by Elizabeth Gaskell
It is a great thing for a lad when he is first turned into the
independence of lodgings. I do not think I ever was so satisfied and
proud in my life as when, at seventeen, I sate down in a little
three-cornered room above a pastry-cook's shop in the county town of
Eltham. My father had left me that afternoon, after delivering himself
of a few plain precepts, strongly expressed, for my guidance in the new
course of life on which I was entering. I was to be a clerk under the
engineer who had undertaken to make the little branch line from Eltham
to Hornby. My father had got me this situation, which was in a position
rather above his own in life; or perhaps I should say, above the
station in which he was born and bred; for he was raising himself every
year in men's consideration and respect. He was a mechanic by trade,
but he had some inventive genius, and a great deal of perseverance, and
had devised several valuable improvements in railway machinery. He did
not do this for profit, though, as was reasonable, what came in the
natural course of things was acceptable; he worked out his ideas,
because, as he said, 'until he could put them into shape, they plagued
him by night and by day.' But this is enough about my dear father; it
is a good thing for a country where there are many like him. He was a
sturdy Independent by descent and conviction; and this it was, I
believe, which made him place me in the lodgings at the pastry-cook's.
The shop was kept by the two sisters of our minister at home; and this
was considered as a sort of safeguard to my morals, when I was turned
loose upon the temptations of the county town, with a salary of thirty
pounds a year.
My father had given up two precious days, and put on his Sunday
clothes, in order to bring me to Eltham, and accompany me first to the
office, to introduce me to my new master (who was under some
obligations to my father for a suggestion), and next to take me to call
on the Independent minister of the little congregation at Eltham. And
then he left me; and though sorry to part with him, I now began to
taste with relish the pleasure of being my own master. I unpacked the
hamper that my mother had provided me with, and smelt the pots of
preserve with all the delight of a possessor who might break into their
contents at any time he pleased. I handled and weighed in my fancy the
home-cured ham, which seemed to promise me interminable feasts; and,
above all, there was the fine savour of knowing that I might eat of
these dainties when I liked, at my sole will, not dependent on the
pleasure of any one else, however indulgent. I stowed my eatables away
in the little corner cupboard—that room was all corners, and
everything was placed in a corner, the fire-place, the window, the
cupboard; I myself seemed to be the only thing in the middle, and there
was hardly room for me. The table was made of a folding leaf under the
window, and the window looked out upon the market-place; so the studies
for the prosecution of which my father had brought himself to pay extra
for a sitting-room for me, ran a considerable chance of being diverted
from books to men and women. I was to have my meals with the two
elderly Miss Dawsons in the little parlour behind the three-cornered
shop downstairs; my breakfasts and dinners at least, for, as my hours
in an evening were likely to be uncertain, my tea or supper was to be
an independent meal.
Then, after this pride and satisfaction, came a sense of
desolation. I had never been from home before, and I was an only child;
and though my father's spoken maxim had been, 'Spare the rod, and spoil
the child', yet, unconsciously, his heart had yearned after me, and his
ways towards me were more tender than he knew, or would have approved
of in himself could he have known. My mother, who never professed
sternness, was far more severe than my father: perhaps my boyish faults
annoyed her more; for I remember, now that I have written the above
words, how she pleaded for me once in my riper years, when I had really
offended against my father's sense of right.
But I have nothing to do with that now. It is about cousin Phillis
that I am going to write, and as yet I am far enough from even saying
who cousin Phillis was.
For some months after I was settled in Eltham, the new employment
in which I was engaged—the new independence of my life—occupied all
my thoughts. I was at my desk by eight o'clock, home to dinner at one,
back at the office by two. The afternoon work was more uncertain than
the morning's; it might be the same, or it might be that I had to
accompany Mr Holdsworth, the managing engineer, to some point on the
line between Eltham and Hornby. This I always enjoyed, because of the
variety, and because of the country we traversed (which was very wild
and pretty), and because I was thrown into companionship with Mr
Holdsworth, who held the position of hero in my boyish mind. He was a
young man of five-and-twenty or so, and was in a station above mine,
both by birth and education; and he had travelled on the Continent, and
wore mustachios and whiskers of a somewhat foreign fashion. I was proud
of being seen with him. He was really a fine fellow in a good number of
ways, and I might have fallen into much worse hands.
Every Saturday I wrote home, telling of my weekly doings—my father
had insisted upon this; but there was so little variety in my life that
I often found it hard work to fill a letter. On Sundays I went twice to
chapel, up a dark narrow entry, to hear droning hymns, and long
prayers, and a still longer sermon, preached to a small congregation,
of which I was, by nearly a score of years, the youngest member.
Occasionally, Mr Peters, the minister, would ask me home to tea after
the second service. I dreaded the honour, for I usually sate on the
edge of my chair all the evening, and answered solemn questions, put in
a deep bass voice, until household prayer-time came, at eight o'clock,
when Mrs Peters came in, smoothing down her apron, and the
maid-of-all-work followed, and first a sermon, and then a chapter was
read, and a long impromptu prayer followed, till some instinct told Mr
Peters that supper-time had come, and we rose from our knees with
hunger for our predominant feeling. Over supper the minister did unbend
a little into one or two ponderous jokes, as if to show me that
ministers were men, after all. And then at ten o'clock I went home, and
enjoyed my long-repressed yawns in the three-cornered room before going
Dinah and Hannah Dawson, so their names were put on the board above
the shop-door—I always called them Miss Dawson and Miss
Hannah—considered these visits of mine to Mr Peters as the greatest
honour a young man could have; and evidently thought that if after such
privileges, I did not work out my salvation, I was a sort of modern
Judas Iscariot. On the contrary, they shook their heads over my
intercourse with Mr Holdsworth. He had been so kind to me in many ways,
that when I cut into my ham, I hovered over the thought of asking him
to tea in my room, more especially as the annual fair was being held in
Eltham market-place, and the sight of the booths, the merry-go-rounds,
the wild-beast shows, and such country pomps, was (as I thought at
seventeen) very attractive. But when I ventured to allude to my wish in
even distant terms, Miss Hannah caught me up, and spoke of the
sinfulness of such sights, and something about wallowing in the mire,
and then vaulted into France, and spoke evil of the nation, and all who
had ever set foot therein, till, seeing that her anger was
concentrating itself into a point, and that that point was Mr
Holdsworth, I thought it would be better to finish my breakfast, and
make what haste I could out of the sound of her voice. I rather
wondered afterwards to hear her and Miss Dawson counting up their
weekly profits with glee, and saying that a pastry-cook's shop in the
corner of the market-place, in Eltham fair week, was no such bad thing.
However, I never ventured to ask Mr Holdsworth to my lodgings.
There is not much to tell about this first year of mine at Eltham.
But when I was nearly nineteen, and beginning to think of whiskers on
my own account, I came to know cousin Phillis, whose very existence had
been unknown to me till then. Mr Holdsworth and I had been out to
Heathbridge for a day, working hard. Heathbridge was near Hornby, for
our line of railway was above half finished. Of course, a day's outing
was a great thing to tell about in my weekly letters; and I fell to
describing the country—a fault I was not often guilty of. I told my
father of the bogs, all over wild myrtle and soft moss, and shaking
ground over which we had to carry our line; and how Mr Holdsworth and I
had gone for our mid-day meals—for we had to stay here for two days
and a night—to a pretty village hard by, Heathbridge proper; and how I
hoped we should often have to go there, for the shaking, uncertain
ground was puzzling our engineers—one end of the line going up as soon
as the other was weighted down. (I had no thought for the shareholders'
interests, as may be seen; we had to make a new line on firmer ground
before the junction railway was completed.) I told all this at great
length, thankful to fill up my paper. By return letter, I heard that a
second-cousin of my mother's was married to the Independent minister of
Hornby, Ebenezer Holman by name, and lived at Heathbridge proper; the
very Heathbridge I had described, or so my mother believed, for she had
never seen her cousin Phillis Green, who was something of an heiress
(my father believed), being her father's only child, and old Thomas
Green had owned an estate of near upon fifty acres, which must have
come to his daughter. My mother's feeling of kinship seemed to have
been strongly stirred by the mention of Heathbridge; for my father said
she desired me, if ever I went thither again, to make inquiry for the
Reverend Ebenezer Holman; and if indeed he lived there, I was further
to ask if he had not married one Phillis Green; and if both these
questions were answered in the affirmative, I was to go and introduce
myself as the only child of Margaret Manning, born Moneypenny. I was
enraged at myself for having named Heathbridge at all, when I found
what it was drawing down upon me. One Independent minister, as I said
to myself, was enough for any man; and here I knew (that is to say, I
had been catechized on Sabbath mornings by) Mr Dawson, our minister at
home; and I had had to be civil to old Peters at Eltham, and behave
myself for five hours running whenever he asked me to tea at his house;
and now, just as I felt the free air blowing about me up at
Heathbridge, I was to ferret out another minister, and I should perhaps
have to be catechized by him, or else asked to tea at his house.
Besides, I did not like pushing myself upon strangers, who perhaps had
never heard of my mother's name, and such an odd name as it
was—Moneypenny; and if they had, had never cared more for her than she
had for them, apparently, until this unlucky mention of Heathbridge.
Still, I would not disobey my parents in such a trifle, however
irksome it might be. So the next time our business took me to
Heathbridge, and we were dining in the little sanded inn-parlour, I
took the opportunity of Mr Holdsworth's being out of the room, and
asked the questions which I was bidden to ask of the rosy-cheeked maid.
I was either unintelligible or she was stupid; for she said she did not
know, but would ask master; and of course the landlord came in to
understand what it was I wanted to know; and I had to bring out all my
stammering inquiries before Mr Holdsworth, who would never have
attended to them, I dare say, if I had not blushed, and blundered, and
made such a fool of myself.
'Yes,' the landlord said, 'the Hope Farm was in Heathbridge proper,
and the owner's name was Holman, and he was an Independent minister,
and, as far as the landlord could tell, his wife's Christian name was
Phillis, anyhow her maiden name was Green.'
'Relations of yours?' asked Mr Holdsworth.
'No, sir—only my mother's second-cousins. Yes, I suppose they are
relations. But I never saw them in my life.'
'The Hope Farm is not a stone's throw from here,' said the
officious landlord, going to the window. 'If you carry your eye over
yon bed of hollyhocks, over the damson-trees in the orchard yonder, you
may see a stack of queer-like stone chimneys. Them is the Hope Farm
chimneys; it's an old place, though Holman keeps it in good order.'
Mr Holdsworth had risen from the table with more promptitude than I
had, and was standing by the window, looking. At the landlord's last
words, he turned round, smiling,—'It is not often that parsons know
how to keep land in order, is it?'
'Beg pardon, sir, but I must speak as I find; and Minister
Holman—we call the Church clergyman here "parson," sir; he would be a
bit jealous if he heard a Dissenter called parson—Minister Holman
knows what he's about as well as e'er a farmer in the neighbourhood. He
gives up five days a week to his own work, and two to the Lord's; and
it is difficult to say which he works hardest at. He spends Saturday
and Sunday a-writing sermons and a-visiting his flock at Hornby; and at
five o'clock on Monday morning he'll be guiding his plough in the Hope
Farm yonder just as well as if he could neither read nor write. But
your dinner will be getting cold, gentlemen.'
So we went back to table. After a while, Mr Holdsworth broke the
silence:—'If I were you, Manning, I'd look up these relations of
yours. You can go and see what they're like while we re waiting for
Dobson's estimates, and I'll smoke a cigar in the garden meanwhile.'
'Thank you, sir. But I don't know them, and I don't think I want to
'What did you ask all those questions for, then?' said he, looking
quickly up at me. He had no notion of doing or saying things without a
purpose. I did not answer, so he continued,—'Make up your mind, and go
off and see what this farmer-minister is like, and come back and tell
me—I should like to hear.'
I was so in the habit of yielding to his authority, or influence,
that I never thought of resisting, but went on my errand, though I
remember feeling as if I would rather have had my head cut off. The
landlord, who had evidently taken an interest in the event of our
discussion in a way that country landlords have, accompanied me to the
house-door, and gave me repeated directions, as if I was likely to miss
my way in two hundred yards. But I listened to him, for I was glad of
the delay, to screw up my courage for the effort of facing unknown
people and introducing myself. I went along the lane, I recollect,
switching at all the taller roadside weeds, till, after a turn or two,
I found myself close in front of the Hope Farm. There was a garden
between the house and the shady, grassy lane; I afterwards found that
this garden was called the court; perhaps because there was a low wall
round it, with an iron railing on the top of the wall, and two great
gates between pillars crowned with stone balls for a state entrance to
the flagged path leading up to the front door. It was not the habit of
the place to go in either by these great gates or by the front door;
the gates, indeed, were locked, as I found, though the door stood wide
open. I had to go round by a side-path lightly worn on a broad grassy
way, which led past the court-wall, past a horse-mount, half covered
with stone-crop and the little wild yellow fumitory, to another
door—'the curate', as I found it was termed by the master of the
house, while the front door, 'handsome and all for show', was termed
the 'rector'. I knocked with my hand upon the 'curate' door; a tall
girl, about my own age, as I thought, came and opened it, and stood
there silent, waiting to know my errand. I see her now—cousin Phillis.
The westering sun shone full upon her, and made a slanting stream of
light into the room within. She was dressed in dark blue cotton of some
kind; up to her throat, down to her wrists, with a little frill of the
same wherever it touched her white skin. And such a white skin as it
was! I have never seen the like. She had light hair, nearer yellow than
any other colour. She looked me steadily in the face with large, quiet
eyes, wondering, but untroubled by the sight of a stranger. I thought
it odd that so old, so full-grown as she was, she should wear a
pinafore over her gown.
Before I had quite made up my mind what to say in reply to her mute
inquiry of what I wanted there, a woman's voice called out, 'Who is it,
Phillis? If it is any one for butter-milk send them round to the back
I thought I could rather speak to the owner of that voice than to
the girl before me; so I passed her, and stood at the entrance of a
room hat in hand, for this side-door opened straight into the hall or
house-place where the family sate when work was done. There was a brisk
little woman of forty or so ironing some huge muslin cravats under the
light of a long vine-shaded casement window. She looked at me
distrustfully till I began to speak. 'My name is Paul Manning,' said I;
but I saw she did not know the name. 'My mother's name was Moneypenny,'
said I,—'Margaret Moneypenny.'
'And she married one John Manning, of Birmingham,' said Mrs Holman,
eagerly. 'And you'll be her son. Sit down! I am right glad to see you.
To think of your being Margaret's son! Why, she was almost a child not
so long ago. Well, to be sure, it is five-and-twenty years ago. And
what brings you into these parts?'
She sate down herself, as if oppressed by her curiosity as to all
the five-and-twenty years that had passed by since she had seen my
mother. Her daughter Phillis took up her knitting—a long grey worsted
man's stocking, I remember—and knitted away without looking at her
work. I felt that the steady gaze of those deep grey eyes was upon me,
though once, when I stealthily raised mine to hers, she was examining
something on the wall above my head.
When I had answered all my cousin Holman's questions, she heaved a
long breath, and said, 'To think of Margaret Moneypenny's boy being in
our house! I wish the minister was here. Phillis, in what field is thy
'In the five-acre; they are beginning to cut the corn.'
'He'll not like being sent for, then, else I should have liked you
to have seen the minister. But the five-acre is a good step off. You
shall have a glass of wine and a bit of cake before you stir from this
house, though. You're bound to go, you say, or else the minister comes
in mostly when the men have their four o'clock.'
'I must go—I ought to have been off before now.'
'Here, then, Phillis, take the keys.' She gave her daughter some
whispered directions, and Phillis left the room.
'She is my cousin, is she not?' I asked. I knew she was, but
somehow I wanted to talk of her, and did not know how to begin.
'Yes—Phillis Holman. She is our only child—now.'
Either from that 'now', or from a strange momentary wistfulness in
her eyes, I knew that there had been more children, who were now dead.
'How old is cousin Phillis?' said I, scarcely venturing on the new
name, it seemed too prettily familiar for me to call her by it; but
cousin Holman took no notice of it, answering straight to the purpose.
'Seventeen last May-day; but the minister does not like to hear me
calling it May-day,' said she, checking herself with a little awe.
'Phillis was seventeen on the first day of May last,' she repeated in
an emended edition.
'And I am nineteen in another month,' thought I, to myself; I don't
Then Phillis came in, carrying a tray with wine and cake upon it.
'We keep a house-servant,' said cousin Holman, 'but it is churning
day, and she is busy.' It was meant as a little proud apology for her
daughter's being the handmaiden.
'I like doing it, mother,' said Phillis, in her grave, full voice.
I felt as if I were somebody in the Old Testament—who, I could not
recollect—being served and waited upon by the daughter of the host.
Was I like Abraham's servant, when Rebekah gave him to drink at the
well? I thought Isaac had not gone the pleasantest way to work in
winning him a wife. But Phillis never thought about such things. She
was a stately, gracious young woman, in the dress and with the
simplicity of a child.
As I had been taught, I drank to the health of my newfound cousin
and her husband; and then I ventured to name my cousin Phillis with a
little bow of my head towards her; but I was too awkward to look and
see how she took my compliment. 'I must go now,' said I, rising.
Neither of the women had thought of sharing in the wine; cousin
Holman had broken a bit of cake for form's sake.
'I wish the minister had been within,' said his wife, rising too.
Secretly I was very glad he was not. I did not take kindly to ministers
in those days, and I thought he must be a particular kind of man, by
his objecting to the term May-day. But before I went, cousin Holman
made me promise that I would come back on the Saturday following and
spend Sunday with them; when I should see something of 'the minister'.
'Come on Friday, if you can,' were her last words as she stood at
the curate-door, shading her eyes from the sinking sun with her hand.
Inside the house sate cousin Phillis, her golden hair, her dazzling
complexion, lighting up the corner of the vine-shadowed room. She had
not risen when I bade her good-by; she had looked at me straight as she
said her tranquil words of farewell.
I found Mr Holdsworth down at the line, hard at work
superintending. As Soon as he had a pause, he said, 'Well, Manning,
what are the new cousins like? How do preaching and farming seem to get
on together? If the minister turns out to be practical as well as
reverend, I shall begin to respect him.'
But he hardly attended to my answer, he was so much more occupied
with directing his work-people. Indeed, my answer did not come very
readily; and the most distinct part of it was the mention of the
invitation that had been given me.
'Oh, of course you can go—and on Friday, too, if you like; there
is no reason why not this week; and you've done a long spell of work
this time, old fellow.'
I thought that I did not want to go on Friday; but when the day
came, I found that I should prefer going to staying away, so I availed
myself of Mr Holdsworth's permission, and went over to Hope Farm some
time in the afternoon, a little later than my last visit. I found the
'curate' open to admit the soft September air, so tempered by the
warmth of the sun, that it was warmer out of doors than in, although
the wooden log lay smouldering in front of a heap of hot ashes on the
hearth. The vine-leaves over the window had a tinge more yellow, their
edges were here and there scorched and browned; there was no ironing
about, and cousin Holman sate just outside the house, mending a shirt.
Phillis was at her knitting indoors: it seemed as if she had been at it
all the week. The manyspeckled fowls were pecking about in the farmyard
beyond, and the milk-cans glittered with brightness, hung out to
sweeten. The court was so full of flowers that they crept out upon the
low-covered wall and horse-mount, and were even to be found self-sown
upon the turf that bordered the path to the back of the house. I
fancied that my Sunday coat was scented for days afterwards by the
bushes of sweetbriar and the fraxinella that perfumed the air. From
time to time cousin Holman put her hand into a covered basket at her
feet, and threw handsful of corn down for the pigeons that cooed and
fluttered in the air around, in expectation of this treat.
I had a thorough welcome as soon as she saw me. 'Now this is
kind—this is right down friendly,' shaking my hand warmly. 'Phillis,
your cousin Manning is come!'
'Call me Paul, will you?' said I; 'they call me so at home, and
Manning in the office.'
'Well, Paul, then. Your room is all ready for you, Paul, for, as I
said to the minister, "I'll have it ready whether he comes on Friday or
not." And the minister said he must go up to the Ashfield whether you
were to come or not; but he would come home betimes to see if you were
here. I'll show you to your room, and you can wash the dust off a bit.'
After I came down, I think she did not quite know what to do with
me; or she might think that I was dull; or she might have work to do in
which I hindered her; for she called Phillis, and bade her put on her
bonnet, and go with me to the Ashfield, and find father. So we set off,
I in a little flutter of a desire to make myself agreeable, but wishing
that my companion were not quite so tall; for she was above me in
height. While I was wondering how to begin our conversation, she took
up the words.
'I suppose, cousin Paul, you have to be very busy at your work all
day long in general.'
'Yes, we have to be in the office at half-past eight; and we have
an hour for dinner, and then we go at it again till eight or nine.'
'Then you have not much time for reading.'
'No,' said I, with a sudden consciousness that I did not make the
most of what leisure I had.
'No more have I. Father always gets an hour before going a-field in
the mornings, but mother does not like me to get up so early.'
'My mother is always wanting me to get up earlier when I am at
'What time do you get up?'
'Oh!—ah!—sometimes half-past six: not often though;' for I
remembered only twice that I had done so during the past summer.
She turned her head and looked at me.
'Father is up at three; and so was mother till she was ill. I
should like to be up at four.'
'Your father up at three! Why, what has he to do at that hour?'
