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dale loved, wooed and married her, and lived beyond
his income, and finally died broken-hearted because
that income was insufficient to supply her somewhat
exorbitant daily needs. Thus matters came to a
crisis, Baxendale Hall was shut up, and only an old
man and his wife left in it as caretakers ; and Alicia
went to rule the house of her brother. Lord Portcullis,
while Laurence Baxendale officiated as tutor to his
lordship's eldest son. When, however, Lord Port-
cullis took unto himself a second wife, Lady Alicia
was compelled to seek a home elsewhere ; so she and
her son repaired to an untenanted farmhouse near



36 FUEL OF FIRE

The Ways (a hamlet on the Baxendale estate), and
about a mile and a half from the Hall.

The Ways was probably so called because five
ways met there: one went eastward past the Bur-
tons' house, and through the pretty village of Tet-
leigh, straight to Silverhampton : another took the
opposite direction, and led the traveller, by the hills
of Salopshire and Wales, to the coast of the west-
ern sea ; a third went northward, down a shady lane,
past Ways Hall, the home of the Fairfax family,
to Codswell — a picturesque village whose cobble-
paved street climbed bravely up a church-crowned
hill which stood as high as Baxendale or Silverhamp-
ton ; a fourth lay through the well-wooded glades of
Baxendale Park, and finally — by slow ascents —
reached the Hall itself ; and the fifth went due south
into a green maze of lanes, which wandered on and
on until they finally lost themselves in fairyland —
as English lanes have a knack of doing, if only they
are taken in the right way.

There are few things more beautiful than a Mer-
shire lane. It is beautiful in* the winter, when the
elm trees that overshadow it are transformed into
coral-reefs by the magic touch of the hoar-frost ; it
is beautiful in the spring, when its hedges are white
with May-blossom, and its ditches fringed with the
lace-like hemlock; and it is beautiful in the autumn,
when the climbing brambles adorn it on either side
with crimson and gold; but it is most beautiful of
all on a summer's evening, when the low-lying shafts



BAXENDALE HALL 37

of light touch the bents and the feathery grasses, and
turn the pathway into a golden pavement encircled
by a veritable rainbow of emerald, until the traveller
feels that he is treading a ladder worthy of the feet
of angels, leading him — as the beauty of nature will
always lead those who have eyes to see it — straight
from earth to heaven.

The spot where these five ways met was marked
by a group of fine old elm trees, growing upon a
grassy mound; and round about it were clustered
a farm or two and sundry cottages, a picturesque
post-ofifice and blacksmith's forge. It was a pretty
hamlet in the typical English style; and its quaint
little inn, by name The Crown, slumbered in a cosy
bed of blossom, with a coverlet of climbing roses.

Ways Hall was a long, low, white house, clothed
with Virginia creeper, which made it as a green
bower in summer, while in autumn it appeared as
a house which was enveloped by crimson flames, and
yet was not consumed. It was set in the centre of
velvet lawns which — like the famous lawns of Ox-
ford — had been ''rolled for five hundred years," and
which sloped down to a large sheet of water, inhab-
ited — and defended to the best of their ability — ^by
a family of swans. The banks of this lake were
covered every spring with daffodils and periwinkles,
which looked at their reflection in the water and
danced with pleasure at the sight. At least the daf-
fodils did : the periwinkles only nodded and said
to themselves, "What nice blue eyes we have!"



38 FUEL OF FIRE

The Fairfaxes of The Ways were a good old fam-
ily, but now had dwindled down to two — namely,
Mrs. Fairfax and her daughter Faith. Mrs. Fairfax
was a stately dame of the old school, who had never
in her life sat in an easy chair or said a silly thing;
and Faith was the raw material out of which saints
and angels are manufactured. She had soft, fair
hair, and a Madonna-like face; and in her eyes was
that look which dwells in the eyes of all those chosen
ones who see beyond this present world. Unselfish
was an adjective not applicable to Faith Fairfax;
selfless was the only description available for her.
Had she lived in earlier times, Faith would inevitably
have taken the veil ; for she was one of the women
who have a special vocation for religion, and seem
made for the cloister rather than the hearth. As it
was, she devoted herself to her mother and the poor ;
and the human side of her — as far as anything about
Faith Fairfax was purely human — fell in love with
Laurence Baxendale, and loved him in the ideal,
worshipping way in which only such nun-like women
can love. The high-minded, inflexible part of
his character, which stirred up opposition in Nancy
Burton, fitted exactly into Faith's more saintly na-
ture; and while Nancy was slightly defiant and
greatly afraid, Faith was humbly adoring.

