Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler.

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doesn't Candy."



^'\



MRS. CANDY'S HOLIDAY 179

"Still there are two sides to the question/' Lau-
rence feebly expostulated, *'as there are to most
questions, I suppose."

But such sophistry was not for the like of Mrs.
Candy: "Yes, sir, so there be — a right side and a
wrong side; and yew can't have tew right sides to
anything, any more than yew can have tew right-
handed boots or tew right-handed breeches; least-
ways so Candy says, and he's got to the root o' most
things, has Candy."

Laurence knew when he was beaten, so held his
peace.

"Yew see, sir," Mrs. Candy reverted to her
former subject, "Candy and me wud be back from
our holiday in a fortnit at most — that wud give us
plenty o' time to neaten the grave up and to give a
start to Maria Jane's twins : and there cudn't much
harm come to the Hall in that time — particularly at
this season o' the year, when there's no fires needed,
and considerin' as no one has a key to it save her
leddyship and yewrself."

Laurence nodded. He did not think it necessary
to mention before Mrs. Candy those keys which he
had lent to Nancy Burton. That, he felt, was his
business — not Mrs. Candy's — nor another's.

"Very well, Mrs. Candy," he said, rising to take
his leave; "you and your husband shall have your
holiday at once; and I'll make a point of coming up
to the Hall every two or three days to see that all is
going on right in your absence,"



i8o FUEL OF FIRE

So it was arranged that Mrs. Candy should go to
sojourn among her own people for a fortnight, and
that Mr. Candy should accompany his better half in
the train for fear she should fall out by the way.

On his way home from Baxendale Hall by the
lanes, Laurence caught sight of a blue-robed figure
(it was one of Nancy's whims always to wear blue)
in the distance; and he accordingly quickened his
steps until he overtook it. Now, it is an extremely
interesting fact that if two lovers go to a particular
place with the express and sole purpose of meeting
each other, they are in a mutual agony of fear lest
they should miss. To the ordinary onlooker the
only remarkable thing about this fear is its utter
groundlessness. In any other walk of life if A.
went to a place at a time when he knew B. was bound
to be there, he would conclude for a certainty that he
would meet B. and would suffer no further doubts
upon the question : if he knew, moreover, that B.
was going to that place for the especial purpose of
meeting him, his doubts as to their eventually seeing
each other face to face would be still more com-
pletely set at rest. But not so with lovers. Oh,
dear me, no! He knows and she knows — with a
certainty which no mere friendly or business-like re-
lation would justify — that the object of meeting
each other is the sole consideration which for the
time being guides their respective steps: neverthe-
less, they are both tortured with agonising doubts as
to whether — in a space probably of some dozen



MRS. CANDY^S HOLIDAY i8i

yards or so, totally uninhabited save by their two
selves — they shall succeed in catching sight of each
other; and whether, having so caught sight, they
shall succeed in exchanging those few words which
are as daily bread to their starving hearts. It never
seems to occur to them that nothing short of a mira-
cle could keep them apart in the circumstances; nor
to wonder why the natural laws which govern the
universe are likely to be suspended for their special
discomfiture. If they go to the same place at the
same hour they are bound to meet, unless gravitation
be nothing but a passing whim, or the shadow on
the dial be as liable to be turned back as it was in the
reign of Hezekiah; any one in his senses would un-
derstand as much as that. But who is in love and
in his senses at the same time? And if he were,
who would care to be in love at all ? Love stiffened
by sense is as unwholesome as cream tinctured with
boracic acid ; and both are the signs and the product
of an over-civilised state of society.

As no natural law was suspended and no miracle
wrought in order to keep them apart, Laurence and
Nancy met each other in the lanes on that particular
summer afternoon; and Laurence — after certain im-
material remarks which had no bearing whatsoever
on the subject in hand — informed Nancy of Mrs.
Candy's promised holiday, enriching the recital by
such flowers of the good lady's conversation as he
was able to recall.

'Tm glad the dear old soul is going away," said



i82 FUEL OF FIRE

Nancy when he had finished; ''she'll thoroughly en-
joy dosing the twins and weeding the grave; and it'll
be a splendid occasion for you to — oh! I forgot, I
beg your pardon."

*Torgot what, my darling?"

"A promise I once made to you. That is the
worst of making promises — you never can remem-
ber them. And how can you keep them if you have
forgotten their existence ?"

