Clara Hopgood by Mark Rutherford
About ten miles north-east of Eastthorpe lies the town of Fenmarket,
very like Eastthorpe generally; and as we are already familiar with
Eastthorpe, a particular description of Fenmarket is unnecessary.
There is, however, one marked difference between them. Eastthorpe, it
will be remembered, is on the border between the low uplands and the
Fens, and has one side open to soft, swelling hills. Fenmarket is
entirely in the Fens, and all the roads that lead out of it are alike
level, monotonous, straight, and flanked by deep and stagnant ditches.
The river, also, here is broader and slower; more reluctant than it is
even at Eastthorpe to hasten its journey to the inevitable sea. During
the greater part of the year the visitor to Fenmarket would perhaps
find it dull and depressing, and at times, under a grey, wintry sky,
almost unendurable; but nevertheless, for days and weeks it has a charm
possessed by few other landscapes in England, provided only that behind
the eye which looks there is something to which a landscape of that
peculiar character answers. There is, for example, the wide, dome-like
expanse of the sky, there is the distance, there is the freedom and
there are the stars on a clear night. The orderly, geometrical march
of the constellations from the extreme eastern horizon across the
meridian and down to the west has a solemn majesty, which is only
partially discernible when their course is interrupted by broken
On a dark afternoon in November 1844, two young women, Clara and
Madge Hopgood, were playing chess in the back parlour of their mother's
house at Fenmarket, just before tea. Clara, the elder, was about
five-and-twenty, fair, with rather light hair worn flat at the side of
her face, after the fashion of that time. Her features were tolerably
regular. It is true they were somewhat marred by an uneven nasal
outline, but this was redeemed by the curved lips of a mouth which was
small and rather compressed, and by a definite, symmetrical and
graceful figure. Her eyes were grey, with a curious peculiarity in
them. Ordinarily they were steady, strong eyes, excellent and renowned
optical instruments. Over and over again she had detected, along the
stretch of the Eastthorpe road, approaching visitors, and had named
them when her companions could see nothing but specks. Occasionally,
however, these steady, strong, grey eyes utterly changed. They were
the same eyes, the same colour, but they ceased to be mere optical
instruments and became instruments of expression, transmissive of
radiance to such a degree that the light which was reflected from them
seemed insufficient to account for it. It was also curious that this
change, though it must have been accompanied by some emotion, was just
as often not attended by any other sign of it. Clara was, in fact,
little given to any display of feeling.
Madge, four years younger than her sister, was of a different type
altogether, and one more easily comprehended. She had very heavy dark
hair, and she had blue eyes, a combination which fascinated Fenmarket.
Fenmarket admired Madge more than it was admired by her in return, and
she kept herself very much to herself, notwithstanding what it
considered to be its temptations. If she went shopping she nearly
always went with her sister; she stood aloof from all the small
gaieties of the town; walked swiftly through its streets, and repelled,
frigidly and decisively, all offers, and they were not a few, which had
been made to her by the sons of the Fenmarket tradesfolk. Fenmarket
pronounced her 'stuck-up,' and having thus labelled her, considered it
had exhausted her. The very important question, Whether there was
anything which naturally stuck up? Fenmarket never asked. It was a
great relief to that provincial little town in 1844, in this and in
other cases, to find a word which released it from further mental
effort and put out of sight any troublesome, straggling, indefinable
qualities which it would otherwise have been forced to examine and
name. Madge was certainly stuck-up, but the projection above those
around her was not artificial. Both she and her sister found the ways
of Fenmarket were not to their taste. The reason lay partly in their
nature and partly in their history.
Mrs Hopgood was the widow of the late manager in the Fenmarket
branch of the bank of Rumbold, Martin & Rumbold, and when her husband
died she had of course to leave the Bank Buildings. As her income was
somewhat straitened, she was obliged to take a small house, and she was
now living next door to the 'Crown and Sceptre,' the principal inn in
the town. There was then no fringe of villas to Fenmarket for retired
quality; the private houses and shops were all mixed together, and Mrs
Hopgood's cottage was squeezed in between the ironmonger's and the
inn. It was very much lower than either of its big neighbours, but it
had a brass knocker and a bell, and distinctly asserted and maintained
a kind of aristocratic superiority.
Mr Hopgood was not a Fenmarket man. He came straight from London to
be manager. He was in the bank of the London agents of Rumbold, Martin
& Rumbold, and had been strongly recommended by the city firm as just
the person to take charge of a branch which needed thorough
reorganisation. He succeeded, and nobody in Fenmarket was more
respected. He lived, however, a life apart from his neighbours,
excepting so far as business was concerned. He went to church once on
Sunday because the bank expected him to go, but only once, and had
nothing to do with any of its dependent institutions. He was a great
botanist, very fond of walking, and in the evening, when Fenmarket
generally gathered itself into groups for gossip, either in the street
or in back parlours, or in the 'Crown and Sceptre,' Mr Hopgood, tall,
lean and stately, might be seen wandering along the solitary roads
searching for flowers, which, in that part of the world, were rather
scarce. He was also a great reader of the best books, English, German
and French, and held high doctrine, very high for those days, on the
training of girls, maintaining that they need, even more than boys,
exact discipline and knowledge. Boys, he thought, find health in an
occupation; but an uncultivated, unmarried girl dwells with her own
untutored thoughts, which often breed disease. His two daughters,
therefore, received an education much above that which was usual
amongst people in their position, and each of them—an unheard of
wonder in Fenmarket—had spent some time in a school in Weimar. Mr
Hopgood was also peculiar in his way of dealing with his children. He
talked to them and made them talk to him, and whatever they read was
translated into speech; thought, in his house, was vocal.
Mrs Hopgood, too, had been the intimate friend of her husband, and
was the intimate friend of her daughters. She was now nearly sixty,
but still erect and graceful, and everybody could see that the picture
of a beautiful girl of one-and-twenty, which hung opposite the
fireplace, had once been her portrait. She had been brought up, as
thoroughly as a woman could be brought up, in those days, to be a
governess. The war prevented her education abroad, but her father, who
was a clergyman, not too rich, engaged a French emigrant lady to live
in his house to teach her French and other accomplishments. She
consequently spoke French perfectly, and she could also read and speak
Spanish fairly well, for the French lady had spent some years in
Spain. Mr Hopgood had never been particularly in earnest about
religion, but his wife was a believer, neither High Church nor Low
Church, but inclined towards a kind of quietism not uncommon in the
Church of England, even during its bad time, a reaction against the
formalism which generally prevailed. When she married, Mrs Hopgood did
not altogether follow her husband. She never separated herself from
her faith, and never would have confessed that she had separated
herself from her church. But although she knew that his creed
externally was not hers, her own was not sharply cut, and she persuaded
herself that, in substance, his and her belief were identical. As she
grew older her relationship to the Unseen became more and more
intimate, but she was less and less inclined to criticise her husband's
freedom, or to impose on the children a rule which they would certainly
have observed, but only for her sake. Every now and then she felt a
little lonely; when, for example, she read one or two books which were
particularly her own; when she thought of her dead father and mother,
and when she prayed her solitary prayer. Mr Hopgood took great pains
never to disturb that sacred moment. Indeed, he never for an instant
permitted a finger to be laid upon what she considered precious. He
loved her because she had the strength to be what she was when he first
knew her and she had so fascinated him. He would have been
disappointed if the mistress of his youth had become some other person,
although the change, in a sense, might have been development and
progress. He did really love her piety, too, for its own sake. It
mixed something with her behaviour to him and to the children which
charmed him, and he did not know from what other existing source
anything comparable to it could be supplied. Mrs Hopgood seldom went
to church. The church, to be sure, was horribly dead, but she did not
give that as a reason. She had, she said, an infirmity, a strange
restlessness which prevented her from sitting still for an hour. She
often pleaded this excuse, and her husband and daughters never, by word
or smile, gave her the least reason to suppose that they did not
Both Clara and Madge went first to an English day-school, and Clara
went straight from this school to Germany, but Madge's course was a
little different. She was not very well, and it was decided that she
should have at least a twelvemonth in a boarding-school at Brighton
before going abroad. It had been very highly recommended, but the
head-mistress was Low Church and aggressive. Mr Hopgood, far away from
the High and Low Church controversy, came to the conclusion that, in
Madge's case, the theology would have no effect on her. It was quite
impossible, moreover, to find a school which would be just what he
could wish it to be. Madge, accordingly, was sent to Brighton, and was
introduced into a new world. She was just beginning to ask herself why certain things were right and other things were wrong, and the
Brighton answer was that the former were directed by revelation and the
latter forbidden, and that the 'body' was an affliction to the soul, a
means of 'probation,' our principal duty being to 'war' against it.
Madge's bedroom companion was a Miss Selina Fish, daughter of
Barnabas Fish, Esquire, of Clapham, and merchant of the City of
London. Miss Fish was not traitorous at heart, but when she found out
that Madge had not been christened, she was so overcome that she was
obliged to tell her mother. Miss Fish was really unhappy, and one cold
night, when Madge crept into her neighbour's bed, contrary to law, but
in accordance with custom when the weather was very bitter, poor Miss
Fish shrank from her, half-believing that something dreadful might
happen if she should by any chance touch unbaptised, naked flesh. Mrs
Fish told her daughter that perhaps Miss Hopgood might be a Dissenter,
and that although Dissenters were to be pitied, and even to be
condemned, many of them were undoubtedly among the redeemed, as for
example, that man of God, Dr Doddridge, whose Family Expositor
was read systematically at home, as Selina knew. Then there were
Matthew Henry, whose commentary her father preferred to any other, and
the venerable saint, the Reverend William Jay of Bath, whom she was
proud to call her friend. Miss Fish, therefore, made further inquiries
gently and delicately, but she found to her horror that Madge had
neither been sprinkled nor immersed! Perhaps she was a Jewess or a
heathen! This was a happy thought, for then she might be converted.
Selina knew what interest her mother took in missions to heathens and
Jews; and if Madge, by the humble instrumentality of a child, could be
brought to the foot of the Cross, what would her mother and father
say? What would they not say? Fancy taking Madge to Clapham in a nice
white dress—it should be white, thought Selina—and presenting her
as a saved lamb!
The very next night she began,—
'I suppose your father is a foreigner?'
'No, he is an Englishman.'
'But if he is an Englishman you must have been baptised, or
sprinkled, or immersed, and your father and mother must belong to
church or chapel. I know there are thousands of wicked people who
belong to neither, but they are drunkards and liars and robbers, and
even they have their children christened.'
'Well, he is an Englishman,' said Madge, smiling.
'Perhaps,' said Selina, timidly, 'he may be—he may be—Jewish.
Mamma and papa pray for the Jews every morning. They are not like
'No, he is certainly not a Jew.'
'What is he, then?'
'He is my papa and a very honest, good man.'
'Oh, my dear Madge! honesty is a broken reed. I have heard mamma
say that she is more hopeful of thieves than honest people who think
they are saved by works, for the thief who was crucified went to
heaven, and if he had been only an honest man he never would have found
the Saviour and would have gone to hell. Your father must be
'I can only tell you again that he is honest and good.'
Selina was confounded. She had heard of those people who were
nothing, and had always considered them as so dreadful that she
could not bear to think of them. The efforts of her father and mother
did not extend to them; they were beyond the reach of the preacher—
mere vessels of wrath. If Madge had confessed herself Roman Catholic,
or idolator, Selina knew how to begin. She would have pointed out to
the Catholic how unscriptural it was to suppose that anybody could
forgive sins excepting God, and she would at once have been able to
bring the idolator to his knees by exposing the absurdity of
worshipping bits of wood and stone; but with a person who was nothing
she could not tell what to do. She was puzzled to understand what
right Madge had to her name. Who had any authority to say she was to
be called Madge Hopgood? She determined at last to pray to God and
again ask her mother's help.
She did pray earnestly that very night, and had not finished until
long after Madge had said her Lord's Prayer. This was always said
night and morning, both by Madge and Clara. They had been taught it by
their mother. It was, by the way, one of poor Selina's troubles that
Madge said nothing but the Lord's Prayer when she lay down and when she
rose; of course, the Lord's Prayer was the best—how could it be
otherwise, seeing that our Lord used it?—but those who supplemented
it with no petitions of their own were set down as formalists, and it
was always suspected that they had not received the true enlightenment
from above. Selina cried to God till the counterpane was wet with her
tears, but it was the answer from her mother which came first, telling
her that however praiseworthy her intentions might be, argument with
such a dangerous infidel as Madge would be most perilous, and
she was to desist from it at once. Mrs Fish had by that post written
to Miss Pratt, the schoolmistress, and Selina no doubt would not be
exposed to further temptation. Mrs Fish's letter to Miss Pratt was
very strong, and did not mince matters. She informed Miss Pratt that a
wolf was in her fold, and that if the creature were not promptly
expelled, Selina must be removed into safety. Miss Pratt was
astonished, and instantly, as her custom was, sought the advice of her
sister, Miss Hannah Pratt, who had charge of the wardrobes and
household matters generally. Miss Hannah Pratt was never in the best
of tempers, and just now was a little worse than usual. It was one of
the rules of the school that no tradesmen's daughters should be
admitted, but it was very difficult to draw the line, and when drawn,
the Misses Pratt were obliged to admit it was rather ridiculous. There
was much debate over an application by an auctioneer. He was clearly
not a tradesman, but he sold chairs, tables and pigs, and, as Miss
Hannah said, used vulgar language in recommending them. However, his
wife had money; they lived in a pleasant house in Lewes, and the line
went outside him. But when a druggist, with a shop in Bond Street,
proposed his daughter, Miss Hannah took a firm stand. What is the use
of a principle, she inquired severely, if we do not adhere to it? On
the other hand, the druggist's daughter was the eldest of six, who
might all come when they were old enough to leave home, and Miss Pratt
thought there was a real difference between a druggist and, say, a
'Bootmaker!' said Miss Hannah with great scorn. 'I am surprised
that you venture to hint the remotest possibility of such a
At last it was settled that the line should also be drawn outside
the druggist. Miss Hannah, however, had her revenge. A tanner in
Bermondsey with a house in Bedford Square, had sent two of his children
to Miss Pratt's seminary. Their mother found out that they had struck
up a friendship with a young person whose father compounded
prescriptions for her, and when she next visited Brighton she called on
Miss Pratt, reminded her that it was understood that her pupils would
'all be taken from a superior class in society,' and gently hinted that
she could not allow Bedford Square to be contaminated by Bond Street.
Miss Pratt was most apologetic, enlarged upon the druggist's
respectability, and more particularly upon his well-known piety and
upon his generous contributions to the cause of religion. This,
indeed, was what decided her to make an exception in his favour, and
the piety also of his daughter was 'most exemplary.' However, the
tanner's lady, although a shining light in the church herself, was not
satisfied that a retail saint could produce a proper companion for her
own offspring, and went away leaving Miss Pratt very uncomfortable.
'I warned you,' said Miss Hannah; 'I told you what would happen, and
as to Mr Hopgood, I suspected him from the first. Besides, he is only
a banker's clerk.'
'Well, what is to be done?'
'Put your foot down at once.' Miss Hannah suited the action to the
word, and put down, with emphasis, on the hearthrug a very large,
plate-shaped foot cased in a black felt shoe.
'But I cannot dismiss them. Don't you think it will be better,
first of all, to talk to Miss Hopgood? Perhaps we could do her some
'Good! Now, do you think we can do any good to an atheist?
Besides, we have to consider our reputation. Whatever good we might
do, it would be believed that the infection remained.'
'We have no excuse for dismissing the other.'
'Excuse! none is needed, nor would any be justifiable. Excuses are
immoral. Say at once—of course politely and with regret—that the
school is established on a certain basis. It will be an advantage to
us if it is known why these girls do not remain. I will dictate the
letter, if you like.'
Miss Hannah Pratt had not received the education which had been
given to her younger sister, and therefore, was nominally subordinate,
but really she was chief. She considered it especially her duty not
only to look after the children's clothes, the servants and the
accounts, but to maintain tone everywhere in the establishment,
and to stiffen her sister when necessary, and preserve in proper
sharpness her orthodoxy, both in theology and morals.
Accordingly, both the girls left, and both knew the reason for
leaving. The druggist's faith was sorely tried. If Miss Pratt's had
been a worldly seminary he would have thought nothing of such
behaviour, but he did not expect it from one of the faithful. The next
Sunday morning after he received the news, he stayed at home out of his
turn to make up any medicines which might be urgently required, and
sent his assistant to church.
As to Madge, she enjoyed her expulsion as a great joke, and her
Brighton experiences were the cause of much laughter. She had learned
a good deal while she was away from home, not precisely what it was
intended she should learn, and she came back with a strong, insurgent
tendency, which was even more noticeable when she returned from
Germany. Neither of the sisters lived at the school in Weimar, but at
the house of a lady who had been recommended to Mrs Hopgood, and by
this lady they were introduced to the great German classics. She
herself was an enthusiast for Goethe, whom she well remembered in his
old age, and Clara and Madge, each of them in turn, learned to know the
poet as they would never have known him in England. Even the town
taught them much about him, for in many ways it was expressive of him
and seemed as if it had shaped itself for him. It was a delightful
time for them. They enjoyed the society and constant mental stimulus;
they loved the beautiful park; not a separate enclosure walled round
like an English park, but suffering the streets to end in it, and in
summer time there were excursions into the Thüringer Wald, generally to
some point memorable in history, or for some literary association. The
drawback was the contrast, when they went home, with Fenmarket, with
its dulness and its complete isolation from the intellectual world. At
Weimar, in the evening, they could see Egmont or hear Fidelio, or talk
with friends about the last utterance upon the Leben Jesu; but the
Fenmarket Egmont was a travelling wax-work show, its Fidelio psalm
tunes, or at best some of Bishop's glees, performed by a few of the
tradesfolk, who had never had an hour's instruction in music; and for
theological criticism there were the parish church and Ram Lane
Chapel. They did their best; they read their old favourites and
subscribed for a German as well as an English literary weekly
newspaper, but at times they were almost beaten. Madge more than Clara
was liable to depression.
No Fenmarket maiden, other than the Hopgoods, was supposed to have
any connection whatever, or to have any capacity for any connection
with anything outside the world in which 'young ladies' dwelt, and if a
Fenmarket girl read a book, a rare occurrence, for there were no
circulating libraries there in those days, she never permitted herself
to say anything more than that it was 'nice,' or it was 'not nice,' or
she 'liked it' or did 'not like it;' and if she had ventured to say
more, Fenmarket would have thought her odd, not to say a little
improper. The Hopgood young women were almost entirely isolated, for
the tradesfolk felt themselves uncomfortable and inferior in every way
in their presence, and they were ineligible for rectory and brewery
society, not only because their father was merely a manager, but
because of their strange ways. Mrs Tubbs, the brewer's wife, thought
they were due to Germany. From what she knew of Germany she considered
it most injudicious, and even morally wrong, to send girls there. She
once made the acquaintance of a German lady at an hotel at Tunbridge
Wells, and was quite shocked. She could see quite plainly that the
standard of female delicacy must be much lower in that country than in
England. Mr Tubbs was sure Mrs Hopgood must have been French, and said
to his daughters, mysteriously, 'you never can tell who Frenchwomen
'But, papa,' said Miss Tubbs, 'you know Mrs Hopgood's maiden name;
we found that out. It was Molyneux.'
'Of course, my dear, of course; but if she was a Frenchwoman
resident in England she would prefer to assume an English name, that is
to say if she wished to be married.'
Occasionally the Miss Hopgoods were encountered, and they confounded
Fenmarket sorely. On one memorable occasion there was a party at the
Rectory: it was the annual party into which were swept all the
unclassifiable odds-and-ends which could not be put into the two
gatherings which included the aristocracy and the democracy of the
place. Miss Clara Hopgood amazed everybody by 'beginning talk,' by
asking Mrs Greatorex, her hostess, who had been far away to Sidmouth
for a holiday, whether she had been to the place where Coleridge was
born, and when the parson's wife said she had not, and that she could
not be expected to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of an infidel,
Miss Hopgood expressed her surprise, and declared she would walk twenty
miles any day to see Ottery St Mary. Still worse, when somebody
observed that an Anti-Corn-Law lecturer was coming to Fenmarket, and
the parson's daughter cried 'How horrid!' Miss Hopgood talked again,
and actually told the parson that, so far as she had read upon the
subject—fancy her reading about the Corn-Laws!—the argument was all
one way, and that after Colonel Thompson nothing new could really be
'What is so—' she was about to say 'objectionable,' but she
recollected her official position and that she was bound to be politic
- 'so odd and unusual,' observed Mrs Greatorex to Mrs Tubbs afterwards,
'is not that Miss Hopgood should have radical views. Mrs Barker, I
know, is a radical like her husband, but then she never puts herself
forward, nor makes speeches. I never saw anything quite like it,
except once in London at a dinner-party. Lady Montgomery then went on
in much the same way, but she was a baronet's wife; the baronet was in
Parliament; she received a good deal and was obliged to entertain her
Poor Clara! she was really very unobtrusive and very modest, but
there had been constant sympathy between her and her father, not the
dumb sympathy as between man and dog, but that which can manifest
itself in human fashion.
Clara and her father were both chess-players, and at the time at
which our history begins, Clara had been teaching Madge the game for
about six months.
'Check!' said Clara.
'Check! after about a dozen moves. It is of no use to go on; you
always beat me. I should not mind that if I were any better now than
when I started. It is not in me.'
'The reason is that you do not look two moves ahead. You never say
to yourself, "Suppose I move there, what is she likely to do, and what
can I do afterwards?"'
'That is just what is impossible to me. I cannot hold myself down;
the moment I go beyond the next move my thoughts fly away, and I am in
a muddle, and my head turns round. I was not born for it. I can do
what is under my nose well enough, but nothing more.'
'The planning and the forecasting are the soul of the game. I
should like to be a general, and play against armies and calculate the
consequences of manuvres.'
'It would kill me. I should prefer the fighting. Besides,
calculation is useless, for when I think that you will be sure to move
such and such a piece, you generally do not.'
'Then what makes the difference between the good and the bad player?'
'It is a gift, an instinct, I suppose.'
'Which is as much as to say that you give it up. You are very fond
of that word instinct; I wish you would not use it.'
'I have heard you use it, and say you instinctively like this person
'Certainly; I do not deny that sometimes I am drawn to a person or
repelled from him before I can say why; but I always force myself to
discover afterwards the cause of my attraction or repulsion, and I
believe it is a duty to do so. If we neglect it we are little better
than the brutes, and may grossly deceive ourselves.'
At this moment the sound of wheels was heard, and Madge jumped up,
nearly over-setting the board, and rushed into the front room. It was
the four-horse coach from London, which, once a day, passed through
Fenmarket on its road to Lincoln. It was not the direct route from
London to Lincoln, but the Defiance went this way to accommodate
Fenmarket and other small towns. It slackened speed in order to change
horses at the 'Crown and Sceptre,' and as Madge stood at the window, a
gentleman on the box-seat looked at her intently as he passed. In
another minute he had descended, and was welcomed by the landlord, who
stood on the pavement. Clara meanwhile had taken up a book, but before
she had read a page, her sister skipped into the parlour again, humming
'Let me see—check, you said, but it is not mate.'
She put her elbows on the table, rested her head between her hands,
and appeared to contemplate the game profoundly.
'Now, then, what do you say to that?'
It was really a very lucky move, and Clara, whose thoughts perhaps
were elsewhere, was presently most unaccountably defeated. Madge was
'Where are all your deep-laid schemes? Baffled by a poor creature
who can hardly put two and two together.'
'Perhaps your schemes were better than mine.'
'You know they were not. I saw the queen ought to take that bishop,
and never bothered myself as to what would follow. Have you not lost
your faith in schemes?'
'You are very much mistaken if you suppose that, because of one
failure, or of twenty failures, I would give up a principle.'
'Clara, you are a strange creature. Don't let us talk any more
Madge swept all the pieces with her hand into the box, shut it,
closed the board, and put her feet on the fender.
'You never believe in impulses or in doing a thing just because here
and now it appears to be the proper thing to do. Suppose anybody were
to make love to you—oh! how I wish somebody would, you dear girl, for
nobody deserves it more—' Madge put her head caressingly on Clara's
shoulder and then raised it again. 'Suppose, I say, anybody were to
make love to you, would you hold off for six months and consider, and
consider, and ask yourself whether he had such and such virtues, and
whether he could make you happy? Would not that stifle love
altogether? Would you not rather obey your first impression and, if
you felt you loved him, would you not say "Yes"?'
'Time is not everything. A man who is prompt and is therefore
thought to be hasty by sluggish creatures who are never half awake, may
in five minutes spend more time in consideration than his critics will
spend in as many weeks. I have never had the chance, and am not likely
to have it. I can only say that if it were to come to me, I should try
to use the whole strength of my soul. Precisely because the question
would be so important, would it be necessary to employ every faculty I
have in order to decide it. I do not believe in oracles which are
supposed to prove their divinity by giving no reasons for their
'Ah, well, I believe in Shakespeare. His lovers fall in love
at first sight.'
'No doubt they do, but to justify yourself you have to suppose that
you are a Juliet and your friend a Romeo. They may, for aught I know,
be examples in my favour. However, I have to lay down a rule for my
own poor, limited self, and, to speak the truth, I am afraid that great
men often do harm by imposing on us that which is serviceable to
themselves only; or, to put it perhaps more correctly, we mistake the
real nature of their processes, just as a person who is unskilled in
arithmetic would mistake the processes of anybody who is very quick at
it, and would be led away by them. Shakespeare is much to me, but the
more he is to me, the more careful I ought to be to discover what is
the true law of my own nature, more important to me after all than
'Exactly. I know what the law of mine is. If a man were to present
himself to me, I should rely on that instinct you so much despise, and
I am certain that the balancing, see-saw method would be fatal. It
would disclose a host of reasons against any conclusion, and I should
never come to any.'
Clara smiled. Although this impetuosity was foreign to her, she
loved it for the good which accompanied it.
'You do not mean to say you would accept or reject him at once?'
'No, certainly not. What I mean is that in a few days, perhaps in a
shorter time, something within me would tell me whether we were suited
to one another, although we might not have talked upon half-a-dozen
'I think the risk tremendous.'
'But there is just as much risk the other way. You would examine
your friend, catalogue him, sum up his beliefs, note his behaviour
under various experimental trials, and miserably fail, after all your
scientific investigation, to ascertain just the one important point
whether you loved him and could live with him. Your reason was not
meant for that kind of work. If a woman trusts in such matters to the
faculty by which, when she wishes to settle whether she is to take this
house or that, she puts the advantages of the larger back kitchen on
one side and the bigger front kitchen on the other, I pity her.'
Mrs Hopgood at this moment came downstairs and asked when in the
name of fortune they meant to have the tea ready.
