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Title: Vagabondia - 1884
Author: Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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VAGABONDIA

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY - 1884



AUTHOR'S NOTE.

This my first novel was written several years ago, and published
(without any revision by me) first in a ladies' magazine under the name
of "Dorothea," and afterwards in book form as "Dolly." For reasons not
necessary to state here, all control over the book had passed from
my hands. It has been for some time out of print; but, having at last
obtained control of the copyright, I have made such corrections as
seemed advisable, given it the name I originally intended for it, and
now issue it through my regular publishers.

FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.

Washington, November, 1883.



VAGABONDIA.

CHAPTER I. ~ IN WHICH WE HOLD COUNSEL.

It was a nondescript sort of a room, taking it altogether. A big, sunny
room, whose once handsome papering and corniceing had grown dingy, and
whose rich carpeting had lost its color and pile in places, and yet
asserted its superiority to its surroundings with an air of lost
grandeur in every shabby medallion. There were pictures in abundance on
the walls, and more than one of them were t gems in their way, despite
the evidence all bore to being the work of amateurs. The tables were
carved elaborately, and the faded, brocaded chairs were of the order
_pouf_, and as inviting as they were disreputable in appearance; there
was manuscript music among the general litter, a guitar hung from the
wall by a tarnished blue and silver ribbon, and a violin lay on the
piano; and yet, notwithstanding the air of free-and-easy disorder, one
could hardly help recognizing a sort of vagabond comfort and luxury in
the Bohemian surroundings. It was so very evident that the owners
must enjoy life in an easy, light-hearted, though perhaps light-headed
fashion; and it was also so very evident that their light hearts and
light heads rose above their knowledge of their light purses.

They were congregated together now, holding a grand family council
around the centre-table, and Dolly was the principal feature, as usual;
and, embarrassing as the subject of said council was, not one of them
looked as if it was other than a most excellent joke that Dolly, having
been invited into the camps of the Philistines, should find she had
nothing to put on to grace the occasion. And as to Dolly,--well, that
young person stood in the midst of them in her shabby, Frenchy little
hat, slapping one pink palm with a shabby, shapely kid glove, her eyes
alight, her comical dismay and amusement displaying itself even in the
arch of her brows.

"And so the Philistine leader pounced upon me herself," she was saying.
"You know the 'Ark,' Phil? Well, they were all in the Ark,--the Rev.
Bilberry in front, and the boys and girls filling up the corners; so you
may imagine the effect produced when they stopped, and Lady Augusta
bent over the side to solemnly proclaim her intention of inviting me
to partake of coffee and conversation on Friday night, with an air of
severely wondering whether I would dare to say 'No!'"

"Why did n't you say it?" said Aimée. "You know it will be an awful
bore, Dolly. Those Bilberry clan gatherings always are. You have said so
yourself often enough."

"Of course I have," returned Dolly. "And of course it will be, but
it would be dreadfully indiscreet to let the Bilberry element know I
thought so. The Bilberry doors once closed against us, where is our
respectability, and Phil's chance of success among the Philistines? It
is bad enough, of course, but there is reason to be thankful that I am
the only victim. The rest of you would be sure to blunder into the B.
B. B.'s [meaning the Bilberry black books], and that _would_ be an
agreeable state of affairs. 'Toinette, look at Tod, he is sitting in the
coal-box eating Phil's fusees."

In 'Toinette we find Mrs. Phil, a handsome creature, young enough to
have been in the school-room, but with the face and figure of a Greek
goddess, and a pair of eyes lovely enough to haunt one's dreams as a
memory for a lifetime, and as to the rest, an inconsistent young madcap,
whose beauty and spirit seemed only a necessary part of the household
arrangements, and whose son and heir, in the person of the enterprising
Tod (an abbreviate of Theodore), was the source of unlimited domestic
enjoyment and the object of much indiscreet adoration. It was just like
Philip Crewe, this marrying on probabilities; and it was equally like
the rest of them to accept the state of affairs as an excellent joke,
and regard the result as an exquisite piece of pleasantry. 'Toinette
herself was only another careless, unworldly addition to the family
circle, and enjoyed her position as thoroughly as the rest did; and as
to Tod, what a delicate satire upon responsibilities Tod was, and how
tranquilly he comported himself under a _régime_ which admitted of free
access into dangerous places, and a lack of personal restraint which
allowed him all the joys the infantile mind can revel in!

At Dolly's exclamation Toinette rushed at him in his stronghold, and
extricated him from the coal-box with demonstrations of dismay.

"Look at his white dress!" she wailed pathetically. "I only put it on a
few minutes ago; and he has eaten two dozen fusees, if this was n't an
empty box when he found it. I hope they won't disagree with him, Phil."

"They won't," said Phil, composedly. "Nothing does. Dust him, and
proceed to business. I want to hear the rest of Dolly's story."

"I _think_," said Mollie, "that he ate Shem and Ham this morning, for I
could only find Japheth after he had been playing with his Noah's Ark.
Go on, Dolly."

"Wait until I have taken off my things," said Dolly, "and then we 'll
talk it over. We must talk it over, you know, if I am to go."

She took off her hat, and then laid her shawl aside,--a little scarlet
shawl, draped about her figure and tossed over one shoulder smartly,
and by no means ungracefully,--and so stood revealed; and it must be
admitted she was well worth looking at. Not a beauty, but a fresh,
wholesome little body, with a real complexion, an abundance of hair,
and large-irised, wide-awake eyes, changeable as to color, because
capricious in expression; the sort of girl, in fact, who would be likely
to persuade people ultimately that, considering circumstances, absolute
beauty could be easily dispensed with, and, upon the whole, would rather
detract from the general charm of novelty, which, in her case, reigned
supreme.

"It is n't the mere fact of being a beauty that makes women popular,"
she would say; "it's the being able to persuade people that you are
one,--or better than one. Don't some historians tell us that Cleopatra
had red hair and questionable eyes, and yet she managed to blind the
world so completely, that no one is sure whether it is true or not, and
to this day the generality of people are inclined to believe that it
was her supernatural beauty that dragged Marc Antony to the dust at her
feet."

Aimée's face was more nearly perfect than Dolly's; Mollie's was more
imposing, child as she was; 'Toi-nette threw her far into the shade in
the matter of statuesque splendor; but still it was Dolly who did all
the difficult things, and had divers tragic adventures with questionable
adorers, whose name was legion, and who were a continual source of
rejoicing and entertainment to the family.

Having tossed hat and shawl on to the table, among the manuscript music,
paint-brushes, and palettes, this young person slipped into the most
comfortable chair near the fire, and, having waited for the rest to
seat themselves, proceeded to open the council. Mollie, who was sixteen,
large, fair, beautiful, and not as tidy as she might have been, dropped
into a not ungraceful position at her feet. Aimée, who was a little
maiden with a tender, _spirituelle_ face, and all the forethought of
the family, sat near, with some grave perplexity in her expression.
'Toinette and Tod, _posed_ in the low nursery-chair,--the girl's firm,
white arm flung around the child,--swung lightly to and fro, fit models
for an artist.

"You would make a first-class picture,--the lot of you," commented Phil,
amicably.

"Never mind the picture," said Mollie, drawing her disreputable slippers
up under her wrapper. "We want to hear how Dolly thinks of going to the
Bilberrys'. Oh, Dolly, how heavenly it would be if you had a
turquoise-blue sat--"

"Heavenly!" interrupted Dolly. "I should think so. Particularly
celestial for Lady Augusta, who looks mahogany-colored in it, and
peculiarly celestial for a poor relation from Vagabondia. It would be
as much as my reputation was worth. She would never forgive me. You must
learn discretion, Mollie."

"There is some consolation in knowing you can't get it," said 'Toinette.
"You won't be obliged to deny yourself or be indiscreet. But what _are_
you going to wear, Dolly?"

"That is for the council to decide," Dolly returned. "First, we must
settle on what we want, and then we must settle on the way to get it."

"Other people go the other way about it," said Aimée.

"If we were only rich!" said Mollie.

"But it is a most glaringly patent fact that we are not," said Dolly.
"There is one thing certain, however,--it must be white."

"A simple white muslin," suggested 'Toinette, struggling in the grasp of
the immortal Tod,--"a simple white muslin, with an equally simple wild
flower in your hair, _à la_ Amanda Fitzallan. How the Dowager Bilberry
_would_ like that."

"And a wide blue sash," suggested Mollie. "And the sleeves tied up with
bows. _And_ tucks, Dolly. Girls, just think of Dolly making great eyes
at an eligible Philistine, in white muslin and a sash and tucks!"

She was a hardened little sinner, this Dolly, her only redeeming point
being that she was honest enough about her iniquities,--so honest
that they were really not such terrible iniquities after all, and were
regarded as rather good fun by the _habitués_ of Vaga-bondia proper.
She laughed just as heartily as the rest of them at Mollie's speech.
She could no more resist the temptation of making great eyes at eligible
Philistines than she could help making them at the entertaining but
highly ineligible Bohemians, who continually frequented Phil's studio.
The fear of man was not before her eyes; and the life she had led had
invested her with a whimsical yet shrewd knowledge of human nature, and
a business-like habit of looking matters in the face, which made her
something of a novelty; and when is not novelty irresistible? And as to
the masculine Philistines,--well, the audacity of Dolly's successes in
the very midst of the enemy's camp had been the cause of much stately
demoralization of Philistine battalions.

At her quietest she created small sensations and attracted attention;
but in her wicked moods, when she was in a state of mind to prompt her
to revenge the numerous small slights and overt acts of lofty patronage
she met with, the dowagers stood in some secret awe of her propensities,
and not without reason. Woe betide the daring matron who measured swords
with her at such times. Great would be her confusion and dire her fall
before the skirmish was over, and nothing was more certain than that she
would retire from the field a wiser if not a better woman. After being
triumphantly routed with great slaughter on two or three occasions,
the enemy had discovered this, and decided mentally that it was more
discreet to let "little Miss Crewe" alone, considering that, though it
was humiliating to be routed, even by one of their own forces, it was
infinitely more so to be routed by an innocent-looking young person,
whose position was questionable, and who actually owed her vague shadow
of respectability to her distant but august relative, the Lady Augusta
Decima Crewe Bilberry, wife of the Rev. Marmaduke Sholto Bilberry, and
mother of the plenteous crop of young Bilberrys, to whom little Miss
Crewe was music teacher and morning governess.

So it was that Mollie's joke about the tucks and white muslin gained
additional point from the family recollection of past experiences.

"But," said Dolly, when the laugh had subsided, "it won't do to
talk nonsense all day. Here 's where we stand, you know. Coffee and
conversation on Friday night on one side, and nothing but my draggled
old green tarlatan on the other, and it's Tuesday now."

"And the family impecuniosity being a fact well established in the
family mind," began Phil, with composure.

"But that 's nonsense," interrupted Aimée. "And, as Dolly says, nonsense
won't do now. But," with a quaint sigh, "we always _do_ talk nonsense."

But here a slight diversion was created. Mrs. Phil jumped up, with
an exclamation of delight, and, dropping Tod on to Mollie's lap,
disappeared through the open door.

"I will be back in a minute," she called back to them, as she ran
up-stairs. "I have just thought of something."

"Girls," said Mollie, "it's her white merino."

And so it was. In a few minutes she reappeared with it,--a heap of soft
white folds in her arms, and a yard or so of the train dragging after
her upon the carpet,--the one presentable relic of a once inconsistently
elaborate bridal trousseau, at present in a rather tumbled and rolled-up
condition, but still white and soft and thick, and open to unlimited
improvement.

"I had forgotten all about it," she said, triumphantly. "I have never
needed it at all, and I knew I never should when I bought it, but it
looked so nice when I saw it that I could n't help buying it. I once
thought of cutting it up into things for Tod; but it seems to me, Dolly,
it 's what you want exactly, and Tod can trust to Providence,--things
always come somehow."

It was quite characteristic of Vagabondia that there should be more
rejoicing over this one stray sheep of good luck than there would have
been over any ninety and nine in the ordinary folds of more prosperous
people. And Mrs. Phil rejoiced as heartily as the rest. It was her turn
now, and she was as ready to sacrifice her white merino on the shrine
of the household impecuniosity as she would be to borrow Dolly's best
bonnet, or Mollie's shoes, or Aimée's gloves, when occasion demanded
such a course. So the merino was laid upon the table, and the council
rose to examine, comment, and suggest.

"A train," said Dolly, concisely; "no trimming, and swan's-down. Even
the Bilberry could n't complain of that, I 'm sure."

Mollie, resting her smooth white elbows on the table in a comfortably
lounging posture, regarded the garment with great longing in her drowsy
brown eyes.

"I wish it was white satin," she observed, somewhat irrelevantly, "and
I was going to wear it at a real ball, with real lace, you know, and a
court train, and flowers, and a fan."

Dolly looked down at her handsome childish face good-naturedly. She
was such an incongruous mixture of beauty and utter simplicity, this
easy-going baby of sixteen, that Dolly could not have helped liking her
heartily under any circumstances, even supposing there had been no tie
of relationship between them.

"I wish it was white satin and you were going to wear it," she said.
"White satin is just the sort of thing for you, Mollie. Never mind, wait
until the figurative ship comes in."

"And in the interval," suggested Aimée, "put a stitch or so in that
wrapper of yours. It has been torn for a week now, and Tod tumbles over
it half a dozen times every morning before breakfast."

Mollie cast her eyes over her shoulder to give it an indifferent glance
as it rested on the faded carpet behind her.

"I wish Lady Augusta would mend things before she sends them to us," she
said, with sublime _naïveté_, and then, at the burst of laughter which
greeted her words, she stopped short, staring at the highly entertained
circle with widely opened, innocent eyes. "What are you laughing at?"
she said. "I 'm sure she might. She is always preaching about liking to
have something to occupy her time, and it would be far more charitable
of her to spend her time in that way than in persistently going into
poor houses where the people don't want her, and reading tracts to them
that they don't want to hear."

Dolly's appreciation of the audacity of the idea reached a climax in an
actual shriek of delight.

"If I had five pounds, which I have not, and never shall have," she
said, "I would freely give it just to see Lady Augusta hear you say
that, my dear. Five pounds! I would give ten--twenty--fifty, if need be.
It would be such an exquisite joke."

But Mollie did not regard the matter in this light. To her
unsophisticated mind Lady Augusta represented nothing more than
periodical boredom in the shape of occasional calls, usually made
unexpectedly, when the house was at its worst, and nobody was especially
tidy,--calls invariably enlivened by severe comments upon the evil
propensities of poor relations in general, and the shocking lack of
respectability in this branch of the order in particular. Worldly wisdom
was not a family trait, Dolly's half-whimsical assumption of it being
the only symptom of the existence of such a gift, and Mollie was the
most sublimely thoughtless of the lot. Mrs. Phil had never been guilty
of a discreet act in her life. Phil himself regarded consequences less
than he regarded anything else, and Aimée's childish staidness and
forethought had certainly not an atom of worldliness in it. Accordingly,
Dolly was left to battle with society, and now and then, it must be
admitted, the result of her brisk affrays did her no small credit.

For a very short space of time the merino was being disposed of to an
advantage; Dolly seating herself in her chair again to renovate the
skirt; Aimée unpicking the bodice, and Mollie looking on with occasional
comments.

"Here is Griffith," she said, at last, glancing over her shoulder at
a figure passing the window; and the next minute the door was opened
without ceremony, and "Grif" made his appearance upon the scene.

Being called upon to describe Griffith Donne, one would hardly feel
inclined to describe him as being imposing in personal appearance. He
was a thin, undersized young man, rather out at elbows and shabby of
attire, and with a decided air of Bohemia about him; but his youthful
face was singularly pleasing and innocent, and his long-lashed,
brown-black eyes were more than good-looking,--they were absolutely
beautiful in a soft, pathetic way,--beautiful as the eyes of the
loveliest of women.

He came into the room as if he was used to coming into it in an
every-day fashion; and Dolly, looking up, gave him a smile and a nod.

"Ah, you are all here, are you?" he said. "What is on hand now? What is
all this white stuff for?" And he drew a chair up close by Dolly's side,
and lifted the merino in his hand.

"For Friday night," answered Aimée. "Bilberry's again, Griffith. Coffee
and conversation this time."

Griffith looked at Dolly inquiringly, but Dolly only laughed and
shrugged her plump shoulders wickedly.

"Look here," he said, with a disapproving air, "it ain't true, is it,
Dolly? You are not going to make a burnt-offering of yourself on the
Bilberry shrine again, are you?"

But Dolly only laughed the more as she took the merino from him.

"If you want a breadth of merino to hold, take another one," she
said. "I want that. And as to being a burnt-offering on the shrine of
Bilberry, my dear Griffith, you must know it is policy," and immediately
went on with her unpicking again, while Griffith, bending over in an
attitude more remarkable for ease than grace, looked on at her sharp
little glancing scissors with an appearance of great interest.

It would perhaps be as well to pause here to account for this young
man's evident freedom in the family circle. It was very plain that he
was accustomed to coming and going when he pleased, and it was easy to
be adduced from his manner that, to him, Dolly was the chief attraction
in the establishment. The fact was, he was engaged to Dolly, and had
been engaged to her for years, and in all probability, unless his
prospects altered their aspect, would be engaged to her for years to
come. In past time, when both were absurdly young, and ought to have
been at school, the two had met,--an impressionable, good-natured,
well-disposed couple of children, who fell in love with each other
unreasoningly and honestly, giving no thought to the future. They
were too young to be married, of course, and indeed had not troubled
themselves about anything so matter of fact; they had fallen in love,
and enjoyed it, and, strange to say, had been enjoying it ever since,
and falling in love more deeply every day of their affectionate,
inconsequent, free-and-easy lives. What did it matter to them that
neither owned a solitary sixpence, for which they had not a thousand
uses? What did it matter to Dolly that Griffith's literary career had so
far been so unremunerative that a new suit is as an event, and an extra
shilling an era? What did it matter to Griffith that Dolly's dresses
were re-trimmed and re-turned and re-furbished, until their reappearance
with the various seasons was the opening of a High Carnival of jokes?
Love is not a matter of bread and butter in Vaga-bondia, thank Heaven!
Love is left to Bohemia as well as to barren Respectability, and, as
Griffith frequently observed with no slight enthusiasm, "When it comes
to figure, where's the feminine Philistine whose silks and satins and
purple and fine raiment fit like Dolly's do?" So it went on, and the
two adored each other with mutual simplicity, and, having their little
quarrels, always made them up again with much affectionate remorse, and,
scorning the prudential advice of outsiders, believed in each other and
the better day which was to come, when one or the other gained worldly
goods enough to admit of a marriage in which they were to be happy in
their own way,--which, I may add, was a way simple and tender, unselfish
and faithful, enough.

It was quite evident, however, that Griffith was not in the best of
spirits this morning. He was not as sanguine as Dolly by nature, and
outward influences tended rather to depress him occasionally. But he
never was so low-spirited that Dolly could not cheer him, consequently
he always came to her with his troubles; and to her credit, be it said,
she never failed to understand and deal with them tenderly, commonplace
though they were. So she understood his mood very well to-day. Something
had gone wrong at "the office." ("The office" was the editorial den
which swallowed him up, and held him in bondage from morning until
night; appropriating his labor for a very small pecuniary compensation,
too, it may be added.) "Old Flynn," as the principal was respectfully
designated, had been creating one of his periodical disturbances, or he
had been snubbed, which, by the way, was not a rare event, and to poor
Griffith slights were stings and patronage poison. He could not laugh at
the enemy and scorn discomfiture as Dolly could, and the consequence of
an encounter with the Philistines on his part was usually a desperate
fit of low spirits, which made him wretched, bitter, and gloomy by
turns.

This morning it appeared that his spirits had reached their lowest ebb,
and before many minutes had passed he was pouring forth his tribulations
with much frankness and simplicity. Mr. Griffith Donne's principal trial
was the existence of an elderly maiden aunt, who did not approve of him,
and was in the habit of expressing her disapproval in lengthy epistolary
correspondence, invariably tending to severe denunciation of his mode of
life, and also invariably terminating with the announcement that unless
he "desisted" (from what, or in what manner, not specified) she should
consider it her bounden duty to disinherit him forthwith. One of these
periodical epistles, having arrived before he had breakfasted, had
rather destroyed Griffith's customary equanimity, and various events of
the morning had not improved his frame of mind; consequently he came to
Dolly for comfort.

"And she's coming to London, too," he ended, after favoring the
assemblage with extracts from the letter. "And, of course, she will
expect me to do the dutiful. Confound her money! I wish she would build
an asylum for irate, elderly spinsters with it, and retire into it
for the remainder of her natural life. I don't want it, and"--with
praiseworthy ingenuousness--"I shouldn't get it if I did!"

"But," said Dolly, when they found themselves alone for a few minutes,
"it would be an agreeable sort of thing to have, Griffith, upon the
whole, wouldn't it?"

They were standing close together by the fire, Griffith with his arm
thrown round the girl's waist, and she with both her plump, flexible
hands clasped on his shoulder and her chin resting on them, and her big,
round eyes gazing up into his. She was prone to affectionate, nestling
attitudes and coaxing ways--with Griffith it may be understood--her
other adorers were treated cavalierly enough.

"A nice sort of thing," echoed Griffith. "I should think it would. I
should like to have it for your sake. I don't care for it so much for
myself, you know, Dolly, but I want the time to come when I can buy you
such things as Old Flynn's nieces wear. It would n't be a waste of good
material on such a figure as yours. I have an idea of my own about a
winter dress I intend you to have when we are rich,--a dark blue velvet,
and a hat with a white plume in, and one of those muff affairs made of
long white silky fur--"

"Angora," said Dolly, her artless enjoyment of the idea shining in her
eyes. "Angora, Griffith."

"I don't know what it's called," answered Griffith, "but it is exactly
your style, and I have thought about it a dozen times. Ah, if we were
only rich!"

Dolly laughed joyously, clasping her hands a little closer over his
shoulder. Their conversations upon prospects generally ended in some
such pleasantly erratic remarks. They never were tired of supposing
that they were rich; and really, in default of being rich, it must be
admitted that there is some consolation in being in a frame of mind
which can derive happiness from such innocent day-dreams.

"Just think of the house we would have," she said, "and the fun we could
all have together, if you and I were rich and--and married, Griffith.
We should be happy if we were married, and not rich, but if we were rich
_and_ married--goodness, Griffith!" and she opened her eyes wide and
looked so enjoyable altogether, that Griffith, being entirely overcome
by reason of the strength of his feelings upon the subject, caught her
in both arms and embraced her heartily, and only released her in an
extremely but charmingly crushed and dishevelled condition, after he had
kissed her about half a dozen times.

It did not appear, upon the whole, that she objected to the proceeding.
She took it quite naturally and unaffectedly, as if she was used to
it, and regarded it as a part of the programme. Indeed, it was quite
a refreshing sight to see her put both her little hands up to her
disarranged hair and settle the crimps serenely.

"We should have the chances to find true people if we were rich," she
said. "And then we could take care, of Aimée and Mollie, and help them
to make grand marriages."

But that very instant Griffith's face fell somewhat.

"Dolly," he said, "have you never thought--not even _thought_ that you
would like to have made a grand marriage yourself?" And though there
was not the least shade of a reason for the change in his mood, it was
glaringly evident that he was at once rendered absolutely prostrate with
misery at the thought.

These sudden pangs of remorse at his own selfishness in holding the girl
bound to him, were his weakness, and Dolly's great difficulty was to
pilot him safely through his shoals of doubt and self-reproach, and she
had her own way of managing it. Just now her way of managing it was to
confront him bravely, coming quite close to him again, and taking hold
of one of his coat buttons.

"I have thought of it a hundred times," she said, "but not since I have
belonged to you; and as I have belonged to you ever since I was fifteen
years old, I should think what I thought before then can hardly have the
right to trouble us now. _You_ never think of marrying any one but me,
do you, Griffith?"

"Think of marrying any one else!" exclaimed Griffith, indignantly. "I
would n't marry a female Rajah with a diamond--"

"I know you wouldn't," Dolly interrupted. "I believe in you, Griffith.
Why won't you believe in me?" And the eyes lifted to his were so
perfectly honest and straightforward that the sourest of cynics must
have believed them, and Griffith was neither sour nor a cynic, but
simply an unsuccessful, affectionate, contradictory young man, too
susceptible to outward influences for his own peace of mind.

He was a _very_ unfortunate young man, it may as well be observed at
once, and his misfortunes were all the harder to bear because he was not
to blame for them. He had talent, and was industrious and indefatigable,
and yet, somehow or other, the Fates seemed to be against him. If he
had been less honest or less willing, he might perhaps have been more
successful; but in his intercourse with the world's slippery ones he
customarily found himself imposed upon. He had done hard work for which
he had never been paid, and work for which he had been paid badly; he
had fought honestly to gain footing, and, somehow or other, luck had
seemed to be against him, for certainly he had not gained it yet. Honest
men admired and respected him, and men of intellectual worth prophesied
better days; but so far it had really seemed that the people who were
willing to befriend him were powerless, and those who were powerful
cared little about the matter. So he alternately struggled and
despaired, and yet retained his good nature, and occasionally enjoyed
life heartily in defiance of circumstances. With every member of the
Crewe household he was popular, from Tod to Mrs. Phil. His engagement
to Dolly they regarded as a satisfactory arrangement. That he was barely
able to support himself, and scarcely possessed a presentable suit of
clothes, was to their minds the most inconsequent of trifles. It was
unfortunate, perhaps, but unavoidable; and their sublime trust in the
luck which was to ripen in all of them at some indefinite future time,
was their hope in this case. Some time or other he would "get into
something," they had decided, and then he would marry Dolly, and they
would all enjoy the attendant festivities. And in the mean time they
allowed the two to be happy, and made Griffith welcome, inviting him to
their little impromptu suppers, and taking care never to be _de trop_ on
the occasion of _tête-à-tête_ conversations.

The _tête-à-tête_ of the morning ended happily as usual. Dolly went back
to her unpicking, and Griffith, finding his ghost of self-reproach laid
for the time being, watched her in a supremely blissful state of mind.
He never tired of watching her, he frequently told her in enthusiastic
confidence. The charm in Dolly Crewe was her adaptability; she was
never out of place, and it had been said that she suited herself to her
accompaniments far oftener than her accompaniments suited themselves
to her. Seeing her in a shabby dress, seated in the shabby parlor, one
instinctively felt that shabbiness was not so utterly unbearable after
all, and acknowledged that it had a brightness of its own. Meeting her
at a clan gathering in the camps of the Philistines, one always found
her in excellent spirits, and quite undamped in her enjoyment of the
frequently ponderous rejoicings. In the Bilberry school-room, among
dog-eared French grammars and lead-pencilled music, education did not
appear actually dispiriting; and now, as she sat by the fire, with the
bright, sharp little scissors in lier hand, and the pile of white merino
on her knees and trailing on the hearth-rug at her feet, Griffith found
her simply irresistible. Ah! the bliss that revealed itself in the
prospect of making her Mrs. Donne, and taking possession of her
entirely! The joy of seeing her seated in an arm-chair of his own, by
a fire which was solely his property, in a room which was nobody else's
paradise! He could imagine so well how she would regard such a state of
affairs as a nice little joke, and would pretend to adapt herself to
her position with divers daring witcheries practised upon himself to the
dethroning of his reason; how she would make innocent, wicked speeches,
and be coaxing and dazzling and mock-matronly by turns; and above all,
how she would enjoy it, and make him enjoy it, too; and yet sometimes,
when they were quiet and alone, would drop all her whimsical little airs
and graces, and make such tender, unselfish, poetic little speeches,
that he would find himself startled in life wonder at the depth
and warmth and generosity of her girlish heart. He often found her
surprising him-after this manner, and the surprise usually came when he
had just been most nearly betrayed into thinking of her as an adorable
little collection of witcheries and whimsicalities, and forgetting that
she had other moods. More than once she had absolutely brought tears
into his eyes, and a thrill to his heart, by some sudden, pathetic,
trustful speech, made after she had been dazzling and bewildering for
hours with her pretty coquetries and daring flashes of wit. No one but
Griffith ever saw her in these intense moods. The rest of them saw her
intense enough sometimes but the sudden, uncontrollable flashes of light
Griffith saw now and then, fairly staggered him. And the poor fellow's
love for her was something akin to adoration. There was only this one
woman upon earth to him, and his whole soul was bound up in her. It was
for her he struggled against disappointment, it was for her he hoped,
it was only the desperate strength of his love for her that made
disappointment so terribly bitter to him. Certainly his love made him
better and sweeter-tempered and more energetic than he would have been
if his life had not been so full of it. His one ambition was to gain
success to lay at her feet. To him success meant Dolly, and Dolly meant
Paradise, an honest Paradise, in which primeval bliss reigned supreme
and trial was unknown. Consequently the bright little scissors glanced
before his eyes a sort of loadstar.

"I did n't tell you that nephew of Old Flynn's had come back, did I?"
he said, at length.

"No," answered Dolly, snipping diligently. "You never mentioned him.
What nephew, and where did he come from?"

"A fellow of the name of Gowan, who has been travelling in the East for
no particular reason for the last ten years. He called on Flynn, at the
office, today, for the first time; and if I had been called upon to
kick him out, I should have regarded it as a cheerful and improving
recreation."

"Why?" laughed Dolly. "Is he one of the Philistines?"

"Philistine!" echoed Griffith, with disgust. "I should think so. A
complacent idiot in a chronic state of fatigue.. Drove up to the door
in a cab,--his own, by the way, and a confoundedly handsome affair it
is,--gave the reins to his tiger, and stared at the building tranquilly
for at least two minutes before he came in, stared at Old Flynn when he
_did_ come in, stared at me, shook hands with Old Flynn exhaustedly, and
then subsided into listening and paring his nails during the remainder
of the interview."

"Which might or might not be discreet under the circumstances," said
Dolly. "Perhaps he had nothing to say. Never mind, Grif. Let us console
ourselves with the thought that we are not as these utterly worthless
explorers of the East are," with a flourish of the scissors.

"Better is a dinner of herbs in Vagabondia, with a garnish of
conversation and _bon-mots_, than a stalled ox among the Philistines
with dulness."

But about an hour after Griffith had taken his departure, as she was
bending over the table, industriously clipping at the merino, a thought
suddenly crossed her mind, which made her drop her scissors and look up
meditatively.

"By the way," she began, all at once. "Yes, it must be! How was it I
did not think of it when Grif was talking? I am sure, it was Gowan, Lady
Augusta said. To be sure it was. Mollie, this exploring nephew of
the Flynns is to partake of coffee and conversation with us at the
Bilberrys' on Friday, if I am not mistaken, and I never remembered it
until now."



CHAPTER II ~ IN THE CAMPS OF THE PHILISTINES.

A TOILET in Vagabondia was an event. Not an ordinary toilet, of course,
but a toilet extraordinary,--such as is necessarily called forth by some
festive gathering or unusual occasion. It was also an excitement after
a manner, and not a disagreeable one. It made demands upon the inventive
and creative powers of the whole family, and brought to light hidden
resources. It also aroused energy, and, being a success, was rejoiced
over as a brilliant success. Respectability might complacently retire
to its well-furnished chamber, and choose serenely from its unlimited
supply of figurative purple and legendary fine linen, without finding a
situation either dramatic or amusing; but in Vagabondia this was not the
case. Having contrived to conjure up, as it were, from the secret places
of the earth an evening dress, are not gloves still necessary? and,
being safe as regards gloves, do not the emergencies of the toilet
call for minor details seemingly unimportant, but still not to be done
without? Finding this to be the case, the household of Crewe rallied all
its forces upon such occasions, and set aside all domestic arrangements
for the time being. It was not impossible that Dolly should have
prepared for a rejoicing without the assistance of Mollie and Aimée,
Mrs. Phil and Tod, with occasional artistic suggestions from Phil and
any particular friend of the family who chanced to be below-stairs,
within hearing distance. It might not have appeared an impossibility, I
should say, to ordinary people, but the household of Crewe regarded
it as such, and accordingly, on the night of the Bilberry gathering,
accompanied Dolly in a body to her tiring-room.

Upon the bed lay the merino dress, white, modest, and untrimmed,
save for the swan's-down accompaniments, but fitting to a shade and
exhibiting an artistic sweep of train.

"It is a discreet sort of garment," said Dolly, by way of comment;
"and it is 'suitable to our social position.' Do you remember when
Lady Augusta said that about my black alpaca, girls? Pleasant little
observation, was n't it? 'Toinette, I trust hair-pins are not injurious
to infantile digestive organs. If they are, perhaps it would be as well
to convince Tod that such is the case. What is the matter, Mollie?"

Mollie, leaning upon the dressing-table in her favorite attitude, was
looking rather discontented. She was looking very pretty, also, it might
be said. Her sleepy, warm brown eyes, being upraised to Dolly, showed
larger and warmer and browner than usual; the heavy brown locks,
tumbling down over her shoulders, caught a sort of brownish, coppery
shade in the flare of gas-light; there was a flush on her soft cheeks,
and her ripe lips were curved in a lovely dissatisfaction. Hence Dolly's
remark.

"I wish I was going," said the child.

Dolly's eyes flew open wide, in a very sublimity of astonishment.

"Wish you were going?" she echoed. "To the Bilberrys'?"

Mollie nodded.

"Yes, even there. I want to go somewhere. I think I should enjoy myself
a little anywhere. I should like to see the people, and hear them talk,
and find out what they do, and wear an evening dress."

Dolly gazed at her in mingled pity and bewilderment.

"Mollie," she said, "you are very innocent; and I always knew you were
very innocent; but I did not know you were as innocent as this,--so
utterly free from human guile that you could imagine pleasure in a
Bilberry rejoicing. And I believe," still regarding her with that
questioning pity, "--I believe you really _could_. I must keep an eye on
you, Mollie. You are too unsophisticated to be out of danger."

It was characteristic of her good-natured sympathy for the girl that it
should occur to her the next minute that perhaps it might please her to
see herself donned even in such modest finery as the white merino. She
understood her simple longings after unattainable glories so thoroughly,
and she was so ready to amuse her to the best of her ability. So she
suggested it.

"Put it on, Mollie," she said, "and let us see how you would look in it.
I should like to see you in full dress."

The child rose with some faint stir of interest in her manner and went
to the bed.

"It wouldn't be long enough for me if it wasn't for the train," she
said; "but the train will make it long enough nearly, and I can pull it
together at the waist."

She put it on at the bedside, and then came forward to the toilet-table;
and Dolly, catching sight of her in the glass as she advanced, turned
round with a start.

Standing in the light; the soft heavy white folds draping themselves
about her statuesque curves of form as they might have draped themselves
about the limbs of some young marble Grace or Goddess, with her white
arms and shoulders uncovered, with her unchildish yet youthful face,
with her large-irised eyes, her flush of momentary pleasure and half
awkwardness, she was just a little dazzling, and Dolly did not hesitate
to tell her so.

"You are a beauty, Mollie," she said. "And you are a woman in that
dress. If you were only a Bilberry now, what a capital your face would
be to you, and what a belle you would be!"

Which remarks, if indiscreet, were affectionate, and made in perfect
good faith.

But when, having donned the merino herself, she made her way down the
dark staircase to the parlor, there was a vague ghost of uneasiness in
her mind, and it was the sight of Mollie in full dress which had aroused
it.

"She is so very pretty," she said to herself. "I scarcely knew how very
pretty she was until I turned round from the glass to look at her. What
a pity it is that we are not rich enough to do her justice, and let her
enjoy herself as other girls do. And--and," with a little sigh, "I am
afraid we are a dreadfully careless lot. I wonder if Phil ever thinks
about it? And she is so innocent and ignorant too. I hope she won't fall
in love with anybody disreputable. I wish I knew how to take care of
her."

And yet when she went into the parlor to run the gauntlet of family
inspection, and walked across the floor to show the sweep of her train,
and tried her little opera hood on Tod before putting it on herself, a
casual observer would certainly have decided that she had never had
a serious thought in her life. Griffith was there, of course. At
such times his presence was considered absolutely necessary, and his
admiration was always unbounded. His portion it was to tuck her under
his arm and lead her out to the cab when the train and wraps were
arranged and the hood put on. This evening, when he had made her
comfortable and shut the door, she leaned out of the window at the last
moment to speak to him.

"I forgot to tell you, Griffith," she said, "Lady Augusta said something
about a Mr. Gowan to Mr. Bilberry the other day when she invited me. I
wonder if it is the Gowan you were telling me about? He is to be there
to-night."

"Of course it is," answered Griffith, with sudden discontent. "He is
just the sort of fellow the Bil-berrys would lionize."

It was rather incorrect of Dolly to feel, as she did, a sudden flash
of anticipation. She could not help it. This intense appreciation of a
novel or dramatic encounter with an eligible Philistine was her great
weakness, and she made no secret of it even with her lover, which was
unwise if frank.

She gave her fan a wicked flirt, and her eyes flashed as she did it.

"A mine of valuable information lies unexplored before me," she said.
"I must make minute inquiries concerning the habits and peculiarities of
the people of the East. I shall take the lion in tow, and Lady Augusta's
happiness will be complete."

Griffith turned pale--his conquering demon was jealousy.

"Look here, Dolly," he began.

But Dolly settled herself in her seat again, and waved her hand with an
air of extreme satisfaction. She did not mean to make him miserable,
and would have been filled with remorse if she had quite understood the
extent of the suffering she imposed upon him sometimes merely through
her spirit, and the daring onslaughts she made upon people for whom she
cared little or nothing. She understood his numerous other peculiarities
pretty thoroughly, but she did not understand his jealousy, for the
simple reason that she had never been jealous in her life.

"Tell the cabman to drive on," she said, with a flourish. "There is balm
to be found even in Bilberry."

And when the man drove on she composed herself comfortably in a corner
of the vehicle, in perfect unconsciousness of the fact that she had left
a thorn behind, rankling in the bosom of the poor fellow who watched her
from the pavement.

She was rather late, she found, on reaching her destination. The parlors
were full, and the more enterprising of the guests were beginning to
group themselves in twos and threes, and make spasmodic efforts at
conversation. But conversation at a Bilberry assemblage was rarely a
success,--it was so evident that to converse was a point of etiquette,
and it was so patent that conversation was expected from everybody,
whether they had anything to say or not.

Inoffensive individuals of retiring temperament, being introduced to
each other solemnly and with ceremony, felt that to be silent was to be
guilty of a glaring breach of Bilberry decorum, and, casting about in
mental agony for available remarks, found none, and were overwhelmed
with amiable confusion. Lady Augusta herself, in copper-colored silk of
the most unbending quality and make, was not conducive to cheerfulness.
Yet Dolly's first thought on catching sight of her this evening was a
cheerful if audacious one.

"She looks as if she was dressed in a boiler," she commented, inwardly.
"I wonder if I shall ever live so long--I wonder if I ever _could_ live
long enough to submit to a dress like that. And yet she seems to be
almost happy in the possession of it. But, I dare say, that is the
result of conscious virtue."

It was a very fortunate thing for Dolly that she was not easily
discomposed. Most girls entering a room full of people, evidently
unemployed, and in consequence naturally prone to not too charitable
criticism of new-comers, might have lost self-possession. Not so Dolly
Crewe. Being announced, she came in neither with unnecessary hurry nor
timidly, and with not the least atom of shrinking from the eyes turned
toward her; and, simple and unassuming a young person as she appeared
on first sight, more than one pair of eyes in question found themselves
attracted by the white merino, the white shoulders, the elaborate
tresses, and the serene, innocent-looking orbs.

Lady Augusta advanced slightly to meet her, with a grewsome rustling of
copper-colored stiffness. She did not approve of Dolly at any time, but
she specially disapproved of her habit of setting time at defiance and
ignoring the consequences.

"I am very glad to see you," she said, with the air of a potentate
issuing a proclamation. "I _thought_"--somewhat severely--"that you were
not coming at all."

"Did you?" remarked Dolly, with tranquillity.

"Yes," returned her ladyship. "And I could not understand it. It is nine
o'clock now, and I _believe_ I mentioned eight as the hour."

"I dare say you did," said Dolly, unfurling her small downy fan, and
using it with much serene grace; "but I wasn't ready at eight. I hope
you are very well."

"Thank you," replied her ladyship, icily. "I am very well. Will you
go and take a seat by Euphemia? I allowed her to come into the room
to-night, and I notice that her manner is not so self-possessed as I
should wish."

Dolly gave a little nod of acquiescence, and looked across the room
to where the luckless Euphemia sat edged in a corner behind a row of
painfully conversational elderly gentlemen, who were struggling with
the best intentions to keep up a theological discourse with the Rev.
Marmaduke. Euphemia was the eldest Miss Bilberry. She was overgrown
and angular, and suffered from chronic embarrassment, which was not
alleviated by the eye of her maternal parent being upon her. She was one
of Dolly's pupils, and cherished a secret but enthusiastic admiration
for her. And, upon the whole, Dolly was fond of the girl. She was
good-natured and unsophisticated, and bore the consciousness of her
physical and mental imperfections with a humility which was almost
touching to her friend sometimes. Catching Dolly's eye on this occasion,
she glanced at her imploringly, and then, catching the eye of her
mother, blushed to the tips of her ears, and relapsed into secret
anguish of mind.

But Dolly, recognizing her misery, smiled reassuringly, and made her
way across the room to her, insinuating herself through the theological
phalanx.

"I am so glad you are here at last," said the girl. "I was so afraid
you would n't come. And oh, how nice you look, and how beautifully you
manage your train! I could never do it in the world. I should be sure
to tumble over it. But nothing ever seems to trouble you at all. You
haven't any idea how lovely you were when you went across the room to
mamma.. Everybody looked at you, and I don't wonder at it."

"They would have looked at anybody," answered Dolly, laughing. "They had
nothing else to do."

"That is quite true, poor things," sighed Euphemia, sympathetically.
"You don't know the worst yet, either. You don't know how stupid they
are and can be, Dolly. That old gentleman near the screen has not spoken
one word yet, and he keeps sighing and wiping the top of his bald head
with his pocket-handkerchief until I can't keep my eyes off him, and I
am afraid he has noticed me. I don't mean any harm, I'm sure, but I have
got nothing to do myself, and I can't help it. But what I was going to
say was, that people looked at you as they did not look at others who
came in. You seem different some way. And I'm sure that Mr. Gowan of
mamma's has been staring at you until it is positively rude of him."

Dolly's slowly moving fan became stationary for a moment.

"Mr. Gowan," she said. "Who is Mr. Gowan?"

"One of mamma's people," answered Euphemia, "though I'm sure I can't
quite understand how he can be one of them. He looks so different from
the rest. He is very rich, you know, and very aristocratic, and has
travelled a great deal He has been all over the world, they say. There
he is at that side-table."

Dolly's eyes, travelling round the assemblage with complacent
indifference, rested at last on the side-table where the subject of
Euphemia's remarks sat.

He really was an eligible Philistine, it seemed, despite Griffith's
unflattering description of him.

He was a long-limbed, graceful man, with an aquiline face and superb
eyes, which at this moment were resting complacently upon Dolly herself.
It was not exactly admiration, either, which they expressed, it was
something of a more entertaining nature, at least so Dolly found it,--it
was nothing more nor less than a slowly awakening interest in her which
paid her the compliment of rising above the surface of evident boredom
and overcoming lassitude. It looked as if he was just beginning to study
her, and found the game worth the candle. Dolly met his glance with
steadiness, and as she met it she measured him. Then she turned to
Euphemia again and fluttered the fan slowly and serenely.

"He's nice, is n't he?" commented the guileless Phemie. "If the rest of
them were like him, I don't think we should be so stupid, but as it is,
you know, he can't talk when there is nobody to talk to."

"No," said Dolly. "One could hardly expect it of him. But I wonder why
he does not say something to that thin lady in the dress-cap."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Phemie, "I don't wonder in the least. That is Miss
Berenice MacDowlas, Dolly."

"Miss Berenice MacDowlas!" echoed Dolly, with a start. "You don't say
so?"

"Yes," answered Euphemia. "Do you know her? You spoke as if you did."

"Well--yes--no," answered Dolly, with a half laugh. "I should say I know
somebody who does."

And she looked as if she was rather enjoying some small joke of her own.
The fact was that Miss MacDowlas was no other than Griffith's amiable
aunt. But, of course, it would not have done to tell this to Euphemia
Bilberry. Euphemia's ideas on the subject of the tender passion were
as yet crude and unformed, and Dolly Crewe was not prone to sentimental
confidences, so, as yet, Euphemia and indeed the whole Bilberry family,
remained in blissful ignorance of the very existence of such a person as
Mr. Griffith Donne.

If personal appearance was to be relied upon, Miss MacDowlas was not a
promising subject for diplomatic beguiling.

"We have no need to depend upon her," was Dolly's mental decision. "One
glimpse of life in Vagabondia would end poor Griffith's chances with
her. I wonder what she would think if she could see Tod in all his glory
when 'Toinette and Phil are busy painting."

And her vivid recollection of the personal adornments of Tod at such
times brought a smile to her lips.

She made herself very comfortable in her corner, and, exerting herself
to her utmost to alleviate Euphemia's sufferings, succeeded so-far
that the girl forgot everything else but her enjoyment of her friend's
caustic speeches and satirical little jokes. Dolly was not afraid of
results, and, standing in do awe of public opinion, gave herself up to
the encouraging of any shadow of amusement quite heartily. She was so
entertaining in a small way upon this occasion, that Euphemia's frame of
mind became in some degree ecstatic. From her place of state across
the room, Lady Augusta regarded them with disapproval. It was so very
evident that they were enjoying themselves, and that this shocking
Dorothea Crewe was not to be suppressed. (Dorothea, be it known, was
Dolly's baptismal name, and Lady Augusta held to its full pronunciation
as a matter of duty.) It was useless, however, to disapprove. Behind the
theological phalanx Dolly sat enthroned plainly in the best of spirits,
and in rather a dangerous mood, to judge from outward appearances. There
was nothing of the poor relation about her at least. The little snowy
fan was being manipulated gracefully and with occasional artistic
nourishes, her enjoyable roulades of laughter tinkled audaciously, her
white shoulders were expressive, her gestures charming, and, above all,
people were beginning to look at her admiringly, if not with absolute
envy. Something must be done.

Lady Augusta moved across the room, piloting her way between people on
ottomans and people on chairs, rustling with awe-inspiring majesty;
and, reaching the corner at last, she spoke to the daring Dolly over the
heads of the phalanx.

"Dorothea," she said, "we should like a little music."

This she had expected would be a move which could not fail to set the
young person in her right place. It would show her that her time was not
her own, and that she was expected to make herself useful; and it would
also set to rights any little mistake lookers-on might have previously
labored under as to her position. But even this did not destroy Dolly's
equanimity. She finished the small joke she had been making to Phemie,
and then turned to her august relative with a sweet but trying smile.

"Music?" she said. "Certainly." And arose at once.

Then Lady Augusta saw her mistake. It was only another chance for Miss
Dolly to display herself to advantage, after all. When she arose from
her seat in the corner, and gave a glance of inspection to her train
over her bare white shoulder, people began to look at her again; and
when she crossed the room, she was an actual Sensation,--and to create
a sensation in the Bilberry parlors was to attain a triumph. Worse than
this, also, as her ladyship passed the bald-headed individual by
the screen, that gentleman--who was a lion as regarded worldly
possessions--condescended to make his first remark for the evening.

"Pretty girl, that," he said. "Nice girl,--fine figure. Relative?"

"My daughter's governess, sir," replied her ladyship, rigidly.

And in Dolly's passage across the room another incident occurred which
was not lost upon the head of the house of Bilberry. Near the seat of
Mr. Ralph Gowan stood a vacated chair, which obstructed the passage to
the piano, and, observing it, the gentleman in question rose and removed
it, bowing obsequiously in reply to Dolly's slight gesture of thanks,
and when she took her place at the instrument he moved to a seat near
by, and settled himself to listen with the air of a man who expected to
enjoy the performance.

And he evidently did enjoy it, for a very pleasant little performance it
was. The songs had a thrill of either pathos or piquancy in every
word and note, and the audience found they were listening in spite of
themselves.

When they were ended, Ralph Gowan sought out Lady Augusta in her
stronghold, and placidly proposed being introduced to her young guest;
and since it was evident that he intended to leave her no alternative,
her ladyship was fain to comply; and so, before half the evening was
over, Dolly found herself being entertained as she had never been
entertained before in the camps of the Philistines at least. And as to
the Eastern explorer, boredom was forgotten for the time, and he gave
himself up entirely to the amusing and enjoying of this piquant young
person with the white shoulders.

"Crewe," he said to her during the course of their first conversation.
"I am sure Lady Augusta said 'Crewe.' Then you are relatives, I
suppose?"

"Poor relations," answered Dolly, coolly, and without a shadow of
discomfiture. "I am the children's governess. Trying, is n't it?"

Ralph Gowan met the gaze of the bright eyes admiringly. Even at this
early period of their acquaintance he was falling into the snare
every other man fell into,--the snare of finding that Dolly Crewe was
startlingly unlike anybody else.

"Not for the children," he said. "Under such circumstances education
must necessarily acquire a new charm."

"Thank you," said Dolly.

When supper was announced, Lady Augusta made another attack and was
foiled again. She came to their corner, and, bending over Dolly, spoke
to her in stage-whisper.

"I will bring young Mr. Jessup to take you into the supper-room,
Dorothea," she said.

But Dolly's plans were already arranged, and even if such had not been
the case she would scarcely have rejoiced at the prospect of the escort
of young Mr. Jessup, who was a mild young idiot engaged in the study of
theology.

"Thank you, Lady Augusta," she said, cheerfully, "but I have promised
Mr. Gowan."

And Lady Augusta had the pleasure of seeing her leave the room a minute
later, with her small glove slipped through Ralph Gowan's arm, and the
plainly delighted face of that gentleman inclined attentively toward the
elaborate Frenchy coiffure.

At the supper-table little Miss Crewe was a prominent feature. At her
end of the table conversation flourished and cheerfulness reigned. Even
Euphemia and young Mr. Jessup, who had come down together in a mutual
agony of embarrassment, began to pluck up spirit and hazard occasional
remarks, and finally even joined in the laughter at Dolly's witticism.

People lower down the table glanced up across the various dishes, and
envied the group who seemed to set the general heaviness and discontent
at defiance.

Dolly, accompanied by coffee and cakes, was more at home and more
delightful than ever, so delightful, indeed, that Ralph Gowan began to
regard even Lady Augusta with gratitude, since it was to her he was, to
some extent, indebted for his new acquaintance.

"She is a delightful--yes, a delightful girl!" exclaimed young Mr.
Jessup, confidentially addressing-Euphemia, and blushing vividly at his
own boldness. "I never heard such a laugh as she has in my life. It
is actually exhilarating. It quite raises one's spirits," with mild
_naïveté_.

Euphemia began to brighten at once. She could talk about Dolly Crewe if
she could talk about nothing else.

