The Day of Judgment
by Joseph Hocking
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines




With Frontispiece by Charles B. Buchel

[Frontispiece: "The two knelt . . . in the silence of the evening" (see page 12).]

Cassell and Company, Ltd London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne 1915




I am dedicating this book to you, partly because when you read it in MS. you told me you liked it better than any story I have ever written; but more because, although words are at best utterly inadequate, I want to tell you that one of the things I value most in life is your friendship.








Three young men sat in an old inn not far from the borderline which divides England from Scotland. They were out on a holiday, and for more than two weeks had been tramping northward. Beginning at the Windermere Lakes, they had been roaming amidst the wild mountainous scenery which is the pride and joy of all lovers of beauty who dwell in that district. For two of them the holiday had practically come to an end, and now, smoking their pipes after dinner in the old inn, they were reviewing their experiences.

"I envy you, Douglas," said one whose holiday was practically finished. "We have to get back to work but you have yet nearly three weeks before getting into harness again. It must be glorious, too, this going into Scotland."

"Yes," said the other, "and somehow Scotland is different from England. I believe, if I knew nothing about the geography of the district, that directly I put my foot on Scottish soil I should know it. Everything is different there: the outlook on life, the customs, the laws and the prevailing sentiments of the people. Why, we cannot be far from Gretna Green now—think of the scenes which took place around here a few years ago!"

"Have the laws changed much in relation to marriage?" asked the first speaker. "You are studying for the Bar, Douglas, you ought to know."

The young man who had not yet spoken was different from the others. He was cast in a more intellectual mould, and, although bronzed by the sun and wind of the Cumberland Hills, his demeanour suggested the student.

"I really don't know much about Scottish laws," he replied, "they are so different from those of England. It is wonderful how people living so close together could have framed laws so entirely dissimilar. Of course, marriage laws have been a curious business both in England and Scotland. Before Lord Hardwicke's Act the marriage arrangements in England were very peculiar, but with that Act things took a different course. In Scotland, however, I believe they remained pretty nearly the same as before. As a matter of fact, marriage in Scotland is very difficult to define."

"In what way?"

"Well, I believe, even now, a marriage is valid even although there are no witnesses, no minister, no religious ceremony, and no formula whatever."

"But, my dear fellow," said one of the others, "that is surely impossible."

"I think not," replied the young man called Douglas. "I was talking with an old Scotch lawyer only a few months ago, and he was telling me that even yet Scotch marriages are about as loose as they can possibly be. He explained to me that Scotch marriage is a contract constituted by custom alone, and although generally of a well-attested nature, a marriage may be completed by a solemn and deliberate consent of the parties to take each other for husband and wife, and that such a marriage is absolutely binding. No writing or witnesses are necessary. He also explained to me that a marriage could be legally constituted in Scotland by a promise to marry followed by the parties living together for a few hours. By the way, I wonder whether in this old inn there is an encyclopaedia of some sort. Yes, here is one; evidently it has not been opened for years. Here we are, 'Marriage,' yes, 'Scotch Marriage':

"A marriage will also be constituted by declarations made by the man and the woman that they presently do take each other for husband and wife. These declarations may be emitted on any day, at any time, and without the presence of witnesses, and either by writing or orally, or by signs of any nature which is clearly an expression of intention. Such a marriage is as effective to all intents and purposes as a public marriage. The children of it would be legitimate, and the parties to it would have all the rights in the property of each other given by the law of Scotland to husband and wife."

"But if there are no documents, how can anything be proved?"

"I cannot say," replied Douglas, "but there it is. Of course, at Gretna Green, which, as you say, is not far away, the blacksmith used to witness marriages, although his presence was unnecessary. Old stories have it that the contracting parties jumped a broomstick or a pair of tongs, or something of that sort, but whether there were any signatures I really do not know. Anyhow, the law in Scotland, as I have been informed, is that if a man and a girl agree to take each other as husband and wife, a marriage is legally performed, and is as binding as if it took place in Westminster Abbey and was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury."

There was silence for a few minutes, then one exclaimed, "I wonder we do not hear more of divorces and marriage difficulties in Scottish law courts."

"Oh, these Scotch are canny people and wonderfully logical. They seem to regard present arrangements as inevitable, and act upon them. After all, what is marriage when one comes to think about it? It is really the promise of the man and the woman to take each other as husband and wife. All the rest, Church services and legal documents, are mere attestations to the fact. Marriage, true marriage, is simply a matter for the parties in question who have determined upon union."

"Evidently you are not a High Churchman," remarked one of the others.

From this the conversation drifted on to other matters, and presently dwindled down to mere snatches, freely punctuated by yawns. Then the young men, having finished their pipes, retired to rest.

Two days later, Douglas Graham found himself alone. He had made arrangements to pay a visit to a house near the borders of Scotland. He was of Scotch descent on his father's side, while his mother's family had always lived in the South of England. For that matter the Grahams had lived in the South for three generations, so that, while he was greatly interested in Scotland, he always called himself an Englishman. The characteristics of both countries were clearly expressed in both his mind and character. The Scotch side of him was intellectual, practical, with, perhaps, a suggestion of hardness; but to counteract this, he had inherited the gentleness and the softer elements which appertain to the Southern peoples. He was only just three and twenty; he had taken a good degree at Oxford, and then set himself to qualify for the Bar. His personal appearance likewise indicated a mixture of races—tall and well-knit, he suggested a strong and determined nature; on the other hand, there was something almost effeminate in the regularity of his features, and his lips were somewhat sensuous. A passing stranger would be immediately attracted by him. Blue eyes, brown hair, and well-formed features, together with a sunny and kind-hearted disposition, had made him a popular man. While very ambitious, he also possessed a happy disposition which made him the best of companions. He was now on his way to visit a distant relative on his father's side, and looked forward with exceeding interest to spending the last weeks of his holiday in an old Scottish stone mansion, situated among the wild hills.

As a lover of beauty, he could not help being charmed by the scenery through which he passed: the purple heather, which was now in its glory, made the wild moorlands wondrous for their beauty, while the valleys through which the rushing streams passed simply enchanted him.

Presently he came to a lonely valley in a district which seemed almost entirely uninhabited. Not a soul was in sight, and scarcely a sound disturbed the silence. On each side of him, great heather-covered hills sloped up to the sky, while at his feet a stream coiled its way down the valley. Tramping along the narrow road which skirted the stream, he presently saw some cattle rushing wildly around, and he judged by the cries he heard that someone was greatly distressed. It was not long before he saw what this meant. A young girl was trying to keep some cattle together, but they, being in a turbulent mood, refused to go the way she wished. Vainly she went hither and thither, seeking to guide them into a path which led over the hills. For two or three minutes Douglas Graham watched her, and then, seeing her dilemma, went up to her.

She was evidently a Scotch peasant girl, as indicated by the clothes she wore and by her hard, toilworn hands. Nevertheless, at first sight of her Douglas was attracted, and for good reason—the face of the girl, once seen, was not soon forgotten. During the time he had been in Scotland it had seemed to him that the Scotch women were hard-featured, uninteresting, and altogether unlovely; but this girl was different. There was something of the savage in her, and yet she possessed a charm which fascinated the young man. Her black hair hung in curling and tangled tresses over her shoulders; her eyes were almost as black as her hair and shone brightly. A kind of gipsy beauty she possessed, and her eyes, her sensitive mouth, her square chin spoke of a nature out of the ordinary.

"If you will tell me what you wish," he said, "I will help you."

She looked at him with a start of surprise, and for a moment he thought she shrank from him. She seemed as shy as a young colt, and was apparently frightened at his sudden appearance. As she looked at him, however, her confidence came back. He was different from the raw Scottish youths to whom she was accustomed. His pleasant smile and laughing eyes reassured her. "I am trying to take the kine home," she said, "but I think the witches have got hold of them. I never saw them like this before." She spoke with a strong Scotch accent, and was evidently what she seemed, either a servant at a farmhouse or, perhaps, the daughter of some small tenant farmer who lived in the district.

"We'll see if we can't destroy the witches' power," laughed Douglas, and set to work to gather the cattle. It took some little time, but the feat was accomplished at last. Then the two walked side by side, driving the beasts before them.

The romance in the young man's nature was aroused. There, amidst the wild moorland scenery and in the light of the setting sun, it was vastly pleasant to be walking beside this young creature, so instinct with life.

"Is your home far away?" he asked.

"It must be more than two miles," she replied.

"And do you know the house called 'Highlands'?"

"It will be where Mr. Graham lives, I expect."

"Yes," he said.

"Then it will be only a mile beyond my father's farm," was her reply.

"Oh, that is capital!" laughed Graham. "I shall get there before dark, and be able to help you with the cattle at the same time."

"But you are not the son at 'Highlands,'" she said, looking at him curiously.

"Oh, no," he replied. "The Grahams are distant relatives of mine, that is all. There is just a little Scotch in me, that is why I love Scotland so. Of course, you love Scotland too?"

A far-away look came into her eyes. "I don't know," she said.

"Not know if you love your own country?" And he laughed as he spoke.

"I am not sure that it is my own country," was her reply. "You see——" And then she stopped. "It will be nothing to you," she added after a minute, and for some time they walked along together in silence.

