Read CHAPTER XVIII.  JEPH’S GOOD FORTUNE of Under the Storm Steadfast Charge, free online book, by Charlotte M. Yonge, on ReadCentral.com.

  “Still sun and rain made emerald green the loveliest fields on earth,
   And gave the type of deathless hope, the little shamrock, birth.” 
                                                  Irish ballad.

The King’s visit left traces.  Emlyn had become far more restless and consciously impatient of the dullness and seclusion of the Hermit’s Gulley.  Not only did she, as before, avail herself of every pretext for going into the village, or for making expeditions to Bristol, but she openly declared the place a mere grave, intolerable to live in, and she confided to Jerusha that the King had declared that it was a shame to hide her there ­such charms were meant for the world.

The only way of getting into the world that occurred to her was going into service at Bristol, and she talked of this whenever she specially hated her spinning, or if Patience ventured to complain of her gadding about, gossipping with Nanny Pierce or Kitty Blane, or getting all the young lads in Elmwood round her, to be amused and teased by her lively rattle.

Patience began to be decidedly of opinion that it would be much better for all parties that the girl should be under a good mistress.  Both she and Rusha were over sixteen years old; and though it was much improved, the house was hardly fit for so many inhabitants, and both Goody Grace and Dame Blane had told Patience that it would be better, both for the awkward Rusha and the gay Emlyn, if they could have some household training.

Mistress Elmwood, at the Hall, had noted the family at church, and observed their perfect cleanliness and orderliness, and it was intimated that at the Ladyday hiring, she would take Rusha among her maidens.

Shy Rusha cried a great deal, and wished Emlyn would go instead, but Mrs. Elmwood would not have hired that flighty damsel on any account, and Emlyn was sure it would be but mopish work to live under a starched old Puritan.  Mrs. Lightfoot was therefore applied to, to find a service for Emlyn Gaythorn, and she presently discovered one Mistress Sloggett, a haberdasher’s wife of wealth and consideration, who wanted a young maidservant.

Emlyn was presented to her by the bakester, undertook for everything, and was hired by the twelvemonth, going off in high glee at the variety and diversion she expected to enjoy at the sign of the “Sheep and Shears,” though clinging with much tenderness to her friends as they parted.

“Remember, Emlyn, this is the home where you will always be welcome,” said Stead.

“As if I wanted to remember it,” said Emlyn, with her sweet smile.  “As if I did not know where be kind hearts.”

The hovel seemed greatly deserted when the two young girls were gone.  Patience sorely missed Rusha, her diligent little helper, and latterly her companion too; and the lack of Emlyn’s merry tongue made all around seem silent and tedious.  Steadfast especially missed the girl.  Perhaps it was due to the King’s gibes that her absence fully opened to him the fact that he knew not how to do without her.  After his usual fashion, he kept the discovery to himself, not even talking to Patience about it, being very shamefaced at the mere thought, which gave a delicious warmth to his heart, though it made him revolve schemes of saving up till he had a sufficient sum, with which to go to the squire and propose to meet him half-way in rebuilding the old house; not such an expensive matter as it would be in these days.  There, in full view of all that passed down Elmwood Lane, Emlyn could not complain of solitude, he thought!  But there was this difficulty in the way, that Jephthah had never resigned his claims as eldest son, and might come home at any time, and take possession of all the little farm at which Steadfast had worked for seven years.

The war was over, and nothing had been heard of Jeph, except the king’s apocryphal history, since his visit after the taking of Bristol.  Patience had begun to call him “poor Jeph,” and thought he must have been killed, but Stead had ascertained that the army had not been disbanded, and believed him still to be employed.

At length, one market day, Mrs. Lightfoot told him, “There has been one asking for you, Kenton, Seth Coleman, the loriner’s son, that went soldiering when your brother did.  He landed last week from Ireland with a wooden leg, and said he, ’Where shall I come to the speech of one Steadfast Kenton?  I have a greeting from his brother, the peculiarly favoured,’ or some such word, ’Jephthah Kenton, who told me I should hear tidings of him from Mrs. Bakester Lightfoot, at the sign of the “Wheatsheaf."’ I told him where you abode, and he said he knew as much from your brother, but he could not be tramping out to Elmwood on a wooden leg.  So says I ’I will send Steadfast Kenton to you next market day.’  You will find him at the sign at the ‘Golden Bridle,’ by the Wharf Stairs.”

