The Princess Priscilla's Fortnight
by Elizabeth von Arnim
Editorial note: We now know that “Elizabeth and Her German Garden"
written by Elizabeth von Arnim (1866-1941). Born
Annette Beauchamp in Australia, she grew up in
and married a German, Count Henning August von
Arnim-Schlagenthin. After the couple moved to his
estate she began writing children's books. Many of
early books were published “By the Author of
and Her German Garden',” and later she published as
THE PRINCESS PRISCILLA'S FORTNIGHT
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ELIZABETH AND HER GERMAN GARDEN”
“Oft habe ich die Welt durchwandert, und habe immer
gesehen, wie das Grosse am Kleinlichen scheitert, und das
Edle von dem aetzenden Gift des Alltaeglichen zerfressen wird.”
FRITZING, “Erlebtes und Erlittenes.”
Her Grand Ducal Highness the Princess Priscilla of Lothen-Kunitz was
up to the age of twenty-one a most promising young lady. She was not
only poetic in appearance beyond the habit of princesses but she was
also of graceful and appropriate behaviour. She did what she was told;
or, more valuable, she did what was expected of her without being told.
Her father, in his youth and middle age a fiery man, now an irritable
old gentleman who liked good food and insisted on strictest etiquette,
was proud of her on those occasions when she happened to cross his
mind. Her mother, by birth an English princess of an originality
uncomfortable and unexpected in a royal lady that continued to the end
of her life to crop up at disconcerting moments, died when Priscilla
was sixteen. Her sisters, one older and one younger than herself, were
both far less pleasing to look upon than she was, and much more
difficult to manage; yet each married a suitable prince and each became
a credit to her House, while as for Priscilla,—well, as for Priscilla,
I propose to describe her dreadful conduct.
But first her appearance. She was well above the average height of
woman; a desirable thing in a princess, who, before everything, must
impress the public with her dignity. She had a long pointed chin, and a
sweet mouth with full lips that looked most kind. Her nose was not
quite straight, one side of it being the least bit different from the
other,—a slight crookedness that gave her face a charm absolutely
beyond the reach of those whose features are what is known as
chiselled. Her skin was of that fairness that freckles readily in hot
summers or on winter days when the sun shines brightly on the snow, a
delicate soft skin that is seen sometimes with golden eyelashes and
eyebrows, and hair that is more red than gold. Priscilla had these
eyelashes and eyebrows and this hair, and she had besides beautiful
grey-blue eyes—calm pools of thought, the court poet called them, when
her having a birthday compelled him to official raptures; and because
everybody felt sure they were not really anything of the kind the
poet's utterance was received with acclamations. Indeed, a princess who
should possess such pools would be most undesirable—in Lothen-Kunitz
nothing short of a calamity; for had they not had one already? It was
what had been the matter with the deceased Grand Duchess; she would
think, and no one could stop her, and her life in consequence was a
burden to herself and to everybody else at her court. Priscilla,
however, was very silent. She had never expressed an opinion, and the
inference was that she had no opinion to express. She had not
criticized, she had not argued, she had been tractable, obedient, meek.
Yet her sisters, who had often criticized and argued, and who had
rarely been obedient and never meek, became as I have said the wives of
appropriate princes, while Priscilla,—well, he who runs may read what
it was that Priscilla became.
But first as to where she lived. The Grand Duchy of Lothen-Kunitz
lies in the south of Europe; that smiling region of fruitful plains,
forest-clothed hills, and broad rivers. It is one of the first places
Spring stops at on her way up from Italy; and Autumn, coming down from
the north sunburnt, fruit-laden, and blest, goes slowly when she
reaches it, lingering there with her serenity and ripeness, her calm
skies and her windless days long after the Saxons and Prussians have
lit their stoves and got out their furs. There figs can be eaten off
the trees in one's garden, and vineyards glow on the hillsides. There
the people are Catholics, and the Protestant pastor casts no shadow of
a black gown across life. There as you walk along the white roads, you
pass the image of the dead Christ by the wayside; mute reminder to
those who would otherwise forget of the beauty of pitifulness and love.
And there, so near is Kunitz to the soul of things, you may any morning
get into the train after breakfast and in the afternoon find yourself
drinking coffee in the cool colonnades of the Piazza San Marco at
Kunitz is the capital of the duchy, and the palace is built on a
hill. It is one of those piled-up buildings of many windows and turrets
and battlements on which the tourist gazes from below as at the
realization of a childhood's dream. A branch of the river Loth winds
round the base of the hill, separating the ducal family from the
red-roofed town along its other bank. Kunitz stretches right round the
hill, lying clasped about its castle like a necklet of ancient stones.
At the foot of the castle walls the ducal orchards and kitchen gardens
begin, continuing down to the water's edge and clothing the base of the
hill in a garment of blossom and fruit. No fairer sight is to be seen
than the glimpse of these grey walls and turrets rising out of a cloud
of blossom to be had by him who shall stand in the market place of
Kunitz and look eastward up the narrow street on a May morning; and if
he who gazes is a dreamer he could easily imagine that where the
setting of life is so lovely its days must of necessity be each like a
jewel, of perfect brightness and beauty.
The Princess Priscilla, however, knew better. To her unfortunately
the life within the walls seemed of a quite blatant vulgarity; pervaded
by lacqueys, by officials of every kind and degree, by too much food,
too many clothes, by waste, by a feverish frittering away of time, by a
hideous want of privacy, by a dreariness unutterable. To her it was a
perpetual behaving according to the ideas officials had formed as to
the conduct to be expected of princesses, a perpetual pretending not to
see that the service offered was sheerest lip-service, a perpetual
shutting of the eyes to hypocrisy and grasping selfishness. Conceive,
you tourist full of illusions standing free down there in the market
place, the frightfulness of never being alone a moment from the time
you get out of bed to the time you get into it again. Conceive the
deadly patience needed to stand passive and be talked to, amused, taken
care of, all day long for years. Conceive the intolerableness, if you
are at all sensitive, of being watched by eyes so sharp and prying, so
eager to note the least change of expression and to use the conclusions
drawn for personal ends that nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes them.
Priscilla's sisters took all these things as a matter of course, did
not care in the least how keenly they were watched and talked over,
never wanted to be alone, liked being fussed over by their
ladies-in-waiting. They, happy girls, had thick skins. But Priscilla
was a dreamer of dreams, a poet who never wrote poems, but whose soul
though inarticulate was none the less saturated with the desires and
loves from which poems are born. She, like her sisters, had actually
known no other states; but then she dreamed of them continuously, she
desired them continuously, she read of them continuously; and though
there was only one person who knew she did these things I suppose one
person is enough in the way of encouragement if your mind is bent on
rebellion. This old person, cause of all the mischief that followed,
for without his help I do not see what Priscilla could have done, was
the ducal librarian—Hofbibliothekar, head, and practically
master of the wonderful collection of books and manuscripts whose mere
catalogue made learned mouths in distant parts of Europe water and
learned lungs sigh in hopeless envy. He too had officials under him,
but they were unlike the others: meek youths, studious and
short-sighted, whose business as far as Priscilla could see was to bow
themselves out silently whenever she and her lady-in-waiting came in.
The librarian's name was Fritzing; plain Herr Fritzing originally, but
gradually by various stages at last arrived at the dignity and
sonorousness of Herr Geheimarchivrath Fritzing. The Grand Duke indeed
had proposed to ennoble him after he had successfully taught Priscilla
English grammar, but Fritzing, whose spirit dwelt among the Greeks,
could not be brought to see any desirability in such a step. Priscilla
called him Fritzi when her lady-in-waiting dozed; dearest Fritzi
sometimes even, in the heat of protest or persuasion. But afterwards,
leaving the room as solemnly as she had come in, followed by her
wide-awake attendant, she would nod a formally gracious “Good
afternoon, Herr Geheimrath,” for all the world as though she had been
talking that way the whole time. The Countess (her lady-in-waiting was
the Countess Irmgard von Disthal, an ample slow lady, the unmarried
daughter of a noble house, about fifty at this time, and luckily—or
unluckily—for Priscilla, a great lover of much food and its resultant
deep slumbers) would bow in her turn in as stately a manner as her bulk
permitted, and with a frigidity so pronounced that in any one less
skilled in shades of deportment it would have resembled with a singular
completeness a sniff of scorn. Her frigidity was perfectly justified.
Was she not a hochgeboren, a member of an ancient house, of
luminous pedigree as far back as one could possibly see? And was he not
the son of an obscure Westphalian farmer, a person who in his youth had
sat barefoot watching pigs? It is true he had learning, and culture,
and a big head with plenty of brains in it, and the Countess Disthal
had a small head, hardly any brains, no soul to speak of, and no
education. This, I say, is true; but it is also neither here nor there.
The Countess was the Countess, and Fritzing was a nobody, and the
condescension she showed him was far more grand ducal than anything in
that way that Priscilla could or ever did produce.
Fritzing, unusually gifted, and enterprising from the first—which
explains the gulf between pig-watching and Hofbibliothekar—had
spent ten years in Paris and twenty in England in various capacities,
but always climbing higher in the world of intellect, and had come
during this climbing to speak English quite as well as most Englishmen,
if in a statelier, Johnsonian manner. At fifty he began his career in
Kunitz, and being a lover of children took over the English education
of the three princesses; and now that they had long since learned all
they cared to know, and in Priscilla's case all of grammar at least
that he had to teach, he invented a talent for drawing in Priscilla,
who could not draw a straight line, much less a curved one, so that she
should still be able to come to the library as often as she chose on
the pretext of taking a drawing-lesson. The Grand Duke's idea about his
daughters was that they should know a little of everything and nothing
too well; and if Priscilla had said she wanted to study Shakespeare
with the librarian he would have angrily forbidden it. Had she not had
ten years for studying Shakespeare? To go on longer than that would
mean that she was eager, and the Grand Duke loathed an eager woman.
But he had nothing to say against a little drawing; and it was
during the drawing-lessons of the summer Priscilla was twenty-one that
the Countess Disthal slept so peacefully. The summer was hot, and the
vast room cool and quiet. The time was three o'clock—immediately, that
is, after luncheon. Through the narrow open windows sweet airs and
scents came in from the bright world outside. Sometimes a bee would
wander up from the fruit-gardens below, and lazily drone round shady
corners. Sometimes a flock of pigeons rose swiftly in front of the
windows, with a flash of shining wings. Every quarter of an hour the
cathedral clock down in the town sent up its slow chime. Voices of
people boating on the river floated up too, softened to melodiousness.
Down at the foot of the hill the red roofs of the town glistened in the
sun. Beyond them lay the sweltering cornfields. Beyond them forests and
villages. Beyond them a blue line of hills. Beyond them, said Priscilla
to herself, freedom. She sat in her white dress at a table in one of
the deep windows, her head on its long slender neck, where the little
rings of red-gold hair curled so prettily, bent over the drawing-board,
her voice murmuring ceaselessly, for time was short and she had a great
many things to say. At her side sat Fritzing, listening and answering.
Far away in the coolest, shadiest corner of the room slumbered the
Countess. She was lulled by the murmured talk as sweetly as by the
drone of the bee.
“Your Grand Ducal Highness receives many criticisms and much advice
on the subject of drawing from the Herr Geheimrath?” she said one day,
after a lesson during which she had been drowsily aware of much talk.
“The Herr Geheimrath is most conscientious,” said Priscilla in the
stately, it-has-nothing-to-do-with-you sort of tone she found most
effectual with the Countess; but she added a request under her breath
that the lieber Gott might forgive her, for she knew she had
told a fib.
Indeed, the last thing that Fritzing was at this convulsed period of
his life was what his master would have called conscientious. Was he
not encouraging the strangest, wickedest, wildest ideas in the
Princess? Strange and wicked and wild that is from the grand ducal
point of view, for to Priscilla they seemed all sweetness and light.
Fritzing had a perfect horror of the Grand Duke. He was everything that
Fritzing, lean man of learning, most detested. The pleasantest fashion
of describing the Grand Duke will be simply to say that he was in all
things, both of mind and body, the exact opposite of Fritzing. Fritzing
was a man who spent his time ignoring his body and digging away at his
mind. You know the bony aspect of such men. Hardly ever is there much
flesh on them; and though they are often ugly enough, their spirit
blazes at you out of wonderful eyes. I call him old Fritzing, for he
was sixty. To me he seemed old; to Priscilla at twenty he seemed coeval
with pyramids and kindred hoarinesses; while to all those persons who
were sixty-one he did not seem old at all. Only two things could have
kept this restless soul chained to the service of the Grand Duke, and
those two things were the unique library and Priscilla. For the rest,
his life at Kunitz revolted him. He loathed the etiquette and the fuss
and the intrigues of the castle. He loathed each separate
lady-in-waiting, and every one of the male officials. He loathed the
vulgar abundance and inordinate length and frequency of the meals, when
down in the town he knew there were people a-hungered. He loathed the
lacqueys with a quite peculiar loathing, scowling at them from under
angry eyebrows as he passed from his apartment to the library; yet such
is the power of an independent and scornful spirit that though they had
heard all about Westphalia and the pig-days never once had they, who
made insolence their study, dared be rude to him.
Priscilla wanted to run away. This, I believe, is considered an
awful thing to do even if you are only a housemaid or somebody's wife.
If it were not considered awful, placed by the world high up on its
list of Utter Unforgivablenesses, there is, I suppose, not a woman who
would not at some time or other have run. She might come back, but she
would surely have gone. So bad is it held to be that even a housemaid
who runs is unfailingly pursued by maledictions more or less definite
according to the education of those she has run from; and a wife who
runs is pursued by social ruin, it being taken for granted that she did
not run alone. I know at least two wives who did run alone. Far from
wanting yet another burden added to them by adding to their lives yet
another man, they were anxiously endeavouring to get as far as might be
from the man they had got already. The world, foul hag with the
downcast eyes and lascivious lips, could not believe it possible, and
was quick to draw its dark mantle of disgrace over their shrinking
heads. One of them, unable to bear this, asked her husband's pardon.
She was a weak spirit, and now lives prostrate days, crushed beneath
the unchanging horror of a husband's free forgiveness. The other took a
cottage and laughed at the world. Was she not happy at last, and happy
in the right way? I go to see her sometimes, and we eat the cabbages
she has grown herself. Strange how the disillusioned find their peace
Priscilla, then, wanted to run away. What is awful in a housemaid
and in anybody's wife became in her case stupendous. The spirit that
could resolve it, decide to do it without being dragged to it by such
things as love or passion, calmly looking the risks and losses in the
face, and daring everything to free itself, was, it must be conceded,
at least worthy of respect. Fritzing thought it worthy of adoration;
the divinest spirit that had ever burned within a woman. He did not say
so. On the contrary, he was frightened, and tried angrily,
passionately, to dissuade. Yet he knew that if she wavered he would
never forgive her; she would drop at once from her high estate into
those depths in his opinion where the dull average of both sexes
sprawled for ever in indiscriminate heaps. Priscilla never dreamed of
wavering. She, most poetic of princesses, made apparently of ivory and
amber, outwardly so cool and serene and gentle, was inwardly on fire.
The fire, I should add, burnt with a very white flame. Nothing in the
shape of a young man had ever had the stoking of it. It was that
whitest of flames that leaps highest at the thought of
abstractions—freedom, beauty of life, simplicity, and the rest. This,
I would remark, is a most rare light to find burning in a woman's
breast. What she was, however, Fritzing had made her. True the material
had been extraordinarily good, and for ten years he had done as he
liked with it. Beginning with the simpler poems of Wordsworth—he
detested them, but they were better than soiling her soul with
Longfellow and Mrs. Hemans—those lessons in English literature, meant
by the authorities to be as innocuous to her as to her sisters, had
opened her eyes in a way nothing else could have done to the width of
the world and the littleness of Kunitz. With that good teacher, as
eager to lead as she to follow, she wandered down the splendid walks of
culture, met there the best people of all ages, communed with mighty
souls, heard how they talked, saw how they lived, and none, not one,
lived and talked as they lived and talked at Kunitz.
Imagine a girl influenced for ten years, ten of her softest most
wax-like years, by a Fritzing, taught to love freedom, to see the
beauty of plain things, of quietness, of the things appertaining to the
spirit, taught to see how ignoble it is, how intensely, hopelessly
vulgar to spend on one's own bodily comforts more than is exactly
necessary, taught to see a vision of happiness possible only to those
who look to their minds for their joys and not to their bodies, imagine
how such a girl, hearing these things every afternoon almost of her
life, would be likely to regard the palace mornings and evenings, the
ceremonies and publicity, all those hours spent as though she were a
celebrated picture, forced everlastingly to stand in an attitude
considered appropriate and smile while she was being looked at.
“No one,” she said one day to Fritzing, “who hasn't himself been a
princess can have the least idea of what it is like.”
“Ma'am, it would be more correct to say herself in place of
“Well, they can't,” said Priscilla.
“Ma'am, to begin a sentence with the singular and continue it with
the plural is an infraction of all known rules.”
“But the sentiments, Fritzi—what do you think of the sentiments?”
“Alas, ma'am, they too are an infraction of rules.”
“What is not in this place, I should like to know?” sighed
Priscilla, her chin on her hand, her eyes on that distant line of hills
beyond which, she told herself, lay freedom.
She had long ago left off saying it only to herself. I think she
must have been about eighteen when she took to saying it aloud to
Fritzing. At first, before he realized to what extent she was sick for
freedom, he had painted in glowing colours the delights that lay on the
other side of the hills, or for that matter on this side of them if you
were alone and not a princess. Especially had he dwelt on the glories
of life in England, glories attainable indeed only by the obscure such
as he himself had been, and for ever impossible to those whom Fate
obliges to travel in state carriages and special trains. Then he had
come to scent danger and had grown wary; trying to put her off with
generalities, such as the inability of human beings to fly from their
own selves, and irrelevancies such as the amount of poverty and
wretchedness to be observed in the east of London; refusing to discuss
France, which she was always getting to as the first step towards
England, except in as far as it was a rebellious country that didn't
like kings; pointing out with no little temper that she had already
seen England; and finishing by inquiring very snappily when her Grand
Ducal Highness intended to go on with her drawing.
Now what Priscilla had seen of England had been the insides of
Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle; of all insides surely the most
august. To and from these she had been conveyed in closed carriages and
royal trains, and there was so close a family likeness between them and
Kunitz that to her extreme discomfort she had felt herself completely
at home. Even the presence of the Countess Disthal had not been
wanting. She therefore regarded this as not seeing England at all, and
said so. Fritzing remarked tartly that it was a way of seeing it most
English people would envy her; and she was so unable to believe him
that she said Nonsense.
But lately her desires had taken definite shape so rapidly that he
had come to dread the very word hill and turn cold at the name of
England. He was being torn in different directions; for he was, you
see, still trying to do what other people had decided was his duty, and
till a man gives up doing that he will certainly be torn. How great
would be the temptation to pause here and consider the mangled state of
such a man, the wounds and weakness he will suffer from, and how his
soul will have to limp through life, if it were not that I must get on
One day, after many weeks of edging nearer to it, of going all round
it yet never quite touching it, she took a deep breath and told him she
had determined to run away. She added an order that he was to help her.
With her most grand ducal air she merely informed, ordered, and
forbade. What she forbade, of course, was the betrayal of her plans.
“You may choose,” she said, “between the Grand Duke and myself. If you
tell him, I have done with you for ever.”
Of course he chose Priscilla.
His agonies now were very great. Those last lacerations of
conscience were terrific. Then, after nights spent striding, a sudden
calm fell upon him. At length he could feel what he had always seen,
that there could not be two duties for a man, that no man can serve two
masters, that a man's one clear duty is to be in the possession of his
soul and live the life it approves: in other and shorter words, instead
of leading Priscilla, Priscilla was now leading him.
She did more than lead him; she drove him. The soul he had so
carefully tended and helped to grow was now grown stronger than his
own; for there was added to its natural strength the tremendous daring
of absolute inexperience. What can be more inexperienced than a
carefully guarded young princess? Priscilla's ignorance of the outside
world was pathetic. He groaned over her plans—for it was she who
planned and he who listened—and yet he loved them. She was a divine
woman, he said to himself; the sweetest and noblest, he was certain,
that the world would ever see.
Her plans were these:
First, that having had twenty-one years of life at the top of the
social ladder she was now going to get down and spend the next
twenty-one at the bottom of it. (Here she gave her reasons, and I will
not stop to describe Fritzing's writhings as his own past teachings
grinned at him through every word she said.)
Secondly, that the only way to get to the bottom being to run away
from Kunitz, she was going to run.
Thirdly, that the best and nicest place for living at the bottom
would be England. (Here she explained her conviction that beautiful
things grow quite naturally round the bottom of ladders that cannot
easily reach the top; flowers of self-sacrifice and love, of
temperance, charity, godliness—delicate things, with roots that find
their nourishment in common soil. You could not, said Priscilla, expect
soil at the top of ladders, could you? And as she felt that she too had
roots full of potentialities, she must take them down to where their
natural sustenance lay waiting.)
Fourthly, they were to live somewhere in the country in England, in
the humblest way.
Fifthly, she was to be his daughter.
“Daughter?” cried Fritzing, bounding in his chair. “Your Grand Ducal
Highness forgets I have friends in England, every one of whom is aware
that I never had a wife.”
“Niece, then,” said Priscilla.
He gazed at her in silence, trying to imagine her his niece. He had
two sisters, and they had stopped exactly at the point they were at
when they helped him, barefoot, to watch Westphalian pigs. I do not
mean that they had not ultimately left the little farm, gone into
stockings, and married. It is their minds I am thinking of, and these
had never budged. They were like their father, a doomed dullard; while
Fritzing's mother, whom he resembled, had been a rather extraordinary
woman in a rough and barbarous way. He found himself wholly unable to
imagine either of his sisters the mother of this exquisite young lady.
These, then, baldly, were Priscilla's plans. The carrying of them
out was left, she informed him, altogether to Fritzing. After having
spent several anxious days, she told him, considering whether she ought
to dye her hair black in order to escape recognition, or stay her own
colour but disguise herself as a man and buy a golden beard, she had
decided that these were questions Fritzing would settle better than she
could. “I'd dye my hair at once,” she said, “but what about my wretched
eyelashes? Can one dye eyelashes?”
Fritzing thought not, and anyhow was decidedly of opinion that her
eyelashes should not be tampered with; I think I have said that they
were very lovely. He also entirely discouraged the idea of dressing as
a man. “Your Grand Ducal Highness would only look like an extremely
conspicuous boy,” he assured her.
“I could wear a beard,” said Priscilla.
But Fritzing was absolutely opposed to the beard.
As for the money part, she never thought of it. Money was a thing
she never did think about. It also, then, was to be Fritzing's
business. Possibly things might have gone on much longer as they were,
with a great deal of planning and talking, and no doing, if an
exceedingly desirable prince had not signified his intention of
marrying Priscilla. This had been done before by quite a number of
princes. They had, that is, not signified, but implored. On their knees
would they have implored if their knees could have helped them. They
were however all poor, and Priscilla and her sisters were rich; and how
foolish, said the Grand Duke, to marry poor men unless you are poor
yourself. The Grand Duke, therefore, took these young men aside and
crushed them, while Priscilla, indifferent, went on with her drawing.
But now came this one who was so eminently desirable that he had no
need to do more than merely signify. There had been much trouble and a
great deal of delay in finding him a wife, for he had insisted on
having a princess who should be both pretty and not his cousin. Europe
did not seem to contain such a thing. Everybody was his cousin, except
two or three young women whom he was rude enough to call ugly. The
Kunitz princesses had been considered in their turn and set aside, for
they too were cousins; and it seemed as if one of the most splendid
thrones in Europe would either have to go queen-less or be sat upon by
somebody plain, when fate brought the Prince to a great public ceremony
in Kunitz, and he saw Priscilla and fell so violently in love with her
that if she had been fifty times his cousin he would still have married
That same evening he signified his intention to the delighted Grand
Duke, who immediately fell to an irrelevant praising of God.
“Bosh,” said the Prince, in the nearest equivalent his mother-tongue
This was very bad. Not, I mean, that the Prince should have said
Bosh, for he was so great that there was not a Grand Duke in Europe to
whom he might not have said it if he wanted to; but that Priscilla
should have been in imminent danger of marriage. Among Fritzing's many
preachings there had been one, often repeated in the strongest possible
language, that of all existing contemptibilities the very most
contemptible was for a woman to marry any one she did not love; and the
peroration, also extremely forcible, had been an announcement that the
prince did not exist who was fit to tie her shoestrings. This Priscilla
took to be an exaggeration, for she had no very great notion of her
shoestrings; but she did agree with the rest. The subject however was
an indifferent one, her father never yet having asked her to marry
anybody; and so long as he did not do so she need not, she thought,
waste time thinking about it. Now the peril was upon her, suddenly,
most unexpectedly, very menacingly. She knew there was no hope from the
moment she saw her father's face quite distorted by delight. He took
her hand and kissed it. To him she was already a queen. As usual she
gave him the impression of behaving exactly as he could have wished.
She certainly said very little, for she had long ago learned the art of
being silent; but her very silences were somehow exquisite, and the
Grand Duke thought her perfect. She gave him to understand almost
without words that it was a great surprise, an immense honour, a huge
compliment, but so sudden that she would be grateful to both himself
and the Prince if nothing more need be said about it for a week or
two—nothing, at least, till formal negotiations had been opened. “I
saw him yesterday for the first time,” she pleaded, “so naturally I am
Privately she had thought, his eyes, which he had never taken off
her, kind and pleasant; and if she had known of his having said Bosh
who knows but that he might have had a chance? As it was, the moment
she was alone she sent flying for Fritzing. “What,” she said, “do you
say to my marrying this man?”
“If you do, ma'am,” said Fritzing, and his face seemed one blaze of
white conviction, “you will undoubtedly be eternally lost.”
They fled on bicycles in the dusk. The goddess Good Luck, who seems
to have a predilection for sinners, helped them in a hundred ways.
Without her they would certainly not have got far, for both were very
ignorant of the art of running away. Once flight was decided on
Fritzing planned elaborately and feverishly, got things thought out and
arranged as well as he, poor harassed man, possibly could. But what in
this law-bound world can sinners do without the help of Luck? She,
amused and smiling dame, walked into the castle and smote the Countess
Disthal with influenza, crushing her down helpless into her bed, and
holding her there for days by the throat. While one hand was doing
this, with the other she gaily swept the Grand Duke into East Prussia,
a terrific distance, whither, all unaware of how he was being trifled
with, he thought he was being swept by an irresistible desire to go,
before the business of Priscilla's public betrothal should begin, and
shoot the roebucks of a friend.
The Countess was thrust into her bed at noon of a Monday in October.
At three the Grand Duke started for East Prussia, incognito in a
motor—you know the difficulty news has in reaching persons in motors.
At four one of Priscilla's maids, an obscure damsel who had been at the
mercy of the others and was chosen because she hated them, tripped out
of the castle with shining eyes and pockets heavy with bribes, and
caused herself to be whisked away by the afternoon express to Cologne.
At six, just as the castle guard was being relieved, two persons led
their bicycles through the archway and down across the bridge. It was
dark, and nobody recognized them. Fritzing was got up sportingly,
almost waggishly—heaven knows his soul was not feeling waggish—as
differently as possible from his usual sober clothes. Somehow he
reminded Priscilla of a circus, and she found it extremely hard not to
laugh. On his head he had a cap with ear-pieces that hid his grey hair;
round his neck a gaudy handkerchief muffled well about his face;
immense goggles cloaked the familiar overhanging eyebrows and deep-set
eyes, goggles curiously at variance with the dapper briskness of his
gaitered legs. The Princess was in ordinary blue serge, short and
rather shabby, it having been subjected for hours daily during the past
week to rough treatment by the maid now travelling to Cologne. As for
her face and hair, they were completely hidden in the swathings of a
The sentinels stared rather as these two figures pushed their
bicycles through the gates, and undoubtedly did for some time
afterwards wonder who they could have been. The same thing happened
down below on the bridge; but once over that and in the town all they
had to do was to ride straight ahead. They were going to bicycle
fifteen miles to Ruehl, a small town with a railway station on the main
line between Kunitz and Cologne. Express trains do not stop at Ruehl,
but there was a slow train at eight which would get them to Gerstein,
the capital of the next duchy, by midnight. Here they would change into
the Cologne express; here they would join the bribed maid; here luggage
had been sent by Fritzing,—a neat bag for himself, and a neat box for
his niece. The neat box was filled with neat garments suggested to him
by the young lady in the shop in Gerstein where he had been two days
before to buy them. She told him of many other articles which, she
said, no lady's wardrobe could be considered complete without; and the
distracted man, fearing the whole shop would presently be put into
trunks and sent to the station to meet them, had ended by flinging down
two notes for a hundred marks each and bidding her keep strictly within
that limit. The young lady became very scornful. She told him that she
had never heard of any one being clothed from head to foot inside and
out, even to brushes, soap, and an umbrella, for two hundred marks.
Fritzing, in dread of conspicuous masses of luggage, yet staggered by
the girl's conviction, pulled out a third hundred mark note, but added
words in his extremity of so strong and final a nature, that she,
quailing, did keep within this limit, and the box was packed. Thus
Priscilla's outfit cost almost exactly fifteen pounds. It will readily
be imagined that it was neat.
Painfully the two fugitives rode through the cobbled streets of
Kunitz. Priscilla was very shaky on a bicycle, and so was Fritzing.
Some years before this, when it had been the fashion, she had bicycled
every day in the grand ducal park on the other side of the town. Then,
tired of it, she had given it up; and now for the last week or two,
ever since Fritzing had told her that if they fled it would have to be
on bicycles, she had pretended a renewed passion for it, riding every
day round and round a circle of which the chilled and astonished
Countess Disthal, whose duty it was to stand and watch, had been the
disgusted central point. But the cobbles of Kunitz are very different
from those smooth places in the park. All who bicycle round Kunitz know
them as trying to the most skilful. Naturally, then, the fugitives
advanced very slowly, Fritzing's heart in his mouth each time they
passed a brightly-lit shop or a person who looked at them. Conceive how
nearly this poor heart must have jumped right out of his mouth, leaving
him dead, when a policeman who had been watching them strode suddenly
into the middle of the street, put up his hand, and said, “Halt.”
Fritzing, unstrung man, received a shock so awful that he obeyed by
falling off. Priscilla, wholly unused to being told to halt and
absorbed by the difficulties of the way, did not grasp that the order
was meant for her and rode painfully on. Seeing this, the policeman
very gallantly removed her from her bicycle by putting his arms round
her and lifting her off. He set her quite gently on her feet, and was
altogether a charming policeman, as unlike those grim and ghastly eyes
of the law that glare up and down the streets of, say, Berlin, as it is
possible to imagine.
But Priscilla was perfectly molten with rage, insulted as she had
never been in her life. “How dare you—how dare you,” she stammered,
suffocating; and forgetting everything but an overwhelming desire to
box the giant's ears she had actually raised her hand to do it, which
would of course have been the ruin of her plan and the end of my tale,
when Fritzing, recovering his presence of mind, cried out in tones of
unmistakable agony, “Niece, be calm.”
She calmed at once to a calm of frozen horror.
“Now, sir,” said Fritzing, assuming an air of brisk bravery and
guiltlessness, “what can we do for you?”
“Light your lamps,” said the policeman, laconically.
They did; or rather Fritzing did, while Priscilla stood passive.
“I too have a niece,” said the policeman, watching Fritzing at work;
“but I light no lamps for her. One should not wait on one's niece.
One's niece should wait on one.”
Fritzing did not answer. He finished lighting the lamps, and then
held Priscilla's bicycle and started her.
“I never did that for my niece,” said the policeman.
“Confound your niece, sir,” was on the tip of Fritzing's tongue; but
he gulped it down, and remarking instead as pleasantly as he could that
being an uncle did not necessarily prevent your being a gentleman,
picked up his bicycle and followed Priscilla.
The policeman shook his head as they disappeared round the corner.
“One does not light lamps for one's niece,” he repeated to himself.
“It's against nature. Consequently, though the peppery Fraeulein may
well be somebody's niece she is not his.”
“Oh,” murmured Priscilla, after they had ridden some way without
speaking, “I'm deteriorating already. For the first time in my life
I've wanted to box people's ears.”
“The provocation was great, ma'am,” said Fritzing, himself shattered
by the spectacle of his Princess being lifted about by a policeman.
“Do you think—” Priscilla hesitated, and looked at him. Her bicycle
immediately hesitated too, and swerving across the road taught her it
would have nothing looked at except its handles. “Do you think,” she
went on, after she had got herself straight again, “that the way I'm
going to live now will make me want to do it often?”
“Heaven forbid, ma'am. You are now going to live a most noble
life—the only fitting life for the thoughtful and the earnest. It will
be, once you are settled, far more sheltered from contact with that
which stirs ignoble impulses than anything your Grand Ducal Highness
has hitherto known.”
“If you mean policemen by things that stir ignoble impulses,” said
Priscilla, “I was sheltered enough from them before. Why, I never spoke
to one. Much less”—she shuddered—“much less ever touched one.”
“Ma'am, you do not repent?”
“Heavens, no,” said Priscilla, pressing onward.
Outside Ruehl, about a hundred yards before its houses begin, there
is a pond by the wayside. Into this, after waiting a moment peering up
and down the dark road to see whether anybody was looking, Fritzing
hurled the bicycles. He knew the pond was deep, for he had studied it
the day he bought Priscilla's outfit; and the two bicycles one after
the other were hurled remorsely into the middle of it, disappearing
each in its turn with a tremendous splash and gurgle. Then they walked
on quickly towards the railway station, infinitely relieved to be on
their own feet again, and between them, all unsuspected, walked the
radiant One with the smiling eyes, she who was half-minded to see this
game through, giving the players just so many frights as would keep her
amused, the fickle, laughing goddess Good Luck.
They caught the train neatly at Ruehl. They only had to wait about
the station for ten minutes before it came in. Hardly any one was
there, and nobody took the least notice of them. Fritzing, after a
careful look round to see if it contained people he knew, put the
Princess into a second-class carriage labelled Frauen, and then
respectfully withdrew to another part of the train. He had decided that
second-class was safest. People in that country nearly always travel
second-class, especially women,—at all times in such matters more
economical than men; and a woman by herself in a first-class carriage
would have been an object of surmise and curiosity at every station.
Therefore Priscilla was put into the carriage labelled Frauen,
and found herself for the first time in her life alone with what she
had hitherto only heard alluded to vaguely as the public.
She sat down in a corner with an odd feeling of surprise at being
included in the category Frauen, and giving a swift timid glance
through her veil at the public confronting her was relieved to find it
consisted only of a comfortable mother and her child.
I know not why the adjective comfortable should so invariably be
descriptive of mothers in Germany. In England and France though you may
be a mother, you yet, I believe, may be so without being comfortable.
In Germany, somehow, you can't. Perhaps it is the climate; perhaps it
is the food; perhaps it is simply want of soul, or that your soul does
not burn with a fire sufficiently consuming. Anyhow it is so. This
mother had all the good-nature that goes with amplitude. Being engaged
in feeding her child with belegte Broedchen—that immensely
satisfying form of sandwich—she at once offered Priscilla one.
“No thank you,” said Priscilla, shrinking into her corner.
“Do take one, Fraeulein,” said the mother, persuasively.
“No thank you,” said Priscilla, shrinking.
“On a journey it passes the time. Even if one is not hungry, thank
God one can always eat. Do take one.”
“No thank you,” said Priscilla.
“Why does she wear that black thing over her face?” inquired the
child. “Is she a witch?”
“Silence, silence, little worthless one,” cried the mother,
delightedly stroking his face with half a Broedchen. “You see he
is clever, Fraeulein. He resembles his dear father as one egg does
“Does he?” said Priscilla, immediately conceiving a prejudice
against the father.
“Why don't she take that black thing off?” said the child.
“Hush, hush, small impudence. The Fraeulein will take it off in a
minute. The Fraeulein has only just got in.”
“Mutti, is she a witch? Mutti, Mutti, is she a witch, Mutti?”
The child, his eyes fixed anxiously on Priscilla's swathed head,
began to whimper.
“That child should be in bed,” said Priscilla, with a severity born
of her anxiety lest, to calm him, humanity should force her to put up
her veil. “Persons who are as intelligent as that should never be in
trains at night. Their brains cannot bear it. Would he not be happier
if he lay down and went to sleep?”
“Yes, yes; that is what I have been telling him ever since we left
Kunitz”—Priscilla shivered—“but he will not go. Dost thou hear what
the Fraeulein says, Hans-Joachim?”
“Why don't she take that black thing off?” whimpered the child.
But how could the poor Princess, however anxious to be kind, take
off her veil and show her well-known face to this probable inhabitant
“Do take it off, Fraeulein,” begged the mother, seeing she made no
preparations to do so. “When he gets ideas into his head there is never
peace till he has what he wants. He does remind me so much of his
“Did you ever,” said Priscilla, temporizing, “try him with a
little—just a little slap? Only a little one,” she added hastily, for
the mother looked at her oddly, “only as a sort of counter-irritant.
And it needn't be really hard, you know—”
“Ach, she's a witch—Mutti, she's a witch!” shrieked the
child, flinging his face, butter and all, at these portentous words,
into his mother's lap.
“There, there, poor tiny one,” soothed the mother, with an indignant
side-glance at Priscilla. “Poor tiny man, no one shall slap thee. The
Fraeulein does not allude to thee, little son. The Fraeulein is
thinking of bad children such as the sons of Schultz and thy cousin
Meyer. Fraeulein, if you do not remove your veil I fear he will have
“Oh,” said the unhappy Priscilla, getting as far into her corner as
she could, “I'm so sorry—but I—but I really can't.”
“She's a witch, Mutti!” roared the child, “I tell it to thee
again—therefore is she so black, and must not show her face!”
“Hush, hush, shut thy little eyes,” soothed the mother, putting her
hand over them. To Priscilla she said, with an obvious dawning of
distrust, “But Fraeulein, what reason can you have for hiding
“Hiding myself?” echoed Priscilla, now very unhappy indeed, “I'm not
hiding myself. I've got—I've got—I'm afraid I've got a—an affection
of the skin. That's why I wear a veil.”
“Ach, poor Fraeulein,” said the mother, brightening at once
into lively interest. “Hans-Joachim, sleep,” she added sharply to her
son, who tried to raise his head to interrupt with fresh doubts a
conversation grown thrilling. “That is indeed a misfortune. It is a
“Oh, it's dreadful,” said Priscilla, faintly.
“Ach, poor Fraeulein. When one is married, rashes no longer
matter. One's husband has to love one in spite of rashes. But for a
Fraeulein every spot is of importance. There is a young lady of my
acquaintance whose life-happiness was shipwrecked only by spots. She
came out in them at the wrong moment.”
“Did she?” murmured Priscilla.
“You are going to a doctor?”
“Yes—that is, no—I've been.”
“Ah, you have been to Kunitz to Dr. Kraus?”
“Y—es. I've been there.”
“What does he say?”
“That I must always wear a veil.”
“Because it looks so bad?”
“I suppose so.”
There was a silence. Priscilla lay back in her corner exhausted, and
shut her eyes. The mother stared fixedly at her, one hand mechanically
stroking Hans-Joachim, the other holding him down.
“When I was a girl,” said the mother, so suddenly that Priscilla
started, “I had a good deal of trouble with my skin. Therefore my
experience on the subject is great. Show me your face, Fraeulein—I
might be able to tell you what to do to cure it.”
“Oh, on no account—on no account whatever,” cried Priscilla,
sitting up very straight and speaking with extraordinary emphasis. “I
couldn't think of it—I really positively couldn't.”
“But my dear Fraeulein, why mind a woman seeing it?”
“But what do you want to see it for?”
“I wish to help you.”
“I don't want to be helped. I'll show it to nobody—to nobody at
all. It's much too—too dreadful.”
“Well, well, do not be agitated. Girls, I know, are vain. If any one
can help you it will be Dr. Kraus. He is an excellent physician, is he
“Yes,” said Priscilla, dropping back into her corner.
“The Grand Duke is a great admirer of his. He is going to ennoble
“They say—no doubt it is gossip, but still, you know, he is a very
handsome man—that the Countess von Disthal will marry him.”
“Gracious!” cried Priscilla, startled, “what, whether he wants to or
“No doubt he will want to. It would be a brilliant match for him.”
“But she's at least a hundred. Why, she looks like his mother. And
he is a person of no birth at all.”
“Birth? He is of course not noble yet, but his family is excellent.
And since it is not possible to have as many ailments as she has and
still be alive, some at least must be feigned. Why, then, should she
feign if it is not in order to see the doctor? They were saying in
Kunitz that she sent for him this very day.”
“Yes, she did. But she's really ill this time. I'm afraid the poor
thing caught cold watching—dear me, only see how sweetly your little
boy sleeps. You should make Levallier paint him in that position.”
“Ah, he looks truly lovely, does he not. Exactly thus does his dear
father look when asleep. Sometimes I cannot sleep myself for joy over
the splendid picture. What is the matter with the Countess Disthal? Did
Dr. Kraus tell you?”
“No, no. I—I heard something—a rumour.”
“Ah, something feigned again, no doubt. Well, it will be a great
match for him. You know she is lady-in-waiting to the Princess
Priscilla, the one who is so popular and has such red hair? The
Countess has an easy life. The other two Princesses have given their
ladies a world of trouble, but Priscilla—oh, she is a model. Kunitz is
indeed proud of her. They say in all things she is exactly what a
Princess should be, and may be trusted never to say or do anything not
entirely fitting her station. You have seen her? She often drives
through the town, and then the people all run and look as pleased as if
it were a holiday. We in Gerstein are quite jealous. Our duchy has no
such princess to show. Do you think she is so beautiful? I have often
seen her, and I do not think she is. People exaggerate everything so
about a princess. My husband does not admire her at all. He says it is
not what he calls classic. Her hair, for instance—but that one might
get over. And people who are really beautiful always have dark
eyelashes. Then her nose—my husband often laughs, and says her nose—”
“Oh,” said Priscilla, faintly, “I've got a dreadful headache. I
think I'll try to sleep a little if you would not mind not talking.”
“Yes, that hot thing round your face must be very trying. Now if you
were not so vain—what does a rash matter when only women are present?
Well, well, I will not tease you. Do you know many of the Kunitzers? Do
you know the Levisohns well?”
“Oh,” sighed Priscilla, laying her distracted head against the
cushions and shutting her eyes, “who are they?”
“Who are they? Who are the Levisohns? But dearest Fraeulein if you
know Kunitz you must know the Levisohns. Why, the Levisohns are
Kunitz. They are more important far than the Grand Duke. They lend to
it, and they lead it. You must know their magnificent shop at the
corner of the Heiligengeiststrasse? Perhaps,” she added, with a glance
at the Princess's shabby serge gown, “you have not met them socially,
but you must know the magnificent shop. We visit.”
“Do you?” said Priscilla wearily, as the mother paused.
“And you know her story, of course?”
“Oh, oh,” sighed Priscilla, turning her head from side to side on
the cushions, vainly seeking peace.
“It is hardly a story for the ears of Fraeuleins.”
“Please don't tell it, then.”
“No, I will not. It is not for Fraeuleins. But one still sees she
must have been a handsome woman. And he, Levisohn, was clever enough to
see his way to Court favour. The Grand Duke—”
“I don't think I care to hear about the Levisohns,” said Priscilla,
sitting up suddenly and speaking with great distinctness. “Gossip is a
thing I detest. None shall be talked in my presence.”
“Hoity-toity,” said the astonished mother; and it will easily be
believed that no one had ever said hoity-toity to Priscilla before.
She turned scarlet under her veil. For a moment she sat with
flashing eyes, and the hand lying in her lap twitched convulsively. Is
it possible she was thinking of giving the comfortable mother that
admonition which the policeman had so narrowly escaped? I know not what
would have happened if the merry goddess, seeing things rushing to this
dreadful climax, had not stopped the train in the nick of time at a
wayside station and caused a breathless lady, pushing parcels before
her, to clamber in. The mother's surprised stare was of necessity
diverted to the new-comer. A parcel thrust into Priscilla's hands
brought her back of necessity to her senses.
“Danke, Danke,” cried the breathless lady, though no help had
been offered; and hoisting herself in she wished both her
fellow-passengers a boisterous good evening. The lady, evidently an
able person, arranged her parcels swiftly and neatly in the racks,
pulled up the windows, slammed the ventilators, stripped off her cloak,
flung back her veil, and sitting down with a sigh of vast depth and
length stared steadily for five minutes without wavering at the other
two. At the end of that time she and the mother began, as with a common
impulse, to talk. And at the end of five minutes more they had told
each other where they were going, where they had been, what their
husbands were, the number, age, and girth of their children, and all
the adjectives that might most conveniently be used to describe their
servants. The adjectives, very lurid ones, took some time. Priscilla
shut her eyes while they were going on, thankful to be left quiet,
feeling unstrung to the last degree; and she gradually dropped into an
uneasy doze whose chief feature was the distressful repetition, like
hammer-strokes on her brain, of the words, “You're
“Lieber Gott,” she whispered at last, folding her hands in
her lap, “don't let me deteriorate too much. Please keep me from
wanting to box people's ears. Lieber Gott, it's so barbarous of
me. I never used to want to. Please stop me wanting to now.”
And after that she dropped off quite, into a placid little slumber.
