“So I gave him one of the rabbits,” said Meg, concluding a long story
of which Dan was the hero, “and he took it to his camp.”

“As a matter of fact, you provided his dinner,” observed Miss
Linisfarne, languidly. So far she had not taken much interest in the

“I suppose so. Dan said he was fond of stewed rabbit.”

“No doubt. All gipsies are.”

“But Dan is not a gipsy!” said the girl, laughing. “He tries to be
one, but fails. He is a gentleman.”

“My poor child, you must be making a mistake,” replied the elder lady,
in a pitying tone. “Gentlemen do not travel in caravans, or take
rabbits from unknown young women.”

“This one does, Miss Linisfarne. I am sure I am right. Dan is a
gentleman, and a very handsome one too.”

“Handsome!” echoed Miss Linisfarne, with a flush. “You did not tell me
that, Meg. Describe his looks.”

“He is tall, with brown hair and moustache. His eyes are of a dark
grey, and laugh with his lips. He is,” said Meg, concluding this
feminine description with a feminine epithet such as is to be found in
the novels of the gentle sex–“he is a Greek god.”

“A most attractive person, according to your description. Are you sure
your enthusiasm does not carry you away? For all I know, he may not be
a bit better-looking than Parson Jarner. He also is a Greek god,
though more like Silenus than Apollo.”

“Parson Jarner!” echoed Meg, in a tone of ineffable contempt. “Why, he
is as old as old can be, and as red in the face and white in the hair
as anything! Dan is really good-looking, like–like–oh,” she cried,
breaking off suddenly with a twinkle in her eyes, “I know who he is

“What is the matter, child?”

“Would you care to see Dan?”

Miss Linisfarne shrank back on her couch with a quick sigh, and
covered her face with her hands.

“No! no!” she said in a low whisper; “how can you ask such a thing,
child? I have seen no one but Mr. Jarner for years and years. I am
dead–I am buried–I am forgotten. Do not bring a stranger to my
sepulchre. Even this common wanderer must not see me as the wreck I

Bather startled by this outburst, which she was far from expecting,
Meg arose to her feet and bent over the couch with a pretty expression
of penitence in her eyes. Gently she removed the hands hiding the face
of her hostess.

“You do not understand–you do not understand! It is not Dan himself I
would show you, but his portrait.”

“His portrait!” repeated Miss Linisfarne, in blank astonishment. “Are
you out of your mind, Meg?”

“Come with me to the picture-gallery, and I will show you the portrait
of Dan.”

Much bewildered by this invitation, Miss Linisfarne mechanically arose
from the couch and linked her arm with that of Meg. She had not the
remotest idea of what the girl meant to do, and so yielded to her
curiosity. That the picture of a vagrant should be in Farbis Court
picture-gallery seemed incredible. No portraits but those of the
Breels hung there; and unless one of them had come to life again, she
by no means understood how Meg intended to fulfil her promise.

“You foolish child!” she said, with a low laugh. “This is some trick.”

“No, it is not. Come to the picture-gallery, and I will show you Dan.”

Thus adjured, Miss Linisfarne, leaning on Meg’s shoulder, passed
beyond the screen and across the polished floor of the room. They
entered the hall, and slowly ascended the wide staircase. Miss
Linisfarne was by no means strong, and, even with the assistance of
her vigorous guest, found it impossible to move otherwise than at a
snail’s pace. At length they reached the gallery, which extended the
whole length of the east wing, and here Meg paused before a portrait.

“There!” she said, clapping her hands and laughing gaily, “that is
Dan. The picture was painted three hundred years ago, but it is my
caravan-owner for all that!”

Miss Linisfarne looked steadily at the picture, which represented a
handsome young man in Elizabethan costume. His face was, indeed, very
like that of Dan, though naturally Miss Linisfarne was ignorant of
such resemblance. Masterful look, firm lips, bold eyes–it was as
though the painter of the portrait had transferred to his canvas the
features of the vagrant.

The more Meg looked at it, the more marked seemed the resemblance, and
she glanced at Miss Linisfarne with a mischievous smile.

“It is Dan,” she repeated; “or else Dan is the ghost of Sir Alurde.”

“Sir Alurde is the original of this portrait, I know,” said Miss
Linisfarne; “but I am ignorant by what means a vagabond comes to
resemble one of the proudest courtiers of Elizabeth. Are you sure the
man you speak of resembles Sir Alurde?”

“I am certain. See, here is a pencil-portrait, drawn from memory.”

She handed it to Miss Linisfarne, who glanced at it for a moment, and
then looked around with a sigh of fatigue.

“Bring me a chair, Meg, and place it before Sir Alurde’s portrait.
Thank you, child. I soon grow weary if I keep on my feet. Is this
Dan’s picture?”

“Yes–from memory.”

