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Chapter 30
No penitence and no confessional,
No priest ordains it, yet they're forced to sit
Amid deep ashes of their vanished years.
Imagine a rambling, patchy house, the best part built of gray stone, and red-tiled,
a round tower jutting at one of the corners, the mellow darkness of its conical roof
surmounted by a weather-cock making an agreeable object either amidst the
gleams and greenth of summer or the low-hanging clouds and snowy branches
of winter: the ground shady with spreading trees: a great tree flourishing on one
side, backward some Scotch firs on a broken bank where the roots hung naked,
and beyond, a rookery: on the other side a pool overhung with bushes, where the
water- fowl fluttered and screamed: all around, a vast meadow which might be
called a park, bordered by an old plantation and guarded by stone ledges which
looked like little prisons. Outside the gate the country, once entirely rural and
lovely, now black with coal mines, was chiefly peopled by men and brethren with
candles stuck in their hats, and with a diabolic complexion which laid them
peculiarly open to suspicion in the eyes of the children at Gadsmere--Mrs.
Glasher's four beautiful children, who had dwelt there for about three years. Now,
in November, when the flower-beds were empty, the trees leafless, and the pool
blackly shivering, one might have said that the place was sombrely in keeping
with the black roads and black mounds which seemed to put the district in
mourning;--except when the children were playing on the gravel with the dogs for
their companions. But Mrs. Glasher, under her present circumstances, liked
Gadsmere as well as she would have liked any other abode. The complete
seclusion of the place, which the unattractiveness of the country secured, was
exactly to her taste. When she drove her two ponies with a waggonet full of
children, there were no gentry in carriages to be met, only men of business in
gigs; at church there were no eyes she cared to avoid, for the curate's wife and
the curate himself were either ignorant of anything to her disadvantage, or
ignored it: to them she was simply a widow lady, the tenant of Gadsmere; and
the name of Grandcourt was of little interest in that district compared with the
names of Fletcher and Gawcome, the lessees of the collieries.
It was full ten years since the elopement of an Irish officer's beautiful wife with
young Grandcourt, and a consequent duel where the bullets wounded the air
only, had made some little noise. Most of those who remembered the affair now
wondered what had become of that Mrs. Glasher, whose beauty and brilliancy
had made her rather conspicuous to them in foreign places, where she was
known to be living with young Grandcourt.
That he should have disentangled himself from that connection seemed only
natural and desirable. As to her, it was thought that a woman who was
understood to have forsaken her child along with her husband had probably sunk