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About the Book

Stephen Wadham, the young minister of the thriving Union Church in London, meets a vision of loveliness while on holiday, the Lady of the Chine. Unfortunately she disappears as quickly as she appeared. Stephen is hiding a shameful secret, and when a small child, cold and hungry, turns up at his church one evening begging for food, he knows his past could be about to unravel. With an elderly maiden aunt trying to control his future, and the reappearance of the Lady of the Chine, the situation become almost unbearable when he is seen on several occasions leaving the Jolly Masons public house, and is accused of drinking and gambling. Another sensitively edited book from White Tree Publishing’s favourite author.

The Lady of the Chine

Margaret S Haycraft


White Tree Publishing


Original book first published 1903

This edition ©White Tree Publishing 2018

eBook ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-912529-19-3

Published by

White Tree Publishing



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The Lady of the Chine is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.

Author Biography

Margaret Scott Haycraft was born Margaret Scott MacRitchie at Newport Pagnell, England in 1855. She married William Parnell Haycraft in 1883 and wrote mostly under her married name. In 1891 she was living in Brighton, on the south coast of England, and died in Bournemouth, also on the south coast, in 1936. She also wrote under her maiden name of Margaret MacRitchie. Margaret Haycraft is by far our most popular author of fiction.

Margaret was a contemporary of the much better-known Christian writer Mrs. O. F. Walton. Both ladies wrote Christian stories for children that were very much for the time in which they lived, with little children often preparing for an early death. Mrs. Walton wrote three romances for adults (with no suffering children, and now published by White Tree in abridged versions). Although Margaret Haycraft concentrated mainly on books for children, she wrote many romances for older readers. Unusually for Victorian writers, the majority of Margaret Haycraft's stories are told in the present tense, but not this one.

Both Mrs. Walton's and Margaret Haycraft's books for all ages can be over-sentimental, referring throughout, for example, to a mother as the dear, sweet mother, and a child as the darling little child. In our abridged editions overindulgent descriptions of people have been shortened to make a more robust story, but the characters and storyline are always unchanged. But be warned, you may need a box of Kleenex handy for some stories!

A problem of Victorian writers is their tendency to insert intrusive comments concerning what is going to happen later in the story. Today we call them spoilers. They are usually along the lines of: "Little did he/she know that...." I have removed these when appropriate.

£1 at the time of this story may not sound much, but in income value it is worth approximately £120 pounds today (about US$150). I mention this in case sums of money in this book sound insignificant!

This story was sold in a combined volume of two novelettes by Margaret Haycraft, the other being Iona. Our White Tree Publishing edition of Iona is also available as an eBook.

Chris Wright


Publisher’s Note

This is a short book, and there are only 14 chapters. In the second part are advertisements for our other books, so the story may end earlier than expected! The last chapter is marked as such. We aim to make our eBooks free or for a nominal cost, and cannot invest in other forms of advertising. However, word of mouth by satisfied readers will help get our books more widely known. When the story ends, please take a look at what we publish: Christian fiction, Christian non-fiction, and books for younger readers.

Table of Contents


About the Book

Author Biography

Publisher’s Note

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

More Books from White Tree Publishing

About White Tree Publishing

Christian non-fiction

Christian Fiction

Books for Younger Readers

A Chine is a narrow gully or gorge in soft rock running into the sea, with a stream cutting through it. Chines are mostly found on the South East and South coastline of England. The word Chine comes from the Saxon word “Cinan” which means a split or yawn. They are a major feature and attraction in some seaside towns.

Chapter 1

Early to Rise”

Glenford-on-Sea can make its own terms in the season, so eager is the rush at holiday time for this fair place of rock and sand and wooded glade. When the masked singers are on the beach (vaguely supposed by the crowd to be earls and baronets), then do the pleasure seekers throng together in such numbers that the local paper can assert, with a clear editorial conscience, that “the great and increasing popularity of our town is attested by the happy multitude noted daily by the observant eye on our beautiful promenade.” But even the observant eye would have failed to see much in the way of humanity about 4 a.m. in Glenford Chine. The “happy multitude” slept, and the mysterious vocalists dreamt, presumably, of their ancestral halls.

“Nature’s sweet restorer” does not always come at our bidding, however, and Stephen Wadham, the popular young minister of an important suburban church in Londn, being overworked although only in his late twenties, and having private worries of which committees and guilds and church officers were unaware, had been medically counselled to seek the air of Glenford as being ideal for insomnia.

He had arrived two days ago, and as yet had wooed balmy sleep in vain, save for brief and restless periods. At two this morning he had arisen and studied a treatise, sent by the sympathetic wife of a deacon, on Simple Methods of Obtaining Sleep.

Returning to bed, he had put several of these recommendations into practice, such as counting sheep, one by one, passing through a gap in the hedge. He had also rolled his eyes in a particular way, and recited in a drowsy monotone passages of poetry. Onions were specially recommended, but these were not just then handy, and he finally came to the determination that he would keep the song birds company, and be out and about, instead of trying ― according to section ten of the treatise ― to “banish reflection, and encourage the mind to become an absolute blank.”

When we go out while others sleep, we do so at first with a sort of self-complaisance that we are superior to the ordinary run of people. What do they know about the pleasures of getting up early, and seeing the grasses pearled with morning dew, and hearing the lark singing at heaven’s gate, and watching the sky rose-flushed and calm and tender, telling its message to earth below.

But presently the self-complaisance passes, and we find ourselves thinking things look a little weird. The familiar windows, the well-known highways ― how grey and still and solemn they seem! It is a world of silence as regards humanity. The feeling of loneliness increases almost to oppression, and we walk softly, furtively, timidly, so that when a bend in the road reveals a couple of watchful policemen, moving with silent shoes, we start guiltily, and are aware of keen and suspicious glances dubious as to whether we may not be near the Mayor’s garden with intentions on his presentation plate.