As a boy, whenever anything went wrong, Lau-
rence Baxendale turned to Faith to set it right again :
as a man, he pursued very much the same course.
She was a year or two older than he, and filled in his



BAXENDALE HALL 39



life the place which his mother had left empty; for
motherliness was the last attribute which could be
laid to the charge of pretty, foolish Lady Alicia.

It is strange how, in the give and take of life, men
take from the angelic and give to the purely human
women with whom they are brought into contact.
They make demands — excessive demands — upon the
patience and forbearance and unselfishness of the
women who love them; but it is the women who
make excessive demands upon them that they love
the best. Women who behave well rather than
wisely, take credit to themselves for carrying their
own cloaks, and climbing over their own stiles, and
generally saving trouble for the men who are tread-
ing life's paths by their side. Foolish creatures ! The
men want to carry their cloaks and help them over
the stiles, if only they will let them. Which shows
that the proverbial Selfishness of Man is as effete
and worn-out a bogey as the Dodo or the Sea Ser-
pent or Religious Disability.

The most interesting feature of Baxendale Hall
was a large library, filled with all manner of rare
old books and fine pictures, containing many price-
less manuscripts and valuable prints. It occupied
the whole length of the front of the house upon the
first floor, and was exactly over the great entrance
hall. Behind it, and over the dining and the drawing-
rooms, was the suite of rooms always occupied by
the master and mistress of the house; and next to
these the nurseries and schoolroom, where genera-



(



40 FUEL OF FIRE

tions of little Baxendales had played their games and
learnt their lessons. The guest-chambers were in
one wing of the house over the justice-room and the
muniment-room, and the rooms where the men
smoked, played billiards and managed the estate ; the
opposite wing was devoted to the kitchens and offices,
and over them the servants' apartments. The front
of the Hall looked east, to where the old churches of
Silverhampton and Sedgehill were landmarks to all
the surrounding country; and the gardens at the
back borrowed much of their glory from the sun
which set behind the distant Welsh hills.

*T wish, mother, if it wouldn't bother you, that
you would see rather more of the Burton girls," Lau-
rence Baxendale said to Lady Alicia the day after
he had been to tea at Wayside. *T know they aren't
exactly your style; but I should be awfully glad if
you would be kind to them, as they are always very
kind to me, and I enjoy going there immensely."

''Certainly, dear Laurence, certainly. I have called
on Mrs. Burton and she has returned the call, but
there is no real friendship in conventionalities such
as that; and real friendship is so beautiful between
neighbours, I think — so very beautiful; and makes
everyday life such a touching and exquisite thing."

''Yes; it is a good thing to be on friendly terms
with the people about you."

"As you say, dear Laurence, they are not exactly
my style or in our set ; their father makes iron, and
I think it is beautiful to make iron — it must teach



BAXENDALE HALL 41

men to be so great and strong. And then it is so
sweet and Christian, I always think, to show kind-
ness to persons not quite in one's own rank of soci-
ety; because, I dare say, one can do one's duty in
an ironworks as well as on a landed property. In
fact, one can do one's duty in almost any rank of
life; that, I think, is such a comforting thought, be-
cause it is always so nice for everybody to do their
duty if they can. There is something very soothing
in doing one's duty, don't you think ?'*

''Soothing isn't exactly the word I should have
used," said Laurence dryly.

"And then the Burton girls are so charming, too
— such sweet, simple, unsophisticated creatures !"

Lady Alicia had an amiable habit of praising all
the people with whom she was brought into contact ;
but she slightly took the edge off her own commenda-
tion by invariably praising them for the qualities
which they did not happen to possess. *^ 'i^'^.^^i'f' f

The next afternoon she walked up to Wayside,
and found the girls and their mother at home.

'T am so glad you are in, dear Mrs. Burton," she
began in her usual gushing manner ; ''it always seems
so insincere and hollow to call upon people when
they are not at home ; and insincerity and hoUowness
are such terrible things, don't you think ? — such very
terrible things."

"They are certainly not lovable qualities," agreed
Mrs. Burton: and Nancy winked at Nora behind
Lady Alicia's elegant back.



