OVER AND DONE
Sitting in the parsonage garden, in a white frock, with a pale green sash about her waist, leaning back against the red-brick wall, her glowing copper hair lit by the evening sun, was Judith Trevisa.
She was tossing guelder-roses into the air; some dozens were strewn about her feet on the gravel, but one remained of the many she had plucked and thrown and caught, and thrown and caught again for a sunny afternoon hour. As each greenish-white ball of flowers went up into the air it diffused a faint but pleasant fragrance.
"When I have done with you, my beauty, I have done altogether," said Judith.
Her father spoke. He had come up unperceived by the girl, burdened with a shovel in one hand and a bucket in the other, looking pale, weary, and worn.
"Papa, you nearly spoiled my game. Let me finish, and I will speak."
"Is it a very serious matter, Judith, and engrossing?"
"Engrossing, but not serious, Je m'amuse."
The old rector seated himself on the bench beside her, and he also leaned back against the red-brick, gold-and-gray-lichen-spotted wall, and looked into the distance before him, waiting till his daughter was ready to speak, not, perhaps, sorry to have a little rest first, for he was overtired. Had Judith not been absorbed in her ball-play with the guelder-rose bunch she would have noticed his haggard appearance, the green hue about his mouth, the sunken eyes, the beaded brow. But she was counting the rebounds of her ball, bent on sustaining her play as long as was possible to her.
She formed a charming picture, fresh and pure, and had the old man not been overtired, he would have thought so with a throb of parental pride.
She was a child in size, slender in build, delicate in bone, with face and hands of porcelain transparency and whiteness, with, moreover, that incomparable complexion only seen in the British Isles, and then only with red-gold hair.
Her bronze-leather shoes were the hue of some large flies that basked and frisked on the warm wall, only slightly disturbed by the girl's play, to return again and run and preen themselves again, and glitter jewel-like as studs on that sun-baked, lichen-enamelled wall. Her eyes, moreover, were lustrous as the backs of these flies, iridescent with the changing lights of the declining sun, and the changed direction of her glance following the dancing ball of guelder-rose. Her long fingers might have been of china, but that when raised so that the sun struck their backs they were turned to a translucent rose. There was no color in her cheek, only the faintest suffusion of pink on the temples below where the hair was rolled back in waves of luminous molten copper dashing against the brick wall.
"I have done my work," said the rector.
"And I my play," responded the girl, letting the ball drop into her lap and rock there from one knee to the other. "Papa, this fellow is the conqueror; I have made him dance thirty-five great leaps, and he has not yet fallen—wilfully. I let him go down and get breath just now. There lie all my dancers dead about me. They failed very speedily."
"You cannot be forever playing, Ju."
"That is why I play now, papa. When playtime is over I shall be in earnest indeed."
"Indeed?" the old man sighed.
Judith looked round, and was shocked to see how ill her father appeared to be.
"Are you very tired, darling papa?"
"Have you been at your usual task?"
"Yes, Ju—an unprofitable task."
"Yes, unprofitable. The next wind from the sea that blows—one will blow in an hour—and all my work is undone."
"But, my dear papa!" Judith stooped and looked into the bucket. "Why!—what has made you bring a load of sand up here? We want none in the garden. And such a distance too!—from the church. No wonder you are tired."
"Have I brought it?" he asked, without looking at the bucket.
"You have, indeed. That, if you please, is unprofitable work, not the digging of the church out of the sand-heaps that swallow it."
"My dear, I did not know that I had not emptied the pail outside the church-yard gate. I am very tired; perhaps that explains it."
"No doubt about it, papa. It was work quite as unprofitable but much more exhausting than my ball-play. Now, papa, while you have been digging your church out of the sand, which will blow over it again to-night, you say, I have been pitching and tossing guelder-roses. We have been both wasting time, one as much as the other."
"One as much as the other," repeated the old man. "Yes, dear, one as much as the other, and I have been doing it all my time here—morally, spiritually, as well as materially, digging the church out of the smothering sands, and all in vain—all profitless work. You are right, Ju."
"Papa," said Judith hastily, seeing his discouragement and knowing his tendency to depression, "papa, do you hear the sea how it roars? I have stood on the bench, more than once, to look out seaward, and find a reason for it; but there is none—all blue, blue as a larkspur; and not a cloud in the sky—all blue, blue there too. No wind either, and that is why I have done well with my ball-play. Do you hear the roar of the sea, papa?" she repeated.
"Yes, Ju. There will be a storm shortly. The sea is thrown into great swells of rollers, a sure token that something is coming. Before night a gale will be on us."
Then ensued silence. Judith with one finger trifled with the guelder-rose bunch in her lap musingly, not desirous to resume her play with it. Something in her father's manner was unusual, and made her uneasy.
"My dear!" he began, after a pause, "one must look out to sea—into the vast mysterious sea of the future—and prepare for what is coming from it. Just now the air is still, and we sit in this sweet, sunny garden, and lean our backs against the warm wall, and smell the fragrance of the flowers; but we hear the beating of the sea, and know that a mighty tempest, with clouds and darkness, is coming. So in other matters we must look out and be ready—count the time till it comes. My dear, when I am gone——"
"We were looking out to sea and listening. That must come at some time—it may come sooner than you anticipate." He paused, heaved a sigh, and said, "Oh, Jamie! What are we to do about Jamie?"
"Papa, I will always take care of Jamie."
"But who will take care of you?"
"Of me? Oh, papa, surely I can take care of myself!"
He shook his head doubtfully.
"Papa, you know how strong I am in will—how firm I can be with Jamie."
"But all mankind are not Jamies. It is not for you I fear, as much as for you and him together. He is a trouble and a difficulty."
"Jamie is not so silly and troublesome as you think. All he needs is application. He cannot screw his mind down to his books—to any serious occupation. But that will come. I have heard say that the stupidest children make the sharpest men. Little by little it will come, but it will come certainly. I will set myself as my task to make Jamie apply his mind and become a useful man, and I shall succeed, papa." She caught her father's hand between hers, and slapped it joyously, confidently. "How cold your hand is, papa! and yet you look warm."
"You were always Jamie's champion," said her father, not noticing her remark relative to himself.
"He is my twin brother, so of course I am his champion. Who else would be that, were not I?"
"No—no one else. He is mischievous and troublesome—poor, poor fellow. You will always be to Jamie what you are now, Ju—his protector or champion? He is weak and foolish, and if he were to fall into bad hands—I shudder to think what might become of him."
"Rely on me, dearest father."
Then he lifted the hand of his daughter, and looked at it with a faint smile. "It is very small, it is very weak, to fight for self alone, let alone yourself encumbered with Jamie."
"I will do it, papa, do not fear."
"Judith, I must talk very gravely with you, for the future is very dark to me; and I am unable with hand or brain to provide anything against the evil day. Numbness is on me, and I have been hampered on every side. For one thing, the living has been so poor, and my parishioners so difficult to deal with, that I have been able to lay by but a trifle. I believe I have not a relative in the world—none, at all events, near enough and known to me that I dare ask him to care for you——"
"Papa, there is Aunt Dionysia."
"Aunt Dionysia," he repeated, with a hesitating voice. "Yes; but Aunt Dionysia is—is not herself capable of taking charge of you. She has nothing but what she earns, and then—Aunt Dionysia is—is—well—Aunt Dionysia. I don't think you could be happy with her, even if, in the event of my departure, she were able to take care of you. Then—and that chiefly—she has chosen, against my express wishes—I may say, in defiance of me—to go as housekeeper into the service of the man, of all others, who has been a thorn in my side, a hinderer of God's work, a—But I will say no more."
"What! Cruel Coppinger?"
"Yes, Cruel Coppinger. I might have been the means of doing a little good in this place, God knows! I only think I might; but I have been thwarted, defied, insulted by that man. As I have striven to dig my buried church out of the overwhelming sands, so have I striven to lift the souls of my poor parishioners out of the dead engulfing sands of savagery, brutality, very heathenism of their mode of life, and I have been frustrated. The winds have blown the sands back with every gale over my work with spade, and that stormblast Coppinger has devastated every trace of good that I have done, or tried to do, in spiritual matters. The Lord reward him according to his works."
