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her two cousins a staying here ; the Miss Tilletts from the
Wych. Nice merry-hearted young ladies, they be : one of
'em, Miss Eliza, sings like a nightingale."

The dull pain at Mary's own heart seemed very bad just
then. Merry-hearted ! She envied the Miss Tillets.

" Fanny's going back to stay with them when they return,"

continued Mary Barber. " The master, he Why, who's this

now, a clamping down the lane ? "

The " clamping " proved to be from the heavy hob-nailed
boots of Mr. Sam Pouud. That gentleman was coming along
at full speed : his hands swaying, his smock-frock flying behind
him, his shock of hair waving on his bare head. He made
direct for the gate and Mary Barber, touching his hair to
Miss Arde and the company generally.

" Ud ye please to let 'em ha' the loan of a candle up there,
missis ? " he asked, jerking his head towards the Trailing
Indian.

"The loan of a candle," repeated Mary Barber. "Be yon
out o' candles up there, Sam Pound ? "

" We be. Our last bit, it were a' burned out i' the night;
and the master, he clean forgot it till just now. He'll a got



33° Dene Hollow.

some in to-morrow ; lie telled me to say so ; and ye shall have
it back."

Not being particularly interested in the subject of the can-
dle borrowing, Miss Arde and Susan said good night, and
walked on. Mary Barber stood on at the gate ; the fresh air,
gently fanning her face, was grateful. Sam looked at her.

" Be you a going to lend us that there candle, please,
ma'am ? " he asked again in a minute or two ; and his voice
had a kind of pressing urgency in it.

" I'll fetch it directly. Be you in such a mortal hurry, Sam
Pound ? "

" I bain't, but the master be," was his answer. " He can't
abear to be i' the house wi'out a light a'ter dark."

" Can't he," retorted Mary Barber, with composure. "How's
the missis ? "

Sam Pound looked about before he answered, as if to make
sure the hedges would not hear, and dropped his voice to a
low key.

" I think the missis be a dying, I do."

" What !" exclaimed the startled Mary Barber.

" I does," he said. " She ha' been right down bad this two
days, just a turning about in her bed like one as can't keep
still. All sorts o' things she've been a calling out — about
hearses, and diamonds, and lace, and murders ; a reg'lar hodge-
podge on't. When Black found she was a talking like that
last night, he bundled me down stairs, a saying as she was off
her head. " Look here," added the lad, lifting his eyes, full of a
kind of fear, to Mary Barber's, " it bain't right for her to die
up there all by herself. I don't like it. She've been a moan-
ing to-day like anything. I heered it down in the kitchen."

" Has Dr. Priar been fetched to her ? " questioned Mary
Barber.

" Nobody haven't been fetched to her : Black says the doctor
can't do her no good. Fact is," added shrewd Mr. Pound,
" Black don't want nobody to hear what her talks of. I say,
d'ye mind hearing talk of a pedlar as was lost up there 'i
'Twere afore my time."

Mary Barber nodded.

" Last night the missis was a calling out about him. "Oh !
don't hurt the pedlar ! Where be the pedlar ? What ha' you
done wi' him ?' Black, he turned the colour of a grey horse

and shoved the blanket over her head. Bat 'tain't right

for her to lie there all by herself to die, and not a Chris'n



Better to have let the Doubt lie. 331

anigh her. Black, he stumps up a bit now and then, and he've
sent me up wi' things to-day : but mostly she'll be all alone,
a moaning like a poor hurted animal."

Mary Barber, making no comment, turned to go indoors,
leaving Sam -where he was. She came back with two candles
held between a bit of paper, and her bonnet on.

" You run on down to Dr. Priar, Sam Pound, and ask if
he'll be so good as to step up to the Trailing Indian, and say
I sent ye. I'll take the candles on there myself."

Sam Pound hesitated. He thought the Trailing Indian
might not approve of seeing Mr. Priar, and that he himself
should have to bear the blame of it.

"Now you just be off," cried Mary Barber. " The sooner
you be gone, the sooner you'll be back again. Don't stand
staring like a stuck pig, Sam Pound."

Thus urged, Mr. Pound clattered off on his errand. And
Mary Barber made the best of her way to the inn.

It was quite dusk indoors, and moonlight out, by the time
she entered it. Black, regardless of the heat, had made up
a roaring fire in the kitchen, for the sake perhaps of the light,
and sat before it in his old wooden arm-chair fast asleep. Seeing
him thus, a thought prompted Mary Barber not to wake him ;
but rather to go up in unmolested quiet to Mrs. Black.
An iron candlestick stood on the table, put ready, no doubt, for
the return of Sam Pound. She slipped into it one of the candles
she brought ; lighted it at the blaze, and stole up stairs.

