Just As I Am | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1900 onward | Audio Book | 1/11

chapter one of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 1 every dog has his day an autumn evening with a biting north wind and the Sun going down readily behind the Oaks of Black Mountain Park a winding road with a coppice on one side and a steep Bank topped by a straggling hedge where the black tree leaves are still green while the hips and whores offer a feast for the birds on the other a desolate bit of road remote from human habitation no glimmer of violet cottage window in the distance no gray smoke wreaths curling up above the wood it's only a mile and a quarter from here to the village of Oz Thorpe yet the belated traveller might fancy himself far from all possibility of shelter a solitary figure cowering under the hedge with a vagabond dog crouching close at its side enhances rather than lessens the solitude of the scene there is something desolate and dreary in that gaunt figure clad in an old smock frock patched with such various shades of stuff as almost to rival Joseph's coat of many colors the Wayfarer is elderly and grim looking he has long grizzled hair and a weather-beaten complexion hollow cheeks and Haggard eyes every line in his rugged face tells of privation that has gone near to famine the dog has the same gaunt frame and hungry look as he sits watching his master knowing a mouldy crust which he has just extracted from the blue cotton handkerchief that holds all his worldly gear the hungry master knows and the hungry mongrel envies wagging his poor stump of a tail ever and anon in mute supplication once or twice bursting into a tremulous whine his owner looks at him dubiously out of a corner of his eye and at last with a reluctant air relinquishes his grip on the crust and tosses the remaining fragment to the cur bite for him and a bite for me growls the vagabond there ain't a jail in England I shouldn't get a better supper than I can get as a free man liberties suite says some folks not for starving stomachs says I liberties bitter when it only means you're free to starve and raft as we are hey Tim Tim stands on end and licks the Wanderers face it is only a dog's tongue but the most loving salute Humphrey Vargas is likely to get in this life Vargas picks himself up stiffly for he is 60 years old and tired a fort saw from the bank where he's been sitting on a cushion of fallen leaves and begins to look about him in the gray dusk why if it ain't the Blessed spot he exclaims there's the Pollard oak and the pool just inside the edge and there's the path across the cops young data Bloch Martin no mistake about it this is the spot 20 year ago today 20 year ago and it all comes back to me as if it was yesterday I'm not much of a one to remember days and years but I shall never forget that day no that year no this place he clambered up the bank and looked about him peering through the dusk across the meadows yonder with their tangled hedges and tall timber an old-fashioned picturesque landscape neither improved nor disfigured by high farming on the other side of the narrow road for this village of us thought was off the Kings Highway a Hamlet's approached by rustic lanes there was only the mysterious darkness of the wood I know that their pallor did oak and I can swear to that there a bit of water said Fergus I've seen the place too often in my dreams to forget it when I'm awake and now come on Tim you and me are gonna sleep under a roof tonight though I don't know about you maybe the refused to take you in old chap but we had try to work it we'll try to work it Tim he shouldered his stick and trudged on resolutely hardly over a mile he muttered to himself I can do that the dark crawled by his side dead lame Vargas would have been lamer than the cur but for that power of will which made the man a little higher than the dog the lane was lonely enough for the first half mile then came a solitary cottage on a knoll above the roadway with its row of beehives against the darkling sky and its cheerful fire glow shining across the lane then a couple of cottages together little better than hovels but suggestive of warmth and comfort to the wanderer who had no shelter then more cottages four in a row substantial respectable dwellings with a century-old date upon their roughcast front latticed casements sloping thatched roofs with a dormer window in each that looked like an eye and the repent house brow here again was the comfortable fire glow shining through lattice and half open door a glimpse of rustic luxury inside a neatly swept half a singing kettle a little round table with cups and saucers all twinkling in the firelight and a big brown loaf far away at the end of a long lane of vanished years Vargas saw the picture of just such a cottage interior and himself coming home to it a respectable member of society earning his sixteen shillings a week manfully and keeping a wife and five children he remembered the flax and heads and rosy cheeks in the ruddy light of the wood fire the snugness of the cottage at sixpence a week with a patch of potato ground and half a dozen apple trees behind it was that contented respectable chap me he asked himself wonderingly here are the lights of Oz Thorpe not many or brilliant a feeble ray from the village shop a glimmer in the schoolhouse windows a cheery light shining through the red curtain at the sugar loaves in where three wooden shoe glows pendent from a signpost in the road are swinging in the northeast wind a light yonder from the lodge window by the gate of Fairview sir Everard Courtney's place Vargas stood and looked up and down the village street if that could be called a street which was wide open road with a farmhouse on one side a few scattered cottages on the other further on a pond and a half dozen more cottages culminating in a shop at a corner opposite the schoolhouse and beyond that facing down the road which here turned off at a sharp angle the village inn with its three sugar loaves groaning and creaking in the wind the church an old stone barn which looked as if it had been begun without any definite idea and abandoned by an architect who didn't know how to finish it stood apart in the midst of fields and had altogether an accidental air Vargas knew the place as well as he knew himself though it was 20 years tonight since he had set foot on that quiet road he saw that an old cottage or to which he remembered had tumbled down or disappeared somehow and that a couple of new cottages had been built he saw the sugar loaf swinging as they had swung above his head many a time on summer evenings when he had stood among the village quittin hunks settling the fates of Empires the red curtain had faded a little perhaps there was a stout limb lopped from one of the three tall poplars but the old house had the same air of thrift and prosperity as of yore Humphrey Vargas explored the bottom of his breeches pocket with careful fingers in the faint hope of finding a forgotten penny but those pockets were positively empty there was no delusion by nor sup say from charity or official relief was not for Humphrey tonight I'll do it he muttered to himself between his set teeth it's the last move left to me I shall be locked up for life but I shall have bread to eat and a roof to cover me and my poor old bones won't make as they ate tonight yes he Jack elated with an oath I'll do it he went as far as the sugar loaves crept close up to the window and peeped in through a crack in the crimson curtain a man was sitting by the fire smoking a long clay pipe to Morse at a part at a table drinking beer a creature who looked little better than a tramp Laius beep stretched full length upon a bench by the whitewashed all but an empty plate and mug on the table beside him showed that he had patronized the house before he took his rest and a well-filled bundle which served as a pillow for his tousled head indicated his claim to be considered a respectable member of society the picture humble as it was a sanded floor deal tables kitchen fireplace filled Vargas with envy he went in at the open door the landlord was sitting in his snug bar reading yesterday's paper who is the magistrate hereabouts mate asked Vargas for me you'd better keep out of his way answered the landlord he's a mark on tramps just you keep your advice till you're asked for it growled Vargas I want to know the magistrates name and where I can find him that's all I want how I suppose you're gonna give yourself in charge said the landlord ironically I am oh you'd better go and tell that to the Marines my friend our magistrate is sir Everard Courtenay the owner of Fairview you'll see the large gate at the end of the street there isn't a fire a gentleman in the county nor one that's kinda to his tenants and servants but he's as hard as nails when it comes to such cattle as you I ain't afraid of him answered Vargas or I say landlord do you happen to know anyone has once a dog hmm that depends on circumstances if the dogs are good Breton and salmon well educated and to be ad for nothing I might find you a customer well the dog ain't answer but he's as true as steel replied Vargas and you may have him for he was going to say for nothing but changed his mind for a mug of beer and here he held Timothy aloft by the scruff of his neck and exhibited the cur to the landlord and a friendly lounger they both saluted Tim's perfections with a loud cough all who thank you said the landlord I appreciate the offer but my conscience wouldn't let me Robbie was such a valuable specimen keep him against the next dog show or perhaps the Prince of Wales might like to continue the breed you may chaff growl Fergus but you don't know what you are refusing there never was such a dog for sense and affection he's the best house dog in England did you ever try him ask the lounger who considered himself the village wit had you ever a house yes snapped Fergus but not so bigger one as you are to occupy Oh indeed the county asylums about the fit for you seeing that nature is entitled you to a place in the idiot ward oh thank you said the lounger with an air of saying something crushing if I was the editor of a comic paper I should ask you to communicate again then you won't laugh the dog landlord pleaded Vargas with a piteous look first at Tim and then at the prosperous overfed host not unless I had him stuffed for a scarecrow said the landlord so now my man you'd better shear off customers of your quality ain't in request at the sugar loaves there favors is not solicited the man uttered a curse and turned on his heel better in jail than out for such as me better underground than above it he crawled slowly back again by the way he had come to the other end of the village end of chapter 1 chapter two of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 2 father and daughter Fairview was one of those places which suggests at a glance old establish respectability and a long line of ancestry a race that has taken deep root in the soil it was not a grand house or a show house it had a snug and even homely air as of a house meant to withstand the ravages of time and weather rather than to show off its architectural beauty under an Italian sky it was a Tudor house with heavy mullioned windows huge central chimney stacks and many Gables it was a long low house with a broad terrace in front of it and below the terrace a stiff Italian garden with a round pond and fountain in the middle and beyond the garden a fair expanse of undulating green sward richly timbered the pond and the fountain were as old as the house and the goldfish that splashed about in the water were popularly supposed to be of the same date and to have seen Queen Elizabeth when she spent a night at Fairview Inn one of her royal progresses there were people of a radical turn of mind who disbelieved in Queen Elizabeth's visit to Fairview but there was the old carved oak bedstead which had been set up for her a special accommodation and there were the cram as he sat in curtains faded to a dull brick dust hue which had sheltered her August person from the night air time had toned down every color inside and outside the good old house to mellowest half tints brick and stone had assumed all those