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growing close to the ground, with the boles of tall
trees springing up amongst them, and the black
clump of yews not ten paces oif on the open slope of
the lawn.

Five minutes more brought them to the lodge, on
the steps of which stood Pierce. In answer to Mrs.
Croft's inquiries, he said his master had passed a
favourable day, and had been out a little while in the
garden. Dick went no further than the old Abbey
gateway, and once on the high-road, Pennie and her
mother stept out fast. It was a dry, sharp night with
an eerie east wind whispering in the rookery trees
which spread their broad boughs over the garden wall,
and darkened the path. The church and the vicarage
stood about mid-way between Rood and Mayfield, and
they had just crossed the grave-yard, which cut off an
angle, and shortened their walk, when Pennie said she
was sure she heard a child crying, and stopt to listen.
Her mother urged her to come on, but the pitiful little
voice rose shrill and terrified, and she could not resist



ROUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 159

tlie impulse to run back along the road to see if the
child were alone. No, l3'ing on the path under the
churchyard wall was a woman, fallen insensible, so
far as Pennie could judge — at all events, fallen help-
less ; and running to and fro, equally helpless, making
the night echo with her cries, was a little girl, bare-
footed, bare-headed, all one flutter of ragged clothing
and ragged hair. Her loud complaint had been
heard at the vicarage also, and as Mrs. Croft reached
the spot, a female servant appeared hurrying down
from the house.

" She's di-unk, I dessay. Whisht, bairn, whisht,
you're enew to deave a body ! " gi-umbled the last
comer. " Oh, Mrs. Croft, ma'am, is that you ? It's
so dusk, I didn't know you at the moment, I'm sure."

Apologies and compliments were abbreviated by
the arrival first of the vicar, and then of the vicar's
man. By this time Pennie and her mother had con-
trived to raise the forlorn wayfarer's head, and to
discern that it was probably famine, and not drink,
that had overtaken her on her journey. The xicuT
ordered her to be carried into his kitchen, and while
this was being done, Pennie tried her best to still the



160 :mr. wynyakd's wakd.

child. It was food and warmth she craved rather
than caresses, and though her keen cry sank to a wail
at the sight of the fire and the strange faces, it
sounded even more distressing. As soon as they had
seen the poor waifs taken under shelter, Mrs. Croft
whispered to Pennie, that they were in good hands,
and she had better leave them, and come away ; for
she could be of no use, but only in the road.

The stranger had been set down in a chair by the
hearth, and divested of a tattered shawl that covered
her head. While Mrs. Featherston administered
strong stimulants to restore her to consciousness, the
child crouched beside her, quiet now, devouring a
cake that the cook had given her. She appeared
about seven or eight years old, but she either could
not, or would not answer the questions put to her,
except only that her name was Alice, and the woman
was her mother. Presently^ like a little tired dog, she
coiled herself up and went to sleep^ It was so long
before the woman showed any sign of returning
sensibility that Mrs. Featherston gi-ew alarmed, and
would have Doctor Grey sent for; but before he could
arrive, she had rallied, had taken some food, and had



ROUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. IGl

risen to be go"ie. This, however, the ^icar would not
jiermit, and when she saw he was peremptory, she
resigned herself, and sat passively staring into the fire.

Oh ! the wan, wasted, dreadful face ! Mrs.
Featherston, who was a round little rosy button of a
woman, and knew nothing of the -v^-icked world but
what she read in good books, looked at it like a
revelation. This was the manner of fa^e that
haunted the ghastly London lanes where the Bible-
women went to seek out souls that were perishing.
This was the mask tliat womanly beauty took on
when guilt and misery had drenched the womanly
nature through and through. What did sh^ here — ■
offscouring of some foul city streets in the green
lanes of Eskdale ?

Dr. Grey arrived in a fuss — it was much, the
messenger had told him, if he found the woman alive
when he got to the vicarage. As he came into the
kitchen she turned her head to the door, and he
stood with the latch in his hand for a minute facing
her — evidently recog-nizing her, and she as evidently
recognizing him. She began to fumble at her shawl
to put it on, and roughly shook the child awake.
VOL. I. 11



16-2 MR. wynyard's ward.

" Get up, Alice, let us be going," whispered she,
always with her eyes on the doctor.

" Stop a bit, there's no hurry," said he kindly.
*' I don't like to have a ride by night for nothing."

