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´╗┐Title: Dawn
Author: Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dawn" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                                 DAWN

                                  BY

                           H. RIDER HAGGARD


                                 1884



             "Our natures languish incomplete;
              Something obtuse in this our star
              Shackles the spirit's winged feet;
              But a glory moves us from afar,
              And we know that we are strong and fleet."
                                            Edmund Ollier.



        "Once more I behold the face of her
         Whose actions all had the character
         Of an inexpressible charm, expressed;
         Whose movements flowed from a centre of rest,
         And whose rest was that of a swallow, rife
         With the instinct of reposing life;
         Whose mirth had a sadness all the while
         It sparkled and laughed, and whose sadness lay
         In the heaven of such a crystal smile
         That you longed to travel the self-same way
         To the brightness of sorrow. For round her breathed
         A grace like that of the general air,
         Which softens the sharp extremes of things,
         And connects by its subtle, invisible stair
         The lowest and the highest. She interwreathed
         Her mortal obscureness with so much light
         Of the world unrisen, that angel's wings
         Could hardly have given her greater right
         To float in the winds of the Infinity."
                                        Edmund Ollier.



                                 DAWN



                              CHAPTER I

"You lie; you always were a liar, and you always will be a liar. You
told my father how I spent the money."

"Well, and what if I did? I had to look after myself, I suppose. You
forget that I am only here on sufferance, whilst you are the son of
the house. It does not matter to you, but he would have turned me out
of doors," whined George.

"Oh! curse your fine words; it's you who forget, you swab. Ay, it's
you who forget that you asked me to take the money to the gambling-
tent, and made me promise that you should have half of what we won,
but that I should play for both. What, are you beginning to remember
now--is it coming back to you after a whole month? I am going to
quicken your memory up presently, I can tell you; I have got a good
deal to pay off, I'm thinking. I know what you are at; you want to
play cuckoo, to turn 'Cousin Philip' out that 'Cousin George' may fill
the nest. You know the old man's soft points, and you keep working him
up against me. You think that you would like the old place when he's
gone--ay, and I daresay that you will get it before you have done, but
I mean to have my penn'orth out of you now, at any rate," and,
brushing the tears of anger that stood in his brown eyes away with the
back of his hand, the speaker proceeded to square up to George in a
most determined way.

Now Philip, with his broad shoulders and his firm-knit frame, would,
even at eighteen, have been no mean antagonist for a full-grown man;
much more then did he look formidable to the lankly, overgrown
stripling crouching against the corner of the wall that prevented his
further retreat.

"Philip, you're not going to strike me, are you, when you know you are
so much stronger?"

"Yes, I am, though; if I can't match you with my tongue, at any rate I
will use my fists. Look out."

"Oh, Philip, don't! I'll tell your father."

"Tell him! why, of course you will, I know that; but you shall have
something to lie about this time," and he advanced to the attack with
a grim determination not pleasant for his cousin to behold.

Finding that there was no escape, George turned upon him with so
shrill a curse that it even frightened from his leafy perch in the oak
above the tame turtle-dove, intensely preoccupied as he was in cooing
to a new-found mate. He did more than curse; he fought like a cornered
rat, and with as much chance as the rat with a trained fox-terrier. In
a few seconds his head was as snugly tucked away in the chancery of
his cousin's arm as ever any property was in the court of that name,
and, to speak truth, it seemed quite possible that, when it emerged
from its retreat, it would, like the property, be much dilapidated and
extensively bled.

Let us not dwell upon the scene; for George it was a very painful one,
so painful that he never quite forgot it. His nose, too, was never so
straight again. It was soon over, though to one of the parties time
went with unnatural slowness.

"Well, I think you've had about enough for once," soliloquized Philip,
as he critically surveyed the writhing mass on the ground before him;
and he looked a very handsome lad as he said it.

His curly black hair hung in waving confusion over his forehead, and
flung changing lights and shadows into the depths of his brown eyes,
whilst his massive and somewhat heavy features were touched into a
more active life by the light of that pleasing excitement which
animates nine men out of every ten of the Anglo-Saxon race when they
are engaged on killing or hurting some other living creature. The
face, too, had a certain dignity about it, a little of the dignity of
justice; it was the face of one who feels that if his action has been
precipitate and severe, it has at any rate been virtuous. The full but
clear-cut lips also had their own expression on them, half serious,
half comical; humour, contempt, and even pity were blended in it.
Altogether Philip Caresfoot's appearance in the moment of boyish
vengeance was pleasing and not uninteresting.

Presently, however, something of the same change passed over his face
that we see in the sky when a cloud passes over the sun; the light
faded out of it. It was astonishing to note how dull and heavy--ay,
more, how bad it made him look all in a breath.

"There will be a pretty business about this," he murmured, and then,
administering a sharp kick to the prostrate and groaning form on the
ground before him, he said, "Now, then, get up; I'm not going to touch
you again. Perhaps, though, you won't be in quite such a hurry to tell
lies about me another time, though I suppose that one must always
expect a certain amount of lying from a half-bred beggar like you.
Like mother, like son, you know."

This last sentence was accompanied by a bitter laugh, and produced a
decided effect on the grovelling George, who slowly raised himself
upon his hands, and, lifting his head, looked his cousin full in the
face.

It was not the ghastly appearance of his mangled and blood-soaked
countenance that made Philip recoil so sharply from the sight of his
own handiwork--he had fought too often at school to be chicken-hearted
about a little bloodshed; and, besides, he knew that his cousin was
only knocked about, not really injured--but rather the intense and
almost devilish malignity of the expression that hovered on the
blurred features and in the half-closed eyes. But no attempt was made
by George to translate the look into words, and indeed Philip felt
that it was untranslatable. He also felt dimly that the hate and
malice with which he was regarded by the individual at his feet was of
a more concentrated and enduring character than most men have the
power to originate. In the lurid light of that one glance he was able,
though he was not very clever, to pierce the darkest recesses of his
cousin's heart, and to see his inmost thought, no longer through a
veil, but face to face. And what he saw was sufficient to make the
blood leave his ruddy cheek, and to fix his eyes into an expression of
fear.

Next second George dropped his head on to the ground again, and began
to moan in an ostentatious manner, possibly in order to attract some
one whose footsteps could be plainly heard proceeding slowly down a
shrubbery-path on the other side of the yard wall. At any rate, that
was the effect produced; for next moment, before Philip could think of
escape, had he wished to escape, a door in the wall was opened, and a
gentleman, pausing on the threshold, surveyed the whole scene, with
the assistance of a gold-mounted eye-glass, with some evident surprise
and little apparent satisfaction.

The old gentleman, for he was old, made so pretty a picture, framed as
he was in the arched doorway, and set off by a natural background of
varying shades of green, that his general appearance is worth
sketching as he stood. To begin with, he was dressed in the fashion of
the commencement of this century, and, as has been said, old, though
it was difficult to say how old. Indeed, so vigorous and comparatively
youthful was his bearing that he was generally taken to be
considerably under seventy, but, as a matter of fact, he was but a few
years short of eighty. He was extremely tall, over six feet, and stood
upright as a lifeguardsman; indeed, his height and stately carriage
would alone have made him a remarkable-looking man, had there been
nothing else unusual about him; but, as it happened, his features were
as uncommon as his person. They were clear-cut and cast in a noble
mould. The nose was large and aquiline, the chin, like his son
Philip's, square and determined; but it was his eyes that gave a
painful fascination to his countenance. They were steely blue, and
glittered under the pent-house of his thick eyebrows, that, in
striking contrast to the snow-white of his hair, were black in hue, as
tempered steel glitters in a curtained room. It was those eyes, in
conjunction with sundry little peculiarities of temper, that had
earned for the old man the title of "Devil Caresfoot," a sobriquet in
which he took peculiar pride. So pleased was he with it, indeed, that
he caused it to be engraved in solid oak letters an inch long upon the
form of a life-sized and life-like portrait of himself that hung over
the staircase in the house.

"I am determined," he would say to his son, "to be known to my
posterity as I was known to my contemporaries. The picture represents
my person not inaccurately; from the nickname my descendants will be
able to gather what the knaves and fools with whom I lived thought of
my character. Ah! boy, I am wearing out; people will soon be staring
at that portrait and wondering if it was like me. In a very few years
I shall no longer be 'devil,' but 'devilled,'" and he would chuckle at
his grim and ill-omened joke.

Philip felt his father's eyes playing upon him, and shrunk from them.
His face had, at the mere thought of the consequences of his
chastisement of his cousin, lost the beauty and animation that had
clothed it a minute before; now it grew leaden and hard, the good died
away from it altogether, and, instead of a young god bright with
vengeance, there was nothing but a sullen youth with dull and
frightened eyes. To his son, as to most people who came under his
influence, "Devil" Caresfoot was a grave reality.

Presently the picture in the doorway opened its mouth and spoke in a
singularly measured, gentle voice.

"You will forgive me, Philip, for interrupting your _tete-a-tete_, but
may I ask what is the meaning of this?"

Philip returned no answer.

"Since your cousin is not in a communicative mood, George, perhaps you
will inform me why you are lying on your face and groaning in that
unpleasant and aggressive manner?"

George lifted his blood-stained face from the stones, and, looking at
his uncle, groaned louder than ever.

"May I ask you, Philip, if George has fallen down and hurt himself, or
if there has been an--an--altercation between you?"

Here George himself got up and, before Philip could make any reply,
addressed himself to his uncle.

"Sir," he said, "I will answer for Philip; there _has_ been an
altercation, and he in the scuffle knocked me down, and I confess,"
here he put his hand up to his battered face, "that I am suffering a
good deal, but what I want to say is, that I beg you will not blame
Philip. He thought that I had wronged him, and, though I am quite
innocent, and could easily have cleared myself had he given me a
chance, I must admit that appearances are to a certain extent against
me----"

"He lies!" broke in Philip, sullenly.

"You will wonder, sir," went on the blood-stained George, "how I
allowed myself to be drawn into such a brutal affair, and one so
discreditable to your house. I can only say that I am very sorry,"--
which indeed he was--"and that I should never have taken any notice of
his words--knowing that he would regret them on reflection--had he not
in an unguarded moment allowed himself to taunt me with my birth.
Uncle, you know the misfortune of my father's marriage, and that she
was not his equal in birth, but you know too that she was my mother
and I love her memory though I never saw her, and I could not bear to
hear her spoken of like that, and I struck him. I hope that both you
and he will forgive me; I cannot say any more."

"He lies again, he cannot speak the truth."

"Philip, will you allow me to point out," remarked his father in his
blandest voice, "that the continued repetition of the very ugly word
'lie' is neither narrative nor argument. Perhaps you will be so kind
as to tell me your side of the story; you know I always wish to be
perfectly impartial."

"He lied to you this morning about the money. It's true enough that I
gambled away the ten pounds at Roxham fair, instead of paying it into
the bank as you told me, but he persuaded me to it, and he was to have
shared the profits if we won. I was a blackguard, but he was a bigger
blackguard; why should I have all the blame and have that fellow
continually shoved down my throat as a saint? And so I thrashed him,
and that is all about it."

"Sir, I am sorry to contradict Philip, but indeed he is in error; the
recollection of what took place has escaped him. I could, if
necessary, bring forward evidence--Mr. Bellamy----"

"There is no need, George, for you to continue," and then, fixing his
glittering eye on Philip: "it is very melancholy for me, having only
one son, to know him to be such a brute, such a bearer of false
witness, such an impostor as you are. Do you know that I have just
seen Mr. Bellamy, the head clerk at the bank, and inquired if he knew
anything of what happened about that ten pounds, and do you know what
he told me?"

"No, I don't, and I don't want to."

"But I really must beg your attention: he told me that the day
following the fair your cousin George came to the bank with ten
pounds, and told him how you had spent the ten pounds I gave you to
pay in, and that he brought the money, his own savings, to replace
what you had gambled away; and Bellamy added that, under all the
circumstances, he did not feel justified in placing it to my credit.
What have you to say to that?"

"What have I to say? I have to say that I don't believe a word of it.
If George had meant to do me a good turn he would have paid the money
in and said nothing to Bellamy about it. Why won't you trust me a
little more, father? I tell you that you are turning me into a
scoundrel. I am being twisted up into a net of lies till I am obliged
to lie myself to keep clear of ruin. I know what this sneak is at; he
wants to work you into cutting me out of the property which should be
mine by right. He knows your weaknesses----"

"My weaknesses, sir--my weaknesses!" thundered his father, striking
his gold-headed cane on to the stones; "what do you mean by that?"

"Hush, uncle, he meant nothing," broke in George.

"Meant nothing! Then for an idle speech it is one that may cost him
dear. Look you here, Philip Caresfoot, I know very well that our
family has been quite as remarkable for its vices as its virtues, but
for the last two hundred and fifty years we have been gentlemen, and
you are not a gentleman; we have not been thieves, and you have proved
yourself a thief; we have spoken the truth, and you are, what you are
so fond of calling your cousin, who is worth two of you, a liar. Now
listen. However imperious I may have grown in my old age, I can still
respect the man who thwarts me even though I hate him; but I despise
the man who deceives me, as I despise you, my dear son Philip--and I
tell you this, and I beg you to lay it to heart, that if ever again I
find that you have deceived me, by Heaven I will disinherit you in
favour of--_oh, oh!_" and the old man fell back against the grey wall,
pressing his hands to his breast and with the cold perspiration
starting on to his pallid countenance.

Both the lads sprang forward, but before they reached him he had
recovered himself.

"It is nothing," he said, in his ordinary gentle voice, "a trifling
indisposition. I wish you both good morning, and beg you to bear my
words in mind."

When he was fairly gone, George came up to his cousin and laid his
hand upon his arm.

"Why do you insist upon quarrelling with me, Philip? it always ends
like this, you always get the worst of it."

But Philip's only reply was to shake him roughly off, and to vanish
through the door towards the lake. George regarded his departing form
with a peculiar smile, which was rendered even more peculiar by the
distortion of his swollen features.



                              CHAPTER II

It is difficult to imagine any study that would prove more fascinating
in itself or more instructive in its issues, than the examination of
the leading characteristics of individual families as displayed
through a series of generations. But it is a subject that from its
very nature is more or less unapproachable, since it is but little
that we know even of our immediate ancestors. Occasionally in glancing
at the cracking squares of canvas, many of which cannot even boast a
name, but which alone remain to speak of the real and active life, the
joys and griefs, the sins and virtues that centred in the originals of
those hard daubs and of ourselves, we may light upon a face that about
six generations since was the counterpart of the little boy upon our
shoulder, or the daughter standing at our side. In the same way, too,
partly through tradition and partly by other means, we are sometimes
able to trace in ourselves and in our children the strong development
of characteristics that distinguished the race centuries ago.

If local tradition and such records of their individual lives as
remained are worthy of any faith, it is beyond a doubt that the
Caresfoots of Bratham Abbey had handed down their own hard and
peculiar cast of character from father to son unaffected in the main
by the continual introduction of alien blood on the side of the
mother.

The history of the Caresfoot family had nothing remarkable about it.
They had been yeomen at Bratham from time immemorial, perhaps ever
since the village had become a geographical fact; but it was on the
dissolution of the monasteries that they first became of any
importance in the county. Bratham Abbey, which had shared the common
fate, was granted by Henry VIII. to a certain courtier, Sir Charles
Varry by name. For two years the owner never came near his new
possession, but one day he appeared in the village, and riding to the
house of Farmer Caresfoot, which was its most respectable tenement, he
begged him to show him the Abbey house and the lands attached. It was
a dark November afternoon, and by the time the farmer and his wearied
guest had crossed the soaked lands and reached the great grey house,
the damps and shadows of the night had begun to curtain it and to
render its appearance, forsaken as it was, inexpressibly dreary and
lonesome.

"Damp here, my friend, is it not?" said Sir Charles with a shudder,
looking towards the lake, into which the rain was splashing.

"You are right, it be."

"And lonely too, now that the old monks have gone."

"Ay, but they do say that the house be mostly full of the spirits of
the dead," and the yeoman sank his voice to an awed whisper.

Sir Charles crossed himself and muttered, "I can well believe it," and
then, addressing his companion--

"You do not know of any man who would buy an abbey with all its rights
and franchises, do you, friend?"

"Not rightly, sir; the land be so poor it hath no heart in it; it doth
scarce repay the tillage, and what the house is you may see. The curse
of the monks is on it. But still, sir, if you have a mind to be rid of
the place, I have a little laid by and a natural love for the land,
having been bred on it, and taken the colour of my mind and my stubby
growth therefrom, and I will give you--" and this astutest of all the
Caresfoots whispered a very small sum into Sir Charles' ear.

"Your price is very small, good friend, it doth almost vanish into
nothing; and methinks the land that reared you cannot be so unkind as
you would have me think. The monks did not love bad land, but yet, if
thou hast it in the gold, I will take it; it will pay off a debt or
two, and I care not for the burden of the land."

And so Farmer Caresfoot became the lawful owner of Bratham Abbey with
its two advowsons, its royal franchises of treasure-trove and deodand,
and more than a thousand acres of the best land in Marlshire.

The same astuteness that had enabled this wise progenitor to acquire
the estate enabled his descendants to stick tightly to it, and though,
like other families, they had at times met with reverses, they never
lost their grip of the Abbey property. During the course of the first
half of the nineteenth century the land increased largely in value,
and its acreage was considerably added to by the father of the present
owner, a man of frugal mind, but with the family mania for the
collection of all sorts of plate strongly developed. But it was
Philip's father, "Devil Caresfoot," who had, during his fifty years'
tenure of the property, raised the family to its present opulent
condition, firstly, by a strict attention to business and the large
accumulations resulting from his practice of always living upon half
his income, and secondly, by his marriage late in middle life with
Miss Bland, the heiress of the neighbouring Isleworth estates, that
stretched over some two thousand acres of land.

This lady, who was Philip's mother, did not live long to enjoy her
wealth and station. Her husband never spoke a rough word to her, and
yet it is no exaggeration to say that she died of fear of him. The
marriage had been one of convenience, not of affection; indeed poor
Anna Bland had secretly admired the curate at Isleworth, and hated Mr.
Caresfoot and his glittering eye. But she married him for all that, to
feel that till she died that glance was always playing round her like
a rapier in the hands of a skilled fencer. And very soon she did die,
Mr. Caresfoot receiving her last words and wishes with the same
exquisite and unmoved politeness that he had extended to every remark
she had made to him in the course of their married life. Having
satisfactorily eyed Mrs. Caresfoot off into a better world, her
husband gave up all idea of further matrimonial ventures, and set
himself to heap up riches. But a little before his wife's death, and
just after his son's birth, an event had occurred in the family that
had disturbed him not a little.

His father had left two sons, himself and a brother, many years his
junior. Now this brother was very dear to Mr. Caresfoot; his affection
for him was the one weak point in his armour; nor was it rendered any
the less sincere, but rather the more touching, by the fact that its
object was little better than half-witted. It is therefore easy to
imagine his distress and anger when he heard that a woman who had till
shortly before been kitchen-maid at the Abbey House, and was now
living in the village, had been confined of a son which she fixed upon
his brother, whose wife she declared herself to be. Investigation only
brought out the truth of the story; his weak-minded brother had been
entrapped into a glaring _mesalliance_.

But Mr. Caresfoot proved himself equal to the occasion. So soon as his
"sister-in-law," as it pleased him to call her sardonically, had
sufficiently recovered, he called upon her. What took place at the
visit never transpired, but next day Mrs. E. Caresfoot left her native
place never to return, the child remaining with the father, or rather
with the uncle. That boy was George. At the time when this story opens
both his parents were dead: his father from illness resulting from
entire failure of brain power, the mother from drink.

Whether it was that he considered the circumstance of the lad's birth
entitled him to peculiar consideration, or that he transferred to him
the affection he bore his father, the result was that his nephew was
quite as dear if not even dearer to Mr. Caresfoot than his own son.
Not, however, that he allowed his preference to be apparent, save in
the negative way that he was blind to faults in George that he was
sufficiently quick to note in Philip. To observers this partiality
seemed the more strange when they thought upon Philip's bonny face and
form, and then noted how the weak-brained father and coarse-blooded
mother had left their mark in George's thick lips, small, restless
eyes, pallid complexion, and loose-jointed form.

When Philip shook off his cousin's grasp and vanished towards the
lake, he did so with bitter wrath and hatred in his heart, for he saw
but too clearly that he had deeply injured himself in his father's
estimation, and, what was more, he felt that so much as he had sunk
his side of the balance, by so much he had raised up that of George.
He was inculpated; a Bellamy came upon the scene to save George, and,
what was worse, an untruthful Bellamy; he was the aggressor, and
George the meek in spirit with the soft answer that turneth away
wrath. It was intolerable; he hated his father, he hated George. There
was no justice in the world, and he had not wit to play rogue with
such a one as his cousin. Appearances were always against him; he
hated everybody.

And then he began to think that there was in the very next parish
somebody whom he did not hate, but who, on the contrary, interested
him, and was always ready to listen to his troubles, and he also
became aware of the fact that whilst his mind had been thinking his
legs had been walking, and that he was very near the abode of that
person--almost at its gates, in short. He paused and looked at his
watch; it had stopped at half-past eleven, the one blow that George
had succeeded in planting upon him having landed on it, to the great
detriment of both the watch and the striker's knuckles; but the sun
told him that it was about half-past twelve, not too early to call. So
he opened the gate, and, advancing up an avenue of old beeches to a
square, red-brick house of the time of Queen Anne, boldly rang the
bell.

Was Miss Lee at home? Yes, Miss Lee was in the greenhouse; perhaps Mr.
Philip would step into the garden, which Mr. Philip did accordingly.

"How do you do, Philip? I'm delighted to see you; you've just come in
time to help in the slaughter."

"Slaughter, slaughter of what--a pig?"

"No, green fly. I'm going to kill thousands."

"You cruel girl."

"I daresay it is cruel, but I don't care. Grumps always said that I
had no heart, and, so far as green fly are concerned, Grumps was
certainly right. Now, just look at this lily. It is an auratum. I gave
three-and-six (out of my own money) for that bulb last autumn, and now
the bloom is not worth twopence, all through green fly. If I were a
man I declare I should swear. Please swear for me, Philip. Go outside
and do it, so that I mayn't have it on my conscience. But now for
vengeance. Oh, I say, I forgot, you know, I suppose. I ought to be
looking very sorry----"

"Why, what's the matter? Any one dead?"

"Oh, no, so much better than that. _It's got Grumps._"

"Got her, what has got her? What is 'it'?"

"Why, Chancery, of course. I always call Chancery 'it.' I wouldn't
take its name in vain for worlds. I am too much afraid. I might be
made to 'show a cause why,' and then be locked up for contempt, which
frequently happens after you have tried to 'show a cause.' That is
what has happened to Grumps. She is now showing a cause; shortly she
will be locked up. When she comes out, if she ever does come out, I
think that she will avoid wards in Chancery in future; she will have
too much sympathy with them, and too much practical experience of
their position."

"But what on earth do you mean, Maria? What has happened to Miss
Gregson?" (_anglice_ Grumps).

"Well, you remember one of my guardians, or rather his wife, got 'it'
to appoint her my chaperon, but my other guardian wanted to appoint
somebody else, and after taking eighteen months to do it, he has moved
the court to show that Grumps is not a 'fit and proper person.' The
idea of calling Grumps improper. She nearly fainted at it, and swore
that, whether she lived through it or whether she didn't, she would
never come within a mile of me or any other ward if she could help it,
not even the ward of an hospital. I told her to be careful, or she
would be 'committing contempt,' which frightened her so that she
hardly spoke again till she left yesterday. Poor Grumps! I expect she
is on bread and water now; but if she makes herself half as
disagreeable to the Vice-Chancellor as she did to me, I don't believe
that they will keep her long. She'll wear the gaolers out; she will
wear the walls out; she will wear 'it' down to the bone; and then they
will let her loose upon the world again. Why, there is the bell for
lunch, and not a single green fly the less! Never mind, I will do for
them to-morrow. How it would add to her sufferings in her lonely cell
if she could see us going to a _tete-a-tete_ lunch. Come on, Philip,
come quick, or the cutlets will get cold, and I hate cold cutlets."
And off she tripped, followed by the laughing Philip, who, by the way,
was now looking quite handsome again.

Maria Lee was not very pretty at her then age--just eighteen--but she
was a perfect specimen of a young English country girl; fresh as a
rose, and sound as a bell, and endowed besides with a quick wit and a
ready sympathy. She was essentially one of that class of Englishwomen
who make the English upper middle class what it is--one of the finest
and soundest in the world. Philip, following her into the house,
thought that she was charming; nor, being a Caresfoot, and therefore
having a considerable eye to the main chance, did the fact of her
being the heiress to fifteen hundred a year in land detract from her
charms.

The cutlets were excellent, and Maria ate three, and was very comical
about the departed Grumps; indeed, anybody not acquainted with the
circumstances would have gathered that that excellent lady was to be
shortly put to the question. Philip was not quite so merry; he was
oppressed both by recollections of what had happened and apprehensions
of what might happen.

"What is the matter, Philip?" she asked, when they had left the table
to sit under the trees on the lawn. "I can see that something is the
matter. Tell me all about it, Philip."

And Philip told her what had happened that morning, laying bare all
his heart-aches, and not even concealing his evil deeds. When he had
done, she pondered awhile, tapping her little foot upon the turf.

"Philip," she said at last, in quite a changed voice, "I do not think
that you are being well treated. I do not think that your cousin means
kindly by you, but--but I do not think that you have behaved rightly
either. I don't like that about the ten pounds; and I think that you
should not have touched George; he is not so strong as you. Please try
to do as your father--dear me, I am sure I don't wonder that you are
afraid of him; I am--tells you, and regain his affection, and make it
up with George; and, if you get into any more troubles, come and tell
me about them before you do anything foolish; for though, according to
Grumps, I am silly enough, two heads are better than one."

The tears stood in the lad's brown eyes as he listened to her. He
gulped them down, however, and said--

"You are awfully kind to me; you are the only friend I have. Sometimes
I think that you are an angel."

"Nonsense, Philip. If 'it' heard you talk like that, you would join
Grumps. Don't let me hear any more such stuff," but, though she spoke
sharply, somehow she did not look displeased.

"I must be off," he said at length. "I promised to go with my father
to see a new building on Reynold's farm. I have only twenty minutes to
get home;" and rising they went into the house through a French window
opening on to the lawn.

In the dining-room he turned, and, after a moment's hesitation,
stuttered out--

"Maria, don't be angry with me, but may I give you a kiss?"

She blushed vividly.

"How dare you suggest such a thing?--but--but as Grumps has gone, and
there is no new Grumps to refer to, and therefore I can only consult
my own wishes, perhaps if you really wish to, Philip, why, Philip, you
may."

And he did.

When he was gone she leant her head against the cold marble
mantelpiece.

"I do love him," she murmured, "yes, that I do."



                             CHAPTER III

Philip was not very fond of taking walks with his father, since he
found that in nine cases out of ten they afforded opportunities for
inculcation of facts of the driest description with reference to
estate management, or to the narration by his parent of little
histories of which his conduct upon some recent occasion would adorn
the moral. On this particular occasion the prospect was particularly
unpleasant, for his father would, he was well aware, overflow with
awful politeness, indeed, after the scene of the morning, it could not
be otherwise. Oh, how much rather would he have spent that lovely
afternoon with Maria Lee! Dear Maria, he would go and see her again
the very next day.

When he arrived, some ten minutes after time in the antler-hung hall
of the Abbey House, he found his father standing, watch in hand,
exactly under the big clock, as though he was determined to make a
note by double entry of every passing second.

"When I asked you to walk with me this afternoon, Philip, I, if my
memory does not deceive me, was careful to say that I had no wish to
interfere with any prior engagement. I was aware how little interest,
compared to your cousin George, you take in the estate, and I had no
wish to impose an uncongenial task. But, as you kindly volunteered to
accompany me, I regret that you did not find it convenient to be
punctual to the time you fixed. I have now waited for you for
seventeen minutes, and let me tell you that at my time of life I
cannot afford to lose seventeen minutes. May I ask what has delayed
you?"

This long speech had given Philip the opportunity of recovering the
breath that he had lost in running home. He replied promptly--

"I have been lunching with Miss Lee."

"Oh, indeed, then I no longer wonder that you kept me waiting, and I
must say that in this particular I commend your taste. Miss Lee is a
young lady of good family, good manners, and good means. If her estate
went with this property it would complete as pretty a five thousand
acres of mixed soil as there is in the county. Those are beautiful old
meadows of hers, beautiful. Perhaps----" but here the old man checked
himself.

On leaving the house they had passed together down a walk called the
tunnel walk, on account of the arching boughs of the lime-trees that
interlaced themselves overhead. At the end of this avenue, and on the
borders of the lake, there stood an enormous but still growing oak,
known as Caresfoot's Staff. It was the old squire's favourite tree,
and the best topped piece of timber for many miles round.

"I wonder," said Philip, by way of making a little pleasant
conversation, "why that tree was called Caresfoot's Staff."

"Your ignorance astonishes me, Philip, but I suppose that there are
some people who can live for years in a place and yet imbibe nothing
of its traditions. Perhaps you know that the monks were driven out of
these ruins by Henry VIII. Well, on the spot where that tree now
stands there grew a still greater oak, a giant tree, its trunk
measured sixteen loads of timber; which had, as tradition said, been
planted by the first prior of the Abbey when England was still Saxon.
The night the monks left a great gale raged over England. It was in
October, when the trees were full of leaf, and its fiercest gust tore
the great oak from its roothold, and flung it into the lake. Look! do
you see that rise in the sand, there, by the edge of the deep pool, in
the eight foot water? That is there it is supposed to lie. Well, the
whole country-side said that it was a sign that the monks had gone for
ever from Bratham Abbey, and the country-side was right. But when your
ancestor, old yeoman Caresfoot, bought this place and came to live
here, in a year when there was a great black frost that set the waters
of the lake like one of the new-fangled roads, he asked his
neighbours, ay, and his labouring folk, to come and dine with him and
drink to the success of his purchase. It was a proud day for him, and
when dinner was done and they were all mellow with strong ale, he bade
them step down to the borders of the lake, as he would have them be
witness to a ceremony. When they reached the spot they saw a curious
sight, for there on a strong dray, and dragged by Farmer Caresfoot's
six best horses, was an oak of fifty years' growth coming across the
ice, earth, roots and all.

"On that spot where it now stands there had been a great hole, ten
feet deep by fourteen feet square, dug to receive it, and into that
hole Caresfoot Staff was tilted and levered off the dray. And when it
had been planted, and the frozen earth well trodden in, your
grandfather in the ninth degree brought his guests back to the old
banqueting-hall, and made a speech which, as it was the first and last
he ever made, was long remembered in the country-side. It was, put
into modern English, something like this:

"'Neighbours,--Prior's Oak has gone into the water, and folks said
that it was for a sign that the monks would never come back to
Bratham, and that it was the Lord's wind that put it there. And,
neighbours, as ye know, the broad Bratham lands and the fat marshes
down by the brook passed by king's grant to a man that knew not clay
from loam, or layer from pasturage, and from him they passed by the
Lord's will to me, as I have asked you here to-day to celebrate. And
now, neighbours, I have a mind, and though it seem to you but a
childish thing, yet I have a mind, and have set myself to fulfil it.
When I was yet a little lad, and drove the swine out to feed on the
hill yonder, when the acorns had fallen, afore Farmer Gyrton's father
had gracious leave from the feoffees to put up the fence that doth now
so sorely vex us, I found one day a great acorn, as big as a dow's
egg, and of a rich and wondrous brown, and this acorn I bore home and
planted in kind earth in the corner of my dad's garden, thinking that
it would grow, and that one day I would hew its growth and use it for
a staff. Now that was fifty long years ago, lads, and there where grew
Prior's Oak, there, neighbours, I have set my Staff to-day. The monks
have told us how in Israel every man planted his fig and his vine. For
the fig I know not rightly what that is; but for the vine, I will
plant no creeping, clinging vine, but a hearty English oak, that, if
they do but give it good room to breathe in, and save their heirloom
from the axe, shall cast shade and grow acorns, and burst into leaf in
the spring and grow naked in the winter, when ten generations of our
children, and our children's children, shall have mixed their dust
with ours yonder in the graveyard. And now, neighbours, I have talked
too long, though I am better at doing than talking; but ye will even
forgive me, for I will not talk to you again, though on this the great
day of my life I was minded to speak. But I will bid you every man
pledge a health to the Caresfoot's Staff, and ask a prayer that, so
long as it shall push its leaves, so long may the race of my loins be
here to sit beneath its shade, and even mayhap when the corn is ripe
and the moon is up, and their hearts grow soft towards the past, to
talk with kinsman or with sweetheart of the old man who struck it in
this kindly soil.'"

The old squire's face grew tender as he told this legend of the
forgotten dead, and Philip's young imagination summoned up the strange
old-world scene of the crowd of rustics gathered in the snow and frost
round this very tree.

"Philip," said his father, suddenly, "you will hold the yeoman's Staff
one day; be like it of an oaken English heart, and you will defy wind
and weather as it has done, and as your forbears have done. Come, we
must go on."

"By the way, Philip," he continued, after a while, "you will remember
what I said to you this morning--I hope that you will remember it,
though I spoke in anger--never try to deceive me again, or you will
regret it. And now I have something to say to you. I wish you to go to
college and receive an education that will fit you to hold the
position you must in the course of Nature one day fill in the county.
The Oxford term begins in a few days, and you have for some years been
entered at Magdalen College. I do not expect you to be a scholar, but
I do expect you to brush off your rough ways and your local ideas, and
to learn to become such a person both in your conduct and your mind as
a gentleman of your station should be."

"Is George to go to college too?"

"No; I have spoken to him on the subject, and he does not wish it. He
says very wisely that, with his small prospects, he would rather spend
the time in learning how to earn his living. So he is going to be
articled to the Roxham lawyers, Foster and Son, or rather Foster and
Bellamy, for young Bellamy, who is a lawyer by profession, came here
this morning, not to speak about you, but on a message from the firm
to say that he is now a junior partner, and that they will be very
happy to take George as an articled clerk. He is a hard-working,
shrewd young man, and it will be a great advantage to George to have
his advice and example before him."

Philip assented, and went on in silence, reflecting on the curious
change in his immediate prospects that this walk had brought to light.
He was much rejoiced at the prospect of losing sight of George for a
while, and was sufficiently intelligent to appreciate the advantages,
social and mental, that the University would offer him; but it struck
him that there were two things which he did not like about the scheme.
The first of these was, that whilst he was pursuing his academical
studies, George would practically be left on the spot--for Roxham was
only six miles off--to put in motion any schemes he might have
devised; and Philip was sure that he had devised schemes. And the
second, that Oxford was a long way from Maria Lee. However, he kept
his objections to himself. In due course they reached the buildings
they had set out to examine, and the old squire, having settled what
was to be done, and what was to be left undone, with characteristic
promptitude and shrewdness, they turned homewards.

In passing through the shrubberies, on their way back to the house,
they suddenly came upon a stolid-looking lad of about fifteen,
emerging from a side-walk with a nest full of young blackbirds in his
hand. Now, if there was one thing in this world more calculated than
another to rouse the most objectionable traits of the old squire's
character into rapid action, it was the discovery of boys, and more
especially bird-nesting boys, in his plantations. In the first place,
he hated trespassers; and in the second, it was one of his simple
pleasures to walk in the early morning and listen to the singing of
the birds that swarmed around. Accordingly, at the obnoxious sight he
stopped suddenly, and, drawing himself up to his full height,
addressed the trembling youth in his sweetest voice.

"Your name is, I believe--Brady--Jim Brady--correct me if I am wrong--
and you have come here, you--you--young--villain--to steal my birds."

The frightened boy walked slowly backwards, followed by the old man
with his fiery eyes fixed upon his face, till at last concussion
against the trunk of a great tree prevented further retreat. Here he
stood for about thirty seconds, writhing under the glance that seemed
to pierce him through and through, till at last he could stand it no
longer, but flung himself on the ground, roaring:

"Oh! don't ee, squire; don't ee now look at me with that 'ere eye.
Take and thrash me, squire, but don't ee fix me so! I hayn't had no
more nor twenty this year, and a nest of spinxes, and Tom Smith he's
had fifty-two and a young owl. Oh! oh!"

Enraged beyond measure at this last piece of information, Mr.
Caresfoot took his victim at his word, and, ceasing his ocular
experiments, laid into the less honourable portion of his form with
the gold-headed malacca cane in a way that astonished the prostrate
Jim, though he was afterwards heard to declare that the squire's cane
"warn't not nothing compared with the squire's eye, which wore a hot
coal, it wore, and frizzled your innards as sich."

When Jim Brady had departed, never to return again, and the old man
had recovered his usual suavity of manner, he remarked to his son:

"There is some curious property in the human eye; a property that is,
I believe, very much developed in my own. Did you observe the effect
of my glance upon that boy? I was trying an experiment on him. I
remember it was always the same with your poor mother. She could never
bear me to look at her."

Philip made no reply, but he thought that, if she had been the object
of experiments of that nature, it was not very wonderful.

Shortly after their return home he received a note from Miss Lee. It
ran thus:


 "My dear Philip,

 "What _do_ you think? Just after you had gone away, I got by the
  mid-day post, which Jones (the butcher) brought from Roxham,
  several letters, amongst them one from Grumps and one from Uncle
  Tom. Grumps has shown a cause. Why? 'It' said she was not an
  improper person; but, for all that, she is so angry with Uncle Tom
  that she will not come back, but has accepted an offer to go to
  Canada as companion to a lady; so farewell Grumps.

 "Now for Uncle Tom. 'It' suggested that I should live with some
  of my relations till I came of age, and pay them four hundred a
  year, which I think a good deal. I am sure it can't cost four
  hundred a year to feed me, though I have such an appetite. I had
  no idea they were all so fond of me before; they all want me to
  come and live with them, except Aunt Chambers, who, you know,
  lives in Jersey. Uncle Tom says in his letter that he shall be
  glad if his daughters can have the advantage of my example, and of
  studying my polished manners (just fancy _my_ polished manners;
  and I know, because little Tom, who is a brick, told me, that only
  last year he heard his father tell Emily--that's the eldest--that
  I was a dowdy, snub-nosed, ill-mannered miss, but that she must
  keep in with me and flatter me up). No, I will not live with Uncle
  Tom, and I will tell 'it' so. If I must leave my home, I will go
  to Aunt Chambers at Jersey. Jersey is a beautiful place for
  flowers, and one learns French there without the trouble of
  learning it; and I like Aunt Chambers, and she has no children,
  and nothing but the memory of a dear departed. But I don't like
  leaving home, and feel very much inclined to cry. _Hang_ the Court
  of Chancery, and Uncle Tom and his interference too!--_there_. I
  suppose you can't find time to come over to-morrow morning to see
  me off? Good-bye, dear Philip,

                                     "Your affectionate friend,
                                                     "Maria Lee."


Philip did manage to find time next morning, and came back looking
very disconsolate.



                              CHAPTER IV

Philip went to college in due course, and George departed to learn his
business as a lawyer in Roxham, but it will not be necessary for us to
enter into the details of their respective careers during this period
of their lives.

At college Philip did fairly well, and, being a Caresfoot, did not run
into debt. He was, as his great bodily strength gave promise of, a
first-class athlete, and for two years stroked the Magdalen boat. Nor
did he altogether neglect his books, but his reading was of a
desultory and out-of-the-way order, and much directed towards the
investigation of mystical subjects. Fairly well liked amongst the men
with whom he mixed, he could hardly be called popular; his temperament
was too uncertain for that. At times he was the gayest of the gay, and
then when the fit took him he would be plunged into a state of gloomy
depression that might last for days. His companions, to whom his
mystical studies were a favourite jest, were wont to assert that on
these occasions he was preparing for a visit from his familiar, but
the joke was one that he never could be prevailed upon to appreciate.
The fact of the matter was that these fits of gloom were
constitutional with him, and very possibly had their origin in the
state of his mother's mind before his birth, when her whole thoughts
were coloured by her morbid and fanciful terror of her husband, and
her frantic anxiety to conciliate him.

During the three years that he spent at college, Philip saw but little
of George, since, when he happened to be down at Bratham, which was
not often, for he spent most of his vacations abroad, George avoided
coming there as much as possible. Indeed, there was a tacit agreement
between the two young men that they would see as little of each other
as might be convenient. But, though he did not see much of him
himself, Philip was none the less aware that George's influence over
his father was, if anything, on the increase. The old squire's letters
were full of him and of the admirable way in which he managed the
estate, for it was now practically in his hands. Indeed, to his
surprise and somewhat to his disgust, he found that George began to be
spoken of indifferently with himself as the "young squire." Long
before his college days had come to an end Philip had determined that
he would do his best, as soon as opportunity offered, to reduce his
cousin to his proper place, not by the violent means to which he had
resorted in other days, but rather by showing himself to be equally
capable, equally assiduous, and equally respectful and affectionate.

At last the day came when he was to bid farewell to Oxford for good,
and in due course he found himself in a second-class railway carriage
--thinking it useless to waste money, he always went second--and bound
for Roxham.

Just before the train left the platform at Paddington, Philip was
agreeably surprised out of his meditations by the entry into his
carriage of an extremely elegant and stately young lady, a foreigner
as he judged from her strong accent when she addressed the porter.
With the innate gallantry of twenty-one, he immediately laid himself
out to make the acquaintance of one possessed of such proud, yet
melting blue eyes, such lovely hair, and a figure that would not have
disgraced Diana; and, with this view, set himself to render her such
little services as one fellow-traveller can offer to another. They
were accepted reservedly at first, then gratefully, and before long
the reserve broke down entirely, and this very handsome pair dropped
into a conversation as animated as the lady's broken English would
allow. The lady told him that her name was Hilda von Holtzhausen, that
she was of a German family, and had come to England to enter a family
as companion, in order to obtain a perfect knowledge of the English
language. She had already been to France and acquired French; when she
knew English, then she had been promised a place as school-mistress
under government in her own country. Her father and mother were dead,
and she had no brothers or sisters, and very few friends.

Where was she going to? She was going to a place called Roxham; here
it was written on the ticket. She was going to be companion to a dear
young lady, very rich, like all the English, whom she had met when she
had travelled with her French family to Jersey, a Miss Lee.

"You don't say so!" said Philip. "Has she come back to Rewtham?"

"What, do you, then, know her?"

"Yes--that is, I used to three years ago. I live in the next parish."

"Ah! then perhaps you are the gentleman of whom I have heard her to
speak, Mr. Car-es-foot, whom she did seem to appear to love; is not
that the word?--to be very fond, you know."

Philip laughed, blushed, and acknowledged his identity with the
gentleman whom Miss Lee "did seem to appear to love."

"Oh! I am glad; then we shall be friends, and see each other often--
shall we not?"

He declared unreservedly that she should see him very often.

From Fraulein von Holtzhausen Philip gathered in the course of their
journey a good many particulars about Miss Lee. It appeared that,
having attained her majority, she was coming back to live at her old
home at Rewtham, whither she had tried to persuade her Aunt Chambers
to accompany her, but without success, that lady being too much
attached to Jersey to leave it. During the course of a long stay on
the island, the two girls had become fast friends, and the friendship
had culminated in an offer being made by Maria Lee to Fraulein von
Holtzhausen to come and live with her as a companion, a proposal that
exactly suited the latter.

The mention of Miss Lee's name had awakened pleasant recollections in
Philip's mind, recollections that, at any other time, might have
tended towards the sentimental; but, when under fire from the blue
eyes of this stately foreigner, it was impossible for him to feel
sentimental about anybody save herself. "The journey is over all too
soon," was the secret thought of each as they stepped on to the Roxham
platform. Before they had finally said good-bye, however, a young lady
with a dainty figure, in a shady hat and pink and white dress, came
running along the platform.

"Hilda, Hilda, here I am! How do you do, dear? Welcome home," and she
was about to seal her welcome with a kiss, when her eye fell upon
Philip standing by.

"Oh, Philip!" she cried with a blush, "don't you know me? Have I
changed much? I should have known you anywhere; and I am glad to see
you, awfully glad (excuse the slang, but it is such a relief to be
able to say 'awful' without being pulled up by Aunt Chambers). Just
think, it is three years since we met. Do you remember Grumps? How do
I look? Do you think you will like me as much as you used to?"

"I think that you are looking the same dear girl that you always used
to look, only you have grown very pretty, and it is not possible that
I shall like you more than I used to."

"I think they must teach you to pay compliments at Oxford, Philip,"
she answered, flushing with pleasure, "but it is all rubbish for you
to say that I am pretty, because I know I am not"--and then,
confidentially, glancing round to see that there was nobody within
hearing (Hilda was engaged with a porter in looking after her things):
"Just look at my nose, and you will soon change your mind. It's
broader, and flatter, and snubbier than ever. I consider that I have
got a bone to pick with Providence about that nose. Ah! here comes
Hilda. Isn't she lovely! There's beauty for you if you like. She
hasn't got a nose. Come and show us to the carriage. You will come and
lunch with us to-morrow, won't you? I am so glad to get back to the
old house again; and I mean to have such a garden! 'Life is short, and
joys are fleeting,' as Aunt Chambers always says, so I mean to make
the best of it whilst it lasts. I saw your father yesterday. He is a
dear old man, though he has such awful eyes. I never felt so happy in
my life as I do now. Good-bye. One o'clock." And she was gone, leaving
Philip with something to think about.

Philip's reception at home was cordial and reassuring. He found his
father considerably aged in appearance, but as handsome and upright as
ever, and to all appearance heartily glad to see him.

"I am glad to see you back, my boy," he said. "You come to take your
proper place. If you look at me, you will see that you won't have long
to wait before you take mine. I can't last much longer, Philip, I feel
that. Eighty-two is a good age to have reached. I have had my time,
and put the property in order, and now I suppose I must make room. I
went with the clerk, old Jakes, and marked out my grave yesterday.
There's a nice little spot the other side of the stone that they say
marks where old yeoman Caresfoot, who planted Caresfoot's Staff, laid
his bones, and that's where I wish to be put, in his good company.
Don't forget that when the time comes, Philip. There's room for
another if you care to keep it for yourself, but perhaps you will
prefer the vault."

"You must not talk of dying yet, father. You will live many years
yet."

"No, Philip; perhaps one, perhaps two, not more than two, perhaps a
month, perhaps not a day. My life hangs on a thread now." And he
pointed to his heart. "It may snap any day, if it gets a strain. By
the way, Philip, you see that cupboard? Open it! Now, you see that
stoppered bottle with the red label? Good. Well now, if ever you see
me taken with an attack of the heart (I have had one since you were
away, you know, and it nearly carried me off), you run for that as
hard as you can go, and give it me to drink, half at a time. It is a
tremendous restorative of some sort, and old Caley says that, if I do
not take it when the next attack comes, there'll be an end of 'Devil
Caresfoot';" and he rapped his cane energetically on the oak floor.

"And so, Philip, I want you to go about and make yourself thoroughly
acquainted with the property, so that you may be able to take things
over when I die without any hitch. I hope that you will be careful and
do well by the land. Remember that a big property like this is a
sacred trust.

"And now there are two more things that I will take this opportunity
to say a word to you about. First, I see that you and your cousin
George don't get on well, and it grieves me. You have always had a
false idea of George, always, and thought that he was underhand.
Nothing could be more mistaken than such a notion. George is a most
estimable young man, and my dear brother's only son. I wish you would
try to remember that, Philip--blood is thicker than water, you know--
and you will be the only two Caresfoots left when I am gone. Now,
perhaps you may think that I intend enriching George at your expense,
but that is not so. Take this key and open the top drawer of that
secretaire, and give me that bundle. This is my will. If you care to
look over it, and can understand it--which is more than I can--you
will see that everything is left to you, with the exception of that
outlying farm at Holston, those three Essex farms that I bought two
years ago, and twelve thousand pounds in cash. Of course, as you know,
the Abbey House, and the lands immediately round, are entailed--it has
always been the custom to entail them for many generations. There, put
it back. And now the last thing is, I want you to get married, Philip.
I should like to see a grandchild in the house before I die. I want
you to marry Maria Lee. I like the girl. She comes of a good old
Marlshire stock--our family married into hers in the year 1703.
Besides, her property would put yours into a ring-fence. She is a
sharp girl too, and quite pretty enough for a wife. I hope you will
think it over, Philip."

"Yes, father; but perhaps she will not have me. I am going to lunch
there to-morrow."

"I don't think you need be afraid, Philip; but I won't keep you any
longer. Shake hands, my boy. You'll perhaps think of your old father
kindly when you come to stand in his shoes. I hope you will, Philip.
We have had many a quarrel, and sometimes I have been wrong, but I
have always wished to do my duty by you, my boy. Don't forget to make
the best of your time at lunch to-morrow."

Philip went out of his father's study considerably touched by the
kindness and consideration with which he had been treated, and not a
little relieved to find his position with reference to his succession
to the estate so much better than he had anticipated, and his cousin
George's so much worse.

"That red-haired fox has plotted in vain," he thought, with secret
exultation. And then he set himself to consider the desirability of
falling in with his father's wishes as regards marriage. Of Maria he
was, as the reader is aware, very fond; indeed, a few years before he
had been in love with her, or something very like it; he knew too that
she would make him a very good wife, and the match was one that in
every way commended itself to his common sense and his interests. Yes,
he would certainly take his father's advice. But every time he said
this to himself--and he said it pretty often that evening--there would
arise before his mind's eye a vision of the sweet blue eyes of Miss
Lee's stately companion. What eyes they were, to be sure! It made
Philip's blood run warm and quick merely to think of them; indeed, he
could almost find it in his heart to wish that Hilda was Maria and
Maria was in Hilda's shoes.

What between thoughts of the young lady he had set himself to marry,
and of the young lady he did not mean to marry, but whose eyes he
admired, Philip did not sleep so well as usual that night.



                              CHAPTER V

Philip did not neglect to go to luncheon at Rewtham house, and a very
pleasant luncheon it was; indeed, it would have been difficult for him
to have said which he found the pleasantest: Maria's cheerful chatter
and flattering preference, or Hilda's sweet and gracious presence.

After luncheon, at Maria's invitation he gave Fraulein von Holtzhausen
her first lesson in writing in English character; and to speak truth
he found the task of guiding her fair hand through the mysteries of
the English alphabet a by no means uncongenial occupation. When he
came away his admiration of Hilda's blue eyes was more pronounced than
ever; but, on the other hand, so was his conviction that he would be
very foolish if he allowed it to interfere with his intention of
making Maria Lee his wife.

He who would drive two women thus in double harness must needs have a
light hand and a ready lash, and it is certainly to the credit of
Philip's cleverness that he managed so well as he did. For as time
went on he discovered his position to be this. Both Hilda and Maria
were in love with him, the former deeply and silently, the latter
openly and ostensibly. Now, however gratifying this fact might be to
his pride, it was in some ways a thorny discovery, since he dared not
visibly pay his attentions to either. For his part he returned Hilda
von Holtzhausen's devotion to a degree that surprised himself; his
passion for her burnt him like a fire, utterly searing away the traces
of his former affection for Maria Lee. Under these circumstances, most
young men of twenty-one would have thrown prudence to the winds and
acknowledged, either by acts or words, the object of their love; but
not so Philip, who even at that age was by no means deficient in the
characteristic caution of the Caresfoot family. He saw clearly that
his father would never consent to his marriage with Hilda, nor, to
speak truth, did he himself at all like the idea of losing Miss Lee
and her estates.

On the other hand, he knew Hilda's proud and jealous mind. She was no
melting beauty who would sigh and submit to an affront, but, for all
her gracious ways, at heart a haughty woman, who, if she reigned at
all, would reign like Alexander, unrivalled and alone. That she was
well aware of her friend's tendresse for Philip the latter very
shortly guessed; indeed, as he suspected, Maria was in the habit of
confiding to her all her hopes and fears connected with himself, a
suspicion that made him very careful in his remarks to that young
lady.

The early summer passed away whilst Philip was still thinking over his
position, and the face of the country was blushing with all the glory
of July, when one afternoon he found himself, as he did pretty
frequently, in the shady drawing-room at Miss Lee's. As he entered,
the sound of voices told him that there were other visitors beside
himself, and, as soon as his eyes had grown accustomed to the light,
he saw his cousin George, together with his partner Mr. Bellamy, and a
lady with whom he was not acquainted.

George had improved in appearance somewhat since we last saw him
meeting with severe treatment at his cousin's hands. The face had
filled up a little, with the result that the nose did not look so
hooked, nor the thick lips so coarse and sensual. The hair, however,
was as red as ever, and as for the small, light-blue eyes, they
twinkled with the added sharpness and lustre that four years of such
experience of the shady side of humanity as can be gathered in a
lawyer's office, is able to give to the student of men and manners.

So soon as Philip had said how-do-you-do to Maria and Hilda, giving to
each a gentle pressure of the hand, George greeted him with warmth.

"How are you, Philip? delighted to see you; how is my uncle? Bellamy
saw him this morning, and thought that he did not look well."

"I certainly did think, Mr. Philip," said the gentleman alluded to, a
very young-looking, apple-faced little man, with a timid manner, who
stood in the background nervously rubbing his dry hands together--"I
certainly did think that the squire looked aged when I saw him this
morning."

"Well, you see, Mr. Bellamy, eighty-two is a good age, is it not?"
said Philip, cheerfully.

"Yes, Mr. Philip, a good age, a very good age, for the _next heir_,"
and Mr. Bellamy chuckled softly somewhere down in his throat, and
retreated a little.

"He is getting facetious," broke in George, "that marriage has done
that for him. By the way, Philip, do you know Mrs. Bellamy? she has
only been down here a fortnight, you know. What, no! Then you have a
pleasure to come" (raising his voice so that it might be heard at the
other end of the room), "a very clever woman, and as handsome as she
is clever."

"Indeed! I must ask you to introduce me presently, Mr. Bellamy. I only
recently heard that you were married."

Mr. Bellamy blushed and twisted and was about to speak, when George
cut in again.

"No, I dare say you didn't; sly dog, Bellamy; do you know what he did?
I introduced him to the lady when we were up in town together last
Christmas. I was dreadfully hard hit myself, I can assure you, and as
soon as my back was turned he went and cut me out of the water--and
turned my adored into Mrs. Bellamy."

"What are you taking my name in vain about, Mr. Caresfoot?" said a
rich, low voice behind them.

"Bless me, Anne, how softly you move, you quite startled me," said
little Mr. Bellamy, putting on his spectacles in an agitated manner.

"My dear, a wife, like an embodied conscience, should always be at her
husband's shoulder, especially when he does not know it."

Bellamy made no reply, but looked as though the sentiment was one of
which he did not approve; meantime the lady repeated her question to
George, and the two fell into a bantering conversation. Philip, having
dropped back a little, had an opportunity of carefully observing Mrs.
Bellamy, an occupation not without interest, for she was certainly
worthy of notice.

About twenty years of age, and of medium height, her figure was so
finely proportioned and so roomily made that it gave her the
appearance of being taller than she really was. The head was set
squarely on the shoulders, the hair was cut short, and clustered in
ringlets over the low, broad brow; whilst the clearly carved Egyptian
features and square chin gave the whole face a curious expression of
resoluteness and power. The eyes were heavily-lidded and greyish-green
in hue, with enormously large dark pupils that had a strange habit of
expanding and contracting without apparent reason.

Gazing at her, Philip was at a loss to know whether this woman so
bizarrely beautiful fascinated or repelled him; indeed, neither then
nor at any future time did he succeed in deciding the question. Whilst
he was still contemplating, and wondering how Bellamy of all people in
the world had managed to marry such a woman, and what previous
acquaintance George had had with her, he saw the lady whisper
something to his cousin, who at once turned and introduced him.

"Philip," he said, "let me introduce you to the most charming lady of
my acquaintance, Mrs. Bellamy."

Philip bowed and expressed himself delighted, whilst the lady curtsied
with a mixture of grace and dignity that became her infinitely well.

"Your cousin has often spoken to me of you, Mr. Caresfoot, but he
never told me----" here she hesitated, and broke off.

"What did he never tell you, Mrs. Bellamy? Nothing to my disadvantage,
I hope."

"On the contrary, if you wish to know," she said, in that tone of
flattering frankness which is sometimes so charming in a woman's
mouth, "he never told me that you were young and handsome. I fancied
you forty at least."

"I should dearly like to tell you, Mrs. Bellamy, what my cousin George
never told _me_; but I won't, for fear I should make Bellamy jealous."

"Jealousy, Mr. Caresfoot, is a luxury that _my_ husband is not allowed
to indulge in; it is very well for lovers, but what is a compliment in
a lover becomes an impertinence in a husband. But if I keep you here
much longer, I shall be drawing the enmity of Miss Lee, and--yes, of
Fraulein von Holtzhausen, too, on to my devoted head, and, as that is
the only sort of jealousy I have any fear of, or indeed any respect
for, being as it is the expression of the natural abhorrence of one
woman for another, I had rather avoid it."

Philip followed the direction of her sleepy eyes, and saw that both
Miss Lee and Hilda appeared to be put out. The former was talking
absently to Mr. Bellamy, and glancing continually in the direction of
that gentleman's wife. The latter, too, whilst appearing to listen to
some compliment from George, was gazing at Mrs. Bellamy with a curious
look of dislike and apprehension in her face.

"You see what I mean; Fraulein von Holtzhausen actually looks as
though she were afraid of me. Can you fancy any one being afraid of
me, except my husband, of course?--for as you know, when a woman is
talking of men, her husband is _always_ excepted. Come, we must be
going; but, Mr. Caresfoot, bend a little nearer; if you will accept it
from such a stranger, I want to give you a bit of advice--make your
choice pretty soon, or you will lose them both."

"What do you mean--how do you know----"

"I mean nothing at all, or just as much as you like, and for the rest
I use my eyes. Come, let us join the others."

A few minutes later Hilda put down her work, and, declaring that she
felt hot, threw open the French window and went out into the garden,
whither, on some pretext or other, Philip followed her.

"What a lovely woman that is," said Mrs. Bellamy, with enthusiasm, to
Miss Lee, as soon as Philip was out of earshot. "Her _tout ensemble_
positively kills one. I feel plain and dowdy as a milkmaid alongside
of a Court-beauty when I am in the room with her. Don't you, Miss
Lee?"

"Oh, I don't know, I never thought about it, but of course she is
lovely and I'm plain, so there is no possibility of comparison between
us."

"Well, I think you rate yourself rather low, if you will allow me to
say so; but most women would but 'poorly satisfy the sight' of a man
when she was present. I know that I should not care to trust my
admirer (if I had one), however devoted he might be, for a single day
in her company; would you?"

"I really don't know; what _do_ you mean?"

"Mean, Miss Lee, why I mean nothing at all; what should I mean, except
that beauty is a magnet which attracts all men; it serves them for a
standard of morality and a test of right and wrong. Men are different
from women. If a man is faithful to one of us, it is only because no
other woman of sufficient charm has become between him and us. You can
never trust a man."

"What dreadful ideas you have."

