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A STRANGE WORLD, VOLUME 3 (OF 3) ***




Produced by David Edwards, Barry Abrahamsen, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)









A STRANGE WORLD

A Novel


BY THE AUTHOR OF


‘LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET’

ETC. ETC. ETC.

IN THREE VOLUMES

VOL. III.

[Illustration: Publisher’s Logo]

LONDON

JOHN MAXWELL AND CO.

4, SHOE LANE, FLEET STREET

1875

[All rights reserved.]


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CONTENTS TO VOL. III.

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CHAP. PAGE

I. ‘LOST TO HER PLACE AND NAME’ 1

II. ‘THOU HAST ALL SEASONS FOR 53
THINE OWN, O DEATH!’

III. FIRE THAT IS CLOSEST KEPT 66
BURNS MOST OF ALL

IV. FOR THERE’S NO SAFETY IN THE 78
REALM FOR ME

V. ‘FOR THOU WERT STILL THE POOR 94
MAN’S STAY’

VI. I FOUND HIM GARROUSLY GIVEN 104

VII. ‘FULL COLD MY GREETING WAS AND 122
DRY’

VIII. ‘WHEN TIME SHALL SERVE, BE 129
THOU NOT SLACK’

IX. ‘THE DAYS HAVE VANISHED, TONE 152
AND TINT’

X. ‘THE SADDEST LOVE HAS SOME 183
SWEET MEMORY’

XI. ‘STABB’D THROUGH THE HEART’S 193
AFFECTIONS TO THE HEART’

XII. ‘IT IS TIME, O PASSIONATE 215
HEART,’ SAID I

XIII. ‘NOT AS A CHILD SHALL WE AGAIN 227
BEHOLD HER’

XIV. ‘A SOUL AS WHITE AS HEAVEN’ 236

XV. ENID, THE PILOT, STAR OF MY 259
LONE LIFE

XVI. ‘FOR ALL IS DARK WHERE THOU 282
ART NOT’

XVII. ‘BUT IN SOME WISE ALL THINGS 289
WEAR ROUND BETIMES’


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A STRANGE WORLD




CHAPTER I
‘LOST TO HER PLACE AND NAME.’


Having come to Borcel End to perform a certain duty, Maurice Clissold
gave himself up heart and soul to the task in hand. Pleasant as it might
have been to him to spend the greater part of his time in the agreeable
society of Mrs. Penwyn and her guests—playing croquet on sunny
afternoons, or joining in a match of billiards in the old hall, meeting
the best people to be met in that part of the world, and living that
smooth, smiling life, in which care seems to have no part—pleasant as
this might have been, he gave it up without a sigh, and spent his days
and nights strolling about the farm, or sitting by the hearth where the
sick woman’s presence maintained an unchanging gloom.

Every day showed the swift progress of disease. The malady, which had
made its first approaches with insidious slowness, was now advancing
upon the sufferer with appalling rapidity. Every day the hectic of the
dying woman’s cheek took a more feverish brightness, the glassy eye a
more awful light. Maurice felt that there was no time to be lost. His
eyes, less accustomed to the aspect of the invalid than the eyes of
kindred who had seen her daily throughout the progress of decline,
clearly perceived that the end was not far off. Whatever secrets were
hidden in that proud heart must be speedily revealed, or would remain
buried there till the end of time. Yet how was he, almost a stranger, to
win confidence which had been refused to a son?

He tried his uttermost to conciliate Mrs. Trevanard by small attentions.
He adjusted the window-curtains, so as to temper the light for those
weary eyes. He arranged the invalid’s pillow as tenderly as Martin could
have done. He read to her—sometimes reading passages of Scripture which
she herself selected, and which were frequently of an awful and
denunciatory character, the cry of prophets and holy men against the
iniquities of their age.

Those portions of Holy Writ which he himself chose were of a widely
different tone. He read all that is most consoling, most tender in the
Gospel. The words he chose were verily messengers of peace. And even
that stubborn heart was touched—the woman who had prided herself on her
own righteousness felt that she was a sinner.

