Ketira the Gipsy
by Mrs. Henry Wood
you what it is, Abel. You think
of everybody else before yourself. The Squire says there's
no sense in it."
"No sense in what, Master Johnny?"
"Why, in supplying those ill-doing
Standishes with your substance. Herbs, and honey, and
medicine--they are always getting something or other out of
"But they generally need it,
"Well, they don't deserve it, you know.
The Squire went into a temper to-day, saying the vagabonds
ought to be left to starve if they did not choose to work,
instead of being helped by the public."
Our hen-roosts had been robbed, and it was
pretty certain that one or other of the Standish brothers
was the thief. Perhaps all three had a hand in it. Chancing
to pass Abel Carew's garden, where he was at work, I turned
in to tell him of the raid; and stayed, talking. It was
pleasant to sit on the bench outside the cottage-window, and
watch him tend his roots and flowers. The air was redolent
of perfume; the bees were humming as they sailed in the
summer sunshine from herb to herb, flower to flower; the
dark blue sky was unclouded.
"Just look at those queer-looking
people, Abel! They must be gipsies."
Abel let his hands rest on his rake, and
lifted his eyes to the common. Crossing it, came two women,
one elderly, one very young--a girl, in fact. Their red
cloaks shone in the sun; very coarse and sunburnt straw hats
were tied down with red kerchiefs. That they belonged to the
gipsy fraternity was apparent at the first glance. Pale
olive complexions, the elder one's almost yellow, were
lighted up with black eyes of wonderful brilliancy. The
young girl was strikingly beautiful; her features clearly
cut and delicate, as though carved from marble, her smooth
and abundant hair of a purple black. The other's hair was
purple black also, and had not a grey thread in it.
"They must be coming to tell our
fortunes, Abel," I said jestingly. For the two women
seemed to be making direct for the gate.
No answer from Abel, and I turned to look at
him. He was gazing at the coming figures with the most
intense gaze, a curious expression of inquiring doubt on his
face. The rake fell from his hand.
"My search is ended," spoke the
woman, halting at the gate, her glittering black eyes
scanning him intently. "You are Abel Carew."
"Is it Ketira?" he asked, the words
dropping from him in slow hesitation, as he took a step
"Am I so much changed that you need
doubt it for a moment?" she returned: and her tone and
accent fell soft and liquid; her diction was of the purest,
with just the slightest foreign ring in it. "Forty
years have rolled on since you and I met, Abel Carew; but I
come of a race whose faces do not change. As we are in
youth, so we are in age--save for the inevitable traces left
"And this?" questioned Abel, as he
looked at the girl and drew back his gate.
"She is Ketira also; my youngest and
dearest. The youngest of sixteen children, Abel Carew; and
every one of them, save herself, lying under the sod."
"What--dead?" he exclaimed.
"Fifteen are dead, and are resting in
peace in different lands: ten of them died in infancy ere I
had well taken my first look at their little faces. She is
the sixteenth. See you the likeness?" added the gipsy,
pointing to the girl's face; as she stood, modest and
silent, a conscious colour tingeing her olive cheeks, and
glancing up now and again through her long black eyelashes
at Abel Carew.
"Likeness to you, Ketira?"
"Not to me: though there exists enough
of it between us to betray that we are mother and daughter.
To him--her father."
And, while Abel was looking at the girl, I
looked. And in that moment it struck me that her face bore a
remarkable likeness to his own. The features were of the
same high-bred cast, pure and refined; you might have said
they were made in the same mould.
"I see; yes," said Abel.
"He has been gone, too, this many a
year; as you, perhaps, may know, Abel; and is with the rest,
waiting for us in the spirit-land. Kettie does not remember
him, it is so long ago. There are only she and I left to go
She suddenly changed her language to one I
did not understand. Neither, as was easy to be seen, did
Abel Carew. Whether it was Hebrew, or Egyptian, or any other
rare tongue, I knew not; but I had never in my life heard
its sounds before.
"I am telling Kettie that in you she may
see what her father was--for the likeness in your face and
his, allowing for the difference of age, is great."
"Does Kettie not speak English?"
"Oh yes, I speak it," answered the
girl, slightly smiling, and her tones were soft and perfect
as those of her mother.
"And where have you been since his
death, Ketira? Stationary in Ai----"
He dropped his voice to a whisper at the last
word, and I did not catch it. I suppose he did not intend me
"Not stationary for long anywhere,"
she answered, passing into the cottage with a majestic step.
I lifted my hat to the women--who, for all their gipsy dress
and origin, seemed to command consideration--and made off.
The arrival of these curious people caused
some commotion at Church Dykely. It was so rare we had any
event to enliven us. They took up their abode in a lonely
cottage no better than a hut (one room up and one down) that
stood within that lively place, the wilderness on the
outskirts of Chanasse Grange; and there they stayed. How
they got a living nobody knew: some thought the gipsy must
have an income, others that Abel helped them.
"She was very handsome in her
youth," he said to me one day, as if he wished to give
some explanation of the arrival I had chanced to witness.
"Handsomer and finer by far than her daughter is; and
one who was very near of kin to me married
her--would marry her. She was a born gipsy, of what
is called a high-caste tribe."
That was all he said. For Abel's sake, who
was so respected, Church Dykely felt inclined to give
respect to the women. But, when it was discovered that
Ketira would tell the fortune of any one who cared to go
sumptitiously to her lonely hut, the respect cooled down.
"Ketira the gipsy," she was universally called:
nobody knew her by any other name. The fortune-telling came
to the ears of Abel, arousing his indignation. He went to
Ketira in distress, begging of her to cease such
practices--but she waved him majestically out of the hut,
and bade him mind his own business. Occasionally the mother
and daughter shut up their dwelling and disappeared for
weeks together. It was assumed they went to attend fairs and
races, camping out with the gipsy fraternity. Kettie at all
times and seasons was modest and good; never was an
unmaidenly look seen from her, or a bold word heard. In
appearance and manner and diction she might have been a born
lady, and a high-bred one. Graceful and innocent was Kettie;
but heedless and giddy, as girls are apt to be.
"Look there, Johnny!"
We were at Worcester races, walking about on
the course. I turned at Tod's words, and saw Ketira the
gipsy, her red cloak gleaming in the sun, just as it had
gleamed that day, a year before, on Dykely Common. For the
past month she had been away, and her cottage shut up.
She stood at the open door of a carriage,
reading the hand of the lady inside it. A notable object was
Ketira on the course, with her quaint attire, her majestic
figure, her fine olive-dark features, and the fire of her
brilliant eyes. What good or ill luck she was promising, I
know not; but I saw the lady turn pale and snatch her hand
away. "You cannot know what you tell me," she
cried in a haughty tone, sharp enough and loud enough to be
"Wait and see," rejoined Ketira,
"So you have come here to see the fun,
Ketira," I said to her, as she was brushing by me.
During the past year I had seen more of her than many people
had, and we had grown familiar; for she, as she once
expressed it, "took" to me.
"The fun and the business; the pleasure
and the wickedness," she answered, with a sweep of the
hand round the course. "There's plenty of it
"Is Kettie not here?" I asked: and
the question made her eyes glare. Though, why, I was at a
loss to know, seeing that a race-ground is the legitimate
resort of gipsies.
"Kettie! Do you suppose I bring Kettie
to these scenes--to be gazed at by this ribald
"Well, it is a rabble, and a good
one," I answered, looking at the crowd.
"Nay, boy," said she, following my
glance, "it's not the rabble Kettie need fear, as you
count rabble; it's their betters" --swaying her arms
towards the carriages, and the dandies, their owners or
guests; some of whom were balancing themselves on the steps
to talk to the pretty girls within, and some were strolling
about the enclosed paddock, forbidden ground but to the
"upper few." "Ketira is too fair to be shown
"They would not eat her, Ketira."
"No, they would not eat her," she
replied in a dreamy tone, as if her thoughts were elsewhere.
"And I don't see any other harm they
could do her, guarded by you."
"Boy," she said, dropping her voice
to an impressive whisper and lightly touching my arm with
her yellow hand, "I have read Kettie's fate in the
stars, and I see that there is some great and grievous peril
approaching her. It may be averted; there's just a
chance that it may: meanwhile I am encompassing her about
with care, guarding her as the apple of my eye."
"And if it should not be averted?"
I asked in the moment's impulse, carried away by the woman's
"Then woe be to those who bring the evil
"And of what nature is the evil?"
"I know not,"she replied, her eyes
taking a gain their dreamy, far-off look. "Woe is
me!--for I know it not."
"How do you do, Ludlow? Not here alone,
A good-looking young fellow, Hyde
Stockhausen, had reined in his horse to ask the question:
giving at the same time a keen glance to the gipsy woman and
then a half-smile at me, as if he suspected I was having my
"The rest are on the course somewhere.
The Squire is driving old Jacobson about."
As Hyde nodded and rode on, I chanced to see
Ketira's face. It was stretched out after him with the most
eager gaze on it, a defiant look in her black eyes. l
thought Stockhausen must have offended her.
"Do you know him?" I asked
"I never saw him before; but I don't
like him," she answered, showing her white and gleaming
teeth. "Who is he?"
"His name is Stockhausen."
