Joyce Morrell's Harvest

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Joyce Morrell's Harvest, by Emily Sarah Holt.

________________________________________________________________________ This book is one of a series involving the same late sixteenth century family. Its predecessor is "Lettice Eden", and its successor is "It might have been." Readers may find a little difficulty with the language, for it is written in Elizabethan English, though that won't bother you if you are familiar with the plays of Shakespeare.

Three young teenage girls, and their aunt Joyce are chatting together one evening, when one of the girls suggests they might all try to keep a journal. The idea is scoffed at, because, it was said, nothing ever happens in their neck of the woods. A few exaggerated examples of the daily events that might be recorded were given, but nonetheless, they applied to their father for the paper, pens and ink, that they would need, and set to work, taking it in turns to write up the journal.

It is slightly annoying that every proper name is written in italics, which your reviewer found rather unusual, but you can get used to anything, and once you have done that it doesn't seem too bad.

The author was said to be a good historian, and so you will find the book informative and interesting, as the great issues of the day are discussed, many of them being of a religious nature.

________________________________________________________________________ JOYCE MORRELL'S HARVEST, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.


Those to whom "Lettice Eden" is an old friend will meet with many acquaintances in these pages. The lesson is partly of the same type-- the difference between that which seems, and that which is; between the gold which will stand the fire, and the imitation which the flame will dissolve in a moment; between the true diamond, small though it be, which is worth a fortune, and the glittering paste which is worth little more than nothing.

But here there is a further lesson beyond this. It is one which God takes great pains to teach us, and which we, alas! are very slow to learn. "Tarry thou the Lord's leisure." In the dim eyes of frail children of earth, God's steps are often very slow. We are too apt to forget that they are very sure. But He will not be hurried: He has eternity to work in, "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." How many of us, who fancied their prayers unheard because they could not see the answer, may find that answer, rich, abundant, eternal, in that Land where they shall know as they are known! Let us wait for God. We shall find some day that it was worth while.



"He would be on the mountain's top, without the toil and travail of the climbing."--Tupper.

SELWICK HALL, LAKE DERWENTWATER, OCTOBER YE FIRST, MDLXXIX. It came about, as I have oft noted things to do, after a metely deal of talk, yet right suddenly in the end.

Aunt _Joyce_, _Milly_, _Edith_, and I, were in the long gallery. We had been talking a while touching olden times (whereof Aunt _Joyce_ is a rare hand at telling of stories), and _Mother's_ chronicle she was wont to keep, and hath shown us, and such like matter. When all at once quoth _Edith_--

"Why should not _we_ keep a chronicle?"

"Ay, why not?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, busied with her sewing.

_Milly_ fell a-laughing.

"Dear heart, _Edith_, and what should we put in a chronicle?" saith she. "`_Monday_, the cat washed her face. _Tuesday_, it rained. _Wednesday_, _Nell_ made a tansy pudding. _Thursday_, I lost my temper. _Friday_, I found it again. _Saturday_, _Edith_ looked in the mirror, and Aunt _Joyce_ made an end of a piece of sewing.' Good lack, it shall be a rare jolly book!"

"Nay, I would never set down such stuff as that," answered _Edith_.

"Why, what else is there?" saith _Milly_. "We have dwelt hither ever since we were born, saving when we go to visit Aunt _Joyce_, and one day is the very cut of an other. Saving when Master _Stuyvesant_ came hither, nought never happened in this house since I was born."

"Would'st love better a life wherein matters should happen, _Milly_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, looking up at her, with a manner of face that I knew. It was a little mirthful, yet sorrowful withal.

"Ay, I would so!" quoth she.

"Child," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer, "`happy is the man that hath no history.'"

"But things do happen, _Milly_," saith _Edith_. "Thou hast forgot _Anstace_ her wedding."

"_That_ something happening!" pouts _Milly_. "Stupid humdrum business! Do but think, to wed a man that dwelleth the next door, which thou hast known all thy life! Why, I would as lief not be wed at all, very nigh."

"It seemed to suit _Anstace_," puts in _Edith_.

"Aught should do that."

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, something drily, "`godliness is great riches, if a man be content with that he hath.'" [Note 1.]

"Easy enough, trow, when you have plenty," quoth _Milly_.

"Nay, it is hardest then," saith she. "`Much would have more.'"

"What wist Aunt _Joyce_ thereabout?" murmurs _Milly_, so that I could just hear. "She never lacked nought she wanted."

"Getting oldish, _Milly_, but not going deaf, thank God," saith Aunt _Joyce_, of her dry fashion. "Nay, child, thou art out there. Time was when I desired one thing, far beyond all other things in this world, and did not get it."

"Never, _Aunt_?"

"Never, _Milly_." And a somewhat pained look came into her face, that is wont to seem so calm.

"What was it, Aunt _Joyce_, sweet heart?"

"Well, I took it for fine gold, and it turned out to be pinchbeck," saith she. "There's a deal of that sort of stuff in this world."

Methought _Milly_ feared to ask further, and all was still till _Edith_ saith--

"Would you avise us, Aunt _Joyce_, to keep a chronicle, even though things did not happen?"

"Things will happen, trust me," she made answer. "Ay, dear maids, methinks it should be profitable for you."

"Now, Aunt _Joyce_, I would you had not said that!"

"Why, _Milly_?"

"By reason that things which be profitable be alway dry and gloomsome."

"Not alway, _Lettice Eden's_ daughter."

I could not help but smile when Aunt _Joyce_ said this. For indeed, _Mother_ hath oft told us how, when she was a young maid like _Milly_, she did sorely hate all gloom and sorrowfulness, nor could not abide for to think thereon. And _Milly_ is much of that turn.

"Then which of us shall keep the grand chronicle?" saith _Edith_, when we had made an end of laughing.

"Why not all of you?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "Let each keep it a month a-piece, turn about."

"And you, Aunt _Joyce_?"

"Nay, I will keep no chronicles. I would not mind an' I writ my thoughts down of the last page, when it was finished."

"But who shall read it?" said I.

"There spake _Nell_!" quoth _Milly_. "`Who shall read it?' Why, all the world, for sure, from the Queen's Majesty down to Cat and Kitling."

These be our two serving-maids, _Kate_ and _Caitlin_, which _Milly_ doth affect dearly to call Cat and Kitling. And truly the names come pat, the rather that _Kate_ is tall and big, and fair of complexion, she being _Westmoreland_ born; while _Caitlin_, which is _Cumberland_ born, is little and wiry, and of dark complexion. "The Queen's Majesty shall have other fish to fry, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "And so shall _Kate_ and _Caitlin_,--if they could read."

"But who is to make a beginning of this mighty chronicle?" saith _Edith_. "Some other than I, as I do trust, for I would never know what to set down first."

"Let _Nell_ begin, then, as she is eldest of the three," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

So here am I, making this same beginning of the family chronicle. For when _Father_ and _Mother_ heard thereof, both laughed at the first, and afterward grew sad. Then saith _Mother_--

"Methinks, dear hearts, it shall be well for you,--at the least, an' ye keep it truly. Let each set down what verily she doth think."

"And not what she reckons she ought to think," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Then, _Father_, will it please you give us some pens and paper?" said I. "For I see not how, elsewise, we shall write a chronicle."

"That speech is right, _Nell_!" puts in _Milly_.

"Why, if we dwelt on the banks of the _Nile_, in _Egypt_," saith _Father_, "reeds and bulrushes should serve your turn: or, were ye old _Romans_, a waxen tablet and iron stylus. But for _English_ maidens dwelling by Lake _Derwentwater_, I count paper and pens shall be wanted--and ink too, belike. Thou shalt have thy need supplied, _Nell_!"

And as this morning, when he came into the parlour where we sat a-sewing, what should _Father_ set down afore me, in the stead of the sheets of rough paper I looked to see, but this beautiful book, all full of fair blank paper ready to be writ in,--and an whole bundle of pens, with a great inkhorn. _Milly_ fell a-laughing.

"Oh dear, dear!" saith she. "Be we three to write up all those? Verily, _Father_, under your good pleasure, but methinks you should pen a good half of this chronicle yourself."

"Nay, not so much as one line," saith he, "saving those few I have writ already on the first leaf. Let _Nell_ read them aloud."

So I read them, as I set them down here, for without I do copy them, cannot I put in what was said.

"_Fees and Charges of the Chronicle of Selwick Hall_.--_Imprimis, to be writ, turn about, by a month at each, by Helen, Milisent, and Editha Louvaine_."

_Milly_ was stuffing her kerchief into her mouth to let her from laughing right out.

"_Item, the said Helen to begin the said book_.

"_Item, for every blot therein made, one penny to the poor_."

"Oh, good lack!" from _Milly_.

"I care not, so _Father_ give us the pennies," from _Edith_.

"I reckon that is what men call a dividing of labour," saith _Father_ in his dry way. "I to pay the pennies, and _Edith_ to make the blots. Nay, my maid: the two must come of one hand."

"Then both of yours, _Father_," saith _Milly_, saucily.

"_Item, for every unkind sentence touching an other, two pence to the poor_."

"Lack-a-daisy!" cries _Milly_; "I shall be ruined!"

"Truth for once," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"I am sorry to hear it, my maid," saith _Father_.

"_Item, for every sentence disrespectful to any in lawful authority over the writer thereof, sixpence to the poor_."

"_Father_," quoth _Milly_, "by how much mean you to increase mine income while this book is a-writing?"

_Father_ smiled, but made no further answer.

"_Item, for a gap of so much as one week, without a line herein writ, two pence to the poor_."

"That is it which shall work my ruin," saith _Edith_, a-laughing.

"Therein art thou convict of laziness," quoth _Father_.

"_Item, on the ending of the said book, each of them that hath writ the same shall read over her own part therein from the beginning: and for so many times as she hath gainsaid her own words therein writ, shall forfeit each time one penny to the poor_."

"That will bring both _Edith_ and me to beggary," quoth _Milly_, "Only _Nell_ shall come off scot-free. _Father_, have you writ nought that will catch her?"

"_Item, the said book shall, when ended, but not aforetime, be open to the reading of Aubrey Louvaine, Lettice Louvaine, Joyce Morrell, and Anstace Banaster_."

"And none else? Alack the day!" saith _Milly_.

"I said not whom else," quoth _Father_. "Be that as it like you."

But I know well what should like me,--and that were, not so much as one pair of eyes beyond. _Milly_, I dare reckon--but if I go on it shall cost me two pence, so I will forbear.

"Well!" saith _Edith_, "one thing will I say, your leave granted, _Father_: and that is, I am fain you shall not read my part till it be done. I would lief be at my wisest on the last page."

"Dear heart! I look to be wise on no page," cries _Milly_.

"Nay," said I, "I would trust to be wise on all."

"There spake our _Nell_!" cries _Milly_. "I could swear it were she, though mine eyes were shut close."

"This book doth somewhat divert me, _Joyce_," quoth _Father_, looking at her. "Here be three writers, of whom one shall be wise on each page, and one on none, and one on the last only. I reckon it shall be pleasant reading."

"And I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "they shall be reasonable true to themselves an' it be thus."

"And I," saith _Milly_, "that my pages shall be the pleasantest of any."

"_Ergo_," quoth _Father_, "wisdom is displeasant matter. So it is, _Milly_,--to unwise folks."

"Then, _Father_, of a surety my chronicling shall ill please you," saith she, a-laughing.

_Father_ arose, and laid his hand upon _Milly's_ head as he passed by her.

"The wise can love the unwise, my maid," saith he. "How could the only wise God love any one of us else?"

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II. _Milly_ saith, and _Edith_ likewise, that I must needs set down somewhat touching all us,--who we be, and how many, and our names, and such like. Truly, it seemeth me somewhat lost labour, if none but ourselves are to read the same. But as _Milly_ will have it the Queen's Majesty and all her Council shall be highly diverted thereby (though little, as methinks, they should care to know of us), I reckon, to please these my sisters, I must needs do their bidding.

We therefore, that dwell in _Selwick_ Hall, be Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_, the owner thereof (that is _Father_), and Dame _Lettice_ his wife, and us their daughters, _Helen, Milisent_, and _Editha_. Moreover, there is Aunt _Joyce Morrell_, that dwelleth in _Oxfordshire_, at _Minster Lovel_, but doth once every five year tarry six months with us, and we with her the like: so that we see each the other once in every two or three years. 'Tis but a week Aunt _Joyce_ hath been hither, so all the six months be to run. And here I should note she is not truly our aunt, but _Father's_ cousin, her mother being sister unto his mother: but _Father_ had never no brother nor sister, and was bred up along, with these his cousins, Aunt _Joyce_ and Aunt _Anstace_, after whom mine eldest sister hath her name: but Aunt _Anstace_ hath been dead these many years, afore any of us were born. I would I had known her; for to hear them talk of her,--_Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_,--I could well-nigh think her an angel in human flesh. Now, wherefore is it, for I have oft-times marvelled, that we speak more tenderly and reverently of folk that be dead, than of the living? Were I to die a young maid, should _Milly_ (that loves to mock me now) tell her children henceforward of their Aunt _Helen_, as though she had been somewhat better than other women? May-be. If we could only use folks we love, while they do live, with the like loving reverence as we shall do after they be dead, if we overlive them! Wherefore do we not so? We do seem for to forget then all that we loved not in them. Could we not essay to do the same a little sooner?

And when _Milly_ cometh hither in her reading, as sure as her name is _Milisent_, shall she say,--"Now, Mistress _Nell_, there you go, a-riding your high horse of philosophy! Prithee, keep to common earth."

Beside those I have named, in the house dwelleth Mynheer _Floris Stuyvesant_, a _Dutch_ gentleman that did flee from his country when the persecution was in _Holland_, eleven years gone: and _Father_, which had a little known him aforetime when he made the grand tour, did most gladly welcome him hither, and made him (of his own desire) governor to _Ned_ and _Wat_, our brothers. These our brothers dwell not now at home, for _Wat_ is squire unto my very good Lord of _Oxenford_, that is _Father's_ kinsman: and _Ned_ is at sea with Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_. We therefore see them but rarely. Then, beyond, there is likewise in the house Mistress _Elizabeth Wolvercot_, that is a cousin of _Mother_, whom all we do alway call Cousin _Bess_; she dwelleth with us at all times. Also be _Kate_ and _Caitlin_, of whom I have aforetime spoken: and old _Matthias_, our serving-man; and the boy, _Adam_ o' Bill's o' old Mall's.

And here I should note that once were two of us more, _Aubrey_ and _Julian_: of whom _Aubrey_ died a babe, three years afore I was born, and _Julian_ a little maid of eleven years, between _Milly's_ birth and _Edith's_. I mind her well, for she was two years elder than I, so that I was nine years old when she departed; but _Milly_, that was only three, cannot remember her.

Our eldest of all, _Anstace_, is wife unto Master _Henry Banaster_, and dwelleth (as _Milly_ saith) next door, he having the estate joining _Father's_ own. She hath two children, _Aubrey_, that is of seven years, and _Cicely_, that is four; beside her eldest, _Lettice_, which did decease in the cradle.

I reckon I have told all now, without I name the cows, which be _Daisy_, and _Molly_, and _Buttercup_, and _Rose_, and _Ladybird_, and _June_; and the great house-dog, which is _Clover_; and the cat, which is a _Spanish_ cat [a tortoise-shell cat, then a rarity], her name _Hermosa_ (the which _Ned_ gave her, saying a _Spanish_ cat should have a _Spanish_ name, and _Hermosa_ signifieth beautiful in that tongue), but _Caitlin_ will make it _Moses_, and methinks she is called _Moses_ more than aught else. She hath two kits, that be parti-coloured like herself, their names (given of _Milly) Dan_ and _Nan_.

And now I feel well-nigh sure I have said all.

Nay, and forgat the horses! _Milly_ will laugh at me, for she dearly loveth an horse. We have six riding-horses, with two baggage-horses, but only four of them have names,--to wit, _Father's_, that is _Favelle_, because he is favel-colour [chestnut]; and _Mother's, Garnet_; and mine, _Cowslip_; and the last, that _Milly_ or _Edith_ doth commonly ride when we journey, is called _Starlight_.

And now I have verily told every thing.

(_At this point the handwriting of the chronicle changes_.)

'Tis not yet my turn to write, but needs must, or it shall cause me to split in twain with laughter. Here is our _Nell_, reckoning three times o'er that she hath told all, and finding somewhat fresh every time, and with all her telling, hath set down never a note of what we be like, nor so much as the colour of one of our eyes. So, having gat hold of her chronicle, I shall do it for her. I dare reckon she was feared it should cost her two pence each one. But nothing venture, nothing have; and _Mother_ laid down that we should write our true thoughts. So what I think shall I write; and how to make _Father's_ two pence rhyme with _Mother's_ avisement, I leave to Mistress _Nell_ and her philosophy.

_Father_ is a gentleman of metely good height, and well-presenced, but something heavy built: of a dark brown hair, a broad white brow, and dark grey eyes that be rare sweet and lovesome. Of old time was he squire of the body unto my right noble Lord of _Surrey_, that was execute in old King _Henry's_ days. Moreover, he is of far kin (yet not so far, neither) unto my most worthy Lord of _Oxenford_. Now, sithence I am to write my thoughts, I must say that I would _Father_ had a better nose. I cannot speak very truth and set down that I did ever admire _Father's_ nose. But he hath good white teeth, and a right pleasant smile, the which go far to make amends for his nose.

_Mother_ was right fair when she was a young maid, and is none so ill now. She is graceful of carriage, very fair of complexion, and hath the sweetest, shining golden hair was ever seen. Her eyes be pale grey [blue], right like the sky.

Of us three maids, _Edith_ is best-favoured, and all that see her do say she is right the very picture of _Mother_, when she was young. Next her am I; for though I say it, I am a deal fairer than either _Anstace_ or _Nell_, both which favour [resemble] _Father_, though _Nell_ is the liker, by reason she hath his mind as well as his face. Now, _Nell_ is all ways slower than _Edith_ and me, and nothing like so well-favoured.

But for beauty, the least I did ever see in any man is in Mynheer _Stuyvesant_, which hath a flat nose and a stoop in the shoulders, and is high and thin as a scarecrow. Cousin _Bess_ is metely well,--she is rosy and throddy [plump]. For Aunt _Joyce_, I do stand in some fear of her sharp speeches, and will say nought of her, saving that (which she can not deny) she hath rosy cheeks and dark brown hair (yet not so dark as _Father's_), and was, I guess, a comely young maid when she were none elder than we. As for _Ned_ and _Wat, Ned_ is the better-favoured, he having _Mother's_ nose and the rest of him _Father_; but _Wat_ (which favoureth _Mother_ of his colouring, yet is not so comely) a deal the courtlier.

Now when they shall all come to read this same, trow, shall they know their own portraits? or shall they every one cry out, "This is not me!"

So now I leave the rest to Mistress _Helen_, till it shall come to me next month, when I will say what I think yet again.

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE V. (_In Helen's handwriting_.)

Dear heart, but what hath _Milly_ been a-doing! I could not think last night where was my book, but I was rare sleepy, and let it a-be. And here this morrow do I find a good two pages all scribbled o'er of _Milly's_ writing. Well! 'tis not my fault, so I trust shall not be my blame.

And it is true, as _Milly_ saith, that she is better-favoured than I. As for _Anstace_, I wis not, only I know and am well assured, that I am least comely of the four. But she should never have writ what she did touching _Father's_ nose, and if it cost me two pence, that must I say. I do love every bit of _Father_, right down to the tip of his nose, and I never thought if it were well-favoured or no. 'Tis _Father_, and that is all for me. And so should it be for _Milly_,--though it be two pence more to say so.

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE VI. We had been sat at our sewing a good hour this morrow,--that is, _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, and we three maids,--when all at once _Milly_ casts hers down with a sigh fetched from ever so far.

"Weary of sewing, _Milly_?" saith _Mother_ with a smile.

"Ay--no--not right that, _Mother_," quoth she. "But here have I been this hour gone, a-wishing I had been a man, till it seemed me as if I could not abide for to be a woman no longer."

"The general end of impossible wishes," saith _Mother_, laughing a little.

"Well!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, a-biting off her thread, "in all my wishing never yet wished I that."

"Wherefore is it, _Milly_?" saith _Mother_.

"Oh, a man has more of his own way than a woman," _Milly_ makes answer. "And he can make some noise in the world. He is not tied down to stupid humdrum matters, such like as sewing, and cooking, and distilling, and picking of flowers, with a song or twain by now and then to cheer you. A man can preach and fight and write books and make folk listen."

"I misdoubt if thou art right, _Milly_, to say that a man hath the more of his own way always," saith _Mother_. "Methinks there be many women get much of that."

"Then a man is not tied down to one corner. He can go and see the world," saith _Milly_.

"In short," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "the moral of thy words, Milly, is--`Untie me.'"

"I wish I were so!" mutters _Milly_.

"And what should happen next?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, I reckon I could not do much without money," answereth _Milly_.

"Oh, grant all that," quoth Aunt _Joyce_,--"money, and leave, and all needed, and Mistress _Milisent_ setting forth to do according to her will. What then?"

"Well, I would first go up to _London_," saith she, "and cut some figure in the Court."

Aunt _Joyce_ gave a dry little laugh.

"There be figures of more shapes than one, _Milly_," saith she. "Howbeit--what next?"

"Why, then, methinks, I would go to the wars."

"And bring back as many heads, arms, and legs, as thou tookest thither?"

"Oh, for sure," saith _Milly_. "I would not be killed."

"Just. Very well,--Mistress _Milisent_ back from the wars, and covered with glory. And then?"

"Well--methinks I would love to be a judge for a bit."

"Dry work," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "And then a bishop?"

"Ay, if you will."

"And then?"

"Why, I might as well be a king, while I went about it."

"Quite as well. I am astonished thou hast come thither no sooner. And then?"

"Well,--I know not what then. You drive one on, Aunt _Joyce_. Methinks, then, I would come home and see you all, and recount mine aventures."

"Oh, mightily obliged to your Highness!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "I had thought, when your Majesty were thus up at top of the tree, you should forget utterly so mean a place as _Selwick_ Hall, and the contemptible things that inhabit there. And then?"

"Come, I will make an end," saith _Milly_, laughing. "I reckon I should be a bit wearied by then, and fain to bide at home and take mine ease."

"And pray, what hindereth that your Grace should do that now?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, looking up with a comical face.

"Well, but I am not aweary, and have no aventures to tell," _Milly_ makes answer.

"Go into the garden and jump five hundred times, _Milly_, and I will warrant thee to be aweary and thankful for rest. And as to aventures,-- eh, my maid, my maid!" And Aunt _Joyce_ and _Mother_ smiled one upon the other.

"Now, _Mother_ and _Aunt_, may I say what I think?" cries Milly.

"Prithee, so do, my maid."

"Then, why do you folks that be no longer young, ever damp and chill young folks that would fain see the world and have some jollity?"

"By reason, _Milly_, that we have been through the world, and we know it to be a damp place and a cold."

"But all folks do not find it so?"

"God have mercy on them that do not!"

"Now, _Aunt_, what mean you?"

"Dear heart, the brighter the colour of the poisoned sweetmeat, the more like is the babe to put in his mouth."

"Your parable is above me, Aunt _Joyce_."

"_Milly_, a maiden must give her heart to something. The Lord's word unto us all is, Give Me thine heart. But most of us will try every thing else first. And every thing else doth chill and disappoint us. Yet thou never sawest man nor Woman that had given the heart to God, which could ever say with truth that disappointment had come of it."

"I reckon they should be unready to confess the same," saith she.

"They be ready enough to confess it of other things," quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "But few folks will learn by the blunders of any but their own selves. I would thou didst."

"By whose blunders would you have me learn, _Aunt_?" saith _Milly_ in her saucy fashion that is yet so bright and coaxing that she rarely gets flitten [scolded] for the same.

"By those of whomsoever thou seest to blunder," quoth she.

"That must needs be thee, _Edith_," saith _Milly_ in a demure voice. "For it standeth with reason, as thou very well wist, that I shall never see mine elders to make no blunders of no sort whatever."

"Thou art a saucy baggage, _Milly_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "That shall cost thee six pence an' it go down in the chronicle."

"Oh, 'tis not yet my turn for to write, _Aunt_. And I am well assured _Nell_ shall pay no sixpences."

"Fewer than thou, I dare guess," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Who has been to visit old _Jack Benn_ this week?"

"Not I, _Aunt_," quoth _Edith_, somewhat wearily, as if she feared Aunt _Joyce_ should bid her go.

"Oh, I'll go and see him!" cries _Milly_. "There is nought one half so diverting in all the vale as old _Jack_. _Aunt_, be all _Brownists_ as queer as he?"

"Nay, I reckon _Jack_ hath some queer notions of his own, apart from his _Brownery_," quoth she. "But, _Milly_,--be diverted as much as thou wilt, but let not the old man see that thou art a-laughing at him."

"All right, _Aunt_!" saith _Milly_, cheerily. "Come, _Nell_. _Edith_ shall bide at home, that can I see."

So _Milly_ and I set forth to visit old _Jack_, and _Mother_ gave us a bottle of cordial water, and a little basket of fresh eggs, for to take withal.

He dwells all alone, doth old _Jack_, in a mud cot part-way up the mountain, that he did build himself, ere the aches in his bones 'gan trouble him, that he might scantly work. He is one of those queer folk that call themselves _Brownists_, and would fain have some better religion than they may find at church. _Jack_ is nigh alway reading of his Bible, but never no man could so much as guess the strange meanings he brings forth of the words. I reckon, as Aunt _Joyce_ saith, there is more _Jack_ than _Brownist_ in them.

We found _Jack_ sitting in the porch, his great Bible on his knees. He looked up when he heard our voices.

"Get out!" saith he. "I never want no women folk."

'Tis not oft we have fairer greeting of _Jack_.

"Nay, truly, _Jack_," saith _Milly_ right demurely. "They be a rare bad handful,--nigh as ill as men folk. What thou lackest is eggs and cordial water, the which women can carry as well as jackasses."

She held forth her basket as she spake.

"Humph!" grunts old _Jack_. "I'd liever have the jackasses."

"I am assured thou wouldst," quoth _Milly_. "Each loveth best his own kind."

Old _Jack_ was fingering of the eggs.

"They be all hens' eggs!"

"So they be," saith _Milly_. "I dare guess, thou shouldst have loved goose eggs better."

"Ducks'," answereth old _Jack_.

"The ducks be gone a-swimming," saith she.

I now drew forth my bottle of cordial water, the which the old man took off me with never a thank you, and after smelling thereto, set of the ground at his side.

"What art reading, _Jack_?" saith _Milly_.

"What _Paul's_ got to say again' th' law," quoth he. "'Tis a rare ill thing th' law, Mistress _Milisent_. And so be magistrates, and catchpolls [constables] and all the lawyer folk. Rascals, Mistress _Milisent_,--all rascals, every man Jack of 'em. Do but read _Paul_, and you shall see so much."

"Saith the Apostle so?" quoth _Milly_, and gave me a look which nigh o'erset me.

"He saith `the law is not given unto a righteous man,' so how can they be aught but ill folk that be alway a-poking in it? Tell me that, Mistress. If `birds of a feather will flock together,' then a chap that's shaking hands every day wi' th' law mun be an ill un, and no mistake."

"Go to, _Jack_: it signifies not that," _Milly_ makes answer. "Saint _Paul_ meant that the law of God was given for the sake of ill men, not good men. The laws of _England_ be other matter."

"Get out wi' ye!" saith _Jack_. "Do ye think I wis not what _Paul_ means as well as a woman? It says th' law, and it means th' law. And if he'd signified as you say, he'd have said as th' law wasn't given again' a righteous man, not to him. You gi'e o'er comin' a-rumpagin' like yon."

For me, I scarce knew which way to look, to let me from laughing. But _Milly_ goes on, sad as any judge.

"Well, but if lawyers be thus bad, _Jack_--though my sister's husband is a lawyer, mind thou--"

"He's a rascal, then!" breaks in _Jack_. "They're all rascals, every wastrel [an unprincipled, good-for-nothing fellow] of 'em."

"But what fashion of folk be better?" saith _Milly_. "Thou seest, _Jack_, we maids be nigh old enough for wedding, and I would fain know the manner of man a woman were best to wed."

"Best let 'em all a-be," growls _Jack_. "Women's always snarin' o' men. Women's bad uns. Howbeit, you lasses down at th' Hall are th' better end, I reckon."

"Oh, thank you, _Jack_!" cries _Milly_ with much warmth. "Now do tell me--shall I wed with a chirurgeon?"

"And take p'ison when he's had enough of you," quoth _Jack_. "Nay, never go in for one o' them chaps. They kills folks all th' day, and lies a-thinkin' how to do it all th' night."

"A soldier, then?" saith _Milly_.

"Hired murderers," saith _Jack_.

"Come, _Jack_, thou art hard on a poor maid. Thou wilt leave me ne'er a one. Oh, ay, there is the parson."

"What!" shrieks forth _Jack_. "One o' they _Babylonian_ mass-mongers? Hypocrites, wolves in sheep's clothing a-pretending for to be shepherds! Old _'Zekiel_, he's summut to say touching them. You get home, and just read his thirty-fourth chapter; and wed one o' them wastrels at after, if ye can! Now then, get ye forth; I've had enough o' women. I telled ye so."

"Fare thee well, _Jack_," quoth _Milly_ in mocking tribulation. "I see how it is,--I shall be forced to wed a lead-miner."

I was verily thankful that _Milly_ did come away, for I could bear no longer. We ran fast down the steep track, and once at the bottom, we laughed till the tears ran down. When we were something composed, said I--

"Shall we look in on old _Isaac Crewdson_?"

"Gramercy, not this morrow," quoth _Milly_. "_Jack's_ enough for one day. Old _Isaac_ alway gives me the horrors. I cannot do with him atop of _Jack_."

So we came home. But if _Milly_ love it not, then will I go by myself to see old _Isaac_, for he liketh me well.

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE IX. Aunt _Joyce_ went with me yesterday to see _Isaac_. We found him of the chimney-corner, whence he seldom stirreth, being now infirm. Old _Mary_ had but then made an end of her washing, and she was a-folding the clean raiment to put by. I ran into the garden and gathered sprigs of rosemary, whereof they have a fine thriving bush.

"Do tell me, _Mall_," said I, "how thou orderest matters, for to have thy rosemary thrive thus? Our bush is right stunted to compare withal."

"I never did nought to it," quoth old _Mall_, somewhat crustily. She is _Jack Benn's_ sister, and truly they be something like.

"Eh, Mistress _Nell_, dunna ye know?" saith _Isaac_, laughing feebly. "Th' rosemary always thrives well where th' missis is th' master. Did ye never hear yon saying?"

"Shut up wi' thy foolish saws!" saith _Mall_, a-turning round on him. "He's a power of proverbs and saws, Mistress _Nell_, and he's for ever and the day after a-thrustin' of 'em in. There's no wit i' such work."

"Eh, but there's a deal o' wit in some o' they old saws!" _Isaac_ makes answer, of his slow fashion. "Look ye now,--`_Brag's_ a good dog, but _Holdfast's_ better'--there's a true sayin' for ye. Then again look ye,--`He that will have a hare to breakfast must hunt o'er night.' And `A grunting horse and a groaning wife never fails their master.' Eh, but that's true!" And old _Isaac_ laughed, of his feeble fashion, yet again.

"There be some men like to make groaning wives," quoth _Mall_, crustily. "They sit i' th' chimney-corner at their ease, and put ne'er a hand to the work."

"That is not thy case, _Mall_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, cheerily. "So long as he were able, I am well assured _Isaac_ took his share of the work. And now ye be both infirm and stiff of the joints, what say ye to a good sharp lass that should save your old bones? I know one that should come but for her meat,--a good stirring maid that should not let the grass grow under her feet. What sayest, _Mall_?"

"What, me?" saith _Mall_. "Eh, you'd best ask th' master. I am none th' master here, howso the rosemary may thrive. I would say she should ne'er earn the salt to her porridge; but I'm of no signification in this house, as I well wis. You'd best ask o' them as is."

"Why, then, we mun gi'e th' porridge in," quoth _Isaac_. "Come, _Mall_, thou know'st better, lass."

But old _Mary_, muttering somewhat we might not well hear, went forth to fetch in a fresh armful of linen from the hedge.

"What hath put her out, _Isaac_?" asks Aunt _Joyce_.

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, there's no telling!" saith he. "'Tis not so much as puts her in. She's easy put out, is _Mall_: and 'tis no good on earth essaying to pull her in again. You'd best let her be. She'll come in of hersen, when she's weary of threapin'." [Grumbling, fault-finding.]

"I reckon thou art weary first, most times," saith _Aunt_.

"Well! I've ay kept a good heart up," quo' he. "`The still sow eateth all the draff,' ye ken. I've bore wi' _Mall_ for fifty year, and it comes easier than it might to an other man. And the Lord has bore wi' me for seventy odd. If He can bear wi' me a bit longer, I reckon I can wi' _Mall_."

Aunt _Joyce_ smiled on old _Isaac_ as she rose up.

"Ay, Goodman, that is the best way for to take it," saith she. "And now, _Nell_, we must hurry home, for I see a mighty black cloud o'er yonder."

So we home, bidding God be wi' ye to old _Mall_, in passing, and had but a grunt in answer: but we won home afore the rain, and found _Father_ and _Mynheer_ a-talking in the great chamber, and _Mother_ above, laying of sweet herbs in the linen with _Edith_.


Note 1. Passages from the New Testament are quoted from Cranmer's or the Geneva version, both then in common use.



"O man, little hast thou learned of truth in things most true."--Martin Farquhar Tupper.

(_In Helen's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER THE XII. Well! _Milly_ saith nought never happens in this house. Lack-a-daisy! but I would fain it were so!

One may love one's friends, and must one's enemies, _Father_ saith. But how should one feel towards them that be nowise enemies, for they mean right kindly, and yet not friends, seeing they make your life a burden unto you?

Now, all our lives have I known Master _Lewthwaite_, of _Mere Lea_, and Mistress _Lewthwaite_ his wife, and their lads and lasses, _Nym, Jack_, and _Robin_, and _Alice_ and _Blanche_. Many a game at hunt the slipper and blind man's buff have we had at _Mere Lea_, and I would have said yet may, had not a thing happed this morrow which I would right fain should ne'er have happened while the world stood.

What in all this world should have made _Nym_ so to do cannot I so much as conceive. He might have found a deal fairer lasses. Why, our _Milly_ and _Edith_ are ever so much better-favoured. But to want me!-- nor only that, but to come with so pitiful a tale, that he should go straight to ruin an' I would not wed with him; that I was the only maid in all the world that should serve against the same; and that if I refused, all his sins thereafter should be laid at my door! Heard any ever the like?

And I have no list to wed with _Nym_. I like him--as a dozen other lads: but that is all. And meseems that before I could think to leave _Father_ and _Mother_ and all, and go away with a man for all my life, he must be as the whole world to me, or I could never do it. I cannot think what _Nym_ would be at. And he saith it shall be my blame and my sin, if I do it not. _Must_ I wed _Nym Lewthwaite_?

I sat and pondered drearily o'er my trouble for a season, and then went to look for Aunt _Joyce_, whom I found in the long gallery, at her sewing in a window.

"Well, _Nell_, what hast ado, maid?" saith she.

"Pray you, Aunt _Joyce_, tell me a thing," said I.

"That will I, with a very good will, my maid," saith she.

"Aunt _Joyce_, if a man were to come to you and entreat you to wed with him, by reason that he could not (should he say) keep in the right way without you did help him, and that, you refusing, you should be blameworthy of all his after sins--what should you say to him?"

I listened right earnestly for her answer. I was woeful 'feared she should say, "Wed with him, _Nell_, for sure, and thus save him."

"Say?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, looking up, with (it seemed me) somewhat like laughter in her eyes. "Fetch him a good buffet of his ear, forsooth, and ask at him by what right he called himself a man."

"Then you should not think you bound to save him, _Aunt_?"

"Poor weak creature! Not I," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "But whatso, Nell? Hast had any such a simpleton at thee?"

"_Aunt_," said I, "'tis _Nym Lewthwaite_, who saith an' I wed him not, he shall go straight to ruin, and that I must answer unto God for all his sins if so be."

"Ask him where he found that in the Bible," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Take no thought about him, _Nell_. Trust me, if a man cannot keep straight without thee, he will not keep straight with thee. Poor limping soul! to come halting up and plead with a weak woman to leave him put his hand on her shoulder, to help him o'er the stones! `Carry me, prithee, good Mistress, o'er this rough place.' Use thine own two legs, would I say to him, and be ashamed of thy meanness. And I dare be sworn he calls himself one of the nobler sex," ends Aunt _Joyce_ with a snort of scorn.

"O _Aunt_, I am so thankful you see it thus!" said I, drawing a long breath. "I was so afeard you should bid me do as _Nym_ would."

"Nay, not this while," quoth she, of her dry fashion. "When we lack stuff for to mend the foul roads, _Nell_, we'll find somewhat fitter to break up than thee. If young _Lewthwaite_ harry thee again, send him to me. He'll not want to see me twice, I'll warrant."

"I was 'feared I was wicked to shrink from it, _Aunt_," I made answer. "_Nym_ said so. He said 'twas all self-loving and seeking of mine ease that alone did make me for to hesitate; and that if I had loved God and my neighbour better than myself, I would have strake hands with him at once. And I was 'feared lest it should be true."

"Ay, it is none so difficult to paint black white," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "'Tis alway the self-lovers that cry out upon the unkindliness of other folks. And thou art one of them, _Nell_, my maid, that be prone to reckon that must needs be right which goes against the grain. There be that make self-denial run of all fours in that fashion. They think duty and pleasure must needs be enemies. Why, child, they are the best friends in the world. Only _Duty_ is the elder sister, and is jealous to be put first. Run thou after _Duty_, and see if _Pleasure_ come not running after thee to beseech thee of better acquaintance. But run after _Pleasure_, and she'll fly thee. She's a rare bashful one."

"Then you count it not wrong that one should desire to be happy, _Aunt_?"

"The Lord seems not to count it so, _Nell_. He had scarce, methinks, told us so much touching the happiness of Heaven, had He meant us to think it ill to be happy. But remember, maid, she that findeth her happiness in God hath it alway ready to her hand; while she that findeth her happiness in this world must wait till it come to seek her."

"I would I were as good as _Father_!" said I; and I believe I fetched a sigh.

"Go a little higher, _Nell_, while thou art a-climbing," quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "`I would I were as good as _Christ_.'"

"Eh, _Aunt_, but who could?" said I.

"None," she made answer. "But, _Nell_, he that shoots up into the sky is more like to rise than he that aims at a holly-bush."

"Methinks _Father_ is higher than I am ever like to get," said I.

"And if thou overtop him," she made answer, "all shall see it but thyself. Climb on, _Nell_. Thou wilt not grow giddy so long as thine eyes be turned above."

I am so glad that Aunt _Joyce_ seeth thus touching _Nym_!

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II. There goeth my first two pence for a blank week. In good sooth, I have been in ill case to write. This weary _Nym_ would in no wise leave me be, but went to _Anstace_ and _Hal_, and gat their instance [persuaded them to intercede] unto _Father_ and _Mother_. Which did send for me, and would know at me if I list to wed with _Nym_ or no. And verily, so bashful am I, and afeared to speak when I am took on the sudden thus, that I count they gat not much of me, but were something troubled to make out what I would be at. Nor wis I what should have befallen (not for that _Father_ nor _Mother_ were ever so little hard unto me, good lack! but only that I was stupid), had not Aunt _Joyce_ come in, who no sooner saw how matters stood than she up and spake for me.

"Now, _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_," saith she, "both of you, fall a-catechising me in the stead of _Nell_. The maid hath no list to wed with _Nym Lewthwaite_, and hath told me so much aforetime. Leave her be, and send him away the other side of _Jericho_, where he belongs, and let him, an' he list, fetch back a _Syrian_ maiden with a horn o'er her forehead and a ring of her nose."

"Wherefore didst thou not tell us so much, _Nell_, my lass?" saith _Father_ right kindlily, laying of his hand on my shoulder.

But in the stead of answering him thankfully, as a dutiful daughter should, what did I but burst forth o' crying, as though he had been angered with me: yea, nor might I stop the same, but went on, truly I knew not wherefore, till _Mother_ came up and put her arms around me, and hushed me as she wont to do when I was a little child.

"The poor child is o'erwrought," quoth she, tenderly. "Let us leave her be, _Aubrey_, till she calms down.--There, come to me and have it out, my _Nelly_, and none shall trouble thee, trust me."

Lack-a-daisy! I sobbed all the harder for a season, but in time I calmed down, as _Mother_ says, and when so were, I prayed her of pardon for that I could be so foolish.

"Nay, my lass," saith she, "we be made of body and soul, and either comes uppermost at times. 'Tis no good trying to live with one, which so it be."

"Ah, the old monks made that blunder," saith _Father_, "and thought they could live with souls only, or well-nigh so. And there be scores of other that essay to live with nought but bodies. A man that starves his body is ill off, but a man that starves his soul is yet worser. No is it thus, _Mynheer_?"

Mynheer van _Stuyvesant_ had come in while _Father_ was a-speaking.

"Ah!" saith he, "there be in my country certain called _Mennonites_, that do starve their natures of yonder fashion."

"Which half of them,--body or soul?" saith _Father_.

"Nay, I would say both two," he makes answer. "They run right to the further end of every matter. Because they read in their Bibles that `in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,' therefore they do forbid all speech that is not of very necessity,--even a word more than needful is sin in their eyes. If you shall say, `Sit you down in that chair to your comfort,' there are eight words more than you need. You see?-- there are eight sins. `Sit' were enough. So, one mouthful more bread than you need--no, no!--that is a sin. One drop of syrup to your bread--not at all! You could eat your bread without syrup. All that is joyous, all that is comfortable, all that you like to do--all so many sins. Those are the _Mennonites_."

"What sinful men they must be!" saith _Father_.

"Good lack, Master _Stuyvesant_, but think you all those folks tarried in _Holland_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Marry, I could count you a round dozen I have met in this country. And they _be_ trying, I warrant you. My fingers have itched to shake them ere now."

"How do they serve them when they would get them wed?" saith _Father_. "Quoth Master _John_ to Mistress _Bess_, `Wed me' and no more?--and saith she, `Ay' and no more? A kiss, I ween, shall be a sin, for 'tis no wise necessary."

I could not help to laugh, and so did Aunt _Joyce_ and _Mother_.

"Wed!" makes answer _Mynheer_, "the _Mennonites_ wed? Why, 'tis the biggest of all their sins, the wedding."

"There'll not be many of them, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"More than you should think," saith he. "There be to join them every year."

"Well, I'll not join them this bout," quoth she.

"Now, wherein doth that differ from the old monks?" saith _Father_, as in meditation. "Be we setting up monasteries for _Protestants_ already?"

_Mynheer_ shrugged up his shoulders. "They say, the _Mennonites_," he made answer, "that all pleasing of self is contrary unto God's Word. I must do nothing that pleases me. Are there two dishes for my dinner? I like this, I like not that. Good! I take that I love not. Elsewise, I please me. A Christian man must not please himself--he must please God. And (they say) he cannot please both."

"Ah, therein lieth the fallacy," saith _Father_. "All pleasing of self counter unto God, no doubt, is forbidden in Holy Scripture. But surely I am not bid to avoid doing God's commandments, if He command a thing I like?"

"Why, at that rate," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "one should never search God's Word, nor pray unto Him,--except such as did not love it. Methinks these _Mennonites_ stand o' their heads, with their heels in air."

"Ah, but they say it is God's command that thou shalt not please thyself," saith _Mynheer_. "Therefore, that which pleases thee cannot be His will. You see?"

"They do but run the old monks' notions to ground," quoth _Father_. "They go a bit further--that is all. I take it that whensoever my will is contrary unto God's, my will must go down. But when my will runneth alongside of His, surely I am at liberty to take as much pleasure in doing His will as I may? `Ye have been called unto liberty,' saith _Paul_: `only, let not your liberty be an occasion to the flesh, but in love serve one another.'"

"And if serving one another be pleasant unto thee, then give o'er," quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "Good lack, this world doth hold some fools!"

"Pure truth, _Joyce_," saith _Father_. "Yet, for that of monks, in good sooth I do look to see them back, only under other guise. Monachism is human nature: and human nature will out. If he make not way at one door, trust him to creep forth of an other."