varying shades of purple and gray red and brown which time and the Lycan tribe give to old houses there had been no restoration or renovation but all things had been kept in exquisite order from the beginning of time before the court knees were one of the most respectable families in the county nobody had ever been able to say that the courtney estate was but no one had ever hinted at an undo felling of timber the small Park or chase a sir Everard preferred to call it could boast some of the finest trees within 50 miles the home farm was a model of advanced farming every cow a picture every cart horse worthy of a prize medal even the pigs were the aristocracy of the pork a tribe the Courtney's were not among the wealthiest of the land but they had never been poor that was their great merit from the time when just the court near the lawyer chosen companion and favorites of Francis Bacon bought the old monastic lands of Fairview for a song until this present day there had been no reprobate or prodigal to tarnish the family shield or to diminish the estate these kourtney's a younger branch of the good old Devonian family tree had threatened and flourished in their day of Shalom they had married always respectably sometimes profitably they had affected the grave at professions and had won fame in the Senate and on the bench rather than in the more adventurous careers of soldier or sailor they had been men of considerable culture handing down a certain pride and stateliness of mind and men from sire to son as if it had been a tangible heritage they had for the most part married late in life and had not left large families and now the race of the Fairview courtney's had dwindled to two persons sir Everard Courtenay and his only child Dulce Bella otherwise and always known as Dulce tonight while the northeast wind was stripping off the ruddy beech leaves and bending the long level branches of the Cedars the low-ceilinged paneled parlor at the end of the house looking out upon dark shrubberies was the picture of homely old-fashioned comfort it was Darcy's room the room where she had studied with governess and masters during the studious period of her life and where she was now sovereign mistress free to improve each shining hour like the bees or to waste her time like the butterflies just as inclination prompted the old furniture had been enlivened by various modern luxuries and elegance ease in accordance with dull seas taste the black oak Gimli piece presented a kaleidoscopic variety of color pots and pans cups and saucers and platters of dull cease painting or dull sees purchasing gleamed from the sombre old woodwork enriched with many a garland and festoon by the chisels of dead and gone Carver's there were two old Ebony cabinets crowded with toys and crockery of dull seas collecting the chair covers were of dull cease working and blossomed all over with woodland and meadow flowers on a drab ground for she was as dexterous with the needle as with pencil here in front of the broad square window stood Elsa's piano a modern antique in Ebony and brass sir Everards last New Year's gift to a daughter for whom he deemed nothing too beautiful or too costly to pictures and to only adorned the dark dull walls one the portrait of dulls his mother the other a striking likeness of sir Everard Courtenay at nine and twenty years of age he was now fifty in front of the wide old fireplace where the logs were burning merrily stood a little Jim crack table and on the table a silver kettle and quaint Japanese tea service all red and yellow Dulcy had been making afternoon tea for her father and a visitor and now tea was over and her father was sitting in the big armchair on one side of the half with the visitor opposite while Dulcie herself sat on a low stool in front of the blaze which glittered and sparkled upon the pale gold of her wavy hair she sat looking at the fire with her lovely blue eyes the bluest and sweetest eyes that Morton Blake had ever looked upon this was her 20th birthday but the girlishness of her slender form and the childlike innocence of her countenance gave the impression of extreme youth a stranger would have thought dulce at most sixteen her life had been so sheltered and protected so free from worldly care and all the hard butter knowledge which worldly care brings with it that the passing years had left no impression on the fair young face she was as frank and girlish in mind and manner as she had been seven years ago in her nursery time had brought her new graces and accomplishments without taking from her this supreme grace of a childlike simplicity this was her birthday and she was spending it quietly and gravely sitting at the feet of the father who idolized her and whose love she returned in fullest measure there was a reason why dolls his birthday should never be marked by festivity or rejoicing of any kind it was the saddest day of the year for Sarah Courtney foreclosed upon the stroke of midnight on that never-to-be-forgotten 20th of October and within an hour of her baby's birth his young wife had died they had been married little more than a year lady Courtney had been one of the Belles of the county the daughter of a Dukes younger son and a bishops portion 'less niece with no fortune but her lovely face and richly gifted nature sir Everard had won her against a host of rivals and he had been an adoring husband and after little more than a year of wedded happiness sunshine without a cloud as those who judged had best known husband and wife death had snatched her from him and he had been left alone in a blank and desolate world for at this time he counted the baby daughter as nothing he'll marry again said society as represented by the parents of marriage of all daughters so good-looking and in the prime of life of course he'll marry again it would be absolutely sinful if he didn't sir Everard disappointed society and especially the mothers of attractive daughters by leaving England the day after his wife's funeral he led a roving life in the wildest part of Europe for the next seven years while dulce Bella was waxing lovely and sagacious under the care of a merry dance in a faraway Welsh vicarage and then he came home all of a sudden and went to look at his daughter she was a childish image of his dead wife and that set his wounded heart bleeding afresh but she was so fair and so loving that he grew by degrees to find comfort in her innocent companionship and after spending an idle summer among the Welsh Hills whipping romantic waters for trout reading and brooding in fair solitudes he said one day Dulcy will go home and you shall keep house for me and make my life happy he carried out this plan to the letter the 7-year old baby was practically mistress of Fairview the life he lived was the life Dulcy liked his garden his stables his hot houses all were regulated to please that girlish fancy the servants were referred to Dulce for orders but Dulce had a governess and governed the governess if the child had been of a selfish disposition she would have grown up an extra ball tyrant but as she had a nature of inexhaustible sweetness she only grew preternaturally grave and wise with a childish old-fashioned us that was delightful and so she grew and flourished and blossomed under her father's eye growing nearer to his heart every day learning every accomplishment that could minister to his pleasure soothing him when he was weary amusing him when he was inclined to be gay and reading to him writing his letters when he was lazy nursing him when he was ill more devoted than one wife in a hundred or one daughter in a thousand they lived very much by themselves this father and daughter mixing in County Society only so far as they were obliged so ever I'd like to be alone and Dulce liked whatever he liked they went abroad together every summer and all the rest of the year they lived in the good old house of which Dulce never tired the quiet winter evenings by the fireside with book or drawing board work or music never wearied her to be with her father was perfect happiness and who needs seek variety in perfect happiness she and her father had the same tastes the same inclinations they both loved art and music they both had a passion for books there were books everywhere at Fairview books in every variety of rich and somber and delicate binding so Everett and his daughter were connoisseur as in bindings books in their home Lee cloth or paper covers waiting promotion upon merits dulce Bella had read much and wisely for a young woman of 20 but not all the books in the bada lien would ever have made dulce strong-minded or blue culture left her simple and natural as a child who has never learned its alphabet culture with dulce meant verily sweetness and light of late there had been one very constant visitor at Fairview a visitor who now ranked almost as a member of the family this was Morton Blake of tangley Manor who had met Dulce Bella two years ago at a flower show and fallen in love with her on the spot at least this was what he told her six months afterwards when after meeting her everywhere she went and calling at Fairview as often as he decently could he asked her to be his wife Dulce told her father of this offer and confessed her willingness to accept it as freely as she had told him her every thought and fancy here the two but for the first time in her life she found that indulgent father opposed to her he would not hear of Morton Blake as a husband for his daughter he had no specific objection to offer to the match the man was fairly well born very well-bred good-looking well-off sir Everard could only say he is not the man I should choose for you if you wish to please me you will not marry Morton Blake for a daughter who so loved and had been so beloved this expression of a father's desire was enough then I shall not marry him dear father she said and she never more mentioned Blake's name though he contrived to force himself upon her presence several times and urged his suit with passion and persistence but the father saw his child she grow pale and her eye hollow he saw a hundred signs and tokens not willingly betrayed of growing unhappiness and one evening when they had been sitting by the fire for a long time in pensive silence he drew dulce onto his knee and turned the sweet sad face towards the lamplight my dearest pet you are unhappy he said it's nothing papa it will pass away my own dear love answer me truly does the happiness of your life hang upon this marriage with Morten Blake she trembled slightly and turned deadly pale but she answered as honestly and fearlessly as she had answered her father's every question hitherto I'm afraid it does father I have tried to forget him I have tried to put the thought of him out of my life but I can't do it then you shall marry him said sir Everard end of chapter 2 Chapter three of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth Bratton chapter 3 after 20 years you shall marry him said sepharad and so morton and dulce bela were engaged the fair flower like girl and the dark eyed grave young man fall of the sense of life's duties and responsibilities a man who from boyhood upwards had taken life earnestly and had cared little for pleasure strange said the Honorable mrs. aspen all of aspen all towers who was the leading voice in the chorus of County Society I remember mr. Blake's father being among Alice Rodney's admirers but Lord George would not hear of such a thing and the mother was equally opposed to it poor lady Courtney sighed mrs. aspen or visitor young mrs. kibble a struggling curates wife who only knew of these great people by hearsay she was very lovely was she not lovely cried mrs. Aspinall we don't see such beauty nowadays these young persons whose photographs obtrude themselves upon us everywhere are mere dolls in comparison girls had very little help from dress in my time mrs. kibble there were no wriggling Zand twistings of the figure to show off the set of a train no side glances under Devonshire hats no twisting of a handsome throat to sniff for Rose pinned on the shoulder no posturing behind big fans a young woman's gown was cut straight up and down like a flower sack she had a bit of lace around her shoulders that was called a Bertha she had a