"It must be just lovely to live amid such surroundings as these; still, I should find it lonely sometimes," he ventured at length.

"You would, if—if—" And then the girl looked at him curiously. "But I expect you'll not be understanding what I mean," she added.

Again they walked on in silence, Douglas longing to ask her what she meant, and yet shrinking from taking what he felt might be a liberty, for there was something about the girl that kept him from speaking freely. Dressed like a peasant as she was, he instinctively felt that here was no ordinary farmer's drudge. She had uttered nothing beyond commonplaces, but the look in her eyes, the tremor of her lips suggested romance and mystery and poetry.

"You see," she said a minute later, as if talking to herself, "I have no mother. I never saw her; at least, I cannot remember ever seeing her, and she was not Scotch."

"No?" said Douglas. "Then we have something in common: my people on my father's side were Scotch, but all my mother's people belong to the South."

"And mine, too," said the girl. "But what can it be to you?" And again she seemed to be thinking of something far away.

"Do you know," said the young man, "you are the first person I have spoken to since morning? I have been on the tramp all the day. I had my lunch by the side of a stream, and I have kept away from every house. I wanted to be alone. I expect that is why I want you to tell me why you don't seem happy."

Again the girl looked at him curiously. "I think I should go mad sometimes," she said, "if I did not think my dead mother was near me. I do not mean when I am out here alone on the moors, but it's home that makes it so hard."

"Tell me," said the young fellow. It did not seem to him as though he were talking to a stranger at all. The girl did not belong to his class, and evidently her associations and education removed her far from him, yet he had an instinctive sympathy with her. After all, I suppose every young fellow is attracted by a young pretty face, wild, longing eyes, and beautiful features suggestive of romance and poetry and unsatisfied yearnings.

"You see," said the girl, "my father was a fisherman. Years ago, when he was a young man, he sailed down the West of England, and his boat harboured at a little Cornish village called St. Ives. There he met my mother, and I have heard him say that she had Spanish blood in her veins. Anyhow, they fell in love with each other and got married.

"I suppose her father and mother were very angry, and so he took her away from St. Ives altogether, and came back here to Scotland. Just at that time his father died, and left our farm to him. So my father gave up fishing, and brought mother here, but I had not been born long before mother died, so you see I never knew her. My father did not remain unmarried long: the second time he married a Scotswoman, and I hate the Scotch."

"Why?" asked Graham.

"Oh, well, my father says that the Cornish people are wild and imaginative, and my stepmother hasn't any imagination. Years ago I used to read Burns's poems and Sir Walter Scott's stories, but mother took the books from me. She says a farmer's daughter has no time for poetry and romance, but I love it all the same. That is why I am only happy when I am out on the moors alone."

A few minutes later a lonely farmhouse appeared to view. It was little more than a cottage, and Graham judged that the farm consisted of only about fifty acres of stony and barren land.

"Good night," she said presently, "and thank you for helping me with the kine."

"Perhaps I shall be seeing you again," said the young man. "I am sure I shall come round this way in the hope that you may be visible." And he laughed almost nervously as he spoke. The girl had appealed to him. She seemed to him like a flower in the wilderness, and aroused all the romance of his nature.

She shook her head. "No," she said, "you will never see me again."

"At least you will tell me your name?" said Graham; "why, do you know, we have been nearly an hour together? I am called Douglas Graham."

"And my name is Jean Lindsay," she said, looking at him shyly; "not that it matters much, for if you are staying with the Grahams you will be a gentleman."

"And do you go to fetch the cattle home every night?" he asked eagerly; but she did not answer him. A hard-featured woman came up to the farmyard gate as he spoke, while Jean silently, and with an almost sullen look on her face, drove the cattle into the yard. He lifted his cap and passed on.

"Who is yon?" asked the woman in a harsh, strident voice.

"I do not know," replied the girl; "he helped me with the cattle, that is all."

Douglas Graham climbed the hill which lay between him and his relative's house with a strange feeling at his heart. Somehow life seemed different, and the picture of this black-eyed girl remained with him. "I should like to see her again," he said, as presently he came up to the gates which led to the house; "yes, and I will, too!"

During the next two days he made no attempt to see Jean Lindsay. He found among his relatives at "Highlands" several young people, who not only gave him a warm welcome, but entirely claimed his companionship, and amidst the entertainments provided he almost forgot the meeting on the moors. The third day, however, found him wandering away by himself towards the lonely farmhouse. Had he tried to analyse his feelings, he would have told himself that Jean Lindsay was only a chance acquaintance, who was vastly interesting, but nothing more. But he could not altogether drive her picture from his mind; the black, speaking eyes, the strange longings which were revealed in the girl's half-uttered sentences, filled his mind with unaccustomed thoughts. That was why he found himself near the farmhouse, wondering whether he should see her again. But he found no one there: the place might have been forsaken. Wandering down the valley, however, he thought he heard someone sobbing, and quickly discovered Jean Lindsay sitting by a brook, crying as though her heart would break.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

For a moment the girl gave no reply. She seemed to resent his presence, to be angry that he should have seen her in this frame of mind.

"I am sure you must be in trouble," he went on; "tell me about it."

"She struck me," was her almost sullen reply.

"Struck you! Who?"

"My stepmother," she replied, "and I will not stand it, I will run away; besides——" And then she stopped suddenly.

A little later her passion seemed to have subsided, and she was able to speak more freely. For more than an hour they talked, and when they parted she told him that on the following day she had to go to a village some four miles distant.

That evening, at "Highlands," Douglas Graham was not an interesting companion. The young people joked him about his solemn appearance, and wondered why he looked so troubled.

"Anyone would think you were crossed in love, Douglas," said one. "Tell us all about it now; has she run away with her father's coachman, or has she jilted you for a handsomer man?"

But while Douglas replied to their good-tempered raillery in laughing tones, it was easy to see that his mind was far away. For hours he lay in bed that night without being able to sleep. The picture of the dark-eyed sobbing girl remained with him, and all sorts of longings filled his heart. It seemed as though the Scotch side of his nature was altogether repressed. He was no longer cautious and calculating, his mind and heart were full of the half savage beauty of the young girl of the moors.

The next day he left his friends at "Highlands" without any excuse whatever, and again wandered away alone. Near the village Jean Lindsay had mentioned he saw her returning with a basket on her arm, and again he entered into eager conversation with her. He forgot the foolishness of his action, forgot the wrong he was doing to the girl by filling her mind with thoughts about himself—for he could see that she was attracted by him. To her he seemed some knight-errant like those she had read about in the stories which her stepmother had forbidden her to read. His mode of speech, his appearance, his sunny laugh, all made her realise that there was a world hitherto unknown to her, but which she now longed to enter.

This meeting led to others, until Douglas's friends began to wonder why he so often desired to leave them and wander away alone. A few days before the time when his visit to "Highlands" was to come to an end he found Jean strangely perturbed. She was overwhelmed by some great emotion, but she would not speak to him concerning it. At length, however, with much hesitation, she confessed to him that she was troubled greatly. "I have to be married," she said.

"Married, Jean!" he cried; "to whom—why?"

"To Willie Fearn," was her reply. "Father told me so last night."

"But why? Do you love him?" he asked.

"Nay, I hate him," was the reply, "especially since——" And then she ceased speaking, her face becoming crimson. "Father says I shall never get such a good chance again," she went on presently. "He has the best farm hereabouts, and could give me a good home, and my stepmother, she wants to get rid of me—but I hate him, I hate him!"

"Then you will not marry him?" said Douglas.

"What can I do?" replied the girl; "for more than a year they have been trying to persuade me, and father owes him money, too, and Willie says he will forgive him ever paying if I will marry him." And the girl burst out sobbing.

Douglas was young and romantic. The Scotch side of his nature told him that the resolution born in his mind was utterly mad, but this was utterly destroyed by feelings of pity, and what to him was greater than pity—a wild passion for the girl at his side. So, not thinking of what his determination might mean, nor dreaming of what the future had in store for him, he told Jean that she must never think of marrying the farmer.

"But how can I help it?" she asked. "They never let me rest, and, while I hate him, how can I dare disobey my father and my mother? Besides, when the minister came to tea at our house last week, he spoke of it as a thing settled, and said that Willie would soon be made an elder of the kirk. He thought it would be a grand thing for me, I suppose, to be an elder's wife—but how can I—how can I?"

I need not describe at length what followed. The young fellow casting caution to the winds, mapped out his plan, and before parting they arranged to meet again the next day.

On his way back to "Highlands" the conversation which took place between himself and his companions came back to him. He remembered what he had read in the old Encyclopaedia about Scotch marriages, and it possessed him strongly. He believed himself to be in love with this peasant girl. To him she was a creature apart from all the rest of the world—young, romantic, beautiful with a kind of beauty he had never seen in any other. He felt he could not live his life apart from her. He wanted to take her away from this barren farm among the hills and make her life happy. And yet the madness of his thought appealed to him too. How could he make her his wife? How could he introduce her to his friends? Beautiful she might be, but was it not the beauty of a savage? The Poles lay between her and the women into whose society he would be cast in coming days. He was very ambitious for his own future. He dreamed of becoming a popular barrister, of winning fame and renown, of gaining a name throughout the country as a brilliant lawyer and a pleader of eloquence and power. Like every other young law student he had read of famous lawyers who had risen from obscurity to renown, from poverty to wealth. His career at the University had assured him that he had more than average abilities, while his speeches at the Oxford Union had been received with so much applause that he knew he had the gift of public speech in no ordinary degree. What then should hinder him from attaining to high position in the world he had chosen as his sphere? But all this seemed as nothing in comparison with the mad passion which had been aroused in his heart by this beauteous being of the moors. What was law, what was fame, what were riches in comparison with the joy which her presence gave him? Besides, it did not seem to him that the marriage he had in his mind was the same as that in the English churches. It might be legal, but there was something unreal, unstable about it, and who need know? A Scotch marriage! It appealed to him almost as a joke, while at the same time he knew it would satisfy this young girl's conscience. It would make her his wife. And so, although he had many doubts, he made his plans.