"Oh, but you have n't seen _anything_ of her yet," she said, in a burst
of enthusiasm. "If you could only see her every day, as I do, and hear
the witty things she says, and see how self-possessed she is, when other
people would be perfectly miserable with confusion, there would be no
wonder at your saying you never saw anybody like her. _I_ never did, I
am sure. And then, you know, somehow or other, she always looks so well
in everything she wears,--even in the shabbiest things, and her things
are nearly always shabby enough, for they are dreadfully poor. She is
always finding new ways of wearing things or new ways of doing her hair
or--or something. It is the way her dresses fit, I think. Oh, dear, how
I do wish the dressmaker could make mine fit as hers do! Just look at
that white merino, now, for instance. It is the plainest dress in the
room, and there is not a bit of fuss or trimming about it, and yet
see how soft the folds look and how it hangs,--the train, you know.
It reminds me of a picture,--one of those pictures in fashionable
monthlies,--illustrations of love stories, you know."

"It is a very pretty dress," said young Mr. Jessup, eying it with great
interest. "What did you say the stuff was called?"

"Merino," answered Phemie.

"Merino," repeated Mr. Jessup. "I will try and remember. I should like
my sister Lucinda Maria to have a dress like it."

And he regarded it with growing admiration just tempered by the effect
of a mental picture of Lucinda Maria, who was bony and of remarkable
proportions, attired in its soft and flowing counterpart, with white
swan's-down adorning her bare shoulders.

"May I ask," said Miss MacDowlas, at the bottom of the table, to Lady
Augusta,--"may I ask who that young lady with the fresh completion
is,--the young lady in white at the other end?"

"That is my governess," replied her ladyship, freezingly. "Miss
Dorothea Crewe."

And Miss MacDowlas settled her eye-glass and gave Miss Dorothea Crewe
the benefit of a prolonged examination.

"Crewe," she said, at length. "Poor relation, I suppose?" with some
sharpness of manner. Dignity was lost upon Miss MacDowlas.

"A branch of my family who are no great credit to it," was the majestic
rejoinder.

"Oh, indeed," was the lady's sole remark, and then Miss MacDowlas
returned to her coffee, still, however, keeping her double eye-glass
across her nose and casting an occasional glance at Dolly.

And just at this particular moment Dolly was unconsciously sealing
Ralph Gowan's fate for him. Quite unconsciously, I repeat, for the
most serious of Dolly's iniquities were generally unconscious. When
she flirted, her flirtations were of so frank and open a nature, that,
bewildered and fascinated though her victims might be, they must have
been blind indeed to have been deceived, and so there were those who
survived them and left the field safe, though somewhat sore at heart.
But when she was in her honest, earnest, life-enjoying moods, and meant
no harm,--when she was simply enjoying herself and trying to amuse her
masculine companion, when her gestures were unconscious and her speeches
unstudied, when she laughed through sheer merriment and was charmingly
theatrical because she could not help it and because little bits of
pathos and comedy were natural to her at times, then it was that the
danger became deadly; then it was that her admirers were regardless
of consequences, and defied results. And she was in just such a mood
to-night.

"Come and see us?" she was saying. "Of course you may; and if you
come, you shall have an insight into the domestic workings of modern
Vagabondia. You shall be introduced to half a dozen people who toil not,
neither do they spin successfully, for their toiling and spinning seems
to have little result, after all. You shall see shabbiness and the spice
of life hand-in-hand; and, I dare say, you will find that the figurative
dinner of herbs is not utterly destitute of a flavor of _piquancy_.
You shall see people who enjoy themselves in sheer defiance of
circumstances, and who find a pathos in every-day events, which, in the
camps of the Philistines, mean nothing. Yes, you may come if you care
to." And Ralph Gowan, looking down at the changeful eyes, saw an almost
tender light shining in their depths,--summoned up all at once perhaps
by one of those inexplicable touches of pathos of which she had spoken.

But even coffee and conversation must come to an end at last, and so the
end of this evening came. People began to drop away one by one, bidding
their hostess good-night with the air of individuals who had performed
a duty, and were relieved to find it performed and disposed of for the
time being. So Dolly, leaving her companion with a bright farewell,
and amiably disposing of Lady Augusta, slipped up-stairs to the
retiring-room for her wraps. In the course of three minutes she
came down again, the scarlet shawl draped around her, and the highly
ornamental hood donned. She was of so little consequence in the Bilberry
household that no one met her when she reappeared. Even the servants
knew that her convenience or inconvenience was of small moment, so the
task of summoning her cab would have devolved upon herself, had it not
been for a little incident, which might have been either an accident
or otherwise. As she came down the staircase a gentleman crossed the
threshold of the parlor and came to meet her,--and this gentleman was no
other than Ralph Gowan.

"Let me have the pleasure of putting you into your--"

"Cab," ended Dolly, with a trill of a laugh,--it was so evident that
he had been going to say "carriage." "Thank you, with the greatest of
pleasure. Indeed, it is rather a relief to me, for they generally keep
me waiting. And I detest waiting."

He handed her into her seat, and lingered to see that she was
comfortable, perhaps with unnecessary caution; and then, when she gave
him her hand through the window, he held it for a moment longer than was
exactly called for by the exigencies of the occasion.

"You will not forget that you have given me permission to call," he
said, hesitating slightly.

"Oh, dear no!" she answered. "I shall not forget. We are always glad to
see people--in Vagabondia."

And as the cab drove off, she waved the hand he had held in an airy
gesture of adieu, gave him a bewildering farewell nod, and, withdrawing
her face from the window, disappeared in the shadow within.

"Great Jove!" meditated Ralph Gowan, when he had seen the last of her.
"And this is a nursery governess,--a sort of escape-valve for the spleen
and ill moods of that woman in copper-color. She teaches them French and
music, I dare say, and makes those spicy little jokes of hers over
the dog-eared arithmetic. Ah, well! such is impartial Fortune," And he
strolled back into the house again, to make his adieus to Lady Augusta,
with the bewitching Greuze face fresh in his memory.

But, for her part, Dolly, having left him behind in the Philistine camp,
was nestling comfortably in the dark corner of her cab, thinking of
Griffith, as she always did think of him when she found herself alone
for a moment.

"I wonder if he will be at home when I get there," she said. "Poor
fellow! he would find it dull enough without me, unless they were all
in unusually good spirits. I wonder if the time ever will come when we
shall have a little house of our own, and can go out together or stay at
home, just as we like."



CHAPTER III. ~ IN WHICH THE TRAIN IS LAID.

"After a holiday comes a rest day." The astuteness of this proverb
continually proved itself in Vagabondia, and this was more particularly
the case when the holiday had been Dolly's, inasmuch as Dolly was
invariably called upon to "fight her battles o'er again," and recount
her experiences the day following a visit, for the delectation of the
household. Had there appeared in the camps a Philistine of notoriety,
then that Philistine must play his or her part again through the medium
of Dolly's own inimitable powers of description or representation; had
any little scene occurred possessing a spice of flavoring, or
illustrating any Philistine peculiarity, then Dolly was quite equal to
the task of putting it upon the family stage, and re-enacting it with
iniquitous seasonings and additions of her own. And yet the fun was
never of an ill-natured sort. When Dolly gave them a correct embodiment
of Lady Augusta in reception of her guests, with an accurate description
of the "great Copper-Boiler costume," the bursts of applause meant
nothing more than that Dolly's imitative gifts were in good condition,
and that the "great Copper-Boiler costume" was a success. Then, the
feminine mind being keenly alive to an interest in earthly vanities, an
enlargement on Philistine adornments was considered necessary, and Dolly
always rendered herself popular by a minute description of the reigning
fashions, as displayed by the Bilberry element. She found herself quite
repaid for the trouble of going into detail, by the unsophisticated
pleasure in Mollie's eyes alone, for to Mollie outward furnishings
seemed more than worthy of description and discussion.

Accordingly, the morning after Lady Augusta's _conversazione_, Dolly
gave herself up to the task of enlivening the household. It was Saturday
morning, fortunately, and on Saturday her visits to the Bilberry mansion
were dispensed with, so she was quite at liberty to seat herself by
the fire, with Tod in her arms, and recount the events of the evening.
Somehow or other, she had almost regarded him as a special charge
from the first. She had always been a favorite with him, as she was a
favorite with most children. She was just as natural and thoroughly at
home with Tod in her arms, or clambering over her feet, or clutching at
the trimmings of her dress, as she was under any other circumstances;
and when on this occasion Griffith came in at noon to hear the news, and
found her kneeling upon the carpet with outstretched hands teaching the
pretty little tottering fellow to walk, he felt her simply irresistible.

"Come to Aunt Dolly," she was saying. "Tod, come to Aunt Dolly." And
then she looked up laughing. "Look at him, Griffith," she said. "He has
walked all the way from that arm-chair." And then she made a rush at
the child, and caught him in her arms with a little whirl, and jumped
up with such a light-hearted enjoyment of the whole affair that it was
positively exciting to look at her.

It was quite natural--indeed, it would have been quite unnatural if she
had not found her usual abiding-place in her lover's encircling arm
at once, even with Tod conveniently established on one of her own,
and evidently regarding his own proximity upon such an occasion as
remarkable if nothing else. That arm of Griffith's usually _did_ slip
around her waist even at the most ordinary times, and long use had
so accustomed Dolly to the habit that she would have experienced some
slight feeling of astonishment if the familiarity had been omitted.

It was rather a surprise to the young man to find that Miss MacDowlas
had appeared upon the scene, and that she had partaken of coffee and
conversation in the flesh the evening before.

"But it's just like her," he said. "She is the sort of relative who
always _does_ turn up unexpectedly, Dolly. How does she look?"

"Juvenescent," said Dolly; "depressingly so to persons who rely upon her
for the realizing of expectations. A very few minutes satisfied me that
I should never become Mrs. Griffith Donne upon _her_ money. It is a
very fortunate thing for us that we are of Vagabondian antecedents,
Griffith,--just see how we might trouble ourselves, and wear our
patience out over Miss MacDowlas, if we troubled ourselves about
anything. This being utterly free from the care of worldly possessions
makes one touchingly disinterested. Since we have nothing to expect, we
are perfectly willing to wait until we get it."

She had thought so little about Ralph Gowan,--once losing sight of
him, as he stood watching her on the pavement, that in discussing other
subjects she had forgotten to mention him, and it was only Mollie's
entrance into the room that brought him upon the carpet.

Coming in, with her hair bunched up in a lovely, disorderly knot, and
the dimple on her left cheek artistically accentuated by a small patch
of black, the youngest Miss Crewe yet appeared to advantage, when, after
appropriating Tod, she slipped down into a sitting posture with him on
the carpet, in the midst of the amplitude of folds of Lady Augusta's
once gorgeous wrapper.

"Have you told him about the great Copper-Boiler costume, Dolly?" she
said, bending down so that one brown tress hung swaying before Tod's
eyes. "Has she, Griffith?"

"Yes," answered Griffith, looking at her with a vague sense of
admiration. He shared all Dolly's enthusiasm on the subject of Mollie's
prettiness.

"Was n't it good? I wish I was as cool as Dolly is. And poor Phemie--and
the gentleman who made love to you all the evening, Dolly. What was his
name? Was n't it Gowan?"

Griffith's eyes turned toward Dolly that instant.

"Gowan!" he exclaimed. "You didn't say anything about him. You didn't
even say he was there."

"Did n't she?" said Mollie, looking up with innocently wide-open eyes.
"Why, he made love to her all--"

"I wish you would n't talk such rubbish, Mollie," Dolly interrupted
her--a trifle sharply because she understood the cloud on her lover's
face so well. "Who said Mr. Gowan made love to me? Not I, you may be
sure. I told you he talked to me, and that was all."

"You did not tell _me_ that much," said Griffith, dryly.

It would scarcely have been human nature for Dolly not to have fired a
little then, in spite of herself. She was constitutionally good-natured,
but she was not seraphic, and her lover's rather excusable jealousy
was specially hard to bear, when, as upon this occasion, it had no real
foundation.

"I did not think it necessary," she said; "and, besides, I forgot;
but if you wish to know the particulars," with a stiff little air
of dignity, "I can give them you. Mr. Gowan was there, and found the
evening stupid, as every one else did. There was no one else to talk to,
so he talked to me, and when I came home he put me into the cab. And,
the fact is, he is a good-natured Philistine enough. That is all, I
believe, unless you would like me to try to record all he said."

"No, thank you," answered Griffith, and instantly began to torture
himself with imagining what he really had said, making the very natural
mistake of imagining what he would have said himself, and then giving
Ralph Gowan credit for having perpetrated like tender gallantries. He
never could divest himself of the idea that every living man found
Dolly as entrancing as he found her himself. It could only be one man's
bitter-sweet portion to be as desperately and inconsolably in love with
her as he was himself, and no other than himself, or a man who might be
his exact prototype, could have cherished a love at once so strong and
so weak. There had been other men who had loved Dolly Crewe,---adored
her for a while, in fact, and imagined themselves wretches because they
had been unsuccessful; but they had generally outlived their despair,
and their adoration, cooling for want of sustenance, had usually settled
down into a comfortable admiring liking for the cause of their
misery, but it would never have been so with Griffith. This ordinary,
hard-working, ill-paid young man had passionate impulse and hidden power
of suffering enough in his restive nature to make a broken hope a
broken life to him. His long-cherished love for the shabbily attired,
often-snubbed, dauntless young person yclept Dorothea Crewe was the
mainspring of his existence. He would have done daring deeds of valor
for her sake, if circumstances had called upon him to comfort himself
in such tragic manner; had he been a knight of olden time, he would just
have been the chivalrous, hotheaded, but affectionate young man to have
entered the lists in his love's behalf, and tilted against tremendous
odds, and died unvanquished; but living in the nineteenth century, his
impetuosity, being necessarily restrained, became concentrated upon one
point, and chafed him terribly at times. Without Dolly, he would have
been without an object in life; with Dolly, he was willing to face
any amount of discouragement and misfortune; and at this stage of his
affection--after years of belief in that far-off blissful future--to
lose her would have brought him wreck and ruin.

So when Dolly, in the full consciousness of present freedom from
iniquity, withdrew herself from his encircling arm and turned her
attention to Tod and Mollie, he was far more wretched than he had any
right to be, and stood watching them, and gnawing his slender mustache,
gloomy and distrustful.

But this could not last long, of course. They might quarrel, but they
always made friends; and when in a short time Mollie, doubtless feeling
herself a trifle in the way, left the room with the child, Dolly's
impulsive warm-heartedness got the better of her upon this occasion as
upon all others.

She came back to her lover's side and laid her hand on his arm.

"Don't let us quarrel about Ralph Gowan, Griffith," she said. "It was my
fault; I ought to have told you."

He fairly crushed her in his remorseful embrace almost before she had
finished her appeal. His distrust of her was as easily overcome as it
was roused; one touch of her hand, one suspicion of a tremor in her
voice, always conquered him and reduced him to penitent submission.

"You are an angel," he said, "and I am an unfeeling clod. No other woman
would bear with me as you do. God bless you, Dolly."

She nestled within his arms and took his caresses almost gratefully.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to have shown him how deep a sting his
want of faith gave her sometimes, but she was always so glad when their
misunderstandings were at an end, that she would not have so revenged
herself upon him for the world. The cool, audacious self she exhibited
in the camps of the Philistines was never shown to Griffith; in her
intercourse with him she was only a slightly intensified edition of the
child he had fallen in love with years before,--a bright, quick-witted
child, with a deep nature and an immense faculty for loving and clinging
to people. Dolly at twenty-two was pretty much what she had been at
fifteen, when they had quarrelled and made up again, loved each other
and romanced over the future brilliancy of prospect which now seemed
just as far off as ever.

In five minutes after the clearing away of the temporary cloud, they
were in a seventh heaven of bliss, as usual. In some of his wanderings
about town, Griffith had met with a modest house, which would have been
the very thing for them if they had possessed about double the income of
which they were at present in receipt. He often met with houses of this
kind; they seemed, in fact, to present themselves to his longing vision
every week of his life; and I think it rather to his credit to mention
that he never failed to describe them to Dolly, and enlarge upon their
merits with much eloquence. Furniture warehouses also were a source of
some simple pleasure to them. _If_ they possessed the income (not that
they had the remotest prospect of possessing it), and rented the house,
naturally they would require furniture, and it was encouraging to
know that the necessary articles might be bought _if_ the money was
forthcoming. Consequently a low-priced table or a cheap sofa was a
consolation, if not a source of rejoicing, and their happiest hours were
spent in counting the cost of parlor carpets never to be purchased,
and window curtains of thin air. They even economized sternly in minor
matters, and debated the expenditure of an extra shilling as closely as
if it had been a matter entailing the deepest anxiety; and on the whole,
perhaps, practical persons might have condemned their affectionate,
hopeful weakness as childish and nonsensical, but they were happy in the
indulgence of it, at all events, and surely they might have been engaged
in a less tender and more worldly pastime. There were other people,
perhaps, weak and imprudent themselves it may be, who would have seen a
touch of simple pathos in this unconsciously shown faith in Fortune and
her not too kindly moods.

"Old Flynn ought to raise my salary, you know, Dolly," said Griffith. "I
work hard enough for him, confound him!" somewhat irrelevantly, but with
laudable and not unamiable vigor. He meant no harm to "Old Flynn;" he
would have done a good-natured thing for him at any moment, the mild
expletive was simply the result of adopted custom. "There is n't a
fellow in the place who does as much as I do. I worked from seven in
the morning till midnight every day last week, and I wrote half his
editorials for him, and nobody knows he does n't get them up himself. If
he would only give me two hundred instead of one, just see how we could
live."

"We could live on a hundred and fifty," put in Dolly, with an air of
practical speculation which did her credit, "if we were economical."

"Well, say a hundred and fifty, then," returned Griffith, quite as
seriously, "for we should be economical. Say a hundred and fifty. It
would be nothing to him,--confound him!--but it would be everything in
the world to us. That house in the suburbs was only thirty pounds,
taxes and all, and it was just the very thing we should want if we were
married."

"How many rooms?" asked Dolly.

"Six, and kitchen and cupboards and all that sort of contrivances. I
asked particularly--went to see the landlord to inquire and see what
repairing he would do if we wanted the place. There is a garden of a
few yards in the front, too, and one or two rose-bushes. I don't know
whether they ever bloom, but if they do, you could wear them in your
hair. I thought of that the minute I saw them. The first time I saw you,
Dolly, you had a rose in your hair, and I remember thinking I had never
seen a flower worn in the same way. Other girls do n't wear things as
you wear them somehow or other."

Dolly acknowledged the compliment with a laugh and a coaxing,
patronizing little squeeze of his arm. .

"You think they don't," she said, "you affectionate old fellow, that is
it. Well, and what did the landlord say? Would he beautify?"

"Well, yes, I think he would if the matter was pressed," said Griffith,
returning to the subject with a vigor of enjoyment inspiriting to
behold. "And, by the way, Dolly, I saw a small sofa at a place in town
which was just the right size to fit into a sort of alcove there is in
the front parlor."

"Did you inquire the price?" said Dolly.

"Well--no," cheerfully; "but I can, if you would like to know it. You
see, I had n't any money, and did n't know when I should have any, and
I felt rather discouraged at the time, and I had an idea the price would
make me feel worse, so I did not go in. But it was a comfortable, plump
little affair, covered with green,--the sort of thing I should like to
have in our house, when we have one. It would be so comfortable to throw
one's self down on to after a hard day's work, particularly if one had a
headache."

"Yes," said Dolly; and then, half unconsciously and quite in spite of
herself, the ghost of a sigh escaped her. She could not help wishing
things were a trifle more real sometimes, bright and whimsically
unworldly as she was.

"What did that mean?" Griffith asked her.

She wakened up, as it were, and looked as happy as ever in an instant,
creeping a trifle closer to him in her loving anxiety to blind him to
the presence of the little pain in her heart.

"Nothing," she said, briskly. And then--"We don't want much, do we,
Griffith?"

"No," said Griffith, a certain grim sense of humor getting the better of
him. "And we have n't got it."

She laughed outright at the joke quite enjoyably. Even the grimmest of
jocosities wins its measure of respect in Vagabondia, and besides,
her laugh removed the impression her sigh might have created. She was
herself again at once.

"Never mind," she said. (It was always "never mind.") "Never mind, it
will all come right in the end. Humble merit _must_ be rewarded, and if
humble merit isn't, we can only console ourselves with the reasonable
reflection that there must be something radically wrong with the state
of society. Who knows whether you may not 'get into something,' as Phil
says, which may be twenty times better than anything Old Flynn can give
you!" with characteristic Vagabondian hopefulness.

Just at this juncture Phil himself entered, or, rather, half entered,
for he only put his head--a comely, curled head surmounted by a
disreputable velvet cap--half into the room.

"Oh, you are here, are you?" he said. "You are the fellow I want. I am
just touching up something I want to show you. Come into the studio for
a minute or so, Grif."

"It is that picture Mollie sat for," he explained, as they followed him
into the big, barren room, dignified by the name of studio. "I have just
finished it."

Mollie was standing before the picture herself when they went in to look
at it, but she did not turn round on hearing them. She had Tod in her
arms yet, but she seemed to have forgotten his very existence in her
preoccupation. And it was scarcely to be wondered at. The picture was
only a head,--Mollie's own fresh, drowsy-eyed face standing out in
contrast under some folds of dark drapery thrown over the brown hair
like a monk's cowl, two or three autumn-tinted oak leaves clinging to
a straying tress,--but it was effective and novel enough to be a
trifle startling. And Mollie was looking at it with a growing shadow of
pleasure in her expression. She was slowly awakening to a sense of its
beauty, and she was by no means dissatisfied.

"It is lovely!" Dolly cried out, enthusiastically.

"So it is," said Griffith. "And as like her as art can make it. It's a
success, Phil."

Phil stepped back with a critical air to give it a new inspection.

"Yes, it is a success," he said. "Just give me a chance to get it hung
well, and it will draw a crowd next season. You shall have a new dress
if it does, Mollie, and you shall choose it yourself."

Mollie roused herself for a moment, and lighted up.

"Shall I?" she said; and then all at once she blushed in a way that
made Dolly stare at her in some wonder. It seemed queer to think that
Mollie--careless child Mollie--was woman enough to blush over anything.

And then Aimée and 'Toinette came in, and looked on and admired just as
openly and heartily as the rest, only Aimée was rather the more reticent
of the two, and cast furtive glances at Mollie now and then. But Mollie
was in a new mood, and had very little to say; and half an hour after,
when her elder sister went into the family sitting-room, she found her
curled up in an easy-chair by the fire, looking reflective. Dolly went
to the hearth and stood near her.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

Mollie stirred uneasily, and half blushed again.

"I don't know," she answered.

"Yes, you do," contradicted Dolly, good-naturedly. "Are you thinking
that it is a pleasant sort of a thing to be handsome enough to be made a
picture of, Mollie?"

The brown eyes met hers with an innocent sort of deprecating
consciousness. "I--I never thought about myself in that way before,"
admitted Mollie, naively.

"Why," returned Dolly, quite sincerely, "you must have looked in the
glass."

"Ye-es," with a slow shake of the head; "but it did n't look the same
way in the glass,--it did n't look as nice."

Dolly regarded her with a surprise which was not unmingled with
affectionate pity. She was not as unsophisticated as Mollie, and never
had been. As the feminine head of the family, she had acquired a certain
shrewdness early in life, and had taken a place in the household the
rest were hardly equal to. There had been no such awakening as this for
her. At fourteen, she had been fully and complacently conscious of the
exact status of her charms and abilities, physical and mental. She had
neither under-nor over-rated them. She had smiled back at her reflection
in her mirror, showing two rows of little milk-white teeth, and being
well enough satisfied with being a charming young person with a secure
complexion and enviable self-poise. She understood herself, and
attained perfection in the art of understanding others. Her rather
sharp experience had not allowed _her_ to look in the glass in guileless
ignorance of what she saw there, and perhaps this made her all the
fonder of Mollie.

"What kind of a dress are you going to choose if Phil buys you one?" she
asked.

"Maroon," answered Mollie. "Oh!" with a little shuddering breath of
desperate delight, "how I wish I could have a maroon silk!"

Dolly shook her head doubtfully.

"It wouldn't be serviceable, because you could only have the one, and
you could n't wear it on wet days," she said.

"I should n't care about its being serviceable," burst forth innocent
Vagabondia, rebelling against the trammels of prudence. "I want
something pretty. I do so detest serviceable things. I would stay in the
house all the wet days if I might have a maroon silk to wear when it was
fine."

"She is beginning to long for purple and fine linen," sighed Dolly, as
she ran up to her bedroom afterward. "The saints forefend! It is a bad
sign. She will fall in love the next thing. Poor, indiscreet little
damsel!"

But, despite her sage lamentations, there was even at that moment a plan
maturing in her mind which was an inconsistent mixture of Vagabondia's
goodnature and whim. Mollie's fancy for the maroon silk had struck her
as being artistic, and there was not a Crewe among them who had not
a weakness for the artistic in effect. Tod himself was imaginatively
supposed to share it and exhibit preternatural intelligence upon the
subject. In Dolly it amounted to a passion which she found it impossible
to resist. By it she was prompted to divers small extravagances at
times, and by it she was assisted in the arranging of all her personal
adornments. It was impossible to slight the mental picture of Mollie
with maroon drapery falling about her feet, with her cheeks tinted with
excited color, and with that marvel of delight in her eyes. She could
not help thinking about it.

"She would be simply incomparable," she found herself soliloquizing.
"Just give her that dress, put a white flower in her hair and set her
down in a ballroom, or in the dress circle of a theatre, and she would
set the whole place astir. Oh, she must have it."

It was very foolish and extravagant of course; even the people who are
weakly tolerant enough to rather lean toward Dorothea Crewe, will
admit this. The money that would purchase the maroon garment would have
purchased a dozen minor articles far more necessary to the dilapidated
household; but while straining at such domestic gnats as these articles
were, she was quite willing and even a trifle anxious to swallow
Mollie's gorgeous camel. Such impulsive inconsistency was
characteristic, however, and she betook herself to her bedroom with the
intention of working out the problem of accommodating supply to demand.

She took out her purse and emptied its contents on to her
dressing-table. Two or three crushed bills, a scrap or so of
poetry presented by Griffith upon various tender occasions, and a
discouragingly small banknote, the sole remains of her last quarter's
salary The supply was not equal to the demand, it was evident. But she
was by no means overpowered. She was dashed, but not despairing. Of
course, she had not expected to launch into such a reckless piece of
expenditure all at once, she had only thought she might attain her
modest ambition in the due course of time, and she thought so yet. She
crammed bills and bank-note back into the purse with serene cheerfulness
and shut it with a little snap of the clasp.

"I will begin to save up," she said, "and I will persuade Phil to help
me. We can surely do it between us, and then we will take her somewhere
and let her have her first experience of modern society. What a
sensation she would create in the camps of the Philistines!"

She descended into the kitchen after this, appearing in those lower
regions in the full glory of apron and rolled-up sleeves, greatly to the
delight of the youthful maid-of-all-work, who, being feeble of intellect
and fond of society, regarded the prospect of spending the afternoon
with her as a source of absolute rejoicing. The "Sepoy," as she was
familiarly designated by the family, was strongly attached to Dolly, as,
indeed, she was to every other member of the household. The truth was,
that the usefulness of the Sepoy (whose baptismal name was Belinda) was
rather an agreeable fiction than a well-established fact. She had been
adopted as a matter of charity, and it was charity rather than any
recognized brilliance of parts which caused her to be retained. Phil had
picked her up on the streets one night in time gone by, and had brought
her home principally because her rags were soaked and she had asserted
that she had nowhere to go for shelter, and partly, it must be
confessed, because she was a curiosity. Having taken her in, nobody was
stern enough to turn her out to face her fate again, and so she stayed.
Nobody taught her anything in particular about household economy,
because nobody knew anything particular to teach her. It was understood
that she was to do what she could, and that what she could not do
should be shared among them. She could fetch and carry, execute small
commissions, manage the drudgery and answer the door-bell, when she was
presentable, which was not often; indeed, this last duty had ceased
to devolve upon her, after she had once confronted Lady Augusta with
personal adornments so remarkable as to strike that august lady dumb
and rigid with indignation upon the threshold, and cause her, when she
recovered herself, to stonily, but irately demand an explanation of the
gratuitous insult she considered had been offered her. Belinda's
place was in the kitchen, after this, and to these regions she usually
confined herself, happily vigorous in the discharge of her daily duties.
She was very fond of Dolly, and hailed the approach of her days of
freedom with secret demonstrations of joy. She hoarded the simple
presents of finery given her by that young person with care, and
regarded them in the light of sacred talismans. A subtle something in
her dwarfed, feeble, starved-out nature was stirred, it may be, by the
sight of the girl's life and brightness; and, apart from this, it
would not have been like Dolly Crewe if she had not sympathized, half
unconsciously, half because she was constitutionally sympathetic, with
even this poor stray. If she had been of a more practical turn of mind,
in all probability she would have taken Belinda in hand and attacked the
work of training her with laudable persistence; but, as it was, private
misgivings as to the strength of her own domestic accomplishments caused
her to confine herself to more modest achievements. She could encourage
her, at least, and encourage her she did with divers good-natured
speeches and a leniency of demeanor which took the admiring Sepoy by
storm.

Saturday became a white day in the eyes of Belinda, because, being a
holiday, it left Dolly at liberty to descend into the kitchen and apply
herself to the study of cookery as a science, with much agreeable bustle
and a pleasant display of high spirit and enjoyment of the novelty of
her position. She had her own innocent reasons for wishing to become a
proficient in the art, and if her efforts were not always crowned with
success, the appearance of her handiwork upon the table on the
occasion of the Sunday's dinner never disturbed the family equilibrium,
principally, perhaps, because the family digestion was unimpaired. They
might be jocose, they had been ironical, but they were never severe,
and they always addressed themselves to the occasionally arduous task
of disposing of the viands with an indifference to consequences which
nothing could disturb.

"One cannot possibly be married without knowing something of cookery,"
Dolly had announced oracularly; "and one cannot gain a knowledge of
it without practising, so I am going to practise. None of you are
dyspeptic, thank goodness, so you can stand it. The only risk we run is
that Tod might get hold of a piece of the pastry and be cut off in the
bloom of his youth; but we must keep a strict watch upon him."

And she purchased a cookery book and commenced operations, and held
to her resolve with Spartan firmness, encouraged by private but
enthusiastic bursts of commendation from Griffith, who, finding her out,
read the tender meaning of the fanciful seeming whim, and was so touched
thereby that the mere sight of her in her nonsensical little affectation
of working paraphernalia raised him to a seventh heaven of bliss.

When she made her entrance into the kitchen on this occasion, and began
to bustle about in search for her apron, Belinda, who was on her knees
polishing the grate, amidst a formidable display of rags and brushes,
paused to take breath and look at her admiringly.

"Are yer goin' to make yer pies 'n things, Miss Dolly?" she asked.
"Which, if ye are, yer apern 's in the left 'and dror."

"So it is," said Dolly. "Thank you. Now where is the cookery book?"

"Left 'and dror agin," announced Belinda, with a faint grin. "I allus
puts it there."

Whereupon Dolly, making industrious search for it, found it, and applied
herself to a deep study of it, resting her white elbows on the dresser,
and looking as if she had been suddenly called upon to master its
contents or be led to the stake. She could not help being intense and in
earnest even over this every-day problem of pies and puddings.

"Fricassee?" she murmured. "Fricassee was a failure, so was mock-turtle
soup; it looked discouraging, and the fat _would_ swim about in a way
that attracted attention. Croquettes were not so bad, though they were
a little stringy; but beef _à la mode_ was positively unpleasant. Jugged
hare did very well, but oyster _pâtés_ were dubious. Veal pie Griffith
liked."

"There's somebody a-ringin' at the door-bell," said Belinda, breaking
in upon her. "He's rung twict, which I can go, mum, if I ain't got no
smuts."

Dolly looked up from her book.

"Some one is going now, I think," she said. "I hope it is n't a
visitor," listening attentively.

But it was a visitor, unfortunately. In a few minutes Mollie came in,
studiously perusing a card she held in her hand.

"Ralph," she proclaimed, coming forward slowly. "Ralph Gowan. It's Lady
Augusta's gentleman, Dolly, and he wants to see you."

Dolly took the card and looked at it, giving her shoulders a tiny shrug
of surprise.

"He has not waited long," she said; "and it is rather inconvenient, but
it can't be helped. I suppose I shall have to run up-stairs and present
him to Phil."

She untied her apron, drew down her sleeves, settled the bit of ribbon
at her throat, and in three minutes opened the parlor door and greeted
her visitor, looking quite as much in the right place as she had done
the night before in the white merino.

"I am very glad to see you," she said, shaking hands with him, "and I am
sure Phil will be, too. He is always glad to see people, and just now
you will be doubly welcome, because he has a new picture to talk about.
Will you come into the studio, or shall I bring him here? I think it had
better be the studio at once, because you will be sure to drift there in
the end,--visitors always do."

"The studio let it be, if you please," answered Gowan, wondering, just
as he had done the night before, at the indescribable something in
her manner which was so novel because it was so utterly free from any
suggestion of affectation. It would have been a difficult matter to tell
her that he had not come for any other reason than to see herself again,
and yet this really was the case.

But his rather fanciful taste found Phil a novelty also when she led him
into the studio, and presented him to that young man, who was lying upon
a couch with a cigar in his mouth.

Phil had something of the same cool friendliness of deportment, and,
being used to the unexpected advent of guests at all hours, was quite
ready to welcome him. He had the same faculty for making noticeable
speeches, too, and was amiable, though languid and _débonnaire_, and by
no means prone to ceremony. In ten minutes after he had entered the room
Ralph Gowan understood, as by magic, that, little as the world was to
these people, they had, in their Bohemian fashion, learned through sheer
tact to comprehend and tolerate its weaknesses. He examined the pictures
on the walls and in the folios, and now and then found himself roused
into something more than ordinary admiration. But he was disappointed in
one thing. He failed in accomplishing the object of his visit.

After she had seen that Phil and the paintings occupied his attention to
some extent, Dolly left them.

"I was beginning to think about pies and puddings when you came," she
said, "and I must go back to them. Saturday is the only day Lady Augusta
leaves me, in which to improve in branches of domestic usefulness," with
an iniquitous imitation of her ladyship's manner.

After which she went down to the kitchen again and plunged into culinary
detail with renewed vigor, thinking of the six-roomed house in the
suburbs, and the green sofa which was to fit into the alcove in the
front parlor, growing quite happy over the mental picture, in blissful
unconsciousness of the fact that a train had been that day laid, and
that a spark would be applied that very night through the medium of a
simple observation made by Phil to her lover.

"Gowan was here this morning, Grif, and Dolly brought him into the
studio. He's not a bad sort of fellow for a Philistine, and he seems
to know something about pictures. I should n't be surprised if he came
again."



CHAPTER IV. ~ A LILY OF THE FIELD.

THIS was the significant and poetic appellation which at once attached
itself to Ralph Gowan after his first visit to the studio in Bloomsbury
Place, and, as might have been expected, it was a fancy of Dolly's, the
affixing of significant titles being one of her _fortes_.

"The lilies of the field," she observed, astutely, "are a distinct
class. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his
glory was not arrayed like one of these. Yes, my young friends, Mr.
Ralph Gowan is a lily of the field."

And she was not far wrong. Twenty-seven years before Mr. Ralph Gowan
had been presented to an extended circle of admiring friends as the sole
heir to a fortune large enough to have satisfied the ambitions of half
a dozen heirs of moderate aspirations, and from that time forward his
lines had continually fallen in pleasant places. As a boy he had been
handsome, attractive, and thoroughbred, and consequently popular; his
good looks made him a favorite with women, his good fortune with men;
his friends were rather proud of him, and his enemies were powerless
against him; he found it easy to be amiable because no obstacles to
amiability lay in his path; and altogether he regarded existence as a
comfortable enough affair.

At school his fellows had liked him just as boys as well as men are apt
to like fortunate people; and as he had grown older he had always found
himself a favorite, it may be for something of the same reason. But
being, happily, a gentleman by nature, he had not been much spoiled by
the general adulation. Having been born to it, he carried himself easily
through it, scarcely recognizing the presence of what would have been
patent to men less used to popularity. He was fond of travelling, and so
had amused himself by comfortably arranging uncomfortable journeys and
exploring pleasantly those parts of the earth which to ordinary tourists
would appear unattainable.

He was not an ordinary young man, upon the whole, which was evinced by
his making no attempt to write a book of travels, though he might safely
have done so; and really, upon the whole, "lily of the field" though
chance had made him, he was neither useless nor purposeless, and rather
deserved his good luck than otherwise.

Perhaps it was because he was not an ordinary individual that his fancy
was taken by the glimpse he had caught of life in Vagabondia. It was
his first glimpse of the inner workings of such a life, and its
novelty interested him. A girl of twenty-two who received attention and
admiration in an enjoyable, matter-of-fact manner, as if she was used
to and neither over- nor under-valued it, who could make coffee and
conversation bearable and even exciting, who could hold her own against
patronage and slights, and be as piquant and self-possessed at home as
in society, who could be dazzling at night and charming in the morning,
was novelty enough in herself to make Bloomsbury Place attractive, even
at its dingiest, and there were other attractions aside from this one.

Phil in the studio, taking life philosophically, and regarding the world
and society in general with sublime and amiable tolerance, was as unique
in his way as Dolly was in hers; his handsome girl-wife, who had come
in to them with her handsome child in her arms, was unique also; Mollie
herself, who had opened the door and quite startled him with the mere
sight of her face,--well, Mollie had impressed him as she impressed
everybody. And he was quite observant enough to see the element of
matter-of-fact, half-jocular affection that bound them one to another;
he could not help seeing it, and it almost touched him. They were not a
sentimental assembly, upon the whole, but they were fond of each other
in a style peculiar to themselves, and ready to unite in any cause which
was the cause of the common weal. The family habit of taking existence
easily and regarding misfortunes from a serenely philosophical
standpoint, amused Ralph Gowan intensely. It had spiced Dolly's
conversation, and it spiced Phil's; indeed, it showed itself in more
than words. They had banded themselves against unavoidable tribulation,
and it could not fail to be beautifully patent to the far-seeing mind
that, taking all things together, tribulation had the worst of it.

They were an artistic study, Ralph Gowan found, and so, in his character
of a "lily of the field," he fell into the habit of studying them, as
an amusement at first, afterwards because his liking for them became
friendly and sincere.

It was an easy matter to call again after the first visit,--people
always did call again at Bloomsbury Place, and Ralph Gowan was no
exception to the rule. He met Phil in the city, and sauntered home with
him to discuss art and look at his work; he invited him to first-class
little dinners, and introduced him to one or two men worth knowing;
in short, it was not long before the two were fond of each other in
undemonstrative man fashion. The studio was the sort of place Gowan
liked to drop into when time hung heavily on his hands, and consequently
hardly a week passed without his having at least once or twice dropped
into it to sit among the half dozen of Phil's fellow Bohemians, who were
also fond of dropping in as the young man sat at his easel, sometimes
furiously at work, sometimes tranquilly loitering over the finishing
touches of a picture. They were good-natured, jovial fellows, too, these
Bohemian visitors, though they were more frequently than not highly
scented with the odor of inferior tobacco, and rarely made an
ostentatious display in the matter of costume, or were conspicuously
faultless in the matter of linen; they failed to patronize the
hairdresser, and were prone to various convivialities, but they were
neither vicious nor vulgar, and they were singularly faithful to their
friendships for each other. They were all fond of Phil, and accordingly
fraternized at once with his new friend, adopting him into their circle
with the ease of manner and freedom of sentiment which seemed the
characteristic of their class; and they took to him all the more kindly
because, amateur though he was, he shared many of their enthusiasms.

Of course he did not always see Dolly when he went. During every other
day of the week but Saturday she spent her time from nine in the morning
until five in the afternoon in the rather depressing atmosphere of
the Bilberry school-room. She vigorously assaulted the foundations of
Lindley Murray, and attacked the rules of arithmetic; she taught Phemie
French, and made despairing but continuous efforts at "finishing" her
in music. But poor Phemie was not easily "finished," and hung somewhat
heavily upon the hands of her youthful instructress; still, she was
affectionate, if weak-minded, and so Dolly managed to retain her good
spirits.

"I believe they are all fond of me in their way," she said to
Griffith,--"all the children, I mean; and that is something to be
thankful for."

"They couldn't help being fond of you," returned the young man. "Did any
human being ever know you without being fond of you?"

"Yes," said Dolly; "Lady Augusta knows me; and I do not think--no," with
a cheerfully resigned shake of the head, which did not exactly express
deep regret or contrition, "I really do not think Lady Augusta is what
you might call overwhelmed with the strength of her attachment for me."

"Oh, Lady Augusta!" said Griffith. "Confound Lady Augusta!"

Griffith was one of the very few people who did not like Ralph Gowan,
and perhaps charitably inclined persons will be half inclined to
excuse his weakness. It was rather trying, it must be admitted, for a
desponding young man rather under stress of weather, so to speak, to
find himself thrown into sharp contrast with an individual who had
sailed in smooth waters all his life, and to whom a ripple would have
been a by no means unpleasant excitement; it was rather chafing to
constantly encounter this favorite of fortune in the best of humors,
because he had nothing to irritate him; thoroughbred, unruffled, and
_débonnaire_ because he had nothing of pain or privation to face;
handsome, well dressed, and at ease, because his income and his tastes
balanced against each other accommodatingly. Human nature rose up
and battled in the Vagabondian breast; there were times when, for the
privilege of administering severe corporeal chastisement to Ralph
Gowan, Griffith would have sacrificed his modest salary with a Christian
fortitude and resignation beautiful to behold. To see him sitting in one
of the faded padded chairs, roused all his ire, and his consciousness of
his own weakness made the matter worse; to see him talking to Dolly, and
see her making brisk little jokes for his amusement, was worse still,
and drove him so frantic that more than once he had turned quite pale in
his secret frenzy of despair and jealousy, and had quite frightened the
girl, though he was wise enough to keep his secret to himself. It was
plain enough that Gowan admired Dolly, but other men had admired her
before; the sting of it was that this fellow, with his cool airs and
graces and tantalizing repose of manner, had no need to hold back if
he could win her. There would be no need for him to plan and pinch and
despair; no need for faltering over odd shillings and calculating odd
pence; _he_ could marry her in an hour if she cared for him, and he
could surround her with luxuries, and dress her like a queen, and make
her happy, as she deserved to be. And then the poor fellow's heart would
beat fiercely, and the very blood would tremble in his veins, at the
mere thought of giving her up.

One night after they had been sitting together, and Gowan had just left
the room with Phil, Dolly glanced up from her work and saw her lover
looking at her with a face so pale and wretched that she was thrown into
a passion of fear.

She tossed her work away in a second, and, making one of her little
rushes at him, was caught in his arms and half suffocated. She knew
the instant she caught sight of his face what he was suffering, though
perhaps she did not know the worst.

"Oh, why will you?" she cried out, in tears, all at once. "It is cruel!
You are as pale as death, and I know--I know so well what it means."

"Tell me you will never forget what we have been to each other,"
he said, when he could speak; "tell me you don't care for that
fellow,--tell me you love me, Dolly, tell me you love me."

She did not hesitate a moment; she had never flirted with Griffith
in her life, and she knew him too well to try him when he wore that
desperate, feverish look of longing in his eyes. She burst into an
impetuous sob, and clung to him with both hands.

"I love you with all my soul," she said. "I will never _let_ you give
me up; and as to forgetting, I might die, but I could never forget. Care
for Ralph Go wan! I love _you_, Griffith, I love _you!_"

"And you don't regret?" he said, piteously. "Oh, Dolly, just think of
what _he_ could give you; and then think of our hopeless dreams about
miserable six-roomed houses and cheap furniture."

"You will make me hate him," cried Dolly, her gust of love and pity
making her fierce. "I don't want anything anybody could give me. I only
want you, _dear_ old fellow,--_darling_ old fellow," holding him fast,
as if she would never let him go, and shedding a shower of impassioned,
tender tears. "Oh, my darling, only wait until I am your own wife, and
see how happy I will be, and how happy I will make you,--for I _can_
make you happy,--and see how I will work in our little home for your
sake, and how content I will be with a little. Oh, what must I do to
show you how I love you! Do you think I could have cared for Ralph Gowan
all these years as I have cared for you? No indeed; but I shall care for
you forever, and I would wait for you a _thousand_ years if I might only
be your wife, and die in your arms at the end of it."

And she believed every word she said, too, and would have been willing
to lay down her young life to prove it, extravagant as it may all sound
to the discreet. And she quite believed, too, that she could never have
so loved any other man than this unlucky, jealous, tempestuous one; but
I will take the liberty of saying that this was a mistake, for, being
an impassioned, heart-ruled, unworldly young person, it is quite likely
that if Ralph Gowan had stood in Mr. Griffith Donne's not exactly
water-tight shoes, she would have clung to him quite as faithfully, and
believed in his perfections quite as implicitly, and quite as scornfully
would have depreciated the merits of his rival; but chance had arranged
the matter for her years before, and so Mr. Griffith was the hero.

"Ralph Gowan!" she flung out. "What is Ralph Gowan, or any other man on
earth, to me? Did I love _him_ before I knew what love was, and scarcely
understood my own heart? Did I grow into a woman loving _him_ and
clinging to _him_ and dreaming about him? Have I ever had any troubles
in common with _him_? Did we grow up together, and tell each other all
our thoughts and help each other to bear things? Let him travel in the
East, if he likes,"--with high and rather inconsistent disdain,--"and
let him have ten thousand a year, if he will,--a hundred thousand
millions a year wouldn't buy me from you--my own!" In another burst,
"Let him ride in his carriage, if he chooses,"--rather, as if such
a course would imply the most degraded weakness; but, as I have said
before, she was illogical, if affectionate,--"let him ride in his
carriage. I would rather walk barefoot through the world with you
than ride in a hundred carriages, if every one of them was lined with
diamonds and studded with pearls."

There was the true flavor of Vagabondia's indiscretion and want of
forethought in this, I grant you; but such speeches as these were Dolly
Crewe's mode of comforting her lover in his dark moods; at least, she
was sincere,--and sincerity will excuse many touches of extravagance.
And as to Griffith, every touch of loving, foolish rhapsody dropped upon
his heart like dew from heaven, filling him with rapture and drawing him
nearer to her than before.

"But," he objected,--a rather weak objection, offered rather weakly,
because he was so full of renewed confidence and bliss,--"but he is a
handsomer fellow than I am, Dolly, and it must be confessed he has good
taste."

"Handsomer!" echoed Dolly. "What do I care about his beauty? He is n't
_you_,--that is where he fails to come up to the mark. And as to his
good taste, do you suppose for a second that I could ever admire the
most imposing 'get-up' by Poole, as I love this threadbare coat of
yours, that I have laid my cheek against for the last three years?" And
she bent down all at once and kissed the shabby sleeve.

"No," she said, looking up the next minute with her eyes as bright
as stars. "We have been _given_ to each other, that is it. It was n't
chance, it was something higher. We needed each other, and a higher
power than Fate bound us together, and it was a power that is n't cruel
enough to separate us now, after all these years have woven our lives in
one chord, and drawn our hearts close, and taught us how to comfort and
bear with each other. I was given to you because I could help to make
your life brighter,--and you were given to me because you could help to
brighten mine, and God will never part us so long as we are true."

The coat sleeve came into requisition again then, as it often did. Her
enthusiastic burst ended in a gush of heart-full tears, and she hid her
face on the coat sleeve until they were shed; Griffith in the mean time
touching her partly bent head caressingly with his hand, but remaining
silent because he could not trust himself to speak.

But she became quieter at last, and got over it so far as to look up and
smile.

"I could n't give up the six-roomed house and the green sofa, Griffith,"
she said. "They are like a great many other things,--the more I don't
get them the more I want them. And the long winter evenings we are to
spend together, when you are to read and I am to sew, and we are both to
be blissfully happy. I could n't give those up on any account. And how
could I bear to see Ralph Gowan, or any one else, seated in the orthodox
arm-chair?"

The very idea of this latter calamity occurring crushed Griffith
completely. The long winter evenings they were to spend together were
such a pleasant legend. Scarcely a day passed without his drawing a
mental picture of the room which was to be their parlor, and of the
fireside Dolly was to adorn. It required only a slight effort of
imagination to picture her shining in the tiny room whose door closed
upon an outside world of struggling and an inside world of love and
hope and trust. He imagined Dolly under a variety of circumstances,
but nothing pleased and touched him so tenderly as this fireside
picture,--its ideal warmth and glow, and its poetic placing of Dolly
as his wife sitting near to him with her smiles and winsome ways
and looks--his own, at last, unshared by any outsiders. Giving that
long-cherished fancy up would have killed him, if he could have borne
all the rest. And while these two experienced the recorded fluctuations
of their romance in private, Ralph Gowan had followed Phil into the
studio.

They found Mollie there on going into the room; and Mollie lying upon
the sofa asleep, with her brown head upon a big soft purple cushion,
was quite worthy a second glance. She had been rather overpowered in the
parlor by the presence of Ralph Gowan, and, knowing there was a fire
in the studio, and a couch drawn near it, she had retired there, and,
appropriating a pile of cushions, had dropped asleep, and lay there
curled up among them.

Seeing her, Gowan found himself smiling faintly. Mollie amused him just
as she amused Dolly. It was so difficult a matter to assign her any
settled position in the world; She was taller than the other girls,
and far larger and more statuesque; indeed, there were moments when she
seemed to be almost imposing in presence, but this only rendered her
still more a charming incongruity. She might have carried herself like a
royal princess, but she blushed up to the tips of her ears at a glance,
and was otherwise as innocently awkward as a beauty may be. She was not
fond of strangers either, and generally lapsed into silence when spoken
to. Public admiration only disconcerted her, and made her pout, and the
unceremonious but friendly compliments of Phil's brethren in art were
her special grievance.

"They stare at me, and stare at me, and stare at me," she complained,
pettishly, to Dolly, "and some of them say things to me. I wish they
would attend to their pictures and leave me alone."

But she had never evinced any particular dislike to Ralph Gowan. She was
overpowered by a secret sense of his vast superiority to the generality
of mankind, but she rather admired him upon the whole. She liked to hear
him talk to Dolly, and she approved of his style. It was such a novel
sort of thing to meet with a man who was not shabby, and whose clothes
seemed made for him and were worn with a grace. He was handsome, too,
and witty and polite, and his cool, comfortable manner reminded her
vaguely of Dolly's own. So she used to sit and listen to the two as they
chatted, and in the end her guileless admiration of Dolly's eligible
Philistine became pretty thoroughly established.

When the sound of advancing footsteps roused her from her nap she woke
with great tranquillity, and sat up rubbing her drowsy eyes serenely for
a minute or so before she discovered that Phil had a companion. But when
she did discover that such was the fact she blushed all over, and looked
up at Ralph Gowan in some naïve distress.

"I did n't know any one was coming," she said, "and I was so comfortable
that I fell asleep. It was the cushions, I think."

"I dare say it was," answered Gowan, regarding her sleep-flushed cheeks
and exquisite eyes with the pleasure he always felt in any beauty,
animate or inanimate. "May I sit here, Mollie?" and then he looked at
her again and decided that he was quite right in speaking to her as he
would have spoken to a child, because she _was_ such a very child.

"By me, on the sofa?" she answered. "Oh, yes."

"Are you going to talk business with Phil?" she asked him next, "or may
I stay here? Griffith and Dolly won't want me in the parlor, and I don't
want to go into the kitchen."

