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MRS. CANDY 71



Laurence smiled : "Well, then, having diagnosed
the complaint, won't you prescribe the remedy?"

"There's no remedy except just not being it — like
Nora and me, you know. 1 tell everybody every-
thing I think and feel; and that makes everybody
comfortable and at home, don't you know?"

"Yes ; naturally it would have that effect."

"And it makes people like you if you are unre-
served," added Nancy wisely; "I've noticed that.
Reserved people are never popular, because they are
alwavs inviting: vou to a mental Barmecide feast;
the dishes and plates are put before you with nothing
on them, and you have only to pretend to eat. When
you talk to reserved people there is all the outward
show of actual conversation, but the dishes and
plates are really empty and it is all a sham."

"That sounds very pretty. But it depends a little,
does it not, on the nature of your thoughts and feel-
ings, as to whether their publication would add to
your popularity? In your case, no doubt, it would :
but in mine — T doubt it, said the carpenter, and shed
a bitter tear' ! Indeed, I put down any little popularity
I may possess (small enough it is, goodness knows!)
to the fact that people know so little of me. The
more they knew my sentiments the more they would
dislike me, I take it. Wherefore my reserve is per-
haps as clever as your unreserve. Miss Burton. I
can't pay it a higher compliment, can I ?"

"Not a bit of it I That just shows how ignorant
you are. If you are an angel and hide it, nobody



72 FUEL OF FIRE

will be really fond of you. I don't believe any one
was ever really fond of an angel unawares. Angels
unawares are esteemed but never loved; and it is a
most uninteresting part to play."

'Terhaps."

These short answers of Mr. Baxendale's always
irritated Nancy, as much as so good-tempered
a young woman was capable of irritation. She was
never quite sure whether he was laughing at her or
with her — a most disquieting doubt. Neither, as a
matter of fact, was he; she could hardly be blamed
for not understanding him, when as yet he did not
understand himself.

"Now, on the contrary, if you are a devil and say
so," she continued, "everybody will be charmed with
you, and think it is so sweet and dear of you to be so
outspoken."

"Possibly."

"If I had wings and covered them, people would
only say what a bad figure I had and how badly my
clothes fitted : but if I had a cloven foot and went
barefoot, everybody would smile, and pity rather
than blame; and if I went to the length of putting
my feet on the table, the world would end by think-
ing them quite pretty, and pointed toes would en-
tirely go out of fashion."

"Which shows that truth — like water — no longer
lies at the bottom of a well, but is turned on to every
house — in an unlimited supply — by certificated
water-works. What an enlightened age we live in.



MRS. CANDY 73

and how thankful we ought to be to the goodness and
the grace which smiled upon our birth with so subtle
a sense of humour!*'

Again that sense of irritation crept over Nancy.
But she refused to be baulked by it, and continued
bravely: '**A11 English people are too reserved; it
is the principal national fault/' j

''So you think foreign nations have more attrac-
tive shop-windows?"

''Rather! Well, you know how awfully difficult
English girls are to talk to when first you are intro-
duced?"

"I do ; by most bitter and most exhaustive — not to
say exhausting — experience."

"Well, foreign girls aren't, simply because they
are less reserved. I remember once, when we were
in London, some Mexican people came to call upon
us who had had dealings with father in business;
and my heart sank when they were shown in, as I
hadn't an idea what to say to them."

"Even you?"

"Yes, even me. It fell to my lot to talk to the
daughter, a very handsome girl ; so I began by ask-
ing, 'Have you any sisters?' A feeble opening, but
the best I could think of on the spur of the mo-
ment."

'And what did she say?"

'Oh! she was delightful." And Nancy bubbled
over with laughter at the remembrance. "She said,
'Yes, I have two sisters : and I will tell you all our






ii'



74 FUEL OF FIRE

love-affairs, and then you will feel that you know us
thoroughly.' Wasn't it killing?' "

''Charmingly so. And what did she tell you?"
In spite of all his resolutions not to grow too fond of
her, Laurence never could resist the temptation to
bring the laughter into Nancy's blue eyes.

''She said, 'In England you do not know how to
love: you are too cold, and you have too much to
interest you. In Mexico a woman has nothing to
amuse her but to go to mass and to get married : but
in England you have so much to amuse you that you
have not time to do either of these."

'There is some truth in that," declared Laurence.
There is. Then she went on, 'Now, in Mexico
we do know how to love : and we always love a man
who has no money.' I said I had known cases of
that kind even in England." And Nancy looked
slyly at Laurence through her long eyelashes, to see
what effect this announcement had upon him.

