« 이전계속 »
Norah, unseen of Annie, began slowly slipping off the engagement ring she prized so much.
“ And does he know she is near him ?”
“Not yet. But I'm going to manage the job for them to-morrow. I'm used to that sort of work. Its expected of lady's-maids, you know. All in the day's work, and pays well."
The ring is off now, and tightly clasped in Norah's left hand. With a wildly-beating heart she waits, somehow, until Annie has discharged her cargo of gossip and departed: then she begins hurriedly putting on her hat.
“If I can only catch him before he starts for town,” she thinks, hurrying out breathlessly into the night. "If I only can! I must give him back the ring. I must tell him the truth. I would rather do it than let anyone else. I want to see his face when he hears she is close by.”
Through the dark night Norah runs tumultuously on. The wild wind seems jeering at her, and the wild clouds seem out-pacing her. With her heart dead within her, but no tears in her eyes, Norah runs straight to Vale's rooms—to find he has been gone an hour.
Two or three yokels outside a public-house notice the door to which she has fruitlessly applied, and offer uncomplimentary remarks to each other about her as she
home. “ Didn't think,” says one,
she was that sort.” Women,” says another, “is all alike.”
The blood flames in poor Norah's cheeks as she hears, hurrying past.
There is no sleep for her that night. She tries, but it will not come. The cold grey dawn finds her with hot sleepless eyes. She drags through the forenoon of that day heavily, wearily, longing for, and yet dreading, his coming.
But an hour before the earliest moment he can arrive, as she sits there in her punt, moored in the usual sheltered spot beneath the cabin, someone else comes ; comes upon the waterway, flashinglya gaudy dragon-fly in the afternoon sunlight-a golden-haired girl in a canoe. Norah feels that amongst a thousand women she would instinctively know and recognise Lily Tarleton, and wonders why she hadn't done it before when she had seen her gleaming past so often.
And Lily Tarleton, for some strange reason, comes straight up to her and seems anxious to speak; bringing her frail craft alongside Norah's punt and holding on. There has been rain, and the river runs so swift and strong that Norah puts out a hand too, and prevents the lighter canoe from being swept away. She thinks what a little
weak butterfly Lily is, and how small a thing it would take to crush her out of life.
“Thanks ! I wanted to speak to you,” Lily says, from the canoe. “I've heard so much of you that I couldn't leave this neighbourhood to-morrow without speaking to you. You are the general subject of conversation at the Hall, on account of all your courageous rescues.”
“Oh! if she would only go !” poor Norah thinks, in agony. “If she only knew how painful it is for me to see her !” But, brave girl that she is, she carries on the conversation for some moments longer, and then Lily says good-bye, and flashes away again up stream, laughing as she goes.
Norah sits in the punt looking at the water, but seeing nothing. Then a noisy, dirty steam-tug, towing a barge, coughs its way up stream, and then all in an instant there is a cry raised somewhere, and Norah, looking up startled, sees the upturned canoe floating down towards her on the rapid stream-looking closer, sees Lily Tarleton in the water, struggling in it, and being carried down towards her too.
“ It's the wash of the beastly tug," Norah says, half aloud. “But of course she can swim. No ! or she's in difficulties! Great heaven ! she's going to be drowned.” At the instant the thought of what she had told Bertie flashed into her mind : “If she were dead, or in some place where you could never see her again, I would be different to you." Then, waiting for what she thought the best moment, she plunged in to the rescue.
How cruel, cold, and swift the autumn current is. But she has Lily firmly in her grasp, and turning, fights her way slowly back. What is this paralysing the strong, sure movements—cramp, or entanglement with floating weeds borne downward by the stream ? Norah does not know, but thinks she will at least keep up, and wait, in her turn, for rescue. Lily seems insensible, and does not struggle. Already there are people on the bank. The man in the tug sees what he has done, and manipulates his craft to save them. How cold the water is—how deep! “Are we going down together, after all? No! I will never let her go.” Norah's teeth are clenched. “ I will save her for Bertie. I will hold her to the last. Poor Bertie !” And then the rush of the water is in her ears, and, still clinging to the insensible form of the girl who blocks her way to Paradise, Norah's consciousness fades away from her.
“Where have they taken her-how is she ?" Bertie asks, breathlessly coming on to the scene, outside the little tarred cabin, half an hour later.
“ Inside," they tell him, "both of 'em."
He goes tremblingly into the apartment of the dark dresser, the few white plates, the vividly-clad figures, and the bodyless clock.
On the white deal table, with a heap of blankets about her, Norah lies in that mysterious no-man's land, between life and death. The doctor's assistant is wrestling might and main with the grim, shrouded visitant.