42 FUEL OF FIRE

''I want to see more of you and your dear
girls. I was only saying to my son yesterday how
beautiful it is to be neighbourly with the people who
live near one — so sweet and Christian — even if they
don't happen to be the sort of people one would
choose."

'It is very kind of you to say so, Lady Alicia,"
replied Mrs. Burton, manfully repressing her nat-
ural desire to smile.

"And what are your dear girls' Christian names?
I am always so interested in people's Christian names
and the months in which their birthdays are. I
think one can learn so much from these, don't you?
They are so interesting and suggestive, and often
such a key to character."

''Do you mean to the characters of the people
themselves, or of their godfathers and godmothers?"
asked Nancy, with ominous demurencss.

''Oh! dear child, of the people themselves, of
course; how could it be the key to the character of
their godfathers and godmothers, when we never
know who their godfathers and godmothers are?
They are not given in the Peerage, you know;
though I am not at all sure that they ought not to
be. It would be rather nice and orthodox if they
were, don't you think ?"

"It would be rather interesting," said Nancy, "as
showing whom they expected to leave them a for-
tune."

"And there is so much in names. I always think



BAXENDALE HALL 43



it was such a mistake of dear Shakespeare to say that
a rose would smell as sweet if you called it some-
thing else; it couldn't, you know. And what are
your dear girls' names, Mrs. Burton?"

*'Nancy and Nora."

"Oh, how sweet ! How very sweet for them both
to begin with the same letter ! I always think there
is so much sympathy between people whose names
begin with the same letter. It was such a comfort
to me that my dear husband's name began with A,
like mine. Do you know, I don't think I could ever
have loved a man whose Christian name began with
B? He would have seemed so far off; almost 2isUA^.fiJx']
if he were living in another planet. I remember once i

meeting a man and his wife who were called Francis
and Frances. I thought it so very touching and
beautiful."

"It will be rather a bore if Nancy and I have to
marry men whose names begin with N," said Nora,
"because there are so few nice men's names begin-
ning with N."

"And it would be horrid to marry men who
weren't nice," added Nancy.

Lady Alicia took it all in solemn earnest: "Oh!
dear children,, there is Nathaniel — not exactly a
pretty name, you know, but so Biblical and sug-
gestive. I think it must be lovely to have a Bible
name, especially on Sundays ; it must make one feel
in such perfect harmony with the day."

"But we can't both marry men who are called



44 FUEL OF FIRE

Nathaniel," persisted Nancy; ''it would be so very
confusing, and we should get them all mixed up.'*

''So you would, my dear; but I feel sure there
are other nice names beginning with N, if only one
could recall them.'*

"But you didn't call your son by a name beginning
with A," suggested Nora.

"Ah ! no. Dear Laurence was called after an an-
cestor of his who did something very heroic and
touching — I forget exactly what it was. And I think
it is so ennobling to call one's children by names
>i which remind one of heroic deeds, don't you? It
V) ** seems to elevate the tone of everyday life by beautiful
i^ memories ; and there is nothing more refining, I find,
than beautiful memories. Ah ! what a priceless gift
memory is ! What should we do without it, I won-
der?"

The girls thought that Lady Alicia ought to know ;
but they did not say so.

Her ladyship ambled on as usual, without giving
any one else a chance to speak : "I do hope, dear
Mrs. Burton, that your girls are cultured. I think it
is so sweet for young people to be cultured, and to
read nice poetry. I remember when I was a girl
I used to read all the poetry I could lay my hands
on, except Lord Byron's Don Quixote; dear papa
never wo^dd allow that."

"Ah ! we have not been allowed to read it, either,"
remarked Nancy.

"Haven't you? How very interesting! I think



BAXENDALE HALL 45

it is so very beautiful when parents overlook their
children's reading. It seems to bring the Fifth Com-
mandment into everyday life. And it is so sweet
and Christian to keep the Commandments when one
can, don't you think? I think one should always
try to do so for the sake of setting the servants a
good example, if not for one's own."

''I think it is nice for parents to take an interest in
everything that their children do," said Mrs. Burton.

'It is, indeed, dear Mrs. Burton. And I do hope
your young people are fond of culture. I am de-
voted to reading myself, but, unfortunately, the min-
ute I begin to read my thoughts begin to wander, so,
unfortunately, I am unable to indulge my literary
tastes as I should wish. It is a great deprivation !"

"But you have the pleasure of your own
thoughts," suggested Nora; ''and that is far greater.
I'd much rather think my own thoughts than read
other people's."