"I don't like him," she repeated in
a muttering tone. "He is an enemy. I don't like his
Considering that he was a well-looking man,
with a pleasant face and gay blue eyes, a face that no
reasonable spirit could take umbrage at, I wondered to hear
her say this.
"You must have a peculiar taste in
looks, Ketira, to dislike his."
"You don't understand," she said
abruptly: and, turning away, disappeared in the throng.
Only once more did I catch sight of Ketira
that day. It was at the lower end of Pitchcroft, near the
show. She was standing in front of a booth, staring at a
group of horsemen who seemed to have met and halted there,
one of whom was young Stockhausen. Again the notion crossed
me that he must in some way have affronted her. It was on
him her eyes were fixed: and in them lay the same curious,
defiant expression of antagonism, mingled with fear.
Hyde Stockhausen was the step-son of old
Massock of South Crabb. The Stockhausens had a name in
Worcestershire for dying off, as I have told the reader
before. Hyde's father had proved no exception. After his
death the widow married Massock the brickmaker, putting up
with the man's vulgarity for the sake of his riches. It took
people by surprise: for she had been a lady always, as Miss
Hyde and as Mrs. Stockhausen; one might have thought she
would rather have put up with a clown from Pershore fair
than with Massock the illiterate. Hyde Stockhausen was well
educated: his uncle, Tom Hyde the parson, had taken care of
that. At twenty-one he came into some money, and at once
began to do his best to spend it. He was to have been a
parson, but could not get through at Oxford, and gave up
trying for it. His uncle quarrelled with him then: he knew
Hyde had not tried to pass, and that he openly said
nobody should make a parson of him. After the
quarrel, Hyde went off to see what the Continent was like.
He stayed so long that the world at home thought he was
lost. For the past ten or eleven months he had been back at
his mother's at South Crabb, knocking about, as Massock
phrased it to the Squire one day. Hyde said he was
"looking out" for something to do: but he was
quite easy as to the future, feeling sure his old uncle
would leave him well off. Parson Hyde had never married; and
had plenty of money to bequeath to somebody. As to Hyde's
own money, that had nearly come to an end.
Naturally old Massock (an ill-conditioned
kind of man) grew impatient over this state of things,
reproaching Hyde with his idle habits, which were a bad
example for his own sons. And only just before this very day
that we were on Worcester race-course, rumours reached
Church Dykely that Stockhausen was coming over to settle
there and superintend certain fields of brick-making, which
Massock had recently purchased and commenced working. As if
Massock could not have kept himself and his bricks at South
Crabb! But it was hardly likely that Hyde, really a
gentleman, would take to brick-making.
We did not know much of him. His connection
with Massock had kept people aloof. Many who would have been
glad enough to make friends with Hyde would not do it as
long as he had his home at Massock's. His mother's strange
and fatal marriage with the man (fatal as regarded her place
in society) told upon Hyde, and there's no doubt he must
have felt the smart.
The rumour proved to be correct. Hyde
Stockhausen took up his abode at Church Dykely, as overseer,
or clerk, or manager--whatever might be the right term
for it--of the men employed in his step-father's brick
operations. The pretty little house, called Virginia
Cottage, owned by Henry Rimmer, which had the Virginia
creeper trailing up its red walls, and flowers clustering in
its productive garden, was furnished for him; and Hyde
installed himself in it as thoroughly and completely as
though he had entered on brick-making for life. Some people
laughed "But it's only while I am turning myself
round," he said, one day, to the Squire.
Hyde soon got acquainted with Church Dykely,
and would drop into people's houses of an evening, laughing
over his occupation, and saying he should be able to make
bricks himself in time. His chief work seemed to be in
standing about the brick-yard watching the men, and in
writing and book-keeping at home. Old Massock made his
appearance once a month when accounts and such-like items
were gone over between them.
When it was that Hyde first got on speaking
terms with Kettie, or where, or how, I cannot tell. So far
as I know, nobody could tell. It was late in the autumn when
Ketira and her daughter came back to their hut; and by the
following early spring some of up had grown accustomed to
seeing Hyde and Kettie together in an evening, snatching a
short whisper or a five-minutes' walk. In March, I think it
was, she and Ketira, went away again, and returned in May.
The twenty-ninth of May was at that time kept
as a holiday in Worcestershire, though it has dropped out of
use as such in late years. In Worcester itself there was a
grand procession, which country people went in to see, and a
special service in the cathedral. We had service also at
Church Dykely, and the villagers adorned their front-doors
with immense oak boughs, sprays of which we young ones wore
in our jackets, the oak-balls and leaves gilded. I remember
one year that the big bough (almost a tree) which Henry
Rimmer had hoisted over his sign, the "Silver
Bear," came to grief. Whether Rimmer had not secured it
as firmly as usual, or that the cords were rotten, down came
the huge bough with a crash on old Mr. Stirling's head, who
chanced to be coming out of the inn. He went on at Rimmer
finely, vowing his neck was broken, and that Rimmer ought to
be hung up there himself.
On this twenty-ninth of May I met Kettie. It
was on the common, near Abel Carew's. Kettie had caught up
the fashion of the place, and wore a little spray of oak
peeping out from between the folds of her red cloak. And I
may as well say that neither she nor her mother ever went
out without the cloak. In cold and heat, in rain and
sunshine, the red cloak was worn out-of-doors.
"Are you making holiday to-day,
"Not more than usual; all days are the
same to us," she answered, in her sweet, soft voice,
and with the slightly foreign accent that attended the
speech of both. But Kettie had it more strongly than her
"You have not gilded your
Kettie glanced down at the one ball, nestling
amid its green leaves. "I had no gilding to put on it,
"No! I have some in my pocket. Let me
gild it for you."
Her teeth shone like pearls as she smiled and
held out the spray. How beautiful she was! with those
delicate features and the large dark eyes!--eyes that were
softer than Ketira's. Taking the little paper book from my
pocket, and some of the gilt leaf from between its tissue
leaves, I wetted the oak-ball and gilded it. Kettie watched
"Where did you get it all from?"
she asked, meaning the gilt leaf.
"I bought it at Hewitt's. Don't you know
the shop? A stationer's; next door to Pettipher the
druggist's. Hewitt does no end of a trade in these leaves on
the twenty-ninth of May."
"Did you buy it to gild oak-balls for
"For the young ones at home: Hugh and
Lena. There it is Kettie."
Had it been a ball of solid gold that I put
into her hand instead of a gilded oak-ball, Kettie could not
have shown more intense delight. Her cheeks flushed; the
wonderful brilliancy that Joy brought to her eyes caused my
own eyes to turn away. For her eighteen years she was
childish in some things; very much so, considering the
experience that her wandering life must (as one would
suppose) have brought her. In replacing the spray within her
cloak, Kettie dropped something out of her hand--apparently
a small box folded in paper. I picked it up.
"Is it a fairing, Kettie? But this is
not fair time."
"It is--I forget the name," she
replied, looking at me and hesitating. "My mother is
ill; the pains are in her shoulder again; and my uncle Abel
has given me this to rub upon it, the same that did her good
before. I cannot just call the name to mind in the English
"Say it in your own."
She spoke a very outlandish word, laughed,
and turned red again. Certainly there never lived a more
modest girl than Kettie.
"Is it liniment?--ointment?"
"Yes, it is that, the last," she
said: "Abel calls it so. I thank you for what you have
done for me, sir. Good-day."
To show so much gratitude for that foolish
bit of gilt leaf on her oak-ball! It illumined every line of
her face. I liked Kettie: liked her for her innocent
simplicity. Had she not been a gipsy, many a gentleman might
have been proud to make her his wife.
Close upon that, it was known that Ketira was
laid up with rheumatism. The weather came in hot, and the
days went on; and Kettie and Hyde were now and then seen
One evening, on leaving Mrs. Scott's, where
we had been to arrange with Sam to go fishing with us on the
morrow, Tod said he would invite Hyde Stockhausen to be of
the party; so we took Virginia Cottage on our road home, and
asked for Hyde.
"Not at home!" retorted Tod,
resenting the old woman's answer, as though it had been a
personal affront. "Where is he?"
"Master Hyde has only just stepped out,
sir; twenty minutes ago, or so," said she, pleadingly
excusing the fact. Which was but natural: she had been
Hyde's nurse when he was a child; and had now come here to
do for him. "I dare say, sir, he be only walking about
a bit, to get the fresh air."
Tod whistled some bars of a tune
thoughtfully. He did not like to be crossed.
"Well, look here, Mrs. Preen," said
he. "Some of us are going to fish in the long pond on
Mr. Jacobson's grounds to-morrow: tell Mr. Hyde that if he
would like to join us, I shall be happy to see him.
Breakfast, half-past eight o'clock; sharp."
In turning out beyond the garden, I could not
help noticing how pretty and romantic was the scene. A good
many trees grew about that part, thick enough almost for a
wood in places; and the light and shade, cast by the moon on
the grass amidst them, had quite a weird appearance. It was
a bright night; the moon high in the sky.
"Is that Hyde?" cried Tod.
Halting for a moment in doubt, he peered out
over the field to the distance. Some one was leisurely
pacing under the opposite trees. Two people, I
thought: but they were completely in the shade.
"I think it is Hyde, Tod. Somebody is
"Just wait another instant, lad, and
they'll be in that patch of moonlight by the turning."
