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WARP A^jy WOOF



OR, THE



REMINISCENCES OF DORIS FLETCHER.



BY HOLME LEE,

AUTHOR OF "sylvan HOLT's DAUGHTER," "AGAINST WIND ANlt
TIDE," ETC.



• Quelque difKrence qui paraisse entre les fortunes, il y a une certaine compen-
sation de biens et de maux qui les rend egales." — Rochefoucauld.



IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. III.



LONDON:

SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL.



M.DCCC.LXI.



[^The right 0/ Translation is reserved.'}



«2i
V.3



CONTENTS



OF THE THIRD VOLUME.



I. The Beginning of Trouble
n. The Trouble fallen

III. The Narrow Pass

IV. Very Dark Days .

V. Enduring

VI. Mr. Westmore
VII. An Effort

Vni. Persecution .
IX. Chance Meetings
X. A Mediator
XI, Ursula's Doings
XII. Ru3iour

XIII. A Brave Soul

XIV. A Lost Hope
XV. A Terrible Accident

XVI. A Prisoner for Life
XVII. Resignation
XVI n. A True Friend
XIX. A Reconciliation
XX. Farewell
XXL For Better for Worse



PAGE

1

24

46
66
102
112
121
134
142
158
172
19S
215
226
234
246
257
279
289
299
313



WARP AND WOOF



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE.

Within ten days from my arrival at Aberford,
poor Sofona's troubles were over, and she was
laid at rest under the sod. I stayed with aunt
Maria a week longer, saw her settling down into
her ancient habits, and old Nancy in a fair way
for recovery, and then I returned home. I had
received no letter from Connie since the last
which I have mentioned, and neither mamma nor
Dr. Julius possessed any more recent information.
A very few minutes' conversation with the latter
sufficed to let me know that she had not told
him a tithe of what she had told me; in fact,
VOL. III. 30



2 WARP AND WOOF.

she had apparently communicated nothing that
could give him annoyance. I felt that such
reserve was wrong and might be mischievous,
but, instead of informing him at once of what
I knew — which would have been the wiser step
— I only wrote to her, and entreated her to be
more confidential with him.

To this letter I received no answer. Easter
was then close at hand, and, as I hoped, the
term of all her difficulties, so I waited with
patience. Ursula came over from Erlstone the
Thursday before with leave to remain until
the following Wednesday. We saw Dr. Julius
Eden at church on the intermediate Sunday, and
I noticed a peculiarly dark and preoccupied
look on his face whenever I caught a glimpse
of it, but I thought no more about it until
Tuesday afternoon when Miss Cranmer happened
to call upon us, and after some desultory chat
about the forwardness of the spring, and the
consequent early influx of visitors to Scarcliffe,
she said, —

" How yexatious for Dr. Julius Eden to have
been obliged to go up to town on Sunday night.



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 3

wlien tlie Clai'idges and your sister liad just
arrived at Combo the evening before."

Ursula and I were startled into a simultaneous
exclamation of astonislnnent.

" Did you not know ? " cried our visitor.
" How very odd ! why, your sister was at the
concert last ni^ht with the Tom Clarids^es, look-
ing as beautiful as possible. I was not aware
until I saw them together that there had been
another make-up between those people. Your
Connie was very much noticed, I assure you —
she should not be imj governess if / were Tom
Claridge's wife."

" Nonsense ! " returned Ursula shortly, " one
would think the man was a devourino; lion."

" He is worse in some respects. He is a
fascinating, unscrupulous fellow, who cannot him-
self resist the fascination of a pretty woman's
face. If he were not married, I should have
supposed he and your sister were courting. The
room was crowded, and there was not sitting
room for all on the benches, so some chairs
were brought in, and he stood by hers all
night, whispering in her ear ostentatiously while

39—2



4 WARP AND WOOF.

his wife looked as hot and cross as could
be."

" I wish you would be more cautious how
you speak. Miss Cranmer," said I. " Such idle
words as these of yours have compromised many
an innocent name before now."

" Oh ! Connie looked high and mighty enough,
I assure you, and as scornful as a duchess ! "
returned our visitor, laughing. "Tom Claridge
always had the vanity of liking to appear on
good terms with the most charming woman in
company, and she was the beauty last night.
I suppose she means to give you a pleasant
surprise, as she has not let you know she is at
Combe."