'What has he not to do? He has his private exercise in his own
room; he always rings the great bell which calls the men to milking; he
rouses up Betty, our maid; as often as not he gives the horses their
feed before the man is up—for Jem, who takes care of the horses, is an
old man; and father is always loth to disturb him; he looks at the
calves, and the shoulders, heels, traces, chaff, and corn before the
horses go a-field; he has often to whip-cord the plough-whips; he sees
the hogs fed; he looks into the swill-tubs, and writes his orders for
what is wanted for food for man and beast; yes, and for fuel, too. And
then, if he has a bit of time to spare, he comes in and reads with
me—but only English; we keep Latin for the evenings, that we may have
time to enjoy it; and then he calls in the men to breakfast, and cuts
the boys' bread and cheese; and sees their wooden bottles filled, and
sends them off to their work;—and by this time it is half-past six,
and we have our breakfast. There is father,' she exclaimed, pointing
out to me a man in his shirt-sleeves, taller by the head than the other
two with whom he was working. We only saw him through the leaves of the
ash-trees growing in the hedge, and I thought I must be confusing the
figures, or mistaken: that man still looked like a very powerful
labourer, and had none of the precise demureness of appearance which I
had always imagined was the characteristic of a minister. It was the
Reverend Ebenezer Holman, however. He gave us a nod as we entered the
stubble-field; and I think he would have come to meet us but that he
was in the middle of giving some directions to his men. I could see
that Phillis was built more after his type than her mother's. He, like
his daughter, was largely made, and of a fair, ruddy complexion,
whereas hers was brilliant and delicate. His hair had been yellow or
sandy, but now was grizzled. Yet his grey hairs betokened no failure in
strength. I never saw a more powerful man—deep chest, lean flanks,
well-planted head. By this time we were nearly up to him; and he
interrupted himself and stepped forwards; holding out his hand to me,
but addressing Phillis.
'Well, my lass, this is cousin Manning, I suppose. Wait a minute,
young man, and I'll put on my coat, and give you a decorous and formal
welcome. But—Ned Hall, there ought to be a water-furrow across this
land: it's a nasty, stiff, clayey, dauby bit of ground, and thou and I
must fall to, come next Monday—I beg your pardon, cousin Manning—and
there's old Jem's cottage wants a bit of thatch; you can do that job
tomorrow while I am busy.' Then, suddenly changing the tone of his deep
bass voice to an odd suggestion of chapels and preachers, he added.
'Now, I will give out the psalm, "Come all harmonious tongues", to be
sung to "Mount Ephraim" tune.'
He lifted his spade in his hand, and began to beat time with it;
the two labourers seemed to know both words and music, though I did
not; and so did Phillis: her rich voice followed her father's as he set
the tune; and the men came in with more uncertainty, but still
harmoniously. Phillis looked at me once or twice with a little surprise
at my silence; but I did not know the words. There we five stood,
bareheaded, excepting Phillis, in the tawny stubble-field, from which
all the shocks of corn had not yet been carried—a dark wood on one
side, where the woodpigeons were cooing; blue distance seen through the
ash-trees on the other. Somehow, I think that if I had known the words,
and could have sung, my throat would have been choked up by the feeling
of the unaccustomed scene.
The hymn was ended, and the men had drawn off before I could stir.
I saw the minister beginning to put on his coat, and looking at me with
friendly inspection in his gaze, before I could rouse myself.
'I dare say you railway gentlemen don't wind up the day with
singing a psalm together,' said he; 'but it is not a bad practice—not
a bad practice. We have had it a bit earlier to-day for hospitality's
I had nothing particular to say to this, though I was thinking a
great deal. From time to time I stole a look at my companion. His coat
was black, and so was his waistcoat; neckcloth he had none, his strong
full throat being bare above the snow-white shirt. He wore
drab-coloured knee-breeches, grey worsted stockings (I thought I knew
the maker), and strong-nailed shoes. He carried his hat in his hand, as
if he liked to feel the coming breeze lifting his hair. After a while,
I saw that the father took hold of the daughter's hand, and so, they
holding each other, went along towards home. We had to cross a lane. In
it were two little children, one lying prone on the grass in a passion
of crying, the other standing stock still, with its finger in its
mouth, the large tears slowly rolling down its cheeks for sympathy. The
cause of their distress was evident; there was a broken brown pitcher,
and a little pool of spilt milk on the road.
'Hollo! Hollo! What's all this?' said the minister. 'why, what have
you been about, Tommy,' lifting the little petticoated lad, who was
lying sobbing, with one vigorous arm. Tommy looked at him with surprise
in his round eyes, but no affright—they were evidently old
'Mammy's jug!' said he, at last, beginning to cry afresh.
'Well! and will crying piece mammy's jug, or pick up spilt milk?
How did you manage it, Tommy?'
'He' (jerking his head at the other) 'and me was running races.'
'Tommy said he could beat me,' put in the other.
'Now, I wonder what will make you two silly lads mind, and not run
races again with a pitcher of milk between you,' said the minister, as
if musing. 'I might flog you, and so save mammy the trouble; for I dare
say she'll do it if I don't.' The fresh burst of whimpering from both
showed the probability of this. 'Or I might take you to the Hope Farm,
and give you some more milk; but then you'd be running races again, and
my milk would follow that to the ground, and make another white pool. I
think the flogging would be best—don't you?'
'We would never run races no more,' said the elder of the two.
'Then you'd not be boys; you'd be angels.'
'No, we shouldn't.'
They looked into each other's eyes for an answer to this puzzling
question. At length, one said, 'Angels is dead folk.'
'Come; we'll not get too deep into theology. What do you think of
my lending you a tin can with a lid to carry the milk home in? That
would not break, at any rate; though I would not answer for the milk
not spilling if you ran races. That's it!'
He had dropped his daughter's hand, and now held out each of his to
the little fellows. Phillis and I followed, and listened to the prattle
which the minister's companions now poured out to him, and which he was
evidently enjoying. At a certain point, there was a sudden burst of the
tawny, ruddy-evening landscape. The minister turned round and quoted a
line or two of Latin.
'It's wonderful,' said he, 'how exactly Virgil has hit the enduring
epithets, nearly two thousand years ago, and in Italy; and yet how it
describes to a T what is now lying before us in the parish of
Heathbridge, county ——, England.'
'I dare say it does,' said I, all aglow with shame, for I had
forgotten the little Latin I ever knew.
The minister shifted his eyes to Phillis's face; it mutely gave him
back the sympathetic appreciation that I, in my ignorance, could not
'Oh! this is worse than the catechism,' thought I; 'that was only
'Phillis, lass, thou must go home with these lads, and tell their
mother all about the race and the milk. Mammy must always know the
truth,' now speaking to the children. 'And tell her, too, from me that
I have got the best birch rod in the parish; and that if she ever
thinks her children want a flogging she must bring them to me, and, if
I think they deserve it, I'll give it them better than she can.' So
Phillis led the children towards the dairy, somewhere in the back yard,
and I followed the minister in through the 'curate' into the
'Their mother,' said he, 'is a bit of a vixen, and apt to punish
her children without rhyme or reason. I try to keep the parish rod as
well as the parish bull.'
He sate down in the three-cornered chair by the fire-side, and
looked around the empty room.
'Where's the missus?' said he to himself. But she was there
home—by a look, by a touch, nothing more—as soon as she in a minute;
it was her regular plan to give him his welcome could after his return,
and he had missed her now. Regardless of my presence, he went over the
day's doings to her; and then, getting up, he said he must go and make
himself 'reverend', and that then we would have a cup of tea in the
parlour. The parlour was a large room with two casemented windows on
the other side of the broad flagged passage leading from the
rector-door to the wide staircase, with its shallow, polished oaken
steps, on which no carpet was ever laid. The parlour-floor was covered
in the middle by a home-made carpeting of needlework and list. One or
two quaint family pictures of the Holman family hung round the walls;
the fire-grate and irons were much ornamented with brass; and on a
table against the wall between the windows, a great beau-pot of flowers
was placed upon the folio volumes of Matthew Henry's Bible. It was a
compliment to me to use this room, and I tried to be grateful for it;
but we never had our meals there after that first day, and I was glad
of it; for the large house-place, living room, dining-room, whichever
you might like to call it, was twice as comfortable and cheerful. There
was a rug in front of the great large fire-place, and an oven by the
grate, and a crook, with the kettle hanging from it, over the bright
wood-fire; everything that ought to be black and Polished in that room
was black and Polished; and the flags, and window-curtains, and such
things as were to be white and clean, were just spotless in their
purity. Opposite to the fire-place, extending the whole length of the
room, was an oaken shovel-board, with the right incline for a skilful
player to send the weights into the prescribed space. There were
baskets of white work about, and a small shelf of books hung against
the wall, books used for reading, and not for propping up a beau-pot of
flowers. I took down one or two of those books once when I was left
alone in the house-place on the first evening—Virgil, Caesar, a Greek
grammar—oh, dear! ah, me! and Phillis Holman's name in each of them! I
shut them up, and put them back in their places, and walked as far away
from the bookshelf as I could. Yes, and I gave my cousin Phillis a wide
berth, as though she was sitting at her work quietly enough, and her
hair was looking more golden, her dark eyelashes longer, her round
pillar of a throat whiter than ever. We had done tea, and we had
returned into the house-place that the minister might smoke his pipe
without fear of contaminating the drab damask window-curtains of the
parlour. He had made himself 'reverend' by putting on one of the
voluminous white muslin neckcloths that I had seen cousin Holman
ironing that first visit I had paid to the Hope Farm, and by making one
or two other unimportant changes in his dress. He sate looking steadily
at me, but whether he saw me or not I cannot tell. At the time I
fancied that he did, and was gauging me in some unknown fashion in his
secret mind. Every now and then he took his pipe out of his mouth,
knocked out the ashes, and asked me some fresh question. As long as
these related to my acquirements or my reading, I shuffled uneasily and
did not know what to answer. By-and-by he got round to the more
practical subject of railroads, and on this I was more at home. I
really had taken an interest in my work; nor would Mr Holdsworth,
indeed, have kept me in his employment if I had not given my mind as
well as my time to it; and I was, besides, full of the difficulties
which beset us just then, owing to our not being able to find a steady
bottom on the Heathbridge moss, over which we wished to carry our line.
In the midst of all my eagerness in speaking about this, I could not
help being struck with the extreme pertinence of his questions. I do
not mean that he did not show ignorance of many of the details of
engineering: that was to have been expected; but on the premises he had
got hold of; he thought clearly and reasoned logically. Phillis—so
like him as she was both in body and mind—kept stopping at her work
and looking at me, trying to fully understand all that I said. I felt
she did; and perhaps it made me take more pains in using clear
expressions, and arranging my words, than I otherwise should.
'She shall see I know something worth knowing, though it mayn't be
her dead-and-gone languages,' thought I.
'I see,' said the minister, at length. 'I understand it all. You've
a clear, good head of your own, my lad,—choose how you came by it.'
'From my father,' said I, proudly. 'Have you not heard of his
discovery of a new method of shunting? It was in the Gazette. It was
patented. I thought every one had heard of Manning's patent winch.'
'We don't know who invented the alphabet,' said he, half smiling,
and taking up his pipe.
'No, I dare say not, sir,' replied I, half offended; 'that's so
'But your father must be a notable man. I heard of him once before;
and it is not many a one fifty miles away whose fame reaches
'My father is a notable man, sir. It is not me that says so; it is
Mr Holdsworth, and—and everybody.'
'He is right to stand up for his father,' said cousin Holman, as if
she were pleading for me.
I chafed inwardly, thinking that my father needed no one to stand
up for him. He was man sufficient for himself.
'Yes—he is right,' said the minister, placidly. 'Right, because it
comes from his heart—right, too, as I believe, in point of fact. Else
there is many a young cockerel that will stand upon a dunghill and crow
about his father, by way of making his own plumage to shine. I should
like to know thy father,' he went on, turning straight to me, with a
kindly, frank look in his eyes.
But I was vexed, and would take no notice. Presently, having
finished his pipe, he got up and left the room. Phillis put her work
hastily down, and went after him. In a minute or two she returned, and
sate down again. Not long after, and before I had quite recovered my
good temper, he opened the door out of which he had passed, and called
to me to come to him. I went across a narrow stone passage into a
strange, many-cornered room, not ten feet in area, part study, part
counting house, looking into the farm-yard; with a desk to sit at, a
desk to stand at, a Spittoon, a set of shelves with old divinity books
upon them; another, smaller, filled with books on farriery, farming,
manures, and such subjects, with pieces of paper containing memoranda
stuck against the whitewashed walls with wafers, nails, pins, anything
that came readiest to hand; a box of carpenter's tools on the floor,
and some manuscripts in short-hand on the desk.
He turned round, half laughing. 'That foolish girl of mine thinks I
have vexed you'—putting his large, powerful hand on my shoulder.
'"Nay," says I, "kindly meant is kidney taken"—is it not so?'
'It was not quite, sir,' replied I, vanquished by his manner; 'but
it shall be in future.'
'Come, that's right. You and I shall be friends. Indeed, it's not
many a one I would bring in here. But I was reading a book this
morning, and I could not make it out; it is a book that was left here
by mistake one day; I had subscribed to Brother Robinson's sermons; and
I was glad to see this instead of them, for sermons though they be,
they're . . . well, never mind! I took 'em both, and made my old coat
do a bit longer; but all's fish that comes to my net. I have fewer
books than leisure to read them, and I have a prodigious big appetite.
Here it is.'
It was a volume of stiff mechanics, involving many technical terms,
and some rather deep mathematics. These last, which would have puzzled
me, seemed easy enough to him; all that he wanted was the explanations
of the technical words, which I could easily give.
While he was looking through the book to find the places where he
had been puzzled, my wandering eye caught on some of the papers on the
wall, and I could not help reading one, which has stuck by me ever
since. At first, it seemed a kind of weekly diary; but then I saw that
the seven days were portioned out for special prayers and
intercessions: Monday for his family, Tuesday for enemies, Wednesday
for the Independent churches, Thursday for all other churches, Friday
for persons afflicted, Saturday for his own soul, Sunday for all
wanderers and sinners, that they might be brought home to the fold.
We were called back into the house-place to have supper. A door
opening into the kitchen was opened; and all stood up in both rooms,
while the minister, tall, large, one hand resting on the spread table,
the other lifted up, said, in the deep voice that would have been loud
had it not been so full and rich, but without the peculiar accent or
twang that I believe is considered devout by some people, 'Whether we
eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, let us do all to the glory of God.'
The supper was an immense meat-pie. We of the house-place were
helped first; then the minister hit the handle of his buck-horn
carving-knife on the table once, and said,—
'Now or never,' which meant, did any of us want any more; and when
we had all declined, either by silence or by words, he knocked twice
with his knife on the table, and Betty came in through the open door,
and carried off the great dish to the kitchen, where an old man and a
young one, and a help-girl, were awaiting their meal.
'Shut the door, if you will,' said the minister to Betty.
'That's in honour of you,' said cousin Holman, in a tone of
satisfaction, as the door was shut. 'when we've no stranger with us,
the minister is so fond of keeping the door Open, and talking to the
men and maids, just as much as to Phillis and me.
'It brings us all together like a household just before we meet as
a household in prayer,' said he, in explanation. 'But to go back to
what we were talking about—can you tell me of any simple book on
dynamics that I could put in my pocket, and study a little at leisure
times in the day?'
'Leisure times, father?' said Phillis, with a nearer approach to a
smile than I had yet seen on her face.
'Yes; leisure times, daughter. There is many an odd minute lost in
waiting for other folk; and now that railroads are coming so near us,
it behoves us to know something about them.'
I thought of his own description of his 'prodigious big appetite'
for learning. And he had a good appetite of his own for the more
material victual before him. But I saw, or fancied I saw, that he had
some rule for himself in the matter both of food and drink.
As soon as supper was done the household assembled for prayer. It
was a long impromptu evening prayer; and it would have seemed desultory
enough had I not had a glimpse of the kind of day that preceded it, and
so been able to find a clue to the thoughts that preceded the
disjointed utterances; for he kept there kneeling down in the centre of
a circle, his eyes shut, his outstretched hands pressed palm to
palm—sometimes with a long pause of silence was anything else he
wished to 'lay before the Lord! (to use his own expression)—before he
concluded with the blessing. He prayed for the cattle and live
creatures, rather to my surprise; for my attention had begun to wander,
till it was recalled by the familiar words.
And here I must not forget to name an odd incident at the
conclusion of the prayer, and before we had risen from our knees
(indeed before Betty was well awake, for she made a practice of having
a sound nap, her weary head lying on her stalwart arms); the minister,
still kneeling in our midst, but with his eyes wide open, and his arms
dropped by his side, spoke to the elder man, who turned round on his
knees to attend. 'John, didst see that Daisy had her warm mash
to-night; for we must not neglect the means, John—two quarts of gruel,
a spoonful of ginger, and a gill of beer—the poor beast needs it, and
I fear it slipped Out of my mind to tell thee; and here was I asking a
blessing and neglecting the means, which is a mockery,' said he,
dropping his voice.
Before we went to bed he told me he should see little or nothing
more of me during my visit, which was to end on Sunday evening, as he
always gave up both Saturday and Sabbath to his work in the ministry. I
remembered that the landlord at the inn had told me this on the day
when I first Inquired about these new relations of mine; and I did not
dislike the opportunity which I saw would be afforded me of becoming
more acquainted with cousin Holman and Phillis, though I earnestly
hoped that the latter would not attack me on the subject of the dead
I went to bed, and dreamed that I was as tall as cousin Phillis,
and had a sudden and miraculous growth of whisker, and a still more
miraculous acquaintance with Latin and Greek. Alas! I wakened up still
a short, beardless lad, with 'tempus fugit' for my sole remembrance of
the little Latin I had once learnt. While I was dressing, a bright
thought came over me: I could question cousin Phillis, instead of her
questioning me, and so manage to keep the choice of the subjects of
conversation in my own power.
Early as it was, every one had breakfasted, and my basin of bread
and milk was put on the oven-top to await my coming down. Every one was
gone about their work. The first to come into the house-place was
Phillis with a basket of eggs. Faithful to my resolution, I asked,—
'What are those?'
She looked at me for a moment, and then said gravely,—
'No! they are not,' said I. 'They are eggs. What do you mean by
saying they are potatoes?'
'What do you mean by asking me what they were, when they were plain
to be seen?' retorted she.
We were both getting a little angry with each other.
'I don't know. I wanted to begin to talk to you; and I was afraid
you would talk to me about books as you did yesterday. I have not read
much; and you and the minister have read so much.'
'I have not,' said she. 'But you are our guest; and mother says I
must make it pleasant to you. We won't talk of books. What must we talk
'I don't know. How old are you?'
'Seventeen last May. How old are you?'
'I am nineteen. Older than you by nearly two years,' said I,
drawing myself up to my full height.
'I should not have thought you were above sixteen,' she replied, as
quietly as if she were not saying the most provoking thing she possibly
could. Then came a pause.
'What are you going to do now?' asked I.
'I should be dusting the bed-chambers; but mother said I had better
stay and make it pleasant to you,' said she, a little plaintively, as
if dusting rooms was far the easiest task.
'Will you take me to see the live-stock? I like animals, though I
don't know much about them.'
'Oh, do you? I am so glad! I was afraid you would not like animals,
as you did not like books.'
I wondered why she said this. I think it was because she had begun
to fancy all our tastes must be dissimilar. We went together all
through the farm-yard; we fed the poultry, she kneeling down with her
pinafore full of corn and meal, and tempting the little timid, downy
chickens upon it, much to the anxiety of the fussy ruffled hen, their
mother. She called to the pigeons, who fluttered down at the sound of
her voice. She and I examined the great sleek cart-horses; sympathized
in our dislike of pigs; fed the calves; coaxed the sick cow, Daisy; and
admired the others out at pasture; and came back tired and hungry and
dirty at dinner-time, having quite forgotten that there were such
things as dead languages, and consequently capital friends.
Cousin Holman gave me the weekly county newspaper to read aloud to
her, while she mended stockings out of a high piled-up basket, Phillis
helping her mother. I read and read, unregardful of the words I was
uttering, thinking of all manner of other things; of the bright colour
of Phillis's hair, as the afternoon sun fell on her bending head; of
the silence of the house, which enabled me to hear the double tick of
the old clock which stood half-way up the stairs; of the variety of
inarticulate noises which cousin Holman made while I read, to show her
sympathy, wonder, or horror at the newspaper intelligence. The tranquil
monotony of that hour made me feel as if I had lived for ever, and
should live for ever droning out paragraphs in that warm sunny room)
with my two quiet hearers, and the curled-up pussy cat sleeping on the
hearth-rug, and the clock on the house-stairs perpetually clicking out
the passage of the moments. By-and-by Betty the servant came to the
door into the kitchen, and made a sign to Phillis, who put her
half-mended stocking down, and went away to the kitchen without a word.
Looking at cousin Holman a minute or two afterwards, I saw that she had
dropped her chin upon her breast, and had fallen fast asleep. I put the
newspaper down, and was nearly following her example, when a waft of
air from some unseen source, slightly opened the door of communication
with the kitchen, that Phillis must have left unfastened; and I saw
part of her figure as she sate by the dresser, peeling apples with
quick dexterity of finger, but with repeated turnings of her head
towards some book lying on the dresser by her. I softly rose, and as
softly went into the kitchen, and looked over her shoulder; before she
was aware of my neighbourhood, I had seen that the book was in a
language unknown to me, and the running title was L'Inferno. Just as I
was making out the relationship of this word to 'infernal', she started
and turned round, and, as if continuing her thought as she spoke, she
'Oh! it is so difficult! Can you help me?' putting her finger below
'Me! I! I don't even know what language it is in!'
'Don't you see it is Dante?' she replied, almost petulantly; she
did so want help.
'Italian, then?' said I, dubiously; for I was not quite sure.
'Yes. And I do so want to make it out. Father can help me a little,
for he knows Latin; but then he has so little time.'
'You have not much, I should think, if you have often to try and do
two things at once, as you are doing now.
'Oh! that's nothing! Father bought a heap of old books cheap. And I
knew something about Dante before; and I have always liked Virgil so
much. Paring apples is nothing, if I could only make out this old
Italian. I wish you knew it.'
'I wish I did,' said I, moved by her impetuosity of tone. 'If, now,
only Mr Holdsworth were here; he can speak Italian like anything, I
'Who is Mr Holdsworth?' said Phillis, looking up.
'Oh, he's our head engineer. He's a regular first-rate fellow! He
can do anything;' my hero-worship and my pride in my chief all coming
into play. Besides, if I was not clever and book-learned myself, it was
something to belong to some one who was.
