Not till years later did I learn that she, too, had left her husband’s roof that night and after (it cannot be doubted) many adventures of which no history has reached me, joined the Court in its exile at the Hague; where, as I am told, she died.
Her husband recovered and lived to accomplish his end by drink. There were whispers against him, but no certain proof that he had ever acted as intermediary in selling the pass. His defenders could always urge his notorious poverty. Before his death he had parted with more than two-thirds of his estate. There was no child to inherit the remainder.
To the end he asserted that his wife had run from him unfaithfully, and was pitied for it. So I hear, at least, and do not care; as I am sure she would not have cared. She had saved his honour, with my poor help, and having saved it, was quit of us both.
I pray the foreign earth may rest lightly on her.
[The scene is the kitchen of a small farm-house above the Walkham River, on the western edge of Dartmoor. The walls, originally of rough granite, have had their asperities smoothed down by many layers of whitewash. The floor is of lime-ash, nicely sanded. From the ceiling—formed of rude, unplaned beams and the planching of the bedroom above—depends a rack crowded with hams and sides of bacon, all wrapped in newspapers. In the window a dozen geraniums are blooming, and beyond them the eye rests on the slope of Sharpitor and the distant ridge of Sheepstor. The fireplace, which faces the window, is deep and capacious, and floored with granite slabs. On these burns a fire of glowing peat, and over the fire hangs a crock of milk in process of scalding. In the ingle behind it sits the relator of this story, drying his knees after a Dartmoor shower. From his seat he can look up the wide chimney and see, beyond the smoke, the sky, and that it is blue again and shining. But he listens to the farmer’s middle-aged sister, who stands at the table by the window, and rolls out a pie-crust as she talks. (The farmer is a widower, and she keeps house for him.) She talks of a small picture—a silhouette executed in black and gold—that adorns the wall-space between the dresser and the tall clock, and directly above the side-table piled with the small library of the house. The portrait is a profile of a young man, somewhat noticeably handsome, in a high-necked coat and white stock collar.]
’It is none of our family, though it came to us near on a hundred years ago. It came from America. A young gentleman sent it over from Philadelphia to my grandmother, with a letter to say he was married and happy, and would always remember her. Perhaps he did; and, again, perhaps he didn’t. That was the last my grandmother heard of him.