"Do you think so? I hope not. I only speak what I have observed. Take
the case of Fraulein von Holtzhausen, for instance. Did you not notice
that whilst she was in the room the eyes of the three gentlemen were
all fixed upon her, and as soon as she leaves it one of them follows
her, as the others would have done had they not been forestalled? One
cannot blame them; they are simply following a natural law. Any other
man would do the same where such a charming person is concerned."

"I certainly did not notice it; indeed, to speak the truth, I thought
that they were more occupied with you----"

"With me! why, my dear Miss Lee, _I_ don't set up for being good-
looking. What a strange idea. But I dare say you are right, it is only
one of my theories based upon my own casual observations, and, after
all, men are not a very interesting subject, are they? Let's talk of
something more exciting--dresses, for instance."

But poor Maria was too uncomfortable and disturbed to talk of anything
else, so she collapsed into silence, and shortly after Mr. and Mrs.
Bellamy and George made their adieux.

Meanwhile Philip and Hilda had been walking leisurely down the
shrubberies adjoining the house.

"Why have you come out?" she asked in German, a language he understood
well.

"To walk with you. Why do you speak to me in German?"

"Because it is my pleasure to do so, and I never asked you to walk
with me. You are wanted in the drawing-room, you had better go back."

"No, I won't go, Hilda; that is, not until you have promised me
something."

"Do not call me Hilda, if you please. I am the Fraulein von
Holtzhausen. What is it you want me to promise?"

"I want you to meet me this evening at nine o'clock in the summer-
house."

"I think, Mr. Caresfoot, that you are forgetting a little what is due
to me, to yourself, and--to Miss Lee?"

"What do you mean by due to Miss Lee?"

"Simply that she is in love with you, and that you have encouraged her
in her affection; you need not contradict me, she tells me all about
it."

"Nonsense, Hilda; if you will meet me to-night, I will explain
everything; there is no need for you to be jealous."

She swept round upon him, tossing her head, and stamping her dainty
foot upon the gravel.

"Mr. Caresfoot," she said, "once and for all I am not jealous, and I
will not meet you; I have too much respect for myself, and too little
for you," and she was gone.

Philip's face, as he stood looking after her, was not pleasant to see;
it was very hard and angry.

"Jealous, is she? I will give her something to be jealous for, the
proud minx;" and in his vexation he knocked off the head of a
carnation with his stick.

"Philip, what _are_ you doing? Those are my pet Australian carnations;
at least, I think they are Australian. How can you destroy them like
that?"

"All right, Maria; I was only plucking one for you. Won't you put it
in your dress? Where are the others?"

"They have all gone. Come in, it is so hot out there; and tell me what
you think of Mrs. Bellamy."

"I think that she is very handsome and very clever. I wonder where
Bellamy picked her up."

"I don't know; I wish he hadn't picked her up at all. I don't like
her, she says unpleasant things; and, though I have only seen her
three times, she seems to know all about me and everybody else. I am
not very quick; but do you know just now I thought that she was
insinuating that you were in love with Hilda; that's not true, is it,
Philip? Don't think me forward if I ask you if that is true, and if I
say that, if it is, it is better that I should know it. I sha'n't be
angry, Philip;" and the girl stood before him to await his answer, one
hand pressed against her bosom to still the beating of her heart,
whilst with the other she screened her blushing brow.

And Philip too stood face to face with her sweet self, with
conscience, and with opportunity. "Now," whispered conscience, "is the
time, before very much harm is done; now is the acceptable time to
tell her all about it, and, whilst forbidding her love, to enlist her
sympathy and friendship. It will be wrong to encourage her affection;
when you ardently love another woman, you cannot palter any more."
"Now," whispered opportunity, shouldering conscience aside, "is the
time to secure her, her love, and her possessions, and to reward Hilda
for her pride. Do not sacrifice yourself to an infatuation; do not
tell her about Hilda--it would only breed jealousies; you can settle
with her afterwards. Take the goods the gods provide you."

All this and more passed through his mind; and he had made his choice
long before the rich blood that mantled in the lady's cheek had sunk
back to the true breast from whence it came.

Oh, instant of time born to colour all eternity to thine own hue, for
this man thou hast come and gone! Oh, fleeting moment, bearing
desolation or healing on thy wings, how the angels, in whose charge
lie the souls of men, must tremble and turn pale, as they mark thy
flight through the circumstances of a man's existence, and thence
taking thy secrets with thee away to add thy fateful store to the
records of his past!

He took her hand, the hand that was pressed upon her bosom.

"Maria," he said, "you should not get such ideas into your head. I
admire Hilda very much, and that is all. Why, dear, I have always
looked upon myself as half engaged to you--that is, so far as I am
concerned; and I have only been waiting till circumstances would allow
me to do so, to ask you if you think me worth marrying."

For a while she made no reply, but only blushed the more; at last she
looked up a little.

"You have made me very happy, Philip." That was all she said.

"I am very glad, dear, that you can find anything in me to like; but
if you do care for me, and think me worth waiting for, I am going to
ask something of your affection: I am going to ask you to trust me as
well as to love me. I do not, for reasons that I will not enter into,
but which I beg you to believe are perfectly straightforward, wish
anything to be said of our engagement at present, not even to your
friend Hilda. Do you trust me sufficiently to agree to that?"

"Philip, I trust you as much as I love you, and for years I have loved
you with all my heart. And now, dear, please go; I want to think."

In the hall a servant gave him a note; it was from Hilda, and ran
thus--

"I have changed my mind. I will meet you in the summer-house this
evening. I have something to say to you."

Philip whistled as he read it.

"Devilish awkward," he thought to himself; "if I am going to marry
Maria, she must leave this. But I cannot bear to part with her. I love
her! I love her!"



                              CHAPTER VI

It was some time before Philip could make up his mind whether or no he
would attend his tryst with Hilda. In the first place, he felt that it
was an unsafe proceeding generally, inasmuch as moonlight meetings
with so lovely a person might, should they come to the knowledge of
Miss Lee, be open to misconstruction; and particularly because, should
she show the least tenderness towards him, he knew in his heart that
he could not trust himself, however much he might be engaged in
another direction. At twenty-one the affections cannot be outraged
with impunity, but have an awkward way of asserting themselves, ties
of honour notwithstanding.

But as a rule, when in our hearts we wish to do anything, that thing
must be bad indeed if we cannot find a satisfactory excuse for doing
it; and so it was with Philip. Now, thought he to himself, would be
his opportunity to inform Hilda of his relations with Maria Lee, and
to put an end to his flirtation with her; for, ostensibly at any rate,
it was nothing more than a very serious flirtation--that is to say,
though there had been words of love, and even on her part a passionate
avowal of affection, wrung in an unguarded moment from the depths of
her proud heart, there had been no formal engagement. It was a thing
that must be done, and now was the time to do it. And so he made up
his mind to go.

But when, that night, he found himself sitting in the appointed place,
and waiting for the coming of the woman he was about to discard, but
whom he loved with all the intensity of his fierce nature, he began to
view the matter in other lights, and to feel his resolution oozing
from him. Whether it was the silence of the place that told upon his
nerves, strained as they were with expectation--for silence, and more
especially silence by night, is a great unveiler of realities,--or the
dread of bitter words, or the prescience of the sharp pang of parting
--for he knew enough of Hilda to know that, what he had to say once
said, she would trouble him no more--whether it was these things, or
whatever it was that affected him, he grew most unaccountably anxious
and depressed. Moreover, in this congenial condition of the atmosphere
of his mind, all its darker and hidden characteristics sprang into a
vigorous growth. Superstitions and presentiments crowded in upon him.
He peopled his surroundings with the shades of intangible deeds that
yet awaited doing, and grew afraid of his own thoughts. He would have
fled from the spot, but he could not fly; he could only watch the
flicker of the moonlight upon the peaceful pool beside him, and--wait.

At last she came with quick and anxious steps, and, though but a few
minutes before he had dreaded her coming, he now welcomed it eagerly.
For our feelings, of whatever sort, when directed towards each other,
are so superficial as compared with the intensity of our fears when we
are terrified by calamity, or the presence, real or fancied, of the
unknown, that in any moment of emergency, more especially if it be of
a mental kind, we are apt to welcome our worst enemy as a drowning man
welcomes a spar.

"At last," he said, with a sigh of relief. "How late you are!"

"I could not get away. There were some people to dinner;" and then, in
a softened voice, "How pale you look! Are you ill?"

"No, only a little tired."

After this there was silence, and the pair stood facing one another,
each occupied with their own thoughts, and each dreading to put them
into words. Once Philip made a beginning of speech, but his voice
failed him; the beating of his heart seemed to choke his utterance.

At length she leaned, as though for support, against the trunk of a
pine-tree, in the boughs of which the night breeze was whispering, and
spoke in a cold clear voice.

"You asked me to meet you here to-night. Have you anything to say to
me? No, do not speak; perhaps I had better speak first. I have
something to say to you, and what I have to say may influence whatever
is in your mind. Listen; you remember what passed between us nearly a
month ago, when I was so weak as to let you see how much I loved you?"

Philip bowed his head in assent.

"Very good. I have come here to-night, not to give you any lover's
meeting, but to tell you that no such words must be spoken again, and
that I am about to make it impossible that they should be spoken
either by you or by me. I am going away from here, _never_, I hope, to
return."

"Going away!" he gasped. "When?"

Here was the very thing he hoped for coming to pass, and yet the words
that should have been so full of comfort fell upon him cold as ice,
and struck him into misery.

"When! why, to-morrow morning. A relation of mine is ill in Germany,
the only one I have. I never saw him, and care nothing for him, but it
will give me a pretext; and, once gone, I shall not return. I have
told Maria that I must go. She cried about it, poor girl."

At these words, all recollection of his purpose passed out of Philip's
mind; all he realized was that, unless he could alter her
determination, he was about the lose the woman he so passionately
adored, and whose haughty pride was to him in itself more charming
than all poor Maria's gentle love.

"Hilda, do not go," he said, seizing her hand, which she immediately
withdrew; "do not leave me. You know how I love you."

"And why should I not leave you, even supposing it to be true that you
do love me? To my cost I love you, and am I any longer to endure the
daily humiliation of seeing myself, the poor German companion, who has
nothing but her beauty, put aside in favour of another whom I also
love. You say you love me, and bid me stay; now, tell me what is your
purpose towards me? Do you intend to try to take advantage of my
infatuation to make me your mistress? It is, I am told, a common thing
for such proposals to be made to women in my position, whom it would
be folly for wealthy gentlemen to marry. If so, abandon that idea; for
I tell you, Philip, that I would rather die than so disgrace my
ancient name to gratify myself. I know you money-loving English do not
think very much of race unless the bearers of the name are rich; but
we do; and, although you would think it a _mesalliance_ to marry me,
I, on the other hand, should not be proud of an alliance with you.
Why, Philip, my ancestors were princes of royal blood when yours still
herded the swine in these woods. I can show more than thirty
quarterings upon my shield, each the mark of a noble house, and I will
not be the first to put a bar sinister across them. Now, I have spoken
plainly, indelicately perhaps, and there is only one more word to be
said between us, and that word is _good-bye_," and she held out her
hand.

He did not seem to see it; indeed, he had scarcely heard the latter
part of what she said. Presently he lifted his face, and it bore
traces of a dreadful inward struggle. It was deadly pale, and great
black rings had painted themselves beneath the troubled eyes.

"Hilda," he said, hoarsely, "don't go; I cannot bear to let you go. I
will marry you."

"Think of what you are saying, Philip, and do not be rash. I do not
wish to entrap you into marriage. You love money. Remember that Maria,
with all her possessions, asks nothing better than to become your
wife, and that I have absolutely nothing but my name and my good
looks. Look at me," and she stepped out into a patch of moonlight that
found its way between the trees, and, drawing the filmy shawl she wore
from her head and bare neck and bosom, stood before him in all the
brightness of her beauty, shaded as it was, and made more lovely by
the shadows of the night.

"Examine me very carefully," she went on, with bitter sarcasm, "look
into my features and study my form and carriage, or you may be
disappointed with your bargain, and complain that you have not got
your money's worth. Remember, too, that an accident, an illness, and
at the best the passage of a few years, may quite spoil my value as a
beautiful woman, and reflect, before I take you at your word."

Philip had sat or rather crouched himself down upon the log of a tree
that lay outside the summer-house, and covered his face with his hand,
as though her loveliness was more than he could bear to look upon.
Now, however, he raised his eyes and let them dwell upon her scornful
features.

"I had rather," he said slowly--"I had rather lose my life than lose
you; I love you so that I would buy you at the price even of my
honour. When will you marry me?"

"What, have you made up your mind so quickly? Are you sure? Then,"--
and here she changed her whole tone and bearing, and passionately
stretched out her arms towards him,--"my dearest Philip, my life, my
love, I will marry you when you will."

"To-morrow?"

"To-morrow, if you like!"

"You must promise me something first."

"What is it?"

"That you will keep the marriage a complete secret, and bear another
name until my father's death. If you do not, he will most probably
disinherit me."

"I do not like your terms, Philip. I do not like secret marriages; but
you are giving up much to marry me, so I suppose I must give up
something to marry you."

"You solemnly promise that nothing shall induce you to reveal that you
are my wife until I give you permission to do so?"

"I promise--that is, provided you do not force me to in self-defence."

Philip laughed.

"You need not fear that," he said. "But how shall we arrange about
getting married?"

"I can meet you in London."

"Very well. I will go up early to-morrow, and get a licence, and then
on Wednesday I can meet you, and we can be married."

"As you will, Philip; where shall I meet you?"

He gave her an address which she carefully noted down.

"Now," she said, "you must go, it is late. Yes, you may kiss me now.
There, that will do, now go." In another minute he was gone.

"I have won the game," she mused; "poor Maria. I am sorry for her, but
perhaps hers is the better part. She will get over it, but mine is a
sad fate; I love passionately, madly, but I do not trust the man I
love. Why should our marriage be so secret? He cannot be entangled
with Maria, or she would have told me." And she stretched out her arms
towards the path by which he had left her, and cried aloud, in the
native tongue that sounded so soft upon her lips, "Oh, my heart's
darling! if I could only trust you as well as I love you, it is a
happy woman that I should be to-night."



                             CHAPTER VII

Nothing occurred to interfere with the plan of action decided on by
Hilda and Philip; no misadventure came to mock them, dashing the
Tantalus cup of joy to earth before their eyes. On the contrary,
within forty-eight hours of the conversation recorded in the last
chapter, they were as completely and irrevocably man and wife, as a
special licence and the curate of a city church, assisted by the clerk
and the pew-opener, could make them.

Then followed a brief period of such delirium as turned the London
lodgings, dingy and stuffy as they were in the height of the hot
summer, into an earthly paradise, a garden of Eden, into which, alas!
the serpent had no need to seek an entrance. But, as was natural, when
the first glory of realized happiness was beginning to grow faint on
their horizon, the young couple turned themselves to consider their
position, and found in it, mutually and severally, many things that
did not please them. For Philip, indeed, it was full of anxieties, for
he had many complications to deal with. First there was his secret
engagement to Maria Lee, of which, be it remembered, his wife was
totally ignorant, and which was in itself a sufficiently awkward
affair for a married man to have on his hands. Then there was the
paramount need of keeping his marriage with Hilda as secret as the
dead, to say nothing of the necessity of his living, for the most
part, away from his wife. Indeed, his only consolation was that he had
plenty of money on which to support her, inasmuch as his father had,
from the date of his leaving Oxford, made him an allowance of one
thousand a year.

Hilda had begun to discover that she was not without her troubles. For
one thing, her husband's fits of moodiness and fretful anxiety
troubled her, and led her, possessed as she was with a more than
ordinary share of womanly shrewdness, to suspect that he was hiding
something from her. But what chiefly vexed her proud nature was the
necessity of concealment, and all its attendant petty falsehoods and
subterfuges. It was not pleasant for Hilda Caresfoot to have to pass
as Mrs. Roberts, and to be careful not to show herself in public
places in the daytime, where there was a possibility of her being seen
by any one who might recognize in her striking figure the lady who had
lived with Miss Lee in Marlshire. It was not pleasant to her to be
obliged to reply to Maria Lee's affectionate letters, full as they
were of entreaty for her return, by epistles that had to be forwarded
to a country town in a remote district of Germany to be posted, and
which were in themselves full of lies that, however white they might
have seemed under all the circumstances, she felt in her conscience to
be very black indeed. In short, there was in their union none of that
sense of finality and of security that is, under ordinary
circumstances, the distinguishing mark of marriage in this country; it
partook rather of the nature of an illicit connection.

At the end of a fortnight of wedded bliss all these little things had
begun to make themselves felt, and in truth they were but the
commencement of evils. For, one afternoon, Philip, for the first time
since his wedding, tore himself away from his wife's side, and paid a
visit to a club to which he had been recently elected. Here he found
no less than three letters from his father, the first requesting his
return, the second commanding it in exceptionally polite language, and
the third--which, written in mingled anxiety and anger, had just
arrived--coolly announcing his parent's intention, should he not hear
of him by return, of setting detective officers to work to discover
his whereabouts. From this letter it appeared, indeed, that his cousin
George had already been despatched to London to look for him, and on
reference to the hall porter he discovered that a gentleman answering
to his description had already inquired for him several times.

Cursing his own folly in not having kept up some communication with
his father, he made the best of his way back to his lodgings, to find
Hilda waiting for him somewhat disconsolately.

"I am glad you have come back, love," she said, drawing him towards
her till his dark curls mingled with her own fair locks, and kissing
him upon the forehead. "I have missed you dreadfully. I don't
understand how I can have lived all these years without you."

"I am afraid, dear, you will have to live without me for a while now;
listen," and he read her the letters he had just received.

She listened attentively till he had finished.

"What are you going to do?" she asked, with some anxiety in her voice.

"Do? why of course I must go home at once."

"And what am I to do?"

"Well, I don't know; I suppose that you must stop here."

"That will be pleasant for me, will it not?"

"No, dear, it will be pleasant neither for you nor me; but what can I
do? You know the man my father is to deal with; if I stop here in
defiance to his wishes, especially as he has been anxious about me,
there is no knowing what might not happen. Remember, Hilda, that we
have to deal with George, whose whole life is devoted to secret
endeavours to supplant me. If I were to give him such an opportunity
as I should by stopping away now, I should deserve all I got, or
rather all I did not get."

Hilda sighed and acquiesced; had she been a softer-minded woman she
would have wept and relieved her feelings, but she was not soft-
minded. And so, before the post went out, he wrote an affectionate
letter to his father, expressing his sorrow at the latter's anxiety at
at his own negligence in not having written to him, the fact of the
matter being, he said, that he had been taken up with visiting some of
his Oxford friends, and had not till that afternoon been near his club
to look for letters. He would, however, he added, return on the
morrow, and make his apologies in person.

This letter he handed to his wife to read.

"Do you think that will do?" he asked, when she had finished.

"Oh, yes!" she replied, with a touch of her old sarcasm, "it is a
masterpiece of falsehood."

Philip looked very angry, and fumed and fretted; but he made no reply,
and on the following morning he departed to Bratham Abbey.

"Ah, Philip, Philip!" said his father, under the mellow influence of
his fourth glass of port, on the night of his arrival. "I know well
enough what kept you up in town. Well, well, I don't complain, young
men will be young men; but don't let these affairs interfere with the
business of life. Remember Maria Lee, my boy; you have serious
interests in that direction, interests that must not be trifled with,
interests that I have a right to expect you will _not_ trifle with."

His son made no reply, but sipped his wine in silence, aching at his
heart for his absent bride, and wondering what his father would say
did he really know what had "kept him in town."

After this, matters went on smoothly enough for a month or more;
since, fortunately for Philip, the great Maria Lee question, a
question that the more he considered it the more thorny did it appear,
was for the moment shelved by the absence of that young lady on a
visit to her aunt in the Isle of Wight. Twice during that month he
managed, on different pretexts, to get up to London and visit his
wife, whom he found as patient as was possible under the
circumstances, but anything but happy. Indeed, on the second occasion,
she urged on him strongly the ignominy of her position, and even
begged him to make a clean breast of it to his father, offering to
undertake the task herself. He refused equally warmly, and some sharp
words ensued to be, however, quickly followed by a reconciliation.

On his return from this second visit, Philip found a note signed
"affectionately yours, Maria Lee," waiting for him, which announced
that young lady's return, and begged him to come over to lunch on the
following day.

He went--indeed, he had no alternative but to go; and again fortune
favoured him in the person of a diffident young lady who was stopping
with Maria, and who never left her side all that afternoon, much to
the disgust of the latter and the relief of Philip. One thing,
however, he was not spared, and that was the perusal of Hilda's last
letter to her friend, written apparently from Germany, and giving a
lively description of the writer's daily life and the state of her
uncle's health, which, she said, precluded all possibility of her
return. Alas! he already knew its every line too well; for, as Hilda
refused to undertake the task, he had but a week before drafted it
himself. But Philip was growing hardened to deception, and found it
possible to read it from end to end, and speculate upon its contents
with Maria without blush or hesitation.

But he could not always expect to find Miss Lee in the custody of such
an obtuse friend; and, needless to say, it became a matter of very
serious importance to him to know how he should treat her. It occurred
to him that his safest course might be to throw himself upon her
generosity and make a clean breast of it; but when it came to the
point he was too weak to thus expose his shameful conduct to the woman
whose heart he had won, and to whom he was bound by every tie of
honour that a gentleman holds sacred.

He thought of the scornful wonder with which she would listen to his
tale, and preferred to take the risk of greater disaster in the future
to the certainty of present shame. In the end, he contrived to
establish a species of confidential intimacy with Maria, which, whilst
it somewhat mystified the poor girl, was not without its charm,
inasmuch as it tended to transform the every-day Philip into a hero of
romance.

But in the main Maria was ill-suited to play heroine to her wooer's
hero. Herself as open as the daylight, it was quite incomprehensible
to her why their relationship should be kept such a dark and
mysterious secret, or why, if her lover gave her a kiss, it should be
done with as many precautions as though he were about to commit a
murder.

She was a very modest maiden, and in her heart believed it a wonderful
thing that Philip should have fallen in love with her--a thing to be
very proud of; and she felt it hard that she should be denied the
gratification of openly acknowledging her lover, and showing him off
to her friends, after the fashion that is so delightful to the female
mind.

But, though this consciousness of the deprivation of a lawful joy set
up a certain feeling of irritation in her mind, she did not allow it
to override her entire trust in and love for Philip. Whatever he did
was no doubt wise and right; but, for all that, on several occasions
she took an opportunity to make him acquainted with her views of the
matter, and to ask him questions that he found it increasingly
difficult to answer.

In this way, by the exercise of ceaseless diplomacy, and with the
assistance of a great deal of falsehood of the most artistic nature,
Philip managed to tide over the next six months; but at the end of
that time the position was very far from improved. Hilda was chafing
more and more at the ignominy of her position; Maria was daily growing
more and more impatient to have their engagement made public; and
last, but by no means least, his father was almost daily at him on the
subject of Miss Lee, till at length he succeeded in wringing from him
the confession that there existed some sort of understanding between
Maria and himself.

Now, the old squire was a shrewd man of the world, and was not
therefore slow to guess that what prevented this understanding from
being openly acknowledged as an engagement was some entanglement on
his son's part. Indeed, it had recently become clear to him that
London had developed strange attractions for Philip. That this
entanglement could be marriage was, however, an idea that never
entered into his head; he had too good an opinion of his son's common-
sense to believe it possible that he would deliberately jeopardize his
inheritance by marrying without his permission. But Philip's
reluctance and obstinacy annoyed him excessively. "Devil" Caresfoot
was not a man accustomed to be thwarted; indeed, he had never been
thwarted in his life, and he did not mean to be now. He had set his
heart upon this marriage, and it would have to be a good reason that
could turn him from his purpose.

Accordingly, having extracted the above information, he said no more
to Philip, but proceeded to lay his own plans.

That very afternoon he commenced to put them into action. At three
o'clock he ordered the carriage and pair, a vehicle that was rarely
used, giving special directions that the coachman should see that his
wig was properly curled. An ill-curled wig had before now been known
to produce a very bad effect upon Mr. Caresfoot's nerves, and also
upon its wearer's future prospects in life.

At three precisely the heavy open carriage, swung upon C-springs and
drawn by two huge greys, drew up in front of the hall-door, and the
squire, who was as usual dressed in the old-fashioned knee-breeches,
and carried in his hand his gold-headed cane, stepped solemnly into
it, and seated himself exactly in the middle of the back seat, not
leaning back, as is the fashion of our degenerate days, but holding
himself bolt upright. Any more imposing sight than this old gentleman
presented thus seated, and moving at a stately pace through the
village street, it is impossible to conceive; but it so oppressed the
very children that fear at the spectacle (which was an unwonted one,
for the squire had not thus driven abroad in state for some years)
overcame their curiosity, and at his approach they incontinently fled.

So soon as the carriage had passed through the drive-gates of the
Abbey, the squire ordered the coachman to drive to Rewtham House,
whither in due course he safely arrived.

He was ushered into the drawing-room, whilst a servant went in search
of Miss Lee, whom she found walking in the garden.

"A gentleman to see you, miss."

"I am not at home. Who is it?"

"Mr. Caresfoot, miss!"

"Oh, why didn't you say so before?" and taking it for granted that
Philip had paid her an unexpected visit, she started off for the house
at a run.

"Why, Philip," she exclaimed, as she swung open the door, "this _is_
good of you, o--oh!" for at that moment Mr. Caresfoot senior appeared
from behind the back of the door where he had been standing by the
fireplace, and made his most imposing bow.

"That, my dear Maria, was the first time that I have heard myself
called Philip for many a long year, and I fear that that was by
accident; neither the name nor the blush were meant for me; now, where
they?"

"I thought," replied Maria, who was still overwhelmed with confusion,
"I thought that it was Philip, your son, you know; he has not been
here for so long."

"With such a welcome waiting him, it is indeed wonderful that he can
keep away;" and the old squire bowing again with such courtly grace as
to drive what little self-possession remained to poor Maria after her
flying entry entirely out of her head.

"And now, my dear," went on her visitor, fixing his piercing eyes upon
her face, "with your permission, we will sit down and have a little
talk together. Won't you take off your hat?"

Maria took off her hat as suggested, and sat down meekly, full under
fire of the glowing eyes that had produced such curious effects upon
subjects so dissimilar as the late Mrs. Caresfoot and Jim Brady. She
could, however, think of nothing appropriate to say.

"My dear," the old gentleman continued presently, "the subject upon
which I have taken upon myself to speak to you is one very nearly
affecting your happiness and also of a delicate nature. My excuse for
alluding to it must be that you are the child of my old friend--ah! we
were great friends fifty years ago, my dear--and that I have myself a
near interest in the matter. Do you understand me?"

"No, not quite."

"Well then, forgive an old man, who has no time to waste, if he comes
to the point. I mean I have come to ask you, Maria, if any
understanding or engagement exists between Philip and yourself?"

The eyes were full upon her now, and she felt that they were drawing
her secret from her as a corkscrew does a cork. At last it came out
with a pop.

"Yes, we are engaged."

"Thank you, my dear. How long have you been engaged?"

"About eight months."

"And why has the affair been kept so secret?"

"I don't know; Philip wished it. He told me not to tell any one. I
suppose that I should not by rights have told you."

"Make yourself easy, my dear. Philip has already told me that there
was an understanding between you; I only wanted to hear the
confirmation of such good news from your own lips. Young men are great
coxcombs, my dear, and apt to fancy things where ladies are concerned.
I am rejoiced to hear that there is no mistake on his part."

"I am so glad that you are pleased," she said shyly.

"Pleased, my dear!" said the old gentleman, rising and walking up and
down the room in his excitement, "pleased is not the word for it. I am
more rejoiced than if some one had left me another estate. Look here,
Maria, I had set my heart upon this thing coming to pass; I have
thought of it for years. I loved your father, and you are like your
father, girl; ay, I love you too, because you are a generous, honest
woman, and will bring a good strain of blood into a family that wants
generosity--ay, and I sometimes think wants honesty too. And then your
land runs into ours, and, as I can't buy it, I am glad that it should
come in by marriage. I have always wanted to see the Abbey, Isleworth,
and Rewtham estates in a ring fence before I died. Come and give me a
kiss, my dear."

Maria did as she was bid.

"I will try to be a good daughter to you," she said, "if I marry
Philip; but," and here her voice trembled a little, "I want to make
you understand that, though this engagement exists, I have sometimes
thought of late that perhaps he wanted to break it off, and----"

"Break it off?" almost shouted the old man, his eyes flashing. "Break
it off; by God, the day he plays fast and loose with you, that day I
leave the property to his cousin, George;--there, there, I frightened
you, I beg your pardon, but in his own interest, Maria, I advise you
to hold him fast to his word. To change the subject, your news has
freshened me up so much that I mean to have a little company; will you
come and dine with me next Thursday?"

"I shall be very glad, Mr. Caresfoot."

"Thank you; and perhaps till then you will not, unless he happens to
ask you, mention the subject of our conversation to Philip. I want to
have a talk with him first."

Maria assented, and the squire took his leave with the same
magnificence of mien that had marked his arrival.



                             CHAPTER VIII

That evening his father astonished Philip by telling him that he
intended to give a dinner-party on that day week.

"You see, Philip," he said, with a grim smile, "I have only got a year
or so at the most before me, and I wish to see a little of my
neighbours before I go. I have not had much society of late years. I
mean to do the thing well while I am about it, and ask everybody in
the neighbourhood. How many can dine with comfort in the old
banqueting-hall, do you suppose?"

"About five-and-forty, I should think."

"Five-and-forty! I remember that we sat down sixty to dinner when I
came of age, but then we were a little crowded; so we will limit the
number to fifty."

"Are you going to have fifty people to dinner?" asked Philip aghast.

"Certainly; I shall ask you to come and help me to write the
invitations presently. I have prepared a list; and will you kindly
send over to Bell at Roxham. I wish to speak to him, he must bring his
men over to do up the old hall a bit; and, by the way, write to
Gunter's and order a man-cook to be here on Tuesday, and to bring with
him materials for the best dinner for fifty people that he can supply.
I will see after the wine myself; we will finish off that wonderful
port my grandfather laid down. Now, bustle about, my lad, we have no
time to lose; we must get all the notes out to-day."

Philip started to execute his orders, pretty well convinced in his own
mind that his father was taking leave of his senses. Who ever heard of
a dinner being given to fifty people before, especially in a house
where such rare entertainments had always been of a traditionally
select and solemn nature? The expense, too, reflected Philip, would be
large; a man of his father's age had, in his opinion, no right to make
such ducks-and-drakes of money that was so near to belonging to
somebody else. But one thing was clear: his father had set his mind
upon it, and when once that was the case to try to thwart him was more
than Philip dared.

When the notes of invitation arrived at their respective destinations,
great was the excitement in the neighbourhood of Bratham Abbey.
Curiosity was rampant on the point, and the refusals were few and far
between.

At length the eventful evening arrived, and with it the expected
guests, among whom the old squire, in his dress of a past generation--
resplendent in diamond buckles, frilled shirt-front, and silk
stockings--was, with his snow-white hair and stately bearing, himself
by far the most striking figure.

Standing near the door of the large drawing-room, he received his
guests as they arrived with an air that would have done credit to an
ambassador; but when Miss Lee entered, Philip noticed with a prophetic
shudder that, in lieu of the accustomed bow, he gave her a kiss. He
also noticed, for he was an observant man, that the gathered company
was pervaded by a curious air of expectation. They were nearly all of
them people who had been neighbours of the Caresfoot family for years
--in many instances for generations--and as intimate with its members
as the high-stomached stiffness of English country-life will allow.
They therefore were well acquainted with the family history and
peculiarities; but it was clear from their faces that their knowledge
was of no help to them now, and that they were totally in the dark as
to why they were all gathered together in this unwonted fashion.

At length, to the relief of all, the last of the chosen fifty guests
put in an appearance, and dinner was announced. Everybody made his way
to his allotted partner, and awaited the signal to move forward, when
a fresh piquancy was added to the proceedings by an unexpected
incident--in which Maria Lee played a principal part. Maria was
sitting in a corner of the drawing-room, wondering if Philip was going
to take her in to dinner, and why he had not been to see her lately,
when suddenly she became aware that all the room was looking at her,
and on raising her eyes she perceived the cause. For there, close upon
her, and advancing with majestic step and outstretched arm, was old
Mr. Caresfoot, possessed by the evident intention of taking her down
in the full face of all the married ladies and people of title
present. She prayed that the floor might open and swallow her; indeed,
of the two, she would have preferred that way of going down to dinner.
But it did not, so there was no alternative left to her but to accept
the proffered arm, and to pass, with as much dignity as she could
muster in such a trying moment, in front of the intensely interested
company--from which she could hear an involuntary murmur of surprise--
through the wide-flung doors, down the great oak staircase loaded with
exotics, thence along a passage carpeted with crimson cloth, and
through double doors of oak that were flung open at their approach,
into the banqueting-hall. On its threshold not only she, but almost
every member of the company who passed in behind them, uttered an
exclamation of surprise; and indeed the sight before them amply
justified it.

The hall was a chamber of noble proportions, sixty feet in length by
thirty wide. It was very lofty, and the dark chestnut beams of the
beautiful arched roof were thrown into strong relief by the light of
many candles. The walls were panelled to the roof with oak that had
become almost black in the course of centuries, here and there
relieved by portraits and shining suits of armour.

Down the centre of the room ran a long wide table, whereon, and on a
huge sideboard, was spread the whole of the Caresfoot plate, which,
catching the light of the suspended candles, threw it back in dazzling
gleams till the beholder was positively bewildered with the brilliancy
of the sight.

"Oh, how beautiful!" said Maria, in astonishment.

"Yes," answered the old gentleman as he took his seat at the head of
the table, placing Maria on his right, "the plate is very fine, it has
taken two hundred years to get together; but my father did more in
that way than all of us put together, he spent ten thousand pounds on
plate during his lifetime; that gold service on the sideboard belonged
to him. I have only spent two. Mind, my love," he added in a low
voice, "when it comes into your keeping that it is preserved intact;
but I don't recommend you to add to it, there is too much already for
a simple country gentleman's family."

Maria blushed and was silent.

The dinner, which was served on a most magnificent scale, wore itself
away, as all big county-dinners do, in bursts of sedate but not
profoundly interesting conversation. Indeed, had it not been for the
novelty of the sight, Maria would have been rather bored, the squire's
stately compliments notwithstanding. As it was, she felt inclined to
envy the party at the other end, amongst whom, looking down the long
vista of sparkling glass and silver, she could now and again catch
sight of Philip's face beaming with animation, and even in the pauses
of conversation hear the echo of his distant laughter.

"What good spirits he is in!" she thought to herself.

And, indeed, Philip was, or appeared to be, in excellent spirits. His
handsome face, that of late had been so gloomy, was lit up with
laughter, and he contrived by his witty talk to keep those round him
in continual merriment.

"Philip seems very happy, doesn't he," said George, _sotto voce_ to
Mrs. Bellamy, who was sitting next to him.

"You must be a very bad judge of the face as an index to the mind if
you think that he is happy. I have been watching him all dinner, and I
draw a very different conclusion."

"Why, look how he is laughing."

"Have you never seen a man laugh to hide his misery; never mind his
lips, watch his eyes: they are dilated with fear, see how he keeps
glancing towards his father and Miss Lee. There, did you see him
start? Believe me he is not happy, and unless I am mistaken he will be
even less so before the night is over. We are not all asked here for
nothing."

"I hope not, I hope not; if so we shall have to act upon our
information, eh! But, to change the subject, you look lovely
to-night."

"Of course I do, I _am_ lovely; I wish I could return the compliment,
but conscientiously I can't. Did you ever see such plate? look at that
centre-piece."

"It is wonderful," said George. "I never saw it at all out before. I
wonder," he added, with a sigh, "if I shall ever have the fingering of
it."

"Yes," she said, with a strange look of her large eyes, "if you
continue to be guided by me, you shall. I tell you so, and I _never_
make mistakes. Hush, something is going to happen. What is it?"

The dinner had come to an end, and in accordance with the old-
fashioned custom the cloth had been removed, leaving bare an ancient
table of polished oak nearly forty feet in length, and composed of
slabs of timber a good two inches thick.

When the wine had been handed round, the old squire motioned to the
servants to leave the room, and then, having first whispered something
in the ear of Miss Lee that caused her to turn very red, he slowly
rose to his feet in the midst of a dead silence.

"Look at your cousin's face," whispered Mrs. Bellamy. George looked;
it was ghastly pale, and the black eyes were gleaming like polished
jet against white paper.

"Friends and neighbours, amongst whom or amongst whose fathers I have
lived for so many years," began the speaker, whose voice, soft as it
was, filled the great hall with ease, "it was, if tradition does not
lie, in this very room and at this very table that the only Caresfoot
who ever made an after-dinner speech of his own accord, delivered
himself of his burden. That man was my ancestor in the eighth degree,
old yeoman Caresfoot, and the occasion of his speech was to him a very
important one, being the day on which he planted Caresfoot's Staff,
the great oak by the water yonder, to mark the founding of a house of
country gentry. Some centuries have elapsed since my forefather stood
where I stand, most like with his hand upon this board as mine is now,
and addressed a company not so fine or so well dressed, but perhaps--I
mean no disrespect--on the whole, as good at heart as that before me
now. Yes, the sapling oak has grown into the biggest tree in the
country-side 'twixt then and now. It seems, therefore, to be fit that
on what is to me as great a day as the planting of that oak was to my
yeoman forefather, that I, like him, should gather my ancient friends
and neighbours round me under the same ancient roof that I may, like
him, make them the partakers of my joy.

"None of you sitting at this board to-day can look upon the old man
who now asks your attention, without realizing what he himself has
already learned: namely, that his day is over. Now, life is hard to
quit. When a man grows old, the terrors of the unknown land loom just
as large and terrible as they did to his youthful imagination, larger
perhaps. But it is a fact that must be faced, a hard, inevitable fact.
And age, realizing this, looks round it for consolations, and finds
only two: first, that as its interests and affections _here_ fade and
fall away, in just that same proportion do they grow and gather
_there_ upon the further shore; and secondly that, after Nature's
eternal fashion, the youth and vigour of a new generation is waiting
to replace the worn-out decrepitude of that which sinks into oblivion.
My life is done, it cannot be long before the churchyard claims its
own, but I live again in my son; and take such cold comfort as I may
from that idea of family, and of long-continued and assured
succession, that has so largely helped to make this country what she
is.

"But you will wonder what can be the particular purpose for which I
have bidden you here to-night. Be assured that it was not to ask you
to listen to gloomy sermons on the, to others, not very interesting
fact of my approaching end, but rather for a joyful and a definite
reason. One wish I have long had, it is--that before I go, I may see
my son's child, the little Caresfoot that is to fill my place in
future years, prattling about my knees. But this I shall never see.
What I have to announce to you, however, is the first step towards it,
my son's engagement to Miss Lee, the young lady on my right."

"Look at his face," whispered Mrs. Bellamy to her neighbour, during
the murmur of applause that followed this announcement. "Look quick."

Philip had put his hands down upon his chair as though to raise
himself up, and an expression of such mingled rage and terror swept
across his features as, once seen, could not easily be forgotten. But
so quickly did it pass that perhaps Mrs. Bellamy, who was watching,
was the only one in all that company to observe it. In another moment
he was smiling and bowing his acknowledgements to whispered and
telegraphed congratulations.

"You all know Miss Lee," went on the old squire, "as you knew her
father and mother before her; she is a sound shoot from an honest
stock, a girl after my own heart, a girl that I love, and that all who
come under her influence will love, and this engagement is to me the
most joyful news that I have heard for many a year. May God, ay, and
man too, so deal with my son as he deals with Maria Lee!

"And now I have done; I have already kept you too long. With your
consent, we will have no more speeches, no returning of thanks; we
will spare Philip his blushes. But before I sit down I will bid you
all farewell, for I am in my eighty-third year, and I feel that I
shall never see very many of your faces again. I wish that I had been
a better neighbour to you all, as there are many other things I wish,
now that it is too late to fulfil them; but I still hope that some of
you will now and again find a kind thought for the old man whom among
yourselves you talk of as 'Devil Caresfoot.' Believe me, my friends,
there is truth in the old proverb: the devil is not always as black as
he is painted. I give you my toast, my son Philip and his affianced
wife, Maria Lee."

The whole company rose, actuated by a common impulse, and drank the
health standing; and such was the pathos of the old squire's speech,
that there were eyes among those present that were not free from
tears. Then the ladies retired, amongst them poor Maria, who was
naturally upset at the unexpected, and, in some ways, unwelcome
notoriety thus given to herself.

In the drawing-room, she was so overwhelmed with congratulations, that
at last, feeling that she could not face a fresh edition from the male
portion of the gathering, she ordered her carriage, and quietly
slipped away home, to think over matters at her leisure.

Philip, too, came in for his share of honours down below, and
acknowledged them as best he might, for he had not the moral courage
to repudiate the position. He felt that his father had forced his hand
completely, and that there was nothing to be done, and sank into the
outward calmness of despair. But if his companions could have seen the
whirlpool of hatred, terror, and fury that raged within his breast as
he sat and chatted, and sipped his great-grandfather's port, they
would have been justifiably astonished.

At length the banquet, for it was nothing less, came to an end, and,
having bowed their farewell to the last departing guest, the old man
and his son were left alone together in the deserted drawing-room.
Philip was seated by a table, his face buried in his hand, whilst his
father was standing by the dying fire, tapping his eye-glass nervously
on the mantelpiece. It was he who broke the somewhat ominous silence.

"Well, Philip, how did you like my speech?"

Thus addressed, the son lifted his face from his hand; it was white as
a sheet.

"By what authority," he asked in a harsh whisper, "did you announce me
as engaged to Miss Lee?"

"By my own, Philip. I had it from both your lips that you were
engaged. I did not choose that it should remain a secret any longer."

"You had no right to make that speech. I will not marry Miss Lee;
understand once and for all, I will _not_ marry her."

In speaking thus, Philip had nerved himself to bear one of those
dreadful outbursts of fury that had earned his father his title; but,
to his astonishment, none such came. The steely eyes glinted a little
as he answered in his most polite manner, and that was all.

"Your position, Philip, then is that you are engaged, very publicly
engaged, to a girl whom you have no intention of marrying--a very
disgraceful position; mine is that I have, with every possible
solemnity, announced a marriage that will not come off--a very
ridiculous position. Very good, my dear Philip; please yourself. I
cannot force you into a disgraceful marriage. But you must not suppose
that you can thus thwart me with impunity. Allow me to show you the
alternative. I see you are tired, but I shall not detain you long.
Take that easy-chair. This house and the land round it, also the
plate, which is very valuable, but cannot be sold--by the way, see
that it is safely locked up before you go to bed--are strictly
entailed, and must, of course belong to you. The value of the entailed
land is about 1000 pounds a year, or a little less in bad times; of
the unentailed, a clear 4000 pounds; of my personal property about 900
pounds. Should you persist in your refusal to marry Miss Lee, or
should the marriage in any way fall through, except from circumstances
entirely beyond your control, I must, to use your own admirably
emphatic language, ask you to 'understand, once and for all,' that,
where your name appears in my will with reference to the unentailed
and personal property, it will be erased, and that of your cousin
George substituted. Please yourself, Philip, please yourself; it is a
matter of entire indifference to me. I am very fond of George, and
shall be glad to do him a good turn if you force me to it, though it
is a pity to split up the property. But probably you will like to take
a week to consider whether you prefer to stick to the girl you have
got hold of up in town there--oh, yes! I know there is some one--and
abandon the property, or marry Miss Lee and retain the property--a
very pretty problem for an amorous young man to consider. There, I
won't keep you up any longer. Good night, Philip, good night. Just see
to the plate, will you? Remember, you have a personal interest in
that; I can't leave it away."

Philip rose without a word and left the room, but when he was gone it
was his father's turn to hide his face in his hands.

"Oh, God!" he groaned aloud, "to think that all my plans should come
to such an end as this; to think that I am as powerless to prevent
their collapse as a child is to support a falling tree; that the only
power left me is the power of vengeance--vengeance on my own son. I
have lived too long, and the dregs of life are bitter."



                              CHAPTER IX

Poor Hilda found life in her London lodging anything but cheerful, and
frequently begged Philip to allow her to settle somewhere in the
country. This, however, he refused to do on two grounds: in the first
place, because few country villages would be so convenient for him to
get at as London; and in the second, because he declared that the
great city was the safest hiding-place in the world.

And so Hilda continued perforce to live her lonesome existence, that
was only cheered by her husband's short and uncertain visits. Friends
she had none, nor did she dare to make any. The only person whose
conversation she could rely on to relieve the tedium of the long weeks
was her landlady, Mrs. Jacobs, the widow of a cheesemonger, who had
ruined a fine business by his drinking and other vicious propensities,
and out of a good property had only left his wife the leasehold of a
house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which, fortunately for her, had been
settled upon her at her marriage. Like most people who have seen
better days--not but what she was now very comfortably off--she
delighted in talking of her misfortunes, and of the perfidiousness of
man; and in Hilda, who had, poor girl, nothing else to listen to, she
found a most attentive audience. As was only natural where such a
charming person and such a good listener were concerned, honest Mrs.
Jacobs soon grew fond of her interesting lodger, about whose husband's
circumstances and history she soon wove many an imaginary tale; for,
needless to say, her most pertinent inquiries failed to extract much
information from Hilda. One of her favourite fictions was that her
lodger was the victim of her handsome husband, who had in some way
beguiled her from her home beyond the seas, in order to keep her in
solitary confinement and out of the reach of a hated rival. Another,
that he kept her thus that he might have greater liberty for his own
actions.

In course of time these ideas took such possession of her mind that
she grew to believe in them, and, when speaking of Hilda to any of her
other lodgers, would shake her head and talk of her mysteriously as a
"lamb" and a "victim."

As for that lady herself, whilst far from suspecting her good
landlady's gloomy surmises, she certainly fell more and more a prey to
depression and anxieties, and occasionally even to suspicion, to all
of which evils she grew increasingly liable as she drew nearer to an
event that was no longer very distant. She could not but notice a
change in Philip's manner on the rare occasions when he was able to
visit her, of which the most marked developments were fits of silence
and irritability. A certain reticence also, that became more and more
noticeable as time went on, led her to feel that there was an
invisible something growing up between them--a something that the
pride she possessed in such a striking degree forbade her to attempt
to pierce, but which was none the less galling to her on that account.
Very shortly before the events narrated in the last chapter she had
taken the occasion of a visit from Philip to complain somewhat
bitterly of her position, begging him to tell her when there was any
prospect of her being allowed to take her rightful place--a question
her husband was quite unable to answer satisfactorily. Seeing that
there was nothing to be got out of him, with womanly tact she changed
the subject, and asked after Maria Lee (for whom she entertained a
genuine affection)--when he last saw her, how she was looking, if
there was any prospect of her getting married, and other questions of
the same sort--the result of which was to evoke a most violent, and to
her inexplicable, fit of irritability on the part of her husband.
Something of a scene ensued, which was finally terminated about five
o'clock in the afternoon by Philip's abrupt departure to catch his
train.

Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jacobs, coming up to bring some tea, found
Hilda indulging in tears that she had been too proud to shed before
her husband; and, having had an extended personal experience of such
matters, rightly guessed that there had been a conjugal tiff, the
blame of which, needless to say, she fixed upon the departed Philip.

"Lor, Mrs. Roberts" (as Hilda was called), she said, "don't take on
like that; they're all brutes, that's what they are; if only you could
have seen my Samuel, who's dead and gone these ten years and buried in
a private grave at Kensal Cemetery--though he didn't leave anything to
pay for it except three dozen and five of brandy--he was a beauty,
poor dear, he was; your husband ain't nothing to him."

"My husband, let me tell you, Mrs. Jacobs, is not a brute at all,"
sobbed Hilda, with dignity.

"Ah, Mrs. Roberts, that is just what I used to say of Samuel, but he
was the biggest brute in the three kingdoms, for all that; but if you
ask me, meaning no offence, I call a man a brute as only comes to see
his lawful wife about twice a month, let alone making an angel cry."

"Mr. Roberts has his reasons, Mrs. Jacobs; you must not talk of him
like that."

"Ah, so my Samuel used to say when he stopped away from home for three
nights at a time, till I followed him and found out his 'Reason,' and
a mighty pretty 'Reason' she was too, all paint and feathers, the
hussy, and eyes as big as a teacup. They all have their reasons, but
they never tell 'em. But come and put on your things and go out a bit,
there's a dear; it is a beautiful warm evening. You feel tired--oh,
never mind that; it is necessary for people as is in an interested way
to take exercise. I well remembers----"

Here Hilda, however, cut the subject short, and deprived herself of
Mrs. Jacobs' reminiscences by going to put on her things.

It was a bright warm evening, and she found the air so pleasant that,
after strolling round Lincoln's Inn Fields, she thought she would
extend her walk a little, and struck past Lincoln's Inn Hall into New
Square, and then made her way to the archway opposite to where the New
Law Courts now stand. Under this archway a legal bookseller has built
his nest, and behind windows of broad plate-glass were ranged
specimens of his seductive wares, baits on which to catch students
avaricious of legal knowledge as they pass on their way to chambers or
Hall. Now, at this window a young man was standing at the moment that
Hilda entered the archway, his eyes fixed upon a pamphlet on the laws
of succession. That young man was George Caresfoot, who was
considering whether it would be worth his while to buy the pamphlet in
order to see if he would be entitled to anything if his uncle should
happen to die intestate, as he sometimes feared might be the case. He
had come up to town on business connected with his firm, and was now
waiting till it was time to begin an evening of what he understood as
pleasure; for George was a very gay young man.

He was, however, also a very sharp one, so sharp that he even noticed
shadows, especially when, as in this case, the shadow was clearly
defined and flung, life-sized, on the dark background of the books
before him. He watched it for a moment, and as its owner, with an
absent air, slowly passed from the bright sunlight into the shade of
the arch, it struck the astute George that there was something
familiar about this particular and by no means unpleasing shadow.
Waiting till it had vanished and the footsteps gone past him, he
turned round and at a glance recognized Hilda von Holtzhausen, Miss
Lee's beautiful companion, who was supposed to have departed into the
more distant parts of Germany. George's eyes twinkled, and a whole
host of ideas rushed into his really able mind.

"Caught at last, for a sovereign," he muttered.

Meanwhile Hilda walked slowly on into Chancery Lane, then turned to
the left till she came into Holborn, and thence made her way round by
another route back to Lincoln's Inn Fields. Needless to say, George
followed at a respectful distance. His first impulse had been to go up
and speak to her, but he resisted the inclination.

On the doorstep of the house where Hilda lodged, stood her landlady
giving a piece of her mind to a butcher-boy both as regarded his
master's meat and his personal qualities. She paused for breath just
as Hilda passed up the steps, and, turning, said something that made
the latter laugh. The butcher-boy took the opportunity of beating a
rapid retreat, leaving Mrs. Jacobs crowing after him from her own
doorstep. As soon as Hilda had gone into the house, George saw his
opportunity. Advancing politely towards Mrs. Jacobs, he asked her if
she was the landlady of the house, and, when she had answered in the
affirmative, he made inquiries about apartments.

"Thank you, sir," said Mrs. Jacobs, "but I do not let rooms to single
gentlemen."

"You take too much for granted, ma'am. I am married."

She looked at him doubtfully. "I suppose, sir, you would have no
objection to giving a reference."

"A dozen, if you like, ma'am; but shall we look at the rooms?"

Mrs. Jacobs assented, and they made their way upstairs, George keeping
in front. On the first-floor he saw a pair of lady's shoes on a mat
outside the door, and guessed to whom they belonged.

"Are these the rooms?" he said, laying his hand upon the door-handle.

"No, sir, no, they are Mrs. Roberts'; next floor, please, sir."

"Mrs. Roberts?--I suppose the very handsome young lady I saw come into
the house. No offence, ma'am; but a man's bound to be careful where he
brings his wife. I suppose she's all right."

"Lord, yes, poor dear!" answered Mrs. Jacobs, in indignation; "why,
they came here straight from St. Jude's, Battersea, the day they were
married; a runaway match, I fancy."

"That's all right; she looked charming. I hope her husband is worthy
of her," remarked George, as he gazed round Mrs. Jacobs' rooms.

"Well, as to that, he's handsome enough, for them as likes those black
men; but I don't like people as only comes to visit their lawful wives
about twice a month. But," suddenly checking herself, "it isn't any
affair of mine."

"No, indeed, very reprehensible: I am, as a married man, entirely of
your mind. These are charming rooms, ma'am, charming. I shall
certainly take them if my wife approves; I will let you know by
to-morrow's post--Jacobs, yes, I have it down. Good evening, ma'am,"
and he was gone.

Instead of going out that evening as he had intended, George sat in
the smoking-room of his hotel and thought. He also wrote a letter
which he addressed to Mrs. Bellamy.

Next morning, taking a cab, he drove to St. Jude's, Battersea, and
inspected the register.

Presently he asked for a certified copy of the following entry:
"August 1, 1856. Philip Caresfoot, bachelor, gentleman, to Hilda von
Holtzhausen, spinster (by license). Signed J. Few, curate; as witness,
Fred. Natt, Eliza Chambers."

That evening Hilda received an anonymous letter, written in a round
clerk's hand, that had been posted in the City. It was addressed to
Mrs. Roberts, and its contents ran thus:

"A sincere friend warns Mrs. Philip Caresfoot that her husband is
deceiving her, and has become entangled with a young lady of her
acquaintance. _Burn this; wait and watch!_"

The letter fell from her hands as though it had stung her.

"Mrs. Jacobs was right," she said aloud, with a bitter laugh, "men
always have a 'reason.' Oh, let him beware!" And she threw back her
beautiful head and the great blue eyes sparkled like those of a snake
about to strike. The sword of jealousy, that she had hitherto repelled
with the shield of a woman's trust in the man she loves, had entered
into her soul, and, could Philip have seen her under these new
circumstances, he would have realized that he had indeed good reason
to "beware." "No wonder," she went on, "no wonder that he finds her
name irritating upon my lips; no doubt to him it is a desecration. Oh,
oh!" And she flung herself on her face, and wept tears of jealous
rage.

"Well," said George to Mrs. Bellamy, as they drove home together after
the great dinner party (do not be shocked, my reader, Bellamy was _on
the bow_), "well, how shall we strike? Shall I go to the old man
to-morrow, and show him my certified copy? There is no time to lose.
He might die any day."

"No; we must act through Mrs. Philip."

"Why?"

"It is more scientific, and it will be more amusing."

"Poor thing! it will be a blow to her. Don't you like her?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because she did not trust me, and because she eclipses me. Therefore
I am glad of an opportunity of destroying her."

"You are a very ruthless woman."

"When I have an end in view, I march straight to it; I do not
vacillate--that is all. But never mind me; here we are near home. Go
to town by the first train to-morrow morning and post another letter
announcing what has happened here. Then come back and wait."

"Ay," reflected George, "that is a wonderful woman--a woman it is good
to have some hold over."



We left Hilda stretched on her face sobbing. But the fit did not last
long. She rose, and flung open the window; she seemed stifled for want
of air. Then she sat down to think what she should do. Vanish and
leave no trace? No; not yet. Appear and claim her place? No; not yet.
The time was not ripe for choice between these two extremes. Upbraid
Philip with his faithlessness? No; not without proofs. What did that
hateful letter say? "Wait and watch;" yes, that was what she would do.
But she could not wait here; she felt as though she must go somewhere,
get some change of scene, or she should break down. She had heard Mrs.
Jacobs speak of a village not more than two hours from London that a
convalescent lodger of hers had visited and found charming. She would
go there for a week, and watch the spring cast her mantle over the
earth, and listen to the laughter of the brooks, and try to forget her
burning love and jealousy, and just for that one week be happy as she
was when, as a little girl, she roamed all day through the woods of
her native Germany. Alas! she forgot that it is the heart and not the
scene that makes happiness.

That evening she wrote a note to her husband, saying that she felt
that change of air was necessary for her, and that she was going out
of London for a few days, to some quiet place, from whence she would
write to him. He must not, however, expect many letters, as she wanted
complete rest.

On the following morning she went; and, if the sweet spring air did
not bring peace to her mind, at any rate, it to a very great extent
set up her in strength. She wrote but one letter during her absence,
and that was to say that she should be back in London by midday on the
first of May. This letter reached Philip on the morning of the great
dinner-party, and was either accidentally or on purpose sent without
the writer's address. On the morning of the first of May--that is, two
days after the dinner-party, which was given on the twenty-ninth of
April--Hilda rose early, and commenced to pack her things with the
assistance of a stout servant girl, who did all the odd jobs and a
great deal of the work in the old-fashioned farmhouse in which she was
staying. Presently the cowboy came whistling up the little garden,
bright with crocuses and tulips, that lay in front of the house, and
knocked at the front door.

"Lawks!" said the stout girl, in accents of deep surprise, as she drew
her head in from the open lattice; "Jim's got a letter."

"Perhaps it is for me," suggested Hilda, a little nervously; she had
grown nervous about the post of late. "Will you go and see?"

The letter was for her, in the handwriting of Mrs. Jacobs. She opened
it; it contained another addressed in the character the sight of which
made her feel sick and faint. She could not trust herself to read it
in the presence of the girl.

"Sally," she said, "I feel rather faint; I shall lie down a little. I
will ring for you presently."

Sally retired, and she opened her letter.

Fifteen minutes after the girl received her summons. She found Hilda
very pale, and with a curious look upon her face.

"I hope you're better, mum," she said, for she was a kind-hearted
girl.

"Better--ah, yes! thank you, Sally; I am cured, quite cured; but
please be quick with the things, for I shall leave by the nine o'clock
train."



                              CHAPTER X

The night of the dinner-party was a nearly sleepless one for Philip,
although his father had so considerately regretted his wearied
appearance, he could do nothing but walk, walk, walk, like some
unquiet ghost, up and down his great, oak-panelled bedroom, till,
about dawn, his legs gave way beneath him; and think, think, think,
till his mind recoiled, confused and helpless, from the dead wall of
its objects. And, out of all this walking and thinking, there emerged,
after an hour of stupor, that it would be a misnomer to call sleep,
two fixed results. The first of these was that he hated his father as
a lost soul must hate its torturing demon, blindly, madly, impotently
hated him; and the second, that he could no longer delay taking his
wife into his confidence. Then he remembered the letter he had
received from her on the previous morning. He got it, and saw that it
bore no address, merely stating that she would be in London by midday
on the first of May, that was on the morrow. Till then it was clear he
must wait, and he was not sorry for the reprieve. His was not a
pleasant story for a husband to have to tell.

Fortunately for Philip, there was an engagement of long standing for
this day, the thirtieth of April, to go, in conjunction with other
persons, to effect a valuation of the fallows, &c., of a large tenant
who was going out at Michaelmas. This prevented any call being made
upon him to go and see Maria Lee, as, after the events of the previous
evening, it might have been expected he would. He started early on
this business, and did not return till late, so he saw nothing of his
father that day.