'How is it that he speaks Italian?' asked Phillis.
'He had to make a railway through Piedmont, which is in Italy, I
believe; and he had to talk to all the workmen in Italian; and I have
heard him say that for nearly two years he had only Italian books to
read in the queer outlandish places he was in.'
'Oh, dear!' said Phillis; 'I wish—' and then she stopped. I was
not quite sure whether to say the next thing that came into my mind;
but I said it.
'Could I ask him anything about your book, or your difficulties?'
She was silent for a minute or so, and then she made reply,—
'No! I think not. Thank you very much, though. I can generally
puzzle a thing out in time. And then, perhaps, I remember it better
than if some one had helped me. I'll put it away now, and you must move
off, for I've got to make the paste for the pies; we always have a cold
dinner on Sabbaths.'
'But I may stay and help you, mayn't I?'
'Oh, yes; not that you can help at all, but I like to have you with
I was both flattered and annoyed at this straightforward avowal. I
was pleased that she liked me; but I was young coxcomb enough to have
wished to play the lover, and I was quite wise enough to perceive that
if she had any idea of the kind in her head she would never have spoken
out so frankly. I comforted myself immediately, however, by finding out
that the grapes were sour. A great tall girl in a pinafore, half a head
taller than I was, reading books that I had never heard of, and talking
about them too, as of far more interest than any mere personal
subjects; that was the last day on which I ever thought of my dear
cousin Phillis as the possible mistress of my heart and life. But we
were all the greater friends for this idea being utterly put away and
buried out of sight.
Late in the evening the minister came home from Hornby. He had been
calling on the different members of his flock; and unsatisfactory work
it had proved to him, it seemed from the fragments that dropped out of
his thoughts into his talk.
'I don't see the men; they are all at their business, their shops,
or their warehouses; they ought to be there. I have no fault to find
with them; only if a pastor's teaching or words of admonition are good
for anything, they are needed by the men as much as by the women.'
'Cannot you go and see them in their places of business, and remind
them of their Christian privileges and duties, minister?' asked cousin
Holman, who evidently thought that her husband's words could never be
out of place.
'No!' said he, shaking his head. 'I judge them by myself. If there
are clouds in the sky, and I am getting in the hay just ready for
loading, and rain sure to come in the night, I should look ill upon
brother Robinson if he came into the field to speak about serious
'But, at any rate, father, you do good to the women, and perhaps
they repeat what you have said to them to their husbands and children?'
'It is to be hoped they do, for I cannot reach the men directly;
but the women are apt to tarry before coming to me, to put on ribbons
and gauds; as if they could hear the message I bear to them best in
their smart clothes. Mrs Dobson to-day—Phillis, I am thankful thou
dost not care for the vanities of dress!'
Phillis reddened a little as she said, in a low humble voice,—
'But I do, father, I'm afraid. I often wish I could wear
pretty-coloured ribbons round my throat like the squire's daughters.'
'It's but natural, minister!' said his wife; 'I'm not above liking
a silk gown better than a cotton one myself!'
'The love of dress is a temptation and a snare,' said he, gravely.
'The true adornment is a meek and quiet spirit. And, wife,' said he, as
a sudden thought crossed his mind, 'in that matter I, too, have sinned.
I wanted to ask you, could we not sleep in the grey room, instead of
'Sleep in the grey room?—change our room at this time o' day?'
cousin Holman asked, in dismay.
'Yes,' said he. 'It would save me from a daily temptation to anger.
Look at my chin!' he continued; 'I cut it this morning—I cut it on
Wednesday when I was shaving; I do not know how many times I have cut
it of late, and all from impatience at seeing Timothy Cooper at his
work in the yard.'
'He's a downright lazy tyke!' said cousin Holman. 'He's not worth
his wage. There's but little he can do, and what he can do, he does
'True,' said the minister. 'He is but, so to speak, a half-wit; and
yet he has got a wife and children.'
'More shame for him!'
'But that is past change. And if I turn him off; no one else will
take him on. Yet I cannot help watching him of a morning as he goes
sauntering about his work in the yard; and I watch, and I watch, till
the old Adam rises strong within me at his lazy ways, and some day, I
am afraid, I shall go down and send him about his business—let alone
the way in which he makes me cut myself while I am shaving—and then
his wife and children will starve. I wish we could move to the grey
I do not remember much more of my first visit to the Hope Farm. We
went to chapel in Heathbridge, slowly and decorously walking along the
lanes, ruddy and tawny with the colouring of the coming autumn. The
minister walked a little before us, his hands behind his back, his head
bent down, thinking about the discourse to be delivered to his people,
cousin Holman said; and we spoke low and quietly, in order not to
interrupt his thoughts. But I could not help noticing the respectful
greetings which he received from both rich and poor as we went along;
greetings which he acknowledged with a kindly wave of his hand, but
with no words of reply. As we drew near the town, I could see some of
the young fellows we met cast admiring looks on Phillis; and that made
me look too. She had on a white gown, and a short black silk cloak,
according to the fashion of the day. A straw bonnet with brown ribbon
strings; that was all. But what her dress wanted in colour, her sweet
bonny face had. The walk made her cheeks bloom like the rose; the very
whites of her eyes had a blue tinge in them, and her dark eyelashes
brought out the depth of the blue eyes themselves. Her yellow hair was
put away as straight as its natural curliness would allow. If she did
not perceive the admiration she excited, I am sure cousin Holman did;
for she looked as fierce and as proud as ever her quiet face could
look, guarding her treasure, and yet glad to perceive that others could
see that it was a treasure. That afternoon I had to return to Eltham to
be ready for the next day's work. I found out afterwards that the
minister and his family were all 'exercised in spirit,' as to whether
they did well in asking me to repeat my visits at the Hope Farm, seeing
that of necessity I must return to Eltham on the Sabbath-day. However,
they did go on asking me, and I went on visiting them, whenever my
other engagements permitted me, Mr Holdsworth being in this case, as in
all, a kind and indulgent friend. Nor did my new acquaintances oust him
from my strong regard and admiration. I had room in my heart for all, I
am happy to say, and as far as I can remember, I kept praising each to
the other in a manner which, if I had been an older man, living more
amongst people of the world, I should have thought unwise, as well as a
little ridiculous. It was unwise, certainly, as it was almost sure to
cause disappointment if ever they did become acquainted; and perhaps it
was ridiculous, though I do not think we any of us thought it so at the
time. The minister used to listen to my accounts of Mr Holdsworth's
many accomplishments and various adventures in travel with the truest
interest, and most kindly good faith; and Mr Holdsworth in return liked
to hear about my visits to the farm, and description of my cousin's
life there—liked it, I mean, as much as he liked anything that was
merely narrative, without leading to action.
So I went to the farm certainly, on an average, once a month during
that autumn; the course of life there was so peaceful and quiet, that I
can only remember one small event, and that was one that I think I took
more notice of than any one else: Phillis left off wearing the
pinafores that had always been so obnoxious to me; I do not know why
they were banished, but on one of my visits I found them replaced by
pretty linen aprons in the morning, and a black silk one in the
afternoon. And the blue cotton gown became a brown stuff one as winter
drew on; this sounds like some book I once read, in which a migration
from the blue bed to the brown was spoken of as a great family event.
Towards Christmas my dear father came to see me, and to consult Mr
Holdsworth about the improvement which has since been known as
'Manning's driving wheel'. Mr Holdsworth, as I think I have before
said, had a very great regard for my father, who had been employed in
the same great machine-shop in which Mr Holdsworth had served his
apprenticeship; and he and my father had many mutual jokes about one of
these gentlemen-apprentices who used to set about his smith's work in
white wash-leather gloves, for fear of spoiling his hands. Mr
Holdsworth often spoke to me about my father as having the same kind of
genius for mechanical invention as that of George Stephenson, and my
father had come over now to consult him about several improvements, as
well as an offer of partnership. It was a great pleasure to me to see
the mutual regard of these two men. Mr Holdsworth, young, handsome,
keen, well-dressed, an object of admiration to all the youth of Eltham;
my father, in his decent but unfashionable Sunday clothes, his plain,
sensible face full of hard lines, the marks of toil and thought,—his
hands, blackened beyond the power of soap and water by years of labour
in the foundry; speaking a strong Northern dialect, while Mr Holdsworth
had a long soft drawl in his voice, as many of the Southerners have,
and was reckoned in Eltham to give himself airs.
Although most of my father's leisure time was occupied with
conversations about the business I have mentioned, he felt that he
ought not to leave Eltham without going to pay his respects to the
relations who had been so kind to his son. So he and I ran up on an
engine along the incomplete line as far as Heathbridge, and went, by
invitation, to spend a day at the farm.
It was odd and yet pleasant to me to perceive how these two men,
each having led up to this point such totally dissimilar lives, seemed
to come together by instinct, after one quiet straight look into each
other's faces. My father was a thin, wiry man of five foot seven; the
minister was a broad-shouldered, fresh-coloured man of six foot one;
they were neither of them great talkers in general—perhaps the
minister the most so—but they spoke much to each other. My father went
into the fields with the minister; I think I see him now, with his
hands behind his back, listening intently to all explanations of
tillage, and the different processes of farming; occasionally taking up
an implement, as if unconsciously, and examining it with a critical
eye, and now and then asking a question, which I could see was
considered as pertinent by his companion. Then we returned to look at
the cattle, housed and bedded in expectation of the snow-storm hanging
black on the western horizon, and my father learned the points of a cow
with as much attention as if he meant to turn farmer. He had his little
book that he used for mechanical memoranda and measurements in his
pocket, and he took it out to write down 'straight back', small
muzzle', 'deep barrel', and I know not what else, under the head 'cow'.
He was very critical on a turnip-cutting machine, the clumsiness of
which first incited him to talk; and when we went into the house he
sate thinking and quiet for a bit, while Phillis and her mother made
the last preparations for tea, with a little unheeded apology from
cousin Holman, because we were not sitting in the best parlour, which
she thought might be chilly on so cold a night. I wanted nothing better
than the blazing, crackling fire that sent a glow over all the
house-place, and warmed the snowy flags under our feet till they seemed
to have more heat than the crimson rug right in front of the fire.
After tea, as Phillis and I were talking together very happily, I heard
an irrepressible exclamation from cousin Holman,—
'Whatever is the man about!'
And on looking round, I saw my father taking a straight burning
stick out of the fire, and, after waiting for a minute, and examining
the charred end to see if it was fitted for his purpose, he went to the
hard-wood dresser, scoured to the last pitch of whiteness and
cleanliness, and began drawing with the stick; the best substitute for
chalk or charcoal within his reach, for his pocket-book pencil was not
strong or bold enough for his purpose. When he had done, he began to
explain his new model of a turnip-cutting machine to the minister, who
had been watching him in silence all the time. Cousin Holman had, in
the meantime, taken a duster out of a drawer, and, under pretence of
being as much interested as her husband in the drawing, was secretly
trying on an outside mark how easily it would come off, and whether it
would leave her dresser as white as before. Then Phillis was sent for
the book on dynamics about which I had been consulted during my first
visit, and my father had to explain many difficulties, which he did in
language as clear as his mind, making drawings with his stick wherever
they were needed as illustrations, the minister sitting with his
massive head resting on his hands, his elbows on the table, almost
unconscious of Phillis, leaning over and listening greedily, with her
hand on his shoulder, sucking in information like her father's own
daughter. I was rather sorry for cousin Holman; I had been so once or
twice before; for do what she would, she was completely unable even to
understand the pleasure her husband and daughter took in intellectual
pursuits, much less to care in the least herself for the pursuits
themselves, and was thus unavoidably thrown out of some of their
interests. I had once or twice thought she was a little jealous of her
own child, as a fitter companion for her husband than she was herself;
and I fancied the minister himself was aware of this feeling, for I had
noticed an occasional sudden change of subject, and a tenderness of
appeal in his voice as he spoke to her, which always made her look
contented and peaceful again. I do not think that Phillis ever
perceived these little shadows; in the first place, she had such
complete reverence for her parents that she listened to them both as if
they had been St Peter and St Paul; and besides, she was always too
much engrossed with any matter in hand to think about other people's
manners and looks.
This night I could see, though she did not, how much she was
winning on my father. She asked a few questions which showed that she
had followed his explanations up to that point; possibly, too, her
unusual beauty might have something to do with his favourable
impression of her; but he made no scruple of expressing his admiration
of her to her father and mother in her absence from the room; and from
that evening I date a project of his which came out to me a day or two
afterwards, as we sate in my little three-cornered room in Eltham.
'Paul,' he began, 'I never thought to be a rich man; but I think
it's coming upon me. Some folk are making a deal of my new machine
(calling it by its technical name), and Ellison, of the Borough Green
Works, has gone so far as to ask me to be his partner.'
'Mr Ellison the Justice!—who lives in King Street? why, he drives
his carriage!' said I, doubting, yet exultant.
'Aye, lad, John Ellison. But that's no sign that I shall drive my
carriage. Though I should like to save thy mother walking, for she's
not so young as she was. But that's a long way off; anyhow. I reckon I
should start with a third profit. It might be seven hundred, or it
might be more. I should like to have the power to work out some fancies
o' mine. I care for that much more than for th' brass. And Ellison has
no lads; and by nature the business would come to thee in course o'
time. Ellison's lasses are but bits o' things, and are not like to come
by husbands just yet; and when they do, maybe they'll not be in the
mechanical line. It will be an opening for thee, lad, if thou art
steady. Thou'rt not great shakes, I know, in th' inventing line; but
many a one gets on better without having fancies for something he does
not see and never has seen. I'm right down glad to see that mother's
cousins are such uncommon folk for sense and goodness. I have taken the
minister to my heart like a brother; and she is a womanly quiet sort of
a body. And I'll tell you frank, Paul, it will be a happy day for me if
ever you can come and tell me that Phillis Holman is like to be my
daughter. I think if that lass had not a penny, she would be the making
of a man; and she'll have yon house and lands, and you may be her match
yet in fortune if all goes well.'
I was growing as red as fire; I did not know what to say, and yet I
wanted to say something; but the idea of having a wife of my own at
some future day, though it had often floated about in my own head,
sounded so strange when it was thus first spoken about by my father. He
saw my confusion, and half smiling said,—
'Well, lad, what dost say to the old father's plans? Thou art but
young, to be sure; but when I was thy age, I would ha' given my right
hand if I might ha' thought of the chance of wedding the lass I cared
'My mother?' asked I, a little struck by the change of his tone of
'No! not thy mother. Thy mother is a very good woman—none better.
No! the lass I cared for at nineteen ne'er knew how I loved her, and a
year or two after and she was dead, and ne'er knew. I think she would
ha' been glad to ha' known it, poor Molly; but I had to leave the place
where we lived for to try to earn my bread and I meant to come back but
before ever I did, she was dead and gone: I ha' never gone there since.
But if you fancy Phillis Holman, and can get her to fancy you, my lad,
it shall go different with you, Paul, to what it did with your father.'
I took counsel with myself very rapidly, and I came to a clear
'Father,' said I, 'if I fancied Phillis ever so much, she would
never fancy me. I like her as much as I could like a sister; and she
likes me as if I were her brother—her younger brother.'
I could see my father's countenance fall a little.
'You see she's so clever she's more like a man than a woman — she
knows Latin and Greek.'
'She'd forget 'em, if she'd a houseful of children,' was my
father's comment on this.
'But she knows many a thing besides, and is wise as well as
learned; she has been so much with her father. She would never think
much of me, and I should like my wife to think a deal of her husband.'
'It is not just book-learning or the want of it as makes a wife
think much or little of her husband,' replied my father, evidently
unwilling to give up a project which had taken deep root in his mind.
'It's a something I don't rightly know how to call it—if he's manly,
and sensible, and straightforward; and I reckon you're that, my boy.'
'I don't think I should like to have a wife taller than I am,
father,' said I, smiling; he smiled too, but not heartily.
'Well,' said he, after a pause. 'It's but a few days I've been
thinking of it, but I'd got as fond of my notion as if it had been a
new engine as I'd been planning out. Here's our Paul, thinks I to
myself, a good sensible breed o' lad, as has never vexed or troubled
his mother or me; with a good business opening out before him, age
nineteen, not so bad-looking, though perhaps not to call handsome, and
here's his cousin, not too near cousin, but just nice, as one may say;
aged seventeen, good and true, and well brought up to work with her
hands as well as her head; a scholar—but that can't be helped, and is
more her misfortune than her fault, seeing she is the only child of
scholar—and as I said afore, once she's a wife and a she'll forget it
all, I'll be bound—with a good fortune in land and house when it shall
please the Lord to take her parents to himself; with eyes like poor
Molly's for beauty, a colour that comes and goes on a milk-white skin,
and as pretty a mouth—,
'Why, Mr Manning, what fair lady are you describing?' asked Mr
Holdsworth, who had come quickly and suddenly upon our tte-ˆ-tte, and
had caught my father's last words as he entered the room. Both my
father and I felt rather abashed; it was such an odd subject for us to
be talking about; but my father, like a straightforward simple man as
he was, spoke out the truth.
'I've been telling Paul of Ellison's offer, and saying how good an
opening it made for him—'
'I wish I'd as good,' said Mr Holdsworth. 'But has the business a
'You're always so full of your joking, Mr Holdsworth,' said my
father. 'I was going to say that if he and his cousin Phillis Holman
liked to make it up between them, I would put no spoke in the wheel.'
'Phillis Holman!' said Mr Holdsworth. 'Is she the daughter of the
minister-farmer out at Heathbridge? Have I been helping on the course
of true love by letting you go there so often? I knew nothing of it.'
'There is nothing to know,' said I, more annoyed than I chose to
show. 'There is no more true love in the case than may be between the
first brother and sister you may choose to meet. I have been telling
father she would never think of me; she's a great deal taller and
cleverer; and I'd rather be taller and more learned than my wife when I
'And it is she, then, that has the pretty mouth your father spoke
about? I should think that would be an antidote to the cleverness and
learning. But I ought to apologize for breaking in upon your last
night; I came upon business to your father.'
And then he and my father began to talk about many things that had
no interest for me just then, and I began to go over again my
conversation with my father. The more I thought about it, the more I
felt that I had spoken truly about my feelings towards Phillis Holman.
I loved her dearly as a sister, but I could never fancy her as my wife.
Still less could I think of her ever—yes, condescending, that is the
word—condescending to marry me. I was roused from a reverie on what I
should like my possible wife to be, by hearing my father's warm praise
of the minister, as a most unusual character; how they had got back
from the diameter of driving-wheels to the subject of the Holmans I
could never tell; but I saw that my father's weighty praises were
exciting some curiosity in Mr Holdsworth's mind; indeed, he said,
almost in a voice of reproach,—
'Why, Paul, you never told me what kind of a fellow this
minister-cousin of yours was!'
'I don't know that I found out, sir,' said I. 'But if I had, I
don't think you'd have listened to me, as you have done to my father.'
'No! most likely not, old fellow,' replied Mr Holdsworth, laughing.
And again and afresh I saw what a handsome pleasant clear face his was;
and though this evening I had been a bit put out with him—through his
sudden coming, and his having heard my father's open-hearted
confidence—my hero resumed all his empire over me by his bright merry
And if he had not resumed his old place that night, he would have
done so the next day, when, after my father's departure, Mr Holdsworth
spoke about him with such just respect for his character, such
ungrudging admiration of his great mechanical genius, that I was
compelled to say, almost unawares,—
'Thank you, sir. I am very much obliged to you.'
'Oh, you're not at all. I am only speaking the truth. Here's a
Birmingham workman, self-educated, one may say—having never associated
with stimulating minds, or had what advantages travel and contact with
the world may be supposed to afford—working out his own thoughts into
steel and iron, making a scientific name for himself—a fortune, if it
pleases him to work for money—and keeping his singleness of heart, his
perfect simplicity of manner; it puts me out of patience to think of my
expensive schooling, my travels hither and thither, my heaps of
scientific books, and I have done nothing to speak of. But it's
evidently good blood; there's that Mr Holman, that cousin of yours,
made of the same stuff'
'But he's only cousin because he married my mother's second
cousin,' said I.
'That knocks a pretty theory on the head, and twice over, too. I
should like to make Holman's acquaintance.'
'I am sure they would be so glad to see you at Hope Farm,' said I,
eagerly. 'In fact, they've asked me to bring you several times: only I
thought you would find it dull.'
'Not at all. I can't go yet though, even if you do get me an
invitation; for the —— Company want me to go to the —— Valley, and
look over the ground a bit for them, to see if it would do for a branch
line; it's a job which may take me away for some time; but I shall be
backwards and forwards, and you're quite up to doing what is needed in
my absence; the only work that may be beyond you is keeping old Jevons
He went on giving me directions about the management of the men
employed on the line, and no more was said then, or for several months,
about his going to Rope Farm. He went off into —— Valley, a dark
overshadowed dale, where the sun seemed to set behind the hills before
four o'clock on midsummer afternoon.
Perhaps it was this that brought on the attack of low fever which
he had soon after the beginning of the new year; he was very ill for
many weeks, almost many months; a married sister—his only relation, I
think—came down from London to nurse him, and I went over to him when
I could, to see him, and give him 'masculine news,' as he called it;
reports of the progress of the line, which, I am glad to say, I was
able to carry on in his absence, in the slow gradual way which suited
the company best, while trade was in a languid state, and money dear in
the market. Of course, with this occupation for my scanty leisure, I
did not often go over to Hope Farm. Whenever I did go, I met with a
thorough welcome; and many inquiries were made as to Holdsworth's
illness, and the progress of his recovery.