Judith felt her father's hand tremble in hers.
"Never mind Coppinger now," she said, soothingly.
"I must mind him," said the old man, with severe vehemence. "And—that my own sister should go, go—out of defiance, into his house and serve him! That was too much. I might well say, I have none to whom to look as your protector." He paused awhile, and wiped his brow. His pale lips were quivering. "I do not mean to say," said he, "that I acted with judgment, when first I came to S. Enodoc, when I spoke against smuggling. I did not understand it then. I thought with the thoughts of an inlander. Here—the sands sweep over the fields, and agriculture is in a measure impossible. The bays and creeks seem to invite—well—I leave it an open question. But with regard to wrecking—" His voice, which had quavered in feebleness, according with the feebleness of his judgment relative to smuggling, now gained sonorousness. "Wrecking, deliberate wrecking, is quite another matter. I do not say that our people are not justified in gathering the harvest the sea casts up. There always must be, there will be wrecks on this terrible coast; but there has been—I know there has been, though I have not been able to prove it—deliberate provocation of wrecks, and that is the sin of Cain. Had I been able to prove——"
"Never mind that now, dear papa. Neither I nor Jamie are, or will be, wreckers. Talk of something else. You over-excite yourself."
Judith was accustomed to hear her father talk in an open manner to her. She had been his sole companion for several years, since his wife's death, and she had become the confidante of his inmost thoughts, his vacillations, his discouragements, not of his hopes—for he had none, nor of his schemes—for he formed none.
"I do not think I have been of any use in this world," said the old parson, relapsing into his tone of discouragement, the temporary flame of anger having died away. "My sowing has produced no harvest. I have brought light, help, strength to none. I have dug all day in the vineyard, and not a vine is the better for it; all cankered and fruitless."
"Papa—and me! Have you done nothing for me!"
He had not thought of his child.
"Papa! Do you think that I have gained naught from you? No strength, no resolution from seeing you toil on in your thankless work, without apparent results? If I have any energy and principle to carry me through I owe it to you."
He was moved, and raised his trembling hand and laid it on her golden head.
He said no more, and was very still.
Presently she spoke. His hands weighed heavily on her head.
"Papa, you are listening to the roar of the sea?"
He made no reply.
"Papa, I felt a cold breath; and see, the sun has a film over it. Surely the sea is roaring louder!"
His hand slipped from her head and struck her shoulder—roughly, she thought. She turned, startled, and looked at him. His eyes were open, he was leaning back, almost fallen against the wall, and was deadly pale.
"Papa, you are listening to the roar?"
Then a thought struck her like a bullet in the heart.
"Papa! Papa! My papa!—speak—speak!"
She sprang from the bench—was before him. Her left guelder-rose had rolled, had bounded from her lap, and had fallen on the sand the old man had listlessly brought up from the church. His work, her play, were forever over.
A PASSAGE OF ARMS
The stillness preceding the storm had yielded. A gale had broken over the coast, raged against the cliffs of Pentyre, and battered the walls of the parsonage, without disturbing the old rector, whom no storm would trouble again, soon to be laid under the sands of his buried church-yard, his very mound to be heaped over in a few years, and obliterated by waves of additional encroaching sand. Judith had not slept all night. She—she, a mere child, had to consider and arrange everything consequent on the death of the master of the house. The servants—cook and house-maid—had been of little, if any, assistance to her. When Jane, the house-maid, had rushed into the kitchen with the tidings that the old parson was dead, cook, in her agitation, upset the kettle and scalded her foot. The gardener's wife had come in on hearing the news, and had volunteered help. Judith had given her the closet-key to fetch from the stores something needed; and Jamie, finding access to the closet, had taken possession of a pot of raspberry jam, carried it to bed with him, and spilled it over the sheets, besides making himself ill. The house-maid, Jane, had forgotten in her distraction to shut the best bedroom casement, and the gale during the night had wrenched it from its hinges, flung it into the garden on the roof of the small conservatory, and smashed both. Moreover, the casement being open, the rain had driven into the room unchecked, had swamped the floor, run through and stained the drawing-room ceiling underneath, the drips had fallen on the mahogany table and blistered the veneer. A messenger was sent to Pentyre Glaze for Miss Dionysia Trevisa, and she would probably arrive in an hour or two.
Mr. Trevisa, as he had told Judith, was solitary, singularly so. He was of a good Cornish family, but it was one that had dwindled till it had ceased to have other representative than himself. Once well estated, at Crockadon, in S. Mellion, all the lands of the family had been lost; once with merchants in the family, all the fortunes of these merchants industriously gathered had been dissipated, and nothing had remained to the Reverend Peter Trevisa but his family name and family coat, a garb or, on a field gules. It really seemed as though the tinctures of the shield had been fixed in the crown of splendor that covered the head of Judith. But she did not derive this wealth of red-gold hair from her Cornish ancestors, but from a Scottish mother, a poor governess whom Mr. Peter Trevisa had married, thereby exciting the wrath of his only sister and relative, Miss Dionysia, who had hitherto kept house for him, and vexed his soul with her high-handed proceedings. It was owing to some insolent words used by her to Mrs. Trevisa that Peter had quarrelled with his sister at first. Then when his wife died, she had forced herself on him as housekeeper, but again her presence in the house had become irksome to him, and when she treated his children—his delicate and dearly loved Judith—with roughness, and his timid, silly Jamie with harshness, amounting in his view to cruelty—harsh words had passed between them; sharp is, however, hardly the expression to use for the carefully worded remonstrances of the mild rector, though appropriate enough to her rejoinders. Then she had taken herself off and had become housekeeper to Curll Coppinger, Cruel Coppinger, as he was usually called, who occupied Pentyre Glaze, and was a fairly well-to-do single man.
Mr. Trevisa had not been a person of energy, but one of culture and refinement; a dispirited, timid man. Finding no neighbors of the same mental texture, nor sympathetic, he had been driven to make of Judith, though a child, his companion, and he had poured into her ear all his troubles, which largely concerned the future of his children. In his feebleness he took comfort from her sanguine confidence, though he was well aware that it was bred of ignorance, and he derived a weak satisfaction from the thought that he had prepared her morally, at all events, if in no other fashion, for the crisis that must come when he was withdrawn.
Mr. Peter Trevisa—Peter was a family Christian name—was for twenty-five years rector of S. Enodoc, on the north coast of Cornwall at the mouth of the Camel. The sand dunes had encroached on the church of S. Enodoc, and had enveloped the sacred structure. A hole was broken through a window, through which the interior could be reached, where divine service was performed occasionally in the presence of the church-wardens, so as to establish the right of the rectors, and through this same hole bridal parties entered to be coupled, with their feet ankle-deep in sand that filled the interior to above the pew-tops.
But Mr. Trevisa was not the man to endure such a condition of affairs without a protest and an effort to remedy it. He had endeavored to stimulate the farmers and land-owners of the parish to excavate the buried church, but his endeavors had proved futile. There were several reasons for this. In the first place, and certainly foremost, stood this reason: as long as the church was choked with sand and could not be employed for regular divine service, the tithe-payers could make a grievance of it, and excuse themselves from paying their tithes in full, because, as they argued, "Parson don't give us sarvice, so us ain't obliged to pay'n." They knew their man, that he was tender-conscienced, and would not bring the law to bear upon them; he would see that there was a certain measure of justness in the argument, and would therefore not demand of them a tithe for which he did not give them the quid pro quo. But they had sufficient shrewdness to pay a portion of their tithes, so as not to drive him to extremities and exhaust his patience. It will be seen, therefore, that in the interests of their pockets the tithe-payers did not want to have their parish church excavated. Excavation meant weekly service regularly performed, and weekly service regularly performed would be followed by exaction of the full amount of rent-charge. Then, again, in the second place, should divine service be resumed in the church of S. Enodoc, the parishioners would feel a certain uneasiness in their consciences if they disregarded the summons of the bell; it might not be a very lively uneasiness, but just such an irritation as might be caused by a fly crawling over the face. So long as there was no service they could soothe their consciences with the thought that there was no call to make an effort to pull on Sunday breeches and assume a Sunday hat, and trudge to the church. Therefore, secondly, for the ease of their own consciences, it was undesirable that S. Enodoc should be dug out of the sand.