But they did not go into that patch of
moonlight. Just before they reached it (and the two figures
were plain enough now) they turned back again and took the
narrow inlet that led to Oxlip Dell. Whoever it was with
Hyde had a hooded cloak on. Was it a red one? Tod laughed.
"Oh, by George, here's fun! He has got
Kettie out for a moonlight stroll. Let's go and ask them how
they enjoy it."
"Hyde might not like us to."
"There you are again, Johnny, with your
queer scruples! Stuff and nonsense! Stockhausen can't have
anything to say to Kettie that all the world may not hear. I
want to tell him about to-morrow."
Tod made off across the grass for the inlet,
I after him. Yes, there they were, promenading 0xlip Dell in
the flickering light now in the shade, now in the brightest
of the moonbeams Hyde's arm hugging her red cloak.
Tod gave a grunt of displeasure.
"Stockhausen must be doing it for pastime," he
said; "but he ought not to be so thoughtless. Ketira
the gipsy would give the girl a shaking if she knew:
The words came to an abrupt ending. There
stood Ketira herself.
She was at the extreme end of the inlet amid
the trees, holding on by the trunk of one, round which her
head was cautiously pushed to view the promenaders.
Comparatively speaking, it was dark just here; but I could
see the strangely-wild look in the gipsy's eyes: the
woe-begone expression of her remarkable face.
"It is coming," she said,
apparently in answer to Tod's remarks, which she could not
have failed to hear. "It is coming quickly."
"What is coming?" I asked.
"The fate in store for her. And it's
worse than death."
"If you don't like her to walk out by
moonlight, why not keep her in?--not that there can be any
harm in it," interposed Tod. "If you don't approve
of her being friendly with Hyde Stockhausen," he went
on after a pause, for Ketira made no answer, "why don't
you put a stop to it?"
"Because she has her mother's spirit and
her mother's will," cried Ketira. "And
she likes to have her own way: and I fear, woe's me! that if
I forced her to mine, things might become worse than they
are even now: that she might take some fatal step."
"I am going home," said Tod at this
juncture, perhaps fancying the matter was getting
complicated: and, of all things, he hated complications.
"Good-night, old lady. We heard you were in bed with
He set off back, up the narrow inlet. I said
I'd catch him up and stayed behind for a last word with
"What did you mean by a fatal
"That she might leave me and seek the
protection of the Tribe. We have had words about this.
Kettie says little, but I see the signs of determination in
her silent face. 'I will not have you meet or speak to that
man,' I said to her this morning--for she was out with
him last evening also. She made me no, reply: but--you
see--how she has obeyed! Her heart's life has been awakened,
and by him. There's only one object to whom she
clings now in all the whole earth; and that is to him. I am
"He will not bring any great harm upon
her: you need not fear that of Hyde Stockhausen."
"Did I say he would?" she answered
fiercely, her black eyes glaring and gleaming. "But he
will bring sorrow on her and rend her
heart-strings. A man's fancies are light as the summer wind,
fickle as the ocean waves: but when a woman loves it is for
life; sometimes for death."
Hyde and Kettie had disappeared at the upper
end of the dell, taking the way that in a minute or two
would bring them out in the open fields. Ketira turned back
along the narrow path, and I with her.
"I knew he would bring some ill upon me,
that first moment when I saw him on Worcester
race-ground," resumed Ketira in a low tone of pain.
"Instinct warned me that he was an enemy. And what ill
can be like that of stealing my young child's heart! Once a
girl's heart is taken--and taken but to be toyed with, to be
flung back at will--her day-dreams in this life are
Emerging into the open ground, the first
thing we saw was the pair of lovers about to part. They were
standing face to. face: Hyde held both her hands while
speaking his last words, and then bent suddenly down, as if
to whisper them. Ketira gave a sharp cry at that, perhaps
she fancied he was stealing a kiss, and lifted her right
hand menacingly. The girl ran swiftly in the direction of
her home--which was not far off--and Hyde strode, not much
less quickly, towards his. Ketira stood as still as a stone
image, watching him till he disappeared within his gate.
"There's no harm in it," I
persuasively said, sorry to see her so full of trouble. But
she was as one who heard not.
"No harm at all, Ketira. I dare answer
for it that a score of lads and lasses are out. Why should
we not walk in the moonlight as well as the sunlight? For my
part, I should call it a shame to stay indoors on this
"An enemy, an enemy! A grand gentleman,
who will leave her to pine her heart away! What kind of man
is he, that Hyde Stockhausen?" she continued, turning
to me fiercely.
"Kind of man? A pleasant one. I have not
heard any ill of him."
"No. Perhaps he will be rich some time.
He makes bricks, you know, now. That is, he superintends the
"Yes, I know," she answered: and I
don't suppose there was much connected with Hyde she did not
know. Looking this way, looking that, she at length began to
walk, slowly and painfully, towards Hyde's gate. The thought
had crossed me--why did she not take Kettie away on one of
their long expeditions if she dreaded him so much. But the
rheumatism lay upon her still too heavily.
Flinging open the gate, she went across the
garden, not making for the proper entrance, but for a
lighted room, whose French-window stood open to the ground.
Hyde was there just sitting down to supper.
"Come in with me," she said,
turning her head round to beckon me on.
But I did not choose to go in. It was no
affair of mine that I should beard Hyde in his den. Very
astonished indeed must he have been, when she glided in at
the window, and stood before him. I saw him rise from his
chair; I saw the astounded look of old Deborah Preen when
she came in with his supper ale in a jug.
What they said to one another, I know not. I
did not wish to listen, though it was only natural I should
stay to see the play out. Just as natural as it was for
Preen to come stealing round through the kidney beans to the
front-garden, an anxious look on her face.
"What does that old gipsy woman want
with the young master, Mr. Ludlow? Is he having his fortune
"I shouldn't wonder. Wish some good
genius would tell mine!"
The interview seemed to have been short and
sharp. Ketira was coming out again. Hyde followed her to the
window. Both were talking at once, and the tail of the
dispute reached our ears.
"I repeat to you that you are totally
mistaken," Hyde was saying. "I have no 'designs,'
as you put it, on your daughter, good or bad; no design
whatever. She is perfectly free to go her own way, for me.
My good woman, you have no cause to adjure me in that solemn
manner. Sacred? 'Under Heaven's protection?' Well, so she
may be. I hope she is. Why should I wish to hinder it? I
don't wish to, I don't intend to. You need not glare
Ketira, outside the window now, turned and
faced him, her great eyes fixed on him, her hand raised in
"Do not forget that I have warned you,
Hyde Stockhausen. By the Great Power that regulates all
things, human and divine, I affirm that I speak the truth.
If harm in any shape or of any kind comes to my child, my
dear one, my only one, through you, it will cost you more
than you would now care to have foretold."
"Bless my heart!" faintly
ejaculated old Preen. And she drew away, and backed for
shelter into the bean rows.
Ketira brushed against me as she passed,
taking no notice whatever; left the garden, and limped away.
Hyde saw me swinging through the gate.
"Are you there, Johnny?" he said,
coming forward. "Did you hear that old gipsy
woman?" And in a few words I told him all about it.
"Such a fuss for nothing!" he
exclaimed. "I'm sure I wish no ill to the girl.
Kettie's very nice; bright as the day; and I thought no more
harm of strolling a bit with her in the moonlight than I
should think it if she were my sister."
"But she is not your sister, you see,
Hyde. And old Ketira does not like it."
"I'll take precious good care to keep
Kettie at arm's-length for the future; make you very sure of
that," he said, in a short, fractious tone. "I
don't care to be blamed for nothing. Tell Todhetley I can't
spare the time to go fishing to-morrow--wish I could.
A fine commotion. Church Dykely up in arms.
Kettie had disappeared.
About a fortnight had gone on since the above
night, during which period Ketira's rheumatism took so
obstinate a turn that she had the felicity of keeping her
bed. And one morning, upon Duffham's chancing to pay his
visit to her before breakfast, for He was passing the hut on
his way home from an early patient he found the gipsy up and
dressed, and just as wild as a lioness rampant. Kettie had
gone away in the night.
"Where's she gone to?" naturally
asked Duffham, leaning on his cane, and watching the poor
woman; who was whirling about like one demented, her
"Ah, where's she gone to?--where?"
raved old Ketira. "When I lay down last night, leaving
her to put the plates away and to follow me up when she had
done it, I dropped asleep at once. All night long I never
woke; the pain was easier, all but gone, and I had been
well-nigh worn out with it. 'Why, what's the time, Kettie?'
I said to her in our own tongue, when I opened my eyes and
saw the sun was high. She did not answer, and I supposed she
had gone down to get the breakfast. I called, and called; in
vain. I began to put my clothes on; and then I found that
she had not lain down that night; and--woe's me! she's
Duffham could not make anything of it; it was
less in his line than rheumatism and broken legs. Being
sharp-set for his breakfast, he came away, telling Ketira he
would see her again by-and-by.
And, shortly afterwards, he chanced to meet
her. Coming out on his round of visits, he encountered
Ketira near Virginia Cottage. She had been making a call on
"He baffles me?" she said to the
doctor: and Duffham thought if ever a woman's face had the
expression "baffled" plainly written on it,
Ketira's had then. "I don't know what to make of him.