At length, in June I think it was, he was sufficiently recovered to
come back to his lodgings at Eltham, and resume part at least of his
work. His sister, Mrs Robinson, had been obliged to leave him some
weeks before, owing to some epidemic amongst her own children. As long
as I had seen Mr Holdsworth in the rooms at the little inn at
Hensleydale, where I had been accustomed to look upon him as an
invalid, I had not been aware of the visible shake his fever had given
to his health. But, once back in the old lodgings, where I had always
seen him so buoyant, eloquent, decided, and vigorous in former days, my
spirits sank at the change in one whom I had always regarded with a
strong feeling of admiring affection. He sank into silence and
despondency after the least exertion; he seemed as if he could not make
up his mind to any action, or else that, when it was made up, he lacked
strength to carry out his purpose. Of course, it was but the natural
state of slow convalescence, after so sharp an illness; but, at the
time, I did not know this, and perhaps I represented his state as more
serious than it was to my kind relations at Hope Farm; who, in their
grave, simple, eager way, immediately thought of the only help they
'Bring him out here,' said the minister. 'Our air here is good to a
proverb; the June days are fine; he may loiter away his time in the
hay-field, and the sweet smells will be a balm in themselves—better
'And,' said cousin Holman, scarcely waiting for her husband to
finish his sentence, 'tell him there is new milk and fresh eggs to be
had for the asking; it's lucky Daisy has just calved, for her milk is
always as good as other cows' cream; and there is the plaid room with
the morning sun all streaming in.'
Phillis said nothing, but looked as much interested in the project
as any one. I took it upon myself. I wanted them to see him; him to
know them. I proposed it to him when I got home. He was too languid
after the day's fatigue, to be willing to make the little exertion of
going amongst strangers; and disappointed me by almost declining to
accept the invitation I brought. The next morning it was different; he
apologized for his ungraciousness of the night before; and told me that
he would get all things in train, so as to be ready to go out with me
to Hope Farm on the following Saturday.
'For you must go with me, Manning,' said he; 'I used to be as
impudent a fellow as need be, and rather liked going amongst strangers,
and making my way; but since my illness I am almost like a girl, and
turn hot and cold with shyness, as they do, I fancy.'
So it was fixed. We were to go out to Hope Farm on Saturday
afternoon; and it was also understood that if the air and the life
suited Mr Holdsworth, he was to remain there for a week or ten days,
doing what work he could at that end of the line, while I took his
place at Eltham to the best of my ability. I grew a little nervous, as
the time drew near, and wondered how the brilliant Holdsworth would
agree with the quiet quaint family of the minister; how they would like
him, and many of his half-foreign ways. I tried to prepare him, by
telling him from time to time little things about the goings-on at Hope
'Manning,' said he, 'I see you don't think I am half good enough
for your friends. Out with it, man.'
'No,' I replied, boldly. 'I think you are good; but I don't know if
you are quite of their kind of goodness.'
'And you've found out already that there is greater chance of
disagreement between two "kinds of goodness", each having its own idea
of right, than between a given goodness and a moderate degree of
naughtiness—which last often arises from an indifference to right?'
'I don't know. I think you're talking metaphysics, and I am sure
that is bad for you.'
'"When a man talks to you in a way that you don't understand about
a thing which he does not understand, them's metaphysics." You remember
the clown's definition, don't you, Manning?'
'No, I don't,' said I. 'But what I do understand is, that you must
go to bed; and tell me at what time we must start tomorrow, that I may
go to Hepworth, and get those letters written we were talking about
'Wait till to-morrow, and let us see what the day is like,' he
answered, with such languid indecision as showed me he was
over-fatigued. So I went my way.
The morrow was blue and sunny, and beautiful; the very perfection
of an early summer's day. Mr Holdsworth was all Impatience to be off
into the country; morning had brought back his freshness and strength,
and consequent eagerness to be doing. I was afraid we were going to my
cousin's farm rather too early, before they would expect us; but what
could I do with such a restless vehement man as Holdsworth was that
morning? We came down upon the Hope Farm before the dew was off the
grass on the shady side of the lane; the great house-dog was loose,
basking in the sun, near the closed side door. I was surprised at this
door being shut, for all summer long it was open from morning to night;
but it was only on latch. I opened it, Rover watching me with
half-suspicious, half-trustful eyes. The room was empty.
'I don't know where they can be,' said I. 'But come in and sit down
while I go and look for them. You must be tired.'
'Not I. This sweet balmy air is like a thousand tonics. Besides,
this room is hot, and smells of those pungent wood-ashes. What are we
'Go round to the kitchen. Betty will tell us where they are.'
So we went round into the farmyard, Rover accompanying us out of a
grave sense of duty. Betty was washing out her milk-pans in the cold
bubbling spring-water that constantly trickled in and out of a stone
trough. In such weather as this most of her kitchen-work was done out
'Eh, dear!' said she, 'the minister and missus is away at Hornby!
They ne'er thought of your coming so betimes! The missus had some
errands to do, and she thought as she'd walk with the minister and be
back by dinner-time.'
'Did not they expect us to dinner?' said I.
'Well, they did, and they did not, as I may say. Missus said to me
the cold lamb would do well enough if you did not come; and if you did
I was to put on a chicken and some bacon to boil; and I'll go do it
now, for it is hard to boil bacon enough.'
'And is Phillis gone, too?' Mr Holdsworth was making friends with
'No! She's just somewhere about. I reckon you'll find her in the
kitchen-garden, getting peas.
'Let us go there,' said Holsworth, suddenly leaving off his play
with the dog.
So I led the way into the kitchen-garden. It was in the first
promise of a summer profuse in vegetables and fruits. Perhaps it was
not so much cared for as other parts of the property; but it was more
attended to than most kitchen-gardens belonging to farm-houses. There
were borders of flowers along each side of the gravel walks; and there
was an old sheltering wail on the north side covered with tolerably
choice fruit-trees; there was a slope down to the fish-pond at the end,
where there were great strawberry-beds; and raspberry-bushes and
rose-bushes grew wherever there was a space; it seemed a chance which
had been planted. Long rows of peas stretched at right angles from the
main walk, and I saw Phillis stooping down among them, before she saw
us. As soon as she heard our cranching steps on the gravel, she stood
up, and shading her eyes from the sun, recognized us. She was quite
still for a moment, and then came slowly towards us, blushing a little
from evident shyness. I had never seen Phillis shy before.
'This is Mr Holdsworth, Phillis,' said I, as soon as I had shaken
hands with her. She glanced up at him, and then looked down, more
flushed than ever at his grand formality of taking his hat off and
bowing; such manners had never been seen at Hope Farm before.
'Father and mother are out. They will be so sorry; you did not
write, Paul, as you said you would.'
'It was my fault,' said Holdsworth, understanding what she meant as
well as if she had put it more fully into words. 'I have not yet given
up all the privileges of an invalid; one of which is indecision. Last
night, when your cousin asked me at what time we were to start, I
really could not make up my mind.'
Phillis seemed as if she could not make up her mind as to what to
do with us. I tried to help her,—
'Have you finished getting peas?' taking hold of the half-filled
basket she was unconsciously holding in her hand; 'or may we stay and
'If you would. But perhaps it will tire you, sir?' added she,
speaking now to Holdsworth.
'Not a bit,' said he. 'It will carry me back twenty years in my
life, when I used to gather peas in my grandfather's garden. I suppose
I may eat a few as I go along?'
'Certainly, sir. But if you went to the strawberry-beds you would
find some strawberries ripe, and Paul can show you where they are.'
'I am afraid you distrust me. I can assure you I know the exact
fulness at which peas should be gathered. I take great care not to
pluck them when they are unripe. I will not be turned off, as unfit for
This was a style of half-joking talk that Phillis was not
accustomed to. She looked for a moment as if she would have liked to
defend herself from the playful charge of distrust made against her,
but she ended by not saying a word. We all plucked our peas in busy
silence for the next five minutes. Then Holdsworth lifted himself up
from between the rows, and said, a little wearily,
'I am afraid I must strike work. I am not as strong as I fancied
Phillis was full of penitence immediately. He did, indeed, look
pale; and she blamed herself for having allowed him to help her.
'It was very thoughtless of me. I did not know—I thought, perhaps,
you really liked it. I ought to have offered you something to eat, sir!
Oh, Paul, we have gathered quite enough; how stupid I was to forget
that Mr Holdsworth had been ill!' And in a blushing hurry she led the
way towards the house. We went in, and she moved a heavy cushioned
chair forwards, into which Holdsworth was only too glad to sink. Then
with deft and quiet speed she brought in a little tray, wine, water,
cake, home-made bread, and newly-churned butter. She stood by in some
anxiety till, after bite and sup, the colour returned to Mr
Holdsworth's face, and he would fain have made us some laughing
apologies for the fright he had given us. But then Phillis drew back
from her innocent show of care and interest, and relapsed into the cold
shyness habitual to her when she was first thrown into the company of
strangers. She brought out the last week's county paper (which Mr
Holdsworth had read five days ago), and then quietly withdrew; and then
he subsided into languor, leaning back and shutting his eyes as if he
would go to sleep. I stole into the kitchen after Phillis; but she had
made the round of the corner of the house outside, and I found her
sitting on the horse-mount, with her basket of peas, and a basin into
which she was shelling them. Rover lay at her feet, snapping now and
then at the flies. I went to her, and tried to help her, but somehow
the sweet crisp young peas found their way more frequently into my
mouth than into the basket, while we talked together in a low tone,
fearful of being overheard through the open casements of the
house-place in which Holdsworth was resting.
'Don't you think him handsome?' asked I.
'Perhaps—yes—I have hardly looked at him,' she replied 'But is
not he very like a foreigner?'
'Yes, he cuts his hair foreign fashion,' said I.
'I like an Englishman to look like an Englishman.'
'I don't think he thinks about it. He says he began that way when
he was in Italy, because everybody wore it so, and it is natural to
keep it on in England.'
'Not if he began it in Italy because everybody there wore it so.
Everybody here wears it differently.'
I was a little offended with Phillis's logical fault-finding with
my friend; and I determined to change the subject.
'When is your mother coming home?'
'I should think she might come any time now; but she had to go and
see Mrs Morton, who was ill, and she might be kept, and not be home
till dinner. Don't you think you ought to go and see how Mr Holdsworth
is going on, Paul? He may be faint again.'
I went at her bidding; but there was no need for it. Mr Holdsworth
was up, standing by the window, his hands in his pockets; he had
evidently been watching us. He turned away as I entered.
'So that is the girl I found your good father planning for your
wife, Paul, that evening when I interrupted you! Are you of the same
coy mind still? It did not look like it a minute ago.'
'Phillis and I understand each other,' I replied, sturdily. 'We are
like brother and sister. She would not have me as a husband if there
was not another man in the world; and it would take a deal to make me
think of her—as my father wishes' (somehow I did not like to say 'as a
wife'), 'but we love each other dearly.'
'Well, I am rather surprised at it—not at your loving each other
in a brother-and-sister kind of way—but at your finding it so
impossible to fall in love with such a beautiful woman.'
Woman! beautiful woman! I had thought of Phillis as a comely but
awkward girl; and I could not banish the pinafore from my mind's eye
when I tried to picture her to myself. Now I turned, as Mr Holdsworth
had done, to look at her again out of the window: she had just finished
her task, and was standing up, her back to us, holding the basket, and
the basin in it, high in air, out of Rover's reach, who was giving vent
to his delight at the probability of a change of place by glad leaps
and barks, and snatches at what he imagined to be a withheld prize. At
length she grew tired of their mutual play, and with a feint of
striking him, and a 'Down, Rover! do hush!' she looked towards the
window where we were standing, as if to reassure herself that no one
had been disturbed by the noise, and seeing us, she coloured all over,
and hurried away, with Rover still curving in sinuous lines about her
as she walked.
'I should like to have sketched her,' said Mr Holdsworth, as he
turned away. He went back to his chair, and rested in silence for a
minute or two. Then he was up again.
'I would give a good deal for a book,' he said. 'It would keep me
quiet.' He began to look round; there were a few volumes at one end of
'Fifth volume of Matthew Henry's Commentary,' said he, reading
their titles aloud. 'Housewife's complete Manual; Berridge on Prayer;
L'Inferno—Dante!' in great surprise. 'Why, who reads this?'
'I told you Phillis read it. Don't you remember? She knows Latin
and Greek, too.'
'To be sure! I remember! But somehow I never put two and two
together. That quiet girl, full of household work, is the wonderful
scholar, then, that put you to rout with her questions when you first
began to come here. To be sure, "Cousin Phillis!" What's here: a paper
with the hard, obsolete words written out. I wonder what sort of a
dictionary she has got. Baretti won't tell her all these words. Stay! I
have got a pencil here. I'll write down the most accepted meanings, and
save her a little trouble.'
So he took her book and the paper back to the little round table,
and employed himself in writing explanations and definitions of the
words which had troubled her. I was not sure if he was not taking a
liberty: it did not quite please me, and yet I did not know why. He had
only just done, and replaced the paper in the book, and put the latter
back in its place, when I heard the sound of wheels stopping in the
lane, and looking out, I saw cousin Holman getting out of a neighbour's
gig, making her little curtsey of acknowledgment, and then coming
towards the house. I went to meet her.
'Oh, Paul!' said she, 'I am so sorry I was kept; and then Thomas
Dobson said if I would wait a quarter of an hour he would—But where's
your friend Mr Holdsworth? I hope he is come?'
Just then he came out, and with his pleasant cordial manner took
her hand, and thanked her for asking him to come out here to get
'I'm sure I am very glad to see you, sir. It was the minister's
thought. I took it into my head you would be dull in our quiet house,
for Paul says you've been such a great traveller; but the minister said
that dulness would perhaps suit you while you were but ailing, and that
I was to ask Paul to be here as much as he could. I hope you'll find
yourself happy with us, I'm sure, sir. Has Phillis given you something
to eat and drink, I wonder? there's a deal in eating a little often, if
one has to get strong after an illness.' And then she began to question
him as to the details of his indisposition in her simple, motherly way.
He seemed at once to understand her, and to enter into friendly
relations with her. It was not quite the same in the evening when the
minister came home. Men have always a little natural antipathy to get
over when they first meet as strangers. But in this case each was
disposed to make an effort to like the other; only each was to each a
specimen of an unknown class. I had to leave the Hope Farm on Sunday
afternoon, as I had Mr Holdsworth's work as well as my own to look to
in Eltham; and I was not at all sure how things would go on during the
week that Holdsworth was to remain on his visit; I had been once or
twice in hot water already at the near clash of opinions between the
minister and my much-vaunted friend. On the Wednesday I received a
short note from Holdsworth; he was going to stay on, and return with me
on the following Sunday, and he wanted me to send him a certain list of
books, his theodolite, and other surveying instruments, all of which
could easily be conveyed down the line to Heathbridge. I went to his
lodgings and picked out the books. Italian, Latin, trigonometry; a
pretty considerable parcel they made, besides the implements. I began
to be curious as to the general progress of affairs at Hope Farm, but I
could not go over till the Saturday. At Heathbridge I found Holdsworth,
come to meet me. He was looking quite a different man to what I had
left him; embrowned, sparkles in his eyes, so languid before. I told
him how much stronger he looked.
'Yes!' said he. 'I am fidging fain to be at work again. Last week I
dreaded the thoughts of my employment: now I am full of desire to
begin. This week in the country has done wonders for me.'
'You have enjoyed yourself, then?'
'Oh! it has been perfect in its way. Such a thorough country life!
and yet removed from the dulness which I always used to fancy
accompanied country life, by the extraordinary intelligence of the
minister. I have fallen into calling him "the minister'', like every
'You get on with him, then?' said I. 'I was a little afraid.'
'I was on the verge of displeasing him once or twice, I fear, with
random assertions and exaggerated expressions, such as one always uses
with other people, and thinks nothing of; but I tried to check myself
when I saw how it shocked the good man; and really it is very wholesome
exercise, this trying to make one's words represent one's thoughts,
instead of merely looking to their effect on others.'
'Then you are quite friends now?' I asked.
'Yes, thoroughly; at any rate as far as I go. I never met with a
man with such a desire for knowledge. In information, as far as it can
be gained from books, he far exceeds me on most subjects; but then I
have travelled and seen—Were not you surprised at the list of things I
'Yes; I thought it did not promise much rest.'
'Oh! some of the books were for the minister, and some for his
daughter. (I call her Phillis to myself, but I use XX in speaking about
her to others. I don't like to seem familiar, and yet Miss Holman is a
term I have never heard used.)'
'I thought the Italian books were for her.'
'Yes! Fancy her trying at Dante for her first book in Italian! I
had a capital novel by Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, just the thing for a
beginner; and if she must still puzzle out Dante, my dictionary is far
better than hers.'
'Then she found out you had written those definitions on her list
'Oh! yes'—with a smile of amusement and pleasure. He was going to
tell me what had taken place, but checked himself.
'But I don't think the minister will like your having given her a
novel to read?'
'Pooh! What can be more harmless? Why make a bugbear of a word? It
is as pretty and innocent a tale as can be met with. You don't suppose
they take Virgil for gospel?'
By this time we were at the farm. I think Phillis gave me a warmer
welcome than usual, and cousin Holman was kindness itself. Yet somehow
I felt as if I had lost my place, and that Holdsworth had taken it. He
knew all the ways of the house; he was full of little filial attentions
to cousin Holman; he treated Phillis with the affectionate
condescension of an elder brother; not a bit more; not in any way
different. He questioned me about the progress of affairs in Eltham
with eager interest.
'Ah!' said cousin Holman, 'you'll be spending a different kind of
time next week to what you have done this! I can see how busy you'll
make yourself! But if you don't take care you'll be ill again, and have
to come back to our quiet ways of going on.
'Do you suppose I shall need to be ill to wish to come back here?'
he answered, warmly. 'I am only afraid you have treated me so kindly
that I shall always be turning up on your hands.'
'That's right,' she replied. 'Only don't go and make yourself ill
by over-work. I hope you'll go on with a cup of new milk every morning,
for I am sure that is the best medicine; and put a teaspoonful of rum
in it, if you like; many a one speaks highly of that, only we had no
rum in the house.'
I brought with me an atmosphere of active life which I think he had
begun to miss; and it was natural that he should seek my company, after
his week of retirement. Once I saw Phillis looking at us as we talked
together with a kind of wistful curiosity; but as soon as she caught my
eye, she turned away, blushing deeply.
That evening I had a little talk with the minister. I strolled
along the Hornby road to meet him; for Holdsworth was giving Phillis an
Italian lesson, and cousin Holman had fallen asleep over her work.
Somehow, and not unwillingly on my part, our talk fell on the
friend whom I had introduced to the Hope Farm.
'Yes! I like him!' said the minister, weighing his words a little
as he spoke. 'I like him. I hope I am justified in doing it, but he
takes hold of me, as it were; and I have almost been afraid lest he
carries me away, in spite of my judgment.'
'He is a good fellow; indeed he is,' said I. 'My father thinks well
of him; and I have seen a deal of him. I would not have had him come
here if I did not know that you would approve of him.'
'Yes,' (once more hesitating,) 'I like him, and I think he is an
upright man; there is a want of seriousness in his talk at times, but,
at the same time, it is wonderful to listen to him! He makes Horace and
Virgil living, instead of dead, by the stories he tells me of his
sojourn in the very countries where they lived, and where to this day,
he says—But it is like dram-drinking. I listen to him till I forget my
duties, and am carried off my feet. Last Sabbath evening he led us away
into talk on profane subjects ill befitting the day.'
By this time we were at the house, and our conversation stopped.
But before the day was out, I saw the unconscious hold that my friend
had got over all the family. And no wonder: he had seen so much and
done so much as compared to them, and he told about it all so easily
and naturally, and yet as I never heard any one else do; and his ready
pencil was out in an instant to draw on scraps of paper all sorts of
illustrations—modes of drawing up water in Northern Italy, wine-carts,
buffaloes, stone-pines, I know not what. After we had all looked at
these drawings, Phillis gathered them together, and took them.
It is many years since I have seen thee, Edward Holdsworth, but
thou wast a delightful fellow! Aye, and a good one too; though much
sorrow was caused by thee!
Just after this I went home for a week's holiday. Everything was
prospering there; my father's new partnership gave evident satisfaction
to both parties. There was no display of increased wealth in our modest
household; but my mother had a few extra comforts provided for her by
her husband. I made acquaintance with Mr and Mrs Ellison, and first saw
pretty Margaret Ellison, who is now my wife. When I returned to Eltham,
I found that a step was decided upon, which had been in contemplation
for some time; that Holdsworth and I should remove our quarters to
Hornby; our daily presence, and as much of our time as possible, being
required for the completion of the line at that end.
Of course this led to greater facility of intercourse with the Hope
Farm people. We could easily walk out there after our day's work was
done, and spend a balmy evening hour or two, and yet return before the
summer's twilight had quite faded away. Many a time, indeed, we would
fain have stayed longer—the open air, the fresh and pleasant country,
made so agreeable a contrast to the close, hot town lodgings which I
shared with Mr Holdsworth; but early hours, both at eve and morn, were
an imperative necessity with the minister, and he made no scruple at
turning either or both of us out of the house directly after evening
prayer, or 'exercise', as he called it. The remembrance of many a happy
day, and of several little scenes, comes back upon me as I think of
that summer. They rise like pictures to my memory, and in this way I
can date their succession; for I know that corn harvest must have come
after hay-making, apple-gathering after corn-harvest.
The removal to Hornby took up some time, during which we had
neither of us any leisure to go out to the Hope Farm. Mr Holdsworth had
been out there once during my absence at home. One sultry evening, when
work was done, he proposed our walking out and paying the Holmans a
visit. It so happened that I had omitted to write my usual weekly
letter home in our press of business, and I wished to finish that
before going out. Then he said that he would go, and that I could
follow him if I liked. This I did in about an hour; the weather was so
oppressive, I remember, that I took off my coat as I walked, and hung
it over my arm. All the doors and windows at the farm were open when I
arrived there, and every tiny leaf on the trees was still. The silence
of the place was profound; at first I thought that it was entirely
deserted; but just as I drew near the door I heard a weak sweet voice
begin to sing; it was cousin Holman, all by herself in the house-place,
piping up a hymn, as she knitted away in the clouded light. She gave me
a kindly welcome, and poured out all the small domestic news of the
fortnight past upon me, and, in return, I told her about my own people
and my visit at home.
'Where were the rest?' at length I asked.
