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ally she reappeared in her old parish, absolutely
refusing, however, to have anything to do with the
provision made for her. Her monotonous milking at
the dairy was resumed, and followed for many long
years, till her form became bent, and her once
abundant dark hair white and worn away at the fore-
head perhaps by long pressure against the cows.
Here, sometimes, those who knew her experiences
would stand and observe her, and wonder what
sombre thoughts were beating inside that impassive,
wrinkled brow, to the rhythm of the alternating

' Blackivood 's Magazine?
January 1888.



THE shepherd on the east hill could shout out lambing
intelligence to the shepherd on the west hill, over
the intervening town chimneys, without great incon-
venience to his voice, so nearly did the steep pastures
encroach upon the burghers' backyards. And at night
it was possible to stand in the very midst of the town
and hear from their native paddocks on the lower
levels of greensward the mild lowing of the farmer's
heifers, and the profound, warm blowings of breath in
which those creatures indulge. But the community
which had jammed itself in the valley thus flanked
formed a veritable town, with a real mayor and
corporation, and a staple manufacture.

During a certain damp evening five-and-thirty
years ago, before the twilight was far advanced, a
pedestrian of professional appearance, carrying a small
bag in his hand and an elevated umbrella, was descend-
ing one of these hills by the turnpike road when he
was overtaken by a phaeton.

' Hullo, Downe is that you ? ' said the driver of
the vehicle, a young man of pale and refined appear-
ance. 'Jump up here with me, and ride down to
your door.'

The other turned a plump, cheery, rather self-
indulgent face over his shoulder towards the hailer.

' O, good evening, Mr. Barnet thanks,' he said,
and mounted beside his acquaintance.

1 1 1


They were fellow-burgesses of the town which lay
beneath them, but though old and very good friends
they were differently circumstanced. Barnet was a
richer man than the struggling young lawyer Downe,
a fact which was to some extent perceptible in
Downe's manner towards his companion, though
nothing of it ever showed in Barnet's manner towards
the solicitor. Barnet's position in the town was none
of his own making ; his father had been a very
successful flax-merchant in the same place, where the
trade was still carried on as briskly as the small
capacities of its quarters would allow. Having ac-
quired a fair fortune, old Mr. Barnet had retired from
business, bringing up his son as a gentleman-burgher,
and, it must be added, as a well-educa*ed, liberal-
minded young man.

' How is Mrs. Barnet ? ' asked Downe.

' Mrs. Barnet was very well when I left home,'
the other answered constrainedly, exchanging his
meditative regard of the horse for one of self-

Mr. Downe seemed to regret his inquiry, and
immediately took up another thread of conversation.
He congratulated his friend on his election as a
councilman ; he thought he had not seen him since
that event took place ; Mrs. Downe had meant to call
and congratulate Mrs. Barnet, but he feared that she
had failed to do so as yet.

Barnet seemed hampered in his replies. 'We
should have been glad to see you. I my wife
would welcome Mrs. Downe at any time, as you
know. . . . Yes, I am a member of the corporation
rather an inexperienced member, some of them say.
It is quite true ; and I should have declined the
honour as premature having other things on my
hands just now, too if it had not been pressed upon
me so very heartily.'

' There is one thing you have on your hands which
I can never quite see the necessity for,' said Downe,

I 12


with good-humoured freedom. ' What the deuce do
you want to build that new mansion for, when you
have already got such an excellent house as the one
you live in ? '

Barnet's face acquired a warmer shade of colour ;
but as the question had been idly asked by the solicitor
while regarding the surrounding flocks and fields, he
answered after a moment with no apparent embarrass-

1 Well, we wanted to get out of the town, you
know ; the house I am living in is rather old and

Mr. Downe declared that he had chosen a pretty
site for the new building. They would be able to see
for miles and miles from the windows. Was he going
to give it a name ? He supposed so.

Barnet thought not. There was no other house
near that was likely to be mistaken for it. And he
did not care for a name.

' But I think it has a name ! ' Downe observed : ' I
went past when was it ? this morning ; and I saw
something, " Chateau Ringdale," I think it was, stuck
up on a board ! '

' It was an idea she we had for a short time,' said
Barnet hastily. ' But we have decided finally to do
without a name at any rate such a name as that. It
must have been a week ago that you saw it. It was
taken down last Saturday. . . . Upon that matter I
am firm ! ' he added grimly.

