Chapter 20318436

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1868-05-02
Page Number2
Word Count6927
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleLove Stronger than Death
article text

The Novelist.


By the Author of "Whitefriars," "The Matrimonial Vanity Fair," &c.

I MUST confess that I myself experienced a strange sinking of the heart when we arrived at the place which was thenceforth to be our abode, and began the unloading of the furniture vans.

As for my wife she exclaimed, in tones of sur prise and dismay, as we alighted from the hired conveyance that had brought us from the nearest railway station, distant, nevertheless, nine or ten, not good, but very rough and uneven miles. " Dear, me, George! you don't mean to say that this is the house, with all that ugly, tumble down stabling about it, and that horrid, Maria- Martin-looking Bed Barn among those pailings, , and that stagnant green pond in the yard, and those haggard old orchard-trees scrambling over the hillside to the brook there, with such a dis mal line of weeping willows along it, standing like so many mourners at a perpetual funeral ?" Little Serapha burst out crying at her mother's speech, and would not be pacified for some time, though probably understanding little more than the concern and chiding in those usually mildest of utterances. " You know, Emily dear," I answered, when the teapot tempest at last came to a lull, " that I mentioned to you there was a good deal more ?tabling about the place than we are ever likely to require, even if we managed in the long run to afford ourselves a country drag of some sort or other to turn out in. But that was one of my inducements to take Deverell Lodge, because we can let off part to some person who keeps hones, in such a sporting district; and that will lighten the rent, as well as the study of them being so useful to me in the way of my profession. And, of course a good deal of ac commodation of the sort was to be expected about a place that has been the residence of so noted a tmf man aB Captain Deverell, who rained himself by his passion for horses, training and running them, and all that sort of thing, on only a moderate fortune to begin with." " Well, perhaps so, dear; but, upon my word' George, all that silent, dreary out-building strikes one quite like a place gone to ruin and de sertion on account of some great crime commit ted in it, so that nobody who knows about it will have anything to do with it. Very likely that*s why you have got it so cheap! Did you make proper inquiries first, you dear, careless, cigar-puffing boy, ? No, of course! Well, it may be fancy, but I don't almost, I think, like the. smell of the air here. It feels to me quite dose and clammy-like; and you said it was bo sweet, and bright, and fresh!" "It has not been inhabited these five years, so it's no great wonder if the place seems a little fusty and shut up ; but the reason why it was never let before was Bimply that it is only just decided in Chancery that Captain Deverell's creditors have a right to do bo, in spite of its being Crown property in reality, because he is hereditary warden of the forest in this district," I replied, perhaps a little pettishly. But, in truth, I was vaguely impressed now with a somewhat similar sense of physical as well as moral discomfort to that my wife des cribed, with her usual gentle earnestness; for things looked even worse than she described them. .It puzzled me. When I had visited the spot on the only previous occasion I had sees had struck me very differently. I went in con sequence of an advertisement, to ascertain whether Deverell Lodge was suitable for a pur pose I had in view, as well as a healthful change of air. I was an artist—an ambitious one—and re quired a large studio. What could be better for historical painting than an extensive un tenanted stable, well-ventilated, and lighted from above ? I was so pleased that I made up my mind at once—or, at all events, after a very general survey indeed of the premises and their surroundings in other respects. And there again, I suppose my painter's eye had been satiefied by the picturesque effects of the forest scenery that bordered cloße upon Deverell Ward Lodge, as it was properly styled, arrayed in all the glory of autumn. And the fine sunshiny day of my inspection must have given an unreal brightening and cheerfulness to what I now perceived was a dismal, old, strag gling wooden house, built almost all on a floor and crumbling to decay in various parts, under its tall, gaunt chimneys, and moss-grown, weather-stained tiles. And my grand, misleading temptation itself, where I proposed to take up my own especial quarters—the detached but still near cluster of unhappy-looking deserted buildings, that had once been dedicated to the bustling and noisy operations of a training-yard, looked the worst under the cold, cloudy, lowering noon when we took possession of our future home. I made what apology I best could to my still shrinking and shuddering spouse, whose delicate nostrils continued drawn as Bhe traversed the courtyard to the house, and took in the de tails of the scene. "That big, red, Maria Martin barn, as you style the fine large enclosure where, I suppose they put the horses through the first operations of training, and their exercises when the wea ther was bad, I mean for my