Frank Palmer, the gentleman whom we saw descend from the coach, was
the eldest son of a wholesale and manufacturing chemist in London. He
was now about five-and-twenty, and having just been admitted as a
partner, he had begun, as the custom was in those days, to travel for
his firm. The elder Mr Palmer was a man of refinement, something more
than a Whig in politics, and an enthusiastic member of the Broad Church
party, which was then becoming a power in the country. He was
well-to-do, living in a fine old red-brick house at Stoke Newington,
with half-a-dozen acres of ground round it, and, if Frank had been born
thirty years later, he would probably have gone to Cambridge or
Oxford. In those days, however, it was not the custom to send boys to
the Universities unless they were intended for the law, divinity or
idleness, and Frank's training, which was begun at St Paul's school,
was completed there. He lived at home, going to school in the morning
and returning in the evening. He was surrounded by every influence
which was pure and noble. Mr Maurice and Mr Sterling were his father's
guests, and hence it may be inferred that there was an altar in the
house, and that the sacred flame burnt thereon. Mr Palmer almost
worshipped Mr Maurice, and his admiration was not blind, for Maurice
connected the Bible with what was rational in his friend. 'What! still
believable: no need then to pitch it overboard: here after all is the
Eternal Word!' It can be imagined how those who dared not close their
eyes to the light, and yet clung to that book which had been so much to
their forefathers and themselves, rejoiced when they were able to
declare that it belonged to them more than to those who misjudged them
and could deny that they were heretics. The boy's education was
entirely classical and athletic, and as he was quick at learning and
loved his games, he took a high position amongst his school-fellows.
He was not particularly reflective, but he was generous and courageous,
perfectly straightforward, a fair specimen of thousands of English
public-school boys. As he grew up, he somewhat disappointed his father
by a lack of any real interest in the subjects in which his father was
interested. He accepted willingly, and even enthusiastically, the
household conclusions on religion and politics, but they were not
properly his, for he accepted them merely as conclusions and without
the premisses, and it was often even a little annoying to hear him
express some free opinion on religious questions in a way which showed
that it was not a growth but something picked up. Mr Palmer, senior,
sometimes recoiled into intolerance and orthodoxy, and bewildered his
son who, to use one of his own phrases, 'hardly knew where his father
was.' Partly the reaction was due to the oscillation which accompanies
serious and independent thought, but mainly it was caused by Mr
Palmer's discontent with Frank's appropriation of a sentiment or
doctrine of which he was not the lawful owner. Frank, however, was so
hearty, so affectionate, and so cheerful, that it was impossible not to
love him dearly.
In his visits to Fenmarket, Frank had often noticed Madge, for the
'Crown and Sceptre' was his headquarters, and Madge was well enough
aware that she had been noticed. He had inquired casually who it was
who lived next door, and when the waiter told him the name, and that Mr
Hopgood was formerly the bank manager, Frank remembered that he had
often heard his father speak of a Mr Hopgood, a clerk in a bank in
London, as one of his best friends. He did not fail to ask his father
about this friend, and to obtain an introduction to the widow. He had
now brought it to Fenmarket, and within half an hour after he had
alighted, he had presented it.
Mrs Hopgood, of course, recollected Mr Palmer perfectly, and the
welcome to Frank was naturally very warm. It was delightful to connect
earlier and happier days with the present, and she was proud in the
possession of a relationship which had lasted so long. Clara and
Madge, too, were both excited and pleased. To say nothing of Frank's
appearance, of his unsnobbish, deferential behaviour which showed that
he understood who they were and that the little house made no
difference to him, the girls and the mother could not resist a side
glance at Fenmarket and the indulgence of a secret satisfaction that it
would soon hear that the son of Mr Palmer, so well known in every town
round about, was on intimate terms with them.
Madge was particularly gay that evening. The presence of
sympathetic people was always a powerful stimulus to her, and she was
often astonished at the witty things and even the wise things she said
in such company, although, when she was alone, so few things wise or
witty occurred to her. Like all persons who, in conversation, do not
so much express the results of previous conviction obtained in silence
as the inspiration of the moment, Madge dazzled everybody by a
brilliancy which would have been impossible if she had communicated
that which had been slowly acquired, but what she left with those who
listened to her, did not always seem, on reflection, to be so much as
it appeared to be while she was talking. Still she was very charming,
and it must be confessed that sometimes her spontaneity was truer than
the limitations of speech more carefully weighed.
'What makes you stay in Fenmarket, Mrs Hopgood? How I wish you
would come to London!'
'I do not wish to leave it now; I have become attached to it; I have
very few friends in London, and lastly, perhaps the most convincing
reason, I could not afford it. Rent and living are cheaper here than
'Would you not like to live in London, Miss Hopgood?'
Clara hesitated for a few seconds.
'I am not sure—certainly not by myself. I was in London once for
six months as a governess in a very pleasant family, where I saw much
society; but I was glad to return to Fenmarket.'
'To the scenery round Fenmarket,' interrupted Madge; 'it is so
romantic, so mountainous, so interesting in every way.'
'I was thinking of people, strange as it may appear. In London
nobody really cares for anybody, at least, not in the sense in which I
should use the words. Men and women in London stand for certain
talents, and are valued often very highly for them, but they are valued
merely as representing these talents. Now, if I had a talent, I should
not be satisfied with admiration or respect because of it. No matter
what admiration, or respect, or even enthusiasm I might evoke, even if
I were told that my services had been immense and that life had been
changed through my instrumentality, I should feel the lack of quiet,
personal affection, and that, I believe, is not common in London. If I
were famous, I would sacrifice all the adoration of the world for the
love of a brother—if I had one—or a sister, who perhaps had never
heard what it was which had made me renowned.'
'Certainly,' said Madge, laughing, 'for the love of such a
sister. But, Mr Palmer, I like London. I like the people, just the
people, although I do not know a soul, and not a soul cares a brass
farthing about me. I am not half so stupid in London as in the
country. I never have a thought of my own down here. How should I?
But in London there is plenty of talk about all kinds of things, and I
find I too have something in me. It is true, as Clara says, that
nobody is anything particular to anybody, but that to me is rather
pleasant. I do not want too much of profound and eternal attachments.
They are rather a burden. They involve profound and eternal attachment
on my part; and I have always to be at my best; such watchfulness and
such jealousy! I prefer a dressing-gown and slippers and bonds which
are not so tight.'
'Madge, Madge, I wish you would sometimes save me the trouble of
laboriously striving to discover what you really mean.'
Mrs Hopgood bethought herself that her daughters were talking too
much to one another, as they often did, even when guests were present,
and she therefore interrupted them.
'Mr Palmer, you see both town and country—which do you prefer?'
'Oh! I hardly know; the country in summer-time, perhaps, and town
in the winter.'
This was a safe answer, and one which was not very original; that is
to say, it expressed no very distinct belief; but there was one valid
reason why he liked being in London in the winter.
'Your father, I remember, loves music. I suppose you inherit his
taste, and it is impossible to hear good music in the country.'
'I am very fond of music. Have you heard "St Paul?" I was at
Birmingham when it was first performed in this country. Oh! it is
lovely,' and he began humming 'Be thou faithful unto death.'
Frank did really care for music. He went wherever good music was to
be had; he belonged to a choral society and was in great request
amongst his father's friends at evening entertainments. He could also
play the piano, so far as to be able to accompany himself thereon. He
sang to himself when he was travelling, and often murmured favourite
airs when people around him were talking. He had lessons from an old
Italian, a little, withered, shabby creature, who was not very proud of
his pupil. 'He is a talent,' said the Signor, 'and he will amuse
himself; good for a ballad at a party, but a musician? no!' and like
all mere 'talents' Frank failed in his songs to give them just what is
of most value—just that which separates an artistic performance from
the vast region of well-meaning, respectable, but uninteresting
commonplace. There was a curious lack in him also of correspondence
between his music and the rest of himself. As music is expression, it
might be supposed that something which it serves to express would
always lie behind it; but this was not the case with him, although he
was so attractive and delightful in many ways. There could be no doubt
that his love for Beethoven was genuine, but that which was in Frank
Palmer was not that of which the sonatas and symphonies of the master
are the voice. He went into raptures over the slow movement in the C minor Symphony, but no
C minor slow movement was
discernible in his character.
'What on earth can be found in "St Paul" which can be put to music?'
said Madge. 'Fancy a chapter in the Epistle to the Romans turned into
'Madge! Madge! I am ashamed of you,' said her mother.
'Well, mother,' said Clara, 'I am sure that some of the settings by
your divinity, Handel, are absurd. "For as in Adam all die" may
be true enough, and the harmonies are magnificent, but I am always
tempted to laugh when I hear it.'
Frank hummed the familiar apostrophe 'Be not afraid.'
'Is that a bit of "St Paul"?' said Mrs Hopgood.
'Yes, it goes like this,' and Frank went up to the little piano and
sang the song through.
'There is no fault to be found with that,' said Madge, 'so far as
the coincidence of sense and melody is concerned, but I do not care
much for oratorios. Better subjects can be obtained outside the Bible,
and the main reason for selecting the Bible is that what is called
religious music may be provided for good people. An oratorio, to me,
is never quite natural. Jewish history is not a musical subject, and,
besides, you cannot have proper love songs in an oratorio, and in them
music is at its best.'
Mrs Hopgood was accustomed to her daughter's extravagance, but she
was, nevertheless, a little uncomfortable.
'Ah!' said Frank, who had not moved from the piano, and he struck
the first two bars of 'Adelaide.'
'Oh, please,' said Madge, 'go on, go on,' but Frank could not quite
She was sitting on the little sofa, and she put her feet up, lay and
listened with her eyes shut. There was a vibration in Mr Palmer's
voice not perceptible during his vision of the crown of life and of
fidelity to death.
'Are you going to stay over Sunday?' inquired Mrs Hopgood.
'I am not quite sure; I ought to be back on Sunday evening. My
father likes me to be at home on that day.'
'Is there not a Mr Maurice who is a friend of your father?'
'Oh, yes, a great friend.'
'He is not High Church nor Low Church?'
'No, not exactly.'
'What is he, then? What does he believe?'
'Well, I can hardly say; he does not believe that anybody will be
burnt in a brimstone lake for ever.'
'That is what he does not believe,' interposed Clara.
'He believes that Socrates and the great Greeks and Romans who acted
up to the light that was within them were not sent to hell. I think
that is glorious, don't you?'
'Yes, but that also is something he does not believe. What is there
in him which is positive? What has he distinctly won from the unknown?'
'Ah, Miss Hopgood, you ought to hear him yourself; he is wonderful.
I do admire him so much; I am sure you would like him.'
'If you do not go home on Saturday,' said Mrs Hopgood, 'we shall be
pleased if you will have dinner with us on Sunday; we generally go for
a walk in the afternoon.'
Frank hesitated, but at that moment Madge rose from the sofa. Her
hair was disarranged, and she pushed its thick folds backward. It grew
rather low down on her forehead and stood up a little on her temples, a
mystery of shadow and dark recess. If it had been electrical with the
force of a strong battery and had touched him, he could not have been
more completely paralysed, and his half-erect resolution to go back on
Saturday was instantly laid flat.
'Thank you, Mrs Hopgood,' looking at Madge and meeting her eyes, 'I
think it very likely I shall stay, and if I do I will most certainly
accept your kind invitation.'
Sunday morning came, and Frank, being in the country, considered
himself absolved from the duty of going to church, and went for a long
stroll. At half-past one he presented himself at Mrs Hopgood's house.
'I have had a letter from London,' said Clara to Frank, 'telling me
a most extraordinary story, and I should like to know what you think of
it. A man, who was left a widower, had an only child, a lovely
daughter of about fourteen years old, in whose existence his own was
completely wrapped up. She was subject at times to curious fits of
self-absorption or absence of mind, and while she was under their
influence she resembled a somnambulist rather than a sane human being
awake. Her father would not take her to a physician, for he dreaded
lest he should be advised to send her away from home, and he also
feared the effect which any recognition of her disorder might have upon
her. He believed that in obscure and half-mental diseases like hers,
it was prudent to suppress all notice of them, and that if he behaved
to her as if she were perfectly well, she would stand a chance of
recovery. Moreover, the child was visibly improving, and it was
probable that the disturbance in her health would be speedily
outgrown. One hot day he went out shopping with her, and he observed
that she was tired and strange in her manner, although she was not ill,
or, at least, not so ill as he had often before seen her. The few
purchases they had to make at the draper's were completed, and they
went out into the street. He took her hand-bag, and, in doing so, it
opened and he saw to his horror a white silk pocket-handkerchief
crumpled up in it, which he instantly recognised as one which had been
shown him five minutes before, but he had not bought. The next moment
a hand was on his shoulder. It was that of an assistant, who requested
that they would both return for a few minutes. As they walked the half
dozen steps back, the father's resolution was taken. "I am sixty," he
thought to himself, "and she is fourteen." They went into the
counting-house and he confessed that he had taken the handkerchief, but
that it was taken by mistake and that he was about to restore it when
he was arrested. The poor girl was now herself again, but her mind was
an entire blank as to what she had done, and she could not doubt her
father's statement, for it was a man's handkerchief and the bag was in
his hands. The draper was inexorable, and as he had suffered much from
petty thefts of late, had determined to make an example of the first
offender whom he could catch. The father was accordingly prosecuted,
convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. When his term had expired,
his daughter, who, I am glad to say, never for an instant lost her
faith in him, went away with him to a distant part of the country,
where they lived under an assumed name. About ten years afterwards he
died and kept his secret to the last; but he had seen the complete
recovery and happy marriage of his child. It was remarkable that it
never occurred to her that she might have been guilty, but her father's
confession, as already stated, was apparently so sincere that she could
do nothing but believe him. You will wonder how the facts were
discovered. After his death a sealed paper disclosing them was found,
with the inscription, "Not to be opened during my daughter's life,
and if she should have children or a husband who may survive her, it is
to be burnt." She had no children, and when she died as an old
woman, her husband also being dead, the seal was broken.'
'Probably,' said Madge, 'nobody except his daughter believed he was
not a thief. For her sake he endured the imputation of common larceny,
and was content to leave the world with only a remote chance that he
would ever be justified.'
'I wonder,' said Frank, 'that he did not admit that it was his
daughter who had taken the handkerchief, and excuse her on the ground
of her ailment.'
'He could not do that,' replied Madge. 'The object of his life was
to make as little of the ailment as possible. What would have been the
effect on her if she had been made aware of its fearful consequences?
Furthermore, would he have been believed? And then—awful thought,
the child might have suspected him of attempting to shield himself at
her expense! Do you think you could be capable of such sacrifice, Mr
Frank hesitated. 'It would—'
'The question is not fair, Madge,' said Mrs Hopgood, interrupting
him. 'You are asking for a decision when all the materials to make up
a decision are not present. It is wrong to question ourselves in cold
blood as to what we should do in a great strait; for the emergency
brings the insight and the power necessary to deal with it. I often
fear lest, if such-and-such a trial were to befall me, I should
miserably fail. So I should, furnished as I now am, but not as I
should be under stress of the trial.'
'What is the use,' said Clara, 'of speculating whether we can, or
cannot, do this or that? It is now an interesting subject for
discussion whether the lie was a sin.'
'No,' said Madge, 'a thousand times no.'
'Brief and decisive. Well, Mr Palmer, what do you say?'
'That is rather an awkward question. A lie is a lie.'
'But not,' broke in Madge, vehemently, 'to save anybody whom you
love. Is a contemptible little two-foot measuring-tape to be applied
to such an action as that?'
'The consequences of such a philosophy, though, my dear,' said Mrs
Hopgood, 'are rather serious. The moment you dispense with a fixed
standard, you cannot refuse permission to other people to dispense with
'Ah, yes, I know all about that, but I am not going to give up my
instinct for the sake of a rule. Do what you feel to be right, and let
the rule go hang. Somebody, cleverer in logic than we are, will come
along afterwards and find a higher rule which we have obeyed, and will
formulate it concisely.'
'As for my poor self,' said Clara, 'I do not profess to know,
without the rule, what is right and what is not. We are always trying
to transcend the rule by some special pleading, and often in virtue of
some fancied superiority. Generally speaking, the attempt is fatal.'
'Madge,' said Mrs Hopgood, 'your dogmatic decision may have been
interesting, but it prevented the expression of Mr Palmer's opinion.'
Madge bent forward and politely inclined her head to the embarrassed
'I do not know what to say. I have never thought much about such
matters. Is not what they call casuistry a science among Roman
Catholics? If I were in a difficulty and could not tell right from
wrong, I should turn Catholic, and come to you as my priest, Mrs
'Then you would do, not what you thought right yourself, but what I
thought right. The worth of the right to you is that it is your right,
and that you arrive at it in your own way. Besides, you might not have
time to consult anybody. Were you never compelled to settle promptly a
case of this kind?'
'I remember once at school, when the mathematical master was out of
the class-room, a boy named Carpenter ran up to the blackboard and
wrote "Carrots" on it. That was the master's nickname, for he was
red-haired. Scarcely was the word finished, when Carpenter heard him
coming along the passage. There was just time partially to rub out
some of the big letters, but CAR remained, and Carpenter was standing
at the board when "Carrots" came in. He was an excitable man, and he
knew very well what the boys called him.
'"What have you been writing on the board, sir?"
'The master examined the board. The upper half of the second R was
plainly perceptible, but it might possibly have been a P. He turned
round, looked steadily at Carpenter for a moment, and then looked at
us. Carpenter was no favourite, but not a soul spoke.
'"Go to your place, sir."
'Carpenter went to his place, the letters were erased and the lesson
was resumed. I was greatly perplexed; I had acquiesced in a cowardly
falsehood. Carrots was a great friend of mine, and I could not bear to
feel that he was humbugged, so when we were outside I went up to
Carpenter and told him he was an infernal sneak, and we had a desperate
fight, and I licked him, and blacked both his eyes. I did not know
what else to do.'
The company laughed.
'We cannot,' said Madge, 'all of us come to terms after this fashion
with our consciences, but we have had enough of these discussions on
morality. Let us go out.'
They went out, and, as some relief from the straight road, they
turned into a field as they came home, and walked along a footpath
which crossed the broad, deep ditches by planks. They were within
about fifty yards of the last and broadest ditch, more a dyke than a
ditch, when Frank, turning round, saw an ox which they had not noticed,
galloping after them.
'Go on, go on,' he cried, 'make for the plank.'
He discerned in an instant that unless the course of the animal
could be checked it would overtake them before the bridge could be
reached. The women fled, but Frank remained. He was in the habit of
carrying a heavy walking-stick, the end of which he had hollowed out in
his schooldays and had filled up with lead. Just as the ox came upon
him, it laid its head to the ground, and Frank, springing aside, dealt
it a tremendous, two-handed blow on the forehead with his knobbed
weapon. The creature was dazed, it stopped and staggered, and in
another instant Frank was across the bridge in safety. There was a
little hysterical sobbing, but it was soon over.
'Oh, Mr Palmer,' said Mrs Hopgood, 'what presence of mind and what
courage! We should have been killed without you.'
'The feat is not original, Mrs Hopgood. I saw it done by a tough
little farmer last summer on a bull that was really mad. There was no
ditch for him though, poor fellow, and he had to jump a hedge.'
'You did not find it difficult,' said Madge, 'to settle your problem
when it came to you in the shape of a wild ox.'
'Because there was nothing to settle,' said Frank, laughing; 'there
was only one thing to be done.'
'So you believed, or rather, so you saw,' said Clara. 'I should
have seen half-a-dozen things at once—that is to say, nothing.'
'And I,' said Madge, 'should have settled it the wrong way: I am
sure I should, even if I had been a man. I should have bolted.'
Frank stayed to tea, and the evening was musical. He left about
ten, but just as the door had shut he remembered he had forgotten his
stick. He gave a gentle rap and Madge appeared. She gave him his
'Good-bye again. Thanks for my life.'
Frank cursed himself that he could not find the proper word. He
knew there was something which might be said and ought to be said, but
he could not say it. Madge held out her hand to him, he raised it to
his lips and kissed it, and then, astonished at his boldness, he
instantly retreated. He went to the 'Crown and Sceptre' and was soon
in bed, but not to sleep. Strange, that the moment we lie down in the
dark, images, which were half obscured, should become so intensely
luminous! Madge hovered before Frank with almost tangible
distinctness, and he felt his fingers moving in her heavy, voluptuous
tresses. Her picture at last became almost painful to him and shamed
him, so that he turned over from side to side to avoid it. He had
never been thrown into the society of women of his own age, for he had
no sister, and a fire was kindled within him which burnt with a heat
all the greater because his life had been so pure. At last he fell
asleep and did not wake till late in the morning. He had just time to
eat his breakfast, pay one more business visit in the town, and catch
the coach due at eleven o'clock from Lincoln to London. As the horses
were being changed, he walked as near as he dared venture to the
windows of the cottage next door, but he could see nobody. When the
coach, however, began to move, he turned round and looked behind him,
and a hand was waved to him. He took off his hat, and in five minutes
he was clear of the town. It was in sight a long way, but when, at
last, it disappeared, a cloud of wretchedness swept over him as the
vapour sweeps up from the sea. What was she doing? talking to other
people, existing for others, laughing with others! There were miles
between himself and Fenmarket. Life! what was life? A few moments of
living and long, dreary gaps between. All this, however, is a vain
attempt to delineate what was shapeless. It was an intolerable,
unvanquishable oppression. This was Love; this was the blessing which
the god with the ruddy wings had bestowed on him. It was a relief to
him when the coach rattled through Islington, and in a few minutes had
landed him at the 'Angel.'
There was to be a grand entertainment in the assembly room of the
'Crown and Sceptre' in aid of the County Hospital. Mrs Martin, widow
of one of the late partners in the bank, lived in a large house near
Fenmarket, and still had an interest in the business. She was
distinctly above anybody who lived in the town, and she knew how to
show her superiority by venturing sometimes to do what her urban
neighbours could not possibly do. She had been known to carry through
the street a quart bottle of horse physic although it was wrapped up in
nothing but brown paper. On her way she met the brewer's wife, who was
more aggrieved than she was when Mrs Martin's carriage swept past her
in the dusty, narrow lane which led to the Hall. Mrs Martin could also
afford to recognise in a measure the claims of education and talent. A
gentleman came from London to lecture in the town, and showed
astonished Fenmarket an orrery and a magic lantern with dissolving
views of the Holy Land. The exhibition had been provided in order to
extinguish a debt incurred in repairing the church, but the rector's
wife, and the brewer's wife, after consultation, decided that they must
leave the lecturer to return to his inn. Mrs Martin, however, invited
him to supper. Of course she knew Mr Hopgood well, and knew that he
was no ordinary man. She knew also something of Mrs Hopgood and the
daughters, and that they were no ordinary women. She had been heard to
say that they were ladies, and that Mr Hopgood was a gentleman; and she
kept up a distant kind of intimacy with them, always nodded to them
whenever she met them, and every now and then sent them grapes and
flowers. She had observed once or twice to Mrs Tubbs that Mr Hopgood
was a remarkable person, who was quite scientific and therefore did not
associate with the rest of the Fenmarket folk; and Mrs Tubbs was much
annoyed, particularly by a slight emphasis which she thought she
detected in the 'therefore,' for Mr Tubbs had told her that one of the
smaller London brewers, who had only about fifty public-houses, had
refused to meet at dinner a learned French chemist who had written
books. Mrs Martin could not make friends with the Hopgoods, nor enter
the cottage. It would have been a transgression of that infinitely
fine and tortuous line whose inexplicable convolutions mark off what is
forbidden to a society lady. Clearly, however, the Hopgoods could be
requested to co-operate at the 'Crown and Sceptre;' in fact, it would
be impolitic not to put some of the townsfolk on the list of patrons.
So it came about that Mrs Hopgood was included, and that she was made
responsible for the provision of one song and one recitation. For the
song it was settled that Frank Palmer should be asked, as he would be
in Fenmarket. Usually he came but once every half year, but he had not
been able, so he said, to finish all his work the last time. The
recitation Madge undertook.
The evening arrived, the room was crowded and a dozen private
carriages stood in the 'Crown and Sceptre' courtyard. Frank called for
the Hopgoods. Mrs Hopgood and Clara sat with presentation tickets in
the second row, amongst the fashionable folk; Frank and Madge were upon
the platform. Frank was loudly applauded in 'Il Mio Tesoro,'
but the loudest applause of the evening was reserved for Madge, who
declaimed Byron's 'Destruction of Sennacherib' with much
energy. She certainly looked very charming in her red gown,
harmonising with her black hair. The men in the audience were
vociferous for something more, and would not be contented until she
again came forward. The truth is, that the wily young woman had
prepared herself beforehand for possibilities, but she artfully
concealed her preparation. Looking on the ground and hesitating, she
suddenly raised her head as if she had just remembered something, and
then repeated Sir Henry Wotton's 'Happy Life.' She was again
greeted with cheers, subdued so as to be in accordance with the
character of the poem, but none the less sincere, and in the midst of
them she gracefully bowed and retired. Mrs Martin complimented her
warmly at the end of the performance, and inwardly debated whether
Madge could be asked to enliven one of the parties at the Hall, and how
it could, at the same time, be made clear to the guests that she and
her mother, who must come with her, were not even acquaintances,
properly so called, but were patronised as persons of merit living in
the town which the Hall protected. Mrs Martin was obliged to be very
careful. She certainly was on the list at the Lord Lieutenant's, but
she was in the outer ring, and she was not asked to those small and
select little dinners which were given to Sir Egerton, the Dean of
Peterborough, Lord Francis, and his brother, the county member. She
decided, however, that she could make perfectly plain the conditions
upon which the Hopgoods would be present, and the next day she sent
Madge a little note asking her if she would 'assist in some
festivities' at the Hall in about two months' time, which were to be
given in celebration of the twenty-first birthday of Mrs Martin's third
son. The scene from the 'Tempest,' where Ferdinand and Miranda
are discovered playing chess, was suggested, and it was proposed that
Madge should be Miranda, and Mr Palmer Ferdinand. Mrs Martin concluded
with a hope that Mrs Hopgood and her eldest daughter would 'witness the
Frank joyously consented, for amateur theatricals had always
attracted him, and in a few short weeks he was again at Fenmarket. He
was obliged to be there for three or four days before the
entertainment, in order to attend the rehearsals, which Mrs Martin had
put under the control of a professional gentleman from London, and
Madge and he were consequently compelled to make frequent journeys to
At last the eventful night arrived, and a carriage was hired next
door to take the party. They drove up to the grand entrance and were
met by a footman, who directed Madge and Frank to their dressing-rooms,
and escorted Mrs Hopgood and Clara to their places in the theatre.
They had gone early in order to accommodate Frank and Madge, and they
found themselves alone. They were surprised that there was nobody to
welcome them, and a little more surprised when they found that the
places allotted to them were rather in the rear. Presently two or
three fiddlers were seen, who began to tune their instruments. Then
some Fenmarket folk and some of the well-to-do tenants on the estate
made their appearance, and took seats on either side of Mrs Hopgood and
Clara. Quite at the back were the servants. At five minutes to eight
the band struck up the overture to 'Zampa,' and in the midst of
it in sailed Mrs Martin and a score or two of fashionably-dressed
people, male and female. The curtain ascended and Prospero's cell was
seen. Alonso and his companions were properly grouped, and Prospero
'Behold, Sir King,
The wronged Duke of Milan, Prospero.'
The audience applauded him vigorously when he came to the end of his
speech, but there was an instantaneous cry of 'hush!' when Prospero
disclosed the lovers. It was really very pretty. Miranda wore a
loose, simple, white robe, and her wonderful hair was partly twisted
into a knot, and partly strayed down to her waist. The dialogue
between the two was spoken with much dramatic feeling, and when
Ferdinand came to the lines—
'Sir, she is mortal,
But by immortal Providence she's mine,'
old Boston, a worthy and wealthy farmer, who sat next to Mrs
Hopgood, cried out 'hear, hear!' but was instantly suppressed.
