M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon.

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Hooks by the

same tAuthor.


Lady Audley's Secret


Henry Dunbar

Mount Royal

Eleanor's Victory

The Golden Calf

Aurora Floyd

Phantom Fortune

i John Marchmont's Legacy

Flower and Weed

1 The Doctor's Wife


J Only a Clod

Wyllard's Weird

, Sir Jasper's Tenant

Under the Red Flag

1 Trail of the Serpent

One Thing Needful

The Lady's Mile


Lady Lisle

Like and Unlike

Captain of the Vulture

The Fatal Three

Birds of Prey

The Day Will Come

Charlotte's Inheritance

One Life, One Love

Rupert Godwin


Run to Earth

The Venetians

Dead Sea Fruit

All Along the River

Ralph the Bailiff

Thou Art the Man

Fenton's Quest

Sons of Fire

Lovels of Arden

Rough Justice

Robert Ainsleigh

Under Love's Rule

To the Bitter End

The Christmas Hirelings

Milly Darrel

London Pride

Strangers and Pilgrims

The Conflict

Lucius Davoren
Taken at the Flood
Lost for Love
A Strange World
Hostages to Fortune
Dead Men's Shoes
Joshua Haggard
Weavers and Weft
An Open Verdict

The Cloven Foot
The Story of Barbara
Just as I Am

The Infidel

His Darling Sin

In High Places

A Lost Eden
! The Rose of Life

The White House

Her Convict

Dead Love Has Chains

During Her Majesty's Plea-
i Our Adversary

Beyond These Voices

The Green Curtain

Miranda ByM.E.Braddon

tAuthor of "Lady Dudleys Secret," "The Green
Curtain" * - • etc., etc.








THE BARROW was not the great house at Melford-
on-the-Moor, though it was one of the largest
houses, and indisputably the richest house in that pastoral
parish. But at Melford the parochial mind had a strong
bias in favour of blue blood ; and though The Barrow
employed more labour and spent more money than any
other house in Melford, Tower Hill, which had belonged
to Lord Airdale's ancestors from the reign of Henry the
Eighth, must always rank as the great house, whether
exhibiting the dreary aspect of shuttered windows and
gardens running to seed, or shining across the rural land-
scape in the autumn evenings, a place of light and music,
where town ladies were playing bridge with the men who
came to his lordship's great shoot.

The shootings belonging to The Barrow covered a wider
range of wood and waste, but they had been less carefully
preserved since Mr. Strickland's death, and shoots were
seldom and guns were few under Lady Laura's rule. The
mound that gave its name to the estate, bought some two
centuries ago by Mr. Strickland's ancestor, an East India



merchant, was the earthy sepulchre of a Roman general,
who may have been a fine soldier and a hero in his time,
but of whom Melford, and even famous archaeologists,
knew no more than the fact that his bones lay under that
grassy mound on the highest spot of the long, low hill
behind the handsome rCd-brick house that the East India
merchant had built for himself in those later years of the
good Queen's reign, when the fate of her half-brothei
still trembled in the balance, and England might have
had a fifth Stuart king.

The main fact that the barrow was genuine, and that
the Roman's ashes were actually underneath, had been
established by sacrilegious burrowings and the testimony
of antiquarian experts. To identify Roman dust might
be difficult, but those bronze coins and an inscription
upon the vase that held the dust left no doubt as to the
nationality of the soldier or the date of his death.

The red-brick house, with stone decoration, and triple
range of high, narrow windows, classical pediment and
pillared porch, left little to be desired in the way of domestic
architecture. It possessed the dignity that comes from
size and solidity, was grand, and yet looked like a house
to live in, not like a hospital or board-school. Strangers
never asked what the building was. They asked who
lived there, and were inclined to envy the owner of a
house that was old enough to be picturesque, yet new
enough to be sound in every stone and timber, and suitable
for all the needs of domestic life, with space for a large
hospitality and a numerous family.

It seemed rather a pity, people said, that poor Mr.
Strickland had been killed in a railway accident within a
year of his marriage, and that dear Lady Laura should
have been left with an only daughter, born six months after
Mr. Strickland's death.