“It is certainly very like the Elizabethan. But, as you have seen Sir
Alurde’s face some hundreds of times, and this vagabond’s but once, I
fancy you must unconsciously have drawn the countenance of the

“No; I have drawn Dan’s face. It is true,” added Meg, demurely–“it is
true that I have only spoken once to Sir Alurde’s double, but I have
seen him at least a dozen times. Often and often I have been hidden in
the pine trees above his dell, and looked down on him without his
knowing I was there. And sometimes I have sung songs and led him a
dance through the wood, like Puck did the Athenian lovers. You
yourself, Miss Linisfarne, said that I was quick at catching a
likeness; and if that sketch is not as like Dan as Sir Alurde is like
him, then call me–well, anything you please.”

“You foolish, foolish child!” said Miss Linisfarne, letting the sketch
fall on her lap. “How can you indulge in such wild ways? Do you not
know that you are twenty years of age, and must not act like an
uneducated rustic?”

“I am a rustic,” replied Meg, smiling–“but not uneducated, thanks to
you and Mr. Jarner. Oh,” she continued, laughing at the recollection,
“if you only had seen his face when I spoke like the villagers! He
nearly fainted with surprise and horror.”

“I don’t wonder at it,” said Miss Linisfarne, severely. “You have no
business to play such tricks. If this man is a gentleman, which I can
hardly believe, he must have been shocked at your illiterate speech.”

“He was–very much shocked,” assented Miss Merle, readily; “but I only
spoke half a dozen words in the style of Audrey. Afterwards my
language was most correct.”

“What did you converse about, child?”

“I am afraid we talked nonsense! But as it was our first meeting, you
can hardly wonder at that. He asked me to visit him in his dell.”

“You did not accept his invitation?”

“Yes, I did! Why not? There is no harm in going there.”

The elder lady was nonplussed for the moment. Meg was so innocent and
unsophisticated that it was really a matter of difficulty to set her
right on some points. Miss Linisfarne did not wish to suggest anything
detrimental to the character of the vagrant, if only because she did
not think it advisable to put ideas into the mind of her _protégée_
which were not there already. She therefore evaded a direct reply, and
spoke lightly, as though the matter were of no consequence.

“My dear child, you must take care of your heart,” she said, with
forced gaiety. “I cannot have you falling in love with the first
handsome scamp who comes to Farbis.”

“I fall in love!” laughed Meg. “What a funny idea! I don’t think Dan
is the kind of young man with whom I would fall in love. And then,”
she added reflectively, “I don’t know what love is.”

“I hope you never will know,” said Miss Linisfarne, vehemently. “Keep
your heart free while you may, child. Love is a sweet poison which
brings nothing but pain. Love!” she added, with a bitter laugh, “it is
a curse–a curse, child, and not a blessing.”

“Were you ever in love, Miss Linisfarne?”

The lady looked at the bright young creature before her, and a greyish
pallor overspread her face. For some moments, as if not grasping the
full purport of the question, she remained silent. When she did speak
it was in a low dreamy voice, as though her thoughts were far away.

“Yes, child! I loved once, but it led to nothing but madness and
despair. He was a god in my eyes, as this vagrant is in yours. But his
noble looks hid a base soul. He lied and plotted, and made me what I
am. For his sake have I been condemned to this living tomb for these
long, long, dreary years. I was young and fair when I came here. Look
at me now–look at me now!”

Overmastered by her passion, she rose to her feet and clenched her
hands in impotent rage. Anger gave her momentary strength, and she
paced up and down the long gallery like a panther in its cage.

“There is no honour, no justice, no love, in this world!” she
cried in a fierce voice. “Those who say there are such things lie. Who
knows that better than I? To be tricked and betrayed and rendered
unhappy–that is the lot of women. There is no hope for me–no escape.
As I sowed, so have I reaped; and plentiful–plentiful has been the
harvest of my sins. Child, child! go not near this man. Avoid him as
you would a viper. If you neglect my warning—-”

She raised her hands in menace and looked at the girl. Something in
Meg’s face arrested the fury of her passion, and, letting her arms
fall, she returned to her chair. It was not her duty to give Meg to
eat of the tree of knowledge, and she abruptly stopped those
confessions which hinted at sin and punishment.

“Don’t heed me, child–don’t heed me,” she said feverishly. “I talk at
random. Bring this man here and let me see him. I will then be able to
tell you if he is as you think. But I doubt it–I doubt it.”

“Will you see him, Miss Linisfarne?”

“No, no! Bring him to this gallery. I dare not speak to him face to
face, but view him from a distance. That will be sufficient for me! I
love you, Meg, as though you were my own child, and would not have
your heart tortured as mine has been. There, there! Go, child–go!
Leave me here; I wish to be alone.”

Meg bent over her for a moment and kissed her cold forehead, then
flitted rapidly away in obedience to the order. When her footsteps
died away, Miss Linisfarne lifted her haggard face, and, clinging to
the wall, advanced a few steps to where a mirror was placed. This gave
back the reflection of a pale face, grey hair, and eyes filled with
anguish. At the sight a moan escaped from her lips.

