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brain sought. One day the girl came and
laid her slender hand upon the woman's.

'^ Do you hear a bell," she said, '' that tolls,
tolls always by day and night ? It is loud
and deep, as though it came out of the clouds,
and if I could hear it, I should be able to find
. ... to find . . . ."

She paused, grew confused, lost the thread
of what she had been saying, fell to plucking
at her gown in the old restless fashion.



HEART. 195



Was there some method in the girl's mad-
ness after all % Had she gone no further than
London in her fligfht with Mr. La Mert, and
had something actually happened to her there
to account for this persistent search ?

These were the questions that Prue was
now asking: herself; and the thous^ht came
into her head that she would make an experi-
ment.

*' Come with me, Miss Mignon," she said,
risinof ; ^' and we will see if we cannot find
this great bell together ;" and there and then
she took her mistress within both sight and
hearino^ of Bio- Ben.

They had never gone within reach of it
before ; the girl's wanderings, though so long-
continued, had covered no great area, and as
the first great note rolled out on the air, she
started violently, and listened intently ; then
her face clouded with disappointment.

She shook her head, and pulled at Prue's
hand to come away. The woman was not
yet disheartened, only half of her experi-
ment was over, and a little later she stood
with Mio-non beneath the shadow of St.

53—2



196 ''CHERRY RIPE /'

Paul's, awaiting the stroke of the half-hour.
It came ; and as the solemn boom ! pealed
out, Mignon's face changed, as though by
magic.

'' I shall find it now ... I shall find it
now ..." she cried, running from Prue's side,
and looking eagerly at the great shops all
about, as though she expected to find what
she sought among them, growing puzzled and
sorrowful at last, as seeming to understand
that her search was not over yet. It was with
difficulty that Prue could persuade her to go
home at all that day ; and on the morrow she
was back again almost as soon as it was light,
wandering through bye-streets and alleys, and
all manner of strange places, that she had
never trodden safely but for her poor dress
and lack of comeliness and grace.

She seemed to grow brighter and hajDpier
after that day : and Prue, in the midst of all
her weary discomfort and fatigue, took heart,
and began to hope for better times.

Some curious instinct or cunning apj)arently
guided the girl in her wanderings, for she never
w^ent beyond a certain radius ; and Prue ob-



HEART. 197



served that directly the sound of the great
bell came to her muffled, she invariably turned
back, so that it would appear the object of her
search lay somewhere within its full sound.

It was after a week of this perplexing,
round-about search, which, hke the crab's
progress, seemed to be two steps forward and
one back, that Mignon one day turned into a
decent, seemingly ancient street, at one end
of which was a small church, that lay back
at some little distance, having a grave-yard
before it.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, Mignon
sped forward, and in another moment had
reached the rusty iron gates, that stood par-
tially open. Plainly she recognised, remem-
bered the place ; but *^ what," asked Prue, as
she curiously followed her, '^ could she want
there T

She leaned her head against the gates, and
looked in. It appeared to be a disused bury-
ing-ground, or so she thought, until she saw
in the distance two or three recently-made
graves. Apparently a small strip of new
ofround had been added that made the



198 " CHERR V RIPE /"

churchyard, disused for many years, again
civailable.

It was not to these newly-opened mounds
that Mignon made her way, but to one whose
unsightly outline the grass had covered, and
falling on her knees beside it, the girl pressed
her brow, her lips, her bosom against it, mur-
muring indistinct words and cries; while Prue,
standing afar off, with the long, dank grass un-
der her feet, the murk December sky above her,
beginning to understand, asked herself : " Was
this the grave of Muriel, or of Mr. La Mert 1"

There fell upon Mignon after the discovery
of that nameless grave, a peace and quiet that
were almost happiness.

No longer she led poor Prue's aching feet
on an endless chase, no longer the two passed
their Hves in the streets, jostled by the busy
crowds ; the girl would every day pay a visit
of longer or shorter duration to the grave-
yard, then come away home Avith Prue, and
sit for hours together perfectly still. Some-
times a look of horror struo-oied across the
blankness of her face, once or twice she had



HEART. 199



swerved away from the grave as thougli some
ugly thought or idea had stung her; but
for the most part she seemed to have a weight
removed from her, and to have attained to
Avhat she desired.

