THE MEANING OF POVERTY.
LIFE seemed to have lost all interest to Kate West.
In our suffering we are often cruel, and she chose to consider, in
abandoning herself to grief, that she was left to suffer alone; that her
father and sister would never have allowed her to go away if they had
cared as much for her as she did for them: therefore she shut up her heart
from them, and the old happy intercourse between the sisters, which had
made every trifle of their daily lives a matter of mutual confidence,
seemed to have come to an end.
Harry, in the midst of his preparations for departure, was
too much engrossed to notice that his wife behaved more like an automaton
than a woman. But just then an event occurred which roused and took
her out of herself for a time.
The pair had come down to breakfast. As usual, Kate was
first in the room; for Harry was always either too early or too late for
everything. She came in with a dreary, listless look on her bright
face, glanced at the table on which the morning meal was spread, and saw a
letter lie on each plate—one for herself and one for Harry. Without
so much as advancing to look at them, she went and stood on the
hearth-rug, and gazed into the fire, as one gazes when the day is done.
There was no impatience in her waiting, only once something visibly rose
in her throat, and had to be swallowed down. It was the vain
self-pity of youth, which it needed her whole strength to still.
Harry came in at last, smiling with his insensate smile and
they sat down together. Kate lifted her letter—only a little note
from Constance—and thrust it into her pocket unread. What a short
time ago it seemed since every letter was a little treasure to be pounced
upon and read, and handed over from one to another at home—shorter still
since she would have been leaning over Harry's shoulder, impatient to
share the contents of a missive so important looking as that which he was
"So it is settled at last," he exclaimed, tossing the letter
over to Kate with an expression between pleasure and disgust.
"What is settled?" she asked, carelessly.
"That affair of Aunt West's legacy. Read the letter,
and you will see," he replied.
She did as she was bidden, and ran through the broad square
sheet, which informed her that the affairs of the bank in which Mrs.
West's legacy to Esther had been invested were wound up at last, and that
something over six hundred pounds had fallen to Esther's share, the estate
dividing half-a-crown in the pound.
"It is very little," said Kate.
"But better than nothing at all," laughed Harry; "and I dare
say she will be very glad to get it," he added, with a truer appreciation
of the value of money.
They went on with their meal in silence, Kate presiding over
her elegantly-appointed table with an air almost of disgust. At
length Harry, who had only been too busy to speak, started up, saying, "I
have a hundred things to do to-day, Kate. Can you carry the news of
this fortune to Esther? I cannot spare the time myself."
Kate consented, in a pleasureless way. It did not occur
to her that she might be carrying a message of comfort and gladness and
hope and life. Esther, she knew, had given up expecting any help
from this quarter, but she did not know that she needed help so much; and,
as often happens, the help had not come a day too soon. Esther had
not the heart to turn away her little scholars when the fees were not
forthcoming—and the fees were not forthcoming frequently enough. A
large proportion of the tradespeople in the neighbourhood were afflicted
with want of money, and not the tradespeople only, but those who
patronised them, and lived in handsome houses in the neighbouring streets
and squares. Indeed, it was with these latter that the impecuniosity
originated generally. As a consequence, the tradesmen's little girls
were the first to suffer, education for little girls in that class being
often considered only a genteel superfluity. Then the wave of
commercial disaster had reached ever wider and wider circles, and in one
of the circles had included and swept down the firm of builders and
contractors with whom Martin and Willie had been placed. The works
were closed the day after Philip's accident, and the lads had been
idle—with an enforced idleness more wearisome than the hardest work—ever
since. In vain Esther strove to encourage them. They went
about with rueful faces trying to find employment, and finding none.
It was pitiable to see them droop so quickly, and lose heart so soon.
"We've known fellows go about for weeks and months," they
said, "till they hadn't a shoe to their feet or a bit to put in their
mouths. And it comes over and over again. Whenever one saves a
little money in the good times, it's all used up in the bad."
The twins were at work again, but they had not found
situations which they considered proportioned to their merits, and they
were accordingly in a state of chronic discontent. The gloom which
reigned in the little house in Sutton's Alley was sufficiently depressing,
and seemed deepening as the days went on.
On that very morning on which Kate was setting out with the
letter, there had been a painful scene in the Potter household.
Martin and Willie would rise at their usual hour, only to find themselves
in everybody's way, it seemed. There appears to be an attitude
peculiar to men out of work—the elbows resting on the knees, the head on
the hands, and the long stare into the fire, if there be a fire, or even
into the empty grate. The two lads fell into this attitude at once,
and would sit thus, one on each side of the fire, while Sarah prepared the
morning meal. They breakfasted together alone when at work, and they
had made their usual custom a pretext for absenting themselves from the
family breakfast, and latterly of eating a piece of dry bread by
themselves in the kitchen before setting out on their day's search.
When Esther came down on the morning in question, she found
poor Sarah sitting crying by the fire, in the midst of her neglected
"I only said they were a little bit in the way," she sobbed,
in explanation; and Esther at length made out that the lads had taken
offence at their sister's words, and had gone out without any breakfast at
all, while poor Sarah had only been anxious to conceal from them the fact
that there was not a sufficiency even of bread for all.
"I only said they were a little bit in the way,"
It was the end of the quarter, and for a week or two no money
would be forthcoming from the scholars; but before the morning was over,
Esther had turned into money every little ornament she possessed, and had
gone to her work with that heavy aching at her heart which the pressure of
real poverty gives when it has to be shared with a home circle.
Esther felt that she could have better endured it alone. She could
hardly fix her attention on the task before her; and when called out of
the schoolroom to see Kate, it was with a sickening flutter of the heart
that she obeyed the summons.
Kate communicated her good news silently by presenting the
letter, but she was not prepared for the reception which it met.
Esther turned pale with emotion, and trembled violently.
"If you only knew what a great relief this is," she
explained; "but you cannot know, for you have never known poverty."
"You have not wanted for anything, surely?" said Kate.
"You would have come to us."
"Poverty means wanting things, Kate," said Esther, smiling
through a mist of thankful tears; "but we have not felt the pressure long.
It has only been very bad for a week or two. There has been nothing
but misfortune ever since the night of your party, Kate. You must
never expect me to come to another. It does not do to live a divided
life; I have sold all my ornaments to buy simple food."
"Poor Esther! How selfish I have been," cried Kate,
clasping her in her alms; "but if you only knew how miserable I am."
"Miserable!" repeated Esther, who thought Kate had been quite
contented with the lot she had chosen; "you, miserable?"
And then Kate confided to her the source of her unhappiness,
and without directly condemning her husband, allowed Esther to perceive
exactly how matters stood between them. She, too, counselled
acquiescence, and Kate turned from her impatiently.
"'Yes—Yes, I must go," she said, "but it is against my will,
and I shall never be happy again." She shuddered, visibly. "Do
you know I feel the kind of horror of this voyage which I suppose I would
feel if suddenly told I must die!—the kind of pity for myself, and
chillness of dread."
Esther tried to comfort her. "It is what we have all
been looking forward to. My brothers and sisters are eager to go; I
cannot say that I am, but I dare say it will be my fate."
"Could you not come with us?" said Kate, catching at the
idea. "I am sure Harry could do something for the boys."
"It is worth thinking of; but you go so early," said Esther.
"Perhaps if you were going, Harry would wait," said Kate,
eagerly. She was young, and though she had abandoned herself to an
unhappy fate, she could not help brightening up at the thought of the
alleviation presented to her. She took her departure, with a promise
on Esther's part to think of the proposition, and on hers to come and
ascertain the result.
While speaking to Kate, Esther had seen her brother Martin
slip into the house, with his handsome face downcast and miserable.
As soon as her visitor was gone she sought him, and found him in the
kitchen, his head on his hand, as usual. She sought him first, for
there had sprung up a firm alliance between them.
"Here's good news, Martin," she said, touching his arm.
"My long-delayed fortune has come at last. It is not a very great
one, but it will relieve us of all our present difficulties."
It seemed an immense sum to the lad, and he brightened up at
once. His first words were, "Does mother know?"
"Nobody knows yet, but we must get her here and tell her;"
and Mary was brought out of the schoolroom (whose occupants were not sorry
to be left to their own devices) and told the good news. Unmingled
thankfulness was the first feeling in Mary's mind, and in that of every
member of the family, as one by one they came to know it. But this
was not destined to be of long duration. Martin and Willie began to
look as gloomy as ever before the day was out. They had said to one
another, "It is her money, and we have no right to touch it;" and when the
evening came, they boldly proposed that Esther should lend them enough to
go and try their fortunes in the far West. Their old desire to
emigrate was upon them stronger than ever.
Mary looked in the face of her eldest daughter as the
arbitress of their fate.
"I can bear it if we all go together; not unless," she cried.
Then Esther told them of Mrs. West's proposal, that they
should go out in the same ship with her and her husband; and an eager
discussion ensued. Martin and Willie urged that time was money, and
that every day delayed was lost. Their radiant looks of hope and
eagerness appealed to Esther strongly.
"Let us go," she said, deliberately; and in the jubilation
which followed, both she and her mother had to hide a sinking of the
heart. All the others were delighted with the prospect.
THE March buds were out on the sunny sides of the
hedgerows, and the daffodils were blowing in crowds at the foot of the
orchard, when Timothy Wiggett brought Philip home to his own house.
The house missed its mistress, harsh and queer as she had been, and
Timothy also missed her and mourned for her as better women are not always
missed and mourned for.
She had only lived eight days after her rash act, and,
strange to say, they had been days of patient suffering. The cold
had produced inflammation, under which she sank rapidly, and, with Timothy
to nurse her, she passed away in peace, like a fretful child that the
mother has at length succeeded in soothing to rest.
"A good job too," murmured the village, which had lain its
finger upon a certain newspaper paragraph; "a very good riddance she must
be to him. He'll have some peace in his life now."
But the philosophy of the village was entirely at fault.
It is true, Timothy's troubles were at an end; but it seemed to him that
so, too, were his pleasures. He had nobody to love, nobody who cared
enough for him to worry and fret over him as Sally had worried and
fretted; and so he went about his work, after he had laid her to rest in
the village churchyard, a changed man, his mouth drooping at the corners,
and his big chest heaving big unconscious sighs.
Easter fell very early that year—to, Constance Vaughan the
saddest Easter she had yet known. She had always rejoiced in the
season as the happiest time of the year—the time of hope, and promise, and
renewed beauty, and fresh activity; and though of late her joy had had in
it something of the sober sadness which change must always bring to the
tender-hearted, still she was strong in youth and hope, and no great
sorrow had led her to shrink from the advancing years. But now every
day brought with it the certainty of a real parting—of a breach in the
home circle only less than death. She could hardly see the March
buds blowing without tears. Every token of the coming spring was a
token that the time of Kate's departure was drawing nearer and nearer.
