A Strange World_ A Novel. Volume 2 (of 3)
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
A STRANGE WORLD
CONTENTS TO VOL. II.
|I.||‘Farewell,’ quoth she, ‘and come again to-morrow’||1|
|II.||‘O’er all there hung a shadow and a fear’||16|
|III.||‘He Cometh not,’ she said||26|
|IV.||‘And I shall be alone until I die’||53|
|V.||‘Surely, most bitter of all sweet things thou art’||67|
|VI.||‘We are past the season of divided ills’||83|
|VII.||‘The drowsy night grows on the world’||100|
|VIII.||‘Good night, good rest. Ah! neither be my share’||107|
|IX.||‘Such a lord is love’||121|
|X.||‘Then streamed life’s future on the fading past’||134|
|XI.||‘A merrier hour was never wasted there’||158|
|XII.||‘It was the hour when woods are cold’||165|
|XIII.||‘Now half to the setting moon have gone, and half to the rising day’||182|
|XIV.||‘O heaven! that one might read the book of fate!’||201|
|XV.||‘Qui peut sous le soleil tromper sa destinee?’||209|
|XVI.||‘This is more strange than such a murder is’||225|
|XVII.||‘Ah, love, there is no better life than this’||235|
|XVIII.||‘Love is a thing to which we soon consent’||251|
|XIX.||Sorrow augmenteth the Malady||265|
|XX.||‘But oh! the thorns we stand upon!’||281|
‘FAREWELL,’ QUOTH SHE, ‘AND COME AGAIN TO-MORROW.’
The old housekeeper’s eyes were dim as she finishedher story of the heir of Penwyn.
‘He was the best of all,’ she said; ‘Mr. Balfourwe saw very little of after he grew up, being theyoungest to marry and leave home; Mr. James wasa kind, easy-going young fellow enough; but Mr.George was everybody’s favourite, and there wasn’ta dry eye among us when the Squire called ustogether after his illness, and told us how his sonhad died. “He died like a gentleman—upholdingthe honour of his Queen and his country, and thename of Penwyn,” said the master, without a tremblein his voice, though it was feebler than before thestroke, “and I am proud to think of him lying inhis far-off grave, and if I were not so old I wouldgo over the sea to kneel beside my poor boy’sresting-place before I die. He displeased me once,but we are good friends now, and there will be nocloud between us when we meet in another world.”’
Here Mrs. Darvis was fairly overcome, much tothe astonishment of the girl Elspeth, whose uncannyblack eyes regarded her with a scornful wonder.Maurice noticed that look.
‘Sweet child,’ he said to himself. ‘What a charminghelpmeet you will make for some honest peasantin days to come, with your amiable disposition!’
He had taken his time looking at the old house,and listening to the housekeeper’s story. The sunwas low, and he had yet to find a lodging for thenight. He had walked far since morning, and wasnot disposed to retrace his steps to the nearest town,a place called Seacomb, consisting of a long stragglingstreet, with various lateral courts and alleys, amarket-place, parish church, lock-up, and five dissentingchapels of various denominations. This Seacombwas a good nine miles from Penwyn Manor.
‘Perhaps you’d like to see the young Squire’sportrait,’ said Mrs. Darvis, when she had dried thosetributary tears.
‘The young Squire?’
‘Mr. George. We used to call him the youngSquire sometimes.’
‘Yes, I should like to have a look at the poorfellow, now you’ve told me his history.’
‘It hangs in the old Squire’s study. It’s abit of a room, and I forgot to show it to you justnow.’
Maurice followed her across the hall to a smalldoor in a corner, deeply recessed and low, but solidenough to have guarded the Tolbooth, one wouldsuppose. It opened into a narrow room, with onewindow looking towards the sea. The wainscotwas almost black with age, the furniture, old walnutwood, of the same time-darkened hue. There was aheavy old bureau, brass handled and brass clamped;a bookcase, a ponderous writing desk, and one capaciousarm-chair, covered with black leather. The high,narrow chimney-piece was in an angle of the room,and above this hung the portrait of George Penwyn.
It was a kit-kat picture of a lad in undress uniform,the face a long oval, fair of complexion, andsomewhat feminine in delicacy of feature, the eyesdark blue. The rest of the features, though sufficientlyregular, were commonplace enough; but theeyes, beautiful alike in shape and colour, impressedMaurice Clissold. They were eyes which mighthave haunted the fancy of girlhood, with the dreamof an ideal lover; eyes in whose somewhat melancholysweetness a poet would have read somestrange life-history. The hair, a pale auburn, hungin a loosely waving mass over the high narrow brow,and helped to give a picturesque cast to the patrician-lookinghead.