His speech is fair: but--there's the instinct lying in my
"Why, you don't suppose, do you, that
Mr. Stockhausen has stolen the child?" questioned
Duffham, after a good pause of thought.
"And by whom do you suppose the
child has been stolen, if not by him?" retorted the
"Nay," said Duffham, "I should
say she has not been stolen at all. It is difficult to steal
girls of her age, remember. Last night was fine; the stars
were bright as silver: perhaps, tempted by it, she went out
a-roaming, and you will see her back in the course of the
"I suspect him," repeated Ketira,
her great black eyes flashing their anger on Hyde's cottage.
"He acts cleverly; but, I suspect him."
Drawing her scarlet cloak higher on her
shoulders, she bent her steps towards Oxlip Dell. Duffham
was turning on his way, when old Abel Crew came up. We
called him "Crew," you know, at Church Dykely.
"Are you looking for Kettie?"
"I don't know where to look for
her," was Abel's answer. "This morning I was out
before sunrise searching for rare herbs: the round I took
was an unusually large one, but I did not see anything of
the child. Ketira suspects that Mr. Stockhausen must know
where she is."
"And do you suspect he does?"
"It is a question that I cannot answer,
even to my own mind, " replied Abel. "That they
were sometimes seen talking and walking together, is
certain; and, so far, he may be open to suspicion. But, sir,
I know nothing else against him, and I cannot think he would
wish to hurt her. I am on my way to ask him."
Interested by this time in the drama, Duffham
followed Abel to Virginia Cottage. Hyde Stockhausen was in
the little den that he made his counting-house, adding up
columns of figures in a ledger, and stared considerably upon
being thus pounced upon.
"I wonder what next!" he burst
forth, turning crusty before Abel had got out half a
sentence. "That confounded old gipsy has just been here
with her abuse; and now you have come! She has accused me of
I know not what all."
"Of spiriting away her daughter,"
put in Duffham; who was standing back against the shelves.
"But I have not done it,"
spluttered Hyde, talking too fast for convenience in his
passion. "If I had spirited her away, as you call it,
here she would be. Where could I spirit her to?--up into the
air, or below the ground?"
"That's just the question--where is
she?" rejoined Duffham, gently swaying his big cane.
"How should I know where she is?"
retorted Hyde. "If I had 'spirited' her away--I must
say I like that word!--here she'd be. Do you suppose I have
got her in my house?--or down at the brick-kilns?"
Abel, since his first checked sentence, had
been standing quietly and thoughtfully, giving his whole
attention to Hyde, as if wanting to see what he was made of.
For the second time he essayed to speak.
"You see, sir, we do not know that she
is not here. We have your word for it; but----"
"Then you had better look,"
interrupted Hyde, adding something about
"insolence" under his breath. "Search the
house. You are welcome to. Mr. Duffham can show you about
it; he knows all its turnings and windings."
What could have been in old Abel's thoughts
did not appear on the surface; but he left the room with
just a word of respectful apology for accepting the offer.
Hyde, who had made it at random in his passion, never
supposing it would be caught at, threw back his head
disdainfully, and sent a contemptuous word after him. But
when Duffham moved off in the same direction, he was utterly
"Are you going to search?"
"I thought you meant me to be his
pilot," said Duffham, as cool as you please.
"There's not much to be seen, I expect, but the chairs
Any way, Kettie was not to be seen. The house
was but a small one, with no surreptitious closets or
cupboards, or other hiding-places. All the rooms and
passages stood open to the morning sun, and never a
suspicious thing was in them.
Hyde had settled to his accounts again when
they got back. He did not condescend to turn his head or
notice the offenders any way. Abel waited a moment, and then
"It may seem to you that I have done a
discourteous thing in availing myself of your offer, Mr.
Stockhausen; if so, I crave your pardon for it. Sir, you
cannot imagine how seriously this disappearance of the child
is affecting her mother. Let it plead my excuse."
"It cannot excuse your suspicion of
me," returned Hyde, pausing for a moment in his adding
"In all the ends of this wide earth
there lies not elsewhere a shadow of clue to any motive for
her departure. At least, none that we can gather. The only
ground for thinking of you, sir, is that you and she have
been friendly. For all our sakes, Mr. Stockhausen, I trust
that she will be found, and the mystery cleared up."
"Don't you think you had better have the
brick-kilns visited--as well as my house?"
sarcastically asked Hyde. But Abel, making no rejoinder,
save a civil good-morning, departed.
"And now I'll go," said Duffham.
"The sooner the better," retorted
Hyde, taking a penful of ink and splashing some of it on the
"There's no cause for you to put
yourself out, young man."
"I think there is cause," flashed
Hyde. "When you can come to my house with such an
accusation as this!--and insolently search it!"
"The searching was the result of your
own proposal. As to an accusation, none has been made in my
hearing. Kettie has mysteriously disappeared, and it is only
natural her people should wish to know where she is, and to
look for her. You take up the matter in a wrong light, Mr.
"I don't know anything of
Kettie"--in an injured tone; "I don't want to.
It's rather hard to have her vagaries put upon my
"Well, you have only to tell them you
don't in an honest manner; I dare say they'll believe you.
Abel Carew is one of the most reasonable men I ever knew;
sensible, too. Try and find the child yourself; help them to
do it, if you can see a clue; make common cause with
"You would not like to be told that you
had 'spirited' somebody away, more than I like it,"
grumbled Hyde; who, thoroughly put out, was hard to bring
round. "I'm sure you are as likely to turn kidnapper as
I am. It must be a good two weeks since anybody saw me speak
to the girl."
"I shall have my patients thinking I am
kidnapped if I don't get off to them," cried Duffham.
"Mrs. Godfrey's ill, and she is the very essence of
Thoroughly at home in the house, Duffham made
no ceremony of departing by the back-door, it being more
convenient for the road he was going. Deborah Preen was
washing endive at the pump in the yard. She turned round to
address Duffham as he was passing.
"Has the master spoke to you about his
"No," said Duffham, halting.
"What is amiss with his throat?"
"He has been given to sore throats all
his life, Dr. Duffham Many's the time I have had him laid up
with them when he was a child. Yesterday he was quite bad
with one, sir; and so he is this morning."
"Perhaps that's why he's cross,"
"Cross! and enough to make him
cross!" returned she, taking up the implication warmly.
"I ask your pard'n, sir, for speaking so to you; but
I'd like to know what gentleman could help being cross when
that yellow gipsy comes to attack him with her slanderous
tongue, and say to him, Have you come across to my hut in
the night and stole my daughter out of it?"
"You think your master did not go across
and commit the theft?"
"I know he did not," was Preen's
indignant answer. "He never stirred out of his own
home, sir, all last night, he was nursing his throat
indoors. At ten o'clock he went to bed, and I took him up a
posset after he was in it. Well, sir, I was uneasy, for I
don't like these sore throats, and between two and three
o'clock I crept into his room and found him sleeping
quietly; and I was in again this morning and woke him up
with a cup o' tea."
"A pretty good proof that he did not go
out," said Duffham.
"He never was as much as out of his bed,
sir. The man that sleeps indoors locked up the house last
night, and opened it again this morning. Ketira the gipsy
would be in gaol if she got her deservings!"
"I wonder where the rest of us would be
if we got ours!" quoth Duffham. "I suppose I had
better go back and take a look at this throat!"
To see the miserable distress of Ketira that
day, and the despair upon her face as she dodged about
between Virginia Cottage and the brickfields, was like a
"Do you remember telling me once that
you feared Kettie might run away to the tribe?" I
asked, meeting her on one of these wanderings in the
afternoon. "Perhaps that is where she is gone?"
The suggestion seemed to offend her mortally.
"Boy, I know better," she said, facing round upon
me fiercely. "With the tribe she would be safe, and I
at rest. The stars never deceive me."
And, when the sun went down that night and
the stars came out, the environs of Virginia Cottage were
still haunted by Ketira the gipsy.
not have known the place again.
Virginia Cottage, the unpretending little homestead, had
been converted into a mansion. Hyde Stockhausen had built a
new wing at one end, and a conservatory at the other; and
had put pillars before the rustic porch, over which the
Virginia creeper climbed.
We heard last month about Ketira the gipsy:
and of the unaccountable disappearance of her daughter,
Kettie: and of the indignant anger displayed by Hyde
Stockhausen when it was suggested that he might have
kidnapped her. Curiously enough, within a few days of that
time, Hyde himself disappeared from Church Dykely: not in
the mysterious manner that Kettie had, but openly and with
The inducing cause of Hyde's leaving, as was
stated and believed, was a quarrel with his step-father,
Massock. It chanced that the monthly settling-day, connected
with the brickfields, fell just after Kettie vanished.
Massock came over for it as usual, and was overbearing as
usual; and perhaps Hyde, already in a state of inward
irritation, was less forbearing than usual. Any way,
ill-words arose between them. Massock accused Hyde of
neglecting his interests, and of being too much of a
gentleman to look after the work and the men. Hyde retorted:
one word led to another, and there ensued a serious quarrel.
The upshot was that Hyde threw up his post. Vowing he would
never again have anything to do with old Massock or his
precious bricks as long as he lived, he packed up a small
portmanteau and quitted Church Dykely there and then, to the
intense tribulation of his ancient nurse and servant,
"Leave him alone," said Massock
roughly. "He'll be back safe enough in a day or
"Where is he gone?" asked Ketira
the gipsy: who, hovering still around Virginia Cottage, had
seen Hyde's exit with his portmanteau.