grand studio, Emily," I said, " where I shall now most cer iainly at last be able to paint my famous his torical picture of the Battle of Hastings, which is to make all our fortunes, with both the armies as large as life, and in the steel inexpressibles of the period. Don't you begin to understand now, little woman, and to appreciate the con veniences of the place ?" My wife smiled, but with an effort. The natu ral sweetness of her temper was, however, never long ruffled. " Well," she said, " we must make the best of it now you have done it, as we have in other things, and since it cannot be helped, and we are hero ; Sukey, unpack the hampers. I hope, at least, the standing-pie is not shaken to pieces over the bad,rutty by-roads wehavecome along." Our provisions were found in good order, and that restored some degree of pleasant anticipa tion. The servants lighted a fire in what was evidently the best room in the house, having rather a peculiar bay window, opening in several divisions to the ground, on a lawn covered breast-high with grass and weeds, and hung over the panes with long, black, deplorable drippings of ivy from a projecting wooden gable above, whence it clustered to the very chimney-tops. And I was glad to withdraw from the various nuisances of the preparation of a meal under " moving difficulties, on so reasonable a pretext as to make my way to a small roadside inn I knew to be in the neighborhood, to order some refreshment, in the shape of malt liquor for our elves and the carmen. But my wife begged

me not to be gone long. She did feel so " queer i and weird-like," as she expressed. it, in that < strange place, and should " feel quite done up unless she had me near to speak to." ' Of course, I promised. Low spirits and an exceedingly excitable condition of the nerves were, indeed, the moßt marked features of my wife's disorder, which had been my main motive in leaving town, and setting up an establishment, in what I thought was bo very quiet and healthy a country neighborhood, on the borders of the New Forest in Hampshire. She had suffered severely in a recent confine ment, and had lost her child, after a sickly, struggling existence of a few months—long enough protracted, nevertheless, completely to exhaust the young mother with watching and anxiety. But the poor little fellow had been the only male child as yet vouchsafed us. Indeed, we had only another at all surviving, whose delicate ethereal beauty in infancy had sug gested to me the novel but appropriate name of Serapha. Else it was likely to be of no slight disadvan tage to me in my profession to withdraw from London, and bury myself and my artistic laborß in a remote and out-of-the-way country retire ment. But my finances did not at the time allow me to attempt uniting more advantageous conditions. I was obliged to consult economy in all the judgments I passed, considering, cap on head, in the form of a smoking-fez, on the varied temptations of the advertisements I perused evening by evening in the papers. And I was getting rather tired and hopeless in my researches, when I lighted on what seemed the very thing for me, in an an nouncement that an "old-fashioned, but very picturesque and delightful residence was to be let in the ancient forest district mentioned above, surrounded by its own park-like grounds," and with every convenience attached. Nay, with more than every convenience, for it was tUrown out as a strong lure that the stabling was of a particularly extensive description, and suitable for the occupation of any one engaged in the rearing and training of that " noble animal, the horse." It was captivatingly added, moreover, that, if not required by the tenant of the "unique family residence," these accommoda tions could be let off separately, and would more than pay the entire rent. I ought, indeed, to have suspected something amiss, from the great and unusual advantages insisted upon, especially as the rent asked really was extremely moderate for a much inferior description of abode. But an explanation I relied on lay in the un certainty of the tenure on which the place was leased. It was offered by the trustees.of a bankrupt and out-lawed gentleman-horsedealer —as they did not Bcruple to describe the fallen heir and representative of one of the most ancient Hampshire families—after tbey bad dis covered, in a protracted suit in Chancery, that they*had no power to sell the property, which was an hereditary grant from the Crown, that, in case of failure in heirship in the Deverell family, reverted to it. In consequence, it could not be disposed of with the rest of Captain Deverell's estates, to pay off his debts. Only the creditors found they had the disposal of his life-right in their possession, and had availed themselves of a judgment to that effect in their favor in a manner that had resulted in my being their tenant at Deverell Ward Lodge. But though a young man, Captain Deverell was notoriously a personage of such headlong courses and pursuits and passions, that the duration of his life could not be calculated upon by any of the common data. He was living, besides, abroad, on very scanty means, to avoid the actual clutches of his creditors. But to continue my narrative. I left the house on my thirsty errand by its principal approach from the high road, by a terribly neglected avenue of lofty