''Do you mean to say you forget promises? Oh,
Nancy!"

"Forget them? — I should just think I do. I once
promised father never to read a certain book : but as
I've forgotten the name of the book, how on earth
can I keep my promise? And I once promised Nora
not to flirt with a particular man ; but as I've com-
pletely forgotten who it was, how can I keep that
promise either? And then you are always making
me promise not to repeat things, which is very ab-
surd : because promising you that I won't tell things
doesn't mean that I shan't tell them — it only means
that I shall make the people I tell them to promise
not to tell you that I've told."

Laurence laughed : "Nancy, you really are an in-
corrigible."

"I can't help that. And you've made me promise
scores and scores of things besides — always to be
something, and never to be something else — and al-
ways to think this, and never to think that — and



MRS. CANDY^S HOLIDAY 183

hundreds of other things, which for the life of me
I can't remember."

*'You naughty, unkind child !"

"Well, that's the truth. vSo if I break my prom-
ises to you, don't be touchy and think it was rude-
ness on my part. If I remember them, I'll keep
them fast enough; but I'm sure not to, so there's an
end of it."

When Laurence Baxendale arrived at Poplar
Farm, having parted with Nancy at the iron gate
which barred the field-path at Wayside, he explained
to his mother as briefly as he could the arrangement
he had made with Mrs. Candy. He hated having to
mention the subject to Lady Alicia, and he hated
himself for hating it.

But it never occurred to him to regret having
spoken of the matter to Nancy Burton.



CHAPTER XL

THE BURNING 01^ BAXENDALE,

Higher the flames rose, higher and higher,
When Baxendale Hall was made fuel of fire.

Two days after the Candys had started on their
hoHday the weather broke. Up to that time — the
middle of August — it had been a wonderful summer ;
one of those summers which stand out in men's
memories as a type of all that a summer ought to be.
But suddenly the face of the heavens changed : the
rain fell, and then there blew a tremendous gale. For
several years past there had not been such a storm of
wind in Mershire : it tore the tiles off the roofs, and
made merry with the slates, and opened doors with-
out knocking, and broke the windows, until Silver-
hampton presented the appearance of a city which
had been besieged rather than of a comfortable man-
ufacturing town. In the country the wind behaved
no better. It tossed the big trees about, tearing
them up by their roots till it looked as if some giant
hand was playing a monster game of spilikins in the
woods: and as the ground heaved and shook with
the efforts of the tree-roots to escape from their
prison at the bidding of the storm fiend, it seemed as



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 185

if an earthquake were following in the wake of the

wind. As it was still summer, the trees had on all

their leaves; and that made them less able to bow

before the gale, and more liable to be overthrown
by it.

Right opposite the west front of Baxendale Hall
there stood a huge old elm tree which was known as
''The Luck of the Baxendales," because there was a
tradition to the effect that whenever it fell ill-luck
would overtake the house of Baxendale; but as it
had cheerfully remained upright, clapping its hands
and tossing its huge arms about, while poverty drove
the Baxendales out of their home and left their habi-
tation desolate, their luck and it seemed to have
parted company, and the tradition was now held to
be of no effect. But the great gale accomplished
what the poverty of the Baxendales had failed to
bring about : it tore up the roots of the old elm tree
and laid its proud head in the dust.

''What do vou think? — the old elm tree at the
back of the Hall has been blown down," shouted
Laurence on the morning after the gale to Nancy,
whom, by some strange accident, he had come across
in the lanes.

But the wind, which, though less violent than it
had been, was still inimical to conversation, carried
his words eastward into Silverhampton, instead of to
the little pink ear for which they were intended.

"What?" shouted Nancy in response, holding on
her hat, while the gale played havoc with her dress



1 86 FUEL OF FIRE

till she looked like a little blue flag. "I can't hear a
word that you say in this awful wind."

Laurence came nearer and repeated the piece of in-
formation in a still louder key. This time it reached
its destination.

"The tree that is called 'The Luck of the Baxen-
dales' ?" asked Nancy.

Laurence nodded. It was the weather for signs
and signals rather than for spoken words.

"Oh! what a pity/' Nancy exclaimed; "I do hope
it won't spoil your luck."

Laurence smiled somewhat grimly. "It can't very
well spoil what doesn't exist, my dear; and for
it to fall now seems to be a little behindhand, con-
sidering that we've been about as unlucky as we
could be for the last twenty years."