Then lastly, and thirdly, the engulfment of the church gave them a cherished opportunity for being nasty to the rector, and retailing upon him for his incaution in condemning smuggling and launching out into anathema against wrecking. As he had made matters disagreeable to them—tried, as they put it, to take bread out of their mouths, they saw no reason why they should spend money to please him.
Mr. Trevisa had made very little provision for his children, principally, if not wholly, because he could not. He had received from the farmers and land-owners a portion of tithe, and had been contented with that rather than raise angry feelings by demanding the whole. Out of that portion he was able to put aside but little.
Aunt Dionysia arrived, a tall, bony woman, with hair turning gray, light eyes and an aquiline nose, a hard, self-seeking woman, who congratulated herself that she did not give way to feelings.
"I feel," said she, "as do others, but I don't show my feelings as beggars expose their bad legs."
She went into the kitchen. "Hoity-toity!" she said to the cook, "fine story this—scalding yourself. Mind this, you cook meals or no wage for you." To Jane, "The mischief you have done shall be valued and deducted from any little trifle my brother may have left you in his will. Where is Jamie? Give me that joint of fishing-rod; I'll beat him for stealing raspberry jam."
Jamie, however, on catching a glimpse of his aunt had escaped into the garden and concealed himself. The cook, offended, began to clatter the saucepans.
"Now, then," said Mrs. Trevisa—she bore the brevet-rank—"in a house of mourning what do you mean by making this noise, it is impertinent to me."
The house-maid swung out of the kitchen, muttering.
Mrs. Trevisa now betook herself up-stairs in quest of her niece, and found her with red eyes.
"I call it rank felo-de-se," said Aunt Dionysia. "Every one knew—he knew, that he had a feeble heart, and ought not to be digging and delving in the old church. Who sent the sand upon it? Why, Providence, I presume. Not man. Then it was a flying in the face of Providence to try to dig it out. Who wanted the church? He might have waited till the parishioners asked for it. But there—where is Jamie? I shall teach him a lesson for stealing raspberry jam."
"Oh, aunt, not now—not now!"
Mrs. Trevisa considered a moment, then laid aside the fishing-rod.
"Perhaps you are right. I am not up to it after my walk from Pentyre Glaze. Now, then, what about mourning? I do not suppose Jamie can be measured by guesswork. You must bring him here. Tell him the whipping is put off till another day. Of course you have seen to black things for yourself. Not? Why, gracious heavens! is everything to be thrown on my shoulders? Am I to be made a beast of burden of? Now, no mewling and pewking. There is no time for that. Whatever your time may be, mine is valuable. I can't be here forever. Of course every responsibility has been put on me. Just like Peter—no consideration. And what can I do with a set of babies? I have to work hard enough to keep myself. Peter did not want my services at one time; now I am put upon. Have you sent for the undertaker? What about clothing again? I suppose you know that you must have mourning? Bless my heart! what a lot of trouble you give me."
Mrs. Trevisa was in a very bad temper, which even the knowledge that it was seemly that she should veil it could not make her restrain. She was, no doubt, to a certain extent fond of her brother—not much, because he had not been of any advantage to her; and no doubt she was shocked at his death, but chiefly because it entailed on herself responsibilities and trouble that she grudged. She would be obliged to do something for her nephew and niece; she would have to provide a home for them somewhere. She could not take them with her to Coppinger's house, as she was there as a salaried servant, and not entitled to invite thither her young relatives. Moreover, she did not want to have them near her. She disliked young people; they gave trouble, they had to be looked after, they entailed expenses. What was she to do with them? Where was she to put them? What would they have to live upon? Would they call on her to part-maintain them? Miss Dionysia had a small sum put away, and she had no intention of breaking into it for them. It was a nest-egg, and was laid by against an evil day that might come on herself. She had put the money away for herself, in her old age, not for the children of her feeble brother and his lack-penny wife to consume as moth and rust. As these thoughts and questions passed through her mind, Aunt Dionysia pulled open drawers, examined cupboards, pried open closets, and searched chests and wardrobes.
"I wonder now what he has put by for them," she said aloud.
"Do you mean my dear papa?" asked Judith, whose troubled heart and shaken spirits were becoming angry and restless under the behavior of the hard, unfeeling woman.
"Yes, I do," answered Mrs. Trevisa, facing round, and glaring malevolently at her niece. "It is early days to talk of this, but it must be done sooner or later, and if so, the sooner the better. There is money in the house, I suppose?"
"I do not know."
"I must know. You will want it—bills must be paid. You will eat and drink, I suppose? You must be clothed. I'll tell you what: I'll put the whole case into the hands of Lawyer Jenkyns, and he shall demand arrears of tithes. I know what quixotish conduct Peter——"
"Aunt, I will not allow this." A light flush came into the girl's cheek.
"It is all very well talking," said Aunt Dionysia; "but black is not white, and no power on earth can make me say that it is so. Money must be found. Money must be paid for expenses, and it is hard that I should have to find it; so I think. What money is there in the house for present necessities? I must know."
Suddenly a loud voice was heard shouting through the house—
"Mother Dunes! old Dunes! I want you."
Judith turned cold and white. Who was this that dared to bellow in the house of death, when her dear, dear father lay up-stairs with the blinds down, asleep? It was an insult, an outrage. Her nerves had already been thrilled, and her heart roused into angry revolt by the cold, unfeeling conduct of the woman who was her sole relative in the world. And now, as she was thus quivering, there came this boisterous shout.
"It is the master!" said Mrs. Trevisa, in an awestruck voice, lowered as much as was possible to her.
To Coppinger alone she was submissive, cringing, obsequious.
"What does he mean by this—this conduct?" asked Judith, trembling with wrath.
"He wants me."
Again a shout. "Dunes! old fool! the keys!"
Then Judith started forward, and went through the door to the head of the staircase. At the foot stood a middle-sized, strongly built, firmly knit man, in a dress half belonging to the land and half to the sea, with high boots on his legs, and slouched hat on his head. His complexion was olive, his hair abundant and black, covering cheeks and chin and upper lip. His eyes were hard and dark. He had one brown hand on the banister, and a foot on the first step, as though about to ascend, when arrested by seeing the girl at the head of the stairs before him. The house was low, and the steps led without a break directly from the hall to the landing which gave communication to the bedrooms. There was a skylight in the roof over the staircase, through which a brilliant flood of pure white light fell over Judith, whereas every window had been darkened by drawn blinds. The girl had found no sombre dress suitable to wear, and had been forced to assume the same white gown as the day before, but she had discarded the green sash and had bound a black ribbon about her waist, and another about her abundant hair. A black lace kerchief was drawn over her shoulders across her breast and tied at her back. She wore long, black mittens.
Judith stood motionless, her bosom rising and falling quickly, her lips set, the breath racing through her nostrils, and one hand resting on the banister at the stair-head.
In a moment her eyes met those of Coppinger, and it was at once as though a thrill of electric force had passed between them.
He desisted from his attempt to ascend, and said, without moving his eyes from hers, in a subdued tone, "She has taken the keys," but he said no more. He drew his foot from the step hesitatingly, and loosened his hand from the banister, down which went a thrill from Judith's quivering nerves, and he stepped back.
At the same moment she descended a step, still looking steadily into the dark, threatening pupils, without blinking or lowering her orbs. Emboldened by her boiling indignation, she stood on the step she had reached with both feet firmly planted there, and finding that the banister rattled under her hand she withdrew it, and folded her arms. Coppinger raised his hand to his head and took off his hat. He had a profusion of dark, curly, flowing hair, that fell and encircled his saturnine face.
