The Son's Veto
by Thomas Hardy
To the eyes of a man viewing it from behind, the nut-brown hair was a wonder and
a mystery. Under the black beaver hat, surmounted by its tuft of black feathers,
the long locks, braided and twisted and coiled like the rushes of a basket,
composed a rare, if somewhat barbaric, example of ingenious art. One could
understand such weavings and coilings being wrought to last intact for a year,
or even a calendar month; but that they should be all demolished regularly at
bedtime, after a single day of permanence, seemed a reckless waste of successful
And she had done it all herself, poor thing. She had no maid, and it was almost
the only accomplishment she could boast of. Hence the unstinted pains.
She was a young invalid lady--not so very much of an invalid--sitting in a
wheeled chair, which had been pulled up in the front part of a green enclosure,
close to a bandstand, where a concert was going on, during a warm June
afternoon. It had place in one of the minor parks or private gardens that are to
be found in the suburbs of London, and was the effort of a local association to
raise money for some charity. There are worlds within worlds in the great city,
and though nobody outside the immediate district had ever heard of the charity,
or the band, or the garden, the enclosure was filled with an interested audience
sufficiently informed on all these.
As the strains proceeded many of the listeners observed the chaired lady, whose
back hair, by reason of her prominent position, so challenged inspection. Her
face was not easily discernible, but the aforesaid cunning tress-weavings, the
white ear and poll, and the curve of a cheek which was neither flaccid nor
sallow, were signals that led to the expectation of good beauty in front. Such
expectations are not infrequently disappointed as soon as the disclosure comes;
and in the present case, when the lady, by a turn of the head, at length
revealed herself, she was not so handsome as the people behind her had supposed,
and even hoped--they did not know why.
For one thing (alas! the commonness of this complaint), she was less young than
they had fancied her to be. Yet attractive her face unquestionably was, and not
at all sickly. The revelation of its details came each time she turned to talk
to a boy of twelve or thirteen who stood beside her, and the shape of whose hat
and jacket implied that he belonged to a well-known public school. The immediate
bystanders could hear that he called her 'Mother.'
When the end of the recital was reached, and the audience withdrew, many chose
to find their way out by passing at her elbow. Almost all turned their heads to
take a full and near look at the interesting woman, who remained stationary in
the chair till the way should be clear enough for her to be wheeled out without
obstruction. As if she expected their glances, and did not mind gratifying their
curiosity, she met the eyes of several of her observers by lifting her own,
showing these to be soft, brown, and affectionate orbs, a little plaintive in
She was conducted out of the gardens, and passed along the pavement till she
disappeared from view, the schoolboy walking beside her. To inquiries made by
some persons who watched her away, the answer came that she was the second wife
of the incumbent of a neighbouring parish, and that she was lame. She was
generally believed to be a woman with a story--an innocent one, but a story of
some sort or other.
In conversing with her on their way home the boy who walked at her elbow said
that he hoped his father had not missed them.
'He have been so comfortable these last few hours that I am sure he cannot have
missed us,' she replied.
'HAS, dear mother--not HAVE!' exclaimed the public-school boy, with an impatient
fastidiousness that was almost harsh. 'Surely you know that by this time!'
His mother hastily adopted the correction, and did not resent his making it, or
retaliate, as she might well have done, by bidding him to wipe that crumby mouth
of his, whose condition had been caused by surreptitious attempts to eat a piece
of cake without taking it out of the pocket wherein it lay concealed. After this
the pretty woman and the boy went onward in silence.
That question of grammar bore upon her history, and she fell into reverie, of a
somewhat sad kind to all appearance. It might have been assumed that she was
wondering if she had done wisely in shaping her life as she had shaped it, to
bring out such a result as this.
In a remote nook in North Wessex, forty miles from London, near the thriving
county-town of Aldbrickham, there stood a pretty village with its church and
parsonage, which she knew well enough, but her son had never seen. It was her
native village, Gaymead, and the first event bearing upon her present situation
had occurred at that place when she was only a girl of nineteen.
How well she remembered it, that first act in her little tragi- comedy, the
death of her reverend husband's first wife. It happened on a spring evening, and
she who now and for many years had filled that first wife's place was then
parlour-maid in the parson's house.
