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I. Wildwood Grange and its Master
II. Sylvan Holt's Daughter .

III. A Mat Morning

IV. The Postmistress at Beckford
V. Mrs. Joan Clervaux

VI. Taking Tea at Oakfield
VII. Margaret Holt and Martin Carew
VHI. Sylvan Holt's Mystery
IX. Old Wounds

X. A Start on a Journey
XI. A Morning Walk
XII. A Game at Croquet

XIII. At Deepgyll ....

XIV. At Oakfield

XV. Martin's last Week at Home .
XVI. Good-bye. ....

XVII. Fireside Stories .
XVIII. Sylvan Holt's Keturn
XIX. Lawyer Meddowes
XX. At the Grange
XXI. A Eevelation
XXII. Margaret seeks Advice
XXm. A sad Story ....


. . 1


















. 217

. 249

. 265

. 270

. 280

. 293

. 305




When the great Langland estates were dis-
membered early in the present century, Wild-
wood was bought by one Sylvan Holt. Upon
the farm there was a spacious house, very ruinous,
styled the Grange, which he repaired, and where
he took up his abode. Whoever built it originally
must have had a loving eye for the picturesque ;
nowhere in all Mirkdale could a finer site for
extent and beauty of prospect have been found.
Even in midwinter, when the snow lay a foot
deep upon the hills, and the hollows were drifted
full as frozen lakes : when the loud north wind
VOL. i. b


was at its mad Christmas gambols in the woods,
and the great pine branches bent and swayed
beneath their sparkling weight of winter fruitage,
it was beautiful !

It had the first glimpse of dawn in the yellow
east, and the last dim purple reflection of sunset
in the o-or^eoas west. When the luscious summer
lay panting and athirst in the bosom of the dale,
cool zephyrs, forgotten of the spring, revelled
there freely. AVhile the snow was still lying
under the black shadow of its patriarchal oaks
and cedars, outstanding sentinels of AVildwood,
the violets were opening amongst the moss in the
sunny south borders ; when the valley was filled
with a rolling tide of mist, it rose clear above
the dun haze ; and when storms were abroad, they
rioted grandly round the exposed and gusty scaur,
tossing the strong boughs that crowned it like
dishevelled, elfish locks.

Lower down in the dale were many sweet
sheltered nooks, where others might have chosen
to nestle their homes, but the isolation of this
lonely old eyrie, perched on the craggy edge of
the moor and remote from any public road, had


been its chief recommendation in the eyes of
Sylvan Holt. It presented to the valley a long,
irregular, dark grey front, weather-worn by the
storms of nearly three centuries, and ingrained with
variously tinted mosses and lichens. It was roofed
with heavy flagstones, which can alone withstand
the tempestuous blasts of this hill-country; and
under the eaves, and even in the porch itself, were
colonies of swallows' nests, to which the old birds
returned year after year. If any curious stranger
had rashly proposed to examine near at hand the
quaint, many-gabled house, he would most likely
have been warned off in some such terms as the
following : —

" Yo 'd better not ! t' master '11 set t' dogs on
yo' : he 'd threap doun auld Nick hisseP if he
cam i' his gate, wad yon Sylvan Holt ! " which
warning would have suggested a tolerably
correct epitome of the Squire's savage, misan-
thropic character, and also of the reputation in
which Mirkdale held him.

The horizon was girdled by hills upheaved in
long dusky billows against the sky ; heathery
swells, skirted by rugged little pasture fields,

B 2


sloped steeply to the beck, and the tangled glades
of Wildwood, from which much of the farm lands
had once been redeemed, stretched almost to the
walls of the Grange. There was no garden,
properly so called, but merely a pretty plain
place, unenclosed from the moor on the one hand,
and the woods on the other, but laid down with
turf which time had made as soft and mossy as
velvet; a few dwarfed fruit-trees grew on the
sunny side of the house, and below the parlour
windows there was a narrow border planted with
turfs of primrose, violet, and other flowers, which
Sylvan Holt's daughter Margaret had dug up
from the sheltered roots in the forest.