Mr. Strickland was the last of seven generations of pros-
perous merchants, the last representative of a famous
house in Mincing Lane and a firm which had been always
remarkable for its good fortune. Whatever the Strick-
lands touched turned to gold. They had been opportunists


in the world of commerce, and had always known when
to take a thing up and when to drop it. They had been
fortunate in everything except the maintenance of their
race. That had dwindled. The firm had been Strickland
Brothers, not Strickland and Son, and when Robert Strick-
land lost his life in the memorable collision of an express
and a goods train in a December snowstorm, he was, with
the exception of a bachelor uncle, the last of the Mincing
Lane Stricklands.

The gentlefolks at Melford, who were mostly retired
Colonels or Post-Captains — by courtesy Admirals — often
talked of Mr. Strickland, or rather, their wives and elderly
daughters talked, with undiminished interest, though he
had been lying under a massive granite cross in the church-
yard for nearly eighteen years. It was not because he
himself had been particularly interesting, but because he
had married " blood," and had left a large fortune to the
daughter who had never seen a father's face or heard a
father's voice.

" Mr. Strickland was a gentleman, though he made his
money in trade," Colonel Devereux's wife remarked, not
for the first time, as she poured out tea for the two Miss
Parlbys, their widowed mother, and the junior curate,
the four guests attracted by her fortnightly hospitality :
" At home first and third Fridays " — a form of entertain-
ment of which the Melford gentry did well to avail them-
selves, since other hospitalities were rare at Devereux
Court, the large white house facing the village green, where
the colonel had been steadily growing rich, by the simple
process of spending less than half his income.

" But it was wholesale trade, and on a very large
scale," said the elder Miss Parlby. " I don't suppose
Mr. Strickland had ever handled a pound of coffee in his

" Of course not," said Mrs. Devereux. " They never
saw coffee. They made their money in the rise and fall
of markets. They made thousands in a morning."

" That sounds more like gambling than trade," sighed
Mrs. Parlby.



" It was gambling/ ' said Mrs. Devereux. '* The Strick-
lands speculated in all sorts of things, and ran great risks,
but they were always lucky."

" Yet I was just a little bit surprised at Lord Airdale
allowing his daughter to marry a coffee-merchant," said
Mrs. Parlby. " Such a proud man as he was, looking down
upon everybody whose ancestors were not in the First

" The Denzils were as poor as church mice, and people
can't live upon dead crusaders," said Mrs. Devereux,
who was always broad-minded and practical. " It was a
very good match for Lady Laura, though she was quite
the prettiest of the Denzil girls, and she has nothing to
complain of, though her three sisters are peeresses. Strick-
land was a gentleman, and immensely rich. What more
could anybody want ? "

" What, indeed ! " sighed the Miss Parlbys, who had
ceased to hope for anything in the shape of a husband
for the last six years, during which period even their
dearest friends had left off talking of them as " the Parlby

" I don't suppose any of her sisters is as well off as Lady
Laura," said Kate.

" And how sweet of her not to marry again," said Clara.

Here the young curate, who had been quietly consuming
a crumpet, put in a word.

" Lady Laura is a woman of deeply religious mind and
strong convictions," he said. " I should have been sur-
prised if such a woman could contemplate a second

" But you have only known her for the last three years,
and she has been seventeen years a widow. How do you
know how many times she may have Contemplated a
second marriage before you came to Melford ? "

" It would not be in her character. I base my opinion
on that."

" I don't like dogmatism, but so far you are right. She
never has thought of marrying again, though I believe
there has been more than one attempt to win her. But


there is a reason for her not marrying, which you do not
appear to have fathomed," Mrs. Devereux concluded,
determined not to encourage opinionativeness in a youth
of two-and-twenty, not yet in Priest's Orders.

" I can imagine no reason but high principles."

" Then you have not discovered the master-passion of
Lady Laura's life — her overweening love for her only
child. There never was such an adoring mother. One
can but hope such idolatry is rare. Poor woman ! She is
my dearest friend, and I am warmly attached to her ;
but I see her unreasoning love for that girl, and I tremble
for her future."

" But Miranda is quite sweet," said Clara Parlby.
" The sort of girl no mother could spoil."

