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Mrs. Denys of Cote : in three volumes (Volume 3) online

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permanent covering," Mr. Denys said in
answer to an observation from his wife. ''This
stone takes kindly to the multiplied touches


of time and weather. We have not carved
the great south porch to let the all-devouring
ivy overgrow it, but the base of the tower
may have a garment if you please. As for
the roof, it will soon in this moist climate
acquire the dusky richness of velvet, with
lichen-embroidery like gold."

" The church is perfect in form and pro-
portion, Hugh. And you say that a thousand
people will not fill it ? "

'' A thousand people will not nearly fill it."

" I think I am most of all glad that you
have given the people this beautiful ground
to be buried in under its shadow. It seems
a place made for peaceful thoughts. If I were
poor, and lived where the houses are thick,
this should be my garden, to come and be still
for a little in a day. And I hope they will let
the church door be open."

'' It was at your instance I gave this ground,


Delia. Now that it Is done, I feel that it was
a duty not to be taken out of my hands. I'll
tell Clarges there must be a daily service."

" Oh, yes. A morning service, and an even-
ing service In the middle of the week. Mr.
Orme is strong enough and willing enough
for all — If only we are allowed to keep him."

" We shall keep him if the rector get pro-
motion, not otherwise. There Is a canonry at
Beauminster likely to be vacant soon, and
Clarges expects it. Then he would resign
Cote, and Orme should have the living."

" Here is Blythe coming round the north
side of the church, Hugh — shall we move ? "
Delia asked hastily.

" No, better not. Why should I avoid
him ? If the man wants to speak to me, let
him speak," Mr. Denys said. It appeared
that Richard Blythe did want to speak to the
squire, for he came straight to where he was ;


and Mr. Denys, when he saw his object, stood
up and advanced a step to meet him.

" Squire," he said, " I've thought tliat I
should Hke to have a word with you before I
go across the seas. I'm here to take a last
look round the old place. The ship sails from
Plymouth next Monday."

*'You are emigrating then, Blythe .'^ " Mr.
Denys said, regarding him steadfastly.

" Yes, sir. I am one of three hundred for
Auckland, that there's not room for at home."

Mrs. Denys was looking up at the shepherd
with the kindliest sympathy. *' Then you
have struck root nowhere else since you left
Cote, Blythe ? " she said.

*' No, ma'am, nor ever shall, I think. I've
been in Scotland shepherding, and on the
borders of Wales, and I've been on the York-
shire wolds and the Sussex downs, but I've

never framed to settle in any spot yet. They
VOL. in. I


say the sap rises stronger in a man when he
has been cut down with troubles, if he can
go clean away to a new country."

'' You will get a grant of land out there, and
be your own master," Mr. Denys interposed.

" I shall, sir. Not that I think so much
of being my own master as some do. I've
taken wage since the day I was able to do a
hand's turn. But the land is free there, and
for a man to have a homestead of his own,
where no lord can come in and give him
notice to quit, is a fine thing. There were
Blythes at Cote before ever Denyses was
heard of, squire — you ask the old parson to
show you in the register if I'm not right."

*' I know you are right, Blythe, without
asking the parson. I wish there were Blythes
at Cote still. It was a blunder to let you go.
There was no better stock in the place."

*' Then you are sorry, squire ? IVe had


a terrible sore feeling sometimes that you'd
ridden over us rough-shod, and didn't care
what harm you'd done. I shall go away the
lighter for leaving it behind me. That's partly
why I'm here to-day. Cousin Phoebe has
wrote more than once that the master was
sorry, she was sure, and that the lady had put
a stone upon our grave. For which I thought
I'd like to thank her." Blythe's thanks were
silent — given with a prayer and a blessing;
and Mrs. Denys also bent her head for a
minute or two.

''Where is your brother, Blythe — Jack, who
went to Spain with the engineers ? " the squire
asked, breaking the pause.

" Jack is bound for Auckland too, sir."
"Is he in Cote with you now ? "
'' No, sir." Blythe's negative sounded curt,
perhaps because he could add nothing to
soften it. Jack had refused to come to Cote.


He had shaken the dust off his feet against
the place whence the owner of the soil had
driven them.