“Oh, my lost beauty!” she sobbed; “oh, my lost beauty!”

If Dan was disposed to envy the open-air life of the Romany, he
certainly felt that there were drawbacks to such an existence. This
other view of the question impressed itself forcibly on his mind as he
sat in Mother Jericho’s tent and heard the rain drumming on the roof.
It was a rainy night, and the gipsies were all under shelter, though
their wretched tents afforded but a poor protection against the rain.
Through the chinks of the canvas the water persistently dripped, and
formed little puddles on the floor. Mother Jericho, desirous of
warmth, had lighted a fire at the door of her abode, and this filled
the tent with acrid smoke. The flap at the entrance was fastened back
to do away with this nuisance, but the entering wind drove the smoke
inward, and made the inmates cough and rub their smarting eyes.

Dan was the only guest, as Tim was absent from the camp. He had been
away with his cart and donkey for two days, much to the regret of Dan,
who wished particularly to see him. Indeed, it was principally on this
account that he had left his comfortable waterproof caravan on this
wild night and had come down to the gipsy camp. Anxious to question
the tinker concerning his connection with Dr. Merle, the vagrant
sought an interview, but, to his disappointment, found no one in the
tent but Mother Jericho. The old lady welcomed him in a wheezy voice,
and offered him the hospitality of her smoky abode. Dan accepted, as,
in default of Tim, he thought he might pick up a few scraps of
information from the old gipsy. In this he was mistaken. Mother
Jericho was as close as an oyster when it so pleased her.

The other gipsies–a dozen in all–were huddled in two caravans, and
were more comfortable than the head of the tribe. She, a conservative
Romany, preferred the privacy of her own tent to the innovation of
sheltering under a tin roof, and coughed and choked over her own
particular fire. It was a pitiful spectacle to see this old woman
crouching over a few embers in the vain hope of getting warm. Dan
pitied her greatly, and said as much when under shelter. To his
surprise, his sympathy was received with anything but gratitude.

“I’m well enough, dearie,” croaked Mother Jericho, piling on more
sticks. “Bless ye, young man, I’m used to this. I can’t abear to be
cooped up in a Gorgio house. Hawks and eagles don’t roost in
farmyards, as I knows of.”

Dan put a corner of his coat over the shivering Peter who was curled
up beside him, and wondered how the old creature could exist amid such
wretched surroundings. For the moment he forgot that ardent love of
liberty which is the strongest characteristic of the gipsies, and
which to them is ample compensation for the miseries which they endure
in their wandering existence. In Mother Jericho he saw no romantic
queen of a wild race, but merely a frail old woman who should be
bestowed in an almshouse, where she could be looked after and
protected from want and cold. Such comfort would have been more
unpalatable to her than leaky tent and smoky fire.

“Wouldn’t you like to have a good house and a little money?” he said
persuasively, revolving philanthropic schemes for the bettering of her

“Young man, I have money,” replied Mother Jericho, with great dignity.
“I could buy a caravan if I chose, but the tent’s good enough for me.
I was born in one, dearie, I’ve lived all my life in one, and I’ll die
in a tent.”

“But you would be more comfortable in a house.”

“No, dearie, no! It ‘ud kill me.”

“But this,” said Dan, rubbing his eyes, which smarted with the pungent
smoke–“this is worse. You can’t live here. It will kill you.”

“I’ve lived like this for eighty years, child, and it’s not at my time
of life that folks change. You are a Gorgio gentleman, and like to
live in a fine house; I am a Romany, and the tent is my home.”

“Are you happy?”

“Quite happy, dearie–quite happy, though I don’t deny as my pipe
wants filling.”

Willing to alleviate her discomfort in some small degree, Dan gave her
a fill of tobacco, and she was soon adding more smoke to the already
foggy atmosphere. When she spoke her voice sounded as from a cloud,
for Dan could not even catch a glimpse of her face, so thickly rolled
the blinding smoke between them.

“That’s better, dearie–much better,” piped the voice from the cloud.
“Wha-a! there ain’t nothing like terbaccer for comfort–unless,” added
she artfully, “it’s summat to warm the inside.”

Interpreting this hint in its right sense, Dan passed along his flask,
and heard her smacking her withered lips over the whisky. He wished to
soften her heart before asking questions; and having, as he thought,
done so by these gifts, proceeded to business. Dan was not without
diplomacy, but it proved worthless in this instance.

“I thought Tim would be back to-night,” said he, replacing the flask in
his pocket.

“Did ye, now?” whined Mother Jericho, crossly. “Well, he ain’t. He’s
with the Hernes for a day, dearie. When he comes back I’ll tell him ye
asked for him.”

“When will he come back?”

“To-morrow, or the next day, young man. Why d’ye want to see him?”

“Just for companionship. It’s lonely up at the dell.”

