ceased, and Joyce found herself the centre of interest as she told her story.

"Who is she?" Sir Thomas Acland asked, as Joyce finished her story, and answered a summons from Miss Frowde at the further end of the room.

Failing a little in the good manners, on which Miss Falconer put so high a value, Charlotte answered a question not addressed to her.

"She is my cousin, sir—Joyce Falconer. She has led a very retired life at Fair Acres."

"There are many flowers that bloom unseen, and she is one of the fairest I ever saw. If a retired life produces such good effect, it strikes me, Mrs. More, we had all better go into retirement. But—"

He stopped, for Joyce, with a white face from which every vestige of colour had vanished, came back to her position by Mrs. More's chair. Her hands[Pg 197] were clasped tightly together, her whole attitude one of repressed emotion.

"If you please, Mrs. More, I must beg you to excuse me. I am sent for to go home, for my father—Oh! my father!—is dying."

Miss Frowde was close behind Joyce.

"You must not agitate dear Mrs. More," she said. "I will take care of Miss Falconer," she added. "The gig is waiting."

"Do you know any particulars?"

Miss Frowde shook her head, and was leading Joyce away, when she suddenly turned back.

"Dear madam, dear Mrs. More, please pray for me;" and, unable to resist the impulse, she threw her arms round the old lady's neck.

"Miss Falconer, indeed you must restrain your emotion; you will agitate dear Mrs. More."

But Hannah More held the trembling form of the poor stricken child close.

"My dear," she whispered, "many are the sorrows through which I have passed, and He whom I trust has never forsaken me. Trust in Him, and to His loving kindness I commend you."

Joyce raised herself from the old lady's arms, and the Bishop, deeply moved, laid his hand upon her head.[Pg 198]

"The Lord bless you and keep you, my child, now and evermore."

Joyce did not weep or make any outward sign of great distress. She left all tears and cries to Charlotte, who, sincerely grieved, took care that every one should know it.

"Shall I come? Shall I come with you? Oh, Joyce—my darling Joyce! Oh dear! Oh dear!"

"No, Charlotte; don't come; don't come. Help me to fasten my cloak. I—I can't find the clasp."

Miss Frowde thrust Charlotte aside, and fastening Joyce's cloak, seemed only anxious to get her off as speedily as possible. It was a very inconvenient episode; and if Mrs. More were the worse for the excitement it would be very disastrous. Secretly Miss Frowde wished she could get rid of Charlotte too, but as she only wept and moaned, and made no attempt to put her things together, Miss Frowde refrained from urging her to do so. Miss Frowde was not unkind or unfeeling, she was simply and absolutely devoted to Mrs. More; and, indeed, it was well that she was always at hand to perform the hundred and one kindly offices, which the spoiled and pampered domestics neglected.

Joyce was soon ready, Charlotte clinging to her to[Pg 199] the last, and following her to the hall, with sobs and tears.

Nevertheless, as the gig drove off, and the wheels crunched the gravel on the drive, Charlotte returned to her room to bathe her eyes and smooth her hair, and soon returned with a woe-begone face to the sitting-room, and received, with some complacency, the condolences of the pale-faced curate in the corner, sharing his hymn-book when the family service of praise and prayer began, with which all gatherings closed at Barley Wood.[Pg 200]



"How did it happen, Thomas? Tell me, Thomas?"

"It's them Mendip fellows," he said. "The master rode to Chewton yesterday, and somewhere about nine o'clock Mavis come home with no one on his back. We knew summat was amiss, and we set out with lant'uns, the mistress and I——"

"Mother went!"

"Yes; we couldn't keep her back. We was wandering about most of the night. About eight o'clock this morning a cart comed along, and there was the master brought home more dead than alive by one of farmer Scott's carters."

"He is alive, then; oh! he is alive?"

"Well, yes; he was when I comed off," Thomas said, doubtfully.

"And why did not you come for me before? Oh! you should have sent before. Oh, Thomas! Thomas!"

"Well," said Thomas, "we've had so much[Pg 201] running about for doctors; and Mavis ain't much good. We was short of hands and horses."

"Had he had a fall?" Joyce asked, "a fall from Mavis?"

"Aye, I dare say; but he was knocked off by a blow of a stone or summat. There's a hole in his temple, just cut clean by a stone so they say."

"Oh, father! oh, father!" Joyce murmured.

"There's a lot of folks come to see after him. Mr. Paget and Squire Bennett, and the Bishop's son from Wells; and there's no want of help; and they'll try and hunt him out."

"Hunt who out?"

"Why, the brute that caused the master to fall off Mavis's back, of course. I never did hold with master being so free riding over the Mendips at late hours. I've said so scores of times—scores. But there, he had the heart of a lion, he had."

Had! had! How the word smote on Joyce's ear.

"Has father—has—" she murmured, "he cannot, cannot be—dead!"

After this Joyce said no more. They went at a fair pace along the lonely lanes; they passed through villages where the men were smoking pipes at the cottage doors, the women standing by with babies in[Pg 202] their arms, while dusty, dirty little urchins played at "cross sticks" under the very nose of the old horse. Once they passed a small farm where a mother, neatly dressed, was standing at the gate, and a girl of fourteen ran out to meet a man with her baby brother in her arms, who stretched out his hands as the girl said:

"Yes, there's daddy! Go to daddy; welcome, daddy!"

Ah! how often had Joyce watched for her father at the gate! How her heart had thrilled with joy as she ran to meet him; and now!

A low cry escaped her, which made Thomas turn his head, which he had hitherto kept steadily to the front, as if everything depended on his staring straight between the ears of the horse, and never looking to the right hand, or the left.

Thomas was a hard featured man, who had served the old squire, and to whom Mr. Falconer was still "Master Arthur." "Doan't ee fret, my dear Miss Joyce. It's the hand of the Almighty."

Ah, was it the hand of Almighty Love, the God that had so lately revealed Himself to her in Christ, the All-loving as well as the All-mighty—was it possible He could take away 'the master from her head that day'?[Pg 203]

The old servant's voice quavering with sympathy made Joyce feel that she was also trembling on the brink of tears.

"Thomas, I want to be brave, for I shall have to comfort him and mother."

Then there was silence again. The even jog trot of the horse's heavy hoofs kept up a continuous rhythm:

"Home, home again; home, home again—this seemed the burden of the strain—home, home again, but the same home never, never again."

The evening shadows were lying across the turf where the daisies had closed their golden eyes for the night, when the gig turned into the familiar road and drew up at the door.

The door was open, but there was no one there. Joyce sprang down and passed in, throwing off her large bonnet, and unfastening the clasp of her cloak, which seemed like to choke her.

In the supreme moments of life the most trivial things always seem to fasten upon the outward senses, as if to show, by force of contrast, the enormous proportions of the great trouble—or the great joy, it may be—which is at the time overshadowing us.

So Joyce, as she stood in the hall, noticed that one[Pg 204] of the stag's glass eyes had dropped out and lay upon the bench upon which Gilbert Arundel had sat on the night of their adventure on the moor. She saw, too, lying there, a large pair of scissors, and a roll of lint lay on the window-seat, with a basin in which the water was coloured a pale crimson. "They bandaged his head here," she thought,—and she was going upstairs, when slow, heavy, jerky footsteps were heard, and Duke came down, and, putting his nose into her hand, whined a low, piteous whine.

"Oh! Duke, Duke, where is he?"

As if he understood her human speech—as, indeed, he did, Duke turned to precede her upstairs.

On a bench in the long corridor two maid servants were seated, crying bitterly. But Joyce did not speak to them, she dared not; even the question she had asked Duke died on her lips.

The door of her father's room was ajar; and as Duke pushed it open with his nose, Joyce could see the great four-post bed, her mother sitting by it, and curled up in the window-seat was Piers.

The friends who had been there in the early part of the day were gone; they could do no more at Fair Acres. And Mr. Paget's aim was to set the constables to work to find the man who must have hurled a sharp stone at Mr. Falconer's head. The Wells doctor, too,[Pg 205] was gone. He had a pressing case near Wells upon his hands, but he was to return at eight o'clock, when, it was hoped the doctor greater than himself, who had been summoned from Bristol, would have arrived.

In those days help in emergency was slow to obtain. Telegrams were not dreamed of, and horsepower performed the part which steam was soon to take up; to be followed by the marvellous electric force, which now sends on the wings of the wind messages all over the world, multiplied, on the very day on which I write, to an enormous extent, by the introduction of sixpenny telegrams, which will send a call for help, or strike a note of joy, and win an immediate response from thousands.

But there were no electric messages possible to get medical help for the squire, nor, indeed, would any help avail.

With a great sigh, Duke resumed his watch at the foot of the high bed; and Joyce, crossing over, kissed her mother and Piers, and then gazed down upon her father.

"Dear dad!" she said, inadvertently using the familiar name.

"He has not spoken nor opened his eyes since we laid him here," Mrs. Falconer said. "He knows no one—no one——"[Pg 206]

"Did he tell how it happened?"


"It might have been that he was thrown from—from—Mavis."

"No," Mrs. Falconer said again, "that could not be, they think; besides, they found a heavy stick and a tinder box close by."

Presently Piers came down from his place, and Joyce put her arms round him. The boy was very calm, but great tears fell upon Joyce's hand as she pressed him close.

The silent watch went on. Duke lay motionless, but his eyes were on the alert. The servants looked in sometimes, and brought Joyce and her mother some tea and cake. Joyce swallowed a cup of tea, but ate nothing.

Could this be the evening of the day which dawned so brightly?—the Wrington bells chiming, the village children singing hymns, joyousness and gladness everywhere. The guests gathered round Mrs. More; the bright, intelligent conversation to which she was listening; then her own narrative of the Mendip adventure;—and this brought her to the present from the past!

If her father had been assailed by a malicious miner on Mendip, that assailant was Bob Priday; of this she felt no doubt.[Pg 207]

The Bristol doctor came, and the Wells doctor and they held a consultation. But there was nothing to be done; the injury Mr. Falconer had received was mortal.

"Will he give no sign, no word that he knows us?" Mrs. Falconer asked. "Oh, for one word!"

"We do not think there will be any return of consciousness," the doctors said, "but we cannot tell."

No; no one could tell. And so the sad hours of the night passed, and the dawn broke over the familiar fields, and Fair Acres smiled in the first bright rays of the morning.

Piers had slept curled up in his window-seat, worn out with grief. Mrs. Falconer, too, had slept in an upright position, her head resting against the back of the chair, sleeping for sorrow.

But Joyce did not sleep; she kept watch, hoping, praying for one word of farewell.

As the first sunbeam slanted through the casement, her father opened his eyes, and fastened them on Joyce. "Sunshine," he said, with a faint smile. "Dear child."

"Dearest father, dear father!"

"I hope my little girl will be named after my mother, Joyce. Yes, it is an old-world name, but I fancy it; name her Joyce."[Pg 208]

The sound of his master's voice roused Duke, who pricked his ears and came to the bedside. Mrs. Falconer also started and awoke.

"There is a word I cannot catch, about the Life. Try to think of it. I can't."

Joyce glanced at her mother.

"What does he mean?" she said, helplessly. "Oh! what does he want?"

"The Life; I am the Life." The words came with difficulty now.

Then Piers, starting up, said:

"I know. I think I know. 'Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the Life.'"

A smile of infinite content came over the father's face.

"Yes," he said. "Yes, the Life."

Presently he murmured Melville's name, and those of the children who had gone before.

"The little girls all died but one," he said. "One is left—Sunshine."

They knelt down as in the presence of something unseen but near; for the shadows gathered on the fine face of the husband and father; and Piers repeated for the second time:

"Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the Life!"

As if with a great effort to repeat the words, the squire said, faintly, "Jesus said,"—then silence fell;[Pg 209] and the next thing Joyce knew was that she was lying in her own little bed, and that she was fatherless.

The news of the squire's death spread quickly through the whole district. As is often the case, no one knew how much he had been respected till he was gone. Then there were terrible circumstances connected with his death, which, apart from his loss, troubled the magistrates who had sat with him on the bench, and had probably made enemies, as he had done, in the performance of their duty.

The roads across the Mendip were avoided more than ever, and as time went on and nothing was heard of or discovered about the man who had thrown the missile which had caused Mr. Falconer's death; if the wonder faded out, the fear remained; the county constabulary were, truth to tell, afraid of their own lives, and there was no machinery of detectives at work then, as now. However, whatever search was made it was fruitless, and the offender had escaped beyond the reach of punishment.

As with a sudden transition into a new state of existence, Joyce found herself the central figure to whom everyone looked for help and advice. Her mother collapsed utterly. She would sit for hours in that inaction, which it is so painful to notice in[Pg 210] those who have been once so full of life and movement. The boys who had been sent for from school did not return to it. Ralph surprised everyone by saying that he should give up study, and come and live at home and help his mother—at any rate, till Melville came back, if ever he did come back, to take his place at Fair Acres. By interest exerted by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Harry and Bunny both got into the navy, and went forth, poor little boys, full of hope and delight, to encounter the hardships which then were the universal fate of little middys, in their first acquaintance with the salt sea waves they loved so well.

It was touching to see the young brother and sister, who were left at the head of affairs, resolutely doing their utmost to spare their mother, and to keep things, as Mr. Watson called it, "square."

If he were old he was intensely useful and honourable; and Ralph's power to adapt himself to his new manner of life was really wonderful. He set himself to study the few and scanty agricultural books which were on his father's shelves, and mastered the accounts in a way which Mr. Gell, the lawyer, and Mr. Paget, the executor under the will, found to be surprising.

Miss Falconer had sent many kind little notes on very deep black-edged paper, and sealed with a large[Pg 211] black seal, to "her dear afflicted sister;" and Charlotte, who had returned from Barley Wood on the day after Joyce left it, composed verses of doubtful rhythm, and still more doubtful sense, which she sent, done up in brown paper parcels by the carrier, as they were too voluminous to be conveyed in any other way. Verses in which "bleeding hearts" and "rivers of tears," sought vainly for appropriate rhymes; where "fears" refused to follow "bears," and "eyes" was made to do duty again and again with "prize" and "sighs." Mrs. More wrote a tender letter of sympathy to Joyce, and would have driven over to see her, had not the shortening days and threatened cold kept her a close prisoner. Indeed, she was laid low with one of her most dangerous illnesses before September was over; and Miss Frowde and her doctor thought it more than doubtful if, at her advanced age, she would recover.

It was on a still October afternoon, when autumnal stillness reigned in the woods and fields, that Joyce went to the seat under the fir trees to be alone with her sorrow. The grassy slope was slippery now with recent rain, and though the clouds had rolled off eastward, the sunshine was pale and watery, coming in fitful gleams through the veil of thin misty vapour which hung over the sky.

Joyce often came to this seat; it was associated[Pg 212] with her father, and she loved to be there and give full vent to the sorrow which, for the sake of others, she had learned to hide. Miss Falconer and Charlotte had paid one visit of condolence after the funeral. They were surprised, and I may even say disappointed, to see Joyce so calm, and Miss Falconer thought how different it would be with Charlotte when she was taken from her; she would be entirely prostrate and unfit for exertion.

It is well for the world that some people are fit for exertion, even in the midst of crushing sorrow. It would be a melancholy thing if all grief-stricken ones fed on their grief in solitude, and shut themselves up from doing their best, to lighten the burden of others.

Miss Falconer would not have had cause to lament Joyce's unnatural calm, if she had seen her as she sat upon the old bench, in the dim, pale light of the October day, when, amidst the hush of all around, her sobs and low cry of "Oh! father—father," throbbed in the quiet air.

They had been so much to each other; they had understood each other so perfectly. The beautiful tie between father and daughter, which when it exists is one of the most beautiful in the world, seemed severed, cruelly severed, and Joyce was desolate. She was scarcely eighteen, and the freshness and gladness[Pg 213] of her life hitherto had been remarkable. Now, all unawares, the storm had swept over her sky, and, when it passed, left her lonely indeed.

Mrs. Falconer was one of those people who bury their dead out of sight, and cannot bear the mention of their names. Ralph, setting his face bravely to meet his duty, did not speak of his father as Joyce would have loved to speak of him, and it was only to Piers, that Joyce could sometimes ease her burdened heart, by talking of her father. Just as on the summer morning, now looking so far off, left in the golden haze of joy and glad young life, Joyce had seen her lame brother at the gate of the plantation, so she saw him now.

She made a great effort to control her weeping, and said:

"It is very slippery on the turf to-day; wait, dear, and I will come down to help you." But Piers said:

"I want you to come down; I don't want to come up."

"Is anything the matter?"

Piers did not answer, and in another minute Joyce was at his side.

"Joyce, there is a woman hiding under the maples and brambles."

"A woman? Perhaps she is one of the women employed on the farm."[Pg 214]

"I don't know," said Piers, "I wish you would come and see who it is."

"Very well, dear," Joyce said; "you are sure it is a woman?"

"Yes, and she is crying and sobbing."

Joyce followed Piers along the shrubbery path, now covered with a new layer of fallen leaves, and, at the turn of a still narrower side path, she saw, half hidden by the brambles and undergrowth, a woman; her head, bowed upon her hands, and her attitude one of despair.

Joyce went near and said: "What is the matter? Are you in pain? Can I help you?"

The woman raised her head, and Joyce recognised at once that she was Susan Priday.

Thoughts of the night on Mendip; of the fierce onslaught made on Gilbert Arundel by the big giant, and the almost certainty she felt, that the cruel blow aimed at her father was by the same hand, made Joyce start back and say, coldly:

"You had better not stay here, these are private grounds."

Piers, who was leaning against the bole of a beech tree, said:

"Yes; get up and go away. I will show you the gate into the road."[Pg 215]

"Lady," said the girl, passionately, "I came to see you. I saw you sobbing and crying on the bench yonder, for I got into the plantation that way. I heard you sob, and call 'Father,' and then my heart nearly broke, and I came round at the back and got over the hedge. I felt as if I dare not speak to you. Do you know me, lady?"

"Yes," Joyce said; "of course I see who you are, but I—I cannot do anything for you, and we are all in great grief, very, very great grief," Joyce said, with a sudden spasm of agony in her voice.

"I know it, I know it, that's why I came; and I'm in grief, too. Father is gone away, no one knows where; the boys have run off, and, oh! the baby is dead. I did think I'd keep him, for mother's sake; but, in a drunken fit, father threw a pot of boiling water at me. It missed me, and the baby caught it on his neck and face, and it scalded him dreadful. The school mistress was kind, and so was Mrs. Amos, she that owns the farm; but he died—he died—and I am all alone. Oh! Miss, oh! dear young lady, pity me."

"I do pity you," Joyce said. "But where is your father? For you must be aware that suspicion points to him as the cause of my—of my dear father's death."

"Yes, I do know it. Oh! miss, forgive me, and let[Pg 216] me come and serve you. I want no wage; but I'd die for you, if that would do you good. I have never forgot your face that night, nor how you spoke soft then instead of angry. Oh, miss, let me come and live with you. I will sleep on the ground. I'll do the work of two in the dairy, or in the house, and I want no wage. Poor mother always said God would take care of me, but He has taken away the baby, He has, that is the cruellest part. And father; oh! miss, you can't tell what it is to be filled with shame about a father."

"No, indeed," Joyce said. "No; I know what it is to be proud of one, and to——" Her voice broke down, and Piers said:

"She ought to go away, Joyce; she can't be left here."

But Joyce seemed to be thinking for a few minutes. Here was a girl whose father had, as everyone thought, been the cause of her father's death; here was the daughter of this man, coming to her and begging to be taken into the house, to be her servant? Was it possible?

With a discretion far beyond her years, Joyce said, "I will make inquiries about you from the school mistress, and if I find you really bear a good character, I will get you a place, and——"[Pg 217]

"I want no place apart from you" the girl said, passionately. "If I could die to undo my father's wicked deed, I would die, and," she added, sadly, "it ain't much I have to live for now the baby's gone. But if you won't take me, well, I'll tramp to Bristol; and if I can't get bread in an honest way, I must get it somehow else."

"No, no; don't say that. I must consider and think, and if I can take you I will. Mrs. More is so ill, so ill that it is feared she will not live, so I can't write to her. But I will think, and," she added, in a low voice, "I will pray about it. I am in great trouble myself; we are all in great trouble."

"I know it, I know it. Oh! dear lady, ever since night and day, night and day, I have prayed for you, and that God would keep you."

There was something in the girl's despairing voice which touched Joyce to the heart.

"Come round to the kitchen door with me," she said, "and I will see that you have rest and food. I am sure you want both."

"I don't want rest; there is no rest in me, and food chokes me."

But Joyce took no notice of this, and saying, decidedly, "follow me," she put her hand on Piers' shoulder, and they went through the plantation to[Pg 218] the house, skirting it to the left instead of crossing it, and so round to the stable-yard and the back premises.

Mrs. Falconer never had old maid servants; she trained girls to fill the places in her household, and of these, there was an endless stream passing through. The two in the kitchen now were both kindly, good-tempered girls, utterly ignorant, but simple-hearted and honest.

"I want this poor young woman," Joyce said, "to rest by the fire; and give her her supper before she leaves. Sarah, do you hear me?" Joyce said.

"Yes, miss, I hear," Sarah said, surveying the poor, forlorn girl with scorn. "Yes, miss. I don't know whether missis would hold with taking in a tramp like her."

"I am going to ask mother now," Joyce said; "and I know you are kind-hearted, Sarah, and that you will attend to this poor girl, because I wish it."

Sarah gave a low sound, which was taken for consent; and Joyce, judging rightly that Susan Priday would be better left to the servants, went to find her mother.

As she crossed the hall she met Ralph.

"There are letters from Italy," he said. "Melville had not heard when he wrote."[Pg 219]

"Where are the letters?" Joyce asked.

"Mother has them. There is one for you—not from Italy though; it has the Bristol post-mark, and is franked. There was an immense deal to pay for Melville's."

Joyce waited to hear no more, but went to her mother. She was sitting with her son's letter open before her. It began, "Dear father and mother," and these words went like a knife through Joyce's heart.

Mrs. Falconer sat day after day in the same chair by the fire-place. Her large widow's cap—in those days an immense erection of many thick frillings, and with long "weepers" falling over her shoulders—altered her so entirely, scarcely any one would have recognised her.

Joyce glanced through the letter. It was as self-sufficient and trifling as ever. Melville found foreign travel less delightful than he had expected.

The diligence was then the universal mode of transit through France, and the two travellers had taken a whole month to reach Hyères, a journey which can now be got through in three days at the longest calculation. Melville complained of the food and the cramped diligence, and how the smell of garlic made him sick; and how old Crawford[Pg 220] was as "stiff as starch," and that he did not think he should stay away long.

Of Genoa la Superba not a word, except to say that he had seen a fine copy of one of Raphael's pictures for sale, which, if his father would send the money, he would buy, for the dining hall at Fair Acres.

Joyce had hardly patience to finish the letter; but her mother said:

"Give the letter to me, Joyce." And then she smoothed the thin sheet of foreign paper tenderly, and, refolding it, placed it in her large work-box, which stood unused by her side.

Joyce, meantime, opened the other letter, and a bright flush came over her face. She could not read it there; she put it into her deep pocket, and said:

"Dear mother, a poor girl is in the kitchen; she is utterly friendless and forlorn. May I let her sleep in the empty attic to-night, till I make inquiries about her of the mistress of one of Mrs. More's schools to-morrow?"

"You can do as you like, Joyce," was the reply, as poor Mrs. Falconer relapsed into her usual condition of dreary silence, after kindling into some interest about Melville's letter.

"You can do as you like—my day is over."[Pg 221]

"Mother, dearest mother, do not say so; you will feel better soon. It is—it is the suddenness of the blow that has come upon you—and upon us all—that has stunned you. Do try to take comfort."

"Comfort, Joyce! You don't know what you are saying. I lived for your father—and I have lost him. It was cruel, cruel to take him in his prime, to leave me desolate!"

"You have got us children to love you, mother," Joyce ventured to say; "and think how good Ralph is, giving up everything he cared for most, to take up the business of the farm."

"As if he could do that," was the reply. "Ralph is not fit for it."

"Mr. Watson says it is wonderful how he has fallen into the ways of people on the estate. He has such a firm will and purpose in everything he does."

Mrs. Falconer sighed.

"Well," she said, "I don't want to talk any more about it. I think if you will get me the yarn I will go on knitting Harry's stockings."

"Oh, yes," Joyce said; "and Piers will be so pleased to hold the skeins for you, mother."

Then she kissed her mother again and again, and whispered:[Pg 222]

"You will come to church on Sunday, mother, won't you? It is so dull for you, sitting here day after day."

"I can do nothing else," was the reply—"nothing else. What else should I do? You are a dear, good child, Joyce. He always said so; he was always right."

There is nothing harder to meet than a grief like poor Mrs. Falconer's; or rather, I should say, there is nothing harder to meet than a grief which refuses to recognise love in the midst of anguish which hardens and, as it were, paralyzes the whole being; changes the fountain of sweetness into bitterness; making the accustomed routine of duty impossible and falling on the sufferer like a heavy pall.

"Missus is like somebody else; can't believe it is missus at all," the maids said, when Joyce returned with the orders for poor Susan to remain all night, and to be cared for till the morning.