The sick woman lay on her bed — a low bed in a lean-to
room — in utter stillness. She was not dead ; but that she
had not many hours of life left in her Mary Barber saw.
The light of the candle, or perhaps the stir, caused her to open
her eyes : she looked quite sane now, whatever she might
have been in the hours preceding. Mary Barber knelt down,
and took the thin crippled hand that lay outside the clothes.

" I'm afraid you be very bad, poor thing," she said, in her
least hard tone.

"Ay, I have been. It's a'most over."

" I've sent to tell Doctor Priar. He'll be up presently."

" No good, no good," said Mrs. Black, feebly attempting to
shake her head. " Black, he'd ha' sent for 'm, had it been 0'
use. My time's come."

Mary Barber, looking at her countenance, believed it was true
— that no doctor could have done her good this time, or pro-
long her days. The dying woman resumed.



332 Dene Hollow.

" ]\Iine lias been a weary life, and I be glad to go. I'd like
to ha' gone years back — but the Lord, He knows best. I hope
he'll remember Avhat I've had to bear here, and gi' me a little
corner in heaven."

"And so He will; never fear," said Mary Barber heartily. "I'll
send for the parson and he shall come to say a prayer to ye."

" I've said it for myself," said the woman, closing her eyes.
But her feeble fingers held the strong ones gratefully. There
was a pause.

" Look here," said Mary Barber, breaking it, her thoughts
recurring to that one great — and in its surroundings most un-
satisfactory — calamity of the past, that was never entirely
absent from them long together, although so many years had
gone by, " look here. Have ye never a word o' certainty to
say to me about the death o' the master ? "

Mrs. Black opened her eyes and stared, evidently not un-
derstanding. Her perceptions were becoming dim.

" My poor old master, Robert Owen o' the farm. Did ye
know at the time anything about his death ?"

The meaning was caught now,fcaught"vividIy. Mrs. Black's
face assumed a look of terror, and she caught hold with both
hands of Mary Barber.

" I've lived in mortal dread o' seeing him," she cried, with
a sobbing of the breath ; " I've not dared to go out i' th'
gloaming all them years."

"Ah ! But was he murdered?"

" I don't know. I never did know. Oh, it have been a
fearsome life for me — fearing this, fearing t'other, and know-
ing nought. I'm glad it's ended."

" Who the plague be that, a cackling upstairs ?" called out
Black at this moment, his voice not at all the steady voice of a
man at ease.

" It's me, Black," said Mary Barber, tartly, going to the
head of the staircase. " I've come to see if aught can be
done for your wife. Just bring up a drain o' wine if ye've
got it, and some fresh cold water."

Before the astonished Black could find words strong
enough to growl out his wrath at this summary invasion of
his domestic privacy, Mr. Priar came in. Sam Pound had
encountered him turning out of the gates of Beechhurst Dene.

But the surgeon could not prolong the life of Black's wife.
Her poor, worn spirit, crushed by care and fear, flitted away
as the summer's morn was dawning 1 .



Seen through the Venetian Blinds. 333



CHAPTER XXXII.

SEEN THROUGH THE VENETIAN BLINDS.

Continued dropping will wear away a stone. During the
whole of the summer months, poor Mary Arde, her heart drag-
ging along always its heavy weight in silence, was subjected
to a species of amiable persecution, the chief agents in which
were her mother and Lady Lydia Clanwaring. The praises of
Captain Clanwaring were being ever said or sung ; the disre-
putable conduct of the scapegrace Tom reiterated. Xo' openly
reiterated : that might have defeated its ends : just a hint
of this thing and a hint of that, something or other ever looming
out to his discredit. Mr. Arde was not quite so active an ally.
But it was hardly right of him to let his daughter tacitly think
there could be no doubt of Tom's catalogue of crimes, the
stealing of the money amidst the rest. Mr. Arde believed
quite enough against Tom without letting her remain in the
assurance that Tom was guilty of much that he, the Squire,
knew he was not. Self-interest makes some of us wink at
deceit enacted in its cause : as it did Mr. Arde : and he was
on the brink of incurring a life-long penalty as his reward.