The Rev. Stephen Wadham met no policemen that morning, however, nor did pride swell his heart. He went forth depressed by lack of sleep, and scarcely heeding whither his footsteps wandered. Then Nature brought him her gentle healing ― there were trees, wind-swayed, whispering trees, that breathed balm and peace, and that with silvery leaves brought to his remembrance the olive trees in the mountain garden across the Kedron. There were wild flowers in the crannies of the cliff, wet with shining tears, smiling at him.

There were the Chine choristers, singing their morning prayer; there was the gorse like a burning bush; there was the fairy-footed stream that ran down, down between the garlanded rocks. Below, there was the great wide sea, comforter of every heart that believes in Him Whose voice said, “Peace, be still.”

And Stephen Wadham was His servant, His messenger, and his soul drank in the gracious influences of the manifold works of the “Over-Heart.” He stood alone under the lovely rose-clouds of heaven, and his lips framed the verse:

“I see Thy light, I feel Thy wind

Earth is Thy uttered word;

Whatever wakes my heart and mind,

Thy presence is, my Lord!”

That walk did the young minister more good than any physician or druggist could have wrought. It was worth while losing his way ― and that is done with ease around Glenford ― it was worth while even to have nervous fears as to not getting back in time for the boarding-house breakfast, to see the foam playing amid the caves, and the sea-myrtle wreathing the steeps, and the squirrels darting to and fro amid the fir trees, and the mosses creeping about the broken steps that at last he managed to find, and that brought him back to the Chine path that he knew.

“If you please, could you――”

“Excuse me, would you――”

The words seemed to come simultaneously. Both meant to enquire the time, for neither had brought a watch. Just then a stable clock in the distance struck the hour of six, and answered both.

A moment ago Wadham could have wished it later, for he was getting hungry thanks to Glenford air. Now it seemed to him suddenly that 6 a.m. was the fairest time of the day, and Glenford Chine a bit left over from Eden. Brown eyes were looking at him shyly, but, soon reassured by clerical hat and look, this beautiful girl in pink cotton dress, with uncovered head and hands, who so mysteriously had appeared as from the beach (“like Aphrodite,” spoke the minister’s heart within him), said with frank dignity: “I meant to ask you the time, but I hear it is six. Please could you tell me how to get back to Muscovy Mansions?”

“I am a stranger here, but if you could give me some idea no doubt I could find the house for you,” said the young man, gallantly. He had never before felt such heroic resolve to distinguish himself in the eyes of any house-seeker.

“Oh!” said the girl, with whose auburn hair the morning wind was softly playing as she looked about her in perplexity; “you see, we only came yesterday. Father is ill, and I sat up with him part of the night, while Nurse rested. And then, when she came, I could not sleep, so I thought I would go down to the beach through the Chine; but now I have lost the house where we are staying. There were lots of steps ― I should think hundreds. Haven’t you seen any steps that lead up into a garden?”

“Oh, yes, ever so many,” he said hopefully, “but how shall we know Muscovy Mansions? Is the name on the Chine entrance?”

“It was,” she answered, “but it seems rubbed off, but I should recognise it directly because there was a ginger cat ― it is our landlady’s ― asleep on the gatepost.”

Mr Wadham was not a romantic man ― hard study and constant work had left him very little time for the sentimental ― but he never forgot that walk through the leafy Chine, side by side with that vision of grace and loveliness, listening to tones that seemed to him sweeter than any music he had ever heard ― not excepting even his own violin, which was dear to him as his kindred (sometimes dearer) − and searching for the gate with the ginger cat leading to the garden steps of Muscovy Mansions.

And Glenford Chine being a luxuriant maze, villa-crowned at the top, it took them nearly half an hour before they found ― not the ginger cat, for that had gone poaching ― but a purveyor of milk, who looked at the two with interest and sympathy, and was able to point to the sought-for gate, “The next to the right, close agin the post with the notice board.”

And the lady of the Chine, with one bright smile to her companion, ran nimbly up the mossy steps, anxious lest her father should have asked for her. Like a dream she had come, like a dream she had departed. Somehow the sky did not seem so rosy for awhile, nor the whisper of the leaves so sweet, to the Rev. Stephen left alone beside the notice board, to peruse the threats of the Town Council against any and all who should do trespass and damage to Glenford Chine, or aught pertaining thereto.

Chapter 2

In Shadow time

At Heathercliff Castle (the boarding-houses at Glenford went in for palatial titles) the breakfast hour in summer was 8.30, and Mr Wadham was late after all, for he had made an expedition whereby he found the front entrance to Muscovy Mansions at last, and then considerable time was taken up in deciding whether he should linger in the main road, apparently waiting for the carrier’s cart to Little Glenford, or return to the Chine and occupy the seat at the foot of the garden.

He wondered which method of proceeding would reward him, by showing once more at the window or on the lawn the face he had seen for the first time that morning, yet already realised he must remember all his days. He tried both plans, but saw no more of the fair Chine vision.

When he understood she must be breakfasting, the sound of a gong having come to him faintly down the various flights of garden steps, he sought his boarding house in Glenford Terrace, and ate porridge in a sort of dreamy rapture that caused three unmarried ladies opposite to confide to each other, not altogether inaudibly, that, “The dear man’s face is like a halo.”

“Have you enjoyed your walk, Mr Wadham?” asked the lady of the house, beaming genially upon him.

“Delightful ― most charming scenery,” he replied; then, struck by a diplomatic thought, he added, “What exquisite architecture is to be seen in this neighbourhood. That house with the Corinthian columns, Muscovy Mansions ― what wonderful decoration! What classic taste! Do you happen to know who lives there, Mrs Purton?”

“A person of the name of Gale keeps the house, I believe, Mr Wadham, but I have heard visitors are far from comfortable. Too exposed a position for one thing. I doubt if the chimneys are safe.”

Mrs Purton did not approve of too great interest in neighbouring houses. Mr Wadham had forgotten that the lady of his remembrance was not one of the household. The inspiration came to him that he would find her in the visitors’ list of the Glenford Globe.