And Kate was so changed and alienated, that the parting was likely to be
bitter indeed. It was a proof of this alienation that she had not at
once informed Constance of the fact that the Potters had settled to go out
with Harry and her.
On the slightest hint of such a possibility, Harry had
bestirred himself to promote the plan. Next to being in motion
himself, nothing delighted him so much as setting others in motion.
He saw the Potters daily until everything was settled. He urged
those who needed urging, and talked, and promised, and smoothed away
difficulties. He was delighted with Martin and Willie, and would be
glad to be of use to them. In short, he made it appear an
opportunity too precious to be lost. He helped them to secure their
passage, and then to choose their outfit, and was none the less friendly
with the brothers because they announced their determination to spend as
little as possible. They and the younger boys would rough it in the
steerage, while their mother, the girls, and the two little ones would go
second class. It was all fixed before Constance heard a word about
it; and when she did, it was from Esther herself, who had been trusting to
Kate to communicate the first intelligence, and was wondering at the
silence of her friend.
From Constance Esther did not conceal that the prospect
before her was not a happy one. "The nearer it comes," she wrote,
"the harder it seems. My heart would fail me if it were not that my
mother leans upon me. It is my duty to go, and there is nothing to
keep me here. Except yourself there is no one to care for my going,
and yet I feel as if bound by the strongest ties. I can hardly bear
the thought that the parting is most likely for ever."
Mr. Vaughan was greatly pleased with the unexpected
intelligence. Next to his own daughters he liked and admired Esther,
and it seemed to him a delightful arrangement—the most fortunate thing for
Kate that could possibly have happened. Constance could not but
acknowledge that it was, and yet she could not but be sorry to lose her
friend as well as her sister. Her feelings began to be in a state of
conflict such as she had never known, and she had time to attend to them
now; for though her father's chief, indeed only companion, she was often
left to her own meditations, while he pursued his favourite studies.
When she sat down to answer Esther's letter, she was thus
alone; her father had retired to his study. She occupied one of the
windows of the once busy drawing-room, sitting pen in hand, and looking
out into the budding garden. She had read Esther's words again, and
her mind was soon engaged in reflection upon them. No one to care
for her going! What was Mr. Carrington about? He evidently had
not followed up the re-introduction gained at Kate's party. Had he
changed his mind, or was he labouring under his usual indecision—an
indecision which would cost him the loss of his object? She found
herself speculating on how he would bear the loss. She thought
of Esther gone. Would he turn to her friendship for comfort,
and—might not his friendship ripen into love? Whither had her
thoughts led her? She covered her face with her hands for inward
shame. She hated herself for the thought, which seemed to her a
double treason, a treason to both her friends. No; he shall not let
her go. I promised to help him, and I will," she resolved. "I
will break one promise in order to keep the other. I will tell
Esther that he loves her."
She took up her pen to write, impulsive as ever; but in
trying to find the fit of words for such a disclosure, her judgment took
the place of impulse, and she saw that she might do harm instead of good
by such a course. Esther's delicacy would be up in arms. She
would be sure to place fresh difficulties in his way, instead of removing
Constance had meant that they should meet at Easter, and had
written to Mrs. Carrington, inviting her and Mr. Carrington to spend a few
days with them then. She had judged it best to mention at the same
time that Esther would be with them. Mr. Carrington would see the
note, and urge his mother to accept the invitation. Instead of an
acceptance, however, a refusal had come. They were going down to
Devonshire, and there had been an end of that.
A desperate measure at length suggested itself to Constance.
She would write to Mr. Carrington at his chambers. She had never
written to him before, and if she wrote now to his mother's house, she
must know, and would either inquire into or misconstrue the circumstance.
Mrs. Carrington's intentions with regard to herself, and her motives with
regard to Esther, dawned upon her as she meditated, and still further
impelled her to act. It was strange that she never for a moment
doubted Esther's Power to return Carrington's affection. There had
been just that amount of confidence between them on the subject which
might mislead both. They had both liked and admired him, and both
been interested in his character; but his companionship had rather seemed
to stimulate their minds than to touch their hearts. Constance
judged her friend by herself. The object of the keen and subtle
tenderness, the mere reflection of which had penetrated her heart, could
not be insensible. The consciousness of love might be shut up and
hidden, as the rose in the bud is hidden in its calyx of green, but she
did not doubt that it would blossom in the sunshine of his favour.
She took up her pen and wrote, not without agitation, the
first lines she had ever written in secret. They bore witness, in
their abruptness, to the state of her mind.
CARRINGTON,—I promised to help
you, and, to redeem my promise, I write to you now. If you wish to
see Esther again, you will not go down to Devonshire, you will come here.
She will be with us from Thursday till Tuesday. She is going out to
Australia with Kate and Harry—she and the whole family. They sail
the week after Easter. It was to have been put off for another
month, but Harry has arranged it all!
"Harry has arranged it all" was dashed underneath with a feeling that he
had been the beginning of discord and trouble, and that she would have
been glad to blot him out of their lives there and then.
The succeeding days were at once too long and too short for
Constance Vaughan—days of feverish impatience and anxiety combined.
She was not one who would droop under an unrequited love. There is
no necessity to quote concerning her the much-used "worm in the bud."
She could feel, and feel deeply; but to her active mind and large liberal
culture there were other things in the world worth living for, if equal
love should be denied. She could turn from it to the duties of the
day—turn resolutely from her self and engage her heart for the welfare of
others. In the interval that had passed she had disciplined herself
to this; but she now felt that it would be better for her if all
possibility of hope were at an end. In an unguarded moment she had
known that it could live.
She now busied herself in preparation for her guests.
It had seemed, indeed, at one time, as if Kate would have withdrawn.
She had written to say that some friends whom Harry had picked up in the
North had invited them, and that Harry desired to go, for half the week at
least. She supposed she had better go with him. But Constance
had opposed with such earnest and tender entreaty, that Kate had softened
in her mood, and Harry had been prevailed upon to go alone, much to his
sister-in-law's secret satisfaction. For a few days, at least, she
would have Kate all to herself again.
IT was Thursday before Easter at last, and Kate was
at Redhurst at an early hour. It was her first visit since the day
when her father had refused to listen to her prayer to be taken back to
her old home, and it did not appear likely to be a comfortable one to
either him or her. Whether it was that the memory of the refusal
stirred her to renewed soreness, or that her grief at the thought of
leaving England was intensified at sight of the scene of her happy
girlhood, her looks and speech alike spoke of ill-concealed and bitterly
resented suffering. She took up the position of a not very welcome
stranger instead of a daughter of the house, and managed to stand aloof
both from love and pity.
Her father took pains, by every tender courtesy, to win her
back. He would have given anything to have her open her heart to
him, to win her to acknowledge that he was in the right, as he knew her
better judgment was already telling her, but his efforts were unavailing.
Once or twice, when he tried to introduce the subject, she set it coldly
aside. If he could have seen the passionate grief in which she
indulged in secret he would have been more troubled still.
She went about the place alone, followed by the old blind
house-dog, whom she had often hugged in the passionate griefs of her
childhood, once sobbing herself to sleep with her head pillowed on his
side. But this was a grief which no sleep would soothe. She
had awakened to life-long disappointment, and she knew not how to bear it.
To have her wishes disregarded, her influence unfelt; her life emptied at
once of freedom, and love, and joy—this was what she had to bear.
Besides the simple natural sorrow of parting from all whom she had loved,
she had the terrible consciousness that she did not, and could not love as
she ought, the man whose will had become her law.
The afternoon brought Mr. Walton and Milly—every afternoon of
the holidays was to see them there. They were only partly aware of
Kate's trouble, and were too happy themselves to be able fully to
sympathise with it. Milly was very sorry for her sister's departure;
but if her husband wished it, Kate would be sure to get reconciled to it
in time, and doubtless all would go well; she and her husband would come
back again. For her own part, Milly would have preferred staying at
home, but she would have gone round the world with Herbert, and though
Harry was not like Herbert, Kate must like going with him.
This was the strain in which she spoke comfort, with the
effect of making one of her hearers irritable, and the others
The little family circle no longer thought, no longer felt
alike; the chain of sympathy was broken. They were almost
uncomfortable till Esther arrived, and introduced, naturally and from
another point of view, the one subject which occupied the thoughts of all.
The evening passed in discussing the voyage, its discomforts,
and the alleviations of which these were capable; the country to which
they were bound, and its social and political prospects, of which Mr.
Walton took the gloomy, and Mr. Vaughan the hopeful view. It was
most unlike the evenings which the same group had often passed there.
There was no gaiety where all had once been gay. They
were grave and subdued, like people who met for the last time. An
undefined feeling of this kind crept over them and deepened as the evening
advanced. When music was asked for, Constance and Esther, who sang
well together, seemed to choose the saddest songs, till they seemed to
breathe the very air of sighs. Tears were unshed, but they were not
far from gathering, when Kate took her sister's place and dashed into a
light and bright, but noisy Italian song, which jarred on everybody.
Esther felt glad when the evening came to an end.
The services of Good Friday had a salutary influence on this
unsatisfactory state of things. It united them once more in feelings
at once tender and sacred. Their own trials became insignificant in
the contemplation of the sufferings of the highest and holiest.
"How dear she can be," said Constance to Esther, when the day
was done, and Kate, though silent, had been warmly affectionate to her,
and almost penitent towards her father. "Oh, Esther, what is to
become of her?"
It was very late indeed, or rather very early, when Constance
retired from Esther's room through a small dressing-room which opened on
her own. She almost wondered at herself that, during that long
conference on things temporal and spiritual, she had not been betrayed
into some confidence which must have led to the disclosure of her secret,
or, rather Mr. Carrington's; but he was not mentioned. And Esther,
too, retired wondering at the reticence of her friend, and almost inclined
to think that there was nothing in the hint which Mrs. Carrington had so
On Saturday—how desperately fast the days went by!—Esther,
accompanied by both Kate and Constance, went down to Mr. Wiggett's garden
to visit little Mary, whom Esther had conveyed thither on her way to
Redhurst. The garden wore its soberest and tenderest hues of brown
and green. Patches of rich, smooth, freshly-turned mould alternated
with patches of springing plants. The borders were not gay, but the
spring flowers showed here and there in white and gold, and in the orchard
the plums had put on their light snowy blossoms. Outside, in the
fields, which made part of the garden, men were sowing breadths of
carrots, parsnips, savoys, kale, and all their kindred. Inside, in
the flower garden, Mr. Wiggett himself was sowing sweet peas, mignonette,
stocks, and other hardy annuals, planting, and grafting, and training his
wall fruit. In the former of these occupations he was being actively
assisted by little Mary. He had written her name in big letters all
along one of the borders, and she had strewed out of her own hands the
seed into the furrows, which were to blossom into "Mary Potter," in white
and purple candytuft.