A grunt proceeding from the smoke showed that Mother Jericho did not
put much faith in this assertion. After poking the fire, she spoke

“Company ye want, child! Haven’t ye better company nor the poor

“No; I have no one to speak to.”

“Tim said ye met her at the Gates of Dawn.”

“Oh, the lady of your prophecy,” said Dan, lightly. “Yes, I certainly
did meet her; but I can hardly ask a young lady like Miss Merle to
visit me.”

“Ho!” croaked Mother Jericho, maliciously, “ye’ll have enough of her
some day.”

“Pish! I don’t believe in your prophecy. I choose my wife for myself,
not at your bidding.”

“Fate is stronger than either of us, rye! I read your fortune in your
hand, in the stars, and by the cards—-”

“Well?” said Dan, seeing she had not completed the sentence.

“Well,” echoed the old woman, “they all agree. Two women shall love
ye, and ye shall love one–the first you met.”

“That means Meg! She is beautiful enough to make any man love her, but
as yet my heart is untouched.”

“Ho, ho, young man! I’m not blind.”

Not caring to argue the question, Dan shifted his ground.

“Who is the other woman?”

“You’ll meet her at the hour. She ain’t far off. Fire and flame and
brave deeds,” continued she, dreamily. “A fine skein Fate reels off
for ye, my son.”

“You seem to have arranged everything ahead,” said Dan, pointedly.

“No, dearie, no! It is written.”

“Indeed! Then what has Dr. Merle to do with it?”

The question evidently took the old creature somewhat aback, for she
did not answer immediately. When she again took part in the
conversation, it was to feign a stupidity for the purpose of evading a
direct reply.

“Dearie me! How my head do swim! Was it Dr. Merle ye talked of just
now, young man?”

“Yes. Do you know him?”

“Bless ye, child, what would I do running arter a Gentile doctor? When
I aches or pains, I brew my own drinks from herb and root.”

“You must have seen him, at all events,” persisted Dan, taking no
notice of her evasion.

“Oh yes, I’ve seen him. He is only a child. D’ye call him a man?”

“No, I don’t. He is a slave to his vice.”

“Fond of drinking, ain’t he, dearie?” croaked Mother Jericho; “and it
ain’t whisky, nor gin, nor rum. No, no! I’ve heard of those brews
which lift the soul from the body, and set it floatin’ on golden seas.
Bless ye, dearie, I have juice of a plant which can make you dream
yourself into a kingdom. Ay, ay! ‘Beasts of the field are ye,’ say the
Gentiles; but Mother Jericho and her Romany children know secrets of
great power.”

There was evidently nothing to be learned from this cunning old woman,
who maundered on about magic ceremonies and subtle arts without again
touching on the subject of Merle. Vexed by his ill success, Dan
clapped his hands smartly together to rouse her from such dreams, and
spoke sharply and to the point.

“Listen to me, mother. You and Tim and Dr. Merle have some scheme in
your heads which concerns me.”

“May I die, young man, if I ever set eyes on you afore you came to

“That is not the question. For purposes of your own, you wish me to
marry this Meg Merle.”

“Not I, dearie, nor Tim, nor the Gorgio. It’s Fate, my rover.”

“I don’t believe in Fate.”

“So ye said before, my blade. But the day will come when ye’ll think
of the poor gipsy-woman and her wise words.”

“Pshaw! You are trying to evade an answer. Who is Meg Merle?”

“Hey? Speak up, young man; I’m deaf.”

“You obstinate old creature!” muttered Dan, savagely. “Who is Meg

“Not so loud, dearie–not so loud! I hates such hollering. The young
gentlewoman is a child of the Gentile doctor.”

“I know that, but—-”

“Then why d’ye ask? You have forgot your manners.”

She was evidently determined to say nothing, yet Dan felt convinced
from her manner that she knew more than he did about Merle and Meg.
All else failing, he tried bribery, and slipped half a crown into her

“Tell me what secrets there are between Tinker Tim and the doctor.”

“Secrets, dearie! How should I know? Ask them as has secrets to tell
’em, not poor old Mother Jericho as hasn’t. Bless ye for a good young
man! This silver will bring ye luck.”

“I wish it would bring me information,” said Dan, annoyed by the
failure. “Good night, mother.”

“Are ye going, dearie? Good night. I send fine dreams along wi’ ye.”

Dan was too angry to thank her for the gift, and, swinging his
lantern, marched out of the tent, followed by Peter. The provoking old
creature chuckled as he disappeared, and piled fresh wood on the fire.

“If ye want riddles read, young man, you must pay in gold. Silver!”
she said, with great contempt. “A curse go with him for a greedy

All that night it rained heavily, but Dan woke next morning to find
that the clouds had dispersed. He was later than usual, and the sun
was already over the rim of the sea. The dell was chilly and dripping
with damp, while the ground was moist, and the pine trees were of a
fresh green hue. In the silent hours the world had been thoroughly
cleansed, and there was a new vigour in the air which caused the blood
to speed more rapidly through his veins. The rain had drawn perfumes
from the bosom of the earth, and the dell smelt like a garden of
spices, and smoked with vapour like a sacrificial altar.

