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The Wortlebank diary : and some old stories from Kathie Brande's portfolio (Volume 1) online

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farther end that they were right in thinking the
door was ajar. Adie, trembling in every nerve,
clung fast to Martha, and relaxed her haste ; she
feared she scarce knew what.

There was a dead breathless silence within.
They stood a moment and listened. No sound
•except the draught of the fire and the howling
wind in the bishop's gardens. They went in,
Martha the first. Nicholas lay prostrate across
the hearth, his face downwards, one arm out-
stretched. A dark slender stream had trickled
down the slope of the floor almost to where their
feet had been arrested by the sight. Adie stood
petrified with horror; Martha advanced, anfl
stooped down over the old man. He was dead —


murdered ; a small hole in the left temple betrayed

They heard steps below in the court; Adie-
rushed frantically to the door, and drawing back
the bolts, called to two men who were there to=
come up in haste. The tale spread, and in a few
minutes, as it seemed, Mrs. Parkes and Job were*
there, and Mr. St. Barbe, and many others, all
talking in awed whispers, which rose at times to a
hoarse scream. Adie watched helplessly, and
listened, and turned her dusk, clouded, distraught
eyes from one face to another, as if questioning-
whether it were a dream or a reality. She did
not dare to look on the dead still countenance yet ;
and when they carried the corpse into the next
room, she did not follow, but stayed by the fire,,
which was sparkling and roaring in the keen
frosty air with a living mocking lustre. She
picked up a glove from the floor, and twitched
it nervously and unconsciously in her fingers, and
gazed about the floor, and then crept to the other
room, and stood behind Martha and Mrs. Parkes,
trembling and fearful, but with dry burning


The idle marvel-mongers were dismissed, and
then the officers, who had arrived in the interval,
took note of the appearance of the first room.
One of them said, " The old man must have been
rshot by some one who took him at advantage ;
ihere has been no struggle ; he has been mur-
dered for the purposes of robbery."

They went into the closet. The cabinet was
•open, the drawers out, and their contents scattered
on the table, the floor, and in the adjoining room.
They were a miscellaneous collection; women's
clothes and a few valueless trinkets, child's things,
and toys, — the poor old miser's treasures. There
was nothing else left, — probably had been nothing
else to leave, — so the man-slayer was disappointed
of his spoil. The people looked at the yellow
linen and tarnished bits of jewellery with curiosity;
/and Mrs. Parkes observed that somebody must
have done it who knew the house well and Nicho-
las also, — somebody who believed the old story
that he kept money hid away in that closet. For
her part, she had long known it to be all nonsense,
but there were folks who credited it. Martha
spoke not a word, but peered about for traces in


lier furtive eager way ; there was a set rigidity in
lier face, as if she had registered a vow of ven-
geance and were seeking the w^ay to its accom-
plishment. Her search was abortive, however,
and for the present she discontinued it to listen to
what Mrs. Parkes was saying about the mur-
dered man.

" Who would have thouoht it of old Nicholas
Drew ? " she was asking. " Who would have
thought he would have set such store by a lot of
rags ? They are dropping with age,' — look ! " and
she lifted one of the garments from the floor, and
held it up. " Whose can they have been ? "

" His young wife's and his bairn's," answered

" His wife's, Job ? I never knew he had been
married," cried Mrs. Parkes, softly, but with
vivid curiosity.

" It was before your time ; but I remember
her. A pretty, dark-haired little lass she was,
and very kind-spoken to poor folks. They were
well off then, I daresay; but they were very
young to be married, everybody said. Then
thev had a bairn, and I know both she and it died


in a fever ; and after that Nicholas was out of his
mind ever so long, and had to be taken care of.
When he came back to live in the court, he had
let his beard grow, and was so queer, people were
half afraid of him ; and then it was they began
to set stories afloat about his being a miser and a
wizard, and what not."

Adie heard this little explanation of poor
Grizzle's treasures, and with a melancholy rever-
ence she gathered them together, and put them
back into the drawers. Whilst doing so a folded
paper slipped from between two handkerchiefs ;
she opened it, and saw coiled round and round a
thick tress of black hair with a little auburn curl
lying upon it. Then her tears began to flow,
gently at first, but soon in wild passionate sobs
and writhing. The women carried her away to
her own chamber, and shut themselves up to-
gether, while one of the officers and St. Barbe
stayed in the outer room. Before morning broke,
the girl was raving in delirium, calling on
*' Laurence, Laurence ! "

'^ Who is it she wants ? " asked Mrs. Parkes of
Martha. " We had better send for him mavbe."


