George Gissing.

Thyrza, a tale (Volume 3) online

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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign









Se iBpoTol oWe' ^porovs /Sporoi dftSw/Me?.





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I. Together Again 1

II. Movements 30

in. An Old Man's Eest 46

IV. ToTTY'3 Luck 71

V. A MiNOE Peophet 91

VI. The Heart and its Secret 11.5

VII 'Mark but My Fall!' 129

VIII. A Loan on Security 147

IX. Three Letters 172

X. Thyrza Waits 188


XII. The Truth 221

XIII. Her Return 240

XIV. Her Reward 256

XV. The Living 275




Lydia held desperately to hope through the days and
the nights. From all others Thyrza might hide away,
but could she persist in cruelty to her sister ? Surely
in some way a message, if only a message, would be
delivered ; at least there would come a word to relieve
this unendurable suspense. Every added day of silence
was an added fear.

Unable to associate with acquaintances to whom
Thyrza's name had become an unfaiKng source of vulgar
gossip, she changed her place of work. Work had still
to be done, be her heart ever so sore ; the meals must
be earned, though now they were eaten in solitude.
And she worked harder than ever, for it was her dread
that at any moment she might hear of Thyrza in dis-
tress or danger, and she must have money laid by for
such an emergency. All means of inquiry were used,
save that of going to the police-court and having the

VOL. III. ii


event made public through the newspapers. Neither
Lydia nor Gfilbert could bear to do that, even after they
felt assured that the child was somewhere wandering

Totty Nancarrow was an active ally in the search,
though Lydia did not know it. Totty, as soon as that
unfortunate game of cross-purposes with Luke Ackroyd
had come to an end, experienced a revival of all her
kindness for Thyrza. Privately she was of opinion that
no faith whatever should be given to Egremont's self-
defence. In concert with Ackroyd, she even planned an
elaborate scheme for tracking Egremont in his goings
hither and thither. They discovered that he was very
seldom at his rooms in Great Eussell Street, but their
resources did not allow them to keep a watch upon him
when he was away from town, which appeared to be
very frequently the case. Circumstances of a darkly
suggestive kind they accumulated in abundance, and
for weeks constantly believed themselves on the point
of discovering something. Bunce was taken into their
confidence, but he, poor fellow, had occupation enough
for his leisure at home, since Bessie was at Eastbourne.
Little Nelly Bunce often fretted in vain for the atten-
tions of ' Miss Nanco,' upon whom she had begun to
feel a claim. 'Miss Nanco,' for the nonce a female
detective, had little time for nursing.

And Gilbert Grail was once more going to his daily
labour, not at the same factory, however, for he too
could not mix with men who knew him. About a


fortnight after the day on which he should have been
married, he got a place at candle-works in Battersea.
He coidd not leave the house in Walnut Tree Walk, for
he, as persistently as Lydia, clung to the hope that
Thyrza might reappear in her home some night. To go
away would be to say good-bye for ever to that dream
which had so glorified a few months of his life, and in
spite of all he could not do that.

He said to Lydia once, when they parted after a long
walk together in the dark streets, ' If I come to believe
that I've lost her, I shall go mad.' And that way in
truth lay despair. He would not, could not, believe it ;
it would have been easier to lay himself down and let
life ebb away from him by neglect of natm'al needs.
That hope v:as his life. It had been revived since his
meeting with Egremont, and Lydia, for her own solace,
helped to encourage him. These two grew more than
brother and sister. When Mrs. Grrail, who had aged
more in these few weeks than in the past ten years, went
early to her bedroom, Gilbert and Lydia often sat to-
gether in the parlour till midnight. Lydia put her
faith in the last sentence of Thyrza's letter — a letter
read how often I

' She promises to come back, Gilbert. She is work-
ing somewhere, waiting till she feels able to see us
again. If she was ill, she would send for me, I know
she would.'

*She went away penniless. How could she live till
she found work ? '

B 2


' She had a little money. I thought it was only about
sixpence, but I feel sure I was mistaken. It must have
been more than that — just enough to live somehow for
a day or two. She might iind somebody that would be
kind to her.'