They had just finished the task when Esther and her friends
appeared. Mary was a little disappointed that there was nothing to
be seen at present for her labour. The seed was covered up, and she
could only point to the bare blank earth, and assure them that the wonder
was hidden there.
Little Mary's beauty and grace captivated everyone. The
child's gaiety was always tender; great pleasures—and her visits to the
garden had been great to her beyond comparison with all the pleasures of
her life—exalted rather than excited her. Kate began to court her
acquaintance, and Mary, after a little consideration, inclined to be
friends, especially as she had seen "the lady" before. "The lady"
was her distinctive name for her sister's grandest and gayest visitor.
While Kate chatted with the child, Constance was in full
conference with Mr. Wiggett concerning her greenhouse plants. He
invited her to come and inspect his, and as they went off together, Mary,
not choosing to lose sight of one friend in gaining another, led Kate to
follow in the same direction; Esther brought up the rear.
The greenhouse was far gayer than the garden, and as the
whole party passed through its narrow door in single file, Esther was left
outside. Looking up through the glass of a similar structure she
caught sight of a pale face and gleaming grey eyes. It was Philip,
and he was looking full at her. Her ready smile was answered,
flashed back on her with all the light of his singularly radiant one.
But Esther did not stop there. She had come to see him as well as
her little sister, and when she saw him she naturally went straight to
him, turned from the door she was entering, and went in where he was
sitting in the warm, moist forcing-house.
"Are you better?" she asked, her voice full of the tender
reverence with which she had learned to regard him.
"Yes," he answered in his abrupt way, adding, hurriedly, "I
have been too long idle. I am going back to work on Tuesday."
"You know that we are going away?" she returned, not knowing
what to say, for his manner checked her speech.
Another and yet more abrupt "Yes." One unused to him
might have construed it into, "What does that matter to me?" but Esther,
looking in his face, saw there an expression of acute pain. He was
silent for a moment or two. He could not grow paler, but a livid hue
spread round his eyes. He had risen from his seat to meet her, and
now he was obliged to sink into it again.
"You are ill," cried Esther, turning faint, as she saw him
apply his handkerchief to his lips, and felt rather than saw that the red
tide of life had burst its barriers again "I fear you are very ill."
He looked up almost gaily, a sort of chivalrous defiance in
his manner, and deprecating her concern, whispered, "I shall be better
She stood waiting, unwilling to leave him thus.
"Let me call Mr. Wiggett," she said, at length.
He shook his head; and looking round, she could see the
others moving away. Kate nodded as she passed with little Mary.
They were gone to explore some other corner of the garden.
When Philip recovered himself she was standing over him.
She had pushed one of the casements open to give him air, and her eyes
were full of tears, so that she could not meet his.
"I must go now," she said, and half held out her hand, and
then withdrew it, as there was no corresponding movement on his part.
"I shall not see you again," he said, hurriedly. "I
have got a job down in the country, and when I come back to the old place
you will be gone." There was a tone so sad in his voice, that it
brought before Esther vividly the almost desolate loneliness of his lot.
"I shall have to work all the harder," he said, half to
She looked questioningly at him.
"I shall have to work hard to forget you," came from his
lips, while the light of an almost overpowering passion flashed into his
face, "or rather to forget myself," he added, with a gasp, and rising to
his feet again.
Esther stood for a moment wavering; the next, she laid her
hand upon his arm, and, scarcely knowing what she said, faltered, "Come
His heart gave a great bound, and he seemed to gain a sudden
strength. He took her hand and carried it to his lips, and then held
it in both of his.
He comprehended in a moment all that her words implied of
happiness in the future. He saw before him a land of promise, a land
where men of nerve and brain like his have room to grow great. He
knew that in that future she offered him herself.
"God bless you, for ever and ever!" he cried, looking into
her charmed eyes. "But it must not be. I shall not die yet—I
shall do some more work before I go; but I carry the warrant here within
me, signed in that broken vein of mine. You have given me joy enough
to last me till the end."
Little Mary came back breathless with running, to find her
sister and Philip standing hand in hand, and looking "glad and sorry," as
she phrased it, "all at once." A long, silent clasp of the hands, a
long, half-tender, half-mournful gaze, never to be forgotten by either,
and they parted. Esther found herself walking down the garden path
by little Mary's side, with a strange, hitherto unknown feeling, as if she
no longer belonged to herself. Not even to Constance did she breathe
a word of what had passed; and Constance, full of her own anxious
thoughts, did not notice her absence of mind.
Constance, who was always on the look out for the post, had
her mind set at rest at last. In the evening a letter came to her
from Mr. Carrington. It ran:—
will be glad to hear that I have had it out with my mother, and that my
own mind is quite made up. I come up to town on Tuesday, and will
lose no time in learning my future fate.—Ever yours sincerely,
"Just like him. An answer and no answer," thought
Constance, as she put the note into her pocket, and tried to look
THE brief Easter holidays were over and gone.
Constance accompanied her sister to town in order to be with her all the
time that remained till her departure. Mr. Vanghan was to join them
a few days later, and to go with them to Plymouth, where they were to
embark. Kate's improvement had been transient enough; now and then
she relented, but for the most part she took refuge from her grief in a
stony quietness, which her father and sister knew to be unreal, and which
gave them the keenest pain.
The Potters were to embark at Gravesend, but Constance would
not say farewell to her friend till the very last. She would see her
again when the ship touched at Plymouth. Nothing whatever had been
heard of Mr. Carrington. Constance had called at his mother's house,
though she was ready to quarrel with herself for having done so; but they
had not returned to town. It was a mystery, or rather it was no
mystery to Constance, for she solved it immediately. The hero of the
piece had turned faint hearted after all. He was afraid of the risk
of matrimony. She had heard him talk of it as a risk under the most
favourable circumstances, so she only judged him out of his own mouth.
His conduct, however, went far towards curing her of her too great regard
for him; and that he was not worthy of Esther was the conclusion at which
she speedily arrived.
At length the day of departure came. On the morrow the
ship was to leave Gravesend, and the passengers must be on board the day
before. Everything was ready in the Potter household. The
whole family had assembled once more in the dismantled house in the midst
of their numerous packages, having slept and breakfasted in one of the
least disreputable coffee-houses in the neighbourhood. The bulk of
their belongings had been shipped at the dock, but Martin and Willie were
to be the pioneers of the party, and to take care of what remained, and
see it safe on board, and for this purpose they were to set off by an
earlier train. They could hardly conceal their impatience to be on
the move, while Bob and Walter, though uneasy at the sight of their
mother's sad face and frequent sighs, and Esther's grave, pale looks,
found it difficult to keep down their spirits.
At last the cart—belonging to the neighbouring
greengrocer—which was to convey the baggage, arrived, not before Bob had
been twice sent off to expedite its coming, and Martin and Willie assumed
the command of loading—a command which the two younger brothers for once
obeyed with alacrity. When it was ready, nothing would serve Master
Johnny but going with his brothers; so, after a brief opposition from his
mother, he was suffered to ride away in triumph on the top of a pile of
boxes, while the others walked by the side of the cart. Mary could
not bear the division of the party, and her opposition had been conquered
by the promise that they would all wait at the station and go by the same
train. It was a sight to watch the boys go off, beckoning back so
cheerfully, leaving behind not a single regret, full of hope, and life,
and energy. But to their happy smiles their mother's eyes were
blind, blind with smarting tears.
She was still further troubled when the twins, instead of
waiting to go with her, set off to walk by themselves. It seemed as
if she could not keep her flock together any longer, an omen of the
lasting separation which must sooner or later come.
Timothy Wiggett had insisted on seeing them off. He had
slept in town for the purpose, and was at Sutton's Alley in good time with
a cab. Into this Mary and Esther and Sarah and little Polly were to
be put, with sundry small packages not entrusted to the cart: he himself
was to ride on the box.
At the last moment Esther missed her mother, and went through
the house to find her. A stifled sob came from one of the empty
rooms. It was the room in which her father died. She paused at
the door for a little, and then entered softly and stood by Mary's side.
She was crouching on the floor with her face hidden in her hands.
Very softly Esther whispered, "Mother." The name from her had, even
yet, a newness and sweetness to Mary's ear. "Mother, we are all
waiting for you," repeated Esther; and Mary felt the comfort of the wisely
chosen words, and rose and suffered Esther to lead her downstairs and
place her in the cab.
At the station, Mr. Wiggett, under Esther's direction,
managed to get the whole family together in one second-class compartment.
Mary's anxiety that they should all be together seemed to increase, and
the carelessness of the twins in the matter of gratifying her wish was
painful to witness. Martin and Willie absented themselves for a
time, in their eagerness to see that everything was right, and Bob and
Walter in their eagerness to see everything, right or wrong. But at
last Timothy, by dint of warding off all intruders, and nearly wedging
himself into the carriage window, got them all together, and shut them in,
just as the train moved off.
On the way to Gravesend little Mary sat on Timothy Wiggett's
knee, and fell asleep there. Timothy had not much to say. That
there was nothing worth saying in a world where such things as this went
on was pretty much his view of matters mundane in the present crisis.
He looked down at the child from time to time, and touched her cheek with
his fat hand wistfully. It was unlike his bright little Polly to be
sleeping thus. She was breathing hard, too, and had got a bright red
rose on either delicate cheek.
"She is wearied out with all the bustle and excitement of
these last few days," said Mary, noticing the look. "My own head
aches with it; and she woke and cried with hers a good deal in the night."
"She's too tender for this sort of thing," he replied,
shaking his head. "It's a bad business altogether, and if you like
to turn back yet, you'll all have a roof to shelter ye as long as my
A faint smile at what seemed only a mild joke was all the
answer Mary gave.
They were soon at their present destination. Mary
continually looking round for the straying members of her family with the
distracted air of a lost person, was put into the boat last, and was the
last, save Timothy, to leave it. They were all on the deck before
But what a deck! None of the party, except Martin and
Willie, had ever before seen an emigrant ship, and the confusion caused
them to feel something like dismay. They had to move on, to give
room to fresh comers, through narrow lanes, between piles of goods.
Bales, barrels, boxes were being swung in the air from the boats and
lighters alongside, and dropped into the depths, and rolled, and bumped,
and knocked about on every side. The vessel was an auxiliary screw,
and they were coaling her, and black dust flew about, and water floated on
the slippery planks.