trees, formed by a glade in the forest—one of the numerous en croachments on the rights of the Crown which custom had almost converted into legitimate possession, usual along the entire verge and range of the New Forest at the time. The little inn I sought stood at the junction of several cross roads I had previously explored, passing in various directions through the forest, one of which led from my new residence. It was close upon the village of Ward Deverell, and at no very great distance from the lodge, if it could have been reached directly. But you had to pass down the avenue, and skirt a darksome bit of woodland, before you could reach it, by the only advisable route for a stranger—namely, by the avenue and highway. Such tracks as pre sented themselves in the forest, besides being of doubtful turn out, were so deeply rutted with the wheels of heavy timber carriages, muddy, and drippled over with fallen leaves and tangled copse, that any short cuts they might have pre sented would have been pretty certain to prove the longest in the end. I resisted all such temptations, therefore, as I descended the avenue. This broadened as it came upon the highway from the forest, and there was in consequence a good expansion of light and air in that direction. And now, as I came upon the opening, still at a distance of about forty or fifty yards, I saw what struck me as a very singular object, especially in connec tion with certain circumstances to be detailed. A bank arose as one neared the road, between the forest and it, set with a broken, pictur esque-looking bar fence at the top. At the bottom ran a brook—a clear and rather full and rapid flow of water, chiefly supplied from the higher ground about Deverell Lodge, and several springs on the hill-side, where the orchard stood. And now, upon the margin of the brook, under a deformed and stunted willow of those so diparagingly alluded to by my wife, I saw what I undoubtedly conceived to be the figure of a woman, sitting down on some stone, wearily bending forward on her folded arms, with masses of streaming raven-black hair fall ing all over her face, and partially hiding the upper part of her person—who was bathing her feet, as if travel-sore, in the quick and gurgling waters just below! If an illusion, I know not how I came to shape so perfect a deception to the eye as this appearance made. I remember being par ticularly impressed with the extreme dejection and weariness of the wayfarer's attitude, coupled with a conviction that she must be a young woman of good stature and proportions when she stood upright. I noted, as an artist, the telling effect of what appeared to be numerous patches of scarlet cloth in a ragged grey mantle she wore, which seemed, indeed, aB if torn and tattered more by violence than wear. I saw distinctly that she had a crushed-look ing straw hat, and a small bundle on one arm: I wondered to myself—if ever I wondered at anything, with a perfect trust in the reality of what excited my surprise-^at seeing a woman laving her naked feet in the water of a running

stream, on bo cold and wintry-like an autumn day. In short, I was as satisfied I beheld this strange, dishevelled female creature, seated under the stumpy, deformed willow, with her feet in the brook, as that I saw at a little dis- j tance from her a thin, pale, ill-dressed child, j that looked as if it might well indeed be hers, engaged in a task much beyond its infantine strength and years, in cutting rushes, and piling them in httle bundles on the edge of the stream. It waa a boy, about two or three years older than our httle Serapha, for I mentally made the calculation as I advanced. Yet when I arrived within a few steps of the pair, the woman, in some sudden and indes cribable manner, passed out of my sight, and I found only the little boy, when I quite reached the spot, bending his poor httle back, and over straining himself at his task, with a rusty sickle in his hand, that I feared would cut off half his little fingers every attempt he made to sever the tough reeds from their roots. I was extremely startled; but, after a pause of recollection, accounted to myself for the dis appearance of the female on the supposition that, observing a man approach, Bhe had not choßen to be discovered at bo unusual a process of the toilette in the open air, and had betaken herself somewhere out of sight. The child, however, poor thing, remained there firmly enough to vision; and I stopped for a minute, partly in compassionate survey of the small, overtaxed laborer at his work, partly in perplexity of mind, and hopes of some solu tion of the mystery. These two motives combined to produce the remark I addressed to him : " Well, my little fellow, what are you going to do with all these green withes you are so busy tying up? and why does not mammy help you at your work ?" I said. " Please, sir, mammy's dead before I was born —no, just after Bhe brought me here from a long way off—l don't know where. But it was very naughty of her to do so, and the parish has to keep me, because they don't know where I belong to. And lam at nurse at Dame Raw bon'a down in the cottage there, near the public house with the picture hanging over the door of the woman with her head cut off; and her daughter's blind, and makes baskets; and her husband sends me out to cut rushes, and bring them home for her