On the morning of the first of May he breakfasted about half-past
eight, and then, without seeing his father, drove to Roxham to catch a
train that got him up to London about twenty minutes to twelve. As he
steamed slowly into Paddington Station, another train steamed out, and
had he been careful to examine the occupants of the first-class
carriages as they passed him in a slow procession, he might have seen
something that would have interested him; but he was, not unnaturally,
too much occupied with his own thoughts to allow of the indulgence of
an idle curiosity. On the arrival of his train, he took a cab and
drove without delay to the house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and asked
for Mrs. Roberts.

"She isn't back yet, sir," was Mrs. Jacobs' reply. "I got this note
from her this morning to say that she would be here by twelve, but
it's twenty past now, so I suppose that she has missed the train or
changed her mind; but there will be another in at three, so perhaps
you had best wait for that, sir."

Philip was put out by this contretemps, but at the same time he was
relieved to find that he had a space to breathe in before the
inevitable and dreadful moment of exposure and infamy, for he had
grown afraid of his wife.

Three o'clock came in due course, but no Hilda. Philip was seriously
disturbed; but there was now no train by which she could arrive that
day, so he was forced to the conclusion that she had postponed her
departure. There were now two things to be done, one to follow her
down to where she was staying--for he had ascertained her address from
Mrs. Jacobs; the other, to return home and come back on the morrow.
For reasons which appeared to him imperative, but which need not be
entered into here, he decided on the latter course; so leaving a note
for his wife, he drove, in a very bad temper, back to Paddington in
time to catch the five o'clock train to Roxham.

Let us now return to the Abbey House, where, whilst Philip was cooling
his heels in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a rather curious scene was in
progress.

At one o'clock, old Mr. Caresfoot, as was his rule, sat down to lunch,
which, frugal as it was, so far as he was concerned, was yet served
with some old-fashioned ceremony by a butler and a footman. Just as
the meal was coming to an end, a fly, with some luggage on it, drove
up to the hall-door. The footman went to open it.

"Simmons," said the squire, to the old butler, "look out and tell me
who that is."

Simmons did as he was bid, and replied:

"I don't rightly know, squire; but it's a lady, and she be wonderful
tall."

Just then the footman returned, and said that a lady, who would not
give her name, wished to speak to him in private.

"Are you sure the lady did not mean Mr. Philip?"

"No, sir; she asked for Mr. Philip first, and when I told her that he
was out, she asked for you, sir. I have shown her into the study."

"Humph! at any rate, she has come off a journey, and must be hungry.
Set another place and ask her in here."

In another moment there was a rustle of a silk dress, and a lady,
arrayed in a long cloak and with a thick veil on, was shown into the
room. Mr. Caresfoot, rising with that courteous air for which he was
remarkable, bowed and begged her to be seated, and then motioned to
the servants to leave the room.

"Madam, I am told that you wish to speak to me; might I ask whom I
have the honour of addressing?"

She, with a rapid motion, removed her hat and veil, and exposed her
sternly beautiful face to his inquiring gaze.

"Do you not know me, Mr. Caresfoot?" she said, in her foreign accent.

"Surely, yes, you are the young lady who lived with Maria, Miss von
Holtzhausen."

"That _was_ my name; it is now Hilda Caresfoot. I am your son Philip's
wife."

As this astounding news broke upon his ears, her hearer's face became
a shifting study. Incredulity, wonder, fury, all swept across it, and
then in a single second it seemed to freeze. Next moment he spoke with
overpowering politeness.

"So, madam; then I have to congratulate myself on the possession of a
very lovely daughter-in-law."

A silence ensued that they were both too moved to break; at last, the
old man said, in an altered tone:

"We have much to talk of, and you must be tired. Take off your cloak,
and eat whilst I think."

She obeyed him, and he saw that not only was she his son's wife, but
that she must before long present the world with an heir to the name
of Caresfoot. This made him think the more; but meanwhile he continued
to attend to her wants. She ate little, but calmly.

"That woman has nerve," said he to himself.

Then he rang the bell, and bade Simmons wait till he had written a
note.

"Send James to Roxham at once with this. Take this lady's things off
the fly, and put them in the red bedroom. By the way, I am at home to
nobody except Mr. Bellamy;" and then, turning to Hilda, "Now, if you
will come into my study, we will continue our chat," and he offered
her his arm. "Here we are secure from interruption," he said, with a
ghost of a smile. "Take this chair. Now, forgive my impertinence, but
I must ask you if I am to understand that you are my son's _legal_
wife?"

She flushed a little as she answered:

"Sir, I am. I have been careful to bring the proof; here it is;" and
she took from a little hand-bag a certified copy of the register of
her marriage, and gave it to him. He examined it carefully through his
gold eye-glass, and handed it back.

"Perfectly in order. Hum! some eight months since, I see. May I ask
why I am now for the first time favoured with a sight of this
interesting document--in short, why you come down, like an angel from
the clouds, and reveal yourself at the present moment?"

"I have come," she answered, "because of these." And she handed him
two letters. "I have come to ascertain if they are true; if my husband
is a doubly perjured or a basely slandered man."

He read the two anonymous letters. With the contents of the first we
are acquainted; the second merely told of the public announcement of
Philip's engagement.

"Speak," she said, with desperate energy, the calm of her face
breaking up like ice before a rush of waters. "You must know
everything; tell me my fate!"

"Girl, these villanous letters are in every particular true. You have
married in my son the biggest scoundrel in the county. I can only say
that I grieve for you."

She listened in silence; then rising from her chair, said, with a
gesture infinitely tragic in its simplicity:

"Then it is finished; before God and man I renounce him. Listen," she
went on, turning to her father-in-law, "I loved your son, he won my
heart; but, though he said he loved me, I suspected him of playing
fast and loose with me, on the one hand, and with my friend, Maria
Lee, on the other. So I determined to go away, and told him so. Then
it was that he offered to marry me at once, if I would change my
purpose. I loved him, and I consented--yes, because I loved him so, I
consented to even more. I agreed to keep the marriage secret from you.
You see what it has led to. I, a Von Holtzhausen, and the last of my
name, stand here a byword and a scorn; my story will be found amusing
at every dinner-table in the country-side, and my shame will even
cling to my unborn child. This is the return he has made me for my
sacrifice of self-respect, and for consenting to marry him at all; to
outrage my love and make me a public mockery."

"We have been accustomed," broke in the old squire, his pride somewhat
nettled, "to consider our own a good family to marry into. You do not
seem to share that view."

"Good; yes, there is plenty of your money for those who care for it;
but, sir, as I told your son, it is not a _family_. He did me no
honour in marrying me, though I was nothing but a German companion,
with no dower but her beauty. I,"--and here she flung her head back
with an air of ineffable pride--"did him the honour. My ancestors,
sir, were princes, when his were plough-boys."

"Well, well," answered the old man, testily, "ten generations of
country gentry, and the Lord only knows how many more of stout yeomen
before them, is a good enough descent for us; but I like your pride,
and I am glad that you spring from an ancient race. You have been
shamefully treated, Hilda--is not your name Hilda?--but there are
others, more free from blame than you are, who have been treated
worse."

"Ah, Maria! then she knows nothing?"

"Yes, there is Maria and myself. But never mind that. Philip will, I
suppose, be back in a few hours--oh, yes! he will be back," and his
eyes glinted unpleasantly, "and what shall you do then? what course do
you intend to take?"

"I intend to claim my rights, to force him to acknowledge me here
where he suffered his engagement to another woman to be proclaimed,
and then I intend to leave him. He has killed my respect; I will not
live with him again. I can earn my living in Germany. I have done with
him; but, sir, do not you be hard upon him. It is a matter between me
and him. Let him not suffer on my account."

"My dear, pray confine yourself to your own affairs, and leave me to
settle mine. There shall be no harshness; nobody shall suffer more
than they deserve. There, don't break down, go and rest, for there are
painful scenes before you."

He rang the bell, and sent for the housekeeper. She came presently, a
pleasant-looking woman of about thirty years of age, with a comely
face and honest eyes.

"This lady, Pigott," said the old squire, addressing her, "is Mrs.
Philip Caresfoot, and you will be so kind as to treat her with all
respect. Don't open your eyes, but attend to me. For the present, you
had best put her in the red room, and attend to her yourself. Do you
understand?"

"Oh, yes, sir! I understand," Pigott replied, curtseying. "Will you be
pleased to come along with me, ma'am?"

Hilda rose and took Pigott's arm. Excitement and fatigue had worn her
out. Before she went, however, she turned, and with tears in her eyes
thanked the old man for his kindness to a friendless woman.

The hard eyes grew kindly as he stooped and kissed the broad, white
brow, and said in his stately way--

"My dear, as yet I have shown you nothing but the courtesy due to a
lady. Should I live, I hope to bestow on you the affection I owe to a
much-wronged daughter. Good-by."

And thus they parted, little knowing where they should meet again.

"A woman I respect--well, English or German, the blood will tell"--he
said as soon as the door had closed. "Poor thing--poor Maria too. The
scoundrel!--ah! there it is again;" and he pressed his hand to his
heart. "This business has upset me, and no wonder."

The pang passed, and sitting down he wrote a letter that evidently
embarrassed him considerably, and addressed it to Miss Lee. This he
put in the post-box, and then, going to a secretaire, he unlocked it,
and taking out a document he began to puzzle over it attentively.

Presently Simmons announced that Mr. Bellamy was waiting.

"Show him in at once," said the old man briskly.



                              CHAPTER XI

It was some minutes past seven that evening when the lawyer left, and
he had not been gone a quarter of an hour before a hired gig drove up
to the door containing Philip, who had got back from town in the worst
of bad tempers, and, as no conveyance was waiting for him, had been
forced to post over from Roxham. Apparently his father had been
expecting his arrival, for the moment the servant opened the door he
appeared from his study, and addressed him in a tone that was as near
to being jovial as he ever went.

"Hallo, Philip, back again, are you? Been up to town, I suppose, and
driven over in the 'George' gig? That's lucky; I wanted to speak to
you. Come in here, there's a good fellow, I want to speak to you."

"Why is he so infernally genial?" reflected Philip. "Timeo Danaos et
dona ferentes;" then aloud, "All right, father; but if it is all the
same to you, I should like to get some dinner first."

"Dinner! why, I have had none yet; I have been too busy. I shall not
keep you long; we will dine together presently."

Philip was surprised, and glanced at him suspiciously. His habits were
extremely regular; why had he had no dinner?

Meanwhile his father led the way into the study, muttering below his
breath--

"One more chance--his last chance."

A wood fire was burning brightly on the hearth, for the evening was
chilly, and some sherry and glasses stood upon the table.

"Take a glass of wine, Philip; I am going to have one; it is a good
thing to begin a conversation on. What says the Psalmist: 'Wine that
maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make him a cheerful
countenance'--a cheerful countenance! Ho, ho! my old limbs are tired;
I am going to sit down--going to sit down."

He seated himself in a well-worn leather arm-chair by the side of the
fire so that his back was towards the dying daylight. But the
brightness of the flames threw the clear-cut features into strong
relief against the gloom, and by it Philip could see that the withered
cheeks were flushed. Somehow the whole strongly defined scene made him
feel uncanny and restless.

"Cold for the first of May, isn't it, lad? The world is very cold at
eighty-two. Eighty-two, a great age, yet it seems but the other day
that I used to sit in this very chair and dandle you upon my knee, and
make this repeater strike for you. And yet that is twenty years since,
and I have lived through four twenties and two years. A great age, a
cold world!"

"Ain't you well?" asked his son, brusquely, but not unkindly.

"Well; ah, yes! thank you, Philip, I never felt better, my memory is
so good, I can see things I have forgotten seventy years or more.
Dear, dear, it was behind that bookcase in a hole in the board that I
used to hide my flint and steel which I used for making little fires
at the foot of Caresfoot's Staff. There is a mark on the bark now. I
was mischievous as a little lad, and thought that the old tree would
make a fine blaze. I was audacious, too, and delighted to hide the
things in my father's study under the very nose of authority. Ay, and
other memories come upon me as I think. It was here upon this very
table that they stood my mother's coffin. I was standing where you are
now when I wrenched open the half-fastened shell to kiss her once more
before they screwed her down for ever. I wonder would you do as much
for me? I loved my mother, and that was fifty years ago. I wonder
shall we meet again? That was on the first of May, a long-gone first
of May. They threw branches of blackthorn bloom upon her coffin. Odd,
very odd! But business, lad, business--what was it? Ah! I know," and
his manner changed in a second and became hard and stern. "About
Maria, have you come to a decision?"

Philip moved restlessly on his chair, poked the logs to a brighter
blaze, and threw on a handful of pine chips from a basket by his side
before he answered. Then he said--

"No, I have not."

"Your reluctance is very strange, Philip, I cannot understand it. I
suppose that you are not already married, are you, Philip?"

There was a lurid calm about the old man's face as he asked this
question that was very dreadful in its intensity. Under the shadow of
his thick black eyebrows, gleams of light glinted and flickered in the
expanded pupils, as before the outburst of a tempest the forked
lightning flickers in the belly of the cloud. His voice too was
constrained and harsh.

Owing to the position of his father's head, Philip could not see this
play of feature, but he heard the voice and thought that it meant
mischief. He had but a second to decide between confession and the lie
that leaped to his lips. An inward conviction told him that his father
was not long for this world, was it worth while to face his anger when
matters might yet be kept dark till the end? The tone of the voice--
ah! how he mistook its meaning--deceived him. It was not, he thought,
possible that his father could know anything. Had he possessed a
little more knowledge of the world, he might have judged differently.

"Married, no, indeed; what put that idea into your head?" And he
laughed outright.

Presently he became aware that his father had risen and was
approaching towards him. Another moment and a hand of iron was laid
upon his shoulder, the awful eyes blazed into his face and seemed to
pierce him through and through, and a voice that he could not have
recognized hissed into his ear--

"You unutterable liar, you everlasting hound, your wife is at this
moment in this house."

Philip sprang up with an exclamation of rage and cursed Hilda aloud.

"No," went on his father, standing before him, his tall frame swaying
backwards and forwards with excitement; "no, do not curse her, she,
like your other poor dupe, is an honest woman; on yourself be the
damnation, you living fraud, you outcast from all honour, who have
brought shame and reproach upon our honest name, on you be it; may
every curse attend _you_, and may remorse torture _you_. Listen: you
lied to me, you lied to your wife, trebly did you lie to the
unfortunate girl you have deceived; but, if you will not speak it, for
once hear the truth, and remember that you have to deal with one so
relentless, that fools, mistaking justice for oppression, call him
'devil.' I, 'Devil Caresfoot,' tell you that I will disinherit you of
every stick, stone, and stiver that the law allows me, and start you
in the enjoyment of the rest with my bitterest curse. This I will do
now whilst I am alive; when I am dead, by Heaven, I will haunt you if
I can."

Here he stopped for want of breath, and stood for a moment in the full
light of the cheery blaze, one hand raised above his head as though to
strike, and, presenting with his glittering eyes and working features,
so terrible a spectacle of rage that his son recoiled involuntarily
before him.

But fury begets fury as love begets love, and in another second Philip
felt his own wicked temper boil up within him. He clenched his teeth
and stood firm.

"Do your worst," he said; "I hate you; I wish to God that you were
dead."

Hardly had these dreadful words left his lips when a change came over
the old man's face; it seemed to stiffen, and putting one hand to his
heart he staggered back into his chair, pointing and making signs as
he fell towards a little cupboard in the angle of the wall. His son at
once guessed what had happened; his father had got one of the attacks
of the heart to which he was subject, and was motioning to him to
bring the medicine which he had before shown him, and which alone
could save him in these seizures. Actuated by a common impulse of
humanity, Philip for the moment forgot their quarrel, and stepped with
all speed to fetch it. As it happened, there stood beneath this
cupboard a table, and on this table lay the document which his father
had been reading that afternoon before the arrival of Mr. Bellamy. It
was his will, and, as is usual in the case of such deeds, the date was
endorsed upon the back. All this Philip saw at a single glance, and he
also saw that the will was dated some years back, and therefore one
under which he would inherit, doubtless the same that his father had
some months before offered to show him.

It flashed through his mind that his father had got it out in order to
burn it; and this idea was followed by another that for a moment
stilled his heart.

"_If he should die now he cannot destroy it!_ If he does not take the
medicine he _will_ die."

Thought flies fast in moments of emergency. Philip, too, was a man of
determined mind where his own interests were concerned, and his blood
was heated and his reason blinded by fury and terror. He was not long
in settling on his course of action. Taking the bottle from the
cupboard, he poured out its contents into one of the wine-glasses that
stood upon the table, and coming up to his father with it addressed
him. He knew that these attacks, although they were of a nature to
cause intense pain, did not rob the sufferer of his senses. The old
man, though he lay before him gasping with agony, was quite in a
condition to understand him.

"Listen to me," he said, in a slow, distinct voice. "Just now you said
that you would disinherit me. This medicine will save your life, and
if I let it fall you will die, and there is no more in the house.
Swear before God that you will not carry out your threat, and I will
give it to you. Lift up your hand to show me that you swear."

Silence followed, only broken by the gasps of the dying man.

"If you will not swear, I will pour it out before your eyes."

Again there was silence; but this time the old man made an effort to
rise and ring the bell.

His son threw him roughly back.

"For the last time," he said, in a hoarse whisper, "will you swear?"

A struggle passed over his father's face, now nearly black with pain;
and presently from the distended lips, that did not seem to move,
there burst a single word--destined to echo for ever in his son's
ears--

"_Murderer!_"

It was his last. He sank back, groaned, and died; and at the same
moment the flame from the pine-chips flickered itself away, and of a
sudden the room grew nearly dark. Philip stood for awhile aghast at
his own handiwork, and watched the dull light glance on the dead white
of his father's brow. He was benumbed by terror at what he had done,
and in that awful second of realization would have given his own life
to have it undone.

Presently, however, the instinct of self-preservation came to his aid.
He lit a candle, and taking some of the medicine in the glass, smeared
it over the dead man's chin and coat, and then broke the glass on the
floor by his side--thus making it appear that he had died whilst
attempting to swallow the medicine.

Next he raised a loud outcry, and violently rang the bell. In a minute
the room was full of startled servants, one of whom was instantly
despatched for Mr. Caley, the doctor. Meanwhile, after a vain attempt
to restore animation, the study-table was cleared and the corpse laid
on it, as its mother's had been on that day fifty years before.

Then came a dreadful hush, and the shadow of death came down upon the
house and brooded over it. The men-servants moved to and fro with
muffled feet, and the women wept, for in a way they had all loved the
imperious old man, and the last change had come very suddenly.
Philip's brain burned; he was consumed by the desire of action.
Suddenly he bethought him of his wife upstairs: after what he had just
passed through, no scene with her could disturb him--it would, he even
felt, be welcome. He went up to the room where she was, and entered.
It was evident that she had been told of what had happened, as both
she and Pigott, who was undressing her--for she was wearied out--were
weeping. She did not appear surprised at his appearance; the shock of
the old man's death extinguished all surprise. It was he who broke the
silence.

"He is dead," he said.

"Yes, I have heard."

"If you are at liberty for a few minutes, I wish to talk to you," he
said savagely.

"I, too," she answered, "have something to say, but I am too weary and
upset to say it now. I will see you to-morrow."

He turned and went without answering, and Pigott noticed that no kiss
or word of endearment passed between them, and that the tone of their
words was cold.

Soon after Philip got downstairs the doctor came. Philip met him in
the hall and accompanied him into the study, where the body was. He
made a rapid examination, more as a matter of form than anything else,
for his first glance had told him that life was extinct.

"Quite dead," he said sorrowfully; "my old friend gone at last. One of
a fine sort too; a just man for all his temper. They called him
'devil,' and he was fierce when he was younger, but if I never meet a
worse devil than he was I shall do well. He was very kind to me once--
very. How did he go?--in pain, I fear."

"We were talking together, when suddenly he was seized with the
attack. I got the medicine as quick as I could and tried to get it
down his throat, but he could not swallow, and in the hurry the glass
was knocked by a jerk of his head right out of my hands. Next second
he was dead."

"Very quick--quicker than I should have expected. Did he say
anything?"

"No."

Now, just as Philip delivered himself of this last lie, a curious
incident happened, or rather an incident that is apt to seem curious
to a person who has just told a lie. The corpse distinctly moved its
right hand--the same that had been clasped over the old man's head as
he denounced his son.

"Good God!" said Philip, turning pale as death, "what's that?" and
even the doctor started a little, and cast a keen look at the dead
face.

"Nothing," he said. "I have seen that happen before where there has
been considerable tension of the muscles before death; it is only
their final slackening, that is all. Come, will you ring the bell?
They had better come and take it upstairs."

This sad task had just been performed, and Mr. Caley was about to take
his leave, when Pigott came down and whispered something into his ear
that evidently caused him the most lively astonishment. Drawing Philip
aside, he said--

"The housekeeper asks me to come up and see 'Mrs. Philip Caresfoot,'
whom she thinks is going to be confined. Does she mean your wife?"

"Yes," answered Philip sullenly, "she does. It is a long story, and I
am too upset to tell it you now. It will soon be all over the country
I suppose."

The old doctor whistled, but judged it advisable not to put any more
questions, when suddenly an idea seemed to strike him.

"You said you were talking to your father when the fit took him; was
it about your marriage?"

"Yes."

"When did he first know of it?"

"To-day, I believe."

"Ah, thank you;" and he followed Pigott upstairs.

That night, exactly at twelve o'clock, another little lamp floated out
on the waters of life: Angela was born.



                             CHAPTER XII

When the doctor had gone upstairs, Philip went into the dining-room to
eat something, only to find that food was repugnant to him; he could
scarcely swallow a mouthful. To some extent, however, he supplied its
place by wine, of which he drank several glasses. Then, drawn by a
strange fascination, he went back into the little study, and,
remembering the will, bethought himself that it might be as well to
secure it. In taking it off the table, however, a folded and much
erased sheet of manuscript was disclosed. Recognizing Bellamy's
writing, he took it up and commenced to read the draft, for it was
nothing else. Its substance was as follows.

The document began by stating that the testator's former will was
declared null and void on account of the "treacherous and
dishonourable conduct of his son Philip." It then, in brief but
sweeping terms, bequeathed and devised to trustees, of whom Philip was
not one, the unentailed property and personalty to be held by them:
firstly, for the benefit of any _son_ that might be born to the said
disinherited Philip by _his wife Hilda_--the question of daughters
being, probably by accident, passed over in silence--and failing such
issue, then to the testator's nephew, George Caresfoot, absolutely,
subject, however, to the following curious condition: Should the said
George Caresfoot, _either by deed of gift or will_, attempt to convey
the estate to his cousin Philip, or to descendants of the said Philip,
then the gift over to the said George was to be of none effect, and
the whole was to pass to some distant cousins of the testator's who
lived in Scotland. Then followed several legacies and one charge on
the estate to the extent of 1000 pounds a year payable to the
_separate_ use of the aforesaid Hilda Caresfoot for life, and
reverting at death to the holder of the estate.

In plain English, Philip was, under this draft, totally disinherited,
first in favour of his own male issue, by his wife Hilda, all mention
of daughters being omitted, and failing such issue, in favour of his
hated cousin George, who, as though to add insult to injury, was
prohibited from willing the property back either to himself or his
descendants, by whom the testator had probably understood the children
of a second marriage.

Philip read the document over twice carefully.

"Phew!" he said, "that was touch and go. Thank heavens he had no time
to carry out his kind intentions."

But presently a terrible thought struck him. He rang the bell hastily.
It was answered by the footman, who, since he had an hour before
helped to carry his poor master upstairs, had become quite
demoralized. It was some time before Philip could get an answer to his
question as to whether or no any one had been with his father that day
whilst he was out. At last he succeeded in extracting a reply from the
man that nobody had been except the young lady--"leastways, he begged
pardon, Mrs. Caresfoot, as he was told she was."

"Never mind her," said Philip, feeling as though a load had been taken
from his breast, "you are sure nobody else has been?"

"No, sir, nobody, leastways he begged pardon, nobody except lawyer
Bellamy and his clerk, who had been there all the afternoon writing,
with a black bag, and had sent for Simmons to be witnessed."

"You can go," said Philip, in a quiet voice. He saw it all now, he had
let the old man die _after_ he had executed the fresh will
disinheriting him. He had let him die; he had effectually and beyond
redemption cut his own throat. Doubtless, too, Bellamy had taken the
new will with him; there was no chance of his being able to destroy
it.

By degrees, however, his fit of brooding gave way to one of sullen
fury against his wife, himself, but most of all against his dead
father. Drunk with excitement, rage, and baffled avarice, he seized
and candle and staggered up to the room where the corpse had been
laid, launching imprecations as he went at his dead father's head. But
when he came face to face with that dread Presence his passion died,
and a cold sense of the awful quiet and omnipotence of death came upon
him and chilled him into fear. In some indistinct way he realized how
impotent is the chafing of the waters of Mortality against the iron-
bound coasts of Death. To what purpose did he rail against that solemn
quiet thing, that husk and mask of life which lay in unmoved mockery
of his reviling?

His father was dead, and he, even he, had killed his father. He was
his father's murderer. And then a terror of the reckoning that must
one day be struck between that dead man's spirit and his own took
possession of him, and a foreknowledge of the awful shadow under which
he must henceforth live crept into his mind and froze the very marrow
in his bones. He looked again at the face, and, to his excited
imagination, it appeared to have assumed a sardonic smile. The curse
of Cain fell upon him as he looked, and weighed him down; his hair
rose, and the cold sweat poured from his forehead. At length he could
bear it no longer, but, turning, fled out of the room and out of the
house, far into the night.

When, haggard with mental and bodily exhaustion, he at length
returned, it was after midnight. He found Dr. Caley waiting for him;
he had just come from the sick-room and wore an anxious look upon his
face.

"Your wife has been delivered of a fine girl," he said; "but I am
bound to tell you that her condition is far from satisfactory. The
case is a most complicated and dangerous one."

"A girl!" groaned Philip, mindful of the will. "Are you sure that it
is a girl?"

"Of course I am sure," answered the doctor, testily.

"And Hilda ill--I don't understand."

"Look here, my good fellow, you are upset; take a glass of brandy and
go to bed. Your wife does not wish to see you now, but, if necessary,
I will send for you. Now, do as I tell you, or you will be down next.
Your nerves are seriously shaken."

Philip did as he was bid, and, as soon as he had seen him off to his
room, the doctor returned upstairs.

In the early morning he sent for two of his brother-practitioners, and
they held a consultation, the upshot of which was that they had come
to the conclusion nothing short of a miracle could save Hilda's life--
a conclusion that she herself had arrived at some hours before.

"Doctor," she said, "I trust to you to let me know when the end is
near. I wish my husband to be present when I die, but not before."

"Hush, my child--never talk of dying yet. Please God, you have many
years of life before you."

She shook her golden head a little sadly.

"No, doctor, my sand has run out, and perhaps it as as well. Give me
the child--why do you keep the child away from me? It is the messenger
sent to call me to a happier world. Yes, she is an angel messenger.
When I am gone, see that you call her 'Angela,' so that I may know by
what name to greet her when the time comes."

During the course of the morning, she expressed a strong desire to see
Maria Lee, who was accordingly sent for.

It will be remembered that old Mr. Caresfoot had on the previous day,
immediately after Hilda had left him, sat down and written to Maria
Lee. In this note he told her the whole shameful truth, ending it with
a few words of bitter humiliation and self-reproach that such a thing
should have befallen her at the hands of one bearing his name. Over
the agony of shame and grief thus let loose upon this unfortunate girl
we will draw a veil. It is fortunate for the endurance of human reason
that life does not hold many such hours as that through which she
passed after the receipt of this letter. As was but natural,
notwithstanding old Mr. Caresfoot's brief vindication of Hilda's
conduct in his letter, Maria was filled with indignation at what to
herself she called her treachery and deceit.

While she was yet full of these thoughts, a messenger came galloping
over from Bratham Abbey, bringing a note from Dr. Caley that told her
of her old friend's sudden death, and of Hilda's dangerous condition,
and her desire to see her. The receipt of this news plunged her into a
fresh access of grief, for she had grown fond of the old man; nor had
the warm affection for Hilda that had found a place in her gentle
heart been altogether wrenched away; and, now that she heard that her
rival was face to face with that King of Terrors before whom all
earthly love, hate, hope, and ambition must fall down and cease their
troubling, it revived in all its force; nor did any thought of her own
wrongs come to chill it.

Within half an hour she was at the door of the Abbey House, where the
doctor met her, and, in answer to her eager question, told her that,
humanly speaking, it was impossible her friend could live through
another twenty-four hours, adding an injunction that she must not stay
with her long.

She entered the sick-room with a heavy heart, and there from Hilda's
dying lips she heard the story of her marriage and of Philip's
perfidy. Their reconciliation was as complete as her friend's failing
voice and strength would allow. At length she tore herself away, and,
turning at the door, took her last look at Hilda, who had raised
herself upon her elbow, and was gazing at her retreating form with an
earnestness that was very touching. The eyes, Maria felt, were taking
their fill of what they looked upon for the last time in this world.
Catching her tearful gaze, the dying woman smiled, and, lifting her
hand, pointed upwards. Thus they parted.

But Maria could control herself no longer: her own blasted prospects,
the loss of the man she loved, and the affecting scene through which
she had just passed, all helped to break her down. Running downstairs
into the dining-room, she threw herself on a sofa, and gave full
passage to her grief. Presently she became aware that she was not
alone. Philip stood before her, or, rather, the wreck of him whom she
knew as Philip. Indeed, it was hard to recognize in this scared man,
with dishevelled hair, white and trembling lips, and eyes ringed round
with black, the bold, handsome youth whom she had loved. The sight of
him stayed her sorrow, and a sense of her bitter injuries rushed in
upon her.

"What do you want with me?" she asked.

"Want! I want forgiveness. I am crushed, Maria, crushed--quite
crushed," and he put his hands to his face and sobbed.

She answered him with the quiet dignity that good women can command in
moments of emergency--dignity of a very different stamp from Hilda's
haughty pride, but perhaps as impressive in its way.

"You ask forgiveness of me, and say that you are crushed. Has it
occurred to you that, without fault of my own, except the fault of
trusting you as entirely as I loved you, I too am crushed? Do you know
that you have wantonly, or to gain selfish ends, broken my heart,
blighted my name, and driven me from my home, for I can live here no
more? Do you understand that you have done me one of the greatest
injuries one person can do to another? I say, do you know all this,
Philip Caresfoot, and, knowing it, do you still ask me to forgive you?
Do you think it possible that I _can_ forgive?"

He had never heard her speak like this before, and did not remember
that intense feeling is the mother of eloquence. He gazed at her for a
moment in astonishment; then he dropped his face into his hands again
and groaned, making no other answer. After waiting awhile, she went
on--

"I am an insignificant creature, I know, and perhaps the mite of my
happiness or misery makes little difference in the scale of things;
but to me the gift of all my love was everything. I gave it to you,
Philip--gave it without a doubt or murmur, gave it with both hands. I
can never have it back to give again! How you have treated it you best
know." Here she broke down a little, and then continued: "It may seem
curious, but though my love has been so mistakenly given; though you
to whom it was given have dealt so ill with it; yet I am anxious that
on my side there should be no bitter memory, that, in looking back at
all this in after years, you should never be able to dwell upon any
harsh or unkind word of mine. It is on that account, and also because
I feel that it is not for me to judge you, and that you have already
much to bear, that I do as you ask me, and say, 'Philip, from my heart
I forgive you, as I trust that the Almighty may forgive me.'"

He flung himself upon his knees before her, and tried to take her
hand. "You do not know how you have humbled me," he groaned.

She gazed at him with pity.

"I am sorry," she said; "I did not wish to humble you. I have one word
more to say, and then I must go. I have just bid my last earthly
farewell to--your wife. My farewell to you must be as complete as
that, as complete as though the grave had already swallowed one of us.
We have done with each other for ever. I do not think that I shall
come back here. In my waking moments your name shall never willingly
pass my lips again. I will say it for the last time now. _Philip,
Philip, Philip_, whom I chose to love out of all the world, I pray God
that He will take me, or deaden the edge of what I suffer, and that He
may never let my feet cross your path or my eyes fall upon your face
again."

In another second she had passed out of the room and out of his life.



That night, or rather just before dawn on the following morning,
Hilda, knowing that her end was very near, sent for her husband.

"Go quickly, doctor," she said. "I shall die at dawn."

The doctor found him seated in the same spot where Maria Lee had left
him.

"What, more misery!" he said, when he had told his errand. "I cannot
bear it. There is a curse upon me--death and wickedness, misery and
death!"

"You must come if you wish to see your wife alive."

"I will come;" and he rose and followed him.

A sad sight awaited him. The moment of the grey dawn was drawing near,
and, by his wife's request, a window had been unshuttered, that her
dimmed eyes might once more look upon the light. On the great bed in
the centre of the room lay Hilda, whose life was now quickly draining
from her, and by her side was placed the sleeping infant. She was
raised and supported on either side by pillows, and her unbound golden
hair fell around her shoulders, enclosing her face as in a frame. Her
pallid countenance seemed touched with an awful beauty that had not
belonged to it in life, whilst in her eyes was that dread and
prescient gaze which sometimes come to those who are about to solve
death's mystery.

By the side of the bed knelt Mr. Fraser, the clergyman of the parish,
repeating in an earnest tone the prayers for the dying, whilst the
sad-faced attendants moved with muffled tread backwards and forwards
from the ring of light around the bed into the dark shadows that lay
beyond.

When Philip came, the clergyman ceased praying, and drew back into the
further part of the room, as did Pigott and the nurse, the former
taking the baby with her.

Hilda motioned to him to come close to her. He came, and bent over and
kissed her, and she, with an effort, threw one ivory arm around his
neck, and smiled sweetly. After about a minute, during which she was
apparently collecting her thoughts, she spoke in a low voice, and in
her native tongue.

"I have not sent for you before, Philip, for two reasons--first,
because I wished to spare you pain; and next, in order that I might
have time to rid my mind of angry thoughts against you. They are all
gone now--gone with every other earthly interest; but I _was_ angry
with you, Philip. And now listen to me--for I have not much time--and
do not forget my words in future years, when the story of my life will
seem but as a shadow that once fell upon your path. Change your ways,
Philip dear, abandon deceit, atone for the past; if you can, make your
peace with Maria Lee, and marry her--ah! it is a pity that you did not
do that at first, and leave me to go my ways--and, above all, humble
your heart before the Power that I am about to face. I love you, dear,
and, notwithstanding all, I am thankful to have been your wife. Please
God, we shall meet again."

She paused awhile, and then spoke in English. To the astonishment of
all, her voice was strong and clear, and she uttered her words with an
energy that, under the circumstances, seemed almost awful.

"Tell her to bring the child."

There was no need for Philip to repeat what she said, for Pigott heard
her, and at once came forward with the baby, which she laid beside
her.

The dying woman placed her hand upon its tiny head, and, turning her
eyes upwards with the rapt expression of one who sees a vision, said--

"May the power of God be about you to protect you, my motherless babe,
may angels guard you, and make you as they are; and may the heavy
curse and everlasting doom of the Almighty fall upon those who would
bring evil upon you."

She paused, and then addressed her husband.

"Philip, you have heard my words; in your charge I leave the child,
see that you never betray my trust."

Then, turning to Pigott, she said, in a fainter voice--

"Thank you for your kindness to me. You have a good face; if you can,
stop with my child, and give her your love and care. And now, may God
have mercy on my soul!"

Then came a minute's silence, broken only by the stifled sobs of those
who stood around, till a ray of light from the rising sun struggled
through the grey mist of the morning, and, touching the heads of
mother and child, illumined them as with a glory. It passed as quickly
as it came, drawing away with it the mother's life. Suddenly, as it
faded, she spread out her arms, sighed, and smiled. When the doctor
reached the bed, her story was told: she had fallen asleep.

Death had been very gentle with her.



                             CHAPTER XIII

Go, my reader, if the day is dull, and you feel inclined to moralize--
for whatever may be said to the contrary, there are less useful
occupations--and look at your village churchyard. What do you see
before you? A plot of enclosed ground backed by a grey old church, a
number of tombstones more or less decrepit, and a great quantity of
little oblong mounds covered with rank grass. If you have any
imagination, any power of thought, you will see more than that. First,
with the instinctive selfishness of human nature, you will recognize
your own future habitation; perhaps your eye will mark the identical
spot where the body you love must lie through all seasons and
weathers, through the slow centuries that will flit so fast for you,
till the crash of doom. It is good that you should think of that,
although it makes you shudder. The English churchyard takes the place
of the Egyptian mummy at the feast, or the slave in the Roman
conqueror's car--it mocks your vigour, and whispers of the end of
beauty and strength.

Probably you need some such reminder. But if, giving to the inevitable
the sigh that is its due, you pursue the vein of thought, it may
further occur to you that the plot before you is in a sense a summary
of the aspirations of humanity. It marks the realization of human
hopes, it is the crown of human ambitions, the grave of human
failures. Here, too, is the end of the man, and here the birthplace of
the angel or the demon. It is his sure inheritance, one that he never
solicits and never squanders; and, last, it is the only certain
resting-place of sleepless, tired mortality.

Here it was that they brought Hilda, and the old squire, and laid them
side by side against the coffin of yeoman Caresfoot, whose fancy it
had been to be buried in stone, and then, piling primroses and
blackthorn blooms upon their graves, left them to their chilly sleep.
Farewell to them, they have passed to where as yet we may not follow.
Violent old man and proud and lovely woman, rest in peace, if peace be
the portion of you both!

To return to the living. The news of the sudden decease of old Mr.
Caresfoot; of the discovery of Philip's secret marriage and the death
of his wife; of the terms of the old man's will, under which, Hilda
being dead, and having only left a daughter behind her, George
inherited all the unentailed portion of the property, with the curious
provision that he was never to leave it back to Philip or his
children; of the sudden departure of Miss Lee, and of many other
things, that were some of them true and some of them false, following
as they did upon the heels of the great dinner-party, and the
announcement made thereat, threw the country-side into a state of
indescribable ferment. When this settled down, it left a strong and
permanent residuum of public indignation and contempt directed against
Philip, the more cordially, perhaps, because he was no longer a rich
man. People very rarely express contempt or indignation against a rich
man who happens to be their neighbour in the country, whatever he may
have done. They keep their virtue for those who are impoverished, or
for their unfortunate relations. But for Philip it was felt that there
was no excuse and no forgiveness; he had lost both his character and
his money, and must therefore be cut, and from that day forward he was
cut accordingly.

As for Philip himself, he was fortunately, as yet, ignorant of the
kind intentions of his friends and neighbours, who had been so fond of
him a week ago. He had enough upon his shoulders without that--for he
had spoken no lie when he told Maria Lee that he was crushed by the
dreadful and repeated blows that had fallen upon him, blows that had
robbed him of everything that made life worth living, and given him in
return nothing but an infant who could not inherit, and who was
therefore only an incumbrance.

Who is it that says, "After all, let a bad man take what pains he may
to push it down, a human soul is an awful, ghostly, unique possession
for a bad man to have?" During the time that had elapsed between the
death and burial of his father and wife, Philip had become thoroughly
acquainted with the truth of this remark.

Do what he would, he could never for a single hour shake himself free
from the recollection of his father's death; whenever he shut his
eyes, his uneasy mind continually conjured up the whole scene with
uncanny distinctness; the gloomy room, the contorted face of the dying
man, the red flicker of the firelight on the wall--all these things
were burnt deep into the tablets of his memory. More and more did he
recognize the fact that, even should he live long enough to bury the
events of that hour beneath the debris of many years, the lapse of
time would be insufficient to bring forgetfulness, and the recognition
brought with it moral helplessness. He had, too, sufficient religious
feeling to make him uneasy as to his future fate, and possessed a
certain amount of imagination, which was at this time all directed
towards that awful day when he and his dead father must settle their
final accounts. Already, in the quiet nights, he would wake with a
start, thinking that the inevitable time had come. Superstitious fears
also would seize him with their clammy fingers, and he would shake and
tremble at the fancied step of ghostly feet, and his blood would
curdle in his veins as his mind hearkened to voices that were for ever
still.

And, worst of all, what had been done, and could never be undone, had
been done in vain. These deadly torments must be endured, whilst the
object for which they had been incurred had utterly escaped him. He
had sold himself to the powers of evil for a price, and that price had
not been paid. But the bond was good for all that.

And so he would brood, hour after hour, till he felt himself drawing
near to madness. Sometimes by a strong effort he would succeed in
tearing his mind away from the subject, but then its place was
instantly filled by a proud form with reproachful eyes, and he would
feel that there, too, death had put it out of his power to make
atonement. Of those whom he had wronged Maria Lee alone survived, and
she had left him in sorrow, more bitter than any anger. Truly, Philip
Caresfoot was in melancholy case. Somewhere he had read that the wages
of sin is death, but surely what he felt surpassed the bitterness of
death. His evil-doing had not prospered with him. The snare he had set
for his father had fallen back upon himself, and he was a crushed and
ruined man.

It affords a curious insight into his character to reflect that all
these piled-up calamities, all this wreck and sudden death, did not
bring him penitent on his knees before the Maker he had outraged. The
crimes he had committed, especially if unsuccessful, or the sorrows
that had fallen upon him, would have sufficed to reduce nine-tenths of
ordinary men to a condition of humble supplication. For, generally
speaking, irreligion, or rather forgetfulness of God, is a plant of no
deep growth in the human heart, since its roots are turned by the rock
of that innate knowledge of a higher Power that forms the foundation
of every soul, and on which we are glad enough to set our feet when
the storms of trouble and emergency threaten to destroy us. But with
Philip this was not so. He never thought of repentance. His was not
the nature to fall down and say, "Lord, I have sinned, take Thou my
burden from me." Indeed, he was not so much sorry for the past as
fearful for the future. It was not grief for wrong-doing that wrung
his heart and broke his spirit, but rather his natural sorrow at
losing the only creature he had ever deeply loved, chagrin at the
shame of his position and the failure of his hopes, and the icy
fingers of superstitious fears.

The crisis had come and passed: he had sinned against his Father in
heaven and his father on earth, and he did not sorrow for his sin; his
wife had left him, murmuring with her dying lips exhortations to
repentance, and he did not soften; shame and loss had fallen upon him,
and he did not turn to God. But his pride was broken, all that
remained to him of strength was his wickedness; the flood that had
swept over him had purged away not the evil but the good, from the
evil it only took its courage. Henceforth, if he sins at all, his will
be no bold and hazardous villany which, whilst it excites horror, can
almost compel respect, but rather the low and sordid crime, the safe
and treacherous iniquity.

Ajax no longer defies the lightning--he mutters curses on it beneath
his breath.

On the evening of the double funeral--which Philip did not feel equal
to attending, and at which George, in a most egregious hatband and
with many sobs and tears, officiated as chief mourner--Mr. Fraser
thought it would be a kind act on his part to go and offer such
consolation to the bereaved man as lay within his power, if indeed he
would accept it. Somewhat contrary to his expectation, he was, on
arrival at the Abbey House, asked in without delay.

"I am glad to see a human face," said Philip to the clergyman, as he
entered the room; "this loneliness is intolerable. I am as much alone
as though I lay stark in the churchyard like my poor wife."

Mr. Fraser did not answer him immediately, so taken up was he in
noticing the wonderful changes a week had wrought in his appearance.
Not only did his countenance bear traces of the illness and exhaustion
that might not unnaturally be expected in such a case of bereavement,
but it faithfully reflected the change that had taken place in his
mental attitude. His eyes had lost the frank boldness that had made
them very pleasing to some people, they looked scared; the mouth too
was rendered conspicuous by the absence of the firm lines that once
gave it character; indeed the man's whole appearance was pitiful and
almost abject.

"I am afraid," he said at length, in a tone of gentle compassion,
"that you must have suffered a great deal, Caresfoot."

"Suffered! I have suffered the tortures of the damned! I still suffer
them, I shall always suffer them."

"I do not wish," said the clergyman, with a little hesitation, "to
appear officious or to make a mockery of your grief by telling you
that it is for your good; but I should fail in my duty if I did not
point out to you that He who strikes the blow has the power to heal
the wound, and that very often such things are for our ultimate
benefit, either in this world or the next. Carry your troubles to Him,
my dear fellow, acknowledge His hand, and, if you know in your heart
of any way in which you have sinned, offer Him your hearty repentance;
do this, and you will not be deserted. Your life, that now seems to
you nothing but ashes, may yet be both a happy and a useful one."

Philip smiled bitterly as he answered--

"You talk to me of repentance--how can I repent when Providence has
treated me so cruelly, robbing me at a single blow of my wife and my
fortune? I know that I did wrong in concealing my marriage, but I was
driven to it by fear of my father. Ah! if you had seen him as I saw
him, you would have known that they were right to call him 'Devil
Caresfoot.'" He checked himself, and then went on--"He forced me into
the engagement with Miss Lee, and announced it without my consent. Now
I am ruined--everything is taken from me."

"You have your little daughter, and all the entailed estate--at least,
so I am told."

"My little daughter!--I never want to see her face; she killed her
mother. If it had been a boy, it would have been different, for then,
at any rate, that accursed George would not have got my birthright. My
little daughter, indeed! don't enumerate her among my earthly
blessings."

"It is rather sad to hear you talk like that of your child; but, at
any rate, you are not left in want. You have one of the finest old
places in the county, and a thousand a year, which to most men would
be riches."

"And which to me," answered Philip, "is beggary. I should have had
six, and I have got one. But look you here, Fraser, I swear before
God----"

"Hush! I cannot listen to such talk."

"Well, then, before anything you like, that, while I live, I will
never rest one single moment until I get my own back again. It may
seem impossible, but I will find a way. For instance," he added, as a
thought struck him, "strangely enough, the will does not forbid me to
buy the lands back. If I can get them no other way, I will buy them--
do you hear?--I will buy them. I _must_ have them again before I die."

"How will you get the money?"

"The money--I will save it, make it, steal it, get it somehow. Oh! do
not be afraid; I will get the money. It will take a few years, but I
will get it somehow. It is not the want of a few thousands that will
stop a determined man."

"And suppose your cousin won't sell?"

"I will find a way to make him sell--some bribe, something. There,
there," and his enthusiasm and eagerness vanished in a moment, and the
broken look came back upon his face. "It's all nonsense; I am talking
impossibilities--a little weak in my mind, I suppose. Forget it,
there's a good fellow; say nothing about it. And so you buried them?
Ah, me! ah, me! And George did chief mourner. I suppose he blubbered
freely; he always could blubber freely when he liked. I remember how
he used to take folks in as a lad, and then laugh at them; that's why
they called him 'Crocodile' at school. Well, he's my master now, and
I'm his very humble servant; perhaps one day it will be the other way
up again. What, must you go? If you knew how fearfully lonely I am,
you would not go. My nerves have quite gone, and I fancy all sorts of
things. I can think of nothing but those two graves out there in the
dark. Have they sodded them over? Tell them to sod them over. It was
kind of you to come and see me. You mustn't pay any attention to my
talk; I am not quite myself. Good night."

Mr. Fraser was an extremely unsuspicious man, but somehow, as he
picked his way to the vicarage to eat his solitary chop, he felt a
doubt rising in his mind as to whether, his disclaimer notwithstanding,
Philip had not sincerely meant all he said.

"He is shockingly changed," he mused, "and I am not sure that it is a
change for the better. Poor fellow, he has a great deal to bear, and
should be kindly judged. It is all so painful that I must try to
divert my mind. Mrs. Brown, will you bring me a little chocolate-
coloured book, that you will see on the table in my study, when you
come back with the potatoes? It has Plato--P-l-a-t-o--printed on the
back."



                             CHAPTER XIV

The jubilation of George at the turn events had taken may perhaps be
more easily imagined than described. There is generally one weak point
about all artful schemes to keep other people out of their rights;
they break down over some unforeseen detail, or through the neglect of
some trivial and obvious precaution. But this was one of the glorious
instances to the contrary that prove the rule. Nothing had broken
down, everything had prospered as a holy cause always should, and does
--in theory. The stars in their courses had fought for Sisera,
everything had succeeded beyond expectation, nothing had failed. In
the gratitude of his heart, George would willingly have given a
thousand pounds towards the establishment of a training-school for
anonymous letter-writers, or the erection of a statue to Hilda
Caresfoot, whose outraged pride and womanly jealousy had done him such
yeoman service.

Speaking seriously, he had great cause for rejoicing. Instead of a
comparatively slender younger son's portion, he had stepped into a
fine and unencumbered property of over five thousand a year, and that
in the heyday of his youth, when in the full possession of all his
capacities for enjoyment, which were large indeed. Henceforth
everything that money could buy would be his, including the respect
and flattery of his poorer neighbours. An added flavour too was given
to the overflowing cup of his good fortune by the fact that it had
been wrenched from the hands of the cousin whom he hated, and on whom
he had from a boy sworn to be avenged. Poor Philip! bankrupt in honour
and broken in fortune, he could afford to pity him now, to pity him
ostentatiously and in public. He was open-handed with his pity was
George. Nor did he lack a sympathizer in these delicious moments of
unexpected triumph.

"Did I not tell you," said Mrs. Bellamy, in her full, rich tones, on
the afternoon of the reading of the will--"did I not tell you that, if
you would consent to be guided by me, I would pull you through, and
have I not pulled you through? Never misdoubt my judgment again, my
dear George; it is infinitely sounder than your own."

"You did, Anne, you certainly did; you are a charming woman, and as
clever as you are charming."

"Compliments are all very well, and I am sure I appreciate yours"--and
she gave a little curtsey--"at their proper value; but I must remind
you, George, that I have done my part of the bargain, and that now you
must do yours."

"Oh! that's all right; Bellamy shall have the agency and two hundred a
year with it, and, to show you that I have not forgotten you, perhaps
you will accept this in memorial of our joint achievement;" and he
drew from his pocket and opened a case containing a superb set of
sapphires.

Mrs. Bellamy had all a beautiful woman's love for jewels, and
especially adored sapphires.

"Oh!" she said, clasping her hands, "thank you, George; they are
perfectly lovely!"

"Perhaps," he replied, politely; "but not half so lovely as their
wearer. I wonder," he added, with a little laugh, "what the old boy
would say, if he could know that a thousand pounds of his personalty
had gone by anticipation to buy a necklace for Anne Bellamy."

To this remark she made no reply, being apparently absorbed in her own
thoughts. At last she spoke.

"I don't want to seem ungracious, George, but these"--and she touched
the jewels--"were not the reward I expected: I want the letters you
promised me back."

"My dear Anne, you are under a mistake, I never promised you the
letters; I said that, under the circumstances, I might possibly
restore them--a very different thing from promising."

Mrs. Bellamy flushed a little, and the great pupils of her sleepy eyes
contracted till she looked quite dangerous.

"Then I must have strangely misunderstood you," she said.

"What do you want the letters for? Can't you trust me with them?"

"Don't you think, George, that if you had passed through something
very terrible, you would like to have all the mementoes of that dark
time destroyed? Those letters are the record of my terrible time;
nothing remains of it but those written lines. I want to burn them, to
stamp them into powder, to obliterate them as I have obliterated all
the past. Whilst they exist I can never feel safe. Supposing you were
to turn traitor to me and let those letters fall into the hands of
others, supposing that you lost them, I should be a ruined woman. I
speak frankly, you see; I fully appreciate my danger, principally
because I know that, the more intimate a man and woman have been, the
more chance there is of their becoming bitter enemies. George, give me
those letters; do not overcloud my future with the shadows of the
past."

"You talk as well as you do everything else, Anne; you are really a
very remarkable woman. But, curiously enough, those letters, the
existence of which is so obnoxious to you, are to me a source of great
interest. You know that I love to study character--curious occupation
for a young man, isn't it?--but I do. Well, in my small experience, I
have never yet, either in fiction or in real life, come across such a
fascinating display as is reflected in those letters. There I can, and
often do, trace in minutest detail the agony of a strong mind, can see
the barriers of what people call religion, early training, self-
respect, and other curiosities which we name virtues, bursting away
one by one under pressure, like the water-tight bulkheads they put in
passenger steamers, till at length the work is done; the moral ship
sinks, and the writer stands revealed what you are, my dear Anne, the
loveliest, the cleverest, and the most utterly unscrupulous woman in
the three kingdoms."

She rose very quietly, but quite white with passion, and answered in
her low voice--

"Whatever I am you made me, and _you_ are a devil, George Caresfoot,
or you could not take pleasure in the tortures you inflicted before
you destroyed. But, don't go too far, or you may regret it. Am I a
woman to be played with? I think that you have trained me too well."

He laughed a little uneasily.

"There, you see; _grattez le Russe_, &c., and out comes the true
character. Look at your face in the glass; it is magnificent, but not
pleasant; rather dangerous, indeed. Why, Anne, do be reasonable; if I
gave you those letters, I should never be able to sleep in peace. For
the sake of my own safety I dare not abandon the whip-hand I have of
you. Remember you could, if you chose, say some unpleasant things
about me, and I don't want that any more than you do just now. But,
you see, whilst I hold in my power what would, if necessary,
effectually ruin you, and probably Bellamy too--for this country
society is absurdly prejudiced--I have little cause for fear. Perhaps
in the future you may be able to render me some service for which you
shall have the letters--who knows? You see I am perfectly frank with
you, for the simple reason that I know that it is useless to try to
conceal my thoughts from a person of your perception."

"Well, well, perhaps you are right: it is difficult to trust oneself,
much less any one else. At any rate," she said, with a bitter smile,
"you have given me Bellamy, a start in society, and a sapphire
necklace. In twenty years, I hope, if the fates are kind, to have lost
Bellamy on the road--he is really unendurable--to rule society, and to
have as many sapphire necklaces and other fine things as I care for.
In enumerating my qualities, you omitted one, ambition."

"With your looks, your determination, and your brains, there is
nothing that you will not be able to do if you set your mind to it,
and don't make an enemy of your devoted friend."

And thus the conversation ended.

Now little Bellamy had, after much anxious thought, just about this
time come to a bold determination--namely, to asset his marital
authority over Mrs. Bellamy. Indeed, his self-pride was much injured
by the treatment he received at his wife's hands, for it seemed to him
that he was utterly ignored in his own house. In fact, it would not be
too much to say that he _was_ an entire nonentity. He had married Mrs.
Bellamy for love, or rather from fascination, though she had nothing
in the world--married her in a fortnight from the time that George had
first introduced him. When he had walked out of church with his
beautiful bride, he had thought himself the luckiest man in London,
whereas now he could not but feel that matrimony had not fulfilled his
expectations. In the first place, Love's young dream--he was barely
thirty--came to a rude awakening, for, once married, it was impossible
--though he had, in common with the majority of little men, a
tolerably good opinion of himself--but that he should perceive that
his wife did not care one brass farthing about him. To his soft
advances she was as cold as a marble statue, the lovely eyes never
grew tender for him. Indeed, he found that she was worse than a
statue, for statues cannot indulge in bitter mockery and contemptuous
comments, and Mrs. Bellamy could, and, what is more, frequently did.

"It is very well," reflected her husband, "to marry the loveliest
woman in the county, but I don't see the use of it if she treats one
like a dog."

At last this state of affairs had grown intolerable, and, meditating
in the solitude of his office, Mr. Bellamy resolved to assert himself
once and for all, and set matters on a proper footing, and Mrs.
Bellamy in her place. But it is one thing for husbands of the Bellamy
stamp to form high-stomached resolutions, and another for them to put
those resolutions into active and visible operation on wives of the
Mrs. Bellamy stamp. Indeed, had it not been for a little incident
about to be detailed, it is doubtful if Mr. Bellamy would have ever
come to the scratch at all.

When George had gone, Mrs. Bellamy sat down in by no means the
sweetest of tempers to think. But thinking in this instance proved an
unprofitable occupation, and she gave it up, in order to admire the
sapphire necklace that lay upon her knee. At that moment her husband
entered the room, but she took no notice, merely going on examining
the stones. After moving about a little, as though to attract
attention, the gentleman spoke.

"I have managed to get home to lunch, my dear."

"Indeed.

"Well, you might take a little notice of me."

"Why? Is there anything remarkable about you this morning?"

"No, there is not; but, remarkable or not, a man who has been fool
enough"--Mr. Bellamy laid great emphasis on the word "fool"--"to get
married has a right to expect when he comes into his own house that he
will have a little notice taken of him, and not be as completely
overlooked as--as though he were a tub of butter in a grocer's shop;"
and he pugged out his chest, rubbed his hands, and looked defiant.

The lady laid her head back on the chair, and laughed with exquisite
enjoyment.

"Really, my dear John, you will kill me," she said at length.

"May I ask," he replied, looking as though there was nothing in the
world that he would like better, "what you are laughing at?"

"Your slightly vulgar but happy simile; it is easy to see where you
draw your inspiration from. If you had only said butterine, inferior
butter, you know, the counterfeit article, it would have been
perfect."

Her husband gave a glance at his tubby little figure in the glass.

"Am I to understand that you refer to me as 'butterine,' Mrs.
Bellamy?"

"Oh! certainly yes, if you like; but, butter or not, you will melt if
you lose your temper so."

"I have not lost my temper, madam; I am perfectly cool," he replied,
positively gasping with fury. Here his eye fell upon the necklace.
"What necklace is that? who gave you that necklace? I demand to know."

"You _demand_ to know! Be careful what you say, please. Mr. George
Caresfoot gave me the necklace. It cost a thousand pounds. Are you
satisfied?"

"No, I am not satisfied; I will not have that cursed George Caresfoot
continually here. I will send him back his necklace. I will assert my
rights as an Englishman and a spouse, I will----"

"You will sit down and listen to me."

The tone of the voice checked his absurd linguistic and physical
capers, and caused him to look at his wife. She was standing and
pointing to a chair. Her face was calm and immovable, only her eyes
appeared to expand and contract with startling rapidity. One glance
was enough for Bellamy. He felt frightened, and sat down in the
indicated chair.

"That's right," she said, pleasantly; "now we can have a cosy chat.
John, you are a lawyer, and therefore, I suppose, more or less a man
of the world. Now, _as_ a lawyer and a man of the world, I ask you to
look at me and then at yourself, and say if you think it likely or
even possible that I married you for love. To be frank, I did nothing
of the sort; I married you because you were the person most suited to
my purpose. If you will only understand that it will save us both a
great deal of trouble. As for your talk about asserting yourself and
exercising your authority, it is simple nonsense. You are very well in
your way, my dear John, and a fair attorney, but do you suppose for
one moment that you are capable of matching yourself against me? If
so, you make a shocking mistake. Be advised, and do not try the
experiment. But don't think that the bargain is all my side--it is
not. If you will behave yourself properly and be guided by my advice,
I will make you one of the richest and most powerful men in the
county. If you will not, I shall shake myself free of you as soon as I
am strong enough. Rise I must and will, and if you will not rise with
me, I will rise alone. As regards your complaints of my not caring
about you, the world is wide, my dear John; console yourself
elsewhere. I shall not be jealous. And now I think I have explained
everything. It is so much more satisfactory to have a clear
understanding. Come, shall we go to lunch?"

But Bellamy wanted no lunch that day.

"After all," he soliloquized to himself, between the pangs of a
racking headache brought on by his outburst of temper, "time sometimes
brings its revenges, and, if it does, you may look out, Mrs. Bellamy."