Downe murmured in an unconvinced tone that he
thought he had seen it yesterday.

Talking thus they drove into the town. The
street was unusually still for the hour of seven in the
evening ; an increasing drizzle from the sea had pre-
vailed since the afternoon, and now formed a gauze
across the yellow lamps, and trickled with a gentle
rattle down the heavy roofs of stone tile, that bent
the house-ridges hollow-backed with its weight, and
in some instances caused the walls to bulge outwards

I I T.


in the upper story. Their route took them past the
little town-hall, the Black-Bull Hotel, and onward to
the junction of a small street on the right, consisting
of a row of those two-and-two windowed brick resi-
dences of no particular age, which are exactly alike
wherever found, except in the people they contain.

'Wait I'll drive you up to your door,' said
Barnet, when Downe prepared to alight at the corner.
He thereupon turned into the narrow street, when the
faces of three little girls could be discerned close to
the panes of a lighted window a few yards ahead,
surmounted by that of a young matron, the gaze of
all four being directed eagerly up the empty street.
' You are a fortunate fellow, Downe,' Barnet continued,
as mother and children disappeared from the window
to run to the door. ' You must be happy if any man
is. I would give a hundred such houses as my new
one to have a home like yours.'

' Well yes, we get along pretty comfortably, '
replied Downe complacently.

1 That house, Downe, is none of my ordering,'
Barnet broke out, revealing a bitterness hitherto sup-
pressed, and checking the horse a moment to finish
his speech before delivering up his passenger. ' The
house I have already is good enough for me, as you
supposed. It is my own freehold ; it was built by my
grandfather, and is stout enough for a castle. My
father was born there, lived there, and died there. I
was born there, and have always lived there ; yet I
must needs build a new one.'

' Why do you ? ' said Downe.

' Why do I ? To preserve peace in the house-
hold. I do anything for that ; but I don't succeed.
I was firm in resisting " Chateau Ringdale," however ;
not that I would not have put up with the absurdity
of the name, but it was too much to have your house
christened after Lord Ringdale, because your wife
once had a fancy for him. If you only knew every-
thing, you would think all attempt at reconciliation



hopeless. In your happy home you have had no such
experiences ; and God forbid that you ever should.
See, here they are all ready to receive you ! '

' Of course ! And so will your wife be waiting to
receive you,' said Downe. ' Take my word for it she
will ! And with a dinner prepared for you far better
than mine.'

' I hope so,' Barnet replied dubiously.

He moved on to Downe's door, which the solicitor's
family had already opened. Downe descended, but
being encumbered with his bag and umbrella, his foot
slipped, and he fell upon his knees in the gutter.

' O, my dear Charles ! ' said his wife, running down
the steps ; and, quite ignoring the presence of Barnet,
she seized hold of her husband, pulled him to his feet,
and kissed him, exclaiming, ' I hope you are not hurt,
darling ! ' The children crowded round, chiming in
piteously, ' Poor papa ! '

' He's all right,' said Barnet, perceiving that
Downe was only a little muddy, and looking more at
the wife than at the husband. Almost at any other
time certainly during his fastidious bachelor years
he would have thought her a too demonstrative
woman ; but those recent circumstances of his own
life to which he had just alluded made Mrs. Downe's
solicitude so affecting that his eye grew damp as he
witnessed it. Bidding the lawyer and his family
good-night he left them, and drove slowly into the
main street towards his own house.

The heart of Barnet was sufficiently impressionable
to be influenced by Downe's parting prophecy that he
might not be so unwelcome home as he imagined : the
dreary night might, at least on this one occasion, make
Downe's forecast true. Hence it was in a suspense
that he could hardly have believed possible that he
halted at his door. On entering his wife was nowhere
to be seen, and he inquired for her. The servant
informed him that her mistress had the dressmaker
with her, and would be engaged for some time.


' Dressmaker at this time of day ! '

' She dined early, sir, and hopes you will excuse
her joining you this evening.'

' But she knew I was coming to-night ? '

' O yes, sir.'

' Go up and tell her I am come.'