In the distance, sauntering that way, ap-
peared Captain Meade and the graceful, white
figure of Marie- Irene. ** Here they come,"
Mr. Denys whispered to his wife. Delia
turned to look at them, and Blythe turned
too, recognising the beautiful girl who used
to visit the Orchard with Phoebe when she
was a child.

'' ril wish you a good-bye, squire and
madam," he said then ; *' and thank you kindly,
ma'am, for what you've done since I saw you
last. I met your son in the road one day,
squire — he didn't know me, and it was
as well. The young lady might remember.
Good-bye, squire — good-bye, madam."

They did not offer to delay him, but Marie-
Irene was quick-eyed, and remembered the



shepherd perfectly, and she remembered too
the walk with her father to the Orchard after
the eviction of the Blythes, and the words of
his confession that had struck her as so sadly
strange. She did not speak, she only watched
the man's recedinor fiaure until he turned the
corner of the church, and was out of sight.
Captain Meade seemed struck by him, and
asked who he was.

" A former tenant of mine, on his road to
Plymouth, to join an emigrant ship sailing for
Auckland next Monday," Mr. Denys answered.

''A fine fellow. He would have made a
soldier. He has the stuff in him for a success-
ful emigrant too, but it is a pity that the pick
of the peasantry should find more inducement
to go away than to stop in the country."

There was no rejoinder to Captain Meade's
remark, and the subject dropped.

When Richard Blythe went down the steps


into the Green Square again, the band was still
playing, the people were still walking about,
and the dancers were still dancing on the lawn
before the inn. But the twilight was deepen-
ing, and he reflected within himself that it was
a late hour to go to the rectory. He had had
his word with the squire, and he wanted a
word with the parson too: "Just to leave all
friends at home," he said, knowing the sweet-
ness of a memory clear of offences. Then he
bethought him that often in former years he
had met the rector strolling up to the old
church in the cool of the summer evenings,
and that perhaps he continued the practice.
If so, he mieht meet him without oroinof to his
house. His conjecture proved correct. Mr.
Clarges was just issuing from the lower gate
of his garden, which opened on the church
lane, as the shepherd drew near, and stopped
with a perplexed, inquiring gaze towards him.


Blythe made his homage to the parson the
same as to the squire.

" I heard you were In Cote, and I am glad
to see you, Blythe," the clergyman said, and
held out his hand.

Blythe took it, glad to be kindly met, and
they walked together up the familiar road.

'' The world seems to have used you fairly
well since you forsook Cote," was the rector's
next remark after a furtive slight survey of
the man. " I take it you repented of your
design to preach a crusade for equality, and
judged it wiser to mind your sheep."

'' No, sir, I've none repented yet," Blythe
answered quietly. '' I've minded my sheep,
but come rough, come smooth, I've said my
say for equality where and when I got the
opening. I'm thinking, sir, perhaps you don't
understand what we mean who want more
equality ? "


** I suppose you want to do away with dis-
tinctions of rank, to be rid of squires and
parsons, of Church and Queen, and to have
a re-distribution of other people's property—
to level all down to yourselves, and set up a
democratic paradise on the ruins of law and

*' There may be thick-headed folks who
credit that sort of stuff, sir, but you are not
one of 'em," Blythe rejoined with a natural
touch of scorn. ''It is what you preach on
Sundays we want, sir ; more of the spirit of
Christ in man's dealings with man. The
Queen, God bless her, may she reign long,
for she's a kind woman. The Church I was
born in I'll uphold to my life's end, for if I
know any good I got it there. There's squires
better than Squire Denys, and squires worse,
and I am not aofainst the whole class because
one did hardly by mine and me, any more than


I'm against all the parsons because you were a
bit of a stumbling-block to us in our trouble.
Squire Denys did not quite know what he did,
and Fve foreiven him. He has turned a new
leaf since, and set a pattern at Navestock, and
here too, sir, here too, that more will follow —
and then you'll see sound progress, a sample
of equality as fair as can be had until the land
is made free ; which God grant speedily, for
the land's sake and the sake of us that live
by it."

" What do you mean, Blythe, by the land
being made free f Free for you to take,
though the owner may wish to hold, eh? "

" I'll give you an example, sir. Is your land
free — your land at Bourtree — or does a dead
^land keep its grip on it for bairns not born
yet ? " There was a touch of derision in
Blythe's query. The clergyman was a child-
less man, and his little estate at Bourtree was


entailed on heirs male. If he could have done
what he liked with it, he would have sold it
to leave the money to his wife, who was a
devoted wife, and lapped him in the ease that
his soul loved. But his hands were tied.