He put his head down behind the people in front of him, rubbed his
knees, grinned, and then turned to Mrs Hopgood, whom he knew, and
whispered, with his hand to his mouth,—
'And a precious lucky chap he is.'
Mrs Hopgood watched intently, and when Gonzalo invoked the gods to
drop a blessed crown on the couple, and the applause was renewed, and
Boston again cried 'hear, hear!' without fear of check, she did not
applaud, for something told her that behind this stage show a drama was
being played of far more serious importance.
The curtain fell, but there were loud calls for the performers. It
rose, and they presented themselves, Alonso still holding the hands of
the happy pair. The cheering now was vociferous, more particularly
when a wreath was flung at the feet of the young princess, and
Ferdinand, stooping, placed it on her head.
Again the curtain fell, the band struck up some dance music and the
audience were treated to 'something light,' and roared with laughter at
a pretty chambermaid at an inn who captivated and bamboozled a young
booby who was staying there, pitched him overboard; 'wondered what he
meant;' sang an audacious song recounting her many exploits, and
finished with a pas-seul.
The performers and their friends were invited to a sumptuous supper,
and the Fenmarket folk were not at home until half-past two in the
morning. On their way back, Clara broke out against the juxtaposition
of Shakespeare and such vulgarity.
'Much better,' she said, 'to have left the Shakespeare out
altogether. The lesson of the sequence is that each is good in its
way, a perfectly hateful doctrine to me.
Frank and Madge were, however, in the best of humours, especially
Frank, who had taken a glass of wine beyond his customary very
'But, Miss Hopgood, Mrs Martin had to suit all tastes; we must not
be too severe upon her.'
There was something in this remark most irritating to Clara; the
word 'tastes,' for example, as if the difference between Miranda and
the chambermaid were a matter of 'taste.' She was annoyed too with
Frank's easy, cheery tones for she felt deeply what she said, and his
mitigation and smiling latitudinarianism were more exasperating than
'I am sure,' continued Frank, 'that if we were to take the votes of
the audience, Miranda would be the queen of the evening;' and he put
the crown which he had brought away with him on her head again.
Clara was silent. In a few moments they were at the door of their
house. It had begun to rain, and Madge, stepping out of the carriage
in a hurry, threw a shawl over her head, forgetting the wreath. It
fell into the gutter and was splashed with mud. Frank picked it up,
wiped it as well as he could with his pocket-handkerchief, took it into
the parlour and laid it on a chair.
The next morning it still rained, a cold rain from the north-east, a
very disagreeable type of weather on the Fenmarket flats. Madge was
not awake until late, and when she caught sight of the grey sky and saw
her finery tumbled on the floor—no further use for it in any shape
save as rags—and the dirty crown, which she had brought upstairs,
lying on the heap, the leaves already fading, she felt depressed and
miserable. The breakfast was dull, and for the most part all three
were silent. Mrs Hopgood and Clara went away to begin their housework,
leaving Madge alone.
'Madge,' cried Mrs Hopgood, 'what am I to do with this thing? It is
of no use to preserve it; it is dead and covered with dirt.'
'Throw it down here.'
She took it and rammed it into the fire. At that moment she saw
Frank pass. He was evidently about to knock, but she ran to the door
and opened it.
'I did not wish to keep you waiting in the wet.'
'I am just off but I could not help calling to see how you are.
What! burning your laurels, the testimony to your triumph?'
'Triumph! rather transitory; finishes in smoke,' and she pushed two
or three of the unburnt leaves amongst the ashes and covered them
over. He stooped down, picked up a leaf, smoothed it between his
fingers, and then raised his eyes. They met hers at that instant, as
she lifted them and looked in his face. They were near one another,
and his hands strayed towards hers till they touched. She did not
withdraw; he clasped the hand, she not resisting; in another moment his
arms were round her, his face was on hers, and he was swept into
self-forgetfulness. Suddenly the horn of the coach about to start
awoke him, and he murmured the line from one of his speeches of the
'But by immortal Providence she's mine.'
She released herself a trifle, held her head back as if she desired
to survey him apart from her, so that the ecstasy of union might be
renewed, and then fell on his neck.
The horn once more sounded, she let him out silently, and he was
off. Mrs Hopgood and Clara presently came downstairs.
'Mr Palmer came in to bid you good-bye, but he heard the coach and
was obliged to rush away.'
'What a pity,' said Mrs Hopgood, 'that you did not call us.'
'I thought he would be able to stay longer.'
The lines which followed Frank's quotation came into her head,—
'Sweet lord, you play me false.'
'No, my dearest love,
I would not for the world.'
'An omen,' she said to herself; '"he would not for the world."'
She was in the best of spirits all day long. When the housework was
over and they were quiet together, she said,—
'Now, my dear mother and sister, I want to know how the performance
'It was as good as it could be,' replied her mother, 'but I cannot
think why all plays should turn upon lovemaking. I wonder whether the
time will ever come when we shall care for a play in which there is no
'What a horrible heresy, mother,' said Madge.
'It may be so; it may be that I am growing old, but it seems
astonishing to me sometimes that the world does not grow a little weary
of endless variations on the same theme.'
'Never,' said Madge, 'as long as it does not weary of the thing
itself, and it is not likely to do that. Fancy a young man and a young
woman stopping short and exclaiming, "This is just what every son of
Adam and daughter of Eve has gone through before; why should we
proceed?" Besides, it is the one emotion common to the whole world; we
can all comprehend it. Once more, it reveals character. In Hamlet
and Othello, for example, what is interesting is not solely the
bare love. The natures of Hamlet and Othello are brought to light
through it as they would not have been through any other stimulus. I
am sure that no ordinary woman ever shows what she really is, except
when she is in love. Can you tell what she is from what she calls her
religion, or from her friends, or even from her husband?'
'Would it not be equally just to say women are more alike in love
than in anything else? Mind, I do not say alike, but more alike. Is
it not the passion which levels us all?'
'Oh, mother, mother! did one ever hear such dreadful blasphemy?
That the loves, for example, of two such cultivated, exquisite
creatures as Clara and myself would be nothing different from those of
the barmaids next door?'
'Well, at anyrate, I do not want to see my children in love
to understand what they are—to me at least.'
'Then, if you comprehend us so completely—and let us have no more
philosophy—just tell me, should I make a good actress? Oh! to be
able to sway a thousand human beings into tears or laughter! It must
'No, I do not think you would,' replied Clara.
'Why not, miss? Your opinion, mind, was not asked. Did I
not act to perfection last night?'
'Then why are you so decisive?'
'Try a different part some day. I may be mistaken.'
'You are very oracular.'
She turned to the piano, played a few chords, closed the instrument,
swung herself round on the music stool, and said she should go for a
It was Mr Palmer's design to send Frank abroad as soon as he
understood the home trade. It was thought it would be an advantage to
him to learn something of foreign manufacturing processes. Frank had
gladly agreed to go, but he was now rather in the mood for delay. Mr
Palmer conjectured a reason for it, and the conjecture was confirmed
when, after two or three more visits to Fenmarket, perfectly causeless,
so far as business was concerned, Frank asked for the paternal sanction
to his engagement with Madge. Consent was willingly given, for Mr
Palmer knew the family well; letters passed between him and Mrs
Hopgood, and it was arranged that Frank's visit to Germany should be
postponed till the summer. He was now frequently at Fenmarket as
Madge's accepted suitor, and, as the spring advanced, their evenings
were mostly spent by themselves out of doors. One afternoon they went
for a long walk, and on their return they rested by a stile. Those
were the days when Tennyson was beginning to stir the hearts of the
young people in England, and the two little green volumes had just
become a treasure in the Hopgood household. Mr Palmer, senior, knew
them well, and Frank, hearing his father speak so enthusiastically
about them, thought Madge would like them, and had presented them to
her. He had heard one or two read aloud at home, and had looked at one
or two himself, but had gone no further. Madge, her mother, and her
sister had read and re-read them.
'Oh,' said Madge, 'for that Vale in Ida. Here in these fens how I
long for something that is not level! Oh, for the roar of—
"The long brook falling thro' the clov'n ravine
In cataract after cataract to the sea."
Go on with it, Frank.'
'But you know none?'
'I cannot say I do. I began it—'
'Frank, how could you begin it and lay it down unfinished? Besides,
those lines are some of the first; you must remember—
"Behind the valley topmost Gargarus
Stands up and takes the morning."'
'No, I do not recollect, but I will learn them; learn them for your
'I do not want you to learn them for my sake.'
'But I shall.'
She had taken off her hat and his hand strayed to her neck. Her
head fell on his shoulder and she had forgotten his ignorance of none
. Presently she awoke from her delicious trance and they moved
homewards in silence. Frank was a little uneasy.
'I do greatly admire Tennyson,' he said.
'What do you admire? You have hardly looked at him.'
'I saw a very good review of him. I will look that review up, by
the way, before I come down again. Mr Maurice was talking about it.'
Madge had a desire to say something, but she did not know what to
say, a burden lay upon her chest. It was that weight which presses
there when we are alone with those with whom we are not strangers, but
with whom we are not completely at home, and she actually found herself
impatient and half-desirous of solitude. This must be criminal or
disease, she thought to herself, and she forcibly recalled Frank's
virtues. She was so far successful that when they parted and he kissed
her, she was more than usually caressing, and her ardent embrace, at
least for the moment, relieved that unpleasant sensation in the region
of the heart. When he had gone she reasoned with herself. What a
miserable counterfeit of love, she argued, is mere intellectual
sympathy, a sympathy based on books! What did Miranda know about
Ferdinand's 'views' on this or that subject? Love is something
independent of 'views.' It is an attraction which has always been held
to be inexplicable, but whatever it may be it is not 'views.' She was
becoming a little weary, she thought, of what was called 'culture.'
These creatures whom we know through Shakespeare and Goethe are
ghostly. What have we to do with them? It is idle work to read or
even to talk fine things about them. It ends in nothing. What we
really have to go through and that which goes through it are
interesting, but not circumstances and character impossible to us.
When Frank spoke of his business, which he understood, he was wise, and
some observations which he made the other day, on the management of his
workpeople, would have been thought original if they had been printed.
The true artist knows that his hero must be a character shaping events
and shaped by them, and not a babbler about literature. Frank, also,
was so susceptible. He liked to hear her read to him, and her
enthusiasm would soon be his. Moreover, how gifted he was,
unconsciously, with all that makes a man admirable, with courage, with
perfect unselfishness! How handsome he was, and then his passion for
her! She had read something of passion, but she never knew till now
what the white intensity of its flame in a man could be. She was
committed, too, happily committed; it was an engagement.
Thus, whenever doubt obtruded itself, she poured a self-raised tide
over it and concealed it. Alas! it could not be washed away; it was a
little sharp rock based beneath the ocean's depths, and when the water
ran low its dark point reappeared. She was more successful, however,
than many women would have been, for, although her interest in ideas
was deep, there was fire in her blood, and Frank's arm around her made
the world well nigh disappear; her surrender was entire, and if Sinai
had thundered in her ears she would not have heard. She was destitute
of that power, which her sister possessed, of surveying herself from a
distance. On the contrary, her emotion enveloped her, and the
safeguard of reflection on it was impossible to her.
As to Frank, no doubt ever approached him. He was intoxicated, and
beside himself. He had been brought up in a clean household, knowing
nothing of the vice by which so many young men are overcome, and woman
hitherto had been a mystery to him. Suddenly he found himself the
possessor of a beautiful creature, whose lips it was lawful to touch
and whose heartbeats he could feel as he pressed her to his breast. It
was permitted him to be alone with her, to sit on the floor and rest
his head on her knees, and he had ventured to capture one of her
slippers and carry it off to London, where he kept it locked up amongst
his treasures. If he had been drawn over Fenmarket sluice in a winter
flood he would not have been more incapable of resistance.
Every now and then Clara thought she discerned in Madge that she was
not entirely content, but the cloud-shadows swept past so rapidly and
were followed by such dazzling sunshine that she was perplexed and
hoped that her sister's occasional moodiness might be due to parting
and absence, or the anticipation of them. She never ventured to say
anything about Frank to Madge, for there was something in her which
forbade all approach from that side. Once when he had shown his
ignorance of what was so familiar to the Hopgoods, and Clara had
expected some sign of dissatisfaction from her sister, she appeared
ostentatiously to champion him against anticipated criticism. Clara
interpreted the warning and was silent, but, after she had left the
room with her mother in order that the lovers might be alone, she went
upstairs and wept many tears. Ah! it is a sad experience when the
nearest and dearest suspects that we are aware of secret disapproval,
knows that it is justifiable, throws up a rampart and becomes
defensively belligerent. From that moment all confidence is at an
end. Without a word, perhaps, the love and friendship of years
disappear, and in the place of two human beings transparent to each
other, there are two who are opaque and indifferent. Bitter, bitter!
If the cause of separation were definite disagreement upon conduct or
belief, we could pluck up courage, approach and come to an
understanding, but it is impossible to bring to speech anything which
is so close to the heart, and there is, therefore, nothing left for us
but to submit and be dumb.
It was now far into June, and Madge and Frank extended their walks
and returned later. He had come down to spend his last Sunday with the
Hopgoods before starting with his father for Germany, and on the Monday
they were to leave London.
Wordsworth was one of the divinities at Stoke Newington, and just
before Frank visited Fenmarket that week, he had heard the Intimations of Immortality read with great fervour. Thinking that
Madge would be pleased with him if she found that he knew something
about that famous Ode, and being really smitten with some of the
passages in it, he learnt it, and just as they were about to turn
homewards one sultry evening he suddenly began to repeat it, and
declaimed it to the end with much rhetorical power.
'Bravo!' said Madge, 'but, of all Wordsworth's poems, that is the
one for which I believe I care the least.'
Frank's countenance fell.
'Oh, me! I thought it was just what would suit you.'
'No, not particularly. There are some noble lines in it; for
"And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!"
But the very title—Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood—is unmeaning to me, and as for
the verse which is in everybody's mouth—
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;"
and still worse the vision of "that immortal sea," and of the
children who "sport upon the shore," they convey nothing whatever to
me. I find though they are much admired by the clergy of the better
sort, and by certain religiously-disposed people, to whom thinking is
distasteful or impossible. Because they cannot definitely believe,
they fling themselves with all the more fervour upon these cloudy
Wordsworthian phrases, and imagine they see something solid in the
It was now growing dark and a few heavy drops of rain began to fall,
but in a minute or two they ceased. Frank, contrary to his usual wont,
was silent. There was something undiscovered in Madge, a region which
he had not visited and perhaps could not enter. She discerned in an
instant what she had done, and in an instant repented. He had taken so
much pains with a long piece of poetry for her sake: was not that
better than agreement in a set of propositions? Scores of persons
might think as she thought about the ode, who would not spend a moment
in doing anything to gratify her. It was delightful also to reflect
that Frank imagined she would sympathise with anything written in that
temper. She recalled what she herself had said when somebody gave
Clara a copy in 'Parian' of a Greek statue, a thing coarse in outline
and vulgar. Clara was about to put it in a cupboard in the attic, but
Madge had pleaded so pathetically that the donor had in a measure
divined what her sister loved, and had done her best, although she had
made a mistake, that finally the statue was placed on the bedroom
mantelpiece. Madge's heart overflowed, and Frank had never attracted
her so powerfully as at that moment. She took his hand softly in hers.
'Frank,' she murmured, as she bent her head towards him, 'it is
really a lovely poem.'
Suddenly there was a flash of forked lightning at some distance,
followed in a few seconds by a roll of thunder increasing in intensity
until the last reverberation seemed to shake the ground. They took
refuge in a little barn and sat down. Madge, who was timid and excited
in a thunderstorm, closed her eyes to shield herself from the glare.
The tumult in the heavens lasted for nearly two hours and, when it
was over, Madge and Frank walked homewards without speaking a word for
a good part of the way.
'I cannot, cannot go to-morrow,' he suddenly cried, as they neared
'You shall go,' she replied calmly.
'But, Madge, think of me in Germany, think what my dreams and
thoughts will be—you here—hundreds of miles between us.'
She had never seen him so shaken with terror.
'You shall go; not another word.'
'I must say something—what can I say? My God, my God, have mercy
'Mercy! mercy!' she repeated, half unconsciously, and then rousing
herself, exclaimed, 'You shall not say it; I will not hear; now,
They had come to the door; he went inside; she took his face between
her hands, left one kiss on his forehead, led him back to the doorway
and he heard the bolts drawn. When he recovered himself he went to the
'Crown and Sceptre' and tried to write a letter to her, but the words
looked hateful, horrible on the paper, and they were not the words he
wanted. He dared not go near the house the next morning, but as he
passed it on the coach he looked at the windows. Nobody was to be
seen, and that night he left England.
'Did you hear,' said Clara to her mother at breakfast, 'that the
lightning struck one of the elms in the avenue at Mrs Martin's
yesterday evening and splintered it to the ground?'
In a few days Madge received the following letter:-
'FRANKFORT, O. M.,
'My dearest Madge,—I do not know how to write to you. I have
begun a dozen letters but I cannot bring myself to speak of what lies
before me, hiding the whole world from me. Forgiveness! how is any
forgiveness possible? But Madge, my dearest Madge, remember that my
love is intenser than ever. What has happened has bound you closer to
me. I implore you to let me come back. I will find a thousand
excuses for returning, and we will marry. We had vowed marriage to
each other and why should not our vows be fulfilled? Marriage,
marriage at once. You will not, you cannot, no, you cannot, you must see you cannot refuse. My father wishes to make
this town his headquarters for ten days. Write by return for mercy's
sake.—Your ever devoted
The reply came only a day late.
'My dear Frank,—Forgiveness! Who is to be forgiven? Not you.
You believed you loved me, but I doubted my love, and I know now that
no true love for you exists. We must part, and part forever. Whatever
wrong may have been done, marriage to avoid disgrace would be a wrong
to both of us infinitely greater. I owe you an expiation; your release
is all I can offer, and it is insufficient. I can only plead that I
was deaf and blind. By some miracle, I cannot tell how, my ears and
eyes are opened, and I hear and see. It is not the first time in my
life that the truth has been revealed to me suddenly, supernaturally, I
may say, as if in a vision, and I know the revelation is authentic.
There must be no wavering, no half-measures, and I absolutely forbid
another letter from you. If one arrives I must, for the sake of my own
peace and resolution, refuse to read it. You have simply to announce
to your father that the engagement is at an end, and give no reasons.—
Your faithful friend
Another letter did come, but Madge was true to her word, and it was
For a long time Frank was almost incapable of reflection. He dwelt
on an event which might happen, but which he dared not name; and if it
should happen! Pictures of his father, his home his father's friends,
Fenmarket, the Hopgood household, passed before him with such wild
rapidity and intermingled complexity that it seemed as if the reins had
dropped out of his hands and he was being hurried away to madness.
He resisted with all his might this dreadful sweep of the
imagination, tried to bring himself back into sanity and to devise
schemes by which, although he was prohibited from writing to Madge, he
might obtain news of her. Her injunction might not be final. There
was but one hope for him, one possibility of extrication, one necessity
- their marriage. It must be. He dared not think of what might
be the consequences if they did not marry.
Hitherto Madge had given no explanation to her mother or sister of
the rupture, but one morning—nearly two months had now passed—Clara
did not appear at breakfast.
'Clara is not here,' said Mrs Hopgood; 'she was very tired last
night, perhaps it is better not to disturb her.'
'Oh, no! please let her alone. I will see if she still sleeps.'
Madge went upstairs, opened her sister's door noiselessly, saw that
she was not awake, and returned. When breakfast was over she rose, and
after walking up and down the room once or twice, seated herself in the
armchair by her mother's side. Her mother drew herself a little
nearer, and took Madge's hand gently in her own.
'Madge, my child, have you nothing to say to your mother?'
'Cannot you tell me why Frank and you have parted? Do you not think
I ought to know something about such an event in the life of one so
close to me?'
'I broke off the engagement: we were not suited to one another.'
'I thought as much; I honour you; a thousand times better that you
should separate now than find out your mistake afterwards when it is
irrevocable. Thank God, He has given you such courage! But you must
have suffered—I know you must;' and she tenderly kissed her daughter.
'Oh, mother! mother!' cried Madge, 'what is the worst—at least to
- you—the worst that can happen to a woman?'
Mrs Hopgood did not speak; something presented itself which she
refused to recognise, but she shuddered. Before she could recover
herself Madge broke out again,—
'It has happened to me; mother, your daughter has wrecked your peace
'And he has abandoned you?'
'No, no; I told you it was I who left him.'
It was Mrs Hopgood's custom, when any evil news was suddenly
communicated to her, to withdraw at once if possible to her own room.
She detached herself from Madge, rose, and, without a word, went
upstairs and locked her door. The struggle was terrible. So much
thought, so much care, such an education, such noble qualities, and
they had not accomplished what ordinary ignorant Fenmarket mothers and
daughters were able to achieve! This fine life, then, was a failure,
and a perfect example of literary and artistic training had gone the
way of the common wenches whose affiliation cases figured in the county
newspaper. She was shaken and bewildered. She was neither orthodox
nor secular. She was too strong to be afraid that what she disbelieved
could be true, and yet a fatal weakness had been disclosed in what had
been set up as its substitute. She could not treat her child as a
sinner who was to be tortured into something like madness by
immitigable punishment, but, on the other hand, she felt that this
sorrow was unlike other sorrows and that it could never be healed. For
some time she was powerless, blown this way and that way by
contradictory storms, and unable to determine herself to any point
whatever. She was not, however, new to the tempest. She had lived and
had survived when she thought she must have gone down. She had learned
the wisdom which the passage through desperate straits can bring. At
last she prayed and in a few minutes a message was whispered to her.
She went into the breakfast-room and seated herself again by Madge.
Neither uttered a word, but Madge fell down before her, and, with a
great cry, buried her face in her mother's lap. She remained kneeling
for some time waiting for a rebuke, but none came. Presently she felt
smoothing hands on her head and the soft impress of lips. So was she
It was settled that they should leave Fenmarket. Their departure
caused but little surprise. They had scarcely any friends, and it was
always conjectured that people so peculiar would ultimately find their
way to London. They were particularly desirous to conceal their
movements, and therefore determined to warehouse their furniture in
town, to take furnished apartments there for three months, and then to
move elsewhere. Any letters which might arrive at Fenmarket for them
during these three months would be sent to them at their new address;
nothing probably would come afterwards, and as nobody in Fenmarket
would care to take any trouble about them, their trace would become
obliterated. They found some rooms near Myddelton Square, Pentonville,
not a particularly cheerful place, but they wished to avoid a more
distant suburb, and Pentonville was cheap. Fortunately for them they
had no difficulty whatever in getting rid of the Fenmarket house for
the remainder of their term.
For a little while London diverted them after a fashion, but the
absence of household cares told upon them. They had nothing to do but
to read and to take dismal walks through Islington and Barnsbury, and
the gloom of the outlook thickened as the days became shorter and the
smoke began to darken the air. Madge was naturally more oppressed than
the others, not only by reason of her temperament, but because she was
the author of the trouble which had befallen them. Her mother and
Clara did everything to sustain and to cheer her. They possessed the
rare virtue of continuous tenderness. The love, which with many is an
inspiration, was with them their own selves, from which they could not
be separated; a harsh word could not therefore escape from them. It
was as impossible as that there should be any failure in the pressure
with which the rocks press towards the earth's centre. Madge at times
was very far gone in melancholy. How different this thing looked when
it was close at hand; when she personally was to be the victim! She
had read about it in history, the surface of which it seemed scarcely
to ripple; it had been turned to music in some of her favourite poems
and had lent a charm to innumerable mythologies, but the actual fact
was nothing like the poetry or mythology, and threatened to ruin her
own history altogether. Nor would it be her own history solely, but
more or less that of her mother and sister.
Had she believed in the common creed, her attention would have been
concentrated on the salvation of her own soul; she would have found her
Redeemer and would have been comparatively at peace; she would have
acknowledged herself convicted of infinite sin, and hell would have
been opened before her, but above the sin and the hell she would have
seen the distinct image of the Mediator abolishing both. Popular
theology makes personal salvation of such immense importance that, in
comparison therewith, we lose sight of the consequences to others of
our misdeeds. The sense of cruel injustice to those who loved her
remained with Madge perpetually.
To obtain relief she often went out of London for the day; sometimes
her mother and sister went with her; sometimes she insisted on going
alone. One autumn morning, she found herself at Letherhead, the
longest trip she had undertaken, for there were scarcely any railways
then. She wandered about till she discovered a footpath which took her
to a mill-pond, which spread itself out into a little lake. It was fed
by springs which burst up through the ground. She watched at one
particular point, and saw the water boil up with such force that it
cleared a space of a dozen yards in diameter from every weed, and
formed a transparent pool just tinted with that pale azure which is
peculiar to the living fountains which break out from the bottom of the
chalk. She was fascinated for a moment by the spectacle, and reflected
upon it, but she passed on. In about three-quarters of an hour she
found herself near a church, larger than an ordinary village church,
and, as she was tired, and the gate of the church porch was open, she
entered and sat down. The sun streamed in upon her, and some sheep
which had strayed into the churchyard from the adjoining open field
came almost close to her, unalarmed, and looked in her face. The quiet
was complete, and the air so still, that a yellow leaf dropping here
and there from the churchyard elms—just beginning to turn—fell
quiveringly in a straight path to the earth. Sick at heart and
despairing, she could not help being touched, and she thought to
herself how strange the world is—so transcendent both in glory and
horror; a world capable of such scenes as those before her, and a world
in which such suffering as hers could be; a world infinite both ways.
The porch gate was open because the organist was about to practise, and
in another instant she was listening to the Kyrie from
Beethoven's Mass in C. She knew it; Frank had tried to give her some
notion of it on the piano, and since she had been in London she had
heard it at St Mary's, Moorfields. She broke down and wept, but there
was something new in her sorrow, and it seemed as if a certain Pity
She had barely recovered herself when she saw a woman, apparently
about fifty, coming towards her with a wicker basket on her arm. She
sat down beside Madge, put her basket on the ground, and wiped her face
with her apron.
'Marnin' miss! its rayther hot walkin', isn't it? I've come all the
way from Darkin, and I'm goin' to Great Oakhurst. That's a longish
step there and back again; not that this is the nearest way, but I
don't like climbing them hills, and then when I get to Letherhead I
shall have a lift in a cart.'
Madge felt bound to say something as the sunburnt face looked kind
'I suppose you live at Great Oakhurst?'
'Yes. I do: my husband, God bless him! he was a kind of foreman at
The Towers, and when he died I was left alone and didn't know what to
be at, as both my daughters were out and one married; so I took the
general shop at Great Oakhurst, as Longwood used to have, but it don't
pay for I ain't used to it, and the house is too big for me, and there
isn't nobody proper to mind it when I goes over to Darkin for anything.'
'Are you going to leave?'
'Well, I don't quite know yet, miss, but I thinks I shall live with
my daughter in London. She's married a cabinetmaker in Great Ormond
Street: they let lodgings, too. Maybe you know that part?'
'No, I do not.'
'You don't live in London, then?'
'Yes, I do. I came from London this morning.'
'The Lord have mercy on us, did you though! I suppose, then, you're
a-visitin' here. I know most of the folk hereabouts.'