When everything had been done that could be done, and the death was announced,
she had gone out in the dusk to visit her parents, who were living in the same
village, to tell them the sad news. As she opened the white swing-gate and
looked towards the trees which rose westward, shutting out the pale light of the
evening sky, she discerned, without much surprise, the figure of a man standing
in the hedge, though she roguishly exclaimed as a matter of form, 'Oh, Sam, how
you frightened me!'
He was a young gardener of her acquaintance. She told him the particulars of the
late event, and they stood silent, these two young people, in that elevated,
calmly philosophic mind which is engendered when a tragedy has happened close at
hand, and has not happened to the philosophers themselves. But it had its
bearing upon their relations.
'And will you stay on now at the Vicarage, just the same?' asked he.
She had hardly thought of that. 'Oh, yes--I suppose!' she said. 'Everything will
be just as usual, I imagine?'
He walked beside her towards her mother's. Presently his arm stole round her
waist. She gently removed it; but he placed it there again, and she yielded the
point. 'You see, dear Sophy, you don't know that you'll stay on; you may want a
home; and I shall be ready to offer one some day, though I may not be ready just
'Why, Sam, how can you be so fast! I've never even said I liked 'ee; and it is
all your own doing, coming after me!'
'Still, it is nonsense to say I am not to have a try at you like the rest.' He
stooped to kiss her a farewell, for they had reached her mother's door.
'No, Sam; you sha'n't!' she cried, putting her hand over his mouth. 'You ought
to be more serious on such a night as this.' And she bade him adieu without
allowing him to kiss her or to come indoors.
The vicar just left a widower was at this time a man about forty years of age,
of good family, and childless. He had led a secluded existence in this college
living, partly because there were no resident landowners; and his loss now
intensified his habit of withdrawal from outward observation. He was still less
seen than heretofore, kept himself still less in time with the rhythm and racket
of the movements called progress in the world without. For many months after his
wife's decease the economy of his household remained as before; the cook, the
housemaid, the parlour-maid, and the man out-of-doors performed their duties or
left them undone, just as Nature prompted them--the vicar knew not which. It was
then represented to him that his servants seemed to have nothing to do in his
small family of one. He was struck with the truth of this representation, and
decided to cut down his establishment. But he was forestalled by Sophy, the
parlour-maid, who said one evening that she wished to leave him.
'And why?' said the parson.
'Sam Hobson has asked me to marry him, sir.'
'Well--do you want to marry?'
'Not much. But it would be a home for me. And we have heard that one of us will
have to leave.'
A day or two after she said: 'I don't want to leave just yet, sir, if you don't
wish it. Sam and I have quarrelled.'
He looked up at her. He had hardly ever observed her before, though he had been
frequently conscious of her soft presence in the room. What a kitten-like,
flexuous, tender creature she was! She was the only one of the servants with
whom he came into immediate and continuous relation. What should he do if Sophy
Sophy did not go, but one of the others did, and things went on quietly again.
When Mr. Twycott, the vicar, was ill, Sophy brought up his meals to him, and she
had no sooner left the room one day than he heard a noise on the stairs. She had
slipped down with the tray, and so twisted her foot that she could not stand.
The village surgeon was called in; the vicar got better, but Sophy was
incapacitated for a long time; and she was informed that she must never again
walk much or engage in any occupation which required her to stand long on her
feet. As soon as she was comparatively well she spoke to him alone. Since she
was forbidden to walk and bustle about, and, indeed, could not do so, it became
her duty to leave. She could very well work at something sitting down, and she
had an aunt a seamstress.
The parson had been very greatly moved by what she had suffered on his account,
and he exclaimed, 'No, Sophy; lame or not lame, I cannot let you go. You must
never leave me again!'
He came close to her, and, though she could never exactly tell how it happened,
she became conscious of his lips upon her cheek. He then asked her to marry him.
Sophy did not exactly love him, but she had a respect for him which almost
amounted to veneration. Even if she had wished to get away from him she hardly
dared refuse a personage so reverend and august in her eyes, and she assented
forthwith to be his wife.
Thus it happened that one fine morning, when the doors of the church were
naturally open for ventilation, and the singing birds fluttered in and alighted
on the tie-beams of the roof, there was a marriage- service at the
communion-rails, which hardly a soul knew of. The parson and a neighbouring
curate had entered at one door, and Sophy at another, followed by two necessary
persons, whereupon in a short time there emerged a newly-made husband and wife.
