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ELLEN

THORNEYCROFT

FOWLER




BOSTON
PUBLIC

LIBRARY






t



Fuel of Fire




IN SILVERIIAMPTON MARKET-PLACE SHE WAS BURNT ALIVE.



Fuel of Fire



By

Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler

Author of ''Concerning Isabel Carnaby," *'A
Double Thread,'* **The Farringdons,'* Etc.



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS




New York

Dodd, Mead & Company

1902



Copyright, 1901,
By Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler.



Copyright, 1902,
By DoDD, Mead & Company.



First Edition published September, 1902.






THE CAXTON PRESS
NEW YORK.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

Prologue i

CHAPTER

I. The Burtons 13

11. Baxendale Half 34

III. Laurence Baxendale 52

IV. Mrs. Candy 67

V. Anthony's Suggestion 85

VI. RuFus Webb loi

VII. A Woman Tempts 117

VIII. The Course of True Love 136

IX. Another Woman Tempts 151

X. Mrs. Candy's Holiday 168

XI. The Burning of Baxendale 184

XII. Suspicion 200

XIII. The Losing of the Keys 211

XIV. The Finding of the Keys 232

XV. In the Lanes 248

XVI. Mrs. Candy's Opinion 264

XVII. Vain Oblations 283

XVIII. Wedding Bells 295

XIX. Winter Days 317

XX. To What Purpose ? 325

XXI. Lady Alicia 341

XXII. The Lanes Again 356

XXIII. The Professor's Visit 368



PROLOGUE.

"First by the King, and then by the State,
And thirdly by that which is thrice as great
As these, and a thousandfold stronger and higher,
Shall Baxendale Hall be made fuel of fire."

It fell upon a day (so the ancient chronicles tell
us) — before men had discovered thatMershire was a
land whose stones were of iron and her foundations
of coal — that Guy, the eldest son of Sir Stephen de
Baxendale, went out hunting in the merry green-
wood which lay between Baxendale Hall and Silver-
hampton town. And because Guy was too young
to take such heed to his own steps and the steps of his
steed as an older and wiser huntsman would have
done, the horse put his foot into a rabbit-hole,
thereby bringing himself and his rider to the ground.
In much fear and trembling the retainers picked up
the unconscious form of their young master and
bore him to Gorsty Hayes, a forester's lodge in the
heart of the wood, which is still standing to this day.
There he was nursed back to consciousness by Vivien
of the Glade, the forester's fair daughter, much
famed in those parts for her skill in discovering heal-
ing herbs, and distilling soothing potions from the
same.



FUEL OF FIRE



It was many a long day before Guy of Baxendale
was sufficiently recovered to be taken home to the
Hall; for his leg was broken and his whole body
badly bruised. And when at last he did go back, he
left his heart behind him in the safe keeping of
Vivien of the Glade : for even in those far-off times
Love flew where he listed and no man ordered his
goings, just as he does unto this day, and will do so
long as this round world of ours shall run its course
in the light of the sun.

Then there was war in the house of Baxendale.
Guy had made up his mind to wed the fair daughter
of the forester; while Sir Stephen and Dame Alice,
his wife, had made up their minds with equal firm-
ness that no son of their noble name should mate
with a daughter of the people.

Long before William the Norman planted his in-
domitable foot upon English soil, the Baxendales
had taken up their abode in the heart of the Mer-
shire forests, and there had builded themselves a
stronghold against their enemies. It was rumoured
that one of them had fought on the side of Ethel-
fleda, Queen of Mercia, in the great battle between
the Dames and the Saxons ; and that the queen had
delighted to honour him for his bravery on that day
of blood. Be that as it may, the family had long
ruled over their own fair lands in the centre of the
Mershire forests, and had accounted themselves as
being made of different flesh and blood from the
common people, which men are sadly prone to



PROLOGUE



do when they have handed down their lands from
father to son for many generations; until God sees
fit to teach them Himself that He is no respecter of
persons.

Therefore, it was a bitter thing to Sir Stephen
and Dame Alice, his wife, when their first-born son
set his heart upon Vivien, the forester's daughter.
But Guy clave to the woman and refused to let her
go, for the which should all succeeding Baxendales
honour him ; as a man who is not ready to leave his
father and mother in order to cleave to his wife is
not the clay out of which the best husbands and
fathers are fashioned by the hands of the great
Potter.