Massock stared at her, and at her red cloak:
she had penetrated to his presence to ask the question. He
had never before seen Ketira; never heard of her.
"What is it to you?" he demanded,
in his coarse manner. "Who are you? Do you
come here to tell his fortune? Be off, old witch!"
"His fortune may be told sooner than you
care to hear it--if you are anything to him," was the
gipsy's answer. And that same night she quitted Church
Dykely herself, wandering away to be lost in the "wide
Massock's opinion, that Hyde would return in
a day or two, proved to be a mistaken one. Rimmer, at the
Silver Bear, got a letter from a lawyer in Worcester, asking
him to release Mr. Stockhausen from Virginia Cottage--which
Hyde had taken for three years. But, this, Rimmer refused to
do. So Hyde had to make the best of his bargain: and every
quarter, as the quarters went on, the rent was punctually
remitted to Henry Rimmer by the lawyer: who gave, however,
no clue to his client's place of abode. It was said that
Hyde had been reconciled to his uncle, Parson Hyde (now
getting into his dotage), and was by him supplied with
One fine evening, however, in the late
spring, when not very far short of a twelvemonth had
elapsed, Hyde astonished Deborah Preen by his return. After
a fit of crying, to show her joy, Deborah brought him in
some supper and stood by while he ate it, telling him the
news of what had transpired in the village since he left.
"Are those beautiful brickfields being
worked still?" he asked.
"'Deed but they are then, Master Hyde. A
sight o' bricks seems to be made at 'em. Pitt the foreman,
he have took your place as manager, sir, and keeps the
"Good luck to him!" said Hyde,
drinking a glass of ale. "That queer old lady in the
red cloak: what has become of her?"
"What, that gipsy hag?" cried
Preen. "She's dead, sir."
"Yes, sir, dead: and a good riddance,
too. She went away the very night you went, Mr. Hyde, and
never came back again. A week or two ago Abel Carew got news
that she was dead."
(Shortly before this, some wandering gipsies
had set up their camp within a mile or two of Church Dykely.
Abel Carew, never having had news of Ketira since her
departure, went to them to make inquiries. At first the
gipsies seemed not to understand of whom he was speaking;
but upon his making Ketira clear to them, they told him she
had been dead about a month; of her daughter, Kettie, they
"She's not much loss," observed
Hyde in answer to Deborah: and his face took a brighter
look, as though the news were a relief--Preen noticed it.
"The old gipsy was as mad as a March hare."
"And ten times more troublesome than
one," put in Preen. "Be you come home to stay,
"I dare say I shall," replied Hyde.
"As good settle down here as elsewhere: and there'd be
no fun in paying two rents."
So we had Hyde Stockhausen amidst us once
more. He did not intend to take up with brickmaking again,
but to live as a gentleman. His uncle made him an allowance,
and he was going to be married. Abel Carew questioned him
about Kettie one day when they met on the common, asking
whether he had seen her. Never, was the reply of Hyde. So
that what with the girl's prolonged disappearance and her
mother's death, it was assumed that we had done with the two
gipsies for ever.
Hyde was engaged to a Miss Peyton. A young
lady just left an orphan, whom he had met only six weeks ago
at some seaside place. He had fallen in love with her at
first sight, and she with him. She had two or three hundred
a-year: and Hyde, there was little doubt, would come into
all his uncle's money so he saw no reason why he should not
make Virginia Cottage comfortable for her, and went off to
the Silver Bear, to talk to Henry Rimmer about it.
The result was, that improvements were put in
hand without delay. A wing (consisting of a handsome
drawing-room downstairs, and a bed and dressing-room above)
was added to the cottage on one side; on the other side,
Hyde built a conservatory. The house was also generally
embellished and set in order, and some new furniture brought
in. And I think if ever workmen worked quickly, these did;
for the alterations seemed no sooner to be begun than they
"So you have sown your wild oats, Master
Hyde," remarked the Squire one day in passing, as he
stood to watch the finishing touches, then being put to the
outside of the house.
"Don't know that I ever had many to sow,
sir," said Hyde, nodding to me.
"And what sort of a young lady is this
wife that you are about to bring home?" went on the
Hyde's face took a warm flush and his lips
parted with a half-smile; which proved what she was to him.
"You will see, sir," he said in answer.
"When is the wedding to be?"
"This day week."
"This day week!" echoed the Squire,
surprised: and Hyde who seemed to have spoken incautiously,
"I did not intend to say as much; my
thoughts were elsewhere," he observed. "Don't
mention it again, Mr. Todhetley. Even old Deborah has not
"I'll take care, lad. But it is known
all over the place that the wedding is close at hand. '
"Yes: but not the day."
"When do you go away for it?"
"Well, good luck to you, lad! By the
way, Hyde," continued the Squire, "what did they
do about that drain in the yard? Put a new pipe?"
"Yes," said Hyde, "and they
have made a very good job of it. Will you come and see
Pipes and drains held no attraction for me.
While the pater went through the house to the yard, I
strolled outside the front-gate and across to the little
coppice to wait for him. It was shady there: the hot
midsummer sun was ablaze to-day.
And I declare that a feather might almost
have knocked me down. There, amidst the trees of the
coppice, like a picture framed round by green leaves, stood
Ketira the gipsy. Or Ketira's ghost.
Believing that she was dead and buried, I
might have believed it to be the latter, but for the red
cloth cloak: that was real. She was staring at
Hyde's house with all the fire of her glittering eyes,
looking as though she were consumed by some inward fever.
"Who lives there now?" she abruptly
asked me without any other greeting, pointing her yellow
forefinger at the house.
"The cottage was empty ever so
long," I carelessly said, some instinct prompting me
not to tell too much. "Lately the workmen have been
making alterations in it. How is Kettie? Have you found
She lifted her two hands aloft with a gesture
of despair: but left me unanswered. "These alterations:
by whom are they made?"
But the sight of the Squire, coming forth
alone, served as an excuse for my making off. I gave her a
parting nod, saying I was glad to see her again in the land
of the living.
"Ketira the gipsy is here, sir."
"No!" cried the pater in amazement.
"Why do you say
"She is here in the coppice."
"Nonsense, lad! Ketira's dead, you
"But I have just seen her, and spoken to
"Then what did those gipsy-tramps mean
by telling Abel Carew that she had died?" cried the
Squire explosively, as he marched across the few yards of
greensward towards the coppice.
"Abel did not feel quite sure at the
time that he and they were not talking of two persons. That
must have been the case, sir."
We were too late. Ketira was already half-way
along the path that led to the common: no doubt on her road
to pay a visit to Abel Carew. And I can only relate what
passed there at second hand. Between ourselves, Ketira was
no favourite of his.
He was at his early dinner of
bread-and-butter and salad when she walked in and
astonished him. Abel, getting over his surprise, invited her
to partake of the meal; but she just waved her hand in
refusal, as much as to say that she was superior to dinner
"Have you found Kettie?" was his
"It is the first time a search of mine
ever failed," she replied, beginning to pace the little
room in agitation, just as a tiger paces its confined cage.
"I have given myself neither rest nor peace since I set
out upon it; but it has not brought me tidings of my
"It must have been a weary task for you,
Ketira. I wish you would break bread with me."
"I was helped."
"Helped!" repeated Abel.
"Helped by what?"
"I know not yet, whether angel or devil.
It has been one or the other:--according as he has, or has
not, played me false."
"As who has played you false?"
"Of whom do you suppose I speak but
him?" she retorted standing to confront Abel
with her deep eyes. "Hyde Stockhausen has in some
subtle manner evaded me: but I shall find him yet."
"Hyde Stockhausen is back here,"
quietly observed Abel.
"Back here! Then it is no false instinct
that has led me here," she added in a low
tone, apparently communing with herself. "Is Ketira
"No, no," said Abel, vexed at the
question. "Kettie has never come back to the place
since she left it."
"When did he come?"
"It must be about two months ago."
"He is in the same dwelling-house as
before! For what is he making it so grand?"
"It is said to be against his
"His marriage with Ketira?"
"With a Miss Peyton; some young lady he
has met. Why do you bring up Ketira's name in conjunction
with this matter---or with him?"
She turned to the open casement, and stood
there, as if to inhale the sweet scent of Abel's flowers,
and listen to the hum of his bees. Her face was working, her
strange eyes were gleaming, her hands were clasped to pain.
"I know what I know, Abel Carew. Let him
look to it if he brings home any other wife than my
"Nay," remonstrated peaceful old
Abel. "Because a young man has whispered pretty words
in a maiden's ear, and given her, it may be, a moonlight
kiss, that does not bind him to marry her."
"And would I have wished to bind him had
it ended there?" flashed the gipsy. "No; I should
have been thankful that it had so ended. I hated
him from the first."
"You have no proof that it did not so
"No proof; none," she assented.
"No tangible proof that I could give to you, her
father's brother, or to others. But the proof lies in the
fatal signs that show themselves to me continually, and in
the unerring instinct of my own heart. If the man puts
another into the place that ought to be hers, let him look
"You may be mistaken, Ketira. I know not
what the signs you speak of can be: they may show themselves
to you but to mislead; and nothing is more deceptive than
the fancies of one's imagination. Be it as it may, vengeance
does not belong to us. Do not you put yourself
forward to work young Stockhausen ill."