The poor girl was so utterly exhausted that she had fallen asleep, her face hidden on her arm, her elbows on the kitchen table; and her attitude of utter helplessness touched Joyce.

"Be kind to her," she said; "she is very unhappy. Be kind to her, Sarah. I know you will be kind to her as I wish it."[Pg 223]

Then Joyce ran to her room and took the letter from her pocket.

The evening was closing in fast, but kneeling on the window-seat, she opened the lattice, and all the daylight yet lingering in the west fell upon the clearly written page of Bath post paper.

The letter was dated: "Sion Hill, Clifton, near Bristol," and began:

"If I have delayed sending you an expression of my sympathy in your trouble, dear Miss Falconer, it has been that I feared to intrude upon you in your grief, and feared, too, that I should touch it with too rough a hand. But I remember your parting words, your kind promise not to forget me. Thus I venture to tell you that I bear you ever in my mind, and that the time may come, will come, when I shall beg you to hear more from me than I can say now, and grant me a very earnest petition. But not now would I speak of myself or of my hopes and fears. Rather would I tell you how I pray God to comfort you for the loss of a father, whom I count it an honour to have known. I would ask you to believe that I, who have had the privilege of watching the happy home-life—now, alas! so sadly broken up—can, at least, understand what the wreck must be. Please present[Pg 224] my regards and sympathy to Mrs. Falconer, and assure her of my remembrance of her kindness to me while her guest at Fair Acres, if indeed you think I may venture so far.

"I remain, dear Miss Falconer,
"Your very faithful and true

"Gilbert DeCourcy Arundel."

There was a postscript written on the blank part of the sheet of Bath post, which was folded over.

"My mother is likely to visit the Palace, at Wells, in November. I have charged her, if possible, to see you at Fair Acres. I have heard nothing from your brother, but I am well satisfied that he is out of England, for reasons which you know.—G. DeC. A."

The reserved style of this letter, so different from the random shots of the present day, when young men and maidens seem to think the form of a telegram the most appropriate way of expressing their thoughts, may provoke a smile, and be pronounced priggish and formal. But in Joyce's eyes it was a perfect letter, and she felt it to be a support and comfort to her in her loneliness. Words which come from the heart seldom miss their aim; and Joyce felt that, underlying those carefully written lines, there was the certainty that if her promise to[Pg 225] him was fulfilled, and that she thought, even in her sorrow, of him continually, he, on his part, did not forget her.

In the simplicity of her young heart, she had never dreamed that Gilbert could really care for her, and his long silence had made her think of him only as of someone who had passed out of her life, and was to be in future but a memory. Now the fluttering hope became almost a certainty, and she repeated to herself many times that evening, as a bird repeats its song over and over with the same rapture of content—

"I bear you ever in my mind, and the time may come, will come, when I will beg you to hear more from me than I dare to say now, and grant me a very earnest petition."

"The time will come—the time will come, and, meanwhile, I can wait," she thought. "Yes, the time will come, and I can wait."[Pg 226]



There are exceptions to every rule, and this applies to cities as well as to individuals. The meek man may be excited to fierce anger, the quietest and most undemonstrative, may suddenly be moved to enthusiasm. So with Wells, that little city of peace, under the Mendips; had anyone visited it for the first time on the fifth of November, in the year of grace eighteen hundred and twenty-four, they must have been struck by the uproar and confusion which reigned in the usually quiet streets.

Although Mrs. Arundel had been warned by her courteous host, the Bishop, not to be alarmed if the sound of a tumultuous crowd should even reach the seclusion of the palace itself, neither he nor she were at all prepared for the hubbub and uproar, which, beginning before the sun was well above the horizon, lasted till midnight, and, indeed, into the early hours of the next day.

It was the Bishop's first year at Wells, and there[Pg 227]fore his first experience of the great demonstration of the fifth of November in his cathedral town; and neither he nor his son had been at all aware that the only place of safety for the whole day, would be within the battlemented walls of the palace, outside of which the tumult and shouting gathered force hour by hour, till the supreme moment of the bull-baiting in the market-place arrived.

The bull-baiting was stopped in 1839, but the fifth of November was for many years later marked in Wells, by the most extravagant expressions of Protestant zeal. Enough gunpowder was let off in the market-place to blow up Bishop, Deans, and Canons! A huge bonfire was piled up in the market-square, saturated with tar, of which large barrels were rolled to the scene of the conflagration from time to time during the day, kindled at last as the final outburst of enthusiastic hatred, which the people of Wells thus showed of that ill-contrived plot, which was to have made an end with one fell swoop of the sagacious King James, and his parliament.

It always seemed a strange form for such zeal to take; for the law-abiding folk in the little city suffered greatly during the demonstration. The windows overlooking the market-place were boarded up at dusk, and all business suspended in the latter[Pg 228] part of the day. The whole population seemed to be gathered in the market-square. Effigies of Guy Fawkes were paraded about the streets, accompanied by those of any persons, who had unhappily incurred public displeasure during the year; to be consigned to the flames with shouts and execrations as soon as the big bonfire was lighted.

A company of guests met at the Bishop's hospitable breakfast table on this particular fifth of November, amongst whom were Mrs. Arundel, on the Bishop's right hand, and Gratian Anson, who was levelling her shafts at the chaplain, and declaring her delight at having been so fortunate as to be in Wells at the time of the bull-baiting.

"You were so kind to invite us to see it, my lord," she said; "for, of course, I mean to see it."

"My dear young lady, I am sure you must not venture forth to-day. We must make the time pass as pleasantly as we can, within the precincts of the palace, unless you like to step over to the cloister-door and attend the cathedral service."

"And do you mean to say, my lord, you are not going to see the bull-baiting? Why, Mr. Dacres tells me that the last Dean used to assemble a large party on purpose to see the spectacle; I must see it!"[Pg 229]

The gentle bishop seemed a little taken aback by Gratian's determination to have her own way.

"Well," he said, "I leave you in the hands of your guardian, Mrs. Arundel, and you could not be in better keeping."

"Mr. Dacres, Mr. Law, you will take me. I should so love to see the fun, and I can't go alone."

"Gratian," Mrs. Arundel said, "it is not safe to think of it. There will be such a crowd, you must not attempt it."

Gratian smiled, and, turning to Mr. Dacres, said:

"I mean to go; it will be like a scene in Spain."

How the discussion would have ended, and whether Gratian would have carried her point or not, I do not know, had not the bishop's servant approached him with a card, which was followed almost immediately by Lord Maythorne.

"Pray pardon an early visit, my lord, but I am come to see my sister, and conduct her to the bull-baiting, for which, I hear, your city is celebrated."

Mrs. Arundel coloured with vexation as the bishop rose from his chair at the head of the table, and said, reading the name on the card:

"Pardon me, my lord, I have not the honour of your acquaintance."

"My step-brother, my lord." Mrs. Arundel hastened[Pg 230] to say. "I do not know whether you ever heard of my father's second marriage."

"My sister will give you my imprimatur, you see, my lord, if not a welcome."

This was said with the insolent assurance which the courtly bishop at once discerned.

"My lord," he said, "any relation of my dear friend, Mrs. Arundel, is welcome to the palace. Now, ladies, will you adjourn to the gallery; for I have some pressing matters of business to-day after cathedral service, for which a special form is provided; but if you desire to brave the tumults without, horses and carriages are at your disposal."

Gratian meantime had gone up to Lord Maythorne, saying:

"The very thing I wanted. I will go and prepare for the bull-baiting now. Come, Miss Dacres, come, Mrs. Pearsall," turning to two quietly dressed ladies, "won't you come with us?"

"Well, we must be quick if we want to secure our places. The windows are commanding a good price, I assure you," said Lord Maythorne.

"I wish you had not come here, Maythorne;" Mrs. Arundel said, "you gave me no warning of your intention."

"My dear Bella, I never give any warning about[Pg 231] anything. I thought you knew that. I suppose I have as much right to look at a bull-baiting as his lordship. Evidently he is not going to offer me hospitality. What a party of old fogies he has assembled; no one worth looking at! By-the-bye, does not Gilbert's innamorata live near Wells?"

Mrs. Arundel evaded a reply by turning to Gratian, who had speedily got ready for the expedition.

"I fear it is very imprudent, Gratian, to go out in the crowd. Mr. Dacres thinks so."

"Well, if under good care, I do not know that there is much fear," said Mr. Dacres, "in fact; I will accompany Miss Anson, if she will allow me, and just point out the best place to see the bull pass down under the Chain Gate from East Wells."

"Ah! I thought you would not be able to resist it, Mr. Dacres," Gratian said. "I knew you wanted to see the fun, though you were afraid to say so."

"Really," began poor Mr. Dacres; "really, I—I am only desirous of being of service."

"Of course, I know that," Gratian said, laughing. "Good-bye, Aunt Bella;" and away she tripped, Lord Maythorne following, and Mr. Dacres leading the way under Penniless Porch to the Cathedral-green, where all kinds of people were congregated by the wall, separating the green from the road along[Pg 232] which the bull was to pass. The rabble were at this time collected in East Wells, and the more respectable part of the spectators were admitted here. The bell was chiming for service, and as Mr. Dacres ambled across the grass, the Dean, preceded by his verger, was coming out of his gate to the cathedral. Unlike his predecessor, Dean Lukin, who is reported to have made the bull-baiting a festal occasion at the Deanery, even inviting guests to be present at it, the Dean demurred a little at the bull passing under the Chain Gate at all, thus entering the precincts of the cathedral.

The Deanery Wells. The Deanery, Wells.

"How do, Dacres, how do?" the Dean said; "the crowd is very orderly at present."[Pg 233]

"Yes, Mr. Dean, so far; the great proportion of people are in East Wells. This young lady is a guest at the palace, and would like to see the bull pass. Might I escort her and Lord—Lord Hawthorne to the terrace?"

The Dean bowed rather stiffly. He would have thought better both of the young lady and her companion, if they had come to the service and joined in the thanksgiving for the happy deliverance of King James I. and the three estates of England from the most traitorous and bloody-intended massacre by gunpowder; and—looking on some years—as the inscription at the head of the Form of Prayer also went on to say—

"For the happy arrival of His Majesty King William on this day, for the deliverance of our church and nation."

"By all means, Mr. Dacres. I think in future I shall prohibit the procession passing this way. It is scarcely seemly while service is going on within the cathedral walls."

With this the Dean passed on, and Gratian, laughing, said:

"The Dean is hardly as gracious as the Bishop. Let us stand here, because we shall get away sooner to the market-place after the bull has passed."[Pg 234]

Mr. Dacres was rather glad to retrieve his character with the Dean, by hastening to the cathedral, after having placed Lord Maythorne and Gratian, in a good place by the wall; and then, after some trial of patience, the sound of shouts and a brass band heralded the approach of the bull.

Decked with ribbons, and with his head well set forward, led by his keepers by a ring passed through the nose, the bull stepped proudly on, followed by the dogs, all in charge of their respective owners.

There was always something pathetic in the sight of a huge animal brought out, not to fight in a fair field, but to be worried almost to death by the onslaught of persistent dogs, all goaded on to make their attack, all backed by betting men, who had an interest in their success or failure.

In Pepys' celebrated 'Diary' there is a description of a bull-baiting to which he seems to have gone to divert his mind from the furious letter which a friend told him was on his way to him from Lord Peterborough, which letter seems to have preyed upon him more than the news recorded on a previous page of three people in one house "dead of the plague."

The bull-baiting, however, was pronounced, even by the sight-loving Samuel Pepys, as a "very rude and very nasty pleasure."[Pg 235]

Yet, more than a century and a half later, we find the usually quiet and peaceful city of Wells all agog to witness the bull-baiting in the market square.

It was as Lord Maythorne said; every window was engaged, and the tradespeople commanded high prices for the day.

Ladies in smart dresses, with gentlemen in attendance, were to be seen sitting at the old lattice bay windows, all along the line of houses in the square.

Lord Maythorne had engaged places over the principal draper's shop, where Joyce and Charlotte had made their purchases, on the day of Gilbert Arundel's arrival at Fair Acres.

It was with some difficulty that Lord Maythorne and Gratian made their way through the turnstile by Penniless Porch, and gained the door of the shop to the left, which was kept guarded by a stalwart son of the owner. It was a good position, and if a bull-baiting were worth seeing, perhaps on the principle of comparative value, the place was worth the five guineas which Lord Maythorne had paid for it.

His style and title being known, great respect was shown him and Gratian, and the circular bay window was appropriated to them, while less distinguished people thought themselves honoured to take their position behind them, further back in the room.[Pg 236]

The space where the bull was baited was railed off, and the kennels for the dogs prepared behind it.

It was some time before the bull could be got into position, and he showed at first no signs of fight.

Presently Gratian exclaimed:

"There is little Mr. Dacres elbowing through the crowd; I knew he was dying to come. Now he has said his prayers, I suppose he thinks he is free to do so. And do look at that little woman in the yellow hood, pushing and fighting to get a place on the window-sill of the house by Penniless Porch. What a crowd! Who could have believed so many people lived in Wells? There is seldom a creature to be seen. When we drove through the market-place the other day there was only an old woman by the 'Cross,' selling potatoes."

"Ah! madam," exclaimed an old gentleman, who was standing behind Gratian's chair, and heard her remark, "the best days of the spectacle are over—quite over. Now, in Dean Lukin's time, I have known lords and ladies and their suite present, and a really genteel crowd assembled, instead of the riff-raff of to-day." The old man sighed, and taking a pinch of snuff from his tortoiseshell snuff-box, handed it to Lord Maythorne. "The bull-baiting at Wells, sir, was sought after by the élite of the county and[Pg 237] neighbourhood. Why, sir, I have seen coaches with four horses come in from Bath full of lords and ladies and great folks. But the times are changing—the times are changing! And, sir, when a Bishop and a Dean are 'loo warm' about a great spectacle, we can't expect others to be hot!—eh?"

Lord Maythorne laughed cynically; and the old man, a veteran of Wells, whose memory went back to at least sixty fifths of Novembers, felt his sleeve sharply pulled by the master of the shop.

"Have a care—have a care what you say, Mr. Harte. Don't be so free; you are talking to a real lord, who is visiting at the palace."

The poor old man was fairly silenced by the news; he retired to a remote corner, trembling and abashed, and the glory of the bull-baiting was over for him.

"A real lord!" he murmured, "and I've been talking to him as if he were just nobody. Dear, deardear me!"

The sport began in good earnest about one o'clock. The backers pricked up the dogs to the onslaught, and cries and shouts resounded.

The bull, at first strangely stoical and unmoved, with its large brown eyes staring calmly at the yelping, bounding dogs, was at length lashed to fury.[Pg 238] With a loud and angry bellow he tossed his assailants hither and thither, and again and again the mangled bodies of the dogs were hurled by the horns of the bull outside the barriers amongst the shrieking crowd.

At last, after a pause, while the bull stood, covered with blood and foam, watching for the attack of the next adversary, a brindled terrier, after receiving some cruel thrusts from the tortured animal, sprang with unerring aim at its throat, and clung there with such a desperate grip, that its giant strength, exhausted by the long conflict, gave way. The bull rolled over on his side with a roar of agony, and the victorious dog, with his eyes starting out of his head, and his tongue lolling out of his mouth, was borne off by his backer, amidst the cheers and acclamations of the excited crowd.

"Ah!" Lord Maythorne said, "I had a heavy bet on that dog, so I am in luck's way for once. Now, Gratian, as the play is played out, for the bull will show no more fight to-day, if ever again, shall we make our way back to the palace?"

Even Gratian felt a little sickened and disgusted. She clung to Lord Maythorne's arm, and was thankful when she found herself once more within the palace grounds.[Pg 239]

The noise and uproar in the market-place after the bull-baiting had scarcely ceased when the space was cleared for the bonfire, and preparations began for the great finale of the day.

As soon as it was dark, squibs and crackers were flying in every direction, while those who ventured forth were in some danger of having their clothes set on fire by the scattered sparks. A party from the palace went forth about eight o'clock to see the illumination of the bonfire, gaining easy access to the offices of the Bishop's secretary, which were situated between the two gateways, one called Penniless Porch, the other the Palace Eye, both at the top of the market square. Those who had turned away with disgust from the bull-fight, yet felt it almost their duty to be present at the great Protestant demonstration of fire and burning. So that the windows of the office were filled by the palace party, amongst whom were members of the Bishop's family.

Penniless Porch. Wells. Penniless Porch, Wells.

It was indeed a sight never to be forgotten when the huge bonfire was lighted, and the flames leaped up to the sky. The quaint old houses in the market square were illuminated with a ruddy glow, and the cathedral towers caught the fitful radiance, and stood up against the murky November sky with a flush of crimson on their hoary heads. The shouting[Pg 240] and the tumult reached its height when Guy Fawkes' great effigy fell into the burning mass, and cries of "No Popery!" "Down with the Catholics!" were taken up, by every little screaming urchin, who, with burned fingers and scorched cheeks, thought he was doing good service to some cause, though, if he and[Pg 241] half that seething crowd had been questioned as to why they came together, the "more part," as in times of old, could not have given an answer.

A great wrong once done, which fastens on the mind of a nation, and is handed down as a subject of everlasting indignation from generation to generation, must be expected to demand outward demonstration. Thus the fires of Smithfield, and the secret plot of the conspirators beneath the hall at Westminster, have never been forgotten.

The people still hunger for some expression of their wrath, and do not wait to ask if that expression takes a wholesome form.

Although like demonstrations have been very much moderated of late years, and nearly stopped altogether by the authorities in Wells, still there is yet a city of the West whose motto is "Ever faithful," where the same scene is acted even on a larger scale; and woe to the unhappy man who may have incurred the displeasure of the good people of Exeter during the current year. His effigy is still paraded through the streets, followed by mummers in gay attire, and, amidst general execrations, his image tumbles down into the fiery furnace, as a meet companion for that, of the never-to-be-forgotten Guy Fawkes.

Two days later, and Wells had resumed its wonted[Pg 242] aspect. The November day was one of exceptional beauty. The sky was blue, the air soft and balmy, and the sunshine lay upon the peaceful city, once more the City of Rest, which the good Bishop had called it when he first viewed the scene of his future labours as chief pastor of the diocese of Bath and Wells.

The noise and tumult of the fifth of November seemed now like a troubled dream. Once more the only sounds which broke the silence were the chime of bells for service, the trickling of streams of water, the cawing of rooks in the elm trees by the moat, the chatter of the Jackdaws as they swung in and out of their nests on the cathedral towers. All within and around the Palace was calm and quiet.

And in the market square every sign of the late uproar was removed, the débris cleared away; the cry of a child, the foot-fall of a pedestrian, or the low rumble of a distant cart, was heard with that wonderful distinctness which is born of surrounding stillness. Here and there a word was exchanged with a customer by the master of a shop, who, standing at the door, looked out upon the world with that quiet patient expectation of custom, unknown in busy, populous towns.

As the Bishop's carriage drove through the market-place, several figures appeared at the doors of the[Pg 243] shops. The carriage was watched out of sight, the heads of the watchers were turned right and left, and then the figures disappeared again, like those weather-wise men and women in the old-fashioned barometers now, like many other quaint devices almost unknown.

If the day were fair and beautiful in Wells, it was doubly beautiful in the country. Joyce felt its influence, and, for the first time since her father's death, she sang gently to herself as she went about her household duties.

Since she had received Gilbert Arundel's letter, a ray of brightness had pierced the cloud. She had not answered it, for he had asked for no answer. And Joyce, in the sweet simplicity of her faith in him told herself, that she had given her promise not to forget him, and that in that promise he was resting till the time came for him to ask her that question, which he said he must ask, and to present the petition which he hoped she would grant.

Of course she was ready to give him what he asked for, but there was to her nature, always trusting and transparent, no hardship in waiting.

"If I doubted him I could not wait so patiently," she thought, "but I trust him."

As these thoughts were passing through her mind,[Pg 244] she was tying up some branches of a pink China rose which grew against the porch.

"Give me another bit of cloth and a nail, Piers," she called to her brother.

The tap of Piers' crutches was heard in the hall as he went to do her bidding.

As she stood in the sunshine, with her arm raised to secure the truant branch of the trailing rose, waiting for her brother to bring the nail, a figure cast a shadow against the porch, and, turning her head, she saw a gentleman standing near her. Instantly she dropped the branch, and, with a bright colour in her cheek, waited till the stranger spoke.

"Miss Falconer, I think?" he said, his eyes fastening upon her fair young face.

"Yes," she said, simply. "Do you want to see my mother?"

"Nay," he said, "I came to see you. I have heard much of you; I am your brother's friend."

Joyce looked inquiringly at her visitor, and said, with a little quiver in her voice:

"I hope, sir, you have brought no ill news. We have had so much sorrow of late."

"I know it, indeed," the gentleman said. "I bring no bad news of your brother's health; he is abroad, I think."[Pg 245]

"Yes, at Genoa; he was at Genoa when we heard last; we have not heard from him since our father's death."

"Ah! that was a sad loss for him and for you all. What a lovely place you have here, but very far removed from 'the world'—the world where you would shine as a bright star of beauty."

This broad flattery was received very differently from what the speaker expected. Joyce's face underwent an instant change, as she said:

"I think, sir, if you please, I must ask you to excuse me, for I have some things which are needing my attention this morning; perhaps," fearing she might seem deficient in courtesy, "you would like to rest a little while."

"You are very kind, fair lady; I will accept your offer, I shall be glad to rest. What a noble hall!" he exclaimed, as he stepped across the threshold, where Piers was leaning against the old oak table, his crutches under his arm.

"Piers," Joyce said, "this gentleman wishes to rest; will you ask Sarah to fetch him some refreshment?" She was thus dismissing the guest to the care of her brother, glad to escape from his prolonged and embarrassing scrutiny of her face, when Lord Maythorne said:[Pg 246]

"Pardon me, I want to speak to you on a serious matter. I ought to have introduced myself earlier. I am Lord Maythorne; you will have heard of me?"

"Yes," Joyce said, calmly; "yes, I have heard of you."

"No good report, I will venture to affirm, guessing, as I do with some certainty, from whom the report came. If you tell that little boy—lame, I see, poor fellow!—to leave us, I will briefly relate the circumstances of my friendship with your brother. Come, Miss Falconer, do not be unjust to me, but hear what I have to say. I prefer that our conversation should be private; it is of great importance that you should hear what I have to say, alone."

Joyce hesitated; that instinctive dread of men who are neither honourable nor good, which all pure-minded maidens feel, made Joyce shrink back from the very touch of Lord Maythorne's hand, as he tried to take hers, with a gesture of profound reverence and raise it to his lips.

"I little thought," he murmured, "that I should find in Melville's sister any one so charming, and I confess that I am bouleversé at once. Nay, do not look so sternly at me."

"I do not know what right you have, my lord, to come here to alarm and annoy me. If the matter[Pg 247] you have to tell me is important about Melville, I would refer you to my brother Ralph, and Mr. Paget, who is my dear father's executor."

Piers, who had been watching the whole scene, now came hastily forward.

"Ralph has gone into the Wells market, and Joyce has no one at home but me to take care of her. She does not wish you to stay, and you ought to see that, and go away."

"You had better try the effect of one of your crutches on me, my boy! I am not going away, at present."

Piers reddened, and was beginning an angry rejoinder, when Joyce said, in a low tone:

"Go and stand at the further end of the hall, Piers, and I will go into the porch. If I want you I will call, but do not let mother know anyone is here. Now," she said, turning to Lord Maythorne, "we will go into the porch, if you please, and you can tell me about Melville."

"Well," Lord Maythorne said. "I had an interest in your brother, and I should have pulled him through his troubles, if it had not been for the meddling interference of a kinsman of mine, a young fellow—great in his own eyes—who cants like any old woman, and can turn up the whites of his eyes with any[Pg 248] Methodist in the land. He made a nice mess of it for your brother owes me the money, and if he had left us alone we should have arranged matters. As it was the whole story came out, your brother was 'sent down' and those sharks the tradespeople, poured bills upon your father's head."

"Yes," Joyce said, "which my father, my dear father, paid. What does Melville owe you?"

"A pretty round sum, but I would let it rest at five hundred pounds."

"Five hundred! Oh! it is impossible we could pay that. I will ask Mr. Watson and Mr. Paget——"

"Pray do nothing of the sort," said Lord Maythorne, with lofty superiority; "it is a mere trifle, but just now it happens to be a little inconvenient. The debts are such, as no honourable man would leave unpaid. I promised Melville to keep them secret, and I have no wish to let the town crier go about with the news, but I naturally judged that on the death of his father, your brother would come into his fortune, and repay me."

"I do not think it is possible," Joyce said. "My dear father had so many sons, and it was hard to provide for them. Please let me think about it, and give you an answer. I must consult Ralph, who is in charge here now, till Melville comes home."[Pg 249]

"Nay, I would ask as a great favour that you consult no one. If, when your brother returns, you can come to any arrangement, let me know. I would not wish to press my claim unduly. I think you have seen my young nephew, Gilbert Arundel; he got a pitiable hold over your brother. It is not the best taste to abuse one's own relations, so I will forbear giving you Arundel's character in extenso; suffice it to say, he is a hypocrite. He has been playing fast and loose ever since he was a boy, with a fair lady much older than himself; he fancies himself in love with her, and she is so foolish as to believe it. The ten years which separate them in age is a trifle in his eyes. She is handsome enough, and fascinating; knows the world and its ways, and, resents my good sister's pious exhortations, rather laughs at them, in fact. Am I speaking in riddles? Arundel's mother is my step-sister; my father taking it into his head to marry for the second time, when no one expected him to do so. But it was a lucky thing for the world at large that he did marry, for I am the result!" The low satirical laugh had a ring of bitterness in it, and the face that was really handsome, was clouded by a most disagreeable expression.