The said Margaret had come to the Grange
when but three years old, and since that date
she had been growing up as wild, and almost
as ignorant, as a colt in the heather. Sylvan
Holt regretted bitterly that she had not been
born a boy, and therefore did his utmost in
every way to remedy the mistake. He set his
face steadily against her learning any kind of
woman's work, from the plain sewing into which
Jacky, their sole female servant, would fain have
initiated her, to the accomplishments of music
and French, which Mrs. Joan Clervaux, down
at Oakfield, had compassionately volunteered to

Margaret had a fine natural intelligence, but
it was certainly in the rough. She could thread


the remotest tracks of the moor blindfold; was
in the 'secrets of the sheltered little hollows
where the heather bloomed first and faded last ;
she knew every shady glen and sunstreaked
glade in Wildwood; knew the nooks where
grew the greatest profusion of flowers ; knew
when the various trees opened and shed their
leaves; in what month the note of every bird
that visited Mirkdale was to be heard, and what
places each delighted to haunt. She was also
conversant with Jacky's north -country songs,
legends, and traditions — for Jacky adhered to
what she was pleased to style " t' auld faith,"
and was rich in such romantic lore; add to
this that she could read — and loved readino*
when the volume suited her — that she could
write and spell tolerably, could sing in a sweet
untaught fashion, back any horse in her father's
stables, and make his flies when he fished up
Blackbeck, and the list of her accomplishments
is complete.

Let her not, however, be rashly prejudged a
hoyden : for nature seemed to have intended
her originally for one of the better end of


womankind. She was now a fine, well-grown
girl of seventeen: strong and hardy from her
free out-door life, but naturally graceful in
person ; and with a face whose pure, soft, healthy
blush was beauty-proof against the harsh moun-
tain winds. She was never loud - voiced or
boisterous : indeed, unless there was something
remarkable to excite animation, her manners
were rather indolently calm than otherwise.

Profoundly as Sylvan Holt was disappointed
in her sex, she was truly the delight of his
eyes : he thought there was nothing in the
world to compare with her. Though savagely
sarcastic and even brutal to people in general,
to her he was always loving, tender, and con-
siderate. He had sustained one cruel, terrible
wrong in life which had turned his blood to
gall; but she kept a sentient, wholesome spot
of humanity warm in his heart's core. It was
odd to hear him come in from rating Anty in
the fold-yard or Jacky in the kitchen, and then
to see him fondle Margaret; calling her Ins
cooing ringdove, his bonnie skylark, his wild,
unbroken filly. He would have her out with


him to follow the fox-hounds and harriers, to
tramp at his side when he went grouse-shooting
on the moors or visited the wilde-lying sheep-
walks of his farm; he made her, indeed, as
companionable as he could have done had she
been really a son instead of a daughter; and
Margaret returned his absorbed, one-idead love
with a canine fidelity of attachment that could
see no fault in its object. His stormy brows,
his harsh angry voice, had never inspired her
with dread: for her slightest glance, even the
ring of her foot upon the floor, hushed his
most unreasonable moods ; and she clung to
him with a yearning and passionate fondness
like that which in after years, ever and always,
made her heart warm to the remembrance of her
home at Wildwood.

There was a vein of idle contemplativeness
in Margaret's character which made it rather
a complex one to understand. With a Leghorn
hat covering her wealth of short brown curls,
a plaid over her shoulders, and her favourite
dog, Oscar — a magnificent brindled staghound
as tall as a donkey — close at her heels, she would


ramble about the moor or Wildwood from morn-
ing till night : sitting; down to rest and bask in
the sun when weary, and returning home at
twilight luxuriously contented with the manner
in which she had spent her day. She was a
very innocent, guileless, happy creature. Yet
Mrs. Joan Clervaux waved her head dolorously
over her feminine shortcomings, and read her
many a serious lecture on the duty of employ-
ing her time more judiciously ; but hitherto
this duty had not come home to Margaret :
she liked her life very well as she found it,
and was much more intent on enjoying than
improving it.