to make them out of; and he'd have no money if she didn't. But he's always very cross with her as well as me, and he flogs me when I don't bring home enough; and it hurts me, and makes my back so sore I can't 'eep; and I don't get anything to eat almost; and please, sir, I mustn't stop, or I shannot be done before night, and it is so cold, and it frightens me so to be out in the woods alone." As he spoke I looked at him, and felt my interest yet more aroused by what I saw. Pallid and half starved as the poor infant looked (he seemed about six or seven years old), I was Btruck with the beauty and, bo to Bpeak, aristo cratio delicacy and refinement of his features; and it was peculiar about his face and expression that his eyes and long eyelashes were black, while the hair of his head was a rich, curly, golden-amber brown. I noticed also the grace ful turn of his httle limbs, and the smallnesß and fineness of his feet and hands. "Now, if this were a gentleman's child, instead of a tiny pauper," I thought to myself, "what pratting there would be among the aunts and nurses of his fine blood showing it- Belf so visibly in his features and make!" Indeed, I was too much interested to forbear loitering a little longer on my way to the inn, to look at the orphan lad. But I should not further have interrupted him in a task he seemed to ply with such timorous diligence, had I not been Btruck by his statement that his " mammy " was dead. " Why, who was the young woman who was sitting beside you here ?" I inquired. To my surprise, and perhaps a little to my dismay, the child immediately ceased from his work, flung down his too heavy tool, and be gan to cry. " You mustn't say so—you mustn't say so, . you naughty man!" he sobbed, with a frightened stare. "I didn't say so this time. I hav'n't seen her, and I didn't say anything about her at all; and you are trying to get Horsemonger Jack to flog me for nothing at all, till the skin's off my back, as he said he would if ever I saw her again!" "And so I will, you confounded young rascal you! Are you at your tell-tales again, or what are you doing here, gabbling away your time, when I told you to make sharp as an axe, and get enow rushes for another basket, in time for my wife to finish it to-night ?" interposed a brutal, coarse voice at this moment. And a big, savage-looking fellow, with a bull dog nose, and heavy, hanging jaws, in a dress that seemed like that of a broken-down jockey or horse-couper, tumbled himself down over the hedge into the road. It occurred to me, in deed, that he must have been crouching down behind it, to listen to what had passed, or else had been resting his unshapely, bow-legged carcass on the grass. I felt indignant at the bullying, vicious tone the fellow adopted towards the poor little parish child, and annoyed "at the notion of his having played the spy on my harmless inter view with him. "If you were lounging behind the hedge there, my good man," I observed, sharply enough, " I think you might have been better employed doing the job yourself, than lurking about like a wolf to watch him at it." " It's a lie—l warn't. And what's the little parish warmint for else ?" the ruffian answered, in the most ferocious and abusive style. " And he's a born jdiot, wot fancies he sees happari tions and trash of that sort, when he do no more than my grandmother, and less, unless it be the pictur* of the Good Woman at the public, walked down from the sign, with her head in her teeth, to harnt him for his wicked ness, a neglecting of his work whenever he can get my eyes off him, because he knows my poor wife's blind, and can't see how he's a idling away of his time!" "No, master. Mammy—my real mammy, that is dead—always has her head on her shoulders, and beautiful long black hair, of the color of my eyelashes, hanging all over her face like the willow boughs over the gravestones when the moon shines bright on them!" re turned the intelligent child, in spite of the alleged infirmity of his mind, and with a simple earnestness and good faith in his dreamy, lovely eyes that irresistibly impelled belief, at least, in his own conviction of the truth of his experi ences. I was startled besides by some coincidences between the description and what I had myself recently seen. Yet not distinctly so, else I think I should have been more alarmed than I

was, when Horsemonger Jack—as he seemed to be called—exclaimed, hoarsely— "Hold your tongue, little beast!" And turning somewhat apologetically to me, he added, " It all comes of their not being able to keep their deuced tongues from stuffing him with all sorts of 'orrible stories and lies about his mother—which I don't deny she come by an awful end!" Ruffian as he was, the fellow lowered his voice as he said these last words, and I thought looked around him as he did so almost fearfully, as if expecting to discern some cause for dread even to his hardened nerves. Perhaps it was only my fancy, but I was struck by the notion, and, disregarding the offensive and violent manner of the man, I asked him'what he meant; what sort of unusually terrible fate the poor woman had come by ? I ought certainly to have remembered the child's presence, and I deserved the rebuke administered even in this coarse ruffian's style: " Ain't you ashamed to ask me that afore the hinfant that's her own child, then, whatever bad