camellia stuck in her hair and she walked with her feet on the ground instead of balancing herself upon a three-inch heel a corn and a bunion as girls do nowadays some young women wore pink and some wore blue and agreed many more wore white if there was a girl dressed in yella people stared at her and that was a ballroom how uninteresting said mrs. kibble who had been plotting and planning for the last week how to do up her cheap black silk with nottingham lace in the exact style of mrs. Espinoza last confection from worth and in such a gown as that Alice Roth nee was the sign of your of every eye yes Blake was desperately in love with her he was a widower with three children belonging to the Merc entire classes only one generation removed from a foundry not at all the kind of man that Lord George Rothen it would be likely to approve of as a husband for his beautiful daughter there were three daughters I believe but neither of the sisters could compare with Alice did the young lady care for him asked mrs. kibble a deeply interested and gratified that mrs. Aspen all should condescend to talk so much her duty calls at the towers being generally of an uphill character though of course not Alice was an errant flirt and knew her own value she led on Blake as she led others on and then accepted sir Everett Courtney and laughed at her admirers she cared no more her break-in hearts than you care for breaking eggs when you make a puddin concluding mrs. Aspen off a taking for granted that the curates wife did make puddings the Blake's belonged to the mercantile classes this no doubt was the reason why sir Everard Courtney who had much pride of race had opposed his daughter's marriage with Morton Geoffrey Blake Morton's grandfather had made his money at Blackfoot the big manufacturing town within 30 miles of oz Thorpe he had come up from the north a penniless youth with his clothes in a small deal box and an invention for improving upon the existing method of smelting or in his head it had been hard work for him to get anyone to hear of his new process harder still to get it adopted hardest of all to get it recognized as his and to get rewarded for it but there was a vein of doggedness in the Blake family that made them conquerors in every struggle and Geoffrey Blake pegged along the hard road of industrious poverty till he came to the temple of fortune once there the goddess treated him kindly he died a millionaire leaving two sons the elder of whom inherited the bulk of his father's property and carried on the iron works while the younger got 40,000 pounds in the funds and the state called tangley manna which was worth 30,000 more and turned country squire this was Walter Blake Morton's father he married a rural Dean's daughter who died six years after their marriage leaving him with three children he led a steady reputable life and was popular in his district he hunted and shot a great deal and farmed a little and visited everybody worth visiting in the county and in the prime and heyday of life when his son Morton was just 10 years old he was foul he murdered one October evening in the lane leading to oz Thorpe as he rode home from the hunt this direful event happened on the very day of dulcis birth so Morton as well as his sweetheart had reason to regard the 20th of October as a melancholy anniversary this did not prevent the lovers being quietly happy together as they sat by the fire while the north wind rattled the casements and rung groans as of remonstrance from the rocking elm branches what a wintry night exclaimed Dulcy I must put my warm cloaks in hand directly if this weather is going to last the children will want them ever so long before Christmas all the village children were under dulcis protection she made them cloaks and hoods for winter she gave them smart hats and Tippett's for summer she taught in the Sunday school and gave grand entertainments of tea and buns on the lawn where the Cedars had been growing ever since John Evelyn's time children and mothers and old women were all more or less in dulcis care there was never sickness in the village without her knowing of it and ministering to the sufferer seldom a coffin for which her fair hands did not weave a wreath of hothouse flowers del C del C how would this world get on without you said Morton smiling at her earnestness how I should be no more miss than a raindrop that falls into the sea and said Dulce except by my father and I suppose you would feel a wants of something for the first day or two that day or two would be all my life Dulce she had edged her stool away from her father's feet to Morton's so they too were in a manner alone together talking in subdued voices while sir Everard sat looking dreamily at the fire absorbed in thought there never was a happier picture of domestic life the girls fair head nestling closely against her lover's arm as it lay on the velvet cushion of his chair Morton's earnest face looking down at her a face full of power with marked features an open brow curly brown hair and thoughtful grey eyes the father in his low deep chair on the other side of the half a man still in the prime and vigor of life with a profile as delicately chiseled as a cameo clear olive complexion eyes of a darkly luminous gray hair and beard like Hamlet's father's a sable silvered but eyebrows and lashes still as black as night the face was at once handsome and remarkable the form of forehead and skull promised a nature rich in fine qualities benevolent large minded and intellectual Dulce might well be proud of such a father the white hand with tapering fingers resting on the tawny velvet elbow of the chair would have been beautiful even in a woman yet it was a strong and muscular hand withal and had pulled stroke on the ISIS thirty years ago and had been as true on the trigger of a rifle as the rugged pore of a Texan freebooter these quiet evenings were ordinarily periods of perfect repose and happiness forever @courtney but on this one day of the year he was always thoughtful and sometimes Moody and depressed if he could by any means have been beguiled into forgetting the date until the day was over and done with he might perchance have been spared the pain of sad memories but modern civilization does not permit such oblivion there on his newspapers on his letters the date stared him in the face and compelled him to remember dulce was not unmindful of her father even when she seemed most engrossed by her lover's conversation she stole a little look at him now and then and presently rose from her low seat and went softly to the piano she knew that pathetic music had a soothing influence upon sir Everard even when his own thoughts were saddest she played one of Chopin's dreamiest nocturnes a melody which seemed the plaintive whisper of a tender regret a mournful yet caressing strain as of one who loved the very sorrow that consumed him music with Delsea was a gift rather than an accomplishment there was soul in her fingers from the time she first touched the piano expression with her was thought and feeling not a mechanical adjustment of fingertips and mathematical gradation from loud to soft she had been carefully taught and trained to interpret her favorite composers but in whatever she played Beethoven Mozart Mendelssohn or Chopin there was always something of dull sees very self an individual soul into woven with every phrase she played on passing from one Nocturne to another and then to the swelling chords of one of Beethoven sonatas while the shadows deepened in the room and the logs dropped into ashes on the half presently the door was softly opened and the butler came in there's a man in the office sir Everard who wishes to see you on particular busy he's got a statement to make he says sir ever had started up at the summons thoroughly awakened out of his reverie if there was one thing upon which he was more severe with himself than another it was in the strict performance of his Magisterial duties he was a man of culture loving books and art and all the fairest things in life a man to whom petty sessions and rural politics must need to be an abomination yet he loved order so well that he had willingly undertaken the office of magistrate and once having put his hand to the plow had never wavered he was unerringly just but he did not lean to the side of mercy and the villagers thought him a Draco what kind of man looks like a tramp sir Everard what can he want perish relief I suppose he should go to the overseer oh so I told him sir Everard thinking it might be that but it isn't he says he wants to give himself up give himself up yes sir Everard for a murder committed 20 years ago Morton Blake started up pale in the firelight a man whose father had been murdered 20 years ago on that very day was not likely to hear such a statement calmly 20 years ago he cried why this man must be my father's murderer let me see him let me my dear Morton don't agitate yourself remonstrating sir ever heard quietly believe me there is no reason I know so well what this kind of thing means some idle drunken poaching Ric burning vagabond who has run the gamut of rural crime and drunk away the better part of his brains and takes it into his head to make his name famous by handing himself over to justice for the one solitary crime of which he is not guilty the night in the lockup at Highclere will bring him to his senses and tomorrow morning he'll be whining his recantation but the date exclaimed Morton strongly agitated twenty years ago this very day a mere coincidence it turned sir Everard lightly I daresay this vagabond never heard of your poor father living all dead us and get rid of the ruffian is the lamp lighted in the office group yes sir Everard and there's a good fire you'll come back to us directly you've done with the man won't you papa pleaded Dulce accompanying her father to the door yes dear if you wish it oh I do very much wish it if you dispose of your visitor quickly we can have just a quarter of an hour's chat before the warning bell rings you won't be too hard upon this poor ignorant creature will you dear father urge dulce who had always heard gentle prayer for infinite mercy to rogues and vagabonds sinners would have had an easy time of it if miss Courtney had sat in the magistrates chair her father kissed her and murmured a loving word or two but promised nothing and then Dulce with a regretful sigh that there should be so much sin and sorrow in the world went back to the half where Morton stood looking down at the locks with fixed and gloomy brow she laid her hand lightly on his shoulder but he did not feel or did not heed the touch dear Martin she said I am sorry this should have moved you so deeply I'm always moved when I think of my father's death do you suppose it was out of my mind on this day at this hour the very hour in which he was writing quietly homeward from the hunt riding homeward but never to reach home alive do you think I can forget Dulce that I can ever forget how he died and that his murderer has never been discovered if I thought the man in your father's office at this moment had hand or part in that deed I don't think the restraint just civilization would be strong enough to prevent me rushing to that room and flying at his throat Bulldog there was something of the Bulldog in his look as he spoke the gloomy yet resolute eye the powerful jaw the appearance of reserved power every muscle braced for a spring ever since I can remember I have had one wish always uppermost in my mind the desire to find myself face to face with a man who killed my father crate he'll think that he may now on this twentieth anniversary of the murder be standing within 50 yards of me they'll see why should I not go to your father's office why should I not hear what the scandal has to say for a hundred reasons first because you are in a most unchristian state of mind unchristian muttered Blake is it unchristian to hate the man who murdered my father and would be likely to do some act which you might repent all the rest of your life you heard what my father said Morton be sure he knows what he's talking about he's had 13 years experience of these people the man will not be able to deceive him he will have justice rigid justice I know that too well for