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

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carrying his gun. He was alone. He sang
out, covered me, and fired on the instant.
I swerved or he would have shot me dead —
he was a capital shot always. You will find
his gun lying in the bracken. He threw it
down, and ran away when I dropped. He


laughed and hollaed as he ran — he's mad,
quite mad, you know, but cunning as they
all are, and he had meant it lono^. I did not
go in fear — what would have been the use ?
I knew he would have me some day. I lay
quiet a bit, and then dragged myself along
by the bushes here, and they brought me

It had been a supreme effort of resolution,
but Mr. Denys had remembered Delia, and
that nerved him. He had left her at Nave-
stock rectory with her mother and cousin
after they had taken luncheon, intending to
go up to New Place, and had afterwards
changed his mind, and started to walk to
Mr. Gooden's farm in the contrary direction.
He reflected that when he failed to return
she would not know his whereabouts, to have
him sought for, and her distress would be
cruel : so, wounded to death, he had trailed


painfully to this poor shelter, and had sent
for her to come. This he explained in answer
to questions, then heard his account read, and
set his name to it. That done, he seemed to
sink into deeper exhaustion, but continued to
gaze at the powerful, tall figure that stood
aloof in the dim candle-light, gazing fixedly
upon him.

Presently, at a sound outside, Mr. Denys
asked again, " Is that Hughie ?" and said that
he thought he might lie a little easier if his
position were altered. It was Jack Blythe who
raised him. Soon after he erew restless, and
beo^an to wander. ''Is Claro-es there ? Old
friend, I should like to hear your voice." Mr.
Meade stooped down, and said something at
his ear. He seemed to listen, but not to be
satisfied. He sighed heavily. Delia was
kneeling by the bed, stifling her sobs. " If I
say a prayer, can you hear me, Hugh ; can you


follow i7iy voice?" she whispered. A moment-
ary quiver passed over his face, and he said
distinctly : " Surely I can." Here Mr. Swift
came in, looked on him, and stood back out
of sight.

It was still early in the night when Knapp
and Mrs. Brlce arrived. They both entered
the room, the woman clasping her hands, awed,
stealthy-footed, fearful, but Knapp with his
alert, quick manner of obedience, as if he had
just heard his master call.

The familiar sound penetrated Mr. Denys'
dulled senses, and he moved his head. " Is
that you, Knapp?" he asked.

" Yes, sir. We made haste. I knew
you would want me, being in trouble, and
Mrs. Brlce too," Knapp answered with

" You have been crood servants. How lonor

o o

have you known me, Knapp ?"

''here we part company." 187

"From a boy, sir — from a boy just such
another as your own."

" You have known the best and the worst
of me, then."

" Yes, sir. Your mother was aHve at that
time — old madam at Acklam. She was very
lame before she died, sir."

" She missed my strong arm to lean on — I
recollect she said so. My dear wife will miss
it too. Hughie, be a better man than your
father was, and take care of your mother."
But Hughie was not there.


" Lay me straight in the bed, Knap.p. Here
we part company — we are sinners all, Clarges
— God ha' mercy on us, an' good-night."

It was peep of day when young Denys
arrived, and found his father dead. He
insisted upon seeing him, there and then, and
was not to be dissuaded. Knapp carried the


light, and Mr. Swift folded back the sheet from
the face.

''Was this my father.^" the boy said, and
stood starine bewildered on the massive fio-ure
all decently composed, and the visage as if
carven in stone. There was no expression
of pain, and the stillness w^as more profound
than the stillness of the deepest sleep. Tears
blurred his vision, and with a passionate cry
he said, stooping a little, and taking one of
the cold hands : " Papa, do you hear me ?
all that I promised you I will do." '' But there
was no voice, nor any that answered."

After a while he asked for his mother, and
was told that they had taken her away to the
rectory at Navestock, on which he said that he
would stay t/ie7'e, with his father ; and Knapp,
knowing that his young master, like his old
one who was gone, had some peculiar notions
of oroodness and kindness to his own, would not


have him reasoned with, but made him eat and
rest under the same roof : and eat and rest he
did, with the appetite and healthful weariness
of youth, that eats and sleeps in spite of

He was not waking yet in the middle of the
morning when Mr. Orme came, but he was
roused when Mr. Daventry and others arrived,
and sent out of the way of the grim form.alities
that follow on a violent death.