Having taken the precaution to keep some wood in his caravan, he soon
had a brisk fire burning, and forthwith proceeded to prepare
breakfast. Owing to the lateness of the hour, and a timely remembrance
that the heavy rains probably rendered the paths too slippery for
Simon, he did not go down for his usual swim, but pottered about till
noon, at which time he expected the vicar. To do honour to his guest,
Dan made due preparation, and when the sun was up over the backbone of
the ridge, found that there was nothing wanting save the presence of
his visitor. His occupation being thus gone, he sat on a log beside
his fire, and meditated over a pipe concerning the conversation of the
previous night. There were many things to consider touching his

So far he had not advanced one step in proving that his doubts had any
foundation in fact. If there was any understanding between the gipsies
and Dr. Merle–if Miss Linisfarne was connected at all with the
affair–he could not decide without proof, and proof there was none.
He felt sure that Mother Jericho held the key to the riddle which so
perplexed him, but she was too cunning to reveal aught likely to be of
use in elucidating the mystery. At times Dan felt disposed to think
that his fears were groundless, that he was making a mountain out of a
molehill; but when he again ran over the occurrences of the last week
in his mind, he became sure that his instinct was right. There was
something going on of which he knew nothing, It concerned himself and
Meg Merle, but in what way he could by no means decide. Such hidden
doings made him uneasy, after the fashion of men who ever fear the

Under these circumstances he judged it advisable to consult Jarner,
and ask his advice. The old vicar was a man of great common sense, and
from his long residence in Farbis was well acquainted with those whom
Dan suspected. He knew Miss Linisfarne; he had some knowledge of Dr.
Merle; and, in their occasional visits to Farbis, he doubtless was
aware of the gipsies’ characters. With such knowledge, helped out by
information on certain points from Dan, the truth might be pieced
together. Failing Jarner, Dan did not know to whom to apply for

“Yes,” he decided, springing to his feet and pacing the dell, “I shall
confide in Jarner, and tell him who I am. The knowledge of my name may
assist him to an explanation; though what I can possibly have to do
with these mysteries it is impossible to say. But there is no doubt
that Tim, Mother Jericho, Merle, and Miss Linisfarne have an
understanding together. As to Meg, she is as innocent and as ignorant
as I. Jarner alone can help me; and when I confess my identity, I have
no doubt he will tell me his story, or, rather, the stories of Merle
and Miss Linisfarne.”

His thoughts halted at the last name, and turned off in the direction
of Farbis Court and its strange tenant. She puzzled him more than did
the others.

“I must see her,” he muttered thoughtfully. “Jarner may be able to
take me there; or, failing him, I shall ask Meg to help me. Once I am
face to face with her and I may learn something. Pshaw! I am deluding
myself with shadows. Perhaps no mystery exists save in my imagination.
Well, at all events, I shall confide in Mr. Jarner. His common sense
will either dispel the shadows or turn them to reality.”

While thus soliloquizing after the manner of solitary men, he became
aware that a dog-fight was in progress. Jarner’s terriers were
assaulting Peter in his own dell, and the three combatants were
rolling over on the miry ground in a confused mass. Dan, seeing that
Peter was outmatched, shut him up in the caravan for safety, and then
turned to greet his visitor. The vicar did not immediately respond to
his welcome, being busily engaged in correcting the terriers. His
hunting-crop was in full play, and Peter answered the howls of his
late antagonists from the caravan. At length quiet was restored, and
Jarner, wiping the perspiration off his face, shook Dan by the hand.
As for the terriers, they retreated to a safe distance and sat down
with the air of martyrs.

“By St. Beorl!” said Jarner, making use of his favourite expression,
“fox-terriers are the most quarrelsome of dogs. Never a day passes
without my rascals getting into a scrape.”

“They resent Peter as a trespasser, no doubt,” replied Dan, equably.
“I am glad to see you, sir. Sit down on this log, and make yourself at

“Whew! It’s no easy task for a man of my years to climb these hills. I
am too flabby for such exertion. So this is your abode for the

“Yes. Sufficiently comfortable, don’t you think?”

“Hum! Sheltered enough; but for my part, sir, I should not care about
camping out in such weather as we had last night.”

“Oh, I was safe in my caravan. But you must be hungry, and the midday
meal is ready. I’ve scratched together some edibles, but I am afraid
the fare is rough.”

“Bottled beer, sausages, cold beef! I must say, young man, that you
know how to make yourself comfortable.”

“We learn other things at Magdalen besides the lore of the schools,”
said Dan, smiling. “I am not a believer in hermit’s fare.”