"I have no doubt you may stay here," he said, quite seriously; "but why
won't they want you in the parlor?"

"They never want anybody," astutely. "I dare say they are making
love,--they generally are."

"Making love," he repeated. "Ah, indeed!" and for the next few minutes
was so absorbed in thought that Mollie was quite forgotten.

Making love were they,--this shabby, rather un-amiable young man and the
elder Miss Crewe? It sounded rather like nonsense to Ralph Gowan, but
it was not a pleasant sort of thing to think about. It is not to be
supposed that he himself was very desperately in love with Dolly just
yet, but it must be admitted he admired her decidedly. Beauty as Mollie
was, he scarcely gave her a glance when Dolly was in the room,--he
recognized the beauty, but it did not enslave him, it did not even
attract him as Dolly's imperfect charms did. And perhaps he had his own
ideas of what Dolly's love-making would be, of the spice and variety
which would form its characteristics, and of the little bursts of warmth
and affection that would render it delightful. It was not soothing
to think of all this being lavished on a shabby young man who was
not always urbane in demeanor and who stubbornly objected to being
propitiated by politeness.

As was very natural, Mr. Ralph Gowan did not admire Mr. Griffith
Donne enthusiastically. In his visits to Bloomsbury Place, finding
an ill-dressed young man whose position in the household he could not
understand, he began by treating him with good-natured suavity, being
ready enough to make friends with him, as he had made friends with the
rest of Phil's compatriots. But influenced by objections to certain
things, Griffith was not to be treated suavely, but rather resented it.
There was no good reason for his resenting it, but resent it he did,
as openly as he could, without being an absolute savage and attracting
attention. The weakness of such a line of conduct is glaringly patent,
of course, to the well-regulated mind; but then Mr. Griffith Donne's
mind was not well-regulated, and he was, on the contrary, a very
hot-headed, undisciplined young man, and exceedingly sensitive to his
own misfortunes and shabbiness, and infatuated in his passion for the
object of his enemy's admiration. But Ralph Gowan could afford to be
tolerant; in the matter of position he was secure, he had never been
slighted or patronized in his life, and so had no shrinkings from such
an ordeal; he was not disturbed by any bitter pang of jealousy as yet,
and so, while he could not understand Griffith's restless anxiety to
resent his presence, could still tolerate it and keep cool. Yet, as
might be expected, he rather underrated his antagonist. Seeing him
only in this one unfavorable light, he regarded him simply as a rather
ill-bred, or, at least, aggressively inclined individual, whose temper
and tone of mind might reasonably be objected to. Once or twice he had
even felt his own blood rise at some implied ignoring of himself; but
he was far the more urbane and well-disposed of the two, yet whether lie
was to be highly lauded for his forbearance, or whether, while lauding
him, it would not be as well to think as well as possible of his enemy,
is a matter for charity to decide.

It had not occurred to him before that Griffith's frequent and
unceremonious visits implied anything very serious. There were so many
free-and-easy visitors at the house, and they all so plainly cultivated
Dolly, if they did not make actual love to her; and really outsiders
would hardly have been impressed with her deportment toward her
betrothed. She was not prone to exhibit her preference sentimentally in
public. So Ralph Gowan had been deceived,--and so he was deceived still.

"This sort of fellow," as he mentally put it with unconscious
high-handedness, was not the man to make such a woman happy, however
ready she was to bear with him. It was just such men as he was, who,
when the novelty of possession wore off, deteriorated into tyrannical,
irritable husbands, and were not too well bred in their manners. So he
became reflective and silent, when Mollie said that the two were "making
love."

But at last it occurred to him that even to Mollie his preoccupation
might appear singular, and he roused himself accordingly.

"Making love!" he said again. "Blissful occupation! I wonder how they do
it. Do you know, Mollie?"

Mollie looked at him with a freedom from scruples or embarrassment at
the conversation taking such a turn, which told its own story.

"Yes," she said. "They talk, you know, and say things to each other just
as other people do, and he kisses her sometimes. I know that," with a
decided air, "because I have seen him do it."

"Cool enough, that, upon my word," was her questioner's mental comment,
"and not unpleasant for Donne; but hardly significant of a fastidious
taste, if it is a public exhibition." "Ah, indeed!" he said, aloud.

"They have been engaged so long, you know," volunteered Mollie.

"Singularly enough, I did not know, Mollie," he replied. "Are you sure
yourself?"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Mollie, opening her eyes. "I thought everybody knew
that. They have been engaged ever since they were ever so much younger.
Dolly was only fifteen, and Griffith was only eighteen, when they first
fell in love."

"And they have been engaged ever since?" said Gowan, his curiosity
getting decidedly the better of him.

"Yes, and would have been married long ago, if Griffith could have got
into something; or if Old Flynn would have raised his salary. He has
only a hundred a year," with unabashed frankness, "and, of course, they
couldn't be married on that, so they are obliged to wait. A hundred and
fifty would do, Dolly says,--but then, they have n't got a hundred and
fifty."

Ralph Gowan was meanly conscious of not being overpowered with regret
on hearing this latter statement of facts. And yet he was by no means
devoid of generous impulse. He was quite honest, however deeply he might
be mistaken, in deciding that it would be an unfortunate thing for Dolly
if she married Griffith Donne. He thought he was right, and certainly if
there had been no more good in his rival than he himself had seen on
the surface, he would not have been far wrong; but as it was he was
unconsciously very far wrong indeed. He ran into the almost excusable
extreme of condemning Griffith upon circumstantial evidence. Unfair
advantage had been taken of Dolly, he told himself. She had engaged
herself before she knew her own heart, and was true to her lover because
it was not in her nature to be false. Besides, what right has a man with
a hundred a year to bind any woman to the prospect of the life of narrow
economies and privations such an income would necessarily entail?
And forthwith his admiration of Dolly became touched with pity,
and increased fourfold. _She_ was unselfish, at least, whatever her
affianced might be. Poor little soul! (It is a circumstance worthy of
note, because illustrative of the blindness of human nature, that
at this very moment Miss Dorothea Crewe was enjoying her quiet
_tête-à-tête_ with her lover wondrously, and would not have changed
places with any young lady in the kingdom upon any consideration
whatever.)

It is not at all to be wondered at that, in the absence of other
entertainment, Gowan drifted into a confidential chat with Mollie. She
was the sort of girl few people could have remained entirely indifferent
to. Her _naïveté_ was as novel as her beauty, and her weakness, so to
speak, was her strength. Gowan found it so at least, but still it must
be confessed that Dolly was the chief subject of their conversation.

"You are very fond of your sister?" he said to the child.

Mollie nodded.

"Yes," she said, "I am very fond of her. We are all very fond of her.
Dolly 's the clever one of the family, next to Phil. She is n't afraid
of anybody, and things don't upset her. I wish I was like her. You ought
to see her talk to Lady Augusta, I believe she is the only person in the
world Lady Augusta can't patronize, and she is always trying to snub her
just because she is so cool. But it never troubles Dolly. I have seen
her sit and smile and talk in her quiet way until Lady Augusta could do
nothing but sit still and stare at her as if she was choked, with her
bonnet strings actually trembling."

Gowan laughed. He could imagine the effect produced so well, and it was
so easy to picture Dolly smiling up in the face of her gaunt patroness,
and all the time favoring her with a shower of beautiful little stabs,
rendered pointed by the very essence of artfulness. He decided that upon
the whole Lady Augusta was somewhat to be pitied.

"Dolly says," proceeded Mollie, "that she would like to be a beauty; but
if I was like her I should n't care about being a beauty."

"Ah!" said Gowan, unable to resist the temptation to try with a fine
speech,--"ah! it is all very well for _you_ to talk about not caring to
be a beauty."

It did not occur to him for an instant that it was indiscreet to say
such a thing to her. He only meant it for a jest, and nine girls out
of ten even at sixteen would have understood his languid air of
grandiloquence in an instant. But Mollie at sixteen was extremely
liberal-minded, and almost Arcadian in her simplicity of thought and
demeanor.

Her brown eyes flew wide open, and for a minute she stared at him with
mingled amazement and questioning.

"Me!" she said, ignoring all given rules of propriety of speech.

"Yes, you," answered Gowan, smiling, and looking down at her amusedly.
"I have been paying you a compliment, Mollie."

"Oh!" said Mollie, bewilderment settling on her face. But the next
instant the blood rushed to her cheeks, and her eyes fell, and she moved
a little farther away from him.

It was the first compliment she had received in all her life, and it was
the beginning of an era.



CHAPTER V. ~ IN WHICH THE PHILISTINES BE UPON US.

"We are going," Dolly to Ralph Gowan, "to have a family rejoicing,
and we should like you to join us. We are going to celebrate Mollie's
birthday."

"Thanks," he answered, "I shall be delighted." He had heard of these
family rejoicings before, and was really pleased with the idea of
attending one of them. They were strictly Vagabondian, which was one
recommendation, and they were entirely free from the Bilberry element,
which was another. They were not grand affairs, it is true, and set
etiquette and the rules of society at open defiance, but they were
cheerful, at least, and nobody attended them who had not previously
resolved upon enjoying himself and taking kindly to even the most
unexpected state of affairs. At Bloomsbury Place, Lady Augusta's "coffee
and conversation" became "conversation and coffee," and the conversation
came as naturally as the coffee. People who had jokes to make made them,
and people who had not were exhilarated by the _bon-mots_ of the rest.

"Mollie will be seventeen," said Dolly, "and it is rather a trial to
me."

Gowan laughed.

"Why?" he asked.

She shook her head gravely.

"In the first place," she answered, "it makes me feel as if the dust of
ages was accumulating in my pathway, and in the second, it is not safe
for her."

"Why, again?" he demanded.

"She is far too pretty, and her knowledge of the world is far too
limited. She secretly believes in Lord Burleigh, and clings to the
poetic memory of King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid."

"And you do not?"

She held up her small forefinger and shook it at him.

"If ever there was an artful little minx," she said, "that Beggar-maid
was one. I never believed in her. I doubted her before I was twelve.
With her eyes cast down and her sly tricks! She did not cast them down
for nothing. She did it because she had long eyelashes, and it was
becoming. And it is my impression she knew more about the king than
she professed to. She had studied his character and found it weak.
Beggar-maid me no beggar-maids! She was as deep as she was handsome."

Of course he laughed again. Her air of severe worldly experience and
that small warning forefinger were irresistible.

"But Mollie," he said, "with all her belief in Cophetua, you think
there is not enough of the beggar-maid element in her character to
sustain her under like circumstances?"

"If she met a Cophetua," she answered, "she would open her great eyes
at his royal purple in positive delight, and if he caught her looking
at him she would blush furiously and pout a little, and be so ashamed of
her weakness that she would be ready to run away; but if he was artful
enough to manage her aright, she would believe every word he said, and
romance about him until her head was turned upside down. My fear is that
some false Cophetua will masquerade for her benefit some day. She would
never doubt his veracity, and if he asked her to run away with him I
believe she would enjoy the idea. We shall have to keep sharp watch upon
her."

"You never were so troubled about Aimée?" Gowan suggested.

"Aimée!" she exclaimed. "Aimée has kept us all in order, and managed
our affairs for us ever since she wore Berlin wool boots and a coral
necklace. She regulated the household in her earliest years, and will
regulate it until she dies or somebody marries her, and what we are
to do then our lares and pénates only know. Aimée! Nobody ever had any
trouble with Aimée, and nobody ever will. Mollie is more like me,
you see,--shares my weaknesses and minor sins, and always sees her
indiscretions ten minutes too late for redemption. And then, since she
is the youngest, and has been the baby so long, we have not been in the
habit of regarding her as a responsible being exactly. It has struck
me once or twice that Bloomsbury Place hardly afforded wise training
to Mollie. Poor little soul!" And a faint shadow fell upon her face and
rested there for a moment.

But it faded out again as her fits of gravity usually did, and in a
few minutes she was giving him such a description of Lady Augusta's
unexpected appearance upon a like occasion in time past, that he laughed
until the room echoed, and forgot everything else but the audacious
grotesqueness of her mimicry.

It being agreed upon that Mollie's birthday was to be celebrated,
the whole household was plunged into preparations at once, though, of
course, they were preparations upon a small scale and of a strictly
private and domestic nature. Belinda, being promptly attacked with
inflammation of the throat, which was a chronic weakness of hers, was
rather inconveniently, but not at all to the surprise of her employers,
incapacitated from service, and accordingly Dolly's duties became varied
and multitudinous.

Sudden inflammation on the part of Belinda was so unavoidable a
consequence of any approaching demand upon her services as to have
become proverbial, and the swelling of that young person's "tornsuls,"
as she termed them, was anticipated as might be anticipated the rising
of the sun. Not that it was Belinda's fault, however; Belinda's anxiety
to be useful amounted at all times to something very nearly approaching
a monomania; the fact simply was, that, her ailment being chronic, it
usually evinced itself at inopportune periods. "It's the luck of the
family," said Phil. "We never loved a tree or flower, etc."

And so Belinda was accepted as an unavoidable inconvenience, and was
borne with cheerfully, accordingly.

It was not expected of her that she should appear otherwise on the
eventful day than with the regulation roll of flannel about her neck.
Dolly did not expect it of her at least, so she was not surprised, on
entering the kitchen in the morning, to be accosted by her grimy young
handmaiden in the usual form of announcement:--

"Which, if yer please, miss, my tornsuls is swole most awful."

"Are they?" said Dolly. "Well, I am very sorry, Belinda. It can't be
helped, though; Mollie will have to run the errands and answer the
door-bell, and you must stay with me and keep out of the draught.
You can help a little, I dare say, if you are obliged to stay in the
kitchen."

"Yes, 'm," said Belinda, and then sidling up to the dresser, and rubbing
her nose in an abasement of spirit, which resulted in divers startling
adornments of that already rather highly ornamented feature. "If yer
please, 'm," she said, "I 'm very sorry, Miss Dolly. Seems like I ain't
never o' no use to yer?"

"Yes, you are," said Dolly, cheerily, "and you can't help the sore
throat, you know. You are a great deal of use to me sometimes. See how
you save my hands from being spoiled; they would n't be as white as they
are if I had to polish the grates and build the fires. Never mind, you
will be better in a day or so. Now for the cookery-book."

"I never seen no one like her," muttered the delighted Sepoy, returning
to her vigorous cleaning of kettles and pans. "I never seen no one like
none on 'em, they 're that there good-natured an' easy on folk."

It was a busy day for Dolly, as well as for the rest of them, and there
was a by no means unpleasant excitement in the atmosphere of business.
The cookery, too, was a success, the game pâtés being a triumph, the
tarts beautiful to behold, and the rest of the culinary experiments so
marvellous, that Griffith, arriving early in the morning, and being
led down into the pantry to look at them as a preliminary ceremony,
professed to be struck dumb with admiration.

"There," said Dolly, backing up against the wall in her excitement, and
thrusting her hands very far into her apron pockets indeed,--"there!
what do you think of _that_, sir?" And she stood before him in a perfect
glow of triumph, her cheeks like roses, her sleeves rolled above
her dimpled elbows, her hair pushed on her forehead, and her general
appearance so deliciously business-like and agreeably professional
that the dusts of flour that were so prominent a feature in her costume
seemed only an additional charm.

"Think of it?" said Griffith. "It is the most imposing display I ever
saw in my life. The trimmings upon those tarts are positively artistic.
You don't mean to say you did it all yourself?"

"Yes," regarding them critically,--"ev-er-y bit," with a little nod for
every syllable.

"Won-der-ful!" with an air of complimentary incredulity. "May I ask if
there is anything you can _not_ do?"

"There is absolutely nothing," sententiously. And then somehow or other
they were standing close together, as usual, his arm around her waist,
her hands clasped upon his sleeve. "When we get the house in Putney, or
Bayswater, or Peckham Eise, or whatever it is to be," she said, laughing
in her most coaxing way, "this sort of thing will be convenient. And it
_is_ to come, you know,--the house, I mean."

"Yes," admitted Griffith, with dubious cheerfulness, "it _is_ to
come,--some time or other."

But her cheerfulness was not of a dubious kind at all. She only laughed
again, and patted his arm with a charming air of proprietorship.

"I have got something else to show you," she said; "something up-stairs.
Can you guess what it is? Something for Mollie,--something she wanted
which is dreadfully extravagant."

"What!" exclaimed Griffith. "Not the maroon silk affair!"

"Yes," her doubt as to the wisdom of her course expressing itself in
a whimsical little grimace. "I could n't help it. It will make her so
happy; and I should so have liked it myself if I had been in her place."

She had been going to lead him up-stairs to show it to him as it lay in
state, locked up in the parlor, but all at once she changed her mind.

"No," she said; "I think you had better not see it until Mollie comes
down in state. It will look best then; so I won't spoil the effect by
letting you see it now."

Griffith had brought his offering, too,--not much of an offering,
perhaps, but worth a good deal when valued according to the affectionate
good-will it represented. "The girls" had a very warm corner in the
young man's tender heart, and the half-dozen pairs of gloves he produced
from the shades of an inconvenient pocket of his great-coat, held their
own modest significance.

"Gloves," he said, half apologetically, "always come in; and I believe I
heard Mollie complaining of hers the other day."

Certainly they were appreciated by the young lady in question, their
timely appearance disposing of a slight difficulty of addition to her
toilet.

The maroon silk was to be a surprise; and surely, if ever surprise was a
success, this was. Taking into consideration the fact that she had spent
the earlier part of the day in plaintive efforts to remodel a dubious
garment into a form fitting to grace the occasion, it is not to be
wondered at that the sudden realization of one of her most hopelessly
vivid imaginings rather destroyed the perfect balance of her
equilibrium.

She had almost completed her toilet when Dolly produced her treasure;
nothing, in fact, remained to be done but to don the dubious garment,
when Dolly, slipping out of the room, returned almost immediately with
something on her arm.

"Never mind your old alpaca, Mollie," she said. "I have something better
for you here."

Mollie turned round in some wonder to see what she meant, and the next
minute she turned red and pale with admiring amazement.

"Dolly," she said, rather unnecessarily, "it's a maroon silk." And she
sat down with her hands clasped, and stared at it in the intensity of
her wonder.

"Yes," said Dolly, "it is a maroon silk, and you are to wear it
to-night. It is Phil's birthday present to you,--and mine."

The spell was broken at once. The girl got up and made an impulsive
rush at her, and, flinging her bare white arms out, caught her in a
tempestuous embrace, maroon silk and all, laughing and crying both
together.

"Dolly," she said,--"Dolly, it is the grandest thing I ever had in my
life, and you are the best two--you and Phil--that ever lived!" And not
being as eloquent by nature as she was grateful and affectionate, she
poured out the rest of her thanks in kisses and interjections.

Then Dolly, extricating herself, proceeded to add the final touches
to the unfinished toilet, and in a very few minutes Miss Mollie stood
before the glass regarding herself in such ecstatic content as she had
perhaps never before experienced.

"Who is going to be here, Dolly?" she asked, after taking her first
survey.

"Who?" said Dolly. "Well, I scarcely know. Only one or two of Phil's
friends and Ralph Gowan."

Mollie gave a little start, and then blushed in the most pathetically
helpless way.

"Ah!" she said, and looked at her reflection in the glass again, as if
she did not exactly know what else to do.

A swift shadow of surprise showed itself in Dolly's eyes, and died out
almost at the same moment.

"Are you ready?" she said, briefly. "If you are, we will go
down-stairs."

There was a simultaneous cry of admiration from them all when the two
entered the parlor below, and Miss Mollie appeared attired in all her
glory.

"Here she is!" exclaimed 'Toinetté and Aimée, together.

"Just the right shade," was Phil's immediate comment. "Catches the
lights and throws out her coloring so finely. Turn round, Mollie."

And Mollie turned round obediently, a trifle abashed by her own
gorgeousness, and looking all the lovelier for her momentary abasement.

Griffith was delighted. He went to her and kissed her, and praised her
with the enthusiastic frankness which characterized all his proceedings
with regard to the different members of the family of his betrothed. He
was as proud of the girl's beauty as if she were a sister of his own.

Then the object of their mutual admiration knelt down upon the
hearth-rug, before Tod, who, attired in ephemeral splendor, had stopped
in his tour across the room to stare up with bright baby wonder at the
novelty of warm, rich color which had caught his fancy.

"I must kiss Tod," she said; no ceremony was ever considered complete,
and no occasion perfect, unless Tod had been kissed, and so taken into
the general confidence. "Tod, come and be kissed."

But, being a young gentleman of by no means effusive nature, Tod
preferred to remain stationary, holding to the toe of his red shoe
and gazing upward with an expression of approbation and indifference
commingled, which delighted his feminine admirers beyond expression.

"He knows it is something new," said 'Toinette. "See how he looks at
it." Whereupon, of course, there was a chorus of delighted acquiescence,
and Aunt Dolly must needs go down upon the hearthrug, too.

"Has Aunt Mollie got a grand new dress on, Beauty?" she said, glowing
with such pretty, womanly adoration of this atom of all-ruling baby-dom,
as made her seem the very cream and essence of lovableness and sweet
nonsense. And then, Master Tod, still remaining unmoved by adulation,
and still regarding his small circle of tender sycophants with round,
liquid, baby eyes serene, and dewy red lips apart, was so effective
in this one of his many entrancing moods, that he was no longer to be
resisted, and so was caught up and embraced with ecstasy.

"He notices everything," cries Aunt Dolly; "and I 'm sure he understands
every word he hears. He is _so_ different from other babies."

Different! Of course he was different. There was not one of them but
indignantly scouted at the idea of there ever having before existed such
a combination of infantile gifts and graces. The most obtuse of people
could not fail to acknowledge his vast superiority, in spite of their
obtuseness.

"But," remarked Aimée, with discretion, "you had better stand up,
Mollie, or you will crush your front breadths." «

Mollie, with a saving recollection of front breadths, arose, and as it
chanced just in time to turn toward the door as Ralph Gowan came in.

He was looking his best to-night,--that enviable, thorough-bred best,
which was the natural result of culture, money, and ease; and Dolly,
catching sight of Mollie's guileless blushes, deplored, while she did
not wonder at them, understanding her as she did. It was just like the
child to blush, feeling herself the centre of observation, but she
could not help wishing that her blush had not been quite so quick and
sensitive.

But if she had flushed when he entered, she flushed far more when he
came to speak to her. He held in his hand a bouquet of flowers,--white
camellia buds and bloom, and dark, shadowy green; a whim of his own, he
said.

"I heard about the maroon dress," he added, when he had given it to her,
"and my choice of your flowers was guided accordingly. White camellias,
worn with maroon sik, are artistic, Mollie, your brother will tell you."

"They are very pretty," said Mollie, looking down at them in grateful
confusion; "and I am much obliged. Thank you, Mr. Gowan."

"A great many good wishes go with them," he said, good-naturedly. "If
I were an enchanter, you should never grow any older from this day
forward." And his speech was something more than an idle compliment.
There was something touching to him, too, in the fact of the child's
leaving her childhood behind her, and confronting so ignorantly
the unconscious dawn of a womanhood which might hold so much of the
bitterness of knowledge.

But, of course, Mollie did not understand this.

"Why?" she asked him, forgetting her camellias, in her wonder at his
fancy.

"Why?" said he. "Because seventeen is such a charming age, Mollie; and
it would be well for so many of us if we did not outlive its faith and
freshness."

He crossed over to Dolly then, and made his well-turned speech of
friendly greeting to her also, but his most ordinary speech to her had
its own subtle warmth. He was growing very fond of Dolly Crewe. But
Dolly was a trifle preoccupied; she was looking almost anxiously at
Mollie and the camellias.

"He has been paying her a compliment or she would not look so fluttered
and happy," she was saying to herself. "I wish he wouldn't. It may
please him, but it is dangerous work for Mollie."

And when she raised her eyes to meet Ralph Gowan's, he saw that there
was the ghost of a regretful shadow in them.

She had too much to do, however, to be troubled long. Phil's friends
began to drop in, one by one, and the business of the evening occupied
her attention. There was coffee to be handed round, and she stood at
a side-table and poured it out herself into quaint cups of old china,
which were a relic of former grandeur; and as she moved to and fro,
bringing one of these cups to one, or a plate of fantastic little cakes
to another, and flavoring the whole repast with her running fire of
spicy speeches, Gowan found himself following her with his eyes and
rather extravagantly comparing her to ambrosia-bearing Hebe, at the same
time thinking that in Vagabondia these tilings were better done than
elsewhere.

The most _outré_ of Phil's hirsute and carelessly garbed
fellow-Bohemians somehow or other seemed neither vulgar nor ill at ease.
They evidently felt at home, and admired faithfully and with complete
unison the feminine members of their friend's family; and their
readiness to catch at the bright or grotesque side of any situation
evinced itself in a manner worthy of imitation. Then, too, there was
Tod, taking excursionary rambles about the carpet, and, far from being
in the way, rendering himself an innocent centre of attraction. Brown
cracked jokes with him, Jones bribed him with cake to the performance of
before-unheard-of. feats, and one muscular, fiercely mus-tached and
bearded young man, whose artistic forte \yas battle-pieces of the most
sanguinary description, appropriated him bodily and set him on his
shoulder, greatly to the detriment of his paper collar.

"The spirit of Vagabondia is strong in Tod," said Dolly, who at the time
was standing near Gowan upon the hearth-rug, with her own coffee-cup in
hand; "its manifestation being his readiness to accommodate himself to
circumstances."

Through the whole of the evening Mollie and the camellias shone forth
with resplendence. Those of Phil's masculine friends who had known her
since her babyhood felt instinctively that to-night the Rubicon had
been passed. Unconscious as she was of herself, she was imposing in the
maroon silk, and these free-and-easy, good-natured fellows were the very
men to be keenly alive to any subtle power of womanhood. So when they
addressed her their manner was a trifle subdued, and their deportment
toward her had a faint savor of delicate reverence.

Dolly was in her element. Her songs, her little supper, and her plans
of entertainment were a perfect success. Such jokes as she made and such
laughter as she managed to elicit through the medium of the smallest
of them, and such aptness and tact as she displayed in keeping up
the general fusillade of _bon-mots_ and repartee. It would have been
impossible for a witticism to fall short of its mark under her active
superintendence, even if witticisms had been prone to fall short in
Vagabondia, which they decidedly were not. She kept Griffith busy, too,
from first to last, perhaps because she felt it to be the safest plan;
at any rate, she held him near her, and managed to keep him in the best
of spirits all the evening, and more than once Gowan, catching a
glimpse of her as she addressed some simple remark to the favored one,
recognized a certain bright softness in her face which told its own
story. But there would have been little use in openly displaying his
discomfiture; so, after feeling irritated for a moment or so, Ralph
Gowan allowed himself to drift into attendance on Mollie, and, being
almost gratefully received by that young lady, he did not find that the
time passed slowly.

"I am so glad you came here." she said to him, plaintively, when he
first crossed the room to her side. "I do so hate Brown."

"Brown!" he echoed. "Who _is_ Brown, Mollie? and what has Brown been
doing to incur your resentment?"

Mollie gave her shoulders a petulant shrug.

"Brown is that little man in the big coat," she said, "the one who went
away when you came. I wish he would stay away. I can't bear him," with
delightful candor.

"But why?" persisted Gowan, casting a glance at the side of the room
where Dolly stood talking to her lover. "Is it because his coat is so
big, or because he is so little, that he is so objectionable? To be at
once moral and instructive, Mollie, a man is not to be judged by his
coat."

"I know that," returned Mollie, her unconscious innocence asserting
itself; "it is n't that. _You_ couldn't be as disagreeable as he is if
you were dressed in rags."

Gowan turned quickly to look at her, forgetting even Dolly for the
instant,--but she was quite in earnest, and met his questioning eyes
with the most pathetic ignorance of having said anything extraordinary.
Indeed, her faith in what she had said was so patent that he found it
impossible to answer her with a light or jesting speech.

"It is n't that," she went on, pulling at a glossy green leaf on her
bouquet. "If he did n't--if he would n't--if he didn't keep saying
things--"

"What sort of things?" asked Gowan, to help her out of her dilemma.

"I--don't know," was the shy reply. "Stupid things."

"Stupid things!" he repeated. "Poor Brown!" and his eyes wandered to
Dolly again.

But it would not have been natural if he had not been attracted by
Mollie, after all, and in the course of time in a measure consoled
by her. She was so glad to be protected from the advances of the much
despised Brown, that he found it rather pleasant than otherwise to
constitute himself her body-guard,--to talk to her as they sat, and
to be her partner in the stray dances which accidentally enlivened the
evening entertainment. She danced well, too, he discovered, and with
such evident enjoyment of her own smooth, swaying movements as was quite
magnetic, and made him half reluctant to release her when their first
waltz was ended, and she stopped all aflush with new bloom.

"I am _so_ fond of dancing," she said, catching her breath in a little
sigh of ecstasy. "We all are. It is one of the things we _can_ do
without spending any money, you know."

It was shortly after this, just as they were standing in twos and
threes, chatting and refreshing themselves with Dolly's confections
and iced lemonade, that an entirely unexpected advent occurred. There
suddenly fell upon the general ear a sound as of rolling wheels, and a
carriage stopped before the door.

Dolly, standing in the midst of a small circle of her own, paused in her
remarks to listen.

"It is a carriage, that is certain," she said,--"and somebody is getting
out. I don't know "--and then a light breaking over her face in a
flash of horror and delight in the situation commingled. "Phil," she
exclaimed, "the Philistines be upon us,--it is Lady Augusta!"

And it was. In two minutes that majestic lady was ushered in by the
excited Belinda, and announced in the following rather remarkable
manner,--

"If yer please, Miss Dolly, here's your aunt, Mr. Phil."

For a second her ladyship was speechless, even though Dolly advanced to
meet her at once. The festive gathering was too much for her, and the
sight of Ralph Gowan leaning over Mollie in all her bravery, holding
her flowers for her, and appearing so evidently at home, overpowered her
completely. But she recovered herself at length.

"I was not aware," she said to Dolly, "that you were having a"--pause
for a word sufficiently significant--"that you were holding a
reception,"--a scathing glance at the pensive Brown, who was at once
annihilated. "You will possibly excuse my involuntary intrusion. I
thought, of _course_" (emphasis), "that I should find you alone, and
as I had something to say to you concerning Euphemia, I decided to
call tonight on my way from the conversazione at Dr. Bugby's,--perhaps,
Dorothea, your friends" (emphasis again) "will excuse you for a moment,
and you will take me into another room,"--this last as if she had
suddenly found herself in a fever hospital and was rather afraid of
contagion.

But apart from Mollie, who pouted and flushed, and was extremely
uncomfortable, nobody seemed to be either chilled or overwhelmed. Phil's
greeting was so cordial and unmoved that her ladyship could only proffer
him the tips of her fingers in imposing silence, and Dolly's air
of placid good-humor was so perfect that it was as good as a modest
theatrical entertainment.

She led her visitor out of the room with a most untroubled countenance,
after her ladyship had honored Gowan with a word or so, kindly
signifying her intense surprise at meeting him in the house, and rather
intimating, delicately, that she could not comprehend his extraordinary
conduct, and hoped he would not live to regret it.

The interview was not a long one, however. In about ten minutes the
carriage rolled away, and Dolly came back to the parlor with a touch of
new color on her cheek, and a dying-out spark of fire in her eye; and
though her spirits did not seem to have failed her, she was certainly a
trifle moved by something.

"Let us have another waltz." she said, rather as if she wished to
dismiss Lady Augusta from the carpet "I will play this time. Phil, find
a partner."

She sat down to the piano at once, and swept off into one of Phil's
own compositions, and from that time till the end of the evening she
scarcely gave them a moment's pause, and was herself so full of sparkle
and resources that she quite enraptured Gowan, and made the shabby room
and the queer life seem more novel and entrancing than ever.

But when the guests were gone, and only Griffith, who was always last,
remained with Phil and the girls, grouped about the fire, the light died
out of her mood, and she looked just a trifle anxious and tired.

"Girls," she said, "I have some bad news to tell you,--at least some
news that isn't exactly good. Lady Augusta has given me what Belinda
would call 'a warning.' I visit the select precincts of Bilberry House
as governess no more."

There is no denying it was a blow to them all. Her salary had been
a very necessary part of the family income, and if they had been
straitened with it, certainly there would be a struggle without it.

"Oh!" cried Mollie, remorsefully. "And you have just spent nearly all
you had on my dress. And you do so want things yourself, Dolly. What
shall you do?"

"Begin to take in the daily papers and peruse the advertising column,"
she answered, courageously. "Never mind, it will all come right before
long, and we can keep up our spirits until then."

But, despite her assumed good spirits, when she went to see Griffith
out of the front door, she held to his arm with a significantly clinging
touch, and was so silent for a moment that he stooped in the dark to
kiss her, and found her cheek wet with tears.

It quite upset him, too, poor fellow! Dolly crying and daunted was a
state of affairs fraught with anguish to him.

"Why, Dolly!" he exclaimed, tremulously. "Dolly, you are crying!"

And then she did give way, and for a minute or so quite needed the
shelter and rest of his arms. She cared for no other shelter or rest;
he was quite enough for her in her brightest or darkest day,--just
this impecunious young man, whose prospects were so limited, but whose
affection for her was so wholly without limit. She might be daunted,
but she could not remain long uncomforted while her love and trust were
still unchanged. Ah! there was a vast amount of magic in the simple,
silent pressure of the arm within that shabby coat-sleeve.

So, as might be expected, she managed to recover herself before many
minutes, and receive his tender condolences with renewed spirit; and
when she bade him good-night she was almost herself again, and was
laughing, even though her eyelashes were wet.

"No," she said, "we are _not_ going to destruction, Lady Augusta to the
contrary, and the family luck must assert itself some time, since it has
kept itself so long in the background. And in the mean time--well," with
a little parting wave of her hand, "Vagabondia to the rescue!"



CHAPTER VI. ~ "WANTED, A YOUNG PERSON."

THEEE was much diligent searching of the advertising columns of the
daily papers for several weeks after this. Advertisements, in fact,
became the staple literature, and Dolly's zeal in the perusal of them
was only to be equalled by her readiness to snatch at the opportunities
they presented. No weather was too grewsome for her to confront, and no
representation too unpromising for her to be allured by. In the morning
she was at Bayswater calling upon the chilling mother of six (four
of them boys) whose moral nature needed judicious attention, and who
required to be taught the rudiments of French, German, and Latin; in the
afternoon she was at the general post-office applying to Q. Y. Z., who
had the education of two interesting orphans to negotiate for, and who
was naturally desirous of doing it as economically as possible; and at
night she was at home, writing modest, business-like epistles to every
letter in the alphabet in every conceivable or inconceivable part of the
country.

"If I had only been born 'a stout youth,' or 'a likely young man,' or
'a respectable middle-aged person,' I should have been 'wanted' a dozen
times a day," she would remark; "but as it is, I suppose I I must wait
until something 'presents itself,' as the Rev. Marmaduke puts it."

And in defiance of various discouraging and dispiriting influences, she
waited with a tolerable degree of tranquillity until, in the course of
time, her patience was rewarded. Sitting by the fire one morning with
Tod and a newspaper, her eye was caught by an advertisement which,
though it did not hold out any extra inducements, still attracted her
attention, so she read it aloud to Aimée and 'Toinette.

"Wanted, a young person to act as companion to an elderly lady. Apply at
the printers."

"There, Aimée," she commented, "there is another. I suppose I might
call myself 'a young person,' Don't you think I had better 'apply at the
printer's'?"

"They don't mention terms," said Aimée.

"You would have to leave home," said 'Toinette.

Dolly folded up the paper and tossed it on to the table with a half
sigh. She had thought of that the moment she read the paragraph, and
then, very naturally, she had thought of Griffith. It would not be
feasible to include him in her arrangements, even if she made any.
Elderly ladies who engage "young persons" as companions were not in
the habit of taking kindly to miscellaneous young men, consequently the
prospect was not a very bright one.

There would only be letter-writing left to them, and letters seemed such
cold comfort contrasted with every-day meetings. She remembered, too,
a certain six months she had spent with her Bilberry charges in
Switzerland, when Griffith had nearly been driven frantic by her absence
and his restless dissatisfaction, and when their letters had only seemed
new aids to troublous though unintentional games at cross-purposes.
There might be just the same thing to undergo again, but, then, how
was it to be avoided? It was impossible to remain idle just at this
juncture.

"So it cannot be helped," she said, aloud. "I must take it if I can
get it, and I must stay in it until I can find something more pleasant,
though I cannot help wishing that matters did not look so unpromising.
Tod, you will have to go down, Aunt Dolly is going to put on her hat and
present herself at the printer's in the character of a young person in
search of an elderly lady."

Delays were dangerous, she had been taught by experience, so she ran
up-stairs at once for her out-door attire, and came down in a few
minutes, drawing on her gloves and looking a trifle ruefully at them.

"They are getting discouragingly white at the seams," she said, "and it
seems almost impossible to keep them sewed up. I shall have to borrow
Aimée's muff. What a blessing it is that the weather is so cold!"

At the bottom of the staircase she met Mollie.

"Phemie is in the parlor, Dolly," she announced, "and she wants to see
you. I don't believe Lady Augusta knows she is here, either, she looks
so dreadfully fluttered."

And when she entered the room, surely enough Phemie jumped up with a
nervous bound from a chair immediately behind the door, and, dropping
her muff and umbrella and two or three other small articles, caught her
in a tremulous embrace, and at once proceeded to bedew her with tears.

"Oh, Dolly!" she lamented, pathetically; "I have come to say good-by;
and, oh! what shall I do without you?"

"Good-by!" said Dolly. "Why, Phemie?"

"Switzerland!" sobbed Phemie. "The--the select seminary at Geneva,
Dolly, where th-that professor of m-music with the lumpy face was."

"Dear me!" Dolly ejaculated. "You don't mean to say you are going there,
Phemie?"

"Yes, I do," answered Euphemia. "Next week, too. And, oh dear, Dolly!"
trying to recover her handkerchief, "if it had been anywhere else
I could have borne it, but that," resignedly, "was the reason mamma
settled on it. She found out how I _loathed_ the very thought of it,
and then she decided immediately. And don't you remember those mournful
girls, Dolly, who used to walk out like a funeral procession, and how
we used to make fun--at least, how you used to make fun of the lady
principal's best bonnet?"

It will be observed by this that Miss Dorothea Crewe's intercourse with
her pupils had not been as strictly in accordance with her position as
instructress as it had been friendly. She had even gone so far as to set
decorum at defiance, by being at once entertaining and jocular, though
to her credit it must be said that she had worked hard enough for
her modest salary, and had not neglected even the most trivial of her
numerous duties.

She began to console poor Euphemia to the best of her ability, but
Euphemia refused to be comforted.

"I shall have to take lessons from that lumpy professor, Dolly," she
said. "And you know how I used to hate him when he _would_ make love to
you. And that was mamma's fault, too, because she would patronize him
and call him 'a worthy person.' He was the only man who admired you I
ever knew her to encourage, and she would n't have encouraged him if he
had n't been so detestable."

It was very evident that the eldest Miss Bilberry was in a highly
rebellious and desperate state of mind. Dolly's daily visits,
educational though they were, had been the brightest gleams of sunlight
in her sternly regulated existence. No one had ever dared to joke in the
Bilberry mansion but Dolly, and no one but Dolly, had ever made the clan
gatherings bearable to Euphemia; and now that Dolly was cut off
from them all, and there were to be no more jokes and no more small
adventures, life seemed a desert indeed. And then with the calamitous
prospect of Switzerland and the lumpy professor before her, Phemie was
crushed indeed.

"Mamma doesn't know I came," she confessed, tearfully, at last; "but
I could n't help it, Dolly, I could n't go away without asking you to
write to me and to let me write to you. You will write to me, won't
you?"

Dolly promised at once, feeling a trifle affected herself. She had
always been fond of Phemie, and inclined to sympathize with her, and now
she exerted herself to her utmost to cheer her. She persuaded her to
sit down, and after picking up the muff and umbrella and parcels, took
a seat by her, and managed to induce her to dry her tears and enter into
particulars.

"It will never do for Lady Augusta to see that you have been crying,"
she said. "Dry your eyes, and tell me all about it, and--wait a minute,
I have a box of chocolates here, and I know you like chocolates."

It was a childish consolation, perhaps, but Dolly knew what she
was doing and whom she was dealing with, and this comforting with
confections was not without its kindly girlish tact. Chocolates were one
of Phemie's numerous school-girl weaknesses, and a weakness so rarely
indulged in that she perceptibly brightened when her friend produced the
gay-colored, much-gilded box. And thus stimulated, she poured forth her
sorrows with more coherence and calmness. She was to go to Switzerland,
that was settled, and the others were to be placed in various other
highly select educational establishments. They were becoming too old
now, Lady Augusta had decided, to remain under Dolly's care.

"And then," added Euphemia, half timidly, "you won't be vexed if I tell
you, will you?"

"Certainly not," answered Dolly, who knew very well what was coming,
though poor Phemie evidently thought she was going to impart an
extremely novel and unexpected piece of intelligence. "What is it,
Phemie?"

"Well, somehow or other, I don't believe mamma exactly likes you,
Dolly."

Now, considering circumstances, this innocent speech amounted to a rich
sort of thing to say, but Dolly did not laugh; she might caricature Lady
Augusta for the benefit of her own select circle of friends, but she
never made jokes about her before Phemie, however sorely she might be
tempted. So, now she helped herself to a chocolate with perfect sobriety
of demeanor.

"Perhaps not," she admitted. "I have thought so myself, Phemie." And
then, as soon as possible, changed the subject.

At length Phemie rose to go. As Lady Augusta was under the impression
that she was merely taking the dismal daily constitutional, which was
one of her unavoidable penances, it would not do to stay too long.

"So I _must_ go," lamented Phemie; "but, Dolly, if you would n't mind, I
should _so_ like to see the baby. I have never seen him since the day we
called with mamma,--and I am so fond of babies, and he was so pretty."

Dolly laughed, in spite of herself. She remembered the visit so well,
and Lady Augusta's loftily resigned air of discovering, in the passively
degenerate new arrival, the culminating point of the family depravity.

"It is much to be regretted," she had said, disapprovingly; "but it is
exactly what I foresaw from the first, and you will have to make the
best of it."

And then, on Dolly's modestly suggesting that they intended to do so,
and were not altogether borne down to the earth by the heavy nature of
their calamity, she had openly shuddered.

But Phemie had quite clung to the small bundle of lawn and flannel, and
though she had never seen Tod since, she had by no means forgotten him.

"He will be quite a big boy when I come back," she added. "And I should
so like to see him once again while he is a baby."

"Oh, you shall see him," said Dolly. "Tod is the one individual in this
house who always feels himself prepared to receive visitors. He is n't
fastidious about his personal appearance. If you will come into the next
room, I dare say we shall find him."

And they did find him. Being desirous of employing, to the greatest
advantage, the time spent in his retirement within the bosom of his
family, he was concentrating his energies upon the mastication of the
toe of his slipper, upon which task he was bestowing the strictest and
most undivided attention, as he sat in the centre of the hearth-rug.

"He has got another tooth, Aunt Dolly," announced 'Toinette,
triumphantly, as soon as the greetings were over. "Show Aunt Dolly his
tooth." And, being laid upon his back on the maternal knee, in the most
uncomfortable and objectionable of positions, the tooth was exhibited,
as a matter calling forth public rejoicings.

Phemie knelt on the carpet before him, the humblest of his devotees.

"He is prettier than ever," she said. "Do you think he would come to me,
Mrs. Crewe?"

And, though the object of her admiration at once asserted his
prerogatives by openly rejecting her overtures with scorn, she rejoiced
over him as ecstatically as if he had shown himself the most amiable of
infant prodigies, which he most emphatically had not, probably having
been rendered irascible by the rash and inconsiderately displayed
interest in his dental developments. Whatever more exacting people might
have thought, Phemie was quite satisfied.

"I wish I was in your place, Dolly," she said, as she was going away.
"You seem so happy together here, somehow or other. Oh, dear! You don't
know how dreadful our house seems by contrast. If things _would_ break
or upset, or look a little untidy,--or if mamma's caps and dresses just
would n't look so solid and heavy--"

"Ah!" laughed Dolly, "you have n't seen our worst side, Phemie,--the
shabby side, which means worn shoes and old dresses and bills. We don't
get our whistle for nothing in Vagabondia, though, to be sure,"--and
I won't say a memory of the shabby coat-sleeve did not suggest the
amendment,--"I don't think we pay too dearly for it; and I believe there
is not one of us who would not rather pay for it than live without it."

And when she gave the girl her farewell kiss, it was a very warm one,
with a touch of pity in it. It was impossible for her to help feeling
sympathy for any one who was without the Griffith element in existence.

After this she went out herself to apply at the printer's, and was sent
from there to Brabazon Lodge, which was a suburban establishment, in a
chilly aristocratic quarter. An imposing edifice, Brabazon Lodge, built
of stone, and most uncompromisingly devoid of superfluous ornament.
No mock minarets or unstable towers at Brabazon Lodge,--a substantial
mansion in a substantial garden behind substantial iron gates, and so
solid in its appointments that it was quite a task for Dolly to raise
the substantial lion's head which formed the front-door knocker.

"Wanted, a young person," she was saying to herself, meekly, when her
summons was answered by a man-servant, and she barely escaped announcing
herself as "the young person, sir."

Once inside the house, she was not kept waiting. She was ushered into a
well-appointed side-room, where a bright fire burned in the grate. The
man retired to make known her arrival to his mistress, and Dolly settled
herself in a chair by the hearth.

"I wonder how many 'young persons' have been sent away sorrowing this
morning," she said, "and I wonder how Griffith will like the idea of my
filling the position of companion to an elderly lady, or any other order
of lady, for the matter of that? Poor old fellow!" and she gave vent to
an unmistakable sigh.

But the appearance of the elderly lady put an end to her regrets. The
door opened and she entered, and Dolly rose to receive her. The next
instant, however, she gave a little start. She had seen the elderly lady
before, and confronting her now recognized her at once,--Miss Berenice
MacDowlas. And that Miss MacDowlas recognized her also was quite
evident, for she advanced with the air of one who was not at all at a
loss.

"How do you do?" she remarked, succinctly, and gave Dolly her hand.

That young person took it modestly.

"I believe I have had the pleasure--" she was beginning, when Miss
MacDowlas interrupted her.

"You met me at the Bilberrys'," she said. "I remember seeing you very
well. You are Dorothea Crewe."

Dolly bowed in her most insinuatingly graceful manner.

"Take a seat," said Miss MacDowlas.

Dolly did so at once.

Miss MacDowlas looked at her with the air of an elderly lady who was not
displeased.

"I remember you very well," she repeated. "You were governess there. Why
did you leave?"

Dolly did not know very definitely, and told her so.

The notice given her had been unexpected. Lady Augusta had said it was
because her pupils were old enough to be sent from home.

"Oh!" said Miss MacDowlas, and looked at her again from her hat to her
shoes.

"You are fond of reading?" she asked next

"Yes," answered Dolly.

"You read French well?"

"Yes," said Dolly. She knew she need not hesitate to say that, at least.

"You are good company and are fond of society?"

"I am fond of society," said Dolly, "and I hope I am 'good company,'"

"You don't easily lose patience?"

"It depends upon circumstances," said Dolly.

"You can play and sing?"

"I did both the night I met you," returned the young person.

"So you did," said Miss MacDowlas, and examined her again.

It was rather an odd interview, upon the whole, but it did not end
unfortunately. Miss MacDowlas wanted a companion who was quick-witted
and amusing, and, having seen that Dolly was both on the evening of the
Bilberry clan gathering, she had taken a fancy to her. So after a little
sharp questioning, she announced her decision. She would employ her to
fill the vacant situation at the same rate of salary she had enjoyed
in her position of governess to the youthful Bilberrys, and she would
employ her at once.

"I want somebody to amuse me," she said, "and I think you can do it.
I am often an invalid, and my medical man says the society of a young
person will benefit me."

So it was settled that the following week Dolly should take up her abode
at Brabazon Lodge and enter upon the fulfilment of her duties. She
was to read, play, sing, assist in the entertainment of visitors, and
otherwise make herself generally useful, and, above all, she was to be
amusing.

She left the house and proceeded homeward in a peculiar frame of mind.
She could have laughed, but she was compelled to admit to herself that
she could also have cried with equal readiness. She had met with an
adventure indeed. She was a young person at large no longer; henceforth
she was the property of the elderly dragon she had so often laughed at
with Griffith. And yet the dragon had not been so objectionable, after
all. She had been abrupt and unceremonious, but she had been better than
Lady Augusta, and she had not shown herself illiberal. But there would
be no more daily visits from Griffith, no more _téte-à-tétes_ in the
shabby parlor, no more sitting by the fire when the rest had left the
room, no more tender and inconsistently long farewells at the front
door. It was not pleasant to think about. She found herself catching her
breath quickly, with a sound like a little sob.

"He will miss it awfully," she said to herself, holding her muff closely
with her small, cold hands, and shutting her eyes to work away a tear;
"but he won't miss it more than I shall. He might live without me
perhaps, but I could n't live without him. I wonder if ever two people
cared for each other as we do before? And I wonder if the time will ever
come--" And there she broke off again, and ended as she so often did.
"Poor old fellow!" she said. "Poor, dear, patient, faithful fellow! how
I love you!"

She hurried on briskly after this, but she was wondering all the
time what he would say when he found out that they were really to be
separated. He would rebel, she knew, and anathematize fate vehemently.
But she knew the rest of them would regard it as rather a rich joke that
chance should have thrown her into the hands of Miss MacDowlas. They had
all so often laughed at Griffith's descriptions of her and her letters,
given generally when he had been galled into a caustic mood by the
arrival of one of the latter.

Beaching Bloomsbury Place, Dolly found her lover there. He had dropped
in on his way to his lodgings, and was awaiting her in a fever of
expectation, having heard the news from Aimée.

"What is this Aimée has been telling me?" he cried, the moment she
entered the room. "You can't be in earnest, Doll! You can't leave home
altogether, you know."

She tossed her muff on the table and sat down on one of the low chairs,
with her feet on the fender.

"I thought so until this morning," she said, a trifle mournfully; "but
it can't be helped. The fact is, it is all settled now. I am an engaged
young person."

"Settled!" exclaimed Griffith, indignantly. "Engaged! Dolly, I did n't
think you would have done it."

"I could n't help doing it," said Dolly, her spirits by no means rising
as she spoke. "How could I?"

But he would not be consoled by any such cold comfort. He had regarded
the possibility of her leaving the house altogether as something not
likely to be thought of. Very naturally, he was of the opinion that
Dolly was as absolute a necessity to every one else as she was to
himself. What _should_ he do without her? How could he exist? It was an
unreasoning insanity to talk about it. He was so roused by his subject
indeed, that, neither of them being absolutely angelic in temperament,
they wandered off into something very like a little quarrel about
it,--he, goaded to lover-like madness by the idea that she could live
without him; she, finding her low spirits culminate in a touch of anger
at his hotheaded, affectionate obstinacy.

"But it is not to be expected," he broke out at last, without any
reason whatever,--"it is not to be expected that you can contend against
everything. You are tired of disappointment, and I don't blame you.
I should be a selfish dolt if I did. If Gowan had been in my place he
could have married you, and have given you a home of your own. I never
shall be able to do that. But," with great weakness and evidence of
tribulation at the thought, "I didn't think you would be so cool about
it, Dolly."