Lady Alicia sighed: "Ah! my dear, that is be-
cause you are not literary. If you had my tempera-
ment you would live upon books. I remember once
starting a Shakespeare-reading society when I was
living with my dear brother, Lord Portcullis, for all
the girls in the neighbourhood. I thought it would
train their minds ; and it is so nice for the minds of
the young to be trained."

"Very nice," said Mrs. Burton; and she had not
time to say more before Lady Alicia went on :

"Of course, there are things in Shakespeare not



46 FUEL OF FIRE



altogether suitable for the young to read, so I asked
the clergyman's wife to mark all the passages which
she felt could be read without detriment to the fresh
and untrained minds I was endeavouring to culti-
vate. I think clergymen's wives are just the people
to do that sort of thing, don't you, dear Mrs. Bur-
ton ? It seems exactly the kind of duty they would
enjoy."

"I feel sure they would. And did this particular
one justify the confidence you had placed in her?"
Mrs. Burton asked.

''Well, it was very unfortunate, but there was a
mistake. Instead of marking all the passages to be
read, as I had asked her, she marked all the passages
to be left out. And most naturally the class read
those and left the others out. But how could I help
it? I assumed that she had done what I had asked
her."

The two girls coughed violently in order to stifle
their laughter, and their mother managed to inquire,
with a fairly sober front: ''But didn't it occur to
you at the time what had happened ?"

"Well, it did occur to me that the remarks were
a little disjointed. But remarks are often disjointed
in plays — ^to allow for changing the scenery or the
actor's clothes, I suppose; so I took it as a matter
of course. But it was annoying, all the same. It
made people laugh, though what there was to laugh
at I cannot imagine. But that is a growing evil of
the present day, don't you think ? People treat every-



BAXENDALE HALL 47

thing as a joke, and speak lightly of quite serious
things."

''It is a virtue of the present day, I think," argued
Nancy, ''to laugh instead of crying, whenever it is
possible. My heart is like Beatrice'^s— 'keeps, poor
fool! on the windy side of care'; and I'm thankful
for it."

Lady Alicia sighed her dainty little sigh: "Ah!
my poor, dear husband was like that, and so is Lau-
rence. They both of them have always laughed at
things that seem to me quite pathetic. But then
I am extremely sensitive, and my poor husband was
not, nor is Laurence. They could not, of course,
help being so unlike me, nor do I in any way blame
them for it ; but it has been to me a matter of regret."

"What sort of things does Mr. Baxendale laugh
at?" asked Nancy, who was athirst for any form of
knowledge concerning Laurence.

"Just the things his poor dear father used to laugh
at — things that you would have expected them to be
quite sorry about instead. Our poverty, for instance;
and the way we have come down in the world ; and
his own shyness and unpopularity ; and the fact that
he can't afford to marry ; and lots of really quite sad
things like that."

'I see." And Nancy's voice was very low.

'I often say to him what a pity it is that he can't
afford to marry, because a charming wife is such a
nice thing for a man to have, don't you think? In
fact, I should quite pity him, poor boy! if only



if



<<i



48 FUEL OF FIRE

he would let me. But whenever I mention the
subject he just turns it off into a joke, and never
seems to take it seriously at all, so my sympathy is
wasted. And I am such a sympathetic creature, you
know, that Laurence's callousness pains me."
y,) . "I don't think it need," said Mrs. Burton gently.
* ^.U'^/ "Ah! but I am so sensitive: I shrivel up like a
- -■'" sensitive plant when my feelings are hurt; and Lau-
rence is always hurting them. I am sure he does
not mean to do so, but he is so thick-skinned that he
does not understand a sensitive nature like mine.
His poor father was just the same."

''What sort of things did he laugh at?" asked
Nancy, with unslaked curiosity.

"Oh ! he used to laugh at our poverty, too, and at
what a wretched match he had turned out for me.
Of course, I ought to have done much better, and I
used to say so, but he just treated it as a joke. And
it really was no joke at all for me, who had so many
really good offers when I was young."

Nancy's lip curled with scorn, and she judged
Lady Alicia with the merciless judgment of those
who have neither married nor been disappointed in
marriage.

"People used to say," her ladyship continued,
"that Alwyn died of a broken heart when he found
that he would be obliged to turn out of Baxendale.
But that was quite a mistake, and merely shows how
people ought not to talk about things which they do
not understand. I think that is another of the faults



BAXENDALE HALL 49

of the rising generation, dear Mrs. Burton: people
are so prone, so sadly prone, to talk about matters
which are quite beyond their comprehension."