All through the night he lay thinking. He wished he had some of his law books with him, so that he could study the matter carefully, for he was strangely ignorant. No minister, no church, no documents, no witnesses—simply taking each other by the hand and declaring that he took her as his wife. It seemed so easy, and surely, surely——

He was not a bad young fellow, this Douglas Graham. Some spoke of him as a kind of dual personality, strong and weak at the same time—but he had never been known to do anything dishonourable, and his career at Oxford had been an unblemished one. To an extent he was cast in a religious mould, and was susceptible to religious influences. He had indeed been a communicant at a Presbyterian church, and thus, while determined to carve out for himself a great career, he always dreamed of acting honourably and conscientiously, and he would do so now, only—— And then he thought out the whole matter again. Yes, it did seem different from a marriage in an English church, but it would satisfy Jean, and it would be a real marriage.

Two days later he left the "Highlands," to walk to Carlisle, he said, and take the train from there. So, packing in his knapsack the absolute necessities of life, he took his departure from his relatives. He did not tell them what he had in his mind—did not give a hint that that afternoon he was to meet Jean Lindsay alone on the moors. He tried to appear calm, but his mind was full of the plans he had made, full of what Jean would say when he met her. Just as he was leaving "Highlands" a servant brought him a letter, but he was too excited to read it; he simply put it in his pocket with the thought that it could wait, and then, bidding his relatives farewell, he started on his walk.

Two hours later Jean and he were walking side by side away from her father's farm. "You are sure it is all right, Douglas?"

"Yes, sure."

"And you love me?"

"I love you more than my own life," he said, and into the girl's eyes came a look of infinite trust and infinite joy. She had no qualms about the Scotch marriage. She had heard of them again and again, and they were mere commonplaces to her. It did seem strange, walking away with him alone, but she had given him her heart's love, and she had a perfection of trust in him.

It was a strange experience, and Douglas Graham felt awed, as presently they took each other by the hand, and he said, "Jean Lindsay, I do here take you as my wife, and, God helping me, I will be a good and faithful husband to you."

The girl's eyes burned brightly with joy as she heard the words.

"Douglas Graham," she said, "I, Jean Lindsay, do take you as my husband, and, God helping me, I will love you and obey you and be faithful to you till death."

The sun was just setting, and the whole of the Western sky was ablaze with glory. The hills, heather-covered, were enveloped in a purple haze. The evening was windless; not a sound was heard; not a bird chirped; and no one was near. He kissed the girl fondly.

"There, Jean," he said, "I kiss you as my wife."

The girl sobbed for joy.

"I never knew what happiness meant before," she said; "but, but——"

"What?" he asked eagerly.

"Must there not be a word of prayer?" she said, and her voice shook with emotion.

The two knelt down by the roadside, and in the silence of the evening they asked fervently for God's blessing on their union.

When night came, they found themselves in the inn across the border where Douglas had parted from his companions, and then he remembered the letter which the servant had given him at "Highlands" just before he parted from the family. He had read only a few lines when he started and changed colour.

"What is it, Douglas?" asked the girl.

"It is all right," he said, but his voice was hoarse and troubled.

The following morning Douglas Graham parted from his newly-made wife at a railway station some distance from the inn.

"You are sure you must go?" she asked, and her voice was trembling.

"I simply must, Jean!" he replied. "But do not be afraid. I will be back in a few days. You can tell your father everything. In a month from now you shall be publicly proclaimed as my wife."

"I don't like letting you go!" sobbed the girl.

"I would give anything if I could stay, but I simply dare not—my whole future depends upon my going!"

The train swept into the station.

"Good-bye, Douglas, my husband!" she said. "You'll soon be back?"

"Good-bye, Jean, my wife! May God bless you! Yes, I'll soon be back."



Their meeting-place was on the Altarnun Moors, eight miles from the town of Bodmin, perhaps as many from the rugged peaks—the highest peaks in Cornwall—Router and Brown Willy. Almost as far as the eye could reach was bare moorland. A white streak, the road which ran between Altarnun and Bodmin, was the most striking thing seen. On either side of the road were only bare, uncultivated, uninteresting moors; and yet, perhaps, I do the district injustice. Here and there was a rugged tor, and again a few fields taken in from the moorland by some enterprising labourer who wanted to earn a living by farming. Near this road, too, is the famous Dozmary Pool, known to all those who love folk-lore and are acquainted with the legends of the most Western county in England—a dismal piece of water, black as ink, and, so the old stories have it, bottomless. It was here that Tregellas, of Cornish myth, was set by the Devil to scoop out its water by means of a limpet-shell. Here, too, in old times, coaches were robbed and dark deeds done. At the time of which I am writing, however, it was simply one of the most unattractive and bleak districts in what is otherwise perhaps the most beautiful county in England. The woman had walked all the way from Launceston, a distance of not less than a dozen miles. The youth had come from Bodmin, and he had covered nearly the same length of road. The afternoon was drawing to a close as they met. It was a November day, and darkness would be upon them by five o'clock. No one was near, for since the days of stage-coaches the traffic on this road has been small. Occasionally a farmer's cart passes along, or again a vehicle of more ornamental description, used by those who wish to travel either to Bodmin or to Launceston. There is no railway station within ten miles of that drear region, and it seemed a fitting meeting-place for the couple who came there that day. The woman was perhaps thirty-five years of age, and suggested the fact that in her girlhood she must have been strangely beautiful. Even yet there were times when one would have spoken of her as one possessing more than ordinary attraction. That was when her eyes became soft, and her features relaxed into a smile, but these times were very rare. As she trudged along the dreary road her face was set and stern, her lips were compressed, her eyes hard and relentless. As she passed through Five Lanes and asked for a cup of tea at a cottage there, the villagers remarked upon her and wondered who she was. "She might be a witch," said one.

"No, too young for that," said another.

"But where can she be goin'? She is a straanger in thaise paarts."

"Up to no good, I reckon."

But the woman gave no confidences. Evidently her purpose was clear before her mind, and after she had obtained her cup of tea she stepped forward with the same resolution in her eyes, turning neither to the right nor to the left. She seemed as little impressed by the suggestion of beauty contained in the valley where the old Altarnun Church stands, as she was by the bleak moors on to which she presently entered. She might be looking into her own soul rather than on the vast sweep of hill and dale which presently stretched out before her. Now and then she muttered like one talking to herself, but she never faltered on her way. She seemed to know no weariness. Firmly and resolutely she went her way, her mind evidently set upon some grim purpose. It was two o'clock when she left Five Lanes, and considerably past three when she saw a dark object in the road in front of her. "It must be he," she said to herself, and her lips quivered and her eyes shone with a new light. As they drew nearer she quickened her footsteps.

"My boy!" she said; "what will he say—what will he do? But he must know, for his own sake and for mine. He must know that his mother is an honest woman and tried to do right."

The day was dark and drear. Clouds hung heavily in the sky and the moorland was wrapt in a fine mist so peculiar to that district. The roads were heavy, and one could hear the silt crush beneath her feet as she walked.

A little later the two met, and the relationship was evident at the first glance. They were mother and son. The youth was about seventeen years of age, tall and muscular. He wore the dress of a mechanic, and there was in his appearance a suggestion of capability and of resolute resolve. Strangely handsome he was, and yet no one seemed attracted by him. During his journey from Bodmin a labourer would pass the time of day, but he seemed to take no notice. And once the driver of a farmer's cart offered to give him a lift, but he only shook his head and trudged on. There was an eager questioning look in his eyes, and he seemed to be wondering greatly as to the result of his journey. Two days before he had received a letter, urging him to come to a certain spot on Altarnun Moors, and promising him that he should hear of things concerning which he had long been anxious to know. The letter had no signature, but the address given was "Lancroft, near Launceston." Who the writer of the letter was the youth had not the slightest idea, but he never thought of refusing the request made. Almost ever since he could remember he had wondered concerning his father and mother, and now he felt sure that the time of revelation was come.

Presently the two met, and each looked steadily into the other's face, as if wondering who the other might be.

"You received a letter two days ago?" said the woman.

"Yes," was his reply.

"I wrote it." Simple as the words were, they were uttered with a sob.

He saw that she was under very strong emotion, and noted the yearning look in her eyes.

"You have wondered all your life who your father and mother are?" and the woman controlled her voice with difficulty. "I know you have. You want to know all about them, don't you?"

"I shouldn't have come here if I hadn't!" was his reply.

"I'm your mother!" said the woman.

