|Chapter Title||"And Come Agen Be It By Night Or Day"|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Phantom Fortune|
* CHAPTER XIV.
R "AND COME AGEN BE IT BY NIGHT OR "DAY."
Those winter months were unutterably dreary for Lady Mary Haselden. She felt weighed down by a sense of death aud woe near at hand. The horror of that dreadful moment in which she found her grandmother lying sense- less on the ground, the terror of that distorted countenance, those starting eyes, that stertorous breathing, was not easily banished from a vivid girlish imagination ; seeing how few distractions there were to divert Mary's thoughts, and How the sun sank and rose again upon the same inevitable surroundings, the same monotonous routine.
Her grandmother was kinder than she had been in days j i gone by, less inclined to find fault with her ; but Mary
knew that her society gave Lady Maulevrier very little pleasure, that she could do hardly anything towards filling the gap made by Leshia's absence. There was no one to scold her, no one to quarrel with her. Fraulein Kirsch lectured her mildly from time to time ; but that stout German was too lazy to put any force or fire into her lectures. Her reproofs were like the fall of waterdrops on a stone, and ages would have been needed to cause any positive impression.
February came to an end without sign or token from the outer world to disturb the even tenor of life at Fellside. Mary read, and read, and read, till she felt she was made up of the contents of books, crammed with other people's ideas. She read history, or natural science, or travels, or German poetry in the morning, and novels or English poetry in the evening. She had pledged herself to devote her morning indoor hours to instructive literature, and to accomplish some portion of study in every day. She was carrying on her education on parole, as before stated, and
she was too honourable to do less than was expected from
March came in with its most leonine aspect, howling and blustering ; north-east winds shrieking along the gorges and wailing from height to height.
" I wonder the lion and the lamb are not blown into the
lake," said Mary, looking at Helm Crag from the library
She scampered about the gardens in the very teeth of those bitter blasts, and took- her shivering terriers for runs on the green slopes of the Fell. The snow had gradually melted from the sides of the lowermost range of hills, but the mountain peaks were still white and ghostly, the ground still hard and1 slippery in the early mornings. Mary
had to take her walks aloue in this bleak weather. Fräulein Kirsch had a convenient bronchial affection which forebade her to venture so much as the point of her nose outside the house in an east wind, and which justified her in occasion- ally taking her breakfast in bed. She spent her days for the most part in her arm-chair, drawn close to the fireplace, which she still insisted upon calling the oven, knitting diligently, or reading a German newspaper. Even music, which had once been her strong point, was neglected in this trying weather. It was such a cold journey from the
oven to the piano.
Mary played a good deal in her desultory manner, now that she had the drawing-room all to herself, and no fear of Lady Maulevrier's critical ear or Leshia's superior smile. The Fräulein was pleased to hear her ramble on with her favourite bits from Raff, and Hensel, and Brahm, and Mendelssohn, and Mozart, and was very well content to let her play just what she liked and to escape the trouble of training her to that exquisite perfection into which Lady Lesbia had been drilled. Lesbia was not a genius, and the training process had been quite as hard for the governess as for the pupil.
Thus the slow days wore on till the first week in March, and on one bleak bitter afternoon, when Fraulein Kirsch stuck to the oven even a little closer than usual, Mary felt she must go out, in the face of the east wind which was tossing the leafless branches in the valley below until the trees looked like an angry crowd, hurling its arms in the air, fighting, struggling, writhing. She must leave that dreary house for a little while, were it even to be lashed and bruised and broken by that fierce wind. So she told Miss Kirsch that she really must have her constitutional ; and after a feeble remonstrance, Miss Kirsch let her go, and subsided luxuriously into the pillowed depth of her arna
There had been a hard frost, and all the mountain wayj were perilous, so Mary set out upon a steady tramp alon^ the road leading towards the Langdales. The wind seemec to assail her from every side, but she had accustomed her self to defy the elements, and she only hugged her sealskir jacket closer to her, aud quickened her pace, chiruppin^ and whistling to Ahab and Ariadne, the two fox terrier! which she had selected for the privilege of a walk.