                              CHAPTER XV

It is perhaps time that the reader should know a little of the ancient
house and loyalty where many of the personages of whose history these
pages treat, lived and moved and had their being.

The Abbey House, so called, was in reality that part of the monastery
which had been devoted to the use of successive generations of priors.
It was, like the ruins that lay to its rear, entirely built of grey
masonry, rendered greyer still by the lichens that fed upon its walls,
which were of exceeding strength and thickness. It was a long,
irregular building, and roofed with old and narrow tiles, which from
red had, in the course of ages, faded to sober russet. The banqueting-
hall was a separate building at its northern end, and connected with
the main dwelling by a covered way. The aspect of the house was
westerly, and the front windows looked on to an expanse of park-like
land, heavily timbered with oaks of large size, some of them pollards
that might have pushed their first leaves in the time of William the
Conqueror. In spring their vivid green was diversified by the reddish
brown of a double line of noble walnut-trees, a full half mile in
length, marking the track of the carriage-drive that led to the Roxham
high-road.

Behind the house lay the walled garden, celebrated in the time of the
monks as being a fortnight earlier than any other in the
neighbourhood. Skirting the southern wall of this garden, which was a
little less than a hundred paces long, the visitor reached the
scattered ruins of the old monastery that had for generations served
as a stone quarry to the surrounding villages, but of which enough was
left, including a magnificent gateway, to show how great had been its
former extent. Passing on through these, he would come to an enclosure
that marked the boundaries of the old graveyard, now turned to
agricultural uses, and then to the church itself, a building with a
very fine tower, but possessing no particular interest, if we except
some exceedingly good brasses and a colossal figure of a monk cut out
of the solid heart of an oak, and supposed to be the effigy of a prior
of the abbey who died in the time of Edward I. Below the church again,
and about one hundred and fifty paces from it, was the vicarage, a
comparatively modern building, possessing no architectural attraction,
and evidently reared out of the remains of the monastery.

At the south end of the Abbey House itself lay a small grass plot and
pleasure-garden fringed with shrubberies, and adorned with two fine
cedar-trees. One of these trees was at its further extremity, and
under it there ran a path cut through the dense shrubbery. This path,
which was edged with limes and called the "Tunnel Walk," led to the
lake, and debouched in the little glade where stood Caresfoot's Staff.
The lake itself was a fine piece of water, partly natural and partly
constructed by the monks, measuring a full mile round, and from fifty
to two hundred yards in width. It was in the shape of a man's shoe,
the heel facing west like the house, but projecting beyond it, the
narrow part representing the hollow of the instep, being exactly
opposite to it, and the sole swelling out in an easterly direction.

Bratham Abbey was altogether a fine old place, but the most remarkable
thing about it was its air of antiquity and the solemnity of its
peace. It did not, indeed, strike the spirit with that religious awe
which is apt to fall upon us as we gaze along the vaulted aisles of
great cathedrals, but it appealed perhaps with equal strength to the
softer and more reflective side of our nature. For generation after
generation that house had been the home of men like ourselves; they
had passed and were forgotten, but it remained, the sole witness of
the stories of their lives. Hands of which the very bones had long
since crumbled into dust had planted those old oaks and walnuts, that
still donned their green robes in summer, and shed them in the autumn,
to stand great skeletons through the winter months, awaiting the
resurrection of the spring.

There lay upon the place and its surroundings a burden of dead lives,
intangible, but none the less real. The air was thick with memories,
as suggestive as the grey dust in a vault. Even in the summer, in the
full burst of nature revelling in her strength, the place was sad. But
in the winter, when the wind came howling through the groaning trees,
and drove the grey scud across an ashy sky, when the birds were dumb,
and there were no cattle on the sodden lawn, its isolated melancholy
was a palpable thing.

That hoary house might have been a gateway of the dim land we call the
Past, looking down in stony sorrow on the follies of those who so soon
must cross its portals, and, to the wise who could hear the lesson,
pregnant with echoes of the warning voices of many generations.

Here it was that Angela grew up to womanhood.



Some nine and a half years had passed from the date of the events
described in the foregoing pages, when one evening Mr. Fraser
bethought him that he had been indoors all day, and proposed reading
till late that night, and that therefore he had better take some
exercise.

A tall and somewhat nervous-looking man, with dark eyes, a sensitive
mouth, and that peculiar stoop and pallor of complexion which those
devoted to much study almost invariably acquire, he had "student"
written on his face. His history was a sufficiently common one. He
possessed academical abilities of a very high order, and had in his
youth distinguished himself greatly at college, both as a classical
and a mathematical scholar. When quite young, he was appointed,
through the influence of a relation, to his present living, where the
income was good and the population very small indeed. Freed from all
necessity for exertion, he shut himself up with his books, having his
little round of parish work for relaxation, and never sought to emerge
from the quiet of his aimless studies to struggle for fame and place
in the laborious world. Mr. Fraser was what people call an able man
thrown away. If they had known his shy, sensitive nature a little
better, they would have understood that he was infinitely more suited
for the solitary and peaceful lot in life which he had chosen, than to
become a unit in the turbulent and greedy crowd that is struggling
through all the ages up the slippery slopes of the temple of that
greatest of our gods--Success.

There are many such men, probably you, my reader, know one or two.
With infinite labour they store up honey from the fields of knowledge,
collect endless data from the statistics of science, pile up their
calculations against the very stars; and all to no end. As a rule,
they do not write books; they gather the learning for the learning's
sake, and for the very love of it rejoice to count their labour lost.
And thus they go on from year to year, until the golden bowl is broken
and the pitcher broken at the fountain, and the gathered knowledge
sinks, or appears to sink, back to whence it came. Alas, that one
generation cannot hand on its wisdom and experience--more especially
its experience--to another in its perfect form! If it could, we men
should soon become as gods.

It was a mild evening in the latter end of October when Mr. Fraser
started on his walk. The moon was up in the heavens as he, an hour
later, made his way from the side of the lake, where he had been
wandering, back to the churchyard through which he had to pass to
reach the vicarage. Just before he came to the gate, however, he was
surprised, in such a solitary spot, to see a slight figure leaning
against the wall opposite the place where lay the mortal remains of
the old squire and his daughter-in-law, Hilda. He stood still and
watched; the figure appeared to be gazing steadily at the graves.
Presently it turned and saw him, and he recognized the great grey eyes
and golden hair of little Angela Caresfoot.

"Angela, my dear, what are you doing here at this time of night?" he
asked, in some surprise.

She blushed a little as she shook hands rather awkwardly with him.

"Don't be angry with me," she said in a deprecatory voice; "but I was
so lonely this evening that I came here for company."

"Came here for company! What do you mean?"

She hung her head.

"Come," he said, "tell me what you mean."

"I don't quite know myself. How can I tell you?"

He looked more puzzled than ever, and she observed it and went on:

"I will try to tell you, but you must not be cross like Pigott when
she cannot understand me. Sometimes I feel ever so much alone, as
though I was looking for something and could not find it, and then I
come and stand here and look at my mother's grave, and I get company
and am not lonely any more. That is all I know; I cannot tell you any
more. Do you think me silly? Pigott does."

"I think you are a very strange child. Are you not afraid to come here
alone at night?"

"Afraid--oh, no! Nobody comes here; the people in the village dare not
come here after dark, because they say that the ruins are full of
spirits. Jakes told me that. But I must be stupid; I cannot see them,
and I want so very much to see them. I hope it is not wrong, but I
told my father so the other day, and he turned white and was angry
with Pigott for giving me such ideas; but you know Pigott did not give
them to me at all. I am not afraid to come; I like it, it is so quiet,
and, if one listens enough in the quiet, I always think one may hear
something that other people do not hear."

"Do you hear anything, then?"

"Yes, I hear things, but I cannot understand them. Listen to the wind
in the branches of that tree, the chestnut, off which the leaf is
falling now. It says something, if only I could catch it."

"Yes, child, yes, you are right in a way; all Nature tells the same
eternal tale, if our ears were not stopped to its voices," he
answered, with a sigh; indeed, the child's talk had struck a vein of
thought familiar to his own mind, and, what is more, it deeply
interested him; there was a quaint, far-off wisdom in it.

"It is pleasant to-night, is it not, Mr. Fraser?" said the little
maid, "though everything is dying. The things die softly without any
pain this year; last year they were all killed in the rain and wind.
Look at that cloud floating across the moon, is it not beautiful? I
wonder what it is the shadow of; I think all the clouds are shadows of
something up in heaven."

"And when there are no clouds?"

"Oh! then heaven is quite still and happy."

"But heaven is always happy."

"Is it? I don't understand how it can be always happy if _we_ go
there. There must be so many to be sorry for."

Mr. Fraser mused a little; that last remark was difficult to answer.
He looked at the fleecy cloud, and, falling into her humour, said--

"I think your cloud is the shadow of an eagle carrying a lamb to its
little ones."

"And I think," she answered confidently, "that it is the shadow of an
angel carrying a baby home."

Again he was silenced; the idea was infinitely more poetical than his
own.

"This," he reflected, "is a child of a curious mental calibre."

Before he could pursue the thought further, she broke in upon it in
quite a different strain.

"Have you seen Jack and Jill? They _are_ jolly."

"Who are Jack and Jill?"

"Why, my ravens, of course. I got them out of the old tree with a hole
in it at the end of the lake."

"The tree at the end of the lake! Why, the hole where the ravens nest
is fifty feet up. Who got them for you?"

"I got them myself. Sam--you know Sam--was afraid to go up. He said he
should fall, and that the old birds would peck his eyes. So I went by
myself one morning quite early, with a bag tied round my neck, and got
up. It was hard work, and I nearly tumbled once; but I got on the
bough beneath the hole at last. It shook very much; it is so rotten,
you have no idea. There were three little ones in the nest, all with
great mouths. I took two, and left one for the old birds. When I was
nearly down again, the old birds found me out, and flew at me, and
beat my head with their wings, and pecked--oh, they did peck! Look
here," and she showed him a scar on her hand; "that's where they
pecked. But I stuck to my bag, and got down at last, and I'm glad I
did, for we are great friends now; and I am sure the cross old birds
would be quite pleased if they knew how nicely I am educating their
young ones, and how their manners have improved. But I say, Mr.
Fraser, don't tell Pigott; she cannot climb trees, and does not like
to see me do it. She does not know I went after them myself."

Mr. Fraser laughed.

"I won't tell her, Angela, my dear; but you must be careful--you might
tumble and kill yourself."

"I don't think I shall, Mr. Fraser, unless I am meant to. God looks
after me as much when I am up a tree as when I am upon the ground."

Once more he had nothing to say; he could not venture to disturb her
faith.

"I will walk home with you, my dear. Tell me. Angela, would you like
to learn?"

"Learn!--learn what?"

"Books, and the languages that other nations, nations that have passed
away, used to talk, and how to calculate numbers and distances."

"Yes, I should like to learn very much; but who will teach me? I have
learnt all Pigott knows two years ago, and since then I have been
trying to learn about the trees and flowers and stars; but I look and
watch, and can't understand."

"Ah! my dear, contact with Nature is the highest education; but the
mind that would appreciate her wonders must have a foundation of
knowledge to work upon. The uneducated man is rarely sensitive to the
thousand beauties and marvels of the fields around him, and the skies
above him. But, if you like, I will teach you, Angela. I am
practically an idle man, and it will give me great pleasure; but you
must promise to work and do what I tell you."

"Oh, how good you are! Of course I will work. When am I to begin?"

"I don't know--to-morrow, if you like; but I must speak to your father
first."

Her face fell a little at the mention of her father's name, but
presently she said, quietly--

"My father, he will not care if I learn or not. I hardly ever see my
father; he does not like me. I see nobody but Pigott and you and old
Jakes, and Sam sometimes. You need not ask my father; he will never
miss me whilst I am learning. Ask Pigott."

At that moment Pigott herself hove into view, in a great flurry.

"Oh, here you are, Miss Angela! Where have you been to, you naughty
girl? At some of your star-gazing tricks again, I'll be bound,
frightening the life out of a body. It's just too bad of you, Miss
Angela."

The little girl looked at her with a peculiarly winning smile, and
took her very solid hand between her own tiny palms.

"Don't be cross, Pigott, dear," she said. "I didn't mean to frighten
you. I couldn't help going--I couldn't indeed; and then I stopped
talking to Mr. Fraser."

"There, there, I should just like to know who can be cross with you
when you put on those ways. Are your feet wet? Ah! I thought so. Run
on in and take them off."

"Won't that be just a little difficult?" and she was gone with a merry
laugh.

"There, sir, that's just like her, catching a body up like and
twisting what she says, till you don't know which is head and which is
heels. I'll be bound you found her down yonder;" and she nodded
towards the churchyard.

"Yes."

Pigott drew a little nearer, and spoke in a low voice.

"'Tis my belief, sir, that that child sees _things_; she is just the
oddest child I ever saw. There's nothing she likes better than to slip
out of a night, and to go to that there beastly churchyard, saving
your presence, for 'company,' as she calls it--nice sort of company,
indeed. And it is just the same way with storms. You remember that
dreadful gale a month ago, the one that took down the North Grove and
blew the spire off Rewtham Church. Well, just when it was at its
worst, and I was a-sitting and praying that the roof might keep over
our heads, I look round for Angela, and can't see her. 'Some of your
tricks again,' thinks I to myself; and just then up comes Mrs. Jakes
to say that Sam had seen little missy creeping down the tunnel walk. I
was that scared that I ran down, got hold of Sam, for Jakes said he
wouldn't go out with all them trees a-flying about in the air like
straws--no, not for a thousand pounds, and off we set after her." Here
Pigott paused to groan at the recollection of that walk.

"Well," said Mr. Fraser, who was rather interested--everything about
this queer child interested him; "where did you find her?"

"Well, sir, you know where the old wall runs out into the water,
before Caresfoot's Staff there? Well, at the end of it there's a post
sunk in, with a ring in it to tie boats to. Now, would you believe it?
out there at the end of the wall, and tied to the ring by a scarf
passed round her middle, was that dreadful child. She was standing
there, her back against the post, right in the teeth of the gale, with
the spray dashing over her, her arms stretched out before her, her hat
gone, her long hair standing out behind straight as an iron bar, and
her eyes flashing as though they were on fire, and all the while there
were the great trees crashing down all round in a way enough to make a
body sick with fright. We got her back safe, thank God; but how long
we shall keep her, I'm sure I don't know. Now she is drowning herself
in the lake, for she takes to the water like a duck, and now breaking
her neck off trees, and now going to ghosts in the churchyard for
company. It's wearing me to the bone--that's what it is."

Mr. Fraser smiled, for, to tell the truth, Pigott's bones were pretty
comfortably covered.

"Come," he said, "you would not part with her for all her wicked
deeds, would you?"

"Part with her," answered Pigott, in hot indignation, "part with my
little beauty? I would rather part with my head. The love, there never
was another like her, nor never will be, with her sweet ways; and, if
I know anything about girls, she'll be the beauty of England, she
will. She's made for a beautiful woman; and look at them eyes and
forehead and hair--where did you ever see the like? And, as for her
queer ways, what can you expect from a child as has got a great empty
mind and nothing to put in it, and no one to talk to but a common
woman like me, and a father"--here she dropped her voice--"as is a
miser, and hates the sight of his own flesh and blood?"

"Hush! you should not say such things, Pigott! Now I will tell you
something; I am going on to ask your master to allow me to educate
Angela."

"I'm right glad to hear it, sir. She's sharp enough to learn anything,
and it's kind of you to teach her. If you can make her mind like what
her body will be if she lives, somebody will be a lucky man one of
these days. Good-night, sir, and many thanks for bringing missy home."

Next day Angela began her education.



                             CHAPTER XVI

Reader, we are about to see Angela again, and to see a good deal of
her; but you must be prepared for a change in her personal appearance,
for the curtain has been down for ten years since last you met the
child whose odd propensities excited Pigott's wonder and indignation
and Mr. Fraser's interest; and ten years, as we all know, can work
many changes in the history of the world and individuals. In ten years
some have been swept clean off the board, and their places taken by
others; a few have grown richer, many poorer, some of us sadder, some
wiser, and all of us ten years older. Now, this was exactly what had
happened to little Angela--that is, the Angela we knew as little, and
ten years make curious differences between the slim child of nine and
a half and the woman of nearly twenty.

When we last saw her, Angela was about to commence her education. Let
us re-introduce ourselves on the memorable evening when, after ten
years of study, Mr. Fraser, a master by no means easily pleased,
expressed himself unable to teach her any more.

It is Christmas Eve. Drip, drop, drip, falls the rain from the
leafless boughs on to the sodden earth. The apology for daylight that
has been doing its dull duty for the last few hours is slowly effacing
itself, and the gale is celebrating the fact, and showing its joy at
the closing-in of the melancholy night by howling its loudest through
the trees, and flogging the flying scud it has brought with it from
the sea, till it whirls across the sky like a succession of ghostly
racehorses.

This is outside the vicarage; let us look within. In a well-worn arm-
chair in the comfortable study, near to a table covered with books and
holding some loose sheets of foolscap in his hand, sits Mr. Fraser.
His hair is a little greyer than when he began Angela's education,
about as grey as rather accommodating hair will get at the age of
fifty-three; otherwise his general appearance is much the same, and
his face as refined and gentlemanlike as ever. Presently he lays down
the sheets of paper which he has been studying attentively, and says:

"Your solution is perfectly sound, Angela; but you have arrived at it
in a characteristic fashion, and by your own road. Not but what your
method has some merits--for one thing, it is more concise than my own;
but, on the other hand, it shows a feminine weakness. It is not
possible to follow every step from your premises to your conclusion,
correct as it is."

"Ah!" says a low voice, with a happy ripple in it, the owner of which
is busy with some tea-things out of range of the ring of light thrown
by the double reading-lamp, "you often blame me for jumping to
conclusions; but what does it matter, provided they are right? The
whole secret is that I used the equivalent algebraic formula, but
suppressed the working in order to puzzle you," and the voice laughed
sweetly.

"That is not worthy of a mathematician," said Mr. Fraser, with some
irritation; "it is nothing but a trick, a _tour de force_."

"The solution is correct, you say?"

"Quite."

"Then I maintain that it is perfectly mathematical; the object of
mathematics is to arrive at the truth."

"_Vox et preterea nihil._ Come out of that corner, my dear. I hate
arguing with a person I cannot see. But there, there, what is the use
of arguing at all? The fact is, Angela, you are a first-class
mathematician, and I am only second-class. I am obliged to stick to
the old tracks; you cut a Roman road of your own. Great masters are
entitled to do that. The algebraic formula never occurred to me when I
worked the problem out, and it took me two days to do."

"You are trying to make me vain. You forget that whatever I know,
which is just enough to show me how much I have to learn, I have
learnt from you. As for being your superior in mathematics, I don't
think that, as a clergyman, you should make such a statement. Here is
your tea." And the owner of the voice came forward into the ring of
light.

She was tall beyond the ordinary height of woman, and possessed
unusual beauty of form, that the tight-fitting grey dress she wore was
well calculated to display. Her complexion, which was of a dazzling
fairness, was set off by the darkness of the lashes that curled over
the deep grey eyes. The face itself was rounded and very lovely, and
surmounted by an ample forehead, whilst her hair, which was twisted
into a massive knot, was of a tinge of chestnut gold, and marked with
deep-set ripples. The charm of her face, however, did not, as is so
often the case, begin and end with its physical attractions. There was
more, much more, in it than that. But how is it possible to describe
on paper a presence at once so full of grace and dignity, of the soft
loveliness of woman, and of a higher and more spiritual beauty? There
hangs in the Louvre a picture by Raphael, which represents a saint
passing with light steps over the prostrate form of a dragon. There is
in that heaven-inspired face, the equal of which has been rarely, if
ever, put on canvas, a blending of earthly beauty and of the calm,
awe-compelling spirit-gaze--that gaze, that holy dignity which can
only come to such as are in truth and in deed "pure in heart"--that
will give to those who know it a better idea of what Angela was like
than any written description.

At times, but, ah, how rarely! we may have seen some such look as that
she wore on the faces of those around us. It may be brought by a great
sorrow, or be the companion of an overwhelming joy. It may announce
the consummation of some sublime self-sacrifice, or convey the swift
assurance of an everlasting love. It is to be found alike on the
features of the happy mother as she kisses her new-born babe, and on
the pallid countenance of the saint sinking to his rest. The sharp
moment that brings us nearer God, and goes nigh to piercing the veil
that hides His presence, is the occasion that calls it into being. It
is a beauty born of the murmuring sound of the harps of heaven; it is
the light of the eternal lamp gleaming faintly through its earthly
casket.

This spirit-look, before which all wickedness must feel ashamed, had
found a home in Angela's grey eyes. There was a strange nobility about
her. Whether it dwelt in the stately form, or on the broad brow, or in
the large glance of the deep eyes, it is not possible to say; but it
was certainly a part of herself as self-evident as her face or
features. She might well have been the inspiration of the lines that
run:


                   "Truth in her might, beloved,
                      Grand in her sway;
                    Truth with her eyes, beloved,
                      Clearer than day;
                    Holy and pure, beloved,
                      Spotless and free;
                    Is there one thing, beloved,
                      Fairer than thee?"


Mr. Fraser absently set down the tea that Angela was giving him when
we took the liberty to describe her personal appearance.

"Now, Angela, read a little."

"What shall I read?"

"Oh! anything you like; please yourself."

Thus enjoined, she went to a bookshelf, and, taking down two volumes,
handed one to Mr. Fraser, and then, opening her copy at haphazard,
announced the page to her companion, and, sitting down, began to read.

What sound is this, now soft and melodious as the sweep of a summer
gale over a southern sea, and now again like to the distant stamp and
rush and break of the wave of battle? What can it be but the roll of
those magnificent hexameters with which Homer charms a listening
world. And rarely have English lips given them with a juster cadence.

"Stop, my dear, shut up your book; you are as good a Greek scholar as
I can make you. Shut up your book for the last time. Your education,
my dear Angela, is satisfactorily completed. I have succeeded with
you----"

"Completed, Mr. Fraser!" said Angela, open-eyed. "Do you mean to say
that I am to stop now just as I have begun to learn?"

"My dear, you have learnt everything that I can teach you, and,
besides, I am going away the day after to-morrow."

"Going away!" and then and there, without the slightest warning,
Angela--who, for all her beauty and learning, very much resembled the
rest of her sex--burst into tears.

"Come, come, Angela," said Mr. Fraser, in a voice meant to be gruff,
but only succeeding in being husky, for, oddly enough, it is trying
even to a clergyman on the wrong side of middle-age to be wept over by
a lovely woman; "don't be nonsensical; I am only going for a few
months."

At this intelligence she pulled up a little.

"Oh," she said, between her sobs, "how you frightened me! How could
you be so cruel! Where are you going to?"

"I am going for a long trip in southern Europe. Do you know that I
have scarcely been away from this place for twenty years, so I mean to
celebrate the conclusion of our studies by taking a holiday."

"I wish you would take me with you."

Mr. Fraser coloured slightly, and his eye brightened. He sighed as he
answered--

"I am afraid, my dear, that it would be impossible."

Something warned Angela not to pursue the subject.

"Now, Angela, I believe that it is usual, on the occasion of the
severance of a scholastic connection, to deliver something in the
nature of a farewell oration. Well, I am not going to do that, but I
want you to listen to a few words."

She did not answer, but, drawing a stool to a corner of the fireplace,
she wiped her eyes and sat down almost at his feet, clasping her knees
with her hands, and gazing rather sadly into the fire.

"You have, dear Angela," he began, "been educated in a somewhat
unusual way, with the result that, after ten years of steady work that
has been always interesting, though sometimes arduous, you have
acquired information denied to the vast majority of your sex, whilst
at the same time you could be put to the blush in many things by a
school-girl of fifteen. For instance, though I firmly believe that you
could at the present moment take a double first at the University,
your knowledge of English literature is almost nil, and your history
of the weakest. All a woman's ordinary accomplishments, such as
drawing, playing, singing, have of necessity been to a great extent
neglected, since I was not able to teach them to you myself, and you
have had to be guided solely by books and by the light of Nature in
giving to them such time as you could spare.

"Your mind, on the other hand, has been daily saturated with the
noblest thoughts of the intellectual giants of two thousand years ago,
and would in that respect be as much in place in a well-educated
Grecian maiden living before the time of Christ as in an English girl
of the nineteenth century.

"I have educated you thus, Angela, partly by accident and partly by
design. You will remember when you began to come here some ten years
since--you were a little thing then--and I had offered to give you
some teaching, because you interested me, and I saw that you were
running wild in mind and body. But, when I had undertaken the task I
was somewhat puzzled how to carry it out. It is one thing to offer to
educate a little girl, and another to do it. Not knowing where to
begin, I fell back upon the Latin grammar, where I had begun myself,
and so by degrees you slid into the curriculum of a classical and
mathematical education. Then, after a year or two, I perceived your
power of work and your great natural ability, and I formed a design. I
said to myself, 'I will see how far a woman cultivated under
favourable conditions can go. I will patiently teach this girl till
the literature of Greece and Rome become as familiar to her as her
mother-tongue, till figures and symbols hide no mysteries from her,
till she can read the heavens like a book. I will teach her mind to
follow the secret ways of knowledge, I will train it till it can soar
above its fellows like a falcon above sparrows.' Angela, my proud
design, pursued steadily through many years, has been at length
accomplished; your bright intellect has risen to the strain I have put
upon it, and you are at this moment one of the best all-round scholars
of my acquaintance."

She flushed to the eyes at this high praise, and was about to speak,
but he stopped her with a motion of the hand, and went on:

"I have recognized in teaching you a fact but too little known, that a
classical education, properly understood, is the foundation of all
learning. There is little that is worth saying which has not already
been beautifully said by the ancients, little that is worthy of
meditation on which they have not already profoundly reflected, save,
indeed, the one great subject of Christian meditation. This
foundation, my dear Angela, you possess to an eminent degree.
Henceforth you will need no assistance from me or any other man, for,
to your trained mind, all ordinary knowledge will be easy to
assimilate. You will receive in the course of a few days a parting
present from myself in the shape of a box of carefully chosen books on
European literature and history. Devote yourself to the study of
these, and of the German language, which was your mother's native
tongue, for the next year, and then I shall consider that you are
fairly finished, and then, too, my dear Angela, I shall expect to reap
a full reward for my labours."

"What is it that you will expect of me?"

"I shall expect, Angela," and he rose from his chair and walked up and
down the room in his excitement--"I shall expect to see you take your
proper place in your generation. I shall say: 'Choose your own line,
become a critical scholar, a practical mathematician, or--and perhaps
that is what you are most suited for with your imaginative powers--a
writer of fiction. For remember that fiction, properly understood and
directed to worthy aims, is the noblest and most far-reaching, as it
is also the most difficult of the arts.' In watching the success that
will assuredly attend you in this or any other line, I shall be amply
rewarded for my trouble."

Angela shook her head with a gesture of doubt, but he did not wait for
her to answer.

"Well, my dear, I must not keep you any longer--it is quite dark and
blowing a gale of wind--except to say one more word. Remember that all
this is--indirectly perhaps, but still none the less truly--a means to
an end. There are two educations, the education of the mind and the
education of the soul; unless you minister to the latter, all the time
and toil spent upon the former will prove to little purpose. The
learning will, it is true, remain; but it will be as the quartz out of
which the gold has been already crushed, or the dry husks of corn. It
will be valueless and turn to no good use, will serve only to feed the
swine of intellectual voluptuousness and infidelity. It is, believe
me, the higher learning of the soul that gilds our earthly lore. The
loftier object of all education is so to train the intellect that it
may become competent to understand something, however little, of the
nature of our God, and to the true Christian the real end of learning
is the appreciation of His attributes as exemplified in His mysteries
and earthly wonders. But perhaps that is a subject on which you are as
well fitted to discourse as I am, so I will not enter into it.
'Finis,' my dear, 'finis.'"

Angela's answer to this long oration was a simple one. She rose slowly
from her low seat, and, putting her hands upon Mr. Fraser's shoulders,
kissed him on the forehead and said--

"How shall I ever learn to be grateful enough for all I owe you? What
should I have been now but for you? How good and patient you have been
to me!"

This embrace affected the clergyman strangely; he put his hand to his
heart, and a troubled look came into his eyes. Thrusting her gently
away from him, he sat down.

"Angela," he said presently, "go away now, dear, I am tired to-night;
I shall see you at church to-morrow to say good-by."

And so she went homewards, through the wind and storm, little knowing
that she left her master to struggle with a tempest far more
tremendous than that which raged around her.

As for him, as the door closed, he gave a sigh of relief.

"Pray God I have not put it off too long," he said to himself. "And
now for to-morrow's sermon. Sleep for the young! laughter for the
happy! work for old fools--work, work, work!"

And thus it was that Angela became a scholar.



                             CHAPTER XVII

The winter months passed away slowly for Angela, but not by any means
unhappily. Though she was quite alone and missed Mr. Fraser sadly, she
found considerable consolation in his present of books, and in the
thought that she was getting a good hold of her new subjects of study.
And then came the wonder of the spring with its rush of budding life,
and who, least of all Angela, could be sad in springtime? But
nevertheless that spring marked an important change in our heroine,
for it was during its sweet hours, when, having put her books aside,
she would roam alone, or in company with her ravens, through the
flower-starred woods around the lake, that a feeling of restlessness,
amounting at times almost to dissatisfaction, took possession of her.
Indeed, as the weeks crept on and she drew near the completion of her
twentieth year, she realized with a sigh that she could no longer call
herself a girl, and began to feel that her life was incomplete, that
something was wanting in it. And this was what was wanting in Angela's
life: she had, if we except her nurse, no one to love, and she had so
much love to give!

Did she but guess it, the still recesses of her heart already tremble
to the footfall of one now drawing near: out of the multitude of the
lives around her, a life is marked to mingle with her own. She does
not know it, but as the first reflection of the dawn strikes the
unconscious sky and shadows the coming of its king, so the red flush
that now so often springs unbidden to her brow, tells of girlhood's
twilight ended, and proclaims the advent of woman's life and love.



"Angela," called her father one day, as he heard her footsteps passing
his study, "come in here; I want to speak to you."

His daughter stopped, and a look of blank astonishment spread itself
over her face. She had not been called into that study for years. She
entered, however, as bidden. Her father, who was seated at his
writing-table, which was piled up with account-books, did not greatly
differ in appearance from what he was when we last saw him twenty
years ago. His frame had grown more massive, and acquired a slight
stoop, but he was still a young, powerful-looking man, and certainly
did not appear a day more than his age of forty-two. The eyes,
however, so long as no one was looking at them, had contracted a
concentrated stare, as though they were eternally gazing at some
object in space, and this appearance was rendered the more marked by
an apparently permanent puckering of the skin of the forehead. The
moment, however, that they came under the fire of anybody else's
optics, and, oddly enough, more particularly those of his own
daughter, the stare vanished, and they grew shifty and uncertain to a
curious degree.

Philip was employed in adding up something when his daughter entered,
and motioned to her to sit down. She did so, and fixed her great grey
eyes on him with some curiosity. The effect was remarkable; her father
fidgeted, made a mistake in his calculations, glanced all round the
room with his shifty eyes (ah, how changed from those bold black eyes
with which Maria Lee fell in love four-and-twenty years ago!) and
finally threw down his pen with an exclamation that would have shocked
Angela had she understood it.

"How often, Angela, have I asked you not to stare me out of
countenance! It is a most unladylike trick of yours."

She blushed painfully.

"I beg your pardon; I forgot. I will look out of the window."

"Don't be a fool; look like other people. But now I want to speak to
you. In the first place, I find that the household expenditure for the
last year was three hundred and fifty pounds. That is more than I can
afford; it must not exceed three hundred this year."

"I will do my best to keep the expenses down, father; but I can assure
you that there is no money wasted now."

Then came a pause, which, after humming and hawing a little, Philip
was the first to break.

"Do you know that I saw your cousin George yesterday? He is back at
last at Isleworth."

"Yes, Pigott told me that he had come. He has been away a long while."

"When did you last see him?"

"When I was about thirteen, I believe; before he lost the election,
and went away."

"He has been down here several times since then. I wonder that you did
not see him."

"I always disliked him, and kept out of his way."

"Gad, you can't dislike him more than I do; but I keep good friends
with him for all that, and you must do the same. Now, look here,
Angela, will you promise to keep a secret?"

"Yes, father, if you wish it."

"Well, then, I appear to be a poor man, don't I? And remember," he
added, hastily, "that, with reference to household expenses, I am
poor; but, as a matter of fact"--and here he sunk his voice, and
glanced suspiciously round--"I am worth at this moment nearly one
hundred and fifty thousand pounds in hard cash."

"That is six thousand pounds a year at four per cent.," commented
Angela, without a moment's hesitation. "Then I really think you might
put a flue into the old greenhouse, and allow a shilling a week to
Mrs. Jakes' mother."

"Curse Mrs. Jakes' mother! Nobody but a woman would have interrupted
with such nonsense. Listen. You must have heard how I was disinherited
on account of my marriage with your mother, and the Isleworth estates
left to your cousin George, and how, with a refined ingenuity, he was
forbidden to bequeath them back to me or to my children. But mark
this, he is not forbidden to sell them to me; no doubt the old man
never dreamt that I should have the money to buy them; but, you see, I
have almost enough."

"How did you get so much money?"

"Get it! First, I took the gold plate my grandfather bought, and sold
it. I had no right to do it, but I could not afford to have so much
capital lying idle. It fetched nearly five thousand pounds. With this
I speculated successfully. In two years I had eighteen thousand. The
eighteen thousand I invested in a fourth share in a coal-mine, when
money was scarce and coals cheap. Coals rose enormously just then, and
in five years' time I sold my share to the co-holders for eighty-two
thousand, in addition to twenty-one thousand received by way of
interest. Since then I have not speculated, for fear my luck should
desert me. I have simply allowed the money to accumulate on mortgage
and other investments, and bided my time, for I have sworn to have
those estates back before I die. It is for this cause that I have
toiled, and thought, and screwed, and been cut by the whole
neighbourhood for twenty years; but now I think that, with your help,
my time is coming."

"With _my_ help. What is it that you wish me to do?"

"Listen," answered her father, nervously tapping his pencil on the
account-book before him. "George is not very fond of Isleworth--in
fact, he rather dislikes it; but, like all the Caresfoots, he does not
care about parting with landed property, and, though we appear to be
good friends, he hates me too much ever to consent, under ordinary
circumstances, to sell it to me. It is to you I look to overcome that
objection."

"I! How?"

"You are a woman and you ask me how you should get the blind side of a
man!"

"I do not in the least understand you."

Philip smiled incredulously.

"Then I suppose I must explain. If ever you take the trouble to look
at yourself in the glass, you will probably see that Nature has been
very kind to you in the matter of good looks; nor are you by any means
deficient in brains. Your cousin George is very fond of a pretty
woman, and, to be plain, what I want you to do is to make use of your
advantages to get him under your thumb and persuade him into selling
the property."

"Oh! father, how can you?" ejaculated Angela, in an agony of shame.

"You idiot, I won't want you to marry him; I only want you to make a
fool of him. Surely, being of the sex you are, you won't find _that_
an uncongenial occupation."

Angela's blushes had given away to pallor now, and she answered with
cold contempt:

"I don't think you quite understand what a girl feels--at least, what
I feel, for I know no other girls. Perhaps it would be useless for me
to try to explain. I had rather go blind than use my eyes for such a
shameful purpose."

"Angela," said her father, with as much temper as he ever showed now,
"let me tell you that you are a silly fool; you are more, you are an
encumbrance. Your birth," he added, bitterly, "robbed me of your
mother, and the fact of your being a girl deprived our branch of the
family of their rights. Now that you have grown up, you prefer to
gratify your whims rather than help me to realize the object of my
life by a simple course of action that could do no one any harm. I
never asked you to commit yourself in any way. Well, well, it is what
I must expect. We have not seen much of each other heretofore, and
perhaps the less we meet in the future the better."

"You have no right to talk to me so," she answered, with flashing
eyes, "though I am your daughter, and it is cowardly to reproach me
with my birth, my sex, and my dependence. Am I responsible for any of
these things? But I will not burden you long. And as to what you
wanted me to do, and think such a little of, I ask you, is it what my
poor mother would have wished her daughter----"

Here Philip abruptly rose, and left the room and the house.

"She is as like her mother as possible," he mused, as soon as he was
clear of the house. "It might have been Hilda herself, only she is
twice as beautiful as Hilda was. I shall have another bad night after
this, I know I shall. I must get rid of that girl somehow, I cannot
bear her about me; she is a daily reminder of things I dare not
remember, and whenever she stares at me with those great eyes of hers,
I feel as though she were looking through me. I wonder if she knows
the story of Maria Lee!"

And then dismissing, or trying to dismiss, the matter from his mind,
he took his way across the fields to Isleworth Hall, a large white
brick mansion in the Queen Anne style, about two miles distant from
the Abbey, and, on arrival, asked for his cousin George, and was at
once shown into that gentleman's presence.

Years had told upon George more than they had upon Philip, and, though
there were no touches of grey in the flaming red of his hair, the
bloodshot eyes, and the puckered crowsfeet beneath them, to say
nothing of the slight but constant trembling of the hand, all showed
that he was a man well on in middle-life, and who had lived every day
of it. Time, too, had made the face more intensely unpleasant and
vulgar-looking than ever. Such Caresfoot characteristics as it
possessed were, year by year, giving place, in an increasingly greater
degree, to the kitchen-maid strain introduced by the mother. In short,
George Caresfoot did not even look a gentleman, whereas Philip
certainly did.

"You don't seem very well, George. I am afraid that your travels have
not agreed with you."

"My dear Philip," answered his cousin, in a languid and affected
voice, "if you had lived the life that I have for the last twenty
years, you would look a little knocked up. I have had some very good
times; but the fact is, that I have been too prodigal of my strength,
not thought enough about the future. It is a great mistake, and one of
the worst results is that I am utterly _blase_ of everything; even _la
belle passion_ is played out for me. I haven't seen a woman I care
twopence about for ten years."

"Ah! you should sell this place, and take a house in town; it would
suit you much better."

"I can do that without selling the place. I don't intend to sell the
place--in fact, nothing would induce me to do so. Some day I may
marry, and want to transmit it to some future Caresfoot; but I confess
I don't mean to do that just yet. Marry when you want a nurse, but
never before; that's my maxim. Marriage is an excellent institution
for parsons and fools, the two classes that Providence has created to
populate the world; but a wise man should as soon think of walking
into a spring-trap. Take your own case, for instance, my dear Philip;
look what marriage led to."

"At any rate," answered his cousin, bitterly, "it led to your
advantage."

"Exactly; and that is one of the reasons why I have such a respect for
the institution in the abstract. It has been my personal benefactor,
and I worship it accordingly--at a distance. By the way, talking of
marriage reminds me of its legitimate fruits. Bellamy tells me that
your daughter Angela (if I had a daughter, I should call her Diabola,
it is more appropriate for a woman) has grown uncommonly handsome.
Bring her to see me; I adore beauty in all its forms, especially its
female form. Is she really so handsome?"

"I am no judge, but you will soon have an opportunity of forming an
opinion--that is, I hope so. I propose coming with Angela to make a
formal call on you to-morrow."

"Good. Tell my fair cousin that I shall be certain to be in, and be
prepared, metaphorically, to fall at the feet of so much loveliness.
By the way, that reminds me; you have heard of Bellamy's, or rather
Mrs. Bellamy's, good fortune, I suppose?"

"No."

"What--not? Why, he is now Sir John Bellamy, knight."

"Indeed! How is that?"

"You remember the bye-election six months back?"

"Oh, yes! I was actually badgered by Mrs. Bellamy into promising to
vote, much against my personal convenience."

"Exactly. Well, just at the time, old Prescott died, you may remember
that Mr. Showers, the member of the Government, was unseated on
petition from some borough or other, and came down here post-haste to
get re-elected. But he had Sir Percy Vivyan against him, and, as I
know to my cost, this benighted country is not fond of those who
preach the gospel of progress. Bellamy, who is a stout Radical, as you
know--chiefly, I fancy, because there is more to be got out of that
side of politics--got the job as Showers' agent. But, three days
before, it became quite clear that his cause, cabinet minister or not,
was hopeless. Then it was that Mrs.--I beg her pardon, Lady--Bellamy
came to the fore. Just as Showers was thinking of withdrawing, she
demanded a private interview with him. Next day she posted off to old
Sir Percy, who is a perfect fool of the chivalrous school, and was
desperately fond of her, and, _mirabile dictu_, that evening Sir Percy
withdraws on the plea of ill-health or some such rubbish, and Showers
walks over. Within three months, Mr. Bellamy becomes Sir John Bellamy,
nominally for his services as town-clerk of Roxham, and I hear that
old Sir Percy is now perfectly rampant, and goes about cursing her
ladyship up hill and down dale, and declaring that he has been
shockingly taken-in. How our mutual friend worked the ropes is more
than I can tell you, but she did work them, and to some purpose."

"She is an uncommonly handsome woman."

"Ah! yes, you're right there, she is A1; but let us stroll out a
little; it is a fine evening for the 30th of April. To-morrow will be
the 1st of May, so it will, a day neither of us are likely to forget."

Philip winced at the allusion, but said nothing.

"By the way," George went on, "I am expecting a visitor, my ward,
young Arthur Heigham, who is just back from India. He will be twenty-
five in a few days, when he comes of age, and is coming down to settle
up. The fact is, that ten thousand of his money is on the Jotley
property, and both Bellamy and myself are anxious that it should stop
there for the present, as if the mortgage were called in it might be
awkward."

"Is he well off?"

"Comfortably; about a thousand a year; comes of an old family too.
Bellamy and I knew his father, Captain Heigham, slightly, when we were
in business. His wife, by the way, was a distant cousin of ours. They
are both dead now; the captain was wiped out at Inkerman, and, for
some unknown reason, left me the young gentleman's sole guardian and
joint trustee with a London lawyer, a certain Mr. Borley. I have never
seen him yet--my ward, I mean--he has always been at Eton, or
Cambridge, or in India, or somewhere."

Here Philip began to manifest signs of considerable uneasiness, the
cause of which was sufficiently apparent; for, whilst they were
talking, a very large and savage-looking animal of the sheep-dog order
had emerged from the house, and was following him up and down,
growling in a low and ominous undertone, its nose being the while
glued to his calves as they alternately presented themselves in his
line of vision.

"Would you mind calling off this animal, George?" he said at length.
"He does not look amiable."

"Oh! that's Snarleyow; don't mind him, he never bites unless you
stop." Philip instinctively quickened his pace. "Isn't he a beauty?
He's a pure bred Thibet sheep-dog, and I will back him to fight
against any animal of his own weight. He killed two dogs in one
morning the other day, and pulled down a beggar-woman in the evening.
You should have heard her holler."

At that moment, fortunately for Philip's calves, which were beginning
to tingle with an unwholesome excitement, Mr. Snarleyow's attention
was diverted by the approach of a dog-cart, and he left to enjoy the
amusement of snapping and barking at the horse. The cart pulled up at
the door, and out of it emerged a tall and extremely gentlemanly-
looking young fellow, followed by a very large red bull-dog.

"Mr. Caresfoot, I believe," said the young gentleman to George, taking
off his hat.

"Yes, Mr. Heigham, at your service. I am very glad to see you. My
cousin, Mr. Philip Caresfoot."



                            CHAPTER XVIII

"I must apologize for having brought Aleck, my dog, you know, with
me," began Arthur Heigham; "but the fact was, that at the very last
moment the man I was going to leave him with had to go away, and I had
no time to find another place before the train left. I thought that,
if you objected to dogs, he could easily be sent somewhere into the
village. He is very good-tempered, though appearances are against
him."

"Oh! he will be all right, I daresay," said George, rather sulkily;
for, with the exception of Snarleyow, in whose fiendish temper he
found something refreshing and congenial, he liked no dogs. "But you
must be careful, or Snarleyow, _my_ dog, will give him a hammering.
Here, good dog, good dog," and he attempted to pat Aleck on the head,
but the animal growled savagely, and avoided him.

"I never knew him do that before," ejaculated Arthur, in confusion,
and heartily wishing Aleck somewhere else. "I suppose he has taken a
dislike to you. Dogs do sometimes, you know."

Next second it struck him that this was one of those things that had
better have been left unsaid, and he grew more uncomfortable than
ever. But at this very moment the situation was rendered intensely
lively by the approach of the redoubtable Snarleyow himself, who,
having snapped at the horse's heels all the way to the stables, had on
his return to the front of the house spotted Aleck from afar. He was
now advancing on tiptoe in full order of battle, his wicked-looking
teeth gleaming, and his coat and tail standing out like an angry
bear's.

Arthur, already sufficiently put out about the dog question, thought
it best to take no notice; and even when he distinctly heard George
quietly "sah" on his dog as he passed him, he contented himself with
giving Aleck a kick by way of a warning to behave himself, and entered
into some desultory conversation with Philip. But presently a series
of growls behind him announced that an encounter was imminent. Looking
round, he perceived that Snarleyow was standing over the bull-dog, of
which he was more than twice the size, and holding on to the skin of
his neck with his long teeth; whilst George was looking on with
scarcely suppressed amusement.

"I think, Mr. Caresfoot, that you had better call your dog off," said
Arthur, good-temperedly. "Mine is a peaceable animal, but he is an
awkward customer when he does fight."

"Oh! better let them settle it; they will be much better friends
afterwards. Hold him, Snarleyow."

Thus encouraged, the big dog seized the other, and fairly lifted him
off the ground, shaking him violently--a proceeding that had the
effect of thoroughly rousing Aleck's temper. And then began a most
Homeric combat. At first the bull-dog was dreadfully mauled; his
antagonist's size, weight, and length of leg and jaw, to say nothing
of the thick coat by which he was protected, all telling against him.
But he took his punishment very quietly, never so much as uttering a
growl, in strange contrast to the big dog's vociferous style of doing
business. And at last patience was rewarded by his enemy's fore-paw
finding its way into Aleck's powerful jaw, and remaining there till
Snarleyow's attentions to the back of his neck forced him to shift his
hold. From that time forward the sheep-dog had to fight on three legs,
which he found demoralizing. But still he had the advantage, and it
was not until any other dog of Aleck's size would have retreated half
killed that the bull-dog's superior courage and stamina began to tell.
Quite heedless of his injuries, and the blood that poured into his
eyes, he slowly but surely drove the great sheep-dog, who by this time
would have been glad to stop, back into an angle of the wall, and then
suddenly pinned him by the throat. Down went Snarleyow on the top of
the bull-dog, and rolled right over him, but when he staggered to his
legs again, his throat was still in its cruel grip.

"Take your dog off!" shouted George, seeing that affairs had taken a
turn he very little expected.

"I fear that is impossible," replied Arthur, politely, but looking
anything but polite.

"If you don't get it off, I will shoot it."

"You will do nothing of the sort, Mr. Caresfoot; you set the dog on,
and you must take the consequences. Ah! the affair is finished."

As he spoke, the choking Snarleyow, whose black tongue was protruding
from his jaws, gave one last convulsive struggle, and ceased to
breathe. Satisfied with this result, Aleck let go, and having sniffed
contemptuously at his dead antagonist, returned to his master's side,
and, sitting quietly down, began to lick such of his numerous wounds
as he could reach.

George, when he realized that his favourite was dead, turned upon his
guest in a perfect fury. His face looked like a devil's. But Arthur,
acting with wonderful self-possession for so young a man, stopped him.

"Remember, Mr. Caresfoot, before you say anything that you may regret,
that neither I nor my dog is to blame for what has happened. I am
exceedingly sorry that your dog should have been killed, but it is
your own fault. I am afraid, however, that, after what has happened, I
shall be as unwelcome here as Aleck; so, if you will kindly order the
cart for me again, I will move on. Our business can no doubt be
finished off by letter."

George made no reply: it was evident that he could not trust himself
to speak, but, turning sullenly on his heel, walked towards the house.

"Wait a bit, Mr. Heigham," said Philip, who had been watching the
whole scene with secret delight. "You are perfectly in the right. I
will go and try to bring my cousin to his senses. I am very thankful
to your dog for killing that accursed brute."

He was away for about ten minutes, during which Arthur took Aleck to a
fountain there was in the centre of a grass plot in front of the
house, and washed his many wounds, none of which, however, were,
thanks to the looseness of his hide, very serious. Just as he had
finished that operation, a gardener arrived with a wheelbarrow to
fetch away the deceased Snarleyow.

"Lord, sir," he said to Arthur, "I am glad to have the job of tucking
up this here brute. He bit my missus last week, and killed a whole
clutch of early ducks. I seed the row through the bushes. That 'ere
dog of yours, sir, he did fight in proper style; I should like to have
a dog like he."

Just then the re-arrival of Philip put a stop to the conversation.
Drawing Arthur aside, he told him that George begged to apologize for
what had occurred, and hoped that he would not think of going away.

"But," added Philip, with a little laugh, "I don't pretend that he has
taken a fancy to you, and, if I were you, I should cut my visit
short."

"That is exactly my view of the case. I will leave to-morrow evening."

Philip made no further remarks for a few moments. He was evidently
thinking. Presently he said,

"I see you have a fishing-rod amongst your things; if you find the
time hang heavy on your hands to-morrow, or wish to keep out of the
way, you had better come over to Bratham Lake and fish. There are some
very large carp and perch there, and pike too, for the matter of that,
but they are out of season."

Arthur thanked him, and said that he should probably come, and, having
received instructions as to the road, they parted, Arthur to go and
shut up Aleck in an outhouse pointed out to him by his friend the
gardener, and thence to dress for a dinner that he looked forward to
with dread, and Philip to make his way home. As he passed up through
the little flower-garden at the Abbey House, he came across his
daughter, picking the blight from her shooting rose-trees.

"Angela," he said, "I am sorry if I offended your prejudices this
afternoon. Don't let us say anything more about it; but I want you to
come and pay a formal call with me at Isleworth to-morrow. It will
only be civil that you should do so."

"I never paid a call in my life," she answered, doubtfully, "and I
don't want to call on my cousin George."

"Oh! very well," and he began to move on. She stopped him.

"I will go, if you like."

"At three o'clock, then. Oh! by the way, don't be surprised if you see
a young gentleman fishing here to-morrow."

Angela reflected to herself that she had never yet seen a young
gentleman to speak to in her life, and then asked, with undisguised
interest, who he was.

"Well, he is a sort of connection of your own, through the Prestons,
who are cousins of ours, if any of them are left. His mother was a
Preston, and his name is Arthur Preston Heigham. George told me
something about him just now, and, on thinking it over, I remember the
whole story. He is an orphan, and George's ward."

"What is he like?" asked Angela, ingenuously.

"Really I don't know; rather tall, I think--a gentlemanly fellow. It
really is a relief to speak to a gentleman again. There has been a
nice disturbance at Isleworth," and then he told his daughter the
history of the great dog fight.

"I should think Mr. Heigham was perfectly in the right, and I should
like to see his dog," was her comment on the occurrence.



As Arthur dressed himself for dinner that evening he came to the
conclusion that he disliked his host more than any man he ever saw,
and, to say the truth, he descended into the dining-room with
considerable misgivings. Just as he entered, the opposite door opened,
and Sir John Bellamy was announced. On seeing him, George emerged from
the sulky silence into which he was plunged, and advanced to meet him.

"Hullo, Bellamy! I must congratulate you upon your accession to rank."

"Thank you, Caresfoot, thank you," replied Mr. Bellamy, who, with the
exception that he had grown a size larger, and boasted a bald patch on
the top of his head that gave him something of a appearance of a jolly
little monk, looked very much the same as when we last saw him as a
newly married man.

"A kind Providence," he went on, rubbing his dry hands, and glancing
nervously under the chairs, "has put this honour into my hands."

"A Providence in petticoats, you mean," broke in George.

"Possibly, my dear Caresfoot; but I do not see him. Is it possible
that he is lurking yonder, behind the sofa?"

"Who on earth do you mean?"

"I mean that exceedingly fine dog of yours, Snarleyow. Snarleyow,
where are you? Excuse me for taking precautions, but last time he put
his head under my chair and bit me severely, as I dare say you
remember."

Arthur groaned at hearing the subject thus brought forward.

"Mr. Heigham's dog killed Snarleyow this afternoon," said George, in a
savage voice.

At this intelligence, Sir John's face became wreathed in smiles.

"I am deeply delighted--I mean grieved--to hear it. Poor Snarleyow! he
was a charming dog; and to think that such a fate should have
overtaken him, when it was only last week that he did the same kind
office for Anne's spaniel. Poor Snarleyow! you should really have him
stuffed. But, my dear Caresfoot, you have not yet introduced me to the
hero of the evening, Mr. Heigham. Mr. Heigham, I am delighted to make
your acquaintance," and he shook hands with Arthur with gentle
enthusiasm, as though he were the last scion of a race that he had
known and loved for generations.

Presently dinner was announced, and the three sat down at a small
round table in the centre of the big dining-room, on which was placed
a shaded lamp. It was not a cheerful dinner. George, having said
grace, relapsed into moody silence, eating and drinking with gusto but
in moderation, and savouring every sup of wine and morsel of food as
though he regretted its departure. He was not free from gluttony, but
he was a judicious glutton. For his part, Arthur found a certain
fascination in watching his guardian's red head as he bobbed up and
down opposite to him, and speculating on the thickness of each
individual hair that contributed to give it such a spiky effect. What
had his mother been like, he wondered, that she had started him in
life with such an entirely detestable countenance? Meanwhile he was
replying in monosyllables to Sir John's gentle babblings, till at last
even that gentleman's flow of conversation ran dry, and Arthur was
left free to contemplate the head in solemn silence. As soon as the
cloth had been cleared away, George suggested that they had better get
to work. Arthur assented, and Sir John, smiling with much sweetness,
remarked profoundly that business was one of the ills of life, and
must be attended to.

"At any rate, it is an ill that has agreed uncommonly well with you,"
growled George, as, rising from the table, he went to a solid iron
safe that stood in the corner of the room, and, unlocking it with a
small key that he took from his pocket, extracted a bundle of
documents.

"That is an excellent deed-box of yours, Caresfoot," said Sir John
carelessly.

"Yes; that lock would not be very easy to pick. It is made on my own
design."

"But don't you find that small parcels such as private letters are apt
to get lost in it? It is so big."

"Oh! no; there is a separate compartment for them. Now, Mr. Heigham."
And then, with the able and benign assistance of Sir John, he
proceeded to utterly confuse and mystify Arthur, till stocks,
preference-shares, consols, and mortgages were all whirling in his
bewildered brain. Having satisfactorily reduced him to this condition,
he suddenly sprang upon him the proposal he had in view with reference
to the Jotley mortgage, pointing out to him that it was an excellent
investment, and strongly advising him, "as a friend," to leave the
money upon the land. Arthur hesitated a little, more from natural
caution than anything he could urge to the contrary, and George,
noticing it, said,

"It is only right that, before you come to any decision, you should
see the map of the estate, and a copy of the deed. I have both in the
next room, if you care to come and look at them."

Arthur assented, and they went off together; Sir John, whose eyes
appeared to be a little heavy under the influence of the port,
presuming that he was not wanted. But, no sooner had the door closed,
than the worthy knight proved himself very wide-awake. Indeed, he
commenced a singular course of action. Advancing on tiptoe to the safe
in the corner of the room, he closely inspected it through his
eyeglass. Then he cautiously tried the lid of an artfully contrived
subdivision.

"Um!" he muttered, half aloud, "that's where they are; I wish I had
ten minutes."

Next he returned swiftly to the table, and, taking a piece of the soft
bread which he was eating instead of biscuit with his wine, he rapidly
kneaded it into dough, and, going to the safe, divided the material
into two portions. One portion he carefully pressed upon the keyhole
of the subdivision, and then, extracting the key of the safe itself,
took a very fair impress of its wards on the other. This done, he
carefully put the pieces of dough in his breast-pocket in such a way
that they were not likely to be crushed, and, with a smile of
satisfaction, returned to his chair, helped himself to a glass of
port, and dozed off.

"Hullo, Bellamy, gone to sleep! Wake up, man. We have settled this
business about the mortgage. Will you write to Mr. Borley, and convey
Mr. Heigham's decision? And perhaps"--addressing Arthur--"you will do
the same on your own account."

"Certainly I will write, Caresfoot; and now I think that I must be
off. Her ladyship does not like having to sit up for me."

George laughed in a peculiarly insulting way.

"I don't think she would care much, Bellamy, if you stayed away all
night. But look here, tell her I want to see her to-morrow; don't
forget."

Sir John bit his knightly lip, but answered, smiling, that he would
remember, and begging George not to ring, as his trap was at the hall-
door, and the servant waiting, he bade an affectionate good-night to
Arthur, to whom he expressed a hope that they would soon meet again,
and let himself out of the room. But, as soon as the door was closed,
he went through another performance exceedingly inappropriate in a
knight. Turning round, his smug face red with anger, he pirouetted on
his toes, and shook his fist violently in the direction of the door.

"You scoundrel!" he said between his teeth, "you have made a fool of
me for twenty years, and I have been obliged to grin and bear it; but
I will be even with you yet, and her too, more especially her."

So soon as Sir John had left, Arthur told his host that, if the
morning was fine, he proposed to go and fish in Bratham Lake, and that
he also proposed to take his departure by the last train on the
following evening. To these propositions George offered no objection--
indeed, they were distinctly agreeable to him, as lessening the time
he would be forced to spend in the society of a guest he cordially
detested, for such was the feeling that he had conceived towards
Arthur.

Then they parted for the night; but, before he left the room, George
went to lock up the safe that was still open in the corner. Struck by
some thought, he unlocked the separate compartment with a key that
hung on his watch-chain, and extracted therefrom a thick and neatly
folded packet of letters. Drawing out one or two, he glanced through
them and replaced them.

"Oh! Lady Anne, Lady Anne," he said to himself as he closed the case,
"you are up in the world now, and you aspire to rule the county
society, and have both the wealth and the wit to do it; but you must
not kick over the traces, or I shall be forced to suppress you, Lady
Anne, though you are the wife of a Brummagem knight, and I think that
it is time you had a little reminder. You are growing a touch too
independent."



                             CHAPTER XIX

Arthur's sleep was oppressed that night by horrible nightmares of
fighting dogs, whereof the largest and most ferocious was fitted with
George's red head, the effect of which, screwed, without any eye to
the fitness of things, to the body of the deceased Snarleyow, struck
him as peculiarly disagreeable. He himself was armed with a gun, and
whilst he was still arguing with Sir John Bellamy the nice point
whether, should he execute that particular animal, as he felt a carnal
longing to do, it would be manslaughter or dogslaughter, he found
himself wide awake.

It was very early in the morning of the 1st of May, and, contrary to
the usual experience of the inhabitants of these islands, the sky gave
promise of a particularly fine day, just the day for fishing. He did
not feel sleepy, and, had he done so, he had had enough of his doggy
dreams; so he got up, dressed, and taking his fishing-rod, let himself
out of the house as he had been instructed to do on the previous
evening, and, releasing Aleck from his outhouse, proceeded towards
Bratham Lake.