He looked at her curiously. He had been thinking, ever since they had met, whether this might not be so; nevertheless the news came to him as a kind of shock. A woman with sad eyes and an expression of unsatisfied yearning in her face; yet handsome withal.

"Do you not believe it?" she asked. "My boy! my boy! I'm your mother, and, if I have kept silent about it, it has been for love of you!"

And she held out her hands towards him.

It seemed as though something touched his heart, as though his whole being thrilled with a recognition of the truth, and, in a way he could not understand, a great love for this lonely woman sprang suddenly into his heart.

"Yes, I believe you are my mother."

"I have come to tell you everything, Paul," she said. "It's a sad story, but I believe you'll understand."

"Yes," he replied, "I shall understand!"

The woman looked at him, still with the same expression of tender yearning in her eyes.

"It's a hard question to ask," she said, "but can you feel towards me as a laddie should feel to his mother?"

"Yes," he replied, "I do."

"Then call me 'Mother,' and kiss me!" she cried passionately.

"Mother!" he said, and held her close to him.

A few minutes later she began to tell him the things which for years he had been longing to know, and concerning which gossip had been rife.

"I want to know, mother," he said, "who my father is, where I was born, and why the truth has been so long kept from me."

"Born," she said, and her face became hard; "you were born in a workhouse, and your father would call himself a gentleman, and we were married in Scotland!"

A bright light came into the youth's eyes at the last part of the sentence. "But is my father alive?" he asked eagerly.

"I do not know," she replied; "I think he must be. I feel sure he is, but I cannot tell. Listen. I was reared in Scotland, not far beyond the English border. My name was Jean Lindsay. My father had been a fisherman as a young man, but came to Cornwall for his wife, and soon after he brought her to Scotland and I was born, she died. He had a farm in Scotland, and there I lived with my stepmother and stepbrothers and sisters, who made life a misery for me until I was eighteen, and then one day I met a gentleman. Oh, my lad, it was no wonder I loved him; he was different from all the lads I had met in those parts, young, handsome, laughter-loving, just the man to captivate a lassie's heart. He married me, Scottish fashion, and on the day we were wed he told me he had received a letter which urged him to go back to his home at once. We were married secretly, my boy, because I was afraid for my father and stepmother to know. They wanted me to wed a young farmer, and would have forced me to do so but for him, and I could not—how could I when I loved him and he loved me? And I believed in him too; he was all the world to me. No one knew but he and me. But when we were married and he came to the inn, he told the landlady I was his wife."

The boy nodded. "And the letter, mother?" he said, "the letter, what of that?"

"It urged him to go to his home," she replied. "You must remember, my boy, that I was young and ignorant. I knew nothing of the ways of the world, nothing of men, but I loved him devotedly. He was my king, my life! When he had read the letter, he said he must leave the following morning, and urged me to go back to my home and wait until he could come and fetch me. I was to tell them, he said, that we were married, and that thus I was free from the attentions of Willie Fearn, the farmer they wanted me to wed."

The youth did not seem to understand her, but looked at her with wild wonder in his eyes, trying to comprehend the story she was telling. It seemed utterly unreal to him. He wondered whether she fully realised what she was saying.

"Yes, mother," he said at length, "go on."

"What could I do but obey him?" she said. "I had promised before God that I would, and I did. I went back to my father—he had wondered where I had gone—and told him I had wedded a young Englishman named Douglas Graham. I think my father thought that all was right, for, while he spoke harsh words to me, he seemed presently to settle down to the conviction that my husband would soon come to me, and that I should be a lady. But my stepmother said awful things. I will not tell you what! Even now her words cut me like a knife."

"Well," said the youth, "and what then?"

"Day after day I waited for a letter from him," she replied. "At first I hadn't a doubt; he had promised me and I believed him. But when one month had gone, and then two, I grew desperate."

"And he never wrote to you at all?" asked the youth.

"At the end of three months," she replied, "I got a letter."

"Yes"—and his voice was eager—"what did he say?"

"Here it is," she replied, and she passed him a crumpled piece of paper. The envelope was stamped with a London post-mark, but the paper within had no address of any sort. It simply contained the words:

"DEAR JEAN,—It cannot be helped now, and of course we were never really married. It was only a joke.—DOUGLAS."

"And that was all?" said the youth.

"That was all, God helping me, that was all."

"And you have heard nothing from him since?"

"Never a word since the morning he bid me good-bye at the station, and told me to go back to my father, saying he would write to me at once, and come to me soon. No, I have never seen nor heard of him since."

The eyes of the youth became red with anger. His hands clenched and unclenched themselves passionately, but he did not speak. It seemed as if he could not. Then an oath escaped him, and his voice was hoarse.

"But, mother," he cried presently, "tell me more. There must be more than this. What about this marriage? Were there no witnesses? Have you no marriage lines?"

"Things are different in Scotland, my boy," was her answer. "There many people just take each other as man and wife, and that is all, and the marriage is legal. Do you know"—and her voice trembled with passion—"that on the afternoon when he took me as his wife we knelt down by the roadside, and he prayed with me that God would help us to be true man and wife to each other?"

"But, but——" he cried, and he was trembling with emotion, "and he treated you like that?"

The woman did not reply, but looked away across the moors with a hard, stony stare.

"My mother, my poor, poor mother!" He seemed incapable of saying more, and for two or three minutes there was a silence between them.

"And then, mother?" he went on presently.

"Months later," she went on, "I was driven from home. I had no friends, no relatives, no one to whom I could go, and I thought I should go mad!"

"And what did you do?" he asked.

"There seemed to me only one thing I could do," she said. "I could not stay near my old home, I was ashamed—besides, my father and stepmother drove me away with a curse. They said I had disgraced the name of Lindsay. I always hated Scotland, and as my heart turned to my mother's home, I determined I would go to Cornwall. I had just three pounds, and with that I commenced my journey."

"You came by train?" he asked.

"No, I walked. I wanted to hoard my money. You see it was very little."

"You walked all the way to Cornwall from Scotland?"

"Every step," she said. "It was winter time, too, and it often rained, but somehow I felt as though Cornwall would give me a home, a welcome. It took me weeks to do it, but I got there at last. Often I slept in a farmer's barn; more than once I walked all through the night." And into her eyes came a far-away look, while her lips quivered as if with pain.

"And did you find a home and welcome?" he asked.

She shook her head. "How could I? I went straight to St. Ives, but everyone had forgotten my mother, and her people were dead. You see, I looked like a vagrant, my clothes were weather-stained, my boots were worn out, I had no money, and no one wanted me. More than once I thought I should have died of starvation."

"And what did you do?" he asked.

"I did not know what to do. I went from place to place. Here and there I got a day's work, but I never begged. I would rather have died than have done that."

A kind of grim satisfaction settled in the youth's face as he heard this, but it was easy to see that the pain which lay in his mother's heart also passed into his. He was not pleasant to look at at that moment, and if murder can ever be seen in a man's eyes, it could be seen in his at that moment.

"Well, mother?" he said at length, "and what afterwards?"

"I began to tramp northward again," she said. "I hoped that surely, surely, someone would help me. And then one day I fell down by the roadside. It was spring time now but terribly cold, and I thought, 'Now I shall die, and all will be over.' I think I went to sleep, because I knew nothing of what happened. A great darkness fell upon everything, and then, when I woke again, I found myself in a workhouse. I knew it was a workhouse by the clothes the people wore and by the way they talked; but I did not care much—I had got beyond that." She hesitated, like one who did not know how to continue her story. Her teeth became set, her lips quivered, her eyes were hard. "Oh, my boy, my boy!" she said, "I could not help it, I thought I did what was right!"

The youth took hold of her hand almost awkwardly. He wanted to try and comfort her, but knew not how. Perhaps the affectionate action, even although accompanied by no words, was the best thing he could have done to ease her aching heart. She laid her head upon his chest as though she were tired. And then she sobbed convulsively. "There you were born, my boy."

"They always called me a workhouse brat," he said; "but never mind, mother, never mind; what then?"

"They never thought I would live, I suppose," she replied. "For weeks I lay between life and death. I believe I should have died, but presently I came to know that you were alive, and that you were a great, strong, handsome boy. But you are not like him, thank God! He had blue eyes and light hair, but your eyes are black, your hair is black, and you are like me. They christened you in the workhouse, unknown to me. The chaplain gave you a name. If I had had the choosing of it, I should have called you Ishmael or Esau, but they called you Paul. They wanted me to tell them my surname, but I would not—I could not—so they called you Stepaside, the name of the little hamlet where I fell down, as I thought, to die."

"Well, I know everything after that," he replied.

"Very nearly," was her answer. "You were brought up in the workhouse, while I, as soon as I was strong enough, had to go away into service. On the whole, I suppose, they did as well as one could expect for you. They gave you good schooling, and taught you a trade, and now you are beginning to earn your own living."

"Yes, mother," he replied. "I have got a job as a blacksmith in the Pencarrow Mines. Soon I shall be getting a pound a week, and later on you must come and live with me."

She shook her head. "No, Paul. While I am not with you, people will not insult you. Now that you are away from the place where you were born and reared, no one knows your history. No one knows that you were born in a workhouse and that your mother does not know where your father is."

"But you were married, mother?"