But Laurence's heart was not within measureable
distance of his sleeve, so he enquired stolidly : "Well,
and what did the Mexican lady say to that?"

"She said, 'But we are very bad in Mexico; and
when we find that the man is so poor that we cannot
marry him, we fret and fret till we are quite ill ; and
the doctor says to our parents that we shall die un-
less they give us the money to marry this man. So
then our parents give us the money, and we marry
him, and are quite well.' "



MRS. CANDY 75

*'A most satisfactory conclusion/' said Laurence
piously: "and had the lady herself suffered in this
fashion ?"

"No; but her sister had. She told me, 'My sister
was like that till my parents did give her the money
to marry the man she loved; and now she writes to
us that she used to have pains all over the body, but
that now she has not a single pain in any limb/ So
they know how to manage their affairs in Mexico,
don't they, Mr. Baxendale?" And again Nancy
looked through her eyelashes to discover the effect
of this remark.

Again Laurence was equal to the glance: "So
it seems."

"Don't you think we'd better do the post-office on
our way back?" suggested Nancy, after a few mo-
ments' silent meditation upon the density of men in
general and of Laurence in particular.

"Of course we had; what a happy idea! And
now we can go straight to the Hall by the lanes and
up the Park without getting the dust of the high-
road on our feet at all."

So the two young people threaded their way along
the green bye-roads and then across the undulating
park, till they reached the imposing front door which
was crowned by the arms of the Baxendales ; and as
they went they talked by the way of all the trifling
matters which are of no moment in themselves, but
are of such absorbing importance in the mouth of



76 FUEL OF FIRE

the one person whose prerogative it is to turn life's
smallest coins into gold and earth's commonest cor-
ners into Paradise.

Mrs. Candy gave them a hearty welcome. It was
somewhat lonely up at Baxendale Hall, and the
worthy matron was truly thankful when any listener
chanced to come her way.

*'I hope you enjoyed the village tea-meeting, Mrs.
Candy," said Nancy, after Laurence had transacted
his business with his caretaker; ''I thought you
seemed to be having a good time."

Mrs. Candy put her hands upon her hips, and con-
sidered for a moment ; then she replied in the refined
voice and with the clear-cut accent which are char-
acteristic of all East-Anglians : ''Well, Miss Bur-
ton, I wean't deceive yew. When I comes into Tet-
leigh school-room, I spreedes my hankyshire on my
knees, and I looks up to see what there was t'eat."

"You considered the menu, in short," suggested
Laurence.

"Precisely so, sir," replied Mrs. Candy, not in
the least knowing what he meant, and so agreeing
with him all the more readily; "well, when I looks
up and sees nothin' but maunch-cake and buttered
buns, I says to myself, says I, 'The Lord's will
be done; if I must be ill, I must.' So I takes
both."

"I hope your resignation was rewarded," said
Laurence.

"It were, sir, it were."



MRS. CANDY 77

"And how are you to-day after it all?" Nancy
asked.

Mrs. Candy shook her head : "Sadly, miss, very
sadly. It's wind in the head, miss, wind in the head,
and I'll tell yew how that happened. I was a-wait-
ing on Mrs. Betts down at The Ways tew year come
Michaelmas, and she was a paralytic, if you remem-
ber, miss."

"I remember her quite well; and I am bound to
confess I never knew any one get so much pleasure
out of paralysis as she did. She enjoyed to the full
the minute description of every symptom."

"Well, miss, I was a-waitin' on her; and when
she was a-comin' down stairs and a-leanin' on me,
her feet slipped and she dreeve her elba' inta my side,
and that dreeve the wind inta my head. So when I
went to see t' doctor, he says to me, says he, *My
gude wumman,' says he, 'yew should ha' come to me
when that furst happened ; now,' says he, 'I can't du
nothin'; that there wind have got inta yewr head,'
he says, 'and it'll never come down, no, never no
more.' That's what t' doctor says, miss, and that's
what's t' matter wi' me."

Nancy endeavoured to look as sympathetic as she
was expected to look. "I am so sorry, Mrs. Candy;
it must be a most uncomfortable feeling."

"It is, indeed, miss; and my poor feyther was just
the same. Wind in the head is in our family, it is,
from livin' so near the sea, and all them terrible
gales. And Uncle Wlllum was bad just the same,



78 FUEL OF FIRE

tew. I remember when Uncle Willum was bad.
Aunt Selina, she says to me, 'Lizzie/ says she,
'I du wish as yewr uncle wud go one way or t'other;
he do burn such a sight o' candle, and me rubbin'
him up and down all the night wi' them impreca-
tions.' "

''Did he finally recover?" asked Laurence politely.