They crossed from Calais in the turbine. Their quickest route would
have been Cologne-Ostend-Dover, and every moment being infinitely
valuable Fritzing wanted to go that way, but Priscilla was determined
to try whether turbines are really as steady as she had heard they
were. The turbine was so steady that no one could have told it was
doing anything but being quiescent on solid earth; but that was
because, as Fritzing explained, there was a dead calm, and in dead
calms—briefly, he explained the conduct of boats in dead calms with
much patience, and Priscilla remarked when he had done that they might
then, after all, have crossed by Ostend.
“We might, ma'am, and we would be in London now if we had,” said
They had, indeed, lost several hours and some money coming by
Calais, and Fritzing had lost his temper as well.
Fritzing, you remember, was sixty, and had not closed his eyes all
night. He had not, so far as that goes, closed his eyes for nights
without number; and what his soul had gone through during those nights
was more than any soul no longer in its first youth should be called
upon to bear. In the train between Cologne and Calais he had even,
writhing in his seat, cursed every single one of his long-cherished
ideals, called them fools, shaken his fist at them; a dreadful state of
mind to get to. He did not reveal anything of this to his dear
Princess, and talking to her on the turbine wore the clear brow of the
philosopher; but he did feel that he was a much-tried man, and he
behaved to the maid Annalise exactly in the way much-tried men do
behave when they have found some one they think defenceless.
Unfortunately Annalise was only apparently defenceless. Fritzing would
have known it if he had been more used to running away. He did, in his
calmer moments, dimly opine it. The plain fact was that Annalise held
both him and Priscilla in the hollow of her hand.
At this point she had not realized it. She still was awestruck by
her promotion, and looked so small and black and uncertain among her
new surroundings on the turbine that if not clever of him it was at
least natural that he should address her in a manner familiar to those
who have had to do with men when they are being tried. He behaved, that
is, to Annalise, as he had behaved to his ideals in the night; he shook
his fist at her, and called her fool. It was because she had broken the
Princess's umbrella. This was the new umbrella bought by him with so
much trouble in Gerstein two days before, and therefore presumably of a
sufficient toughness to stand any reasonable treatment for a time.
There was a mist and a drizzle at Calais, and Priscilla, refusing to go
under shelter, had sent Fritzing to fetch her umbrella, and when he
demanded it of Annalise, she offered it him in two pieces. This alone
was enough to upset a wise man, because wise men are easily upset; but
Annalise declared besides that the umbrella had broken itself. It
probably had. What may not one expect of anything so cheap? Fritzing,
however, was maddened by this explanation, and wasted quite a long time
pointing out to her in passionate language that it was an inanimate
object, and that inanimate objects have no initiative and never
therefore break themselves. To which Annalise, with a stoutness ominous
as a revelation of character, replied by repeating her declaration that
the umbrella had certainly broken itself. Then it was that he shook his
fist at her and called her fool. So greatly was he moved that, after
walking away and thinking it over, he went to her a second time and
shook his fist at her and called her knave.
I will not linger over this of the umbrella; it teems with lessons.
While it was going on the Princess was being very happy. She was
sitting unnoticed in a deck-chair and feeling she was really off at
last into the Ideal. Some of us know the fascination of that feeling,
and all of us know the fascination of new things; and to be unnoticed
was for her of a most thrilling newness. Nobody looked at her. People
walked up and down the deck in front of her as though she were not
there. One hurried passenger actually tripped over her feet, and passed
on with the briefest apology. Everywhere she saw indifferent faces,
indifferent, oblivious faces. It was simply glorious. And she had had
no trials since leaving Gerstein. There Fritzing had removed her beyond
the range of the mother's eyes, grown at last extremely cold and
piercing; Annalise, all meek anxiety to please, had put her to bed in
the sleeping-car of the Brussels express; and in the morning her joy
had been childish at having a little tray with bad coffee on it thrust
in by a busy attendant, who slammed it down on the table and hurried
out without so much as glancing at her. How delicious that was. The
Princess laughed with delight and drank the coffee, grits and all. Oh,
the blessed freedom of being insignificant. It was as good, she
thought, as getting rid of your body altogether and going about an
invisible spirit. She sat on the deck of the apparently motionless
turbine and thought gleefully of past journeys, now for ever done with;
of the grand ducal train, of herself drooping inside it as wearily as
the inevitable bouquets drooping on the tables, of the crowds of
starers on every platform, of the bowing officials wherever your eye
chanced to turn. The Countess Disthal, of course, had been always at
her elbow, and when she had to go to the window and do the gracious her
anxiety lest she should bestow one smile too few had only been
surpassed by the Countess's anxiety lest she should bestow one smile
too many. Well, that was done with now; as much done with as a
nightmare, grisly staleness, is done with when you wake to a fair
spring morning and the smell of dew. And she had no fears. She was
sure, knowing him as she did, that when the Grand Duke found out she
had run away he would make no attempt to fetch her back, but would
simply draw a line through his remembrance of her, rub her out of his
mind, (his heart, she knew, would need no rubbing, because she had
never been in it,) and after the first fury was over, fury solely on
account of the scandal, he would be as he had been before, while
she—oh wonderful new life!—she would be born again to all the
Now how can I, weak vessel whose only ballast is a cargo of
interrogations past which life swirls with a thunder of derisively
contradictory replies, pretend to say whether Priscilla ought to have
had conscience-qualms or not? Am I not deafened by the roar of answers,
all seemingly so right yet all so different, that the simplest question
brings? And would not the answering roar to anything so complicated as
a question about conscience-qualms deafen me for ever? I shall leave
the Princess, then, to run away from her home and her parent if she
chooses, and make no effort to whitewash any part of her conduct that
may seem black. I shall chronicle, and not comment. I shall try to,
that is, for comments are very dear to me. Indeed I see I cannot move
on even now till I have pointed out that though Priscilla was getting
as far as she could from the Grand Duke she was also getting as near as
she could to the possession of her soul; and there are many persons who
believe this to be a thing so precious that it is absolutely the one
thing worth living for.
The crossing to Dover, then, was accomplished quite peacefully by
Priscilla. Not so, however, by Fritzing. He, tormented man, chief
target for the goddess's darts, spent his time holding on to the rail
along the turbine's side in order to steady himself; and as there was a
dead calm that day the reader will at once perceive that the tempest
must have been inside Fritzing himself. It was; and it had been raised
to hurricane pitch by some snatches of the talk of two Englishmen he
had heard as they paced up and down past where he was standing.
The first time they passed, one was saying to the other, “I never
heard of anything so infamous.”
This ought not to have made Fritzing, a person of stainless life and
noble principles, start, but it did. He started; and he listened
anxiously for more.
“Yes,” said the other, who had a newspaper under his arm, “they
deserve about as bad as they'll—”
He was out of ear-shot; but Fritzing mechanically finished the
sentence himself. Who had been infamous? And what were they going to
get? It was at this point that he laid hold of the handrail to steady
himself till the two men should pass again.
“You can tell, of course, what steps our Government will take,” was
the next snatch.
“I shall be curious to see the attitude of the foreign papers,” was
“Anything more wanton I never heard of,” was the next.
“Of all the harmless, innocent creatures—” was the next.
And the last snatch of all—for though they went on walking Fritzing
heard no more after it—was the brief and singular expression “Devils.”
Devils? What were they talking about? Devils? Was that, then,
how the public stigmatized blameless persons in search of peace?
Devils? What, himself and—no, never Priscilla. She was clearly the
harmless innocent creature, and he must be the other thing. But why
plural? He could only suppose that he and Annalise together formed a
sulphurous plural. He clung very hard to the rail. Who could have
dreamed it would get so quickly into the papers? Who could have dreamed
the news of it would call forth such blazing words? They would be
confronted at Dover by horrified authorities. His Princess was going to
be put in a most impossible position. What had he done? Heavens and
earth, what had he done?
He clung to the rail, staring miserably over the side into the oily
water. Some of the passengers lingered to watch him, at first because
they thought he was going to be seasick with so little provocation that
it amounted to genius, and afterwards because they were sure he must
want to commit suicide. When they found that time passed and he did
neither, he became unpopular, and they went away and left him
altogether and contemptuously alone.
“Fritzi, are you worried about anything?” asked Priscilla, coming to
where he still stood staring, although they had got to Dover.
Worried! When all Europe was going to be about their ears? When he
was in the eyes of the world a criminal—an aider, abettor, lurer-away
of youth and impulsiveness? He loved the Princess so much that he cared
nothing for his own risks, but what about hers? In an agony of haste he
rushed to his ideals and principles for justification and comfort,
tumbling them over, searching feverishly among them. They had forsaken
him. They were so much lifeless rubbish. Nowhere in his mind could he
find a rag of either comfort or justification with which to stop up his
ears against the words of the two Englishmen and his eyes against the
dreadful sight he felt sure awaited them on the quay at Dover—the
sight of incensed authorities ready to pounce on him and drag him away
for ever from his Princess.
Priscilla gazed at him in astonishment. He was taking no notice of
her, and was looking fearfully up and down the row of faces that were
watching the turbine's arrival.
“Fritzi, if you are worried it must be because you've not slept,”
said Priscilla, laying her hand with a stroking little movement on his
sleeve; for what but overwrought nerves could make him look so odd? It
was after all Fritzing who had behaved with the braveness of a lion the
night before in that matter of the policeman; and it was he who had
asked in stern tones of rebuke, when her courage seemed aflicker,
whether she repented. “You do not repent?” she asked, imitating that
“Ma'am—” he began in a low and dreadful voice, his eyes ceaselessly
ranging up and down the figures on the quay.
“Sh—sh—Niece,” interrupted Priscilla, smiling.
He turned and looked at her as a man may look for the last time at
the thing in life that has been most dear to him, and said nothing.
But nobody was waiting for them at Dover. Fritzing's agonies might
all have been spared. They passed quite unnoticed through the crowd of
idlers to the train, and putting Priscilla and her maid into it he
rushed at the nearest newspaper-boy, pouncing on him, tearing a handful
of his papers from him, and was devouring their contents before the
astonished boy had well finished his request that he should hold hard.
The boy, who had been brought up in the simple faith that one should
pay one's pennies first and read next, said a few things under his
breath about Germans—crude short things not worth repeating—and
jerking his thumb towards the intent Fritzing, winked at a detective
who was standing near. The detective did not need the wink. His bland,
abstracted eyes were already on Fritzing, and he was making rapid
mental notes of the goggles, the muffler, the cap pulled down over the
ears. Truly it is a great art, that of running away, and needs
And after all there was not a word about the Princess in the papers.
They were full, as the Englishmen on the turbine had been full, of
something the Russians, who at that time were always doing something,
had just done—something that had struck England from end to end into a
blaze of indignation and that has nothing to do with my story. Fritzing
dropped the papers on the platform, and had so little public spirit
that he groaned aloud with relief.
“Shilling and a penny 'alfpenny, please, sir,” said the
newspaper-boy glibly. “Westminster Gazette, sir, Daily Mail, Sporting and Dramatic, one Lady, and two Standards.” From which it will be seen that Fritzing had seized his handful very
much at random.
He paid the boy without heeding his earnest suggestions that he
should try Tit-Bits, the Saturday Review, and Mother, to complete, said the boy, in substance if not in words, his
bird's-eye view over the field of representative English journalism,
and went back to the Princess with a lighter heart than he had had for
months. The detective, apparently one of Nature's gentlemen, picked up
the scattered papers, and following Fritzing offered them him in the
politest way imaginable just as Priscilla was saying she wanted to see
what tea-baskets were like.
“Sir,” said the detective, taking off his hat, “I believe these are
“Sir,” said Fritzing, taking off his cap in his turn and bowing with
all the ceremony of foreigners, “I am much obliged to you.”
“Pray don't mention it, sir,” said the detective, on whose brain the
three were in that instant photographed—the veiled Priscilla, the maid
sitting on the edge of the seat as though hardly daring to sit at all,
and Fritzing's fine head and mop of grey hair.
Priscilla, as she caught his departing eye, bowed and smiled
graciously. He withdrew to a little distance, and fell into a reverie:
where had he seen just that mechanically gracious bow and smile? They
were very familiar to him.
As the train slowly left the station he saw the lady in the veil
once more. She was alone with her maid, and was looking out of the
window at nothing in particular, and the station-master, who was
watching the train go, chanced to meet her glance. Again there was the
same smile and bow, quite mechanical, quite absent-minded, distinctly
gracious. The station-master stared in astonishment after the receding
carriage. The detective roused himself from his reverie sufficiently to
step forward and neatly swing himself into the guard's van: there being
nothing to do in Dover he thought he would go to London.
I believe I have forgotten, in the heat of narration, to say that
the fugitives were bound for Somersetshire. Fritzing had been a great
walker in the days when he lived in England, and among other places had
walked about Somersetshire. It is a pleasant county; fruitful, leafy,
and mild. Down in the valleys myrtles and rhododendrons have been known
to flower all through the winter. Devonshire junkets and Devonshire
cider are made there with the same skill precisely as in Devonshire;
and the parts of it that lie round Exmoor are esteemed by those who
Fritzing quite well remembered certain villages buried among the
hills, miles from the nearest railway, and he also remembered the
farmhouses round about these villages where he had lodged. To one of
these he had caused a friend in London to write engaging rooms for
himself and his niece, and there he proposed to stay till they should
have found the cottage the Princess had set her heart on.
This cottage, as far as he could gather from the descriptions she
gave him from time to time, was going to be rather difficult to find.
He feared also that it would be a very insect-ridden place, and that
their calm pursuits would often be interrupted by things like earwigs.
It was to be ancient, and much thatched and latticed and
rose-overgrown. It was, too, to be very small; the smallest of
labourers' cottages. Yet though so small and so ancient it was to have
several bathrooms—one for each of them, so he understood; “For,” said
the Princess, “if Annalise hasn't a bathroom how can she have a bath?
And if she hasn't had a bath how can I let her touch me?”
“Perhaps,” said Fritzing, bold in his ignorance of Annalise's real
nature, “she could wash at the pump. People do, I believe, in the
country. I remember there were always pumps.”
“But do pumps make you clean enough?” inquired the Princess,
“We can try her with one. I fancy, ma'am, it will be less difficult
to find a cottage that has only two bathrooms than one that has three.
And I know there are invariably pumps.”
Searching his memory he could recollect no bathrooms at all, but he
did not say so, and silently hoped the best.
To the Somerset village of Symford and to the farm about a mile
outside it known as Baker's, no longer, however, belonging to Baker,
but rented by a Mr. Pearce, they journeyed down from Dover without a
break. Nothing alarming happened on the way. They were at Victoria by
five, and the Princess sat joyfully making the acquaintance of a
four-wheeler's inside for twenty minutes during which Fritzing and
Annalise got the luggage through the customs. Fritzing's goggles and
other accessories of flight inspired so much interest in the customs
that they could hardly bear to let him go and it seemed as if they
would never tire of feeling about in the harmless depths of Priscilla's
neat box. They had however ultimately to part from him, for never was
luggage more innocent; and rattling past Buckingham Palace on the way
to Paddington Priscilla blew it a cheerful kiss, symbolic of a
happiness too great to bear ill-will. Later on Windsor Castle would
have got one too, if it had not been so dark that she could not see it.
The detective, who felt himself oddly drawn towards the trio, went down
into Somersetshire by the same train as they did, but parted from them
at Ullerton, the station you get out at when you go to Symford. He did
not consider it necessary to go further; and taking a bedroom at
Ullerton in the same little hotel from which Fritzing had ordered the
conveyance that was to drive them their last seven miles he went to
bed, it being close on midnight, with Mr. Pearce's address neatly
written in his notebook.
This, at present, is the last of the detective. I will leave him
sleeping with a smile on his face, and follow the dog-cart as it drove
along that beautiful road between wooded hills that joins Ullerton to
Symford, on its way to Baker's Farm.
At the risk of exhausting Priscilla Fritzing had urged pushing on
without a stop, and Priscilla made no objection. This is how it came
about that the ostler attached to the Ullerton Arms found himself
driving to Symford in the middle of the night. He could not recollect
ever having done such a thing before, and the memory of it would be
quite unlikely to do anything but remain fixed in his mind till his
dying day. Fritzing was a curiously conspicuous fugitive.
It was a clear and beautiful night, and the stars twinkled brightly
over the black tree-tops. Down in the narrow gorge through which the
road runs they could not feel the keen wind that was blowing up on
Exmoor. The waters of the Sym, whose windings they followed, gurgled
over their stones almost as quietly as in summer. There was a fresh wet
smell, consoling and delicious after the train, the smell of country
puddles and country mud and dank dead leaves that had been rained upon
all day. Fritzing sat with the Princess on the back seat of the
dog-cart, and busied himself keeping the rug well round her, the while
his soul was full of thankfulness that their journey should after all
have been so easy. He was weary in body, but very jubilant in mind. The
Princess was so weary in body that she had no mind at all, and dozed
and nodded and threatened to fall out, and would have fallen out a
dozen times but for Fritzing's watchfulness. As for Annalise, who can
guess what thoughts were hers while she was being jogged along to
Baker's? That they were dark I have not a doubt. No one had told her
this was to be a journey into the Ideal; no one had told her anything
but that she was promoted to travelling with the Princess and that she
would be well paid so long as she held her tongue. She had never
travelled before, yet there were some circumstances of the journey that
could not fail to strike the most inexperienced. This midnight jogging
in the dog-cart, for instance. It was the second night spent out of
bed, and all day long she had expected every moment would end the
journey, and the end, she had naturally supposed, would be a palace.
There would be a palace, and warmth, and light, and food, and welcome,
and honour, and appreciative lacqueys with beautiful white silk
calves—alas, Annalise's ideal, her one ideal, was to be for ever where
there were beautiful white silk calves. The road between Ullerton and
Symford conveyed to her mind no assurance whatever of the near
neighbourhood of such things; and as for the dog-cart—“Himmel,”
said Annalise to herself, whenever she thought of the dog-cart.
Their journey ended at two in the morning. Almost exactly at that
hour they stopped at the garden gate of Baker's Farm, and a woman came
out with a lantern and helped them down and lighted them up the path to
the porch. The Princess, who could hardly make her eyes open
themselves, leaned on Fritzing's arm in a sort of confused dream, got
somehow up a little staircase that seemed extraordinarily steep and
curly, and was sound asleep in a knobbly bed before Annalise realized
she had done with her. Priscilla had forgotten all about the Ideal, all
about her eager aspirations. Sleep, dear Mother with the cool hand, had
smoothed them all away, the whole rubbish of those daylight toys, and
for the next twelve hours sat tenderly by her pillow, her finger on her
No better place than Symford can be imagined for those in search of
a spot, picturesque and with creepers, where they may spend quiet years
guiding their feet along the way of peace. It is one of the prettiest
of English villages. It does and has and is everything the ideal
village ought to. It nestles, for instance, in the folds of hills; it
is very small, and far away from other places; its cottages are old and
thatched; its little inn is the inn of a story-book, with a quaint
signboard and an apparently genial landlord; its church stands
beautifully on rising ground among ancient trees, besides being hoary;
its vicarage is so charming that to see it makes you long to marry a
vicar; its vicar is venerable, with an eye so mild that to catch it is
to receive a blessing; pleasant little children with happy morning
faces pick butter-cups and go a-nutting at the proper seasons and
curtsey to you as you pass; old women with clean caps and suitable
faces read their Bibles behind latticed windows; hearths are scrubbed
and snowy; appropriate kettles simmer on hobs; climbing roses and trim
gardens are abundant; and it has a lady bountiful of so untiring a
kindness that each of its female inhabitants gets a new flannel
petticoat every Christmas and nothing is asked of her in return but
that she shall, during the ensuing year, be warm and happy and good.
The same thing was asked, I believe, of the male inhabitants, who get
comforters, and also that they should drink seltzer-water whenever
their lower natures urged them to drink rum; but comforters are so much
smaller than petticoats that the men of Symford's sense of justice
rebelled, and since the only time they ever felt really warm and happy
and good was when they were drinking rum they decided that on the whole
it would be more in accordance with their benefactress's wishes to go
on doing it.
Lady Shuttleworth, the lady from whom these comforters and
petticoats proceeded, was a just woman who required no more of others
than she required of herself, and who was busy and kind, and, I am sure
happy and good, on cold water. But then she did not like rum; and I
suppose there are few things quite so easy as not to drink rum if you
don't like it. She lived at Symford Hall, two miles away in another
fold of the hills, and managed the estate of her son who was a
minor—at this time on the very verge of ceasing to be one—with great
precision and skill. All the old cottages in Symford were his, and so
were the farms dotted about the hills. Any one, therefore, seeking a
cottage would have to address himself to the Shuttleworth agent, Mr.
Dawson, who too lived in a house so picturesque that merely to see it
made you long either to poison or to marry Mr. Dawson—preferably, I
think, to poison him.
These facts, stripped of the redundances with which I have garnished
them, were told Fritzing on the day after his arrival at Baker's Farm
by Mrs. Pearce the younger, old Mr. Pearce's daughter-in-law, a dreary
woman with a rent in her apron, who brought in the bacon for Fritzing's
solitary breakfast and the chop for his solitary luncheon. She also
brought in a junket so liquid that the innocent Fritzing told her
politely that he always drank his milk out of a glass when he did drink
milk, but that, as he never did drink milk, she need not trouble to
bring him any.
“Sir,” said Mrs. Pearce in her slow sad voice, after a glance at his
face in search of sarcasm, “'tisn't milk. 'Tis a junket that hasn't
“Indeed?” said Fritzing, bland because ignorant.
Mrs. Pearce fidgeted a little, wrestling perhaps with her
conscience, before she added defiantly, “It wouldn't.”
“Indeed?” said Fritzing once more; and he looked at the junket
through his spectacles with that air of extreme and intelligent
interest with which persons who wish to please look at other people's
He was desirous of being on good terms with Symford, and had been
very pleasant all the morning to Mrs. Pearce. That mood in which,
shaken himself to his foundations by anxiety, he had shaken his fist to
Annalise, was gone as completely as yesterday's wet mist. The golden
sunshine of October lay beautifully among the gentle hills and seemed
to lie as well in Fritzing's heart. He had gone through so much for so
many weeks that merely to be free from worries for the moment filled
him with thankfulness. So may he feel who has lived through days of
bodily torture in that first hour when his pain has gone: beaten,
crushed, and cowed by suffering, he melts with gratitude because he is
being left alone, he gasps with a relief so utter that it is almost
abject praise of the Cruelty that has for a little loosened its hold.
In this abjectly thankful mood was Fritzing when he found his worst
agonies were done. What was to come after he really for the moment did
not care. It was sufficient to exist untormented and to let his soul
stretch itself in the privacy and peace of Baker's. He and his Princess
had made a great and noble effort towards the realization of dreams
that he felt were lofty, and the gods so far had been with them. All
that first morning in Symford he had an oddly restful, unburdened
feeling, as of having been born again and born aged twenty-five; and
those persons who used to be twenty-five themselves will perhaps agree
that this must have been rather nice. He did not stir from the parlour
lest the Princess should come down and want him, and he spent the
waiting hours getting information from Mrs. Pearce and informing her
mind in his turn with just that amount of knowledge about himself and
his niece that he wished Symford to possess. With impressive
earnestness he told her his name was Neumann, repeating it three times,
almost as if in defiance of contradiction; that his niece was his
deceased brother's child; that her Christian name—here he was swept
away by inspiration—was Maria-Theresa; that he had saved enough as a
teacher of German in London to retire into the country; and that he was
looking for a cottage in which to spend his few remaining years.
It all sounded very innocent. Mrs. Pearce listened with her head on
one side and with something of the air of a sparrow who doesn't feel
well. She complimented him sadly on the fluency of his English, and
told him with a sigh that in no cottage would he ever again find the
comforts with which Baker's was now surrounding him.
Fritzing was surprised to hear her say so, for his impressions had
all been the other way. As far as he, inexperienced man, could tell,
Baker's was a singularly draughty and unscrubbed place. He smelt that
its fires smoked, he heard that its windows rattled, he knew that its
mattresses had lumps in them, and he saw that its food was inextricably
mixed up with objects of a black and gritty nature. But her calm face
and sorrowful assurance shook the evidence of his senses, and gazing at
her in silence over his spectacles a feeling crept dimly across his
brain that if the future held many dealings with women like Mrs. Pearce
he was going to be very helpless.
Priscilla appeared while he was gazing. She was dressed for going
out and came in buttoning her gloves, and I suppose it was a long time
since Baker's had seen anything quite so radiant in the way of nieces
within its dusty walls. She had on the clothes she had travelled in,
for a search among the garments bought by Fritzing had resulted in
nothing but a sitting on the side of the bed and laughing tears, so it
was clearly not the clothes that made her seem all of a sparkle with
lovely youth and blitheness. Kunitz would not have recognized its ivory
Princess in this bright being. She was the statue come to life, the
cool perfection kissed by expectation into a bewitching living woman. I
doubt whether Fritzing had ever noticed her beauty while at Kunitz. He
had seen her every day from childhood on, and it is probable that his
attention being always riveted on her soul he had never really known
when her body left off being lanky and freckled. He saw it now,
however; he would have been blind if he had not; and it set him
vibrating with the throb of a new responsibility. Mrs. Pearce saw it
too, and stared astonished at this oddly inappropriate niece. She
stared still more when Fritzing, jumping up from his chair, bent over
the hand Priscilla held out and kissed it with a devotion and respect
wholly absent from the manner of Mrs. Pearce's own uncles. She,
therefore, withdrew into her kitchen, and being a person of little
culture crudely expressed her wonder by thinking “Lor.” To which, after
an interval of vague meanderings among saucepans, she added the
Half an hour later Lady Shuttleworth's agent, Mr. Dawson, was
disturbed at his tea by the announcement that a gentleman wished to
speak to him. Mr. Dawson was a bluff person, and something of a tyrant,
for he reigned supreme in Symford after Lady Shuttleworth, and to reign
supreme over anybody, even over a handful of cottagers, does bring out
what a man may have in him of tyrant. Another circumstance that brings
this out is the possession of a meek wife; and Mr. Dawson's wife was
really so very meek that I fear when the Day of Reckoning comes much of
this tyranny will be forgiven him and laid to her account. Mr. Dawson,
in fact, represented an unending series of pitfalls set along his
wife's path by Fate, into every one of which she fell; and since we are
not supposed, on pain of punishment, to do anything but keep very
upright on our feet as we trudge along the dusty road of life, no doubt
all those amiable stumblings will be imputed to her in the end for sin.
“This man was handed over to you quite nice and kind,” one can imagine
Justice saying in an awful voice; “his intentions to start with were
beyond reproach. Do you not remember, on the eve of your wedding, how
he swore with tears he would be good to you? Look, now, what you have
made of him. You have prevented his being good to you by your own
excessive goodness to him. You have spent your time nourishing his bad
qualities. Though he still swears, he never does it with tears. Do you
not know the enormous, the almost insurmountable difficulty there is in
not bullying meekness, in not responding to the cringer with a kick?
Weak and unteachable woman, away with you.”
Certainly it is a great responsibility taking a man into one's life.
It is also an astonishment to me that I write thus in detail of Mrs.
Dawson, for she has nothing whatever to do with the story.
“Who is it?” asked Mr. Dawson; immediately adding, “Say I'm
“He gave no name, sir. He says he wishes to see you on business.”
“Business! I don't do business at tea time. Send him away.”
But Fritzing, for he it was, would not be sent away. Priscilla had
seen the cottage of her dreams, seen it almost at once on entering the
village, fallen instantly and very violently in love with it regardless
of what its inside might be, and had sent him to buy it. She was
waiting while he bought it in the adjoining churchyard sitting on a
tombstone, and he could neither let her sit there indefinitely nor
dare, so great was her eagerness to have the thing, go back without at
least a hope of it. Therefore he would not be sent away. “Your master's
in,” he retorted, when the maid suggested he should depart, “and I must
see him. Tell him my business is pressing.”
“Will you give me your card, sir?” said the maid, wavering before
Fritzing, of course, had no card, so he wrote his new name in pencil
on a leaf of his notebook, adding his temporary address.
“Tell Mr. Dawson,” he said, tearing it out and giving it to her,
“that if he is so much engaged as to be unable to see me I shall go
direct to Lady Shuttleworth. My business will not wait.”
“Show him in, then,” growled Mr. Dawson on receiving this message;
for he feared Lady Shuttleworth every bit as much as Mrs. Dawson feared
Fritzing was accordingly shown into the room used as an office, and
was allowed to cool himself there while Mr. Dawson finished his tea.
The thought of his Princess waiting on a tombstone that must be growing
colder every moment, for the sun was setting, made him at last so
impatient that he rang the bell.
“Tell your master,” he said when the maid appeared, “that I am now
going to Lady Shuttleworth.” And he seized his hat and was making
indignantly for the door when Mr. Dawson appeared.
Mr. Dawson was wiping his mouth. “You seem to be in a great hurry,”
he said; and glancing at the slip of paper in his hand added, “Mr.
“Sir,” said Fritzing, bowing with a freezing dignity, “I am.”
“Well, so am I. Sit down. What can I do for you? Time's money, you
know, and I'm a busy man. You're German, ain't you?”
“I am, sir. My name is Neumann. I am here—”
“Oh, Noyman, is it? I thought it was Newman.” And he glanced again
at the paper.
“Sir,” said Fritzing, with a wave of his hand, “I am here to buy a
cottage, and the sooner we come to terms the better. I will not waste
valuable moments considering niceties of pronunciation.”
Mr. Dawson stared. Then he said, “Buy a cottage?”
“Buy a cottage, sir. I understand that practically the whole of
Symford is the property of the Shuttleworth family, and that you are
that family's accredited agent. I therefore address myself in the first
instance to you. Now, sir, if you are unable, either through
disinclination or disability, to do business with me, kindly state the
fact at once, and I will straightway proceed to Lady Shuttleworth
herself. I have no time to lose.”
“I'm blessed if I have either, Mr.”—he glanced again at the
“Neumann, sir,” corrected Fritzing irritably.
“All right—Noyman. But why don't you write it then? You've written
Newman as plain as a doorpost.”
“Sir, I am not here to exercise you in the proper pronunciation of
foreign tongues. These matters, of an immense elementariness I must
add, should be and generally are acquired by all persons of any
education in their childhood at school.”
Mr. Dawson stared. “You're a long-winded chap,” he said, “but I'm
blessed if I know what you're driving at. Suppose you tell me what
you've come for, Mr.”—he referred as if from habit to the
“Neu_mann, sir,” said Fritzing very loud, for he was greatly
irritated by Mr. Dawson's manner and appearance.
“Noy_mann, then,” said Mr. Dawson, equally loudly; indeed it was
almost a shout. And he became possessed at the same instant of what was
known to Fritzing as a red head, which is the graphic German way of
describing the glow that accompanies wrath. “Look here,” he said, “if
you don't say what you've got to say and have done with it you'd better
go. I'm not the chap for the fine-worded game, and I'm hanged if I'll
be preached to in my own house. I'll be hanged if I will, do you hear?”
And he brought his fist down on the table in a fashion very familiar to
Mrs. Dawson and the Symford cottagers.
“Sir, your manners—” said Fritzing, rising and taking up his hat.
“Never mind my manners, Mr. Newman.”
“Neu_mann, sir!” roared Fritzing.
“Confound you, sir,” was Mr. Dawson's irrelevant reply.
“Sir, confound you,” said Fritzing, clapping on his hat. “And
let me tell you that I am going at once to Lady Shuttleworth and shall
recommend to her most serious consideration the extreme desirability of
removing you, sir.”
“Removing me! Where the deuce to?”
“Sir, I care not whither so long as it is hence,” cried Fritzing,
passionately striding to the door.
Mr. Dawson lay back in his chair and gasped. The man was plainly
mad; but still Lady Shuttleworth might—you never know with
women—“Look here—hie, you! Mr. Newman!” he called, for Fritzing had
torn open the door and was through it.
“Neu_mann, sir,” Fritzing hurled back at him over his shoulder.
“Lady Shuttleworth won't see you, Mr. Noyman. She won't on
“Everything goes through my hands. You'll only have your walk for
nothing. Come back and tell me what it is you want.”
“Sir, I will only negotiate with you,” said Fritzing down the
passage—and Mrs. Dawson hearing him from the drawing-room folded her
hands in fear and wonder—“if you will undertake at least to imitate
the manners of a gentleman.”
“Come, come, you musn't misunderstand me,” said Mr. Dawson getting
up and going to the door. “I'm a plain man, you know—”
“Then, sir, all I can say is that I object to plain men.”
“I say, who are you? One would think you were a duke or somebody,
you're so peppery. Dressed up”—Mr. Dawson glanced at the suit of
pedagogic black into which Fritzing had once more relapsed—“dressed up
as a street preacher.”
“I am not dressed up as anything, sir,” said Fritzing coming in
rather hurriedly. “I am a retired teacher of the German tongue, and
have come down from London in search of a cottage in which to spend my
remaining years. That cottage I have now found here in your village,
and I have come to inquire its price. I wish to buy it as quickly as
“That's all very well, Mr.—oh all right, all right, I won't say it.
But why on earth don't you write it properly, then? It's this paper's
set me wrong. I was going to say we've got no cottages here for sale.
And look here, if that's all you are, a retired teacher, I'll trouble
you not to get schoolmastering me again.”
“I really think, sir,” said Fritzing stretching his hand towards his
hat, “that it is better I should try to obtain an interview with Lady
Shuttleworth, for I fear you are constitutionally incapable of carrying
on a business conversation with the requisite decent self-command.”
“Pooh—you'll get nothing out of her. She'll send you back to me.
Why, you'd drive her mad in five minutes with that tongue of yours. If
you want anything I'm your man. Only let's get at what you do want,
without all these confounded dictionary words. Which cottage is it?”
“It is the small cottage,” said Fritzing mastering his anger,
“adjoining the churchyard. It stands by itself, and is separated from
the road by an extremely miniature garden. It is entirely covered by
creeping plants which I believe to be roses.”
“That's a couple.”
“So much the better.”
“And they're let. One to the shoemaker, and the other to old mother
“Accommodation could no doubt be found for the present tenants in
some other house, and I am prepared to indemnify them handsomely. Might
I inquire the number of rooms the cottages contain?”
“Two apiece, and a kitchen and attic. Coal-hole and pig-stye in the
back yard. Also a pump. But they're not for sale, so what's the use—”
“Sir, do they also contain bathrooms?”
“Bathrooms?” Mr. Dawson stared with so excessively stupid a stare
that Fritzing, who heaver could stand stupidity, got angry again.
“I said bathrooms, sir,” he said, raising his voice, “and I believe
with perfect distinctness.”
“Oh, I heard you right enough. I was only wondering if you were
trying to be funny.”
“Is this a business conversation or is it not?” cried Fritzing, in
his turn bringing his fist down on the table.
“Look here, what do you suppose people who live in such places
“I imagine cleanliness and decency as much as anybody else.”
“Well, I've never been asked for one with a bathroom in my life.”
“You are being asked now,” said Fritzing, glaring at him, “but you
wilfully refuse to reply. From your manner, however, I conclude that
they contain none. If so, no doubt I could quickly have some built.”
“Some? Why, how many do you want?”
“I have a niece, sir, and she must have her own.”
Mr. Dawson again stared with what seemed to Fritzing so deplorably
foolish a stare. “I never heard of such a thing,” he said.
“What did you never hear of, sir?”
“I never heard of one niece and one uncle in a labourer's cottage
wanting a bathroom apiece.”
“Apparently you have never heard of very many things,” retorted
Fritzing angrily. “My niece desires to have her own bathroom, and it is
no one's business but hers.”
“She must be a queer sort of girl.”
“Sir,” cried Fritzing, “leave my niece out of the conversation.”
“Oh all right—all right. I'm sure I don't want to talk about your
niece. But as for the cottages, it's no good wanting those or any
others, for you won't get 'em.”
“And pray why not, if I offer a good price?”
“Lady Shuttleworth won't sell. Why should she? She'd only have to
build more to replace them. Her people must live somewhere. And she'll
never turn out old Shaw and the shoemaker to make room for a couple of
Fritzing was silent, for his heart was sinking. “Suppose, sir,” he
said after a pause, during which his eyes had been fixed thoughtfully
on the carpet and Mr. Dawson had been staring at him and whistling
softly but very offensively, “suppose I informed Lady Shuttleworth of
my willingness to build two new cottages—excellent new cottages—for
the tenants of these old ones, and pay her a good price as well for
these, do you think she would listen to me?”
“I say, the schoolmastering business must be a rattling good one.
I'm blessed if I know what you want to live in 'em for if money's so
little object with you. They're shabby and uncomfortable, and an old
chap like you—I mean, a man of your age, who's made his little pile,
and wants luxuries like plenty of bathrooms—ought to buy something
tight and snug. Good roof and electric light. Place for horse and trap.
And settle down and be a gentleman.”
“My niece,” said Fritzing, brushing aside these suggestions with an
angrily contemptuous wave of his hand, “has taken a fancy—I may say an
exceedingly violent fancy—to these two cottages. What is all this talk
of traps and horses? My niece wishes for these cottages. I shall do my
utmost to secure them for her.”
“Well, all I can say is she must be a—”
“Silence, sir!” cried Fritzing.
Mr. Dawson got up and opened the door very wide.
“Look here,” he said, “there's no use going on talking. I've stood
more from you than I've stood from any one for years. Take my advice
and get back home and keep quiet for a bit. I've got no cottages, and
Lady Shuttleworth would shut the door in your face when you got to the
bathroom part. Where are you staying? At the Cock and Hens?
Oh—ah—yes—at Baker's. Well, ask Mrs. Pearce to take great care of
you. Tell her I said so. And good afternoon to you, Mr. Noyman. You see
I've got the name right now—just as we're going to part.”
“Before I go,” said Fritzing, glaring down at Mr. Dawson, “let me
tell you that I have seldom met an individual who unites in his manner
so singularly offensive a combination of facetiousness and hectoring as
yourself. I shall certainly describe your conduct to Lady Shuttleworth,
and not, I hope, in unconvincing language. Sir, good afternoon.”
“By-bye,” said Mr. Dawson, grinning and waving a pleasant hand.
Several bathrooms indeed! He need have no fears of Lady Shuttleworth.
“Good luck to you with Lady S.!” he called after him cheerily. Then he
went to his wife and bade her see to it that the servant never let
Fritzing in again, explaining that he was not only a foreigner but a
lunatic, and that the mixture was so bad that it hardly bore thinking
While Fritzing was losing his temper in this manner at the agent's,
Priscilla sat up in the churchyard in the sun. The Symford churchyard,
its church, and the pair of coveted cottages, are on a little eminence
rising like an island out of the valley. Sitting under the trees of
this island Priscilla amused herself taking in the quiet scene at her
feet and letting her thoughts wander down happy paths. The valley was
already in shadow, but the tops of the hills on the west side of it
were golden in the late afternoon sunshine. From the cottage chimneys
smoke went up straight and blue into the soft sky, rooks came and
settled over her head in the branches of the elms, and every now and
then a yellow leaf would fall slowly at her feet. Priscilla's heart was
filled with peace. She was going to be so good, she was going to lead
such a clean and beautiful life, so quiet, so helpful to the poor, so
hidden, so cleared of all confusions. Never again would she need to
pose; never again be forced into conflict with her soul. She had chosen
the better part; she had given up everything and followed after wisdom;
and her life would be her justification. Who but knows the inward peace
that descends upon him who makes good resolutions and abides with him
till he suddenly discovers they have all been broken? And what does the
breaking of them matter, since it is their making that is so wholesome,
so bracing to the soul, bringing with it moments of such extreme
blessedness that he misses much who gives it up for fear he will not
keep them? Such blessed moments of lifting up of the heart were
Priscilla's as she sat in the churchyard waiting, invisibly surrounded
by the most beautiful resolutions it is possible to imagine. The Rev.
Edward Morrison, the vicar of whom I have spoken as venerable, coming
slowly up the path leaning on his son's arm with the intention of going
into the church in search of a mislaid sermon-book, saw Priscilla's
thoughtful back under the elm-tree and perceived at once that it was a
back unknown to him. He knew all the Symford backs, and tourists hardly
ever coming there, and never at that time of the year, it could not, he
thought, be the back of a tourist. Nor could it belong to any one
staying with the Shuttleworths, for he had been there that very
afternoon and had found Lady Shuttleworth rejoicing over the brief
period of solitude she and her son were enjoying before the stream of
guests for the coming of age festivities began.
“Robin, what girl is that?” asked the vicar of his son.
“I'm sure I don't know,” said Robin.
“She'll catch cold,” said the vicar.
“I dare say,” said Robin.
When they came out of the church ten minutes later Priscilla had not
“She'll certainly catch cold,” said the vicar, concerned.
“I should think it very likely,” said Robin, locking the door.
“She's sitting on a stone.”
“Yes, on old Dawson's slab.”
“Unwise,” said the vicar.
“Profane,” said Robin.
The vicar took his boy's arm again—the boy, head and shoulders
taller than his father, was down from Cambridge for the vacation then
drawing to its close—and moved, I fear, by the same impulse of pure
curiosity they walked together down the path that would take them right
in front of the young woman on the slab.
Priscilla was lost in the bright dreams she was weaving, and looked
up with the radiance of them still in her eyes at the two figures
between her and the sunset.
“My dear young lady,” said the vicar kindly, “are you not afraid of
catching cold? The evenings are so damp now, and you have chosen a very
“I don't feel cold,” said Priscilla, smiling at this vision of
“But I do think you ought not to linger here,” said the vicar.
“I am waiting for my uncle. He's gone to buy a cottage, and ought to
be back, really, by now.”
“Buy a cottage?” repeated the vicar. “My dear young lady, you say
that in the same voice you might use to tell me your uncle had gone to
buy a bun.”
“What is a bun?” asked Priscilla.
“A bun?” repeated the vicar bewildered, for nobody had ever asked
him that before.
“Oh I know—” said Priscilla quickly, faintly flushing, “it's a
thing you eat. Is there a special voice for buns?”
“There is for a thing so—well, so momentous as the buying of a
“Is it momentous? It seems to me so nice and natural.”
She looked up at the vicar and his son, calmly scrutinizing first
one and then the other, and they stood looking down at her; and each
time her eyes rested on Robin they found his staring at her with the
frankest expression of surprise and admiration.
“Pardon me,” said the vicar, “if I seem inquisitive, but is it one
of the Symford cottages your uncle wishes to buy? I did not know any
were for sale.”
“It's that one by the gate,” said Priscilla, slightly turning her
head in its direction.
“Is it for sale? Dear me, I never knew Lady Shuttleworth sell a
“I don't know yet if she wants to,” said Priscilla; “but Fr—, my
uncle, will give any price. And I must have it. I shall—I shall be ill
if I don't.”
The vicar gazed at her upturned face in perplexity. “Dear me,” he
said, after a slight pause.
“We must live somewhere,” remarked Priscilla.
“Of course you must,” said Robin, suddenly and so heartily that she
examined his eager face in more detail.
“Quite so, quite so,” said the vicar. “Are you staying here at
“Never at the Cock and Hens?” broke in Robin.
“We're at Baker's Farm.”
“Ah yes—poor Mrs. Pearce will be glad of lodgers. Poor soul, poor
“She's a very dirty soul,” said Robin; and Priscilla's eyes flashed
over him with a sudden sparkle.
“Is she the soul with the holes in its apron?” she asked.
“I expect there are some there. There generally are,” said Robin.
They both laughed; but the vicar gently shook his head. “Ah well,
poor thing,” he said, “she has an uphill life of it. They don't seem
able—they don't seem to understand the art of making both ends meet.”
“It's a great art,” said Robin.
“Perhaps they could be helped,” said Priscilla, already arranging in
her mind to go and do it.
“They do not belong to the class one can help. And Lady
Shuttleworth, I am afraid, disapproves of shiftless people too much to
do anything in the way of reducing the rent.”
“Lady Shuttleworth can't stand people who don't look happy and don't
mend their apron,” said Robin.
“But it's her own apron,” objected Priscilla.
“Exactly,” said Robin.
“Well, well, I hope they'll make you comfortable,” said the vicar;
and having nothing more that he could well say without having to
confess to himself that he was inquisitive, he began to draw Robin
away. “We shall see you and your uncle on Sunday in church, I hope,” he
said benevolently, and took off his hat and showed his snow-white hair.
Priscilla hesitated. She was, it is true, a Protestant, it having
been arranged on her mother's marriage with the Catholic Grand Duke
that every alternate princess born to them was to belong to the
Protestant faith, and Priscilla being the alternate princess it came
about that of the Grand Duke's three children she alone was not a
Catholic. Therefore she could go to church in Symford as often as she
chose; but it was Fritzing's going that made her hesitate, for Fritzing
was what the vicar would have called a godless man, and never went to
“You are a member of the Church of England?” inquired the vicar,
seeing her hesitate.
“Why, pater, she's not English,” burst out Robin.
“Not English?” echoed the vicar.
“Is my English so bad?” asked Priscilla, smiling.
“It's frightfully good,” said Robin; “but the 'r's,' you know—”
“Ah, yes. No, I'm not English. I'm German.”
“Indeed?” said the vicar, with all the interest that attaches to any
unusual phenomenon, and a German in Symford was of all phenomena the
most unusual. “My dear young lady, how remarkable. I don't remember
ever having met a German before in these parts. Your English is really
surprising. I should never have noticed—my boy's ears are quicker than
my old ones. Will you think me unpardonably curious if I ask what made
you pitch on Symford as a place to live in?”
“My uncle passed through it years ago and thought it so pretty that
he determined to spend his old age here.”
“And you, I suppose, are going to take care of him.”
“Yes,” said Priscilla, “for we only”—she looked from one to the
other and thought herself extremely clever—“we only have each other in
the whole wide world.”
“Ah, poor child—you are an orphan.”