"Yes," she cried eagerly, "and that is why I have told you everything to-day. When you were seventeen, I said to myself, 'Directly I can get to him we will meet, and I will tell him, tell him with my own lips.' Paul, that man has covered your mother with black shame. If he is alive you must find him. The day he wrote me that letter he killed all the love I had for him. The last feeling I had, when I lay down and thought I was going to die on the roadside, was a feeling of hatred for him. When I first saw you, although my heart went out to you with a great love, I hated your father. For seventeen long years I have hated him, and I hate him still."

She looked like a savage, and there was a snarl in her voice as she spoke. "But for him, but for him——" And then she stopped. "Paul, find him out, wherever he is. Find him out!"

The passion which burned in the mother's eyes passed into those of the youth. She need not have told him what was in her heart. Paul Stepaside hated his father from that day.

"Yes, I will," he said grimly. "I will find him. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; disgrace for disgrace; misery for misery. Mother, all you have suffered he shall suffer, and a thousand times more. Wherever he is, whatever he is, I will find him." His eyes turned away towards the dreary moors. Router and Brown Willy stood like grim sentinels watching over the scene. A slight wind had arisen, which soughed its way across the great silent spaces, dispelling the mists. The black tors in the near distance became visible again; frogs croaked in the marshes near by.

"But tell me more, mother. I know nothing yet. Who is he? What is he? Tell me all you know of him."

"There is little I can tell," said the mother. "He told me his name was Douglas Graham. I believe that to be true. I found out that from the people at 'Highlands,' the big house close by my father's farm."

"Ah, they can tell us," he cried.

"Nay," replied the mother. "They only had the house for a short time, and then left. They are gone, I know not whither, and I, fool that I was, was too ignorant to find out in those days more about him. But he was called Douglas Graham, there is no doubt about that."

"And is that all?"

"Only this," replied the mother, "he is a lawyer—what they call an English barrister. I have heard that books are kept, containing a list of such people. I expect they'll be in London; but these barrister men go around the country, some of them. Anyhow, that is for you to find out."

He nodded his head. "Yes, I will find out," he said; "but the thing will be difficult, mother. I see what you mean now, and why you cannot live with me. I must go to London, or to one of the other big places where I can find out the truth about such things. Oh, I shall know, and I will not spare him. Don't be afraid, mother, you shall be avenged for all he's done to you."

A kind of evil joy flashed from the woman's eyes. "Yes, Paul," she said presently, "and you are clever, you were the cleverest lad in the workhouse school. I found out that. You were always ahead with your lessons, and you are quick with your brains and you are strong. But remember, he is clever and strong too, and he has much book-learning, and he knows all about the law, English law especially. You must be able to meet him on equal terms. You must learn, my boy—you must know everything. You need not fear for me. I have a place now where I can live comfortably; but remember, I shall never be happy until either he sets me and you right before the world, or I have made him suffer all I have suffered and all you have suffered."

For half an hour more they stood talking, he asking questions, she answering and explaining. Night had fallen now, but the moon had risen and made darkness impossible. The mists had cleared away, too, and patches of blue were to be seen in the sky. Here and there a star peeped out.

"Good night, Paul," she said at length. "You will write me often, won't you? Remember, you are the only thing I love on earth."

"You know what I will do," he replied. "Good night, mother."

For a few seconds he held her like a man might hold the maid he loved, and then, turning, he walked slowly back towards Bodmin, from which town he intended to take the train to the place where he lived. Mile after mile he walked, seeming to take no notice of his surroundings. It might be day, it might be night; it might be summer, it might be winter, for all he cared. The iron had entered his soul, the poison of hatred had filled his heart. He loved his mother with a kind of savage, passionate love, but the man who was his father he hated, and on him he swore to be revenged. "That is my work in life," he said to himself; "that is the purpose for which I shall live, and I will do it—yes, I will do it."



In some senses Paul Stepaside had suffered but little because of his being a pauper. His education was quite equal to that of the lads who had gone to the elementary school in the district. He had passed what was called the sixth standard, and although this meant very little more than a knowledge of the three "r's," he was considered by the workhouse schoolmaster as his cleverest pupil. After leaving school at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a local blacksmith, with whom it was arranged he should remain for four years. John Tresidder, the blacksmith, however, died two years after Paul's apprenticeship, and so at sixteen, with his trade half learned, he found himself homeless and friendless. But that did not trouble him much. He knew, or, at least, he thought he knew, practically all that Tresidder could teach him, and he was eager to start life on his own account. During the two years he had been an apprentice, moreover, he had attended a night-school, and had studied subjects which were beyond the range of the curriculum in the ordinary day-schools. He had some knowledge of geometry, and had mastered the first book of Euclid. He also knew a little of history, and the schoolmaster, having some acquaintance with chemistry, and finding Paul an apt pupil, had given him some lessons in that science. Being a strong, healthy lad, he had no difficulty in finding work in the blacksmith's shop at the Pencarrow Mines, where he was called an Improver. He had been working here for a year, and, as he had told his mother, his wages had just been raised to one pound a week.

Paul was not popular among his companions. The Cornish people are extremely proud, and have a proper scorn for those who have been reared on charity. Moreover, a shadow rested upon his name, and he was often insulted as a consequence. Epithets were constantly hurled at him, which aroused black rage in the boy's heart. Being of an exceedingly sensitive disposition, he resented the things that were said even while he made no reply; many, as they caught the flash of his eyes, realised something of the passion that lay smouldering in his heart. Still, he was respected as a well-behaved, although uncompanionable lad. Like all other youths in the district, he attended the Methodist chapel, and seemed to listen attentively to the teachings enunciated there, but no apparent impression was made upon him. Revival services were frequently held, but no one could induce Paul to find his way to the penitent form. Many looked upon him as an unbeliever. On more than one occasion the evangelist, who was appointed to the St. Mabyn circuit, had tried to get into conversation with him, but found his task extremely difficult. Paul would listen in silence, but would make no response whatever to the minister's eager questionings.

On his return to St. Mabyn, after his meeting with his mother on the Altarnun Moors, he seemed more grim and taciturn than ever. Silently he went to his work, and silently he continued the whole day, paying but little heed to the gibes of the miners, and never laughing at their elementary jokes. During his evenings he read eagerly concerning life in the big towns, of the means of education there, and of opportunities for obtaining knowledge, but he said nothing about it to the cottagers with whom he lived. He never uttered a word concerning what his mother had told him. The secret lay deep in his heart, and his purposes must be made known to none.

In truth, a new passion had entered his heart: a greater bitterness than he had yet known completely possessed him. Hitherto, while he had resented the insults which had been heaped upon him by those who sneered at the place of his birth and upbringing, he never seemed to think of himself as hardly treated; now he pondered deeply over the black shadow that lay upon his life. What had he done that he should be treated so? Why should he be homeless and friendless while other lads were situated so differently? What was the good of the minister talking about a kind Providence and the love of God? He remembered the previous Sunday evening sermon on the "Duty of forgiving one's enemies." What did the preacher know about it? He called to mind the look on his mother's face, the agony of her voice; he realised the bitter years she had spent in silence and misery, and remembered who was responsible for it all. Thus Paul became a kind of atheist. He was not yet old enough to think deeply about it, but incipient unbelief was in the boy's mind and heart. It darkened his thoughts and gave a sombre hue to life. In any case he was not going to trouble about religion. He remembered the vow he had made after he had left his mother, and he determined that nothing should stop him from carrying out his purposes.

As chance would have it, too, events seemed to shape his course quickly. A few weeks after his journey to Altarnun Moors, a young fellow who was commonly called Jacker, a kind of half-gipsy lad who worked at the mines, and who was looked upon as the champion boxer in that district, made a dead set on Paul. Jacker had often sought his friendship, and Paul had as often repulsed his advances. Jacker's own parentage lay under a cloud, and he felt angry that Paul, whom he regarded as in a like predicament, should refuse to be friendly with him. One evening, therefore, when Paul seemed less inclined than ever to be sociable, Jacker determined to have it out with him. He was passing through what is called the Church Town, when a number of youths, among whom Jacker was conspicuous, asked him to go into the public house. Paul refused. On being asked his reason for his refusal, he replied that he was on his way to the night-school. A few minutes later there was an uproar. Things were said about Paul's parentage that roused the young fellow beyond the pitch of endurance. "I have borne with you a long time," he said, "but, remember, if you say that again you shall pay for it."

"Iss, and I be willing to pay for it!" cried Jacker, who was eager for a fight. The youths had often accused him of being afraid of Paul, and Jacker, true to his nature, wanted to prove his superiority to any youth in the district. A little later the group of lads had adjourned to a field, and Paul and Jacker appeared as combatants. The result of it was that Paul, in a mad passion, nearly killed his opponent, and was that same evening apprehended by the police as drunk and disorderly. He was taken to the nearest lock-up, and detained there until the next sittings of the magistrate. The landlord at the inn, being Jacker's friend, had appeared as a witness on his behalf, and had declared that Jacker was always a quiet, well-behaved youth, while Paul was a surly villain, with whom it was impossible for quiet lads to live in peace. Of course the truth presently came out, and, while Paul suffered no imprisonment, he had to pay a fine for what had taken place, and was bound over to keep the peace.

