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Yonder is where--(to-day
Learned I the tune)
Hide from the noon;
Follow thee, June-
Face of the moon.
THERE was Hillswick Church still standing as it had stood through generations of Waldrons and Reids, changing so slowly that old Grimes himself could not recall the day when it was more rat-eaten, motheaten, and weather-beaten than now. The very graveyard showed but few signs of life, or rather of death, since the putting up of old Harry Reid's tomb, for people die slowly at Hillswick, and there was nobody to die at Copleston. For that matter, there was nobody to live there. It had been closed since the Waldrons had come to their own again so completely, and now for so long that the Hillswick people in general had almost come to look upon the emptiness of Copleston as part of the natural order of things.
One fine summer afternoon, when Hillswick was looking its laziest and its best, old Grimes happened to be in the belfry. He was not ringing or tolling, because, as usual, nobody was either entering into or departing from what, at Hillswick, was called life ; he was simply doing nothing at all, because he had nothing to do. It was a pleasant place for the old man to pass his time in, so long as he did not feel thirsty, for the church felt nearly as much like home as the “George," and there was never anybody about on week-days to prevent his doing what he liked with his own, as the church had become in something more than in his own mind. Nor was his usual OCCUpation the worst way of time-killing that a man of far greater personal resources than old Grimes might find. There were opě? lights round the steeple from which, piece by piece, the whole surrounding country was to be seen. But, better than this, it put the clerk and sexton into a better position for knowing all that went on in the world than if, with his deaf ears, he had spent all his days as well as all his evenings at the “George.” Nobody could pass through the churchyard without being seen by old Grimes; and many other meetings had he seen there besides that half-forgotten one between Miss Reid and the old squire. Through one of the lower lights he could see up the street as far as the market-place ;
from another he might learn who went in and out at Dr. Bolt's ; from a third he had a bird's-eye view of the country lane that led to the Vicarage. If his ears were hard, his eyes were still clear. On this particular day he saw nothing of any public or private interest until he saw Gideon Skull walking along the lane towards his uncle's. He had seen the same thing before, but it was a very long time now since Gideon had come to Copleston, and he made a note of it as a piece of news for the “George."
Gideon was scarcely less conscious of sentiment than even old Grimes himself. His singular method of taking leave of himself for a while instead of merely sleeping had done him good, and his exchange of London for Copleston felt like an escape from his troubles, his wife included. He had left home without seeing her, merely leaving word that he was going out of town on business, but would certainly be back before next morning. An understanding with Helen felt by no means such an impossible thing as it had seemed a few hours ago. Surely she would be impossibly unwomanly if she did not feel touched by his laying Copleston at her feet, and thus proving that he had done all things for her, after all. What had once seemed more impossible than that Copleston should be recovered from the heir-atlaw? And why should he despair of such an infinitely smaller possibility as the gain of a woman's heart when the greater had come to pass with ease ?
Having run the usual gauntlet of his aunts, he found his Uncle Christopher in the study, as usual. “Come down on a holiday, eh ?” asked the latter.
“I wish we could offer you a bed, but you see
“ All right, Uncle Christopher. I see the 'George' is still where it was. I've come to talk business. When did you last hear from
"Why-what? Mrs. Reid? Why do you want
“Never mind why, for a minute. I've got some good news for you. When
“I should like to hear some good news, if it means a little money, Gideon. None of it ever seems to come my way,” sighed Uncle
" It doesn't mean a little money-it means a great deal. And some of it will come your way. When did you last hear from Mrs.
“Oh—not for a long while! Not for more than a month, I
“Then, you don't know she's been dead over a year ?"
“God bless my soul, no! It can't be, Gideon—it can't be true!" “It is, though. And now about that will."
“So Mrs. Reid's dead! Well, we may say indeed that in the midst of life—and she such a girl when she first came here! I can't realise it, Gideon ; I can't, indeed—and that she never sent me word of such a thing—but of course she couldn't do that. No. I only mean it's very dreadful, and very, very strange."
“And that makes you sole executor now, and answerable for everything-suppression of that will and all. I don't want to frighten you, Uncle Christopher—there's not the least occasion for being frightened-only-”
“Only-what, Gideon ? I wish to Heaven I had never touched the will. And there it is—there it is still, for nearly six more years, before-"
“Before you can act like an honest man and a man of common sense ?" asked Gideon sternly. “Is that what you mean, Uncle Christopher? Do you know that you have been exposing yourself to penal servitude by aiding and abetting that old fool? If you don't know it, I do. And a nice mess you have made of your playing at providence between you, you and she ! I've just got proof that that poor young fellow, Alan Reid, is dead too—"
“Good God!" Uncle Christopher started from his chair, forgetting even himself and his troubles in the news. Not that the tidings could mean the same thing to him as those of the death of Mrs. Reid. He was old enough to think the death of the young common and natural
, while that of one nearly of his own age, and whom he had known all his days, struck him as against the laws of nature, and to belong rather to the dim region of conventional theology.
