Chapter VIII: The T-cart
When Harold took his degree, Stephen's father took her to Cambridge.
She enjoyed the trip very much; indeed, it seemed under conditions
that were absolutely happy.
When they had returned to Normanstand, the Squire took an early
opportunity of bringing Harold alone into his study. He spoke to him
with what in a very young man would have seemed diffidence:
'I have been thinking, Harold, that the time has come when you should
be altogether your own master. I am more than pleased, my boy, with
the way you have gone through college; it is, I am sure, just as your
dear father would have wished it, and as it would have pleased him
best.' He paused, and Harold said in a low voice:
'I tried hard, sir, to do what I thought he would like; and what you
would.' The Squire went on more cheerfully:
'I know that, my boy! I know that well. And I can tell you that it
is not the least of the pleasures we have all had in your success,
how you have justified yourself. You have won many honours in the
schools, and you have kept the reputation as an athlete which your
father was so proud of. Well, I suppose in the natural order of
things you would go into a profession; and of course if you so desire
you can do that. But if you can see your way to it I would rather
that you stayed here. My house is your home as long as I live; but I
don't wish you to feel in any way dependent. I want you to stay here
if you will; but to do it just because you wish to. To this end I
have made over to you the estate at Camp which was my father's gift
to me when I came of age. It is not a very large one; but it will
give you a nice position of your own, and a comfortable income. And
with it goes my blessing, my dear boy. Take it as a gift from your
father and myself!'
Harold was much moved, not only by the act itself but by the gracious
way of doing it. There were tears in his eyes as he wrung the
Squire's hand; his voice thrilled with feeling as he said:
'Your many goodnesses to my father's son, sir, will, I hope, be
justified by his love and loyalty. If I don't say much it is because
I do not feel quite master of myself. I shall try to show in time,
as I cannot say it all at once, all that I feel.'
Harold continued to live at Normanstand. The house at Camp was in
reality a charming cottage. A couple of servants were installed, and
now and again he stayed there for a few days as he wished to get
accustomed to the place. In a couple of months every one accepted
the order of things; and life at Normanstand went on much as it had
done before Harold had gone to college. There was a man in the house
now instead of a boy: that was all. Stephen too was beginning to be
a young woman, but the relative positions were the same as they had
been. Her growth did not seem to make an ostensible difference to
any one. The one who might have noticed it most, Mrs. Jarrold, had
died during the last year of Harold's life at college.
When the day came for the quarterly meeting of the magistrates of the
county of Norcester, Squire Rowly arranged as usual to drive Squire
Norman. This had been their habit for good many years. The two men
usually liked to talk over the meeting as they returned home
together. It was a beautiful morning for a drive, and when Rowly
came flying up the avenue in his T-cart with three magnificent bays,
Stephen ran out on the top of the steps to see him draw up. Rowly
was a fine whip, and his horses felt it. Squire Norman was ready,
and, after a kiss from Stephen, climbed into the high cart. The men
raised their hats and waved good-bye. A word from Rowly; with a
bound the horses were off. Stephen stood looking at them delighted;
all was so sunny, so bright, so happy. The world was so full of life
and happiness to-day that it seemed as if it would never end; that
nothing except good could befall.
Harold, later on that morning, was to go into Norcester also; so
Stephen with a lonely day before her set herself to take up loose-
ends of all sorts of little personal matters. They would all meet at
dinner as Rowly was to stop the night at Normanstand.
Harold left the club in good time to ride home to dinner. As he
passed the County Hotel he stopped to ask if Squire Norman had left;
and was told that he had started only a short time before with Squire
Rowly in his T-cart. He rode on fast, thinking that perhaps he might
overtake them and ride on with them. But the bays knew their work,
and did it. They kept their start; it was only at the top of the
North hill, five miles out of Norcester, that he saw them in the
distance, flying along the level road. He knew he would not now
overtake them, and so rode on somewhat more leisurely.
The Norcester highroad, when it has passed the village of Brackling,
turns away to the right behind the great clump of oaks. From this
the road twists to the left again, making a double curve, and then
runs to Norling Parva in a clear stretch of some miles before
reaching the sharp turn down the hill which is marked 'Dangerous to
Cyclists.' From the latter village branches the by-road over the
hill which is the short cut to Normanstand.