" I begin to wish she was out of that house,"
said Ursula.

" And so you may — it would have been better
if she had never entered it," replied Miss Cranmer
confidentially. " To tell] you the truth, it has
been the wonder of most of your friends how
you could let her go to such a disordered
home."

" What a pity friends always speak too late,"



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 5

rejoined Ursula with as much sovereign contempt
as if she herself were clear of all blame in the
matter. " If there is anything right to be
known, those who are most intimately concerned
are always the last to hear of it ; the world has
its nine days' talk, and when the gossip is
growing stale, it arrives at the ears of those
who ought to have heard the first whisper.
Doris, there is time to write to Connie before
post, and we will do it. I do not attach any
weight to what Miss Cranmer says, but a girl's
good name is like snow — its purity cannot be too
jealously guarded."

With this Ursula opened her blotting-book,
and our visitor took the hint and her departure.
When she was gone, however, the pen was
laid aside, and we held a consultation, which
resulted in my being deputed to write to Connie,
instead of Ursula, because before an answer
could reach us, she would have gone back to
Erlstone. But the substance of the document
w^as dictated by Ursula, who strenuously im-
pressed on Connie the necessity of accomplishing
her escape, by means of some quiet and valid



C WARP AND WOOr.

plea which we might offer to our friends in
explanation of her leaving. Above all she was
to beware of anything that might make a talh.
I would add a postscript on my own account,
in which I urged her to come away, excuse or
none, and said that if we did not see her before
the week's end, I should go over myself, and
bring her home. I ventured to tell Ursie that
I feared she had given bad advice to our little
sister in counselling such persistent reserve, but
I only received a snub for my reward.

"Of course, you will seek a scapegoat for
your favourite, but I will not bear her sins,"
said she ; " if I had been in her place there would
have been none of this vexation. I should like to
see the man who would dare to take a liberty
with me, or the woman who would provoke me
as Mrs. Tom Claridge provokes our Connie —
but I should never have tempted such annoyances,
not I."

I do not think she would ; Ursula was not
the kind of woman of whom other women are
jealous.

All the next morning Ursula was too busy



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 7

packing to have miicli leisure for conversation,
and about midway the afternoon, the carriage
came to the door, and away she went, with her
last words bidding me not forget to forward
Connie's letter the day I received it. A¥hen she
was off, I went down to ScarcliflPe with papa
and mamma, and we only returned just in time
for tea as twilight was di-awing in. It was a
lovely evening, warm for the season, and in
the lengihening shadows our garden and the Old
Grove Fields looked so pretty that I was beguiled
into lingering out of doors a little longer, and
after a few meanderings amongst the flower-beds,
where the spring bulbs were in all their beauty,
I strayed into the holly walk, and up to the
rustic gate at the end of it. The moment I
came there, I espied a tired figure hastening
along the path, and a second glance told me
it was oiu' Connie. I ran out to meet her, too
much overjoyed at the moment to think of any-
thing but that my darling was there.

She said, " I had your letter this morning,
Doris," and nothing more, but there was a world
of trouble in her face, and I saw that gladness



8 WARP AND WOOF.

had nothing to do with her heart just then ;
so I held my peace ahout my own, and we
went up the garden hand in hand, and indoors
to find papa and mamma. Their surprise and
pleasure also for the instant stifled their curiosity,
hut after the first few minutes were over, Connie
said, " It was impossible to stay there any longer,
papa ; it is all so wretched," and papa made it
eas}^ by replying cheerfully, "If you were not
comfortable, my little one, you were quite right
to come home ; I am sure I wish you had never
left us. We did not know until yesterday that
you were so near at hand, or Ursie would have
gone over to see you."

Mamma looked anxiously inquiring, but she
did not attempt to follow when we went upstairs
to our room, which was a temporary relief to
both of us. Since papa's illness, we had made
it a duty to spare him and mamma every trouble
and fret we could ; and neither Ursula nor I had
judged it expedient to repeat any of Miss Cranmer's
magnified tattle of the day before, so that they
were quite in the dark as to any adequate reason
for the manner of her arrival; and though the



THE EEGINNIXG OF TROUBLE. 9

simplo fact of lier being uncomfortable \YOul(i
satisfy papa for the present, we knew wlien be
came to think about it he would require fuller
explanation, and as Connie had studiously kept
unpleasantness out of her letters home there would
undoubtedly be much to explain. When we were
safe in our room, and Connie had taken off her
hat, I saw she had been crying and taxed her
with it.