Gilbert kept silence, not daring to hear his own

' Perhaps she comes late at night and looks at the

One or other suggested that, and thereafter Gilbert
never went to bed without passing out into the street
and looking either way, or perhaps walking as far as
Kennington Eoad. So he had been wont, formerly,
to go out and glance up at the window above. Those
occasions always came back to his mind.

In comparison with his own, the suffering of others
seemed trifling. When his mother went about in
silence, bending more than she had done, all interest in
the things of life and in her studies of Swedenborg at
an end, he thought that much of it was due to her wish
to show sympathy with him. When Lydia sat through
an hour with her face hidden in her hands, he knew that
the day had been very dark and weary with her, but
said in himself that a sister's love was little compared
with such as his. He would not reason on what had
happened, save when to do so with Lydia brought him
comfort ; alone, he brooded over his hope. It was the
only way to save himself from madness.

On the day after seeing Egremont he received a long


letter from him. Egremont wrote from his heart, and
with a force of sincerity which must have swept away
any doubts, had such still lingered with the reader.
The inevitable antagonism of the personal interview
was a pain in his memory ; if the intercourse of friend-
ship was for ever at an end for them, he could not bear
to part in this way, with hesitating words, with doubts
and reticences. ' In your bitter misery,' he said, * you
may accuse me of affecting sympathy which I do not
feel, and may scorn my expressions of grief as a cheap
way of saving my self-respect. I will not compare my
suffering with yours, but none the less it is intense.
This is the first great sorrow of my life, and I do not
think a keener one will ever befall me. Keep this letter
by you ; do not be content to read it once and throw it
aside, for I have spoken to you out of my deepest
feeling, and in time you will do me more justice than
you can now.' And further on : 'As to that which has
parted us, there must be no ambiguity, no pretence of
superhuman generosity. I should lie if I said that I do
not wish to find Thyrza for my own sake. If I find
her, I shall ask her to be my wife. I wanted to say
this when we spoke together, but could not ; neither
was I calm enough to express this rightly, nor you
rightly to hear it.'

Gilbert allowed a day or two to go by, then
made answer. He wrote briefly, but enough to show
Egremont that the man's naturalnobility could triumph
over his natural resentment. It was a moving letter,


its pathos lying in the fact that its writer shunned all
attempt to be pathetic. ' Now that I know the truth,'
he said, ' I can only ask your pardon for the thoughts I
had of you ; you have not wronged me, and I can have
no ill-feeling against you. If Thyrza is ever your wife,
I hope your happiness may be hers. As for the other
things, do not reproach yourself. You wished to befriend
me, and I think I was not unworthy of it. Few things
in life turn out as we desire ; to have done one's best
with a good intention is much to look back upon — very
few have more.'

Gilbert did not show this letter to Lydia, nor had
he told her of what he had learnt in the conversation
with Egremont. The fear would have seemed more in-
tolerable if he had uttered it. But the hope which sup-
ported him was proof against even such a danger as this.
To his mind there was something unnatural in a union
between Egremont and Thyrza ; try as he would, he
could not realise it as having come to pass. The two
were parted by so vast a social distinction, and, let
nature say what it will, the artificialities of life in the
end invariably prevail. He could imagine an unper-
mitted bond between them, with the necessary end in
Thyrza's sacrifice to the world's injustice; but their
marriage appeared to him among the things so unlikely
as to be in practice impossible. Of course the wish was
father to the thought. But he reasoned upon the hope
which would not abandon him. Thyrza had again and
again proved the extreme sensitiveness of her nature ;


she coiild not bear to inflict pain. He remembered
how she had once come back after saying good-night,
because it seemed to her that she had spoken with in-
sufficient kindness. The instance was typical. And now,
though tempted by every motive that can tempt a woman,
she had abandoned herself to unimagined trials rather
than seek her own welfare at another's expense. Picture
the average girl finding herself in Thyrza's position.
Gilbert took it for granted that she knew Egremont loved
her. To fulfil her promise had been beyond her power,
but, if there must be suffering, she would share it. And
now, in that wretched exile, he knew that self-pity could
not absorb her. She «-ould think of him constantly,
and of such thought would come compassion and re-
pentance. Those feelings might bring her back. If
only she came back, it was enough. She could not un-
do what she had done, but neither could she forbid him
to live with eyes on the future. One great thing was
in his favour. It was impossible for her to remain long
separated from her sister, and reunion with Lydia
would mean a gradual return to the former habits of
mind. Egremont would pass completely from her
world ; happily this was necessitated by every circum-
stance of the case — once granted that the motives which
caused her flight kept their power over her, as Gilbert
forced himself to believe they would.