Under the heading of Muscovy Mansions he found the following names: “Jipp (and valet), Biggs, Salman, Crow, Mouser, and Wale.” He declined indignantly to bestow upon his sweet companion of the leafy ways any of the surnames in the list. Recalling himself from dreams to duty, he sat down to write to his Aunt Amelia, who kept house for him at St Chrystom’s ― and also to his senior deacon ― some account of Glenford-on-Sea, but the Chine insisted on occupying so much space in his correspondence that he had to re-write the letters in case his raptures should induce all the congregation to spend their holidays wandering about these paths.

Henceforth the architecture of Muscovy Mansions was daily studied by one of the visitors to Glenford-on-Sea, and so much did the proprietors, Mr and Mrs Gale, appreciate his interest, that they sent out a liveried boy with an illustrated prospectus of their establishment. Beyond this boy (whom he would fain have questioned, but who was at dinner and desired speedy return to the same), the young minister perceived no one representative of the home life of Muscovy Mansions. He could almost have persuaded himself that the Chine-fairy had been the creation of his own imaginative brain, when one evening, in the twilight, she flashed upon him, star-like and swift, descending from her bicycle at his side in the Station Road.

“Oh, you are the one who was in the Chine the morning I missed my way. You will take my bicycle, won’t you, and go for him immediately?”

“Of course I will,” he answered, feeling as if to girdle the earth for her on that bicycle would be nothing at her behest. “I will go for him at once; but who is he, and what is he to do?”

“Why, the doctor ― Dr Thornhill. Father wants him ― Mr Lennox, at Muscovy Mansions. Nurse asked me to go, but I can’t bear leaving father. He is worse today. I came this way, thinking I should meet the postman. He has a bicycle, and I knew he would take the message into Glenford. But I have missed him. Oh, thank you so much, it is for Dr Thornhill, of Westdingle.”

“And I am to return the bicycle to――”

“I am Amarel Lennox. Oh, how good of you! Do ride very quickly, won’t you?”

It was a hard task to ride very quickly away from that gleaming vision; but Stephen Wadham was used to hard tasks, and five minutes later he alighted breathless, but bright of countenance ― indeed, in such a glow of eagerness that the eldest unmarried boarder at Heathercliff Castle (who was dining with the Thornhills), catching sight of him and perceiving his rapt expression, believed herself to be the real magnet of the ride, and had hopes from that time forward.

The doctor’s dog-cart was brought round, and Stephen Wadham watched his departure. Then he returned the bicycle to Muscovy Mansions, and his inquiries as to Mr Lennox brought not the damsel of the auburn tresses, but Mrs Gale, portly, and in rustling black silk, who told him the patient was, “Doing finely and having leeches.”

Cheered by this intelligence, the young man wended his way to Mrs Purton’s, repeating to himself the name of “Amarel,” and in reverie demanding of the stars and the sea as to whether they had ever heard a lovelier.

Chapter 3

The Third Time of Meeting

Mr Wadham wrote home such glowing accounts of Glenford air that the officers of his church begged him to prolong his holiday, and one ― a Mr Lidgery ― arrived with his wife and children at Heathercliff Castle, and announced they had come to keep their pastor company and see that he did not mope. After that the young minister had to be the guide of the place, for Mrs Lidgery was one of those who could not know happiness if anything mentioned in the guidebook were missed.

There were special excursions to Little Glenford to see the stocks, and to the moors to see the spot where once stood the gibbet. They also went over the model workhouse, and drove into Glenchester to inspect the county jail. Then they had to examine the local museum, and admire the statue of the mayor who led the men of Glenford in defiant procession down to the shore, when invasion by Bonaparte was feared on that coast.

In short, his holiday time became so full of festivity and excitement that Mr Wadham had scant opportunity to watch for another sight of the fair lodger at Muscovy Mansions. But he wove a dream of her into a violin air, tender and sweet, that he played in the moonlight in the solitude of his room. Those of the boarders who heard it ― especially the one who had hopes ― declared he was a genius, and begged that it might be given at one of their “evenings.”

Heathercliff Castle was noted for its “evenings” ― Thursdays ― when after dinner there were recitations, conjuring tricks by amateurs, musical solos and duets. But Stephen Wadham gave them something classical instead. His composition that told of Amarel was not for the drawing room and the electric light, and when they heard it was classical they all looked delighted, and the one who had hopes murmured that she adored “those dear, wonderful people who composed sonatas and charming things like those!”

It was the evening before the return journey to St Chrystom’s, and at the time of sunset certain of the boarders at Mrs Purton’s strolled down through the Chine to the sea. Mrs Lidgery was packing the family trunks, and required her husband to sit on the various boxes. He called to the minister that he should not be long, and Mr Wadham responded cheerily, “Very well, I shall be just over there,” pointing vaguely in the direction of the sunset-crimsoned waves.

“Those sweet mandolinists are on the beach, Mr Wadham,” the ladies had said, who sat opposite to him at table; but he knew not when he might look out to old ocean again, and he wanted to be alone as he listened to the voices of the sea ― alone in the hush of evening to bid farewell to the swaying trees and the great rocks garlanded with heather.

The music of the sea was to him a psalm of remembrance. He was a sailor’s son, and his first recollection was of a white, thatched cottage in Devonshire within reach of the sound of many waters. His father had been a captain, but he died too early in life to provide for his wife and his twin boys. The mother had toiled early and late at her lace-making to earn bread for the children. There was a tender Te Deum in the young man’s heart, that nevermore could those patient hands grow weary, and nevermore could that life of love and prayer know heartache. For the widow’s road was a way of tears.

Stephen, passing from village school to grammar school, and thence to college by scholarships that were the wage of hard study, had been her comfort and her pride; but his brother Joseph ― and Stephen had always had a notion she loved Joseph best ― had always been wild and wilful, and had long since shamed their kinship and their name in convict garb, as the penalty of forgery. The bright, clever lad, whose face was like her husband’s, was in prison when the widow died. Stephen’s eyes and lips were her own over again. He was her heart-rest, but Joseph had been her idol.