Mr. Twycott knew perfectly well that he had committed social suicide by this
step, despite Sophy's spotless character, and he had taken his measures
accordingly. An exchange of livings had been arranged with an acquaintance who
was incumbent of a church in the south of London, and as soon as possible the
couple removed thither, abandoning their pretty country home, with trees and
shrubs and glebe, for a narrow, dusty house in a long, straight street, and
their fine peal of bells for the wretchedest one-tongued clangour that ever
tortured mortal ears. It was all on her account. They were, however, away from
every one who had known her former position; and also under less observation
from without than they would have had to put up with in any country parish.
Sophy the woman was as charming a partner as a man could possess, though Sophy
the lady had her deficiencies. She showed a natural aptitude for little domestic
refinements, so far as related to things and manners; but in what is called
culture she was less intuitive. She had now been married more than fourteen
years, and her husband had taken much trouble with her education; but she still
held confused ideas on the use of 'was' and 'were,' which did not beget a
respect for her among the few acquaintances she made. Her great grief in this
relation was that her only child, on whose education no expense had been and
would be spared, was now old enough to perceive these deficiencies in his
mother, and not only to see them but to feel irritated at their existence.
Thus she lived on in the city, and wasted hours in braiding her beautiful hair,
till her once apple cheeks waned to pink of the very faintest. Her foot had
never regained its natural strength after the accident, and she was mostly
obliged to avoid walking altogether. Her husband had grown to like London for
its freedom and its domestic privacy; but he was twenty years his Sophy's
senior, and had latterly been seized with a serious illness. On this day,
however, he had seemed to be well enough to justify her accompanying her son
Randolph to the concert.
The next time we get a glimpse of her is when she appears in the mournful attire
of a widow.
Mr. Twycott had never rallied, and now lay in a well-packed cemetery to the
south of the great city, where, if all the dead it contained had stood erect and
alive, not one would have known him or recognized his name. The boy had
dutifully followed him to the grave, and was now again at school.
Throughout these changes Sophy had been treated like the child she was in nature
though not in years. She was left with no control over anything that had been
her husband's beyond her modest personal income. In his anxiety lest her
inexperience should be overreached he had safeguarded with trustees all he
possibly could. The completion of the boy's course at the public school, to be
followed in due time by Oxford and ordination, had been all previsioned and
arranged, and she really had nothing to occupy her in the world but to eat and
drink, and make a business of indolence, and go on weaving and coiling the
nut-brown hair, merely keeping a home open for the son whenever he came to her
Foreseeing his probable decease long years before her, her husband in his
lifetime had purchased for her use a semi-detached villa in the same long,
straight road whereon the church and parsonage faced, which was to be hers as
long as she chose to live in it. Here she now resided, looking out upon the
fragment of lawn in front, and through the railings at the ever-flowing traffic;
or, bending forward over the window-sill on the first floor, stretching her eyes
far up and down the vista of sooty trees, hazy air, and drab house-facades,
along which echoed the noises common to a suburban main thoroughfare.
Somehow, her boy, with his aristocratic school-knowledge, his grammars, and his
aversions, was losing those wide infantine sympathies, extending as far as to
the sun and moon themselves, with which he, like other children, had been born,
and which his mother, a child of nature herself, had loved in him; he was
reducing their compass to a population of a few thousand wealthy and titled
people, the mere veneer of a thousand million or so of others who did not
interest him at all. He drifted further and further away from her. Sophy's
milieu being a suburb of minor tradesmen and under-clerks, and her almost only
companions the two servants of her own house, it was not surprising that after
her husband's death she soon lost the little artificial tastes she had acquired
from him, and became--in her son's eyes--a mother whose mistakes and origin it
was his painful lot as a gentleman to blush for. As yet he was far from being
man enough--if he ever would be--to rate these sins of hers at their true
infinitesimal value beside the yearning fondness that welled up and remained
penned in her heart till it should be more fully accepted by him, or by some
other person or thing. If he had lived at home with her he would have had all of
it; but he seemed to require so very little in present circumstances, and it
Her life became insupportably dreary; she could not take walks, and had no
interest in going for drives, or, indeed, in travelling anywhere. Nearly two
years passed without an event, and still she looked on that suburban road,
thinking of the village in which she had been born, and whither she would have
gone back--O how gladly!-- even to work in the fields.
