Moss Brow, the Corney’s house, was but a disorderly, comfortless place. You had to cross a dirty farmyard, all puddles and dungheaps, on stepping-stones, to get to the door of the house-place. That great room itself was sure to have clothes hanging to dry at the fire, whatever day of the week it was; some one of the large irregular family having had what is called in the district a ‘dab-wash’ of a few articles, forgotten on the regular day. And sometimes these articles lay in their dirty state in the untidy kitchen, out of which a room, half parlour, half bedroom, opened on one side, and a dairy, the only clean place in the house, at the opposite. In face of you, as you entered the door, was the entrance to the working-kitchen, or scullery. Still, in spite of disorder like this, there was a well-to-do aspect about the place; the Corneys were rich in their way, in flocks and herds as well as in children; and to them neither dirt nor the perpetual bustle arising from ill-ordered work detracted from comfort. They were all of an easy, good-tempered nature; Mrs. Corney and her daughters gave every one a welcome at whatever time of the day they came, and would just as soon sit down for a gossip at ten o’clock in the morning, as at five in the evening, though at the former time the house-place was full of work of various kinds which ought to be got out of hand and done with: while the latter hour was towards the end of the day, when farmers’ wives and daughters were usually —‘cleaned’ was the word then, ‘dressed’ is that in vogue now. Of course in such a household as this Sylvia was sure to be gladly received. She was young, and pretty, and bright, and brought a fresh breeze of pleasant air about her as her appropriate atmosphere. And besides, Bell Robson held her head so high that visits from her daughter were rather esteemed as a favour, for it was not everywhere that Sylvia was allowed to go.
‘Sit yo’ down, sit yo’ down!’ cried Dame Corney, dusting a chair with her apron; ‘a reckon Molly ‘ll be in i’ no time. She’s nobbut gone int’ t’ orchard, to see if she can find wind-falls enough for t’ make a pie or two for t’ lads. They like nowt so weel for supper as apple-pies sweetened wi’ treacle, crust stout and leathery, as stands chewing, and we hannot getten in our apples yet.’
‘If Molly is in t’ orchard, I’ll go find her,’ said Sylvia.
‘Well! yo’ lasses will have your conks’ (private talks), ‘a know; secrets ‘bout sweethearts and such like,’ said Mrs. Corney, with a knowing look, which made Sylvia hate her for the moment. ‘A’ve not forgotten as a were young mysen. Tak’ care; there’s a pool o’ mucky watter just outside t’ back-door.’
But Sylvia was half-way across the back-yard — worse, if possible, than the front as to the condition in which it was kept — and had passed through the little gate into the orchard. It was full of old gnarled apple-trees, their trunks covered with gray lichen, in which the cunning chaffinch built her nest in spring-time. The cankered branches remained on the trees, and added to the knotted interweaving overhead, if they did not to the productiveness; the grass grew in long tufts, and was wet and tangled under foot. There was a tolerable crop of rosy apples still hanging on the gray old trees, and here and there they showed ruddy in the green bosses of untrimmed grass. Why the fruit was not gathered, as it was evidently ripe, would have puzzled any one not acquainted with the Corney family to say; but to them it was always a maxim in practice, if not in precept, ‘Do nothing today that you can put off till tomorrow,’ and accordingly the apples dropped from the trees at any little gust of wind, and lay rotting on the ground until the ‘lads’ wanted a supply of pies for supper.
Molly saw Sylvia, and came quickly across the orchard to meet her, catching her feet in knots of grass as she hurried along.
‘Well, lass!’ said she, ‘who’d ha’ thought o’ seeing yo’ such a day as it has been?’
‘But it’s cleared up now beautiful,’ said Sylvia, looking up at the soft evening sky, to be seen through the apple boughs. It was of a tender, delicate gray, with the faint warmth of a promising sunset tinging it with a pink atmosphere. ‘Rain is over and gone, and I wanted to know how my cloak is to be made; for Donkin ‘s working at our house, and I wanted to know all about — the news, yo’ know.’