“I didn't say so,” said Priscilla quickly, turning red; she who had
always been too proud to lie, how was she going to lie now to this aged
saint with the snow-white hair?
“Ah well, well,” said the vicar, vaguely soothing. “We shall see you
on Sunday perhaps. There is no reason that I know of why a member of
the German Church should not assist at the services of the Church of
England.” And he took off his hat again, and tried to draw Robin away.
But Robin lingered, and Priscilla saw so much bright curiosity in
his eyes that she felt she was giving an impression of mysteriousness;
and this being the last thing she wanted to do she thought she had
better explain a little—always a dangerous course to take—and she
said, “My uncle taught languages for years, and is old now and tired,
and we both long for the country and to be quiet. He taught me
English—that's why it's as good as it is. His name”—She was carried
away by the desire to blow out that questioning light in Robin's
eyes—“his name is Schultz.”
The vicar bowed slightly, and Robin asked with an air of great
politeness but still with that light in his eyes if he were to address
her, then, as Miss Schultz.
“I'm afraid so,” said Priscilla, regretfully. It really sounded
gross. Miss Schultz? She might just as well have chosen something
romantic while she was about it, for Fritzing in the hurry of many
cares had settled nothing yet with her about a name.
Robin stared at her very hard, her answer seemed to him so odd. He
stared still more when she looked up with the air of one who has a
happy thought and informed him that her Christian name was Ethel.
“Ethel?” echoed Robin.
“It's a very pretty name, I think,” said Priscilla, looking pleased.
“Our housemaid's called Ethel, and so is the little girl that wheels
the gardener's baby's perambulator,” was Robin's impetuous comment.
“That doesn't make it less pretty,” said Priscilla, frowning.
“Surely,” interrupted the vicar mildly, “Ethel is not a German
“I was christened after my mother,” said Priscilla gently; and this
was strictly true, for the deceased Grand Duchess had also been
Priscilla. Then a feeling came over her that she was getting into those
depths where persons with secrets begin to flounder as a preliminary to
letting them out, and seized with panic she got up off the slab.
“You are half English, then,” said Robin triumphantly, his bright
eyes snapping. He looked very bold and masterful staring straight at
her, his head thrown back, his handsome face twinkling with interest.
But a person of Priscilla's training could not possibly be discomposed
by the stare of any Robin, however masterful; had it not been up to now
her chief function in life to endure being stared at with graceful
indifference? “I did not say so,” she said, glancing briefly at him;
and including both father and son in a small smile composed
indescribably of graciousness and chill she added, “It really is damp
here—I don't think I'll wait for my uncle,” and slightly bowing walked
away without more ado.
She walked very slowly, her skirts gathered loosely in one hand,
every line of her body speaking of the most absolute self-possession
and unapproachableness. Never had the two men seen any one quite so
calm. They watched her in silence as she went up the path and out at
the gate; then Robin looked down at his father and drew his hand more
firmly through his arm and said with a slight laugh, “Come on, pater,
let's go home. We're dismissed.”
“By a most charming young lady,” said the vicar, smiling.
“By a very cool one,” said Robin, shrugging his shoulders, for he
did not like being dismissed.
“Yes—oddly self-possessed for her age,” agreed the vicar.
“I wonder if all German teacher's nieces are like that,” said Robin
with another laugh.
“Few can be so blest by nature, I imagine.”
“Oh, I don't mean faces. She is certainly prettier by a good bit
than most girls.”
“She is quite unusually lovely, young man. Don't quibble.”
“Miss Schultz—Ethel Schultz,” murmured Robin; adding under his
breath, “Good Lord.”
“She can't help her name. These things are thrust upon one.”
“It's a beastly common name. Macgrigor, who was a year in Dresden,
told me everybody in Germany is called Schultz.”
“Except those who are not.”
“Now, pater, you're being clever again,” said Robin, smiling down at
“Here comes some one in a hurry,” said the vicar, his attention
arrested by the rapidly approaching figure of a man; and, looking up,
Robin beheld Fritzing striding through the churchyard, his hat well
down over his eyes as if clapped on with unusual vigour, both hands
thrust deep in his pockets, the umbrella, without which he never, even
on the fairest of days, went out, pressed close to his side under his
arm, and his long legs taking short and profane cuts over graves and
tombstones with the indifference to decency of one immersed in
unpleasant thought. It was not the custom in Symford to leap in this
manner over its tombs; and Fritzing arriving at a point a few yards
from the vicar, and being about to continue his headlong career across
the remaining graves to the tree under which he had left Priscilla, the
vicar raised his voice and exhorted him to keep to the path.
“Quaint-looking person,” remarked Robin. “Another stranger. I say,
it can't be—no, it can't possibly be the uncle?” For he saw he was a
foreigner, yet on the other hand never was there an uncle and a niece
who had less of family likeness.
Fritzing was the last man wilfully to break local rules or wound
susceptibilities; and pulled out of his unpleasant abstraction by the
vicar's voice he immediately desisted from continuing his short cut,
and coming onto the path removed his hat and apologized with the
politeness that was always his so long as nobody was annoying him.
“My name is Neumann, sir,” he said, introducing himself after the
German fashion, “and I sincerely beg your pardon. I was looking for a
lady, and”—he gave his spectacles a little adjusting shove as though
they were in fault, and gazing across to the elm where he had left
Priscilla sitting added with sudden anxiety—“I fear I do not see her.”
“Do you mean Miss Schultz?” asked the vicar, looking puzzled.
“No, sir, I do not mean Miss Schultz,” said Fritzing, peering about
him at all the other trees in evident surprise and distress.
“A lady left about five minutes ago,” said Robin.
“A tall young lady in a blue costume?”
“Yes. Miss Schultz.”
Fritzing looked at him with some sternness. “Sir, what have I to do
with Miss Schultz?” he inquired.
“Oh come now,” said the cheerful Robin, “aren't you looking for
“I am in search of my niece, sir.”
“Yes. Miss Schultz.”
“No sir,” said Fritzing, controlling himself with an effort, “not
Miss Schultz. I neither know Miss Schultz nor do I care a—”
“Sir, sir,” interposed the vicar, hastily.
“I do not care a pfenning for any Miss Schultz.”
The vicar looked much puzzled. “There was a young lady,” he said,
“waiting under that tree over there for her uncle who had gone, she
said, to see Lady Shuttleworth's agent about the cottage by the gate.
She said her uncle's name was Schultz.”
“She said she was Miss Ethel Schultz,” said Robin.
“She said she was staying at Baker's Farm,” said the vicar.
Fritzing stared for a moment from one to the other, then clutching
his hat mechanically half an inch into the air turned on his heel
without another word and went with great haste out of the churchyard
and down the hill and away up the road to the farm.
“Quaint, isn't he,” said Robin as they slowly followed this flying
figure to the gate.
“I don't understand it,” said the vicar.
“It does seem a bit mixed.”
“Did he not say his name was Neumann?”
“He did. And he looked as if he'd fight any one who said it wasn't.”
“It is hardly credible that there should be two sets of German
uncles and nieces in Symford at one and the same time,” mused the
vicar. “Even one pair is a most unusual occurrence.”
“If there are,” said Robin very earnestly, “pray let us cultivate
the Schultz set and not the other.”
“I don't understand it,” repeated the vicar, helplessly.
Symford, innocent village, went to bed very early; but early as it
went long before it had got there on this evening it contained no
family that had not heard of the arrivals at Baker's Farm. From the
vicarage the news had filtered that a pretty young lady called Schultz
was staying there with her uncle; from the agent's house the news that
a lunatic called Neumann was staying there with his niece; and about
supper-time, while it was still wondering at this sudden influx of
related Germans, came the postmistress and said that the boy from
Baker's who fetched the letters knew nothing whatever of any one called
Schultz. He had, said the postmistress, grown quite angry and forgotten
the greater and by far the better part of his manners when she asked
him how he could stand there and say such things after all the years he
had attended Sunday-school and if he were not afraid the earth would
open and swallow him up, and he had stuck to it with an obstinacy that
had at length convinced her that only one uncle and niece were at
Baker's, and their name was Neumann. He added that there was another
young lady there whose name he couldn't catch, but who sat on the edge
of her bed all day crying and refusing sustenance. Appeased by the
postmistress's apologies for her first unbelief he ended by being
anxious to give all the information in his power, and came back quite a
long way to tell her that he had forgotten to say that his mother had
said that the niece's Christian name was Maria-Theresa.
“But what, then,” said the vicar's wife to the vicar when this news
had filtered through the vicarage walls to the very sofa where she sat,
“has become of the niece called Ethel?”
“I don't know,” said the vicar, helplessly.
“Perhaps she is the one who cried all day.”
“My dear, we met her in the churchyard.”
“Perhaps they are forgers,” suggested the vicar's wife.
The vicar's wife said no more, but silently made up her mind to go
the very next day and call at Baker's. It would be terrible if a bad
influence got into Symford, her parish that she had kept in such good
order for so long. Besides, she had an official position as the wife of
the vicar and could and ought to call on everybody. Her call would not
bind her, any more than the call of a district visitor would, to invite
the called-upon to her house. Perhaps they were quite decent, and she
could ask the girl up to the Tuesday evenings in the parish-room;
hardly to the vicarage, because of her daughter Netta. On the other
hand, if they looked like what she imagined anarchists or forgers look
like, she would merely leave leaflets and be out when they returned her
Robin, all unaware of his mother's thoughts, was longing to ask her
to go to Baker's and take him with her as a first step towards the
acquaintance after which his soul thirsted, but he refrained for
various discreet reasons based on an intimate knowledge of his mother's
character; and he spent the evening perfecting a plan that should
introduce him into the interior of Baker's without her help. The plan
was of a barbarous simplicity: he was going to choose an umbrella from
the collection that years had brought together in the stand in the
hall, and go boldly and ask the man Neumann if he had dropped it in the
churchyard. The man Neumann would repudiate the umbrella, perhaps with
secret indignation, but he would be forced to pretend he was grateful,
and who knew what luck might not do for him after that?
While Robin was plotting, and his mother was plotting, that the next
day would certainly see them inside Baker's, a third person was trying
to do exactly the same thing at Symford Hall; and this third person was
no other than Augustus, the hope of all the Shuttleworths. Augustus—he
was known to his friends briefly as Tussie—had been riding homewards
late that afternoon, very slowly, for he was an anxious young man who
spent much of his time dodging things like being overheated, when he
saw a female figure walking towards him along the lonely road. He was
up on the heath above Symford, a solitary place of heather, and gorse
bushes, and winding roads that lead with many hesitations and delays to
different parts of Exmoor, and he himself with his back to that wild
region and the sunset was going, as every sensible person would be
going at that time of the evening, in the direction of the village and
home. But where could the girl be going? For he now saw it was a girl,
and in a minute or two more that it was a beautiful girl. With the
golden glow of the sky the sun had just left on her face Priscilla came
towards him out of the gathering dusk of approaching evening, and
Tussie, who had a poetic soul, gazed at the vision openmouthed. Seeing
him, she quickened her steps, and he took off his cap eagerly when she
asked him to tell her where Symford was. “I've lost it,” she said,
looking up at him.
“I'm going through it myself,” he answered. “Will you let me show
you the way?”
“Thank you,” said Priscilla; and he got off his horse and she turned
and walked beside him with the same unruffled indifference with which
she would have walked beside the Countess Disthal or in front of an
attending lacquey. Nor did she speak, for she was busy thinking of
Fritzing and hoping he was not being too anxious about her, and Tussie
(God defend his innocence) thought she was shy. So sure was he as the
minutes past that her silence was an embarrassed one that he put an end
to it by remarking on the beauty of the evening, and Priscilla who had
entirely forgotten Miss Schultz gave him the iciest look as a reminder
that it was not his place to speak first. It was lost on Tussie as a
reminder, for naturally it did not remind him of anything, and he put
it down at first to the girl's being ill at ease alone up there with a
strange man, and perhaps to her feeling she had better keep him at
arm's length. A glance at her profile however dispelled this illusion
once and for ever, for never was profile of a profounder calm. She was
walking now with her face in shadow, and the glow behind her played
strange and glorious tricks with her hair. He looked at her, and
looked, and not by the quiver of an eyelash did she show she was aware
of anybody's presence. Her eyes were fixed on the ground, and she was
deep in thought tinged with remorsefulness that she should have come up
here instead of going straight home to the farm, and by losing her way
and staying out so long have given Fritzing's careful heart an
unnecessary pang of anxiety. He had had so many, and all because of
her. But then it had been the very first time in her life that she had
ever walked alone, and if words cannot describe the joy and triumph of
it how was it likely that she should have been able to resist the
temptation to stray aside up a lovely little lane that lured her on and
on from one bend to another till it left her at last high up,
breathless and dazzled, on the edge of the heath, with Exmoor rolling
far away in purple waves to the sunset and all the splendour of the
evening sky in her face? She had gone on, fascinated by the beauty of
the place, and when she wanted to turn back found she had lost herself.
Then appeared Sir Augustus to set her right, and with a brief thought
of him as a useful person on a nice horse she fell into sober
meditations as to the probable amount of torture her poor Fritzi was
going through, and Augustus ceased to exist for her as completely as a
sign-post ceases to exist for him who has taken its advice and passed
He looked at her, and looked, and looked again. He had never seen
any one quite so beautiful, and certainly never any one with such an
air of extreme detachment. He was twenty-one and much inclined to
poetry, and he thought as she walked beside him so tall and straight
and aloof, with the nimbus of flaming hair and the noble little head
and slightly stern brow that she looked like nothing less than a young
saint of God.
Tussie was not bold like Robin. He was a gentle youth who loved
quiet things, quiet places, placid people, kind dogs, books, canaries
even, if they did not sing too loud. He was sensitive about himself,
being small and weakly, and took, as I have said, great care of what he
had of health, such care indeed that some of his robust friends called
him Fussie. He hated the idea of coming of age and of having a great
deal of money and a great many active duties and responsibilities. His
dream was to be left in peace to write his verses; to get away into
some sweet impossible wilderness, and sit there singing with as much of
the spirit of Omar Kayyam as could reasonably be expected to descend on
a youth who only drank water. He was not bold, I say; and after that
one quelling glance from the young saint's eyes did not dare speak
again for a long while. But they were getting near Symford; they were
halfway down the hill; he could not let her slip away perhaps suddenly
from his side into the shadows without at least trying to find out
where she was staying. He looked at her soft kind mouth and opened his
own to speak. He looked at her stern level brows and shut it again. At
last, keeping his eyes on her mouth he blurted out, growing red, “I
know every soul in Symford, and every soul for miles round, but I don't
know—” He stopped. He was going to say “you,” but he stopped.
Priscilla's thoughts were so far away that she turned her head and
gazed vaguely at him for a moment while she collected them again. Then
she frowned at him. I do not know why Robin should have had at least
several smiles and poor Tussie only frowns, unless it was that during
this walk the young person Ethel Schultz had completely faded from
Priscilla's mind and the Royal Highness was well to the fore. She
certainly frowned at Tussie and asked herself what could possess the
man to keep on speaking to her. Keep on speaking! Poor Tussie. Aloud
she said freezingly, “Did you say something?”
“Yes,” said Tussie, his eyes on her mouth—surely a mouth only made
for kindness and gentle words. “I was wondering whether you were
staying at the vicarage.”
“No,” said Priscilla, “we're staying at Baker's Farm.” And at the
mention of that decayed lodging the friendly Schultz expression crept
back, smiling into her eyes.
Tussie stopped short. “Baker's Farm?” he said. “Why, then this is
the way; down here, to the right. It's only a few yards from here.”
“Were you going that way too?”
“I live on the other side of Symford.”
“Then good-bye and thank you.”
“Please let me go with you as far as the high-road—it's almost
“Oh no—I can't lose myself again if it's only a few yards.”
She nodded, and was turning down the lane.
“Are you—are you comfortable there?” he asked hurriedly, blushing.
“The Pearces are tenants of ours. I hope they make you comfortable?”
“Oh, we're only going to be there a few days. My uncle is buying a
cottage, and we shall leave almost directly.”
The girl Ethel nodded and smiled and went away quickly into the
dusk; and Tussie rode home thoughtfully, planning elaborate plans for a
descent the next day upon Baker's Farm that should have the necessary
air of inevitableness.
Fritzing was raging up and down the road in front of the gate when
Priscilla emerged, five minutes later, from the shadows of the lane.
She ran up to him and put her arm through his, and looked up at him
with a face of great penitence. “Dear Fritzi,” she said, “I'm so sorry.
I've been making you anxious, haven't I? Forgive me—it was the first
taste of liberty, and it got into my feet and set them off exploring,
and then I lost myself. Have you been worrying?”
He was immensely agitated, and administered something very like a
scolding, and he urged the extreme desirability of taking Annalise with
her in future wherever she went—(“Oh nonsense, Fritzi,” interjected
Priscilla, drawing away her arm)—and he declared in a voice that
trembled that it was a most intolerable thought for him that two
strange men should have dared address her in the churchyard, that he
would never forgive himself for having left her there alone—(“Oh,
Fritzi, how silly,” interjected Priscilla)—and he begged her almost
with tears to tell him exactly what she had said to them, for her Grand
Ducal Highness must see that it was of the first importance they should
both say the same things to people.
Priscilla declared she had said nothing at all but what was quite
diplomatic, in fact quite clever; indeed, she had been surprised at the
way ideas had seemed to flow.
“So please,” she finished, “don't look at me with such lamentable
“Ma'am, did you not tell them our name is Schultz?”
“But so it is.”
“It is not, ma'am. Our name is Neumann.”
Priscilla stared astonished. “Neumann?” she said. “Nonsense, Fritzi.
Why should it be Neumann? We're Schultz. I told these people we were.
It's all settled.”
“Settled, ma'am? I told the woman here as well as the estate agent
that you are my brother's child and that we are Neumann.”
Priscilla was aghast. Then she said severely, “It was your duty to
ask me first. What right have you to christen me?”
“I intended to discuss it during our walk to the village this
afternoon. I admit I forgot it. On the other hand I could not suppose
your Grand Ducal Highness, left for a moment unprotected, would inform
two strange gentlemen that our name was Schultz.”
“You should certainly have asked me first,” repeated Priscilla with
knitted brows. “Why should I have to be Neumann?”
“I might inquire with equal reason why I should have to be Schultz,”
“But why Neumann?” persisted Priscilla, greatly upset.
“Ma'am, why not?” said Fritzing, still more upset. Then he added,
“Your Grand Ducal Highness might have known that at the agent's I would
be obliged to give some name.”
“I didn't think any more than you did,” said Priscilla stopping in
front of the gate as a sign he was to open it for her. He did, and they
walked through the garden and into the house in silence. Then she went
into the parlour and dropped into a horsehair armchair, and leaning her
head against its prickliness she sighed a doleful sigh.
“Shall I send Annalise to you, ma'am?” asked Fritzing, standing in
“What can we do?” asked Priscilla, her eyes fixed on the tips of her
shoes in earnest thought. “Come in, Fritzi, and shut the door,” she
added. “You don't behave a bit like an uncle.” Then an idea struck her,
and looking up at him with sudden gaiety she said, “Can't we have a
“Yes, and be Neumann-Schultz?”
“Certainly we can,” said Fritzing, his face clearing; how muddled he
must be getting not to have thought of it himself! “I will cause cards
to be printed at once, and we will be Neumann-Schultz. Ma'am, your
“Fritzi, you're deteriorating—you never flattered me at Kunitz. Let
us have tea. I invite you to tea with me. If you'll order it, I'll pour
it out for you and practice being a niece.”
So the evening was spent in harmony; a harmony clouded at intervals,
it is true, first by Priscilla's disappointment about the cottage, then
by a certain restiveness she showed before the more blatant
inefficiencies of the Baker housekeeping, then by a marked and ever
recurring incapacity to adapt herself to her new environment, and
lastly and very heavily when Fritzing in the course of conversation let
drop the fact that he had said she was Maria-Theresa. This was a very
black cloud and hung about for a long while; but it too passed away
ultimately in a compromise reached after much discussion that Ethel
should be prefixed to Maria-Theresa; and before Priscilla went to bed
it had been arranged that Fritzing should go next morning directly
after a very early breakfast to Lady Shuttleworth and not leave that
lady's side and house till he had secured the cottage, and the Princess
for her part faithfully promised to remain within the Baker boundaries
during his absence.
Lady Shuttleworth then, busiest and most unsuspecting of women, was
whisking through her breakfast and her correspondence next morning with
her customary celerity and method, when a servant appeared and offered
her one of those leaves from Fritzing's note-book which we know did
duty as his cards.
Tussie was sitting at the other end of the table very limp and sad
after a night of tiresome tossing that was neither wholly sleep nor
wholly wakefulness, and sheltered by various dishes with spirit-lamps
burning beneath them worked gloomily at a sonnet inspired by the girl
he had met the day before while his mother thought he was eating his
patent food. The girl, it seemed, could not inspire much, for beyond
the fourth line his muse refused to go; and he was beginning to be
unable to stop himself from an angry railing at the restrictions the
sonnet form forces upon poets who love to be vague, which would
immediately have concentrated his mother's attention on himself and
resulted in his having to read her what he had written—for she
sturdily kept up the fiction of a lively interest in his poetic
tricklings—when the servant came in with Fritzing's leaf.
“A gentleman wishes to see you on business, my lady,” said the
“Mr. Neumann-Schultz?” read out Lady Shuttleworth in an inquiring
voice. “Never heard of him. Where's he from?”
“Baker's Farm, my lady.”
At that magic name Tussie's head went up with a jerk.
“Tell him to go to Mr. Dawson,” said Lady Shuttleworth.
The servant disappeared.
“Why do you send him away, mother?” asked Tussie.
“Why, you know things must go through Dawson,” said Lady
Shuttleworth pouncing on her letters again. “I'd be plagued to death if
“But apparently this is the stranger within our gates. Isn't he
“His name is. Dawson will be quite kind to him.”
“Dawson's rather a brute I fancy, when you're not looking.”
“Dearest, I always am looking.”
“He must be one of Pearce's lodgers.”
“Poor man, I'm sorry for him if he is. Of all the shiftless women—”
“The gentleman says, my lady,” said the servant reappearing with
rather an awestruck face, “that he wishes to speak to you most
“James, did I not tell you to send him to Mr. Dawson?”
“I delivered the message, my lady. But the gentleman says he's seen
Mr. Dawson, and that he”—the footman coughed slightly—“he don't want
to see any more of him, my lady.”
Lady Shuttleworth put on her glasses and stared at the servant.
“Upon my word he seems to be very cool,” she said; and the servant, his
gaze fixed on a respectful point just above his mistress's head,
reflected on the extreme inapplicability of the adjective to anything
so warm as the gentleman at the door.
“Shall I see him for you, mother?” volunteered Tussie briskly.
“You?” said his mother surprised.
“I'm rather a dab at German, you know. Perhaps he can't talk much
English”—the footman started—“evidently he wasn't able to say much to
Dawson. Probably he wants you to protect him from the onslaughts of old
Pearce's cockroaches. Anyhow as he's a foreigner I think it would be
kinder to see him.”
Lady Shuttleworth was astonished. Was Tussie going to turn over a
new leaf after all, now that he was coming of age, and interest himself
in more profitable things than verse-making?
“Dearest,” she said, quite touched, “he shall be seen if you think
it kinder. I'll see him—you haven't done breakfast yet. Show him into
the library, James.” And she gathered up her letters and went out—she
never kept people waiting—and as she passed Tussie she laid her hand
tenderly for a moment on his shoulder. “If I find I can't understand
him I'll send for you,” she said.
Tussie folded up his sonnet and put it in his pocket. Then he ate a
few spoonfuls of the stuff warranted to give him pure blood, huge
muscles, and a vast intelligence; then he opened a newspaper and stared
vacantly at its contents; then he went to the fire and warmed his feet;
then he strolled round the table aimlessly for a little; and then, when
half an hour had passed and his mother had not returned, he could bear
it no longer and marched straight into the library.
“I think the cigarettes must be here,” said Tussie, going over to
the mantelpiece and throwing a look of eager interest at Fritzing.
Fritzing rose and bowed ceremoniously. Lady Shuttleworth was sitting
in a straight-backed chair, her elbows on its arms, the tips of her ten
fingers nicely fitted together. She looked very angry, and yet there
was a sparkle of something like amusement in her eyes. Having bowed to
Tussie Fritzing sat down again with the elaboration of one who means to
stay a long while. During his walk from the farm he had made up his
mind to be of a most winning amiability and patience, blended with a
determination that nothing should shake. At the door, it is true, he
had been stirred to petulance by the foolish face and utterances of the
footman James, but during the whole of the time he had been alone with
Lady Shuttleworth he had behaved, he considered, with the utmost
restraint and tact.
Tussie offered him a cigarette.
“My dear Tussie,” said his mother quickly, “we will not keep Mr.
Neumann-Schultz. I'm sure his time must be quite as valuable as mine
“Oh madam,” said Fritzing with a vast politeness, settling himself
yet more firmly in his chair, “nothing of mine can possibly be of the
same value as anything of yours.”
Lady Shuttleworth stared—she had stared a good deal during the last
halfhour—then began to laugh, and got up. “If you see its value so
clearly,” she said, “I'm sure you won't care to take up any more of
“Nay, madam,” said Fritzing, forced to get up too, “I am here, as I
explained, in your own interests—or rather in those of your son, who I
hear is shortly to attain his majority. This young gentleman is, I take
it, your son?”
“And therefore the owner of the cottages?”
“What cottages?” asked Tussie, eagerly. He was manifestly so
violently interested in Mr. Neumann-Schultz that his mother could only
gaze at him in wonder. He actually seemed to hang on that odd person's
“My dear Tussie, Mr. Neumann-Schultz has been trying to persuade me
to sell him the pair of cottages up by the church, and I have been
trying to persuade him to believe me when I tell him I won't.”
“But why won't you, mother?” asked Tussie.
Lady Shuttleworth stared at him in astonishment. “Why won't I? Do I
ever sell cottages?”
“Your esteemed parent's reasons for refusing,” said Fritzing,
“reasons which she has given me with a brevity altogether unusual in
one of her sex and which I cannot sufficiently commend, do more credit,
as was to be expected in a lady, to her heart than to her head. I have
offered to build two new houses for the disturbed inhabitants of these.
I have offered to give her any price—any price at all, within the
limits of reason. Your interests, young gentleman, are what will suffer
if this business is not concluded between us.”
“Do you want them for yourself?” asked Tussie.
“Yes, sir, for myself and for my niece.”
“Mother, why do you refuse to do a little business?”
“Tussie, are we so poor?”
“As far as I'm concerned,” said Tussie airily to Fritzing, “you may
have the things and welcome.”
“But they are not worth more than about fifty pounds apiece, and I
advise you not to give more for them than they're worth. Aren't they
very small, though? Isn't there any other place here you'd rather
“Do you mind telling me why you want them?”
“Young man, to live in them.”
“And where are the people to live who are in them now?” asked Lady
Shuttleworth, greatly incensed.
“Madam, I promised you to build.”
“Oh nonsense. I won't have new red-brick horrors about the place.
There's that nice good old Mrs. Shaw in one, so clean and tidy always,
and the shoemaker, a very good man except for his enormous family, in
the other. I will not turn them out.”
“Put 'em in the empty lodge at the north gate,” suggested Tussie.
“They'd be delighted.”
Lady Shuttleworth turned angrily on Fritzing—she was indeed greatly
irritated by Tussie's unaccountable behaviour. “Why don't you build for
yourself?” she asked.
“My niece has set her heart on these cottages in such a manner that
I actually fear the consequences to her health if she does not get
“Now, mother, you really can't make Mr. Neumann-Schultz's niece
“Dearest boy, have you suddenly lost your senses?”
“Not unless it's losing them to be ready to do a kindness.”
“Well said, well said, young man,” said Fritzing approvingly.
“Tussie, have I ever shirked doing a kindness?” asked Lady
Shuttleworth, touched on her tenderest point.
“Never. And that's why I can't let you begin now,” said Tussie,
smiling at her.
“Well said, well said, young man,” approved Fritzing. “The woman up
to a certain age should lead the youth, and he should in all things
follow her counsels with respect and obedience. But she for her part
should know at what moment to lay down her authority, and begin, with a
fitting modesty, to follow him whom she has hitherto led.”
“Is that what your niece does?” asked Lady Shuttleworth quickly.
“Is she following you into these cottages, or are you following
“You must pardon me, madam, if I decline to discuss my niece.”
“Do have a cigarette,” said Tussie, delighted.
“I never smoke, young man.”
“Something to drink, then?”
“I never drink, young man.”
“If I decide to let you have these cottages—if I do,” said
Lady Shuttleworth, divided between astonishment at everything about
Fritzing and blankest amazement at her son's behaviour, “you will
understand that I only do it because my son seems to wish it.”
“Madam, provided I get the cottages I will understand anything you
“First that. Then I'd want some information about yourself. I
couldn't let a stranger come and live in the very middle of my son's
estate unless I knew all about him.”
“Why, mother—” began Tussie.
“Is not the willingness to give you your own price sufficient?”
inquired Fritzing anxiously.
“Not in the least sufficient,” snapped Lady Shuttleworth.
“What do you wish to know, madam?” said Fritzing stiffly.
“I assure you a great deal.”
“Come, mother,” said Tussie, to whom this was painful, for was not
the man, apart from his strange clothes and speeches, of a distinctly
refined and intellectual appearance? And even if he wasn't, was he not
still the uncle of that divine niece?—“these are things for Dawson to
Fritzing started at the hated name, and began to frown dreadfully.
His frown was always very impressive because of his bushy eyebrows and
deep-set eyes. “Dawson, as you call him,” he said, “and he certainly
has no claim to any prefix of politeness, is not a person with whom I
will consent to arrange anything. Dawson is the most offensive creature
who ever walked this earth clad in the outer semblance of one of God's
This was too much for Lady Shuttleworth. “Really—” she said,
stretching out her hand to the bell.
“Didn't I tell you so, mother?” cried Tussie triumphantly; and that
Tussie, her own dear boy, should in all things second this madman
completely overwhelmed her. “I knew he was a brute behind your back.
Let's sack him.”
“James, show this gentleman out.”
“Pardon me, madam, we have not yet arranged—”
“Oh,” interrupted Tussie, “the business part can be arranged between
you and me without bothering my mother. I'll come part of the way with
you and we'll talk it over. You're absolutely right about Dawson. He's
an outrageous mixture of bully and brute.” And he hurried into the hall
to fetch his cap, humming O dear unknown One with the stern sweet
face, which was the first line of his sonnet in praise of
Priscilla, to a cheerful little tune of his own.
“Tussie, it's so damp,” cried his anxious mother after him—“you're
not really going out in this nasty Scotch mist? Stay in, and I'll leave
you to settle anything you like.”
“Oh, it's a jolly morning for a walk,” called back Tussie gaily,
searching about for his cap—“And eyes all beautiful with strenuous
thought—Come on, sir.”
But Fritzing would not skimp any part of his farewell ceremonies.
“Permit me, madam,” he said, deeply bowing, “to thank you for your
extremely kind reception.”
“Kind?” echoed Lady Shuttleworth, unable to stop herself from
“Yes, madam, kind, and before all things patient.”
“Yes, I do think I've been rather patient,” agreed Lady
Shuttleworth, smiling again.
“And let me,” proceeded Fritzing, “join to my thanks my
congratulations on your possession of so unusually amiable and
promising a son.”
“Come on, sir—you'll make me vain,” said Tussie, in the doorway—“'
Hair like a web divine wherein is caught,'”—he hummed, getting more
and more shrill and happy.
Lady Shuttleworth put out her hand impulsively. Fritzing took it,
bent over it, and kissed it with much respect.
“A most unusually promising young man,” he repeated; “and, madam, I
can tell you it is not my habit to say a thing I do not mean.”
“'The last reflection of God's daily grace'”—chirped Tussie,
looking on much amused.
“No, that I'm quite certain you don't,” said Lady Shuttleworth with
“Don't say too many nice things about me,” advised Tussie. “My
mother will swallow positively anything.”
But nevertheless he was delighted; for here were his mother and the
uncle—the valuable and highly to be cherished uncle—looking as
pleased as possible with each other, and apparently in the fairest way
to becoming fast friends.
The cheerful goddess who had brought Fritzing and his Princess
safely over from Kunitz was certainly standing by them well. She it was
who had driven Priscilla up on to the heath and into the acquaintance
of Augustus Shuttleworth, without whom a cottage in Symford would have
been for ever unattainable. She it was who had sent the Morrisons,
father and son, to drive Priscilla from the churchyard before Fritzing
had joined her, without which driving she would never have met
Augustus. She it was who had used the trifling circumstance of a
mislaid sermon-book to take the vicar and Robin into the church at an
unaccustomed time, without which sermon-book they would never have met
Priscilla in the churchyard and driven her out of it. Thus are all our
doings ruled by Chance; and it is a pleasant pastime for an idle hour
to trace back big events to their original and sometimes absurd
beginnings. For myself I know that the larger lines of my life were
laid down once for all by—but what has this to do with Priscilla?
Thus, I say, are all our doings ruled by Chance, who loves to use small
means for the working of great wonders. And as for the gay goddess's
ugly sister, the lady of the shifty eye and lowering brow called
variously Misfortune and Ill Luck, she uses the same tools exactly in
her hammering out of lives, meanly taking little follies and little
weaknesses, so little and so amiable at first as hardly to be
distinguished from little virtues, and with them building up a mighty
mass that shall at last come down and crush our souls. Of the crushing
of souls, however, my story does not yet treat, and I will not linger
round subjects so awful. We who are nestling for the moment like
Priscilla beneath the warm wing of Good Fortune can dare to make what
the children call a face at her grey sister as she limps scowling past.
Shall we not too one day in our turn feel her claws? Let us when we do
at least not wince; and he who feeling them can still make a face and
laugh, shall be as the prince of the fairy tales, transforming the sour
hag by his courage into a bright reward, striking his very griefs into
a shining shower of blessing.
From this brief excursion into the realm of barren musings, whither
I love above all things to wander and whence I have continually to
fetch myself back again by force, I will return to the story.
At Tussie's suggestion when the business part of their talk was
over—and it took exactly five minutes for Tussie to sell and Fritzing
to buy the cottages, five minutes of the frothiest business talk ever
talked, so profound was the ignorance of both parties as to what most
people demand of cottages—Fritzing drove to Minehead in the
postmistress's son's two-wheeled cart in order to purchase suitable
furniture and bring back persons who would paper and paint. Minehead
lies about twenty miles to the north of Symford, so Fritzing could not
be back before evening. By the time he was back, promised Tussie, the
shoemaker and Mrs. Shaw should be cleared out and put into a place so
much better according to their views that they would probably make it
vocal with their praises.
Fritzing quite loved Tussie. Here was a young man full of the
noblest spirit of helpfulness, and who had besides the invaluable gift
of seeing no difficulties anywhere. Even Fritzing, airy optimist, saw
more than Tussie, and whenever he expressed a doubt it was at once
brushed aside by the cheerfullest “Oh, that'll be all right.” He was
the most practical, businesslike, unaffected, energetic young man,
thought Fritzing, that he had even seen. Tussie was surprised himself
at his own briskness, and putting the wonderful girl on the heath as
much as possible out of his thoughts, told himself that it was the
patent food beginning at last to keep its promises.
He took Fritzing to the post-office and ordered the trap for him,
cautioned the postmistress's son, who was going to drive, against going
too fast down the many hills, for the bare idea of the priceless uncle
being brought back in bits or in any state but absolutely whole and
happy turned him cold, told Fritzing which shops to go to and where to
lunch, begged him to be careful what he ate, since hotel luncheons were
good for neither body nor soul, ordered rugs and a mackintosh covering
to be put in, and behaved generally with the forethought of a mother.
“I'd go with you myself,” he said,—and the postmistress, listening
with both her ears, recognized that the Baker's Farm lodgers were no
longer persons to be criticised—“but I can be of more use to you here.
I must see Dawson about clearing out the cottages. Of course it is very
important you shouldn't stay a moment longer than can be helped in
Here was a young man! Sensible, practical, overflowing with
kindness. Fritzing had not met any one he esteemed so much for years.
They went down the village street together, for Tussie was bound for
Mr. Dawson who was to be set to work at once, and Fritzing for the farm
whither the trap was to follow him as soon as ready, and all Symford,
curtseying to Tussie, recognized, as the postmistress had recognized,
that Fritzing was now raised far above their questionings, seated
firmly on the Shuttleworth rock.
They parted at Mr. Dawson's gate, Mrs. Dawson mildly watching their
warmth over a wire blind. “When we are settled, young man,” said
Fritzing, after eloquent words of thanks and appreciation, “you must
come in the evenings, and together we will roam across the splendid
fields of English literature.”
“Oh thanks” exclaimed Tussie, flushing with pleasure. He
longed to ask if the divine niece would roam too, but even if she did
not, to roam at all would be a delight, and he would besides be doing
it under the very roof that sheltered that bright and beautiful head.
“Oh thanks,” cried Tussie, then, flushing.
His extreme joy surprised Fritzing. “Are you so great a friend of
literature?” he inquired.
“I believe,” said Tussie, “that without it I'd have drowned myself
long ago. And as for the poets—”
He stopped. No one knew what poetry had been to him in his sickly
existence—the one supreme interest, the one thing he really cared to
Fritzing now loved him with all his heart. “Ach Gott, ja,” he
ejaculated, clapping him on the shoulder, “the poets—ja, ja
—'Blessings be with them and eternal praise,' what? Young man,” he
added enthusiastically, “I could wish that you had been my son. I could
indeed.” And as he said it Robin Morrison coming down the street and
seeing the two together and the expression on Tussie's face instantly
knew that Tussie had met the niece.
“Hullo, Tuss,” he called across, hurrying past, for it would rather
upset his umbrella plan to be stopped and have to talk to the man
Neumann thus prematurely. But Tussie neither saw nor heard him, and “By
Jove, hasn't he just seen the niece though,” said Robin to himself, his
eyes dancing as he strode nimbly along on long and bird-like legs. The
conviction seized him that when he and his umbrella should descend upon
Baker's that afternoon Tussie would either be there already or would
come in immediately afterwards. “Who would have thought old Fuss would
be so enterprising?” he wondered, thinking of the extreme cordiality of
Fritzing's face. “He's given them those cottages, I'll swear.”
So Fritzing went to Minehead. I will not follow his painful
footsteps as they ranged about that dreary place, nor will I dwell upon
his purchases, which resolved themselves at last, after an infinite and
soul-killing amount of walking and bewilderment, into a sofa, a
revolving bookstand, and two beds. He forgot a bed for Annalise because
he forgot Annalise; and he didn't buy things like sheets because he
forgot that beds want them. On the other hand he spent quite two hours
in a delightful second-hand bookshop on his way to the place where you
buy crockery, and then forgot the crockery. He did, reminded and
directed by Mr. Vickerton, the postmistress's son, get to a
paperhanger's and order him and his men to come out in shoals to
Symford the next morning at daybreak, making the paperhanger vow, who
had never seen them, that the cottages should be done by nightfall.
Then, happening to come to the seashore, he stood for a moment
refreshing his nostrils with saltness, for he was desperately worn out,
and what he did after that heaven knows. Anyhow young Vickerton found
him hours afterwards walking up and down the shingle in the dark,
waving his arms about and crying—
“O, qui me gelidis convallibus Haemi
Sistat et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra!”
“Talking German out loud to himself,” said young Vickerton to his
mother that night; and it is possible that he had been doing it all the
And while he was doing these things Priscilla was having calls paid
her. Nothing could exceed her astonishment when about four o'clock, as
she was sitting deep in thought and bored on the arm of a horsehair
chair, Mrs. Pearce opened the door and without the least warning let in
Mrs. Morrison. Priscilla had promised Fritzing for that one day to stay
quietly at the farm, and for the last two hours, finding the farm of an
intolerable dulness, she had been engaged in reflections of an
extremely complex nature on subjects such as Duty, Will, and
Personality. Her morning in the Baker fields and by the banks of that
part of the Sym that meanders through them had tuned her mind to
meditation. The food at one o'clock and the manner of its bringing in
by Annalise—Priscilla had relieved Mrs. Pearce of that office—tuned
it still more. The blended slipperiness and prickliness of all the
things she tried to sit on helped surprisingly; and if I knew how far
it is allowable to write of linen I could explain much of her state of
mind by a description of the garments in which she was clothed that
day. They were new garments taken straight from the Gerstein box. They
were not even linen,—how could they be for Fritzing's three hundred
marks? And their newness had not yet been exposed to the softening
influence of any wash-tub. Straight did they come, in all their
crackling stiffness, out of the shop and on to the Princess. Annalise
had been supposed to wash them or cause them to be washed the day
before, but Annalise had been far too busy crying to do anything of the
sort; and by four o'clock Priscilla was goaded by them into a condition
of mind so unworthy that she was thinking quite hard about the Kunitz
fine linen and other flesh-pots and actually finding the recollection
sweet. It was a place, Priscilla mused, where her body had been
exquisitely cared for. Those delicate meals, served in spotlessness,
surely they had been rather of the nature of poems? Those web-like
garments, soft as a kiss, how beautiful they had been to touch and
wear. True her soul had starved; yes, it had cruelly starved. But was
it then—she started at her own thought—was it then being fed at
And into the middle of this question, a tremendous one to be asked
on the very threshold of the new life, walked Mrs. Morrison.
“How d'y do,” said Mrs. Morrison. “The vicar asked me to come and
see you. I hope the Pearces make you comfortable.”
“Well I never,” thought Mrs. Pearce, lingering as was her custom on
the door-mat, and shaking her head in sorrow rather than in anger.
Priscilla sat for a moment staring at her visitor.
“You are Miss Schultz, are you not?” asked Mrs. Morrison rather
Priscilla said she was,—her name, that is, was Neumann-Schultz—and
got up. She had the vaguest notion as to how Miss Schultz would behave
under these trying circumstances, but imagined she would begin by
getting up. So she got up, and the sofa being a low one and her
movements leisurely, Mrs. Morrison told her husband afterwards there
seemed to be no end to the girl. The girl certainly was long, and when
at last unfolded and quite straightened out she towered over Mrs.
Morrison, who looked up uneasily at the grave young face. Why, Mrs.
Morrison asked herself, didn't the girl smile? It was the duty of a
Miss Schultz called upon by the vicar's wife to smile; so profound a
gravity on such an occasion was surely almost rude. Priscilla offered
her hand and hoped it was all right to do so, but still she did not
smile. “Are you Mrs. Morrison?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Morrison with an immense reserve in her voice.
Then Priscilla suggested she should sit down. Mrs. Morrison was
already doing it; and Priscilla sank on to her sofa again and wondered
what she had better say next. She wondered so much that she became lost
in mazes of wonder, and there was so long a silence that Mrs. Pearce
outside the door deplored an inconsiderateness that could keep her
there for nothing.
“I didn't know you had a double name,” said Mrs. Morrison, staring
at Priscilla and trying to decide whether this was not a case for the
application of leaflets and instant departure. The girl was really
quite offensively pretty. She herself had been pretty—she thanked
heaven that she still was so—but never, never pretty—she thanked
heaven again—in this glaringly conspicuous fashion.
“My name is Ethel Maria-Theresa Neumann-Schultz,” said Priscilla,
very clearly and slowly; and though she was, as we know, absolutely
impervious to the steadiest staring, she did wonder whether this good
lady could have seen her photograph anywhere in some paper, her stare
was so very round and bright and piercing.
“What a long name,” said Mrs. Morrison.
“Yes,” said Priscilla; and as another silence seemed imminent she
added, “I have two hyphens.”
“Two what?” said Mrs. Morrison, startled; and so full was her head
of doubt and distrust that for one dreadful moment she thought the girl
had said two husbands. “Oh, hyphens. Yes. Germans have them a good
deal, I believe.”
“That sounds as if we were talking about diseases,” said Priscilla,
a faint smile dawning far away somewhere in the depths of her eyes.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Morrison, fidgeting.
Odd that Robin should have said nothing about the girl's face.
Anyhow she should be kept off Netta. Better keep her off the
parish-room Tuesdays as well. What in the world was she doing in
Symford? She was quite the sort of girl to turn the heads of silly
boys. And so unfortunate, just as Augustus Shuttleworth had taken to
giving Netta little volumes of Browning.
“Is your uncle out?” she asked, some of the sharpness of her
thoughts getting into her voice.
“He's gone to Minehead, to see about things for my cottage.”
“Your cottage? Have you got Mrs. Shaw's, then?”
“Yes. She is being moved out to-day.”
“Dear me,” said Mrs. Morrison, greatly struck.
“Is it surprising?”
“Most. So unlike Lady Shuttleworth.”
“She has been very kind.”
“Do you know her?”
“No; but my uncle was there this morning.”
“And managed to persuade her?”
“He is very eloquent,” said Priscilla, with a demure downward sweep
of her eyelashes.
“Just a little more,” thought Mrs. Morrison, watching their dusky
golden curve, “and the girl would have had scarlet hair and
white-eyebrows and masses of freckles and been frightful.” And she
sighed an impatient sigh, which, if translated into verse, would
undoubtedly have come out—
“Oh the little more and how much it is,
And the little less and what worlds away!”
“And poor old Mrs. Shaw—how does she like being turned out?”
“I believe she is being put into something that will seem to her a
“Dear me, your uncle must really be very eloquent.”
“I assure you that he is,” said Priscilla earnestly.