While the battle was waging fierce and strong —
Guy swearing that he should wed the girl whether
or no, and his parents swearing that he should not
— a rumour got wind in the neighbourhood (started,
men said, in the first place by Dame Alice herself)
that the healing skill of Vivien of the Glade had its
origin in the sin of witchcraft. Then alas, and alas
for Guy of Baxendale and his ill-fated love!
The rumour grew apace, until women refused so
much as to look at Vivien's fair face ; and even brave
men crossed themselves if they had to ride by Gorsty
Hayes after nightfall. And at last it came to pass
that the girl was seized by soldiers and carried to
Baxendale Hall, where she was condemned by sev-
eral worthy Justices of the Peace to be burnt alive at
Silverhampton market-place, as a punishment for



FUEL OF FIRE



her evil deeds, and a warning to any like-minded
persons who might be tempted to follow in her un-
holy footsteps.

So in Silverhampton market-place she was burnt
alive, close to the strange old Druidical pillar
whereof no man knows the history even unto this
day. And just as the fagots were beginning to
crackle she broke through the rope that bound her
right arm, and pointed with her forefinger to the
thickly-wooded hill on the other side of the valley,
where Baxendale Hall nestled among the trees — the
home of the great family who had done her to
death for the sole crime of being lowly-born. And
as she pointed to their house she raised her voice and
cursed them as they had cursed her :

"First by the King, and then by the State,
And thirdly by that which is thrice as great
As these, and a thousandfold stronger and higher,
Shall Baxendale Hall be made fuel of fire."

Then the tongues of flame leaped up and fawned
upon her like dogs of war let loose by fiendish hands ;
higher and higher they leaped, until the voice of
cursing faded into a shriek of agony, and then died
away into the silence of the eternities. And the
people stood round and gazed upon the awful sight,
thanking God — in their blindness and ignorance —
that they were not as this woman was ; while the old
church of St. Peter uplifted its ancient tower above
their heads, an unheeded witness to Him Who would



PROLOGUE



fain have gathered them all under His wings as a
hen gathereth her chickens, but they would not ; and
Who would fain have taught them — in this His tem-
ple made with hands — the things that belonged to
their peace, but which as yet were hid from their
eyes.

Thus perished Vivien of the Glade, because she
had succeeded in winning the love of Guy of Baxen-
dale. But her curse lived on, and was fulfilled to
the letter.

As for Guy, he forgot his sorrow in the fierce joy
of fighting in the Wars of the Roses, the love of
war being stronger in some men than even the love
of woman. Then late in life, when he was alike too
old to fight or to love any more, he took to wife a
well-born damsel, some thirty years younger than
himself, who bore him a large family of sons and
daughters. In a ripe but cheerless old age he was
gathered to his fathers, and Hugh, his son, reigned
in his stead. But until the day of his death Guy of
Baxendale never again entered Silverhampton town.
He turned on his heel and shook the dust of the place
ofT his feet on the day when the woman he loved was
martyred underneath the old stone pillar, in the very
shadow of the church which brought — to those who
had ears to hear it — the message of peace upon earth
and goodwill towards men. And he never set foot
therein again.

But his children and his grandchildren married in
their own class and lived happily ever after — at least,



FUEL OF FIRE



until they were removed to that strange world where
rank and wealth count for less than nothing, and
love and duty for so much. If they found it impos-
sible to live happily in a world where it was ac-
counted better to be a saint than a Baxendale, no one
knows; but it is somewhat difficult for even a chron-
icler to imagine.

Nevertheless, because human nature is stronger
than pride of birth or social ambition — is stronger,
in fact, than anything else on earth except the grace
of God (and sometimes for a while apparently even
stronger than that) — it came to pass, when Henry
the Eighth was king, that again a Baxendale lost his
heart to a daughter of the people. Once more, as
of old, his parents interfered between him and the
soul that God had given him, for the sake of the
glory of their ancient house. And because Richard
Baxendale — like his ancestor Guy — swore that he
would marry the girl he loved, though she was only
Agnes Tyler, daughter of a wool-merchant in Silver-
hampton, Agnes was sent to the convent of Grey-
ladies, and there compelled by her father to take the
veil : for how could a plain Mercian wool-merchant
defy the wishes of the great Sir Wilfred Baxendale?

So Agnes possessed her sweet soul in patience
within the thick stone walls of Greyladies, and
passed her time in praying for Richard Baxendale,
that he might do honour to his knighthood on earth
and finally obtain the heavenly crown which is prom-
ised to him that overcometh. There, year after year.



