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me," Nancy persisted.

"A little bit more than you love me."

"Then how much do I love you?"

"Ah ! that is your business. You can't expect me
to give an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms, my
darling, when I am so culpably ignorant of my own.
Now I must confess that I should have thought a
clever girl like you could have answered a simple
little question like that."

"And I should have thought a clever man like you
could have answered it."

"But I don't set up as being clever, and you do."

Nancy smiled : "You were considered very clever
at Oxford, weren't vou?"

"I was : but I'm not responsible, you know, for all


the traditions to which so antique and interesting
a city give birth."

''And mathematics were your strong point, weren't

*'I always prided myself on being able to put two
and two together."

''Well, then," and Nancy nodded her head tri-
umphantly, "a good mathematician ought to be able
to measure so simple a thing as his own love for a

"Excuse me: but the very best mathematicians
cannot measure infinity." And Laurence kissed her
again. "But I'd spend the rest of my days in trying
to show you how much I love you," he continued
more seriously, "if only I wasn't so confoundedly

"It is a nuisance;" and Nancy sighed, thereby cut-
ting Laurence to the heart. It was intolerable to
him to think that he — who desired nothing so much
as her happiness — should be the one to bring that
pathetic note into her voice and that sad look into her

"But never mind," he said, after a moment's pause,
trying to take a more encouraging view of things:
"the luck is sure to turn soon, and then I can speak to
your father and we can be properly engaged. Prob-
ably I shall succeed in letting some of the farms that
just now are empty — I might even be able to let the
Hall — and then you'll soon see how much I love you,


*'I suppose that fire insurance hampers you a good
deal," remarked Nancy, thoughtfully.

*'It does ; confound the beastly thing !"

"And you couldn't leave off paying it?"

"Not without forfeiting the property, according
to my grandfather's will."

"And you couldn't sell the old library?"

"Not without the same disastrous result."

"I think it is very unfair of people to make wills
like that."

"So do I : but when they have made them there is
no use in defying them."

"I wish the prophecy w^ould come true and the
Hall be burned down again," remarked Nancy, with
another sigh.

"So do I, for some things: but the misfortunes
that one desires are invariably the misfortunes from
which one is preserved."

"I suppose if it did come true you would have
plenty of money."

"Plenty, my darling: but it won't come true; so
it's no use thinking about it."

After a minute's silence Nancy said: "I wish we
could call down fire from heaven to consume Baxen-
dale Hall, and be happy ever afterward."

"But you see we can't, dear love."

"Couldn't you light your pipe there — or have a
bonfire on Guy Fawkes' day — or something of that
kind ?"

Laurence was struck — as we are all struck now


and again — by the strangeness of that unwritten law
which rules that history, even in the smallest things,
shall repeat itself. We hear the name of a place or a
person which we have never heard before, and dur-
ing the next day or two that place or person is again
mentioned in our hearing: we come upon a word
that is entirely new to us ; and in the next book we
open, that particular word hits us full in the face.
We are all familiar with this phenomenon, yet it
never ceases to surprise us ; and therefore it came as
a shock to Laurence — when in accordance with this
remarkable law of chance — Nancy said the very
same thing which his mother had said to him so short
a time before.

"My darling, don't say such things, even in jest.
It hurts me to hear you say them."

''But I can't help wishing them. Oh! Laurence,
you don't know how I love you, and how horrid
everything is without you." And Nancy's lip quiv-

Laurence took her in his arms and tried to comfort
her. ''Don't fret, sweetheart. Things will take a
turn for the better soon : I know they will. And
then think what lovely times we will have together !"

"But not until we are too old to enjoy them,"
argued Nancy disconsolately. "It won't be much
fun going about together if we have to go in two
Bath-chairs with a glass down."

"We shan't do that."

"Yes, we shall; and I shall look at you through


blue spectacles, and you will make love to me down
an ear-trumpet, and everything will be simply detest-

''Dear little child, don't fret," repeated Laurence.

"But I must fret — I can't help fretting — you
should never have kissed me if you hadn't wanted
me to fret. And we might have such fun if only
you'd make a bonfire of the silly old place. I hate
the sight of it!"

''Oh, Nancy !"

"Yes, I do; and it has got to be burned down a
third time by something which is greater and higher
than King or State, and what can that be, I should
like to know, but love? I don't believe you're really
in love with me at all, or else you'd be only too
pleased to burn down your house in order that I
might warm my hands at the blaze. In fact, that is
what you would do if you were a really nice, oblig-
ing, chivalrous, Sir- Walter-Raleigh kind of a man."