"I work him ill!" retorted the
gipsy. "You are mistaking me altogether. It is not I
who shall work it. I only see it--and foretell it."
"Nay, why speak so strangely, Ketira? It
cannot be that you----"
"Abel Carew, talk not to me of matters
that you do not understand," she interrupted. "I
know what I know. Things that I am able to see are hidden
He shook his head. "It is wrong to speak
so of Hyde Stockhausen--or of any one. He may be as innocent
in the matter as you or I."
"But I tell you that he is not. And the
conviction of it lies here"--striking herself fiercely
on the breast.
Abel sighed, and began to put his
dinner-plates together. He could not make any impression
upon her, or on the notion she had taken up.
"Do you know what it is to have a
breaking heart, Abel Carew?" she asked, her voice
taking a softer tone that seemed to change it into a piteous
wailing. "A broken heart one can bear; for all struggle
is over, and one has but to put one's head down on the green
earth and die. But a breaking heart means continuous
suffering; a perpetual torture that slowly saps away the
life; a never-ending ache of soul and of spirit, than which
nothing in this world can be so hard to battle with. And for
twelve months now this anguish has been mine!"
Poor Ketira! Mistaken or not mistaken, there
could be no question that her trouble was grievous to bear;
the suspense, in which her days were passed, well-nigh
This, that I have told, occurred on Thursday
morning. Ketira quitted Abel Carew only to bend her steps
back towards Virginia Cottage, and stayed hovering around
the house that day and the next. One or another, passing,
saw her watching it perpetually, herself partly hidden. Now
peeping out from the little coppice; now tramping quickly
past the gate, as though she were starting off on a
three-mile walk; now stealing to the back of the house, to
gaze at the windows. There she might be seen, in one place
or another, like a haunting red dragon: her object, as was
supposed, being to get speech of Hyde Stockhausen. She did
not succeed. Twice she went boldly to the door, knocked, and
asked for him. Deborah Preen slammed it in her face. It was
thought that Hyde, who then knew of her return and that the
report of her death was false, must be on the watch also, to
avoid her. If he wanted to go abroad and she was posted at
the back, he slipped out in front: when he wished to get in
again and caught sight of her red cloak illumining the
coppice, he made a dash in at the back-gate, and was lost
amid the kidney beans.
By this time the state of affairs was known
to Church Dykely: a rare dish of nuts for the quiet place to
crack. Those of us who possessed liberty made pleas for
passing by Virginia Cottage to see the fun. Not that there
was much to see, except a glimpse of the red cloak in this
odd spot or in that.
"Stockhausen must be silly!" cried
the Squire. "Why does he not openly see the poor woman
and inquire what it is she wants with him? The idea of his
shunning her in this absurd way! What does he mean by it, I
Now, before telling more, I wish to halt and
say a word. That much ridicule will be cast on this story by
the intelligent reader, is as sure as that apples grow in
summer. Nevertheless, I am but relating what took place.
Certain things in it were curiously strange; not at all
explainable hitherto : possibly never to be explained. I
chanced to be personally mixed up with it, so to say, in a
degree; from its beginning, when Ketira and her daughter
first appeared at Abel Carew's, to its ending, which has yet
to be told. For that much I can vouch--I mean what I was
present at. But you need not accord belief to the whole,
unless you like.
Chance, and nothing else, caused me to be
sent over this same evening to Mr. Duffham's. It was Friday,
you understand; and the eve of the day Hyde Stockhausen
would depart preparatory to his marriage. One of our maids
had been ailing for some days with what was thought to be a
bad cold: as she did not get better, but grew more feverish,
Mrs. Todhetley decided to send for the doctor, if only as a
measure of precaution.
"You can go over to Mr. Duffham's for
me, Johnny," she said, as we got up from tea--which
meal was generally taken at the manor close upon dinner,
somewhat after the fashion that the French take their tasse
de café. "Ask him if he will be so kind as to
call in to see Ann when he is out to-morrow morning."
Nothing loth was I. The evening was glorious,
tempting the world out-of-doors, calm and beautiful, but
very hot yet. The direct way to Duffham's from our house was
not by Virginia Cottage: but, as a matter of course, I took
it. Going along at tip-top speed until I came within sight
of it, I then slackened to a snail's pace, the better to
There's an old saying; that virtue is its own
reward. If any virtue existed in my choosing this circuitous
and agreeable route, I can only say that for once the
promise was at fault, for I was not rewarded. Were
Hyde Stockhausen's house a prison, it could not have been
much more closely shut up. The windows were closed on that
lovely midsummer night; the doors looked tight as wax. Not a
glimpse could I catch of as much as the bow of Deborah
Preen's mob-cap atop of the short bedroom blinds; and Hyde
might have been over in Africa for all that. could be seen
Neither (for a wonder) was there any trace of
Ketira the gipsy. Her red cloak was nowhere. Had she
obtained speech of Hyde, and so terminated her watch, or had
she given it up in despair? Any way, there,was nothing to
reward me for having come that much out of my road, and I
went on, whistling dolorously.
But, hardly had I got past the premises and
was well on the field-path beyond, when I met Duffham.
Giving him the message from home, which he said he would
attend to, I enlarged on the disappointment just experienced
in seeing nothing of anybody.
"Shut up like a jail, is it?" quoth
Duffham. "I have just had a note from Stockhausen,
asking me to call there. His throat's troubling him again,
he says: wants me to give him something that will cure him
I had turned with the doctor, and went
walking with him up the garden, listening to what he said.
But I meant to leave him when we reached the door. He began
trying it. It was fastened inside.
"I dare say you can come in and see
Hyde, Johnny. What do you want with him?"
"Not much; only to wish him good
"Is your master afraid of thieves that
he bolts his doors?" cried Duffham to old Preen when
she let us in.
"'Twas me fastened it, sir; not
master," was her reply. "That gipsy wretch have
been about yesterday and to-day. wanting to get in. I've got
my silver about, and don't want it stolen. Mr. Hyde's mother
and Massock have been here to dinner; they've not long
Decanters and fruit stood on the table before
Hyde. He started up to shake hands, appearing very much
elated. Duffham, more experienced than I, saw that he had
been taking quite enough wine.
"So you have had your stepfather
here!" was one of the doctor's first remarks.
"Been making up the quarrel, I suppose."
"He came of his own accord; I didn't
invite him," said Hyde laughing. "My mother wrote
me word that they were coming--to give me their good wishes
for the future."
"Just what Johnny Ludlow here says he
wants to give," said Duffham: though I didn't see that
he need have brought my words up, and made a fellow feel
"Then, by Jove, you shall drink them in
champagne!" exclaimed Hyde. He caught up a bottle of
champagne that stood under the sideboard. from which the
wire had been removed and would have cut the string but for
the restraining hand of Duffham.
"No, Hyde; you have had rather too much
as it is."
"I swear to you that I have not had a
spoonful. It has not been opened, you see. My mother refused
it, and Massock does not care for champagne: he likes
"If you have not taken champagne, you
have taken other wine."
"Sherry at dinner, and port since,"
"And more of it than is good for
"When Massock sits down to port wine he
drinks like a fish," returned Hyde, still laughing.
"Of course I had to make a show of drinking with him. I
wished the port at Hanover."
By a dexterous movement, he caught up a knife
and cut the string. Out shot the cork with a bang, and he
filled three of the tumblers that stood on the sideboard
with wine and froth--one for each of us. "Your health,
doctor," nodded he, and tossed off his own.
"It will not do your throat good,"
said Duffham, angrily. "Let me look at the
"Not until you and Johnny have wished me
We did it, and drank the wine. Duffham
examined the throat; and told Hyde, for his consolation,
that it was not in state to be trifled with.
"Oh, it's nothing," said Hyde
carelessly. "But I don't want it to be bad to-morrow
when I travel, and I thought perhaps you might be able to
give me something or other to set it to rights to-night. I
start at ten to-morrow morning."
"Sore throats are not cured so
easily," retorted Duffham. "You must have taken
Telling him he would send in a gargle and a
cooling draught, and that he was to go to bed soon, Duffham
rose to leave. Hyde opened the glass-doors of the room that
we might pass out that way, and stepped over the threshold
with us. Talking with Duffham, he strolled onwards towards
"About three weeks, I suppose," he
said, in answer to the query of how long he meant to be
away. "If Mabel----"
Gliding out of the bushy laurels on one side
the path, and planting herself right in front of us, came
Ketira the gipsy. Her face looked yellower than ever in the
twilight of the summer's evening; her piercing black eyes
fiercer. Hyde was taken aback by the unexpected encounter.
He started a step back.
"Where's my daughter, Hyde
"Go away," he said, in the
contemptuous tone one might use to a dog. "I don't know
anything of your daughter."
"Only tell me where she is, that I may
find her. I ask no more."
"I tell you that I do not know anything
of her. You must be mad to think it. Get along with
"Hyde Stockhausen, you lie. You do
know where she is; you know that it is with you she has
been. Heaven hears me say it: deny it if you
His face looked whiter than death. Just for
an instant he seemed unable to speak. Ketira changed her
tone to one of plaintive wailing.