" And exquisitely pretty," said Kate, " with an ideal

" What girl could help having a figure when her riding-
habits cost twenty guineas, and even her cotton frocks are
made in Hanover Square ? " said Kate's mother, with a
touch of scorn. It was hard to sit facing her two faded
daughters in their village-tailor coats and skirts and to
hear them praising the young heiress, who had been born
lovely, and reared in the nicest clothes that money could
buy. Nobody outside the Laurels — and not even the
house-parlourmaid inside — knew the thought and calcu-
lation, the poring over sale-catalogues, and study of
patterns, that went with the choosing of a frock for the
Miss Parlbys, and how often the frock that had promised
to look as if it had come straight from Paris showed in
every line too familiar faults of the Melford dressmaker.


MIRANDA was seventeen. She had lived through
seventeen of the happiest years that were ever
given to mortal on this prosaic earth. Her life had been
all poetry — the poetry of an existence steeped in the love
of good women. Her nurse was an excellent woman,
young and fresh and warm-hearted, with enough mind
for all the duties that were required of her, a servant of
the antique type, who would no more have thought of
giving warning than of drowning herself, who lived only
to serve the baby she had reared, and who never had left
off wondering that the little round-limbed creature that
had been so sweet, something between a bird and a flower,
could have developed into a beautiful young woman.

" To think that she should be so tall and stately, my
lady, the rosy mite that used to lie in my lap and laugh at
the sunshine on the nursery wall, and coo and coo, she
would — always sweet-tempered, and loved her bath, and
never hardly cried, except with her back teeth, and to
think that she should be so tall, and walk and move like
a princess."

" Did you ever see a princess, Baker ? "

" Yes, indeed I have, my lady ; when Miss Miranda was
two years old, and we was all at Bordighera. There was a
royal Princess in the hotel ; but she was a Russian and
much too fat."

This was spoken when Miranda was only fifteen, when
she was taller than most girls of her age. She was seven-
teen now, and perhaps the tallest of the bread-and-butter



misses of Melford, and, as most people said, the prettiest —
though there was often that after-thought about her
" advantages," the fashionable dressmaker, the riding,
the gymnasium, the life of ease and happiness, all things
that could combine to make youth lovely.

She was seventeen, and according to the talk at tea-
tables, Lady Laura was to take a house in London next
year, and this pearl of daughters was to be presented
at Court, and was to be launched in society with all the
flourish that ought to mark the first appearance of a beauty
and an heiress.

This was what the gossips had arranged, and they knew
even whose house Lady Laura meant to take — namely,
that of her sister, Lady Haverstock, who was by no means
affluent, and generally found some good reason for being
away from Mayfair in the season, while Lord and Lady
Tom, Dick, or Harry enjoyed the amenities of her fine house
in Hill Street. This was what the gossips had arranged ;
but Lady Laura had spoken no word of Mayfair, or
Buckingham Palace, and Miranda hated the idea of London,
and that first season which girls of her age talked of as the
acme of terrestrial bliss. They did not believe her when
she told them that she had no longing for balls and
parties, nor for the opera and the theatres. They told
each other that this affectation of indifference was all
" side."

" She won't let herself go when she is talking to us,"
said Mary Lester, whose people ranked as county on the
strength of two hundred acres of neglected woods, and a
fine stretch of park-like meadows let to the local butcher
for grazing land, which had been owned by the Lesters
since the Tudors. " She thinks we are not good enough.
She is wrapped up in the idea of her own importance, and
fancies herself a genius. Her governess told me in confi-
dence that she sits up till midnight writing poetry by her
dressing-room fire. That mother of hers has made a fool
of her."

Mary, Bessie, and Doris Lester had not been fooled in
the home-circle. They had no dressing-room fires, and


they had to sit at meat with a father who questioned and
found fault with every word they spoke, except when he
was grumbling about the food, or quarrelling with their

It may be that Miranda had enjoyed too much of the
roses and lilies of life, and that a girlhood of such absolute
indulgence was hardly the best preparation for the battle
which has to come in the lives of women — whatever their
temporal advantages, — the battle of the heart, or of the
brain, the fight with fate, or the fight with man.