“ Will she come back ? Noble girl ! will she come back?” Bertie asks in a broken voice.
“I can't say. The other," replies the assistant, indicating the inner room with a movement of his head, because he doesn't wish to pause in his task—" the other, with the doctor in there, is as bad.”
" Never mind the other. She is the cause of it,” says Bertie indignantly. “I don't care about the other. It is Norah!”
But presently, as there is no sign of life on the pale, dark face, whose jet-black hair makes night and morning with the white bedclothes about it, he passes through the doorway and looks down, speechless, amazed, upon the pale face and golden hair of Lily Tarleton.
“Great God !” (going up beside the bed) " is there no hope, doctor ? For heaven's sake do what you can !” And then he breaks down altogether and sobs—for he has a tender heart, though he doesn't quite know whose it is.
Through the long doubtful hours that follow he goes to and fro between the two rigid figures, his heart bleeding at the sight of each, and irresolute even then which he would prefer saved if one must be taken and the other left.
“For heaven's sake, doctor," he implores, “ bring them back ! You must! If you can't bring both, bring one. I cannot see them both die before my eyes.”
In the evening twilight, when the grim scene is weirdly lighted up with candles, one of the two comes back. Bertie is told by the doctor, and flies joyfully to that bedside.
It is Lily's.
They persist an hour longer with Norah, and then reluctantly abandon the attempt. Norah has gone so far upon the mysterious road that she cannot hear them calling her to return.
If, finding herself in difficulties with the weeds, she had relinquished Lily, she might have lived ; but she preferred to hold Lily to the last, and so died to save her.
Thus things happen in the great play in which, without knowing its name, we all take eager part. Lily comes back none the worse for her adventure, and the difference is made up with Bertie ; and
she tells him how wretched she was without him. And he swears with the most extravagant protestations, and the most sincere belief that they are true, that she is the only woman he ever loved, and that, if he hadn't had her, his life would have been an empty blank.
And Norah's fate is a respectful remembrance in local hearts, and a tearful remark from Mrs. Marcus, “ It was the third time, you see.” This, and silence in Swiftwater churchyard. Her hopes and dreams are dead. The castles in the air have vanished from her eyes ; the pony she wanted to drive has never been foaled or broken-never will beor, if it has been and is, it is the pony Mrs. Vale drives so gracefully about her neighbourhood that all the people turn to look admiringly after her.
More than these things have come to pass in Swiftwater in these later days. They have built the bridge. It is a particularly ugly iron structure, and stands where Norah's ferry used to be : her old occupation is as dead as she. The only thing perhaps that hasn't greatly changed in Swiftwater is Mr. Noakes, who grows especially beautiful flowers with especial care and makes them into wreaths, and enters Swiftwater churchyard by stealth, looking very stout beneath his coat, and comes out again presently, wet-eyed and very thin.
THE LORD PROTECTOR'S MASTER
OF THE HORSE.
'HERE are some curious narratives and glimpses of history hidden away among
the files of Chancery Bills and Answers in the Record Office. Upon several such the writer came recently in the course of some researches as to the children of Elizabeth Claypole, the favourite daughter of Oliver Cromwell ; and it is thought that the pictures afforded by them in their quaint detail and incidental allusions may not be without interest even to the general reader.
John Claypole, eldest son of John Claypole, of Norborough, or Northborough, in Northamptonshire, was married, at the age of twenty, to Elizabeth, second daughter of Oliver Cromwell. Residing at the court of his father-in-law during the Protectorate, he held the post of Master of the Horse, besides other offices of dignity, and sat in Cromwell's House of Lords. But in 1658 his wife and her father died, and, although he retained his offices during the short Protectorate of his brother-in-law, the downfall of Richard Cromwell and the restoration of the Monarchy naturally terminated his connection with Whitehall.
It is in the year after the Restoration that John Claypole's law troubles appear to begin. In the autumn of 1661 three actions were brought against him at the common law by Edwin Rich, John Elliot, and Ralph Silverton respectively. Edwin Rich sued him for £50 for money lent, John Elliot for £38. 135. 5d. for goods, and Ralph Silverton for £56. 1os. 5d. for a parcel of fringe and silk. Alleging his inability to procure evidence to combat these claims, John Claypole presented a petition in each case to the Lord Chancellor, Clarendon. One Charles Rich, he said, was at the bottom of all the mischief. Charles Rich was Gentleman of the Horse under Claypole, and we find his name in the State papers in Oliver's time as “His Highness's Avenor,” and in 1659 as “Keeper of State Coaches.” Rich, laying out money in the course of his service, and taking up “divers comodityes and necessaryes,” not satisfied by the