"Perhaps I might, if it wasn't insured : that makes
all the difference, don't you see?"

"No, I don't."

"Don't you see that it would have taken the shine
out of old Raleigh's cloak-trick if he'd covered the
puddle with a borrowed mantle, knowing that he
should get a brand new one out of the transaction?"

"I can't think why you don't fire Mrs. Candy with
a desire to read some of the old manuscripts so that
she might study them by candle light and in her turn
fire the Hall."


Laurence believed that Nancy was talking the
broadest nonsense and did not mean a word she said ;
nevertheless, it hurt him that her suggestions should
so exactly coincide with his mother's. ''My darling,''
he entreated, "don't make life harder than it really
is by saying things that cut me to the heart."

But Nancy only laughed : ''You see, the Hall has
got to be burned down a third time — everybody who
knows anything at all knows that — and it would be
so lovely if only it would happen in our time. No-
body will ever get as much fun out of the money as
you and I should, Laurence, dear."

"Perhaps not, darling. You know I mind it all as
much as you do, don't you?"

"I suppose you do," rather doubtfully: "but you
remind me of the old Scotch woman who went for
the first time to a ritualistic church and said, 'Na
doot they love the Lord, but sakes ! they've a funny
way o' showing it.' You've a funny way of showing
it, too."

But Laurence's face was too sad to smile: "I'm
sure you don't want me to be more unhappy than I
need be, Nancy?"

"I don't want you to be unhappy at all, silly : that's
what I keep proving, if you'd only attend to what I
say. I want us both to be happy — perfectly, glori-
ously, frightfully happy — until every week seems like
a cricket-week and every day like a bank-holiday."

"So do I, sweetheart: and we will be some day.
But in the meantime, don't break my heart."


''Certainly not. I'm not such a goose as to go
about smashing my own property."

"Well, you will break it if you go about saying
things which you don't mean in the very least, but
which somehow lower my ideal of you."

Nancy made a face: "Now we shall hear some-
thing really improving. The preacher for this after-
noon will be the Reverend Laurence Baxendale,
sometimes postmaster at Merton : his subject will be
the follies of young w^omen in general, exemplified
by largely exaggerated magic-lantern slides of the
peculiar negligences and ignorances of Miss Nancy

But Laurence would not be put off by her jokes :
"My dear, you don't really want to hurt me, do

"You silly old boy, of course I don't. Do you
think that my usual way of annoying a man is to tell
him that I love him? Because if you do, it isn't
particularly complimentary to me."

"Then promise me you will never say anything
again, even in jest, about burning down the Hall."

"All right, you shall make out an Index Expurga-
torius of the things I mustn't make jokes about. It
will include everything that begins with a B. — Bax-
endales and Burning and Burtons and Beatitudes,
and so on and so on."

"Give me a kiss to seal your promise."

And she kissed him full on the lips.

Nevertheless, it was many a long day before either


Laurence or Nancy forgot that conversation. They
imagined, in the bHndness of their hearts, that they
had cancelled it with kisses : but no kisses, nor tears,
nor even death itself can ever wipe out the effects of
the spoken word whereof it is written that men and
women shall give an account in the Day of Judg-


MRS. candy's holiday.

With mine own people I awhile must dwell,

If only to find out if they are well,

And hear the things which they alone can tell.

'Tm just thinkin', sir, as I should like a holiday,"
Mrs. Candy said to Laurence the next time he was up
at the Hall. ''I was sayin' to her leddyship only t'
other day that it was many a long year since Fd had
a sight o' my own people ; and though yewr own peo-
ple may try yew sore when they're with yew, there's
no doubt as yew want to see 'em now and then — just
as camomile tea is as bitter as bitter when yew are
drinkin' it, and yet yew can't get on without a dose
of it from time to time."

"I suppose not."

"So I says to her leddyship, says I, ^I'm wantin'
to go back to Norfolk for a spell,' I says : and she
says to me, 'Why don't you ask Mr. Baxendale for a
holiday,' says she; 'I'm sure as he'd give it yew this
bewtiful summer weather.' And Candy, he says as
her leddyship had right on her side, to his thinkin' ;
so I've made bold to ask if I may go away for a bit."

Laurence could not help wishing that his mother
had not furthered the evacuation of the Hall so soon


after her unpleasant suggestion to him ; but he imme-
diately put away the thought as an insult to Lady
Alicia, and said quite agreeably : ''Of course I shall
be glad to give you a holiday, Mrs. Candy, if you
wish it. But how will Candy manage to get on with-
out you?"