'^ Yes,'* said she, " I have been crying ; it was
a miserable scene. It is of no use talking about
it, and it need never go beyond ourselves, but
tliose people had a frightful quarrel this morning,
and she said / was the cause of it. T never
knew what it was to feel degradation before."
There was a quick irritation in her manner of
speaking which showed how her nerves had been
overstrained. She sat down looking thoroughly
weary, and in answer to my question of how
she had come, she replied, "I walked all the
way. I would not have slept another night in
that house for any consideration. I left nurse
to pack up my things. Do you think 1 have
done right, Doris ? "



10 WARP AXD WOOr.

^^ Perfectly right ; tlie only right thing that could
be done," I hastened to assure her.

^^ Julius is away; I wish I could have seen
him at once — I wish this had never happened ;
it will be talked about, and how he will hate
it," she said a minute or two after. " A letter
of his was sent to me from town which he had
posted here the day we left."

"You must write and tell him all. No one
who knows the people and their circumstances
will dream of blaming you, unless it be for not
speaking of your troubles earlier," I told her.

She made me no answer, but got up and
smoothed her hair, and as nurse Bradshaw came
in for a greeting, and to ask if we did not mean
to go downstairs to tea, she turned round and
said, "You see, nursey, I have come back to
you ; I might as well never have gone away,"

" That was always my opinion. Miss Connie,
but wisdom's naught till it's dear bought," replied
the old woman.

And with that we returned to papa and mamma
in the dining-room, and spent a couple of hoars
in irksome, desultory talk, until papa, being tired.



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. U

went to bed, and tlien, with mamma and me
alone, I hoped Connie would pour out her con-
fidence freely.

But even then she was not disposed to say
much, and what she did say only gave us to
understand, beyond the fact of the final quarrel,
what I already knew, that she had lately led
an uneasy, restless life through Mrs. Tom Claridge's
nervous, querulous, unreasonable moods. It did
rot appear that Mr. Tom Claridge had given
his wife any cause for the violent accusation she
had, even in his presence, made against Connie,
but what might have passed of taunt and re-
crimination behind the scenes previous to the
outbreak she could not know. I imagined that
the quarrel had been so altogether bewildering
and terrible to her, that she could not have
detailed it if she would. A sense of shame and
degradation at being made the object of conten-
tion, and an impulse to escape from the burden
and horror of such a home, seemed to have
possessed her mind to the extinction of all other
considerations, and there was a confused hurry
about her still which betrayed the excitement



12 WARP AND WOOF.

tinder \Yhich she liad acted througliout. Her
chief thought now, and her chief fear also, was,
what Dr. Julius might feel and say when he
heard what had happened.

She spent several hours of the night in writing
to him, hut tore up sheet after sheet without
accomplishing anything that she could Lear to
send. She shrank from telling him the insult
she had suffered — let all the rest of the world
know, hut not him, I could sympathize with
her feelings acutely, but I could only advise con-
fidence. Dr. Julius must learn what had occurred,
and he ought to learn it from herself. My own
heart sank when I remembered his character and
her long concealment, but she could not bring
herself to write it. She sat with the pen in
her hand, and the scalding tears dropping heavily
on the paper, but the tale was not told — she was
unhappy and she had come home, and that was
all she said.

When I remonstrated and pleaded, she threw
all aside, and exclaimed passionately, " I dare
not tell him. He is terribly severe. I would
rather die than endure his suspicion and contempt.



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 13

He will bo angiy with me for remaining; he
will say I have deceived him, and I have, but
I was sorry for her, and Ursie urged me to
keep my own counsel until my year was out,
and my life seemed to have grown so unnatural,
and like a piece of acting all through, that I
hardly remember now either what I thought or
what I did until this end came."

This confession did not lessen my dismay, when
I reflected on what was to come. Connie had
made a fatal mistake in withholding anything
from Dr. Julius, but she was in too great distress
to be told this now, and I prevailed on her to
lie down and try to sleep, in the hope that day-
light would show us some way out of our laby-
rinth. But I could not rest myself; my mind
was alert, revolving our troubles, speculating on
what grounds of displeasure Dr. Julius would
really have, and how he would use them, and
wishing — oh ! how earnestly, how helplessly, — that
the work of the last ten months could be
undone.