The servant did so ; but the mistress of the house
merely transmitted her former words.

Barnet said nothing more, and presently sat down
to his lonely meal, which was eaten abstractedly, the
domestic scene he had lately witnessed still impressing
him by its contrast with the situation here. His mind
fell back into past years upon a certain pleasing and
gentle being whose face would loom out of their
shades at such times as these. Barnet turned in his
chair, and looked with unfocused eyes in a direction
southward from where he sat, as if he saw not the
room but a long way beyond. ' I wonder if she lives
there still 1 ' he said.


HE rose with a sudden rebelliousness, put on his hat
and coat, and went out of the house, pursuing his way
along the glistening pavement while eight o'clock was
striking from St. Mary's tower, and the apprentices
and shopmen were slamming up the shutters from
end to end of the town. In two minutes only those
shops which could boast of no attendant save the
master or the mistress remained with open eyes.
These were ever somewhat less prompt to exclude
customers than the others : for their owners' ears the
closing hour had scarcely the cheerfulness that it
possessed for the hired servants of the rest. Yet the
night being dreary the delay was not for long, and
their windows, too, blinked together one by one.

During this time Barnet had proceeded with
decided step in a direction at right angles to the
broad main thoroughfare of the town, by a long street
leading due southward. Here, though his family had
no more to do with the flax manufacture, his own
name occasionally greeted him on gates and ware-
houses, being used allusively by small rising trades-
men as a recommendation, in such words as ' Smith,
from Barnet & Co.' ' Robinson, late manager at
Barnet's.' The sight led him to reflect upon his
father's busy life, and he questioned if it had not been
far happier than his own.

The houses along the road became fewer, and
presently open ground appeared between them on
either side, the track on the right hand rising to a



higher level till it merged in a knoll. On the summit
a row of builders' scaffold-poles probed the indistinct
sky like spears, and at their bases could be discerned
the lower courses of a building lately begun. Barnet
slackened his pace and stood for a few moments with-
out leaving the centre of the road, apparently not
much interested in the sight, till suddenly his eye
was caught by a post in the fore part of the ground
bearing a white board at the top. He went to the
rails, vaulted over, and walked in far enough to dis-
cern painted upon the board ' Chateau Ringdale.'

A dismal irony seemed to lie in the words, and its
effect was to irritate him. Downe, then, had spoken
truly. He stuck his umbrella into the sod, and seized
the post with both hands, as if intending to loosen
and throw it down. Then, like one bewildered by an
opposition which would exist none the less though its
manifestations were removed, he allowed his arms to
sink to his side.

' Let it be,' he said to himself. ' I have declared
there shall be peace if possible.'

Taking up his umbrella he quietly left the en-
closure, and went on his way, still keeping his back
to the town. He had advanced with more decision
since passing the new building, and soon a hoarse
murmur rose upon the gloom ; it was the sound of
the sea. The road led to the harbour, at a distance
of a mile from the town, from which the trade of the
district was fed. After seeing the obnoxious name-
board Barnet had forgotten to open his umbrella, and
the rain tapped smartly on his hat, and occasionally
stroked his face as he went on.

Though the lamps were still continued at the
roadside they stood at wider intervals than before,
and the pavement had given place to rough gravel.
Every time he came to a lamp an increasing shine
made itself visible upon his shoulders, till at last they
quite glistened with wet. The murmur from the
shore grew stronger, but it was still some distance



off when he paused before one of the smallest of the
detached houses by the wayside, standing in its own
garden, the latter being divided from the road by a
row of wooden palings. Scrutinizing the spot to
ensure that he was not mistaken, he opened the gate
and gently knocked at the cottage door.

When he had patiently waited minutes enough to
lead any man in ordinary cases to knock again, the
door was heard to open, though it was impossible
to see by whose hand, there being no light in the
passage. Barnet said at random, ' Does Miss Savile
live here ? '

A youthful voice assured him that she did live
there, and by a sudden afterthought asked him to
come in. It would soon get a light, it said : but the
night being wet, mother had not thought it worth
while to trim the passage lamp.