‘What news?’ asked Molly, for she had heard of the affair between the Good Fortune and the Aurora some days before; and, to tell the truth, it had rather passed out of her head just at this moment.
‘Hannot yo’ heard all about t’ press-gang and t’ whaler, and t’ great fight, and Kinraid, as is your cousin, acting so brave and grand, and lying on his death-bed now?’
‘Oh!’ said Molly, enlightened as to Sylvia’s ‘news,’ and half surprised at the vehemence with which the little creature spoke; ‘yes; a heerd that days ago. But Charley’s noane on his death-bed, he’s a deal better; an’ mother says as he’s to be moved up here next week for nursin’ and better air nor he gets i’ t’ town yonder.’
‘Oh! I am so glad,’ said Sylvia, with all her heart. ‘I thought he’d maybe die, and I should niver see him.’
‘A’ll promise yo’ shall see him; that’s t’ say if a’ goes on well, for he’s getten an ugly hurt. Mother says as there’s four blue marks on his side as’ll last him his life, an’ t’ doctor fears bleeding i’ his inside; and then he’ll drop down dead when no one looks for ‘t.’
‘But you said he was better,’ said Sylvia, blanching a little at this account.
‘Ay, he’s better, but life’s uncertain, special after gun-shot wounds.’
‘He acted very fine,’ said Sylvia, meditating.
‘A allays knowed he would. Many’s the time a’ve heerd him say “honour bright,” and now he’s shown how bright his is.’
Molly did not speak sentimentally, but with a kind of proprietorship in Kinraid’s honour, which confirmed Sylvia in her previous idea of a mutual attachment between her and her cousin. Considering this notion, she was a little surprised at Molly’s next speech.
‘An’ about yer cloak, are you for a hood or a cape? a reckon that’s the question.’
‘Oh, I don’t care! tell me more about Kinraid. Do yo’ really think he’ll get better?’
‘Dear! how t’ lass takes on about him. A’ll tell him what a deal of interest a young woman taks i’ him!’
From that time Sylvia never asked another question about him. In a somewhat dry and altered tone, she said, after a little pause —
‘I think on a hood. What do you say to it?’
‘Well; hoods is a bit old-fashioned, to my mind. If ‘t were mine, I’d have a cape cut i’ three points, one to tie on each shoulder, and one to dip down handsome behind. But let yo’ an’ me go to Monkshaven church o’ Sunday, and see Measter Fishburn’s daughters, as has their things made i’ York, and notice a bit how they’re made. We needn’t do it i’ church, but just scan ’em o’er i’ t’ churchyard, and there’ll be no harm done. Besides, there’s to be this grand burryin’ o’ t’ man t’ press-gang shot, and ‘t will be like killing two birds at once.’
‘I should like to go,’ said Sylvia. ‘I feel so sorry like for the poor sailors shot down and kidnapped just as they was coming home, as we see’d ’em o’ Thursday last. I’ll ask mother if she’ll let me go.’
‘Ay, do. I know my mother ‘ll let me, if she doesn’t go hersen; for it ‘ll be a sight to see and to speak on for many a long year, after what I’ve heerd. And Miss Fishburns is sure to be theere, so I’d just get Donkin to cut out cloak itsel’, and keep back yer mind fra’ fixing o’ either cape or hood till Sunday’s turn’d.’
‘Will yo’ set me part o’ t’ way home?’ said Sylvia, seeing the dying daylight become more and more crimson through the blackening trees.
‘No; I can’t. A should like it well enough, but somehow, there’s a deal o’ work to be done yet, for t’ hours slip through one’s fingers so as there’s no knowing. Mind yo’, then, o’ Sunday. A’ll be at t’ stile one o’clock punctual; and we’ll go slowly into t’ town, and look about us as we go, and see folk’s dresses; and go to t’ church, and say wer prayers, and come out and have a look at t’ funeral.’
And with this programme of proceedings settled for the following Sunday, the girls whom neighbourhood and parity of age had forced into some measure of friendship parted for the time.
