Edina A Novel
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MRS. HENRY WOOD
"EAST LYNNE," "THE CHANNINGS," "JOHNNY LUDLOW," ETC.
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
|I.||HEARD AT MIDNIGHT.|
|III.||ON THE BARE PLAIN.|
|IV.||WAITING FOR BELL.|
|VI.||DINING AT THE MOUNT.|
|IX.||PLANNING OUT THE FUTURE.|
|X.||MAJOR AND MRS. RAYNOR.|
|XIII.||UNDER THE STARS.|
|XIV.||IN THE CHURCHYARD.|
|XV.||LOOKING OUT FOR EDINA.|
|XVII.||BROUGHT TO THE SURFACE.|
|XVIII.||A SUBTLE ENEMY.|
|I.||AT EAGLES' NEST.|
|V.||SIR PHILIP'S MISSION.|
|VII.||FRANK RAYNOR FOLLOWED.|
|VIII.||THE NEW HOME.|
|IX.||MR. MAX BROWN.|
|X.||A NIGHT ALARM.|
|III.||CROPPING UP AGAIN.|
|V.||THE MISSING DESK.|
|VI.||UNDER THE CHURCH WALLS.|
HEARD AT MIDNIGHT
The village, in which the first scenes of this history are laid, wascalled Trennach; and the land about it was bleak and bare and drearyenough, though situated in the grand old county of Cornwall. For mineslay around, with all the signs and features of miners' work aboutthem; yawning pit mouths, leading down to rich beds of minerals--someof the mines in all the bustle of full operation, some worked out andabandoned. Again, in the neighbourhood of these, might be seen miners'huts and other dwelling-places, and the counting-houses attached tothe shafts. The little village of Trennach skirted this tract oflabour; for, while the mining district extended for some miles on oneside the hamlet; on the other side, half-an-hour's quiet walkingbrought you to a different country altogether--to spreading trees andrich pasture land and luxuriant vegetation.
The village street chiefly consisted of shops. Very humble shops, mostof them; but the miners and the other inhabitants, out of reach ofbetter, found them sufficiently good for their purposes. Most of theshops dealt in mixed articles, and might be called general shops. Thelinendraper added brushes and brooms to his cottons and stuffs; thegrocer sold saucepans and gridirons; the baker did a thriving trade inhome-made pickles. On a dark night, the most cheerful-looking shop wasthe druggist's: the coloured globes displayed in its windows sendingforth their reflections into the thoroughfare. This shop had alsoadded another branch to its legitimate trade--that of generalliterature: for the one solitary doctor of the place dispensed his ownmedicines, and the sale of drugs was not great. The shop boasted asmall circulating library; the miners and the miners' wives, liketheir betters, being fond of sensational fiction. The books consistedentirely of cheap volumes, issued at a shilling or two shillingseach; some indeed at sixpence. The proprietor of this mart, EdmundFloat, chemist and druggist, was almost a confirmed invalid, and wouldoften be laid up for a week at a time. The doctor told him that if hewould devote less of his time to that noted hostelry, the GoldenShaft, he might escape these attacks of illness. At these times thebusiness of the shop, both as to drugs and books, was transacted by ayoung native of Falmouth; one Blase Pellet, who had served hisapprenticeship in it and remained on as assistant.
The doctor's name was Raynor. He wrote himself Hugh Raynor, M.D.,Member of the Royal College of Physicians. That he, a man of fairability in his profession and a gentleman as well, should be contentedto live in this obscure place, in all the drudgery of a generalpractitioner and apothecary, may seem a matter of surprise--but hishistory shall be given further on. His house stood in the middle ofthe village, somewhat back from the street: a low, square, detachedbuilding, a bow window on each side its entrance, and three windowsabove. On the door, which always stood open in the daytime, was abrass plate, bearing the name, "Dr. Raynor." The bow window to theleft was screened by a brown wire blind, displaying the word "Surgery"in large white letters. Above the blind Dr. Raynor's white head, orthe younger head of his handsome nephew, might occasionally be seen bythe passers-by, or by Mr. Blase Pellet over the way. For the doctor'shouse and the druggist's shop faced each other; and Mr. Pellet, beingof an inquisitive disposition, seemed never tired of peeping andpeering into his neighbours' doings generally, and especially into anythat might take place at Dr. Raynor's. At either end of this ratherstraggling street were seated respectively the parish church and theWesleyan meeting-house. The latter was the better attended; for mostof the miners followed their fathers' faith--that of the WesleyanMethodists.
It was Monday morning, and a cold clear day in March. The wind camesweeping down the wide street; the dust whirled in the air; overhead,the sun was shining brightly. Dr. Raynor stood near the fire in hissurgery, looking over his day-book, in which a summary of the casesunder treatment was entered. He was dressed in black. A tall,grand-looking, elderly man, very quiet in manner, with a pale, placidface, and carefully-trimmed thin white whiskers. It was eight o'clock,and he had just entered the surgery: his nephew had already been in ithalf-an-hour. Never a more active man in his work than Dr. Raynor, butlatterly his energy had strangely failed him.
"Has any message come in this morning from Pollock's wife, Frank?" heasked.
"Then I suppose she's better," remarked the doctor, closing the bookas he spoke, and moving towards the window.