One afternoon when Maurice and Mrs. Trevanard were alone by the
fireside—Martin and his father being both at Seacomb market, and old
Mrs. Trevanard being confined to her own room with a sharp attack of
rheumatism—the invalid appeared struck by the young man’s kindness in
remaining with her.

‘I should be dull company for you at the best of times,’ she said, ‘and
it’s worse for you now that I’m so ill. Why don’t you go for a ride or a
drive, and enjoy the country, instead of sitting in this dismal room
with me?’

‘I am very glad to keep you company, Mrs. Trevanard,’ he answered,
kindly. ‘You must find time heavy on market days, when there’s no one
here.’

‘Yes, the hours seem very long. I make one of the girls sit here at her
needlework. But that’s almost worse than loneliness, to hear the click,
click, click of the needle, and see the girl sitting there, with no more
sense in her than a statue, or not so much, for a statue does no harm.
And then one gets thinking of the past, and the things we have done
which we ought not to have done, and the things left undone which we
ought to have done. It’s a dreary thought. When I was well and strong,
and able to bustle about the house, I used to think I had done my duty
in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call me. I knew
that I had never spared myself, or given myself up to the lusts of the
flesh, such as eating, and drinking, and slothfulness. The hardest crust
or the poorest bit off the joint was always good enough for me. I was
always the first up of a morning, summer and winter, and my hands were
never idle. But since I’ve been ill, and sitting here all day, I’ve come
to think myself a sinner. That’s a hard thought, Mr. Clissold, after a
life of care and labour.’

‘Perhaps it is the best thought any of us can have,’ he answered, ‘the
natural conclusion of every Christian who considers how far his highest
endeavours fall short of his Master’s divine example. Remember the story
of the publican.’

And then he read that sublimely simple record of the two men who went up
into the temple to pray.

He had hardly finished when Mrs. Trevanard burst into tears, the first
he had ever seen her shed. The sight shocked him, and yet inspired hope.

‘I have been like the Pharisee, I have trusted in my own righteousness,’
she said at last, drying her tears.

‘Dear Mrs. Trevanard,’ Maurice began, earnestly, ‘there are few of us
altogether blameless—there are few lives in which some wrong has not
been done to others—some mistake made which, perhaps, has gone far to
wreck the happiness of others. The uttermost we can do, the uttermost
God will demand from us, is repentance and atonement—such poor
atonement, at least, as we may be able to offer for the wrong we have
done. But it is a bitter thing to outstand God’s hour, and hold by our
wrong-doing, to appear before Him as obstinate sinners who know their
sin, yet cleave to it.’

The words moved her, for she turned her face away from him, and buried
it on her pillow. He could see the feeble frame shaken by stifled sobs.

‘If you have wronged any one, and seek to atone for that wrong now in
this eleventh hour——’ said Maurice.

Mrs. Trevanard turned quickly round, interrupting him. ‘Eleventh hour,’
she repeated. ‘Then they have all made up their minds that I am to die?’

‘Indeed, no! Your husband and son, and all about you, most earnestly
desire your recovery. But you have been so long suffering from this
trying disease, without improvement, that a natural fear has arisen——’

‘They are right,’ she said, with a gloomy look. ‘I feel that my doom is
upon me.’

‘It will not shorten your days, or lessen your chances of recovery, if
you prepare for the worst, Mrs. Trevanard,’ said Maurice, determined to
push the question to its ultimate issue. ‘Many a man defers making his
will, from a dim notion that to make it is to bring death nearer to him;
and then some day death approaches him unawares, and his wishes remain
unfulfilled. We must all die; so why should we not live prepared for
death?’

‘I thought I was prepared,’ replied Mrs. Trevanard, ‘because I have
clung to the Scriptures.’

‘The Gospel imposes certain duties upon us, and if those duties are
unfulfilled our holding by the Bible will avail us very little. It isn’t
reading the Bible, but living according to its teaching, that will make
us Christians.’

‘You talk to me boldly,’ said the sick woman, ‘as if you knew I was a
sinner.’

‘I know nothing about you, Mrs. Trevanard—except that you seem to have
been a good wife and a good mother.’

At that word mother, Bridget Trevanard winced, as if an old wound had
been touched.