I have so often had to plead for mercy in vain and I'm to wait here for an indefinite time said Morton turning from her with an impatient gesture and walking up and down the room what while a conversation which may be life or death for me is being carried on in my absence never before had he spoken so roughly $2 see the change startled her as when the glow and glory of a summer day turns all at once to cloud and storm some girls indulge his position would have resented the rudeness of the lover she thought only of the sons devotion to the dead father she stole to his side and put her arm through his and laid her head upon his shoulder you will not have long to wait dear Morton my father manages these people so I'll only be patient for a little while end of chapter 3 chapter four of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 4 a willful man must have his way the magistrate's office was a paneled room which had been a private chapel in the days when Country Gentlemen of some standing kept their chaplains it was a large and lofty apartment but had a look of gloom and a chilly atmosphere upon this October evening despite the cold fire which burned in the large grate at one end of the room the grate was recessed in the cavernous chimney and the greater part of the heat went up to the autumn skies sir ever arts writing-table stood in front of the half furnished with a pair of shaded moderator lamps which through all their light on the table and left the magistrates face in shadow sir Everard loved the subdued light and hated the glare of gas or unshaded lamps of any kind he had the eye of a hawk and could see as well in this half light as most people can in the broad day Humphrey Vargas stood a little way from the writing-table a gaunt clumsy figure his arms hanging at his side's his broad hands clenching and unclenching themselves with a nervous movement now and then his dog crouched at his side the footman had tried to prevent the entrance of that mongrel to the magistrates room but Vargas had insisted where I goes my dog goes he said you can't partners till you hang one on us so there the dog was quiet but watchful evidently holding himself on the defensive like a dog who knew he belonged to the criminal classes well sir began the magistrate seated in his roomy armchair but not too luxurious or effeminate chair by any means but the Severus Pollard oak and dark green morocco well sir what have you to say to me I want to give myself in charge Oh indeed you are mighty conscientious all of a sudden and pray which of your many crimes do you desire to expiate he looked at the man keenly though he spoke likely supposing he had to deal with some drunken vagabond who was only half in earnest to his surprise however this man did not look drunk his gaunt frame and deeply sunken cheeks suggested starvation rather than riotous living his eyes had a steady look he stood firm upon his feet and spoke like a man who had come there with a settled purpose I want to give myself up for a murder I did 20 year ago 20 year ago this blessed day the murder of muster Blake sir Everard looked at him long and steadily looked at him as if he would pluck out the heart of his mystery penetrate to the very bottom of his soul oh he said at last with startling coolness you're the man are you I thought the murderer would turn up sooner or later but I did not suppose he would be self accused come sir tell me your story as plainly and as briefly as you can and when I have written it down I shall read it over to you in the presence of a witness and you must sign your name to it do you understand yes and said Vargas unmoved well begin said the magistrate dipping a pen in the ink and looking up at the self accused with quiet intentness oh well sir Everard the things had gone bad with me that year everything my wife had died and when she was gone I went wrong all together it was the drink I suppose perhaps I had been a little wild in my ways while she was alive but it wasn't anything to talk about and she kept home over my head though we'd had our troubles too but when she was in the churchyard yonder where she's lying now with a jerk of his head in the direction of the village I took to the pubs they were the only places where I found warmth and me and I wasted my wages on drink till the children was barefoot and then finding myself out of work while Mallen and the little ones nya pon starvin I give up altogether and runned away leaving your children to the workhouse I couldn't have left him to a better home and the girls was brought up decently and sent to service and the boys was taught trades points a deal more than I could have done for him well sir Everard I turned my back upon my native place and just turned waif and stray doing an odd job of plaster in the air from a plasterer by trade and a spell of a make in there and a week or two a hot pickin when the season came around to somehow or other I worked my way back here drifted like strayed as a dog strays for I didn't want to come I'd no home to come to no friend to give me a shelter and I couldn't afford to show at the workhouse where my innocent orphans were ever so much better off without a father sir Everard had made the briefest note of this preliminary statement the important disclosure was to come well sir one October day I find myself standing under a signpost in a wild bit of country off wood half heath where three roads met I'm blest if I knew until that moment when I looked up and spied the name on the signpost how near I'd come to the old place I knew I was in the county and the hills and wood had the look of home somehow but I didn't think I was half as near as I was I seem to come all over of a shiver when I found I was only six mile from the Union where those blessed kids was being brought up in the fear of the Lord I'd had no breakfast I had exactly three items in my pocket and a screw of tobacco and I knew I was a good two mile from any place where I could buy a penneth of beer it was a mile still day and the roads and lanes was mucky and soft just the day for the scent to lie well I'd seen the Redcoats in the distance on the slope of the hill and I didn't want to meet none of them if the Huntsman wouldn't know me soon as I'd run with the hounds and open gates in old times when I was a lad so I just crept into the wood hard by and laid down in the honor of an old oak where I was as warm as a toast among the moss and withered leaves and where I laid and smoked my pipe for a couple of hours at has stretched to quiet my empty inside I didn't come out till it was drawn toward dusk I'd heard the hounds giving tongue announcements cry more than once while I laid there as they wound and beat about wood and Heath but I thought I could get quietly back to the coach row without meeting anyone is what recognized me in the dusk I took a shortcut across the fields meaning to get back to the high road a mile or so from a stop on the way to high clear and keep clear of the village altogether I'd been on the Tramp above a week since I left Kent and I'd slept under edges and haystacks and I was pains in every blessed bone my body that Nord like rats I had my bit four bundles swung on a cudgel over my shoulder and I trudged on somehow while the crows went wheeling across the sky which was turning yellow though there aren't lean not one bless a glimmer of sunshine all day well you see sir I trudged along the muddy road and I was just in that kind of temper when the devil gets a grip upon a man and can make him do exactly as he likes I was hungry and thirsty and footsore I felt more than hunger and thirst was a raging hate against them as wasn't and never had been no never was likely to be famished and footsore him without a penny why should day of all the good things and I all the bad things of this life I suppose I ain't the first man has asked himself that question and I don't think I shall be the last but I walks on with such thoughts in my head till I comes to the lane that leads from us thought to hike clear hard by black Martin wood and presently is steady Trump of horses hooves walking along the soft road and I stands aside to let the rider go by all thinking he might be good for a sixpence it's a gentleman in a red coat and I begins my sorrowful tale oh I had a sick wife and seven small children and not a penny to buy bread but before I get halfway through I looks up into his face and recognizes him for my old enemy must a Blake here must turned me off his estate and out of house and home for a bit of a mistake made by a lurch a dog as I used to keep with regard to some pheasants as he set particular store by I knows him and he knows me get out of my Road you vagabond he cries I won't give you sixpence to save you and all your brood from starving oh we look more handsome in his red coat and striped velvet weskit and there was his thick gold watch-chain and seals swinging as he moved and shining in the yellow light of the low sky in front of him he looked a Regulus well he did now their watch and chain of his must be worth fifty pounds anywhere I thought and I daresay his purse is full of sovereigns for I knowed him to be one of your fine old man did gently oh it's ready to give money to them as didn't want it and old Nick took me by the shoulders and gave me a shove as you might say and whispered pull the proud beggar off his horse pull him into the mud and brain him well I look round it wasn't the mortal in sight it was getting dark I shall be miles away before anybody knew anything he was a strong man on a strong horse could I do it why I was hesitating the devil gives me another shove and whispers I'll help you and then I threw down my bundle and clutched all of the bridle and it lasts a crack of the skull that brought him on his knees in the road and before a master Blake could recover from the shock of the horse fall in under him he and I had closed with each other in a deadly struggle he was bigger than me stronger than me a better man in every way but old Nick kept his word and stood by me like a good'n must have Blake had only his uncropped with a bamboo cane and a leather thong he cut me a Warner across the face with the thong but I came down on his bare head for his hat was knocked off at the first go with a nubbly end of my cudgel I heard his skull go crack like a bit of glass and then he fell backward into the muddy road and I just dragged him quietly into the ditch and cleaned out his pockets there was a leather purse full of gold and silver as I hoped and his watch and chain and a diamond ring on his little finger and I felt I'd done a good day's work before you see her I didn't know for sure as I'd killed him even if that was his skull as I heard go crack the doctor's might lay a bit of metal a top of it and make a sound man of him again I did tell us such things so I tied the watch and chain and ring and money up in my Fogel and stuffed it all into my britches pocket and caught up my egg bundle on the edge of my cudgel and made tracks for the high clear road when and where did you dispose of the stolen property inquired sir Everard after a pause at great Barford six weeks after muster Blake's death and I suppose this is all you have to tell me yes sir this year is about all throughout this confession sir Everard Courtney had sat in a thoughtful attitude with his left elbow on the table and his forehead resting on his left hand while with his right he jotted down an occasional note upon the paper before him it was not possible for Vargas to see the impression made on the listeners mind by his narrative come now my man said the magistrate looking up at him suddenly with a frank friendliness you've told your story very well and to some II is it might sound like the truth but it doesn't to mine I know what a curious machine the human mind is and what strange twists it sometimes takes don't you think you'd better forget you've told me anything except that you're hard up and want a night's lodging no answered Vargas in a surly tone I'm not going from my word what you took down there I'll stand by you we'll have you considered that it's a hanging matter that you're offering yourself as a candidate for the gallows I don't feel sure as a younger man after 20 years you won't find the 20 