'* I should not oppose a judicious altera-
tion in the law of entail, Blythe," he said

" In the ship I sail by, there'll sail a hundred
men of Kent, them and theirs ousted from
home and country because they won't bend
their necks to a yoke heavier than's fit. It is
too much power, the power of exile, in the
landlords' hands, sir."

"You strike at the very root of society,
Blythe, if you interfere with a gentleman's
right to turn out of his cottaofes tenants who
will not work his land unless they may be
servants on their own terms — servants and
masters too."


" The root o' society has been struck at a
good deal, sir, since I first heard tell on it, but
it's had the heaviest jogs from the wind in its
upper branches. It has bushed too much o'
the one side, and when the wind gets up and
blows hard it is likely to wreast at the roots
a bit. Cut out the dead wood, and prune the
big boughs into closer form, and it will stand
fast and flourish yet. Its shadow spreads too
wide, and the land that is starved o' sunshine
won^t erow nouorht as it should."

'' You view everything through the distorted
medium of your own misfortunes, Blythe," Mr.
Clarges said mournfully.

'' Are you sure it is distorted, sir ? I've
always thought experience cleared the vision.
I've seen other places since I left Cote, and
I've seen this : orentlemen with three or four


great houses and estates in as many counties
— too much for any child o' man to call his own


— and thousands and tens o' thousands delving
the soil with not so much as to rest their foot.
And I've seen orentlemen enlaro^e their borders

o o

by the short process of running up a fence to
take in what served their poor neighbour for
a field, and sit at quarter sessions after to
sentence other men's stealings."

'' That is true, Blythe, and sorry I am that
it should be true."

''If I had my way I'd have Government
limit the land one man may possess, and bid
him divide or sell when that limit is touched.
And I would have Government keep a sharper
eye on landmarks, and a tighter hand on
wastes everywhere, if it is only to give a
Christian chance to men like me when men
like Denys thrust us out.'^

" And you would still find influences pre-
vailing strong and bold enough to defy the
law that traversed the desires and interests


of richer men. If all squires were like the
Herricks, Brittons, and Daventrys, there would
be neither oppression nor extortion to com-
plain of, but the law was never made yet that
squires like the old Denyses, the Midases, and
the Essex-Broughs cannot circumvent or loose
when their will is that way set."

" And there'd still be parsons to excuse 'em,
no doubt, sir."

Mr. Clarges sighed. " Blythe, you will not
understand me," he said.

" Are you so deep, sir, that a man mayn't
fathom you ? I was angry once, but that's
long over. You meant kindly in your way,
only your way wasn't ours. I wouldn't advise
a poor man to yield to wrong for fear of worse
— I should give a very different name to what
you call proper submission and humility.
Gran'mother would ha bitten her toneue out
afore she'd ha' feigned the thing that was not,


or made believe to honour what she thought
shame on. I hold with her, sir. I say now,
as I said then, if, instead of bringing the
squire's threatenings to us when that conten-
tion about the right o' way began, you had
stood up to him like a man fearing God rather
than him, there'd ha' been some chance of his
stopping in his rough courses."

" No, Blythe, you are mistaken. There
would have been none. Mr. Denys is too
autocratic to hear remonstrance. I have
always found him the same. When soft words
do not turn away anger we must leave it to
time, and commit our cause — if it be a good
cause — to higher hands."

The clergyman enunciated his views with
emphatic resignedness. The shepherd offered
no rejoinder. They were come to the church-
yard lying hushed and dim in the twilight,
and they spoke of other things.

{ H3 )



** The bravest trophy ever man obtained
Is that which o'er himself, himself hath gained."

Earl of Stirling.

It was splendid weather when Mr. and Mrs.
Denys set out to go to Navestock the next
day. As the squu'e drove through the Green
Square, all the world of Cote was busy trans-
actino: their mornino- business and morninor
gossip, and such as were judges of horse-flesh,
or aspired to the reputation of judges, dropped
their own interests for a minute to descant on
the spanking pair the gentleman sat behind.
They reckoned it would take an hour and
three-quarters to bring him to Navestock at
that pace — or it might be ten minutes over.