It had all happened in the long ago. The convict had been freed at last, and had disappeared from knowledge ― most likely he was dead ― the life he had led was such as too often means an early grave. No one at Union Church, St Chrystom’s (save Aunt Amelia) knew or guessed that their pastor had ever possessed a brother, and Aunt Amelia would not have mentioned such a family disgrace for the world. Aunt Amelia was an aged lady ― his father’s sister ― who had looked up the Wadhams when Stephen went to college, and who, having but a small annuity and an “unfortunate affliction” ― which no one quite understood, but which was supposed to be “something on the nerves" ― had settled herself under the young minister’s roof, and kept vigilant eyes upon the young ladies of the congregation.

Miss Wadham did not approve, she often told Stephen, of a minister marrying till he had £500 a year. “Pecuniary anxiety,” she observed, “has ill effects on the pastoral mind.” And as her nephew had neither the £500 nor any inclination to change his condition, he did not argue the point, but absorbed himself in his work, leaving to her the household reins.

While tonight he went slowly down the seaward path, thinking of the old home by the waves, and of the mother-face whence every tear had been wiped away, it seemed to him that the work which had grown to be as a burden would be easier henceforth. One spoke to him amid the quiet of the trees, hushing the anxiety as to success and results, bidding him only to love and trust, and to remember that the Lord was partner in all he tried to do.

He was wending his way towards a seat that overlooked the wave-washed cove ― a lonely seat, perched high in a craggy place that Mrs Lidgery, who owned she was “not much of a climber,” had never discovered. Someone was there before him this evening. Stephen Wadham recognised the fact, with annoyance that changed to an all-over ecstatic thrill, when he understood who was the wearer of the white dress and the hat with rosebud trimmings. Who but Amarel had curling auburn hair like that, and could so adorn white muslin? But what was the matter with Amarel? Surely she was crying. There was the sound of a sob on the gentle wind of evening, and her face was hidden in her hands.

Surely she had not lost her father. No, she would have been in mourning; but perhaps the doctor had spoken to her gravely of his condition.

“Miss Lennox,” he said, in such evident concern that she was fain to excuse the fact that he had discovered her crying, “I am grieved to see you in such trouble. I fear that your father’s health――”

“Oh, no!” she faltered, “it is not that. Father is almost well. We are going home tomorrow.”

“Are you? It is quite a coincidence ―”

“Indeed! It is a red sky. It will be fine for travelling.”

After that there was a pause. Mr Wadham longed to know the neighbourhood meant by “home,” but he felt he had no right to ask, and he feared to give offence if he asked the cause of the tears. One little drop on the pretty cheek nearest him was too much for his stoicism, however.

“Miss Lennox,” he said gently, “is it impossible that I could be of any help to you in this great trouble? if any advice ―― ”

“No, no, it is good of you, but none can help me now. I have tried everything; thought of everything. It is too late; nobody can help me.

“There is One Who always can,” he said softly.

She looked up in a startled way. “You mean God? Ah, but it is not the sort of thing to pray about. If I told you why I cried this evening you would laugh. Nobody really cares. It is not a great thing like father’s illness. One prays about troubles like that.”

“I hope,” he said, “it is not in me to laugh at whatever can pain a heart. Believe me, you misjudge God’s love that is all-understanding when you think there is any road, save by prayer, out of sorrow, great or little. Whatever is a burden on the heart of His child, is surely big enough to be brought to the Father Who is Love.”

She made no answer, but the shadow of despair had passed out of her eyes. His message was one to her of new-born hope.

“Nothing with Him is impossible,” said the minister. “With Him it is never too late.”

“It happened a month ago,” she began, “but no one liked to tell me. I only heard of it last week― ― ”

Had some accident happened to a sister, a brother ― or “a nearer one still, and a dearer one yet than all other”?

“Hello, Mr Wadham! There you are. What a pull-up it is, to be sure!”

The rubicund faces of Mr Lidgery and his three eldest boys appeared at the top of the path leading from the beach. The lads each took an arm of their pastor in boisterous triumph, and the smallest mounted his back. Mr Wadham had “such a way with the young,” as his congregation often admiringly observed.

Did he regret his popularity at that moment, when, amid the jubilation of the young Lidgerys, Amarel quietly glided away, and he knew that no more should they meet in the heather-covered chine, for did not the morrow mean railway trains and farewell to Glenford alike for both?

Chapter 4

The Children’s Crumbs”

It was a night of wind and rain ― driving rain from which umbrellas seemed no protection, and wind that pierced through furs and overcoats. And yet Union Church was crowded, and the brightness streaming through the windows looked for once cheerier even than the gleam of the public houses at the corners of the street.

St Chrystom’s was the name of a busy London suburb ― “villadom” that had sprung up around an old parish church, and borrowed its name.

On one side, St Chrystom’s extended to Selwood, which was a place of parks and “desirable detached residences.” On the other side it stretched back to Tarnham Road, which was a vista of gasworks, small tenements, and numerous taverns.

Union Church, St Chrystom’s, had been Stephen Wadham’s first pastorate, and here he had gone in and out, living and speaking his Master’s messages for five busy years. Eighteen months had passed since his holiday at Glenford. It was winter time outside, but sweet singing and bright faces made that Tuesday evening a festal night at Union Church.

On Sunday they had kept their Sunday School anniversary ― always a grand occasion with his people. Tonight the children and friends had had a tea ― and such a tea! At least twenty of the smaller ones were wrapped in slumber as the outcome of that feast. They woke at intervals to sing their festival hymns, but their evening was tomorrow ― a missionary and a magic lantern.