Betty and the men were in the field helping with the last load of
hay, for the minister said there would be rain before the morning. Yes,
and the minister himself, and Phillis, and Mr Holdsworth, were all
there helping. She thought that she herself could have done something;
but perhaps she was the least fit for hay-making of any one; and
somebody must stay at home and take care of the house, there were so
many tramps about; if I had not had something to do with the railroad
she would have called them navvies. I asked her if she minded being
left alone, as I should like to go arid help; and having her full and
glad permission to leave her alone, I went off, following her
directions: through the farmyard, past the cattle-pond, into the
ashfield, beyond into the higher field with two holly-bushes in the
middle. I arrived there: there was Betty with all the farming men, and
a cleared field, and a heavily laden cart; one man at the top of the
great pile ready to catch the fragrant hay which the others threw up to
him with their pitchforks; a little heap of cast-off clothes in a
corner of the field (for the heat, even at seven o'clock, was
insufferable), a few cans and baskets, and Rover lying by them panting,
and keeping watch. Plenty of loud, hearty, cheerful talking; but no
minister, no Phillis, no Mr Holdsworth. Betty saw me first, and
understanding who it was that I was in search of, she came towards me.
'They're out yonder—agait wi' them things o' Measter
So 'out yonder' I went; out on to a broad upland common, full of
red sand-banks, and sweeps and hollows; bordered by dark firs, purple
in the coming shadows, but near at hand all ablaze with flowering
gorse, or, as we call it in the south, furze-bushes, which, seen
against the belt of distant trees, appeared brilliantly golden. On this
heath, a little way from the field-gate, I saw the three. I counted
their heads, joined together in an eager group over Holdsworth's
theodolite. He was teaching the minister the practical art of surveying
and taking a level. I was wanted to assist, and was quickly set to work
to hold the chain. Phillis was as intent as her father; she had hardly
time to greet me, so desirous was she to hear some answer to her
So we went on, the dark clouds still gathering, for perhaps five
minutes after my arrival. Then came the blinding 1ightning and the
rumble and quick-following rattling peal of thunder right over our
heads. It came sooner than I expected, sooner than they had looked for:
the rain delayed not; it came pouring down; and what were we to do for
shelter? Philiis had nothing on but her indoor things—no bonnet, no
shawl. Quick as the darting lightning around us, Holdsworth took off
his coat and wrapped it round her neck and shoulders, and, almost
without a word, hurried us all into such poor shelter as one of the
overhanging sand-banks could give. There we were, cowered down, close
together, Phillis innermost, almost too tightly packed to free her arms
enough to divest herself of the coat, which she, in her turn, tried to
put lightly over Holdsworth's shoulders. In doing so she touched his
'Oh, how wet you are!' she cried, in pitying dismay; 'and you've
hardly got over your fever! Oh, Mr Holdsworth, I am so sorry!' He
turned his head a little, smiling at her.
'If I do catch cold, it is all my fault for having deluded you into
staying out here!' but she only murmured again, 'I am so sorry.'
The minister spoke now. 'It is a regular downpour. Please God that
the hay is saved! But there is no likelihood of its ceasing, and I had
better go home at once, and send you all some wraps; umbrellas will not
be safe with yonder thunder and lightning.'
Both Holdsworth and I offered to go instead of him; but he was
resolved, although perhaps it would have been wiser if Holdsworth, wet
as he already was, had kept himself in exercise. As he moved off,
Phillis crept out, and could see on to the storm-swept heath. Part of
Holdsworth's apparatus still remained exposed to all the rain. Before
we could have any warning, she had rushed out of the shelter and
collected the various things, and brought them back in triumph to where
we crouched. Holdsworth had stood up, uncertain whether to go to her
assistance or not. She came running back, her long lovely hair floating
and dripping, her eyes glad and bright, and her colour freshened to a
glow of health by the exercise and the rain.
'Now, Miss Holman, that's what I call wilful,' said Holdsworth, as
she gave them to him. 'No, I won't thank you' (his looks were thanking
her all the time). 'My little bit of dampness annoyed you, because you
thought I had got wet in your service; so you were determined to make
me as uncomfortable as you were yourself. It was an unchristian piece
His tone of badinage (as the French call it) would have been
palpable enough to any one accustomed to the world; but Phillis was
not, and it distressed or rather bewildered her. 'Unchristian' had to
her a very serious meaning; it was not a word to be used lightly; and
though she did not exactly understand what wrong it was that she was
accused of doing, she was evidently desirous to throw off the
imputation. At first her earnestness to disclaim unkind motives amused
Holdsworth; while his light continuance of the joke perplexed her still
more; but at last he said something gravely, and in too low a tone for
me to hear, which made her all at once become silent, and called out
her blushes. After a while, the minister came back, a moving mass of
shawls, cloaks, and umbrellas. Phillis kept very close to her father's
side on our return to the farm. She appeared to me to be shrinking away
from Holdsworth, while he had not the slightest variation in his manner
from what it usually was in his graver moods; kind, protecting, and
thoughtful towards her. Of course, there was a great commotion about
our wet clothes; but I name the little events of that evening now
because I wondered at the time what he had said in that low voice to
silence Phillis so effectually, and because, in thinking of their
intercourse by the light of future events, that evening stands out with
I have said that after our removal to Hornby our communications
with the farm became almost of daily occurrence. Cousin Holman and I
were the two who had least to do with this intimacy. After Mr
Holdsworth regained his health, he too often talked above her head in
intellectual matters, and too often in his light bantering tone for her
to feel quite at her ease with him. I really believe that he adopted
this latter tone in speaking to her because he did not know what to
talk about to a purely motherly woman, whose intellect had never been
cultivated, and whose loving heart was entirely occupied with her
husband, her child, her household affairs and, perhaps, a little with
the concerns of the members of her husband's congregation, because
they, in a way, belonged to her husband. I had noticed before that she
had fleeting shadows of jealousy even of Phillis, when her daughter and
her husband appeared to have strong interests and sympathies in things
which were quite beyond her comprehension. I had noticed it in my first
acquaintance with them, I say, and had admired the delicate tact which
made the minister, on such occasions, bring the conversation back to
such subjects as those on which his wife, with her practical experience
of every-day life, was an authority; while Phillis, devoted to her
father, unconsciously followed his lead, totally unaware, in her filial
reverence, of his motive for doing so.
To return to Holdsworth. The minister had at more than one time
spoken of him to me with slight distrust, principally occasioned by the
suspicion that his careless words were not always those of soberness
and truth. But it was more as a protest against the fascination which
the younger man evidently exercised over the elder one more as it were
to strengthen himself against yielding to this fascination—that the
minister spoke out to me about this failing of Holdsworth's, as it
appeared to him. In return Holdsworth was subdued by the minister's
uprightness and goodness, and delighted with his clear intellect—his
strong healthy craving after further knowledge. I never met two men who
took more thorough pleasure and relish in each other's society. To
Phillis his relation continued that of an elder brother: he directed
her studies into new paths, he patiently drew out the expression of
many of her thoughts, and perplexities, and unformed theories—scarcely
ever now falling into the vein of banter which she was so slow to
One day—harvest-time—he had been drawing on a loose piece of
paper-sketching ears of corn, sketching carts drawn by bullocks and
laden with grapes—all the time talking with Phillis and me, cousin
Holman putting in her not pertinent remarks, when suddenly he said to
'Keep your head still; I see a sketch! I have often tried to draw
your head from memory, and failed; but I think I can do it now. If I
succeed I will give it to your mother. You would like a portrait of
your daughter as Ceres, would you not, ma'am?'
'I should like a picture of her; yes, very much, thank you, Mr
Holdsworth; but if you put that straw in her hair,' (he was holding
some wheat ears above her passive head, looking at the effect with an
artistic eye,) 'you'll ruffle her hair. Phillis, my dear, if you're to
have your picture taken, go up-stairs, and brush your hair smooth.'
'Not on any account. I beg your pardon, but I want hair loosely
He began to draw, looking intently at Phillis; I could see this
stare of his discomposed her—her colour came and went, her breath
quickened with the consciousness of his regard; at last, when he said,
'Please look at me for a minute or two, I want to get in the eyes,' she
looked up at him, quivered, and suddenly got up and left the room. He
did not say a word, but went on with some other part of the drawing;
his silence was unnatural, and his dark cheek blanched a little. Cousin
Holman looked up from her work, and put her spectacles down.
'What's the matter? Where is she gone?'
Holdsworth never uttered a word, but went on drawing. I felt
obliged to say something; it was stupid enough, but stupidity was
better than silence just then.
'I'll go and call her,' said I. So I went into the hall, and to the
bottom of the stairs; but just as I was going to call Phillis, she came
down swiftly with her bonnet on, and saying, 'I'm going to father in
the five-acre,' passed out by the open 'rector,' right in front of the
house-place windows, and out at the little white side-gate. She had
been seen by her mother and Holdsworth, as she passed; so there was no
need for explanation, only cousin Holman and I had a long discussion as
to whether she could have found the room too hot, or what had
occasioned her sudden departure. Holdsworth was very quiet during all
the rest of that day; nor did he resume the portrait-taking by his own
desire, only at my cousin Holman's request the next time that he came;
and then he said he should not require any more formal sittings for
only such a slight sketch as he felt himself capable of making. Phillis
was just the same as ever the next time I saw her after her abrupt
passing me in the hall. She never gave any explanation of her rush out
of the room.
So all things went on, at least as far as my observation reached at
the time, or memory can recall now, till the great apple-gathering of
the year. The nights were frosty, the mornings and evenings were misty,
but at mid-day all was sunny and bright, and it was one mid-day that
both of us being on the line near Heathbridge, and knowing that they
were gathering apples at the farm, we resolved to spend the men's
dinner-hour in going over there. We found the great clothes-baskets
full of apples, scenting the house, and stopping up the way; and an
universal air of merry contentment with this the final produce of the
year. The yellow leaves hung on the trees ready to flutter down at the
slightest puff of air; the great bushes of Michaelmas daisies in the
kitchen-garden were making their last show of flowers. We must needs
taste the fruit off the different trees, and pass our judgment as to
their flavour; and we went away with our pockets stuffed with those
that we liked best. As we had passed to the orchard, Holdsworth had
admired and spoken about some flower which he saw; it so happened he
had never seen this old-fashioned kind since the days of his boyhood. I
do not know whether he had thought anything more about this chance
speech of his, but I know I had not—when Phillis, who had been missing
just at the last moment of our hurried visit, re-appeared with a little
nosegay of this same flower, which she was tying up with a blade of
grass. She offered it to Holdsworth as he stood with her father on the
point of departure. I saw their faces. I saw for the first time an
unmistakable look of love in his black eyes; it was more than gratitude
for the little attention; it was tender and beseeching—passionate. She
shrank from it in confusion, her glance fell on me; and, partly to hide
her emotion, partly out of real kindness at what might appear
ungracious neglect of an older friend, she flew off to gather me a few
late-blooming China roses. But it was the first time she had ever done
anything of the kind for me.
We had to walk fast to be back on the line before the men's return,
so we spoke but little to each other, and of course the afternoon was
too much occupied for us to have any talk. In the evening we went back
to our joint lodgings in Hornby. There, on the table, lay a letter for
Holdsworth, which had be en forwarded to him from Eltham. As our tea
was ready, and I had had nothing to eat since morning, I fell to
directly without paying much attention to my companion as he opened and
read his letter. He was very silent for a few minutes; at length he
'Old fellow! I'm going to leave you!'
'Leave me!' said I. 'How? When?'
'This letter ought to have come to hand Sooner. It is from Greathed
the engineer' (Greathed was well known in those days; he is dead now,
and his name half-forgotten); 'he wants to see me about Some business;
in fact, I may as well tell you, Paul, this letter contains a very
advantageous proposal for me to go out to Canada, and superintend the
making of a line there.' I was in utter dismay. 'But what will Our
company say to that?' 'Oh, Greathed has the superintendence of this
line, you know; and he is going to be engineer in chief to this
Canadian line; many of the Shareholders in this company are going in
for the other, so I fancy they will make no difficulty in following
Greathed's lead. He says he has a young man ready to put in my place.'
'I hate him,' said I.
'Thank you,' said Holdsworth, laughing.
'But you must not,' he resumed; 'for this is a very good thing for
me, and, of course, if no one can be found to take my inferior work, I
can't be spared to take the superior. I only wish I had received this
letter a day Sooner. Every hour is of consequence, for Greathed says
they are threatening a rival line. Do you know, Paul, I almost fancy I
must go up tonight? I can take an engine back to Eltham, and catch the
night train. I should not like Greathed to think me luke-warm.'
'But you'll come back?' I asked, distressed at the thought of this
'Oh, yes! At least I hope so. They may want me to go out by the
next steamer, that will be on Saturday.' He began to eat and drink
standing, but I think he was quite unconscious of the nature of either
his food or his drink.
'I will go to-night. Activity and readiness go a long way in our
profession. Remember that, my boy! I hope I shall come back, but if I
don't, be sure and recollect all the words of wisdom that have fallen
from my lips. Now where's the portmanteau? If I can gain half an hour
for a gathering up of my things in Eltham, so much the better. I'm
clear of debt anyhow; and what I owe for my lodgings you can pay for me
out of my quarter's salary, due November 4th.'
'Then you don't think you will come back?' I said, despondingly.
'I will come back some time, never fear,' said he, kindly. 'I may
be back in a couple of days, having been found in-competent for the
Canadian work; or I may not be wanted to go out so soon as I now
anticipate. Anyhow you don't suppose I am going to forget you, Paul
this work out there ought not to take me above two years, and, perhaps,
after that, we may be employed together again.'
Perhaps! I had very little hope. The same kind of happy days never
returns. However, I did all I could in helping him: clothes, papers,
books, instruments; how we pushed and struggled—how I stuffed. All was
done in a much shorter time than we had calculated upon, when I had run
down to the sheds to order the engine. I was going to drive him to
Eltham. We sate ready for a summons. Holdsworth took up the little
nosegay that he had brought away from the Hope Farm, and had laid on
the mantel-piece on first coming into the room. He smelt at it, and
caressed it with his lips.
'What grieves me is that I did not know—that I have not said
good-bye to—to them.'
He spoke in a grave tone, the shadow of the coming separation
falling upon him at last.
'I will tell them,' said I. 'I am sure they will be very sorry.'
Then we were silent.
'I never liked any family so much.'
'I knew you would like them.'
'How one's thoughts change,—this morning I was full of a hope,
Paul.' He paused, and then he said,—
'You put that sketch in carefully?'
'That outline of a head?' asked I. But I knew he meant an abortive
sketch of Phillis, which had not been successful enough for him to
complete it with shading or colouring.
'Yes. What a sweet innocent face it is! and yet so—Oh, dear!'
He sighed and got up, his hands in his pockets, to walk up and down
the room in evident disturbance of mind. He suddenly stopped opposite
'You'll tell them how it all was. Be sure and tell the good
minister that I was so sorry not to wish him good-bye, and to thank him
and his wife for all their kindness. As for Phillis,—please God in two
years I'll be back and tell her myself all in my heart.'
'You love Phillis, then?' said I.
'Love her! Yes, that I do. Who could help it, seeing her as I have
done? Her character as unusual and rare as her beauty! God bless her!
God keep her in her high tranquillity, her pure innocence.—Two years!
It is a long time.—But she lives in such seclusion, almost like the
sleeping beauty, Paul,'—(he was smiling now, though a minute before I
had thought him on the verge of tears,) —'but I shall come back like a
prince from Canada, and waken her to my love. I can't help hoping that
it won't be difficult, eh, Paul?'
This touch of coxcombry displeased me a little, and I made no
answer. He went on, half apologetically,—
'You see, the salary they offer me is large; and beside that, this
experience will give me a name which will entitle me to expect a still
larger in any future undertaking.'
'That won't influence Phillis.'
'No! but it will make me more eligible in the eyes of her father
I made no answer.
'You give me your best wishes, Paul,' said he, almost pleading.
'You would like me for a cousin?'
I heard the scream and whistle of the engine ready down at the
'Aye, that I should,' I replied, suddenly softened towards my
friend now that he was going away. 'I wish you were to be married
to-morrow, and I were to be best man.'
'Thank you, lad. Now for this cursed portmanteau (how the minister
would be shocked); but it is heavy!' and off we sped into the darkness.
He only just caught the night train at Eltham, and I slept,
desolately enough, at my old lodgings at Miss Dawsons', for that night.
Of course the next few days I was busier than ever, doing both his work
and my own. Then came a letter from him, very short and affectionate.
He was going out in the Saturday steamer, as he had more than half
expected; and by the following Monday the man who was to succeed him
would be down at Eltham. There was a P.S., with oniy these words:—
'My nosegay goes with me to Canada, but I do not need it to remind
me of Hope Farm.'
Saturday came; but it was very late before I could go out to the
farm. It was a frosty night, the stars shone clear above me, and the
road was crisping beneath my feet. They must have heard my footsteps
before I got up to the house. They were sitting at their usual
employments in the house-place when I went in. Phillis's eyes went
beyond me in their look of welcome, and then fell in quiet
disappointment on her work.
'And where's Mr Holdsworth?' asked cousin Holman, in a minute or
two. 'I hope his cold is not worse,—I did not like his short cough.'
I laughed awkwardly; for I felt that I was the bearer of unpleasant
'His cold had need be better—for he's gone—gone away to Canada!'
I purposely looked away from Phillis, as I thus abruptly told my
'To Canada!' said the minister.
'Gone away!' said his wife. But no word from Phillis.
'Yes!' said I. 'He found a letter at Hornby when we got home the
other night— when we got home from here; he ought to have got it
sooner; he was ordered to go up to London directly, and to see some
people about a new line in Canada, and he's gone to lay it down; he has
sailed to-day. He was sadly grieved not to have time to come out and
wish you all good-by; but he started for London within two hours after
he got that letter. He bade me thank you most gratefully for all your
kindnesses; he was very sorry not to come here once again.'
Phillis got up and left the room with noiseless steps.
'I am very sorry,' said the minister.
'I am sure so am I!' said cousin Holman. 'I was real fond of that
lad ever since I nursed him last June after that bad fever.'
The minister went on asking me questions respecting Holdsworth's
future plans; and brought out a large old-fashioned atlas, that he
might find out the exact places between which the new railroad was to
run. Then supper was ready; it was always on the table as soon as the
clock on the stairs struck eight, and down came Phillis—her face white
and set, her dry eyes looking defiance to me, for I am afraid I hurt
her maidenly pride by my glance of sympathetic interest as she entered
the room. Never a word did she say—never a question did she ask about
the absent friend, yet she forced herself to talk.
And so it was all the next day. She was as pale as could be, like
one who has received some shock; but she would not let me talk to her,
and she tried hard to behave as usual. Two or three times I repeated,
in public, the various affectionate messages to the family with which I
was charged by Holdsworth; but she took no more notice of them than if
my words had been empty air. And in this mood I left her on the Sabbath
My new master was not half so indulgent as my old one. He kept up
strict discipline as to hours, so that it was some time before I could
again go out, even to pay a call at the Hope Farm.
It was a cold misty evening in November. The air, even indoors,
seemed full of haze; yet there was a great log burning on the hearth,
which ought to have made the room cheerful. Cousin Holman and Phillis
were sitting at the little round table before the fire, working away in
silence. The minister had his books out on the dresser, seemingly deep
in study, by the light of his solitary candle; perhaps the fear of
disturbing him made the unusual stillness of the room. But a welcome
was ready for me from all; not noisy, not demonstrative—that it never
was; my damp wrappers were taken off; the next meal was hastened, and a
chair placed for me on one side of the fire, so that I pretty much
commanded a view of the room. My eye caught on Phillis, looking so pale
and weary, and with a sort of aching tone (if I may call it so) in her
voice. She was doing all the accustomed things—fulfilling small
household duties, but somehow differently—I can't tell you how, for
she was just as deft and quick in her movements, only the light spring
was gone out of them. Cousin Holman began to question me; even the
minister put aside his books, and came and stood on the opposite side
of the fire-place, to hear what waft of intelligence I brought. I had
first to tell them why I had not been to see them for so long—more
than five weeks. The answer was simple enough; business and the
necessity of attending strictly to the orders of a new superintendent,
who had not yet learned trust, much less indulgence. The minister
nodded his approval of my conduct, and said,—
'Right, Paul! "Servants, obey in all things your master according
to the flesh." I have had my fears lest you had too much licence under
'Ah,' said cousin Holman, 'poor Mr Holdsworth, he'll be on the salt
seas by this time!'
'No, indeed,' said I, 'he's landed. I have had a letter from him
Immediately a shower of questions fell thick upon me. When? How?
What was he doing? How did he like it? What sort of a voyage?
'Many is the time we have thought of him when the wind was blowing
so hard; the old quince-tree is blown down, Paul, that on the
right-hand of the great pear-tree; it was blown down last Monday week,
and it was that night that I asked the minister to pray in an especial
manner for all them that went down in ships upon the great deep, and he
said then, that Mr Holdsworth might be already landed; but I said, even
if the prayer did not fit him, it was sure to be fitting somebody out
at sea, who would need the Lord's care. Both Phillis and I thought he
would be a month on the seas.'
Phillis began to speak, but her voice did not come rightly at
first. It was a little higher pitched than usual, when she said,—
'We thought he would be a month if he went in a sailing-vessel, or
perhaps longer. I suppose he went in a steamer?'
'Old Obadiah Grimshaw was more than six weeks in getting to
America,' observed cousin Holman.
'I presume he cannot as yet tell how he likes his new work?' asked
'No! he is but just landed; it is but one page long. I'll read it
to you, shall I?—
'We are safe on shore, after a rough passage. Thought you would
like to hear this, but homeward-bound steamer is making signals for
letters. Will write again soon. It seems a year since I left Hornby.
Longer since I was at the farm. I have got my nosegay safe. Remember me
to the Holmans.
'Yours, E. H.'
'That's not much, certainly,' said the minister. 'But it's a
comfort to know he's on land these blowy nights.'
Phillis said nothing. She kept her head bent down over her work;
but I don't think she put a stitch in, while I was reading the letter.