Then Judith descended another step, and as she did so he retreated a step backwards. Behind him was the hall door, open; the light lay wan and white there on the gravel, for no sunshine had succeeded the gale. At every step that Judith took down the stair Coppinger retreated. Neither spoke; the hall was still, save for the sound of their breath, and his came as fast as hers. When Judith had reached the bottom she turned—Coppinger stood in the doorway now—and signed to her aunt to come down with the keys.
"Take them to him—Do not give them here—outside."
Mrs. Trevisa, surprised, confounded, descended the stair, went by her, and out through the door. Then Judith stepped after her, shut the door to exclude both Aunt Dionysia and that man Coppinger, who had dared, uninvited, on such a day to invade the house.
She turned now to remount the stairs, but her strength failed her, her knees yielded, and she sank upon a step, and burst into a flood of tears and convulsive sobs.
Captain Coppinger occupied an old farmhouse, roomy, low- built, granite quoined and mullioned, called Pentyre Glaze, in a slight dip of the hills near the cliffs above the thundering Atlantic. One ash shivered at the end of the house—that was the only tree to be seen near Pentyre Glaze. And—who was Coppinger? That is more than can be told. He had come—no one knew whence. His arrival on the north coast of Cornwall was mysterious. There had been haze over the sea for three days. When it lifted, a strange vessel of foreign rig was seen lying off the coast. Had she got there in the fog, not knowing her course; or had she come there knowingly, and was making for the mouth of the Camel? A boat was seen to leave the ship, and in it a man came ashore; the boat returned to the vessel, that thereupon spread sail and disappeared in the fog that re-descended over the water. The man gave his name as Coppinger—his Christian name, he said, was Curll, and he was a Dane; but though his intonation was not that of the Cornish, it was not foreign. He took up his residence in S. Enodoc at a farm, and suddenly, to the surprise of every one, became by purchase the possessor of Pentyre Glaze, then vacant and for sale. Had he known that the estate was obtainable when he had come suddenly out of the clouds into the place to secure it? Nobody knew, and Coppinger was silent.
Thenceforth Pentyre Glaze became the harbor and den of every lawless character along the coast. All kinds of wild uproar and reckless revelry appalled the neighborhood day and night. It was discovered that an organized band of smugglers, wreckers, and poachers made this house the centre of their operations, and that "Cruel Coppinger" was their captain. There were at that time—just a century ago—no resident magistrates or gentry in the immediate neighborhood. The yeomen were bribed, by kegs of spirits left at their doors, to acquiesce in a traffic in illicit goods, and in the matter of exchange they took their shares. It was said that on one occasion a preventive man named Ewan Wyvill, who had pursued Coppinger in his boat, was taken by him, and his head chopped off by the captain, with his boat axe, on the gunwale. Such was the story. It was never proved. Wyvill had disappeared, and the body was recovered headless on the Doom Bar. That violence had been used was undoubted, but who had committed the crime was not known, though suspicion pointed to Coppinger. Thenceforth none ever called him Curll; by one consent he was named Cruel. In the West of England every one is given his Christian name. An old man is Uncle, and an old woman Aunt, and any one in command is a Captain. So Coppinger was known as Captain Cruel, or as Cruel Coppinger.
Strange vessels were often seen appearing at regular intervals on the coast, and signals were flashed from the one window of Pentyre Glaze that looked out to sea.
Among these vessels, one, a full-rigged schooner, soon became ominously conspicuous. She was for long the terror of the Cornish coast. Her name was The Black Prince. Once, with Coppinger on board, she led a revenue cutter into an intricate channel among the rocks, where, from knowledge of the bearings, The Black Prince escaped scathless, while the king's vessel perished with all on board.
Immunity increased Coppinger's daring. There were certain bridle-roads along the fields over which he exercised exclusive control. He issued orders that no man should pass over them by night, and accordingly from that hour none ever did.[A]
[A] Many stories of Cruel Coppinger may be found in Hawker's Footprints of Former Men in Cornwall. I have also told them in my Vicar of Morwenstow. I have ventured to translate the scene of Coppinger's activity further west, from Wellcombe to S. Enodoc. But, indeed, he is told of in many places on this coast.
Moreover, if report spoke true—and reports do not arise without cause—Coppinger was not averse from taking advantage, and that unlawful advantage, of a wreck. By "lawful" and "unlawful" two categories of acts are distinguished, not by the laws of the land but by common consent of the Cornish conscience. That same Cornish conscience distinguished wrecking into two classes, as it distinguished then, and distinguishes still, witchcraft into two classes. The one, white witchcraft, is legitimate and profitable, and to be upheld; the other, black witchcraft, is reprehensible, unlawful, and to be put down. So with wrecking. The Bristol Channel teemed with shipping, flights of white sails passed in the offing, and these vessels were, when inward bound, laden with sugars and spices from the Indies, or with spirits and wines from France. If outward bound they were deep in the water with a cargo of the riches of England.
Now, should a gale spring up suddenly and catch any of these vessels, and should the gale be—as it usually is, and to the Cornish folk, favorably is—from the northwest, then there was no harbor of refuge along that rock-bound coast, and a ship that could not make for the open was bound inevitably to be pounded to pieces against the precipitous walls of the peninsula. If such were the case, it was perfectly legitimate for every householder in the district to come down on the wreck and strip it of everything it contained.
But, on the other hand, there was wrecking that was disapproved of, though practised by a few, so rumor said, and that consisted in luring a vessel that was in doubt as to her course, by false signals, upon a reef or bar, and then, having made a wreck of her, to pillage her. When on a morning after a night in which there had been no gale, a ship was found on the rocks, and picked as clean as the carcase of a camel in the desert, it was open to suspicion that this ship had not been driven there by wind or current; and when the survivors, if they reached the shore, told that they had been led to steer in the direction where they had been cast away by certain lights that had wholly deceived them, then it was also open to suspicion that these lights had been purposely exhibited for the sake of bringing that vessel to destruction; and when, further, it was proved that a certain set or gang of men had garnered all the profits, or almost all the profits, that accrued from a wreck, before the countryside was aware that a wreck had occurred, then it was certainly no very random conjecture that the wreck had been contrived in some fashion by those who profited by it. There were atrocious tales of murder of shipwrecked men circulating, but these were probably wholly, or at all events in part, untrue. If when a vessel ran upon the rocks she was deserted by her crew, if they took to the boats and made for shore, then there remained no impediment to the wreckers taking possession; it was only in the event of their finding a skipper on board to maintain right over the grounded vessel, or the mariners still on her engaged in getting her off, that any temptation to violence could arise. But it was improbable that a crew would cling to a ship on such a coast when once she was on the breakers. It was a moral certainty that they would desert her, and leave the wreck to be pillaged by the rats from shore, without offer of resistance. The character of the coast-wreckers was known to seamen, or rather a legend full of horror circulated relative to their remorseless savagery. The fear of wreckers added to the fear of the sea would combine to drive a crew, to the last man, into the boats. Consequently, though it is possible that in some cases murder of castaway men may have occurred, such cases must have been most exceptional. The wreckers were only too glad to build a golden bridge by which the wrecked might escape. Morally, without a question, those who lured a hapless merchantman upon the rocks were guilty of the deaths of those sailors who were upset in their boats in escaping from the vessel, or were dashed against the cliffs in their attempts to land, but there was no direct blood-guiltiness felt in such cases; and those who had reaped a harvest from the sea counted their gains individually, and made no estimate of the misery accruing thereby to others.
"Listen to me," said Judith.