May fought against the influence as long as she could ; and
then she yielded to her fate. At least, yielded to it so far as
conditionally to accept Jarvis Clanwaring and promising to be
his wife. The captain was ever near her ; but so kind, so
gentle, so unobtrusive in his claims and attentions, that she
felt ashamed even tacitly to show that she could not reward
his love. A saint himself might of late have believed in
Captain Clanwaring : Mr. and Mrs. Arde sang his praises
every meal-time. May's own feelings prompted her to take
the captain in spite of her repugnance to him. She w r as but
a woman ; and she longed for a bit of revenge on Tom, who
had been so disgracefully false to her in secret, and who allowed
young persons to pay visits to him in Ireland. It was but in
accordance with human nature that she should pant to show
the false deceiver she cared for somebody else as well as he did,
and show him she would, whatever the cost to herself.

It was in September that she accepted Captain Clanwaring.
The promise she gave was full of hesitation, her manner nro-



334 Dene Hollow.

vokingly listless. " As good Jarvis Clanwaring as any other,
if niarriage it must be," the refrain of despair kept beating in
her heart. The captain, all tender kindness and impulsive
gratitude, ventured to press for an immediate union. But
here May rebelled : absolutely refusing not only to fix a speedy
epoch, but to give an idea of when any such epoch might be fixed.
Now, nothing upon earth could have been more untoward
for the captain ; nothing have caused him greater incon-
venience than this. The proceeds of his commission bad kept
him afloat for a short while ; but during these summer months
he had not known what to do for money. The back claims
that he had been unable to pay pressed more heavily upon him
day by day ; and in this September month, the month that
witnessed May's promise, his condition had grown desperate.
Many an anxious hour did he and his mother spend together,
plotting to see what could be done. Once let an exposure
come, and the probability was that May would seize upon it as
a plea for retracting her word, and the Squire uphold her.
Lady Lydia was her son's only confidante : and she but a par-
tial one. Jarvis gave her no details ; and did not tell her the
worst of his embarrassments. My Lady had been at her wits'
end many a time before, contriving how to do the best for him
in his troubles ; but never so completely as now, when the
glorious prospect of the marriage with the heiress had become
a certainty, and must, by hook or by crook, be allowed to go
on to completion. To get money out of a flint stone would
have been as likely a result as the attempt to get any, now or
hereafter, from Sir Dene. Nevertheless, got it must be, even
though the means used were desperate. Desperate causes (the
reader must pardon us for repeating a proverb quoted before)
require desperate remedies.

The bright sunshine of September lay on the London streets,
as a lumbering hackney coach passed on its slow way from a
fashionable hotel at the West End towards Lincoln's Inn. It
drew up before a door in Old Square ; and Captain Clanwaring
stepped out of it. His black moustache was charmingly
curled : his whiskers shone ; his appearance was altogether
that of a stylish buck of the day.

Flinging his fare to the old coachman — who had on a heavy
great-coat with about fifteen capes to it, in defiance of the
weather's heat — the captain began to toil to the topmost
chambers of the house. He anathematised the way a little as
he went up, and struck his cane round once or twice angrily.



Seen through the Venetian Blinds. 335

Arrived at the last flight, a door faced him, bearing a barrister's
name on its panels. " Mr. Otto Clanwaring."

Otto Clanwaring worked just as much during the vacation
as he did in term time.- Jarvis, going straight in without the
ceremony of knocking, found him with a law parchment of
some kind spread out before him on the table, and his head bent
over it between his hands. Seated sideways to the door, and
supposing it was only his clerk who had come in, Otto did not
look round.

"What a deuced long way it is, up these stairs, Otto ! It's
my belief you've got another flight added on, since I was here
last."

Up went Otto's head with a start. " Why, Jarvis ! "

Laughing a little in his surprise, the barrister rose and held
out his hand to his brother. Jarvis resigned to it the tips of
his fingers encased in their delicate straw-coloured kid. The
contrast between the brothers was remarkable. The one tall,
handsome, elegant, attired in all the height of the fashion ; the
other, little and plain, his clothes of homely grey, and some-
what shabby.

"How hot you feel up here!" remarked Jarvis, sinking
languidly into a chair on the other side of the table.

" Rooms up in the roof are always hottest," replied Otto.

" And highest. Why don't you move down lower ? "

" This suits my pocket best, Jarvis. When did you come
up to town ? "

"Night mail," shortly answered Jarvis.

" All well at the Dene ? "

" Passably," yawned Jarvis. " Old man gets more crot-
chety than ever. Shuts himself up in his chambers for days
at a time. Lets nobody go in at all hardly but Gander."

Otto, who had resumed his seat, bent his head on his work
again. That Jarvis never condescended to trouble his
chambers unless for some purpose of his own was a long-ago
proved fact ; and Otto knew he had only to be still to hear it.
He would not inquire : not at all approving of these missions
of Jarvis. The probability was that he had come now to try
and borrow money, or to badger him to accept a bill. In the
latter, Jarvis had never succeeded yet : the barrister was too
cautious.