"But, _Aubrey_, the Church is reformed. There is no room for monks and nuns, and such rubbish," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"The Church is reformed,--ay," saith he: "but human nature is not. That shall not be until we see the King in His beauty,--whether by our going to Him in death, or by His coming to us in the clouds of heaven."

"Dear heart, man!--be not alway on the watch for black clouds," quoth she. "As well turn _Mennonite_ at once."

"Well, `sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,'" _Father_ makes answer: "and so far thou art right, _Joyce_. Yet it is well we should remember, at times, that we be not yet in Heaven."

"`At times!'" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, with a laugh. "What a blessed life must be thine, if those that be about thee suffer thee to forget the same save `at times'! I never made that blunder yet, I can tell thee."

And so she and I away, and left all laughing.

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXII. This afternoon come _Hal_ and _Anstace_, with their childre. _Milly_ soon carried off the childre, for she is a very child herself, and can lake [play] with childre a deal better than I: and _Hal_ went (said he) to seek _Father_, with whom I found him an hour later in the great chamber, and both right deep in public matter, whereof I do love to hear them talk at times, but _Milly_ and _Edith_ be no wise compatient [the lost adjective of compassion] therewith. _Anstace_ came with me to our chamber, and said she had list for a good chat.

"Whereof be we to chat?" said I, something laughing.

"Oh, there is plenty," saith she. "We shall not be done with the childre this hour."

"Thou wilt not, _Anstace_," said I, "for in very deed all mothers do love rarely to talk over their childre, and I need not save thee. But I am no great talker, as thou well wist."

"That do I," saith she: "for of all young maids ever I saw, thou hast the least list [inclination] to discourse. But, _Nell_, I want to know somewhat of thee. What ails thee at _Nym Lewthwaite_?"

"Why, nothing at all," I made answer: "save that I do right heartily desire him to leave me be."

"Good sooth, but I thought it a rare chance for thee," quoth she: "and I was fair astonied when _Edith_ told me thou wouldst have none ado with him. But thou must mind thy shooting, _Nell_: if thou pitchest all thine arrows over high, thou wilt catch nought."

"I want to pitch no arrows," said I.

"Well, but I do desire thee to conceive," saith she, "that too much niceness is not good for a young maid. 'Tis all very well to go a-picking and a-choosing ere thou art twenty: but trust me, _Nell_, by the time thou comest to thirty, thou shouldst be thankful to take any man that will have thee."

"Nay!" said I, "that shall I not."

"Eh, but thou wilt," quoth she, "yea, if it were _Nym Lewthwaite_."

"I won't!" said I.

_Anstace_ fell a-laughing. "Then thou wilt have to go without!" saith she.

"Well," said I, "that could I do, may-be, nor break my heart o'er it neither. But to take any that should have me,--_Anstace_, I would as soon sell me for a slave."

"Come, _Nell_!--where didst pick up such notions?" quoth she.

"Verily, I might answer thee, of the Queen's Majesty," said I: "and if I be not in good company enough, search thou for better. Only, for pity's sake, Sister _Anstace_, do let me a-be."

"Eh, I'll let thee be," saith she, and wagged her head and laughed. "But in good sooth, _Nell_, thou art a right queer body. And if it should please the Queen's Highness to wed with _Mounseer_ [Note 1], as 'tis thought of many it shall, then thou wilt be out of her company, and I shall be in. What shalt thou do then for company?"

"Marry, I can content me with Aunt _Joyce_ and Cousin _Bess_," quoth I, "and none so bad neither."

So at after that we gat to other discourse, and after a while, when _Milly_ came in with the childre, we all went down into the great chamber, where _Father_, and _Hal_, and _Mynheer_, were yet at their weighty debates. Cousin _Bess_ was sat in the window, a-sewing on some flannel: and Aunt _Joyce_, in the same window, but the other corner, was busied with tapestry-work, being a cushion that she is fashioning for a _Christmas_ gift for some dame that is her friend at _Minster Lovel_. 'Tis well-nigh done; and when it shall be finished, it shall go hence by old _Postlethwaite_ the carrier; for six weeks is not too much betwixt here and _Minster Lovel_.

As we came in, I heard _Father_ to say--

"Truly, there is no end of the diverse fantasy of men's minds." And then he brought forth some _Latin_, which I conceived not: but whispering unto Aunt _Joyce_ (which is something learned in that tongue) to say what it were, she made answer, "So many men, so many minds." [_Quot homines, tot sententiae_.]

"Ha!" saith _Mynheer_. "Was it not that which the Emperor _Charles_ did discover with his clocks and watches? He was very curious in clocks and watches--the Emperor _Charles_ the Fifth--you know?--and in his chamber at the Monastery of _San Yuste_ he had so many. And watching them each day, he found they went not all at one. The big clock was five minutes to twelve when the little watch was two minutes past. So he tried to make them at one: but they would not. No, no! the big clock and the little watch, they go their own way. Then said the Emperor, `Now I see something I saw not aforetime. I thought I could make these clocks go together, but no! Yet they are only the work of men like me. Ah, the foolish man to think that I could compel men to think all alike, who are the work of the great God.' You see?"

"If His Majesty had seen it a bit sooner," quoth _Hal_, "there should have been spared some ill work both in _Spain_ and the Low Countries."

_Mynheer_ saith, "Ah!" more than once, and wagged his head right sadly.

"Why," quoth _Hal_, something earnestly, "mind you not, some dozen years gone, of the stir was made all over this realm, when the ministers were appointed to wear their surplices at all times of their ministration, and no longer to minister in gowns ne cloaks, with their hats on, as they had been wont? Yea, what tumult had we then against the order taken by the Queen and Council, and against the Archbishop and Bishops for consenting thereto! And, all said, what was the mighty ado about? Why, whether a man should wear a black gown or a white. Heard one ever such stuff?"

"Ah, _Hal_, that shall scantly serve," saith _Father_. "Mind, I pray thee, that the question to the eyes of these men was somewhat far otherwise. Thou wouldst not say that _Adam_ and _Eva_ were turned forth of _Paradise_ by reason they plucked an apple?"

"But, I pray you, Sir _Aubrey_, what was the question?" saith _Mynheer_. "For I do not well know, as I fain should."

"Look you," quoth _Father_, "in the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer, and you shall find a rubric, that `such ornaments of the church and of the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and be in use, as were in this Church of _England_, by the authority of Parliament, in the second year of King _Edward_ the Sixth.'"

"But they were not retained," breaks in _Hal_, that will alway be first to speak of aught.

(Lack-a-day! shall that cost me two pence?)

"They were not retained," repeateth _Father_, "but the clergy took to ministering in their gowns and other common apparel, such as they ware every day, with no manner of vestments of no sort. Whereupon, such negligence being thought unseemly, it pleased the Queen's Majesty, sitting in her Council, and with consent of the Archbishop and Bishops, to issue certain injunctions for the better ordering of the Church: to wit, that at all times of their ministration the clergy should wear a decent white surplice, and no other vestment, nor should minister in their common apparel as aforetime."

"Then the rubric touching the garments as worn under King _Edward_ was done away?" saith _Mynheer_.

"Done away completely," quoth _Hal_, afore _Father_ could speak.

"But not by Parliament?" answers _Mynheer_.

"Good lack, what matter?" saith _Hal_. "The Queen's Majesty is supreme in this Church of _England_. If she issue her injunctions through her great Council, or her little Council, or her Bishops, they are all one, so they be her true injunctions."

"These were issued through the Bishops," saith _Father_, "though determined on in the Privy Council."

"Then did the ministers not obey?" asks _Mynheer_.

"Many did. But some counted the surplice a return towards Popery, and utterly refused to wear it. I mind [remember] there was a burying at that time at Saint _Giles'_ Church in _London_, without [outside] _Cripplegate_, where were six clerks that ware the white surplice: and Master _Crowley_, the Vicar, stood in the church door to withstand their entering, saying that no such superstitious rags of _Rome_ should come into his church. There should have been a bitter tumult there, had not the clerks had the wit to give way and tarry withoutside the door. And about the same time, a _Scots_ minister did preach in _London_ right vehemently against the order taken for the apparel of ministers. Why, at Saint _Mildred's_ in _Bread_ Street, where a minister that had conformed was brought of the worshipful of that parish for the communion service, he was so withstood by the minister of the church and his adherents, that the Deputy of the Ward and other were fain to stand beside him in the chancel to defend him during the service, or the parson and his side should have plucked him down with violence. And at long last," saith _Father_, laughing, "the _Scots_ minister that had so inveighed against them was brought to conform; but no sooner did he show himself in the pulpit of Saint _Margaret Pattens_ in a surplice, than divers wives rose up and pulled him forth of the pulpit, tearing his surplice and scratting his face right willingly."

"Eh, good lack!" cries _Mynheer_. "Your women, they keep silence in the churches after such a manner?"

"There was not much silence that morrow, I warrant," quoth _Hal_, laughing right merrily.

"Eh, my gentlemen, I pray you of pardon," saith Cousin _Bess_, looking up earnestly from her flannel, "but had I been in yon church I'd have done the like thing. I'd none have scrat his face, but I'd have rent a good tear in that surplice."

"Thou didst not so, _Bess_, the last _Sunday_ morrow," quoth _Father_, laughing as he turned to look at her.

"Nay, 'tis all done and settled by now," saith she. "I should but get took up for brawling. But I warrant you, that flying white thing sticketh sore in my throat, and ever did. An' I had my way, no parson should minister but in his common coat."

"But that were unseemly and undecent, _Bess_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"Nay, Mistress _Joyce_, but methinks 'tis a deal decenter," answers she. "Wherefore, if a man can speak to me of earthly things in a black gown, must he needs don a white when he cometh to speak to me of heavenly things? There is no wit in such stuff."

"See you, _Mynheer_," saith _Father_, again laughing, "even here in _Selwick_ Hall, where I trust we be little given to quarrel, yet the clocks keep not all one time."

"Eh! No!" saith _Mynheer_, shrugging of his shoulders and smiling. "The gentlewomen, they be very determined in their own opinions."

"Well, I own, I like to see things decent," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "I desire not to have back the Popish albs and such like superstitious gauds--not I: but I do like to see a parson in a clean white surplice, and I would be right sorry were it laid aside."

Cousin _Bess_ said nought, but wagged her head, and tare her flannel in twain.

"Now, I dare be bound, _Bess_, thou countest me gone half-way back to _Rome_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"That were nigh the _Via Mala_," quoth _Father_.

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, I'll judge no man, nor no woman," makes answer Cousin _Bess_. "The Lord looketh on the heart; and 'tis well for us He doth, for if we were judged by what other folk think of us, I reckon we should none of us come so well off. But them white flying kites be rags of _Popery_, that _will_ I say,--yea, and stand to."

"Which side be you, _Father_?" asks _Anstace_.

"Well, my lass," saith he, "though I see not, mine own self, the Pope and all his Cardinals to lurk in the folds of Dr _Meade's_ white surplice, and I am bound to say his tall, portly figure carrieth it off rarely, yet I do right heartily respect _Bess_ her scruple, and desire to abstain from that which she counteth the beginnings of _evil_."

"Now, I warrant you, _Bess_ shall reckon that, of carrying it off well, to be the lust of the eye," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "She's a bit of a _Mennonite_, is _Bess_."

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, pray you, give me not such an ill word!" saith Cousin _Bess_, reproachfully. "I never cared for Mammon, not I. I'd be thankful for a crust of bread and a cup of water, and say grace o'er him with _Amen_."

We all laughed, and _Father_ saith--

"Nay, _Bess_, thou takest _Joyce_ wrong. In that of the _Mennonites_, she would say certain men of whom _Mynheer_ told us a few days gone, that should think all things pleasurable and easeful to be wrong."

"Good lack, Mistress _Joyce_, but I'm none so bad as that!" saith _Bess_. "I'm sure, when I make gruel for whoso it be, I leave no lumps in, nor let it burn neither."

"No, dear heart, thou art only a _Mennonite_ to thyself, not to other folk," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Thou shouldst be right well content of a board for thy bed, but if any one of us had the blanket creased under our backs, it should cost thee thy night's rest. I know thee, _Bess Wolvercot_."

"Well, and I do dearly love to see folk comfortable," quoth she. "As for me, what recketh? I thank the Lord, my health is good enough; and a very fool were I to grumble at every bit of discomfort. Why, only do think, Mistress _Joyce_, how much worser I might have been off! Had I been born of that country I heard Master _Banaster_ a-telling of, where they never see the sun but of the summer, and dwell of huts full o' smoke, with ne'er a chimney--why, I never could see if my face were clean, nor my table rubbed bright. Eh, but I wouldn't like that fashion of living!"

"They have no tables in _Greenland_ for to rub, _Bess_," quoth _Hal_.

"Nor o'er many clean faces, I take it," saith _Father_.

"Ah! did you hear, Sir," saith _Mynheer_, "of Mynheer _Heningsen's_ voyage to _Greenland_ the last year?"

"I have not, _Mynheer_," saith _Father_. "Pray you, what was notable therein?"

"Ah! he was not far from the coast of _Greenland_, when he found the ship go out of her course. He turned the rudder, or how you say, to guide the ship--I am not sea-learned, I ask your pardon if I mistake-- but the ship would not move. Then they found, beneath a sunken rock, and it was--how you say?--magnetical, that drew to it the iron of the ship. Then Mynheer _Heningsen_, he look to his charts, for he know no rock just there. And what think you he found? Why, two hundred years back, exactly--in the year of our Lord 1380, there were certain _Venetians_, the brothers _Zeni_, sailing in these seas, and they brought word home to _Venice_ that on this very spot, where _Heningsen_ found nothing but a sunken rock, they found a beautiful large island, where were one hundred villages, inhabited by _Christian_ people, in a state of great civility [civilisation], but so simple and guileless that hardly you can conceive. Think you! nothing now but a sunken rock."

"But what name hath the island?" asks _Hal_.

"No name at all. No eyes ever saw it but the brothers _Zeni_ of _Venice_."

"Nay, _Mynheer_, I cry you mercy," saith _Father_ of his thoughtful fashion. "If the brothers _Zeni_ told truth (as I mean to signify no doubt), there was One that saw it, from the time when He pronounced all things very good, to the day when some convulsion of nature, whatso it were, by His commandment engulfed that fair isle in the waters. `Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He,--in heaven, and in earth, and in the sea, and in all deep places.' Not one hair from the head of those unknown _Christians_, that were _Christians_ in truth, perished in those North waters. We shall know it when we meet them in the Land that is very far off."

SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXXI. Mine hand was so weary when I was come to the last sentence afore this, that I set down no more. Truly, there was little at after that demerited the same.

And now I be come to the end of my month, I have been a-reading over what I writ, to see how much I must needs pay. There be but two blots, the which shall be so many pence: and two blank spaces of one week or over, the which at two pence each brings the account to sixpence. I cannot perceive that I have at any time writ disrespectfully of my betters--which, I take it, be _Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, and Cousin _Bess_, and Mynheer _Stuyvesant_, But for speaking unkindly of other, I fear I am not blameless. I can count six two-pences, which shall be one shilling and sixpence. I must try and do better when my month cometh round again. Verily, I had not thought that I should speak unkindly six times in one month! 'Tis well to find out a body's faults.

So now I pass my book over to _Milly_--and do right earnestly desire that she may be less faultful than I. What poor infirm things be we, in very sooth!

Note 1. Francois Duke of Anjou, who visited the Queen in September, 1579, to urge his suit. Elizabeth hesitated for some time before she gave a decided negative.



"The inward depths of that deceitful fount
Where many a sin lies sleeping, but not dead."

(_In Milisent's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE FIRST. Things be alway going awry with me. Elsewise, this jolly book should ne'er have come into my hands first of a _Sunday_. I would love dearly to read o'er what my philosophical sister hath writ, and comment on the same: but I reckon I must tarry till to-morrow.

Now, _Mother_ said I was to write what I thought, and I mean to do the same. As to the pennies and the two-pences, they may count up themselves, for all I care. They'll not outrun half-a-crown, I reckon: and having paid the same at my month end, I shall just worry the life out of _Father_ till he give me an other. So here goes it!

Well, the first thing I think is,--Why must everything pleasant be set aside while _Monday_? _Father_ saith happiness and wickedness be not alike, though (quoth he) some folk think so much. Now, it seems me that happiness and holiness should be the same thing. Why should a matter not be right simply by reason that I like it? I want to know, and I will ask somebody, some of these days.

Howbeit, of one thing am I assured,--namely, that it cannot be wicked to write on _Sunday_ what it is not wicked to do. So I shall tell what we did.

Now, there some folk are so queer! They will take down a gown, and shake out the folds, and talk an half-hour o'er it,--how this gimp should be better to run that way, and next week the bottom must needs be fresh bound: all of a _Sunday_. But to stick a neeld in, and make the gimp run that way, and fresh bind the bottom,--good lack! they should count you a very heathen an' you asked them. Now, I want to know how the one is a bit better than the other. I cannot see a pin to choose betwixt them.

Well! we gat out of bed this morrow--I reckon that is the first thing, beyond opening one's eyes.

_Nell_ is alway the first up, and _Edith_ the last. She is rare hard to wake, is _Edith_; or rather, not to wake, but to make her rise up when she is woke. She takes a deal of shaking and talking to, some mornings specially. _Nell_ does the talking, and I do the shaking: and I warrant you, I give it her.

Howbeit, we were all up, at long last--and if one of us be late of a _Sunday_ morrow, _Father_ looks as if we had brake his heart. Our _Sunday_ gowns at this season be of green satin, of sixteen shillings the yard,--eh, good lack! should I have set that down of a _Sunday_? Well, never mind; 'tis now done--and furred with pampilion [an unknown species of fur]. Our out-door hoods be black velvet: and in this gear went we to church, at _Keswick_. And I would with all mine heart we had a church nearer unto us than three weary miles, though every body saith 'tis mighty near. _Father_ rid on _Favelle_, with _Edith_ behind him; and _Mother_ on _Garnet_, behind Master _Stuyvesant_; and _Nell_ and I on _Cowslip_; and Aunt _Joyce_ of her own hackney, that is called _Hermit_, with old _Matthias_. Cousin _Bess_ come ambling after, on _Starlight_, with _Adam_ afore her: and behind trudged _Kate_ and _Kitling_. And by the same token, _Moses_ came a-mewing to the door to see us depart.

So came we to the church, and there found afore us my Lord _Dilston_ and his following, that had rowed over from _Lord's Island_, whereon of old time the Barons of _Dilston_ [the Radcliffes, subsequently created Earls of Derwentwater] have had an house (I am mindful of strangers the which shall read our chronicle, which is more, I reckon, than _Nell_ shall have been), and in good sooth, but Mistress _Jane_ is fair of face, and I do love to look upon her. Well, of course, _Father_ being but a knight, we stood of one side to let pass a baron: and when all they were gone up, went up we, in due order, _Father_ handing _Mother_, and _Mynheer_ with Aunt _Joyce_, and then Cousin _Bess_ and we three maids. And there was Dr _Meade_ with his white rag of _Popery_ (as Cousin _Bess_ will have it) a-flying behind him as he came from the vestry: and I might not forbear to give a little pinch to _Edith_ as I saw it fly. 'Tis to no good to pinch _Nell_, for she doth but kill me with a look. And there, of either side (which I had nigh forgot), stood the common folk, the townsfolk, and the lead-miners from _Vicar's Island_ [anciently belonging to Fountains Abbey] and such like, all a-gaping and a-staring on us as we went by, to see the baron and the knight. And eh, but I do love to be gaped on! 'Tis the best bit of all the _Sunday_, for me.

(Now, _Mother_, you said I was to write what I thought.)

Then come matins, which one has to sit through, of course: the only good matter being the chants. I can sing out, and I do. Then come the sermon, which is unto me sore weariness, and I gape through it as I best may. Dear heart, what matter is it to me if _Peter_ were ever at _Rome_ or no, or if Saint _James_ and _Paul_ do both say the same thing touching faith and works? We have all faith--say we not the Creed every _Sunday_? and what would you have more? And as to works, I hate good works. Good works always means doing the very thing you would rather not. 'Tis good works to carry a pudding to old _Nanny Crewdson_ through a lane where I nigh lose my shoes in the mire, right at the time when I want to bide at home and play the virginals. Or 'tis sitting of a chair and reading of _Luther's_ Commentary on the _Galatians_ to one of my betters, when my very toes be tingling to be out in the sunshine. Good lack, but I do owe a pretty penny to Master Doctor _Luther_ for that commentary! I have had to sit and read it a good score of times when it should have done me marvellous ease to have boxed his ears with it. Had I been Mistress _Katherine_, it should have gone hard with me but I would have pulled Master Doctor out of his study, and made him lake with little _Jack_ and _Maudlin_, in the stead of toiling o'er yon old musty commentary. _Nell_ saith she loveth to read it. In good sooth, but I wish she may!

Well! matins o'er, come the communion, for which all tarried but _Edith_; she, not being yet confirmed, is alway packed off ere it begin. And when that were o'er--and I do love the last _Amen_ of all--went all we to dinner with Mistress _Huthwaite_, at whose house we do ever dine of a _Sunday_: and mighty late it is of a communion _Sunday_; and I am well-nigh famished ere I break bread. And for dinner was corned beef and carrots, and for drink sherris-sack and muscadel. Then, at three o' the clock, all we again to church: and by the same token, if Dr _Meade_ gave us not two full hours of a sermon, then will I sell my gold chain for two pence. And at after church, in the porch were my Lord _Dilston_ and fair Mistress _Jane_; and my Lord was pleased to take _Father_ by the hand, and _Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_ likewise; but did but kiss us maids. [Note 1.] But Mistress _Jane_ took us all three by the hand, and did say unto me that she would fain be better acquainted. And in very deed, it should be a feather in my cap were I to come unto close friendship with my Lord _Dilston_ his daughter, as I do right heartily trust I may. Nor, after all, were it any such great preferment for me, that am daughter unto Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_ of _Selwick_ Hall, Knight, which is cousin unto my right honourable Lord the Earl of _Oxenford_, and not so far off neither. For my most honourable Lord, Sir _Aubrey de Vere_, sometime Earl of _Oxenford_, was great-great-great-grandfather unto my Lord that now is: and his sister, my Lady _Margaret_, wife to Sir _Nicholas Louvaine_, was great-great-grandmother unto _Father_: so they twain be cousins but four and an half times removed: and, good lack, what is this? Surely, I need not to plume me upon Mistress _Jane Radcliffe_ her notice and favour. If the _Radcliffes_ be an old house, as in very deed they be, so be the _Veres_ and the _Louvaines_ both: to say nought of the _Edens_, that have dwelt in _Kent-dale_ these thousand years at the least. But one thing will I never own, and that is of Mynheer _Stuyvesant_, which shall say, and hold to it like a leech, that our family be all _Dutch_ folk. He will have it that the _Louvaines_ must needs have sprung from _Louvain_ in the Low Countries; but of all things doth he make me mad [angry: a word still used in the north of England] when he saith the great House of _Vere_ is _Dutch_ of origin. For he will have it a weir to catch fish, when all the world doth know that _Veritas_ is _Latin_ for truth, and _Vere_ cometh of that, or else of _vir_, as though it should say, one that is verily a man, and no base coward loon. And 'tis all foolishness for to say, as doth _Mynheer_, that the old _Romans_ had no surnames like ours, but only the name of the family, such like as _Cornelius_ or _Julius_, which ran more akin unto our _Christian_ names. I believe it not, and I won't. Why, was there not an Emperor, or a Prince at the least, that was called _Lucius Verus_? and what is that but _Vere_? 'Tis as plain as the barber's pole, for all _Mynheer_, and that will I say.

Howbeit, I am forgetting my business, and well-nigh that it is _Sunday_. So have back. Church over, all we come home, in the very order as we went: and in the hall come _Moses_ a-purring to us, and a-rubbing of her head against _Nell_; and there was _Dan_ a-turning round and round after his tail, and _Nan_, that had a ball of paper, on her back a-laking therewith. _So_ we to doff our hoods, and then down into the hall, where was supper served: for it was over late for four-hours [Note 2], and of a communion _Sunday_ we never get none. Then _Nell_ to read a chapter from Master Doctor _Luther_ his magnifical commentary: and by the mass, I was glad it was not me. Then--(Eh, happy woman be my dole! but if _Father_ shall see that last line, it shall be a broad shilling out of my pocket at the least. He is most mighty nice, is _Father_, touching that make of talk. I believe I catched it up of old _Matthias_. I must in very deed essay to leave it off; and I do own, 'tis not over seemly to swear of a _Sunday_, for I suppose it is swearing, though 'tis not profane talk. Come, _Father_, you must o'erlook it this once: and I will never do so no more--at the least, not till the next time.)

Well then, had we a chapter of _Luke_, and a long prayer of _Father_: and I am sore afeared I missed a good ten minutes thereof, for I wis not well what happed, nor how I gat there, but assuredly I was a-dancing with my Lord of _Oxenford_, and the Queen's Majesty and my Lord _Dilston_ a-looking on, and Mistress _Jane_ as black as thunder, because I danced better than she. I reckon _Father's_ stopping woke me, and I said _Amen_ as well as any body. Then the Hundredth Psalm, _Nell_ a-playing on the virginals: and then (best of all) the blessing, and then with good-night all round, to bed. I reckon my nap at prayers had made me something wakeful, for I heard both _Nell_ and _Edith_ asleep afore me.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE III. Now have I read o'er every line my philosophical sister hath writ: and very nigh smothered me o' laughing at divers parts. The long discourses she putteth in, touching all manner of dreary matters! I warrant, you shall not see me to deal with the Queen's Majesty's injunctions touching the apparel of parsons, nor with the _Dutch Mennonites_, nor with philosophical questions touching folks' thoughts and characters, nor no such rubbish. I like sunlight, I do. Catch me a-setting down Master _Stuyvesant_ his dreary speeches! (I go not further, for then should it cost me sixpence: but Master _Stuyvesant_ hath no authority over me, so I may say what I will of him for two pence.) But it seemeth me, for all her soberness and her killing looks, that Mistress _Helena_ is something diverted with my speeches, else had she not put so many in. But I ought not to have said what I did, quotha, touching _Father's_ nose! Ought I not, forsooth? Mistress _Helena_, that shall cost you two pence, and I shall be fain to see the fine paid.

(Eh, lack-a-day! but that shall cost me two pence! Dear heart, whatever was _Father_ a-thinking of? I shall be as clean ruined as the velvet doublet that _Ned_ dropped in the fish-pond!)

It seemeth me _Father_ must have desired to make a good box for the poor. I would it had not been at my cost.

One thing is plain,--that Mistress _Nell_ keeps a conscience. I scarce think I do. There is a cushion full of pins somewhere down near my stomach, and now and then I get a prick: but I do but cry pish and turn the pin end into the cushion. _Nell_, on the contrary, pulleth forth the pin and looketh on it, holding it in all lights. But there was one time, I mind, that I did not cry pish, and methinks every pin in the cushion had set a-work to prick me hard. 'Twas ever so long gone, when _Wat_ and I dressed up the mop in a white sheet, and set it on the stairs for to make _Anstace_ and _Nell_ scream forth, a-taking it for a ghost: but as ill luck would have it, the first came by was _Mother_, with _Edith_ in her arms, that was then but a babe, and it so frighted her she went white as the very sheet, and dropped down of a dead faint, and what should have come of _Edith_ I wis not, had not _Anstace_, that came after, been quick to catch at her. Eh, but in all my life never saw I _Father_ as he then were! It was long time ere _Mother_ come to, and until after said he never a word, for he was all busied with her: but when she was come to herself and well at ease,--my word! but he did serve out _Wat_ and me! _Wat_ gat the worst, by reason he was the elder, and had (said _Father_) played the serpent to mine _Eva_: but I warrant you I forgat not that birch rod for a week or twain. Good lack! we never frighted nobody again.

And after all, I do think _Father's_ talk was worser than the fustigation [whipping]. How he did insense it into us, that we might have been the death of our mother and sister both, and how it was rare wicked and cruel to seek to fright any, and had been known to turn folks' heads ere this! You see, _Father_, I have not forgot it, and I reckon I never shall.

But one thing _Father_ alway doth, and so belike do all in this house, which I hear not other folks' elders for to do. When _Alice Lewthwaite_ gets chidden, Mistress _Lewthwaite_ saith such matters be unseemly, or undutiful, and such like. But _Father_, he must needs pull forth his Bible, and give you chapter and verse for every word he saith. And it makes things look so much worser, some how. 'Tis like being judged of God instead of men. And where Mistress _Lewthwaite_ talks of faults, _Father_ and _Mother_ say sins. And it makes ever so much difference, to my thinking, whether a matter be but a fault you need be told of, or a sin that you must repent. Then, Mistress _Lewthwaite_ (and I have noted it in other) always takes things as they touch her, whereas _Father_ and _Mother_ do look on them rather as they touch God. And it doth seem ever so much more awfuller thus. Methinks it should be a sight comfortabler world if men had no consciences, and could do as it listed them at all times without those pin-pricks. I am well assured folks should mostly do right. I should, at any rate. 'Tis but exceeding seldom I do aught wrong, and then mostly because I am teased with forbiddance of the same. I should never have touched the fire-fork, when I was a little maid, and nigh got the house a-fire, had not old Dame _Conyers_, that was my godmother, bidden me not do the same. Had she but held her peace, I should ne'er have thought thereon. Folks do not well to put matters into childre's heads, and then if aught go wrong the childre get the blame. And in this world things be ever a-going wrong. But wherefore must I be blamed for that, forsooth? 'Tis the things go wrong, not me. I should be a very angel for goodness if only folks gave o'er a putting of me out, and gainsaying of me, and forbidding things to be done. In good sooth, 'tis hard on a poor maid that cannot be suffered to be as good as she should, were she but let a-be.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE VI. Yesterday, the afternoon was so fair and sunshine, that _Edith_ and I (_Mother_ giving us leave) rowed o'er to Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, where _Edith_ sat her down of a great stone, and said she would draw the lake's picture in little. So I, having no list to stand behind and look on, went off to see if I could find aught, such as a squirrel or a pie, to divert me withal. As for _Adam_, which had rowed us o'er, he gathered up his nose and his heels all of a lump on the grass, and in five minutes he was snoring like an owl. For me, I wandered on a while, and went all over the ruins of the hermitage, and could find nought to look at save one robin, that sat on a bough and stared at me. After a while I sat me down, and I reckon I should have been a-snoring like _Adam_ afore long, but I heard a little bruit [noise] that caused me turn mine head, and all suddenly I was aware of a right goodly gentleman, and well clad, that leaned against a tree, and gazed upon me, yet with mighty respect and courtesy. He was something past his youth, yet right comely to look to; of a fair hair and beard, and soft eyes, grey [blue] as the sky. Truly, I was something fluttered, for he ware a brave velvet jerkin, and a gold chain as thick as Master _Mayor's_. And while I meditated if I should speak unto him or no, he spake first. "I pray you, fair my Mistress, or Madam [then restricted to noble ladies and knights' wives] if so be, of your good pleasure, to do a stranger to wit of the name of this charming isle?"

"Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, Sir," quoth I. "Of old time, as 'tis said, Saint _Hubert_ had an hermitage hereon: the ruins whereof you may see down yonder."

"Truly, the isle is better accommodated at this present," saith he, and smiled one of the comeliest smiles ever saw I on a man's face. "And who was Saint _Hubert_, if it please my fair damosel?"

"In good sooth, Sir, that know I not," said I; "save that he were one of the old saints, now done away."

"If the old saints be done away," saith he, "thank goodness, the new at least be left."

Good lack! but I wist not what to answer to so courtly compliments, and the better liked I my neighbour every minute. Methought I had never seen a gentleman so grand and amiable, not to say of so good words.

"And, I pray you, sweet Mistress," saith he, yet a-leaning against the tree, which was an oak, and I could find it again this minute: "is it lawful for the snared bird to request the name of the fowler?"

"Sir, I pray you of pardon," I made answer, and I could not help to laugh a little, "but I am all unused to so courtly and flattering words. May it please you to put what you would say into something plainer _English_?"

"Surely," saith he, "the rose is not unaccustomed to the delightsome inhalation of her fragrance. Well, fairest Mistress, may I know your name? Is that _English_ plain enough to do you a pleasure?"

"Sir," quoth I, "my name is _Milisent Louvaine_, to serve you."

"Truly," saith he, "and it shall serve me right well to know so mellifluous a name. [Note 3.] And what dwelling is honoured by being your fair home, my honey-sweet damsel?"

"Sir," said I, "I dwell at _Selwick_ Hall, o'er the lake in yonder quarter."

"It must be a delightsome dwelling," he made answer. "And--elders have you, fairest Mistress?"

"I thank the Lord, ay, Sir. Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_ is my father, and Dame _Lettice_, sometime named _Eden_, my mother."

"_Lettice Eden_!" saith he, and methought something sorrowfully, as though _Mother's_ old name should have waked some regrets within him. "I do mind me, long time gone, of a fair maiden of that name, that was with my sometime Lady of _Surrey_, and might now and then be seen at the Court with her lady, or with the fair Lady of _Richmond_, her lord's sister. Could it have been the same, I marvel?"

"Sir," said I, "I cast no doubt thereon. My mother was bower-maiden unto my Lady of _Surrey_, afore she were wed."

"Ah!" saith he, and fetched a great sigh. "She was the fairest maiden that ever mine eyes beheld. At the least--I thought so yesterday."

"My sister is more like her than I," I did observe. "She is round by yonder, a-playing the painter."

"Ah," quoth he, something carelessly, "I did see a young damsel, sitting of a stone o'er yonder. Very fair, in good sooth: yet I have seen fairer,--even within the compass of Saint _Hubert's_ Isle. And I do marvel that she should be regarded as favouring my good Lady your mother more than you, sweet Mistress _Milisent_."

I was astonished, for I know _Edith_ is reckoned best-favoured of all us, and most like to _Mother_. But well as it liked me to sit and listen, methought, somehow, I had better get me up and return to _Edith_.

"Alas!" saith he, when he saw me rise, "miserable man, am I driving hence the fairest floweret of the isle?"

"Not in no wise, Sir," answered I; "but I count it time to return, and my sister shall be coming to look for me."

"Then, sweet Mistress, give me leave to hand you o'er these rough paths."

So I put mine hand into his, which was shapely, and well cased in fair _Spanish_ leather; and as we walked, he asked me of divers matters; as, how many brothers I had, and if they dwelt at home; and if _Father_ were at home; and the number and names of my sisters, and such like; all which I told him. Moreover, he would know if we had any guests; which, with much more, seeing he had been of old time acquainted with _Mother_, I told. Only I forgat to make mention of Aunt _Joyce_.

So at long last--for he, being unacquainted with the Isle, took the longest way round, and I thought it good manners not to check him--at long last come we to _Edith_, which was gat up from her stone, and was putting by her paper and pencils in the bag which she had brought for them.

"We shall be something late for four-hours, _Milly_," saith she. "Prithee, wake _Adam_, whilst I make an end."

Off went I and gave _Adam_ a good shake, and coming back, found _Edith_ in discourse with my gentleman. I cannot tell why, but I would as lief he had not conversed with any but me.

"Sir," said I, "may we set you down of the lakeside?"

"No, I thank you much," saith he: and lifting his bonnet from his head, I saw how gleaming golden was yet his hair. "I have a boat o'er the other side. Farewell, my sweet mistresses both: I trust we shall meet again. Methinks I owe it you, howbeit, to tell you my name. I am Sir _Edwin Tregarvon_, of _Cornwall_, and very much your servant."

So away went he, with a graceful mien: and we home o'er the lake. All the way _Edith_ saith nought but--"_Milly_, where didst thou pick up thy _cavaliero_?"

"Nay," said I, "he it was who picked me up. He was leaning of a tree, of t'other side, over against _Borrowdale_: and I sat me down of a log, and saw him not till he spake."

_Edith_ said no more at that time. But in the even, when we were doffing us, and _Nell_ was not yet come up, quoth she--

"_Milly_, is Sir _Edwin_ something free to ask questions?"

"Oh, meterly," [tolerably] said I.

"I trust thou gavest him not o'er full answers."

"Oh, nought of import," said I. "Beside, _Edith_, he is an old friend of _Mother_."

"Is he so?" quoth she. "Then we can ask _Mother_ touching him."

Now, I could not have told any wherefore, but I had no list to ask _Mother_, nor had I told her so much as one word touching him. I believe I was half afeared she might forbid me to encourage him in talk. I trust _Edith_ shall forget the same, for she hath not an over good memory.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE IX. I well-nigh do wish I had not writ down that same o' _Friday_ last. Howbeit, there is no penalty against tearing out o' leaves: and that must I do, if need be. Meanwhile, I will go right forward with my chronicling.

I did verily think I saw Sir _Edwin_ part-way up the hill behind us o' _Saturday_ even: but o' _Sunday_ he was not in church, for I looked for him. I reckon he must have left this vicinage, or he should scarce run the risk of a twenty pound fine [the penalty per month for non-attendance at the parish church], without he be fairly a-rolling in riches, as his gold chain looked not unlike.

Thank goodness, _Edith_ hath forgot to say aught to _Mother_, and 'tis not like she shall think on now.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XII. _Mother_ bid me, this morrow, carry a basket of eggs and a spice-cake [the northern name for a plum-cake] to old _Jack_. They were ducks' eggs, for I had told her what _Jack_ said the last time we visited him. I bade _Edith_ go with me [Note 4], but she would not, the day being somewhat foul. I did never see a maid so unwilling to mire her shoes as our _Edith_. So I all alone up to _Jack Benn's_: which saw me from his hut door, and gave me his customary courteous welcome.

"There's a woman a-coming!" quoth he. "Get away wi' ye! I hate women."

"Nay, _Jack_," said I; "thou alway savest me, as thou wist. Here be eggs for thee--ducks', every one: and a spice-cake, which I know thou lovest."

"I love nought so much as I hate women," saith he. But he took the cake and the eggs off me, notwithstanding. "They're fleshly folk, is women," quoth old _Jack_.

"Nay, what signifiest?" said I. "Women have no more flesh than men, I reckon."

"Mistress _Milisent_, does thou wit what _Paul_ says to th' _Romans_, touching th' flesh and th' spirit?"

"Oh ay, _Jack_, I have read it afore now."

"Well, and does thou mind how he threaps again' th' flesh?"

"To be sure," said I.

"Now look ye here," saith he. "Here's my hand,"--and he reacheth forth a great brown paw. "Does thou see it?"

"Ay, I am thankful I have eyes good enough for that, _Jack_!"

"Well--this hand's made o' flesh, does thou wit?"

"I reckon so much, _Jack_."

"Good. Well, _Paul_ he says we're none to mind th' things o' th' flesh, but only th' things o' th' spirit. Your spirit's your thoughts and meditations like. And that's why women's such ill uns--because they are alway minding th' things o' th' flesh: scrubbing, and washing, and baking, and sewing, and such like. And it stands to reason, Mistress _Milisent_, that what ye do wi' th' flesh mun be th' things o' th' flesh. Does thou see?"

"Well, _Jack_, I am afeared I do not entirely."

"Get thee gone!" saith he. "Women never can see nought. They're ill uns, I tell ye--they're ill uns!"

"But, _Jack_, the sins of the flesh have nought to do with cooking and washing."

"Does thou think I dunna know better nor a woman? Thee be off, or I'll let fly th' broom at thee."

"_Jack_, thou art a very uncivil companion," said I; but I gathered up my gown for to go.

"I never were civil to a woman yet," saith he, "and I hope I never shall be. That's a sin I'll none have to answer for."

"In very deed it is, _Jack_," said I, "and I will bear witness for thee to that end if need be. Farewell."

So away turned I from the grim old man, but had not run many steps down ere I was aware of an hand, very different from _Jack's_, held forth to me, and a voice saluting me in exceeding diverse language.

"Fairest Mistress _Milisent_, well met this cloudy morrow! I see the flowers be out, though the sun shine not. Give me leave, I pray you, to aid your graceful steps down this rough hill-side."

So down the hill with me came Sir _Edwin_, and mighty pleasant discourse had we--all the fairer for coming after _Jack_. And much he told me of his estate in _Cornwall_, where he hath a fair castle, built of old time, and mines like to ours, saving they be tin, not lead. And these _Cornish_ mines, as he told me, were worked of old time by the _Jews_: but when I did demand of him how _Jews_ should come to work them, that (quoth he) could he not say. And at times, in these mines, deep down in the old workings, do they hear the ghosts of them that worked them a thousand years ago, a-knocking with the pickaxe; and when they do break into the ancient workings, they come on the olden pickaxes of stags' horn, used of these old _Jews_ and _Romans_, that did labour in these mines of old time.

"Good lack!" cried I: "and be these the very pickaxes used of these ghosts? Verily, I would be feared for to touch them."

"Nay, the tools themselves be no ghosts," saith he, laughing: "and I do ensure you, fair my mistress, I have seen and handled divers thereof."

Then he told me, moreover, of a new custom is risen up in the Queen's Majesty's Court: for right courtly discourse he hath, and the names of dukes and earls do fly about in his talk as though he were hand and glove with every man of them. I do love to hear such discourse, and that right dearly. Many a time have I essayed for to win _Mother_ to enter into talk touching those days when she dwelt in _Surrey_ Place with my good Lady Countess of _Surrey_: but I wis not well wherefore, she ever seemeth to have no list to talk of that time. She will tell us of her 'prisonment in the _Counter_, and how _Father_ brought the little shell for to comfort her, and at after how he fetched her out, and rode away with her and had a care of her, when as she was let forth: but even in that there seems me like as there should be a gap, which she never filleth up. I marvel if there were somewhat of that time the which she would not we should know. [Note 5.] I did once whisper a word of this make unto _Nell_: but Mistress _Helena_, that doth alway the right and meet thing, did seem so mighty shocked that I should desire to ferret forth somewhat that _Mother_ had no list for me to know, that I let her a-be. But for all that would I dearly love to know it. I do take delight in digging up of other folks' secrets, as much as in keeping of mine own.

Howbeit, here am I a great way off from Sir _Edwin_ and his discourse of the new Court custom, the which hath name _Euphuism_, and is a right fair conceit, whereby divers gentlemen and gentlewomen do swear friendship unto one the other, by divers quaint names the which they do confer. Thus the Queen's Majesty herself is pleased to honour some of her servants, as my Lord of _Burleigh_, who is her _Spirit_, and Sir _Walter Raleigh_ her _Water_, and Mr Vice-Chamberlain [Sir Christopher Hatton] her _Sheep_, and Mr Secretary [Sir Francis Walsingham] her _Moon_. Sir _Edwin_ saith he had himself such a friendship with some mighty great lady, whose name he would not utter, (though I did my best to provoke him thereto) he calling her his _Discretion_, and she naming him her _Fortitude_. Which is pleasant and witty matter. [Note 6.]

"And," quoth Sir _Edwin_, "mine honey-sweet Mistress, if it may stand with your pleasure, let us two follow the Court fashion. You shall be mine _Amiability_, [loveliness, not loveableness], and (if it shall please you) shall call me your _Protection_. Have I well said, my fairest?"

"Indeed, Sir, and I thank you," I made answer, "and should you do me so much honour, it should like me right well."

By this time we were come to the turn nigh the garden gate, and I dared not be seen with Sir _Edwin_ no nearer the house. The which he seemed to guess, and would there take his leave: demanding of me which road led the shortest way to _Kirkstone_ Pass. So I home, and into our chamber to doff my raiment, where, as ill luck would have it, was _Nell_. Now, our chamber window is the only one in all the house whence the path to _Jack's_ hut can be seen: wherefore I reckoned me fairly safe. But how did mine heart jump into my mouth when _Nell_ saith, as I was a-folding of my kerchief--

"Who was that with thee, _Milly_?"

Well, I do hope it was not wicked that I should answer,--"A gentleman, _Nell_, that would know his shortest way to _Kirkstone_ Pass." In good sooth, it was a right true answer: for Sir _Edwin_ is a gentleman, and he did ask me which were the shortest way thereto. But, good lack! it seemed me as all the pins that ever were in a cushion started o' pricking me when I thus spake. Yet what ill had I done, forsooth? I had said no falsehood: only shut _Nell's_ mouth, for she asked no further. And, dear heart, may I not make so much as a friend to divert me withal, but I must send round the town-crier to proclaim the same? After I had writ thus much, down come I to the great chamber, where I found _Anstace_ and _Hal_ come; and _Hal_, with _Father_ and _Mynheer_, were fallen of mighty grave discourse touching the news of late come, that the Pope hath pretended to deprive the Queen's Majesty of all right to _Ireland_. Well-a-day! as though Her Majesty should think to let go _Ireland_ or any other land because a foreign bishop should bid her! Methinks this companion the Pope must needs be clean wood [mad].