" He is not in the town now, and I don't know
where he is either. He went away for his
Christmas," was the reply. " It is Laurence

" See, poor thing, she has got one of his gloves,
and she's holding it against her heart," said the
other, with tears. " Poor Adie ! Oh, it's an
awful deed I I do hope, though it isn't Christian-
like perhaps, — I do hope whoever did it will be
brought to justice. He was a very good old

" He icas good," repeated Martha, emphatically;
*^ and I will never rest day nor night until the
man that did it is dead — never ! "

She spoke in a deep, concentrated, ireful voice,
%vhich made the calmer Mrs. Parkes shiver.

The girl's pitiful cry and moan went on still.
They tried to calm her :

" Yes, Adie, he is coming, — he is coming soon,"
said Mrs. Parkes, laying her hand on the burning
forehead, which turned restlessly on the pillow.

Adie opened her eyes with a start, and put up her
arms as if to push away some weight ; the glove
fell to the floor, and was picked up by Martha,


who laid it carefully in one of her young mistress's
drawers, thinking that she set great store by it.
Presently she grew quiet, and sank into a heavy
sleep, which even the loud pealing of the Christ-
mas-moraing bells could not break, while a few
paces off lay the dead cold clay which had shi'ined
a soul then in God's Paradise.



They buried Nicholas Drew in the churchyard
of St. Mark's, just without Friargate. The search
after his murderer was prolonged for weeks, but
no clue could be found, and speculation exhausted
itself without discovering any adequate explana-
tion of the foul crime.

" Wait," said Martha, '' wait. We shall live
to see him punished yet. The blood of murdered
men will not shik into the o-i-'ound until the hand


that spilt it is cold."

It was a dismal winter. Adie lay long, hover-
ing between life and death ; sometimes quiet and

TOL. I. 10


forgetful, at others roused by a shuddering re-
membrance of the awful scene she had witnessed.
St. Barbe would have removed her to his own
house ; but, with a singular pertinacity, she clung
to Nevil's Court and refused to leave it ; even the
entreaties of Laurence Royston, who had returned
to Eversley at the first summons, failed with her
in this instance. He was very faithful and con-
stant in his attendance upon her ; and when she
at last issued forth from her chamber, and took
short walks in the open air, he was invariably
her companion. Winter was merging into spring,
when, supported by his arm, she tottered down
the stairway for the first time. There was a
tender April shining in the sky, no clouds, no
wind, and a fresh warm air. They stood a few
minutes in the Court with Mrs. Parkes, and then
went out into College Lane.

'' Which way shall we go, Adie ? By the river-
side ? " asked Royston.

^^ No ; to Grizzle's graA'e. I have not seen it
yet," she replied.

Laurence remonstrated with her, but ineffec-
tually ; so they turned towards Friargate. Many


people knew the poor girl in her trailiilg black
garments, and with her mournful face, and gave
her a word in passing of kindness and encourage-
ment : doubtless they suspected the pious errand
on which she was bound. The iron sate into
the churchyard stood open, for a wedding-partv
had just gone in, so Adie and Laurence entered
alone. The grave had been made close to the
footpath, the rank grass already covered it with
greenness, and a plain stone, with the name and
age, had been put up at the head. They stood
by it a few minutes in silence ; but the place
was very public, and curious observers were
gathering, both in the porch and about the gate-
way, to see the bride and bridegroom issue from
the church. Adie turned away with a deep sio-h.

'^ When I am here, Laurence, I do not long
for revenge so much," said she ; '* but sometimes
I feel as if I could kill whoever murdered Grizzle
with my own hands. Do you think God will let
him go free always ? "

Royston evaded a direct reply, and tried to
turn her thoughts into another channel; but he
was hurried and confused himself, and, after a



few disconnected sentences, lie became silent.
They took their way out into the countrvy
amongst the fields and hedgerows, which were
changing their black winter robes for a green and
purplish hue : the birds twittered in their nests,
and all living nature seemed lifted up and vivified
by the warm breathing spring.