This incident, although seemingly unimportant, bore fruit in Paul's life. It determined him to leave the neighbourhood at once. But where should he go? He hated Cornwall, hated the Pencarrow Mines, and longed to get away where he could begin what he regarded as his life's work. As it happened, a man, whose father had left Cornwall several years before, paid a visit to St. Mabyn, and declared that there was always good work for men in Lancashire. When Paul heard of it he made his way to this man. "Peter Wadge," he said, "you have come from Lancashire, I am told?"

Wadge admitted that he had.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"Brunford," replied Wadge; "and Brunford is the place for a chap like you. No questions will be asked about you there, and the wage is double what it is here!"

"You see," continued Wadge, "the working man has a chance in Lancashire, and we stand no nonsense with the masters."

Paul looked at him questioningly.

"You don't believe me?" said Wadge. "Why, think. Lately, owing to the change in the price of cotton, the manufacturers were making money hand over fist. Well, what did the weavers do? They just went to them and demanded more wages. The manufacturers refused; they were having a big harvest, and did not mean to allow the weavers to have a share in it. But you see we are organised there, and a meeting of the Weavers' Union was called, and the next thing was that they all went on strike. Of course the manufacturers could do nothing without them, and so there was an increase of wage right away. That's the way we deal with them up there. Why, I knew a chap who was sacked because one of the manufacturer's sons didn't like him. Do you think we stood it? Not we! We sent a deputation to the master, and told him that unless the chap were taken back we should all 'come out.'"

"And was he taken back?" asked Paul.

"I should think he was," was the reply. "Why, we working people are somebody up there. We have our representatives on the town council and on the board of guardians. Down here it is the parson and squire that do everything; up there we are alive, and there's a chance for a chap who's got brains. Why, a fellow like you up in Brunford, with your education and gifts, could be a big man in a few years."

Paul thought quietly for a few minutes. There was something in what Wadge said that appealed to him. He longed to put his finger on the pulse of the great busy life of the world, but he remembered the object for which he lived. He longed to get on, but only for that purpose, and he remembered that the man whom he had determined to punish was educated and had a high position.

"And are there any chances," he asked, "for a poor man to be educated? I mean to be educated in the higher things—to learn law and government and that sort of thing?"

"Chances? I should think there are!" replied Wadge. "Why, think of our Mechanics' Institute. We have more than a thousand students there. They all come of an evening, after work, and they pay next to nothing for their lessons; but I've known lots of them who have got on so well that they have been able to go to Owens College at Manchester—even taken degrees. And there is no end to the possibilities for the chap who has taken a degree."

Paul had only a vague idea of what this might mean, but he knew it meant something of importance, and his heart beat quickly at the thought of it. Still, the idea of Lancashire did not appeal to him. He felt sure that Douglas Graham would be in London, and, after all, London was the great heart of things. It was there all these big men went, and it was there, he felt sure, his work lay. Nevertheless, he went on asking Wadge many questions about life in the big towns of Lancashire, and more and more became enamoured by the thought of going there.

"Look here," continued Wadge presently, "I have got a copy of the Brunford Mercury where I am staying, and I'll lend it you. You can see then what's going on."

A few hours later Paul was perusing the journal he had been promised. At first he was disappointed. After all, there did not seem to be anything much more attractive going on in Brunford than in Cornwall. The West Briton was, as far as he could see, a more interesting paper. Presently, however, his heart gave a leap. He saw that a law case of some sort had been going on in Manchester, and as the counsel for one of the parties, he saw the name of "G. D. Graham." At first he could scarcely believe his own eyes. He did not realise that there might be hundreds of Grahams, many of whom might be barristers. With his small parochial ideas, there could be only one Graham who could occupy such a position—and Manchester was only a few miles from Brunford. Of course all the barristers could not live in London. There must be many all over the country, and Graham lived there. A strange feeling filled his heart; he felt sure he had found his father, the man who had wronged his mother, who had blighted her life. Again the picture of her as he saw her last flashed back to his mind, the care-worn, tired, sad-looking woman whom he loved as his mother; and she was going back to servitude, to misery, and all this because of the man who had deceived her, ruined her life. He had taken her as his wife, and then written her that cruel, insulting letter, and left her to the scorn and mercilessness of a hard world. And he would see him. If he lived in Manchester he would be employed for other cases. It would be easy to find out all about them, and he could go there and watch. He realised that he could do nothing while he was ignorant. Perhaps this G. D. Graham was a great man by now, and he would deny all knowledge of what he had done; therefore he must find out, he must prepare himself, and he could only do that through getting a knowledge of the world, a knowledge of law, a knowledge of men.

This decided him. He remembered what Wadge had said about the Mechanics' Institute, and about working-lad students belonging to Owens College and obtaining University degrees. Of course that must mean knowledge, and knowledge was power. So much he had learnt, at all events, at the night-school where he had attended.

He counted up his money, of which he had been very saving, and determined to leave Cornwall at once, and shortly after Christmas he found himself in the train bearing him northward. He had never been out of Cornwall before, and his heart beat high with hope. New scenes, new experiences, new modes of life and thought, a new world—and he was going to enter it! It was on a Monday morning that he started on his journey, and it was dark when he left the little village of St. Mabyn, carrying in his hand a portmanteau which contained all his earthly possessions. It was several miles to the nearest railway station, but that did not trouble him at all. Young and strong as he was, a five-mile walk was nothing, and he found it no hardship to get up in the cold, dark morning in order to catch the first train, northward. He did not arrive in Manchester until late that night, and then found that the last train for Brunford had left some time before he came. Like all lads country-reared, he had heard about the dangers of big towns, of thieves, of midnight murder—and Manchester frightened him. He could not understand it at all, and in his ignorance and fear he shrunk from asking questions.

"You'll go to some pub., I suppose?" said a porter who had told him about the last train to Brunford.

"I don't know," said Paul.

"But you must, man. You can't stay out all night. It's cold, too. Will you have a cab?"

"I don't know where to go," said Paul. "Can you tell me of a respectable place?"

But before the porter could answer, someone else claimed his attention, and Paul was left alone. He took his bag and looked around, then, seeing the notice, "Left Luggage Office," he acted upon impulse, and left his portmanteau there, after which he went out into the streets. He had missed the connection at Bristol, and, the later train having been delayed, it was now past ten o'clock. He had bought some sandwiches on his way, so he did not feel hungry. But he was terribly depressed and lonely. The traffic of the city was subsiding somewhat, but still the rush and roar of the great northern metropolis stunned and bewildered him. Presently he came to the Town Hall, which stood in a great square not far from the station. Around him were trams, cabs, and a hurrying multitude of people. This was life—life in a great city! It was utterly different from what he had expected; and it was bitterly cold. A damp fog hung over the city, the air was depressing, and the streets were black with slimy mud. Still, the thought that more than half a million of people were around him was wonderful to him. He was in the heart of the manufacturing North, where poor friendless boys had risen to position and power. That Town Hall stood for something—stood for the government of this great metropolis. It seemed to him that London could be nothing compared with this, and in his ignorance he felt as though Manchester were the centre of the world. He wandered on and on, passing through St. Anne's Square until he came to Market Street. Here all was a blaze of light, even although the crowd had largely departed. It was all fascinating, bewildering. He felt strangely afraid, and he did not know what to do. A tram stopped just in front of him, and he noticed the words, "Rusholme, Oxford Road." And, again acting on impulse, he entered the tram. A few minutes later the conductor came to him.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked.

Paul had not the slightest idea, and looked at him in a kind of dazed way.

"Where do you want to get out?" went on the conductor. "We only go as far as the tramway shed at Rusholme. Do you want to go as far as that, or where?"

"I don't know," said Paul. "Where do we pass?"

"Why, we go up Oxford Road, and pass Owens College."

"That's it," cried Paul eagerly; "I want to get out at Owens College."

The conductor eyed him curiously, but he was a man of large experience, and took very little notice of the vagaries of his passengers.

"Here you are," he said at length, as the tram stopped. "This is Owens College."

Paul got out, and the tram went on. He looked at the great building like one spell-bound. He had heard, in a vague sort of way, that this was the head-quarters of the Victoria University. He did not know much as to what this meant, but it appealed to him, captivated him. It was the centre of learning—knowledge. Here men taught the knowledge that meant power, progress, achievement. It was not quite so foggy here as in the heart of the city, and the moon did its best to pierce the clouds, and in its pale light Paul could see something of the proportions of this great centre of learning. He wandered around it, and noted what he supposed were the various departments of education. He almost forgot where he was; he did not heed the lapse of time. This was Owens College! It seemed to him the heart of the universe, the centre of the world of knowledge, and he would go there some day, he would learn things; and before his eyes flashed a vision of a brilliant future. What others had done he could do. It meant work; but what of that? He loved it. It meant suffering; but then he had never known anything else.

Presently he found himself in Oxford Road again, and then, like one in a dream, he tramped back to the centre of the city. He had been travelling from early morning, but he felt no weariness. Manchester was the city of dreams. By the time he had got back to Market Street again the streets were deserted, save for a few late stragglers. The trams had ceased running, the theatres had emptied themselves while he had been away, and only an occasional vehicle passed him. All through the night he wandered through the dark, murky streets, and as he did so the mystery of it all, the wonder of it all, filled his heart. Yes, he was in a new world, and in this new world were new thoughts, new modes of life. In after-years Paul recalled the experiences of that night; it seemed to him that it marked a new era in his life. Especially did he feel this as again and again he came to the Town Hall. The place had a strong attraction for him, because it was here he believed that the G. D. Graham of whom he had read had defended the man who, as it appeared to him, was guilty of a crime. More than one policeman noticed him as he stood there looking at its lofty towers and listening for the deep tones of the bell which told of the passing time. But no one molested him; he was respectably dressed, and did not appear to be a suspicious character. Strange to say, the squalor, the misery, the poverty did not impress him: it was the size, the wondrousness, and the vast avenues of life, which the city suggested, that appealed to his mind.