_Hal_, moreover, is well pleased that the Common Council of _London_ should forbid all plays in the City, the which, as he will have it, be ill and foolish matter. Truly, it maketh little matter to me here in _Derwent_ dale: but methinks, if I dwelt in _London_ town, I should be but little pleased therewith. Why should folk not divert them?

Being aweary of Master _Hal's_ grave discourse, went I over to _Anstace_, whom I found mighty busied of more lighter matter,--to wit, the sumptuary laws of late set forth against long cloaks and wide ruffs, which do ill please her, for _Anstace_ loveth to ruffle it of a good ruff. Thence gat she to their _Cicely_, which is but ill at ease, and Dr _Bell_ was fetched to her this last even: who saith that on _Friday_ and _Saturday_ the sign [of the Zodiac] shall be in the heart, and from _Sunday_ to _Tuesday_ in the stomach, during which time it shall be no safe dealing with physic preservative, whereof he reckoneth her need to be: so she must needs tarry until _Wednesday_ come seven-night, and from that time to fifteen days forward shall be passing good.

Howbeit, we gat back ere long to the fashions, whereof _Anstace_ had of late a parcel of news from her husband's sister, Mistress _Parker_, that dwelleth but fifty miles from _London_, and is an useful sister for to have. As to the newest fashion of sleeves (quoth she), nothing is more certain than the uncertainty; and likewise of hoods. Cypress, saith she, is out of fashion (the which hath put me right out of conceit with my cypress kirtle that was made but last year), and napped taffeta is now thought but serving-man-like. All this, and a deal more, _Anstace_ told us, as we sat in the compassed window [bay window].

Dr _Meade's_ hour-glass is broke of the sexton. I am fain to hear the same, if it shall cut his sermons shorter.


Note 1. At this time, shaking hands indicated warmer cordiality than the kiss, which last was the common form of greeting amongst all classes.

Note 2. Four-hours answered to afternoon tea, and was usually served, as its name denotes, at four o'clock.

Note 3. Millicent has really no connection with Melissa, though many persons have supposed so. It comes, through Milisent and Melisende, from the Gothic _Amala-suinde_, which signifies Heavenly wisdom.

Note 4. Bade is the imperfect, and bidden the participle, of bid, to invite, as well as of bid, to command.

Note 5. The reader who wishes for more light on this point than was allowed to Milisent, will find it in "Lettice Eden."

Note 6. At this time "pleasant" meant humorous, and "witty" meant intellectual. This curious child's play termed Euphuism, to which grave men and sedate women did not hesitate to lower themselves, was peculiar to the age of Elizabeth, than whom never was a human creature at once so great and so small.



"I thought that I was strong, Lord,
And did not need Thine arm;
Though dangers thronged around me,
My heart felt no alarm:
I thought I nothing needed--
Riches, nor dress, nor sight:
And on I walked in darkness,
And still I thought it light."

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XV. I have but now read o'er what I writ these last few days, and have meditated much whether I should go on to tell of Sir _Edwin_, for it shall ne'er serve to have folk read the same. And methinketh it best for to go straight on, and at the end, if need be, tear out the leaves. For it doth me a mighty pleasure to write and think upon the same: and I can make some excuse when I come to it.

Though Mistress _Nell_,
I guess right well,
Of neatness should be heedful:
Yet I will tear
The leaves out fair,
If it shall so be needful.

There! who saith I cannot write poesy?

This morrow again (I being but just without the garden gate), I met with my _Protection_, who doffed his plumed bonnet and saluted me as his most fair _Amiability_. I do see him most days, though but for a minute: and in truth I think long from one time to another. Coming back, I meditated what I should say to Mistress _Nell_ (that loveth somewhat too much to meddle) should she have caught sight of him: for it shall not serve every time to send him to _Kirkstone_. Nor, of course, could I think to tell a lie thereabout. So I called to mind that he had once asked me what name we called the eye-bright in these parts, though it were not this morrow, but I should not need to say that, and it should be no lie, seeing he did say so much. Metrusteth the cushion should not prick me for that, and right sure am I there should be no need.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XVII. Truly, as saith the old saw, 'tis best not to halloo till thou be out of the wood. This very afternoon, what should _Edith_ say, without one word of warning, as we were sat a-sewing, but--

"_Mother_, do you mind a gentleman, by name _Tregarvon_?"

"What name saidst, _Edith_?" asks _Mother_.

"_Tregarvon_," quoth she. "Sir _Edwin Tregarvon_, of _Cornwall_."

"Nay, I never knew no gentleman of that name," saith _Mother_. "Where heardst of him, child?"

"'Twas when we went o'er to Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, _Mother_," she made answer,--"what day were it, _Milly_?--about ten days gone--"

"Aye, I mind it," saith _Mother_.

"Well, while I sat of the rock a-drawing, come up a gentleman to me," saith she, "and asked at me if _Louvaine_ were not my name. (Why, then, he knew us! thought I.) I said `Aye,' and he went on to ask me if _Father_ were at home, for he had list to have speech of him: and he said he knew you, _Mother_, of old time, when you were Mistress _Lettice_. I told him _Father_ was at home, and he desired to know what time should be the best to find him: when I told him the early morrow, for he was oft away in the afternoon. And then--"

"Well, my lass?" saith _Mother_, for _Edith_ was at a point.

"Well, _Mother_, methinks I had better tell you," saith she, a-looking up, "for I cannot be easy till I have so done, and I wis well you will not lay to my charge a thing that was no blame of mine. So--then he 'gan to speak of a fashion that little liked me, and I am assured should have liked you no better: commending my drawing, and mine hair, and mine eyes, and all such matter as that: till at the last I said unto him, `Sir, I pray you of pardon, but I am not used to such like talk, and in truth I know not what to answer. If your aim be to find favour with me, you were best hold your peace from such words.' For, see you, _Mother_, I thought he might have some petition unto _Father_, and might take a fantasy that I could win _Father_ to grant him, and so would the rather if he talked such matter as should flatter my foolish vanity. As though _Father_ should be one to be swayed by such a fantasy as that! But then, of course, he did not know _Father_. I trust I did not aught to your displeasance, _Mother_?"

"So far as I can judge, dear child, thou didst very well," saith _Mother_: "and I am right glad thou wert thus discreet for thy years. But what said he in answer?"

"Oh, he tarried not after that," quoth she: "he did only mutter somewhat that methought should be to ask pardon, and then went off in another minute."

_Mother_ laid down her work with a glow in her eyes.

"O _Edith_!" saith she: "I am so thankful thou art not,"--but all suddenly she shut up tight, and the glow went out of her _eyes_ and into her cheeks. I never know what that signifieth: and I have seen it to hap aforetime. But she took up her sewing again, and said no more, till she saith all at once right the thing which I desired her not to say.

"Did this gentleman speak with thee, _Milly_?"

I made my voice as cool and heedless as I could.

"Well, _Mother_, I reckon it was the same that I saw leaning against a tree at the other side of the isle, which spake to me and asked me what the isle was called, and who Saint _Hubert_ were. He told me, the same as _Edith_, that he had known you aforetime."

"Didst get a poem unto thy sweet eyes, _Milly_?" saith _Edith_, laughing.

"Nay," said I, "mine eyes be not so sweet as thine."

"Did he ask at thee if _Father_ were at home?"

"Ay, he asked that."

Herein told I no falsehood, for that day he said not a word touching mine eyes.

Then Cousin _Bess_ looks up. Cousin _Bess_ was by, but not Aunt _Joyce_.

"What manner of man, my lasses?" saith she.

I left _Edith_ to make answer.

"Why," saith she, "I reckon he might be ten years younger than _Father_, or may-be more: and--"

"Oh, not a young man, then?" saith _Mother_, as though she were fain it so were.

"Oh, nay," quoth _Edith_: "but well-favoured, and of a fair hair and beard."

"And clad of a dark green velvet jerkin," saith Cousin _Bess_, "and tawny hose, with a rare white feather in 's velvet bonnet?"

"That is he," saith _Edith_.

"Good lack, then!"

Cousin _Bess_ makes answer, "but he up to me only yester-morrow on the _Keswick_ road, as I come back from _Isaac's_. My word, but he doth desire for to see Sir _Aubrey_ some, for he asked at us all three if he were at home."

"Was he a man thou shouldest feel to trust, _Bess_?" asks _Mother_.

"Trust!" saith she. "I'd none trust yon dandified companion, not for to sell a sucking-pig."

Dear heart, but what queer things doth she say at times! I would Cousin _Bess_ were somewhat more civiler. To think of a gentleman such as he is, a-selling of pigs! Yet I must say I was not o'er well pleased to hear of his complimenting of _Edith_: though, 'tis true, that was ere he had seen me.

"What like is he, _Bess_?" saith _Mother_. "I would know the thought he gave to thee."

"Marry, the first were that he was like to have no wife, or she should have amended a corner of his rare slashed sleeve, that was ravelling forth o' the stitching," saith she. "And the second were, that he were like the folk in this vicinage, with his golden hair and grey eyen. And the third, that he were not, for that his speech was not of these parts. And the fourth, that his satin slashed sleeves and his silver buckles of his shoes must have cost him a pretty penny. And the last, that I'd be fain to see the back of him."

"Any more betwixt, _Cousin_?" saith _Edith_, laughing.

"Eh, there was a cart-load betwixt," saith she. "I mattered him nought, I warrant you."

"Well, neither did I, o'er much," saith _Edith_.

Dear heart, thought I, but where were their eyes, both twain, that they saw not the lovesomeness and gentilesse of that my gallant _Protection_? But as for Cousin _Bess_, she never had no high fantasies. All her likings be what the _French_ call _bourgeois_. But I was something surprised that _Edith_ should make no count of him. I marvel if she meant the same.

"Well, there must needs be some blunder," saith _Mother_, when we had sat silent a while: "for I never knew no man of that name, nor no gentleman of _Cornwall_, to boot."

"May-be he minds you, _Mother_, though you knew not him," quoth _Edith_.

"Soothly," saith she, "there were knights in the Court, whose names I knew not: but if they saw me so much as thrice, methinks that were all-- and never spake word unto me."

"See you now, Cousin _Lettice_," saith _Bess_, "if this man wanted somewhat of you, he'd be fain enough to make out that he had known you any way he might."

"Ay, very like," saith _Mother_.

"And if he come up to the door, like an honest companion, and desire speech of Sir _Aubrey_, well, he may be a decent man, for all his slashed sleeves and flying feathers: but if not so, then I write him down no better than he should be, though what he is after it passeth my wit to see."

"I do believe," quoth _Edith_, a-laughing, "that Cousin _Bess_ hates every thing that flies. What with Dr _Meade's_ surplice, and Sir _Edwin's_ long feather--verily, I would marvel what shall come a-flying next."

"Nay, my lass, I love the song-birds as well as any," saith Cousin _Bess_: "'tis only I am not compatient with matter flying that is not meant to fly. If God Almighty had meant men and women to fly, He'd have put wings on them. And I never can see why men should deck themselves out o' birds' feathers, without they be poor savages that take coloured beads to be worth so much as gold angels. And as for yon surplice, 'tis a rag o' _Popery_--that's what it is: and I'd as lief tell Dr _Meade_ so as an other man. I did tell Mistress _Meade_ so, t' other day: but, poor soul! she could not see it a whit. 'Twas but a decent garment that the priest must needs bear, and such like. And `Mistress _Meade_,' says I, `I'll tell you what it is,' says I: `you are none grounded well in _Hebrews_,' says I. `Either Dr _Meade's_ no priest, or else the Lord isn't,' says I: `so you may pick and choose,' says I. Eh dear! but she looked on me as if I'd spake some ill words o' the Queen's Majesty--not a bit less. And `Mistress _Wolvercot_,' says she, `what ever do you mean?' says she. `Well, Mistress _Meade_,' says I, `that's what I mean--that there can be no _Christian_ priests so long as _Christ_ our Lord is alive: so if Dr _Meade's_ a priest, He must be dead. And if so,' says I, `why then, I don't see how there can be no _Christians_ of no sort, priests or no,' says I. `Why, Mistress _Wolvercot_!' says she, `you must have lost your wits.' `Well,' says I, `some folks has: but I don't rightly think I'm one,'--and so home I came."

_Edith_ was rarely taken, and laughed merrily. For me, I was so glad to see the talk win round to Mistress _Meade_, that I was fain to join.

"Thou art right, _Bess_," saith _Mother_.

"Why," saith she, "I'm with _Paul_: and he's good company enough for me, though may-be, being but a tent-maker by trade, he'd scarce be meet for Dr _Meade_. I thought we'd done with bishops and priests and such like, I can tell you, when the Church were reformed: but, eh dear! they're a coming up again every bit as bad as them aforetime. I cannot see why they kept no bishops. Lawn sleeves, forsooth! and rochets! and cassocks! and them square caps,--they're uncommon like the Beast! I make no count of 'em."

"And rochets can fly!" cries _Edith_ merrily.

"Why, Cousin _Bess_," said I, "you shall be a _Brownist_ in a week or twain."

"Nay, I'll be ruled by the law: but I reckon I may call out if it pinches," saith she.

So, with mirth, we ended the matter: and thankful was I when the talk were o'er.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XIX. I do keep my book right needfully locked up, for I would not for all the world that _Nell_ nor _Edith_ should read this last fortnight. Yester even, just as it grew to dusk, met I with my _Protection_ outside the garden door, that would fain win me to meet with him some whither on the hills, where (said he) we might talk more freely. But so feared was I to vex _Father_ and _Mother_ that this I did deny, though I could see it vexed him, and it went to mine heart to do thus. And he asked at me if I loved him not, and did very hard press me to say that I would love him: for he saith he loveth me better than all the world. Yet that would I not fully grant him, but plagued him a bit thereon. 'Tis rare fun plaguing a man. But methought I would try this even if I could not wring a fashion of consent out of _Father_, without his knowing the same: so when none was there but he and I and _Moses_, quoth I--

"_Father_, is it ever wrong to love any?"

"`Love is of God,'" he made answer. "Surely no."

And therewith should I have been content, and flattered me that I had _Father's_ assent to the loving of my _Protection_: but as ill luck would have it, he, that was going forth of the chamber, tarried, with the door in his hand, to say--

"But mind that it be very love, my maid. That is not love, but unlove, which will help a friend to break God's commandments."

I had liefer he had let that last alone. It sticketh in my throat somewhat. Yet have I _Father's_ consent to loving: and surely none need break God's commandments because they love each other. 'Tis no breaking thereof for me to meet and talk with Sir _Edwin_--of that am I as certain as that my name is _Milisent_. And I have not told a single lie about it, sithence my good _Protection_ revealed in mine ear the right way not to tell lies: namely, should _Mother_ ask me, "_Milly_, hast thou seen again that gentleman?" that I should say out loud, "No, _Mother_,"--and whisper to myself, under my breath, "this morrow,"--the which should make it perfectly true. And right glad was I to hear of this most neat and delicate way of saving the truth, and yet not uttering your secrets.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXII. If Mistress _Helena Louvaine_ could ever hold her peace from saying just the very matter that I would give her a broad shilling to be quiet on! Here, now, this even, when all we were sat in hall, what should she begin with, but--

"_Father_, there is a thing I would ask at you."

"Say on, my maid," quoth he, right kindly as his wont is: for _Father_ is alway ready to counsel us maids, whensoever we may desire it.

"Then, _Father_," saith she, "what is falsehood? Where doth it begin and end? Put a case that I am talking with _Alice Lewthwaite_, and she shall ask me somewhat that I list not to tell her. Should I commit sin, if I told her but the half?"

"Hardly plain enough, my maid," saith _Father_. "As to where falsehood begins and ends,--it begins in thine heart: but where it ends, who shall tell but God? But set forth thy case something plainer."

"Well," saith she, "suppose, _Father_, that _Mother_ or you had showed to me that _Wat_ was coming home, but had (for some cause you wist, and I not) bidden me not to tell the same. If _Alice_ should say `Hast heard aught of late touching _Wat_, _Nell_?' must I say to her plain, `I cannot answer thee,'--the which should show her there was a secret: or should there be no ill to say `Not to-day,' or `Nought much,' or some such matter as that?"

"Should there be any wrong in that, _Father_?" saith _Edith_, as though she could not think there should.

"Dear hearts," saith _Father_, "I cannot but think a man's heart is gone something wrong when he begins to meddle with casuistry. The very minute that _Adam_ fell from innocence, he took refuge in casuistry. There was not one word of untruth in what he said to the Lord: he was afraid, and he did hide himself. Yet there was deception, for it was not all the truth--no, nor the half. As methinks, 'tis alway safest to tell out the plain truth, and leave the rest to God."

"_Jack Lewthwaite_ said once," quoth _Edith_, "that at the grammar school at _Kendal_, where he was, there was a lad that should speak out to the master that which served his turn, and whisper the rest into his cap; yet did he maintain stoutly that he told the whole truth. What should you call that, _Father_?"

"A shift got straight from the father of lies," he made answer. "Trust me, that lad shall come to no good, without he repent and change his course."

Then Aunt _Joyce_ said somewhat that moved the discourse other whither: but I had heard enough to make me rare diseaseful. When I thought I had hit on so excellent a fashion of telling the truth, and yet hiding my secrets, to have _Father_ say such things came straight from _Satan_! It liketh me not at all. I would _Nell_ would let things a-be!

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXIV. My good _Protection_ tells me 'tis country fashion to count such matter deceit, and should never obtain in the Court at all. And he asked me if _Father_ were not given to be a little _Puritan_--he smiling the while as though to be a _Puritan_ were somewhat not over well-liked of the great. Then I told him that I knew not well his meaning, for that word was strange unto me. So he said that word _Puritan_ was of late come up, to denote certain precise folk that did desire for to be better than their neighbours, and most of them only to make a talk, and get themselves well accounted of by such common minds as should take them at their own appraisement.

"Not, of course," saith he, "that such could ever be the case with a gentleman of Sir _Audrey's_ worshipfulness, and with such an angel in his house to guard him from all ill."

I did not well like this, for I would alway have _Father_ right well accounted of, and not thought to fall into mean country ways. But then 'gan he to talk of mine eyes, which he is ever a-praising, and after a while I forgat my disease.

Still, I cannot right away with what _Father_ said. If only _Father_ and _Mother_ could know all about this matter, and really consent thereto, I would be a deal happier. But my _Protection_ saith that were contrary unto all custom of love-matters, and they must well know the same: for in all matters where the elders do wit and order the same themselves, 'tis always stupid and humdrum for the young folks, and no romance left therein at all.

"It should suit well with Mistress _Nell_," saith he, "from what I do hear touching her conditions [disposition]: but never were meet for the noble and generous soul of my fairest _Amiability_, that is far above all such mean things."

So I reckon, if the same always be, I must be content, and not trouble me touching _Father's_ and _Mother's_ knowing. But I do marvel if _Father_ and _Mother_ did the like their own selves, for I know they married o' love. Howbeit, _Mother_ had none elders then living, nor _Father_ neither, now I come to think thereon: wherefore with them 'twas other matter.

Sithence I writ that last, come _Alice_ and _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and their _Robin_, to four-hours: and mighty strange it is how folk be for ever a-saying things as though they wist what I were a-thinking. Here _Blanche_ saith to _Nell_, that she would account that no jolly wedding where her elders had ordered all for her, but would fain choose for herself.

"I would likewise fain have my choice go along therewith," saith _Nell_, "and so, doubtless, would every maid: nor do I think that any father and mother should desire otherwise. But thou signifiest not, surely, _Blanche_, that thou shouldst love to order the whole matter thine own self, apart from thine elders' pleasure altogether?"

"Ay, but I would," saith she: "it should have a deal better zest."

"It should have a deal less honesty!" saith _Nell_ with some heat--heat, that is, for _Nell_.

"Honesty!" quoth _Blanche_: "soft you now [gently],--what dishonesty should be therein?"

"Nay, _Blanche_, measure such dealing thyself by God's ell-wand of the Fifth Commandment, and judge if it were honouring thine elders as He bid thee."

"I do vow, _Nell_, thou art a _Puritan_!"

"By the which I know not what thou meanest," saith _Nell_, as cool as a marble image.

"Why, 'tis a new word of late come up," quoth _Blanche_. "They do call all sad, precise, humdrum folk, _Puritans_."

"Who be `they'?" asks _Nell_.

"Why, all manner of folks--great folk in especial," saith she.

"Come, _Blanche_!" saith _Edith_, "where hast thou jostled with great folk?"

"An' I have not," quoth she, something hotly, "I reckon I may have talked with some that have."

"No great folk--my Lord _Dilston_ except--ever come to _Derwent-side_," saith _Edith_.

"And could I not discourse with my Lord _Dilston_, if it so pleased him and me?" quoth _Blanche_, yet something angered.

"Come, my maids, fall not out," saith _Alice_. "Thou well wist, _Blanche_, thou hast had no talk with my Lord _Dilston_, that is known all o'er for the bashfullest and silentest man with women ever was. I do marvel how he e'er gat wed, without his elders did order it for him."

Well, at this we all laughed, and _Alice_ turned the talk aside to other matter, for I think she saw that _Blanche's_ temper (which is ne'er that of an angel) were giving way.

I cannot help to be somewhat diseaseful, for it seemeth me as though _Blanche_ might hint at Sir _Edwin_. And I do trust he hath not been a-flattering of her. She is metely well-looking,--good of stature, and a fair fresh face, grey eyen, and fair hair, as have the greater part of maids about here, but her nose turns up too much for beauty. She is not for to compare with me nor _Edith_.

I must ask at Sir _Edwin_ to-morrow if he wist aught of _Blanche_. If I find him double-tongued--good lack! but methinks I would ne'er see him no more, though it should break mine heart--as I cast no doubt it should.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXV. 'Tis all well, and _Blanche_ could not have meant to hint at my _Protection_. I asked at him if he knew one _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and he seemed fair astonied, and said he knew no such an one, nor that any of that name dwelt in all the vale. Then I told him wherefore I had asked it. And he said that to think I was jealous of any for him did him uttermost honour and pleasance, but did his fairest _Amiability_ (quo' he) think he could so much as look on any other face at after hers?

Then I asked at him (as I had often desired to wit) where he were of a _Sunday_, for that he never came to church. And he told me that he had an old friend, a parson, dwelling on _Winander-side_, and he did alway abide with him o'er the _Sunday_. Moreover he was something feared (saith he) to be seen at _Keswick_ church, lest _Father_ should get scent of him, wherefore he did deny himself the delight it had been (quoth he) to feast his eyes on the fair face of his most sweet _Amiability_.

"Then," said I, laughing, "you did not desire for to see _Father_ at the first?"

"Soft you now!" saith he, and laughed too. "`All is fair in love and war.'"

"I doubt if _Father_ should say the same," said I.

"Well, see you," quoth he, "Sir _Aubrey_ is a right excellent gentleman, yet hath he some precise notions which obtain not at Court and in such like company. A man cannot square all his dealings by the Bible and the parsons, without he go out of the world. And here away in the country, where every man hath known you from your cradle, it is easier to ride of an hobby than in Town, where you must do like other folk or else be counted singular and ridiculous. No brave and gallant man would run the risk of being thought singular."

"Why, _Father's_ notion is right the contrary," said I. "I have heard him to say divers times that 'tis the cowards which dare not be laughed at, and that it takes a right brave man to dare to be thought singular."

"Exactly!" saith he. "That is right the _Puritan_ talk, as I had the honour to tell you aforetime. You should never hear no gentleman of the Court to say no such a thing."

"But," said I, "speak they alway the most truth in the Court?"

This seemed to divert him rarely. He laughed for a minute as though he should ne'er give o'er.

"My fairest _Amiability_," saith he, "had I but thee in the Court, as is the only place meet for thee, then shouldst thou see how admired of every creature were thy wondrous wit and most incomparable beauties. Why, I dare be sworn on all the books in _Cumberland_, thou shouldest be of the Queen's Majesty's maids in one week's time. And of the delights and jollities of that life, dwelling here in a corner of _England_, thou canst not so much as cast an idea." Methought that should be right rare.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXVII. With Aunt _Joyce_ this morrow to visit old _Nanny Crewdson_, that is brother's widow to _Isaac_, and dwelleth in a cot up _Thirlmere_ way. I would fain have avoided the same an' I might, for I never took no list in visiting poor folk, and sithence I have wist my right noble _Protection_ do I take lesser than ever. In very deed, all relish is gone for me out of every thing but him and the jolly Court doings whereof he tells me. And I am ever so much happier than I was of old, with nought but humdrum matter; only that now and then, for a short while, I am a deal more miserabler. I cannot conceive what it is that cometh o'er me at those times. 'Tis like as if I were dancing on flowers, and some unseen hand did now and then push aside the flowers, and I saw a great and horrible black gulf underneath, and that one false step should cast me down therein. Nor will any thing comfort me, at those times, but to talk with my _Protection_, that can alway dispel the gloom. But the things around, that I have been bred up in, do grow more and more distasteful unto me than ever.

Howbeit, I am feared to show folk the same, so when Aunt _Joyce_ called me to come with her to _Nanny_, I made none ado, but tied on mine hood and went.

We found old _Nanny_--that is too infirm for aught but to sit of a chair in the sunshine--so doing by the window, beside her a little table, and thereon a great Bible open, with her spectacles of her nose, that she pulled off and wiped, and set down of the book to keep her place.

"Well, _Nanny_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "`Sitting down under His shadow,' dear heart?"

"Ay, Mistress _Joyce_," saith she, "and `with great delight.'"

I marvel if old folk do really like to read the Bible. I never did. And the older I grow, the lesser doth it like me. Can they mean it, trow? If they do, then I suppose I shall like it when I am as old as _Nanny_. But, good lack! what gloomsome manner of life must that be, wherein one shall find one's diversion in reading of the Bible!

I know _Father_ and _Mother_ would say clean contrary. But they, see you, were bred up never to see a Bible in _English_ till they were grown: which is as different as can be to the like of us maids, that never knew the day when it lay not of the hall table. But therein runs my pen too fast, for _Anstace_ can well remember Queen _Mary's_ time, though _Nell_ scarce can do so,--only some few matters here and there.

So then Aunt _Joyce_ and _Nan_ fell a-talking,--and scarce so much as a word could I conceive. [Note 1.] They might well-nigh as good have talked _Greek_ for me. Yet one matter will I set down the which I mean to think o'er--some time, when I am come to divert me with the Bible, and am as old as _Nanny_. Not now, of course.

"Where art reading, _Nanny_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"In _Esaias_, Mistress _Joyce_. Fifty-eighth chapter, first and second verses. There's fine reading in _Esaias_."

"Ay, _Nan_, there is," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "But what toucheth it? I am ill set to remember chapter and verse."

"Well, Mistress, first it saith, `Show My people their transgression.' And i' th' very next verse,--`Yet they seek me daily,'--nay, there's more--`they take delight in approaching to God.'"

"Well, _Nan_? That reads strange,--no doth it?"

"Ah, it doth, Mistress _Joyce_. But I think, look ye, there's a deal i' th' word _approaching_. See ye, it saith not they take delight to get near. Nay, folk o' that make has a care not to get too near. They'll lay down a chalk line, and they'll stop outside on't. If they'd only come near enough, th' light 'd burn up all them transgressions: but, ye see, that wouldn't just suit 'em. These is folk that wants to have th' Lord--a tidy way from 'em--and keep th' transgressions too. Eh, Mistress, but when a man can pray right through th' hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm, his heart's middlin' perfect wi' the Lord. Otherwise, he'll boggle at them last verses. We don't want Him to search us when we know He'll find yon wedge o' gold and yon _Babylonish_ garment if He do. Nay, we don't so!"

Now, I know not o'er well what old _Nan_ meaneth: but this do I know-- that whenever I turn o'er the _Psalter_, I ever try to get yon Psalm betwixt two leaves, and turn them o'er both together, so that I see not a word on't. I reckon _Nan_ should say my heart was not perfect by a great way. Well, may-be she'd be none so far out.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXIX. To-morrow shall be the last day of my month, and _Tuesday_ even must I give up the book to _Edith_. I shall not tear out the leaves till the last minute, and I will keep them when I do.

I do never see nought of my _Protection_ of a _Sunday_, but all other days meet I him now (whenas I can) in the little copse that lieth _Thirlmere_ way, not so far from _Nanny's_ hut. Last even was he essaying to win me for to wed him (as he hath done afore) without _Father_ and _Mother_ knowing. I have ever held off till now: but I am not so sure I shall do it much longer. He saith he wist a _Popish_ priest that should do it: and it so done, _Father_ and _Mother_ must needs come in and give us leave to be wed rightly in church. But I will consider of the same a day or twain longer.

As to setting down what we do of a _Sunday_, 'tis alway the same o'er again, so it should be to no good. Once is enough for all.

SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE LAST. Such a fright have I had this morrow, I may scantly hold my pen. I set forth for the copse where I do meet with my _Protection_, and had well-nigh reached it,--verily, I could discern him coming through the trees to meet me--when from _Nanny's_ hut, right upon us, who should come out save _Father_, and _Mother_, and _Edith_, their own selves. I cast but a glint to him that he should not note me, and walked on to meet them.

"Why, _Milly_!" saith _Mother_. "I wist not thou wert coming this way, child."

"Under your pleasure, _Mother_, no more did I of you," said I.

"Why, _Milly_, do but look at yon gentleman!" saith _Edith_, as he passed by us, taking no note of us at all. "Is it not the same we met on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle?"

"Is it so?" said I, making believe to look after him, the rather since it gave me an excuse to turn my back on them. "He bears a green jerkin,--otherwise--"

Wherein I am very sure I said _no_ falsity, as whatso _Father_ might say.

"I do think it is the same," saith _Edith_. "Came he ever to speak with you, _Father_?"

"Nay, my lass, I mind him not," saith _Father_.

"He is not ill-looking," saith _Mother_.

"May-be not," quoth _Father_. "Thou art a better judge of such matters than I, dear heart. I only note the way a man's soul looketh out of his eyes, not the colour of the eyes whence it looketh."

"Now, _Father_, under your good leave, that is not well said," _Edith_ makes answer: "for you have your own self the fairest eyes ever a man's soul looked forth of."

_Father_ laughs at this, and doffs his cap merrily.

"Your very humble servant, Mistress _Editha Louvaine_," quoth he: "when I do desire to send forth to the world a book of all my beauties, learning, and virtues, I will bid you to write therein touching mine eyes. They serve me well to see withal, I thank God, and beyond that issue have I never troubled me regarding them."

"And how liked you the manner of Sir _Edwin Tregarvon's_ soul looking forth, _Father_?" saith _Edith_, also laughing.

"Why, that could I not see," quoth he, "for he keeping his eyes bent upon the ground, it did not look forth. But I cannot say his face altogether pleased me."

How mighty strange is it that all they--and in especial _Father_, that I have alway reckoned so wise--should have so little discernment!

Well, methought, as they were there, I must needs come home with them: and this afternoon, if I can steal hence without any seeing me, will I go yet again to the copse, to see if I may find my _Protection_: for I have well-nigh granted the privy wedding he hath pled so hard for, and this morrow we thought to order the inwards thereof [settle the details]. As next _Sunday_ at even, saith he, I am to steal forth of the garden door, and he shall meet me in the lane with an hackney and two or three serving-men for guard: and so go we forth to _Ambleside_, where the priest shall join our hands, and then come back and entreat _Father_ and _Mother's_ pardon and blessing. I dare be bound there shall be much commotion, and some displeasant speeches; but I trust all shall blow o'er in time: and after all (as saith my _Protection_) when there is no hope that _Father_ and _Mother_ should give us leave aforehand, what else can we do?

Verily, it is a sore trouble that elders will stand thus in young folks' way that do love each other. And my _Protection_ is not so much elder than I. In the stead of only ten or fifteen years younger than _Father_, he is twenty-five well reckoned, having but four-and-thirty years: and I was twenty my last birthday, which is two months gone. And if he look (as he alloweth) something elder than his years, it is, as he hath told me, but trouble and sorrow, of which he hath known much. My poor _Protection_! in good sooth, I am sorry for his trouble.

I shall not tear out my leaves afore I am back, and meantime, I do keep the book right heedfully under lock and key.

As for any paying of two-pences, that is o'er for me now; so there were no good to reckon them up. My noble _Protection_ saith, when he hath but once gat me safe to the Court, then shall I have a silken gown every day I do live, and jewelling so much as ever I shall desire. He will set off his _Amiability_ (quoth he) that all shall see and wonder at her. Though I count _Father_ doth love me, yet am I sure, my _Protection_ loveth me a deal the more. 'Tis only fitting, therefore, that I cleave to him rather.

Now must I go forth and see if I may meet with him.


Note 1. The words _understand_ and _conceive_ have changed places since the days of Elizabeth. To understand then meant to originate an idea: to conceive, to realise an imparted thought.



"We shun two paths, my maiden,
When strangers' way we tell--
That which ourselves we know not,
That which we know too well.

"I `never knew!' Thou think'st it?
Well! Better so, to-day.
The years lie thick and mossy
O'er that long-silent way.

"The roses there are withered,
The thorns are tipped with pain:
Thou wonderest if I tell thee
`Walk not that way again?'

"Oh eyes that see no further
Than this world's glare and din!
I warn thee from that pathway
Because I slipped therein.

"So, leave the veil up-hanging!
And tell the world outside--
`She cannot understand me--
She nothing has to hide!'"

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE FIRST. I would have fain let be the records of this sad first day that this chronicle is come to mine hand. But _Father_ and _Mother_ do desire me to set down honestly what hath happed, the which therefore I must essay to do.

It was of long time that I had noted a strange difference in _Milly_, and had talked with _Nell_ thereabout, more than once or twice. Though _Milisent_ is by four years elder than I, yet she had alway been the one of us most loving frolicsome merriment. But now it seemed me as though she had grown up over my head, all at once. Not that she was less mirthful at times: nay, rather more, if aught. But at other times she seemed an other maid, and not our _Milly_ at all. It was not our _Milly's_ wont to sit with her hands of her lap, a-gazing from the window; nor to answer sharp and short when one spake to her; nor to appear all unrestful, as though she were in disease of mind. And at last, _Nell_ thinking less thereof than I, I made up my mind to speak with Aunt _Joyce_, that I knew was wise and witty [sensible], and if there were aught gone wrong, should take it less hard than _Mother_, and could break the same to _Mother_ more gentler than we. To say truth, I was feared--and yet I scarce knew why--of that man we met on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle. I had noted that _Milly_ never named him, though he were somewhat cause of mirth betwixt _Helen_ and me: and when an other so did, she seemed as though she essayed to speak as careless as ever she could. This liked me not: nor did it like me that twice I had met _Milly_ coming from the garden, and she went red as fire when she saw me. From all this I feared some secret matter that should not be: and as yester-morrow, when we were come from _Nanny's_, I brake my mind to Aunt _Joyce_.

Aunt _Joyce_ did not cry "Pish!" nor fault me for conceiving foolish fantasies, as I was something feared she might. On the contrary part, she heard me very kindly and heedfully, laying down her work to give better ear. When I had done, she saith--

"Tell me, _Edith_, what like is this man."

I told her so well as I could.

"And how oft hast thou seen him?"

"Three times, _Aunt_. The first on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, whereof you know: the second, I met him once in the lane behind the garden, as I was a-coming home from _Isaac Crewdson's_: and the last, this morrow, just as we came out of _Nanny's_ door, we met _Milisent_, full face: and a minute at after, this Sir _Edwin_ passed us on the road."

"Took he any note of you, either time?"

"When he met me alone, he doffed his cap and smiled, but spake not. This morrow he took no note of any one."

"_Could_ she be going to meet him?" saith Aunt _Joyce_ in a low and very troubled voice.

"In good sooth, _Aunt_," said I, "you have put into words my very fear, which I did scarce dare to think right out."

"_Edith_," saith she, "is _Milly_ within, or no?"

"She was tying on her hood a moment since, as though she meant to go forth. I saw her through a chink of the door, which was not close shut, as I passed by."

"Come thou with me quickly," saith Aunt _Joyce_, and rose up. "We will follow her. 'Tis no treachery to lay snare for a traitor, if it be as I fear. And 'tis not she that is the traitor, poor child--poor, foolish child!"

We walked quickly, for our aim was to keep _Milisent_ but just in view, yet not to let her see us. She was walking fast, too, and she took the road to _Nanny's_, but turned off just ere she were there, into the little shaw that lieth by the way. We followed quietly, till we could hear voices: then Aunt _Joyce_ stayed her behind a poplar-tree, and made me a sign to be still.

"All things be now ordered, my fairest," I heard a voice say which methought was Sir _Edwin's_: and peeping heedfully round the poplar, I caught a glimpse of his side-face, enough to be sure it were he. Aunt _Joyce_ could see him likewise. "All things be ordered," quoth he: "remember, nine o' the clock on _Sunday_ night."

"But thou wilt not fail me?" saith _Milisent's_ voice in answer.

"Fail thee!" he made answer. "My sweetest of maids, impossible!"

"I feel afeared," she saith again. "I would they had wist at home. I cannot be sure 'tis right."

"Nay, sweet heart, call not up these old ghosts I have laid so oft already," saith he. "Sir _Aubrey's Puritan_ notions should never suffer him to give thee leave afore: but when done, he shall right soon o'erlook all, and all shall go merry as a marriage bell. Seest thou, we do him in truth a great kindness, sith he should be feared to give consent, and yet would fain so do if his conscience should allow."

"Would he?" asks _Milly_, in something a troubled tone.

"Would he!" Sir _Edwin_ makes answer. "Would he have his daughter a right great lady at the Court? Why, of course he would. Every man would that were not a born fool. My honey-sweet _Milisent_, let not such vain scruples terrify thee. They are but shadows, I do ensure thee."

"I think thus when I am with thee," saith she, smiling up in his face: "but when not--"

"Sweet heart," saith he, bending his goodly head, "_not_ is well-nigh over, and then thy cruel _Puritan_ scruples shall never trouble thee more."

"It is as we feared," I whispered into the ear of Aunt _Joyce_, whose face was turned from me: but when she turned her head, I was terrified. I never in my life saw Aunt _Joyce_ look as she did then. Out of her cheeks and lips every drop of blood seemed driven, and her eyes were blazing fire. When she whispered back, it was through her set teeth.

"`As!' Far worse. Worser than thou wist. Is this the man?"

"This is Sir _Edwin_!"

Without another word Aunt _Joyce_ stalked forth, and had _Milisent_ by the arm ere she found time to scream. Then she shrieked and shrank, but Aunt _Joyce_ held her fast.

"Get you gone!" was all she said to Sir _Edwin_.

"Nay, Mistress, tell me rather by what right--"

"Right!" Aunt _Joyce_ loosed her hold of _Milisent_, and went and stood right before him. "Right!--from you to me!"

"Mistress, I cry you mercy, but we be entire strangers."

"Be we?" she made answer, with more bitterness in her voice than ever I heard therein. "Be we such strangers? What! think you I know you not, _Leonard Norris_? You counted on the change of all these years to hide you from _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_, and you counted safely enough. They would not know you if they stood here. But did you fancy years could hide you from _Joyce Morrell_? Traitor! a woman will know the man she has loved, though his own mother were to pass him by unnoted."

Sir _Edwin_ uttered not a word, but stood gazing on Aunt _Joyce_ as though she had bound him by a spell.

She turned back to us a moment. "_Milisent_ and _Edith_, go home!" she saith. "_Milisent_, thank God that He hath saved thee from the very jaws of Hell--from a man worser than any fiend. _Edith_, tell thy father what hath happed, but say nought of all this to thy mother. I shall follow you anon. I have yet more ado with him here. Make thy mind easy, child--he'll not harm _me_. Now go."

_Milisent_ needed no persuasions. She seemed as though Aunt _Joyce's_ words had stunned her, and she followed me like a dog. We spake no word to each other all the way. When we reached home, _Milly_ went straight up to her own chamber: and I, being mindful of Aunt _Joyce's_ bidding, went in search of _Father_, whom I found at his books in his closet.

Ah me, but what sore work it were to tell him! I might scarce bear to see the sorrowful changes wrought in his face. But when I came to tell how Aunt _Joyce_ had called this gentleman by the name of _Leonard Norris_, for one minute his eyes blazed out like hers. Then they went very dark and troubled, and he hid his face in his hands till I had made an end of my sad story.

"And I would fain not have been she that told you, _Father_," said I, "but Aunt _Joyce_ bade me so to do."

"I must have heard it from some lips, daughter," he saith sorrowfully. "But have a care thou say no word to thy mother. She must hear it from none but me. My poor _Lettice_!--and my poor _Milisent_, my poor, foolish, duped child!"

I left him then, for I thought he would desire it, and went up to _Milly_. She had cast off her hood and tippet, and lay on her bed, her face turned to the wall.

"Dost lack aught, _Milly_?" said I.

"Nay," was all she said.

"Shall I bide with thee?"


Nor one word more might I get out of her. So I left her likewise, and came down to the little parlour, where I sat me to my sewing.

It was about an hour after that I heard Aunt _Joyce's_ firm tread on the gravel. She came into the parlour, and looked around as though to see who were there. Then she saith--

"None but thee, _Edith_? Where are the rest?"

There was a break in her voice, such as folk have when they have been sore troubled.

"I have been alone this hour, _Aunt_. _Milly_ is in our chamber, and _Father_ I left in his closet. Whither _Mother_ and _Nell_ be I know not."

"Hast told him?"

"Ay, and he said only himself must tell _Mother_."

"I knew he would. God help her!"

"You think she shall take it very hard, _Aunt_?"

"_Edith_," saith Aunt _Joyce_ softly, "there is more to take hard than thou wist. And we know not well yet all the ill he may have wrought to _Milisent_."

Then away went she, and I heard her to rap on the door of _Father's_ closet. For me, I sat and sewed a while longer: and yet none coming, I went up to our chamber, partly that I should wash mine hands, and partly to see what was come of _Milly_.

She still lay on the bed, but her face turned somewhat more toward me, and by her shut eyes and even breathing I could guess that she slept. I sat me down in the window to wait, when mine hands were washen: for I thought some should come after a while, and may-be should not count it right that I left _Milisent_ all alone. I guess it were a good half-hour I there sat, and _Milly_ slept on. At the last come _Mother_, her eyes very red as though she had wept much.

"Doth she sleep, _Edith_?" she whispered.

I said, "Ay, _Mother_: she hath slept this half-hour or more."

"Poor child!" she saith. "If only I could have wist sooner! How much I might have saved her! O poor child!"

The water welled up in her eyes again, and she went away, something in haste. I had thought _Mother_ should be angered, and I was something astonied to see how soft she were toward _Milly_. A while after, Aunt _Joyce_ come in: but _Milly_ slept on.

"I am fain to see that," saith she, nodding her head toward the bed. "A good sign. Yet I would I knew exactly how she hath taken it."

"I am afeared she may be angered, Aunt _Joyce_, to be thus served of one she trusted."

"I hope so much. 'Twill be the best thing she can be. The question is what she loved--whether himself or his flattering of herself. She'll soon get over the last, for it shall be nought worser with her than hurt vanity."

"Not the first, _Aunt_?"

"I do not know, _Edith_," she saith, and crushed in her lips. "That hangs on what sort of woman she be. There shall be a wound, in either case: but with some it gets cicatrised over and sound again with time, and with other some it tarries an open issue for ever. It hangs all on the manner of woman."

"What should it be with you, Aunt _Joyce_?" said I, though I were something feared of mine own venturesomeness.

"What it _is_, _Edith_," she made answer, crushing in her lips again, "is the open issue, bandaged o'er so that none knows it is there save He to whose eyes all things be open. Child, there be some things in life wherein the only safe confidant thou canst have is _Jesu Christ_. I say so much, by reason that thine elders think it best--and I likewise--that ye maids should be told somewhat more than ye have heard aforetime. Ay, I give full assent thereto. I only held out for one thing--that I, not your mother, should be she that were to tell it."

We were silent a moment, and then _Milisent_ stirred in her sleep. Aunt _Joyce_ went to her.

"Awake, my dear heart?" saith she.

_Milly_ sat up, and pushed aside her hair from her face, the which was flushed and sullen.

"Aunt _Joyce_, may the Lord forgive you for this day's work!" saith she.

I was fair astonied that she should dare thus to speak. But Aunt _Joyce_ was in no wise angered.

"Amen!" she saith, as softly as might be spoken. "Had I no worser sins to answer for, methinks I should stand the judgment."

"No worser!" _Milisent_ blazed forth. "What, you think it a light matter to part two hearts that love well and truly?"