The orphans were together in the room that had been their father's, the room in which for some days he had lain with the blinds down, the atmosphere heavy with the perfume of flowers, and that indescribable, unmistakable scent of death. Often, every day, almost every hour, had Judith stolen into the room while he lay there, to wonder with infinite reverence and admiration at the purity and dignity of the dead face. It was that of the dear, dear father, but sublimed beyond her imagination. All the old vacillation was gone, the expression of distress and discouragement had passed away, and in their place had come a fixity and a calm, such as one sees in the busts of the ancient Roman Cæsars, but with a superadded ethereality, if such a word can be used, that a piece of pagan statuary never reached. Marvellous, past finding out, it is that death, which takes from man the spiritual element, should give to the mere clay a look of angelic spirituality, yet so it is—so it was with the dead Peter Trevisa; and Judith, with eyes filling as fast as dried, stood, her hands folded, looking into his face, felt that she had never loved, never admired him half enough when he was alive. Life had been the simmer in which all the scum of trivialities, of infirmities, of sordidness had come to and shown itself on the surface. Now Death had cleared these all away, and in the peaceful face of the dead was seen the realman, the nobility, sanctity, delicacy that formed the texture of his soul, and which had impressed the very clay wrapped about that volatile essence.
As long as the dear father's body lay in the house Judith had not realized her utter desolation. But now the funeral was over, and she had returned with her brother to the parsonage, to draw up the blinds, and let the light once more enter, and search out, and revivify the dead rooms.
She was very pale, with reddened eyes, and looking more fragile and transparent than ever she did before, worn and exhausted by tearful, wakeful nights, and by days of alternating gusts of sorrow and busy preparation for the funeral, of painful recollections of joyous days that were past, and of doubtful searchings into a future that was full of cloud.
Her black frock served to enhance her pallor, and to make her look thinner, smaller than when in white or in color.
She had taken her place in her father's high-backed leather chair, studded thick with brass nails, the leather dulled and fretted by constant use, but the nail-heads burnished by the same treatment.
Her brother was in the same chair with her; both his arms were round her neck, and his head was on her shoulder. She had her right arm about his waist, her left was bowed, the elbow leaning on the chair arm, her hand folded inward, and her weary head rested on its back.
The fine weather broken in upon by the gale had returned; the sun shone in unhindered at the window, and blazed on the children's hair; the brass nails, polished by friction, twinkled as little suns, but were naught in lustre to the gorgeous red of the hair of the twins, for the first were but brass, and the other of living gold.
Two more lonely beings could hardly be discovered on the face of the earth—at all events in the peninsula of Cornwall—but the sense of this loneliness was summed in the heart of Judith, and was there articulate; Jamie was but dimly conscious of discomfort and bereavement. She knew what her father's death entailed on her, or knew in part, and conjectured more. Had she been left absolutely alone in the world her condition would have been less difficult than it was actually, encumbered with her helpless brother. Swimming alone in the tossing sea, she might have struck out with confidence that she could keep her head above water, but it was quite otherwise when clinging to her was a poor, half-witted boy, incapable of doing anything to save himself, and all whose movements tended only to embarrass her. Not that she regretted for an instant having to care for Jamie, for she loved him with sisterly and motherly love combined, intensified in force by fusion; if to her a future seemed inconceivable without Jamie, a future without him would be one without ambition, pleasure, or interest.
The twin brother was very like her, with the same beautiful and abundant hair, delicate in build, and with the same refined face, but without the flashes of alternating mood that lightened and darkened her face. His had a searching, bewildered, distressed expression on it—the only expression it ever bore except when he was out of temper, and then it mirrored on its surface his inward ill-humor. His was an appealing face, a face that told of a spirit infantile, innocent, and ignorant, that would never grow stronger, but which could deteriorate by loss of innocence—the only charge of which it was capable. The boy had no inherent naughtiness in him, but was constantly falling into mischief through thoughtlessness, and he was difficult to manage because incapable of reasoning.
What every one saw—that he never would be other than what he was—Judith would not admit. She acknowledged his inaptitude at his books, his frivolity, his restlessness, but believed that these were infirmities to be overcome, and that when overcome the boy would be as other boys are.
Now these children—they were aged eighteen, but Jamie looked four years younger—sat in their father's chair, clinging to each other, all in all to one another, for they had no one else to love and who loved them.
"Listen to me, Jamie."
"Yes, Ju, I be——"
"Don't say 'I be'—say 'I am.'"
"Jamie, dear!" she drew her arm tighter about him; her heart was bounding, and every beat caused her pain. "Jamie, dear, you know that, now dear papa is gone, and you will never see him in this world again, that——"
"That I have to look to you, my brother, to stand up for me like a man, to think and do for me as well as for yourself—a brave, stout, industrious fellow."
"I am a girl, and you will soon be a man, and must work for both of us. You must earn the money, and I will spend it frugally as we both require it. Then we shall be happy again, and dear papa in Paradise will be glad and smile on us. You will make an effort, will you not, Jamie? Hitherto you have been able to run about and play and squander your time, but now serious days have come upon us, and you must fix your mind on work and determine—Jamie—mind, screw your heart to a strong determination to put away childish things and be a man, and a strength and a comfort to me."
He put up his lips to kiss her cheek, but could not reach it, as her head was leaning on her hand away from him.
"What are you fidgeting at, my dear?" she asked, without stirring, feeling his body restless under her arm.
"A nail is coming out," he answered.
It was so; whilst she had been speaking to him he was working at one of the brass studs, and had loosened its bite in the chair.
"Oh, Jamie! you are making work by thus drawing out a nail. Can you not help me a little, and reduce the amount one has to think of and do? You have not been attending to what I said, and I was so much in earnest." She spoke in a tone of discouragement, and the tone, more than the words, impressed the susceptible heart of the boy. He began to cry.
"You are cross."
"I am not cross, my pet; I am never cross with you, I love you too dearly; but you try my patience sometimes, and just now I am overstrained—and then I did want to make you understand."
"Now papa's dead I'll do no more lessons, shall I?" asked Jamie, coaxingly.
"You must, indeed, and with me instead of papa."
"Not rosa, rosæ?"
"Yes, rosa, rosæ."
Then he sulked.
"I don't love you a bit. It is not fair. Papa is dead, so I ought not to have any more lessons. I hate rosa, rosæ!" He kicked the legs of the chair peevishly with his heels. As his sister said nothing, seemed to be inattentive—for she was weary and dispirited—he slapped her cheek by raising his hand over his head.
"What, Jamie, strike me, your only friend?"
Then he threw his arms round her again, and kissed her. "I'll love you; only, Ju, say I am not to do rosa, rosæ!"
"How long have you been working at the first declension in the Latin grammar, Jamie?"
He tried for an instant to think, gave up the effort, laid his head on her shoulder, and said:
"I don't know and don't care. Say I am not to do rosa, rosæ!"
"What! not if papa wished it?"
"I hate the Latin grammar!"
For a while both remained silent. Judith felt the tension to which her mind and nerves had been subjected, and lapsed momentarily into a condition of something like unconsciousness, in which she was dimly sensible of a certain satisfaction rising out of the pause in thought and effort. The boy lay quiet, with his head on her shoulder, for a while, then withdrew his arms, folded his hands on his lap, and began to make a noise by compressing the air between the palms.
"There's a finch out there going 'chink! chink!' and listen, Ju, I can make 'chink! chink!' too."
Judith recovered herself from her distraction, and said:
"Never mind the finch now. Think of what I say. We shall have to leave this house."
"Of course we must, sooner or later, and the sooner the better. It is no more ours."
"Yes, it is ours. I have my rabbits here."
"Now that papa is dead it is no longer ours."
"It's a wicked shame."
"Not at all, Jamie. This house was given to papa for his life only; now it will go to a new rector, and Aunt Dunes is going to fetch us away to another house."
"I won't go," said the boy. "I swear I won't."
"Hush, hush, Jamie! Don't use such expressions. I do not know where you have picked them up. We must go."
"And my rabbits, are they to go too?"
"The rabbits? We'll see about them. Aunt——"
"I hate Aunt Dunes!"
"You really must not call her that; if she hears you she will be very angry. And consider, she has been taking a great deal of trouble about us."
"I don't care."