Early in the morning he found himself at the Central Station again, where, having obtained his bag, he made his way towards Victoria Station and caught the early train for Brunford.

By the time he had reached Haslingden the grey light of morning revealed the dreary scenes through which he passed. He wished he had stayed in Manchester. The district through which he passed seemed nothing but a procession of dreary houses, built apparently without thought of order or architecture. He saw stunted men and pale-faced girls with shawls over their heads as if on their way to their work. He heard the clatter of their iron-ringed clogs on the hard paving-stones. Here was a new life indeed, but there was no romance. It was all sordid, grimy. Still he must go on, and presently, when the porter shouted the word, "Brunford," he got out of the train feeling that his new life had really commenced.



The next few years of Paul Stepaside's life must be described somewhat briefly, although they were not without importance. They were the formative period of the young man's history and naturally shaped his whole future. Habits of thought were formed, and the tendencies of his boyhood were hardened and fashioned by the circumstances which surrounded him. Consequently, the passing from youth to manhood, with all its shaping, moulding forces, is doubtless the most vital in the life of any man. Nevertheless there is not much to say about them, as only a few outstanding events happened to him. The development of his character went on, but that development was silent and almost unnoticed by those with whom he came into contact. Still, there were certain things of which cognisance must be taken, because not only did they affect his future but they formed a part of the chain of events which led to the tragic issues which presently evolved.

His first few days in Brunford were not happy ones. The life of a busy manufacturing town was utterly different from that of St. Mabyn. The long rows of ugly houses, the black, slimy streets, the smoke-begrimed atmosphere, the roar of machinery, and the life of the operatives, all made him feel that here was a new world indeed! It seemed to him harsh, sordid, ugly, and more than once he longed for the clear skies, the green fields, and the quiet restfulness of his old Cornish home. Nevertheless it had its compensations. He was at the heart of a great, busy, manufacturing centre, and the life there could not help but be educational in the highest degree. He had no difficulty in finding work. A loom manufacturer took him on for a few days to give him a trial, and then, finding that Paul was skilful with his blacksmithing tools, he engaged him as one of his permanent hands. He obtained lodgings near the centre of the town, with an old couple who took quite an interest in him. They were Methodists, and, learning that Paul was acquainted with a minister who had formerly been in the Brunford circuit, felt quite at home with him. This led, moreover, to his being visited by the minister of Hanover Chapel, who took a great interest in him, notwithstanding Paul's unconcealed contempt for anything like religious influences. The legacy which his mother had left him seemed to close up all those avenues of life and thought. His programme was clearly marked out, and in order to carry it through, everything must become subservient to it. His trade, the earning of wages, were merely means to an end, and that end he constantly kept before his eyes. First he must become educated; he must have knowledge—knowledge sufficient to enable him to fulfil the purpose which was born in his mind on the night he met his mother on the Altarnun Moors. If he could satisfy his ambitions, so much the better; but he determined that nothing should stand in the way of his carrying out the grim resolution which was the great purpose for which he lived.

He had not been in Brunford many months when he saw in the Manchester Guardian an account of a trial which was being conducted in that city, and noticed that the leading counsel was G. D. Graham, the name which had determined him to come to Brunford. He had made up his mind that this man was his father. He knew he had very insufficient data on which to go; nevertheless, it became a sort of fixed idea with him. But he determined to make sure, and so, obtaining leave from his work, he started one morning to Manchester, in order to be present at the trial which was attracting some notice in the county. It was with a grim sort of feeling in his heart that he entered the Manchester Law Courts and climbed the steps leading to the room wherein the trial was being held.

"I shall know him," he said to himself, "know him among a thousand!"

He did not seem to consider that this visit would lead to anything; he only wanted to see the man who had blackened his mother's life. The justice chamber was very full as he entered it, and he could not help being impressed by the scene before him. The judge, with his legal robes and his formidable-looking wig, sitting grave and stern on his seat of eminence; the eager faces of the barristers; the watchful eyes of the solicitors; the important look on the faces of the twelve jurymen who sat huddled in a kind of square box; the anxious face of the man who stood in the witness-box giving evidence; all appealed to the young fellow's imagination, and caused his pulses to throb violently. So great was the impression made upon him that for the moment he almost forgot the purpose for which he came. This was life indeed, and the work of making looms appeared to him as a kind of sordid drudgery. The ambitions which had lain smouldering in his heart for a long time sprang into flame again, and he determined that, while he saw no chance of his being a judge, or even like one of the barristers who sat around the table beneath the judge's bench, he at least could become prominent in the great busy life of the world. The case itself, too, cast a kind of spell upon him; he listened eagerly to the questions that were being asked, and as he caught the meaning of the things for which these men were fighting, the picture of his mother's sorrows became less real and less vital. But this was not for long. Presently one of the counsel rose to address the jury, and there was a kind of flutter among the spectators as he did so.

"Yon's Graham," he heard a man say by his side, and then the purport of his coming to Manchester laid hold of him.

"Which is Graham?" he asked of the man.

"Yon man who has just got on his feet," was the reply. "He's a rare 'un, is Graham. I wouldn't like 'im to cross-examine me! You'll see, he'll tear t'other chap's case all to flitters!"

Paul turned his eyes towards the barrister in question, and then, he could not tell why, but his heart became like lead. This was not the man he had come to see. It was true he could not see the colour of his hair, because It was hidden by his barrister's wig, but the face was different from any he had ever seen in his dreams. The eyes were dark and piercing, the features were almost classical. No, this was not the man who had robbed his mother of her youth and of her beauty. After this he took only an academical interest in the proceedings. He still remained interested in the case, but only as a case; and the man Graham was only a name to him. This fact altered his outlook for a time. Hitherto he had fancied he knew where he might find the man whom he called his enemy, but now he did not know; and, as a consequence, everything became different. Not that he troubled much. He never meant to try to do anything until he was ready. Somehow he knew that when he set himself to struggle against the man he hated, the battle would be long and hard; therefore he must be prepared; and he was not ready yet—he had only just begun. That was why he did not trouble to find him. When the time came he would surely have no difficulty in discovering his whereabouts. Still, the visit to Manchester was not without its effects. He saw a new vision of life, and that vision made him discontented with being a mere operative. He would not, in the future, be one who was led—he would be a leader.

When he returned to Brunford, therefore, he worked harder than ever. He took classes at the Mechanics' Institute, and spent all his spare time in study. By the time he was twenty Paul Stepaside could have matriculated at the London University; but he never thought of doing so. After all, what was passing examinations? It was a mere knowledge of certain specified subjects, and he felt that these would not enable him to perform the great work which he had set himself to do.

Paul was naturally greatly influenced by the life of the town in which he lived. Brunford was a huge manufacturing centre, and was typical of its class. The minds of the people were keenly alive, especially to those questions which, as they believed, affected their welfare. All sorts of socialistic schemes were discussed eagerly, and before long Paul was keenly interested in them. He found that the town was a very Mecca of revolutionary thoughts concerning the accepted order of things. There were many who were of the "down-with-everything" order. They did not believe in kings or governments, and although their anarchism was of a mild order, there were some who proclaimed it with such enthusiasm that Paul for a time was influenced by it. Others there were who did not believe in private ownership of property, and advocated that everything should be taken over by the State. There were also several atheistic societies in the town, and before long Paul found himself standing at street corners listening to orators who proclaimed that there was no God, that man had no soul, that there was no future life, and that Christianity was a great organised fraud. In opposition to this, on the other hand, there were many who held the wildest opinions about religion. Every conceivable sect seemed to be represented in the town. Seventh-Day Adventists, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Christadelphians, and innumerable others, claimed to have the exclusive possession of the Truth.

For a time he was influenced by all these contradictory views, but presently his strong common sense asserted itself, and he began to laugh at the fallacies which first of all fascinated him. Nevertheless the life of Brunford influenced him greatly, and his whole intellectual outlook was coloured by what he saw and heard. As a working man he naturally allied himself with the working classes, even although he did not share many of their views, and by the time he was a little over one-and-twenty he began to be regarded as a leader. He became an adept in public speaking too, and the announcement that he was to be present at a meeting was almost sure to draw a crowd. He ceased attending any place of worship, and indeed the incipient atheism of his earlier years seemed to settle into a kind of general unbelief in anything spiritual or supernatural.

One evening the minister of the Hanover Chapel called at the house in which he was lodging, and, seeing him deeply engrossed in his books, complimented him upon his studious habits. "I hear you are becoming quite a scholar, Mr. Stepaside," he said.

Paul shook his head.

"Why, but it's becoming well known in the town," persisted the minister. "I noticed that you took a lot of prizes on prize-giving day in the Mechanics' Institute, and all sorts of complimentary things were said about you in the papers. I am sorry, however, that I've not seen you at chapel lately."