"Not he, sir, not he: recoverin' is not in our fam-
ily," replied Mrs. Candy, with slightly ruffled dig-
nity ; and Laurence felt that he had made a mistake.
"At t' end I went t' help Aunt Selina to nurse him.
I give him his medicine at tew o'clock, and he trew it
up ; I give him his medicine at three o'clock, and he
trew it up; give him his medicine at four o'clock,
and he trew it up; at five o'clock he lay like a cab-
bage, and at six o'clock he went ofY like a bird."

"Dear me, how sad!" exclaimed Laurence; while
Nancy looked out of the window to hide her emotion,
which unfortunately was not of the right sort.

"And my childern were just the same," continued
Mrs. Candy, inflated with the pride of race; "there
wasn't one of 'em healthy — not one; and they all
died afore they was turned five."

"Oh ! I am so sorry," exclaimed Nancy, who was
really sympathetic now. "How you must miss
them !"

"I du, miss. I misses 'em and I wants 'em ; but I
misses 'em more than I wants 'em. They're a sight
o' trouble, childern are ; especially when they've wind
in the head."



MRS. CANDY 79

"But Candy looks strong enough," suggested
Nancy, by way of consolation; ''he must be a com-
fort to you."

Candy's spouse cheered up at once. "Eh ! he's a
wunnerful man. Candy is : I never knew his like for
eatin' roley-poley pudden — never since I was born.
T'other day Mrs. Fairfax sent us a roley-poley pud-
den up from The Ways : and when we sits down t'eat
it, Candy says, says he, 'May the Lord bless this here
pudden to my soul, and them as was the instigators
of it.' And he eats it up every scrap. Eh ! but he's
a wunnerful man, Candy is, and he thinks a sight o'
pudden, and has done iver since I first kep' company
wi' him."

"A not inexplicable taste," said Laurence.

*T remember onst he was iver so put out at a vil-
lage dinner in Tetleigh school-room, twenty year
ago come next Christmas. There was roley-poley
pudden, and Candy got a good slice. But — wud /Vc^m^
yew believe it, sir? — they give him his slice stark i4.<<-i^fiA^
naked, with not a scrap o' jam, nor even o' syrup, to P^^d.M
cover it. Oh, he was put about. Candy was, and no
wonder."

"Where did you first meet him?" Nancy asked.

"Well, he were a gardener at Cromer Hall when I
was in service at Overstrand. I had lots o' lovers
in those days, bein' as I was tall, wi' a nice pink col-
our ; and Candy he came courtin' me."

"And I suppose of all your lovers you liked him
the best."



8o FUEL OF FIRE

''Well, miss, I can't say exactly that; there was
several as I liked quite as well as he, him never havin'
been much of a one to look at."

"Then why did you finally choose him ?"

''Well, miss, though Candy was never much of a
one to look at, I heard he was notable at cooking —
the notablest man at cooking in all them parts. So I
picked him : and I keeps him up to it, I can tell yew."

Laurence smiled: "A most wise choice, Mrs.
Candy ! I think of selecting a wife along the same
lines. But what did the rejected lovers do? Did
they fling themselves and their broken hearts whole-
sale into the sea?"

Mrs. Candy bridled: "Well, sir, only tew days
after I'd fixed on Candv, who should come a-courtin'
me but Fison, him that was coachman up at t' Hall ?
And a much finer man he was than Candy, bein' bet-
ter set up all round."

"Then, I suppose, in true feminine fashion, you
rejected your choice, and expressed your readiness to
exchange the small bird in your hand for the larger
one just emerging from the bush."

"Well, sir, I says to Fison, 'Fison,' says I, 'I'm
real sorry as I can't keep company wi' yew, yew bein'
such a fine, well-set up man all round. But yew've
come a day tew late; I'm bespoke."

"And how did Fison take the blow ?"

"Well, sir, Fison says, says he, 'Lizzie,' he says,
'I'm rare sorry as I've come tew late; but there's as
good fish in the sea as iver came out of it ; and p'r'aps



MRS. CANDY 8i

yew won't mind lookin' out for a nice girl for me,
as there's no one as knows as well as yew ezactly
what wild suit me.' " -i^Vi-4' ^^i^-^H^- i

"Did you look out for one?" asked Nancy; "I don't
believe I should have done so, in your place. I think
it is horrid when one's lovers fall in love with some-
body else, even if one hasn't cared for them."