"It does seem the wrong way about," gasped
Nancy, struggling against the wind : "like wagging
a dog's tail to make him good-tempered, don't you
know?"

"Come up to the Hall and have a look at the
tree," Laurence entreated when again the wind gave
him the chance of being heard.

"All right." Nancy was always what Anthony
called "a good plucked one."

"I'll take care of you and see that no branches fall
on your pretty head," said Laurence, with as much
tenderness in his voice as such a gale permitted.

"It isn't a pretty head just now, as it happens : I've



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 187

put on an ugly hat on purpose, so that the wind shall
not spoil more beauty than is absolutely needful."

''Keep to the windward of the trees and as far
away from them as possible," was Laurence's warn-
ing. *'I daren't walk with Amaryllis in the shade
on such a day as this."

"And the wind is so busy with the tangles of
Naeera's hair that there isn't one left for you to play
with," added Nancy.

''It's a good thing you aren't made after the fash-
ion of Handel's young woman who found that
where'er she walked trees crowded into a shade; it's
bad enough keeping clear of them when they are
fixtures in this weather; but if they took to running
after you in crowds, I really don't know what I
should do."

Nancy laughed with as much breath as she could
command at the minute.

"I say, darling, you aren't frightened at crossing
the Park in such a fearful gale, are you? Because
if you are I'll take you home before I go," enquired
Laurence, after the next gust had subsided and the
very wind itself was stopping to take breath.

Nancy pouted : "I believe you are tired of me and
want to get rid of me."

"Do you ? Well, if you believe that you'll believe
anything."

"I do. I believe that you've seen somebody you
like better than me, and that another woman's eyes
have put my nose out of joint."



1 88 FUEL OF FIRE

"What a little goose you are ! You know that for
me there never has been and never will be any
woman in the world but you. But are you sure
you're not frightened of this awful storm?"

Nancy looked up at him with fearless eyes : "Good
gracious, no ! I couldn't be frightened at anything
when I am with you. That's the beauty of being in
love — it makes fear impossible; and fear is such a
horrid thing. Why, if you were with me, I dare
drive down Piccadilly in a Victoria, and merely
smile when I felt a reckless hansom in my pocket and
a blood-curdling omnibus in my back hair; and if
you were there too I shouldn't mind going through
a whole battle with nothing but a waterproof and an
umbrella to keep the bullets off."

"My sweetheart, what a dear, foolish little child
you are!"

And so these two fearless young people ploughed
their way in the teeth of the westerly gale right up
to the Hall, and stood together by the ruins of the old
elm tree. And with Nancy at his side Laurence felt
as unafraid of ill-luck, and as ready to meet and
overcome it, as Nancy felt with regard to the con-
gested traffic of London or the perils of war : which
showed that as yet he underrated the strength of
those mysterious principalities against which men
have to wrestle rather than against flesh and blood.

While Laurence and Nancy were fighting their
way up to the Hall, Mr. Arbuthnot called to see
Rufus Webb, and found that the disturbance of the



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 189



elements had worked the fanatic into a state of semi-
insane enthusiasm.

"It is a tremendous gale," Arbuthnot remarked,
after the usual greetings, "and will do a lot of dam-
age, I'm afraid."

Rufus had a rapt look upon his face: "A great
strong wind rent the mountains," he murmured,
"but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the
wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the
earthquake ; and after the earthquake, a fire ; but the
Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still
small Voice."

Michael, being a man of much tact, fell in with
Webb's mood : "And what did the still small Voice
say? Did it encourage the prophet to shut himself
out from the sympathy and communion with his
fellows? No; it asked, 'What doest thou here,
Elijah?' — a question which that same small Voice is
asking every one of us and waiting for our answer."

"Well, God knows that I — vile as I am — can still
say truthfully with Elijah, 'I have been very jealous
for the Lord God of Hosts;' that at least I can



answer."



'I know you can; and do you think that that
answer will satisfy God now any more than it satis-
fied Him in Elijah's time? Not it. He will send
you away from the mountains, as He sent His
prophet of old, back through the wilderness of Da-
mascus to the anointing of earthly rulers and the
choosing of human friends."



I90 FUEL OF FIRE

*'You mean that I shut myself up too much from
my kind?"