The terriers raced along the road, and Mary, seeing tha she had the road all to herself, raced after them. A ligh snow shower, large feathery flakes flying wide apart, fel from the steel-grey sky ; but Mary minded the snow n< more than she minded the wind.. She raced on, the terrier scampering, rushing, flying before her, until, ju?;í¡ where th' road took a curve, she almost ran into a horse which wa stepping along at a tremendous pace, with a light, higl dogcart behind him.
"Hi!" cried the driver, " where are you coming, youn woman ? Have you never seen a horse till to-day ? "
Someone beside the driver leapt out, and ran to see* i Mary was hurt. The horse had swerved to one side, reare* I a little, and then spun on for a few yards, leaving her stand
ing in the middle of the road.
" Why, it's Molly," cried the driver, who was no les distinguished a whip than Lord Maulevrier, and who ha recognised the terriers.
" I hope you are not hurt," said the gentleman who ha alighted, Maulevrier's friend and shadow, John Hammond
Mary was covered with confusion by her exploit, an could hardly answer Mr. Hammond's very simple question
She looked up at him piteously, trying to speak, and h took alarm at her scared expression.
"I am sure you are hurt," he said earnestly, " the hore must have struck you, or the shaft perhaps, which wa worse. Is it your shoulder that is hurt, or you chest Lean on me, if you feel faint or giddy. 'Maulevrier, you ha better drive your sister home and get her looked after. "
" Indeed, I am not hurt ; not the least little bit," gaspe Mary, who had recovered her senses by this time. " I wa only frightened, and it was such a surprise to see you an
A surprise-yes-a surprise which had set her heal throbbing so violently as to render her speechless. Ha horse or shaft-point struck her ever so she would have hardl been more tremulous than she felt at this moment. Nev« had she hoped to see him again. He had set his all upo one cast-loved, wooed, and lost her sister. Why should 1 j ever come again ? What was there at Fellside wort
coming for ? And then she remembered what her gram mother thought of him. He was a hanger-on, a sponge, led captain. He was Maulevrier's Umbra, and must | where his patron went, lt was a hard thing so to think > him, and Mary's heart sank at the thought that Lady Mai levrier's worldly wisdom might have reckoned aright.
"It was very foolish of me to run into the horse," sa Mary, while Mr. Hammond stood waiting for her to recov
"It was very foolish of Maulevrier to run into you.
he didn't drive at such a break-neck pace it wouldn't ha1 happened."
Umbra was very plain-spoken, at any rate.
"There's rank ingratitude," cried Maulevrier, who had turned back, and was looking down at them from his elevated perch. "After my coming all the way round by Langdale to oblige you with a view of Elterwater. Molly's all safe and sound. She wouldn't have minded if I'd run over her. Come along, child, get up beside me. Hammond will take
the back seat. "
This was easier said than done, for the back of the dog- cart was piled with Gladstone bags, gun-cases, and hat boxes ; but Umbra was ready to oblige. He handed Mary up to the seat by the driver, and clambered up at the back and hooked himself on somehow among the luggage.
" Dear Maulevrier, how delicious of you to come," said Mary, wheu they were rattling on towards Fellside; "I hope you are going to stay for ages. "
" Well, I dare say, if you make yourself very agreeable, I may stay till after Easter."
Mary's countenance fell.
"Easter is in three weeks," she said, despondingly.
" And isn't three weeks au age at such a place as Fell- side ?" I don't know that I should have come at all on this side of the August sports, only as the grandmother was ill I thought it a duty to come and see her. A fellow mayn't care much for his ancestors when they're well, you know, but when a poor old lady is down on her luck, her people ought to look after her. So. here I am, and as I knew I should be moped to death here-"
" Thank you for the compliment," said Mary.
"I brought Hammond along with me. Of course, I knew Lesbia was safe out of the way," added Maulevrier
in an undertone.