"My dear, she is dear papa's sister."
"Why didn't papa get a nicer sister—like you?"
"Because he had to take what God gave him."
The boy pouted, and began to kick his heels against the chair-legs once more.
"Jamie, we must leave this house to-day. Aunt is coming to take us both away."
"I won't go."
"But, Jamie, I am going, and the cook is going, and so is Jane."
"Are cook and Jane coming with us?"
"We shall not want them. We cannot afford to keep them any more, to pay their wages; and then we shall not go into a house of our own. You must come with me, and be a joy and rest to me, dear Jamie."
She turned her head over, and leaned it on his head. The sun glowed in their mingled hair—all of one tinge and lustre. It sparkled in the tears on her cheek.
"Ju, may I have these buttons?"
He shook himself free from his sister, slid his feet to the ground, went to a bureau, and brought to his sister a large open basket that had been standing on the top of the bureau. It had been turned out of a closet by Aunt Dionysia, and contained an accumulation of those most profitless of collected remnants—odd buttons, coat buttons, brass, smoked mother-of-pearl, shirt buttons, steel clasps—buttons of all kinds, the gathering together made during twenty-five years. Why the basket, after having been turned out of a lumber closet, had been left in the room of death, or why, if turned out elsewhere, it had been brought there, is more than even the novelist can tell. Suffice it that there it was, and by whom put there could not be said.
"Oh! what a store of pretty buttons!" exclaimed the boy. "Do look, Ju, these great big ones are just like those on Cheap Jack's red waistcoat. Here is a brass one with a horse on it. Do see! Oh, Ju, please get your needle and thread and sew this one on to my black dress."
Judith sighed. It was in vain for her to impress the realities of the situation on his wandering mind.
"Hark!" she exclaimed. "There is Aunt Dunes. I hear her voice—how loud she speaks! She has come to fetch us away."
"Where is she going to take us to?"
"I do not know, Jamie."
"She will take us into the forest and lose us, like as did Hop-o'-my-Thumb's father."
"There are no forests here—hardly any trees."
"She will leave us in the forest and run away."
"I am sure she will. She doesn't like us. She wants to get rid of us. I don't care. May I have the basket of buttons?"
"Then I'll be Hop-o'-my-Thumb."
It was as Judith surmised. Mrs. Dionysia Trevisa had come to remove her nephew and niece from the rectory. She was a woman decided in character, especially in all that concerned her interests. She had made up her mind that the children could not be left unprotected in the parsonage, and she could not be with them. Therefore they must go. The servants must leave; they would be paid their month's wage, but by dismissing them their keep would be economized. There was a factotum living in a cottage near, who did the gardening, the cinder-sifting, and boot-cleaning for the rectory inmates, he would look after the empty house, and wait on in hopes of being engaged to garden, sift cinders, and clean boots for the new rector.
As it was settled that the children must leave the house, the next thing to consider was where they were to be placed. The aunt could not take them to Pentyre Glaze; that was not to be thought of. They must be disposed of in some other way.
Mrs. Trevisa had determined on a sale of her brother's effects: his furniture, bedding, curtains, carpets, books, plate, and old sermons. She was anxious to realize as soon as possible, so as to know for certain what she could calculate upon as being left her for the support of Judith and her brother. To herself the rector had left only a ring and five guineas. She had not expected more. His decease was not likely to be a benefit, but, on the contrary, an embarrassment to her. He had left about a thousand pounds, but then Mrs. Trevisa did not yet know how large a bite out of this thousand pounds would be taken by the dilapidations on rectory, glebe, and chancel. The chancel of the church was in that condition that it afforded a wide margin for the adjudication of dilapidations. They might be set down at ten shillings or a thousand pounds, and no one could say which was the fairest sum, as the chancel was deep in sand and invisible. The imagination of the valuer might declare it to be sound or to be rotten, and till dug out no one could impeach his judgment.
In those days, when an incumbent died, the widow and orphans of the deceased appointed a valuer, and the incoming rector nominated his valuer, and these two cormorants looked each other in the eyes—said to each other, "Brother, what pickings?" And as less resistance to being lacerated and cleaned to the bone was to be anticipated from a broken-hearted widow and helpless children than from a robust, red-faced rector, the cormorants contrived to rob the widow and the fatherless. Then that cormorant who had been paid to look after the interest of the widow and children and had not done it said to the other cormorant, "Brother, I've done you a turn this time; do me the like when the chance falls to you." Now, although nominally the money picked off the sufferers was to go to the account of the incomer, it was not allowed to pass till the cormorants had taken toll of it. Moreover, these cormorants were architects, builders, solicitors, or contractors of some sort, and looked to get something further out of the incoming man they favored, whereas they knew they could get nothing at all out of the departed man who was buried. Now we have pretended to change all this; let us persuade ourselves we have made the conduct of these matters more honest and just.
Aunt Dionysia did not know by experience what valuers for dilapidations were, but she had always heard that valuation for dilapidations materially diminished the property of a deceased incumbent. She was consequently uneasy, and anxious to know the worst, and make the best of the circumstances that she could. She saw clearly enough that the sum that would remain when debts and valuation were paid would be insufficient to support the orphans, and she saw also with painful clearness that there would be a necessity for her to supplement their reduced income from her own earnings. This conviction did not sweeten her temper and increase the cordiality with which she treated her nephew and niece.
"Now, hoity-toity!" said Aunt Dionysia; "I'm not one of your mewlers and pewkers. I have my work to do, and can't afford to waste time in the luxury of tears. You children shall come with me. I will see you settled in, and then Balhachet shall wheel over your boxes and whatever we want for the night. I have been away from my duties longer than I ought, and the maids are running wild, are after every one who comes near the place like horse-flies round the cattle on a sultry day. I will see you to your quarters, and then you must shift for yourselves. Balhachet can come and go between the rectory and Zachie Menaida as much as you want."
"Are we going to Mr. Menaida's, aunt?" asked Judith.
"Did I not say Zachie Menaida! If I said Zachie Menaida I suppose I meant what I said, or are you hard of hearing? Come—time to me is precious. Bustle—bustle—don't keep me waiting while you gape."
After a while Mrs. Trevisa succeeded in getting her nephew and niece to start. Judith, indeed, was ready at the first suggestion to go with her aunt, glad to get over the pang of leaving the house as quickly as might be. It was to be the rupture of one thread of the tie that bound her to the past, but an important thread. She was to leave the house as a home, though she would return to it again and again to carry away from it such of her possessions as she required and could find a place for at Zachary Menaida's. But with Jamie it was otherwise. He had run away, and had to be sought, and when found coaxed and cajoled into following his aunt and sister.
Judith had found him, for she knew his nooks and dens. He was seated in a laurel bush playing with the buttons.
"Look, Ju! there is some broken mirror among the buttons. Stand still, and I will make the sun jump into your eyes. Open your mouth, and I will send him down your throat. Won't it be fun; I'll tease old Dunes with it."
"Then come along with me."
The distance to Zachary Menaida's cottage was about a mile and a quarter, partly through parish roads, partly through lanes, the way in parts walled and hedged up against the winds, in others completely exposed to every breath of air where it traversed a down.
Judith walked forward with her aunt, and Jamie lagged. Occasionally his sister turned her head to reassure herself that he had not given them the slip; otherwise she attended as closely as she was able to the instructions and exhortations of her aunt. She and her brother were to be lodged temporarily at Uncle Zachie's, that is to say, with Mr. Menaida, an elderly, somewhat eccentric man, who occupied a double cottage at the little hamlet of Polzeath. No final arrangement as to the destination of the orphans could be made till Aunt Dunes knew the result of the sale, and how much remained to the children after the father's trifling debts had been paid, and the considerable slice had been cut out of it by the valuers for dilapidations. Mrs. Trevisa talked fast in her harsh tones, and in a loud voice, without undulation or softness in it, and expected her niece to hear and give account for everything she told her, goading her to attention with a sharp reminder when she deemed that her mind was relaxed, and whipping her thoughts together when she found them wandering. But, indeed, it was not possible to forget for one moment the presence and personality of Dionysia, though the subject of her discourse might be unnoticed.