**He won't manage, sir. Bless yew. Candy
couldn't get along without me to look after him, and
slave for him, and wash his clothes and listen to his
grumblings, no, not if it was ever so ; he's a good hus-
band, is Candy. But her leddyship says as maybe
yew'd give him a holiday tew ; and we thought as it
would be a good time to go to Overstrand, and see as
the family grave is in good order, ready for me when
it's my turn to lie within it," explained Mrs. Candy

''A strange fashion of spending a holiday : but peo-
ple must enjoy themselves in their own way, I pre-


''And there'd not only be the pleasure o' puttin' the
grave in good order, sir, but my niece, Maria Jane, .
she's just had twins, she has, poor soul ! — twins, like
misfortunes, never comin' singly, as they say. - And ^-^'^^^^
what time I had to spare from weedin' in the church-
yard I could be lookin' after Maria Jane and the
twins. Oh! there'd be plenty to pass the time, Mr.
Baxendale; so that Candy and me need never have a
dull minit."

"I see."

"And Candy 'ud take a few cuttin's o' different


sorts o' flowers to plant on the grave, so as to make
it look more cheerful like when my time comes. He
said if I'd no objection, he'd like try a bit o' carpet-
gardenin' on it, carpet-gardenin' bein' so handy, and
lookin' well nearly all the year round. 'And yew'U
want it all the year round/ he says, with a laugh ; 'it
ain't only a summer residence,' says he, as peart as
peart. Oh ! he's one for his joke, is Candy."

"You already seem to have provided yourselves
with a full and interesting programme," remarked

"Well, yew see, sir, that's the bewty o' goin'
among yewr own people — there's always somethin'
to du and to talk about, be it christenin's or funerals.
And I du say as next to a death there's nothin' like a
birth for cheerin' a family up a bit."

"I suppose not."

"That's the worst o' bein' but a stranger and a so-
journer, as yew may say, as I have been iver since I
left Norfolk. Folks die and folks are buried all the
world over; but I deny as yew iver enjoys findin'
fault as to how they have left their bit o' money as
much as yew du when it's yewr own flesh and blood
as is to blame."

"That is true, Mrs. Candy." And Laurence

"Now, there was my uncle Willum — him as I've
so often told yew about ; bless yew, sir ! we niver got
tired o' talkin' of his bit o' money and how unfairly
he'd left it — niver. If iver we'd a family party,


Uncle Willum's bit o' money 'ud come up, sure as
fate ; and then there'd be plenty to talk about, never
fear, however late it might be afore the party broke
up. Afore his death we'd talk of how he ought to
leave it, no tew bein' o' one mind on the subject,
which kep' the ball a-rollin' and gave the men some-
thin' pleasant and interestin' to argufy about: and
after his death we'd all abuse him for the way he had
left it, and that was more pleasant if less excitin'.
Oh ! Fm sure I dunno what we should have found to
talk about many a time if it hadn't been for Uncle
Willum and his bit o' money."

Laurence sighed. ''Money — or the want of it —
certainly does seem to be the root of most evils : at
least, if one is to judge from history."

"Oh ! don't yew worry yewrself over history, Mr.
Baxendale," said Mrs. Candy, in a soothing voice;
"Candy's no opinion of history, hasn't Candy; and
he's no patience wi' learnin' childern about it at
schule. 'What's the good o' learnin' 'em all about
past and gone kings and queens?' he says; 'they're
dead and buried, and let 'em lay,' says he. That's
what Candy thinks about history." And Candy's
better half nodded her head triumphantly at this un-
answerable refutation of the testimony of all living
or dead historians.

"I didn't know that Candy was such an authority
on education."

Mrs. Candy fairly bridled : "He is, though — and
on most things else. There ain't much in this warld


as Candy hasn't got to the bottom of — I can tell yew
that, sir. And he don't hold wi' schules, Candy
don't, never havin' had much schulin' hisself."

"A most natural disapprobation," murmured Lau-

"And he don't hold wi' scholards, neither. I
remember i' the late Mr. Baxendale's time Candy
got a new gardener's boy which was a perfect schol-
ard. *How does the new boy get on. Candy?' says
the late Mr. Baxendale. 'Get on, sir?' says Candy,
Svhy, he don't get on at all ; he don't know nothin' o'
nothin'. And how shud he, sir, he havin' been at
schule all his life ?' Oh ! he isn't one for much schul-
in', isn't Candy."