"Cool!" cried Dolly, waxing wroth and penitent both at once, as usual.
"Who is cool? Not I, that is certain. I shall miss you every hour of my
life, Griffith." And the sad little shadow on her face was so real that
he was pacified at once.

"I am an unreasonable simpleton!" was his next remorseful outburst.

"You have said that before," said Dolly, rather hard-heartedly; but in
spite of it she did not refuse to let him be as affectionate as he chose
when he knelt down by her chair, as he did the next minute.

"It would be a great deal better for me," she half whispered, breaking
the suspicious silence that followed,--"it would be a great deal better
for _me_ if I did not care for you half so much;" and yet at the same
time she leaned a trifle more toward him in the most traitorous of
half-coaxing, half-reproachful ways.

"It would be the death of _me_," said Griffith; and he at once plunged
into an eloquently persuasive dissertation upon the height and depth
and breadth and force of his love for her. He was prone to such
dissertations, and always ready with one to improve any occasion; and
I am compelled to admit that, far from checking him, Dolly rather liked
them, and was given to encourage and incite him to their delivery.
When this one was ended, he was quite in the frame of mind to listen
to reason, and let her enter into particulars concerning her morning's
efforts, which she did, at length, only adding a flavor of the
mysterious up to the introduction of Miss MacDowlas.

"What!" cried out Griffith, when she let out the secret. "Confound it!
No! Not Aunt MacDowlas in the flesh, Dolly? You are joking."

"No," answered Dolly, shaking her head at the amazed faces of the girls,
who had come in during the recital, and who had been guilty of the
impropriety of all exclaiming at once when the climax was reached. "I
am in earnest. I am engaged as companion to no less a person than Miss
Berenice MacDowlas."

"Why, it is like something out of a three-volumed novel," said Mollie.

"It is a good joke," said 'Toinette.

"It is very awkward," commented Aimée. "If she finds out you are engaged
to Griffith, she will think it so indiscreet of you both that she will
cut him off with a shilling."

"Indiscreet!" echoed Dolly. "So we are indiscreet, my sage young
friend,--but indiscretion is like variety, it is the spice of life."

And by this brisk speech she managed to sweep away the shadow which
had touched Griffith's face, at the unconscious hint at their lack of
wisdom.

"Don't say such a thing again," she said to Aimée afterward, when
they were talking the matter over, as they always talked things over
together, "or he will fancy that you share his own belief that he has
something to reproach himself with. Better to be indiscreet than to love
one another less."

"A great deal better," commented the wise one of the family, oracularly.
She was not nineteen yet, this wise one, but she was a great comfort
and help to Dolly, and indeed to all of them. "And it is n't _my_ way
to blame you, either, Dolly, though things _do_ look so entangled. _I_
never advised you to give it up, you know."

"Give it up," cried Dolly, a soft, pathetic warmth and color rising to
her face and eyes. "Give it up! There would be too much of what has
past and what is to come to give up with it. Give it up! I wouldn't if I
could, and I could n't if I would."



CHAPTER VII. ~ IN WHICH A SPARK IS APPLIED.

IT was several days before Bloomsbury Place settled down and became
itself again after Dolly's departure. They all missed her as they would
have missed any one of their number who had chanced to leave them;
but Griffith, coming in to make his daily visits, was naturally almost
disconsolate, and for a week or so refused to be comforted.

He could not overcome his habit of dropping in on his way to and from
his lodgings, which were near by; it was a habit of too long standing to
be overcome easily, and besides this, he was so far a part of the family
circle that his absence from it would have been regarded by its other
members as something rather like a slight, so he was obliged to pay them
the delicate attention of presenting himself at least once a day. And
thus his wounds were kept open. To come into the parlor and find them
all there but Dolly, to see her favorite chair occupied by Mollie
or Aimée or 'Toinette, to hear them talk about her and discuss her
prospects,--well, there were times when he was quite crushed by it.

"If there was any hope of a better day coming," he said to Aimée, who,
through being the family sage, was, of course, the family confidante,
"if there was only something real to look forward to, but we are just
where we were three years ago, and this sort of thing cannot go on
forever. What right have I to hold her to her word when other men might
make her happier?"

Ainice, sitting on a stool at his feet and looking reflective, shook her
head.

"That is not a right view to take," she said, "and it is n't fair to
Dolly. Dolly would be happier with you on a pound a week than she would
be with any one else on ten thousand a year. And you ought to know that
by this time, Griffith. It is n't a question of happiness at all."

"I don't mean--" he was beginning, but Aimée interrupted him. Her part of
this love affair was to lay plans for the benefit of the lovers and to
endeavor to settle their little difficulties in her own way.

"I am very fond of Dolly," she said.

"Fond of her!" echoed Griffith. "So am I. Who isn't?"

"I am very fond of Dolly," Aimée proceeded.

"And _I_ know her as other people do not, perhaps. She does not show as
much of her real self to outsiders as they think. I have often thought
her daring, open way deceived people when it made them fancy she was so
easy to read. She has romantic fancies of her own the world never
suspects her of,--if I did not know her as I do, she is the last person
on earth I should suspect of cherishing such fancies. The fact is, you
are a sort of romance to her, and her love for you is one of her dreams,
and she clings to it as closely as she would cling to life. It is a
dream she has lived on so long that it has become part of herself, and
it is my impression that if anything happened to break her belief in it
she would die,--yes, _die!_" with another emphatic shake of the pretty
head. "And Dolly is n't the sort of girl to die for nothing."

Griffith raised his bowed head from his hands, his soft, dark, womanish
eyes lighting up and his sallow young face flushing. "God bless
her,--no!" he said. "Her life has not been free from thorns, even so
far, and she has not often cried out against them."

"No," answered Aimée. "And when the roses come, no one will see as you
will how sweet she finds them. Your Dolly is n't Lady Augusta's Dolly,
or Mollie's, or Ralph Gowan's, or even mine; she is the Dolly no one but
her lover and her husband has ever seen or ever will see. _You_ can get
at the spark in the opal."

Griffith was comforted, as he often found himself comforted, under the
utterances of this wise one.

His desperation was toned down, and he was readier to hope for the best
and to feel warm at heart and grateful,--grateful for Dolly and the
tender thoughts that were bound up in his love for her. The tender
phantom Aimée's words had conjured up, stirred within his bosom a thrill
so loving and impassioned, that for the time the radiance seemed to
emanate from the very darkest of his clouds of disappointment and
discouragement. He was reminded that but for those very clouds the
girl's truth and faith would never have shone out so brightly. But for
their poverty and long probation, he could never have learned how much
she was ready to face for love's sake. And it was such an innocent
phantom, too, this bright little figure smiling upon him through the
darkness, with Dolly's own face, and Dolly's own saucy, fanciful ways,
and Dolly's own hands outstretched toward him. He quite plucked up
spirit.

"If Old Flynn could just be persuaded to give me a raise," he said; "it
would n't take much of an income for two people to live on."

"No," answered the wise one, feeling some slight misgivings, more on
the subject of the out-go than the income. "You might live on very
little--if you had it."

"Yes," said Griffith, apparently struck by the brilliancy of the
observation, "Dolly and I have said so often."

"Let me see," considered Aimée, "suppose we were to make a sort
of calculation. Give me your lead-pencil and a leaf out of your
pocket-book."

Griffith produced both at once. He had done it often enough before when
Dolly had been the calculator, and had made a half-serious joke of the
performance, counting up her figures on the tips of her fingers, and
making great professions of her knowledge of domestic matters; but
it was a different affair in Aimée's hands. Aimée was in earnest, and
bending over her scrap of paper, with two or three little lines on
her white forehead began to set things down with an air at once
business-like and vigorous, reading, the various items aloud.

"Rent, coals, taxes, food, wages,--you can't do your own washing, you
know,--clothes, etceteras. There it is, Griffith," the odd, tried look
settling in her eyes.

Griffith took the paper.

"Thank you," he remarked, resignedly, after he had glanced at it. "Just
fifty pounds per annum more than I have any prospect of getting. But
you are very kind to take so much interest in it, little woman." "Little
woman" was his pet name for her.

She put her hand up to her forehead and gave the wrinkles a little rub,
as if she would have liked to rub them away.

"No," she said, in distress. "I am very fond of calculating, so it isn't
any trouble to me. I only wish I could calculate until what you want and
what you have got would come out even."

Griffith sighed. He had wished the same thing himself upon several
occasions.

He had one consolation in the midst of his tribulations, however. He had
Dolly's letters, one of which arrived at "the office" every few days.
Certainly they were both faithful correspondents. Tied with blue ribbon
in a certain strong box, lay an immense collection of small envelopes,
all marked with one peculiarity, namely, that the letters inside them
had been at once closely written, and so much too tightly packed that it
seemed a wonder they had ever arrived safely at their destination. They
bore various postmarks, foreign and English, and were of different
tints, but they were all directed in the one small, dashing hand, whose
_t'_s were crossed with an audacious little flourish, and whose capitals
were so prone to run into whimsical little curls. Most of them had been
written when Dolly had sojourned with her charges in Switzerland, and
some of them were merely notes of appointment from Bloomsbury Place; but
each of them held its own magnetic attraction for Griffith, and not one
of them would he have parted with for untold gold. He could count these
small envelopes by the score, but he had never received one in his life
without experiencing a positive throb of delight, which held fresh
pleasure every time.

Most of these letters, too, had stories of their own. Some had come when
he had been discouraged and down at heart, and they had been so full of
sunshine, and pretty, loving conceits, that by the time he had finished
reading them he had been positively jubilant; some, I regret to say,
were a trifle wilful and coquettish, and had so roused him to jealous
fancies that he had instantly dashed off a page or so of insane reproach
and distrust which had been the beginning of a lover's quarrel; some
of them (always written after he had been specially miserable and
unreasoning) were half-pathetic mixtures of reproach and appeal, full of
small dashes of high indignation, and outbursts of penitence, and with
such a capricious, yet passionate ring in every line, that they had
seemed less like letters than actual speech, and had almost forced him
to fancy that Dolly herself was at his side, all in the flush and glow
of one of her prettiest remorseful outbreaks.

And these letters from Brabazon Lodge were just as real, so they
at least helped him to bear his trials more patiently than he could
otherwise have done. She was far more comfortable than she had expected
to be, she told him. Her duties were light, and Miss MacDowlas not hard
to please, and altogether she was not dissatisfied.

"But that I am away from _you_," she wrote, "I should say Brabazon
Lodge was better than the Bilberrys'. There is no skirmishing with Lady
Augusta, at least; and, though skirmishing with Lady Augusta is not
without its mild excitement, it is not necessary to one's happiness,
and may be dispensed with. I wonder what Miss MacDowlas would say if she
knew why I wear this modest ring on my third finger. When I explained to
her casually that we were old friends, she succinctly remarked that you
were a reprobate, and, feeling it prudent not to proceed with further
disclosures, I bent my head demurely over my embroidery, and subsided
into silence. I cannot discover why she disapproves of you unless it
is that she has erratic notions about literary people. Perhaps she will
alter her opinion in time. As it is, it can scarcely matter whether she
knows of our engagement or not. When a fitting opportunity arrives
I shall tell her, and I don't say I shall not enjoy the spice of the
_denouement_. In the meantime I read aloud to her, talk, work wonders in
Berlin wool, and play or sing when she asks me, which is not often. In
the morning we drive out, in the afternoon she enjoys her nap, and
in the evening I sit decorously intent upon the Berlin wonders, but
thinking all the time of you and the parlor in Bloomsbury Place, where
Tod disports himself in triumphant indifference to consequences, and
where the girls discuss the lingering possibilities of their wardrobes.
You may-tell Mollie we are very grand,--we have an immense footman, who
accompanies us in our walks or drives, and condescends to open and shut
our carriage-door for us, with the air of a gentleman at leisure. I am
rather inclined to think that this gentleman has cast an approving eye
upon me, as I heard him observe to the housemaid the other day, that I
was 'a reether hinterestin' young party,' which mark of friendly notice
has naturally cheered me on my lonely way."

Among the people who felt the change in the household keenly, Ralph
Gowan may assuredly be included. He missed Dolly as much as any of them
did, but he missed her in a different manner. He did not call quite as
often as he had been in the habit of doing, and when he did call he was
more silent and less entertaining. Dolly had always had an inspiring
effect upon him, and, lacking the influence of her presence, even
Vagabondia lost something of its charm. So sometimes he was guilty of
the impoliteness of slipping into half-unconscious reveries of a few
minutes' duration, and, being thus guilty upon one particular occasion,
he was roused, after a short lapse of time, through the magnetic
influence of a pair of soft eyes fixed upon him, which eyes he
encountered the instant he looked up, with a start.

Mollie--the eyes were Mollie's--dropped her brown lashes with a quick
motion, turning a little away from him; so he smiled at her with a sense
of half-awakened appreciation. It was so natural to smile so at Mollie.

"Why, Mollie," he said, "what ails us? We are not usually so dull. We
have not spoken to each other for ten minutes."

The girl did not look at him; her round, childish cheek was flushed,
and her eyes were fixed on the fire, half proudly, half with a sort of
innocently transparent indifference.

"Perhaps we have nothing worth saying to each other," she said.
"Everybody is n't like Dolly."

Dolly! He colored slightly, though he smiled again. How did she know he
was thinking of Dolly? Was it so patent a fact that even she could read
it in his face? It never occurred to him for an instant that there could
exist a reason why the eyes of this grown-up baby should be sharpened.
She was such a very baby, with her ready blushes and her pettish, lovely
face.

"And so you miss Dolly, too?" he said.

She shrugged her shoulders, as if to imply that she considered the
question superfluous.

"Of course I do," she answered; "and of course we all do. Dolly is the
sort of person likely to be missed."

She was so petulant about it that, not understanding her, he was both
amused and puzzled, and so by degrees was drawn into making divers
gallant, almost caressing speeches, such as might have been drawn from
him by the changeful mood of a charming, wilful child.

"Something has made you angry," he said. "What is it, Mollie?"

"Nothing has made me angry," she replied. "I am not angry."

"But you look angry," he returned, "and how do you suppose I am to be
interesting when you look angry?"

"It cannot matter to you," said Miss Mollie, "whether I am angry or
not."

"Not matter!" he echoed, with great gravity. "It amounts to positive
cruelty. Just at this particular moment I feel as if I should never
smile again."

She reddened to her very throat, and then turned round all at once,
flashing upon him such a piteous, indignant, indescribable glance as
almost startled him.

"You are making fun of me," she cried out. "You always make fun of _me_.
You would n't talk so to Dolly." And that instant she burst into tears.

He was dumbfounded. He could not comprehend it at all. He had thought
of her as being so completely a child, that her troubles were never more
than a child's troubles, and her moods a child's moods. He had admired
her, too, as he would have admired her if she had been six years old,
and he had never spoken to her as he would have spoken to a woman, in
the whole course of their acquaintance. She was right in telling him
that he would not have said such things to Dolly. He was both concerned
and touched. What could he do but go to her and be dangerously penitent,
and say a great many things easily said, but not soon to be forgotten!
Indeed, her soft, nervous, passionate sobs, of which she was so much
ashamed, her innocent tremor, and her pretty, wilful disregard of his
remorse were such a new sensation to him, that it must be confessed he
was not so discreet as he should have been.

"You never speak so to Dolly," she persisted, "nor to Aimée, either,
and Aimée is only two years older than I am. It is not my fault,"
petulantly, "that I am only seventeen."

"Fault!" he repeated after her. "It is a very charming fault, if it is
one. Come, Mollie," looking down at her with a tender softness in his
eyes, "make friends with me again,--we ought to be friends. See,--let us
shake hands!"

Of course she let him take her hand and hold it lightly for a moment as
he talked, his really honest remorse at his blunder making him doubly
earnest and so doubly dangerous. She had swept even Dolly out of his
mind for the time being, and she occupied his attention so fully for the
rest of the evening that he had not the time to be absent-minded again.
In half an hour all traces of her tears had fled, and she was sitting on
her footstool near him, accepting with such evident delight his efforts
at amusing her, that she quite repaid him for his trouble.

After this there seemed to be some connecting link between them. In
default of other attractions, he made headway with Mollie, and was to
some extent consoled. He talked to her when he made his visits, and it
gradually became an understood thing that they were very good friends.
He won her confidence completely,--so far, indeed, that she used to
tell him her troubles, and was ready to accept what meed of praise or
friendly blame he might think fit to bestow upon her.

It was a few weeks after the above-recorded episode that Griffith
arrived one afternoon, in some haste, with a note from Dolly addressed
to Aimée, and containing a few hurried lines. It had been enclosed in a
letter to himself.

Somewhat unexpectedly Miss MacDowlas had decided upon giving a
dinner-party, and Dolly wanted the white merino, which she had forgotten
to put into her trunk when she had packed it. Would they make a parcel
of it and send it by Mollie to Brabazon Lodge?

"You will have to go at once, Mollie," said Aimée, after reading the
note. "It will be dark in an hour, and you ought not to be out after
dark."

"It is a great deal nicer to be out then," said Mol-lie, whose ideas
of propriety were by no means rigid. "I like to see the shop windows
lighted up. Where is my hat? Does anybody know?" rising from the carpet
and abandoning Tod to his own resources.

Nobody did know, of course. It was not natural that anybody should. Hats
and gloves and such small fry were generally left to provide quarters
for themselves in Bloomsbury Place.

"What is the use of bothering?" remarked Mrs. Phil, disposing of the
difficulty of their non-appearance when required, simply; "they always
turn up in time." And in like manner Mollie's hat "turned up," and in
a few minutes she returned to the parlor, tying the elastic under her
hair.

"Your hair wants doing," said Aimée, having made up her parcel.

"Yes," replied Mollie, contentedly, "Tod has been pulling himself up by
it; but it would be such a trouble to do anything to it just now, and I
can tuck it back in a bunch. It only looks a little fuzzy, and that 's
fashionable. Does this jacket look shabby, Aimée? It is a good thing it
has pockets in it. I always _did_ like pockets in a jacket, they are so
nice to put your hands in when your gloves have holes in them."

"Your gloves oughtn't to have holes in them," commented Aimée.

"But how can you help it if you have n't got the money to buy new ones?"
asked Mollie.

"You ought to mend them," said the wise one.

"Mend them!" echoed Mollie, regarding two or three bare pink finger-tips
dubiously. "They are not worth mending."

"They were once," said Aimée; "and you ought to have stitched them
before it was too late. But that is always our way," wrinkling her
forehead with her usual touch of old-young anxiousness. "We are not
practical. There! take the parcel and walk quickly, Mollie."

Once on the street, Mollie certainly obeyed her. With the parcel in one
arm, and with one hand thrust into the convenient pocket, she hurried
on her way briskly, not even stopping once to look at the shop windows.
Quite unconscious, too, was she of the notice she excited among the
passers-by. People even turned to look after her more than once, as
indeed they often did. The scarlet scarf twisted round her throat to
hide the frayed jacket collar, and the bit of scarlet mixed with the
trimmings of her hat contrasted artistically with her brown eyes, and
added brightness to the color on her cheeks. It was no wonder that men
and women alike, in spite of their business-like hurry, found time to
glance at her and even turn their heads over their shoulders to look
backward, as she made her way along the pavement.

It was quite dark when she reached her destination, and Brabazon Lodge
was brilliantly lighted up,--so brilliantly, indeed, that when the heavy
front door was opened, in answer to her ring, she was a trifle dazzled
by the flood of brightness in which Dolly's friend, the "gentleman at
leisure," seemed to stand.

On stating her errand, she was handed over to a female servant, who
stood in the hall.

"She was to be harsked in," she heard the footman observe,
confidentially, to the young woman, "and taken to Miss Crewe's room
immediate."

So she was led up-stairs, and ushered into a pretty bedroom, where she
found Dolly sitting by the fire in a dressing-gown, with her hair about
her shoulders.

She jumped up the moment Mollie entered, and ran to her, brush in hand,
to kiss her.

"You are a good child," she said. "Come to the fire and sit down. Did
you have any trouble in finding the house? I was afraid you would. It
was just like me to forget the dress, and I never missed it until I
began to look for it, wanting to wear it to-night. How is Tod?"

"He has got another tooth," said Mollie. "I found it to-day. Dolly,"
glancing round, "how nice your room is!"

"Yes," answered Dolly, checking a sigh, "but don't sigh after the
fleshpots of Egypt, Mollie. One does n't see the dullest side of life at
Bloomsbury Place, at least."

"Is it dull here?" asked Mollie.

Dolly shrugged her expressive shoulders.

"Berlin-wool work is n't exciting," she said. "How did you leave
Griffith?"

"Low-spirited," replied Mollie. "I heard him tell Aimée this afternoon
that he could n't stand it much longer."

Dolly began to brush her hair, and brushed it very much over her face,
perhaps because she wished to take advantage of its shadow; for most
assuredly Mollie caught sight of something sparkling amongst the
abundant waves almost like a drop of dew.

"Dolly," she said at last, breaking the awkward little sympathetic
silence which naturally followed, "do you remember our reading the
'Vicar of Wakefield'?"

"Yes," said Dolly, in a mournful half-whisper; she could not trust
herself to say more.

"And about the family being 'up,' and then being 'down'? I always think
we are like they were. First it is 'the family up,' and then 'the family
down.' It is down just now."

"Yes," said Dolly.

"It will be 'up' again, in time," proceeded Mollie, sagaciously. "It
always is."

Dolly tried to laugh, but her laugh was a nervous little effort which
broke off in another sound altogether. Berlin-wool work and Brabazon
Lodge had tried her somewhat and--she wanted Griffith. It seemed to her
just then such a far distant unreal Paradise,--that dream of the modest
parlor with the door shut against the world, and the green sofa drawn
near the fire. Were they ever to attain it, or were they to grow old and
tired out waiting, and hoping against hope?

She managed to rally, however, in a few minutes. Feeling discouraged and
rebellious was not of much use,--that was one of Vagabondia's earliest
learned lessons. And what good was there in making Mollie miserable? So
she plucked up spirit and began to talk, and, to her credit be it said,
succeeded in being fairly amusing, and made Mollie laugh outright half a
dozen times during the remainder of her short stay. It was only a short
stay, however. She remembered Aimée's warning at last, and rose rather
in a hurry.

"I shall have to walk quickly if I want to get home in time for tea,"
she said, "so good-night, Dolly. You had better finish dressing."

"So I had," answered Dolly. "I am behind time already, but I shall not
be many minutes, and Miss MacDowlas is not like Lady Augusta. Listen; I
believe I hear wheels at the door now. It must be later than I fancied."

It was later than she fancied. As Mollie passed through the hall two
gentlemen who were ascending the steps crossed her path, and, seeing the
face of one who had not appeared to notice her presence, she started
so nervously that she dropped her glove. His companion--a handsome,
foreign-looking man--bent down and, picking it up, returned it to her,
with a glance of admiring scrutiny which made her more excited than
ever. She scarcely had the presence of mind to thank him, but rushed
past him and out into the night in a passionate flutter of pain and
sudden childish anger, inconsistent enough.

"He never saw me!" she said to herself, catching her breath piteously.
"He is going to see Dolly. It is n't the party he cares for, and it
is n't Miss MacDowlas,--it is nobody but Dolly. He has tried to get an
invitation just because--because he cares for Dolly."

She reached home in time for tea, arriving with so little breath and so
much burning color that they all stared at her, and Aimée asked her if
she had been frightened.

"No," she answered, "but I ran half the way because I wanted to be in
time."

She did not talk at tea, and scarcely ate anything, and when Griffith
came in, at about nine o'clock, he found her lying on the sofa, flushed
and silent. She said she had a headache.

"I took Dolly her dress," she said. "They are having a grand party
and--Does Miss MacDowlas know Mr. Gowan, Griffith?"

Griffith started and changed countenance at once.

"No," he answered. "Why?"

"He was there," she said, listlessly. "I met him in the hall as I came
out, but he did not see me. He must have tried to get an invitation
because--well, you know how he likes Dolly."

And thus, the train having been already laid, was the spark applied.



CHAPTER VIII. ~ THE BEGINNING OF THE ENDING.

IT was some time before Griffith recovered from the effects of this
simple announcement of Mollie's.

Though he scarcely confessed as much to himself, he thought of it
very much oftener than was conducive to his own peace of mind, and
in thinking of it he found it assuming a greater importance and
significance than he had at first recognized in it, and was influenced
accordingly. He went home to his lodgings, depressed and heavy of
spirit; in fact, he left Bloomsbury Place earlier than usual, because he
longed to be alone. He could think of nothing but Dolly,--Dolly in the
white merino, shining like a stray star among her employer's guests, and
gladdening the eyes of Ralph Gowan. He knew so well how she would
look, and how this fellow would follow her in his easy fashion, without
rendering himself noticeable, and manage to be near her through the
evening and hold his place as if he had a right to it, and he knew, too,
how natural it would be for Dolly's eyes to light up in her pleasure
at being saved from boredom, and how her innocent gladness would show
itself in a score of pretty ways. And it was as Mollie said,--it was for
Dolly's sake that Ralph Gowan was there to-night.

"She must know that it is so herself," he groaned, dropping his head
upon the table; "but she cannot help it. She would if she could. Yes,
I 'll believe that. She could never be false to me. I must hold fast to
that in spite of everything. I should go mad if I did n't. I could never
lose you, Dolly,--I could never lose you!"

But he groaned again the next moment from the bottom of his desperate
heart. He had become tangled in yet another web of misery.

"It is only another proof of what I have said a thousand times," he
cried out. "My claim upon her is so weak, that this fellow does not
think it worth regarding. He thinks it may be set aside,--they all
think it may be set aside. I should not wonder," clenching his hand and
speaking through his teeth,--"I should not wonder if he has laughed
many a time at his fancy of how it will end, and how easy it will be to
thrust the old love to the wall!"

At this moment-, in the first rankling sting of humiliation and despair,
he could almost have struck a murderous blow at the man whom fortune
had set on such a pinnacle of pride and insolence, as it seemed to his
galled fancy. He was not in the mood to be either just or generous, and
he saw in Ralph Gowan nothing but a man who had both the power and will
to rival him, and rob him of peace and hope forever. If Dolly had been
with him, in all probability his wretchedness would have evaporated in a
harmless outburst, which would have touched the girl's heart so tenderly
that she would have withheld nothing of love and consolation which could
reassure him, and so in the end the tempest would have left no wound
behind. But as it was left to himself and his imaginings, every thought
held its bitter sting. He was, as it were, upon the brink of an abyss.

And while this danger was threatening her, Dolly was setting herself
steadfastly to her task of entertaining her employer's guests, though
it must be confessed that she found it necessary to summon all her
energies. She was thinking of Griffith, but not as Griffith was thinking
of her. She was picturing him looking desolate among the group round
the fire at Bloomsbury Place, or else working desperately and with
unnecessary energy amidst the dust and gloom of the dimly lighted
office; and the result was that her spirit almost failed. It was quite
a relief to encounter Ralph Gowan, as she did, on entering the room: he
had seen them all latterly, and could enter into particulars; and so,
in her pleasure, it must be owned that her face brightened, just as
Griffith had fancied it would, when she shook hands with him.

"I did not hear that you were coming," she said. "How glad I am!"
which was the most dangerous speech she could have made under
the circumstances, since it was purely on her account that he had
diplomatized to obtain the invitation.

He did not find it easy to release her hand all at once, and certainly
he lighted up also.

"Will you let me tell you that it was not Miss MacDowlas who brought me
here?" he said, in a low voice; "though I appreciate her kindness, as a
grateful man ought. Vagabondia is desolate without you."

She tried to laugh, but could not; her attempt broke off in the
unconscious sigh, which always touched him, he scarcely knew why.

"Is it?" she said, looking up at him without a bit of the old
brightness. "Don't tell them, Mr. Gowan, but the fact is I am desolate
without it. I want to go home."

He felt his heart leap suddenly, and before he could check himself he
spoke.

"I wish--I _wish_," he said, "that you would let me take you home." And
the simply sounding words embodied a great deal more of tender fancy
than a careless observer would have imagined; and Dolly, recognizing the
thrill in his voice, was half startled.

But she shook her head, and managed to smile.

"That is not wisdom," she said. "It savors of the lilies of the field.
We cannot quarrel with our bread and butter for sentiment's sake
in Vagabondia. Did you know that Mollie had paid me a visit this
evening?--or perhaps you saw her; I think she went out as you came in."

"Mollie!" he said, surprisedly; and then looking half annoyed, or at
least a trifle disturbed, he added, as if a sudden thought had occurred
to him, "then it was Mollie, Chandos spoke of."

"Chandos!" echoed Dolly. "Who is Chandos--and what did Chandos say about
Mollie?"

He glanced across the room to where a tall, handsome man was bending
over a fussy little woman in pink.

"That is Chandos," he said; "and since you spoke of Mollie's visit, I
recollect that, as we came into the house, Chandos was behind me and
lingered a moment or so, and when he came to me afterward he asked if
I had seen the face that passed us as we entered. It had roused his
enthusiasm as far as it can be roused by anything."

"It must have been Mollie," commented Dolly, and she looked at the man
on the opposite side of the room, uneasily. "Is he a friend of yours?"
she asked, after scrutinizing him for a few seconds.

Gowan shrugged his shoulders.'

"Not a friend," he answered, dryly. "An acquaintance. We have not much
in common."

"I am glad to hear it," was Dolly's return. "I don't like Chandos."

She could not have explained why she did not like him, but certainly she
was vaguely repelled and could not help hoping that he would never see
Mollie again. He was just the man to be dangerous to Mollie; handsome,
polished, ready of speech and perfect in manner, he was the sort of man
to dazzle and flatter any ignorant, believing child.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, half aloud, "I could not bear to think that he
would see her again."

She uttered the words quite involuntarily, but Gowan heard them, and
looked at her in some surprise, and so awakened her from her reverie.

"Are you speaking of Mollie?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered, candidly, "though I did not mean to speak aloud.
My thoughts were only a mental echo of the remark I made a moment
ago,--that I don't like Chandos. I do not like him at all, even at this
distance, and I cannot resist feeling that I do not want him to see
anything more of Mollie. We are not very discreet, we Vagabonds, but we
must learn wisdom enough to shield Mollie." And she sighed again.

"I understand that," he said, almost tenderly, so sympathetically, in
fact, that she turned toward him as if moved by a sudden impulse.

"I have sometimes thought since I came here," she said, "that perhaps
_you_ might help me a little, if you would. She is so pretty, you see,
and so young, and, through knowing so little of the world and longing to
know so much, in a childish, half-dazzled way, is so innocently wilful
that she would succumb to a novel influence more readily than to an
old one. So I have thought once or twice of asking you to watch her a
little, and guard her if--if you should ever see her in danger."

"I can promise to do that much, at least," he returned, smiling.

She held out her hand impetuously, just as she would have held it out
to Griffith, and, oh, the hazard of it,--the hazard of so throwing aside
her mock airs and graces, and showing herself to him just as she showed
herself to the man she loved,--the Dolly whose heart was on her lips and
whose soul was in her eyes.

"Then we will make a 'paction' of it," she said. "You will help me to
take care of her."

"For your sake," he said, "there are few things I would not do."

So from that time forward he fell into the habit of regarding
unsuspecting Mollie as his own special charge. He was so faithful to
his agreement, indeed, that once or twice Griffith was almost ready to
console himself with the thought that perhaps, after all, the child's
beauty and tractability would win its way, and Gowan would find himself
seriously touched at heart. Just now he could see that his manner was
scarcely that of a lover, but there most assuredly was a probability
that it might alter and become more warm and less friendly and platonic.
As to Mollie herself, she was growing a trifle incomprehensible; she
paid more attention to her lovely hair than she had been in the habit
of doing, and was even known to mend her gloves; she began to be more
conscious of the dignity of her seventeen years. She complained less
petulantly of the attentions of Phil's friends, and accepted them with
a better grace. The wise one even observed that she tolerated Brown,
the obnoxious, and permitted him to admire her--at a distance. In her
intercourse with Gowan she was capricious and had her moods. Sometimes
she indulged in the weakness of tiring herself in all her small bravery
when he was coming, and presented herself in the parlor beauteous and
flushed and conscious, and was so delectably shy and sweet that she
betrayed him into numerous trifling follies not at all consistent with
his high position of mentor; and then, again, she was obstinate, rather
incomprehensible, and did not adorn herself at all, and, indeed, was
hard enough to manage.

"You are growing very queer, Mollie," said Miss Aimée, wonderingly.

To which sage remark Mollie retorted with a tremulous, sensitive flush,
and most unnecessary warmth of manner.

"I 'm not queer at all I wish you would n't bother so, Aimée!"

That very afternoon she came into the room with a card in her hand,
after going out to answer a summons at the door-bell.

"Phil," she said, "a gentleman wants you. Chan-dos, the card says."

"Chandos!" read Phil, rising from the comfort of his couch, and taking
his pipe out of his mouth. "Who knows Chandos?--I don't. It must be some
fellow on business."

And so it proved. He found the gentleman awaiting him in the next
room, and in a very short time learned his errand. Chandos introduced
himself--Gerald Chandos, of The Pools, Bedfordshire, who, hearing of Mr.
Crewe through numerous friends, not specified, and having a fancy--quite
the fancy of an uncultured amateur, modestly--for pictures and an
absorbing passion for art in all its forms, had taken the liberty of
calling, etc. It was very smoothly said, and Chandos, of The Pools,
being an imposing patrician sort of individual, and free from all
fopperies or affectations, Phil met his advances complacently enough.
It was no unusual thing for an occasional patron to drop in after this
manner. He had no fault to find with a man who, having the good fortune
to possess money, had the good taste to know how to spend it. So he
made friends with Chandos, pretty much as he had made friends with
Gowan,--pretty much as he would have made friends with any other
sufficiently amiable and well-bred visitor to his modest studio. He
showed him his pictures, and talked art to him, and managed to spend an
hour very pleasantly, ending by selling him a couple of tiny spirited
sketches, which had taken his fancy. It was when he was taking
down these sketches from the wall that he heard a sort of smothered
exclamation from the man, who stood a few feet apart from him, and,
turning to see what it meant, he saw that he had just discovered the
fresh, lovely, black-hooded head, with the trail of autumn leaves
clinging to the loose trail of hair,--the picture for which Mollie
had sat as model. It was very evident that Chandos, of The Pools, was
admiring it.

"Ah!" said he, the next minute. "I know this face. There can scarcely be
two faces like it."

Phil left his sketches and came to him, the pleasure he felt on the
success of his creation warming him up. This picture, with Mollie\s face
and head, was a great favorite of his.

"Yes," he said, standing opposite to it, with his hands in his pockets,
and critical appreciation in his eyes. "You could not very well mistake
it. Heads are not my exact forte, you know; but that is Mollie to a tint
and a curve, and I am rather proud of it."

Chandos regarded it steadfastly.

"And well you may be," he answered. "Your sister, I believe?"

"Mollie!" exclaimed Phil, stepping a trifle aside, to get into a better
light, and speaking almost abstractedly. "Oh, yes, to be sure! She is my
sister,--the youngest. There are three of them. That flesh tint is one
of the best points."

And in the meantime, while this apparently trivial conversation was
being carried on in the studio, Mollie, in the parlor, had settled
herself upon a stool close to the fire, and, resting her chin on her
hand and her elbow on her knee, was looking' reflective.

"That Chandos is somebody new," 'Toinette remarked. "I hope he has come
to buy something. I want some gold sleeve-loops for Tod. I saw some
beauties the other day, when I was out."

"But you could n't afford them if Phil sold two pictures instead of
one," said Aimée. "There are so many other useful things you need."

"He is n't a stranger to me," put in Mollie, suddenly. "I have seen him
before."

"Who?" said 'Toinette. She was thinking more of Tod's gold sleeve-loops
than of anything else.

"This Mr. Chandos," answered Mollie, without looking up from the fire.
"I saw him at Brabazon Lodge the night I went to take Dol her dress. He
was with Mr. Gowan, and I dropped my glove, and he picked it up for me.
I was coming out as they were going in."

"I wonder," said Aimée, "whether Mr. Gowan goes to Brabazon Lodge
often?"

"I don't know, I 'm sure," answered Mollie, shrugging her shoulder.
"How is one to learn? He would n't be likely to tell us. I should think,
though, that he does. He is too fond of Dolly"--with a slight choke in
her voice--"to stay away, if he can help it."

"It's queer," commented 'Toinette, "how men like Dolly. She is n't a
beauty, I 'm sure; and for the matter of that, when her hair is n't done
up right, she is n't even pretty."

"It isn't queer, at all," said Mollie, rather crossly; "it's her way.
She can make such a deal out of nothing, and she does n't stand at
trouble when she wants to _make_ people like her. _She_ says any one can
do it, and it is only a question of patience; but I don't believe her.
See how frantic Griffith is about her. He is more desperately in love
with her to-day than he was at the very first, seven years ago."

"And she cares more for him, I'm sure," said Aimée.

Mollie's shoulder went up again. "She flirts with people enough, if she
does," she commented.

"Ah!" returned Aimée, "that is 'her way,' as you call it, again.
Somehow, it seems as if she can't help it. It is as natural to her as
the color of her hair and eyes. She can't help doing odd things and
making speeches that rouse people and tempt them into liking her. She
has done such things all her life, and sometimes I think she will do
them even when she is an old woman; though, of course, she will do them
in a different way. Dolly would n't be Dolly without her whimsicalness,
any more than Dick there, in his cage, would be a canary if he did n't
twitter and sing."

"Does she ever do such things to women?" asked Miss Mollie, shrewdly.
She seemed to be in a singular mood this afternoon.

"Yes," Aimée protested, "she does; and what is more, she is not
different even with children. I have seen her take just as much trouble
to please Phemie and the little Bilberrys as she would take to please
Griffith or--or Mr. Gowan. And see how fond they were of her. If she had
cared for nothing but masculine admiration, do you think Phemie would
have adored her as she did, and those dull children would have been so
desolate when she left them? No, I tell you. Dolly's weakness--and
it isn't such a very terrible weakness, after all--lies in wanting
_everybody_ to like her,--men, women, and children; yes, down to babies
and dogs and cats. And see here, Mollie, ain't we rather fond of her
ourselves?"

"Yes," owned Mollie, staring at the fire, "we are. Fond enough."

"And is n't she rather fond of us?"

"Yes, she is--for the matter of that," acquiesced Mollie.

"Yes," began 'Toinette, and then, the sound of footsteps upon the
staircase interrupting her, she broke off abruptly to listen. "It is
Phil's visitor," she said.

Mollie got up from her seat, roused into a lazy sort of interest.

"I am going to look at him," she said, and went to the window.

The next minute she drew back, blushing.

"He saw me," she said. "I did n't think he could, if I stood here in the
corner."

But he had; and more than that, in his admiration of her dimples and
round fire-flushed cheeks, had smiled into her face, openly and without
stint, as he passed.

After tea Gowan came in. Mollie opened the door for him; and Mollie, in
a soft blue dress, and with her hair dressed to a marvel, was a vision
to have touched any man's fancy. She was in one of her sweet acquiescent
moods, too, having recovered herself since the afternoon; and when she
led him into the parlor, she blushed without any reason whatever, as
usual, and as a consequence looked enchanting.

"Phil has gone out," she said. "'Toinette is putting Tod to bed, and
Aimée is helping her; so there is no one here but me."

Gowan sat down--in Dolly's favorite chair.

"You are quite enough," he said; "quite enough--for me."

She turned away, making a transparent little pretence of requiring a
hand-screen from the mantelpiece, and, having got it, she too sat down,
and fell to examining a wretched little daub of a picture upon it most
minutely.

"This is very badly done," she observed, irrelevantly. "Dolly did it,
and made it up elaborately into this screen because it was such a sight.
It is just like Dolly, to make fun and joke at her own mistakes. She has
n't a particle of talent for drawing. She did this once when Griffith
thought he was going to get into something that would bring him money
enough to allow of their being married. She made a whole lot of little
mats and things to put in their house when they got it, but Griffith did
n't get the position, so they had to settle down again."

"Good Heavens!" ejaculated Gowan.

"What is the matter?" she asked.

He moved a trifle uneasily in his chair. He had not meant to speak
aloud.

"An unintentional outburst, Mollie," he said. "A cheerful state of
affairs, that."

"What state of affairs?" she inquired. "Oh, you mean Dolly's engagement.
Well, of course, it _has_ been a long one; but then, you see, they like
each other very much. Aimée was only saying this afternoon that they
cared for each other more now than they did at first."

"Do they?" said Gowan, and for the time being lapsed into silence.

"It's a cross-grained sort of fortune that seems to control us in this
world, Mollie," he said, at length.

Mollie stared at the poor little daub on her hand-screen and met his
philosophy indifferently enough.

"_You_ ought n't to say so," she answered. "And I don't know anything
about it."

He laughed--quite savagely for so amiable a young man.

"I!" he repeated. "I ought not to say so, ought n't I? I think I ought.
It _is_ a cross-grained fortune, Mollie. We are always falling in love
with people who do not care for us, or with people who care for some one
else, or with people who are too poor to marry us, or--"

"Speak for yourself," said Mollie, with a vigor quite wonderful and new
in her. "_I_ am not."

And she held her screen up between her face and his, so that he could
not see her. She could have burst into a passionate gush of tears. It
was Dolly he was thinking about,--it was Dolly who had the power to make
him unhappy and sardonic,--always Dolly.

"Then you are a wise child, Mollie," he said. "But you are a very young
child yet,--only seventeen, is n't it? Well, it may all come in good
time."

"It will not come at all," she asserted, stubbornly.

Dolly's little wretch of a hand-screen was quite trembling in her hand,
it made her so desperate to feel, as she did, that she was of such small
consequence to him that he could treat her as a child, and make a sort
of joke of his confidence. But he did not see it.

"Ah! well, you see," he went on, "I thought so once, but it has come to
me nevertheless. The fact is, I am crying for the moon, Mollie, as many
a wiser and better man has done before me."

She did not answer, so he rose and walked once or twice across the room.
When he came back to the fire, she had risen too, and was standing up,
biting the edge of her screen, all flushed, and with a brightness in
her eyes he did not understand. Poor little soul! she was suffering very
sharply in her childish way.

He laid a hand on either of her shoulders, and spoke to her gently
enough.

"Mollie," he said, "let us sit down together and condole with each
other. You are not in a good humor to-night, something has rasped
you again; and as for me, I am about as miserable, my dear, as it is
possible for a man with a few thousand a year to be."

She tried to answer him steadily, and, finding she could not, rushed
into novel subterfuge. Subterfuge was a novelty to Mollie.

"Yes," she said, lifting the most beauteous of tear-wet eyes to his
quite eagerly. "Yes, I am crossed, and--and something has vexed me. I am
getting bad-tempered, I think. Suppose we do sit down."

And then when they did sit down--she on the hearth-rug at his feet, he
in Dolly's chair again--she broke out upon him in a voice like a sharp
little sob.

"I know what _you_ are miserable about," she said. "You are miserable
about Dolly."

They had never spoken about the matter openly before, though he had
always felt that if he could speak openly to any one, he could to this
charming charge of his. Such is the keenness of masculine penetration.
And now he felt almost relieved already. The natural craving for
sympathy of some kind or other was to satisfy itself through the medium
of pretty, much-tried Mollie.

"Yes," he answered, half desperately, half reluctantly. "Dolly is the
moon I am crying for,--or rather, as I might put it more poetically,
'the bright particular star.' What a good little thing you are to guess
at it so soon!"

"It did n't need much guessing at," she said, curving her innocent mouth
in a piteous effort to smile.

He, leaning against the round, padded back of his chair, sighed, and as
he sighed almost forgot the poor child altogether, even while she spoke
to him. Having all things else, he must still cry for this one other
gift, and really he felt very dolorous.

Mollie, pulling her screen to pieces, looked at him with a heavy yet
adoring heart. She was young enough to be greatly moved by his physical
beauty, and just now she could not turn away from him. His long-limbed,
slender figure (which, while still graceful and lithe enough, was _not_
a model of perfection, as she fondly imagined), his pale, dark face,
his dark eyes, even his rather impolite and uncomplimentary abstraction,
held fascination for her. Not having been greatly smiled upon by
fortune, she had fallen to longing eagerly and fearfully for this one
gift which had been so freely vouchsafed to Dolly, who had neither asked
nor cared for it. Surely there was some cross-grained fate at work.

She was very quiet indeed when he at length recollected himself and
roused from his reverie. He looked up to find her resting her warm,
rose-leaf colored cheek on her hand, and concentrating all her attention
upon the fire again. She was not inclined to talk when he spoke to her,
and indeed had so far shrunk within herself that he found it necessary
to exert his powers to their utmost before he could move her to anything
like interest in their usual topics of conversation. In fact, her
reserve entailed the necessity of a little hazardous warmth of manner
being exhibited on his part, and in the end a few more dangerous,
though half-jocular, speeches were made, and in spite of the temporary
dissatisfaction of his previous mood, he felt a trifle reluctant to
leave the fire and the sweet, unwise face when the time came to go.

"Good-night," he said to her, a few minutes before he went out. And
then, noticing for the twentieth time how becoming the soft blue of
her dress was and how picturesque she was herself even in the
unconsciousness of her posture, he was tempted to try to bring that
little, half-resentful glow into her upraised eyes again.

"I have often heard your sister make indiscreetly amiable speeches to
you, Mollie," he said. "Did she ever tell you that you ought to have
been born a sultana?"

She shook her head and pouted a little.

"I should n't like to be a sultana," she said.

"What!" he exclaimed. "Not a sultana in spangled slippers and gorgeous
robes!"

"No," she answered, with a spice of Dolly in her speech. "The slippers
are great flat things that turn up at the toes, and the sultan might buy
me for so much a pound, and--and I care for other things besides dress."

"Nevertheless," he returned, "you would have made a dazzling sultana."

Then he went away and left her, and she sat down upon her stool before
the fire again and began to pull her hair down and let it hang in grand
disorder about her shoulders and over her face.

"If I am so--so pretty," she said slowly, to herself, "people ought to
like me, and," sagaciously, "I must be pretty or he would not say so."

And when she went to her room it must be confessed that she crept to the
glass and stared at the reflection of the face framed in the abundant,
falling hair, until Aimée, wondering at her quietness, raised her head
from her pillow, and, seeing her, called her to her senses.

"Mollie," she said, in her quietest way, "you look very nice, my dearr
and very picturesque, and I don't wonder at your admiring yourself;
but if you stand there much longer in your bare feet you will have
influenza, and then you will have to wear a flannel round your throat,
and your nose will be red, and you won't derive much satisfaction from
your looking-glass for a week to come."



CHAPTER IX. ~ IN WHICH WE ARE UNORTHODOX.

"SOMETHING," announced Phil, painting away industriously at his
picture,--"something is up with Grif. Can any of you explain what it
is?"

Mollie, resting her elbows on the window-ledge, turned her head over
her shoulder; 'Toinette, tying Tod's sleeves with red ribbon, looked
up; Aimée went on with her sewing, the two little straight lines making
themselves visible on her forehead between her eyebrows. The fact of
something being "up" with any one of their circle was enough to create a
wondering interest.

"There is no denying," Phil proceeded, "that he is changed somehow or
other. He is not the same fellow that he was a few months ago,--before
Dolly went away."

"It is Dolly he is bothering about," said Mollie, concisely.

Then Aimée was roused.

"I wish they were married," she said. "I wish they were married
and--safe!"

"Safe!" put in Mrs. Phil. "That is a queer thing to say. They are not in
any danger, let us devoutly hope."

The two wrinkles deepened, and the wise one sighed.

"I hope not," she answered, bending her small, round, anxious face over
her sewing, and attacking it vigorously.

"They never struck me, you know," returned Mrs. Phil, "as being a
particularly dangerous couple, though now I think of it I do remember
that it has once or twice occurred to me that Griffith has been rather
stupid lately."

"It has occurred to me," remarked Phil, dryly, "that he has taken a most
unaccountable dislike to Gowan."

Mollie turned round to her window again.

"Not to put it too strongly," continued the head of the family, "he
hates him like the deuce."

And he was not far wrong in making the assertion. The time had been
coming for some time when the course of this unimposing story of true
love was no longer to run smooth, and in these days Griffith was in a
dangerous frame of mind. Now and then he heard of Gowan dropping in to
spend a few hours at Brabazon Lodge, and now and then he heard of his
good fortune in having found in Miss MacDowlas a positive champion. He
was even a favorite with her, just as he was a favorite with many other
people. Griffith did not visit Brabazon Lodge himself, he had given
that up long ago, indeed had only once paid his respects to his relative
since her arrival in London. That one visit, short and ceremonious as it
was, had been enough for him. Like many estimable ladies, Miss MacDowlas
had prejudices of her own which were hard to remove, and appearances had
been against her nephew.

"If he is living a respectable life, and so engaged in a respectable
profession, my dear," commented Dolly's proprietress, in one of her
after conversations on the subject, "why does he look shabby and out at
elbows? It is my opinion that he is a very disreputable young man."

"She thinks," wrote Dolly to the victim, "that you waste your substance
in riotous living." And it was such an exquisite satire on the true
state of affairs, that even Griffith forgot his woes for the moment, and
laughed when he read the letter.

Dolly herself was not prone to complain of Miss MacDowlas. She was not
so bad as she looked, after all. She was obstinate and rigid enough
on some points, but she had her fairer side, and Dolly found it. In a
fashion of her own Miss MacDowlas was rather fond of her companion.
A girl who was shrewd, industrious, and often amusing, was not to be
despised in her opinion; so she showed her fair young handmaiden a
certain amount of respect. She had engaged companions before, who
being entertaining were not trustworthy, or being trustworthy were
insufferably dull. She could trust Dolly with the most onerous of her
domestic or social charges, she found, and there was no fear of her
small change disappearing or her visitors being bored. So the position
of that "young person" became an assured and decently comfortable one.

But, day by day, Griffith was drifting nearer and nearer the old shoals
of difficulty. He rasped himself with miserable imaginings, and was
often unjust even toward Dolly. Hers was the brighter side of the
matter, he told himself.

She was sure to find friends,--she always did, these people would make
a sort of favorite of her, and she would be pleased because she was
so popular among them. He could not bear the thought of her ephemeral
happiness over trifles sometimes. He even fell so low as that at
his worst moments, though to his credit, be it spoken, he was always
thoroughly ashamed of himself afterward. There were times, too, when
he half resented her little jokes at their poverty, and answered them
bitterly when he wrote his replies to her letters. His chief consolation
he found in Aimée, and the sage of the family found her hands fuller
than ever. Quiet little body as she was, she was far-sighted enough to
see danger in the distance, and surely she did her best to alter its
course.

"If you are not cooler," she would say, "you will work yourself into
such a fever of unhappiness, that you will be doing something you will
regret."

"That is what I am afraid of," he would sometimes burst forth; "but you
must admit, Aimée, that it is a pretty hard case."

"Yes," confessed the young oracle, "I will admit that, but being
unreasonable won't make it any easier."

And then the fine little lines would show themselves, and she would set
herself industriously to the task of administering comfort and practical
advice, and she never failed to cheer him a little, however temporarily.