Stead had no sooner disposed of his wares than he went in search of the loriner’s shop, really one for horse furniture.  There was a bench outside, looking out on the wharf and shipping, and on it was seated the returned soldier, with a little party round him, to whom he was expounding what sounded more military than religious: 

“And so, the fort having been summoned and quarter promised, if so be no resistance were made, always excepting Popish priests, and ­Eh!  What now?  Be you an old neighbour?  I don’t remember your face.”

“I have seen you, though.  I am Jephthah Kenton’s brother, that you asked for.”

“I mind you were but a stripling in those days, and yet in gross darkness.  Yea, I have a letter for thee from my comrade, who is come to high preferment.”

“Jeph!”

“Yea, things have prospered with him.  He was a serjeant even before we sailed for Ireland, and there he did such good service in hunting out Popish priests and rebels in their lurking places in the bogs and mountains, that the Lord General hath granted him the land that he took with his sword and his bow, even a meadow land fat and fertile, Ballyshea by name, full of the bulls of Bashan, goodly to look at.  And to make all sure, he hath taken to wife the daughter of the former owner of the land a damsel fair to look upon.”

“Jeph!  But sure ­the Irish are Papists.”

“Not the whole of them.  There are those that hold to Prelacy and call themselves King’s men, following the bloody and blinded Duke of Ormond.  Of them was this maid’s father, whom we slew at the taking of Clonmel, where I got this wound and left my good right leg.  So is the race not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happeneth to all.  When I could hobble about once more on crutches, I found that the call had come to divide and possess the gate of the enemy, and that the meads of Ballyshea had fallen to Serjeant Kenton.  Moreover, in the castle hard by, dwelt the widow and her daughter, who cried to General Lambert for their land, and what doth he say to Jephthah, but ’Make it sure, Kenton.  Take the maid to wife, and so none will disturb you in the fair heritage.’  Yea, and mine old comrade would have me sojourn with him till I was quite restored, so far as a man with one limb short may be.  I tell you ’tis a castle, man.”

“Our Jeph lord of a castle?”

“Aye, even so.  Twice as big as Elmwood Hall, if half were not in ruins, and the other half the rats run over like peas out of a bag.  While as to the servants, there are dozens of them, mostly barefoot and in rags, who will run at the least beck from the old mistress or the young mistress, though they scowl at the master.  But he is taking order with them, and teaching them who is to be obeyed.”

“Then our Jephthah is a great man?”

“You may say that ­a bigger man than the squire at Elmwood, or at Leigh I can tell you.  Only I would give all that bare mountain and bog, full of wild, Popish, red-haired kernes for twenty yards in a tidy street at Bristol, with decent godly folk around me.  Murdering or being murdered, I have marvelled more than once whether the men of Israel were as sick of it in Canaan as I was at Drogheda, but the cry ever was, ’Be not slack in the work.’  But I will bring you Jephthah’s letter.  He could not write when he went off, but he could not be a serjeant without, so we taught him ­I and Corporal Faith-Wins.”

Jephthah’s handwriting was of a bold description doing honour to his tutors, but the letter was very brief, though to the purpose ­

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“This is to do you, to wit, that by the grace of Heaven on my poor endeavours I am come to high preferment.  A goodly spoil hath fallen unto me, namely, the castle and lands of Ballyshea, and therewith the daughter of the owner, deceased, by name Ellen Roche, whom I have espoused in marriage, and am bringing to the light of truth.  I have castle, lands, flocks and herds, men-servants and maid-servants in abundance, and I give thanks to Him who hath rewarded His servant.

