Read CHAPTER SEVEN - “WHAT DID I SEE IN THIS BOY ?” of The New Mistress A Tale , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

Hazel was not destined to reach home without adventure, for before she had gone far she could see Mr Chute walking along very slowly, right at the bottom of the street, and evidently hoping that she would overtake him.  But this was not the cause of the palpitation from which Hazel suffered, for, about halfway between the church and the schools, she saw Archibald Graves coming to meet her, walking very fast; and she had to prepare herself for the encounter that was now inevitable.

“At last!” he cried, eagerly, as he came up.  “My dear Hazel, I thought I was never to see you.”

She took no notice of the proffered hand, but walked quietly on.

“Won’t you take my arm, Hazel?” he exclaimed.  “Oh, don’t be so hard on a fellow.  What have I done?”

Hazel turned her large earnest eyes upon him, and seemed to look him through and through, as, instead of answering his question, she put one to herself.

“What did I see in Archibald Graves, this thoughtless boy, who can come and ask me such a question after the agony I have suffered?  What did I see in this boy to make me think I loved him with all my heart?”

Poor Hazel!  It did not occur to her that a short two years since she was a light-hearted girl; and that since then she had grown into a deep, earnest woman, who had been baptised by sorrow, and who could only share the riches of her love with one who was all that was manly and true, and to whom she could look up with respect, even with reverence; whereas now, with his petulant boyish, injured air, Archibald Graves only filled her with something akin to disgust.

“I say, you know, Hazel,” he went on, “don’t be so hard on a fellow.  The governor was dead against my keeping it up, you know, and he wanted me to give him my word not to see you any more; but at last I thought I must see you again, so I found out all about what you were doing, and where you were, and followed you down here; and ’pon my soul, when I saw you leading that string of scrubs of school children to church, I did not know whether to laugh or cry.”

“Then Mr Graves is not aware of your visit down here, Archibald?” said Hazel quietly.

“By Jove, no! he would be in a wax if he knew.”

“Then why did you come?”

“Why did I come?  Oh, I say Hazel,” he cried reproachfully, “I didn’t think you could be so hard upon me.  You don’t know how I’ve been upset all about it.  ’Pon my word, there were times when I felt almost ill.”

“Has he altered?” Hazel’s heart cried out within her, “or have I become worldly and cold, and, as he says, hard?”

“I say, you know, Hazel, you must give up all this wretched business.  I shall tell the governor that I mean to keep to our old engagement, and he’ll come round some day; but you must give up the school teaching, as he’d never stand that, for he’s as proud as Lucifer.  Come, I say, it’s all right again, isn’t it?”

“What did I see in this boy?” thought Hazel, as the indignant blood flushed into her cheeks, and then flowed back painfully to her heart.  “Was he always as weak and thoughtless as this?”

“Oh, I say, mother, look here,” cried a shrill voice as they were passing an open cottage door; “that’s new teacher, and that’s her young man.”

“There, you hear,” whispered Hazel’s companion, laughing; “it was vulgarly put, but very true.”

“Archibald Graves,” said Hazel quietly, “have you not the common-sense to see that your visit here is putting me in a false position?”

“I know you are in a false position here,” he retorted angrily.  “Who’s that fellow, and why does he take off his hat to you, and glare at me?”

“That is Mr Chute, the master of the boys’ school, and my fellow-teacher.  This is my house, and I cannot ask you to come in.  Do you wish me to think with a little less pain of our old acquaintanceship?”

Our old love, you mean,” he cried.

“Our old acquaintanceship, Archibald Graves,” she replied firmly.  “Love is too holy a word to be spoken of in connection with our past.”

“I ­I don’t understand you,” he cried.

“You will when you have grown older and more thoughtful,” she replied.  “Now good-bye.”

“Thoughtful?  Older?” he blurted out.  “I am old enough and thoughtful enough to know what I mean, and I won’t part like this.”

“Your presence here is liable to be seriously misconstrued,” said Hazel; “do you wish to do me a serious injury in the eyes of those with whom it is of vital importance that I should stand well?”

“Why, of course not.  How can you ask me?”

“Then say `good-bye’ at once, and leave this place.”

“But I tell you I have come down on purpose to ­”

“All that is dead,” she said, in a tone that startled him.

“Then you never loved me!” he cried angrily.

“Heaven knows how well!” she said softly.  “But you killed that love, Archibald Graves, and it can never be revived.”

She had held out her hand in token of farewell, but he had not taken it; now she let it fall, and before he could frame a fresh appeal she had turned, entered the little house, and the door closed behind her.