Cook and the other servants were about their
business again. No one witnessed this unexpected
meeting but Mrs. Featherston, and she was discretion
itself. She could see all without seeming to see
anything. The doctor soon told her what she had
already discovered, that want and misery were the
sickness he had been called to heal ; and then again
the desolate woman said she would be going; she
wanted to get to Allan Bridge, to the poor-house
where they would take her in.

*' She might as well," said the doctor, addressing
the vicar's vdie. " She would be in the way of your
servants here. I'll give her a cast in my gig, and
drop her at the door."

Almost before the words were out of his mouth,
she was ready ; the child was on its feet, and the old
rag of a shawl that had covered her own head, was
cast over its elf locks. Mrs. Featherston quickly
brouiiht from her clothes store, a coarse hooded



ROUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 163

duffel cloak, which she gave to her — to keep, said the
little rosy woman chokingly, in reply to an eager
question. The doctor helped her into his gig, lifted
the child into her lap, and drove off through the now
murk night, while the vicar's wife sought her
husband in his study, and announced with an air of
discovery, " She is an Eskdale woman, John.
Doctor G-rey knew her, though he did not choose to
say anything."

*'Is this Hugh Tindal's child, Alice Pierce?"
asked Doctor Grey when he had driven on in silence
for a few minutes.

" Yes, doctor. My father's at the Abbey now,
isn't he, sir?" The doctor replied in the affirmative.
They were just passing the gateway. The lodge
within was all dark ; the house thi'ough the trees
invisible.

"Have you been in Eskdale since you went
away mth him ?"

" Once — only once. I was here that day he was
shot, doctor. I saw it done. I wish I was dead ! "

" It is a keen night : wrap your cloak over 3-our

11— :i



164 MR. wynyahd's ward.

breast. You saw it done, did you, Alice ? You
know that it has always been laid to his brother
Arthur?"

"No, I know nothing. I saw him drop, struck
through his bad heart, and I went my way. I'd no
call to cry for him. My father sent a curse after me,
and refused me a bit to eat. Oh, if she was only
dead, and I was dead ! "

There was another silence which lasted until they
were nearly at their journey's end. As the gig
crossed the old steep bridge of a single arch over the
little river Allan, which gave the country town its
name, the doctor said : " The master and matron at
the house are man and wife, strangers here ; they
come from Liverpool w^ay. They will not recognize
you, if nobody else does. I should advise you to
stay quietly there until you have recovered your
strength, and then to try if your father will foi-give
vou, and put jon in the ■ way of earning a decent
living. I suppose that was your object in coming,
Alice ? "

" I don't know what was my object, doctor ; it
was like as if I could not help it. And now I'd fain



ROUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 165

be back where I came from. I've no ho2:)e, and I cau
get no rest. It is all just judgment — the scourge
that's di-mng me, I t\sined and knotted it myself."

The doctor did not gainsay her. The gig
stopped opposite a high wall with a white door in it,
at which he got out and rang, the rickety-rackety
jangle of a broken bell answering his energetic pull,
and waking up all the echoes and sleeping dogs in
the bleak market-place. After the lapse of a minute
or two the master appeared at the door with a
lantern.

'' Jefferson, here's a woman and child the parson
at Eood picked up starving by the way-side. The
woman must go into the infirmary. I'll drop in
early to-morrow and see her."

''Very good, Doctor Grey. Old Sainsbury's
gone dead this afternoon, sir ; he went off quite quiet
at last."

" Ah, well, it's a release. You'll look weU to the
woman ; she may want an eye on her, you under-
stand •? "

This confidential communication made and
responded to, the doctor helped Alice out of



166 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

the gig, saw her and the child pass into the poor-
house yard, and then drove slowly across the market-
place to his own door, cogitating very seriously on
the night's adventure. If it had not been so late he
would have turned his horse's head back agarin to
Eood there and then ; for here was a difficulty to
unravel harder than a tom-fool's knot to untie.

The doctor was not a man of energy except in
the way of his business, but he was a man of heart
and probity. He could know a thing about which all
the world was curious without yearning to achieve
a cheap notoriety by talking of it. His morning
thoughts were not less grave than his night thoughts,
but they were more cautious and reserved, and when
he saw Alice again, he was glad he had not gone to
Rood on the spur of the event. She shared the sick
ward with two women so ancient that they were past
minding anything but gruel, tea, snuff, and the fire.
Her bed was next the window, and there she la}-,
wakeful and anxious, when he entered.