Tonight their minister was preaching the annual sermon to the teachers of the district. It was the sweet, tender story of the Gentile woman who pleaded for her child, and seemed to plead for a time in vain, and his voice rang out even to the porch swept by the bitter wind, as he uttered the words of that mother’s heart of love: “The dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”

Dogs! Who was talking about dogs? A little lad, five years old, footsore and ragged, chilblained and hopeless, had stolen into the porch for shelter, when the lynx-eyed chapel keeper, who objected to boys, had gone down the aisle to confiscate a bag of gums introduced by a juvenile alto in the school choir.

Dick had been trying to sell matches, but the rain had wetted them, and no one on such a night would stop to buy. A church, he knew, was for grand people who had gloves and umbrellas, not for a child in rags; but oh, the warmth of that porch after the wind in which he had stood at the corner of the street!

Dick was not alone. Huddled in his arms was what looked like an iron-grey ball. It was a Scotch terrier, but neither Dick nor Billy was aware of that; what both most understood was that they were thin and cold and starving, and had no helper beyond each other.

And here was a gentleman calling out something about dogs eating crumbs! If there were any crumbs going, Billy should have some ― Billy, his mate, his chum, his only friend. Dick’s mind was resolved on that point.

At the imminent risk, had he only known it, of being seen by the chapel keeper, and given in charge on suspicion of seeking umbrellas, Dick pressed nearer to the open door. With eyes and mouth widely opened, he drank in the utterance which again echoed from that pulpit amid the beautiful shining lights: “The dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs!”

“Please, lady, please tell me, where are the children’s crumbs?”

Two matronly figures ― wives of the church officers ― entered the porch from a side door connected with the covered way leading to the schoolroom where they had been, with frugal minds, arranging left-over cake with a view to sale.

“It is figurative language, my boy. Metaphorical. The language of the East abounds in figures,” said Mrs Branton, who had also heard the text through the open door. Mrs Branton smiled graciously as she spoke, in compassion for Dick’s ignorance. She was an important person at Union Church. Her husband had built most of the “detached residences,” and she took the classes that trained teachers how to teach.

“But he says the dogs can eat the children’s crumbs,” persisted Dick, the tears in his voice causing his pleading tones to quiver. “Do tell me, lady, aren’t there none left for Billy?”

His cold, grimed hand caught hold of Mrs Lidgery’s dress. She was not at all intellectual. “Lidgery was a substantial man, praise the Lord!” she was wont to acknowledge, but as a grocer in a small way he had begun, and a grocer he was still, though his borders were much enlarged. Mrs Lidgery could no more have discoursed on metaphors to Dick than she could have taken a normal class, but she had five boys of her own who were usually hungry, and she understood the appeal of that white face.

Mrs Branton swept in to hear the sermon, her black silk making an important rustle as she sought her pew. Mrs Lidgery stroked Billy’s sharp backbone, and took Dick’s begrimed hand in her own, saying softly, “Poor little laddie! Come with me to the schoolroom. Come, sonny, I will show you and doggie the children’s crumbs.”

Chapter 5

Mrs Millen’s Lodger

Dick had once, listening to a street-preacher, heard heaven described as a land of milk and honey.

“It’s kingdom-come, sure enough, Billy,” he confided to his companion, with an ecstatic hug. “Were there not jugs and jugs of milk, and baskets of buns and cut-up cake ― better than honey, better than crumbs!

At sight of the cake Billy sat up on his emaciated hindquarters. Mrs Lidgery looked the sort of person not to harden her heart against uplifted paws.

“Well, to be sure, did you ever? Just see the poor dumb beast! But Jackman won’t like their dirty feet on his boards, ma’am.”

Mrs Jackman, the assistant chapel keeper, was divided between admiration of the pair, and fear as to what might be her husband’s opinion as to letting in “street children” to his nice clean schoolroom.

Mrs Lidgery could not speak, her kind eyes were getting bedewed. If she had a joy in life it was to feed the hungry and warm the cold. Billy had his saucer of milk, and she broke up a scone for him. For five-year-old Dick she warmed some tea, and cut him a goodly slice of bread and butter, but he could not eat as she had expected. Billy’s scone was gone, and he was again in begging attitude, but his little master could not manage more than a mouthful of the bread. It dropped from his cold hand, and he fell to one side on the form, fainting through cold and hunger, amid the bountiful fragments of “the children’s crumbs.”

“Here, Mrs Jackman,” said the deacon’s wife, “they are singing the last hymn. Let Mr Wadham know there is a child here very ill. I wonder if he will think the poor little lad should be taken to the infirmary.”

In a few minutes the congregation began to concern itself as to waterproofs, and Mrs Jackman found opportunity to confide to the minister. “There’s a boy took with a fit in the schoolroom, and would you please say what’s to be done with him?”

Now, Mr Wadham for the last twenty minutes had been away in spirit from Union Church ― away in a vision of yellow gorse, blue waves, sea-myrtle, and rocky paths. During his sermon his gaze had been suddenly arrested by brown eyes upturned to his face ― eyes that he had looked into so often in fancy and in remembrance!

Was it possible that their owner was here in a back pew of this church, sitting by the side of Mrs Millen, the good woman who came weekly to help their maid, under Aunt Amelia’s supervision? Yes, it was indeed his “Lady of the Chine,” as in thought he called her, and no other. She looked paler than of yore, but even more beautiful, it seemed to him, in garb of black. Was she then fatherless, and had she come to guardians who perhaps lived in one of the “bijou mansions” of Selwood Park?

Stephen Wadham’s mind became a whirl of wonder and of joy. In a short time that sweet voice would be greeting him again, for it would be only acting with pastoral geniality for him to hasten to the bottom of the left aisle ― Mrs Millen’s seat was in the left aisle ― and shake hands with all who passed out.

So it happened that Mrs Jackman, with her mention of the boy in a fit, came as an unwelcome interruption. For a moment he hesitated, but then, with the thrill of gladness dying away in his eager heart, he went out by the vestry into the schoolroom, and caught a far-away glimpse of auburn hair disappearing behind Mrs Millen’s capacious form.