It was now close upon Christmas, and the
streets were full of that sweetest and best
beloved of flowers, the violet, that bloomed
from every nook and corner, filling the
hands of countless poor women, to whom its
perfume and beauty meant no more and
no less than — bread. Of these gentle way-
farers, messages of love from Nature in her
haunts to the men who toiled in the great
city, Mignon bought great bunches daily, or
rather she made Prue do so, passing by all but
the freshest, and then going away with her
hands filled, to lay them upon that mysterious
ti^rave.

Prue, from a distance used to look and look,
and wonder with all her might whom this
violet-decked mound contained. It was a
long one, quite long enough to hold a man,
and Mmdel had been tall for a woman, while
Mr. La Mert had not been tall for a man, so



!00 '• CHERRY RIPE



that it was impossible for her unpractised eye
to decide which of them might be sleeping
there.

It was not very long, however, before her
doubts were set at rest, and the fashion of it
was in this wise :

One day, Mignon during her accustomed
visit, appeared for the first time to take heed
of the surroundino' tombstones, and the sioiit
of them seemed to suo'S'est somethino' to her
mind that had hitherto entirely escaped it.
Then beo-an one of those efforts at remember-
ing that were so piteous and painful to wit-
ness ; the fugitive idea that disappeared just
as she was about to grasp it, the precious
half-thought that she Avas not able to com-
plete, these irritated and distressed her almost
to frenzy. She began her wanderings again,
but the area of them was so circumscribed,
and that which she sought so near at hand,
that on the third day she found it.

Prue marvelled what was going to happen
next, as her mistress stopj)ed at a curious
little yard lying back from the houses in the
narrow street where it was situated, and



HEART. 201



as she druw nearer perceived that it was that
of a stone-cutter and tombstone maker.

Blocks and fragments of stone, statues^
tablets roughly hewn and not yet inscribed,
others half completed, and some all discoloured
and defaced, entirely filled tlie enclosure, while
below a plaster bust of the first Napoleon leant
a small Avooden board on which was inscribed



A tipsy wretched-looking man, who sup-
ported himself with one hand against the
low palings, and swayed to and fro, occa-
sionally doubling up altogether, w^as extend-
ing his right hand towards the grimy stones
and statues, and shaking his head sadly,
as though he were philosophising on the
mutability of all things, and applying the
lesson to himself !Mignon slipped past the
poor maudlin wretch, to whom, nevertheless,
there came in his cups gleams of understand-
ing, to which he was a stranger w^hen sober,
and passing with swift feet in among the dismal
heteroofeneous collection, looked about her
until she espied a pure snow-white marble



-202 '' CHERRY RIPE r

tablet, that showed out like a lily from its
dusty and mutilated surroundings. She flew
to it, paused breathless before it. and clasped
her hands with joy. Again the poor witless
creature had been guided to the object of her
search, again instinct had asserted itself suc-
cessfully.

Prue, her heart beating, certain that at
length she was on the brink of a discovery,
drawing near, looked over the girl's shoulder,
^nd read the following inscription :

'' Muriel : aged 20."





CHAPTER VII.

^^ Heavens ! die two months ago and not forgotten
yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory may out-
live his life half a year."

HE stonecutter at this moment ap-
peared upon the scene, and, con-
cluding the oration in course of
d eh very outside the raihngs by summarily
bidding the man to move on, he turned to
give his attention to the two shabby Avomen
who stood looking at the marble tablet.
Mignon's face was hidden by the ugly, down-
bent hat she wore, but to Prue he looked for
speech.

'^ Anything I can do for you to-day in the
tombstone line, ma'am ?" he said, deciding in
his own mind that here was a customer whose



204 ''CHERRY RIPE



order (if any) would be of the most modest
and humble description.

Prue answered his question with another.

'^ Who ordered that tombstone T she said,
pointing at the one which bore Muriel's name.

The man's face, an ordinarily good-hu-
moured one, took a gloomy expression as his
eyes followed Prue's linger.

"■ Oh ! that f he said ; '' that's a sore ques-
tion, mistress, for I'm out o' pocket by that
stone to the tune of more pounds than you'd
ever guess on. 'Twas ordered come nigh on
three months agone, and, as my wife says,
more fool I to go to hexecute a border like
that without ever a taking of the lady's name
as bordered it."

*^ A lady ordered it T said Prue, beginning
to see daylight ; '' can you mind just what
she was like ?"

