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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 66. At The Mill
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 66. At The Mill Post by :Ahmad Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1629

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 66. At The Mill

CHAPTER LXVI. AT THE MILL

The presence of Carry Brattle was required in Salisbury for the trial of John Burrows and Lawrence Acorn on Wednesday the 22nd of August. Our Vicar, who had learned that the judges would come into the city only late on the previous evening, and that the day following their entrance would doubtless be so fully occupied with other matters as to render it very improbable that the affair of the murder would then come up, had endeavoured to get permission to postpone Carry's journey; but the little men in authority are always stern on such points, and witnesses are usually treated as persons who are not entitled to have any views as to their own personal comfort or welfare. Lawyers, who are paid for their presence, may plead other engagements, and their pleas will be considered; and if a witness be a lord, it may perhaps be thought very hard that he should be dragged away from his amusements. But the ordinary commonplace witness must simply listen and obey--at his peril. It was thus decided that Carry must be in Salisbury on the Wednesday, and remain there, hanging about the Court, till her services should be wanted. Fenwick, who had been in Salisbury, had seen that accommodation should be provided for her and for the miller at the house of Mrs. Stiggs.

The miller had decided upon going with his daughter. The Vicar did not go down to the mill again; but Mrs. Fenwick had seen Brattle, and had learned that such was to be the case. The old man said nothing to his own people about it till the Monday afternoon, up to which time Fanny was prepared to accompany her sister. He was then told, when he came in from the mill for his tea, that word had come down from the vicarage that there would be two bed-rooms for them at Mrs. Stiggs' house. "I don't know why there should be the cost of a second room," said Fanny; "Carry and I won't want two beds."

Up to this time there had been no reconciliation between the miller and his younger daughter. Carry would ask her father whether she should do this or that, and the miller would answer her as a surly master will answer a servant whom he does not like; but the father, as a father, had never spoken to the child; nor, up to this moment, had he said a word even to his wife of his intended journey to Salisbury. But now he was driven to speak. He had placed himself in the arm chair, and was sitting with his hands on his knees gazing into the empty fire-grate. Carry was standing at the open window, pulling the dead leaves off three or four geraniums which her mother kept there in pots. Fanny was passing in and out from the back kitchen, in which the water for their tea was being boiled, and Mrs. Brattle was in her usual place with her spectacles on, and a darning needle in her hand. A minute was allowed to pass by before the miller answered his eldest daughter.

"There'll be two beds wanted," he said; "I told Muster Fenwick as I'd go with the girl myself;--and so I wull."

Carry started so that she broke the flower which she was touching. Mrs. Brattle immediately stopped her needle, and withdrew her spectacles from her nose. Fanny, who was that instant bringing the tea-pot out of the back kitchen, put it down among the tea cups, and stood still to consider what she had heard.

"Dear, dear, dear!" said the mother.

"Father," said Fanny, coming up to him, and just touching him with her hand; "'twill be best for you to go, much best. I am heartily glad on it, and so will Carry be."

"I knows nowt about that," said the miller; "but I mean to go, and that's all about it. I ain't a been to Salsbry these fifteen year and more, and I shan't be there never again."

"There's no saying that, father," said Fanny.

"And it ain't for no pleasure as I'm agoing now. Nobody 'll s'pect that of me. I'd liever let the millstone come on my foot."

There was nothing more said about it that evening, nothing more at least in the miller's hearing. Carry and her sister were discussing it nearly the whole night. It was very soon plain to Fanny that Carry had heard the tidings with dismay. To be alone with her father for two, three, or perhaps four days, seemed to her to be so terrible, that she hardly knew how to face the misery and gloom of his company,--in addition to the fears she had as to what they would say and do to her in the Court. Since she had been home, she had learned almost to tremble at the sound of her father's foot; and yet she had known that he would not harm her, would hardly notice her, would not do more than look at her. But now, for three long frightful days to come, she would be subject to his wrath during every moment of her life.

"Will he speak to me, Fanny, d'ye think?" she asked.

"Of course he'll speak to you, child."

"But he hasn't, you know,--not since I've been home; not once; not as he does to you and mother. I know he hates me, and wishes I was dead. And, Fanny, I wishes it myself every day of my life."

"He wishes nothing of the kind, Carry."

"Why don't he say one kind word to me, then? I know I've been bad. But I ain't a done a single thing since I've been home as 'd a' made him angry if he seed it, or said a word as he mightn't a' heard."

"I don't think you have, dear."

"Then why can't he come round, if it was ever so little? I'd sooner he'd beat me; that I would."

"He'll never do that, Carry. I don't know as he ever laid a hand upon one of us since we was little things."

"It 'd be better than never speaking to a girl. Only for you and mother, Fan, I'd be off again."

