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A series of accidents, which would be tedious in description, prevented Barbara Dallas from again meeting Squire Silchester for nearly ten years. By this time she was an orphan. Her mother had died at Nice. Her uncle, Polwhele Restormel, had died a few months later in the crescent-city of Bath, leaving her all his personal property. She had communicated with some of her Cornish friends, and had received hearty west-country invitations. She would go first to Truro, where cousins innumerable desired to welcome and console her. . - The Quicksilver mail had come up to the
front entrance of the York House. The impatient leaders shook their hoofs in curious contrast with the heavy turtles that lay a few yards beneath in the open area, ready to be made into soup. Down the wide staircase of the famous old hotel, waiters with waxlights in advance, and a gentlemanly groom of the chambers in respectful attendance at her side, came lovely Barbara Dallas—a fine woman,
though blackened by the deepest funereal crape.
At the foot of the staircase, nervous in her solitariness, she tripped. The groom of the chambers was not quick enough. A stalwart man who was crossing the vestibule from the coffeeroom promptly caught her, saying cheerily,
“Not hurt, I hope?”.
There was something so familiar in his voice that she looked straight at him without her customary fear.
“Why, Barbara !” exclaimed Squire Silchester, amazing the demure groom of the chambers by instantly kissing her. “Where have you been these fifty years ?”
It was in this way that Squire Silchester met again the daughter of his lost love—the little girl whom he had petted as a daughter. The result of the meeting was that he married her; and the result of the marriage was our friend John Silchester, whom I have left all this time in doubt whether the new-comer into
the race of Silchester would be a son or a daughter.
It was a daughter. The sequent disappointment is expressible only by asterisks.
However, within a year a son arrived, and John Silchester was happy. He had christened his little daughter Silvia. He christened his son, rather an obstreperous brat, since he gave the parson a black eye as he held him over the font, Silvester. He was an odd being, as I shall proceed to show.
But first a word concerning the lady of the manor, by no means an inconsiderable personage. As Miss Audley, heiress of Audley, she had been the belle of the county. John Silchester, a resolute young gentleman, had seen her in a box at the theatre in “ Ex'ter town,” and had at once made up his mind. He was not at all devoid of promptitude. He found her the very next day in Audley Park
taking her morning walk, introduced himself, and asked her to marry him.
She consented ! Why?
Why should a Devonshire girl like this take a man at his word ?
The answer is easy. She saw he was a MAN. She saw he was loving and brave and guileless and good. She saw in him what he saw in her. They married—and never had a moment's regret. They understood each other from the very first. It was a marriage of completion. The lady had just the qualities which the Squire had not. She kept house notably. Those were times when down in the country service was an inheritance; the young housemaid was mayhap the housekeeper's niece, the young stable-boy the coachman's nephew; and those elder servants felt themselves responsible for their relations, and kept them in order by sharp discipline. Now the Audleys of Audley were old-fashioned and old-fangled
folk. Their domestic affairs were well managed. They made their own butter and cheese and cream and cider, brewed their own ale, and kept it till it was strong and clear ; distilled their own essences of rose, rosemary, lavender. Wherefore Joan Audley came to Silchester with full knowledge of all that a gentlewoman ought to know, and with certainty that she would teach her servants things to them unknown.
By no means let it be supposed that she was merely a good housewife. True, she knew not a word of French, and was incapable of playing the “Battle of Prague” on the piano. But in the school kept by Madam Tucker in the Cathedral Close,-an ancient lady who (with aid of younger folk) had brought up three Devon generations, and who was in the habit of keeping recalcitrant girls in order by a tap with her old ivory fan upon their shoulder, Joan Audley had learnt English well. She did not write themes; she did read Shakespeare