Sylvia hastened home, feeling as if she had been absent long; her mother stood on the little knoll at the side of the house watching for her, with her hand shading her eyes from the low rays of the setting sun: but as soon as she saw her daughter in the distance, she returned to her work, whatever that might be. She was not a woman of many words, or of much demonstration; few observers would have guessed how much she loved her child; but Sylvia, without any reasoning or observation, instinctively knew that her mother’s heart was bound up in her.
Her father and Donkin were going on much as when she had left them; talking and disputing, the one compelled to be idle, the other stitching away as fast as he talked. They seemed as if they had never missed Sylvia; no more did her mother for that matter, for she was busy and absorbed in her afternoon dairy-work to all appearance. But Sylvia had noted the watching not three minutes before, and many a time in her after life, when no one cared much for her out-goings and incomings, the straight, upright figure of her mother, fronting the setting sun, but searching through its blinding rays for a sight of her child, rose up like a sudden-seen picture, the remembrance of which smote Sylvia to the heart with a sense of a lost blessing, not duly valued while possessed.
‘Well, feyther, and how’s a’ wi’ you?’ asked Sylvia, going to the side of his chair, and laying her hand on his shoulder.
‘Eh! harkee till this lass o’ mine. She thinks as because she’s gone galraverging, I maun ha’ missed her and be ailing. Why, lass, Donkin and me has had t’ most sensible talk a’ve had this many a day. A’ve gi’en him a vast o’ knowledge, and he’s done me a power o’ good. Please God, tomorrow a’ll tak’ a start at walking, if t’ weather holds up.’
‘Ay!’ said Donkin, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice; ‘feyther and me has settled many puzzles; it’s been a loss to Government as they hannot been here for profiting by our wisdom. We’ve done away wi’ taxes and press-gangs, and many a plague, and beaten t’ French — i’ our own minds, that’s to say.’
‘It’s a wonder t’ me as those Lunnon folks can’t see things clear,’ said Daniel, all in good faith.
Sylvia did not quite understand the state of things as regarded politics and taxes — and politics and taxes were all one in her mind, it must be confessed — but she saw that her innocent little scheme of giving her father the change of society afforded by Donkin’s coming had answered; and in the gladness of her heart she went out and ran round the corner of the house to find Kester, and obtain from him that sympathy in her success which she dared not ask from her mother.
‘Kester, Kester, lad!’ said she, in a loud whisper; but Kester was suppering the horses, and in the clamp of their feet on the round stable pavement, he did not hear her at first. She went a little farther into the stable. ‘Kester! he’s a vast better, he’ll go out tomorrow; it’s all Donkin’s doing. I’m beholden to thee for fetching him, and I’ll try and spare thee waistcoat fronts out o’ t’ stuff for my new red cloak. Thou’ll like that, Kester, won’t ta?’
Kester took the notion in slowly, and weighed it.
‘Na, lass,’ said he, deliberately, after a pause. ‘A could na’ bear to see thee wi’ thy cloak scrimpit. A like t’ see a wench look bonny and smart, an’ a tak’ a kind o’ pride in thee, an should be a’most as much hurt i’ my mind to see thee i’ a pinched cloak as if old Moll’s tail here were docked too short. Na, lass, a’se niver got a mirroring glass for t’ see mysen in, so what’s waistcoats to me? Keep thy stuff to thysen, theere’s a good wench; but a’se main and glad about t’ measter. Place isn’t like itsen when he’s shut up and cranky.’
He took up a wisp of straw and began rubbing down the old mare, and hissing over his work as if he wished to consider the conversation as ended. And Sylvia, who had strung herself up in a momentary fervour of gratitude to make the generous offer, was not sorry to have it refused, and went back planning what kindness she could show to Kester without its involving so much sacrifice to herself. For giving waistcoat fronts to him would deprive her of the pleasant power of selecting a fashionable pattern in Monkshaven churchyard next Sunday.