The “fit” had existed only in the mind of Mrs Jackman, and Mr Wadham had been prepared for convulsions. An expression of pity broke from his lips as he saw the boy’s white face with the bluish tint, supported by Mrs Lidgery’s arm in front of the schoolroom stove.

“We are much better now, Mr Wadham,” she said cheerfully. “He has taken a little milk, and he’ll soon be able to tell us where he lives. Please don’t fall over the dog, Mr Wadham. Did you ever see such a bag of bones?”

The description applied alike to Billy, curled round in slumber, appreciative of the stove, and Dick, whose long-lashed grey eyes tried to smile up at the minister ― for was not this the gentleman who cared about dogs, and told people where such as Billy could get crumbs?

And when Dick looked at the minister, Mr Wadham grew suddenly white, and a sort of frightened faintness took possession of him. How did it happen that with Dick’s look and smile there came back to his mind the thatched cottage in the Devon lane leading to the sea, and the brother who had been his playmate on the beach and the village green?

“Mr Wadham,” said Mrs Lidgery, “you are just worn out. I’ll get you a cup of coffee this moment. You ought to spare yourself more. Eleven o’clock last night at the Improvement Committee, think of that! I’d improve them, if I were on the committee ― talking and argufying when they ought to be in their beds!”

“He’s the bloke,” whispered Dick to Mrs Lidgery. “He’s the bloke as called out as how the dogs can eat the children’s crumbs. Has he got a dog like Billy?”

“No, dearie, and he’s the minister. You mustn’t say he’s a bloke. Mr Wadham, the poor child doesn’t understand that text rightly. He thinks you really meant to tell him and Billy where to get food.”

“I think Jesus meant that. He chose you to make the application,” said the minister, smiling tenderly at the needy pair. “Little one, those words are to teach us that no life ― poor, needy, out-cast, despised ― is away from the love and care of Jesus Christ, our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord!”

“Jesus never comes to see my dad, though,” said Dick, thoughtfully. “Nobody ever does. Dad’s only got me, and I’ve got Billy. Oh, please, I must get back to dad. Perhaps he’ll be awake by now.”

“I will see to him, Mrs Lidgery. He must have a cab,” said the minister.

“And if you’ll let us have the address, Mr Wadham, the Benevolent Society or the Sunshine Endeavourers will look after the poor things,” said the deacon’s wife, who was being enquired for now by would-be purchasers of cake.

“I will take you home to your father, my child,” said Mr Wadham. “Is he ill? Tell me where you live.”

“Yes, sir, dad’s always ill. We lives at the Jolly Masons, down Canal Lane.”

“And where is your mother, my child?”

“Dad says she’s up in the sky. I can’t remember no mother. Dad says she were good, but Tim Kettles says mothers drink gin. Tim’s mother does. I’d rather have dad than be like Tim.”

Mrs Lidgery returned with a packet she had made up for the little waif. He could not walk without a return of the giddiness, and Mr Wadham carried him in his arms to the cab, for which he had sent.

It was late when Stephen Wadham returned to his home, the warm, cosy manse of Union Church. Miss Amelia Wadham had waited supper for him, on purpose to descant on the internal evils she would suffer through delayed nutriment. He seemed absent-minded and out of sorts, answering at random when his aunt remarked on the flatness of the children’s voices and the smallness of the collection.

The only time he roused a little was when she informed him, “Mrs Millen has let her front rooms at last. The young person was at the service. A respectable-looking person. She pays twelve shillings a week, a great help, if only Millen will keep the pledge. Did you notice Mrs Millen’s lodger? She sat just under the gallery.”

Yes, he had seen her; and in making the acknowledgment his pale face flushed so vividly that Miss Wadham at once put Condy’s Fluid about the room in saucers, expressing her conviction that he had “caught fever from that child!”

Chapter 6

In Canal Lane

Sleeplessness was the minister’s destiny that night ― sleeplessness caused by memory and shame, and nervous, perhaps cowardly, fear. In some things Stephen Wadham was brave. He had faced infection many a time before now in carrying the message of Hope, and he had confronted wild and angry men in bringing to an end a brutal fight.

But to bare the secret that disgraced his name, that had broken his mother’s heart? To set young and old at Union Church discussing how low had fallen the brother of the preacher whose reputation public opinion had lifted so high? No, he could not do it! The young minister felt it was impossible ― doubly impossible, now that the girl with the proud, sweet face, and high-born air of gentle dignity had come to reside in that neighbourhood.

Neither she nor his people should ever know who was the dying man whom little Dick called “Dad.” The sick man was himself too ill to know who was the “parson” who had procured for him that night a capable, kindly nurse, for he was too weak for moving him even to be thought of. Stephen Wadham resolved in those watchful hours that every provision should be made for him whose days were numbered, but that they were relations ― brothers ― no, that should never be told.

The following day was the half-yearly time of tribulation for the minister, when the sweep had right of entry into his study, and Mrs Millen was turned loose among his effects for a general clean-out. Hitherto at sight of the worthy woman dealing with his books he had groaned inwardly, but today she was welcome to his sight as flowers in May as she beamed upon him and remarked what a good time they had had at the meeting yesterday, and how everyone said, “The children sung their pieces wonderful, and wasn’t it a famous collection ― two and eleven pence halfpenny over what they took last year?”

“I was glad to see you at the meeting, Mrs Millen,” he said cordially, “and you brought your new lodger, too?”

“Indeed, sir, and Miss Amarel enjoyed the meeting fine. She sings like a bird herself, she do. She’s had grand Italian masters, and no expense spared, sir, and she says we’ve got a choir at Union to be proud of. She was my young lady, sir, where I used to be cook at Lennox Hall in Norfolk, afore I married Millen. And thankful I am he’s a changed man, sir, since he’s sat under you and paid heed to your voice! Poor Miss Amarel ought to be as rich as Creases, sir, but her poor father, that’s dead and gone last winter of the influenzy, he took to spekilation, and mines, and things like that, sir. And now she hasn’t but fifty pound a year of her own, sir, and she’s got daily teaching in Selwood Park ― I think they’re relations of Mrs Branton, sir ― and she’s come to live along of her poor old Maria, bless her! And she know’d your face in a minute, sir. She says as how she have met you in times past at the seaside.”