Delia had her mother to comfort her, but
her heart yearned at her son's voice. " You
have seen your father, Hughie ? " she asked,
and kissed him.

" Yes, mother. And I have told him that
all I promised before I will do."

And then they sat and talked together — the
two in the world nearest to one another now.

( I90 )


" One event happeneth to all men."

The day that Mr Denys was buried will be
long remembered in Cote.

''He said he should be back within the week,
and here he comes/' Mr. Essex-Brough mut-
tered. " ' As the Lord liveth, there is but a
step between any of us and death,' he said ;
and this was what he meant, Chattie."

Mr. Essex - Brouofh had caused himself to
be brought from the Glen House, which was
off the main road, to the old, original library
and bazaar, and helped upstairs to the pretty
quaint parlour over the shop, to see the last of


his friend. Only his wife was with him, and
she had locked the door.

" Cry, Chattie, cry, if it's a relief and comfort
to you. I always knew you loved him, and no
harm to me," he said with cynical coolness.

It was in the pride of the morning. The
dew was on the grass still. The little jangling
bell at the old church had becfun tollino- at a
signal that the procession was in sight. The
squire was carried in an open waggon, har-
nessed with four splendid draught-horses, in
gala trappings — this by his son's first act of
authority, in deference to a whim that he had
once lightly expressed : " If I die from home —
at Navestock, say — too far to carry me on
men's shoulders, carry me in Gooden's waggon,
with his four black horses ; " and so he was
carried, travelling through the night.

All the way up the church road was lined
with people — Cote people, and strangers from


far and near — who closed in behind the pro-
cession, and crowded the churchyard. A
space round the graves below the chancel
window had been fenced in, that the curious
might not press too close : there were two
graves open, one a little way off, and across
the foot of the other, by which stood already
the coffin that was to be placed in it. It was
the coffin of Old Crump. Some who had
often wished him in heaven eyed it with a
touch of compunction. The poor lameter, with
no friend but his master, had never looked up
since his death, but had died of that blow.

There were no women amongst the mourners.
The squire's three sons were there, and other
squires and gentlemen many. Those in the
throng who did not know imagined him to
have been a neighbour widely beloved and

Perhaps he was, latterly. They said nothing


but good of him when he was dead, and there

were plentiful tears when the rector preached

his sermon the next Sunday. The church was

full of folks from all round the peninsula.

This Is a part of what they listened to :

'* Most of you who are here present knew

the two men whom last week we laid In the

narrow house appointed for all living. I am

not here to make their panegyric or their

apology. ' We are sinners all — God have

mercy on us,' with his last breath one of these

two confessed and prayed. So may we confess

and pray — every one, every one. We are

sinners all — God have mercy on us.

" Brethren, there Is no life without its misery:

thankless labour, joyless care, the secret sense

of guilt ; but give us patience, hope, contrition,

and our hearts are Infused with strength to

endure, to look up, to do better. We deceive

ourselves, we deceive our neighbour, but God


is not deceived. We misjudge ourselves, we
misjudge our neighbour, but God rewards
every man according to his work — his work.
When we take our wages, then we know what
God calls our work, and pay-day comes over
and over again for us, even in this life. Say
you covet money, and make haste to be rich ;
buying and selling — no matter what, be it land,
be it goods — forestalling the market, wearying
yourselves early and late, letting nothing pass
you, in hopes to rest and be satisfied pre-
sently ; but just when you look to enter on a
settled prosperity custom forsakes you — you
are found out, pay-day has come : overreach-
ing and fraud have been your work, not honest
trading. Say you are greedy of power, and
push into an office of authority by sheer force
of interest, not possessing the wisdom and
judicial mind indispensable to the fulfilment
of its duties ; you have got where you wanted


to be, and sit fast, executing your office with
an air of fitness, punishing punctually evil-
doers in a small way, letting a great rogue go
here and there if well befriended, and sending
to prison by mischance an innocent person or
two ; and then pay-day falls due, and your
washes are not honour, but derision and con-
tempt, and a downfall. Or say that you are
a minister of the Gospel, and you love ease
and that men should speak well of you — that
you are kindly affectioned, and would choose
rather the way of peace that condones an evil
than the way of God's appointing that resists
it : you become then a partaker in the evil,
and it is recorded against you ; you have not
been found faithful, and one day your wages
of unfaithfulness are paid you : ' I am in
trouble — come at another time — you have no
message for me now,' whispers a voice in