And about this time Angela woke up too, for she always rose early, and
ran to the window to see what sort of a day she had got for her
birthday. Seeing it to be so fine, she threw open the old lattice, at
which her pet raven Jack was already tapping to be admitted, and let
the sweet air play upon her face and neck, and thought what a
wonderful thing it was to be twenty years old. And then, kneeling by
the window, she said her prayers after her own fashion, thanking God
who had spared her to see this day, and praying Him to show her what
to do with her life, and, if it was His will, to make it a little less
lonely. Then she rose and dressed herself, feeling that now that she
had done with her teens, she was in every respect a woman grown--
indeed, quite old. And, in honour of the event, she chose out of her
scanty store of dresses, all of them made by Pigott and herself, her
very prettiest, the one she had had for Sunday wear last summer, a
tight-fitting robe of white stuff, with soft little frills round the
neck and wrists. Next she put on a pair of stout boots calculated to
keep out the morning dew, and started off.

Now all this had taken a good time, nearly an hour perhaps; for, being
her birthday, and there having been some mention of a young gentleman
who might possibly come to fish, she had plaited up her shining hair
with extra care, a very laborious business when your hair hangs down
to your knees.

Meanwhile our other early riser, Arthur, had made his way first to the
foot of the lake and then along the little path that skirted its area
till he came to Caresfoot Staff. Having sufficiently admired that
majestic oak, for he was a great lover of timber, he proceeded to
investigate the surrounding water with the eye of a true fisherman. A
few yards further up there jutted into the water that fragment of wall
on which stood the post, now quite rotten, to which Angela had bound
herself on the day of the great storm. At his feet, too, the
foundations of another wall ran out for some distance into the lake,
being, doubtless, the underpinning of an ancient boathouse, but this
did not rise out of the water, but stopped within six inches of the
surface. Between these two walls lay a very deep pool.

"Just the place for a heavy fish," reflected Arthur, and, even as he
thought it, he saw a five-pound carp rise nearly to the surface, in
order to clear the obstruction of the wall, and sink silently into the
depths.

Retiring carefully to one of two quaintly carven stone blocks placed
at the foot of the oak-tree, on which, doubtless, many a monk had sat
in meditation, he set himself to get his fishing-gear together.
Presently, however, struck by the beauty of the spot and its quiet,
only broken by the songs of many nesting birds, he stopped a while to
look around him. Above his head the branches of a great oak, now
clothing themselves with the most vivid green, formed a dome-like
roof, beneath the shade of which grew the softest moss, starred here
and there with primroses and violets. Outside the circle of its shadow
the brushwood of mingled hazel and ash-stubs rose thick and high,
ringing-in the little spot as with a wall, except where its depths
were pierced by the passage of a long green lane of limes that, unlike
the shrubberies, appeared to be kept in careful order, and of which
the arching boughs formed a perfect leafy tunnel. Before him lay the
lake where the long morning lights quivered and danced, as its calm
was now and again ruffled by a gentle breeze. The whole scene had a
lovely and peaceful look, and, gazing on it, Arthur fell into a
reverie.

Sitting thus dreamily, his face looked at its best, its expression of
gentle thoughtfulness giving it an attraction beyond what it was
entitled to, judged purely from a sculptor's point of view. It was an
intellectual face, a face that gave signs of great mental
possibilities, but for all that a little weak about the mouth. The
brow indicated some degree of power, and the mouth and eyes no small
capacities for affection and all sorts of human sympathy and kindness.
These last, in varying lights, could change as often as the English
climate; their groundwork, however, was blue, and they were honest and
bonny. In short, a man in looking at Arthur Heigham at the age of
twenty-four would have reflected that, even among English gentlemen,
he was remarkable for his gentleman-like appearance, and a "fellow one
would like to know;" a girl would have dubbed him "nice-looking;" and
a middle-aged woman--and most women do not really understand the
immense difference between men until they are getting on that way--
would have recognized in him a young man by no means uninteresting,
and one who might, according to the circumstances of his life, develop
into anything or--nothing in particular.

Presently, drawn by some unguessed attraction, Arthur took his eyes
off an industrious water-hen, who was building a nest in a hurried
way, as though she were not quite sure of his intentions, and
perceived a large raven standing on one leg on the grass, about three
yards from him, and peering at him comically out of one eye. This was
odd. But his glance did not stop at the raven, for a yard or two
beyond it he caught sight of a white skirt, and his eyes, travelling
upwards, saw first a rounded waist, and then a bust and pair of
shoulders such as few women can boast, and at last, another pair of
eyes; and he then and there fell utterly and irretrievably in love.

"Good heavens!" he said, aloud--poor fellow, he did not mean to say
it, it was wrung from the depths of his heart--"good heavens, how
lovely she is!"

Let the reader imagine the dreadful confusion produced in that other
pair of eyes at the open expression of such a sentiment, and the vivid
blush that stained the fair face in which they were set, if he can.
But somehow they did not grow angry--perhaps it was not in the nature
of the most sternly repressive young lady to grow angry at a
compliment which, however marked, was so evidently genuine and
unpremeditated. In another moment Arthur bethought him of what he had
said, and it was his turn to blush. He recovered himself pretty well,
however. Rising from his stone seat, he took off his hat, and said,
humbly,

"I beg your pardon, but you startled me so, and really for a moment I
thought that you were the spirit of the place, or," he added,
gracefully, pointing to a branch of half-opened hawthorn bloom she
held in her hand, "the original Queen of the May."

Angela blushed again. The compliment was only implied this time; she
had therefore no possible pretext for getting angry.

For a moment she dropped the sweet eyes that looked as though they
were fresh from reading the truths of heaven before his gaze of
unmistakable admiration, and stood confused; and, as she stood, it
struck Arthur that there was something more than mere beauty of form
and feature about her--an indescribable something, a glory of
innocence, a reflection of God's own light that tinged the worship her
loveliness commanded with a touch of reverential awe.

"The angels must look like that," he thought. But he had no time to
think any more, for next moment she had gathered up her courage in
both her hands, and was speaking to him in a soft voice, of which the
tones went ringing on through all the changes of his life.

"My father told me that he had asked you to come and fish, but I did
not expect to meet you so early. I--I fear that I am disturbing you,"
and she made as though she would be going.

Arthur felt that this was a contingency to be prevented at all
hazards.

"You are Miss Caresfoot," he said, hurriedly, "are you not?"

"Yes--I am Angela; I need not ask your name, my father told it me. You
are Mr. Arthur Heigham."

"Yes. And do you know that we are cousins?" This was a slight
exaggeration, but he was glad to advance any plea to her confidence
that occurred to him.

"Yes; my father said something about our being related. I have no
relations except my cousin George, and I am very glad to make the
acquaintance of one," and she held out her hand to him in a winning
way.

He took it almost reverently.

"You cannot," he said with much sincerity, "be more glad than I am. I,
too, am without relations. Till lately I had my mother, but she died
last year."

"Were you very fond of her?" she asked, softly.

He nodded in reply, and, feeling instinctively that she was on
delicate ground, Angela pursued the conversation no further.

Meanwhile Aleck had awoke from a comfortable sleep in which he was
indulging on the other stone seat, and, coming forward, sniffed at
Angela and wagged his tail in approval--a liberty that was instantly
resented by the big raven, who had now been joined by another not
quite so large. Advancing boldly, it pecked him sharply on the tail--a
proceeding that caused Master Aleck to jump round as quickly as his
maimed condition would allow him, only to receive a still harder peck
from its companion bird; indeed, it was not until Angela intervened
with the bough of hawthorn that they would cease from their attack.

"They are such jealous creatures," she explained; "they always follow
me about, and fly at every dog that comes near me. Poor dog! that is
the one, I suppose, who killed Snarleyow. My father told me all about
it."

"Yes, it is easy to see that," said Arthur, laughing, and pointing to
Aleck, who, indeed, was in lamentable case, having one eye entirely
closed, a large strip of plaster on his head, and all the rest of his
body more or less marked with bites. "It is an uncommonly awkward
business for me, and your cousin will not forgive it in a hurry, I
fancy; but it really was not poor Aleck's fault--he is gentle as a
lamb, if only he is let alone."

"He has a very honest face, though his nose does look as though it
were broken," she said, and, stooping down, she patted the dog.

"But I must be going in to breakfast," she went on, presently. "It is
eight o'clock; the sun always strikes that bough at eight in spring,"
and she pointed to a dead limb, half hidden by the budding foliage of
the oak.

"You must observe closely to have noticed that, but I do not think
that the sun is quite on it yet. I do not like to lose my new-found
relations in such a hurry," he added, with a somewhat forced smile,
"and I am to go away from here this evening."

The intelligence was evidently very little satisfactory to Angela, nor
did she attempt to conceal her concern.

"I am very sorry to hear that," she said. "I hoped you were going to
stay for some time."

"And so I might have, had it not been for that brute Aleck, but he has
put a long sojourn with your cousin and the ghost of Snarleyow out of
the question; so I suppose I must go by the 6.20 train. At any rate,"
he added, more brightly, as a thought struck him, "I must go from
Isleworth."

She did not appear to see the drift of the last part of his remark,
but answered,

"I am going with my father to call at Isleworth at three this
afternoon, so perhaps we shall meet again there; but now, before I go
in, I will show you a better place than this to fish, a little higher
up, where Jakes, our gardener, always sets his night-lines."

Arthur assented, as he would have been glad to assent to anything
likely to prolong the interview, and they walked off slowly together,
talking as cheerfully as a sense that the conversation must soon come
to an end would allow. The spot was reached all too soon, and Angela
with evident reluctance, for she was not accustomed to conceal her
feelings, said that she must now go.

"Why must you go so soon?"

"Well, to tell you the truth, to-day is my birthday--I am twenty
to-day--and I know that Pigott, my old nurse, means to give me a
little present at breakfast, and she will be dreadfully disappointed
if I am late. She has been thinking a great deal about it, you see."

"May I wish you many, very many, happy returns of the day? and"--with
a little hesitation--"may I also offer you a present, a very worthless
one I fear?"

"How can I----" stammered Angela, when he cut her short.

"Don't be afraid; it is nothing tangible, though it is something that
you may not think worth accepting."

"What do you mean?" she said bluntly, for her interest was aroused.

"Don't be angry. My present is only the offer of myself as your
sincere friend."

She blushed vividly as she answered,

"You are very kind. I have never had but one friend--Mr. Fraser; but,
if you think you can like me enough, it will make me very happy to be
your friend too." And in another second she was gone, with her ravens
flying after her, to receive her present and a jobation from Pigott
for being late, and to eat her breakfast with such appetite as an
entirely new set of sensations can give.

In the garden she met her father, walking up and down before the
house, and informed him that she had been talking to Mr. Heigham. He
looked up with a curious expression of interest.

"Why did you not ask him in to breakfast?" he said.

"Because there is nothing to eat except bread and milk."

"Ah!--well, perhaps you were right. I will go down and speak to him.
No; I forgot I shall see him this afternoon."

And Arthur, let those who disbelieve in love at first sight laugh if
they will, sat down to think, trembling in every limb, utterly shaken
by the inrush of a new and strong emotion. He had not come to the age
of twenty-four without some experience of the other sex, but never
before had he known any such sensation as that which now overpowered
him, never before had he fully realized what solitude meant as he did
now that she had left him. In youth, when love does come, he comes as
a strong man armed.

And so, steady and overwhelming all resistance, the full tide of a
pure passion poured itself into his heart. There was no pretence or
make-believe about it; the bold that sped from Angela's grey eyes had
gone straight home, and would remain an "ever-fixed mark," so long as
life itself should last.

For only once in a lifetime does a man succumb after this fashion. To
many, indeed, no such fortune--call it good or ill--will ever come,
since the majority of men flirt or marry, indulge in "platonic
friendships," or in a consistent course of admiration of their
neighbours' wives, as fate or fancy leads them, and wear their time
away without ever having known the meaning of such love as this. There
is no fixed rule about it; the most unlikely, even the more sordid and
contemptible of mankind, are liable to become the subjects of an
enduring passion; only then it raises them; for though strong
affection, especially, if unrequited, sometimes wears and enervates
the mind, its influence is, in the main, undoubtedly ennobling. But,
though such affection is bounded by no rule, it is curious to observe
how generally true are the old sayings which declare that a man's
thoughts return to his first real love, as naturally and unconsciously
as the needle, that has for a while been drawn aside by some
overmastering influence, returns to its magnetic pole. The needle has
wavered, but it has never shaken off its allegiance; that would be
against nature, and is therefore impossible; and so it is with the
heart. It is the eves that he loved as a lad which he sees through the
gathering darkness of his death-bed; it is a chance but that he will
always adore the star which first came to share his loneliness in this
shadowed world above all the shining multitudes in heaven.

And, though it is not every watcher who will find it, early or late,
that star may rise for him, as it did for Arthur now. A man may meet a
face which it is quite beyond his power to forget, and be touched of
lips that print their kiss upon his very heart. Yes, the star may
rise, to pursue its course, perhaps beyond the ken of his horizon, or
only to set again before he has learnt to understand its beauty--
rarely, very rarely, to shed its perfect light upon him for all his
time of watching. The star may rise and set; the sweet lips whose
touch still thrills him after so many years may lie to-day


                "Beyond the graveyard's barren wall,"


or, worse still, have since been sold to some richer owner. But if
once it has risen, if once those lips have met, the memory _must_
remain; the Soul knows no forgetfulness, and, the little thread of
life spun out, will it not claim its own? For the compact that it has
sealed is holy among holy things; that love which it has given is of
its own nature, and not of the body alone--it is inscrutable as death,
and everlasting as the heavens.

Yes, the fiat has gone forth; for good or for evil, for comfort or for
scorn, for the world and for eternity, he loves her! Henceforth that
love, so lightly and yet so irredeemably given, will become the
guiding spirit of his inner life, rough-hewing his destinies,
directing his ends, and shooting its memories and hopes through the
whole fabric of his being like an interwoven thread of gold. He may
sin against it, but he can never forget it; other interests and ties
may overlay it, but they cannot extinguish it; he may drown its
fragrance in voluptuous scents, but, when these have satiated and
become hateful, it will re-arise, pure and sweet as ever. Time or
separation cannot destroy it--for it is immortal; use cannot stale it,
pain can only sanctify it. It will be to him as a beacon-light to the
sea-worn mariner that tells of home and peace upon the shore, as a
rainbow-promise set upon the sky. It alone of all things pertaining to
him will defy the attacks of the consuming years, and when, old and
withered, he lays him down to die, it will at last present itself
before his glazing eyes, an embodied joy, clad in shining robes, and
breathing the airs of Paradise!

For such is love to those to whom it has been given to see him face to
face.



                              CHAPTER XX

Arthur did not do much fishing that morning; indeed, he never so much
as got his line into the water--he simply sat there lost in dreams,
and hoping in a vague way that Angela would come back again. But she
did not come back, though it would be difficult to say what prevented
her; for, had he but known it, she was for the space of a full hour
sitting within a hundred yards of him, and occasionally peeping out to
watch his mode of fishing with some curiosity. It was, she reflected,
exceedingly unlike that practised by Jakes. She, too, was wishing that
he would detect her, and come to talk to her; but, amongst other new
sensations, she was now the victim of a most unaccountable shyness,
and could not make up her mind to reveal her whereabouts.

At last Arthur awoke from his long reverie, and remembered with a
sudden pang that he had had nothing to eat since the previous evening,
and that he was consequently exceedingly hungry. He also discovered,
on consulting his watch, that it was twelve o'clock, and, moreover,
that he was quite stiff from sitting so long in the same position. So,
sighing to think that such a vulgar necessity as that of obtaining
food should force him to depart, he put up his unused fishing-rod and
started for Isleworth, where he arrived just as the bell was ringing
for lunch.

George received him with cold civility, and asked him what sport he
had, to which he was forced to reply--none.

"Did you see anybody there?"

"Yes, I met Miss Caresfoot."

"Ah! trust a girl to trail out a man. What is she like? I remember her
a raw-boned girl of fourteen with fine eyes."

"I think that she is the handsomest woman I ever saw," Arthur replied,
coldly.

"Ah!" said George, with a rude little laugh, "youth is always
enthusiastic, especially when the object is of the dairymaid cut."

There was something so intensely insolent in his host's way of talking
that Arthur longed to throw a dish at him, but he restrained his
feelings, and dropped the subject.

"Let me see, you are only just home from India, are you?" asked
George, presently.

"I got back at the beginning of last month."

"And what were you doing there?"

"Travelling about and shooting."

"Did you get much sport?"

"No, I was rather unfortunate, but I and another fellow killed two
tigers, and went after a rogue elephant; but he nearly killed us. I
got some very good ibix-shooting in Cashmere, however."

"What do you intend to do with yourself now? Your education has been
extravagantly expensive, especially the Cambridge part of it. Are you
going to turn it to any account?"

"Yes. I am going to travel for another year, and then read for the
Bar. There is no particular object in being called too young, and I
wish to see something more of the world first."

"Ah! I see, idleness called by a fine name."

"Really I cannot agree with you," said Arthur, who was rapidly losing
his temper.

"Of course you can't, but every man has a right to choose his own road
to the dogs. Come," he added, with a smile of malice, as he noticed
Arthur's rising colour, "no need to get angry; you see I stand _in
loco parentis_, and feel bound to express my opinion."

"I must congratulate you on the success with which you assume the
character," answered Arthur, now thoroughly put-out; "but, as
everything I have done or mean to do is so distasteful to you, I think
it is a pity that you did not give me the benefit of your advice a
little sooner."

George's only answer was a laugh, and presently the two parted,
detesting each other more cordially than ever.

At half-past three, when George was still away, for he had gone out
with his bailiff immediately after lunch, Philip and his daughter were
shown into the drawing-room, where we may be sure Arthur was awaiting
them.

"Mr. Caresfoot is not back yet," said Arthur, "but I do not suppose
that he will be long."

"Oh! he will be here soon," said Philip, "because I told him we were
coming to call. What sort of sport did you have? What, none! I am very
sorry. You must come and try again--ah! I forgot you are going away.
by the way, Mr. Heigham, why should you go just yet? If you are fond
of fishing, and have nothing better to do, come and put up at the
Abbey House for a while; we are plain people, but there is plenty of
room, and you shall have a hearty welcome. Would you care to come?"

It would have been amusing to any outsider to watch Angela's face as
she heard this astounding proposition, for nobody had been invited
inside her father's doors within her recollection. It assumed first of
all a look of blank amazement, which was presently changed into one of
absolute horror.

"Would he come, indeed?" reflected Arthur. "Would he step into
Paradise? would he accept the humble offer of free quarters in the
Garden of Eden?" Rapture beamed so visibly from every feature of his
face that Philip saw it and smiled. Just as he was about to accept
with enthusiasm, he caught sight of Angela's look of distress. It
chilled him like the sudden shock of cold water; she did not wish him
to come, he thought, she did not care for him. Obliged, however, to
give an answer, he said,

"I shall be delighted if"--and here he bowed towards her--"Miss
Caresfoot does not object."

"If father," broke in Angela, with hesitation, "you could arrange that
Mr. Heigham came to-morrow, not to-day, it would be more convenient. I
must get a room ready."

"Ah! domestic details; I had overlooked them. I daresay you can manage
that--eh, Heigham?"

"Oh! yes, easily, thank you."

As he said the words, the door was flung open, and "Lady Bellamy" was
announced with the energy that a footman always devotes to the
enunciation of a title, and next second a splendid creature,
magnificently dressed, sailed into the room.

"Ah! how do you do, Mr. Caresfoot?" she said, in that low, rich voice
that he remembered so well. "It is some time since we met; indeed, it
quite brings back old times to see you, when we were all young people
together."

"At any rate, Lady Bellamy, you show no signs of age; indeed, if you
will permit me to say so, you look more beautiful than ever."

"Ah! Mr. Caresfoot, you have not forgotten how to be gallant, but let
me tell you that it entirely depends upon what light I am in. If you
saw me in the midst of one of those newfangled electric illuminations,
you would see that I do look old; but what can one expect at forty?"
Here her glance fell upon Angela's face for the first time, and she
absolutely started; the great pupils of her eyes expanded, and a dark
frown spread itself for a moment over her countenance. Next second it
was gone. "Is it possible that that beautiful girl is your daughter?
But, remembering her mother, I need not ask. Look at her, Mr.
Caresfoot, and then look at me, and say whether or not I look old. And
who is the young man? Her lover, I suppose--at any rate, he looks like
it; but please introduce me."

"Angela," said Philip, crossing to the window where they were talking,
"let me introduce you to Lady Bellamy. Mr. Heigham--Lady Bellamy."

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss Caresfoot, though I
think it is very generous of me to say so."

Angela looked puzzled.

"Indeed!" she said.

"What! do you not guess why it is generous? Then look at yourself in
the glass, and you will see. I used to have some pretension to good
looks, but I could never have stood beside you at the best of times,
and now---- Your mother, even when I was at my best, always _killed_
me if I was in the same room with her, and you are even handsomer than
your mother."

Angela blushed very much at this unqualified praise, and, putting it
and the exclamation her appearance had that morning wrung from Arthur
together, she suddenly came to the conclusion--for, odd as it may
seem, she had never before taken the matter into serious consideration
--that she must be very good-looking, a conclusion that made her feel
extremely happy, she could not quite tell why.

It was whilst she was thus blushing and looking her happiest and
loveliest that George, returning from his walk, chanced to look in at
the window and see her, and, gradually drawn by the attraction of her
beauty, his eyes fixed themselves intently upon her, and his coarse
features grew instinct with a mixture of hungry wickedness and
delighted astonishment. It was thus that Arthur and Lady Bellamy saw
him. Philip, who was looking at a picture in the corner of the room,
did not see him; nor, indeed, did Angela. The look was unmistakable,
and once more the dark frown settled upon Lady Bellamy's brow, and the
expanding pupils filled the heavy-lidded eyes. As for Arthur, it made
him feel sick with unreasonable alarm.

Next minute George entered the room with a stupid smile upon his face,
and looking as dazed as a bat that has suddenly been shown the sun.
Angela's heaven-lit beauty had come upon his gross mind as a
revelation; it fascinated him, he had lost his command over himself.

"Oh! here you are at last, George," said Lady Bellamy--it was always
her habit to call him George. "We have all been like sheep without a
shepherd, though I saw you keeping an eye on the flock through the
window."

George started. He did not know that he had been observed.

"I did not know that you were all here, or I would have been back
sooner," he said, and then began to shake hands.

When he came to Angela, he favoured her with a tender pressure of the
fingers and an elaborate and high-flown speech of welcome, both of
which were inexpressibly disagreeable to her. But here Lady Bellamy
intervened, and skilfully forced him into a conversation with her, in
which Philip joined.

"What does Lady Bellamy remind you of?" Angela asked Arthur, as soon
as the hum of talk made it improbable that they would be overheard.

"Of an Egyptian sorceress, I think. Look at the low, broad forehead,
the curling hair, the full lips, and the inscrutable look of the
face."

"To my mind she is an ideal of the Spirit of Power. I am very much
afraid of her, and, as for him"--nodding towards George--"I dislike
him even more than I was prepared to," and she gave a little shudder.
"By the way, Mr. Heigham, you really must not be so rash as to accept
my father's invitation."

"If you do not wish to see me, of course I will not," he answered, in
a hurt and disappointed tone.

"Oh! it is not that, indeed; how could you think so, when only this
morning we agreed to be friends?"

"Well, what is it, then?" he asked, blankly.

"Why, Mr. Heigham, the fact is that we--that is, my old nurse and I,
for my father is irregular in his meals, and always takes them by
himself--live so very plainly, and I am ashamed to ask you to share
our mode of life. For instance, we have nothing but bread and milk for
breakfast;" and the golden head sunk in some confusion before his
amused gaze.

"Oh! is that all?" he said, cheerily. "I am very fond of bread and
milk."

"And then," went on Angela with her confession, "we never drink wine,
and I know that gentlemen do."

"I am a teetotaller, so that does not matter."

"Really?"

"Yes--really."

"But then, you know, my father shuts himself up all day, so that you
will have nobody but myself to talk to."

"Oh! never mind"--encouragingly. "I am sure that we shall get on."

"Well, if, in spite of all this and a great deal more--ah! a very
great deal that I have not time to tell you--you still care to come, I
will do my best to amuse you. At any rate, we can read together; that
will be something, if you don't find me too stupid. You must remember
that I have only had a private education, and have never been to
college like you. I shall be glad of the opportunity of rubbing up my
classics a little; I have been neglecting them rather lately, and
actually got into a mess over a passage in Aristophanes that I shall
ask you to clear up."

This was enough for Arthur, whose knowledge of the classics was that
of the ordinary University graduate; he turned the subject with
remarkable promptitude.

"Tell me," he said, looking her straight in the face, "are you glad
that I am coming?"

The grey eyes dropped a little before the boldness of his gaze, but
she answered, unhesitatingly,

"Yes, for my own sake I am glad; but I fear that you will find it very
dull."

"Come, Angela, we must be off; I want to be home by a quarter to six,"
said Philip just then.

She rose at once and shook hands with Arthur, murmuring, "Good-by till
to-morrow morning," and then with Lady Bellamy.

George, meanwhile, with the most unwonted hospitality, was pressing
her father to stay to dinner, and, when he declined, announcing his
intention of coming over to see him on the morrow. At last he got
away, but not before Lady Bellamy had bid him a seemingly cordial
adieu.

"You and your charming daughter must come and see me at Rewtham House,
when we get in. What, have you not heard that Sir John has bought it
from poor Maria Lee's executors?"

Philip turned pale as death, and hurried from the room.

"It is good," reflected Lady Bellamy, as she watched the effect of her
shaft, "to let him know that I never forget."

But, even when her father had gone, the path was still blocked to
Angela.

"What!" said George, who was, when in an amiable mood, that worst of
all cads, a jocose cad, "are you going to play truant, too, my pretty
cousin? Then first you must pay the penalty, not a very heavy one,
however." And he threw his long arm round her waist, and prepared to
give her a cousinly embrace.

At first Angela, not being accustomed to little jokes of the sort, did
not understand what his intentions were, but as soon as she did, being
an extremely powerful young woman, she soon put a stop to them,
shaking George away from her so sharply by a little swing of her lithe
body, that, stumbling over a footstool in his rapid backward passage,
he in a trice measured his length upon the floor. Seeing what she had
done, Angela turned and fled after her father.

As for Arthur, the scene was too much for his risible nerves, and he
fairly roared with laughter, whilst even Lady Bellamy went as near to
it as she ever did.

George rose white with wrath.

"Mr. Heigham," he said, "I see nothing to laugh at in an accident."

"Don't you?" replied Arthur. "I do; it is just the most ludicrous
accident that I ever saw."

George turned away muttering something that it was perhaps as well his
guest did not hear, and at once began to attack Lady Bellamy.

"My dear George," was her rejoinder, "let this little adventure teach
you that it is not wise for middle-aged men to indulge in gallantries
towards young ladies, and especially young ladies of thews and sinews.
Good-night."

At the same moment the footman announced that the dog-cart which
Arthur had ordered was waiting for him.

"Good-by, Mr. Heigham, good-by," said George, with angry sarcasm.
"Within twenty-four hours you have killed my favourite dog, taken
offence at my well-meant advice, and ridiculed my misfortune. If we
should ever meet again, doubtless you will have further surprises in
store for me;" and, without giving Arthur time to make any reply, he
left the room.



                             CHAPTER XXI

Early on the day following Arthur's departure from Isleworth, Lady
Bellamy received a note from George requesting her, if convenient, to
come and see him that morning, as he had something rather important to
talk to her about.

"John," she said to her husband at breakfast, "do you want the
brougham this morning?"

"No. Why?"

"Because I am going over to Isleworth."

"Hadn't you better take the luggage-cart too, and your luggage in it,
and live there altogether? It would save trouble, sending backwards
and forwards," suggested her husband, with severe sarcasm.

Lady Bellamy cut the top off an egg with a single clean stroke--all
her movements were decisive--before she answered.

"I thought," she said, "that we had done with that sort of nonsense
some years ago; are you going to begin it again?"

"Yes, Lady Bellamy, I am. I am not going to stand being bullied and
jeered at by that damned scoundrel Caresfoot any more. I am not going
to stand your eternal visits to him."

"You have stood them for twenty years; rather late in the day to
object now, isn't it?" she remarked, coolly, beginning her egg.

"It is never too late to mend; it is not too late for you to stop
quietly at home and do your duty by your husband."

"Most men would think that I had done my duty by him pretty well.
Twenty years ago you were nobody, and had, comparatively speaking,
nothing. Now you have a title and between three and four thousand a
year. Who have you to thank for that? Certainly not yourself."

"Curse the title and the money! I had rather be a poor devil of an
attorney with a large family, and five hundred a year to keep them on,
than live the life I do between you and that vulgar beast Caresfoot.
It's a dog's life, not a man's;" and poor Bellamy was so overcome at
his real or imaginary wrongs that the tears actually rolled down his
puffy little face.

His wife surveyed him with some amusement.

"I think," she said, "that you are a miserable creature."

"Perhaps I am, Anne; but I tell you what it is, even a miserable
creature can be driven too far. It may perhaps be worth your while to
be a little careful."

She cast one swift look at him, a look not without apprehension in it,
for there was a ring about his voice that she did not like, but his
appearance was so ludicrously wretched that it reassured her. She
finished her egg, and then, slowly driving the spoon through the
shell, she said,

"Don't threaten, John; it is a bad habit, and shows an un-Christian
state of mind; besides, it might force me to cr-r-rush you, in self-
defence, you know;" and John and the egg-shell having finally
collapsed together, Lady Bellamy ordered the brougham.

Having thus sufficiently scourged her husband, she departed in due
course to visit her own taskmaster, little guessing what awaited her
at his hands. After all, there is a deal of poetic justice in the
world. Little Smith, fresh from his mother's apron-strings, is
savagely beaten by the cock of the school, Jones, and to him Jones is
an all-powerful, cruel devil, placed above all possibility of
retribution. If, however, little Smith could see the omnipotent Jones
being mentally ploughed and harrowed by his papa the clergyman, in
celebration of the double event of his having missed a scholarship and
taken too much sherry, it is probable that his wounded feelings would
be greatly soothed. Nor does it stop there. Robinson, the squire of
the parish, takes it out of the Reverend Jones, and speaks ill of him
to the bishop, a Low Churchman, on the matter of vestments, and very
shortly afterwards Sir Buster Brown, the Chairman of the Quarter
Sessions, expresses his opinion pretty freely of Robinson in his
magisterial capacity, only in his turn to receive a most unexampled
wigging from Her Majesty's judge, Baron Muddlebone, for not showing
him that respect he was accustomed to receive from the High Sheriff of
the county. And even over the august person of the judge himself there
hangs the fear of the only thing that he cannot commit for contempt,
public opinion. Justice! why, the world is full of it, only it is
mostly built upon a foundation of wrong.

Lady Bellamy found George sitting in the dining-room beside the safe
that had so greatly interested her husband. It was open, and he was
reading a selection from the bundle of letters which the reader may
remember having seen in his hands before.

"How do, Anne?" he said, without rising. "You look very handsome this
morning. I never saw a woman wear better."

She vouchsafed no reply to his greeting, but turned as pale as death.

"What!" she said, huskily, pointing with her finger to the letters in
his hand, "what are you doing with those letters?"

"Bravo, Anne; quite tragic. What a Lady Macbeth you would make! Come
quote, 'All the perfumes of Araby will not sweeten this little hand.
Oh, oh, oh!' Go on."

"What are you doing with those letters?"

"Have you never broken a dog by showing him the whip, Anne? I have got
something to ask of you, and I wish to get you into a generous frame
of mind first. Listen now, I am going to read you a few extracts from
a past that is so vividly recorded here."

She sank into a chair, hid her face in her hands, and groaned. George,
whose own features betrayed a certain nervousness, took a yellow sheet
of paper, and began to read.

"'Do you know how old I am to-day? Nineteen, and I have been married a
year and a half. Ah! what a happy lass I was before I married; how
they worshipped me in my old home! "Queen Anne," they always called
me. Well, they are dead now, and pray God they sleep so sound that
they can neither hear nor see. Yes, a year and a half--a year of
happiness, half a year of hell; happiness whilst I did not know you,
hell since I saw your face. What secret spring of wickedness did you
touch in my heart? I never had a thought of wrong before you came. But
when I first set eyes upon your face, I felt some strange change come
over me: I recognized my evil destiny. How you discovered my
fascination, how you led me on to evil, you best know. I am no coward,
I do not wish to excuse myself, but sometimes I think that you have
much to answer for, George. Hark, I hear my baby crying, my beautiful
boy with his father's eyes. Do you know, I believe that the child has
grown afraid of me: it beats at me with its tiny hands. I think that
my very dog dislikes me now. They know me as I am; Nature tells them;
everybody knows me except _him_. He will come in presently from
visiting his sick and poor, and kiss me and call me his sweet wife,
and I shall act the living lie. Oh! God, I cannot bear it much
longer----'

"There is more of the same sort," remarked George, coolly. "It affords
a most interesting study of mental anatomy, but I have no time to read
more of it. We will pass on to another."

Lady Bellamy did not move; she sat trembling a little, her face buried
in her hands.

He took up a second letter and began to read a marked passage.

"'The die is cast, I will come; I can no longer resist your influence;
it grows stronger every day, and now it makes me a murderess, for the
shock will kill him. And yet I am tired of the sameness and smallness
of my life; my mind is too big to be cramped in such narrow fetters.'

"That extract is really very funny," said George, critically. "But
don't look depressed, Anne, I am only going to trouble you with one
more dated a year or so later. Listen.

"'I have several times seen the man you sent me; he is a fool and
contemptible in appearance, and, worst of all, shows signs of falling
in love with me; but, if you wish it, I will go through the marriage
ceremony with him, poor little dupe! You will not marry me yourself,
and I would do more than that to keep near you; indeed, I have no
choice, I _must_ keep near you. I went to the Zoological Gardens the
other day and saw a rattlesnake fed upon a live rabbit; the poor thing
had ample room to run away in, but could not, it was fascinated, and
sat still and screamed. At last the snake struck it, and I thought
that its eyes looked like yours. I am as helpless as that poor animal,
and you are much more cruel than the snake. And yet my mind is
infinitely stronger than your own in every way. I cannot understand
it. What is the source of your power over me? But I am quite reckless
now, so what does it matter? I will do anything that does not put me
within reach of the law. You know that my husband is dead. I _knew_
that he would die; he expired with my name upon his lips. The child,
too, I hear, died in a fit of croup; the nurse had gone out, and there
was no one to look after it. Upon my word, I may well be reckless, for
there is no forgiveness for such as you and I. As for little B----, as
I think I told you, I will lead him on and marry him: at any rate, I
will make his fortune for him: I _must_ devote myself to something,
and ambition is more absorbing than anything else--at least, I shall
rise to something great. Good-night; I don't know which aches most, my
head or my heart.'

"Now that extract would be interesting reading to Bellamy, would it
not?"

Here she suddenly sprang forward and snatched at the letter. But
George was too quick for her; he flung it into the safe by his side,
and swung the heavy lid to.

"No, no, my dear Anne, that property is too valuable to be parted with
except for a consideration."

Her attempt frustrated, she dropped back into her chair.

"What are you torturing me for?" she asked, hoarsely. "Have you any
object in dragging up the ghost of that dead past, or is it merely for
amusement."

"Did I not tell you that I had a favour to ask of you, and wished to
get you into a proper frame of mind first?"

"A favour. You mean that you have some wickedness in hand that you are
too great a coward to execute yourself. Out with it; I know you too
well to be shocked."

"Oh, very well. You saw Angela Caresfoot, Philip's daughter, here
yesterday."

"Yes, I saw her."

"Very good. I mean to marry her, and you must manage it for me."

Lady Bellamy sat quite still, and made no answer.

"You will now," continued George, relieved to find that he had not
provoked the outburst he had expected, "understand why I read you
those extracts. I am thoroughly determined upon marrying that girl at
whatever cost, and I see very clearly that I shall not be able to do
so without your help. With your help, the matter will be easy; for no
obstacle, except the death of the girl herself, can prevail against
your iron determination and unbounded fertility of resource."

"And if I refuse?"

"I must have read those extracts to very little purpose for you to
talk about refusing. If you refuse, the pangs of conscience will
overcome me, and I shall feel obliged to place these letters, and more
especially those referring to himself, in the hands of your husband.
Of course it will, for my own sake, be unpleasant to me to have to do
so, but I can easily travel for a year or two till the talk has blown
over. For you it will be different. Bellamy has no cause to love you
now; judge what he will feel when he knows all the truth. He will
scarcely keep the story to himself, and, even were he to do so, it
could easily be set about in other ways, and, in either case, you will
be a ruined woman, and all that you have toiled and schemed for for
twenty years will be snatched from you in an instant. If, on the other
hand, you do not refuse, and I cannot believe that you will, I will on
my wedding-day burn these uncomfortable records before your eyes, or,
if you prefer it, you shall burn them yourself."

"You have only seen this girl once; is it possible that you are in
earnest in wishing to marry her?"

"Do you think that I should go through this scene by way of a joke? I
never was so much in earnest in my life before. I am in love with her,
I tell you, as much in love as though I had known her for years. What
happened to you with reference to me has happened to me with reference
to her, or something very like it, and marry her I must and will."

Lady Bellamy, as she heard these words, rose from her chair and flung
herself on the ground before him, clasping his knees with her hands.

"Oh, George, George!" she cried, in a broken voice, "have some little
pity; do not force me to do this unnatural thing. Is your heart a
stone, or are you altogether a devil, that by such cruel threats you
can drive me into becoming the instrument of my own shame? I know what
I am, none better: but for whose sake did I become so? Surely, George,
I have some claim on your compassion, if I have none on your love.
Think again, George; and, if you will not give her up, choose some
other means to compass this poor girl's ruin."

"Get up, Anne, and don't talk sentimental rubbish. Not but what," he
added, with a sneer, "it is rather amusing to hear you pitying your
successful rival."

She sprang to her feet, all the softness and entreaty gone from her
face, which was instead now spread with her darkest and most
vindictive look.

"_I_ pity her!" she said. "I hate her. Look you, if I have to do this,
my only consolation will be in knowing that what I do will drag my
successor down below my own level. I suffer; she shall suffer more; I
know you a fiend, she shall find a whole hell with you; she is purer
and better than I have ever been; soon you shall make her worse than I
have dreamt of being. Her purity shall be dishonoured, her love
betrayed, her life reduced to such chaos that she shall cease to
believe even in her God, and in return for these things I will give
her--_you_. Your new plaything shall pass through my mill, George
Caresfoot, before ever she comes to yours; and on her I will repay
with interest all that I have suffered at your hands;" and, exhausted
with the fierceness of her own invective and the violence of
conflicting passions, she sank back into her chair.

"Bravo, Anne! quite in your old style. I daresay that the young lady
will require a little moulding, and she could not be in better hands;
but mind, no tricks--I am not going to be cheated out of my bride."

"You need not fear, George; I shall not murder her. I do not believe
in violence; it is the last resort of fools. If I did, you would not
be alive now."

George laughed a little uneasily.

"Well, we are good friends again, so there is no need to talk of such
things," he said. "The campaign will not be by any means an easy one--
there are many obstacles in the way, and I don't think that my
intended has taken a particular fancy to me. You will have to work for
your letters, Anne; but first of all take a day or two to think it
over, and make a plan of the campaign. And now good-by; I have got a
bad headache, and am going to lie down."

She rose, and went without another word; but all necessity for setting
about her shameful task was soon postponed by news that reached her
the next morning, to the effect that George Caresfoot was seriously
ill.



                             CHAPTER XXII

The dog-cart that Arthur had hired to take him away belonged to an
old-fashioned inn in the parish of Rewtham, situated about a mile from
Rewtham House (which had just passed into the hands of the Bellamys),
and two from Bratham Abbey, and thither Arthur had himself driven. His
Jehu, known through all the country round as "Old Sam," was an ancient
ostler, who had been in the service of the Rewtham "King's Head," man
and boy, for over fifty years, and from him Arthur collected a good
deal of inaccurate information about the Caresfoot family, including a
garbled version of all the death of Angela's mother and Philip's
disinheritance.

After all, there are few more comfortable places than an inn; not a
huge London hotel, where you are known as No. 48, and have to lock the
door of your cell when you come out of it, and deliver up your key to
the warder in the hall; but an old-fashioned country establishment
where they cook your breakfast exactly as you like it, and give you
sound ale and a four-poster. At least, so thought Arthur, as he sat in
the private parlour smoking his pipe and reflecting on the curious
vicissitudes of existence. Now, here he was, with all the hopes and
interests of his life utterly changed in a single space of six-and-
twenty hours. Why, six-and-twenty hours ago, he had never met his
respected guardian, nor Sir John and Lady Bellamy, nor Philip and his
daughter. He could hardly believe that it was only that morning that
he had first seen Angela. It seemed weeks ago, and, if time could have
been measured on a new principle, by events and not by minutes, it
would have been weeks. The wheel of life, he thought, revolves with a
strange irregularity. For months and years it turns slowly and
steadily under the even pressure of monotonous events. But, on some
unexpected day, a tide comes rushing down the stream of being, and
spins it round at speed; and then tears onward to the ocean called the
Past, leaving its plaything to creak and turn, to turn and creak, or
wrecked perhaps and useless.

Thinking thus, Arthur made his way to bed. The excitement of the day
had wearied him, and for a while he slept soundly, but, as the fatigue
of the body wore off, the activity of his mind asserted itself, and he
began to dream vague, happy dreams of Angela, that by degrees took
shape and form, till they stood out clear before the vision of his
mind. He dreamt that he and Angela were journeying, two such happy
travellers, through the green fields in summer, till by-and-by they
came to the dark entrance of a wood, into which they plunged, fearing
nothing. Thicker grew the overshadowing branches, and darker grew the
path, and now they journeyed lover-wise, with their arms around each
other. But, as they passed along, they came to a place where the paths
forked, and here he stooped to kiss her. Already he could feel the
thrill of her embrace, when she was swept from him by an unseen force,
and carried down the path before them, leaving him rooted where he
was. But still he could trace her progress as she went, wringing her
hands in sorrow; and presently he saw the form of Lady Bellamy, robed
as an Egyptian sorceress, and holding a letter in her hand, which she
offered to Angela, whispering in her ear. She took it, and then in a
second the letter turned to a great snake, with George's head, that
threw its coils around her and struck at her with its fangs. Next, the
darkness of night rushed down upon the scene, and out of the darkness
came wild cries and mocking laughter, and the choking sounds of death.
And his senses left him.

When sight and sense came back, he dreamt that he was still walking
down a wooded lane, but the foliage of the overhanging trees was of a
richer green. The air was sweet with the scent of unknown flowers,
beautiful birds flitted around him, and from far-off came the murmur
of the sea. And as he travelled, broken-hearted, a fair woman with a
gentle voice stood by his side, and kissed and comforted him, till at
length he grew weary of her kisses, and she left him, weeping, and he
went on his way alone, seeking his lost Angela. And then at length the
path took a sudden turn, and he stood on the shore of an illimitable
ocean, over which brooded a strange light, as where


                   "The quiet end of evening smiles
                    Miles on miles."


And there, with the soft light lingering on her hair, and tears of
gladness in her eyes, stood Angela, more lovely than before, her arms
outstretched to greet him. And then the night closed in, and he awoke.

His eyes opened upon the solemn and beautiful hour of the first
quickening of the dawn, and the thrill and softness that comes from
contact with the things we meet in sleep was still upon him. He got up
and flung open his lattice window. From the garden beneath rose the
sweet scent of May flowers, very different from that of his dream
which yet lingered in his nostrils, whilst from a neighbouring lilac-
bush streamed the rich melody of the nightingale. Presently it ceased
before the broadening daylight, but in its stead, pure and clear and
cold, arose the notes of the mavis, giving tuneful thanks and glory to
its Maker. And, as he listened, a great calm stole upon his spirit,
and kneeling down there by the open window, with the breath of spring
upon his brow, and the voice of the happy birds within his ears, he
prayed to the Almighty with all his heart that it might please Him in
His wise mercy to verify his dream, inasmuch as he would be well
content to suffer, if by suffering he might at last attain to such an
unutterable joy. And rising from his knees, feeling better and
stronger, he knew in some dim way that that undertaking must be blest
which, in such a solemn hour of the heart, he did not fear to pray God
to guide, to guard, and to consummate.

And on many an after-day, and in many another place, the book of his
life would reopen at this well-conned page, and he would see the dim
light in the faint, flushed sky, and hear the song of the thrush
swelling upwards strong and sweet, and remember his prayer and the
peace that fell upon his soul.

By ten o'clock that morning, Arthur, his dog, and his portmanteau, had
all arrived together in front of the Abbey House. Before his feet had
touched the moss-grown gravel, the hall-door was flung open, and
Angela appeared to welcome him, looking, as old Sam the ostler
forcibly put it afterwards to his helper, "just like a hangel with the
wings off." Jakes, too, emerged from the recesses of the garden, and
asked Angela, in a tone of aggrieved sarcasm, as he edged his way
suspiciously past Aleck, why the gentleman had not brought the
"rampingest lion from the Zoologic Gardens" with him at once? Having
thus expressed his feelings on the subject of bull-dogs, he shouldered
the portmanteau, and made his way with it upstairs. Arthur followed
him up the wide oak stairs, every one of which was squared out of a
single log, stopping for a while on the landing, where the staircase
turned, to gaze at the stern-faced picture that hung so that it looked
through the large window facing it, right across the park and over the
whole stretch of the Abbey lands, and to wonder at the deep-graved
inscription of "Devil Caresfoot" set so conspicuously beneath.

His room was the largest upon the first landing, and the same in which
Angela's mother had died. It had never been used from that hour to
this, and, indeed, in a little recess or open space between a cupboard
and the wall, there still stood two trestles, draped with rotten black
cloth, that had originally been brought there to rest her coffin on,
and which Angela had overlooked in getting the room ready.

This spacious but somewhat gloomy apartment was hung round with
portraits of the Caresfoots of past ages, many of which bore a marked
resemblance to Philip, but amongst whom he looked in vain for one in
the slightest degree like Angela, whose handiwork he recognized in two
large bowls of flowers placed upon the dark oak dressing-table.

Just as Jakes had finished unbuckling his portmanteau, a task that he
had undertaken with some groaning, and was departing in haste, lest he
should be asked to do something else, Arthur caught sight of the
trestles.

"What are those?" he asked, cheerfully.

"Coffin-stools," was the abrupt reply.

"Coffin-stools!" ejaculated Arthur, feeling that it was unpleasant to
have little details connected with one's latter end brought thus
abruptly into notice. "What the deuce are they doing here?"

"Brought to put the last as slept in that 'ere bed on, and stood ever
since."

"Don't you think," insinuated Arthur, gently, "that you had better
take them away?"

"Can't do so; they be part of the furniture, they be--stand there all
handy for the next one, too, maybe you;" and he vanished with a
sardonic grin.

Jakes did not submit to the indignities of unbuckling portmanteaus and
having his legs sniffed at by bull-dogs for nothing. Not by any means
pleased by suggestions so unpleasant, Arthur took his way downstairs,
determined to renew the coffin-stool question with his host. He found
Angela waiting for him in the hall, and making friends with Aleck.

"Will you come in and see my father for a minute before we go out?"
she said.

Arthur assented, and she led the way into the study, where Philip
always sat, the same room in which his father had died. He was sitting
at a writing-table as usual, at work on farm accounts. Rising, he
greeted Arthur civilly, taking, however, no notice of his daughter,
although he had not seen her since the previous day.

"Well, Heigham, so you have made up your mind to brave these barbarous
wilds, have you? I am delighted to see you, but I must warn you that,
beyond a pipe and a glass of grog in the evening, I have not much time
to put at your disposal. We are rather a curious household. I don't
know whether Angela has told you, but for one thing we do not take our
meals together, so you will have to make your choice between the
dining-room and the nursery, for my daughter is not out of the nursery
yet;" and he gave a little laugh. "On the whole, perhaps you had
better be relegated to the nursery; it will, at any rate, be more
amusing to you that the society of a morose old fellow like myself.
And, besides, I am very irregular in my habits. Angela, you are
staring at me again; I should be so very much obliged if you would
look the other way. I only hope, Heigham, that old Pigott won't talk
your head off; she has got a dreadful tongue. Well, don't let me keep
you any longer; it is a lovely day for the time of year. Try to amuse
yourself somehow, and I hope for your sake that Angela will not occupy
herself with you as she does with me, by staring as though she wished
to examine your brains and backbone. Good-by for the present."

"What does he mean?" asked Arthur, as soon as they were fairly outside
the door, "about your staring at him?"

"Mean!" answered poor Angela, who looked as though she were going to
cry. "I wish I could tell you; all I know is that he cannot bear me to
look at him--he is always complaining of it. That is why we do not
take our meals together--at least, I believe it is. He detests my
being near him. I am sure I don't know why; it makes me very unhappy.
I cannot see anything different in my eyes from anybody else's, can
you?" and she turned them, swimming as they were with tears of
mortification, full upon Arthur.

He scrutinized their depths very closely, so closely indeed, that
presently she turned them away again with a blush.

"Well," she said, "I am sure you have looked long enough. Are they
different?"

"Very different," replied the oracle, with enthusiasm.

"How?"

"Well, they--they are larger."

"Is that all?"

"And they are deeper."

"Deeper--that is nothing. I want to know if they produce any
unpleasant effect upon you--different from other people's eyes, I
mean?"

"Well, if you ask me, I am afraid that your eyes do produce a strange
effect upon me, but I cannot say that it is an unpleasant one. But you
did not look long enough for me to form a really sound opinion. Let us
try again."

"No, I will not; and I do believe that you are laughing at me. I think
that is very unkind;" and she marched on in silence.

"Don't be angry with me, or I shall be miserable. I really was not
laughing at you; only, if you knew what wonderful eyes you have got,
you would not ask such ridiculous questions about them. Your father
must be a strange man to get such ideas. I am sure I should be
delighted if you would look at me all day long. But tell me something
more about your father: he interests me very much."

Angela felt the tell-tale blood rise to her face as he praised her
eyes, and bit her lips with vexation; it seemed to her that she had
suddenly caught an epidemic of blushing.

"I cannot tell you very much about my father, because I do not know
much; his life is, to a great extent, a sealed book to me. But they
say that once he was a very different man, when he was quite young, I
mean. But all of a sudden his father--my grand-father, you know--whose
picture is on the stairs, died, and within a day or two my mother died
too; that was when I was born. After that he broke down, and became
what he is now. For twenty years he has lived as he does now, poring
all day over books of accounts, and very rarely seeing anybody, for he
does all his business by letter, or nearly all of it, and he has no
friends. There was some story about his being engaged to a lady who
lived at Rewtham when he married my mother, which I daresay you have
heard; but I don't know much about it. But, Mr. Heigham"--and here she
dropped her voice--"there is one thing that I must warn you of: my
father has strange fancies at times. He is dreadfully superstitious,
and thinks that he has communications with beings from another world.
I believe that it is all nonsense, but I tell you so that you may not
be surprised at anything he says or does. He is not a happy man, Mr.
Heigham."

"Apparently not. I cannot imagine any one being happy who is
superstitious; it is the most dreadful bondage in the world."

"Where are your ravens to-day?" asked Arthur, presently.

"I don't know; I have not seen very much of them for the last week or
two. They have made a nest in one of the big trees at the back of the
house, and I daresay that they are there, or perhaps they are hunting
for their food--they always feed themselves. But I will soon tell
you," and she whistled in a soft but penetrating note.

Next minute there was a swoop of wings, and the largest raven, after
hovering over her for a minute, lit upon her shoulder, and rubbed his
black head against her face.

"This is Jack, you see; I expect that Jill is busy sitting on her
eggs. Fly away, Jack, and look after your wife." She clapped her
hands, and the great bird, giving a reproachful croak, spread his
wings, and was gone.

"You have a strange power over animals to make those birds so fond of
you."

"Do you think so? It is only because I have, living as I do quite
alone, had time to study all their ways, and make friends of them. Do
you see that thrush there? I know him well; I fed him during the frost
last winter. If you will stand back with the dog, you shall see."

Arthur hid himself behind a thick bush and watched. Angela whistled
again, but in another note, with a curious result. Not only the thrush
in question, but quite a dozen other birds of different sorts and
sizes, came flying round her, some settling at her feet, and one, a
little robin, actually perching itself upon her hat. Presently she
dismissed them as she had done the raven, by clapping her hands, and
came back to Arthur.

"In the winter time," she said, "I could show you more curious things
than that."

"I think that you are a witch," said Arthur, who was astounded at the
sight.

She laughed as she answered,

"The only witchery that I use is kindness."



                            CHAPTER XXIII

Pigott, Angela's old nurse, was by no means sorry to hear of Arthur's
visit to the Abbey House, though, having in her youth been a servant
in good houses, she was distressed at the nature of his reception.
But, putting this aside, she thought it high time that her darling
should see a young man or two, that she might "learn what the world
was like." Pigott was no believer in female celibacy, and Angela's
future was a frequent subject of meditation with her, for she knew
very well that her present mode of life was scarcely suited either to
her birth, her beauty, or her capabilities. Not that she ever, in her
highest flights, imagined Angela as a great lady, or one of society's
shining stars; she loved to picture her in some quiet, happy home,
beloved by her husband, and surrounded by children as beautiful as
herself. It was but a moderate ambition for one so peerlessly endowed,
but she would have been glad to see it fulfilled. For of late years
there had sprung up in nurse Pigott's mind an increasing dislike of
her surroundings, which sometimes almost amounted to a feeling of
horror. Philip she had always detested, with his preoccupied air and
uncanny ways.

"There must," she would say, "be something wicked about a man as is
afraid to have his own bonny daughter look him in the face, to say
nothing of his being that mean as to grudge her the clothes on her
back, and make her live worse nor a servant-girl."

Having, therefore, by a quiet peep through the curtains, ascertained
that he was nice-looking and about the right age, Pigott confessed to
herself that she was heartily glad of Arthur's arrival, and determined
that, should she take to him on further acquaintance, he should find a
warm ally in her in any advances he might choose to make on the
fortress of Angela's affections.

"I do so hope that you don't mind dining at half-past twelve, and with
my old nurse," Angela said, as they went together up the stairs to the
room they used as a dining-room.

"Of course I don't--I like it, really I do."

Angela shook her head, and, looking but partially convinced, led the
way down the passage, and into the room, where, to her astonishment,
she perceived that the dinner-table was furnished with a more
sumptuous meal than she had seen upon it for years, the fact being
that Pigott had received orders from Philip which she did not know of,
not to spare expense whilst Arthur was his guest.

"What waste," reflected Angela, in whom the pressure of circumstances
had developed an economical turn of mind, as she glanced at the
unaccustomed jug of beer. "He said he was a teetotaller."

A loud "hem!" from Pigott, arresting her attention, stopped all
further consideration of the matter. That good lady, who, in honour of
the occasion, was dressed in a black gown of a formidable character
and a many-ribboned cap, was standing up behind her chair waiting to
be introduced to the visitor. Angela proceeded to go through the
ceremony which Pigott's straight-up-and-down attitude rendered rather
trying.

"Nurse, this is the gentleman that my father has asked to stay with
us. Mr. Heigham, let me introduce you to my old nurse Pigott."

Arthur bowed politely, whilst Pigott made two obligatory curtsies,
requiring a step backwards after each, as though to make room for
another. Her speech, too, carefully prepared for the occasion, is
worthy of transcription.

"Hem!" she said, "this, sir, is a pleasure as I little expected, and I
well knows that it is not what you or the likes is accustomed to,
a-eating of dinners and teas with old women; which I hopes, sir, how
as you will put up with it, seeing how as the habits of this house is
what might, without mistake, be called peculiar, which I says without
any offence to Miss Angela, 'cause though her bringing-up has been
what I call odd, she knows it as well as I do, which, indeed, is the
only consolation I has to offer, being right sure, as indeed I am, how
as any young gentleman as ever breathed would sit in a pool of water
to dine along with Miss Angela, let alone an old nurse. I ain't such a
fool as I may look; no need for you to go a-blushing of, Miss Angela.
And now, sir, if you please, we will sit down, for fear lest the gravy
should begin to grease;" and, utterly exhausted by the exuberance of
her own verbosity, she plunged into her chair--an example which
Arthur, bowing his acknowledgements of her opening address, was not
slow to follow.

One of his first acts was, at Pigott's invitation, to help himself to
a glass of beer, of which, to speak truth, he drank a good deal.

Angela watched the proceeding with interest.

"What," she asked presently, "is a teetotaller?"

The recollection of his statement of the previous day flashed into his
mind. He was, however, equal to the occasion.

"A teetotaller," he replied, with gravity, "is a person who only
drinks beer," and Angela, the apparent discrepancy explained, retired
satisfied.

That was a very pleasant dinner. What a thing it is to be young and in
love! How it gilds the dull gingerbread of life; what new capacities
of enjoyment it opens up to us, and, for the matter of that, of pain
also; and oh! what stupendous fools it makes of us in everybody else's
eyes except our own, and, if we are lucky, those of our adored!

The afternoon and evening passed much as the morning had done. Angela
took Arthur round the place, and showed him all the spots connected
with her strange and lonely childhood, of which she told him many a
curious story. In fact, before the day was over, he knew all the
history of her innocent life, and was struck with amazement at the
variety and depth of her scholastic acquirements and the extraordinary
power of her mind, which, combined with her simplicity and total
ignorance of the ways of the world, produced an affect as charming as
it was unusual. Needless to say that every hour he knew her he fell
more deeply in love with her.

At length, about eight o'clock, just as it was beginning to get dark,
she suggested that he should go and sit a while with her father.

"And what are you going to do?" asked Arthur.

"Oh! I am going to read a little, and then go to bed; I always go to
bed about nine;" and she held out her hand to say good-night. He took
it and said,

"Good-night, then; I wish it were to-morrow."

"Why?"

"Because then I should be saying, 'Good-morning, Angela,' instead of
'Good-night, Angela,' May I call you Angela? We seem to know each
other so well, you see."

"Yes, of course," she laughed back; "everybody I know calls me Angela,
so why shouldn't you?"

"And will you call me Arthur? Everybody I know calls me Arthur."

Angela hesitated, and Angela blushed, though why she hesitated and why
she blushed was perhaps more than she could have exactly said.

"Y-e-s, I suppose so--that is, if you like it. It is a pretty name,
Arthur. Good-night, Arthur," and she was gone.

His companion gone, Arthur turned and entered the house. The study-
door was open, so he went straight in. Philip, who was sitting and
staring in an abstracted way at the empty fireplace with a light
behind him, turned quickly round as he heard the footstep.

"Oh! it's you, is it, Heigham? I suppose Angela has gone upstairs; she
goes to roost very early. I hope that she has not bored you, and that
old Pigott hasn't talked your head off. I told you that we were an odd
lot, you know; but, if you find us odder than you bargained for, I
should advise you to clear out."

"Thank you, I have spent a very happy day."

"Indeed, I am glad to hear it. You must be easily satisfied, have an
Arcadian mind, and that sort of thing. Take some whisky, and light
your pipe."