Martin and Willie guided the party, for they had had the
advantage of a previous visit to the ship, under the care of Harry West.
They led the way first to their own quarters. The condition of
things there was not such as to reassure them. Down the steep
break-neck ladder they could catch a glimpse of the confusion reigning in
the semi-darkness below. At the very mouth of this pit two men were
"I say, bundle your traps out o' this. That's my berth.
I been and took it a week ago."
"No, I won't. First come first served, that's my
motto," shouted the defendant, who was evidently of opinion that
possession is nine-tenths of the law.
"You won't, won't you! Then I'll make you," retorted
the claimant, and was proceeding to a summary ejectment, when the
appearance of some constituted authority, to which both appealed at once,
rendered anything further unintelligible.
"You needn't go down just now," said Martin, catching the
look of consternation on his mother's face; "but we have got very good
places, not far from the entrance, where we will have plenty of light and
air; further back it is rather dark and close."
"What a dreadful place!" groaned Mary.
"Will you have to live down there among those rough men?"
asked Esther, her face reflecting the dread on her mother's.
"Men must take the world as they find it, mother;" said
Martin, with an assumption of manliness which, however, became him well;
"they won't do much good in it if they don't," he added, turning to
"But the boys," she whispered, for even a glance had told her
that the men down there were not the associates that a sister would choose
for her brothers, or a mother for her sons. There was worse than
rudeness in one or two of the faces she had caught a glimpse of.
"Will and I will take care of them the best we can", he
whispered in reply, as they moved away. "We've had plenty of the
same sort of thing, and if they take to it, it won't be for want of seeing
the ugly side of it. But it isn't in them. They only get to
hate it the more the closer they come to it."
Esther drew but small comfort from this philosophy of her
brother's, and could not help wishing that the boys had not been separated
from them, but she said no more.
They went on, looking down into another similar pit, where a
number of women seemed to be preparing for an early dinner, amid much
talking and laughing, and screaming and scolding.
Esther was truly thankful when they reached their
cabin—narrow and confined as it was—to find it comparatively clean and
quiet, and capable of affording some degree of privacy.
"There seems ten times as much coming in as the ship can
possibly hold," said Martin to a good-natured sailor.
"There's plenty more to come yet," he answered, laughing.
"Never fear, we'll stow it safe enough."
"And how long will this confusion last?" "Till we're
well out to sea."
"I wish we were," he said thoughtfully.
"So do I," echoed the sailor.
Little Mary was crying with her head again, and complaining
of the harsh noises; and not all the glorious things to be found in an
immense packet of sweets with which Timothy had provided himself could
tempt her to raise it from her mother's shoulder and share in the
refreshment, to which her brothers were soon doing ample justice, standing
round the cabin door, while the others sat within.
There were other two who turned away from the comfortless
meal. Esther and her mother felt as if the first morsel would choke
them. They, too, wished the ship would sail. The agony of
parting must last as long as they were linked to the shore. They
longed to have it over, or even for the night to come and hide them from
the noise and tumult, and suffer them to weep in secret.
"THIS is the very day the Wests were to have
sailed," said Benjamin Carrington to his mother, as the train in which
they were seated stopped for a few minutes at one of the stations on the
up line to London. They were the only occupants of the carriage, but
for all that they had been very sparing in conversation during the long
hours of their journey that had already passed. Mrs. Carrington
found that speaking while the train was in motion fatigued her, and her
son was not sorry to keep silence and give himself up to his own
"So it is, my dear," she answered; "I am sorry we did not see
them again before they went away. I like her; she was always a
favourite of mine; and I think it is quite shocking that she should be
dragged out to that dreadful place. I could see she was going
against her will, though she was too proud to own it."
"What an intolerable fellow that young West is," said her
son. And then the train rushed on again, and the old lady sank back
among the cushions, while the young man relapsed into his dreamy mood.
After a time, however, he became restless; either the chain
of his present thoughts had been broken, or he had wearied of pursuing it.
He had given full ten minutes to the morning paper, and considered himself
the master of its contents, the latest intelligence being all he ever
troubled himself to read. So he began rummaging a small black
despatch-bag which was his constant travelling companion, less with any
idea of finding anything readable than of arranging its miscellaneous
contents, with that almost excessive love of order which is a
characteristic of such minds as his.
His clerk had packed it up on the eve of his departure, and
had met him with it at the station, telling him that it contained the
letters and papers which as yet he had not seen. The letters he had
read on his journey down, the papers he had afterwards disposed of,
chiefly in the small hours, when his restless intellect kept him awake.
He took them out now one by one, looked at the writing endorsed on each,
and bound them together with a stray bit of the orthodox red tape.
The letters he put together in a small side-pocket. The bag was
Not quite, however. Flat in the bottom of it lay a
guide to the beauties of Devonia. He had never read it; had been too
much occupied to think about it. He took it now, and opened it about
the middle, or, rather, it opened of itself there, and disclosed another
letter, a letter unlike the rest, one of those long, narrow, pinky
envelopes which ladies employ. At first he thought it must be a note
of his mother's slipped in by accident, the more so as a glance at the
handwriting showed him that it was from Constance, with whose notes to his
mother he was perfectly familiar. But no, the letter was unopened,
and addressed to himself. There could be no mistake. "Benjamin
Carrington, Esq.," and the postmark showed it to be nearly three weeks
old. The unfortunate guide-book had been thrust into the black bag
back downwards, the letter had slipped into the book, and the book had
slipped into the bottom of the bag when the papers had been pulled out.
All this flashed through his mind in a moment, even before he had time to
open the note, though he did this impatiently enough.
It was the note which Constance Vaughan had written to him on
the eve of the holidays, and which he had never seen. He read it at
a glance. When he had done so he neither raved nor tore his hair,
nor tossed the offending guide-book out of the carriage window. He
folded up the note quite deliberately, and sat looking out at the flying
landscape. Miles and miles the express sped on, and he neither moved
nor spoke; his thoughts all the while, not unlike that outer world, seemed
flying too, while in reality they stood still. He was conscious of
this as he looked from time to time on his mother's face, who was now
sleeping peacefully opposite to him. "I am not horribly miserable,"
he thought, and his most mocking smile played round his lips, "but this
feeling is worse than the acutest misery. I wish I could shake it
off and be in a passion—a good old-fashioned rage at everything and
everybody, myself included."
Of course he could say nothing about the note to his mother.
Again and again he stole a look at her, not without tenderness. Was
it possible that she was aware of this, and had purposely detained him in
Devonshire? No, he cast aside the unworthy suggestion. Worldly
he knew her to be, but base he could not think her. The very thought
roused him to do battle with himself, and recalled the resolution and
self-reliance which had lately stirred him. He was determined to
carry out the life which he had planned, though she was lost to him for
ever. He would not sink into a scoffing sickly-minded Sybarite with
out an effort. It was his last fight with the sulky demon
Do-nothing, and before the train stopped he had prevailed.
When Mrs. Carrington had discovered the immediate necessity
for a visit to some distant relations in Devonshire, her motive had not
been far to seek, and was quite apparent to her son. He had resented
it far more than he would have resented any active opposition. It
was, in fact, treating him like a child, and he took an early opportunity
of telling his mother what were his intentions with regard to Esther.
Mrs. Carrington happily took up the ground of objection to
Esther's relatives, where she was easily met by her son, where the spheres
of life were so distinct there could be no difficulty, none which such a
woman as Esther could not deal with gracefully and graciously. A
weaker woman, by her very fears and scruples, might make a mess of it; but
she, he felt sure, would be able to act with judgment as well as
tenderness. Then he did not intend to go in for a life of pleasure,
which meant living for other people's pleasure rather than your own.
He meant to enter upon an active life, whether in public or private.
He did not, in planning all this for himself, expect her, his mother, to
provide the means. He meant to begin life as a poor man, with a
This latter portion of his plan was, perhaps, the most
distasteful of all to Mrs. Carrington, who loved power, and had on more
than one occasion made her son—fond of him and proud of him as she
was—feel that she duly appreciated her position as mistress of the purse.
He had often felt, in his more active mood, that he lacked freedom, the
freedom which only independence can give, and he had lately acknowledged
to himself a deficiency of the manly virtues which dependence breeds.
Obstinate on the score of trifles he had always been. Now he set
himself firmly to make the great stand of his life.
It was not done without a struggle; but at last Mrs.
Carrington found herself obliged to yield, and it was then that her son
had written his misleading note to Constance. But having given in on
the chief point, she expected to be yielded to on the minor one of still
further delay, and in the midst of this new struggle she was seconded by a
sharp attack of illness, which confined her for a week to her bed, and for
another to the sofa.
Her son had occupied much of his time during her
illness—which was only alarming for the first few days—in arranging his
affairs, and also in discovering how very much he was in love and all this
in the intervals of the demands made upon him by a large party of very
young ladies, to whom he proved an interesting object of study, and who
were convinced that he needed a great deal of their society.
He would not have acknowledged a hope so utterly groundless;
but as the train neared London, and he felt his resolution return, he
began to fancy that Esther might still be his—not even yet be gone.
Ships did not always set sail on the appointed days. But if even the
worst had happened that seemed probable, the other side of the world was
not too far to follow her.
It was with something like impatience that he leaped from the
train and assisted his mother from the carriage. Her own man was
waiting on the platform to perform all other needful services; but it was
with a gasp of astonishment that she heard Mr. Carrington say, "Here is
the carriage; I will see you to it, and then I must be absent for an hour
"Where are you going?" said Mrs. Carrington, in astonishment.
"I am going to make an inquiry which cannot be delayed," he
"I never heard of it before," she murmured.
"Do not wait dinner for me," was his only reply, and he was
"So unlike Benjamin," thought his mother. "He never
used to do anything in a hurry. But he is altogether unlike
himself," she added, mentally, with a sigh, as she sank back in her
carriage and was driven away alone.
THE same night saw Benjamin Carrington speeding back
to Plymouth. He had learnt that the ship had left Gravesend a day
later than had been announced, and that, therefore, in all probability,
she would likewise be a day later in making her final start from the
southern port. He had also made sure that both the Wests and the
Potters were gone.
He had been somewhat afraid to tell his mother how matters
stood. He had shrunk from seeing her exhibit some triumph on the
occasion—that species of triumph which profound egotists exhibit when
events occur to favour their wishes—a triumph as if the course of the
universe had been ordered for their especial service. He shrank from
seeing this, and yet before dinner was over he had communicated to her the
fact of Esther's departure with her family.