Every fibre of Judith's heart was strung and strained to the uttermost, to acutest feeling, and a sympathetic hand drawn across them would have produced a soft, thrilling, musical wail. Her bosom was so full to overflow that a single word of kindness, a look even that told of love, would have sufficed to make the child cast herself in a convulsion of grief into her aunt's arms, bury her face in her bosom, and weep out her pent-up tears. Then, after perhaps half an hour, she would have looked up through the rain into her aunt's face, and have smiled, and have loved that aunt passionately, self-sacrificingly, to her dying day. She was disposed to love her—for was not Dionysia the only relative she had; and was she not the very sister of that father who had been to her so much? But Mrs. Trevisa was not the woman to touch the taught cords with a light hand, or to speak or look in love. She was hard, angular, unsympathetic; and her manner, the intonations of her voice, her mode of address, the very movements of her body, acted on the strained nerves as a rasping file, that would fret till it had torn them through.
Suddenly round a corner, where the narrow road turned, two hundred yards ahead, dashed a rider on a black steed, and Judith immediately recognized Coppinger on his famous mare Black Bess; a mare much talked of, named after the horse ridden by Dick Turpin. The recognition was mutual. He knew her instantly; with a jerk of the rein and a set of the brow he showed that he was not indifferent.
Coppinger wore his slouched hat, tied under his chin and beard, a necessary precaution in that gale-swept country; on his feet to his knees were high boots. He wore a blue knitted jersey, and a red kerchief about his throat.
Captain Cruel slightly slackened his pace, as the lane was narrow; and as he rode past his dark brow was knit, and his eyes flashed angrily at Judith. He deigned neither a glance nor a word to his housekeeper, who courtesied and assumed a fawning expression.
When he had passed the two women he dug his spurs into Black Bess and muttered some words they did not hear.
Judith, who had stood aside, now came forward into the midst of the roadway and rejoined her aunt, who began to say something, when her words and Judith's attention was arrested by shouts, oaths, and cries in their rear.
Judith and her aunt turned to discover the occasion of this disturbance, and saw that Coppinger was off his horse, on his feet, dragging the brute by the rein, and was hurling his crop, or hunting-whip, as he pursued Jamie flying from him with cries of terror. But that he held the horse and could not keep up with the boy, Jamie would have suffered severely, for Coppinger was in a livid fury.
Jamie flew to his sister.
"Save me, Ju! he wants to kill me."
"What have you done?"
"It is only the buttons."
But the boy was too frightened to explain.
Then Judith drew her brother behind her, took from him the basket he was carrying, and stepped to encounter the angry man, who came on, now struggling with his horse, cursing Bess because she drew back, then plunging forward with his whip above his head brandished menacingly, and by this conduct further alarmed Black Bess.
Judith met Coppinger, and he was forced to stay his forward course.
"What has he done?" asked the girl. "Why do you threaten?"
"The cursed idiot has strewn bits of glass and buttons along the road," answered the Captain, angrily. "Stand aside that I may lash him, and teach him to frighten horses and endanger men's lives."
"I am sorry for what Jamie has done. I will pick up the things he has thrown down."
Cruel Coppinger's eyes glistened with wrath. He gathered the lash of his whip into his palm along with the handle, and gripped them passionately.
"Curse the fool! My Bess was frightened, dashed up the bank, and all but rolled over. Do you know he might have killed me?"
"You must excuse him; he is a very child."
"I will not excuse him. I will cut the flesh off his back if I catch him."
He put the end of the crop handle into his mouth, and, putting his right hand behind him, gathered the reins up shorter and wound them more securely about his left hand.
Judith walked backward, facing him, and he turned with his horse and went after her. She stooped and gathered up a splinter of glass. The sun striking through the gaps in the hedge had flashed on these scraps of broken mirror and of white bone, or burnished brass buttons, and the horse had been frightened at them. As Judith stooped and took up now a buckle, then a button, and then some other shining trifle, she hardly for an instant withdrew her eyes from Coppinger; they had in them the same dauntless defiance as when she encountered him on the stairs of the rectory. But now it was she who retreated, step by step, and he who advanced, and yet he could not flatter himself that he was repelling her. She maintained her strength and mastery unbroken as she retreated.
"Why do you look at me so? Why do you walk backward?"
"Because I mistrust you. I do not know what you might do were I not to confront you."
"What I might do? What do you think I would do?"
"I cannot tell. I mistrust you."
"Do you think me capable of lashing at you with my crop?"
"I think you capable of anything."
"Flattering that!" he shouted, angrily.
"You would have lashed at Jamie."
"And why not? He might have killed me."
"He might have killed you, but you should not have touched him—not have thought of touching him."
"Indeed! Why not?"
"Why not?" She raised herself upright and looked straight into his eyes, in which fire flickered, flared, then decayed, then flared again.
"You are no Dane, or you would not have asked 'Why not?' twice. Nay, you would not have asked it once."
"Not a Dane?" His beard and mustache were quivering, and he snorted with anger.
"A Dane, I have read in history, is too noble and brave to threaten women and to strike children."
He uttered an oath and ground his teeth.
"No; a Dane would never have thought of asking why not?—why not lash a poor little silly boy?"
"You insult me! You dare to do it?"
Her blood was surging in her heart. As she looked into this man's dark and evil face she thought of all the distress he had caused her father, and a wave of loathing swept over her, nerved her to defy him to the uttermost, and to proclaim all the counts she had against him.
"I dare do it," she said, "because you made my own dear papa's life full of bitterness and pain——"
"I! I never touched him, hardly spoke to him. I don't care to have to do with parsons."
"You made his life one of sorrow through your godless, lawless ways, leading his poor flock astray, and bidding them mock at his warnings and despise his teachings. Almost with his last breath he spoke of you, and the wretchedness of heart you had caused him. And then you dared—yes—you dared—you dared to burst into our house where he lay dead, with shameful insolence to disturb its peace. And now—" she gasped, "and now, ah! you lie when you say you are a Dane, and talk of cutting and lashing the dead father's little boy on his father's burial day. You are but one thing I can name—a coward!"
Did he mean it? No! But blinded, stung to madness by her words, especially that last, he raised his right arm with the crop.
Did she mean it? No! But in the instinct of self-preservation, thinking he was about to strike her, she dashed the basket of buttons in his face, and they flew right and left over him, against the head of Black Bess, a rain of fragments of mirror, brass, steel, mother-of-pearl, and bone.
The effect was instantaneous. The mare plunged, reared, threw Coppinger backward from off his feet, dashed him to the ground, dragged him this way, that way, bounded, still drawing him about by the twisted reins, into the hedge, then back, with her hoofs upon him, near, if not on, his head, his chest—then, released by the snap of the rein, or through its becoming disengaged, Bess darted down the lane, was again brought to a standstill by the glittering fragments on the ground, turned, rushed back in the direction whence she had come, and disappeared.
Judith stood panting, paralyzed with fear and dismay. Was he dead, broken to pieces, pounded by those strong hoofs?
He was not dead. He was rolling himself on the ground, struggling clumsily to his knees.
"Are you satisfied?" he shouted, glaring at her like a wild beast through his tangled black hair that had fallen over his face. "I cannot strike you nor your brother now. My arm and the Lord knows what other bones are broken. You have done that—and I owe you something for it."
The astonishment, the consternation of Mrs. Trevisa at what had occurred, which she could not fully comprehend, took from her the power to speak. She had seen her niece in conversation with Cruel Coppinger, and had caught snatches of what had passed between them. All his words had reached her, and some of Judith's. When, suddenly, she saw the girl dash the basket of buttons in the face of the Captain, saw him thrown to the ground, drawn about by his frantic horse, and left, as she thought, half dead, her dismay was unbounded. It might have been that Coppinger threatened Judith with his whip, but nothing could excuse her temerity in resisting him, in resisting him and protecting herself in the way she did. The consequences of that resistance she could not measure. Coppinger was bruised, bones were broken, and Aunt Dionysia knew the nature of the man too well not to expect his deadly animosity, and to feel sure of implacable revenge against the girl who had injured him—a revenge that would envelop all who belonged to her, and would therefore strike herself.