"Obviously not."

"He says it's all very well for the -gentry as
haven't got nothin' to du but to turn their heads inta
pottin' sheds and rubbish-heaps ; but they as has got
their own livin' to get can't afford to waste their
time over such stuff as book-learnin'."

Laurence smiled : "I am afraid then that Candy
doesn't share my late grandfather's weakness for
books, as shown in the library upstairs."

"Not he, sir ; yew don't find any nonsense o' that
sort about Candy. And he says, if he had been in
yewr place, beggin' yewr pardon, sir, he'd sune have
sold all that waste paper upstairs for what he could
get for it, grandfather's will or no grandfather's

"But, you see, my grandfather's will made it not


only impossible for me to sell his library, but also
obliged me to preserve it at great expense."

"Well, it's a good thing as yewr grandfather's will
has yew to deal wi', sir, instead o' Candy; for Candy
wud ha' stood no nonsense o' that kind. He'd ha'
sold the whole bag o' tricks for what he cud get for
it — that he wud, if all the grandfathers in Christen-
dom had tried to stop him, and all the grandmothers,

"Then I am afraid the law would have stepped in
and prevented him."

"Oh ! he don't hold wi' the law any more than he
do with schulin', don't Candy. He says as the law
is all very well for poachers and criminals and the
like o' them, but that it hasn't no right to come inter-
ferin' wi' honest men ; and if it iver dares to interfere
with him he'll sune show it its place, says he. And
so he wud : I shud like to see the law as dare inter-
fere with Candy when onst his spirit is up."

"I suppose when you were living in Norfolk you
sometimes saw the Prince of Wales on his way to
and from Sandringham," suggested Laurence, who
always enjoyed drawing Mrs. Candy out.

But Mrs. Candy seemed to be shocked at the sug-
gestion: "No, no, sir; I ain't as warldly as all that,
though His Royal Highness did pass through the
station of the village where my brother Jacob Henry
lived. 'Come and see the Prince of Wales go
through, Lizzie,' says Jacob Henry to me one day
when I was a-stayin' wi' him. 'No, Jacob Henry,'


says I, I'm not so warldly/ says I; 'now if it had
been Abraham with Lazarus in his bosom, a-sittin'
in a first-class carriage, I might a-gone/ I says ; 'but
not for all the kings o' the earth,' says I, 'will I run
half a mile as hard as I can, just on the top o' my
dinner.' And no more I wud."

"You were most sensible, Mrs. Candy, not to al-
low that feeling of loyalty, which is so apt to run riot
in England, to lead you into indigestion."

"Just what I thought, Mr. Baxendale, sir. What
wud the Prince o' Wales and all the crowned heads
o' Europe have cared if my dinner that day had lain
on my chest like a lump o' lead ? Not they : it wud
have made no difference to them whatsoever. But
it wud ha' made all the difference to me, I can tell
yew; and I wudn't ha' risked it, no, not for the Em-
peror o' China or the Pope o' Rome."

"By the way, Mrs. Candy," Laurence said more
seriously, "I suppose you wouldn't go for your holi-
day by yourself and leave Candy to look after the

"Laws-a-mercy, Mr. Baxendale, what be yew
a-thinkin' of? Why, I wudna go on a journey with-
out Candy to tell me which way I was a-goin', no,
not if yew was to crown me. Do yew think I'm
a-goin' to set up a lot o' guards and porters and
engine-drivers and such above my own wedded hus-
band, and take their word instead of his ? No, sir ;
I trust I knows my dewty as a wife better than


''You see, Candy could take your ticket at Silver-
hampton and put you into the train; and your own
relations could meet you at the other end."

But Mrs. Candy stood firm : "No, sir, I took him
for better and for worse, and for better and for
worse I'll stick to him. And if for worse don't
mean them horrid screechin' railway journeys, I'm
sure I don't know what it du mean. No, sir : unless
Candy goes wi' me to Norfolk, to Norfolk I don't


Like all truly sensitive people, Laurence Baxen-
dale could not bear to give pain : and the disappoint-
ment which his suggestion had called into Mrs.
Candy's ruddy countenance was too much for him.
"Well, then, I suppose Candy must go, too. Do
you know anybody who will come and take care of
the Hall in your absence?"