Leaning a little forward on his chair, and lightly tapping
the table with his cane, sat the captain. Either he had
nothing to say, and had actually come from the West End



$t,6 Dene Hollow.

merely to while away an idle moment, or else he was taking a
long time to say it. Tapping here, tapping there, he happened
to tap a letter lying amidst other letters, and the tap flirted it
upwards and turned it over. The direction was uppermost
then, and caught the eyes of Jarvis, somewhat awakening
them from their lazy indifference.

" That's Tom Clanwaring's writing, Otto ? "

Otto quietly lifted his face. " That ? Yes. I got the
letter this morning."

Jarvis curled his lip. " I wonder you suffer him to corre-
spond with you ! "

" He is welcome to correspond with me if he likes. That's
the first letter, however, that I have had from him."

Jarvis wished to know what the letter was about, but did
not ask. His brother had a civil way of declining to give
information, if it suited him not to give it. The next moment,
Otto spoke ; quite readily.

" Tom writes to ask me if I will tell him how things are
going on in his old home. He says he can get no news what-
ever. Nobody writes to him.

"What does it concern him, how things are going on ? "
growled Jarvis.

" I suppose he possesses common remembrances and affec-
tions," returned Otto, pushing up the cuff of his grey coat.
" The way Tom was treated among us all that time was an
infernal shame."

" Y"ou didn't do much toward the treatment at any rate,"
retorted Jarvis. " Given you your way, and you'd just have
shut your eyes to everything, and kept the fellow where he
was."

" Of course I would. And I've not forgiven myself yet for
having been the means of letting out that thing about the
Trailing Indian. No, and not forgiven some of the rest of you
cither, for taking it up in the manner you did. 'Twas a
cowardly shame."

" Perhaps you'd like to say it ought to have been hushed
up? That the fellow should have been let off scot-
free ? "

" One man may walk into the house while another may not
look over the hedge," remarked Otto. " Had you or I been
found out in a bit of a scrape, Jarvis, nothing would have been
said. Not that I have anything to do with such scrapes, thank
goodness."



Seen through the Venetian Blinds. 337

Which almost sounded as if Jarvis had. The latter
answered sharply.

" He had been the bane of our house long enough. 'Twas
time he -went out of it."

" Well, I see no reason for his being sent to Coventry, now,
in the way you all seem to be sending him. Just an answer
to his letters once in a way, telling him how Sir Dene is,
would not hurt any of you."

Captain Clanwaring threw back his head and waved his
scented handkerchief; as if to wave off anything so low as
Tom Clanwaring, that might come between the wind and his
nobility.

" I w r ould not condescend to write to the goat if he were
dying. One would think you might employ your leisure better,
Otto ! "

" It's not the first time my leisure will have been taken up
in doing w'ork neglected by others," quietly replied Otto.

"Just as you please, of course," was the rejoinder of Jarvis,
scornfully delivered, as if the subject were altogether beneath
him.

A silence ensued. The Captain leaned back in his chair,
softly whistling. Otto turned over a leaf of his parchment,
and made a pencil mark on its margin. Presently he spoke
again.

" Has that Emma Geach come back. Jarvis ? "

"I've not heard of it."

" I wonder where she is."

" Don't know. There was a report in the summer that she
was in Ireland."

" Oh," said Otto. And went on with his reading again.

" How is it you've not been down at all this year ? " asked
Jarvis, tapping his boot.

" I have had a good bit of work one way or another, and
thought I could not do better than stick to it. Holidays run
away both with time and money : I cannot well afford either
yet. Talking of money, Jarvis — has that thief been discovered
vet?"

"What thief?"

" You know. He who stole the bag out of Sir Dene's
secretary on New Year's Day. You were going to follow up
some suspicion upon the point. Did you ? "

"No. At least — I did what I could, but it was not enough.
Nothing has come to lie-ht."



338 Dene Hollow.

" And nothing -will until Black confesses," observed Otto.
" He was the thief. If I were down there, and Sir Dene would
let me have the handling of it, I'd risk my reputation on
bringing it home to the man in a week."

Jarvis pushed his dark face forward, and looked hard at his
brother. The indifference on his countenance had given place
to what seemed quite like alarmed interest.

" DonH meddle, tvitli it, Otto. You might do incalculable
harm. At least, the harm of condemning the thing to remain
for ever in its present obscurity. It was not Black. It was
no more Black than it was you or me."