There was a short pause, during which Mrs. Morrison staring straight
into those unfathomable pools, Priscilla's eyes, was very angry with
them for being so evidently lovely. “You are very young,” she said, “so
you will not mind my questions—”
“Don't the young mind questions?” asked Priscilla, for a moment
supposing it to be a characteristic of the young of England.
“Not, surely, from experienced and—and married ladies,” said Mrs.
“Please go on then.”
“Oh, I haven't anything particular to go on about,” said Mrs.
Morrison, offended. “I assure you curiosity is not one of my faults.”
“No?” said Priscilla, whose attention had begun to wander.
“Being human I have no doubt many failings, but I'm thankful to say
curiosity isn't one of them.”
“My uncle says that's just the difference between men and women. He
says women might achieve just as much as men if only they were curious
about things. But they're not. A man will ask a thousand questions, and
never rest till he's found out as much as he can about anything he
sees, and a woman is content hardly even to see it.”
“I hope your uncle is a Churchman,” was Mrs. Morrison's unexpected
Priscilla's mind could not leap like this, and she hesitated a
moment and smiled. (“It's the first time she's looked pleasant,”
thought Mrs. Morrison, “and now it's in the wrong place.”)
“He was born, of course, in the Lutheran faith,” said Priscilla.
“Oh, a horrid faith. Excuse me, but it really is. I hope he isn't
going to upset Symford?”
“New people holding wrong tenets coming to such a small place do
sometimes, you know, and you say he is eloquent. And we are such a
simple and God-fearing little community. A few years ago we had a great
bother with a Dissenting family that came here. The cottagers quite
lost their heads.”
“I think I can promise that my uncle will not try to convert
anybody,” said Priscilla.
“Of course you mean pervert. It would be a pity if he did. It
wouldn't last, but it would give us a lot of trouble. We are very good
Churchmen here. The vicar, and my son too when he's at home, set
beautiful examples. My son is going into the Church himself. It has
been his dearest wish from a child. He thinks of nothing else—of
nothing else at all,” she repeated, fixing her eyes on Priscilla with a
look of defiance.
“Really?” said Priscilla, very willing to believe it.
“I assure you it's wonderful how absorbed he is in his studies for
it. He reads Church history every spare moment, and he's got it so
completely on his mind that I've noticed even when he whistles it's
'The Church's One Foundation.'“
“What is that?” inquired Priscilla.
“Mr. Robin Morrison,” announced Mrs. Pearce.
The sitting-room at Baker's was a small, straightforward place, with
no screens, no big furniture, no plants in pots, nothing that could for
a moment conceal the persons already in it from the persons coming in,
and Robin entering jauntily with the umbrella under his arm fell
straight as it were into his mother's angry gaze. “Hullo mater, you
here?” he exclaimed genially, his face broadening with apparent
“Yes, Robin, I am here,” she said, drawing herself up.
“How do you do, Miss Schultz. I seem to have got shown into the
wrong room. It's a Mr. Neumann I've come to see; doesn't he live here?”
Priscilla looked at him from her sofa seat and wondered what she had
done that she should be scourged in this manner by Morrisons.
“You know my son, I believe?” said Mrs. Morrison in the stiffest
voice; for the girl's face showed neither recognition nor pleasure, and
though she would have been angry if she had looked unduly pleased she
was still angrier that she should look indifferent.
“Yes. I met him yesterday. Did you want my uncle? His name is
Neumann. Neumann-Schultz. He's out.”
“I only wanted to give him this umbrella,” said Robin, with a swift
glance at his mother as he drew it from under his arm. Would she
recognize it? He had chosen one of the most ancient; the one most
appropriate, as he thought, to the general appearance of the man
“What umbrella is that, Robin?” asked his mother suspiciously.
Really, it was more than odd that Robin, whom she had left immersed in
study, should have got into Baker's Farm so quickly. Could he have been
expected? And had Providence, in its care for the righteous cause of
mothers, brought her here just in time to save him from this girl's
toils? The girl's indifference could not be real; and if it was not,
her good acting only betrayed the depths of her experience and
balefulness. “What umbrella is that?” asked Mrs. Morrison.
“It's his,” said Robin, throwing his head back and looking at his
mother as he laid it with elaborate care on the table.
“My uncle's?” said Priscilla. “Had he lost it? Oh thank you—he
would have been dreadfully unhappy. Sit down.” And she indicated with
her head the chair she would allow him to sit on.
“The way she tells us to sit down!” thought Mrs. Morrison
indignantly. “As though she were a queen.” Aloud she said, “You could
have sent Joyce round with it”—Joyce being that gardener whose baby's
perambulator was wheeled by another Ethel—“and need not have
interrupted your work.”
“So I could,” said Robin, as though much struck by the suggestion.
“But it was a pleasure,” he added to Priscilla, “to be able to return
it myself. It's a frightful bore losing one's umbrella—especially if
it's an old friend.”
“Uncle Fritzi's looks as if it were a very old friend,” said
Priscilla, smiling at it.
Mrs. Morrison glanced at it too, and then glanced again. When she
glanced a third time and her glance turned into a look that lingered
Robin jumped up and inquired if he should not put it in the passage.
“It's in the way here,” he explained; though in whose way it could be
was not apparent, the table being perfectly empty.
Priscilla made no objection, and he at once removed it beyond the
reach of his mother's eye, propping it up in a dark corner of the
passage and telling Mrs. Pearce, whom he found there that it was Mr.
“No it ain't,” said Mrs. Pearce.
“Yes it is,” said Robin.
“No it ain't. He's took his to Minehead,” said Mrs. Pearce.
“It is, and he has not,” said Robin.
“I see him take it,” said Mrs. Pearce.
“You did not,” said Robin.
This would have been the moment, Mrs. Morrison felt, for her to go
and to carry off Robin with her, but she was held in her seat by the
certainty that Robin would not let himself be carried off; and sooner
than say good-bye and then find he was staying on alone she would sit
there all night. Thus do mothers sacrifice themselves for their
children, thought Mrs. Morrison, for their all too frequently thankless
children. But though she would do it to any extent in order to guard
her boy she need not, she said to herself, be pleasant besides,—she
need not, so to speak, be the primroses on his path of dalliance.
Accordingly she behaved as little like a primrose as possible, sitting
in stony silence while he skirmished in the passage with Mrs. Pearce,
and the instant he came in again asked him where he had found the
“I found it—not far from the church,” said Robin, desiring to be
truthful as long as he could. “But mater, bother the umbrella. It isn't
so very noble to bring a man back his own. Did you get your cottages?”
he asked, turning quickly to Priscilla.
“Robin, are you sure it is his own?” said his mother.
“My dear mother, I'm never sure of anything. Nor are you. Nor is
Miss Schultz. Nor is anybody who is really intelligent. But I found the
thing, and Mr. Neumann—”
“The name to-day is Neumann-Schultz,” said Mrs. Morrison, in a voice
heavy with implications.
“Mr. Neumann-Schultz, then, had been that way just before, and so I
felt somehow it must be his.”
“Your Uncle Cox had one just like it when he stayed with us last
time,” remarked Mrs. Morrison.
“Had he? I say, mater, what an eye you must have for an umbrella.
That must be five years ago.”
“Oh, he left it behind, and I see it in the stand every time I go
through the hall.”
“No! Do you?” said Robin, who was hurled by this statement into the
corner where his wits ended and where he probably would have stayed
ignominiously, for Miss Schultz seemed hardly to be listening and
really almost looked—he couldn't believe it, no girl had ever done it
in his presence yet, but she did undoubtedly almost look—bored, if
Mrs. Pearce had not flung open the door, and holding the torn portions
of her apron bunched together in her hands, nervously announced Lady
“Oh,” thought Priscilla, “what a day I'm having.” But she got up and
was gracious, for Fritzing had praised this lady as kind and sensible;
and the moment Lady Shuttleworth set her eyes on her the mystery of her
son's behaviour flashed into clearness. “Tussie's seen her!” she
exclaimed inwardly; instantly adding “Upon my word I can't blame the
“My dear,” she said, holding Priscilla's hand, “I've come to make
friends with you. See what a wise old woman I am. Frankly, I didn't
want you in those cottages, but now that my son has sold them I lose no
time in making friends. Isn't that true wisdom?”
“It's true niceness,” said Priscilla, smiling down at the little old
lady whose eyes were twinkling all over her. “I don't think you'll find
us in any way a nuisance. All we want is to be quiet.”
Mrs. Morrison sniffed.
“Do you really?” said Lady Shuttleworth. “Then we shall get on
capitally. It's what I like best myself. And you've come too,” she went
on, turning to Mrs. Morrison, “to make friends with your new
parishioner? Why, Robin, and you too?”
“Oh, I'm only accidental,” said Robin quickly. “Only a restorer of
lost property. And I'm just going,” he added, beginning to make hasty
adieux; for Lady Shuttleworth invariably produced a conviction in him
that his clothes didn't fit and wanted brushing badly, and no young man
so attentive to his appearance as Robin could be expected to enjoy
that. He fled therefore, feeling that even Miss Schultz's loveliness
would not make up for Lady Shuttleworth's eyes; and in the passage,
from whence Mrs. Pearce had retreated, removing herself as far as might
be from the awful lady to whom her father-in-law owed rent and who saw
every hole, Robin pounced on his Uncle Cox's umbrella, tucked is once
more beneath his arm, and bore it swiftly back to the stand where it
had spent five peaceful years. “Really old women are rather terrible
things,” he thought as he dropped it in again. “I wonder what they're
“Ah, it's there, I see,” remarked his mother that night as she
passed through the hall on her way to dinner.
“What is?” inquired Robin who was just behind her.
“Your Uncle Cox's umbrella.”
“Dear mater, why this extreme interest in my Uncle Cox's umbrella?”
“I'm glad to see it back again, that's all. One gets so used to
Lady Shuttleworth and his mother—I shudder to think that it is
possible Robin included his mother in the reflection about old women,
but on the other hand one never can tell—had stayed on at the farm for
another twenty minutes after he left. They would have stayed longer,
for Lady Shuttleworth was more interested in Priscilla than she had
ever been in any girl before, and Mrs. Morrison, who saw this interest
and heard the kind speeches, had changed altogether from ice to
amiability, crushing her leaflets in her hand and more than once
expressing hopes that Miss Neumann-Schultz would soon come up to tea
and learn to know and like Netta—I repeat, they would have stayed much
longer, but that an extremely odd thing happened.
Priscilla had been charming; chatting with what seemed absolute
frankness about her future life in the cottages, answering little
questionings of Lady Shuttleworth's with a discretion and plausibility
that would have warmed Fritzing's anxious heart, dwelling most, for
here the ground was safest, on her uncle, his work, his gifts and
character, and Lady Shuttleworth, completely fascinated, had offered
her help of every sort, help in the arranging of her little home, in
the planting of its garden, even in the building of those bathrooms
about which Tussie had been told by Mr. Dawson. She thought the desire
for many bathrooms entirely praiseworthy, and only a sign of lunacy in
persons of small means. Fritzing had assured Tussie that he had money
enough for the bathrooms; and if his poetic niece liked everybody about
her to be nicely washed was not that a taste to be applauded? Perhaps
Lady Shuttleworth expatiated on plans and probable building-costs
longer than Priscilla was able to be interested; perhaps she was
over-explanatory of practical details; anyhow Priscilla's attention
began to wander, and she gradually became very tired of her callers.
She answered in monosyllables, and her smile grew vague. Then suddenly,
at the first full stop Lady Shuttleworth reached in a sentence about
sanitation—the entire paragraph was never finished—she got up with
her usual deliberate grace, and held out her hand.
“It has been very kind of you to come and see me,” she said to the
astounded lady, with a little gracious smile. “I hope you will both
come again another time.”
For an instant Lady Shuttleworth thought she was mad. Then to her
own amazement she found her body rising obediently and letting its hand
Mrs. Morrison did the same. Both had their hands slightly pressed,
both were smiled upon, and both went out at once and speechless.
Priscilla stood calmly while they walked to the door, with the little
smile fixed on her face.
“Is it possible we've been insulted?” burst out Mrs. Morrison when
they got outside.
“I don't know,” said Lady Shuttleworth, who looked extremely
“Do you think it can possibly be the barbarous German custom?”
“I don't know,” said Lady Shuttleworth again.
And all the way to the vicarage, whither she drove Mrs. Morrison,
she was very silent, and no exclamations and conjectures of that
indignant lady's could get a word out of her.
Kunitz meanwhile was keeping strangely quiet. Not a breath, not a
whisper, had reached the newspapers from that afflicted little town of
the dreadful thing that had happened to it. It will be remembered that
the Princess ran away on a Monday, arrived at Baker's in the small
hours of Wednesday morning, and had now spent both Wednesday and
Thursday in Symford. There had, then, been ample time for Europe to
receive in its startled ears the news of her flight; yet Europe,
judging from its silence, knew nothing at all about it. In Minehead on
the Thursday evening Fritzing bought papers, no longer it is true with
the frenzy he had displayed at Dover when every moment seemed packed
with peril, but still with eagerness; and not a paper mentioned Kunitz.
On the Saturday he did find the laconic information in the London paper
he had ordered to be sent him every day that the Grand Duke of
Lothen-Kunitz who was shooting in East Prussia had been joined there by
that Prince—I will not reveal his august name—who had so badly wanted
to marry Priscilla. And on the Sunday—it was of course the paper
published in London on Saturday—he read that the Princess Priscilla of
Lothen-Kunitz, the second and only unmarried daughter of the Grand
Duke, was confined to her bed by a sharp attack of influenza. After
that there was utter silence. Fritzing showed Priscilla the paragraph
about her influenza, and she was at first very merry over it. The ease
with which a princess can shake off her fetters the moment she
seriously tries to surprised her, and amused her too, for a little. It
surprised Fritzing, but without amusing him, for he was a man who was
never amused. Indeed, I am unable to recall any single occasion on
which I saw him smile. Other emotions shook him vigorously as we know,
but laughter never visited him with its pleasant ticklings under the
ribs; it slunk away abashed before a task so awful, and left him at his
happiest to a mood of mild contentment. “Your Royal Parent,” he
remarked to Priscilla, “has chosen that which is ever the better part
of valour, and is hushing the incident up.”
“He never loved me,” said Priscilla, wistfully. On thinking it over
she was not quite sure that she liked being allowed to run away so
easily. Did nobody care, then, what became of her? Was she of
positively no value at all? Running away is all very well, but your
pride demands that those runned from shall at least show some sign of
not liking it, make some effort, however humble, to fetch you back. If
they do not, if they remain perfectly quiescent and resigned, not even
sending forth a wail that shall be audible, you are naturally extremely
crushed. “My father,” said Priscilla bitterly, “doesn't care a bit.
He'll give out I'm dangerously ill, and then you'll see, Fritzi—I
shall either die, or be sent away for an interminable yachting cruise
with the Countess. And so dust will be thrown in people's eyes. My
father is very good at that, and the Countess is a perfect genius.
But Fritzing never saw, for there was no more mention at all either
of Kunitz or of influenza. And just then he was so much taken up by his
efforts to get into the cottages as quickly as possible that after a
passing feeling of thankfulness that the Grand Duke should be of such a
convenient indifference to his daughter's fate it dropped from his mind
in the easy fashion in which matters of importance always did drop from
it. What was the use, briefly reflected this philosopher, of worrying
about what they were or were not thinking at Kunitz? There would be
time enough for that when they actually began to do something. He felt
very safe from Kunitz in the folds of the Somerset hills, and as the
days passed calmly by he felt still safer. But though no dangers seemed
to threaten from without there were certain dangers within that made it
most desirable for them to get away from Baker's and into their own
little home without a moment's unnecessary delay. He could not always
be watching his tongue, and he found for instance that it positively
refused to call the Princess Ethel. It had an almost equal objection to
addressing her as niece; and it had a most fatal habit of slipping out
Grand Ducal Highnesses. True, at first they mostly talked German
together, but the tendency to talk English grew more marked every day;
it was in the air they breathed, and they both could talk it so fatally
well. Up at the cottages among the workmen, or when they were joined by
Mr. Dawson, grown zealous to help, or by either of the young men Robin
and Tussie, who seemed constantly to be passing, the danger too was
great. Fritzing was so conscious of it that he used to break out into
perspirations whenever Priscilla was with him in public, and his very
perspirations were conspicuous. The strain made his manner oddly
nervous when speaking to or of his niece, and he became the subject of
much conjecture to the observant Robin. Robin thought that in spite of
her caressing ways with her uncle the girl must be privately a dreadful
tyrant. It seemed difficult to believe, but Robin prided himself on
being ready to believe anything at a moment's notice, especially if it
was the worst, and he called it having an open mind. The girl was
obviously the most spoilt of girls. No one could help seeing that. Her
least wish seemed to be for the uncle a command that was not even to be
talked about. Yet the uncle was never openly affectionate to her. It
almost seemed as though she must have some secret hold over him, be in
possession, perhaps, of some fact connected with a guilty past. But
then this girl and guilty pasts! Why, from the look in her eyes she
could never even have heard of such things. Robin thought himself
fairly experienced in knowledge of human nature, but he had to admit
that he had never yet met so incomprehensible a pair. He wanted to talk
to Tussie Shuttleworth about them, but Tussie would not talk. To Tussie
it seemed impossible to talk about Priscilla because she was sacred to
him, and she was sacred to him because he adored her so. He adored her
to an extent that amazes me to think of, worshipping her beauty with
all the headlong self-abasement of a very young man who is also a poet.
His soul was as wax within him, softest wax punched all over with
little pictures of Priscilla. No mother is happy while her child's soul
is in this state, and though he was extremely decent, and hid it and
smothered it and choked it with all the energy he possessed, Lady
Shuttleworth knew very well what was going on inside him and spent her
spare time trying to decide whether to laugh or to cry over her poor
Tussie. “When does Robin go back to Cambridge?” she asked Mrs. Morrison
the next time she met her, which was in the front garden of a sick old
Mrs. Morrison was going in with a leaflet; Lady Shuttleworth was
going in with a pound of tea. From this place they could see
Priscilla's cottage, and Robin was nailing up its creepers in the sight
of all Symford.
“Ah—I know what you mean,” said Mrs. Morrison quickly.
“It is always such a pity to see emotions wasted,” said Lady
Shuttleworth slowly, as if weighing each word.
“Wasted? You do think she's an adventuress, then?” said Mrs.
“Sh-sh. My dear, how could I think anything so unkind? But we who
are old”—Mrs. Morrison jerked up her chin—“and can look on calmly, do
see the pity of it when beautiful emotions are lavished and wasted. So
much force, so much time frittered away in dreams. And all so useless,
so barren. Nothing I think is so sad as waste, and nothing is so
wasteful as a one-sided love.”
Mrs. Morrison gave the pink tulle bow she liked to wear in the
afternoons at her throat an agitated pat, and tried to conceal her
misery that Augustus Shuttleworth should also have succumbed to Miss
Neumann-Schultz. That he had done so was very clear from Lady
Shuttleworth's portentous remarks, for it was not in human nature for a
woman to be thus solemn about the wasted emotions of other people's
sons. His doing so might save Robin's future, but it would ruin
Netta's. We all have our little plans for the future—dear rosy things
that we dote on and hug to our bosoms with more tenderness even than we
hug the babies of our bodies, and the very rosiest and best developed
of Mrs. Morrison's darling plans was the marriage of her daughter Netta
with the rich young man Augustus. It was receiving a rude knock on its
hopeful little head at this moment in old Mrs. Jones's front garden,
and naturally the author of its being winced. Augustus, she feared,
must be extremely far gone in love, and it was not likely that the girl
would let such a chance go. It was a consolation that the marriage
would be a scandal,—this person from nowhere, this niece of a German
teacher, carrying off the wealthiest young man in the county. The ways
of so-called Providence were quite criminally inscrutable, she thought,
in stark defiance of what a vicar's wife should think; but then she was
Priscilla herself came out of Mrs. Jones's door at that moment with
a very happy face. She had succeeded in comforting the sick woman to an
extent that surprised her. The sick woman had cheered up so suddenly
and so much that Priscilla, delighted, had at once concluded that work
among the sick poor was her true vocation. And how easy it had been! A
few smiles, a few kind words, a five-pound note put gently into the
withered old hands, and behold the thing was done. Never was sick woman
so much comforted as Mrs. Jones. She who had been disinclined to speak
above a whisper when Priscilla went in was able at the end of the visit
to pour forth conversation in streams, and quite loud conversation, and
even interspersed with chuckles. All Friday Priscilla had tried to help
in the arranging of her cottage, and had made herself and Fritzing so
tired over it that on Saturday she let him go up alone and decided that
she would, for her part, now begin to do good to the people in the
village. It was what she intended to do in future. It was to be the
chief work of her new life. She was going to live like the poor and
among them, smooth away their sorrows and increase their joys, give
them, as it were, a cheery arm along the rough path of poverty, and in
doing it get down herself out of the clouds to the very soil, to the
very beginnings and solid elementary facts of life. And she would do it
at once, and not sit idle at the farm. It was on such idle days as the
day Fritzing went to Minehead that sillinesses assailed her
soul—shrinkings of the flesh from honest calico, disgust at the
cooking, impatience at Annalise's swollen eyes. Priscilla could have
cried that night when she went to bed, if she had not held tears in
scorn, at the sickliness of her spirit, her spirit that she had thought
more than able to keep her body in subjection, that she had hoped was
unalterably firm and brave. But see the uses of foolishness,—the
reaction from it is so great that it sends us with a bound twice as far
again along the right road as we were while we were wise and picking
our way with clean shoes slowly among the puddles. Who does not know
that fresh impulse, so strong and gracious, towards good that surges up
in us after a period of sitting still in mud? What an experience it is,
that vigorous shake and eager turning of our soiled face once more
towards the blessed light. “I will arise and go to my Father”—of all
the experiences of the spirit surely this is the most glorious; and
behold the prudent, the virtuous, the steadfast—dogged workers in the
vineyard in the heat of the day—are shut out from it for ever.
Priscilla had not backslided much; but short as her tarrying had
been among the puddles she too sprang forward after it with renewed
strength along the path she had chosen as the best, and having
completed the second of her good works—the first had been performed
just previously, and had been a warm invitation made personally from
door to door to all the Symford mothers to send their children to tea
and games at Baker's Farm the next day, which was Sunday—she came away
very happy from the comforted Mrs. Jones, and met the two arriving
comforters in the front garden.
Now Priscilla's and Mrs. Jones's last words together had been these:
“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Priscilla had asked,
leaning over the old lady and patting her arm in farewell.
“No, deary—you've done enough already, God bless your pretty face,”
said Mrs. Jones, squeezing the five-pound note ecstatically in her
“But isn't there anything you'd like? Can't I get you anything? See,
I can run about and you are here in bed. Tell me what I can do.”
Mrs. Jones blinked and worked her mouth and blinked again and
wheezed and cleared her throat. “Well, I do know of something would
comfort me,” she said at last, amid much embarrassed coughing.
“Tell me,” said Priscilla.
“I don't like,” coughed Mrs. Jones.
“Tell me,” said Priscilla.
“I'll whisper it, deary.”
Priscilla bent down her head, and the old lady put her twitching
mouth to her ear.
“Why, of course,” said Priscilla smiling, “I'll go and get you some
“Now God for ever bless your beautiful face, darlin'!” shrilled Mrs.
Jones, quite beside herself with delight. “The Cock and 'Ens,
deary—that's the place. And the quart bottles are the best; one gets
more comfort out of them, and they're the cheapest in the end.”
And Priscilla issuing forth on this errand met the arriving visitors
in the garden.
“How do you do,” she said in a happy voice, smiling gaily at both of
them. She had seen neither since she had dismissed them, but naturally
she had never given that strange proceeding a thought.
“Oh—how do you do,” said Lady Shuttleworth, surprised to see her
there, and with a slight and very unusual confusion of manner.
Mrs. Morrison said nothing but stood stiffly in the background,
answering Priscilla's smile with a stern, reluctant nod.
“I've been talking to poor old Mrs. Jones. Your son”—she looked at
Mrs. Morrison—“told me how ill she was.”
“Did he?” said Mrs. Morrison, hardly raising her eyes a moment from
the ground. This girl was her double enemy: bound, whatever she did, to
make either a fool of her son or of her daughter.
“So I went in and tried to cheer her up. And I really believe I
“Well that was very kind of you,” said Lady Shuttleworth, smiling in
spite of herself, unable to withstand the charm of Priscilla's
personality. How supremely ridiculous of Mrs. Morrison to think that
this girl was an adventuress. Such are the depths of ignorance one can
descend to if one is buried long enough in the country.
“Now,” said Priscilla cheerfully, “she wants rum, and I'm just going
to buy her some.”
“Rum?” cried Lady Shuttleworth in a voice of horror; and Mrs.
Morrison started violently.
“Is it bad for her?” said Priscilla, surprised.
“Bad!” cried Lady Shuttleworth.
“It is,” said Mrs. Morrison with her eyes on the ground, “poison for
both body and soul.”
“Dear me,” said Priscilla, her face falling. “Why, she said it would
“It will poison both her body and her soul,” repeated Mrs. Morrison
“My dear,” said Lady Shuttleworth, “our efforts are all directed
towards training our people to keep from drinking.”
“But she doesn't want to drink,” said Priscilla. “She only wants to
taste it now and then. I'm afraid she's dying. Mustn't she die happy?”
“It is our duty,” said Mrs. Morrison, “to see that our parishioners
“But I've promised,” said Priscilla.
“Did she—did she ask for it herself?” asked Lady Shuttleworth, a
great anxiety in her voice.
“Yes, and I promised.”
Both the women looked very grave. Mrs. Jones, who was extremely old
and certainly dying—not from any special disease but from mere
inability to go on living—had been up to this a shining example to
Symford of the manner in which Christian old ladies ought to die. As
such she was continually quoted by the vicar's wife, and Lady
Shuttleworth had felt an honest pride in this ordered and seemly
death-bed. The vicar went every day and sat with her and said that he
came away refreshed. Mrs. Morrison read her all those of her leaflets
that described the enthusiasm with which other good persons behave in a
like case. Lady Shuttleworth never drove through the village without
taking her some pleasant gift—tea, or fruit, or eggs, or even little
pots of jam, to be eaten discreetly and in spoonfuls. She also paid a
woman to look in at short intervals during the day and shake up her
pillow. Kindness and attention and even affection could not, it will be
admitted, go further; all three had been heaped on Mrs. Jones with
generous hands; and in return she had expressed no sentiments that were
not appropriate, and never, never had breathed the faintest suggestion
to any of her benefactors that what she really wanted most was rum. It
shocked both the women inexpressibly, and positively pained Lady
Shuttleworth. Mrs. Morrison privately believed Priscilla had put the
idea into the old lady's head, and began to regard her in something of
the light of a fiend.
“Suppose,” said Priscilla, “we look upon it as medicine.”
“But my dear, it is not medicine,” said Lady Shuttleworth.
“It is poison,” repeated Mrs. Morrison.
“How can it be if it does her so much good? I must keep my promise.
I wouldn't disappoint her for the world. If only you'd seen her
delight”—they quivered—“you'd agree that she mustn't be disappointed,
poor old dying thing. Why, it might kill her. But suppose we treat it
as a medicine, and I lock up the bottle and go round and give her a
little myself three or four times a day—wouldn't that be a good plan?
Surely it couldn't hurt?”
“There is no law to stop you,” said Mrs. Morrison; and Lady
Shuttleworth stared at the girl in silent dismay.
“I can try it at least,” said Priscilla; “and if I find it's really
doing her harm I'll leave off. But I promised, and she's expecting it
now every minute. I can't break my promise. Do tell me—is the Cock and
Hens that inn round the corner? She told me it was best there.”
“But you cannot go yourself to the Cock and Hens and buy rum,”
exclaimed Lady Shuttleworth, roused to energy; and her voice was full
of so determined a protest that the vicar's wife, who thought it didn't
matter at all where such a young woman went, received a fresh shock.
“Why not?” inquired Priscilla.
“My dear, sooner than you should do that I'll—I'll go and buy it
myself,” cried Lady Shuttleworth.
“Gracious heavens,” thought Mrs. Morrison, perfectly staggered by
this speech. Had Lady Shuttleworth suddenly lost her reason? Or was she
already accepting the girl as her son's wife? Priscilla looked at her a
moment with grave eyes. “Is it because I'm a girl that I mustn't?” she
“Yes. For one thing. But—” Lady Shuttleworth shut her mouth.
“But what?” asked Priscilla.
“If it's not the custom of the country for a girl to go I'll send
Mr. Morrison,” said Priscilla.
“Send Mr. Morrison?” gasped the vicar's wife.
“What, the vicar?” exclaimed Lady Shuttleworth.
“No, no,” said Priscilla smiling, “young Mr. Morrison. I see him
over there tying up my creepers. He's so kind. He'll go. I'll ask him.”
And nodding good-bye she hurried out of the garden and over to her
cottage, almost running in her desire not to keep Mrs. Jones any longer
The two women, rooted to the ground, watched her as if fascinated,
saw her speak to Robin on his ladder, saw how he started and dropped
his nails, saw how nimbly he clambered down, and how after the shortest
parley the infatuated youth rushed away at once in the direction of the
Cock and Hens. The only thing they did not see from where they stood
was the twinkle in his eye.
“I don't think,” murmured Lady Shuttleworth, “I don't think, my
dear, that I quite care to go in to Mrs. Jones to-day. I—I think I'll
“So shall I,” said Mrs. Morrison, biting her lips to keep them
steady. “I shall go and speak to the vicar.”
What she meant by speaking to the vicar was a vigorous stirring of
him up to wrath; but you cannot stir up vicars if they are truly good.
The vicar was a pious and patient old man, practiced in forgiveness, in
overlooking, in waiting, in trying again. Always slow to anger, as the
years drew him more and more apart into the shadows of old age and he
watched from their clear coolness with an ever larger comprehension the
younger generations striving together in the heat, he grew at last
unable to be angered at all. The scriptural injunction not to let the
sun go down upon your wrath had no uses for him, for he possessed no
wrath for the sun to go down upon. He had that lovable nature that sees
the best in everything first, and then prefers to look no further. He
took for granted that people were at bottom good and noble, and the
assumption went a long way towards making them so. Robin, for instance,
was probably saved by his father's unclouded faith in him. Mrs.
Morrison, a woman who had much trouble with herself, having come into
the world with the wings of the angel in her well glued down and
prevented from spreading by a multitude of little defects, had been
helped without her knowing it by his example out of many a pit of
peevishness and passion. Who shall measure the influence of one kind
and blameless life? His wife, in her gustier moments, thought it sheer
weakness, this persistent turning away from evil, this refusal to
investigate and dissect, to take sides, to wrestle. The evil was there,
and it was making an ostrich or a vegetable of one's self to go on
being calm in the face of it. With the blindness of wives, who are
prevented from seeing clearly by the very closeness of the object—the
same remark exactly applies to husbands—she did not see that the vicar
was the candle shining in a naughty world, that he was the leaven that
leaveneth the whole lump. And just as leaven leavens by its mere
presence in the lump, by merely passively being there, and will go on
doing it so long as there is a lump to leaven, so had the vicar, more
than his hardworking wife, more than the untiring Lady Shuttleworth,
more than any district visitor, parish nurse, or other holy person,
influenced Symford by simply living in it in a way that would have
surprised him had he known. There is a great virtue in sweeping out
one's own house and trimming its lamps before starting on the house and
lamps of a neighbour; and since new dust settles every day, and lamps,
I believe, need constant trimming, I know not when the truly tidy soul
will have attained so perfect a spotlessness as to justify its issuing
forth to attack the private dust of other people. And if it ever did,
lo, it would find the necessity no longer there. Its bright
untiringness would unconsciously have done its work, and every dimmer
soul within sight of that cheerful shining been strengthened and
inspired to go and do likewise.
But Mrs. Morrison, who saw things differently, was constantly trying
to stir up storms in the calm waters of the vicar's mind; and after the
episode in Mrs. Jones's front garden she made a very determined effort
to get him to rebuke Priscilla. Her own indignation was poured out
passionately. The vicar was surprised at her heat, he who was so
beautifully cool himself, and though he shook his head over Mrs.
Jones's rum he also smiled as he shook it. Nor was he more reasonable
about Robin. On the contrary, he declared that he would think mightily
little of a young man who did not immediately fall head over ears in
love with such a pretty girl.
“You don't mind our boy's heart being broken, then?” questioned his
wife bitterly; of her plans for Netta she had never cared to speak.
“My dear, if it is to be broken there is no young lady I would
sooner entrust with the job.”
“You don't mind his marrying an adventuress, then?”
“My dear, I know of no adventuress.”
“You rather like our old people to be tempted to drink, to have it
thrust upon them on their very dying beds?”
“Kate, are you not bitter?”
“Psha,” said his wife, drumming her foot.
“Psha, Kate?” inquired the vicar mildly; and it is not always that
the saintly produce a soothing effect on their wives.
It really seemed as if the girl were to have her own way in Symford,
unchecked even by Lady Shuttleworth, whose attitude was entirely
incomprehensible. She was to be allowed to corrupt the little hamlet
that had always been so good, to lead it astray, to lure it down paths
of forbidden indulgence, to turn it topsy turvy to an extent not even
reached by the Dissenting family that had given so much trouble a few
years before. It was on the Sunday morning as the church bells were
ringing, that Mrs. Morrison, prayer-book in hand, looked in at Mrs.
Jones's on her way to service and discovered the five-pound note.
The old lady was propped up in bed with her open Bible on her lap
and her spectacles lying in it, and as usual presented to her visitor
the perfect realization of her ideal as to the looks and manners most
appropriate to ailing Christians. There was nowhere a trace of rum, and
the only glass in the room was innocently filled with the china roses
that flowered so profusely in the garden at Baker's Farm. But Mrs.
Morrison could not for all that dissemble the disappointment and
sternness of her heart, and the old lady glanced up at her as she came
in with a kind of quavering fearfulness, like that of a little child
who is afraid it may be going to be whipped, or of a conscientious dog
who has lapsed unaccountably from rectitude.
“I have come to read the gospel for the day to you,” said Mrs.
Morrison, sitting down firmly beside her.
“Thank you mum,” said Mrs. Jones with meekness.
“My prayer-book has such small print—give me your Bible.”
A look of great anxiety came into Mrs. Jones's eyes, but the Bible
was drawn from between her trembling old hands, and Mrs. Morrison began
to turn its pages. She had not turned many before she came to the
five-pound note. “What is this?” she asked, in extreme surprise.
Mrs. Jones gave a little gasp, and twisted her fingers about.
“A five-pound note?” exclaimed Mrs. Morrison, holding it up. “How
did it come here?”
“It's mine, mum,” quavered Mrs. Jones.
“Yours? Do you mean to say you have money hidden away and yet allow
Lady Shuttleworth to pay everything for you?”
“It's the first I ever 'ad, mum,” faintly murmured the old lady, her
eyes following every movement of Mrs. Morrison's hands with a look of
almost animal anxiety.
“Where did it come from?”
“The young lady give it me yesterday, mum.”
“The young lady?” Mrs. Morrison's voice grew very loud. “Do you mean
the person staying at the Pearces'?”
Mrs. Jones gulped, and feebly nodded.
“Most improper. Most wrong. Most dangerous. You cannot tell how she
came by it, and I must say I'm surprised at you, Mrs. Jones. It
probably is not a real one. It is unlikely a chit like that should be
able to give so large a sum away—” And Mrs. Morrison held up the note
to the light and turned it round and round, scrutinizing it from every
point of view, upside down, back to front, sideways, with one eye shut;
but it refused to look like anything but a good five-pound note, and
she could only repeat grimly “Most dangerous.”
The old lady watched her, a terrible anxiety in her eyes. Her worst
fears were fulfilled when the vicar's wife folded it up and said
decidedly, “For the present I shall take care of it for you. You cannot
lie here with so much money loose about the place. Why, if it got round
the village you might have some one in who'd murder you. People have
been murdered before now for less than this. I shall speak to the vicar
about it.” And she put it in her purse, shut it with a snap, and took
up the Bible again.
Mrs. Jones made a little sound between a gasp and a sob. Her head
rolled back on the pillow, and two tears dropped helplessly down the
furrows of her face. In that moment she felt the whole crushing misery
of being weak, and sick, and old,—so old that you have outlived your
claims to everything but the despotic care of charitable ladies, so old
that you are a mere hurdy-gurdy, expected each time any one in search
of edification chooses to turn your handle to quaver out tunes of
immortality. It is a bad thing to be very old. Of all the bad things
life forces upon us as we pass along it is the last and worst—the
bitterness at the bottom of the cup, the dregs of what for many was
after all always only medicine. Mrs. Jones had just enough of the
strength of fear left to keep quite still while the vicar's wife read
the Gospel in a voice that anger made harsh; but when she had gone,
after a parting admonition and a dreadful assurance that she would come
again soon, the tears rolled unchecked and piteous, and it was a mercy
that Priscilla also took it into her head to look in on her way to
church, for if she had not I don't know who would have dried them for
this poor baby of eighty-five. And I regret to say that Priscilla's
ideas of doing good were in such a state of crudeness that she had no
sooner mastered the facts brokenly sobbed out than she ran to the
cupboard and gave Mrs. Jones a tablespoonful of rum for the
strengthening of her body and then took out her purse and gave her
another five-pound note for the comforting of her soul. And then she
wiped her eyes, and patted her, and begged her not to mind. Such
conduct was, I suppose, what is called indiscriminate charity and
therefore blameworthy, but its effect was great. Priscilla went to
church with the reflection of the old lady's wonder and joy shining in
her own face. “Hide it,” had been her last words at the door, her
finger on her lips, her head nodding expressively in the direction of
the vicarage; and by this advice she ranged herself once and for all on
the opposite side to Mrs. Morrison and the followers of obedience and
order. Mrs. Jones would certainly have taken her for an angel working
miracles with five-pound notes and an inexhaustible pocket if it had
not been for the rum; even in her rapture she did feel that a genuine
angel would be incapable of any really harmonious combination with rum.
But so far had she fallen from the kind of thinking that the vicar's
wife thought proper in a person so near her end that she boldly told
herself she preferred Priscilla.
Now this was the day of Priscilla's children's party, and though all
Symford had been talking of it for twenty-four hours the news of it had
not yet reached Mrs. Morrison's ears. The reason was that Symford
talked in whispers, only too sure that the authorities would consider
it wrong for it to send its children a-merrymaking on a Sunday, and
desperately afraid lest the forbidden cup should be snatched from its
longing lips. But the news did get to Mrs. Morrison's ears, and it got
to them in the porch of the church as she was passing in to prayer. She
had it from an overgrown girl who was waiting outside for her father,
and who was really much too big for children's parties but had got an
invitation by looking wistful at the right moment.
“Emma,” said Mrs. Morrison in passing, “you have not returned the
book I lent you. Bring it up this afternoon.”
“Please mum, I'll bring it to-morrow, mum,” said the girl,
curtseying and turning red.
“No, Emma, you will do as I direct. One can never be too particular
about returning books. You have kept it an unconscionable time. You
will bring it to the vicarage at four o'clock.”
“Please mum, I—I can't at four o'clock.”
“And pray, Emma, what is to prevent you?”
“I—I'm going to Baker's, mum.”
“Going to Baker's? Why are you going to Baker's, Emma?”
So it all came out.
The bells were just stopping, and Mrs. Morrison, who played the
organ, was forced to hurry in without having told Emma her whole
opinion of those who gave and those who attended Sunday parties, but
the prelude she played that day expressed the tumult of her mind very
well, and struck Tussie Shuttleworth, who had sensitive ears, quite
cold. He was the only person in the church acutely sensitive to sound,
and it was very afflicting to him, this plunging among the pedals, this
angry shrieking of stops no man ever yet had heard together. The very
blower seemed frightened, and blew in gasps; and the startled Tussie,
comparing the sounds to the clamourings of a fiend in pain, could not
possibly guess they were merely the musical expression of the state of
a just woman's soul.
Mrs. Morrison's anger was perfectly proper. It had been the
conscientious endeavour of twenty-five solid years of her life to make
of Symford a model parish, and working under Lady Shuttleworth, whose
power was great since all the cottages were her son's and were lived in
by his own labourers, it had been kept in a state of order so nearly
perfect as to raise it to the position of an example to the adjoining
parishes. The church was full, the Sunday-school well attended, the
Sabbath was kept holy, the women were one and all sober and thrifty,
the men were fairly satisfactory except on Saturday nights, there was
no want, little sickness, and very seldom downright sin. The expression
downright sin is Mrs. Morrison's own,—heaven forbid that I should have
anything to do with such an expression—and I suppose she meant by it
thieving, murder, and other grossnesses that would bring the sinner, as
she often told her awe-struck Dorcas class, to infallible gallows, and
the sinner's parents' grey hairs to sorrowful graves. “Please mum, will
the parents go too?” asked a girl one day who had listened
breathlessly, an inquiring-minded girl who liked to get to the root of
“Go where, Bessie?”
“With the grey hairs, mum.”
Mrs. Morrison paused a moment and fixed a searching gaze on Bessie's
face. Then she said with much dignity, “The parents, Bessie, will
naturally follow the hairs.” And to a girl bred in the near
neighbourhood of Exmoor it sounded very sporting.
Into this innocent, frugal, well-managed hamlet Priscilla dropped
suddenly from nowhere, trailing with her thunder-clouds of impulsive
and childish ideas about doing good, and holding in her hands the
dangerous weapon of wealth. It is hard to stand by and see one's
life-work broken up before one's eyes by an irresponsible stranger, a
foreigner, a girl, a young girl, a pretty girl; especially hard if one
was born with an unbending character, tough and determined, ambitious
and vain. These are not reproaches being piled up on the vicar's wife;
who shall dare reproach another? And how could she help being born so?
We would all if we could be born good and amiable and beautiful, and
remain so perpetually during our lives; and she too was one of God's
children, and inside her soul, behind the crust of failings that
hindered it during these years from coming out, sat her bright angel,
waiting. Meanwhile she was not a person to watch the destruction of her
hopes without making violent efforts to stop it; and immediately she
had played the vicar into the vestry after service that Sunday she left
the congregation organless and hurried away into the churchyard. There
she stood and waited for the villagers to question them about this
unheard of thing; and it was bad to see how they melted away in other
directions,—out at unused gates, making detours over the grass,
visiting the long-neglected graves of relatives, anywhere rather than
along the ordinary way, which was the path where the vicar's wife
stood. At last came Mrs. Vickerton the postmistress. She was deep in
conversation with the innkeeper's wife, and did not see the figure on
the path in time to melt away herself. If she had she certainly would
have melted, for though she had no children but her grown-up son she
felt very guilty; for it was her son who had been sent the afternoon
before to Minehead by Priscilla with a list as long as his arm of the
cakes and things to be ordered for the party. “Oh Mrs. Morrison, I
didn't see you,” she exclaimed, starting and smiling and turning red.
She was a genteel woman who called no one mum.
The innkeeper's wife slipped deftly away among graves.
“Is it true that the children are going to Baker's Farm this
afternoon?” asked Mrs. Morrison, turning and walking grimly by Mrs.
“I did hear something about it, Mrs. Morrison,” said Mrs. Vickerton,
hiding her agitation behind a series of smiles with sudden endings.
“I did hear they pretty well all thought of it,” said Mrs.
Vickerton, coughing. “Beautiful weather, isn't it, Mrs. Morrison.”
“They are to have tea there?”
Mrs. Vickerton gazed pleasantly at the clouds and the tree-tops. “I
should think there might be tea, Mrs. Morrison,” she said; and the
vision of that mighty list of cakes rising before her eyes made her put
up her hand and cough again.
“Have the parents lost their senses?”
“I couldn't say—I really couldn't say, Mrs. Morrison.”
“Have they forgotten the commandments?”
“Oh I 'ope not, Mrs. Morrison.”
“And the vicar's teaching? And the good habits of years?”
“Oh, Mrs. Morrison.”
“I never heard of anything more disgraceful. Disgraceful to the
giver and to those who accept. Wicked, scandalous, and unscriptural.”
“We all 'oped you'd see no harm in it, Mrs. Morrison. It's a fine
day, and they'll just have tea, and perhaps—sing a little, and they
don't get treats often this time of year.”
“Why, it's disgraceful—disgraceful anywhere to have a treat on a
Sunday; but in a parish like this it is scandalous. When Lady
Shuttleworth hears of it I quite expect she'll give everybody notice to
“Notice to quit? Oh I hope not, Mrs. Morrison. And she do know about
it. She heard it last night. And Sir Augustus himself has promised the
young lady to go and help.”
“And we all think it so kind of him, and so kind of the young lady
too,” said Mrs. Vickerton, gathering courage.
“Sir Augustus?” repeated Mrs. Morrison. Then a horrid presentiment
laid cold fingers on her heart. “Is any one else going to help?” she
“Only the young lady's uncle, and—”
Mrs. Vickerton hesitated, and looked at the vicar's wife with a
slightly puzzled air.
“Of course Mr. Robin.”
It is the practice of Providence often to ignore the claims of
poetic justice. Properly, the Symford children ought to have been
choked by Priscilla's cakes; and if they had been, the parents who had
sent them merrymaking on a Sunday would have been well punished by the
undeniable awfulness of possessing choked children. But nobody was
choked; and when in the early days of the following week there were in
nearly every cottage pangs being assuaged, they were so naturally the
consequence of the strange things that had been eaten that only Mrs.
Morrison was able to see in them weapons being wielded by Providence in
the cause of eternal right. She, however, saw it so plainly that each
time during the next few days that a worried mother came and asked
advice, she left her work or her meals without a murmur, and went to
the castor-oil cupboard with an alacrity that was almost cheerful; and
seldom, I suppose, have such big doses been supplied and administered
as the ones she prescribed for suffering Symford.