PI ere the old clergyman covered his eyes for
a minute. Then he resumed : *' My brethren,
I preach to myself as well as to you. Let
us look more boldly to the life of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Let us behold the Man, and
endeavour henceforth to follow more closely
the example of His self-renunciation, His cour-
age, and His great humility. We have all
some law in our members warrinor aQ^ainst the
law of our mind, and have need every day to
ask for grace to withstand its temptation and
discouragement. Seven times tradition says
that Christ fell under His cross on the way to
Calvary, and the outside voices jeered him —
' Go on, go on.' There is no more compassion
for the overweio^hted and weak amono^st our-
selves. They fall, and we cast a stone at
them. But an invisible hand helps them, per-
haps, to rise upon their feet, leads them to
pleasant places, spares them a little before they


go hence, and are no more seen — be sure then
there was a cry : ' Lord, save us, we perish ! '
We will not return upon the lives of the two
men whose deaths are fresh in our remem-
brance — the one was but the servant and
shadow of the other. You know as well as
myself what packs they carried, how they
stumbled and fell, and what scant measure of
compassion they got — of htmian compassion.
The Divine compassion was more long-suffer-
ing, and left them a place of repentance.
What ill they did was not covered. What
they did after that was right, wise, and useful,
your children's children may thank God for,
who does not quench the smoking flax beneath
which the faintest spark of aspiration towards
His law still smoulders."



( 20I )



" My sun has set, I dwell

In darkness."

Christina Rosseti.

Most people's lives are divided into three
chief periods. Each has its opening of rapid
incidents, its long tract of monotony, and its
close, which arrives always with the seeming
abruptness of a great change or a great loss.
Mrs. Denys' life was no exception to the
rule. From her birth to her courtship were
twenty years of warm home-love and peace.
Then ensued her marriage with Mr. Denys
of Cote, that seemed of such dark omen,
but came out into the clear at last, and was


happy enough to thank God for when death
cruelly cut it short. Then it was as if a
curtain had been drawn between her and the
world for evermore. If Mr. Denys had died
in his bed, there might have been silence, but
the public inquiry into his killing disinterred
forgotten orHefs and sins, and the carrion crows
of journalism held their inquisition week by
week upon them, re-telling the old stories and
moralisincr anew over the old scandals like
the chorus of a Greek tragedy. But it was
a deliverance from worse when a jury decided
that his killinor was not murder.

There seems more to be said of the evil
that men do than of the good, but at Cote the
good that Mr. Denys had done was seen, and
there they gave him his pennyworth of praise.
At Navestock too — but the good there was but
an act of restitution, incomplete yet, and not
perfectly understood. Nevertheless it was


noted that the curse which had dogged the
Denyses of Cote since Navestock was wrong-
fully gotten had ceased ; and some inquirer,
more diligent than the majority, pretended to
the discovery of a rhymed prophecy that
thus and thus it should cease, and the couplet
became current, after the event, as a chime
Ralph Denys had sung in his mad moments.
From this it was an easy speculation for the
wonder-wise that the prophecy had been the
leading agent of its own fulfilment. The ways
of God are past finding out, but what was
certainly authentic was, that Mr. Denys of
Cote was dead, and had left a son to sit in
his seat — a thing that had not happened to
any Denys of Cote for seven generations.