"She was my one little ewe lamb. What
had she or I done to you that you should come as a spoiler
to the fold? I prayed you not. Make her your wife,
and I will yet bless you. It is not too late. Do not break
her heart and mine."
Hyde had had time to rally his courage. A man
full of wine can generally call some up, even in the most
embarrassing of situations. He scornfully asked the gipsy
whether she had come out of Bedlam. Ketira saw how hard he
was--that there was no hope.
"It is said that you depart to-morrow to
bring home a bride, Hyde Stockhausen. I counsel you not
to do it. For your own sake, and for the young woman's
sake, I bid you beware. The marriage will not bring good to
you or to her."
That put Hyde in a towering passion. His
words came out with a splutter as he spurned her from him.
"Cease your folly, you senseless old
beldame! Do you dare to threaten me? Take yourself out of my
sight instantly, before I fetch my horsewhip. And, if ever
you attempt to molest me again, I will have you sent to the
Ketira stood looking at him while he spoke,
never moving an inch. As his voice died away she lifted her
forefinger in warning. And anything more impressive than her
voice, than her whole manner--anything more startlingly
defiant than her countenance, I never wish to see.
"It is well; I go. But listen to me,
Hyde Stockhausen; mark what I say. Only three times shall
you see me again in life. But each one of those times you
shall have cause to remember; and after the last of them you
will not need to see me more."
It was a strange threat. That she made it,
Duffham could, to this day, corroborate. Pulling her red
cloak about her shoulders she went swiftly through the gate,
and disappeared within the opposite coppice.
Hyde smiled; his good humour was returning to
him. One can be brave enough when an enemy turns tail.
"Idiotic old Egyptian!" he
exclaimed lightly. "What on earth ever made her take
the fancy into her head, that I knew what became of Kettie,
I can't imagine. I wonder, Duffham some of you people in
authority here don't get her confined as a lunatic!"
"We must first of all find that she is a
lunatic," was Duffham's dry rejoinder.
"Why, what else is she?"
"She is; and a dangerous one,"
"Nonsense, man! Gipsies have queer ways
and notions; and--and--are not to be judged altogether
as other people," added the doctor, finishing off (as
it struck me) with different words from those he had been
about to say. "Good-night: and don't take any more of
Hyde returned indoors, and we walked away,
not seeing a sign of the red cloak anywhere.
"I must say I should not like to be
attacked in this manner, were I Hyde," I remarked to
Duffham. "How obstinate the old gipsy is!"
"Ah," replied Duffham. "I'd
sooner believe her than him."
The words surprised me, and I turned to him
quickly. "Why do you say that, sir?"
"Because I do say it, Johnny," was
the unsatisfactory answer. "And now good-evening to
you, lad, for I must send the physic in."
"Just a word, please, Mr. Duffham. Do
you know where that poor Kettie is?--and did you know that
Hyde Stockhausen stole her?"
"No, to both your questions, Johnny
Everybody liked Hyde's wife. A fragile girl
with a weak voice, who looked as if a strong wind would blow
her away. Duffham feared she was not strong enough to make
Virginia Cottage flourished. Parson Hyde had
died and left all his fortune to Hyde: who had now nothing
to do but take care of his wife and his money, and enjoy
life. Before the next summer came round, Hyde had a son and
heir. A fine little shaver with blue eyes like Hyde's, and
good lungs. His mother was a long while getting about again:
and then she looked like a shadow, and had a short, hacking
kind of cough. Hyde wore a grave face at times, and would
say he wished Mabel could get strong.
But Hyde was regarded with less favour than
formerly. People did not scruple to call him
"villain." And one Sunday, when Mr. Holland told
us in his sermon that man's heart was deceitful above all
things and desperately wicked, the congregation wondered
whether he meant it especially for Stockhausen. For the
truth had come out.
When Hyde departed to keep his marriage
engagement, Ketira the gipsy had again disappeared from
Church Dykely. In less than a month afterwards, Abel Carew
received a letter from her. She had found Kettie: and she
had found that her own instincts against Hyde Stockhausen
were not mistaken ones. For all his seeming fair face and
his indignant denials, it was he who had been the thief.
"Of all brazen-faced knaves, that
Stockhausen must be the worst!--an adept in cunning, a lying
hypocrite!" exploded the Squire.
"I suspected him at the time," said
"You did! What were your grounds for
"I had no particular grounds. His manner
did not appear to me to be satisfactory; that was all. Of
course I was not sure."
"He is a base man," concluded the
Squire. And from that time he turned the cold shoulder on
But time is a sure healer of wounds; a
softener of resentment As it passed on, we began to forget
Hyde's dark points, and to remember his good qualities. Any
way, Ketira the gipsy and Ketira's daughter passed out of
memory, just as they had passed out of sight.
Suddenly we heard that Abel Carew was
preparing to go on a journey. I went off to ask him where he
was bound for.
"I am going to see them, Master
Johnny," he replied. "I don't know how they are
off, sir, and it is my duty to see. The child is ill: and I
fear they may be wanting assistance, which Ketira is too
proud to write and ask for."
"Kettie ill! What is the matter with
Abel shook his head. "I shall know more
when I get there, sir."
Abel Carew locked up his cottage and began
his pilgrimage into Hertfordshire with a staff and a wallet,
intending to walk all the way. In a fortnight he was back
again, bringing with him a long face.
"It is sad to see the child," he
said to me, as I sat in his room listening to the news.
"She is no more like the bonnie Kettie that we knew
here, than a dead girl's like a living one. Worn out, bent
and silent, she sits, day after day and week after week, and
her mother cannot rouse her. She has sat so all along."
"But what is the matter with her?"
"She is slowly dying, sir."
"A broken heart."
"Oh dear!" said I; believing I knew
who had broken it.
"Yes," said Abel,
"he. He won her heart's best love, Master
Johnny, and she pines for him yet. Ketira says it was his
marriage that struck her the death-blow. A few weeks she may
still linger, but they won't be many."
Very sorry did I feel to hear it: for
Ketira's sake as well as Kettie's. The remembrance of the
day I had gilded the oak-ball, and her wonderful gratitude
for it, came flashing back to me.
And there's nothing more to add to this
digression. Except that Kettie died.
The tidings did not appear to affect Hyde
Stockhausen. All his thoughts were given to his wife and
child. Old Abel had never reproached him by as much as a
word: if by chance they met, Abel avoided looking at him, or
turned off another way.
When the baby was six months old and began to
cut his teeth, he did not appear inclined to do it kindly.
He grew thin and cross; and the parents, who seemed to think
no baby ever born could come up to this one, began to be
anxious. Hyde worshipped the child ridiculously.
"The boy will do well enough if he does
not get convulsions," Duffham said in semi-confidence
to some people over his surgery counter. "If
they come on why, I can't answer for what the
result might be. Fat? Yes, he is a great deal too fat: they
feed him up so."
The surgeon was sitting by his parlour-fire
one snowy evening shortly after this, when Stockhausen burst
upon him in a fine state of agitation; arms working, breath
gone. The baby was in a fit.
"Come, come; don't you give way,"
cried the doctor, believing Hyde was going into a fit on his
own account. "We'll see."
Out of one convulsion into another went the
child that night: but in a few days it was better; thought
to be getting well. Mr. and Mrs. Stockhausen in consequence
felt themselves in the seventh heaven.
"The danger is quite past,"
observed Hyde, walking down the snowy path with Duffham, one
morning when the doctor had been paying a visit; and Hyde
rubbed his hands in gleeful relief, for he had been like a
crazed lunatic while the child lay ill. "Duffham, if
that child had died, I think I should have died."
"Not a bit of it," said Duffham.
"You are made of tougher stuff."
He was about to open the garden-gate as he
spoke. But, suddenly appearing there to confront them stood
Ketira the gipsy. A moment's startled pause ensued. Duffham
spoke kindly to her. Hyde recoiled a step or two; as if the
sight had frightened him.
"You may well start back," she said
to the latter, taking no notice of Duffham's civility.
"I told you, you should not see me many times in life,
Hyde Stockhausen, but that when you did, I should be the
harbinger of evil. Go home, and meet it."
Turning off under the garden-hedge, without
another word, he disappeared from their view as suddenly as
she had come into it. Hyde Stockhausen made a feint of
"The woman is more mad than ever,"
he said. "Decidedly, Duffham, she ought to be in
Never an assenting syllable gave Duffham. He
was looking as stern as a judge. "What's that?" he
suddenly exclaimed, turning sharply to the house.
A maid-servant was flying down the path.
Deborah Preen stood at the door, crying and calling as if in
some dire calamity. Hyde rushed towards her, asking what was
amiss. Duffham followed more slowly. The baby had got
another attack of convulsions.
And this time it was for death.
When these events were happening, Great
Malvern was not the overgrown, fashionable place it is now;
but a quiet little spot with only a few houses in it,
chiefly clustering under the highest of the hills. Amid
these houses, one bright May day, Hyde Stockhausen went,
Hyde had not died of the loss of the baby.
For here he was, alive and well, nearly eighteen months
afterwards. That it had been a sharp trial for him nobody
doubted; and for his wife also And when a second baby came
to replace the first, it brought them no good, for it did
not live a week.