But on this dark side of the picture I do not care to look; the
party, anyhow, had been a great success, and Priscilla became at one
stroke as popular among the poor of Symford as she had been in
Lothen-Kunitz. Its success it is true was chiefly owing to the immense
variety of things to eat she had provided; for the conjuror,
merry-go-round, and cocoa-nuts to be shied at that she had told young
Vickerton to bring with him from Minehead, had all been abandoned on
Tussie's earnest advice, who instructed her innocent German mind that
these amusements, undoubtedly admirable in themselves and on week days,
were looked upon askance in England on Sundays.
“Why?” asked Priscilla, in great surprise.
“It's not keeping the day holy,” said Tussie, blushing.
“How funny,” said Priscilla.
“Oh, I don't know.”
“Why,” said Priscilla, “in Kun—” but she pulled herself up just as
she was about to give him a description of the varied nature of Sunday
afternoons in Kunitz.
“You must have noticed,” said Tussie, “as you have lived so long in
London, that everything's shut on Sundays. There are no theatres and
things—certainly no cocoa-nuts.”
“No, I don't remember any cocoa-nuts,” mused Priscilla, her memory
going over those past Sundays she had spent in England.
Tussie tried to make amends for having obstructed her plans by
exerting himself to the utmost to entertain the children as far as
decorum allowed. He encouraged them to sing, he who felt every ugliness
in sound like a blow; he urged them to recite for prizes of sixpences,
he on whose soul Casabianca and Excelsior had much the effect of
scourges on a tender skin; he led them out into a field between tea and
supper and made them run races, himself setting the example, he who
caught cold so easily that he knew it probably meant a week in bed.
Robin helped too, but his exertions were confined to the near
neighbourhood of Priscilla. His mother had been very angry with him,
and he had been very angry with his mother for being angry, and he had
come away from the vicarage with a bad taste in his mouth and a great
defiance in his heart. It was the first time he had said hard things to
her, and it had been a shocking moment,—a moment sometimes inevitable
in the lives of parents and children of strong character and opposed
desires. He had found himself quite unable in his anger to clothe his
hard sayings in forms of speech that would have hidden their brutal
force, and he had turned his back at last on her answering bitterness
and fled to Baker's, thankful to find when he got there that
Priscilla's beauty and the interest of the mystery that hung about her
wiped out every other remembrance.
Priscilla was in the big farm kitchen, looking on at the children
having tea. That was all she did at her party, except go round every
now and then saying pleasant little things to each child; but this
going round was done in so accomplished a manner, she seemed so used to
it, was so well provided with an apparently endless supply of
appropriate remarks, was so kind, and yet so—what was the word? could
it be mechanical?—that Robin for the hundredth time found himself
pondering over something odd, half-remembered, elusive about the girl.
Then there was the uncle; manifestly a man who had never before been
required to assist at a school-treat, manifestly on this occasion an
unhappy man, yet look how he worked while she sat idly watching, look
how he laboured round with cakes and bread-and-butter, clumsily,
strenuously, with all the heat and anxiety of one eager to please and
obey. Yes, that was what he did; Robin had hit on it at last. This
extraordinary uncle obeyed his niece; and Robin knew very well that
Germany was the last country in the world to produce men who did that.
Had he not a cousin who had married a German officer? A whilom gay and
sprightly cousin, who spent her time, as she dolefully wrote, having
her mind weeded of its green growth of little opinions and gravelled
and rolled and stamped with the opinions of her male relations-in-law.
“And I'd rather have weeds than gravel,” she wrote at the beginning of
this process when she was still restive under the roller, “for they at
least are green.” But long ago she had left off complaining, long ago
she too had entered into the rest that remaineth for him who has given
up, who has become what men praise as reasonable and gods deplore as
dull, who is tired of bothering, tired of trying, tired of everything
but sleep. Then there was the girl's maid. This was the first time
Robin had seen her; and while she was helping Mrs. Pearce pour out cups
of chocolate and put a heaped spoonful of whipped cream on the top of
each cup in the fashion familiar to Germans and altogether lovely in
the eyes of the children of Symford, Robin went to her and offered
Annalise looked at him with heavy eyes, and shook her head.
“She don't speak no English, sir,” explained Mrs. Pearce. “This
one's pure heathen.”
“No English,” echoed Annalise drearily, who had at least learned
that much, “no English, no English.”
Robin gathered up his crumbs of German and presented them to her
with a smile. Immediately on hearing her own tongue she flared into
life, and whipping out a little pocket-book and pencil asked him
eagerly where she was.
“Where you are?” repeated Robin, astonished.
“Ja, Ja. The address. This address. What is it? Where am I?”
“What, don't you know?”
“Tell me—quick,” begged Annalise.
“But why—I don't understand. You must know you are in England?”
“England! Naturally I know it is England. But this—where is it?
What is its address? For letters to reach me? Quick—tell me quick!”
Robin, however, would not be quick. “Why has no one told you?” he
asked, with an immense curiosity.
“Ach, I have not been told. I know nothing. I am kept in the
dark like—like a prisoner.” And Annalise dragged her handkerchief out
of her pocket, and put it to her eyes just in time to stop her ready
tears from falling into the whipped cream and spoiling it.
“There she goes again,” sniffed Mrs. Pearce. “It's cry, cry, from
morning till night, and nothing good enough for her. It's a mercy she
goes out of this to-morrow. I never see such an image.”
“Tell me,” implored Annalise, “tell me quick, before my mistress—”
“I'll write it for you,” said Robin, taking the note-book from her.
“You know you go into a cottage next week, so I'll put your new
address.” And he wrote it in a large round hand and gave it to her
quickly, for Mrs. Pearce was listening to all this German and watching
him write with a look that made him feel cheap. So cheap did it make
him feel that he resisted for the present his desire to go on
questioning Annalise, and putting his hands in his pockets sauntered
away to the other end of the kitchen where Priscilla sat looking on.
“I'm afraid that really was cheap of me,” he thought ruefully, when he
came once more into Priscilla's sweet presence; but he comforted
himself with the reflection that no girl ought to be mysterious, and if
this one chose to be so it was fair to cross her plans occasionally.
Yet he went on feeling cheap; and when Tussie who was hurrying along
with a cup of chocolate in each hand ran into him and spilt some on his
sleeve the sudden rage with which he said “Confound you, Tussie,” had
little to do with the hot stuff soaking through to his skin and a great
deal with the conviction that Tussie, despised from their common
childhood for his weakness, smallness and ugliness, would never have
done what he had just done and betrayed what the girl had chosen to
keep secret from her maid.
“But why secret? Why? Why?” asked Robin, torn with desire to find
out all about Priscilla.
“I'm going to do this often,” said Priscilla, looking up at him with
a pleased smile. “I never saw such easily amused little creatures.
Don't you think it is beautiful, to give poor people a few happy
“Very beautiful,” said Robin, his eyes on her face.
“It is what I mean to do in future,” she said dreamily, her chin on
“It will be expensive,” remarked Robin; for there were nearly two
hundred children, and Priscilla had collected the strangest things in
food on the long tables as a result of her method, when inviting, of
asking each mother what her child best liked to eat and then ordering
it with the lavishness of ignorance from Minehead.
“Oh, we shall live so simply ourselves that there will be enough
left to do all I want. And it will be the most blessed change and
refreshment, living simply. Fritzi hated the fuss and luxury quite as
much as I did.”
“Did he?” said Robin, holding his breath. The girl was evidently off
her guard. He had not heard her call her uncle baldly Fritzi before;
and what fuss and luxury could a German teacher's life have known?
“He it was who first made me see that the body is more than meat and
the soul than raiment,” mused Priscilla.
“He pulled my soul out of the flesh-pots. I'm a sort of Israel come
out of Egypt, but an Egypt that was altogether too comfortable.”
“Too comfortable? Can one be too comfortable?”
“I was. I couldn't move or see or breathe for comfort. It was like a
feather bed all over me.”
“I wouldn't call that comfort,” said Robin, for she paused, and he
was afraid she was not going on. “It sounds much more like torture.”
“So it was at last. And Fritzi helped me to shake it off. If he
hadn't I'd have smothered slowly, and perhaps if I'd never known him
I'd have done it as gracefully as my sisters did. Why, they don't know
to this day that they are dead.”
Robin was silent. He was afraid to speak lest anything he said
should remind her of the part she ought to be playing. He had no doubt
now at all that she was keeping a secret. A hundred questions were
burning on his lips. He hated himself for wanting to ask them, for
being so inquisitive, for taking advantage of the girl's being off her
guard, but what are you to do with your inherited failings? Robin's
mother was inquisitive and it had got into his blood, and I know of no
moral magnesia that will purify these things away. “You said the other
day,” he burst out at last, quite unable to stop himself, “that you
only had your uncle in the world. Are your sisters—are they in
“In London?” Priscilla gazed at him a moment with a vague surprise.
Then fright flashed into her eyes. “Did I not tell you they were dead?
Smothered?” she said, getting up quickly, her face setting into the
frown that had so chilled Tussie on the heath.
“But I took that as a parable.”
“How can I help how you took it?”
And she instantly left him and went away round the tables, beginning
those little pleasant observations to the children again that struck
him as so strange.
Well did he know the sort of thing. He had seen Lady Shuttleworth do
it fifty times to the tenants, to the cottagers, at flower-shows,
bazaars, on all occasions of public hospitality or ceremony; but
practised and old as Lady Shuttleworth was this girl seemed yet more
practised. She was a finished artist in the work, he said to himself as
he leaned against the wall, his handsome face flushed, his eyes sulky,
watching her. It was enough to make any good-looking young man sulky,
the mixture of mystery and aloofness about Miss Neumann-Schultz.
Extraordinary as it seemed, up to this point he had found it quite
impossible to indulge with her in that form of more or less illustrated
dialogue known to Symford youths and maidens as billing and cooing.
Very fain would Robin have billed and have cooed. It was a practice he
excelled in. And yet though he had devoted himself for three whole
days, stood on ladders, nailed up creepers, bought and carried rum, had
a horrible scene with his mother because of her, he had not got an inch
nearer things personal and cosy. Miss Neumann-Schultz thanked him quite
kindly and graciously for his pains—oh, she was very gracious;
gracious in the sort of way Lady Shuttleworth used to be when he came
home for the holidays and she patted his head and uttered
benignities—and having thanked, apparently forgot him till the next
time she wanted anything.
“Fritzi,” said Priscilla, when in the course of her progress down
the room she met that burdened man, “I'm dreadfully afraid I've said
some foolish things.”
Fritzing put the plate of cake he was carrying down on a dresser and
wiped his forehead. “Ma'am,” he said looking worried, “I cannot watch
you and administer food to these barbarians simultaneously. If your
tongue is so unruly I would recommend complete silence.”
“I've said something about my sisters.”
“Sisters, ma'am?” said Fritzing anxiously.
“Does it matter?”
“Matter? I have carefully instructed the woman Pearce, who has
certainly informed, as I intended she should inform, the entire
village, that you were my brother's only child. Consequently, ma'am,
you have no sisters.”
Priscilla made a gesture of despair. “How fearfully difficult it is
not to be straightforward,” she said.
“Yes, ma'am, it is. Since we started on this adventure the whole
race of rogues has become the object of my sincerest admiration. What
wits, what quickness, what gifts—so varied and so deftly used—what
skill in deception, what resourcefulness in danger, what
“Yes but Fritzi what are we to do?”
“Do, ma'am? About your royal sisters? Would to heaven I had been
born a rogue!”
“Yes, but as you were not—ought I to go back and say they're only
half-sisters? Or step-sisters? Or sisters in law? Wouldn't that do?”
“With whom were you speaking?”
“Ma'am, let me beg you to be more prudent with that youth than with
any one. Our young friend Caesar Augustus is I believe harmlessness
itself compared with him. Be on your guard, ma'am. Curb that fatal
feminine appendage, your tongue. I have remarked that he watches us.
But a short time since I saw him eagerly conversing with your Grand
Ducal Highness's maid. For me he has already laid several traps that I
have only just escaped falling into by an extraordinary presence of
mind and a nimbleness in dialectic almost worthy of a born rogue.”
“Oh Fritzi,” said the frightened Priscilla, laying her hand on his
sleeve, “do go and tell him I didn't mean what I said.”
Fritzing wiped his brow again. “I fail to understand,” he said,
looking at Priscilla with worried eyes, “what there is about us that
can possibly attract any one's attention.”
“Why, there isn't anything,” said Priscilla, with conviction. “We've
been most careful and clever. But just now—I don't know why—I began
to think aloud.”
“Think aloud?” exclaimed Fritzing, horrified. “Oh ma'am let me
beseech you never again to do that. Better a thousand times not to
think at all. What was it that your Grand Ducal Highness thought
And Priscilla, shamefaced, told him as well as she could remember.
“I will endeavour to remedy it,” said poor Fritzing, running an
agitated hand through his hair.
Priscilla sighed, and stood drooping and penitent by the dresser
while he went down the room to where Robin still leaned against the
“Sir,” said Fritzing—he never called Robin young man, as he did
Tussie—“my niece tells me you are unable to distinguish truth from
“What?” said Robin staring.
“You are not, sir, to suppose that when my niece described her
sisters as dead that they are not really so.”
“All right sir,” said Robin, his eyes beginning to twinkle.
“The only portion of the story in which my niece used allegory was
when she described them as having been smothered. These young ladies,
sir, died in the ordinary way, in their beds.”
“Feather beds, sir?” asked Robin briskly.
“Sir, I have not inquired into the nature of the beds,” said
Fritzing with severity.
“Is it not rather unusual,” asked Robin, “for two young ladies in
one family to die at once? Were they unhealthy young ladies?”
“Sir, they did not die at once, nor were they unhealthy. They were
perfectly healthy until they—until they began to die.”
“Indeed,” said Robin, with an interest properly tinged with regret.
“At least, sir,” he added politely, after a pause in which he and
Fritzing stared very hard at each other, “I trust I may be permitted to
express my sympathy.”
“Sir, you may.” And bowing stiffly Fritzing returned to Priscilla,
and with a sigh of relief informed her that he had made things right
“Dear Fritzi,” said Priscilla looking at him with love and
admiration, “how clever you are.”
It was on the Tuesday, the day Priscilla and Fritzing left Baker's
and moved into Creeper Cottage, that the fickle goddess who had let
them nestle for more than a week beneath her wing got tired of them and
shook them out. Perhaps she was vexed by their clumsiness at
pretending, perhaps she thought she had done more than enough for them,
perhaps she was an epicure in words and did not like a cottage called
Creeper; anyhow she shook them out. And if they had had eyes to see
they would not have walked into their new home with such sighs of
satisfaction and such a comfortable feeling that now at last the era of
systematic serenity and self-realization, beautifully combined with the
daily exercise of charity, had begun; for waiting for them in
Priscilla's parlour, established indeed in her easy-chair by the fire
and warming her miserable toes on the very hob, sat grey Ill Luck
Creeper Cottage, it will be remembered, consisted of two cottages,
each with two rooms, an attic, and a kitchen, and in the back yard the
further accommodation of a coal-hole, a pig-stye, and a pump. Thanks to
Tussie's efforts more furniture had been got from Minehead. Tussie had
gone in himself, after a skilful questioning of Fritzing had made him
realize how little had been ordered, and had, with Fritzing's
permission, put the whole thing into the hands of a Minehead firm. Thus
there was a bed for Annalise and sheets for everybody, and the place
was as decent as it could be made in the time. It was so tiny that it
got done, after a great deal of urging from Tussie, by the Tuesday at
midday, and Tussie himself had superintended the storing of wood in the
coal-hole and the lighting of the fire that was to warm his divine lady
and that Ill Luck found so comforting to her toes. The Shuttleworth
horses had a busy time on the Friday, Saturday, and Monday, trotting up
and down between Symford and Minehead; and the Shuttleworth servants
and tenants, not being more blind than other people, saw very well that
their Augustus had lost his heart to the lady from nowhere. As for Lady
Shuttleworth, she only smiled a rueful smile and stroked her poor
Tussie's hair in silence when, having murmured something about the
horses being tired, he reproved her by telling her that it was
everybody's duty to do what they could for strangers in difficulties.
Priscilla's side of Creeper Cottage was the end abutting on the
churchyard, and her parlour had one latticed window looking south down
the village street, and one looking west opening directly on to the
churchyard. The long grass of the churchyard, its dandelions and
daisies, grew right up beneath this window to her wall, and a tall
tombstone half-blocked her view of the elm-trees and the church. Over
this room, with the same romantic and gloomy outlook, was her bedroom.
Behind her parlour was what had been the shoemaker's kitchen, but it
had been turned into a temporary bathroom. True no water was laid on as
yet, but the pump was just outside, and nobody thought there would be
any difficulty about filling the bath every morning by means of the
pump combined with buckets. Over the bathroom was the attic. This was
Annalise's bedroom. Nobody thought there would be any difficulty about
that either; nobody, in fact, thought anything about anything. It was a
simple place, after the manner of attics, with a window in its sloping
ceiling through which stars might be studied with great comfort as one
lay in bed. A frugal mind, an earnest soul, would have liked the attic,
would have found a healthy enjoyment in a place so plain and fresh, so
swept in windy weather by the airs of heaven. A poet, too, would
certainly have flooded any parts of it that seemed dark with the
splendour of his own inner light; a nature-lover, again, would have
quickly discovered the spiders that dwelt in its corners, and spent
profitable hours on all fours observing them. But an Annalise—what was
she to make of such a place? Is it not true that the less a person has
inside him of culture and imagination the more he wants outside him of
the upholstery of life? I think it is true; and if it is, then the
vacancy of Annalise's mind may be measured by the fact that what she
demanded of life in return for the negative services of not crying and
wringing her hands was nothing less filled with food and sofas and
servants than a grand ducal palace.
But neither Priscilla nor Fritzing knew anything of Annalise's mind,
and if they had they would instantly have forgotten it again, of such
extreme unimportance would it have seemed. Nor would I dwell on it
myself if it were not that its very vacancy and smallness was the cause
of huge upheavals in Creeper Cottage, and the stone that the builders
ignored if they did not actually reject behaved as such stones
sometimes do and came down upon the builders' heads and crushed them.
Annalise, you see, was unable to appreciate peace, yet on the other
hand she was very able to destroy the peace of other people; and
Priscilla meant her cottage to be so peaceful—a temple, a holy place,
within whose quiet walls sacred years were going to be spent in doing
justly, in loving mercy, in walking humbly. True she had not as yet
made a nearer acquaintance with its inconveniences, but anyhow she held
the theory that inconveniences were things to be laughed at and somehow
circumvented, and that they do not enter into the consideration of
persons whose thoughts are absorbed by the burning desire to live out
their ideals. “You can be happy in any place whatever,” she remarked to
Tussie on the Monday, when he was expressing fears as to her future
comfort; “absolutely any place will do—a tub, a dingle, the top of a
pillar—any place at all, if only your soul is on fire.”
“Of course you can,” cried Tussie, ready to kiss her feet.
“And look how comfortable my cottage seems,” said Priscilla,
“directly one compares it with things like tubs.”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Tussie, “I do see that it's enough for free
spirits to live in. I was only wondering whether—whether bodies would
find it enough.”
“Oh bother bodies,” said Priscilla airily.
But Tussie could not bring himself to bother bodies if they included
her own; on the contrary, the infatuated young man thought it would be
difficult sufficiently to cherish a thing so supremely precious and
sweet. And each time he went home after having been in the frugal
baldness of Creeper Cottage he hated the superfluities of his own house
more and more, he accused himself louder and louder of being
mean-spirited, effeminate, soft, vulgar, he loathed himself for living
embedded in such luxury while she, the dear and lovely one, was ready
cheerfully to pack her beauty into a tub if needs be, or let it be
weather-beaten on a pillar for thirty years if by so doing she could
save her soul alive. Tussie at this time became unable to see a sleek
servant dart to help him take off his coat without saying something
sharp to him, could not sit through a meal without making bitter
comparisons between what they were eating and what the poor were
probably eating, could not walk up his spacious staircase and along his
lofty corridors without scowling; they, indeed, roused his contemptuous
wrath in quite a special degree, the reason being that Priscilla's
stairs, the stairs up and down which her little feet would have to
clamber daily, were like a ladder, and she possessed no passages at
all. But what of that? Priscilla could not see that it mattered, when
Tussie drew her attention to it.
Both Fritzing's and her front door opened straight into their
sitting-rooms; both their staircases walked straight from the kitchens
up into the rooms above. They had meant to have a door knocked in the
dividing wall downstairs, but had been so anxious to get away from
Baker's that there was no time. In order therefore to get to Fritzing
Priscilla would have either to go out into the street and in again at
his front door, or go out at her back door and in again at his. Any
meals, too, she might choose to have served alone would have to be
carried round to her from the kitchen in Fritzing's half, either
through the backyard or through the street.
Tussie thought of this each time he sat at his own meals, surrounded
by deft menials, lapped as he told himself in luxury,—oh, thought
Tussie writhing, it was base. His much-tried mother had to listen to
many a cross and cryptic remark flung across the table from the dear
boy who had always been so gentle; and more than that, he put his foot
down once and for all and refused with a flatness that silenced her to
eat any more patent foods. “Absurd,” cried Tussie. “No wonder I'm such
an idiot. Who could be anything else with his stomach full of starch?
Why, I believe the stuff has filled my veins with milk instead of good
“Dearest, I'll have it thrown out of the nearest window,” said Lady
Shuttleworth, smiling bravely in her poor Tussie's small cross face.
“But what shall I give you instead? You know you won't eat meat.”
“Give me lentils,” cried Tussie. “They're cheap.”
“Mother, I do think it offensive to spend much on what goes into or
onto one's body. Why not have fewer things, and give the rest to the
“But I do give the rest to the poor; I'm always doing it. And
there's quite enough for us and for the poor too.”
“Give them more, then. Why,” fumed Tussie, “can't we live decently?
Hasn't it struck you that we're very vulgar?”
“No, dearest, I can't say that it has.”
“Well, we are. Everything we have that is beyond bare necessaries
makes us vulgar. And surely, mother, you do see that that's not a nice
thing to be.”
“It's a horrid thing to be,” said his mother, arranging his tie with
an immense and lingering tenderness.
“It's a difficult thing not to be,” said Tussie, “if one is rich.
Hasn't it struck you that this ridiculous big house, and the masses of
things in it, and the whole place and all the money will inevitably end
by crushing us both out of heaven?”
“No, I can't say it has. I expect you've been thinking of things
like the eyes of needles and camels having to go through them,” said
his mother, still patting and stroking his tie.
“Well, that's terrifically true,” mused Tussie, reflecting ruefully
on the size and weight of the money-bags that were dragging him down
into darkness. Then he added suddenly, “Will you have a small bed—a
little iron one—put in my bedroom?”
“A small bed? But there's a bed there already, dear.”
“That big thing's only fit for a sick woman. I won't wallow in it
“But dearest, all your forefathers wallowed, as you call it, in it.
Doesn't it seem rather—a pity not to carry on traditions?”
“Well mother be kind and dear, and let me depart in peace from them.
A camp bed,—that's what I'd like. Shall I order it, or will you? And
did I tell you I've given Bryce the sack?”
“Bryce? Why, what has he done?”
“Oh he hasn't done anything that I know of, except make a sort of
doll or baby of me. Why should I be put into my clothes and taken out
of them again as though I hadn't been weaned yet?”
Now all this was very bad, but the greatest blow for Lady
Shuttleworth fell when Tussie declared that he would not come of age.
The cheerful face with which his mother had managed to listen to his
other defiances went very blank at that; do what she would she could
not prevent its falling. “Not come of age?” she repeated stupidly. “But
my darling, you can't help yourself—you must come of age.”
“Oh I know I can't help being twenty-one and coming into all
this”—and he waved contemptuous arms—“but I won't do it blatantly.”
“I—I don't understand,” faltered Lady Shuttleworth.
“There mustn't be any fuss, mother.”
“Do you mean no one is to come?”
“No one at all, except the tenants and people. Of course they are to
have their fun—I'll see that they have a jolly good time. But I won't
have our own set and the relations.”
“Tussie, they've all accepted.”
“Send round circulars.”
“Tussie, you are putting me in a most painful position.”
“Dear mother, I'm very sorry for that. I wish I'd thought like this
sooner. But really the idea is so revolting to me—it's so sickening to
think of all these people coming to pretend to rejoice over a worm like
“Tussle, you are not a worm.”
“And then the expense and waste of entertaining them—the
dreariness, the boredom—oh, I wish I only possessed a tub—one single
tub—or had the pluck to live like Lavengro in a dingle.”
“It's quite impossible to stop it now,” interrupted Lady
Shuttleworth in the greatest distress; of Lavengro she had never heard.
“Yes you can, mother. Write and put it off.”
“Write? What could I write? To-day is Tuesday, and they all arrive
on Friday. What excuse can I make at the last moment? And how can a
birthday be put off? My dearest boy, I simply can't.” And Lady
Shuttleworth, the sensible, the cheery, the resourceful, the
perennially brave, wrung her hands and began quite helplessly to cry.
This unusual and pitiful sight at once conquered Tussie. For a
moment he stood aghast; then his arms were round his mother, and he
promised everything she wanted. What he said to her besides and what
she sobbed back to him I shall not tell. They never spoke of it again;
but for years they both looked back to it, that precious moment of
clinging together with bursting hearts, her old cheek against his young
one, her tears on his face, as to one of the most acutely sweet,
acutely, painfully, tender experiences of their joint lives.
It will be conceded that Priscilla had achieved a good deal in the
one week that had passed since she laid aside her high estate and
stepped down among ordinary people for the purpose of being and doing
good. She had brought violent discord into a hitherto peaceful
vicarage, thwarted the hopes of a mother, been the cause of a bitter
quarrel between her and her son, brought out by her mysteriousness a
prying tendency in the son that might have gone on sleeping for ever,
entirely upset the amiable Tussie's life by rending him asunder with a
love as strong as it was necessarily hopeless, made his mother anxious
and unhappy, and, what was perhaps the greatest achievement of all,
actually succeeded in making that mother cry. For of course Priscilla
was the ultimate cause of these unusual tears, as Lady Shuttleworth
very well knew. Lady Shuttleworth was the deceased Sir Augustus's
second wife, had married him when she was over forty and well out of
the crying stage, which in the busy does not last beyond childhood, had
lost him soon after Tussie's birth, had cried copiously and most
properly at his funeral, and had not cried since. It was then
undoubtedly a great achievement on the part of the young lady from
nowhere, this wringing of tears out of eyes that had been dry for one
and twenty years. But the list of what Priscilla had done does not end
with this havoc among mothers. Had she not interrupted the decent
course of Mrs. Jones's dying, and snatched her back to a hankering
after the unfit? Had she not taught the entire village to break the
Sabbath? Had she not made all its children either sick or cross under
the pretence of giving them a treat? On the Monday she did something
else that was equally well-meaning, and yet, as I shall presently
relate, of disastrous consequences: she went round the village from
cottage to cottage making friends with the children's mothers and
leaving behind her, wherever she went, little presents of money. She
had found money so extraordinarily efficacious in the comforting of
Mrs. Jones that before she started she told Fritzing to fill her purse
well, and in each cottage it was made somehow so clear how badly
different things were wanted that the purse was empty before she was
half round the village and she had to go back for a fresh supply. She
was extremely happy that afternoon, and so were the visited mothers.
They, indeed, talked of nothing else for the rest of the day, discussed
it over their garden hedges, looked in on each other to compare notes,
hurried to meet their husbands on their return from work to tell them
about it, and were made at one stroke into something very like a colony
of eager beggars. And in spite of Priscilla's injunction to Mrs. Jones
to hide her five-pound note all Symford knew of that as well, and also
of the five-pound note Mrs. Morrison had taken away. Nothing was talked
of in Symford but Priscilla. She had in one week created quite a number
of disturbances of a nature fruitful for evil in that orderly village;
and when on the Tuesday she and Fritzing moved into Creeper Cottage
they were objects of the intensest interest to the entire country side,
and the report of their riches, their recklessness, and their eccentric
choice of a dwelling had rolled over the intervening hills as far as
Minehead, where it was the subject of many interesting comments in the
They got into their cottage about tea time; and the first thing
Priscilla did was to exclaim at the pleasant sight of the wood fire and
sit down in the easy-chair to warm herself. We know who was sitting in
it already; and thus she was received by Bad Luck at once into her very
lap, and clutched about securely by that unpleasant lady's cold and
skinny arms. She looked up at Fritzing with a shiver to remark
wonderingly that the room, in spite of its big fire and its smallness,
was like ice, but her lips fell apart in a frozen stare and she gazed
blankly past him at the wall behind his head. “Look,” she whispered,
pointing with a horrified forefinger. And Fritzing, turning quickly,
was just in time to snatch a row of cheap coloured portraits from the
wall and fling them face downwards under the table before Tussie came
in to ask if he could do anything.
The portraits were those of all the reigning princes of Germany and
had been put up as a delicate compliment by the representative of the
Minehead furnishers, while Priscilla and Fritzing were taking leave of
Baker's Farm; and the print Priscilla's eye had lighted on was the
portrait of her august parent, smiling at her. He was splendid in state
robes and orders, and there was a charger, and an obviously expensive
looped-up curtain, and much smoke as of nations furiously raging
together in the background, and outside this magnificence meandered the
unmeaning rosebuds of Priscilla's cheap wallpaper. His smile seemed
very terrible under the circumstances. Fritzing felt this, and seized
him and flung him with a desperate energy under the table, where he
went on smiling, as Priscilla remembered with a guilty shudder, at
nothing but oilcloth. “I don't believe I'll sleep if I know he—he's
got nothing he'd like better than oilcloth to look at,” she whispered
with an awestruck face to Fritzing as Tussie came in.
“I will cause them all to be returned,” Fritzing assured her.
“What, have those people sent wrong things?” asked Tussie anxiously,
who felt that the entire responsibility of this menage was on
“Oh, only some cheap prints,” said Priscilla hastily. “I think
they're called oleographs or something.”
“What impertinence,” said Tussie hotly.
“I expect it was kindly meant, but I—I like my cottage quite
“I'll have them sent back, sir,” Tussie said to Fritzing, who was
rubbing his hands nervously through his hair; for the sight of his
grand ducal master's face smiling at him on whom he would surely never
wish to smile again, and doing it, too, from the walls of Creeper
Cottage, had given him a shock.
“You are ever helpful, young man,” he said, bowing abstractedly and
going away to put down his hat and umbrella; and Priscilla, with a cold
feeling that she had had a bad omen, rang the handbell Tussie's
thoughtfulness had placed on her table and ordered Annalise to bring
Now Annalise had been standing on the threshold of her attic staring
at it in an amazement too deep for words when the bell fetched her
down. She appeared, however, before her mistress with a composed face,
received the order with her customary respectfulness, and sought out
Fritzing to inquire of him where the servants were to be found. “Her
Grand Ducal Highness desires tea,” announced Annalise, appearing in
Fritzing's sitting-room, where he was standing absorbed in the bill
from the furnishers that he had found lying on his table.
“Then take it in,” said Fritzing impatiently, without looking up.
“To whom shall I give the order?” inquired Annalise.
“To whom shall you give the order?” repeated Fritzing, pausing in
his study to stare at her, the bill in one hand and his
pocket-handkerchief, with which he was mopping his forehead, in the
“Where,” asked Annalise, “shall I find the cook?”
“Where shall you find the cook?” repeated Fritzing, staring still
harder. “This house is so gigantic is it not,” he said with an enormous
sarcasm, “that no doubt the cook has lost himself. Have you perhaps
omitted to investigate the coal-hole?”
“Herr Geheimrath, where shall I find the cook?” asked Annalise
tossing her head.
“Fraeulein, is there a mirror in your bedroom?”
“The smallest I ever saw. Only one-half of my face can I see
reflected in it at a time.”
“Fraeulein, the half of that face you see reflected in it is the
half of the face of the cook.”
“I do not understand,” said Annalise.
“Yet it is as clear as shining after rain. You, mein liebes Kind, are the cook.”
It was now Annalise's turn to stare, and she stood for a moment
doing it, her face changing from white to red while Fritzing turned his
back and taking out a pencil made little sums on the margin of the
bill. “Herr Geheimrath, I am not a cook,” she said at last, swallowing
“What, still there?” he exclaimed, looking up sharply. “Unworthy
one, get thee quickly to the kitchen. Is it seemly to keep the Princess
“I am not a cook,” said Annalise defiantly. “I was not engaged as a
cook, I never was a cook, and I will not be a cook.”
Fritzing flung down the bill and came and glared close into
Annalise's face. “Not a cook?” he cried. “You, a German girl, the
daughter of poor parents, you are not ashamed to say it? You do not
hide your head for shame? No—a being so useful, so necessary, so
worthy of respect as a cook you are not and never will be. I'll tell
you what you are,—I've told you once already, and I repeat it—you are
a knave, my Fraeulein, a knave, I say. And in those parts of your
miserable nature where you are not a knave—for I willingly concede
that no man or woman is bad all through—in those parts, I say, where
your knavishness is intermittent, you are an absolute, unmitigated
“I will not bear this,” cried Annalise.
“Will not! Cannot! Shall not! Inept Negation, get thee to thy
kitchen and seek wisdom among the pots.”
“I am no one's slave,” cried Annalise, “I am no one's prisoner.”
“Hark at her! Who said you were? Have I not told you the only two
things you are?”
“But I am treated as a prisoner, I am treated as a slave,” sobbed
“Unmannerly one, how dare you linger talking follies when your royal
mistress is waiting for her tea? Run—run! Or must I show you how?”
“Her Grand Ducal Highness,” said Annalise, not budging, “told me
also to prepare the bath for her this evening.”
“Well, what of that?” cried Fritzing, snatching up the bill again
and adding up furiously. “Prepare it, then.”
“I see no water-taps.”
“Woman, there are none.”
“How can I prepare a bath without water-taps?”
“O thou Inefficiency! Ineptitude garbed as woman! Must I then teach
thee the elements of thy business? Hast thou not observed the pump? Go
to it, and draw water. Cause the water to flow into buckets. Carry
these buckets—need I go on? Will not Nature herself teach thee what to
do with buckets?”
Annalise flushed scarlet. “I will not go to the pump,” she said.
“What, you will not carry out her Grand Ducal Highness's orders?”
“I will not go to the pump.”
“You refuse to prepare the bath?”
“I will not go to the pump.”
“You refuse to prepare the tea?”
“I will not be a cook.”
“You are rankly rebellious?”
“I will not sleep in the attic.”
“I will not eat the food.”
“I will not do the work.”
“I will go.”
“Go,” repeated Annalise, stamping her foot. “I demand my
wages, the increased wages that were promised me, and I will go.”
“And where, Impudence past believing, will you go, in a country
whose tongue you most luckily do not understand?”
Annalise looked up into Fritzing's furious eyes with the challenge
of him who flings down his trump card. “Go?” she cried, with a defiance
that was blood-curdling in one so small and hitherto so silent, “I will
first go to that young gentleman who speaks my language and I will tell
him all, and then, with his assistance, I will go straight—but
straight, do you hear?”—and she stamped her foot again—“to
Early in this story I pointed out what to the intelligent must have
been from the beginning apparent, that Annalise held Priscilla and
Fritzing in the hollow of her hand. In the first excitement of the
start she had not noticed it, but during those woeful days of
disillusionment at Baker's she saw it with an ever-growing clearness;
and since Sunday, since the day she found a smiling young gentleman
ready to talk German to her and answer questions, she was perfectly
aware that she had only to close her hand and her victims would squeeze
into any shape she liked. She proposed to do this closing at the first
moment of sheer intolerableness, and that moment seemed well reached
when she entered Creeper Cottage and realized what the attic, the
kitchen, and the pump really meant.
It is always a shock to find one's self in the company of a worm
that turns, always a shock and an amazement; a spectacle one never,
somehow, gets used to. But how dreadful does it become when one is in
the power of the worm, and the worm is resentful, and ready to squeeze
to any extent. Fritzing reflected bitterly that Annalise might quite
well have been left at home. Quite well? A thousand times better. What
had she done but whine during her passive period? And now that she was
active, a volcano in full activity hurling forth hot streams of
treachery on two most harmless heads, she, the insignificant, the
base-born, the empty-brained, was actually going to be able to ruin the
plans of the noblest woman on earth.
Thus thought Fritzing, mopping his forehead. Annalise had rushed
away to her attic after flinging her defiance at him, her spirit ready
to dare anything but her body too small, she felt, to risk staying
within reach of a man who looked more like somebody who meant to shake
her than any one she had ever seen. Fritzing mopped his forehead, and
mopped and mopped again. He stood where she had left him, his eyes
fixed on the ground, his distress so extreme that he was quite near
crying. What was he to do? What was he to say to his Princess? How was
he to stop the girl's going back to Kunitz? How was he to stop her
going even so far as young Morrison? That she should tell young
Morrison who Priscilla was would indeed be a terrible thing. It would
end their being able to live in Symford. It would end their being able
to live in England. The Grand Duke would be after them, and there would
have to be another flight to another country, another start there,
another search for a home, another set of explanations, pretences,
fears, lies,—things of which he was so weary. But there was something
else, something worse than any of these things, that made Fritzing mop
his forehead with so extreme a desperation: Annalise had demanded the
money due to her, and Fritzing had no money.
I am afraid Fritzing was never meant for a conspirator. Nature never
meant him to be a plotter, an arranger of unpleasant surprises for
parents. She never meant him to run away. She meant him, probably, to
spend his days communing with the past in a lofty room with distempered
walls and busts round them. That he should be forced to act, to decide,
to be artful, to wrangle with maids, to make ends meet, to squeeze his
long frame and explosive disposition into a Creeper Cottage where only
an ill-fitting door separated him from the noise and fumes of the
kitchen, was surely a cruel trick of Fate, and not less cruel because
he had brought it on himself. That he should have thought he could run
away as well as any man is merely a proof of his singleness of soul. A
man who does that successfully is always, among a great many other
things, a man who takes plenty of money with him and knows exactly
where to put his hand on more when it is wanted. Fritzing had thought
it better to get away quickly with little money than to wait and get
away with more. He had seized all he could of his own that was not
invested, and Priscilla had drawn her loose cash from the Kunitz bank;
but what he took hidden in his gaiters after paying for Priscilla's
outfit and bribing Annalise was not more than three hundred pounds; and
what is three hundred pounds to a person who buys and furnishes
cottages and scatters five-pound notes among the poor? The cottages
were paid for. He had insisted on doing that at once, chiefly in order
to close his dealings with Mr. Dawson; but Mr. Dawson had not let them
go for less than a hundred and fifty for the two, in spite of Tussie's
having said a hundred was enough. When Fritzing told Mr. Dawson what
Tussie had said Mr. Dawson soon proved that Tussie could not possibly
have meant it; and Fritzing, knowing how rich Priscilla really was and
what vast savings he had himself lying over in Germany in comfortable
securities, paid him without arguing and hastened from the hated
presence. Then the journey for the three from Kunitz had been
expensive; the stay at Baker's Farm had been, strange to say,
expensive; Mrs. Jones's comforting had been expensive; the village
mothers had twice emptied Priscilla's purse of ten pounds; and the
treat to the Symford children had not been cheap. After paying for
this—the Minehead confectioner turned out to be a man of little faith
in unknown foreigners, and insisted on being paid at once—Fritzing had
about forty pounds left. This, he had thought, would do for food and
lights and things for a long while,—certainly till he had hit on a
plan by which he would be able to get hold of the Princess's money and
his own without betraying where they were; and here on his table, the
second unpleasant surprise that greeted him on entering his new home
(the first had been his late master's dreadful smile) was the bill for
the furnishing of it. To a man possessed of only forty pounds any bill
will seem tremendous. This one was for nearly two hundred; and at the
end of the long list of items, the biggest of which was that bathroom
without water that had sent Annalise out on strike, was the information
that a remittance would oblige. A remittance! Poor Fritzing. He crushed
the paper in his hand and made caustic mental comments on the indecency
of these people, clamouring for their money almost before the last
workman was out of the place, certainly before the smell of paint was
out of it, and clamouring, too, in the face of the Shuttleworth
countenance and support. He had not been a week yet in Symford, and had
been so busy, so rushed, that he had put off thinking out a plan for
getting his money over from Germany until he should be settled. Never
had he imagined people would demand payment in this manner. Never,
either, had he imagined the Princess would want so much money for the
poor; and never, of course, had he imagined that there would be a
children's treat within three days of their arrival. Least of all had
he dreamed that Annalise would so soon need more bribing; for that was
clearly the only thing to do. He saw it was the only thing, after he
had stood for some time thinking and wiping the cold sweat from his
forehead. She must be bribed, silenced, given in to. He must part with
as much as he possibly could of that last forty pounds; as much, also,
as he possibly could of his pride, and submit to have the hussy's foot
on his neck. Some day, some day, thought Fritzing grinding his teeth,
he would be even with her; and when that day came he promised himself
that it should certainly begin with a sound shaking. “Truly,” he
reflected, “the foolish things of the world confound the wise, and the
weak things of the world confound the things that are mighty.” And he
went out, and standing in the back yard beneath Annalise's window
softly called to her. “Fraeulein,” called Fritzing, softly as a dove
wooing its mate.
“Aha,” thought Annalise, sitting on her bed, quick to mark the
change; but she did not move.
“Fraeulein,” called Fritzing again; and it was hardly a call so much
as a melodious murmur.
Annalise did not move, but she grinned.
“Fraeulein, come down one moment,” cooed Fritzing, whose head was
quite near the attic window so low was Creeper Cottage. “I wish to
speak to you. I wish to give you something.”
Annalise did not move, but she stuffed her handkerchief into her
mouth; for the first time since she left Calais she was enjoying
“If,” went on Fritzing after an anxious pause, “I was sharp with you
just now—and I fear I may have been hasty—you should not take it
amiss from one who, like Brutus, is sick of many griefs. Come down,
Fraeulein, and let me make amends.”
The Princess's bell rang. At once habit impelled Annalise to that
which Fritzing's pleadings would never have effected; she scrambled
down the ladder, and leaving him still under her window presented
herself before her mistress with her usual face of meek respect.
“I said tea,” said Priscilla very distinctly, looking at her with
slightly lifted eyebrows.
Annalise curtseyed and disappeared.
“How fearfully polite German maids are,” remarked Tussie.
“In what way?” asked Priscilla.
“Those curtseys. They're magnificent.”
“Don't English maids curtsey?”
“None that I've ever seen. Perhaps they do to royalties.”
“Oh?” said Priscilla with a little jump. She was still so much
unnerved by the unexpected meeting with her father on the wall of
Creeper Cottage that she could not prevent the little jump.
“What would German maids do, I wonder, in dealing with royalties,”
said Tussie, “if they curtsey so beautifully to ordinary mistresses?
They'd have to go down on their knees to a princess, wouldn't they?”
“How should I know?” said Priscilla, irritably, alarmed to feel she
was turning red; and with great determination she began to talk
Fritzing was lying in wait for Annalise, and caught her as she came
into the bathroom.
“Fraeulein,” said the miserable man trying to screw his face into
persuasiveness, “you cannot let the Princess go without tea.”
“Yes I can,” said Annalise.
He thrust his hands into his pockets to keep them off her shoulders.
“Make it this once, Fraeulein, and I will hire a woman of the
village to make it in future. And see, you must not leave the
Princess's service, a service of such great honour to yourself, because
I chanced to be perhaps a little—hasty. I will give you two hundred
marks to console you for the slight though undoubted difference in the
mode of living, and I will, as I said, hire a woman to come each day
and cook. Will it not be well so?”
“No,” said Annalise.
Annalise put her hands on her hips, and swaying lightly from side to
side began to sing softly. Fritzing gazed at this fresh development in
her manners in silent astonishment. “Jedermann macht mir die Cour,
c'est l'amour, c'est l'amour,” sang Annalise, her head one side,
her eyes on the ceiling.
“Liebes Kind, are your promises of no value? Did you not
promise to keep your mouth shut, and not betray the Princess's
confidence? Did she not seek you out from all the others for the honour
of keeping her secrets? And you will, after one week, divulge them to a
stranger? You will leave her service? You will return to Kunitz? Is it
“C'est l'amour, c'est l'amour,” sang Annalise, swaying.
“Is it well so, Fraeulein?” repeated Fritzing, strangling a furious
desire to slap her.
“Did you speak?” inquired Annalise, pausing in her song.
“I am speaking all the time. I asked if it were well to betray the
secrets of your royal mistress.”
“I have been starved,” said Annalise.
“You have had the same fare as ourselves.”
“I have been called names.”
“Have I not expressed—regret?”
“I have been treated as dirt.”
“Well, well, I have apologized.”
“If you had behaved to me as a maid of a royal lady should be
behaved to, I would have faithfully done my part and kept silence. Now
give me my money and I will go.”
“I will give you your money—certainly, liebes Kind. It is
what I am most desirous of doing. But only on condition that you stay.
If you go, you go without it. If you stay, I will do as I said about
the cook and will—” Fritzing paused—“I will endeavour to refrain from
calling you anything hasty.”
“Two hundred marks,” said Annalise gazing at the ceiling, “is
“Nothing?” cried Fritzing. “You know very well that it is, for you,
a great sum.”
“It is nothing. I require a thousand.”
“A thousand? What, fifty English sovereigns? Nay, then, but there is
no reasoning with you,” cried Fritzing in tones of real despair.
She caught the conviction in them and hesitated. “Eight hundred,
then,” she said.