Eeasoning so, he did his daily work and lived wait-

Then came the day which put a term to the mere


blank of desolation, and excited new hopes, new fears.
Thyrza's letter arrived. It was delivered in the after-
noon, and Lydia found it pushed under her door when
she returned from work. She listened for Gilbert's
coming home, then ran down to the sitting-room, and,
without speaking, put the letter into his hand. Mrs.
Grail was present.

' I knew it had come,' she said, in her low voice,
which of late had begun to quaver with the feebleness of
age. ' Mrs. Jarmey brought it here to show me, be-
cause she guessed who it was from.'

Gilbert said very few words, and when he returned
the letter, Lydia went upstairs with it, to nurse the
treasure in solitude. It lay on her lap, and again and
again she read it through. Every word she probed for
meanings, every stroke of the pen she dwelt on as pos-
sibly revealing something. ' I have been poorly, dear,
but I am quite well again now.' That sentence was
the one her eye always turned to. The writing was not
quite tlie same as Thyrza's used to be ; it showed weak-
ness, she thought. She had foreseen this, that Thyrza
would fall ill ; in fear of that she had deprived herself
of all save the barest necessaries, that she might save a
little money. But strangers had tended her sister, and
with her gladness at receiving news mingled jealousy of
the hands that had been preferred to her own. Only
now the bitterness of separation seemed to be tasted to
the full.

At half-past nine she went downstairs again, know-


ing that she would find Gilbert alone. He was sitting
unoccupied, as always now in the evenings, for his books
gathered dust on the unregarded shelves. Seeing that
she had the letter with her, he held out his hand for it
in silence.

' There's one thing I'm afraid of,' Lydia began, when
she had glanced at him once or twice. * Do you think
it's friends of Ids that she's with ? '

He shook his head.

' He would have told me if he'd found her.'

' Are you quite sure ? '

' Yes, I am sure. He wouldn't have said where she
was, very likely, but he'd tell us that slie was found.'

Gilbert had reason to think of Lydia as a great
power on his side. The girl was now implacable against
Eo^remont. She had ceased to utter her thous^hts about
him, since she knew that they pained her friend, but in
her heart she kept a determined enmity. The fact of
Thyrza's love in no way influenced her ; her imagination
was not strong enough to enable her to put herself in
Thyrza's place and see Egremont as her sister saw him.
With the narrowness of view which is common enough
in good and warm-hearted women, she could only regard
him as the disturber of happiness, the ruin of Thyrza's
prospects. Lydia was not ambitious ; she had never
been enthusiastic about Gilbert's promotion to the
librarianship, and doubtless it would have pleased her
just as well for Thyrza to marry Grail if the latter had
had no thought of quitting his familiar work. Conse-


quently it was do difficulty to her to leave altogether
out of sight Egremont's purposed benefits to Gilbert.
She no longer believed that he was innocent of designs
in his intercourse with Thjrza. This change was a
natural enough consequence of her character, just as it had
been perfectly natural for her to think and speak as she
had done under the first shock of Thyrza's flight. Then,
her instinctive need was to protect her sister's reputa-
tion, and to hold firm to the fleeing hope that what had
happened was not irreversible. She was, too, still under
the influence of Thyrza's own words, of that passionate
confession of which it had been impossible to doubt
the perfect truthfulness. Since then she had suffered
terribly, and the suffering turned her against him who
was the plain cause of it. Eeason had nothing to do witb
the matter ; women such as Lydia do not reason, they
feel, and submit to the rule of impressions. Eemember
her opinion of Luke Ackroyd in the days when she was
bent on Thyrza marrying him ; she would have admitted
now (to herself) how entirely that judgment had been
the result of bias, and have admitted it the more will-
ingly because she loved him and rejoiced to love him in
spite of everything. Now, with regard to Egremont,
she was influenced as little by her former protests on
his behalf as by Grilbert's conviction of his honesty.
The end of her brooding over Thyrza's letter was an
irremovable suspicion. She dreaded to think that
Thyrza had fallen into Egremont's hands. Her sister's


marriage to bim would have been baleful to ber, for it
would have meant final separation from berself.