“Yes, he is dead," said Gideon. “And a bad time of it he had, thanks to you. He was killed in Paris, after the war. You'll have to give up that will now. You won't be able to find even a good intention now for keeping it dark any more."
"It is not my fault that Alan Reid is dead,” said Uncle Christopher; "it is not, indeed! Nobody can say that I am guilty of the death of Alan Reid. Death is the common lot, and it comes to the young as well as to the old—more often to the young. Half the human race dies under the age of five, while the older we grow the Amor of us die. It has been shown by statistics, over and over again. Well, I nonint be anxious any more, that's one thing. And I hardly A how can though they're both dead, Mr. Waldron can quite
my claims to the living. I suppose,” he said, with a sigh, helt of mari Anella very mived sort of regtet, “ that the best thing
I can do is to put that wretched will behind the fire. Not that I can quite perceive the goodness of your news, Gideon. But it is a relief from a singularly and painfully embarrassing position, all the same. Yes—so true it is that even death is an instrument of comfort, Gideon.”
“What !” cried Gideon. “You will burn a will !--you will commit felony, Uncle Christopher ? "
“A useless will! Why-”
“Useless ! Thank your stars that the matter is in my hands, that's all! I am come to demand of you the will of the late Henry Reid, of Copleston, on the part of his heiress, Mrs. Helen Skull.”
“Helen Skull! Excuse me, but I am getting a little bewildered, Gideon."
“Yes-Helen Skull ; niy wife, Uncle Christopher-Alan Reid's sister, and now heiress of Copleston. Do you understand now?
Do you understand that by delivering that will into my hands you'll not only keep yourself clear from every chance of criminal proceedings, but become uncle to Gideon Skull, Esquire, of Copleston ? Why don't you jump out of your skin, Uncle Christopher, and dance round the room ?".
Because_because I can't, Gideon," said Uncle Christopher. "Because--- Will you ring the bell and ask them to bring you a glass of sherry-for yourself, Gideon? They'll do that for you.”
"I suppose you think it odd that I married Helen Reid without letting my relations know? I suppose it wasn't dutiful, and all that; but circumstances, you know—anyhow, it's a fact, and my wife's rights are my own. Vicar of Hillswick? Why, we'll make an Archdeacon or a Vicar Choral of you before we've done. Cometoss off your sherry, and we'll drive over to the bank at Deepweald this very afternoon."
"But-we take tea at six-and your aunts
“Hang my aunts! We'll dine at Deepweald, and you shall dine. How long is it since you tasted champagne, Uncle Christopher ? We'll put some colour into your cheeks, if we can't all at once put a little flesh on to your bones. Let us be joyful together, and let our enemies be scattered— Yankees who swindle us, and break our reading lamps, and yes, we'll have that will in our hands before bed-time. We'll go and look for some other document, and find the will-- quite by chance, you know—tied up inside. We'll take it to the best lawyer in the town, and Mr. Victor Waldron shall have a letter before morning. Put on your hat, and we'll get the fly at the 'George.""
- But-we seedn't go to Deepweald. It's in a better place than se bazi, G.doc I can get it in half an hour. And I may really esets are my cains acknowledged when the time comes—and - WC take co steps
- Tocas? Oh, the living? Consider it yours. And what 11.c? Where's the will? Here?"
-Te sea. G:sso, after you left me, when you came down Bermas you said made me feel that, after all, the bank
lever vas but the safest place to select for the custody of a Sess cv-I may say without exaggeration-so much may be s I. szy be asserted, to depend. It might be burned—it It can be thieves. It might be that circumstances, such is a te IT cher accident of life, might make it necessary, or
r. sbe safe should be opened by other hands than my - Isce pic Gideon, that I have lain without sleep all night
, sie weighing on my chest, till I have positively groaned. SOS LT di tee cais a: the bank should have skeleton keys,
beste bat of arousing themselves with opening the safes to *F* FIS side?*
Ideias even yey would guess that, Gideon !” srctraspocket, perhaps?" -So I are reasca to believe that breast-pockets are not altode sa scotiny. I thought of that; but it occurred to
I= cauch some portion of my coat on a particular nail servet, vaich has been an anxiety to me for many years.
as Isold inevitably have to send the garment to the Luis being subject to a certain inconvenient, but not Talence of mind, I might forget to transfer the Se cae coat to another. And the curiosity and gossip
Prea avarices scandal. No”
Iszapke which cannot by any chance be burnt, where mir se ge mice no thief has cause to enter, where, in shri is books of Livy themselves might remain for ever We cand Nay, where, when it is wanted, the merest
wide the most reasonable reason for its unexpected dis
Geluked at the old gentleman with new eyes. “He's not savlas he looks, " thought he. “Upon my soul, I believe
I wanted to steal the will, and so took care that any burgary I met commit in the Deepweald Bank should be in vain."