Lady Laura had loved her husband as fondly as if he
had been a lineal descendant of the Plantagenets, though
she was credited with having been won by his wealth ;
and the child who had come to her after his ghastly death,
had come as a ray of light in the deep gloom of a woman's
first sorrow. The smile in the infant's face was her conso-
lation. She would have liked to call her baby Consuelo,
but her father implored her not to give the child a foreign
name, and so she was christened Miranda, after Shake-
speare's high-bred heroine.

" They are all lovely," Lady Laura said sometimes,
when she condescended to justify her choice : " Juliet,
Beatrice, Perdita, Viola ; but Miranda is Shakespeare's
ideal lady " — which did not prevent Lord Airdale calling
it " a stoopid affected name."

Miranda grew from infancy to the " coming-out " age,
in an atmosphere of poetry. Lady Laura, being pro-
tected by wealth from all the petty cares and sordid con-
siderations of daily life, and armed against all troubles of
the heart by her devotion to the memory of a husband
lost in the first freshness of wedded life, was free to give
her nights and days to literature and art, and as she was
romantic, and an enthusiast, literature with her meant
poetry, and art meant Botticelli, Raphael and Burne-
Jones. She was deeply religious, and the romantic
element was necessary in her idea of religion. She was
not a Roman Catholic, but all her leanings were towards
the religion of the past ; and it was not till Gilbert Ferrar
came to Trownham, the busy manufacturing town on the


other side of the moor, and established a ritual which
had never been imagined until he became Vicar of St.
Barnabas, that Lady Laura found a service that satisfied
her idea of what Christian worship ought to be. From
that time, without absolutely deserting the old parish
church at Melford, to which she felt herself bound by the
chain of long association, the grave old church that had
seen her baptism, her confirmation, her marriage and her
husband's funeral service, Lady Laura was to be found
at most of the evening services in the new church at
Trownham, sitting among a congregation of shopkeepers,
annuitants, clerks and factory hands, which filled a temple
where the seats were free, and where there was no respect
of persons.

St. Barnabas' was a memorial church, built with a
noble disregard of cost, by the widow of the richest manu-
facturer in the big, unlovely town. A famous ecclesiastical
architect had come from London, and had been allowed to
indulge his loftiest yearnings in the creation of one perfect
building — untrammelled by calculations as to cost, or by
the prejudice, or the bad taste of his client. The manu-
facturer's widow had no ideas of her own that she wanted
realized. She told the architect that he was to design
a church to hold so many people, and was to make it lovely,
and worthy of " him." The portrait of the defunct hus-
band to which she pointed as she finished her little speech,
with a stress upon the pronoun, was not suggestive of a
lofty sestheticism, but her own meaning was pathetic in
its sincerity, and the architect threw all his mind into
the work. The Early English church was worthy of the
generous feeling that had created it, and when the first
Vicar's power as a preacher came to be known, and the
new life and colour of his ritual to be understood and
appreciated, St. Barnabas' became the best-filled church
in Trownham, with an unsalaried choir who cheerfully
sacrificed hours that had once been spent in trivial
pleasures. Mr. Ferrar was an accomplished musician
and an indefatigable worker, and in less than two years
after he read himself in at St. Barnabas', his choir was


good enough to be heard without a blush by the man who,
as an undergraduate, had been familiar with the choirs of
Magdalen and New College.

Everybody wondered why Mr. Ferrar had taken upon
himself the new parish of St. Barnabas, a parish where
there was everything to do — and no endowment with
which to do it. That a man who had taken a first in
greats at Oriel should of his own choice come to preach
to mill-hands and the humblest of shopkeepers — in a
place where nonconformity was rampant and the Church of
England in the dust — did not create wonder; for neither
that mysterious word " greats " nor the exclusiveness of
Oriel carried any meaning to the people who wondered
and speculated about their first Vicar. But that a man
of means — a man who could afford to pick and choose —
should be willing to live year in, year out, in a wilderness
of narrow streets, where the air was heavy with the reek
of poverty, and where the word " society " had no mean-
ing, seemed an insoluble problem for the gentilities within
reach of Trownham.