"It is very obliging of Mr. Hammond always to go where you wish," returned Mary, who could not help a bitter feeling when she remembered her grandmother's cruel suggestion. "Has he no tastes or inclinations of his
"Yes, he has, plenty of them, and much loftier tastes than mine, I can tell you. But he's kind enough to let me hang on to him, and to put up with my frivolity. There never were two men more different thau he and I are, and I suppose that's why we get on so well together. When we were in Paris he was always up to his eyes in serious work-lectures, public libraries, workmen's syndicates heaven knows what, making himself master of the political situation in France, while I was rhjolanb and chaloupant at
the Bal Bullier."
It was generous of Maulevrier to speak of his hanger on .thus, and no doubt the society of a well-informed earnest
young man was a great good for Maulevrier, a good far * above the price of those pounds, shillings, and pence which the Earl might spend for his dependent's benefit ; but when a girl of Mary's fervent temper has made a hero of a man, it galls her to think that her hero's dignity should be sacri- ficed, his honour impeached, were it by the merest tittle.
Maulevrier made a good many enquiries about his grand- mother, and seemed really full of kindness and sympathy ; but it was with a feeling of profound awe, nay, of involuntary reluctance and shrinking that he presently entered her ladyship's sitting-room, ushered in by Mary, who had been to her grandmother beforehand to announce the grandson's
He had hardly ever been in a sick room before. He half expected to see Lady Maulevrier in bed, with a crowd of medicine bottles and a cut orange on a table by her side, and a sick nurse of the ancient-crone species cowering over the fire. It was an infinite relief to him to find his grand- mother lying on a sofa by the fire in her pretty morning room. A little tea table was drawn close up to her sofa, and she was taking her afternoon tea. It was rather pain- ful to see her lifting her cup slowly and carefully with her left hand, but that was all. The dark eyes still flashed with the old eagle glance, the lines of the lips were as proud and firm as ever. All signs of contraction or distortion had passed away. In hours of calm her ladyship's beauty was unimpaired ; but with any strong emotion there came a convulsive working of the features, and the face was momentarily drawn and distorted, as it had been at the
time of the seizure.
Maulevrier's presence had not an unduly agitating effect on her ladyship. She received him with tranquil gracious- ness, and thanked him for his coming.
" I hope you have spent your winter profitably in Paris," she said. " There is a great deal to be learnt there, if you go into the right circles."
Maulevrier told her that he had found much to learn, and that he had gone into circles where almost everything was new to him. Whereupon his grandmother questioned him about certain noble families which had been known to her in her own day of power, and whose movements she had observed from a distance since that time; but here she found her grandson dark. He had not happened to meet any of the people she spoke about, the plain truth being that he had lived altogether as a Bohemian, and had not used one of the letters of introduction that had been given to
" Your friend Mr, Hammond is with you, I am told," said Lady Maulevrier, not altogether with delight.
' ' Yes, I made him come, but he is quite safe. He will bolt like a shot at the least hint of Leshia's return. He doesn't want to meet that young lady again, I can assure you."
" Pray do not talk in that iujured tone. Mr. Hammond is a gentlemanlike person, very well informed, very agreeable. I have never denied that. But you could not expect me to allow my grand-daughter to throw herself away upon the
first adventurer who made her an offer. "
" Mr. Hammond is not an adventurer."
" Very well, I will not call him so if the term offends you. But Mr. Hammond is-Mr. Hammond : and I cannot allow Lesbia to marry Mr. Hammond or Mr. Anybody, and I am very sorry you have brought him here again. There is Mary, a silly romantic girl ! I am very much afraid he has made an impression upon her. _ She colours absurdly when she talks of him, and flew into a passion with me the other day when I ventured to hint that he is not a Rothschild, and that his society must be expensive to you."
"His society does not cost me anything. Hammond is the soul of independence. He worked as a blacksmith in Canada for three months just to see what life was like in a wild district. There never was such a fellow to rough it. And as for Mary, well, now, really, if he happened to take a fancy to her, and if she happened to like him, I wouldn't burke it, if I were you, grandmother. Take my word for it, Molly might do worse."
? " Of course. She might marry a chimney sweep. There is no answering for a girl of that erratic nature. She is silly< enough and romantic enough for anything ; but 1 shall not'
(Continued on page lk.)
(Continued from page lï.)
. countenance her if she wants to throw herself away on a
person without prospects or connections; and I look to you, Maulevrier," to take care of her, now that I am a wretched log chained to this room."