Taking no exercise, she often could not sleep, and would rise in the night or
early morning and look out upon the then vacant thoroughfare, where the lamps
stood like sentinels waiting for some procession to go by. An approximation to
such a procession was indeed made early every morning about one o'clock, when
the country vehicles passed up with loads of vegetables for Covent Garden
market. She often saw them creeping along at this silent and dusky hour-- waggon
after waggon, bearing green bastions of cabbages nodding to their fall, yet
never falling, walls of baskets enclosing masses of beans and peas, pyramids of
snow-white turnips, swaying howdahs of mixed produce--creeping along behind aged
night-horses, who seemed ever patiently wondering between their hollow coughs
why they had always to work at that still hour when all other sentient creatures
were privileged to rest. Wrapped in a cloak, it was soothing to watch and
sympathize with them when depression and nervousness hindered sleep, and to see
how the fresh green-stuff brightened to life as it came opposite the lamp, and
how the sweating animals steamed and shone with their miles of travel.
They had an interest, almost a charm, for Sophy, these semirural people and
vehicles moving in an urban atmosphere, leading a life quite distinct from that
of the daytime toilers on the same road. One morning a man who accompanied a
waggon-load of potatoes gazed rather hard at the house-fronts as he passed, and
with a curious emotion she thought his form was familiar to her. She looked out
for him again. His being an old-fashioned conveyance, with a yellow front, it
was easily recognizable, and on the third night after she saw it a second time.
The man alongside was, as she had fancied, Sam Hobson, formerly gardener at
Gaymead, who would at one time have married her.
She had occasionally thought of him, and wondered if life in a cottage with him
would not have been a happier lot than the life she had accepted. She had not
thought of him passionately, but her now dismal situation lent an interest to
his resurrection--a tender interest which it is impossible to exaggerate. She
went back to bed, and began thinking. When did these market-gardeners, who
travelled up to town so regularly at one or two in the morning, come back? She
dimly recollected seeing their empty waggons, hardly noticeable amid the
ordinary day-traffic, passing down at some hour before noon.
It was only April, but that morning, after breakfast, she had the window opened,
and sat looking out, the feeble sun shining full upon her. She affected to sew,
but her eyes never left the street. Between ten and eleven the desired waggon,
now unladen, reappeared on its return journey. But Sam was not looking round him
then, and drove on in a reverie.
'Sam!' cried she.
Turning with a start, his face lighted up. He called to him a little boy to hold
the horse, alighted, and came and stood under her window.
'I can't come down easily, Sam, or I would!' she said. 'Did you know I lived
'Well, Mrs. Twycott, I knew you lived along here somewhere. I have often looked
out for 'ee.'
He briefly explained his own presence on the scene. He had long since given up
his gardening in the village near Aldbrickham, and was now manager at a
market-gardener's on the south side of London, it being part of his duty to go
up to Covent Garden with waggon-loads of produce two or three times a week. In
answer to her curious inquiry, he admitted that he had come to this particular
district because he had seen in the Aldbrickham paper, a year or two before, the
announcement of the death in South London of the aforetime vicar of Gaymead,
which had revived an interest in her dwelling-place that he could not
extinguish, leading him to hover about the locality till his present post had
They spoke of their native village in dear old North Wessex, the spots in which
they had played together as children. She tried to feel that she was a dignified
personage now, that she must not be too confidential with Sam. But she could not
keep it up, and the tears hanging in her eyes were indicated in her voice.
'You are not happy, Mrs. Twycott, I'm afraid?' he said.
'O, of course not! I lost my husband only the year before last.'
'Ah! I meant in another way. You'd like to be home again?'
'This is my home--for life. The house belongs to me. But I understand'--She let
it out then. 'Yes, Sam. I long for home--OUR home! I SHOULD like to be there,
and never leave it, and die there.' But she remembered herself. 'That's only a
momentary feeling. I have a son, you know, a dear boy. He's at school now.'
'Somewhere handy, I suppose? I see there's lots on 'em along this road.'
'O no! Not in one of these wretched holes! At a public school--one of the most
distinguished in England.'
'Chok' it all! of course! I forget, ma'am, that you've been a lady for so many
'No, I am not a lady,' she said sadly. 'I never shall be. But he's a gentleman,
and that--makes it--O how difficult for me!'
The acquaintance thus oddly reopened proceeded apace. She often looked out to
get a few words with him, by night or by day. Her sorrow was that she could not
accompany her one old friend on foot a little way, and talk more freely than she
could do while he paused before the house. One night, at the beginning of June,
when she was again on the watch after an absence of some days from the window,
he entered the gate and said softly, 'Now, wouldn't some air do you good? I've
only half a load this morning. Why not ride up to Covent Garden with me? There's
a nice seat on the cabbages, where I've spread a sack. You can be home again in
a cab before anybody is up.'