‘But I believe that you have some heavy burden on your mind,’ continued
Maurice, ‘and that you will know neither rest nor peace until that load
has been lightened.’

‘You are a shrewd judge,’ said Mrs. Trevanard, bitterly. ‘And pray how
came you to think this of me?’

‘The conviction has grown out of various circumstances, which I need not
trouble you with. I am a student of mankind, Mrs. Trevanard, a close
observer by habit. Pray do not suppose that I have watched you, or
played the spy at your fireside. Be assured that I have no feeling but
friendship towards you, that my sympathy is ready for your sorrows. And
if you can be induced to trust me——’

‘If I could trust you!’ repeated Mrs. Trevanard. ‘If there was any one
on earth I dared trust, in whose honest friendship I could believe, in
whose word I dare confide the honour of a most unhappy household, heaven
knows I would turn to him gladly enough. My husband is weak and
helpless, a man who would blab a bitter secret to every acquaintance he
has, who would look to others to drag him out of every difficulty, and
make his trouble town-talk. My son is hot-headed and impulsive, would
take trouble too deeply to heart, and would be betrayed into some act of
folly before I was cold in my grave. No, there are none of my own
household I dare trust.’

‘Trust me, Mrs. Trevanard.’

She looked at him earnestly with her melancholy eyes—looked as if she
would fain have pierced the secrets of his heart.

‘You are a man of the world,’ she said, ‘and therefore might be able to
give help and counsel in a difficult matter. You are a gentleman, and
therefore would not betray a family secret. But what reason can you have
for interesting yourself in my affairs? Why should you take any trouble
about me or mine?’

‘First, because I am honestly attached to your son; and secondly,
because I have felt a profound interest in your afflicted daughter.’

At that word the mother started up from her reclining position, and
looked at the speaker fixedly.

‘Muriel!’ she exclaimed, ‘I did not know you had ever seen her.’

‘I have seen her and spoken to her. I met her one evening in the copse
at the bottom of the garden, and talked to her.’

‘What did she talk about?’

‘You—and—her child.’

This was a random shot, but it hit the mark.

‘Great heaven! she spoke to you of that? A secret of years gone by,
which it has been the business of my life to hide; which I have thought
of through many a wakeful night upon my weary pillow. And she told you—a
stranger?’

‘I spoke to her about you, but at the word mother she shrank from me
with a look of horror. “Do not speak to me of my mother,” she cried,
“what has she done with my child?” That speech made a profound
impression upon me, as you may imagine. The remembrance of that speech
emboldens me to ask for your confidence to-day.’

‘I saved that unhappy girl’s good name,’ said Mrs. Trevanard.

‘There you doubtless did a mother’s duty. But was it the maintenance of
her character which occasioned the loss of her reason?’

‘I don’t know. It is a miserable story from first to last. But since you
know so much I may as well trust you with the rest; and if, when you
have heard all, you think there has been a wrong done that needs
redress, you will perhaps help me to bring about that redress.’

‘Be assured of my uttermost help, if you will but trust me fully.’

‘You shall hear all,’ said Mrs. Trevanard, decisively. She took a little
of some cooling drink which always stood ready for her on the table by
her easy chair, and then began the story of a family sorrow.

‘You have seen Muriel,’ she said, ‘and you have perceived in her wasted
countenance some faint traces of former beauty. At eighteen years of age
she was a noble creature. She had a face which pleased and attracted
every one who saw her. Her schoolmistress wrote me letters about the
admiration she had excited on the breaking-up day, when the gentry,
whose daughters attended the school, met to witness the distribution of
prizes. I was weak enough to shed tears of joy over those letters—weak
enough to be proud of gifts which were destined to become a snare of the
evil one. Muriel was clever as well as beautiful. She was always at the
top of her class, always the winner of prizes. Her father and I used to
read her letters again and again, and I think we both worked all the
harder, looking forward to the day when Muriel would marry some
gentleman farmer, and would require a handsome portion. We were quite
content with our own position as simple working people, but we had given
Muriel the education of a lady, and we counted upon her marrying above
her station.’