"You may rely upon me, grandmother. Molly shall come to no barm, if 1 can help it."
' "Thank you," said her ladyship, touching her bell
The two clear silvery strokes were a summons for Hal- cott, the maid, who appeared immediately.
"Tell Mrs. Powers to get his lordship's rooms ready immediately, and to give Mr. Hammond the room he had in the summer," said Lady Maulevrier, with a sigh of resignation. ;
While Maulevrier was with his grandmother John Ham- mond was smoking a solitary cigar on the terrace, contem- plating the mountain landscape in its cold March grayness, and wondering very much to find himself again at Fellside, He had gone forth from that house full of passionate indig- nation, shaking off the dust from his feet, sternly resolved never again to cross the threshold of that fateful cave, where he had met this cold-hearted Circe. And now, because Circe was safe out of the way, he had come back to the cavern, and he was feeling all the pain that a man feels who beholds again the scene of a great past sorrow.
Was this the old love and the old pain again, he won- dered, or was it only the sharp thrust of a bitter memory ? He had believed himself cured of his useless love-a great and noble love wasted on a smaller nature than his own.
He had thought that because his eyes were opened, and he understood the character of the girl he loved, his cure must needs be complete.- Yet now, face to face with the well remembered landscape, looking down upon that dull grey lake which he had seen smiling in the sunshine, he began to doubt the completeness of his cure. He recalled the lovely face, the graceful form, the sweet, low voice-the perfection of gracious womanhood, manner, dress, move- ments, tones, smiles, all faultless; and in the absence of that one figure it seemed to him as if he had. come back to a tenantless, dismantled house, where there was nothing that made life worth living.
The red Bun went down-a fierce and lurid face-that seemed to scowl through the gray - and Mr. Hammond felt that it was time to arouse himself from gloomy medi- tation, and go in to dress for dinner. Maulevrier's valet was to arrive by the coach with the heavier part of the lug- gage, and Maulevrier's valet did that very small portion of valeting which was ever required by Mr. Hammond. A man who has worked at a forge in the backwoods is not likely to be finicking in his ways or dependent upon ser- vants for looking after his raiment.
Despite Mr. Hammond's gloomy memories of past joys and disillusions, he contrived to make himself very agree- able by and by at dinner, and in the drawing-room after dinner, and the evening was altogether gay and sprightly. Maulevrier was in high spirits, full of his Parisian expe- riences, and talking slang as glibly as a student of the Quartier Latin. He would talk nothing but French, pro- testing that he had almost forgotten his native tongue ; and his French was the language of Larchey's Dictionary of Argot, in which nothing is called by its right name. Mary was enchanted with this new vocabulary, and wanted to have every word explained to her ; but Maulevrier con- fessed that there was a good deal that was unexplainable.
The evening was much livelier than those summer even- ings when the Dowager and Lady Lesbia were present. There was something less of refinement, perhaps, and Fräulein remonstrated now and then about some small violation of the unwritten laws of " Anstand," but there was more mirth. Maulevrier felt for the first time as if he were master at Fellside. They all went to the billiard room soon after dinner, and Fraulein and Mary sat by the fire looking on, while the two young men played. In such an evening there was no time for bitter memories, and John Hammond was surprised to find how little he had missed that enchantress whose absence had made the house seem desolate to him when he re-entered it.
He was tired with his journey and the varying emotions of the day, for it was not without strong emotions that he had consented to return to Fellside-and he slept soundly for the earlier part of the night. But he had trained him- self long ago to do with a very moderate portion of sleep, and he was up and dressed while the dawn was still slowly ereeping along the edges of the hills. He went quietly down to the hall, took one of the bamboos from a collection of canes and mountain sticks, and set out upon a morning ramble over the snowy slopes. The snow showers of yester- day had only sprinkled the green sward upon the lower ground, but above the winter snows still lingered, giving an Alpine character to the landscape.