That wished-for day seemed long a-coming, as wished-for days most frequently do. Her father got better by slow degrees, and her mother was pleased by the tailor’s good pieces of work; showing the neatly-placed patches with as much pride as many matrons take in new clothes now-a-days. And the weather cleared up into a dim kind of autumnal fineness, into anything but an Indian summer as far as regarded gorgeousness of colouring, for on that coast the mists and sea fogs early spoil the brilliancy of the foliage. Yet, perhaps, the more did the silvery grays and browns of the inland scenery conduce to the tranquillity of the time — the time of peace and rest before the fierce and stormy winter comes on. It seems a time for gathering up human forces to encounter the coming severity, as well as of storing up the produce of harvest for the needs of winter. Old people turn out and sun themselves in that calm St. Martin’s summer, without fear of ‘the heat o’ th’ sun, or the coming winter’s rages,’ and we may read in their pensive, dreamy eyes that they are weaning themselves away from the earth, which probably many may never see dressed in her summer glory again.
Many such old people set out betimes, on the Sunday afternoon to which Sylvia had been so looking forward, to scale the long flights of stone steps — worn by the feet of many generations — which led up to the parish church, placed on a height above the town, on a great green area at the summit of the cliff, which was the angle where the river and the sea met, and so overlooking both the busy crowded little town, the port, the shipping, and the bar on the one hand, and the wide illimitable tranquil sea on the other — types of life and eternity. It was a good situation for that church. Homeward-bound sailors caught sight of the tower of St Nicholas, the first land object of all. They who went forth upon the great deep might carry solemn thoughts with them of the words they had heard there; not conscious thoughts, perhaps — rather a distinct if dim conviction that buying and selling, eating and marrying, even life and death, were not all the realities in existence. Nor were the words that came up to their remembrance words of sermons preached there, however impressive. The sailors mostly slept through the sermons; unless, indeed, there were incidents such as were involved in what were called ‘funeral discourses’ to be narrated. They did not recognize their daily faults or temptations under the grand aliases befitting their appearance from a preacher’s mouth. But they knew the old, oft-repeated words praying for deliverance from the familiar dangers of lightning and tempest; from battle, murder, and sudden death; and nearly every man was aware that he left behind him some one who would watch for the prayer for the preservation of those who travel by land or by water, and think of him, as God-protected the more for the earnestness of the response then given.
There, too, lay the dead of many generations; for St. Nicholas had been the parish church ever since Monkshaven was a town, and the large churchyard was rich in the dead. Masters, mariners, ship-owners, seamen: it seemed strange how few other trades were represented in that great plain so full of upright gravestones. Here and there was a memorial stone, placed by some survivor of a large family, most of whom perished at sea:—‘Supposed to have perished in the Greenland seas,’ ‘Shipwrecked in the Baltic,’ ‘Drowned off the coast of Iceland.’ There was a strange sensation, as if the cold sea-winds must bring with them the dim phantoms of those lost sailors, who had died far from their homes, and from the hallowed ground where their fathers lay.
Each flight of steps up to this churchyard ended in a small flat space, on which a wooden seat was placed. On this particular Sunday, all these seats were filled by aged people, breathless with the unusual exertion of climbing. You could see the church stair, as it was called, from nearly every part of the town, and the figures of the numerous climbers, diminished by distance, looked like a busy ant-hill, long before the bell began to ring for afternoon service. All who could manage it had put on a bit of black in token of mourning; it might be very little; an old ribbon, a rusty piece of crape; but some sign of mourning was shown by every one down to the little child in its mother’s arms, that innocently clutched the piece of rosemary to be thrown into the grave ‘for remembrance.’ Darley, the seaman shot by the press-gang, nine leagues off St. Abb’s Head, was to be buried today, at the accustomed time for the funerals of the poorer classes, directly after evening service, and there were only the sick and their nurse-tenders who did not come forth to show their feeling for the man whom they looked upon as murdered. The crowd of vessels in harbour bore their flags half-mast high; and the crews were making their way through the High Street. The gentlefolk of Monkshaven, full of indignation at this interference with their ships, full of sympathy with the family who had lost their son and brother almost within sight of his home, came in unusual numbers — no lack of patterns for Sylvia; but her thoughts were far otherwise and more suitably occupied. The unwonted sternness and solemnity visible on the countenances of all whom she met awed and affected her. She did not speak in reply to Molly’s remarks on the dress or appearance of those who struck her. She felt as if these speeches jarred on her, and annoyed her almost to irritation; yet Molly had come all the way to Monkshaven Church in her service, and deserved forbearance accordingly. The two mounted the steps alongside of many people; few words were exchanged, even at the breathing places, so often the little centres of gossip. Looking over the sea there was not a sail to be seen; it seemed bared of life, as if to be in serious harmony with what was going on inland.