“Therefore I wholly resign to you, my brethren, Steadfast and Benoni, any rights of heirship that may be mine in respect of the farmstead of Elmwood, and will never, neither I nor my heirs, trouble you about it further.  Yet if Ben, or my sisters Patience and Jerusha, be willing to cross over to me in this land of promise they shall be kindly welcome, and I shall find how to bestow them well in marriage.  Mine old comrade, Seth Coleman, will tell them how to reach the Castle of Ballyshea, and how to find safe convoy, and tell you more of the estate wherewith it has pleased Heaven to reward my poor services.

“And so commending you to His holy keeping, no more from your loving brother,

Jephthah Kenton.”

The spelling of this was queer, even according to the ways of the time, but it was not hard to understand, and it might well fill Steadfast with amazement.

He longed to share the tidings with Emlyn, but he did not feel as if it would be right to let anyone hear before Patience.  Only as he went back and called again at Mrs. Lightfoot’s for his basket, she asked whether he had found Seth Coleman, and if his brother had come to such preferment as was reported.

“Yea,” said Steadfast, “he hath a grant of land, and a castle, and a wife.”

“Eh, now!  Lack-a-day!  ’Tis alway the most feather-pated that fly highest.”

Cromwell’s Ironsides feather-pated!  But that did not trouble Steadfast, who all the way home, as he rode his donkey, was thinking of the difference it made in his prospects, and in what he had to offer Emlyn to be able to feel his tenure so much more secure.

Patience and Ben listened in utter amazement ending in a not complimentary laugh on the part of the former.  “Our Jeph lord of a castle?  I’d like to see him.”

“Would you?  He has a welcome and a husband ready for you and Rusha both?”

“D’ye think I would go and leave you for Jeph, if he were lord of ten castles?”

And Ben, whose recollections of Jeph were very dim, exclaimed, “Lord of a castle!  I shall have a crow over Nick Blane now!”

Rusha, who was well content with her service at the hall, had no mind for such a terrible enterprise as a journey “beyond seas” to Ireland, and mayhap Jeph’s prospective husband was a less tempting idea, because a certain young groom had shown symptoms of making her his sweetheart.

Steadfast thought often of telling the great secret of his heart to his faithful sister Patience, but his extreme shyness and modesty, and the reserve in which he always lived, seemed to make it impossible to him to broach the subject, and there might be a certain consciousness that Emlyn, while his own pet, had been very troublesome to Patience.

Stead was two-and-twenty, a sturdy well-grown fellow, but the hard work he had been obliged to do as a growing lad, had rounded his shoulders, and he certainly did not walk like the men who had been drilled for soldiers.  His face was healthy and sunburnt, with fair short hair and straightforward grey eyes.  At the first glance people would say, “What a heavy-looking, clownish young man,” but at the second there was something that made a crying child in the street turn to him for help in distress, and made the marketing dames secure that he told the truth about his wares.

Patience was rather startled by seeing him laboriously tying up a posy of wild rose, honeysuckle, and forget-me-not, and told him the Bristol folks would not buy those common wild flowers.

“They are for none of them,” replied Stead, a little gruffly, and colouring hotly at being caught.

“Oh!” said Patience, in her simplicity.  “Are they for Emlyn?  I do not think her mistress will let you see her.”

“I shall,” said Stead.  “She ought to know of our good fortune.”

“He has forgotten that Emlyn is not our sister after all,” said Patience, as she went back to her washing.

“She might as well,” said Ben, who could not remember the hut without Emlyn.

Stead had better luck than Patience foreboded from a household where the servants were kept very strictly, for there was a good deal of curiosity in Bristol about the report that a lad from the neighbourhood had won an Irish heiress and castle, and when Stead presented himself at the door of the house under the overhanging gable, and begged to see Emlyn Gaythorn to give her some tidings, the maid who opened it exclaimed, “Is it anent the castle in Ireland?”

Stead awkwardly said “Aye, mistress.”  And as it became evident that the readiest way of learning the facts would be his admission, he was let into the house into a sort of wainscotted hall, where he found the mistress herself superintending three or four young sempstresses who were making shirts for the gentlemen of the garrison.  Emlyn was among them, and sprang up looking as if white seams were not half so congenial as nutting in the gulley, but she looked prettier than ever, as the little dark curls burst out of the prim white cap, she sniffed the flowers with ecstasy, and her eyes danced with delight that did Stead’s heart good to see.  He needed it, for to stand there hat in hand before so many women all staring at him filled him with utter confusion, so that he could scarcely see, and stumbled along when Mrs. Sloggett called, “Come here, young man.  Is it true that it is your brother who has won a castle and a countess in Ireland?”

