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His trouble seemed indeed thickening round him. The spring days lengthened in care for him, as well as in light and beauty.
Kezia was cold and timid, and had ceased to sing over her work. Hirell loved to spend the fine sweet days out of doors, roaming alone in a wild, bird-like joyousness that made the fearful heart of Elias tremble for her. Could the man who caused her happiness be honest, when he had never yet even written to him?
From morning till night he waited in unutterable anxiety for Hugh, or for some news of him. Days, weeks passed, and neither came.
And now another began to turn her eyes down the road with him, and to watch and long as he watched and longed.
Hirell told no one that the time of her lover's absence was longer, much longer than he had said it should be ; but her father and Kezia knew it, and watched her with increasing pain.
Unable to endure any longer the suspense about his brother, Elias wrote again to the minister entreating him to seek Hugh, and learn why he did not come home or answer his letter.
The reply came the third day after the letter had been dispatched.
DEAR FRIEND,—I have news that will need all your fortitude. Hugh has left his lodgings, and gone none seem to know where. He stole from the house in the night-being deeply in debt there and in the neighbourhood.
Yours in tribulation,
'EPHRAIN JONES.' The women sobbed aloud. Elias remained in a stupor for a few minutes, then rose and began making preparation for a journey.
Hirell went after him.
'Sell the horse, and go to London to seek him,' answered. Elias.
THE IRONY OF FORTUNE. CUNLIFF again sits in his London room overlooking the parka water-colour drawing of Welsh scenery, just purchased, occupies the place which the Raphael photograph occupied when first he was introduced in this story-outwardly all things else remain the same—the pictures, furniture, writing-desk, the conservatory, newly-furnished, and bright with the floral brightness of May—all look so like what they did last September, that it is difficult to believe that the owner has passed through so much mental and other experience; even his very look, gestures, and attitude, at times seem to recall the hesitation and conflict he felt on that momentous and evil day when he wrote his letter to Mrs. Rhys, and waited for her answer.
Yet, in spite of the exterior resemblances, it is impossible to study him with attention, and not see that he, at least, is changed. The brightness and perfume of the conservatorywhich only seems to concentrate the brightness and sweetness of the lovely morning outside into a focus-seem also to bave entered into Cunliff. His step is springy, in spite of a certain sedate and compelled gravity; his grey eye glances to and fro with a quick suddenness of apprehension and with a sort of eager joyous light; his head is thrown back proudly and baughtily, if for the moment unpleasant recollections cross his mental vision; and in his work—for he is very busy—there is none of that obvious concentration upon a single secret thought and aim, which so characterised him on the day that began for him events and influences, the end of which is not yet. Whatever secret thought may now perplex him, it certainly does not injure his activity in dealing with all sorts of affairs.
By his side lies the rough draft of an address to the electors of — Through Arnold's influence, a very old member of the House of Commons has delayed till now an intended resignation, in order that Cunliff might step in, as he stepped out. The writ for a new election will be issued to-morrow. The old member's printed address, not yet made public, hangs on the back of a chair; and Cunliff glances at it now and then
while reading and correcting his own composition, which at last pleases him sufficiently to be dismissed. He folds it up, sends it, with a genial letter of thanks, to the aged M.P., and as he drops it into the letter-box, thinks
The farther one sees—and the deeper one hopes to go down to the root of things for social and political remedies—the more necessary is it to give the silly world the notion that your fault is over-timidity; your defect, unwillingness to acknowledge the necessity for changes too soon. Establish the right character, and then you may lead the world—to the devil or a good long way in the opposite direction. I wonder whether my cautious speaking will bother Arnold ? No, I think not; though he adopts the very opposite course, and is so frank and generous that he seems always ready to go anywhere and with anybody, till the push comes, and then uses his character to moderate, and do only just what he likes. Still, a fine fellow, and as little of a self-seeker as any of us are likely to bo.'
This business over, was in a minute utterly forgotten. Drafts of leases were brought forth, with accompanying lawyers' letters, and read with such scrupulous care, that one might have fancied the reader's daily bread depended on his judgment and accuracy. Then a few words were written on the back, which told exactly the state of the landlord's mind, which agents and tenants already knew was a mind that changed not.