PROLOGUE 7



she watched the daffodils cover the earth, and she
thought upon those golden streets through which
Richard and she should one day walk together : and
she saw the wild hyacinths carpet the woodlands,
and thought upon the pavement of sapphire, before
which Richard and she should one day kneel. She
prayed also for his wife and his children; for her
love was not of the earth earthy, and there was no
thought of self to be found therein. As for the wool-
merchant, her father, he commended himself in that
he had killed two birds with one stone, so to speak,
in pleasing God and Sir Wilfred equally, by taking
his daughter from the one ip. order to give her to
the Other : and he felt that he had thereby conferred
an obligation upon both of these Powers which
neither of them could lightly discharge. It is always
so satisfactory to a man when he can serve God and
Mammon at the same time! There was no doubt
that the wool-merchant of Silverhampton was an
excellent man of business; and there was also no
doubt that two of the parties involved — namely,
himself and Sir Wilfred — were completely satisfied
with the arrangement. Whether the Third Power
concerned in the transaction concurred in the ap-
proval manifested by the other two is a more doubt-
ful matter, and one whereof the chronicler knows
nothing: but Will Tyler himself knows all about it
by this time, and probably realises at last the disad-
vantages of a divided service.

When Agnes was safely out of his reach, Richard



8 FUEL OF FIRE

took to wife the Lady Anne, daughter of the Earl
of Mershire; and by her had three fine sons and four
fair daughters. But his heart was always in the
convent of Greyladies, some five miles from Baxen-
dale Hall.

It was when Sir Richard's hair was thinning and
his beard was turning grey, that the Reformation
altered the whole political aspect of England; and
Henry the Eighth appropriated to himself the re-
ligious house of Greyladies, and all the properties
appertaining thereto. The convent was sacked, and
the nuns fled to Baxendale, taking with them as
much treasure as they could carry; for Sir Richard,
being but a simple English gentleman, could not un-
derstand how even kings should rise superior to the
Eighth Commandment, and yet go unpunished.

The king's soldiers, in the king's name, com-
manded Sir Richard to give up the treasures of the
convent, or else they would burn Baxendale Hall to
the ground ; but he laughed in their faces, and swore
that the nuns who had fied to him for safety should
find it there until his death.

Then the king's soldiers, in the king's name, set
fire to the Hall. The Lady Anne and her children
escaped ; but Sir Richard stayed with the nuns whom
he was defending, like the brave knight he was, and
perished with them in the final crash.

Tradition says that just at the end — when all
hope or chance of life was over, and death was wait-
ing for them both — Sir Richard threw back the veil



PROLOGUE



which for so long had divided him from Agnes, and
kissed her once more full upon the lips, as he had
been wont to kiss her long ago in the merry green-
wood between Baxendale Hall and Silverhampton.
If this were so, no one saw it save the God Who
made them man and woman before they were knight
and nun, and therefore would not go back upon His
Own handiwork : and their souls are in His keeping
until this day.

Thus perished Sir Richard and the woman he had
loved, and thus was fulfilled the first part of the
curse of Vivien of the Glade.

A third time it came to pass — since history has
a habit of repeating itself — that a Baxendale sought
a low-born bride. The Hall had been rebuilt for
close upon a century, when Walter Baxendale, one
of the most loyal subjects of King Charles the Mar-
tyr, set his heart upon Charity Freemantle, a pretty
Puritan maid. But now it was the lady's father
who objected, not the swain's, for Walter had lost
both his parents while he was yet a boy. Joshua
Freemantle swore a great oath that none of his
household should touch the accursed thing ; whereby
he meant that none of his pretty daughters should be
joined in wedlock with a supporter of the royalist
cause.

Again, as of yore, there were sweet stolen meet-
ings in the woodlands lying west of Silverhampton
town — meetings which turned the mossy paths into
veritable highways of Paradise, and the sun-dappled



lo FUEL OF FIRE

glades into fairyland itself: when the shouting of
the captains was drowned for a while in the hush
and the hum of the summer ; and the sound of war
could no longer be heard because of the murmur of
lovers' vows and lovers' kisses.

Then came the battle of Worcester, and the tri-
umph of the Parliamentary army ; when Charles fled
for safety to Boscobel, and there was hid in an oak-
tree from his would-be murderers. Cromwell's men
suspected that the fugitive monarch was in hiding at
Baxendale Hall; and they commanded the master
thereof to deliver into their hands the king to whom
he had sworn allegiance ; a thing which Walter Bax-
endale would not have done if he could, since he
was a loyal knight and true, and could not if he
would, as the king was not at Baxendale at all, but
had ridden on to Boscobel.