‘A nice face,’ said Maurice, critically. ‘There isa little look of my poor friend James Penwyn, butnot much. Poor Jim had a gayer, brighter expression,and had not those fine blue-grey eyes. Ifancy Churchill Penwyn must be a plain likeness ofhis uncle George. Not so handsome, but moreintellectual-looking.’
‘Yes, sir,’ assented Mrs. Darvis. ‘The presentSquire is something like his uncle, but there’s aharder look in his face. All the features seem cutout sharper; and then his eyes are quite different.Mr. George had his mother’s eyes; she was aTresillian, and one of the handsomest women inCornwall.’
‘I’ve seen a face somewhere which that picturereminds me of, but I haven’t the faintest notionwhere,’ said Maurice. ‘In another picture, perhaps.Half one’s memories of faces are derived frompictures, and they flash across the mind suddenly,like a recollection of another world. However, Imustn’t stand prosing here, while the sun goes downyonder. I have to find a lodging before nightfall.What is the nearest place, village, or farmhouse,where I can get a bed, do you think, Mrs. Darvis?’
‘There’s the “Bell,” in Penwyn village.’
‘No good. I’ve tried there already. Thelandlady’s married daughter is home on a visit,and they haven’t a bed to give me for love ormoney.’
Mrs. Darvis lapsed into meditation.
‘The nearest farmhouse is Trevanard’s, at BorcelEnd. They might give you a bed there, for the placeis large enough for a barrack, but they are not themost obliging people in the world, and they are toowell off to care about the money you may pay themfor the accommodation.’
‘How far is Borcel End?’
‘Between two and three miles.’
‘Then I’ll try my luck there, Mrs. Darvis,’said Maurice, cheerily. ‘It lies between that andsleeping under the open sky.’
‘I wish I could offer you a bed, sir; but in myposition——’
‘As custodian such an offer would be a breach ofgood faith to your employers. I quite understandthat, Mrs. Darvis. I come here as a stranger to you,and I thank you kindly for having been so obligingas to show me the house.’
He dropped a couple of half-crowns into herhand as he spoke, but these Mrs. Darvis rejectedmost decidedly.
‘Ours has never been what you can call a showplace, sir, and I’ve never looked for that kind ofperquisite.’
‘Come, young one,’ said Maurice, after takingleave of the friendly old housekeeper, ‘you can putme into the right road to Borcel End, and you shallhave one of these for your reward.’
Elspeth’s black eyes had watched the rejectionof the half-crowns with unmistakable greed. Hersharp face brightened at Maurice’s promise.
‘I’ll show you the way, sir,’ she said; ‘I knowevery step of it.’
‘Yes, the lass is always roaming about, like awild creature, over the hills, and down by the sea,’said Mrs. Darvis, with a disapproving air. ‘I don’tthink she knows how to read or write, or has asmuch Christian knowledge as the old jackdaw inthe servants’ hall.’
‘I know things that are better than reading andwriting,’ said Elspeth, with a grin.
‘What kind of things may those be?’ askedMaurice.
‘Things that other people don’t know.’
‘Well, my lass, I won’t trouble you by soundingthe obscure depths of your wisdom. I only wantthe straightest road to Trevanard’s farm. He is atenant of this estate, I suppose, Mrs. Darvis?’
‘Yes, sir. Michael Trevanard’s father was atenant of the old Squire’s before my time. OldMrs. Trevanard is still living, though stone-blind,and hardly right in her head, I believe.’
They had reached the lobby door by this time,the chief hall door being kept religiously boltedand barred during the absence of the family.
‘I shall come and see you again, Mrs. Darvis,most likely, before I leave this part of the country,’said Maurice, as he crossed the threshold. ‘Goodevening.’
‘You’ll be welcome at any time, sir. Goodevening.’
Elspeth led the way across the lawn, with a stepso light and swift that it was as much as Mauricecould do to keep pace with her, tired as he was, aftera long day afoot. He followed her into the pinewood. The trees were not thickly planted, but theywere old and fine, and their dense foliage lookedinky black against a primrose-coloured sky. Anarrow footpath