Beatrice Harraden.

Thirteen all told online

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a-coming to see me, too ? "

" Why, yes, of course, if you wish it," Marion answered.
" I should like to come."

" Visitors be scarce here," the old dame said. " School-
mistress often looked in. And now she be gone. She
be buried to-day up to Settle."

She shook her head gravely, gave a final shake to the
clothes, dropped her brush, which Marion stooped to pick
up, and disappeared into her own domain.

Marion remembered that the schoolmistress had told
her that the old women were jealous and hurt if visitors
did not call in at all the ten houses ; and she forthwith
made up her mind to acquit herself in the manner expected
of her. Then she knocked at No. 8, and a voice bade her
come in.

Mrs. Glenrose was seated in a low chair drawn up to
the fireplace. She had a book in her lap, but she was not
reading it ; and her knitting had fallen down on the floor,
and had been annexed by a kitten which had wantonly
unravelled it, and then, apparently worn out with its
antics, had gone to sleep embracing the remainder.

Mrs. Glenrose looked up ; and Marion saw that she had
been weeping. She saw that the book in her lap was the
Church Service, and that it was open at the Burial of the
Dead. She knew Marion at once, smiled through her
tears, and held out her hand.

" The schoolmistress is dead," she said in a broken voice.

" I have heard," Marion said gently.

" Yes, she is dead," Mrs. Glenrose repeated. " I was
trying to read the Service, but I cannot. Perhaps you
could. We have talked of you so often, she and I."

Marion took the book and read the sad and beautiful
words, over which so many hearts have been wrung whilst


the quiet dead have waited on their biers, and then have
been lowered into their last resting-place.

The little old lady did not weep now. She leaned back
in her chair, her hands folded together, and her eyes closed.
When the end came, there was a long silence. She herself
broke it.

" She was my only friend," she murmured. " And
she was generous -hearted. She was not jealous that I
loved the children ; she let me share them with her. She
has gone and they have gone, too. In due time another
schoolmistress will come, but she will never let me share
them with her."

" Yes, yes, she will," Marion urged. " Be comforted.
You have not lost the children. They will want you all
the more."

" Little bits of poetry, fairy stories, little pieces about
Nature, all sorts of things she let me tell them," Mrs.
Glenrose went on. " She liked to hear them, too. She
didn't despise the old Foundation woman. A new school-
mistress will be quite different, I know. When my friend
was ill before, a stranger was sent to take her place ; and
when I went to the school-house, she told me there was
no need for me to come. And it will be the same again.
I have lost her and I have lost them."

She was silent for several minutes, and Marion waited
and stared fixedly on the ground. She felt that she would
have given worlds to comfort the sorrowing old lady ; and
all she could do, was to offer a passive respect to the grief
which was beyond her power to assuage.

At last Mrs. Glenrose continued :

" There are always certain things in our circumstances
which keep us going. Her kindness and appreciation
kept me going here. I depended on them. And now I
shall have to stand alone. Yet that is what it always
comes to in life, sooner or later. One has to stand alone."

She raised herself on her chair and went to the little
bookcase, where some of the books Marion had sent to
her were arranged together on the top shelf . She turned to
Marion and pointed to them with a pathetic smile on her face.

" I assure you," she said, " you made us very happy


with the books you sent to her and me and the children.
I cannot tell you what delight you gave us. And she was
so proud that you did not forget us. No books sent out
into the world have ever been more welcome. Only those
who love books and have had to do without them, can know
the heartache at being deprived of them, and the real
ecstasy of once more owning a few of the choicest. It
was a good day for us, my dear, when you came tramping
across the moors to this out of the way, out of the world
corner of the globe.

A question rose to Marion's lips, but she checked it. She
had no right to inquire how this refined, sensitive, educated
old lady chanced to be stranded in a Foundation Hospice
for indigent women in a remote hamlet of Yorkshire. But
she knew that there must needs have been a tale and a
tragedy. And now there was this added sorrow of a
friend and companion lost for ever, doubly precious also
in a life barren of outside interest.