'No: I am going back this afternoon.'
Her interrogator was puzzled and her curiosity stimulated.
Presently she looked in Madge's face.
'Ah! my poor dear, you'll excuse me, I don't mean to be forward, but
I see you've been a-cryin': there's somebody buried here.'
That was all she could say. The walk from Letherhead, and the
excitement had been too much for her and she fainted. Mrs Caffyn, for
that was her name, was used to fainting fits. She was often 'a bit
faint' herself, and she instantly loosened Madge's gown, brought out
some smelling-salts and also a little bottle of brandy and water.
Something suddenly struck her. She took up Madge's hand: there was no
wedding ring on it.
Presently her patient recovered herself.
'Look you now, my dear; you aren't noways fit to go back to London
to-day. If you was my child you shouldn't do it for all the gold in
the Indies, no, nor you sha'n't now. I shouldn't have a wink of sleep
this night if I let you go, and if anything were to happen to you it
would be me as 'ud have to answer for it.'
'But I must go; my mother and sister will not know what has become
'You leave that to me; I tell you again as you can't go. I've been
a mother myself, and I haven't had children for nothing. I was just
a-goin' to send a little parcel up to my daughter by the coach, and her
husband's a-goin' to meet it. She'd left something behind last week
when she was with me, and I thought I'd get a bit of fresh butter here
for her and put along with it. They make better butter in the farm in
the bottom there, than they do at Great Oakhurst. A note inside now
will get to your mother all right; you have a bit of something to eat
and drink here, and you'll be able to walk along of me just into
Letherhead, and then you can ride to Great Oakhurst; it's only about
two miles, and you can stay there all night.'
Madge was greatly touched; she took Mrs Caffyn's hands in hers,
pressed them both and consented. She was very weary, and the stamp on
Mrs Caffyn's countenance was indubitable; it was evidently no forgery,
but of royal mintage. They walked slowly to Letherhead, and there they
found the carrier's cart, which took them to Great Oakhurst.
Mrs Caffyn's house was a roomy old cottage near the church, with a
bow-window in which were displayed bottles of 'suckers,' and of Day &
Martin's blacking, cotton stuffs, a bag of nuts and some mugs, cups and
saucers. Inside were salt butter, washing-blue, drapery, treacle,
starch, tea, tobacco and snuff, cheese, matches, bacon, and a few
drugs, such as black draught, magnesia, pills, sulphur, dill-water,
Dalby's Carminative, and steel-drops. There was also a small stock of
writing-paper, string and tin ware. A boy was behind the counter.
When Mrs Caffyn was out he always asked the customers who desired any
article, the sale of which was in any degree an art, to call again when
she returned. He went as far as those things which were put up in
packets, such as what were called 'grits' for making gruel, and he was
also authorised to venture on pennyworths of liquorice and peppermints,
but the sale of half-a-dozen yards of cotton print was as much above
him as the negotiation of a treaty of peace would be to a messenger in
the Foreign Office. In fact, nobody, excepting children, went into the
shop when Mrs Caffyn was not to be seen there, and, if she had to go to
Dorking or Letherhead on business, she always chose the middle of the
day, when the folk were busy at their homes or in the fields. Poor
woman! she was much tried. Half the people who dealt with her were in
her debt, but she could not press them for her money. During
winter-time they were discharged by the score from their farms, but as
they were not sufficiently philosophic, or sufficiently considerate for
their fellows to hang or drown themselves, they were obliged to consume
food, and to wear clothes, for which they tried to pay by instalments
during spring, summer and autumn. Mrs Caffyn managed to make both ends
meet by the help of two or three pigs, by great economy, and by letting
some of her superfluous rooms. Great Oakhurst was not a show place nor
a Spa, but the Letherhead doctor had once recommended her to a
physician in London, who occasionally sent her a patient who wanted
nothing but rest and fresh air. She also, during the shooting-season,
was often asked to find a bedroom for visitors to The Towers.
She might have done better had she been on thoroughly good terms
with the parson. She attended church on Sunday morning with tolerable
regularity. She never went inside a dissenting chapel, and was not
heretical on any definite theological point, but the rector and she
were not friends. She had lived in Surrey ever since she was a child,
but she was not Surrey born. Both her father and mother came from the
north country, and migrated southwards when she was very young. They
were better educated than the southerners amongst whom they came; and
although their daughter had no schooling beyond what was obtainable in
a Surrey village of that time, she was distinguished by a certain
superiority which she had inherited or acquired from her parents. She
was never subservient to the rector after the fashion of her
neighbours; she never curtsied to him, and if he passed and nodded she
said 'Marnin', sir,' in just the same tone as that in which she said it
to the smallest of the Great Oakhurst farmers. Her church-going was an
official duty incumbent upon her as the proprietor of the only shop in
the parish. She had nothing to do with church matters except on
Sunday, and she even went so far as to neglect to send for the rector
when one of her children lay dying. She was attacked for the omission,
but she defended herself.
'What was the use when the poor dear was only seven year old? What
call was there for him to come to a blessed innocent like that? I did
tell him to look in when my husband was took, for I know as before we
were married there was something atween him and that gal Sanders. He
never would own up to me about it, and I thought as he might to a
clergyman, and, if he did, it would ease his mind and make it a bit
better for him afterwards; but, Lord! it warn't no use, for he went off
and we didn't so much as hear her name, not even when he was
a-wandering. I says to myself when the parson left, "What's the good
of having you?"'
Mrs Caffyn was a Christian, but she was a disciple of St James
rather than of St Paul. She believed, of course, the doctrines of the
Catechism, in the sense that she denied none, and would have assented
to all if she had been questioned thereon; but her belief that 'faith,
if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,' was something very vivid
and very practical.
Her estimate, too, of the relative values of the virtues and of the
relative sinfulness of sins was original, and the rector therefore told
all his parishioners that she was little better than a heathen. The
common failings in that part of the country amongst the poor were
Saturday-night drunkenness and looseness in the relations between the
young men and young women. Mrs Caffyn's indignation never rose to the
correct boiling point against these crimes. The rector once ventured
to say, as the case was next door to her,—
'It is very sad, is it not, Mrs Caffyn, that Polesden should be so
addicted to drink. I hope he did not disturb you last Saturday night.
I have given the constable directions to look after the street more
closely on Saturday evening, and if Polesden again offends he must be
Mrs Caffyn was behind her own counter. She had just served a
customer with two ounces of Dutch cheese, and she sat down on her
stool. Being rather a heavy woman she always sat down when she was not
busy, and she never rose merely to talk.
'Yes, it is sad, sir, and Polesden isn't no particular friend of
mine, but I tell you what's sad too, sir, and that's the way them
people are mucked up in that cottage. Why, their living room opens
straight on the road, and the wind comes in fit to blow your head off,
and when he goes home o' nights, there's them children a-squalling, and
he can't bide there and do nothing.'
'I am afraid, though, Mrs Caffyn, there must be something radically
wrong with that family. I suppose you know all about the eldest
'Yes, sir, I have heard it: it wouldn't be Great Oakhurst if
I hadn't, but p'r'aps, sir, you've never been upstairs in that house,
and yet a house it isn't. There's just two sleeping-rooms, that's all;
it's shameful, it isn't decent. Well, that gal, she goes away to
service. Maybe, sir, them premises at the farm are also unbeknown to
you. In the back kitchen there's a broadish sort of shelf as Jim
climbs into o' nights, and it has a rail round it to keep you from
a-falling out, and there's a ladder as they draws up in the day as goes
straight up from that kitchen to the gal's bedroom door. It's
downright disgraceful, and I don't believe the Lord A'mighty would be
marciful to neither of us if we was tried like that.'
Mrs Caffyn bethought herself of the 'us' and was afraid that even
she had gone a little too far; 'leastways, speaking for myself, sir,'
The rector turned rather red, and repented his attempt to enlist Mrs
'If the temptations are so great, Mrs Caffyn, that is all the more
reason why those who are liable to them should seek the means which are
provided in order that they may be overcome. I believe the Polesdens
are very lax attendants at church, and I don't think they ever
Mrs Polesden at that moment came in for an ounce of tea, and as Mrs
Caffyn rose to weigh it, the rector departed with a stiff
'good-morning,' made to do duty for both women.
Mrs Caffyn persuaded Madge to go to bed at once, after giving her
'something to comfort her.' In the morning her kind hostess came to
'You've got a mother, haven't you—leastways, I know you have,
because you wrote to her.'
'Well, and you lives with her and she looks after you?'
'And she's fond of you, maybe?'
'That's a marcy; well then, my dear, you shall go back in the cart
to Letherhead, and you'll catch the Darkin coach to London.'
'You have been very good to me; what have I to pay you?'
'Pay? Nothing! why, if I was to let you pay, it would just look as
if I'd trapped you here to get something out of you. Pay! no, not a
'I can afford very well to pay, but if it vexes you I will not offer
anything. I don't know how to thank you enough.'
Madge took Mrs Caffyn's hand in hers and pressed it firmly.
'Besides, my dear,' said Mrs Caffyn, smoothing the sheets a little,
'you won't mind my saying it, I expex you are in trouble. There's
something on your mind, and I believe as I knows pretty well what it
Madge turned round in the bed so as no longer to face the light; Mrs
Caffyn sat between her and the window.
'Look you here, my dear; don't you suppose I meant to say anything
to hurt you. The moment I looked on you I was drawed to you like; I
couldn't help it. I see'd what was the matter, but I was all the more
drawed, and I just wanted you to know as it makes no difference.
That's like me; sometimes I'm drawed that way and sometimes t'other
way, and it's never no use for me to try to go against it. I ain't
a-going to say anything more to you; God-A'mighty, He's above us all;
but p'r'aps you may be comm' this way again some day, and then you'll
Madge turned again to the light, and again caught Mrs Caffyn's hand,
but was silent.
The next morning, after Madge's return, Mrs Cork, the landlady,
presented herself at the sitting-room door and 'wished to speak with
Mrs Hopgood for a minute.'
'Come in, Mrs Cork.'
'Thank you, ma'am, but I prefer as you should come downstairs.'
Mrs Cork was about forty, a widow with no children. She had a face
of which it was impossible to recollect, when it had been seen even a
dozen times, any feature except the eyes, which were steel-blue, a
little bluer than the faceted head of the steel poker in her parlour,
but just as hard. She lived in the basement with a maid, much like
herself but a little more human. Although the front underground room
was furnished Mrs Cork never used it, except on the rarest occasions,
and a kind of apron of coloured paper hung over the fireplace nearly
all the year. She was a woman of what she called regular habits. No
lodger was ever permitted to transgress her rules, or to have meals ten
minutes before or ten minutes after the appointed time. She had
undoubtedly been married, but who Cork could have been was a marvel.
Why he died, and why there were never any children were no marvels. At
two o'clock her grate was screwed up to the narrowest possible
dimensions, and the ashes, potato peelings, tea leaves and cabbage
stalks were thrown on the poor, struggling coals. No meat, by the way,
was ever roasted—it was considered wasteful—everything was baked or
boiled. After half-past four not a bit of anything that was not cold
was allowed till the next morning, and, indeed, from the first of April
to the thirty-first of October the fire was raked out the moment tea
was over. Mrs Hopgood one night was not very well and Clara wished to
give her mother something warm. She rang the bell and asked for hot
water. Maria came up and disappeared without a word after receiving
the message. Presently she returned.
'Mrs Cork, miss, wishes me to tell you as it was never understood as
'ot water would be required after tea, and she hasn't got any.'
Mrs Hopgood had a fire, although it was not yet the thirty-first of
October, for it was very damp and raw. She had with much difficulty
induced Mrs Cork to concede this favour (which probably would not have
been granted if the coals had not yielded a profit of threepence a
scuttleful), and Clara, therefore, asked if she could not have the
kettle upstairs. Again Maria disappeared and returned.
'Mrs Cork says, miss, as it's very ill-convenient as the kettle is
cleaned up agin to-morrow, and if you can do without it she will be
It was of no use to continue the contest, and Clara bethought
herself of a little 'Etna' she had in her bedroom. She went to the
druggist's, bought some methylated spirit, and obtained what she wanted.
Mrs Cork had one virtue and one weakness. Her virtue was
cleanliness, but she persecuted the 'blacks,' not because she objected
to dirt as dirt, but because it was unauthorised, appeared without
permission at irregular hours, and because the glittering polish on
varnished paint and red mahogany was a pleasure to her. She liked the
dirt, too, in a way, for she enjoyed the exercise of her ill-temper on
it and the pursuit of it to destruction. Her weakness was an enormous
tom-cat which had a bell round its neck and slept in a basket in the
kitchen, the best-behaved and most moral cat in the parish. At
half-past nine every evening it was let out into the back-yard and
vanished. At ten precisely it was heard to mew and was immediately
admitted. Not once in a twelvemonth did that cat prolong its love
making after five minutes to ten.
Mrs Hopgood went upstairs to her room, Mrs Cork following and
closing the door.
'If you please, ma'am, I wish to give you notice to leave this day
'What is the matter, Mrs Cork?'
'Well, ma'am, for one thing, I didn't know as you'd bring a bird
It was a pet bird belonging to Madge.
'But what harm does the bird do? It gives no trouble; my daughter
attends to it.'
'Yes, ma'am, but it worrits my Joseph—the cat, I mean. I found
him the other mornin' on the table eyin' it, and I can't a-bear to see
'I should hardly have thought that a reason for parting with good
Mrs Hopgood had intended to move, as before explained, but she did
not wish to go till the three months had expired.
'I don't say as that is everything, but if you wish me to tell you
the truth, Miss Madge is not a person as I like to keep in the house.
I wish you to know'—Mrs Cork suddenly became excited and venomous—
'that I'm a respectable woman, and have always let my apartments to
respectable people, and do you think I should ever let them to
respectable people again if it got about as I had had anybody as wasn't
respectable? Where was she last night? And do you suppose as me as
has been a married woman can't see the condition she's in? I say as
you, Mrs Hopgood, ought to be ashamed of yourself for bringing of such
a person into a house like mine, and you'll please vacate these
premises on the day named.' She did not wait for an answer, but banged
the door after her, and went down to her subterranean den.
Mrs Hopgood did not tell her children the true reason for leaving.
She merely said that Mrs Cork had been very impertinent, and that they
must look out for other rooms. Madge instantly recollected Great
Ormond Street, but she did not know the number, and oddly enough she
had completely forgotten Mrs Caffyn's name. It was a peculiar name,
she had heard it only once, she had not noticed it over the door, and
her exhaustion may have had something to do with her loss of memory.
She could not therefore write, and Mrs Hopgood determined that she
herself would go to Great Oakhurst. She had another reason for her
journey. She wished her kind friend there to see that Madge had really
a mother who cared for her. She was anxious to confirm Madge's story,
and Mrs Caffyn's confidence. Clara desired to go also, but Mrs Hopgood
would not leave Madge alone, and the expense of a double fare was
When Mrs Hopgood came to Letherhead on her return, the coach was
full inside, and she was obliged to ride outside, although the weather
was cold and threatening. In about half an hour it began to rain
heavily, and by the time she was in Pentonville she was wet through.
The next morning she ought to have lain in bed, but she came down at
her accustomed hour as Mrs Cork was more than usually disagreeable, and
it was settled that they would leave at once if the rooms in Great
Ormond Street were available. Clara went there directly after
breakfast, and saw Mrs Marshall, who had already received an
introductory letter from her mother.
The Marshall family included Marshall and his wife. He was rather a
small man, with blackish hair, small lips, and with a nose just a
little turned up at the tip. As we have been informed, he was a
cabinet-maker. He worked for very good shops, and earned about two
pounds a week. He read books, but he did not know their value, and
often fancied he had made a great discovery on a bookstall of an author
long ago superseded and worthless. He belonged to a mechanic's
institute, and was fond of animal physiology; heard courses of lectures
on it at the institute, and had studied two or three elementary
handbooks. He found in a second-hand dealer's shop a model, which
could be taken to pieces, of the inside of the human body. He had also
bought a diagram of a man, showing the circulation, and this he had
hung in his bedroom, his mother-in-law objecting most strongly on the
ground that its effect on his wife was injurious. He had a notion that
the world might be regenerated if men and women were properly
instructed in physiological science, and if before marriage they would
study their own physical peculiarities, and those of their intended
partners. The crossing of peculiarities nevertheless presented
difficulties. A man with long legs surely ought to choose a woman with
short legs, but if a man who was mathematical married a woman who was
mathematical, the result might be a mathematical prodigy. On the other
hand the parents of the prodigy might each have corresponding
qualities, which, mixed with the mathematical tendency, would
completely nullify it. The path of duty therefore was by no means
plain. However, Marshall was sure that great cities dwarfed their
inhabitants, and as he himself was not so tall as his father, and,
moreover, suffered from bad digestion, and had a tendency to 'run to
head,' he determined to select as his wife a 'daughter of the soil,' to
use his own phrase, above the average height, with a vigorous
constitution and plenty of common sense. She need not be bookish, 'he
could supply all that himself.' Accordingly, he married Sarah Caffyn.
His mother and Mrs Caffyn had been early friends. He was not mistaken
in Sarah. She was certainly robust; she was a shrewd housekeeper, and
she never read anything, except now and then a paragraph or two in the
weekly newspaper, notwithstanding (for there were no children), time
hung rather heavily on her hands. One child had been born, but to
Marshall's surprise and disappointment it was a poor, rickety thing,
and died before it was a twelvemonth old.
Mrs Marshall was not a very happy woman. Marshall was a great
politician and spent many of his evenings away from home at political
meetings. He never informed her what he had been doing, and if he had
told her, she would neither have understood nor cared anything about
it. At Great Oakhurst she heard everything and took an interest in it,
and she often wished with all her heart that the subject which occupied
Marshall's thoughts was not Chartism but the draining of that heavy,
rush-grown bit of rough pasture that lay at the bottom of the village.
He was very good and kind to her, and she never imagined, before
marriage, that he ought to be more. She was sure that at Great
Oakhurst she would have been quite comfortable with him but somehow, in
London, it was different. 'I don't know how it is,' she said one day,
'the sort of husband as does for the country doesn't do for London.'
At Great Oakhurst, where the doors were always open into the yard
and the garden, where every house was merely a covered bit of the open
space, where people were always in and out, and women never sat down,
except to their meals, or to do a little stitching or sewing, it was
really not necessary, as Mrs Caffyn observed, that husband and wife
should 'hit it so fine.' Mrs Marshall hated all the conveniences of
London. She abominated particularly the taps, and longed to be obliged
in all weathers to go out to the well and wind up the bucket. She
abominated also the dust-bin, for it was a pleasure to be compelled—
so at least she thought it now—to walk down to the muck-heap and
throw on it what the pig could not eat. Nay, she even missed that
corner of the garden against the elder-tree, where the pig-stye was,
for 'you could smell the elder-flowers there in the spring-time, and
the pig-stye wasn't as bad as the stuffy back room in Great Ormond
Street when three or four men were in it.' She did all she could to
spend her energy on her cooking and cleaning, but 'there was no
satisfaction in it,' and she became much depressed, especially after
the child died. This was the main reason why Mrs Caffyn determined to
live with her. Marshall was glad she resolved to come. His wife had
her full share of the common sense he desired, but the experiment had
not altogether succeeded. He knew she was lonely, and he was sorry for
her, although he did not see how he could mend matters. He reflected
carefully, nothing had happened which was a surprise to him, the
relationship was what he had supposed it would be, excepting that the
child did not live and its mother was a little miserable. There was
nothing he would not do for her, but he really had nothing more to
Although Mrs Marshall had made up her mind that husbands and wives
could not be as contented with one another in the big city as they
would be in a village, a suspicion crossed her mind one day that, even
in London, the relationship might be different from her own. She was
returning from Great Oakhurst after a visit to her mother. She had
stayed there for about a month after her child's death, and she
travelled back to town with a Letherhead woman, who had married a
journeyman tanner, who formerly worked in the Letherhead tan-yard, and
had now moved to Bermondsey, a horrid hole, worse than Great Ormond
Street. Both Marshall and the tanner were at the 'Swan with Two Necks'
to meet the covered van, and the tanner's wife jumped out first.
'Hullo, old gal, here you are,' cried the tanner, and clasped her in
his brown, bark-stained arms, giving her, nothing loth, two or three
hearty kisses. They were so much excited at meeting one another, that
they forgot their friends, and marched off without bidding them
good-bye. Mrs Marshall was welcomed in quieter fashion.
'Ah!' she thought to herself. 'Red Tom,' as the tanner was called,
'is not used to London ways. They are, perhaps, correct for London,
but Marshall might now and then remember that I have not been brought
up to them.'
To return, however, to the Hopgoods. Before the afternoon they were
in their new quarters, happily for them, for Mrs Hopgood became worse.
On the morrow she was seriously ill, inflammation of the lungs
appeared, and in a week she was dead. What Clara and Madge suffered
cannot be told here. Whenever anybody whom we love dies, we discover
that although death is commonplace it is terribly original. We may
have thought about it all our lives, but if it comes close to us, it is
quite a new, strange thing to us, for which we are entirely
unprepared. It may, perhaps, not be the bare loss so much as the
strength of the bond which is broken that is the surprise, and we are
debtors in a way to death for revealing something in us which ordinary
life disguises. Long after the first madness of their grief had
passed, Clara and Madge were astonished to find how dependent they had
been on their mother. They were grown-up women accustomed to act for
themselves, but they felt unsteady, and as if deprived of customary
support. The reference to her had been constant, although it was often
silent, and they were not conscious of it. A defence from the outside
waste desert had been broken down, their mother had always seemed to
intervene between them and the world, and now they were exposed and
Three parts of Mrs Hopgood's little income was mainly an annuity,
and Clara and Madge found that between them they had but seventy-five
pounds a year.
Frank could not rest. He wrote again to Clara at Fenmarket; the
letter went to Mrs Cork's, and was returned to him. He saw that the
Hopgoods had left Fenmarket, and suspecting the reason, he determined
at any cost to go home. He accordingly alleged ill-health, a pretext
not altogether fictitious, and within a few days after the returned
letter reached him he was back at Stoke Newington. He went immediately
to the address in Pentonville which he found on the envelope, but was
very shortly informed by Mrs Cork that 'she knew nothing whatever about
them.' He walked round Myddelton Square, hopeless, for he had no clue
What had happened to him would scarcely, perhaps, have caused some
young men much uneasiness, but with Frank the case was altogether
different. There was a chance of discovery, and if his crime should
come to light his whole future life would be ruined. He pictured his
excommunication, his father's agony, and it was only when it seemed
possible that the water might close over the ghastly thing thrown in
it, and no ripple reveal what lay underneath, that he was able to
breathe again. Immediately he asked himself, however, if he
could live with his father and wear a mask, and never betray his
dreadful secret. So he wandered homeward in the most miserable of all
conditions; he was paralysed by the intricacy of the coil which
enveloped and grasped him.
That evening it happened that there was a musical party at his
father's house; and, of course, he was expected to assist. It would
have suited his mood better if he could have been in his own room, or
out in the streets, but absence would have been inconsistent with his
disguise, and might have led to betrayal. Consequently he was present,
and the gaiety of the company and the excitement of his favourite
exercise, brought about for a time forgetfulness of his trouble.
Amongst the performers was a distant cousin, Cecilia Morland, a young
woman rather tall and fully developed; not strikingly beautiful, but
with a lovely reddish-brown tint on her face, indicative of healthy,
warm, rich pulsations. She possessed a contralto voice, of a quality
like that of a blackbird, and it fell to her and to Frank to sing. She
was dressed in a fashion perhaps a little more courtly than was usual
in the gatherings at Mr Palmer's house, and Frank, as he stood beside
her at the piano, could not restrain his eyes from straying every now
and then a way from his music to her shoulders, and once nearly lost
himself, during a solo which required a little unusual exertion, in
watching the movement of a locket and of what was for a moment revealed
beneath it. He escorted her amidst applause to a corner of the room,
and the two sat down side by side.
'What a long time it is, Frank, since you and I sang that duet
together. We have seen nothing of you lately.'
'Of course not; I was in Germany.'
'Yes, but I think you deserted us before then. Do you remember that
summer when we were all together at Bonchurch, and the part songs which
astonished our neighbours just as it was growing dark? I recollect you
and I tried together that very duet for the first time with the old
Frank remembered that evening well.
'You sang better than you did to-night. You did not keep time: what
were you dreaming about?'
'How hot the room is! Do you not feel it oppressive? Let us go
into the conservatory for a minute.'
The door was behind them and they slipped in and sat down, just
inside, and under the orange tree.
'You must not be away so long again. Now mind, we have a musical
evening this day fortnight. You will come? Promise; and we must sing
that duet again, and sing it properly.'
He did not reply, but he stooped down, plucked a blood-red begonia,
and gave it to her.
'That is a pledge. It is very good of you.'
She tried to fasten it in her gown, underneath the locket, but she
dropped a little black pin. He went down on his knees to find it;
rose, and put the flower in its proper place himself, and his head
nearly touched her neck, quite unnecessarily.
'We had better go back now,' she said, 'but mind, I shall keep this
flower for a fortnight and a day, and if you make any excuses I shall
return it faded and withered.'
'Yes, I will come.'
'Good boy; no apologies like those you sent the last time. No bad
throat. Play me false, and there will be a pretty rebuke for you—a
Play me false! It was as if there were some stoppage in a
main artery to his brain. Play me false! It rang in his ears,
and for a moment he saw nothing but the scene at the Hall with
Miranda. Fortunately for him, somebody claimed Cecilia, and he slunk
back into the greenhouse.
One of Mr Palmer's favourite ballads was The Three Ravens.
Its pathos unfits it for an ordinary drawing-room, but as the music at
Mr Palmer's was not of the common kind, The Three Ravens was put
on the list for that night.
'She was dead herself ere evensong time. With a down, hey down,
God send every gentleman
Such hawks, such hounds, and such a leman. With down, hey down,
Frank knew well the prayer of that melody, and, as he listened, he
painted to himself, in the vividest colours, Madge in a mean room, in a
mean lodging, and perhaps dying. The song ceased, and one for him
stood next. He heard voices calling him, but he passed out into the
garden and went down to the further end, hiding himself behind the
shrubs. Presently the inquiry for him ceased, and he was relieved by
hearing an instrumental piece begin.
Following on that presentation of Madge came self-torture for his
unfaithfulness. He scourged himself into what he considered to be his
duty. He recalled with an effort all Madge's charms, mental and
bodily, and he tried to break his heart for her. He was in anguish
because he found that in order to feel as he ought to feel some effort
was necessary; that treason to her was possible, and because he had
looked with such eyes upon his cousin that evening. He saw himself as
something separate from himself, and although he knew what he saw to be
flimsy and shallow, he could do nothing to deepen it, absolutely
nothing! It was not the betrayal of that thunderstorm which now
tormented him. He could have represented that as a failure to be
surmounted; he could have repented it. It was his own inner being from
which he revolted, from limitations which are worse than crimes, for
who, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature?
The next morning found Frank once more in Myddelton Square. He
looked up at the house; the windows were all shut, and the blinds were
drawn down. He had half a mind to call again, but Mrs Cork's manner
had been so offensive and repellent that he desisted. Presently the
door opened, and Maria, the maid, came out to clean the doorsteps.