It was a hard ordeal for Joyce to be thus, as it[Pg 250] were, in the hands of a keen-witted man of the world, who, when he had finished his own story, began to pour out the most fulsome flattery, and to appear to take it for granted that Joyce would be won by it. He little knew the strength and courage which the "rustic beauty," as he inwardly called her, could show.

As soon as she could get a word in, she rallied herself, and said, in a low, determined voice:

"I do not wish to hear any more, my lord. I do not think you have any right to come here and offend me by saying what you cannot mean. I will take advice about my brother's debts to you, and, if you please, I will let you know the result."

"What a charming woman of business!" exclaimed Lord Maythorne. "A veritable Portia. A little indignant protest is so becoming. Well, well, we will leave the matter for the present."

And now a figure, clothed in deepest mourning, appeared from the hall behind, and Mrs. Falconer with a curtsey which was profoundly respectful, said:

"May I ask, sir, what brings you to the house of a poor widow? My daughter is very young and very inexperienced; I cannot allow you to remain to annoy her."[Pg 251]

"My good lady, I am your daughter's slave. I am ready to lie at her feet. Annoy her, forsooth!"

Joyce, who had endured bravely up to this moment, sprang towards her mother as if instinctively for protection, and Mrs. Falconer took her hand in hers.

"What is it, my dear, what is it? Piers came to call me; I thought you were distressed."

This was really the first time since her sorrow that Mrs. Falconer had roused herself to take an interest in anything; but Piers' summons, with the announcement that there was a man in the porch talking to Joyce, and that he knew by the sound of her voice she was frightened, had not been in vain. The maternal love, deep in Mrs. Falconer's heart, asserted itself, and put to flight for the time the selfish brooding over her sorrow, in which for so many weeks she had indulged.

"Joyce is very young," she said, tenderly, "and she has been left to bear a burden too heavy for her years. I beg you, sir, to say no more to hurt her and annoy her, but to leave the premises."

"My dear madam," Lord Maythorne said, "I came in a friendly spirit to discuss a little business about your elder and very hopeful son. He owes me some eight hundred pounds—a debt of honour, but at the[Pg 252] same time a debt;" and, setting his teeth, "One I mean to have paid! It may seem a trifle to the owner of these broad acres, and to the inhabitants of this grand ancestral home, but to me it happens to be no trifle. Good morning."

Lord Maythorne turned away, raising his hat to Joyce, and saying:

"Adieu, mia bella! adieu! but au revoir! au revoir!"

Mrs. Falconer pressed Joyce, trembling and frightened to her side, saying, in a low voice:

"What does he mean? Who is he?"

"He means that Melville has lost money to him by gambling; I think he is Lord Maythorne."

"What is to be done? What is to be done, Joyce?" Mrs. Falconer said.

"We must consult Mr. Paget, dear mother. Oh! how glad I was when you came; he is such a bold, bad man."

"Poor child! Poor Sunshine!" Mrs. Falconer said; "I have been very much to blame to leave you all the burden; I will try to do differently now. Kiss me, Joyce."

"And here is a carriage coming up the road," was Piers' next exclamation; "a carriage full of people."[Pg 253]

"Oh! there is an old gentleman in a wig and shovel hat, and—"

"It must be the Bishop," exclaimed Mrs. Falconer; "what shall we do?"

It was too late for Mrs. Falconer to retreat, for the carriage had driven up before the door, and the footman had the handle of the bell in his hand.

"The Lord Bishop," he said, addressing Piers, "Mrs. Arundel, and Miss Anson. Is Mrs. Falconer at home?"

And now Joyce advanced out of the shadow, and stood under the roses by the porch.

The late encounter with Lord Maythorne had heightened her colour, and tears were still upon her long lashes—the tears of vexation she had tried so hard to keep back.

One glance, and Mrs. Arundel felt sure she saw before her her son's "Joyce, Sunshine, Birdie! for they call her all those names," he had said.

She looked just now, with her head drooping, and the traces of tears on her cheeks, very like one of the China roses above her, hanging its head after a shower.

Gratian also examined her critically.

She is beautiful, she thought, but she has no style; while the Bishop leaned forward, and asked:[Pg 254]

"May we alight?"

"Yes, my lord," Joyce said, in a low, gentle voice. "My mother has seen no visitors for a long time; but she will be pleased to see you, and—"

"Mrs. Arundel, I hope, also, and Miss Gratian Anson," the Bishop said, by way of introduction, "Madam," he continued, as he went into the hall, "Madam, I have heard of your good husband; I had once the pleasure—I may say the honour—of seeing him at the palace, and I desire to express to you my condolences. My son," he added, addressing a young gentleman in clerical dress, who was as much like his father as youth can resemble age, "my son is also anxious to pay his respects. My wife, Mrs. Law, is yet absent on account of her health, but returns to the palace next week."

Both the Bishop and his son were courtly gentlemen of what we call now "the old school," and they had peculiarly clear and sonorous voices; the old man's set in rather a lower key than his son's.

"Pray, my lord," Mrs. Falconer said, "walk in, and I beg you to excuse a desolate sitting room," opening a door to the right of the hall; "I have never had courage to sit here since—since our trouble. Joyce draw up the blinds and set the chairs." Mrs. Falconer said this, with something of her old quickness.[Pg 255]

"Our little parlour would be warmer, mother; this room feels cold," Joyce said, in a low tone, as she obeyed her mother, and noticed the cold, damp, unused atmosphere, which always clings to a room that has been closed for some time.

That room, with its three windows set in thick frames, with deep window-seats beneath, had been Mrs. Falconer's pride. As she looked round now, the furniture seemed dull, and the whole aspect of things changed.

"Yes," she said, sadly, "yes, you are right, Joyce; this room is not fit to sit down in; we will go to our own sitting room, if his lordship will follow me."

The whole party adjourned there, and Piers, with unusual forethought, had already ordered a tray to be brought in; for it was always en règle in country houses in those days to offer refreshment of wine and cake, as calls were paid early, just as afternoon tea is brought in now for visitors later in the day.

Mrs. Arundel left the Bishop to talk to Mrs. Falconer, and Gratian won Piers' heart by professing the deepest interest in his drawer full of birds' eggs, which happened to be opened. That was one of Gratian's strongest weapons; she took, or appeared to take, an interest in everybody's particular hobby, and yet she was listening with one ear to every word[Pg 256] that passed between Mrs. Arundel and Joyce. Poor Piers was quite unconscious that he had not her whole attention. When Mr. Law joined the discussion she withdrew and said to Joyce, "I should like to see the grounds, would you show me round." Piers wondered at her abrupt departure from the contemplation of the wren's eggs, and his animated story of the way the little wrens huddle together in a nest in the winter, under ground, in a hedge facing south, and come out to try the air in the first warm days in February, retiring again if it is too cold for them.

Joyce led the way, thankful to see how much more her mother looked like herself, as she told to the sympathetic ear of the Bishop the story of her grief.

Gratian took pains to suit herself to her company; she always did. She linked her arm through Joyce's, and talked in a low voice, instead of her wonted high pitched rattle. She told her how grieved she felt for her; she could easily imagine what such a sorrow must be; for she, a "poor orphan" herself, could indeed sympathise with her.

So she talked, as they paced the gravel walk under the sunny south wall of the old-fashioned garden, where the arms of a huge pear-tree were still heavily laden with brown fruit, and where bushes of pale lilac, Michaelmas daisies, and lavender, still attracted a[Pg 257] number of late bees and errant wasps, who, like all the rest of the world, found it hard to believe that this was the November sunshine of a short winter's day, and not the long drawn out heat of July.

"I should like to know more of you; to see more," Gratian was saying. "Of course, I expected you were charming from what Gilbert told me. Gilbert and I are great friends; he tells me everything."

A scarcely perceptible recoil, in the little figure by her side, was not lost on Gratian.

"Yes," she said, "he is a dear boy—a little spoiled by the notions he has taken up lately; but they are spreading everywhere. The Cambridge men are even worse than the Oxford men. However, I won't quarrel with Gilbert about that, and I can take a little preachment from him. Aunt Bella is pleased with anything Gilbert says or does; and as to Maythorne——"

Joyce started, very visibly this time, at that name, and said, withdrawing her hand from her companion's arm, and stooping to gather some sprigs of lavender:

"I suppose Lord Maythorne is a relation of yours?"

"Distant; very distant," was the reply. "A connection is nearer the truth."

"Because," Joyce said, "I think he is a very bad and[Pg 258] wicked man, and I wish you could tell him never to come here again."

"Come here! Has he been here," Gratian exclaimed. "What on earth did he come here for?"

"He had not been gone half-an-hour before the Bishop's carriage drove up. He has, as you know, done my eldest brother a great deal of mischief; and, though my dear father thought he had cleared all his debts, this Lord Maythorne says that he still owes him a great deal, and we cannot pay it."

"And is that what he came to say; very kind and pleasant of him, I must confess. I expect he said a great deal more."

Joyce blushed scarlet.

"He was very impertinent," she said, "and talked in a very free way to me, but it is over now, and I wish to forget it. Only, if you can, will you prevent him from coming again; or as he is Mrs. Arundel's brother, could you ask her to prevent him. When I have consulted Mr. Paget, dear father's executor and our trustee, I will try if any of the money can be paid."

"Don't think of paying a farthing," Gratian said, "pray; I will see what I can do in the matter. I will talk to Gilbert. Gilbert is certain to do what I ask him, and I know how much he cared about your[Pg 259] brother. Yes, you may depend upon my doing my best, you darling!" Gratian said, stooping down and kissing Joyce's rounded cheek.

Joyce made no response, as Gratian expected, and then they walked silently to the house.

As they drove towards Wells, Gratian, after a pause suddenly said:

"Aunt Bella, Maythorne is still in this neighbourhood. He has been at Fair Acres to-day."

"Maythorne!" Mrs. Arundel exclaimed. Then to herself, but not aloud, she said:

"I must let Gilbert know at once."[Pg 260]



From the time of the Bishop's visit, Mrs. Falconer began to resume her usual employments. She covered her crape with a large apron, and pinned back the long "weepers" of her large widow's cap, and went about the house again, with none of her old sprightly manner, but still going through her duties in regular order.

It was a time which needed much patience, for, as was natural, Mrs. Falconer saw many things which she considered neglected, and Joyce felt herself held responsible for the misdemeanours of the maids, especially of Susan Priday.

The schoolmistress at Mendip had given Susan an excellent character, and Mrs. More had dictated a note to Joyce from her sick bed, telling her that she believed Susan might really prove a friend as well as a servant, for gratitude would be the spring of all her work, gratitude to Joyce for taking her, and holding her free from all blame in her father's ill-doings and[Pg 261] bad life, which had apparently been the cause of the great sorrow which had fallen upon Fair Acres.

Mrs. Falconer had consented with the cold apathetic consent which was discouraging enough. She had taken little or no notice of Susan's presence in the kitchen and dairy till she began to come forth from her seclusion. Then, indeed, poor Susan had a hard time of it; but love, and gratitude to Joyce, were too strong for her to show any resentment for the many unjust suspicions and sharp reproofs which she had to bear.

"It's only what I must look for, Miss Joyce," she said one day, when the breaking of a plate, which she had never touched, was at once laid to her charge. "It's only what I must look for. My dear mother always used to say, when poor father beat and ill-used her, that she remembered some words of St. Peter, that if you were buffeted for doing well, that is, doing your best, and took it patiently, it was acceptable in God's sight. Besides, Miss Joyce, I have been used to hard words, and I know how brokenhearted the poor mistress is; why, she is even a bit cross to Master Piers and you, which is more than I can understand, for you are next door to an angel, Miss Joyce."

"No, Susan I don't feel at all angelic. That is a[Pg 262] mistake. I feel angry and discontented sometimes, if I don't show it. There are so many troubles which can't be talked of."

"Yes, miss, I know that well enough; but you can tell them to God, and that's a rare comfort. Dozens of times in the day I tell Him of my biggest trouble, that I have a father who——"

Susan stopped, threw her coarse apron over her head, and ran away to scour the pans in the dairy till they shone like silver.

The bright November weather soon vanished, and the winter closed in rapidly. Except for a visit of a few days from Miss Falconer and Charlotte, nothing occurred to break the monotony of this dead time of the year. Farming and gardening operations were suspended, and Ralph got out his beloved books again, and Piers arranged and re-arranged his large collection of curiosities, and Christmas drew near.

Joyce had given up listening for a footstep on the road, or looking anxiously for the old postman, who trudged from Wells, on fine days, with the letters, but in bad weather pleased himself as to the length of his rounds.

Mrs. Falconer worked, and knitted, and darned, and, when the wind blew fiercely round the house on the dark winter nights, thought of her little Middies tossing[Pg 263] about on the wide sea; and of Melville in that far-off land, which she knew more by its shape of a boot on the map Piers had hung up in his room, than by any distinct notion of what was to be seen there.

Rome, Florence, Naples, were but names to her, and as dim and distant as Haiphong or Hong Kong are to many in the present day.

'Melville was in Italy,' and her interest in the country was expressed in these words. Melville's letter, written on hearing of his father's death, was sad enough. Weak natures like his, always find relief in trouble by many words, and give vent to grief by vain protestations of affection and of remorse.

Mrs. Falconer treasured the letter, and read it many times, and thought Joyce unfeeling in expressing so little sympathy with her brother. There could be no doubt that all his wilful disregard of his father's wishes started up before Melville, now that it was too late to atone for them, and for the time, as he said, "he was distracted with grief." But there was no word of a desire to redeem the past by coming to Fair Acres and doing his best to perform his duties there. Selfish people are not cured by trouble of their selfishness. It commonly happens that they are more selfish in their grief than in their joy, more self-absorbed by pain than pleasure.[Pg 264]

While Melville could write of his distracted condition, of his love for his father, of his burning indignation against the wretch who had caused his death, and of his determination to have him brought to justice, Joyce was silent; only sometimes, when kneeling by Piers' bed, would she allow her grief full vent; only when alone in the seat under the fir trees would she cry out in the bitterness of her heart for the lost father who had been so dear to her.

And there were other causes of trouble, which she could scarcely confess to herself. Not another word had Gilbert Arundel written, not another sign had he made of remembrance. She knew now, as the time went on, that she loved him, and that, after all, she was nothing to him. How could she have been so foolish? How often she had laughed at Charlotte's fancied admirers, at her continual discovery that some one was in love with her, but was kept back by circumstances from declaring his devotion! For the minor canon was one of a long list of visionary admirers, and he had been followed by the pale-faced clergyman she had met at Barley Wood, about whom, during the few days Charlotte had spent at Fair Acres, she had talked, till Joyce grew weary of the theme.

"Such nonsense!" she had said. "Besides, no girl ought to acknowledge herself to be in love till[Pg 265] she has had good reason given her. It is not nice; it is not womanly."

And as day by day passed, and night after night, when she leaned against the casement of her window, when the stars were throbbing and shining in the deep-blue of the winter's sky, she had to confess, with deep abasement of spirit, that she had been as weak as poor Charlotte, nay, weaker; for as Charlotte's heroes fell from their pedestals, or vanished into thin air like the mirage in the desert, she could always replace them, and pour forth her romantic soul in verses addressed to new objects, as if the old had never existed.

But Joyce told herself she must suffer the consequences of her weakness for ever and a day. No one could ever again be to her what Gilbert had been, in that first happy time of awakening love.

Joyce's pale cheeks and wistful eyes at last attracted her mother's notice. In these days she would have been taken to see a doctor, ordered change of air and scene, and put upon some régime as to food. But, except in cases of severe illness, people did not resort to doctors as they do now-a-days, and the nervous patients and chronic invalids, resigned themselves to unlimited home physic, and took their poor health as a matter of course.[Pg 266]

"Joyce," Mrs. Falconer said, one day, early in February, when the season of Christmas they had all dreaded so much was past; "Joyce, I think it would do you good to spend a few days with Aunt Letitia at Wells."

Joyce tried to smile.

"I don't want to be done good to, mother; besides, I can't leave you."

"Yes, you can. Mr. Paget said yesterday you looked as if you wanted a change. It's a wonder Mrs. More has not asked you to Barley Wood again."

"She has been so ill," Joyce said; "it is not likely she could invite me."

"And then there is Mrs. Arundel and her niece that came here last fall; not a word have we heard of them."

"Yes, mother; you forget. I have heard twice, about—about Lord Maythorne. Mrs. Arundel has kept him from coming here again. Besides, she is busy settling into a home, and besides——"

"I think it is very odd, Mr. Arundel has never written, or come here again."

"He wrote to me once," Joyce said, in a low voice.

"Did you answer the letter?"

"No, mother," Joyce said, springing up quickly, and,[Pg 267] with a great effort, throwing off her sadness. "No; there was nothing to answer. But I will go and stay a day or two with Aunt Letitia, if you want to get rid of me. Ralph can take a note in to Wells to-morrow, when he goes in to the market. I shall only stay two days, but we must find out whether Aunt Letitia wants me first."

Miss Falconer was really pleased that Joyce should propose a visit, and the little guest-chamber in the Vicar's Close was made ready with willing hands, and Charlotte hailed Joyce's appearance, that she might tell her of all her hopes and fears.

Charlotte had been twice at the Palace during the winter. Mrs. Law, gentle and kindly, had taken an interest in the young people in Wells, and had invited Charlotte, amongst others, to tea. Tea at six o'clock, on some day when the bishop and his chaplain and Mr. Henry Law, were absent on some business in the diocese.

If it had been a great thing to visit Mrs. Hannah More at Barley Wood, it was a greater to take tea at the palace. With the wigs of the last and preceding century, the bishops have thrown off a great deal of the episcopal state, which was once considered a part of the duty of the peer spiritual. And a certain air of solemnity pervaded the Wells palace,[Pg 268] even when presided over by such true "gentlefolks" as the bishop and Mrs. Law. That old-fashioned word seems to suit the host and hostess at the Wells palace far better than any other term I could use. That innate grace and refinement of feeling is sometimes, it is true, acquired, but it is a plant of slow growth, especially amongst those, who suddenly raised to a position of importance in the Church, feel the elevation makes them a little dizzy. The Bishop's wife, then presiding over the palace, had always moved in the higher circles of society, and, therefore, neither at Carlisle nor Wells did she find it necessary to impress upon humbler people that she stood on a vantage ground to which few could approach. She was dignified, though she was gentle, and no one would ever pass the barrier which divides familiarity, from free and pleasant intercourse. Mrs. Law, like everyone else, was greatly taken with Joyce Falconer; and again poor Charlotte began to feel that with no effort at all her cousin was winning her way, and making an impression which, with all her efforts, she felt she did not succeed in doing.

Miss Falconer was surprised when, the day after the girls had spent an evening at the palace, Mrs. Law sent a little three-cornered note of invitation to Joyce to spend Sunday at the palace before she[Pg 269] returned to Fair Acres. The footman waited for a reply, and the discussion of Mrs. Law's note caused no little excitement in the parlour, of which the servant, if he had been so minded, could have heard every word.

"My dear Joyce, what will you do? You have no suitable dress for such a visit; and yet it is a pity to miss it. I really do not know what to advise."

"I think I should like to go to the palace, Aunt Letitia," Joyce said.

"Like! yes; but are you prepared for such a visit?"

"Oh! yes; I have my best frock, the black bombazine, and my crape bonnet. That need not hinder me."

"But, my dear, people in Mrs. Law's position wear evening gowns, with low necks and short sleeves. I have moved in these circles, and of course——"

"We must not keep the servant waiting, Aunt Letitia; if you give me leave, I should like to accept the invitation."

"Very well," said Miss Falconer; "there is my writing-case; take care how you write; begin, 'Miss Joyce Falconer presents her respects.'"

"But Mrs. Law addresses me as, 'Dear Miss Falconer'; had I not better begin, 'Dear Madam, or dear Mrs. Law'?"[Pg 270]

"Oh! not 'Dear Mrs. Law.' My dear child, how ignorant you are of etiquette."

Joyce seated herself, and wrote a few words accepting the invitation from Saturday to the Monday following, and took it herself to the footman.

"You should have rung for Phœbe, really Joyce, my dear!" But it was too late. Charlotte, who had been "composing" in the sitting-room upstairs, had heard voices, and now came down just as Joyce had closed the door on the footman from the palace.

"An invitation to stay at the palace! Oh! Joyce, how fortunate you are. Mrs. Law might have asked me!"

"She knows you live in the place, my love," said Miss Falconer.

Charlotte sighed. "If I did not live here it would be all the same."

But Charlotte was really an amiable girl, and her devotion to Joyce was sincere and true.

"Well," she said, "what will you wear, dear? Can I lend you any pretty things? My amber beads—or—my filigree comb. Oh! I forgot! Of course, you are still in deep black."

"It is very kind of you, Charlotte," Joyce said; "you always are kind; but I don't want anything."

The whole of that day Joyce's visit to the palace[Pg 271] engrossed the little party in the Vicar's Close. Some cronies of Miss Falconer came in for a gossip by the fireside, and were duly informed of the invitation, and were duly congratulatory and a little jealous, although there was a certain amount of satisfaction, that it was not Charlotte whom Mrs. Law had delighted to honour.

It was a memorable visit to Joyce, and in a way she little expected. The first evening passed pleasantly; and with a white muslin fichu, which Miss Falconer insisted upon making for her, crossed over her black gown, Joyce looked her best. The sleeves of best gowns in those days were cut rather short, and Joyce wore on her round, white arms a pair of black lace mittens, which Charlotte had lent her.

Her beautiful hair needed no adornment; it fell round her forehead in natural curls, and was piled up without the help of cushions or frizzettes, a natural crown of chesnut and gold. As at Barley Wood, so at the palace; Joyce was too simple-minded to be stiff or constrained in manner, and she conversed so pleasantly with a young son of the bishop, who gave her his arm when they went to dinner, that he, in his turn, did his best to be agreeable, and she was soon telling him of her little sailor brothers, of Piers and his collection of butterflies, of Ralph and his love of[Pg 272] study, and the brave way in which he had come to live at Fair Acres and do his best to turn into a farmer.

If the Saturday evenings were pleasant, how delightful was the Sunday, when, in the sunshine of the early February day, the party from the palace crossed to the cloister door, and went to the morning service in the cathedral. It has been said of Wells that it is always Sunday there; no sounds but the ringing of bells for service; no business, and no traffic in the streets. But certain it is, that nowhere is the real Sabbath stillness more profound, nor more refreshing to the tired in spirit, on a day like that February day, when Joyce was seated in the high pew belonging to the Bishop. The cathedral is always a vision of beauty, and when the swelling of the organ and the voices of the choristers are hushed, and a pause occurs after the benediction has been pronounced, the sounds without the building seem in direct harmony with those within; for the Lady Chapel abuts on the lawn of the Sub-Dean's residence, where the waters of St. Joseph's Well lie deep; and there is the murmur of the streams, the chirp of birds, the soft coo of pigeons, and the distinct chatter of the jackdaw from the West front.

Joyce went out of the cathedral filled with peaceful thoughts of the temple, of which this was but the[Pg 273] faint shadow, the temple which has no need of the sun to lighten it, for the Lamb is the light thereof.

Quite forgetting that she ought to turn towards the cloisters, Joyce walked on down the nave before the Bishop's party had missed her. The sweet seriousness of her face as she went out into the sunshine almost held back the welcome, which was trembling on the lips of someone who was standing near the porch, and had watched her coming down the wide nave.

She was passing out, wrapt in her own meditations when Gilbert Arundel put out his hand:


She started, and blushed rosy red.

"You did forget me, then!" he exclaimed, reproachfully.

"Forget you, no."

"You did not reply to my letter?"

"You did not ask me to write."

They now found themselves by the turnstile under the old clock, that quaint clock which, it is said, was made to strike many times in succession for the amusement of that gracious and sagacious King James, who laughed till his sides ached, as the old knights, in their black armour, hit the bell with their battle-axes, beneath the suggestive motto, "Ne[Pg 274] quid pereat." They hit it now with, all their wonted vigour four times, and then the clock struck one.

Clock at Wells Clock at Wells

"We have come the wrong way. I am staying at the palace till to-morrow," Joyce said.

"At the palace! I am glad to hear it; but your mother, whom I saw yesterday, did not know it."[Pg 275]

"No; it was a sudden thought. I mean Mrs. Law only asked me on Friday."

"I am glad you are at the palace," Gilbert said. "I know I shall have a friend in the Bishop."

Joyce made no remark to this, and they retraced their steps in silence till they had crossed the drawbridge and were in the palace grounds.

"I have thought so much of you," he said, earnestly. "I am now come, as I said I should, to present my petition. Is there any hope?"

Joyce turned away her head, and did not answer.

When they reached the palace, a footman threw open the door:

"Dinner is served," he said, in a voice which was intended to be a mild reproof.

"Can I see his lordship?" Gilbert asked; while Joyce ran upstairs to her room on the upper floor.