"All gone!" the old lady ejaculated, taking the intelligence
quite differently from what he had expected. "How do you know?"
"I heard of it by letter to-day, and I have been to both the
houses. It is four days since the Potters sailed, and the Wests went
down to Plymouth only this morning."
"What a pity we did not know that those Potters were going,"
Esther, cut off from her objectionable relations, and managed
by her, Mrs. Carrington, was quite a different person from Esther with a
low-born mother and ill-bred sisters at her back. She did not doubt
her power of managing her. She no more doubted her power of managing
any human being than she doubted her power to speak. Esther was
poor, and she rather liked the idea of her son marrying a poor wife.
Then she was by far the most distinguished-looking young lady of her
acquaintance; and above all things Mrs. Carrington worshipped distinction.
Mr. Carrington looked up at his mother with a questioning
glance as she repeated her last words. She smiled at him graciously.
"We might have managed to detain one of them," she added.
The old lady had made one of the conquests in which she
delighted. Her son looked at her gratefully, and thanked her warmly.
She was, however, hardly prepared for a movement so decisive
as starting off by the mail train in the hope of catching them up.
This was what her son proposed, and, moreover, intended to execute,
notwithstanding all that she could urge to the contrary. He would
survive the fatigue, and sleep very well in the train, he had no doubt.
He had, however, miscalculated his powers for once.
Over-strained and sleepless, he sped through the night; and the hopeless
nature of his errand forced itself upon him more and more. He might
be in time to see Esther once more, and to tell her how and why he had
come; but was it likely that she would forsake her friends and go back
with him at a moment's notice? It is true that Constance and Mr.
Vaughan would be there to receive her; but he could hardly flatter himself
that she loved him well enough to take a step so sudden. What a fool
he had been in the past, and on what a wild-goose chase had he come for
In spite of these depressing thoughts, however, he had
determined to press his suit in the plainest terms, and snatch Esther, if
possible, from the very brink of fate. Faith, too, had risen with
courage, and he never doubted for a moment that she would remain wholly
uninfluenced by any motive save the one which he desiderated—attachment to
himself. That he should find her unable to return his love, was the
only possibility he had to dread.
When the pearly light of the May morning glimmered in upon
him and the solitary fellow-traveller who had been snoring comfortably by
his side for the last three hours at least, Benjamin Carrington looked the
anxious lover to perfection. He was haggard with sleeplessness and
fatigue, and instead of his usual calm elegance of person and demeanour,
he had all the appearance of roused and restless energy. He was no
longer looking down on the conflict, but taking part in it—taking his
share of hurry, and strife, and wound. Could he have looked at
himself just then, bodily or mentally, in that mirror of self-reflection
which he so constantly held up to himself, and which had often marred his
singleness of purpose, and was fast destroying his simplicity of
character, he would have been too much astonished even for self-mockery.
But for once in his life Benjamin Carrington had no thought of himself.
Well for him if he can pitch his future life at this far nobler key.
The sun was shining full and fair on land and sea when he got
out at the station, and stepped into the nearest hotel. He had not
far to seek for the intelligence he wanted—it met him on the threshold:
the City had sailed the evening before. "She kept her time," said
his informant; "the wind was in her favour, and she went off an hour
before sundown. I saw her off myself. You weren't going in
her, sir?" he added, noticing the expression of disappointment on his
listener's face, which certainly did not keep its usual impassive look of
"No," he replied; "I only came to see a friend on board."
"Too late, sir," and the man shook his head in a rather
exasperating manner, while he received his order for a cup of coffee, and
led the way to a room.
"There's always a party too late for everything. There
was a party just missed being too late for the City—caught her
swinging by her last rope off the point of the pier. Such a to-do to
get them off! They didn't go from this house, for they came straight
from the station; but they were to have stayed here, and I gave them a
hand, and got them off all right."
"Do you know their names?" said Mr. Carrington. It was
just possible that it might be the Wests, and he wanted to find out
Constance and her father, who, in all likelihood, were still in the place.
"I don't know their names," the man answered, "for their
luggage was in before. They would have been done for if it hadn't;
as it was, they had a race for it, and the poor lady hadn't a minute to
say good-bye to her pa and another young lady—her sister, I s'pose; and
the young gentleman, he cried, 'Come along, Kate,' and she looked wild at
him, though she didn't say nothing. It was all his fault they were
so late, I s'pose," and the man smiled as if he had witnessed an aside of
the comedy of domestic life—a little tiff between a happy young couple,
instead of having caught a glimpse of its deepest tragedy.
"Do you know where the elderly gentleman, whom you thought
was the lady's father, is stopping?" asked Mr. Carrington. "I think
they belong to the party I came to see."
Yes, he was stopping in the house—he and the young lady; but
he didn't know if they were up yet. He would go and see, if the
gentleman pleased. And in the meantime coffee was served.
No; it was too early to trouble the lady and gentleman, even
if they were his friends, decided the new arrival; but he gave the man his
card, and told him to ascertain if the gentleman's name was Vaughan, and
to present the card to him at breakfast.
The man politely returned from the bar to say that the name
of the lady and gentleman he had indicated was Vaughan, and that he would
attend to the instructions he had received.
Then, after slight but much-needed refreshment, Mr.
Carrington set out again. It was still too early to seek the
Vaughans, but he had got into that state in which repose is impossible—in
which the tension of brain and nerve must be gradually relaxed before rest
can be achieved. He thought the sea air would cool the fever of his
head, the outlook on the water soothe his spirit. He went down to
the harbour, and paced about the shore, curiously seeking from some
loitering sailors corroborative evidence concerning the sailing of the
He had thus wandered aimlessly for an hour or so, and was
thinking of returning to the hotel, when he saw before him, at a little
distance, Constance and her father. They did not see him. They
were looking out to sea, pointing, in all probability, to the spot where
the last glimpse of the departing ship had been caught by their watching
They were looking out to sea
He went up to them slowly. They were evidently in the
deepest grief, though outwardly calm. Constance was clinging to her
father piteously. She was the first to observe Mr. Carrington's
approach. She did not even look surprized, far less pleased.
"You here, Mr. Carrington," she said, coldly, as he held out
"And too late," he answered, speaking the words which were
sounding in his brain like the murmur of the sea.
He had turned to receive Mr. Vaughan's greeting. "You
are still in Devon?" said the latter—Mr. Vaughan's idea being, evidently,
that he had come from somewhere in the neighbourhood:
"I came down from London last night," replied Mr. Carrington.
"I thought the ship was not to have sailed till to-day."
It must have surely been something more than common
friendship that had prompted this trip of Mr. Carrington's; and, having
painfully learnt a little wisdom in such matters, Mr. Vaughan looked from
one to the other of the faces by his side. He saw nothing melting
the sad sternness of his daughter's, however, and breathed more freely as
he said, "We were not much more fortunate. Through a mistake of
Harry's we only arrived in time to see the vessel moving off."
The remembrance of the scene of yesterday brought bitter
tears to the eyes of Constance, which she had to turn away to hide.
"And when do you intend to return?" inquired Carrington,
after a painful silence.
"By this morning's express," replied Mr. Vaughan. "We
came out before breakfast to take a farewell look," and he nodded out
toward the distant horizon.
"I should have been glad to return with you," said Mr.
Carrington, "but as I only travelled up yesterday, and have been on the
move for the last four and twenty hours, I fear I must remain and get a
few hours' rest."
It did not appear that Constance was taking the slightest
notice of him, though the last words were spoken at her, and in a
decidedly injured tone—a tone which Constance had often mocked in the
happy days of old.
At last he addressed her directly. "I did not know till
yesterday that your friend had gone also. Did you see her before she
Then he had not received her note. It was, in all
probability lying at his chambers. Constance could not but look her
desire for explanation as these thoughts passed through her mind. "I
parted from her in London," she answered, "hoping to see her again; but we
were too late to get on board—indeed, they would not have allowed us;
every one not going with the ship had been sent on shore. Kate and I
had to part quite suddenly at last, and in the confusion I did not even
catch a glimpse of Esther, though she must have been standing on the
"We lost sight of Kate too," said Mr. Vaughan; "in fact, we
could see nothing but a crowd of people waving hats and
handkerchiefs—black figures standing out against a brilliant evening sky.
Even had the light been better, poor Constance would not have seen much, I
fear," he added, looking tenderly at her.
The three walked on together, Mr. Carrington going over to
the side of Constance. "Let us hope the parting is only for a time,"
he said, gently. "Harry is sure to come back again; the distance is
He spoke as if the antipodes might be reached in a Long
Vacation tour. The tone of hope and energy was new to her, and she
raised her eyes to his face, the tears standing on their thick lashes.
He comforted her, and unconsciously she accepted the comfort. They
stood nearer to each other than they had ever done before.
"You will come and breakfast with us?" said Mr. Vaughan.
"Unless," Constance put in, with that touch of womanly care
which so often wins a man's heart by its betrayal of interest in his
personal concerns—"unless Mr. Carrington would prefer to rest; he looks
quite worn out."
"I think I shall go back to London with you after all," said
"But you have just travelled down," said Mr. Vaughan.
"And travelled up only the day before," said Constance,
showing that she had been paying attention to him after all. "I'll
tell you what we shall do," said Mr. Vaughan, kindly; "we will stay here
another day. I should like to stay here another day," and his eyes
went seaward wistfully. "You shall go and rest now," and he laid his
hand on the young man's shoulder as they came up to the door of the hotel,
"and come and dine with us in the evening. To-morrow we can all go
THE daily paper did not reach Redhurst until after
breakfast, so Mr. Vaughan escaped the temptation, common to other men, to
obscure himself behind the broadsheet during a moiety of the meal.
Against this temptation Mr. Walton was not proof; but Milly tolerated
this, and all his other failings, with more than patience—indeed, had been
even heard to commend the objectionable practice, and to pick up
contentedly the crumbs of intelligence which fell from the lips of her
lord and master. Constance, on the other hand, could not endure it,
and now that she was left alone with her father, she regularly cut the
paper in two, and shared the reading of it with him.
It was now five days since the departure of Kate and Harry,
and life was returning into its ordinary channels. Father and
daughter had breakfasted together with tolerable cheerfulness, and had
even talked of taking up their usual tasks, which had been laid aside for
a time. After breakfast, as usual, the damp, folded sheet was handed
in by a maid-servant, and seized by Constance with a faint return of her
usual avidity. So dies in human hearts the thought of parting—the
furrows follow for a while the wake of the vessels, but only to be effaced
There was still a fire in the breakfast-room, for the weather
had been unusually cold and stormy, and Constance spread the paper before
the grate, while she stood on the hearth-rug dividing it with her
"There is your half," she said, cheerfully, handing the sheet
to her father; "you like the summary first."