But Mrs. Candy w^as not made of such slight ele-
ments as Nancy. ''In course I did, and found one
just to his taste. A bright girl she was, Peggy
Postern by name, our sexton's daughter, and one as ^ V ^^'^^ ^
had been the life of many a funeral in our parts. ^'' *^ ^V
Eh! but she was a merry girl, Peggy was; and she
attended everj one of the funerals in Overstrand
churchyard. I never knew such a girl for pleasure : f
if there was anythin' goin' on, she must be in it, must
Peggy; and she'd go to the poorest funeral rather
than stay quietly at home. Half a loafs better than
no bread, she used to say when I passed the remark
that a funeral wi' no mournin' coaches wasn't no
better than no funeral at all."

"Miss Postern seems to have been somewhat of a
philosopher," remarked Mr. Baxendale; but he had
not time to say any more before Mrs. Candy went on :
"But I was a-tellin' yew about Candy when he come
courtin' me. He never wud walk intimate wi' me —
arm in arm, yew knows — because he said as it looked
soft-like to show as yew was that gone on a wum-
man ; and I thought it looked soft-like for a wumman
to keep company wi' a man as wasn't that gone on



82 FUEL OF FIRE



her. But I just made no fuss, but bided my time.
It never will du no good to make a fuss wi' a man :
if yew just waits and lets him have his own way, he'll
punish hisself in time."

^'And did Candy punish himself?"

**He did, miss. For when we comes to a stile,
with nobody a-lookin' on, Candy he says, says he,
*My lass!' he says, Til help yew over this.' 'No,'
says I, 'if yew won't walk intimate when folks is
a-lookin' and there's some credit in it, yew shan't
help me over stiles when there's nobody by.' And I
never let him — not once — till we was married;
though he went on his bended knees, he did, about it.
Eh! but he's a notable man, is Candy, for hidin' his
feelings when folks is by and showin' 'em when
they're no credit to nobody."

Nancy thoroughly sympathised with the speaker.
''How awfully trying! It would make me simply
furious if I'd a husband that behaved like that."

"It's tryin', as yew say, miss; but most things is
trying in this world, and so they're meant to be, for
some wise purpose which we don't understand now,
and maybe niver shall. But it's the queer ways o'
men that give yew somethin' to think about, when it's
bad weather and yew've no neighbours droppin' in
whiles. Why, I'd as soon be an old maid wi' a
stuffed canary bird as have a husband as was as easy
to see through as another wumman. That's the
bewty o' married life ; yew can never tell what your



MRS. CANDY 83

man'll do next nor what mischief he'll be up tu — no,
not even if you've got such a man as Candy to deal
with. But vew know as whatever he does it'll turn
out for the best."

"Come upstairs," said Laurence to Nancy, "and
have a look at the library. I happen to have the key
in my pocket."

"Do you always keep it locked up?" she asked as
she followed him up the wide oak staircase.

"Yes; always. I don't want to have good Mrs.
Candy pottering about with a candle am.ong all
those priceless old books. The house is insured for
a hundred thousand pounds, and the value lies chiefly
in the library; the rest of the furniture isn't worth
much."

"A hundred thousand pounds? What a lot of
money !"

"Oh ! the library is worth far more ; in fact, some
of the prints and first editions are practically price-
less. I am strictly forbidden by my grandfather's
will to sell a single book or print, or to lessen the
amount of the insurance. But it seems a lot, as you
say, and especially when I have to pay for it out of
my already very limited income."

And then Laurence unlocked the massive oak door,
and spent a delightful hour in showing Nancy some
of his rare treasures.

"I did not know you were so fond of old books,"
he said as they walked home together.



84 FUEL OF FIRE

*'0h! I simply revel in them. I should like to
spend a month in that library, and never put my nose
out-of-doors the whole time."

*'If you would really like it I could let you have a
key to the library, and then you could go and sit there
whenever you wished."

Nancy's eyes sparkled with delight. **How sweet
of you ! I should simply adore it."

*'Then you shall have one with pleasure; and I'll
lend you a key of the house as well, so that if Mrs.
Candy happens to be out and the house locked up
you can still go in and up to the library. Only be
careful to lock it all up again after you."

*'Oh ! I'll be careful, awfully careful, I promise."

"Then that's all right," replied Laurence, experi-
encing a thrill of delight at having it in his power to
give Nancy pleasure.

And he delivered the two keys into her hands that
very day.



CHAPTER V.
Anthony's suggestion.

What is greater than the king? —
Perfect knowledge of a thing.
What than state is more immense? —
Of a surety, common sense.

All the next day Nancy went about singing and
making melody in her heart.