Arthur did so, and presently Philip, in that tone of gentlemanly ease
which above everything distinguished him from his cousin, led the
conversation round to his guest's prospects and affairs, more
especially his money affairs. Arthur answered him frankly enough, but
this money talk had not the same charms for him that it had for his
host. Indeed, a marked repugnance to everything that had to do with
money was one of his characteristics; and, wearied out at length with
pecuniary details and endless researches into the mysteries of
investment, he took advantage of a pause to attempt to change the
subject.

"Well," he said, "I am much obliged to you for your advice, for I am
very ignorant myself, and hate anything to do with money. I go back to
first principles, and believe that we should all be better without
it."

"I always thought," answered Philip, with a semi-contemptuous smile,
"that the desire of money, or, amongst savage races, its equivalent,
shells or what not, was _the_ first principle of human nature."

"Perhaps it is--I really don't know; but I heartily wish that it could
be eliminated off the face of the earth."

"Forgive me," laughed Philip, "but that is the speech of a very young
man. Why, eliminate money, and you take away the principal interest of
life, and destroy the social fabric of the world. What is power but
money, comfort?--money, social consideration?--money, ay, and love,
and health, and happiness itself? Money, money, money. Tell me," he
went on, rising, and addressing him with a curious earnestness, "what
god is there more worthy of our adoration than Plutus, seeing that, if
we worship him enough, he alone of the idols we set in high places,
will never fail us at need?"

"It is a worship that rarely brings lasting happiness with it. In our
greed to collect the means of enjoyment, surely we lose the power to
enjoy?"

"Pshaw! that is the cant of fools, of those who do not know, of those
who cannot feel. But I know and I feel, and I tell you that it is not
so. The collection of those means is in itself a pleasure, because it
gives a consciousness of power. Don't talk to me of Fate; that
sovereign" (throwing the coin on to the table) "is Fate's own seal.
You see me, for instance, apparently poor and helpless, a social
pariah, one to be avoided, and even insulted. Good; before long these
will right all that for me. I shall by their help be powerful and
courted yet. Ay, believe me, Heigham, money is a living moving force;
leave it still, and it accumulates; expend it, and it gratifies every
wish; save it, and that is best of all, and you hold in your hand a
lever that will lift the world. I tell you that there is no height to
which it cannot bring you, no gulf it will not bridge you."

"Except," soliloquized Arthur, "the cliffs of the Hereafter, and--the
grave."

His words produced a curious effect. Philip's eloquence broke off
short, and for a moment a great fear crept into his eyes.

Silence ensued which neither of them seemed to care to break.
Meanwhile the wind suddenly sprang up, and began to moan and sigh
amongst the half-clad boughs of the trees outside--making, Arthur
thought to himself, a very melancholy music. Presently Philip laid his
hand upon his guest's arm, and he felt that it shook like an aspen-
leaf.

"Tell me," he said, in a hoarse whisper, "what do you see there?"

Arthur started, and followed the direction of his eyes to the bare
wall opposite the window, at that end of the room through which the
door was made.

"I see," he said, "some moving shadows."

"What do they resemble?"

"I don't know; nothing in particular. What are they?"

"What are they?" hissed Philip, whose face was livid with terror,
"they are the shades of the dead sent here to torture me. Look, she
goes to meet him; the old man is telling her. Now she will wring her
hands."

"Nonsense, Mr. Caresfoot, nonsense," said Arthur, shaking himself
together; "I see nothing of the sort. Why, it is only the shadows
flung by the moonlight through the swinging boughs of that tree. Cut
it down, and you will have no more writing upon your wall."

"Ah! of course you are right, Heigham, quite right," ejaculated his
host, faintly, wiping the cold sweat from his brow; "it is nothing but
the moonlight. How ridiculous of me! I suppose I am a little out of
sorts--liver wrong. Give me some whisky, there's a good fellow, and
I'll drink damnation to all the shadows and _the trees that throw
them_. Ha, ha, ha!"

There was something so uncanny about his host's manner, and his
evident conviction of the origin of the wavering figures on the wall
(which had now disappeared), that Arthur felt, had it not been for
Angela, he would not be sorry to get clear of him and his shadows as
soon as possible, for superstition, he knew, is as contagious as
small-pox. When at length he reached his great bare bed-chamber, not,
by the way, a comfortable sort of place to sleep in after such an
experience, it was only after some hours, in the excited state of his
imagination, that, tired though he was, he could get the rest he
needed.



                             CHAPTER XXIV

Next morning, when they met at their eight o'clock breakfast, Arthur
noticed that Angela was distressed about something.

"There is bad news," she said, almost before he greeted her; "my
cousin George is very ill with typhus fever."

"Indeed!" remarked Arthur, rather coolly.

"Well, I must say it does not appear to distress you very much."

"No, I can't say it does. To be honest, I detest your cousin, and I
don't care if he is ill or not; there."

As she appeared to have no reply ready, the subject then dropped.

After breakfast Angela proposed that they should walk--for the day was
again fine--to the top of a hill about a mile away, whence a view of
the surrounding country could be obtained. He consented, and on the
way told her of his curious experiences with her father on the
previous night. She listened attentively, and, when he had finished,
shook her head.

"There is," she said, "something about my father that separates him
from everybody else. His life never comes out into the sunlight of the
passing day, it always gropes along in the shadow of some gloomy past.
What the mystery is that envelops him I neither know nor care to
inquire; but I am sure that there is one."

"How do you explain the shadows?"

"I believe your explanation is right; they are, under certain
conditions of light, thrown by a tree that grows some distance off. I
have seen something that looks like figures on that wall myself in
full daylight. That he should interpret such a simple thing as he does
shows a curious state of mind."

"You do not think, then," said Arthur, in order to draw her out, "that
it is possible, after all, he was right, and that they were something
from another place? The reality of his terror was almost enough to
make one believe in them, I can tell you."

"No, I do not," answered Angela, after a minute's thought. "I have no
doubt that the veil between ourselves and the unseen world is thinner
than we think. I believe, too, that communication, and even warnings
sometimes, under favourable conditions, or when the veil is worn thin
by trouble or prayer, can pass from the other world to ourselves. But
the very fact of my father's terror proves to me that his shadows are
nothing of the sort, for it is hardly possible that spirits can be
permitted to come to terrify us poor mortals; if they come at all, it
is in love and gentleness, to comfort or to warn, and not to work upon
our superstitions."

"You speak as though you knew all about it; you should join the new
Ghost Society," he answered, irreverently, sitting himself down on a
fallen tree, an example that she followed.

"I have thought about it sometimes, that is all, and, so far as I have
read, I think that my belief is a common one, and what the Bible
teaches us; but, if you will not think me foolish, I will tell you
something that confirms me in it. You know that my mother died when I
was born; well, it may seem strange to you, but I am convinced that
she is sometimes very near me."

"Do you mean that you see or hear her?"

"No, I only feel her presence; more rarely now, I am sorry to say, as
I grow older."

"How do you mean?"

"I can hardly explain what I mean, but sometimes--it may be at night,
or when I am sitting alone in the daytime--a great calm comes upon me,
and I am a changed woman. All my thoughts rise into a higher, purer
air, and are, as it were, tinged with a reflected light; everything
earthly seems to pass away from me, and I feel as though fetters had
fallen from my soul, and I _know_ that I am near my mother. Then
everything passes, and I am left myself again."

"And what are the thoughts you have at these times?"

"Ah! I wish I could tell you; they pass away with her who brought
them, leaving nothing but a vague after-glow in my mind like that in
the sky after the sun has set. But now look at the view; is it not
beautiful in the sunlight? All the world seems to be rejoicing."

Angela was right; the view was charming. Below lay the thatched roofs
of the little village of Bratham, and to the right the waters of the
lake shone like silver in the glancing sunlight, whilst the gables of
the old house, peeping out from amongst the budding foliage, looked
very picturesque. The spring had cast her green garment over the land;
from every copse rang out the melody of birds, and the gentle breeze
was heavy with the scent of the unnumbered violets that starred the
mossy carpet at their feet. In the fields where grew the wheat and
clover, now springing into lusty life, the busy weeders were at work,
and on the warm brown fallows the sower went forth to sow. From the
early pastures beneath, where purled a little brook, there came a
pleasant lowing of kine, well-contented with the new grass, and a
cheerful bleating of lambs, to whom as yet life was nothing but one
long skip. It was a charming scene, and its influence sank deep into
the gazers' hearts.

"It is depressing to think," said Arthur, rather sententiously, but
really chiefly with the object of getting at his companion's views,
"that all this cannot last, but is, as it were, like ourselves, under
sentence of death."


                    "It rose and fell and fleeted
                     Upon earth's troubled sea,
                     A wave that swells to vanish
                     Into eternity.
                     Oh! mystery and wonder
                     Of wings that cannot fly,
                     Of ears that cannot hearken,
                     Of life that lives--to die!"

quoth Angela, by way of comment.

"Whose lines are those?" asked Arthur. "I don't know them."

"My own," she said, shyly; "that is, they are a translation of a verse
of a Greek ode I wrote for Mr. Fraser. I will say you the original, if
you like; I think it better than the translation, and I believe that
it is fair Greek."

"Thank you, thank you, Miss Blue-stocking; I am quite satisfied with
your English version. You positively alarm me, Angela. Most people are
quite content if they can put a poem written in English into Greek;
you reverse the process, and, having coolly given expression to your
thoughts in Greek, condescend to translate them into your native
tongue. I only wish you had been at Cambridge, or--what do they call
the place?--Girton. It would have been a joke to see you come out
double-first."

"Ah!" she broke in, blushing, "you are like Mr. Fraser, you overrate
my acquirements. I am sorry to say I am not the perfect scholar you
think me, and about most things I am shockingly ignorant. I should
indeed be silly if, after ten years' patient work under such a scholar
as Mr. Fraser, I did not know some classics and mathematics. Why, do
you know, for the last three years that we worked together, we used as
a rule to carry on our ordinary conversations during work in Latin and
Greek, month and month about, sometimes with the funniest results. One
never knows how little one does know of a dead language till one tries
to talk it. Just try to speak in Latin for the next five minutes, and
you will see."

"Thank you, I am not going to expose my ignorance for your amusement,
Angela."

She laughed.

"No," she said, "it is you who wish to amuse yourself at my expense by
trying to make me believe that I am a great scholar. But what I was
going to say, before you attacked me about my fancied acquirements,
was that, in my opinion, your remark about the whole world being under
sentence of death, was rather a morbid one."

"Why? It is obviously true."

"Yes, in a sense; but to my mind this scene speaks more of
resurrection than of death. Look at the earth pushing up her flowers,
and the dead trees breaking into beauty. There is no sign of death
there, but rather of a renewed and glorified life."

"Yes, but there is still the awful _fact_ of death to face; Nature
herself has been temporarily dead before she blooms into beauty; she
dies every autumn, to rise again in the same form every spring. But
how do we know in what form _we_ shall emerge from the chrysalis? As
soon as a man begins to think at all, he stands face to face with this
hideous problem, to the solution of which he knows himself to be
drawing daily nearer. His position, I often think, is worse than that
of a criminal under sentence, because the criminal is only being
deprived of the employment of a term, indefinite, indeed, but
absolutely limited; but man at large does not know of what he is
deprived, and what he must inherit in the aeons that await him. It is
the uncertainty of death that is its most dreadful part, and, with
that hanging over our race, the wonder to me is not only that we, for
the most part, put the subject entirely out of mind, but that we can
ever think seriously of anything else."

"I remember," answered Angela, "once thinking very much in the same
way, and I went to Mr. Fraser for advice. 'The Bible,' he said, 'will
satisfy your doubts and fears, if only you will read it in a right
spirit.' And indeed, more or less, it did. I cannot, of course,
venture to advise you, but I pass his advice on; it is that of a very
good man."

"Have you, then, no dread of death, or, rather, of what lies beyond
it?"

She turned her eyes upon him with something of wonder in them.

"And why," she said, "should I, who am immortal, fear a change that I
know has no power to harm me, that can, on the contrary, only bring me
nearer to the purpose of my being? Certainly I shrink from death
itself, as we all must, but of the dangers beyond I have no fear.
Pleasant as this world is at times, there is something in us all that
strives to rise above it, and, if I knew that I must die within this
hour, I _believe_ that I could meet my fate without a qualm. I am sure
that when our trembling hands have drawn the veil from Death, we shall
find His features, passionless indeed, but very beautiful."

Arthur looked at her with astonishment, wondering what manner of woman
this could be, who, in the first flush of youth and beauty, could face
the great unknown without a tremor. When he spoke again, it was with
something of envious bitterness.

"Ah! it is very well for you, whose life has been so pure and free
from evil, but it is different for me, with all my consciousness of
sins and imperfections. For me, and thousands like me, strive as we
will, immortality has terrors as well as hopes. It is, and always will
be, human to fear the future, for human nature never changes. You know
the lines in 'Hamlet.' It is

                "'that the dread of something after death,--
            The undiscovered country from whose bourn
            No traveller returns,--puzzles the will
            And makes us rather bear those ills we have
            Than fly to others that we know not of.
            Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.'

"They are true, and, while men last, they always will be true."

"Oh! Arthur," she answered, earnestly, and for the first time
addressing him in conversation by his Christian name, "how limited
your trust must be in the mercy of a Creator, whose mercy is as wide
as the ocean, that you can talk like that! You speak of me, too, as
better than yourself--how am I better? I have my bad thoughts and do
bad things as much as you, and, though they may not be the same, I am
sure they are quite as black as yours, since everybody must be
responsible according to their characters and temptations. I try,
however, to trust in God to cover my sins, and believe that, if I do
my best, He will forgive me, that is all. But I have no business to
preach to you, who are older and wiser than I am."

"If," he broke in, laying his hand involuntarily upon her own, "you
knew--although I have never spoken of them to any one before, and
could not speak of them to anybody but yourself--how these things
weigh upon my mind, you would not say that, but would try to teach me
your faith."

"How can I teach you, Arthur, when I have so much to learn myself?"
she answered, simply, and from that moment, though she did not know it
as yet, she loved him.

This conversation--a very curious one, Arthur thought to himself
afterwards, for two young people on a spring morning--having come to
an end, nothing more was said for some while, and they took their way
down the hill, varying the route in order to pass through the little
hamlet of Bratham. Under a chestnut-tree that stood upon the village
green, Arthur noticed, _not_ a village blacksmith, but a small crowd,
mostly composed of children, gathered round somebody. On going to see
who it was, he discovered a battered-looking old man with an
intellectual face, and the remnants of a gentlemanlike appearance,
playing on the violin. A very few touches of his bow told Arthur, who
knew something of music, that he was in the presence of a performer of
no mean merit. Seeing the quality of his two auditors, and that they
appreciated his performance, the player changed his music, and from a
village jig passed to one of the more difficult opera airs, which he
executed in brilliant fashion.

"Bravo!" cried Arthur, as the last notes thrilled and died away; "I
see you understand how to play the fiddle."

"Yes, sir, and so I should, for I have played first violin at Her
Majesty's Opera before now. Name what you like, and I will play it
you. Or, if you like it better, you shall hear the water running in a
brook, the wind passing through the trees, or the waves falling on the
beach. Only say the word."

Arthur thought for a moment.

"It is a beautiful day, let us have a contrast--give us the music of a
storm."

The old man considered a while.

"I understand, but you set a difficult subject even for me," and
taking up his bow he made several attempts at beginning. "I can't do
it," he said, "set something else."

"No, no, try again, that or nothing."

Again he started, and this time his genius took possession of him. The
notes fell very softly at first, but with an ominous sound, then rose
and wailed like the rising of the wind. Next the music came in gusts,
the rain pattered, and the thunder roared, till at length the tempest
seemed to spend its force and pass slowly away into the distance.

"There, sir, what do you say to that--have I fulfilled your
expectations?"

"Write it down and it will be one of the finest pieces of violin music
in the country."

"Write it down. The divine 'afflatus' is not to be caged, sir, it
comes and goes. I could never write that music down."

Arthur felt in his pocket without answering, and found five shillings.

"If you will accept this?" he said.

"Thank you, sir, very much. I am gladder of five shillings now than I
once was of as many pounds;" and he rose to go.

"A man of your talent should not be wandering about like this."

"I must earn a living somehow, for all Talleyrand's witticism to the
contrary," was the curious answer.

"Have you no friends?"

"No, sir, this is my only friend; all the rest have deserted me," and
he tapped his violin and was gone.

"Lord, sir," said a farmer, who was standing by, "he's gone to get
drunk; he is the biggest old drunkard in the countryside, and yet they
do say he was gentleman once, and the best fiddler in London; but he
can't be depended on, so no one will hire him now."

"How sad," said Angela, as they moved homewards.

"Yes, and what music that was; I never heard any with such imagination
before. You have a turn that way, Angela; you should try to put it
into words, it would make a poem."

"I complain like the old man, that you set a difficult subject," she
said; "but I will try, if you will promise not to laugh at the
result."

"If you succeed on paper only half so well as he did on the violin,
your verses will be worth listening to, and I certainly shall not
laugh."



                             CHAPTER XXV

On the following day the somewhat curious religious conversation
between Arthur and Angela--a conversation which, begun on Arthur's
part out of curiosity, had ended on both sides very much in earnest--
the weather broke up and the grand old English climate reasserted its
treacherous supremacy. From summer weather the inhabitants of the
county of Marlshire suddenly found themselves plunged into a spell of
cold that was by contrast almost Arctic. Storms of sleet drove against
the window-panes, and there was even a very damaging night-frost,
while that dreadful scourge, which nobody in his senses except
Kingsley _can_ ever have liked, the east wind, literally pervaded the
whole place, and went whistling through the surrounding trees and
ruins in a way calculated to make even a Laplander shiver.

Under these cheerless circumstances our pair of companions--for as yet
they were, ostensibly at any rate, nothing more--gave up their outdoor
excursions and took to rambling over the disused rooms in the old
house, and hunting up many a record, some of them valuable and curious
enough, of long-forgotten Caresfoots, and even of the old priors
before them; a splendidly illuminated missal being amongst the latter
prizes. When this amusement was exhausted, they sat together over the
fire in the nursery, and Angela translated to him from her favourite
classical authors, especially Homer, with an ease and fluency of
expression that, to Arthur, was little short of miraculous. Or, when
they got tired of that, he read to her from standard writers, which,
elaborate as her education had been, in certain respects, she had
scarcely yet even opened, notably Shakespeare and Milton. Needless to
say, herself imbued with a strong poetic feeling, these immortal
writers were a source of intense delight to her.

"How is it that Mr. Fraser never gave you Shakespeare to read?" asked
Arthur one day, as he shut up the volume, having come to the end of
"Hamlet."

"He said that I should be better able to appreciate it when my mind
had been prepared to do so by the help of a classical and mathematical
education, and that it would be 'a mistake to cloy my mental palate
with sweets before I had learnt to appreciate their flavours.'"

"There is some sense in that," remarked Arthur. "By the way, how are
the verses you promised to write me getting on? Have you done them
yet?"

"I have done something," she answered, modestly, "but I really do not
think that they are worth producing. It is very tiresome of you to
have remembered about them."

Arthur, however, by this time knew enough of Angela's abilities to be
sure that her "something" would be something more or less worth
hearing, and mildly insisted on their production, and then, to her
confusion, on her reading them aloud. They ran as follows, and
whatever Angela's opinion of them may have been, the reader shall
judge of them for himself:


                        A STORM ON THE STRINGS

       "The minstrel sat in his lonely room,
        Its walls were bare, and the twilight grey
        Fell and crept and gathered to gloom;
        It came like the ghost of the dying day,
        And the chords fell hushed and low.
                                                    Pianissimo!

       "His arm was raised, and the violin
        Quivered and shook with the strain it bore,
        While the swelling forth of the sounds within
        Rose with a sweetness unknown before,
        And the chords fell soft and low.
                                                    Piano!

       "The first cold flap of the tempest's wings
        Clashed with the silence before the storm,
        The raindrops pattered across the strings
        As the gathering thunder-clouds took form--
        Drip, drop, high and low.
                                                    Staccato!

       "Heavily rolling the thunder roared,
        Sudden and jagged the lightning played,
        Faster and faster the raindrops poured,
        Sobbing and surging the tree-crests swayed,
        Cracking and crashing above, below.
                                                    Crescendo!

       "The wind tore howling across the wold,
        And tangled his train in the groaning trees,
        Wrapped the dense clouds in his mantle cold,
        Then shivered and died in a wailing breeze,
        Whistling and weeping high and low,
                                                    Sostenuto!

       "A pale sun broke from the driving cloud,
        And flashed in the raindrops serenely cool:
        At the touch of his finger the forest bowed,
        As it shimmered and glanced in the ruffled pool,
        While the rustling leaves soughed soft and low.
                                                    Gracioso!

       "It was only a dream on the throbbing strings,
        An echo of Nature in phantasy wrought,
        A breath of her breath and a touch of her wings
        From a kingdom outspread in the regions of thought.
        Below rolled the sound of the city's din,
        And the fading day, as the night drew in,
        Showed the quaint old face and the pointed chin,
        And the arm that was raised o'er the violin,
        As the old man whispered his hope's dead tale,
        To the friend who could comfort, though others might fail,
        And the chords stole hushed and low.
                                                    Pianissimo!"


He stopped, and the sheet of paper fell from his hands.

"Well," she said, with all the eagerness of a new-born writer, "tell
me, do you think them _very_ bad?"

"Well, Angela, you know----"

"Ah! go on now; I am ready to be crushed. Pray don't spare my
feelings."

"I was about to say that, thanks be to Providence, I am not a critic;
but I think----"

"Oh! yes, let me hear what you think. You are speaking so slowly, in
order to get time to invent something extra cutting. Well, I deserve
it."

"Don't interrupt; I was going to say that I think the piece above the
average of second-class poetry, and that a few of the lines touch the
first-class standard. You have caught something of the 'divine
afflatus' that the drunken old fellow said he could not cage. But I do
not think that you will ever be popular as a writer of verses if you
keep to that style; I doubt if there is a magazine in the kingdom that
would take those lines unless they were by a known writer. They would
return them marked, 'Good, but too vague for the general public.'
Magazine editors don't like lines from 'a kingdom outspread in the
regions of thought,' for, as they say, such poems are apt to excite
vagueness in the brains of that dim entity, the 'general public.' What
they do like are commonplace ideas, put in pretty language, and
sweetened with sentimentality or emotional religious feelings, such as
the thinking powers of their subscribers are competent to absorb
without mental strain, and without leaving their accustomed channels.
To be popular it is necessary to be commonplace, or at the least to
describe the commonplace, to work in a well-worn groove, and not to
startle--requirements which, unfortunately, simple as they seem, very
few persons possess the art of acting up to. See what happens to the
unfortunate novelist, for instance, who dares to break the unwritten
law, and defraud his readers of the orthodox transformation scene of
the reward of virtue and the discomfiture of vice; or to make his
creation finish up in a way that, however well it may be suited to its
tenor, or illustrate its more subtle meaning, is contrary to the
'general reader's' idea as to how it should end--badly, as it is
called. He simply collapses, to rise no more, if he is new at the
trade, and, if he is a known man, that book won't sell."

"You talk quite feelingly," said Angela, who was getting rather bored,
and wanted, not unnaturally, to hear more about her own lines.

"Yes," replied Arthur, grimly; "I do. Once I was fool enough to write
a book, but I must tell you that it is a painful subject with me. It
never came out. Nobody would have it."

"Oh! Arthur, I am so sorry; I should like to read your book. But, as
regards the verses, I am glad that you like them, and I really don't
care what a hypothetical general public would say; I wrote them to
please you, not the general public."

"Well, my dear, I am sure I am much obliged to you; I shall value them
doubly, once for the giver's sake, and once for their own."

Angela blushed, but did not reprove the term of endearment which had
slipped unawares from his lips. Poetry is a dangerous subject between
two young people who at heart adore one another; it is apt to excite
the brain, and bring about startling revelations.

The day following the reading of Angela's piece of poetry was rendered
remarkable by two events, of which the first was that the weather
suddenly turned a somersault, and became beautifully warm; and the
second that news reached the Abbey House that, thanks chiefly to Lady
Bellamy's devoted nursing--who, fearless of infection, had, to the
great admiration of all her neighbours, volunteered her services when
no nurse could be found to undertake the case--George was pronounced
out of danger. This piece of news was peculiarly grateful to Philip,
for, had his cousin died, the estates must have passed away for ever
under the terms of his uncle's will, for he knew that George had made
none. Angela, too, tried, like a good girl as she was, to lash herself
into enthusiasm about it, though in her heart she went as near hating
her cousin, since his attempted indignity towards herself, as her
gentle nature would allow. Arthur alone was cynically indifferent; he
hated George without any reservation whatsoever.

And after this their came for our pair of embryo lovers some ten or
twelve such happy days (for there was no talk of Arthur's departure,
Philip having on several occasions pointedly told him that the house
was at his disposal for as long as he chose to remain in it). The sky
was blue in those days, or only flecked with summer clouds, just as
Arthur and Angela's perfect companionship was flecked and shaded with
the deeper hues of dawning passion. Alas, the sky in this terrestrial
clime is never _quite_ blue!

But as yet nothing of love had passed between them, no kiss or word of
endearment; only when hand touched hand a strange thrill had moved
them both, and sent the warm blood to stain Angela's clear brow, like
a wavering tint of sunlight thrown upon the marble features of some
white Venus; only in each other's eyes they found a holy mystery. The
spell was not yet fully at work, but the wand of earth's great
enchanter had touched them, and they were changed. Angela is hardly
the same girl she was when we met her a little more than a fortnight
back. A nameless change has come over her face and manner; the merry
smile, once so bright, has grown softer and more sweet, and the
laughing light of her grey eyes has given place to a look of some such
gratitude and wonder, as that with which the traveller in lonely
deserts gazes on the oasis of his perfect rest.

Many times Arthur had almost blurted out the truth to the woman he
passionately adored, and every day so added to the suppressed fire of
his love that at length he felt that he could not keep his secret to
himself much longer. And yet he feared to tell it; better, he thought,
to live happy, if in doubt, than to risk all his fortune on a single
throw, for before his eyes there lay the black dread of failure; and
then, what would life be worth? Here with Angela he lived in a Garden
of Eden that no forebodings, no anxieties, no fear of that partially
scotched serpent George, could render wretched, so long as it was
gladdened by the presence of her whom he hoped to make his Eve. But
without, and around where she could not be, there was nothing but
clods and thistles and a black desolation that, even in imagination,
he dared not face.

And Angela, gazing on veiled mysteries with wondering eyes, was she
happy during those spring-tide days? Almost; but still there was in
her heart a consciousness of effort, a sense of transformation and
knowledge of the growth of hidden things. The bud bursting into the
glory of the rose, must, if there be feeling in a rose, undergo some
such effort before it can make its beauty known; the butterfly but
newly freed from the dull husk that hid its splendours, at first must
feel the imperfect wings it stretches in the sun to be irksome to its
unaccustomed sense. And so it was with Angela; she spread her half-
grown wings in the sun of her new existence, and found them strange,
not knowing as yet that they were shaped to bear her to the flower-
crowned heights of love.

Hers was one of those rare natures in which the passion that we know
by the generic term of love, approached as near perfection as is
possible in our human hearts. For there are many sorts and divisions
of love, ranging from the affection, pure, steady, and divine, that is
showered upon us from above, to the degrading madness of such a one as
George Caresfoot. It is surely one of the saddest evidences of our
poor humanity that, even among the purest of us, there are none who
can altogether rid the whiteness of the love they have to offer of its
earthly stain. Indeed, if we could so far conquer the promptings of
our nature as to love with perfect purity, we should become like
angels. But, just as white flowers are sometimes to be found on the
blackest peak, so there do bloom in the world spirits as pure as they
are rare--so free from evil, so closely shadowed by the Almighty wing,
that they can almost reach to this perfection. Then the love they have
to give is too refined, too holy and strong, to be understood of the
mass of men: often it is squandered on some unequal and unanswering
nature; sometimes it is wisely offered up to Him from whom it came.

We gaze upon an ice-bound river, and there is nothing to tell us that
beneath that white cloak its current rushes to the ocean. But
presently the spring comes, the prisoned waters burst their fetters,
and we see a glad torrent sparkling in the sunlight. And so it was
with our heroine's heart; the breath of Arthur's passion and the light
of Arthur's eyes had beat upon it, and almost freed the river of its
love. Already the listener might hear the ice-sheets crack and start;
soon they will be gone, and her deep devotion will set as strong
towards him as the tide of the torrent towards its receiving sea.

"Fine writing!" perhaps the reader will say; but surely none too fine
to describe the most beautiful thing in this strange world, the
irrevocable gift of a good woman's love!

However that may be, it will have served its purpose if it makes it
clear that a crisis is at hand in the affairs of the heart of two of
the central actors on this mimic stage.



                             CHAPTER XXVI

One Saturday morning, when May was three-parts gone, Philip announced
his intention of going up to London till the Monday on business. He
was a man who had long since become callous to appearances, and though
Arthur, fearful lest spiteful things should be said of Angela, almost
hinted that it would look odd, his host merely laughed, and said that
he had little doubt but that his daughter was quite able to look after
herself, even when such a fascinating young gentleman as himself was
concerned. As a matter of fact, his object was to get rid of Angela by
marrying her to this young Heigham, who had so opportunely tumbled
down from the skies, and whom he rather liked than otherwise. This
being the case, he rightly concluded that, the more the two were left
together, the greater probability there was of his object being
attained. Accordingly he left them together as much as possible.

It was on the evening of this Saturday that Arthur gathered up his
courage and asked Angela to come and walk through the ruins with him.
Angela hesitated a little; the shadow of something about to happen had
fallen on her mind; but the extraordinary beauty of the evening, to
say nothing of the prospect of his company, turned the scale in
Arthur's favour.

It was one of those nights of which, if we are lucky, we get some five
or six in the course of an English summer. The moon was at her full,
and, the twilight ended, she filled the heavens with her light. Every
twig and blade of grass showed out as clearly as in the day, but
looked like frosted silver. The silence was intense, and so still was
the air that the sharp shadows of the trees were motionless upon the
grass, only growing with the growing hours. It was one of those nights
that fill us with an indescribable emotion, bringing us into closer
companionship with the unseen than ever does the garish, busy day. In
such an hour, we can sometimes feel, or think that we can feel, other
presences around us, and involuntarily we listen for the whisper of
the wings and the half-forgotten voices of our beloved.

On this particular evening some such feeling was stirring in Angela's
heart as with slow steps she led the way into the little village
churchyard, a similar spot to that which is to be found in many a
country parish, except that, the population being very small, there
were but few recent graves. Most of the mounds had no head-stones to
recall the names of the neglected dead, but here and there were dotted
discoloured slabs, some sunk a foot or two into the soil, a few lying
prone upon it, and the remainder thrown by the gradual subsidence of
their supports into every variety of angle, as though they had been
suddenly halted in the maddest whirl of a grotesque dance of death.

Picking her way through these, Angela stopped under an ancient yew,
and, pointing to one of the two shadowed mounts to which the moonlight
scarcely struggled, said, in a low voice,

"That is my mother's grave."

It was a modest tenement enough, a little heap of close green turf,
surrounded by a railing, and planted with sweet-williams and forget-
me-nots. At its head was placed a white marble cross, on which Arthur
could just distinguish the words "Hilda Caresfoot," and the date of
death.

He was about to speak, but she stopped him with a gentle movement, and
then, stepping forward to the head of the railing, she buried her face
in her hands, and remained motionless. Arthur watched her with
curiosity. What, he wondered, was passing in the mind of this strange
and beautiful woman, who had grown up so sweet and pure amidst moral
desolation, like a white lily blooming alone on the black African
plains in winter? Suddenly she raised her head, and saw the inquiring
look he bent upon her. She came towards him, and, in that sweet, half-
pleading voice which was one of her greatest charms, she said,

"I fear you think me very foolish?"

"Why should I think you foolish?"

"Because I have come here at night to stand before a half-forgotten
grave."

"I do not think you foolish, indeed. I was only wondering what was
passing in your mind."

Angela hung her head and made no answer, and the clock above them
boomed out the hour, raising its sullen note in insolent defiance of
the silence. What is it that is so solemn about the striking of the
belfry-clock when one stands in a churchyard at night? Is it that the
hour softens our natures, and makes them more amenable to semi-
superstitious influences? Or is it that the thousand evidences of
departed mortality which surround us, appealing with dumb force to
natural fears, throw open for a space the gates of our world-sealed
imagination, to tenant its vast halls with prophetic echoes of our
end? Perhaps it is useless to inquire. The result remains the same:
few of us can hear those tones at night without a qualm, and, did we
put our thoughts into words, they would run something thus:

"That sound once broke upon the living ears of those who sleep around
us. We hear it now. In a little while, hour after hour, it will echo
against the tombstones of _our_ graves, and new generations, coming
out of the silent future, will stand where we stand, and hearken; and
muse, as we mused, over the old problems that we have gone to solve;
whilst we--shall we not be deaf to hear and dumb to utter?"

Such, at any rate, were the unspoken thoughts that crept into the
hearts of Arthur and Angela as the full sound from the belfry thinned
itself away into silence. She grew a little pale, and glanced at him,
and he gave an involuntary shiver, while even the dog Aleck sniffed
and whined uncomfortably.

"It feels cold," he said. "Shall we go?"

They turned and walked towards the gate, and, by the time they reached
it, all superstitious thoughts had vanished--at any rate, from
Arthur's mind, for he recollected that he had set himself a task to
do, and that now would be the time to do it. Absorbed in this
reflection, he forgot his politeness, and passed first through the
turnstile. On the further side he paused, and looked earnestly into
his beloved's face. Their eyes met, and there was that in his that
caused her to swiftly drop her own. A silence ensued as they stood by
the gate. He broke it.

"It is a lovely night. Let us walk through the ruins."

"I shall wet my feet: the dew must be falling."

"There is no dew falling to-night. Won't you come?"

"Let us go to-morrow; it is later than I generally go in. Pigott will
wonder what has become of me."

"Never mind Pigott. The night is too fine to waste asleep; besides,
you know, one should always look at ruins by moonlight. Please come."

She looked at him doubtfully, hesitated, and came.

"What do you want to see?" she said presently, with as near an
approach to irritation as he had ever heard her indulge in. "That is
the famous window that Mr. Fraser always goes into raptures about."

"It is beautiful. Shall we sit down here and look at it?"

They sat down on a low mass of fallen masonry some fifteen paces from
the window. Around them lay a delicate tracery of shadows, whilst they
themselves were seated in the eye of the moonlight, and remained for a
while as silent and as still as though they had been the shades of the
painted figures that had once filled the stony frame above them.

"Angela," he said at length--"Angela, listen, and I will tell you
something. My mother, a woman to whom sorrow had become almost an
inspiration, when she was dying, spoke to me something thus: 'There
is,' she said, 'but one thing that I know of that has the power to
make life happy as God meant it to be, and as the folly and weakness
of men and women render it nearly impossible for it to be, and that is
--love. Love has been the consolation of my own existence in the midst
of many troubles; first, the great devotion I bore your father, and
then that which I entertain for yourself. Without these two ties, life
would indeed have been a desert. And yet, though it is a grief to me
to leave you, and though I shrink from the dark passage that lies
before me, so far does that first great love outweigh the love I bear
you, that in my calmer moments I am glad to go, because I know I am
awaited by your father. And from this I wish you to learn a lesson:
look for your happiness in life from the love of your life, for there
only will you find it. Do not fritter away your heart, but seek out
some woman, some one good and pure and true, and in giving her your
devotion, you will reap a full reward, for her happiness will reflect
your own, and, if your choice is right, you will, however stormy your
life may be, lay up for yourself, as I feel that I have done, an
everlasting joy.'"

She listened to him in silence.

"Angela," he went on, boldly enough, now that the ice was broken, "I
have often thought about what my mother said, but until now I have
never _quite_ understood her meaning. I do understand it now. Angela,
do _you_ understand me?"

There was no answer; she sat there upon the fallen masonry, gazing at
the ruins round her, motionless and white as a marble goddess,
forgotten in her desecrated fane.

"Oh, Angela, listen to me--listen to me! I have found the woman of
whom my mother spoke, who must be so 'good and pure and true.' You are
she. I love you, Angela, I love you with my whole life and soul; I
love you for this world and the next. Oh! do not reject me; though I
am so little worthy of you, I will try to grow so. Dearest, can you
love me?"

Still there was silence, but he thought that he saw her breast heave
gently. Then he placed his hand, all trembling with the fierce emotion
that throbbed along his veins, upon the palm that hung listless by her
side, and gazed into her eyes. Still she neither spoke nor shrank,
and, in the imperfect light, her face looked very pale, while her
lovely eyes were dark and meaningless as those of one entranced.

Then slowly he gathered up his courage for an effort, and, raising his
face to the level of her own, he kissed her full upon her lips. She
stirred, she sighed. He had broken the spell; the sweet face that had
withdrawn itself drew nearer to him; for a second the awakened eyes
looked into his own, and filled them with reflected splendour, and
then he became aware of a warm arm thrown about his neck, and next--
the stars grew dim, and sense and life itself seemed to shake upon
their thrones, for a joy almost too great for mortal man to bear took
possession of his heart as she laid her willing lips upon his own. And
then, before he knew her purpose, she slid down upon her knees beside
him, and placed her head upon her breast.

"Dearest," he said, "don't kneel so; look at me."

Slowly she raised her face, wreathed and lovely with many blushes, and
looked upon him with tearful eyes. He tried to raise her.

"Let me be," she said, speaking very low. "I am best so; it is the
attitude of adoration, and I have found--my divinity."

"But I cannot bear to see you kneel to me."

"Oh! Arthur, you do not understand; a minute since _I_ did not
understand that a woman is very humble when she really loves.

"Do you--really love me, Angela?"

"I do."

"Have you known that long?"

"I only _knew_ it when--when you kissed me. Before then there was
something in my heart, but I did not know what it was. Listen, dear,"
she went on, "for one minute to me first, and I will get up" (for he
was again attempting to raise her). "What I have to say is best said
upon my knees, for I want to thank God who sent you to me, and to
thank you too for your goodness. It is so wonderful that you should
love a simple girl like me, and I am so thankful to you. Oh! I have
never lived till now, and" (rising to her full stature) "I feel as
though I had been crowned a queen of happy things. Dethrone me, desert
me, and I will still be grateful to you for this hour of imperial
happiness. But if you, after a while, when you know all my faults and
imperfections better, can still care for me, I know that there is
something in me that will enable me to repay you for what you have
given me, by making your whole life happy. Dear, I do not know if I
speak as other women do, but, believe me, it is out of the fulness of
my heart. Take care, Arthur, oh! take care, lest your fate should be
that of the magician you spoke of the other day, who evoked the
spirit, and then fell down before it in terror. You have also called
up a spirit, and I pray that it was not done in sport, lest it should
trouble you hereafter."

"Angela, do not speak so to me; it is I who should have knelt to you.
Yes, you were right when you called yourself 'a queen of happy
things.' You are a queen----"

"Hush! Don't overrate me; your disillusion will be the more painful.
Come, Arthur, let us go home."

He rose and went with her, in a dream of joy that for a moment
precluded speech. At the door she bade him good-night, and, oh!
happiness, gave him her lips to kiss. Then they parted, their hearts
too full for words. One thing he asked her, however.

"What was it that took you to your mother's grave to-night?"

She looked at him with a curiously mixed expression of shy love and
conviction on her face, and answered,

"Her spirit, who led me to your heart."



                            CHAPTER XXVII

George's recovery, when the doctors had given up all hope, was
sufficiently marvellous to suggest the idea that a certain power had
determined--on the hangman's principle, perhaps--to give him the
longest of ropes; but it could in reality be traced to a more
terrestrial influence--namely, Lady Bellamy's nursing. Had it not been
for this nursing, it is very certain that her patient would have
joined his forefathers in the Bratham churchyard. For whole days and
nights she watched and tended him, scarcely closing her own eyes, and
quite heedless of the danger of infection; till in the end she
conquered the fever, and snatched him from the jaws of the grave. How
often has not a woman's devotion been successful in such a struggle!

On the Monday following the events narrated in the last chapter,
George, now in an advanced stage of convalescence, though forbidden to
go abroad for another fortnight, was sitting downstairs enjoying the
warm sunshine, and the sensation of returning life and vigour that was
creeping into his veins, when Lady Bellamy came into the room,
bringing with her some medicine.

"Here is your tonic, George; it is the last dose that I can give you,
as I am going back to my disconsolate husband at luncheon-time."

"I can't have you go away yet; I am not well enough."

"I must go, George; people will begin to talk if I stop here any
longer."

"Well, if you must, I suppose you must," he answered, sulkily. "But I
must say I think that you show a great want of consideration for my
comfort. Who is to look after me, I should like to know? I am far from
well yet--far from well."

"Believe me," she said, softly, "I am very sorry to leave you, and am
glad to have been of help to you, though you have never thought much
about it."

"Oh, I am sure I am much obliged, but it is not likely that you would
leave me to rot of fever without coming to look after me."

She sighed as she answered,

"You would not do as much for me."

"Oh, bother, Anne, don't get sentimental. Before you go, I must speak
to you about that girl Angela. Have you taken any steps?"

Lady Bellamy started.

"What, are you still bent upon that project?"

"Of course I am. It seemed to me that all my illness was one long
dream of her. I am more bent upon it than ever."

"And do you still insist upon my playing the part you had marked out
for me? Do you know, George, that there were times in your illness
when, if I had relaxed my care for a single five minutes, it would
have turned the scale against you, and that once I did not close my
eyes for five nights? Look at me, how thin and worn I am: it is from
nursing you. I have saved your life. Surely you will not now force me
to do this unnatural thing."

"If, my dear Anne, you had saved my life fifty times, I would still
force you to do it. Ah! it is no use your looking at that safe. I have
no doubt that you got my keys and searched it whilst I was ill, but I
was too sharp for you. I had the letters moved when I heard that you
were coming to nurse me. They are back there now, though. How
disappointed you must have been!" And he chuckled.

"I should have done better to let you die, monster of wickedness and
ingratitude that you are!" she said, stamping her foot upon the floor,
and the tears of vexation standing in her eyes.

"The letters, my dear Anne; remember that you have got to earn your
letters. I am very much obliged to you for your nursing, but business
is business."

She was silent for a moment, and then spoke in her ordinary tone.

"By the way, talking of letters, there was one came for you this
morning in your cousin Philip's handwriting, and with a London
postmark. Will you read it?"

"Read it--yes; anything from the father of my inamorata will be
welcome."

She fetched the letter and gave it him. He read it aloud. After a page
of congratulations on his convalescence, it ended,

"And now I want to make a proposal to you--viz., to buy back the
Isleworth lands from you. I know that the place is distasteful to you,
and will probably be doubly so after your severe illness; but, if you
care to keep the house and grounds, I am not particularly anxious to
acquire them. I am prepared to offer a good price," &c. &c.

"I'll see him hanged first," was George's comment. "How did he get the
money?"

"Saved it and made it, I suppose."

"Well, at any rate, he shall not buy me out with it. No, no, Master
Philip; I am not fond enough of you to do you that turn."

"It does not strike you," she said, coldly, "that you hold in your
hands a lever that may roll all your difficulties about this girl out
of the way."

"By Jove, you are right, Anne. Trust a woman's brain. But I don't want
to sell the estates unless I am forced to."

"Would you rather part with the land, or give up your project of
marrying Angela Caresfoot?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because you will have to choose between the two."

"Then I had rather sell."

"You had better give it up, George. I am not superstitious, but I have
knowledge in things that you do not understand, and I foresee nothing
but disaster in this plan."

"Once and for all, Anne, I will not give it up whilst I have any
breath left in my body, and I take my oath that unless you help me,
and help me honestly, I will expose you."

"Oh! I am your very humble servant; you may count on me. The galley-
slave pulls well when the lash hangs over his shoulders," and she
laughed coldly.

Just then a servant announced that Mr. Caresfoot was at the door, and
anxious to speak to his cousin. He was ordered to show him into the
drawing-room. As soon as he had gone on his errand, George said,

"I will not see him; say I am too unwell. But do you go, and see that
you make the most of your chance."

Lady Bellamy nodded, and left the room. She found Philip in the
drawing-room.

"Ah! how do you do, Mr. Caresfoot? I come from your cousin to say that
he cannot see you to-day; he has scarcely recovered sufficiently from
the illness through which I have been nursing him; but of course you
know all about that."

"Oh! yes, Lady Bellamy, I have heard all about it, including your own
brave behaviour, to which, the doctor tells me, George owes his life.
I am sorry that he cannot see me, though. I have just come down from
town, and called in on my way from Roxham. I had some rather important
business that I wanted to speak about."

"About your offer to repurchase the Isleworth lands?" she asked.

"Ah! you know of the affair. Yes, that was it."

"Then I am commissioned to give you a reply."

Philip listened anxiously.

"Your cousin absolutely refuses to sell any part of the lands."

"Will nothing chance his determination? I am ready to give a good
price, and pay a separate valuation for the timber."

"Nothing; he does not intend to sell."

A deep depression spread itself over her hearer's face.

"Then there go the hopes of twenty years," he said. "For twenty long
years, ever since my misfortune, I have toiled and schemed to get
these lands back, and now it is all for nothing. Well, there is
nothing more to be said," and he turned to go.

"Stop a minute, Mr. Caresfoot. Do you know, you interest me very
much."

"I am proud to interest so charming a lady," he answered, a touch of
depressed gallantry.

"That is as it should be; but you interest me because you are an
instance of the truth of the saying that every man has some ruling
passion, if only one could discover it. Why do you want these
particular lands? Your money will buy others just as good."

"Why does a Swiss get home-sick? Why does a man defrauded of his own
wish to recover it?"

Lady Bellamy mused a little.

"What would you say if I showed you an easy way to get them?"

Philip turned sharply round with a new look of hope upon his face.

"You would earn my eternal gratitude--a gratitude that I should be
glad to put into a practical shape."

She laughed.

"Oh! you must speak to Sir John about that. Now listen; I am going to
surprise you. Your cousin wants to get married."

"Get married! George wants to get married!"

"Exactly so; and now I have a further surprise in store for you--he
wants to marry your daughter Angela."

This time Philip said nothing, but he started in evident and
uncomfortable astonishment. If Lady Bellamy wished to surprise him,
she had certainly succeeded.

"Surely you are joking!" he said.

"I never was further from joking in my life; he is desperately in love
with her, and wild to marry her."

"Well?"

"Well, don't you now see a way to force your cousin to sell the
lands?"

"At the price of Angela's hand?"

"Precisely."

Philip walked up and down the room in thought. Though, as the reader
may remember, he had himself, but a month before, been base enough to
suggest that his daughter should use her eyes to forward his projects,
he had never, in justice to him be it said, dreamt of forcing her into
a marriage in every way little less than unnatural. His idea of
responsibility towards his daughter was, as regards sins of omission,
extremely lax, but there were some of commission that he did not care
to face. Certain fears and memories oppressed him too much to allow of
it.

"Lady Bellamy," he said, presently, "you have known my cousin George
intimately for many years, and are probably sufficiently acquainted
with his habits of life to know that such a marriage would be an
infamy."

"Many a man who has been wild in his youth makes a good husband," she
answered, quietly.

"The more I think of it," went on Philip, excitedly, after the fashion
of one who would lash himself into a passion, "the more I see the
utter impossibility of any such thing, and I must say that I wonder at
your having undertaken such an errand. On the one hand, there is a
young girl who, though I do not, from force of circumstances, see much
of myself, is, I believe, as good as she is handsome----"

"And on the other," broke in Lady Bellamy, ironically, "are the
Isleworth estates."

"And on the other," went on Philip, without paying heed to her remark
--"I am going to speak plainly, Lady Bellamy--is a man utterly devoid
of the foundations of moral character, whose appearance is certainly
against him, who I have got reason to know is not to be trusted, and
who is old enough to be her father, and her cousin to boot--and you
ask me to forward such a marriage as this! I will have nothing to do
with it; my responsibilities as a father forbid it. It would be the
wickedest thing I have ever done to put the girl into the power of
such a man."

Lady Bellamy burst into a low peal of laughter; she never laughed
aloud. She thought that it was now time to throw him a little off his
balance.

"Forgive me," she said, with her sweetest smile, "but you must admit
that there is something rather ludicrous in hearing the hero of the
great Maria Lee scandal talking about moral character, and the father
who detests his daughter so much that he fears to look her in the
face, and whose sole object is to rid himself of an encumbrance,
prating of his paternal responsibilities."

Philip started visibly at her words.

"Ah! Mr. Caresfoot," she went on, "I surprise you by my knowledge, but
we women are sad spies, and it is my little amusement to find out
other people's secrets, a very useful little amusement. I could tell
you many things----"

"I was about to say," broke in Philip, who had naturally no desire to
see more of the secrets of his life unveiled by Lady Bellamy, "that,
even if I did wish to get rid of Angela, I should have little
difficulty in doing so, as young Heigham, who has been stopping at the
Abbey House for a fortnight or so, is head over ears in love with her;
indeed, I should think it highly probable that they are at this moment
engaged."

It was Lady Bellamy's turn to start now.

"Ah!" she said, "I did not know that; that complicates matters." And
then, with a sudden change of tone--"Mr. Caresfoot, as a friend, let
me beg of you not to throw away such a chance in a hurry for the sake
of a few nonsensical ideas abut a girl. What is she, after all, that
she should stand in the way of such grave interests as you have in
hand? I tell you that he is perfectly mad about her. You can make your
own terms and fix your own price."

"Price! ay, that is what it would be--a price for her body and soul."

"Well, and what of it? The thing is done every day, only one does not
talk of it in that way."

"Who taught you, who were once a young girl yourself, to plead such a
cause as this?"

"Nonsense, it is a very good cause--a cause that will benefit
everybody, especially your daughter. George will get what he wants;
you, with the recovery of the estates, will also recover your lost
position and reputation, both to a great extent an affair of landed
property. Mr. Heigham will gain a little experience, whilst she will
bloom into a great lady, and, like any other girl in the same
circumstances, learn to adore her husband in a few months."

"And what will _you_ get, Lady Bellamy?"

"I!" she replied, with a gay laugh. "Oh! you know, virtue is its own
reward. I shall be quite satisfied in seeing everybody else made
happy. Come, I do not want to press you about the matter at present.
Think it over at your leisure. I only beg you not to give a decided
answer to young Heigham, should he ask you for Angela, till I have
seen you again--say, in a week's time. Then, if you don't like it, you
can leave it alone, and nobody will be a penny the worse."

"As you like; but I tell you that I can never consent;" and Philip
took his leave.

"Your cousin entirely refuses his consent, and Angela is by this time
probably engaged to your ex-ward, Arthur Heigham," was Lady Bellamy's
not very promising report to the interesting invalid in the dining-
room.

After relieving his feelings at this intelligence in language more
forcible than polite, George remarked that, under these circumstances,
matters looked very bad.

"Not at all; they look very well. I shall see your cousin again in a
week's time, when I shall have a different tale to tell."

"Why wait a week with that young blackguard making the running on the
spot?"

"Because I have put poison into Philip's mind, and the surest poison
always works slow. Besides, the mischief has been done. Good-by. I
will come and see you in a day or two, when I have made my plans. You
see I mean to earn my letters."



                            CHAPTER XXVIII

With what degree of soundness our pair of lovers slumbered on that
memorable Saturday night, let those who have been so fortunate or
unfortunate as to have been placed in analogous circumstances, form
their own opinion.

It is, however, certain that Arthur gazed upon the moon and sundry of
the larger planets for some hours, until they unkindly set, and left
him, for his candle had burnt out, to find his way to bed in the dark.
With his reflections we will not trouble ourselves; or, rather, we
will not intrude upon their privacy. But there was another person in
the house who sat at an open window and looked upon the heavens--
Angela to wit. Let us avail ourselves of our rightful privilege, and
look into her thoughts.

Arthur's love had come upon her as a surprise, but it had found a
perfect home. All the days and hours that she had spent in his
company, had, unknown to herself, been mysteriously employed in
preparing a habitation to receive it. We all know the beautiful Bible
story of the Creation, how first there was an empty void, and the
Spirit brooding on the waters, then light, and then life, and last,
man coming to turn all things to his uses. Surely that story, which is
the type and symbol of many things, is of none more so than of the
growth and birth of a perfected love in the human heart.

The soil is made ready in the dead winter, and receives the seed into
its bosom. Then comes the spring, and it is clothed with verdure.
Space is void till the sun shoots its sudden rays athwart it, and
makes it splendid; the heart is cold and unwitting of its ends, till
the spirit broods upon it, as upon the waters, and it grows quick with
the purposes of life. And then what a change is there! What has the
flower in common with the seed from whence it sprang, or the noonday
sky with the darkness before the dawn?

Thinking in her chamber, with the night air playing on her hot brow,
and her hand pressed upon her heart, as though to still the tumult of
its joy, Angela grew vaguely conscious of these things.

"Was she the same in heart and mind that she had been a month ago? No,
a thousand times, no. Then what was this mysterious change that seemed
to shake her inmost life to its foundations? What angel had troubled
the waters into which she had so newly plunged? And whence came the
healing virtue that she found in them, bringing rest after the vague
trouble of the last two weeks, with sight to see the only good--her
love, with speed to follow, and strength to hold? Oh, happy, happy
world! oh, merciful Creator, who gave her to drink of such a living
spring! oh, Arthur, beloved Arthur!"

On Sunday mornings it was Pigott's habit to relax the Draconian
severity of her laws in the matter of breakfast, which, generally
speaking, was not till about half-past eight o'clock. At that hour
precisely, on the Sabbath in question, she appeared as usual--no, not
as usual, for, it being Sunday, she had on her stiff, black gown--and,
with all due solemnity, made the tea.

A few minutes elapsed, and Angela entered, dressed in white, and very
lovely in her simple, tight-fitting robe, but a trifle pale, and with
a shy look upon her face.

She greeted her nurse with a kiss.

"Why, what is the matter with you, dearie?" ejaculated Pigott, whose
watchful eye detected a change she could not define; "you look
different somehow."

"Hush! I will tell you by-and-by."

At that moment Arthur's quick step was heard advancing down the
passage, together with a pattering noise that announced the presence
of Aleck. And, as they came, Angela, poor Angela, grew red and redder,
and yet more painfully red, till Pigott, watching her face, was
enabled to form a shrewd guess as to what was the cause of her
unaccustomed looks.

On came the steps, and open flew the door, more and more ready to sink
into the earth looked Angela, and so interested grew nurse Pigott,
that she actually poured some hot tea on to her dress, a thing she
could never remember having done before.

The first to enter was Aleck, who, following his custom, sprang upon
Angela and licked her hand, and behind Aleck, looking somewhat
confused, but handsome and happy--for his was one of those faces that
become handsome when their owners are happy--came Aleck's master. And
then there ensued an infinitesimal but most awkward pause.

On such occasions as the present, namely, the first meeting after an
engagement, there is always--especially when it occurs in the presence
of a third person--a very considerable difficulty in the minds of the
parties to know what demeanour they are to adopt towards one another.
Are they to treat the little affair of the previous evening as a kind
of confidential communication, not to be alluded to except in private
conversation, and to drop into the Mr. and Miss of yesterday? That
would certainly be the easiest, but then it would also be a decided
act of mutual retreat. Or are they to rush into each other's arms as
becomes betrothed lovers? This process is so new that they feel that
it still requires private rehearsal. And, meanwhile, time presses, and
everybody is beginning to stare, and something _must_ be done.

These were very much the feelings of Arthur and Angela. He hesitated
before her, confused, and she kept her head down over the dog. But
presently Aleck, getting bored, moved on, and, as it would have been
inane to continue to stare at the floor, she had to raise herself as
slowly as she might. Soon their eyes arrived in the same plane, and
whether a mutual glance of intelligence was exchanged, or whether
their power of attraction overcame his power of resistance, it is not
easy to determine, but certain it is that, following a primary natural
law, Arthur gravitated towards her, and kissed her on the face.

"My!" exclaimed Pigott, and the milk-jug rolled unheeded on the floor.

"Hum! I suppose I had better explain," began he.

"I think you have spilt the milk," added she.

"That we have become engaged and are----"

"All to pieces, I declare," broke in Angela, with her head somewhere
near the carpet.

And then they both laughed.

"Well, I never, no, not in all my born days! Sir and Miss Angela, all
I have got to say about this extraordinary proceeding"--they glanced
at each other in alarm--"is that I am very glad to hear on it, and I
hope and pray how as you may be happy, and, if you treat my Angela
right, you'll be just the happiest and luckiest man in the three
kingdoms, including Ireland the Royal Family, and, if you treat her
wrong, worse will come to you; and her poor mother's last words, as I
heard with my own ears, will come true to you, and serve you right--
and there's all the milk upon the floor. And God bless you both, my
dears, is the prayer of an old woman."

And here the worthy soul broke down, and began to cry, nor were
Angela's eyes free from tears.

After this little episode, breakfast proceeded in something like the
usual way. Church was at 10.30, and, a while before the hour, Arthur
and Angela strolled down to the spot that had already become as holy
ground to them, and looked into each other's eyes, and said again the
same sweet words. Then they went on, and mingling with the little
congregation--that did not number more than thirty souls--they passed
into the cool quiet of the church.

"Lawks!" said a woman, as they went by, "ain't she just a beauty. What
a pretty wedding they'd make!"

Arthur overheard it, and noted the woman, and afterwards found a
pretext to give her five shillings, because he said it was a lucky
omen.

On the communion-table of the pretty little church there was spread
the "fair white cloth" of the rubric. It was the day for the monthly
celebration of the Sacrament, that met the religious requirements of
the village.

"Will you stay to the Sacrament with me?" whispered Angela to her
lover, in the interval between their seating themselves and the entry
of the clergyman, Mr. Fraser's _locum tenens_.

Arthur nodded assent.

And so, when the time came, those two went up together to the altar-
rails, and, kneeling side by side, ate of the bread and drank of the
cup, and, rising, departed thence with a new link between them. For,
be sure, part of the prayers which they offered up at that high moment
were in humble petition to the Almighty to set His solemn seal and
blessing on their love. Indeed, so far as Angela was concerned, there
were few acts of her simple life that she did not consecrate by
prayer, how much more, then, was she bent on bringing this, the
greatest of all her acts, before her Maker's throne.

Strange indeed, and full of a holy promise, is the yearning with which
we turn to Heaven to seek sanctification of our deeds, feeling our
weakness and craving strength from the source of strength; a yearning
of which the church, with that subtle knowledge of human nature, which
is one of the mainsprings of its power, has not been slow to avail
itself. And this need is more especially felt in matters connected
with the noblest of all passions, perhaps because all true love and
all true religion come from a common home.

Thus pledged to one another with a new and awful pledge, and knit
together in the bonds of an universal love, embracing their poor
affection as the wide skies embrace the earth, they rose, and went
their ways, purer to worship, and stronger to endure.

That afternoon, Arthur had a conversation with his betrothed that,
partaking of a business nature in the beginning, ended rather oddly.

"I must speak to your father when he comes back to-morrow, dear," he
began.

"My father! Oh yes, I had forgotten about that;" and she looked a
little anxious.

"Fortunately, I am fairly well off, so I see no cause why he should
object."