Amarel lost her way that afternoon returning from her engagement to Mrs Milieu’s little house in Newport Street. She was alarmed to find herself in back streets, quite in the slums, and her heart was beating nervously as she hurried past an evil-looking tavern, when out of the tap room stepped the very last person she would have dreamt of seeing there ― Stephen Wadham, the young minister who had been more often in her thoughts than, perhaps, till then she realised.

His greeting was confused at first, but soon he was piloting her to Newport Street, and each was glad and satisfied that their goodbye at Glenford had not been a final one. He spoke gently and sympathetically of her loss, and bade her be of good cheer, since hearts that love shall know reunion in the Meeting-Land.

Of her change of fortune he said nothing. Money had never loomed very largely in Stephen Wadham’s consideration, but he asked if the trouble that had grieved her at Glenford had been removed, and Amarel said sadly, “No, I prayed about that, but it never came right. At least, it did come right, I am sure, for God’s will was done ― not mine ― only what I asked was not given.”

Stephen Wadham thought to himself that she had asked for the recovery of one most precious to her. He must have died. A pang of jealousy seized him as concerned the departed, but it passed, and he stood on the pavement for some minutes outside Mrs Millen’s door, thinking of her who had entered, and feeling a great deal happier than would have been the case had he known what was transpiring within.

The voice of one of the oldest members of Union Church ― Miss Jane Petersham, upholstress ― was loud and penetrating, and, as she drank tea with the Millens, their lodger caught her utterances, and her face grew puzzled and concerned.

“I assure you, my dear Mrs Millen,” Miss Petersham was saying, “you might have knocked me down with a feather at that moment. I was in Canal Lane last night after the meeting, with a message to ask that poor widow woman that lodges at the fish shop to come and do a bit of sewing at some curtains for me today, as I’m extra busy with so many turning out their rooms just now. And as I turned into the fish shop, whom should I see but Mr Wadham himself, coming, quiet-like, out of that low place ― that corner public house, the Jolly Masons. He was walking like as if he didn’t want to be seen by anybody, but ’twas him, sure enough! Isn’t it a terrible disgrace to the cause?”

“I don’t believe a word of it, not if all the Jane Petershams in the world was to swear to it. Mr Wadham ain’t one as goes to no pubs,” cried Millen, vehemently; and his wife said warmly, “Depend upon it, Jane, my dear, your eyesight deceived you!”

But Amarel Lennox wondered and was troubled, for she knew that the same thing had occurred that afternoon also.

Chapter 7

Whispering Tongues

Miss Jane Petersham had it on her conscience that “the cause” was coming to grief. A terrible secret was locked within her bosom ― at least, she had as yet only confided it to a few very close friends.

“I must be faithful, Mrs Nibbs,” she said, shaking her head solemnly as she sewed away at the curtains in conjunction with the widow she had called in to her assistance. “Whatever may be a poor lone woman’s own feelings, when she sees one she has looked up to and trusted, on the road to destruction, such feelings has to be buried in one’s own bosom. It’s on my mind that I ought to see the deacons and call a meeting, and have Mr Wadham confronted with the question: Was you, or was you not, within the doors of the Jolly Masons?”

Mrs Nibbs was divided between awe of her employer, whose tongue was sharp and scornful, and reluctance to think evil of any. Had not Mr Wadham held the hand of her dying husband, and prayed beside him as he passed across the River, and found bread for the little ones in their hour of sorrow and need?

She was heard to murmur something about “leaving tracts,” whereat Miss Petersham replied contemptuously that “People don’t leave tracts at ten o’clock in the evening, and don’t look ashamed and secret-like while they’re engaged in any good work.”

“I don’t know that, Miss Petersham,” said the widow. “Once I saw with my own eyes Mr Branton put a sovereign in the collection ― there was only pence in the plate ― and he looked ashamed and secret-like, and tried to hide it under a penny.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Miss Petersham, closing the argument in her favourite way. “When you’ve lived as long as I have, Maria Nibbs, you’ll understand there’s a deal of deceitfulness goes on under the veil of sheep’s clothing, as the saying is. My conscience tells me I’ve got to be faithful about Mr Wadham. I’ll just consult Mrs Millen, seeing she’s my oldest friend in the church, and then the best way will be for me and Mrs Millen to go together and make our statement before the deacons.”

“Well, I wouldn’t if I was you. It ... it don’t seem right to sit in judgment on any.”

“Is it judging, Maria Nibbs, to say there’s a brick wall in the opposite street to this? Can’t it be seen with our own eyes? And with my own eyes I seen Mr Wadham stepping out of the Jolly Masons. That’s not judging; that’s faithfulness and truth, and being an eye-witness.”

“Well, Mrs Millen won’t go with her,” thought the widow, with some satisfaction. And in this opinion she was right.

“No, no, Jane Petersham, I don’t want to seem disobliging to an old friend,” said Amarel’s landlady, “especially to one as helped me turn the chair covers so as to make them look like new, and Miss Amarel admired them only yesterday. But I’m not going to cast out no hints against Mr Wadham, nor to set no ball rolling to do him mischief. Why, my man wouldn’t hear of it, even if I wanted to. Millen wouldn’t let me interview no deacons on the subject, Jane, so if you goes laying complaints, you’ll have to go without me.”

