Thoughtful for others as she always was, this lovely and loveable young woman went alone, on the morning of the day that was so sorrowful for her, to bear a little share of an elder lady’s sorrow, and comfort her with hopes, or at any rate with kindness. They had shed tears together when the bad news arrived, and again when a twelvemonth had weakened feeble hope; and now that another year had well-nigh killed it in old hearts too conversant with the cruelties of the world, a little talk, a tender look, a gentle repetition of things that had been said at least a hundred times before, might enter by some subtle passage to the cells of comfort. Who knows how the welted vine leaf, when we give it shade and moisture, crisps its curves again, and breathes new bloom upon its veinage? And who can tell how the flagging heart, beneath the cool mantle of time, revives, shapes itself into keen sympathies again, and spreads itself congenially to the altered light?
Without thinking about it, but only desiring to do a little good, if possible, Faith took the private way through her father’s grounds leading to the rectory, eastward of the village. It was scarcely two o’clock, and the sun was shining, and the air clear and happy, as it can be in October. She was walking rather fast, for fear of dropping into the brooding vein, when in the little fir plantation a man came forth on her path, and stood within a few yards in front of her. She was startled for an instant, because the place was lonely, and Captain Stubbard’s battery crew had established their power to repulse the French by pounding their fellow-countrymen. But presently she saw that it was Dan Tugwell, looking as unlike himself as any man can do (without the aid of an artist), and with some surprise she went on to meet him.
Instead of looking bright, and bold, and fearless, with the freedom of the sea in his open face, and that of the sun in his clustering curls, young Daniel appeared careworn and battered, not only unlike his proper self, but afraid of and ashamed of it. He stood not firmly on the ground, nor lightly poised like a gallant sailor, but loosely and clumsily like a ploughman who leaves off at the end of his furrow to ease the cramp. His hat looked as if he had slept in it, and his eyes as if he had not slept with them.
Miss Darling had always been fond of Dan, from the days when they played on the beach together, in childhood’s contempt of social law. Her old nurse used to shut her eyes, after looking round to make sure that there was “nobody coming to tell on them,” while as pretty a pair of children as the benevolent sea ever prattled with were making mirth and music and romance along its margin. And though in ripe boyhood the unfaithful Daniel transferred the hot part of his homage to the more coquettish Dolly, Faith had not made any grievance of that, but rather thought all the more of him, especially when he saved her sister’s life in a very rash boating adventure.
So now she went up to him with a friendly mind, and asked him softly and pitifully what trouble had fallen upon him. At the sweet sound of her voice, and the bright encouragement of her eyes, he felt as if he was getting better.
“If you please, miss,” he said, with a meek salutation, which proved his panisic ideas to be not properly wrought into his system as yet —“if you please, miss, things are very hard upon me.”
“Is it money?” she asked, with the true British instinct that all common woes have their origin there; “if it is, I shall be so glad that I happen to have a good bit put by just now.”
But Dan shook his head with such dignified sadness that Faith was quite afraid of having hurt his feelings. “Oh, I might have known,” she said, “that it was nothing of that kind. You are always so industrious and steady. But what can it be? Is it anything about Captain Stubbard and his men, because I know you do not like them, and none of the old Springhaven people seem to do so? Have you been obliged to fight with any of them, Daniel?”
“No, miss, no. I would not soil my hand by laying it on any of such chaps as those. Unless they should go for to insult me, I mean, or any one belonging to me. No, miss, no. It is ten times worse than money, or assault and battery.”
“Well, Daniel, I would not on any account,” said Faith, with her desire of knowledge growing hotter by delay, as a kettle boils by waiting —“on no account would I desire to know anything that you do not seem to think my advice might help you to get out of. I am not in a hurry, but still my time is getting rather late for what I have to do. By the time I come back from the rectory, perhaps you will have made up your mind about it. Till then, good-bye to you, Daniel.”
He stepped out of the path, that she might go by, and only said, “Then goodbye, miss; I shall be far away when you come back.”
This was more than the best-regulated, or largest — which generally is the worst-regulated — feminine mind could put up with. Miss Darling came back, with her mind made up to learn all, or to know the reason why.
“Dan, this is unworthy of you,” she said, with her sweet voice full of sorrow. “Have I ever been hard or unkind to you, Dan, that you should be so afraid of me?”