“Impossible. And besides it would be a sin. I will give you twenty.”
“Twenty? Twenty marks?” Annalise stared at him a moment then resumed
her swaying and her song—“Jedermann macht mir die Cour”—sang
Annalise with redoubled conviction.
“No, no, not marks—twenty pounds,” said Fritzing, interrupting what
was to him a most maddening music. “Four hundred marks. As much as many
a German girl can only earn by labouring two years you will receive for
doing nothing but hold your tongue.”
Annalise closed her lips tightly and shook her head. “My tongue
cannot be held for that,” she said, beginning to sway again and hum.
Adjectives foamed on Fritzing's own, but he kept them back. “
Maedchen,” he said with the gentleness of a pastor in a confirmation
class, “do you not remember that the love of money is the root of all
evil? I do not recognize you. Since when have you become thus greedy
“Give me eight hundred and I will stop.”
“I will give you six hundred,” said Fritzing, fighting for each of
his last precious pounds.
“I said eight,” said Annalise, stopping and looking at him with
lifted eye-brows and exactly imitating the distinctness with which the
Princess had just said “I said tea.”
“Six is an enormous sum. Why, what would you do with it?”
“That is my affair. Perhaps buy food,” she said with a malicious
“I tell you there shall be a cook.”
“A cook,” said Annalise counting on her fingers,—“and a good cook,
observe—not a cook like the Frau Pearce—a cook, then, no more rude
names, and eight hundred marks. Then I stop. I suffer. I am silent.”
“It cannot be done. I cannot give you eight.”
“C'est l'amour, c'est l'amour.... The Princess waits for her
tea. I will prepare it for her this once. I am good, you see, at heart.
But I must have eight hundred marks. Cest l'amo-o-o-o-o-our.”
“I will give you seven,” said Fritzing, doing rapid sums in his
head. Seven hundred was something under thirty-five pounds. He would
still have five pounds left for housekeeping. How long that would last
he admitted to himself that probably only heaven knew, but he hoped
that with economy it might be made to carry them over a fortnight; and
surely by the end of a fortnight he would have hit on a way of getting
fresh supplies from Germany? “I will give you seven hundred. That is
the utter-most. I can give no more till I have written home for money.
I have only a little more than that here altogether. See, I treat you
like a reasonable being—I set the truth plainly before you. More than
seven hundred I could not give if I would.”
“Good,” said Annalise, breaking off her music suddenly. “I will take
that now and guarantee to be silent for fourteen days. At the end of
that time the Herr Geheimrath will have plenty more money and will, if
he still desires my services and my silence, give me the three hundred
still due to me on the thousand I demand. If the Herr Geheimrath
prefers not to, then I depart to my native country. While the fortnight
lasts I will suffer all there is to suffer in silence. Is the Herr
“Shameless one!” mentally shrieked Fritzing, “Wait and see what will
happen to thee when my turn comes!” But aloud he only agreed. “It is
well, Fraeulein,” he said. “Take in the Princess's tea, and then come
to my sitting-room and I will give you the money. The fire burns in the
kitchen. Utensils, I believe, are ready to hand. It should not prove a
task too difficult.”
“Perhaps the Herr Geheimrath will show me where the tea and milk is?
And also the sugar, and the bread and butter if any?” suggested
Annalise in a small meek voice as she tripped before him into the
What could he do but follow? Her foot was well on his neck; and it
occurred to him as he rummaged miserably among canisters that if the
creature should take it into her head to marry him he might conceivably
have to let her do it. As it was it was he and not Annalise who took
the kettle out to the pump to fill it, and her face while he was doing
it would have rejoiced her parents or other persons to whom she was
presumably dear, it was wide with so enormous a satisfaction. Thus
terrible is it to be in the power of an Annalise.
The first evening in Creeper Cottage was unpleasant. There was a
blazing wood fire, the curtains were drawn, the lamp shone rosily
through its red shade, and when Priscilla stood up her hair dusted the
oak beams of the ceiling, it was so low. The background, you see, was
perfectly satisfactory; exactly what a cottage background should be on
an autumn night when outside a wet mist is hanging like a grey curtain
across the window panes; and Tussie arriving at nine o'clock to help
consecrate the new life with Shakespeare felt, as he opened the door
and walked out of the darkness into the rosy, cosy little room, that he
need not after all worry himself with doubts as to the divine girl's
being comfortable. Never did place appear more comfortable. It did not
occur to him that a lamp with a red shade and the blaze of a wood fire
will make any place appear comfortable so long as they go on shining,
and he looked up at Priscilla—I am afraid he had to look up at her
when they were both standing—with the broadest smile of genuine
pleasure. “It does look jolly,” he said heartily.
His pleasure was doomed to an immediate wiping out. Priscilla
smiled, but with a reservation behind her smile that his sensitive
spirit felt at once. She was alone, and there was no sign whatever
either of her uncle or of preparations for the reading of Shakespeare.
“Is anything not quite right?” Tussie asked, his face falling at
once to an anxious pucker.
Priscilla looked at him and smiled again, but this time the smile
was real, in her eyes as well as on her lips, dancing in them together
with the flickering firelight. “It's rather funny,” she said. “It has
never happened to me before. What do you think? I'm hungry.”
Tussie stared, arrested in the unwinding of his comforter.
“Really hungry. Dreadfully hungry. So hungry that I hate
“I know. You're going to say why not eat? It does seem simple. But
you've no idea how difficult it really is. I'm afraid my uncle and I
have rather heaps to learn. We forgot to get a cook.”
“A cook? But I thought—I understood that curtseying maid of yours
was going to do all that?”
“So did I. So did he. But she won't.”
Priscilla flushed, for since Tussie left after tea she had had
grievous surprises, of a kind that made her first indignant and then
inclined to wince. Fritzing had not been able to hide from her that
Annalise had rebelled and refused to cook, and Priscilla had not been
able to follow her immediate impulse and dismiss her. It was at this
point, when she realized this, that the wincing began. She felt
perfectly sick at the thought, flashed upon her for the first time,
that she was in the power of a servant.
“Do you mean to say,” said Tussie in a voice hollow with
consternation, “that you've had no dinner?”
“Dinner? In a cottage? Why of course there was no dinner. There
never will be any dinner—at night, at least. But the tragic thing is
there was no supper. We didn't think of it till we began to get hungry.
Annalise began first. She got hungry at six o'clock, and said something
to Fritz—my uncle about it, but he wasn't hungry himself then and so
he snubbed her. Now he is hungry himself, and he's gone out to see if
he can't find a cook. It's very stupid. There's nothing in the house.
Annalise ate the bread and things she found. She's upstairs now,
crying.” And Priscilla's lips twitched as she looked at Tussie's
concerned face, and she began to laugh.
He seized his hat. “I'll go and get you something,” he said, dashing
at the door.
“I can't think what, at this time of the night. The only shop shuts
“I'll make them open it.”
“They go to bed at nine.”
“I'll get them out of bed if I have to shie stones at their windows
“Don't go without your coat—you'll catch a most frightful cold.”
He put his arm through the door to take it, and vanished in the fog.
He did not put on the coat in his agitation, but kept it over his arm.
His comforter stayed in Priscilla's parlour, on the chair where he had
flung it. He was in evening dress, and his throat was sore already with
the cold that was coming on and that he had caught, as he expected,
running races on the Sunday at Priscilla's children's party.
Priscilla went back to her seat by the fire, and thought very hard
about things like bread. It would of course be impossible that she
should have reached this state of famine only because one meal had been
missed; but she had eaten nothing all day,—disliked the Baker's Farm
breakfast too much even to look at it, forgotten the Baker's Farm
dinner because she was just moving into her cottage, and at tea had
been too greatly upset by the unexpected appearance of her father on
the wall to care to eat the bread and butter Annalise brought in. Now
she was in that state when you tremble and feel cold. She had told
Annalise, about half-past seven, to bring her the bread left from tea,
but Annalise had eaten it. At half-past eight she had told Annalise to
bring her the sugar, for she had read somewhere that if you eat enough
sugar it takes away the desire even of the hungriest for other food,
but Annalise, who had eaten the sugar as well, said that the Herr
Geheimrath must have eaten it. It certainly was not there, and neither
was the Herr Geheimrath to defend himself; since half-past seven he had
been out looking for a cook, his mind pervaded by the idea that if only
he could get a cook food would follow in her wake as naturally as
flowers follow after rain. Priscilla fretting in her chair that he
should stay away so long saw very clearly that no cook could help them.
What is the use of a cook in a house where there is nothing to cook? If
only Fritzing would come back quickly with a great many loaves of
bread! The door was opened a little way and somebody's knuckles
knocked. She thought it was Tussie, quick and clever as ever, and in a
voice full of welcome told him to come in; upon which in stepped Robin
Morrison very briskly, delighted by the warmth of the invitation. “Why
now this is nice,” said Robin, all smiles.
Priscilla did not move and did not offer to shake hands, so he stood
on the hearthrug and spread out his own to the blaze, looking down at
her with bright, audacious eyes. He thought he had not yet seen her so
beautiful. There was an extraordinary depth and mystery in her look, he
thought, as it rested for a moment on his face, and she had never yet
dropped her eyelashes as she now did when her eyes met his. We know she
was very hungry, and there was no strength in her at all. Not only did
her eyelashes drop, but her head as well, and her hands hung
helplessly, like drooping white flowers, one over each arm of the
“I came in to ask Mr. Neumann-Schultz if there's anything I can do
for you,” said Robin.
“Did you? He lives next door.”
“I know. I knocked there first, but he didn't answer so I thought he
must be here.”
Priscilla said nothing. At any other time she would have snubbed
Robin and got rid of him. Now she merely sat and drooped.
“Has he gone out?”
Her voice was very low, hardly more than a whisper. Those who know
the faintness of hunger at this stage will also know the pathos that
steals into the voice of the sufferer when he is unwillingly made to
speak; it becomes plaintive, melodious with yearning, the yearning for
food. But if you do not know this, if you have yourself just come from
dinner, if you are half in love and want the other person to be quite
in love, if you are full of faith in your own fascinations, you are apt
to fall into Robin's error and mistake the nature of the yearning.
Tussie in Robin's place would have doubted the evidence of his senses,
but then Tussie was very modest. Robin doubted nothing. He saw, he
heard, and he thrilled; and underneath his thrilling, which was real
enough to make him flush to the roots of his hair, far down underneath
it was the swift contemptuous comment, “They're all alike.”
Priscilla shut her eyes. She was listening for the first sound of
Tussie's or Fritzing's footfall, the glad sound heralding the approach
of something to eat, and wishing Robin would go away. He was kind at
times and obliging, but on the whole a nuisance. It was a great pity
there were so many people in the world who were nuisances and did not
know it. Somebody ought to tell them,—their mothers, or other useful
persons of that sort. She vaguely decided that the next time she met
Robin and was strengthened properly by food she would say a few things
to him from which recovery would take a long while.
“Are you—not well?” Robin asked, after a silence during which his
eyes never left her and hers were shut; and even to himself his voice
sounded deeper, more intense than usual.
“Oh yes,” murmured Priscilla with a little sigh.
Happy? Can anybody who is supperless, dinnerless, breakfastless, be
happy, Priscilla wondered? But the question struck her as funny, and
the vibrating tones in which it was asked struck her as rather funny
too, and she opened her eyes for a moment to look up at Robin with a
smile of amusement—a smile that she could not guess was turned by the
hunger within her into something wistful and tremulous. “Yes,” said
Priscilla in that strange pathetic voice, “I—think so.” And after a
brief glance at him down went her weary eyelids again.
The next thing that happened was that Robin, who was trembling,
kissed her hand. This she let him do with perfect placidity. Every
German woman is used to having her hand kissed. It is kissed on
meeting, it is kissed on parting, it is kissed at a great many odd
times in between; she holds it up mechanically when she comes across a
male acquaintance; she is never surprised at the ceremony; the only
thing that surprises her is if it is left out. Priscilla then simply
thought Robin was going. “What a mercy,” she said to herself, glancing
at him a moment through her eyelashes. But Robin was not used to
hand-kissing and saw things in a very different light. He felt she made
no attempt to draw her hand away, he heard her murmuring something
inarticulate—it was merely Good-bye—he was hurled along to his doom;
and stooping over her the unfortunate young man kissed her hair.
Priscilla opened her eyes suddenly and very wide. I don't know what
folly he would have perpetrated next, or what sillinesses were on the
tip of his tongue, or what meaning he still chose to read in her look,
but an instant afterwards he was brought down for ever from the giddy
heights of his illusions: Priscilla boxed his ears.
I am sorry to have to record it. It is always sweeter if a woman
does not box ears. The action is shrewish, benighted, mediaeval, nay,
barbarous; and this box was a very hard one indeed, extraordinarily
hard for so little a hand and so fasting a girl. But we know she had
twice already been on the verge of doing it; and the pent-up vigour of
what the policeman had not got and what the mother in the train had not
got was added I imagine to what Robin got. Anyhow it was efficacious.
There was an exclamation—I think of surprise, for surely a young man
would not have minded the pain?—and he put his hand up quickly to his
face. Priscilla got up just as quickly out of her chair and rang the
handbell furiously, her eyes on his, her face ablaze. Annalise must
have thrown herself down the ladder, for they hardly seemed to have
been standing there an instant face to face, their eyes on a level, he
scarlet, she white, both deadly silent, before the maid was in the
“This person has insulted me,” said Priscilla, turning to her and
pointing at Robin. “He never comes here again. Don't let me find you
forgetting that,” she added, frowning at the girl; for she remembered
they had been seen talking eagerly together at the children's treat.
“I never”—began Robin.
“Will you go?”
Annalise opened the door for him. He went out, and she shut it
behind him. Then she walked sedately across the room again, looking
sideways at the Princess, who took no notice of her but stood
motionless by the table gazing straight before her, her lips
compressed, her face set in a kind of frozen white rage, and having got
into the bathroom Annalise began to run. She ran out at the back door,
in again at Fritzing's back door, out at his front door into the
street, and caught up Robin as he was turning down the lane to the
vicarage. “What have you done?” she asked him breathlessly, in German.
“Done?” Robin threw back his head and laughed quite loud.
“Sh—sh,” said Annalise, glancing back fearfully over her shoulder.
“Done?” said Robin, subduing his bitter mirth. “What do you suppose
I've done? I've done what any man would have in my place—encouraged,
almost asked to do it. I kissed your young lady, liebes Fraeulein, and she pretended not to like it. Now isn't that what a sensible girl
like you would call absurd?”
But Annalise started back from the hand he held out to her in
genuine horror. “What?” she cried, “What?”
“What? What?” mocked Robin. “Well then, what? Are you all such
prudes in Germany? Even you pretending, you little hypocrite?”
“Oh,” cried Annalise hysterically, pushing him away with both her
hands, “what have you done? Elender Junge, what have you done?”
“I think you must all be mad,” said Robin angrily. “You can't
persuade me that nobody ever kisses anybody over in Germany.”
“Oh yes they do—oh yes they do,” cried Annalise, wringing her
hands, “but neither there nor anywhere else—in England, anywhere in
the world—do the sons of pastors—the sons of pastors—” She seemed to
struggle for breath, and twisted and untwisted her apron round her
hands in a storm of agitation while Robin, utterly astonished, stared
at her—“Neither there nor anywhere else do they—the sons of
pastors—kiss—kiss royal princesses.”
It was now Robin's turn to say “What?”
He went up to Cambridge the next morning. Term had not begun, but he
went; a Robin with all the briskness gone out of him, and if still with
something of the bird left only of a bird that is moulting. His father
was mildly surprised, but applauded the apparent desire for solitary
study. His mother was violently surprised, and tried hard to get at his
true reasons. She saw with the piercing eye of a relation—that eye
from which hardly anything can ever be hidden—that something had
happened and that the something was sobering and unpleasant. She could
not imagine what it was, for she did not know he had been to Creeper
Cottage the night before and all the afternoon and at dinner he had
talked and behaved as usual. Now he did not talk at all, and his
behaviour was limited to a hasty packing of portmanteaus. Determined to
question him she called him into the study just before he started, and
shut the door.
“I must go mater,” he said, pulling out his watch; he had carefully
avoided her since breakfast though she had laid many traps for him.
“Robin, I want to tell you that I think you splendid.”
“Splendid? What on earth for? You were telling me a very different
sort of thing a day or two ago.”
“I am sorry now for what I said on Sunday.”
“I don't think a mother ought ever to say she's sorry,” said Robin
“Not if she is?”
“She oughtn't to say so.”
“Well dear let us be friends. Don't go away angry with me. I do
appreciate you so much for going. You are my own dear boy.” And she put
her hands on his shoulders.
He took out his watch again. “I say, I must be off.”
“Don't suppose a mother doesn't see and understand.”
“Oh I don't suppose anything. Good-bye mater.”
“I think it so splendid of you to go, to turn your back on
temptation, to unwind yourself from that wretched girl's coils.”
“My Robin”—she stroked his cheek, the same cheek, as it happened,
Priscilla had smitten—“my Robin must not throw himself away. I am
ambitious where you are concerned, my darling. It would have broken my
heart for you to have married a nobody—perhaps a worse than nobody.”
Robin, who was staring at her with an indescribable expression on
his face, took her hands off his shoulders. “Look here mater,” he
said—and he was seized by a desire to laugh terrifically—“there is
nothing in the world quite so amusing as the way people will talk
wisely of things they don't in the faintest degree understand. They
seem to feel wise in proportion to their ignorance. I expect you think
that's a funny speech for me to make. I can tell you I don't think it
half as funny as yours was. Good-bye. I shall miss my train you know if
you keep me, and then I'd be exposed again to those—what was the word?
ah, yes—coils. Coils!” He burst into loud laughter. “Good-bye mater.”
She was staring at him blankly. He hastily brushed her forehead with
his moustache and hurried to the door, his face full of strange mirth.
“I say,” he said, putting in his head again, “there's just one thing
I'd like to say.”
She made an eager step towards him. “Do say it my darling—say all
that is in your heart.”
“Oh it's not much—it's only God help poor Tuss.” And that was the
last of him. She heard him chuckling all down the passage; but long
before his fly had reached Ullerton he had left off doing that and was
It rained that day in Somersetshire, a steady, hopeless rain that
soaked many a leaf off the trees before its time and made the year look
suddenly quite old. From the windows of Creeper Cottage you could see
the water running in rivulets down the hill into the deserted village,
and wreaths of mist hanging about the downs beyond. The dripping
tombstone that blocked Priscilla's window grew danker and blacker as
the day went by. The fires in the cottage burnt badly, for the wood had
somehow got wet. The oilcloth and the wall-papers looked very dismal in
the grey daylight. Rain came in underneath the two front doors and made
puddles that nobody wiped away.
Priscilla had got up very late, after a night spent staring into the
darkness, and then had sent for Fritzing and told him what Robin had
done. The unhappy man's horror will be easily imagined. She was in bed
the night before when he came in, quite cured of her hunger and only
wanting to be alone with her wrath. Fritzing had found no one in the
parlour but Tussie clasping an immense biscuit-tin in his arms, with a
face so tragic that Fritzing thought something terrible must have
happened. Tussie had returned joyfully, laden with biscuits and
sardines, to find the girl standing straight and speechless by the
table, her face rigid, her eyes ablaze. She had not so much as glanced
at the biscuits; she had not said a single word; her look rested on him
a moment as though she did not see him and then she went into the next
room and upstairs to bed. He knew she went upstairs to bed for in
Creeper Cottage you could hear everything.
Fritzing coming in a few minutes later without the cook he had hoped
to find, was glad enough of Tussie's sardines and biscuits—they were
ginger biscuits—and while he ate them, abstractedly and together,
Tussie looked on and wondered in spite of his wretchedness what the
combination could possibly taste like. Then, after a late breakfast on
the Wednesday morning, Priscilla sent for Fritzing and told him what
Robin had done. The burdened man, so full already of anxieties and
worries, was shattered by the blow. “I have always held duelling in
extreme contempt,” he said when at last he could speak, “but now I
shall certainly fight.”
“Fight? You? Fritzi, I've only told you because I—I feel so
unprotected here and you must keep him off if he ever tries to come
again. But you shall not fight. What, first he is to insult me and then
hurt or kill my Fritzi? Besides, nobody ever fights duels in England.”
“That remains to be seen. I shall now go to his house and insult him
steadily for half an hour. At the expiration of that time he will
probably be himself anxious to fight. We might go to France—”
“Oh Fritzi don't be so dreadful. Don't go to him—leave him
alone—nobody must ever know—”
“I shall now go and insult him,” repeated Fritzing with an
inflexibility that silenced her.
And she saw him a minute later pass her window under his umbrella,
splashing indifferently through all the puddles, battle and destruction
in his face.
Robin, however, was at Ullerton by the time Fritzing got to the
vicarage. He waved the servant aside when she told him he had gone, and
insisted on penetrating into the presence of the young man's father. He
waved Mrs. Morrison aside too when she tried to substitute herself for
the vicar, and did at last by his stony persistency get into the good
man's presence. Not until the vicar himself told him that Robin had
gone would Fritzing believe it. “The villain has fled,” he told
Priscilla, coming back drenched in body but unquenchable in spirit.
“Your chastisement, ma'am, was very effectual.”
“If he's gone, then don't let us think about him any more.”
“Nay, ma'am, I now set out for Cambridge. If I may not meet him
fairly in duel and have my chance of honourably removing him from a
world that has had enough of him, I would fain in my turn box his
But Priscilla caught him by both arms. “Why, Fritzi,” she cried, “he
might remove you and not you him—and from a world that hasn't had
nearly enough of you. Fritzi, you cannot leave me. I won't let you go.
I wish I had never told you. Don't let us talk of it ever again. It is
hateful to me. I—I can't bear it.” And she looked into his face with
something very like tears in her eyes.
Of course Fritzing stayed. How could he go away even for one hour,
even in search of a cook, when such dreadful things happened? He was
bowed down by the burden of his responsibilities. He went into his
sitting-room and spent the morning striding up and down it between the
street door and the door into the kitchen,—a stride and a half one
way, and a stride and a half back back again,—doing what all evildoers
have to do sooner or later, cudgelling his brains for a way out of
life's complications: and every now and then the terribleness of what
had happened to his Princess, his guarded Princess, his unapproachable
one, came over him with a fresh wave of horror and he groaned aloud.
In the kitchen sat the Shuttleworth kitchenmaid, a most accomplished
young person, listening to the groans and wondering what next. Tussie
had sent her, with fearful threats of what sort of character she would
get if she refused to go. She had at once given notice, but had been
forced all the same to go, being driven over in a dog-cart in the early
morning rain by a groom who made laboured pleasantries at her expense.
She could cook very well, almost as well as that great personage the
Shuttleworth cook, but she could only cook if there were things to be
cooked; and what she found at Creeper Cottage was the rest of the
ginger biscuits and sardines. Well, I will not linger over that.
Priscilla did get breakfast somehow, the girl, after trying vainly to
strike sparks of helpfulness out of Annalise, going to the store and
ordering what was necessary. Then she washed up, while Annalise tripped
in and out for the express purpose, so it seemed, of turning up her
nose; then she sat and waited and wondered what next. For a long time
she supposed somebody would send for her to come and talk about
luncheon; but nobody did. She heard the ceaseless stridings in the next
room, and every now and then the groans. The rain on the kitchen window
did not patter more ceaselessly than the footsteps strode up and down,
and the groans got very much on to the girl's nerves. At last she
decided that no person who was groaning like that would ever want to
order luncheon, and she had better go to the young lady. She went out
accordingly and knocked at Priscilla's door. Priscilla was in her chair
by the fire, lost in troublous thought. She looked vaguely at the
kitchenmaid for a moment, and then asked her to go away. “I'm busy,”
explained Priscilla, whose hands were folded in her lap.
“Please miss, what do you wish for luncheon?”
“Who are you?”
“I'm the—assistant cook at the 'All, miss. Lady Shuttleworth's
assistant cook. Sir Augustus desired me to cook for you to-day.”
“Then please do it.”
“Yes miss. What do you wish for luncheon?”
“Yes miss. And the gentleman—don't he want nothing neither?”
“He'll probably tell you when he does.”
“Yes miss. It's as well to know a little beforehand, ain't it, miss.
There's nothing in the—a-hem—'ouse, and I suppose I'd have to buy
“Yes miss. Perhaps if you'd tell me what the gentleman likes I could
go out and get it.”
“But I don't know what he likes. And wouldn't you get wet? Send
“Yes miss. Who?”
Priscilla gazed at her a moment. “Ah yes—” she said, “I forgot. I'm
afraid there isn't anybody. I think you had better ask my uncle what he
wants, and then if you would—I'm very sorry you should have such bad
weather—but if you don't mind, would you go and buy the things?”
The girl went away, and Priscilla began for the first time to
consider the probability of her having in the near future to think of
and order three meals every day of her life; and not only three meals,
but she dimly perceived there would be a multitude of other dreary
things to think of and order,—their linen, for instance, must be
washed, and how did one set about that? And would not Fritzing's
buttons presently come off and have to be sewn on again? His socks,
when they went into holes, could be thrown out of the window and new
ones bought, but even Priscilla saw that you could not throw a whole
coat out of a window because its buttons had come off. There would,
then, have to be some mending done for Fritzing, and Annalise would
certainly not be the one to do it. Was the simple life a sordid life as
well? Did it only look simple from outside and far away? And was it,
close, mere drudging? A fear came over her that her soul, her precious
soul, for whose sake she had dared everything, instead of being able to
spread its wings in the light of a glorious clear life was going to be
choked out of existence by weeds just as completely as at Kunitz.
The Shuttleworth kitchenmaid meanwhile, who was not hindered at
every turn by a regard for her soul, made her way to Fritzing as she
had been told and inquired of him what she should cook for his dinner.
No man likes to be interrupted in his groanings; and Fritzing, who was
not hungry and was startled by the sudden appearance of a stranger in
his room asking him intimate questions, a person of whose presence in
the cottage he had been unaware, flew at her. “Woman, what have I to do
with you?” he cried, stopping in his walk and confronting her with
surprising fierceness. “Is it seemly to burst in on a man like this?
Have you no decency? No respect for another's privacy? Begone, I
command you—begone! Begone!” And he made the same movements with his
hands that persons do when they shoo away fowls or other animals in
This was too much for the Shuttleworth kitchenmaid. The obligations,
she considered, were all on the side of Creeper Cottage, and she
retreated in amazement and anger to the kitchen, put on her hat and
mackintosh, and at once departed, regardless of the rain and the
consequences, through two miles of dripping lanes to Symford Hall. What
would have happened to her there if she had been discovered by Tussie I
do not know, but I imagine it would have been something bad. She was
saved, however, by his being in bed, clutched by the throat by a
violent cold; and there he lay helpless, burning and shivering and
throbbing, the pains of his body increased a hundredfold by the
distraction of his mind about Priscilla. Why, Tussie asked himself over
and over again, had she looked so strange the night before? Why had she
gone starving to bed? What was she doing to-day? Was the kitchenmaid
taking proper care of her? Was she keeping warm and dry this shocking
weather? Had she slept comfortably the first night in her little home?
Poor Tussie. It is a grievous thing to love any one too much; a
grievous, wasteful, paralyzing thing; a tumbling of the universe out of
focus, a bringing of the whole world down to the mean level of one
desire, a shutting out of wider, more beautiful feelings, a wrapping of
one's self in a thick garment of selfishness, outside which all the
dear, tender, modest, everyday affections and friendships, the
wholesome, ordinary loves, the precious loves of use and wont, are left
to shiver and grow cold. Tussie's mother sat outside growing very cold
indeed. Her heart was stricken within her. She, most orderly of women,
did not in the least mind, so occupied was she with deeper cares, that
her household was in rebellion, her cook who had been with her
practically all her life leaving because she had been commanded by
Tussie, before he had to fall back on the kitchenmaid, to proceed
forthwith to Creeper Cottage and stay there indefinitely; her
kitchenmaid, also a valued functionary, leaving; Bryce, Tussie's
servant who took such care of him and was so clever in sickness, gone
suddenly in his indignation at having to go at all,—all these things
no longer mattered. Nor did it matter that the coming of age
festivities were thrown into hopeless confusion by Tussie's illness,
that the guests must all be telegraphed to and put off, that the whole
village would be aghast at such a disappointment, that all her plans
and preparations had been wasted. As the first day and night of illness
dragged slowly past she grew to be nothing but one great ache of
yearning over her sick boy, a most soul-rending yearning to do what she
knew was for ever impossible, to put her arms so close round him, so
close, so carefully, so tenderly, that nothing, no evil, no pain, could
get through that clasp of love to hurt him any more.
“Why don't you take better care of your only son?” said the doctor
grimly after he had seen Tussie that evening, who by that time was in a
very pitiable condition.
Lady Shuttleworth stared at him, wide-eyed and speechless.
“It's absurd, you know, to let him get into this state. I've often
warned you. He can't be allowed to play ducks and drakes with himself
like other young men. He's got no strength to fall back upon. I
consider you are directly responsible for this illness. Why do you let
him go out at night this time of year? Why do you let him over-exert
himself? I suppose,” said the doctor, who had brought Tussie into the
world and was as brutal as he was clever, besides being at that moment
extremely angry, “I suppose you want to lose him, eh?”
How could she explain to him what she knew to be true, that the one
person responsible for Tussie's illness was Priscilla? She therefore
only stared, wide-eyed and speechless; and indeed her heart was very
About three o'clock that afternoon Priscilla saw quite clearly what
she had dimly perceived in the morning, that if there was to be
domestic peace in Creeper Cottage she must bestir herself. She did not
like bestirring herself; at least, not in such directions. She would go
out and help the poor, talk to them, cheer them, nurse their babies
even and stir their porridge, but she had not up to this point realized
her own needs, and how urgent they could be and how importunate. It was
hunger that cleared her vision. The first time she was hungry she had
been amused. Now when it happened again she was both surprised and
indignant. “Can one's wretched body never keep quiet?” she
thought impatiently, when the first twinges dragged her relentlessly
out of her dejected dreaming by the fire. She remembered the cold
tremblings of the night before, and felt that that state would
certainly be reached again quite soon if she did not stop it at once.
She rang for Annalise. “Tell the cook I will have some luncheon after
all,” she said.
“The cook is gone,” said Annalise, whose eyes were more aggressively
swollen than they had yet been.
“Gone away. Gone for ever.”
“But why?” asked Priscilla, really dismayed.
“The Herr Geheimrath insulted her. I heard him doing it. No woman of
decency can permit such a tone. She at once left. There has been no
dinner to-day. There will be, I greatly fear, n—o—o—supp—pper.” And
Annalise gave a loud sob and covered her face with her apron.
Then Priscilla saw that if life was to roll along at all it was her
shoulder that would have to be put to the wheel. Fritzing's shoulder
was evidently not a popular one among the lower classes. The vision of
her own doing anything with wheels was sufficiently amazing, but she
did not stop to gaze upon it. “Annalise,” she said, getting up quickly
and giving herself a little shake, “fetch me my hat and coat. I'm going
Annalise let her apron drop far enough to enable her to point to the
deluge going on out of doors. “Not in this weather?” she faltered,
images of garments soaked in mud and needing much drying and brushing
“Get me the things,” said Priscilla.
“Your Grand Ducal Highness will be wet through.”
“Get me the things. And don't cry quite so much. Crying really is
the most shocking waste of time.”
Annalise withdrew, and Priscilla went round to Fritzing. It was the
first time she had been round to him. He was sitting at his table, his
head in his hands, staring at the furnisher's bill, and he started to
see her coming in unexpectedly through the kitchen, and shut the bill
hastily in a drawer.
“Fritzi, have you had anything to eat to-day?”
“Certainly. I had an excellent breakfast.”
“I have not yet felt the need.”
“You know the cook Lady Shuttleworth sent has gone again?”
“What, that woman who burst in upon me was Lady Shuttleworth's
“Yes. And you frightened her so she ran home.”
“Ma'am, she overstepped the limits of my patience.”
“Dear Fritzi, I often wonder where exactly the limits of your
patience are. With me they have withdrawn into infinite space—I've
never been able to reach them. But every one else seems to have a
knack—well, somebody must cook. You tell me Annalise won't. Perhaps
she really can't. Anyhow I cannot mention it to her, because it would
be too horrible to have her flatly refusing to do something I told her
to do and yet not be able to send her away. But somebody must cook, and
I'm going out to get the somebody. Hush”—she put up her hand as he
opened his mouth to speak—“I know it's raining. I know I'll get wet.
Don't let us waste time protesting. I'm going.”
Fritzing was conscience-stricken. “Ma'am,” he said, “you must
forgive me for unwittingly bringing this bother upon you. Had I had
time for reflection I would not have been so sharp. But the woman burst
upon me. I knew not who she was. Sooner than offend her I would have
cut out my tongue, could I have foreseen you would yourself go in
search in the rain of a substitute. Permit me to seek another.”
“No, no—you have no luck with cooks,” said Priscilla smiling. “I'm
going. Why I feel more cheerful already—just getting out of that chair
makes me feel better.”
“Were you not cheerful before?” inquired Fritzing anxiously.
“Not very,” admitted Priscilla. “But then neither were you. Don't
suppose I didn't see you with your head in your hands when I came in.
Cheerful people never seize their heads in that way. Now Fritzi I know
what's worrying you—it's that absurd affair last night. I've left off
thinking about it. I'm going to be very happy again, and so must you
be. We won't let one mad young man turn all our beautiful life sour,
He bent down and kissed her hand. “Permit me to accompany you at
least,” he begged. “I cannot endure—”
But she shook her head; and as she presently walked through the rain
holding Fritzing's umbrella,—none had been bought to replace hers,
broken on the journey—getting muddier and more draggled every minute,
she felt that now indeed she had got down to elementary conditions,
climbed right down out of the clouds to the place where life lies
unvarnished and uncomfortable, where Necessity spends her time forcing
you to do all the things you don't like, where the whole world seems
hungry and muddy and wet. It was an extraordinary experience for her,
this slopping through the mud with soaking shoes, no prospect of a
meal, and a heart that insisted on sinking in spite of her attempts to
persuade herself that the situation was amusing. It did not amuse her.
It might have amused somebody else,—the Grand Duke, for instance, if
he could have watched her now (from, say, a Gothic window, himself dry
and fed and taken care of), being punished so naturally and inevitably
by the weapons Providence never allows to rust, those weapons that save
parents and guardians so much personal exertion if only they will let
things take their course, those sharp, swift consequences that attend
the actions of the impetuous. I might, indeed, if this were a sermon
and there were a congregation unable to get away, expatiate on the
habit these weapons have of smiting with equal fury the just and the
unjust; how you only need to be a little foolish, quite a little
foolish, under conditions that seem to force it upon you, and down they
come, sure and relentless, and you are smitten with a thoroughness that
leaves you lame for years; how motives are nothing, circumstances are
nothing; how the motives may have been aflame with goodness, the
circumstances such that any other course was impossible; how all these
things don't matter in the least,—you are and shall be smitten. But
this is not a sermon. I have no congregation. And why should I preach
to a reader who meanwhile has skipped?
It comforted Priscilla to find that almost the whole village wanted
to come and cook for her, or as the women put it “do” for her. Their
cooking powers were strictly limited, and they proposed to make up for
this by doing for her very completely in other ways; they would scrub,
sweep, clean windows, wash,—anything and everything they would do.
Would they also sew buttons on her uncle's clothes? Priscilla asked
anxiously. And they were ready to sew buttons all over Fritzing if
buttons would make him happy. This eagerness was very gratifying, but
it was embarrassing as well. The extremely aged and the extremely young
were the only ones that refrained from offering their services. Some of
the girls were excluded as too weedy; some of the mothers because their
babies were too new; some of the wives because their husbands were too
exacting; but when Priscilla counted up the names she had written down
she found there were twenty-five. For a moment she was staggered. Then
she rose to the occasion and got out of the difficulty with what she
thought great skill, arranging, as it was impossible to disappoint
twenty-four of these, that they should take it in turn, each coming for
one day until all had had a day and then beginning again with the first
one. It seemed a brilliant plan. Life at Creeper Cottage promised to be
very varied. She gathered them together in the village shop to talk it
over. She asked them if they thought ten shillings a day and food would
be enough. She asked it hesitatingly, afraid lest she were making them
an impossibly frugal offer. She was relieved at the cry of assent; but
it was followed after a moment by murmurs from the married women, when
they had had time to reflect, that it was unfair to pay the raw young
ones at the same rate as themselves. Priscilla however turned a deaf
ear to their murmurings. “The girls may not,” she said, raising her
hand to impose silence, “be able to get through as much as you do in a
day, but they'll be just as tired when evening comes. Certainly I shall
give them the same wages.” She made them draw lots as to who should
begin, and took the winner home with her then and there; she too,
though the day was far spent, was to have her ten shillings. “What,
have you forgotten your New Testaments?” Priscilla cried, when more
murmurs greeted this announcement. “Don't you remember the people who
came at the eleventh hour to labour in the vineyard and got just the
same as the others? Why should I try to improve on parables?” And there
was something about Priscilla, an air, an authority, that twisted the
women of Symford into any shape of agreement she chose. The twenty-four
went their several ways. The twenty-fifth ran home to put on a clean
apron, and got back to the shop in time to carry the eggs and butter
and bread Priscilla had bought. “I forgot to bring any money,” said
Priscilla when the postmistress—it was she who kept the village
shop—told her how much it came to. “Does it matter?”
“Oh don't mention it, Miss Neumann-Schultz,” was the pleasant answer
of that genteel and trustful lady; and she suggested that Priscilla
should take with her a well-recommended leg of mutton she had that day
for sale as well. Priscilla shuddered at the sight of it and determined
never to eat legs of mutton again. The bacon, too, piled up on the
counter, revolted her. The only things that looked as decent raw as
when they were cooked were eggs; and on eggs she decided she and
Fritzing would in future live. She broke off a piece of the crust of
the bread Mrs. Vickerton was wrapping up and ate it, putting great
pressure on herself to do it carelessly, with a becoming indifference.
“It's good bread,” said Mrs. Vickerton, doing up her parcel.
“Where in the world do you get it from?” asked Priscilla
enthusiastically. “The man must be a genius.”
“The carrier brings it every day,” said Mrs. Vickerton, pleased and
touched by such appreciation. “It's a Minehead baker's.”
“He ought to be given an order, if ever man ought.”
“An order? For you regular, Miss Neumann-Schultz?”
“No, no,—the sort you pin on your breast,” said Priscilla.
“Ho,” smiled Mrs. Vickerton vaguely, who did not follow; she was so
genteel that she could never have enough of aspirates. And Priscilla,
giving the parcel to her breathless new help, hurried back to Creeper
Now this help, or char-girl—you could not call her a charwoman she
was manifestly still so very young—was that Emma who had been obliged
to tell the vicar's wife about Priscilla's children's treat and who did
not punctually return books. I will not go so far as to say that not to
return books punctually is sinful, though deep down in my soul I think
it is, but anyhow it is a symptom of moral slackness. Emma was quite
good so long as she was left alone. She could walk quite straight so
long as there were no stones in the way and nobody to pull her aside.
If there were stones, she instantly stumbled; if somebody pulled, she
instantly went. She was weak, amiable, well-intentioned. She had a
widowed father who was unpleasant and who sometimes beat her on
Saturday nights, and on Sunday mornings sometimes, if the fumes of the
Cock and Hens still hung about him, threw things at her before she went
to church. A widowed father in Emma's class is an ill being to live
with. The vicar did his best to comfort her. Mrs. Morrison talked of
the commandments and of honouring one's father and mother and of how
the less there was to honour the greater the glory of doing it; and
Emma was so amiable that she actually did manage to honour him six days
out of the seven. At the same time she could not help thinking it would
be nice to go away to a place where he wasn't. They were extremely
poor; almost the poorest family in the village, and the vision of
possessing ten shillings of her very own was a dizzy one. She had a
sweetheart, and she had sent him word by a younger sister of the good
fortune that had befallen her and begged him to come up to Creeper
Cottage that evening and help her carry the precious wages safely home;
and at nine o'clock when her work was done she presented herself all
blushes and smiles before Priscilla and shyly asked her for them.
Priscilla was alone in her parlour reading. She referred her, as her
habit was, to Fritzing; but Fritzing had gone out for a little air, the
rain having cleared off, and when the girl told her so Priscilla bade
her come round in the morning and fetch the money.
Emma's face fell so woefully at this—was not her John at that
moment all expectant round the corner?—that Priscilla smiled and got
up to see if she could find some money herself. In the first drawer she
opened in Fritzing's sitting-room was a pocket-book, and in this
pocket-book Fritzing's last five-pound note. There was nothing else
except the furnisher's bill. She pushed that on one side without
looking at it; what did bills matter? Bills never yet had mattered to
Priscilla. She pushed it on one side and searched for silver, but found
none. “Perhaps you can change this?” she said, holding out the note.
“The shop's shut now, miss,” said Laura, gazing with round eyes at
the mighty sum.
“Well then take it, and bring me the change in the morning.”
Emma took it with trembling fingers—she had not in her life touched
so much money—and ran out into the darkness to where her John was
waiting. Symford never saw either of them again. Priscilla never saw
her change. Emma went to perdition. Priscilla went back to her chair by
the fire. She was under the distinct and comfortable impression that
she had been the means of making the girl happy. “How easy it is,
making people happy,” thought Priscilla placidly, the sweetest smile on
her charming mouth.
Bad luck, it will be seen, dogged the footsteps of Priscilla. Never
indeed for a single hour after she entered Creeper Cottage did the
gloomy lady cease from her attentions. The place was pervaded by her
thick and evil atmosphere. Fritzing could not go out for an airing
without something of far-reaching consequence happening while he was
away. It was of course Bad Luck that made the one girl in Symford who
was easily swayed by passing winds of temptation draw the lot that put
the five-pound note into her hands; if she had come to the cottage just
one day later, or if the rain had gone on just half an hour longer and
kept Fritzing indoors, she would, I have no doubt whatever, be still in
Symford practising every feeble virtue either on her father or on her
John, by this time probably her very own John. As it was she was a
thief, a lost soul, a banished face for ever from the ways of grace.
Thus are we all the sport of circumstance. Thus was all Symford the
sport of Priscilla. Fritzing knew nothing of his loss. He had not told
Priscilla a word of his money difficulties, his idea being to keep
every cloud from her life as long and as completely as possible.
Besides, how idle to talk of these things to some one who could in no
way help him with counsel or suggestions. He had put the money in his
drawer, and the thought that it was still unchanged and safe comforted
him a little in the watches of the sleepless nights.
Nothing particular happened on the Thursday morning, except that the
second of the twenty-five kept on breaking things, and Priscilla who
was helping Fritzing arrange the books he had ordered from London
remarked at the fifth terrific smash, a smash so terrific as to cause
Creeper Cottage to tremble all over, that more crockery had better be
“Yes,” said Fritzing, glancing swiftly at her with almost a guilty
He felt very keenly his want of resourcefulness in this matter of
getting the money over from Germany, but he clung to the hope that a
few more wakeful nights would clear his brain and show him the way; and
meanwhile there was always the five-pound note in the drawer.
“And Fritzi, I shall have to get some clothes soon,” Priscilla went
on, dusting the books as he handed them to her.
“Clothes, ma'am?” repeated Fritzing, straightening himself to stare
“Those things you bought for me in Gerstein—they're delicious,
they're curiosities, but they're not clothes. I mean always to keep
them. I'll have them put in a glass case, and they shall always be near
me when we're happy again.”
“Happy again, ma'am?”
“Settled again, I mean,” quickly amended Priscilla.
She dusted in silence for a little, and began to put the books she
had dusted in the shelves. “I'd better write to Paris,” she said
Fritzing jumped. “Paris, ma'am?”
“They've got my measurements. This dress can't stand much more. It's
the one I've worn all the time. The soaking it got yesterday was very
bad for it. You don't see such things, but if you did you'd probably
get a tremendous shock.”
“Ma'am, if you write to Paris you must give your own name, which of
course is impossible. They will send nothing to an unknown customer in
England called Neumann-Schultz.”
“Oh but we'd send the money with the order. That's quite easy, isn't
“Perfectly easy,” said Fritzing in an oddly exasperated voice; at
once adding, still more snappily, “Might I request your Grand Ducal
Highness to have the goodness not to put my AEschylus—a most valuable
edition—head downwards on the shelf? It is a manner of treating books
often to be observed in housemaids and similar ignorants. But you,
ma'am, have been trained by me I trust in other and more reverent ways
of handling what is left to us of the mighty spirits of the past.”
“I'm sorry,” said Priscilla, hastily turning the AEschylus right
side up again; and by launching forth into a long and extremely bitter
dissertation on the various ways persons of no intellectual conscience
have of ill-treating books, he got rid of some of his agitation and
fixed her attention for the time on questions less fraught with
complications than clothes from Paris.
About half-past two they were still sitting over the eggs and bread
and butter that Priscilla ordered three times a day and that Fritzing
ate with unquestioning obedience, when the Shuttleworth victoria
stopped in front of the cottage and Lady Shuttleworth got out.
Fritzing, polite man, hastened to meet her, pushing aside the footman
and offering his arm. She looked at him vaguely, and asked if his niece
were at home.
“Certainly,” said Fritzing, leading her into Priscilla's parlour.
“Shall I inquire if she will receive you?”
“Do,” said Lady Shuttleworth, taking no apparent notice of the odd
wording of this question. “Tussie isn't well,” she said the moment
Priscilla appeared, fixing her eyes on her face but looking as though
she hardly saw her, as though she saw past her, through her, to
something beyond, while she said a lesson learned by rote.