'' Ay," said the man ; ^' for spite of all the
trouble she war in, she was jest the purtiest
critter I ever clapped these eyes upon, she
war. She come in all of a tremble, and as
white as that there stone, and, sed she, ' Will
you make me the whitest, beautifullest tomb-



HEART. 205



stone to be got in all the world, for the
sweetest soul to lie under as ever lived ? for,'
sed she, ' I can't a-bear to think she's a-lying
all out there in the cold without nothins: over
her to show as there are them above-ofround
as rek'lects her.' I asked her what the 'scrip-
tion should be, and she said ' Mural, aged 20 ;'
just that, and no more, and w^hen I said a
comfortin' verse out o' Scripture 'ud look well,
something about a broken lily or the shorn
lamb, or sich, she said ^ Xo ; nothing but
them three words. Mural, aged 20.' Had
to look it out in a dickshunarj, cos I thought
she meant a mm-al tablet, but found 'twas a
woman's name, and an outlandish one too,
I'm thinkin'."

" And did she say she'd come back T said
Prue.

'' She seemed all lost and dazed like," said
the man, who leaned across a broken column,
with a wisp of straw between his lips, seem-
ingly taking a satisfaction in repeating the
story, "as if she'd got a bad blow and didn't
rightly know which way to turn, nor what to
be about. Sed she, ' I've got no money, not



206 '' CHERRY RIPE /'

even none to take me home,' and she looked
down at her little feet as though they was a-
gomg to cany her there ; ' but I'll come back/
sez she, 'to-morrow or next day with the
money/ and then I thought she said suffink
about her 'usband. But, lor ! that must ha'
been just a slip, for only to think of that
young lass with a 'usband ; why 'twas down-
right larfable. There might be one a-growing
up for her somewheres, and maybe more nor
one sweetheart to fight over her, but tliat bit
of a thing married ? Xo, no ! 'Tain't
possible, sez I ! Howsumdever I made it,
and there 'tis, and there 'tis like to stop till
Doomsday, for I han't seen or heerd a word
more of her, nor don't reckon as I ever shall."

Mio^non at that moment turned her face
away from the tombstone and towards the
man ; he saw her and started.

''If it worn't that yon young woman's so
pale and sick-lookin', and dressed so different
to t'otli — the lady w^ho came, for she war
dressed very handsome, though dusty, I'd
say that them two was the very moral of
each other," he said, in a startled tone.



HEART. 20r



A thorough waiting- woman's pang for her
mistress's poor shabby clothes touched Prue,
as she said shortly :

" Yon is my young lady, Mrs. Montrose,
the same as come to you three months
ago ; she'd have come before, but she've had
other things to think of And what
may be the price of the stone as she or-
dered?"

The man looked dumbfoundered — astonish-
ment, relief, anxiety, succeeded each other on
his countenance, the last expression finallv
predominating. This young lady had grown
poor, as her clothes sufficiently attested, and
she was not likely to be able or willing to
pay the large price that he had set upon it,
for in obeying her orders no possible expense
had been spared. He opened his lips at last,
and named a sum that to Prue's modest
notions seemed fabulous, and yet that was a
fairly honest charge, as charges go.

^^ That's a deal of money," she said, pursino^
up her lips, '' and I don't know nothing 'bout
such things. I'll ask somebody Avho does,
and see what they say."



^08 "CHERRY RIPE



But Prue had reckoned without her host.
Mignon at that moment approached, and drew
her towards the stone.

" Help me to carry it/' she said ; " don't
you see that it is for her ? She has waited
for it such a lono^, lono- Avhile, and now we will
ta.ke it to her."

She put her frail arms round the heavy
slab, sighed, and looked piteously for help at
Prue, the man, who had followed, staring at
her in wonder.

^' Her mind is gone," said Prue, gently ; " I
reckon 'twas that^' she pointed towards the
"tombstone, 'Hhat did it. Yon was her sister."
The man, stroking his chin thoughtfully,
looked pityingly at the girl, but his mind was
•evidently much exercised with his own affairs.
AYould he get rid of this Avhite elephant, or
would he not ? And if this young lady were
not right in her head, could she be made to
pay the debts that she had incurred ?

He was not long kept in suspense. A
very few moments' reflection had convinced
Prue that there would be no moving her
mistress from that spot unless the grave-



HEART. 209



stone went with her, therefore the sooner she
went home and got the money, the better.

'' My mistress '11 not stir from here — still
you'd best watch her," she said to the man,
with a heavy sigh. " I'm going to get the
money, and '11 be back in an hour or so."