‘“After all, she’s a Trevanard,” her father used to say, “and the
Trevanards come of as good a stock as any in Cornwall—not even barring
the Penwyns.”

‘Well, the time came for Muriel to come home for good. She had not spent
much of her holidays at home, for there’d almost always been some of her
favourite fellow-pupils that wanted her company, and when she was
invited to stay at gentlefolks’ houses I didn’t like to say no, and her
father said it was a good thing for her to make friends among the
gentry. So most of her holiday time had been spent out visiting, in
spite of old Mrs. Trevanard, who was always grumbling about it, and
saying that no good ever came of people forgetting their position. But
now the time had come for Muriel to take her place beside the family
hearth, and share our plain quiet life.’

The mother paused, with a bitter sigh, vividly recalling that bygone
day, and her daughter’s vanished beauty—the fair young face which had
smiled at her from the other side of the hearth, the happy girlish
laugh, the glad young voice, the atmosphere of youth and brightness
which Muriel’s return had brought to the grave old homestead.

‘Her grandmother had declared that Muriel would be dull and discontented
at home, that we had made a great mistake in having her educated and
brought up among her superiors in station, spoiling her by putting false
notions in her head, and a good deal more of the same kind. But there
was no discontent about Muriel when she came among us. She took her
place as naturally as possible, wanted to help me with the dairy, or
about the house, or to do anything she could to make herself useful. But
I was too proud of her beauty and her cleverness to allow that. “No,
Muriel,” I said, “you’ve been educated as a lady, and you shall not be
the less a lady because you’ve come home. Your life here may be very
dull, there’s no help for that, but it shall be the life of a lady. You
may play the piano, and read your books, and do fancy work, and no one
shall ever call upon you to soil your fingers in dairy work or house
work.” So when she found I was determined, she gave way and lived like a
lady. Her father bought her a piano, which still stands in the best
parlour. Her gave her money to buy all the books she wanted. Indeed,
there’s nothing she could have asked of him that he would have denied
her, he was so proud and fond of his only daughter.’

‘She brought you happiness, then, in the beginning?’ said Maurice.

‘Yes, there couldn’t have been a better girl than Muriel was for the
first year after she left school.

‘She was always the same sweet smiling creature, full of life, never
finding the old house dull, amusing herself day after day with her books
and piano, roaming about the fields, and along the beach for hours
together, sometimes alone, sometimes with her little brother to keep her
company.’

‘She was very fond of her brother, I understand?’

‘Yes, she doted upon Martin. She taught him to read, and write, and
cipher, and used to tell him fairy tales of an evening, between the
lights, sitting in a low chair by the hearth. She sang him to sleep many
a night. In fact, she took all the trouble of him off my hands. She and
her grandmother got on very well together, too, and the old lady having
nothing to do, Muriel and she were often companions. Mrs. Trevanard was
not blind at that time, but her sight was weak, and she was glad to get
Muriel to read to her. Altogether our home seemed brighter and happier
after Muriel came back to us. Perhaps we were not humble enough, or
thankful enough for our happiness. Anyhow, trouble soon came.’

‘How did the evil begin?’

‘As it almost always does. It stole upon us unawares, like a thief in
the night. The Squire’s eldest son, Captain Penwyn, came home on leave,
before going on foreign service with his regiment, and spent a good deal
of his leisure time fly-fishing in the streams about here. It was
splendid summer weather, and we weren’t surprised at his being about the
place so much, especially as folks said that he and his father didn’t
get on well together. Now and again he would come in on a warm afternoon
and take a draught of milk, and sit and talk for half an hour or so. He
was a perfect gentleman, or had the seeming of one. He was grave and
thoughtful in his ways, yet full of kindness and pleasantness. He was
just the last kind of man that any father and mother would have thought
of shutting their door against. His manner to Muriel was as respectful
as if she had been the greatest lady in the land, but he and she
naturally found a good deal to say to each other, she having been
educated as a lady, and being able to understand and appreciate all he
said.’

Mrs. Trevanard paused. She was approaching the painful part of her
story, and had need to nerve herself for the effort.