' Wbat is tbe post-mark on tbe envelope ? ' Gilbert
asked, Ljdia continuing to brood over ber jealousies and

' Wby, I never tbougbt to look ! ' sbe exclaimed.
' How could I forget tbat ! '

Sbe ran up to ber room, and fetcbed tbe envelope.
Tbe stamp was ' Cbaring Cross.' Small help derivable
from tbat.

' Sbe doesn't even say whether she'll write again,'
Lydia murmured.

Gilbert said presently : ' I shall write to Mr. Egre-
mont, and tell bim that we have heard.'

' Ob no I ' Lydia protested, indignantly. ' Why should
you tell bim ? You mustn't do tbat, Gilbert ; I don't
want bim to know.'

' I promised him, Lyddy. Of course I shouldn't tell
him where she was, if we knew, but I promised to let
him hear if we bad any news.'

' Then I don't see wby you promised such a thing.
It doesn't concern him.'

Gilbert was troubled by this persistence. Lydia
spoke with earnest disapproval. He could not do as be
wished in de6ance of her, yet he must certainly keep
bis promise to Egremont.

' You must remember,' be said gently, * tbat be has
reason to be anxious, as well as we.'


' "What have we to do with that ? ' she replied, stub-
bornly. * He has no right to think anything about her.'

' I mean, Lyddy, that he is troubled because of our
trouble. All I want to do is to tell him that a letter
has come from Thyrza, without address, and that she
says she has found friends. Won't you consent to that ? '

After a short silence, Lydia replied :

' I won't say any more, Gilbert. As you like.'

' Xo, that's not enough. I must have your full
agreement. It's either right or wrong to do it, and you
must make up your mind clearly.'

' I shouldn't wonder if he knows,' she said briefly.

' He doesn't know. I shall not distrust him again.
He would have told me.'

' Then you had better write.'

' You see that I ought to ? '

' Yes, as you promised. But I can't see why you

This form of consent had to suffice, intensely femi-
nine as it was. But Gilbert knew Lydia well by this
time, and no trifling fault could touch his deep affection
and respect for her.

She was very lonely in these days, Lydia. Of her
own sex, she had now no friend, unless it were poor old
Mrs. Grail. By changing her place of employment, she
had lost even the satisfaction of being among familiar
faces, and her new work-mates thought her dull. The
jokes and gossip of each morning were things of the
past ; she plied her needle every moment of the work-


iDg day, her thoughts fixed on one unchanging subject.
Yes, for she could not really think even of Ackroyd ;
he was always, it is true, a presence in her mind, but there
was no more pondering about him. Every stitch at the
lining of a hat meant a fraction of a coin, and each day's
result was to have earned something towards the money
saved for Thyrza's assistance.

With Mary Bower she spoke no longer, not even
formal words. That insult on the miserable night had
been a blow Mary could not soon forgive, for it came just
at the moment when, having heard her parents' talk
about Thyrza, she was sincerely anxious to reunite herself
to her former friend and be what comfort to her she
might. So now, whenever Lydia went to see Mr. Boddy,
she gave a private signal at the side door, and the old
man descended to admit her. Then, Totty Nancarrow.
Strangely, Lydia could now have been almost friends
with Totty ; she could not have said why. She met
her by chance occasionally, and nodded, or at most
spoke a brief gTeeting, yet each time she would have
liked to stop and talk a little. Totty had been Thyrza's
close friend ; that formerly had been a source of jealous
feeling, now it seemed to have become an attraction.
Totty gave looks that were not unkind, but did not
make advances. She was a little ashamed of the way
she had behaved when Lydia came to her for help.