When Harold turned the corner under the shadow of the oaks he saw a
belated road-mender, surrounded by some gaping peasants, pointing
excitedly in the distance. The man, who of course knew him, called
to him to stop.
'What is it?' he asked, reining up.
'It be Squire Rowly's bays which have run away with him. Three on
'em, all in a row and comin' like the wind. Squire he had his reins
all right, but they 'osses didn't seem to mind 'un. They was fair
mad and bolted. The leader he had got frightened at the heap o'
stones theer, an' the others took scare from him.'
Without a word Harold shook his reins and touched the horse with his
whip. The animal seemed to understand and sprang forward, covering
the ground at a terrific pace. Harold was not given to alarms, but
here might be serious danger. Three spirited horses in a light cart
made for pace, all bolting in fright, might end any moment in
calamity. Never in his life did he ride faster than on the road to
Norling Parva. Far ahead of him he could see at the turn, now and
again, a figure running. Something had happened. His heart grew
cold: he knew as well as though he had seen it, the high cart
swaying on one wheel round the corner as the maddened horses tore on
their way; the one jerk too much, and the momentary reaction in the
With beating heart and eyes aflame in his white face he dashed on.
It was all too true. By the side of the roadway on the inner curve
lay the cart on its side with broken shafts. The horses were
prancing and stamping about along the roadway not recovered from
their fright. Each was held by several men.
And on the grass two figures were still lying where they had been
thrown out. Rowly, who had of course been on the off-side, had been
thrown furthest. His head had struck the milestone that stood back
on the waste ground before the ditch. There was no need for any one
to tell that his neck had been broken. The way his head lay on one
side, and the twisted, inert limbs, all told their story plainly
Squire Norman lay on his back stretched out. Some one had raised him
to a sitting posture and then lowered him again, straightening his
limbs. He did not therefore look so dreadful as Rowly, but there
were signs of coming death in the stertorous breathing, the ooze of
blood from nostrils and ears as well as mouth. Harold knelt down by
him at once and examined him. Those who were round all knew him and
stood back. He felt the ribs and limbs; so far as he could ascertain
by touch no bone was broken.
Just then the local doctor, for whom some one had run, arrived in his
gig. He, too, knelt beside the injured man, a quick glance having
satisfied him that there was only one patient requiring his care.
Harold stood up and waited. The doctor looked up, shaking his head.
Harold could hardly suppress the groan which was rising in his
throat. He asked:
'Is it immediate? Should his daughter be brought here?'
'How long would it take her to arrive?'
'Perhaps half an hour; she would not lose an instant.'
'Then you had better send for her.'
'I shall go at once!' answered Harold, turning to jump on his horse,
which was held on the road.
'No, no!' said the doctor, 'send some one else. You had better stay
here yourself. He may become conscious just before the end; and he
may want to say something!' It seemed to Harold that a great bell
was sounding in his ears.--'Before the end! Good God! Poor
Stephen!' ... But this was no time for sorrow, or for thinking of
it. That would come later. All that was possible must be done; and
to do it required a cool head. He called to one of the lads he knew
could ride and said to him:
'Get on my horse and ride as fast as you can to Normanstand. Send at
once to Miss Norman and tell her that she is wanted instantly. Tell
her that there has been an accident; that her father is alive, but
that she must come at once without a moment's delay. She had better
ride my horse back as it will save time. She will understand from
that the importance of time. Quick!'
The lad sprang to the saddle, and was off in a flash. Whilst Harold
was speaking, the doctor had told the men, who, accustomed to hunting
accidents, had taken a gate from its hinges and held it in readiness,
to bring it closer. Then under his direction the Squire was placed
on the gate. The nearest house was only about a hundred yards away;
and thither they bore him. He was lifted on a bed, and then the
doctor made fuller examination. When he stood up he looked very
grave and said to Harold:
'I greatly fear she cannot arrive in time. That bleeding from the
ears means rupture of the brain. It is relieving the pressure,
however, and he may recover consciousness before he dies. You had
better be close to him. There is at present nothing that can be
done. If he becomes conscious at all it will be suddenly. He will
relapse and probably die as quickly.'