" Have you still an interest in warding suspicion off
Black ? " questioned Otto.

" I ! Why what interest did I ever have in doing that ? "
retorted Jarvis, as if he had forgotten so much of the past.

" That tobacco debt of yours."

" Oh — that ! Ay, I remember. That has been settled long
ago, and a fresh score run up," added Jarvis slightly laughing.
" See here, Otto," he continued seriously, " I have a private
reason of my own for wishing the facts connected with that
matter to be brought to light. In my own mind I am as sure
who it was as though I had seen the money taken. Give me
time and I'll track it home to the right one yet."

" Can't you tell me who it was ? "

" No. No. And if I did, it would not particularly interest
you."

"Black's wife's dead, I hear."

" Went off two or three months ago," carelessly rejoined
Jarvis. " I don't think Black will last very long. He seems
to be on nearly his last legs."

" And how are the Arde Hall people ? " continued Otto,
privately wishing his idle brother would betake himself away,
and leave him to his work. " How's May ? "

" They are all right. May is engaged to me."

"No!" exclaimed Otto, darting a quiet glance at the
Captain.

" She is. Why need you be so surprised ? "

" Because, to tell the truth, I thought she'd never consent
to have you," said Otto, candidly. He did not add the other
thought, though, that lay in his mind : " She cared only for
Tom Clanwaring."

" Much indebted for your good opinion," derisively spoke
Jarvis. " She has consented, and so you were wrong, you



Seen through the Venetian Blinds. 339

see. As for me, I'm glad the matter's set at rest : I have
been dangling after her long enough."

" I congratulate you, Jarvis. May Arde is the sweetest
girl I know."

" Thank you. Yes, the prospect is not bad," complacently
continued the Captain. " Ten thousand pounds settled on
her ; ten thousand pounds to be handed over to me on the
wedding-day. And all the rest of the property, including the
Hall, when the old people fall in."

"A widely different prospect from mine — who have to work
hard for my bread and cheese : and probably will have to
work to the end," returned Otto, with good-natured cheerful-
ness. " You were born, I take it, under a luckier star than
I, Jarvis."

Jarvis slightly nodded his head, and took another look at
his handsome boots. In his opinion there could not be a more
unlucky star than one that entailed work of any sort. They
were interrupted by a knock at the door.

" Come in," called out the barrister.

A little bald-headed gentleman dressed in black, with a
broad-plaited frill standing out from the bosom of his shirt,
and a heavy bunch of handsome seals hanging, answered the
mandate.

" Oh ! I'm so glad to find you in, Mr. Clanwaring," he
said, standing with the door in his hand. "Don't disturb
yourself. The serjeant is obliged to forestal the hour fixed
for the consultation, and name an earlier one. Four o'clock
instead of six. Will it suit you ? "

Otto considered. At four o'clock that afternoon he had in-
tended to proceed elsewhere on business. It was, however, no
appointment, and he could take another time for it.

" I suppose it must suit me, Mr. Lake," he said aloud.
"Yes. I'll be over at the Serjeant's chambers at four."

" That's all, then, Mr. Clanwaring. Four o'clock precisely,
please. I've been to the other two. Good morning."

" That was the great Serjeant Sterndale's chief clerk,"
observed Otto to his brother. " Lake is the cleverest little
man in Lincoln's Inn. Three parts of those written opinions
of the Serjeant's, so renowned for their depth and
wisdom, are his. It's said he gets twelve hundred a year
salary."

Silence set in again. Captain Clanwaring was sunk in a
brown study ; the barrister went on with his parchment. A



340 Dene Hollow.

glint of hot sunlight took a corner of the ■window and threw
its rays on the table almost like a burning-glass.

" I am in an awful mess, Otto."

The acknowledgment sounded so strange after the former
declaration of glowing prospects, and perhaps so unexpected,
that Otto looked across as if he hardly believed his ears.

"Debts again ? "

Jarvis nodded. " Neaidy done to death with 'em."

" That's what he has come about, is it," thought Otto. "1
can't help you, Jarvis," he said aloud, forestalling any request
of the sort. " It's as much as I can do to get along and pay
my own way."

" Nobody asked you to," retorted Jarvis. " I believe I
shall be able to help myself."

Otto silently wondered how.

" Do you know anything of a man named Pale ? "

" Pale the money-lender ? Yes, I know him."

" Had transactions with him yourself, perhaps ? " went on
Jarvis.

" Never. Not in the way you mean. Why do you ask
about him ? "

" I want you to tell me, if you can, whether, or not, he is a



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