“It’s such a relief, Miss Amarel,” she said later, “to lay things on Millen’s shoulders, when I can’t get rid of folks no other way. ‘Have your own way, missus,’ he says to me, for he’s wonderful easy-going of a rule, though he do put down his foot sometimes, and the best of husbands since he’s signed the pledge ― and that were Mr Wadham’s doing. ‘Have your own way, missus,’ says Millen, ‘but when you gets in a bit of a tangle, and wants to put things all on me, why, I reckon my shoulders is broad enough to carry ’em!’ And Jane knows I’m not going contrary to what Millen says, when it’s got to do with Mr Wadham, as is the best of men, and speaks like a book, now don’t he, Miss Amarel?”

“I like his preaching,” the girl answered, trying to speak calmly. She was almost afraid to think what Stephen Wadham’s face and voice were becoming to her. At mention of his name she had flushed shyly, but Mrs Millen, if she saw it ― and, being a woman, perhaps she had match-making visions ― went on with the dusting, and lamented that Jane Petersham could not keep a silent tongue in her head.

“I never did hold myself with waking up sleeping dogs,” she remarked. “’Tis irritating and interfering; and, what I say is, life is short, and we’ve got enough to do to mind our own business. Not that the deacons will give heed to any ill gossip. I knows them better, but words dropped here and there might do Mr Wadham harm, and, dear me, if he went to the Jolly Masons, which I don’t believe, ’twas to ask the children to come to Sunday School, or mothers’ meeting, or something good and benevolent, I’m certain of it.”

“I ... I wish she wouldn’t,” said Amarel indignantly. “I think she is very interfering and unkind, and ... and ... he has looked quite ill lately, and I am sure to think people doubted him would break his heart.”

“My dear, he’ll know there’s the majority trusting of him. And, besides, he knows where to look for strength and guidance. I often wonders what folks do when they’re in trouble as has not acquainted themselves with the dear Master ― as is a Brother born for adversity.”

Amarel took the broad hand in her own. “How good the Lord has been to me,” she said softly. “He let father’s pain stop before he died, so that he went so peacefully and gently, just like a little child. And then He guided me to this safe, cosy home with you, and let me hear about the teaching; and ... and ... it is so nice to be in the choir, and to make so many new, kind friends.”

“Ah, my dear, love begets love. ’Tis your own sunshiny disposition as wins you friendship. Mrs Lidgery says ’tis a pleasure to see a young bright thing like you with sunbeams a-dancing in your eyes. She’s real fond of you, my dear, is Mrs Lidgery. I hope she’ll be at home when Jane Petersham calls, for, if that’s the case, Jane will have her walk in vain!” And Mrs Millen laughed, knowing the minister had no more loyal champion than Mrs Lidgery.

Her hopes were realised, as it happened. Mrs Lidgery was at home, dispensing tea to her children. The deacon was in London, “Gone to the wholesale houses,” his wife explained.

“Do sit down, Miss Petersham,” she said heartily, frowning hastily at Benjamin who was inclined to make fun of the bunch of black wax grapes nodding on the visitor’s bonnet. “Have a cup of tea? Albert Edward, the cake. I suppose you’ve called about cutting out for the mothers. Well, do you know, that parcel of material....”

“No, Mrs Lidgery, my business is church business. I’m sorry to miss Mr Lidgery, but when I can see you alone I’m bound to be faithful.”

An explosion of juvenile laughter caused the deacon’s wife to remark she thought the boys had finished tea, and perhaps Miss Petersham would excuse them.

“Is it about the children in the gallery?” she asked, when they were alone. “They do shuffle their feet a bit, I must admit, but one likes to see them in a place of worship, Miss Petersham. Mr Wadham says the little faces do him good, and the children remember his texts wonderful. Our Benjamin has learnt six since I offered a little prize. ’Tis but a second helping of Sunday pudding, for those that pay attention.”

“There’s too much bribery and encouragement, Mrs Lidgery, put in the way of young people nowadays. But my interview does not concern them on the present occasion. Mrs Lidgery, is not the church of opinion that Mr Wadham is a total abstainer?”

“Certainly. He manages the Band of Hope most successfully. My Benjamin’s going to recite――”

“Mrs Lidgery, many that seem outwardly white is but ravening wolves. Prepare yourself for what it is my duty to tell you. My own eyes have seen Mr Wadham with his own familiar overcoat and umbrella ― the umbrella as the mothers’ meeting gave him ― coming secret-like, and as if he shrank from being seen, out of the Jolly Masons, a very low-class place, Mrs Lidgery, where I’d be ashamed myself to cross the threshold.”

“I shouldn’t be ashamed, if my duty called me there, Miss Petersham. Why, an old servant of mine was taken bad in a public house over at Shadwell, and I sat up with her there two nights, temperance though I am, till the poor dear was taken to a better world. And pastors and teachers have to go to all sorts of places. Mr Wadham had been to speak words of hope to some poor dying creature, of course, or maybe to try to persuade some poor fellow drinking in there to go home to his wife and children. Do have another cup of tea ― you take sugar? ― and about the parcel for the mothers’ meeting, if you could help me in the cutting out.”

And not another word could Miss Petersham get in about the Jolly Masons, though, had she known it, she left a troubled, uneasy feeling in Mrs Lidgery’s heart that anyone could breathe reproach upon the reputation of one who was trying so earnestly to do the Master’s work.

Still, resolved to be “faithful,” the upholstress went on to the Brantons, and confidentially disclosed her errand. But Mrs Branton did not like Jane Petersham, and being very capable of giving what she called “a piece of her mind” when she judged it necessary, she told her Mr Branton had a great deal too much to do to take notice of foolish tittle-tattle, and nothing harmed a place more than for people to go gossiping and spreading foolish stories from house to house.

Miss Petersham took her leave indignantly, inwardly declaring that Mrs Branton thought herself everybody, just because her father had been a mayor, and her husband had run up a few villas here and there!

She was decidedly out of humour when she happened to come face to face with Mr Wadham himself, and he stopped to enquire as to her lumbago.

“’Tis a little better, Mr Wadham,” she answered, less cordially than usual; “but if it isn’t one thing it’s another, and I’ve got a trouble on my mind that’s worse than any lumbago.”

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