Old Crump stood at the edge of the pave-
ment near the inn, deeply pondering with Old
Todd what was the portent of a certain thing
that had happened in the town since last night.
It was nothing but a notice posted here
and there on the blank walls that next Satur-
day would be published the first issue of a
weekly paper, to be styled The Newsboy.

*' An unpretending title — a promise of late
intelligence," Mr. Denys remarked, and pointed
it out to his wife, who was of opinion that
Cote could have done very well without it.

As the mail-phaeton dashed past, the old
hats of Old Crump and Old Todd made obeis-
ance, and they continued to gaze after the
squire and his lady until the church corner
was turned, and they were out of sight.

*' I never see the match o' that lady for
beauty and handsomeness yet, Crump," Old
Todd said with the solemn air of a man who


makes a final statement and defies contra-
diction. '' And she's good, real good ; ' her
price is above rubies, the heart of her hus-
band doth safely trust in her' — that is about
what she is. And a mother of sorrows too,

Old Crump bent his head in respectful
acquiescence. " Do you reck'lect, Todd, the
first Sunday ever squire brought her to church,
when she fell asleep while the preaching was
going on, and the poor little motherless lass,
that is the young lady now, lying in her lap,
fell asleep too ? A picture it was, so loving
and pretty."

" If I reck'lect ? who doesn't that was there ?
My old woman at home never tires o' talking
of 'em. If Denys has given her a sore heart
sometimes since, it has been as my wife said —
she's had the love in her that's proved a
sov'ren heal-all. Ay, and it will last. She'll



do him good and not evil ail the days of his

" They have not taken the boy to Nave-
stock this morning. He is a noble boy yon,"
Crump said, indicating by a motion of the
head towards the Manor House that he
meant Hugh Oliver — young Denys.

'' An uncommon fine, strong boy — favours
both father and mother, but father most."

Todd replied. " And John and George was
fme lads too — very fond I was o' George," he
went on slowly, meditating as he talked. " It
vexes me to think that Denys should ha' used
their mother as he did — it was no marriage,
nayther here nor anywhere else, they say now.
We used to hear that the lady held herself
as good a wife as any man's wife i' Cote, and
being a stranger and a Catholic, we paid her
that respect, and said she ought to know best.
Only Widow Blythe was stubborn, and ordered


her boys not to touch their caps. She's gone,
poor soul, and Richard and Jack starting for
t'other side o' the world. We've seen changes,
Mr. Crump, you and me."

"We have so, William Todd — but we
was speaking of poor madam and the squire.
I cannot undertake to explain it," Crump
answered in an official tone, '' but that they
were married in the sight of God, I don't
presume to doubt ; for the squire said they was,
and no wedded pair could be more kind and
faithful. Still, he never pretended that the law
of God was the same as the law by Act of
Parliament, that makes a man's son heir to
his land."

" It is hard on lads to come into the world
without the law by Act o' Parliament, and by
this time they've felt it, though what Denys
could do to make amends, I believe he's done,"
Todd remarked.


*' You may be sure of it, William Todd.
The lady had a fortune of her own which
the squire never touched any more than if it
wasn't there ; and she made a will, sharinof it
amongst her children. I like to have such
things set on a plain footing ; and that's true,
for I was a witness, and heard it read. It was
short, but all that was needed — the lawyer took
care of that. The young gentlemen have had
their share, and when the young lady is
married she will not go empty-handed."

*' If I am rightly informed she'll carry Nave-
stock in her hand ? " Todd said with a shrewd
twinkle, and a pause, as waiting for a positive
assurance. He got instead a blunt denial.

*' No, that she won't — nor is it fit she
should, William Todd. Navestock has found
its master in a gentleman of the old, ancient
family — in Captain Meade, Guy Francis


" You need not mention his name — we know
his name, Mr. Crump ; it's no mystery," Todd
rejoined with a rather provoking coohiess.
" Tve had many a chat with the gentleman
out in my boat, and we hope that them who
binds and looses will consider the price enough
that's paid to buy off the curse."