That year Mirkdale did not put off its winter
weeds till May was come. Eerie and mournful
winds went wandering up and down the naked
fells ; in lonely hollows, in dim pine woods, on
pale blanched Christmas peaks the March sprites
lingered still : their voices thrilled keen and
bitter through the winter nights, and breathed a
chill monotony over the long and sunless days.
A shroud of grey sky lay close on the hill tops,
a sullen vapour wavered below. Blackbeck,
swollen by the rains and melting snows in the
loftier regions where it had its source, rushed and
eddied over its pebbly bed with frantic foaming
violence ; the ford by which Margaret was used
to cross to church was become a turbid impass-
able torrent, and the wooden footbridge a mile


below had been swept away. The steeps of
Litton Fell and Fernbro' showed brown and
bare through clouding mists, and the low-lying
fields in the bottom of the dale wore a uniform
tint of dull and lifeless green. The long torpor
of a dreadful winter hung lethargic on the
paralyzed limbs of nature : her sleep was heavy
as the sleep of Death, — her waking seemed still
afar off.

Day by day, Margaret had persevered in her
rambles, though the tracks across the moor were
almost morass, and the wood-walks dripped damp
from every bough. One after another she had
seen the flowers peep shyly up from last
year's fallen leaves and perish, rain-beaten and
crushed. Her heart thirsted for the genial spring :
she wanted to see the sunshine and swift shadows
flitting in their noiseless chase over the dark
hills, the russet moors, the pleasant meadows;
to see the larches hang forth their brilliant
emerald tassels, and to feel the perfumed breath
of flowers on a more kindly and balmy air.

As if in gracious answer to her longing, spring
came in shining raiment up to "Wildwood on her


birthday. Jacky woke her with the news. " Eh,
Marg'ret ! " cried she, " Fernbro 's pulled off his
night-cap at last, and here 's old Mrs. Joan
Clervaux 's sent to bid you down to her house
this afternoon to drink tea. Shall I say yo '11 go ?
T' lad 's waiting."

" Stop, Jacky, where is my father?"

" He was awa' to Middlemoor market afore six

"Then send word that I will go. Open the
window, Jacky — what a glorious, glorious sun-
shine ! "

Jacky set the lattice wide, and put out her
hand to feel the air : " All 's fair laughing an
singing for joy like t' little hills i' t' scripture,'
said she : " hark to t' birds, Marg'ret, an to t' beck
brattling ower t' stones — that 's the clapping o'
hands : I 'd be fain to be young an' get a holiday
mysel' ; but I ha' to wesh, an' to bake, an' what

" Let the baking and washing alone, Jacky,
and ask Anty's wife up to dinner for company."

" An' what '11 master say to sic' like daft
doings? Me an' Anty's wife is doddered auld


"bodies 'ut can't bide his threaping: lie put me
in a bonnie quandary this morning afore he
started ; I ain't gotten ower it yet."
" What was he angry about, Jacky ? "
" About nought in particular 'ut I can speak
on. He 'd turn 'led oat o' t' wrang side o' his bed
as he oft does, an' was as cross as Nick's hat-
band. It 's a gude thing for some o' us his bark's
waur nor his bite." And grinning ruefully, Jacky
went away with Margaret's message.

Then Margaret got up. Her toilette was
quick and simple ; it began with a complete
drench of stinging cold water, which made her
firm, smooth, glossy skin glow and tingle, and
it ended in the donning of a maize-coloured
china silk dress prettily embroidered, that had
been a present from Mrs. Joan Clervaux a
few months before. As she opened her door
to go down-stairs, Oscar, who had been lying
in wait for her on the mat, jumped up with
his customary boisterous caresses, and then stalked
off before her into the porch, as if inviting her
to come out and taste the delicious May morning
in all its dewy freshness. She followed, and


stayed long gazing up and down the dale, with
that delicious, indefinable exhilaration throbbing
at her heart which is, perhaps, youth's greatest
riches. She felt obliged to give it expression,
and said aloud to the staghouncl, who was grate-
fully snuffing up the warm air, as if he too
enjoyed the change cf weather —

"I feel all glorious, Oscar! don't you?" to
which he responded in dog fashion, with a
short bark and a heavy flourish of his great