"His lordship is just sitting down to dinner, sir. What name——"

Gilbert took out a card and handed it to the man, leaving him in the hall till he knew the Bishop's will.

Presently he reappeared.

"I am requested to beg you, sir, to go into the dining-room at once: this way."

The Bishop rose, and gave Gilbert Arundel a very[Pg 276] different greeting from that which he had granted Lord Maythorne.

"My dear young friend, welcome for your mother's sake, always welcome, and for your own. How could you doubt it? Why stand on ceremony? But we are in some distress," he said, with a sly twinkle in his eye; "we have lost a young lady: she vanished into thin air as we left the cathedral. Perhaps some knight-errant has carried her off. Ah! I see you know something about her. Well, sit down; and, Barker," to one of the servants, "Miss Falconer's place next Mr. Arundel's."

The Bishop dearly loved a little love affair, and he fancied he descried one in "the air."

It was a great trial of Joyce's self-possession when the door of the dining-room was opened for her by a servant, and she had to pass to her place at the long dining-table. The Bishop's son came to the rescue, making room for her by standing up and showing her the vacant place.

"I am sorry I was late," she said.

"It is a lovely day," was the rejoinder. "I do not wonder that you took a turn after service."

"Yes," said Mrs. Law, kindly. "I saw your cousin in the cathedral, and I thought it probable that you would walk home with her."[Pg 277]

"No," Joyce said, in a low voice, "I did not go home with Charlotte."

One person at least appreciated the honesty of this confession, and Gilbert told himself that it was a part of Joyce's crystal transparency of character, that she would not even allow an assertion about herself to pass if it were not absolutely true.

When Joyce was sitting after dinner, with Mrs. Law and several ladies, in the long gallery, the Bishop's son brought her a message.

"My father would like to see you in his study for a few minutes. Will you kindly follow me?"

Joyce obeyed, but her heart beat fast, and she dreaded what the Bishop might have to say to her. Something about Melville; some bad news of the little Middies: her thoughts flew in all directions.

The Bishop had already seated himself in his crimson leather chair, and, when Mr. Law closed the door, she found herself alone with his lordship.

"My dear young lady," he said, in his slow, sonorous tones, "as I know you are, alas! fatherless, will you allow me to stand, for the moment, in the place of a father? A young gentleman, the son of an old friend, has told me to-day that he seeks the honour of paying his addresses to you. He went to Fair Acres last night and received your mother's[Pg 278] sanction, tempered, no doubt, with the natural pain of losing you. But she gives her consent, and I venture to endorse it. As chief pastor and father of the diocese, over which I have so recently come to preside, I do earnestly commend to you the son of my old friend, Gilbert Arundel. I propose that you should take a ramble together after service, in the spring twilight, and when we meet at the evening meal, I hope I may find you have made my young friend happy."

The Bishop's speech may sound to us unnecessarily long and formal, but, sixty years ago, the old spirit of chivalrous respect towards maidens, in approaching the subject of marriage, had not then died out. Perhaps, also, in the time of the good Bishop, when the first gentleman in Europe was setting so wretched an example in his behaviour, good and honourable men felt it the more incumbent on them to give the woman the full privileges of her position.

Love was to be sought as a favour granted, not claimed in a careless fashion as a right; while the whole aspect of courtship and marriage was dealt with more seriously than it is in our day.

Barriers are more easily broken down than set up again, and, perhaps, there is too great a tendency now-a-days to treat what is grave as a jest, and to show[Pg 279] but little inclination to tread in the paths which our mothers and grandmothers found safe. Thus the Bishop, when he had heard from Gilbert's lips the object of his visit to Wells, thought it his duty to speak to Joyce in the grave manner I have described.

The Bishop rose from his chair, and, laying his hand on Joyce's head, solemnly pronounced a blessing, and, with crimson cheek and bowed head, she left him, to prepare to go to the afternoon service.

Later in the day, the supreme moment in her young life came, when she walked with Gilbert in the fields towards Dinder, turning to the left, where, in a tangled copse, the first budding flowers of the starry celandines were peeping amidst fallen leaves and mosses.

The clustering primrose buds were hardly yet showing themselves amongst their crinkled leaves, and only the upright stems of the alders, and the lowest boughs of the maples and hazel bushes displayed the first emerald green of spring. It was a time and place for the exchange of first young love, and confidences never to be forgotten.

And in all the changes and chances of her future life, Joyce could look back to that first spring afternoon, and say from her heart that it was the opening for her of a new and beautiful chapter. If the hopes[Pg 280] of the earlier days of their acquaintance had lain dormant during the winter, they now sprang up with the coming life of the spring time, and were sweet with the promise of the future.

When once Gilbert had found voice to tell his story he was eloquent, and when once Joyce had given her response there was no further need for reticence.

"And why did you not write to me?" he asked.

"As I said, because you did not ask me; and then when your uncle came, he told me that you cared for Miss Anson; and I thought, half thought, it might be true."

Gilbert made an impatient gesture.

"You only half thought so; you knew, Joyce, you knew better. So," he went on under his breath, "that is the mischief he went to Fair Acres to work. My mother soon stopped him from daring to persecute you."

"Mr. Paget and Mr. Gill said there was no lawful claim on poor Melville, for the money had been lent him to gamble with, and that Lord Maythorne knew he had no just claim to it."

"Of course he knew it; he thought he would frighten you, and your poor mother. But let us not speak more of him."

"I wonder what will be done when Melville comes[Pg 281] home, for I suppose he will come home in the summer."

"Yes; perhaps he may have turned over a new leaf, as the children say; anyhow, I can't help being grateful to Melville."

"To Melville?" she said.

"Yes; for was it not he who invited me to Fair Acres, to find you, my darling."

Then he drew her closer, and with her hand in his arm, they walked through the quiet fields back to the little city.

The cathedral stood up in a dark mysterious mass against the clear sky. The last purple gleam was dying from the distant hills which encircle Wells; Venus hung her silver lamp over the central tower of the cathedral, and the whole scene was one of infinite peace.

They did not speak of the future, the present was sufficient for them; but the cry of Joyce's heart, even in its happiness, found words:

"Oh! that my father knew."

"He may know, my darling," Gilbert said; "and I think we may rest in the certainty that if he were here he would give me a welcome."

[Pg 282]

"Yes," Joyce said, softly; "yes, I know he would. Oh! dear father."[Pg 283]



'Tis Nature's plan
The child should grow into the man;
The man grow wrinkled, old, and grey.
In youth the heart exults and sings,
The pulses leap, the feet have wings;
In age the cricket chirps and brings
The harvest home of day.

[Pg 284]

[Pg 285]



A carriage stood before the door of Fair Acres one bright morning in April, an old-fashioned travelling carriage, with a "dickey," or back seat piled with luggage, and more packages waiting to be pushed under the seat inside, which a lady was superintending and remonstrating with a young sailor for his rough and ready help.

"Take care, take care, Harry; there is glass in that hamper. Oh! we must have the carriage closed after all."

"Nonsense, Joyce; I'll manage it. There, let that bag go into the hold, and heave over the box. I'll cram them all in."

"The captain is right, miss—beg your pardon, missus, I should say"—said old Thomas, wiping his head vigorously with his pocket handkerchief.

"Very well; now we are all ready. I hope mother is coming. Gently, Falcon, gently; don't pull dear old Duke so roughly."[Pg 286]

"I want to take Duke to Bristol, mother; Grannie has left Fair Acres, and she is old; why shouldn't Duke?"

"Duke would not be happy in Great George Street; would you, dear Duke?"

Joyce bent down to the grizzled head of the friend of so many years, and said:

"Ah! Duke, we are all getting old."

Presently more voices were heard in the hall, and Mrs. Falconer appeared with a little grand-daughter on either side, while Susan Priday brought up the procession with the baby in her arms.

"Now, dear mother, I think we are all ready. Have you enough wraps? Where are Melville and Gratian and Piers?"

"Melville is not dressed," said Piers, coming forward, "and Gratian has just had her cup of chocolate taken her in bed."

"I must run and say Good-bye to her," exclaimed Joyce. "What a pity to lie in bed on this lovely morning!"

Joyce tripped upstairs and tapped at the door of the room which had been her mother's in years past.

To the amazement of all the world, Gratian Anson had signified to Melville Falconer that she was ready to be mistress of Fair Acres, and include him in the bargain. On the whole the plan had answered fairly[Pg 287] well; but Mrs. Falconer had found the new régime a perpetual vexation, and three years before this time had, by her son-in-law's advice, retired to a little cottage on Clifton Down with Piers, within reach of the great joy and comfort of her declining years—Joyce and her husband and children.

Gratian kept Melville in good order. There were rumours in the neighbourhood that she took charge of the purse, and that an allowance was doled out to her lord and master, which she never permitted him to exceed. However that might be, Gratian certainly managed to get through without heavy debts, and the squire's will had provided for the maintenance of his widow, and the boys had each their portion paid from the estate.

Mr. Watson and Ralph virtually managed the farm, and Ralph held a good position and was greatly respected. Only one of the twins was left. The sea rolled over the bright hair of Bunny, on his second voyage. He was washed from the mast by a huge wave, off the coast of Africa, and engulfed in the stormy waters, never to rise again. This sorrow had told greatly on Mrs. Falconer, and she had aged very much since we saw her last. But she was touchingly gentle and tender to Joyce, and her children were the delight of her heart.[Pg 288]

Joyce's tap was answered by a sleepy "Come in."

"We are just starting, Gratian," Joyce said; "I could not go without bidding you good-bye, and thanking you for a very pleasant visit."

"What makes you start so early?"

"Gilbert wished us to be off by ten o'clock. He says Bristol is likely to be in a ferment to-day, and he did not wish us to be late."

"Late! Well I should think twelve would have been time enough to start. Bid mother and Piers good-bye for me. Is Melville down stairs?"

"I have not seen him," Joyce said; "but perhaps he is in the study."

"Good-bye again," Joyce said, stooping to kiss Gratian; "we have had a very happy fortnight. I do like my children to know the dear old place."

"We are very glad to have you," Gratian replied; "and, Joyce, if you pay a visit at any of the best houses at Clifton, or near Bristol, notice if the curtains are flowered damask or watered, for new curtains we must have in the dining room."

Another yawn, and "Good-bye, love to Aunt Annabella," and Gratian's head, in the many-frilled night-cap, which scarcely hid a row of curl-papers, fell back upon the pillow.

And now Falcon's voice was heard.[Pg 289]

"Mother, do come; why doesn't Aunt Gratian get up? mother! How lazy she is!"

"Hush! Falcon," for Joyce saw her brother issuing forth from his dressing-room in a magnificent loose dressing-gown, and a scarlet fez with a tassel on his head.

"Why! Joyce, off already?" he said; "I must come down and see the last of the infants. Thank goodness they are not mine!"

"I have been to bid Gratian good-bye, and thanked her for her kindness; we are a large party."

"Oh! so much the better," said Melville, good-temperedly; "we are very glad to have you. What a regular family coach! Where did that come from?"

"From the 'Swan.' Ralph ordered it yesterday."

At last they were all packed in.

Joyce was the last, and she was just about to step into the carriage when Mr. Paget came riding up.

"Oh! you are off, Mrs. Arundel. I just called to tell you that there is news of disturbances in Bristol. A great mob collected in Queen's Square last night, and political feeling is exciting the people to madness. I suppose Arundel will ride out to meet you?"

"He told me to start early, that we might get through Bristol before the afternoon."[Pg 290]

"Ah! Well, I daresay it will be all right. Upon my word, what a pretty party you are! A rose and her rosebuds—eh! Mrs. Falconer? Where is Ralph?"

"Gone early to Bridgwater; there is a cattle sale to-day, and he and Mr. Watson went off at six o'clock."

"Ralph does not let the grass grow under his feet,—eh! Falconer? It is the early bird that finds the worm."

Melville smiled. The gorgeous colours of his dressing gown and fez came out in grand relief against the old porch, and Mr. Paget thought to himself, how odd it was that Mr. Falconer's son should be so entirely unlike either father or mother. He had dismounted; while old Thomas held the horse, he had helped Joyce into the carriage, and patted the rounded cheeks of the baby, whom her mother now took from her grandmother, and settled comfortably on her knee, while he called out to Falcon, who was in the dickey with Susan and the luggage, not to put out his eyes with a long cane he was brandishing, kicking his feet vigorously all the time, and shouting "Gee up!" at the pitch of his young lungs. The two little rosebuds of girls sat demure and quiet on the back seat with their uncle Piers; and then, with a final "Good-bye" and waving his hands, the scarlet-coated post-boy cracked his[Pg 292][Pg 291] whip, and Joyce and her children were fairly off for home; for, sweet as the old home was, and full of tender memories, the large city house in Great George Street was dearer still.

Queen's Square, Bristol. Queen's Square, Bristol.

[Pg 293]Never had a cloud of mistrust or doubt come between Gilbert and his wife. They were subject, as we all are, to the little trials and annoyances of life, but these were all, outside that inner temple where, secure in each other's love, and bound by the golden chain of faith and trust in God, who had given them so many beautiful gifts and tokens of His loving care, they could always retire and feel that they were happy.

This fair and gracious temple of married love is one of the most beautiful possessions that any one can rejoice in. But it needs to be carefully watched, lest any moth should enter, or rust mar its brightness, or serpent creep into the paradise.

As the Vestals of ancient days kept their altar light pure and clear, so should the true wife pray to keep the light of this, her sacred temple, pure, and replenish it from time to time with the heavenly graces of Hope, Faith, and Charity, those three, the greatest of which is Charity; for it is one of the laws of our being, that in whatever position we find ourselves we cannot be secure without watching and prayer[Pg 294] Sometimes the wreckage of a fair ship, or the first falling of the stone which is to end in the ruin of that house, may be traced to some small failure in duty, some slight wrong or omission unrepaired, or some angry word unrepented of. The woman who hopes to get through life loved and honoured to the end, and who would guard the first enthusiasm of her husband's love in all its freshness, must not expect to do so without continual care, forbearance in small matters, and bright, cheerful taking up of little crosses, which turns many a thorn into a flower, many a rough stone into a radiant jewel.

Mr. Paget turned away from watching the carriage roll off, and said to Melville and Harry:

"I hope they will have a safe journey; there is much ill-feeling abroad; and they are making a desperate effort in Bristol to secure the return of two Reform candidates. It is an unhappy business," said peace-loving Mr. Paget. "It is far better to let well alone."

"Yes," said Melville, who was far too indolent by nature to have any very keen political feeling, "it was great nonsense of old Wetherall to split with his party about the Papists, and now to be against Reform."

"As an old Tory, I am with him there," said Mr.[Pg 295] Paget; "and there is something brave in the way he has put his own interests aside for what he believes to be right. But a judge ought not to be so violent a partisan. I hope Mrs. Arundel and those pretty babies of hers won't come in for any stone throwing and smashing of windows. There is to be a great meeting in Queen's Square to-day."

"Turn in to breakfast, Mr. Paget," Melville said. "My wife has a headache, and is not come down yet. But Harry and I will do the honours."

"Thank you kindly, no. I must ride into Wells. Why," he said, pulling the sleeve of Melville's dressing-gown, "you look like an Eastern Rajah! Your brother's blue jacket shows it off grandly. Upon my word, we are all very plain folks when compared with the master of Fair Acres."

Then, slipping a shilling into old Thomas's hand, Mr. Paget mounted his horse and rode away.

"A regular old country bumpkin!" Melville exclaimed. "He looks as if he had come out of the Ark, and taken the pattern of Noah's coat!"

"He is a splendid old fellow," Harry said. "I wish we had more county gentlemen like him. But I am rather sorry I did not offer to go on the box of the carriage. I hope Joyce won't get into any crowd, or come in for stone throwing and uproar."[Pg 296]

"Oh, bother it! She will be all right. No one would want to steal her children; there is enough of that article in the world and to spare, without taking other people's."

Harry was nevertheless uneasy.

The unsettled condition of the whole district was becoming daily more serious. The popular cry in Bristol only the year before had been for Sir Charles Wetherall, and no Popery!

The people who went out to meet him when he came to open the assize, had cheered and applauded him, trying to take the horses out of the carriage and drag him into the city in triumph. But now a change had come over the mind of the people, and the Reform Bill was exciting them to frenzy and hatred of every man who opposed it, of whom their once idolized Recorder was one of the most prominent.

As we look back over the half century which lies between our own days and those of the great riots in the ancient city of Bristol, it is strange to mark how the questions, then so furiously contested, are now settled; how the pendulum, then swinging so violently, has subsided into a more regular beat; how even the second Reform Bill, carried by a large majority, is now a thing of the past; how the exclusion of any one from holding office, parliamentary or[Pg 297] social, on the ground of religion, is now considered an act of tyrannical, and ill-judged interference, between the conscience of a man, and his duty to God.

These fifty years, full of the great events so strongly marked by the discoveries of science, are full also of lessons, which we do well to ponder. They seem to take the text and preach patience to those who are hot-headed, and eager to press on any reform, or to advocate, with intemperate zeal, any scheme, even though they honestly believe it is for the good of the people.

The wise advice of the Poet Laureate seems worthy to be followed at this very moment, when the kingdom is, from one end to the other, vibrating with the burning questions which shall decide the success, or non-success, of the two great parties which divide the nation:

"Have patience—ourselves are full
Of social wrong; and maybe wildest dreams
Are but the needful preludes of the truth.
This fine old world of ours is but a child
Yet in the go-cart. Patience! Give it time
To learn its limbs—there is a Hand that guides."

The carriage containing the happy mother and her children went merrily on its way to Bristol.

The first glory of the spring was reigning every[Pg 298]where. The hedgerows were full of starry primroses, and the copses carpeted with bluebells.

Fair companies of wind flowers quivered in the gentle breeze, and the variety of foliage in the woods was almost as great as in autumn. Every shade of green shone in the sunlight, from silvery birch to emerald lime, sober elm, and russet oak, with the young tassels hanging on the birch, and the contrasting sombre dark hue of the pines, clothing the woods with surpassing beauty.

The baby, lulled by the motion of the carriage and the regular sound of the horses' hoofs, was soon in profound slumber. Little Lota and Lettice, who bore the names of the aunt and niece in the Vicar's Close, after taking some buns from their grandmother's well-filled basket, also subsided into sleep. Lota was taken by her grandmother, and Lettice, with the support of Piers' arm, had a comfortable nap. Only Falcon, in the "dickey" behind, was wide awake. He was a noble-looking boy of five years old, with fresh, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He was like his mother in features, and his grandfather in his stout, athletic build. He had a loud, childish voice, and, as he whipped the back of the carriage, he sang lustily, in a sort of monotone, which kept time with the horses' feet:[Pg 299]

"Home—home—home to father."

His mother heard the words, and they found an echo in her heart of "Home—home to Gilbert."

Joyce's girlish loveliness had developed into the matured beauty of the mother, which is always so attractive. Her face shone with that soft light of motherhood and happy wifehood which we look for in vain on many faces which are beautiful, but lack something. Her own mother acknowledged the charm, and often thought how much dearer and more beautiful Joyce had become in her eyes since her marriage, and how the father who had loved her so dearly would have rejoiced to see her now.

This thought was in her mind when Joyce said:

"Is not Lota too heavy for you, mother? Shall we change? Let me give you baby."

"No, dear, no; it would be a pity to wake the baby; how sweet she looks. There will never be any children in the old home now, I am afraid." And Mrs. Falconer sighed.

"I don't think they are wanted," Joyce said; "but perhaps till people have babies they don't know how delightful they are. Piers is laughing at me."

"Not at you. I was only thinking how Gratian and Melville would hate the bother of children about the house."[Pg 300]

"They were very kind to us," Joyce said. "It seems to me that we may be very thankful Melville married Gratian."

"Yes, she keeps him in good order."

Mrs. Falconer had still a weak, very weak, place in her heart for Melville, and she said, sharply:

"That's not a becoming way to speak of your eldest brother."

Piers shrugged his shoulders. He took in, more fully than his mother could, the trouble that Melville's conduct had brought upon them all, especially on Ralph—Ralph, who might have done so well in scholarship, now acting as steward to his brother, with less thanks and less pay than he deserved. It irritated Piers to see Melville's self-satisfaction, and to know that from sheer indolence, if Ralph had not come to the rescue, he would have brought the inheritance of his fathers to hopeless ruin.

Melville had his wish now. Gratian took care that their position should be recognised, and they visited at the houses of the neighbouring gentry, where Gratian's ready tact, and powers of fascination, were acknowledged. It became the fashion to enliven a dull, heavy dinner by inviting Mrs. Melville Falconer, who could tell amusing stories, seasoned with French phrases, and listen with apparently deep[Pg 301] interest to the stories other people told, whether they related to the weather, the crops, or the fashions.

Joyce saw the cloud on Piers' face, and hastened to say that Ralph had written a very clever treatise on draining land, and that Gilbert thought it would draw people's attention to the subject, from the masterly way in which it was treated.

"So Ralph's brains are of great use, after all;" she said.

"He is thrown away at Fair Acres. Harry says so, and I don't think it is fair or just. I never could get over Melville's horrid selfishness, and I don't wish to get over it."

"Piers!" Joyce said, reproachfully; "remember he is your brother."

"We have all good cause to remember it," was the muttered rejoinder.

And now, as they passed through the villages nearer Bristol, large knots of people were congregated here and there. Some stared at the carriage as they passed, some hissed, and angry voices cried:

"No Popery!" and "Reform!"

When within some four miles of the city, Susan Priday leaned over and said:

"There is a great crowd coming on behind us, ma'am; they look a very rough lot."[Pg 302]

The carriage was going up a steep hill, and just as it had slowly reached the top, some fifty or sixty men came out from a lane, which turned off towards Bath, and called out to the post-boy to stop.

They were fierce, wild-looking men, and, as the post-boy tried to take no notice and whip on his horses, the bridles were seized and the carriage was surrounded.

Then a number of voices shouted—

"Reform! Reform! Are ye for Reform? you grand folks; if ye are, speak out!"

"Let go the horses' heads!" said Piers. "Let go! How dare you obstruct the high road?"

"Aye! aye! you young fool; we'll teach you manners!" and one of the men clenched his fist and shook it at Piers. In another moment the crowd from behind, which Susan Priday had seen, came breathlessly up the hill, women with children in their arms, all screaming, at the top of their voices, "Reform! Reform!"

One woman held up a child with a pinched, wan face, and said—

"You rich folks, you'd trample on us if you could, and we are starving! Look here!" and she bared the legs of the poor emaciated baby. "Look here! Look at your fat, stuffed-out childer, and look at this!"[Pg 303]

"Look 'ee here, missus; we are a-going to Bristol to cry for Reform. If you say you will have nothing to do with the tyrant, Wetherall, and his cursed lot, you may go on. If not, we'll seize the carriage, we'll turn ye all out into the road, and we'll drive in state to the big meeting in Queen's Square! My! what a lark that will be!"

"Listen," Joyce said, standing up in the carriage with her child in her arms; "I am on my way home with these little children. Surely you will not stop me and endanger their lives?"

"We will! we will! if you don't give us your word you are for Reform and dead against Wetherall."

"Why," Joyce said fearlessly, "only a year ago, and near this very place, the men and women of Bristol shouted, 'Long live Wetherall!' And now!"

"Now we say, curse him!" growled a big, brawny man.

The little girls, awakened by the uproar, began to cry with fear, and Falcon called out, "Let mother go on, you bad men! I say, let her go on! Father will be so angry with you!"

"Hush! hush! dear Master Falcon," Susan said; "you will only make them worse. Hush!"

And now, as Joyce looked over the faces crowding round her, she beckoned to the woman, who had been[Pg 304] thrust back by the pressure of others who wanted to see the inhabitants of the carriage.

"Come here," she said, holding out some of the buns; "I am so sorry for your hungry baby. Give her one of these buns, and do believe me when I say I am sorry for all your troubles."

The sweet, ringing voice began to have effect, and the clamour ceased.

"I am no enemy of the poor. My husband and I wish to do what we can for you, and I believe, nay, I know, he is an advocate of Reform, but not for rebellion against authority, and violence."

The execrations were changed now to cheers.

"Let 'em pass, she is a good 'un; let 'em pass, she has a kind heart; she has a pretty face, too. Here," said a man, "I am the father of that poor babby; shake hands, missus."

Joyce stretched out her hand at once, and it was taken in a strong grip.

"Thank you," she said; "I knew you would not be cruel to my little children. Will you all remember that I ask you to be peaceable, and to pray to God to help you and give you bread for your children. He is a kind and loving Father; don't forget that."

As Joyce stood before that seething crowd of strange, wan faces, for many of them bore too plainly[Pg 305] the marks of fasting and hunger, the baby in her arms raised a pitiful cry, and she pressed it closer and soothed it, while the baby lifted its little hand and stroked its mother's face.

"Aye, she is of the right sort," they cried; "she is a mother who loves her child. She ain't too grand to cosset her babby. Let her go on!"

The post-boy cracked his whip, and the carriage was just starting, when Joyce suddenly turned ashen white, and sinking back in the carriage, the baby would have fallen had not Piers caught it by its cloak.

"What is it?—what is it, Joyce, my dear?" Mrs. Falconer asked. "You put too much strain on yourself; you are feeling the effects. Joyce!"