Mr. Jarner nodded, to intimate that he was of the same mind, and set
to work on what was before him. Dan assisted with no mean appetite,
and for the next half-hour they ate, drank, and were merry. Vicar and
vagrant fraternized famously, and by the time their pipes were lighted
were on the most friendly terms. Pleasure over, they proceeded to

“Well, sir,” said Jarner, looking curiously at his host, “I am here in
response to your invitation. What have you to say?”

“Many things, Mr. Jarner. I am afraid I roused your curiosity the
other night.”

“I don’t deny it, Dan. Why did you couple the name of Merle with that
of Tinker Tim?”

“Because I believe they have an understanding together.”

“Humph! An understanding about what?–about whom?”

“That is the very thing I wish to find out, Mr. Jarner. It concerns

The vicar suddenly raised his eyes and examined Dan’s face with the
closest attention. He looked puzzled and thoughtful.

“It concerns Meg,” he repeated slowly. “Ay, ay; and in what way?”

“That I can’t say. Now, you—-”

“I am afraid I can give you no assistance,” said Jarner, a trifle
stiffly. “So far as I know, there can be no connection between the
gipsies and the doctor. What are your grounds for such a belief?”

“I was talking to Dr. Merle about his daughter, and suggested in a
jocular way that if he found the young lady difficult to manage, he
should ask Miss Linisfarne to adopt her.”

“And what did he say to that?”

“He turned as white as paper, and asked me if Tim had told me

“Strange–very strange!” said the vicar, reflectively. “What did he
mean by such a remark?”

“I wish to find that out,” repeated Dan for the second time.

“For what reason, may I ask?”

“Well,” said the other, reflectively, “it sounds somewhat egotistical,
but I have an idea that there is something going on between the
gipsies, Dr. Merle, and Miss Linisfarne which concerns me.”

“Concerns you!” repeated Jarner, in surprise. “Why, what can a
stranger like yourself have in common with such people?”

“Nothing that I know of. But perhaps I had better tell you how I came
here, and leave you to judge for yourself.”

“I am all attention,” said the vicar, seriously, laying down his pipe,
“and I must confess that I am curious to know who you are.”

“That is easily answered,” returned Dan, smiling. “I am Lord

Jarner rose to his feet, with an expression of blank astonishment in
his rubicund face. The information took him completely by surprise. He
had guessed long ago that Dan was a gentleman, but never for a moment
dreamt that he was a man of title.

“Lord Ardleigh,” he repeated slowly–“the owner of Farbis Court?”

“That identical person, Mr. Jarner.”

The vicar pinched his nether lip between finger and thumb. A frown
passed over his face, and he looked curiously at the nobleman.

“Why are you masquerading as a cheap-jack, my lord?”

“For no unworthy purpose, I assure you, sir. Sit down, and I will tell
you my story, though it must be confessed it is the most prosaic of

Having picked up and relighted his pipe, Jarner resumed his seat on
the log. Though controlling all outward expression of his feelings, he
was uneasy at the revelation lately made. A lord masquerading as a
vagrant was too much out of the ordinary course of things for him to
accept it without disturbance. Ardleigh was the owner of Farbis Court,
of Farbis village, and the patron of the living, yet Jarner gave him
neither his hand nor a welcome. He was no truckler to rank, and first
wished to hear the reason of the young man’s visit before accepting
him as a friend. Dan guessed his thoughts, and admired him all the
more for such independence.

“Lord Ardleigh—-” began the vicar, when the other cut him short.

“One moment, Mr. Jarner,” he said coolly. “I have told you who I am
because I wish for your assistance. But I do not want any one else to
know; so please call me Dan, as you have hitherto done. Now, do not
frown, my dear sir! I see you think my visit here is influenced by
unworthy motives. I assure you that is a mistake. Hear my story before
you condemn me, and meanwhile let us suppose that Ardleigh is in
London, and call me Dan.”

There was a humorous smile on his lips as he made this speech, and the
vicar was not proof against the charm of his manner. Instinct told him
that the young man was to be trusted.

“Well, then, Dan,” said Jarner, his face clearing, “let me hear what
you have to say.”

“You wish to know the reason of my being here, sir?”

“Ay! It is not a common thing for a nobleman to masquerade as a

“Then I must claim the merit of originality,” said Dan, humorously. “I
am but indulging in a freak. Have you ever read ‘C[oe]lebs in Search
of a Wife,’ Mr. Jarner?”

“Hannah More’s book? Ay, long ago.”

“I am following the example of her hero. As Lord Ardleigh, it is my
duty to take to myself a wife and beget heirs, the more especially as
if I die the title goes to a scampish cousin of mine, who would drag
it in the mud. Now, in London I found great difficulty in getting a

“Ho, ho! Pardon my laughter, Lord–I mean Dan–but you surely jest.
With your title, looks, and wealth, you have but to pick and choose.”

“That might be; but among all the beauties of the season–of half a
dozen seasons–I saw not one with whom I would care to pass my life. I
do not regard marriage as a mere ceremony signifying nothing, but as
the completion of a man’s life, and am therefore hard to please in my
choice of a mate.”