Royston returned to the subject of Adie's leaving
Nevil's Court, and urged it vehemently.

^^ You will never be happy in that haunted old
house," said he ; " you will dwell on your miser-
able recollections until your mind is quite un-
hinged. Be guided, Adie; go down south with
me. Will you?"

He looked anxiously into her face, but she made
a negative gesture.

" I cannot, Laurence. It would be ungrateful
to poor Grizzie ; as if I were in haste to forget
him. No, I must stay here with Martha until
something is discovered "

"Nothing ever will be discovered," said Roy-
ston, abruptly. "Is it probable? every search
has been made — and, besides, there is no trace to
go upon."


"No matter ; I can wait, as Martha says. The
day must come."

Adie spoke with a quiet, assured confidence,
which annoyed Royston excessively. He was
in earnest to carry his point, and tried on another

" My darhng," said he, in his most dulcet voice,
*•' how are you to exist ? "

Adie made no reply to this question, but the
hot tears gushed to her eyes at the insinuation
it conveyed. Laurence gave the impression time
to sink into her mind ; but when she spoke at
last, it was very differently from what he had

** I can work when I will," were her words ;
'•' and if you leave me, Laurence, it will be all I
shall have to think of."

" But how can I leave you, Adie? You know
I cannot ; you know I never shall."

The humid lustre disappeared from the girl's
eyes, and a shadowy pallid smile came back to
her lips.

" Let me take you away for a few months,"
persisted Royston, "to some pleasant sea-side


village, where you may regain your strength and
tone. Afterwards, if you are still bent on re-
turning to Nevil's Court, I promise you faithfully
that you shall do it."

Adie shook her head.

" I have another plan. Let us go to the south
of France — to your father's and mother's country
— to your own birthplace — oh, that is beautiful !
Listen, Adie : it is a warm, soft, sunshiny country
— warm and sunshiny as your heart and face
were the first time I saw you. I must have
you look as you did then — all spirits and

The temptation was very great ; her resolution
began to waver.

" And you would bring me back, Laurence,
whenever I thought I must come ? "

*' Yes, Adie ; I promise it by what I hold most
dear — by our mutual love,"
She was satisfied.

They were to be married in a few weeks, it
was agreed ; for Adie had now no protector but
Laurence, and he urged the uselessness of delay.


On the eve of her -wedding she lay awake long,
and many times durmg the night she roused
herself up to listen for the footsteps wliich she
fancied she heard in the corridor ; but when she
bent her ear attentively to the sound, it always
resolved itself into either the creakiuij of a door
or the sighing of the wind amongst the trees.
Mrs. Parkes as well as Martha were in the room
with her ; the first sleeping in an easy-chair, the
second keeping watch with an open Testament
before her, which had been her master's gift.
Spread out on a long couch at one side of the
chamber, were the bridal clothes: black, all
black ; Adie would wear nothing else. Martha
glanced from her book to them, and from them
to the girl, wdio had fallen into an unquiet sleep,
and lay moaning as if in pain, A strange sus-
picion darted into her mind, and fastened there
beyond her power to expel it, though she tried
to do so. She fell into a reverie which lasted
some time ; then she went to the wardrobe, and
opening a drawer where her mistress kept her
little valuables, proceeded to turn over its con-
tents carefullv. There was a shrivelled stalk


with a, few colourless, crushed leaves and petals
clinging to it still. It was not of that she was
in search, and it was laid cautiously aside to be
replaced. At last, from the further corner, she
drew forth a glove of dark leather ; a left-hand
glove, smelling of gunpowder, and with a stain
upon the forefingers as if they had clutched
something wet with blood. Martha paused doubt-
fully. Should she abstract it at once, or wait
for some link of connection ? It proved nothing ;
she turned it over and over, examined its make
and the name of the manufacturer inside, and
registered its appearance in her mind; then it
and the other articles were laid back cautiously,
and she returned to her place. Her countenance
was full of heaviness, her eyes of gloom; she
peered restlessly around, but avoided Adie's face,
and fixed only on the funeral-wedding garni ents.
She was debating a point in her own mind —
thinking of the kind master who had saved heiv
and who loved the sleeping girl like his own
soul — what to do. All at once there came over
her troubled spirit a long-forgotten sentence:
" ' Vengeance is Mine ; I will repay, saith the


Lord.' To Him it shall be left, then," said
IMartha, as if answering a voice that had spoken
with her, and she addressed herself again to her
reading in more tranquil mood.