Maria, as we have already said, was a little more human than her
mistress, and having overheard the conversation between her and Frank
at the first interview, had come to the conclusion that Frank was to be
pitied, and she took a fancy to him. Accordingly, when he passed her,
she looked up and said,—'Good-morning.' Frank stopped, and returned
'You was here the other day, sir, asking where them Hopgoods had
'Yes,' said Frank, eagerly, 'do you know what has become of them?'
'I helped the cabman with the boxes, and I heard Mrs Hopgood say
"Great Ormond Street," but I have forgotten the number.'
'Thank you very much.'
Frank gave the astonished and grateful Maria half-a-crown, and went
off to Great Ormond Street at once. He paced up and down the street
half a dozen times, hoping he might recognise in a window some ornament
from Fenmarket, or perhaps that he might be able to distinguish a piece
of Fenmarket furniture, but his search was in vain, for the two girls
had taken furnished rooms at the back of the house. His quest was not
renewed that week. What was there to be gained by going over the
ground again? Perhaps they might have found the lodgings unsuitable
and have moved elsewhere. At church on Sunday he met his cousin
Cecilia, who reminded him of his promise.
'See,' she said, 'here is the begonia. I put it in my prayer-book
in order to preserve it when I could keep it in water no longer, and it
has stained the leaf, and spoilt the Athanasian Creed. You will have
it sent to you if you are faithless. Reflect on your emotions, sir,
when you receive a dead flower, and you have the bitter consciousness
also that you have damaged my creed without any recompense.'
It was impossible not to protest that he had no thought of breaking
his engagement, although, to tell the truth, he had wished once or
twice he could find some way out of it. He walked with her down the
churchyard path to her carriage, assisted her into it, saluted her
father and mother, and then went home with his own people.
The evening came, he sang with Cecilia, and it was observed, and he
himself observed it, how completely their voices harmonised. He was
not without a competitor, a handsome young baritone, who was much
commended. When he came to the end of his performance everybody said
what a pity it was that the following duet could not also be given, a
duet which Cecilia knew perfectly well. She was very much pressed to
take her part with him, but she steadily refused, on the ground that
she had not practised it, that she had already sung once, and that she
was engaged to sing once more with her cousin. Frank was sitting next
to her, and she added, so as to be heard by him alone, 'He is no
particular favourite of mine.'
There was no direct implication that Frank was a favourite, but an
inference was possible, and at least it was clear that she preferred to
reserve herself for him. Cecilia's gifts, her fortune, and her gay,
happy face had made many a young fellow restless, and had brought
several proposals, none of which had been accepted. All this Frank
knew, and how could he repress something more than satisfaction when he
thought that perhaps he might have been the reason why nobody as yet
had been able to win her. She always called him Frank, for although
they were not first cousins, they were cousins. He generally called
her Cecilia, but she was Cissy in her own house. He was hardly close
enough to venture upon the more familiar nickname, but to-night, as
they rose to go to the piano, he said, and the baritone sat next to
'Now, Cissy, once more.'
She looked at him with just a little start of surprise, and a smile
spread itself over her face. After they had finished, and she never
sang better, the baritone noticed that she seemed indisposed to return
to her former place, and she retired with Frank to the opposite corner
of the room.
'I wonder,' she said, 'if being happy in a thing is a sign of being
born to do it. If it is, I am born to be a musician.'
'I should say it is; if two people are quite happy in one another's
company, it is as a sign they were born for one another.'
'Yes, if they are sure they are happy. It is easier for me to be
sure that I am happier with a thing than with a person.'
'Do you think so? Why?'
'There is the uncertainty whether the person is happy with me. I
cannot be altogether happy with anybody unless I know I make him happy.'
'What kind of person is he with whom you could be without
making him happy?'
The baritone rose to the upper F with a clash of chords on the
piano, and the company broke up. Frank went home with but one thought
in his head—the thought of Cecilia.
His bedroom faced the south-west, its windows were open, and when he
entered, the wind, which was gradually rising, struck him on the face
and nearly forced the door out of his hand; the fire in his blood was
quenched, and the image of Cecilia receded. He looked out, and saw
reflected on the low clouds the dull glare of the distant city. Just
over there was Great Ormond Street, and underneath that dim, red light,
like the light of a great house burning, was Madge Hopgood. He lay
down, turning over from side to side in the vain hope that by change of
position he might sleep. After about an hour's feverish tossing, he
just lost himself, but not in that oblivion which slumber usually
brought him. He was so far awake that he saw what was around him, and
yet, he was so far released from the control of his reason that he did
not recognise what he saw, and it became part of a new scene created by
his delirium. The full moon, clearing away the clouds as she moved
upwards, had now passed round to the south, and just caught the white
window-curtain farthest from him. He half-opened his eyes, his mad
dream still clung to him, and there was the dead Madge before him, pale
in death, and holding a child in her arms! He distinctly heard himself
scream as he started up in affright; he could not tell where he was;
the spectre faded and the furniture and hangings transformed themselves
into their familiar reality. He could not lie down again, and rose and
dressed himself. He was not the man to believe that the ghost could be
a revelation or a prophecy, but, nevertheless, he was once more
overcome with fear, a vague dread partly justifiable by the fact of
Madge, by the fact that his father might soon know what had happened,
that others also might know, Cecilia for example, but partly also a
fear going beyond all the facts, and not to be accounted for by them, a
strange, horrible trembling such as men feel in earthquakes when the
solid rock shakes, on which everything rests.
When Frank came downstairs to breakfast the conversation turned upon
his return to Germany. He did not object to going, although it can
hardly be said that he willed to go. He was in that perilous condition
in which the comparison of reasons is impossible, and the course taken
depends upon some chance impulse of the moment, and is a mere drift.
He could not leave, however, in complete ignorance of Madge, and with
no certainty as to her future. He resolved therefore to make one more
effort to discover the house. That was all which he determined to do.
What was to happen when he had found it, he did not know. He was
driven to do something, which could not be of any importance, save for
what must follow, but he was unable to bring himself even to consider
what was to follow. He knew that at Fenmarket one or other of the
sisters went out soon after breakfast to make provision for the day,
and perhaps, if they kept up this custom, he might be successful in his
search. He accordingly stationed himself in Great Ormond Street at
about half-past nine, and kept watch from the Lamb's Conduit Street
end, shifting his position as well as he could, in order to escape
notice. He had not been there half an hour when he saw a door open,
and Madge came out and went westwards. She turned down Devonshire
Street as if on her way to Holborn. He instantly ran back to Theobalds
Road, and when he came to the corner of Devonshire Street she was about
ten yards from him, and he faced her. She stopped irresolutely, as if
she had a mind to return, but as he approached her, and she found she
was recognised, she came towards him.
'Madge, Madge,' he cried, 'I want to speak to you. I must speak
'Better not; let me go.'
'I say I must speak to you.'
'We cannot talk here; let me go.'
'I must! I must! come with me.'
She pitied him, and although she did not consent she did not
refuse. He called a cab, and in ten minutes, not a word having been
spoken during those ten minutes, they were at St Paul's. The morning
service had just begun, and they sat down in a corner far away from the
'Oh, Madge,' he began, 'I implore you to take me back. I love you.
I do love you, and—and—I cannot leave you.'
She was side by side with the father of her child about to be born.
He was not and could not be as another man to her, and for the moment
there was the danger lest she should mistake this secret bond for
love. The thought of what had passed between them, and of the child,
his and hers, almost overpowered her.
'I cannot,' he repeated. 'I ought not. What will become of
She felt herself stronger; he was excited, but his excitement was
not contagious. The string vibrated, and the note was resonant, but it
was not a note which was consonant with hers, and it did not stir her
to respond. He might love her, he was sincere enough to sacrifice
himself for her, and to remain faithful to her, but the voice was not
altogether that of his own true self. Partly, at least, it was the
voice of what he considered to be duty, of superstition and alarm. She
'Madge,' he continued, 'ought you to refuse? You have some love for
me. Is it not greater than the love which thousands feel for one
another. Will you blast your future and mine, and, perhaps, that of
someone besides, who may be very dear to you? Ought you not, I
say, to listen?'
The service had come to an end, the organist was playing a
voluntary, rather longer than usual, and the congregation was leaving,
some of them passing near Madge and Frank, and casting idle glances on
the young couple who had evidently come neither to pray nor to admire
the architecture. Madge recognised the well-known St Ann's fugue, and,
strange to say, even at such a moment it took entire possession of her;
the golden ladder was let down and celestial visitors descended. When
the music ceased she spoke.
'It would be a crime.'
'A crime, but I—' She stopped him.
'I know what you are going to say. I know what is the crime to the
world; but it would have been a crime, perhaps a worse crime, if a
ceremony had been performed beforehand by a priest, and the worst of
crimes would be that ceremony now. I must go.' She rose and began to
move towards the door.
He walked silently by her side till they were in St Paul's
churchyard, when she took him by the hand, pressed it affectionately
and suddenly turned into one of the courts that lead towards
Paternoster Row. He did not follow her, something repelled him, and
when he reached home it crossed his mind that marriage, after such
delay, would be a poor recompense, as he could not thereby conceal her
It was clear that these two women could not live in London on
seventy-five pounds a year, most certainly not with the prospect before
them, and Clara cast about for something to do. Marshall had a
brother-in-law, a certain Baruch Cohen, a mathematical instrument maker
in Clerkenwell, and to him Marshall accidentally one day talked about
Clara, and said that she desired an occupation. Cohen himself could
not give Clara any work, but he knew a second-hand bookseller, an old
man who kept a shop in Holborn, who wanted a clerk, and Clara thus
found herself earning another pound a week. With this addition she and
her sister could manage to pay their way and provide what Madge would
want. The hours were long, the duties irksome and wearisome, and,
worst of all, the conditions under which they were performed, were not
only as bad as they could be, but their badness was of a kind to which
Clara had never been accustomed, so that she felt every particle of it
in its full force. The windows of the shop were, of course, full of
books, and the walls were lined with them. In the middle of the shop
also was a range of shelves, and books were stacked on the floor, so
that the place looked like a huge cubical block of them through which
passages had been bored. At the back the shop became contracted in
width to about eight feet, and consequently the central shelves were
not continued there, but just where they ended, and overshadowed by
them were a little desk and a stool. All round the desk more books
were piled, and some manuvring was necessary in order to sit down.
This was Clara's station. Occasionally, on a brilliant, a very
brilliant day in summer, she could write without gas, but, perhaps,
there were not a dozen such days in the year. By twisting herself
sideways she could just catch a glimpse of a narrow line of sky over
some heavy theology which was not likely to be disturbed, and was
therefore put at the top of the window, and once when somebody bought
the Calvin Joann. Opera Omnia, 9 vol. folio, Amst. 1671—it
was very clear that afternoon—she actually descried towards seven
o'clock a blessed star exactly in the middle of the gap the Calvin had
The darkness was very depressing, and poor Clara often shut her eyes
as she bent over her day-book and ledger, and thought of the Fenmarket
flats where the sun could be seen bisected by the horizon at sun-rising
and sun-setting, and where even the southern Antares shone with diamond
glitter close to the ground during summer nights. She tried to reason
with herself during the dreadful smoke fogs; she said to herself that
they were only half-a-mile thick, and she carried herself up in
imagination and beheld the unclouded azure, the filthy smother lying
all beneath her, but her dream did not continue, and reality was too
strong for her. Worse, perhaps, than the eternal gloom was the dirt.
She was naturally fastidious, and as her skin was thin and sensitive,
dust was physically a discomfort. Even at Fenmarket she was
continually washing her hands and face, and, indeed, a wash was more
necessary to her after a walk than food or drink. It was impossible to
remain clean in Holborn for five minutes; everything she touched was
foul with grime; her collar and cuffs were black with it when she went
home to her dinner, and it was not like the honest, blowing road-sand
of Fenmarket highways, but a loathsome composition of everything
disgusting which could be produced by millions of human beings and
animals packed together in soot. It was a real misery to her and made
her almost ill. However, she managed to set up for herself a little
lavatory in the basement, and whenever she had a minute at her command,
she descended and enjoyed the luxury of a cool, dripping sponge and a
piece of yellow soap. The smuts began to gather again the moment she
went upstairs, but she strove to arm herself with a little philosophy
against them. 'What is there in life,' she moralised, smiling at her
sermonising, 'which once won is for ever won? It is always being won
and always being lost.' Her master, fortunately, was one of the
kindest of men, an old gentleman of about sixty-five, who wore a white
necktie, clean every morning. He was really a gentleman in the
true sense of that much misused word, and not a mere tradesman;
that is to say, he loved his business, not altogether for the money it
brought him, but as an art. He was known far and wide, and literary
people were glad to gossip with him. He never pushed his wares, and he
hated to sell them to anybody who did not know their value. He amused
Clara one afternoon when a carriage stopped at the door, and a lady
inquired if he had a Manning and Bray's History of Surrey. Yes,
he had a copy, and he pointed to the three handsome, tall folios.
'What is the price?'
'Twelve pounds ten.'
'I think I will have them.'
'Madam, you will pardon me, but, if I were you, I would not. I
think something much cheaper will suit you better. If you will allow
me, I will look out for you and will report in a few days.'
'Oh! very well,' and she departed.
'The wife of a brassfounder,' he said to Clara; 'made a lot of
money, and now he has bought a house at Dulwich and is setting up a
library. Somebody has told him that he ought to have a county history,
and that Manning and Bray is the book. Manning and Bray! What he
wants is a Dulwich and Denmark Hill Directory. No, no,' and he took
down one of the big volumes, blew the dust off the top edges and looked
at the old book-plate inside, 'you won't go there if I can help it.'
He took a fancy to Clara when he found she loved literature, although
what she read was out of his department altogether, and his perfectly
human behaviour to her prevented that sense of exile and loneliness
which is so horrible to many a poor creature who comes up to London to
begin therein the struggle for existence. She read and meditated a
good deal in the shop, but not to much profit, for she was continually
interrupted, and the thought of her sister intruded itself perpetually.
Madge seldom or never spoke of her separation from Frank, but one
night, when she was somewhat less reserved than usual, Clara ventured
to ask her if she had heard from him since they parted.
'I met him once.'
'Madge, do you mean that he found out where we are living, and that
he came to see you?'
'No, it was just round the corner as I was going towards Holborn.'
'Nothing could have brought him here but yourself,' said Clara,
'Clara, you doubt?'
'No, no! I doubt you? Never!'
'But you hesitate; you reflect. Speak out.'
'God forbid I should utter a word which would induce you to
disbelieve what you know to be right. It is much more important to
believe earnestly that something is morally right than that it should
be really right, and he who attempts to displace a belief runs a
certain risk, because he is not sure that what he substitutes can be
held with equal force. Besides, each person's belief, or proposed
course of action, is a part of himself, and if he be diverted from it
and takes up with that which is not himself, the unity of his nature is
impaired, and he loses himself.'
'Which is as much as to say that the prophet is to break no idols.'
'You know I do not mean that, and you know, too, how incapable I am
of defending myself in argument. I never can stand up for anything I
say. I can now and then say something, but, when I have said it, I run
'My dearest Clara,' Madge put her arm over her sister's shoulder as
they sat side by side, 'do not run away now; tell me just what you
think of me.'
Clara was silent for a minute.
'I have sometimes wondered whether you have not demanded a little
too much of yourself and Frank. It is always a question of how much.
There is no human truth which is altogether true, no love which is
altogether perfect. You may possibly have neglected virtue or devotion
such as you could not find elsewhere, overlooking it because some
failing, or the lack of sympathy on some unimportant point, may at the
moment have been prominent. Frank loved you, Madge.'
Madge did not reply; she withdrew her arm from her sister's neck,
threw herself back in her chair and closed her eyes. She saw again the
Fenmarket roads, that summer evening, and she felt once more Frank's
burning caresses. She thought of him as he left St Paul's, perhaps
broken-hearted. Stronger than every other motive to return to him, and
stronger than ever, was the movement towards him of that which belonged
At last she cried out, literally cried, with a vehemence which
startled and terrified Clara,—
'Clara, Clara, you know not what you do! For God's sake forbear!'
She was again silent, and then she turned round hurriedly, hid her
face, and sobbed piteously. It lasted, however, but for a minute; she
rose, wiped her eyes, went to the window, came back again, and said,—
'It is beginning to snow.'
The iron pillar bolted to the solid rock had quivered and resounded
under the blow, but its vibrations were nothing more than those of the
rigid metal; the base was unshaken and, except for an instant, the
column had not been deflected a hair's-breadth.
Mr Cohen, who had obtained the situation indirectly for Clara,
thought nothing more about it until, one day, he went to the shop, and
he then recollected his recommendation, which had been given solely in
faith, for he had never seen the young woman, and had trusted entirely
to Marshall. He found her at her dark desk, and as he approached her,
she hastily put a mark in a book and closed it.
'Have you sold a little volume called After Office Hours by a
man named Robinson?'
'I did not know we had it. I have never seen it.'
'I do not wonder, but I saw it here about six months ago; it was up
there,' pointing to a top shelf. Clara was about to mount the ladder,
but he stopped her, and found what he wanted. Some of the leaves were
'We can repair those for you; in about a couple of days it shall be
He lingered a little, and at that moment another customer entered.
Clara went forward to speak to him, and Cohen was able to see that it
was the Heroes and Hero Worship she had been studying, a course
of lectures which had been given by a Mr Carlyle, of whom Cohen knew
something. As the customer showed no signs of departing, Cohen left,
saying he would call again.
Before sending Robinson's After Office Hours to the binder,
Clara looked at it. It was made up of short essays, about twenty
altogether, bound in dark-green cloth, lettered at the side, and
published in 1841. They were upon the oddest subjects: such as,
Ought Children to learn Rules before Reasons? The Higher Mathematics
and Materialism. Ought We to tell Those Whom We love what We think
about Them? Deductive Reasoning in Politics. What Troubles ought We
to Make Known and What ought We to Keep Secret: Courage as a Science
and an Art.
Clara did not read any one essay through, she had no time, but she
was somewhat struck with a few sentences which caught her eye; for
example—'A mere dream, a vague hope, ought in some cases to be more
potent than a certainty in regulating our action. The faintest vision
of God should be more determinative than the grossest earthly
'I knew a case in which a man had to encounter three successive
trials of all the courage and inventive faculty in him. Failure in one
would have been ruin. The odds against him in each trial were
desperate, and against ultimate victory were overwhelming.
Nevertheless, he made the attempt, and was triumphant, by the narrowest
margin, in every struggle. That which is of most value to us is often
obtained in defiance of the laws of probability.'
'What is precious in Quakerism is not so much the doctrine of the
Divine voice as that of the preliminary stillness, the closure against
other voices and the reduction of the mind to a condition in which it
can listen, in which it can discern the merest whisper,
inaudible when the world, or interest, or passion, are permitted to
'The acutest syllogiser can never develop the actual consequences of
any system of policy, or, indeed, of any change in human relationship,
man being so infinitely complex, and the interaction of human forces so
'Many of our speculative difficulties arise from the unauthorised
conception of an omnipotent God, a conception entirely of our
own creation, and one which, if we look at it closely, has no meaning.
It is because God could have done otherwise, and did not, that
we are confounded. It may be distressing to think that God cannot do
any better, but it is not so distressing as to believe that He might
have done better had He so willed.'
Although these passages were disconnected, each of them seemed to
Clara to be written in a measure for herself, and her curiosity was
excited about the author. Perhaps the man who called would say
something about him.
Baruch Cohen was now a little over forty. He was half a Jew, for
his father was a Jew and his mother a Gentile. The father had broken
with Judaism, but had not been converted to any Christian church or
sect. He was a diamond-cutter, originally from Holland, came over to
England and married the daughter of a mathematical instrument maker, at
whose house he lodged in Clerkenwell. The son was apprenticed to his
maternal grandfather's trade, became very skilful at it, worked at it
himself, employed a man and a boy, and supplied London shops, which
sold his instruments at about three times the price he obtained for
them. Baruch, when he was very young, married Marshall's elder sister,
but she died at the birth of her first child and he had been a widower
now for nineteen years. He had often thought of taking another wife,
and had seen, during these nineteen years, two or three women with whom
he had imagined himself to be really in love, and to whom he had been
on the verge of making proposals, but in each case he had hung back,
and when he found that a second and a third had awakened the same
ardour for a time as the first, he distrusted its genuineness. He was
now, too, at a time of life when a man has to make the unpleasant
discovery that he is beginning to lose the right to expect what he
still eagerly desires, and that he must beware of being ridiculous. It
is indeed a very unpleasant discovery. If he has done anything well
which was worth doing, or has made himself a name, he may be treated by
women with respect or adulation, but any passable boy of twenty is
really more interesting to them, and, unhappily, there is perhaps so
much of the man left in him that he would rather see the eyes of a girl
melt when she looked at him than be adored by all the drawing-rooms in
London as the author of the greatest poem since Paradise Lost,
or as the conqueror of half a continent. Baruch's life during the last
nineteen years had been such that he was still young, and he desired
more than ever, because not so blindly as he desired it when he was a
youth, the tender, intimate sympathy of a woman's love. It was
singular that, during all those nineteen years, he should not once have
been overcome. It seemed to him as if he had been held back, not by
himself, but by some external power, which refused to give any reasons
for so doing. There was now less chance of yielding than ever; he was
reserved and self-respectful, and his manner towards women distinctly
announced to them that he knew what he was and that he had no claims
whatever upon them. He was something of a philosopher, too; he
accepted, therefore, as well as he could, without complaint, the
inevitable order of nature, and he tried to acquire, although often he
failed, that blessed art of taking up lightly and even with a smile
whatever he was compelled to handle. 'It is possible,' he said once,
'to consider death too seriously.' He was naturally more than half a
Jew; his features were Jewish, his thinking was Jewish, and he believed
after a fashion in the Jewish sacred books, or, at anyrate, read them
continuously, although he had added to his armoury defensive weapons of
another type. In nothing was he more Jewish than in a tendency to
dwell upon the One, or what he called God, clinging still to the
expression of his forefathers although departing so widely from them.
In his ethics and system of life, as well as in his religion, there was
the same intolerance of a multiplicity which was not reducible to
unity. He seldom explained his theory, but everybody who knew him
recognised the difference which it wrought between him and other men.
There was a certain concord in everything he said and did, as if it
were directed by some enthroned but secret principle.
He had encountered no particular trouble since his wife's death, but
his life had been unhappy. He had no friends, much as he longed for
friendship, and he could not give any reasons for his failure. He saw
other persons more successful, but he remained solitary. Their needs
were not so great as his, for it is not those who have the least but
those who have the most to give who most want sympathy. He had often
made advances; people had called on him and had appeared interested in
him, but they had dropped away. The cause was chiefly to be found in
his nationality. The ordinary Englishman disliked him simply as a Jew,
and the better sort were repelled by a lack of geniality and by his
inability to manifest a healthy interest in personal details. Partly
also the cause was that those who care to speak about what is nearest
to them are very rare, and most persons find conversation easy in
proportion to the remoteness of its topics from them. Whatever the
reasons may have been, Baruch now, no matter what the pressure from
within might be, generally kept himself to himself. It was a mistake
and he ought not to have retreated so far upon repulse. A word will
sometimes, when least expected, unlock a heart, a soul is gained for
ever, and at once there is much more than a recompense for the
indifference of years.
After the death of his wife, Baruch's affection spent itself upon
his son Benjamin, whom he had apprenticed to a firm of optical
instrument makers in York. The boy was not very much like his father.
He was indifferent to that religion by which his father lived, but he
inherited an aptitude for mathematics, which was very necessary in his
trade. Benjamin also possessed his father's rectitude, trusted him,
and looked to him for advice to such a degree that even Baruch, at
last, thought it would be better to send him away from home in order
that he might become a little more self-reliant and independent. It
was the sorest of trials to part with him, and, for some time after he
left, Baruch's loneliness was intolerable. It was, however, relieved
by a visit to York perhaps once in four or five months, for whenever
business could be alleged as an excuse for going north, he managed, as
he said, 'to take York on his way.'
The day after he met Clara he started for Birmingham, and although
York was certainly not 'on his way,' he pushed forward to the city and
reached it on a Saturday evening. He was to spend Sunday there, and on
Sunday morning he proposed that they should hear the cathedral service,
and go for a walk in the afternoon. To this suggestion Benjamin
partially assented. He wished to go to the cathedral in the morning,
but thought his father had better rest after dinner. Baruch somewhat
resented the insinuation of possible fatigue consequent on advancing
'What do you mean?' he said; 'you know well enough I enjoy a walk in
the afternoon; besides, I shall not see much of you, and do not want to
lose what little time I have.'
About three, therefore, they started, and presently a girl met them,
who was introduced simply as 'Miss Masters.'
'We are going to your side of the water,' said the son; 'you may as
well cross with us.'
They came to a point where a boat was moored, and a man was in it.
There was no regular ferry, but on Sundays he earned a trifle by taking
people to the opposite meadow, and thus enabling them to vary their
return journey to the city. When they were about two-thirds of the way
over, Benjamin observed that if they stood up they could see the
Minster. They all three rose, and without an instant's warning—they
could not tell afterwards how it happened—the boat half capsized, and
they were in eight or nine feet of water. Baruch could not swim and
went down at once, but on coming up close to the gunwale he caught at
it and held fast. Looking round, he saw that Benjamin, who could swim
well, had made for Miss Masters, and, having caught her by the back of
the neck, was taking her ashore. The boatman, who could also swim,
called out to Baruch to hold on, gave the boat three or four vigorous
strokes from the stern, and Baruch felt the ground under his feet. The
boatman's little cottage was not far off, and, when the party reached
it, Benjamin earnestly desired Miss Masters to take off her wet clothes
and occupy the bed which was offered her. He himself would run home—
it was not half-a-mile—and, after having changed, would go to her
house and send her sister with what was wanted. He was just off when
it suddenly struck him that his father might need some attention.
'Oh, father—' he began, but the boatman's wife interposed.
'He can't be left like that, and he can't go home; he'll catch his
death o' cold, and there isn't but one more bed in the house, and that
isn't quite fit to put a gentleman in. Howsomever, he must turn in
there, and my husband, he can go into the back-kitchen and rub himself
down. You won't do yourself no good, Mr Cohen,' addressing the son,
whom she knew, 'by going back; you'd better stay here and get into bed
with your father.'
In a few minutes the boatman would have gone on the errand, but
Benjamin could not lose the opportunity of sacrificing himself for Miss
Masters. He rushed off, and in three-quarters of an hour had returned
with the sister. Having learned, after anxious inquiry, that Miss
Masters, so far as could be discovered, had not caught a chill, he went
to his father.
'Well, father, I hope you are none the worse for the ducking,' he
said gaily. 'The next time you come to York you'd better bring another
suit of clothes with you.'
Baruch turned round uneasily and did not answer immediately. He had
had a narrow escape from drowning.
'Nothing of much consequence. Is your friend all right?'
'Oh, yes; I was anxious about her, for she is not very strong, but I
do not think she will come to much harm. I made them light a fire in
'Are they drying my clothes?'
'I'll go and see.'
He went away and encountered the elder Miss Masters, who told him
that her sister, feeling no ill effects from the plunge, had determined
to go home at once, and in fact was nearly ready. Benjamin waited, and
presently she came downstairs, smiling.