And she did not fail Dolly, either. Sage axioms and praiseworthy counsel
reached Brabazon Lodge in divers small envelopes, addressed to Miss
Crewe, and invariably beginning, "My dearest Dolly;" and more than once
difficulty had been averted, and Dolly's heart warmed again toward her
lover, when she had been half inclined to rebel and exhibit some slight
sharpness of temper. Only a few days after the conversation with which
the present chapter opens occurred, one of these modestly powerful
missives was forwarded, and that evening Griffith met with an agreeable
surprise. Chance had taken him into the vicinity of Miss MacDowlas's
establishment, and as he walked down the deserted road in a somewhat
gloomy frame of mind, he became conscious suddenly of the sound of
small, light feet, running rapidly down the footpath behind him.

"Griffith!" cried a clear, softly pitched voice, "Griffith, wait for
me."

And, turning, he saw in the dusk of the winter day a little figure
almost flying toward him, and in a few seconds more Dolly was standing
by him, laughing and panting, and holding to his arm with both hands.

"I thought I should never catch you," she said. "You never walked so
fast in your life, I believe, you stupid old fellow. I could n't call
out loud, though it is a quiet place, and so I had to begin to run.
Goodness! what _would_ Lady Augusta have said if she had seen me 'flying
after you!"

And then, stopping all at once, she looked up at him with a wicked
little air of saucy daring.

"Don't you want to kiss me?" she said. "You may, if you will endeavor to
effect it with despatch before somebody comes."

She was obliged to resign herself to her fate then. For nearly two
minutes she found herself rendered almost invisible, and neither of them
spoke. Then half released, she lifted her face to look at him, and
there were tears on her eyelashes, and in her voice, too, though she was
trying very hard to smile.

"Poor old fellow," she half whispered. "Has it seemed long since you
kissed me last?"

He caught her to his breast again in his old, impetuous fashion.

"Long!" he groaned. "It has seemed so long that there have been times
when it has almost driven me mad. O Dolly! Dolly!"

She let him crush her in his arms and kiss her again, and she nestled
against his shoulder for a minute, and, putting her warm little gloved
hand up to his face, gave it a tiny, loving squeeze. But of course that
could not last long. Miss Macdowlas's companion might be kissed in the
dusk two or three times, but, genteelly sequestered as was the road
leading to Brabazon Lodge, some stray footman or housemaid might appear
on the scene, from some of the neighboring establishments, at any
moment, so she was obliged to draw herself away at last.

"There!" she said, "you must let me take your arm and walk on now, and
you must tell me all about things. I have a few minutes to spare, and I
have _so_ wanted you," heaving a weary little sigh, and holding his arm
very tightly indeed.

"Dolly," he asked, abruptly, "are you sure of that?"

The other small hand clasped itself across his sleeve in an instant.

"Sure?" she answered. "Sure that I have wanted you? I have been nearly
_dying_ for you!" with some affectionate extravagance.

"Are you sure," he put it to her, "quite sure that you have not
sometimes forgotten me for an hour or so?"

"No," she answered, indignantly, "not for a single second;" which was a
wide assertion.

"Not," he prompted her, somewhat bitterly, "when the MacDowlas gives
dinner-parties, and you find yourself a prominent feature, 'young
person,' as you are? Not when you wear the white merino, and 'heavy
swells' admire you openly?"

"No," shaking her head in stout denial of the imputation. "Never.
I think about you from morning until night; and the fact is," in a
charming burst of candor, "I actually wake in the night and think about
you. There! are you satisfied now?"

It would have been impossible to remain altogether unconsoled and
unmoved under such circumstances, but he could not help trying her
again.

"Dolly," he said, "does Gowan never make you forget me?"

Then she saw what he meant, and flushed up to her forehead, drawing her
hand away and speaking hotly.

"Oh!" she said, "it is _that_, is it?"

"Yes," he answered her, "it is that."

Then they stopped in their walk, and each looked at the other,--Griffith
at Dolly, with a pale face and much of desperate, passionate appeal in
his eyes; Dolly at Griffith, with her small head thrown back in sudden
defiance.

"I am making you angry and rousing you, Dolly," he said; "but I cannot
help it. There is scarcely a week passes in which I do not hear that
he--that fellow--has managed to see you in one way or another. He can
always see you," savagely. "_I_ don't see you once a month."

"Ah!" said Dolly, with cruel deliberation, "_this_ is what Aimée meant
when she told me to be careful, and think twice before I did things. I
see now."

I have never yet painted Dolly Crewe as being a young person of angelic
temperament. I have owned that she flirted and had a temper in spite of
her Vagabondian good spirits, good-nature, and popularity; so my
readers will not be surprised at her resenting rather sharply what she
considered as being her lover's lack of faith.

"I think," she proceeded, opening her eyes wide and addressing him with
her grandest air,--"I think I will walk the rest of my way alone, if you
please."

It was very absurd and very tragical in a small way, of course, and
assuredly she ought to have known better, and perhaps she did know
better, but just now she was very fierce and very sharply disappointed.
She positively turned away as if to leave him, but he caught hold of her
arm and held her.

"Dolly," he cried, huskily, "you are not going away in that fashion. We
never parted so in our lives."

She half relented,--not quite, but nearly, so very nearly that she
did not try very hard to get away. It was Griffith, after all, who was
trying her patience--if Gowan or any other man on earth had dared to
imply a doubt in her, she would have routed him magnificently--in two
minutes; but Griffith--ah, well, Griffith was different.

"Whose fault is it?" she asked, breaking down ignominiously. "Who is
to blame? I never ask you if other people make you forget me. I wanted
to--to see you so much that I--I ran madly after you for a quarter of a
mile, at the risk of being looked upon as a lunatic by any one who might
have chanced to see me. But you don't care for that. I had better have
bowed to you and passed on if we had met. Let me go!"

"No," said Griffith, "you shall not go. God knows if I could keep you,
you should never leave my arms again."

"You would tire of me in a week, if I belonged to you in real earnest,"
she said, not trying to get away at all now, however.

"Tire of you!" he exclaimed, in a shaken voice. "Of _you!_" And all at
once he drew her round so that the light of the nearest lamp could fall
on her face. "Look here!" he whispered, sharply; "Dolly, I swear to you,
that if there lives a man on earth base and heartless enough to rob me
of you, I will kill him as sure as I breathe the breath of life!"

She had seen him impassioned enough often before, but she had never seen
him in as wild a mood as he was when he uttered these words. She was so
frightened that she broke into a little cry, and put her hand up to his
lips.

"Griffith!" she said, "Grif!--dear old fellow. You don't know what you
are saying. Oh! don't--don't!"

Her horror brought him to his senses again; but he had terrified her
so that she was trembling all over, and clung to him nervously when he
tried to console her.

"It is n't like _you_ to speak in such a way," she faltered, in the
midst of her tears. "Oh, how dreadfully wrong things must be getting, to
make you so cruel!"

It took so long a time to reassure and restore her to her calmness, that
he repented his rashness a dozen times. But he managed to comfort her at
length, though to the last she was tearful and dejected, and her voice
was broken with soft, sorrowful little catch-ings of the breath.

"Don't let us talk about Ralph Gowan," she pleaded, when he
had persuaded her to walk on with him again. "Let us talk about
ourselves,--we are always safe when we talk about ourselves," with an
innocent, mournful smile.

And so they talked about themselves. He would have talked of anything
on earth to please her then. Talking of themselves, of course, implied
talking nonsense,--affectionate, sympathetic nonsense, but still
nonsense; and so, for a while, they strolled on together, and were as
tenderly foolish and disconnected as two people could possibly be.

But, in spite of her resolution to avoid the subject, Dolly could not
help drifting back to Ralph Gowan. "Griffith," she said, plaintively,
"you are very jealous of him."

"I know that," he answered.

"But don't you _know_," in desperate appeal, "that there is n't the
slightest need for you to be jealous of anybody?"

"I know," he returned, dejectedly, "that I am a very wretched fellow
sometimes."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Dolly.

"I know," he went on, "that seven years is a long probation, and that
the prospect of another seven, or another two, for the matter of that,
would drive me mad. I know I am growing envious and distrustful; I
know that there are times when I hate that fellow so savagely that I am
ashamed of myself. Dolly, what has he ever done that he should saunter
on the sunny side, clad in purple and fine linen all his life? The money
he throws away in a year would furnish the house at Putney."

"Oh, dear!" burst forth Dolly. "You _are_ going wrong. It is all because
I am not there to take care of you, too. Those are not the sentiments of
Vagabondia, Grif."

"No," dryly; "they are of the earth, earthy."

Dolly shook her head dolefully.

"Yes," she acquiesced; "and they are a bit shabby, too. You are going
down, Grif. You never used to be shabby. None of us were ever exactly
that, though we used to grumble sometimes. We used to grumble, not
because other people had things, but because we had n't them."

"I am getting hardened, I suppose," bitterly. "And it is hardly to be
wondered at."

"Hardened!" She stopped him that moment, and stood before him, holding
his arm and looking up at him. "Hardened!" she repeated. "Grif, if you
say that again, I will never forgive you. What is the good of our love
for each other if it won't keep our hearts soft? When we get hardened we
shall love each other no longer. What have we told each other all these
years? Have n't we said that so long as we had one another we could bear
anything, and not envy other people? It was n't all talk and sentiment,
was it? It was n't on _my_ part, Grif. I meant it then, and I mean it
now, though I know there are many good, kind-hearted people in the world
who would not understand it, and would say I was talking unpractical
rubbish, if they heard me. Hardened! Grif, while you have me, and I have
you, and there is nothing on our two consciences? Why, it sounds,"--with
another most dubious shake of her small head,--"it sounds as if you
would n't care about the house at Putney!"

He was conquered, of course; before she had spoken a dozen words he
had been conquered; but this figure of his not caring for the house at
Putney broke him utterly. He did not look very hardened when he answered
her.

"Dolly," he said, "you are an angel! I have told you so before, and it
may be a proof of the barrenness of my resources to tell you so again,
but it is true. God forgive me, my precious! I should like to see the
man whose heart could harden while such a woman loved him."

It was a pretty sight to see her put her hands on his shoulders, and
stand on tiptoe to kiss him, in her honest, earnest way, without waiting
for him to ask her.

"Ah!" she said, "I knew it wasn't true," and then, still letting her
hands rest on his shoulders, she burst forth in her tender, impulsive
way again. "Grif," she said, "I don't think I am very wise, and I know
I am not very thoughtful. I do things often that it would be better
to leave undone,--I am fond of making the Philistines admire me, and I
sometimes tease you; but, dear old fellow, right deep down at the bottom
of my heart," faltering slightly, "I do--_do_ want to be a good
woman; and there is never a night passes--though I never told you so
before--that I do not pray to God to let me help you and let you help me
to be tender and faithful and true."

It was the old story,--love was king. Wisdom to the winds! Practicality
to the corners of the earth! Prudence, power, and grandeur, hide your
diminished heads! Here were two people who cared nothing for you, and
who flung you aside without a fear as they stood together under the
trees in the raw evening air,--one a penniless little hired entertainer
of elderly ladies, the other an equally impecunious bondsman in a dingy
office.

They were quite happy,--even happy when time warned them that they must
bid each other goodnight. They walked together to the gates of Barbazon
Lodge, and parted in a state of bliss.

"Good-night," said Dolly. "Be good,--as somebody wise once said,--'Be
good, and you will be happy.'"

"Good-night," answered Griffith; "but might n't he have put it the other
way, Dolly, 'Be happy, and you will be good--because you can't help
it'?"

He had his hand on _her_ shoulder, this time, and as she laughed she put
her face down so that her soft, warm cheek nestled against it.

"But he didn't put it that way," she objected. "And we must take wisdom
as it comes. There! I must go now," rather in a hurry. "Some one is
coming--see!"

"Confound it!" he observed, devoutly. "Who is it?"

"I don't know," answered Dolly; "but you must let me go. Good-night,
again."

He released her, and she ran in through the gate, and up the gravel
walk, and so he was left to turn away and pass the intruder with an
appearance of nonchalance. And pass him he did, though whether with
successful indifference or not, one can hardly say; but in passing him
he looked up, and in looking up he recognized Ralph Gowan.

"Going to see her," he said, to himself, just as poor Mollie had said
the same thing, and just with the same heartburn. "The dev--But, no," he
broke off sharply, "I won't begin again. It is as she says,--the blessed
little darling!--it is shabby to be down on him because he has the best
of it." And he went on his way, not rejoicing, it is true, but still
trying to crush down a by no means unnatural feeling of rebellion.



CHAPTER X. ~ IN SLIPPERY PLACES.

THE wise one sat at the window and looked out. The view commanded by
Bloomsbury Place was not a specially imposing or attractive one. Four
or five tall, dingy houses with solitary scrubby shrubs in their small
front slips of low-spirited looking gardens, four or five dingy and
tall houses without the scrubby shrubs in their small front slips of
low-spirited looking gardens, rows of Venetian blinds of various shades,
and one or two lamp-posts,--not much to enliven the prospect.

The inhabitants of the houses in Bloomsbury Place were not prone to
sitting at their front windows, accordingly; but this special afternoon,
the weather being foggy, Aimée finding herself alone in the parlor, had
left the fire just to look at this same fog, though it was by no means a
novelty. The house was very quiet. 'Toinette was out, and so was
Mollie, and Tod was asleep, lying upon a collection of cushions on the
hearth-rug, with two fingers in his mouth, his round baby face turned up
luxuriously to catch the warmth.

The wise one was waiting for Mollie, who had gone out a few hours before
to execute divers commissions of a domestic nature.

"She might have been back in half the time," murmured the family sage,
who sat on the carpet, flattening her small features against the glass.
"She might have done what she has to do in _less_ than half the time,
but I knew how it would be when she went out. She is looking in at the
shop windows and wishing for things. I wish she would n't. People stare
at her so, and I don't wonder. I am sure I cannot help watching her
myself, sometimes. She grows prettier every day of her life, and she is
beginning to know that she does, too."

Five minutes after this the small face was drawn away from the
window-pane with a sigh of relief.

"There she is now. What a time she has been! Who is with her, I wonder?
I cannot see whether it is Phil or Mr. Gowan, it is getting so dark. It
must be Mr. Gowan. 'Toinette would be with them if it was Phil."

"Why, Mollie," she exclaimed, when the door opened, "I saw somebody with
you, and I thought it was Mr. Gowan. Why did n't he come in? Don't waken
Tod."

Mollie came in rather hurriedly, and going to the fire knelt down before
it, holding out her hands to warm them. Her cheeks were brilliant with
color and her eyes were bright; altogether, she looked a trifle excited.

"It was n't Mr. Gowan," she answered. "Ugh! how cold it is,--not frosty,
you know, but that raw sort of cold, Aimée. I would rather have the
frost myself, would n't you?"

But Aimée was not thinking of the weather.

"Not Mr. Gowan!" she ejaculated. "Who was it, then?"

Mollie crept nearer to the fire and gave another little shudder.

"It was--somebody else," she returned, with a triumphant little
half-laugh. "Guess who!"

"Who!" repeated Aimée. "Somebody else! It was not any one I know."

"It was somebody Phil knows."

The wise one arose and came to the fire herself.

"It was some one taller than Brown!"

"Brown!" echoed Mollie, with an air of supreme contempt. "He is _twice_
as tall. Brown is only about five feet high, and he wears an overcoat
ten times too big for him, and it flaps--yes, it _flaps_ about
his odious little heels. I should think it wasn't Brown. It was a
gentleman."

The wise one regarded her pretty, scornful face dubiously.

"Brown is n't so bad as all that implies, Mollie," she said. "His coat
is the worst part of him. But if it was n't Brown and it was n't Mr.
Gowan, who was it?"

Mollie laughed and shrugged her shoulders again, and then looked up at
her small inquisitor charmingly defiant.

"It was--Mr. Chandos!" she confessed.

Aimée gazed at her for a moment in blank amazement.

"But," she objected, "you don't know him any more than I do. You
have only seen him once through the window, and you have never been
introduced to him."

"I have seen him twice," said Mollie. "Don't you recollect my telling
you that he picked up my glove for me the night I carried Dolly's dress
to Bra-bazon Lodge, and," faltering a little and dropping her eyes, "he
introduced himself to me. He met me in town. I was passing through the
Arcade, and he stopped to ask about Phil. He apologized, of course, you
know, for doing it, but he said he was very anxious to know when Phil
would be at home, and--and perhaps I would be so kind as to tell him. He
wants to see him about a picture. And--then, you know, somehow or other,
he said something else, and--and I answered him--and he walked to the
gate with me."

"He took a great liberty," said Aimée. "And it was very imprudent in you
to let him come. I don't know what you could be thinking of. The idea of
picking up people in the street like that, Mollie; you must be crazy."

"I could n't help it," returned Mollie, not appearing at all disturbed.
"He knows Phil and he knows Dolly--a little. And he is very nice. He
wants to know us all. And he says Mr. Gowan is one of his best friends.
I liked him myself."

"I dare say you did," despairingly. "You are such a child. You would
like the man in the moon or a Kaffre chief--"

"That is not true," interposed the delinquent. "I don't know about
the man in the moon. He might be well enough--at any rate, he would
be travelled and a novelty, but Kaffre chiefs are odious. Don't you
remember those we saw last winter?"

"Mollie," said Aimée, "you are only jesting because you are ashamed of
yourself. You _know_ you were wrong to let that man come home with you."

Then Mollie hung her head and made a lovely rebellious move.

"I don't care," she said; "if it was n't exactly correct, it was nice.
But that is always the way," indignantly, "nice things are always
improper."

Here was a defection for you. The oracle quite shuddered in her discreet
disapproval.

"If you go on in that way," she said, "you will be ending by saying that
improper things are always nice."

"Never mind how I end," observed the prisoner at the bar. "You have
ended by wakening Tod;" which remark terminated the conversation
somewhat abruptly.

A day or so later came Chandos--upon business, so he said, but he
remained much longer than his errand rendered necessary, and by some
chance or other it came to pass that Phil brought him into the parlor,
and introduced him to their small circle, in his usual amiable, informal
manner. Then he was to be seen fairly, and prepossessing enough he was.
Mollie, sitting in her corner in the blue dress, and looking exquisite
and guileless, was very demurely silent at first; but in due time Aimée
began to see that she was being gradually drawn out, and at last the
drawing out was such a success, subtle as it was, that she became quite
a prominent feature in the party, and made so many brilliant speeches
without blushing, that the family eyes began to be opened to the fact
that she was really a trifle older than she had been a few years ago,
after all. The idea had suggested itself to them faintly on one or two
occasions of late, and they were just beginning to grasp it, though they
were fully as much startled as they would have been if Tod had
unexpectedly roused himself from his infantile slumbers, and mildly but
firmly announced his intention of studying for the ministry or entering
a political contest.

Aimée was dumbfounded. She had not expected this. She was going to have
her hands full, it was plain. She scarcely wondered now at her discovery
of two evenings before. And then she glanced slyly across the room
again, and took it all in once more,--Mollie, bewitching in all the
novelty of her small effort at coquetry; Chandos, leading her on, and
evidently enjoying the task he had set himself intensely.

It was quite a new Mollie who was left to them after their visitor was
gone. There was a touch of triumph and excitement in the pretty flushed
face, and a ghost of defiance in the brown eyes. She was not quite sure
that young Dame Prudence would not improve the occasion with a short
homily.

So she was a trifle restless. First she stood at the window humming an
air, then she came to the table and turned over a few sketches, then she
knelt down on pretence of teasing Tod.

But impulse was too much for her. She forgot Tod in a few minutes
and fell into a sitting position, folding her hands idly on the blue
garment.

"I knew he would come," she said, abstractedly. Then Dame Prudence
addressed her.

"Did you?" she remarked. "How did you?"

She started and blushed up to her ears.

"How?" she repeated. "Oh, I knew!"

"Perhaps he told you he would," put in Dame P. "Did he?"

"Aimée," was the rather irrelevant reply, rather suddenly made, "do you
like him?"

"I never judge people," primly enunciated, "upon first acquaintance.
First impressions are rarely to be relied upon."

"That 's a nice speech," in her elder sister's most shockingly flippant
manner, "and it sounds well, but I have heard it before--thousands of
times. People always say it when they want to be specially disagreeable,
and would like to cool you down. There is the least grain of Lady
Augusta in you, Aimée."

"And considering that Lady Augusta is the most unpleasant person we
know, _that_ is a nice speech," returned the oracle.

"Oh, well, I only said 'a grain,' and a grain is not much."

"It is quite enough."

"Well," amiably, "suppose we say half a grain."

"Suppose we say you are talking nonsense."

Mollie's air was Dolly's own as she answered her,--people always said
she was like Dolly, despite the fact that Dolly was not a beauty at all.

"There may be something in that," she said.

"Suppose we admit it and return to the subject Do you think he is nice,
Aimée?"

"Do you?"

"Yes, I do," but without getting rose-colored this time.

Aimée looked at her calmly, but with some quiet scrutiny in her glance.

"As nice," she put it to her,--"as nice as Ralph Gowan?"

She grew rose-colored then in an instant up to her ears again and over
them, and she turned her face aside and plucked at the hearth-rug with
nervous fingers.

"Well?" suggested Aimée.

"He is as handsome and--as tall, and he dresses as well."

"Do you like him as well?" said Aimée.

"Ye-es--no. I have not known him long enough to tell you."

"Well," returned Aimée, "let me tell you. As I said before, I do not
think it wise to judge people from first impressions, but this I do
know, _I_ don't like him as I like Mr. Gowan, and I never shall. He is
not to be relied upon, that Gerald Chandos; I saw it in his eyes."

And she set her chin upon her hand, and her small, round, fair face
covered itself all at once with an anxious cloud.

She kept a quiet watch upon Mollie after this, and in the weeks that
followed she was puzzled, and not only puzzled, but baffled outright
many a time. This first visit of Mr. Gerald Chandos was not his last.
His business brought him again and again, and when the time came that he
had no pretence of business, he was on sufficiently familiar terms with
them all to make calls of pleasure. So he did just as Ralph Gowan had
done, slipped into his groove of friend and acquaintance unobtrusively,
and was made welcome as other people were,--just as any sufficiently
harmless individual would have' been under the same circumstances.
There was no dragon of high renown to create social disturbances in
Vagabondia.

"As long as a man behaves himself, where's the odds?" said Phil; and no
one ever disagreed with him.

But Mr. Gerald Chandos had not been to the house more than three times
before Aimée found cause to wonder. She discovered that Ralph Gowan was
not so enthusiastically attached to him, after all; and furthermore
she had her reasons for thinking that Gowan was rather disturbed at
his advent, and would have preferred that he had not been adopted so
complacently.

"If Dolly was at home," she said to herself, "I should be inclined to
fancy he was a trifle jealous; and if he cared just a little more for
Mollie, I might think he was jealous; but Dolly is away, and though he
is fond of Mollie, and thinks her pretty, he does n't care for her in
that way exactly, so there must be some other reason. He is not the sort
of person to have likes or dislikes without reason."

In her own sage style she approved of Ralph Gowan just as she approved
of Griffith. And then, as I have said, Mollie puzzled her. It was
astonishing how the child altered, and how she began to bloom out, and
adopt independent, womanly airs and graces. She took a new and important
position in the household. From her post of observation the wise one
found herself looking on with a smile sometimes, there was such a
freshness in her style of enacting the _rôle_ of beauty. She struck
Phil's friends dumb now and then with her conscious power, and the
unhappy Brown suffered himself to be led captive without a struggle.

"Her 'prentice han' she tried on Brown," Dolly had said, months before,
in a wretched attempt at parody; and certainly the tortures of Brown
were prolonged and varied. But it was her manner toward Chandos that
puzzled Aimée. Perhaps she was a trifle proud of his evident
admiration; at all events, she seemed far from averse to it, and the
incomprehensible part of the affair was that sometimes she allowed him
to rival even Ralph Gowan.

"And yet," commented Aimée, "she likes Ralph Gowan better. She never can
help blushing and looking conscious when he comes or when he talks to
her, and she is as cool as Dolly when she finds herself with Chandos. It
is very odd."

It was not so easy to manage her as it used to be, Ralph Gowan
discovered. She was growing capricious and fanciful, and ready to take
offence. If they were left alone together, she would change her mood
every two minutes. Sometimes she would submit to his old jesting,
gallant speeches quite humbly and shyly for a while, and then she would
flame out all at once in anger, half a woman's and half a child's. He
was inclined to fancy now and then that she had never forgiven him for
his first interference on the subject of Gerald Chandos, for at the
early part of the acquaintance he did interfere, as he had promised
Dolly he would.

"I am not glad to see that fellow here, Mollie," he had said, the first
night he met him at the house.

She stood erect before him, with her white throat straight, and a spark
in her eyes.

"What fellow?" she asked.

"Chandos," he answered, coolly and briefly.

"Oh!" she returned. "How is it that when one man dislikes another he
always speaks of him as 'that fellow'? I know some one who always refers
to you as 'that fellow.'"

"Do you?" dryly, as before. He knew very well whom she meant.

"_I_ am glad to see 'that fellow' here," she went on. "He is a
gentleman, and he is n't stupid. No one else comes here who is so
amusing. I am tired of Brown & Company."

"Ah!" he answered, biting his lip. He felt the rebuff, if it was
only Mollie who gave it. "Very well then, if you are tired of Brown &
Company, and would prefer to enter into partnership with Chandos, it is
none of my business, I suppose. I will give you one warning, however,
because I promised your sister to take care of you." Her skin flamed
scarlet at that. "That fellow is not a gentleman exactly, and he is a
very dangerous acquaintance for any woman to make."

"He is a friend of yours," she interrupted.

"That is a natural mistake on your part," he replied,--"natural, but
still a mistake. He is _not_ a friend of mine. As I before observed, he
is not exactly a gentleman--not to put too fine a point upon it--from a
moral point of view. We won't discuss the matter further."

They had parted bad friends that night. Mollie was restive under his
cool decisiveness for various reasons; he was irritated because he felt
he had failed, and had lost ground instead of gaining it. So sometimes
since, he had fancied that she had not wholly forgiven him, and yet
there were times when she was so softly submissive that he felt himself
in some slight danger of being as much touched and as fairly bewitched
as he was when Dolly turned her attention to him. Still she was
frequently far from amiable, and upon more than one occasion he found
her not precisely as polite as she might have been.

"You are not as amiable, Mollie," he said to her once, "as you used
to be. We were very good friends in the old days. I suppose you are
outgrowing me. I should be afraid to offer you a bunch of camellias now
as a token of my affection."

He smiled down at her indolently as he said it, and before he had
finished he began to feel uncomfortable. Her eyelids drooped and her
head drooped, and she looked sweetly troubled.

"I know I am not as good as I used to be," she admitted. "I know it
without being told. Sometimes," very suddenly, "I think I must be
growing awfully wicked."

"Well," he commented, "at least one must admit that is a promising state
of mind, and augurs well for future repentance."

She shook her head.

"No, it doesn't," she answered him, "and that is the bad side of it. I
am getting worse every day of my life."

"Is it safe," he suggested, cynically,--"is it safe for an innocent
individual to cultivate your acquaintance? Would it not be a good plan
to isolate yourself from society until you feel that the guileless ones
may approach you without fear of contamination? You alarm me."

She lifted up her head, her eyes flashing.

"_You_ are safe," she said; "so it is rather premature to cry 'wolf' so
soon."

"It is very plain that you are outgrowing me," he returned. "Dolly
herself could not have made a more scathing remark."

But, fond as he was of tormenting her, he did not want to try her
too far, and so he endeavored to make friends. But his efforts at
reconciliation were not a success. She was not to be coaxed into her
sweet mood again; indeed she almost led him to fear that he had wounded
her irreparably by his jests. And yet, when he at last consulted his
watch, and went to the side-table for his hat and gloves, he turned
round to find her large eyes following him in a wistful sort of way.

"Are you going?" she asked him at length, a half-reluctant appeal in her
voice.

"I am due at Brabazon Lodge now," he answered.

She said no more after that, but relapsed into silence, and let him go
without making an effort to detain him, receiving his adieus in her most
indifferent style.

But she was cross and low-spirited when he was gone, and Aimée, coming
into the room with her work, found her somewhat hard to deal with, and
indeed was moved to tell her so.

"You are a most inexplicable girl, Mollie," she said. "What crotchet is
troubling you now?"

"No crotchet at all," she answered, and then all at once she got up and
stood before the mantel-glass, looking at herself fixedly. "Aimée," she
said, "if you were a man, would you admire me?"

Aimée gave her a glance, and then answered her with sharp frankness.
"Yes, I should," she said.

She remained standing for a few minutes, taking a survey of herself,
front view, side view, and even craning her pretty throat to get a
glimpse of her back; and then a pettish sigh burst from her, and she sat
down again at her sister's feet, clasping her hands about her knees in a
most unorthodox position.

"I should like to have a great deal of money," she said after a while,
and she frowned as she said it.

"That is a startling observation," commented Aimée, "and shows great
singularity of taste."

Mollie frowned again, and shrugged one shoulder, but otherwise gave the
remark small notice.

"I should like," she proceeded, "to have a carriage, and to live in a
grand house, and go to places. I should like to marry somebody rich."
And having blurted out this last confession, she looked half ashamed of
herself.

"Mollie," said Aimée, solemnly dropping her hands and her work upon her
lap, "I am beginning to feel as Dolly does; I am beginning to be afraid
you are going to get yourself into serious trouble."

Then this overgrown baby of theirs, who had so suddenly astonished
them all by dropping her babyhood and asserting herself a woman, said
something so startling that the wise one fairly lost her breath.

"If I cannot get what I want," she said, deliberately, "I will take what
I can get."

"You are going out of your mind," ejaculated Aimée.

"It does n't matter if I am," cried the romantic little goose,
positively crushing the oracle by breaking down all at once, and
flinging herself upon the hearthrug in a burst of tears,--"it does n't
matter if I am. Who cares for _me_?"



CHAPTER XI. ~ IN WHICH COMES A WIND WHICH BLOWS NOBODY GOOD.

THEEE weeks waited the wise one, keeping her eyes on the alert and her
small brain busy, but preserving an owl-like silence upon the subject
revolving in her mind. But at the end of that time she marched into the
parlor one day, attired for a walk, and astonished them all by gravely
announcing her intention of going to see Dolly.

"What are you going for?" said Mrs. Phil.

"Rather sudden, is n't it?" commented Mollie.

"I 'm going on business," returned Aimée, and she buttoned her gloves
and took her departure, without enlightening them further.

Arriving at Brabazon Lodge, she found Miss Mac-Dowlas out and Dolly
sitting alone in the parlor, with a letter from Griffith in her hand and
tears in her eyes.

Her visitor walked to the hearth, her face wrinkling portentously, and
kissed her with an air of affectionate severity.

"I don't know," she began, comprehending matters at a glance, "I am sure
I don't know what I am to do with you all. _You_ are in trouble now."

"Take off your things," said Dolly, with a helpless little sob,
"and--and then I will tell you all about it. You must stay and have
tea with me. Miss MacDowlas is away, and I--am all alone, and--and, O
Aimée!"

The hat and jacket were laid aside in two minutes, and Aimée came back
to her and knelt down.

"Is there anything in your letter you do not want me to see?" she asked.

"No," answered Dolly, in despair, and tossed it into her lap.

It was no new story, but this time the Fates seemed to have conspired
against her more maliciously than usual. A few days before Grif had
found himself terribly dashed in spirit, and under the influence of
impulse had written to her. Two or three times in one day he had heard
accidental comments upon Gowan's attentions to her, and on his return to
his lodgings at night he had appealed to her in a passionate epistle.

He was not going to doubt her again, he said, and he was struggling to
face the matter coolly, but he wanted to see her. It would be worse than
useless to call upon her at the Lodge, and have an interview under the
disapproving eyes of Miss MacDowlas, and so he had thought they might
meet again by appointment, as they had done before by chance. And Dolly
had acquiesced at once. But Fortune was against her. Just as she had
been ready to leave the house, Ralph Gowan had made his appearance, and
Miss MacDowlas had called her down-stairs to entertain him.

"I would not have cared about telling," cried Dolly, in tears, "but I
could not tell her, and so I had to stay, and--actually--_sing_--Aimée.
Yes, sing detestable love-sick songs, while my own darling, whom I was
_dying_ to go to, was waiting outside in the cold. And that was not the
worst, either. He was just outside in the road, and when the servants
lighted the gas he saw me through the window. And I was at the
piano"--in a burst--"and Ralph Gowan was standing by me. And so he went
home and wrote _that_," signifying with a gesture the letter Aimée held.
"And everything is wrong again."

It was very plain that everything _was_ wrong again. The epistle in
question was an impetuous, impassioned effusion enough. He was furious
against Gowan, and bitter against everybody else. She had cheated and
slighted and trifled with him when he most needed her love and pity; but
he would not blame her, he could only blame himself for being such an
insane, presumptuous fool as to fancy that anything he had to offer
could be worthy of any woman.

What had he to offer, etc., for half a dozen almost illegible pages,
dashed and crossed, and all on fire with his bitterness and pain.

Having taken it from Aimée, and read it for the twentieth time, Dolly
fairly wrung her hands over it.

"If we were only just _together!_" she cried. "If we only just had the
tiniest, shabbiest house in the world, and could be married and help
each other! He does n't mean to be unjust or unkind, you know, Aimée; he
would be more wretched than I am if he knew how unhappy he has made me."

"Ah!" sighed Aimée. "He should think of that before he begins."

Then she regained possession of the letter, and smoothed out its creases
on her knee, finishing by folding it carefully and returning it to its
envelope, looking very grave all the time.

"Will you lend me this?" she said at last, holding the epistle up.

"What are you going to do with it?" asked Dolly, disconsolately.

"I am going to ask Griffith to read it again. I shall be sure to see him
to-morrow night."

"Very well," answered Dolly; "but don't be too hard upon him, Aimée. He
has a great deal to bear."

"I know that," said Aimée. "And sometimes he bears it very well; but
just now he needs a little advice."

Troubled as she was, Dolly laughed at the staid expression on her small,
discreet face; but even as she laughed she caught the child in her arms
and kissed her.

"What should we do without you!" she exclaimed. "We need some one to
keep us all straight, we Vagabonds; but it seems queer that such a small
wiseacre as you should be our controlling power."

The mere sight of the small wiseacre had a comforting effect upon her.
Her spirits began to rise, and she so far recovered herself as to be
able to look matters in the face more cheerfully. There was so much
to talk about, and so many questions to ask, that it would have been
impossible to remain dejected and uninterested. It was not until after
tea, however, that Aimée brought her "business" upon the carpet. She had
thought it best not to introduce the subject during the earlier part
of the evening; but when the tea-tray was removed, and they found
themselves alone again, she settled down, and applied herself at once to
the work before her.

"I have not told you yet what I came here for this afternoon," she said.

"You don't mean to intimate that you did not come to see me!" said
Dolly.

"I came to see you, of course," decidedly; "but I came to see you for a
purpose. I came to talk to you about Mollie."

Dolly almost turned pale.

"Mollie!" she exclaimed. "What is the trouble about Mollie?"

"Something that puzzles me," was the answer. "Dolly, do you know
anything about Gerald Chandos?"

"What!" said Dolly. "It is Gerald Chandos, is it? He is not a fit
companion for her, I know that much."

And then she repeated, word for word, the conversation she had had with
Ralph Gowan.

Having listened to the end, Aimée shook her head.

"I like Mr. Gowan well enough," she said, "but he has been the cause of
a great deal of trouble among us, without meaning to be, and I am afraid
it is not at an end yet."

They were both silent for a few moments after this, and then Dolly,
looking up, spoke with a touch of reluctance.

"I dare say you can answer me a question I should like to ask you?" she
said.

"If it is about Mollie, I think I can," Aimée returned.

"You have been with her so long," Polly went on, two tiny lines showing
themselves upon _her_ forehead this time, "and you are so quick at
seeing things, that you must know what there is to know. And yet it
hardly seems fair to ask. Ralph Gowan goes to Bloomsbury Place often,
does he not?"

"He goes very often, and he seems to care more for Mollie than for any
of the rest of us."

"Aimée," Dolly said next, "does--this is my question--does Mollie care
for him?"

"Yes, she does," answered Aimée. "She cares for him so much that she is
making herself miserable about him."

"Oh, dear!" cried Dolly. "What--"

Aimée interrupted her.

"And that is not the worst. The fact is, Dolly, I don't know what to
make of her. If it was any one but Mollie, or if Mollie was a bit less
innocent and impetuous, I should not be so much afraid; but sometimes
she is angry with herself, and sometimes she is angry with him, and
sometimes she is both, and then I should not be surprised at her doing
anything innocent and frantic. Poor child! It is my impression she has
about half made up her mind to the desperate resolve of making a grand
marriage. She said as much the other night, and I think that is why she
encourages Mr. Chandos."

"Oh, dear," cried Dolly, again. "And does she think he wants to marry
her?"

"She knows he makes violent love to her, and she is not worldly-wise
enough to know that Lord Burleighs are out of date."

"Out of date!" said Dolly; "I doubt if they ever were in date. Men like
Mr. Gerald Chandos would hesitate at marrying Venus from Bloomsbury
Place."

"If it was Ralph Gowan," suggested Aimée.

"But Ralph Gowan is n't like Chandos," Dolly returned, astutely. "He is
worth ten thousand of him. I wish he would fall in love with Mollie and
marry her. Poor Mollie! Poor, pretty, headlong little goose! What are we
to do with her?"

"Mr. Gowan is very fond of her, in a way," said Aimée. "If he did not
care a little for you--"

"I wish he did not!" sighed Dolly. "But it serves me right," with
candor. "He would never have thought of me again if I--well, if I had
n't found things so dreadfully dull at that Bilberry clan gathering."

"'If,'" moralized Aimée, significantly. "'If' is n't a wise word, and it
often gets you into trouble, Dolly. 'If you hadn't, it would have been
better for Grif, as well; but what cannot be cured must be endured."

Their long talk ended, however, in Dolly's great encouragement. It was
agreed that the family oracle was to bring Griffith to his senses by
means of some slight sisterly reproof, and that she was to take Mollie
in hand discreetly at once and persuade her to enter the confessional.

"She has altered a great deal, and has grown much older and more
self-willed lately," said Aimée; "but if I am very straightforward
and-take her by surprise, I scarcely think she will be able to conceal
much from me, and, at least, I shall be able to show her that her
fancies are romantic and unpractical."

She did not waste any time before applying herself to her work, when she
went home. Instead of going to Bloomsbury Place at once, she stopped at
Griffith's lodgings on her way, and rather scandalized his landlady by
requesting to be shown into his parlor. Only the grave simplicity of the
small, slight figure in its gray cloak, and the steadfast seriousness
in the pretty face reconciled the worthy matron to the idea of admitting
her without investigation. But Aimée bore her scrutiny very calmly.
The whole family of them had taken tea in the little sitting-room with
Griffith, upon one or two occasions, so she was not at all at a loss,
although she did not find herself recognized.

"I am one of Mr. Crewe's sisters," she said; and that, of course,
was quite enough. Mrs. Cripps knew Mr. Crewe as well as she knew Grif
himself, so she stepped back into the narrow passage at once, and even
opened the parlor door, and announced the visitor in a way that made
poor Grif s heart beat.

"One of Mr. Crewe's sisters," she said.

He had been sitting glowering over the fire, with his head on his hands
and his elbows on his knees, and when he started up he looked quite
haggard and dishevelled. Was it--_could_ it be Dolly? He knew it could
not be, but he turned pale at the thought. It would have been such
rapture, in his present frame of mind, to have poured out his misery and
distrust, and then to have clasped her to his heart before she had
time to explain. He was just in that wretched, passionate, relenting,
remorseful stage.

But it was only Aimée, in her gray cloak; and as the door closed behind
her, that small person advanced toward him, crumpling her white forehead
and looking quite disturbed at the mere sight of him. She held up a
reproachful finger at him warningly.

"I knew it would be just this way," she said. "And you are paler and
more miserable than ever. If you and Dolly would just be more practical
and reason more for each other, instead of falling headlong into
quarrels and making everything up headlong every ten minutes, how much
better it would be for you! If I was not so fond of you both, you would
be the greatest trials I have."

He was so glad to see the thoughtful, womanly little creature, that
he could have caught her up in his arms, gray cloak and all, and have
kissed her only a tithe less impetuously than he would have kissed
Dolly. He was one of the most faithful worshippers at her shrine,
and her pretty wisdom and unselfishness had won her many. He drew the
easiest chair up to the fire for her, and made her sit down and warm
her feet on the fender, while she talked to him, and he listened to her
every word, as he always did.

"I have been to see Dolly," she said, "and I found her crying,--all by
herself and crying." And she paused to note the effect of her words.

His heart gave a great thump. It always did give a hard thump when he
thought of Dolly as she looked when she cried,--a soft, limp little
bundle of pathetic prettiness, covering her dear little face in her
hands, shedding such piteous, impassioned tears, and refusing to be
kissed or comforted. Dolly sobbing on his shoulder was so different from
the coquettish, shrewd, mock-worldly Dolly other people saw.

Aimée put her hand into her dress-pocket under the gray cloak and
produced her letter,--took it out of its envelope, laid it on her knee,
and smoothed out its creases again.

"She was crying over this letter," she proceeded,--"your letter; the one
you wrote to her when I think you cannot have been quite calm enough to
write anything. I think you cannot have read it over before sending it
away. It is always best to read a letter _twice_ before posting it. So
I have brought it to you to read again, and there it is," giving it to
him.

"He burst forth with the story of his wrongs, of course, then. He could
not keep it in any longer. Things had gone wrong with him in every way
before this had happened, he said, and he had longed so for just one
hour in which Dolly could comfort him and try to help him to pluck up
spirits again, and she had written to him a tender little letter, and
promised to give him that hour, and he had been so full of impatience
and love, and he had gone to the very gates and waited like a beggar
outside, lest he should miss her by any chance, and the end of his
waiting had been that he had caught a glimpse of the bright, warm room,
and the piano, and Dolly with Gowan bending over her as if she had no
other lover in the world. He told it all in a burst, clenching his hand
and scarcely stopping for breath; but when he ended he dashed the letter
down, pushed his chair round, and dropped his head on his folded arms on
the table, with a wild, tearing sob.

"It is no fault of hers," he cried, "and it was only the first sting
that made me reproach her. I shall never do it again. She is only in the
right, and that fellow is in the right when he tells himself that he
can take better care of her and make her happier than I can. I will be a
coward no longer,--not an hour longer. I will give her up to-night. She
will learn to love him--he is a gentleman at least--if I were in
his place I should never fear that she would not learn in time, and
forget--and forget the poor, selfish beggar who would have died for her,
and yet was not man enough to control the jealous rage that tortured
her. I 'll give her up. I'll give it all up--but, oh! my God! Dolly,
the--the little house, and--and the dreams I have had about it!"

Aimée was almost in despair. This was not one of his ordinary moods;
this was the culminating point,--the culmination of all his old
sufferings and pangs. He had been working slowly toward this through
all the old unhappiness and self-reproach. The constant droppings of the
bygone years had worn away the stone at last, and he could not bear much
more. Aimée was frightened now. Her habit of forethought showed her
all this in a very few seconds. His nervous, highly strung, impassioned
temperament had broken down at last. Another blow would be too much for
him. If she could not manage to set him right now and calm him, and if
things went wrong again, she was secretly conscious of feeling that the
consequences could not be foreseen. There was nothing wild and rash and
wretched he might not do.

She got up and went to him, and leaned upon the table, clasping her
cool, firm little hand upon his hot, desperate one. A woman of fifty
could not have had the power over him that this slight, inexperienced
little creature had. Her childish face caught color and life and
strength in her determination to do her best for these two whom she
loved so well. Her small-boned, fragile figure deceived people into
undervaluing her reserve forces; but there was mature feeling and
purpose enough in her to have put many a woman three times her age
to shame. The light, cool touch of her' hand soothed and controlled
Griffith from the first, and when she put forth all her powers of
reasoning, and set his trouble before him in a more practical and less
headlong way, not a word was lost upon him. She pictured Dolly to
him just as she had found her holding his letter in her hand, and she
pictured her too as she had really been the night he watched her through
the window,--not staying because she cared for Gowan, but because
circumstances had forced her to remain when she was longing in her own
impetuous pretty way to fly to him, and give him the comfort he needed.
And she gave Dolly's story in Dolly's own words, with the little sobs
between, and the usual plentiful sprinkling of sweet, foolish, loving
epithets, and--with innocent artfulness--made her seem so charming and
affectionate, a little centre-figure in the picture she drew, that no
man with a heart in his breast could have resisted her, and by the
time Aimée had finished, Grif was so far moved that it seemed a sheer
impossibility to speak again of relinquishing his claims.

But he could not regain his spirits sufficiently to feel able to say
very much. He quieted down, but he was still down at heart and crushed
in feeling, and could do little else but listen in a hopeless sort of
way.

"I will tell you what you shall do," Aimée said at last. "You shall see
Dolly yourself,--not on the street, but just as you used to see her
when she was at home. She shall come home some afternoon. I know Miss
MacDowlas will let her,--and you shall sit in the parlor together, Grif,
and make everything straight, and begin afresh."

He could not help being roused somewhat by such a prospect. The cloud
was lifted for one instant, even if it fell upon him again the next.

"I shall have to wait a week," he said. "Old Flynn has asked me to go
to Dartmouth, to attend to some business for him, and I leave here
to-morrow morning."

"Very well!" she answered. "If we must wait a week, we must; but you can
write to Dolly in the interval, and settle upon the day, and then she
can speak to Miss MacDowlas."

He agreed to the plan at once, and promised to write to Dolly that very
night. So the young peacemaker's mind was set at rest upon this subject,
at least, and after giving him a trifle more advice, and favoring him
with a few more sage axioms, she prepared to take her departure.

"You may put on your hat and take me to the door; but you had better not
come in if you are going to finish your letter before the post closes,"
she said; "but the short walk will do you good, and the night-air will
cool you."

She bade him good-night at the gate when they reached Bloomsbury Place,
and she entered the house with her thoughts turning to Mollie. Mollie
had been out, too, it seemed. When she went up-stairs to their bedroom,
she found her there, standing before the dressing-table, still with her
hat on, and looking in evident preoccupation at something she held in
her hand. Hearing Aimée, she started and turned round, dropping her hand
at her side, but not in time to hide a suspicious glitter which caught
her sister's eye. Here was a worse state of affairs than ever. She had
something to hide, and she had made up her mind to hide it. She stood up
as Aimée approached, looking excited and guilty, but still half-defiant,
her lovely head tossed back a little and an obstinate curve on her red
lips. But the oracle was not to be daunted. She confronted her with
quite a stern little air.

"Mollie," she began at once, without the least hesitation,--"Mollie, you
have just this minute hidden something from me, and I should n't have
thought you could do it."

Mollie put her closed hand behind her.

"_If_ I am hiding something," she answered, "I am not hiding it without
reason."

"No," returned Dame Prudence, severely, "you are not. You have a very
good reason, I am afraid. You are ashamed of yourself, and you know you
are doing wrong. You have got a secret, which you are keeping from _me_,
Mollie," bridling a little in the prettiest way. "I didn't think you
would keep a secret from _me_."

Mollie, very naturally, was overpowered. She looked a trifle ashamed of
herself, and the tears came into her eyes. She drew her hand from behind
her back, and held it out with a half-pettish, half-timid gesture.

"There!" she said; "if you must see it."

And there, on her pink palm, lay a shining opal ring.

"And," said Aimée, looking at it without offering to touch it, and then
looking at her,--"and Mr. Gerald Chandos gave it to you?"

"Yes, Mr. Gerald Chandos did," trying to brave it out, but still
appearing the reverse of comfortable. "And you think it proper,"
proceeded her inquisitor, "to accept such presents from a gentleman who
cares nothing for you?"

Care nothing for her! Mollie drew herself upright, with the air of a
Zenobia. She had had too few real love affairs not to take arms at once
at such an imputation cast upon her prowess.

"He cares enough for me to want me to marry him," she said, and then
stopped and looked as if she could have bitten her tongue off for
betraying her.

Aimée sat down in the nearest chair and stared at her, as if she doubted
the evidence of her senses.

"To do what?" she demanded.

There was no use in trying to conceal the truth any longer. Mollie saw
that much; and besides this, her feelings were becoming too strong for
her from various causes. The afternoon had been an exciting one to her,
too. So, all at once, so suddenly that Aimée was altogether unprepared
for the outbreak, she gave way. The ring fell unheeded on to the carpet,
slipped from her hand and rolled away, and the next instant she went
down upon her knees, hiding her face on her arms on Aimée's lap, and
began to cry hysterically.

"It--it is to be quite a secret," she sobbed. "I would not tell anybody
but you, and I dare not tell you quite all, but he _has_ asked me to
marry him, Aimée, and I have--I have said yes." And then she cried more
than ever, and caught Aimée's hand, and clung to it with a desperate,
childish grasp, as if she was frightened.

It was very evident that she was frightened, too. All the newly assumed
womanliness was gone. It was the handsome, inexperienced, ignorant
child Mollie she had known all her life who was clinging to her, Aimée
felt,--the pretty, simple, thoughtless Mollie they had all admired and
laughed at, and teased and been fond of. She seemed to have become a
child again all at once, and she was in trouble and desperate, it was
plain.

"But the very idea!" exclaimed Aimée, inwardly; "the bare idea of her
having the courage to engage herself to him!"

"I never heard such a thing in my life," she said, aloud. "Oh, Mollie!
Mollie! what induced you to give him such a mad answer? You don't care
for him."

"He--he would not take any other answer, and he is as nice as any one
else," shamefacedly. "He is nicer than Brown and the others, and--I do
like him--a little," but a tiny shudder crept over her, and she held her
listener's hand more tightly.

"As nice as any one else!" echoed Aimée, indignantly. "Nicer than Brown!
You ought to be in leading-strings!" with pathetic hopelessness. "That
was n't your only reason, Mollie."

The hat with the short crimson feather had been unceremoniously pushed
off, and hung by its elastic upon Mollie's neck; the pretty curly hair
was all crushed into a heap, and the flushed, tear-wet face was hidden
in the folds of Aimée's dress. There was a charming, foolish, fanciful
side to Mollie's desperation, as there was to all her moods.

"That was not your only reason," repeated Aimée.

One impetuous, unhappy little sob, and the poor simple child confessed
against her will.

"Nobody--nobody else cared for me!" she cried.

"Nobody?" said Aimée; and then, making up her mind to go to the point at
once, she said, "Does 'nobody' mean that Ralph Gowan did not, Mollie?"

The clinging hand was snatched away, and the child quite writhed.

"I hate Ralph Gowan!" she cried. "I detest him! I wish--I wish--I _wish_
I had never seen him! Why could n't he stay away among his own people?
Nobody wanted him. Dolly doesn't care for him, and Grif hates him. Why
could n't he stay where he was?"