"You would not. You know you would not. How dare you say that?"

"But why shouldn't he say a word to one, so that one shouldn't go about like a dead body in the house?"

"Carry dear, listen to this. If you'll manage well; if you'll be good to him, and patient while you are with him; if you'll bear with him, and yet be gentle when he--"

"I am gentle,--always,--now."

"You are, dear; but when he speaks, as he'll have to speak when you're all alone like, be very gentle. Maybe, Carry, when you've come back, he will be gentle with you."

They had ever so much more to discuss. Would Sam be at the trial? And, if so, would he and his father speak to each other? They had both been told that Sam had been summoned, and that the police would enforce his attendance; but they were neither of them sure whether he would be there in custody or as a free man. At last they went to sleep, but Carry's slumbers were not very sound. As has been told before, it was the miller's custom to be up every morning at five. The two girls would afterwards rise at six, and then, an hour after that, Mrs. Brattle would be instructed that her time had come. On the Tuesday morning, however, the miller was not the first of the family to leave his bed. Carry crept out of hers by the earliest dawn of daylight, without waking her sister, and put on her clothes stealthily. Then she made her way silently to the front door, which she opened, and stood there outside waiting till her father should come. The morning, though it was in August, was chill, and the time seemed to be very long. She had managed to look at the old clock as she passed, and had seen that it wanted a quarter to five. She knew that her father was never later than five. What, if on this special morning he should not come, just because she had resolved, after many inward struggles, to make one great effort to obtain his pardon.

At last he was coming. She heard his step in the passage, and then she was aware that he had stopped when he found the fastenings of the door unloosed. She perceived too that he delayed to examine the lock,--as it was natural that he should do; and she had forgotten that he would be arrested by the open door. Thinking of this in the moment of time that was allowed to her, she hurried forward and encountered him.

"Father," she said; "it is I."

He was angry that she should have dared to unbolt the door, or to withdraw the bars. What was she, that she should be trusted to open or to close the house? And there came upon him some idea of wanton and improper conduct. Why was she there at that hour? Must it be that he should put her again from the shelter of his roof?

Carry was clever enough to perceive in a moment what was passing in the old man's mind. "Father," she said, "it was to see you. And I thought,--perhaps,--I might say it out here." He believed her at once. In whatever spirit he might accept her present effort, that other idea had already vanished. She was there that they two might be alone together in the fresh morning air, and he knew that it was so. "Father," she said, looking up into his face. Then she fell on the ground at his feet, and embraced his knees, and lay there sobbing. She had intended to ask him for forgiveness, but she was not able to say a word. Nor did he speak for awhile; but he stooped and raised her up tenderly; and then, when she was again standing by him, he stepped on as though he were going to the mill without a word. But he had not rebuked her, and his touch had been very gentle. "Father," she said, following him, "if you could forgive me! I know I have been bad, but if you could forgive me!"

He went to the very door of the mill before he turned; and she, when she saw that he did not come back to her, paused upon the bridge. She had used all her eloquence. She knew no other words with which to move him. She felt that she had failed, but she could do no more. But he stopped again without entering the mill.

"Child," he said at last, "come here, then." She ran at once to meet him. "I will forgive thee. There. I will forgive thee, and trust thou may'st be a better girl than thou hast been."

She flew to him and threw her arms round his neck and kissed his face and breast. "Oh, father," she said, "I will be good. I will try to be good. Only you will speak to me."

"Get thee into the house now. I have forgiven thee." So saying he passed on to his morning's work.

Carry, running into the house, at once roused her sister. "Fanny," she exclaimed, "he has forgiven me at last; he has said that he will forgive me."

But to the miller's mind, and to his sense of justice, the forgiveness thus spoken did not suffice. When he returned to breakfast, Mrs. Brattle had, of course, been told of the morning's work, and had rejoiced greatly. It was to her as though the greatest burden of her life had now been taken from her weary back. Her girl, to her loving motherly heart, now that he who had in all things been the lord of her life had vouchsafed his pardon to the poor sinner, would be as pure as when she had played about the mill in all her girlish innocence. The mother had known that her child was still under a cloud, but the cloud to her had consisted in the father's wrath rather than in the feeling of any public shame. To her a sin repented was a sin no more, and her love for her child made her sure of the sincerity of that repentance. But there could be no joy over the sinner in this world till the head of the house should again have taken her to his heart. When the miller came in to his breakfast the three women were standing together, not without some outward marks of contentment. Mrs. Brattle's cap was clean, and even Fanny, who was ever tidy and never smart, had managed in some way to add something bright to her appearance. Where is the woman who, when she has been pleased, will not show her pleasure by some sign in her outward garniture? But still there was anxiety. "Will he call me Carry?" the girl had asked. He had not done so when he pronounced her pardon at the mill door. Though they were standing together they had not decided on any line of action. The pardon had been spoken and they were sure that it would not be revoked; but how it would operate at first none of them had even guessed.