But in the midst of the search for King Charles,
Joshua Freemantle — one of Cromwell's most fanat-
ical followers — came upon his daughter, Charity, in
Baxendale Wood, folded in the arms of her devoted
cavalier, who had just come back to her alive and
unhurt from the field of Worcester. In a moment
of frenzy, Freemantle fired at the man he hated, as
men never hate save in the throes of civil warfare;
but Charity, seeing what was coming, flung herself
between her father and her lover, and so was slain
in her lover's stead.

Then Sir Walter and Freemantle engaged in a
hand-to-hand struggle, the one being inspired by the



PROLOGUE II



love of woman and the other by the love of religion
— two of the strongest forces that ever impelled men
to shed blood like water.

For many minutes the deadly combat lasted, first
the one seeming to get the upper hand, and then the
other. But Baxendale's heart was broken, and it is
hard work fighting with a broken heart; so it
came to pass that the fanatic proved too strong for
the knight and finally overthrew him, running him
straight through the body with his sword. So Wal-
ter and his love lay dead together in the woodland
where they had so often plighted their vows; and
who shall dare to say that those vows were not ful-
filled in that Paradise whereof the forest of Baxen-
dale had been but a foretaste and a type ?

Joshua Freemantle then rode on to the Hall, fol-
lowed by a small company of Roundheads and filled
with the passion of war and the frenzy of religious
zeal. With the soldiers' help he burned the house to
the ground, thinking (poor, misguided soul!) that
he was thereby doing God service, just as he thought
he had saved his daughter's soul alive by slaying her
in Baxendale Woods rather than let her mate with
a son of Belial (as he considered all who were not
supporters of Cromwell). He also had much to
learn when at last he went to his own place, and
found how terribly he had misrepresented the God
Whom he had sincerely, though ignorantly, wor-
shipped.

It was not until after Richard Cromwell's death,



12 FUEL OF FIRE

and the restoration to the throne of King Charles the
Second, that the property was given back to Hubert
Baxendale, Sir Walter's younger brother. In the
meanwhile it lay — a desolate and neglected ruin —
silent save for the cawing of the rooks by day and
the screeching of the owls by night. But then Hu-
bert claimed it as his brother's heir at law; and the
king at once recognised his claims, and restored the
large estate of Baxendale to its rightful owner.

For some years Hubert Baxendale saved up his
revenues in order to rebuild the Hall; and by the
time that James the Second was sitting upon his
brother's throne, a fine red-brick house had grown
up on the old site of Baxendale Hall — a house which
was destined to be enlivened by the laughter of sev-
eral generations of Baxendales before the third part
of the ancient prophecy came true.

Thus perished Sir Walter Baxendale and the
woman of his choice : and thus was fulfilled the sec-
ond part of the curse of Vivien of the Glade.



CHAPTER I.

THE BURTONS.

"A merry heart goes all the way,"
As Shakespeare once was pleased to say.

*1t Strikes me, Nancy," remarked Anthony Bur-
ton, looking critically at his cousin, "that Laurence
Baxendale is inclined to be sweet upon you. I won-
der at the fact, I confess; but my eagle eye cannot
help perceiving it."

"I doubt if he has the sense," replied Nancy ; "but
it would do him all the good in the world."

Anthony tilted his straw hat still further over
his eyes : ^'Your lack of humility, my dear child,
is only equalled by your lack of justification to be
anything else but humble. What there is in you to
induce any man, not bound to you by the ties of
relationship, to think about you twice, I fail to im-
agine; but the fact remains that our friend Baxen-
dale does think about you twice ; and facts have to be
reckoned with."

'Tw^ice? — and the rest," said Nancy laconically.

'Now if he thought twice about Nora, I should
find more excuse for him," continued Anthony, turn-



(<-



14 FUEL OF FIRE

ing his attentions to his younger cousin; *'Nora —
though far from being all that I could wish — has
certain claims to good looks."

'Thank you," responded Nora.

Nancy's good humour remained unruffled : "Yes,
there is no doubt that Nora is much better looking
than I am. I've discovered that it is a universal law
of nature that of two sisters the second is always the
better looking and the taller, from the days of Leah
and Rachel downwards. If there are any brains
going about, the elder sister generally fixes upon
them : but as there are no brains going about in our
family, this doesn't affect us."