years make any difference besides it won't altogether murder you see when I ate in that cracker with a scholar I didn't know as it had be his death I fear you will hardly find a day of surgery inclined to draw such nice distinctions mr. Blake was a popular man and feeling ran high about his murder I would not give much for your life after that statement of yours has been read before 12:00 Dales sure men I'll risk it said Vargas doggedly I don't believe they're lying me if they do it'll be ending a life that ain't worth living come get your witness sir Everard I wants to sign that their deposition you're an obstinate fool exclaimed the baronet angrily and if I refuse to receive your statement I suppose you'll go and make the same confession to someone else I shall go to I clear as fast as my poor old legs will carry me which is slow enough lord knows and give myself up to the magistrate there a willful man must have his way said sir Everard ringing a bell which sounded loud and shrill in the outer office your way is the gallows remember that I have warned you and don't ask me to help you after tonight for it will be out of my power to do so don't come and whine to me when you've changed your mind I shan't change my mind and set Vargas I ain't afraid of that but as you seem I wish to deal kind by poor devil I'll asked your favor I got a bit of a dog here yeah he wants to look at but he'll keep your poultry yard clearer rats give him an armful of straw a lion and a bit of vittles to eat and you'll be doing it ten times over to me he shall be taken care of and said sir Everard a man's servant appeared in answer to the Bell send for Jackson immediately and take that dog to the stables tell Gilbert he's to be taken care of god bless you sir Everard said Vargas with moistening eyes he took the care up by the scruff of his neck pressed his cold muzzle against his own dry lips and handed him to the servant the constable will be here in ten minutes if he happens to be at home when my messenger calls at his cottage said sir Everard addressing himself to Vargas when the servant left the room you have just ten minutes for reflection and repentance if you don't change your mind in that time you'll be booked I'll leave you to reflect he went away leaving the self accused at perfect liberty to make a bolt of it by the backdoor if he pleased never had sir ever are treated a criminal so lenient Lee this was due to Tulsa's influence and no doubt end of chapter 4 Chapter five of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden Chapter five Dulcy asks questions despite his promise sir Everard did not go back to the drawing room immediately on leaving his office he went straight to his study a cozy room lined with books from floor to ceiling where he generally spent his mornings there was a shaded lamp burning on the small round table near the fire and the red light of the logs was reflected cheerfully on the gay colors of the tiled hearth dark green velvet curtains were drawn before the one wide window everything suggested snugness and seclusion sir Everard sank with a weary air into his chair by the half and lay back with closed eyes resting from his labors what an obstinate fool the fellow is he said to himself and how strange this monomania of self accusation should crop up as often as it does yet there's a part of his story that sounds true the watch and chain were pledged at great Barford that fact came out at the time and the police tried to follow up the clue ineffectually the warning bell rang while he sat thinking by the fire and sir Everard went upstairs to change his black velvet lounging jacket for evening clothes leaving vargas to his fate domestic life at Fairview could not be hindered in it's quiet course because a self accused criminal was anxious to deliver himself over to the law sir Everard valet was in attendance in his dressing room a man of about five and thirty tall slim with insignificant features and a faded complexion redeemed by clever looking grey eyes a very superior person altogether and looked up to by the household his master had picked him up at the gates of the hotel DS Alpha lead in Paris we're in an impecunious interval he was trying to earn a franc or two by acting as a guide to inquiring minded tourists he was a man who had seen life under curious aspects starting as the scapegrace son of a country parson he had cut short his university career by a boyish folly and had then and there turned his back upon what society calls respectability and what he called Philistine ism he had dug a deepest hole in the paternal purse during his college days but had made a manly stand against any further dependence upon his father I'm not fit for anything but a wandering life and I'd better be a waif and stray abroad than a burden at home he said after arriving at this decision he had enjoyed a varied career as career waiter a billiard marker in France and Switzerland had acquired all sorts of odd out-of-the-way talents and had finally found himself in Paris without friends or credentials face to face with starvation when sir Everard Courtenay heard his story believed it and took him into his service never had master a better servant or one who seemed more conscientious in the performance of his duties there is rather a queer character in my office Stanton said sir Everard you'd better tell scroop to keep his eye on the plate room and tell them to let me know when the constable comes I shan't want you everything necessary to the baronet toilet had been put ready the valet retired quietly and sir Everard began to dress he was somewhat slower than his won't in the process of dressing dawdled and lingered a little took things up and laid them down again with a dreamy irresolute air was not this a day full of sad memories and those memories had been made more vivid by the tramps confession he could hardly think about Walter Blake's murder without recalling his wife's untimely death which had happened on the same day he was on his knees beside the deathbed when the news was brought to Fairview at last all was done quickly enough though he had lingered and sir Everard went down to the drawing room passing scroop in the hall as he went Jackson went to hike there this afternoon sir Everett said the butler not expected home before 9 o'clock the Gilbert left word that he was to come here directly very good you can keep an eye on that man in my office he may be a thief I've turned the key in the door sir Everard that is unnecessary go and unlock it at once and give the fellow a meal of bread and meat he looks half starved Martin Blake was sitting alone before the fire when sir Everard went into the drawing-room well sir he cried getting up quickly and going to meet his host you have kept me a long time in suspense was there any truth in my suspicions is this man my father's murderer pray restrain yourself Morton the man is in my opinion either mad or a rogue who for some occult reason accuses himself of a crime he has not committed then he has confessed he is the man cried Morton hoarsely let me see him let me hear my dear Martin this is a business in which you have no right to interfere no right no right I the victims son absolutely none you must wait till the law of the land shall avenge your father's death if this man has spoken the truth which I strongly doubt and if he had here to his statement by and by the business will be easy enough and you may have the satisfaction of seeing him hanged in high Clair jail and may possibly be a happy man ever afterwards I shall be a more contented man anyhow when I know that my father's murderer has been punished and said Morton resolutely well what is to be done next the man is in your office handcuffed in custody I suppose not yet I am waiting to Jackson comes home from hi Claire oh don't look so savage Morton the man is safe enough he wishes to give himself into custody he may change his mind and give you the slip no fear of that I have told group to look after him and scroop has locked him in sensible of scroop what kind of creature is he this devil if I described him at all I should call him a poor devil can't I see him without his knowing it so that I might identify him if he should escape I want to have the man's image in my mind the scoundrel who killed my father in the prime of life and figure with all the world smiling on him and all the future full of hope can't I see him sir Everard if you like to go round the house and look in at the office window you may see him plain enough I daresay the shutters were not shut when I was there but there's the bell and here's Dulce you'd better come to dinner no no answered Morton painfully agitated I can't dine tonight you must excuse me sir Everard Dulce she was standing close at his side pale and watchful of his face forgive me dear I must go I will come back later in the evening sir Everard and here what has happened you won't play me false in this will you I believe the man has told the truth I believe that retribution is coming after 20 years don't take the matter lightly remember my father was your friend am i likely to forget that his face is in my mind tonight but in a matter of this kind I must not let passion be my guide however I have happily very little to do here I shall hand this fellow over to Jackson the constable and then my work is done but you must be reasonable Morten affection must not make you unjust deeply as you must feel your father's death it could be no satisfaction to you to hang an innocent man why do you take it for granted that this man is innocent Morten demanded impatiently simply because he calls himself guilty real guilt rarely surrenders liberty and life uncompelled I have not the least doubt that after having caused you all this painful agitation and me a good deal of trouble the fellow will make his recantation tomorrow before the high Clair magistrates good night said more than shortly good night Dulcy he scarcely touched the hand she gave him as he passed hurriedly from the room what a miserable birthday thought poor Dulce as she and her father went across the hall to the dining room my birthday's have always been sad but this is the worst of all the father and daughter sat opposite each other at the snug round table with Morton's empty place between them there had been no special invitation for today's dinner but the place was always laid for him when he was in the house Dulcy gave one sad little look at the vacant chair and then made believe to go on with her dinner eating hardly anything the solemn scroop moved to and fro with his underling following up and supporting him as it were and the two servants ministering assiduously to the wants of two people utterly without appetite or inclination to eat what an admirable example of domestic comedy in the much ado about nothing line from the clear soup to the wild duck scroop abated no iota of ceremony dulce was longing to be alone with her father but scroop lingered affectionately by her plate with offers of lemon and kN he insisted on her taking dessert and when she had refused a bunch of purple grapes which might have tempted an anchorite followed her up and perseveringly with preserved he was very particular about the temperature of sir Everard claret and made a good deal of play with the jug before he could bring his mind to the necessity of leaving father and daughter alone during dinner they had talked very little and only of indifferent subjects dulcis eyelids were heavy with unshared tears sir Everard was grave and absent-minded but at last to the girl's infinite relief scroop and his subordinate withdrew the latter respectfully drawing the door after him with his foot and father and daughter were alone sir Everard wheeled his chair round and sat facing the fire Dulcy crept round to the half and took her favorite place on the fender stool at his feet with her bright head resting on the arm of his chair dearest father I want you to tell me of great many things she said coaxingly yet seriously with all and her face was full of earnestness as she looked up at him there are some questions I can't ask Morton will it make you very sad if I talk about the past I'm always sad when I think of the past doll see whether you talk of it or no can make very