"Well, I think that he will be rather glad to get rid of Pigott and
myself. You know that he is not very fond of me."

"That is strange want of taste on his part."

"Oh, I don't know. Everybody does not see me with your eyes, Arthur."

"Because they have not the chance. All the world would love you, if it
knew you. But, seriously, I think that he can hardly object, or he
would not have allowed us to be thrown so much together; for, in nine
cases out of ten, that sort of thing has only one result."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that to import a young fellow into the house, and throw him
solely into a daughter's company, is very apt to bring about--well,
what has been brought about."

"Then you mean that you think that I should have fallen in love with
any gentleman who had come here?"

Arthur, not seeing the slight flash of indignation in her eyes,
replied,

"Well, you know, there is always a risk, but I should imagine that it
would very much depend upon the gentleman."

"Arthur"--with a little stamp--"I am ashamed of you. How can you think
such things of me? You must have a very poor opinion of me."

"My dear, why should I suppose myself superior to anybody else, that
you should only fall in love with me? You set too high a value on me."

"And you set too low a value on me; you do not understand me. You are
my fate, my other self; how would it have been possible for me to love
any one but you? I feel as though I had been travelling to meet you
since the beginning of the world, to stand by your side till it
crumbles away, yes, for eternity itself. Oh! Arthur, do not laugh at
what I say. I am, indeed, only a simple girl, but, as I told you last
night, there is something stirring in me now, my real life, my eternal
part, something that you have awakened, and with which you have to
deal, something apart from the _me_ you see before you. As I speak, I
feel and know that when we are dead and gone, I shall love you still;
when more ages have passed than there are leaves upon that tree, I
shall love you still. Arthur, I am yours for ever, for the time that
is, and is to be."

She spoke with the grand freedom of one inspired, nay, he felt that
she was inspired, and the same feeling of awe that had come upon him
when he first saw her face, again took possession of him. Taking her
hand, he kissed it.

"Dearest," he said, "dearest Angela, who am I that you should love me
so? What have I done that such a treasure should be given to me? I
hope that it may be as you say!"

"It will be as I say," she answered, as she bent to kiss him. And they
went on in silence.



                             CHAPTER XXIX

Philip arrived home about one o'clock on the Monday, and, after their
nursery dinner, Arthur made his way to the study, and soon found
himself in the dread presence--for what presence is more dread (most
people would rather face a chief-justice with the gout)--of the man
whose daughter he was about to ask in marriage.

Philip, whom he found seated by a tray, the contents of which he
seemed in no humour to touch, received him with his customary
politeness, saying, with a smile, that he hoped he had not come to
tell him that he was sick of the place and its inhabitants, and was
going away.

"Far from it, Mr. Caresfoot, I come to speak to you on a very
different subject."

Philip glanced up with a quick look of expectant curiosity, but said
nothing.

"In short," said Arthur, desperately, "I come to ask you to sanction
my engagement to Angela."

A pause--a very awkward pause--ensued.

"You are, then, engaged to my daughter?"

"Subject to your consent, I am."

Then came another pause.

"You will understand me, Heigham, when I say that you take me rather
by surprise in this business. Your acquaintance with her has been
short."

"That is true, but I have seen a great deal of her."

"Perhaps; but she knows absolutely nothing of the world, and her
preference for you--for, as you say you are engaged to her, I presume
she has shown a preference--may be a mistake, merely a young girl's
romantic idea."

Arthur thought of his conversation of the previous day with Angela,
and could not help smiling as he answered,

"I think if you ask her that, she will tell you that is not the case."

"Heigham, I will be frank with you. I like you, and you have, I
believe, sufficient means. Of course, you know that my daughter will
have nothing--at any rate, till I am dead," he added, quickly.

"I never thought about the matter, but I shall be only too glad to
marry her with nothing but herself."

"Very good. I was going to say that, notwithstanding this, marriage is
an important matter; and I must have time to think over it before I
give you a decided answer, say a week. I shall not, however, expect
you to leave here unless you wish to do so, nor shall I seek to place
any restrictions on your intercourse with Angela, since it would
appear that the mischief is already done. I am flattered by your
proposal; but I must have time, and you must understand that in this
instance hesitation does not necessarily mean consent."

In affairs of this nature a man is satisfied with small mercies, and
willing to put up with inconveniences that appear trifling in
comparison with the disasters that might have overtaken him. Arthur
was no exception to the general rule. Indeed, he was profuse in his
thanks, and, buoyed up with all the confidence of youth, felt sure in
his heart that he would soon find a way to extinguish any objections
that might still linger in Philip's mind.

His would-be father-in-law contented himself with acknowledging his
remarks with courtesy, and the interview came to an end.

Arthur gone, however, his host lost all his calmness of demeanour,
and, rising from his untasted meal, paced up and down the room in
thought. Everything had, he reflected, fallen out as he wished. Young
Heigham wished to marry his daughter, and he could not wish for a
better husband. Save for the fatality which had sent that woman to him
on her fiend's errand, he would have given his consent at once, and
been glad to give it. Not that he meant to refuse it--he had no such
idea. And then he began to think what, supposing that Lady Bellamy's
embassy had been of a nature that he could entertain, which it was
not, it would mean to him. It would mean the realization of the work
and aspirations of twenty years; it would mean his re-entry into the
property and position from which he had, according to his own view,
been unjustly ousted; it would mean, last but not least, triumph over
George. And now chance, mighty chance (as fools call Providence), had
at last thrown into his hands a lever with which it would be easy to
topple over every stumbling-block that lay in his path to triumph;
more, he might even be able to spoil that Egyptian George, giving him
less than his due.

Oh, how he hungered for the broad acres of his birthright! longing for
them as a lover longs for his lost bride. The opportunity would never
come again; why should he throw it away? To do so would be to turn his
cousin into an open and implacable foe. Why should he allow this girl,
whose birth had bereft him of the only creature he had ever loved,
whose sex had alienated the family estates, and for whose company he
cared nothing, to come as a destruction on his plans? She would be
well-off; the man loved her. As for her being engaged to this young
Heigham, women soon got over those things. After all, now that he came
to think of the matter calmly, what valid cause was there why the
thing should not be?

And as he paced to and fro, and thought thus, an answer came into his
mind. For there rose up before him a vision of his dying wife, and
there sounded in his ears the murmur of her half-forgotten voice,
that, for all its broken softness, had, with its last accents, called
down God's winged vengeance and His everlasting doom on him who would
harm her unprotected child. And, feeling that if he did this thing, on
him would be the vengeance and the doom, he thought of the shadows of
the night, and grew afraid.

When Arthur and his host met, according to their custom, that evening,
no allusion was made on either side to their conversation of the
afternoon, nor did her father even speak a word to Angela on the
subject. Life, to all appearance, went on in the old house precisely
as though nothing had happened. Philip did not attempt to put the
smallest restraint on Arthur and his daughter, and studiously shut his
eyes to the pretty obvious signs of their mutual affection. For them,
the long June days were golden, but all too short. Every morning found
their mutual love more perfect, but when the flakes of crimson light
faded from the skies, and night dropped her veil over the tall trees
and peaceful lake, by some miracle it had grown deeper and more
perfect still. Day by day, Arthur discovered new charms in Angela;
here some hidden knowledge, there an unsuspected grace, and everywhere
an all-embracing charity and love. Day by day he gazed deeper into the
depths of her mind, and still there were more to plumb. For it was a
storehouse of noble thoughts and high ambitions--ambitions, many of
which could only find fulfilment in another world than this. And, the
more he saw of her, the prouder he was to think that such a perfect
creature should so dearly love himself; and with the greater joy did
he look forward to that supreme and happy hour when he should call her
his. And so day added itself to day, and found them happy.

Indeed, the aspect of their fortunes seemed as smooth and smiling as
the summer surface of the lake. About Philip's final consent to their
engagement they did not trouble themselves, judging, not unnaturally,
that his conduct was in itself a guarantee of approval. If he meant to
raise any serious objections, he would surely have done so before,
Arthur would urge, and Angela would quite agree with him, and wonder
what parent could find it in his heart to object to her bonnie-eyed
lover.

What a merciful provision of Providence it is that throws a veil over
the future, only to be pierced by the keenest-eyed of Scotchmen!
Where should we find a flavour in those unfrequent cups that the
shyest of the gods, Joy, holds to our yearning lips, could we know of
the bitter that lurks in the tinselled bowl? Surely we have much to be
thankful for, but for nothing should we be so grateful as for this
blessed impotence of foresight!

But, as it is often on the bluest days that the mercury begins to sink
beneath the breath of far-off hurricane, so there is a warning spirit
implanted in sensitive minds that makes them mistrustful of too great
happiness. We feel that, for most of us, the wheel of our fortunes
revolves too quickly to allow of a long continuance of unbroken joy.

"Arthur," said Angela, one morning, when eight days had passed since
her father's return from town, "we are too happy. We should throw
something into the lake."

"I have not got a ring, except the one you gave me," he answered; for
his signet was on his finger. "So, unless we sacrifice Aleck or the
ravens, I don't know what it is to be."

"Don't joke, Arthur. I tell you we are too happy."

Could Arthur have seen through an acre or so of undergrowth as Angela
uttered these words, he would have perceived a very smart page-boy
with the Bellamy crest on his buttons delivering a letter to Philip.
It is true that there was nothing particularly alarming about that,
but its contents might have given a point to Angela's forebodings. It
ran thus:


                                         "Rewtham House, Monday.

 "My dear Mr. Caresfoot,

 "With reference to our conversation last week about your daughter
  and G., can you come over and have a quiet chat with me this
  afternoon?

                                      "Sincerely yours,
                                                  "Anne Bellamy."


Philip read this note, and then re-read it, knowing in his heart that
now was his opportunity to act up to his convictions, and put an end
to the whole transaction in a few decisive words. But a man who has
for so many years given place to the devil of avarice, even though it
be avarice with a legitimate object, cannot shake himself free from
his clothes in a moment; even when, as in Philip's case, honour and
right, to say nothing of a still more powerful factor, superstition,
speak so loudly in his ears. Surely, he thought, there would be no
harm in hearing what she had to say. He could explain his reasons for
having nothing to do with the matter so much better in person. Such
mental struggles have only one end. Presently the smart page-boy bore
back this note:


 "Dear Lady Bellamy,

 "I will be with you at half-past three.

                                                           "P.C."


It was with very curious sensations that Philip was that afternoon
shown into a richly furnished boudoir in Rewtham House. He had not
been in that room since he had talked to Maria Lee, sitting on that
very sofa now occupied by Lady Bellamy's still beautiful form, and he
could not but feel that it was a place of evil omen for him.

Lady Bellamy rose to greet him with her most fascinating smile.

"This is very kind," she said, as she motioned him to a seat, which
Philip afterwards discovered had been carefully arranged so as to put
his features in the full light, whilst, sitting on the sofa, her own
were concealed. "Well, Mr. Caresfoot," she began, after a little
pause, "I suppose I had better come to the point at once. First of
all, I presume that, as you anticipated would be the case, there
exists some sort of understanding between Mr. Heigham and your
daughter."

Philip nodded.

"Well, your cousin is as determined as ever about the matter. Indeed,
he is simply infatuated or bewitched, I really don't know which."

"I am sorry for it, Lady Bellamy, as I cannot----"

"One moment, Mr. Caresfoot; first let me tell you his offer, then we
can talk it over. He offers, conditionally on his marriage with your
daughter, to sell you the Isleworth estates at a fair valuation
hereafter to be agreed upon, and to make a large settlement."

"And what part does he wish me to play in the matter?"

"This. First, you must get rid of young Heigham, and prevent him from
holding _any_ communication, either with Angela herself, or with any
other person connected with this place, for one year from the date of
his departure. Secondly, you must throw no obstacle in George's path.
Thirdly, if required, you must dismiss her old nurse, Pigott."

"It cannot be, Lady Bellamy. I came here to tell you so. I dare not
force my daughter into such a marriage for all the estates in
England."

Lady Bellamy laughed.

"It is amusing," she said, "to see a father afraid of his own
daughter; but you are over-hasty, Mr. Caresfoot. Who asked you to
force her? All you are asked to do is not to interfere, and leave the
rest to myself and George. You will have nothing to do with it one way
or the other, nor will any responsibility rest with you. Besides, it
is very probable that your cousin will live down his fancy, or some
other obstacle will arise to put an end to the thing, in which case
Mr. Heigham will come back at the end of his year's probation, and
events will take their natural course. It is only wise and right that
you should try the constancy of these young lovers, instead of letting
them marry out of hand. If, on the other hand, Angela should in the
course of the year declare a preference for her cousin, surely that
will be no affair of yours."

"I don't understand what your interest is in this matter, Lady
Bellamy."

"My dear Mr. Caresfoot, what does my interest matter to you? Perhaps I
have one, perhaps I have not; all women love match-making, you know;
what really is important is your decision," and she shot a glance at
him from the heavy-lidded eyes, only to recognize that he was not
convinced by her arguments, or, if convinced, obstinate. "By the way,"
she went on, slowly, "George asked me to make a payment to you on his
account, money that has, he says, been long owing, but which it has
not hitherto been convenient to repay."

"What is the sum?" asked Philip, abstractedly.

"A large one; a thousand pounds."

It did not require the peculiar intonation she threw into her voice to
make the matter clear to him. He was well aware that no such sum was
owing.

"Here is the cheque," she went on; and, taking from her purse a signed
and crossed cheque upon a London banker, she unfolded it and threw it
upon the table, watching him the while.

Philip gazed at the money with the eyes of a hungry wolf. A thousand
pounds! That might be his for the asking, nay, for the taking. It
would bind him to nothing. The miser's greed took possession of him as
he looked. Slowly he raised his hand, twitching with excitement, and
stretched it out towards the cheque, but, before his fingers touched
it, Lady Bellamy, as though by accident, dropped her white palm upon
the precious paper.

"I suppose that Mr. Heigham will leave to-morrow on the understanding
we mentioned?" she said carelessly, but in a significant tone.

Philip nodded.

The hand was withdrawn as carelessly as it had come, leaving the
cheque, blushing in all its naked beauty, upon the table. Philip took
it as deliberately as he could, and put it in his pocket. Then,
rising, he said good-bye, adding, as he passed through the door:

"Remember, I have no responsibility in the matter. I wash my hands of
it, and wish to hear nothing about it."

"The thousand pounds has done it," reflected Lady Bellamy. "I told
George that he would rise greedily at money. I have not watched him
for twenty years for nothing. Fancy selling an only daughter's
happiness in life for a thousand pounds, and such a daughter too! I
wonder how much he would take to murder her, if he were certain that
he would not be found out. Upon my word, my work grows quite
interesting. That cur, Philip, is as good as a play," and she laughed
her own peculiar laugh.



                             CHAPTER XXX

Into Philip's guilty thoughts, as he wended his homeward way, we will
not inquire, and indeed, for all the warm glow that the thousand pound
cheque in his pocket diffused through his system, they were not to be
envied. Perhaps no scoundrel presents at heart such a miserable object
to himself and all who know him, as the scoundrel who attempts to
deceive himself and, whilst reaping its profits, tries to shoulder the
responsibility of his iniquity on to the backs of others!

Unfortunately, in this prosaic world of bargains, one cannot receive
cheques for one thousand pounds without, in some shape or form, giving
a _quid pro quo_. Now Philip's _quid_ was to rid his house and the
neighbourhood of Arthur Heigham, his guest and his daughter's lover.
It was not a task he liked, but the unearned cheque in his breeches-
pocket continually reminded him of the obligation it entailed.

When Arthur came to smoke his pipe with his host that evening, the
latter looked so gloomy and depressed, that he wondered to himself if
he was going to be treated to a repetition of the shadow scene, little
guessing that there was something much more personally unpleasant
before him.

"Heigham," Philip said, suddenly, and looking studiously in the other
direction, "I want to speak to you. I have been thinking over our
conversation of about a week ago on the subject of your engagement to
Angela, and have now come to a final determination. I may say at once
that I approve of you in every way" (here his hearer's heart bounded
with delight), "but, under all the circumstances, I don't think that I
should be right in sanctioning an immediate engagement. You are not
sufficiently sure of each other for that. I may seem old-fashioned,
but I am a great believer in the virtue of constancy, and I'm anxious,
in your own interests, to put yours and Angela's to the test. The
terms that I can offer you are these. You must leave here to-morrow,
and must give me your word of honour as a gentleman--which I know will
be the most effectual guarantee that I can take from you--that you
will not for the space of a year either attempt to see Angela again,
or to hold any written communication with her, or anybody in any way
connected with her. The year ended, you can return, and, should you
both still be of the same mind, you can then marry her as soon as you
like. If you decline to accede to these terms--which I believe to be
to your mutual ultimate advantage--I must refuse my consent to the
engagement altogether."

A silence followed this speech. The match that Arthur had lit before
Philip began, burnt itself out between his fingers without his
appearing to suffer any particular inconvenience, and now his pipe
fell with a crash into the grate, and broke into fragments--a fit
symbol of the blow dealt to his hopes. For some moments he was so
completely overwhelmed at the idea of losing Angela for a whole long
year, losing her as completely as though she were dead, that he could
not answer. At length he found his voice, and said, hoarsely:

"Yours are hard terms."

"I cannot argue the point with you, Heigham; such as they are, they
are my terms, founded on what I consider I owe to my daughter. Do you
accept them?"

"I cannot answer you off-hand. My happiness and Angela's are too
vitally concerned to allow me to do so. I must consult her first."

"Very good, I have no objection; but you must let me have your answer
by ten to-morrow."

Had Arthur only known his own strength and Philip's weakness--the
strength that honesty and honour ever have in the face of dishonour
and dishonesty--had he known the hesitating feebleness of Philip's
avarice-tossed mind, how easy it would have been for him to tear his
bald arguments to sheds, and, by the bare exhibition of unshaken
purpose, to confound and disallow his determinations--had he then and
there refused to agree to his ultimatum, so divided was Philip in his
mind and so shaken by superstitious fears, that he would have accepted
it as an omen, and have yielded to a decision of character that had no
real existence in himself. But he did not know; indeed, how could he
know? and he was, besides, too thorough a gentleman to allow himself
to suspect foul play. And so, too sad for talk, and oppressed by the
dread sense of coming separation from her whom he loved more dearly
than his life, he sought his room, there to think and pace, to pace
and think, until the stars had set.

When, wearied out at length, he threw himself into bed, it was only to
exchange bad for worse; for on such occasions sleep is worse than
wakefulness, it is so full of dreams, big with coming pain. Shortly
after dawn he got up again, and went into the garden and listened to
the birds singing their matin hymn. But he was in no mood for the
songs of birds, however sweet, and it was a positive relief to him
when old Jakes emerged, his cross face set in the gladness of the
morning, like a sullen cloud in the blue sky, and began to do
something to his favourite bed of cabbages. Not that Arthur was fond
of old Jakes; on the contrary, ever since the coffin-stand
conversation, which betrayed, he considered, a malevolent mind, he
detested him personally; but still he set a fancy value on him because
he was connected with the daily life of his betrothed.

And then at last out came Angela, having spied him from behind the
curtains of her window, clothed in the same white gown in which he had
first beheld her, and which he consequently considered the prettiest
of frocks. Never did she look more lovely than when she came walking
towards him that morning, with her light, proud step, which was so
full of grace and womanly dignity. Never had he thought her more sweet
and heart-compelling, than when, having first made sure that Jakes had
retreated to feed his pigs, she shyly lifted her bright face to be
greeted with his kiss. But she was quick of sympathy, and had learned
to read him like an open page, and before his lips had fairly fallen
on her own she knew that things had gone amiss.

"Oh, what is it, Arthur?" she said, with a little pant of fear.

"Be brave, dear, and I will tell you." And in somewhat choky tones, he
recounted word for word what had passed between her father and
himself.

She listened in perfect silence, and bore the blow as a brave woman
should. When he had finished, she said, with a little tremor in her
voice:

"You will not forget me in a year, will you, Arthur?"

He kissed her by way of answer, and then they agreed to go together to
Philip, and try to turn him from his purpose.

Breakfast was not a cheerful meal that day, and Pigott, noticing the
prevailing depression, remarked, with sarcasm, that they might, for
all appearance to the contrary, have been married for twenty years;
but even this spirited sally did not provoke a laugh. Ten o'clock, the
hour that was to decide their fate, came all too soon, and it was with
very anxious hearts that they took their way to the study. Philip, who
was seated in residence, appeared to view Angela's arrival with some
uneasiness.

"Of course, Angela," he said, "I am always glad to see you, but I
hardly expected----"

"I beg your pardon for intruding, father," she answered; "but, as this
is very important to me, I thought that I had better come too, and
hear what is settled."

As it was evident that she meant to stay, Philip did not attempt to
gainsay her.

"Oh, very well, very well--I suppose you have heard the terms upon
which I am prepared to consent to your engagement."

"Yes, Arthur has told me; and it is to implore you to modify them that
we have come. Father, they are cruel terms--to be dead to each other
for a whole long year."

"I cannot help it, Angela. I am sorry to inflict pain upon either of
you; but I have arrived at them entirely in your own interests, and
after a great deal of anxious thought. Believe me, a year's probation
will be very good for both of you; it is not probable that, where my
only child is concerned, I should wish to do anything except what is
for her happiness!"

Arthur looked rebellion at Angela. Philip saw it, and added:

"Of course you can defy me--it is, I believe, rather the fashion for
girls, nowadays, to do so--but, if you do, you must both clearly
understand, first, that you cannot marry without my consent till the
first of May next, or very nearly a year hence, when Angela comes of
age, and that I shall equally forbid all intercourse in the interval;
and secondly, that when you do so, it will be against my wish, and
that I shall cut her name out of my will, for this property is only
entailed in the male line. It now only remains for me to ask you if
you agree to my conditions."

Angela answered him, speaking very slowly and clearly:

"I accept them on my own behalf, not because I understand them, or
think them right, or because of your threats, but because, though you
do not care for me, I am your daughter, and should obey you--and
believe that you wish to do what is best for me. That is why I accept,
although it will make my life wretched for a year."

"Do you hear what she says?" said Philip, turning to Arthur. "Do you
also agree?"

He answered boldly, and with some temper (how would he have answered
could he have seen the thousand pound cheque that was reposing upon
the table in Philip's rusty pocket-book, and known for what purpose it
came there?).

"If it had not been Angela's wish, I would never have agreed. I think
your terms preposterous, and I only hope that you have some
satisfactory reason for them; for you have not shown us any. But since
she takes this view of the matter, and because, so far as I can see,
you have completely cornered us, I suppose I must. You are her father,
and cannot in nature wish to thwart her happiness; and if you have any
plan of causing her to forget me--I don't want to be conceited, but I
believe that it will fail." Here Angela smiled somewhat sadly. "So,
unless one of us dies before the year is up, I shall come back to be
married on the 9th of June next year."

"Really, my dear Heigham, your way of talking is so aggressive, that
some fathers might be tempted to ask you not to come back at all; but
perhaps it is, under the circumstances, excusable."

"You would probably think so, if you were in my place," blurted out
Arthur.

"You give me, then, your word of honour as a gentleman that you will
attempt, either in person or by letter, no communication with Angela
or with anybody about this place for one year from to-day?"

"On the condition that, at the end of the year, I may return and marry
her as soon as I like."

"Certainly; your marriage can take place on the 9th of June next, if
you like, and care to bring a license and a proper settlement--say, of
half your income--with you," answered Philip, with a half smile.

"I take you at your word," said Arthur, eagerly, "that is, if Angela
agrees." Angela made no signs of disagreement. "Then, on those terms,
I give you my promise."

"Very good. Then that is settled, and I will send for a dog-cart to
take you to the four o'clock train. I fear you will hardly be ready
for the 12.25. I shall, however, hope," he added, "to have the
pleasure of presenting this young lady to you for good and all on this
day next year. Good-bye for the present. I shall see you before you
go."

It is painful to have to record that when Arthur got outside the door,
and out of Angela's hearing, he cursed Philip, in his grief and anger,
for the space of some minutes.

To linger over those last hours could only be distressing to the
sympathetic reader of this history, more especially if he, or she, has
ever had the misfortune to pass through such a time in their own
proper persons. The day of any one's departure is always wretched, but
much more is it wretched, when the person departing is a lover, whose
face will not be seen and of whom no postman will bear tidings for a
whole long year.

Some comfort, however, these two took in looking forward to that
joyous day when the year of probation should have been gathered to its
predecessors, and in making the most minute arrangements for their
wedding: how Angela was to warn Mr. Fraser that his services would be
required; where they should go to for their honeymoon, and even of
what flowers the wedding bouquet, which Arthur was to bring down from
town with him, should be composed.

And thus the hours passed away, all too quickly, and each of them
strove to be merry, in order to keep up the spirits of the other. But
it is not in human nature to feel cheerful with a lump of ice upon the
heart! Dinner was even more dismal than breakfast, and Pigott, who had
been informed of the impending misfortune, and who was distrustful of
Philip's motives, though she did not like to add to the general gloom
by saying so, made, after the manner of half-educated people, a
painful and infectious exhibition of her grief.

"Poor Aleck," said Angela, when the time drew near, bending down over
the dog to hide a tear, as she had once before bent down to hide a
blush; "poor Aleck, I shall miss you almost as much as your master."

"You will not miss him, Angela, because I am going to make you a
present of him if you will keep him."

"That is very good of you, dear. I shall be glad to have him for your
sake."

"Well, keep him, love, he is a good dog; he will quite have
transferred his allegiance by the time I come back. I hope you won't
have done the same, Angela."

"Oh, Arthur, why will you so often make me angry by saying such
things? The sun will forget to shine before I forget you."

"Hush, love, I did not mean it," and he took her in his arms. And so
they sat there together under the oak where first they had met, hand
in hand and heart to heart, and it was at this moment that the self-
reliant strength, and more beautiful serenity of Angela's character as
compared with her lover's came into visible play. For whilst, as the
moment of separation drew nigh, he could scarcely contain his grief,
she on the other hand grew more and more calm, strengthening his
weakness with her quiet power; and bidding him seek consolation in his
trouble at the hands of Him who for His own purposes decreed it.

"Dearest," she said, in answer to his complainings, "there are so many
things in the world that we cannot understand, and yet they must be
right and lead to a good end. What may happen to us before this year
is out, of course we cannot say, but I feel that all love is immortal,
and that there is a perfect life awaiting us, if not in this world,
then in the next. Remember, dear, that these few years are, after all,
but as a breath to the general air, or as that dew-drop to the waters
of the lake, when compared with the future that awaits us there, and
that until we attain that future we cannot really know each other, or
the true meaning and purpose of our love. So look forward to it
without fear, dear heart, and if it should chance that I should pass
out of your life, or that other ties should spring up round you that
shall forbid the outward expression of our love----" Here Arthur
started and was about to interrupt, but she stopped him. "Do not
start, Arthur. Who can read the future? Stranger things have happened,
and if, I say, such a thing should come about in our case, then
remember, I implore you, that in that future lies the answer to the
puzzles of the world, and turn your eyes to it, as to the horizon
beyond which you will find me waiting for you, and not only me, but
all that you have ever loved. Only, dear, try to be a good man and
love me always."

He looked at her in wonder.

"Angela," he said, "what has made you so different from other women?
With all whom I have known, love is an affair of passion or amusement,
of the world and the day, but yours gazes towards Heaven, and looks to
find its real utterance in the stillness of Eternity! To be loved by
you, my dear, would be worth a century of sorrows."

At last the moment came, as all moments good and bad must come. To
Pigott, who was crying, he gave a hug and a five-pound note, to Aleck,
a pat on the head, to Philip, who could not look him in the face, a
shake of the hand, and to Angela, who bravely smiled into his eyes--a
long last kiss.

But, when the cruel wheels began to crunch upon the gravel, the great
tears welling to her eyes blotted him from sight. Blindly she made her
way up to her room, and throwing herself upon the bed let her
unrestrained sorrow loose, feeling that she was indeed desolate and
alone.



                             CHAPTER XXXI

When Angela was still quite a child, the permanent inhabitants of
Sherborne Lane, King William Street, in the city of London, used to
note a very pretty girl, of small statue and modest ways, passing out
--every evening after the city gentlemen had locked up their offices
and gone home--from the quiet of the lane into the roar and rush of
the city. This young girl was Mildred James, the only daughter of a
struggling, a very struggling, city doctor, and her daily mission was
to go to the cheap markets, and buy the provisions that were to last
the Sherborne Lane household (for her father lived in the same rooms
that he practised in) for the ensuing twenty-four hours. The world was
a hard place for poor Mildred in those days of provision hunting, when
so little money had to pay for so many necessaries, and to provide
also for the luxuries that were necessaries to her invalid mother.
Some years later, when she was a sweet maiden of eighteen, her mother
died, but medical competition was keen in Sherborne Lane, and her
removal did not greatly alleviate the pressure of poverty. At last,
one evening, when she was about twenty years of age, a certain Mr.
Carr, an old gentleman with whom her father had some acquaintance,
sent up a card with a pencilled message on it to the effect that he
would be glad to see Dr. James.

"Run, Mildred," said her father, "and tell Mr. Carr that I will be
with him in a minute. It will never do to see a new patient in this
coat."

Mildred departed, and, gliding into the gloomy consulting-room like a
sunbeam, delivered her message to the old gentleman, who appeared to
be in some pain, and prepared to return.

"Don't go away," almost shouted the aged patient; "I have crushed my
finger in a door, and it hurts most confoundedly. You are something to
look at in this hole, and distract my attention."

Mildred thought to herself that this was an odd way of paying a
compliment, if it was meant for one; but then, old gentlemen with
crushed fingers are not given to weighing their words.

"Are you Dr. James' daughter?" he asked, presently.

"Yes, sir."

"Ugh, I have lived most of my life in Sherborne Lane, and never saw
anything half so pretty in it before. Confound this finger!"

At this moment the doctor himself arrived, and wanted to dismiss
Mildred, but Mr. Carr, who was a headstrong old gentleman, vowed that
no one else should hold his injured hand whilst it was dressed, and so
she stayed just long enough for him to fall as completely in love with
her shell-like face was though he had been twenty instead of nearly
seventy.

Now, Mr. Carr was not remarkable for good looks, and in addition to
having seen out so many summers, had also buried two wives. It will,
therefore, be clear that he was scarcely the suitor that a lovely
girl, conscious of capacities for deep affection, would have selected
of her own free will; but, on the other hand, he was honest and kind-
hearted, and, what was more to the point, perhaps the wealthiest wine-
merchant in the city. Mildred resisted as long as she could, but want
is a hard master, and a father's arguments are difficult to answer,
and in the end she married him, and, what is more, made him a good and
faithful wife.

She never had any cause to regret it, for he was kindness itself
towards her, and when he died, some five years afterwards, having no
children of his own, he left her sole legatee of all his enormous
fortune, bound up by no restrictions as to re-marriage. About this
time also her father died, and she was left as much alone in the world
as it is possible for a young and pretty woman, possessing in her own
right between twenty and thirty thousand a year, to be.

Needless to say, Mrs. Carr was thenceforth one of the catches of her
generation; but nobody could catch her, though she alone knew how many
had tried. Once she made a list of all the people who had proposed to
her; it included amongst others a bishop, two peers, three members of
parliament, no less than five army officers, an American, and a
dissenting clergyman.

"It is perfectly marvellous, my dear," she said to her companion,
Agatha Terry, "how fond people are of twenty thousand a year, and yet
they all said that they loved me for myself, that is, all except the
dissenter, who wanted me to help to 'feed his flock,' and I liked him
the best of the lot, because he was the honestest."

Mrs. Carr had a beautiful house in Grosvenor Square, a place in
Leicestershire, where she hunted a little, a place in the Isle of
Wight that she rarely visited, and, lastly, a place at Madeira where
she lived for nearly half the year. There never had been a breath of
scandal against her name, nor had she given cause for any. "As for
loving," she would say, "the only things she loved were beetles and
mummies," for she was a clever naturalist, and a faithful student of
the lore of the ancient Egyptians. The beetles, she would explain, had
been the connecting link between the two sciences, since beetles had
led her to scarabaei, and scarabaei to the human husks with which they
are to be found; but this statement, though amusing, was not strictly
accurate, as she had in reality contracted the taste from her late
husband, who had left her a large collection of Egyptian antiquities.

"I do adore a mummy," she would say, "I am small enough in mind and
body already, but it makes me feel inches smaller, and I like to
measure my own diminutiveness."

She was not much of a reader; life was, she declared, too short to
waste in study; but, when she did take up a book, it was generally of
a nature that most women of her class would have called stiff, and
then she could read it without going to sleep.

In addition to these occupations, Mrs. Carr had had various crazes at
different stages of her widowhood, which had now endured for some five
years. She had travelled, she had "gone-in for art;" once she had
speculated a little, but finding that, for a woman, it was a losing
game, she was too shrewd to continue this last pastime. But she always
came back to her beetles and her mummies.

Still, with all her money, her places, her offers of marriage, and her
self-made occupations, Mildred Carr was essentially "a weary woman,
sunk deep in ease, and sated with her life." Within that little frame
of hers, there beat a great active heart, ever urging her onwards
towards an unknown end. She would describe herself as an "ill-
regulated woman," and the description was not without justice, for she
did not possess that placid, even mind which is so necessary to the
comfort of English ladies, and which enables many of them to bury a
husband or a lover as composedly as they take him. She would have
given worlds to be able to fall in love with some one, to fill up the
daily emptiness of her existence with another's joys and griefs, but
she _could_ not. Men passed before her in endless procession, all
sorts and conditions of them, and for the most part were anxious to
marry her, but they might as well have been a string of wax dolls for
aught she could care about them. To her eyes, they were nothing more
than a succession of frock-coats and tall hats, full of shine and
emptiness, signifying nothing. For their opinion, too, and that of the
society which they helped to form, she had a most complete and wrong-
headed contempt. She cared nothing for the ordinary laws of social
life, and was prepared to break through them on emergency, as a wasp
breaks through a spider's web. Perhaps she guessed that a good deal of
breaking would be forgiven to the owner of such a lovely face, and
more than twenty thousand a year. With all this, she was extremely
observant, and possessed, unknown to herself, great powers of mind,
and great, though dormant, capacities for passion. In short, this
little woman, with the baby face, smiling and serene as the blue sky
that hides the gathering hurricane, was rather odder than the majority
of her sex, which is perhaps saying a great deal.

One day, about a week before Arthur departed from the Abbey House,
Agatha Terry was sitting in the blue drawing-room in the house in
Grosvenor Square, when Mrs. Carr came in, almost at a run, slammed the
door behind her, and plumped herself down in a chair with a sigh of
relief.

"Agatha, give orders to pack up. We will go to Madeira by the next
boat."

"Goodness gracious, Mildred! across that dreadful bay again; and just
think how hot it will be, and the beginning of the season too."

"Now, Agatha, I'm going, and there's an end of it, so it is no use
arguing. You can stay here, and give a series of balls and dinners, if
you like."

"Nonsense, dear; me give parties indeed, and you at Madeira! Why, it's
just as though you asked Ruth to entertain the reapers without Naomi.
I'll go and give the orders; but I do hope that it will be calm. Why
do you want to go now?"

"I'll tell you. Lord Minster has been proposing to me again, and
announces his intention of going on doing so till I accept him. You
know, he has just got into the Cabinet, so he has celebrated the event
by asking me to marry him, for the third time."

"Poor fellow! Perhaps he is very fond of you."

"Not a bit of it. He is fond of my good looks and my money. I will
tell you the substance of his speech this morning. He stood like this,
with his hands in his pockets, and said, 'I am now a cabinet minister.
It is a good thing that a cabinet minister should have somebody
presentable to sit at the head of his table. You are presentable. I
appreciate beauty, when I have time to think about it. I observe that
you are beautiful. I am not very well-off for my position. You, on the
other hand, are immensely rich. With your money, I can, in time,
become Prime Minister. It is, consequently, evidently to my advantage
that you should marry me, and I have sacrificed a very important
appointment in order to come and settle it.'"

Agatha laughed.

"And how did you answer him?"

"In his own style. 'Lord Minster,' I said, 'I am, for the third time,
honoured by your flattering proposal, but I have no wish to ornament
your table, no desire to expose my beauty to your perpetual
admiration, and no ambition to advance your political career. I do not
love you, and I had rather become the wife of a crossing-sweeper that
I loved, than that of a member of the government for whom I have
_every_ respect, but no affection.'

"'As the wife of a crossing-sweeper, it is probable,' he answered,
'that you would be miserable. As my wife, you would certainly be
admired and powerful, and consequently happy.'

"'Lord Minster,' I said, 'you have studied human nature but very
superficially, if you have not learnt that it is better for a woman to
be miserable with the man she loves, than "admired, powerful, and
consequently happy," with one who has no attraction for her.'

"'Your remark is interesting,' he replied; 'but I think that there is
something paradoxical about it. I must be going now, as I have only
five minutes to get to Westminster; but I will think it over, and
answer it when we renew our conversation, which I propose to do very
shortly,' and he was gone before I could get in another word."

"But why should that make you go to Madeira?"

"Because, my dear, if I don't, so sure as I am a living woman, that
man will tire me out and marry me, and I dislike him, and don't want
to marry him. I have a strong will, but his is of iron."

And so it came to pass that the names of Mrs. Carr, Miss Terry, and
three servants, appeared upon the passenger list of Messrs. Donald
Currie & Co.'s royal mail steamship _Warwick Castle_, due to sail for
Madeira and the Cape ports on the 14th of June.



                            CHAPTER XXXII

Arthur arrived in town in a melancholy condition. His was a
temperament peculiarly liable to suffer from attacks of depression,
and he had, with some excuse, a sufficiently severe one on him now. Do
what he would he could not for a single hour free his mind from the
sick longing to see or hear from Angela, that, in addition to the
mental distress it occasioned him, amounted almost to a physical pain.
After two or three days of lounging about his club--for he was in no
mood for going out--he began to feel that this sort of thing was
intolerable, and that it was absolutely necessary for him to go
somewhere or do something.

It so happened that, just after he had come to this decision, he
overheard two men, who were sitting at the next table to him in the
club dining-room, talking of the island of Madeira, and speaking of it
as a charming place. He accepted this as an omen, and determined that
to Madeira he would go. And, indeed, the place would suit him as well
as any other to get through a portion of his year of probation in,
and, whilst affording a complete change of scene, would not be too far
from England.

And so it came to pass that on the morrow Arthur found himself in the
office of Messrs. Donald Currie, for the purpose of booking his berth
in the vessel that was due to sail on the 14th. There he was informed
by the very affable clerk, who assisted him to choose his cabin, that
the vessel was unusually empty, and that, up to the present time,
berths had been taken for only five ladies, and two of them Jewesses.

"However," the clerk added, by way of consolation, "this one,"
pointing to Mrs. Carr's name on the list, "is as good as a cargo," and
he whistled expressively.

"What do you mean?" asked Arthur, his curiosity slightly excited.

"I mean--my word, here she comes."

At that moment the swing doors of the office were pushed open, and
there came through them one of the sweetest, daintiest little women
Arthur had ever seen. She was no longer quite young, she might be
eight and twenty or thirty, but, on the other hand, maturity had but
added to the charms of youth. She had big, brown eyes that Arthur
thought could probably look languishing, if they chose, and that even
in repose were full of expression, a face soft and blooming as a
peach, and round as a baby's, surmounted by a quantity of nut-brown
hair, the very sweetest mouth, the lips rather full, and just showing
a line of pearl, and lastly, what looked rather odd on such an
infantile countenance, a firm, square, and very determined, if very
diminutive chin. For the rest, it was difficult to say which was the
most perfect, her figure or her dress.

All of which, of course, had little interest for Arthur, but what did
rather startle him was her voice, when she spoke. From such a woman
one would naturally have expected a voice of a corresponding nature,
namely, one of the soft and murmuring order. But hers, on the
contrary, though sweet, was decided, and clear as a bell, and with a
peculiar ring in it that he would have recognized amongst a thousand
others.

On her entrance, Arthur stepped on one side.

"I have come to say," she said, with a slight bow of recognition to
the clerk; "that I have changed my mind about my berth, instead of the
starboard deck cabin, I should like to have the port. I think that it
will be cooler at this time of year, and also will you please make
arrangements for three horses."

"I am excessively sorry, Mrs. Carr," the clerk answered; "but the port
cabin is engaged--in fact, this gentleman has just taken it."

"Oh, in that case"--with a little blush--"there is an end of the
question."

"By no means," interrupted Arthur. "It is a matter of perfect
indifference to me where I go. I beg that you will take it."

"Oh, thank you. You are very good, but I could not think of robbing
you of your cabin."

"I must implore you to do so. Rather than there should be any
difficulty, I will go below." And then, addressing the clerk, "Be so
kind as to change the cabin."

"I owe you many thanks for your courtesy," said Mrs. Carr, with a
little curtsey.

Arthur took off his hat.

"Then we will consider that settled. Good morning, or perhaps I should
say _au revoir_;" and, bowing again, he left the office.

"What is that gentleman's name?" Mrs. Carr asked, when he was gone.

"Here it is, madam, on the list. 'Arthur Preston Heigham, passenger to
Madeira.'"

"Arthur Preston Heigham!" Mrs. Carr said to herself, as she made her
way down to her carriage in Fenchurch Street. "Arthur is pretty, and
Preston is pretty, but I don't much like Heigham. At any rate, there
is no doubt about his being a gentleman. I wonder what he is going to
Madeira for? He has an interesting face. I think I am glad we are
going to be fellow-passengers."

The two days that remained to him in town, Arthur spent in making his
preparations for departure; getting money, buying, after the manner of
young Englishmen starting on a voyage to foreign parts, a large and
fearfully sharp hunting-knife, as though Madeira were the home of wild
beasts, and laying in a stock of various other articles of a useless
description, such as impenetrable sun-helmets and leather coats.

The boat was to sail at noon on Friday, and on the Thursday evening he
left Paddington by the mail that reaches Dartmouth about midnight. On
the pier, he and one or two other fellow-passengers found a boat
waiting to take them to the great vessel, that, painted a dull grey,
lay still and solemn in the harbour as they were rowed up to her, very
different from the active, living thing that she was destined to
become within the next twenty-four hours. The tide ebbing past her
iron sides, the fresh, strong smell of the sea, the tall masts
pointing skywards like gigantic fingers, the chime of the bell upon
the bridge, the sleepy steward, and the stuffy cabin, were all a
pleasant variation from the every-day monotony of existence, and
contributed towards the conclusion that life was still partially worth
living, even when it could not be lived with Angela. Indeed, so much
are we the creatures of circumstance, and so liable to be influenced
by surroundings, that Arthur, who, a few hours before, had been
plunged into the depths of depression, turned into his narrow berth,
after a tremendous struggle with the sheets--which stewards arrange on
a principle incomprehensible to landlubbers, and probably only
partially understood by themselves--with considerable satisfaction and
a pleasurable sense of excitement.

The next morning, or rather the earlier part of it, he devoted, when
he was not thinking about Angela, to arranging his goods and chattels
in his small domain, to examining the lovely scenery of Dartmouth
harbour--the sight of which is enough to make any outward-bound
individual bitterly regret his determination to quit his native land--
and to inspecting the outward man of his fellow-passengers with that
icy stolidity which characterizes the true-born Briton. But the great
event of the morning was the arrival of the mail-train, bringing the
bags destined for various African ports, loose letters for the
passengers, and a motley contingent of the passengers themselves.
Amongst these latter, he had no difficulty in recognizing the two
Jewesses, of whom the clerk in the office had spoken, who were
accompanied by individuals, presumably their husbands, and very
remarkable for the splendour of their diamond studs and the dirtiness
of their nails. The only other specimen of saloon-passenger womankind
that he could see was a pretty, black-eyed girl of about eighteen, who
was, as he afterwards discovered, going out under the captain's care
to be a governess at the Cape, and who, to judge from the intense
melancholy of her countenance, did not particularly enjoy the
prospect. But, with the exception of some heavy baggage that was being
worked up from a cargo-boat by the donkey-engine, and a luxurious
cane-chair on the deck that bore her name, no signs were there of Mrs.
Carr.

Presently the purser sent round the head-steward, a gentleman whom
Arthur mistook for the first mate, so smart was his uniform, to
collect the letters, and it wrung him not a little to think that he
alone could send none. The bell sounded to warn all not sailing to
hurry to their boats, but still there was nothing to be seen of his
acquaintance of the office; and, to speak the truth, he was just a
little disappointed, for what he had seen of her had piqued his
curiosity, and made him anxious to see more.

"I can't wait any longer," he heard the captain say; "she must come on
by the _Kinfauns_."

It was full twelve o'clock, and the last rope was being loosed from
the moorings. "Ting-ting," went the engine-room bell. "Thud-thud,"
started the great screw that would not stop again for so many restless
hours. The huge vessel shuddered throughout her frame like an
awakening sleeper, and growing quick with life, forged an inch or two
a-head. Next, a quartermaster, came with two men to hoist up the
gangway, when suddenly a boat shot alongside and hooked on, amongst
the occupants of which Arthur had no difficulty in recognizing Mrs.
Carr, who sat laughing, like Pleasure, at the helm. The other
occupants of the boat, who were not laughing, he guessed to be her
servants and the lady who figured on the passenger-list as Miss Terry,
a stout, solemn-looking person in spectacles.

"Now, then, Agatha," called out Mrs. Carr from the stern-sheets, "be
quick and jump up."

"My dear Mildred, I can't go up there; I can't, indeed. Why, the
thing's moving."

"But you must go up, or else be pulled up with a rope. Here, I will
show the way," and, moving down the boat, she sprang boldly, as it
rose with the swell, into the stalwart arms of the sailor who was
waiting on the gangway landing-stage, and thence ran up the steps to
the deck.

"Very well, I am going to Madeira. I don't know what you are going to
do; but you must make up your mind quick."

"Can't hold on much longer, mum," said the boatman, "she's getting way
on now."

"Come on, mum; I won't let you in," said the man of the ladder,
seductively.

"Oh, dear, oh, dear, what shall I do?" groaned Miss Terry, wringing
the hand that was not employed in holding on.

"John," called Mrs. Carr to a servant who was behind Miss Terry, and
looking considerably alarmed, "don't stand there like a fool; put Miss
Terry on to that ladder."

Mrs. Carr was evidently accustomed to be obeyed, for, thus admonished,
John seized the struggling and shrieking Miss Terry, and bore her to
the edge of the boat, where she was caught by two sailors, and, amidst
the cheers of excited passengers, fairly dragged on to the deck.

"Oh! Mrs. Carr," said the chief officer, reproachfully, when Miss
Terry had been satisfactorily deposited on a bench, "you are late
again; you were late last voyage."

"Not at all, Mr. Thompson. I hate spending longer than is necessary
aboard ship, so, when the train got in, I took a boat and went for a
row in the harbour. I knew that you would not go without me."

"Oh, yes, we should have, Mrs. Carr; the skipper heard about it
because he waited for you before."

"Well, here I am, and I promise that I won't do it again."

Mr. Thompson laughed, and passed on. At this moment Mrs. Carr
perceived Arthur, and, bowing to him, they fell into conversation
about the scenery through which the boat was passing on her way to the
open sea. Before very long, indeed, as soon as the vessel began to
rise and fall upon the swell, this talk was interrupted by a voice
from the seat where Miss Terry had been placed.

"Mildred," it said, "I do wish you would not come to sea; I am
beginning to feel ill."

"And no wonder, if you will insist upon coming up ladders head
downwards. Where's John? He will help you to your cabin; the deck one,
next to mine."

But John had vanished with a parcel.

"Mildred, send some one quick, I beg of you," remarked Miss Terry, in
the solemn tones of one who feels that a crisis is approaching.

"I can't see anybody except a very dirty sailor."

"Permit me," said Arthur, stepping to the rescue.

"You are very kind; but she can't walk. I know her ways; she has got
to the stage when she must be carried. Can you manage her?"

"I think so," replied Arthur, "if you don't mind holding her legs, and
provided that the vessel does not roll," and, with an effort, he
hoisted Miss Terry baby-fashion into his arms, and staggered off with
her towards the indicated cabin, Mrs. Carr, as suggested, holding the
lower limbs of the prostrate lady. Presently she began to laugh.

"If you only knew how absurd we look," she said.

"Don't make me laugh," answered Arthur, puffing; for Miss Terry was by
no means light, "or I shall drop her."

"If you do, young man," ejaculated his apparently unconscious burden
with wonderful energy, "I will never forgive you."

A remark, the suddenness of which so startled him, that he very nearly
did.

"Thank you. Now lay her quite flat, please. She won't get up again
till we drop anchor at Madeira."

"If I live so long," murmured the invalid.

Arthur now made his bow and departed, wondering how two women so
dissimilar as Mrs. Carr and Miss Terry came to be living together. As
it is a piece of curiosity that the reader may share, perhaps it had
better be explained.

Miss Terry was a middle-aged relative of Mrs. Carr's late husband, who
had by a series of misfortunes been left quite destitute. Her distress
having come to the knowledge of Mildred Carr, she, with the kind-
hearted promptitude that distinguished her, at once came to her aid,
paid her debts, and brought her to her own house to stay, where she
had remained ever since under the title of companion. These two women,
living thus together, had nothing whatsoever in common, save that Miss
Terry took some reflected interest in beetles. As for travelling,
having been brought up and lived in the same house of the same county
town until she reached the age of forty-five, it was, as may be
imagined, altogether obnoxious to her. Indeed, it is more than
doubtful if she retained any clear impression whatsoever of the places
she visited. "A set of foreign holes!" as she would call them,
contemptuously. Miss Terry was, in short, neither clever nor strong
minded, but so long as she could be in the company of her beloved
Mildred, whom she regarded with mingled reverence and affection, she
was perfectly happy. Oddly enough, this affection was reciprocated,
and there probably was nobody in the world for whom Mrs. Carr cared so
much as her cousin by marriage, Agatha Terry. And yet it would be
impossible to imagine two women more dissimilar.

Not long after they had left Dartmouth, the afternoon set in dull, and
towards evening the sea freshened sufficiently to send most of the
passengers below, leaving those who remained to be finally dispersed
by the penetrating drizzle that is generally to be met with off the
English coast. Arthur, left alone on the heaving deck, surveyed the
scene, and thought it very desolate. Around was a grey waste of
tossing waters, illumined here and there by the setting rays of an
angry sun, above, a wild and windy sky, with not even a sea-gull in
all its space, and in the far distance a white and fading line, which
was the shore of England.

Faint it grew, and fainter yet, and, as it disappeared, he thought of
Angela, and a yearning sorrow fell upon him. When, he wondered sadly,
should he again look into her eyes, and hold that proud beauty in his
arms; what fate awaited them in the future that stretched before them,
dim as the darkening ocean, and more uncertain. Alas! he could not
tell, he only felt that it was very bitter to be parted thus from her
to whom had been given his whole heart's love, to know that every
fleeting moment widened a breach already far too wide, and not to know
if it would again be narrowed, or if this farewell would be the last.
Then he thought, if it should be the last, if she should die or desert
him, what would his life be worth to him? A consciousness within him
answered, "nothing." And, in a degree, his conclusion was right; for,
although it is, fortunately, not often in the power of any single
passion to render life altogether worthless; it is certain that, when
it strikes in youth, there is no sickness so sore as that of the
heart; no sorrow more keen, and no evil more lasting than those
connected with its disappointments and its griefs. For other sorrows,
life has salves and consolations, but a noble and enduring passion is
not all of this world, and to cure its sting we must look to something
beyond this world's quackeries. Other griefs can find sympathy and
expression, and become absorbed little by little in the variety of
love's issues. But love, as it is, and should be understood--not the
faint ghost that arrays itself in stolen robes, and says, "I am love,"
but love the strong and the immortal, the passkey to the happy skies,
the angel cipher we read, but cannot understand--such love as this,
and there is none other true, can find no full solace here, not even
in its earthly satisfaction.

For still it beats against its mortal bars and rends the heart that
holds it; still strives like a meteor flaming to its central star, or
a new loosed spirit seeking the presence of its God, to pass hence
with that kindred soul to the inner heaven whence it came, there to be
wholly mingled with its other life and clothed with a divine identity:
--there to satisfy the aspirations that now vaguely throb within their
fleshly walls, with the splendour and the peace and the full measure
of the eternal joys it knows await its coming.

And is it not a first-fruit of this knowledge, that the thoughts of
those who are plunged into the fires of a pure devotion fly upwards as
surely as the sparks? Nothing but the dross, the grosser earthly part
is purged away by their ever-chastening sorrow, which is, in truth, a
discipline for finer souls. For did there ever yet live the man or
woman who, loving truly, has suffered, and the fires burnt out, has
not risen Phoenix-like from their ashes, purer and better, and holding
in the heart a bright, undying hope? Never; for these have walked
bare-footed upon the holy ground, it is the flames from the Altar that
have purged them and left their own light within! And surely this
holds also good of those who have loved and lost, of those who have
been scorned or betrayed; of the suffering army that cry aloud of the
empty bitterness of life and dare not hope beyond. They do not
understand that having once loved truly it is not possible that they
should altogether lose: that there is to their pain and the dry-rot of
their hopes, as to everything else in Nature, an end object. Shall the
soul be immortal, and its best essence but a thing of air? Shall the
one thought by day and the one dream by night, the ethereal star which
guides us across life's mirage, and which will still shine serene at
the moment of our fall from the precipice of Time: shall this alone,
amidst all that makes us what we are, be chosen out to see corruption,
to be cast off and forgotten in the grave? Never! There, by the
workings of a Providence we cannot understand, that mighty germ awaits
fruition. There, too, shall we know the wherefore of our sorrow at
which, sad-eyed, we now so often wonder: there shall we kiss the rod
that smote us, and learn the glorious uses and pluck the glowing
fruits of an affliction, that on earth filled us with such sick
longing, and such an aching pain.

Let the long-suffering reader forgive these pages of speculative
writing, for the subject is a tempting one, and full of interest for
us mortals. Indeed, it may chance that, if he or she is more than
five-and-twenty, these lines may even have been read without
impatience, for there are many who have the memory of a lost Angela
hidden away somewhere in the records of their past, and who are fain,
in the breathing spaces of their lives, to dream that they will find
her wandering in that wide Eternity where "all human barriers fall,
all human relations end, and love ceases to be a crime."



                            CHAPTER XXXIII

The morning after the vessel left Dartmouth brought with it lovely
weather, brisk and clear, with a fresh breeze that just topped the
glittering swell with white. There was, however, a considerable roll
on the ship, and those poor wretches, who for their sins are given to
sea-sickness, were not yet happy. Presently Arthur observed the pretty
black-eyed girl--poor thing, she did not look very pretty now--creep
on to the deck and attempt to walk about, an effort which promptly
resulted in a fall into the scuppers. He picked her up, and asked if
she would not like to sit down, but she faintly declined, saying that
she did not mind falling so long as she could walk a little--she did
not feel so sick when she walked. Under these circumstances he could
hardly do less than help her, which he did in the only way at all
practicable with one so weak, namely, by walking her about on his arm.

In the midst of his interesting peregrinations he observed Mrs. Carr
gazing out of her deck cabin window, looking, he thought, pale, but
sweetly pretty, and rather cross. When that lady saw that she was
observed, she pulled the curtain with a jerk and vanished. Shortly
after this Arthur's companion vanished too, circumstances over which
she had no control compelling her, and Arthur himself sat down rather
relieved.

But he was destined that day to play knight-errant to ladies in
distress. Presently Mrs. Carr's cabin-door opened, and that lady
herself emerged therefrom, holding on to the side-rail. He had just
begun to observe how charmingly she was dressed, when some qualm
seized her, and she returned to re-enter the cabin. But the door had
swung-to with the roll of the vessel, and she could not open it.
Impelled by an agony of doubt, she flew to the side, and, to his
horror, sprang with a single bound on to the broad rail that
surmounted the bulwark netting, and remained seated there, holding
only to a little rope that hung down from the awning-chain. The ship,
which was at the moment rolling pretty heavily, had just reached the
full angle of her windward roll, and was preparing for a heavy swing
to leeward. Arthur, seeing that Mrs. Carr would in a few seconds
certainly be flung out to sea, rushed promptly forward and lifted her
from the rail. It was none too soon, for next moment down the great
ship went with a lurch into a trough of the sea, hurling him, with her
in his arms, up against the bulwarks, and, to say truth, hurting him
considerably. But, if he expected any thanks for this exploit, he was
destined to be disappointed, for no sooner had he set his lovely
burden down, than she made use of her freedom to stamp upon the deck.

"How could you be so foolish?" said he. "In another moment you would
have been flung out to sea!"

"And pray, Mr. Heigham," she answered, in a cutting and sarcastic
voice, "is that my business or your own? Surely it would have been
time enough for you to take a liberty when I asked you to jump over
after me."

Arthur drew himself up to his full height and looked dignified--he
could look dignified when he liked.

"I do not quite understand you, Mrs. Carr," he said, with a little
bow. "What I did, I did to save you from going overboard. Next time
that such a little adventure comes in my way, I hope, for my own sake,
that it may concern a lady possessed of less rudeness and more
gratitude."

And then, glaring defiance at each other, they separated; she marching
off with all the dignity of an offended queen to the "sweet seclusion
that a cabin grants," whilst he withdrew moodily to a bench,
comforted, however, not a little by the thought that he had given Mrs.
Carr a Roland for her Oliver.

Mrs. Carr's bound on to the bulwarks had been the last effort of that
prince of demons, sea-sickness, rending her ere he left. When the
occasion for remaining there had thus passed away, she soon tired of
her cabin and of listening to the inarticulate moans of her beloved
Agatha, who was a most faithful subject of the fiend, one who would
never desert his manner so long as he could roll the tiniest wave,
and, sallying forth, took up her position in the little society of the
ship.

But between Arthur and herself there was no attempt at reconciliation.
Each felt their wrongs to be as eternal as the rocks. At luncheon they
looked unutterable things from different sides of the table; going in
to dinner, she cut him with the sweetest grace, and on the following
morning they naturally removed to situations as remote from each other
as the cubic area of a mail steamer would allow.

"Pretty, very much so, but ill-mannered; not quite a lady, I should
say," reflected Arthur to himself, with a superior smile.

"I detest him," said Mrs. Carr to herself, "at least, I think I do;
but how neatly he put me down! There is no doubt about his being a
gentleman, though insufferably conceited."

These uncharitable thoughts rankled in their respective minds about 12
A.M. What then was Arthur's disgust, on descending a little late to
luncheon that day, to be informed by the resplendent chief-steward--
who, for some undiscovered reason, always reminded him of Pharaoh's
butler--that the captain had altered the places at table, and that
this alteration involved his being placed next to none other than Mrs.
Carr. Everybody was already seated, and it was too late to protest, at
any rate for that meal; so he had to choose between submission and
going without his luncheon. Being extremely hungry, he decided for the
first alternative, and reluctantly brought himself to a halt next his
avowed enemy.

But surprises, like sorrows, come in battalions, a fact that he very
distinctly realized when, having helped himself to some chicken, he
heard a clear voice at his side address him by name.

"Mr. Heigham," said the voice, "I have not yet thanked you for your
kindness to Miss Terry. I am commissioned to assure you that she is
very grateful, since she is prevented by circumstances from doing so
herself."