' Don't trouble yourself to get a light for me,' said
Barnet hastily ; ' it is not necessary at all. Which is
Miss Savile's sitting-room ? '

The young person, whose white pinafore could
just be discerned, signified a door in the side of the
passage, and Barnet went forward at the same moment,
so that no light should fall upon his face. On entering
the room he closed the door behind him, pausing till
he heard the retreating footsteps of the child.

He found himself in an apartment which was
simply and neatly, though not poorly furnished ;
everything, from the miniature chiffonnier to the
shining little daguerreotype which formed the central
ornament of the mantelpiece, being in scrupulous
order. The picture was enclosed by a frame of em-
broidered card-board evidently the work of feminine
hands and it was the portrait of a thin faced, elderly
lieutenant in the navy. From behind the lamp on
the table a female form now rose into view, that of a
young girl, and a resemblance between her and the
portrait was early discoverable. She had been so
absorbed in some occupation on the other side of the



lamp as to have barely found time to realize her
visitor's presence.

They both remained standing for a few seconds
without speaking. The face that confronted Barnet
had a beautiful outline ; the Raffaelesque oval of its
contour was remarkable for an English countenance,
and that countenance housed in a remote country-road
to an unheard-of harbour. But her features did not
do justice to this splendid beginning : Nature had
recollected that she was not in Italy ; and the young
lady's lineaments, though not so inconsistent as to
make her plain, would have been accepted rather as
pleasing than as correct. The preoccupied expression
which, like images on the retina, remained with her
for a moment after the state that caused it had ceased,
now changed into a reserved, half-proud, and slightly
indignant look, in which the blood diffused itself
quickly across her cheek, and additional brightness
broke the shade of her rather heavy eyes.

' I know I have no business here,' he said, answer-
ing the look. ' But I had a great wish to see you,
and inquire how you were. You can give your hand
to me, seeing how often I have held it in past days ? '

' I would rather forget than remember all that, Mr.
Barnet,' she answered, as she coldly complied with the
request. ' When I think of the circumstances of our
last meeting, I can hardly consider it kind of you to
allude to such a thing as our past or, indeed, to come
here at all.'

I There was no harm in it surely ? I don't trouble
you often, Lucy.'

I 1 have not had the honour of a visit from you for
a very long time, certainly, and I did not expect it
now,' she said, with the same stiffness in her air. ' I
hope Mrs. Barnet is very well ? '

4 Yes, yes ! ' he impatiently returned. ' At least I
suppose so though I only speak from inference !

' But she is your wife, sir,' said the young girl



The unwonted tones of a man's voice in that
feminine chamber had startled a canary that was
roosting in its cage by the window ; the bird awoke
hastily, and fluttered against the bars. She went and
stilled it by laying her face against the cage and
murmuring a coaxing sound. It might partly have
been done to still herself.

' I didn't come to talk of Mrs. Barnet,' he pursued ;
' I came to talk of you, of yourself alone ; to inquire
how you are getting on since your great loss.' And
he turned towards the portrait of her father.

' I am getting on fairly well, thank you.'

The force of her utterance was scarcely borne out
by her look ; but Barnet courteously reproached him-
self for not having guessed a thing so natural ; and to
dissipate all embarrassment added, as he bent over
the table, ' What were you doing when I came ?
painting flowers, and by candlelight ? '

' O no/ she said, ' not painting them only sketch-
ing the outlines. I do that at night to save time I
have to get three dozen done by the end of the

Barnet looked as if he regretted it deeply. ' You
will wear your poor eyes out,' he said, with more
sentiment than he had hitherto shown. ' You ought
not to do it. There was a time when I should have
said you must not. Well I almost wish I had never
seen light with my own eyes when I think of that ! '

'Is this a time or place for recalling such matters?'
she asked, with dignity. ' You used to have a gentle-
manly respect for me, and for yourself. Don't speak
any more as you have spoken, and don't come again.
I cannot think that this visit is serious, or was closely
considered by you.'