“Isn't he? Oh I'm sorry,” said Priscilla.
“He caught cold last Sunday at your treat. He oughtn't to have run
those races with the boys. He can't—stand—much.”
Priscilla looked at her questioningly. The old lady's face was quite
set and calm, but there had been a queer catch in her voice at the last
“Why does he do such things, then?” asked Priscilla, feeling vaguely
“Ah yes, my dear—why? That is a question for you to answer, is it
“On Tuesday night,” continued Lady Shuttleworth, “he was ill when he
left home to come here. He would come. It was a terrible night for a
delicate boy to go out. And he didn't stay here, I understand. He went
out to buy something after closing time, and stood a long while trying
to wake the people up.”
“Yes,” said Priscilla, feeling guilty, “I—that was my fault. He
went for me.”
“Yes my dear. Since then he has been ill. I've come to ask you if
you'll drive back with me and see if—if you cannot persuade him that
you are happy. He seems to be much—troubled.”
“He seems to be afraid you are not happy. You know,” she added with
a little quavering smile, “Tussie is very kind. He is very unselfish.
He takes everybody's burdens on his shoulders. He seems to be quite
haunted by the idea that your life here is unendurably uncomfortable,
and it worries him dreadfully that he can't get to you to set things
straight. I think if he were to see you, and you were very cheerful,
and—and smiled, my dear, it might help to get him over this.”
“Get him over this?” echoed Priscilla. “Is he so ill?”
Lady Shuttleworth looked at her and said nothing.
“Of course I'll come,” said Priscilla, hastily ringing the bell.
“But you must not look unhappy,” said Lady Shuttleworth, laying her
hand on the girl's arm, “that would make matters ten times worse. You
must promise to be as gay as possible.”
“Yes, yes—I'll be gay,” promised Priscilla, while her heart became
as lead within her at the thought that she was the cause of poor
Tussie's sufferings. But was she really, she asked herself during the
drive? What had she done but accept help eagerly offered? Surely it was
very innocent to do that? It was what she had been doing all her life,
and people had been delighted when she let them be kind to her, and
certainly had not got ill immediately afterwards. Were you never to let
anybody do anything for you lest while they were doing it they should
get wet feet and things, and then their colds would be upon your head?
She was very sorry Tussie should be ill, dreadfully sorry. He was so
kind and good that it was impossible not to like him. She did like him.
She liked him quite as well as most young men and much better than
many. “I'm afraid you are very unhappy,” she said suddenly to Lady
Shuttleworth, struck by the look on her face as she leaned back,
silent, in her corner.
“I do feel rather at my wits' end,” said Lady Shuttleworth. “For
instance, I'm wondering whether what I'm doing now isn't a great
“What you are doing now?”
“Taking you to see Tussie.”
“Oh but I promise to be cheerful. I'll tell him how comfortable we
are. He'll see I look well taken care of.”
“But for all that I'm afraid he may—he may—”
“Why, we're going to be tremendously taken care of. Even he will see
that. Only think—I've engaged twenty-five cooks.”
“Twenty-five cooks?” echoed Lady Shuttleworth, staring in spite of
her sorrows. “But isn't my kitchenmaid—?”
“Oh she left us almost at once. She couldn't stand my uncle. He is
rather difficult to stand at first. You have to know him quite a long
while before you can begin to like him. And I don't think kitchenmaids
ever would begin.”
“But my dear, twenty-five cooks?”
And Priscilla explained how and why she had come by them; and though
Lady Shuttleworth, remembering the order till now prevailing in the
village and the lowness of the wages, could not help thinking that here
was a girl more potent for mischief than any girl she had ever met, yet
a feeble gleam of amusement did, as she listened, slant across the inky
blackness of her soul.
Tussie was sitting up in bed with a great many pillows behind him,
finding immense difficulty in breathing, when his mother, her bonnet
off and every trace of having been out removed, came in and said Miss
Neumann-Schultz was downstairs.
“Downstairs? Here? In this house?” gasped Tussie, his eyes round
with wonder and joy.
“Yes. She—called. Would you like her to come up and see you?”
Lady Shuttleworth hurried out. How could she bear this, she thought,
stumbling a little as though she did not see very well. She went
downstairs with the sound of that Oh mother throbbing in her ears.
Tussie's temperature, high already, went up by leaps during the few
minutes of waiting. He gave feverish directions to the nurse about a
comfortable chair being put exactly in the right place, about his
pillows being smoothed, his medicine bottles hidden, and was very
anxious that the flannel garment he was made to wear when ill, a
garment his mother called a nightingale—not after the bird but the
lady—and that was the bluest flannel garment ever seen, should be
arranged neatly over his narrow chest.
The nurse looked disapproving. She did not like her patients to be
happy. Perhaps she was right. It is always better, I believe, to be
cautious and careful, to husband your strength, to be deadly prudent
and deadly dull. As you would poison, so should you avoid doing what
the poet calls living too much in your large hours. The truly prudent
never have large hours; nor should you, if you want to be comfortable.
And you get your reward, I am told, in living longer; in having, that
is, a few more of those years that cluster round the end, during which
you are fed and carried and washed by persons who generally grumble.
Who wants to be a flame, doomed to be blown out by the same gust of
wind that has first fanned it to its very brightest? If you are not a
flame you cannot, of course, be blown out. Gusts no longer shake you.
Tempests pass you by untouched. And if besides you have the additional
advantage of being extremely smug, extremely thick-skinned, you shall
go on living till ninety, and not during the whole of that time be
stirred by so much as a single draught.
Priscilla came up determined to be so cheerful that she began to
smile almost before she got to the door. “I've come to tell you how
splendidly we're getting on at the cottage,” she said taking Tussie's
lean hot hand, the shell of her smile remaining but the heart and
substance gone out of it, he looked so pitiful and strange.
“Really? Really?” choked Tussie, putting the other lean hot hand
over hers and burning all the coolness out of it.
The nurse looked still more disapproving. She had not heard Sir
Augustus had a fiancee, and even if he had this was no time for
philandering. She too had noticed the voice in which he had said Oh
mother, and she saw by his eyes that his temperature had gone up. Who
was this shabby young lady? She felt sure that no one so shabby could
be his fiancee, and she could only conclude that Lady
Shuttleworth must be mad.
“Nurse, I'm going to stay here a little,” said Lady Shuttleworth.
“I'll call you when I want you.”
“I think, madam, Sir Augustus ought not—” began the nurse.
“No, no, he shall not. Go and have forty winks, nurse.”
And the nurse had to go; people generally did when Lady Shuttleworth
“Sit down—no don't—stay a moment like this,” said Tussie, his
breath coming in little jerks,—“unless you are tired? Did you walk?”
“I'm afraid you are very ill,” said Priscilla, leaving her hand in
his and looking down at him with a face that all her efforts could not
induce to smile.
“Oh I'll be all right soon. How good of you to come. You've not been
“No, no,” said Priscilla, stroking his hands with her free hand and
giving them soothing pats as one would to a sick child.
“Really not? I've thought of that ever since. I've never got your
face that night out of my head. What had happened? While I was
away—what had happened?”
“Nothing—nothing had happened,” said Priscilla hastily. “I was
tired. I had a mood. I get them, you know. I get angry easily. Then I
like to be alone till I'm sorry.”
“But what had made you angry? Had I—?”
“No, never. You have never been anything but good and kind. You've
been our protecting spirit since we came here.”
Tussie laughed shrilly, and immediately was seized by a coughing
fit. Lady Shuttleworth stood at the foot of the bed watching him with a
face from which happiness seemed to have fled for ever. Priscilla grew
more and more wretched, caught, obliged to stand there, distractedly
stroking his hands in her utter inability to think of anything else to
“A nice protecting spirit,” gasped Tussie derisively, when he could
speak. “Look at me here, tied down to this bed for heaven knows how
long, and not able to do a thing for you.”
“But there's nothing now to do. We're quite comfortable. We are
really. Do, do believe it.”
“Are you only comfortable, or are you happy as well?”
“Oh, we're very happy,” said Priscilla with all the emphasis
she could get into her voice; and again she tried, quite
unsuccessfully, to wrench her mouth into a smile.
“Then, if you're happy, why do you look so miserable?”
He was gazing up into her face with eyes whose piercing brightness
would have frightened the nurse. There was no shyness now about Tussie.
There never is about persons whose temperature is 102.
“Miserable?” repeated Priscilla. She tried to smile; looked
helplessly at Lady Shuttleworth; looked down again at Tussie; and
stammering “Because you are so ill and it's all my fault,” to her
horror, to her boundless indignation at herself, two tears, big and not
to be hidden, rolled down her face and dropped on to Tussie's and her
Tussie struggled to sit up straight. “Look, mother, look—” he
cried, gasping, “my beautiful one—my dear and lovely one—my
darling—she's crying—I've made her cry—now never tell me I'm not a
brute again—see, see what I've done!”
“Oh”—murmured Priscilla, in great distress and amazement. Was the
poor dear delirious? And she tried to get her hands away.
But Tussie would not let them go. He held them in a clutch that
seemed like hot iron in both his, and dragging himself nearer to them
covered them with wild kisses.
Lady Shuttleworth was appalled. “Tussie,” she said in a very even
voice, “you must let Miss Neumann-Schultz go now. You must be quiet
again now. Let her go, dear. Perhaps she'll—come again.”
“Oh mother, leave me alone,” cried Tussie, lying right across his
pillows, his face on Priscilla's hands. “What do you know of these
things? This is my darling—this is my wife—dream of my spirit—star
of my soul—”
“Never in this world!” cried Lady Shuttleworth, coming round to the
head of the bed as quickly as her shaking limbs would take her.
“Yes, yes, come here if you like, mother—come close—listen while I
tell her how I love her. I don't care who hears. Why should I? If I
weren't ill I'd care. I'd be tongue-tied—I'd have gone on being
tongue-tied for ever. Oh I bless being ill, I bless being ill—I can
say anything, anything—”
“Tussie, don't say it,” entreated his mother. “The less you say now
the more grateful you'll be later on. Let her go.”
“Listen to her!” cried Tussie, interrupting his kissing of her hands
to look up at Priscilla and smile with a sort of pitying wonder, “Let
you go? Does one let one's life go? One's hope of salvation go? One's
little precious minute of perfect happiness go? When I'm well again I
shall be just as dull and stupid as ever, just such a shy fool, not
able to speak—”
“But it's a gracious state”—stammered poor Priscilla.
“Loving you? Loving you?”
“No, no—not being able to speak. It's always best—”
“It isn't. It's best to be true to one's self, to show honestly what
one feels, as I am now—as I am now—” And he fell to kissing her hands
“Tussie, this isn't being honest,” said Lady Shuttleworth sternly,
“it's being feverish.”
“Listen to her! Was ever a man interrupted like this in the act of
asking a girl to marry him?”
“Tussie!” cried Lady Shuttleworth.
“Ethel, will you marry me? Because I love you so? It's an absurd
reason—the most magnificently absurd reason, but I know there's no
other why you should—”
Priscilla was shaken and stricken as she had never yet been; shaken
with pity, stricken with remorse. She looked down at him in dismay
while he kissed her hands with desperate, overwhelming love. What was
she to do? Lady Shuttleworth tried to draw her away. What was she to
do? If Tussie was overwhelmed with love, she was overwhelmed with pity.
“Ethel—Ethel—” gasped Tussie, kissing her hands, looking up at
her, kissing them again.
Pity overcame her, engulfed her. She bent her head down to his and
laid her cheek an instant on the absurd flannel nightingale, tenderly,
“Ethel—Ethel,” choked Tussie, “will you marry me?”
“Dear Tussie,” she whispered in a shaky whisper, “I promise to
answer you when you are well. Not yet. Not now. Get quite well, and
then if you still want an answer I promise to give you one. Now let me
“Ethel,” implored Tussie, looking at her with a wild entreaty in his
eyes, “will you kiss me? Just once—to help me to live—”
And in her desire to comfort him she stooped down again and did kiss
him, soberly, almost gingerly, on the forehead.
He let her hands slide away from between his and lay back on his
pillows in a state for the moment of absolute beatitude. He shut his
eyes, and did not move while she crept softly out of the room.
“What have you done?” asked Lady Shuttleworth trembling, when they
were safely in the passage and the door shut behind them.
“I can't think—I can't think,” groaned Priscilla, wringing her
hands. And, leaning against the balusters, then and there in that most
public situation she began very bitterly to cry.
Priscilla went home dazed. All her suitors hitherto had approached
her ceremoniously, timidly, through the Grand Duke; and we know they
had not approached very near. But here was one, timid enough in health,
who was positively reckless under circumstances that made most people
meek. He had proposed to her arrayed in a blue flannel nightingale, and
Priscilla felt that headlong self-effacement could go no further. “He
must have a great soul,” she said to herself over and over again during
the drive home, “a great, great soul.” And it seemed of little
use wiping her tears away, so many fresh ones immediately took their
She ached over Tussie and Tussie's mother. What had she done? She
felt she had done wrong; yet how, except by just existing? and she did
feel she couldn't help doing that. Certainly she had made two kind
hearts extremely miserable,—one was miserable now, and the other
didn't yet know how miserable it was going to be. She ought to have
known, she ought to have thought, she ought to have foreseen. She of
all persons in the world ought to have been careful with young men who
believed her to be of their own class. Contrition and woe took
possession of Priscilla's soul. She knew it was true that she could not
help existing, but she knew besides, far back in a remote and seldom
investigated corner of her mind, a corner on which she did not care to
turn the light of careful criticism, that she ought not to be existing
in Symford. It was because she was there, out of her proper sphere, in
a place she had no business to be in at all, that these strange and
heart-wringing scenes with young men occurred. And Fritzing would
notice her red eyes and ask what had happened; and here within two days
was a second story to be told of a young man unintentionally hurried to
his doom. Would Fritzing be angry? She never knew beforehand. Would he,
only remembering she was grand ducal, regard it as an insult and want
to fight Tussie? The vision of poor Tussie, weak, fevered, embedded in
pillows, swathed in flannel, receiving bloodthirsty messages of
defiance from Fritzing upset her into more tears. Fritzing, she felt at
that moment, was a trial. He burdened her with his gigantic efforts to
keep her from burdens. He burdened her with his inflated notions of how
burdenless she ought to be. He was admirable, unselfish, devoted; but
she felt it was possible to be too admirable, too unselfish, too
devoted. In a word Priscilla's mind was in a state of upheaval, and the
only ray of light she saw anywhere—and never was ray more watery—was
that Tussie, for the moment at least, was content. The attitude of his
mother, on the other hand, was distressing and disturbing. There had
been no more My dears and other kind ways. She had watched her crying
on the stairs in stony silence, had gone down with her to the door in
stony silence, and just at the last had said in an unmistakably stony
voice, “All this is very cruel.”
Priscilla was overwhelmed by the difficulties of life. The world was
too much with her, she felt, a very great deal too much. She sent the
Shuttleworth carriage away at the entrance to the village and went in
to sit with Mrs. Jones a little, so that her eyes might lose their
redness before she faced Fritzing; and Mrs. Jones was so glad to see
her, so full of praises of her unselfish goodness in coming in, that
once again Priscilla was forced to be ashamed of herself and of
everything she did.
“I'm not unselfish, and I'm not good,” she said, smoothing the old
Mrs. Jones chuckled faintly. “Pretty dear,” was her only comment.
“I don't think I'm pretty and I know I'm not a dear,” said
Priscilla, quite vexed.
“Ain't you then, deary,” murmured Mrs. Jones soothingly.
Priscilla saw it was no use arguing, and taking up the Bible that
always lay on the table by the bed began to read aloud. She read and
read till both were quieted,—Mrs. Jones into an evidently sweet sleep,
she herself into peace. Then she left off and sat for some time
watching the old lady, the open Bible in-her lap, her soul filled with
calm words and consolations, wondering what it could be like being so
near death. Must it not be beautiful, thought Priscilla, to slip away
so quietly in that sunny room, with no sound to break the peace but the
ticking of the clock that marked off the last minutes, and outside the
occasional footstep of a passer-by still hurrying on life's business?
Wonderful to have done with everything, to have it all behind one,
settled, lived through, endured. The troublous joys as well as the
pains, all finished; the griefs and the stinging happinesses, all alike
lived down; and now evening, and sleep. In the few days Priscilla had
known her the old lady had drawn visibly nearer death. Lying there on
the pillow, so little and light that she hardly pressed it down at all,
she looked very near it indeed. And how kind Death was, rubbing away
the traces of what must have been a sordid existence, set about years
back with the usual coarse pleasures and selfish hopes,—how kind Death
was, letting all there was of spirit shine out so sweetly at the end.
There was an enlarged photograph of Mrs. Jones and her husband over the
fireplace, a photograph taken for their silver wedding; she must have
been about forty-five; how kind Death was, thought Priscilla, looking
from the picture to the figure on the bed. She sighed a little, and got
up. Life lay before her, an endless ladder up each of whose steep rungs
she would have to clamber; in every sort of weather she would have to
clamber, getting more battered, more blistered with every rung.... She
looked wistfully at the figure on the bed, and sighed a little. Then
she crept out, and softly shut the door.
She walked home lost in thought. As she was going up the hill to her
cottage Fritzing suddenly emerged from it and indulged in movements so
strange and complicated that they looked like nothing less than a
desperate dancing on the doorstep. Priscilla walked faster, staring in
astonishment. He made strange gestures, his face was pale, his hair
rubbed up into a kind of infuriated mop.
“Why, what in the world—” began the amazed Priscilla, as soon as
she was near enough.
“Ma'am, I've been robbed,” shouted Fritzing; and all Symford might
have heard if it had happened to be listening.
“Robbed?” repeated Priscilla. “What of?”
“Of all my money, ma'am. Of all I had—of all we had—to live on.”
“Nonsense, Fritzi,” said Priscilla; but she did turn a little paler.
“Don't let us stand out here,” she added; and she got him in and shut
the street door.
He would have left it open and would have shouted his woes through
it as through a trumpet down the street, oblivious of all things under
heaven but his misfortune. He tore open the drawer of the
writing-table. “In this drawer—in the pocket-book you see in this
drawer—in this now empty pocket-book, did I leave it. It was there
yesterday. It was there last night. Now it is gone. Miscreants from
without have visited us. Or perhaps, viler still, miscreants from
within. A miscreant, I do believe, capable of anything—Annalise—”
“Fritzi, I took a five-pound note out of that last night, if that's
what you miss.”
“To pay the girl who worked here her wages. You weren't here. I
couldn't find anything smaller.”
“Gott sei Dank! Gott sei Dank!” cried Fritzing, going back to
German in his joy. “Oh ma'am, if you had told me earlier you would have
spared me great anguish. Have you the change?”
“Didn't she bring it?”
“Bring it, ma'am?”
“I gave it to her last night to change. She was to bring it round
this morning. Didn't she?”
Fritzing stared aghast. Then he disappeared into the kitchen. In a
moment he was back again. “She has not been here,” he said, in a voice
packed once more with torment.
“Perhaps she has forgotten.”
“Ma'am, how came you—”
“Now you're going to scold me.”
“No, no—but how is it possible that you should have trusted—”
“Fritzi, you are going to scold me, and I'm so tired. What
else has been taken? You said all your money—”
He snatched up his hat. “Nothing else, ma'am, nothing else. I will
go and seek the girl.” And he clapped it down over his eyes as he
always did in moments of great mental stress.
“What a fuss,” thought Priscilla wearily. Aloud she said, “The girl
here to-day will tell you where she lives. Of course she has forgotten,
or not been able to change it yet.” And she left him, and went out to
get into her own half of the house.
Yes, Fritzi really was a trial. Why such a fuss and such big words
about five pounds? If it were lost and the girl afraid to come and say
so, it didn't matter much; anyhow nothing like so much as having one's
peace upset. How foolish to be so agitated and talk of having been
robbed of everything. Fritzing's mind, she feared, that large,
enlightened mind on whose breadth and serenity she had gazed admiringly
ever since she could remember gazing at all, was shrinking to
dimensions that would presently exactly match the dimensions of Creeper
Cottage. She went upstairs disheartened and tired, and dropping down
full length on her sofa desired Annalise to wash her face.
“Your Grand Ducal Highness has been weeping,” said Annalise,
whisking the sponge in and out of corners with a skill surprising in
one who had only practised the process during the last ten days.
Priscilla opened her eyes to stare at her in frankest surprise, for
never yet had Annalise dared make a remark unrequested. Annalise, by
beginning to wash them, forced her to shut them again.
Priscilla then opened her mouth to tell her what she thought of her.
Immediately Annalise's swift sponge stopped it up.
“Your Grand Ducal Highness,” said Annalise, washing Priscilla's
mouth with a thoroughness and an amount of water suggestive of its not
having been washed for months, “told me only yesterday that weeping was
a terrible—schreckliche—waste of time. Therefore, since your
Grand Ducal Highness knows that and yet herself weeps, it is easy to
see that there exists a reason for weeping which makes weeping
“Will you—” began Priscilla, only to be stopped instantly by the
“Your Grand Ducal Highness is unhappy. 'Tis not to be wondered at.
Trust a faithful servant, one whose life-blood is at your Grand Ducal
Highness's disposal, and tell her if it is not then true that the Herr
Geheimrath has decoyed you from your home and your Grossherzoglicher
Again the pouncing sponge.
“My heart bleeds—indeed it bleeds—to think of the Herr Papa's
sufferings, his fears, his anxieties. It is a picture on which I cannot
calmly look. Day and night—for at night I lie sleepless on my bed—I
am inquiring of myself what it can be, the spell that the Herr
Geheimrath has cast over your Grand Ducal—”
Again the pouncing sponge; but this time Priscilla caught the girl's
hand, and holding it at arm's length sat up. “Are you mad?” she asked,
looking at Annalise as though she saw her for the first time.
Annalise dropped the sponge and clasped her hands. “Not mad,” she
said, “only very, very devoted.”
“No. Mad. Give me a towel.”
Priscilla was so angry that she did not dare say more. If she had
said a part even of what she wanted to say all would have been over
between herself and Annalise; so she dried her face in silence,
declining to allow it to be touched. “You can go,” she said, glancing
at the door, her face pale with suppressed wrath but also, it must be
confessed, very clean; and when she was alone she dropped once again on
to the sofa and buried her head in the cushion. How dared Annalise? How
dared she? How dared she? Priscilla asked herself over and over again,
wincing, furious. Why had she not thought of this, known that she would
be in the power of any servant they chose to bring? Surely there was no
limit, positively none, to what the girl might do or say? How was she
going to bear her about her, endure the sight and sound of that veiled
impertinence? She buried her head very deep in the cushion, vainly
striving to blot out the world and Annalise in its feathers, but even
there there was no peace, for suddenly a great noise of doors going and
legs striding penetrated through its stuffiness and she heard
Fritzing's voice very loud and near—all sounds in Creeper Cottage were
loud and near—ordering Annalise to ask her Grand Ducal Highness to
“I won't,” thought Priscilla, burying her head deeper. “That poor
Emma has lost the note and he's going to fuss. I won't descend.”
Then came Annalise's tap at her door. Priscilla did not answer.
Annalise tapped again. Priscilla did not answer, but turning her head
face upwards composed herself to an appearance of sleep.
Annalise tapped a third time. “The Herr Geheimrath wishes to speak
to your Grand Ducal Highness,” she called through the door; and after a
pause opened it and peeped in. “Her Grand Ducal Highness sleeps,” she
informed Fritzing down the stairs, her nose at the angle in the air it
always took when she spoke to him.
“Then wake her! Wake her!” cried Fritzing.
“Is it possible something has happened?” thought Annalise joyfully,
her eyes gleaming as she willingly flew back to Priscilla's
door,—anything, anything, she thought, sooner than the life she was
Priscilla heard Fritzing's order and sat up at once, surprised at
such an unprecedented indifference to her comfort. Her heart began to
beat faster; a swift fear that Kunitz was at her heels seized her; she
jumped up and ran out.
Fritzing was standing at the foot of the stairs.
“Come down, ma'am,” he said; “I must speak to you at once.”
“What's the matter?” asked Priscilla, getting down the steep little
stairs as quickly as was possible without tumbling.
“Hateful English tongue,” thought Annalise, to whom the habit the
Princess and Fritzing had got into of talking English together was a
constant annoyance and disappointment.
Fritzing preceded Priscilla into her parlour, and when she was in he
shut the door behind her. Then he leaned his hands on the table to
steady himself and confronted her with a twitching face. Priscilla
looked at him appalled. Was the Grand Duke round the corner? Lingering,
perhaps, among the very tombs just outside her window? “What is it?”
she asked faintly.
“Ma'am, the five pounds has disappeared for ever.”
“Really Fritzi, you are too absurd about that wretched five pounds,”
cried Priscilla, blazing into anger.
“But it was all we had.”
“Ma'am, it was positively our last penny.”
He made her understand. With paper and pencil, with the bills and
his own calculations, he made her understand. His hands shook, but he
went through with it item by item, through everything they had spent
from the moment they left Kunitz. They were in such a corner, so
tightly jammed, that all efforts to hide it and pretend there was no
corner seemed to him folly. He now saw that such efforts always had
been folly, and that he ought to have seen to it that her mind on this
important point was from the first perfectly clear; then nothing would
have happened. “You have had the misfortune, ma'am, to choose a fool
for your protector in this adventure,” he said bitterly, pushing the
papers from him as though he loathed the sight of them.
Priscilla sat dumfoundered. She was looking quite straight for the
first time at certain pitiless aspects of life. For the first time she
was face to face with the sternness, the hardness, the relentlessness
of everything that has to do with money so soon as one has not got any.
It seemed almost incredible to her that she who had given so lavishly
to anybody and everybody, who had been so glad to give, who had thought
of money when she thought of it at all as a thing to be passed on, as a
thing that soiled one unless it was passed on, but that, passed on,
became strangely glorified and powerful for good—it seemed incredible
that she should be in need of it herself, and unable to think of a
single person who would give her some. And what a little she needed:
just to tide them over the next week or two till they had got theirs
from home; yet even that little, the merest nothing compared to what
she had flung about in the village, was as unattainable as though it
had been a fortune. “Can we—can we not borrow?” she said at last.
“Yes ma'am, we can and we must. I will proceed this evening to
Symford Hall and borrow of Augustus.”
“No,” said Priscilla; so suddenly and so energetically that Fritzing
“No, ma'am?” he repeated, astonished. “Why, he is the very person.
In fact he is our only hope. He must and shall help us.”
“No,” repeated Priscilla, still more energetically.
“Pray ma'am,” said Fritzing, shrugging his shoulders, “are these
women's whims—I never comprehended them rightly and doubt if I ever
shall—are they to be allowed to lead us even in dangerous crises? To
lead us to certain shipwreck, ma'am? The alternatives in this case are
three. Permit me to point them out. Either we return to Kunitz—”
“Oh,” shivered Priscilla, shrinking as from a blow.
“Or, after a brief period of starvation and other violent
discomfort, we are cast into gaol for debt—”
“Oh?” shivered Priscilla, in tones of terrified inquiry.
“Or, I borrow of Augustus.”
“No,” said Priscilla, just as energetically as before.
“Augustus is wealthy. Augustus is willing. Ma'am, I would stake my
soul that he is willing.”
“You shall not borrow of him,” said Priscilla. “He—he's too ill.”
“Well then, ma'am,” said Fritzing with a gesture of extreme
exasperation, “since you cannot be allowed to be cast into gaol there
remains but Kunitz. Like the dogs of the Scriptures we will return—”
“Why not borrow of the vicar?” interrupted Priscilla. “Surely he
would be glad to help any one in difficulties?”
“Of the vicar? What, of the father of the young man who insulted
your Grand Ducal Highness and whom I propose to kill in duel my first
leisure moment? Ma'am, there are depths of infamy to which even a
desperate man will not descend.”
Priscilla dug holes in the tablecloth with the point of the pencil.
“I can't conceive,” she said, “why you gave Annalise all that money. So
“Why, ma'am, she refused, unless I did, to prepare your Grand Ducal
“Oh Fritzi!” Priscilla looked up at him, shaking her head and
smiling through all her troubles. Was ever so much love and so much
folly united in one wise old man? Was ever, for that matter, so
expensive a tea?
“I admit I permitted the immediate, the passing, moment to blot out
the future from my clearer vision on that occasion.”
“On that occasion? Oh Fritzi. What about all the other occasions?
When you gave me all I asked for—for the poor people, for my party.
You must have suffered tortures of anxiety. And all by yourself. Oh
Fritzi. It was dear of you—perfectly, wonderfully, dear. But you ought
to have been different with me from the beginning—treated me exactly
as you would have treated a real niece—”
“Ma'am,” cried Fritzing, jumping up, “this is waste of time. Our
case is very urgent. Money must be obtained. You must allow me to judge
in this matter, however ill I have acquitted myself up to now. I shall
start at once for Symford Hall and obtain a loan of Augustus.”
Priscilla pushed back her chair and got up too. “My dear Fritzi,
please leave that unfortunate young man out of the question,” she said,
flushing. “How can you worry a person who is ill in bed with such
“His mother is not ill in bed and will do quite as well. I am
“You are not going. I won't have you ask his mother. I—forbid you
to do anything of the sort. Oh Fritzi,” she added in despair, for he
had picked up the hat and stick he had flung down on coming in and was
evidently not going to take the least notice of her commands—“oh
Fritzi, you can't ask Tussie for money. It would kill him to know we
were in difficulties.”
“Kill him, ma'am? Why should it kill him?” shouted Fritzing,
exasperated by such a picture of softness.
“It wouldn't only kill him—it would be simply too dreadful
besides,” said Priscilla, greatly distressed. “Why, he asked me this
afternoon—wasn't going to tell you, but you force me to—he asked me
this very afternoon to marry him, and the dreadful part is that I'm
afraid he thinks—he hopes—that I'm going to.”
The only inhabitant of Creeper Cottage who slept that night was
Annalise. Priscilla spent it walking up and down her bedroom, and
Fritzing on the other side of the wall spent it walking up and down
his. They could hear each other doing it; it was a melancholy sound.
Once Priscilla was seized with laughter—a not very genial mirth, but
still laughter—and had to fling herself on her bed and bury her face
in the pillows lest Fritzing should hear so blood-curdling a noise. It
was when their steps had fallen steadily together for several turns and
the church clock, just as she was noticing this, had struck three. Not
for this, to tramp up and down their rooms all night, not for this had
they left Kunitz. The thought of all they had dreamed life in Creeper
Cottage was going to be, of all they had never doubted it was going to
be, of peaceful nights passed in wholesome slumber, of days laden with
fruitful works, of evenings with the poets, came into her head and made
this tormented marching suddenly seem intensely droll. She laughed into
her pillow till the tears rolled down her face, and the pains she had
to take to keep all sounds from reaching Fritzing only made her laugh
It was a windy night, and the wind sighed round the cottage and
rattled the casements and rose every now and then to a howl very dreary
to hear. While Priscilla was laughing a great gust shook the house, and
involuntarily she raised her head to listen. It died away, and her head
dropped back on to her arms again, but the laughter was gone. She lay
solemn enough, listening to Fritzing's creakings, and thought of the
past day and of the days to come till her soul grew cold. Surely she
was a sort of poisonous weed, fatal to every one about her? Fritzing,
Tussie, the poor girl Emma—oh, it could not be true about Emma. She
had lost the money, and was trying to gather courage to come and say
so; or she had simply not been able to change it yet. Fritzing had
jumped to the conclusion, because nothing had been heard of her all day
at home, that she had run away with it. Priscilla twisted herself about
uneasily. It was not the loss of the five pounds that made her twist,
bad though that loss was in their utter poverty; it was the thought
that if Emma had really run away she, by her careless folly, had driven
the girl to ruin. And then Tussie. How dreadful that was. At three in
the morning, with the wailing wind rising and falling and the room
black with the inky blackness of a moonless October night, the Tussie
complication seemed to be gigantic, of a quite appalling size,
threatening to choke her, to crush all the spring and youth out of her.
If Tussie got well she was going to break his heart; if Tussie died it
would be her fault. No one but herself was responsible for his illness,
her own selfish, hateful self. Yes, she was a poisonous weed; a
baleful, fatal thing, not fit for great undertakings, not fit for a
noble life, too foolish to depart successfully from the lines laid down
for her by other people; wickedly careless; shamefully shortsighted;
spoiling, ruining, everything she touched. Priscilla writhed. Nobody
likes being forced to recognize that they are poisonous weeds. Even to
be a plain weed is grievous to one's vanity, but to be a weed and
poisonous as well is a very desperate thing to be. She passed a
dreadful night. It was the worst she could remember.
And the evening too—how bad it had been; though contrary to her
expectations Fritzing showed no desire to fight Tussie. He was not so
unreasonable as she had supposed; and besides, he was too completely
beaten down by the ever-increasing weight and number of his
responsibilities to do anything in regard to that unfortunate youth but
be sorry for him. More than once that evening he looked at Priscilla in
silent wonder at the amount of trouble one young woman could give. How
necessary, he thought, and how wise was that plan at which he used in
his ignorance to rail, of setting an elderly female like the Disthal to
control the actions and dog the footsteps of the Priscillas of this
world. He hated the Disthal and all women like her, women with
mountainous bodies and minimal brains—bodies self-indulged into
shapelessness, brains neglected into disappearance; but the nobler and
simpler and the more generous the girl the more did she need some such
mixture of fleshliness and cunning constantly with her. It seemed
absurd, and it seemed all wrong; yet surely it was so. He pondered over
it long in dejected musings, the fighting tendency gone out of him
completely for the time, so dark was his spirit with the shadows of the
They had borrowed the wages—it was a dreadful moment—for that
day's cook from Annalise. For their food they decided to run up a bill
at the store; but every day each fresh cook would have to be paid, and
every day her wages would have to be lent by Annalise. Annalise lent
superbly; with an air as of giving freely, with joy. All she required
was the Princess's signature to a memorandum drawn up by herself by
which she was promised the money back, doubled, within three months.
Priscilla read this, flushed to her hair, signed, and ordered her out
of the room. Annalise, who was beginning to enjoy herself, went
upstairs singing. In the parlour Priscilla broke the pen she had signed
with into quite small pieces and flung them on to the fire,—a useless
demonstration, but then she was a quick-tempered young lady. In the
attic Annalise sat down and wrote a letter breathing lofty sentiments
to the Countess Disthal in Kunitz, telling her she could no longer keep
silence in the face of a royal parent's anxieties and she was willing
to reveal the address of the Princess Priscilla and so staunch the
bleeding of a noble heart if the Grand Duke would forward her or
forward to her parents on her behalf the sum of twenty thousand marks.
Gladly would she render this service, which was at the same time her
duty, for nothing, if she had not the future to consider and an infirm
father. Meanwhile she gave the Symford post-office as an address,
assuring the Countess that it was at least fifty miles from the
Princess's present hiding-place, the address of which would only be
sent on the conditions named. Then, immensely proud of her cleverness,
she trotted down to the post-office, bought stamps, and put the letter
herself in the box.
That evening she sang in the kitchen, she sang in the bath-room, she
sang in the attic and on the stairs to the attic. What she sang,
persistently, over and over again, and loudest outside Fritzing's door,
was a German song about how beautiful it is at evening when the bells
ring one to rest, and the refrain at the end of each verse was
ding-dong twice repeated. Priscilla rang her own bell, unable to endure
it, but Annalise did not consider this to be one of those that are
beautiful and did not answer it till it had been rung three times.
“Do not sing,” said Priscilla, when she appeared.
“Your Grand Ducal Highness objects?”
Priscilla turned red. “I'll give no reasons,” she said icily. “Do
“Yet it is a sign of a light heart. Your Grand Ducal Highness did
not like to see me weep—she should the more like to hear me rejoice.”
“You can go.”
“My heart to-night is light, because I am the means of being of use
to your Grand Ducal Highness, of showing my devotion, of being of
“Do me the service of being quiet.”
Annalise curtseyed and withdrew, and spent the rest of the evening
bursting into spasmodic and immediately interrupted song,—breaking off
after a few bars with a cough of remembrance and apology. When this
happened Fritzing and Priscilla looked at each other with grave and
meditative eyes; they knew how completely they were in her power.
Fritzing wrote that night to the friend in London who had engaged
the rooms for him at Baker's Farm, and asked him to lend him fifty
pounds for a week,—preferably three hundred (this would cover the
furnisher's bill), but if he could lend neither five would do. The
friend, a teacher of German, could as easily have lent the three
hundred as the five, so poor was he, so fit an object for a loan
himself; but long before his letter explaining this in words eloquent
of regret (for he was a loyal friend) reached Fritzing, many things had
happened to that bewildered man to whom so many things had happened
already, and caused him to forget both his friend and his request.
This, then, was how the afternoon and evening of Thursday were
passed; and on Friday morning, quite unstrung by their sleepless night,
Priscilla and Fritzing were proposing to go up together on to the moor,
there to seek width and freshness, be blown upon by moist winds, and
forget for a little the crushing narrowness and perplexities of Creeper
Cottage, when Mrs. Morrison walked in. She opened the door first and
then, when half of her was inside, knocked with her knuckles, which
were the only things to knock with on Priscilla's simple door.
Priscilla was standing by the fire dressed to go out, waiting for
Fritzing, and she stared at this apparition in great and unconcealed
surprise. What business, said Priscilla's look more plainly than any
words, what business had people to walk into other people's cottages in
such a manner? She stood quite still, and scrutinized Mrs. Morrison
with the questioning expression she used to find so effective in Kunitz
days when confronted by a person inclined to forget which, exactly, was
his proper place. But Mrs. Morrison knew nothing of Kunitz, and the
look lost half its potency without its impressive background. Besides,
the lady was not one to notice things so slight as looks; to keep her
in her proper place you would have needed sledge-hammers. She came in
without thinking it necessary to wait to be asked to, nodded something
that might perhaps have represented a greeting and of which Priscilla
took no notice, and her face was the face of somebody who is angry.
“How wearing for the vicar,” thought Priscilla, “to have a wife who
is angry at ten o'clock in the morning.”
“I've come in the interests—” began Mrs. Morrison, whose voice was
quite as angry as her face.
“I'm just going out,” said Priscilla.
“—Of religion and morality.”
“Are they distinct?” asked Priscilla, drawing on her gloves.
“You can imagine that nothing would make me pay you a visit but the
strongest sense of the duty I owe to my position in the parish.”
“Why should I imagine it?”
“Of course I expect impertinence.”
“I'm afraid you've come here to be rude.”
“I shall not be daunted by anything you may say from doing my duty.”
“Will you please do it, then, and get it over?”
“The duties of a clergyman's wife are often very disagreeable.”
“Probably you've got hold of a perfectly wrong idea of what yours
“It is a new experience for me to be told so by a girl of your age.”
“I am not telling you. I only suggest.”
“I was prepared for rudeness.”
“Then why did you come?”
“How long are you going to stay in this parish?”
“You don't expect me to answer that?”
“You've not been in it a fortnight, and you have done more harm than
most people in a lifetime.”
“I'm afraid you exaggerate.”
“You have taught it to drink.”
“I gave a dying old woman what she most longed for.”
“You've taught it to break the Sabbath.”
“I made a great many little children very happy.”
“You have ruined the habits of thrift we have been at such pains to
teach and encourage for twenty-five years.”
“I helped the poor when they asked me to.”
“And now what I want to know is, what has become of the Hancock
“Pray who, exactly, is the Hancock girl?”
“That unfortunate creature who worked here for you on Wednesday.”
Priscilla's face changed. “Emma?” she asked.
“Emma. At this hour the day before yesterday she was as good a girl
as any in the village. She was good, and dutiful, and honest. Now what
is she and where is she?”
“Has she—isn't she in her home?”
“She never went home.”
“Then she did lose the money?”
“Lose it? She has stolen it. Do you not see you have deliberately
made a thief out of an honest girl?”
Priscilla gazed in dismay at the avenging vicar's wife. It was true
then, and she had the fatal gift of spoiling all she touched.
“And worse than that—you have brought a good girl to ruin. He'll
never marry her now.”
“Do you not know the person she was engaged to has gone with her?”
“I don't know anything.”
“They walked from here to Ullerton and went to London. Her father
came round to us yesterday after your uncle had been to him making
inquiries, and it is all as clear as day. Till your uncle told him, he
did not know about the money, and had been too—not well enough that
day to notice Emma's not having come home. Your uncle's visit sobered
him. We telegraphed to the police. They've been traced to London.
That's all. Except,” and she glared at Priscilla with all the wrath of
a prophet whose denunciations have been justified, “except that one
more life is ruined.”
“I'm very sorry—very, very sorry,” said Priscilla, so earnestly, so
abjectly even, that her eyes filled with tears. “I see now how
thoughtless it was of me.”
“It was inexcusably thoughtless.”
“Thoughtless!” cried Mrs. Morrison again.
“If you like, it was criminally thoughtless.”
“Thoughtless!” cried Mrs. Morrison a third time.
“But it wasn't more than thoughtless. I'd give anything to be able
to set it right. I am most truly grieved. But isn't it a little hard to
make me responsible?”
Mrs. Morrison stared at her as one who eyes some strange new
monster. “How amazingly selfish you are,” she said at last, in tones
almost of awe.
“Selfish?” faltered Priscilla, who began to wonder what she was not.
“In the face of such total ruin, such utter shipwreck, to be
thinking of what is hard on you. You! Why, here you are with a safe
skin, free from the bitter anxieties and temptations poor people have
to fight with, with so much time unoccupied that you fill it up with
mischief, with more money than you know what to do with”—Priscilla
pressed her hands together—“sheltered, free from every
care”—Priscilla opened her lips but shut them again—“and there is
that miserable Emma, hopeless, branded, for ever an outcast because of
you,—only because of you, and you think of yourself and talk of its
Priscilla looked at Mrs. Morrison, opened her mouth to say
something, shut it, opened it again, and remarked very lamely that the
heart alone knows its own bitterness.
“Psha,” said Mrs. Morrison, greatly incensed at having the
Scriptures, her own speciality, quoted at her. “I'd like to know what
bitterness yours has known, unless it's the bitterness of a bad
conscience. Now I've come here to-day”—she raised her voice to a note
of warning—“to give you a chance. To make you think, by pointing out
the path you are treading. You are young, and it is my duty to let no
young person go downhill without one warning word. You have brought
much evil on our village—why you, a stranger, should be bent on making
us all unhappy I can't imagine. You hypocritically try to pretend that
what plain people call evil is really good. But your last action,
forcing Emma Hancock to be a thief and worse, even you cannot possibly
defend. You have much on your conscience—far, far more than I should
care to have on mine. How wicked to give all that money to Mrs. Jones.
Don't you see you are tempting people who know she is defenceless to
steal it from her? Perhaps even murder her? I saved her from that—you
did not reckon with me, you see. Take my advice—leave Symford, and go
back to where you came from”—Priscilla started—“and get something to
do that will keep you fully occupied. If you don't, you'll be laying up
a wretched, perhaps a degraded future for yourself. Don't
suppose,”—her voice grew very loud—“don't suppose we are fools here
and are not all of us aware of the way you have tried to lure young men
on”—Priscilla started again—“in the hope, of course, of getting one
of them to marry you. But your intentions have been frustrated luckily,
in the one case by Providence flinging your victim on a bed of sickness
and in the other by your having altogether mistaken the sort of young
fellow you were dealing with.”
Mrs. Morrison paused for breath. This last part of her speech had
been made with an ever accumulating rage. Priscilla stood looking at
her, her eyebrows drawn down very level over her eyes.
“My son is much too steady and conscientious, besides being too much
accustomed to first-rate society, to stoop to anything so vulgar—”
“As myself?” inquired Priscilla.
“As a love-affair with the first stray girl he picks up.”
“Do you mean me?”
“He saw through your intentions, laughed at them, and calmly
returned to his studies at Cambridge.”
“I boxed his ears.”
“I boxed his ears.”
“I boxed his ears. That's why he went. He didn't go calmly. It
wasn't his studies.”
“How dare you box—oh, this is too horrible—and you stand there and
tell me so to my face?”
“I'm afraid I must. The tone of your remarks positively demands it.
Your son's conduct positively demanded that I should box his ears. So I
“Of all the shameless—”
“I'm afraid you're becoming like him—altogether impossible.”
“You first lure him on, and then—oh, it is shameful!”
“Have you finished what you came for?”
“You are the most brazen—”
“Hush. Do be careful. Suppose my uncle were to hear you? If you've
finished won't you go?”
“Go? I shall not go till I have said my say. I shall send the vicar
to you about Robin—such conduct is so—so infamous that I can't—I
“I'm sorry if it has distressed you.”
“Distressed me? You are the most—”
“Really I think we've done, haven't we?” said Priscilla hurriedly,
dreadfully afraid lest Fritzing should come in and hear her being
“To think that you dared—to think that my—my noble boy—”
“He wasn't very noble. Mothers don't ever really know their sons, I
“Shameless girl!” cried Mrs. Morrison, so loud, so completely beside
herself, that Priscilla hastily rang her bell, certain that Fritzing
must hear and would plunge in to her rescue; and of all things she had
learned to dread Fritzing's plunging to her rescue. “Open the door for
this lady,” she said to Annalise, who appeared with a marvellous
promptitude; and as Mrs. Morrison still stood her ground and refused to
see either Annalise or the door Priscilla ended the interview by
walking out herself, with great dignity, into the bathroom.