‘Heaven knows, I had neither fear nor thought of fear at the time our
sorrow came upon us. I had complete confidence in Muriel. If I had seen
her surrounded by a score of admirers I should have felt no anxiety. She
was a Trevanard, and the Trevanards had always been noted for beauty and
pride. No female of the Trevanard family had ever been known to lower
herself, or to forfeit her good name. And she came of as good a race on
her mother’s side. The last thing I should have thought of was that my
daughter would degrade herself by listening to a dishonourable proposal.
Well, time went on, and one day Muriel brought me a letter she had
received from her late schoolmistress, asking her to go and stay at the
school for a week or two at Michaelmas. The school was just outside
Seacomb, a handsome house, standing in its own gardens, and there were
very few of the pupils that were not gentlemen’s daughters, or at any
rate daughters of the richest farmers in the neighbourhood. Altogether,
Miss Barlow’s school stood very high in people’s estimation, and I felt
flattered by Miss Barlow’s asking my daughter to visit her, now that
Muriel’s schooling days were over, and there was no more money to be
expected from us.’

Again a pause and a sigh, and a few minutes of thoughtful silence,
before Mrs. Trevanard resumed.

‘Muriel was very much excited about the invitation. I remember the
bright flush upon her cheeks as she showed me the letter, and her
curious, half-breathless way when she asked if I would let her go, and
if I thought her father would consent to her going. “Why, you’re very
anxious to run away from us, Muriel,” I said, “but that’s only to be
expected: Borcel End must be dull for you.” “No, indeed, mother,” she
answered quickly, “Borcel End is a dear old place, and I’ve been very
happy here; but I should like to accept Miss Barlow’s invitation.”’

‘You consented, I suppose?’ said Maurice.

‘Yes, it wouldn’t have been easy for us to refuse anything she asked, at
that time. And I think both her father and I were proud of her being
made a friend of by such a superior person as Miss Barlow. So one sunny
morning, at the beginning of the Michaelmas holidays, my husband drove
Muriel over to Seacomb in the trap, and left her with Miss Barlow. She
was to stay a fortnight, and her father was to fetch her at the end of
the visit; but before the fortnight was over we had a letter from
Muriel, asking to be allowed to extend her visit to three weeks, and
saying that her father needn’t trouble about fetching her, as Miss
Barlow would arrange for sending her home. This wounded Michael a
little, being so proud of his daughter. “I thought my girl would have
been glad to see her father after a fortnight’s separation,” he said.
“She always used to be glad when I went over to see her on market days;
and if I missed a week she used to call me unkind, and tell me how she
had fretted at not seeing me; but I suppose things are changed now she’s
a young woman.”’

‘Did she come back at the time promised?’

‘No, it was two or three days over the three weeks when she returned.
She came in a hired fly from Seacomb, and I had never seen her look more
beautiful or more a lady than she looked when she stepped out of the
carriage in front of the porch. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “she looks as
if she was born to hold a high position in the county;” and I thought of
Captain Penwyn, and what a match he would be for her. I did not think he
was a bit too good for her. “There’s no knowing what may happen,” I said
to myself. Well, from this time forward she had a strange fitful way
with her, sometimes all brightness and happiness, sometimes
low-spirited. Her grandmother noticed the change, and said it was the
consequence of over-education. “You’ve reared up your child to have all
kinds of wishes and fancies that you can’t understand or satisfy,” she
said, “and have made her unfit for her home.” I wouldn’t believe this;
yet, as time went on, I could see clearly enough that Muriel was not
happy.’

Again a heavy sigh, and a brief pause.

‘Captain Penwyn left Cornwall about this time, to join his regiment in
Canada, and after he had gone, I observed that Muriel’s low spirits,
which had been fitful before, became continual. She evidently struggled
with her grief, tried to amuse herself with her books and piano, tried
to interest herself in little Martin, but it was no use. I have often
gone into the best parlour where she sat, and found her in tears. I have
asked her the cause of her despondency, but she always put me off with
some answer: she had been reading a book that affected her, or she had
been playing a piece of music which always made her cry; and I noticed
that at this time she rarely played any music that was not melancholy.
If she began anything bright and gay, she always broke down in it, and


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