"Yes, I like to choose what I shall read," he replied, with
almost equal cheerfulness.
Constance smiled, for he accused her of reading what she
called "the horrors." Then, as he settled himself in his chair, she
went off with her portion into her favourite nook in the window behind
There was silence in the room for a few minutes, only broken
by the rustling of the paper in their hands; but at the end of that time
Mr. Vaughan was startled by a deep groan and a heavy fall. He looked
round in terror, and saw Constance lying in a heap on the floor. She
had fainted. Mr. Vaughan's alarm was not unnatural. Thanks to
fresh air and exercise, to freedom from care, and well-disciplined minds,
the young ladies of Redhurst were not given to fainting fits. Mr.
Vaughan had never seen one of his daughters faint, and Constance had
always been the most robust of the three.
If he had looked round the minute before, he would have seen
her rise to her feet, and, clasping her hands with a look of agony, vainly
frame her lips to speak. Ringing the bell for the servants, Mr.
Vaughan hastened to raise her, or, rather, to lay her in an easier
posture. But she did not long remain insensible. She soon
opened her eyes, and took the draught of water which the maid held to her
lips. They lifted her to a sofa, and laid her there, and still she
could not speak; though with the return of consciousness came the return
of the agony, which again convulsed her face. At length she found
relief in weeping. Her father, attributing her suffering to physical
pain, proposed that the doctor should be sent for; but she shook her head,
and at length found voice enough to ask the maid to leave her. Then,
pointing to the paper, she cried out, through her tears, "Oh, poor papa!"
Agitated and grieved as he was, Mr. Vaughan lifted the paper
from the floor to place it on the table, without in the least connecting
it with his daughter's sudden illness; but as he did so a heading in large
letters met his eye—
"FOUNDERING OF THE CITY!
TERRIBLE LOSS OF LIFE!"
It was his turn to drop the silent messenger of evil tidings. "My
child!—my child!" he cried, burying his head in his hands, and flinging
himself on his knees by the side of Constance.
She could only repeat, "Poor papa!"
There were no other words uttered between them that morning.
Over the first agonising grief a veil must be drawn. No
one witnessed it, and they never spoke of it—never told how they gained
courage to read the awful story, and to quench the last spark of hope as
they learnt that only a few of the sailors had escaped, that all the rest
of that great company had perished. Such things cannot be told.
We only know that, from time to time, they must be suffered.
To not a few households in England that morning's paper
carried the like heartrending anguish and dismay. Mr. Walton sat
opposite to his fair young wife as she poured out his coffee, and was glad
to know that his face was concealed from her behind the page, as he read
the terrible news. With the paper rustling in his trembling hands,
he looked up at her, dreading to communicate the intelligence which would
quench those pleasant smiles for many a morning to come. Once and
again he fixed his eyes on the headings with a kind of fascination, and
tried to speak. And when at last he said, "Milly, my darling!" in a
tone so choked and uncertain, and unlike his own, that she rose and came
over to his side, he was forced to allow her to read for herself, only
flinging an arm about her in silence, and clasping her to his heart at the
moment when she saw it all.
After the first burst of sorrow, nothing would satisfy her
but to go at once to her father; and Herbert, finding it impossible to
leave her, accompanied her thither. They felt, both of them, that
the shock which they had suffered, severe as it was, had come to them
through the resisting medium of their own happiness—a happiness which, in
its perfect circle, isolated them to a certain extent from the whole
world, and that Constance and her father would suffer infinitely more.
Mr. Carrington, too, read the announcement at the
breakfast-table, and startled his mother by an exclamation of
horror—startled her out of her morning quiet, and took away her peace and
comfort for the rest of the day. She was certainly awe-stricken and
sorrowful on account of the three young people whom she had known and seen
so lately in the bloom of youth and beauty; but her principal concern was
for her son, who, pale as death, had hurried out of the house, in the
midst of her lamentations, leaving his breakfast wholly untasted.
He, too, was speedily on his way to Redhurst, to offer his
services to the Vaughans, in case there was anything to be done.
But there was nothing. In ordinary cases of bereavement
there is always something to do, in the doing of which the first violence
of sorrow finds vent, and is relieved; but for those whom the sea has
devoured there are no last rites to be paid; no last looks can be taken of
their faces; no flowers can be strewn upon their bodies; left in the
"To toss with tangle and with shells,"
nothing remains to be done for them but to sit down and weep.
The evening papers confirmed the intelligence, and gave the
particulars of the disaster, as taken down from the mouths of the
For the first two days after leaving Plymouth the weather had
been moderate; but on the second night it began to blow, and before
morning one of the masts of the ship had been carried away. All day
the gale continued with unabated fury, and one by one the other masts went
overboard, hanging over the sides of the heavily-laden ship a mass of
timber and cordage. A vain attempt was made to secure them, but the
gale blew harder than ever, and the lurching vessel shipped heavier and
heavier seas. As long as the engine-pumps kept going there had been
hope, but at length a tremendous sea rushed down into the saloon, and the
fires in the engine-room were extinguished. Then the boats had been
got out, and the attempt made to save as many as possible. As usual,
however, the boats were unworkable, and first one and then another was
swamped as soon as lowered. None but sailors would enter the only
remaining boat, which pulled off in safety from the foundering ship, and
in a few minutes saw her sink, and all on board perish.
This was the narrative of the survivors, as given in the
public prints, and there seemed nothing more to be learnt. But the
sailors had been brought up to London, and Mr. Carrington took upon
himself the melancholy task of visiting them, to see if he could learn
anything concerning the dear peculiar few in whose fate he and his friends
were so deeply interested. All that he could hope for was some
mournful, perhaps harrowing glimpse of them in the last extremity, but
even that seemed better than the indiscriminate silence.
One of the men was sure that he remembered Harry helping to
clear the ship.
"A young man with hair and beard as bright as gold," prompted
"Ay, sir; as bright as his watch-chain, and it glittered in
"And dressed in blue?"
"Dressed in blue, sir; and a capital sailor. It wasn't
the first time he had been to sea. Could keep his feet, and take a
wetting, like any old salt." The sailor added touches which showed
him light as foam to the last.
But as for the women, the sailors remembered none of them.
It was too early in the voyage to get acquainted with the looks of the
passengers. Very few had even been on deck. They had mostly
kept to their cabins and said their prayers, and given wonderful little
"And that same golden-haired young man," again prompted
Carrington, with quivering lips; "had he any one with him—had he a wife?"
"Yes, he had a wife below; but for that, he would have been
with us. We could have taken him, but he wouldn't leave her, though
we tried to persuade him. The passengers were either afraid to trust
the boat, or they had some one on board they wouldn't leave, sir. He
was one o' them. He wouldn't leave her; though for once he looked a
little white like as he watched us shoving off."
"And then, sir, he went below," and the spokesman paused with a
look in his face which put an end to further questioning.
This was something for Mr. Carrington's pains. Harry
had refused to leave Kate at last. Perhaps, in the supreme hour of
separation, there had come to them a union of spirit which had gone far to
take away the bitterness of death.
Concerning Esther all was blank.
LOVE AND LOSS.
THERE was no reserve among the friends at Redhurst
now. Each knew the other's sorest trial and loss. Mr.
Vaughan's self-upbraidings found their counterpart in those of Mr.
The sorrow of both had in it that element of a haunting
regret which gives more of lasting desolation to the heart than anything
else; but, in its manifestions, Mr. Vaughan's grief was more like remorse.
He blamed himself for having urged Kate to go with her husband. If
he had but listened to her prayer, she would have been with him now,
instead of gone from him for ever. From the expressions which he let
fall, Constance could see how he was dwelling on this thought. It
was, indeed, rapidly prostrating him, both in body and mind. He had
presumed once more to take upon himself the direction of another's life,
and with what a result!—a result at once immediate and final.
It was a very dangerous channel of thought for a mind so
sensitive and distrustful of itself to pursue—one into which only such
minds are apt to fall. The self-sufficient of the world pass every
day, not over the dead bodies, but over the dead souls—dead to faith, and
hope, and charity—which they had helped to slay, murmuring, triumphantly,
"Am I my brother's keeper?" But such as Mr. Vaughan feel the
pressure of their responsibility for others to the furthest issues of
their lightest acts. He once confessed that he could not look a
beggar in the face and deny him an alms—as he felt bound to do, because
his reason condemned an indiscriminate charity—without being haunted by
the misgiving that the refusal might be one stroke more in the bitter
process of hardening a human heart.
It was no fanciful alarm which Constance felt, and
communicated to Mr. Carrington, when she found her father brooding on such
thoughts as these. Every feeling of self died out of her heart in
the intensity of her care for him, and she consulted Mr. Carrington as
freely as if he had been a brother; and in those dark days he proved
himself worthy of her trust. Always pervaded by a tender melancholy,
which formed the background on which the light of his intellect and fancy
played, there was reason to fear that Mr. Vaughan's mind might sink into
"If I had but allowed her to stay," was the constant burden
of his thoughts. His intellect seemed to centre more and more on
that terrible "if." His fancy lost its spring; he sat like a man who
has been paralysed, looking straight before him, hour after hour—looking,
and yet seeing nothing. No wonder that Constance was alarmed.
Between Mr. Walton's strongly-marked mind, taking dark enough
views of life and human nature sometimes, but always at home in the region
of the practical and practicable, and that of Mr. Vaughan, there had
always been a slight dissonance. It now came out clearer than ever,
when the more sensitive spirit was rendered still more sensitive by
suffering. Mr. Walton did him harm, rather than good.
It was Mr. Carrington who proved Constance's best ally in
sustaining her father's spirit. Every hour he could spare he spent
with them, and in their service. He told Mr. Vaughan the story of
his love and loss, and of his everlasting regret. The part he had
played towards Esther, though a more passive one than that which Mr.
Vaughan had acted towards his daughter, was yet similar enough to allow of
a deep sympathy between the elder and the younger man. But their
natural positions seemed to have been reversed. It was the younger
who brought the power of a broadly Christian philosophy to bear upon their
It has been said that there was no reserve among the friends;
and there was none, except on the part of Constance, and that was the
sacred secret of her love, which she had buried in her heart, and which
seemed, somehow, to belong entirely to the past, and to make a part of its
sweetness, as well as of its pain. It gave her no pain in the
It was a lovely morning. Spring was abroad, filling the
garden with blossom and sunshine and song. And it was Sunday.
They were going to the village church together—father and daughter and
friend, and the two latter had stepped out into the garden a little before
the time. Constance was clad, for the first time, in black.