" Give me something to make me sleep, doctor;
the longer the better," said she. " I've had no rest
all night. I should like to shut my eyes, and never



EOUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 1G7

open 'em no more." She did not mention her child,
nor did the doctor tell her that the little creature was
fretful, sickening, he feared, for the scarlet fever.
Misery is selfish, and her own sensations absorbed
her. The matron was within earshot, and the
rheumy, mazy eyes of the ancient women were
looking that way. The doctor could only speak his
common formula of question, counsel and comfort,
and go ; but he contrived to convey to Alice an
intimation that the secret of her being there would
not be noised abroad by him.

After his visit to the poor-house. Dr. Grey set
forth on his daily round, leaving Buckhurst at home
to answer casual comers. He took Rood Abbey
nearly the last, arriving on his visit to Mr. Tindal
about the middle of the afternoon. Pierce ushered
him into the library where his master ■s\as, and left
them together. Mr. Tindal had been employed in
looking over a file of old newspapers when he was
interrupted. He was tired and dispirited — had been
doing too much, as the doctor plainly told him.

" I want my little nurse to amuse me. You are



168 MR. WYi^ yard's ward.

her guardian, Grey, along with Wynyard of Eastwold,
are you not ? ' '

"Yes, I believe I am; but she has nothing to
thank me for in the way of care," replied the doctor,
awakening all of a sudden to an embarrassing case,
which had grown up under his nose quite unobserved
and unsuspected. He shirked away from it, for the
moment, by inquiring what his patient had been
doing to get so weary and excited.

" Trying to find a way out of the wood," said
^Ir. Tindal, pointing to the newspapers stream on the
floor and table. " I will rest no more until I do.
There is a way, and I think I descry the guide-post."
"Ha! I \\dsh you luck, that I do. What track
are you on ? "

" You remember the whole dreadful business ? "
" As well as if it liad only happened yesterday."
'' There is a story in Monday's Times of a girl
shooting a soldier in the park — shooting him dead :
for jealousy and revenge, of course. My brother
Hugh had given more than one woman the same
reason to change love for hatred, and sweet for
bitter : notably, Alice Pierce and Aimee Yibert.



BOUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 1G9

Could that dark gipsj-coloured woman who was
sought after — but not half sharply enough — have
been Aimee? Alice was light-corn plexioned."

"Yes, Alice was fair," repeated the doctor.
" Grey eyes, clear pale skm, not much colour, and
nut-brown hair. A proud lass in her innocent days,
but not one to stop half-way to the devil when she
had started."

"Her father assures me he has never seen or
heard word of her since she left her home. She
may be living or she may be dead, for anything he
knows — or wants to know."

" Ha ! " ejaculated the doctor, thinking to himself
how shrewdly the old fox had kept her secret, and
confirmed in some pre-conceived strong suspicions
by Pierce's falsehood. There had always been a
misty crooked notion in his mind that the woman
in the wood was the ass'assin, and that Hugh Tindal
got only right served for his sins. After a brief
pause he asked his patient : " Could you ever guess
where the first whisper rose from against you? "

" Never. I had not an enemy in the world that I
was aware of. I had done no man wrong, and no



170 MR. wynyakd's ward.

woman either. My only rival was Hugli himself —
in whose good graces was shouted out on the house-
tops. I hear she is very happy -^ith Sir Thomas
Brooke, and thrives amazingly."

" Yes, she is fat and well-liking, and either takes
troubles lightly to heart, or has a light heart to take
'em to. She has bm*ied three children, and keeps
one — a son."

Mr. Tindal took a cigar. '* You don't smoke,
Grey, I know." He enjoyed his own pleasure for
some minutes in brooding silence, but just as the
doctor was beginning to feel his company superfluous,
he brought forth his thought." You are the one
friend that never had a doubt of me, and therefore I
can talk to you face to face. Has it ever occurred to
you as an interpretation of Pierce's most remarkable
dolour that he could tell the truth about Hugh's
murder if he would ? "

"I'll tell you what has occurred to me — that his
behaviour and manner of speaking to and of you,
have done more than anything else to keep alive the
suspicion that was bred nobody knows how, and
nobody knows where. He is so confoundedly pro-



ROUXD ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 171

tective and guarded, both in your presence and
behind your back, that he suggests to sentimental
minds the notion that he is standing always between
you and a dreadful fate."