I wondered if she understood what nosegay was meant; but I could not
tell. When next she lifted up her face, there were two spots of
brilliant colour on the cheeks that had been so pale before. After I
had spent an hour or two there, I was bound to return back to Hornby. I
told them I did not know when I could come again, as we—by which I
mean the company—had undertaken the Hensleydale line; that branch for
which poor Holdsworth was surveying when he caught his fever.
'But you'll have a holiday at Christmas,' said my cousin. 'Surely
they'll not be such heathens as to work you then?'
'Perhaps the lad will be going home,' said the minister, as if to
mitigate his wife's urgency; but for all that, I believe he wanted me
to come. Phillis fixed her eyes on me with a wistful expression, hard
to resist. But, indeed, I had no thought of resisting. Under my new
master I had no hope of a holiday long enough to enable me to go to
Birmingham and see my parents with any comfort; and nothing could be
pleasanter to me than to find myself at home at my cousins' for a day
or two, then. So it was fixed that we were to meet in Hornby Chapel on
Christmas Day, and that I was to accompany them home after service, and
if possible to stay over the next day.
I was not able to get to chapel till late on the appointed day, and
so I took a seat near the door in considerable shame, although it
really was not my fault. When the service was ended, I went and stood
in the porch to await the coming out of my cousins. Some worthy people
belonging to the congregation clustered into a group just where I
stood, and exchanged the good wishes of the season. It had just begun
to snow, and this occasioned a little delay, and they fell into further
conversation. I was not attending to what was not meant for me to hear,
till I caught the name of Phillis Holman. And then I listened; where
was the harm?
'I never saw any one so changed!'
'I asked Mrs Holman,' quoth another, ' "Is Phillis well?" and she
just said she had been having a cold which had pulled her down; she did
not seem to think anything of it.'
'They had best take care of her,' said one of the oldest of the
good ladies; 'Phillis comes of a family as is not long-lived. Her
mother's sister, Lydia Green, her own aunt as was, died of a decline
just when she was about this lass's age.'
This ill-omened talk was broken in upon by the coming out of the
minister, his wife and daughter, and the consequent interchange of
Christmas compliments. I had had a shock, and felt heavy-hearted and
anxious, and hardly up to making the appropriate replies to the kind
greetings of my relations. I looked askance at Phillis. She had
certainly grown taller and slighter, and was thinner; but there was a
flush of colour on her face which deceived me for a time, and made me
think she was looking as well as ever. I only saw her paleness after we
had returned to the farm, and she had subsided into silence and quiet.
Her grey eyes looked hollow and sad; her complexion was of a dead
white. But she went about just as usual; at least, just as she had done
the last time I was there, and seemed to have no ailment; and I was
inclined to think that my cousin was right when she had answered the
inquiries of the good-natured gossips, and told them that Phillis was
suffering from the consequences of a bad cold, nothing more.
I have said that I was to stay over the next day; a great deal of
snow had come down, but not all, they said, though the ground was
covered deep with the white fall. The minister was anxiously housing
his cattle, and preparing all things for a long continuance of the same
kind of weather. The men were chopping wood, sending wheat to the mill
to be ground before the road should become impassable for a cart and
horse. My cousin and Phillis had gone up-stairs to the apple-room to
cover up the fruit from the frost. I had been out the greater part of
the morning, and came in about an hour before dinner. To my surprise,
knowing how she had planned to be engaged, I found Phillis sitting at
the dresser, resting her head on her two hands and reading, or seeming
to read. She did not look up when I came in, but murmured something
about her mother having sent her down out of the cold. It flashed
across me that she was crying, but I put it down to some little spirt
of temper; I might have known better than to suspect the gentle, serene
Phillis of crossness, poor girl; I stooped down, and began to stir and
build up the fire, which appeared to have been neglected. While my head
was down I heard a noise which made me pause and listen—a sob, an
unmistakable, irrepressible sob. I started up.
'Phillis!' I cried, going towards her, with my hand out, to take
hers for sympathy with her sorrow, whatever it was. But she was too
quick for me, she held her hand out of my grasp, for fear of my
detaining her; as she quickly passed out of the house, she said,—
'Don't, Paul! I cannot bear it!' and passed me, still sobbing, and
went out into the keen, open air.
I stood still and wondered. What could have come to Phillis? The
most perfect harmony prevailed in the family, and Phillis especially,
good and gentle as she was, was so beloved that if they had found out
that her finger ached, it would have cast a shadow over their hearts.
Had I done anything to vex her? No: she was crying before I came in. I
went to look at her book—one of those unintelligible Italian books. I
could make neither head nor tail of it. I saw some pencil-notes on the
margin, in Holdsworth's handwriting.
Could that be it? Could that be the cause of her white looks, her
weary eyes, her wasted figure, her struggling sobs? This idea came upon
me like a flash of lightning on a dark night, making all things so
clear we cannot forget them afterwards when the gloomy obscurity
returns. I was still standing with the book in my hand when I heard
cousin Holman's footsteps on the stairs, and as I did not wish to speak
to her just then, I followed Phillis's example, and rushed out of the
house. The snow was lying on the ground; I could track her feet by the
marks they had made; I could see where Rover had joined her. I followed
on till I came to a great stack of wood in the orchard—it was built up
against the back wall of the outbuildings,—and I recollected then how
Phillis had told me, that first day when we strolled about together,
that underneath this stack had been her hermitage, her sanctuary, when
she was a child; how she used to bring her book to study there, or her
work, when she was not wanted in the house; and she had now evidently
gone back to this quiet retreat of her childhood, forgetful of the clue
given me by her footmarks on the new-fallen snow. The stack was built
up very high; but through the interstices of the sticks I could see her
figure, although I did not all at once perceive how I could get to her.
She was sitting on a log of wood, Rover by her. She had laid her cheek
on Rover's head, and had her arm round his neck, partly for a pillow,
partly from an instinctive craving for warmth on that bitter cold day.
She was making a low moan, like an animal in pain, or perhaps more like
the sobbing of the wind. Rover, highly flattered by her caress, and
also, perhaps, touched by sympathy, was flapping his heavy tail against
the ground, but not otherwise moving a hair, until he heard my approach
with his quick erected ears. Then, with a short, abrupt bark of
distrust, he sprang up as if to leave his mistress. Both he and I were
immovably still for a moment. I was not sure if what I longed to do was
wise: and yet I could not bear to see the sweet serenity of my dear
cousin's life so disturbed by a suffering which I thought I could
assuage. But Rover's ears were sharper than my breathing was noiseless:
he heard me, and sprang out from under Phillis's restraining hand.
'Oh, Rover, don't you leave me, too,' she plained out.
'Phillis!' said I, seeing by Rover's exit that the entrance to
where she sate was to be found on the other side of the stack.
'Phillis, come out! You have got a cold already; and it is not fit for
you to sit there on such a day as this. You know how displeased and
anxious it would make them all.'
She sighed, but obeyed; stooping a little, she came out, and stood
upright, opposite to me in the lonely, leafless orchard. Her face
looked so meek and so sad that I felt as if I ought to beg her pardon
for my necessarily authoritative words.
'Sometimes I feel the house so close,' she said; 'and I used to sit
under the wood-stack when I was a child. It was very kind of you, but
there was no need to come after me. I don't catch cold easily.'
'Come with me into this cow-house, Phillis. I have got something to
say to you; and I can't stand this cold, if you can.
I think she would have fain run away again; but her fit of energy
was all spent. She followed me unwillingly enough that I could see. The
place to which I took her was full of the fragrant breath of the cows,
and was a little warmer than the outer air. I put her inside, and stood
myself in the doorway, thinking how I could best begin. At last I
plunged into it.
'I must see that you don't get cold for more reasons than one; if
you are ill, Holdsworth will be so anxious and miserable out there' (by
which I meant Canada)—
She shot one penetrating look at me, and then turned her face away
with a slightly impatient movement. If she could have run away then she
would, but I held the means of exit in my own power. 'In for a penny,
in for a pound,' thought I, and I went on rapidly, anyhow.
'He talked so much about you, just before he left—that night after
he had been here, you know—and you had given him those flowers.' She
put her hands up to hide her face, but she was listening now—listening
with all her ears.
'He had never spoken much about you before, but the sudden going
away unlocked his heart, and he told me how he loved you, and how he
hoped on his return that you might be his wife.'
'Don't,' said she, almost gasping out the word, which she had tried
once or twice before to speak; but her voice had been choked. Now she
put her hand backwards; she had quite turned away from me, and felt for
mine. She gave it a soft lingering pressure; and then she put her arms
down on the wooden division, and laid her head on it, and cried quiet
tears. I did not understand her at once, and feared lest I had mistaken
the whole case, and only annoyed her. I went up to her. 'Oh, Phillis! I
am so sorry—I thought you would, perhaps, have cared to hear it; he
did talk so feelingly, as if he did love you so much, and somehow I
thought it would give you pleasure.'
She lifted up her head and looked at me. Such a look! Her eyes,
glittering with tears as they were, expressed an almost heavenly
happiness; her tender mouth was curved with rapture—her colour vivid
and blushing; but as if she was afraid her face expressed too much,
more than the thankfulness to me she was essaying to speak, she hid it
again almost immediately. So it was all right then, and my conjecture
was well-founded! I tried to remember something more to tell her of
what he had said, but again she stopped me.
'Don't,' she said. She still kept her face covered and hidden. In
half a minute she added, in a very low voice, 'Please, Paul, I think I
would rather not hear any more I don't mean but what I have—but what I
am very much obliged—Only—only, I think I would rather hear the rest
from himself when he comes back.'
And then she cried a little more, in quite a different way. I did
not say any more, I waited for her. By-and-by she turned towards
me—not meeting my eyes, however; and putting her hand in mine just as
if we were two children, she said,—
'We had best go back now—I don't look as if I had been crying, do
'You look as if you had a bad cold,' was all the answer I made.
'Oh! but I am quite well, only cold; and a good run will warm me.
Come along, Paul.'
So we ran, hand in hand, till, just as we were on the threshold of
the house, she stopped,—
'Paul, please, we won't speak about that again.'
When I went over on Easter Day I heard the chapel-gossips
complimenting cousin Holman on her daughter's blooming looks, quite
forgetful of their sinister prophecies three months before. And I
looked at Phillis, and did not wonder at their words. I had not seen
her since the day after Christmas Day. I had left the Hope Farm only a
few hours after I had told her the news which had quickened her heart
into renewed life and vigour. The remembrance of our conversation in
the cow-house was vividly in my mind as I looked at her when her bright
healthy appearance was remarked upon. As her eyes met mine our mutual
recollections flashed intelligence from one to the other. She turned
away, her colour heightening as she did so. She seemed to be shy of me
for the first few hours after our meeting, and I felt rather vexed with
her for her conscious avoidance of me after my long absence. I had
stepped a little out of my usual line in telling her what I did; not
that I had received any charge of secrecy, or given even the slightest
promise to Holdsworth that I would not repeat his words. But I had an
uneasy feeling sometimes when I thought of what I had done in the
excitement of seeing Phillis so ill and in so much trouble. I meant to
have told Holdsworth when I wrote next to him; but when I had my
half-finished letter before me I sate with my pen in my hand
hesitating. I had more scruple in revealing what I had found out or
guessed at of Phillis's secret than in repeating to her his spoken
words. I did not think I had any right to say out to him what I
believed—namely, that she loved him dearly, and had felt his absence
even to the injury of her health. Yet to explain what I had done in
telling her how he had spoken about her that last night, it would be
necessary to give my reasons, so I had settled within myself to leave
it alone. As she had told me she should like to hear all the details
and fuller particulars and more explicit declarations first from him,
so he should have the pleasure of extracting the delicious tender
secret from her maidenly lips. I would not betray my guesses, my
surmises, my all but certain knowledge of the state of her heart. I had
received two letters from him after he had settled to his business;
they were full of life and energy; but in each there had been a message
to the family at the Hope Farm of more than common regard; and a slight
but distinct mention of Phillis herself, showing that she stood single
and alone in his memory. These letters I had sent on to the minister,
for he was sure to care for them, even supposing he had been
unacquainted with their writer, because they were so clever and so
picturesquely worded that they brought, as it were, a whiff of foreign
atmosphere into his circumscribed life. I used to wonder what was the
trade or business in which the minister would not have thriven,
mentally I mean, if it had so happened that he had been called into
that state. He would have made a capital engineer, that I know; and he
had a fancy for the sea, like many other land-locked men to whom the
great deep is a mystery and a fascination. He read law-books with
relish; and, once happening to borrow De Lolme on the British
Constitution (or some such title), he talked about jurisprudence till
he was far beyond my depth. But to return to Holdsworth's letters. When
the minister sent them back he also wrote out a list of questions
suggested by their perusal, which I was to pass on in my answers to
Holdsworth, until I thought of suggesting direct correspondence between
the two. That was the state of things as regarded the absent one when I
went to the farm for my Easter visit, and when I found Phillis in that
state of shy reserve towards me which I have named before. I thought
she was ungrateful; for I was not quite sure if I had done wisely in
having told her what I did. I had committed a fault, or a folly,
perhaps, and all for her sake; and here was she, less friends with me
than she had even been before. This little estrangement only lasted a
few hours. I think that as Soon as she felt pretty sure of there being
no recurrence, either by word, look, or allusion, to the one subject
that was predominant in her mind, she came back to her old sisterly
ways with me. She had much to tell me of her own familiar interests;
how Rover had been ill, and how anxious they had all of them been, and
how, after some little discussion between her father and her, both
equally grieved by the sufferings of the old dog, he had been
remembered in the household prayers', and how he had begun to get
better only the very next day, and then she would have led me into a
conversation on the right ends of prayer, and on special providences,
and I know not what; only I 'jibbed' like their old cart-horse, and
refused to stir a step in that direction. Then we talked about the
different broods of chickens, and she showed me the hens that were good
mothers, and told me the characters of all the poultry with the utmost
good faith; and in all good faith I listened, for I believe there was a
good deal of truth in all she said. And then we strolled on into the
wood beyond the ash-meadow, and both of us sought for early primroses,
and the fresh green crinkled leaves. She was not afraid of being alone
with me after the first day. I never saw her so lovely, or so happy. I
think she hardly knew why she was so happy all the time. I can see her
now, standing under the budding branches of the grey trees, over which
a tinge of green seemed to be deepening day after day, her sun-bonnet
fallen back on her neck, her hands full of delicate wood-flowers, quite
unconscious of my gaze, but intent on sweet mockery of some bird in
neighbouring bush or tree. She had the art of warbling, and replying to
the notes of different birds, and knew their song, their habits and
ways, more accurately than any one else I ever knew. She had often done
it at my request the spring before; but this year she really gurgled,
and whistled, and warbled just as they did, out of the very fulness and
joy of her heart. She was more than ever the very apple of her father's
eye; her mother gave her both her own share of love, and that of the
dead child who had died in infancy. I have heard cousin Holman murmur,
after a long dreamy look at Phillis, and tell herself how like she was
growing to Johnnie, and soothe herself with plaintive inarticulate
sounds, and many gentle shakes of the head, for the aching sense of
loss she would never get over in this world. The old servants about the
place had the dumb loyal attachment to the child of the land, common to
most agricultural labourers; not often stirred into activity or
expression. My cousin Phillis was like a rose that had come to full
bloom on the sunny side of a lonely house, sheltered from storms. I
have read in some book of poetry,—
A maid whom there were none to praise, And very few to love.
And somehow those lines always reminded me of Phillis; yet they
were not true of her either. I never heard her praised; and out of her
own household there were very few to love her; but though no one spoke
out their approbation, she always did right in her parents' eyes out of
her natural simple goodness and wisdom. Holdsworth's name was never
mentioned between us when we were alone; but I had sent on his letters
to the minister, as I have said; and more than once he began to talk
about our absent friend, when he was smoking his pipe after the day's
work was done. Then Phillis hung her head a little over her work, and
listened in silence.
'I miss him more than I thought for; no offence to you, Paul. I
said once his company was like dram-drinking; that was before I knew
him; and perhaps I spoke in a spirit of judgment. To some men's minds
everything presents itself strongly, and they speak accordingly; and so
did he. And I thought in my vanity of censorship that his were not true
and sober words; they would not have been if I had used them, but they
were so to a man of his class of perceptions. I thought of the measure
with which I had been meting to him when Brother Robinson was here last
Thursday, and told me that a poor little quotation I was making from
the Georgics savoured of vain babbling and profane heathenism. He went
so far as to say that by learning other languages than our own, we were
flying in the face of the Lord's purpose when He had said, at the
building of the Tower of Babel, that He would confound their languages
so that they should not understand each other's speech. As Brother
Robinson was to me, so was I to the quick wits, bright senses, and
ready words of Holdsworth.'
The first little cloud upon my peace came in the shape of a letter
from Canada, in which there were two or three sentences that troubled
me more than they ought to have done, to judge merely from the words
employed. It was this:—'I should feel dreary enough in this
out-of-the-way place if it were not for a friendship I have formed with
a French Canadian of the name of Ventadour. He and his family are a
great resource to me in the long evenings. I never heard such delicious
vocal music as the voices of these Ventadour boys and girls in their
part songs; and the foreign element retained in their characters and
manner of living reminds me of some of the happiest days of my life.
Lucille, the second daughter, is curiously like Phillis Holman.' In
vain I said to myself that it was probably this likeness that made him
take pleasure in the society of the Ventadour family. In vain I told my
anxious fancy that nothing could be more natural than this intimacy,
and that there was no sign of its leading to any consequence that ought
to disturb me. I had a presentiment, and I was disturbed; and I could
not reason it away. I dare say my presentiment was rendered more
persistent and keen by the doubts which would force themselves into my
mind, as to whether I had done well in repeating Holdsworth's words to
Phillis. Her state of vivid happiness this summer was markedly
different to the peaceful serenity of former days. If in my
thoughtfulness at noticing this I caught her eye, she blushed and
sparkled all over, guessing that I was remembering our joint secret.
Her eyes fell before mine, as if she could hardly bear me to see the
revelation of their bright glances. And yet I considered again, and
comforted myself by the reflection that, if this change had been
anything more than my silly fancy, her father or her mother would have
perceived it. But they went on in tranquil unconsciousness and
A change in my own life was quickly approaching. In the July of
this year my occupation on the——railway and its branches came to an
end. The lines were completed, and I was to leave ——shire, to return
to Birmingham, where there was a niche already provided for me in my
father's prosperous business. But before I left the north it was an
understood thing amongst us all that I was to go and pay a visit of
some weeks at the Hope Farm. My father was as much pleased at this plan
as I was; and the dear family of cousins often spoke of things to be
done, and sights to be shown me, during this visit. My want of wisdom
in having told 'that thing' (under such ambiguous words I concealed the
injudicious confidence I had made to Phillis) was the only drawback to
my anticipations of pleasure.
The ways of life were too simple at the Hope Farm for my coming to
them to make the slightest disturbance. I knew my room, like a son of
the house. I knew the regular course of their days, and that I was
expected to fall into it, like one of the family. Deep summer peace
brooded over the place; the warm golden air was filled with the murmur
of insects near at hand, the more distant sound of voices out in the
fields, the clear faraway rumble of carts over the stone-paved lanes
miles away. The heat was too great for the birds to be singing; only
now and then one might hear the wood-pigeons in the trees beyond the
Ashfield. The cattle stood knee-deep in the pond, flicking their tails
about to keep off the flies. The minister stood in the hay-field,
without hat or cravat, coat or waistcoat, panting and smiling. Phillis
had been leading the row of farm-servants, turning the swathes of
fragrant hay with measured movement. She went to the end—to the hedge,
and then, throwing down her rake, she came to me with her free sisterly
welcome. 'Go, Paul!' said the minister. 'We need all hands to make use
of the sunshine to-day. "Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it
with all thy might." It will be a healthy change of work for thee, lad;
and I find best rest in change of work.' So off I went, a willing
labourer, following Phillis's lead; it was the primitive distinction of
rank; the boy who frightened the sparrows off the fruit was the last in
our rear. We did not leave off till the red sun was gone down behind
the fir-trees bordering the common. Then we went home to
supper—prayers—to bed; some bird singing far into the night, as I
heard it through my open window, and the poultry beginning their
clatter and cackle in the earliest morning. I had carried what luggage
I immediately needed with me from my lodgings. and the rest was to be
sent by the carrier. He brought it to the farm betimes that morning,
and along with it he brought a letter or two that had arrived since I
had left. I was talking to cousin Holman—about my mother's ways of
making bread, I remember; cousin Holman was questioning me, and had got
me far beyond my depth—in the house-place, when the letters were
brought in by one of the men, and I had to pay the carrier for his
trouble before I could look at them. A bill—a Canadian letter! What
instinct made me so thankful that I was alone with my dear unobservant
cousin? What made me hurry them away into my coat-pocket? I do not
know. I felt strange and sick, and made irrelevant answers, I am
afraid. Then I went to my room, ostensibly to carry up my boxes. I sate
on the side of my bed and opened my letter from Holdsworth. It seemed
to me as if I had read its contents before, and knew exactly what he
had got to say. I knew he was going to be married to Lucille Ventadour;
nay, that he was married; for this was the 5th of July, and he wrote
word that his marriage was fixed to take place on the 29th of June. I
knew all the reasons he gave, all the raptures he went into. I held the
letter loosely in my hands, and looked into vacancy, yet I saw the
chaffinch's nest on the lichen-covered trunk of an old apple-tree
opposite my window, and saw the mother-bird come fluttering in to feed
her brood,—and yet I did not see it, although it seemed to me
afterwards as if I could have drawn every fibre, every feather. I was
stirred up to action by the merry sound of voices and the clamp of
rustic feet coming home for the mid-day meal. I knew I must go down to
dinner; I knew, too, I must tell Phillis; for in his happy egotism, his
new-fangled foppery, Holdsworth had put in a P.S., saying that he
should send wedding-cards to me and some other Hornby and Eltham
acquaintances, and 'to his kind friends at Hope Farm'. Phillis had
faded away to one among several 'kind friends'. I don't know how I got
through dinner that day. I remember forcing myself to eat, and talking
hard; but I also recollect the wondering look in the minister's eyes.