little difference I want you to tell me about Morton's father was he a good man he was a popular man good-looking clever open-handed that kind of man is generally liked and you liked him my dear what a question he was one of my oldest friends we were at rugby and at Cambridge together yes I know but those friendships do not always last you might have altered toward each other afterwards I have sometimes fancied that there was a constraint in your manner when you talked to Morton about his father or rather when Morton had mentioned his father cry of seldom heard you speak of him of your own accord the terrible circumstances of his death make the subject a painful one oh yes I ought to have understood that but I have noticed that people get accustomed to any idea however dreadful and end by talking of it familiarly as if it were an everyday event I could never grow accustomed to the idea of Walter Blake's death oh that's because you are more sensitive than the common herd of people and that his daughter lovingly tell me to your father do you think the man in your office is really the murderer my love how can I tell and there are some points in his story which to my mind bear the stamp of improbability yet if it be found that he is the man who disposed of the murdered man's property it will go hard with him to prove himself innocent supposing that he should wish to get his neck out of the noose into which he has thrust it should you be glad if he were found guilty if it were proved to the satisfaction of everybody that he is the murderer estelle see intensely earnest not glad dear yet it is a good thing that the perpetrator of a great crime should be discovered even after an interval of many years that he should be so lashed and goaded by his own conscience as to give himself up to justice yes it must be good it may serve as a warning to many think how sharp the sting of conscience must be when it can Gold a man to the surrender of liberty and life oh poor creature side dulce full of pity even for the vilest of mankind young and inexperienced as she was her mind and heart were large enough to comprehend and compassion at all sin and sorrow he must have been horribly tempted before he could commit such a crime was it starvation that drove him to it do you think his prix is something of that kind Blake had treated him badly it seems revenge oh that is a fearful passion said Dulce one you will never know I hope little one answered her father tenderly and now dear we will talk no more about pain or things I poured dulce what a sorrowful birthday not all together sorrowful dear father to be with you is enough happiness for me is it Dulce asked her father bending down to look searchingly into the sweet fair face with frank blue eyes lifted lovingly to meet his own are you sure of that yet if I were to ask you to give up Morten if you and he were doomed to be parted your heart would break have you not confessed as much as that does it seem inconsistent she asked is it impossible to love two people intensely you have given me to Morton and I know you would never take your gift back I'm not afraid of injustice from you but if such a thing were possible if you stood on one side and Morton on the other and I were called upon to choose between my father and my lover what would you do I would cleave to you father I don't know which is the greater love but I know which is the more sacred you are more to me than all the world my darling cried sir Everard bending to kiss the earnest lips end of chapter 5 Chapter six of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org justice I am by Mary Elizabeth Bratton chapter six this man killed my father while the father and daughter sat together by the cheerful home fireside exchanging confidences full of love and trustfulness Morten Blake was pacing the shrubbery path alone his soul at war with all the world he went round to the back of the house where the lighted windows of the Justice room shone out upon the misty autumn night there were no shutters or blinds to hide the scene within Morton walked close up to the window and looked in as at a stage play there at a plain oaken table in the centre of the large scantily furnished room at some distance from serovars writing-table and armchair sat the self accused murderer eating his supper of bread and meat a joint and a big home baked loaf had been set before him and he had been left alone with the food no one to measure or stint his meal he was eating more like a savage beast than a human being now tearing at a slice of meat and on gnawing at a huge hunch of bread his eyes shifting uneasily towards the door every other instant as if he thought the whole thing were too good to be true and expected momentarily to be interrupted in his feast wolf muttered Morton scowling at him through the glass could any man in his senses doubt this creatures capacity for murder a mere ravenous beast a body wanting to be fed muscles and sinews and flesh and bone craving nutriment being without mind or heart or conscience a creature that would as soon kill as breathe strange that remorse can have power over a soul so blunted and brutalized a nature so gross and low he stood as if rooted to the spot watching every look every movement of man inside this man killed my father he said to himself this debased wretch wanting only to eat and live cut short that brave happy life in its flower laid that handsome head in the dust and made my boyhood desolate for the sake of a handful of sovereigns and a few trinkets that noble life was sacrificed to home he muttered between his set teeth I'm sorry that the law must have you I would rather my own right hand avenge my father's death the man it on with undiminished ferocity hacking the joint mauling the big brown loaf luxuriating in the plenitude of an unfamiliar luxury once and once only he paused in his banquet and that was to look down at his knee and then along the floor and under the table wistfully with a regretful sigh he wished Tim had been a year he said wouldn't he ever enjoyed itself but he's well off I'll warrant that sir Everard zas often though folks call him hard there came a stage in the meal when even the starved wayfarer as hunger was appeased the joint had shrunk to a bone the noble loaf was reduced by half and Humphrey Vargas leant back in his chair a contented man true that he had surrendered his Liberty that fetters and jail were to be his portion that a possible gallows loomed in the future the thought of these things troubled him but little he had filled himself with bread and meat for the first time in many months he had enjoyed an ample meal the cautious Butler had given him nothing but water to drink obeying sir ever adds order in the letter rather than in the spirit his master had said Brennan meet and he had given the man bread and meat no more and no less I should have liked to supper get her side the Tramp but I blowed myself out pretty fair without it and I ate ungrateful tomorrow suppose it'll be skille in soup but that would be a great deal better than hips and whores and bits of mouldy Panem's stole out of a pigsty Morton Blake walked away from the window and strolled slowly round by a shrub buried walk to the broad terrace in front of the house the moon had risen and the mists of evening were floating away from the garden and chase and the wide landscape beyond fair view stood on high ground and from the terrace Morton could see woodland and Valley the twinkling lights of a low-lying village and yonder far away to the left on the edge of the horizon the dimly defined outline of the roofs and steeples of Highclere the county-town the wind had gone down with the rising of the moon the air was cold but Morton was hardly sensible of its chilliness as he walked slowly up and down the terrace or paused now and then to stand with folded arms looking across the Italian garden the velvet lawns and choice timber to the Vega world beyond looking with fixed eyes which saw no feature of the familiar scene how cold and indifferent they are he said to himself it seems nothing to them that after all these years my father's murderer stand revealed and retribution is at hand even dulce would sooner yonder wretch should go scot free than that he should expiate his crime yeah I believe she would be weak enough to feel sorry for him for the first time in his life he was inclined to be angry with his betrothed for the first time since he had known and loved her he felt their hopes and interests were divided how sad she had looked when he left her just now he seemed to himself hardly to have noticed that tender pleading glance at the time yet now that one particular look flashed upon his memory and was as vividly present to his eye as a face in a picture and that one picture the gem of the gallery he turned towards the porch tempted to go back to Dulce the lighted windows of her favorite room fan out upon the moonlit with the cheerful glow of lamps and fire he was in no mood for lovers talk or music or poetry or art but he wanted to see Dulce again before the evening was over the hall door was neither locked nor barred against him he had only to turned the handle and go in yet on the point of doing so he changed his mind and went back to the shrubbery at the end of the house and round again to the Justice room when he looked through the window the prisoner was no longer alone sir Everard was standing by his writing table with a paper in his hand reading its contents aloud while the local constable respectfully listened and Farkas stood aloof twisting his floppy hats in his bony old hands and quietly awaiting the next turn in that wheel of fortune which had rarely revolved in such a way as to bring him any good presently vargas at the magistrates bidding walked up to the table and with laborious effort affixed his signature to the deposition that had just been read over to him his sign manual was only a cross but he took as much pains in producing it as if it had been the most perfect thing in autographs I got a shake art at my place said the constable who was a bluff rosy-cheeked rustic and I shall soon spin him over to hi Claire you are not nothing in the way of firearms or other weapons about you have you mate he inquired a Fargus running his hand dexterously over the man's gaunt figure as he spoke to assure himself that there were no such implements of slaughter concealed under his scanty rags no growled vargas I don't see where an old scarecrow like me could hide a revolver or a blunderbuss there ain't much room in my rotten old togs the constable clapped a pair of handcuffs upon him with a businesslike air as if there were no malice in the proceeding and then with about a sir Everard led his prisoner away thank God exclaimed Morton my mind is easier now that that's he ran quickly around to the front of the house and then to the Avenue along which the two men must come and here in the shadow of the elm trunks he stood and waited for them they passed him presently the prisoner walking at a slow and dogged pace beside the guardian of the village peace his head sunk on his breast his fettered wrists hanging in front of him his weary old shoulders stooping under the burden of a long life of penury disrepute and evil doing a creature too low for hatred looked at from a philosophers point of view Morten Blake saw in him not the natural product of an imperfect civilization but only the murderer of a beloved father and hated him with unmeasured wroth he followed the constable and his companion to the village waited while a Methuselah among ponies was harnessed to the che cart and saw the official drive briskly along the moonlit Lane towards high clear with his prisoners sitting anyhow a high shouldered heap of degraded humanity at his side they were past the ditch where my father was found twenty years ago this very night said Morton he set off across the field to his own house pondering as he went along how he was to tell the story of tonight's business at home tangley manor was just a mile and a half from our Thorp in the opposite direction – hi Clair it was a pleasant walk through country lanes crossing the London Road about half way from Oslo the estate was large the land some of the most fertile in the county for