"Nay, truly, I think it right solemn matter," saith Aunt _Joyce_, still softly. "And if aught graver can be, _Milly_, it is to part two whereof the one loveth well, and the other--may God forgive us all!"

"What mean you now?" saith _Milisent_ of the same fashion. "Is it my love you doubt, or his?"

"_Milisent Louvaine_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "if thou be alive twenty years hence, thou shalt thank God from thy very heart-root that thou wert stayed on that road to-day."

"Oh ay, that is what folk always say!" murmurs she, and laid her down again. "`Thou wilt thank me twenty years hence,' quoth they, every stinging stroke of the birch. And they look for us beaten hounds to crede it, forsooth!"

"Ay--when the twenty years be over."

"I am little like to thank you at twenty years' end," saith _Milly_ sullenly, "for I count I shall die of heart-break afore twenty weeks."

"No, _Milly_, I think not."

"And much you care!"

Then I saw Aunt _Joyce's_ face alter--terribly.

"_Milisent_," she said, "if I had not cared, I should scantly have gone of set purpose through that which wrung every fibre of my heart, ay, to the heart's core."

"It wrung me more than you," _Milisent_ makes answer, of the same bitter, angered tone as aforetime.

Aunt _Joyce_ turned away from the bed, and I saw pain and choler strive for a moment in her eyes. Then the choler fell back, and the pain abode.

"Poor child! She cannot conceive it." She said nought sterner; and she came and sat in the window alongside of me.

"I tell you, Aunt _Joyce_,"--and _Milisent_ sat up again, and let herself down, and came and stood before us--"I tell you, you have ruined my life!"

"My maid," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer, with sore trouble in her voice, "thine elders will fain have thee and thy sisters told a tale the which we have alway kept from you until now. It was better hidden, unless you needed the lesson. But now they think it shall profit thee, and may-be save _Helen_ and _Edith_ from making any like blunder. And--well, I have granted it. Only I stood out for one point--that I myself should be the one to tell it you. Wait till thou hast heard that story, the which I will tell thee to-morrow. And at after thou hast heard it,-- then tell me, _Milly_, whether I cared for thee this morrow, or whether the hand that hath ruined thy life were the hand of _Joyce Morrell_."

"Oh, but you were cruel, cruel!" sobbed _Milly_. "I loved him so!"

"So did I, _Milisent_," saith Aunt _Joyce_ very softly, "long ere you maids were born. Loved him so fondly, trusted him so wholly, clung to him so faithfully, that mine eyes had to be torn open before I would see the truth--that even now, after all these years, it is like thrusting a dagger into my soul to tell you verily who and what he is. Ay, child, I loved that man in mine early maidenhood, better than ever thou didst or wouldst have done. Dost thou think it was easy to stand up to the face that I had loved, and to play the avenging angel toward his perfidy? If thou dost, thou mayest know much of foolishness and fantasy, but very little of true and real love."

_Milisent_ seemed something startled and cowed. Then all suddenly she saith,--"But, Aunt _Joyce_! He told me he were only of four-and-thirty years."

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed bitterly.

"Wert so poor an innocent as to crede that, _Milly_?" saith she. "He is a year elder than thy father. But I grant, he looks by far younger than he is. And I reckon he 'bated ten years or so of what he looked. He alway looked young," she saith, the softened tone coming back into her voice. "Men with fair hair like his, mostly do, until all at once they break into aged men. And he hath kept him well, with washes and unguents."

It was strange to hear how the softness and the bitterness strave together in her voice. I count it were by reason they so strave in her heart.

"Wait till to-morrow, _Milly_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, arising. "Thou shalt hear then of my weary walk through the thorns, and judge for thyself if I had done well to leave thee to the like."

_Milly_ sobbed again, but methought something more softly.

"We were to have been wed o' _Sunday_ even," saith she, "by a _Popish_ priest, right as good as in church,--and then to have come home and won _Father_ and _Mother_ to forgive us and bless us. Then all had been smooth and sweet, and we should have lived happy ever after."

Oh, but what pitifulness was there in Aunt _Joyce's_ smile!

"Should you?" saith she, in a tone which seemed to me like the biggest nay ever printed in a book. "Poor innocent child! A _Popish_ priest cannot lawfully wed any, and evening is out of the canonical hours. Wist thou not that such marriage should ne'er have held good in law?"

"It might have been good in God's sight, trow," saith she, something perversely.

"Nay!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "When men go to, of set purpose, to break the laws of their country,--without it be in obedience to His plain command,--I see not how the Lord shall hold them guiltless. So he promised to bring thee home to ask pardon, did he? Poor, trusting, deluded child! Thou shouldst never have come home, _Milly_--unless it had been a year or twain hence, a forlorn, heart-broken, wretched thing. Well, we could have forgiven thee and comforted thee then--as we will now."

I am right weary a-writing, and will stay mine hand till I set down _Aunt's_ story to-morrow.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE SECOND. I marvel when I can make an end of writing, or when matters shall have done happening. For early this morrow, ere breakfast were well over, come a quick rap of the door, which _Caitlin_ opened, and in come _Alice Lewthwaite_. Not a bit like herself looked she, with a scarf but just cast o'er her head, and all out of breath, as though she had come forth all suddenly, and had run fast and far. We had made most of us an end of eating, but were yet sat at the table.

"_Alice_, dear heart, what aileth thee?" saith _Mother_, and rose up.

"Lady _Lettice_, do pray you tell me," panteth she, "if you have seen or heard aught of our _Blanche_?"

"Nay, _Alice_, in no wise," saith _Mother_.

"Lack the day!" quoth she, "then our fears be true."

"What fears, dear heart?" I think _Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, asked at her all together.

"I would as lief say nought, saving to my Lady, and Mistress _Joyce_," she saith: so they bare her away, and what happed at that time I cannot say, saving that _Father_ himself took _Alice_ home, and did seem greatly concerned at her trouble. Well, this was scantly o'er ere a messenger come with a letter to _Mother_, whereon she had no sooner cast her eyes than she brake forth with a cry of pleasure. Then, _Father_ desiring to know what it were, she told us all that certain right dear and old friends of hers, the which she had not seen of many years, were but now at the _Salutation_ Inn at _Ambleside_, and would fain come on and tarry a season here if it should suit with _Mother's_ conveniency to have them.

"And right fain should I be," saith she; and so said _Father_ likewise.

Then _Mother_ told us who were these her old friends: to wit, Sir _Robert Stafford_ and his lady, which was of old time one Mistress _Dulcibel Fenton_, of far kin unto my Lady _Norris_, that was _Mother's_ mistress of old days at _Minster Lovel_: and moreover, one Mistress _Martin_, a widow that is sister unto Sir _Robert_, and was _Mother's_ fellow when she served my dear-worthy Lady of _Surrey_. So _Father_ saith he would ride o'er himself to _Ambleside_, and give them better welcome than to send but a letter back: and _Mother_ did desire her most loving commendations unto them all, and bade us all be hasteful and help to make ready the guest-chambers. So right busy were we all the morrow, and no time for no tales of no sort: but in the afternoon, when all was done, Aunt _Joyce_ had us three up into her chamber, and bade us sit and listen.

"For it is a sorrowful story I have to tell," saith she: and added, as though she spake to herself,--"ay, and it were best got o'er ere _Dulcie_ cometh."

So we sat all in the window-seat, _Milly_ in the midst, and Aunt _Joyce_ afore us in a great cushioned chair.

"When I was of your years, _Milly_," saith she, "I dwelt--where I now do at _Minster Lovel_, with my father and my sister _Anstace_. Our mother was dead, and our baby brother _Walter_; and of us there had never been more. But we had two cousins--one _Aubrey Louvaine_, the son of our mother's sister,--you wot who he is," she saith, and smiled: "and the other, the son of our father's sister dwelt at _Oxford_ with his mother, a widow, and his name was--_Leonard Norris_."

The name was so long a-coming that I marvelled if she meant to tell us.

"I do not desire to make my tale longer than need is, dear hearts," pursueth she, "and therefore I will but tell you that in course of time, with assent of my father and his mother, my cousin _Leonard_ and I were troth-plight. I loved him, methinks, as well as it was in woman to love man: and--I thought he loved me. I never knew a man who had such a tongue to cajole a woman's heart. He could talk in such a fashion that thou shouldst feel perfectly assured that he loved thee with all his heart, and none but thee: and ere the sun had set, he should have given the very same certainty to _Nan_ at the farm, and to _Mall_ down in the glen. I believe he did rarely make love to so little as one woman at once. He liked--he once told your father so much--a choice of strings for his bow. But of all this, at first, lost in my happy love, I knew nothing. My love to him was so true and perfect, that the very notion that his could be lesser than so never entered mine head. It was _Anstace_ who saw the clouds gathering before any other--_Anstace_, to whom, in her helpless suffering, God gave a strange power of reading hearts. There came a strange maiden on the scene--a beautiful maiden, with fair eyes and gleaming hair--and _Leonard's_ heart was gone from me for ever. Gone!--had it ever come? I cannot tell. May-be some little corner of his heart was mine, once on a time--I doubt if I had more. He had every corner and every throb of mine. Howbeit, when this maid--"

"How was she called, Aunt _Joyce_?" saith _Milly_, in rather an hard voice.

Aunt _Joyce_ did not make answer for a moment: and, looking up on her, I saw drawn brows and flushed cheeks.

"Never mind that, _Milly_. I shall call her _Mary_. It was not her name. Well, when this maid first came to visit us, and I brought her above to my sister, that as ye know might never arise from the couch whereon she lay--I something marvelled to see how quick from her face to mine went _Anstace'_ eyes, and back again to her. I knew, long after, what had been her thought. She had no faith in _Leonard_, and she guessed quick enough that this face should draw him away from me. She tried to prepare me as she saw it coming. But I was blind and deaf. I shut mine eyes tight, and put my fingers in mine ears. I would not face the cruel truth. For _Mary_ herself, I am well assured she meant me no ill, nor did she see that any ill was wrought till all were o'er. She did but divert her with _Leonard's_ words, caring less for him than for them. She was vain, and loved flatteries, and he saw it, and gave her them by the bushel. She was a child laking with a firebrand, and never knew what it were until she burnt her fingers. And at last, maids, mine eyes were forced open. _Leonard_ himself told me, and in so many words, what I had refused to hear from others,--that he loved well enough the gold that was like to be mine, but he did not love me. There were bitter words on both sides, but mine were bitterest. And so, at last, we parted. I could show you the flag on which he stood when I saw his face for the last time--the last, until I saw it yester-morrow. Others had seen him, and knew him not, through the changes of years. Even your father did not know him, though they had been bred up well-nigh as brothers. But mine eyes were sharper. I had not borne that face in mine heart, and seen it in my dreams, for all these years, that I should look on him and not know it. I knew the look in his eyes, the poise of his head, the smile on his lips, too well--too well! I reckon that between that day and this, a thousand women may have had that smile upon them. But I thought of the day when I had it--when it was the one light of life to me--for I had not then beheld the Light of the World. _Milly_, didst thou think me cruel yester-morrow?--cold, and hard, and stern? Ah, men do think a woman so,--and women at times likewise--think her words hard, when she has to crush her heart down ere she can speak any word at all--think her eyes icy cold, when behind them are a storm of passionate tears that must not be shed then, and she has to keep the key hard turned lest they burst the door open. Ah, young maids, you look upon me as who should say, that I am an old woman from whom such words are strange to you. They be fit only for a young lass's lips, forsooth? Childre, you wis not yet that the hot love of youth is nought to be compared to the yearning love of age,--that the maid that loveth a man whom she first met a month since cannot bear the rushlight unto her that has shrined him in her heart for thirty years."

Aunt _Joyce_ tarried a moment, and drew a long breath. Then she saith in a voice that was calmer and lower--

"_Anstace_ told me I loved not the _Leonard_ that was, but only he that should have been. But I have prayed God day and night, and I will go on yet praying, that the man of my love may be the _Leonard_ that yet shall be,--that some day he may turn back to God and me, and remember the true heart that poured all that love upon him. If it be so, let the Lord order how, and where, and when. For if I may know that it is, when I come into His presence above, I can finish my journey here without the knowledge."

"But it were better to know it, Aunt _Joyce_?" saith _Helen_ tenderly. Methinks the tale had stirred her heart very much.

"It were happier, _Nelly_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ softly. "God knoweth whether it were best. If it be so, He will give it me.--And now is the hardest part of my tale to tell. For after a while, _Milly_, this--_Mary_--came to see what _Leonard_ meant, and methinks she came about the same time to the certainty that she loved one who was not _Leonard_. When he had parted from me he sought her, and there was much bitterness betwixt them. At the last she utterly denied him, and shut the door betwixt him and her: for the which he never forgave her, but at a later time, when in the persecutions under King _Henry_ she came into his power, he used her as cruelly as he might then dare to go. I reckon, had it been under _Queen Mary_, he should have been content with nought less than her blood. But it pleased the good Lord to deliver her, he getting him entangled in some briars of politics that you should little care to hear: and so when she was freed forth of prison, he was shut up therein."

"Then, Aunt _Joyce_, is he a _Papist_?" saith _Helen_, of a startled fashion.

"Ay, _Nell_, he is a black _Papist_. When we all came forth of _Babylon_, he tarried therein."

"And what came of her you called _Mary_, if it please you, _Aunt_?" quoth I.

"She was wed to one that dwelt at a distance from those parts, _Edith_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, in the constrained tone wherein she had begun her story. "And sithence then have I heard at times of _Leonard_, though never meeting him,--but alway as of one that was journeying from bad to worse--winning hearts and then breaking them. Since Queen _Elizabeth_ came in, howbeit, heard I never word of him at all: and I knew not if he were in life or no, till I set eyes on his face yesterday."

We were all silent till Aunt _Joyce_ saith gently--

"Well, _Milly_,--should we have been more kinder if we had let thee alone to break thine heart, thinkest?"

"It runneth not to a certainty that mine should be broke, because others were," mutters _Milly_ stubbornly.

"Thou countest, then, that he which had been false to a thousand maids should be true to the one over?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a pitying smile. "Well, such a thing may be possible,--once in a thousand times. Hardly oftener, methinks, my child. But none is so blind as she that will not see. I must leave the Lord to open thine eyes,--for I wis He had to do it for me."

And Aunt _Joyce_ rose up and went away.

"I marvel who it were she called _Mary_," said I.

"Essay not to guess, dear heart," saith _Helen_ quickly. "'Tis plain Aunt _Joyce_ would not have us know."

"Why, she told us, or as good," quoth _Milisent_, in that bitter fashion she hath had to-day and yesterday. "Said she not, at the first, that `it were well to get the tale o'er ere _Dulcie_ should come'? 'Tis my Lady _Stafford_, of course."

"I am not so sure of that," saith _Helen_, in a low voice: and methought she had guessed at some other, but would not say out [Note 1]. "I think we were better to go down now."

So down went we all to the great chamber, and there found, with _Mother_, Mistress _Lewthwaite_, that was, as was plain to see, in a mighty taking [much agitated].

"Dear heart, Lady _Lettice_, but I never looked for this!" she crieth, wiping of her eyes with her kerchief. "I wis we have been less stricter than you in breeding up our maids: but to think that one of them should bring this like of a misfortune on us! For _Blanche_ is gone to be undone, of that am I sure. Truth to tell, yonder Sir _Francis Everett_ so took me with his fine ways and goodly looks and comely apparel and well-chosen words,--ay, and my master too--that we never thought to caution the maids against him. Now, it turns out that _Alice_ had some glint of what were passing: but she never betrayed _Blanche_, thinking it should not be to her honour; and me,--why, I ne'er so much as dreamed of any ill in store."

"What name said you?" quoth _Mother_, that was trying to comfort her.

"_Everett_," saith she; "Sir _Francis Everett_, he said his name were, of _Woodbridge_, in the county of _Suffolk_, where he hath a great estate, and spendeth a thousand pound by the year. And a well-looked man he was, not o'er young, belike, but rare goodly his hair fair and his eyen shining grey,--somewhat like to yours, my Lady."

_Helen_ and I looked on each other, and I saw the same thought was in both our minds. And looking then upon _Mother_, I reckoned it had come to her likewise. At _Milisent_ I dared not look, though I saw _Helen_ glance at her.

"And now," continueth Mistress _Lewthwaite_, "here do I hear that at _Grasmere_ Farm he gave out himself to be one Master _Tregarvon_, of _Devon_; and up in _Borrowdale_, he hath been playing the gallant to two or three maids by the name of Sir _Thomas Brooke_ of _Warwickshire_: and the saints know which is his right one. He's a bad one, Lady _Lettice_! And after all, here is your Mistress _Bess_, she saith she is as sure as that her name is _Wolvercot_, that no one of all these names is his own. She reckons him to be some young gentleman that she once wist, down in the shires,--marry, what said she was his name, now? I cannot just call to mind. She should ne'er have guessed at him, quoth she, but she saw him do somewhat this young man were wont to do, and were something singular therein--I mind not what it were. Dear heart, but this fray touching our _Blanche_ hath drove aught else out of mine head! But Mistress _Bess_ said _he_ were a bad one, and no mistake."

"Is _Blanche_ gone off with him, Mistress _Lewthwaite_?" saith _Helen_.

"That is right what she is, _Nell_, and ill luck go with her," quoth Mistress _Lewthwaite_: "for it will, that know I. God shall never bless no undutiful childre,--of that am I well assured."

"Nay, friend, curse not your own child!" saith _Mother_, with a little shudder.

"Eh, poor lass, I never meant to curse her," quoth she: "she'll get curse enough from him she's gone withal. She has made her bed, and she must lie on it. And a jolly hard one it shall be, by my troth!"

Here come Cousin _Bess_ and Aunt _Joyce_ into the chamber, and a deal more talk was had of them all: but at the last Mistress _Lewthwaite_ rose up, and went away. But just ere she went, saith she to _Milisent_ and me, that were sat together of one side of the chamber--

"Eh, my maids, but you twain should thank God and your good father and mother! for if you had been bred up with less care, this companion, whatso his name be, should have essayed to beguile you as I am a _Cumberland_ woman. A pair of comely young lasses like you should have been a great catch for him, I reckon."

"Ah, Mistress mine," saith Cousin _Bess_, "when lasses take as much care of their own selves as their elders of them, we shall catch larks by the sky falling, _I_ reckon."

"You are right, Mistress _Bess_," saith she: and so away hied she.

No sooner was Mistress _Lewthwaite_ gone, than _Mother_ saith,--"_Bess_, who didst thou account this man to be? Mistress _Lewthwaite_ saith thou didst guess it to be one thou hadst known down in the shires, but she had forgat the name."

I saw Cousin _Bess_ look toward Aunt _Joyce_ with a question in her eyes: and if ever I read _English_ in eyes, what _Aunt's_ said was,--"Have a care!" Then Cousin _Bess_ saith, very quiet--

"It was a gentleman in _Oxford_ town, Cousin _Lettice_, that I was wont to hear of from our _Nell_ when she dwelt yonder."

"Oh, so?" saith _Mother_: and thus the matter ended.

But at after, in the even, when _Father_ and Aunt _Joyce_ and I were by ourselves a little season in the hall, I heard Aunt _Joyce_ say, very soft--

"_Aubrey_, didst thou give her the name?"

Methought _Father_ shook his head.

"I dared not, _Joyce_," saith he. "She was so sore troubled touching-- the other matter."

"I thought so," quoth _Aunt_. "Then I will beware that I utter it not."

"But _Edith_ knows," answereth _Father_ in a low voice.

"The maids all know," saith she. "I did not reckon thou wouldest keep it from her."

"I should not, but,"--and _Father_ paused. "Thou wist, _Joyce_, how she setteth her heart on all things."

"I am afeared, _Aubrey_, she shall have to know sooner or later. Mistress _Lewthwaite_ did all but utter it to her this morning, only I thank God her memory failed her just at the right minute."

"We were better to tell her than that," saith _Father_, and leaned his head upon his hand as though he took thought.

Then _Mother_ and _Helen_ came in, and no more was said.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE FOURTH. I had no time to write yestereven, for we were late abed, it being nigh nine o' the clock ere we came up; and all the day too busy. My Lady _Stafford_ and Sir _Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_ did return with _Father_--the which I set not down in his right place at my last writing,--and yesterday we gat acquaint and showed them the vicinage and such like. As to-morrow, _Mother_ shall carry them to wait on my Lord _Dilston_.

Sir _Robert Stafford_ is a personable gentleman, much of _Father's_ years; his nose something high, yet not greatly so, and his hair and beard now turning grey, but have been dark. Mistress _Martin_ his sister (that when _Mother_ wist her was Mistress _Grissel Stafford_) is much like to him in her face, but some years the younger of the twain, though her hair be the greyer. My Lady _Stafford_, howbeit, hath not a grey hair of her head, and hath more ruddiness of her face than Mistress _Martin_, being to my thought the comelier dame of the twain. _Mother_, nathless, saith that Mistress _Grissel_ was wont to be the fairer when all were maids, and that she hath wist much trouble, the which hath thus consumed her early lovesomeness. For her husband, Captain _Martin_, that was an officer of _Calais_, coming home after that town was lost in Queen _Mary's_ time, was attaint of heresy and taken of Bishop _Bonner_, he lying long in prison, and should have been brent at the stake had not Queen _Mary's_ dying (under God's gracious ordering) saved him therefrom. And all these months was Mistress _Martin_ in dread disease, never knowing from one week to another what should be the end thereof. And indeed he lived not long after, but two or three years. Sir _Robert Stafford_, on the other part, was a wiser man; for no sooner was it right apparent, on Queen _Mary's_ incoming, how matters should turn, than he and his dame and their two daughters gat them over seas and dwelt in foreign parts all the days that Queen _Mary_ reigned. And in _Dutchland_ [Germany] were both their daughters wedded, the one unto a noble of that country, by name the Count of _Rothenthal_, and the other unto a priest, an Englishman that took refuge also in those parts, by name Master _Francis Digby_, that now hath a living in _Somerset_.

Medoubteth if _Mother_ be told who Sir _Edwin Tregarvon_ were. _Milly_ 'bideth yet in the sulks, and when she shall come thereout will I not venture to guess. _Alice Lewthwaite_ come over this afternoon but for a moment, on her way to her aunt's, Mistress _Rigg_, and saith no word is yet heard of their _Blanche_, whom her father saith he will leather while he can lay on if she do return, while her mother is all for killing the fatted calf and receiving her back with welcome.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE V. This morrow we set forth for _Lord's Island_, a goodly company--to wit, _Father_, and _Mother_, and Sir _Robert_ and my Lady _Stafford_, and Mistress _Martin_, and _Milisent_, and me. Too many were we for _Adam_ to row, and thought to take old _Matthias_, had not _Robin Lewthwaite_ chanced on us the last minute, and craved leave to take an oar, saying it should be a jolly pleasance for him to spend the day on _Lord's Island_. So _Father_ took the second oar, and _Adam_ steered, and all we got well across, thanks to God. We landed, _Father_ gave his hand to my Lady _Stafford_, and Sir _Robert_ to _Mother_, and _Robin_, pulling a face at _Milly_ and me (for I wis well he had liever have been with us), his to Mistress _Martin_.

"Well, _Edith_," saith _Milly_, the pleasantest she hath spoken of late, "I reckon I must be thy _cavaliero_."

"Will you have my cap, _Milisent_?" saith _Robin_, o'er his shoulder.

"Thanks, I reckon I shall manage without," quoth she.

"Well, have a care you demean yourself as a _cavaliero_ should," saith he. "Tell her she is the fairest maid in all the realm, and you shall die o' despair an' you get not a glance from her sweet eyes."

"Nay, I'll leave that for you," saith _Milly_.

"Good. I will do mine utmost to mind it the next opportunity," quoth _Robin_.

So, with mirth, come we up to _Dilston_ Hall.

My Lord was within, said the old serving-man, and so likewise were Mistress _Jane_ and Mistress _Cicely_: so he led us across the hall, that is set with divers coloured stones, of a fashion they have in _Italy_, and into a pleasant chamber, where Mistress _Cicely_ was sat at her frame a-work, and rose up right lovingly to welcome us. Mistress _Jane_, said she, was in the garden: but my Lord come in the next minute, and was right pleasant unto us after his sad and bashful fashion, for never saw I a man like him, as bashful as any maid. Then Mistress _Jane_ come anon, and bare us--to wit, _Milisent_ and me--away to her own chamber, where she gave us sweet cakes and muscadel; and Mistress _Cicely_ came too. And a jolly time should we have had, had it not come into Mistress _Cicely's_ head to ask at us if it were true that _Blanche Lewthwaite_ was gone away with some gallant. I had need to say Ay, for _Milisent_ kept her mouth close shut.

"And who were he?" quoth Mistress _Jane_. I answered that so far as we heard he had passed by divers names, all about this vicinage: but the name whereby he had called himself at _Mere Lea_ (which is Master _Lewthwaite's_) was _Everett_.

"I warrant you, _Jane_," saith Mistress _Cicely_, "'tis the same _Everett_ Farmer _Benson_ was so wroth with, for making up to his _Margaret_. He said if ever he came nigh his house again, he should go thence with a bullet more than he brought. A man past his youth, was he, _Edith_, with fair shining hair--no grey in it--and mighty sweet spoken?"

"Ay, that is he," said I, "or I mistake, Madam."

"Dear heart, but what an ill one must he be!" quoth Mistress _Jane_. "Why he made old _Nanny's_ grand-daughter _Doll_ reckon he meant to wed her, and promised to give her a silver chain for her neck this next _Sunday_!"

All this while sat _Milisent_ still and spake never a word. I gat discourse turned so soon as ever I might. Then after a little while went we down to hall, and good mirth was had of the young gentlewomen with _Robin_ and me: but all the while _Milisent_ very still, so that at last Mistress _Cicely_ noted it, and asked her if her head ached. She said ay: and she looked like it. So, soon after came we thence, and crossed the lake again, and so home. _Milly_ yet very silent all the even: not as though she sulked, as of late, but rather as though she meditated right sadly.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE VII. This morrow, I being in Aunt _Joyce's_ chamber, helping her to lay by the new-washed linen, come _Milisent_ in very softly.

"Aunt _Joyce_," she saith, "I would fain have speech of you."

"Shall I give thee leave [go away and leave you], _Milly_?" said I, arising, for I was knelt of the floor, before the bottom drawer.

"Nay, _Edith_," she makes answer: "thou knowest my faults, and it is but meet thou shouldst hear my confession."

Her voice choked somewhat, and Aunt _Joyce_ saith lovingly, "Dost think, then, thou hast been foolish, dear child?"

"I can hardly tell about foolish, _Aunt_," saith she, casting down her eyes, "but methinks I have been sinful. Will you forgive me mine hard words and evil deeds?"

"Ay, dear heart, right willingly. And I shall not gainsay thee, _Milly_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sadly: "for `the thought of foolishness is sin,' and God calls many a thing sin whereof we men think but too lightly. Yet, bethink thee that `if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.' Now, dear heart, if thou wilt be ruled by me, thou wilt `arise and go to thy father' and thy mother, and say to them right as did the prodigal, that thou hast sinned against Heaven and in their sight. I think neither of them is so much angered as sorrowful and pitying: yet, if there be any anger in them, trust me, that were the way to disarm it. Come back, _Milly_--first to God, and then to them. Thou shalt find fatherly welcome from either."

_Milly_ still hid her face.

"Aunt _Joyce_," she saith, "I dare not say I have come _back_ to God, for I have been doubting this morrow if I were ever near Him. But I think I have _come_. So now I may go to _Father_ and _Mother_."

Aunt _Joyce_ kissed her lovingly, and carried her off. Of course I know not what happed betwixt _Father_ and _Mother_, and _Milly_, but I know that _Milly_ looks a deal happier, and yet sadder [graver], than she hath done of many days: and that both _Father_ and _Mother_ be very tender unto her, as to one that had been lost and is found.


Note 1. Helen guessed rightly. As the readers of "Lettice Eden" will know, the "Mary" of the tale was her mother.



"Then opened wide the baron's hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
All hailed with uncontrolled delight,
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down."


(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE X. Here have I been a-thinking I should scantly write a word when my month was come, and already, with but ten days thereof, have I filled half as much paper as either _Helen_ or _Milisent_. But in good sooth, I do trust the next ten days shall not be so full of things happening as these last. Nathless, I do love to have things happen, after a fashion: but I would have them to be alway pleasant things. And when things happen, they be so oft unpleasant.

Now, if one might order one's own life, methinks it should be a right pleasant thing. For I reckon I should not go a-fooling, like as some lasses do. Mine head is not all stuffed with gallants, nor yet with velvet and gold. But I would love to be great. Not great like a duchess, just a name and no more: but to make a name for myself, and to have folks talk of me, how good and how clever I were. That is what I would fain be thought--good and clever. I take no care to be thought fair, nor in high place; howbeit, I desire not to be ugly nor no lower down than I am. But I am quite content with mine own place, only I feel within me that I could do great things.

And how can a woman do great things, without she be rare high in place, such like as the Queen's Majesty, or my Lady Duchess of _Suffolk_? Or how could I ever look to do great things, here in _Derwent_ dale? Oh, I do envy our _Wat_ and _Ned_, by reason they can go about the world and o'er the seas, and make themselves famous.

And, somehow, in a woman's life everything seems so little. 'Tis just cooking and eating; washing linen and soiling of it; going to bed and rising again. Always doing things and then undoing them, and alway the same things over and over again. It seems as if nought would ever stay done. If one makes a new gown, 'tis but that it may be worn out, and then shall another be wanted. I would the world could give o'er going on, and every thing getting worn out and done with.

Other folks do not seem to feel thus. I reckon _Helen_ never does, not one bit. Some be so much easier satisfied than other. I count them the happiest.

I cannot tell how it is, but I do never feel satisfied. 'Tis as though there were wings within me, that must ever of their nature be stretching upward and onward. Where should they end, an' they might go forward? Would there be any end? Can one be satisfied, ever?

I believe _Anstace_ and _Helen_ are satisfied, but then 'tis their nature to be content with things as they be. I do not know about _Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_. I misdoubt if it be altogether their nature. But then neither do they seem always satisfied. _Father_ doth so: and his nature is high enough. I think I shall ask _Father_. As for Cousin _Bess_, an' I were to ask at her, she should conceive me never a whit. 'Tis her nature to cook and darn and scour, and to look complacently on her cake and her mended hole and her cleaned chamber, and never trouble herself to think that they shall lack doing o'er again to-morrow. Chambers are like to need cleansing, and what were women made for save to keep them clean? That is Cousin _Bess_, right out. For Master _Stuyvesant_, methinks he is right the other way, and rather counts the world a dirty place and full of holes, that there shall be no good in neither cleansing nor mending. And I look not on matters in that light. Methinks it were better to cleanse the chamber, if only one could keep it from being dirtied at after. I shall see what _Father_ saith.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE XII. Yester even, as we were sat in the great chamber,--there was _Mother_ and _Helen_ at their wheels, and Aunt _Joyce_ and my Lady _Stafford_ a-sewing, and Mistress _Martin_ and _Milisent_ and me at the broidery,-- and _Father_ had but just beat Sir _Robert_ in a game of the chess, and _Mynheer_, one foot upon his other knee, was deep in a great book which thereon rested,--and fresh logs were thrown of the fire by _Kate_, which sent forth upward a shower of pleasant sparkles, and methought as I glanced around the chamber, that all looked rare pleasant and comfortable, and we ought to thank God therefore. When all had been silent a short while, out came I with my question, well-nigh ere I myself wist it were out--

"_Father_, are you satisfied?"

"A mighty question, my maid," saith he,--while _Helen_ looked up in surprise, and Aunt _Joyce_ and Mistress _Martin_ and _Milisent_ fell a-laughing. "With what? The past, the present, or the future?" quoth _Father_.

"With things, _Father_," said I. "With life and every thing."

"Ah, _Edith_, hast thou come to that?" saith my Lady _Stafford_: and she exchanged smiles with _Mother_.

"_Daughter_," _Father_ makes answer, "methinks no man is ever satisfied with life, until he be first satisfied with God. The furthest he can go in that direction, is not to think if he be satisfied or no. A man may be well pleased with lesser things: but to be satisfied, that can he not."

"`Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,'" quoth _Mother_, softly.

"Ay," saith Sir _Robert_; "and wit you, Mistress _Edith_, what cometh at times to men adrift of the ocean, when all their fresh water is spent?"

"Why, surely, they should find water in plenty in the sea, Sir," said I.

"Right so do they," saith he: "and 'tis a quality of the sea-water, that if a man athirst doth once taste the same, his thirst becometh so great that he drinketh thereof again and again, the thirst worsening with every draught, until at last it drives him mad."

"An apt image of the pleasures of this world," answers _Father_. "Ah, how is all nature as God's picture-book, given to help His dull childer over their tasks!"

"But, _Father_,"--said I, and stayed.

"Well, my maid?" he answers of his kindly fashion.

"I cry you mercy, _Father_, if I speak foolishly; but it seems me that pious folk be not alway satisfied. They make as much fume as other folk when things go as they would not have them."

"The angels do not so, I reckon," saith _Mynheer_, a-looking up.

"We are not angels yet," quoth _Father_, a little drily. "Truth, my maid: and we ought to repent thereof, seeing such practices but too oft cause the enemy to blaspheme, and put stumbling-blocks in the way of weak brethren. Ay, and from what we read in God's Word, it should seem as though all murmuring and repining--not sorrowing, mark thou; but murmuring--went for far heavier sin in His eyes than it doth commonly in ours. We count it a light matter if we grumble when things go awry, and matters do seem as if they were bent on turning forth right as we would not have them. Let us remember, for ourselves, that such displeaseth the Lord. He reckons it unbelief and mistrust. `How long,' saith He unto Moses, `will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me?' Howbeit, as for our neighbours, we need not judge them. And indeed, such matters depend much on men's complexions [Note 1], and some find it a deal easier to control them than other. And after all, _Edith_, there is a sense wherein no man can ever be fully satisfied in this life. We were meant to aspire; and if we were entirely content with present things, then should we grovel. To submit cheerfully is one thing: to be fully gratified, so that no desire is left, is an other. We shall not be that, methinks, till we reach Heaven."

"Shall we so, even there?" saith Sir _Robert_. "It hath alway seemed to me that when _Diogenes_ did define his gods as `they that had no wants,' he pointed to a very miserable set of creatures. Is it not human nature that the thing present shall fall short of the thing prospective?"

"The _in posse_ is better than the _in esse_?" saith _Father_. "Well, it should seem so, in this dispensation. But how, in the next world, our powers may be extended, and our souls in some degree suffer change, that we can be fully satisfied and yet be alway aspiring--I reckon we cannot now understand. I only gather from Scripture that it shall be thus. You and I know very little, _Robin_, of what shall be in Heaven."

"Ah, true,--true!" saith Sir _Robert_.

"It hath struck me at times," saith _Father_, "that while it may seem strange to the young and eager soul, yet it is better understood as one grows older,--how the account of Heaven given us in Scripture is nearly all in negations. God and ourselves are the two matters positive. The rest are nays: there shall be no pain, no crying, no sorrow, no night, no death, no curse. And though youth would oft have it all yea, yet nay suits age the better. An old man and weary feels the thought of active bliss at times too much for him. It wearies him to think of perpetual singing and constant flying. It is rest he needs--it is peace."

"Well, _Father_," saith _Milisent_, looking up, "I hope it is not wicked of me, but I never did enjoy the prospect of sitting of a cloud and singing _Hallelujah_ for ever and ever."

"Right what I was wont to think at thy years, _Milly_," saith _Mother_, a-laughing.

"Dear hearts," saith _Father_, "there is in God's Word a word for the smallest need of every one of us, if we will only take the pain to search and find it there. `They had no rest day neither night,' [Cranmer's version of Revelations chapter four verse 8]--that is for the eager, active soul that longs to be up and doing. And `they rest from their labours,'--that is for the weary heart that is too tired for rapture."

"Yet doth not that latter class of texts, think you," saith Sir _Robert_, "refer mainly to the rest of the body in the grave?"

"Well, it may be so," answers _Father_: "yet, look you, the rest of the grave must be something that _will rest us_."

"What is thy notion, _Aubrey_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "of the state of the soul betwixt death and resurrection?"

"My notion, _Joyce_," saith _Father_, "is that _Scripture_ giveth us no very plain note thereon. I conclude, therefore, that it shall be time to know when we come to it. This only do I see--that all the passages which speak thereof as `sleep,' `forgetfulness,' and the like, be in the Old Testament: and all those--nay, let me correct myself--most of those which speak thereof as of a condition of conscious bliss, `being with _Christ_,' and so, are in the New. There I find the matter: and there, under your good pleasure, will I leave it."

"Well, that should seem," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "as if the condition of souls had been altered by the coming of our Lord."

"By His death, rather, as methinks, if so be. It may be so. I dare not be positive either way."

"Has it never seemed strange to you, _Louvaine_," saith Sir _Robert_, "how little we be told in God's Word touching all those mysteries whereon men's minds will ever be busying themselves--to all appearance, so long as the world lasts? This matter of our talk--the origin of evil--free-will and sovereign grace--and the like. Why are we told no more?"

"Why," saith _Father_, with that twinkle in his eyes which means fun, "I am one of the meaner intelligences of the universe, and I wis not. If you can find any whither the Angel _Gabriel_, you may ask at him if he can untie your knots."

"Now, _Aubrey_, that is right what mads me!" breaks in Aunt _Joyce_. "Sir _Robert_ asks why we be told no more, and thine answer is but to repeat that we be told no more. Do, man, give a plain answer to a plain question."

"Nay, now thou aft like old Lawyer _Pearson_?" quoth _Father_. "`I wis not, Master,' saith the witness. `Ay, but will you swear?' saith he. `Why,' quoth the witness, `how can I swear when I wis not?' `Nay, but you must swear one way or an other,' saith he. Under thy leave, _Joyce_, I do decline to swear either way, seeing I wis not."

Aunt _Joyce_ gives a little stamp of her foot. "What on earth is the good of men, when they wit no more than women?" quoth she: whereat all laughed.

"Ah, some women have great wits," saith _Father_.

"Give o'er thy mocking, _Aubrey_!" answers she. "Tell us plain, what notion thou hast, and be not so strict tied to chapter and verse."

"Of what worth shall then be my notions? Well," saith _Father_, "I have given them on the one matter. As for the origin of evil, I find the origin of mine evil in mine own heart, and no further can I get except to _Satan_."

"Ay, but I would fain reach over _Satan_," saith she.

"That shall we not do without _Satan_ overreaching us," quoth _Father_. "Well, then--as to free-will and grace, I find both. `Whosoever will, take of the water of life,'--and `Yet will ye not come unto Me that ye might have life.' But also I find, `No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him;' and that faith cometh `Not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.'"

"Come, tarry not there!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "How dost thou reconcile them?"

"Why, I don't reconcile them," quoth he.

"Ay, but do!" she makes answer.

"Well," saith he, "if thou wilt come and visit me, _Joyce_, an hundred years hence, at the sign of the _Burnt-Sacrifice_, in _Amethyst_ Lane, in the _New Jerusalem_, I will see if I can do it for thee then."

"_Aubrey Louvaine_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, "thou art--"

"Not yet there," he answers. "I am fully aware of it."

"The wearifullest tease ever I saw, when it liketh thee!" saith she.

"Dost thou know, _Joyce_," quoth _Mother_, laughing merrily, "I found out that afore I was wed. He did play right cruelly on mine eagerness once or twice."

"Good lack! then why didst thou wed him?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

_Mother_ laughed at this, and _Father_ made a merry answer, which turned the discourse to other matter, and were not worth to set down. So we gat not back to our sad talk, but all ended with mirth.

This morrow come o'er _Robin Lewthwaite_, with a couple of rare fowl and his mother's loving commendations for _Mother_. He saith nothing is yet at all heard of their _Blanche_, and he shook his head right sorrowfully when I asked at him if he thought aught should be. It seemed so strange a thing to see _Robin_ sorrowful.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XVI. This morrow, my Lady _Stafford_, Aunt _Joyce_, and I, were sat at our work alone in the great chamber. _Milly_ was gone with _Mother_ a-visiting poor folk, and Sir _Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_, with _Helen_ for guide, were away towards _Thirlmere_,--my Lady _Stafford_ denying to go withal, by reason she had an ill rheum catched yesterday amongst the snowy lanes. All at once, up looks my Lady, and she saith--

"_Joyce_, what is this I heard yestereven of old _Mall Crewdson_, touching one _Everett_, or _Tregarvon_--she wist not rightly which his name were--that hath done a deal of mischief in these parts of late? What manner of mischief?--for old _Mary_ was very mysterious. May-be I do not well to ask afore _Edith_?"

"Ay, _Dulcie_, well enough," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sadly, "for _Edith_ knows the worst she can already. And if you knew the worst you could--"

"Why, what is it?" quoth she.

"_Leonard_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, curtly.

"_Leonard_!" Every drop of blood seemed gone out of my Lady's face. "I thought he was dead, years gone."

"So did not I," Aunt _Joyce_ made low answer.

"No, I wis thou never didst," saith my Lady, tenderly. "So thy love is still alive, _Joyce_? Poor heart!"

"My heart is," she saith. "As for love, it is poor stuff if it can die."

"There is a deal of poor stuff abroad, then," quoth her Ladyship. "In very deed, so it is. So he is yet at his old work?"

Aunt _Joyce_ only bent her head.

"Well, it were not possible to wish he had kept to the new," pursueth she. "I do fear there were some brent in _Smithfield_, that had been alive at this day but for him. But ever since Queen _Mary_ died hath he kept him so quiet, that in very deed I never now reckoned him amongst the living. Where is he now?"

"God wot," saith Aunt _Joyce_, huskily.

My Lady was silent awhile: and then she saith--

"Well, may-be better so. But _Joyce_, doth _Lettice_ know?"

"That _Tregarvon_ were he? Not without _Aubrey_ hath told her these last ten days: and her face saith not so."

"No, it doth not," my Lady makes answer. "But Sir _Aubrey_ wist, then? His face is not wont to talk unless he will."

"In no wise," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Ay, _Dulcibel_; I had to tell him."

"Thou?" saith my Lady, pityingly.

"None knew him but me," made she answer, and her voice grew very troubled. "Not even _Aubrey_, nor _Lettice_. _Bess_ guessed at him after awhile, but not till she had seen him divers times. But for me one glimpse was enough."

Aunt _Joyce's_ work was still now.

"Hadst thou surmised aforetime that it were he?"

Aunt _Joyce_ shook her head.

"No need for surmising, _Dulcie_," she said. "If I were laid in my grave for a year and a day, I should know his step upon the mould above me."

"My poor _Joyce_!" softly quoth my Lady _Stafford_. "Even God hath no stronger word than `passing the love of women.' Yet a woman's love lasts not out to that in most cases."

"Her heart lasts not out, thou meanest," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Hearts are weak, _Dulcie_, but love is immortal."

"And hast thou still hope--for him, _Joyce_?" answereth my Lady. "I lost the last atom of mine, years gone."

"Hope of his ultimate salvation? Ay--as long as life lasts. I shall give over hoping for it when I see it."

"But," saith my Lady slowly, as though she scarce liked to say the same, "how if thou never wert to see it?"

"`Between the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I sought, mercy I found.'

"Thou wist that epitaph, _Dulcie_, on him that lost life by a fall from the saddle. My seeing it were comfort, but no necessity. I could go on hoping that God had seen it."

Aunt _Joyce_ arose and left the chamber. Then saith my Lady _Stafford_ to me--

"There goes a strong soul. There be women such as she: but they are not to be picked, like blackberries, off every bramble. _Edith_, young folks are apt to think love a mere matter of youth and of matrimony. They cannot make a deeper blunder. The longer love lasts, the stronger it groweth."

"Always, my Lady?" said I.

"Ay," saith she. "That is, if it be love."

We wrought a while without more talk: when suddenly saith my Lady _Stafford_:--

"_Edith_, didst thou see this _Tregarvon_, or how he called himself?"

"Ay, Madam," said I. "He made up to me one morrow, when my sister _Milisent_ and I were on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle in the mere yonder, and I was sat, a-drawing, of a stone."

"Ay so?" quoth she, with some earnestness in her voice. "And what then?"

"I think he took not much of me, Madam," said I.

My Lady _Stafford_ smiled, yet methought somewhat pensively.

"May I wit what he said to thee, _Edith_?"

"Oh, a parcel of stuff touching mine hair and mine eyes, and the like," said I. "I knew well enough what colours mine hair and eyes were of, without his telling me. Could I dress mine hair every morrow afore the mirror, and not see?"