Connie rose the next morning very subdued
and quiet, and while I w^rote my account to Ursula,



114 AYARP AND WOOE.

she wrote liers to Dr. JuliuS;, still reserved, still
keeping back the truth that she would rather
he never knew. I could not prevail on her to
act otherwise, and the letter went.

That afternoon we were sitting the two together
in the drawing-room, not havmg been out all
day, when Mrs. Peacocke honoured us with a
visit. Afe she greeted with her usual patronizing
cordiality, but on Connie, after a frigid bend of the
bonnet, she solemnly turned her back. Connie's
startled eye and crimson cheek betrayed how
she felt the insulting coldness, and she left the
room, on which Mrs. Peacocke said, " I am glad
to see your young sister home again. Miss
Fletcher."

I replied, " So were we all — the situation was too
difficult for a girl."

" Both difficult and dangerous," said my visitor
with austere significance, and then after a little
talk on other subjects which would not flow, I
am thankful to say she relieved me of her
presence.

Immediately I ran upstairs to find Connie. She
Tvas in our room, standing by the window, white



TPIE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 15

and trembling all over with the vehemence of
young passion. The moment I entered, she turned
to me and said with a low, agonized thrill in
her voice, —

*^ Doris, if people are going to say wicked, cruel
things about me and separate me from Julius,
I cannot bear it — it will kill me, I feel it will."

I soothed her and put the matter off as well
as I could, by assuring her that nobody would,
unless it were such a dull gossip as Mrs. Peacocke
w^ho was never believed ; but my remedy was
not powerful enough to still the aching of the
wound her cruel impertinence had inflicted ; and
on the plea of a headache the poor child shut
herself up, made the room dark, and went to
bed.

I regretted afterwards that she should have
done so, for in the evening kind old Dr. Eden
himself came up to see her, but when I told
him why she was not visible, he would not allow
her to be roused and made to come downstairs,
which I proposed.

" I have come to hear all about it ; you can
tell me as well as herself," said he, drawing his



16 WARP AND WOOF.

chair close to mine, for he was rather hard of
hearing, as if he expected long confidential com-
munications. From this I conjectured that idle
words were busy about us already. I told him
simply all I knew — all, in fact, there was to know ;
and he received it with reflective gravity. When
I had done he said, " I had a letter from Julius
this morning ; he had heard something before he
went away that exceedingly annoyed him, and from
what I understand, Connie has been no less secret
with him than with you on all these difficulties
of hers, and has never written him anything
but the brightest and pleasantest news. It was
foolish in the little woman, but I trust she has
made a clean breast of it now."

I told him No, she was afraid to do so.
" That is a great pity ; Julius can pardon almost
anything but trickery and mistrust."

These were very hard words for my Connie,
and I said so.

'^ My dear, she has written to Julius repeatedly
since she went to London, and never once has she
approached the fact of the reconciliation between
Tom Claridge and his wife, which then took place.



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 17

He supposed her safe with the old people and all
going on as at the " beginning ; he had one cheer-
ful letter from her after another, intimatinor nothino;
to the contrary, when 'suddenly some friend
communicates the fact of Mr. Tom Clarido;e
having returned to his family three months ago ;
a circumstance of too great moment surely to be
omitted from a correspondence such as theirs?
Julius would not have left her under Ms roof a
week. The man's reputation is detestable: she
might take no harm, but the suggestion of it is
profanation, and any attractive young woman
living in his house would be exposed to remarks
such as no gentleman would suffer his future wife
to incur. Julius could not understand the reserve
Connie has shown, and he left by mail-train that
night to seek an explanation in person. Most
unfortunately the Claridges had come down to
Combe the day before, and so he has missed her.
When he returns home it will be to hear her
name bandied from lip to lip by every mischievous
busybody in the neighbourhood.'*

" Oh, no. Dr. Eden ! " I cried deprecatingly.
'•'It is so," repeated the old man, "it is so
VOL. III. 40



18 WAEP AND WOOF.

indeed. Miss Fletcher. I do not say she is
blamed, I only sa}'- she is talked about. Servants
have long tongues, quarrels are not carried on in
whispers, and that which preceded her flight is the
town's gossip already. It is a sad pity, and I wish
the blow had not fallen on Julius all at once;
Tom Claridge's exploits have been too notorious
in this place already for any daintiness in speak-
ing about him, and to have Connie's name brack-
etted in the same phrase with his, is intolerable.
Had she been as wise as she is loving, she would
have told Julius her pains as well as her pleasures,
and he would have found some way of delivering
her out of them without coming to such an
esealandre as this. Ursula has been a mischiev-
ous adviser to her; I always distrust your theoreti-
cally sensible women."