He was not one to think evil without cause; but many a one would have
taken me for drunk. As soon as I decently could I left the table,
saying I would go out for a walk. At first I must have tried to stun
reflection by rapid walking, for I had lost myself on the high
moorlands far beyond the familiar gorse-covered common, before I was
obliged for very weariness to slacken my pace. I kept wishing—oh! how
fervently wishing I had never committed that blunder; that the one
little half-hour's indiscretion could be blotted out. Alternating with
this was anger against Holdsworth; unjust enough, I dare say. I suppose
I stayed in that solitary place for a good hour or more, and then I
turned homewards, resolving to get over the telling Phillis at the
first opportunity, but shrinking from the fulfilment of my resolution
so much that when I came into the house and saw Phillis (doors and
windows open wide in the sultry weather) alone in the kitchen, I became
quite sick with apprehension. She was standing by the dresser, cutting
up a great household loaf into hunches of bread for the hungry
labourers who might come in any minute, for the heavy thunder-clouds
were overspreading the sky. She looked round as she heard my step.
'You should have been in the field, helping with the hay,' said
she, in her calm, pleasant voice. I had heard her as I came near the
house softly chanting some hymn-tune, and the peacefulness of that
seemed to be brooding over her now.
'Perhaps I should. It looks as if it was going to rain.
'Yes; there is thunder about. Mother has had to go to bed with one
of her bad headaches. Now you are come in—
'Phillis,' said I, rushing at my subject and interrupting her, 'I
went a long walk to think over a letter I had this morning—a letter
from Canada. You don't know how it has grieved me. I held it out to her
as I spoke. Her colour changed a little, but it was more the reflection
of my face, I think, than because she formed any definite idea from my
words. Still she did not take the letter. I had to bid her to read it,
before she quite understood what I wished. She sate down rather
suddenly as she received it into her hands; and, spreading it on the
dresser before her, she rested her forehead on the palms of her hands,
her arms supported on the table, her figure a little averted, and her
countenance thus shaded. I looked out of the open window; my heart was
very heavy. How peaceful it all seemed in the farmyard! Peace and
plenty. How still and deep was the silence of the house! Tick-tick went
the unseen clock on the wide staircase. I had heard the rustle once,
when she turned over the page of thin paper. She must have read to the
end. Yet she did not move, or say a word, or even sigh. I kept on
looking out of the window, my hands in my pockets. I wonder how long
that time really was? It seemed to me interminable—unbearable. At
length I looked round at her. She must have felt my look, for she
changed her attitude with a quick sharp movement, and caught my eyes.
'Don't look so sorry, Paul,' she said. 'Don't, please. I can't bear
it. There is nothing to be sorry for. I think not, at least. You have
not done wrong, at any rate.' I felt that I groaned, but I don't think
she heard me. 'And he,—there's no wrong in his marrying, is there? I'm
sure I hope he'll be happy. Oh! how I hope it!' These last words were
like a wail; but I believe she was afraid of breaking down, for she
changed the key in which she spoke, and hurried on. 'Lucille—that's
our English Lucy, I suppose? Lucille Holdsworth! It's a pretty name;
and I hope—I forget what I was going to say. Oh! it was this. Paul, I
think we need never speak about this again; only remember you are not
to be sorry. You have not done wrong; you have been very, very kind;
and if I see you looking grieved I don't know what I might do;—I might
breakdown, you know.'
I think she was on the point of doing so then, but the dark storm
came dashing down, and the thunder-cloud broke right above the house,
as it seemed. Her mother, roused from sleep, called out for Phillis;
the men and women from the hay-field came running into shelter,
drenched through. The minister followed, smiling, and not unpleasantly
excited by the war of elements; for, by dint of hard work through the
long summer's day, the greater part of the hay was safely housed in the
barn in the field. Once or twice in the succeeding bustle I came across
Phillis, always busy, and, as it seemed to me, always doing the right
thing. When I was alone in my own room at night I allowed myself to
feel relieved; and to believe that the worst was over, and was not so
very bad after all. But the succeeding days were very miserable.
Sometimes I thought it must be my fancy that falsely represented
Phillis to me as strangely changed, for surely, if this idea of mine
was well-founded, her parents—her father and mother—her own flesh and
blood—would have been the first to perceive it. Yet they went on in
their household peace and content; if anything, a little more
cheerfully than usual, for the 'harvest of the first-fruits', as the
minister called it, had been more bounteous than usual, and there was
plenty all around in which the humblest labourer was made to share.
After the one thunderstorm, came one or two lovely serene summer days,
during which the hay was all carried; and then succeeded long soft
rains filling the ears of corn, and causing the mown grass to spring
afresh. The minister allowed himself a few more hours of relaxation and
home enjoyment than usual during this wet spell: hard earth-bound frost
was his winter holiday; these wet days, after the hay harvest, his
summer holiday. We sate with open windows, the fragrance and the
freshness called out by the soft-falling rain filling the house-place;
while the quiet ceaseless patter among the leaves outside ought to have
had the same lulling effect as all other gentle perpetual sounds, such
as mill-wheels and bubbling springs, have on the nerves of happy
people. But two of us were not happy. I was sure enough of myself, for
one. I was worse than sure,—I was wretchedly anxious about Phillis.
Ever since that day of the thunderstorm there had been a new, sharp,
discordant sound to me in her voice, a sort of jangle in her tone; and
her restless eyes had no quietness in them; and her colour came and
went without a cause that I could find out. The minister, happy in
ignorance of what most concerned him, brought out his books; his
learned volumes and classics. Whether he read and talked to Phillis, or
to me, I do not know; but feeling by instinct that she was not, could
not be, attending to the peaceful details, so strange and foreign to
the turmoil in her heart, I forced myself to listen, and if possible to
'Look here!' said the minister, tapping the old vellum-bound book
he held; 'in the first Georgic he speaks of rolling and irrigation, a
little further on he insists on choice of the best seed, and advises us
to keep the drains clear. Again, no Scotch farmer could give shrewder
advice than to cut light meadows while the dew is on, even though it
involve night-work. It is all living truth in these days.' He began
beating time with a ruler upon his knee, to some Latin lines he read
aloud just then. I suppose the monotonous chant irritated Phillis to
some irregular energy, for I remember the quick knotting and breaking
of the thread with which she was sewing. I never hear that snap
repeated now, without suspecting some sting or stab troubling the heart
of the worker. Cousin Holman, at her peaceful knitting, noticed the
reason why Phillis had so constantly to interrupt the progress of her
'It is bad thread, I'm afraid,' she said, in a gentle sympathetic
voice. But it was too much for Phillis.
'The thread is bad—everything is bad—I am so tired of it all!'
And she put down her work, and hastily left the room. I do not suppose
that in all her life Phillis had ever shown so much temper before. In
many a family the tone, the manner, would not have been noticed; but
here it fell with a sharp surprise upon the sweet, calm atmosphere of
home. The minister put down ruler and book, and pushed his spectacles
up to his forehead. The mother looked distressed for a moment, and then
smoothed her features and said in an explanatory tone,—'It's the
weather, I think. Some people feel it different to others. It always
brings on a headache with me.' She got up to follow her daughter, but
half-way to the door she thought better of it, and came back to her
seat. Good mother! she hoped the better to conceal the unusual spirt of
temper, by pretending not to take much notice of it. 'Go on, minister,'
she said; 'it is very interesting what you are reading about, and when
I don't quite understand it, I like the sound of your voice.' So he
went on, but languidly and irregularly, and beat no more time with his
ruler to any Latin lines. When the dusk came on, early that July night
because of the cloudy sky, Phillis came softly back, making as though
nothing had happened. She took up her work, but it was too dark to do
many stitches; and she dropped it soon. Then I saw how her hand stole
into her mother's, and how this latter fondled it with quiet little
caresses) while the minister, as fully aware as I was of this tender
pantomime, went on talking in a happier tone of voice about things as
uninteresting to him, at the time, I very believe, as they were to me;
and that is saying a good deal, and shows how much more real what was
passing before him was, even to a farmer, than the agricultural customs
of the ancients.
I remember one thing more,—an attack which Betty the servant made
upon me one day as I came in through the kitchen where she was
churning) and stopped to ask her for a drink of buttermilk.
'I say, cousin Paul,' (she had adopted the family habit of
addressing me generally as cousin Paul, and always speaking of me in
that form,) 'something's amiss with our Phillis, and I reckon you've a
good guess what it is. She's not one to take up wi' such as you,' (not
complimentary, but that Betty never was, even to those for whom she
felt the highest respect,) 'but I'd as lief yon Holdsworth had never
come near us. So there you've a bit o' my mind.'
And a very unsatisfactory bit it was. I did not know what to answer
to the glimpse at the real state of the case implied in the shrewd
woman's speech; so I tried to put her off by assuming surprise at her
'Amiss with Phillis! I should like to know why you think anything
is wrong with her. She looks as blooming as any one can do.'
'Poor lad! you're but a big child after all; and you've likely
never heared of a fever-flush. But you know better nor that, my fine
fellow! so don't think for to put me off wi' blooms and blossoms and
such-like talk. What makes her walk about for hours and hours o' nights
when she used to be abed and asleep? I sleep next room to her, and hear
her plain as can be. What makes her come in panting and ready to drop
into that chair,'—nodding to one close to the door,— 'and it's "Oh!
Betty, some water, please"? That's the way she comes in now, when she
used to come back as fresh and bright as she went out. If yon friend o'
yours has played her false, he's a deal for t' answer for; she's a lass
who's as sweet and as sound as a nut, and the very apple of her
father's eye, and of her mother's too' only wi' her she ranks second to
th' minister. You'll have to look after yon chap, for I, for one, will
stand no wrong to our Phillis.'
What was I to do, or to say? I wanted to justify Holdsworth, to
keep Phillis's secret, and to pacify the woman all in the same breath.
I did not take the best course, I'm afraid.
'I don't believe Holdsworth ever spoke a word of—of love to her in
all his life. I'm sure he didn't.'
'Aye. aye! but there's eyes, and there's hands, as well as tongues;
and a man has two o' th' one and but one o' t'other.'
'And she's so young; do you suppose her parents would not have seen
'Well! if you axe me that, I'll say out boldly, "No". They've
called her "the child" so long—"the child" is always their name for
her when they talk on her between themselves, as if never anybody else
had a ewe-lamb before them—that she's grown up to be a woman under
their very eyes, and they look on her still as if she were in her long
clothes. And you ne'er heard on a man falling in love wi' a babby in
'No!' said I, half laughing. But she went on as grave as a judge.
'Aye! you see you'll laugh at the bare thought on it—and I'll be
bound th' minister, though he's not a laughing man, would ha' sniggled
at th' notion of falling in love wi' the child. Where's Holdsworth off
'Canada,' said I, shortly.
'Canada here, Canada there,' she replied, testily. 'Tell me how far
he's off, instead of giving me your gibberish. Is he a two days'
journey away? or a three? or a week?'
'He's ever so far off—three weeks at the least,' cried I in
despair. 'And he's either married, or just going to be. So there.' I
expected a fresh burst of anger. But no; the matter was too serious.
Betty sate down, and kept silence for a minute or two. She looked so
miserable and downcast, that I could not help going on, and taking her
a little into my confidence.
'It is quite true what I said. I know he never spoke a word to her.
I think he liked her, but it's all over now. The best thing we can
do—the best and kindest for her—and I know you love her, Betty—'
'I nursed her in my arms; I gave her little brother his last taste
o' earthly food,' said Betty) putting her apron up to her eyes.
'Well! don't let us show her we guess that she is grieving; she'll
get over it the sooner. Her father and mother don't even guess at it,
and we must make as if we didn't. It's too late now to do anything
'I'll never let on; I know nought. I've known true love mysel', in
my day. But I wish he'd been farred before he ever came near this
house, with his "Please Betty" this, and "Please Betty" that, and
drinking up our new milk as if he'd been a cat. I hate such beguiling
I thought it was as well to let her exhaust herself in abusing the
absent Holdsworth; if it was shabby and treacherous in me, I came in
for my punishment directly.
'It's a caution to a man how he goes about beguiling. Some men do
it as easy and innocent as cooing doves. Don't you be none of 'em, my
lad. Not that you've got the gifts to do it, either; you're no great
shakes to look at, neither for figure, nor yet for face, and it would
need be a deaf adder to be taken in wi' your words, though there may be
no great harm in em. A lad of nineteen or twenty is not flattered by
such an out-spoken opinion even from the oldest and ugliest of her sex;
and I was only too glad to change the subject by my repeated
injunctions to keep Phillis's secret. The end of our conversation was
this speech of hers,—
'You great gaupus, for all you're called cousin o' th'
minister—many a one is cursed wi' fools for cousins—d'ye think I
can't see sense except through your spectacles? I give you leave to cut
out my tongue, and nail it up on th' barn-door for a caution to
magpies, if I let out on that poor wench, either to herself, or any one
that is hers, as the Bible says. Now you've heard me speak Scripture
language, perhaps you'll be content, and leave me my kitchen to
During all these days, from the 5th of July to the 17th, I must
have forgotten what Holdsworth had said about cards. And yet I think I
could not have quite forgotten; but, once having told Phillis about his
marriage, I must have looked upon the after consequence of cards as of
no importance. At any rate they came upon me as a surprise at last. The
penny-post reform, as people call it, had come into operation a short
time before; but the never-ending stream of notes and letters which
seem now to flow in upon most households had not yet begun its course;
at least in those remote parts. There was a post-office at Hornby; and
an old fellow, who stowed away the few letters in any or all his
pockets, as it best suited him, was the letter-carrier to Heathbridge
and the neighbourhood. I have often met him in the lanes thereabouts,
and asked him for letters. Sometimes I have come upon him, sitting on
the hedge-bank resting; and he has begged me to read him an address,
too illegible for his spectacled eyes to decipher. When I used to
inquire if he had anything for me, or for Holdsworth (he was not
particular to whom he gave up the letters, so that he got rid of them
somehow, and could set off homewards), he would say he thought that he
had, for such was his invariable safe form of answer; and would fumble
in breast-pockets, waistcoat-pockets, breeches-pockets, and, as a last
resource, in coat-tail pockets; and at length try to comfort me, if I
looked disappointed, by telling me, 'Hoo had missed this toime, but was
sure to write to-morrow;' 'Hoo' representing an imaginary sweetheart.
Sometimes I had seen the minister bring home a letter which he had
found lying for him at the little shop that was the post-office at
Heathbridge, or from the grander establishment at Hornby. Once or twice
Josiah, the carter, remembered that the old letter-carrier had trusted
him with an epistle to 'Measter', as they had met in the lanes. I think
it must have been about ten days after my arrival at the farm, and my
talk to Phillis cutting bread-and-butter at the kitchen dresser, before
the day on which the minister suddenly spoke at the dinner-table, and
'By-the-by, I've got a letter in my pocket. Reach me my coat here,
Phillis.' The weather was still sultry, and for coolness and ease the
minister was sitting in his shirt-sleeves. 'I went to Heathbridge about
the paper they had sent me, which spoils all the pens—and I called at
the post-office, and found a letter for me, unpaid,—and they did not
like to trust it to old Zekiel. Aye! here it is! Now we shall hear news
of Holdsworth, —I thought I'd keep it till we were all together.' My
heart seemed to stop beating, and I hung my head over my plate, not
daring to look up. What would come of it now? What was Phillis doing?
How was she looking? A moment of suspense, —and then he spoke again.
'Why! what's this? Here are two visiting tickets with his name on, no
writing at all. No! it's not his name on both. MRS Holdsworth! The
young man has gone and got married.' I lifted my head at these words; I
could not help looking just for one instant at Phillis. It seemed to me
as if she had been keeping watch over my face and ways. Her face was
brilliantly flushed; her eyes were dry and glittering; but she did not
speak; her lips were set together almost as if she was pinching them
tight to prevent words or sounds coming out. Cousin Holman's face
expressed surprise and interest.
'Well!' said she, 'who'd ha' thought it! He's made quick work of
his wooing and wedding. I'm sure I wish him happy. Let me
see'—counting on her fingers,—'October, November, December, January,
February, March, April, May, June, July,—at least we're at the
28th,—it is nearly ten months after all, and reckon a month each way
'Did you know of this news before?' said the minister, turning
sharp round on me, surprised, I suppose, at my silence,—hardly
suspicious, as yet.
'I knew—I had heard—something. It is to a French Canadian young
lady,' I went on, forcing myself to talk. 'Her name is Ventadour.'
'Lucille Ventadour!' said Phillis, in a sharp voice, out of tune.
'Then you knew too!' exclaimed the minister.
We both spoke at once. I said, 'I heard of the probability of——
and told Phillis.' She said, 'He is married to Lucille Ventadour, of
French descent; one of a large family near St. Meurice; am not I
right?' I nodded 'Paul told me,—that is all we know, is not it? Did
you see the Howsons, father, in Heathbridge?' and she forced herself to
talk more than she had done for several days, asking many questions,
trying, as I could see, to keep the conversation off the one raw
surface, on which to touch was agony. I had less self-command; but I
followed her lead. I was not so much absorbed in the conversation but
what I could see that the minister was puzzled and uneasy; though he
seconded Phillis's efforts to prevent her mother from recurring to the
great piece of news, and uttering continual exclamations of wonder and
surprise. But with that one exception we were all disturbed out of our
natural equanimity, more or less. Every day, every hour, I was
reproaching myself more and more for my blundering officiousness. If
only I had held my foolish tongue for that one half-hour; if only I had
not been in such impatient haste to do something to relieve pain! I
could have knocked my stupid head against the wall in my remorse. Yet
all I could do now was to second the brave girl in her efforts to
conceal her disappointment and keep her maidenly secret. But I thought
that dinner would never, never come to an end. I suffered for her, even
more than for myself. Until now everything which I had heard spoken in
that happy household were simple words of true meaning. If we bad aught
to say, we said it; and if any one preferred silence, nay if all did
so, there would have been no spasmodic, forced efforts to talk for the
sake of talking, or to keep off intrusive thoughts or suspicions.
At length we got up from our places, and prepared to disperse; but
two or three of us had lost our zest and interest in the daily labour.
The minister stood looking out of the window in silence, and when he
roused himself to go out to the fields where his labourers were
working, it was with a sigh; and he tried to avert his troubled face as
he passed us on his way to the door. When he had left us, I caught
sight of Phillis's face, as, thinking herself unobserved, her
countenance relaxed for a moment or two into sad, woeful weariness. She
started into briskness again when her mother spoke, and hurried away to
do some little errand at her bidding. When we two were alone, cousin
Holman recurred to Holdsworth's marriage. She was one of those people
who like to view an event from every side of probability, or even
possibility; and she had been cut short from indulging herself in this
way during dinner.
'To think of Mr Holdsworth's being married! I can't get over it,
Paul. Not but what he was a very nice young man! I don't like her name,
though; it sounds foreign. Say it again, my dear. I hope she'll know
how to take care of him, English fashion. He is not strong, and if she
does not see that his things are well aired, I should be afraid of the
'He always said he was stronger than he had ever been before, after
'He might think so, but I have my doubts. He was a very pleasant
young man, but he did not stand nursing very well. He got tired of
being coddled, as he called it. J hope they'll soon come back to
England, and then he'll have a chance for his health. I wonder now, if
she speaks English; but, to be sure, he can speak foreign tongues like
anything, as I've heard the minister say.'
And so we went on for some time, till she became drowsy over her
knitting, on the sultry summer afternoon; and I stole away for a walk,
for I wanted some solitude in which to think over things, and, alas! to
blame myself with poignant stabs of remorse.
I lounged lazily as soon as I got to the wood. Here and there the
bubbling, brawling brook circled round a great stone, or a root of an
old tree, and made a pool; otherwise it coursed brightly over the
gravel and stones. I stood by one of these for more than half an hour,
or, indeed, longer, throwing bits of wood or pebbles into the water,
and wondering what I could do to remedy the present state of things. Of
course all my meditation was of no use; and at length the distant sound
of the horn employed to tell the men far afield to leave off work,
warned me that it was six o'clock, and time for me to go home. Then I
caught wafts of the loud-voiced singing of the evening psalm. As I was
crossing the Ashfield, I saw the minister at some distance talking to a
man. I could not hear what they were saying, but I saw an impatient or
dissentient (I could not tell which) gesture on the part of the former,
who walked quickly away, and was apparently absorbed in his thoughts,
for though be passed within twenty yards of me, as both our paths
converged towards home, he took no notice of me. We passed the evening
in a way which was even worse than dinner-time. The minister was
silent, depressed, even irritable. Poor cousin Holman was utterly
perplexed by this unusual frame of mind and temper in her husband; she
was not well herself, and was suffering from the extreme and sultry
heat, which made her less talkative than usual. Phillis, usually so
reverently tender to her parents, so soft, so gentle, seemed now to
take no notice of the unusual state of things, but talked to me—to any
one, on indifferent subjects, regardless of her father's gravity, of
her mother's piteous looks of bewilderment. But once my eyes fell upon
her hands, concealed under the table, and I could see the passionate,
convulsive manner in which she laced and interlaced her fingers
perpetually, wringing them together from time to time, wringing till
the compressed flesh became perfectly white. What could I do? I talked
with her, as I saw she wished; her grey eyes had dark circles round
them. and a strange kind of dark light in them; her cheeks were
flushed, but her lips were white and wan. I wondered that others did
not read these signs as clearly as I did. But perhaps they did; I
think, from what came afterwards, the minister did.
Poor cousin Holman! she worshipped her husband; and the outward
signs of his uneasiness were more patent to her simple heart than were
her daughter's. After a while she could bear it no longer. She got up,
and, softly laying her hand on his broad stooping shoulder, she said,—
'What is the matter, minister? Has anything gone wrong?'
He started as if from a dream. Phillis hung her head, and caught
her breath in terror at the answer she feared. But he, looking round
with a sweeping glance, turned his broad, wise face up to his anxious
wife, and forced a smile, and took her hand in a reassuring manner.