"Well, _Edith_," saith she, "methinks he did not take much of thee. I would I could have seen him,"--and her voice grew sadder. "Not that my voice should have had any potency with him: that had it never yet. But I would fain have noted how far the years had changed him, and if--if there seemed any more hope of his amendment than of old time. There was a time when in all _Oxfordshire_ he was allowed the goodliest man, and I fear he was not far from being likewise the worst."

Here come in _Mother_, and my Lady _Stafford_ changed the discourse right quickly. I saw I must say no more. But I am well assured Aunt _Joyce's Mary_ was never my Lady _Stafford_. Who methinks it were it should serve no good end to set down.

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XIX. As we sat this even of the great chamber, saith _Father_:--

"_Stafford_, do you remember our talk some days gone, touching what manner of life there should be in Heaven?"

"That do I well," Sir _Robert_ made answer.

"Well," quoth _Father_, "I have fallen to think more thereupon. And the thought comes to me--wherefore account we always that we shall do but one thing there, and that all shall do the same? Here is _Milisent_-- ay, and _Lettice_ too--that think they should be weary to sit of a cloud and sing for ever and ever."

"Truly, so should I, methinks," saith Sir _Robert_.

"So should we all, I cast no doubt," answers _Father_, "if our capacity for fatigue did extend into that life. But why expect the same thing over and over? It is not so on earth. I am not reading, nor is _Lettice_ sewing, nor _Milisent_ broidering, with no intermission, from the morning to the night. Neither do we all the same fashion of work."

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, somewhat eagerly; "but the work done here below is needful, _Aubrey_. There shall be no necessity for nought there."

"Art avised o' that, _Joyce_?" saith _Father_.

"Why," saith she, "dost look for brooms and dusters in Heaven? Shall _Bess_ and I sweep out the gold streets, thinkest, or fetch a pan to seethe the fruits of the Tree of Life?"

"One would think," saith Sir _Robert_, "if all be allegorical, as some wise doctors do say, that they should be shadowy brooms that swept parabolical streets."

"Allegorical fiddlesticks!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "I did never walk yet o'er a parabolical paving, nor sat me down to rest me of an allegorical chair. Am I to be allegorical, forsooth? You be a poor comforter, Sir _Robert_."

"Soft you now!" saith _Father_. "I enter a _caveat_, as lawyers have it. Methinks I have walked for some years o'er a parabolical paving, and rested me in many an allegorical chair. Thou minglest somewhat too much the spiritual and the material, _Joyce_."

"I count I take thee, _Audrey_," saith she: "thou wouldst say that the allegorical city is for the dwelling of the spirit, and the real for the body. But, pray you, if my spirit have a dwelling in thine allegorical city--"

"Nay, I said not the city were allegorical," quoth he. "Burden not me withal, for in truth I do believe it very real."

"No, that was Sir _Robert_," saith she, "so I will ask at him, as shall be but fair. Where, I pray you, is my body to be, Sir, whilst my soul dwelleth in your parabolical city?"

"There shall be a spiritual body, my mistress," makes he answer, smiling.

"Truth," quoth she, "but I reckon it must be somewhere. It seems me, to my small wit, that if my soul and my spiritual body be to dwell in an allegorical city, then I must needs be allegorical also. And I warrant you, that should not like me a whit."

"Let us not mingle differences," saith _Father_. "Be the spiritual and the allegorical but one thing?"

"Nay, I believe there be two," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "'tis Sir _Robert_ here would have them alike."

"But how would you define them?" saith Sir _Robert_ to _Father_.

"Thus," he made answer. "The spiritual is that which is real, as fully as the material: but it is invisible. The allegorical is that which is shadowy and doth but exist in the fantasy. If I say of these my daughters, they be my jewels, I speak allegorically: for they be not gems, but maidens. But I do not love them in an allegory, but in reality. Love is a moral and spiritual matter, but no allegory. So, Heaven is a spiritual place, but methinks not an allegorical one."

"But the _New Jerusalem_--the Golden City which lieth four-square--that is allegorical, surely!"

"We shall see when we are there," saith _Father_. "I think not."

Sir _Robert_ pursed up his lips as though he could no wise allow the same.

"Mind you, _Robin_," saith _Father_, "I say not that there may not be allegory touching some of the details. I reckon the pearls of the twelve gates were never found in earthly oysters: nor do I account that the gold of the streets was molten in an earthly furnace. No more, when _Edith_ saith she will run and fetch a thing, should I think to accuse her of falsehood if I saw that she walked, and ran not. 'Tis never well to fetch a parable down on all fours. You and I use allegory always in our common talk."

"Ay," quoth Sir _Robert_: "but you reckon they _be_ pearls, and gold?"

"I will tell you when I have seen them," saith _Father_, and smiled. "Either they be gold and pearls, or they be that to which, in our earthly minds, gold and pearls come the nearest. Why, my friend, we be all but lisping children to God. Think you one moment, and tell me if every word we use touching Him hath not in it more or less of parable? We call Him Father, and King, and Master, and Guide, and Lord. Is not every one of these taken from earthly relationships, and doth it not presuppose a something which is to be found on earth? We have no better wits than to do so here. If God would teach us that we know not, it must be by talking to us touching things we do know. Did not you the same with your children when they were babes? How far we may be able to penetrate, when we be truly men, grown up unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of _Christ_, verily I cannot tell. Only I do see that not only all _Scripture_, but all analogy, pointeth to a time when we shall emerge from this caterpillar state, and spread our wings as butterflies in the sunshine. Nay, there is yet a better image in nature. The grub of the dragon-fly dwelleth in the waters, and cannot live in the air till it come forth into the final state. Tell me then, I pray you, how shall this water-grub conceive the notion of flying through the air? Supposing you able to talk with him, could you represent the same unto him other than by the conceit of gliding through water with most delightsome swiftness and directness? To talk of an element wherein he had no experience should be simply so much nonsense to him. Now, it may be--take me not, I pray you, as meaning it must be--that all that shall be found in Heaven differs as greatly from what is found on earth as the water differs from the air. Concerning these matters, I take it, God teaches us by likening them to such things as we know that shall give the best conceit of them to our minds. Here on earth, the fairest and most costly matter is gold and gems. Well, He would have us know that the heavenly city is builded of the fairest and most precious matter. But that the matter is real, and that the city is builded of somewhat, that will I yield to none. To do other were to make it a fairy tale, Heaven in cloud-land, and God Himself but the shadow of a dream. The only difference I can see is, that we should never awake from the dream, but should go on dreaming it for ever."

"O _Louvaine_!" saith Sir _Robert_. "I can never allow of matter in Heaven. All there is spiritual."

"Now, what mean you by matter?" saith _Father_. "Matter is a term of this world. I argue not for matter in Heaven as opposed to spirit, but for reality as opposed to allegory."

"You'll be out of my depth next plunge," saith Sir _Robert_, merrily.

"We shall both be out of our depth, _Robin_, ere long, and under your leave there will we leave it. But I see you are a bit of a _Manichee_."

"That is out of my depth, at any rate," quoth he. "I am but ill read in ancient controversies, though I know you dabble in them."

"Why, I have dipped my fingers into a good parcel of matters in my time," saith _Father_. "But the _Manichees_, old friend, were men that did maintain the inherent evil of matter. All things, with them, were wicked that had to do therewith. Wherein, though they knew it not, they were much akin to the _Indian_ mystics of _Buddha_, that do set their whole happiness in the attaining of _Nirvana_."

"What is that?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Is it an _India_ goddess, or something good to eat?"

"It is," quoth _Father_, "the condition of having no ideas."

"Good lack!" saith she, "then daft _Madge_ is nearest perfection of us all."

"Perhaps she is, in sober truth," _Father_ makes answer.

"Meseemeth," whispers _Milisent_ to me, "that _Jack Benn_ is a _Manichee_."

"'Tis strange," saith _Father_, as in meditation, "how those old heresies shall be continually re-born under new names: nor only that, but how in the heart of every man and woman there is by nature a leaning unto some form of heresy. Here is _Robin Stafford_ a _Manichee_: and _Bess_ a _Mennonite_: and my Lady _Stafford_ (if I mistake not) a _Stoic_: and _Mynheer_ somewhat given to be a _Cynic_: and _Lettice_ and _Milisent_, methinks, are by their nature _Epicureans_. Mistress _Martin_, it seemeth me, should be an _Essene_: and what shall we call thee, _Edith_?"

"Aught but a _Pharisee_, _Father_," said I, laughing.

"Nay, thou art no _Pharisee_," saith he. "But that they were a nation and not a sect, I should write thee down a _Sybarite_. _Nell_ is as near a _Pharisee_ as we have one in the chamber; yet methinketh it were to insult her to give her such a name."

"Go on," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "I'm waiting."

"What, for thine own class?"

"Mine and thine," saith she.

_Father's_ eyes did shine with fun. "Well, _Joyce_, to tell truth, I am somewhat puzzled to class thee: but I am disposed to put thee amongst the _Brownists_."

"What on earth for?" saith she.

"Why," quoth he, "because thou hast a mighty notion of having things thine own way."

"Sir _Robert_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "pray you, box my cousin's ears for me, as you sit convenient.--And what art thou thine own self, thou caitiff?"

"A _Bonus Homo_," answers _Father_, right sadly: whereat all that did know _Latin_ fell a-laughing. And I, asking at my Lady _Stafford_, she told me that _Bonus Homo_ is to say Good Man, and was in past time the name of a certain Order of friars, that had carried down the truth of the Gospel from the first ages in a certain part lying betwixt _Italy_ and _France_.

"_Nell_," saith _Father_, "I did thee wrong to call thee a _Pharisee_: thou art rather a _Herodian_."

"But I pray you, Sir _Aubrey_, what did you mean by the name you gave me?" saith Mistress _Martin_. "For I would fain wit my faults, that I may go about to amend them: and as at this present I am none the wiser."

"The _Essenes_," saith he, "Mistress _Martin_, were a sect of the Jews, so extreme orthodox that they did deny to perform sacrifice or worship in the Temple, seeing there they should have to mingle themselves with other sects, and with wicked men that brought not their sacrifices rightly. Moreover, they would neither eat flesh-meat nor drink wine: and they believed not that there were so much as one good woman in the whole world."

"Then I cry you mercy, Sir _Aubrey_," quoth she, "but if so be, assuredly I am not of them. I do most heartily believe in good women, whereof methinks I can see four afore me, at the very least, this instant moment: nor have I yet abjured neither wine nor flesh-meat."

"Oh no, the details be different," saith he: "yet I dare be bold to say, you have a conceit of a perfect Church, whereinto no untrue man should ever be suffered to enter."

"Ay, that have I," said she. "Methinks the Church of _England_ is too comprehensive, and should be drawn on stricter lines."

"And therein are you an _Essene_," answereth _Father_.

"Oh, _Grissel_ would fain have every man close examined," saith Sir _Robert_, "and only admitted unto the Lord's Supper by the clergy after right strict dealing."

"Were you alway of this manner of thought, Mistress _Martin_?" asks _Father_.

"I trow not," said she. "As one gets on in life, you see, one doth perceive many difficulties and differences that one noted not aforetime."

"One is more apt to fall into ruts, that I know," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "I had ado enough, and yet have, to keep me out of them."

"A man is apt to do one of two things," saith _Father_: "either to fall into a rut, or to leave the road altogether. Either his charity contracteth, and he can see none right that walk not in his rut; or else his charity breaketh all bounds, and he would have all to be right, which way soever they walk."

"Why, those be the two ends of the pole," quoth Sir _Robert_, "and, I warrant you, you shall find _Grissel_ right at the end, which so it be. She hath a conceit that a man cannot be too right, nor that, if a thing be good, you cannot have too much thereof."

"Ah, that hangeth on the thing," saith _Father_. "You cannot have too much faith nor charity, but you may get too much syllabub. Methinks that is scantly the true rendering thereof. Have not the proportions much to do withal? If a man's faith outrun his charity, behold him at the one end of your pole; but if his charity outrun his faith, here is he at the other. Now faith and charity should keep pace. Let either get afore the other, and the man is no longer a perfect man; but a man with one limb grown out, and another shrivelled up."

"But, Sir _Aubrey_," quoth Mistress _Martin_, "can a man be too holy, or too happy?"

"Surely not, Mistress _Martin_," saith he. "But look you, God is the fountain and pattern of both: and in Him all attributes are at once in utmost perfection, and in strictest proportion. We sons of _Adam_, since his fall, be gone out of proportion. And note you, for it is worthy note--that nothing short of revelation did ever yet conceive of a perfect God. The gods of the heathen were altogether such as themselves. Even very _Christians_, with revelation to guide them, are ever starting aside like a broken bow in their conceits of God. Either they would have Him all justice and no mercy, or else all mercy and no justice: and the looser they hold by the revelation God has made of Himself, the dimmer and the more out of proportion be their thoughts of God. The most men frame a God unto themselves, and be assured that he shall be like themselves--that the sins which he holds in abhorrence shall be the sins whereto they are not prone."

"Are we not, in fine," saith Sir _Robert_, "so far gone from original righteousness, that our imperfect nature hath lost power to imagine perfection?"

"Not a doubt thereof," saith _Father_. "Look you but abroad in the world. You shall find pride lauded and called high spirit and nobleness: covetousness is prudence and good thrift: flattery and conformity to the world are good nature and kindliness. Every blast from Hell hath been renamed after one of the breezes of Heaven."

There was silence so long after this that I reckoned the discourse were o'er. When all suddenly saith Sir _Robert_:--

"_Louvaine_, have you much hope for the future--whether of the Church or of the world?"

"All hope in God: none out of Him."

"Nay, come closer," saith Sir _Robert_. "What shall hap in the next few reigns?"

"`I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until He come whose right it is: and I will give it Him.' There is our pole-star, _Robin_: and I see no other stars. `This same _Jesus_ shall so come.' `Even so, come, Lord _Jesus_!'"

"Yet may He not be said to `come' by the Spirit shed abroad in the hearts of men, and so the world be regenerated?"

"Find that in God's Word, _Robin_, afore He comes, and I will welcome it with all my heart," answers _Father_. "I could never see it there. I see there a mighty spread of knowledge, and civility [civilisation], and communications of men--as hath been since the invention of printing, and may be destined to spread yet much further abroad. But knowledge is not faith, nor is civility _Christianity_. And, in fine, He is to come as He went. He did not go invisibly in the hearts of men."

"But `the kingdom of God is within you.'"

"Ay, in the sense wherein the word is there used. The power of _Christ_, at that time, was to be a power over men's hearts, not an outward show of regality: but `He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go,' is a very different matter."

"Oh, of course we look for our Lord's advent in His own person," quoth Sir _Robert_: "but I cannot think He will come to a sin-stained earth. It were not suitable to His dignity. The way of the Lord must be prepared."

"We shall see, when He comes," gently answereth _Father_. "But if He _had_ not deigned to come to a sin-stained earth, what should have come either of _Robin Stafford_ or of _Aubrey Louvaine_?"

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XXIII. Four nights hath it taken me to write that last piece, for all the days have we been right busy making ready for _Christmas_. There be in the buttery now thirty great spice-cakes, and an hundred mince pies, and a mighty bowl of plum-porridge [plum-pudding without the cloth] ready for the boiling, and four barons of beef, and a great sight of carrots and winter greens, and two great cheeses, and a parcel of sugar-candy for the childre, and store of sherris-sack and claret, and _Rhenish_ wine, and muscadel. As to the barrels of ale, and the raisins of _Corance_ [currants] and the apples, and the conserves and codiniac [quince marmalade], and such like, I will not tarry to count them. And to-day, and yet again it shall be to-morrow, have _Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_, and we three maids, trudged all the vicinage, bidding our neighbours to the Hall on _Christmas_ Eve and for the even of _Christmas_ Day. And as to-night am I well aweary, for _Thirlmere_ side fell to my share, and I was this morrow as far as old _Madge's_ bidding her and young _Madge_, and that is six miles well reckoned. _Father_ saith alway that though it be our duty at all times, yet is it more specially at _Christmas_, to bid the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind: so we have them alway of _Christmas_ night, and of _Christmas_ Eve have we a somewhat selecter gathering, of our own kin and close friends and such like: only Master _Banaster_ and _Anstace_ come both times. Then on New Year's Day have we alway a great sort of childre, and merry games and music and such like. But the last night of the old year will _Father_ have no gatherings nor merrymaking. He saith 'tis a right solemn time; and as each one of us came to the age of fourteen years have we parted at nine o' the clock as usual, but not on that night for bed. Every one sitteth by him or herself in a separate chamber, with a Bible or some portion thereof open afore. There do we read and pray and meditate until half-past eleven, at which time all we gather in the great chamber. Then _Father_ reads first the 139th _Psalm_, and then that piece in the _Revelation_ touching all the dead standing afore God: and he prayeth a while, until about five minutes afore the year end. Then all gather in the great window toward _Keswick_, and tarry as still as death until Master _Cridge_ ring the great bell on _Lord_ Island, so soon as he hear the chimes of _Keswick_ Church. Then, no sooner hath the bell died away, which telleth to all around that the New Year is born, then _Father_ striketh up, and all we join in, the 100th _Psalm_-- to wit, "All people that on earth do dwell."

And when the last note of the _Amen_ dieth, then we kiss one another, and each wisheth the other a happy new year and God's blessing therein: and so away to bed.

I reckon I shall not have no time to write again until _Christmas_ Day is well over.

"_Father_," said I last night to him--we were us two alone that minute--"_Father_, do you love _Christmas_?"

He looked on me and smiled.

"I love to see my childre glad, dear maid," saith he: "and I love to feast my poor neighbours, that at other times get little feasting enough. But _Christmas_ is the childre's festival, _Edith_: for it is the festival of untroubled hearts and eyes that have no tears behind them. For the weary hearts and the tearful eyes the true feast is _Easter_. The one is a hope: the other is a victory. There are no clouds o'er the blue sky in the first: the storm is over, and the sun is out again, in the last. `We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.' But we are apt to believe in the resurrection the most truly when the grave hath been lately open: and the life of the world to come is the gladdest thought to them for whom the life of the world that is seems not much to live for."

SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE XXVIII. "Well, _Edith_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ to me last night, "thou hast had a rare time of it!"

"I have, _Aunt_," said I: "yet I warrant you, I was not sorry to have _Sunday_ come at after."

Eh, but I was weary when I gat me abed on _Christmas_ night, and it were ten o'clock well told ere I so did. _Helen_ and _Milisent_ were later yet: but _Mother_ packed me off, saying that growing maids should not tarry up late: and when I found me withinside the blankets, I warrant you, but I was thankful!

I reckon, being now something rested, I must set down all that we did: and first for _Christmas_ Eve.

_Hal_ and _Anstace_ came early (their childre were bidden to _Keswick_ unto a childre's gathering): then about three o' the clock, Master and Mistress _Lewthwaite_, with _Alice, Nym, Jack_, and _Robin_ (and by the same token, _Nym_ played the despairing gallant that I could not choose but laugh, his hat awry and his ruff all o' one side, and a bombasted [padded] doublet that made him look twice his own size). And methought it a sore pity to miss _Blanche_, that was wont to be merriest of us all (when as she were in a good humour) and so _Alice_ said unto me, while the water stood in her eyes. A little while after come Doctor and Mistress _Meade_, and their _Isabel_: then old Mistress _Rigg_, and her three tall daughters, Mrs _Martha_, Mrs _Katherine_, and Mrs _Anne_: then Farmer _Benson_ and his dame, and their _Margaret_ and _Agnes_; and Master _Coward_, with their _Tom_ and _Susan_; and Master and Mistress _Armstrong_, with their _Ben_, _Nicholas_, and _Gillian_. Last of all come Master _Park_ and Master _Murthwaite_, both together, and their mistresses, with the young folk,--_Hugh_ and _Austin Park_, and _Dudley_, _Faith_, and _Temperance Murthwaite_. So our four-and-thirty guests, with ourselves, thirteen, made in all a goodly company of forty-seven.

First, when all were come in and had doffed their out-door raiment, and greeting over, we sat us down to supper: where one of the barons of beef, and plum-porridge, and apple-pies, and chicken-pies, and syllabub, and all manner of good things: but in very deed I might scarce eat my supper for laughing at _Nym Lewthwaite_, that was sat right over against me, and did scarce taste aught, but spent the time in gazing lack-a-daisically on our _Helen_, and fetching great sighs with his hand laid of his heart. Supper o'er, we first had snap-dragon, then hot cockles, then blindman's buff, then hunt the weasel. We pausing to take breath at after, _Father_ called us to sing; so we gathered all in the great chamber, and first _Mynheer_ sang a _Dutch_ song, and then Sir _Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_ a rare part-song, touching the beauties of spring-time. Then sang Farmer _Benson_, Master _Armstrong_, and _Ben_ and _Agnes_, "The hunt is up," which was delightsome to hear. Then Aunt _Joyce_ would sing "Pastime with good company," and would needs have _Milisent_ and me and _Robin Lewthwaite_ to help her. After this _Jack Lewthwaite_ and _Nick Armstrong_ made us to laugh well, by singing "The cramp is in my purse full sore." The music ended with a sweet glee of _Faith_ and _Temperance Murthwaite_ (something sober, but I know it liked _Father_ none the worse) and the old _English_ song of "Summer is ycumen in," sung of _Father_ and Sir _Robert_, our _Helen_, and _Isabel Meade_. Then we sat around the fire till rear-supper, and had "Questions and Commands," and cried forfeits, and wound up with "I love my love." And some were rare witty and mirthful in that last, particularly Sir _Robert_, who did treat his love to oranges and orfevery in the _Orcades_ [Hebrides] (and _Father_ said he marvelled how he gat them there), and Aunt _Joyce_, who said her love was _Benjamin Breakrope_, and he came from the Tower of _Babel_. Then, after that, fell we a-telling stories: and a right brave one of _Father_, out of one of his old Chronicles, how Queen _Philippa_ gat a pardon from her lord for the six gentlemen of _Calais_: and a merry, of Dr _Meade_, touching King _John_ and the Abbot of _Canterbury_, and the three questions that the King did ask at the Abbot's gardener (he playing his master), and the witty answers he made unto him. Then would Master _Armstrong_ tell a tale; and an awesome ghost-story it were, that made my flesh creep, and _Milisent_ whispered in mine ear that she should sleep never a wink at after it.

"Eh!" saith Farmer _Benson_, and fetched an heavy sigh: "ghosts be ill matter of an house."

"Saw you e'er a ghost, Farmer _Benson_?" saith _Dudley Murthwaite_.

"Nay, lad," quoth he: "I've had too much good daylight work in my time to lie awake a-seeing ghosts when night cometh."

"Ah, but I've seen a ghost," saith _Austin Park_.

"Oh, where?" cried a dozen together.

"Why, it was but night afore last," saith he, "up by the old white-thorn that was strake of the lightning, come two years last Midsummer, just at yon reach o' the lake that comes up higher than the rest."

"Ay, ay," saith Farmer _Benson_: "and what like were it, Master _Austin_?"

"A woman all in white, with her head cut off," quoth he.

"Said she aught to thee?"

"Nay, I gave her no chance; I took to my heels," quoth he.

"Now, _Austin_, that should I ne'er have done," saith Aunt _Joyce_, who believes in ghosts never a whit. "I would have stood my ground, for I did never yet behold a ghost, and would dearly love to do it: and do but think how curious it should be to find out what she spake withal, that had her head cut off."

"Mistress _Joyce_, had you found you, as I did, close to a blasted tree, and been met of a white woman with no head, I'll lay you aught you will you'd never have run no faster," saith _Austin_ in an injured tone.

"That should I _not_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ boldly. "I shall win my fortune at that game, _Austin_, if thou deny not thy debts of honour. Why, man o' life, what harm should a blasted tree do me? Had the lightning struck it that minute while I stood there, then might there have been some danger: but because the lightning struck it two years gone, how should it hurt me now? And as to a woman with no head, that would I tarry to believe till I had stripped off her white sheet and seen for myself."

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_," cries old Mistress _Rigg_, "but sure you should never dare to touch a ghost?"

"There be not many things, save sin, Mistress _Rigg_, that I should not dare to do an' it liked me. I have run after a thief with a poker: ay, and I have handled a Popish catchpoll, in Queen _Mary's_ days, that he never came near my house no more. And wherefore, I pray you tell me, should I be more feared of a spirit without a body than of a spirit within the body?--_Austin_, if thou meet the ghost again, prithee bid her come up to _Selwick_ Hall and ask for _Joyce Morrell_, for I would give forty shillings to have a good talk with her. Only think, how much a ghost could tell a body!"

"Lack-a-day, Mistress _Joyce_, I'll neither make nor meddle with her!" cries _Austin_.

"Poor weak soul!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. Whereat many laughed.

So, after a while, sat we down to rear-supper; and at after that, gathered in small groups, twos and threes and the like, and talked: and I with _Isabel Meade_, and _Temperance Murthwaite_, and _Austin Park_, had some rare merriment touching divers matters. When all at once I heard Aunt _Joyce_ say--

"Well, but what ill were there in asking questions of spirits, if they might visit the earth?"

"The ill for which _Adam_ was turned forth of _Eden_," saith _Father_: "disobedience to a plain command of God. Look in the xviii chapter of _Deuteronomy_, and you shall see necromancy forbidden by name. That is, communication with such as be dead."

"But that were for religion, Sir _Aubrey_," saith Master _Coward_. "This, look you, were but matter of curiousness."

"That is to say, it was _Eva's_ sin rather than _Adam's_," _Father_ makes answer. "Surely, that which is forbid as solemn matter of religion, should be rather forbid as mere matter of curiousness."

"But was that aught more than a ceremonial law of the _Jews_, no longer binding upon _Christians_?" saith Sir _Robert_.

"Nay, then, turn you to _Paul's_ Epistle to _Timothy_," quoth _Father_, "where among the doctrines taught by them that shall depart from the faith, he doth enumerate `doctrines of devils,'--or, as the _Greek_ hath it, of demons. Now these demons were but dead men, whom the _Pagans_ held to be go-betweens for living men with their gods. So this, see you, is a two-edged sword, forbidding all communication with the dead, whether as saints to be invoked, or as visitants to be questioned."

"Nobody's like to question 'em save Mistress _Joyce_," saith Farmer _Benson_, of his husky voice, which alway soundeth as though he should have an ill rheum of his throat.

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed. "Nay, I were but joking," quoth she: "but I warrant you, if I meet _Austin's_ white woman without a head, I'll see if she be ghost or no."

"But what think you, Sir _Aubrey_--wherefore was such communication forbid?" saith Master _Murthwaite_.

"God wot," saith _Father_. "I am not of His council-chamber. My Master's plain word is enough for me."

"One might think that a warning from beyond the grave should have so solemn an effect on a sinner."

"Nay, we be told right contrary. `If they hear not _Moses_ and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rise from death again.' How much rather when One hath risen from the dead, and they have refused to hear Him?"

Then arose Dr _Meade_, that was discoursing with _Mynheer_ of a corner, and prayers were had. After which a grace-cup, and then all took their leave, Master _Park_ being last to go as to come. And just ere he was through the door, saith _Austin_ to Aunt _Joyce_, a-laughing--

"You'll mind to let me know, Mistress _Joyce_, what the ghost saith to you. I can stand it second-hand, may-be."

"That's a jolly hearing, from one of the stronger sex to one of the weaker!" quoth she. "Well said, thou mocking companion: I will give thee to wit--a piece of my mind, if no more."

_Christmas-Day_, of course, all to church: and in the even sat down to supper seventy-six, all but ourselves poor men and women and childre. And two of the barons of beef, and six bowls of plum-porridge, and one hundred pies of divers kinds,--to say nought of lesser dishes, that _Milly_ counted up to eighty. Then after, snap-dragon, whereat was much mirth; and singing of _Christmas_ carols, and games with the childre. And all away looking mighty pleased.

Daft _Madge_ would know of me if the angels lived o' plum-porridge. I told her I thought not so.

"It is like to be somewhat rare good," quoth she. "The Lord's so rich, look you,--main richer nor Sir _Aubrey_. If t' servant gives poor folk plum-porridge, what'll t' Master give?"

_Father_ answered her, for he was close by--

"`Fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined.'"

"Eh, that sounds good!" saith she, a-licking of her lips. "And that's for t' hungry folk, Master?"

"It is only for hungry folk," saith he. "'Tis not thrown away on the full ones. `Whosoever will, take,' saith the Lord, who gives the feast."

"Eh, then I shall get some!" saith she, a-laughing all o'er her face, as she doth when she is pleased at aught. "You'll be sure and let me know when 'tis, Master? I'll come, if 'tis snow up to t' knees all t' way."

"The Lord will be sure and let thee know, _Madge_, when 'tis ready," saith _Father_; for he hath oft said that little as poor _Madge_ can conceive, he is assured she is one of God's childre.

"Oh, if 'tis _Him_ to let me know, 't'll be all right," saith _Madge_, smiling and drawing of her cloak around her. "He'll not forget _Madge_--not He. He come down o' purpose to die for _me_, you know."

_Father_ saith, as _Madge_ trudged away in her clogs after old _Madge_, her grandmother--

"Ah, rich _Madge_--not poor! May-be thine shall be the most abundant entrance of any in this chamber."

I am at the end of my month, and as to-morrow I hand the book to _Helen_. But I dare not count up my two-pences, for I am feared they be so many.


Note 1. Complexion, at this date, signified temperament, not colour. The Middle Age physicians divided the complexions of mankind into four-- the lymphatic, the sanguine, the nervous, and the bilious: and their treatment was always grounded on these considerations. Colour of skin, hair, and eyes, being considered symptomatic of complexion, the word was readily transferred from one to the other.



"'Twas but one little drop of sin
We saw this morning enter in,
And lo! at eventide the world is drowned."


(_In Helen's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE IV. Dear heart, but I ne'er thought our _Edith_ should have filled so much paper! Yet it doth seem me she is more livelier at writing than at household duties. I have watched her pen a-flying of a night (for she can write twice as fast as I, she writing of the new _Italian_ hand, and I but the old _English_) [Note 1] till I marvelled whate'er she found to say. And methinks she hath, likewise, a better memory than I, for I reckon I should have made some mighty blunder in all these long talks which she hath set down so pat.

I had no time to write afore to-day, nor much now: for o' New Year's Day had we all the childre of all the vicinage, and I were fair run off my feet, first a-making ready, and then a-playing games. Then was there a 'stowing away of such matter as should not be wanted again o' Twelfth Night. Trust me, but after Twelfth Night we shall have some jolly work!

Dear heart! but how much hath happed since the last line I writ in this book, and 'tis but two months gone. I do see, as saith the wise man, that we verily wit not what a day may bring forth.

Our _Milly_ is coming back something to her old self, though methinks she hath learned an hard lesson, and shall ne'er be so light and foolish as aforetime. I trust this is not unkindly to say, for in very deed I mean it not so. But more and more hear we of all sides touching this Master _Norris_ (as Aunt _Joyce_ saith is his true name), which doth plainly show him a right evil man, and that if our poor _Milly_ had trusted to his fair words, she should soon have had cause to repent her bitterly thereof. Why, there is scarce a well-favoured maid in all _Derwentdale_, nor _Borrowdale_, that hath not token to show of him, and an heap of besugared flatteries for to tell. Eh, but what an ill world is this we live in!--and how thankful should young maids be that have a good home to shelter them in, and a loving father and mother to defend them from harm! Trust me, but I never knew how ill place was the world.

Nor did I ever truly conceive aforetime of Aunt _Joyce_. Methought that for her, being rich and well to do, the wheels of life had run rare smooth: and that 'twas but a short way to the bottom of her mind and heart. And all suddenly an hand uplifts the corner of a curtain that I had taken no note of, and lo! a mighty deep that I never guessed to be there. Is it thus with all folks, I do marvel?--and if we could look into the inwards of them that seem as though nought were in them, should we find great dreary caverns, or vast mines of wealth? Yet for all this is Aunt _Joyce_ ever bright and cheery, and ready to do all kindly service for whoso it be that needeth it. And 'tis harder to carry an heavy burden that it shall not show under your cloak, than to heave it up on your shoulder. I did alway love Aunt _Joyce_, but never better, methinks, than sithence I have known somewhat more of her inner mind. Poor hasty spirits that we be, how do we misjudge other folk! But now I must tarry in my chronicling, for I hear _Anstace'_ voice below, and I reckon she is come to help in making ready for Twelfth Night.

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE VIII. Well! Twelfth Night is o'er, and the most of things 'stowed away, and all come back to our common ways. Sixty-eight guests had we, grown folk and childre, and I shall not essay, as I see _Edith_ hath done rarely, to set down all their names; only there were most of those that come on _Christmas_ Eve, but not Dr _Meade_ and his folks, he being bidden of my Lord _Dilston_. Much merriment was there a-drawing of king and queen, and it o'er, behold, _Dudley Murthwaite_ was King, and _Mother_ was Queen. So _Father_ (which had drawn the Chamberlain) right courtlily hands _Mother_ up to the throne, that was set at the further end of the great chamber, all laughing rarely to see how well 'twas done: and _Martha Rigg, Agnes Benson, Gillian Armstrong_, and our _Milly_, that had drawn the Maids of Honour, did dispose themselves behind her. Aunt _Joyce_ was Mother of the Maids, and she said she would have a care to rule them with a rod of iron. So she armed her with the poker, and shaked it at each one that tittered, till the most were a-holding of their sides with laughter. _Jack Lewthwaite_ drew the Chancellor, and right well he carried him. Ere their Majesties abdicated, and the Court dispersed, had we rare mirth, for Aunt _Joyce_ laid afore the throne a 'plaint of one of her maids for treason, which was _Gillian_, that could no way keep her countenance: and 'twas solemnly decreed of their Majesties, and ratified of the Chancellor, that the said prisoner be put in fetters, and made to drink poison: the which fetters were a long piece of silver lace that had come off a gown of _Mother's_, and the poison a glass of syllabub, which Mr Chancellor brought to the prisoner, that screamed and begged for mercy, but had it not--and hard work had _Gillian_ to beg for mercy, for she was laughing till she could scarce utter no words. Howbeit, this o'er, all we gathered around the fire, and played at divers sitting games. And as we were in the midst of "I love my love," and had but just finished R,-- afore _Margaret Benson_, that was next, could begin with S,--behold, a strange voice behind, yet no strange one, crieth out loud and cheery--

"I love my love with an S, because she is sweet; I hate her with S, because she is sulky: I took her to the sign of the _Ship_, and treated her to sprats and seaweed; her name is _Sophonisba Suckabob_, and she comes from _San Sebastian_."

Well, we turned round all and looked on him that had spoke, but in good sooth not one of us knew the bright fresh face, until _Mother_ cries out,--"_Ned_! _Ned_, my boy!" and then, I warrant you, there was some kissing and hand-shaking, ay, more than a little.

"Fleet ahoy!" saith _Ned_. "Haven't seen so many crafts in the old harbour, for never so long."

"Why, _Ned_, hast thou forgot 'tis Twelfth Night?" says _Milly_.

"So 'tis," quoth _Ned_. "Shall I dance you a hornpipe?"

So after all the greeting was done, _Ned_ sat down next to _Mother_: but we gat no further a-loving of our loves that night, for all wanted to hear _Ned_, that is but now come back from the _Spanish_ seas: and divers tales he told that were rare taking, and one or twain that did make my flesh creep: but truly his sea-talk is rare hard to conceive. When all at once saith _Ned_:--

"Have you a ghost cruising these parts?"

"Eh, _Ned_, hast thou seen her?" cries _Austin Park_.

"Who's her?" saith _Ned_. "I've seen a craft with a white hull and all sails up, in the copse nigh old _Nanny's_."

"Couldst thou make it thy conveniency to speak _English, Ned_?" saith _Father_. "That is the language we talk in _Derwentdale_."

_Ned_ laughed, and saith, "I'll endeavour myself; but 'tis none so easy to drop it. Well, who or what is it?"

"'Tis a ghost," saith _Austin_; "and folks laughed at me when I said I had seen it: may-be they'll give o'er now."

"Why didst not send a buck-shot through her?" quoth _Ned_.

"Good lack! I had no arms," saith _Austin_: "and what good should come o' shooting a ghost?"

"Make you first sure she is a ghost," saith _Father_: "for it should be right little good that should come of shooting a woman."

This was all said that night; and we brake up at nine o' the clock, and away hied our guests.

But yestereven, as I was a-crossing of the hall, just after the dusk fell, what should I see but Aunt _Joyce_, clad in hood, cloak, and pattens, drawing back of the bolt from the garden door: and I ran to help her.

"Why, Aunt _Joyce_, whither go you so late?" said I. "But may-be I do ill to ask."

"Nay, thou dost not so, child," saith she: "and I will take thee into my secret, for I can trust thee. _Nell_, I am going to see the ghost."

"Aunt _Joyce_," was all I could utter.

"Ay," saith she, "I will: for my mind misgives me that this is no ghost, but a living woman: and a woman that it should be well had an other woman to speak unto her. Be not afeared, dear heart; I am not running afore I am sent. It was said to me last night, `Go in this thy might.' And when the Lord sends men on His errands, He pays the charges."

"But if you should be hurt, _Aunt_!" cried I.

"Well, what so?" saith she. "He were a poor soldier that were afeared to be hurt in his King's battles. But if it be as I think, _Nell_, there is no fear thereof. And if there were, mine ease is of less moment than a sinner's soul. Nay, dear maid, take thine heart to thee [cheer up]. There is more with me than all the constables in _Cumberland_. `Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He,--in heaven, and in the earth, and in the seas, and in all deep places.' I am not afeared, _Nell_."

And away trudged she, without an other word. But I sat on thorns till, about seven o' the clock, she came into the great chamber, her hood and cloak doffed.

"Why, _Joyce_, I had lost thee," saith _Mother_, looking up brightly from her sewing.

"I would rather thou hadst lost me than the Lord, _Lettice_: and if thou hadst not, methinks He had found me wanting," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Now, dear hearts, list me. I have much trust in you, _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_, or I had not dared to do as I have done this night. I have brought into your house a woman that is a sinner. Will you turn her forth of the doors to die in the snow without, or will you let her 'bide till she hath had time to behold Him that sitteth as guest at your banquet, and, I would hope, to wash His feet with tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head?"

"O _Joyce_, let her 'bide!" crieth _Mother_, and the tears ran down her cheeks.

"Amen!" saith _Father_, gently.

"But who is she?" saith _Mother_, as if something fearfully.

"She is,"--Aunt _Joyce's_ voice was very husky--"she is what our _Milisent_ would have been, if the Lord had not stayed her right at the last minute."

So then I knew that _Blanche Lewthwaite_ was found at last.

There were none in the chamber, as it happed, but _Father_, _Mother_, and me, when _Aunt_ came in.

"And what hath she to say?" asks _Mother_.

"She will not talk of the past," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "and, God wot, I shall not ask her."

"Is she very 'shamed and sorrowful?"

"Never a whit. She is more angered than aught else."

"Angered!--with whom?"

"With _Providence_, I take it," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, something drily. "She counts a miracle should have been wrought for her to hinder her from sinning, and that since it were not, there can be no blame laid at her door."

"So hard as that!" saith _Mother_.

"May-be not all through," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer. "The crust seems thick at present: but there may be a soft spot deep down below. I shall work till I find it."

"Is she not softened toward thee?" asks _Father_.

"Me!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a bitter little laugh. "Why, so far as I can make out, I am but one step fairer than _Providence_ in her eyes. I gat not much flattery this even, I can tell you--no more than I had of _Milly_ a month gone. Nay, _Aubrey_. He that would save a sinner against his will must not expect thanks from him."

"Shall I go to her, _Joyce_?" saith _Mother_, and rose up.

"As thou wilt, _Lettice_," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Only, an' thou so dost, look not for any fair words save out of thine own mouth. She is in the green chamber. I locked her in."

"Hath she had to eat?" saith _Mother_.

"Ay; I saw to that ere I came below."

_Mother_ went forth of the chamber.

"May I see her, Aunt _Joyce_," said I, "or must I not?"

"Better not at this present, _Nell_," she made answer. "But--I am not sure that it were not well for _Milly_."

When _Mother_ came down again, she saith in a despairing voice, and spreading forth her hands--

"O _Joyce_, she is as hard as a stone!"

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, quietly. "So, I reckon, was _Peter_, until the Lord turned and looked upon him. That melted him, _Lettice_. Leave us take _Blanche_ to the Lord."

"Sin is the most hardening thing in the world, dear heart," saith _Father_, sadly.

So here is poor _Blanche_, locked of the green chamber, with Aunt _Joyce_ for her waiting-maid, for none other will she have to enter--not even _Mother_, for her one talk with _Blanche_ hath sore distressed her.

"Wait a while, _Lettice_," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "I will bid thee when I reckon any good should come of it."

_Milisent_ hath been told, and seemeth much touched therewith: but none of us have yet seen _Blanche_. Poor heart! may the good Lord have mercy upon her!

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XII. _Mother_, and I with her, went up this morrow to _Mere Lea_, to do Mistress _Lewthwaite_ to wit touching _Blanche_. We found her right busy a-making of pies, and _Alice_ by her paring of apples. She gave us good welcome, and we sat us down, and talked a short while of other matter. Then saith _Mother_:--

"Suffer me to ask at you, Mistress _Lewthwaite_, if you have heard ever any news of _Blanche_?"

Mistress _Lewthwaite_ shaked her head sorrowfully.

"Nay, not we," saith she. "It should be a good day we did. Albeit, her father is sore angered: yet methinks if he did verily stand face to face with the child, he should not be so hard on her as he talks now."

"Then I hope the good day is coming," saith _Mother_. "For methinks, neighbour, we have heard somewhat."

Mistress _Lewthwaite_ left her pastry of the board, and come up to _Mother_.

"Eh, Lady _Lettice_, what have you heard? Tell me quick, now!"

"My poor heart, I saw her last night."

"Where is the child?"

"With us, at _Selwick_ Hall. _Joyce_ found her, wandering about, and hiding in copses, and she brought her in."

"And what hath happed, Lady _Lettice_?"

"We have not asked her."

"Not asked her!" saith Mistress _Lewthwaite_, in manifest amazement; and _Alice_ looked up with the like.

"We know," saith _Mother_, "but such matter as it hath liked her to tell us: the which is, that she was wed to this gentleman of a _Popish_ priest, which as you know is not good in law: and that after she had bidden with him but a fortnight, they quarrelled, and he left her."

"Ah, she ne'er had a good temper, hadn't _Blanche_," saith her mother. "Well, poor heart! I'll not quarrel with her. We're all sinners, I reckon. The lass may come home when she will, for all me; and I'll do mine utmost to peace her father. We haven't so much time o' this world, nor so much happiness, that we need wrangle and make matters worser."

For Mistress _Lewthwaite_ is herself a right easy-going woman: 'tis her father of whom _Blanche_ hath her temper. But _Alice_ saith to me, that sat right at the end of the board where she was a-work--

"All very well, methinks, for my fine mistress to come hither a-prinking and a-pranking of her, and looking to be took back as if nought had happened. If I had the word to say, she'd not come home in no hurry, I warrant you. She should lie on her bed as she'd made it."

"O _Alice_!" said I, "but sure, thou wilt be right glad to have _Blanche_ back?"

"Shall I so?" saith she, and tossed her head. "Thank you for nothing, _Nell Louvaine_. I'm a decent maid that have alway carried me belike, and I go not about to say `sister' to one that brought disgrace on her name."

"_Alice_, art thou about to play the _Pharisee_?" said I, for I was sore troubled. I had ever thought _Alice_ right sorry after _Blanche_, and it did astonish me to hear such words of her.

"Let my fine Lady _Everett_ play the publican first, then," quoth she.

I scarce wist what to say, yet I would have said more, but that _Mother_ rose up to depart at this time. But I am so astonied at _Alice_. While so _Blanche_ were lost, she did seem quite soft toward her; and now she is found, here is _Alice_ grown hard as a board, and all of a minute, as it were. Had it been our _Milly_ (which I do thank God from mine heart-root it is not) I think I would not have been thus towards her. I know I am but sinful and not to be trusted for the right, as much or more than other: but I do _think_ I should not so do.