''Speak for yourself, my dear," demurred An-
thony; "Nora and I are simply bursting with brain-
power. But we do not despise you for your inferior-
ity in this respect : we merely pity."

But Nancy was not attending: "I'm very glad
you've noticed that Mr. Baxendale is rather taken
with me, for I'd got an idea that way myself; and it
is a comfort to find it confirmed even by such an
idiot as you, Tony."

"Allow me to tender you a hearty vote of thanks
for the kind — the too kind — terms in which you are
pleased to refer to my intellectual endowments,"
murmured Anthony.

"But he tries dreadfully hard not to admire me —
that's the best of the joke. It entertains me most
enormously to see him struggling to defend himself
against my charms."



THE BURTONS 15

"I know exactly what you mean, Nan," cried
Nora; ''when you say anything funny he tries all he
knows how not to laugh, but to be properly shocked."

"Yes; doesn't he? And that makes me try to be
all the funnier. And it is a pity it takes him like
that; for he really has got a very nice sense of
humour if he'd give it its head, and not curb it with
proprieties."

''Still I don't see ^yhy he shouldn't admire you if
he wants to," Anthony continued; "as I remarked
before, I should never want to admire you myself;
but if I did feel any inclination in that extraordinary
direction, I should have no conscientious scruples
against indulging it to the full."

"I once knew a man," said Nancy, "who divided
the girls he made love to into those he made love to
on Sundays and those he made love to on week-days :
and he said nothing would induce him to make love
to me on a Sunday — his mother wouldn't like it —
though he'd devote the six other days entirely to
the pursuit with pleasure."

"Then I shouldn't have let him," interrupted
Nora; "I'd have been made love to by him on Sun-
days or not at all. I wouldn't let a man pick and
choose his times and seasons in that rude way."

'I didn't; and the result was he didn't do it at all."
'I expect that is generally the result when you are
concerned," sighed Tony.

Nancy laughed. "Is it? That's all you know
about it."






i6 FUEL OF FIRE

''But why doesn't Baxendale want to admire you?
That's what I can't see."

"I suppose he couldn't afford to marry," replied
Nora wisely, "unless he married a much richer girl
than one of us."

"Oh ! I don't think it's that," argued Nancy; "Mr.
Baxendale is just the sort of man to marry the most
unsuitable woman he could find. You see, he is
high-principled and honourable and conscientious;
and honourable, conscientious people always have
scruples against knowing the right men and marry-
ing the right women."

"Then what is his objection to you?" persisted
Tony. "If you aren't rich enough, aren't you poor
enough ?"

"I don't believe it is money at all : money would
never enter into the counsels of such a man as Lau-
rence Baxendale. He thinks I am common: that's
where the shoe pinches."

"Confound his ^ cheek! Where does the common-
ness come in, I sKould like to know ?"

"Oh! he thinks it is awfully low not to have
strolled into England with William the Conqueror,
and sat still here ever since. He is the sort of man
who expects you to be always taking your ancestors
about with you, and getting them to give you let-
ters of introduction, don't you know? He never
moves without taking a lot of ancestors about with
him, just as some people never move without taking
a lot of servants."



THE BURTONS 17

"I know the sort."

"I thought he'd have had a fit the other day when
I said that somehow we'd mislaid our great-great-
grandfather, and though we'd searched for him dih-
gently in the rag-bag and the waste-paper basket, we
couldn't lay our hands on him anywhere. He didn't
in the least see that it was funny."

Nora shook her pretty head. ''How tiresome of
him ! I can't bear people who don't see when things
are funny."

''Well, he generally does see when things are
funny — that is one of his principal charms in my
eyes. But he regards family and birth and blood
and all that sort of thing as far too sacred to be
trifled with or lightly spoken of. I'm thankful that
I belong to a new family that has no curse, but gas
and water laid on."

"There is good reason for your Te Deum/' agreed
Anthony.

"You see, Mr. Baxendale has a curse, and every-
thing else that is correct and uncomfortable and aris-
tocratic; and he thinks it dreadfully plebeian of us
to be making iron. In fact, he is one of the people
who thinks it is dreadfully vulgar to make anything
but mistakes; and of those they make plenty."

"I've never quite grasped," said Anthony, "why
he and his mother have suddenly come down to live
under the shadow of their uninhabited ancestral
home."

"Oh ! I've got it all out of Faith Fairfax," answered


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