“Not a countess, ma’am,” said Stead, gruff with shyness, “but a castle.”

Mrs. Sloggett put him through a perfect catechism on Jeph and his fortunes, which he answered at first almost monosyllabically, though afterwards he could speak a little more freely, when the questions did not go quite beyond his knowledge.  Finally he succeeded in asking permission to take Emlyn and show her his brother’s letter.  Mrs. Sloggett was gracious to the brother of the lord of a castle, even in Ireland, and moreover Emlyn was viewed in the light of one of the Kenton family.

So leave was granted to take Master Kenton (he had never been so called before) out into the garden of pot-herbs behind the house, and Emlyn with her dancing step led the way, by a back door down a few steps into a space where a paved walk led between two beds of vegetables, bordered with a narrow edge of pinks, daisies, and gilliflowers, to a seat under the shade of an old apple tree, looking out, as this was high ground, over the broad river full of shipping.

“Stead!  Stead, good old Stead,” she cried, “to come just as I was half dead with white seam and scolding!  Emlyn here!  Emlyn there!  And she’s ready with her fingers too.  She boxed mine ears till they sang again yesterday.”

“The jade,” muttered Stead.  “What for?”

“Only for looking out at window,” said Emlyn.  “How could I help it, when there were six outlandish sailors coming up the street leading a big black bear.  Well, Stead, and are you all going to live with Jeph in his castle, and will you take me?”

“He asks me not,” said Stead, and began to read the letter, to which Emlyn listened with many little remarks.  “So Patience and Rusha wont go.  I marvel at them, yet ’tis like sober-sided old Patty!  And mayhap among the bogs and hills ’tis lonelier than in the gulley.  I mind a trooper who had served in Ireland telling my father it was so desolate he would not banish a dog there.  But what did he say about home, Stead, I thought it was all yours?”

Stead explained, and also the possibility of endeavouring to rebuild the farmhouse.  If he could go to Mr. Elmwood with thirty pounds he thought it might be done.  “And then, Emlyn, when that is saved (and I have five pounds already), will you come and make it your home for good and all?”

“Stead! oh Stead!  You don’t mean it ­you ­Why, that’s sweethearting!”

“Well, so it is, Emlyn,” said Stead, a certain dignity taking the place of his shyness now it had come to the point.  “I ask you to be my little sweetheart now, and my wife when I have enough to make our old house such as it was when my good mother was alive.”

“Stead, Stead, you always were good to me!  Will it take long, think you?  I would save too, but I have but three crowns the year, and that sour-faced Rachel takes all the fees.”

“The thing is in the hands of God.  It must depend on the crops, but with this hope before me, I will work as never man worked before,” said Stead.

“And I will be mistress there!” cried Emlyn.

“My wife will be mistress wherever I am sweet.”

“Ah, ha!” she laughed, “now I have something to look to, I shall heed little when the dame flouts me and scolds me, and Joan twits me with her cousin the ’prentice.”

They had only just time to go through the ceremony of breaking a tester between them before a shrill call of “Emlyn” resounded down the garden.  Mrs. Sloggett thought quite time enough had been wasted over the young man, and summoned the girl back to her sewing.

Emlyn made a face of disgust, very comical and very joyous, but as the good dame was actually coming in search of her no more could pass.

Stead went away overflowing with happiness, and full of plans of raising the means of bringing back this sunshine of his hearth.  Perhaps it was well that, though slow of thought, Patience still had wit enough in the long hours of the day to guess that the nosegay boded something.  She could not daunt or damp Steadfast’s joy ­nay, she had affection enough for the pretty little being she had cherished for seven years to think she shared it ­but she knew all the time that there would be no place in that new farmhouse for her, and there was a chill over her faithful heart at times.  But what would that signify, she thought, provided that Stead was happy?