" So said my deft little nurse at Mayfield.
Pennie declares that Pierce provokes her past her
patience. I hare entreated him to put off his
mourning, and go less like a ghost, but to no
purpose. And the man's anguish is real enough,
Grey — there's no feigning there. If his Alice had
Ix-en swarthy, I think I coold haTe unriddled the
rid<lle. I mean to try hard as it is — I have a reason
more than I had for wishing to be cleared."

" I can read your reason ; well — you shall have
my consent ; Pennie is a worthy little laxly. But let
the clearing go before the declaration, Tindal. She
is Tery young, she has a great fortune, and we live iu
a censorious age;"

' ■ I wish she had not a sixpence ! I don't want
her money, but herself — she understands me."

" Not a doubt of it, and I daresay she likes you
the better for being an IQ-used man."

'' I am not sure of that. Pennie hates a mystery.



172 MR. wynyard's ward.

She is as eager as I am that the cloud should
break.*'

*' Should you know Aimee Yibert if you saw her,
or Alice Pierce ?"

" Not Aimee — I never saw her, but amongst
Hugh's things there were some miniatures — I'll show
you them. I have devised no plan of proceedings
yet ; a blood-hunt is not after my heart, but I think
I shall set a search on foot after Aimee." As Mr.
Tindal spoke, he unlocked a drawer in a cabinet by
the fire-place, and brought out several small cases
which he opened, and handed in succession to the
doctor.

" Ah, poor Alice, this is very like her, — and this
is Aimee? A dark skin, Tindal, but not a bad
countenance,"

" No ; tender, touching. There is more of the
Magdalen repentant about her than about Alice.
That is Lady Brooke."

'' 'Umph — time has increased her charms. Pretty
sylph here — she is almost overwhelming for figure
now."

At this moment Pierce threw open the door, and



ROUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 173

announced Mr. Featlierston. While Mr. Tindal
received liim, the doctor closed the cases, and laid
them in a pile together. After a minute or two of
general talk he rose to leave.

" One moment, Grey ; how is that poor woman?"
said the vicar, arresting his departure. " Is she at
the poor-house?"

'' Yes ; I saw her this morning. She wants rest
and nourishment ; nothing more."

"You don't know where she came from? My
vrde is interested in her."

*' No, I do not," answered the doctor, point-
blank. In fact, he did not know where Alice had
come from ; and leaving the clergj^man under the
impression that his shrewd little wife was mistaken,
he made his escape.

Pierce attended him to his gig with his usual
soft-going mournfulness. The doctor compassionated
him from his soul ; hut there was irritation mingled
with his pity. He eyed the old servant keenly, and
asked with some abruptness, *' Have you any intelli-
gence of Alice yet, Pierce ? "

" That is what my master has been asking me



174 MR. wynyard's ward.

this very morning, sir. Have I any intelligence of
Alice yet?" said lie, giving no direct reply, but
looking up in liis questioner's face with tremulous
agitation.

*' Well, have you? God knows, Pierce, that I
am not the man to be hard on you or on her, but
don't you think, honestly now, that the innocent has
suffered for the guilty long enough ? Look what his
life has been. Wasn't it you that breathed the blight
on it to screen the woman in the wood ; and wasn't
the woman your Alice ? Perhaps Hugh Tindal did
not get much beyond his deserts ; but that sort of
wild justice has ceased to be appreciated in these
days. If you knew where Alice was, would you help
her out of the country, and then would you let in
what daylight you can upon that tragedy ? It must
dawn sooner or later."

" But I don't know where she is, sir. I hope
she's gone where the weary are at rest."

" No, Pierce, she is in the poor-house at Allan
Bridge — she and her child. She has told me that
she was here that afternoon, and saw it done. It is
all coming out plain enough to me."



KOUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 175

" She is my daughter, sir, — what would you have
me to do ? " asked the okl man, in an agony of
appeahng misery.

*' I would have you tell your master all you know,
and without delay." There was no suggestion of
compromise in Doctor Grey's aspect, and his tone
intimated that if Pierce did not follow his ad^ice, he
would certainly speak himself.

" Give me a little time, sir ! Oh! if you knew
the winsome thing she was — the pretty winsome
thing. No one rememhers that but me. They could
never have proved it against Mr. Arthur. I was
well aware of that, sir."

" A man might as well be dead as carry Cain's
mark upon him. It will be safer to confess now than
to keep silence, for he will not bear it any longer in
peace." The doctor gently shook the reins, and
turned out through the old Abbey gateway, in the
open court within which, secure from listeners, this
conversation had taken place.