Archibald Graves remained standing gazing blankly at the closed door for a few moments, till he heard the click of a latch, and, turning sharply, he saw that the schoolmaster was leisurely walking his garden some fifty yards away.  He was not watching the visitor ­nothing of the kind; but the flowers in the little bed required looking to, and he remained there picking off withered leaves with his new gloves, and making himself very busy, in spite of a reminder from his mother that dinner was getting cold; and it was not until he had seen the stranger stride away that he entered his own place and sat thoughtfully down.

“If she thinks I am going to be thrown over like this,” said Archibald Graves to himself, “she is mistaken.  She shall give way, and she shall leave this wretched place, or I’ll know the reason why.  I wonder who that round-faced fellow was, and where I can get something to eat?  By Jove, though, how she has altered! she quite touches a fellow like.  Here, boy, where’s the principal inn?”


“Where’s the principal inn?” cried the visitor again, as the boy addressed stared at him wonderingly, his London speech being somewhat incomprehensible to juveniles at Plumton All Saints.


“Where can I get something to eat, then?” said the visitor, feeling half amused, his difficulty with Hazel passing rapidly away.

“Somut to ee-yut.  Why don’t yer go ho-um?”

“Hang the boy!  Oh, here’s the round-faced chap.  I beg your pardon, can you direct me to the best hotel?”

“Straight past the church, sir, and round into the market-place.”

“Thanks; I can get some lunch or dinner there, I suppose?”

“Ye-es,” said Mr William Forth Burge.  “I should think so.”

“I came down from town by the mail last night, and walked over from Burtwick this morning.  Strange in the place, you see.”

“May I offer you a bit of dinner, sir?  I know London well, though I’m a native here, and as a friend of our new schoolmistress ­”

“Oh, I should hardly like to intrude,” cried the young man apologetically.

“Pray come,” said the ex-butcher eagerly, for he longed to get the young man under his roof.  He did not know why:  in fact he felt almost hurt at his coming there that morning; and again, he did not know why, but he knew one thing, and that was that he would have given ten pounds that moment to know why Archibald Graves had come down that day, and what he said to Miss Thorne, and ­yes, he would have given twenty pounds to know what Hazel Thorne said to him.

The result was, that he carried off the stranger to his handsome house, just outside the town, and soon after Archibald Graves was making himself quite at home, drinking the school-patron’s sherry, smoking his cigars, and getting moment by moment more fluent of tongue, and ready to lay bare the secrets of his heart, if secrets the facts could be called that he was prepared to make known to any one who would talk.

“Has he gone, Bill?” said Miss Burge, entering the drawing-room about eight o’clock that evening, and finding her brother standing before a glass and sprinkling himself with scent.

“Yes, he went a good hour ago.”  And the speaker looked very solemn, and uttered a deep sigh.

“I wouldn’t disturb you, dear, at church time, as you had company; but, Bill dear ­oh, how nice you smell!” and she rested her hands on his shoulders and reached up to kiss him.

“Do I, Betsey?”

“Lovely, dear; but do tell me what he said about Miss Thorne.”

Her brother’s forehead seemed to have gone suddenly into the corrugated iron business, as he turned his eyes upon his sister.

“He said ­he said ­”

“Yes, dear; please go on.”

“He said he had been engaged to her for two or three years, and that as soon as his father left off cutting up rough ­”

“Cutting up rough, Bill?  Did he say cutting up rough?”

“Yes, Betsey.  I never cut up rough in my business, never.  I always made a point of having the best Sheffield knives and steels, and my steaks and chops and joints was always pictures.”

“Yes, dear; but tell me:  Miss Thorne is engaged to be married to this gentleman?”

“I suppose so,” said Mr William Forth Burge drearily.  “It was always so, Betsey.  I could get on in trade, and I could save money, and I always dressed well, and I defy the world to say I wasn’t always clean shaved; but I never did see a young lady that I thought was nice, but somebody else had seen her before and thought the same.”

“Oh, but we never know what might happen, Bill.”

“What’s the good of being rich?  What’s the good of having a fine house?  What’s the good of everything, if everything’s always going to turn out disappointment?  Betsey,” he continued fiercely, “that chap thinks of nothing but hisself.  He’s one of your cigar-smoking, glass-o’-sherry chaps, and he ain’t got a good ’art.  Why, if you’d got a young man, Betsey, and he come and sit down here and talked about you as that chap did about our young schoolmistress, I’d ha’ punched his head!”

Miss Burge pressed her brother softly back into a chair, and patted his face, and smoothed his hair, and kissed him first on one cheek and then upon the other.

“You’re tired, Bill dear,” she said, “and didn’t get your nap after dinner.  Where’s your handkerchief?  Here, let me do it dear;” and taking her brother’s flaming handkerchief from his pocket, she softly opened it over his head and face as if she were about to perform a conjuring trick and bring out bowls of gold fish or something of the kind from beneath, but she did not:  she merely left it on his head and went away on tiptoe, saying to herself: 

“Poor Bill! he has got it again, and badly, too.”