"And not only of the rising generation," said Mrs.
Burton dryly.

*'Ah, no! It was a fault of my poor, dear Al-
wyn. He never in the least understood my finer
perceptions, and yet he was always talking about
them in a slightly sarcastic way ; and he had none of
his own, poor dear !"

'Ah !" Nancy remarked.

'And as for dying because he could not afford to
live at Baxendale," Lady Alicia continued, ''it was
all nonsense. He never really felt it at all, but made
jokes about bringing me to the workhouse till the
hour of his death. Now / did feel it, who had been
brought up in such luxury, and always expected to
make such a brilliant match."

"I have no doubt you did," said Mrs. Burton
kindly, endeavouring, as was her custom, to make
the best of everybody. "Both you and Mr. Bax-
endale must have felt leaving such a beautiful
home."

"But he didn't feel it; that was the remarkable
thing. He just laughed at it as he did at everything
else; a sad habit, as I remarked a few minutes ago,
and one which I grieve to say dear Laurence inher-
its ! Almost the last thing he said to me, about an
hour before his death, was to make a half-laughing
apology for having given me only a heart full of love



50 FUEL OF FIRE

instead of a purse full of money, but adding that he

was about to make the only reparation in his power."

*Toor Mr. Baxendale!" and Mrs. Burton's eyes

X-'^J « were full of tears.

|£a/-' *'0h! do you thmk so? For my part, it quite

shocked me to hear him speak sarcastically at such a
time. I cannot think that a death-bed is the place
for sarcasm. It seems to me so sweet to read the
Bible and speak lovingly to all your friends at a
time like that, so as to leave a nice impression behind

you." i^i.^]^^ Hi "

Nancy tossed her head : "It is a pity that a trifling
incident, such as death, should divert the minds of
some people from the importance of making an
effective exit." She was very impertinent, there
was no doubt of that; but perhaps there was some
excuse for her.

Her impertinence, however, was lost upon Lady
Alicia. That lady would as soon have expected a
girl of Nancy's rank to be pert to her as she would
have expected a polyanthus to jump up and bite her.
So she innocently continued: ''In death, as in life,
my poor, dear husband never cared about what sort
of impression he was making upon anybody. He
was far too thick-skinned for that, and Laurence
is just like him. Which is really very hard upon
me, as I always think it would have been so nice to
live with people who really understood one and sym-
pathised with one, and who were alive to the higher
traits of a really refined nature. But I suppose such



BAXENDALE HALL 51

crosses are intentional, and so must be borne uncom-
plainingly, as patience under misconception is such
a beautiful thing." And Lady Alicia again sighed
her dainty sigh as she rose to take her leave, having
effectually succeeded, as was her wont, in preventing
those with whom she was conversing from putting
their oars in even sideways.



CHAPTER III.

LAURENCE BAXENDALE.

The pride that goes before a fall
Had ruled the master of the Hall.

Somewhere in the middle of the maze of lanes
which lay between The Ways and Tetleigh Wood
stood an old red farmhouse, sentinelled by a row
of poplar trees. From its front windows one could
see the stretch of green fields that lay between it and
the Wood; and beyond them the distant mountains,
which hid from the casual observer the wonderful
doings of the setting sun; and from its back win-
dows one could see Baxendale Hall, standing on the
top of a green hill and supported by regiments of
trees on either side.

It was at this old red house — called Poplar Farm
— that Laurence and his mother took up their abode
when the second marriage of Lord Portcullis made
that nobleman's castle too full (and some people said
too warm) to hold them. It belonged to them, be-
ing situated on the Baxendale property; and though
small, was quite as large an abode as their very lim-
ited means permitted to them.



LAURENCE BAXENDALE 53

Poplar Farm was about live minutes' walk from
Wayside, and propinquity did all that even the late
Arthur Hugh Clough himself could reasonably have
expected of it for Laurence Baxendale and Nancy
Burton. It so happened that they had never become
friends until the Baxendales took up their abode at
the Farm. In the old days, when the Baxendales
lived at the Hall, Nancy had been a small girl whom
Laurence may have known by sight, but to whom,
so far as he remembered, he had never spoken. In
those far-off days — they seemed far off to him,
though in fact it was but a short time ago — Laurence
had been a quiet boy, reserved and sensitive to a


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