The church was of old Norman architecture; low and massive outside: inside, of vast space, only a quarter of which was filled on ordinary Sundays. The walls were disfigured by numerous tablets of black and white marble intermixed, and the usual ornamentation of that style of memorial as erected in the last century, of weeping willows, urns, and drooping figures, with here and there a ship in full sail, or an anchor, where the seafaring idea prevalent through the place had launched out into a little originality. There was no wood-work, the church had been stripped of that, most probably when the neighbouring monastery had been destroyed. There were large square pews, lined with green baize, with the names of the families of the most flourishing ship-owners painted white on the doors; there were pews, not so large, and not lined at all, for the farmers and shopkeepers of the parish; and numerous heavy oaken benches which, by the united efforts of several men, might be brought within earshot of the pulpit. These were being removed into the most convenient situations when Molly and Sylvia entered the church, and after two or three whispered sentences they took their seats on one of these.
The vicar of Monkshaven was a kindly, peaceable old man, hating strife and troubled waters above everything. He was a vehement Tory in theory, as became his cloth in those days. He had two bugbears to fear — the French and the Dissenters. It was difficult to say of which he had the worst opinion and the most intense dread. Perhaps he hated the Dissenters most, because they came nearer in contact with him than the French; besides, the French had the excuse of being Papists, while the Dissenters might have belonged to the Church of England if they had not been utterly depraved. Yet in practice Dr Wilson did not object to dine with Mr. Fishburn, who was a personal friend and follower of Wesley, but then, as the doctor would say, ‘Wesley was an Oxford man, and that makes him a gentleman; and he was an ordained minister of the Church of England, so that grace can never depart from him.’ But I do not know what excuse he would have alleged for sending broth and vegetables to old Ralph Thompson, a rabid Independent, who had been given to abusing the Church and the vicar, from a Dissenting pulpit, as long as ever he could mount the stairs. However, that inconsistency between Dr Wilson’s theories and practice was not generally known in Monkshaven, so we have nothing to do with it.
Dr Wilson had had a very difficult part to play, and a still more difficult sermon to write, during this last week. The Darley who had been killed was the son of the vicar’s gardener, and Dr Wilson’s sympathies as a man had been all on the bereaved father’s side. But then he had received, as the oldest magistrate in the neighbourhood, a letter from the captain of the Aurora, explanatory and exculpatory. Darley had been resisting the orders of an officer in his Majesty’s service. What would become of due subordination and loyalty, and the interests of the service, and the chances of beating those confounded French, if such conduct as Darley’s was to be encouraged? (Poor Darley! he was past all evil effects of human encouragement now!)