The elderly spinster had naturally plenty of strength and hardness that would bear her through most shocks without discomposure, but such an incident as that which had just taken place before her eyes entirely unnerved and dismayed her.
Coppinger was conveyed home by men called to the spot, and Mrs. Trevisa walked on with her niece and nephew in silence to the house of Mr. Zachary Menaida. Jamie had escaped over the hedge, to put a stone-and-earth barrier between himself and his assailant directly Judith interposed between him and Coppinger. Now that the latter was gone, he came, laughing, over the hedge again. To him what had occurred was fun.
At Menaida's the aunt departed, leaving her nephew and niece with the old man, that she might hurry to Pentyre Glaze and provide what was needed for Coppinger. She took no leave of Judith. In the haze of apprehension that enveloped her mind glowed anger against the girl for having increased her difficulties and jeopardized her position with Coppinger.
Mr. Zachary Menaida was an old man, or rather a man who had passed middle age, with grizzled hair that stood up above his brow, projecting like the beak of a ship or the horn of an unicorn. He had a big nose inclined to redness, and kindly, watery eyes, was close shaven, and had lips that, whenever he was in perplexity, or worried with work or thought, he thrust forward and curled. He was a middle-statured man, inclined to stoop.
Uncle Zachie, as he was commonly called behind his back, was a gentleman by birth. In the Roman Catholic Church there is a religious order called that of Minims. In England we have, perhaps, the most widely-diffused of orders, not confined to religion—it is that of Crotchets. To this order Mr. Menaida certainly belonged. He was made up of hobbies and prejudices that might bore, but never hurt others.
Probably the most difficult achievement one can conceive for a man to execute is to stand in his own light; yet Mr. Menaida had succeeded in doing this all through his life. In the first place, he had been bred up for the law, but had never applied himself to the duties of the profession to which he had been articled. As he had manifested as a boy a love of music, his mother and sister had endeavored to make him learn to play on an instrument; but, because so urged, he had refused to qualify himself to play on pianoforte, violin, or flute, till his fingers had stiffened, whereupon he set to work zealously to practise, when it was no longer possible for him to acquire even tolerable proficiency.
As he had been set by his father to work on skins of parchment, he turned his mind to skins of another sort, and became an eager naturalist and taxidermist.
That he had genius, or rather a few scattered sparks of talent in his muddled brain, was certain. Every one who knew him said he was clever, but pitied his inability to turn his cleverness to purpose. But one must take into consideration, before accepting the general verdict that he was clever, the intellectual abilities of those who formed this judgment. When we do this, we doubt much whether their opinion is worth much. Mr. Menaida was not clever. He had flashes of wit, no steady light of understanding. Above all, he had no application, a little of which might have made him a useful member of society.
When his articleship was over he set up as a solicitor, but what business was offered him he neglected or mismanaged, till business ceased to be offered. He would have starved had not a small annuity of fifty pounds been left him to keep the wolf from the door, and that he was able to supplement this small income with money made by the sale of his stuffed specimens of sea-fowl. Taxidermy was the only art in which he was able to do anything profitable. He loved to observe the birds, to wander on the cliffs listening to their cries, watching their flight, their positions when at rest, the undulations in their feathers under the movement of the muscles as they turned their heads or raised their feet; and when he set himself to stuff the skins he was able to imitate the postures and appearance of living birds with rare fidelity. Consequently his specimens were in request, and ornithologists and country gentlemen whose game-keepers had shot rare birds desired to have the skins dealt with, and set in cases, by the dexterous fingers of Mr. Zachary Menaida. He might have done more work of the same kind, but that his ingrained inactivity and distaste for work limited his output. In certain cases Mr. Menaida would not do what was desired of him till coaxed and flattered, and then he did it grumblingly and with sighs at being subjected to killing toil.
Mr. Menaida was a widower; his married life had not been long; he had been left with a son, now grown to manhood, who was no longer at home. He was abroad, in Portugal, in the service of a Bristol merchant, an importer of wines.
As already said, Uncle Zachie did not begin the drudgery of music till it was too late for him to acquire skill on any instrument. His passion for music grew with his inability to give himself pleasure from it. He occupied a double cottage at Polzeath, and a hole knocked through the wall that had separated the lower rooms enabled him to keep his piano in one room and his bird-stuffing apparatus in the other, and to run from one to the other in his favorite desultory way, that never permitted him to stick to one thing at a time.
Into this house Judith and her brother were introduced. Mr. Menaida had been attached to the late rector, the only other gentleman in culture, as in birth, that lived in the place, and when he was told by Miss—or, as she was usually called, Mrs.—Trevisa that the children must leave the parsonage and be put temporarily with some one suitable, and that no other suitable house was available, he consented without making much objection to receive them into his cottage. He was a kindly man, gentle at heart, and he was touched at the bereavement of the children whom he had known since they were infants.
After the first salutation Mr. Menaida led Judith and the boy into his parlor, the room opening out of his workshop.
"Look here," said he, "what is that?" He pointed to his piano.
"A piano, sir," answered Judith.
"Yes—and mind you, I hate strumming, though I love music. When I am in, engaged at my labors, no strumming. I come in here now and then as relaxation, and run over this and that; then, refreshed, go back to my work, but, if there is any strumming, I shall be put out. I shall run my knife or needle into my hand, and it will upset me for the day. You understand—no strumming. When I am out, then you may touch the keys, but only when I am out. You understand clearly? Say the words after me: 'I allow no strumming.'"
Judith did as required. The same was exacted of Jamie. Then Mr. Menaida said—
"Very well; now we shall have a dish of tea. I daresay you are tired. Dear me, you look so. Goodness bless me! indeed you do. What has tired you has been the trial you have gone through. Poor things, poor things! There, go to your rooms; my maid, Jump, will show you where they are, and I will see about making tea. It will do you good. You want it. I see it."
The kind-hearted man ran about.
"Bless my soul! where have I put the key of the caddy? And—really—my fingers are all over arsenical soap. I think I will leave Jump to make the tea. Jump, have you seen where I put the key? Bless my soul! where did I have it last? Never mind; I will break open the caddy."
"Please, Mr. Menaida, do not do that for us. We can very well wait till the key is found."
"Oh! I don't know when that will be. I shall have forgotten about it if I do not find the key at once, or break open the caddy. But, if you prefer it, I have some cherry-brandy, or I would give you some milk-punch."
"No—no, indeed, Mr. Menaida."
"But Jamie—I am sure he looks tired. A little cherry-brandy to draw the threads in him together. And suffer me, though not a doctor, to recommend it to you. Bless my soul! my fingers are all over arsenical soap. If I don't have some cherry-brandy myself I shall have the arsenic get into my system. I hope you have no cuts or scratches on your hand. I forgot the arsenic when I shook hands with you. Now, look here, Jump, bring in the saffron cake, and I will cut them each a good hunch. It will do you good, on my word it will. I have not spared either figs or saffron, and then—I will help you, as I love you. Come and see my birds. That is a cormorant—a splendid fellow—looks as if run out of metal, all his plumage, you know, and in the attitude as if swallowing a fish. Do you see!—the morsel is going down his throat. And—how much luggage have you? Jump! show the young lady where she can put away her gowns and all that sort of thing. Oh, not come yet? All right—a lady and her dresses are not long parted. They will be here soon. Now, then. What will you have?—some cold beef—and cider? Upon my soul!—you must excuse me. I was just wiring that kittiwake. Excuse me—I shall be ready in a moment. In the meantime there are books—Rollin's 'Ancient History,' a very reliable book. No—upon my word, my mind is distracted. I cannot get that kittiwake right without a glass of port.