A square table stood at the end of the room, facing the window. Behindit was Frank Raynor, making up mixtures, the ingredients for which hetook from some of the various bottles ranged upon the shelves behindhim. He was a slender, gentlemanly young fellow of four-and-twenty,rather above the middle height, and wore this morning a suit of greyclothes. The thought that passed through a stranger's minds on firstseeing Frank Raynor was, How good-looking he is! It was not, however,so much in physical beauty that the good looks consisted, as in thebright expression of his well-featured face, and the sunny, laughingblue eyes. The face wanted one thing--firmness. In the delicate mouth,very sweet and pleasant in form though it was, might be traced hiswant of stability. He could not say No to a petition, let it be whatit might: he was swayed as easily as the wind. Most lovable was FrankRaynor; but he would be almost sure to be his own enemy as he wentthrough life. You could not help liking him; every one did that--withthe exception of Mr. Blase Pellet across the road. Frank's hair wasgolden brown, curling slightly, and worn rather long. His face, likehis uncle's, was close-shaved, excepting that he too wore whiskers,which were of the same colour as the hair.
"What a number of men are standing about!" exclaimed Dr. Raynor,looking over the blind. "More even than usual on a Monday morning. Onemight think they were not at work.
"They are not at work," replied Frank. "As I hear.
"No! what's that for?"
Frank's lips parted with a smile. An amused look sat in his blue eyesas he answered.
"Through some superstition, I fancy, Uncle Hugh. They say the SevenWhistlers were heard in the night."
Dr. Raynor turned quickly towards his nephew. "The Seven Whistlers;"he repeated. "Why, who says that?"
"Ross told me. He came in for some laudanum for his neuralgia. Asthere is to be no work done to-day, the overseer thought he might aswell lie up and doctor himself. A rare temper he is in."
"Can't he get the men to work?"
"Not one of them. Threats and promises alike fail. There's safe to bean accident if they go down to-day, say the men; and they won't riskit. Bell had better not come in Ross's way whilst his present temperlasts," added Frank, as he began to screw a cork into a bottle. "Ithink Ross would knock him down."
"Why Bell in particular?"
"Because it is Bell who professes to have heard the Whistlers."
"And none of the others?" cried the doctor.
"I fancy not. Uncle Hugh, what is the superstition?" added Frank."What does it mean? I don't understand: and Ross, when I asked him, heturned away instead of answering me. Is it something especiallyridiculous?"
Dr. Raynor briefly replied. This superstition of the Seven Whistlersarose from certain sounds in the air. They were supposed by theminers, when heard--which was very rarely, indeed, in thisneighbourhood--to foretell ill luck. Accident, death, all sorts ofcalamities, in fact, might be expected, according to the popularsuperstition, by those who had the misfortune to hear the sounds.
Frank Raynor listened to the doctor's short explanation, a glow ofamusement on his face. It sounded to him like a bit of absurd fun.
"You don't believe in such nonsense, surely, Uncle Hugh!"
Dr. Raynor had returned to the fire, and was gazing into it; somespeculation, or perhaps recollection, or it might be doubt, in hisgrey eyes.
"All my experience in regard to the Seven Whistlers is this,Frank--and you may make the most of it. Many years ago, when I wasstaying amongst the collieries in North Warwickshire, there arose acommotion one morning. The men did not want to go down the pits thatday, giving as a reason that the Seven Whistlers had passed over theplace during the night, and had been heard by many of them. Inaturally inquired what the Seven Whistlers meant, never having heardof them, and received in reply the explanation I have now given you.But workmen were not so independent in those days, Frank, as they arein these; and the men were forced to go down the pits as usual."
"And what came of it?" asked Frank.
"Of the going down? This. An accident took place in the pit that samemorning--through fire-damp, I think; and many of them never came upagain alive."
"How dreadful! But that could not have been the fault of the SevenWhistlers?" debated Frank.
"My second and only other experience was at Trennach," continued Dr.Raynor, passing over Frank's comment. "About six years ago, some ofthe miners professed to have heard these sounds. That same day, asthey were descending one of the shafts after dinner, an accidentoccurred to the machinery----"
"And did damage," interrupted Frank, with increasing interest.
"Yes. Three of the men fell to the bottom of the mine, and werekilled; and several others were injured more or less badly. I attendedthem. You ask me if I place faith in the superstition, Frank. No: I donot. I am sufficiently enlightened not to do so. But the experiencesthat I have told you of are facts. I look upon them as merecoincidences."
A pause. Frank was going on with his work.
"Are the sounds all fancy, Uncle Hugh?"
"Oh no. The sounds are real enough."
"What do they proceed from? What causes them?"
"It is said that they proceed from certain night-birds," replied Dr.Raynor. "Flocks of birds, in their nocturnal passage across thecountry, making plaintive sounds; and when these sounds are heard,they are superstitiously supposed to predict evil to those who hearthem. Ignorant men are always credulous. That is all I know about it,Frank."
"Did you ever hear the sounds yourself, Uncle Hugh?"
"Never. This is only the third occasion that I have been in any placeat the time they have been heard--or said to have been heard--and Ihave not myself been one of the hearers. There's Bell!" added Dr.Raynor, seeing a man leave the chemist's and cross the street in thedirection of his house. "He seems to be coming here."
"And Float the miners following him," observed Frank.
Two men entered through the doctor's open front-door, and thence tothe surgery. The one was a little, middle-aged man, who carried astout stick and walked somewhat lame. His countenance, not verypleasing at the best of times, just now wore a grey tinge thatwas rather remarkable. This was Josiah Bell. The one who followedhim in was a tall, burly man, with a pleasant face, as fresh as afarm-labourer's; his voice was soft, and his manner meek and retiring.The little man's voice, on the contrary, was loud and self-asserting.Bell was given to quarrel with every one who would quarrel with him;scarcely a