It was borne in on her that she had had a definite call
to comfort this old woman in her grief and loneliness ; and
it flashed through her mind as an inspiration, that the| best
way of doing it would be to offer to carry on the school
until the end of the term, and have the fairy stories and
adventure tales and bits of poetry and little pieces about
Nature continued in exactly the same way as in the tune
of the schoolmistress.

" Why not, why not ? " she thought. " Moreover, if I
could bring it about, I should be fulfilling the very wishes
of the schoolmistress expressed in her last letter. Why
shouldn't I "

She did bring it about. Her offer was gladly accepted
by the authorities : her high degrees, her standing in the
educational world, and the difficulty of securing anyone
willing to go to that lonely moorland outpost breaking
down at once the barriers of red tape. And she was able
to write to her astonished friends in London, that she was
acting as elementary teacher in the school which had
haunted her, filling in a breach, interested in her unexpected
work, and half-believing that she had discovered a genius
in a naughty, grubby little boy called Tommy Prior.


" Who can tell," she wrote ; " perhaps one day he may
be a Prime Minister or Lord Chief Justice or Chancellor
of the Exchequer."


AND the door was not closed on Mrs. Glenrose. She
shared the children with the new temporary schoolmistress,
and came in to read poetry and stories, sometimes the old
poems and tales which the children had always loved,
and often new ones from the fine fresh books now belonging
to the school library. The pang of her grief lost some of
its first acuteness ; and Marion had the joy of knowing
that she had contributed to the healing of the wound.

She herself was extraordinarily successful with her
little moorland scholars. She was fond of children, and
she knew well how to interest their minds, minister to
the eagerness of the eager ones, and tone up the reluctance
of the slackers. The words of the teacher who had passed
away, came true. The faces of the pupils brightened up
with a light which she would never have been able to
kindle. If she knew, her generous spirit must have been
immeasurably glad and grateful.

She was not being forgotten. Wreaths were woven
for her grave, a portrait of her was hung on the wall
near the blackboard, and her name was not banished
to an unnatural silence.

Marion, who had always loved the moors, grew into
the very life of the countryside, and roamed the expanses,
sometimes alone, and often with the children, who took
her to their favourite hunting grounds, up hill and down
dale, alongside the shining river over the stepping-stones,
through the emerald meadows, near the mountain-rills
and ghylls where the fairies dwell, over the bracken and
heather, past the great boulders and the lonely shepherds'
huts and the cattle barns on the uplands. She gathered
the wild roses, and watched the heather beginning to wear
its wondrous finery of jewels, and the fells donning or
doffing their veil of mystery, and the sheep changing


pasture and the cattle winding their way home in a long,
thin line, and the circling and flight of the wild birds, and
the play of the clouds, now mild and gentle, now head-
long and tumultuous. Her days were full and busy,
with school duties and Nature's summoning, and her
exacting old ladies in the Foundation Hospice, who had
to be safeguarded from jealousy, and Tim, the dwarf,
who demanded quietly but definitely his share of sym-
pathy and attention both for himself and his geese. Marion,
who gave easily and without effort, met all the claims,
and enjoyed each day more than the last.

So the happy weeks passed by, the term came to an
end, the school was closed, and it was the last evening
of Marion's sojourn in Yorkshire. She was spending it
with Mrs. Glenrose. Many and many an hour these two
had passed together, sometimes in the tiny kitchen of
No. 8 at the Foundation Hospice, or in the school-house,
or else quietly strolling along the lane which led up to
the moor. They had grown to love each other, and they
were parting with a sad reluctance which each guessed
at without words. Marion was strangely drawn to her,
though always mystified by her. Her little outbursts
of fun and light-heartedness, a certain gay insouciance
of character, a bravely stoical attitude towards life and
circumstance gave her a charm which was irresistible,
and which partially but not wholly obscured some traces
of selfishness. And her love of poetry and of all literature
made her, of course, an interesting companion with
whom it was possible to talk about things that mattered.
She was, in fact, a personage, all the more attractive because
she was baffling. Baffling also were her prettiness and
dainty grace, which poverty and humble condition had
not been able to suppress.