But Joyce did not speak. Her mother opened the basket, and taking out a bottle, held it to Joyce's lips.

"Take some wine; do try to sip it, Joyce."

But Joyce sat up and put it from her. "No, thank you, dear mother. I was faint, rather faint. Perhaps it was too much for me speaking to that angry crowd. Oh!" and she put her hand to her eyes, "their faces, their dreadful faces! I am better now."

And, with wonderful self-restraint, Joyce did not tell her mother or Piers that, amidst that throng of[Pg 306] ragged, wild people, she had seen the face of the man whom she believed had caused her father's death.

Falcon's voice from the "dickey" was now heard. "Here's father! here's father!"

And presently Gilbert trotted up on horseback, and was received with shouts from his little boy and deep thankfulness from those inside the carriage.

"The crowd is getting very thick in the city," he said, "and I thought I would ride out and be your escort. Why, my darling, you don't look much better for country air," he said, anxiously scanning her face.

"We have been surrounded by a mob," Piers said, "and Joyce asked them to let us pass, and that was rather too much even for her nerves. There are some two hundred men and women coming on behind us."

"Then push on," Gilbert said to the post boy, "and I will be your avant courier. The crowd in Bristol is fairly orderly so far, and I think we shall get through pretty well. Why, Susan!" he said, "you look almost as white as your mistress. I shall be glad to get you all safe home."

Joyce rose in the carriage again, and, turning, looked back at Susan. Her face told that she also had recognised her father; and, with a sudden gesture of sympathy, Joyce put her hand on her[Pg 307] faithful and trusted servant's arm, and gave it a pressure which she understood.

"Oh! dear madam," she said, "it was very dreadful."

"Yes," Joyce said, "but the danger is past now that we have Mr. Arundel with us. Hold Falcon firmly when we get into the streets."

"I shall be glad to get home now," said little Falcon. "I am as tired as mother is."

That surging crowd, increasing hourly in numbers and in vehemence, thronged the narrow streets, and made the progress of the carriage very slow.

The young man who rode before it attracted attention, and he was called upon several times to declare whether he would vote for Protheroe and Baillie, and whether he was an anti-reformer or a reformer.

These questions were generally shouted at him and followed by cries and cheers, so that the reply could not be heard.

Erect and fearless, Gilbert rode on, clearing the way for the carriage, which contained all that was most precious to him in the world. Had he turned a hair, or shown the slightest sign of fear, it is probable he would have had stones hurled at him, or insulting missives, such as rotten eggs or dead rats, thrown into[Pg 308] the carriage. But there was something in the way Gilbert guided his horse through the throng, and in the steadfast outlook of his eyes, that won the mob, and not a finger was raised against him. He even heard cries of "pretty dears!" from behind.

"It's their father, I daresay. Pretty dears! And that's their mother, with the youngest. She is as white as a ghostie."

So on they passed safely over Bristol Bridge, through Wine Street, and Corn Street, narrow thoroughfares, which necessitated at the best of times, but slow progress.

As they passed along Saint Augustine's Back they left the great proportion of the crowd on the other side of the river. It was making, by way of King Street, for Queen's Square, where the great meeting was to assemble before the Mansion House, and the two whig candidates were to harangue the people.

The heat of controversy was fanned continually into a fiercer flame; and moderate men, like Gilbert Arundel, were rare. While desiring any change which might give the people their just rights, and conscious of many abuses which needed reform, Gilbert took up no party cry, nor did he try to exalt his own side by heaping abuse on the other. When[Pg 309] the need came, he would be ready to act for the defence of right and order, but he stood aloof, with singular discretion, from the hot-headed politicians of the Union, and thus he was, with many others, innocent of the great outbreak of lawlessness and riot, which, in a few short months, was to disgrace the annals of the city of Bristol.

The great thoroughfare of Park Street was comparatively empty, and Gilbert reined in his horse and rode by the side of the carriage.

"We are nearly home now," he said; "and there you will be safe. Is anything the matter?" he asked, leaning forward to Joyce.

"I will tell you," she said, in a low voice, "but not now." And then the carriage turned into Great George Street, and the children and Joyce and the luggage were deposited there, while Mrs. Falconer and Piers were taken on to Clifton. Mrs. Arundel shared the large town house with her son, but she was away on a visit, and only two servants were in the wide old-fashioned hall to receive the travellers.

The children's spacious nursery was bright and cheerful, commanding a view of the cathedral just below, the tower of St. Mary Redclyffe Church, of the tall masts of the ships, and of the hills beyond. A blazing fire in the old grate, and the rocking chair[Pg 310] by the high guard, looked inviting, and Joyce sat down there with little Joy in her arms, while Susan put Lota and Lettice to rest in their cots in the next room, to sleep after the excitement of the morning; and Falcon rushed to the garden to inquire into the condition of the white rabbit, which he had left in its hutch when they went to Fair Acres some three weeks before.

Gilbert, who had been looking after the luggage, and settling the postboy's fee, soon came up, and, kneeling down by the chair, took both mother and baby in a loving embrace.

"My two Joys," he said; "my two best Joys. I am afraid you have been a good deal frightened, my darling; but cheer up now; the danger, if there was any, is over, thank God!"

"Gilbert, it was not the crowd, it was not the fear about the poor people who stopped the carriage, it was that amongst those dreadful faces I saw Bob Priday's, the man who stopped us on Mendip years ago, and who, as we think, killed dear father. Oh, it was the sight of his face which was too much for me! And poor Susan saw him also. It brought it all back. Father! father!"

Gilbert stroked his wife's head tenderly as it lay upon his shoulder, and said:[Pg 311]

"Are you sure it was Bob Priday? So many years have passed."

"Quite, quite sure. And, though I have not spoken to Susan yet, I know she is sure also."

"You did not tell your mother, then, or Piers?"

"No, no; I would not have given mother the pain I felt, for anything. Dear mother! I let her drive off with scarcely a good-bye, and she has been so kind at Fair Acres, and has enjoyed the children in the old house. But, oh! Gilbert," she said, rallying, "it is so delightful to be at home with you again. While we have each other nothing can be very bad, can it?"

"Nothing," he said, fervently. "And now, while you are resting, I must go down to the office, for my partner is at the meeting at the "White Lion," helping to bolster up poor Hart-Davies to fight the Tories' battle. He is a good fellow, and everybody respects him; but the truth is, the tide is too strong in Bristol now for any but some very exceptional man to battle against it."

"You think the Whigs will carry the election?"

"Without a doubt."

"Are you going to the meeting in Queen's Square?"

"I think not. We cannot both leave the office at once, and I do not greatly care about it. I do increasingly feel that these men who clamour for their[Pg 312] cause injure it. They are exciting the mob in Bristol—always inflammable material—and this fury of rage against old Wetherall is most dangerous. Everyone expects that if he attempts to open the next assize there will be a riot it will be difficult to quell. Happy little Joy," he said, kissing the baby's cheek; "to sleep on in peace while your fellow-citizens of Bristol are shouting themselves hoarse."

Susan now came in from the next room, and took the baby from Joyce, while Gilbert left the nursery, saying:

"We must dine at a fashionable hour to-day. I shall not be back till five;"—and Susan and her mistress were left alone.

"Did he see us, Susan? Your father; do you think he saw us?"

"I think he did, ma'am—at least, I think he saw me."

"You feel no doubt at all that it was your father, Susan?"

"No, oh no!" said poor Susan, struggling to restrain her convulsive sobs; "and I don't know what is to be done. Oh, dear, dear, madam!"

"We must leave it in God's hands, Susan."

"If he finds me out it will be so dreadful; but I don't think he will dare to do so."

"No," Joyce said; "he will hide away from us[Pg 313] knowing that suspicion, at least, must have fastened on him."

"Dear madam, I wonder you have ever been able to bear to have me near you. His daughter!—his daughter!"

"I thought we had settled long ago, Susan, that your services to me and mine, and your love for the children, must always win my gratitude and——"

"Dear madam, I know how good you are. I know how you took me out of the lowest depths of misery, just as no one else would have done. But if I am to bring trouble on you by staying here, if he, my father, is to bring more trouble on you, I would rather run away and hide myself, and never look upon your face again."

"Do not say so, Susan; let us trust in God, and He will protect us. Your father, if he recognised me, which I doubt, is very unlikely to come forward when a serious charge might be brought against him. It was a great shock at first for me to see him; but let us dismiss it from our minds now, and do not let us speak of it to anyone but Mr. Arundel. Certainly not to Mrs. Falconer."

"Very well, dear madam, I will do all you desire me," Susan said, and clasping little Joy in her arms, she turned away.[Pg 314]



There was a lull in the storm as soon as the two Whig candidates were elected to represent the city of Bristol, and Mr. Hart-Davis withdrew quietly from the contest. The undercurrent, it is true, was still muttering and murmuring of evil times to come, and all thinking men who looked below the surface knew that it would but need a spark to kindle a great fire in Bristol, and that much wisdom, firmness, and decision, would be needed amongst the rulers.

Joyce Arundel, in her happy home life, soon lost the sense of insecurity, which after that memorable drive from Fair Acres, had at first haunted her.

Falcon's lessons, and the interest she felt in his rapid advancement, engrossed her every morning when her household duties were over; and then she would pace up and down the garden overlooking the city, with her baby in her arms, while Lota and Lettice played on the wide expanse of even, if rather smoke-dried, turf, which sloped down from the terrace walk at the[Pg 315] back of the house, and tell herself a hundred times that no wife or mother in England was happier than she was.

The early married life of a mother whose chief interests centre in her own home, and who knows no craving for anything that lies beyond, is happy indeed. As years pass and her children vanish, and the sweetness of entire dependence on her ceases of necessity with infancy and childhood, the mother, weary with the battle of life, encompassed with difficulties, and overburdened with requirements which the failing strength of advancing years makes it hard to fulfil, can turn back to that fair oasis in her pilgrimage, when the children were with her day and night, when her hand had power to soothe a childish trouble, and her voice charm away a little pain or disappointment, or add, by her sympathy in joys as well as in sorrows, zest to all those simple pleasures in which children delight.

Sometimes, even to the best mothers, I know, there comes a sudden, sharp awakening. The son of much love and many prayers goes far astray; the daughter, her pride and joy in her early childhood, is apparently cold and heartless. But as a rule, I think, in the retrospect the cry is forced from many a mother's sad heart: "If only I had been more to[Pg 316] him in early boyhood; cared for his games, and interested myself in all his play as well as work, it might have been different"; or, "If I had dealt more tenderly and patiently with her when she was standing on the threshold of womanhood, it might have been different!"

Vain regrets, vain laments for some of us; but the young mother, like Joyce Falconer, has the children and the father of the children still with her, and may, as Joyce did, sing to herself a sweet, low song of thanksgiving, which made Lettice stop in her play, and, running up to her side, say:

"What a pretty song mother is singing to baby!"

And now another voice was heard, rather a sad, querulous voice, which did not chime in well with the mother's song, or the baby's gentle coo of gladness, or the laughter of the two little sisters, as Falcon dashed out upon them from the open door of the hall with a big ball in his hand, which he threw down the grass with a merry "Halloo!"

Falcon's lessons, which his mother had left him to learn, were over, and he was free to run and jump to his heart's content.

"Joyce, are you not coming to get ready? Aunt Falconer never likes to be kept waiting."

"Oh! I beg your pardon, Charlotte; I had forgotten[Pg 317] you and I were to spend the day with mother; I will be ready in a few minutes. I must just wait till Susan can take baby." Susan appeared at this moment, and Joyce went quickly into the hall.

Poor Charlotte's visions and dreams had never come to be anything but dreams. She was older than Joyce, and still had never found the language of the eyes come to a good honest declaration of love, still less to an offer of marriage. She was just now on a visit to her cousin, Miss Falconer being very ready to spare her, hoping that in Clifton or Bristol she might find a cure for her low spirits, and generally dejected air, which her aunt did not like to have remarked upon by the gossips of Wells, and which had certainly very much increased of late.

Joyce ran upstairs to prepare for her visit, and on the first floor found Mrs. Arundel.

"Mr. Bengough has been here, Joyce, with great news; the Bill was carried with a large majority in the Commons, and now there is only the Lords, and surely they will not turn it out."

Falcon, who had rushed up to the nursery to find his reins and whip, that he might make a pair of ponies of his little sisters, stopped as he heard his grandmother say:[Pg 318]

"It is great news, and a great victory."

"What battle is it? Tell me, mother, who has been fighting?"

"It was not a battle with swords or guns, Falcon; but when you are a man you may remember that you heard, when you were a little boy, that on the nineteenth of September, eighteen hundred and thirty-one, the great Reform Bill was carried by a number of votes."

"Then will all those angry people we saw when we came home from Fair Acres be happy and good now. Susan says they shouted 'Reform, Reform,' because they wanted bread; but I don't know what it means," said Falcon, thoughtfully. "If it's a good thing, it ought to make people better, oughn't it, Grannie?"

It was profound philosophy for six years old! The necessary consequence of good must be something better.

Joyce, thinking of those angry faces crowding round her and her babies, and of the one terrible face which conjured up such a host of dreadful memories, sighed.

"Ah! Falcon," she said, "good things cannot come all at once—good results, I mean; but give me a kiss and run away, and mind you give Grannie no trouble while I am gone." Then Joyce turned for a moment into the pretty sitting room which Mrs. Arundel occu[Pg 319]pied. Since Gratian's marriage she had lived with her son and his wife. She had separate rooms on the upper floor of the large house, and her own maid. The arrangement was perfectly harmonious, and the little household was very happy.

"You will not mind letting the children dine with you, dear Grannie?" Joyce said.

"Mind! it will be a great treat; do not hasten back."

"I thought after dinner, if Piers liked, we would go and see Mrs. More; he does not get out enough."

"Take a carriage at my expense, dear, and drive to Windsor terrace, and then over the Downs. It will be a lovely afternoon, and your mother will enjoy it."

Joyce shook her head.

"I doubt if mother will come; but I will do my best, thank you. Gilbert will not come home till quite a late dinner—supper, as my mother calls all meals after six o'clock."

Joyce and Charlotte were soon walking quickly up Park Street, for their lungs were good and their limbs strong, and Charlotte forgot her complaints for the time, in the delight of looking in at several shop windows lately opened in Park Street.

There was no Triangle then. The Victoria Rooms were only a dream of some enterprising builder, and it was across a field that Joyce made her way, till she[Pg 320] came to the sombre houses with dark, sunless frontage called Rodney Place, and, passing them and the stately mansion, Manilla Hall, she turned towards some low grey-coloured houses, which rejoiced in the name of "Down Cottages."

It was impossible for Mrs. Falconer to live in any house without leaving her mark upon it, and the little dining and drawing rooms were as bright and fresh as she could make them, while Piers had the third sitting room for his "rubbish."

Piers had now a collection of birds and beasts which had grown into large proportions since the little sparrow-hawk had been "set up" by Mr. Plume.

He had studied natural history in all its branches, and since he had lived in Clifton he had begun to be an earnest student of the great subject of geology, and his light figure, leaning on his crutches, and his pale, earnest face, were familiar to those who took their daily airing on the Observatory Hill. Piers had made friends with the stone cutters who spread out their stalls on Sion Hill and at the foot of the Observatory, and there was a continual interest in getting specimens from them.

Piers was helped in his studies by a young physician, who was then putting his foot on the first rung of the ladder which he soon scaled to the very top, and stood in later years pre-eminently as the[Pg 321] first consulting physician of the West of England. His patients at this time, above the level of Park Street were not very numerous, and he would laughingly assure Piers that he was very proud to attend any one in so aristocratic a locality as Down Cottage!

He lent Piers books and instruments, and gave him a microscope, of which, as a physician, he had several, and, indeed, was the bright element in the lame boy's life.

He was coming out of the house now as Joyce opened the little iron gate, his horse waiting for him at the corner.

The greeting between the doctor and Joyce was unusually warm; he admired her beautiful, beaming face, and always liked to exchange a word with her.

"It is great news," he said; "though the crucial test is yet to come."

"Yes," Joyce said; "but surely the dear old Lords will not obstruct the bill."

"The dear old Bishops will do so," the doctor said, "your friend at Wells amongst them."

"Well," Joyce said, "he is sure to do what he does because he thinks it is right, not because other people do it."

The doctor laughed again; evidently he was not so sure of the Bishop. Then, with a pleasant smile to[Pg 322] Charlotte, the doctor went away, just turning back for a moment to say, "I saw your old friend, Mrs. Hannah More's doctor, in consultation this morning, and he incidentally mentioned that she was failing rather visibly. Have you seen her of late?"

"I am going there this afternoon," Joyce said. "I want so much to see her."

"I would not delay," the doctor said, significantly, and then he was gone.

After the first greeting. Piers dragged Joyce off to his den, to show her a beautiful specimen of quartz, of which he had possessed himself the day before for a mere trifle.

And then he had diagrams to show her, which he had drawn, of several crystals, as seen through the microscope; and then he divulged the doctor's plan, that he should prepare a good many of such diagrams for him to use at a lecture he was to give in the Bristol Museum, some evening in the course of the coming winter.

I do not think there is any quality more attractive than that, which Joyce possessed in a remarkable degree, of throwing herself—not superficially, as Gratian did, but really and heartily—into the interests of other people.

[Pg 323]
[Pg 324]

Clifton and the Avon. Clifton and the Avon.

Any one watching her face as she bent over Piers'[Pg 325] treasures, and examined his drawings, would have scarcely believed that she was the mother of four children, to whom she was devoted.

Piers was seated at his table, and she was standing over him, with one hand upon his shoulder, while, with the other, she now and then stroked back his hair, as in old days.

It is strange to think how the quiet, happy life of home, and home interests may go on, while the storm of political strife, and religious controversy rages without. It was thus with Sir Thomas Browne, the philosopher and physician, of Norwich, who produced his great work, the "Religio Medici," when England stood on the eve of the greatest storm, which ever burst over her. It was thus with many less distinguished and simple souls, who went about their accustomed duties and pleasures, and took up their daily burden of cares and toil, and gave but little heed to the jarring elements without.

Presently Joyce said: "I must go to mother now and get ready for dinner. How has mother been lately?"

"Oh! very well," Piers said. "She does not care very much for anything, that is the worst of it. She always talks of her day being over, and that she has nothing now to live for; but she has, all the same,"[Pg 326] Piers continued, laughing. "She bustles about every morning, rubbing and dusting, and then she is knitting socks enough to last Falcon till he is twenty, and all kinds of things for your baby."

"Does she get on with the servants now?"

"Oh! pretty well. Of course, there is a good scold every day of one or the other of them, but both the maids know by this time, as we all do, that mother's bark may be sharp, but her bite is nothing."

"I hope you are not very dull, darling Piers?" Joyce asked.

"Dull! No, thank goodness! I don't know what dullness means. I see you have brought Charlotte with you; she is as languishing as ever."

"Poor Charlotte!" Joyce said; "she, at any rate, knows very well what dullness means. But I must not stay; remember you and mother are to spend Christmas with us in Great George Street."

The Clifton of fifty-five year's ago might not present such an appearance of gaiety on a fine afternoon as it does now; but, nevertheless, the Downs and Observatory were sprinkled with people, well dressed, in carriages, or Bath chairs, or on foot.

It was decided that the carriage should be ordered by Joyce from the stables at the back of Sion Hill, as she went to Windsor Terrace; that Mrs.[Pg 327] Falconer, Piers, and Charlotte should drive to the turnpike on the Down, and then come to the top of Granby Hill, and wait there for Joyce. Charlotte was quite content with this arrangement, and watched Joyce's departure after dinner with some satisfaction. She rather liked to be alone with Mrs. Falconer, who, as she knitted, listened to her little complaints with patience, if not with expressed sympathy. Mrs. Arundel, on the contrary, thought Charlotte needed rousing, and was intolerant of perpetual headaches and low spirits.

There were many unoccupied young women like Charlotte, fifty years ago, without any particular aim in life, except a vague idea that they ought to be married. The years as they passed, often went by on leaden wings. Charlotte was amiable and gentle; and Miss Falconer, disappointed with the result of her training, would say: "Poor dear Charlotte has not strong health; so different from Joyce, who was a perfect rustic in that, as in other things." But Joyce was married, and Charlotte remained single, and had not even the satisfaction of recounting her many conquests, as her aunt so frequently did.

There is no more honourable and noble life than that of the single woman who bravely takes up her lot, and works her way to independence, by industry and[Pg 328] the cultivation of the gifts God has given her, for which the opportunities in these days are so many. But there is—I had almost said was—no life more pitiable, than that of the woman whose youth is passing, and who, having to accept her position as unmarried, does so with a bad grace, and pines for what, by her very melancholy views of life, she puts more and more beyond her reach, and who is perpetually thinking of her own little pains and troubles, and forgets to be at leisure from herself, to sympathise with those of others.

"Joyce did not ask me to go and see Mrs. More; though we stayed at Barley Wood together," Charlotte was saying. "However, I dare say Mrs. More would not remember me."

"Her memory is getting short now," said Mrs. Falconer; "she reaped a pretty harvest for her over-indulgence of her servants; teaching them things that were above their station in life was the beginning of it. They cheated her through thick and thin, and some gentlemen had to interfere, and break up the household for her, poor old lady!"

"It must be a change for her to live in Windsor Terrace, after that lovely place," Charlotte said.

"Not greater than for me to change Fair Acres for Down Cottage; but my day is over, and it suits me[Pg 329] very well, and Piers is happy, while Harry and Ralph like to come here sometimes, and I like to be near Joyce and the dear children."

"I think Falcon is rather tiresome and noisy," Charlotte said. "Joyce does not reprove him as she ought."

Mrs. Falconer was touchy about her grand-children; in her eyes Falcon was perfect, and the love that had been so unsparingly poured forth on Melville, was now given to Falcon.

"He's a noble boy," she said, in a tone that implied it was certainly not Charlotte's business to suggest that he had any imperfections. And now the knitting-needles were laid aside, for the carriage stopped at the little iron gate, and Mrs. Falconer went to call Piers, and to prepare for her drive.

Meantime Joyce had gone down the steep hill to Windsor Terrace, and, after some hesitation on the part of Miss Frowde, she was allowed to see Mrs. More.

She was seated in an easy chair, propped up with cushions, enjoying the view which lay before her.

For a moment she sought Joyce's face with an inquiring glance, as if not quite sure of her identity; but almost immediately the recognition came, and she greeted her, with one of her brightest smiles.

"Why, my dear Mrs. Arundel, you are quite a stranger. How are the dear babies, and poor Susan?"[Pg 330]

"They are all well, dear madam, and Susan is an increasingly valuable servant."

"I am glad to hear it. I love to know that the seed sown is springing up. We are sadly impatient, my dear; we are like children pulling up the plant to see if the roots are grown. How are things going on at Fair Acres?"

"Very much as usual. My brother Ralph manages the estate."

"And the others look on! Well, well, patience is the great lesson for us all to learn, the patience that God has with us. Prayer and patient waiting will move mountains at last."

Then, after a few more inquiries, Mrs. More came to public matters.

"I thought," she said, "I was too old to take such a deep interest in the affairs of this kingdom and this city; but, my dear, we stand on the edge of a volcano, and, from all I hear, Bristol is ill-prepared. There is a growing feeling of hatred against the magistrates, and the zeal of Sir Charles Wetherall has carried him beyond the bounds of discretion. Would you like to borrow any books? They are at your service. In that book-case there are many volumes written by me. I often sit here, and think over the writing of those books, and how little I ever expected that they[Pg 331] would have a large sale, and bring me in, as they did, thirty thousand pounds. It often fills me with self-abasement, not self-glorification."

"I will not take a book to-day, dear madam; and here is Miss Frowde come to warn me that I have stayed long enough."

"See!" Mrs. More said, "there is the little steam-packet puffing busily up the river. I am blessed in my old age, to see before my windows the two great discoveries of the age, steam-power made useful for locomotion, and coal-gas for light. I am very happy here, my dear, but remember an old woman's advice, and do not spoil Susan Priday, or any servant, by over indulgence. Very often, as in my own case, carelessness, and dislike of trouble is the real root of the evil. God bless you and keep you, my dear," she said, as Joyce bent to kiss her. "Is there much excitement abroad about the passing of the Reform Bill?"

"Not that I have seen," Joyce answered; "but I daresay there may be in the city."

"Well, the result is in God's hands; we must pray and labour for peace, that blessed gift of God's love—peace."

It was a sweet parting word, and one to which Joyce often recurred in later years, almost as Hannah More's legacy to her—Peace.[Pg 332]



It was the evening of the eighteenth of October when Joyce was seated in her nursery, awaiting her husband's return. The Bristol clocks had struck eleven; and from time to time the noise of the voices of many people reached her, borne upon the still night air. She had sent the servants to bed; and Mrs. Arundel and Charlotte were also gone to their rooms; but Joyce sat up watching for Gilbert's return.

The baby Joy, was sleeping in her cradle, and Lettice and Lota in their cribs, while Falcon lay in profound repose, a fife, upon which he had been playing hard all day, as he marched round and round the garden, was clasped in his strong, round little fingers.

Joyce bent over the children, shading the candle with her hand, to assure herself they slept, and then, leaving the nursery door open, that she might hear if they stirred or cried, she went gently down the wide staircase to the hall. The fire in the dining-room was burning low, and she put on some more coal,[Pg 333] and saw that the kettle just simmered on the hob, ready to be put on to the fire when Gilbert came.

She moved with that quiet, almost stealthy tread, which is common with those who feel themselves the only persons awake in a house.

The stillness was broken by the ticking of the clock in the hall, and how loud that tick sounded!

Joyce went to the window, and, unfastening the shutter, looked out into the night, a dark, murky night; and from below came the low murmur of the crowds, which had not yet dispersed.

Public feeling throughout the country had reached almost to fever heat, but in Bristol the animosity against Bishops and Lords, for the rejection of the Reform Bill which the Commons had passed, was quickened by the personal hatred, which the recorder, Sir Charles Wetherall had excited amongst the people.

Bristol reformers were enraged that he should have made a bitter attack upon Lord John Russell in the House of Commons, charging him most unfairly with encouraging illegal means for carrying the Reform Bill. Though the whole country was in a ferment, and riots had broken out in Derby, Nottingham, and other towns, in no place was there such a personal feeling excited as against the Recorder of Bristol.[Pg 334]

The assizes would soon open, and vengeance was vowed against him, if he attempted to enter the city to perform his duties as a judge.

Both parties vied with each other in exciting bitterness and ill feeling; and all good, moderate men felt, in their own minds, that a crisis was at hand, and that, unless some wise and able pilot could be found to guide the helm, a most disastrous shipwreck must follow.

Gilbert Arundel had, with some other gentlemen, done what they could to cast oil on the troubled waters. Gilbert had spoken several times at some of the smaller meetings, and had advised temperance and patience.

He was one of the very few, in those days, who appealed to the working men to help to maintain order among themselves; who showed the ruin and distress the rioters had brought upon their families in other places, and who spoke to them as having common cause with himself to do all they could to protect their wives and children. Gilbert was, in his heart, what was called a whig, but he was far, indeed, from being a hot-headed radical.

That he was known to be the grandson of a peer, and that his mother had a title, did not win him favour with the extreme section of his own party,[Pg 335] while the others, perhaps, were a little triumphant that the son of a noble house might yet question the wisdom of the Lords in rejecting a Bill which was so dear to the heart of the people.

Joyce gently closed the shutters and returned to her place by the fire. Then she went out into the hall, where an oil lamp was dimly burning, and looked out from a small window by the side of the door.

A sense of fear began to creep over her, not for herself, but for Gilbert. She listened for his step with that nervous tension which is so painful, and of which we all know something.

Presently the door of the cellar, which opened into the hall, creaked; Joyce watched it breathlessly; it opened wider and wider, and a man's head appeared. In the dim light she could scarcely discern the features, but something in that face was surely familiar.

She was not left long in doubt; once more Bob Friday stood before her.

At first Joyce was literally paralysed with terror, and she could neither speak, nor call for help.

She made a movement towards the door, but the man raised a hand to prevent her.

"Don't you scream or move. I want to speak to you."[Pg 336]

"How can you—how dare you, come here?"

"I came to tell ye that I'll see your young gent comes to no harm."

"I don't know what you mean," said Joyce, burying her face for a moment in her hands. "I know—I know what terrible grief you once brought on me and all I loved."

The accents of her voice, with the sorrowful ring in them, the quiet self-possession, for which, with a sinking heart she struggled, touched that rough, bad man, as no protestations or entreaties could have done.

"I cannot believe," she went on, "you are come to do me more harm. My four little children are asleep upstairs. There is no one in the house but women, helpless women, one of whom is your own daughter—your own daughter."

"I wouldn't hurt a hair of her head, nor yours, nor your childer's. I came to warn you—the folks down below will stop at nothing once they are let loose; they'd as soon tear your young gent to pieces as look at 'im. They'd fire this 'ouse for a trifle. I belong to a party of 'em, and if I know it, he shan't come to no harm. Look ye, missus, I wanted to see you, to tell you the squire was riding peaceable enough——"[Pg 337]

"Oh! don't! don't! I cannot bear it," Joyce said.

"He was riding peaceable enough, and I laid in wait for 'im. I got hold of the bridle, and the horse, she backed and reared, and the squire he fell on a sharp stone, which cut his forehead—a three corner cut—I see it now. He lay like a dog, dead, and the horse galloped off, and I—well, I made off too, and got aboard a ship in Bristol Docks, and only came back last Christmas. I meant to threaten the squire; but I didn't kill 'im; I didn't want to kill 'im."

"Your act killed him as much as if you had thrown the stone, as we all believed you did. Oh! I pray God may forgive you."

"Say you forgive me," the man muttered; "I wouldn't hurt a hair of your head."

"I pray God to forgive you, and I try to do as the Lord Jesus would have me, and forgive you. But, oh! leave your evil ways, and turn to Him."

"It's too late," he said.

"Oh! no! no!—never! never too late!"

The man was silent for a few minutes; then he spoke in a low harsh voice:

"Give my love to poor Sue. I broke her mother's heart, and I nearly broke her's. I saw her riding in the carriage with you, like a lady, in the spring. Her mother used to pray God to take care of her,[Pg 338] and sure enough, He has. It must be pretty nigh like heaven to live along with you. I'm a-going out by the way I came. Now you just see that the cellar winder bars is mended; that's how I got in, and others may get in too. I suppose you couldn't say, God bless you?"

The restraint Joyce had put upon herself was very great, and now that the danger seemed passing, she began to give way.

"Yes," she said faintly; "I think you are sorry, and I say, may God pardon you and bless you."

"Thank'ee," was the rejoinder; but still, though he moved back towards the cellar door, he lingered.

"Suppose you wouldn't touch the likes of me with your little white hand? I'd like to feel it once, just once."

With a great effort she held out her hand, cold and trembling with fear. The man took it up, as he would some curious and precious thing, and then, bowing over it, he waited no longer, and the cellar-door closed behind him.

Joyce sank upon one of the straight-backed chairs, and was just becoming unconscious of all outward things, when the latch-key was fitted into the lock, and Gilbert came in.

With a cry of dismay, he closed the door, and hastened to take her in his arms.[Pg 339]

"My darling, what is it? What can have happened?"

He carried her, half fainting, into the dining room, and chafed her cold hands, and held some water to her lips.

A great flood of tears relieved her at last, and then clinging to her husband's neck, and still shuddering in every limb, she managed to tell him the story of Bob Priday's visit.

"It is a very grave matter," Gilbert said; "if the man who is guilty of your father's death is in Bristol, he ought to be apprehended and put on his trial."

"He seems to bear us no ill-will now, Gilbert. He is penitent, I think; and he said dear father fell from the horse, and that he did not actually throw the stone at him. Oh! Gilbert, it seems to bring it all back again."

"Dismiss it from your thoughts to-night, my darling, we shall need all our strength and courage. I am sworn in as a special constable. The people show increasingly signs of ill-will against those in authority. If Wetherall persists in making a public entry into Bristol next week, God only knows what will be the consequences. No one seems to be able to take active measures. The mayor is kindly and well-intentioned, but he has no strength of purpose,[Pg 340] and if once the mob gets the upper hand, and those in authority are frightened, there will be a riot such as Bristol has never known. I think, if things do not look more promising, I must send you to Abbot's Leigh with my mother and the babies, and Charlotte Benson had better go home. There is a house at Abbots Leigh, Benson, my partner, will let me have, and you would be out of harm's way there."

"Oh! Gilbert, surely you do not mean that I am to leave you? I could not—I will not leave you!"

"You will do what I think is best and right, like a brave, good wife. You would not add to my anxiety, I am sure. I have seen enough in Bristol to-day to feel certain there will be a desperate struggle before the city quiets down. Only imagine that man, Captain Claxton, being so mad as to call a meeting of sailors on board the two ships now in the harbour, the 'Charles' and the 'Earl of Liverpool,' under pretence of voting a loyal address to the king, but really to get the sailors to form a guard to protect Wetherall when he enters Bristol. Could anything be more likely to enrage the other party? The meeting was broken up and adjourned to the quay, where the anti-reformers passed the resolution in a great uproar, protesting loyalty to the king, but[Pg 341] declaring they will not be made a cat's paw of by the corporation and paid agents. The notion of protesting this publicly in the face of all the orders of the mayor! They are going to send a deputation to Wetherall to beg him not to persist in coming in next Saturday; but I am afraid it will be useless. If anything could have added to my own share in the troubles of the city, it is that Maythorne has chosen this time to come to the hotel in Clifton. He is a mere wreck, and so broken down that he looks like an old man instead of in his prime, but he is as bumptious as ever."

Joyce had roused herself now. The idea of Gilbert's danger was enough to drive away every other anxiety.

She made him take the refreshment which he so greatly needed, and, though pale and exhausted, she felt it almost a relief to busy herself in any way which diverted her mind from the terrible half-hour she had gone through in the hall face to face with Bob Priday.

"Why is Maythorne's coming so vexatious to you?" she asked; "I mean, more vexatious than usual."

"My dear child," Gilbert said, "the very fact of his title, and my connection with it, would be enough[Pg 342] to ensure brickbats and stones to be hurled at my head if he is seen with me. Let us hope he will keep to the more aristocratic quarters of Clifton, and not come near us."

"I think," Joyce said, when at last they prepared to go upstairs to bed; "I think I should like to hear you give God thanks for my safety, and that strength was given me not to cry out or scream; but oh! Gilbert, Gilbert, I was so frightened!"

Again he soothed her and comforted her, and then he raised his voice, the manly tones touched with pathos, and thanked God for His mercy, committing his wife and her little children to His care.

All that week passed in dread and apprehension. The popular feeling grew stronger and stronger against the Recorder, as the head and chief, as far as Bristol was concerned, of the anti-reformers.

Efforts were made to postpone the assizes, or, in the phrase of the day, "Deliver the gaol"; but all their efforts were vain, and the authorities actually despatched a deputation to Lord Melbourne at the Home Office, to beg he would send down a body of soldiers to keep the peace during the Recorder's visit. Lord Melbourne, doubting the expediency of such a movement, tried to get at the opinions of the[Pg 343] two members for Bristol. Mr. Baillie was from home, but Mr. Protheroe said he would be answerable for order, and himself accompany Sir Charles Wetherall, if the military were dispensed with.

The idea of an armed force to protect a judge he considered preposterous, and more likely to inflame the people than anything else.

It was a memorable week to all those who lived in Bristol. And when the morning of Saturday, October the twenty-ninth dawned, and the tramp of the civic force was heard on their way to Totterdown to meet the Recorder, many hearts sank within them.

Lord Maythorne had found his way to Great George Street much oftener than his sister, Mrs. Arundel, wished, or Gilbert expected. He took a very lofty standpoint, and vowed that the Recorder was a fine fellow and did what was right, and that he should like to see sacks full of the malcontents thrown into the Float as an easy way of getting rid of them.

Gilbert found silence his safest course with his uncle, and tried to put a restraint on himself when in his presence. He came up from Bristol about four o'clock in the afternoon of this memorable Saturday, weary and dispirited, and found, to his dismay, that his uncle was in the drawing-room.[Pg 344]

He was lounging on a sofa, holding a skein of silk for Charlotte Benson's embroidery, affecting, at forty, the airs and manners of a young beau, and talking an immense deal of nonsense to poor Charlotte, which she was only too ready to drink in.

Charlotte had begged to remain in Bristol at the early part of the week; and, as the days passed on, it became more and more difficult to think of leaving it. The mail coaches and passenger vans, as well as private carriages, were continually stopped, and the travellers were roughly asked whether they were for Reform, or against it; for the Lords, or ready to cry "Down with the Lords!"

[Pg 345]

In many instances quiet people, who cared very little about politics, and understood less, were seriously frightened, and even injured by the swift hurling of a stone or a brickbat.

As soon as Joyce heard her husband's step, she ran out to the hall.

Susan Priday was also on the look-out, with Joy in her arms.

Gilbert looked worn out, and threw himself into a chair, saying:

"I believe it is all but impossible to avoid a riot now. I wish you and the children and my mother were safe at Abbot's Leigh. Indeed, it is[Pg 346] not too late now to get you up to Down Cottage, and——"

High Street, Bristol. High Street, Bristol.

[Pg 347]"I cannot leave you, Gilbert; do not ask me," Joyce said.

"Tell us what has happened in Bristol. We hear the uproar from these windows," his mother said.

"Oh! let them fight it out," said Lord Maythorne, "let them fight it out. They won't touch us."

"I am not so sure of that," said Gilbert, sharply. "I have a suspicion that you, for one, would get rough handling if some of the malcontents caught you."

Lord Maythorne laughed. "I should like to see them try. But tell us the news, pray."

"The news is," said Gilbert, "that the plan of bringing in the Recorder early in the day failed. We marched out about ten o'clock to Totterdown, in the hope of cheating the mob, who did not expect the procession till four o'clock. The yells and hisses of two thousand people were a sufficient proof of this. The sheriff's carriage could scarcely make its way through the masses of people, and several stones were hurled at it. Sir Charles Wetherall reached the Guildhall about twelve o'clock, and the commission was read. It might have passed off fairly, had not that[Pg 348] stupid though well meaning fellow, Ludlow, began to allude to Reform. It was like a spark to tinder, and there was an instant uproar; amidst it the court adjourned to eight o'clock on Monday morning. Every one means well; but there is no leader for our body of special constables, and some of the paid fellows are worse than useless. The Recorder is now at the Mansion House in Queen's Square, and we were ordered to rest, but not before several of our number were a good deal hurt, and in every encounter the mob had the best of it. They have armed themselves with sticks, and one poor fellow was chased into the Float, and many more must have been hurt."

"Are you hurt, Gilbert?"

"A few bruises, nothing worse; but it is imperative that the children and Susan should go up to Clifton Down. We are too near the city; if the Mansion House is fired, as we hear is likely, the uproar and confusion will reach this house. Charlotte and you, mother, the children and Joyce, must prepare to start at once. Make haste and pack up a few things, and I will see you to a place of safety."

And now swift steps were heard on the stairs, and Falcon came in.[Pg 349]

"Father," he said, "I've been watching from the windows, and I can see the crowd, and the shouts get louder."

"You are to go with Susan, Grannie, and cousin Charlotte, at once, to Down Cottage. You will take care of mother, won't you, Falcon?"

"Of course I will," the boy said, "and of the baby, and Susan. Susan does nothing but cry. I wish she would not."

"It is not the time to cry, Falcon. We must all be as brave as we can. Now, Joyce," he said, "and Charlotte, make haste."

"You are in a desperate hurry," Lord Maythorne exclaimed. "I will look after the ladies with pleasure, and I confess I see no great cause of alarm. You forget, Gilbert, that people have nerves."

For Charlotte began to sob hysterically, and ask 'if they would all be burned up, and if the dreadful people would rush up the hill.'

Lord Maythorne soothed her with honeyed words, and declared he would not leave her till she was in a place of safety.

"Gilbert," Joyce said, beseechingly, as she followed him to the dining room, where he partook hastily of refreshment, "do not force me to go away from you; let me and Falcon stay here. We have the gardener to[Pg 350] protect us, and the cook is a sensible woman. Pray please, let your mother take her maid and Susan, and, do leave me here. Think how dreadful it would be to me to be beyond reach if—if anything happened to you, if you were hurt. Nay, Gilbert, do not refuse me."

"Well, I will yield for this one night, and to-morrow, being Sunday, there may be peace; but I doubt it. Get the others under marching orders; and, Joyce;" as she was leaving the room, "I am not very well pleased to see my uncle hanging about here, and filling that poor girl's head with nonsense. She is just as likely to fancy he is making love to her as not. Warn her, can't you?"

Joyce shook her head. "It is not easy to persuade Charlotte that everyone is not ready to fall at her feet, and I am afraid she will resent any interference; but, oh!" she continued gaily, "I will do anything now I am not to be sent away from you."

Then she hastened upstairs and found Susan and Mary bustling about for departure.

Joyce told Falcon he was to stay to take care of her, and he shouted for joy. He had again taken up his post at the open nursery windows, leaning over the bars, and listening to the ever increasing tumult which reigned in the city below.[Pg 351]

"Oh! dear madam," Susan said; "I don't like to leave you."

"You like to please me, Susan, and there is no danger for me."

"The cellar window is made fast, I know," Susan said, "and he—he can never come near you again; but suppose the mob should come up here, and master not be able to reach you."

"That is not likely; by to-morrow all may be quiet, and I shall come to Down Cottage to see how you have got on. You must give mother my love, and tell her I know she will like to have Baby Joy to-night, and that you can sleep with Lettice and Lota."

"Don't be afraid, my darlings," she said, as two little serious faces were turned up to her, and two little plaintive voices said:

"We want to stay with mother. Falcon is going to stay."

"Falcon is a boy, and he likes to watch the crowds, and does not mind the noise, and he is going to take care of me. Now then, darlings, run down and tell father you are ready, while I go and see if grandmother and Mary, and cousin Charlotte are ready also."

But Mrs. Arundel had determined to remain with Joyce, and said nothing should tempt her to leave[Pg 352] her; her maid Mary should go, and she would stay behind.

Joyce thought of the rather small accommodation at Down Cottage, and did not raise any further objection. There was only Charlotte now to hasten. Joyce found her tying her bonnet and arranging her curls under it, and turning her head first to one side, then to the other, to catch a glimpse of her profile in the glass.

"Come, Charlotte, make haste," Joyce said; "they are all ready."

"Is Lord Maythorne coming with us?"

"Yes, as far as the Hotel. If I were you I should not desire his company."

"Oh! Joyce, he is very nice, quite delightful, and he is—"

"He is given to flatter everybody," Joyce said, "as years ago poor Melville found to his cost. So take care, Charlotte."

"Take care, indeed! I don't know what you mean," said Charlotte, pouting. "You always think no one can possibly admire me."

"My dear Charlotte, this is not a time for such nonsense, it is time to commend ourselves and all we love to God's care, and not to be filled with thoughts of who admires us and who does not. Lord Maythorne[Pg 353] is Gilbert's uncle; but he has caused a great deal of sorrow in the family, and we were all very sorry when he came to live in England again. Mrs. Arundel cannot be uncivil to him, but she has not the slightest respect for him; neither have I."

"Well, dear," said Charlotte, "now you have finished your lecture, I will go downstairs. I suppose you think, as you are—are married, you may——"

Charlotte's ready tears began to flow, and Joyce, losing her patience, passed by her quickly, and ran down into the hall.

It was hard to bid them all "good-bye," her baby smiling at her from under her warm hood, Lettice and Lota clinging to her, and Susan looking back to the last moment, as she led the way down Great George Street with Joy in her arms.

"You must give Uncle Piers my love, you know," Joyce said, "and say I am coming to-morrow. Good-bye; good-bye."

She stood at the door watching her husband and children down the street, which opens into Park Street, kissing her hand to them as the little girls' figures disappeared round the corner.

Lord Maythorne and Charlotte were rather longer in setting out, and a great deal of hesitation on Charlotte's part, and coaxing on Lord Maythorne's, was[Pg 354] necessary, before they too at last departed. Charlotte leaning on Lord Maythorne's arm, and walking as if at every step she expected to meet a rioter, or have a stone thrown at her!

But Great George Street was as quiet as any deserted city, and the large, respectable houses looked as if they, at least, and their inhabitants, stood aloof from all questions of dispute, and all stormy expressions of opinion.

Joyce was an object of some interest to an old lady who lived opposite, and she craned her neck over the blind in the dining-room to see if it were actually true that only Joyce and Falcon were left in the house with Mrs. Arundel.

Joyce, always sensible, and with "her wits about her," as her mother often said, now closed and bolted the front door, and closed the shutters in the hall and the dining-room.

Then she went to the door leading to the garden, called the gardener, who, in spite of the tumult below, went on sweeping the fallen leaves together in a heap, as if it were the one great business of life.

"Henry," Joyce called; and, shouldering his broom, the man came with slow but sure steps up to the level gravel path under the windows. "Will you come round with me and see that all the doors[Pg 355] and windows on the ground-floor are safely closed and barred, and the gate locked at the bottom of the garden?"

She turned back a moment, and taking a shawl from the hall, threw it over her head.

"Bars and doors won't keep 'em out if they've a mind to get in," said Henry; "the din is getting louder and louder. When will the master be back, ma'am?"

"I don't know quite. Yes," she said, "this door is safe; and I wonder how anyone could have climbed that wall?"

Henry looked curiously at her.

"Somebody did climb it," he said, "for I found great footmarks here a week ago, and showed 'em to the master."

Joyce knew well enough whose footprints they were, but she said nothing.

"I should like you to come into the cellar with me, Henry," she said, turning to retrace her steps; and Falcon shouted from his watch-tower:

"They are making a greater noise than ever, mother, and I see such lots and lots of people on the quay. Come up, mother."

"I am coming very soon, dear," she said.

Then Joyce finished her inspection of the cellar,[Pg 356] not without a thrill of remembered fear as she heard the creaking of the door, as it closed behind her.

"You had better stay in the kitchen with cook, Henry, and be on the watch till your master's return. He may not be home till very late, for the special constables are on duty; but what an increasing noise! What can be going on now?"

"They'll tear the Recorder limb from limb if they catch him; they are just like wild beasts in their rage against him. Lor! what a pity it is to meddle; let 'em have reform if they like, or leave it alone, it's no odds to me, nor thousands of other folk. It is a great ado about nothing; what will be, will be, and there's an end of it."

These opinions of Gilbert Arundel's gardener were decidedly safe, and had they been held by the mass of the Bristol people, the ensuing scenes of strife, fire, and bloodshed, would have been spared. But all men are not of the same easy, philosophical temperament!

And, doubtless, the stirring of the waters has a salutary effect, though the storm that smote them may be fearful. We who have lived to see a second Reform Bill carried, and religious tolerance everywhere a recognised principle, are perhaps scarcely as thankful as we ought to be for all the[Pg 357] struggles, which have, by God's help and guidance, ended well for this people and nation.

He maketh the storm to cease; "He sitteth above the water-floods; yea, the Lord remaineth a King for ever."[Pg 358]



When Gilbert Arundel had placed his little children in safety with their grandmother, he hastened back to Bristol, and found the uproar increasing.

Queen Square was filled with the rioters, who were now letting loose the most furious rage against the Mayor and Recorder. They tore up the iron railings in front of the Mansion House, and hooted and scoffed at the Riot Act, which was read by the Mayor's order, and the force of special constables was quite insufficient.

Gilbert saw this at once, and now, when the cry arose: "Fire the Mansion House!" it was a relief to see some action taken, by a troop of the 14th Light Dragoons, and Dragoon Guards trotting into the Square.

There was to all noble-hearted men, something terribly humiliating in the aspect of affairs. Here was a seething, ignorant crowd of men, women, and boys, intimidating the magistrates, frightening the[Pg 359] Mayor till he actually barricaded his windows in the Mansion House with his bed; and Sir Charles Wetherall beating an undignified retreat from the flat roof of the dining-room. There, helped by a woman's hand, who set up a ladder for him, he dropped in pitiable terror into the stables behind, and hid in a loft. Gilbert, standing on guard by the corner of the Square with four friends bravely holding their ground, and warding off with their staves the excited crowd, recognised in the dim light the Recorder slipping by, in a post-boy's dress, which actually passed him through the crowd, till he found himself safe at Kingsdown. And if the cowardice of the Recorder, in escaping for dear life from the storm he had himself roused was unprecedented, the wavering uncertainty of the Colonel in command of the troops was scarcely less reprehensible!

How Gilbert longed to take a prominent part, and how his heart burned with righteous indignation against the weakness and incapacity of those in command.

Everything seemed to go from bad to worse, till Captain Gage received orders to protect the Council-house. He then charged through High Street and Wine Street, and drove the rioters, who assailed the soldiers with stones, into the narrow lanes and alleys.[Pg 360]

Wine Street, Bristol. Wine Street, Bristol.

Many were wounded with sabre cuts, and Gilbert, in his efforts to save a woman and child from being trampled down, just by the old timber house at the corner of Wine Street, was overpowered by the press behind him, and, just as he had succeeded in placing the woman and her infant in safety on the high stone sill of a window, he was stunned by a blow, given at a venture from a stout stick, and would have fallen and been trampled to death, had not a pair of strong arms[Pg 361] seized him and borne him to a comparatively quiet place on the quay.

Gilbert was stunned and hardly conscious, and when he found himself on his feet, he staggered and fell against a wall. Some soldiers riding up, chased a band of rioters out of Clare Street, and Gilbert saw the great giant who had delivered him felled by a sabre cut. The crowd passed over him, and when it had cleared, Gilbert, himself feeble and exhausted, bent over the man, and tried to drag him nearer the houses.

He was bleeding profusely, and hailing a cart passing to the Infirmary with two wounded men, Gilbert begged the driver in charge, to raise the prostrate man, and take him also to the Infirmary. It was no easy matter, but at last it was accomplished, and a pair of dark, blood-shot eyes were turned on Gilbert. The man tried to articulate, but no sound came. As the cart was moving off, Gilbert saw he made a desperate effort.

He raised his hand, and cried out with all his remaining strength, "Tell your good lady I kept my word, and I saved you from harm!"