The miller, when he had entered the room and come among them, stood with his two hands resting on the round table, and thus he addressed them: "It was a bad time with us when the girl, whom we had all loved a'most too well, forgot herself and us, and brought us to shame,--we who had never known shame afore,--and became a thing so vile as I won't name it. It was well nigh the death o' me, I know."

"Oh, father!" exclaimed Fanny.

"Hold your peace, Fanny, and let me say my say out. It was very bad then; and when she come back to us, and was took in, so that she might have her bit to eat under an honest roof, it was bad still;--for she was a shame to us as had never been shamed afore. For myself I felt so, that though she was allays near me, my heart was away from her, and she was not one with me, not as her sister is one, and her mother, who never know'd a thought in her heart as wasn't fit for a woman to have there." By this time Carry was sobbing on her mother's bosom, and it would be difficult to say whose affliction was the sharpest. "But them as falls may right themselves, unless they be chance killed as they falls. If my child be sorry for her sin--"

"Oh, father, I am sorry."

"I will bring myself to forgive her. That it won't stick here," and the miller struck his heart violently with his open palm, "I won't be such a liar as to say. For there ain't no good in a lie. But there shall be never a word about it more out o' my mouth,--and she may come to me again as my child."

There was a solemnity about the old man's speech which struck them all with so much awe that none of them for a while knew how to move or to speak. Fanny was the first to stir, and she came to him and put her arm through his and leaned her head upon his shoulder.

"Get me my breakfast, girl," he said to her. But before he had moved Carry had thrown herself weeping on his bosom. "That will do," he said. "That will do. Sit down and eat thy victuals." Then there was not another word said, and the breakfast passed off in silence.

Though the women talked of what had occurred throughout the day, not a word more dropped from the miller's mouth upon the subject. When he came in to dinner he took his food from Carry's hand and thanked her,--as he would have thanked his elder daughter,--but he did not call her by her name. Much had to be done in preparing for the morrow's journey, and for the days through which they two might be detained at the assizes. The miller had borrowed a cart in which he was to drive himself and his daughter to the Bullhampton road station, and, when he went to bed, he expressed his determination of starting at nine, so as to catch a certain train into Salisbury. They had been told that it would be sufficient if they were in the city that day at one o'clock.

On the next morning the miller was in his mill as usual in the morning. He said nothing about the work, but the women knew that it must in the main stand still. Everything could not be trusted to one man, and that man a hireling. But nothing was said of this. He went into his mill, and the women prepared his breakfast, and the clean shirt and the tidy Sunday coat in which he was to travel. And Carry was ready dressed for the journey;--so pretty, with her bright curls and sweet dimpled cheeks, but still with that look of fear and sorrow which the coming ordeal could not but produce. The miller returned, dressed himself as he was desired, and took his place at the table in the kitchen; when the front door was again opened,--and Sam Brattle stood among them!

"Father," said he, "I've turned up just in time."

Of course the consternation among them was great; but no reference was made to the quarrel which had divided the father and son when last they had parted. Sam explained that he had come across the country from the north, travelling chiefly by railway, but that he had walked from the Swindon station to Marlborough on the preceding evening, and from thence to Bullhampton that morning. He had come by Birmingham and Gloucester, and thence to Swindon.

"And now, mother, if you'll give me a mouthful of some'at to eat, you won't find that I'm above eating of it."

He had been summoned to Salisbury, he said, for that day, but nothing should induce him to go there till the Friday. He surmised that he knew a thing or two, and as the trial wouldn't come off before Friday at the earliest, he wouldn't show his face in Salisbury before that day. He strongly urged Carry to be equally sagacious, and used some energetic arguments to the same effect on his father, when he found that his father was also to be at the assizes; but the miller did not like to be taught by his son, and declared that as the legal document said Wednesday, on the Wednesday his daughter should be there.

"And what about the mill?" asked Sam. The miller only shook his head. "Then there's only so much more call for me to stay them two days," said Sam. "I'll be at it hammer and tongs, father, till it's time for me to start o' Friday. You tell 'em as how I'm coming. I'll be there afore they want me. And when they've got me they won't get much out of me, I guess."

To all this the miller made no reply, not forbidding his son to work the mill, nor thanking him for the offer. But Mrs. Brattle and Fanny, who could read every line in his face, knew that he was well-pleased.

And then there was the confusion of the start. Fanny, in her solicitude for her father, brought out a little cushion for his seat. "I don't want no cushion to sit on," said he; "give it here to Carry." It was the first time that he had called her by her name, and it was not lost on the poor girl.

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