Lydia did not think it necessary to tell G-ilbert that
she too wanted to let someone know that there was
news from Thyrza. After leaving the paribur, she ran


out to a little shop in Kennington Eoad and purchased
a sheet of note-paper and an envelope. Writing a letter
was by no means a simple thing to Lyddy ; it was after
midnight before she had schemed the sentences — or
rather, the one long hyper- Attic sentence — in which
she should convey her intelligence to Ackroyd. Several
things were to be considered in this composition. First,
it must be as brief as possible ; then, it must be very
formal in its mode of address. Both these necessities
came of the consideration that the letter would of
course be shown to Totty Xancarrow, and Totty must
have no cause of complaint. 'Dear Mr. Ackroyd' —
that was written, but might it stand ? It meant so
much, so much. But how else to begin ? Did not
everybody begin letters in that way ? She really could
not say ' Dear Sir.' Then — for the letter must be
finished, the hour was getting so late — -' Yours truly,
Lydia Trent.' Surely that was commonplace enough.
Yes, but to say ' yours ' ; that too meant so much. Was
she not indeed his ? And might not Totty suspect
something in that ' yours ' ? You see that Lyddy was
made a very philosopher by love ; she had acquired all
at once the power of seeing through the outward of
things, of perceiving what really lies below our poor
conventional shams. Well, the letter had to stand ; she
had no second sheet of note-paper, and she had no more
time, for the weary eyes and hands must get their rest
for to-morrow's toil. She closed the envelope and
addressed it ; then, the ink being dry, she put the


written name just for an instant to her lips. Totty
could not divine that, and it was not so great a
wi'ODg. Perhaps Lydia would not have done it, but
that the great burden upon her was for the moment
lightened, and she longed to tell someone how thankful
'she was.

Would he reply by letter ? Or would he make an
opportunity of seeing her ? Since the forming of that
sudden intimacy under the pressure of misery, he and
she had not seen each other often. They always spoke
if they met, and Lydia was very grateful to him for
the invariable kindness of his voice and his look, but of
course it was not to be expected, not to be desired, that
they should sustain the habit of conversing together as
close friends. Ackroyd had evidently remembered that
it was unwise ; perhaps he had reported the matter to
Totty, with the result that Totty had pronounced a
quiet opinion, which it was only becoming in him to

He wrote back ; the letter came as speedily as could
have been expected. ' Dear Miss Trent,' and ' Yours
truly ' — even as she had written. How can one write
such words and mean nothing by them ? But he said,
' Believe me, yours truly ' ; ah, she would never have
ventured upon that! To be sure, it meant nothing,
nothing ; but she liked that ' Believe me.' He said he
was very glad indeed that Thyrza had written, and he
hoped earnestly that more satisfactory news would
come before long. Very short. Lydia put away the


note with that she had received from the same writer
one sad morning in the work-room. How loDg ago that
seemed !

More than a month of summer went by, and Lydia
waited still for another word from her sister. After
each day's disappointment, she closed her eyes saying,
' It will come to-morrow.' During the hours she spent
at home the only event that interested her was the pass-
ing of the postman. She watched constantly from the
window at the times when letters were delivered, and if,
a rare chance, the man in uniform stopped at the door
below, she sprang to the top of the stairs and hung there
breathless, to see if someone would come up. No, the
letter was never for her. On coming home from work she
always threw open her door eagerly, for perhaps she would
see the white envelope lying on the floor again. The
defeat of hope always made the whole room seem barren
and cold. Sunday was of all days in the week the
longest and gloomiest ; on that day there was no post-

But at length came the evening when, looking down
by mere dull habit as she opened her room door, behold
the white envelope lay there. She could not believe
that at last it was really in her hand. As she took the
letter out, there fell from it a light slip of paper ; with
surprise she saw that it was a post-office order. This
time a full address stood at the head of the page.

'Eastbourne ! ' she uttered. ' Then she is with Mrs.
Ormonde, and Mrs. Ormonde is his friend.'


Hastily her eyes sought the sense of what was
written. Thyrza said that she was well, but could not
live longer without seeing her sister. Lydia was to come
by as early a train as possible on the following morn-
ing ; money was enclosed to provide for her expenses.
No news could be sent, but in a few hours they would
talk to each other. Finally, the address was to
be kept a secret, to be kept even from Gilbert ; she
depended upon Lydia to obey her in this. A postscript
added : ' You will easily find the house. I would
come to the station and meet every train, but I
couldn't bear to see you there first.'

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