Mrs. Denys' widowhood began in a deep
and settled s^loom. She returned to the Manor
House with her boy alone, refusing other
society. She had a mind to shut out the noise


and rumours of the time, but somehow she
could not. If she did not hear, she dreaded
worse than was said, and she could be told
nothinof that she had not known Ion or before.
It was like that trial of the dead they held in
ancient Egypt — the truth without gloss — be-
fore decreeinof a man's funeral. She would
fain have had Hughie grow up in the belief
that his father was a good man, high in good
men's esteem, but he was too old to be cheated
of what the Newsboy made common fame.
One day he asked her not to send him back
to school, but to let him return to the instruc-
tions of Mr. Orme. She consented. Both of
them clung yet to the covert of their mourn-
ing, and they were the best companions for
one another.

Marie- Irene was in her convent, John was
in London, George had finally returned to


Lady Herrlck and Cousin Elizabeth Paul
were the only neighbours to whom the doors
of the Manor House were opened for several
months. Cousin Elizabeth Paul was full of
sorrow, pity, and ruth for her friend, Hugh
Denys, even as Delia herself was. " They
none of them knew him but us," she said.
And Lady Herrick was sensible, encouraging,
strengthening. '' You cannot hold up your
head yet, I know, but look at my Jenny."
Jenny was a two years' widow, and time had
worked the miracle of consolation on her
that Delia could not anticipate. ''Your pain
is worse, is stranger than hers, but you have
a joy the more^you have a son. Let him
carry your thoughts on. Look forward." On
another occasion she bade her dare also to
look back : '' As far back as when you lost
Willie." And, indeed, those last six years
of Mr. Denys' life would have been a quiet


resting-place for his wife's thoughts but for
the defilement of his grave by the ghoulish
purveyors of sensational paragraphs.

It is in the nature of things that grief should
tire, come it from sorrow, or from sorrow and
shame mingled. An immense sympathy waited
on Mrs. Denys, a sympathy as wide as the
love that she had deserved, but for the present
she would none of it. Her heart was out of
tune with tenderness, and burninor with indior-
nation. Give her time.

Her tall fio^ure had been one of the most
familiar in the neighbourhood from the activity
of her habits, and she was not long missing
from her favourite walks. Labourers going
to their work early in the morning met her
in field and lane, wearino^ a lonof black cloak
and vast slouched straw-hat. She commonly
carried upon her arm a capacious basket. If
she walked through the plantations she would


fill it with fir-cones, chips of wood, and fallen
sticks, and would disencumber herself of the
collection now at one poor cottage, and now
at another. Sometimes the basket disQ^oro-ed
food — broken bread and meat where children
abounded, or, where there was sickness, a
chicken, a young rabbit, a parcel of tea, of
groats, or a bundle of clothing. The lady
walked at a great pace always, and it was no
unusual thing for her to travel twice and thrice
a day that autumn between the Manor House
and any house of the village where there was
need. In the outskirts she spoke to every
poor body she met. If they were strangers,
she asked their names, occupations, whence
they were coming and whither going. If they
were Cote people, she inquired about their
families and general concerns, which she held
under regular and firm investigation, occasion-
ally administering help to the unemployed in


the shape of a distasteful task to be undertaken
and finished out of hand, if she suspected that
the reason of their standing idle was a love
of idleness. Few things escaped her, or hap-
pened without her knowledge in the place.
She was called by some too inquisitive and
domineerinof. There was a mixed, necessi-
tous proportion amongst the inhabitants now —
women for whom she executed a charity as if
the need of it were a crime, and men whom she
admonished with the severity of a magistrate.
The only creatures never afraid of her were
little children. She did not lecture them^ as
growing boys and girls gave her often oppor-
tunity to do. If she passed them with a quick,
silent nod, they would stand at gaze with awful
admiration ; but if she addressed them they
would sidle up, and suffer themselves to be
catechised without alarm. Her ordinary man-
ner had a touch of irritability now, and her


beautiful countenance a shadow of sternness,
but there were times when she would listen
to a tedious sad story with softened eyes and
a warmth of kindness that effaced a multitude
of hasty, petulant words. It became a current
plea for her that, poor lady, she had awful
thoughts to carry about with her — God help
her — and did not always know in what high
gusts of temper she spoke.