The first sound that Adie heard when she
awoke at dawn w^as the dashing of heavy rain
and hail against the glass, and the loud hollow
roar of a tempestuous wind. The w^eather had
changed since the night before ; and when she
rose she shivered with cold from head to foot.
Mrs. Parkes told her that Laurence Rojston had
come, and was waiting for her in the next room ;
therefore she made haste to don her sombre robes,
and went out to him.

He started when he saw her, and exclaimed, in
a tone of mingled surprise and reproach, —

*' Adie, why this unseemly dress ? You might
give me your thoughts for to-day at least."

She coloured slightly, but repressed the tears
that sprang to her eyes when she answered —

" Laurence, I dare not pass by poor Grizzie's
grave decked out gaily; it would be cruel. I
could not do it."

Royston uttered an impatient ejaculation ; then.


seeing how deeply she was pamed by his dis-
pleasure, and softened, too, by her exceeding
Leauty, he took her hands in his, and said he
would try to forgive her; but it was hard that
she should place anything before him then in her
heart. She could neither smile nor brighten ;
she even shuddered as his cold fingers clasped
hers, and tried to draw them away. They were
standing on the hearth, and she had just looked
down on the floor. She saw, or fancied she saw,
"upon the oak the murderous stain, and started
away. A slight spasm convulsed Royston's fea-
tures for a minute ; he looked up, and he observed
Martha watching them furtively from the chamber
•door. When she perceived herself detected, she
disappeared. In an instant he was himself again —
calm, resolute, and self-possessed.

He had attired himself in a rich new suit, with
ruffles of fine foreign lace at the hands and breast,
and looked, as Mrs. Parkes observed, a very
" sightly man." Though it was the mode of the
day, he wore no powder, but had his tawny hair
in its natural waves and hue. He looked from
himself to Adie, thinking that, if he could have


suspected her wliim, liis di'ess should have
accorded more with hers ; but there was uo time
for any change then. Matters were compromised,
how^ever, by throwing over his gay coat a long
dark cloth cloak, which in that inclement weather
looked more suitable than finery.

St. Barbe was the only person who accom-
panied them, and when he reached the court and
saw Adie, his astonishment and remonstrances
exceeded Royston's. He would scarcely let her
go ; he said the rain was a bad omen, but the
mourning garments were worse. She was not,
however, to be stirred from her purpose ; and the
old Frenchman reluctantly yielded to her fantasy,
but with many a shake of his head, and many a
muttered prognostic of evil.

They were married at St. Mark's. Probably
a stranger bridal party never entered the ancient
church of the Friars. People gathered, as they
always do on such occasions ; but they looked as
solemn as if they were attending a funeral, and
whispered to each other about the incongruous
appearance of the bride and bridegroom ; for
Royston was flushed and nervous, and Adie stood


like a statue, and went through the ceremony
mechanically. It was a smgular sight; the
gossips of the parish long rememhered that
marriage, as well they might ; for it is not often
such a pair come to be "joined together before
God." When they emerged from the church
porch, the little children were all mute ; either
the pelting rain had subdued their spirits, or else
they felt that their shrill gratnlations would be
out of place. In passing Grizzie's grave, Adie
suddenly stooped down, and snatched a handful
of the wet grass which grew upon it, and thrust
it into her bosom. Royston thrilled, and whis-
pered a remonstrance, to which she gave no heed.
She was thinking of the poor old man, who lay
there unable to bless her. Would he bless her
from heaven? she thought; and her heart an-
swered, "No."




Adie was Happy, for Laurence was never absent
from lier, and in his presence her mind ceased
to revert to painful things. They lived in a
species of ecstatic dream, for themselves and for
>each other, without a thought of the indifferent
outer world. All around them was calculated to
.substantiate and maintain this di'eam — the soft,
warm climate, the romance-breatliing country,
and the lonely sea. They had established them-
selves in a little white cottage near the shore.
It was enclosed by a shadowy old garden engirt
by a low wall ; and as they were strangers in a
strange place their privacy was never intruded
upon. The woman who acted as then' servant,
.and to whom the cottage belonged, was as little
unlike a machuie as it is possible for a human
being to be.