She refused at first, and then, trembling with excitement, hastily finished her
dressing, and wrapped herself up in cloak and veil, afterwards sidling
downstairs by the aid of the handrail, in a way she could adopt on an emergency.
When she had opened the door she found Sam on the step, and he lifted her bodily
on his strong arm across the little forecourt into his vehicle. Not a soul was
visible or audible in the infinite length of the straight, flat highway, with
its ever-waiting lamps converging to points in each direction. The air was fresh
as country air at this hour, and the stars shone, except to the north-eastward,
where there was a whitish light--the dawn. Sam carefully placed her in the seat,
and drove on.
They talked as they had talked in old days, Sam pulling himself up now and then,
when he thought himself too familiar. More than once she said with misgiving
that she wondered if she ought to have indulged in the freak. 'But I am so
lonely in my house,' she added, 'and this makes me so happy!'
'You must come again, dear Mrs. Twycott. There is no time o' day for taking the
air like this.'
It grew lighter and lighter. The sparrows became busy in the streets, and the
city waxed denser around them. When they approached the river it was day, and on
the bridge they beheld the full blaze of morning sunlight in the direction of
St. Paul's, the river glistening towards it, and not a craft stirring.
Near Covent Garden he put her into a cab, and they parted, looking into each
other's faces like the very old friends they were. She reached home without
adventure, limped to the door, and let herself in with her latch-key unseen.
The air and Sam's presence had revived her: her cheeks were quite pink--almost
beautiful. She had something to live for in addition to her son. A woman of pure
instincts, she knew there had been nothing really wrong in the journey, but
supposed it conventionally to be very wrong indeed.
Soon, however, she gave way to the temptation of going with him again, and on
this occasion their conversation was distinctly tender, and Sam said he never
should forget her, notwithstanding that she had served him rather badly at one
time. After much hesitation he told her of a plan it was in his power to carry
out, and one he should like to take in hand, since he did not care for London
work: it was to set up as a master greengrocer down at Aldbrickham, the county-
town of their native place. He knew of an opening--a shop kept by aged people
who wished to retire.
'And why don't you do it, then, Sam?' she asked with a slight heartsinking.
'Because I'm not sure if--you'd join me. I know you wouldn't-- couldn't! Such a
lady as ye've been so long, you couldn't be a wife to a man like me.'
'I hardly suppose I could!' she assented, also frightened at the idea.
'If you could,' he said eagerly, 'you'd on'y have to sit in the back parlour and
look through the glass partition when I was away sometimes--just to keep an eye
on things. The lameness wouldn't hinder that . . . I'd keep you as genteel as
ever I could, dear Sophy--if I might think of it!' he pleaded.
'Sam, I'll be frank,' she said, putting her hand on his. 'If it were only myself
I would do it, and gladly, though everything I possess would be lost to me by
'I don't mind that! It's more independent.'
'That's good of you, dear, dear Sam. But there's something else. I have a son .
. . I almost fancy when I am miserable sometimes that he is not really mine, but
one I hold in trust for my late husband. He seems to belong so little to me
personally, so entirely to his dead father. He is so much educated and I so
little that I do not feel dignified enough to be his mother . . . Well, he would
have to be told.'
'Yes. Unquestionably.' Sam saw her thought and her fear. 'Still, you can do as
you like, Sophy--Mrs. Twycott,' he added. 'It is not you who are the child, but
'Ah, you don't know! Sam, if I could, I would marry you, some day. But you must
wait a while, and let me think.'
It was enough for him, and he was blithe at their parting. Not so she. To tell
Randolph seemed impossible. She could wait till he had gone up to Oxford, when
what she did would affect his life but little. But would he ever tolerate the
idea? And if not, could she defy him?
She had not told him a word when the yearly cricket-match came on at Lord's
between the public schools, though Sam had already gone back to Aldbrickham.