All at once Norman opened his eyes, and seeing him said quietly, as
he looked around:
'What place is this, Harold?'
'Martin's--James Martin's, sir. You were brought here after the
'Yes, I remember! Am I badly hurt? I can feel nothing!'
'I fear so, sir! I have sent for Stephen.'
'Sent for Stephen! Am I about to die?' His voice, though feeble,
was grave and even.
'Alas! sir, I fear so!' He sank on his knees as he spoke and took
him, his second father, in his arms.
'Is it close?'
'Then listen to me! If I don't see Stephen, give her my love and
blessing! Say that with my last breath I prayed God to keep her and
make her happy! You will tell her this?'
'I will! I will!' He could hardly speak for the emotion which was
choking him. Then the voice went on, but slower and weaker:
'And Harold, my dear boy, you will look after her, will you not?
Guard her and cherish her, as if you were indeed my son and she your
'I will. So help me God!' There was a pause of a few seconds which
seemed an interminable time. Then in a feebler voice Squire Norman
'And Harold--bend down--I must whisper! If it should be that in time
you and Stephen should find that there is another affection between
you, remember that I sanction it--with my dying breath. But give her
time! I trust that to you! She is young, and the world is all
before her. Let her choose . . . and be loyal to her if it is
another! It may be a hard task, but I trust you, Harold. God bless
you, my other son!' He rose slightly and listened. Harold's heart
leaped. The swift hoof-strokes of a galloping horse were heard . . .
The father spoke joyously:
'There she is! That is my brave girl! God grant that she may be in
time. I know what it will mean to her hereafter!'
The horse stopped suddenly.
A quick patter of feet along the passage and then Stephen half
dressed with a peignoir thrown over her, swept into the room. With
the soft agility of a leopard she threw herself on her knees beside
her father and put her arms round him. The dying man motioned to
Harold to raise him. When this had been done he laid his hand
tenderly on his daughter's head, saying:
'Let now, O Lord, Thy servant depart in peace! God bless and keep
you, my dear child! You have been all your life a joy and a delight
to me! I shall tell your mother when I meet her all that you have
been to me! Harold, be good to her! Good-bye--Stephen! ...
Margaret! ... '
His head fell over, and Harold, laying him gently down, knelt beside
Stephen. He put his arm round her; and she, turning to him, laid her
hand on his breast and sobbed as though her heart would break.
The bodies of the two squires were brought to Normanstand. Rowly had
long ago said that if he died unmarried he would like to lie beside
his half-sister, and that it was fitting that, as Stephen would be
the new Squire of Norwood, her dust should in time lie by his. When
the terrible news of her nephew's and of Norman's death came to
Norwood, Miss Laetitia hurried off to Normanstand as fast as the
horses could bring her.
Her coming was an inexpressible comfort to Stephen. After the first
overwhelming burst of grief she had settled into an acute despair.
Of course she had been helped by the fact that Harold had been with
her, and she was grateful for that too. But it did not live in her
memory of gratitude in the same way. Of course Harold was with her
in trouble! He had always been; would always be.
But the comfort which Aunt Laetitia could give was of a more positive
From that hour Miss Rowly stayed at Normanstand. Stephen wanted her;
and she wanted to be with Stephen.
After the funeral Harold, with an instinctive delicacy of feeling,
had gone to live in his own house; but he came to Normanstand every
day. Stephen had so long been accustomed to consulting him about
everything that there was no perceptible change in their relations.
Even necessary business to be done did not come as a new thing.
And so things went on outwardly at Normanstand very much as they had
done before the coming of the tragedy. But for a long time Stephen
had occasional bursts of grief which to witness was positive anguish
to those who loved her.
Then her duty towards her neighbours became a sort of passion. She
did not spare herself by day or by night. With swift intuition she
grasped the needs of any ill case which came before her, and with
swift movement she took the remedy in hand.
Her aunt saw and approved. Stephen, she felt, was in this way truly
fulfilling her duty as a woman. The old lady began to secretly hope,
and almost to believe, that she had laid aside those theories whose
carrying into action she so dreaded.
But theories do not die so easily. It is from theory that practice
takes its real strength, as well as its direction. And did the older
woman whose life had been bound under more orderly restraint but
know, Stephen was following out her theories, remorselessly and to