They had nothing to do all the hvelong day
but to stroll along the shore, watching the waves


and fishing-boats, and the cloud-shadows flitting
over the sea. Sometimes Laurence brought out
his pencil and made a sketch of the attractive bits
of coast scenery ; but it was soon thrown aside
for a pleasanter occupation, — teasing or petting or
coaxing Adie, whose pretty coquettish ways and
frank gaiety had returned with her health and
glowing loveliness. There might have been but
these two in the world from the manner of their
life; they forgot everything else in their selfish
happiness, and took their enjoyment in the swift
present without one prescient forward glance.

Were they fools or Avise ? Moralists say the
present alone is certain. We Avill allow, then,
that they were wise with the wisdom of to-day in
their fool's paradise.

They had been out in a boat on the sea all the
summer day, and at sunset they were together
under the vine-covered veranda of the cottage,
both weary and both silent. It was a luxurious
calm. In the small, terraced garden, the slender-
leaved acacias swayed slowly and noiselessly in
the air, as if courting the sunbeams to toy with
them a little longer; a voluptuous mingling of


ricli flower- odours suffused the atmosphere as with
perfumed sighs of regret for parting day ; while
the sea blushed red and creamy rose as the lordly
sun sank down upon its swelling bosom. On
Adie's face there was the peace of full content ;
her soul expanded in the genial air of her own
land, while her heart was satisfied with Royston's
love — not love, perhaps, so much as passionate
worship. There is no saying how it might have
stood the tests of time and custom ; but the
present was sufficient for her — if it would always
have stayed. There was no doubt in her mind
that it could ever be otherwise with them ; that
Laurence would ever be otherwise than tender,
or she otherwise than fond and foolish for his
dear sake. No words can fitly describe her rap-
ture, her enthusiasm of admiration for him ; he
was her god. The old affectionate gratitude for
Grizzle was, in comparison, as a faint moonbeam
to a tropical sun. Her southern heart set no
stint to its idolatry ; if her life could have profited
him, she would with exquisite happiness have
exhaled it in sighs upon his lips. He knew it, and
he paid her for it in such coin as he had to give ;


not in the virgin gold of an unselfish fii'st love,
freshly coined in the mint of a good true heart,
but with a specious counterfeit which would last
its day, and pass undetected if it were not tried in
the furnace, or subjected to long wear and tear.
He thougJit he loved her ; and so he did, at least
as well as he was capable of loving. But is there
anything left in the hearts of these cynical cal-
culating men after a dozen years of fighting
against the world, and of being conquered by
their own passions, that is w^orthy of the name —
worthy of love like Adie's ?

She was happy, and that is perhaps enough.
Whether her happiness arose out of her own
purity, and confidence, and faithful generous heart,
or from Laurence Royston, it matters little ; the
results were the same, and one could not wish
her, if deluded, less blind, since her delusion
stilled every longing, and filled every hope, and
realized every day-dream.

They sat together on the old stone steps of the
highest terrace, with the clustered green of the
leaves and grapes about and over them — a pretty
picture daintily set. Adie had given up her


mourning dress, and wore instead a mist-tinted,
gossamer-like tiling, which cbaped lier gracefully
enough ; her glorious hair was wreathed all round
her head in a coronal of thick glossy plaits ; and
drooping over her long, colourless neck were some
sprays of scarlet and white blossoms which
Laurence had just fastened there, more with a
view to liis own artist-taste than to imperative
fashion. He sat now a step below her, resting
one arm against her knees, and his head on her
shoulder; she was sino;in£r to him in her sweet
liquid voice one of those favoiurite French airs
which she had remembered since a child, and the
tune chimed melodiously in time to the ripple of
the water below the garden-wall. It was some-
thmg about having a hundred hearts to love with,
and filling them all with one image ; a hundred
eyes to gaze upon one face ; a hundred tongues
to speak the praise of one, and so forth. Having
reached the third stanza, Adie stopped, and
passing her hand lightly over Lam-ence's head,
asked if he were asleep, that he was so still.
He looked up in her face with an expression
which betrayed that, if the old serpent Care had

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Online LibraryHolme LeeThe Wortlebank diary : and some old stories from Kathie Brande's portfolio (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 14)