thing she was?" he yelled out. "You a gentleman, indeed, and have no more regard for human natur' and decency than to want to hear a 'orrid hackßident like that described in all the partie'lars, in a child's hearing ? Not but what I believe, by the holy powers! he re members something of it all himself; the way he at times moans in his sleep, and paws with his httle hands, as if to keep the creature off." " The creature off!" These strange words roused my curiosity to a degree much exceeding any I had previously felt awakened in connection with the orphan child. " What creature ? You talk as if the woman had been eaten up by a tiger out of a jungle, in England and Hampshire!" I Baid, thinking, perhaps, to provoke him, by my tone of incredu lity, to some clearer revelation. But it did not take as I purposed. "Do you think I am going to keep stuffing what's already a lunatic's small brains with them kind of 'orrible discoveries ?" he perfectly roared out, like the beast I had alluded to. " And it was wuss—a thousand times wnss— than any tiger's work in the world! Come along, Willy! It'll do to-night what you've got. Come home, and get your supper, and go to bed, and keep clear of them strangers that is always putting wrong ideas into people's 'cads." So saying, he seized a tiny hand with one of his own big claws, while he roughly snatched away the sickle with the other, and dragged off the child, with a violence that certainly hurt or frightened him exceedingly, for he raised a pite ous wail that quite went to my heart. "I'll make enquiries about this poor little creature, and your way of treating it, Mr. Horsemonger Jack!" I shouted after him. " And you may make your reckoning for that." " Where's your witnesses?" he retorted, with sneering defiance; and, irritated with his inso lence, I called out — " I dare say there's one not far off, if she will only come out where she's kidden herself. I say, you girl with the long hair! where are you ? You see how this brutal fellow is treating a poor little orphan child." In my life I never saw such an expression of consternation and surprise as appeared in the man's face as he looked round to me on the words. And it was with quite an altered, and, indeed, awe-stricken and amazed tone that he exclaimed— "Lord, sir, you don't mean to say you've seen her, too ? A stranger like you in this part of the country, with no concern in the matter any way, that I can see ?" " I have the concern of common humanity,' and I will not see an orphan child scandalously maltreated, if my interference can^nduce the proper authorities to take some notice also in the matter. Where are you, young woman? I say again, yeur evidence may be necessary." "Go ahead! You'll call long enough before she comes. Holloa away!" the rascal now re torted, resuming his boldness and insolence. " And I should like to see the parish bother itself about how the little bastards on its charge are taught to work and do their duty when they're grown up!" I perceived that it was useless to bandy further discussion with a ruffian of this fashion. I soon lost sight of him, besides, with the child tugging unwillingly in his steps, and looking, as I thought, bewailingly and beseechingly back at me. And so I resumed my own trudge out on the highway, from whioh my late opponent had diverged into a side path through the wood, probably to his village. No part of this interview was very satisfac tory to me; but I felt rather relieved as I came in sight of the sign of the inn, which was swinging on its rusty chain in a high wind as I approached, under a notion that occurred to me. I thought that, perhaps, though scarcely to my own consciousness, my mind had been dwelling on the peculiar country signboard, which I had noticed on a previous occasion, and that my fancy, preoccupied by its dolorous jesting, and stirred into activity by chance combinations of light and shadow in the squat trunk and droop ing branches of the deformed willow tree, had suggested to me an illusive and purely visionary shaping of a female form, hung with dishevelled hair, seated, and engaged as I had thought I had seen that one seated and engaged. To be sure, the headlessness of the Good Woman was against this explanation, for if there were no head there could be no hair, and it was only a face I had not clearly made out in the vision ; and possibly the notion that I had been signalled out for an interview with a being of the other world continued to force itself so uncomfortably on my mind that, still more un happily for my peace, I was so unadvised as to push my attempts at a solution of the mystery yet further that night. The landlord of the Good Woman was a gossiping, communicative old fellow, not averse to a drop on his own account, and who, I believe, had been some sort of a strolling, Richardson's booth player in his younger days, from the exaggerated, melodramatic style occa sionally of hiß conversation, when, I suppose, he thought his more exalted flourishes would be appreciated. I mentioned to Mr. Jibberoy the little lad I had seen at work, cutting rushes, without at all alluding to the accompanying female apparition, which I considered I could not figure very in telligibly in my inquiries. But I asked him, on finding he knew directly what little lad I meant, if he was acquainted with the tragic circumstances which I was told made his mother's fate so peculiarly terrible ? The landlord answered me with a singular sort of twist of the jaws and comic leer. " Ar'n't you the gentleman that has taken