Mrs. Twycott felt stronger than usual: she went to the match with Randolph, and
was able to leave her chair and walk about occasionally. The bright idea
occurred to her that she could casually broach the subject while moving round
among the spectators, when the boy's spirits were high with interest in the
game, and he would weigh domestic matters as feathers in the scale beside the
day's victory. They promenaded under the lurid July sun, this pair, so wide
apart, yet so near, and Sophy saw the large proportion of boys like her own, in
their broad white collars and dwarf hats, and all around the rows of great
coaches under which was jumbled the debris of luxurious luncheons; bones,
pie-crusts, champagne-bottles, glasses, plates, napkins, and the family silver;
while on the coaches sat the proud fathers and mothers; but never a poor mother
like her. If Randolph had not appertained to these, had not centred all his
interests in them, had not cared exclusively for the class they belonged to, how
happy would things have been! A great huzza at some small performance with the
bat burst from the multitude of relatives, and Randolph jumped wildly into the
air to see what had happened. Sophy fetched up the sentence that had been
already shaped; but she could not get it out. The occasion was, perhaps, an
inopportune one. The contrast between her story and the display of fashion to
which Randolph had grown to regard himself as akin would be fatal. She awaited a
It was on an evening when they were alone in their plain suburban residence,
where life was not blue but brown, that she ultimately broke silence, qualifying
her announcement of a probable second marriage by assuring him that it would not
take place for a long time to come, when he would be living quite independently
The boy thought the idea a very reasonable one, and asked if she had chosen
anybody? She hesitated; and he seemed to have a misgiving. He hoped his
stepfather would be a gentleman? he said.
'Not what you call a gentleman,' she answered timidly. 'He'll be much as I was
before I knew your father;' and by degrees she acquainted him with the whole.
The youth's face remained fixed for a moment; then he flushed, leant on the
table, and burst into passionate tears.
His mother went up to him, kissed all of his face that she could get at, and
patted his back as if he were still the baby he once had been, crying herself
the while. When he had somewhat recovered from his paroxysm he went hastily to
his own room and fastened the door.
Parleyings were attempted through the keyhole, outside which she waited and
listened. It was long before he would reply, and when he did it was to say
sternly at her from within: 'I am ashamed of you! It will ruin me! A miserable
boor! a churl! a clown! It will degrade me in the eyes of all the gentlemen of
'Say no more--perhaps I am wrong! I will struggle against it!' she cried
Before Randolph left her that summer a letter arrived from Sam to inform her
that he had been unexpectedly fortunate in obtaining the shop. He was in
possession; it was the largest in the town, combining fruit with vegetables, and
he thought it would form a home worthy even of her some day. Might he not run up
to town to see her?
She met him by stealth, and said he must still wait for her final answer. The
autumn dragged on, and when Randolph was home at Christmas for the holidays she
broached the matter again. But the young gentleman was inexorable.
It was dropped for months; renewed again; abandoned under his repugnance; again
attempted; and thus the gentle creature reasoned and pleaded till four or five
long years had passed. Then the faithful Sam revived his suit with some
peremptoriness. Sophy's son, now an undergraduate, was down from Oxford one
Easter, when she again opened the subject. As soon as he was ordained, she
argued, he would have a home of his own, wherein she, with her bad grammar and
her ignorance, would be an encumbrance to him. Better obliterate her as much as
He showed a more manly anger now, but would not agree. She on her side was more
persistent, and he had doubts whether she could be trusted in his absence. But
by indignation and contempt for her taste he completely maintained his
ascendency; and finally taking her before a little cross and altar that he had
erected in his bedroom for his private devotions, there bade her kneel, and
swear that she would not wed Samuel Hobson without his consent. 'I owe this to
my father!' he said
The poor woman swore, thinking he would soften as soon as he was ordained and in
full swing of clerical work. But he did not. His education had by this time
sufficiently ousted his humanity to keep him quite firm; though his mother might
have led an idyllic life with her faithful fruiterer and greengrocer, and nobody
have been anything the worse in the world.
Her lameness became more confirmed as time went on, and she seldom or never left
the house in the long southern thoroughfare, where she seemed to be pining her
heart away. 'Why mayn't I say to Sam that I'll marry him? Why mayn't I?' she
would murmur plaintively to herself when nobody was near.
Some four years after this date a middle-aged man was standing at the door of
the largest fruiterer's shop in Aldbrickham. He was the proprietor, but to-day,
instead of his usual business attire, he wore a neat suit of black; and his
window was partly shuttered. From the railway-station a funeral procession was
seen approaching: it passed his door and went out of the town towards the
village of Gaymead. The man, whose eyes were wet, held his hat in his hand as
the vehicles moved by; while from the mourning coach a young smooth- shaven
priest in a high waistcoat looked black as a cloud at the shop keeper standing