So different was the aspect of the valley since
nature had lifted up her dejected brow, and her
veil of fogs and sleety rains was rent away,
that it appeared to be the magical work of genii
of enchantment, who had done their spiriting
in the dead of night, while all the world slept.
The opposite hills seemed to have approached
nearer ; the undulations, and various growths
and tintings of their surface were quite distinct;
along their ridge firwoods ; sloping westward
to Fernbro', vast tracts of heath and whins ;
below, fields green as emerald, with here and
there a patch of dark brown cornland, where


the blade was scarce yet above tlie ground.
Columns of smoke drifted and eddied skywards
from the lime-kilns amongst the hills, and waver-
ing, vaporous clouds, scattered apart, and hanging
in mid air, marked where were clustered many
household fires — cares of man dimming God's
morning. Near at hand to admire was the rich,
soft, velvety darkness of the branching cedars
and firs ; the yellow-coloured young oak-leaves,
and bits of blossomed blackthorn in the ragged
hedges that divided the small pastures ; and, for
music, the chorus of all the feathered tribes in
Mirkdale, the never-weary voice of the beck, the
stealthy whisper of the trees one to another, and
the plaintive flute-like tones of the wind, steal-
ing from hollow to hollow, and from peak to
peak, with the last farewells of winter.

Margaret lingered in the porch so long that
at length Jacky came, rather impatiently, to
summon her in to breakfast, which, for the first
time that year, was laid in what was called the
summer parlour at Wildwood Grange. It was
a spacious but low ceiled room, with two wide
windows almost to the ground, and light green

stained walls covered with prints after Raffaele's
cartoons — prints which had been Margaret's
lesson - books lone; before she was induced to
learn to read. It did not contain any great
luxury of furniture — Sylvan Holt could not abide
extravagance ; there was an oval walnut-wood
table polished like a mirror, a bureau of curious
carved workmanship, a book-case filled with old
books, several high straight-backed chairs that
were never moved from their places, an ancient
settee stationary beside the window nearest the
fireplace, and two special chairs — one cumbrous,
black leather -covered, and ungainly, the other
a low beehive chair — which migrated between
the summer and winter parlours, just as did
Sylvan Holt and his daughter. Margaret also
had a basket of flowering plants which were
her own peculiar care and property, and the
only other ornamental articles in the room were
some tall jars and vases of the grotesque dragon
china, which had been bought in a lot with the
other furniture, and a richly inlaid Indian work-
box that she had received from Mrs. Joan
Clervaux as a bribe to learn needlework — a bribe


which had failed of its intent; as all bribes deserve
to do.

As the arrangements of Margaret's days
depended solely on her own pleasure they were
never very complicated. After breakfast she
always first fed the tame birds that were ac-
customed to visit the window; next she read
her chapter in the Bible — a duty to which her
father himself had trained her, on the principle
that it is an excellent thing for a woman to be
pious ; then she made belief at housekeeping
with Jacky in the kitchen for a little while, and,
if Sylvan Holt was at home, she afterwards
read aloud to him for an hour out of a book
of history. They always omitted this intellectual
exercise if an eligible excuse offered, but if not
they went through with it punctually, as a duty
they owed to the mild remonstrances of Mrs.
Joan Clervaux. On this particular morning both
the housekeeping and the history were neglected,
and as soon as the chapter was ended Margaret
donned her straw hat and plaid, and started off
with Oscar — both of them as eager as they could
be for a ramble in the almost forgotten luxury

vol. i. G


of a sunshiny morning. They were aiming direct
for the moor when Jacky saw them from the
kitchen window, and elevating her shrill voice
arrested their further progress.

" I 've getten an arrand for you, Marg'ret,
to keep you fra' draggling your clean frock
amang t'wet ling," cried she, having a careful
thought for the afternoon's visit. " Anty ha'nt
had leesure to go down to Beckford sin' Sunday,
an' he '11 no' ha' time to-day : will you go
an' ask Tibbie Ryder for t ' master's letters ? "

Margaret hesitated for a moment, looking rue-
fully at Oscar ; then saying, " Yery well, Jacky,"
turned off in a contrary direction down the fields.
The foot-path ran along under a hedgerow
where the white May buds were just beginning
to peep amongst the green, and beyond which
lay a considerable tract of forest-land that had
been thinned but never brought into cultivation,
and where the low shrubs and gorse, that had
since grown up very thickly, afforded a good
cover for game. Margaret loitered by the way,
gathering a posy of wild flowers — speedwell,
forget-me-not, primrose, clog-violet, and wood-