'I am blaming myself, dear. I have been overcome with anger this
afternoon. I scarcely knew what I was doing, but I turned away Timothy
Cooper. He has killed the Ribstone pippin at the corner of the orchard;
gone and piled the quicklime for the mortar for the new stable wall
against the trunk of the tree—stupid fellow! killed the tree
outright—and it loaded with apples!'
'And Ribstone pippins are so scarce,' said sympathetic cousin
'Aye! But Timothy is but a half-wit; and he has a wife and
children. He had often put me to it sore, with his slothful ways, but I
had laid it before the Lord, and striven to bear with him. But I will
not stand it any longer, it's past my patience. And he has notice to
find another place. Wife, we won't talk more about it.' He took her
hand gently off his shoulder, touched it with his lips; but relapsed
into a silence as profound, if not quite so morose in appearance, as
before. I could not tell why, but this bit of talk between her father
and mother seemed to take all the factitious spirits out of Phillis.
She did not speak now, but looked out of the open casement at the calm
large moon, slowly moving through the twilight sky. Once I thought her
eyes were filling with tears; but, if so, she shook them off, and arose
with alacrity when her mother, tired and dispirited, proposed to go to
bed immediately after prayers. We all said good-night in our separate
ways to the minister, who still sate at the table with the great Bible
open before him, not much looking up at any of our salutations, but
returning them kindly. But when I, last of all, was on the point of
leaving the room, he said, still scarcely looking up,—
'Paul, you will oblige me by staying here a few minutes. I would
fain have some talk with you.'
I knew what was coming, all in a moment. I carefully shut—to the
door, put out my candle, and sate down to my fate. He seemed to find
some difficulty in beginning, for, if I had not heard that he wanted to
speak to me, I should never have guessed it, he seemed so much absorbed
in reading a chapter to the end. Suddenly he lifted his head up and
'It is about that friend of yours, Holdsworth! Paul, have you any
reason for thinking he has played tricks upon Phillis?'
I saw that his eyes were blazing with such a fire of anger at the
bare idea, that I lost all my presence of mind, and only repeated,—
'Played tricks on Phillis!'
'Aye! you know what I mean: made love to her, courted her, made her
think that he loved her, and then gone away and left her. Put it as you
will, only give me an answer of some kind or another—a true answer, I
mean—and don't repeat my words, Paul.'
He was shaking all over as he said this. I did not delay a moment
in answering him,—
'I do not believe that Edward Holdsworth ever played tricks on
Phillis, ever made love to her; he never, to my knowledge, made her
believe that he loved her.'
I stopped; I wanted to nerve up my courage for a confession, yet I
wished to save the secret of Phillis's love for Holdsworth as much as I
could; that secret which she had so striven to keep sacred and safe;
and I had need of some reflection before I went on with what I had to
He began again before I had quite arranged my manner of speech. It
was almost as if to himself,—'She is my only child; my little
daughter! She is hardly out of childhood; I have thought to gather her
under my wings for years to come her mother and I would lay down our
lives to keep her from harm and grief.' Then, raising his voice, and
looking at me, he said, 'Something has gone wrong with the child; and
it seemed to me to date from the time she heard of that marriage. It is
hard to think that you may know more of her secret cares and sorrows
than I do,—but perhaps you do, Paul, perhaps you do,—only, if it be
not a sin, tell me what J can do to make her happy again; tell me.'
'It will not do much good, I am afraid,' said J, 'but I will own
how wrong I did; I don't mean wrong in the way of sin, but in the way
of judgment. Holdsworth told me just before he went that he loved
Phillis, and hoped to make her his wife, and I told her.'
There! it was out; all my part in it, at least; and I set my lips
tight together, and waited for the words to come. I did not see his
face; I looked straight at the wall Opposite; but I heard him once
begin to speak, and then turn over the leaves in the book before him.
How awfully still that room was I The air outside, how still it was!
The open windows let in no rustle of leaves, no twitter or movement of
birds—no sound whatever. The clock on the stairs— the minister's hard
breathing—was it to go on for ever? Impatient beyond bearing at the
deep quiet, I spoke again,—
'I did it for the best, as I thought.'
The minister shut the book to hastily, and stood up. Then I saw how
angry he was.
'For the best, do you say? It was best, was it, to go and tell a
young girl what you never told a word of to her parents, who trusted
you like a son of their own?'
He began walking about, up and down the room close under the open
windows, churning up his bitter thoughts of me.
'To put such thoughts into the child's head,' continued he; 'to
spoil her peaceful maidenhood with talk about another man's love; and
such love, too,' he spoke scornfully now—a love that is ready for any
young woman. Oh, the misery in my poor little daughter's face to-day at
dinner—the misery, Paul! I thought you were one to be trusted—your
father's son too, to go and put such thoughts into the child's mind;
you two talking together about that man wishing to marry her.'
I could not help remembering the pinafore, the childish garment
which Phillis wore so long, as if her parents were unaware of her
progress towards womanhood. Just in the same way the minister spoke and
thought of her now, as a child, whose innocent peace I had spoiled by
vain and foolish talk. I knew that the truth was different, though I
could hardly have told it now; but, indeed, I never thought of trying
to tell; it was far from my mind to add one iota to the sorrow which I
had caused. The minister went on walking, occasionally stopping to move
things on the table, or articles of furniture, in a sharp, impatient,
meaningless way, then he began again,—
'So young, so pure from the world! how could you go and talk to
such a child, raising hopes, exciting feelings—all to end thus; and
best so, even though I saw her poor piteous face look as it did. I
can't forgive you, Paul; it was more than wrong—it was wicked—to go
and repeat that man's words.'
His back was now to the door, and, in listening to his low angry
tones, he did not hear it slowly open, nor did he see Phillis. standing
just within the room, until he turned round; then he stood still. She
must have been half undressed; but she had covered herself with a dark
winter cloak, which fell in long folds to her white, naked, noiseless
feet. Her face was strangely pale: her eyes heavy in the black circles
round them. She came up to the table very slowly, and leant her hand
upon it, saying mournfully,—
'Father, you must not blame Paul. I could not help hearing a great
deal of what you were saying. He did tell me, and perhaps it would have
been wiser not, dear Paul! But—oh, dear! oh, dear! I am so sick with
shame! He told me out of his kind heart, because he saw—that I was so
very unhappy at his going away.
She hung her head, and leant more heavily than before on her
'I don't understand,' said her father; but he was beginning to
understand. Phillis did not answer till he asked her again. I could
have struck him now for his cruelty; but then I knew all.
'I loved him, father!' she said at length, raising her eyes to the
minister's face. 'Had he ever spoken of love to you? Paul says not!'
'Never.' She let fall her eyes, and drooped more than ever. I
almost thought she would fall.
'I could not have believed it,' said he, in a hard voice, yet
sighing the moment he had spoken. A dead silence for a moment. 'Paul! I
was unjust to you. You deserved blame, but not all that I said.' Then
again a silence. I thought I saw Phillis's white lips moving, but it
might have been the flickering of the candlelight—a moth had flown in
through the open casement, and was fluttering round the flame; I might
have saved it, but I did not care to do so, my heart was too full of
other things. At any rate, no sound was heard for long endless minutes.
Then he said,—'Phillis! did we not make you happy here? Have we not
loved you enough?'
She did not seem to understand the drift of this question; she
looked up as if bewildered, and her beautiful eyes dilated with a
painful, tortured expression. He went on, without noticing the look on
her face; he did not see it, I am sure.
'And yet you would have left us, left your home, left your father
and your mother, and gone away with this stranger, wandering over the
He suffered, too; there were tones of pain in the voice in which he
uttered this reproach. Probably the father and daughter were never so
far apart in their lives, so unsympathetic. Yet some new terror came
over her, and it was to him she turned for help. A shadow came over her
face, and she tottered towards her father; falling down, her arms
across his knees, and moaning out,—
'Father, my head! my head!' and then slipped through his
quick-enfolding arms, and lay on the ground at his feet.
I shall never forget his sudden look of agony while I live; never!
We raised her up; her colour had strangely darkened; she was
insensible. I ran through the back-kitchen to the yard pump, and
brought back water. The minister had her on his knees, her head against
his breast, almost as though she were a sleeping child. He was trying
to rise up with his poor precious burden, but the momentary terror had
robbed the strong man of his strength, and he sank back in his chair
with sobbing breath.
'She is not dead, Paul! is she?' he whispered, hoarse, as I came
I, too, could not speak, but I pointed to the quivering of the
muscles round her mouth. Just then cousin Holman, attracted by some
unwonted sound, came down. I remember I was surprised at the time at
her presence of mind, she seemed to know so much better what to do than
the minister, in the midst of the sick affright which blanched her
countenance, and made her tremble all over. I think now that it was the
recollection of what had gone before; the miserable thought that
possibly his words had brought on this attack, whatever it might be,
that so unmanned the minister. We carried her upstairs, and while the
women were putting her to bed, still unconscious, still slightly
convulsed, I slipped out, and saddled one of the horses, and rode as
fast as the heavy-trotting beast could go, to Hornby, to find the
doctor there, and bring him back. He was out, might be detained the
whole night. I remember saying, 'God help us all!' as I sate on my
horse, under the window, through which the apprentice's head had
appeared to answer my furious tugs at the night-bell. He was a
good-natured fellow. He said,—
'He may be home in half an hour, there's no knowing; but I daresay
he will. I'll send him out to the Hope Farm directly he comes in. It's
that good-looking young woman, Holman's daughter, that's ill, isn't
'It would be a pity if she was to go. She's an only child, isn't
she? I'll get up, and smoke a pipe in the surgery, ready for the
governor's coming home. I might go to sleep if I went to bed again.'
'Thank you, you're a good fellow!' and I rode back almost as
quickly as I came.
It was a brain fever. The doctor said so, when he came in the early
summer morning. I believe we had come to know the nature of the illness
in the night-watches that had gone before. As to hope of ultimate
recovery, or even evil prophecy of the probable end, the cautious
doctor would be entrapped into neither. He gave his directions, and
promised to come again; so soon, that this one thing showed his opinion
of the gravity of the case.
By God's mercy she recovered, but it was a long, weary time first.
According to previously made plans, I was to have gone home at the
beginning of August. But all such ideas were put aside now, without a
word being spoken. I really think that I was necessary in the house,
and especially necessary to the minister at this time; my father was
the last man in the world, under such circumstances, to expect me home.
I say, I think I was necessary in the house. Every person (1 had
almost said every creature, for all the dumb beasts seemed to know and
love Phillis) about the place went grieving and sad, as though a cloud
was over the sun. They did their work, each striving to steer clear of
the temptation to eye-service, in fulfilment of the trust reposed in
them by the minister. For the day after Phillis had been taken ill, he
had called all the men employed on the farm into the empty barn; and
there he had entreated their prayers for his only child; and then and
there he had told them of his present incapacity for thought about any
other thing in this world but his little daughter, lying nigh unto
death, and he had asked them to go on with their daily labours as best
they could, without his direction. So, as I say, these honest men did
their work to the best of their ability, but they slouched along with
sad and careful faces, coming one by one in the dim mornings to ask
news of the sorrow that overshadowed the house; and receiving Betty's
intelligence, always rather darkened by passing through her mind, with
slow shakes of the head, and a dull wistfulness of sympathy. But, poor
fellows, they were hardly fit to be trusted with hasty messages, and
here my poor services came in. One time I was to ride hard to Sir
William Bentinck's, and petition for ice out of his ice-house, to put
on Phillis's head. Another it was to Eltham I must go, by train, horse,
anyhow, and bid the doctor there come for a consultation, for fresh
symptoms had appeared, which Mr Brown, of Hornby, considered unfavour
able. Many an hour have I sate on the window-seat, half-way up the
stairs, close by the old clock, listening in the hot stillness of the
house for the sounds in the sick-room. The minister and I met often,
but spoke together seldom. He looked so old—so old! He shared the
nursing with his wife; the strength that was needed seemed to be given
to them both in that day. They required no one else about their child.
Every office about her was sacred to them; even Betty only went into
the room for the most necessary purposes. Once I saw Phillis through
the open door; her pretty golden hair had been cut off long before; her
head was covered with wet cloths, and she was moving it backwards and
forwards on the pillow, with weary, never-ending motion, her poor eyes
shut, trying in the old accustomed way to croon out a hymn tune, but
perpetually breaking it up into moans of pain. Her mother sate by her,
tearless, changing the cloths upon her head with patient solicitude. I
did not see the minister at first, but there he was in a dark corner,
down upon his knees, his hands clasped together in passionate prayer.
Then the door shut, and I saw no more.
One day he was wanted; and I had to summon him. Brother Robinson
and another minister, hearing of his 'trial', had come to see him. I
told him this upon the stair-landing in a whisper. He was strangely
'They will want me to lay bare my heart. I cannot do it. Paul, stay
with me. They mean well; but as for spiritual help at such a time—it
is God only, God only, who can give it.
So I went in with him. They were two ministers from the
neighbourhood; both older than Ebenezer Holman; but evidently inferior
to him in education and worldly position. I thought they looked at me
as if I were an intruder, but remembering the minister's words I held
my ground, and took up one of poor Phillis's books (of which I could
not read a word) to have an ostensible occupation. Presently I was
asked to 'engage in prayer', and we all knelt down; Brother Robinson
'leading', and quoting largely as I remember from the Book of Job. He
seemed to take for his text, if texts are ever taken for prayers,
'Behold thou hast instructed many; but now it is come upon thee, and
thou faintest, it toucheth thee and thou art troubled.' When we others
rose up, the minister continued for some minutes on his knees. Then he
too got up, and stood facing us, for a moment, before we all sate down
in conclave. After a pause Robinson began,—
'We grieve for you, Brother Holman, for your trouble is great. But
we would fain have you remember you are as a light set on a hill; and
the congregations are looking at you with watchful eyes. We have been
talking as we came along on the two duties required of you in this
strait; Brother Hodgson and me. And we have resolved to exhort you on
these two points. First, God has given you the opportunity of showing
forth an example of resignation.' Poor Mr Holman visibly winced at this
word. I could fancy how he had tossed aside such brotherly preachings
in his happier moments; but now his whole system was unstrung, and
'resignation' seemed a term which presupposed that the dreaded misery
of losing Phillis was inevitable. But good stupid Mr Robinson went on.
'We hear on all sides that there are scarce any hopes of your child's
recovery; and it may be well to bring you to mind of Abraham; and how
he was willing to kill his only child when the Lord commanded. Take
example by him, Brother Holman. Let us hear you say, "The Lord giveth
and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"'
There was a pause of expectancy. I verily believe the minister
tried to feel it; but he could not. Heart of flesh was too strong.
Heart of stone he had not.
'I will say it to my God, when He gives me strength,—when the day
comes,' he spoke at last.
The other two looked at each other, and shook their heads. I think
the reluctance to answer as they wished was not quite unexpected. The
minister went on 'There are vet' he said, as if to himself. 'God has
given me a great heart for hoping, and I will not look forward beyond
the hour.' Then turning more to them,—and speaking louder, he added:
'Brethren, God will strengthen me when the time comes, when such
resignation as you speak of is needed. Till then I cannot feel it; and
what I do not feel I will not express; using words as if they were a
charm.' He was getting chafed, I could see.
He had rather put them out by these speeches of his; but after a
short time and some more shakes of the head, Robinson began again,—
'Secondly, we would have you listen to the voice of the rod, and
ask yourself for what sins this trial has been laid upon you; whether
you may not have been too much given up to your farm and your cattle;
whether this world's learning has not puffed you up to vain conceit and
neglect of the things of God; whether you have not made an idol of your
'I cannot answer—I will not answer'.' exclaimed the minister. 'My
sins I confess to God. But if they were scarlet (and they are so in His
sight),' he added, humbly, 'I hold with Christ that afflictions are not
sent by God in wrath as penalties for sin.'
'Is that orthodox, Brother Robinson?' asked the third minister, in
a deferential tone of inquiry.
Despite the minister's injunction not to leave him, I thought
matters were getting so serious that a little homely interruption would
be more to the purpose than my continued presence, and I went round to
the kitchen to ask for Betty's help.
''Od rot 'em!' said she; 'they're always a-coming at ill-convenient
times; and they have such hearty appetites, they'll make nothing of
what would have served master and you since our poor lass has been ill.
I've but a bit of cold beef in th' house; but I'll do some ham and
eggs, and that '11 rout 'em from worrying the minister. They're a deal
quieter after they've had their victual. Last time as old Robinson
came, he was very reprehensible upon master's learning, which he
couldn't compass to save his life, so he needn't have been afeard of
that temptation, and used words long enough to have knocked a body
down; but after me and missus had given him his fill of victual, and
he'd had some good ale and a pipe, he spoke just like any other man,
and could crack a joke with me.'
Their visit was the only break in the long weary days and nights. I
do not mean that no other inquiries were made. I believe that all the
neighbours hung about the place daily till they could learn from some
out-comer how Phillis Holman was. But they knew better than to come up
to the house, for the August weather was so hot that every door and
window was kept constantly open, and the least sound outside penetrated
all through. I am sure the cocks and hens had a sad time of it; for
Betty drove them all into an empty barn, and kept them fastened up in
the dark for several days, with very little effect as regarded their
crowing and clacking. At length came a sleep which was the crisis, and
from which she wakened up with a new faint life. Her slumber had lasted
many, many hours. We scarcely dared to breathe or move during the time;
we had striven to hope so long, that we were sick at heart, and durst
not trust in the favourable signs: the even breathing, the moistened
skin, the slight return of delicate colour into the pale, wan lips. I
recollect stealing out that evening in the dusk, and wandering down the
grassy lane, under the shadow of the over-arching elms to the little
bridge at the foot of the hill, where the lane to the Hope Farm joined
another road to Hornby. On the low parapet of that bridge I found
Timothy Cooper, the stupid, half-witted labourer, sitting, idly
throwing bits of mortar into the brook below. He just looked up at me
as I came near, but gave me no greeting either by word or gesture. He
had generally made some sign' of recognition to me, but this time I
thought he was sullen at being dismissed. Nevertheless I felt as if it
would be a relief to talk a little to some one, and I sate down by him.
While I was thinking how to begin, he yawned weariedly.
'You are tired, Tim?' said I.
'Aye,' said he. 'But I reckon I may go home now.' 'Have you been
sitting here long?'
'Welly all day long. Leastways sin' seven i' th' morning.' 'Why,
what in the world have you been doing?' 'Nought.'
'Why have you been sitting here, then?'
'T' keep carts off.' He was up now, stretching himself, and shaking
his lubberly limbs.
'Carts! what carts?'
'Carts as might ha' wakened yon wench! It's Hornby market day. I
reckon yo're no better nor a half-wit yoursel'.' He cocked his eye at
me as if he were gauging my intellect.
'And have you been Sitting here all day to keep the lane quiet P'
'Aye. I've nought else to do. Th' minister has turned me adrift.
Have yo' heard how th' lass is faring to-night?'
'They hope she'll waken better for this long sleep. Good night to
you, and God bless you, Timothy,' said I.
He scarcely took any notice of my words, as he lumbered across a
Stile that led to his cottage. Presently I went home to the farm.
Phillis had Stirred, had Spoken two or three faint words. Her mother
was with her, dropping nourishment into her scarce conscious mouth. The
rest of the household were summoned to evening prayer for the first
time for many days. It was a return to the daily habits of happiness
and health. But in these Silent days our very lives had been an
unspoken prayer. Now we met In the house-place, and looked at each
other with strange recognition of the thankfulness on all Our faces. We
knelt down; we waited for the minister's voice. He did not begin as
usual. He could not; he was choking. Presently we heard the strong
man's sob. Then old John turned round on his knees, and said,—
'Minister, I reckon we have blessed the Lord wi' all our souls,
though we've ne'er talked about it; and maybe He'll not need spoken
words this night. God bless us all, and keep our Phillis safe from
Old John's impromptu prayer was all we had that night.
'Our Phillis,' as he called her, grew better day by day from that
time. Not quickly; I sometimes grew desponding, and feared that she
would never be what she had been before; no more she has, in Some ways.
I seized an early opportunity to tell the minister about Timothy
Cooper's unsolicited watch on the bridge during the long Summer's day.
'God forgive me!' said the minister. 'I have been too proud in my
own conceit. The first steps I take out of this house shall be to
I need hardly say Timothy was reinstated in his place on the farm;
and I have often since admired the patience with which his master tried
to teach him how to do the easy work which was henceforward carefully
adjusted to his capacity.
Phillis was carried down-stairs, and lay for hour after hour quite
silent on the great sofa, drawn up under the windows of the
house-place. She seemed always the same, gentle, quiet, and sad. Her
energy did not return with her bodily strength. It was sometimes
pitiful to see her parents' vain endeavours to rouse her to interest.
One day the minister brought her a set of blue ribbons, reminding her
with a tender smile of a former conversation in which she had owned to
a love of such feminine vanities. She spoke gratefully to him, but when
he was gone she laid them on one side, and languidly shut her eyes.
Another time I saw her mother bring her the Latin and Italian books
that she had been so fond of before her illness—or, rather, before
Holdsworth had gone away. That was worst of all. She turned her face to
the wall, and cried as soon as her mother's back was turned. Betty was
laying the cloth for the early dinner. Her sharp eyes saw the state of
'Now, Phillis!' said she, coming up to the sofa; 'we ha' done a' we
can for you, and th' doctors has done a' they can for you, and I think
the Lord has done a' He can for you, and more than you deserve, too, if
you don't do something for yourself. If I were you, I'd rise up and
snuff the moon, sooner than break your father's and your mother's
hearts wi' watching and waiting till it pleases you to fight your Own
way back to cheerfulness. There, I never favoured long preachings, and
I've said my say.'
A day or two after Phillis asked me, when we were alone, if I
thought my father and mother would allow her to go and stay with them
for a couple of months. She blushed a little as she faltered out her
wish for change of thought and scene.
'Only for a short time, Paul. Then—we will go back to the peace of
the old days. I know we shall; I can, and I will!'