John Hammond was too experienced a mountaineer to be deterred by a little snow. He went up Silver Howe, and from the rugged breast of the mountain saw the sun leap up from amidst a chaos of hill and crag in all his majesty, while the gray mists of night slowly floated up from the the valley that had lain hidden below them, and Grasmere Lake sparkled and flashed in the light of the newly-risen
The church clock was striking eight as he came at a brisk pace down to the valley. There was still an hour before breakfast, so he took a circuitous path to Fellside and descended upon the house from the Fell, as he had done that summer morning when he saw James Steadman sauntering about in his garden.
Within about half a mile of Lady Maulevrier's shrubberies Mr. Hammond encountered a pedestrian who was evidently, like himself, taking a constitutional ramble in the morning air, but on a much less extended scale, for this person did not look capable of going far afield.
He was an old man, something under middle height, but looking as if he had once been taller; for his shoulders were much bent and his head was sunk on his chest. His whole form looked wasted and shrunken, and John Ham- mond thought he had never seen so old a man-or at any rate any man who was so deeply marked with all the signs of extreme age ; and yet in the backwoods of America he had met ancient settlers who remembered Franklin, and who had been boys when the battle of Bunker's Hill was yet fresh in the memory of their fathers and mothers.
The little old man was clad in a thick grey overcoat of some shaggy kind of cloth which looked like homespun. He wore a felt hat, and he carried a thick oak stick, and there was nothing in his appearance to indicate that he belonged to any higher grade than that of the shepherds and guides with whom Hammond made himself familiar during his previous visit. And yet- there was something distinctive about the maa, Hammond thought, something weird rand uncanny which made him unlike any of those
old, hale, and hearty-looking dalesmen on whom their years sate so lightly. No, Mr. Hammond could not fancy this man, with his pallid countenance and pale crafty eyes, to be of the same race as those rugged and honest looking
descendants of the Norsemen.
Perhaps it was the man's exceeding age, for John Ham- mond made up his mind that he must be a centenarian, which gave him so strange and unholy an air. He had the aspect of a man who had been buried and brought back, to life again.
So might look one of those Indian fakirs who have the power to suspend life by some mysterious process, and to lie in the darkness of the grave for a given period, and then at their own will to resume the functions of the living. His long white hair fell upon the collar of his grey coat, and would have given him a patriarchal appearance had the face possessed the dignity of age ; but it was a countenance with- out dignity, a face deeply scored with the lines of evil passions and guilty memories-the face of the vulture, with a touch of the ferret-altogether a most unpleasant face, Mr. Hammond thought.
And yet there was a kind of fascination about that bent and shrunken figure, those feeble movements, and shuffling gait. John Hammond turned to look after the old man when he had passed him, and stood to watch him as he went slowly up the Fell, planting his stout stick upon the ground before every footstep, as if it were a third leg,
and more serviceable than either of the other two.
Mr. Hammond watched him for two or three minutes, but as the old man's movements had an automatic regu- larity the occupation soon palled, and he turned and walked towards Fellside. A few yards nearer the grounds he met James Steadman walking briskly, and smoking his morning pipe.
"You are out early this morning," said Hammond, by way of civility.
"I am always pretty early, sir. I like a mouthful of morning air."
" So do I. By-the-by, can you tell me anything about a queer-looking old man I passed just now a little higher up the Fell? Such an old, old man, with long white hair." » " ires, sir. I believe I know him."
" Who is he ? Does he live in Grasmere ?" Steadman looked puzzled.
"Well, you see, sir, your description might apply to a good many j but if it's the man I think you mean he lives in one of the cottages behind the church. Old Barlow, they call him. "
" There can't be two such men-he must be at least a hundred years old. If anyone told me he were a hundred and twenty I shouldn't be inclined to doubt the fact. I never, never, saw such a shrivelled, wrinkled visage, blood- less, too, as if the poor old wretch never felt your fresh mountain air upon his hollow cheeks. A dreadful face. It
will haunt me for a month."
"It must be old Barlow," replied Steadman. "Good day, sir."
He walked on with his swinging step, and at such a pace that he was up the side of the Fell and close upon old Bar- low's heels when Hammond turned to look after him five minutes later.
"There's a man who shews few traces of age at any rate," thought Hammond. " Yet her ladyship told me that he is over sixty."