'Nothing the matter. I owe it to you, however, that I am not now in
Benjamin was in an ecstasy, and considered himself bound to
accompany her to her door.
Meanwhile, Baruch lay upstairs alone in no very happy temper. He
heard the conversation below, and knew that his son had gone. In all
genuine love there is something of ferocious selfishness. The
perfectly divine nature knows how to keep it in check, and is even
capable—supposing it to be a woman's nature—of contentment if the
loved one is happy, no matter with what or with whom; but the nature
only a little less than divine cannot, without pain, endure the thought
that it no longer owns privately and exclusively that which it loves,
even when it loves a child, and Baruch was particularly excusable,
considering his solitude. Nevertheless, he had learned a little
wisdom, and, what was of much greater importance, had learned how to
use it when he needed it. It had been forced upon him; it was an
adjustment to circumstances, the wisest wisdom. It was not something
without any particular connection with him; it was rather the external
protection built up from within to shield him where he was vulnerable;
it was the answer to questions which had been put to him, and
not to those which had been put to other people. So it came to pass
that, when he said bitterly to himself that, if he were at that moment
lying dead at the bottom of the river, Benjamin would have found
consolation very near at hand, he was able to reflect upon the folly of
self-laceration, and to rebuke himself for a complaint against what was
simply the order of Nature, and not a personal failure.
His self-conquest, however, was not very permanent. When he left
York the next morning, he fancied his son was not particularly grieved,
and he was passive under the thought that an epoch in his life had
come, that the milestones now began to show the distance to the place
to which he travelled, and, still worse, that the boy who had been so
close to him, and upon whom he had so much depended, had gone from him.
There is no remedy for our troubles which is uniformly and
progressively efficacious. All that we have a right to expect from our
religion is that gradually, very gradually, it will assist us to a real
victory. After each apparent defeat, if we are bravely in earnest, we
gain something on our former position. Baruch was two days on his
journey back to town, and as he came nearer home, he recovered himself
a little. Suddenly he remembered the bookshop and the book for which
he had to call, and that he had intended to ask Marshall something
about the bookseller's new assistant.
Madge was a puzzle to Mrs Caffyn. Mrs Caffyn loved her, and when
she was ill had behaved like a mother to her. The newly-born child, a
healthy girl, was treated by Mrs Caffyn as if it were her own
granddaughter, and many little luxuries were bought which never
appeared in Mrs Marshall's weekly bill. Naturally, Mrs Caffyn's
affection moved a response from Madge, and Mrs Caffyn by degrees heard
the greater part of her history; but why she had separated herself from
her lover without any apparent reason remained a mystery, and all the
greater was the mystery because Mrs Caffyn believed that there were no
other facts to be known than those she knew. She longed to bring about
a reconciliation. It was dreadful to her that Madge should be
condemned to poverty, and that her infant should be fatherless,
although there was a gentleman waiting to take them both and make them
'The hair won't be dark like yours, my love,' she said one
afternoon, soon after Madge had come downstairs and was lying on the
sofa. 'The hair do darken a lot, but hers will never be black. It's
my opinion as it'll be fair.'
Madge did not speak, and Mrs Caffyn, who was sitting at the head of
the couch, put her work and her spectacles on the table. It was
growing dusk; she took Madge's hand, which hung down by her side, and
gently lifted it up. Such a delicate hand, Mrs Caffyn thought. She
was proud that she had for a friend the owner of such a hand, who
behaved to her as an equal. It was delightful to be kissed—no mere
formal salutations—by a lady fit to go into the finest drawing-room
in London, but it was a greater delight that Madge's talk suited her
better than any she had heard at Great Oakhurst. It was natural she
should rejoice when she discovered, unconsciously that she had a soul,
to which the speech of the stars, though somewhat strange, was not an
utterly foreign tongue.
She retained her hold on Madge's hand.
'May be,' she continued, 'it'll be like its father's. In our family
all the gals take after the father, and all the boys after the mother.
I suppose as he has lightish hair?'
Still Madge said nothing.
'It isn't easy to believe as the father of that blessed dear could
have been a bad lot. I'm sure he isn't, and yet there's that Polesden
gal at the farm, she as went wrong with Jim, a great ugly brute, and
she herself warnt up to much, well, as I say, her child was the
delicatest little angel as I ever saw. It's my belief as God-a-mighty
mixes Hisself up in it more nor we think. But there was nothing
amiss with him, was there, my sweet?'
Mrs Caffyn inclined her head towards Madge.
'Oh, no! Nothing, nothing.'
'Don't you think, my dear, if there's nothing atwixt you, as it was
a flyin' in the face of Providence to turn him off? You were reglarly
engaged to him, and I have heard you say he was very fond of you. I
suppose there were some high words about something, and a kind of a
quarrel like, and so you parted, but that's nothing. It might all be
made up now, and it ought to be made up. What was it about?'
'There was no quarrel.'
'Well, of course, if you don't like to say anything more to me, I
won't ask you. I don't want to hear any secrets as I shouldn't hear.
I speak only because I can't abear to see you here when I believe as
everything might be put right, and you might have a house of your own,
and a good husband, and be happy for the rest of your days. It isn't
too late for that now. I know what I know, and as how he'd marry you
'Oh, my dear Mrs Caffyn, I have no secret from you, who have been so
good to me: I can only say I could not love him—not as I ought.'
'If you can't love a man, that's to say if you can't abear
him, it's wrong to have him, but if there's a child that does make a
difference, for one has to think of the child and of being
respectable. There's something in being respectable; although, for
that matter, I've see'd respectable people at Great Oakhurst as were
ten times worse than those as aren't. Still, a-speaking for myself,
I'd put up with a goodish bit to marry the man whose child wor mine.'
'For myself I could, but it wouldn't be just to him.'
'I don't see what you mean.'
'I mean that I could sacrifice myself if I believed it to be my
duty, but I should wrong him cruelly if I were to accept him and did
not love him with all my heart.'
'My dear, you take my word for it, he isn't so particklar as you
are. A man isn't so particklar as a woman. He goes about his work,
and has all sorts of things in his head, and if a woman makes him
comfortable when he comes home, he's all right. I won't say as one
woman is much the same as another to a man—leastways to all men—but
still they are not particklar. Maybe, though, it isn't quite
the same with gentlefolk like yourself,—but there's that blessed baby
Mrs Caffyn hastened upstairs, leaving Madge to her reflections.
Once more the old dialectic reappeared. 'After all,' she thought, 'it
is, as Clara said, a question of degree. There are not a thousand
husbands and wives in this great city whose relationship comes near
perfection. If I felt aversion my course would be clear, but there is
no aversion; on the contrary, our affection for one another is
sufficient for a decent household and decent existence undisturbed by
catastrophes. No brighter sunlight is obtained by others far better
than myself. Ought I to expect a refinement of relationship to which I
have no right? Our claims are always beyond our deserts, and we are
disappointed if our poor, mean, defective natures do not obtain the
homage which belongs to those of ethereal texture. It will be a life
with no enthusiasms nor romance, perhaps, but it will be tolerable, and
what may be called happy, and my child will be protected and educated.
My child! what is there which I ought to put in the balance against
her? If our sympathy is not complete, I have my own little oratory: I
can keep the candles alight, close the door, and worship there alone.'
So she mused, and her foes again ranged themselves over against
her. There was nothing to support her but something veiled, which
would not altogether disclose or explain itself. Nevertheless, in a
few minutes, her enemies had vanished, like a mist before a sudden
wind, and she was once more victorious. Precious and rare are those
divine souls, to whom that which is aërial is substantial, the only
true substance; those for whom a pale vision possesses an authority
they are forced unconditionally to obey.
Mrs Caffyn was unhappy, and made up her mind that she would talk to
Frank herself. She had learned enough about him from the two sisters,
especially from Clara, to make her believe that, with a very little
management, she could bring him back to Madge. The difficulty was to
see him without his father's knowledge. At last she determined to
write to him, and she made her son-in-law address the envelope and mark
it private. This is what she said:-
'DEAR SIR,—Although unbeknown to you, I take the liberty of
telling you as M. H. is alivin' here with me, and somebody else as I
think you ought to see, but perhaps I'd better have a word or two with
you myself, if not quite ill-convenient to you, and maybe you'll be
kind enough to say how that's to be done to your obedient, humble
She thought this very diplomatic, inasmuch as nobody but Frank could
possibly suspect what the letter meant. It went to Stoke Newington,
but, alas! he was in Germany, and poor Mrs Caffyn had to wait a week
before she received a reply. Frank of course understood it. Although
he had thought about Madge continually, he had become calmer. He saw,
it is true, that there was no stability in his position, and that he
could not possibly remain where he was. Had Madge been the commonest
of the common, and his relationship to her the commonest of the common,
he could not permit her to cast herself loose from him for ever and
take upon herself the whole burden of his misdeed. But he did not know
what to do, and, as successive considerations and reconsiderations
ended in nothing, and the distractions of a foreign country were so
numerous, Madge had for a time been put aside, like a huge bill which
we cannot pay, and which staggers us. We therefore docket it, and hide
it in the desk, and we imagine we have done something. Once again,
however, the flame leapt up out of the ashes, vivid as ever. Once
again the thought that he had been so close to Madge, and that she had
yielded to him, touched him with peculiar tenderness, and it seemed
impossible to part himself from her. To a man with any of the nobler
qualities of man it is not only a sense of honour which binds him to a
woman who has given him all she has to give. Separation seems
unnatural, monstrous, a divorce from himself; it is not she alone, but
it is himself whom he abandons. Frank's duty, too, pointed imperiously
to the path he ought to take, duty to the child as well as to the
mother. He determined to go home, secretly; Mrs Caffyn would not have
written if she had not seen good reason for believing that Madge still
belonged to him. He made up his mind to start the next day, but when
the next day came, instructions to go immediately to Hamburg arrived
from his father. There were rumours of the insolvency of a house with
which Mr Palmer dealt; inquiries were necessary which could better be
made personally, and if these rumours were correct, as Mr Palmer
believed them to be, his agency must be transferred to some other
firm. There was now no possibility of a journey to England. For a
moment he debated whether, when he was at Hamburg, he could not slip
over to London, but it would be dangerous. Further orders might come
from his father, and the failure to acknowledge them would lead to
evasion, and perhaps to discovery. He must, therefore, content himself
with a written explanation to Mrs Caffyn why he could not meet her, and
there should be one more effort to make atonement to Madge. This was
what went to Mrs Caffyn, and to her lodger:-
'DEAR MADAM,—Your note has reached me here. I am very sorry that
my engagements are so pressing that I cannot leave Germany at present.
I have written to Miss Hopgood. There is one subject which I cannot
mention to her—I cannot speak to her about money. Will you please
give me full information? I enclose £20, and I must trust to your
discretion. I thank you heartily for all your kindness.—Truly yours,
'MY DEAREST MADGE,—I cannot help saying one more word to you,
although, when I last saw you, you told me that it was useless for me
to hope. I know, however, that there is now another bond between us,
the child is mine as well as yours, and if I am not all that you
deserve, ought you to prevent me from doing my duty to it as well as to
you? It is true that if we were to marry I could never right you, and
perhaps my father would have nothing to do with us, but in time he
might relent, and I will come over at once, or, at least, the moment I
have settled some business here, and you shall be my wife. Do, my
dearest Madge, consent.'
When he came to this point his pen stopped. What he had written was
very smooth, but very tame and cold. However, nothing better presented
itself; he changed his position, sat back in his chair, and searched
himself, but could find nothing. It was not always so. Some months
ago there would have been no difficulty, and he would not have known
when to come to an end. The same thing would have been said a dozen
times, perhaps, but it would not have seemed the same to him, and each
succeeding repetition would have been felt with the force of novelty.
He took a scrap of paper and tried to draft two or three sentences,
altered them several times and made them worse. He then re-read the
letter; it was too short; but after all it contained what was
necessary, and it must go as it stood. She knew how he felt towards
her. So he signed it after giving his address at Hamburg, and it was
Three or four days afterwards Mrs Marshall, in accordance with her
usual custom, went to see Madge before she was up. The child lay
peacefully by its mother's side and Frank's letter was upon the
counterpane. The resolution that no letter from him should be opened
had been broken. The two women had become great friends and, within
the last few weeks, Madge had compelled Mrs Marshall to call her by her
'You've had a letter from Mr Palmer; I was sure it was his
handwriting when it came late last night.'
'You can read it; there is nothing private in it.'
She turned round to the child and Mrs Marshall sat down and read.
When she had finished she laid the letter on the bed again and was
'Well?' said Madge. 'Would you say "No?"'
'Yes, I would.'
'For your own sake, as well as for his?'
Mrs Marshall took up the letter and read half of it again.
'Yes, you had better say "No." You will find it dull, especially if
you have to live in London.'
'Did you find London dull when you came to live in it?'
'Rather; Marshall is away all day long.'
'But scarcely any woman in London expects to marry a man who is not
away all day.'
'They ought then to have heaps of work, or they ought to have a lot
of children to look after; but, perhaps, being born and bred in the
country, I do not know what people in London are. Recollect you were
country born and bred yourself, or, at anyrate, you have lived in the
country for the most of your life.'
'Dull! we must all expect to be dull.'
'There's nothing worse. I've had rheumatic fever, and I say, give
me the fever rather than what comes over me at times here. If Marshall
had not been so good to me, I do not know what I should have done with
Madge turned round and looked Mrs Marshall straight in the face, but
she did not flinch.
'Marshall is very good to me, but I was glad when mother and you and
your sister came to keep me company when he is not at home. It tired
me to have my meals alone: it is bad for the digestion; at least, so he
says, and he believes that it was indigestion that was the matter with
me. I should be sorry for myself if you were to go away; not that I
want to put that forward. Maybe I should never see much more of you:
he is rich: you might come here sometimes, but he would not like to
have Marshall and mother and me at his house.'
Not a word was spoken for at least a minute.
Suddenly Mrs Marshall took Madge's hand in her own hands, leaned
over her, and in that kind of whisper with which we wake a sleeper who
is to be aroused to escape from sudden peril, she said in her ear,—
'Madge, Madge: for God's sake leave him!'
'I have left him.'
'Are you sure?'
Mrs Marshall let go Madge's hand, turned her eyes towards her
intently for a moment, and again bent over her as if she were about to
embrace her. A knock, however, came at the door, and Mrs Caffyn
entered with the cup of coffee which she always insisted on bringing
before Madge rose. After she and her daughter had left, Madge read the
letter once more. There was nothing new in it, but formally it was
something, like the tolling of the bell when we know that our friend is
dead. There was a little sobbing, and then she kissed her child with
such eagerness that it began to cry.
'You'll answer that letter, I suppose?' said Mrs Caffyn, when they
'I'm rather glad. It would worrit you, and there's nothing worse
for a baby than worritin' when it's mother's a-feedin it.'
Mr Caffyn wrote as follows:-
'DEAR SIR,—I was sorry as you couldn't come; but I believe now as
it was better as you didn't. I am no scollard, and so no more from
your obedient, humble servant,
'P.S.—I return the money, having no use for the same.
Baruch did not obtain any very definite information from Marshall
about Clara. He was told that she had a sister; that they were both of
them gentlewomen; that their mother and father were dead; that they
were great readers, and that they did not go to church nor chapel, but
that they both went sometimes to hear a certain Mr A. J. Scott
lecture. He was once assistant minister to Irving, but was now
heretical, and had a congregation of his own creating at Woolwich.
Baruch called at the shop and found Clara once more alone. The book
was packed up and had being lying ready for him for two or three days.
He wanted to speak, but hardly knew how to begin. He looked idly round
the shelves, taking down one volume after another, and at last he said,
'I suppose nobody but myself has ever asked for a copy of Robinson?'
'Not since I have been here.'
'I do not wonder at it; he printed only two hundred and fifty; he
gave away five-and-twenty, and I am sure nearly two hundred were sold
'He is a friend of yours?'
'He was a friend; he is dead; he was an usher in a private school,
although you might have supposed, from the title selected, that he was
a clerk. I told him it was useless to publish, and his publishers told
him the same thing.'
'I should have thought that some notice would have been taken of
him; he is so evidently worth it.'
'Yes, but although he was original and reflective, he had no
particular talent. His excellence lay in criticism and observation,
often profound, on what came to him every day, and he was valueless in
the literary market. A talent of some kind is necessary to genius if
it is to be heard. So he died utterly unrecognised, save by one or two
personal friends who loved him dearly. He was peculiar in the depth
and intimacy of his friendships. Few men understand the meaning of the
word friendship. They consort with certain companions and perhaps very
earnestly admire them, because they possess intellectual gifts, but of
friendship, such as we two, Morris and I (for that was his real name)
understood it, they know nothing.'
'Do you believe, that the good does not necessarily survive?'
'Yes and no; I believe that power every moment, so far as our eyes
can follow it, is utterly lost. I have had one or two friends whom the
world has never known and never will know, who have more in them than
is to be found in many an English classic. I could take you to a
little dissenting chapel not very far from Holborn where you would hear
a young Welshman, with no education beyond that provided by a Welsh
denominational college, who is a perfect orator and whose depth of
insight is hardly to be matched, save by Thomas À Kempis, whom he much
resembles. When he dies he will be forgotten in a dozen years.
Besides, it is surely plain enough to everybody that there are
thousands of men and women within a mile of us, apathetic and obscure,
who, if, an object worthy of them had been presented to them, would
have shown themselves capable of enthusiasm and heroism. Huge volumes
of human energy are apparently annihilated.'
'It is very shocking, worse to me than the thought of the earthquake
or the pestilence.'
'I said "yes and no" and there is another side. The universe is so
wonderful, so intricate, that it is impossible to trace the
transformation of its forces, and when they seem to disappear the
disappearance may be an illusion. Moreover, "waste" is a word which is
applicable only to finite resources. If the resources are infinite it
has no meaning.'
Two customers came in and Baruch was obliged to leave. When he came
to reflect, he was surprised to find not only how much he had said, but
what he had said. He was usually reserved, and with strangers he
adhered to the weather or to passing events. He had spoken, however,
to this young woman as if they had been acquainted for years. Clara,
too, was surprised. She always cut short attempts at conversation in
the shop. Frequently she answered questions and receipted and returned
bills without looking in the faces of the people who spoke to her or
offered her the money. But to this foreigner, or Jew, she had
disclosed something she felt. She was rather abashed, but presently
her employer, Mr Barnes, returned and somewhat relieved her.
'The gentleman who bought After Office Hours came for it
while you were out?'
'Oh! what, Cohen? Good fellow Cohen is; he it was who recommended
you to me. He is brother-in-law to your landlord.' Clara was
comforted; he was not a mere 'casual,' as Mr Barnes called his chance
About a fortnight afterwards, on a Sunday afternoon, Cohen went to
the Marshalls'. He had called there once or twice since his
mother-in-law came to London, but had seen nothing of the lodgers. It
was just about tea-time, but unfortunately Marshall and his wife had
gone out. Mrs Caffyn insisted that Cohen should stay, but Madge could
not be persuaded to come downstairs, and Baruch, Mrs Caffyn and Clara
had tea by themselves. Baruch asked Mrs Caffyn if she could endure
London after living for so long in the country.
'Ah! my dear boy, I have to like it.'
'No, you haven't; what you mean is that, whether you like it, or
whether you do not, you have to put up with it.'
'No, I don't mean that. Miss Hopgood, Cohen and me, we are the best
of friends, but whenever he comes here, he allus begins to argue with
me. Howsomever, arguing isn't everything, is it, my dear? There's
some things, after all, as I can do and he can't, but he's just wrong
here in his arguing that wasn't what I meant. I meant what I said, as
I had to like it.'
'How can you like it if you don't?'
'How can I? That shows you're a man and not a woman. Jess like you
men. You'd do what you didn't like, I know, for you're a good
sort—and everybody would know you didn't like it—but what would be
the use of me a-livin' in a house if I didn't like it?—with my
daughter and these dear, young women? If it comes to livin', you'd ten
thousand times better say at once as you hate bein' where you are than
go about all day long, as if you was a blessed saint and put upon.'
Mrs Caffyn twitched at her gown and pulled it down over her knees
and brushed the crumbs off with energy. She continued, 'I can't abide
people who everlastin' make believe they are put upon. Suppose I were
allus a-hankering every foggy day after Great Oakhurst, and yet
a-tellin' my daughter as I knew my place was here; if I was she, I
should wish my mother at Jericho.'
'Then you really prefer London to Great Oakhurst?' said Clara.
'Why, my dear, of course I do. Don't you think it's pleasanter
being here with you and your sister and that precious little creature,
and my daughter, than down in that dead-alive place? Not that I don't
miss my walk sometimes into Darkin; you remember that way as I took you
once, Baruch, across the hill, and we went over Ranmore Common and I
showed you Camilla Lacy, and you said as you knew a woman who wrote
books who once lived there? You remember them beech-woods? Ah, it was
one October! Weren't they a colour—weren't they lovely?'
Baruch remembered them well enough. Who that had ever seen them
could forget them?
'And it was I as took you! You wouldn't think it, my dear, though
he's always a-arguin', I do believe he'd love to go that walk again,
even with an old woman, and see them heavenly beeches. But, Lord, how
I do talk, and you've neither of you got any tea.'
'Have you lived long in London, Miss Hopgood?' inquired Baruch.
'Not very long.'
'Do you feel the change?'
'I cannot say I do not.'
'I suppose, however, you have brought yourself to believe in Mrs
'I cannot say that, but I may say that I am scarcely strong enough
for mere endurance, and I therefore always endeavour to find something
agreeable in circumstances from which there is no escape.'
The recognition of the One in the Many had as great a charm for
Baruch as it had for Socrates, and Clara spoke with the ease of a
person whose habit it was to deal with principles and generalisations.
'Yes, and mere toleration, to say nothing of opposition, at least so
far as persons are concerned, is seldom necessary. It is generally
thought that what is called dramatic power is a poetic gift, but it is
really an indispensable virtue to all of us if we are to be happy.'
Mrs Caffyn did not take much interest in abstract statements. 'You
remember,' she said, turning to Baruch, 'that man Chorley as has the
big farm on the left-hand side just afore you come to the common? He
wasn't a Surrey man: he came out of the shires.'
'He's married that Skelton girl; married her the week afore I left.
There isn't no love lost there, but the girl's father said he'd murder
him if he didn't, and so it come off. How she ever brought herself to
it gets over me. She has that big farm-house, and he's made a fine
drawing-room out of the livin' room on the left-hand side as you go in,
and put a new grate in the kitchen and turned that into the livin'
room, and they does the cooking in the back kitchen, but for all that,
if I'd been her, I'd never have seen his face no more, and I'd have
packed off to Australia.'
'Does anybody go near them?'
'Near them! of course they do, and, as true as I'm a-sittin' here,
our parson, who married them, went to the breakfast. It isn't Chorley
as I blame so much; he's a poor, snivellin' creature, and he was
frightened, but it's the girl. She doesn't care for him no more than
me, and then again, although, as I tell you, he's such a poor creature,
he's awful cruel and mean, and she knows it. But what was I a-goin' to
say? Never shall I forget that wedding. You know as it's a short cut
to the church across the farmyard at the back of my house. The parson,
he was rather late—I suppose he'd been giving himself a finishin'
touch—and, as it had been very dry weather, he went across the straw
and stuff just at the edge like of the yard. There was a pig under the
straw—pigs, my dear,' turning to Clara, 'nuzzle under the straw so as
you can't see them. Just as he came to this pig it started up and
upset him, and he fell and straddled across its back, and the Lord have
mercy on me if it didn't carry him at an awful rate, as if he was a
jockey at Epsom races, till it come to a puddle of dung water, and then
down he plumped in it. You never see'd a man in such a pickle! I
heer'd the pig a-squeakin' like mad, and I ran to the door, and I
called out to him, and I says, "Mr Ormiston, won't you come in here?"
and though, as you know, he allus hated me, he had to come. Mussy on
us, how he did stink, and he saw me turn up my nose, and he was wild
with rage, and he called the pig a filthy beast. I says to him as that
was the pig's way and the pig didn't know who it was who was a-ridin'
it, and I took his coat off and wiped his stockings, and sent to the
rectory for another coat, and he crept up under the hedge to his
garden, and went home, and the people at church had to wait for an
hour. I was glad I was goin' away from Great Oakhurst, for he never
would have forgiven me.'
There was a ring at the front door bell, and Clara went to see who
was there. It was a runaway ring, but she took the opportunity of
going upstairs to Madge.
'She has a sister?' said Baruch.
'Yes, and I may just as well tell you about her now—leastways what
I know—and I believe as I know pretty near everything about her.
You'll have to be told if they stay here. She was engaged to be
married, and how it came about with a girl like that is a bit beyond
me, anyhow, there's a child, and the father's a good sort by what I can
make out, but she won't have anything more to do with him.'
'What do you mean by "a girl like that."'
'She isn't one of them as goes wrong; she can talk German and reads
'Did he desert her?'
'No, that's just it. She loves me, although I say it, as if I was
her mother, and yet I'm just as much in the dark as I was the first day
I saw her as to why she left that man.'
Mrs Caffyn wiped the corners of her eyes with her apron.
'It's gospel truth as I never took to anybody as I've took to her.'
After Baruch had gone, Clara returned.
'He's a curious creature, my dear,' said Mrs Caffyn, 'as good as
gold, but he's too solemn by half. It would do him a world of good if
he'd somebody with him who'd make him laugh more. He can laugh,
for I've seen him forced to get up and hold his sides, but he never
makes no noise. He's a Jew, and they say as them as crucified our
blessed Lord never laugh proper.
Baruch was now in love. He had fallen in love with Clara suddenly
and totally. His tendency to reflectiveness did not diminish his
passion: it rather augmented it. The men and women whose thoughts are
here and there continually are not the people to feel the full force of
love. Those who do feel it are those who are accustomed to think of
one thing at a time, and to think upon it for a long time. 'No man,'
said Baruch once, 'can love a woman unless he loves God.' 'I should
say,' smilingly replied the Gentile, 'that no man can love God unless
he loves a woman.' 'I am right,' said Baruch, 'and so are you.'
But Baruch looked in the glass: his hair, jet black when he was a
youth, was marked with grey, and once more the thought came to him—
this time with peculiar force—that he could not now expect a woman to
love him as she had a right to demand that he should love, and that he
must be silent. He was obliged to call upon Barnes in about a
fortnight's time. He still read Hebrew, and he had seen in the shop a
copy of the Hebrew translation of the Moreh Nevochim of
Maimonides, which he greatly coveted, but could not afford to buy.
Like every true book-lover, he could not make up his mind when he
wished for a book which was beyond his means that he ought once for all
to renounce it, and he was guilty of subterfuges quite unworthy of such
a reasonable creature in order to delude himself into the belief that
he might yield. For example, he wanted a new overcoat badly, but
determined it was more prudent to wait, and a week afterwards very
nearly came to the conclusion that as he had not ordered the coat he
had actually accumulated a fund from which the Moreh Nevochim
might be purchased. When he came to the shop he saw Barnes was there,
and he persuaded himself he should have a quieter moment or two with
the precious volume when Clara was alone. Barnes, of course, gossiped
He therefore called again in the evening, about half an hour before
closing time, and found that Barnes had gone home. Clara was busy with
a catalogue, the proof of which she was particularly anxious to send to
the printer that night. He did not disturb her, but took down the
Maimonides, and for a few moments was lost in revolving the doctrine,
afterwards repeated and proved by a greater than Maimonides, that the
will and power of God are co-extensive: that there is nothing which
might be and is not. It was familiar to Baruch, but like all ideas of
that quality and magnitude—and there are not many of them—it was
always new and affected him like a starry night, seen hundreds of
times, yet for ever infinite and original.