There was no need to doubt after this, of course. Her love for Ralph
Gowan had rendered her restless and despairing, and so she had worked
out this innocent romance, intending to defend herself against him. The
heroines of her favorite novels married for money when they could
not marry for love, and why should not she? Remember, she was only
seventeen, and had been brought up in Vagabondia among people who did
not often regard consequences. Mr. Gerald Chandos was rich, made violent
love to her, and was ready to promise anything, it appeared,--not that
she demanded much; the Lord Burleighs of her experience invariably
showered jewels and equipages and fine raiment upon their brides without
being asked. She would have thought it positive bliss to be tied to
Ralph Gowan for six or seven years without any earthly prospect of ever
being married; to have belonged to him as Dolly belonged to Grif, to sit
in the parlor and listen to him while he made love to her as Grif made
love to Dolly, would have been quite enough steady-going rapture for
her; but since that was out of the question, Mr. Gerald Chandos and
diamonds and a carriage would have to fill up the blank.

But, of course, she did not say this to Aimée. In fact, after her first
burst of excitement subsided, Aimée could not gain much from her. She
cried a little more, and then seemed vexed with herself, and tried to
cool down, and at last so far succeeded that she sat up and pushed her
tangled hair from her wet, hot face, and began to search for the ring.

"It has got a diamond in the centre," she said, trying to speak
indifferently. "I don't believe you looked at it. The opals are
splendid, too."

"Are you going to wear it?" asked Aimée.

She colored up to her forehead. "No, I am not," she answered. "I should
have worn it before if I had intended to let people see it. I told you
it was a secret. I have had this ring three or four days."

"Why is it a secret?" demanded Dame Prudence. "I don't believe in
secrets,--particularly in secret engagements. Is n't Phil to know?"

She turned away to put the ring into its case.

"Not yet," she replied, pettishly. "Time enough when it can't be helped.
It is a secret, I tell you, and I don't care about everybody's talking
it over."

And she would say no more.



CHAPTER XII. ~ IN WHICH THERE IS AN EXPLOSION.

"It is my impression," said Dolly, "that something is going to happen."

She was not in the best of spirits. She could not have explained why.
Griffith was safe, at least, though he had been detained a week longer
than he had anticipated, and consequently their meeting would have to be
deferred; but though this had been a disappointment, Dolly was used
to such disappointments, and besides the most formidable part of the
waiting was over, for it was settled now that he would be home in two
days. It was Tuesday now, and on Thursday he was to return, and she
was going to Bloomsbury Place in the afternoon, and he was to join the
family tea as he had used to do in the old times. But still she did not
feel quite easy. She was restless and uncomfortable in spite of herself,
and was conscious of being troubled by a vague presentiment of evil.

"It is not like me to be blue," she said to herself; "but I am blue
to-day. I wonder what is going on at home."

Then, as was quite natural, her thoughts wandered to Mollie, and
she began to ponder upon what Aimée had told her. How were matters
progressing, and what was going to be the end of it all? The child's
danger was plainer to her than it was to Aimée; and, fond as she was of
Mollie, she had determined to improve the occasion of her visit home,
by taking the fair delinquent aside and administering a sound lecture
to her. She would tell her the truth, at least, and try to open her
innocent eyes to the fact that Mr. Gerald Chandos was not a man of the
King Cophetua stamp, and that there was neither romance nor poetry in
allowing such a man to amuse himself at her expense.

Poor Mollie! It would be a humiliating view to take of a first conquest,
but it would be the best thing for her in the end. Dolly sighed over
the mere prospect of the task before her. She remembered what her first
conquest had been, and how implicitly she had believed in her new power,
and how trustingly she had swallowed every sugared nothing, and how she
had revelled in the field of possible romance which had seemed spread
before her, until she had awakened one fine day to find the first
flush of her triumph fading, and her adorer losing his attractions and
becoming rather tame. That had been long ago, even before Griffith's
time, but she had not forgotten the experience, and she knew it
would have been a severe shock to _her_ innocent self-love and
self-gratulation, if any one had hinted to her that there was a doubt
of her captive's honesty. She was roused from her reverie by a message
from Miss MacDowlas. It was only a commonplace sort of message. There
were some orders to be left at the poulterer's and fruiterer's, and some
bills to be paid in town, and, these affairs being her business, Miss
MacDowlas had good-naturedly ordered the carriage for her, as she had a
long round to make.

Dolly got up and laid her work aside. She was not sorry for the
opportunity of going out, so she ran up-stairs with some alacrity to
put on her hat, and, having dressed, went to Miss MacDowlas for more
particular instructions.

"You are looking rather pale and the drive will do you good," said that
lady. "Call at Pullet's and pay his bill, and order the things on his
list first. By the way, it was when I drove round to give orders to
Pullet the other day, that I saw your pretty sister with Gerald Chandos.
She is too pretty, far too pretty, and far too young and inexperienced,
to be giving private interviews to such people as Gerald Chandos,"
sharply.

"Private!" repeated Dolly, with some indignation. "I think that is a
mistake. Mr. Gerald Chandos has no need to make his interview private.
The doors are open to him at Bloomsbury Place so long as he behaves
himself."

"The more is the pity," answered Miss MacDowlas; "but that this was a
private interview I am certain. My pretty Miss Innocence came up the
street slowly with her handsome baby-face on fire, and two minutes later
Gerald Chandos followed her in a wondrous hurry, and joined her
and carried her off, looking very guilty and charming, and a trifle
reluctant, I must admit."

Dolly's cheeks flushed, and her heart began to beat hotly. If this was
the case it was simply disgraceful, and Miss Mollie was allowing herself
to be led too far.

"I am sorry to hear this," she said to Miss Mac-Dowlas, "but I am
indebted to you for telling me. I will attend to it when I go home on
Thursday, and," with a flash of fire, "if it is needful I will attend to
Mr. Gerald Chandos himself."

She entered the carriage, feeling hot with anger and distress. She had
not expected such a blow, even though she had told herself that she was
prepared to hear of any romantic imprudence. And then in the midst of
her anger she began to pity Mollie, as it seemed natural to pity her
always when she was indiscreet. Who had ever taught her to be discreet,
poor child? Had she herself? No, she had not. She had been fond of her
and proud of her beauty, but she had laughed at her unsophisticated,
thoughtless way with the rest, and somehow they had all looked upon
her as they looked upon Tod,--as rather a good joke. Dolly quite hated
herself as she remembered how she had related her own little escapades
for the edification of the family circle, and how Mollie had enjoyed
them more than any one else. She had never overstepped the actual
bounds of propriety herself, but she had been coquettish and fond of
admiration, and had delighted to hold her own against the world.

"I was n't a good example to her!" she cried, remorsefully. "She ought
to have had a good, wise mother. I wish she had. I wish I had one
myself."

And she burst into tears, and leaned her head against the cushioned
carriage, feeling quite overcome by her self-reproach and consciousness.
Their mother had died when Mollie was born, and they had been left to
fight their own battles ever since.

She was obliged to control herself, however. It would never do to
present herself to Pullet in tears. So she sat up and dried her eyes
with her handkerchief, and turned to the carriage window to let the
fresh air blow upon her face. But she had not been looking out
two minutes when her attention was attracted by something down the
street,--a bit of color,--a little tuft of scarlet feathers in a hat,
and then her eyes, wandering lower, recognized a well-remembered jacket
and a well-remembered dress, and then the next instant she uttered an
exclamation in spite of herself.

"It is Mollie!" she cried. "It is Mollie, and here is Gerald Chandos!"

For at the door of a bookseller's she was just near-ing stood the
gentleman in question, holding a periodical in his hand, and evidently
awaiting an arrival.

He caught sight of Mollie almost as soon as she did herself, and
the instant he saw her he hurried toward her, and by the time Miss
MacDowlas's carriage rolled slowly up to them, in its usual stately
fashion, he was holding the small disreputable glove Mollie had just
taken out of the convenient jacket pocket, and the fair culprit herself
was listening to his eager greeting with the old, bright, uncontrollable
blushes, and the old dangerous trick of drooping brown-fringed eyelids,
and half-shy, half-wilful air. Dolly instinctively called to her almost
aloud. She could not resist the impulse.

"Mollie!" she said. "Mollie!"

But, of course, Mollie did not hear her, and the carriage passed her,
and Dolly sank back into her corner catching her breath.

"It was not a mistake," she said; "it was true. It is worse than I
thought. Miss MacDowlas was right. It was no accident which brought them
both here. He is a cowardly scoundrel and is playing upon her ignorance.
If I had believed in him before, I should know that he is not to be
trusted now. She is walking on the edge of a precipice, and she thinks
she is safe and never dreams of its existence. Oh, Mollie! Mollie! the
world means nothing to you yet, and it is we who have to show you all
the thorns!"

She finished her errands and drove homeward as quickly as possible. She
could think of nothing but Mollie, and by the time she reached Barbrazon
Lodge her head ached with the unpleasant excitement. The servant who
opened the door met her with a piece of information. Mr. Gowan had
called to see her on some special business, and was awaiting her arrival
in the drawing-room. He had been there almost an hour.

She did not go to her room at all, but ran up-stairs to the drawing-room
quickly, feeling still more anxious. It was just possible that somebody
was ill, and Ralph Gowan had come to break the news to her because no
one else had been at liberty. With this idea uppermost, she opened the
door and advanced toward him, looking pale and troubled.

He met her half-way, and took her outstretched hand, looking troubled
himself.

"You are not very well," he said at once. "I am sorry to see that." And
his voice told her immediately that he had not come with good news.

She smiled faintly, but when she sat down she put her hand to her
forehead.

"Am I pale, then?" she answered. "I suppose I must be. It is nothing
but a trifle of headache, and," with a hesitant laugh, "that I half
fancied you had come to tell me something unpleasant."

He was silent for a moment,--so silent that she looked up at him with a
startled face.

"It _is_ something unpleasant!" she exclaimed. "You have come with ill
news, and you are afraid to begin."

"Not so bad as that,--not afraid, but rather reluctant," he answered.
"It is _not_ pleasant news; and but that I felt it would be wisest to
warn you at once, I would rather any one else had brought it. I have
stumbled upon a disagreeable report."

"Report!" Dolly echoed, and her thoughts flew to Mollie again.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "It is only a disagreeable one because
the subject of it has managed to connect himself with some one whose
happiness we value."

Dolly rose from her chair and stood up, turning even paler than before.

"This some one whose happiness we value is Mollie," she said. "And the
report you have heard is about Mr. Gerald Chandos. Am I not right?"

"Yes," he returned, "you are right. The hero of the report is Gerald
Chandos."

"What has he been doing?" she asked, 'sharply. "Don't hesitate, please.
I want to know."

He was evidently both distressed and perplexed. He took two or three
hurried steps across the room, as if to give himself a little extra time
to settle his words into the best form. But Dolly could not wait.

"Mr. Gowan," she said, "what has that man been doing?"

He turned round and answered her.

"He has been passing himself off to your brother as an unmarried man,"
he said.

She slipped back into her chair again, and wrung her hands passionately.

"And he is married?" she demanded. "Oh! how was it you did not know
this?''

"Not one in ten of Mr. Gerald Chandos's friends know it," he returned.
"And I am only a chance acquaintance. It is not an agreeable story to
tell, if what report says is true. Remember, it is only report as yet,
and I will not vouch for it. It is said that the marriage was the end
of a boyish folly, and that the happy couple separated by mutual consent
six months after its consummation. The woman went to California, and
Chandos has not seen her since, though he hears of her whereabouts
occasionally."

"And you are not quite sure yet that the report is true?" said Dolly.

"Not quite sure," he replied; "but I wish I had greater reason to doubt
it."

Recurring mentally to the little scene she had witnessed on the street
only an hour or so previously, and remembering Mollie's blushes and
drooping eyes, and the look they had won from Mr. Gerald Chandos as he
took her half-reluctant hand in his, Dolly bit her lips hard, feeling
her blood grow hot within her. She waited just a minute to cool herself,
and then spoke.

"Mr. Gowan," she said, "in the first place I ought to thank you."

"Nay," he said, "I promised to help you to care for Mollie."

"I ought to thank you," she repeated. "And I do. But in the second place
I am going to ask you to do something for me which may be disagreeable."

"You may be sure," he replied, "that I shall not hesitate."

"Yes," she said, "I think I am sure of that, or I should not ask you. I
am so eager about the matter, that I could not bear to waste the time.
I want you to help me. On Thursday afternoon I am going home. Can you
trace this report to its source before then, and let me know whether it
is a true or a false one?"

"I can try."

She clasped both her gloved hands together on the small table before
her, and lifted to his such a determined young face and such steadfast
eyes, that he was quite impressed. She would rise in arms against the
world for poor, unwise Mollie, it was plain. It was not so safe a matter
to trifle in Vagabondia, it would seem,--that Gerald Chandos would find
to his cost.

"If you bring word to me that what you have heard is a truth," she said,
"I can go to Mollie with my weapon in my hand, and I can end all at one
blow. However wilful and incredulous she may have been heretofore, she
will not attempt to resist me when I tell her that. It is a humiliating
thing to think he has insulted her by keeping his secret so far; but we
meet with such covert stings now and then in Vagabondia, and perhaps it
will prove a blessing in disguise. If we had used our authority to make
her dismiss him without having a decided reason to give her, she might
only have resented our intervention as being nothing but prejudice. As
it is, she will be frightened and angry."

So it was agreed upon that he should take in hand the task of sifting
the affair to the bottom. His time was his own, and chance had thrown
him among men who would be likely to know the truth. As soon as he had
gained the necessary information, Dolly would hear from him, or he would
call upon her and give her all particulars.

"You have a whole day before you,--nearly two whole days, I may say,
for I shall not be likely to leave here until five or six o'clock
on Thursday," Dolly said, when their rather lengthened interview
terminated.

"I will make the most of my time," he replied.

Dolly stood at the window and watched him go down the walk to the gates.

"This is the something which was going to happen," she commented.
"Having set matters straight with Grif, I suppose it is necessary, for
the maintenance of my self-control, that I should have a difficulty
about Mollie; but I think I could have retained my equilibrium without
it."

The two days passed quietly enough up to Thursday afternoon. Whatever
Ralph Gowan had discovered, he was keeping to himself for the present.
He had not written, and he had not called. Naturally, Dolly was
impatient. She began to be very impatient indeed, as the afternoon
waned, and it became dusk. Worse still, her old restlessness came upon
her. She could not make up her mind to leave Brabazon Lodge until she
had either seen or heard from Gowan, and she was afraid that if she
lingered late Griffith would arrive before her, and would be troubled by
her non-appearance. Since the night they had met in the street she had
not seen him, and she had much to say-to him. She had looked forward
anxiously to this evening, and the few quiet hours they were to spend
together in the dear old disreputable parlor at Blooms-bury Place.
They had spent so many blissful evenings in that parlor, that the very
thought of it made her heart beat happily. Nobody would be there to
interfere with them. The rest of the family would, good-naturedly,
vacate and leave them alone, and she would take her old chair by the
fire, and Grif would sit near her, and in ten minutes after they had sat
so together, they would have left all their troubles behind them, and
wandered off into a realm of tender dreams and sweet unrealities.
But, impatient as she was to be gone, Dolly could not forget Mollie's
interest. It was too near her heart to be forgotten. She must attend to
Mollie's affairs first, and then she could fly to Grif and the parlor
with an easy conscience. So she waited until five o'clock before
dressing to go out, and then, after watching at the window for a while,
she decided to go to her room and put on her hat and make all her small
preparations, so that when her visitor arrived she might be ready to
leave the house as soon as he did.

"It won't do to keep Grif waiting too long, even for Mollie's sake," she
said. "I must consider him, too. If Mr. Gowan does not come by six or
half-past, I shall be obliged to go."

She purposely prolonged her toilet, even though it had occupied a
greater length of time than usual in the first instance. There had
been a new acquisition in the shape of a dress to don, and one or two
coquettish aids to appearance, which were also novelties. But before six
o'clock she was quite ready, and, having nothing else to do, was reduced
to the necessity of standing before the glass and taking stock of
herself and her attire.

"It fits," she soliloquized, curving her neck in her anxiety to obtain a
back view of herself. "It fits like a glove, and so Grif will be sure to
like it. His admiration for clothes that fit amounts to a monomania. He
will make his usual ecstatic remarks on the subject of figure, too. And
I must confess," with modest self-satisfaction,--"I must confess that
those frills are not unbecoming. If we were only rich--and married--how
I would dress, to please him! Being possessed of a figure, one's results
are never uncertain. Figure is a weakness of mine, also. With the
avoirdupois of Miss Jolliboy, life would appear a desert. Ten thousand
per annum would not console me. And yet she wears sables and seal-skin,
and is happy. It is a singular fact, worthy of the notice of the
philosopher, that it is such women who invariably possess the sable and
seal-skin. Ah, well!" charitably, "I suppose it is a dispensation of
Providence. When they attain that size they need some compensation."

Often in after time she remembered the complacent little touch of
vanity, and wondered how it had been possible that she could stand
there, making so thoughtless and foolish a speech when danger was so
near, and so much of sharp, passionate suffering was approaching her.

She had waited until the last minute, and finding, on consulting her
watch, that it was past six, she decided to wait no longer. She took
up her gloves from the dressing-table and drew them on; she settled
the little drooping plume in her hat and picked up her muff, and then,
giving a last glance and a saucy nod to the piquant reflection in the
glass, she opened her bedroom door to go out.

And then it was, just at this last moment, that there came a ring at the
hall-door bell,--evidently a hurried ring, and withal a ring which made
her heart beat, she knew not why.

She stood at the head of the staircase and listened. A moment later, and
the visitor was speaking to the servant who had admitted him.

"Mr. Gowan," she heard. "Miss Crewe--wish to see her at once--at once."

She knew by his voice that something was wrong, and she did not wait for
the up-coming of the servant. She almost flew down the staircase, and
entered the parlor an instant after him; and when he saw her he met her
with an exclamation of thankfulness.

"Thank God!" he said, "that you are ready!" He was pale with excitement,
and fairly out of breath. He did not give her time to answer him. "You
must come with me," he said. "There is not a moment to lose. I have a
cab at the door. I have driven here at full speed. The report is true,
and I have found out that to-night Chandos leaves London. But that is
not the worst,--for God's sake, be calm, and remember how much depends
upon your courage,--he intends taking your sister with him."

Terrible as the shock was to her, she was calm, and did remember how
much might depend upon her. She forgot Grif and the happy evening she
had promised herself; she forgot all the world but Mollie,--handsome,
lovable, innocent Mollie, who was rushing headlong and unconsciously to
misery and ruin. A great, sharp change seemed to come upon her as she
turned to Ralph Gowan. She was not the same girl who, a minute or so
before, had nodded at her pretty self in the glass; the excited blood
tingled in her veins; she was full of desperate, eager bravery,--she
could not wait a breath's space.

"Come!" she exclaimed, "I am ready. You can tell me the rest when we are
in the cab."

She did not even know where they were going until she heard Gowan give
the driver the directions. But, as they drove through the streets, she
learned all.

In spite of his efforts, it was not until the eleventh hour that he had
succeeded in obtaining positive proof of the truth of the report, though
he had found less cause to doubt it each time he made fresh inquiries.
In the end he had been driven to the necessity of appealing to a man who
had been Chandos's confidential valet, and who, rascal though he was,
still was able to produce proofs to be relied on. Then he had been
roused to such indignation that he had driven to the fellow's lodgings
with the intention of confronting him with his impudent guilt, and there
he had made the fearful discovery that he had just left the place with
"a pretty, childish-looking girl,--tall, and with a lovely color," as
the landlady described her; and he had known it was Mollie at once.

The good woman had given him all particulars. They had come to the house
together in a cab, and the young lady had not got out, but had remained
seated in it while her companion had given his orders to his servant
indoors. She--his housekeeper--had heard him say something about
Brussels, and, having caught a glimpse of the charming face in the
vehicle outside, she had watched it from behind the blinds, suspecting
something out of the common order of things.

"Not that he did not treat her polite and respectful enough," she added;
"for he did and she--pretty young thing--seemed quite to expect it, and
not to be at all ashamed of herself, though she were a trifle shy and
timid. I even heard him ask her if she would rather he rode outside, and
she said she 'thought so, if he pleased,' And he bowed to her and went,
quite obedient. That was what puzzled me so; if he 'd ha' been freer, I
could have understood it."

"It does not puzzle me!" cried Dolly, clenching her hands and fairly
panting for breath when she heard it. "He knows how innocent she is, and
he is too crafty to alarm her by his manner. Oh, cannot we make this man
drive faster?--cannot we make him drive faster?"

Gowan drew out his watch and referred to it.

"There is no danger of our losing their train," he said. "It does not
leave the station until nearly seven, and it is not yet half-past six.
If they leave London to-night, we shall meet them; if they do not, I
think I can guess where we shall find them. Re-member, you must
not allow yourself to become excited. We have only our coolness and
readiness of action to rely upon. If we lose our presence of mind, we
lose all."

He did not lose his presence of mind, at least.

Even in the midst of her distress, Dolly found time to feel grateful to
him beyond measure, and to admire his forethought. He never seemed
to hesitate for a moment. He had evidently decided upon his course
beforehand, and there was no delay. Reaching the station, he assisted
Dolly to descend from the cab and led her at once to a seat where she
could command a view of all who made their appearance upon the platform.
Then he left her and went to make inquiries from the officials. He
was not absent long. In a few minutes he returned with the necessary
information. The train was not due for twenty minutes, and as yet no
lady and gentleman answering to his description had been seen by any one
in the place.

He came to Dolly and took a seat by her, looking down at her upturned,
appealing face pityingly, but reassuringly.

"We are safe yet," he said. "They have not arrived, and they can have
taken passage in no other train. We will watch this train leave the
station, and then we will drive at full speed to the hotel Chandos is in
the habit of visiting when he makes a flying journey. I know the place
well enough."

The next half-hour was an anxious one to both. The train was behind
time, and consequently they were compelled to wait longer than they had
expected. A great many people crowded into the station and took tickets
for various points,--workingmen and their wives, old women with bundles,
and young ones without, comfortable people who travelled first-class and
seemed satisfied with themselves, shabbily attired little dressmakers
and milliners with bandboxes, a party of tourists, and a few nice girls;
in fact, the usual samples of people hurrying or taking it easy, losing
their temper or preserving it; but there was no Mollie. The last moment
arrived, the guards closed the carriage doors with the customary bang,
and the customary cry of "All right;" there were a few puffs and a
whistle, and then the train moved slowly out of the station. Mollie was
not on her way to Brussels yet; that was a fact to be depended upon.

Dolly rose from her seat with a sigh which was half relief.

"Now for trying the hotel," said Gowan. "Take my arm and summon up your
spirits. In less than a quarter of an hour, I think I may say, we shall
have found our runaway, and we shall have to do our best to reduce her
romantic escapade to a commonplace level. We may even carry her back to
Bloomsbury Place before they have had time to become anxious about her.
Thank Heaven, we were so fortunate as to discover all before it was too
late!"

Bloomsbury Place! A sudden pang shot through Dolly's heart. She
recollected then for the first time that at Bloomsbury Place Griffith
was waiting for her, and that it might be a couple of hours before she
could see him and explain. She got into the cab and leaned back in one
corner, with the anxious tears forcing themselves into her eyes. It
seemed as if fate itself was against her.

"What will he think?" she exclaimed, unconsciously. "Oh, what will
he think?" Then, seeing that Gowan had heard her, she looked at him
piteously.

"I did not mean to speak aloud," she said. "I had forgotten in my
trouble that Grif will be waiting for me all this time. He has gone to
the house to meet me, and--I am not there."

Perhaps he felt a slight pang, too. For some time he had been slowly
awakening, to the fact that this otherwise unfortunate Grif was all in
all to her, and shut out the rest of the world completely. He had no
chance against him, and no other man would have any. Still, even in the
face of this knowledge, the evident keenness of her disappointment cut
him a little.

"You must not let that trouble you," he said, generously. "Donne will
easily understand your absence when you tell him where you have been.
In the meantime, I have a few suggestions to make before we reach the
hotel."

It was Mollie he was thinking of. He was wondrously tender of her in
his man's pity for her childish folly and simplicity. If possible,
they must keep her secret to themselves. If she had left no explanation
behind her, she must have given some reason for leaving the house, and
if they found her at the hotel it would not be a difficult matter to
carry her back home without exciting suspicion, and thus she would be
saved the embarrassment and comment her position would otherwise call
down upon her. Griffith might be told in confidence, but the rest of
them might be left to imagine that nothing remarkable had occurred.
These were his suggestions.

Dolly agreed to adopt them at once, it is hardly necessary to say. The
idea that it would be possible to adopt them made the case look less
formidable. She had been terribly troubled at first by the thought of
the excitement the explanation of the escapade would cause at Bloomsbury
Place. Phil would have been simply furious,--not so much against Mollie
as against Chandos. His good-natured indifference to circumstances would
not have been proof against the base betrayal of confidence involved in
the affair. And then even in the after-time, when the worst was over and
forgotten, the innumerable jokes and thoughtless sarcasms she would have
had to encounter would have been Mollie's severest punishment. When the
remembrance of her past danger had faded out of the family mind, and the
whimsical side of the matter presented itself, they would have teased
her, and Dolly felt that such a course would be far from safe. So she
caught at Ralph Gowan's plan eagerly.

Still she felt an excited thrill when the cab drew up before the door of
the hotel. Suppose they should not find her? Suppose Chandos had taken
precautions against their being followed?

But Gowan did not seem to share her misgivings, though the expression
upon his face was a decidedly disturbed one as he descended from the
vehicle.

"You must remain seated until I come back," he said. "I shall not be
many minutes, I am sure. I am convinced they are here." And then he
closed the cab door and left her.

She drew out her watch and sat looking at it to steady herself. Her mind
was not very clear as to how she intended to confront Mr. Gerald Chandos
and convince Mollie. The convincing of Mollie would not be difficult,
she was almost sure, but the confronting of Gerald Chandos was not a
pleasant thing to think of.

She was just turning over in her mind a stirring, scathing speech, when
the cab door opened again, and Gowan stood before her. He had not been
absent five minutes.

"It is as I said it would be," he said. "They are here,--at least Mollie
is here. Chandos has gone out, and she is alone in the private parlor
he has engaged for her. They have evidently missed their train. They
intended to leave by the first in the morning. I have managed to give
the impression that we are expected, and so we shall be shown on to the
scene at once without any trouble."

And so they were. A waiter met them at the entrance and led them
up-stairs without the slightest hesitation.

"It is not necessary to announce us," said Gowan. And the man threw open
the door of No. 2 with a bow.

They crossed the threshold together without speaking, and when the
door closed behind them they turned and looked at each other with a
simultaneous but half-smothered exclamation.

It was a pretty room, bright with a delicate gay-hued carpet and thick
white rugs, numerous mirrors and upholstering of silver-gray and blue.
There was a clear-burning fire in the highly polished steel-grate,
and one of the blue and silver-gray sofas had been drawn up to it,
and there, upon this sofa, lay Mollie with her hand under her cheek,
sleeping like a baby.

They were both touched to the heart by the mere sight of her. There was
something in the perfect repose of her posture and expression that was
childish and restful. It was a difficult matter to realize that she was
sleeping on the brink of ruin and desolation. Something bright gathered
on Dolly's lashes and slipped down her cheek as she looked at her.

"Thank God, we have found her!" she said. "Just to think that she should
be sleeping like that,--as if she was at home. If she was two years old
she might wear just such a look."

Gowan hardly liked to stand by as she went toward the sofa. The girl's
face, under the coquettish hat, seemed to grow womanly, her whole figure
seemed to soften as she knelt down upon the carpet by the couch and laid
her hand upon Mollie's shoulder, speaking to her gently.

"Mollie," she said, "dear, waken."

Just that, and Mollie started up with a faint cry, dazzled by the light,
and rubbing her eyes and her soft, flushed cheeks, just as she had done
the night Gowan surprised her asleep in the parlor.

"Dolly," she cried out, when she saw who was with her,--"Dolly," in a
half-frightened voice, "why did you come here?"

"I came to take you home," answered Dolly, tremulously, but firmly.
"Thank God! I am not too late! Oh, Mollie, Mollie, how could you?"

Mollie sat up among her blue and gray cushions and stared at her for a
moment, as if she was not wide enough awake to realize what she meant.
But the next instant she caught sight of Ralph Gowan, and that roused
her fully, and she flushed scarlet.

"I don't know what you mean," she said. "I don't know what you mean
by coming here in this way. And I don't know what Mr. Gowan means by
bringing you,--for I feel sure he has brought you. I am not a baby,
to be followed as if I could not take care of myself. I am going to
be married to Mr. Gerald Chandos to-morrow, and we are going on the
Continent for our wedding tour."

She was in a high state of rebellion. It was Gowan's presence she was
resenting, not Dolly's. To tell the truth, she was rather glad to see
Dolly. She had begun to feel the loneliness of her position, and it had
half intimidated her. But the sight of Gowan roused her spirit. What
right had he to come and interfere with her, since he did not care for
her and thought she was nothing but a child? It made her feel like a
child. She turned her back to him openly as she spoke to Dolly.

"I am going to be married in the morning," she repeated; "and we are
going to Brussels."

Then, in her indignation against Mr. Gerald Chandos, Dolly fired a
little herself.

"And has it never occurred to you," she said, "that it is rather a
humiliating thing this running away, as if you knew you were doing
something disgraceful? May I ask what reason Mr. Gerald Chan-dos gives
for asking you to submit to such an insult, for it is an insult?"

"He has very good reasons," answered Mollie, beginning to falter all at
once, as the matter was presented to her in this new and trying light.
"He has very good reasons,--something about business and--and his
family, and he does not intend to insult me. He is very fond of me and
very proud of me, and he is going to try to make me very happy. He--he
has bought me a beautiful trousseau--" And then, seeing the two exchange
indignant yet pitying glances, she broke off suddenly and burst forth as
if she was trying to hide in anger the subtle, mysterious fear which was
beginning to creep upon her. "How dare you look at each other so!" she
cried. "How dare you look at me so! I have done nothing wrong. He says
many other people do the same thing and--and I won't be looked at so. I
shall not tell you another word. You--you look as if I was going to do
something wicked and dreadful." And she flung herself face downward upon
the sofa cushions and broke into a passionate, excited sob.

Then Dolly could control herself no longer. She flashed out into a storm
of wrath and scorn against this cool, systematic scoundrel, who would
have wrought such harm-against such simple ignorance of the world.
What had they not saved her from, poor, foolish child? She clenched her
little, gloved hand and struck it against the sofa arm, the hot color
flaming up on her cheeks and the fire lighting in her eyes.

"Mollie!" she exclaimed, "that is what is true! You are going to do
something that is dreadful to think of, though you do not think so
because you do not know the truth. And we have come to tell you the
truth and save you. That man is a villain,--he is the worst of villains.
He does not intend to marry you,--he cannot marry you, and, knowing
he cannot, he has been laying traps for months to drag you down into
a horrible pit of shame. Yes, of the bitterest grief and shame,--poor,
simple child as you are,--for I must tell you the whole dreadful truth,
though I would far rather hide it from you, if I could. There are some
wicked, wicked men in the world, Mollie, and Gerald Chandos is one of
the worst, for he has got a wife already."

It did not seem to be Mollie who sprang up from her cushions and
confronted them with wide-opened eyes. Every bit of color had died out
of her cheeks and lips, and she turned from one to the other with a
wild, appealing look.

"It is n't true," she insisted, desperately; but her voice was broken,
and she sobbed out her words in her fright. "It is n't true! It is n't
true! You want to frighten me." And all at once she ran to Ralph Gowan
like a child, and caught hold of his arm with her pretty, shaking
hands. "Mr. Gowan," she said, "you know, don't you? and you won't--you
won't--Oh, where is Aimée? I want Aimée! Aimée is n't like the rest of
you! _She_ would have made me go home without being so cruel as this."
And the next minute she turned so white and staggered so, that Dolly ran
to her, and Gowan was obliged to take her in his arms.

"Tell her that what I have said is true," said Dolly, crying. "She will
begin to understand then."

And so, while he held her, panting and sobbing and clinging to him,
Gowan told her all that he had learned. He was as brief as possible and
as tender as a woman. His heart so warmed toward the pretty, lovable,
passionately frightened creature, that his voice was far from steady as
he told his story.

She did not rebel an instant longer, then. Her terror, under the shock,
rendered her only helpless and hysterical. She had so far lost control
over herself that she would have believed anything they had chosen to
tell her.

"Take me away," she cried, whitening and shivering, all her bright,
pretty color gone, all her wilful petulance struck down at a blow. "Take
me home,--take me home to Aimée. I want to go away from here before he
comes. I want to go home and die."

How they got her down-stairs and into the carriage, Dolly scarcely
knows. It was enough that they got her there and knew she was safe. Upon
the table in the room above they had left a note directed to Mr. Gerald
Chandos,--Dolly had directed it and Dolly had written it.

"Is there pen and ink here?" she had asked Gowan; and when he had
produced the articles, she had bent over the table and dashed a few
lines off with an unsteady yet determined hand.

"There!" she had said, when she closed the envelope. "Mr. Chandos will
go to Brussels, I think, and he will understand why he goes alone, and,
for my part, I incline to the belief that he will not trouble us again."

And in five minutes more they were driving toward Bloomsbury Place.

But now the first excitement was over, Dolly's nerve began to fail her.
Now that Mollie was safe, she began to think of Griffith. It seemed a
cruel trick of fortune's to try his patience so sharply just at this
very point. She knew so well what effect his hours of waiting would have
upon him. But it was useless to rebel now; so she must bear it as well
as she could, and trust to the result of her explanation. Yet despite
her hope, every minute of the long drive seemed an age, and she grew
feverish and restless and wretched. What if he had not waited, and was
not there to listen to what she had to say? Then there would be all the
old trouble to face again,--perhaps something worse.

"It is nine o'clock," she said, desperately, as they passed a lighted
church tower. "It is nine o'clock." And she leaned back in her corner
again, with her heart beating strongly. Her disappointment was so keen
that she could have burst into a passion of tears. Her happy evening
was gone, and her dream of simple pleasure had fled with its sacrificed
hours. She could not help remembering this, and being quite conquered by
the thought, even though Mollie was safe.

They had settled what to do beforehand. At the corner of the street
Gowan was to leave them, and the two girls were to go in together,
Mollie making her way at once to her room upon pretext of headache. A
night's rest would restore her self-control, and by the next morning she
would be calm enough to face the rest, and so her wild escapade would
end without risk of comment if she was sufficiently discreet to keep her
own counsel. At present she was too thoroughly upset and frightened even
to feel humiliation.

"Nearly half-past nine," said Gowan, as he assisted them to descend to
the pavement at their journey's end.

The light from an adjacent lamp showed him that the face under Dolly's
hat was very pale and excited, and her eyes were shining and large with
repressed tears as she gave him her hand.

"I cannot find words to thank you just yet," she said, low and
hurriedly. "I wish I could; but--you know what you have helped me to
save Mollie from to-night, and so you know what my gratitude must be.
The next time I see you, perhaps, I shall be able to say what I wish,
but now I can only say goodnight, and--oh, God bless you!" And the
little hand fairly wrung his.

Mollie shook hands with him, trembling and almost reluctantly. She was
pale, too, and her head drooped as if it would nevermore regain the old
trick of wilful, regal carriage.

"You have been very kind to take so much trouble," she said. "You were
kinder than I deserved,--both of you."

"Now," said Dolly, when he sprang into the cab, and they turned away
together,--"now for getting into the house as quietly as possible. No,"
trying to speak cheerily, and as if their position was no great matter,
"you must n't tremble, Mollie, and you mustn't cry. It is all over now,
and everything is as commonplace and easy to manage as can be. You have
been out, and have got the headache, and are going to bed. That is
all. All the rest we must forget. Nothing but a headache, Mollie, and
a headache is not much, so we won't fret about it. If it had been a
heartache, and sin and shame and sorrow--but it isn't. But, Mollie,"
they had already reached the house then, and stood upon the steps, and
she turned to the girl and put a hand on each of her shoulders, speaking
tremulously, "when you go up-stairs, kneel down by your bedside and say
your prayers, and thank God that it is n't,--thank God that it is n't,
with all your heart and soul." And she kissed her cheek softly just as
they heard Aimée coming down the hall to open the door.

"Dolly!" she exclaimed when she saw them, "where have you been? Griffith
has been here since five, and now he is out looking for you. I had given
you up entirely, but he would not. He fancied you had been delayed by
something."

"I have been delayed by something," said Dolly, her heart failing her
again. "And here is Mollie, with the headache. You had better go to bed,
Mollie. How long is it since Grif left the house?"

"Scarcely ten minutes," was the answer. "It is a wonder you did not meet
him. Oh, Dolly!" ominously, "how unlucky you are!"

Dolly quite choked in her effort to be decently composed in manner.

"I _am_ unlucky," she said; and without saying more, she made her way
into the parlor.

She took her hat off there and tossed it on the sofa, utterly regardless
of consequences, and then dropped into her chair and looked round the
room. It did not look as she had pictured it earlier in the day. Its
cheerfulness was gone, and it looked simply desolate. The fire had sunk
low in the grate, and the hearth was strewn with dead ashes;--somehow
or other, everything seemed chilled and comfortless. She was too late
for the brightness and warmth,--a few hours before it had been bright
and warm, and Grif had been there waiting for her. Where was he now?
She dropped her face on the arm of her chair with a sob of disappointed
feeling and foreboding. What if he had seen them leave Ralph Gowan, and
had gone home!

"It's too bad!" she cried. "It is cruel! I can't bear it! Oh, Grif, _do_
come!" And her tears fell thick and fast.

Ten minutes later she started up with a little cry of joy and relief.
That was his footstep upon the pavement, and before he had time to ring
she was at the door. She could scarcely speak to him in her excitement.

"Oh, Grif!" she said; "Grif--darling!"

But he did not offer to touch her, and strode past her outstretched
hands.

"Come into this room with me," he said, hoarsely; and the simple sound
of his voice struck her to the heart like a blow.

She followed him, trembling, and when they stood in the light, and she
saw his deathly, passion-wrung face, her hand crept up to her side and
pressed against it. 9

He had a package in his hand,--a package of letters,--and he laid them
down on the table.

"I have been home for these," he said. "Your letters,--I have brought
them back to you."

"Grif!" she cried out.

He waved her back.

"No," he said, "never mind that. It is too late for that now, that is
all over. Good God! all over!" and he panted for breath. "I have been in
this room waiting for you," he struggled on, "since five o'clock.
I came with my heart full to the brim. I have dreamt about what this
evening was to be to us every night for a week. I was ready to kneel and
kiss your feet. I waited hour after hour. I was ready to pray--yes, to
_pray_, like a fool--that I might hold you in my arms before the night
ended. Not half an hour ago I went out to see if you were coming. And
you were coming. At the corner of the street you were bidding good-night
to--to Ralph Gowan--"

"Listen!" she burst forth. "Mollie was with me--

"Ralph Gowan was with you," he answered her; "it does not matter who
else was there. You had spent those hours in which I wanted you with
him. That was enough,--nothing can alter that." And then all at once he
came and stood near her, and looked down at her with such anguish in his
eyes that she could have shrieked aloud. "It was a poor trick to play,
Dolly," he said; "so poor a one, that it was scarcely like you. Your
coquetries had always a fairer look. The commonest jilt might have
done such a thing as that, and almost have done it better. It is an old
trick, too, this playing the poor fool against the rich one. The only
merit of your play has been that you have kept it up so long."

He was almost mad, but he might have seen that he was trying her too
far, and that she would break down all at once. The long strain of
the whole evening; his strange, unnatural mood; her struggle against
wretchedness--all were too much for her to bear. She tried to speak,
and, failing, fought for strength, sobbed thrice, a terrible, hysterical
sob, like a child's, and then turned white and shivered, without
uttering a word.

"Yes," he said, "a long time, Dolly"--but his sentence was never ended,
for that instant she went down as if she had been shot, and lay near his
feet quivering for a second, and then lying still.

He was not stayed even then. He bent down and lifted her in his arms and
carried her to the sofa, pale himself, but not relenting. He seemed to
have lived past the time when the pretty, helpless figure, in all its
simple finery, would have stirred him to such ecstasy of pain. He was
mad enough to have believed even her helplessness a lie, only that the
cruel, ivory pallor was so real. He did not even stoop to kiss her when
he turned away. But all the treasure of faith and truth and love had
died out of his face, the veriest dullard could have seen; his very
youth had dropped away from him, and he left the old, innocent dreams
behind, with something like self-scorn.

"Good-by," he said; "we have lost a great deal, Dolly--or I have lost
it, I might say. And even you--I believe it pleased even you until
better fortune came; so, perhaps, you have lost something, too."

Then he went to the bell and touched it, and, having done so, strode out
into the narrow hall, opened the front door and was gone; and when,
a few minutes later, Aimée came running down to answer the strange
summons, she found only the silent room, Dolly's white, piteous face
upon the sofa-cushion, and the great package of those old, sweet,
foolish letters upon the table.



CHAPTER XIII ~ A DEAD LETTER.

IT was all over,--all over at last. Dolly's first words had said this
much when she opened her eyes, and found Aimée bending over her.

"Has he gone?" she had asked. "Did he go away and leave me?"

"Do you mean Grif?" said Aimée.

She made a weak gesture of assent.

"Yes," Aimée answered. "He must have gone. I heard the bell ring, and
found you lying here when I came to see what it meant."

"Then," said Dolly, "all is over,--all is over at last." And she turned
her face upon the cushion and lay so still that she scarcely seemed to
breathe.

"Take another drink of water, Dolly," said Aimée, keeping back her
questions with her usual discretion. "You must, dear."

But Dolly did not stir.

"I don't want any more," she said. "I am not going to faint again. You
have no need to be afraid. I don't easily faint, you know, and I should
not have fainted just now only--that the day has been a very hard one
for me, and somehow I lost strength all at once. I am not ill,--only
worn out."

"You must be very much worn out, then," said Aimée; "more worn out than
I ever saw you before. You had better let me help you up-stairs to bed."

"I don't want to go to bed yet!" in a strange, choked voice, and the
next moment Aimée saw her hands clench themselves and her whole frame
begin to shake. "Shut the door and lock it," she said, wildly. "I can't
stop myself. Give me some sal volatile. I can't breathe." And such a fit
of suffocating sobbing came upon her that she writhed and battled for
air.

Aimée flung herself upon her knees by her side, shedding tears herself.

"Oh, Dolly," she pleaded, "Dolly, darling, don't. Try to help yourself
against it. I know what the trouble is. He went away angry and
disappointed, and it has frightened you. Oh, please don't, darling. He
will come back to-morrow; he will, indeed. He always does, you know, and
he will be so sorry."

"He has gone forever," Dolly panted, when she could speak. "He will
never come back. To-night has been different from any other time. No,"
gasping and sobbing, "it is fate. Fate is against us,--it always was
against us. I think God is against us; and oh, how can He be? He might
pity us,--we tried so hard and loved each other so much. We did n't ask
for anything but each other,--we did n't want anything but that we might
be allowed to cling together all our lives and work and help each other.
Oh, Grif, my darling,--oh, Grif, my dear, my dear!" And the sobs rising
again and conquering her were such an agony that Aimée caught her in her
arms.

"Dolly," she said, "you must not, you must not, indeed. You will die,
you can't bear it."

"No," she wailed, "I can't bear it,--that is what it is. I can't bear
it. It is too hard to bear. But there is no one to help me,--God won't.
He does not care for us, or He would have given us just one little crumb
out of all He has to give. What can a poor helpless girl be to Him? He
is too high and great to care for our poor little powerless griefs. Oh,
how wicked I am!" in a fresh burst. "See how I rebel at the first real
blow. It is because I am so wicked, perhaps, that all has been taken
from me,--all I had in the world. It is because I loved Grif best.
I have read in books that it was always so. Oh, why is it? I can't
understand it.. It seems cruel,--yes, it does seem cruel,--as cruel
as death, to give him to me only that I might suffer when he was taken
away. Oh, Grif, my darling! Grif, my love, my dear!"

This over again and again, with wild, heart-broken weeping, until she
was so worn out that she could cry no more, and lay upon Aimée's arm
upon the cushion, white and exhausted, with heavy purple rings about her
wearied, sunken eyes. It was not until then that Aimée heard the whole
truth. She had only been able to guess at it before, and now, hearing
the particulars, she could not help fearing the worst.

It was just as she had feared it would be; another blow had come upon
him at the very time when he was least able to bear it, and it had been
too much for him. But she could not reveal her forebodings to Dolly. She
must comfort her and persuade her to hope for the best.

"You must go to bed, Dolly," she said, "and try to sleep, and in the
morning everything will look different. He may come, you know,--it
would be just like him to come before breakfast. But if he does
not come--suppose," hesitatingly,--"suppose I was to write to him,
or--suppose you were to?"

She was half afraid that pride would rise against this plan, but she
was mistaken. Seven years of love had mastered pride. Somehow or other,
pride had never seemed to come between them in their little quarrels,
each had always been too passionately eager to concede, and too sure
of being met with tenderest penitence. Dolly had always known too
confidently that her first relenting word would touch Grifs heart, and
Grif had always been sure that his first half-softened reproach would
bring the girl to his arms in an impetuous burst of loving repentance.
No, it was scarcely likely that other people's scruples would keep them
apart. So Dolly caught at the proposal almost eagerly.

"Yes," she said, "I will write and tell him how it was. It was not his
fault, was it, Aimée? How could I have borne such a thing myself? It
would have driven me wild, as it did him. It was not unreasonable at all
that he should refuse to listen, in his first excitement, after he had
waited all those hours and suffered such a disappointment. And then to
see what he did. My poor boy! he was not to blame at all. Yes,
yes," feverishly, "I will write to him and tell him. Suppose I write
now--don't you think I had better do it now, and then he will get the
letter in the morning, and he will be sure to come before dinner,--he
will be sure to come, won't he?"

"He always did," said Aimée.

"Always," said Dolly. "Indeed, I never had to write to him before to
bring him. He always came without being written to. There never was any
one like him for being tender and penitent. You always said so, Aimée.
And just think how often I have tried his patience! I sometimes wish I
could help doing things,--flirting, you know, and making a joke of it.
He never flirted in his life, poor darling, and what right had I to
do it? When he comes to-morrow I will tell him how sorry I am for
everything, and I will promise to be better. I have not been half so
good as he has. I wish I had. I should not have hurt him so often if I
had."

"You have been a little thoughtless sometimes," said Aimée. "Perhaps it
_would_ have been better if you could have helped it."

"A little thoughtless," said Dolly, restlessly. "I have been wickedly
thoughtless sometimes. And I have made so many resolutions and broken
them all. And I ought to have been doubly thoughtful, because he had
so much to bear. If he had been prosperous and happy it would not have
mattered half so much. But it was all my vanity. You don't know how vain
I am, Aimée. I quite hate myself when I think of it. It is the
wanting people to admire me,--everybody, men and women, and even
children,--particularly among Lady Augusta's set, where there is a sort
of fun in it. And then I flirt before I know; and then, of course, Grif
cannot help seeing it. I wonder that he has borne with me so long."

She was quite feverish in her anxiety to condemn herself and exculpate
her lover. She did not droop her face against the pillow, but roused
herself, turning toward Aimée, and talking fast and eagerly. A bright
spot of color came out on either cheek, though for the rest she was pale
enough. But to Aimée's far-seeing eyes there was something so forced and
unnaturally strung in her sudden change of mood that she felt a touch of
dread Suppose something should crush her newly formed hopes,--something
terrible and unforeseen! She felt a chill strike her to the heart at the
mere thought of such a possibility. She knew Dolly better than the rest
of them did,--knew her highly strung temperament, and feared it, too.
She might be spirited and audacious and thoughtless, but a blow coming
through Grif would crush her to the earth.

"You--you mustn't set your heart too much upon his getting the letter
in the morning, Dolly," she said. "He might be away when it came, or--or
twenty things, and he might not see it until night, but--"

"Well," said Dolly, "I will write it at once if you will give me the pen
and ink. The earlier it is posted the earlier he will get it."

She tried to rise then; but when she stood up her strength seemed to
fail her, and she staggered and caught at Aimee's arm. But the next
minute she laughed.

"How queer that one little faint should make me so weak!" she said. "I
am weak,--actually. I shall feel right enough when I sit down, though."

She sat down at the table with her writing materials, and Aimée remained
upon the sofa watching her. Her hand trembled when she wrote the first
few lines, but she seemed to become steadier afterward, and her pen
dashed over the paper without a pause for a few minutes. The spot of
color on her cheeks faded and burned by turns,--sometimes it was gone,
and again it was scarlet, and before the second page was finished tears
were falling soft and fast. Once she even stopped to wipe them away,
because they blinded her; but when she closed the envelope she did not
look exactly unhappy, though her whole face was tremulous.

"He will come back," she said, softly. "He will come back when he reads
this, I know. I wish it was to-morrow. To-morrow night he will be here,
and we shall have our happy evening after all. I can excuse myself to
Miss MacDowlas for another day."

"Yes," said Aimée, a trifle slowly, as she took _it_ from her hand. "I
will send Belinda out with it now." And she carried it out of the room.

In a few minutes she returned. "She has taken it," she said. "And now
you had better go to bed, Dolly."

But Dolly's color had faded again, and she was resting her forehead
upon her hands, with a heavy, anxious, worn look, which spoke of sudden
reaction. She lifted her face with a half-absent air.

"I hope it will be in time for to-night's post," she said. "Do you think
it will?"

"I am not quite sure, but I hope so. You must come to bed, Dolly."

She got up without saying more, and followed her out into the hall, but
at the foot of the staircase she stopped. "I have not seen Tod," she
said. "Let us go into 'Toinette's room and ask her to let us have him
to-night. We can carry him up-stairs without wakening him. I have done
it many a time. I should like to have him in my arms to-night."

So they turned into Mrs. Phil's room, and found that handsome young
matron sitting in her dressing-gown before the fire, brushing out her
great dark mantle of hair.

"Don't waken Tod," she cried out, as usual; and then when she saw Dolly
she broke into a whispered volley of wondering questions. Where in the
world had she been? What had she been doing with herself until such an
hour? Where was Grif? Was n't he awfully vexed? What had he said when
she came in? All of which inquiries the two parried as best they might.

As to Tod--well, Tod turned her thoughts in another direction. He was
a beauty, and a king, and a darling, and he was growing sweeter and
brighter every day,--which comments, by the way, were always the first
made upon the subject of the immortal Tod. He was so amiable, too, and
so clever and so little trouble. He went to sleep in his crib every
night at seven, and never awakened until morning. Aunt Dolly might look
at him now with those two precious middle fingers in his little mouth.
And Aunt Dolly did look at him, lifting the cover slightly, and
bending over him as he lay there making a deep dent in his small, plump
pillow,--a very king of babies, soft and round and warm, the white lids
drooped and fast closed over his dark eyes, their long fringes making
a faint shadow on his fair, smooth baby cheeks, the two fingers in
his sweet mouth, the round, cleft chin turned up, the firm, tiny white
pillar of a throat bare.

"Oh, my bonny baby!" cried Dolly, the words rising from the bottom of
her heart, "how fair and sweet you are!"

They managed to persuade Mrs. Phil to allow them to take possession
of him for the night; and when they went up-stairs Dolly carried him,
folded warmly in his downy blanket, and held close and tenderly in her
arms.

"Aunt Dolly's precious!" Aimée heard her whispering to him as she gave
him a last soft good-night kiss before they fell asleep. "Aunt Dolly's
comfort! Everything is not gone so long as he is left."