She departed, leaving the stone-cutter still
leaning against the broken column, twirling
the bit of straw between his lips, and regard-
ing the little figure that sat on a block of
stone hard by, as though it were by far the
most interesting study in his collection.

When Prue returned, she found both in
precisely the same attitude as she had left
them. Business, manofling- included, was
apparently slack that morning, and no other
customers seemed to have appeared. Vanish-
ing into the limbo beyond, the man pre-
sently returned, bearing a small ink-bottle,
a pen, and paper. Squaring his elbows, and
sticking his tongue into alternate cheeks,
while his head rested on his rio^ht shoulder,
he made out the bill (using a discoloured
slab for a table), receipted, and handed it back
to Prue.

VOL. III. 5J^



210 " CHERR V RIPE /'

" You'll have it put up now — directly ?"
said Prue, before parting with the money,
knowing that Mignon would stay there all
night were her humour not fallen in
with.

The man looked doubtful, he didn't know
if he'd got anybody near by to help him — he
would see — and again departing, he presently
re- appeared with a youth who answered to
the name of '^ Sam."

The money paid over, they took up the
tombstone between them and went their way,
Mignon and Prue following.

It was a sad little procession enough, but
it had not far to go, and before the short
December day had quite closed in, the stone
gleamed in all its flawless purity at the head
of the hitherto nameless grave, over which
Prue had so long and vainly pondered.

But as the woman marked the large ex-
panse of white that was as yet bare of in-
scription, she said to herself, with a terrible
tightening at the heart, that there was ample
room for yet another, and that when the
daisies should be springing over Muriel's



HEART. 211



grave, they would be springing over Mignon
also, and that though in hfe they had been
parted by cruel fate, in death they would not
be divided.



o4— 2





CHAPTER VIII.

'' The gods die first ;
And they whose heart is dry as summer dust,
Burn to the socket."

IGHT in the streets of London, and
^ the great hush and peace of an
universal rest spread hke a mantle
over the silent, sleeping city. Night . . .
that comes to all, to the oppressed, the poor,
the weary, as to the light-hearted who take
no thought for the morrow, and sleep, that is
the one good gift of God of which no tyrant
or taskmaster, however cruel, has power to
deprive us. For a few hours, at least, the
bitter tongue that has all day scourged
and stung, will move no longer, but hang
dumb and devoid of venom ; the harsh hand



HEART. 213



that has driven and chastised will lie nerve-
less as an infant's, and the busy plotting
brain lose its cunning in idle, harmless
dreams ; yea, until the morrow, prince and
peasant, tormentor and victim, murderer and
saint will alike be enfolded in the innocence
of God-given sleep, and for these few hours at
least are equal in the one blessing that is
common to all.

And what a clean, white, beautiful city had
not the moonbeams made of it on the night of
which I ^TOte ! How deceitfully in their
white splendour had they glorified all that
was picturesque, ennobled all that was mean
and sordid, until the rudest objects were
sightly and pleasant to behold !

Prue, awakened by that pure and brilliant
shining, or by some unusual sound, felt herself
turn cold with dread as she perceived that the
door of the inner room in which Mignon slept'
and across which her own bed was drawn,
stood a little way open. Starting up, she
at once discovered that room to be empty.
The girl must have stepped over the sleeping
woman, and so made her escape. Hastily



214 " CHERR Y RIPE /"

dressing herself, Prue, wasting no time in
searching the house, and finding, as she ex-
pected, the front door unfastened, sped on,
hke one possessed, through the streets, clear
as daylight, to the place, nigh upon two
miles away, to which she felt certain the girl
had gone.

Her mistress alone in the streets of London
at this hour ! Moreover, with her woman's
strength, her wits gone from her, into what
peril might she not run, or what might not
befall her, all defenceless and astray as she
was % And so, as the woman hurried on, she
took no heed of the beauty of the night, save
inasmuch as it afforded more light, and there-
fore more safety, as she hoped, to her darling.
Except the policemen on their beats she met
scarcely a soul, for there is no place quieter
than the heart of the city after midnight, and
Prue's heart gave a great jumj) as, passing
under the shadow of St. Paul's, the great
clock above rang out the hour of two.

In a few minutes she had gained the
churchyard, and making her way to the stone
that shone pure as snow in the moonlight,,



HEART. 215



drew a deep breath of relief as she saw a dark
form stretched beside it, whose cold cheek
rested against the yet colder marble, while
her arms were thrown around it, as though in
protection.