But was it Maimonides which kept him till the porter began to put up
the shutters? Was he pondering exclusively upon God as the folio lay
open before him? He did think about Him, but whether he would have
thought about Him for nearly twenty minutes if Clara had not been there
is another matter.
'Do you walk home alone?' he said as she gave the proof to the boy
who stood waiting.
'I am going to see Marshall to-night, but I must go to Newman Street
first. I shall be glad to walk with you, if you do not mind diverging
She consented and they went along Oxford Street without speaking,
the roar of the carriages and waggons preventing a word.
They turned, however, into Bloomsbury, and were able to hear one
another. He had much to say and he could not begin to say it. There
was a great mass of something to be communicated pent up within him,
and he would have liked to pour it all out before her at once. It is
just at such times that we often take up as a means of expression and
relief that which is absurdly inexpressive and irrelevant.
'I have not seen your sister yet; I hope I may see her this evening.'
'I hope you may, but she frequently suffers from headache and
prefers to be alone.'
'How do you like Mr Barnes?'
The answer is not worth recording, nor is any question or answer
which was asked or returned for the next quarter of an hour worth
recording, although they were so interesting then. When they were
crossing Bedford Square on their return Clara happened to say amongst
'What a relief a quiet space in London is.'
'I do not mind the crowd if I am by myself.'
'I do not like crowds; I dislike even the word, and dislike "the
masses" still more. I do not want to think of human beings as if they
were a cloud of dust, and as if each atom had no separate importance.
London is often horrible to me for that reason. In the country it was
not quite so bad.'
'That is an illusion,' said Baruch after a moment's pause.
'I do not quite understand you, but if it be an illusion it is very
painful. In London human beings seem the commonest, cheapest things in
the world, and I am one of them. I went with Mr Marshall not long ago
to a Free Trade Meeting, and more than two thousand people were
present. Everybody told me it was magnificent, but it made me very
sad.' She was going on, but she stopped. How was it, she thought
again, that she could be so communicative? How was it? How is it that
sometimes a stranger crosses our path, with whom, before we have known
him for more than an hour, we have no secrets? An hour? we have
actually known him for centuries.
She could not understand it, and she felt as if she had been
inconsistent with her constant professions of wariness in
'It is an illusion, nevertheless—an illusion of the senses. It is
difficult to make what I mean clear, because insight is not possible
beyond a certain point, and clearness does not come until penetration
is complete and what we acquire is brought into a line with other
acquisitions. It constantly happens that we are arrested short of this
point, but it would be wrong to suppose that our conclusions, if we may
call them so, are of no value.'
She was silent, and he did not go on. At last he said,—
'The illusion lies in supposing that number, quantity and terms of
that kind are applicable to any other than sensuous objects, but I
cannot go further, at least not now. After all, it is possible here in
London for one atom to be of eternal importance to another.'
They had gone quite round Bedford Square without entering Great
Russell Street, which was the way eastwards. A drunken man was holding
on by the railings of the Square. He had apparently been hesitating
for some time whether he could reach the road, and, just as Baruch and
Clara came up to him, he made a lurch towards it, and nearly fell over
them. Clara instinctively seized Baruch's arm in order to avoid the
poor, staggering mortal; they went once more to the right, and began to
complete another circuit. Somehow her arm had been drawn into
Baruch's, and there it remained.
'Have you any friends in London?' said Baruch.
'There are Mrs Caffyn, her son and daughter, and there is Mr A. J.
Scott. He was a friend of my father.'
'You mean the Mr Scott who was Irving's assistant?'
'An addition—' he was about to say, 'an additional bond' but he
corrected himself. 'A bond between us; I know Mr Scott.'
'Do you really? I suppose you know many interesting people in
London, as you are in his circle.'
'Very few; weeks, months have passed since anybody has said as much
to me as you have.'
His voice quivered a little, for he was trembling with an emotion
quite inexplicable by mere intellectual relationship. Something came
through Clara's glove as her hand rested on his wrist which ran through
every nerve and sent the blood into his head.
Clara felt his excitement and dreaded lest he should say something
to which she could give no answer, and when they came opposite Great
Russell Street, she withdrew her arm from his, and began to cross to
the opposite pavement. She turned the conversation towards some
indifferent subject, and in a few minutes they were at Great Ormond
Street. Baruch would not go in as he had intended; he thought it was
about to rain, and he was late. As he went along he became calmer, and
when he was fairly indoors he had passed into a despair entirely
inconsistent—superficially—with the philosopher Baruch, as
inconsistent as the irrational behaviour in Bedford Square. He could
well enough interpret, so he believed, Miss Hopgood's suppression of
him. Ass that he was not to see what he ought to have known so well,
that he was playing the fool to her; he, with a grown-up son, to
pretend to romance with a girl! At that moment she might be mocking
him, or, if she was too good for mockery, she might be contriving to
avoid or to quench him. The next time he met her, he would be made to
understand that he was pitied, and perhaps he would then learn
the name of the youth who was his rival, and had won her. He would
often meet her, no doubt, but of what value would anything he could say
be to her. She could not be expected to make fine distinctions, and
there was a class of elderly men, to which of course he would be
assigned, but the thought was too horrible.
Perhaps his love for Clara might be genuine; perhaps it was not. He
had hoped that as he grew older he might be able really to see a
woman, but he was once more like one of the possessed. It was not
Clara Hopgood who was before him, it was hair, lips, eyes, just as it
was twenty years ago, just as it was with the commonest shop-boy he
met, who had escaped from the counter, and was waiting at an area
gate. It was terrible to him to find that he had so nearly lost his
self-control, but upon this point he was unjust to himself, for we are
often more distinctly aware of the strength of the temptation than of
the authority within us, which falteringly, but decisively, enables us
at last to resist it.
Then he fell to meditating how little his studies had done for him.
What was the use of them? They had not made him any stronger, and he
was no better able than other people to resist temptation. After
twenty years continuous labour he found himself capable of the
vulgarest, coarsest faults and failings from which the remotest skiey
influence in his begetting might have saved him.
Clara was not as Baruch. No such storm as that which had darkened
and disheartened him could pass over her, but she could love, perhaps
better than he, and she began to love him. It was very natural to a
woman such as Clara, for she had met a man who had said to her that
what she believed was really of some worth. Her father and mother had
been very dear to her; her sister was very dear to her, but she had
never received any such recognition as that which had now been offered
to her: her own self had never been returned to her with such honour.
She thought, too—why should she not think it?—of the future, of the
release from her dreary occupation, of a happy home with independence,
and she thought of the children that might be. She lay down without
any misgiving. She was sure he was in love with her; she did not know
much of him, certainly, in the usual meaning of the word, but she knew
enough. She would like to find out more of his history; perhaps
without exciting suspicion she might obtain it from Mrs Caffyn.
Mr Frank Palmer was back again in England. He was much distressed
when he received that last letter from Mrs Caffyn, and discovered that
Madge's resolution not to write remained unshaken. He was really
distressed, but he was not the man upon whom an event, however deeply
felt at the time, could score a furrow which could not be obliterated.
If he had been a dramatic personage, what had happened to him would
have been the second act leading to a fifth, in which the Fates would
have appeared, but life seldom arranges itself in proper poetic form.
A man determines that he must marry; he makes the shop-girl an
allowance, never sees her or her child again, transforms himself into a
model husband, is beloved by his wife and family; the woman whom he
kissed as he will never kiss his lawful partner, withdraws completely,
and nothing happens to him.
Frank was sure he could never love anybody as he had loved Madge,
nor could he cut indifferently that other cord which bound him to her.
Nobody in society expects the same paternal love for the offspring of a
housemaid or a sempstress as for the child of the stockbroker's or
brewer's daughter, and nobody expects the same obligations, but Frank
was not a society youth, and Madge was his equal. A score of times,
when his fancy roved, the rope checked him as suddenly as if it were
the lasso of a South American Gaucho. But what could he do? that was
the point. There were one or two things which he could have done,
perhaps, and one or two things which he could not have done if he had
been made of different stuff; but there was nothing more to be done
which Frank Palmer could do. After all, it was better that Madge
should be the child's mother than that it should belong to some
peasant. At least it would be properly educated. As to money, Mrs
Caffyn had told him expressly that she did not want it. That might be
nothing but pride, and he resolved, without very clearly seeing how,
and without troubling himself for the moment as to details, that Madge
should be entirely and handsomely supported by him. Meanwhile it was
of great importance that he should behave in such a manner as to raise
no suspicion. He did not particularly care for some time after his
return from Germany to go out to the musical parties to which he was
constantly invited, but he went as a duty, and wherever he went he met
his charming cousin. They always sang together; they had easy
opportunities of practising together, and Frank, although nothing
definite was said to him, soon found that his family and hers
considered him destined for her. He could not retreat, and there was
no surprise manifested by anybody when it was rumoured that they were
engaged. His story may as well be finished at once. He and Miss
Cecilia Morland were married. A few days before the wedding, when some
legal arrangements and settlements were necessary, Frank made one last
effort to secure an income for Madge, but it failed. Mrs Caffyn met
him by appointment, but he could not persuade her even to be the bearer
of a message to Madge. He then determined to confess his fears. To
his great relief Mrs Caffyn of her own accord assured him that he never
need dread any disturbance or betrayal.
'There are three of us,' she said, 'as knows you—Miss Madge, Miss
Clara and myself—and, as far as you are concerned, we are dead and
buried. I can't say as I was altogether of Miss Madge's way of looking
at it at first, and I thought it ought to have been different, though I
believe now as she's right, but,' and the old woman suddenly fired up
as if some bolt from heaven had kindled her, 'I pity you, sir—you,
sir, I say—more nor I do her. You little know what you've lost, the
blessedest, sweetest, ah, and the cleverest creature, too, as ever I
set eyes on.'
'But, Mrs Caffyn,' said Frank, with much emotion, 'it was not I who
left her, you know it was not, and, and even—'
The word 'now' was coming, but it did not come.
'Ah,' said Mrs Caffyn, with something like scorn, 'I know,
yes, I do know. It was she, you needn't tell me that, but,
God-a-mighty in heaven, if I'd been you, I'd have laid myself on the
ground afore her, I'd have tore my heart out for her, and I'd have
said, "No other woman in this world but you"—but there, what a fool I
am! Goodbye, Mr Palmer.'
She marched away, leaving Frank very miserable, and, as he imagined,
unsettled, but he was not so. The fit lasted all day, but when he was
walking home that evening, he met a poor friend whose wife was dying.
'I am so grieved,' said Frank 'to hear of your trouble—no hope?'
'None, I am afraid.'
'It is very dreadful.'
'Yes, it is hard to bear, but to what is inevitable we must submit.'
This new phrase struck Frank very much, and it seemed very
philosophic to him, a maxim, for guidance through life. It did not
strike him that it was generally either a platitude or an excuse for
weakness, and that a nobler duty is to find out what is inevitable and
what is not, to declare boldly that what the world oftentimes affirms
to be inevitable is really evitable, and heroically to set about making
it so. Even if revolt be perfectly useless, we are not particularly
drawn to a man who prostrates himself too soon and is incapable of a
As it was impossible to provide for Madge and the child now, Frank
considered whether he could not do something for them in the will which
he had to make before his marriage. He might help his daughter if he
could not help the mother.
But his wife would perhaps survive him, and the discovery would
cause her and her children much misery; it would damage his character
with them and inflict positive moral mischief. The will, therefore,
did not mention Madge, and it was not necessary to tell his secret to
The wedding took place amidst much rejoicing; everybody thought the
couple were most delightfully matched; the presents were magnificent;
the happy pair went to Switzerland, came back and settled in one of the
smaller of the old, red brick houses in Stoke Newington, with a lawn in
front, always shaved and trimmed to the last degree of smoothness and
accuracy, with paths on whose gravel not the smallest weed was ever
seen, and with a hot-house that provided the most luscious black
grapes. There was a grand piano in the drawing-room, and Frank and
Cecilia became more musical than ever, and Waltham Lodge was the
headquarters of a little amateur orchestra which practised Mozart and
Haydn, and gave local concerts. A twelvemonth after the marriage a son
was born and Frank's father increased Frank's share in the business.
Mr Palmer had long ceased to take any interest in the Hopgoods. He
considered that Madge had treated Frank shamefully in jilting him, but
was convinced that he was fortunate in his escape. It was clear that
she was unstable; she probably threw him overboard for somebody more
attractive, and she was not the woman to be a wife to his son.
One day Cecilia was turning out some drawers belonging to her
husband, and she found a dainty little slipper wrapped up in white
tissue paper. She looked at it for a long time, wondering to whom it
could have belonged, and had half a mind to announce her discovery to
Frank, but she was a wise woman and forbore. It lay underneath some
neckties which were not now worn, two or three silk pocket
handkerchiefs also discarded, and some manuscript books containing
school themes. She placed them on the top of the drawers as if they
had all been taken out in a lump and the slipper was at the bottom.
'Frank my dear,' she said after dinner, 'I emptied this morning one
of the drawers in the attic. I wish you would look over the things and
decide what you wish to keep. I have not examined them, but they seem
to be mostly rubbish.'
He went upstairs after he had smoked his cigar and read his paper.
There was the slipper! It all came back to him, that
never-to-be-forgotten night, when she rebuked him for the folly of
kissing her foot, and he begged the slipper and determined to preserve
it for ever, and thought how delightful it would be to take it out and
look at it when he was an old man. Even now he did not like to destroy
it, but Cecilia might have seen it and might ask him what he had done
with it, and what could he say? Finally he decided to burn it. There
was no fire, however, in the room, and while he stood meditating,
Cecilia called him. He replaced the slipper in the drawer. He could
not return that evening, but he intended to go back the next morning,
take the little parcel away in his pocket and burn it at his office.
At breakfast some letters came which put everything else out of mind.
The first thing he did that evening was to revisit the garret, but the
slipper had gone. Cecilia had been there and had found it carefully
folded up in the drawer. She pulled it out, snipped and tore it into
fifty pieces, carried them downstairs, threw them on the dining-room
fire, sat down before it, poking them further and further into the
flames, and watched them till every vestige had vanished. Frank did
not like to make any inquiries; Cecilia made none, and thence-forward
no trace existed at Waltham Lodge of Madge Hopgood.
Baruch went neither to Barnes's shop nor to the Marshalls for nearly
a month. One Sunday morning he was poring over the Moreh Nevochim
, for it had proved too powerful a temptation for him, and he fell upon
the theorem that without God the Universe could not continue to exist,
for God is its Form. It was one of those sayings which may be nothing
or much to the reader. Whether it be nothing or much depends upon the
quality of his mind.
There was certainly nothing in it particularly adapted to Baruch's
condition at that moment, but an antidote may be none the less
efficacious because it is not direct. It removed him to another
region. It was like the sight and sound of the sea to the man who has
been in trouble in an inland city. His self-confidence was restored,
for he to whom an idea is revealed becomes the idea, and is no longer
personal and consequently poor.
His room seemed too small for him; he shut his book and went to
Great Ormond Street. He found there Marshall, Mrs Caffyn, Clara and a
friend of Marshall's named Dennis.
'Where is your wife?' said Baruch to Marshall.
'Gone with Miss Madge to the Catholic chapel to hear a mass of
'Yes,' said Mrs Caffyn. 'I tell them they'll turn Papists if they
do not mind. They are always going to that place, and there's no
knowing, so I've hear'd, what them priests can do. They aren't like
our parsons. Catch that man at Great Oakhurst a-turnin' anybody.'
'I suppose,' said Baruch to Clara, 'it is the music takes your
'Mainly, I believe, but perhaps not entirely.'
'What other attraction can there be?'
'I am not in the least disposed to become a convert. Once for all,
Catholicism is incredible and that is sufficient, but there is much in
its ritual which suits me. There is no such intrusion of the person of
the minister as there is in the Church of England, and still worse
amongst dissenters. In the Catholic service the priest is nothing; it
is his office which is everything; he is a mere means of
communication. The mass, in so far as it proclaims that miracle is not
dead, is also very impressive to me.'
'I do not quite understand you,' said Marshall, 'but if you once
chuck your reason overboard, you may just as well be Catholic as
Protestant. Nothing can be more ridiculous than the Protestant
objection, on the ground of absurdity, to the story of the saint
walking about with his head under his arm.'
The tea things had been cleared away, and Marshall was smoking.
Both he and Dennis were Chartists, and Baruch had interrupted a debate
upon a speech delivered at a Chartist meeting that morning by Henry
Frederick Dennis was about thirty, tall and rather loose-limbed. He
wore loose clothes, his neck-cloth was tied in a big, loose knot, his
feet were large and his boots were heavy. His face was quite smooth,
and his hair, which was very thick and light brown, fell across his
forehead in a heavy wave with just two complete undulations in it from
the parting at the side to the opposite ear. It had a trick of
tumbling over his eyes, so that his fingers were continually passed
through it to brush it away. He was a wood engraver, or, as he
preferred to call himself, an artist, but he also wrote for the
newspapers, and had been a contributor to the Northern Star. He
was well brought up and was intended for the University, but he did not
stick to his Latin and Greek, and as he showed some talent for drawing
he was permitted to follow his bent. His work, however, was not of
first-rate quality, and consequently orders were not abundant. This
was the reason why he had turned to literature. When he had any books
to illustrate he lived upon what they brought him, and when there were
no books he renewed his acquaintance with politics. If books and
newspapers both failed, he subsisted on a little money which had been
left him, stayed with friends as long as he could, and amused himself
by writing verses which showed much command over rhyme.
'I cannot stand Vincent,' said Marshall, 'he is too flowery for me,
and he does not belong to the people. He is middle-class to the
'He is deficient in ideas,' said Dennis.
'It is odd,' continued Marshall, turning to Cohen, 'that your race
never takes any interest in politics.'
'My race is not a nation, or, if a nation, has no national home. It
took an interest in politics when it was in its own country, and
produced some rather remarkable political writing.'
'But why do you care so little for what is going on now?'
'I do care, but all people are not born to be agitators, and,
furthermore, I have doubts if the Charter will accomplish all you
'I know what is coming'—Marshall took the pipe out of his mouth
and spoke with perceptible sarcasm—'the inefficiency of merely
external remedies, the folly of any attempt at improvement which does
not begin with the improvement of individual character, and that those
to whom we intend to give power are no better than those from whom we
intend to take it away. All very well, Mr Cohen. My answer is that at
the present moment the stockingers in Leicester are earning four
shillings and sixpence a week. It is not a question whether they are
better or worse than their rulers. They want something to eat, they
have nothing, and their masters have more than they can eat.'
'Apart altogether from purely material reasons,' said Dennis, 'we
have rights; we are born into this planet without our consent, and,
therefore, we may make certain demands.'
'Do you not think,' said Clara, 'that the repeal of the corn laws
will help you?'
Dennis smiled and was about to reply, but Marshall broke out
'Repeal of the corn laws is a contemptible device of manufacturing
selfishness. It means low wages. Do you suppose the great Manchester
cotton lords care one straw for their hands? Not they! They will face
a revolution for repeal because it will enable them to grind an extra
profit out of us.'
'I agree with you entirely,' said Dennis, turning to Clara, 'that a
tax upon food is wrong; it is wrong in the abstract. The notion of
taxing bread, the fruit of the earth, is most repulsive; but the point
is—what is our policy to be? If a certain end is to be achieved, we
must neglect subordinate ends, and, at times, even contradict what our
own principles would appear to dictate. That is the secret of
He took up the poker and stirred the fire.
'That will do, Dennis,' said Marshall, who was evidently fidgety.
'The room is rather warm. There's nothing in Vincent which irritates
me more than those bits of poetry with which he winds up.
"God made the man—man made the slave,"
and all that stuff. If God made the man, God made the slave. I
know what Vincent's little game is, and it is the same game with all
his set. They want to keep Chartism religious, but we shall see. Let
us once get the six points, and the Established Church will go, and we
shall have secular education, and in a generation there will not be one
'Theological superstition, you mean?' said Clara.
'Yes, of course, what others are there worth notice?'
'A few. The superstition of the ordinary newspaper reader is just
as profound, and the tyranny of the majority may be just as injurious
as the superstition of a Spanish peasant, or the tyranny of the
'Newspapers will not burn people as the priests did and would do
again if they had the power, and they do not insult us with fables and
a hell and a heaven.'
'I maintain,' said Clara with emphasis, 'that if a man declines to
examine, and takes for granted what a party leader or a newspaper tells
him, he has no case against the man who declines to examine, or takes
for granted what the priest tells him. Besides, although, as you know,
I am not a convert myself, I do lose a little patience when I hear it
preached as a gospel to every poor conceited creature who goes to your
Sunday evening atheist lecture, that he is to believe nothing on one
particular subject which his own precious intellect cannot verify, and
the next morning he finds it to be his duty to swallow wholesale
anything you please to put into his mouth. As to the tyranny, the day
may come, and I believe is approaching, when the majority will be found
to be more dangerous than any ecclesiastical establishment which ever
Baruch's lips moved, but he was silent. He was not strong in
argument. He was thinking about Marshall's triumphant inquiry whether
God is not responsible for slavery. He would have liked to say
something on that subject, but he had nothing ready.
'Practical people,' said Dennis, who had not quite recovered from
the rebuke as to the warmth of the room, 'are often most unpractical
and injudicious. Nothing can be more unwise than to mix up politics
and religion. If you do,' Dennis waved his hand, 'you will have
all the religious people against you. My friend Marshall, Miss
Hopgood, is under the illusion that the Church in this country is
tottering to its fall. Now, although I myself belong to no sect, I do
not share his illusion; nay, more, I am not sure'—Mr Dennis spoke
slowly, rubbed his chin and looked up at the ceiling—'I am not sure
that there is not something to be said in favour of State endowment—
at least, in a country like Ireland.'
'Come along, Dennis, we shall be late,' said Marshall, and the two
forthwith took their departure in order to attend another meeting.
'Much either of 'em knows about it,' said Mrs Caffyn when they had
gone. 'There's Marshall getting two pounds a week reg'lar, and goes on
talking about people at Leicester, and he has never been in Leicester
in his life; and, as for that Dennis, he knows less than Marshall, for
he does nothing but write for newspapers and draw for picture-books,
never nothing what you may call work, and he does worrit me so whenever
he begins about poor people that I can't sit still. I do know
what the poor is, having lived at Great Oakhurst all these years.'
'You are not a Chartist, then?' said Baruch.
'Me—me a Chartist? No, I ain't, and yet, maybe, I'm something
worse. What would be the use of giving them poor creatures votes?
Why, there isn't one of them as wouldn't hold up his hand for anybody
as would give him a shilling. Quite right of 'em, too, for the one
thing they have to think about from morning to night is how to get a
bit of something to fill their bellies, and they won't fill them by
'But what would you do for them?'
'Ah! that beats me! Hang somebody, but I don't know who it ought to
be. There's a family by the name of Longwood, they live just on the
slope of the hill nigh the Dower Farm, and there's nine of them, and
the youngest when I left was a baby six months old, and their
living-room faces the road so that the north wind blows in right under
the door, and I've seen the snow lie in heaps inside. As reg'lar as
winter comes Longwood is knocked off—no work. I've knowed them not
have a bit of meat for weeks together, and him a-loungin' about at the
corner of the street. Wasn't that enough to make him feel as if
somebody ought to be killed? And Marshall and Dennis say as the proper
thing to do is to give him a vote, and prove to him there was never no
Abraham nor Isaac, and that Jonah never was in a whale's belly, and
that nobody had no business to have more children than he could feed.
And what goes on, and what must go on, inside such a place as
Longwood's, with him and his wife, and with them boys and gals all
huddled together—But I'd better hold my tongue. We'll let the smoke
out of this room, I think, and air it a little.'
She opened the window, and Baruch rose and went home.
Whenever Mrs Caffyn talked about the labourers at Great Oakhurst,
whom she knew so well, Clara always felt as if all her reading had been
a farce, and, indeed, if we come into close contact with actual life,
art, poetry and philosophy seem little better than trifling. When the
mist hangs over the heavy clay land in January, and men and women
shiver in the bitter cold and eat raw turnips, to indulge in fireside
ecstasies over the divine Plato or Shakespeare is surely not such a
virtue as we imagine it to be.
Baruch sat and mused before he went to bed. He had gone out stirred
by an idea, but it was already dead. Then he began to think about
Clara. Who was this Dennis who visited the Marshalls and the
Hopgoods? Oh! for an hour of his youth! Fifteen years ago the word
would have come unbidden if he had seen Clara, but now, in place of the
word, there was hesitation, shame. He must make up his mind to
renounce for ever. But, although this conclusion had forced itself
upon him overnight as inevitable, he could not resist the temptation
when he rose the next morning of plotting to meet Clara, and he walked
up and down the street opposite the shop door that evening nearly a
quarter of an hour, just before closing time, hoping that she might
come out and that he might have the opportunity of overtaking her
apparently by accident. At last, fearing he might miss her, he went in
and found she had a companion whom he instantly knew, before any
induction, to be her sister. Madge was not now the Madge whom we knew
at Fenmarket. She was thinner in the face and paler. Nevertheless,
she was not careless; she was even more particular in her costume, but
it was simpler. If anything, perhaps, she was a little prouder. She
was more attractive, certainly, than she had ever been, although her
face could not be said to be handsomer. The slight prominence of the
cheek-bone, the slight hollow underneath, the loss of colour, were
perhaps defects, but they said something which had a meaning in it
superior to that of the tint of the peach. She had been reading a book
while Clara was balancing her cash, and she attempted to replace it.
The shelf was a little too high, and the volume fell upon the ground.
It contained Shelley's Revolt of Islam.
'Have you read Shelley?' said Baruch.
'Every line—when I was much younger.'
'Do you read him now?'
'Not much. I was an enthusiast for him when I was nineteen, but I
find that his subject matter is rather thin, and his themes are a
little worn. He was entirely enslaved by the ideals of the French
Revolution. Take away what the French Revolution contributed to his
poetry, and there is not much left.'
'As a man he is not very attractive to me.'
'Nor to me; I never shall forgive his treatment of Harriet.'
'I suppose he had ceased to love her, and he thought, therefore, he
was justified in leaving her.'
Madge turned and fixed her eyes, unobserved, on Baruch. He was
looking straight at the bookshelves. There was not, and, indeed, how
could there be, any reference to herself.
'I should put it in this way,' she said, 'that he thought he was
justified in sacrificing a woman for the sake of an impulse.
Call this a defect or a crime—whichever you like—it is repellent to
me. It makes no difference to me to know that he believed the impulse
to be divine.'
'I wish,' interrupted Clara, 'you two would choose less exciting
subjects of conversation; my totals will not come right.'
They were silent, and Baruch, affecting to study a Rollin's Ancient History, wondered, especially when he called to mind Mrs
Caffyn's report, what this girl's history could have been. He
presently recovered himself, and it occurred to him that he ought to
give some reason why he had called. Before, however, he was able to
offer any excuse, Clara closed her book.
'Now, it is right,' she said, 'and I am ready.'
Just at that moment Barnes appeared, hot with hurrying.