So the vicar mumbled hastily over a sermon on the text, ‘In the midst of life we are in death’; which might have done as well for a baby cut off in a convulsion-fit as for the strong man shot down with all his eager blood hot within him, by men as hot-blooded as himself. But once when the old doctor’s eye caught the up-turned, straining gaze of the father Darley, seeking with all his soul to find a grain of holy comfort in the chaff of words, his conscience smote him. Had he nothing to say that should calm anger and revenge with spiritual power? no breath of the comforter to soothe repining into resignation? But again the discord between the laws of man and the laws of Christ stood before him; and he gave up the attempt to do more than he was doing, as beyond his power. Though the hearers went away as full of anger as they had entered the church, and some with a dull feeling of disappointment as to what they had got there, yet no one felt anything but kindly towards the old vicar. His simple, happy life led amongst them for forty years, and open to all men in its daily course; his sweet-tempered, cordial ways; his practical kindness, made him beloved by all; and neither he nor they thought much or cared much for admiration of his talents. Respect for his office was all the respect he thought of; and that was conceded to him from old traditional and hereditary association. In looking back to the last century, it appears curious to see how little our ancestors had the power of putting two things together, and perceiving either the discord or harmony thus produced. Is it because we are farther off from those times, and have, consequently, a greater range of vision? Will our descendants have a wonder about us, such as we have about the inconsistency of our forefathers, or a surprise at our blindness that we do not perceive that, holding such and such opinions, our course of action must be so and so, or that the logical consequence of particular opinions must be convictions which at present we hold in abhorrence? It seems puzzling to look back on men such as our vicar, who almost held the doctrine that the King could do no wrong, yet were ever ready to talk of the glorious Revolution, and to abuse the Stuarts for having entertained the same doctrine, and tried to put it in practice. But such discrepancies ran through good men’s lives in those days. It is well for us that we live at the present time, when everybody is logical and consistent. This little discussion must be taken in place of Dr Wilson’s sermon, of which no one could remember more than the text half an hour after it was delivered. Even the doctor himself had the recollection of the words he had uttered swept out of his mind, as, having doffed his gown and donned his surplice, he came out of the dusk of his vestry and went to the church-door, looking into the broad light which came upon the plain of the church-yard on the cliffs; for the sun had not yet set, and the pale moon was slowly rising through the silvery mist that obscured the distant moors. There was a thick, dense crowd, all still and silent, looking away from the church and the vicar, who awaited the bringing of the dead. They were watching the slow black line winding up the long steps, resting their heavy burden here and there, standing in silent groups at each landing-place; now lost to sight as a piece of broken, overhanging ground intervened, now emerging suddenly nearer; and overhead the great church bell, with its mediaeval inscription, familiar to the vicar, if to no one else who heard it, I to the grave do summon all, kept on its heavy booming monotone, with which no other sound from land or sea, near or distant, intermingled, except the cackle of the geese on some far-away farm on the moors, as they were coming home to roost; and that one noise from so great a distance seemed only to deepen the stillness. Then there was a little movement in the crowd; a little pushing from side to side, to make a path for the corpse and its bearers — an aggregate of the fragments of room.
With bent heads and spent strength, those who carried the coffin moved on; behind came the poor old gardener, a brown-black funeral cloak thrown over his homely dress, and supporting his wife with steps scarcely less feeble than her own. He had come to church that afternoon, with a promise to her that he would return to lead her to the funeral of her firstborn; for he felt, in his sore perplexed heart, full of indignation and dumb anger, as if he must go and hear something which should exorcize the unwonted longing for revenge that disturbed his grief, and made him conscious of that great blank of consolation which faithfulness produces. And for the time he was faithless. How came God to permit such cruel injustice of man? Permitting it, He could not be good. Then what was life, and what was death, but woe and despair? The beautiful solemn words of the ritual had done him good, and restored much of his faith. Though he could not understand why such sorrow had befallen him any more than before, he had come back to something of his childlike trust; he kept saying to himself in a whisper, as he mounted the weary steps, ‘It is the Lord’s doing’; and the repetition soothed him unspeakably. Behind this old couple followed their children, grown men and women, come from distant place or farmhouse service; the servants at the vicarage, and many a neighbour, anxious to show their sympathy, and most of the sailors from the crews of the vessels in port, joined in procession, and followed the dead body into the church.
There was too great a crowd immediately within the door for Sylvia and Molly to go in again, and they accordingly betook themselves to the place where the deep grave was waiting, wide and hungry, to receive its dead. There, leaning against the headstones all around, were many standing — looking over the broad and placid sea, and turned to the soft salt air which blew on their hot eyes and rigid faces; for no one spoke of all that number. They were thinking of the violent death of him over whom the solemn words were now being said in the gray old church, scarcely out of their hearing, had not the sound been broken by the measured lapping of the tide far beneath.