The night was intensely cold, every star
burned clear and intense as a jewel in the sky
overhead.

The girl might well die of this exposure,
thought Prue fearfully, as she made her way
through the long grass to the girl. What
could have j)ossessed her to come out at such
a time, unless, indeed, she had been beckoned
forth by that mysterious power said to be
exercised by the moon over all mad people,
and that compels them to gaze upon her,
even against their will '?

Of the strange and balefid effects produced
by the beautiful queen of night whole volumes
have been Avritten, and eerie and spectral are
some of the stories told of her.

Ambroise Pare has proved how it excites
the spirits, Pliny relates how drowsiness,
stupor, and mysterious disorders are produced
by sleeping in its beams, while Van Helmont



216 ''CHERRY RIPEf

asserts that a wound inflicted by moonlight
is so obstinate and difficult to treat as to be
well-nigh incurable ; and Arabs and Egyptians
alike are careful to hide their features when
sleeping beneath it in the open air, lest they
receive one of those treacherous moonblows
that will turn one-half of the face a different
colour to the other.

As Prue drew nearer, she made two dis-
coveries. Her mistress was fast asleep, and
she was not alone.

A man's figure, divided from Mignon by
Muriel's narrow grave, knelt, his left hand
pressed palm downwards against the grass,
his right half hidden in his breast, as though
he sought something, or was trying to keep
back some gnawing pain or hunger.

'^ Was he seeking a weapon with Avhich to
strike the sleeping defenceless girl yonder ?"
Prue asked herself, as she swiftly approached;
''had this man met her in the brightly-illu-
mined streets, and, taking advantage of her
loneliness, followed her even here T

She was but a few yards away when the
man, abandoning his intent watch of Mignon,



HEART. 217



suddenly flung his arms high above his head,
his face being for a moment Hfted to the sky,
then, swaying forward, fell across the grave,
his head ahnost at the girl's feet.

Prue paused abruptly, all fear of violence
or insult gone from her heart, but in their
place an intense loathing and hatred that
made her tremble like a leaf as she stood, for
she had recognised in the man before her, he
who had blighted her mistress's life, making
of her an outcast and a wanderer on the face
of the earth, and all the misery of the past,
.all the dreary desolation of the future, the
work of this man's hands, rose up before
the woman, moving her to a strength of
anger that Adam himself could scarcely have
surpassed.

It seemed unnatural to her that Mignon
could sleep on in the neighbourhood of this
traitor, that the mere fact of his breathing
the same air had not poAver to awaken her
as with a sense of suffocation, and the
"woman was passing away on to her mistress's
side, meaning to take her, when something
arrested her steps, and she stood irresolute,



218 ''CHERRY RIPEr

looking down on the motionless figure of the
man and girl before her.

For somehow it was conveyed to Prue's
mind, as such things mysteriously are con-
veyed, perchance by the quiver of a lip, the
motion of a hand, or the utter abandonment
of an attitude, that she stood in the presence
of one of those soul-paroxysms that for the
time being annihilate the identity of the on-
looker, comj)elling him to see, think, move,
even breathe only at the volition of the per-
son they are watching.

A few moments, and the bowed head was
lifted, once more the grave divided the man
and girl, and the woman, standing a few yards
behind him, saw him stretch out his hand
and cautiously, curiously touch a fold of Mig-
non's coarse stuff gown. Then, withdrawing
it, shuddered, crouched downwards as one
smitten to earth by conscience and God alike,
anon lifting his haggard eyes to the wan and
weary face that scarcely made a stain on the
marble tablet, and that no man would love
for its beauty now ; yet about whose forlorn-
ness there still hung a wistful, girlish look of



HEART. 219



youth and innocence, that, God knows how%
had chnio' to it throiio^h all her shame.

The touch of that coarse clothing seemed
to burn his hand .... She was clad thus, slie
.... she was alone at this hour of the night,
alone she must have traversed the streets of
London ; and was that look upon that Avhite
and wasted face grief or . . . starvation ?

To the girl who filled the mound betw^een
them he had brought . . , . death, and now^,
secure from further storm and shipwreck she
slept, let us hope, soundly and w^ell, but to
this other who survived he had brought —
what %

He looked downward at his hands, surely
there should be blood upon them ; was he not
as much the murderer of these hapless sisters
as any doomed wretch who lay awaiting the
consummation of his sentence on the mor-
row ?

Like twin-flowers formed out of dew^ and


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