anemone — which had a peculiar and dainty delight
for her, as being the first she had culled that
year. Oscar ranged over the fields, meantime,
in a state of most glorious excitement : he had
espied a young leveret, and when only in Mar-
garet's company he considered himself free to
give chase to whatever quarry appeared in view.
His temptations became stronger still when on
reaching Wildfoot — a lovely knoll where Black-
beck made a sudden curve — the path diverged
into the wood itself. His mistress led him by
the ear part of the way, whether he would or no,
but he slily took advantage of a careless moment
when she was looking up and trying, deftly
enough, to imitate the whistling of a blackbird on
a branch overhead, to break away from her and
carry dismay into the bosoms of several promising
families of young pheasants. It was through
a narrow glade of nearly a quarter of a mile
in length, between closely planted fir-trees, that
the pathway ran, and here and there shone about
their roots clusters of pale primroses as stars shine
through a dark night. The mould was soft as a
carpet, being composed of ages of fallen verdure,

c 2


which gave out a pungent scent as the foot pressed
it — a scent that always pervaded Margaret's
after- dreams of home. This glade issued into
Beckford Lane, nearly opposite Greatorex Mills,
below which was Horsebrigg. Scarcely fifty
yards beyond was Oiikfield, and about half-a-mile
further on was the village of Beckford itself,
almost hidden in the scoop of a hill.




Tee Post-office at Beckford was kept by a little
shrivelled old woman named Tibbie Ryder, who
had the reputation of being a wise woman,
cunning in foreseeing future events, in confound-
ing the wicked devices of ill-disposed persons, in
discovering lost or stolen articles, and in curing
bewitched horses, cattle or individuals. Some
persons accused her of being herself the witch
who first worked the malicious spells and then
demanded money for taking them off those upon
whom they had been laid. Nobody, it was said,
had ever incurred Tibbie Ryder's animosity
without paying for it very dearly. To be evil-
wished by her was sure to be followed by family
misfortunes, by destruction of property, and in


extreme cases, by bodily disease of a lingering cha-
racter, and even by death itself: lucky was it for
Tibbie that the terrible days of fire and faggot were
past, or she and her fine grey cat would assuredly
have made a lowe on Beckford-common, such
as there was many a one lighted in England in
the much lamented good old times !

The mischief she wrought as a witch was
formidable enough in keeping alive ignorance
and despicable fear, but Tibbie had yet other
tools in her possession from which, in part, arose
her evil reputation. She knew all the private
skeletons and public scandals in Mirkdale, for
her opportunities had been great and her industry
untiring. Many was the wafer that had yielded
to the warm, tender blandishments of her tea-kettle
spout ; many the seal that had betrayed its trust
under the poignant torture of her red-hot needle.
She knew, as well as did Sylvan Holt himself,
the miserable ghastly history of his early life;
she was cognizant of Mrs. Joan Clervaux's youth-
ful romance ; she was quite well aware of the
petty envies, jealousies, hatreds, malices, and
uncharitablenesses that animated the correspond-


ence of some of tlie most demure and respectable
people : and one or two of the very best folk in
Mirkdale had pleaded guilty of debt and diffi-
culties at the secret tribunal of this inexorably
inquisitive old woman.

When Margaret appeared at her gar den gate,
Tibbie was engaged hi the study of Sylvan Holt's
London paper, the cover of which had con-
veniently come off in her hand. So profoundly
was she absorbed in the details of a horrible
murder that she did not hear the light foot
approaching until a shadow fell across the floor
and Margaret stood in the doorway asking : (i are
there any letters for our house, Tibbie ? "

Tibbie started guiltily :

u Wha' is it?" said she, lifting her hand to her
spectacles and pretending not to see ; " Wha'
is it ? I suld know that voice. Eh ! it 's
Margaret Holt ! Letters, honey ! yes, there's
ane's been here sin' Monday: a letter fra'
furren parts fra' t' look on it : " and skilfully
holding the newspaper so that her gown skirt hid
all but one treacherous corner that would stick
out beyond, she tottered into the adjoining


room which served as post-office, parlour, and
bedroom all in one, brought tbe document from a
drawer in an old press and banded it to Margaret,
who turned it over and examined it narrowly
about tbe seal. It looked very suspicious : there
was a trace of burning on the edge of the paper
where it had been closed, and the impression was

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