"I do. I know that when once one has stood
upon the Mountain of Transfiguration, the molehills
of the valley seem contemptibly small and petty in
comparison : nevertheless, it is among the molehills
of the valley that our daily tasks lie. And I do not
believe that it is only in order to make us despise and
chafe against these molehills that we are allowed to
stand upon the mountain top now and again : I be-
lieve that it is rather in order that we may thereby
learn that the molehills are but molehills after all,
and are but for a moment, while the mountains stand
fast forever."

But Rufus shook his head: "I am not upon the
mountain tops : I am down in the deep waters."

*'So we all are now and then. But the path of
duty lies no more permanently through the deep
waters than upon the mountain tops."

Just then a sudden gust of wind seemed as if it
were going to blow the cottage down.

''What a gale it is !" exclaimed the vicar : ''I don't
remember such a wind as this since I first came to
Mershire."

"And after the wind an earthquake," repeated
Rufus, with the rapt look again upon his face.

**Well, there does actually seem to be an earth-
quake going on, if you see how the ground is shaking
and heaving with the upheaval of the trees. That
is the worst of elms : their roots lie so near the sur-



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 191

face and are so widespread that they fall sooner than
any other tree, and in their fall do more damage."
Mr. Arbuthnot tried to bring the soothsayer back
into everyday life.

"And after the earthquake a fire," continued Ru-
fus, in a weird, monotonous voice of one who is
speaking with strange tongues.

''Well, I only hope there won't be a fire anywhere,
for this wind would fan it into an uncontrollable
flame in no tim.e. If once a fire were lighted, there
would be no putting it out in such a gale as this."

'And after the fire a still small Voice. It was not
until the fire had done its worst that the still small
Voice was heard. Mark that! It is not until our
possessions have been destroyed and our souls
purged so as by fire that the still small Voice speaks
to us — and, speaking, can induce men to listen to it."

As Rufus Webb sat with this mystic look upon his
face, the vicar was able to notice how sadly lined with
care and want that haggard face was. In spite of
all his eccentricity, Rufus was still a gentleman : and
it was very difficult for one gentleman to intimate to
another that the former does not believe the latter
has enought to eat. Nevertheless, that was the idea
which struck Mr. Arbuthnot, and which filled his
warm heart with distress — distress all the more
poignant because he saw no way of setting things
right. There was something about Rufus Webb —
some trace of inborn gentlehood and former culture
— which forbade any one to take the shadow of a



192 FUEL OF FIRE



liberty with him, be his behaviour and his conversa-
tion never so insane.

Knowing that a religious train of thought was apt
so quickly to degenerate into frenzy in the mind of
the ex-missionary, Michael endeavoured to turn the
talk into less exciting channels. *'By the way, have
you heard that this wind has brought down the huge
elm tree that stood on the other side of Baxendale
Hall?"

He had touched a responsive chord. Webb
turned to him at once with awakened interest : "The
great elm tree which was named 'The Luck of the
Baxendales,' do you mean?"

"Yes. It must have stood there for two or three
hundred years."

"And I am glad, glad that it has fallen, and that
ill-luck will henceforward dog the footsteps of Lau-
rence Baxendale. Is it well for that young man to
find rest in the house of his fathers, and to marry
the woman of his choice, and to have children at his
desire, and to leave the rest of his substance to his
babes ? Nay ; better for him that his house shall be
left unto him desolate, and that sorrow and poverty
shall drive him to the one refuge where true help is
to be found! For what shall it profit a man if he
gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

So Webb rambled on : and Arbuthnot — having in
vain tried to reduce the hermit to a more reasonable
state of mind — took his leave : but as he went away,
his heart was heavy within him, because of that



*l^




SINKING DOWN ON A FALLEN TREE WHICH LAY BY THE

ROADSIDE.



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 193



actual want which he felt sure was undermining the
health of Rufus, and yet which no one dare take the
liberty of recognising and relieving.