And now I have come to a part of my story that I would much rather
not write. Always my inclination if left alone is to sit in the sun and
sing of things like crocuses, of nothing less fresh and clean than
crocuses. The engaging sprightliness of crocuses; their dear little
smell, not to be smelled except by the privileged few; their luminous
transparency—I am thinking of the white and the purple; their kind way
of not keeping hearts sick for Spring waiting longer than they can just
bear; how pleasant to sit with a friend in the sun, a friend who like
myself likes to babble of green fields, and talk together about all
things flowery. But Priscilla's story has taken such a hold on me, it
seemed when first I heard it to be so full of lessons, that I feel
bound to set it down from beginning to end for the use and warning of
all persons, princesses and others, who think that by searching, by
going far afield, they will find happiness, and do not see that it is
lying all the while at their feet. They do not see it because it is so
close. It is so close that there is a danger of its being trodden on or
kicked away. And it is shy, and waits to be picked up. Priscilla, we
know, went very far afield in search of hers, and having undertaken to
tell of what befell her I must not now, only because I would rather,
suppress any portion of the story. Besides, it is a portion vital to
In Minehead, then, there lived at this time a murderer. He had not
been found out yet and he was not a murderer by profession, for he was
a bricklayer; but in his heart he was, and that is just as bad. He had
had a varied career into the details of which I do not propose to go,
had come three or four years before to live in the West of England
because it was so far from all the other places he had lived in, had
got work in Minehead, settled there respectably, married, and was a
friend of that carrier who brought the bread and other parcels every
day to the Symford store. At this time he was in money difficulties and
his wife, of whom he was fond, was in an expensive state of health. The
accounts of Priscilla's generosity and wealth had reached Minehead as I
said some time ago, and had got even into the local papers. The carrier
was the chief transmitter of news, for he saw Mrs. Vickerton every day
and she was a woman who loved to talk; but those of the Shuttleworth
servants who were often in Minehead on divers errands ratified and
added to all he said, and embellished the tale besides with what was to
them the most interesting part, the unmistakable signs their Augustus
showed of intending to marry the young woman. This did not interest the
murderer. Sir Augustus and the lady he meant to marry were outside his
sphere altogether; too well protected, too powerful. What he liked to
hear about was the money Priscilla had scattered among the cottagers,
how much each woman had got, whether it had been spent or not, whether
she had a husband, or grown-up children; and best of all he liked to
hear about the money Mrs. Jones had got. All the village, and therefore
Mrs. Vickerton and the carrier, knew of it, knew even the exact spot
beneath the bolster where it was kept, knew it was kept there for
safety from the depredations of the vicar's wife, knew the vicar's wife
had taken away Priscilla's first present. The carrier knew too of Mrs.
Jones's age, her weakness, her nearness to death. He remarked that such
a sum wasn't of much use to an old woman certain to die in a few days,
and that it might just as well not be hers at all for all the spending
it got. The murderer, whose reputation in Minehead was so immaculate
that not a single fly had ever dared blow on it, said kindly that no
doubt just to have it in her possession was cheering and that one
should not grudge the old their little bits of comfort; and he walked
over to Symford that night, and getting there about one o'clock
murdered Mrs. Jones. I will not enter into details. I believe it was
quite simple. He was back by six next morning with the five pounds in
his pocket, and his wife that day had meat for dinner.
That is all I shall say about the murderer, except that he was never
found out; and nothing shall induce me to dwell upon the murder. But
what about the effect it had on Priscilla? Well, it absolutely crushed
The day before, after Mrs. Morrison's visit, she had been wretched
enough, spending most of it walking very fast, as driven spirits do,
with Fritzing for miles across the bleak and blowy moor, by turns
contrite and rebellious, one moment ready to admit she was a miserable
sinner, the next indignantly repudiating Mrs. Morrison's and her own
conscience's accusations, her soul much beaten and bent by winds of
misgiving but still on its feet, still defiant, still sheltering itself
when it could behind plain common sense which whispered at intervals
that all that had happened was only bad luck. They walked miles that
day; often in silence, sometimes in gusty talk—talk gusty with the
swift changes of Priscilla's mood scudding across the leaden background
of Fritzing's steadier despair—and they got back tired, hungry, their
clothes splashed with mud, their minds no nearer light than when they
started. She had, I say, been wretched enough; but what was this
wretchedness to that which followed? In her ignorance she thought it
the worst day she had ever had, the most tormented; and when she went
to bed she sought comfort in its very badness by telling herself that
it was over and could never come again. It could not. But Time is
prolific of surprises; and on Saturday morning Symford woke with a
shudder to the murder of Mrs. Jones.
Now such a thing as this had not happened in that part of
Somersetshire within the memory of living man, and though Symford
shuddered it was also proud and pleased. The mixed feeling of horror,
pleasure, and pride was a thrilling one. It felt itself at once raised
to a position of lurid conspicuousness in the county, its name would be
in every mouth, the papers, perhaps even the London papers, would talk
about it. At all times, in spite of the care and guidance it had had
from the clergy and gentry, the account of a murder gave Symford more
pure pleasure than any other form of entertainment; and now here was
one, not at second-hand, not to be viewed through the cooling medium of
print and pictures, but in its midst, before its eyes, at its very
doors. Mrs. Jones went up strangely in its estimation. The general
feeling was that it was an honour to have known her. Nobody worked that
day. The school was deserted. Dinners were not cooked. Babies shrieked
uncomforted. All Symford was gathered in groups outside Mrs. Jones's
cottage, and as the day wore on and the news spread, visitors from the
neighbouring villages, from Minehead and from Ullerton, arrived with
sandwiches and swelled them.
Priscilla saw these groups from her windows. The fatal cottage was
at the foot of the hill in full view both of her bedroom and her
parlour. Only by sitting in the bathroom would she be able to get away
from it. When the news was brought her, breathlessly, pallidly, by
Annalise in the early morning with her hot water, she refused to
believe it. Annalise knew no English and must have got hold of a
horrible wrong tale. The old lady was dead no doubt, had died quietly
in her sleep as had been expected, but what folly was all this about a
murder? Yet she sat up in bed and felt rather cold as she looked at
Annalise, for Annalise was very pallid. And then at last she had to
believe it. Annalise had had it told her from beginning to end, with
the help of signs, by the charwoman. She had learned more English in
those few crimson minutes than in the whole of the time she had been in
England. The charwoman had begun her demonstration by slowly drawing
her finger across her throat from one ear to the other, and Annalise
repeated the action for Priscilla's clearer comprehension. How
Priscilla got up that day and dressed she never knew. Once at least
during the process she stumbled back on to the bed and lay with her
face on her arms, shaken by a most desperate weeping. That fatal
charity; those fatal five-pound notes. Annalise, panic-stricken lest
she who possessed so many should be the next victim, poured out the
tale of the missing money, of the plain motive for the murder, with a
convincingness, a naked truth, that stabbed Priscilla to the heart with
each clinching word.
“They say the old woman must have cried out—must have been
awakened, or the man would have taken the money without—”
“Oh don't—oh leave me—” moaned Priscilla.
She did not go downstairs that day. Every time Annalise tried to
come in she sent her away. When she was talked to of food, she felt
sick. Once she began to pace about the room, but the sight of those
eager black knots of people down the street, of policemen and other
important and official-looking persons going in and out of the cottage,
drove her back to her bed and its sheltering, world-deadening pillow.
Indeed the waters of life had gone over her head and swallowed her up
in hopeless blackness. She acknowledged herself wrong. She gave in
utterly. Every word Mrs. Morrison—a dreadful woman, yet dreadful as
she was still a thousand times better than herself—every word she had
said, every one of those bitter words at which she had been so
indignant the morning before, was true, was justified. That day
Priscilla tore the last shreds of self-satisfaction from her soul and
sat staring at it with horrified eyes as at a thing wholly repulsive,
dangerous, blighting. What was to become of her, and of poor Fritzing,
dragged down by her to an equal misery? About one o'clock she heard
Mrs. Morrison's voice below, in altercation apparently with him. At
this time she was crying again; bitter, burning tears; those scorching
tears that follow in the wake of destroyed illusions, that drop, hot
and withering, on to the fragments of what was once the guiding glory
of an ideal. She was brought so low, was so humbled, so uncertain of
herself, that she felt it would bring her peace if she might go down to
Mrs. Morrison and acknowledge all her vileness; tell her how wrong she
had been, ask her forgiveness for her rudeness, beg her for pity, for
help, for counsel. She needed some kind older woman,—oh she needed
some kind older woman to hold out cool hands of wisdom and show her the
way. But then she would have to make a complete confession of
everything she had done, and how would Mrs. Morrison or any other
decent woman look upon her flight from her father's home? Would they
not turn away shuddering from what she now saw was a hideous
selfishness and ingratitude? The altercation going on below rose
rapidly in heat. Just at the end it grew so heated that even through
the pillow Priscilla could hear its flaming conclusion.
“Man, I tell you your niece is to all intents and purposes a
murderess, a double murderess,” cried Mrs. Morrison. “Not only has she
the woman's murder to answer for, but the ruined soul of the murderer
Upon which there was a loud shout of “Hence! Hence!” and a great
slamming of the street door.
For some time after this Priscilla heard fevered walking about in
her parlour and sounds as of many and muffled imprecations; then, when
they had grown a little more intermittent, careful footsteps came up
her stairs, footsteps so careful, so determined not to disturb, that
the stairs cracked and wheezed more than they had ever yet been known
to do. Arrived at the top they paused outside her door, and Priscilla,
checking her sobs, could hear how Fritzing stood there wrestling with
his body's determination to breathe too loud. He stood there listening
for what seemed to her an eternity. She almost screamed at last as the
minutes passed and she knew he was still there, motionless, listening.
After a long while he went away again with the same anxious care to
make no noise, and she, with a movement of utter abandonment to woe,
turned over and cried herself sick.
Till evening she lay there alone, and then the steps came up again,
accompanied this time by the tinkle of china and spoons. Priscilla was
sitting at the window looking on to the churchyard, staring into the
dark with its swaying branches and few faint stars, and when she heard
him outside the door listening again in anxious silence she got up and
Fritzing held a plate of food in one hand and a glass of milk in the
other. The expression on his face was absurdly like that of a mother
yearning over a sick child. “Mein liebes Kind—mein liebes
Kind,” he stammered when she came out, so woebegone, so crushed, so
utterly unlike any Priscilla of any one of her moods that he had ever
seen before. Her eyes were red, her eyelids heavy with tears, her face
was pinched and narrower, the corners of her mouth had a most piteous
droop, her very hair, pushed back off her forehead, seemed sad, and
hung in spiritless masses about her neck and ears. “Mein liebes Kind,” stammered poor Fritzing; and his hand shook so that he upset some of
Priscilla leaned against the door-post. She was feeling sick and
giddy. “How dreadful this is,” she murmured, looking at him with weary,
“No, no—all will be well,” said Fritzing, striving to be brisk.
“Drink some milk, ma'am.”
“Oh, I have been wicked.”
Fritzing hastily put the plate and glass down on the floor, and
catching up the hand hanging limply by her side passionately kissed it.
“You are the noblest woman on earth,” he said.
“Oh,” said Priscilla, turning away her head and shutting her eyes
for very weariness of such futile phrases.
“Ma'am, you are. I would swear it. But you are also a child, and so
you are ready at the first reverse to suppose you have done with
happiness for ever. Who knows,” said Fritzing with a great show of
bright belief in his own prophecy, the while his heart was a stone,
“who knows but what you are now on the very threshold of it?”
“Oh,” murmured Priscilla, too beaten to do anything but droop her
“It is insisting on the commonplace to remind you, ma'am, that the
darkest hour comes before dawn. Yet it is a well-known natural
Priscilla leaned her head against the door-post. She stood there
motionless, her hands hanging by her side, her eyes shut, her mouth
slightly open, the very picture of one who has given up.
“Drink some milk, ma'am. At least endeavour to.”
She took no heed of him.
“For God's sake, ma'am, do not approach these slight misadventures
in so tragic a spirit. You have done nothing wrong whatever. I know you
accuse yourself. It is madness to do so. I, who have so often scolded
you, who have never spared the lash of my tongue when in past years I
saw fair reason to apply it, I tell you now with the same reliable
candour that your actions in this village and the motives that prompted
them have been in each single case of a stainless nobility.”
She took no heed of him.
He stooped down and picked up the glass. “Drink some milk, ma'am. A
few mouthfuls, perhaps even one, will help to clear the muddied vision
of your mind. I cannot understand,” he went on, half despairing, half
exasperated, “what reasons you can possibly have for refusing to drink
some milk. It is a feat most easily accomplished.”
She did not move.
“Do you perchance imagine that a starved and badly treated body can
ever harbour that most precious gift of the gods, a clear, sane mind?”
She did not move.
He looked at her in silence for a moment, then put down the glass.
“This is all my fault,” he said slowly. “The whole responsibility for
this unhappiness is on my shoulders, and I frankly confess it is a
burden so grievous that I know not how to bear it.”
He paused, but she took no notice.
“Ma'am, I have loved you.”
She took no notice.
“And the property of love, I have observed, is often to mangle and
kill the soul of its object.”
She might have been asleep.
“Ma'am, I have brought you to a sorry pass. I was old, and you were
young. I experienced, you ignorant. I deliberate, you impulsive. I a
man, you a woman. Instead of restraining you, guiding you, shielding
you from yourself, I was most vile, and fired you with desires for
freedom that under the peculiar circumstances were wicked, set a ball
rolling that I might have foreseen could never afterwards be stopped,
put thoughts into your head that never without me would have entered
it, embarked you on an enterprise in which the happiness of your whole
life was doomed to shipwreck.”
She stirred a little, and sighed a faint protest.
“This is very terrible to me—of a crushing, killing weight. Let it
not also have to be said that I mangled your very soul, dimmed your
reason, impaired the sweet sanity, the nice adjustment of what I know
was once a fair and balanced mind.”
She raised her head slowly and looked at him. “What?” she said. “Do
you think—do you think I'm going mad?”
“I think it very likely, ma'am,” said Fritzing with conviction.
A startled expression crept into her eyes.
“So much morbid introspection,” he went on, “followed by hours of
weeping and fasting, if indulged in long enough will certainly have
that result. A person who fasts a sufficient length of time invariably
parts piecemeal with valuable portions of his wits.”
She stretched out her hand.
He mistook the action and bent down and kissed it.
“No,” said Priscilla, “I want the milk.”
He snatched it up and gave it to her, watching her drink with all
the relief, the thankfulness of a mother whose child's sickness takes a
turn for the better. When she had finished she gave him back the glass.
“Fritzi,” she said, looking at him with eyes wide open now and dark
with anxious questioning, “we won't reproach ourselves then if we can
“Certainly not, ma'am—a most futile thing to do.”
“I'll try to believe what you say about me, if you promise to
believe what I say about you.”
“Ma'am, I'll believe anything if only you will be reasonable.”
“You've been everything to me—that's what I want to say. Always,
ever since I can remember.”
“And you, ma'am? What have you not been to me?”
“And there's nothing, nothing you can blame yourself for.”
“You've been too good, too unselfish, and I've dragged you down.”
“Well, we won't begin again. But tell me one thing—and tell me the
truth—oh Fritzi tell me the truth as you value your soul—do you
anywhere see the least light on our future? Do you anywhere see even a
bit, a smallest bit of hope?”
He took her hand again and kissed it; then lifted his head and
looked at her very solemnly. “No, ma'am,” he said with the decision of
an unshakable conviction, “upon my immortal soul I do not see a shred.”
Let the reader now picture Priscilla coming downstairs the next
morning, a golden Sunday morning full of Sabbath calm, and a Priscilla
leaden-eyed and leaden-souled, her shabby garments worn out to a symbol
of her worn out zeals, her face the face of one who has forgotten
peace, her eyes the eyes of one at strife with the future, of one for
ever asking “What next?” and shrinking with a shuddering “Oh please not
that,” from the bald reply.
Out of doors Nature wore her mildest, most beneficent aspect. She
very evidently cared nothing for the squalid tragedies of human fate.
Her hills were bathed in gentle light. Her sunshine lay warm along the
cottage fronts. In the gardens her hopeful bees, cheated into thoughts
of summer, droned round the pale mauves and purples of what was left of
starworts. The grass in the churchyard sparkled with the fairy film of
gossamers. Sparrows chirped. Robins whistled. And humanity gave the
last touch to the picture by ringing the church bells melodiously to
Without doubt it was a day of blessing, supposing any one could be
found willing to be blest. Let the reader, then, imagine this outward
serenity, this divine calmness, this fair and light-flooded world, and
within the musty walls of Creeper Cottage Priscilla coming down to
breakfast, despair in her eyes and heart.
They breakfasted late; so late that it was done to the
accompaniment, strangely purified and beautified by the intervening
church walls and graveyard, of Mrs. Morrison's organ playing and the
chanting of the village choir. Their door stood wide open, for the
street was empty. Everybody was in church. The service was, as Mrs.
Morrison afterwards remarked, unusually well attended. The voluntaries
she played that day were Dead Marches, and the vicar preached a
conscience-shattering sermon upon the text “Lord, who is it?”
He thought that Mrs. Jones's murderer must be one of his
parishioners. It was a painful thought, but it had to be faced. He had
lived so long shut out from gossip, so deaf to the ever-clicking tongue
of rumour, that he had forgotten how far even small scraps can travel,
and that the news of Mrs. Jones's bolster being a hiding-place for her
money should have spread beyond the village never occurred to him. He
was moved on this occasion as much as a man who has long ago given up
being moved can be, for he had had a really dreadful two days with Mrs.
Morrison, dating from the moment she came in with the news of the
boxing of their only son's ears. He had, as the reader will have
gathered, nothing of it having been recorded, refused to visit and
reprimand Priscilla for this. He had found excuses for her. He had
sided with her against his son. He had been as wholly, maddeningly
obstinate as the extremely good sometimes are. Then came Mrs. Jones's
murder. He was greatly shaken, but still refused to call upon Priscilla
in connection with it, and pooh-poohed the notion of her being
responsible for the crime as definitely as an aged saint of habitually
grave speech can be expected to pooh-pooh at all. He said she was not
responsible. He said, when his wife with all the emphasis apparently
inseparable from the conversation of those who feel strongly, told him
that he owed it to himself, to his parish, to his country, to go and
accuse her, that he owed no man anything but to love one another. There
was nothing to be done with the vicar. Still these scenes had not left
him scathless, and it was a vicar moved to the utmost limits of his
capacity in that direction who went into the pulpit that day repeating
the question “Who is it?” so insistently, so appealingly, with such
searching glances along the rows of faces in the pews, that the
congregation, shuffling and uncomfortable, looked furtively at each
other with an ever growing suspicion and dislike. The vicar as he went
on waxing warmer, more insistent, observed at least a dozen persons
with guilt on every feature. It darted out like a toad from the
hiding-place of some private ooze at the bottom of each soul into one
face after the other; and there was a certain youth who grew so visibly
in guilt, who had so many beads of an obviously guilty perspiration on
his forehead, and eyes so guiltily starting from their sockets, that
only by a violent effort of self-control could the vicar stop himself
from pointing at him and shouting out then and there “Thou art the
Meanwhile the real murderer had hired a waggonette and was taking
his wife for a pleasant country drive.
It was to pacify Fritzing that Priscilla came down to breakfast.
Left to herself she would by preference never have breakfasted again.
She even drank more milk to please him; but though it might please him,
no amount of milk could wash out the utter blackness of her spirit. He,
seeing her droop behind the jug, seeing her gazing drearily at nothing
in particular, jumped up and took a book from the shelves and without
more ado began to read aloud. “It is better, ma'am,” he explained
briefly, glancing at her over his spectacles, “than that you should
give yourself over to gloom.”
Priscilla turned vague eyes on to him. “How can I help gloom?” she
“Yes, yes, that may be. But nobody should be gloomy at breakfast.
The entire day is very apt, in consequence, to be curdled.”
“It will be curdled anyhow,” said Priscilla, her head sinking on to
“Ma'am, listen to this.”
And with a piece of bread and butter in one hand, from which he took
occasional hurried bites, and the other raised in appropriate varying
gesticulation, Fritzing read portions of the Persae of AEschylus to
her, first in Greek for the joy of his own ear and then translating it
into English for the edification of hers. He, at least, was off after
the first line, sailing golden seas remote and glorious, places where
words were lovely and deeds heroic, places most beautiful and brave,
most admirably, most restfully unlike Creeper Cottage. He rolled out
the sentences, turning them on his tongue, savouring them, reluctant to
let them go. She sat looking at him, wondering how he could possibly
even for an instant forget the actual and the present.
“'Xerxes went forth, Xerxes perished, Xerxes mismanaged all things
in the depths of the sea—'“ declaimed Fritzing.
“He must have been like us,” murmured Priscilla.
“'O for Darius the scatheless, the protector! No woman ever mourned
for deed of his—'“
“What a nice man,” sighed Priscilla. “'O for Darius!'“
“Ma'am, if you interrupt how can I read? And it is a most beautiful
“But we do want a Darius badly,” moaned Priscilla.
“'The ships went forth, the grey-faced ships, like to each other as
bird is to bird, the ships and all they carried perished, the ships
perished by the hand of the Greeks. The king, 'tis said, escapes, but
hardly, by the plains of Thrace and the toilsome ways, and behind him
he leaves his first-fruits—sailors unburied on the shores of Salamis.
Then grieve, sting yourselves to grief, make heaven echo, howl like
dogs for the horror, for they are battered together by the terrible
waters, they are shredded to pieces by the voiceless children of the
Pure. The house has no master—'“
“Fritzi, I wish you'd leave off,” implored Priscilla. “It's quite as
gloomy as anything I was thinking.”
“But ma'am the difference is that it is also beautiful, whereas the
gloom at present enveloping us is mere squalor. 'The voiceless children
of the Pure—' how is that, ma'am, for beauty?”
“I don't even know what it means,” sighed Priscilla.
“Ma'am, it is an extremely beautiful manner of alluding to fish.”
“I don't care,” said Priscilla.
“Ma'am, is it possible that the blight of passing and outward
circumstance has penetrated to and settled upon what should always be
of a sublime inaccessibility, your soul?”
“I don't care about the fish,” repeated Priscilla listlessly. Then
with a sudden movement she pushed back her chair and jumped up. “Oh,”
she cried, beating her hands together, “don't talk to me of fish when I
can't see an inch—oh not a single inch into the future!”
Fritzing looked at her, his finger on the page. Half of him was
still at the bottom of classic seas with the battered and shredded
sailors. How much rather would he have stayed there, have gone on
reading AEschylus a little, have taken her with him for a brief space
of serenity into that moist refuge from the harassed present, have
forgotten at least for one morning the necessity, the dreariness of
being forced to face things, to talk over, to decide. Besides, what
could he decide? The unhappy man had no idea. Nor had Priscilla. To
stay in Symford seemed impossible, but to leave it seemed still more
so. And sooner than go back disgraced to Kunitz and fling herself at
paternal feet which would in all probability immediately spurn her,
Priscilla felt she would die. But how could she stay in Symford,
surrounded by angry neighbours, next door to Tussie, with Robin coming
back for vacations, with Mrs. Morrison hating her, with Lady
Shuttleworth hating her, with Emma's father hating her, with the blood
of Mrs. Jones on her head? Could one live peacefully in such an
accursed place? Yet how could they go away? Even if they were able to
compose their nerves sufficiently to make new plans they could not go
because they were in debt.
“Fritzi,” cried Priscilla with more passion than she had ever put
into speech before, “life's too much for me—I tell you life's too much
for me!” And with a gesture of her arms as though she would sweep it
all back, keep it from surging over her, from choking her, she ran out
into the street to get into her own room and be alone, pulling the door
to behind her for fear he should follow and want to explain and
comfort, leaving him with his AEschylus in which, happening to glance
sighing, he, enviable man, at once became again absorbed, and running
blindly, headlong, as he runs who is surrounded and accompanied by a
swarm of deadly insects which he vainly tries to out-distance, she ran
straight into somebody coming from the opposite direction, ran full
tilt, was almost knocked off her feet, and looking up with the
impatient anguish of him who is asked to endure his last straw her lips
fell apart in an utter and boundless amazement; for the person she had
run against was that Prince—the last of the series, distinguished from
the rest by his having quenched the Grand Duke's irrelevant
effervescence by the simple expedient of saying Bosh—who had so
earnestly desired to marry her.
“Hullo,” said the Prince, who spoke admirable English.
Priscilla could only stare.
His instinct was to repeat the exclamation which he felt represented
his feelings very exactly, for her appearance—clothes, expression,
everything—astonished him, but he doubted whether it would well bear
repeating. “Is this where you are staying?” he inquired instead.
“Yes,” said Priscilla.
“May I come in?”
“Yes,” said Priscilla.
He followed her into her parlour. He looked at her critically as she
walked slowly before him, from head to foot he looked at her
critically; at every inch of the shabby serge gown, at the little head
with its badly arranged hair, at the little heel that caught in an
unmended bit of braid, at the little shoe with its bow of frayed
ribbon, and he smiled broadly behind his moustache. But when she turned
round he was perfectly solemn.
“I suppose,” said the Prince, putting his hands in his pockets and
gazing about the room with an appearance of cheerful interest, “this is
what one calls a snug little place.”
Priscilla stood silent. She felt as though she had been shaken
abruptly out of sleep. Her face even now after the soul-rending time
she had been having, in spite of the shadows beneath the eyes, the
droop at the corners of the mouth, in spite, too, it must be said of
the flagrantly cottage fashion in which Annalise had done her hair,
seemed to the Prince so extremely beautiful, so absolutely the face of
his dearest, best desires, so limpid, apart from all grace of colouring
and happy circumstance of feature, with the light of a sweet and noble
nature, so manifestly the outward expression of an indwelling lovely
soul, that his eyes, after one glance round the room, fixed themselves
upon it and never were able to leave it again.
For a minute or two she stood silent, trying to collect her
thoughts, trying to shake off the feeling that she was being called
back to life out of a dream. It had not been a dream, she kept telling
herself—bad though it was it had not been a dream but the reality; and
this man dropped suddenly in to the middle of it from another world, he
was the dream, part of the dream she had rebelled against and run away
from a fortnight before.
Then she looked at him, and she knew she was putting off her soul
with nonsense. Never was anybody less like a dream than the Prince;
never was anybody more squarely, more certainly real. And he was of her
own kind, of her own world. He and she were equals. They could talk
together plainly, baldly, a talk ungarnished and unretarded by
deferences on the one side and on the other a kindness apt to become
excessive in its anxiety not to appear to condescend. The feeling that
once more after what seemed an eternity she was with an equal was of a
singular refreshment. During those few moments in which they stood
silent, facing each other, in spite of her efforts to keep it out, in
spite of really conscientious efforts, a great calm came in and spread
over her spirit. Yet she had no reason to feel calm she thought,
struggling. Was there not rather cause for an infinity of shame? What
had he come for? He of all people. The scandalously jilted, the
affronted, the run away from. Was it because she had been looking so
long at Fritzing that this man seemed so nicely groomed? Or at Tussie,
that he seemed so well put together? Or at Robin, that he seemed so
modest? Was it because people's eyes—Mrs. Morrison's, Lady
Shuttleworth's—had been so angry lately whenever they rested on her
that his seemed so very kind? No; she did remember thinking them that,
even being struck by them, when she saw him first in Kunitz. A dull red
crept into her face when she remembered that day and what followed. “It
isn't very snug,” she said at last, trying to hide by a careful
coldness of speech all the strange things she was feeling. “When it
rains there are puddles by the door. The door, you see, opens into the
“I see,” said the Prince.
There was a silence.
“I don't suppose you really do,” said Priscilla, full of strange
“My dear cousin?”
“I don't know if you've come to laugh at me?”
“Do I look as if I had?”
“I dare say you think—because you've not been through it
yourself—that it—it's rather ridiculous.”
“My dear cousin,” protested the Prince.
Her lips quivered. She had gone through much, and she had lived for
two days only on milk.
“Do you wipe the puddles up, or does old Fritzing?”
“You see you have come to laugh.”
“I hope you'll believe that I've not. Must I be gloomy?”
“How do you know Fritzing's here?”
“Why everybody knows that.”
“Everybody?” There was an astonished pause. “How do you know we're
here—here, in Creeper Cottage?”
“Creeper Cottage is it? I didn't know it had a name. Do you have so
“How did you know we were in Symford?”
“Why everybody knows that.”
Priscilla was silent. Again she felt she was being awakened from a
“I've met quite a lot of interesting people since I saw you last,”
he said. “At least, they interested me because they all knew you.”
“Knew you and that old scound—the excellent Fritzing. There's an
extremely pleasant policeman, for instance, in Kunitz—”
“Oh,” said Priscilla, starting and turning red. She could not think
of that policeman without crisping her fingers.
“He and I are intimate friends. And there's a most intelligent
person—really a most helpful, obliging person—who came with you from
Dover to Ullerton.”
“I found the conversation, too, of the ostler at the Ullerton Arms
of immense interest.”
“And last night I slept at Baker's Farm, and spent a very pleasant
evening with Mrs. Pearce.”
“She's an instructive woman. Her weakest point, I should say, is her
“I wonder why you bother to talk like this—to be sarcastic.”
“About the junkets? Didn't you think they were bad?”
“Do you suppose it's worth while to—to kick somebody who's down?
And so low down? So completely got to the bottom?”
“Kick? On my soul I assure you that the very last thing I want to do
is to kick you.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“I don't do it. Do you know what I've come for?”
“Is my father round the corner?”
“Nobody's round the corner. I've muzzled your father. I've come
quite by myself. And do you know why?”
“No,” said Priscilla, shortly, defiantly; adding before he could
speak, “I can't imagine.” And adding to that, again before he could
speak, “Unless it's for the fun of hunting down a defenceless quarry.”
“I say, that's rather picturesque,” said the Prince with every
appearance of being struck.
Priscilla blushed. In spite of herself every word they said to each
other made her feel more natural, farther away from self-torment and
sordid fears, nearer to that healthy state of mind, swamped out of her
lately, when petulance comes more easily than meekness. The mere
presence of the Prince seemed to set things right, to raise her again
in her own esteem. There was undoubtedly something wholesome about the
man, something everyday and reassuring, something dependable and sane.
The first smile for I don't know how long came and cheered the corners
of her mouth. “I'm afraid I've grown magniloquent since—since—”
“Since you ran away?”
She nodded. “Fritzing, you know, is most persistently picturesque. I
think it's catching. But he's wonderful,” she added quickly,—“most
wonderful in patience and goodness.”
“Oh everybody knows he's wonderful. Where is the great man?”
“In the next room. Do you want him?”
“Good Lord, no. You've not told me what you suppose I've come for.”
“I did. I told you I couldn't imagine.”
“It's for a most saintly, really nice reason. Guess.”
“I can't guess.”
“Oh but try.”
Priscilla to her extreme disgust felt herself turning very red. “I
suppose to spy out the nakedness of the land,” she said severely.
“Now you're picturesque again. You must have been reading a
tremendous lot lately. Of course you would, with that learned old
fossil about. No my dear, I've come simply to see if you are happy.”
She looked at him, and her flush slowly died away.
“Simply to convince myself that you are happy.”
Her eyes filling with tears she thought it more expedient to fix
them on the table-cloth. She did fix them on it, and the golden fringe
of eyelashes that he very rightly thought so beautiful lay in long
dusky curves on her serious face. “It's extraordinarily nice of you
if—if it's true,” she said.
“But it is true. And if you are, if you tell me you are and I'm able
to believe it, I bow myself out, dear cousin, and shall devote any
energies I have left after doing that to going on muzzling your father.
He shall not, I promise you, in any way disturb you. Haven't I kept him
well in hand up to this?”
She raised her eyes to his. “Was it you keeping him so quiet?”
“It was, my dear. He was very restive. You've no notion of all the
things he wanted to do. It wanted a pretty strong hand, and a light one
too, I can tell you. But I was determined you should have your head.
That woman Disthal—”
“You don't like her?” inquired the Prince sympathetically.
“I was afraid you couldn't. But I didn't know how to manage that
part. She's in London.”
Priscilla started again. “I thought—I thought she was in bed,” she
“She was, but she got out again. Your—departure cured her.”
“Didn't you tell me nobody was round the corner?”
“Well, you don't call London round the corner? I wouldn't let her
come any nearer to you. She's waiting there quite quietly.”
“What is she waiting for?” asked Priscilla quickly.
“Come now, she's your lady in waiting you know. It seems natural
enough she should wait, don't it?”
“No,” said Priscilla, knitting her eyebrows.
“Don't frown. She had to come too. She's brought some of your women
and a whole lot”—he glanced at the blue serge suit and put his hand up
to his moustache—“a whole lot of clothes.”
“Clothes?” A wave of colour flooded her face. She could not help it
at the moment any more than a starving man can help looking eager when
food is set before him. “Oh,” she said, “I hope they're the ones I was
expecting from Paris?”
“I should think it very likely. There seem to be a great many. I
never saw so many boxes for one little cousin.”
Priscilla made a sudden movement with her hands. “You can't think,”
she said, “how tired I am of this dress.”
“Yes I can,” the Prince assured her.
“I've worn it every day.”
“You must have.”
“Every single day since the day I—I—”
“The day you ran away from me.”
She blushed. “I didn't run away from you. At least, not exactly. You
were only the last straw.”
“A nice thing for a man to be.”
“I ran because—because—oh, it's a long story, and I'm afraid a
very foolish one.”
A gleam came into the Prince's eyes. He took a step nearer her, but
immediately thinking better of it took it back again. “Perhaps,” he
said pleasantly, “only the beginning was foolish, and you'll settle
down after a bit and get quite fond of Creeper Cottage.”
She looked at him startled.
“You see my dear it was rather tremendous what you did. You must
have been most fearfully sick of things at Kunitz. I can well
understand it. You couldn't be expected to like me all at once. And if
I had to have that Disthal woman at my heels wherever I went I'd shoot
myself. What you've done is much braver really than shooting one's
self. But the question is do you like it as much as you thought you
Priscilla gave him a swift look, and said nothing.
“If you don't, there's the Disthal waiting for you with all those
charming frocks, and all you've got to do is to put them on and go
“But I can't go home. How can I? I am disgraced. My father would
never let me in.”
“Oh I'd arrange all that. I don't think you'd find him angry if you
followed my advice very carefully. On the other hand, if you like this
and want to stay on there's nothing more to be said. I'll say good-bye,
and promise you shall be left in peace. You shall be left to be happy
entirely in your own way.”
Priscilla was silent.
“You don't—look happy,” he said, scrutinizing her face.
She was silent.
“You've got very thin. How did you manage that in such a little
“We've muddled things rather,” she said with an ashamed sort of
smile. “On the days when I was hungry there wasn't anything to eat, and
then when there were things I wasn't hungry.”
The Prince looked puzzled. “Didn't that old scamp—I mean didn't the
excellent Fritzing bring enough money?”
“He thought he did, but it wasn't enough.”
“Is it all gone?”
“We're in debt.”
Again he put his hand up to his moustache. “Well I'll see to all
that, of course,” he said gravely. “And when that has been set right
you're sure you'll like staying on here?”
She summoned all her courage, and looked at him for an instant
straight in the face. “No,” she said.
There was another silence. He was standing on the hearthrug, she on
the other side of the table; but the room was so small that by putting
out his hand he could have touched her. A queer expression was in his
eyes as he looked at her, an expression entirely at variance with his
calm and good-natured talk, the exceedingly anxious expression of a man
who knows his whole happiness is quivering in the balance. She did not
see it, for she preferred to look at the table-cloth.
“Dreadful things have happened here,” she said in a low voice.
“Horrid sorts. Appalling sorts.”
“I couldn't bear to.”
“But I think I know.”
She looked at him astonished.
“She told you?”
“What she knew she told me. Perhaps there's something she doesn't
Priscilla remembered Robin, and blushed.
“Yes, she told me about that,” said the Prince nodding.
“About what?” asked Priscilla, startled.
“About the squire intending to marry you.”
“Oh,” said Priscilla.
“It seems hard on him, don't it? Has it struck you that such things
are likely to occur pretty often to Miss Maria-Theresa Ethel
“I'm afraid you really have come only to laugh,” said Priscilla, her
“I swear it's only to see if you are happy.”
“Well, see then.” And throwing back her head with a great defiance
she looked at him while her eyes filled with tears; and though they
presently brimmed over, and began to drop down pitifully one by one,
she would not flinch but went on looking.
“I see,” said the Prince quietly. “And I'm convinced. Of course,
then, I shall suggest your leaving this.”
“I want to.”
“And putting yourself in the care of the Disthal.”
“Only her temporary care. Quite temporary. And letting her take you
back to Kunitz.”
Priscilla winced again.
“Only temporarily,” said the Prince.
“But my father would never—”
“Yes my dear, he will. He'll be delighted to see you. He'll
“I assure you he will. You've only got to do what I tell you.”
“Shall you—come too?”
“If you'll let me.”
“But then—but then—”
“Then what, my dear?”
She looked at him, and her face changed slowly from white to red and
red to white again. Fritzing's words crossed her mind—“If you marry
him you will be undoubtedly eternally lost,” and her very soul cried
out that they were folly. Why should she be eternally lost? What
cobwebs were these, cobwebs of an old brain preoccupied with shadows,
dusty things to be swept away at the first touch of Nature's vigorous
broom? Indeed she thought it far more likely that she would be
eternally found. But she was ashamed of herself, ashamed of all she had
done, ashamed of the disgraceful way she had treated this man, terribly
disillusioned, terribly out of conceit with herself, and she stood
there changing colour, hanging her head, humbled, penitent, every shred
of the dignity she had been trained to gone, simply somebody who has
been very silly and is very sorry.
The Prince put out his hand.
She pretended not to see it.
The Prince came round the table. “You know,” he said, “our
engagement hasn't been broken off yet?”
Her instinct was to edge away, but she would not stoop to edging.
“Was it ever made?” she asked, not able to induce her voice to rise
above a whisper.
There was another silence.
“Why, then—” began Priscilla, for the silence had come to be more
throbbing, more intolerably expressive than any speech.
“Yes?” encouraged the Prince, coming very close.
She turned her head slowly. “Why, then—” said Priscilla again, her
face breaking into a smile, half touched, half mischievous, wholly
“I think so too,” said the Prince; and he shut her mouth with a
* * * * *
“And now,” said the Prince some time afterwards, “let us go to that
old sinner Fritzing.”
Priscilla hung back, reluctant to deal this final blow to the heart
that had endured so many. “He'll be terribly shocked,” she said.
But the Prince declared it had to be done; and hand in hand they
went out into the street, and opening Fritzing's door stood before him.
He was still absorbed in his AEschylus, had been sitting absorbed in
the deeds of the dead and departed, of the long dead Xerxes, the long
dead Darius, the very fish, voiceless but voracious, long since as dead
as the most shredded of the sailors,—he had been sitting absorbed in
these various corpses all the while that in the next room, on the other
side of a few inches of plaster and paper, so close you would have
thought his heart must have burned within him, so close you would have
thought he must be scorched, the living present had been pulsing and
glowing, beating against the bright bars of the future, stirring up
into alertness a whole row of little red-headed souls till then asleep,
souls with golden eyelashes, souls eager to come and be princes and
princesses of—I had almost revealed the mighty nation's name. A shadow
fell across his book, and looking up he saw the two standing before him
hand in hand.
Priscilla caught her breath: what white anguish was going to flash
into his face when he grasped the situation? Judge then of her
amazement, her hesitation whether to be pleased or vexed, to laugh or
cry, when, grasping it, he leaped to his feet and in tones of a most
limitless, a most unutterable relief, shouted three times running “
Gott sei Dank!”
So that was the end of Priscilla's fortnight,—according to the way
you look at it glorious or inglorious. I shall not say which I think it
was; whether it is better to marry a prince, become in course of time a
queen, be at the head of a great nation, be surfeited with honour,
wealth, power and magnificence till the day when Death with calm,
indifferent fingers strips everything away and leaves you at last to
the meek simplicity of a shroud; or whether toilsome paths, stern
resistances, buffetings bravely taken, battles fought inch by inch, an
ideal desperately clung to even though in clinging you are slain, is
not rather the part to be chosen of him whose soul would sit attired
with stars. Anyhow the goddess laughed, the goddess who had left
Priscilla in the lurch, when she heard the end of the adventure; and
her unpleasant sister, having nothing more to do in Creeper Cottage,
gathered up her rags and grinned too as she left it. At least her claws
had lacerated much over-tender flesh during her stay; and though the
Prince had interrupted the operation and forced her for the moment to
inactivity, she was not dissatisfied with what had been accomplished.
Priscilla, it will readily be imagined, made no farewell calls. She
disappeared from Symford as suddenly as she had appeared; and Mrs.
Morrison, coming into Creeper Cottage on Monday afternoon to unload her
conscience yet more, found only a pleasant gentleman, a stranger of
mellifluous manners, writing out cheques. She had ten minutes talk with
him, and went home very sad and wise. Indeed from that day, her spirit
being the spirit of the true snob, the hectorer of the humble, the
devout groveller in the courtyards of the great, she was a much-changed
woman. Even her hair felt it, and settled down unchecked to greyness.
She no longer cared to put on a pink tulle bow in the afternoons, which
may or may not be a sign of grace. She ceased to suppose that she was
pretty. When the accounts of Priscilla's wedding filled all the papers
she became so ill that she had to go to bed and be nursed. Sometimes to
the vicar's mild surprise she hesitated before expressing an opinion.
Once at least she of her own accord said she had been wrong. And
although she never told any one of the conversation with the gentleman
writing cheques, when Robin came home for Christmas and looked at her
he knew at once what she knew.
As for Lady Shuttleworth, she got a letter from Priscilla; quite a
long one, enclosing a little one for Tussie to be given him if and when
his mother thought expedient. Lady Shuttleworth was not surprised by
what she read. She had suspected it from the moment Priscilla rose up
the day she called on her at Baker's Farm and dismissed her. Till her
marriage with the late Sir Augustus she had been lady-in-waiting to one
of the English princesses, and she could not be mistaken on such
points. She knew the sort of thing too well. But she never forgave
Priscilla. How could she? Was the day of Tussie's coming of age, that
dreadful day when he was nearest death, a day a mother could ever
forget? It had all been most wanton, most cruel. We know she was full
of the milk of human kindness: on the subject of Priscilla it was
As for Tussie,—well, you cannot have omelettes without breaking
eggs, and Tussie on this occasion was the eggs. It is a painful part to
play. He found it exquisitely painful, and vainly sought comfort in the
consolation that it had been Priscilla's omelette. The consolation
proved empty, and for a long while he suffered every sort of torment
known to the sensitive. But he got over it. People do. They will get
over anything if you give them time, and he being young had plenty of
it. He lived it down as one lives down every sorrow and every joy; and
when in the fulness of time, after a series of years in which he went
about listlessly in a soft felt hat and an unsatisfactory collar, he
married, it was to Priscilla's capital that he went for his honeymoon.
She, hearing he was there, sent for them both and was kind.
As for Annalise, she never got her twenty thousand marks. On the
contrary, the vindictive Grand Duke caused her to be prosecuted for
blackmailing, and she would undoubtedly have languished in prison if
Priscilla had not interfered and sent her back to her parents. Like
Mrs. Morrison, she is chastened. She does not turn up her nose so much.
She does not sing. Indeed her songs ceased from the moment she caught
sight through a crack in the kitchen door of the Prince's broad
shoulders filling up Fritzing's sitting-room. From that moment Annalise
swooned from one depth of respect and awe to the other. She became
breathlessly willing, meek to vanishing point. But Priscilla could not
forget all she had made her suffer; and the Prince, who had thought of
everything, suddenly producing her head woman from some recess in
Baker's Farm, where she too had spent the night, Annalise was
superseded, her further bitter fate being to be left behind at Creeper
Cottage in the charge of the gentleman with the cheque-book—who as it
chanced was a faddist in food and would allow nothing more comforting
than dried fruits and nuts to darken the doors—till he should have
leisure to pack her up and send her home.
As for Emma, she was hunted out by that detective who travelled down
into Somersetshire with the fugitives and who had already been so
useful to the Prince; and Priscilla, desperately anxious to make amends
wherever she could, took her into her own household, watching over her
herself, seeing to it that no word of what she had done was ever blown
about among the crowd of idle tongues, and she ended, I believe, by
marrying a lacquey,—one of those splendid persons with white silk
calves who were so precious in the sight of Annalise. Indeed I am not
sure that it was not the very lacquey Annalise had loved most and had
intended to marry herself. In this story at least, the claims of poetic
justice shall be strictly attended to; and Annalise had sniffed
outrageously at Emma.
As for the Countess Disthal, she married the doctor and was sorry
ever afterwards; but her sorrow was as nothing compared with his.
As for Fritzing, he is Hofbibliothekar of the Prince's
father's court library; a court more brilliant than and a library
vastly inferior to the one he had fled from at Kunitz. He keeps much in
his rooms, and communes almost exclusively with the dead. He finds the
dead alone truly satisfactory. Priscilla loves him still and will
always love him, but she is very busy and has little time to think. She
does not let him give her children lessons; instead he plays with them,
and grows old and patient apace.
And now having finished my story, there is nothing left for me to do
but stand aside and watch Priscilla and her husband walking
hand-in-hand farther and farther away from me up a path which I suppose
is the path of glory, into something apparently golden and rosy,
something very glowing and full of promise, that turns out on closer
scrutiny to be their future. It certainly seems radiant enough to the
superficial observer. Even I, who have looked into her soul and known
its hungers, am a little dazzled. Let it not however be imagined that a
person who has been truthful so long as myself is going to lapse into
easy lies at the last, and pretend that she was uninterruptedly
satisfied and happy for the rest of her days. She was not; but then who