That her husband had died as he did was
not, however, the haunting horror to Mrs.
Denys' imagination that her neighbours sup-
posed. He had never in his lifetime had to
suffer pain, and had said often that to be a
long while a-dying would not suit him. Also
she had hope in his death. She had learnt
to pray once, and women do not quit that
good practice who have any true vision of
the world before them. Her burden was
silence. Other widows might praise their



husbands, but she must sit dumb. Mrs.
Consett loved to refer her boys to their father
as a soldier who had done his duty, and died
with honour on the held of battle. Mrs. Wilton
comforted herself with the recollection that her
dear Charlie had been able to accomplish some
good work, ill and suffering as his life was.
But if she spoke of his father to Hughie it
was with bated breath, with tears in her eyes,
and a feeling of deprecation, for Hughie
always blushed. So it came to pass that they
seldom spoke of him at all. Oh, pride in the
deadi s a great solace, as pride in the living is
a great joy, and it seemed that she must never
expect to have it.

While Mr. Denys was alive he had given
his wife many useful lessons in the conduct
of affairs, and he had left her sole guardian of
their son and executrix of his will. In the
midst, in the heaviest of her trouble, she had


always enough to do, of actual business that
had to be done, to occupy a considerable part
of every day. Power came to her with inde-
pendent authority, but the sense of responsi-
bility imposed a check on her self-conhdence,
and educated her into a sweet reasonableness,
than which there could be no more persuasive
influence with her boy, and no better instru-
ment of feminine rule. She had Mr. Quorn
to advise her of immediate duties, and with
a prompt and vigorous hand she cut down the
establishment at the Manor House, abolishing
every form of expenditure that was become
unnecessary or that belonged to mere display.
Mr. Denys' hunters were sent to market with
Mr. Essex- Brough's ; the mail-phaeton and its
spanking pair were never brought back to
Cote ; and several servants, both indoors and
out, left with a year's wages to seek other
homes. Knapp retired on a pension that his


master had given him, and Mrs. Brice went
away to Acklam, which was her native country,
making room for Phoebe — her mistress' own
woman always, but henceforward to be her
housekeeper also. Mrs. Denys had no feeling
of personal sacrifice in anything she did, and
Mr. Ouorn gave her credit for great judg-
ment and resolution. Her household was still
liberally planned, and Hugh Oliver had every
induleence that it was desirable he should have
as future master and owner of all.

But the changed place it was when all was
re-arranged — the dull, quiet place it was,
emptied of the chief figure, and every familiar
sign and token of the lost presence put out
of sio^ht.

Inevitably there were days when the time
was very long. When the leaves fell and the
robins began to sing, Mrs. Denys went every
morning to the old nursery again, and (ed


Willie's birds, and stood a minute or two be-
fore his trophy of arms hanging always above
the mantel-piece — she seemed to make a re-
liofious observance of former usasfes. Phoebe
came to her there, and took her orders, and
perhaps they talked a little. After that the
mistress would, as a rule, retire to the room
that had been her husband's for the transaction
of business, and remain shut up there until
Huo^hie returned at twelve o'clock from his
lessons with Mr. Orme, when they made to-
gether a survey of things round the house out-
of-doors, such as need the owner's eye to keep
them in o^ood order. From the be2:inninQr Mrs.
Denys took her son into her confidence, and en-
deavoured to interest him in the duties of their
condition ; and if Hughie found them tedious
sometimes, or interfering with his liberty, he
was careful not to betray it. His mother felt
a daily growing benefit and pleasure in his


company — he drew her out of herself. But
a Httle thing happened presently that caused
Mr. Orme to say that the lad would be better
at school.

"He shall go then, after Christmas," his
mother answered, not considering herself.

But after Christmas, when Hughie was
actually gone, she felt herself alone Indeed.
Thereupon Marie-Irene proposed to leave her
convent and come to her. She came with
her bright young face and sweet singing to
make sunshine In the shady place, attracting
about the Manor House other young people
— Mrs. Consett's girls, and especially Kitty,
to whom Mrs. Denys affectionately took on
having it called to her remembrance that her
husband had been partial to Kitty, who was
also Hugh Oliver's favourite of the family.

Marie- Irene was not for weeping overmuch.
One afternoon towards dusk, in the boudoir,


looklne out of the window, she said : " This
is about the time papa used to come back from
his hunting. I wish we could see his old scar-

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