Deverell Lodge on a lease on the captain's life ?" was the query with which he commenced hie reply. "If bo be," he continued, on my nod ding assent, "don't you be asking questions that'll do you no good ; but'll as surely banish ' nature'B best restorer, balmy sleep !' as a scold ing wife, which I hope isn't a blessing that falls to every man's lot, whatever it may be mine. You'll find out all in good course, for yourself, sir, and meet not sorrow half way from the door, you know, sir! Or, if you don't, say William Shakespeare said so, which was the one that gave his name to the child, which had none before—that very child you're Bpeaking of! At least, that anybody knew, for being a baby when he was left among us, he couldn't, of course, say what his godfathers and godmothers had done for him." I persisted in my question, nevertheless, in spite of this warning, or perhaps in consequence, and the mischievous Merry Andrew of the Good Woman was not, perhaps, indisposed, in reality, to divert himself with the effects likely to be produced upon me by the gratification of my own curiosity. " Well, come, sir," he said, "if you're so obstinate to know the worst, and fear it—that's the true version in your case—l'll put you up to the time of day in the twinkling of a bedpost. Are you all attention, like a line of milishy ? I see you are, so here goes !" And, throwing himself into a burlesque atti tude of stage narration, mine host of the Good Woman, whose own wit had probably been con cerned in the selection of his sign, proceeded in some such style as the following :— "It is now about six years, one half, three months, and fourteen days—for, by Jove! this is the very 14th of October come back again— the very day!—when the now sainted—least ways, martyred—mother of that poor forlorn hope of an infant pauper came into these parts a wayfarer and a wanderer—most likely, though no one could say so for certain, excepting Honemonger Jack, who's very httle authority, if any, on anything but the points of a horse. However, what is perfectly certain is, that some poor, worn-out, broken-hearted young creature of a woman did come into these parts about six years this very Uth of October, as I observed before, only it was a Friday that year, and I noticed it the more particularly for the unlucki ness of it, proving the truth of the proverb, if it is a proverb, which I don't take it on my credulity to say it is—A young woman, about six years ago—that was a gipsy girl, if Horse monger Jack's to be believed on his oath, which I should acquire respectable witnesses besides, if he was a swearing my life away—with a little infant at the breast. That I can assert without fear of contradiction, for you've seen it your self, sir, you say, alive and in tbe flesh ten minutes ago; and I don't suppose I've taken much longer with my preamble? Otherwise there's no calculating on the existence of a parish babe in the hands of Horsemonger Jack and his pious mother, who saves a good many from the gallows in their earliest years by a humane course of beating and starving to death. But, besides, all these facts were proved as plain as daylight at the coroner's inquest by a party- Old Mabel Brown, and she's alive and mumbling still, in full possession of her faculties of eating and drinking aB bright as ever, and is my own respected mother-in-law just within the bar there, but as deaf as a post, bo she can't hear what I'm saying, and disinherit me of my wife's property here in the inn. Well, it was Mrs. Brown that saw her sitting at the brook down there, bathing her poor, travel-stained feet in the water, to ease their burning pain, I suppose, cold as theweatherwas, with thepoor little wretch of a baby in her arms, hugged to her bosom, and all her beautiful, long, black black hair—for you ' know, sir, there's blue-black as well— scattered over her face, and hanging to her waist, as if she didn't want anyone to see who she was, whether for shame's sake, if she came of better people than was believed at the tune, or because she hadn't combs or corking-pins to keep it up, and had taken off her old straw bonnet for the air. • What makes you look so startled and queer like, sir?" I certainly did feel " startled and queer-like," for the description I heard tallied with appalling exactness in every particular with my own recent experience. Still I did not wish my present gossiping jester to be placed in a position to report me on my first arrival as a spirit medium, which he infallibly would have done if I had given him the chance, by alluding to the circumstances. "Nothing, nothing; only the grog is rather to one's lips," I answered, as carelessly as I could. " All right, sir; I thought you were taken with a faintness on the sudden—and I could have imagined why a little further on in my story. What was I saying, sir?" "How the apparition's hair—l mean the young woman's—was all over her face, as she sat with her feet in the water, and the little boy cutting rushes near her." " Oh, dear me, no, sir! It was an infant in armßthen! You're thinking of the httle lad you were asking about just now. To be sure, that's all the same—the same child six years older, and