That was in March: two months ago: and ever
since Mrs. Stockhausen had been hovering between this world
and the next. A fever and other ailments had taken what
little strength she had out of her. This, to Hyde
Stockhausen, was a worse affliction than even the loss of
the children, for she was to him as the very apple of his
eye. When somewhat improving, the doctors recommended
Malvern. So Hyde had brought her to it with a nurse and old
Deborah; and had left them at the Grown Hotel while he
looked for lodgings.
He found them in one of the houses down by
the abbey. Some nice rooms, quite suitable. And to them his
wife was taken. For a very few days afterwards she seemed to
be getting better: and then all the bad symptoms returned. A
doctor was called in. He feared she might not rally again;
that the extreme debility might prevent it: and he said as
much to Hyde in private.
Anything more unreasonable than the spirit in
which Hyde met this, the Malvern doctor had never seen.
"You are a fool?" said Hyde.
"Begging your pardon, sir, I should think you don't
know your profession. My wife is fifty pounds better than
she was at Church Dykely. How can you take upon yourself to
say she will not rally?"
"I said she might not," replied the
surgeon, who happened to possess a temper mild as milk.
"I hope she will with all my heart. I shall do my best
to bring it about."
It was an anxious time. Mrs. Stockhausen
fluctuated greatly: to-day able to sit up in an easy-chair;
to-morrow too exhausted to be lifted out of bed. But, one
morning she did seem to be ever so much better. Her cheeks
were pink, her lips had a smile.
"Ah," said the doctor cheerfully
when he went in, "we shall do now, I hope. You are up
"I felt so much better that I wanted to
get up and surprise you," she answered in quite a
strong voice--for her. "And it was so warm, and the
world looked so beautiful. I should like to be able to mount
one of those donkeys and go up the hill. Hyde says that the
view, even from St. Ann's well, is charming."
"So it is," assented the surgeon.
"Have you never seen it?"
"No, I have not been to Malvern
This was the first day of June. Hyde would
not forget the date to the last hour of his life. It was hot
summer weather: the sun came in at the open window, touching
her hair and her pale forehead as she lay back in the
easy-chair after the doctor left, a canary at a neighbouring
house was singing sweetly; the majestic hills, with their
light and shade, looked closer even than they were in
reality. Hyde began to lower the blind.
"Don't, please, Hyde."
"But, my darling, the sun will soon be
in your eyes."
"I shall like it. Is it not a lovely
day! I think it is that which has put new life into
"And we shall soon have you up the hill,
where we can sit and look all over everywhere. On one or two
occasions, when the atmosphere was rarefied to an unusual
degree, I have caught the silver line of the Bristol
"How pleasant it will be, Hyde! To sit
there with you, and to know that I am getting well!"
Early in the afternoon, when Mabel lay down
to rest, Hyde went strolling up the hill, for the first time
since his present stay at Malvern. He got as far as St.
Ann's; drank a tumbler of the water, and then paced about,
hither and thither, to the right and left, not intending to
ascend higher that day. If he went to the summit, Mabel
might be awake before he got home gain; and he would not
have lost five minutes of her waking moments for a mine of
gold. Looking at his watch, he sat down on a bench that was
backed by some dark trees.
"Yes," he mused, "it will be
delightful to sit about here with Mabel, and show her the
different points of interest in the landscape. Worcester
Cathedral, and St. Andrew's Spire, and the Bristol----"
Some stir behind caused him to turn his head.
The words froze on his tongue. There stood Ketira the gipsy.
She had been sitting or lying amidst the trees, wrapped in
her red cloak. Hyde's look of startled dread was manifest.
She saw it; and accosted him.
"We meet again, Hyde Stockhausen. Ah,
you have cause to fear!--your face may well whiten to the
shivering hue of snow at sight of me! You are alone in the
world now--as you left my daughter to be. Once more we shall
see one another. Till then farewell."
Recovering his equanimity when left alone,
Hyde betook himself down the zig-zag path towards the
village, calling the gipsy all the wicked names in the
dictionary, and feeling tempted to give her into custody.
At his home, he was met by a commotion. The
nurse wore a scared face; Deborah Preen, wringing her hands,
burst out sobbing.
Mabel was dead. Had died in a fainting-fit.
Leaving his wife in her grave at Malvern,
Hyde Stockhausen returned to Church Dykely. We hardly knew
A more changed man than Hyde was from that
time the world has never seen. He walked about like a
melancholy maniac, hands in his coat-pockets, eyes on the
ground, steps dragging; looking just like one who has some
great remorse lying upon his conscience and is being
consumed by the past. The most wonderful thing in the eyes
of Church Dykely was, that he grew religious: came to
church twice on Sunday, stayed for the Sacrament, was good
to the poor, gentle and kindly to all. Mr. Holland observed
to the Squire that Stockhausen had become a true Christian.
He made his will, and altogether seemed to be tired of life.
"Go you, Johnny, and ask him to come
over to us sometimes in an evening; tell him it will be a
break to his loneliness," said the Squire to me one
day. "Now that the poor fellow is ill and repentant, we
must let bygones be bygones. I hear that Abel Carew spent
half-an-hour sociably with him yesterday."
I went off as directed. Summer had come round
again, for more than a year had now passed since Mabel's
death, and the Virginia creeper on the cottage walls was all
alight with red flowers. Hyde was pacing his garden in front
of it, his head bent.
"Is it you, Johnny?" he said, in
the patient, gentle tone he now always used, as he held
his hand out. He was more like a shadow than a man; his face
drawn and long, his blue eyes large and dark and sad.
"We should be so glad if you would
come," I added, after giving the message. "Mrs.
Todhetley says you make yourself too much of a stranger.
Will you come this evening?"
He shook his head slightly, clasping my hand
the while, his own feeling like a burning coal, and smiling
the sweetest and saddest smile.
"You are all too good for me; too
considerate; better far than I deserve. No, I cannot come to
you this evening, Johnny: I have not the spirits for it;
hardly the strength. But I will come one evening if I can.
Thank them all, Johnny, for me."
And he did come. But he could not speak much
above a whisper, to weak and hollow had his voice grown. And
of all the humble-minded, kindly-spirited individuals that
ever sat at our tea-table, the chiefest was Hyde
"I fear he is going the way of all the
Stockhausens," said Mrs. Todhetley afterwards.
"But what a beautiful frame of mind he is in!"
"Beautiful, you call it!" cried the
pater. "The man seems to me to be eating his heart out
in some impossible atonement. Had I set fire to the church
and burnt up all the congregation, I don't think it could
have subdued me to that extent."
Of all places, where should I next meet Hyde
but at Worcester races! We knew that he had been worse
lately, that his mother had come to Virginia Cottage to be
with him at the last, and that there was no further hope.
Therefore, to see Hyde this afternoon, perched on a tall
horse on Pitchcroft, looked more like magic than reality.
"You at the races, Hyde!"
"Yes; but not for pleasure," he
answered, smiling faintly; and looking so shadowy and weak
that it was a marvel how he could stick on the horse.
"I am in search of one who is growing too fond of these
scenes. I want to find him--and to say a few last words to
"If you mean Jim Massock"--for I
thought it could be nobody but young Jim--"I saw him
yonder, down by the shows. He was drinking porter outside a
booth. How are you, Hyde?"
"Oh, getting on slowly," he said,
with a peculiar smile.
"Getting on! It looks to me to be the
Turning his horse quickly round, after
nodding to me, in the direction of the shows and drinking
booths, he nearly turned it upon a tall, gaunt skeleton in a
red cloak--Ketira the gipsy. She must have sprung out of the
But oh, how ill she looked! Hyde was
strangely altered; but not as she was. The yellow face was
shrivelled and shrunken, the fire had left her eyes. Hyde
checked his horse; but the animal turned restive. He
controlled it with his hand, and sat still before Ketira.
"Yes, look at me," she burst forth.
"For the last time. The end is close at hand
both for you and for me. We shall meet Kettie where we are
He leaned from his horse to speak to her: his
voice a low sad wail, his words apparently those of
deprecating prayer. Ketira heard him quietly to the end,
gazing into his face, and then slowly turned away.
"Fare you well, Hyde Stockhausen.
Farewell for ever."
Before leaving the course Hyde had an
accident. While talking to Jim Massock, some drums and
trumpets struck up their noise at a neighbouring show; the
horse started violently, and Hyde was thrown. He thought he
was not much hurt and mounted again.
"What else could you expect?"
demanded Duffham, when Hyde got back to Virginia Cottage.
"You have not strength to sit a donkey, and you must go
careering off to Worcester races on a fiery horse!"
But the fall had done Hyde some inward
damage, and it hastened the end. He died that day week.
"Some men's sins go before them to
Judgment, and some follow after," solemnly said Mr.
Holland the next Sunday from the pulpit. "He who is
gone from among us had taken his to his Saviour--and he is
now at rest."
"All chance and coincidence,"
pronounced Duffham, talking over the strange threat of
Ketira the gipsy and its stranger working out. "Yes;
chance, I say, each of the three times. The woman, happening
to be at hand, must have known by common report that the
child was in peril; she may have learnt at Malvern that the
wife was dying; and any goose with eyes in its head might
have read coming death on his face that afternoon
on Pitchcroft. That's all about it, Johnny."
Very probably. The reader can exercise his
own Judgment. I only know it all happened.