Yet is there one matter that I comprehend not, nor never shall, neither of _Milly_ nor of any other. To think of a maid leaving of father and mother, and her home, and her brethren and sisters, to go away with a fine-spoken man that she had not known a month, all by reason he spake some flattering words--in good sooth, but 'tis a marvel unto me. Truly, I might conceive the same in case a maid were rare ill-usen at home-- were her father ever harsh unto her, and her mother all day a-nagging at her--then, if the man should show him no mere flatterer, but a true friend, would I not stick to the days she had known him. And yet, as methinks, it should be a strange case wherein a true man should not go boldly and honestly to the maid's father, and ask her of him, with no hole-and-corner work. But to think of so leaving _our_ father and mother, that never in all their lives did deny us any good thing that was meet for us, and that have loved us and cared for us all, from the day we were born unto this day--to go away from them with a strange flatterer--nay, this passeth me by many a mile.

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XVI. This morrow, as I was sat a-work alone in the great chamber, come my Lady _Stafford_, with her broidery in her hand, and sat her down beside me. And ere many minutes were passed, saith she--

"_Helen_, I have been to see _Blanche_."

"And is she still so hard, my Lady?" said I.

"I should not call her mood hard," saith she. "I think she is very, very sorry, and would fain not have us see it. But," she paused a moment, and then went on, "it is the worldly sorrow which causeth death."

"Your Ladyship would say?"

"She is right sorry for my Lady _Everett_, for the great lady she thought to have been, and the grand life she looked to lead: but for _Blanche Lewthwaite_ as a sinner before God, methinks she is not sorry at all."

"'Tis a sad case," said I.

My Lady _Stafford_ gave me no answer, and when I looked up at her, I saw her dark eyes fastened on the white clouds which were floating softly across the blue, and her eyes so full that they all-to [nearly] ran o'er.

"_Helen_," she saith, "hast thou any idea what is sin?"

"Truly, Madam, I think so," I made answer.

"I marvel," she pursueth, "if there ever were man or woman yet, that could see it as God seeth it. It may be that unto Him all the evil that _Blanche_ hath done--and 'tis an evil with many sides to it--is a lesser thing than the pride and unbelief which will not give her leave to own that she hath done it. And for what others have done--"

All suddenly, her Ladyship brake off, and hiding her face in her kerchief, she brake into such a passion of weeping tears as methought I had scarce seen in any woman aforetime.

"O my God, my God!" she sobbeth through her tears, "how true is it that `man knows the beginnings of sin, but who boundeth the issues thereof!'" [Note 2.]

I felt that my Lady's trouble, the cause whereof was unknown to me, lay far beyond any words, specially of me: and I could but keep respectful silence till she grew calm. When so were, quoth she--

"Dost marvel at my tears, _Helen_?"

"In no wise, Madam," said I: "for I reckoned there were some cause for them, beyond my weak sight."

"Cause!" saith she--"ay, _Helen_, cause more than thou wist. Dost know that this _Leonard Norris_--the man that hath wrought all this mischief--and more beside than thou or I can tell--is my brother, of the father's side?"

"Madam!" cried I in amaze.

"Ay," saith she sorrowfully: "and that is not all, _Helen_, by very much. For our father was just such an other: and not only are the sins, but the leanings and temptations of the fathers, visited upon the children. And I thought, _Helen_, beyond that--of a quiet grave in unconsecrate ground, wherein, now nigh fifty years agone, they laid one that had not sinned against the light like to _Blanche Lewthwaite_, yet to whom the world was harder than it is like to be to her. She was lawfully wed, _Helen_, but she stood pledged to convent vows, and the Church cursed her and flung her forth as a loathsome thing. Her life for twelve years thereafter was a daily dying, whereto death came at last as a hope and a mercy. I reckon the angels drew not their white robes aside, lest her soiled feet should brush them as she passed up to the Judgment Bar. And methinks her sentence from the Judge should be no worser than one He gave in the days of His flesh--`Thy sins be forgiven thee: go in peace.' The Church cast her out, but not the Cross. There was no room for her in the churchyard: but methinks there was enough in the Sepulchre on _Golgotha_!"

Oh, but how sorry I felt for this poor soul! and I saw she was one whom her Ladyship had loved well.

"There was a time, _Helen_," she went on, "when it seemed to me uttermost misery that no prayers should be permitted for her soul. Think thou with what comfort I found in God's Word that none were needed for her. Ah, these _Papists_ will tell you of the happiness of their priests' fatherly care, and the sweetness of absolution: but they tell you not of the agony of despair to them to whom absolution is denied, and for whom the Church and the priest have no words save curses. I have seen it, _Helen_. Well for them whom it drives straight to Him that is high above all Churches, and who hath mercy on whom He will have mercy. Praise be to His holy name, that the furthest bounds of men's forbearance touch not the `uttermost' of God."

When my Lady thus spake, it came upon my mind all of a sudden, to ask at her somewhat the which had troubled me of long time. I marvel wherefore it should be, that it doth alway seem easier to carry one's knots and griefs unto them that be not the nearest and dearest, than unto them that be. Is it by reason that courtesy ordereth that they shall list the better, and not be so like to snub a body?--yet that can scarce be so with me, that am alway gently entreated both of _Father_ and _Mother_. Or is it that one would not show ignorance or mistakings afore them one loves, nor have them hereafter cast in one's teeth, as might be if one were o'erheard of one's sist--Good lack! but methought I were bettered of saying unkindly things. I will stay me, not by reason that it should cost me two pence, but because I do desire to please God and do the right.

Well, so I said unto my Lady, "Madam, I pray you pardon me if I speak not well, but there is one place of Holy Writ that doth sore pose and trouble me. It is that of Saint _Paul_, which saith, that if they that were once enlightened shall fall away, there shall be no hope to renew them again. That doth alway seem to me so awful a word!--to think of one that had sinned longing for forgiveness, and yet must not have it--I cannot understand how it should be, when _Christ_ liveth to save to the uttermost!"

"Nor any other," saith she. "Dear _Helen_, thou readest it wrong, as I believe many do. The Apostle saith not, there is no renewing to _pardon_: he saith, there is no renewing to _repentance_. With them that have sinned against light, the language of whose hearts is, `I have loved idols, and after them I will _go_,'--these have no desire of remission. They do not wish to be forgiven. But these, dear maid, are not they that long for pardon and are willing to turn from sin. That is repentance. So long as a sinner can repent, so long can he receive pardon. The sinner that doth long for forgiveness which God can not or will not give him, is a monster was never found yet in this world or that which is to come."

Right comfortable did I think these words. I never should have dared (as _Milly_ saith touching the 139th Psalm) to have turned o'er the two leaves together that I might not see this sixth chapter of _Hebrews_: yet did I never see it without a diseaseful creeping feeling, belike, coming o'er me. And I am sore afeared lest I may have come nigh, at times, to wishing that Saint _Paul_ had not writ the same.

"Yet mark thou, _Helen_," again saith my Lady, "there is a difference betwixt remission of sin and remission of penalty. Every sinner should be glad enough to part with his punishment: but no sinner was ever yet willing to part with his sin but under the promptings of God's Spirit. And that is but a sorry repentance which would fain keep the sin, if only it might without incurring penalty."

"Madam, you do cause sin to look very awful," said I.

"That is how God would have thee see it, _Helen_," saith she. "Remember, He hates sin not for His own sake only, but for thy sake. Ah, dear maid, when some sin, or some matter that perhaps scarce seems sin to thee, yet makes a cloud to rise up betwixt God and thee--when this shall creep into thy very bosom, and nestle himself there warm and close, and be unto thee as a precious jewel--remember, if so be, that `it is better _for thee_ to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than thou shouldst, having two hands, or two feet, be cast into everlasting fire.' He that said that, _Helen_, knew what Hell was."

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XXI. _Blanche_ is gone home at last. Aunt _Joyce_ and I went thither this last night with her, her mother having wrung consent from her father that she should come. For all that was the scene distressful, for Master _Lewthwaite_ kept not in divers sharp speeches, and _Blanche_ (that is sore wanting in reverence to her elders) would answer back as she should not: but at the last Mistress _Lewthwaite_ gat them peaced, and _Alice_ and _Blanche_ went off together. _Alice_ behaved better than my fears. But, dear heart, to my thinking, how hard and proud is _Blanche_! Why, she would brazen it out that she hath done none ill of no kind. The good Lord open her eyes!

When we came out from _Mere Lea_, and were come down the garden path, Aunt _Joyce_ stood a moment on the hill-side, her eyes lift up to the still stars.

"Good Lord!" then saith she, "how hard be we poor sinful men and women, each to other, and how much more forbearing art Thou against whom we have sinned! Make Thou Thy servants more like Thyself!"

And then away, with a quick foot, and never an other word spake she till we gat us home.

SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XXVII. When I come to read o'er that I have writ, I find I have said rare little touching _Ned_. And in very deed it is not that I meant to keep him out, for _Ned_ is my very hero, and my true thought is that never yet were young man so brave and good, nor so well-favoured. I must say I would I could conceive his talk better: for 'tis all so stuffed with sea-words that I would fain have an interpreter. _Ned_ laughs when I say this.

"Well," saith he, "'tis the strangest thing in the world you should not conceive me. 'Tis all along of you being maids, I reckon."

"Nay," say I, "'tis by reason we were ne'er at sea."

"Well, how any human creature can be a landlubber," saith _Ned_, "when he might have a good boat and a stiff capful o' wind, passeth me rarely."

"Why," quoth _Father_, that had listed us in silence till now, "if we were all sailors and mermen, _Ned_, how wouldst come by a sea-biscuit or a lump of salt meat? There should be none to sow nor reap, if the land were deserted."

"Oh ay, 'tis best some should love it," saith _Ned_. "But how they so should, that is it passeth me."

"'Tis a strange matter," saith _Father_, "that we men should be all of us unable to guess how other men can affect that we love not. I dare be bound that _Wat_ should say what passed him was that any man which might dwell on the land should take to the sea."

"_Wat_!" saith Ned, curling of his lip. "I saw him, Sir, and spent two days in his company, when we touched at _London_ some eight months gone. Why, he is--Nay, I wis not what he is like. All the popinjays in the South Seas be fools to him."

"Is he so fine, _Ned_?" asks _Milly_.

"Fine!" saith _Ned_. "Go to, I have some whither an inventory of his Lordship's garments, the which I set down for the mirth of you maids. I gat the true names of _Wat_, look you."

And he pulleth forth a great bundle of papers from his pocket, and after some search lighteth on the right.

"Now then, hearken, all of you," saith _Ned_. "_Imprimis_, on his head--when it is on, but as every minute off it cometh to every creature he meeteth, 'tis not much--a _French_-fashioned beaver, guarded of a set of gold buttons enamelled with black--cost, eight pound."

"For a hat!" cries _Milly_.

"Tarry a bit," saith _Ned_; "I am not in port yet by a thousand knots. Then in this hat was a white curled ostrich feather, six shillings. Below, a gown of tawny velvet, wherein were six yards, _London_ measure, of four-and-twenty shillings the yard: and guarded with some make of fur (I forgat to ask him the name of that), two dozen skins, eight pence each: cost of this goodly gown, six pound, ten shillings, and four pence."

"Eh!" cried _Milly_ and _Edith_ together.

"Bide a bit!" saith _Ned_. "_Item_, a doublet, of black satin of sixteen shillings the yard, with points of three and sixpence the dozen. _Item_, a pair of hose of popinjay green (they be well called popinjay) of thirty shillings. _Item_, cross-garters of scarlet--how's that?" quoth _Ned_, scratching his forehead with a pencil: "I must have forgat the price o' them. Boots o' red _Spanish_ leather, nine shillings. Gloves of _Cordova_, well scented, ten pence. Gold rings of 's ears, three shilling the pair."

"Rings! Of his ears!" cries Cousin _Bess_, that was sat in the window at her sewing, as she mostly is of an afternoon. "And prithee, what cost the one of his nose?"

"He hasn't bought that yet," saith _Ned_ drily.

"It'll come soon, I reckon," quoth she.

"Then, o'er all, a mighty gold chain, as thick as a cart-rope. But that, as he told me, was given to him: so 'tis not fair to put it of the price. Eh, good lack! I well-nigh forgat the sleeves--green velvet, slashed of mallard-colour satin; and guarded o' silver lace--three pound, eight shillings, and four pence."

"Hast made an end, _Ned_?" saith _Edith_.

"Well, I reckon I may cast anchor," saith _Ned_, looking o'er to the other side of his paper.

"Favour me with the total, _Ned_," quoth _Father_.

"Twenty-three pound, two and six pence, Sir, I make it," saith _Ned_. "I am not so sure _Wat_ could. He saith figuring is only fit for shop-folk."

"Is thrift only fit for shop-folk too?" asks _Father_.

"I'll warrant you _Wat_ thinks so, Sir," answers _Ned_.

"What have thy garments cost this last year, _Ned_?" pursueth _Father_.

"Eh, five pound would buy mine any year," quoth he.

"And so I reckon would ten mine," saith _Father_. "What be _Wat's_ wages now?--is he any thing bettered?"

"Sixteen pound the year, Sir, as he told me."

"I guess shop-folk should be something put to it to take twenty-three out of sixteen," quoth _Father_.

"And prithee, _Ned_, how many such suits hath my young gentleman in his wardrobe?"

"That cannot I say certainly, Sir: but I would guess six or seven," _Ned_ makes answer. "But, dear heart! you wit not the half hath to come of that sixteen pound: beyond clothes, there be presents, many and rich (this last new year but one girdle of seven pound;) pomanders [perfumed balls, which served as scent-bottles], and boxes of orange comfits, and cups of tamarisk wood, and _aqua mirabilis_, and song books, and virginals [the predecessor of the piano] and viols [violins], and his portrait in little, and playing tables [backgammon], and speculation glasses [probably magnifying glasses], and cinnamon water, and sugar-candy, and fine _Venice_ paper for his letters, and pouncet-boxes--"

"Take breath, _Ned_," saith _Father_. "How many letters doth _Wat_ write by the year?"

"They be love-letters, on the _Venice_ paper," quoth _Ned_. "In good sooth, I wis not, Sir: only I saw them flying hither and thither as thick as Mother _Carey's_ chickens."

"Is he troth-plight?" saith _Father_, very seriously.

"Not that I heard," _Ned_ makes answer. "He had two or three strings to his bow, I guess. One a right handsome young lady, daughter unto my Lord of _Sheffield_, that had taken up with him the new fashion called _Euphuism_."

"Prithee interpret, _Ned_," saith _Father_, "for that passeth my weak head."

I saw _Milly_ to blush, and cast down her eyes of her tapestry-work: and I guessed she wist what it were.

"'Tis a rare diversion, Sir, come up of late," answers _Ned_: "whereby, when a gentlewoman and a gentleman be in treaty of love,--or without the same, being but friends--they do agree to call each other by certain dainty and fantastical names: as the one shall be _Perfection_, and the other _Hardihood_: or, the one _Sweetness_, and the other _Fortitude_: and the like. I prayed _Wat_ to show me how it were, or else had I wist no more than a baker how to reef a sail. The names whereby he and his lady do call each other be, she his _Excellency_, and he her _Courage_."

"Be these men and women grown?" quoth _Father_.

"Nay, sure!" cries Cousin _Bess_.

"Every one, Sir," saith _Ned_, a-laughing.

"And, poor souls! can they find nought better to do?" quoth _Father_.

"They have not yet, it seems," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Are you ne'er mocking of us, think you?" saith Cousin _Bess_ to _Ned_.

"Never a whit!" crieth he. "Eh, Cousin _Bess_, I could tell you queerer matters than that."

"Nay, I'll hear none, o' my good will," saith she. "_Paul_ saith we be to think on whatsoever things be lovely: and I reckon he wasn't like to mean on a parcel o' big babes, playing at make-believe."

"They have nought else to do, it appears," quoth _Father_.

"Dear heart!" saith she. "Could they ne'er buy a bale of flannel, and make some doublets and petticoats for the poor? He must be a poor silly companion that shall call a woman _Excellency_, when she hath done nought all her life but to pluck roses and finger her gold chain. Where's her excellency, belike?"

"Things were ill enough in the Court of old," saith _Father_, "but it doth seem me we were scantly so brainless of old time as this. I shall send a letter to my cousin of _Oxenford_ touching _Walter_. He must not be suffered to drift into--"

_Father_ did not end his sentence. But methought I could guess reasonable well how it should have been finished.

Verily, I am troubled touching _Wat_, and will pray for him, that he may be preserved safe from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Oh, what a blessed place must Heaven be, seeing there shall be none of them!

One thing, howbeit, doth much comfort me,--and that is, that _Ned_ is true and staunch as ever to the early training he had of _Father_ and _Mother_ out of God's Word. Some folk might think him careless and too fond of laughter, and fun, and the like: but I know _Ned_--of early days I was ever his secret fellow--and I am well assured his heart is right and true. He shall 'bide with us until Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ his next voyage out to the _Spanish_ seas, but we know not yet when that shall be. He had intended to make the coast of _Virginia_ this last time, but was beat back by the tempest. 'Tis said that when he goeth, his brother of the mother's side, Sir _Walter Raleigh_, shall go with him. This Sir _Walter_, saith _Ned_, is a young gentleman that hath but eight and twenty years, yet is already of much note in the Court. He hath a rare intelligence and a merry wit. Aunt _Joyce_ was mightily taken by one tale that _Ned_ told us of him,--how that, being at the house of some gentleman in the country, where the mistress of the house was mightily set up and precise, one morrow, this Sir _Walter_, that was a-donning [dressing] himself, did hear the said his precise and delicate hostess, without his door, to ask at her servants, "Be the pigs served?" No sooner had they met below, than saith Sir _Walter_, "Madam, be the pigs served?"

But my Lady, that moved not a muscle of her face, replied as calm as you will, "You know best, Sir, whether you have had your breakfast." Aunt _Joyce_ did laugh o'er this, and said Sir _Walter_ demerited to have as good given him as he brought.

"I do like," quoth she, "a woman that can stand up to a man!"

"I can credit it, _Joyce_," saith _Father_.


Note 1. The English hand was the running hand of the old black letter, and was a very crabbed and tedious piece of work. The Italian hand, which came in about this time, has lasted until the present day, though its latest variety has lost much of the old clearness and beauty. It was at its best in the reign of James the First, of which period some specimens of writing have been preserved, exquisitely beautiful, and as legible as copper-plate. Most lovely is the youthful hand of his eldest daughter: the cacography of her later years is, alas! something horrible. Queen Elizabeth could write the Italian hand (and did it to perfection), but she has left on record that she did not like doing it.

Note 2. These were the last words of Francesco Spira, an Italian lawyer and a pervert, whose terrible death, in the agonies of remorse and despair, made a deep and lasting impression on the Protestants of England.



"All the foolish work
Of fancy, and the bitter close of all."


"On all the sweet smile falleth
Of Him who loveth so,
But to one the sweet voice calleth,
`Arise, and let us go;
They wait to welcome thee,
This night, at Home, with Me.'"


(_In Milisent's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE II. This day was called of old time _Candlemas_, by reason of the great number of candles, saith _Father_, which were brent afore the altar at the Purification of Saint _Mary_. Being an holy day, all we to church this morrow, after the which I was avised to begin my chronicling.

And afore I set down anything else, 'tis meet I should say that I do now see plain how I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly. I would not think now to tear forth those pages I writ this last _November_, though they be such a record of folly and sin as few maids should need to set down. I would rather keep them, that I may see in future days all the ill that was once in _Milisent Louvaine_, and all the great mercy and goodness which the Lord my God did show me.

Oh, the bitter anger that was in mine heart that night toward dear Aunt _Joyce_!--who, next unto _Father_ and _Mother_, hath been to me as an angel of God. For had she not stopped me in my madness, where and what had I been to-night? I can scarce bear to think on it. Perchance I feel it the more, sith I am ever put in mind thereof by the woefully changed face of poor _Blanche_--_Blanche_, but three months gone the merriest of us all, and now looking as though she should never know a day's merriment again. Her whole life seems ruined: and Dr _Bell_, the chirurgeon at _Keswick_, told _Mother_ but yesterday that _Blanche_ should not live long. She hath, said he, a leaning of her nature toward the consumption of the lungs, the which was greatly worsened by those days that she hid in the copse, fearing to come home, until Aunt _Joyce_ went to her.

And to think that I might have been thus now--with nought but a wasted life to look back on, and nought to look forward to but a rapid and early death! And to know well, as I do know, that I have but mine own headstrong foolery to thank for the danger, and am far from having any wisdom of mine to thank for the rescue. Verily, I should be the humblest of women, all the days of my life.

Oh, when will young maids learn, without needing to have it brent into them of hot irons, that they which have dwelt forty or sixty years in this world be like to know more about its ways than they that have lived but twenty; or that their own fathers and mothers, which have loved and cared for them since they lay in the cradle, be not like to wreck their happiness, even for a while, without they have good cause! Of force, I know 'tis not every maid hath such a father and mother as we--thank God for the same!--but I do think, nevertheless, there be few mothers that be good women at all, which should not be willing to have their daughters bring their sorrows and joys to them, rather than pour them into the ear of the first man that will flatter them. I have learned, from Aunt _Joyce_, that there is oft a deal more in folk than other folk reckon, and that if we come not on the soft spot in a woman's heart, 'tis very commonly by reason that we dig not deep enough. Howbeit, Aunt _Joyce_ saith there be women that have no hearts. The good Lord keep them out of my path, if His will be!

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE V. This morrow, we maids were sat a-work in the great chamber, where was Aunt _Joyce_ a-work likewise, and _Mother_ coming in and out on her occasions. _Father_ was there, but he was wrapped in a great book that lay afore him. I cannot well mind how we gat on the matter, but Aunt _Joyce_ 'gan speak of the blunders that men do commonly make when they speak of women.

"Why," saith she, "we might be an other sort of animal altogether, instead of the one half of themselves. Do but look you what I have heard men to say in my life. A woman's first desire is to be wed; that's not true but of some women, and they be the least worthy of the sex. A woman can never keep a secret: that's not true but of some. A woman can never take a joke: that's as big a falsehood as _Westminster_ Abbey. A woman cannot understand reason and logic: that's as big an one as all _England_. Any woman can keep a house or manage a babe: heyday, can she so? I know better. Poor loons, what should they say if we made as great blunders touching them? And an other thing I will tell you which hath oft-times diverted me: 'tis the queer ways whereby a man will look to win favour of a woman. Nine men of every ten will suppose they shall be liked of a woman for telling her (in substance) that she is as good as if she had not been one. Now, that should set the man that did it out of my grace for ever and ever."

"How mean you, _Aunt_, an' it like you?" saith _Nell_.

"Why, look you here," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "But this last week, said I to Master _Coward_, touching somewhat he had said, `But,' said I, `that were not just.' Quoth he, `How, my mistress!--you a woman, and love justice?' Again: there was once a companion would fain have won me to wed him. When I said `Nay,' (and meant it), quoth he, `Oh, a maid doth never say yea at the first.' And I do believe that both these thought to flatter me. If they had but known how I longed to shake them! For look you what the words meant. A woman is never just: a woman is never sincere. And the dolts reckon it shall please us to know that they take us for such fools! Verily, I would give a pretty penny but to make them conceive that the scrap of flattery which they do offer to my particular is utterly swamped in the vast affront which they give to my sex in the general. But you shall rarely see a man to guess that. Moreover, there be two other points. Mark you how a man shall serve a woman, if he come to know that she hath the tongues [knows the classical languages]. Doth he take it as he should with an other man? Never a whit. He treats the matter as though an horse should read _English_, or a cat play the spinnet. What right hath he to account my brains so much worser than his (I being the same creature as he) that I cannot learn aught he can? `So mean-brained a thing as a woman to know as much as any man!' I grant you, he shall not say such words: but he shall say words that mean it. And then, forsooth, he shall reckon he hath paid me a compliment! I trow no woman should have brains as dull as that. And do tell me, belike, why a man that can talk right good sense to his fellows, shall no sooner turn him around to a woman, than he shall begin to chatter the veriest nonsense? It doth seem me, that a man never thinks of any woman but the lowest quality. He counts her loving, if you will; but alway foolish, frothy, witless. He'll take every one of you for that make of woman, till he find the contrary. Oh, these men! these men!"

"Ah!" saith _Father_. "I feel myself one of the inferior sex."

"_Aubrey_, what business hast thou hearkening?" quoth she. "I thought thou wert lost in yonder big book."

"I found myself again, some minutes gone," saith _Father_. "But thou wist, 'tis an old saw that listeners do never hear any good of themselves."

"I didn't mean thee, man!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Present company always excepted."

"Methought I was reckoned absent company," saith _Father_, with a twinkle in his eyes, and lifting his big book from the table. "Howbeit, I am not too proud to learn."

"Even from a woman?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "Thou art the pearl of men, if so be."

_Father_ laughed, and carried off his book, pausing at the door to observe--"There is some truth in much thou hast said, _Joyce_."

"Lack-a-day, what an acknowledgment from a man!" cries Aunt _Joyce_. "Yet 'tis fenced round, look you. `There is _some_ truth in _much_' I have said. Ah, go thy ways, my good _Aubrey_; thou art the best man ever I knew: but, alack! thou art a man, after all."

"Why, Aunt _Joyce_," saith _Edith_, who was laughing rarely, "what should we do, think you, if there were no men?"

"I would do some way, thou shouldst see," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sturdily.

And so she let the matter drop; or should so have done, but _Nell_ saith--

"I reckon we all, both men and women, have in us a touch of our father, old _Adam_!"

"And our mother, old _Eva_," said I.

"You say well, childre," quoth Aunt _Joyce_: "and she that hath the biggest touch of any I know is a certain old woman of _Oxfordshire_, by name _Joyce Morrell_."

Up springeth _Edith_, and giveth Aunt _Joyce_ a great hug.

"She is the best, sweetest, dearest old woman (if so be) ever I knew," saith she. "I except not even _Mother_, for I count not her an old woman."

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed, and paid _Edith_ back her hug with usury.

Then, when _Edith_ was set down again to her work, Aunt _Joyce_ saith--

"_Anstace_ was wont to say--my _Anstace_, not yours, my maids--that she which did commonly put herself in the lowest place should the seldomest find her out of her reckoning."

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY THE IX. Come Dr _Bell_ this morrow to let us blood, as is alway done of the spring-time. I do never love these blood-letting days, sith for a se'nnight after I do feel weak as water. But I reckon it must needs be, to keep away fever and plague and such like, the which should be worser than blood-letting a deal. All we were blooded, down to _Adam_; and Dr _Bell_ rode away, by sixteen shillings the richer man, which is a deal for a chirurgeon to earn but of one morrow. Aunt _Joyce_ saith she marvelleth if in time to come physicians cannot discover some herb or the like that shall purify folks' blood without having it run out of them like water from a tap. I would, if so be, that they might make haste and find the same.

_Father_ hath writ to his cousin my Lord of _Oxenford_, praying him to give leave for _Wat_ to visit us at home. 'Tis four years sithence he were here; and _Father_ hath been wont to say that shall be a rare well-writ letter which shall (in common cases) do half the good of a talk face to face. I can see he is somewhat diseaseful touching _Wat_, lest he should slide into ill ways.

We do hear of old _Nanny_, that cometh by nows and thens for waste victuals, that daft _Madge_ is something sick. Her grandmother reckons she caught an ill rheum that even of _Christmas_ Day when she were here: but _Madge_ herself will strongly deny the same, saying (poor maid!) that she never could take nought ill at _Selwick_ Hall, for never nought but good (saith she) came to her there. _Mother_ would go to visit her, but she hath an evil rheum herself, and _Father_ saith she must tarry at home this sharp frost: so Aunt _Joyce_ and I be to go this afternoon, and carry her a basket of comfortable things.

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE X. A rare basket that was _Mother_ packed yester-morrow for daft _Madge_. First went in a piece of beef, and then a goodly string of salt ling (for _Lent_ is nigh at hand [Note 1]), a little bottle of cinnamon water, divers pots of conserves and honey, a roll of butter, a half-dozen of eggs (which at this present are ill to come by, for the hens will scarce lay this frost weather); and two of the new foreign fruit called oranges [first introduced in 1568], which have been of late brought from abroad, and _Ned_ did bring unto _Mother_ a little basket of them.

We had an ill walk, for there hath been frost after snow, and the roads be slippy as they were greased with butter. Howbeit, we come at last safe to _Madge's_ door, and there found daft _Madge_ in a great chair afore the fire, propped up of pillows, and old _Madge_ her grandmother sat a-sewing, with her horn-glasses across her nose, and by her old _Isaac Crewdson_, that is daft _Madge_ her grandfather of the other side. She smiled all o'er her face when she saw us, and did feebly clap her hands, as she is wont to do when rare pleased.

"Good morrow, _Madge_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "See thou, my Lady _Lettice_ hath sent thee a basket of good things, to strengthen thee up a bit."

_Madge_ took Aunt _Joyce's_ hand, and kissed it.

"They'll be good, but your faces be better," saith she.

Old _Madge_ gat her up, and bustled about, unpacking of the basket, and crying out o' pleasure as she came to each thing and told what it were. But daft _Madge_ seemed not much to care what were therein, though she was ever wont dearly to love sweets, there being (I reckon) so few pleasures she had wit for. Only she sat still, gazing from Aunt _Joyce_ to me, and smiling on us.

"What art thinking, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

For, natural [idiot] though she be, _Madge_ is alway thinking. 'Tis very nigh as though there were a soul within her which tried hard to see through the smoked glass of her poor brains. Nay, I take it, so there is.

"I were thinking," saith she, "a-looking on your faces, what like it'll be to see His Face."

_Madge_ hath rarely any name for God. It is mostly "He."

"Wouldst love to see it, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Shall," quoth she, "right soon. He sent me word, Mistress _Joyce_, yestereven."

"Ay," saith old _Isaac_, "she reckons she's going."

"Wilt be glad, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, softly.

"Glad!" she makes answer. "Eh, Mistress _Joyce_--glad! Why, 'twill be better than plum-porridge!"

Poor _Madge_!--she took the best symbol she had wit for.

"Ay, my lass, it'll be better nor aught down here," saith old _Isaac_. "Plum-porridge and feather beds'll be nought to what they've getten up yonder.--You see, Mistress _Joyce_, we mun tell her by what she knows, poor maid!"

"Ay, thou sayest well, _Isaac_," Aunt _Joyce_ made reply. "_Madge_, thy mother's up yonder."

"I know!" she saith, a-smiling. "She'll come to th' gate when I knock. He'll sure send her to meet me. She'll know 'tis me, ye ken. It'd never do if some other maid gave my name, and got let in by mistake for me. He'll send somebody as knows me to see I get in right. Don't ye see, that's why we keep a-going one at once? Somebody mun be always there that'll ken th' new ones."

"I reckon the Lord will ken them, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Oh ay, He'll ken 'em, sure enough," saith _Madge_. "But then, ye see, they'd feel lonely like if they waited to see any body they knew till they got right up to th' fur end: and th' angels 'd be stoppin' 'em and wanting to make sure all were right. That wouldn't be pleasant. So He'll send one o' them as knows 'em, and then th' angels 'll be satisfied, and not be stoppin' of 'em."

Aunt _Joyce_ did not smile at poor _Madge's_ queer notions. She saith at times that God Himself teaches them that men cannot teach. And at after, quoth she, that it were but _Madge_ her way of saying, "He careth for you."

"Dost thou think she is going, _Isaac_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. For old _Isaac_ is an herb-gatherer, or were while he could; and he wist a deal of physic.

"Now, _Gaffer_, thou'lt never say nay!" cries _Madge_ faintly, as though it should trouble her sore if he thought she would live through it.

"I'll say nought o' th' sort, _Madge_," said _Isaac_. "Ay, Mistress _Joyce_. She's been coming to the Lord this ever so long: and now, I take it, she's going to Him."

"That's right!" saith _Madge_, with a comforted look, and laying of her head back on her pillows. "It would be sore to get right up to th' gate, and then an angel as one didn't know just put his head forth, and say, `Th' Master says 'tis too soon, _Madge_: thou must not come in yet. Thou'lt have to walk a bit outside.' Eh, but I wouldn't like yon!"

"He'll not leave thee outside, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Eh, I hope not!" quoth _Madge_, as regretfully. "I do want to see Him so. I'd like to see if He looks rested like after all He bare for a poor daft maid. And I want to know if them bad places is all healed up in His hands and feet, and hurt Him no more now. I'd like to see for myself, ye ken."

"Ay, _Madge_, they're healed long ago," saith _Isaac_.

"Well, I count so," saith she, "for 'tis a parcel o' _Sundays_ since first time thou told me of 'em: still, I'd like to see for myself."

"Thou'lt see for thyself," saith _Isaac_. "Th' Lord's just th' same up yonder that He were down here."

"Well, I reckon so," quoth _Madge_, in a tone of wonder. "Amn't I th' same maid up at th' Hall as I am here?"

"Ay, but I mean He's as good as ever He were," _Isaac_ makes answer. "He were right good, He were, to yon poor gaumering [silly] _Thomas_,-- eh, but he were a troublesome chap, was _Thomas_! He said he wouldn't believe it were th' Lord without he stuck his hand right into th' bad place of His side. He were a hard one to deal wi', was yon _Thomas_."

"Did He let him stick it in?" saith _Madge_, opening her eyes.

"Yea, He told him to come and stick't in, if he could not believe without: but he mun have been a dizard [foolish man], that he couldn't-- that's what I think," quoth old _Isaac_.

"Was he daft?" saith _Madge_.

"Well, nay, I reckon not," saith he.

"I'll tell ye how it were," saith she. "His soul was daft--that's it-- right th' inside of him, ye ken."

"Ay, I reckon thou'rt about right," quoth _Isaac_.

"Well, I wouldn't have wanted that," saith she. "I'd have wist by His face and the way He said `Good morrow, _Thomas_!' I'd never have wanted to hurt Him more to see whether it were Him. So He'd rather be hurt than leave _Thomas_ a-wondering! Well--it were just like Him."

"He's better than men be, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, tenderly.

"That's none so much to say, Mistress _Joyce_," saith _Madge_. "Men's bad uns. And some's rare bad uns. So's women, belike. I'd liever ha' th' door betwixt."

_Madge_ hath alway had a strange fantasy to shut the half-door betwixt her and them she loveth not. There be very few she will let come withinside. I reckon them that may might be counted of her fingers.

"Well, _Madge_, there shall be no need to shut to the door in Heaven," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "The gates be never shut by day; and there is no night there."

"They've no night! Eh, that's best thing ever you told me yet!" quoth _Madge_. "I canna 'bide th' dark. It'll be right bonnie, it will!"

Softly Aunt _Joyce_ made answer. "`Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the Land that is very far off.'"

_Madge's_ head came up from the pillow. "Eh, that's grand! And that's Him?"

"Ay, my maid."

"Ay, that's like," saith she. "It couldn't be nobody else. And Him that could make th' roses and lilies mun be good to look at. 'Tisn't always so now: but I reckon they've things tidy up yon. They'll fit like, ye ken. But, Mistress _Joyce_, do ye tell me, will us be any wiser up yon?"

I saw the water in Aunt _Joyce's_ eyes, as she arose; and she bent down and kissed _Madge_ on the brow.

"Dear heart," quoth she, "thou shalt know Him then as well as He knows thee. Is that plenty, _Madge_?"

"I reckon 'tis a bit o' t'other side," saith _Madge_, with her eyes gleaming. But when I came to kiss her the next minute, quoth she--"Mistress _Milisent_, saw ye e'er Mistress _Joyce_ when she had doffed her?"

"Ay, _Madge_," said I, marvelling what notion was now in her poor brain.

"And," saith she, "be there any wings a-growing out of her shoulders? Do tell me. I'd like to know how big they were by now."

"Nay, _Madge_; I never saw any."

"No did ye?" quoth she, in a disappointed tone. "I thought they'd have been middling grown by now. But may-be He keeps th' wings till we've got yon? Ay, I reckon that's it. She'll have 'em all right, some day."

And _Madge_ seemed satisfied.

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XVI. Yester-morn, Dr _Bell_ being at church, _Mother_ was avised to ask him, if it might stand with his conveniency, to look in on _Madge_ the next time he rideth that way, and see if aught might be done for her. He saith in answer that he should be a-riding to _Thirlmere_ early this morrow, and would so do: and this even, on his way home, he came in hither to tell _Mother_ his thought thereon. 'Tis even as we feared, for he saith there is no doubt that _Madge_ is dying, nor shall she overlive many days. But right sorry were we to hear him say that he did marvel if she or _Blanche Lewthwaite_ should go the first.

"Why, Doctor!" saith _Mother_, "I never reckoned _Blanche_ so far gone as that."

"May-be not when you saw her, Lady _Lettice_," saith he. "But--women be so perverse! Why, the poor wretch might have lived till this summer next following, or even (though I scarce think it) have tided o'er another winter, but she must needs take it into her foolish head to rush forth into the garden, to say a last word to somebody, a frosty bitter even some ten days back, with never so much as a kerchief tied o'er her head; and now is she laid of her bed, as was the only thing like, and may scarce breathe with the inflammation of her lungs. She _may_ win through, but verily I look not for it."

"Poor heart! I will go and see her," saith _Mother_.

"Ay, do so," saith he. "Poor foolish soul!--as foolish in regard of her health as of her happiness."

This even, I being the first in our chamber, was but making ready my gown with a clean partlet [ruff] for to-morrow, when _Mother_ come in.

"_Milly_," she saith, "I shall go (if the Lord will) to see _Blanche_ to-morrow, and I would have thee go withal."

I guess _Mother_ saw that I did somewhat shrink from the thought. In truth, though I have seen _Blanche_ in church, and know how she looketh, yet I have never yet spoke with her sithence she came home, and I feel fearful, as though I were going into a chamber where was somewhat might hurt me.

"My _Milisent_," saith _Mother_--and that is what she calls me at her tenderest--"I would not hurt thee but for thine own good. And I know, dear heart, that few matters do more good than for a sinner to be shown that whereto he might have come, if the Lord had not hedged up his way with thorns. 'Tis not alway--I might say 'tis not often--that we be permitted to see whither the way should have led that the Father would not have us to take. And, my dear heart, thou art of thy nature so like thy foolish mother, that I can judge well what should be good for thee."

"Nay, _Mother_, dear heart! I pray you, call not yourself names," said I, kissing her hand.

"I shall be of my nature foolish, _Milly_, whether I do so call myself or no," saith _Mother_, laughing.

"And truly, the older I grow, the more foolish I think myself in my young days."

"Shall I so do, _Mother_, when I am come to your years?" said I, also laughing.

"I hope so, _Milly_," saith she. "I am afeared, if no, thy wisdom shall then be small."

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XVII. I have seen _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and I do feel to-night as though I should never laugh again. Verily, O my God, the way of the transgressors is hard!

She lies of her bed, scarce able to speak, and that but of an hoarse whisper. Dr _Bell_ hath given order that she shall not be suffered to talk but to make known her wants or to relieve her mind, though folk may talk to her so long as they weary her not. We came in, brought of _Alice_, and _Mother_ sat down by the bed, while I sat in the window with _Alice_.

_Blanche_ looked up at _Mother_ when she spake some kindly words unto her.

"I am going, Lady _Lettice_!" was the first thing she said.

"I do trust, dear heart, if the Lord will, Dr _Bell's_ skill may yet avail for thee," saith _Mother_. "But if not, _Blanche_--"

_Blanche_ interrupted her impatiently, with a question whereof the tone, yet more than the words, made my blood run cold.

"_Whither_ am I going?"

"Dear _Blanche_," said _Mother_, "the Lord _Jesus Christ_ is as good and as able to-day as ever He were."

There was a little impatient movement of her head.

"Too late!"

"Never too late for Him," saith _Mother_.

"Too late for me," _Blanche_ made answer. "You mind the text--last _Sunday_. I loved idols--after them I _would_ go!"

She spoke with terrible pauses, caused by that hard, labouring breath.

_Mother_ answered, as I knew, from the Word of God.

"`Yet return again to me,' saith the Lord."

"I cannot return. I never came."

"Then `come unto Me, all ye that are weary and laden.' `The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.'"

_Blanche_ made no answer. She only lay still, her eyes fixed on _Mother_, which did essay for to show her by God's Word that she might yet be saved if she so would. Methought when _Mother_ stayed, and rose to kiss her as she came thence, that surely _Blanche_ could want no more. Her only word to _Mother_ was--


Then she beckoned to me, and I came and kissed her. _Mother_ was gone to speak with Mistress _Lewthwaite_, and _Alice_ withal. _Blanche_ and I were alone.

"Close!" she said: and I bent mine ear to her lips. "Very kind--Lady _Lettice_. But--too late."

"O _Blanche_!" I was beginning: but her thin weak hand on mine arm stayed further speech.

"Hush! _Milisent_--thank God--thou art not as I. Thank God--and keep clean. Too late for me. Good-bye."

"O _Blanche_, _Blanche_!" I sobbed through my tears. The look in her eyes was dreadful to me. "The Lord would fain have thee saved, and wherefore dost thou say `too late'?"

"I want it not," she whispered.

"_Blanche_," I cried in horror. "What canst thou mean? Not want to be saved from Hell! Not want to go to Heaven!"

"From Hell--ay. But not--to go to Heaven."

"But there is none other place!" cried I.

"I know. Would there were!"

I believe I stood and gazed on her in amaze. I could not think what were her meaning, and I marvelled if she were not feather-brained [wandering, light-headed] somewhat.

"God is in Heaven," she said. "I do not want God. Nor He me."

I could not tell what to say. I was too horrified.

"There was a time," saith _Blanche_, in that dreadful whisper, which seemed me hoarser than ever, "He would--have saved me--then. But I would not. Now--too late. Thanks! Go--good-bye."

And then _Mother_ called me.

I think that hoarse whisper will ring in mine ears, and those awful eyes will haunt me, till the day I die. And this might have been my portion!

No word of all this said I to _Mother_. As Aunt _Joyce_ saith, she picks up everything with her heart, and _Father_ hath alway bidden us maids to spare her such trouble as we may--which same he ever doth himself. But I found my Lady _Stafford_ in the little chamber, and I threw me down on the floor at her feet, and gave my tears leave to have their way. My Lady always seemeth to conceive any in trouble, and she worketh not at you to comfort you afore you be ready to be comforted. She only stroked mine head once or twice, as though to show me that she felt for me: until I pushed back my tears, and could look up and tell her what it were that troubled me.

"What ought I to have said, my Lady?" quoth I.

"No words of thine, _Milisent_," she made answer. "That valley of the shadow is below the sound of any comfort of men. The words that will reach down there are the words of God. And not always they."

"But--O my Lady, think you the poor soul can be right--that it is too late for her?"

"There is only One that can answer thee that question," she saith. "Let us cry mightily unto Him. So long as there is life, there may be hope. There be on whom even in this world the Lord seems to have shut His door. But I think they be commonly hardened sinners, that have resisted His good Spirit through years of sinning. There is no unforgivable sin save that hard unbelief which will not be forgiven. Dear _Milisent_, let us remember His word, that if two of us shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done. And He willeth not the death of a sinner."

We made that compact: and ever sithence mine heart hath been, as it were, crying out to God for poor _Blanche_. I cannot tell if it be foolish to feel thus or no, but it doth seem as though I were verily guilty touching her; as though the saving of me had been the loss of her. O Lord God, have mercy upon her!

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXII. This cold even were we maids and _Ned_ bidden to a gathering at Master _Murthwaite's_, it being _Temperance_ her birthday, and she is now two and twenty years of age. We had meant for to call on our way at _Mere Lea_, to ask how was _Blanche_, but we were so late of starting (I need not blame any) that there was no time left, and we had to foot it at a good pace. Master _Murthwaite_ dwells about half a mile on this side of _Keswick_, so we had a middling good walk. There come, we found _Gillian Armstrong_ and her brethren, but none from _Mere Lea_. _Gillian_ said her mother had been thither yester-morn, when she reckoned _Blanche_ to be something better: and they were begun to hope (though Dr _Bell_ would not yet say so much) that she might tide o'er her malady. A pleasant even was it, but quiet: for Master _Murthwaite_ is a strong _Puritan_ (as folk do now begin to call them that be strict in religion,) and loveth not no manner of noisy mirth: nor do I think any of us were o'er inclined to vex him in that matter. I was not, leastwise. We brake up about eight of the clock, or a little past, and set forth of our way home. Not many yards, howbeit, were we gone, when a sound struck on our ears that made my blood run chill. From the old church at _Keswick_ came the low deep toll of the passing bell.

"One,--two!"--then a pause. A woman.

There were only two women, so far as I knew, that it was like to be. I counted every stroke with my breath held. Would it pause at the nineteen which should point to daft _Madge_, or go on to the twenty-one which should mean _Blanche Lewthwaite_?


Then the bell stopped.