But she evidently passed a restless night. When Aimée awakened in the
morning she found her standing by the bedside, dressed and looking
colorless and heavy-eyed.

"I never was so glad to see morning in my life," she said. "I thought
the day would never break. I--I wonder how long it will be before Grif
will be reading his letter?"

"He may get it before nine o'clock," answered Aimée; "but don't trouble
about it, or the day will seem twice as long. Take Tod down-stairs and
wash and dress him. It will give you something else to think of."

The wise one herself had not slept well. Truth to say, she was troubled
about more matters than one. She was troubled to account for the meaning
of Dolly's absence with Gowan. Even in her excitement, Dolly had not
felt the secret quite her own, and had only given a skeleton explanation
of the true state of affairs.

"It was something about Mollie and Gerald Chan-dos," she had said; "and
if I had not gone it would have been worse than death to Mollie. Don't
ask me to tell you exactly what it was, because I can't. Perhaps Mollie
will explain herself before many days are over. She always tells you
everything, you know. But it was no real fault of here; she was silly,
but not wicked, and she is safe from Gerald Chandos now forever. And _I_
saved her, Aimée."

And so the wise one had lain awake and thought of all sorts of possible
and impossible escapades. But as she was dressing herself this morning,
the truth flashed upon her, though it was scarcely the whole truth.

"She was going to elope with him," she exclaimed all at once; "_that_
was what she was going to do. Oh, Mollie, Mollie, what a romantic goose
you are!"

And having reached this solution, she closed her small, determined mouth
in discreet silence, resolving to wait for Mollie's confession, which
she knew was sure to come sooner or later. As to Mollie herself, she
came down subdued and silent. She had slept off the effects of her first
shock, but had by no means forgotten it. She would never forget it, poor
child, as long as she lived, and she was so grateful to find herself
safe in the shabby rooms again, that she had very little to say; and
since she was in so novel a mood, the members of the family who were not
in the secret decided that her headache must have been a very severe one
indeed.

"Don't say anything to her about Grif," Dolly cautioned Aimée, "it would
only trouble her." And so the morning passed; but even at twelve o'clock
there was no Grif, and Dolly began to grow restless and walk to and
fro from the window to the hearth at very short intervals. Dinner-hour
arrived, too, but still no arrival; and Dolly sat at the table, among
them, eating nothing and saying little enough. How could she talk when
every step upon the pavement set her heart bounding? When dinner was
over and Phil had gone back to the studio, she looked so helpless and
woe-begone that Aimée felt constrained to comfort her.

"It may have been delayed," she whispered to her, "or he may have left
the house earlier than usual, and so won't see it until to-night. He
will be here to-night, Dolly, depend upon it."

And so they waited. Ah, how that window was watched that afternoon! How
often Dolly started from her chair and ran to look out, half suffocated
by her heart-beatings! But it was of no avail. As twilight came on
she took her station before it, and knelt upon the carpet for an hour
watching; but in the end she turned away all at once, and, running
to the fire again, caught Tod up in her arms, and startled Aimée by
bursting into a passion of tears.

"Oh, Tod!" she sobbed, "he is not coming! He will never come again,--he
has left us forever! Oh, Tod, love poor Aunt Dolly, darling." And she
hid her face on the little fellow's shoulder, crying piteously.

She did not go to the window again. When she was calmer, she remained on
her chair, colorless and exhausted, but clinging to Tod still in a queer
pathetic way, and letting him pull at her collar and her ribbons and her
hair. The touch of his relentless baby hands and his pretty, tyrannical,
restless ways seemed to help her a little and half distract her
thoughts.

She became quieter and quieter as the evening waned; indeed, she was so
quiet that Aimée wondered. She was strangely pale; but she did not start
when footsteps were heard on the street, and she ceased turning toward
the door when it opened.

"He--he may come in the morning," Aimée faltered as they went up-stairs
to bed.

"No, he will not," she answered her, quite steadily. "It will be as I
said it would,--he will never come again."

But when they reached their room, the unnatural, strained quiet gave
way, and she flung herself upon the bed, sobbing and fighting against
just the hysterical suffering which had conquered her the night before.

It was the very ghost of the old indomitable Dolly who rose the next
morning. Her hands shook as she dressed her hair, and there were shadows
under her eyes. But she must go back to Brabazon Lodge, notwithstanding.

"I can say I have a nervous headache," she said to Aimée. "Nervous
headaches are useful things."

"If a letter comes," said Aimée, "I will bring it to you myself."

The girl turned toward her suddenly, her eyes hard and bright and her
mouth working.

"I have had my last letter," she said. "My last letters came to me when
Grif laid that package upon the table. He has done with me."

"Done with you?" cried Aimée, frightened by her manner. "With _you_,
Dolly?"

Then for the first time Dolly flushed scarlet to the very roots of her
hair.

"Yes," she said, "he has done with me. If there had been half a chance
that he would ever come near me again, the letter I wrote to him that
night would have brought him. A word of it would have brought him,--the
first word. But he is having his revenge by treating it with contempt.
He is showing me that it is too late, and that no humility on my part
can touch him. I scarcely could have thought that of him," dropping into
a chair by the toilet-table and hiding her face in her hands.

"It is not like Grif to let me humble myself for nothing. And I did
humble myself,--ah, how I did humble myself! That letter,--if you could
have seen it, Aimée,--it was all on fire with love for him. I laid
myself under his feet,--and he has trodden me down! Grif--Grif, it was
n't like you,--it was n't worthy of you,--it was n't indeed!"

Her worst enemy would have felt herself avenged if she had heard the
anguish in her voice. She was crushed to the earth under this last great
blow of feeling that he had altered so far. Grif,--her whilom greatest
help and comfort,--the best gift God had given her! Dear, old, tender,
patient fellow! as she had been wont to call him in her fits of
penitence.

Grif, whose arms had always been open to her at her best and at her
worst, who had loved her and borne with her, and waited upon her and
done her bidding since they were both little more than children. When
had Grif ever turned from her before? Never. When 'had Grif ever been
cold or unfaithful in word or deed? Never. When had he ever failed her?
Never--never--never--until now! And now that he had failed her at last,
she felt that the bitter end had come. The end to everything,--to all
the old hopes and dreams, to all the old sweet lovers' quarrels and
meetings and partings, to all their clinging together, to all the
volumes and volumes of love and trust that lay in the past, to all the
world of simple bliss that lay still unrevealed in their lost future, to
all the blessed old days when they had pictured to each other what that
future was to be. It had all gone for nothing in the end. It must all
have gone for nothing, when Grif--a new Grif--not her own true, stanch,
patient darling--not her own old lover--could read her burning, tender,
suffering words and pass them by without a word of answer. And with
this weight of despair and pain upon her heart, she went back to the
wearisome routine of Brabazon Lodge,--went back heavy with humiliation
and misery which she scarcely realized,--went back suffering as no one
who knew her--not even Grif himself--could ever have understood that it
was possible for her to suffer. No innocent coquetries now, no spirit,
no jests; for the present at least she had done with them, too.

"You are not in your usual spirits, my dear," said Miss MacDowlas.

"No," she answered, quietly, "I am not."

This state of affairs continued for four days, and then one morning,
sitting at her sewing in the breakfast-room, she was startled almost
beyond self-control by a servant's announcement that a visitor had
arrived.

"One of your sisters, ma'am," said the parlor-maid. "Not the youngest, I
think."

She was in the room in two seconds, and flew to Aimée, trembling all
over with excitement.

"Not a letter!" she cried, hysterically. "It is n't a letter,--it can't
be!" And she put her hand to her side and fairly panted.

The poor little wise one confronted her with something like fear. She
could not bear to tell her the ill news she had come to break.

"Dolly, dear!" she said, "please sit down; and--please don't look at me
so. It isn't good news. I must tell you the truth; it is bad news, cruel
news. Oh, don't look so!"

They were standing near the sofa, and Dolly gave one little moan, and
sank down beside it.

"Cruel news!" she cried, throwing up her hand. "Yes, I might have known
that,--I might have known that it would be cruel, if it was news at all
Every one is cruel,--the whole world is cruel; even Grif,--even Grif!"

Aimée burst into tears.

"Oh, Dolly, I did my best for you!" she said. "I did, indeed; but you
must try to bear it, dear,--it is your own letter back again."

Then the kneeling figure seemed to stiffen and grow rigid in a second.
Dolly turned her deathly face, with her eyes aflame and dilated.

"Did _he_ send it back to me?" she asked, in a slow, fearful whisper.

Her expression was so hard and dreadful a one that Aimée sprang to her
side and caught hold of her.

"No,--no!" she said; "not so bad as that! He would never have done that.
He has never had it. He has gone away; we don't know where. It came from
the dead-letter office."

Dolly took the letter from her and opened it slowly, and there, as she
knelt, read it, word for word, as if it had been something she had never
seen before. Then she put it back into the envelope and laid it down.

"A dead letter!" she said. "A dead letter! If _he_ had sent it back to
me, I think it would have cured me; but _now_ there is no cure for me at
all. If he had read it, he would have come,--if he had _only_ read it;
but it is a dead letter, and he is gone."

There were no tears, the blow had been too heavy. It was only Aimée
who had tears to shed, and it was Dolly who tried to console her in a
strained, weary sort of way.

"Don't cry," she said, "it is all over now. Perhaps the worst part of
the pain is past. There will be no house at Putney, and the solitary
rose-bush will bloom for some one else; they may sell the green sofa,
now, as cheap as they will, we shall never buy it. Our seven years of
waiting have all ended in a dead letter."



CHAPTER XIV. ~ SEVEN LONG YEARS, BELOVED, SEVEN LONG YEARS.

AND so Grif disappeared from the haunts of Vagabondia, and was seen no
more. And to Aimée was left the delicate task of explaining the cause
of his absence, which, it must be said, she did in a manner at once
creditable to her tact and affection for both Dolly and the unconscious
cause of all her misery.

"There has been a misunderstanding," she said, "which was no fault
of Dolly's, and scarcely a fault of Grif's; and it has ended very
unhappily, and Grif has gone away, and just at present it seems as if
everything was over,--but I can't help hoping it is not so bad as that."

"Oh, he will come back again--safe enough," commented Phil,
philosophically, holding paint-brush No. 1 in his mouth, while he
manipulated with No. 2. "He will come back in sackcloth and ashes; he is
just that sort, you know,--thunder and lightning, fire and tow. And they
will make it up ecstatically in secret, and pretend that nothing has
been the matter, and there will be no going into the parlor for weeks
without whistling all the way across the hall."

"I always go in backward after they have had a quarrel," said Mollie,
looking up from a half-made pinafore of Tod's, which, in the zeal of her
repentance, she had decided on finishing.

"Not a bad plan, either," said Phil "We all know how _their_ differences
of opinion terminate. As to matters being at an end between them, that
is all nonsense; they could n't live without each other six months.
Dolly would take to unbecoming bonnets, and begin to neglect her back
hair, and Grif would take to prussic acid or absinthe."

"Well, I hope he _will_ come back," said Aimée; "but, in the meantime, I
want to ask you to let the affair rest altogether, and not say a word to
Dolly when she comes. It will be the kindest thing you can do. Just let
things go on as they have always done, and ignore every thing new you
may see."

Phil looked up from his easel in sudden surprise; something in her
voice startled him, serenely as he was apt to view all unexpected
intelligence.

"I say," he broke out, "you don't mean that Dolly is very much cut up
about it?"

The fair little oracle hesitated; remembering Dolly's passionate despair
and grief over that "dead letter," she could scarcely trust herself to
speak.

"Yes," she answered at last, feeling it would be best only to commit
herself in Phil's own words, "she is very much cut up."

"Whew!" whistled Phil; "that is worse than I thought!" And the matter
ended in his going back to his picture and painting furiously for a few
minutes, with an almost reflective air.

They did not see anything of Dolly for weeks. She wrote to them now and
then, but she did not pay another visit to Bloomsbury Place. It was
not the old home to her now, and she dreaded seeing it in its new
aspect,--the aspect which was desolate of Grif. Most of her letters
came to Aimée; but she rarely referred to her trouble, rather seeming to
avoid it than otherwise. And the letters themselves were bright enough,
seeming, too. She had plenty to say about Miss MacDowlas and their
visitors and her own duties; indeed, any one but Aimée would have been
puzzled by her courage and apparent good spirits. But Aimée saw below
the surface, and understood, and, understanding, was fonder of her than
ever.

As both Dolly and herself had expected, Mollie did not keep her secret
from the oracle many weeks. It was too much for her to bear alone, and
one night, in a fit of candor and remorse, she poured out everything
from first to last, all her simple and unsophisticated dreams of
grandeur, all her gullibility, all her danger,--everything, indeed, but
the story of her pitiful little fancy for Ralph Gowan. She could not
give that up, even to Aimée, though at the close of her confidence she
was unable to help referring to him.

"And as to Mr. Gowan," she said, "how can I ever speak to him again!
but, perhaps, he would not speak to me. He must think I am wicked and
bold and hardened--and bad," with a fresh sob at every adjective. "Oh,
dear! oh, dear!" burying her face in Aimée's lap, "if I had only stayed
at home and been good, like you. He could have respected me, at least,
couldn't he? And now--oh, what am I to do!"

Aimée could not help sighing. If she only _had_ stayed at home, how much
happier they all might have been! But she had promised Dolly not to add
to her unhappiness by hinting at the truth, so she kept her own counsel.

It was fully three months before they saw Ralph Gowan again. He had gone
on the Continent, they heard. A feeling of delicacy had prompted the
journey. As long as he remained in London, he could scarcely drop out
of his old friendly position at Bloomsbury Place, and he felt that for
a while at least Mollie would scarcely find it easy to-face him. So he
went away and rambled about until he thought she would have time to get
over her first embarrassment.

But at the end of the three months he came back, and one afternoon
surprised them all by appearing amongst them again. Mollie, sitting
perseveringly at work over her penitential sewing, shrank a little,
and dropped her eyelids when he came in, but she managed to behave
with creditable evenness of manner after all, and the rest welcomed him
warmly.

"I have been to Brabazon Lodge," he said at length to Aimée. "I spent
Monday evening there, and was startled at the change I found in your
sister. I did not know she was ill."

Aimée started herself, and looked up at him with a frightened face.

"Ill!" she said. "Did you say ill?"

It was his turn to be surprised then.

"I thought her looking ill," he answered. "She seemed to me to be both
paler and thinner. But you must not let me alarm you,--I thought, of
course, that you would know."

"She has never mentioned it in her letters," Aimée said. "And she has
not been home for three months, so we have not seen her."

"Don't let me give you a false impression," returned Gowan, eagerly.
"She seemed in excellent spirits, and was quite her old self; indeed, I
scarcely should imagine that she herself placed sufficient stress upon
the state of her health. She insisted that she was well when I spoke to
her about it."

"I am very glad you told me," answered Aimée. "She is too indifferent
sometimes. I am afraid she would not have let us know. I thank you, very
much."

He had other thanks before he left the house. As he was going out,
Mollie, in her character of porteress, opened the hall door for
him, and, having opened it, stood there with Tod's new garment
half concealed, a pair of timid eyes uplifted to his face, a small,
trembling, feverish hand held out.

"Mr. Gowan," she said, in a low, fluttering voice. "Oh, if you please--"

He took the little hot hand, feeling some tender remorse for not having
tried to draw her out more and help her out of her painful shyness and
restraint.

"What is it, Mollie?" he asked.

"I want--I want," fluttering all over,--"I want to thank you better than
I did that--that dreadful night. I was so frightened I could scarcely
understand. I understand more--now--and I want to tell you how grateful
I am--and how grateful I shall be until I die--and I want to ask you to
try not to think I was very wicked. I did not mean to be wicked--I was
only vain and silly, and I thought it would be such a grand thing to--to
have plenty of new dresses," hanging her sweet, humble face, "and to
wear diamonds, and be Lady Chandos, if--if Mr. Chandos came into the
title. Of course that was wicked, but it was n't--I was n't as bad as I
seemed. I was so vain that--that I was quite sure he loved me, and would
be very glad if I married him. He always said he would." And the tears
rolled fast down her cheeks.

"Poor Mollie!" said Gowan, patting the trembling hand as if it had been
a baby's. "Poor child!"

"But," Mollie struggled on, penitently, "I shall never be so foolish
again. And I am going to try to be good--like Aimée. I am learning to
mend things; and I am beginning to make things for Tod. This," holding
up her work as proof, "is a dress for him. It is n't very well done,"
with innocent dubiousness; "but Aimée says I am improving. And so, if
you please, would you be so kind as not to think quite so badly of me?"

It was all so humble and pretty and remorseful that he was quite
touched by it. That old temptation to kiss and console her made it
quite dangerous for him to linger. She was such a lovable sight with her
tear-wet cheeks, and that dubious but faithfully worked-at garment of
Tod's in her hand.

"Mollie," he said, "will you believe what I say to you?"

"Oh, yes!" eagerly.

"Then I say to you that I never believed you wicked for an instant,--not
for one instant; and now I believe it less than ever; on the contrary,
I believe you are a good, honest little creature. Let us forget Gerald
Chandos,--he is not worth remembering. And go on with Tod's pinafores
and dresses, my dear, and don't be discouraged if they are a failure at
first,--though to my eyes that dress is a most sumptuous affair. And
as to being like Aimée, you cannot be like any one better and wiser and
sweeter than that same little maiden. There! I mean every word I have
said."

"Are you sure?" faltered Mollie.

"Yes," he replied, "quite sure."

He shook hands with her, and, bidding her goodnight, left her standing
in the narrow hall all aglow 'with joy. And he, outside, was communing
with himself as he walked away.

"She is as sweet in her way as--as the other," he was saying. "And as
well worth loving. And what a face she has, if one only saw it with a
lover's eyes! What a face she has, even seeing it with such impartial
eyes as mine!"

"My dear Dolly!" said Aimée.

"My dear Aimée!" said Dolly.

These were the first words the two exchanged when, the evening after
Ralph Gowan's visit, the anxious young oracle presented herself at
Brabazon Lodge, and was handed into Dolly's bedroom.

Visitors were expected, and Dolly had been dressing, and was just
putting the finishing touches to her toilet when Aimée came in, and,
seeing her as she turned from the glass to greet her, the wise one could
scarcely speak, and, even after she had been kissed most heartily, could
only hold the girl's hand and stand looking up into her changed face,
feeling almost shocked.

"Oh, dear me, Dolly!" she said again. "Oh, my dear, what have you been
doing to yourself?"

"Doing!" echoed Dolly, just as she would have spoken three or four
months ago. "I have been doing nothing, and rather enjoying it. What is
the matter with me?" glancing into the mirror. "Pale? That is the result
of Miss MacDowlas's beneficence, you see. She has presented me with this
grand black silk gown, and it makes me look pale. Black always did, you
know."

But notwithstanding her readiness of speech, it did not need another
glance to understand what Ralph Gowan had meant when he said that she
was altered. The lustreless heavy folds of her black silk might contrast
sharply with her white skin, but they could not bring about that subtle,
almost incomprehensible change in her whole appearance. It was such a
subtle change that it was difficult to comprehend. The round, lissome
figure she had always been so pardonably vain about, and Grif had so
admired, had fallen a little, giving just a hint at a greater change
which might show itself sooner or later; her face seemed a trifle more
clearly cut than it ought to have been, and the slender throat, set in
its surrounding Elizabethan frill of white, seemed more slender than
it had used to be. Each change was slight enough in itself, but all
together gave a shadowy suggestion of alteration to affectionately quick
eyes.

"You are ill," said Aimée. "And you never told me. It was wrong of you.
Don't tell me it is your black dress; your eyes are too big and bright
for any one who is well, and your hand is thinner than it ever was
before. Why, I can feel the difference as I hold it, and it is as
feverish as it can be."

"You good, silly little thing!" said Dolly, laughing. "I am not ill at
all. I have caught a cold, perhaps, but that is all."

"No you have not," contradicted Aimée, with pitiful sharpness. "You have
not caught cold, and you must not tell me so. You are ill, and you have
been ill for weeks. The worst of colds could never make you look like
this. Mr. Gowan might well be startled and wonder--"

"Mr. Gowan!" Dolly interrupted her. "Did _he_ say that he was startled?"

"Yes, he did," Aimée answered. "And that was what brought me here. He
was at Bloomsbury Place last night and told me all about you, and I
made up my mind that minute that I would come and judge for myself."

Then the girl gave in. She sat down on a chair by the dressing-table
and rested her forehead on her hand, laughing faintly, as if in protest
against her own subjugation.

"Then I shall have to submit," she said. "The fact is, I sometimes fancy
I do feel weaker than I ought to. It is n't like me to be weak. I
was always so strong, you know,--stronger than all the rest of you,
I thought. Miss MacDowlas says I do not look well. I suppose," with a
half-sigh, "that every one will see it soon. Aimée," hesitating, "don't
tell them at home."

Aimée slipped an arm around her, and drew her head--dressed in all the
old elaborateness of pretty coils and braids--upon her own shoulder.

"Darling," she whispered, trying to restrain her tears, "I must tell
them at home, because I must take you home to be nursed."

"No, no!" said Dolly, starting, "that would never do. It would never
do even to think of it. I am not so ill as that,--not ill enough to be
nursed. Besides," her voice sinking all at once, "I could n't go home,
Aimée,--I could not bear to go home now. That is why I have stayed away
so long. I believe it would _kill_ me!"

It was impossible for Aimée to hear this and be silent longer. She had,
indeed, only been waiting for some reference to the past.

"I knew it was that," she cried. "I knew it the moment Mr. Gowan told
me. And I have feared it from the first. Nothing but that could have
broken you down like this. Dolly, if Grif could see you now, he would
give his heart's blood to undo what he has done."

The pale little hands lying upon the black dress began to tremble in a
strange, piteous weakness.

"One cannot forget so much in so short a time," Dolly pleaded. "And it
is so much,--more than even you think. One cannot forget seven years in
three months,--give me seven months, Aimée. I shall be better in time,
when I have forgotten."

Forgotten! Even those far duller of perception than Aimée could have
seen that she would not soon forget. She had not begun in the right way
to forget. The pain which had made the pretty figure and the soft, round
face look faintly worn, was sharper to-day than it had been even three
months before, and it was gaining in sharpness every day, nay, every
hour.

"The days are so long," she said, plaiting the silk of her dress on-the
restless hands. "We are so quiet, except when we have visitors, and
somehow visitors begin to tire me. I scarcely ever knew what it was
to be tired before. I don't care even to scatter the Philistines now,"
trying to smile. "I am not even roused by the prospect of meeting Lady
Augusta tonight. I forgot to tell you she was coming, did n't I? How she
would triumph if she knew how I have fallen and--and how miserable I
am! She used to say I had not a thought above the cut of my dresses. She
never knew about--_him_, poor fellow!"

It was curious to see how she still clung to that tender old pitying way
of speaking of Grif.

Aimee began to cry over her again.

"You must come home, Dolly," she said. "You must, indeed. You will get
worse and worse if you stay here. I will speak to Miss MacDowlas myself.
You say she is kind to you."

"Dear little woman," said Dolly, closing her eyes as she let her head
rest upon the girl's shoulder. "Dear, kind little woman! indeed it will
be best for me to stay here. It is as I said,--indeed it is. If I were
to go home I should _die!_ Oh, don't you _know_ how cruel it would be!
To sit there in my chair and see his old place empty,--to sit and
hear the people passing in the street and know I should never hear his
footstep again,--to see the door open again and again, and know he would
never, never pass through. It would break my heart,--it would break my
heart!"

"It is broken now!" cried Aimée, in a burst of grief, and she could
protest no more.

But she remained as long as she well could, petting and talking to her.
She knew better than to offer her threadbare commonplace comfort, so
she took refuge in talking of life at Bloomsbury Place,--about Tod and
Mollie and Toinette, and the new picture Phil was at work upon. But it
was a hard matter for her to control herself sufficiently to conceal
that she was almost in an agony of anxiousness and foreboding. What was
she to do with this sadly altered Dolly, the mainspring of whose bright,
spirited life was gone? How was she to help her if she could not restore
Grif,--it was only Grif she wanted,--and where was he? It was just
as she had always said it would be,--without Grif, Dolly was Dolly
no longer,--for Grif's sake her faithful, passionate girl's heart was
breaking slowly.

Lady Augusta, encountering her ex-governess in the drawing-room that
evening, raised her eyeglass to that noble feature, her nose, and
condescended a questioning inspection, full of disapproval of the heavy,
well-falling black silk and the Elizabethan frill.

"You are looking shockingly pale and thin," she said.

Dolly glanced at her reflection in an adjacent mirror. She only smiled
faintly, in silence.

"I was not aware that you were ill," proceeded her ladyship.

"I cannot say that I am ill," Dolly answered. "How is Phemie?"

"Euphemia," announced Lady Augusta, "is well, and I _trust_" as if she
rather doubted her having so far overcome old influences of an evil
nature,--"I _trust_ improving, though I regret to hear from her
preceptress that she is singularly deficient in application to her
musical lessons."

Dolly thought of the professor with the lumpy face, and smiled again.
Phemie's despairing letters to herself sufficiently explained why her
progress was so slow.

"I hope," said her ladyship to Miss MacDowlas, afterward, "that you
are satisfied with Dorothea's manner of filling her position in your
household."

"I never was so thoroughly satisfied in my life," returned the old lady,
stiffly. "She is a very quickwitted, pleasantly natured girl, and I am
extremely fond of her."

"Ah," waving a majestic and unbending fan of carved ivory. "She has
possibly improved then. I observe that she is going off very much,--in
the matter of looks, I mean."

"I heard a gentleman remark, a few minutes ago," replied Miss MacDowlas,
"that the girl looked like a white rose, and I quite agreed with him;
but I am fond of her, as I said, and you are not."

Her ladyship shuddered faintly, but she did not make any further
comment, perhaps feeling that her hostess was too powerful to encounter.

At midnight the visitors went their several ways, and after they had
dispersed and the rooms were quiet once again, Miss MacDowlas sent her
companion to bed, or, at least, bade her good-night.

"You had better go at once," she said. "I will remain to give orders to
the servants. You look tired. The excitement has been too much for you."

So Dolly thanked her and left the room; but Miss MacDowlas did not hear
her ascend the stairs, and accordingly, after listening a moment or so,
went to the room door and looked out into the hall. And right at the
foot of the staircase lay Dolly Crewe, the lustreless, trailing black
dress making her skin seem white as marble, her pretty face turned half
downward upon her arm.

Half an hour later the girl returned to consciousness to find herself
lying comfortably in bed, the chamber empty save for herself and Miss
MacDowlas, who was standing at her side watching her.

"Better?" she said. "That is right, my dear. The evening was too much
for you, as I was afraid it would be. You are not as strong as you
should be."

"No," Dolly answered, quietly.

There was a silence of a few minutes, during which she closed her eyes
again; but she heard Miss MacDowlas fidgeting a little, and at last she
heard her speak.

"My dear," she said, "I think I ought to tell you something. When you
fell, I suppose you must somehow or other have pressed the spring of
your locket, for it was open when I went to you, and--I saw the face
inside it."

"Grif," said Dolly, in a tired voice, "Grif."

And then she remembered how she had written to him about what this very
_dénouement_ would be when it came. How strange, how wearily strange, it
was to think that it should come about in such a way as this!

"My nephew," said Miss MacDowlas. "Griffith Donne."

"Yes," said Dolly, briefly. "I was engaged to him."

"Was!" echoed Miss MacDowlas. "Did he behave badly to you, my dear?"

"No, I behaved badly to him--and that is why I am ill."

Miss MacDowlas blew her nose.

"How long?" she asked, at length. "May I ask how long you were engaged
to each other, my dear? Don't answer me if you do not wish."

"I was engaged to him," faltered the girlish voice,--"we were all the
world to each other for seven years--for seven long years."



CHAPTER XV. ~ IN WHICH WE TRY SWITZERLAND.

IN the morning of one of the hot days in June, Mollie, standing at the
window of Phil's studio, turned suddenly toward the inmates of the room
with an exclamation.

"Phil!" she said, "Toinette! There is a carriage drawing up before the
door."

"Lady Augusta?" said Toinette, making a dart at Tod.

"Confound Lady Augusta!" ejaculated Phil, devoutly. "That woman has a
genius for presenting herself at inopportune times."

"But it is n't Lady Augusta," Mollie objected. "It is n't the Bilberry
carriage at all. Do you think I don't know 'the ark'?"

"You ought to by this time," returned Phil. "I do, to my own deep
grief."

"It is the Brabazon Lodge carriage!" cried Mollie, all at once. "Miss
MacDowlas is getting out, and--yes, here is Dolly!"

"And Tod just washed and dressed!" said Mrs. Phil, picking up her
offspring with an air of self-congratulation. "Miracle of miracles! The
Fates begin to smile upon us. Phil, how is my back hair?"

"All right," returned Phil. "I suppose I shall have to present myself,
too."

It was necessary that they should all present themselves, they found.
Miss MacDowlas wished to form the acquaintance of the whole family, it
appeared, and apart from this her visit had rather an important object.

"It is a sort of farewell visit," she explained, "though, of course, the
farewell is only to be a temporary one. We find London too hot for us,
and we are going to try Switzerland. The medical man thinks a change
will be beneficial to your sister."

They all looked at Dolly then,--at Dolly in her delicate, crisp summer
bravery and her pretty summer hat; but it was neither hat nor dress that
drew their eyes upon her all at once in that new questioning way. But
Dolly only laughed,--a soft, nervous laugh, however,--and played with
her much-frilled parasol.

"Miss MacDowlas," she said, "is good enough to fancy I am not so well as
I ought to be, Tod," bending her face low over the pretty little
fellow, who had trotted to her knee. "What do you think of Aunt Dolly's
appearing in the character of invalid? It sounds like the best of jokes,
does n't it, Tod?"

They tried to smile responsively, all of them, but the effort was not a
success. Despite all her pretence of brightness and coquettish attire,
there was not one of them who had not been startled when their first
greeting was over. Under the triumph of a hat, her face showed almost
sharply cut, her skin far too transparently colorless, her eyes much too
large and bright. The elaborately coiled braids of hair seemed almost
too heavy for the slender throat to bear, and no profusion of trimming
could hide that the little figure was worn. The flush and glow and
spirit had died away from her. It was not the Dolly who had been wont
to pride herself upon ruling supreme in Vagabondia, who sat there before
them making them wonder; it was a new creature, who seemed quite a
stranger to them.

They were glad to see how fond of her Miss Mac-Dowlas appeared to be.
They had naturally not had a very excellent opinion of Miss MacDowlas in
the past days; but the fact that Dolly had managed to so win upon her as
to bring out her best side, quite softened their hearts. She was not
so grim, after all. Her antipathy to Grif had evidently been her most
unpleasant peculiarity, and now, seeing her care for this new Dolly, who
needed care so much, they were rather touched.

When the farewells had been said, the carriage had driven away, and they
had returned to the studio, a silence seemed to fall upon them, one and
all. 'Toi-nette sat in her chair, holding Tod, without speaking; Mollie
stood near her with a wondering, downcast air; Phil went to the window,
and, neglecting his picture wholly for the time being, looked out into
the street, whistling softly.

At length he turned round to Aimée.

"Aimée," he said, abruptly, "how long has this been going on?"

"You mean this change?" said Aimée, in a low voice.

"Yes."

"For three months," she answered. "I did not like to tell you because
I knew _she_ would not like it; but it dates from the time Grif went
away."

Mrs. Phil burst into an impetuous gush of tears, hiding her handsome,
girlish face on Tod's neck.

"It is a shame!" she cried out. "It is a cruel, burning shame! Who would
ever have thought of Grif's treating her like this?"

"Yes," said Phil; "and who would ever have thought that Dolly would
have broken down? Dolly! By George! I can't believe it. If I am able to
judge, it seems time that she should try Switzerland or somewhere else.
Aimée, has she heard nothing of him?"

"Nothing."

The young man flushed hotly.

"Confound it!" he burst forth. "It looks as if the fellow was a
dishonorable scamp. And yet he is the last man I should ever have
fancied would prove a scamp."

"But he has not proved himself a scamp yet," said Aimée, in a troubled
tone. "And Dolly would not like to hear you say so. And if you knew the
whole truth you _wouldn't_ say so. He has been tried too far, and he has
been impetuous and rash, but it was his love for Dolly that made him so.
And wherever he may be, Phil, I know he is as wretched and hopeless as
Dolly herself could be at the worst. It has all been misunderstanding
and mischance."

"He has broken Dolly's heart, nevertheless," cried Mrs. Phil. "And if
she dies--"

"Dies!" cried out Mollie, opening her great eyes and turning pale all at
once. "Dies! Dolly?"

"Hush!" said Aimée, trembling and losing color herself. "Oh,
hush!--don't say such things. It sounds so dreadful,--it is too dreadful
to think of!"

And so it came about that on another of these hot June days there
appeared at the _table à'hôte_ of a certain well-conducted and already
well-filled inn at Lake Geneva two new arrivals,--a tall, thin, elderly
lady of excessively English exterior, and a young person who attracted
some attention,--a girl who wore a long black dress, and had a
picturesque Elizabethan frill about her too slender throat, and who,
in spite of her manner and the clearness of her bright voice, was too
whitely transparent of complexion and too finely cut of face to look as
strong as a girl of one or two and twenty ought to be.

The people who took stock of them, after the manner of all unoccupied
hotel sojourners on the lookout for sensations, noticed this. One or
two of them even observed that, on entering the room after the slight
exertion of descending the staircase, the girl was slightly out of
breath and seemed glad to sit down, and that, her companion evidently
making some remark upon the fact, she half laughed, as if wishing to
make light of it; and they noticed, too, that her naturally small hands
were so very slender that her one simple little ring of amethyst and
pearls slipped loosely up and down her finger.

They were not ordinary tourists, these new arrivals, it was clear. Their
attire told that at once. They had removed their travelling dresses, and
looked as if they had quite made up their minds to enjoy their customary
mode of life as if they had been at home. They had no courier,
the wiseacres had ascertained, and they had brought a neat English
serving-woman, who seemed to know her business marvellously well and be
by no means unaccustomed to travelling.

"Aunt and niece!" commented one gentleman, surveying Dolly over his
soup. "A nice little creature,--the niece." And he mentally resolved to
cultivate her acquaintance. But it was not such an easy matter. The new
arrivals were unlike ordinary tourists in other respects than in
their settled mode of life. They did not seem to care to form chance
acquaintance with their fellow guests. They lived quietly and, unless
when driving out together or taking short, unfatiguing strolls, remained
much in their own apartments. They appeared at the _table d'hôte_
occasionally; but though they were pleasant in manner they were not
communicative, and so, after a week or so, people tired of asking
questions about them and lapsed into merely exchanging greetings,
and looking on with some interest at any changes they observed in the
pretty, transparent, though always bright face, and the pliant, soft
young figure.

Thus Miss MacDowlas and her companion "tried Switzerland."

"It will do you good, my dear, and brace you up," the elder lady had
said; and from the bottom of her heart she had hoped it would.

And did it?

Well, the last time Dolly had "tried Switzerland," she had tried it in
the capacity of Lady Augusta's governess, and she had held in charge
a host of rampant young Bilberrys, who secretly loathed their daily
duties, and were not remarkable in the matter of filial piety, and were
only reconciled to existence by the presence of their maternal parent's
greatest trial, that highly objectionable Dorothea Crewe. So, taking
Lady Augusta in conjunction with her young charges, the girl had often
felt her lot by no means the easiest in the world; but youth and spirit,
and those oft-arriving letters, had helped her to bear a great deal,
and so there was still something sweet about the memory. Oh, those
old letters--those foolish, passionate, tender letters--written in the
dusty, hot London office, read with such happiness, and answered on such
closely penned sheets of foreign paper! How she had used to watch for
them, and carry them to her small bedroom and read them again and again,
kneeling on the floor by the open window, the fresh, soft summer breezes
from the blue lake far below stirring her hair and kissing her forehead!
How doubly and trebly fair she had been wont to fancy everything looked
on that "letter day" of hers,--that red-letter day,--that golden-letter
day!

The very letters she had written then lay in her trunk now, tied
together in a bundle, just as Grif had brought them and laid them down
upon the table when he gave her up forever. Her "dead letter" lay with
them,--that last, last appeal, which had never reached his heart, and
never would. She had written her last letter to him, and he his last to
her.

And now she had been brought to "try Switzerland" and Lake Geneva as a
Lethe.

But she had determined to be practical and courageous, and bear it as
best she might. It would not have been like her to give way at once
without a struggle. She did not believe in lovelorn damsels, who pined
away and died of broken hearts, and made all their friends uncomfortable
by so doing. She made a struggle, and refused to give up. She grew
shadowy and fair; but it was under protest, and she battled against the
change she felt creeping upon her so slowly but so surely. She showed
a brave face to people, and tried to be as bright and ready-witted
as ever; and if she failed it was not her own fault. She fought hard
against her sleepless nights and weary days; and when she lay awake
hour after hour hearing the clock strike, it was not because she made
no effort to compose herself, it was only because the delicate wheels
of thought _would_ work against her helpless will, and it was worse than
useless to close her eyes when she could see so plainly her lost
lover's desperate, anguished face, and hear so distinctly his strained,
strangely altered voice: "No, it is too late for that now,--that is all
over!" And he had once loved her better than his life!

So it was that, try as she might, she could not make Switzerland a
success. When she went down to the table d'hôte, people saw that instead
of growing stronger she was growing more frail, and the exertion of
coming down the long flight of stairs tried her more than it had seemed
to do that first day. Sometimes she had a soft, lovely, dangerous color
on her cheeks, and her eyes looked almost translucent; and then again
the color was gone, her skin was white and transparent, and her eyes
were shadowy and languid. When the hot July days came in, the ring of
pearls and amethyst would stay on the small worn hand no longer, and so
was taken off and hung with the little bunch of coquettish "charms" upon
her chain. But she was not conquered yet, and the guests and servants
often heard her laughing, and making Miss MacDowlas laugh as they sat
together in their private parlor.

The two were sitting thus together one Saturday early in July,--Dolly in
a loose white wrapper, resting in a low basket chair by the open window,
and fanning herself languidly,--when a visitor was announced, and the
moment after the announcement a tall young lady rushed into the room
and clasped Dolly unceremoniously in her arms, either not observing or
totally ignoring Miss MacDowlas's presence.

"Dolly!" she cried, kneeling down by the basket chair and speaking so
fast that her words tumbled over each other, and her sentences were
curiously mingled. "Oh! if you please, dear, I know it was n't polite,
and I never meant to do it in such an unexpected, awfully rude way; and
what mamma would say, I am sure I cannot tell, unless go into dignified
convulsions, and shudder herself stiff; but how could I help it, when
I came expecting to see you as bright and lovely as ever, and caught a
glimpse of you through the door, as the servant spoke, sitting here so
white and thin and tired-looking! Oh, dear! oh, dear! how ever can it
be!"

"My dear Phemie!" said Dolly, laughing and crying both at once, through
weakness and sympathy,--for of course poor, easily moved Phemie had
burst into a flood of affectionate tears. "My dear child, how excited
you are, and how pleasant it is to see you! How did you manage to come?"

"The professor with the lumpy face--poor, pale darling--I mean you, not
him," explained the eldest Miss Bilberry, clinging to her ex-governess
as if she was afraid of seeing her float through the open window. "The
professor with the lumpy face, Dolly; which shows he is not so horrid as
I always thought him, and I am very sorry for being so inconsiderate, I
am sure--you know he cannot help his lumps any more than I can help my
dreadful red hands and my dresses not fitting."

Dolly stopped her here to introduce her to Miss MacDowlas; and that
lady having welcomed her good-naturedly, and received her incoherent
apologies for her impetuous lack of decorum, the explanation proceeded.

"How could the professor send you here?" asked Dolly.

"He did not exactly send me, but he helped me," replied the luckless
Euphemia, becoming a trifle more coherent. "I saw you at the little
church, though you did not see me, because, of course, we sit in the
most disagreeable part, just where we can't see or be seen at all. And
though I only saw you at a distance, and through your veil, and half
behind a pillar, I knew you, and knew Miss MacDowlas. I think I knew
Miss MacDowlas most because she _wasn't_ behind the pillar. And it
nearly drove me crazy to think you were so near, and I gave one of the
servants some money to find out where you were staying, and she brought
me word that you were staying here, and meant to stay. And then I
asked the lady principal to let me come and see you, and of course
she refused; and I never should have been able to come at all, only it
chanced that was my music-lesson day, and I went in to the professor
with red eyes,--I had cried so,--and when he asked me what I had been
crying for, I remembered that he used to be fond of you, and I told
him. And he was sorry for me, and promised to ask leave for me. He is a
cousin of the lady principal, and a great favorite with her. And the end
of it was that they let me come. And I have almost flown. I had to wait
until to-day, you know, because it was Saturday."

It was quite touching to see how, when she stopped speaking, she clung
to Dolly's hands, and looked at her with wonder and grief in her face.

"What is it that has changed you so?" she said. "You are not like
yourself at all. Oh, my dear, how ill you are!"

A wistful shadow showed itself in the girl's eyes.

"_Am_ I so much changed?" she asked.

"You do not look like our Dolly at all," protested Phemie. "You are
thin,--oh, so thin! What _is_ the matter?"

"Thin!" said Dolly. "Am I? Then I must be growing ugly enough. Perhaps
it is to punish me for being so vain about my figure. Don't you remember
what a dread I always had of growing thin? Just to think that _I_ should
grow thin, after all! Do my bones stick out like the Honorable Cecilia
Howland's, Phemie?" And she ended with a little laugh.

Phemie kissed her, in affectionate protest against such an idea.

"Oh, dear, no!" she said. "They could n't, you know. They are not
the kind of bones to do it. Just think of her dreadful elbows and her
fearful shoulder-blades! You couldn't look like her. I don't mean that
sort of thinness at all. But you seem so light and so little. And look
here," and she held up the painfully small hand, the poor little hand
without the ring. "There are no dimples here now, Dolly," she said,
sorrowfully.

"No," answered Dolly, simply; and the next minute, as she drew her hand
away, there fluttered from her lips a sigh.

She managed to change the turn of conversation after this. Miss
MacDowlas had good-naturedly left them alone, and so she began to ask
Phemie questions,--questions about school and lessons and companions,
about the lady principal and the under-teachers and about the professor
with the lumpy face; and, despite appearances being against her, there
was still the old ring in her girl's jests.

"Has madame got a new bonnet yet," she asked, "or does she still wear
the old one with those aggressive-looking spikes of wheat in it? The
lean ears ought to have eaten up the fat ones by this time."

"But they have n't," returned Phemie. "They are there yet, Dolly. Just
the same spikes in the same bonnet, only she has had new saffron-colored
ribbon put on it, just the shade of her skin."

Dolly shuddered,--Lady Augusta's own semi-tragic shudder, if Phemie had
only recognized it.

"Phemie," she said, with a touch of pardonable anxiety, "ill as I look,
I am not that color, am I? To lose one's figure and grow thin is bad
enough, but to become like Madame Pillet--dear me!" shaking her head. "I
scarcely think I could reconcile myself to existence."

Phemie laughed. "You are not changed in one respect, Dolly," she said.
"When I hear you talk it makes me feel quite--quite safe."

"Safe!" Dolly echoed. "You mean to say that so long as I preserve my
constitutional vanity, your anxiety won't overpower you. But--but,"
looking at her curiously, "did you think at first that I was not safe,
as you call it?"

"You looked so ill," faltered Phemie. "And--I was so startled."

"Were you?" asked Dolly. "Did I shock you?"

"A little--only just a little, dear," deprecatingly.

Then strangely enough fell upon them a silence. Dolly turned toward the
window, and her eyes seemed to fix themselves upon some far-away point,
as if she was pondering over a new train of thought. And when at last
she spoke, her voice was touched with the tremulous unsteadiness of
tears.

"Do you think," she said, slowly,--"do you think that _any one_ who had
loved me would be shocked to see me now? Am I so much altered as
that? One scarcely sees these things one's self,--they come to pass so
gradually."

All poor Phemie's smiles died away.

"Don't let us talk about it," she pleaded. "I cannot bear to hear you
speak so. Don't, dear--if you please, don't!"

Her pain was so evident that it roused Dolly at once.

"I won't, if it troubles you," she said, almost in her natural manner.
"It does not matter,--why should it? There is no one here to be shocked.
I was only wondering."

But the shadow did not quite leave her face, and even when, an hour
later, Euphemia bade her good-by and left her, promising to return again
as soon as possible, it was there still.

She was very, very quiet for a few minutes after she found herself
alone. She clasped her hands behind her head, and lay back in the light
chair, looking out of the window. She was thinking so deeply that she
did not even stir for a while; but in the end she got up, as though
moved by some impulse, and crossed the room.

Against the wall hung a long, narrow mirror, and she went to this mirror
and stood before it, looking at herself from head to foot,--at her
piteously sharpened face, with its large, wondering eyes, eyes that
wondered at themselves,--at the small, light figure so painfully
etherealized, and about which the white wrapper hung so loosely. She
even held up, at last, the slender hand and arm; but when she saw these
uplifted, appealing, as it were, for this sad, new face which did not
seem her own, she broke into a little cry of pain and grief.

"If you could see me now," she said, "if you should come here by chance
and see me now, my dear, I think you would not wait to ask whether I had
been true or false. I never laid this white cheek on your shoulder, did
I? Oh, what a changed face it is! I know I was never very pretty, though
you thought so and were proud of me in your tender way, but I was not
like this in those dear old days. Grif, Grif, would you know me,--would
you _know_ me?" And, turning to her chair again, she dropped upon her
knees before it, and knelt there sobbing.



CHAPTER XVI. ~ IF YOU SHOULD DIE.

THE postman paid frequent visits to Bloomsbury Place during these summer
weeks. At first Dolly wrote often herself, but later it seemed to
fall to Miss MacDowlas to answer Aimée's weekly letters and Mollie's
fortnightly ones. And that lady was a faithful correspondent, and did
her duty as readily as was possible, giving all the news, and recording
all Dolly's messages, and issuing regular bulletins on the subject of
her health. "Your sister," she sometimes wrote, "is not so well, and I
have persuaded her to allow me to be her amanuensis." Or, "Your sister
is tired after a rather long drive, and I have persuaded her to
rest while I write at her dictation." Or sometimes, "Dolly is rather
stronger, and is in excellent spirits, but I do not wish her to exert
herself at present." But at length a new element crept into these
letters. The cheerful tone gave way to a more dubious one; Dolly's
whimsical messages were fewer and farther between, and sometimes Miss
MacDowlas seemed to be on the verge of hinting that her condition was
a weaker and more precarious one than even she herself had at first
feared.

Ralph Gowan, on making his friendly calls, and hearing this, was both
anxious and puzzled. In a very short time after his return he had
awakened to a recognition of some mysterious shadow upon the household.
Vagabondia had lost its spirits. Mrs. Phil and her husband were
almost thoughtful; Tod disported himself unregarded and unadmired,
comparatively speaking; Mollie seemed half frightened by the aspect
affairs were wearing; and Aimee's wise, round face had an older look.
And then these letters! Dolly "trying Switzerland" for her health, Dolly
mysteriously ill and far away from home,--too weak sometimes to write.
Dolly, who had never seemed to have a weakness; who had entered the
lists against even Lady Augusta, and had come off victorious; who
had been mock-worldly, and coquettish, and daring; who had made open
onslaught upon eligible Philistines; who had angled prettily and with
sinful success for ineligible Bohemians! What did it mean? And where was
Donne? Certainly he was never to be seen at Bloomsbury Place or in its
vicinity in these days.

But, deeply interested as he was, Gowan was not the man to ask
questions; so he could only wait until chance brought the truth to
light.

He came to the house upon one occasion and found Aimée crying quietly
over one of Miss MacDowlas's letters in the parlor, and in his sympathy
he felt compelled to speak openly to her.

Then Aimée, heavy of heart and full of despairing grief, handed him the
letter to read.

"I have known it would be so--from the first," she sobbed. "We are going
to lose her. Perhaps she will not live to come home again."

"You mean Dolly?" he said.

"Yes," hysterically. "Miss MacDowlas says--" But she could get no
further.

This was what Miss MacDowlas said:--

"I cannot think it would be right to hide from you that your sister is
very ill, though she does not complain, and persists in treating her
increasing weakness lightly. Indeed, I am sure that she herself does
not comprehend her danger. I am inclined to believe that it has not
yet occurred to her that she is in danger at all. She protests that she
cannot be ill so long as she does not suffer; but I, who have watched
her day by day, can see only too plainly where the danger lies. And so I
think it best to warn you to be prepared to come to us at once if at any
time I should send for you hurriedly."

"Prepared to go to them!" commented Aimée. "What does that mean? What
can it mean but that our own Dolly is dying, and may slip out of the
world away from us at any moment? Oh, Grif! Grif! what have you done?"

Gowan closed the letter.

"Miss Aimée," he said, "where _is_ Donne?"

Aimée fairly wrung her hands.

"I don't know," she quite wailed. "If I only did--if I only knew where I
could find him!"

"You don't know!" exclaimed Gowan. "And Dolly dying in Switzerland!"

"That is it," she returned. "That is what it all means. If any of us
knew--or if Dolly knew, she would not be dying in Switzerland. It is
because she does not know, that she is dying. She has never seen him
since the night you brought Mollie home. And--and she cannot live
without him."

The whole story was told in very few words after this; and Gowan,
listening, began to understand what the cloud upon the house had meant.
He suffered some sharp enough pangs through the discovery, too. The last
frail cords that had bound him to hope snapped as Aimée poured out her
sorrows. He had never been very sanguine of success, but even after
hoping against hope, his tender fancy for Dolly Crewe had died a very
lingering death; indeed, it was not quite dead yet, but he was beginning
to comprehend this old love story more fully, and he had found himself
forced to do his rival greater justice. He could not see his virtues as
the rest saw them, of course, but he was generous enough to pity him,
and see that his lot had been a terribly hard one.

"There is only one thing to be done," he said, when Aimée had finished
speaking. "We must find him."

"Find him! We cannot find him."

"That remains to be proved," he answered. "Have you been to his
lodgings?"

"Yes," mournfully. "And even to the office! He left his lodgings that
very night, paid his bills, and drove away in a cab with his trunk.
Poor Grif! It was n't a very big trunk. He went to the office the next
morning, and told Mr. Flynn he was going to leave London, and one of
the clerks told Phil there was a 'row' between them. Mr. Flynn was angry
because he had not given due notice of his intention. That is all we
know."

"And you have not the slightest clew beyond this?"

"Not the slightest. He spent all his spare time with Dolly, you know;
so there is not even any place of resort, or club, or anything, where we
might go to make inquiries about him."

Gowan's countenance fell. He felt the girl's distress keenly, apart from
his own pain.

"The whole affair seems very much against us," he said; "but he may--I
say he _may_ be in London still. I am inclined to believe he is myself.
When the first passion of excitement was over, he would find himself
weaker than he fancied he was. It would not be so easy to cut himself
off from the old life altogether. He would long so inexpressibly to
see Dolly again that he could not tear himself away. I think we may
be assured that even if he is not in London, at least he has not left
England."

"That was what I have been afraid of," said Aimée, "that he might have
left England altogether."

"I cannot think he has," Gowan returned.