Paul remained silent.

"You've not forgotten the advice which the wise man gave in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, I hope?" said the minister.

"What advice?" asked Paul.

"'Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,'" replied the minister. "I hope you have not forgotten that."

"Where is He—what is He?" asked Paul. "Who can tell?"

"Why," asked the minister, "do you not believe that there is a God in the heavens—a God Who is at once our Father and our Judge?"

"I see little signs of either," he replied. "It is easier to believe in the Devil than to believe in God! All we know is that we are here, and we have to fight our battles and do our work."

"But do you mean to say," asked the minister, "that you feel no responsibility towards God?"

"Look here, sir," replied Paul, "this world in which we live is not a very big affair, and it's one of millions upon millions of other worlds. Now I put it to you: What do you think the God Who made all this—if there is a God at all—Who made all these millions of worlds swirling through space, cares about little insects like you and me, who just crawl upon the face of this tiny globe. Still, as I said, we have our life to live and our work to do, and we must act according to the instincts of our being."

"But if the instincts of your being lead you to do something wrong?" said the minister.

"What is right, and what is wrong?" asked Paul. "All I know is that I have my own plans of life. I have my programme marked out, and I mean to carry the programme through."

The minister did not quite understand what he meant. "But what about your relations with your fellow-men, my young friend?" he asked.

"What of them?" asked Paul. "I was reading the other day the life of Napoleon, who said that if a million men stood between him and the objects he desired to obtain he would sacrifice those million men."

The minister, a simple-minded man, who thought but little outside the narrow groove in which he worked, was somewhat aghast at this statement.

"And do you mean to say that is your sentiment?" he said.

For the moment the spirit of mischief entered Paul's heart. It seemed pleasant to him to shock this godly man and to make him feel that he had no sympathy with the conventional morality he preached.

"It seems to me," said Paul, "that, if there is a God, He helps those who help themselves. The battle is to the strong, and the race to the swift. If you do not win, somebody else does. Well, I don't mean to be beaten in the battle, and if there is someone who stands in my way of getting to the goal I desire to reach, that someone has got to be swept out of the way."

One event we must mention which was destined to have a marked influence on Paul's life. It need not be described at length, but it is necessary that it be referred to briefly. A certain manufacturer had a son some few years older than Paul. This manufacturer was named Wilson. He was one of the largest employers in the town, and his son Ned was looked upon as one who would one day be one of the most important men in Brunford. He was a fellow of some intelligence, and, while essentially of the manufacturing class, he had, perhaps owing to his education, ambitions to be associated with the older families of the county. He was strongly opposed to the democratic feeling which prevailed among the working classes, and, on more than one occasion strongly resented the expression of certain opinions by his father's employees. When Paul was about twenty years of age a quarrel sprang up between him and young Ned Wilson. Paul, burning with enthusiasm for the class whose fortunes he had espoused, spoke at a public gathering, and exposed the ill-treatment of one of Wilson's employees. Wilson appeared at the gathering and denied the statement which Paul made, and hurled many offensive epithets at him. It was a sordid affair altogether, and the matter would not have been mentioned but for its influence on Paul's after-life. The result of the quarrel was that Paul was discharged from the position he had held ever since he came to Brunford, and was, as a consequence, for some time out of work. Moreover, lying stories were set afloat, which, while they did not harm him greatly, caused him to feel bitterly towards the man who had maligned him.

When Paul had been in Brunford about five years a strike took place which convulsed the whole town. Like many another of these manufacturing disturbances, the cause seemed trivial in the extreme. Nevertheless, it spread from mill to mill, and from trade to trade, in such a way that practically the whole of the operatives had ceased working. As all the world knows by this time, the unions of the North of England are so closely connected as to form them into one homogeneous body. In this case, two people, a man and his wife, became at cross purposes with what was called the tackler. This tackler, or foreman, had insisted upon something which to the man and his wife was utterly unfair. Eventually they were discharged, and on their appeal to the secretary of the union to which they belonged, the whole case was taken up seriously and discussed with a great deal of warmth. The employer in question supported his foreman and refused to take the couple back. Thereupon the union threatened to call out all their members if they were not reinstated. This led to a pitched battle between the operatives and the employers. The masters naturally supported their own class, while the operatives, feeling that their position was endangered, stood to their guns. As a consequence, therefore, the trade of the whole town was in a state of stagnation. The employers declared that they refused to be dictated to by the people to whom they paid wages; and the operatives, feeling that their liberties and rights were in danger, would concede nothing to them. As is ordinary in such cases, a great deal of unruly behaviour was witnessed, the public-houses reaped a rich harvest, and acts of violence became general. In this case, a number of youths, utterly foolish and irresponsible, conceived a plot to "pay out," as they call it, the employers, and, in order to carry it out, held secret meetings, the purport of which, unknown to them, gradually leaked out. Into this plot Paul found himself drawn, but instead of encouraging the youths in their design, he did his best to dissuade them. This, as may be imagined, did not please them. To those who have studied the history of strikes in the northern manufacturing towns, it is well known that nothing appeals to a certain element of the population more strongly than acts of violence, and Paul found that his well-meant efforts met with great disfavour. Still, a kind of loyalty held him to them, even while he refused to participate in what they proposed to do. One night a number of these lads found their way to a certain mill, with the intention of destroying some new machinery that Mr. Wilson, who has already been mentioned, had lately bought at great cost. When Paul heard of it he also hastened thither, in order to do his best to put an end to the mischief. As I have said, the designs of these lads had leaked out, and, as a consequence, the owner of the mill was prepared. A number of policemen had ambushed themselves, together with some of the foremen. The result was that when the lads were making their way towards this machinery they were stopped, and an endeavour was made to make them prisoners. This led to a pitched battle between the youths on one side and the representatives of the employers on the other, and Paul, in spite of himself, was found on the side of the youths. In the struggle which followed two policemen and one of the foremen were badly injured, while several of the lads bore marks which they would carry to their graves.

That same night Paul found himself, with nearly all the others, in Brunford police-station, in order to await his trial. The case was regarded so seriously that bail was not allowed; and therefore Paul, with the others, had to remain in durance vile until the case could be publicly tried.

During the time he lay in prison he felt himself deeply humiliated and vastly ashamed. He called himself a fool for having been led into such a false position. While sympathising with the attitude which the operatives, as a whole, had taken, he utterly disapproved of the foolish plot into which he had been drawn, and yet here he was, not only regarded as equally culpable with the rest, but as a kind of leader; he, who had always prided himself upon his respectability, and upon appealing to the intelligence of the people instead of to brute force, was guilty of mixing himself up in this vulgar squabble which had led to such an ignominious end. The disgrace of it, too, was hard to bear; keenly sensitive as he was, and with an abhorrence of anything like brawls of any sort, he felt as though he was dragged through mire. Of course the unions took up their case and promised to defend them. They had a large amount of money at their disposal in the union funds, and they promised that the best legal advice obtainable should be employed in their behalf. As I have said, feeling ran very high in the town, and the magistrates before whom the case was brought in the first instance, being in the main manufacturers, and therefore strongly prejudiced in favour of their class, were not likely to regard the action of Paul and of others from a favourable standpoint. They accordingly committed the accused for trial at the Quarter Sessions in Manchester. The secretary of one of the unions visited Paul before the trial.

"It's a serious business, Stepaside," he said, "and I am afraid it will go hard with you!"

"But no one was seriously hurt," said Paul.

"I doan't know so much about that," replied the secretary. "One of th' bobbies has been i' bed ever since. Wilson's tackler is said to be i' queer street. His head was bashed in, and one of his arms broken. I tell thee, it was a bad thing for us all. You see it's turned public opinion agin us, and we weavers are lost when that's the case. Still, we mun fight it out."

"I don't want to back out from anything," said Paul; "but, as a matter of fact, I did my best to keep the chaps from going up to Wilson's mill."

"That may be," replied the secretary, "but the general opinion is that thou wert the leader of th' gang, and we shall have rare hard job to get thee off, whatever happens to the rest. Still, we think none the worse of thee, lad, and if thou hast got to go to quod, thou shalt have a rare big home-coming when thou comes out. We'll have bands of music and a big feed, and all that sort of thing."

"Who have you got to defend us?" said Paul.

"Eh, well, we have got Sutcliffe, our own lawyer, and he's briefed Robson, the barrister."

"Is Robson a good man?" asked Paul.

"Good! why he's got off more of our chaps than any other man. Still, it looks black, because the case is clear agin us. There is no doubt the chaps were up to mischief, they got into Wilson's mill, and there'll be some turncoats in the town who'll say as 'ow they knaw that they meant to break the machinery. Then there's the two bobbies and Wilson's tackler, all of them i' bed, and the doctor'll be there to give evidence. There's no getting out of that."

When he had gone, Paul thought over the whole case very seriously. What part should he play? He knew he could bring witnesses to prove that he had done his best to dissuade the lads from their act of violence, but, by so doing, should he be playing the game? He wanted to be loyal to his companions, even while he was innocent of willingly acting with them. It was rather a delicate point. If he failed to speak he would be regarded as a kind of ringleader of the gang. If, on the other hand, he told the truth, and brought witnesses to attest to what he had to say, he would be looked upon as a kind of sneak.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse