Roland Yorke A Sequel to "The Channings"
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(Library of the University of California)
Shot in the Leg.
A Sequel to
MRS. HENRY WOOD,
AUTHOR OF "EAST LYNNE."/
RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
[All Rights of Translation and Reproduction are Reserved.]
"And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,
And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
'A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'"
|I.||In the Moonlight.|
|II.||Up to the Monday Evening.|
|III.||Before the Coroner.|
|IV.||Going Home with the News.|
|V.||Mr. Butterby in Private Life.|
PART THE SECOND.
|VII.||In the Office.|
|VIII.||Arrival from Port Natal.|
|X.||Going into Society.|
|XII.||Commotion in the Office of Greatorex and Greatorex.|
|XIII.||Taking the Place of Jelf.|
|XIV.||Gerald Yorke in a Dilemma.|
|XV.||Visitors for Mrs. Jones.|
|XVIII.||Mr. Brown at Home.|
|XIX.||A Fountain Shivered.|
|XXI.||Roland Yorke's Shoulder to the Wheel.|
|XXII.||A Little More Light.|
|XXIII.||Laid with his Forefathers.|
|XXIV.||As Iron into the Soul.|
PART THE THIRD.
|XXV.||During the Autumn.|
|XXVI.||Arriving at Euston Square.|
|XXVII.||A Private Interview.|
|XXX.||A New Idea for Mr. Ollivera.|
|XXXI.||Mr. Galloway Invaded.|
|XXXII.||In the Cathedral.|
|XXXIII.||A Startling Avowal.|
|XXXIV.||A Telegram To Helstonleigh.|
|XXXV.||Life's Sands Running on.|
|XXXVI.||Gerald Yorke at a Shooting Party.|
|XXXVIII.||Between Bede and his Clerk.|
|XXXIX.||Nearer and Nearer.|
|XL.||Godfrey Pitman's Tale.|
|XLI.||A Telegram for Roland Yorke.|
|XLII.||A Wide Black Band on Roland's Hat.|
IN THE MOONLIGHT.
The scene of this Prologue to the story about to be written was acertain cathedral town, of which most of you have heard before, andthe time close upon midnight.
It was a warm night at the beginning of March. The air was calm andstill; the bright moon was shedding her pure light with unusualbrilliancy on the city, lying directly underneath her beams. On thepinnacles of the time-honoured cathedral; on the church-spire, whosetapering height has made itself a name; on the clustering roofs ofhouses; on the trees of what people are pleased to call the Park; onthe river, silently winding its course along beneath the city walls;and on the white pavement of its streets: all were steeped in the softand beautiful light of the Queen of Night.
Surely at that late hour people ought to have been asleep in theirbeds, and the town hushed to silence! Not so. A vast number ofmen--and women too, for the matter of that--were awake and abroad. Atleast, it looked a good number, stealing quietly in one directionalong the principal street. A few persons, comparatively speaking,assembled together by daylight, will look like a crowd at night. Theywent along for the most part in silence, one group glancing round atanother, and being glanced at, back again: whether drawn out bycuriosity, by sympathy, by example, all seemed very much as if theywere half ashamed to be seen there.
Straight through the town, past the new law-courts, past the squaresand the good houses built in more recent years, past the pavements andthe worn highway, telling of a city's bustle, into the open country,to where a churchyard abuts upon a side-road. A rural, not muchfrequented churchyard, dotted with old graves, its small, grey churchstanding in the middle. People were not buried there now. On one sideof the church yard, open to the side way, the boundary hedge haddisappeared, partly through neglect. The entrance was on the otherside, facing the city; and where was the use of raising up again thetrodden-down hedge, destroyed gradually and in process of time by boysand girls at play? So, at least, argued the authorities--when theyargued about it at all.
People were not buried there now: and yet a grave was being dug. Atthe remotest corner of this open side of the churchyard, so close tothe consecrated ground that you could scarcely tell whether they wereon it or off it, two men with torches were working at the nearlyfinished, shallow, hastily-made grave. A pathway, made perhaps more ofcustom than of plan, led right over it into the churchyard--if anycareless person chose to enter it by so unorthodox a route--and thecommon side-road, wide enough to admit of carts and other vehicles,crossed it on the exact spot where the grave was being dug. So that aspectator might have said the grave's destined occupant was to lie ina cross-road.
Up to this spot came the groups, winding round the front hedgesilently, save from the inevitable hum which attends a number, theirfootsteps grating and shuffling on the still air. That there was somekind of reverence attaching to the feeling in general, was proved bythe absence of all jokes and light words; it may be almost said by theabsence of conversation altogether, for what little they said wasspoken in whispers. The open space beyond the grave was a kind ofcommon, stretching out into the country, so that there was room and tospare for these people to congregate around, without pressinginconveniently on the sides of the shallow grave. Not but whatevery soul went close to give a look in, taking a longer or shortertime in the gaze as curiosity was slow or quick to satisfy itself.
The men threw out the last spadeful, patted the sides well, andascended to the level of the earth. Not a minute too soon. As theystamped their feet, like men who have been in a cramped position, andput their tools away back, the clock of the old grey church strucktwelve. It was a loud striker at all times; it sounded like a gong inthe stillness of the night, and a movement ran through the startledspectators.
With the first stroke of the clock there came up a wayfarer. Sometraveller who had missed his train at Bromsgrove, and had to walk thedistance. He advanced with a jaunty though somewhat tired step alongthe highway, and did not discern the crowd until close upon them, forthe road wound just there. To say that he was astonished would besaying little. He stood still, and stared, and rubbed his eyes, almostquestioning whether the unusual scene could be real.
"What on earth's the matter?" demanded he of someone near him. "Whatdoes it all mean?"
The man addressed turned at the question, and recognized the speakerfor Mr. Richard Jones, an inhabitant of the town.
At least he was nearly sure it was he, but he knew him by sight butslightly. If it was Mr. Jones, why this same crowd and commotion hadto do with him, in one sense of the word. Its cause had a great dealto do with his home.
"Can't you answer a body?" continued Mr. Jones, finding he got noreply.
"Hush!" breathed the other man. "Look there."
Along the middle of the turnpike-road, on their way from the city,came eight men with measured and even tread, bearing a coffin on theirshoulders. It was covered with what looked like a black cloth shawl,whose woollen fringe was clearly discernible in the moonlight. Mr.Jones had halted at the turning up to the churchyard, where he firstsaw the assembly of people; consequently the men bearing the coffin,whose heavy tread and otherwise silent presence seemed to exhale akind of unpleasant thrill, passed round by Mr. Jones, nearly touchinghim.
"What is it?" he repeated in a few seconds, nearly wild to have hisunderstanding enlightened.
"Don't you see what it is?--a coffin. It's going to be buried in thatthere cross grave up yonder."
"But who is in the coffin?"
"A gentleman who died by his own hand. The jury brought it inself-murder, and so he's got to be put away without burial service."
"Lawk a mercy!" exclaimed Mr. Jones, who though a light shallow,unstable man, given to make impromptu excursions from his home andwife, and to spend too much money in doing it, was not on the whole abad-hearted one. "Poor gentleman! Who was it?"
"One of them law men in wigs that come in to the 'sizes."
Mr. Jones might have asked more but for two reasons. The first was,that his neighbour moved away in the wake of those who were beginningto press forward to see as much as they could get to see of theclosing ceremony; the next was, that in a young woman who just thenwalked past him, he recognized his wife's sister. Again Mr. Jonesrubbed his eyes, mentally questioning whether this second vision mightbe real. For she, Miss Rye, was a steady, good, superior young woman,not at all likely to come out of her home at midnight after a sight ofany sort, whether it might be a burying or a wedding. Mr. Jones reallydoubted whether his sight and the moonlight had not played him false.The shortest way to solve this doubt would have been to accost theyoung woman, but while he had been wondering, she disappeared. Intruth it was Miss Rye, and she had followed the coffin from whence itwas brought, as a vast many more had followed it. Not mixing withthem; walking apart and alone, close to the houses, in the deepshade cast by their walls. She was a comely young woman of aboutseven-and-twenty, tall and fair, with steady blue eyes, good features,and a sensible countenance. In deep mourning for her mother, she woreon this night a black merino dress, soft and fine, and a black shawltrimmed with crape, that she held closely round her. But she haddisappeared; and amidst so many Mr. Jones thought it would be uselessto go looking for her.
A certain official personage or two, perhaps deputies from thecoroner, or from the parish, or from the undertaker furnishing thecoffin and the two sets of bearers--who can tell?--whose mission itwas to see the appointed proceedings carried out, cleared by theirhands and gestures a space around the grave. The people fell backobediently. They pressed and elbowed each other no doubt, and grumbledat others crushing them; but they kept themselves back in theirplaces. A small knot, gentlemen evidently, and probably friends of thedeceased, were allowed to approach the grave. The grave-diggers stoodnear, holding the torches. But for those flaring torches, the crowdwould have seen better: they saw well enough, however, in the brightmoonlight.
In the churchyard, having taken up his station there behind an uprighttombstone, where tombstones were thick, stood an officer connectedwith the police. He was in plain clothes--in fact, nobody rememberedto have seen him in other ones--and had come out tonight notofficially but to gratify himself personally. Ensconced behind thestone, away from everybody, he could look on at leisure through itsupper fretwork and take his own observations, not only of the ceremonyabout to be performed, but of those who were attending it. He was amiddle-sized, spare man, with a pale face, deeply sunk green eyes,that had a habit of looking steadily at people, and a small, sharp,turned-up nose. Silent by nature and by habit, he imparted the idea ofpossessing a vast amount of astute keenness as a detector of crime: inhis own opinion he had not in that respect an equal. Nobody coulddiscern him, and he did not intend they should.
Amidst a dead silence, save for the creaking of the cords, amidst ashiver of sympathy, of pity, of awful thoughts from a great many ofthe spectators, the black covering was thrown aside and the coffin waslowered. There was a general lifting off of hats; a pause; and then arush. One in the front rank--a fat woman, who had fought for herplace--stepped