"Well, sir, it's not for the likes of me to go teachin'
the gentry, and passin' my remarks on what they
may please to du," said Mrs. Candy in the tone of
those who are about to do the very thing they depre-
cate. Did the apology, "Far be it from me to speak
irreverently," ever precede anything save the most
startling irreverence; or the prefatory clause, "I
never repeat malicious gossip," ever introduce any
item of information which was not in direct opposi-
tion to the Ninth Commandment ? And Mrs. Candy
was but as her fellows — and her betters. "But if
yew ask my opinion, I think as it will du more harm
than good to bring strangers into the Hall, pokin'


their noses into where they've no business, and their
fingers into where they've less."

"You mean that it would be better to shut the
place up altogether for a week or two than to trust
any temporary caretakers ?"

**I du, sir. Yew see, me and Candy has known
yew from a baby, sir, and the family afore that ; and
so we've patience with all that nonsense about takin'
such care o' that old rubbish-heap upstairs. But
strangers wud have no patience with it — how cud
they? — seein' as waste paper is waste paper all the
world over. So if they didn't take proper care of
all the rummage that this old house contains, who
cud blame 'em? Certainly not me nor Candy," con-
tinued the worthy matron, feeling that if suspected
persons passed successfully the ordeal by Candy
they were innocent indeed. ''Why, last week's news-
paper ain't no good, much less them old books as has
been writ ever so much afore last week, or the week
afore that."

'Then you would just lock up the house and
leave it?"

"I should, sir. Yew see, nobody has a key to it
except yew and her leddyship, so nobody cud get in
to do any mischief, for there's shutters to all the
downstair windows; and yew cud look in every tew
or three days to see as all was goin' on well. And
there wudn't be any need o' fires this weather to
keep the place aired, for I'd draw up the blinds to the
upstair windows, so as the sun cud get in and keep


the damp out o' them old books : and there is no
damp to speak of at this time o' year. If I was yew,
sir, I'd rather leave the place empty than have folks
runnin' all over it as I didn't know."

'There's Williamson and his wife at the Home
Farm. They would come up and stay here while
you and Candy were away," suggested Laurence.

''Oh, of course, Mr. Baxendale, you knows your
own business best," replied Mrs. Candy, in a tone of
voice which implied that if there was one person on
earth who did not know an^^thing at all about Mr.
Baxendale's business that person was Mr. Baxen-
dale himself. "If yew can trust Mrs. Williamson,
yew can trust her, and that's an end o' that."

"Oh ! of course I should be guided by you," Lau-
rence hastened to say with culpable weakness; "but
Mrs. Williamson always seems to me to be a tidy
woman with plenty of work in her."

"Well, sir, if yew think so, yew think so; and if
yew does believe in her, yew does." Mrs. Candy was
evidently of opinion that faith in a myth is better
than no faith at all.

"But what is your objection to Mrs. William-



I hasn't any objection to her, sir, far from it:
but I've looked into her house, I have ; and what I've
seen, I've seen." Fatima herself could not have
spoken more mysteriously of Bluebeard's locked-up
room than did Mrs. Candy of the interior of the


Laurence owned to considerable curiosity: *'But
what did you see, Mrs. Candy?"

The lady, thus urged, shook her head and pursed
up her lips with the usual firmness to those who have
decided not to say a thing and intend to say it at all
costs. "It's not for me to speak evil o' my neigh-
bours one wi' another, even if she du sit in her best
parlour on a week-day and wear out the albums and
the antimaccassars in a way as is neither decent nor

''You must tell me more, please, Mrs. Candy; I
really don't quite grasp the full meaning of Mrs.
Williamson's behaviour at present."

Mrs. Candy extenuated nothing, nor set down

aught in malice: "Yew see, it's this way, sir," she

began in a calm and judicial voice; "our best parlour

is given up to the Sabbath, so as Sunday shall be

different from the days o' the week, as it ought to

be ; and I hold that to sit in the best parlour on any

other day but Sunday is nothin' more nor less than

Sabbath-breakin'. Why, sir, I'd as soon think o'

\) ' readin' the Bible on a week-day as o' lookin' at the

rj family albums. Only t' other day Candy says to me,

A' ^Lizzie,' he says, "there's some talk in the papers o'

openin' museums and picture galleries and the like

"4 on Sundays : but I don't hold with it,' he says ; 'if

., • yew begin makin' Sjunday as cheerful-like as a week-

/i day, what'll become o' the religion o' England?' he

says. Oh! he doesn't hold wi' Sabbath-breakin',

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Online LibraryEllen Thorneycroft FowlerFuel of fire → online text (page 10 of 22)