Suddenly every one looked round towards the path from the churchyard steps. Two sailors were supporting a ghastly figure that, with feeble motions, was drawing near the open grave.
‘It’s t’ specksioneer as tried to save him! It’s him as was left for dead!’ the people murmured round.
‘It’s Charley Kinraid, as I’m a sinner!’ said Molly, starting forward to greet her cousin.
But as he came on, she saw that all his strength was needed for the mere action of walking. The sailors, in their strong sympathy, had yielded to his earnest entreaty, and carried him up the steps, in order that he might see the last of his messmate. They placed him near the grave, resting against a stone; and he was hardly there before the vicar came forth, and the great crowd poured out of the church, following the body to the grave.
Sylvia was so much wrapt up in the solemnity of the occasion, that she had no thought to spare at the first moment for the pale and haggard figure opposite; much less was she aware of her cousin Philip, who now singling her out for the first time from among the crowd, pressed to her side, with an intention of companionship and protection.
As the service went on, ill-checked sobs rose from behind the two girls, who were among the foremost in the crowd, and by-and-by the cry and the wail became general. Sylvia’s tears rained down her face, and her distress became so evident that it attracted the attention of many in that inner circle. Among others who noticed it, the specksioneer’s hollow eyes were caught by the sight of the innocent blooming childlike face opposite to him, and he wondered if she were a relation; yet, seeing that she bore no badge of mourning, he rather concluded that she must have been a sweetheart of the dead man.
And now all was over: the rattle of the gravel on the coffin; the last long, lingering look of friends and lovers; the rosemary sprigs had been cast down by all who were fortunate enough to have brought them — and oh! how much Sylvia wished she had remembered this last act of respect — and slowly the outer rim of the crowd began to slacken and disappear.
Now Philip spoke to Sylvia.
‘I never dreamt of seeing you here. I thought my aunt always went to Kirk Moorside.’
‘I came with Molly Corney,’ said Sylvia. ‘Mother is staying at home with feyther.’
‘How’s his rheumatics?’ asked Philip.
But at the same moment Molly took hold of Sylvia’s hand, and said —
‘A want t’ get round and speak to Charley. Mother ‘ll be main and glad to hear as he’s getten out; though, for sure, he looks as though he’d ha’ been better in ‘s bed. Come, Sylvia.’
And Philip, fain to keep with Sylvia, had to follow the two girls close up to the specksioneer, who was preparing for his slow laborious walk back to his lodgings. He stopped on seeing his cousin.
‘Well, Molly,’ said he, faintly, putting out his hand, but his eye passing her face to look at Sylvia in the background, her tear-stained face full of shy admiration of the nearest approach to a hero she had ever seen.
‘Well, Charley, a niver was so taken aback as when a saw yo’ theere, like a ghost, a-standin’ agin a gravestone. How white and wan yo’ do look!’
‘Ay!’ said he, wearily, ‘wan and weak enough.’
‘But I hope you’re getting better, sir,’ said Sylvia, in a low voice, longing to speak to him, and yet wondering at her own temerity.
‘Thank you, my lass. I’m o’er th’ worst.’
He sighed heavily.
Philip now spoke.
‘We’re doing him no kindness a-keeping him standing here i’ t’ night-fall, and him so tired.’ And he made as though he would turn away. Kinraid’s two sailor friends backed up Philip’s words with such urgency, that, somehow, Sylvia thought they had been to blame in speaking to him, and blushed excessively with the idea.
‘Yo’ll come and be nursed at Moss Brow, Charley,’ said Molly; and Sylvia dropped her little maidenly curtsey, and said, ‘Good-by;’ and went away, wondering how Molly could talk so freely to such a hero; but then, to be sure, he was a cousin, and probably a sweetheart, and that would make a great deal of difference, of course.
Meanwhile her own cousin kept close by her side.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55