"Stop!" Gilbert said to the driver, "stop; this man has saved my life. I must come to the Infirmary to see he has proper care and attention."[Pg 362]

"You look fit for a 'ospital bed yourself, sir," said the man. "Jump up, and I'll take you for a consideration," he added, with a knowing twinkle of his eye.

Faint and exhausted himself, Gilbert saw the wounded man placed in one of the wards with the others, whose condition was less serious, and, bending over the man, he said:

"I recognise you now. You are Bob Priday?"

The man nodded assent.

"I've been a bad 'un," he said. "I went in for these riots, 'cause I was sick of my life; but I'd like to see your good lady once more, and poor little Sue. Her mother used to reckon her next to a saint, as she sat learning her hymns. I've scoffed and jeered at 'em, and sent the boys to the bad, and threatened the squire. I did not kill him, though; and yet, what do you think, she, the squire's daughter, your good lady, bid God bless me, and let me touch her hand; why, ever since I've kinder felt that if she could pardon, God might."

"He will pardon the chief of sinners, for Christ's sake," said Gilbert.

The man's wound was bleeding profusely, and he soon became confused and wandering; and his face assumed a livid hue as Gilbert bent over him.[Pg 363]

"My wife will not forget that you saved my life," he said; "and I know if it is possible she will come and see you, and bring your daughter with her."

"He is nearly unconscious," said the surgeon. "Dear me! sir, what a time this is for Bristol. This is the sixth case brought in since noon. God knows where the riots will end! You were sworn in as a special constable, I suppose?"

"Yes, but to little purpose. Resistance is useless, unless well organised."

"That's true enough; but there is no head, that's the mischief of it; no head anywhere. Do you live in Bristol, sir?"

"In Great George Street; I am returning there now. You will look after this man?"

"Yes; but he won't get over it. A bad subject—a very bad subject. He is very prostrate," the surgeon continued, laying a professional finger on the great muscular wrist; "his hours are numbered. That's a bad blow on your forehead, sir; let me put a bandage on; and how are you getting home?"

"As I came, I suppose. There seems a lull in the uproar now, and I shall be able to get back by Trinity Street and up by Brandon Hill."

Gilbert submitted to the bandage, and thankfully[Pg 364] drank a reviving draught, which the surgeon gave him, and then he turned his face homewards.

He was dizzy and bewildered, and did not feel as if he could again face the crowd, so he reached home by a circuitous road, entering Great George Street from the upper end.

It was nearly one o'clock before he stood by his own door, and he found two of his friends, who had served with him as special constables, coming out. They had left Queen's Square empty, they said, and not a rioter was to be seen there, and the troops had returned to their quarters.

Joyce, hearing her husband's voice, came downstairs, and not a moment too soon. Thoroughly exhausted, and suffering from the blow on his head, he would have fallen, had not his two friends caught him and carried him, at Joyce's request, to his own room.

Gilbert tried to make light of his condition, and said it was only the noise and shouting which had bewildered him.

"We lost sight of you after the troops cleared Queen's Square, Arundel. What became of you?"

"I got separated in the rush just by Wine Street, and there a woman and a baby were in some danger; and as I made a plunge to get them to a place of[Pg 365] safety, someone gave me a chance thump on the head, and I might have been trampled to death had not a man saved me, in his turn to be cut down by the sabre of one of the soldiers; he now lies dying in the Infirmary; and the man, Joyce, is Bob Priday."

"He kept his promise, then." Joyce said, clasping her hands; "he kept his promise to me."

"Yes, darling, it was the touch of your little, white hand, he said, which brought to his heart the hope that God would forgive him."

Joyce, kneeling by the sofa where her husband lay, hid her face in the pillow, while Mr. Bengough and Mr. Cooper, his two friends, left the room with Mrs. Arundel, and promised to send a surgeon who lived near them in Berkley Square.

"He is as brave as a lion," Mr. Bengough said; "you may well be proud of your son."

The doctor came, and advised entire rest and quiet, and told Joyce that she might console herself with the certainty that her husband would be unfit for any action, as special constable for many a day to come.

How thankful Joyce felt that she had not left the house with her children, and that she was there to nurse and tend her husband with the thousand sweet[Pg 366] observances which are the consolation of every true wife to render, in the hour of need.

The Sunday morning broke over an apparently quiet city, and as Joyce looked from the window of her room, after two hours of refreshing sleep, she could see no one moving in the distant streets, and heard no sound.

It seemed a true sabbath stillness, which was in itself a healing power.

As the mist of the October morning lifted, the Cathedral Tower, and that of St. Mary Redclyffe, stood out in solemn majesty, steadfast and unmoved for all the riot and confusion which had so lately reigned beneath them.

St. Stephen's stately tower, further to the left, raised its head above the street where Joyce knew her husband had been in such peril; and her heart swelled with thankfulness to God, who had preserved his life. Then her thoughts flew to the Infirmary ward, where Bob Priday lay dying, and she felt determined that, if possible, Susan should see him, and she laid her plans to effect this meeting.

As soon as Falcon woke, she lifted him from his bed and took him to the nursery, washing him and dressing him, and kneeling with him to say his morning prayers; then she said to the boy:

"Falcon, grandmamma is asleep, and so is dear[Pg 367] father. Dear father has been hurt by the rioters, and is to lie in bed very quiet all day. I want to go up to Clifton to see the baby Joy, and Lettice and Lota. I shall leave you to watch by father, and if he stirs or wakes, call grandmamma. Will you do this?"

"Yes, mother," the boy said. Then with a sigh, "I hope the riots are over now. At first I liked to hear the noise, and watch the crowd, but I got tired of it. Are we to go to church, mother?"

"If I can get back in time, darling, you shall go to church with Mary, but I don't think I shall go to-day."

Then she gave Falcon his basin of bread and milk, moving so gently that no one heard her lighting the nursery fire, and performing with her accustomed nicety all the little household duties which had been familiar to her from early childhood. Then she shared Falcon's breakfast with him, gave him a volume of the old "Children's Friend," with the funny little woodcuts, which were the delight of the children of fifty years ago; and, establishing him in the window-seat in his father's room, left him on guard. It was beautiful to see how the noisy, high-spirited child, responded to his mother's hand, and felt a proud sense of serving her, as he was left in the room to take care of his father.[Pg 368]

The clocks were chiming a quarter to eight as Joyce reached Park Street, where all was quiet, but she heard several passers by, say that Queen's Square was again thronged, and that the "roughs" were forcing their way back to the scene of the previous day's disturbances.

By the turn to Berkley Square, Joyce met Mr. Bengough, who was hurrying down to the Guildhall, where, he said, Major Mackworth was attempting to organise the special constables; but that Colonel Brereton's folly in removing his troops to the Leigh stables, had given the mob every encouragement.

"You may be glad, Mrs. Arundel, that your husband is out of the fray; there will be more broken heads before midnight, I expect."

"I trust and pray, you may be kept safely. Come in, later in the day, and let us hear," Joyce said, as she parted from Mr. Bengough and walked quickly towards Clifton. All was quiet there, and when Joyce arrived at Down Cottage, her two little girls came flying to meet her, looking like two daisies, fresh from their morning bath.

Joyce was struck with her mother's admirable management. She was always up with the lark in her old home at Fair Acres, and she kept up her country habits.[Pg 369]

The breakfast was ready in the little dining-room, and everyone was there but Charlotte. Piers had the baby Joy, upon his knee, and Mrs. Falcon declared she had been as "good as gold" all night.

It was hard to believe that Clifton Down Cottage could be so near to the tumultuous city; everything seemed going on as it did every day, and no one appeared excited or troubled. When Joyce had told her story of the previous night, however, the real state of affairs seemed brought home to the little party, and Lota said:

"I want to go home to kiss father, and make his head well."

Presently Joyce said she must see Susan, and she asked Piers to come with her for a moment into his own room.

Piers delivered the baby to her grandmother, and, taking up his crutches, followed Joyce. In the passage they met Charlotte.

"How early you have come," she said. "I was called so early, as Mrs. Falconer wanted the rooms to be made tidy; but really I was not fit to get up at all. I am so dreadfully upset by yesterday's events."

"Joyce has more reason to be upset, as you call it," Piers said, "than you have, with Gilbert laid up with a blow on his head."[Pg 370]

"Oh! how dreadful! how shocking! dearest Joyce; what can I do?"

"Nothing; but go and have your breakfast; mother hates having the things kept on the table."

"I have no patience with her," Piers said, wrathfully, as he closed the door of his den behind him and his sister; "I do verily believe she thinks she is going to be Lady Maythorne, I do indeed."

"Oh! Piers, impossible! she cannot be so foolish."

"My dear, it would be a long plumb-line to sound her folly, or his either."

"But he is in difficulties as to money; he came here because he wanted to get some out of his sister."

"Has Aunt Letitia any money?" Piers asked.

"Of course, she has her own income, and——"

"Will leave it all to Charlotte. Now do you see?"

"I see what you mean, but it must be prevented, it is too preposterous."

"But now, Piers, dear Piers, I want to ask your advice. I could not trouble Gilbert, he is very much hurt," and Joyce's voice faltered. "The man who saved Gilbert's life is Susan's father, Bob Priday."

Piers made a gesture of astonishment. "The man who took our father's life," he murmured.

"Indirectly, not intentionally quite, as we always thought. Piers, I should like to go to the Infirmary,[Pg 371] and take Susan with me. Will you help us, and come with us?"

"You may get into another scrimmage, Joyce; is it right?"

"I think it is right," Joyce said, gently; "I asked God about it, you know."

Here was Joyce's sense of strength in weakness; she had always a refuge and a Councillor at hand. Her religion was not one of many words; it was emphatically the religion of Peace—and in quietness and confidence she could rest.

"It seems to me, Piers, as if it would be cruel to deny a dying man this last act of grace."

"He does not deserve it."

"Ah! Piers, what do we deserve of God?"

"Well," he said, "I will go with you if I can get a hackney-coach; a lame fellow like me can't very well trudge down there on foot. But as you do everything to please other people, it is only fair I should try to please you."

"I don't wish to tell mother yet, but I will go and call Susan, dear, good Susan, and tell her to get ready."

"I hope she won't make a scene," Piers said, "I hate scenes, and I don't see what good you will do, but here goes;" and Piers took his hat and went to do his sister's bidding.[Pg 372]



Taking a circuitous route by Granby Hill, where two little urchins were waiting to scotch the wheels, the lumbering coach, of much larger proportions than the modern fly, reached the gate of the Infirmary before ten o'clock.

The coachman was very much excited by the events of the previous day, and was rather glad to have the opportunity of taking back to Clifton reliable information as to the state of the city.

He skirted the suburbs of Bedminster, and was somewhat proud of his achievement.

Joyce left Piers in the coach, and, taking Susan's arm she went into the large, gloomy entrance of the building.

Here people were standing in groups; some crying, some talking in angry tones, and the surgeons and attendants all passing to and fro, as news of those who had been wounded was hastily given to their friends.[Pg 373]

As Joyce stood waiting to see the surgeon of the ward where Bob Priday lay, a man came rushing in.

"The mob are in the Mansion House," he said; "they are throwing out the furniture; it is worse than ever."

"Where are the authorities?" asked one of the surgeons, who had a roll of bandages in his hand.

"Rushing away, for their lives, like cats on the roofs of the houses. They are hunting for Colonel Brereton, and calling upon all the people in College Green to come to the aid of the magistrates in the King's name."

"And the magistrates climbing over the roofs of the houses; dear, dear!" said the old surgeon. "Pray, madam," he said, turning to Joyce, "is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yes," Joyce said; "this young woman's father is dying in one of the wards."

"What ward? what ward? We are all so busy."

"He was brought in yesterday by a gentleman whose head had been hurt; Mr. Arundel, one of the special constables."

"All right—yes—this way, madam; but let me advise you to make short work of your visit, and get back to your own house! this way."

"Is the man conscious?"[Pg 374]

"Yes, there is a flicker up before the end; but he is dying."

Poor Susan pressed her hand upon her side, and clung to her mistress's arm.

"Oh, dear lady, pray for me," she said. "I have come because I knew mother would have wished it."

"Take courage, Susan, and God will help you."

Many wistful eyes were turned upon the mistress and her maid, as they entered the ward. Some of the wounded people were groaning, others crying aloud for help; but Bob Priday, lying against pillows propped behind him, was still and silent.

Joyce led Susan to the bed, and said:

"I have brought your daughter, and I come to thank you for keeping your promise; for you saved my husband's life."

A strange, half-conscious smile flitted over the man's face.

"I'm sorry I've been such a bad husband to thee, Susan, for thou wert a tidy lass when I married thee. What are thee come to fetch me for? Susan, don't'ee cry."

"Father, father! my dear mistress has brought me to say 'Good-bye.'"

"Aye, I remember now; tell her 'twas the touch of[Pg 375] her little, white hand that did it. Says I to myself, if she can touch the likes of me, perhaps God may forgive me, do you see, Sue? I thought 'twas your mother at first; I see now; 'tis little Sue—a woman grown. Tell your mistress 'twas her little, white hand that did it. Lor! she is like an angel."

Then Joyce took the hand lying nearest once more in hers, and, kneeling down, raised her clear, sweet voice and repeated:

"The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

"There is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

"I do repent," he said; and great tears—the first tears Bob Priday had shed for many a long year—ran down his cheeks. "It's all along of you," he said; "as you forgive me, He may."

Then Joyce asked for pardon of Him in whose steps she was following, for this poor, dying man, whose life had been so darkened by sin, and who had brought so much sorrow upon others.

"O Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us;" and the last conscious words which Bob Priday spoke were, "Amen," and then, "Kiss me, little Sue."

Joyce left Susan kneeling by the bed, while she[Pg 376] turned to others in the ward, passing through the long line of beds like a messenger of peace.

A word here and a word there; a gentle touch of the same white hand which had been stretched out to poor Bob Priday, and had brought home to his soul the power of God's love, and Joyce, in all the first flush of her young beauty, in all the bright gladness of the summer morning at Fair Acres, had never looked so lovely as when she drew Susan gently away, and, putting her arm in hers, left the ward, followed by the wondering and wistful glances of the patients and the nurses.

There was no time to lose, for the sound of distant tumult grew louder. The old surgeon urged the coachman to take as wide a sweep as possible, to avoid the Bristol streets, and just as they were starting a man rushed in with more news.

The mob were on their way to Bridewell to set the prisoners free who had been committed on Saturday, and Colonel Brereton had declared his intention of withdrawing the 14th Light Dragoons from the city.

This last act in the drama of irresolution and incompetence was followed, before sun-down, with the flames of a burning city, and the ever increasing fury of a mob, whose blood was inflamed with the wine from the Mansion House cellars, which had[Pg 377] been drunk with eager recklessness, and had excited the brains of the poor, ignorant people till they were literally madmen, ah! and mad women too, as well as rioters.

When Joyce reached her own door, little Falcon met her.

"Mother," he said, "when the church bells were ringing, the soldiers were coming down Park Street, and grandmother said we must not go to church."

"It is better not to go, dear boy," his mother said.

"It's not a bit like Sunday," Falcon exclaimed, "for the people are beginning to shout again, and roar louder than ever down below."

Mrs. Arundel was sitting with Gilbert, who was drowsy and heavy, and asked but few questions as to where Joyce had been.

"It was a great risk," Mrs. Arundel said; "and did it effect any good?"

"I think so," said Joyce, simply. "I took hope to the death-bed of a poor man, the hope which was not denied to the thief on the cross; and I took a daughter to bear witness to her father that love could triumph even over the memory of wrong-doing like his."

Mrs. Arundel shook her head. "We must leave[Pg 378] the result with God," she said; "a God of love; but He will by no means spare the guilty. Where are Piers and Susan?"

"They are gone back to Down Cottage. I got out of the coach at the turn to Brandon Hill. The children looked so well and happy, and my mother has made them so cosy and comfortable."

Then Joyce took up her post by her husband's bed. The doctor, who came in later, said that he was to be kept very quiet and free from excitement; and, he added, "I wish, indeed, he were further from the town, for I greatly fear worse things are at hand."

The story of that fearful Sunday is too well known to need any minute description here.

Hour by hour the tumult increased; forked flames shot up into the gray, autumnal sky, as the governor's house at the gaol and the chapel were set on fire by the rioters; and, as the benches in the interior of the chapel had been rubbed with pitch, the whole was soon devoured. The county prison followed, and, at half-past eight on Sunday evening, the lurid glare in the heavens was awful to witness.

Poor little Falcon, clasped in his mother's arms as she sat in the window-seat, hid his face in her breast and at last, worn out with terror and excitement, fell asleep. Then she carried him to a room at the back[Pg 379] of the house, where Mrs. Arundel and the maids had taken refuge, and returned to watch by Gilbert's side. In her secret heart she was thankful that the "blow at a venture" had prevented her husband from being in the seething crowd below. How terrible would have been her watch had she known that he was there, in the very thick of the fray.

Gilbert lay very still, and often slept, though, in spite of the thick curtains drawn round the large four-post bed, the red glare from without was distinctly visible.

"Joyce," he said, when this glare had become fiercer and more fierce every moment; "Joyce, what are they burning?"

"I cannot tell," she said. "I think it must be the Palace; but it looks like the whole city. It is very terrible."

"Draw back the curtain for a moment, and let me look."

She obeyed him, and lifted also the curtain which shaded the window nearest the bed.

Gilbert raised himself for a moment, and then fell back.

"I ought to be there," he said, "not here. Those poor people! those poor people! Is there none to help?"[Pg 380]

"It seems as if God had forgotten to be gracious," Joyce said, faintly.

"We must not say that, darling, for we know that there is a cause. This may arouse many to think, who have never thought before, of the great needs of the ignorant and uncared-for masses in great cities like Bristol. They know not what they do. Close the curtains again, I cannot look any longer."

He lay back on his pillow, and Joyce, drawing the curtain, resumed her post by the window.

About ten o'clock, the gardener, who kept guard in the hall, came upstairs.

"Mistress," he said, "Mr. Bengough is here, and would like to know how the master is."

Joyce raised her hand to enjoin silence, hoping that Gilbert slept, and went down into the hall.

Mr. Bengough's face was blackened, and his clothes smelt of smoke and fire.

"It is an awful scene," he said, supporting himself against the wall, while Joyce went to fetch him a glass of wine; "the palace is burnt to the ground, and the lead on the cathedral is positively melting with the heat. The deanery escaped by the pluck of the old Dean. He came out and harangued the rioters, saying, 'Wait a bit, let's have three cheers first—one cheer for the king, one cheer for the people,[Pg 381] and one for the old Dean!' The mob cheered lustily, and turned off to find other prey. They say Park Street is to follow, and those houses which are doomed are to have a white mark for a sign; but there is no order amongst them, and every one of the chief rioters is drunk with the Bishop's wine, taken from the cellars, which they have sold for a penny a bottle! Now they have set fire to Queen's Square, and the Mansion House is one blazing pile. The Mayor has come up to Berkley Square, where I must follow him. The special constables were separated from him in the crowd, and, can you believe it, Brereton's troops, after parading round Queen's Square, have retired to their quarters. Confusion everywhere, and no one knows what may come next. I must not stay; but, Mrs. Arundel, you may be thankful for the blow on your husband's head, yesterday, which has, perhaps, saved his life. Upon my honour, I don't believe any man outside his own doors to-night can depend upon living to see the morning break."

When Mr. Bengough was gone, Joyce heard the frightened servants crying out, that the fire was bigger than ever, and that they were sure the house would catch fire, and they would all be burned alive.

Mrs. Arundel could not calm their fears, and[Pg 382] scarcely control her own, and Joyce alone preserved any self-possession.

"The panes of glass are hot in the nursery!" they said; "come up there, ma'am, and see if it is not true."

"Do not wake Master Falcon or disturb your master. Remember you are—we all are—in God's hands."

But, as Joyce looked out from the vantage ground of the nursery windows, the terrified servants clinging to her, with cries and exclamations, the sight was one too awful for any words to paint. The panes of glass were actually heated, and the lurid, fierce glare seemed to be ever increasing.

The scene upon which Joyce gazed, with that strange fascination, which, acting like a spell, seemed to compel her to look at what yet she shrank from as too awful, has been left on record by one who, then a boy at school, has described it in a vivid word picture, which was the outcome of the actual experience of an eye-witness. This boy, who was one day, to be foremost in the ranks of those who carried the standard of truth, and justice, and charity into the very thick of the conflict with the powers of darkness, thus spoke—long, long after most of those who had taken any part in those three awful days[Pg 383] were dead—to an audience who were inhabitants of the city of Bristol, and to whom, therefore, the subject was of especial interest. He said:

"I was a schoolboy in Clifton, up above Bristol. I had been hearing of political disturbances, even of riots, of which I understood nothing, and for which I cared nothing.

"But on one memorable Sunday afternoon I saw an object which was distinctly not political. It was an afternoon of sullen, autumn rain. The fog hung thick over the docks and lowlands. Glaring through the fog I saw a bright mass of flame, almost like a half-risen sun. That, I was told, was the gate of the new gaol on fire; that the prisoners had been set free. The fog rolled slowly upwards. Dark figures, even at that great distance, were flitting to and fro across what seemed the mouth of the fire.

"The flames increased, multiplied at one point after another, till by ten o'clock that night one seemed to be looking down upon Dante's Inferno, and to hear the multitudinous moan and wail of the lost spirits, surging to and fro amid the sea of fire.

"Right behind Brandon Hill rose the central mass of fire, till the little mound seemed converted into a volcano, from the peak of which the flame streamed up, not red above, but delicately green and blue,[Pg 384] pale rose, and pearly white, while crimson sparks leapt and fell again in the midst of that rainbow, not of hope, but of despair; and dull explosions down below mingled with the roar of the mob, and the infernal hiss and crackle of the flames.

"Higher and higher the fog was scorched upward by the fierce heat below, glowing through and through with red, reflected glare, till it arched itself into one vast dome of red-hot iron, fit roof for all the madness below; and beneath it, miles away, I could see the lonely tower of Dundry Church shining red—the symbol of the old Faith—looking down in stately wonder and sorrow upon the fearful birth-throes of a new age."

When morning dawned on Monday, help really seemed at hand, and five thousand men obeyed the call for the posse comitatûs, and, furnished with a short staff and a strip of white linen round their arm as a badge, did good service for the restoration of order. Shops were all closed, business suspended, and the soldiers, and the naval and military pensioners, under Captain Cook, cleared the streets, and peace seemed in a fair way of being restored.

Peace, and at what a price! Wreck and ruin everywhere; Queen's Square, a mass of burning[Pg 385] rubbish, strewn, too, with the charred bodies of those who had fallen in the fray. At night, by order of the Mayor, the churches and houses were lighted up, and the soldiers guarded the streets.

Transcriber's note: The footnote below, without an anchor, was placed at this point in the book.

Vide "Charles Kingsley's Life," vol. i., p. 21.

But it was not till after the fifth of November, when an outburst of Protestant and Anti-Reform zeal was expected, that the law-abiding people of Bristol and its surrounding neighbourhood felt safe. During the whole of that week watch and ward was kept, and all demonstrations were repressed.

The Bristol Riots were over, but the day of reckoning came; and for many weeks there was nothing thought of but the restoration of lost property, the finding of dead bodies hid in the ruins of Queen's Square, and the apprehension of the ringleaders in the rebellion.

Colonel Brereton was charged by the Mayor with not acting up to his orders, and a military inquiry was appointed to try the truth of the Mayor's statement, and held at the Hall of the Merchant Venturers, and it ended in Colonel Brereton's being put under arrest, previous to his trial by court martial.

It was some time before Gilbert was fit for any exertion, and the doctor insisted on quiet and complete rest. His whole system had received a shock, and the effects of the blow were seen by constant[Pg 386] headache, and an irritability and depression very unlike himself.

All Joyce's cheerfulness and patience were needed; and as Falcon's boyish mirth was more than his father could bear, Joyce determined to take him to Down Cottage, and bring back with her "Baby Joy," who was one of those loving doves of babies who seem born to be happy themselves and make other people happier! Joyce, therefore, packed up a few small garments in a bag for Falcon, and set off with him one bright November day to Down Cottage.

Her appearance was always the signal for a great outburst of joy, and Lota and Lettice were delighted to find that Falcon was to stay with them.

"You don't mind, mother, making the exchange," Joyce said; "I should feel so desolate with no child, and Gilbert cannot yet bear any noise. I suppose Charlotte Benson is gone home? The Wells coach is running again."

In all the excitement of the past ten days, Joyce had really thought but little of Charlotte, and when her mother did not reply to the question at once, she said:

"What day did Charlotte go home?"

"She is not gone home at all; you had better ask Piers about her."[Pg 387]

"Is anything wrong?" Joyce asked.

"Well," said Mrs. Falconer, in her old blunt fashion, "I believe Charlotte thinks everything is right, not wrong, but Piers is of a different opinion. As for myself, I am no judge of lords and grand folks, nor their ways neither. But Charlotte thinks she is going to be 'my lady,' and that's about the truth."

"Mother!" Joyce exclaimed; "mother, it must be prevented; it is impossible. How wrong we have all been to be so engrossed with our own concerns and forget Charlotte's. I had really forgotten Lord Maythorne was here. What will Mrs. Arundel say? Where is Piers?"

The tap of Piers' crutches was now heard on the flag-stones before Down Cottage, and he came in.