“Good, good! I am glad to see you consider the responsibilities of
life. There is some sense in your head, young man.”

“All the women I met were more or less frivolous. They wanted my
title, my money, but they did not love me for myself. Under these
circumstances, I despaired of meeting one who would love me, and whom
I could love. My fate was evidently not to be found in society, so I
took the resolution of masquerading as a poor man, and going in search
of a wife after the fashion of C[oe]lebs.”

“Have you been successful?” asked Jarner, gravely.

“No! The lower orders have their faults as well as the upper classes.
I have not yet found my ideal woman. With yonder caravan I have
travelled for two summers through the land, and must confess that I
like the life extremely well.”

“What brought you to Farbis, of all places?”

“There, my dear sir, you lay your finger on a mystery. Three weeks ago
I was camping some considerable distance from here, in the
neighbourhood of gipsies. As usual, I fraternized with them, and they
urged me to go to Farbis.”

“Did they give any reason?”

“None, save that it was an interesting place. Of course they could not
know me, or guess the object of my wanderings. They simply suggested
Farbis; and as I remembered that I had a place here which I had never
seen, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to turn aside and
have a look at my property. I therefore accepted the hint given by the
gipsies, and came here.”

“Pardon me, sir, but so far I see nothing mysterious.”

“Wait a moment, Mr. Jarner. Hardly had I set foot in this place when
my fortune was told to me by Mother Jericho. She said I would meet
with my fate at the Gates of Dawn. I went down to the beach next
morning and met Meg. Tinker Tim came here and did battle with me. He
observed that none other than I should have her; and this oracular
sentence, I believe, applies also to Meg. Then I visited Dr. Merle,
and he makes that strange remark about Tinker Tim which included a
reference to Miss Linisfarne. Now then, sir,” pursued Dan, laying his
forefinger in the palm of his hand, “look at all these things
together–the guiding of my footsteps to this place through gipsy
suggestion, the prophecy of Mother Jericho, the remark of Tim, the
fear of Dr. Merle and the allusion to Miss Linisfarne. What do you
make of all these things, Mr. Jarner?”

The vicar scratched his head and stared at the fire. He was gifted
with unusual perspicuity, and the linking together of so many
circumstances certainly seemed strange. There was ground for Dan’s
suspicions, and yet Jarner could not quite see how matters stood. He
frowned, and spoke with marked hesitancy.

“All such things might be coincidences. I own it is strange that the
gipsies should so mix themselves up in your plans; but the whole
circumstances are so intangible, that I do not see what inferences you
can draw from them.”

“It seems to me, Mr. Jarner, that Meg is connected with the gipsies in
some way, and that they wish me to marry her.”

“Pooh, pooh! For what reason?”

“Ah! there you have me, sir.”

“They cannot possibly know your name,” said Jarner, doubtfully,
“unless you told the—-”

“I told no one. One man only knows of my wanderings, and he is London.
To the gipsies I must appear simply as a cheap-jack, or at the best as
a broken-down gentleman. Not at all a good match for Diana of Farbis.”

“True enough,” said the vicar, smiling at the classical allusion;
“and, moreover, I do not see why they should interest themselves in
the girl. It is true that she is friendly with them, and often visits
their camp, but gipsies do not as a rule trouble themselves about the
Gorgios. Yes, I agree with you, Dan; it is certainly very strange.”

“Well, leaving our Romany friends out of the question–what has Dr.
Merle to do with Miss Linisfarne? Why should he turn pale at the
mention of her name?”

“You ask me riddles, sir,” said Jarner, with a vexed air–“riddles
which I cannot answer. Dr. Merle has nothing to do with Miss
Linisfarne. He has not even seen her.”

“You astonish me. He is a doctor, and she an invalid.”

“All the same, he has steadily refused to attend to her, although she
has sent frequently for him. Miss Linisfarne remains shut up in the
Court, and only sees myself and Meg; but the father of the girl has
never crossed her threshold.”

Dan looked at the speaker with an air of astonishment. These matters
were quite beyond his comprehension. So far as he could judge, matters
were getting more mysterious than ever.

“More mysteries,” said he, smiling. “Really, Mr. Jarner, I am
beginning to be interested in Farbis. Who is Dr. Merle? How long has
he been in these parts?”

“For fifteen years. He arrived with his daughter when she was a year

“So long! And has he always lived this solitary life?”

“Always. The man has some trouble on his mind, and strives to stifle
memory by indulging in opium. He attends sometimes to the villagers,
but for the most part remains secluded. Who he is I cannot say; but he
must have money, even to live in the poor way he does. His village
patients pay no fees, nor does he demand any. It is my impression that
he has isolated himself for some circumstance connected with his early
life. What it can be I do not know, as he has never confided in me. I
see him sometimes, but he does not encourage my visits.”

“And Meg?”