She had been so quiet in her sorrow hitherto, that no special sympathy had
been offered to her by her companion. She had seemed to give rather
than to seek support. They walked, in silence, a little way down a
side walk that led to the orchard, the sunshine falling on their path.
The place was one flush of beauty—one chorus of song. The birds sang
as if they would leave no pause in their singing.
"The world is too sad for this!" said Constance, calmly; but
before her companion could answer, she had stopped and burst into a
passion of weeping. It was as if her own voice had called it forth.
"Dear Constance," said Mr. Carrington, tenderly, "you have
needed sympathy, and I have been selfishly claiming it from you."
He tried to comfort her, but it seemed that he was powerless.
She stood among the blossoms shaken with passionate sobs. The birds
sang on with persistent piercing sweetness; Mr. Carrington uttered an
involuntary "Hush!" over which, at any other time, he would have smiled.
Now he knew not what to do, unless he, too, could have wept.
"Your father must not find you thus," he whispered, at last.
"No," she answered, checking her sobs at once, and adding a
murmur of thanks for the reminder. "I shall be better now;" and she
proceeded, turning half aside from him, to dry her eyes, and to pull her
crape veil over her tear stained face.
"How poor our attempts at comfort are," he said, as they
moved on again in the direction she indicated—deeper still among blossomed
"No, no; you have comforted us greatly," she replied.
"You have sustained my father as I could not have done. You, too,
are greatly changed by this suffering."
"For the better, I hope," he said.
"Yes, for the better," she answered, simply.
"I do not feel it as you thought I should?" He was only
leading her away from herself in asking the question. "No."
"How did you think it would affect me?"
"More as it has done my father—with a paralysis of
hopelessness. More as I felt just now, that sunshine, and blossom,
and promise, and all putting forth of power, were vain things in a life
that any moment might overwhelm."
"I have felt that often enough before, in the presence of
such calamities, when they fell far away from the sphere of my life, and
touched me nowhere. Shall I tell you what I feel now, when it has
smitten me? I feel my life consecrated by the touch; it seems as if
it belonged to her, and must not any longer be a worthless thing to
others—must not any longer be a thing to be idly thrown away. It has
somehow lost its littleness, and become related to a larger life beyond.
It has lost its littleness, and yet gained in individuality." He had
spoken, as if musing, rapidly and eloquently. Then he added, in the
lower tone of a confidence imparted, "If I may say it, I feel as if my
life had been touched with a touch of divine power, and must henceforth
belong to Him who gave it."
And Constance noticed that he uncovered his head, and bent it
reverently, as he uttered the last words.
Then they turned to meet Mr. Vaughan, who was coming towards
them, and Mr. Carrington hastened to offer him his arm, with the air of an
affectionate son towards a stricken father. You would not before
have called the latter "an old man;" you would have spoken of him as such
At the first opportunity Mr. Carrington sought out Philip,
for the two young men had pledged themselves to friendship. He went
to Philip's lodging, but he was not there. "He has moved away from
us," said the meek, poverty-stricken landlady; adding, in a tone of
regret, "but I can tell you where he works."
Following the direction she gave, he went on to the workshop,
and found Philip there. The workshop was a great square, enclosed by
brick walls, and lighted from the roof. Fires were burning, blown by
huge bellows, and hammers were ringing on every side.
Philip stood at an anvil near the doorway, raining thick
blows on a piece of glowing iron. Mr. Carrington stood watching him
till he came to a pause in his operations, and became conscious at the
same time that someone was watching him.
"I suppose I must not detain you now," said Carrington, after
a friendly greeting had passed between them. "Tell me where you
live, and I will come and see you."
"I am on piece-work," Philip replied, "and can talk to you
while this bar is heating;" and he thrust the piece of iron into the fire
again, while he leant his weight on the beam of the bellows, and sent a
shower of sparks up from the glowing furnace. "You must speak loud
to be heard here;" he added, "and yet your words won't reach anybody
"Why have you gone away from the old place?" asked
Carrington, abruptly. Conversation conducted here was likely to be
direct, at least.
"I have gone down east," he replied. "There's a band of us
working down there."
"Will you give me work?" said Carrington.
"And welcome. What will you do?"
"Whatever I am fit for."
"That's the thing."
When they had exchanged these brief sentences, the
conversation came to an end. It was significant that neither of them
spoke of the lost.
But two or three days after, when they met by appointment in
Philip's East-end lodging, to which Carrington went straight from his
chambers, while his mother drove off to a dinner-party in solitary state,
an allusion was made to the sad event—the first and the last allusion to
it which passed between them.
Philip was cutting out work for Carrington, and was led to
speak of the clergyman of the district. "He wants to know if we are
sound before he will countenance and encourage us."
"And what did you tell him?"
"I told him our programme was very simple. To preach to
these heathen nations what the Master preached—the love of the Father, and
the salvation from sin!"
Carrington smiled. "And was he satisfied?"
"Not quite. He thought these were all well enough as
far as they went; 'But,' he said, 'we are drifting into a sea of
nothingness, Mr. Ward, where we ought to be quite sure of our ground.' "
"Rather difficult work," said Carrington. "Well?"
"I told him simply that we could not despair of reaching
land, if the Master was on board. He is a good man, in spite of bad
metaphor," added Philip. "Christian men sometimes forget that hope
is a Christian duty—hope for self, and church, and world, a duty next to
faith, perhaps greater, since charity is the greatest, and hope is nearer
to charity. And there's no such thing as a sea of nothingness.
We are all sailing on the ocean of Divine Love. No bad thing to be
swallowed up in that."
Carrington understood the pathetic look on his companion's
face, and both remained for a moment silent and sorrowful.
WE must now turn back to the time when we left Mary
Potter and her children on board of the doomed vessel, with the faithful
Timothy in attendance. As the day went on the confusion around them
seemed only to become worse confounded, and Mary, with her girls gathered
around her, and Johnny kept as closely as possible by her side, was fain
to sit within the cabin and keep clear of the little world of chaos which
reigned without. Martin and Willie, as well as Bob and Walter, were
abroad in the midst of it, and were evidently, especially the latter pair,
enjoying the excitement of the stirring scene. From time to time
they made their appearance to report on all that was going forward.
The two elder brothers, with the laudable purpose of comforting their
mother, brought her every agreeable bit of intelligence they could find,
the soothing effect of which was generally neutralised by the younger pair
rushing in breathless to communicate something of quite the opposite
tendency. "An awfully jolly row" was the least alarming of these
communications. Mary was glad when the day came to a close, and the
sound of carpenters' saws and hammers ceased, even though Timothy Wiggett
left the ship with the rest of the visitors. He left, promising to
come again in the morning; he was to spend the night in Gravesend for the
purpose, and Mary was glad that she was to see his broad beaming face once
more, with its silent but perfect sympathy. Little Mary had
continued ill and feverish and fretful. Johnny, too, was unusually
dull and heavy. Before night it became apparent that both the
children had caught heavy colds, and Timothy Wiggett had proved himself
most efficient as a nurse, though he trusted rather too much to the agency
of pink bull's-eyes and other wonderful productions of a like order.
Morning came at last, after a distressing night, during which
the ailing children had suffered no one in their immediate neighbourhood
to close an eye. Little Mary especially had tossed and tumbled and
cried and fretted the whole night long, and when the morning came her fair
face and neck were red as fire. Her mother suspected what it was,
and as soon as possible caused inquiry to be made for the doctor. He
was not yet on board, but was coming that morning to inspect the
passengers, and Mary was assured that he should see her children first.
Timothy Wiggett was there before him, having previously ransacked the town
for all the good things he could think of in the way of cakes and
confections. But from all good things whatever poor little Mary
turned away her head, while Johnny took them, and cried because he found
himself unable to devour them as usual.
At length the doctor came, a frank, firm-looking man, who
spoke in tones of clear decision, as if accustomed to his will being made
law. He had hardly looked at the children when he raised his head,
saying, "They must be turned back!"
Mary looked at him as if she hardly comprehended.
"They must be got out of the ship as quickly as possible," he
added. "They are both in scarlet fever, and of course they cannot be
allowed to go."
Mary took in the idea of her children's danger, but nothing
beyond. It was some time before she thought of all which this
turning back involved.
"And you, young woman," said the doctor, turning to Sarah,
"what is the matter with you?"
"Nothing," faltered the poor girl, who was holding her little
But the firm man looked in her eyes and into her mouth, and
shook his head over her also. He then gave Mary some directions, and
went off to speak to the master of the vessel concerning their immediate
removal. Esther came forward, and offered to go with him to see the
matter settled. She stated their circumstances briefly.
"It is very hard in this case, certainly," said the doctor;
but I cannot, for the sake of one family, allow a virulent disease to
enter the ship, and endanger the lives of one half the passengers."
He spoke as if there was no appeal from his decision; and
indeed Esther felt that there was none. The master of the ship was
even more peremptory than the doctor. "They must leave at once."
As they arrived at this conclusion, Esther was joined by her
elder brothers, alarmed and eager. She introduced them to the
doctor, who, on examination, pronounced in their favour.
"They, at least, need not turn back."
All the other members of the family passed in review before
this arbiter of their fate, and were one by one pronounced safe,
especially as he ascertained that only their mother, and Sarah, and Esther
had been in very close contact with the sick children for several days.
It was an excited group that gathered round Mary and the
little ones, to decide on what was to be done. With regard to them
and to Sarah, no choice was left; they
must obey the mandate issued against them, and leave the ship immediately.
Orders had already been issued for the return of their passage money, and
of everything belonging to them. The question debated was, should
all turn back together and wait for the next ship, or should Martin and
Willie, with their two younger brothers, be allowed to proceed, and let
the rest follow?
The master of the vessel, who had joined the party in order
to expedite matters, and the young men and boys themselves, took the
latter view, and urged it strongly on the poor bewildered mother. It
was like fighting against fate, this trying to keep her family together,
and Mary always went down in a fight with anything. Assured that the
children would be well again in a week or two, and that she and they would
follow the others in less than a month, she suffered herself to be
overruled, and hardly protested when the twins, who had been consulting
together, declared their wish to go with their brothers.
"Esther will take care of you, mother," Martin had said.
"We can go quite comfortably when we know she is with you."
And Mary made no further opposition. Martin had more
power over his brothers and sisters than she had, and would take as
anxious care for their welfare; and for the present she was absorbed in
watching the lambs of her flock, over whom the vulture Death seemed to her
Timothy Wiggett, who had stood apart during the eager
conference, now came forward with his timely aid. It was he who
carried little Mary on shore, wrapped in a blanket, and screened from
light and air; while Martin, privately informed that the ship would not
sail for hours, if at all that day, and allowed to accompany them on
shore, on condition of undergoing a process of disinfection, carried his
little brother in the same fashion. The parting with the others took
place on board the ship, and, in the bustle and excitement, was brief and
bewildering—one of those things only half realised at the time, to be felt
all the more acutely after, like a sudden wound which is almost painless
in the giving.