“No, miss, never. But too much the other way. That makes it so bad for me to say good-bye. I am going away, miss. I must be off this evening. I never shall see Springhaven no more, nor you, miss — nor nobody else.”
“It is quite impossible, Dan. You must be dreaming. You don’t look at all like yourself today. You have been doing too much over-time. I have heard all about it, and how very hard you work. I have been quite sorry for you on Sundays, to see you in the gallery, without a bit of rest, still obliged to give the time with your elbow. I have often been astonished that your mother could allow it. Why, Dan, if you go away, you will break her heart, and I don’t know how many more in Springhaven.”
“No, miss, no. They very soon mends them. It is the one as goes away that gets a deal the worst of it. I am sure I don’t know whatever I shall do, without the old work to attend to. But it will get on just as well without me.”
“No, it won’t,” replied Faith, looking at him very sadly, and shaking her head at such cynical views; “nothing will be the same, when you are gone, Daniel; and you ought to have more consideration.”
“I am going with a good man, at any rate,” he answered, “the freest-minded gentleman that ever came to these parts. Squire Carne, of Carne Castle, if you please, miss.”
“Mr. Caryl Carne!” cried Faith, in a tone which made Daniel look at her with some surprise. “Is he going away? Oh, I am so glad!”
“No, miss; not Squire Carne himself. Only to provide for me work far away, and not to be beholden any more to my own people. And work where a man may earn and keep his own money, and hold up his head while adoing of it.”
“Oh, Dan, you know more of such things than I do. And every man has a right to be independent, and ought to be so, and I should despise him otherwise. But don’t be driven by it into the opposite extreme of disliking the people in a different rank —”
“No, miss, there is no fear of that — the only fear is liking some of them too much.”
“And then,” continued Faith, who was now upon one of her favourite subjects past interruption, “you must try to remember that if you work hard, so do we, or nearly all of us. From the time my father gets up in the morning, to the time when he goes to bed at night, he has not got five minutes — as he tells us every day — for attending to anything but business. Even at dinner, when you get a good hour, and won’t be disturbed — now will you?”
“No, miss; not if all the work was tumbling down. No workman as respects himself would take fifty-nine minutes for sixty.”
“Exactly so; and you are right. You stand up for your rights. Your dinner you have earned, and you will have it. And the same with your breakfast, and your supper too, and a good long night to get over it. Do you jump up in bed, before you have shut both eyes, hearing or fancying you have heard the bell, that calls you out into the cold, and the dark, and a wet saddle, from a warm pillow? And putting that by, as a trouble of the war, and the chance of being shot at by dark tall men”— here Faith shuddered at her own presentment, as the image of Caryl Carne passed before her — “have you to consider, at every turn, that whatever you do — though you mean it for the best — will be twisted and turned against you by some one, and made into wickedness that you never dreamed of, by envious people, whose grudge against you is that they fancy you look down on them? Though I am sure of one thing, and that is that my father, instead of looking down upon any honest man because he is poor, looks up to him; and so do I; and so does every gentleman or lady. And any one who goes about to persuade the working-people — as they are called, because they have to use their hands more — that people like my father look down upon them, and treat them like dogs, and all those wicked stories — all I can say is, any man who does it deserves to be put in the stocks, or the pillory, or even to be transported as an enemy to his country.”
Dan looked at the lady with great surprise. He had always known her to be kind and gentle, and what the old people called “mannersome,” to every living body that came near her. But to hear her put, better than he could put them, his own budding sentiments (which he thought to be new, with the timeworn illusion of young Liberals), and to know from her bright cheeks, and brighter eyes, that her heart was in every word of it, and to feel himself rebuked for the evil he had thought, and the mischief he had given ear to — all this was enough to make him angry with himself, and uncertain how to answer.
“I am certain that you never thought of such things,” Miss Darling continued, with her gentle smile returning; “you are much too industrious and sensible for that. But I hear that some persons are now in our parish who make it their business, for some reason of their own, to spread ill-will and jealousy and hatred everywhere, to make us all strangers and foes to one another, and foreigners to our own country. We have enemies enough, by the will of the Lord (as Mr. Twemlow says), for a sharp trial to us, and a lesson to our pride, and a deep source of gratitude, and charity, and good-will — though I scarcely understand how they come in-and, above all, a warning to us to stick together, and not exactly hate, but still abhor, everybody who has a word to say against his own country at a time like this. And ten thousand times as much, if he is afraid to say it, but crawls with crafty poison into simple English bosoms.”