old Jeffrey Blake had never bought a bad thing there was a good deal of wood which the purchaser had got for a song but which gave dignity and beauty to the substantial modern mansion which he had built on the site of a picturesque old half-timbered farmhouse the lighted windows of tangley manor house shone upon Morton with a comfortable look as he walked slowly across the common which lay between the gates and the Coach Road the house stood only a little way back from the common alone and flower in front robbery's on each side and circling the garden and shrubberies there was a ward where no axe had been heard say for improvement for the last 50 years old Jeffery Blake had loved tangley and his son Walter born in the newly erected manor house had inherited his father's affection for every tree and every acre poor aunt Dora sighed Morton as he drew near of the house she will feel it most she loved him dearly and mourned him more deeply than any of us yes even then I first time went by and I grew older I had all the distractions of rugby and Cambridge while she sat at home and mourned for him how shall I tell her how reopened the old wound without giving her unspeakable pain but she must know the county papers will be full of this business two days hence end of chapter 6 Chapter seven of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 7 Morton's womenkind the drawing-room at tangley manor was as handsome and as interesting as any room can be which has not been mellowed and sanctified by the passage of centuries it was a spacious and lofty room with a noble bay on one side and three long French windows on the other there was a fireplace at each end the white marble mantelpiece is low and broad giving ample space for the display of some exquisite specimens of modern sera chosen by Geoffrey Blake during one of his holiday visits to Paris a city which had possessed peculiar interest for his active and inquiring mind the furniture was in perfect taste light in form and delicate in color simple as befitted a room that was designed rather for daily usage than for stately receptions there were dwarfed bookcases between the windows and on each side of the fireplace water colored drawings on the wall ferns and flowers wherever space could be found for them the room wore its most cheerful aspect tonight when Morton entered it after his lonely walk by field and Lane and common wood fires burned brightly in the two grates large moderator lamps with coloured shades give a warm yet subdued light for ladies were seated near the fireplace at the further end of the room in various attitudes and variously employed the middle-aged lady sitting in a low wide armchair with a lamp and work basket on the Gipsy table before her was Walter Blake's maiden sister Dorothy better known in that house as aunt Dora the head of the household respected and beloved by every member of the family from Morton to the newest comer in the shape of a chubby cheeked scullery maid or a fortnight old kitten she was one of those women whose beauty in youth is open to question but who are undeniably handsome in later life as a girl Dorothy Blake's face had lacked color and brightness her manners had been wanting in animation girls with homely a features and more vivid complexions had been admired where Dorothy's pale and interesting countenance passed unnoticed but at 45 miss Blake's clearly chiseled features and delicate complexion her slim and graceful figure made her remarkable among middle-aged women her hair had grown gray before she was 6 and 20 it had not bleached suddenly in a single night but within one year of that night of horror on which Walter Blake's corpse was carried home to tangley Manor his sister's dark brown hair had changed to gray it was now of a silvery hue which harmonized exquisitely with the pale fair skin and soft hazel eyes aunt Dora's gowns always fitted to perfection and were always in the fashion yet she never wore a garment unbefitting her years she was not the kind of woman to encase herself in a boating jersey because the fashion book told her that jersey's were universally worn the young people of her acquaintance looked up to her as an authority on dress and manners the arbiter of taste she loved all beautiful things pretty girls delicate colors flowers wild and exotic ferns hedgerow or hothouse handsome furniture rich dress thoroughbred horses she had tastes wide enough to embrace all the delights of life and yet was not self-indulgent she would leave the cozy chair beside the Gothic fireplace in her luxurious morning room to walk three or four miles through muddy lanes in the vilest weather if by so doing she could give comfort to the afflicted in mind or body she was the friend and advisor of all the wives mothers and daughters in the parish on a corner of the fender stool in front of the fireplace sat morton's eldest sister Clementine otherwise tiny a delicately fashioned girl who seemed never to have grown out of childhood and who was a perpetual outraged to her Asya her strong-minded younger sister at all plump well filled out young woman who looked just as many years too old as tiny looked too young for her age the sisters were curiously different in character taste and personal appearance yet they contrived to be on excellent terms with each other and only quarreled in sport Horatio was playing at chess with a girl who seemed younger than either of Morton's sisters a girl with soft gray eyes rippling brown hair and features with no special claim to beauty save that the rosy mobile lips were lovely in form and expression and the teeth perfect in shape and color this last was a young lady about whom daily society troubled itself very little she was rarely included in those invitations to garden parties and afternoon dances which were sent to the daughters of the house she was known to be a humble dependent upon miss Blake a girl of obscure birth whom that lady had adopted 15 years ago and altogether estimable young person in her proper sphere that sphere being of course one of usefulness and not of ornament a girl born to carry comforts to the sick and poor and whom one would be surprised to meet in the lanes or on the common without a basket on her arm a girl who would be expected to like walking in wet weather and always to wear thick boots and short petticoats to be expert in every branch of decorative art from the fitting up of the baby basket to the arrangement of a dinner table a girl who would be a marvel of handiness in all those small duties that make up the preparation for a grand party who would work like a slave to the last moment before the arrival of the guests and who would not feel the faintest desire to mingle with the festive throng this was the kind of thing which Dosher society expected from Elizabeth Hardman of whose birth and connections it was only vaguely stated that she belonged to factory people at blackford and oft in the common course of events herself to be making steel pens or brass buttons society as represented by mrs. Aspen all of the towers looked with the disapproving eye on aunt Dora's adoption of the orphan these things never turn out well for anybody concerned said mrs. aspen all with her superior air as if she had been by when the foundations of the earth were laid and had seen the Stars marshaled into their places that girl will be a thorn in Dorothy Blake side before we are many years older meanwhile Elizabeth Hardman was happy enough though she was left out of everybody's lawn parties and only knew what an afternoon dance was like from Tiny's vivid description she was not a girl of wide ambitions her highest aspiration at present was to please aunt Dora and she was as entirely happy trudging over the common with a well-filled basket on her arm as she would have been at the finest assembly in de Lucia aunt Dora and the three girls looked up as morton entered all surprised at his return how early you are exclaimed tiny throwing herself back against the marble pillar of the chimney-piece and stretching out her pretty little feet for the easier contemplation of a pair of picturesque buckled shoes and black silk stockings did the spooning process seem a little flat this evening we seldom see you till past eleven when you've been dining at Fairview I have not dined at Fairview oh then where have you been dining child asked Horatio with her practical manner it must have been a very dull dinner or you would hardly have come away so early if you don't want to be ignominiously checkmate in three more moves Lizzie you'd better put a little more intention into your playing and did the younger miss Blake severely Lizzie Hardman detested chess and all other games of skill or chance but had to play anything and everything when the Miss Blake's wanted an adversary she was a capital person to play against as she invariably lost the game just now her senses had fled from the board altogether scared by that pale set look in Morton's face which indicated trouble of some kind aunt Dora was occupied with her knitting and had only murmured a friendly welcome tiny was still gazing at her shoe buckles and thinking how nice it was to be born with a high instep her Asia was absorbed in a profound scheme for checkmating her we can't agonist in three moves I haven't dined at all said Morton dropping into a chair near his aunt I've had some business to look after not dined cried aunt Dora or ring the bell tiny your brother must have some dinner there was pheasant sent away untouched if you were to have that after a little soup Morton dear auntie don't worry yourself about pheasants and soups said her nephew with a weary dare I am rather tired but I have no appetite for dinner I'll take a crust in their glass of wine presently tiny withdrew her gaze from her shoes to contemplate humanity in the uninteresting form of a brother they were very pretty eyes blue and bright and smiling like sunshiny whether you've quarreled with Dulce she exclaimed nothing less than that will explain your dilapidated condition Dulce and I are not given to quarreling answered her brother curtly what do you never fight desperately in order to make friends again as Tiny I thought that was one of the symptoms of spooning Clementine your slang and flippancy are becoming more insufferable every hour remarked her aysia with her fingers hovering above a bishop will you give me five minutes in your own room aunt Dora asked Morten in a low voice miss Blake laid down her knitting instantly and rose to comply with his request Martin how white you're looking she exclaimed something's happened yes something has happened oh nothing that concerns Dulce and Dora was very fond of Fortson sweetheart no dearest auntie Dulce is right enough Horatio and Clementine now began to perceive that something was amiss tiny rose from her low seat Horatio left the game unfinished Morton you are unnecessarily mysterious and alarming she said disapprovingly has anything dreadful happened is anybody ill is anybody dead has the de Lucia Bank broken none of these things has happened aunt Dora will tell you all by and by and said Morton gravely the event which has come to pass tonight is something which ought to make us all glad but it revives the sorrow of years gone by you know what anniversary this is I wish I didn't exclaim tiny I've been trying industriously to forget it all day I never tried to forget said Horatio I consider it a duty to remember it is a small thing for us to give our dead father some of our thoughts on this day aunt Dora's soft brown eyes were full of tears she put her hand in Morton's and went with him out of the room and across the wide tessellated hall to her pretty nest at the back of the house the fire burned low on the tiled half there was a moderator lamp on the table which Morton lighted before he sat down the room was the brightest and prettiest in the house here as in the drawing-room there were books and flowers and water colored pictures and old china but here everything had a peculiar grace and interesting individuality there were indications of a life at once artistic and industrious a drawing board with an unfinished flower study on the table in the window a large beehive work-basket in a corner by the half one little table devoted to