' Considered : well, I came to see you as an old
and good friend not to mince matters, to visit a
woman I loved. Don't be angry ! I could not
help doing it, so many things brought you into my
mind. . . . This evening I fell in with an acquaint-



ance, and when I saw how happy he was with his
wife and family welcoming him home, though with
only one-tenth of my income and chances, and thought
what might have been in my case, it fairly broke
down my discretion, and off I came here. Now I
am here I feel that I am wrong to some extent.
But the feeling that I should like to see you, and
talk of those we used to know in common, was very

' Before that can be the case a little more time
must pass,' said Miss Savile quietly ; ' a time long
enough for me to regard with some calmness what at
present I remember far too impatiently though it
may be you almost forget it. Indeed you must have
forgotten it long before you acted as you did.' Her
voice grew stronger and more vivacious as she added:
' But I am doing my best to forget it too, and I know
I shall succeed from the progress I have made
already ! '

She had remained standing till now, when she
turned and sat down, facing half away from him.

Barnet watched her moodily. ' Yes, it is only
what I deserve,' he said. ' Ambition pricked me on
no, it was not ambition, it was wrongheadedness !
Had I but reflected. . . .' He broke out vehemently :
' But always remember this, Lucy : if you had written
to me only one little line after that misunderstanding,
I declare I should have come back to you. That
ruined me ! ' He slowly walked as far as the little
room would allow him to go, and remained with his
eyes on the skirting.

' But, Mr. Barnet, how could I write to you ?
There was no opening for my doing so.'

' Then there ought to have been,' said Barnet,
turning. ' That was my fault ! '

' Well, I don't know anything about that ; but as
there had been nothing said by me which required
any explanation by letter, I did not send one. Every-
thing was so indefinite, and feeling your position to



be so much wealthier than mine, I fancied I might
have mistaken your meaning. And when I heard of
the other lady a woman of whose family even you
might be proud I thought how foolish I had been,
and said nothing.'

'Then I suppose it was destiny accident I
don't know what, that separated us, dear Lucy.
Anyhow you were the woman I ought to have made
my wife and I let you slip, like the foolish man that
I was ! '

' O, Mr. Barnet,' she said, almost in tears, ' don't
revive the subject to me ; I am the wrong one to
console you think, sir, you should not be here it
would be so bad for me if it were known ! '

' It would it would, indeed,' he said hastily. * I
am not right in doing this, and I won't do it again.'

'It is a very common folly of human nature, you
know, to think the course you did not adopt must
have been the best,' she continued, with gentle
solicitude, as she followed him to the door of the
room. ' And you don't know that I should have
accepted you, even if you had asked me to be your
wife.' At this his eye met hers, and she dropped her
gaze. She knew that her voice belied her. There
was a silence till she looked up to add, in a voice of
soothing playfulness, ' My family was so much poorer
than yours, even before I lost my dear father, that
perhaps your companions would have made it un-
pleasant for us on account of my deficiencies.'

' Your disposition would soon have won them
round,' said Barnet.

She archly expostulated : ' Now, never mind my
disposition ; try to make it up with your wife ! Those
are my commands to you. And now you are to leave
me at once.'

1 1 will. I must make the best of it all, I suppose,'
he replied, more cheerfully than he had as yet spoken.
1 But I shall never again meet with such a dear girl as
you ! ' And he suddenly opened the door, and left



her alone. When his glance again fsll on the lamps
that were sparsely ranged along the dreary level road,
his eyes were in a state which showed straw-like
motes of light radiating from each flame into the
surrounding air.

On the other side of the way Barnet observed a
man under an umbrella, walking parallel with himself.
Presently this man left the footway, and gradually
converged on Barnet's course. The latter then saw
that it was Charlson, a surgeon of the town, who owed
him money. Charlson was a man not without ability ;
yet he did not prosper. Sundry circumstances stood
in his way as a medical practitioner : he was needy ; he
was not a coddle ; he gossiped with men instead of with
women ; he had married a stranger instead of one of
the town young ladies ; and he was given to conver-
sational buffoonery. Moreover, his look was quite
erroneous. Those only proper features in the family
doctor, the quiet eye, and the thin straight passionless
lips which never curl in public either for laughter or
for scorn, were not his ; he had a full-curved mouth,
and a bold black eye that made timid people nervous.
His companions were what in old times would have
been called boon companions an expression which,
though of irreproachable root, suggests fraternization
carried to the point of unscrupulousness. All this was

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Online LibraryThomas HardyThe writings of Thomas Hardy in prose and verse, with prefaces and notes (Volume 9) → online text (page 8 of 20)