There is something strangely delightful in the be-
ginning of anything — in the early dawn of fresh joy,
while the new-born interest is as yet too nebulous to
have attached to itself the inevitable cares and re-
sponsibilities which cannot fail to come later; when
the object of our regard is already dear enough to
make us happy by being present, but not yet suffi-
ciently dear to make us miserable by going away. A
land "where everlasting spring abides" means some-
thing far more than eternally green fields and bud-
ding trees ; it means a land where disillusionment can
never brush away the dew of the morning, and where
the pearly haze of dawn shall never be dispersed.
"Behold ! I make all things new !" does not prophesy
that once and for all the house not made with hands
shall be refurnished according to the latest improve-
ments; nay, it rather foretells that the mystic glad-



86 FUEL OF FIRE

ness of spring and of morning shall no longer be the
transient delight which now it is, but shall become a
part of that everlasting joy which shall one day
crown the heads of those who are counted worthy to
attain unto it.

The first dawn of love was just now transfiguring
the world for Nancy Burton. Later on the sorrow
came which is the inseparable companion of all earth-
ly bliss; but at present Laurence appeared to her as
the embodiment of human happiness. In later days
she laughed bitterly at the remembrance of how
marvellously happy she believed she was going to be,
before disappointment had taught her how little it is
wise to expect from life : but as yet all things were
hers, because she was gradually making the wonder-
ful discovery — that discovery whereby the most or-
dinary mortals for once in their life throw Columbus
into the shade — that she loved and was loved in
return.

Possibly if the immortal Christopher had pene-
trated a little further into the future — if he had fore-
seen the horror of the great American war for which
he was paving the way — he would have turned his
galleon round and gone ingloriously home again :
and, in the same way, if all the women who make the
other great discovery could perceive what heart-
burnings and heart-rendings they were thereby pre-
paring for themselves, they, too, would turn
affrighted from the unknown land. But if Colum-
bus had seen further still — if he had seen the mighty



ANTHONY'S SUGGESTION 87-^^^^-^

V kingdom which was to grow up on the farther shore '
of that sea of blood, filling^ the earth with its knowl- "^ / '
edge and glory, lie would have gone on rejoicing and
unafraid : and, likewise, if those fond souls who are
preparing for their own footsteps the sorrowful way
could see the very end of the road, they, too, would
go hopefully forward, knowing that only such as
have sown in tears shall reap the full joy of the
eternal harvest.

Nancy was too happy to stay indoors, so she
walked down in the morning to Ways Hall to see
Faith. On her way she met Lady Alicia.

"Good morning, dear Miss Burton," said her lady-
ship, in whom the neighbourly spirit had not yet
evaporated : ''may I turn and w^alk with you? I am
taking my daily constitutional, which I always think
is so very, very necessary if one wishes to be kept in
health; and health is so very beautiful, don't you
think?"

*'I don't know about its being beautiful : but it is
very jolly," Nancy replied, trying hard to remember /-Jfi-^^j- ^
that Lady AHcia was Laurence's mother, and there-
fore not meet to be made fun of.

"And illness is very beautiful, too," Lady Alicia
went on : "I often think that thinness and the hectic
flush suggest such touching and elevating thoughts.
I always wish that it had been my lot to be thrown
with people whose illnesses were beautiful and im-
proving to the character. But my poor dear hus-
band's were quite the reverse."



88 FUEL OF FIRE

**Tell me about him," besought Nancy, whose
thirst for information regarding the house of Baxen-
dale was hourly increasing.

"Oh ! there is nothing to tell you, my dear; he was
/ quite a prosaic and commonplace character, so differ-
•ii^^ ent from me, who am simply overflowing with poetry
' .\ and romance. I often think what a pathetic picture
^C it must have been to see a highly-strung, sensitive

young girl like myself tied to a hard-headed, hard-
hearted man, such as Mr. Baxendale."

*'But are you sure that he was as hard-hearted as
he seemed? Often people appear unfeeling when
they are only shy and reserved, and all the time that
they seem so cold they are suffering most intensely.'*

Lady Alicia drew herself up : "My dear, of course
I am sure. Is it likely that a man's own wife could
not understand him ? And, besides, Mr. Baxendale
was a very easy person to understand; he wasn't
complex as I am, but just straightforward and mat-
ter-of-fact, with — I am sorry to say — a sad habit of
making fun of things."

"I am afraid that is rather a weakness of mine,"
remarked Nancy humbly.

"Then, my dear, struggle against it and suppress it
at all costs. ( To my mind there is nothing so vulgar
as a sense of humour; it coarsens the finest natures
and throws a horrible, amusing light upon things
which in themselves are quite beautiful and serious.
And I always think it is so elevating to take life seri-


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