The new church was a revelation to the people who came
there for the first time — not those superior people from the
better parts of Trownham, who had assisted at the conse-
cration service and listened to the Archbishop, but the
offscouring, the real parishioners, for whom there had been
no room in the old churches, and for whose redemption
this handsome grey stone temple had been built. The
decorated altar, the lighted candles, the white-robed
choir and the fine music were things that had not been
known in Trownham. But the preacher who stood up in
his white surplice and embroidered stole, — the tall, erect
figure, motionless as if carved in marble,' — the strong,
clear-cut face, thick dark hair, and steel-grey eyes under
penthouse brows, — the powerful voice, low rather than
loud, yet audible in the farthest corner of the church —
these were the new things that opened new vistas of
thought to the long heads of the men, and brought a
cloud across the sight of the women who watched the new
face and listened to the new voice.


That first sermon of Gilbert Ferrar's was the keynote
to his life in Trownham.

" God is light."

That was his text.

" Come out of the darkness ! "

That was his sermon.

He told them that he had come to bring them light.
That was his mission in Trownham. Light in their homes,
light in their minds — open doors and windows — open
hearts to receive the message of salvation, open eyes to
see the glory of God on earth. The light of truth, the
light of day, and the light that shines in a clean home
and a clear conscience. He spoke to them from a level,
as it were shoulder to shoulder, man to man — roughly
almost, as no preacher had ever spoken to them before —
not like the familiar nonconformist — who let himself down
to talk to them — more as the colonel of a regiment might
talk, jollying his soldiers. They went out of the church
full of wonder, half angry and half pleased — " Parson
was a queer sort — but the right sort."

That first sermon was his letter of introduction. He
and his flock understood each other and were friends —
pals, some of them said, with a simple assurance that took
no account of caste differences.

If they did not slap him on the back, at least they
liked him to do it to them. His strong personality
exercised a kind of awe even when their relations with
him were most familiar.

Gilbert Ferrar was not yet in his thirtieth year when he
came to Trownham; and though the townspeople were
inclined to think the living ought to have been given to
a man of maturer age and wider experience in the church,
even the most narrow-minded and conventional among
them were soon assured that they had a strong man for
their Vicar. A man who meant to take his own line and
to hold it. A man not to be deflected from his purpose
even by the most influential member of his congregation.
Indeed it was discovered before he had been vicar half
a year that there were no influential members of the


congregation, and that neither money nor position made
the faintest difference in his appreciation of the units of
his flock. For the first year there was some discontent,
and letters were written to the local papers, not without
suggestions of an appeal to Episcopal authority — but the
Vicar took no notice of the letters, and the Bishop was
not called upon to interfere. Before he had been two
years in authority Mr. Ferrar was the most popular man
in Trownham. His eloquence, his passion for all things
fit and beautiful, with its backing of strong common-
sense, had filled his church, and made him the delight and
desire of his people. He might have dined out six times
a week, gossips told each other, and not only in the villas
on the Melford Road, where successful commerce took
its rest after labour, but in the outlying mansions of the
landed gentry. Gilbert Ferrar, however, had not taken
orders with any idea of dining out every evening, or being
accepted as an equal by the lords of the soil. He had
entered the church as a way of doing the utmost good to
his fellow-creatures that one man can do in this chaotic
world, and it was not in his character to do his work in
a humdrum manner or to preach colourless sermons. As a
parish priest he had shown himself something of a despot,
kindly but autocratic. He had penetrated into the
obscurest corners of the town. He spared neither rich
nor poor. He was the scourge of owners of tenement
houses, but he was also the terror of neglectful mothers and
slovenly house-wives. Those steel-grey eyes looked into all
dark and dirty corners, moral and physical. He looked
through the faces of his flock and read the minds behind the
simpering masks of the women or the scowling brows of the
men. For the first year of his stewardship the prevailing
sentiment among the poor had been dislike — not distrust.
They knew, somehow, that the man was no humbug, no
preacher of cut-and-dried religion, chaff instead of wheat.
They told each other in their tap-rooms and clubs that the
Vicar of St. Barnabas was straight, and that he had more
brains than any other parson in Trownham, where parsons
conforming and non-conforming were many. The second


year of his ministry changed the aspect of affairs, and
there was seen at St. Barnabas' a development that was

Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonMiranda → online text (page 1 of 34)