During all the day the gale continued, and at sun-
set the wind fell and was succeeded by a great calm.
The next morning dawned beautifully fine and hot,
but with a stillness which seemed almost oppressive
after the boisterous weather of the last few days.
There was not a cloud to be seen ; and although those
Jeremiahs among men who cannot feel warm without
prophesying thunder, or cold without foretelling
snow, did predict a thunderstorm, no thunder came,
for the simple reason that the sky was so clear there
was nowhere for it to come from. It was one of
those days when even to the hale and hearty the
grasshopper becomes for the time being a burden:
there was no life in the air, and effort seemed unen-
durable if not impossible. Even the wings of Love
himself could not fly far afield in such an atmos-
phere; so in the afternoon Laurence and Nancy be-
took themselves to those untrodden ways which lay
nearest to Wayside and Poplar Farm, and which
required the minimum of locomotion in attaining
thereto.

"It's too hot to walk up to the Hall this after-
noon," Nancy said, sinking down on a fallen tree
which lay by the roadside. ''Arthur and Ambrose
have gone, as they wished to investigate the fall of
the tree more minutely ; and it never seems too hot
for boys to do things. But it is too hot for us."



194 FUEL OF FIRE

*'Much too hot, sweetheart. Besides, there is no
need to go: I was up there before breakfast this
morning to see if the gale had done any more dam-
age."

"And I was up there just after breakfast to see if
I could find a missing light in The Queen acrostic for
this week."

*'Oh ! were you ? What a pity you didn't tell me
you were going, darling, and we'd have gone to-
gether."

"It didn't occur to me till this morning that I
might find that particular light in a particular book.
I did look out for you at the cross-roads, but as you
were nowhere in sight I went on by myself. It was
too hot to go far in search of anybody, or anything,
the finding of which did not involve a prize."

"You horrid child, to think more of an acrostic
prize than of me ! Did you succeed in finding your
missing light — for you certainly didn't deserve to?"

"Of course I did. I always get everything and
deserve nothing : it is a much more satisfactory plan
than getting nothing and deserving everything, as
you do. But the whole place is rather in a mess
after the gale, isn't it?"

"There are a few good tiles lying about, but no
more trees are down near to the house, and no win-
dows are broken, although the glass roof of one of
the greenhouses was smashed in. But that won't
matter; there were no plants of much value in that
particular greenhouse; and those that were there I



BURNING OF BAXENDALE 195

have moved into a potting shed until Candy's re-
turn."

''Do you mean to say you removed them with your
own hands in this heat ? Oh, excellent young man !"

Laurence laughed: "Of course I did; I'm not
made of sugar or salt, my dear, or any such melting
material."

"Well, I couldn't have carried pots about when T
reached Baxendale this morning; it was as much as
I could do to walk so far on such a day as this," said
Nancy.

"Poor Httle thing, did it feel the heat?" whispered
Laurence, kissing her.

"Yes, it did; and what is more, the heat takes its
fringe out of curl, which annoys it very much and
spoils its good looks," replied Nancy, submitting to
the embrace.

"Nothing of the kind ! I won't allow you or any-
body else to find fault with the fringe or the good
looks of my young woman ; so please remember that,
Miss Burton."

After a few minutes' silence Laurence remarked :
"You are very quiet this afternoon, sweetheart : is
anything worrying you ?"

"Oh, dear, no! things never do worry me. But
it is too hot to be brilliant, or even to be affection-
ate," she added, with a laugh, edging away from her
lover.

"You unkind child, to throw back a nice young
man's affection in his teeth, when, according to



196 FUEL OF FIRE

Shakespeare, you ought to be down on your knees,
thanking Heaven fasting for my devotion. You
aren't half grateful enough for having such a well
set-up young man all round, as Mrs. Candy would
say.

"Yes, I am; but it doesn't seem to me exactly the
weather for rehearsing The Huguenots every three
minutes as a tableau vivantf

"Then let's change it for The Black Brunswicker;
it would suit me every bit as well," suggested Lau-
rence.

Nancy looked at him through her long eyelashes :
"You really are very nice," she said, "when one
doesn't consider you too closely."

"What a rude little girl ! It would serve you right
if I kept you at a distance and talked to you about
the political situation and the decay of poesy, and
things of that kind."

I shouldn't mind it half as much as you would."
So if I am such a fool as to amputate my own
nose in order to spite your pretty little face, you
won't prevent me?"

"Certainly not. Besides, I'm jealous of your nose
— it is a much better shape than mine," said Nancy,
stroking her own offending feature thoughtfully :
"and I really don't see what you have done to de-
serve a better nose than I."

"I haven't — I really haven't : my conscience is
quite clear on that score."

"Then why is your nose so superior to mine?"


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