They were both silent for a moment. Aimée sat twisting Miss MacDowlas's
letter in her fingers, fresh tears gathering in her eyes.

"It is all the harder to bear," she said next, "because Dolly has always
seemed so much of a _reality_ to us. If she had been a pale, ethereal
sort of girl, it might not seem such a shock; but she never was. She
even used to say she could not bear those frail, ethereal people in
books, who were always dying and saying touching things just at the
proper time, and who knew exactly when to call up their agonized friends
to their bedside to see how pathetically and decorously they made their
exit. Oh, my poor darling! To think that she should be fading away and
dying just in the same way! I cannot make it seem real. I cannot think
of her without her color, and her jokes, and her bits of acting, and her
little vanities. She will not be our Dolly at all if they have left her.
There is a dress of hers up-stairs now,--a dress she couldn't bear.
And I remember so well how she lost her temper when she was making it,
because it would n't fit. And when I went into the parlor she was crying
over it, and Grif was trying so hard to console her that at last
she laughed. I can see her now, with the tears in her eyes, looking
half-vexed and half-comforted. And Tod, too,--how fond she was of Tod,
and how proud of him! Ah, Tod," in a fresh burst, "when you grow up,
the daisies may have been growing for many a year over poor little Aunt
Dolly, and you will have forgotten her quite."

"You must not look at the matter in that desponding way," said Gowan,
quite unsteadily. "We must hope for the best, and do what we can. You
may rely upon me to exert myself to the utmost. If we succeed in
finding Donne I am sure that he will do the rest. Perhaps, next summer
Vagabondia will be as bright as ever,--nay, even brighter than it has
been before."

All his sympathies were enlisted, and, hopeless as the task seemed, he
had determined to make strenuous efforts to trace this lost lover. Men
had concealed themselves from their friends, in the world of London,
often before, and this, he felt sure, Griffith Donne was doing; and
since this poor little impassioned, much-tried Dolly was dying in spite
of herself for Griffith Donne's sake, and seemed only to be saved by his
presence, he must even set himself the task of bringing him to light and
clearing up this miserable misunderstanding. Having been Dolly Crewe's
lover, he was still generous enough to wish to prove himself her friend;
yes, and even her luckier lover's friend, though he winced a trifle at
the thought. Accordingly, he left the house that night with his mind
full of half-formed plans, both feasible and otherwise.

During the remainder of that week he did not call at Bloomsbury Place
again, but at the beginning of the next he made his appearance, bringing
with him a piece of news which excited Aimee terribly.

"I know I shall startle you," he said, the moment they were alone
together, "but you can scarcely be more startled than I was myself. I
have been on the lookout constantly, but I did not expect to be rewarded
by success so soon. Indeed, as it is, it has been entirely a matter of
chance. It is as I felt sure it would be. Donne is in London still.
I know that much, though that is all I have learned as yet. Late last
night I caught a glimpse--only a glimpse--of him hurrying through a
by-street. I almost fancied he had seen me and was determined to get out
of the way."

"The pretty English girl," said the guests at the inn, "comes down no
longer to the _table d'hôte!_" "The pretty English girl," remarked the
wiseacres, "does not even drive out on these days, and the doctor calls
every morning to see her."

"And sometimes," added one of the wisest, "again in the evening."

"Consumption," observed another.

"Plainly consumption," nodding significantly. "These English frauleins
are so often consumptive," commented a third. "It is astonishing to
remark how many come to 'try Switzerland,' as they say."

"And die?"

"And die,--as this one will."

"Poor little thing!" with a sigh and a pitying shrug of the shoulders.

And in the meantime up-stairs the basket chair had been taken away from
the window, and a large-cushioned, chintz-covered couch had been pushed
into its place, and Dolly lay upon it. But luxurious as her couch was,
and balmy as the air was, coming through the widely opened window, she
did not find much rest. The fact was, she was past rest by this time,
she was too weak to rest. The hot days tried her, and her sleepless
nights undermined even her last feeble relic of strength. Sometimes
during the day she felt that she could not lie propped up on the pillows
a moment longer; but when she tried to stand or sit up she was glad
to drop back again into the old place. She lost her breath fearfully
soon,--the least exertion left her panting.

"If I had a cough," she said once to Miss MacDowlas, "I could understand
that I was ill--or if I suffered any actual pain, but I don't, and even
the doctor admits that my lungs are safe enough. What is it that he says
about me? Let me see. Ah, this is it: that I am 'below par--fearfully
below par,' as if I was gold, or notes, or bonds, or something. My ideas
on the subject of the money market are indefinite, you see. Ah, well; I
wonder when I shall be 'above par'!"

She never spoke of her ailments in any other strain. Even as she lay
on her couch, too prostrate to either read or work, she made audacious
satirical speeches, and told Miss MacDowlas stories of Vagabondia, just
as she used to tell them to Grif himself, only that in these days she
could not get up to flourish illustratively; and often after lying for
an hour or so in a dead, heavy, exhausting day-sleep, she opened her
eyes at last, to jest about her faithful discharge of her duties as
companion. Only she herself knew of the fierce battles she so often
fought in secret, when her sore, aching heart cried out so loud for Grif
and would not--_would_ not be comforted.

She saw Phemie frequently. The much-abused professor had proved himself
a faithful friend to them. He had never been quite able to forget the
little English governess, who had so won upon him in the past, even
though this same young lady, in her anxiety to set Lady Augusta at
defiance, had treated him somewhat cavalierly. Indeed, hearing that she
was ill, he was so touched as to be quite overwhelmed with grief.
He gained Euphemia frequent leaves of absence, and sent messages of
condolence and bouquets,--huge bunches of flowers which made Dolly laugh
even while they pleased her. There was always a bouquet, stiff in form
and gigantic in proportions, when Phemie came.

At first Phemie caught the contagion of Dolly's own spirit and
hopefulness, and was sustained by it in spite of appearances; but its
influence died out at the end of a few weeks, and even she was not to be
deceived. An awful fear began to force itself upon her,--a fear doubly
awful to poor, susceptible Phemie. Dolly was getting no better; she was
even getting worse every day; she could not sit up; she was thinner and
larger-eyed than ever. Was something going to happen? And at the mere
thought of that possible something she would lose her breath and sit
looking at Dolly, silent, wondering, and awe-stricken. She began to
ponder over this something, as she tried to learn her lessons; she
thought of it as she went to bed and she dreamed of it in the night.
Sometimes when she came in unexpectedly and found Dolly in one of those
prostrate sleeps, she was so frightened that she could have cried out
aloud.

She came in so one evening at twilight,--the professor had brought her
himself and had promised to escort her home,--and she found Dolly in one
of these sleeps. So, treading lightly, she put the bouquet in water, and
then drew a low chair to the girl's side and sat down to watch and wait
until she should awaken. Miss MacDowlas was in her own room writing
to Aimée; so the place seemed very quiet, and it was its quietness,
perhaps, which so stirred Phemie to sorrowful thoughts and fear.

Upon her brightly flowered chintz cushions Dolly lay like the shadow
of her former self. The once soft, round outlines of her face had
grown clear and sharp-cut, the delicate chin had lost its dimple, the
transparent skin upon the temples showed a tracery of blue veins, the
closed eyelids had a strange whiteness and lay upon her eyes heavily.
She did not move,--she seemed scarcely to breathe. Phemie caught her own
breath and held it, lest it should break from her in a sob of grief and
terror.

This something awful _was_ going to happen! She could not recover
herself even when Dolly wakened and began to talk to her. She could not
think of anything but her own anguish and pity for her friend. She could
not talk and was so silent, indeed, that Dolly became silent too; and
so, as the dusk fell upon them, they sat together in a novel quiet,
listening to a band of strolling musicians, who were playing somewhere
in the distance, and the sound of whose instruments floated to them,
softened and made plaintive by the evening air.

At last Dolly broke the silence.

"You are very quiet, Phemie," she said. "Are you going to sleep?"

"No," faltered Phemie, drawing closer to her. "I am thinking."

"Thinking. What about?"

"About you. Dolly, do you--are you very ill--worse than you were?"

"Very ill!" repeated Dolly, slowly, as if in wonder. "Worse than I was!
Why do you ask?"

Then Phemie lost self-control altogether. She left her seat and fell
down by the couch, bursting into tears.

"You are so altered," she said; "and you alter so much every week. I
cried over your poor, thin little hands when first I came to see you,
but now your wrist looks as if it would snap in two. Oh, Dolly, darling,
if--if you should die!"

Was it quite a new thought, or was it because it had never come home to
her in such a form before, this thought of Death? She started as if she
had been stung.

"If I should die!" she echoed. "_Die!_"

"Phemie, my dear," said Miss MacDowlas, opening the door, "the professor
is waiting down-stairs."

And so, having let her sorrow get the better of her, Phemie had no time
to stay to see if her indiscretion had done harm. If she did not go
now, she might not be allowed fresh grace; and so she was fain to tear
herself away.

"I ought n't to have said it!" she bewailed, as she kissed Dolly again
and again. "Please forget it; oh, do, please, forget it! I did not mean
it, indeed! And now I shall be so frightened and unhappy!"

"Phemie," said Dolly, quietly, "you have not frightened _me_; so you
haven't the least need to trouble yourself, my dear."

But she was not exactly sorry to be left alone, and when she was alone
her thoughts wandered back to that first evening Phemie had called,--the
evening she had gone to the glass to look at her changed face. She had
sat in the basket-chair then,--she lay back upon her cushions now, and
a crowd of new thoughts came trooping through her mind. The soft air was
scented and balmy; the twilight sky was a dome of purple, jewel-hung;
people's voices came murmuring from the gardens below; the far-off music
floated to her through the window.

"If I should _die!_" she said, in a wondering whisper,--"I, Dolly Crewe!
How strange it sounds! Have I never thought that I could die before, or
is it strange because now it is so real and near? When I used to talk
about death to Grif, it always seemed so far away from both of us; it
seemed to me as if I was not good enough or unreal enough to be near
to Death,--great, solemn Death itself. Why, I could look at myself, and
wonder at the thought of how much I shall see and know if I should die.
Grif, how much I should have to tell you, dear,--only that people are
always afraid of spirits, and perhaps you would be afraid, too,--even of
me! What would they say at home? Dear, old, broken-hearted fellow, what
would _you_ say, if I should die?"

She could not help thinking about those at home; about Aimée and Mollie
and Phil and Toinette, sitting together in the dear old littered room at
Bloomsbury Place,--the dear old untidy room, where she had sat with Grif
so often! How would they all bear it when the letter came to tell them
she was gone, and would never be with them and share their pleasures and
troubles again! And then, strangely enough, she began to picture herself
as she would look; perhaps, laid out in this very room, a dimly outlined
figure, under a white sheet,--not her old self, but a solemn, wondrous
marble form, before whose motionless, mysterious presence they would
feel awed.

"And they would turn down the white covering and look at me," she found
herself saying. "And they would wonder at me, and feel that I was far
away. Oh, how they would wonder at me! And, at the very last, before
they hid my face forever under the coffin-lid, they would all kiss me
in that tender, solemn way,--all but Grif, who loved me best; and Grif
would not be there!"

And the piteous rain of heavy tears that rolled down her cheeks, and
fell upon her pillow, was not for herself,--not for her own pain and
weariness and anguish,--not' for the white, worn face, that would be
shut beneath the coffin-lid, but for Grif,--for Grif,--for Grif, who,
coming back some day to learn the truth, might hear that she had died!



CHAPTER XVII. ~ DO YOU KNOW THAT SHE IS DYING?

IT had come at last,--the letter from Geneva, for which they all had
waited with such anxious hearts and so much of dread. The postman,
bringing it by the morning's delivery, and handing it through the opened
door to Aimée, had wondered a little at her excited manner,--she was
always excited when these letters came; and the moment she had entered
the parlor, holding the hurriedly read note,--it was scarcely more than
a note,--there was not one of them who did not understand all before she
spoke.

Mrs. Phil burst into tears; Phil himself laid down his brush and changed
color; Mollie silently clung to Tod as a refuge, and looked up with
trembling lips.

Mrs. Phil was the first to speak.

"You may as well tell us the worst," she said; "but it is easy enough to
guess what it is, without being told."

"It is almost the _very_ worst," answered Aimée.

"Miss MacDowlas wants me to go to them at once. _She_ is so ill that if
a change does not take place, she will not live many weeks, and she has
asked for me."

They all knew only too well that "she" meant Dolly.

"Then," said Phil, "you must go at once."

"I can go to-day," she answered. "I knew it would come to this, and I
am ready to leave London at any moment."

There was no delay. Her small box was even then ready packed and corded
for the journey. She had taken Miss MacDowlas's warning in time. It
would not have been like this heavy-hearted wise one to disregard it.
She would have been ready to go to Dolly at ten minutes' notice, if she
had been in India. She was not afraid, either, of making the journey
alone. It was not a very terrible journey, she said. Secretly, she had a
fancy that perhaps Dolly would like to see her by herself first, to have
a few quiet days alone with her, in which she could become used to the
idea of the farewell the rest would come to say. And in her mind the
poor little oracle had another fancy, too, and this fancy she confided
to Mollie before bidding her good-by.

"Mollie," she said, "I am going to leave a charge in your hands."

"Is it anything about Dolly?" asked Mollie, making fruitless efforts to
check her affectionate tears.

"I wish you would leave me something to do for Dolly, Aimée."

"It is something connected with Dolly;" returned Aimée. "I want you to
keep constantly on the watch for Griffith."

"For Griffith!" Mollie exclaimed. "How can I, when I don't know whether
he is in England or not?"

"He is in England," Aimée replied. "He is in London, for Mr. Gowan has
seen him."

"In London--and Dolly in Switzerland, perhaps dying!"

"He does not know that, or he would have been with her before now," said
Aimée. "Once let him know that she is ill, and he will be with her. I
know him well enough to be sure of that. And it is my impression that if
he went to her at the eleventh hour, when she might seem to us to be at
the very last, he would bring her back to life. It is Grif she is dying
for, and only Grif can save her."

"And what do you want me to do?" anxiously.

"To watch for him constantly, as I said. Don't _you_ think, Mollie,
that he might come back, if it were only into the street to look at the
house, in a restless sort of remembrance of the time when they used to
be so happy?"

"It would not be unlike him," answered Mollie, slowly. "He was very fond
of Dolly. Oh, he was very fond of her!"

"Fond of her! He loved her better than his life, and does still,
wherever he may be. Something tells me he will come, and that is why
I want you to watch. Watch at the window as constantly as you can, but
more particularly at dusk; and if you should see him, Mollie, don't wait
a second. Run out to him, and _make_ him listen to you. Ah, poor fellow,
he will listen eagerly and penitently enough, if you only say to him
that Dolly is dying."

"Very well," said Mollie, "I will remember." And thus the wise one took
her departure.

It was twilight in Bloomsbury Place, and Mollie crouched before the
parlor window, resting her chin upon her hands, and looking out, pretty
much as Aimée had looked out on that winter evening months ago, when Mr.
Gerald Chandos had first presented himself to her mind as an individual
to be dreaded.

Three days had passed since the wise one left London,--three miserable,
dragging days they had seemed to Mollie, despite their summer warmth and
sunshine. Real anxiety and sorrow were new experiences in Vagabondia;
little trials they had felt, and often enough small unpleasantnesses,
privations, and disappointments; but death and grief were new. And they
were just beginning to realize broadly the blow which had fallen upon
them; hard as it was to believe at first, they were beginning slowly to
comprehend the sad meaning of the lesson they were learning now for the
first time. What each had felt a fear of in secret was coming to pass at
last, and there was no help against it.

Phil went about his work looking as none of them had ever seen him look
before. Mrs. Phil's tears fell thick and fast. Not understanding
the mystery, she could blame nobody but Grif, and Grif she could not
forgive. To Mollie the house seemed like a grave. She could think of
nothing but Dolly,--Dolly, white and worn and altered, lying upon her
couch, her eyes closed, her breath fluttering faintly. She wondered if
she was afraid to die. She herself had a secret girlish terror of death
and its strange solemness, and she so pitied Dolly that sometimes she
could not contain her grief, and was obliged to hide herself until her
tears spent themselves.

She had been crying during all this twilight hour she had knelt at the
window. She was so lonely that it seemed impossible to do anything else.
It would have been bad enough to bear the suspense even if Aimée had
been with her, but without Aimée it was dreadful. The tears slipped down
her cheeks and rolled away, and she did not even attempt to dry them,
her affectionate grief had mastered her completely. But she was roused
at length. Some one crossed the street from the pavement opposite the
house; and when this some one entered the gate and ascended the steps,
she rose slowly, half-reluctant, half-comforted, and with a faint
thrill at her heart. It was Ralph Gowan, and she was not wise enough or
self-controlled enough yet to see Ralph Gowan without feeling her pulses
quicken.

When she opened the door he did not greet her as usual, but spoke to her
at once in a low, hurried tone.

"Mollie, where is Aimée?" he asked.

Her tears began to flow again; she could not help giving way.

"You had better come in," she said, half turning away from him and
speaking brokenly. "Aimée is not here. She left London three days ago.
Dolly--"

"Dolly is worse!" he said, because she could not finish.

She nodded, with a heart too full for words.

He stepped inside, and, closing the door, laid his hand upon her
shoulder.

"Then, Mollie," he said, "I must come to you."

He did not wait a moment, but led her gently enough into the parlor,
and, blinded as she was by her tears, she saw that instant that he had
not come without a reason.

"Don't cry," he said. "I want you to be brave and calm now,--for Dolly's
sake. I want your help,--for Dolly's sake, remember."

She recollected Aimée's words--"Mr. Gowan has seen him"--and a sudden
light flashed upon her. The tears seemed to dry of their own accord all
at once, as she looked up.

"Yes," she answered.

He knew, without hearing another word, that he might trust her.

"Can you guess whom I have just this moment seen?" he said.

"Yes," sprang from her lips, without a second's hesitation. "You have
seen Grif."

"I have seen Grif," he answered. "He is at the corner of the street now.
If I had attempted to speak to him he would have managed to avoid me;
and because I knew that, I came here, hoping to find Aimée; but since
Aimée is not here--"

"I can go," she interrupted him, all a-tremble with eagerness. "He will
listen to me; he was fond of me, too, and I was fond of him. Oh! let me
go now!"

That bright little scarlet shawl of Dolly's lay upon the sofa, and
she snatched it up with shaking hands and threw it over her head and
shoulders.

"If I can speak to him once, he will listen," she said; "and if he
listens, Dolly will be saved. She won't die if Grif comes back. She
can't die if Grif comes back. Oh, Dolly, my darling, you saved me, and I
am going to try to save you."

She was out in the street in two minutes, standing on the pavement,
looking up and down, and then she ran across to the other side. She kept
close to the houses, so that she might be in their shadow, and a little
sob broke from her as she hurried along,--a sob of joy and fear and
excitement. At the end of the row of houses somebody was standing under
the street lamp,--a man. Was it Grif,--or could Grif have gone even in
this short time? Fate could never have been so cruel to him, to her, to
them all, as to let him come so near and then go away without hearing
that Dolly was lying at death's portals, and no one could save her but
himself and the tender power of the sweet, old, much-tried love. Oh, no,
no! It was Grif indeed; for as she neared the place where he stood, she
saw his face in the lamp-light,--a grief-worn, pallid face, changed and
haggard and desperate,--a sight that made her cry out aloud.

He had not seen her or even heard her. He stood there looking toward
the house she had left, and seeing, as it seemed, nothing else. Only the
darkness had hidden her from him. His eyes were fixed upon the dim light
that burned in Dolly's window. She had not meant to speak until she
stood close to him; but when she was within a few paces of him her
excitement mastered her.

"Grif," she cried out; "Grif, is it you?"

And when he turned, with a great start, to look at her, she was upon
him,--her hands outstretched, the light upon her face, the tears
streaming down her cheeks,--sobbing aloud.

"Mollie," he answered, "is it _you?_" And she saw that he almost
staggered.

She could not speak at first. She clung to his arm so tightly that he
could scarcely have broken away from her if he had tried. But he did not
try; it seemed as though her touch made him weak,--weaker than he had
ever been before in his life. Beauty as she was, they had always thought
her in some way like Dolly, and, just now, with Dolly's gay little
scarlet shawl slipping away from her face, with the great grief in
her imploring eyes, with that innocent appealing trick of the clinging
hands, she might almost have been Dolly's self.

Try as he might, he could not regain his self-control. He was sheerly
powerless before her.

"Mollie," he said, "what has brought you here? Why have you come?"

"I have come," she answered, "for Dolly's sake!"

The vague fear he had felt at first caught hold upon him with all the
fulness of its strength.

"For Dolly's sake!" he echoed. "Nay, Dolly has done with me, and I with
her." And though he tried to speak bitterly, he failed.

She was too fond of Dolly, and too full of grief to spare him after
that. Unstrung as she was, her reproach burst forth from her without a
softened touch. "Dolly has done with earth. Dolly's life is over," she
sobbed. "Do you know that she is dying? Yes, dying,--our own bright
Dolly,--and you--_you_ have killed her!"

She had not thought how cruel it would sound, and the next instant she
was full of terror at the effect of her own words. He broke loose from
her,--_fell_ loose from her, one might better describe it, for it was
his own weight rather than any effort which dragged him from her grasp.
He staggered and caught hold of the iron railings to save himself, and
there hung, staring at her with a face like a dead man.

"My God!" he said,--not another word.

"You must not give way like that," she cried out, in a new fright. "Oh,
how could I speak so! Aimée would have told you better. I did not mean
to be so hard. You can save her if you will. She will not die, Grif, if
you go to her. She only wants _you_. Grif,--Grif,--you look as if you
could not understand what I am saying." And she wrung her hands.

And, indeed, it scarcely seemed as if he did understand, though at last
he spoke.

"Where is she?" he said. "Not here? You say I must 'go' to her."

"No, she is not here. She is at Lake Geneva. Miss MacDowlas took her
there because she grew so weak, and she has grown weaker ever since, and
three days ago they sent for Aimée to come to her, because--because they
think she is going to die."

"And you say that _I_ have done this?"

"I ought n't to have put it that way, it sounds so cruel, but--but she
has never been like herself since the night you went away, and we have
all known that it was her unhappiness that made her ill. She could not
get over it, and though she tried to hide it, she was worn out. She
loved you so."

He interrupted her.

"If she is dying for me," he said, hoarsely, "she must have loved me,
and if she has loved me through all this,--God help us both!"

"How could you go away and leave her all alone after all those years?"
demanded Mollie. "We cannot understand it. No one knows but Aimée, and
Dolly has told her that you were not to blame. Why did you go?"

"_You_ do not know?" he said. "You should know, Mollie, of all
others. _You_ were with her when she played that miserable coquette's
trick,--that pitiful trick, so unlike herself,--you were with her that
night when she let Gowan keep her away from me, when I waited for her
coming hour after hour. I saw you with them when he was bidding her
goodnight."

They had hidden their secret well all these months, but it was to be
hidden no longer now. It flashed upon her like an electric shock. She
remembered a hundred things,--a hundred little mysteries she had met and
been puzzled by, in Aimee's manner; she remembered all she had heard,
and all she had wondered at, and her heart seemed turned to stone. The
flush of weeping died out of her face, her hands fell and hung down
at her side, her tears were gone; nothing seemed left to her but blank
horror.

"Was it because she did not come that night, that you left her to die?"
she asked, in a labored voice. "Was it because you saw her with Ralph
Gowan--was it because you found out that she had been with him, that you
went away and let her break her heart? Tell me!"

He answered her, "Yes."

"Then," she said, turning to face him, still cold, and almost rigid, "it
is _I_ who have killed her, and not you."

"You!" he exclaimed.

She did not wait to choose her words, or try to soften the story of her
own humiliation.

"If she dies," she said, "she has died for me."

And without further preface she told him all. How she had let Gerald
Chandos flatter and gain power over her, until the climax of her folly
had been the wild, wilful escapade of that miserable long-past day.
How Ralph Gowan had discovered her romantic secret, and revealed it
to Dolly. How they had followed and rescued her; even how Dolly had
awakened her from her dangerous dream with that light touch, and had
drawn her away from the brink of an abyss, with her loving, girlish
hands; and she ended with an outburst of anguish.

"Why did n't she tell you?" she said. "For my sake she did not want the
rest to know; but why did not she tell you? I cannot understand."

"She tried to tell me," he said, in an agony of self-reproach, as he
began to see what he had done,--"she tried to tell me, and I would not
hear her."

All his bygone sufferings--and, Heaven knows, he had suffered bitterly
and heavily enough--sank into insignificance before the misery of this
hour. To know how true and pure of heart she had been; to know how
faithful, unselfish, sweet; to remember how she had met him with a
tender little cry of joy, with outstretched, innocent hands, that he had
thrust aside; to remember the old golden days in which she had so clung
to him, and brightened his life; to think how he had left her lying
upon the sofa that night, her white face drooping piteously against
the cushions; to have all come back to him and know that he only was to
blame; to know it all too late. Nay, a whole life of future bliss could
never quite efface the memory of such a passion of remorse and pain.

"Oh, my God!" he prayed, "have mercy upon me!" And then he turned upon
Mollie. "Tell me where to go to; tell me, and let me go. I must go to
her now without a moment's waiting. My poor, faithful little girl,--my
pretty Dolly! Dying,--dying! No, I don't believe it,--I won't. She
cannot die yet. Fate has been cruel enough to us, but it cannot be so
cruel as that. Love will _make_ her live."

He dashed down Mollie's directions in desperate, feverish haste upon a
leaf of his memorandum-book, and then he bade her good-by.

"God bless you, dear!" he said. "Perhaps you have saved us both. I am
going to her now. Pray for me."

"I ought rather to pray for myself," she said; "but for me you would
never have been separated. I have done it all."

And a few minutes after he had gone, Ralph Gowan, who had awaited her
return before the window, turned to see her enter the room like a spirit
and fling herself down before him, looking white and shaken and pale.

"I have found it all out now," she cried. "I have found it all out. I
have done all this, Mr. Gowan; it is through me her heart is broken, and
if she dies, I shall have caused her death, as surely as if I had killed
her with my own hand. Oh, save me from thinking she will die,--help me
to think she will live,--help me!"

There was no one else to help her, and the blind terror of the thought
was so great that she must have help, or die. To have so injured Dolly,
whom she so loved,--to have, by her own deed, brought that dread shadow
of Death upon Dolly, who had saved her! Her heart seemed crushed. If
Aimée had been there; but Aimée was not, so she stretched out her hands
to the man she had so innocently loved. And as she so knelt before
him,--so fair, in the childlike _abandon_ of her grief, so guileless
and trusting in her sudden, sweet appeal, so helpless against the world,
even against herself,--his man's heart was touched and stirred as it had
never been before,--as even Dolly herself had not stirred it.

"My poor child!" he said, taking her hands and drawing her nearer to
himself. "My poor, pretty Mollie, come to me."

And why not, my reader? If one rose is not for us, the sun shines on
many another as sweet and quite as fair; and what is more, it is more
than probable that if we had seen the last rose first, we should have
loved the first rose last. It is only when, like Dolly and Grif, we have
watched our rose from its first peep of the leaf, and have grown with
its growth, that there can be no other rose but one.

"_Le roi est mort--Vive le roi!_"



CHAPTER XVIII. ~ GRIF!

THERE was a hush upon the guests at the pretty little inn. Most of them
were not sojourners of a day, who came and went, as they did at the
larger and busier hotels,--they were comfortable people who enjoyed
themselves in their own quiet way and so had settled down for the time
being. Accordingly they had leisure to become interested in each other;
and there were few of them who did not feel a friendly interest in the
pretty, pale English girl, who, report said, was fading silently out
of life in her bright room up-stairs. When Aimée arrived, the most
sympathetic shook their heads dubiously.

"The sister is here," they said; "a thoughtful little English creature
with a child's face and a woman's air. They sent for her. One can easily
guess what that means."

Any one but Aimée would have been crushed at the outset by the shock
of the change which was to be seen in the poor little worn figure, now
rarely moved from its invalid's couch. But Aimée bore the blow with
outward quiet at least. If she shed tears Dolly did not see them, and if
she mourned Dolly was not disturbed by her sorrow.

"I have come to help Miss MacDowlas to take care of you, Dolly," she
said, when she gave her her greeting kiss, and Dolly smiled and kissed
her in return.

But it was a terribly hard matter to fight through at first. Of course,
as the girl had become weaker she had lost power over herself. She was
restless and listless by turns. Sometimes she started at every sound,
and again she lay with closed eyes for hours, dozing the day away. The
mere sight of her in this latter state threw poor Phemie into an agony
of terror and distress.

"It is so like Death," she would say to Aimée. "It seems as if we could
never rouse her again."

And then again she would rally a little, and at such times she would
insist upon being propped up and allowed to talk, and her eyes would
grow large and bright, and a spot of hectic color would burn on her
cheeks. She did not even mention her trouble during the first two
days of Aimée's visit, but on the third afternoon she surprised her by
broaching the subject suddenly. She had been dozing, and on awakening
she began to talk.

"Aimée," she said, "where is Miss MacDowlas?"

"In her room. I persuaded her to go and lie down."

"I am very glad," quietly. "I want to do something particular. I want
Grif's letters, Aimée."

"Where are they?" Aimée asked.

"In a box in my trunk. I should like to have them now."

Aimée brought them to her without comment. The box had not been large
enough to hold them all, and there was an extra packet tied with that
dear old stereotyped blue ribbon.

"What a many there are!" said Dolly, when she came to the couch with
them. "You will have to sit down by me and hold some of them. One can
write a great many letters in seven years."

The wise one sat down, obediently holding the box upon her knee. There
were so many letters in it that it was quite heavy.

"I am going to look them over and tie them in packages, according to
their dates," said Dolly. "He will like to have them when he comes
back."

It would not have been natural for her to preserve her calmness all
through the performance of her task. Her first glance at the first
letter brought the tears, and she cried quietly as she passed from
one to the other. They were such tender, impetuous letters. The
very headings--"My Darling," "My pretty Darling," "My own sweetest
Life"--impassioned, youthful-sounding, and Grif-like, cut her to the
heart. Ah! how terrible it would be for him to see them again, as
he would see them! She was pitying him far more than she was pitying
herself.

It was a work not soon over, but she finished it at length. The packets
were assorted and tied with new ribbon, and she lay down for a few
minutes to rest.

"You will give them to him, Aimée?" she said. "I think he will come some
day; but if he does not, you must keep them yourself. I should not like
people to read them--afterwards. Love-letters won't stand being read by
strangers. I have often laughed and told him ours would n't. I am going
to write a last one, however, this afternoon. You are to give it him,
with the 'dead' letter--but they are all dead letters, are they not?"

"Dolly," said Aimée, with a desperate effort, "you speak as if you were
sure you were--going."

There was a silence, and then a soft, low, tremulous laugh,--the merest
echo of a laugh. Despite her long suffering Dolly was Dolly yet. She
would not let them mourn over her.

"Going," she said, "well--I think I am. Yes," half reflectively, "I
think I must be. It cannot mean anything else,--this feeling, can it?
It was a long time before I quite believed it myself, Aimée, but now I
should be obliged to believe it if I did not wish to."

"And do you wish to, now?"

That little silence again, and then--

"I should like to see Grif,--I want Grif,--that is all."

She managed to write her last love-letter after this, and to direct
it and tie it with the letter which had returned to her,--the "dead"
letter. But the effort seemed to tire her very much, and when all was
done and her restless excitement had died out, she looked less like
herself than ever. She could talk no more, and was so weak and prostrate
that Aimée was alarmed into summoning Miss MacDowlas.

But Miss MacDowlas could only shake her head. "We cannot do anything to
rouse her," she said. "It is often so. If the end comes, it will come in
this way. She feels no pain."

That night Aimée wrote to those at home. They must come at once if they
wanted to see Dolly. She watched all night by the bedside herself;
she could not have slept if she had gone to her own room, and so she
remained with Dolly, watching her doze and waken, starting from nervous
sleeps and sinking into them again.

"There will not be many nights through which I can watch," she said
to herself. "Even this might be the last." And then she turned to the
window, and cried silently, thinking of Grif, and wondering what she
should say to him, if they ever met again.

How could she say to him, "Dolly is dead! Dolly died because you left
her!"

Another weary day and night, and then the old change came again. The
feverish strength seemed to come once more. Dolly would be propped up,
and talk. Before very long Aimée began to fancy that she had something
she wished to say to Miss Mac-Dowlas. She followed her movements with
eager, unsatisfied eyes, and did not seem at ease until she sat down
near her. Then when she had secured her attention the secret revealed
itself. She had something to say about Grif.

Gradually, during the long weary weeks of her illness she had learned
to place much confidence in Miss MacDowlas. Her affectionate nature had
clung to her. In telling anecdotes of life in Vagabondia, she had talked
of Grif,--Vagabondia would not have been Vagabondia without Grif,--and
there was always a thrill of faithful love in her simplest mention of
him. Truly, Miss MacDowlas beheld her reprobate nephew in a new light,
surrounded by a halo of innocent romance and unselfish tenderness. This
poor little soul, who was breaking her heart for his sake, showed him
sinned against but never sinning, unfortunate but never to blame, showed
him honest, sweet of nature, true, and faultless. Where were his faults
in the eyes of his first and last love? The simple, whimsical stories of
their loves and lovers' quarrels, of their small economies and perfect
faith in the future,--a faith so sadly wrecked, as it seemed, by cruel
Fate,--brought tears into Miss MacDowlas's eyes. Eloquent, affectionate
Dolly won her over before she knew what she was thinking about. He could
not have been such a reprobate, after all,--this Griffith Donne, who
had so often roused her indignation. Perhaps he could not help being
literary and wearing a shabby coat and a questionable hat. And Dolly
had in the end begun to see how her long-fixed opinion had softened and
changed. So she had courage to plead for Grif this afternoon. She wanted
to be sure that if he should ever come back, there would be a hand
outstretched to help him.

"He only wanted help," she said; "and no one has ever helped him, though
he tried so hard and worked so. Aimée knows how hard he worked, don't
you, Aimée?"

"Yes," answered Aimée, turning her working face away.

"I should like you to promise," said Dolly, wistfully, to Miss
MacDowlas. "It would make me so much happier. You have been so kind to
me,--I am sure you will be kind to him,--poor Grif,--poor fellow!"

Miss MacDowlas bent over her, touched to the heart.

"My dear," she said, "he shall never want help again. He must have been
worthy of so much love, or he would never have won it. I owe him some
recompense, too. If I had not been so stupidly blind I might have saved
you both all this pain. I have grown very fond of you, Dolly," she
ended; and then, being quite overcome, she kissed the pretty hair
suddenly, gave the thin hand an almost motherly squeeze, and made the
best of her way out of the room.

"Aimée," said Dolly, "do you remember how often I have made fun of her,
when we were all so happy together? We made a good many mistakes, even
in Vagabondia, did n't we?" And then she closed her eyes and lay silent,
with wet lashes resting on her cheek.

In speaking of this afternoon, long afterwards, Aimée said it seemed the
longest and weariest she had ever known. It was extremely hot, and the
very air seemed laden with heavy languor. The sun beat down upon the
outer world whitely, and scarcely a leaf stirred. Miss MacDowlas did not
return, and Dolly, though she was not asleep, lay quite still and did
not open her eyes again. So Aimée sat and watched at her side, wondering
how the day would end,--wondering if Phil and 'Toinette and Mollie would
arrive before it was too late,--wondering what that strange last hour
would be like, and how Dolly would bear it when it came, and how they
themselves would bear to think of it when it was over.

She was not quite sure how long she sat watching so, but she fancied
that it must have been two or three hours, or even more. She got up at
last and drew down the green blinds as noiselessly as possible, and then
went back to her place and rested her head upon the pillow near Dolly's,
feeling drowsy and tired,--she had slept so little during the past few
nights.

Dolly moved restlessly, stretching out her hand to Aimée's and opening
her eyes all at once--ah! what large, hollow, shadowy eyes they were!

"I am very tired," she murmured, "so tired and so weak, Aimée,"
dreamily. "I suppose this is what you would call dying of a broken
heart. It seems so queer that I should die of a broken heart." "Oh,
Dolly--Dolly!" Aimée whispered, "our own dearest dear, we never thought
such pain could come to you."

But even the next moment Dolly seemed to have lost herself, her eyes
closed again and she did not speak. So Aimée lay holding her hand,
until the in-door silence, the shadow of the room, and the sound of the
droning bees outside lulled her into a sort of doze, and her own eyelids
fell wearily.

A minute, was it, five or ten, or more than that?

She could not say. She only remembered her own last words, the
warmth, the shadow, the droning of the bees, and the gradual losing
consciousness, and then she was wide awake again,--awakened by a
strange, wild cry, which, thrilling and echoing through the room, made
her start up with a beating heart and look towards the door.

"Grif!"

That was all,--only this single rapturous cry, and Dolly, who had before
seemed not to have the strength of a child, was sitting up, a white,
tremulous figure, with outstretched arms and fluttering breath, and Grif
was standing upon the threshold.

Even when she had blamed him most, Aimée had pitied him also; but she
had never pitied him as she did when he strode to the couch and took
the weak, worn, tremulous little figure in his arms. He could not
speak,--neither spoke. Dolly lay upon his breast crying like a little
child. But for him--his grief was terrible; and when the loving hand was
laid upon his cheek and Dolly found her first words, they only seemed to
make it worse.

"Don't cry," she said. "Don't cry, dear. Kiss me!" He kissed her lips,
her hands, her hair. He could not bear it. She was so like, yet so
fearfully unlike, the winsome, tender creature he had loved so long.

"Oh, my God!" he cried, in his old mad way, "you are dying, and if you
die it will be I who have murdered you!"

She moved a little nearer, so that her pretty face rested against his
shoulder and she could lift her streaming eyes to his, her old smile
shining through her tears.

"Dear old fellow," she said, "darling old fellow, whom I love with all
my soul! I shall live just to prove that you have done nothing of the
kind!"

It was only Grif she wanted,--only Grif, and Grif had come.



CHAPTER XIX. ~ ROSE COLOR.

OF course she recovered. What else could she do? If a man is dying for
want of bread and you give him bread enough and to spare, he will regain
strength and life, will he not? And so with Dolly. Having found Grif,
she had nothing to die for and so much to live for, that she lived. It
seemed, too, that even if she had been inclined to die, Grif would have
held her fast to earth. It was worse than useless to attempt to delude
him into leaving her side, even for an hour; he hung over the invalid's
couch, in such an anguish of half-despairing anxiety that the hearts of
the unceremoniously deposed nurses were quite touched. He watched every
change in Dolly's face, every brightening or fading tint in her cheek,
every glance of her eyes; he followed her every movement. If she was
tired of her posture, he could raise her or lay her down and settle her
cushions as no one else could; if she was strong enough to listen, he
could talk to her; if she was too weak, he could be silent.

But naturally there was much to talk about. Not that the period of
his absence had been a very eventful one. It was as Ralph Gowan had
fancied,--he had been living quietly enough in a secluded London
street during the whole of the time; but Dolly found the history of
his self-banishment both interesting and soul-moving. The story of his
miseries brought the tears into her eyes, and his picture of what he had
suffered on that unhappy night, when he had rushed out of the house
and left her insensible upon the sofa, made her cling to his hand
convulsively and sob outright.

"I can scarcely believe you are here,--quite safe," she would say; "you
might have killed yourself."

And indeed he had been in no small danger of so doing.

Among all this, however, there was one bit of brightness,--a wonderful
piece of news he told her that very day after his return. Fortune
had, with her usual caprice, condescended to smile upon him at last.
Incredible as it appeared, he had "got into something," and this
"something" was actually remunerative,--reasonably remunerative, if
not extravagantly so. Four hundred a year would pay the rent of the
figurative house in Putney or elsewhere, and buy the green sofa and
appurtenances, at least. Dolly could scarcely believe it, and, indeed,
he scarcely believed it himself.

"It seemed as if, when I had lost all else, this came to add to the
bitterness of the loss," he said. "I am afraid I was far from being as
grateful, at first, as I ought to have been. I could only remember how
happy such luck would have made us both if it had only come a year or
so earlier. And the very day I got the place I passed the upholsterer's
where the parlor furniture was,--green sofa and all. And I went home
with the firm intention of blowing my brains out. The only thing that
saved me that day was the fact that my landlady met me at the door with
a miserable story about her troubles and her taxes, and by the time I
had listened for half an hour, and done something she wanted done, I had
cooled down a little, though I was wretched enough."

"The 'something' was paying the taxes, was n't it?" questioned Dolly.

"Something of that kind," admitted Griffith.

"Ah," said Dolly, "I thought so."

Very naturally Griffith felt some slight embarrassment on encountering
Miss MacDowlas, having a rather unpleasant recollection of various
incidents of the past. But Miss Berenice faced the matter in a different
manner and with her usual decision of character. She had made up her
mind to receive Griffith Donne as a respectable fact, and then, through
Dolly's eloquence, she had learned to regard him with even a sort of
affection,--a vague affection, of course, at the outset, but one which
would ripen with time. Thus she rather surprised him by confronting him
upon an entirely new ground. She was cordial and amiable, and on
the first opportunity she explained her change of feeling with great
openness.

"I have heard so much of you from Dolly," she said, "that I am convinced
I have known nothing of you before. I hope we shall be better friends. I
am very fond of Dolly. I wish I had known her three or four years ago."

And there was such a softened tenderness in her thin, unpromising face,
that from thenceforward Griffith's doubts were removed and his opinion
altered, as hers had done. The woman who had loved and pitied Dolly
when she so sorely needed pity and love, must be worthy of gratitude and
affection.

Phil and 'Toinette and Mollie arriving, in the deepest affliction, to
receive Dolly's last farewell, were rather startled by the turn affairs
had taken. Changed as she was, the face she turned to greet them was not
the face of a dying girl. She was deplorably pale and shrunken and thin,
but the light of life was in her eyes and a new ring was in her voice.
She had vitality enough to recognize fresh charms in Tod, and spirit
enough to make a few jokes.

"She won't die," commented Phil to his wife when they retired to their
room.

"No," said Mrs. Phil, discreetly, "it is not likely, now Grif has come
back. But it won't do to waste the journey, Phil, so we may as well stay
awhile. We have not been anywhere out of London this summer."

Accordingly, with their usual genius for utilizing all things, they
prolonged their visit and made it into a kind of family festival; and
since their anxiety on Dolly's behalf was at an end, they managed
to enjoy it heartily. They walked here, and rode there, and explored
unheard-of points and places; they kept the quiet people in the quiet
hotel in a constant state of pleasant ferment with their good spirits
and unceremonious friendliness. Mollie and Aimée and Mrs. Phil excited
such general admiration that when they made their appearance at the
_table d'hôte_ there was a visible stir and brightening, and Dolly was so
constantly inquired after, that there were serious thoughts entertained
of issuing hourly bulletins. The reaction of high spirits after their
fears was something exhilarating even to beholders.

And while they enjoyed themselves, and explored, and instituted a high
carnival of innocent rejoicing, Dolly directed all her energies to the
task of getting well and filling Grif's soul with hope and bliss. As
soon as she had fully recovered they were to be married,--not a day, not
an hour, longer would Grif consent to wait. His only trouble was that
she would not be strong enough to superintend the purchase of the green
sofa and appurtenances. Aimée had, however, proved his rock of refuge
as usual They were to return to London together and make the necessary
preparations, and then the wedding was to take place in Geneva, and the
bride would be carried home in triumph.

"We have been so long in travelling toward the little house at Putney
that it will be the nicest bridal tour we could have," said Dolly.

Then, of course, came some pleasant excitement in connection with the
trousseau, in which everybody was involved. The modest hotel had never
before been in such a state of mind through secret preparations, as
it was when Dolly was well enough to sit up and walk about and choose
patterns. Her instinct of interest in worldly vanities sustained that
young person marvellously. When Grif and Aimée had returned to London
she found herself well enough to give lengthy audiences to Mrs. Phil,
who, with Miss MacDowlas, had taken the business of purchasing in hand,
and to discuss fabrics and fashions by the hour. She remembered Grifs
enthusiasm on the subject of her toilets, and she was wholly ruled by
a secret and laudable ambition to render herself as irresistible as
possible. She exercised to its utmost her inventive genius, and lay
awake at night to devise simple but coquettish feminine snares of attire
to delight and bewilder him in the future.

She might well progress rapidly toward health and strength. By the time
the house was ready for her reception she was well enough to drive out
and explore with the rest, though she looked frail and unsubstantial by
contrast with Mollie's bloom and handsome Mrs. Phil's grand curves. She
was gaining flesh and color every day, but the slender throat and wrists
and transparent hands were a bitter reproach to Grif even then, and it
would be many weeks before she could again indulge in that old harmless
vanity in her dimples and smooth roundness of form.

Mollie mourned over her long, in secret, and, indeed, was so heart-wrung
by the sight of the change she found in her, that the very day of her
arrival had not drawn to its close before she burst upon her with a
remorseful appeal for forgiveness.

"But even if you forgive me I shall not forgive myself," she said. "I
shall never forget that dreadful night when I found out that it was all
my fault, and that you had borne everything without telling me. If--if
it had not been for--for Mr. Gowan, Dolly, I think I should have died."

"If it had not been for whom?" asked Dolly.

"Mr. Gowan," answered Miss Mollie, dropping her eyes, her very throat
dyed with guilty blushes.

"Ah!" said Dolly. "And what did Mr. Gowan do, Mollie?"

"He was very kind--and sympathizing," replied Mollie.

"He always is sympathizing," looking at her with affectionate
shrewdness. "He is very nice, is n't he, Mollie?"

"Yes," said Mollie. "Very nice, indeed."

"And I dare say you were so frightened and wretched that you cried?"

"Yes," confessed the abashed catechised.

"I thought so." And then, conjuring up in her mind's eye a picture of
Mollie, heart-broken, appealing and in tears, beauteous, piteous, and
grief-abandoned, she added, with tender impulsiveness, "I don't wonder
that he sympathized with you, Mollie."

It revealed itself shortly afterward that his sympathy had not confined
itself to the night Mollie called "dreadful." Since that night he had
been a frequent visitor at Bloomsbury Place,--as frequent a visitor as
he had been in the days when Dolly had been wont so to entertain him.

A week after the return of Aimée and Grif from London, there fell again
upon the modest hotel a hush; but it was not the hush of sympathetic
silence which had fallen upon it before,--it was merely a sort of
reaction after a slight excitement. The pretty English girl had, to
every one's wonder, suddenly returned to earth and had been married!
The wisest were bewildered, but such was the fact, nevertheless; nobody
could exactly comprehend, but who could deny it? It was a mystery,
indeed, until one day, some time after, a usually phlegmatic matron
was struck with an idea, and accordingly propounded to her friends a
somewhat vaguely expressed problem.

"After the appearance of the lover one heard no more that she was
dying?"

"Just so."

"Perhaps the lover had something to do with the matter?", "Ah!"

"Perhaps she was dying for him, and his coming cured her?"

"Exactly. That must have been the case."

And thenceforth the matter was deemed settled. However, the gay,
light-hearted party of English had taken their departure,--the friendly
young artist who sketched and smoked and enjoyed himself; his handsome
young wife, who sketched and played with her handsome child, and enjoyed
_herself_; the beautiful younger sister, who blushed and was charmingly
bashful, but enjoyed herself; the fair little saint with the
grave youthful face, who took care of them all, and yet enjoyed
_herself_,--the lover, the elder lady, the guest who came to be
groomsman, the bride,--they were all gone at last, and their absence was
the cause of the hush of which I speak.

There had been a wedding,--a joyous, light-hearted wedding, in which
the bride had looked pretty and flower-like and ethereal,--a fragile
creature enough in her white dress and under her white veil, but a
delightfully happy creature, notwithstanding,--in which the bridegroom
had been plainly filled with chivalric tenderness and bliss,--in which
the two sisters had been charming beyond measure, and the awkward,
affectionate girl friend from the seminary had blushed herself into a
high fever. There could not have been a more prettily orthodox wedding,
said the beholders. Somehow its glow of young romance touched people, it
was so evident that the young couple were fond of each other, and happy
and hopeful. There were those who, seeing it solemnized in the small
church, shed a few tears, they knew not why, when Grif lifted Dolly's
veil and kissed her without a word.

"It is all rose color to them," said one of these soft-hearted ones,
apologetically, to her neighbor.

Rose color! I should think it was.

But if it was all rose color then, what was it that first evening they
spent at home,--in their own home, in the little house which was so
bright and pretty that it seemed more like a dream than a reality?
What color did life look when Grif led Dolly across the threshold, half
trembling himself for very joy? What color did it look when he shut the
door of the little parlor, and, turning round, went to her and folded
her in his arms close to his beating heart?

Rose color! It was golden and more than golden! And yet, for the first
minute, Dolly could not speak, and the next she laid her cheek in her
favorite place, on the lapel of Grif 's coat, and burst into a great
gush of soft, warm tears,--tears without a touch of any other element,
however, than love and happiness.

"_Home_, Grif!" she said.

He was quite pale and he had almost lost his voice, too, but he managed
to answer her, unsteadily.

"Yes, Dolly," he said; "home!" And he stroked the bright hair upon his
breast, with a world of meaning in his touch.

"Do you think," she said next, "that I am good enough and wise enough to
take care of it, and to take care of _you_, Grif?"

"Do you think," he said, "that I am good enough and wise enough to take
care of _you_?"

She lifted up her face and kissed him.

"We love each other," she whispered, "we trust each other, and so we
can help each other, and God will help us both. Ah, Grif, how bright and
sweet life is!"

And she scarcely knew, tender little soul, that instead of "life" she
should have said "love."

There we will leave them both, merely hinting at the festivities that
followed,--merely hinting at the rejoicings at Bloomsbury Place, the
gatherings at Brabazon Lodge, and the grand family reception at the
house of the bride,--a reception at which Dolly shone forth with renewed
splendor, presiding over a gorgeous silver tea-service, which was one
of Miss MacDowlas's many gifts, dispensing tea and coffee with the
deportment of a housekeeper of many years' standing, and utterly
distracting Grif with her matronly airs and graces.

Vagabondia was itself again in these days, but it was turning its
brighter side outward. Phil was winning success, too, his position in
the world of art was becoming secured, and Bloomsbury Place was to be
touched up and refurnished gradually. Aimée had promised to make her
home with Dolly until such time as her sweet little saint's face won
her a home of her own. Miss MacDowlas had been adopted into the family
circle, and was conscious of being happier than she had ever felt since
her long-past youth slipped from her grasp. Tod's teeth were "through,"
as Mrs. Phil phrased it, and convulsions had not supervened, to the
ecstasy of his anxious admirers. And Mollie,--well, Mollie waltzed with
Ralph Gowan again on the night of Dolly's reception, and when the dance
was at an end, she went and seated herself near her hostess upon the
green sofa--it was a green sofa, though a far more luxurious one than
Dolly and Grif had ever dared to set their hearts upon in the olden
days.

"Dolly," she said, blushing for the last time in this history of mine,
and looking down at her bouquet of waxen-white camellias and green
leaves,--"Dolly, I suppose Aimée has told you that I am engaged
to--to--"

"To Mr. Gowan," suggested Dolly.

"Yes," answered Mollie, "to Mr. Gowan."





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