With difficulty they got a small, plain lodging, no one
liking to take fever patients. But a childless widow took them in at
last, through Timothy's persuasive powers, which certainly did not lie in
his tongue. The children and Sarah were soon in bed, and under a
doctor's care, the former slightly, the latter exceedingly, ill, though in
appearance the cases had been quite reversed.
Then it was time for Martin to return to the ship, though he
lingered to the last. After parting with his mother—and Mary seemed
parting from all her children in parting with him—Esther walked down with
him to the shore. The fine manly young fellow could hardly keep from
crying along the streets. Esther leaned upon his arm as they walked
together, their hearts too full for speech.
"You will take care of mother," were the first and almost the
last words he said.
She gave the promise he seemed to require, and they wrung
each other's hands in silence.
The last Esther saw of him was his tall, slim figure standing
up in the boat, and waving good-bye. Her tears fell freely under her
veil as she paced the streets back to their lodgings.
PEACE AFTER STORM.
WHEN the terrible news of the foundering of the
City came to Mary Potter she was hanging over the sick-bed of her
daughter Sarah, who was, indeed, dangerously ill. The children, who
had taken the disease in its mildest form, were up and about again, almost
as well as ever, while she, poor girl, had progressed rapidly from bad to
When the cup is full it runs over, and the human heart cannot
hold more than a certain amount of sorrow; what is over remains unfelt.
Great calamities are to be measured by the length of time in which they
involve us in suffering, rather than by the intensity of the suffering
they cause. Some griefs stretch their black shadows over whole
lives; others but darken a short passage of our history.
Under the grim shadow of that great disaster, Mary Potter
will walk to her life's end. She knew not, indeed, how she bore it
and lived; for long after she could hardly be said to live, so dead was
she to everything about her. Her strength decayed, her beauty
withered, she seemed to stoop as if with age, and her beautiful hair
became in a few months thin and grey.
Timothy Wiggett was not with them when the shock came.
He had stayed as long as he could, and returned commissioned to see
Constance Vaughan, and explain to her how matters stood. On his
first visit the Vaughans were absent, and on the second he was met by the
tidings of the disaster, and turned away because neither father nor
daughter was able to see him. The next day he was back at Gravesend,
arranging with Esther that the whole family—all that now remained of
it—should come to him as soon as Sarah could be moved. As for Mary,
she could take no part in any arrangement, but was helpless as a child.
When Constance learned from Esther herself that she was still
in the land of the living, it was with singular feelings of mingled
pleasure and pain. To both Constance and her father the tidings came
with a fresh shock. It was like tearing open a closing wound.
But though it thus for a time intensified their pain, it also roused them
to a deeper and more conscious resignation to the will of God.
Esther was speedily pressed to take up her abode with her old friends, and
her coming back to Redhurst gave a fresh impulse to the sympathy which is
the only cure for an overwhelming sorrow to hearts like Mr. Vaughan's.
It was not long before Esther roused herself to look to the
future. The money which had come to her diminished as it had been by
the expenses of their outfit, would not long suffice for the whole family,
and they could not always trespass upon the kindness of friends. But
she could not rouse her mother. She seemed to turn away with a kind
of loathing from the future, and from any exertion connected with it.
Timothy, too, was averse to change. "Mary," he said,
"was a good housekeeper." Sarah was most useful; it was, in reality,
Sarah who did all that was wanted; "and, seeing that he paid them nothing,
he had an excellent bargain. The two little chaps counted for
nothing; he throwed away as much garden stuff as they required for grub."
Thus they went on, and Esther's purpose was postponed from month to month.
It was some time after her return before Mr. Carrington and
Esther met. It was natural that a reaction should follow the kind of
exaltation that had come upon him. It did follow speedily; but he
had been carried by that one high tide of feeling out of himself for ever.
He sank into a state of deep melancholy, but it was a far other and nobler
melancholy than he had before indulged in. He went about a few days
looking desperately ill. His mother fidgeted, and, to satisfy her,
he saw the family doctor, who looked grave, and prescribed cheerfulness
without excitement. He forgot to say where the tonic was to be
One day, Mrs. Carrington came in from her round of calls.
She found from signs in the hall that her son had returned before her.
With her light brisk step she passed at once into his study. It was
on the ground-floor, and she gave no warning ere she entered. To her
consternation, the sound that greeted her was an unmistakable sob, and the
sight she saw was her son with his head bent, and in utter abandonment,
crying like a child. Very much alarmed and distressed, she
nevertheless stepped back behind the door, called to him that she had
returned, and went away as if she had neither seen nor heard. But as
soon as she had given him time to recover himself—for the old lady hated a
scene, and, indeed, it was the last thing in the world which her son would
have chosen to encounter—she came in again, taking care to enter less
The sound that greeted her was an unmistakable sob
"I was coming up to you," he said, in his usual tone.
"See," and he held forth a letter.
It was from Constance, to tell that Esther was safe—was
coming back, as it were, from the dead. She had observed no
precaution in her announcement, and the shock had been too much for him at
the moment. An attack of serious illness followed. The
excitement, and consequent depression, which the shock and counter-shock
had caused, had brought on a functional derangement of the heart.
Nor was Esther ignorant of his sufferings, and its cause;
Constance, holding her knowledge no longer as a secret, had told her all.
For his sufferings, Esther expressed the truest sympathy; for the cause of
them, only a deep regret.
After the first painful interview, which took place as soon
as Mr. Carrington had sufficiently recovered, they seemed to meet as
friends, and they met thus more and more frequently as the summer
advanced. In the midst of the summer splendour of the Redhurst
garden they often walked together—"Two wan, sick figures walking alone in
the flowery land." Not that Esther was sick, but she was pale with
dwelling under the shadow of her own and others' sorrows. As for her
companion, it was sorrowful to see him so faded in his youth.
All of a sudden he appeared to revive. The air of the
Redhurst garden seemed to furnish the tonic he required. He
recovered his cheerfulness, resumed his old interests and his new work
with fresh vigour. At first Mr. Vaughan had desired him to come to
them for his own sake, now he encouraged his visits, as a means of
enlivening the sadness that brooded over the house. He himself was
content to go on under the shadow, but could not bear to see Constance and
her friend so grave and sorrowful.
But at length Esther announced her determination of going out
as a teacher in a school, in which she was about to place little Mary, and
it was on learning this determination of hers that Mr. Carrington spoke
It was a soft, sad October day. The leaves were quietly
fluttering down one by one. The gossamers in the garden, stretched
from shrub to shrub, were strung with tiny beads of dew, and resembled
nets of woven pearls. No bird sang; everything was still and mute.
Constance was engaged somewhere, and Carrington, by Esther's side, pacing
up and down the well-known garden at Redhurst. They, too, were sad
and mute, for they were thinking of the past.
"Why should you not wait till spring?" said Carrington at
last, somewhat abruptly. It was so long since he had spoken, that
Esther had to recollect herself, before she could bring to mind that he
was speaking of her resolution to face the world again.
"The longer I stay the more difficult it will be to go," she
answered, with a grave smile.
"Why should you go at all?" he said, stopping at the end of
their walk, and seeking to meet her eyes. "Esther, my love, be
She did not answer, and her eyes were fixed upon the ground;
but at least there was no repulsion in her attitude, and the expression of
her troubled face, if grave, was tender; therefore he went on to plead for
an answer. He urged her to help him to the new life which her love
had inspired—the life of grave and manly effort, and of grave and manly
"I do not ask you," he said, "to share with me a life of
selfish pleasure, but one of self-denying work. If it is too early
to ask you to forget your sorrow, I will wait—indeed," he added, "I do not
ask you to forget it at all, but to let me more fully sympathise with it.
If you do not, cannot care for me—"
And his voice plainly told what despair such a sentence would
be. He paused and waited.
"I do care for you," she murmured; "but—"
He would not suffer the objection, whatever it might be.
"There can be nothing else," he exclaimed, eagerly, "to
hinder my happiness. I have loved none but you."
She seemed at these words to shrink from him more than she
had done before.
"You shall judge," she said, slowly, "what hinders me."
And with a delicate blush on her downcast face she gave him the history of
her feelings towards Philip Ward. Beginning at the time when she
first knew him, she told her lover of the attraction which Philip had
exercised over her, and related what had passed between them at their
Mr. Carrington's face brightened as she went on.
"You never really loved him," he exclaimed.
"But until lately I thought I could," she answered, quickly.
"He is so good, so tender, so exalted. It was his face I should have
seen in visions if I had gone to that distant land—if I had gone down in
that sinking ship."
She raised her eloquent eyes to his bravely.
"If," he replied. "But now?" and he smiled in triumph
as the eyes fell before his. "God knows," he said, as they returned
up the walk hand in hand, "Philip is nobler and worthier than I; but you
will love me none the worse for having been able to think so tenderly of
him. Confess that the feeling is not quite the same—that this is
What was confessed need not be repeated; but in the hearts of
both was established the peace of a sure and steadfast love, as they
returned to the house together.
And our brave Constance had conquered too, for she rejoiced
in the happiness of her friends, as she took her place by her father's
side. Her attitude towards him that evening, when they were all
together, and the lovers drew near to each other, was like an assurance
that she, at least, would never leave him, but find her happiness in his
It was settled that the marriage of Esther and Mr. Carrington
should not take place till the spring, and Esther was to remain with her
friends till then.
Mrs. Carrington, who liked being generous, especially if
opposed in her purpose, made over a large part of her fortune to her son,
in his own despite. She had enough for herself; besides, she
declared it would embitter her life to see him living in poverty.
Mary Potter could not be brought to part with her children,
even to send them to school. She taught them herself, and Mr.
Carrington had speedily set at rest Esther's fears for their future.
But before her marriage they were provided for in another and most
unexpected way. Sarah sought her sister one day, in a state of
trembling eagerness, to communicate the great intelligence, that their
mother was going to be married again.
It seemed the best thing for her after all. Changed and
sorrow-stricken as she was, she was still the same to Timothy Wiggett, and
he had promised that she should never be parted from her remaining
children, whom he had treated, and would always treat, as his own.
And Mary knew that she could trust him, and lean upon him always, and gave
her placid consent, which consent was enough however, to fill honest
Timothy's heart with joy as full as it could bold; and the heart in that
broad body of his was none of the smallest.
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