"O _Ned_, it is _Blanche_!" cries _Edith_.

"Ay, I reckon so," saith _Ned_, sadly.

We hurried on then to the end of the lane which leads up to _Mere Lea_. Looking up at the house, whereof the upper windows can be seen, we saw all dark and closed up: and in _Blanche's_ window, where of late the light had burned day and night, there was now only pitch darkness. She needed no lights now: for she was either in the blessed City where they need no light of the sun, or else cast forth into the blackness of darkness for ever. Oh, which should it be?

"_Milisent_!" said a low, sorrowful voice beside me; and mine hand clasped _Robin Lewthwaite's_.

"When was it, _Robin_?"

"Two hours gone," he saith, mournfully.

"_Robin_," I could not help whispering, "said she aught comfortable at the last?"

"She never spake at all for the last six hours," he made answer. "But the last word she did say was--the publican's prayer, _Milly_."

"Then there is hope!" I thought, but I said it not to _Robin_.

So we came home and told the sorrowful tidings.

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXV. I was out in the garden this morrow, picking of snowdrops to lay round _Blanche's_ coffin. My back was to the gate, when all suddenly I heard Dr _Bell's_ voice say--"_Milisent_, is that thou?"

I rose up and ran to the gate, where he sat on his horse.

"Well, _Milly_," saith he, "the shutters are up at _Mere Lea_."

"Ay, we know it, Doctor," said I, sadly.

"Poor maid!" saith he. "A life flung away! And it might have been so different!"

I said nought, for the tears burned under mine eyelids, and there was a lump in my throat that let me from speech.

"I would thou wouldst say, _Milly_," goeth on Dr _Bell_, "to my Lady and Mistress _Joyce_, that daft _Madge_ (as methinks) shall not pass the day, and she hath a rare fantasy to see Mistress _Joyce_ once more. See if it may be compassed. Good morrow."

I went in forthwith and sought Aunt _Joyce_, which spake no word, but went that instant moment and tied on her hood and cloak: and so did I mine.

'Twas nigh ten o' the clock when we reached old _Madge's_ hut.

We found daft _Madge_ in her bed, and seemingly asleep. But old _Madge_ said 'twas rather a kind of heaviness, whence she would rouse if any spake to her.

Aunt _Joyce_ leaned over her and kissed her brow.

"Eh, 'tis Mistress _Joyce_!" saith _Madge_, feebly, as she oped her eyes. "That's good. He's let me have _all_ I wanted."

"Art comfortable, _Madge_?"

"Close to th' gate. I'm lookin' to see 't open and _Mother_ come out. Willn't she be pleased?"

Aunt _Joyce_ wiped her eyes, but said nought.

"Say yon again, Mistress _Joyce_," saith _Madge_.

"What, my dear heart?"

"Why, _you_," saith _Madge_. "Over seeing th' King. Dinna ye ken?"

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, but ye ha' set her up some wi' that," saith old _Madge_. "She's talked o' nought else sin', scarce."

Aunt _Joyce_ said it once more. "`Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the Land that is very far off.'"

"'Tis none so fur off now," quoth _Madge_. "I've getten a many miles nearer sin' you were hither."

"I think thou hast, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Ay. An' 'tis a good place," saith she. "'Tis a good place here, where ye can just lie and watch th' gate. They'll come out, they bonnie folk, and fetch me in anon: and _Mother's_ safe sure to be one."

"Ah, _Madge_! Thou wist whither thou goest," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, for sure!" saith she. "He's none like to send me nowhere else but where He is. Dun ye think I'd die for somebody I didn't want?"

She saith not much else, but seemed as though she sank back into that heavy way she had afore. But at last, when we were about to depart, she roused up again a moment.

"God be wi' ye both," said she. "I'm going th' longer journey, but there's t' better home at t' end. May-be I shall come to th' gate to meet you. Mind you dunnot miss, Mistress _Milly_. Mistress _Joyce_, she's safe."

"I will try not to miss, _Madge_," I answered through my tears, "God helping me."

"He'll help ye if ye want helpin'," saith Madge.

"Only He'll none carry you if ye willn't come. Dunna throw away good gold for dead leaves Mistress _Milly_. God be wi' ye!"

We left her there--"watching the gate."

SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXVI. This morrow, as I came down the stairs, what should I see but Aunt _Joyce_, a-shaking the snow from her cloak and pulling off her pattens.

"Why, _Aunt_!" cried I. "Have you been forth thus early?"

Aunt _Joyce_ turned on me a very solemn face.

"_Milly_," saith she, "_Madge_ is in at the gate."

"O _Aunt_! have you seen her die?"

"I have seen her rise to life," she made answer. "Child, the Lord grant to thee and me such a death as hers! It seemed as though, right at the last moment, the mist that had veiled it all her earth-time cleared from the poor brain, and the light poured in on her like a flood. `The King in His beauty! The King in His beauty!' were the last words she spake, but in such a voice of triumph and gladness as I never heard from her afore. O _Milly_, my darling child! how vast the difference between the being `saved so as by fire,' and the abundant entrance of the good and faithful servant! Let us not rest short of it."

And methought, as I followed Aunt _Joyce_ into the breakfast-chamber, that God helping me, I would not.


Note 1. For many years after the Reformation the use of fish was made compulsory in Lent, from the wish to benefit the fish trade. A licence to eat flesh in Lent (obtained from the Queen, not the Pope) cost 40 shillings in 1599.



"Betray mean terror of ridicule,--thou shalt find fools enough to mock

"But answer thou their laughter with contempt, and the scoffers shall
lick thy feet."

Martin Farquhar Tupper.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE II. Never, methinks, saw I any so changed as our _Milly_ by the illness and death of poor _Blanche_. From being the merriest of all us, methinks she is become well-nigh the saddest. I count it shall pass in time, but she is not like _Milisent_ at this present. All we, indeed, have much felt the same: but none like her. I never did reckon her so much to love _Blanche_.

I have marvelled divers times of late, what did bring _Robin Lewthwaite_ here so oft; and I did somewhat in mine own mind, rhyme his name with _Milisent's_, for all (as I find on looking) my damsel hath set down never a time he came. The which, as methinks, is somewhat significant. So I was little astonied this afternoon to be asked of _Robin_, as we two were in the garden, if I reckoned _Milisent_ had any care touching him.

"Thou wist, _Edith_," saith he, "I did alway love her: but when yon rogue came in the way betwixt that did end all by the beguilement of our poor _Blanche_, I well-nigh gave up all hope, for methought she were fair enchanted by him."

"I think she so were, for a time, _Robin_," said I, "until she saw verily what manner of man he were: and that it were not truly he that she had loved, but the man she had accounted him."

"Well," saith _Robin_, "I would like to be the man she accounted him. Thinkest there is any chance?"

"Thou wist I can but guess," I made answer, "for _Milisent_ is very close of that matter, though she be right open on other: but I see no reason, _Robin_, wherefore thou shouldst not win her favour, and I do ensure thee I wish thee well therein."

"_Edith_, thou art an angel!" crieth he out: and squeezed mine hand till I wished him the other side the Border.

"Nay!" said I, a-laughing: "what then is _Milly_?"

"Oh, aught thou wilt," saith he, also laughing, "that is sweet, and fair, and delightsome. Dost know, _Edith_, our _Nym_ goeth about to be a soldier? He shall leave us this next month."

"A soldier!" cried I: for in very deed _Nym_ and a soldier were two matters that ran not together to my thoughts. Howbeit, I was not sorry to hear that _Nym_ should leave this vicinage, and thereby cease tormenting of our _Helen_. The way he gazeth on her all the sermon-time in church should make me fit to poison him, were I she, and desired not (as I know she doth not) that he should be a-running after me. But, _Nym_ a soldier! I could as soon have looked to see _Moses_ play the virginals. Why, he is feared of his own shadow, very nigh: and is worser for ghosts than even _Austin Park_. I do trust, if we need any defence here in _Derwentdale_, either the Queen's Majesty shall not send _Nym_ to guard us, or else that his men shall have stouter hearts than he. An hare were as good as _Nym Lewthwaite_.

Sithence I writ what goeth afore, have we all been rare gladded by _Walter's_ coming, which was just when the dusk had fallen. He looketh right well of his face, and is grown higher, and right well-favoured: but, eh me, so fine! I felt well-nigh inclined to lout [courtesy] me low unto this magnifical gentleman, rather than take him by the hand and kiss him. _Ned_ saith--

"The Queen's Highness' barge ahoy!--all lined and padded o' velvet!--and in the midst the estate [the royal canopy] of cloth of gold! Off with your caps, my hearties!"

_Walter_ laughed, and took it very well. Saith Aunt _Joyce_, when he come to her--

"_Wat_, how much art thou worth by the yard?"

"Ten thousand pound, _Aunt_," saith he, boldly, and laughing.

"Ha!" saith she, somewhat dry. "I trust 'tis safe withinside, for I see it not without."

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE IV. Yesterday, being _Sunday_, was nought said touching _Wat_ and his ways: only all to church, of course, at matins and evensong, but this day no sermons. This morrow, after breakfast, as we arose from the table, saith _Father_:--

"_Walter_, my lad, thou and I must have some talk."

"An' it like you, Sir," saith _Wat_.

"Wouldst thou choose it rather without other ears?"

"Not any way, I thank you, Sir."

"Then," quoth _Father_, drawing of a chair afore the fire, "we may tarry as we be."

_Walter_ sat him down in the chimney-corner; _Mother_, with her sewing, on the other side the fire; Aunt _Joyce_ in the place she best loveth, in the window. Cousin _Bess_ and _Mynheer_ were gone on their occasions. _Ned_ and we three maids were in divers parts of the chamber; _Ned_ carving of a wooden boat for _Anstace_ her little lad, and we at our sewing.

"Wilt tell me, _Wat_," saith _Father_, "what years thou hast?"

"Why, Sir," quoth he, "I reckon you know that something better than I; but I have alway been given to wit that the year of my birth was Mdlvii." [1557.]

"The which, sith thou wert born in _July_, makes thee now of two and twenty years," _Father_ makes answer.

"I believe so much, Sir," saith _Walter_, that looked somewhat diverted at this beginning.

"And thy wage at this time, from my Lord of _Oxenford_, is sixteen pound by the year?" [Note 1.]

"It is so, Sir," quoth _Wat_.

"And what reckonest thy costs to be?"

"In good sooth, Sir, I have not reckoned," saith he.

"Go to--make a guess."

_Wat_ did seem diseased thereat, and fiddled with his chain. At the last (_Father_ keeping silence) he saith, looking up, with a flush of his brow--

"To speak truth, Sir, I dare not."

"Right, my lad," saith _Father_. "Speak the truth, and let come of it what will. But, in very deed, we must come to it, _Wat_. This matter is like those wounds that 'tis no good to heal ere they be probed. Nor knew I ever a chirurgeon to use the probe without hurting of his patient. Howbeit, _Wat_, I will not hurt thee more than is need. Tell me, dost thou think that all thy costs, of whatsoever kind, should go into two hundred pound by the year?"

The red flush on _Wat's_ brow grew deeper.

"I am afeared not, Sir," he made answer, of a low voice.

"Should they go into three?" _Wat_ hesitated, but seemed more diseased [uncomfortable] than ever.

"Should four overlap them?"

_Wat_ brake forth.

"_Father_, I would you would scold me--I cannot stand it! I should feel an hard whipping by far less than your terrible gentleness. I know I have been a downright fool, and I have known it all the time: but what is a man to do? The fellows laugh at you if you do not as all the rest. Then they come to one every day, with, `Here, _Louvaine_, lend me a sovereign,'--and `Look you, _Louvaine_, pay this bill for me,'--and they should reckon you the shabbiest companion ever lived, if you did it not, or if, having done it, you should ask them for it again."

"_Wat_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_ from the window.

"What so, _Aunt_?" quoth he.

"Stand up a minute, and let me look at thee," saith she.

_Walter_ did so, but with a look as though he marvelled what Aunt _Joyce_ would be at.

"I would judge from thy face," quoth she, "if thou art the right lad come, or they have changed thee in _London_ town. Our _Walter_ used to have his father's eyes and his mother's mouth. Well, I suppose thou art: but I should scantly have guessed it from thy talk."

"_Walter_," softly saith _Mother_, "thy father should never have so dealt when he were of thy years."

"Lack-a-daisy! I would have thought the world was turning round," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "had I ever heard such a speech of _Aubrey_ at any years whatsoever."

_Father_ listed this with some diversion, as methought from the set of his lips.

"Well, I am not as good as _Father_," saith _Wat_.

"Amen!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"But, _Aunt_, you are hard on a man. See you not, all the fellows think you a coward if you dare not spend freely and act boldly? Ay, and a miser belike."

"Is it worser to be thought a coward than to be one?" saith _Father_.

"Who be `all the fellows'?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "My Lord of _Burleigh_ and my Lord _Hunsdon_ and Sir _Francis Walsingham_, I'll warrant you."

"Now, _Aunt_!" saith _Walter_. "Not grave old men like they! My Lord of _Oxenford_, that is best-dressed man of all the Court, and spendeth an hundred pound by the year in gloves and perfumes only--"

"Eh, _Wat_!" cries _Helen_: and _Mother_,--"_Walter_, my dear boy!"

"'Tis truth, I do ensure you," saith he: "and Sir _Walter Raleigh_, one of the first wits in all _Europe_: and young _Blount_, that is high in the Queen's Majesty's favour: and my young Lord of _Essex_, unto whom she showeth good countenance. 'Tis not possible to lower one's self in the eyes of such men as these--and assuredly I should were I less free-handed."

"My word, _Wat_, but thou hast fallen amongst an ill pack of hounds!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Then it is possible, or at least more possible, to lower thyself in our eyes, _Wat_?" saith _Father_.

"_Father_, you make me to feel 'shamed of myself!" crieth _Wat_. "Yet, think you, so should they when I were among them, if I should hold back from these very deeds."

"Then is there no difference, my son," asks _Father_, still as gentle as ever, "betwixt being 'shamed for doing the right, and for doing the wrong?"

"But--pardon me, Sir--you are not in it!" saith _Walter_. "Do but think, what it should feel to be counted singular, and as a speckled bird, unlike all around."

"Well!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, fervently, "I am five and fifty years of age this morrow; and have in my time done many a foolish deed: but I do thank Heaven that I was never so left to mine own folly as to feel any ambition to make one of a row of buttons!"

I laughed--I could not choose.

"You are a woman, _Aunt_," saith _Wat_. "'Tis different with you."

"I pay you good thanks, Master _Walter Louvaine_," quoth she, "for the finest compliment was ever paid me yet. I am a woman (wherefore I thank God), and therefore (this young gentleman being testimony) have more bravery of soul than a man. For that is what thy words come to, Master _Wat_; though I reckon thou didst not weigh them afore utterance.--Now, _Aubrey_, what art thou about to do with this lad?"

"I fear there is but one thing to do," saith _Father_, and he fetched an heavy sigh. "But let us reach the inwards of the matter first. I reckon, _Walter_, thou hast many debts outstanding?"

"I am afeared so, Sir," saith _Wat_,--which, to do him credit, did look heartily ashamed of himself.

"To what sum shall they reach, thinkest?"

_Wat_ fiddled with his chain, and fidgetted on his seat, and _Father_ had need of some patience (which he showed rarely) ere he gat at the full figures. It did then appear that our young gallant should have debts outstanding to the amount of nigh two thousand pounds.

"But, _Wat_," saith _Helen_, looking sore puzzled, "how _couldst_ thou spend two thousand pounds when thou hadst but sixty-two in these four years?"

"Maidens understand not the pledging of credit," saith _Ned_. "See thou, _Nell_: I am a shop-keeper, and sell silk gowns; and thou wouldst have one that should cost an angel--"

"Eh, _Ned_!" crieth she, and all we laughed.

"Thou shalt not buy a silk gown under six angels at the very least. Leastwise, not clear silk: it should be all full of gum."

"Go to!" saith _Ned_. "Six angels, then--sixty if thou wilt. (Dear heart, what costly matter women be! I'll don my wife in camlet.) Well, in thy purse is but two angels. How then shalt thou get thy gown?"

"Why, how can I? I must do without it," saith she.

"Most sweet _Helen_; sure thou earnest straight out of the Garden of _Eden_! Dear heart, folks steer not in that quarter now o' days. Thou comest to me for the gown, and I set down thy name in my books, that thou owest me six angels: and away goest thou with the silk, and turnest forth o' _Sunday_ as fine as a fiddler."

"Well--and then?" saith she.

"Then, with _Christmas_ in cometh my bill: and thou must pay the same."

"But if I have no money?"

"Then I lose six angels."

"_Father_, is that honest?" saith _Helen_.

"If thou hadst no reason to think thou shouldst have the money by _Christmas_, certainly not, my maid," he made answer.

"Not honest, Sir!" saith _Wat_.

"Is it so?" quoth _Father_.

"Oh, look you, words mean different in the Court," crieth Aunt _Joyce_, "from what they do in _Derwent_-dale and at _Minster Lovel_. If we pay not our debts here, we go to prison; and folks do but say, Served him right! But if they pay them not there, why, the poor tailor and jeweller must feed their starving childre on the sight of my Lord of _Essex'_ gold lace, and the smell of my Lord of _Oxenford_ his perfumes. Do but think, what a rare supper they shall have!"

"Now, hearken, _Walter_," saith _Father_. "I must have thee draw up a list of all thy debts, what sum, for what purpose, and to whom owing: likewise a list of all debts due to thee."

"But you would not ask for loans back, Sir?" cries _Wat_.

"That depends on whom they were lent to," answers _Father_. "If to a poor man that can scarce pay his way, no. But if to my cousin of _Oxenford_ and such like gallants that have plenty wherewith to pay, then ay."

"They would think it so mean, Sir!" saith _Walter_, diseasefully.

"Let them so do," saith _Father_. "I shall sleep quite as well."

"But really, Sir, I could not remember all."

"Then set down what thou canst remember."

_Walter_ looked as if he would liefer do aught else.

"And, my son," saith _Father_, so gently that it was right tender, "I must take thee away from the Court."

"Sir!" crieth _Walter_, in a voice of very despair.

"I can see thou art not he that can stand temptation. I had hoped otherwise. But 'tis plain that this temptation, at the least, hath been too much for thee."

_Wat's_ face was as though his whole life should be ruined if so were.

"Come, _Wat_, take heart o' grace!" cries _Ned_. "I wouldn't cruise in those muddy waters if thou shouldst pay me two thousand pound to do the same. Think but of men scenting themselves--with aught but a stiff sea-breeze. Pish! And as to dancing, cap in hand, afore a woman, and calling her thine _Excellency_, or thy _Floweriness_, or thy Some-Sort-of-Foolery, why, I'd as lief strike to a _Spanish_ galleon, very nigh. When I want a maid to wed me, an' I ever do--at this present I don't--I shall walk straight up to her like a man, and say, `Mistress _Cicely_ (or whatso she be named), I love you; will you wed me?' And if she cannot see an honest man's love, or will not take it, without all that flummery, why, she isn't worth a pail o' sea-water: and I can get along without her, and I will."

"Hurrah for _Ned_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "'Tis a comfort to find we have one man in the family."

"I trust we may have two, in time," quoth _Father_. "_Wat_, my lad, I know this comes hard: and as I count thee not wicked, but weak, I would fain help thee all I may. But thou canst not be suffered to forget that my fortune is but three hundred pound by the year; and I have yet three daughters to portion. I could not pay thy debts without calling in that for which thou hast pledged my credit--for it is mine, _Wat_, rather than thine, seeing thine own were thus slender."

"But, Sir!" crieth _Wat_, "that were punishing you for mine extravagance. I never dreamed of that!"

"Come, he is opening his eyes a bit at last," saith Aunt _Joyce_ to me, that was next her.

"May-be, _Wat_," saith _Father_, with a kindly smile, "it had been better if thou hadst dreamed thereof a little sooner. I think, my boy, it will be punishment enough for one of thy nature but to 'bide at home, and to see the straits whereto thou hast put them that love thee best."

"Punishment!" saith Wat, in a low, 'shamed voice. "Yes, _Father_, the worst you could devise."

"Well, then we will say no more," saith _Father_. "Only draw up those lists, _Walter_, and let me have them quickly."

_Father_ then left the chamber: and _Wat_ threw him down at _Mother's_ knee.

"O _Mother_, _Mother_, if I had but thought sooner!" crieth he. "If I could but have stood out when they laughed at me!--for that, in very deed, were the point. I did begin with keeping within my wage: and then all they mocked and flouted me, and told me no youth of any spirit should do so: and--and I gave way. Oh, if I had but held on!"

_Mother_ softly stroked _Wat's_ gleaming fair hair, that is so like hers.

"My boy!" she saith, "didst thou ask for God's strength, or try to hold on in thine own?"

_Walter_ made no answer in words, but methought I saw the water stand in his eyes.

When _Mother_ and _Wat_ were both gone forth, Aunt _Joyce_ saith,--"I cannot verily tell how it is that folk should have a fantasy that 'tis a shame to be 'feared of doing ill, and no shame at all to be 'feared of being laughed at. Why, one day when I were at home, there was little _Jack Bracher_ a-stealing apples in mine orchard: and _Hewitt_ (that is Aunt _Joyce's_ chief gardener) caught him and brought him to me. _Jack_, he sobbed and thrust his knuckles into his eyes, and said it were all the other lads. `But what did the other lads to thee?' quoth I. `Oh, they dared me!' crieth he. `They said I durst not take 'em: and so I had to do it.' Now, heard you ever such stuff in your born days? Why, they might have dared me till this time next year, afore ever I had turned thief for their daring."

"But then, _Aunt_, you see," saith _Ned_, a twinkle in his eyes, "you are but a woman. That alters the case."

"Just so, _Ned_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, the fun in her eyes as in his: "I am one of the weaker sex, I know."

"Now, I'll tell you," saith _Ned_, "how they essayed it with me, when I first joined my ship. They dared me--my mates, wot you--to go up to the masthead, afore I had been aboard a day. `Now, look you here, mates,' says I. `When the Admiral bids me, I'll scale every mast in the ship; and if I break my neck, I shall but have done my duty. But I'll do nought because I'm dared, and so that you know.' Well, believe me who will, but they cheered me as if I had taken a galleon laden with ducats. And I've been their white son [favourite] ever since."

"Of course!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "They alway do. 'Tis men which have no true courage that dare others: and when they come on one that hath, they hold him the greater hero because 'tis not in themselves to do the like. _Ned_, lad, thou art thy father's son. I know not how _Wat_ gat changed."

"Well, _Aunt_, I hope I am," saith _Ned_. "I would liefer copy _Father_ than any man ever I knew."

"Hold thou there, and thou shalt make a fair copy," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

We wrought a while in silence, when Aunt _Joyce_ saith--

"Sure, if men's eyes were not blinded by the sin of their nature, they should perceive the sheer folly of fearing the lesser thing, and yet daring the greater. 'Feared of the laughter of fools, that is but as the crackling of thorns under the pot: and not 'feared of the wrath of Him that liveth for ever and ever--which is able, when He hath killed, to destroy body and soul in Hell. Oh the folly and blindness of human nature!"

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE VII. Was ever any creature so good as this dear Aunt _Joyce_ of ours? This morrow, when all were gone on their occasions saving her and _Father_, and _Nell_ and me, up cometh she to _Father_, that was sat with a book of his hand, and saith--


_Father_ laid down his book, and looked up on her.

"Thou wert so good as to tell us three mornings gone," saith she, "that thine income was three hundred pound by the year. Right interesting it were, for I never knew the figure aforetime."

"Well?" saith _Father_, laughing.

"But I hope," continueth she, "thou didst not forget (what thou didst know aforetime) that mine is two thousand."

"My dear _Joyce_!" saith _Father_, and held forth his hand. "My true sister! I will not pretend to lack knowledge of thy meaning. Thou wouldst have me draw on thee for help to pay _Walter's_ debts--"

"Nay, not so," saith she, "for I would pay them all out. Look thou, to do the same at once should inconvenience me but a trifle, and to do it at twice, nothing at all."

"But, dear _Joyce_, I cannot," quoth he. "Nay, not for thy sake--I know thou wouldst little allow such a plea--but for _Walter's_ own. To do thus should be something to ease myself, at the cost of a precious lesson that might last him his whole life."

"I take thy meaning," saith she, "yet I cannot sleep at ease if I do not somewhat. Give me leave to help a little, if no more. Might not that be done, yet leave _Wat_ his lesson?"

"Well, dear heart, this I promise thee," saith _Father_, "that in case we go a-begging, we will come first to the _Manor House_ at _Minster Lovel_."

"After which you shall get no farther," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "But I want more than that, _Aubrey_. I would not of my good will tarry to help till thou and _Lettice_ be gone a-begging. I can give the maids a gown-piece by now and then, of course, and so ease my mind enough to get an half-hour's nap: but what am I to do for a night's rest?"

_Father_ laughed. "Come, a word in thine ear," saith he.

Aunt _Joyce_ bent her head down, but then pursed up her lips as though she were but half satisfied at last.

"Will that not serve?" saith _Father_, smiling on her.

"Ay, so far as it goeth," she made answer: "yet it is but an if, _Aubrey_?"

"Life is a chain of ifs, dear _Joyce_," saith he.

"Truth," saith she, and stood a moment as if meditating. "Well," saith she at last, "`half a loaf is better than no bread at all,' so I reckon I must be content with what I have. But if I send thee an whole flock of sheep one day, and to _Lettice_ the next an hundred ells of velvet, prithee be not astonied."

_Father_ laughed, and said nought of that sort should ever astonish him, for he knew Aunt _Joyce_ by far too well.

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE IX. We were sat this morrow all in the little chamber at work, and I somewhat marvelled what was ado with _Mother_, for smiles kept ever and anon flitting across her face, as though she were mighty diverted with the flax she was spinning: and I guessed her thoughts should be occupying somewhat that was of mirthful sort. At last saith Aunt _Joyce_:--

"_Lettice_, what is thy mind a-laughing at? I have kept count, and thou hast smiled eleven times this half-hour. Come, give us a share, good fellow."

_Mother_ laughed right out then, and saith--

"Why, _Joyce_, I knew not I was thus observed of a spy. Howbeit, what made me smile, that shall you know. Who is here to list me?"

All the women of the house were there but _Milisent_; of the men none save _Ned_.

"Aubrey hath had demand made of him for our _Milly_," saith _Mother_.

"Heave he!" cries _Ned_. "Who wants her?"

"Good lack, lad, hast no eyes in thine head?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "_Robin Lewthwaite_, of course. I can alway tell when young folks be after that game."

"Eh deary me!" cries Cousin _Bess_. "Why, I ne'er counted one of our lasses old enough to be wed. How doth time slip by, for sure!"

"I scarce looked for _Milly_ to go the first," saith Mistress _Martin_.

I reckon she thought _Nell_ should have come afore, for she is six years elder than _Milly_: and so she might, would she have taken _Nym Lewthwaite_, for _Father_ and _Mother_ were so rare good as leave her choose. But I would not have taken _Nym_, so I cannot marvel at _Helen_.

"You see, _Aunt_," saith _Ned_, answering Aunt _Joyce_, "I am not yet up to the game."

"And what wilt choose by, when thou art?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a little laugh. "I know a young man that chose his wife for her comely eyebrows: and an other (save the mark!) by her _French_ hood. Had I had no better cause than that last, I would have bought me a _French_ hood as fair, if I had need to send to _Paternoster_ Row [Note 2] for it, and feasted mine eyen thereon. It should not have talked when I desired quietness, nor have threaped [scolded] at me when I did aught pleased it not."

"That speech is rare like a man, _Joyce_," saith my Lady _Stafford_.

"Dear heart, _Dulcie_, dost think I count all women angels, by reason I am one myself?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_. "I know better, forsooth."

"Methinks, _Aunt_, I shall follow your example," saith _Ned_, winking on me, that was beside him. "Women be such ill matter, I'll sheer off from 'em."

"Well, lad, thou mayest do a deal worser," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "yet am I more afeared of _Wat_ than thee."

"Is _Wat_ the more like to wed a _French_ hood?" saith _Ned_.

"I reckon so much," saith she, "or a box of perfume, or some such rubbish. Eh dear, this world! _Ned_, 'tis a queer place: and the longer thou livest the queerer shalt thou find it."

"'Tis a very pleasant place, _Aunt_, by your leave," said I.

"Thou art not yet seventeen, _Edith_," saith she: "and thou hast not seen into all the dusty corners, nor been tangled in the spiders' webs.--Well, _Lettice_, I reckon _Aubrey_ gave consent?"

"Oh ay," saith _Mother_, "in case _Milisent_ were agreeable."

"And were _Milisent_ agreeable?" asks my Lady _Stafford_.

"I think so much," made answer _Mother_, and smiled.

"None save a blind bat should have asked that," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "But thou hast worn blinkers, _Dulcie_, ever sith I knew thee. Eh, lack-a-daisy! but that is fifty year gone, or not far thence."

"Three lacking," quoth my Lady _Stafford_.

"I'll tell you what, we be growing old women!" saith Aunt _Joyce. "Ned_ and _Edith_, ye ungracious loons, what do ye a-laughing?"

"I cry you mercy, _Aunt_, I could not help it," said I, when I might speak: "you said it as though you had discovered the same but that instant minute."

"Well, I had," saith she. "And so shall you, afore you come to sixty years: or if not, woe betide you."

"Dear heart, _Aunt_, there is a long road betwixt sixteen and sixty!" cried I, yet laughing.

"There is, _Edith_," right grave, Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer. "A long stretch of road: and may-be steep hills, child, and heavy moss, and swollen rivers to ford, and snowstorms to breast on the wild moors. Ah, how little ye young things know! I reckon most folk should count my life an easy one, beside other: but I would not live it again, an' I might choose. Wouldst thou, _Dulcie_?"

"Oh dear, no!" cries my Lady _Stafford_.

"And thou, _Grissel_?"

Mistress _Martin_ shook her head.

"And thou, _Lettice_?"

_Mother_ hesitated a little. "Some part, I might," she saith.

"Ay, some part: we could all pick out that," returns Aunt _Joyce_. "What sayest thou, _Bess_?"

"What, to turn back, and begin all o'er again?" quoth Cousin _Bess_. "Nay, Mistress _Joyce_, I'm none such a dizard as that. I reckon _Ned_ shall tell you, when a sailor is coming round the corner in sight of home, 'tis not often he shall desire to sail forth back again."

"Why, we reckon that as ill as may be," saith _Ned_, "not to be able to make your port, and forced to put to sea again."

"And when the sea hath been stormy," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "and the port is your own home, and you can see the light gleaming through the windows?"

"Why, it were well-nigh enough to make an old salt cry," saith _Ned_.

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Nay--I would not live it again. Yet my life hath not been an hard one--only a little lonely and trying. _Dulcie_, here, hath known far sorer sorrows than I. Yet I shall be glad to get home, and lay by my travelling-gear."

"But thou hast had sorrow, dear _Joyce_," saith my Lady _Stafford_ gently.

"Did any woman ever reach fifty without it?" Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer. "Ay, I have had my sorrows, like other women--and one sorer than ever any knew. May-be, _Dulcie_, if the roads were smoother and the rivers shallower to ford, we should not be so glad when we gat safe home."

"`And so He leadeth them unto the haven where they would be,'" softly saith Mistress _Martin_.

"Ay, it makes all the difference who leads us when we pass through the waters," answereth Aunt _Joyce_. "I mind _Anstace_ once saying that. Most folks (said she) were content to go down, trusting to very shallow sticks--to the world, that brake under them like a reed; or to the strength of their own hearts, that had scantly the pith of a rush. But let us get hold with a good grip of _Christ's_ hand, and then the water may carry us off our feet if it will. It can never sweep us down the stream. It must spend all his force on the Rock of our shelter, before it can reach us. `In the great water-floods they shall not come _nigh_ him.'"

"May the good Lord keep us all!" saith _Mother_, looking tenderly on us.

"Amen!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Children, the biting cold and the rough walking shall be little matter to them that have reached home."

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XIII. "_Walter_," saith _Father_ this even, "I have had a letter from my Lord of _Oxenford_."

"You have so, Sir?" quoth he. "But not an answer to yours?"

"Ay, an answer to mine, having come down express with the Queen's Majesty's despatches unto my Lord _Dacre_ of the North."

"But, _Aubrey_, that is quick work!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Why, I reckon it cannot be over nine days sith thine were writ."

"Nor is it, _Joyce_," saith _Father_: "but look thou, I had rare opportunities, since mine went with certain letters of my Lord _Dilston_ unto Sir _Francis Walsingham_."

"Well, I never heard no such a thing!" crieth she. "To send a letter to _London_ from _Cumberland_, and have back an answer in nine days!"

"'Tis uncommon rapid, surely," saith _Father_. "Well, _Walter_, my boy--for thine eyes ask the question, though thy tongue be still--my Lord of _Oxenford_ hath loosed thee from thine obligations, yet he speaks very kindlily of thee, as of a servant [Note 3] whom he is right sorry to lose."

"You told him, _Father_,"--and _Wat_ brake off short.

"I told him, my lad," saith _Father_, laying of his hand upon _Walter's_ shoulder, "that I did desire to have thee to dwell at home a season: and moreover that I heard divers matters touching the Court ways, which little liked me."

"Was that all, _Aubrey_?" asks Aunt _Joyce_.

"Touching the cause thereof? Ay."

Then _Walter_ breaks forth, with that sudden, eager way he hath, which Aunt _Joyce_ saith is from _Mother_.

"_Father_, I have not deserved such kindness from you! But I do desire to say one thing--that I can see now it is better I were thence, though it was sore trouble to me at the first: and (God helping me) I will endeavour myself to deserve better in the future than I have done in the past."

_Father_ held forth his hand, and _Wat_ put his in it.

"God helping thee, my son," saith he gravely. "I do in very deed trust the same. Yet not without it, _Walter_!"

Somewhat like an hour thereafter, when Aunt _Joyce_ and I were alone, she saith all suddenly, without a word of her thoughts aforetime--

"Ay, the lad is his father's son, after all. If he only could learn to spell _Nay_!"


Note 1. The reader is requested to remember that these sums must be multiplied by fifteen, to arrive at the equivalents in the present day.

Note 2. Paternoster Row was the Regent Street of Elizabeth's reign.

Note 3. The word servant was much more loosely used in the sixteenth century than at present. Any lady or gentleman, however well born and educated, in receipt of a salary from an employer, was termed a servant. The Queen's Maids of Honour were in service, and their stipends were termed wages.



"So I go on, not knowing--
I would not, if I might.
I would rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light:
I would rather walk with Him by faith
Than go alone by sight."

Philip Bliss.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE XVII. Helen's birthday. She is this morrow of the age of seven-and-twenty years, being eldest of all us save _Anstace_. _Alice Lewthwaite_ counts it mighty late to tarry unwed, but I do misdoubt of mine own mind if _Helen_ ever shall wed with any.

From _Father_ she had gift of a new prayer-book, with a chain to hang at her girdle: and from _Mother_ a comely fan of ostrich feathers, with a mirror therein set; likewise with a silver chain to hang from the girdle. Aunt _Joyce_ shut into her hand, in greeting of her, five gold _Spanish_ ducats,--a handsome gift, by my troth! But 'tis ever Aunt _Joyce's_ way to make goodly gifts. My Lady _Stafford_ did give a pair of blue sleeves, [Note 1] broidered in silver, whereon I have seen her working these weeks past. Mistress _Martin_, a pair of lovesome white silk stockings [Note 2]. Sir _Robert_, a silver pouncet-box [a kind of vinaigrette] filled with scent. _Anstace_, a broidered girdle of black silk; and _Hal_, a comfit-box with a little gilt spoon. _Milisent_, two dozen of silver buttons; and I, a book of the _Psalms_, the which I wist _Helen_ desired to have (cost me sixteen pence). _Ned_ diverted us all by making her present of a popinjay [parrot], the which he brought with him, and did set in care of _Faith Murthwaite_ till _Nell's_ birthday came. And either _Faith_ or _Ned_ had well trained the same, for no sooner came the green cover off his cage than up goeth his foot to his head, with--

"Good morrow, Mistress _Nell_, and much happiness to you!"

All we were mighty taken [amused] with this creature, and I count _Ned_ had no cause to doubt if _Helen_ were pleased or no. Last came _Walter_, which bare in his hand a right pretty box of walnut-wood, lined of red taffeta, and all manner of cunning divisions therein. Saith he--

"_Helen_, dear heart, I would fain have had a better gift to offer thee, but being in the conditions I am, I thought it not right for me to spend one penny even on a gift. Howbeit, I have not spared labour nor thought, and I trust thou wilt accept mine offering, valueless though it be, for in very deed it cometh with no lesser love than the rest."

"Why, _Wat_, dear heart!" crieth _Nell_, her cheeks all flushing, "dost think that which cost money, should be to me so much as half the value of thine handiwork, that had cost thee thought and toil! Nay, verily! thou couldst have given me nought, hadst thou spent forty pound, that should have been more pleasant unto me. Trust me, thy box shall be one of my best treasures so long as I do live, and I give thee hearty thanks therefor."

_Walter_ looked right pleased, and saith he, "Well, in very deed I feared thou shouldst count it worth nought, for even the piece of taffeta to line the same I asked of _Mother_."

"Nay, verily, not so!" saith she, and kissed him.

To say _Wat_ were last, howbeit, I writ not well, for I forgat _Mynheer_, and Cousin _Bess_, the which I should not.

Cousin _Bess_ marcheth up to _Nell_ with--"Well, my maid, thou hast this morrow many goodlier gifts than mine, yet not one more useful. 'Tis plain and solid, like me." And forth she holdeth a parcel which, being oped, did disclose a right warm thick hood of black serge, lined with flannel and dowlas, mighty comfortable-looking. _Mynheer_ cometh up with a courtesy and a scrape that should have beseemed a noble of the realm, and saith he--

"Mistress _Helena Van Louvaine_--for that is your true name, as I am assured of certainty--I, a _Dutchman_, have the great honour and pleasure to offer unto you, a _Dutch_ vrouw, a most precious relic of your country, being a stool for your feet, made of willow-wood that groweth by the great dyke which keepeth off from _Holland_ the waters of the sea. 'Tis true, you be of the _Nether-Land_, and this cometh of the _Hollow-Land_--for such do the names mean. Howbeit, do me the favour, _Domina mea_, to accept this token at the hands of your obeissant _paedagogus_, that should have had much pleasure in learning you the _Latin_ tongue, had it been the pleasure of your excellent elders. Alack that it were not so! for I am assured your scholarship should have been rare, and your attention thereto of the closest."

_Nell_ kept her countenance (which was more than _Ned_ or _Milly_ could do), and thanked _Mynheer_ right well, ensuring him that she should essay to make herself worthy of the great honour of coming of _Dutch_ parentage.

Saith _Father_ drily, "There is time yet, _Mynheer_."

"For what?" saith he. "To learn Mistress _Helena_ the _Latin_? Excellent Sir, you rejoice me. When shall we begin, Mistress _Helena_?--this morrow?"

_Helen_ laughed now, and quoth she,--"I thank you much, _Mynheer_, though I am 'feared you reckon mine understanding higher than it demerit: yet I fear there shall scantly be opportunity this morrow. I have divers dishes to cook that shall be cold for this even, and a deal of flannel-work to do."

"Ah, the dishes and the flannel, they are mine abhorrence!" saith _Mynheer_. "They stand alway in the road of the learning."

"Nay, mine old _paedagogus_!" crieth _Ned_. "I reckon the dishes are little your abhorrence at supper-time, nor the flannel of a cold night, when it taketh the form of blankets. 'Tis right well to uphold the learning, yet without _Nell's_ cates and flannel, your _Latin_ should come ill off."

"The body is ever in the way of the soul!" saith _Mynheer_. "Were we souls without bodies, what need had we of the puddings and the flannels?"

"Or the _Latin_," sticketh in _Ned_, mischievously.

_Mynheer_ wagged his head at _Ned_.

"_Edward Van Louvaine_, thou wist better."

"Few folks but know better than they do, _Mynheer_," saith _Ned_. "Yet think you there shall be lexicons needed to talk with King _David_ or the Apostle _Paul_ hereafter?"

"I trow not," saith _Father_.

"Dear heart, Master _Stuyvesant_," cries Cousin _Bess_, "but sure the curse of _Babel_ was an ill thing all o'er! You would seem to count it had a silver side to it."

"It had a golden side, my mistress," made he answer. "Had all men ever spoken but one tongue, the _paedagogus_ should scarce be needed, and half the delights of learning had disappeared from the earth."

"Eh, lack-a-day!--but how different can folks look at matters!" saith Cousin _Bess_. "Why, I have alway thought it should be a rare jolly thing when all strange tongues were done away (as I reckon they shall hereafter), and all folks spake but plain _English_."

"Art so sure it should be _English_, _Bess_?" saith _Father_, smiling. "What an' it were _Italian_ or _Greek_?"

"Good lack, that could never be!" crieth she. "Why, do but think the trouble all men should have."

"Somebody must have it," quoth he. "I take it, what so were the tongue, all nations but one should have to learn it."

"I'll not credit it, Sir _Aubrey_," crieth _Bess_, as she trotteth off to the kitchen. "It is like to be _English_ that shall become the common tongue of the earth: it can't be no elsewise!"

_Mynheer_ seemed wonderful taken with this fantasy of Cousin _Bess_.

"How strange a thought that!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"_Bess_ is in good company," answereth _Father_. "'Tis right the reasoning of Saint _Cyril_, when he maketh argument that the Temple of God, wherein the Man of Sin shall sit (as _Paul_ saith), cannot signify the _Christian_ Church. But wherefore, good Sir? say you. Oh, saith he, because `God forbid it should be this temple wherein we now are!'"

"Well, it is a marvel to me," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "that some folks seem to have no brains!"

"Is it so great a marvel?" saith _Father_.

"But they have no wit!" saith she. "Why, here yestereven was _Caitlin_, telling me the sun had put the fire out--she'd let it go out, the lazy tyke as she is!--Then said I, `But how so, _Caitlin_, when there hath been no sun?' (You wist how hard it rained all day.) `Ha!' saith she-- and gazed into the black grate, as though it should have helped her to an other excuse. Which to all appearance it did, for in a minute quoth my wiseacre,--`Then an' it like you, Mistress, it was the light.'"

"A lack of power to perceive the relation betwixt cause and effect," saith _Father_, drily, "A lack of common sense!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"The uncommonest thing that is," quoth _Father_.

"But wherefore should the sun put the fire out?" saith Sir _Robert_.

"Nay, I'll let alone the whys and the wherefores," quoth she. "It doth, and that is enough for me."

_Father_ seemed something diverted in himself, but he said nought more.

All the morrow were we busy in the kitchen, and the afternoon a-work: but in the even come all the young folks to keep _Nell's_ birthday--to wit, the _Lewthwaites_, the _Armstrongs_, the _Murthwaites_, the _Parks_, and so forth. Of course _Robin_ had no eyes nor ears for aught but _Milisent_. And for all Master _Ned_ may say of his being so rare heart-free, I did think he might have talked lesser with _Faith Murthwaite_ had it liked him so to do. I said so unto him at after, but all I gat of my noble admiral was "Avast there!" the which I took to mean that he did desire me to hold my peace. _Wat_ was rare courtly amongst all us, and had much praise of all the maidens. Me-wondered if _Gillian Armstrong_ meant not to set her cap at him. But I do misdoubt mine own self if any such rustical maids as be here shall be like to serve _Walter's_ turn. I would fain hear more of this daughter of my Lord of _Sheffield_, that was his _Excellency_, but I am not well assured if I did well to ask at him or no.

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XX. 'Tis agreed that Aunt _Joyce_, in the stead of making an end of her visit when the six months shall close, shall tarry with us until Sir _Robert_ and his gentlewomen shall travel southward, the which shall be in an other three weeks' time thereafter. They look therefore to set forth in company as about the twentieth of _April_. I am rare glad (and so methinks be we all) to keep Aunt _Joyce_ a trifle longer. She is like a fresh breeze blowing through the house, and when she is away, as _Ned_ saith, we are becalmed. Indeed, I would by my good will have her here alway.

"Now, _Aunt_," said I, "you shall have time to write your thoughts in the Chronicle, the which shall end with this month, as 'twas agreed."

"Time!" quoth she. "And how many pages, my sweet scrivener?"

"Trust me, but I'll leave you plenty," said I. "Your part shall be a deal better worth the reading."

"Go to, Mistress _Edith_!" saith she. "`All the proof of a pudding is in the eating.'"

"I am sure of that pudding," saith _Milisent_.

"These rash young women!" maketh answer Aunt _Joyce_. "When thou hast lived fifty or sixty years in this world, my good maid, thou wilt be a trifle less sure of most things. None be so sure that a box is white of all sides as they that have seen but one. When thou comest to the second, and findest it painted grey, thou wilt not be so ready to swear that the third may not be red."

"But we can be sure of some things, at any years, _Aunt_," saith _Milly_.

"Canst thou so?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Ah, child, thou hast not yet been down into many deep places. So long as a goat pulls not at his tether, he may think the whole world lieth afore him when he hath but half-a-dozen yards. Let him come to pull, and he will find how short it is. There be places, _Milly_, where a man may get to, that he can be sure of nothing in all the universe save God. And thou shalt not travel far, neither, to come to the end of that cord."

"O Aunt _Joyce_, I do never love to hear such talk as that!" saith _Milly_. "It causeth one feel so poor and mean."

"Then it causeth thee feel what thou art," saith she. "'Tis good for a man to find, at times, how little he can do."

"It may be good, but 'tis mighty displeasant," quoth _Milisent_.

"'Tis very well when it be no worse than displeasant," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer. "I thought of places, _Milly_, which were not displeasant, but awful--where the human soul feels nigh to being shut up in the blackness of darkness for ever. Thou wist little of such things yet. But most souls which be permitted to soar high aloft be made likewise to descend deep down. _David_ went deep enough--may-be deeper than any other save _Christ_. Look you, he was appointed to write the _Psalter_. Throughout all the ages coming, of his words was the Church to serve her when she should come into deep places. There must be somewhat therein for every _Christian_ soul, and every _Jewish_ belike, ere _Christ_ came. And to do that, I reckon _David_ had need to go very deep down. He that shall help a man to climb forth of a well must know whereto the water reacheth, and on which side the steps be. List him--`Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord!' `I am come into deep places, where the floods overflow me.'"

"But, _Aunt_," said I, yet was I something feared to say it, "was not that hard on _David_? It scarce seems just that he should have to go through all those cruel troubles for our good."

"Ah, _Edith_," saith she, "the Lord payeth His bills in gold of _Ophir_. I warrant you _David_ felt his deep places sore trying. But ask thou at him, when ye meet, if he would have missed them. He shall see clearer then when he shall wake up after His likeness, and shall be satisfied with it."

"What sort of deep places mean you, _Aunt_?" saith _Helen_, looking on her somewhat earnestly.

"Thou dost well to ask, _Nell_," quoth she, "for there be divers sorts of depths. There be mind depths, the which are at times, as _Milly_ saith, displeasant: at other times not displeasant. But there be soul depths for the which displeasant is no word. When the Lord seems to shut every door in thy face and to leave thee shut up in a well, where thou canst not breathe, and when thou seest no escape, and when thou criest and shoutest, He shutteth out thy prayer: when thine heaven above thee is as brass, and thine earth below thee iron: when it seems as if no God were, either to hear thee or to do for thee--that is a deep pit to get in, _Helen_, and not a pleasant one."

"Aunt _Joyce_! can such a feeling be--at the least to one that feareth God?"

"Ay, it can, _Nelly_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, solemnly, yet with much tenderness. "And when thou comest into such a slough as that, may God have mercy upon thee!"

And methought, looking in Aunt _Joyce's_ eyes, that at some past time of her life she had been in right such an one.

"It sounds awful!" saith _Milisent_, under her breath.

"It may be," saith Aunt _Joyce_, looking from the window, and after a fashion as though she spake to herself rather than to us, "that there be some souls whom the Lord suffers not to pass through such quagmires. May-be He only leads the strongest souls into the deepest places. I say not that there be not deeps beyond any I know. Yet I know of sloughs wherein I had been lost and smothered, had He not held mine hand tight, and watched that the dark waters washed not over mine head too far for life. That word, `the fellowship of His passions,' hath a long tether. For He went down to Hell."

"But, _Aunt_, would you say that meant the place of lost souls?" saith _Helen_.

"I am wholesomely 'feared of laying down the law, _Nell_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "touching such matters as I can but see through a glass darkly. What He means, He knoweth. But the place of departed spirits can it scarce fail to be."

"Aunt _Joyce_," saith _Helen_, laying down her work, "I trust it is not ill in me to say thus, but in very deed I do alway feel 'feared of what shall be after death. If we might but know where we shall be, and with whom, and what we shall have to do--it all looks so dark!"

"Had it been good for us, we should have known," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "And two points we do know. `With _Christ_,' and `far better.' Is that not enough for those that are His friends?"

"`If it were not so, I would have told you,'" saith my Lady _Stafford_.

"But not _how_, Madam, an' it please you?" asks _Helen_.

"If there were not room; if there were not happiness."

"I take it," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "if there were not all that for which my nature doth crave. But, mark you, my renewed nature."

"Then surely we must know our friends again?" saith _Helen_.

"He was a queer fellow that first questioned that," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "If I be not to know _Anstace Morrell_, I am well assured I shall not know her sister _Joyce_!"

"But thereby hangeth a dreadful question, _Joyce_!" answereth my Lady _Stafford_. "If we must needs know the souls that be found, how about them that be missed?"

Aunt _Joyce_ was silent for a moment. Then saith she--

"The goat doth but hurt himself, _Dulcie_, to pull too hard at the tether. Neither thou nor I can turn over the pages of the Book of Life. It may be that we shall both find souls whom we thought to miss. May-be, in the very last moment of life, the Lord may save souls that have been greatly prayed for, though they that be left behind never wit it till they join the company above. We poor blindlings must leave that in His hands unto whom all hearts be open, and who willeth not the death of any sinner. `As His majesty is, so is His mercy.' Of this one thing am I sure, that no soul shall be found in Hell which should have rather chosen Heaven. They shall go `to their own place:' the place they are fit for, and the place they choose."

"But how can we forget them?" she replieth.

"If we are to forget them," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "the Lord will know how to compass it. I have reached the end of my tether, _Dulcie_; and to pull thereat doth alway hurt me. I will step back, by thy leave."

As I listed the two voices, both something touched, methought it should be one soul in especial of whom both were thinking, and I guessed that were Mr _Leonard Norris_.

"And yet," saith my Lady _Stafford_, "that thought hath its perilous side, _Joyce_. 'Tis so easy for a man to think he shall be saved at the last minute, howsoe'er he live."

"Be there any thoughts that have not a perilous side?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "As for that, _Dulcie_, my rule is, to be as easy as ever I can in my charitable hopes for other folk; and as hard as ever I can on this old woman _Joyce_, that I do find such rare hard work to pull of the right road. I cannot help other folks' lives: but I can see to it that I make mine own calling sure. That is the safe side, I reckon."

"The safe side, ay: but men mostly love to walk on the smooth side."

"Why, so do I," quoth Aunt _Joyce_: "but I would be on the side that shall come forth smooth at the end."

"Ah, if all would but think of that!" saith my Lady, and she fetched a sigh.

"We should all soon be in Heaven," Aunt _Joyce_ made answer. "But thou art right, _Dulcie_. He that shall leave to look to his chart till the last hour of his journey is like to reach home very weary and worn, if he come at all. He that will go straight on, and reckoneth to get home after some fashion, is not like to knock at the gate ere it be shut up. The easiest matter in all the world is to miss Heaven."

SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XXV. This morrow, _Milisent_ was avised to ask at _Walter_, in a tone somewhat satirical, if he wist how his _Excellency_ did.

"Nay, _Milly_, mind me not of my follies, prithee," quoth he, flushing.

"Never cast a man's past ill-deeds in his face, _Milly_," softly saith _Mother_. "His conscience (if it be awake) shall mind him of them oft enough."

"I reckon she shall have forgotten by now how to spell his name," saith _Father_. "There be many such at Court."

"Yet they have hearts in the Court, trow?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"A few," quoth _Father_. "But they mostly come forth thereof. For one like my Lady of _Surrey_--(_Lettice_ will conceive me)--there is many a Lady of _Richmond_."

"Oh, surely not, _Aubrey_!" crieth _Mother_, earnestly.

"True, dear heart," answereth he. "Let but a woman enter the Court--any Court--and verily it should seem to change her heart to stone."

"Now, son of _Adam_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Well, daughter of _Eva_?" _Father_ makes answer.

"Casting the blame on the women," saith she. "Right so did _Adam_, and all his sons have trod of his steps."

"I thought she deserved it," saith _Father_.

"She deserved it a deal less than he!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, in an heat. "He sinned with his eyes open, and she was deceived of the serpent."

"Look you, she blamed the serpent, belike," saith Sir _Robert_, laughing.

"I take it, she was an epitome in little of all future women, as _Adam_ of all men to come," saith _Father_. "But, _Joyce_, methinks _Paul_ scarce beareth thee out."

"I have heard folks to say _Paul_ was not a woman's friend," saith Sir _Robert_.

"That's not true," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, how so, my mistress?" Sir _Robert_ makes merry answer. "He bade them keep silence in the churches, and be subject to the men, and not to teach: was that over courteous, think you?"

"Call me a _Frenchman_, if I stand that!" crieth Aunt _Joyce_. "Sir _Robert Stafford_, be so good as listen to me."

"So I do, with both mine ears, I do ensure you," saith he, laughing.

"Now shall we meet with our demerits!" saith _Father_. "I pity thee not o'er much, _Robin_, for thou hast pulled it on thine own head."

"My head will stand it," quoth Sir _Robert_. "Now then, Mistress _Joyce_, prithee go to."

Then quoth she, standing afore him--"I know well you can find me places diverse where _Paul_ did bid wives that they should obey their husbands; and therein hold I with _Paul_. But I do defy you in this company to find me so much as one place wherein he biddeth women to obey men. And as for teaching, in his Epistle unto _Titus_, he plainly commandeth that the aged women shall teach the young ones. Moreover, I pray you, had not _Philip_ the evangelist four virgin daughters, which did prophesy-- to wit, preach? And did not _Priscilla_, no whit less than _Aquila_, instruct _Apollos_?"

"Mistress _Joyce_, the Queen's Bench lost an eloquent advocate in you."

"That's a man all over!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, with a little stamp of her foot. "When he cannot answer a woman's reasoning, trust him to pay her a compliment, and reckon that shall serve her turn, poor fool, a deal better than the other."

Sir _Robert_ laughed as though he were rarely diverted.

"_Dulcie_ may do your bidding an' she list," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "but trust me, so shall not I."

"Mistress _Joyce_, therein will I trust you as fully as may be," saith he, yet laughing. "Yet, I pray you, satisfy my curious fantasy, and tell me wherein you count _Paul_ a friend to the women?"

"By reason that he told them plainly they were happier unwed," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "and find me an other man that so reckoneth. Mark you, he saith not better, nor holier, nor wiser; but happier. That is it which most men will deny."

"Doth it not in any wise depend on the woman?" saith Sir _Robert_, with a comical set of his lips. "It depends on the man, a sight more," saith she.

"But, my mistress, bethink you of the saw--`A man is what a woman makes him.'"

"Oh, is he so?" crieth Aunt _Joyce_, in scorn. "She's a deal more what he makes her. `A good _Jack_, a good _Gill_!' Saws cut two ways, Sir _Robert_."

"Six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other," saith _Father_.

"_Lettice_, come thou and aid me," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Here be two men set on one poor woman."

"Nay, I am under obedience, _Joyce_," saith _Mother_, laughing.

"Forsooth, so thou art!" quoth she. "_Bess_, give me thine help."

"I am beholden to you, Mistress _Joyce_," saith Cousin _Bess_, "but I love not to meddle in no frays of other folk. I were alway learned that women were the meaner sort o' th' twain."

"Go thy ways, thou renegade!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Come, _Joyce_, shall I aid thee?" quoth _Father_.

"Nay, thou hypocrite, I'll not have thee," saith she. "Thou shouldst serve me as the wooden horse did the Trojans." And she added some _Latin_ words, the which I wist not. [Note 3.]

"`_Femme qui parle Latin
Ne vient jamais a bonne fin_.'"

saith Sir _Robert_ under his voice.

"That is because you like to have it all to yourselves," saith Aunt _Joyce_, turning upon him. "There be _few_ men would not fainer have a woman foolish than learned. Tell me wherefore?"

"I dispute the major," quoth he, and shaked his head.

"Then I'll tell you," pursueth she. "Because--to give you _French_ for your _French_--`_Parmi les aveugles, les borgnes sont rois_.' You love to keep atop of us; and it standeth to reason that the lower down we are the less toil shall you have in climbing."

"`Endless genealogies, which breed doubts more than godly edifying,'" saith _Father_. "Are we not landed in somewhat like them?"

"Well, Sir _Robert_, I'll forgive you!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, and held forth her hand. "But mark you, I am right and you are wrong, for all that."

Sir _Robert_ lifted Aunt _Joyce's_ hand to his lips, with ever so much fun in his eyes, though his mouth were as grave as a whole bench of judges.

"My mistress," said he, "I have been wed long enough to have learned never to gainsay a gentlewoman."

"Nay, _Dulcie_ never learned you that!" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "I know her better. Your daughters may have done, belike."

Sir _Robert_ did but laugh, and so ended the matter.

SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE XXX. So here I am come to the last day of our Chronicle--to-morrow being _Sunday_, when methinks it unseemly to write therein, without it were some godly meditations that should come more meeter from an elder pen than mine. To-morrow even I shall give the book into the hands of Aunt _Joyce_, that she may read the same, and write her own thoughts thereon: and thereafter shall _Father_ and _Mother_ and _Anstace_ read it. There be yet fifteen leaves left of the book, and metrusteth Aunt _Joyce_ shall fill them every one: for it standeth with reason that her thoughts should be better worth than of young maids like us.

I wis not well if I have been wise on the last page or no, as _Father did_ seem diverted to hear me to say I would fain be. I am something afeared that I come nearer _Milisent_ her reckoning, and have been wise on none. But I dare say that _Helen_ hath fulfilled her hope, and been wise on all. Leastwise, Aunt _Joyce_ her wisdom, as I cast no doubt, shall make up for our shortcomings.

I cannot but feel a little sorry to lay down my pen, and as though I would fain keep adding another line, not to have done. Wherefore is it, I marvel, that all last things (without they be somewhat displeasant) be so sorrowful? Though it be a thing that you scarce care aught for, yet to think that you be doing it for the very last time of all, shall cause you feel right melancholical.

Well! last times must come, I count. So farewell, my good red book: and when the Queen's Majesty come to read thee (as _Milly_ would have it) may Her Majesty be greatly diverted therewith; and when _Father_ and _Mother_, may they pardon (as I reckon they shall) all faults and failings thereof, and in particular, should they find such, any displeasance done to themselves, more especially of that their loving and duteous daughter, that writes her name _Editha Louvaine_.


Note 1. At this time separate articles from the dress, and fastened in when worn, according to taste.

Note 2. Silk stockings. New and costly things, being about two guineas the pair.

Note 3. "_Timeo Danaos, ac dona ferentes_."



"Now that Thy mercies on my head
The oil of joy for mourning pour,
Not as I will my steps be led,
But as Thou wilt for evermore."

Anna L. Waring.

(_In Joyce Morrell's handwriting_.)

SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE SECOND. Some ten years gone, when I was tarrying hither, I had set round my waist a leather thong, at the other end whereof was a very small damsel, by name _Edith_. "Gee up, horse!" quoth she: "gee up, I say!" and accordingly in all obeisance I did gee up, and danced and pranced (like an old dolt as I am) at the pleasance of that my driver. It seems me that Mistress _Edith_ hath said "Gee up!" yet once again, and given the old brown mare a cut of her whip. I therefore have no choice but to prance: and if any into whose hands this book may fall hereafter shall reckon me a silly old woman, I hereby do them to wit that their account tallieth to one farthing with the adding of _Joyce Morrell_.

I have read over the writings of these my cousins: and as I am commanded to write my thoughts on that matter, I must say that methinks but one of them hath done as she laid out to do. That _Nell_ hath been wise on every page will I not deny; at the least, if not, they be right few. But I reckon _Edith_ hath been wise on more than the last (though not on all) and hath thus done better than she looked for: while as to _Milly_, she hath been wise on none of her first writing, and on all of her second. Verily, when I came to read that record of _February_, I might scarce credit that _Milisent_ was she that writ.

Ah, these young maids! how do they cause an elder woman to live o'er her life again! To look thereat in one light, it seemeth me as a century had passed sithence I were as they: and yet turn to an other, and it is but yestereven since I was smoothing _Anstace'_ pillow, and making tansy puddings for my father, and walking along the garden, in a dream of bliss that was never to be, with one I will not name, but who shall never pass along those garden walks with me, never any more.

And dost thou think it sorrow, young _Edith_, rosebud but just breaking into bloom, to clasp the hand of aught and say unto it, "Farewell, Last Time!" I shall not gainsay thee. All young things have such moods, half melancholical, half delightsome, and I know when I was as much given to them as ever thou art. But there be sorrows to which there is no last time that you may know,--no clasping of loving hands, no tender farewell: only the awful waking to find that you have dreamed a dream, and the utter blank of life that cometh after. Our worst sufferings are not the crushing pain for which all around comfort you and smoothe your pillow, and try one physic after an other that shall may-be give you ease. They are those for which none essayeth to comfort you, and you could not bear it if they did. No voice save His that knoweth our frame can speak comfort then, and oft-times not His even can speak hope.

Ay, and they that account other folk cheery and hopeful,--as I see from these writings that these maids do of me,--what wit they of the inner conflict, and the dreary plains of despair we have by times to cross? It may be that she which crieth sore and telleth out all her griefs, hath far less a burden to carry than she which bolts the door of her heart o'er it, so that the world reckoneth her to have no griefs at all. In good sooth, I have found _Anstace_ right when she said the only safe confidant for most was _Jesu Christ_.

Well! It is ever best to let by-gones be by-gones. Only there be seasons when they will not be gone, but insist on coming back and abiding with you for a while. And one of those seasons is come to me this eve, after reading of this Chronicle.

Ay, _Joyce Morrell_, thou art but a poor weak soul, and that none knoweth better than thyself. Let the world reckon thee such, and welcome. And in very deed I would fain have _Christ_ so to reckon me, for then should He take me in His arms with the little lambs, in the stead of leaving me to trot on alongside with the strong unweary sheep.

Yes, they call a woman's heart weak that will go on loving, through evil report and good report,--through the deep snows of long absence, and the howling storms of no love to meet it, and the black gulfs of utter unworthiness.

Be it so. I confess them all. But I go on hoping against all hope, and when even hope seems as though it died within me, I go on loving still.

Was it for any love or lovesomeness of mine that God loved me?

O my hope once so bright, my treasure that was mine once, my love that might have been! Every morrow and every night I pray God to bring thee back from that far country whither thou art gone,--home to the Father's house. If I may find thee on the road home, well, so much the sweeter for me. But if not, let us only meet in the house of the Father, and I ask no more.

I know thou hast loved many, with that alloyed metal thou dignifiest by the name. But with the pure gold of a true heart that God calls love, none hath ever loved thee as I have,--may-be none hath ever loved thee but me.

God knoweth,--thee and me. God careth. God will provide. Enough, O fainting heart! Get thee back into the clefts of the Rock that is higher than thou. Rest, and be still.

SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE III. I could write no more last night. It was better to cast one's self on the sand (as _Ned_ saith men do in the great Desert of _Araby_) and leave the tempest sweep o'er one's head. I come back now to the life of every day--that quiet humdrum life (as _Milly_ hath it) which is so displeasant to young eager natures, and matcheth so well with them that be growing old and come to feel the need of rest. And after all said, Mistress _Milisent_, a man should live a sorry life and a troublous, if it had in it no humdrum days. Human nature could not bear perpetual sorrow, and as little (in this dispensation at the least) should it stand unceasing joy.

I fell a-thinking this morrow, how little folks do wit of that which lieth a-head. Now, if I were to prophesy (that am no prophet, neither a prophet's daughter) what should befall these young things my cousins twenty years hereafter, then would I say that it should find _Ned_ captain of some goodly vessel, and husband of _Faith Murthwaite_ (and may he have no worser fate befall him!)--and _Wat_, a country gentleman (but I trust not wed to _Gillian Armstrong)_: and _Nell_, a comely maiden ministering lovingly unto her father and mother: and _Milisent_ dwelling at _Mere Lea_ with _Robin Lewthwaite_: and _Edith_--nay, I will leave the fashioning of her way to the Lord, for I see not whither it lieth. And very like (an' it be His will I live thus long) when the time cometh, I shall see may-be not so much as one that hath fulfilled the purpose I did chalk out for them. Ay, but the Lord's chalking shall be a deal better than _Joyce Morrell's_. I reckon my lines should be all awry.

For how little hath happed that ever I looked for aforetime! _Dulcie Fenton_, that wont to look as though it should be a sin in her to laugh, had she beheld aught to laugh at, hath blossomed out into an happy, comfortable matron, with two fair daughters, and an husband that (for a man) is rare good unto her: and _Lettice Eden_--come, _Anstace_ is to read this, so will I leave _Lettice_ to conceive for herself what should have followed. Both she and _Aubrey_ shall read well enough betwixt the lines. And _Joyce Morrell_, that thought once to be--what she is not-- is an humdrum old maid, I trust a bit useful as to cooking and stitchery and the like, and on whom God hath put a mighty charge of His gold and goods to minister for Him,--but nought nearer than cousins to give her love, though that do they most rarely, and God bless their hearts therefor. My best treasures be in the good Land--all save one, that the Good Shepherd is yet looking for over the wild hills: nor hath my life been an unhappy one, but for that one blank which is there day and night, and shall be till the Good Shepherd call me by my name to come and rejoice with Him over the finding of His sheep that is lost. O Lord, make no long tarrying! Yea, make no tarrying, O my God!

SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE V. _Ned_ hath spoke out at last, like the honest man he is, and done _Aubrey_ to wit of his desire to wed with _Faith Murthwaite_. She is a good maid, and I cast no doubt shall make a good wife. Scarce so comely as her sister _Temperance_, may-be, yet she liketh me the better: and not by no means so fair as _Gillian Armstrong_, which liketh me not at all. I would with all mine heart that I could put a spoke in that lass's wheel the which she rolleth toward our _Walter_: yet this know I, that if you shall give an hint to a young man that he were best not to wed with a certain maid, mine head to a porridge-pot but he shall go and fall o' love with her, out of pure contrariety. Men be such dolts! And, worser yet, they will not be ruled by the women, that have all the wit going.

Master _Murthwaite_, though he say little, as his wont is, is nevertheless, as I can see, pleased enough (and Mistress _Murthwaite_ a deal more, and openly) that his lass should have caught our _Ned_. And truly our _Ned_ is no ill catch, for he feareth God, and hath a deal of his father in him, than which I can write no better commendation. _Wat_ is more like _Lettice_.

Ay me, but is it no strange matter that the last thing ever a man (or woman) doth seem able to understand, is that `whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' _That_: not an other thing. Yet for one that honestly essayeth to sow that which he would reap, an hundred shall sow darnel and look confidently to reap fine wheat. They sow that they have no desire to reap, and ope their dull eyes in amazement when that cometh up which they have sown.

How do men pass their lives in endeavours to deceive God! Because they be ready to take His gold for tinsel, they reckon He shall leave their tinsel pass for gold.

Yea, and too oft we know not indeed what we sow.--Here be seeds; what, I wis not. Drop them into the earth--they shall come up somewhat.--Then, when they come up briars and thistles, we stand and gape on them.--Dear heart, who had thought they should be so? I looked for primroses and violets.--Did you so, friend? But had you not been wiser to ask at the Husbandman, who wot that you did not?--Good lack! but I thought me wise enough.--Ay so: that do we all and alway. Good Lord, who art the Only Wise, shake our conceits of our own wisdom!

Lack-a-daisy, but how easy is it to fall of a rut in thy journeying! Here was I but to write my thoughts touching these maids' writings, and after reading the same, I am fallen of their rut, and am going on to keep the Chronicle as though I were one of them. Of a truth, there is somewhat captivating therein: and _Edith_ saith she shall continue, for her own diversion, to keep a privy Chronicle. So be it. Methinks, as matter of understanding and natural turn thereto, she is fittest of the three. _Nell_ saith she found it no easy matter, and should never think so to do: while _Milisent_, as I guess, shall for a while to come be something too much busied living her chronicle, to write it. For me, I did once essay to do the same; but it went not, as I mind, beyond a week or so. Either there were so much to do there was no time to write it; or so little that there was nought to write. I well-nigh would now that I had kept it up. For sure such changes in public matters as have fallen in my life shall the world not see many times o'er again. When I was born, in Mdxxv [1525], was King _Harry_ the Eight young and well-liked of all men, and no living soul so much as dreamed of all the troubles thereafter to ensue. Then came the tumult that fell of the matter of the King's divorce. (All 'long of a man's obstinateness, for was not my sometime Lord Cardinal [Wolsey] wont to say that rather than miss the one half of his will, he would endanger the one half of his kingdom? Right the man is that. A woman should know how to bend herself to circumstances.) Then came the troubles o'er Queen _Anne_, that had her head cut off (and by my troth, I misdoubted alway if she did deserve the same); and then of the divorce of the Lady _Anne_ of _Cleve_ (that no _Gospeller_ did ever think to deserve the same); and then of Queen _Katherine_, whose head was cut off belike--eh me, what troublous times were then! Verily, looking back, they seem worser than at the time they did. For when things be, there be mixed with all the troubles little matters that be easy and even delightsome: but to look back, one doth forget all them, and think only of the great affairs. And all the time, along with this, kept pace that great ado of religion which fell out in the purifying of the Church men call the Reformation. (Though, of a truth, the _Papists_ have of late took up a cry that afore the Reformation the Church of _England_ was not, and did only then spring into being. As good say I was not _Joyce Morrell_ this morrow until I washed my face.) Then, when King _Harry_ died--and it was none too soon for this poor realm--came the goodly days of our young _Josiah_ King _Edward_, which were the true reforming of the Church; that which went afore were rather playing at reform. Men's passions were too much mixed up with it. But after the blue sky returned the tempest. Ay me, those five years of Queen _Mary_, what they be to look back on! Howbeit, matters were worser in the shires and down south than up hither. Old Bishop _Tunstall_ was best of all the _Papist_ Bishops, for though he flustered much (and as some thought, to save himself from suspicion of them in power), yet he did little more. I well-nigh gat mine head into a noose, for it ne'er was my way to carry my flag furled, and Father _Slatter_, that was then priest at _Minster Lovel_, as I know, had my name set of his list of persons suspect. Once come the catchpoll to mine house,--I wis not on what business, for, poor man! he tarried not to tell me when I come at him with the red-hot poker. I never wist a man yet, would stand a red-hot poker with a woman behind it that meant it for him. Master Catchpoll were wise enough to see that the penny is well spent that saveth a groat, and he gave me leave to see little more of him than his flying skirts and the nails of his boots-- and his hat, that he left behind of his hurry, the which I sent down to my mistress his wife with mine hearty commendations, and hope he had catched no cold. I reckon he preferred the risk of that to the surety of catching a red-hot poker. But that giving me warning of what might follow--as a taste of a dish whereof more should be anon laid on my trencher--up-stairs went I, and made up my little bundle, and the next night that ever was, away came I of an horse behind old _Dickon_, that had been sewer ever since _Father_ and _Mother_ were wed, then five-and-thirty years gone, and Father _Slatter_ might whistle for me, as I reckon he did when he heard it. It were an hard journey and a cold, for it were winter, but the snow was our true friend in covering all tracks, and at long last came I safe hither, in the middle of the night, and astonied _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_ more than a little by casting of snowballs at their chamber window. At the last come the casement undone, and _Aubrey's_ voice saith--

"Is there any in trouble?"

"Here is a poor maid, by name _Joyce Morrell_," said I, "that will be in trouble ere long if thou leave her out in this snowstorm."

Good lack, but was there no ado when my voice were known! The hall fire embers were stirren up, and fresh logs cast thereon, and in ten minutes was I sat afore it of a great chair, with all the blankets in _Cumberland_ around and over me, and a steaming hot posset-bowl of mine hand.

It was a mile or so too far, I reckon, for Father _Slatter_ to trudge after me, and if he had come, I'd have serven him of the poker, or twain if need be. I guess he should have loved rather to flounder back through the snow.

So, by the good hand of my God upon me, came I safe through the reign of Queen _Mary_; and when Queen _Elizabeth_ came in (whom God long preserve, unto the comfort of His Church and the welfare of _England_!) had I not much ado to win back my lands and goods. Truth to tell, I gat not all back, but what I lost was a cheap bargain where life lay in the other scale. And enough is as good as a feast, any day.

So here lie I now at anchor, becalmed on the high seas. (If that emblem hang not together, _Ned_ must amend it when he cometh unto it.) The day is neither bright nor dark, but it is a day known to the Lord, and I have faith to believe that at eventide it shall be light. I can trust and wait.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

MINSTER LOVEL MANOR HOUSE, AUGUST THE XXVIII, MDXCI [1591]. When I come, this morrow, to search for my Diurnal Book, the which for aught I knew I had brought with me from home, what should I find but our old Chronicle, which I must have catched up in mistake for the same? And looking therein, I was enticed to read divers pages, and then I fell a-thinking that as it had so happed, it might be well, seeing a space was yet left, that I should set down for the childre, whose it shall some day be, what had come to pass since. They were the pages Aunt _Joyce_ writ that I read: and seeing that of them therein named, two have reached Home already, and the rest of us be eleven years further on the journey, it shall doubtless make the story more completer to add these lines.

_Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, be all yet alive; the Lord be heartily thanked therefor! But _Father's_ hair is now of the hue of the snow, though _Mother_ hath scantly any silver amongst the gold; and Aunt _Joyce_ well-nigh matcheth _Father_. _Hal_ and _Anstace_ be as they were, with more childre round them. _Robin_ and _Milisent_ dwell at _Mere Lea_, with a goodly parcel belike; and _Helen_ (that Aunt _Joyce_ counted should be an old maid) is wife unto _Dudley Murthwaite_, and dwelleth by _Skiddaw Force_. _Wat_ is at _Kendal_, grown a good man and wise, more like to _Father_ than ever we dared hope: but his wife is not _Gillian Armstrong_, nor any of the maids of this part, but _Frances Radcliffe_, niece to my Lord _Dilston_ that was, and cousin unto Mistress _Jane_ and Mistress _Cicely_. They have four boys and three maids: but _Nell_ hath only one daughter, that is named _Lettice_ for _Mother_.

And _Ned_ is not. We prayed the Lord to bring him safe from that last voyage to _Virginia_ that ever Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ took; and He set him safe enough, but in better keeping than ours. For from that voyage came safe to _Falmouth_ all the ships save one, and that was the Admiral's own. They had crossed the _Atlantic_ through an awful storm, and the last seen of the Admiral was on the ix of _September_, Mdlxxxiii [1583], by them in the _Hind_: and when they saw him he was sat of the stern of his vessel, with his Bible open of his knees: and he was plainly heard to say,--"Courage, my men! Heaven is as near by water as by land." Then the mist closed again o'er the fleet, and they saw him no more. On the xxii of _September_ the fleet reached _Falmouth_: but when, and where, and how, Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ and our _Ned_ went down, He knoweth unto whom the night is as clear as the day, and we shall know when the sea giveth up her dead.

His young widow, our dear sister _Faith_, dwelleth with us at _Selwick_ Hall: and so doth their one child, little _Aubrey_, the darling of us all. I cannot choose but think never were two such sweetings as _Aubrey_ and his cousin _Lettice Murthwaite_.

I am _Edith Louvaine_ yet. I know now that I was counted fairest of the sisters, and they looked for me to wed with confidence. I am not so fair now, and I shall never wed. Had things turned out other than they have, I will not say I might not have done it. There is no blame to any--not even to myself. It was of God's ordering, and least of all could I think to blame that. It is only--and I see no shame to tell it--that the man who was my one love never loved me, and is happy in the love of a better than I. Be it so: I am content. I had no love-story,--only a memory that is known to none but me, though it will never give mine heart leave to open his gates to any love again. Enough of that. It is all the better for our dear _Father_ and _Mother_ that they have one daughter left to them.

At the time we writ this Chronicle, when I were scarce seventeen years of age, I mind I had a fantasy running through my brain that I was born for greatness. Methinks it came in part of a certain eager restless spirit that did long to be a-doing, and such little matters as do commonly fall to women's lot seemed mean and worthless in mine eyes. But in part (if I must needs confess my folly) I do believe it sprang of a tale I had heard of _Mother_, touching Queen _Katherine_, the last wife to King _Harry_ that was, of whom some _Egyptian_ [gypsy] had prophesied, in her cradle, that she was born for a crown: and ever after she heard the same, the child (as she then were) was used to scorn common works, and when bidden to her task, was wont to say,--"My hands were made to touch crowns and sceptres, not spindles and neelds," [needles]. Well, this tale (that _Mother_ told us for our diversion when we were little maids--for she, being _Kendal_ born, did hear much touching the Lady _Maud Parr_ and her childre, that dwelt in _Kendal_ Castle) this tale, I say, catched great hold of my fantasy. Mistress _Kate Parr_ came to be a queen, according to her previsions of greatness: and wherefore should not _Editha Louvaine_? Truly, there was but little reason in the fantasy, seeing no _Egyptian_ had ever prophesied of me (should that be of any account, which _Father_ will ne'er allow), nor could the Queen's Majesty make me a queen by wedding of me: but methinks pride and fantasy stick not much at logic. So I clung in my silly heart to the thought that I was born to be great, and was capable to do great things, would they but come in my way.

And now I have reached the age of seven and twenty, and they have not come in my way, nor seem like to do. The only conquest I am like to achieve is that over mine own spirit, which _Scripture_ reckoneth better than taking of a city: and the sole entrance into majesty and glory that ever I can look for, is to be presented faultless before the presence of God with exceeding joy. Ah, _Editha Louvaine_! hast thou any cause for being downcast at the exchange?

In good sooth, this notion of mine (that I can smile at now) showeth one thing, to wit, the deal of note that childre be apt to take of little matters that should seem nought to their elders. I can ne'er conceive the light and careless fashion wherein some women go about to breed up a child. To me the training of a human soul for the life immortal seems the most terrible piece of responsibility in the whole world.

And now there is one story left that I must finish, and it is of the other that hath got Home.

It was five years gone, and a short season after _Helen's_ marriage. _Mother_ was something diseased, as I think, touching me, for she said I was pale, and had lost mine appetite (and my sleep belike, though she wist it not).

'Twas thought that the winters at home were somewhat too severe for mine health, and 'twas settled that for the winter then coming, I should tarry with Aunt _Joyce_. It was easy to compass the matter, for at that time was _Wat_ of a journey to _London_ on his occasions, and he brought me, early in _October_, as far as _Minster Lovel_. As for getting back, that was left to see to when time should be convenient. _Father_ gave me his blessing, and three nobles spending money, and bade me bring back home a pair of rosier cheeks, saying he should not grudge to pay the bill: and _Mother_ shed some tears o'er me, and packed up for me much good gear of her own spinning and knitting, and all bade me farewell right lovingly. I o'erheard Cousin _Bess_ say to _Mother_ that the sun should scant seem to shine till I came back: the which dear _Mother_ did heartily echo, saying she wist not at all what had come o'er me, but it was her good hope that a southward winter should make me as an other maid.

Well! I could have told her what she wist not, for I was then but new come out of the discovering that what women commonly reckon the flower of a woman's life was not for me, and that I must be content to crown mine head with the common herb of the field. But I held my peace, and none wist it but Aunt _Joyce_: for in her presence had I not been a day when I found that her eyes had read me through. As we sat by the fire at even, our two selves, quoth she all suddenly, without an other word afore it--

"There be alway some dark valleys in a woman's life, _Edith_."

"I reckon so, _Aunt_," said I, essaying to speak lightly.

"Ay, and each one is apt to think she hath no company. But there be always footsteps on the road afore us, child. Nearest of all be His footsteps that knelt that dark night in _Gethsemane_, with no human comforting in His agony. There hath never been any sorrow like to His sorrow, though each one of us is given to suppose there is none like her own. Poor little _Edith_! didst reckon thy face should be any riddle to me--me, that have been on the road afore thee these forty years?"

I could not help it. That gentle touch unlocked the sealed fountain, and I knelt down by Aunt _Joyce_, and threw mine arms around her, and poured out mine heart like water, with mine head upon her knees. She held me to her with one arm, but not a word said she till my tears were stayed, and I could lift mine head again.

"That will do thee good, child," saith she. "'Tis what thy body and mind alike were needing. (And truly, mine heart, as methought, hath never felt quite so sore and bound from that day.) I know all about it, _Edith_. I saw it these two years gone, when I was with you at _Selwick_. And I began to fear, even then, that there was a dark valley on the road afore thee, though not so dark as mine. Ah, dear heart, it is sore matter to find thy shrine deserted of the idol: yet not half so sore as to see the idol lie broken at thy feet, and to know thenceforward that it was nought but a lump of common clay. No god-- only a lump of clay, that thy foolish heart had thought to be one! Well! all that lieth behind, and the sooner thou canst turn away and go on thy journey, the better. But for what lieth afore, _Edith_, look onward and look upward. Heaven will be the brighter because earth was darker than thou hadst looked for. _Christ_ will be the dearer Friend, because the dearest human friend hath failed thine hope. It is not the traveller that hath been borne through flowers and sunshine on the soft cushions of a litter, that is the gladdest to see the lights of home."

"It is nobody's fault," I could not help whispering.

"I know, dear heart!" she saith. "Thine idol is not broken. Thank God for it. Thou mayest think of him yet as a true man, able to hold up his head in the sunlight, with no cause to be 'shamed of the love which stole into thine heart ere thou hadst wist it. Alas for them to whom the fairest thought which even hope can compass, is the thought of the prodigal in the far country, weary at long last of the husks which the swine do eat, and turning with yearning in his eyes toward the hills which lie betwixt him and the Father. O _Edith_, thank God that He hath spared thee such a sorrow as that!"

It was about six weeks after that even, when one wet morrow, as I was aiding Aunt _Joyce_ to turn the apples in her store-chamber, and gather into a basket such as lacked use, that _Barbara_, the cook-maid, come in with her hands o'er flour, to say--

"Mistress, here at the base door is a poor blind man, begging for broken victuals. Would you have me give him that beef-bone you set aside for broth?"

"A blind man?" saith Aunt _Joyce_. "Then shall he not go empty. I am coming down, _Bab_, and will look to him myself. Bring him out of the rain to the kitchen fire, and if he have a dog that leadeth him, find the poor animal some scraps.--Now, _Edith_, bring thy basket, and I will take mine."

"He hath no dog, Mistress," saith _Bab_; "'twas a lad that brought him."

"Then the lad may have an apple," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "which the dog should scantly shake his tail for. Go and bring them in, _Bab_; I shall be after thee presently."

So down came we into the kitchen, where was sat the blind man and the lad. We set down our baskets, and I gave the lad an apple at a sign from Aunt _Joyce_, which went toward the blind man and 'gan ask him if he were of those parts.

He was a comely man of (I would judge) betwixt sixty and seventy years, and had a long white beard. He essayed to rise when Aunt _Joyce_ spake.

"Nay, sit still, friend," saith she: "I dare reckon thou art aweary."

"Ay," saith he in a sad tone: "weary of life and all things that be in it."

"Ay so?" quoth she. "And how, then, of thine hope for the life beyond, where they never rest, yet are never weary?"

"Mistress," saith he, "the sinner that hath been pardoned a debt of ten thousand talents may have peace, but can scarce dare rise to hope."

"I am alway fain when a man reckoneth his debt heavy," saith Aunt _Joyce_. "We be mostly so earnest to persuade ourselves that we owe no farthing beyond an hundred pence."

"I could never persuade myself of that," saith he, shaking his white head. "I have plunged too deep in the mire to have any chance to doubt the conditions of my clothing."

It struck me that his manner of speech was something beyond a common beggar, and I could not but marvel if he had seen better days.

"And what askest, friend?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, winch turned away from him and busied herself with casting small twigs on the fire.

"A few waste victuals, if it like you, Mistress. They will be better than I deserve."

"And if it like me not?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, suddenly, turning back to him, and methought there was a little trembling in her voice.

"Then," saith he, "I will trouble you no further."

"Then," saith she, to mine amaze, "I tell thee plainly I will not give them to such a sinner as thou hast been, by thine own confession."

"Be it so," he saith quietly, bowing his white head. "I cry you mercy for having troubled you, and I wish you a good morrow."

"That shalt thou never," came from Aunt _Joyce_, in a voice which was not hers. "Didst thou count _I_ was blind? _Leonard_, _Leonard_!"

And she clasped his hands in hers, and drew him back to the fireside.

"`Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry. For this my love was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.' My God, I thank Thee!"

And then, out of the white hair and the blind blue eyes, slowly came back to me the face of that handsome gentleman which had so near beguiled our _Milisent_ to her undoing, and had wrought such ill in _Derwentdale_.

"_Joyce_!" he saith, in a greatly agitated voice. "I would never have come hither, had I reckoned thou shouldst wit me."

"Thou wert out of thy reckoning, then," she answereth. "I tell thee, as I told _Dulcie_ years agone, that were I low laid in my grave, I should hear thy step upon the mould above me."

"I came," he saith, "but to hear thy voice once afore I die. Look upon thy face can I never more. But I thought to hear the voice of the only woman which ever loved me in very truth, and unto whom my wrong-doing is the heaviest sin in all my black calendar."

"Pardoned sin should not be heavy," saith she.

"Nay," quoth Mr _Norris_, "but it is the heaviest of all."

"Come in, _Leonard_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, tenderly.

"Nay, my merciful _Joyce_, let me not trouble thee," saith he, "for if thou canst not see it in my face, I know in mine heart that I am struck for death."

"I have seen it," she made answer. "And thou shalt spend thy last days no whither but in the Manor House at _Minster Lovel_, nor with any other nurse nor sister than _Joyce Morrell_. _Leonard_, for forty years I have prayed for this day. Dash not the cup from my lips ere I have well tasted its sweetness."

I caught a low murmur from Mr _Norris'_ lips, "Passing the love of women!" Then he held out his hand, and Aunt _Joyce_ drew it upon her arm and led him into her privy parlour.

I left them alone till she called me. To that interview there should be no third save God.

Nor was it much that I heard at after. Some dread accident had happed him, at after which his sight had departed, and his hair had gone white in a few weeks. He had counted himself so changed that none should know him. I doubt if he should not have been hid safe enough from any eyes save hers.

He lived about three months thereafter. Never in all my life saw I man that spake of his past life with more loathing and contrition. Even in death, raptures of thanksgiving had he none. He could not, as it seemed, rise above an humble trust that God would be as good as His word, and that for _Christ's_ sake he that had confessed his sins and forsaken them should find mercy.

He alway said that it was one word of Aunt _Joyce_ that had given him even so much hope. She had said to him, that day in the copse, after she had sent away _Milisent_ and me,--"I shall never give thee up, _Leonard_. I shall never cease praying for thee, till I know thou art beyond all prayer."

"It was those prayers, _Joyce_, that brought me back," he said. "After mine accident, I had been borne into a cot by the way-side, where as I lay abed in the back chamber, I could not but hear the goodman every day read the _Scriptures_ to his household. Those _Scriptures_ seethed in mine heart, and thy prayers were alway with me. It was as though they fitted one into the other. I thought thou hadst prayed me into that cot, for I might have been carried into some godless house where no such thing should have chanced me. But ever and anon, mixed with God's Word, I heard thy words, and thy voice seemed as if it called to me,--`Come back! come back!' I thought, if there were so much love and mercy in thee, there must be some left in God."

The night that Mr _Norris_ was buried in the churchyard of _Minster Lovel_, as we sat again our two selves by the fireside, Aunt _Joyce_ saith to me, or may-be to herself--

"I should think I may go now."

"Whither, _Aunt_?" said I.

"Home, _Edith_," she made answer. "Home--to _Leonard_ and _Anstace_, and to _Christ_. The work that was set me is done. `_Nunc dimittis, Domine_!'"

"Dear Aunt _Joyce_," said I, "I want you for ever so long yet."

"If thou verily do, _Edith_," saith she, "I shall have to tarry. And surely, she that hath borne forty years' travel in the darkness, can stand a few days' more journeying in the light. I know that when the right time cometh, my Father will not forget me. The children may by times feel eager to reach home, but the Father's heart longeth the most to have them all safe under His shelter."

And very gravely she added--"`They that were ready went in with Him to the wedding: and the gate was shut up.'"


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