'Very sorry, Miss Hopgood, to ask you to stay for a few minutes. I
recollected after I left that the doctor particularly wanted those
books sent off to-night. I should not like to disappoint him. I have
been to the booking-office, and the van will be here in about twenty
minutes. If you will make out the invoice and check me, I will pack
'I will be off,' said Madge. 'The shop will be shut if I do not
'You are not going alone, are you?' said Baruch. 'May I not go with
you, and cannot we both come back for your sister?'
'It is very kind of you.'
Clara looked up from her desk, watched them as they went out at the
door and, for a moment, seemed lost. Barnes turned round.
'Now, Miss Hopgood.' She started.
'Fabricius, J. A. Bibliotheca Ecclesiastica in qua
'I need not put in the last three words.'
'Yes, yes.' Barnes never liked to be corrected in a title.
'There's another Fabricius Bibliotheca or Bibliographia.
Go on—Basili opera ad MSS. codices, 3 vols.'
Clara silently made the entries a little more scholarly. In a
quarter of an hour the parcel was ready and Cohen returned.
'Your sister would not allow me to wait. She met Mrs Marshall; they
said they should have something to carry, and that it was not worth
while to bring it here. I will walk with you, if you will allow me.
We may as well avoid Holborn.'
They turned into Gray's Inn, and, when they were in comparative
quietude, he said,—
'Any Chartist news?' and then without waiting for an answer, 'By the
way, who is your friend Dennis?'
'He is no particular friend of mine. He is a wood-engraver, and
writes also, I believe, for the newspapers.'
'He can talk as well as write.'
'Yes, he can talk very well.'
'Do you not think there was something unreal about what he said?'
'I do not believe he is actually insincere. I have noticed that men
who write or read much often appear somewhat shadowy.'
'How do you account for it?'
'What they say is not experience.'
'I do not quite understand. A man may think much which can never
become an experience in your sense of the word, and be very much in
earnest with what he thinks; the thinking is an experience.'
'Yes, I suppose so, but it is what a person has gone through which I
like to hear. Poor Dennis has suffered much. You are perhaps
surprised, but it is true, and when he leaves politics alone he is a
'I am afraid I must be very uninteresting to you?'
'I did not mean that I care for nothing but my friend's aches and
pains, but that I do not care for what he just takes up and takes on.'
'It is my misfortune that my subjects are not very—I was about to
say—human. Perhaps it is because I am a Jew.'
'I do not know quite what you mean by your "subjects," but if you
mean philosophy and religion, they are human.'
'If they are, very few people like to hear anything about them. Do
you know, Miss Hopgood, I can never talk to anybody as I can to you.'
Clara made no reply. A husband was to be had for a look, for a
touch, a husband whom she could love, a husband who could give her all
her intellect demanded. A little house rose before her eyes as if by
Arabian enchantment; there was a bright fire on the hearth, and there
were children round it; without the look, the touch, there would be
solitude, silence and a childless old age, so much more to be feared by
a woman than by a man. Baruch paused, waiting for her answer, and her
tongue actually began to move with a reply, which would have sent his
arm round her, and made them one for ever, but it did not come.
Something fell and flashed before her like lightning from a cloud
overhead, divinely beautiful, but divinely terrible.
'I remember,' she said, 'that I have to call in Lamb's Conduit
Street to buy something for my sister. I shall just be in time.'
Baruch went as far as Lamb's Conduit Street with her. He, too, would
have determined his own destiny if she had uttered the word, but the
power to proceed without it was wanting and he fell back. He left her
at the door of the shop. She bid him good-bye, obviously intending
that he should go no further with her, and he shook hands with her,
taking her hand again and shaking it again with a grasp which she knew
well enough was too fervent for mere friendship. He then wandered back
once more to his old room at Clerkenwell. The fire was dead, he
stirred it, the cinders fell through the grate and it dropped out all
together. He made no attempt to rekindle it, but sat staring at the
black ashes, not thinking, but dreaming. Thirty years more perhaps
with no change! The last chance that he could begin a new life had
disappeared. He cursed himself that nothing drove him out of himself
with Marshall and his fellowmen; that he was not Chartist nor
revolutionary; but it was impossible to create in himself enthusiasm
for a cause. He had tried before to become a patriot and had failed,
and was conscious, during the trial, that he was pretending to be
something he was not and could not be. There was nothing to be done
but to pace the straight road in front of him, which led nowhere, so
far as he could see.
A month afterwards Marshall announced that he intended to pay a
'I am going,' he said, 'to see Mazzini. Who will go with me?'
Clara and Madge were both eager to accompany him. Mrs Caffyn and
Mrs Marshall chose to stay at home.
'I shall ask Cohen to come with us,' said Marshall. 'He has never
seen Mazzini and would like to know him.' Cohen accordingly called one
Sunday evening, and the party went together to a dull, dark, little
house in a shabby street of small shops and furnished apartments. When
they knocked at Mazzini's door Marshall asked for Mr—-- for, even in
England, Mazzini had an assumed name which was always used when
inquiries were made for him. They were shown upstairs into a rather
mean room, and found there a man, really about forty, but looking
older. He had dark hair growing away from his forehead, dark
moustache, dark beard and a singularly serious face. It was not the
face of a conspirator, but that of a saint, although without that just
perceptible touch of silliness which spoils the faces of most saints.
It was the face of a saint of the Reason, of a man who could be
ecstatic for rational ideals, rarest of all endowments. It was the
face, too, of one who knew no fear, or, if he knew it, could crush it.
He was once concealed by a poor woman whose house was surrounded by
Austrian soldiers watching for him. He was determined that she should
not be sacrificed, and, having disguised himself a little, walked out
into the street in broad daylight, went up to the Austrian sentry,
asked for a light for his cigar and escaped. He was cordial in his
reception of his visitors, particularly of Clara, Madge and Cohen, whom
he had not seen before.
'The English,' he said, after some preliminary conversation, 'are a
curious people. As a nation they are what they call practical and have
a contempt for ideas, but I have known some Englishmen who have a
religious belief in them, a nobler belief than I have found in any
other nation. There are English women, also, who have this faith, and
one or two are amongst my dearest friends.'
'I never,' said Marshall, 'quite comprehend you on this point. I
should say that we know as clearly as most folk what we want, and we
mean to have it.'
'That may be, but it is not Justice, as Justice which inspires you.
Those of you who have not enough, desire to have more, that is all.'
'If we are to succeed, we must preach what the people understand.'
'Pardon me, that is just where you and I differ. Whenever any real
good is done it is by a crusade; that is to say, the cross must be
raised and appeal be made to something above the people. No
system based on rights will stand. Never will society be permanent
till it is founded on duty. If we consider our rights exclusively, we
extend them over the rights of our neighbours. If the oppressed
classes had the power to obtain their rights to-morrow, and with the
rights came no deeper sense of duty, the new order, for the simple
reason that the oppressed are no better than their oppressors, would be
just as unstable as that which preceded it.'
'To put it in my own language,' said Madge, 'you believe in God.'
Mazzini leaned forward and looked earnestly at her.
'My dear young friend, without that belief I should have no other.'
'I should like, though,' said Marshall, 'to see the church which
would acknowledge you and Miss Madge, or would admit your God to be
'What is essential,' replied Madge, 'in a belief in God is absolute
loyalty to a principle we know to have authority.'
'It may, perhaps,' said Mazzini, 'be more to me, but you are right,
it is a belief in the supremacy and ultimate victory of the conscience.'
'The victory seems distant in Italy now,' said Baruch. 'I do not
mean the millennial victory of which you speak, but an approximation to
it by the overthrow of tyranny there.'
'You are mistaken; it is far nearer than you imagine.'
'Do you obtain,' said Clara, 'any real help from people here? Do
you not find that they merely talk and express what they call their
'I must not say what help I have received; more than words, though,
'You expect, then,' said Baruch, 'that the Italians will answer your
'If I had no faith in the people, I do not see what faith could
'The people are the persons you meet in the street.'
'A people is not a mere assemblage of uninteresting units, but it is
not a phantom. A spirit lives in each nation which is superior to any
individual in it. It is this which is the true reality, the nation's
purpose and destiny, it is this for which the patriot lives and dies.'
'I suppose,' said Clara, 'you have no difficulty in obtaining
volunteers for any dangerous enterprise?'
'None. You would be amazed if I were to tell you how many men and
women at this very moment would go to meet certain death if I were to
'Oh, yes; and women are of the greatest use, but it is rather
difficult to find those who have the necessary qualifications.'
'I suppose you employ them in order to obtain secret information?'
'Yes; amongst the Austrians.'
The party broke up. Baruch manuvred to walk with Clara, but
Marshall wanted to borrow a book from Mazzini, and she stayed behind
for him. Madge was outside in the street, and Baruch could do nothing
but go to her. She seemed unwilling to wait, and Baruch and she went
slowly homewards, thinking the others would overtake them. The
conversation naturally turned upon Mazzini.
'Although,' said Madge, 'I have never seen him before, I have heard
much about him and he makes me sad.'
'Because he has done something worth doing and will do more.'
'But why should that make you sad?'
'I do not think there is anything sadder than to know you are able
to do a little good and would like to do it, and yet you are not
permitted to do it. Mazzini has a world open to him large enough for
the exercise of all his powers.'
'It is worse to have a desire which is intense but not definite, to
be continually anxious to do something, you know not what, and always
to feel, if any distinct task is offered, your incapability of
'A man, if he has a real desire to be of any service, can generally
gratify it to some extent; a woman as a rule cannot, although a woman's
enthusiasm is deeper than a man's. You can join Mazzini to-morrow, I
suppose, if you like.'
'It is a supposition not quite justifiable, and if I were free to go
I could not.'
'I am not fitted for such work; I have not sufficient faith. When I
see a flag waving, a doubt always intrudes. Long ago I was forced to
the conclusion that I should have to be content with a life which did
not extend outside itself.'
'I am sure that many women blunder into the wrong path, not because
they are bad, but simply because—if I may say so—they are too good.'
'Maybe you are right. The inability to obtain mere pleasure has not
produced the misery which has been begotten of mistaken or baffled
self-sacrifice. But do you mean to say that you would like to enlist
Baruch thought she referred to her child, and he was silent.
'You are a philosopher,' said Madge, after a pause. 'Have you never
discovered anything which will enable us to submit to be useless?'
'That is to say, have I discovered a religion? for the core of
religion is the relationship of the individual to the whole, the faith
that the poorest and meanest of us is a person. That is the real
strength of all religions.'
'Well, go on; what do you believe?'
'I can only say it like a creed; I have no demonstration, at least
none such as I would venture to put into words. Perhaps the highest of
all truths is incapable of demonstration and can only be stated.
Perhaps, also, the statement, at least to some of us, is a sufficient
demonstration. I believe that inability to imagine a thing is not a
reason for its non-existence. If the infinite is a conclusion which is
forced upon me, the fact that I cannot picture it does not disprove
it. I believe, also, in thought and the soul, and it is nothing to me
that I cannot explain them by attributes belonging to body. That being
so, the difficulties which arise from the perpetual and unconscious
confusion of the qualities of thought and soul with those of body
disappear. Our imagination represents to itself souls like pebbles,
and asks itself what count can be kept of a million, but number in such
a case is inapplicable. I believe that all thought is a manifestation
of the Being, who is One, whom you may call God if you like, and that,
as It never was created, It will never be destroyed.'
'But,' said Madge, interrupting him, 'although you began by warning
me not to expect that you would prove anything, you can tell me whether
you have any kind of basis for what you say, or whether it is all a
'You will be surprised, perhaps, to hear that mathematics, which, of
course, I had to learn for my own business, have supplied something for
a foundation. They lead to ideas which are inconsistent with the
notion that the imagination is a measure of all things. Mind, I do not
for a moment pretend that I have any theory which explains the
universe. It is something, however, to know that the sky is as real as
They had now reached Great Ormond Street, and parted. Clara and
Marshall were about five minutes behind them. Madge was unusually
cheerful when they sat down to supper.
'Clara,' she said, 'what made you so silent to-night at Mazzini's?'
Clara did not reply, but after a pause of a minute or two, she asked
Mrs Caffyn whether it would not be possible for them all to go into the
country on Whitmonday? Whitsuntide was late; it would be warm, and
they could take their food with them and eat it out of doors.
'Just the very thing, my dear, if we could get anything cheap to
take us; the baby, of course, must go with us.
'I should like above everything to go to Great Oakhurst.'
'What, five of us—twenty miles there and twenty miles back!
Besides, although I love the place, it isn't exactly what one would go
to see just for a day. No! Letherhead or Mickleham or Darkin would be
ever so much better. They are too far, though, and, then, that man
Baruch must go with us. He'd be company for Marshall, and he sticks up
in Clerkenwell and never goes nowhere. You remember as Marshall said
as he must ask him the next time we had an outing.'
Clara had not forgotten it.
'Ah,' continued Mrs Caffyn, 'I should just love to show you
Mrs Caffyn's heart yearned after her Surrey land. The man who is
born in a town does not know what it is to be haunted through life by
lovely visions of the landscape which lay about him when he was young.
The village youth leaves the home of his childhood for the city, but
the river doubling on itself, the overhanging alders and willows, the
fringe of level meadow, the chalk hills bounding the river valley and
rising against the sky, with here and there on their summits solitary
clusters of beech, the light and peace of the different seasons, of
morning, afternoon and evening, never forsake him. To think of them is
not a mere luxury; their presence modifies the whole of his life.
'I don't see how it is to be managed,' she mused; 'and yet there's
nothing near London as I'd give two pins to see. There's Richmond as
we went to one Sunday; it was no better, to my way of thinking, than
looking at a picture. I'd ever so much sooner be a-walking across the
turnips by the footpath from Darkin home.'
'Couldn't we, for once in a way, stay somewhere over-night?'
'It might as well be two,' said Mrs Marshall; 'Saturday and Sunday.'
'Two,' said Madge; 'I vote for two.'
'Wait a bit, my dears, we're a precious awkward lot to fit in—
Marshall and his wife me and you and Miss Clara and the baby; and then
there's Baruch, who's odd man, so to speak; that's three bedrooms. We
sha'n't do it—Otherwise, I was a-thinking—'
'What were you thinking?' said Marshall.
'I've got it,' said Mrs Caffyn, joyously. 'Miss Clara and me will
go to Great Oakhurst on the Friday. We can easy enough stay at my old
shop. Marshall and Sarah, Miss Madge, the baby and Baruch can go to
Letherhead on the Saturday morning. The two women and the baby can
have one of the rooms at Skelton's, and Marshall and Baruch can have
the other. Then, on Sunday morning, Miss Clara and me we'll come over
for you, and we'll all walk through Norbury Park. That'll be ever so
much better in many ways. Miss Clara and me, we'll go by the coach.
Six of us, not reckoning the baby, in that heavy ginger-beer cart of
Masterman's would be too much.'
'An expensive holiday, rather,' said Marshall.
'Leave that to me; that's my business. I ain't quite a beggar, and
if we can't take our pleasure once a year, it's a pity. We aren't like
some folk as messes about up to Hampstead every Sunday, and spends a
fortune on shrimps and donkeys. No; when I go away, it is away,
maybe it's only for a couple of days, where I can see a blessed
ploughed field; no shrimps nor donkeys for me.'
So it was settled, and on the Friday Clara and Mrs Caffyn journeyed
to Great Oakhurst. They were both tired, and went to bed very early,
in order that they might enjoy the next day. Clara, always a light
sleeper, woke between three and four, rose and went to the little
casement window which had been open all night. Below her, on the left,
the church was just discernible, and on the right, the broad chalk
uplands leaned to the south, and were waving with green barley and
wheat. Underneath her lay the cottage garden, with its row of beehives
in the north-east corner, sheltered from the cold winds by the thick
hedge. It had evidently been raining a little, for the drops hung on
the currant bushes, but the clouds had been driven by the
south-westerly wind into the eastern sky, where they lay in a long,
low, grey band. Not a sound was to be heard, save every now and then
the crow of a cock or the short cry of a just-awakened thrush. High up
on the zenith, the approach of the sun to the horizon was proclaimed by
the most delicate tints of rose-colour, but the cloud-bank above him
was dark and untouched, although the blue which was over it, was every
moment becoming paler. Clara watched; she was moved even to tears by
the beauty of the scene, but she was stirred by something more than
beauty, just as he who was in the Spirit and beheld a throne and One
sitting thereon, saw something more than loveliness, although He was
radiant with the colour of jasper and there was a rainbow round about
Him like an emerald to look upon. In a few moments the highest top of
the cloud-rampart was kindled, and the whole wavy outline became a
fringe of flame. In a few moments more the fire just at one point
became blinding, and in another second the sun emerged, the first
arrowy shaft passed into her chamber, the first shadow was cast, and it
was day. She put her hands to her face; the tears fell faster, but she
wiped them away and her great purpose was fixed. She crept back into
bed, her agitation ceased, a strange and almost supernatural peace
overshadowed her and she fell asleep not to wake till the sound of the
scythe had ceased in the meadow just beyond the rick-yard that came up
to one side of the cottage, and the mowers were at their breakfast.
Neither Mrs Caffyn nor Clara thought of seeing the Letherhead party
on Saturday. They could not arrive before the afternoon, and it was
considered hardly worth while to walk from Great Oakhurst to Letherhead
merely for the sake of an hour or two. In the morning Mrs Caffyn was
so busy with her old friends that she rather tired herself, and in the
evening Clara went for a stroll. She did not know the country, but she
wandered on until she came to a lane which led down to the river. At
the bottom of the lane she found herself at a narrow, steep, stone
bridge. She had not been there more than three or four minutes before
she descried two persons coming down the lane from Letherhead. When
they were about a couple of hundred yards from her they turned into the
meadow over the stile, and struck the river-bank some distance below
the point where she was. It was impossible to mistake them; they were
Madge and Baruch. They sauntered leisurely; presently Baruch knelt
down over the water, apparently to gather something which he gave to
Madge. They then crossed another stile and were lost behind the tall
hedge which stopped further view of the footpath in that direction.
'The message then was authentic,' she said to herself. 'I thought I
could not have misunderstood it.'
On Sunday morning Clara wished to stay at home. She pleaded that
she preferred rest, but Mrs Caffyn vowed there should be no Norbury
Park if Clara did not go, and the kind creature managed to persuade a
pig-dealer to drive them over to Letherhead for a small sum,
notwithstanding it was Sunday. The whole party then set out; the baby
was drawn in a borrowed carriage which also took the provisions, and
they were fairly out of the town before the Letherhead bells had ceased
ringing for church. It was one of the sweetest of Sundays, sunny, but
masses of white clouds now and then broke the heat. The park was
reached early in the forenoon, and it was agreed that dinner should be
served under one of the huge beech trees at the lower end, as the hill
was a little too steep for the baby-carriage in the hot sun.
'This is very beautiful,' said Marshall, when dinner was over, 'but
it is not what we came to see. We ought to move upwards to the Druid's
'Yes, you be off, the whole lot of you,' said Mrs Caffyn. 'I know
every tree there, and I ain't going there this afternoon. Somebody
must stay here to look after the baby; you can't wheel her, you'll have
to carry her, and you won't enjoy yourselves much more for moiling
along with her up that hill.'
'I will stay with you,' said Clara.
Everybody protested, but Clara was firm. She was tired, and the sun
had given her a headache. Madge pleaded that it was she who ought to
remain behind, but at last gave way for her sister looked really
'There's a dear child,' said Clara, when Madge consented to go. 'I
shall lie on the grass and perhaps go to sleep.'
'It is a pity,' said Baruch to Madge as they went away, 'that we are
separated; we must come again.'
'Yes, I am sorry, but perhaps it is better she should be where she
is; she is not particularly strong, and is obliged to be very careful.'
In due time they all came to the famous yews, and sat down on one of
the seats overlooking that wonderful gate in the chalk downs through
which the Mole passes northwards.
'We must go,' said Marshall, 'a little bit further and see the oak.'
'Not another step,' said his wife. 'You can go it you like.'
'Content; nothing could be pleasanter than to sit here,' and he
pulled out his pipe; 'but really, Miss Madge, to leave Norbury without
paying a visit to the oak is a pity.'
He did not offer, however, to accompany her.
'It is the most extraordinary tree in these parts,' said Baruch; 'of
incalculable age and with branches spreading into a tent big enough to
cover a regiment. Marshall is quite right.'
'Where is it?'
'Not above a couple of hundred yards further; just round the corner.'
Madge rose and looked.
'No; it is not visible here; it stands a little way back. If you
come a little further you will catch a glimpse of it.'
She followed him and presently the oak came in view. They climbed
up the bank and went nearer to it. The whole vale was underneath them
and part of the weald with the Sussex downs blue in the distance.
Baruch was not much given to raptures over scenery, but the
indifference of Nature to the world's turmoil always appealed to him.
'You are not now discontented because you cannot serve under
There was nothing in her reply on the face of it of any particular
consequence to Baruch. She might simply have intended that the beauty
of the fair landscape extinguished her restlessness, or that she saw
her own unfitness, but neither of these interpretations presented
itself to him.
'I have sometimes thought,' continued Baruch, slowly, 'that the love
of any two persons in this world may fulfil an eternal purpose which is
as necessary to the Universe as a great revolution.'
Madge's eyes moved round from the hills and they met Baruch's. No
syllable was uttered, but swiftest messages passed, question and
answer. There was no hesitation on his part now, no doubt, the woman
and the moment had come. The last question was put, the final answer
was given; he took her hand in his and came closer to her.
'Stop!' she whispered, 'do you know my history?'
He did not reply, but fell upon her neck. This was the goal to
which both had been journeying all these years, although with much
weary mistaking of roads; this was what from the beginning was designed
for both! Happy Madge! happy Baruch! There are some so closely akin
that the meaning of each may be said to lie in the other, who do not
approach till it is too late. They travel towards one another, but are
waylaid and detained, and just as they are within greeting, one of them
drops and dies.
They left the tree and went back to the Marshalls, and then down the
hill to Mrs Caffyn and Clara. Clara was much better for her rest, and
early in the evening the whole party returned to Letherhead, Clara and
Mrs Caffyn going on to Great Oakhurst. Madge kept close to her sister
till they separated, and the two men walked together. On Whitmonday
morning the Letherhead people came over to Great Oakhurst. They had to
go back to London in the afternoon, but Mrs Caffyn and Clara were to
stay till Tuesday, as they stood a better chance of securing places by
the coach on that day. Mrs Caffyn had as much to show them as if the
village had been the Tower of London. The wonder of wonders, however,
was a big house, where she was well known, and its hot-houses. Madge
wanted to speak to Clara, but it was difficult to find a private
opportunity. When they were in the garden, however, she managed to
take Clara unobserved down one of the twisted paths, under pretence of
admiring an ancient mulberry tree.
'Clara,' she said, 'I want a word with you. Baruch Cohen loves me.'
'Do you love him?'
'Without a shadow of a doubt?'
'Without a shadow of a doubt.'
Clara put her arm round her sister, kissed her tenderly and said,—
'Then I am perfectly happy.'
'Did you suspect it?'
'I knew it.'
Mrs Caffyn called them; it was time to be moving, and soon
afterwards those who had to go to London that afternoon left for
Letherhead. Clara stood at the gate for a long time watching them
along the straight, white road. They came to the top of the hill; she
could just discern them against the sky; they passed over the ridge and
she went indoors. In the evening a friend called to see Mrs Caffyn,
and Clara went to the stone bridge which she had visited on Saturday.
The water on the upper side of the bridge was dammed up and fell over
the little sluice gates under the arches into a clear and deep basin
about forty or fifty feet in diameter. The river, for some reason of
its own, had bitten into the western bank, and had scooped out a great
piece of it into an island. The main current went round the island
with a shallow, swift ripple, instead of going through the pool, as it
might have done, for there was a clear channel for it. The centre and
the region under the island were deep and still, but at the farther
end, where the river in passing called to the pool, it broke into waves
as it answered the appeal, and added its own contribution to the
stream, which went away down to the mill and onwards to the big
Thames. On the island were aspens and alders. The floods had loosened
the roots of the largest tree, and it hung over heavily in the
direction in which it had yielded to the rush of the torrent, but it
still held its grip, and the sap had not forsaken a single branch.
Every one was as dense with foliage as if there had been no struggle
for life, and the leaves sang their sweet song, just perceptible for a
moment every now and then in the variations of the louder music below
them. It is curious that the sound of a weir is never uniform, but is
perpetually changing in the ear even of a person who stands close by
it. One of the arches of the bridge was dry, and Clara went down into
it, stood at the edge and watched that wonderful sight—the plunge of
a smooth, pure stream into the great cup which it has hollowed out for
itself. Down it went, with a dancing, foamy fringe playing round it
just where it met the surface; a dozen yards away it rose again,
bubbling and exultant.
She came up from the arch and went home as the sun was setting. She
found Mrs Caffyn alone.
'I have news to tell you,' she said. 'Baruch Cohen is in love with
my sister, and she is in love with him.'
'The Lord, Miss Clara! I thought sometimes that perhaps it might be
you; but there, it's better, maybe, as it is, for—'
'Why, my dear, because somebody's sure to turn up who'll make you
happy, but there aren't many men like Baruch. You see what I mean,
don't you? He's always a-reading books, and, therefore, he don't think
so much of what some people would make a fuss about. Not as anything
of that kind would ever stop me, if I were a man and saw such a woman
as Miss Madge. He's really as good a creature as ever was born, and
with that child she might have found it hard to get along, and now it
will be cared for, and so will she be to the end of their lives.'
The evening after their return to Great Ormond Street, Mazzini was
surprised by a visit from Clara alone.
'When I last saw you,' she said, 'you told us that you had been
helped by women. I offer myself.'
'But, my dear madam, you hardly know what the qualifications are.
To begin with, there must be a knowledge of three foreign languages,
French, German and Italian, and the capacity and will to endure great
privation, suffering and, perhaps, death.'
'I was educated abroad, I can speak German and French. I do not
know much Italian, but when I reach Italy I will soon learn.'
'Pardon me for asking you what may appear a rude question. Is it a
personal disappointment which sends you to me, or love for the cause?
It is not uncommon to find that young women, when earthly love is
impossible, attempt to satisfy their cravings with a love for that
which is impersonal.'
'Does it make any difference, so far as their constancy is
'I cannot say that it does. The devotion of many of the martyrs of
the Catholic church was repulsion from the world as much as attraction
to heaven. You must understand that I am not prompted by curiosity.
If you are to be my friend, it is necessary that I should know you
'My motive is perfectly pure.'
They had some further talk and parted. After a few more interviews,
Clara and another English lady started for Italy. Madge had letters
from her sister at intervals for eighteen months, the last being from
Venice. Then they ceased, and shortly afterwards Mazzini told Baruch
that his sister-in-law was dead.
All efforts to obtain more information from Mazzini were in vain,
but one day when her name was mentioned, he said to Madge,—
'The theologians represent the Crucifixion as the most sublime fact
in the world's history. It was sublime, but let us reverence also the
Eternal Christ who is for ever being crucified for our salvation.'
'Father,' said a younger Clara to Baruch some ten years later as she
sat on his knee, 'I had an Aunt Clara once, hadn't I?'
'Yes, my child.'
'Didn't she go to Italy and die there?'
'Why did she go?'
'Because she wanted to free the poor people of Italy who were