You may be sure he left me with a heavy
heart and sorrowful forebodings of trouble to
come.

Connie was sunk in a deep sleep of exhaustion
and weariness, when I went to our room, and I
was thankful to escape, for the present, having
to tell her the particulars of Dr. Eden's visit.



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 19

But in the morning I repeated what it was
necessary she should know, and asked if she
could not even now write her confession and
explanation to Dr. Julius.

But she said: ''No, I will not write to him
any more ; when he comes I will tell him."

After breakfast we went out for a refreshing
stroll in the garden, and Avhile we w^ere there,
who should come in by the wicket gate from
the Old Grove fields but Mrs. Maurice. She
shook us both by the hand, and kept Connie's
in hers all the time she spoke ; she was in
garden trim, and evidently in haste, but for
kind reasons of her own she had chosen to be
the bearer of her own message.

" The Dorcas is at my house this afternoon
and I want you both to come." Connie was
going to excuse herself, but the good woman
added : " My dear, I know you would rather not,
but I have a particular wish that you should
make an effort on this occasion and oblige me."

Connie looked in appeal to me, but as I said I
thought she might go, she acquiesced, though truly
it was an effort.

40—2



20 WARP AND WOOF.

All the assembly was settled at work when
we arrived; and Connie being now somewhat
of a stranger, everybody had a word to say to
her, and a remark to make upon her looks ol'
the unexpectedness of her return to Redcross;
it struck me that she had been talked about
by oar friends before she appeared, for every-
body was kind after her fashion, and even Mrs.
Peacocke had retrieved her smiles and gracious-
ness, as if to give her an assurance that she
was amongst none but well-wishers. I cannot
express how relieved and even grateful I felt
when she had been greeted all round and Miss
Pegge Burnell cried out, " Come and sit by me,
my dear, you shall make my button-holes for
me," and she took the offered place between the
old lady and Miss Jenny Layel, who was diligently
stitching at some unbleached calico garment of
extensive size which all but enveloped her small
person.

But though every one was as kind and stu-
diously inobservant as possible, I was glad when
the time came for us to go away. Mrs. Maurice
walked back with us to our own gate, and without



THE BEGINNING OF TROUBLE. 21

anj direct allusion to passing events, she contrived
to give Connie a few bits of advice about keeping
up her courage, and taking some good brisk walks
over the downs to revive her roses which she
fancied were drooping a little; then she kissed
her, bade her good-bye, and turned back home
acjain.

In our absence mamma and papa had received
a visit from Dr. Eden, and from him papa had
learnt all the particulars of Connie's long and
foolish concealment. Mamma had named it previ-
ously, but with so many mitigating expressions
that its wrongness had been half- veiled from him;
now, however, he saw it as others would, and
when we entered the dining-room on our return
from the parsonage, a single glance* at his face
showed us that he was full of displeasure. Papa
had from our earliest childhood been so kind and
indulgent to us all that a word of severity from
him w^as enough to break our hearts, and when
he now addressed Connie, as I had never yet heard
him address any of his children, she stood trem-
bling before him and cold as clay.

" You have been takino; a leaf out of Ursula's



22 WARP AND WOOF.

Look, I hear, Connie," said he in a stern voice.
"No need to explain; I have had explanation
enough. You have behaved very ill in hiding
anything from us; as for Dr. Julius, if your
mother had played me such a trick as you have
played him, she never should have been wife of
mine! You know right from wrong, and ought
to have remembered what was due to him and
us better than you have done, whatever Ursula
urged upon you. You are not candid and sincere
as you once were ; your mind has got a wrong
twist, and you will have to suffer for it — you can
leave the room — I have no more pleasure in a
child who can deceive me."

" Papa, papa, I know I have been very wrong,"


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