The church bells were ringing for morning service
at Allan Bridge, and all the respectable population of



176 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

tlie little town were trooping across the market-place
to the wide open doors, when Doctor Grey set forth
on his Sunday round. He was sprucer in his dress,
as became the better day, but working, with him, had
often to stand for prajdng, and it was rarely he saw^
the inside of a church. His district extended far and
wide amongst the hills, and he went on his mission
of healing as sedulously to the crippled broom-maker,
who lived high upon the moor near Pedlar's Bones,
as he did to the well-paying squirearchy and yeomanry
who had their comfortable being in the rich lowlands
of the dale. His first visit was, as usual, to the
poor-house.

The matron brought him, to begin with, into a
faint, chill room, where Alice's child was the solitary
occupant. The little creature was unconscious, toss-
ing, fretting, and moaning in a burning fever. ''I
don't think she'll pull through it, Doctor Grey," said
the woman. '' They rarely do when they are like
this." The doctor asked if her mother had been
told. " No, sir ; master judged it better not. She
is as flighty herself as ever she can be. She has got
a sleepless fit on her like that young woman we had



KOUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 177

to move to Xormiuster Asylum last autumu. I
shouldn't wonder if she ended there too ; it is horrid
to hear her grinding her teeth, and raging, as if she
had something bad on her mind."

"Does she talk much ? "

" Nothing to be understood, sir ; only wishing
herself dead, and that. Mr. Clewer was here yester-
day afternoon, but she was sullen then, and took no
notice ; though I do think if ever there was a young
minister that had the right way with him in deaUng
with such as come here, it is surely him."

" I'll go u^) to her, and just you call old Hannah
and Sally Perkins out of the way. If she is low,
you must watch her."

"^Mien Doctor Grey entered the sick ward, Alice
was sitting up in her bed, her face bowed down upon
her knees, rocking her body to and fro, and moaning
in the miseiy of her heart. He called her twice
before she heard, and raised her haggard eyes ; and
then, after staring vacantly at him for a moment, she
droj^ped her head once more into its former position.
'•' I will come in again later," said the doctor, as he
passed the matron on the stairs. ''You can only
VOL. I. 12



178 MR. WYNYARD'S WARD.

take care at present that she does herself no mischief.
Her wits are going." The matron fancied the doctor
was very short, and not so feeling as he generally
was. She could not guess what a relief he was
experiencing to think that perhaps God might be
pleased to call this poor soul to His mercy, and
thus to simplify a task that he felt to be cruelly
difficult.

He took Kood first in his round this morning.
Mr. Tindal had gone out into the sun, and was
making a tour of the lawn, with the aid of Pierce's
arm and a stick. He looked delicate, but fresh and
almost gay. Pierce was as usual desolate and re-
spectful. '' This is a good move," said the doctor.
"You will soon colour again in the air; your skin
takes kindly to the tan. Exchange Pierce's arm for
mine a few minutes."

The servant resigned his office and retired, his
master looking after him with a countenance almost
of compunction. " He has told me, Grey. Poor
old Pierce, I've known him from a lad ! I had not
the heart to be righteously indignant when I heard
that it was perhaps to save his own daughter, I had



EOUND ABOUT ROOD ABBEY. 179

been sacrificed. The sudden sense of release at last
was too great happiness to be spoilt by crucifying
liim anew. What a life he must have led — for he
has loved me after a manner, and has felt every pang,
every humiliation, every loss that came on me like a
fresh sin added to his burthen — he says so ; I declare
I gave him not one reproach ; I could not."

'' It must have been a deliberate deed — if she did
it. A journey — a disguise ; and what do you propose
to do in the matter, Tindal ? Vengeance for Hugh's
murder is evidently not in your thoughts."

" I have given Pierce a promise to bear my yoke,
and not to publish the fact of Alice being here that
miserable day, until she is out of the road. Pray,
therefore, that it may be soon."

" I daresay it will." The doctor then gave
Mr. Tindal an account of how he had found Alice
that morning. He listened, but his inclination was
rather to expatiate on his own feeling of freedom and
buoyant life, than to hear any mournful history. He
said his first impulse had been to go to Church to
give thanks, but Pierce had suggested that it would
be so strange to see him there, the people might

12—2



180 MR. WYNYAED'S WAED.

wonder ; so he liad come out under the open heaven
instead.

" I only long to tell Pennie, but I shall refrain ;
when I tell her that, I shall tell her more besides.
You have vouchsafed me your consent, Grey," he


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