“She, poor child, was growing up in absolute ignorance, till I
expostulated with Merle and gained his permission to take charge of
her. All she knows is due to my teaching, but for the softer graces of
education she is indebted to Miss Linisfarne.”

“How was it that Miss Linisfarne took an interest in her, when Dr.
Merle refused to go to Farbis Court?”

“It was my doing,” said the vicar, simply. “I saw that though I could
teach the girl to read, write, cipher, and all the rest of it, she
required the training of a woman at the hands of one of her own sex.
Miss Linisfarne was wretched in her isolation, so, in the hope of
employing her mind, I suggested that she should aid me to educate Meg.
I am glad to say that she was pleased to oblige me, and, with her
father’s permission, the girl went daily to the Court. Miss Linisfarne
has taught her French and Italian; also painting and needlework and

“And you?”

“I have taught her reading, writing, arithmetic, and all necessary
things that a well-educated girl should know. From me she has also
learnt how to shoot, fence, ride, and fish and swim. Taking her
for all in all, Lord Ardleigh, I do not think you will find a
better-educated girl anywhere. What she knows, she knows thoroughly;
and, for the rest, is an upright, honest creature, whom I regard as my
daughter. True as steel, beautiful as Hebe, and as well educated as
any of your advanced bluestockings who shriek about the equality of
woman with man.”

“She is indeed a splendid creature, vicar. But her religious—-”

“Sir,” said Mr. Jarner, gravely, “can you think that I, a priest of
the Church, would neglect the welfare of her soul? She is a member of
our Church, and has received the Communion at my hands. I have never
known her to tell a lie, and her heart is excellent. Many a case of
distress has she relieved, and her influence with Miss Linisfarne has
ever been exercised for the benefit of the poor and needy. Gipsies or
no gipsies,” added the vicar, raising a ponderous finger and shaking
it at Dan, “you could not find a woman more fitted for your wife–ay,
lord though you be, sir, and she a rustic maiden.”

Lord Ardleigh coloured under the steady gaze of the old man, and
laughed in a somewhat embarrassed fashion.

“According to the gipsies, and to what you say, it seems I have met
with my fate. She is very beautiful, and all that is desirable;

“But you don’t love her? Of course not! You have only met her once.”

“I don’t say that I don’t love her,” protested Dan.

“Then you do love her?” said the vicar, eagerly.

“I don’t say that either.”

“What, what! No evasion, sir, or I shall deem you unworthy of my
friendship,” thundered the vicar. “Either you love her or you do not.
Which is it?”

“I can’t say, vicar. I am in a state of betwixt and between.”

Mr. Jarner looked steadily at the young lord, who met his gaze with
the utmost frankness, and at length put out his hand, which the vicar
grasped heartily. That was all; these two fine natures understood each
other without words. The brow of the vicar cleared, and Dan smiled
genially. Then they talked of other things.

“About Miss Linisfarne, sir,” asked Dan, after a pause–“what do you
know about her?”

“Just as much as I know about Merle. She came down here twenty and
more years ago, and took up her abode in Farbis Court. Why, I do not
know, though I have asked her frequently the reason of such isolation.
She was then young and beautiful, but is now a wreck of her former
self. But you, my lord–you are the landlord; you—-”

“I know nothing of her,” said Ardleigh, hastily. “The Court was let to
her in my father’s time, when I was a little lad. She is a good
tenant, and pays her rent regularly, so when I came into the estate
she remained at the Court. I am as ignorant as you of her past.”

“Strange, strange!” muttered the vicar. “Here are two people who have
retired from the world, and isolated themselves in this wretched
place. What their secrets are I know not, as they keep them locked up
in their own breasts. Ah! my dear young friend, how true it is that we
mortal millions live alone!”

He wagged his head solemnly over this remark, and prepared to take his
departure. Dan escorted him up the dell as far as the top of the

“I must think over what you have told me,” said the vicar, shaking
hands, “and will let you know what conclusion I come to. I agree with
you that there is some mystery in all this, but at present I see no
way of discovering what it may be. Come and see me soon, my lord.”

“Dan!” corrected the other, smiling.

“Dan be it. Come and see me, Dan, and we will talk over matters. If
you discover anything new, let me know of it. I am always at home in
the evenings, and you will find a hearty welcome.”

“I won’t forget your invitation; but I wish, vicar, you would
introduce me to Miss Linisfarne.”

“I cannot do so without her permission, but I shall see. Of course, as
Lord Ardleigh, you can call.”

“No doubt,” replied Dan, dryly; “but I don’t intend to call as Lord
Ardleigh. Keep my secret, sir, until such time as I choose to reveal

Mr. Jarner nodded and moved away, leaving Dan alone on the summit of
the ridge. The young man’s eyes were turned towards Farbis Court, and
then slowly travelled across the hollow till they rested on Dr.
Merle’s house. He shook his head.

“There is some connection between those two houses,” he murmured. “I
shall not leave Farbis till I find out what it is.”

You may also like