"I am glad you are come Joyce; it is time some one interfered. I have just been acting the spy on the Observatory Hill, and there are Charlotte and her elderly beau disporting themselves."

"Oh! Piers, it is really dreadful. I must tell Gilbert at once, and Mrs. Arundel. It will worry Gilbert dreadfully, and he is still so weak."

"You need not look so doleful, Joyce; after all, if people will make their own bed of thorns, they must bear the prick when they lie down on it. It all comes[Pg 388] of Aunt Letitia's silly bringing up. Charlotte has been made a foolish, sentimental woman, and this is the end of it."

"It must not be the end; I must do all I can to prevent it. Call Susan to bring Joy, and we will go home at once. I must consult Mrs. Arundel, and ask her what it is best to do."

"You won't have time, for here they come," Piers said.

Yes; there was Charlotte, with her head on one side, and evidently simpering at some compliment, which her companion was administering.

When they came into the sitting-room, and stood face to face with Joyce, one betrayed some annoyance, and the other some triumph.

"I thought you would have gone home yesterday, Charlotte," Joyce said, after the first greeting. "Is not Aunt Letitia anxious to see you? This house is very full," she added, "and Gilbert is not well enough for me to ask you to return to Great George Street."

"I am going to Wells to-morrow, dear," Charlotte said, "and—and—"

"I am to have the honour of escorting Miss Benson to Wells," Lord Maythorne said, in his honeyed accents.

"Indeed; I am sorry to hear it," Joyce said, sharply.[Pg 389]

"I want to see my very old friend, now he is turned into a Benedict, at Fair Acres, and who knows if I may not follow his example. I have known Gratian, I may almost say, from childhood; I cannot profess to have that honour with regard to you, fair niece."

Joyce felt too angry to trust herself to reply, but she turned to Charlotte, and said:

"I want to speak to you, Charlotte, in Piers' room."

Joyce's tone was one of command rather than of entreaty, and Charlotte followed meekly.

As soon as the door was shut, she said: "Surely Charlotte, you are not going to travel to Wells alone with Lord Maythorne?"

Charlotte drew herself erect.

"Yes, I am. Why not? I am engaged to be married to him."

"Oh, Charlotte! it must not be thought of. Aunt Letitia will not allow it."

"Auntie not only allows it, but is quite pleased," Charlotte said.

"Some one must interfere. I cannot see you wilfully ruin the happiness of your whole life by such an act."

"That's just what he said," Charlotte exclaimed. "He said he knew you would make objections, because Gilbert has often meddled in his concerns[Pg 390] before; but that will not change me. If you—if you"—Charlotte broke down, and became tearful—"had been so hungry for somebody to care for you as I have been, and had known what it was to be slighted and looked down upon, you would not be so cruel. It is all very well for you. But you never did care what became of poor me, and I—I used to love you so much, Joyce."

Charlotte began to sob piteously, and Joyce felt she must appear hard-hearted, and take the consequences.

Just as she had dispelled the vision of the raindrop which was to revive the drooping rose many years ago, so now she must do her best to dispel a far more dangerous illusion.

"Lord Maythorne is not a good man," she said; "he is continually in debt; he often plays high, and he has been living abroad all these years in what manner we hardly know. We believe that he came to Bristol now, simply to get some money out of his sister, my mother-in-law. Surely, Charlotte, you must see that if you marry him you will be miserable."

"Gratian married Melville, and you prophesied the same then; and they are very happy."

"That is a very different case. Gratian is older, wiser, and stronger than Melville, and keeps him[Pg 391] right by the force of her own will. Besides, Melville was weak, and easily yielded to temptation; but he was not like Lord Maythorne, who did his best to ruin him in his Oxford days."

"He says—he says that is all a lie of Gilbert's."

"How dare you speak like that of my husband! A lie! As if he ever stooped to tell a lie." Joyce flushed angrily, and continued: "You are a poor, weak, sentimental girl, not a girl, for you are nearly thirty, and if you do not know what is good for you, you must be taken care of. If my little Lettice wished to eat anything that was poisonous I should take it from her, and by the same rule I shall treat you."

"You have no right over me. Aunt Letitia knows, and she approves, and expects us to-morrow."

But Joyce did not give in one whit.

"Aunt Letitia must be enlightened then," she said, "without loss of time, and I shall take care that she knows the true character of the man to whom she thinks of entrusting you."

Charlotte tried to rally herself, and began to laugh hysterically.

"You think so much of yourself, and that you are so wise, and that Gilbert has made you just like himself, you both think yourselves so good and perfect."[Pg 392]

Joyce told herself it was foolish as well as wrong to be angry with Charlotte, who was so unreasoning and feeble-minded.

She left her abruptly, called Susan and the baby, had many rapturous hugs from her little girls and Falcon and then kissing her mother, she bowed to Lord Maythorne, and departed.

Mrs. Arundel was greatly distressed when she heard Joyce's news, and they consulted together what it was best to do.

"After all," Mrs. Arundel said, "neither you nor I have any right over Charlotte. If she is warned, that is all we can do. If Miss Falconer consents, she is her lawful guardian, and stands in the place of her mother."

"Shall we tell Gilbert?"

"I think not, he cannot take any active part in the matter; Dr. Smith has been here, and told me he did not think Gilbert would be able to return to the office for some time, that he had sustained a slight concussion of the brain, and that we were to be careful not to worry him with anything. He advises our making a move to Abbot's Leigh, to that house of Mr. Bayley's, as soon as we can arrange it, and Gilbert is able to bear the drive. He is very kind, and offered his carriage."[Pg 393]

"That will be delightful," Joyce said; "the trees are still beautiful in colour, and oh! to be in the real country again with the children. If only Charlotte were not so utterly foolish! I think I shall tell Gilbert quietly, when we are alone together; for he ought to know. Come, baby Joy, let us go and see dear father."

Gilbert turned his head towards the door as Joyce came in.

"Here is baby Joy come to kiss father," she said, dropping the baby down gently into her father's arms.

"Little Joy; well, she looks as sweet as ever—like her mother, well-named. You have been away an age," he said; "it's always like the sun going behind a cloud when you are gone."

"The sun is very grateful for the compliment," Joyce said, seating herself on a low stool by the sofa; "and so is the little sun, isn't she, baby?"

The baby had possessed herself of her father's watch-chain, and was sucking it vigorously.

"I took Falcon to Grannie, because he made your head ache, and I brought back Joy, because she never could make anyone's head ache."

"Poor little Falcon! I am afraid I was very cantankerous this morning, but that dreadful trumpet was rather too much. It is excessively stupid of me[Pg 394] to be so long getting well; but, do you know, I am haunted with those terrible scenes of last week, and, with the best intentions of amusing me, Bayley came here and described the condition of Queen's Square, and the charred bodies they found, one, the corpse of an old woman, with a bit of red petticoat clinging to it. Ah! it is awful to think of; and the cure for all this seems so far off."

"It will come at last," Joyce said, with quiet decision.

"Yes, when the whole nation wakes up to see the needs of the poor. We don't help them, nor try to raise them out of their ignorance of the commonest laws of humanity. We have been wholly neglectful of their souls and bodies, and then when they are heated by drink, and let loose their fury against some grievance, like the entrance of the Anti-Reform Recorder into Bristol, we hunt them down, trample them under foot, and never look below the surface to find out what is the bitter root, from which all this springs."

"You look below the surface, dearest; but don't go over it all now; I have a piece of news to tell you, which has made me very angry. Charlotte Benson says she is engaged to marry your uncle. Can anything be done?"

"Write at once to aunt Letitia to stop it."[Pg 395]

"That is the most extraordinary part of the whole affair; she does not disapprove it."

"She must be mad!" said Gilbert, shortly; "what does my mother say?"

"She is afraid of exciting you about it; but she is very much disturbed."

"She may well be. He must be looking after your aunt's money."

"Shall I write to Aunt Letitia?"

"Yes; I only wish I were well, and not laid on the shelf like this, and I would go to Wells to-morrow."

"I thought of writing to Gratian and Ralph, and Harry is still at Fair Acres. Aunt Letitia thinks a great deal of what Gratian says."

"Better write to Aunt Letitia, and I will tell you what to say. Get my mother to write also, and surely you have been honest with the girl?"

"Very honest indeed," Joyce said, laughing; "a little too honest!"

The letter was dictated and posted, with one from Mrs. Arundel. Postage was an object in those days, so that the two letters went under one cover, carefully sealed by Gilbert's hand.

For some days there was silence, and no one knew what turn events had taken, and there was no answer to the letters.[Pg 396]

A week passed, and then came a letter from Charlotte herself.

"My dear Joyce,—You will see by the date of this letter I am at Bath. I was married to dear Lord Maythorne yesterday. He wished for a very quiet wedding, and he had a special license, and the ceremony was performed at St. Cuthbert's. Dear auntie was present, and dear Gratian and Melville came in from Fair Acres. We went to the 'Swan,' and had an elegant breakfast, and then we posted here. It is very strange to me to feel I am Lady Maythorne; but with such a dear, kind, delightful husband, I ought to be happy. Pray accept kind love from us both.

"Your truly affectionate cousin,
"Charlotte Maythorne.

"Pulteney Street, Bath,
"November 14th, 1831."

This, then, was the end of Miss Falconer's training, this the reward for all her care; and the strange part of it was that, though Lord Maythorne's own relations were distressed and sad, at the thought of Charlotte's folly in committing herself to the tender mercies of such a man, Miss Falconer was not distressed.[Pg 397]

Gratian, who came in to spend a day or two in[Pg 398] Clifton with her husband soon after, gave a graphic description of the whole affair.

[Pg 399]

Wells Cathedral from Bishop's Fields Wells Cathedral from Bishop's Fields

Miss Falconer, she declared, was tearful, but in her secret heart elated. Charlotte would grace any position, Lord Maythorne said. She was strikingly like in manner and voice and bearing to a reigning beauty at one of the German baths.

"We are none of us likely to go there, you know," Gratian said, "so we can't vouch for the truth of this."

Then he told Miss Falconer that Charlotte should be placed in the "book of Beauty" next season, and that a friend of his had promised to write a little sketch of her.

Aunt Letitia said she was glad to be able to assure Lord Maythorne that the Falconers were an ancient race, and had been landed gentry for generations.

"Poor dear old lady," Gratian continued, "the only note of lament was, 'What will Mrs. Hannah More say?' She took such a deep interest in dear Charlotte and, perhaps, I may wish, as she will, that Lord Maythorne was more strictly a religious man. But we cannot hope for everything, and dear Charlotte's training has been so careful, that I am not anxious on that score."

"Poor dear old auntie!" Melville exclaimed, when,[Pg 400] after listening to his wife's rapid chatter, he succeeded in getting in a word.

"She'll soon find cause to be anxious when Maythorne comes to her for a bit of thin paper with a good round sum in the corner."

Joyce could not speak so lightly of this as Gratian did. She almost reproached herself for not being more honest with Charlotte in days long past, rousing her from dreams of fancied bliss to the great "realities" of life.

As she clasped her Baby Joy in her arms that night, she murmured over her tender words, and prayed that she might lead her three little daughters in the right way, and teach them that the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, and that anchored to those words, they might escape the rocks and quicksands in which so many like poor Charlotte had foundered.

For the present, indeed, Charlotte was satisfied. Lord Maythorne bought her, or rather procured for her, many of the fine things she had often longed for. He felt a certain pride in her graceful manners, and perhaps, a little grateful affection for her intense admiration of himself—that romantic admiration which had not yet had time to grow faint!

He bought her the last complete edition of Lord[Pg 401] Byron's poetry, and Charlotte bathed in that not very wholesome stream, and produced some imitative stanzas, which were printed in the Bath Chronicle, with a little paragraph by the editor, that they were from the pen of "a charming lady of title."

A copy of the paper, delivered in the Close at Wells, went the round of the little community, and, fluttered with delight, Miss Falconer told admiring friends that dear Charlotte's husband was a man of cultivated taste and encouraged her muse.

The days of dearth and barrenness will come, must come, to those who sow their seed upon the stony ground. The bright sky must cloud over, the winds and waves roar and swell, and the house that is builded on the sand must fall, and great shall be the ruin of it. Secure in the present calm, poor little frail barks skim the surface and are content. Thus we leave Charlotte, and will not look at her again, lest we see that saddest of all sad sights, the falling of the prop on which she leaned in her blindness and foolishness, the breaking of the staff which shall surely pierce her hand with a wound which no earthly power can avail to heal.[Pg 402]


[Pg 403]


"As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads, by the hand, her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant, to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door;
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and, by the hand,
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wished to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the 'what we know.'"

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."—1 Cor. xiii. 12.

[Pg 405]

[Pg 404]



The old year, which had been so full of trouble and sorrow, was passing gently away in calm and unusual brightness.

The air was soft and balmy, and the sunshine lay upon the picturesque village of Abbot's Leigh, and threw out every yellow lichen on the red roofs of the houses, and every leafless branch of the trees in full brightness and defined outline.

The year was full of grace and beauty on this its last day; and Gilbert Arundel, walking up and down the sunny terrace path before his house, on the left of the road leading to the church, felt the pleasant sense of returning strength and health, which is always so sweet.

The garden was at the back of the house, and before him lay a goodly prospect. The lowlands, sloping down to the mouth of the Severn, were bathed in the sunshine, and beyond, in clear outline, was the great encircling range of blue mountains on the[Pg 406] opposite coast of Wales. In the clear atmosphere of the winter morning, everything was distinctly seen. The wooded headland of Portishead shot out to the left, and was rounded at full tide by many ships, outward bound for the rolling waters of the Atlantic.

Snowy gulls dipped and whirled on airy flight near the shore, and small crafts, with all sails set, danced and curtseyed beneath them as they made for the harbour.

"It is a place to rest and get well in," Gilbert thought; and then he turned at the sound of footsteps.

His wife was coming through the maze of deep-set, box-bordered flower-beds to speak to him.

"Mother and Piers will be here early," she said, putting her hand through her husband's arm; "and Gratian, and Melville, and Ralph will be later."

"Where are you going to put them all? You forget your country seat is not as accommodating as our Great George Street house."

"Oh! I will make room," she said; "it is so restful and lovely here. I wish——"

"What do you wish?"

"That we lived here. I know it is impossible while you are in the office every day. I only meant it is so delightful to be in the country; winter or summer, it is the best place."[Pg 407]

Abbot's Leigh Abbot's Leigh

[Pg 408]
[Pg 409]

"Few winter days are like this," Gilbert said; "but, darling, one day I may be able to give you a country home."

"A dear old-fashioned one like this?" she said, "Oh! then we will call it 'The Haven!'"

"It is not built yet," Gilbert said; "we must remember all that the children will want, education—"

"And accomplishments," she added, laughing. "Lettice, Lota, and little baby Joy must not grow up 'little rustics.'"

Joyce laughed, just her old, sweet, silvery laugh.

"It answered my purpose to be a little rustic, after all, as I took your fancy in my lilac cotton gown and white apron."

He put his arm round her as they walked, and pressed her close.

"They might be lovers of yesterday," Susan Priday thought, as she watched them from the nursery windows, "instead of having been married seven years. Such love must make a poor man rich and a rich man happy, and may God bless them both. The mistress grows prettier every day."

No one ever sounded Susan Priday's depth of gratitude; she was not a demonstrative person, and the other servants, as might be expected, were a little jealous of her, and sometimes she had dark hints to bear "of the daughter of bad folks being lucky," and[Pg 410] muttered words of self-congratulation that their fathers had not been rioters and died in "'ospital beds."

But all these shafts were powerless to disturb Susan's peace, and baby Joy heard many a soliloquy which reached no other ears than hers.

"Yes," she was saying, as she swayed Joy gently to and fro; "they look like lovers of yesterday. The master is aged since his illness, and stoops a bit, but the mistress is younger than ever."

The husband and wife had turned now, and faced the house. Joyce looked up, and waved her hand and smiled, that "little pure, white hand," Susan thought, "which poor father said had saved him from despair."

Then the two little girls, in scarlet cloaks and hoods, came with Falcon to announce that they were ready for a walk with mother, and Gilbert asked if he might be permitted to come also.

"Of course," Falcon said; "only we thought you might be tired. Mother told us never to plague you to take us for a walk."

"I am getting quite well, my boy, and it will not be so easy, I hope, to plague me now as it has been lately."

"I've put away the trumpet, father, where I can't possibly see it, for I was afraid if I saw it I should be forced to give a big 'too-te-too.' So mother said, put[Pg 411] it away till father is quite well, and then you can blow it in the garden. She wanted to keep it for me, but that was like a baby; now I could get it any minute I wished, only I won't."

Gilbert was half amused, half touched, by this lesson of self-restraint that Joyce had taught her little son, by means of the discordant trumpet, and he patted his head fondly, saying:

"You'll always be right if you follow mother's advice, my boy."

"I know it," Falcon said; "Susan says mother can make every one better."

Joyce and her little daughters were on in front, walking up the village to the churchyard.

Presently they retraced their steps to the village, where an old tree, with a gnarled trunk, stands at the junction of four roads, and was a favourite post of observation to the children.

A smart post-chaise, seen from afar, coming swiftly onwards, contained Melville and Gratian. They had slept at an hotel in Clifton on the previous night, and came in the style which befitted them.

Joyce was a little alarmed at the large amount of boxes on the roof, and wondered if they could by any means be carried upstairs.

Gratian, handsome and gay as ever, gave all the[Pg 412] orders and settled with the post-boy, while Melville looked on.

It was one of those cases when it is expedient, perhaps, that the wife should take the lead, from the incapacity of the husband to manage himself or his affairs, but it has never a pleasing effect on those who look on, and Gilbert thought how well it was there were no children to hear Gratian's ringing tones ordering Melville to 'wake up' and carry two small packages into the hall.

"Where is Ralph?" Joyce asked.

"He took some qualm about leaving Fair Acres. Mr. Watson is ill—dying, they say—so Ralph said he did not want to leave the place; there are still many bad characters about."

"I am sorry to miss Ralph, and mother will be disappointed, especially as Harry has joined his ship."

"What a nice room," Gratian said, as they went upstairs; "but I hope you have a hanging-closet."

"I am afraid only pegs," Joyce said; "but there is a tiny dressing-room."

"Is Mrs. Arundel coming to this family gathering?"

"No; mother is in Oxfordshire."

"Staying at Maythorne's; how like Aunt Annabella."[Pg 413]

"She is not at Maythorne's you know, it is shut up, for the owners are gone abroad."

"But I hear another carriage. Yes! that is mother and Piers."

Joyce flew downstairs to greet her mother, and to give Piers a rapturous embrace.

Everything in the house was well arranged, and especial care had been bestowed on "mother's room."

Mrs. Falconer had no fine dresses, so she did not enquire for a hanging cupboard. She speedily found her way to the nursery, and baby Joy delighted her by holding out her arms to her grannie, with a bewitching smile.

"It's all beautifully neat, Joyce," she said, looking round her with a critical air. "Well, you don't regret now I taught you useful things, though you have no accomplishments like that poor, foolish Charlotte?"

They were a very happy party at an early dinner, and the good arrangement of everything, and the excellence of the bill of fare, brought many compliments to Joyce, especially from her mother.

"Except at Fair Acres," she said, "she had never tasted such light pastry, or such good plum-puddings and mincemeat. The turkey, too——"

"Ah!" Joyce said, "the turkey came with a[Pg 414] hamper of good things from Fair Acres. Dear Ralph is continually despatching home produce."

The real master of Fair Acres did not seem at all discomforted at this proof of his ignorance of his own estate.

Melville had resigned himself to an easy-going life, and, being well kept in check by his wife as to unlimited wine and spirits, he managed to pass muster, and was looked upon by his neighbours as a "good-natured fellow, a little given to airs, and not worthy to tread in his father's shoes; but it might have been worse."

Poor praise this; and of how many besides Melville do we say, sometimes with an aching heart, "It might have been worse; but it might have been oh! so much better."

Wasted lives, neglected opportunities, withered hopes, how thick they lie strewn upon our paths as the autumn of life is sinking into the days of winter barrenness and dearth.

But there is a bright "beyond" for faithful hearts, where the things we know not now we shall know then, and this bewildering maze of doubts and fears shall be made plain in the light of God's love.

A certain wistful look in Piers' eyes made Joyce think he would like to talk to her alone.[Pg 415]

So, when the evening shadows were closing over the waters of the Severn, and the blue mountains fading into obscurity, and the white-winged seagulls sought their nests, Joyce asked her brother to come out with her, for it was more like midsummer than Christmas.

Joyce put her arm on her brother's shoulder as of old, and they went together to the churchyard, where the old grey tower of the church stood out solemnly against the after-glow in the west, where a planet shimmered in the opal depths.

"The old year is dying with a smile upon its face," Piers said. "It is hard to believe we are in midwinter."

"Very hard," Joyce replied; "and it is a time when, though my present is so happy and so brimful of thanksgiving, the past comes back, and will not be forgotten."

"I am glad you don't forget the dear old days," Piers said.

"Forget! oh! no; the sadness of the past does not shadow my happy present, but it chastens it. I always think of dear father when I stand here, and poor merry, happy Bunny, swept into that surging sea."

"Yes," Piers said, sighing; "the strong are taken and the weakly ones left. Harry is, I suppose, half[Pg 416] way round the world again in the 'Persis.' There is Ralph working hard and enduring a good deal at the old home, while I——"

"You are not unhappy, dear?" Joyce asked, anxiously.

"No," he said; but the "No" was not heartily said. "After all, we think too much of ourselves and all our little concerns. Why, Joyce, what are we and this earth we live in, when compared to that great universe of which these stars, as they come out one by one, seem to bring a nightly message? What are we, to think so much of ourselves? and what are life, and death, and troubles, and joys, and petty disappointments? They are nothing—lighter than dust in the balance."

"They are something to God," Joyce said, reverently. "He has told us so. Dearest Piers, you are not losing that Faith which we used to call our staff in the dear old days."

Piers was silent for a moment.

"Joyce," he said, at last, "I like to talk to you sometimes. I sit and read in my den, and go out and in of the sitting room and see how mother is getting on, and my brain gets full of cobwebs and I am impatient, and long to spring up into a better and nobler life, and yet I am tied down. Don't you think I did not feel my[Pg 417] miserable weakness when I heard of Gilbert, in the thick of the rioters, saving a woman and child, and bravely doing his best in the face of the weakness and incompetence of those about him? I felt as if I would have given something to get a hard thump on my head in such a cause, the cause of humanity."

"Piers, you are dull at home, I know, but you have the delightful young doctor for a friend."

"Yes; but I can't sham illness to get him to come; he is a long way off. But I am doing some more diagrams for his lecture on Fungi."

"I am so glad; and Piers, when Gilbert can really afford it, we are going to have a house in the country, and call it 'The Haven,' and you and mother shall come and live with us, and you shall help me to teach Falcon, and we shall be so happy."

"Ah! that is looking a long way forward, Joyce. Perhaps my haven will be here, under the shadow of this old church, before then. But I feel the better already for being with you, old Joyce; you are just the same as you ever were."

The brother and sister exchanged a kiss, and then, in the silence of perfect sympathy and affection, walked back to the house.

The whole family assembled in the dining-room as[Pg 418] the bells of the church rang out the old year. In the pause—that solemn pause before the clock strikes twelve, and the knell for the dying year is followed by a great rejoicing peal for that which is new born—Gilbert Arundel read, in slow, clear tones, that wonderful Psalm which ever seems to be so fraught with wisdom, and to express so well the yearning of the human soul for something, which as the generations roll by, and pass like a tale that is told, remains steadfast and immoveable.

Lord, thou hast been our Refuge; and, notwithstanding the storms and the troubles of this short and mutable life, faithful hearts like Joyce's can add, in trusting confidence, "and wilt be to the end."

An hour later, when the last chimes had rung out from every belfry tower from far and near, and the fair young year lay calm and beautiful beneath the stars, husband and wife went together to the long, low nursery, where the three elder children lay in profound slumber. The kiss and blessing did not disturb Lettice or Lota, but the "Happy new year, darling," brought Falcon to a state of half consciousness.

"Happy new year, mother—father," he murmured,[Pg 419] with an added word which sounded like "my trumpet."

"That beloved trumpet," said Joyce, laughing. "I let him take it out into the garden after dinner, and give one great blow; but he was so loyal, he came and hid it again, out of sight, saying, 'If father heard that, it was only just once.'"

"Dear old boy!" Gilbert said. "I shall not forget his self-denial learned from his mother."

"Nay," she said, playfully, "I do not quite wish to blow trumpets."

"Not your own, certainly," was the quiet rejoinder.

They did not forget baby Joy. Her cradle was in their own room; and Joyce called her husband to look at her, and wish her the "happy new year," as he had wished the others.

"A happy new year to my little Joy," he said.

The baby moved a little, and, throwing one fat arm behind her head, a flickering smile played over her face, a light rather than a smile, such as comes over the faces of the little ones sometimes when in sleep, their angels draw near.

It was one of those supreme moments in life, which do not find expression in many words:[Pg 420]

"A happy new year to you, my little Joy," Joyce repeated, and then there was silence, while—

"Two faces o'er the cradle bent,
Two hands above the head were locked,
These pressed each other while they rocked,
Those watched a life that Love had sent.
O solemn hour!
O hidden power!"




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