Old Crump whitened about the mouth, and
stared into the distance without offering any
reply. Coming towards them under the
shadow of the houses was a tall man, with a
stick over his shoulder, and a blue bundle
slunor on it. Todd and the accent observed
him at the same instant.

"It is Richard Blythe ; poor fellow, his
heart's like lead for thinking of what's before
him, and well it may be," the boatman said.
" I'd walk with him a mile on his road, but it
is ten o'clock — time I was down on the shore
if I am to get a hiring to-day. This is about


the hour gentlemen mostly come along that
want boats."

Todd moved off, but Crump stood his
ground until Blythe came up with him. They
shook hands, and Crump inquired if he was
going to foot it all the way. He said no, only
as far as Marshleas, where he expected to meet
a friend who was a carrier, and would give him
a cast in his van to Beauminster.

" If you go by the van you will pass through
Navestock. The squire and the lady have
gone to Navestock this morning," the old
agent told him. " They will be there only an
hour or two before you."

'' I have had my last word with the squire,
and I am not sorry to have a last word with
you, Mr. Crump, though I've not been to your
house, sir." Crump looked hard at the
shepherd, and chaffered with his lips, but did
not speak. " I am going out of the country, as


you know, sir, and It is not likely we shall
ever meet again. I expect to find Jack at
Beauminster. We take the train at Plymouth
on Sunday night, and the ship sails on
Monday." Crump still gazed, and was silent.
" There's not much to say, sir, but only this —
if there's been a thorn in your pillow because
of what was put on you to do against us at the
Orchard, don't let it prick you longer. They're
all dead and gone but Jack and me; and like
grandmother, I'd fain say, before we go, that
we're friends with everybody. Jack bears
no malice, but he can't talk of what's past
yet, and don't care to see the place where
we was all happy together. So he's not

''Have you looked in at the Orchard this
visit, Richard ? " Crump now Inquired. '' I have
heard of your being here before, though we
have not happened to meet."


" I have looked in at the Orchard whenever
I've been over," Blythe answered. " They
have made quite a gentleman's place of it. I
suppose that is what it must have come to
if we'd been let stay on."

" Yes, Richard, that is what it must have
come to there. Five-and-twenty pounds the
acre the gentleman pays — his rent is a hun-
dred and fifty pounds a year. That's a sum
o' money. But it's a choice spot."

" I was glad to see they'd spared the fruit-
trees. The gardener asked me to take a walk
round. He is an intelligent man, and when he
heard where I'm bound, he began to speak o'
shrubs an' plants out there, and I'm to send
him home some seeds and berries that he is
curious about."

''And that will be a link, Richard," Crump
said almost cheerfully. " We shall have tid-
ings of a new Cote and a new Orchard, and a


new race of Blythes — Blythes are too good a
stock to be let die."

" My heart was burled in Mary's grave,
Mr. Crump. But Jack may marry, we'll hope.
And now I'll bid you good-bye, sir ; I must
be eoinof or the van mio^ht start and leave me
behind." And with a long grasp of the hand
they parted.

Old Crump's mind was relieved from a
certain anxiety by this interview, much as
Mr. Denys' mind had been relieved. It was
as if a thunder-cloud had rolled away without
a storm. Words had been said, and things
had been done, to keep alive a feeling of
hostility, and from time to time both the
squire and the agent had been reminded of
their former tyranny as if it were the present
manner of their rule. The poor old lameter
was glad of the late pardon. He turned to
hobble off on his business with his two sticks,


and traversed the Green Square in the blaz-
ing sun, a sort of fossihsed figure, often specu-
lated on and wondered at by the modern
generation. He came there every day — two
or three times in every day. There was no
place he liked so well from which to re-
view his work. He retained his embowered,
thatched cottage near the old church, and his
salary of forty pounds a year with which he had
been rich under the old order before it began
to chancre, and he retained also the name of
agent, but the toil of office was spared him.
His successor let him believe that he was
useful ; and he was so, indeed. He kept his
eye on the builders, that they adhered strictly
to the squire's rules, and he kept an eye on
the trees, and had lately planted four limes
on the high road at a spot where a sweet
shade was a boon that long survived him ;
and he eave advice to strangers on the culti-


vatlon and pruning of myrtles, which were so
common on cottage-walls at Cote that a news-
moneer from London writing; of his travels
had affronted everybody by describing them

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