“There is nothing of that, miss, to my knowledge, here,” the young fisherman answered, simply; “Springhaven would never stand none of that; and the club drinks the health of King George every night of their meeting, and stamps on the floor for him. But I never shall help to do that any more. I must be going, miss — and thank you.”
“Then you will not tell me why you go? You speak of it as if it was against your will, and yet refuse to say what drives you. Have you been poaching, Dan? Ah, that is it! But I can beg you off immediately. My father is very good even to strangers, and as for his doing anything to you — have no fear, Dan; you shall not be charged with it, even if you have been in Brown Bushes.”
Brown Bushes, a copse about a mile inland, was the Admiral’s most sacred spot, when peace allowed him to go shooting, because it was beloved by woodcocks, his favourite birds both for trigger and for fork. But Daniel only shook his head; he had not been near Brown Bushes. Few things perhaps will endure more wear than feminine curiosity. But when a trap has been set too long, it gets tongue-bound, and grows content without contents.
“Daniel Tugwell,” said Miss Darling, severely, “if you have not been fighting, or conspiring against society, or even poaching, I can well understand that you may have reasons for not desiring my assistance or advice. And I only wonder that under such circumstances you took the trouble to wait for me here, as you appear to have done. Good-bye.”
“Oh, don’t be cross, miss! please not to be cross,” cried Daniel, running after her; “I would tell you all about it this very instant moment, if it were behoving to me. You will hear all about it when you get to Parson Twemlow’s, for I saw mother going there, afore she had her breakfast, though I was not concernable to let her see me. If the Squire had been home, she would have gone up to Hall first. No, miss, no. I done nothing to be ashamed of; and if you turn back on me, you’ll be sorry afterwards.”
Faith was more apt to think that she had been too sharp than to be so in behaviour to any one. She began at once, with a blush for her bad ideas, to beg Dan’s pardon, and he saw his way to say what he was come to say.
“You always were too good, Miss Faith, too good to be hard upon any one, and I am sure you have not been hard upon me; for I know that I look disrespectable. But I couldn’t find words to say what I wanted, until you spoke so soft and kind. And perhaps, when I say it, you’ll be angry with me, and think that I trespass upon you.”
“No, I won’t, Dan; I will promise you that. You may tell me, as if I were Mr. Swipes, who says that he never lost his temper in his life, because he is always right, and other people wrong.”
“Well, miss, I’m afraid that I am not like that, and that makes me feel so uncomfortable with the difference between us. Because it is all about Miss Dolly, and I might seem so impudent. But you know that I would go through fire and water to serve Miss Dolly, and I durstn’t go away forever without one message to her. If I was in her own rank of life, God Almighty alone should part us, whether I was rich or whether I was poor, and I’d like to see any one come near her! But being only an ignorant fellow without any birth or book-learning, I am not such a fool as to forget that the breadth of the world lies between us. Only I may wish her well, all the same — I may wish her well and happy, miss?”
“Certainly you may.” Faith blushed at the passion of his words, and sighed at their despair. “You have saved her life. She respects and likes you, the same as my father and I do. You may trust me with your message, Dan.”
“I suppose it would not be the proper thing for me to see her once before I go; just for one minute, with you standing by her, that I might — that she might —”
“No,” answered Faith, though it grieved her to say it; “we must not think of that, Dan. It could do you no good, and it might do her harm. But if you have any message, to be useful to her —”
“The useful part of it must be through you, miss, and not sent to her at all, I think, or it would be very impertinent. The kind part is to give her my good-bye, and say that I would die to help her. And the useful part is for yourself. For God’s sake, miss, do keep Miss Dolly out of the way of Squire Carne! He hath a tongue equal to any woman, with the mind of a man beneath it. He hath gotten me body and soul; because I care not the skin of a dab what befalls me. But oh, miss, he never must get Miss Dolly. He may be a very good man in some ways, and he is wonderful free-minded; but any young lady as marries him had better have leaped into the Culver Hole. Farewell, miss, now that I have told you.” He was gone before Faith could even offer him her hand, but he took off his hat and put one finger to his curls, as he looked back from the clearing; and her eyes filled with tears, as she waved her hand and answered, “Farewell, Daniel!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05