miserabler in proportion, if that could be possible; and I believe Horsemonger Jack and his mother could improve upon the Inqui sition in some things. Thank you, sir, I re member now. " Well, it was a young tramp sort of a girl weary and worn out, sitting on a stone, who had come nobody knew whence, and was going no body knew whither. Stay! Horsemonger Jack, who is the greatest liar in Europe, knew all about her, and said that her husband, who was a tinker, had 'listed in his master's regiment, without any fair right to do so, being a married man, with, at all events, one in family, as ap appeared from her having a wedding-ring on her married finger, as handsome a one as you'd like to see; and you'd never have thought that a tinker driven to take her Majesty's shilling could have afforded it, or that a creature that was barefoot and penniless as a sparrow wouldn't have pawned it to help her on. But women have their fancies, sir, as well as us—more so, ' perhaps-for when they are fanciful they are very fanciful. " On the whole it was thought she had come to try and beg her husband off of the young captain, whose company he had 'listed in, or something of that sort, though, to be sure, I don't know that he had any power; only a pretty face can do wonders at times, and Cap tain Deverell was rather given that way, by all accounts. Besides, it was explainesl still more to people's satisfaction that, whether her husband had gone for a soldier or not, tramps and wandering people have a sort of established right and privilege for lodging and entertain ment at the warden'B places, which is an old times usage, I suppose, when there was no good inn about the place—no Good Woman in

Deverell for wayfarers to put up at. At least, so they said at the coroner's 'quest, and that accounted for the poor young creature's going to the house at all, where you're the present tenant, Mr. Diamond (and I am sure I wish you your health to enjoy it, and much obliged to you for my glass), but which was then in the occupancy of Captain Deverell'B own self, after his fathers before him, only he had taken to the horse-racing and breeding, and had lost already lots of money before he made the grand smash at the Good'ood, in 186—. " Still, all that would have been made right, as he was in course of courting Sir John Flam mock's only daughter and heireßß, which he was quite acceptable to, though not to the father, who is a great squire in the forest here, being such a spendthrift and rake. But that is neither here nor there. They were as good as engaged to be married, I am told, whether Sir John would have it or no. Parients are not apt to relish that sort of good-looking gentlemen for their daughters— at least, not so much as the young ladies themselves. Still, I think Sir John had, in a manner, agreed to make things pleasant, if the captain would give up the turf, which he wasn't inclined to, especially at the time when he was in such hopes of making it all right on a horse he had of his own, which had run that very day at Good'ood, and lost. " And that's what put him so out of sorts, I suppose, or something did, for it was whispered at the 'quest by some of the rascals about him, he wouldn't so much as see the poor young woman or her business, but ordered her then and there off the premises, baby or none ; and, black night as it was—l remember it very well, for I was courting Miss Brown then, and had te walk to the place here, unknown to the mother, from my cara I mean, from my own resi dence, a long way off on the road. And it was as black as a coal-mine. " But to make a long story short, though I see it amuses you so much, sir, connected with the house you are to live in as it is, the poor young creature, being quite worn and spent of all her strength, like a hare that'B got off after a fine run, and not able to crawl farther if she'd been willing—and they say she told the men, she would rather die there than obey the order, and tramp back the weary way she had come— it's believed, in short, she sly'd herself into a stall in the Red House stable, where there was plenty of straw and things to sleep on for the night—horse-clothes and what not—never ex pecting (are you listening, sir ?) that that very stall belonged to a horse of Captain Deverell's,' that was the completest devil of his kind ever mortal man bestrid. But you may think that, when I tell you they were obliged to build him up a loose box all to himself in the Red House, which was properly only for breaking-in and putting them through their paces. And there was only one man in all England that could ride him, or so much as get on hi* back, he did so kick, and tear, and bite; and whether he is not half a devil himself I cannot say for certain. " But the ill-luck of it all was, Horsemonger Jack was away on him at Good'ood Races ; for though Hell-fire Dick (that was his name, sir) had so infernal a temper of his own (and Cruiser was a lamb to him, sir!) he was a horse on which such expectations were formed in our part of the country, that there never was the like. " And we had all betted our money on him, more or less, but the captain as deep as he could get his hand into his pocket—he was so" sure of liim, and thinking to set himself all right at a slap. Take a little more of your brandy-and-water, sir; it will do you good, and prepare you." [to bk continued.]