account books and commonplace details of housekeeping another to aunt Dora's favorite poets and philosophers from Shaw sir to Tennyson from Erasmus to DeQuincy of all the pictures in the room there was one which caught the stranger's eye and arrested it it was a portrait in watercolor which hung above the chimney-piece the half-length figure of a man in the prime of life a frank handsome face bright blue eyes and crispy curling auburn hair a broad forehead a candid mouth a face supremely attractive and loveable suggestive of an existence that had never been shadowed by grief or care the soul untainted by one base thought this was the portrait of Walter Blake painted two years before his death at a time when he had recovered from the moderate amount of sorrow which he had felt for the loss of a somewhat uninteresting wife never passionately loved the picture had been painted as a birthday gift for the sister who worshiped him it was the only likeness for which Walter Blake had ever consented to sit morton looked up at the picture as he took his seat beside the half never had the face seemed so lifelike tell me what has happened Morton said Dora Blake anxiously but in nowise shaken from that abiding tranquility which was her greatest charm it is something that concerns my brother's death is it not some discovery has been made yes there has been a discovery and an important one my father's murderer has given himself up to justice he will sleep tonight in Highclere Jail Dorothy is pale face blanched to a deathlike whiteness great heaven she exclaimed oh who is the man all her calmness was gone her lips trembled so much that she could hardly form the words she wanted to speak a wretched creature a half-starved tramp more like a wolf than a man oh thank god exclaimed Dorothea thank God hair coat Morton I do with all my heart thank God that retribution has come at last that we shall have blood for blood poor compensation for who could set such a creatures existence against my fathers valuable life we are all of the same value in the sight of our Heavenly Father Morton and Siddharth Dora in her grave sweet tones in his sight we are all sinners I am sorry for this unhappy creature whom remorse has driven to confess his crime sorry sorry for the man who killed your brother cried Morton indignantly that may be Christianity but it is a kind of Christianity I do not understand I am sorry for his sin and for the shameful death he will have to die and I am glad heartily glad savagely glad if you like aunt Dora I loved my father too well to be capable of this high-flown humanity of yours I shall go to see the man hanged if the authorities will let me and I shall feel happier when I see that drop fall and know that this one merciless villain has gone to his doom had he any mercy upon me when he killed my father Oh her passions are merciless Morton and said his aunt whose face and mana had recovered their customary repose God who sees and understands all our evil propensities alone knows how short the distances between innocence and crime this unhappy wretch may have been goaded by miseries that neither you nor I can understand we who have so many advantages and yet are so prone to fall or to be merciful to the outcasts who have never known the light Morton rose impatiently and began to pace the room just as he had paced dulcis room a few hours before I cannot understand you he said you seem to have no memory do you forget how my father's blood beats battered corpse was brought home to this house I was only ten years old yet the feeling of that night with all its horror and agony are as vividly in my mind as if it were yesterday I begin to think that no one loved my father as well as I did I loved him and said aunt Dora quietly may believe that I loved him as few brothers are loved what would I not have done for him what sacrifice would I have thought too great my poor boy you do not know what you're talking about Oh forgive me dear auntie I know you're all goodness but I'm angry tonight with everyone who doesn't feel this as deeply as I do I was angry with Dulce with sir Everett with sir Everard exclaimed aunt Dora does he know it was to him the wretch declared his crime how did sir Everard take the revelation with provoking coolness he seemed to think the man an impostor accusing himself of a crime he had not committed such things have happened said his aunt thoughtfully well possibly but this is no case of false accusation the man was neither drunk nor mad a brute but a brute in the full possession of such senses as are given to brutes thank God he is in jail hard and fast by this time there will be a trial his crime will be brought home to him and he will swing for it surely you must be glad of that aunt Dora she shook her head with a mournful gesture and looked at Morton with eyes full of tears will my dear brother rest any easier in his grave because of his murderers doom will it make the thoughts of that cruel death so awful so sudden a strong man cut down in his pride of manhood full of thoughts and desired that belong to this world with no time allowed him for one prayer one act of faith and love will that memory be any easier to bear Morton because the wretch who did the deed shall have paid the price of his crime no my dear boy there is no satisfaction to me in the idea of human retribution vengeance is mine I will repay saith the Lord I have never doubted that my brother's murderer would be punished for his crime but do you not see in this event a tonight the finger of Providence here is a rech so goaded by remorse that he is driven to seek death as a relief from the burden of his sin oh there must be some remnant of good in the man said aunt door amusingly even for him there may be pardoned if his repentance is sincere you would pray for him and with him I suppose said her nephew with a sneer I would Morten she answered quietly and then seeing his angry look she went up to him and laid her hand gently on his shoulder such a pretty slender hand as delicate as a girl's dear boy you and I see things with different eyes you are young and I am old time alone can teach the lesson of forbearance and patience under great injuries and now dear Morten go and eat your supper and try to get a good night's rest you look worn and weary already and you will have much excitement and anxiety to go through before this terrible business is finished good night dear boy you tell your sisters I shall not come back to the drawing room shall I tell them what has happened not tonight I will tell them tomorrow let them rest in peace tonight and so Dora Blake dismissed her nephew and then went back to the half above which the dead man's picture hung what a frank bright face it was smiling down at her full of the joy and pride of life great heaven to see thus and to remember the ghastly face she had looked upon twenty years ago the clotted hair the lifeless form be mired with duckweed and clay just as it had been dragged out of the ditch where the murderer had flung it Dora Blake covered her face with her hands as if to shut out the dreadful image which memory recalled so vividly she sank shuddering into her chair by the fireside and gave full vent to the passionate grief she had repressed in Morton's presence he had thought her cold and wanting in love for his dead father his opinion would have been curiously different if he could have seen her now the tears rolling down her pale cheeks her slender form convulsed with sobs she grew calm at last and lay back in her chair exhausted gazing dreamily at the low fire thank God it is not as I thought she said to herself anything is better than that presently she rose and unlocked an Esprit wha in which she kept all the sacred documents of her life her diary valued letters mementos of lost friends all the story of the past a history which she alone could decipher she opened a drawer and took out a packet of letters tied with a yellow ribbon and from beneath the letters a crimson Morocco miniature case she came back to her chair by the fire and sat some minutes in a reverie with the case and the packet lying in her lap then with a sigh she drew the lamp nearer to her and opened the miniature case a Parisian photographer had given all the vividness of life to one of the fairest faces that ever challenged his skill it was a perfect face lovely alike in feature and expression smiling yet with a look of latent sadness gentle pleading the face of a woman born to love and to be beloved rather than to dazzle or command assuredly not the face of a Coquette yet hardly the highest type of womanhood there was a faint suggestion of weakness in the sensitive lips the small dimpled chin it was a countenance of childlike innocence and purity but with no promise of the grandeur virtues heroism forty jewels self-denial Dora Blake sat gazing long at the lovely image lost in a dream of the past how well I could have loved her poor child she sighed how happy we all might have been if fate had so willed then rousing herself from sad regretful thoughts she untied the yellow ribbon and looked slowly through the packet of letters they were in a warm and a small and delicate writing with many a sentence underlined as if to give intensity to words which in themselves were passionate miss Blake only looked at a page here and there a line a phrase saying as she read what vehement eager life there had been in the writer of those words how heart and mind had gone with the hand and yet within a year the hand had been dust the passionate hearts had been still forever oh it's too sad a story said miss Blake as she rearranged the packet and tied the yellow ribbon round those faded letters the history of a broken heart she replaced the packet and the photograph in her drawer unlocked to the esprit soir presently there came a gentle tap at the door come in said miss Blake a little vexed at being disturbed the door was opened quietly and Lizzie Hardman peeped in may I come in for a few minutes auntie just to say a word or to a horse it's you child oh yes you may come I don't mind you Lizzie crept softly to aunt door aside and put her arm round her neck and kissed her without a word everybody was fond of aunt Dora but her nieces used to protest that Lizzie's affectation was absurd in its demonstrative devotion yet Lizzie Hardman was by no means demonstrative in any other relation of life her love for her benefactress seemed the one only warm feeling in her nature well she's extremely obliging you will fetch and carry for us like a dog and put up with our tempers in the sweetest way said her Asia but in spite of her sweetness I don't believe she cares a straw for Clementine or me her idolatry of auntie is absolutely preposterous I don't see that hoary answer tiny and Dora is such a delicious creature nobody can help loving her Oh yet aunt Dora might wear damp boots for a whole evening before you would run to fetch her slippers retorted Horatio with some justice Tiny's weak point was selfishness well Lizzie what do you want ask Miss Blake after she had submitted to the girls kiss I know something has happened I was afraid you might be unhappy Morten looked so pale so terribly excited Oh auntie is anything very dreadful anything that will lead to unhappiness he said we ought all to be glad but his own manner was so strange how anxious you are about Morten and about you said Lizzie you've been crying I can see that let me go to your room with you auntie dear and read you to sleep I know you'll be giving way to sad memories if I don't well you shall come with me if you like Lizzie a few pages of Tennyson or Browning will be more soothing than my thoughts don't ask me any questions you'll hear everything tomorrow I can wait answered Lizzie have the girls gone to bed yes half an hour ago Morten had a little supper in the dining room very little it was a mere pretence of eating and then he went up to his room he looks dreadfully ill he has had a shock oh poor fellow but it's nothing about Miss Courtney oh no no she is unconcerned in the business that's the blessing said Lizzie as they went slowly up the broad staircase to the lofty modern-looking corridor from which the bedrooms opened end of chapter 7 you

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