These things dealt with, a batch of the letters of the morning were answered—some by a contemptuous 'pish ! 'some by a silent thoughtful drop into the waste-paper basket, and some by a few kindly and generous written words, including, in two instances, a cheque in each letter. The batch was what may vulgarly be called begging-letters, though Cunliff himself had so much of the generosity of the gentleman in him, that he would not for the world have applied that epithet to some of the many he had gone through.
Between all this hard work, Cunliff frequently paused, in an inexplicable manner, as though suddenly forgetting the very sentence he had been reading or writing, and stared fixedly right opposite at the wall for perhaps half a minute, his face grave, almost sad ; and before resuming work, he invariably, though with no sort of consciousness, allowed his eyes to rest on that water-colour in front of his desk, which represented
a bit of wild Welsh scenery-one that he had never seen, but which seemed to him to be as familiar in all its characteristics as if he had lived in it from a boy.
A double tap at the door roused him from one of those odd reveries, which began to recur more and more frequently as the long array of work began visibly to lessen.
Come in !' he said, with an uninterested voice and manner.
The door opened, and closed again behind Cunliff- and there was silence, and then forgetfulness, and the busy and busier thoughts moved on with renewed impetus, till a low and very respectful cough made Cunliff suddenly turn round, chair and all, when he saw his agent, Mr. Jarman, bowing more obsequiously than ever, even while still allowing some sort of half-grown spirit of independence to assert itself by his look.
‘Jarman, my good fellow, what on earth made you stand there, as if suddenly stricken with palsy? I thought it was the servant who knocked, and I forgot all about him.'
He stretched out his hand, and shook the agent's cordially —and then the two set to work together in a somewhat remarkable fashion. Cunliff handed paper after paper-lease after lease-document after document-one at a time-in solemn silence to Jarman; who looked at the remarks written on the back, gravely inclined his head, took possession, and held out his hand for the next; only twice stopping to put now a query and now an objection—the objection was recognised, and the endorsement altered; the query answered to Mr. Jarman's entire satisfaction-and so no more. When the whole of the pending matters were thus disposed of—and some of them involved matters of life or death, pecuniarily speaking, to tenants and others—Cunliff said.
Have we done?' • Yes, Sir John, I–I think so.'
Cunliff noticed the hesitation, and a certain darkening of the agent's face; and, moved by some secret misgiving, hesitated to do as he ordinarily did-dash at it, and demand to know its meaning—but said :
'Because after you have done-after, I say, you have quite done—I want to speak to you about one or two matters demanding your instant and most careful attention.'
Mr. Jarman's eyes that had scanned boldly enough his employer's face, now bent down towards his feet; and there was
a moment of awkward delay, from which the agent suddenly extricated himself by saying in a low perturbed tone
She? Who? Good God! who can you mean? Don't keep me in suspense. Not
Hirell—he was about to say-till the full force of the revelation contained in the mere utterance of the name struck him, and he was silent-gazing sternly yet anxiously on Jarman's face.
The wife of that man, Sir John, who was so long ill in the cottage at
Cunliff waved his hand impatiently-he needed to know no more. He remembered only too vividly that incident of his mad pursuit of Mrs. Rhys—when the man with his dirty hooked fingers hung on to the window of the railway carriage, talking to the doctor and threatening Jarman. Cunliff rose, and with an impassive face, observed
I have forgotten something,' and left the apartment. He returned in a minute or two, with a paper in his hand.
That, I think, was your plan for the repair or rebuilding of those cottages. Put the matter in hand at once, and let me hear they are done within the shortest possible time.'
Mr. Jarman bowed, but, to Cunliff's discomfort, would say something more.
'I think, Sir John, you ought to know that a coroner's inquest has sat
Cunliff glared at his agent—but the agent went on
• And it came out that the woman had heart-disease; and and—the jury attributed her death to that; and that's all, Sir John.'
There was a moment or two of significant silence, during which Cunliff could not but reflect on that irony of Fortune which here and now should have brought to his recollection the warning he had previously received in the same place and from the same lips.
Then he turned, and with a genial, almost friendly look, that was full of meaning, he said in low tones :
Mr. Jarman, I thank you.'
They had a glass or two of wine together, and the agent fancied it was not only in compliment to him, but that Sir