But on this last night of their comradeship she herself
raised the veil of mystery which surrounded her. She
put down her knitting, and said quite simply, without any
preliminaries :

" Dear young friend, I have given you no confidences,
and I am grateful to you that you have never asked for
them. But you would not have been likely to do so. You


are too kind and fine for any such intrusiveness. Yet
you must often have wondered why anyone of my de-
scription should be ending her days as a pensioner in this
Foundation Hospice ? "

" I cannot say I have not wondered," Marion answered,
flushing a little from shyness. " But one knows, of course,
that life brings many changes."

" You have taken me just as you found me," Mrs.
Glenrose went on. " Never a word have you spoken,
never a sign of curiosity have you shown, never a faintest
suspicion of patronage. It has been a case of equal terms,
equal companionship, equal dignity of intercourse. You
will never know what this has meant to my pride. And
you leave behind you unforgettable memories for which
I shall always be giving you thanks. Your holiday is
over. You will go your own way again, and take up your
life, which will be all the happier because of the happiness
you have brought to me, and the consolation in a time of
great distress, and because of the good work you have
done in this little hamlet which you rightly call the back
of beyond. God bless you, my child."

She rested her hand for one minute on Marion's head.

" I am not going to tell you the whole of my life's story,"
she continued. " It is not worth telling. Only this much
I want to say to you. You have seen my love for little
children, haven't you ? Well, I think that has grown
and grown from heartache. Forty years ago this very
day, I abandoned my own little one, forsook home and
husband and helpless babe forty years ago. Yes, I
abandoned them, without a thought, without a regret."

She paused, and then went on :

" I cannot truthfully say, my dear, that I have spent
those years in sackcloth and ashes. I suppose that is
what I ought to be able to say. But I cannot. I have
really enjoyed my life. I believe I have enjoyed it far
more than if I had stayed on dutifully with husband and
child in a well-appointed home with every comfort and
luxury and securely sheltered from the outside world.
I have lived not grazed. And I have worked. There
came a time when I had to work, and for twenty years


and more I was in a large tailoring firm in Liverpool,
earning honourable money."

Marion did not look up. She was thinking that there
had been moments when she had almost guessed that
this would be the story of the little old lady.

" I never saw husband or child again," Mrs. Glenrose
added. " I never wanted to see him. He bored me. And
I sometimes think that being bored is the greatest danger
that hie has to offer. Even now, after all these years,
I could shudder to remember how my zest died down in
his company. If he had wished to have me back, a thou-
sand times I should have said ' no.' But he made no such
offer. The divorce went through quietly and with no
anger on his part. But he did say one thing which cut
me to the heart because it was true. He said that if I
had abandoned only him, he could have understood, but
that a woman who abandoned her own little child was
outside the pale of love. Hard words but true. Don't
you think so ? "

Marion's face twitched. She did not answer that
question. Instead she asked one herself.

" Have you never wanted to see your child your son
or daughter which was it, I wonder ? " she said very

" There have been times in the past when I have longed
to see what my wee girl had grown into," Mrs. Glenrose
answered. " But I got over that. One does get over
things, though one may pretend not to."

" And you never long, now that you are old and alone
and would perhaps be glad of the affection she might
have to offer ? " asked Marion.

The little old lady shook her head.

" The very last person on earth I should wish to see
would be my daughter," she said. " To begin with, I
have no right to inflict myself on her, and then I should be
horribly uncomfortable in her presence. She would be
the same in mine. She might try to work up some affec-
tion for me out of pity or duty. I should hate that. But
whatever she did, she would be judging me, naturally
enough, and I should be feeling guilty and humiliated.


No, my dear friend, I have no wish to meet her now. I
should regard such an event as a calamity, disturbing to
my peace of mind and the even tenor of my ways in my
old age."

She added with a smile which had some mischief in it :

" And, you know, there is always the chance that she
might be boring like her father ! She probably would be,
since daughters are said to take after their male parents."

Marion laughed. Criticism and disapproval beat a
hasty retreat, and she bent forward and gave the little
lady an affectionate hug.

" You're downright naughty that's what you are ! "
she said.

" Perhaps I am," said Mrs. Glenrose with a soft little

" That boring husband of yours did he share your love
for poetry and all the sweet things of literature ? " asked
Marion. " It would interest me to know."

" No," Mrs. Glenrose answered emphatically. " He
was a dry-as-dust lawyer. The poems that entranced
him were moot points in law. Appeals. Higher Court
decisions. And the range of his reading was legal history
and judicial proceedings. But the, other one for whom I left
him ah, he was a poet, one of Nature's singers a wild,
beloved, impossible, thrilling, maddening, enthusiastic,
gifted, glorious creature. He died in a drunken brawl
after after he had tired of me and gone from me."

Her face lit up as she spoke of him.

" A glorious creature," she cried. " He was worth
while indeed he was ! I thought it then and I think
it now."

Then, with sudden impulse she said:

" I will show you what I have shown no one else all
these long years his photograph, and the portrait also
of him who was my husband. I'll show you them because
I love and trust you, and because you have been so good
to the naughty old Foundation woman."

She hastened, almost darted to a cupboard, drew out
a small tin box, opened it with a key which was suspended
round her neck, and with hands trembling from excite-


merit took out a small parcel. In her eagerness she broke
the thin elastic band confining it, and the papers were
scattered on the ground. Marion was going to gather
them up, but she waived her off and knelt down herself
amongst them.

" Here is the poet's portrait," she cried, holding it out
to Marion. " A wonderful face, isn't it the face of a
genius he was a genius if he had lived, the world would
have known him for what he was/'

Marion looked at it in silence. It was indeed a wild,
thrilling, inspired, wonderful face.

" And this was my husband," Mrs. Glenrose said, pick-
ing up another picture and holding it out to Marion.
" You see he was handsome and fine and noble -looking
wasn't he but without fire but he was noble yes, he
was noble."

A cry almost broke from Marion, but she suppressed it
with an effort which cost her every bit of strength of brain
and body. It was the picture of her father as a young
man with his bride the treasured picture which hung
over her bed.

" Yes, he was noble," she repeated gently.

And without another word she handed it back.

So the little old lady in the Yorkshire hamlet at the
back of beyond never knew that the friend who watched
for two years over her welfare, visited her, sent her books,
wrote to her, and bent over her when she was dying, was
the daughter whom she had abandoned and whom she
never wished to see.


IT was an April night in the Yorkshire village of
S . Bitter blew the wind. Old Jonathan Hunt
got up from his bench where he had been putting the
finishing touches to the back of a violin. He stared at
it for a long time, and then nodded his head gravely.

" Yes," he said aloud, " it's the most beautiful back
I have ever made. I have done nothing better than this.
This fiddle will be my finest."

But for once the old fiddle-maker felt no thrill, no ela-
tion. For once no pride of skill, joy in creation, enthu-
siasm for art upheld him. Twenty-five years and more
he had been sustained by the belief that he was
working for the generations to come and making for
himself a name which, obscure now, would perchance in
later days be found in the glorious record of famous luthiers,
side by side with Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Amati and all
the other honoured dead. It was a large belief which
obtruded itself on no one: for Hunt's dreamy, gentle,
retiring nature could never have made an aggressive claim
nor fought a hostile verdict. Yet its very secrecy fostered
its growth.

And now it had failed him. When he laid aside the
beautifully-modelled back, fashioned out of an amazingly
fine bit of beechwood, his certainty of its perfection was
suddenly devastated by indifference and doubt. The
ground on which he had beerr standing securely for half
a lifetime fell from under his feet.

What had he been doing all these years ? Making
fiddles which no one would ever play on. Striving to
build up a name of which no one would hear. And even



supposing that by mere chance it would be heard of in
the days to come what then ? How could that affect
him dead and gone ? Why should people work for the
future ? Why should they fix their eyes on the distant
scene, and suffer the real things of the present to steal
past uncaptured, unheeded ? That was what he had done.
Fixed his eyes on the distant scene, pushed aside con-
temptuously all the joys of everyday life comradeship,
friendship, love. Sacrificed everything to an idea.

He glanced around at the fiddles lying on shelves,
hanging from the old oak beam, cradled in cases, peopling
his home, where there had been room for nothing else
save these outward and visible signs of the Great Idea.
They had been to him sweetheart, wife, children, grand-
children, friends. Dearly had he loved them. Great
had been his pride in each one of them. Never had they
failed him in their meaning and value until now.

And why now ? Was it that dream last night ? Was
it Nancy's voice calling to him out of the past ? He
heard it again. He heard her merry laugh and saw her
bewitching young face, with its dancing eyes and teasing

" Why, sure, Jonathan, ye've smartened yerself up
mighty fine this May Day. Art going a-courting at
last ? "

" Aye, aye, Nancy," he answered. " I be come to court
ye, Nancy Elsden. You be the only woman for me in
this world."

" Then why didn't ye say that before, lad ? " she said.
" Many's the chance I've given ye, Jonathan lad, till maid's
pride forbade me further. And now it be too late. I be
promised to Harry Alcock over to Skipton. A good boy,
and one that knows his own mind."

" Too late ! " he cried. " No, no, Nance don't say
it be too late ! "

" Too late," she repeated softly and still more softly,
until her voice had died into silence, and the radiant vision
of her grew dimmer, lingered tremulously, faded reluct-
antly and was gone from his dream without a trace.
But not gone from his life. For he heard her now, saw her


now, fifty years of time receding and making way for the

And a sudden longing seized him to see once more the
home where Nance was reared, that distant, isolated farm-
house which had stood defying the winds and storms of
the wild upland for two hundred years and more. As
boy, as lad, as young fellow, he had been there many a
time, and he knew the path over the moors well, though
it was long ago since he had trodden it. He could almost
count the times he had passed that way since Nance
had told him that he had come too late to court her too
late too late.

He smiled, wondering at himself. His noble face lit
up with a tender radiance.

" An old man impelled by a memory," he murmured.

It was a strange thing to want to do. Yet at the moment
he wanted to do it above everything else in life. Late
though the hour and dim the fading light, go he must and
would, over the west moor, down into the dale, through the
little remote village with its many ancient bridges, with
the long winding dene ribboned with its silver stream,
and then up again on the heights, and so on and on over
the moorland until he reached Nance's home.

He locked the workshop door, and as he was turning
away, the sound of something falling arrested him. He
opened the door and found that one of the fiddles hanging
on the wall had broken from its string and crashed to the
ground. He glanced at it as one having no concern in its
fate, and let it lie there, hurt or unhurt. Yet a few hours
earlier he would have handled and tended it as lovingly
and anxiously as a mother her sick child. But now his
one pervading idea was to seek the moors ; and he shut up
the room again and hurried away.

The desolation of abandonment settled on the workshop,
where the fiddle-maker had toiled so many years with an en-
thusiasm which had never faltered and a rare skill mellowing
to perfection. It seemed like a deserted temple from which
the presiding deity had been visibly and invisibly withdrawn.

The master had gone. The informing spirit had fled.
The place was dead.


The old man passed up the village, turned off into the
Roman Road, and thence gained the moorland. The
wind blew ; cold and tempestuous clouds were racing over
the fells in reckless rivalry. A storm was brewing, but the
fiddle-maker took no heed of its warnings. His mind
was intent on reaching the gaol for which he had set out ;
and wind, rain, snow, hail, thunder, lightning could not
have deterred him that evening : for he was under a spell,
caught in a net, held in a bondage.

Only of Nance did he think as he passed over the same
ground he had trodden many a time on his way to her

" Aye, lad, but you're clean daft over yon fiddles of
your'n," he heard her saying. " Dead bits of fuel, I
call they. Here, Jonathan, spare me one or two of them.
Logs be scarce up at ours, and I be sick and weary of the
smell of peat. Come now this crazy-looking one, Jona-
than. Doan't be a-telling me that anyone could bring
a sweet sound out of yon crazy affair. But on a fire
'twould make a lovely crackle. Now don't ye refuse."

He laughed at the memory. Never had he taken offence
when Nance teased him. No one had known he had
scarcely known himself, dreamy, far-away spirit that he
was that he had dearly loved her teasing.

" Well, well, lad," he heard her saying, " and so that
be a thing you call a scroll. I calls it just a peg, a plain
peg, Jonathan. And it be a plain peg I'm a-wantin' to
hang my grand new dress on which Auntie Sally gave

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Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 15 of 23)