"I am much gratified," he replied, stiffly; "but really I did nothing
to deserve thanks, and if I had," he added, with a touch of sarcasm,
"I should not have expected any."

"Oh! what a cynic you must be," she answered with a rippling laugh,
"as though women, helpless as they are, were not always thankful for
the tiniest attention. Did not the pretty girl with the black eyes
thank you for your attentions yesterday, for instance?"

"Did the lady with the brown eyes thank me for my attentions--my very
necessary attentions--yesterday, for instance?" he answered, somewhat
mollified, for the laugh and the voice would have thawed a human
icicle, and, with all his faults, Arthur was not an icicle.

"No, she did not; she deferred doing so in order that she might do it
better. It was very kind of you to help me, and I daresay that you
saved my life, and I--I beg your pardon for being so cross, but being
sea-sick always makes me cross, even to those who are kindest to me.
Do you forgive me? Please forgive me; I really am quite unhappy when I
think of my behaviour." And Mrs. Carr shot a glance at him that would
have cleared the North-West Passage for a man-of-war.

"Please don't apologize," he said, humbly. "I really have nothing to
forgive. I am aware that I took a liberty, as you put it, but I
thought that I was justified by the circumstances."

"It is not generous of you, Mr. Heigham, to throw my words into my
teeth. I had forgotten all about them. But I will set your want of
feeling against my want of gratitude, and we kiss and be friends."

"I can assure you, Mrs. Carr, that there is nothing in the world I
should like better. When shall the ceremony come off?"

"Now you are laughing at me, and actually interpreting what I say
literally, as though the English language were not full of figures of
speech. By that phrase," and she blushed a little--that is, her cheek
took a deeper shade of coral--"I meant that we would not cut each
other after lunch."

"You bring me from the seventh heaven of expectation into a very
prosaic world; but I accept your terms, whatever they are. I am
conquered."

"For exactly half an hour. But let us talk sense. Are you going to
stop at Madeira?"

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"I don't know; till I get tired of it, I suppose. Is it nice,
Madeira?"

"Charming. I live there half the year."

"Ah, then I can well believe that it is charming."

"Mr. Heigham, you are paying compliments. I thought that you looked
above that sort of thing."

"In the presence of misfortune and of beauty"--here he bowed--"all men
are reduced to the same level. Talk to me from behind a curtain, or
let me turn my back upon you, and you may expect to hear work-a-day
prose--but face to face, I fear that you must put up with compliment."

"A neat way of saying that you have had enough of me. Your compliments
are two-edged. Good-bye for the present." And she rose, leaving Arthur
--well, rather amused.

After this they saw a good deal of each other--that is to say, they
conversed together for at least thirty minutes out of every sixty
during an average day of fourteen hours, and in the course of these
conversations she learned nearly everything about him, except his
engagement to Angela, and she shrewdly guessed at that, or, rather, at
some kindred circumstance in his career. Arthur, on the other hand,
learned quite everything about her, for her life was open as the day,
and would have borne repeating in the _Times_ newspaper. But
nevertheless he found it extremely interesting.

"You must be a busy woman," he said one morning, when he had been
listening to one of her rattling accounts of her travels and gaieties,
sprinkled over, as it was, with the shrewd remarks, and illumined by
the keen insight into character that made her talk so charming.

"Busy, no; one of the idlest in the world, and a very worthless one to
boot," she answered, with a little sigh.

"Then, why don't you change your life? it is in your own hands, if
ever anybody's was."

"Do you think so? I doubt if anybody's life is in their own hands. We
follow an appointed course; if we did not, it would be impossible to
understand why so many sensible, clever people make such a complete
mess of their existence. They can't do it from choice."

"At any rate, you have not made a mess of yours, and your appointed
course seems a very pleasant one."

"Yes; and the sea beneath us is very smooth, but it has been rough
before, and will be rough again--there is no stability in the sea. As
to making a mess of my life, who knows what I may not accomplish in
that way? Prosperity cannot shine down fear of the future, it only
throws it into darker relief. Myself I am afraid of the future--it is
unknown, and to me what is unknown is not magnificent, but terrible.
The present is enough for me. I do not like speculation, and I never
loved the dark."

And, as they talked, Madeira, in all its summer glory, loomed up out
of the ocean, for they had passed the "Desertas" and "Porto Santo" by
night, and for a while they were lost in the contemplation of one of
the most lovely and verdant scenes that the world can show. Before
they had well examined it, however, the vessel had dropped her anchor,
and was surrounded by boats full of custom-house officials, boats full
of diving boys, of vegetables, of wicker chairs and tables, of
parrots, fruit, and "other articles too numerous to mention," as they
say in the auctioneer's catalogues, and they knew that it was time to
go ashore.

"Well, it has been a pleasant voyage," said Mrs. Carr. "I am glad you
are not going on."

"So am I."

"You will come and see me to-morrow, will you not? Look, there is my
house," and she pointed to a large, white house opposite Leeuw Rock,
that had a background of glossy foliage, and commanded a view of the
sea. "If you come, I will show you my beetles. And, if you care to
come next day, I will show you my mummies."

"And, if I come the next, what will you show me?"

"So often as you may come," she said, with a little tremor in her
voice, "I shall find something to show you."

Then they shook hands and took their respective ways, she--together
with the unfortunate Miss Terry, who looked like a resuscitated corpse
--on to the steam-launch that was waiting for her, and he in the boat
belonging to Miles' Hotel.



                            CHAPTER XXXIV

A minute or two after the boat in which Arthur was being piloted to
the shore, under the guidance of the manager of Miles' Hotel, had left
the side of the vessel, Mrs. Carr's steam-launch shot up alongside of
them, its brass-work gleaming in the sunlight like polished gold. On
the deck, near the little wheel, stood Mrs. Carr herself, and by her
side, her martial cloak around her, lay Miss Terry, still as any log.

"Mr. Heigham," said Mrs. Carr, in a voice that sounded across the
water like a silver bell, "I forgot that you will not be able to find
your way to my place by yourself to-morrow, so I will send down a
bullock-car to fetch you; you have to travel about with bullocks here,
you know. Good-bye," and, before he could answer, the launch's head
was round, and she was tearing through the swell at the rate of
fourteen knots.

"That's her private launch," said the manager of the hotel to Arthur,
"it is the quickest in the island, and she always goes at full steam.
She must have come some way round to tell you that, too. There's her
place, over there."

"Mrs. Carr comes here every year, does she not?"

"Oh, yes, every year; but she is very early this year; our season does
not begin yet, you know. She is a great blessing to the place, she
gives so much away to the poor peasants. At first she used to come
with old Mr. Carr, and a wonderful nurse they say she made to the old
gentleman till he died."

"Does she entertain much?"

"Not as a rule, but sometimes she gives great balls, splendid affairs,
and a series of dinner-parties that are the talk of the island. She
hardly ever goes out anywhere, which makes the ladies in the place
angry, but, I believe, that they all go to her balls and dinners.
Mostly, she spends her time up in the hills, collecting butterflies
and beetles. She has got the most wonderful collection of Egyptian
curiosities up at the house there, too, though why she keeps them here
instead of in England, I am sure I don't know. Her husband began the
collection when he was a young man, and collected all his life, and
she has gone on with it since."

"I wonder that she has not married again."

"Well, it can't be for want of asking, if half of what they say is
true; for, according to that, every single gentleman under fifty who
has been at Madeira during the last five years has had a try at her,
but she wouldn't look at one of them. But of course that is gossip--
and here we are at the landing-place. Sit steady, sir; those fellows
will pull the boat up."

Had it not been for the pre-occupied and uncomfortable state of his
mind, that took the flavour out of all that he did, and persistently
thrust a skeleton amidst the flowers of every landscape, Arthur should
by rights have enjoyed himself very much at Madeira.

To live in one of the lofty rooms of "Miles' Hotel," protected by
thick walls and cool, green shutters, to feel that you are enjoying
all the advantages of a warm climate without its drawbacks, and that,
too, however much people in England may be shivering--which they
mostly do all the year round--is in itself a luxury. And so it is, if
the day is hot, to dine chiefly off fish and fruit, and such fruit!
and then to exchange the dining-room for the cool portico, with the
sea-breeze sweeping through it, and, pipe in hand, to sink into a
slumber that even the diabolical shrieks of the parrots, tied by the
leg in a line below, are powerless to disturb. Or, if you be energetic
--I speak of Madeira energy--you may stroll down the little terraced
walk, under the shade of your landlord's vines, and contemplate the
growing mass of greenery that in this heavenly island makes a garden.
You can do more than this even; for, having penetrated through the
brilliant flower-beds, and recruited exhausted nature under a
fig-tree, you can engage, in true English fashion, in a game of lawn-
tennis, which done, you will again seek the shade of the creeping
vines or spreading bananas, and in a springy hammock take your well-
earned repose.

All these things are the quintessence of luxury, so much so that he
who has once enjoyed them will long to turn lotos-eater, forget the
painful and laborious past, and live and die at "Miles' Hotel." Oh,
Madeira! gem of the ocean, land of pine-clad mountains that foolish
men love to climb, valleys where wise ones much prefer to rest, and of
smells that both alike abhor; Madeira of the sunny sky and azure sea,
land flowing with milk and honey, and overflowing with population, if
only you belonged to the country on which you depend for a livelihood,
what a perfect place you would be, and how poetical one could grow
about you! a consummation which, fortunately for my readers, the
recollection of the open drains, the ill-favoured priests, and
Portuguese officials effectually prevents.

On the following morning, at twelve punctually, Arthur was informed
that the conveyance had arrived to fetch him. He went down, and was
quite appalled at its magnificence. It was sledge-like in form, built
to hold four, and mounted on wooden runners that glided over the round
pebbles with which the Madeira streets are paved, with scarcely a
sound, and as smoothly as though they ran on ice. The chariot, as
Arthur always called it afterwards, was built of beautiful woods, and
lined and curtained throughout with satin, whilst the motive power was
supplied by two splendidly harnessed white oxen. Two native servants,
handsome young fellows, dressed in a kind of white uniform,
accompanied the sledge, and saluted Arthur on his appearance with much
reverence.

It took him, however, some time before he could make up his mind to
embark in a conveyance that reminded him of the description of
Cleopatra's galley, and smelt more sweet; but finally he got in, and
off he started, feeling that he was the observed of all observers, and
followed by at least a score of beggars, each afflicted with some
peculiar and dreadful deformity or disease. And thus, in triumphal
guise, they slid down the quaint and narrow streets, squeezed in for
the sake of shade between a double line of tall, green-shuttered
houses; over the bridges that span the vast open drains; past the
ochre-coloured cathedral; down the promenade edged with great
magnolia-trees, that made the air heavy with their perfume, and where
twice a week the band plays, and the Portuguese officials march up and
down in all the pomp and panoply of office; onward through the dip,
where the town lopes downwards to the sea; then up again through more
streets, and past a stretch of dead wall, after which the chariot
wheels through some iron gates, and he is in fairyland. One each side
of the carriage-way there spreads a garden calculated to make English
horticulturists gnash their teeth with envy, through the bowers of
which he could catch peeps of green turf and of the blue sea beyond.

Here the cabbage palm shot its smooth and lofty trunk high into the
air, there the bamboo waved its leafy ostrich plumes, and all about
and around the soil was spread like an Indian shawl, with many a
gorgeous flower and many a splendid fruit. Arthur thought of the
garden of Eden and the Isles of the Blest, and whilst his eyes,
accustomed to nothing better than our poor English roses, were still
fixed upon the blazing masses of pomegranate flower, and his senses
were filled with the sweet scent of orange and magnolia blooms, the
oxen halted before the portico of a stately building, white-walled and
green-shuttered like all Madeira houses.

Then the slaves of the chariot assisted him to descend, whilst other
slaves of the door bowed him up the steps, and he stood in a great
cool hall, dazzling dark after the brilliancy of the sunlight. And
here no slave awaited him, but the princess of this fair domain, none
other than Mildred Carr herself, clad all in summer white, and with a
smile of welcome in her eyes.

"I am so glad that you have come. How do you like Madeira? Do you find
it very hot?"

"I have not seen much of it yet; but this place is lovely, it is like
fairyland, and, I believe, that you," he added, with a bow, "are the
fairy queen."

"Compliments again, Mr. Heigham. Well, I was the sleeping beauty last
time, so one may as well be a queen for a change. I wonder what you
will call me next?"

"Let me see: shall we say--an angel?"

"Mr. Heigham, stop talking nonsense, and come into the drawing-room."

He followed her, laughing, into an apartment that, from its noble
proportions and beauty, might fairly be called magnificent. Its
ceiling was panelled with worked timber, and its floor beautifully
inlaid with woods of various hue, whilst the walls were thickly
covered with pictures, chiefly sea-pieces, and all by good masters. He
had, however, but little time to look about him, for a door opened at
the further end of the room, and admitted the portly person of Miss
Terry, arrayed in a gigantic sun hat and a pair of green spectacles.
She seemed very hot, and held in her hand a piece of brown paper,
inside of which something was violently scratching.

"I've caught him at last," she said, "though he did avoid me all last
year. I've caught him."

"Good gracious! caught what?" asked Arthur, with great interest.

"What! why him that Mildred wanted," she replied, regardless of
grammar in her excitement. "Just look at him, he's beautiful."

Thus admonished, Arthur carefully undid the brown paper, and next
moment started back with an exclamation, and began to dance about with
an enormous red beetle grinding its jaws into his finger.

"Oh, keep still, do, pray," called Miss Terry, in alarm, "don't shake
him off on any account, or we shall lose him for the want of a little
patience, as I did when he bit my finger last year. If you'll keep him
quite still, he won't leave go, and I'll ring for John to bring the
chloroform bottle."

Arthur, feeling that the interests of science were matters of a higher
importance than the well-being of his finger, obeyed her injunction to
the letter, hanging his arm (and the beetle) over the back of a chair
and looking the picture of silent misery.

"Quite still, if you please, Mr. Heigham, quite still; is not the
animal's tenacity interesting?"

"No doubt to you, but I hope your pet beetle is not poisonous, for he
is gnashing his pincers together inside my finger."

"Never mind, we will treat you with caustic presently. Mildred, don't
laugh so much, but come and look at him; he's lovely. John, please be
quick with that chloroform bottle."

"If this sort of thing happens often, I don't think that I should
collect beetles from choice, at least not large ones," groaned Arthur.

"Oh, dear," laughed Mrs. Carr, "I never saw anything so absurd. I
don't know which looks most savage, you or the beetle."

"Don't make all that noise, Mildred, you will frighten him, and if
once he flies we shall never catch him in this big room."

Here, fortunately for Arthur, the servant arrived with the required
bottle, into which the ferocious insect was triumphantly stoppered by
Miss Terry.

"I am so much obliged to you, Mr. Heigham, you are a true collector."

"For the first and last time," mumbled Arthur, who was sucking his
finger.

"I am infinitely obliged to you, too, Mr. Heigham," said Mrs. Carr, as
soon as she had recovered from her fit of laughing; "the beetle is
really very rare; it is not even in the British Museum. But come, let
us go in to luncheon."

After that meal was over, Mrs. Carr asked her guest which he would
like to see, her collection of beetles or of mummies.

"Thank you, Mrs. Carr, I have had enough of beetles for one day, so I
vote for the mummies."

"Very well. Will you come, Agatha?"

"Now, Mildred, you know very well that I won't come. Just think, Mr.
Heigham: I only saw the nasty things once, and then they gave me the
creeps every night for a fortnight. As though those horrid Egyptian
'fellahs' weren't ugly enough when they were alive without going and
making great skin and bone dolls of them--pah!"

"Agatha persists in believing that my mummies are the bodies of people
like she saw in Egypt last year."

"And so they are, Mildred. That last one you got is just like the boy
who used to drive my donkey at Cairo--the one that died, you know--I
believe they just stuffed him, and said that he was an ancient king.
Ancient king, indeed!" And Miss Terry departed, in search for more
beetles.

"Now, Mr. Heigham, you must follow me. The museum is not in the house.
Wait, I will get a hat."

In a minute she returned, and led the way across a strip of garden to
a detached building, with a broad verandah, facing the sea. Scarcely
ten feet from this verandah, and on the edge of the sheer precipice,
was built a low wall, leaning over which Arthur could hear the
wavelets lapping against the hollow rock two hundred feet beneath him.
Here they stopped for a moment to look at the vast expanse of ocean,
glittering in the sunlight like a sea of molten sapphires and heaving
as gently as an infant's bosom.

"It is very lovely; the sea moves just enough to show that it is only
asleep."

"Yes; but I like it best when it is awake, when it blows a hurricane--
it is magnificent. The whole cliff shakes with the shock of the waves,
and sometimes the spray drives over in sheets. That is when I like to
sit here; it exhilarates me, and makes me feel as though I belonged to
the storm, and was strong with its strength. Come, let us go in."

The entrance to the verandah was from the end that faced the house,
and to gain it they passed under the boughs of a large magnolia-tree.
Going through glass doors that opened outwards into the verandah, Mrs.
Carr entered a room luxuriously furnished as a boudoir. This had
apparently no other exit, and Arthur was beginning to wonder where the
museum could be, when she took a tiny bramah key from her watch-chain,
and with it opened a door that was papered and painted to match the
wall exactly. He followed her, and found himself in a stone passage,
dimly lighted from above, and sloping downwards, that led to a doorway
graven in the rock, on the model of those to be seen at the entrance
of Egyptian temples.

"Now, Mr. Heigham," she said, flinging open another door, and stepping
forward, "you are about the enter 'The Hall of the Dead.'"

He went in, and a strange sight met his gaze. They were standing in
the centre of one side of a vast cave, that ran right and left at
right angles to the passage. The light poured into it in great rays
from skylights in the roof, and by it he could see that it was
hollowed out of the virgin rock, and measured some sixty feet or more
in length, by about forty wide, and thirty high. Down the length of
each side of the great chamber ran a line of six polished sphinxes,
which had been hewn out of the surrounding granite, on the model of
those at Carnac, whilst the walls were elaborately painted after the
fashion of an Egyptian sepulchre. Here Osiris held his dread tribunal
on the spirit of the departed; here the warrior sped onward in his
charging chariot; here the harper swept his sounding chords; and here,
again, crowned with lotus flowers, those whose corpses lay around held
their joyous festivals.

In the respective centres of each end of the stone chamber a colossus
towered in its silent and unearthly grandeur. That to the right was a
statue of Osiris, judge of the souls of the dead, seated on his
judgment-seat, and holding in his hand the source and the bent-headed
sceptre. Facing him at the other end of the hall was the effigy of the
mighty Ramses, his broad brow encircled by that kingly symbol which
few in the world's history have worn so proudly, and his noble
features impressing those who gaze upon them from age to age with a
sense of scornful power and melancholy calm, such as does not belong
to the countenance of the men of their own time. And all around, under
this solemn guardianship, each upon a polished slab of marble, and
enclosed in a case of thick glass, lay the corpses of the Egyptian
dead, swathed in numberless wrappings, as in their day the true
religion that they held was swathed in symbols and in mummeries.

Here were to be found the high-priest of the mysteries of Isis, the
astronomer whose lore could read the prophecies that are written in
the stars, the dark magician, the renowned warrior, the noble, the
musician with his cymbals by his side, the fair maiden who had--so
said her cedar coffin-boards--died of love and sorrow, and the royal
babe, all sleeping the same sleep, and waiting the same awakening.
This princess must have been well known to Joseph, that may have been
her who rescued Moses from the waters, whilst the babe belongs to a
dynasty of which the history was already merging into tradition when
the great pyramid reared its head on Egypt's fertile plains.

Arthur stood, awed at the wonderful sight.

"Never before," said he, in that whisper which we involuntarily use in
the presence of the dead, "did I realize my own insignificance."

The thought was abruptly put, but the words represented well what was
passing in his mind, what must pass in the mind of any man of culture
and sensibility when he gazes on such a sight. For in such presences
the human mite of to-day, fluttering in the sun and walking on the
earth that these have known and walked four thousand years ago, must
indeed learn how infinitely small is the place that he occupies in the
tale of things created; and yet, if to his culture and sensibility he
adds religion, a word of living hope hovers on those dumb lips. For
where are the spirits of those that lie before him in their eternal
silence! Answer, withered lips, and tell us what judgment has Osiris
given, and what has Thoth written in his awful book? Four thousand
years! Old human husk, if thy dead carcass can last so long, what
limit is there to the life of the soul it held?

"Did you collect all these?" asked Arthur, when he had made a
superficial examination of the almost countless treasures of the
museum.

"Oh, no; Mr. Carr spent half his long life, and more money than I can
tell you, in getting this collection together. It was the passion of
his life, and he had this cave hollowed at enormous cost, because he
thought that the air here would be less likely to injure them than the
English fogs. I have added to it, however. I got those papyri and that
beautiful bust of Berenice, the one in black marble. Did you ever see
such hair?"

Arthur thought to himself that he had at that moment some not far from
his heart that must be quite as beautiful, but he did not say so.

"Look, there are some curious things;" and she opened an air-tight
case that contained some discoloured grains and a few lumps of
shrivelled substance.

"What are they?"

"This is wheat taken from the inside of a mummy, and those are
supposed to be hyacinth bulbs. They came from the mummy-case of that
baby prince, and I have been told that they would still grow if
planted."

"I can scarcely believe that: the principle of life must be extinct."

"Wise people, say, you know, that the principle of life can never
become extinct in anything that has once lived, though it may change
its form; but I do not pretend to understand these things. However, we
will settle the question, for we will plant one, and, if it grows, I
will give the flower to you. Choose one."

Arthur took the biggest lump from the case, and examined it curiously.

"I have not much faith in your hyacinth; I am sure that it is dead."

"Ah! but many things that seem more dead than that have the strangest
way of suddenly breaking into life," she said, with a little sigh.
"Give it to me; I will have it planted;" and then, with a quick glance
upward, "I wonder if you will be here to see it bloom."

"I don't think that either of us will see it bloom in this world," he
answered, laughing, and took his leave.



                             CHAPTER XXXV

Had Arthur been a little less wrapped up in thoughts of Angela, and a
little more alive to the fact that, being engaged or even married to
one woman, does not necessarily prevent complications arising with
another, it might have occurred to him to doubt the prudence of the
course of life that he was pursuing at Madeira. And, as it is, it is
impossible to acquit him of showing a want of knowledge of the world
amounting almost to folly, for he should have known upon general
principles that, for a man in his position, a grizzly bear would have
been a safer daily companion than a young and lovely widow, and the
North Pole a more suitable place of residence than Madeira. But he
simply did not think about the matter, and, as thin ice has a
treacherous way of not cracking till it suddenly breaks, so outward
appearances gave him no indication of his danger.

And yet the facts were full of evil promise, for, as time went on,
Mildred Carr fell headlong in love with him. There was no particular
reason why she should have done so. She might have had scores of men,
handsomer, cleverer, more distinguished, for the asking, or, rather,
for the waiting to be asked. Beyond a certain ability of mind, a
taking manner, and a sympathetic, thoughtful face, with that tinge of
melancholy upon it which women sometimes find dangerously interesting,
there was nothing so remarkable about Arthur that a woman possessing
her manifold attractions and opportunities, should, unsought and
without inquiry, lavish her affection upon him. There is only one
satisfactory explanation of the phenomenon, which, indeed, is a very
common one, and that is, that he was her fate, the one man whom she
was to love in the world, for no woman worth the name ever _loves_
two, however many she may happen to marry. For this curious difference
would appear to exist between the sexes. The man can attach himself,
though in varying degree, to several women in the course of a
lifetime, whilst the woman, the true, pure-hearted woman, cannot so
adapt her best affection. Once given, like the law of the Medes and
Persians, it altereth not.

Mildred felt, when her eyes first met Arthur's in Donald Currie's
office, that this man was for her different from all other men, though
she did not put the thought in words even to herself. And from that
hour till she embarked on board the boat he was continually in her
mind, a fact which so irritated her that she nearly missed the steamer
on purpose, only changing her mind at the last moment. And then, when
she had helped him to carry Miss Terry to her cabin, their hands had
accidentally met, and the contact had sent a thrill through her frame
such as she had never felt before. The next development that she could
trace was her jealousy of the black-eyed girl whom she saw him helping
about the deck, and her consequent rudeness.

Up to her present age, Mildred Carr had never known a single touch of
love: she had not even felt particularly interested in her numerous
admirers, but now this marble Galatea had by some freak of fate found
a woman's heart, awkwardly enough, without the semblance of a
supplication on the part of him whom she destined to play Pygmalion.
And, when she examined herself by the light of the flame thus newly
kindled, she shrank back dismayed, like one who peeps over the crater
of a volcano commencing its fiery work. She had believed her heart to
be callous to all affection of this nature, it had seemed as dead as
the mummied hyacinth; and now it was a living, suffering thing, and
all alight with love. She had tasted of a new wine, and it burnt her,
and was bitter sweet, and yet she longed for more. And thus, by slow
and sad degrees, she learnt that her life, which had for thirty years
flowed on its quiet way unshadowed by love's wing, must henceforth own
his dominion, and be a slave to his sorrows and caprices. No wonder
that she grew afraid!

But Mildred was a woman of keen insight into character, and it did not
require that her powers of observation should be sharpened by the
condition of her affections, to show her that, however deeply she
might be in love with Arthur Heigham, he was not one little bit in
love with her. Knowing the almost irresistible strength of her own
beauty and attractions, she quickly came to the conclusion--and it was
one that sent a cold chill through her--that there must be some other
woman blocking the path to his heart. For some reason or other, Arthur
had never spoken to her of Angela, either because a man very rarely
volunteers information to a woman concerning his existing relationship
with another of her sex, knowing that to do so would be to depreciate
his value in her eyes, or from an instinctive knowledge that the
subject would not be an agreeable one, or perhaps because the whole
matter was too sacred to him. But she, on her part, was determined to
probe his secret to the bottom. So one sleepy afternoon, when they
were sitting on the museum verandah, about six weeks after the date of
their arrival in the island, she took her opportunity.

Mildred was sitting, or rather half lying, in a cane-work chair,
gazing out over the peaceful sea, and Arthur, looking at her, thought
what a lovely woman she was, and wondered what it was that had made
her face and eyes so much softer and more attractive of late. Miss
Terry was also there, complaining of the heat, but presently she moved
off after an imaginary beetle, and they were alone.

"Oh, by-the-by, Mr. Heigham," Mildred said, presently, "I was going to
ask you a question, if only I can remember what it is."

"Try to remember what it is about. 'Shoes, sealing-wax, cabbages, or
kings.' Does it come under any of those heads?"

"Ah, I remember now. If you had added 'queens,' you would not have
been far out. What I wanted to ask you----" and she turned her large,
brown eyes full upon him, and yawned slightly. "Dear me, Agatha is
right; it _is_ hot!"

"Well, I am waiting to give you any information in my power."

"Oh! to be sure, the question. Well, it is a very simple one. Who are
you engaged to?"

Arthur nearly sprang off his chair with astonishment.

"What makes you think that I am engaged?" he asked.

She broke into a merry peal of laughter. Ah! if he could have known
what that laugh cost her.

"What makes me think that you are engaged!" she answered, in a tone of
raillery. "Why, of course you would have been at my feet long ago, if
it had not been so. Come, don't be reticent. I shall not laugh at you.
What is she like?" (Generally a woman's first question about a rival.)
"Is she as good-looking--well, as I am, say--for, though you may not
think it, I have been thought good-looking."

"She is quite different from you; she is very tall and fair, like an
angel in a picture, you know."

"Oh! then there is a 'she,' and a 'she like an angel.' Very different
_indeed_ from me, I should think. How nicely I caught you out;" and
she laughed again.

"Why did you want to catch me out?" said Arthur, on whose ear Mrs.
Carr's tone jarred; he could not tell why.

"Feminine curiosity, and a natural anxiety to fathom the reasons of
your sighs, that is all. But never mind, Mr. Heigham, you and I shall
not quarrel because you are engaged to be married. You shall tell me
the story when you like, for I am sure there is a story--no, not this
afternoon; the sun has given me a headache, and I am going to sleep it
off. Other people's love-stories are very interesting to me, the more
so because I have reached the respectable age of thirty without being
the subject of one myself;" and again she laughed, this time at her
own falsehood. But, when he had gone, there was no laughter in her
eyes, nothing but tears, bitter, burning tears.

"Agatha," said Mildred that evening, "I am sick of this place. I want
to go to the Isle of Wight. It must be quite nice there now. We will
go by the next Currie boat."

"My dear Mildred," replied Miss Terry, aghast, "if you were going back
so soon, why did you not leave me behind you? And just as we were
getting so nicely settled here too, and I shall be so sorry to say
good-bye to that young Heigham, he is such a nice young man! Why don't
you marry him? I really thought you liked him. But, perhaps he is
coming to the Isle of Wight too. Oh, that dreadful bay!"

Mildred winced at Miss Terry's allusions to Arthur, of whom that lady
had grown extremely fond.

"I am very sorry, dear," she said, hastily; "but I am bored to death,
and it is such a bad insect year: so really you must begin to pack
up."

Miss Terry began to pack accordingly, but, when next she alluded to
the subject of their departure, Mildred affected surprise, and asked
her what she meant. The astonished Agatha referred her to her own
words, and was met by a laughing disclaimer.

"Why, you surely did not think that I was in earnest, did you? I was
only a little cross."

"Well, really, Mildred, you've got so strange lately that I never know
when you are in earnest and when you are not, though, for my part, I
am very glad to stay in peace and quiet."

"Strange, grown strange, have I!" said Mrs. Carr, looking dreamily out
of a window that commanded the carriage-drive, with her hands crossed
behind her. "Yes, I think that you are right. I think that I have lost
the old Mildred somewhere or other, and picked up a new one whom I
don't understand."

"Ah, indeed," remarked Miss Terry, in the most matter-of-fact way,
without having the faintest idea of what her friend was driving at.

"How it rains! I suppose that he won't come to-day."

"He! Who's he?"

"Why, how stupid you are! Mr. Heigham, of course!"

"So you always mean him, when you say 'he!'"

"Yes, of course I do, if it isn't ungrammatical. It is miserable this
afternoon. I feel wretched. Why, actually, here he comes!" and she
tore off like a school-girl into the hall, to meet him.

"Ah, indeed," again remarked Miss Terry, solemnly, to the empty walls.
"I am not such a fool as I look. I suppose that Mr. Heigham wouldn't
come to the Isle of Wight."

It is perhaps needless to say that Mrs. Carr had never been more in
earnest in her life than when she announced her intention of departing
to the Isle of Wight. The discovery that her suspicions about Arthur
had but too sure a foundation had been a crushing blow to her hopes,
and she had formed a wise resolution to see no more of him. Happy
would it have been for her, if she could have found the moral courage
to act up to it, and go away, a wiser, if a sadder, woman. But this
was not to be. The more she contemplated it, the more did her passion
--which was now both wild and deep--take hold upon her heart, eating
into it like acid into steel, and graving one name there in
ineffaceable letters. She could not bear the thought of parting from
him, and felt, or thought she felt, that her happiness was already too
deeply pledged to allow her to throw up the cards without an effort.

Fortune favours the brave. Perhaps, after all, it would declare itself
for her. She was modest in her aspirations. She did not expect that he
would ever give her the love he bore this other woman; she only asked
to live in the sunlight of his presence, and would be glad to take him
at his own price, or indeed at any price. Man, she knew, is by nature
as unstable as water, and will mostly melt beneath the eyes of more
women than one, as readily as ice before a fire when the sun has hid
his face. Yes, she would play the game out: she would not throw away
her life's happiness without an effort. After all, matters might have
been worse: he might have been actually married.

But she knew that her hand was a difficult one to lead from, though
she also knew that she held the great trumps--unusual beauty,
practically unlimited wealth, and considerable fascination of manner.
Her part must be to attract without repelling, charm without alarming,
fascinate by slow degrees, till at length he was involved in a net
from which there was no escape, and, above all, never to allow him to
suspect her motives till the ripe moment came. It was a hard task for
a proud woman to set herself, and, in a manner, she was proud; but,
alas, with the best of us, when love comes in at the door, pride,
reason, and sometimes honour, fly out the window.

And so Miss Terry heard no more talk of the Isle of Wight.

Thenceforward, under the frank and open guise of friendship, Mildred
contrived to keep Arthur continually at her side. She did more. She
drew from him all the history of his engagement to Angela, and
listened, with words of sympathy on her lips, and wrath and bitter
jealousy in her heart, to his enraptured descriptions of her rival's
beauty and perfections. So benighted was he, indeed, that once he went
so far as to suggest that he should, when he and Angela were married,
come to Madeira to spend their honeymoon, and dilated on the pleasant
trips which they three might take together.

"Truly," thought Mildred to herself, "that would be delightful." Once,
too, he even showed her a tress of Angela's hair, and, strange to say,
she found that there still lingered in her bosom a sufficient measure
of vulgar first principles to cause her to long to snatch it from him
and throw it into the sea. But, as it was, she smiled faintly, and
admired openly, and then went to the glass to look at her own nut-
brown tresses. Never had she been so dissatisfied with them, and yet
her hair was considered lovely, and an aesthetic hair-dresser had once
called it a "poem."

"Blind fool," she muttered, stamping her little foot upon the floor,
"why does he torture me so?"

Mildred forgot that all love is blind, and that none was ever blinder
or more headstrong than her own.

And so this second Calypso of a lovely isle set herself almost as
unblushingly as her prototype to get our very unheroic Ulysses into
her toils. And Penelope, poor Penelope, she sat at home and span, and
defied her would-be lovers.

But as yet Ulysses--I mean Arthur--was conscious of none of those
things. He was by nature an easy-going young gentleman, who took
matters as he found them, and asked no questions. And he found them
very pleasant at Madeira, or, rather, at the Quinta Carr, for he did
everything except sleep there. Within its precincts he was everywhere
surrounded with that atmosphere of subtle and refined flattery,
flattery addressed chiefly to the intellect, that is one of the most
effective weapons of a clever woman. Soon the drawing-room tables were
loaded with his favourite books, and no songs but such as he approved
were ordered from London.

He discovered one evening, for instance, that Mildred looked best at
night in black and silver, and next morning Mr. Worth received a
telegram requesting him to forward without delay a large consignment
of dresses in which those colours predominated.

On another occasion he casually threw out a suggestion about the
erection of a terrace in the garden, and shortly afterwards was
surprised to find a small army of Portuguese labourers engaged upon
the work. He had made this suggestion in total ignorance of the
science of garden engineering, and its execution necessitated the
removal of vast quantities of soil and the blasting of many tons of
rock. The contractor employed by Mrs. Carr pointed out how the terrace
could be made equally well at a fifth of the expense, but it did not
happen to take exactly the direction that Arthur had indicated, so she
would have none of it. His word was law, and, because he had spoken,
the whole place was for a month overrun with dirty labourers, whilst,
to the great detriment of Miss Terry's remaining nerves, and even to
the slight discomfort of His Royal Highness himself, the air resounded
all day long with the terrific bangs of the blasting powder.

But, so long as he was pleased with the progress of the improvement,
Mildred felt no discomfort, nor would she allow any one else to
express any. It even aggravated her to see Miss Terry put her hands to
her head and jump, whenever a particularly large piece of ordnance was
discharged, and she would vow that it must be affectation, because she
never even noticed it.

In short, Mildred Carr possessed to an extraordinary degree that
faculty for blind, unreasoning adoration which is so characteristic of
the sex, an adoration that is at once magnificent in the entirety of
its own self-sacrifice, and extremely selfish. When she thought that
she could please Arthur, the state of Agatha's nerves became a matter
of supreme indifference to her, and in the same way, had she been an
absolute monarch, she would have spent the lives of thousands, and
shaken empires till thrones came tumbling down like apples in the
wind, if she had believed that she could thereby advance herself in
his affections.

But, as it never occurred to Arthur that Mrs. Carr might be in love
with him, he saw nothing abnormal about all this. Not that he was
conceited, for nobody was ever less so, but it is wonderful what an
amount of flattery and attention men will accept from women as their
simple right. If the other sex possesses the faculty of admiration, we
in compensation are perfectly endowed with that of receiving it with
careless ease, and when we fall in with some goddess who is foolish
enough to worship _us_, and to whom _we_ should be on our knees, we
merely label her "sympathetic," and say that she "understands us."

From all of which wise reflections the reader will gather that our
friend Arthur was not a hundred miles off an awkward situation.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI

One day, some three weeks after Arthur had gone, Angela strolled down
the tunnel walk, now, in the height of summer, almost dark with the
shade of the lime-trees, and settled herself on one of the stone seats
under Caresfoot's staff.

She had a book in hand, but it soon became clear that she had come to
this secluded spot to think rather than read, for it fell unopened
from her hand, and her grey eyes were full of a far-off look as they
gazed across the lake glittering in the sunlight, away towards the
hazy purple outline of the distant hills. Her face was quite calm, but
it was not that of a happy person; indeed, it gave a distinct idea of
mental suffering. All grief, however acute, is subject to fixed
gradations, and Angela was yet in the second stage. First there is the
acute stage, when the heart aches with a physical pain, and the mind,
filled with a wild yearning or tortured by an unceasing anxiety, well-
nigh gives beneath the abnormal strain. This does not last long, or it
would kill or drive us to the mad-house. Then comes that long epoch of
dull misery, enduring till at last kindly nature in pity rubs off the
rough extremes of our calamity, and by slow but sure degrees softens
agony into sorrow.

This was what she was now passing through, and--as all highly
organized natures like her own are, especially in youth, very
sensitive to those more exquisite vibrations of pain and happiness
that leave minds of a coarser fibre comparatively unmoved--it may be
taken for granted that she was suffering sufficiently acutely.

Perhaps she had never quite realized how necessary Arthur had become
to her, how deep his love had sent its fibres into her heart and inner
self, until he was violently wrenched away from her and she lost all
sight and knowledge of him in the darkness of the outside world. Still
she had made no show of her sorrow; but once, when Pigott told her
some pathetic story of the death of a little child in the village, she
burst into a paroxysm of weeping. The pity for another's pain had
loosed the flood-gates of her own, but it was a performance that she
did not repeat.

But Angela had her anxieties as well as her griefs, and it was over
these former that she was thinking as she sat on the great stone under
the oak. Love is a wonderful quickener of the perceptions, and,
ignorant as she was of all the world's ways, the more she thought over
the terms imposed by her father upon her engagement, the more
distrustful did she grow. Lady Bellamy, too, had been to see her
twice, and on each occasion had inspired her with a lively sense of
fear and repugnance. During the first of these visits she had shown a
perfect acquaintance with the circumstances of her engagement, her
"flirtation with Mr. Heigham," as she was pleased to call it. During
the second call, too, she had been full of strange remarks about her
cousin George, talking mysteriously of "a change" that had come over
him since his illness, and of his being under a "new influence." Nor
was this all; for, on the very next day when she was out walking with
Pigott in the village, she had met George himself, and he had insisted
upon entering into a long rambling conversation with her, and on
looking at her in a way that made her feel perfectly sick.

"Oh, Aleck," she said, aloud, to the dog that was sitting by her side
with his head upon her knee, for he was now her constant companion, "I
wonder where your master is, your master and mine, Aleck. Would to God
that he were back here to protect me, for I am growing afraid, I don't
know of what, Aleck, and there are eleven long silent months to wait."
At this moment the dog raised his head, listened, and sprang round
with an angry "woof." Angela rose up with a flash of hope in her eyes,
turned, and faced George Caresfoot.

He was still pale and shrivelled from the effects of his illness, but
otherwise little changed, except that the light-blue eyes glittered
with a fierce determination, and that the features had attained that
fixity and strength which sometimes come to those who are bent heart
and soul upon an enterprise, be it good or evil.

"So I have found you out at last, Cousin Angela. What, are you not
going to shake hands with me?"

Angela touched his fingers with her own.

"My father is not here," she said.

"Thank you, my dear cousin, but I did not come to see your father, of
whom I have seen plenty in the course of my life, and shall doubtless
see more; I came to see you, of whom I can never see enough."

"I don't understand you," said Angela, defiantly, folding her arms
across her bosom and looking him full in the face with fearless eyes,
for her instinct warned her that she was in danger, and also that,
whatever she might feel, she must not show that she was afraid.

"I shall hope to make you do so before long," he replied, with a
meaning glance; "but you are not very polite, you know, you do not
offer me a seat."

"I beg your pardon, I did not know that you wanted to sit down. I can
only offer you a choice of those stones."

"Then call that brute away, and I will sit down."

"The dog is not a brute, as you mean it. But I should not speak of him
like that, if I were you. He is sensible as a human being, and might
resent it."

Angela knew that George was a coward about dogs; and at that moment,
as though to confirm her words, Aleck growled slightly.

"Ah, indeed; well, he is certainly a handsome dog;" and he sat down
suspiciously. "Won't you come and sit down?"

"Thank you. I prefer to stand."

"Do you know what you look like, standing there with your arms
crossed? You look like an angry goddess."

"If you mean that seriously, I don't understand you. If it is a
compliment, I don't like compliments."

"You are not very friendly," said George, whose temper was fast
getting the better of him.

"I am sorry. I do not wish to be unfriendly."

"So I hear that my ward has been staying here whilst I was ill."

"Yes, he was staying here."

"And I am also told that there was some boy-and-girl love affair
between you. I suppose that he indulged in a flirtation to wile away
the time."

Angela turned upon him, too angry to speak.

"Well, you need not look at me like that. You surely never expect to
see him again, do you?"

"If we both live, I shall certainly see him again; indeed, I shall, in
any case."

"You will never see him again."

"Why not?"

"Because he was only flirting and playing the fool with you. He is a
notorious flirt, and, to my certain knowledge, has been engaged to two
women before."

"I do not believe that that is true, or, if it is true, it is not all
the truth; but, true or untrue, I am not going to discuss Mr. Heigham
with you, or allow myself to be influenced by stories told behind his
back."

"Angela," said George, rising, and seizing her hand.

She turned quite pale, and a shudder passed over her frame.

"Leave my hand alone, and never dare to touch me again. This is the
second time that you have tried to insult me."

"So!" answered George, furious with outraged pride and baffled
passion, "you set up your will against mine, do you? Very well, you
shall see. I will crush you to powder. Insult you, indeed! How often
did that young blackguard insult you? I warrant he did more than take
your hand."

"If," answered Angela, "you mean Mr. Heigham, I shall leave you to
consider whether that term is not more applicable to the person who
does his best to outrage an unprotected woman, and take advantage of
the absent, than to the gentleman against whom you have used it;" and,
darting on him one glance of supreme contempt, she swept away like an
angry queen.

Left to his meditations, George shook his fist towards where she had
vanished.

"Very well, my fine lady, very well," he said, aloud. "You treat me as
so much dirt, do you? You shall smart for this, so sure as my name is
George Caresfoot. Only wait till you are in my power, and you shall
learn that I was never yet defied with impunity. Oh, and you shall
learn many other things also."

From that time forward, Angela was, for a period of two months or
more, subjected to an organized persecution as harassing as it was
cruel. George waylaid her everywhere, and twice actually succeeded in
entering into conversation with her, but on both occasions she managed
to escape from him before he could proceed any further. So
persistently did he hunt her, that at last the wretched girl was
driven to hide herself away in odd corners of the house and woods, in
order to keep out of his way. Then he took to writing her letters, and
sending handsome presents, all of which she returned.

Poor Angela! It was hard both to lose her lover, and to suffer daily
from the persecutions of her hateful cousin, which were now pushed
forward so openly and with such pertinacity as to fill her with vague
alarm. What made her position worse was, that she had no one in whom
to confide, for Mr. Fraser had not yet returned. Pigott indeed knew
more or less what was going on, but she could do nothing, except
bewail Arthur's absence, and tell her "not to mind." There remained
her father, but with him she had never been on sufficiently intimate
terms for confidence. Indeed, as time went on, the suspicion gathered
strength in her mind that he was privy to George's advances, and that
those advances had something to do with the harsh terms imposed upon
Arthur and herself. But at last matters grew so bad that, having no
other refuge, she determined to appeal to him for protection.

"Father," she said, boldly, one day to Philip, as he was sitting
writing in his study, "my cousin George is persecuting me every day. I
have borne it as long as I can, but I can bear it no longer. I have
come to ask you to protect me from him."

"Why, Angela, I should have thought that you were perfectly capable of
protecting yourself. What is he persecuting you about? What does he
want?"

"To marry me, I suppose," answered Angela, blushing to her eyes.

"Well, that is a very complimentary wish on his part, and I can tell
you what it is, Angela, if only you could get that young Heigham out
of your head, you might do a deal worse."

"It is quite useless to talk to me like that," she answered, coldly.

"Well, that is your affair; but it is very ridiculous of you to come
and ask me to protect you. The woman must, indeed, be a fool who
cannot protect herself."

And so the interview ended.

Next day Lady Bellamy called again.

"My dear child," she said to Angela, "you are not looking well; this
business worries you, no doubt; it is the old struggle between duty
and inclination, that we have most of us gone through. Well, there is
one consolation, nobody who ever did his or her duty, regardless of
inclination, ever regretted it in the end."

"What do you mean, Lady Bellamy, when you talk about my duty?"

"I mean the plain duty that lies before you of marrying your cousin
George, and of throwing up this young Heigham."

"I recognize no such duty."

"My dear Angela, do look at the matter from a sensible point of view,
think what a good thing it would be for your father, and remember,
too, that it would re-unite all the property. If ever a girl had a
clear duty to perform, you have."

"Since you insist so much upon my 'duty,' I must say that it seems to
me that an honest girl in my position has three duties to consider,
and not one, as you say, Lady Bellamy. First, there is her duty to the
man she loves, for her the greatest duty of any in the world; next her
duty to herself, for her happiness and self-respect are involved in
her decision; and, lastly, her duty to her family. I put the family
last, because, after all, it is she who gets married, not her family."

Lady Bellamy smiled a little.

"You argue well; but there is one thing that you overlook, though I am
sorry to have to pain you by saying it; young Mr. Heigham is no better
than he should be. I have made inquiries about him, and think that I
ought to tell you that."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that his life, young as he is, has not been so creditable as
it might have been. He has been the hero of one or two little affairs.
I can tell you about them if you like."

"Lady Bellamy, your stories are either true or untrue. If true, I
should take no notice of them, because they must have happened before
he loved me; if untrue, they would be a mere waste of breath, so I
think that we may dispense with the stories--they would influence me
no more than the hum of next summer's gnats."

Lady Bellamy smiled again.

"You are a curious woman," she said; "but, supposing that there were
to be a repetition of these little stories _after_ he loved you, what
would you say then?"

Angela looked troubled, and thought awhile.

"He could never go far from me," she answered.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I hold the strings of his heart in my hands, and I have
only to lift them to draw him back to me--so. No other woman, no
living force, can keep him from me, if I choose to bid him come."

"Supposing that to be so, how about the self-respect you spoke of just
now? Could you bear to take your lover back from the hands of another
woman?"

"That would entirely depend upon the circumstances, and upon what was
just to the other woman."

"You would not then throw him up without question?"

"Lady Bellamy, I may be very ignorant and simple, but I am neither mad
nor a fool. What do you suppose that my life would be worth to me if I
threw Arthur up? If I remained single it would be an aching void, as
it is now, and if I married any other man whilst he still lived, it
would become a daily and shameful humiliation such as I had rather die
than endure."

Lady Bellamy glanced up from under her heavy-lidded eyes; a thought
had evidently struck her, but she did not express it.

"Then I am to tell your cousin George that you will have absolutely
nothing to do with him?"

"Yes, and beg him to cease persecuting me; it is quite useless; if
there were no Arthur and no other man in the world, I would not marry
him. I detest him--I cannot tell you how I detest him."

"It is amusing to hear you talk so, and to think that you will
certainly be Mrs. George Caresfoot within nine months."

"Never," answered Angela, passionately stamping her foot upon the
floor. "What makes you say such horrible things?"

"I reflect," answered Lady Bellamy, with an ominous smile, "that
George Caresfoot has made up his mind to marry you, and that I have
made up mine to help him to do so, and that your will, strong as it
certainly is, is, as compared with our united wills, what a straw is
to a gale. The straw cannot travel against the wind, it _must_ go with
it, and you _must_ marry George Caresfoot. You will as certainly come
to the altar-rails with him as you will to your death-bed. It is
written in your face. Good-bye."

For the first time Angela's courage really gave way as she heard these
dreadful words. She remembered how she herself had called Lady Bellamy
an embodiment of the "Spirit of Power," and now she felt that the
comparison was just. The woman was power incarnate, and her words,
which from anybody else she would have laughed at, sent a cold chill
through her.

"She is a fine creature both in mind and body," reflected Lady
Bellamy, as she stepped into her carriage. "Really, though I try to
hate her, I can find it in my heart to be sorry for her. Indeed, I am
not sure that I do not like her; certainly I respect her. But she has
come in my path and must be crushed--my own safety demands it. At
least, she is worth crushing, and the game is fair, for perhaps she
will crush me. I should not be surprised; there is a judgment in those
grey eyes of hers--Qui vivra verra. Home, William."



                            CHAPTER XXXVII

Angela's appeal for protection set Philip thinking.

As the reader is aware, his sole motive in consenting to become, as it
were, a sleeping partner in the shameful plot, of which his innocent
daughter was the object, was to obtain possession of his lost
inheritance, and it now occurred to him that even should that plot
succeed, which he very greatly doubted, nothing had as yet been
settled as to the terms upon which it was to be reconveyed to him. The
whole affair was excessively repugnant to him: indeed, he regarded the
prospect of its success with little less than terror, only his greed
over-mastered his fear.

But on one point he was very clear: it should not succeed except upon
the very best of terms for himself, his daughter should not be
sacrificed unless the price paid for the victim was positively
princely, such guilt was not to be incurred for a bagatelle. If George
married Angela, the Isleworth estates must pass back into his hands
for a very low sum indeed. But would his cousin be willing to accept
such a sum? That was the rub, and that, too, was what must be made
clear without any further delay. He had no wish to see Angela put to
needless suffering, suffering which would not bring an equivalent with
it, and which might, on the contrary, entail consequences upon himself
that he shuddered to think of.

Curiously enough, however, he had of late been signally free from his
superstitious fears; indeed, since the night when he had so astonished
Arthur by his outbreak about the shadows on the wall, no fit had come
to trouble him, and he was beginning to look upon the whole thing as
an evil dream, a nightmare that he had at last lived down. But still
the nightmare might return, and he was not going to run the risk
unless he was very well paid for it. And so he determined to offer a
price so low for the property that no man in his senses would accept
it, and then wrote a note to George asking him to come over on the
following evening after dinner, as he wished to speak to him on a
matter of business.

"There," he said to himself, "that will make an end of the affair, and
I will get young Heigham back and they can be married. George can
never take what I mean to offer; if he should, the Egyptian will be
spoiled indeed, and the game will be worth the candle. Not that I have
any responsibility about it, however; I shall put no pressure on
Angela, she must choose for herself." And Philip went to bed, quite
feeling as though he had done a virtuous action.

George came punctually enough on the following evening, which was that
of the day of Lady Bellamy's conversation with Angela, a conversation
which had so upset the latter that she had already gone to her room,
not knowing anything of her cousin's proposed visit.

The night was one of those dreadfully oppressive ones that sometimes
visit us in the course of an English summer. The day had been hot and
sultry, and with the fall of the evening the little breeze that
stirred in the thunder-laden air had died away, leaving the
temperature at much the same point that is to be expected in a
tropical valley, and rendering the heat of the house almost
unbearable.

"How do you do, George?" said Philip. "Hot, isn't it?"

"Yes, there will be a tempest soon."

"Not before midnight, I think. Shall we go and walk down by the lake,
it will be cooler there, and we shall be quite undisturbed? Walls have
ears sometimes, you know."

"Very well; but where is Angela?"

"I met her on the stairs just now, and she said that she was going to
bed--got a headache, I believe. Shall we start?"

So soon as they were well away from the house, Philip broke the ice.

"Some months back, I had a conversation with Lady Bellamy on the
subject of a proposal that you made to me through her for Angela's
hand. It is about that I wish to speak to you now. First, I must ask
if you still wish to go on with the business?"

"Certainly, I wish it more than ever."

"Well, as I intimated to Lady Bellamy, I do not at all approve of your
suit. Angela is already, subject to my consent, very suitably engaged
to your late ward, a young fellow whom, whatever you may think about
him, I like very much; and I can assure you that it will require the
very strongest inducements to make me even allow such a thing. In any
case, I will have nothing to do with influencing Angela; she is a
perfectly free agent."

"Which means, I suppose, that you intend to screw down the price?"

"In wanting to marry Angela," went on Philip, "you must remember that
you fly high. She is a very lovely woman, and, what is more, will some
day or other be exceedingly well off, whilst you--you must excuse me
for being candid, but this is a mere matter of business, and I am only
talking of you in the light of a possible son-in-law--you are a
middle-aged man, not prepossessing in appearance, broken in health,
and, however well you may have kept up your reputation in these parts,
as you and I well know, without a single shred of character left;
altogether not a man to who a father would marry his daughter of his
own free will, or one with whom a young girl is likely to find
happiness."

"You draw a flattering picture of me, I must say."

"Not at all, only a true one."

"Well, if I am all you say, how is it that you are prepared to allow
your daughter to marry me at all?"

"I will tell you; because the rights of property should take
precedence of the interests of a single individual. Because my father
and you between you cozened me out of my lawful own, and this is the
only way that I see of coming by it again."

"What does it matter? in any case after your death the land will come
back to Angela and her children."

"No, George, it will not; if ever the Isleworth estates come into my
hands, they shall not pass again to any child of yours."

"What would you do with them, then?"

"Marry, and get children of my own."

George whistled.

"Well, I must say that your intentions are amiable, but you have not
got the estates yet, my dear cousin."

"No, and never shall have, most likely; but let us come to the point.
Although I do not approve of your advances, I am willing to waive my
objections and accept you as a son-in-law, if you can win Angela's
consent, provided that before the marriage you consent to give me
clear transfer, at a price, of all the Isleworth estates, with the
exception of the mansion and the pleasure-grounds."

"Very good; but now about the price. That is the real point."

They had taken a path that ran down through the shrubberies to the
side of the lake, and then turned up towards Caresfoot's Staff. Before
answering George's remark, Philip proposed that they should sit down,
and, suiting the action to the word, placed himself upon the trunk of
a fallen tree that lay by the water's edge, just outside the spread of
the branches of the great oak, and commanding a view of the area
beneath them.

"The moon will come out again presently," he said, when George had
followed his example. "She has got behind that thunder-cloud. Ah!" as
a bright flash of lightning passed from heaven to earth, "I thought
that we should get a storm; it will be here in half an hour."

All this Philip said to gain time; he had not quite made up his mind
what price to offer.

"Never mind the lightning. What do you offer for the property,
inclusive of timber, and with all improvements--just as it stands, in
short."

"One hundred thousand pounds cash," said Philip, deliberately.

George sprang from his seat, and sat down again before he answered.

"Do you think that I am drunk, or a fool, that you come to me with
such a ridiculous offer? Why, the probate valuation was two hundred
thousand, and that was very low."

"I offer one hundred thousand, and am willing to settle thirty
thousand absolutely on the girl should she marry you, and twenty
thousand more on my death. That is my offer--take it, or leave it."

"Talk sense, man; your terms are preposterous."

"I tell you that, preposterous or not, I will not go beyond them. If
you don't like them, well and good, leave them alone, and I'll put
myself in communication with young Heigham to-morrow, and tell him
that he can come and marry the girl as soon as he likes. For my part,
I am very glad to have the business settled."

"You ask me to sacrifice half my property," groaned George.

"My property, you mean, that you stole. But I don't ask you to do
anything one way or the other. I am to understand that you refuse my
offer?"

"Give me a minute to think," and George hid his face in his hand, and
Philip, looking at him with hatred gleaming in his dark eyes, muttered
between his teeth,

"I believe that my turn has come at last."

When some thirty seconds had passed in silence, the attention of the
pair was attracted by the cracking of dead leaves that sounded quite
startling in the intense stillness of the night, and next second a
tall figure in white glided up to the water's edge, and stood still
within half a dozen paces of them.

Involuntarily Philip gripped his cousin's arm, but neither of them
moved. The sky had rapidly clouded up, and the faint light that
struggled from the moon only served to show that the figure appeared
to be lifting its arms. In another second that was gone too, and the
place was totally dark.

"Wait till the moon comes out, and we shall see what it is," whispered
George, and, as he spoke, there came from the direction of the figure
a rustling sound as of falling garments.

"What can it be?" whispered Philip.

They were not left long in doubt, for at that instant a vivid flash
from the thunder-cloud turned the darkness into the most brilliant
day, and revealed a woman standing up to her knees in the water, with
her arms lifted, knotting her long hair. It was Angela. For one moment
the fierce light shone upon the stately form that gleamed whiter than
ivory--white as snow against the dense background of the brushwood,
and, as it passed, they heard her sink into the water softly as a
swan, and strike out with steady strokes towards the centre of the
lake.

"It is only Angela," said Philip, when the sound of the strokes grew
faint. "Phew! what a state she gave me."

"Is she safe?" asked George, in a husky voice. "Hadn't I better get a
boat?"

"She needs no help from you, she is quite capable of looking after
herself, especially in the water, I can tell you," Philip answered,
sharply.

Nothing more was said till they reached the house, when, on entering
the lighted study, Philip noticed that his cousin's face was flushed,
and his hands shaking like aspen leaves.

"Why, what is the matter with you, man?" he asked.

"Nothing--nothing. I am only rather cold. Give me some brandy."

"Cold on such a night as this? That's curious," said Philip, as he got
the spirit from a cupboard.

George drank about a wine-glassful neat, and seemed to recover
himself.

"I accept your offer for the land, Philip," he said, presently.

His cousin looked at him curiously, and a brilliant idea struck him.

"You agree, then, to take _fifty_ thousand pounds for the Isleworth
estates in the event of your marrying my daughter, the sale to be
completed before the marriage takes place?"

"Fifty thousand! No, a hundred thousand--you said a hundred thousand
just now."

"You must have misunderstood me, or I must have made a mistake; what I
meant is _fifty thousand_, and you to put a thousand down as earnest
money--to be forfeited whether the affair comes off or not."

George ground his teeth and clutched at his red hair, proceedings that
his cousin watched with a great deal of quiet enjoyment. When at
length he spoke, it was in a low, hoarse voice; quite unlike his usual
hard tones:

"Damn you!" he said, "you have me at your mercy. Take the land for the
money, if you like, though it will nearly ruin me. That woman has
turned my head; I _must_ marry her, or I shall go mad."

"Very good; that is your affair. Remember that I have no
responsibility in the matter, and that I am not going to put any
pressure on Angela. If you want to marry her, you must win her within
the next eight months. Then that is settled. I suppose that you will
pay in the thousand to-morrow. The storm is coming up fast, so I won't
keep you. Good night," and they separated, George to drive home--with
fever in his heart, and the thunderstorm, of which he heard nothing,
rattling round him--and Philip to make his way to bed, with the dream
of his life advanced a step nearer realization.

"That was a lucky swim of Angela's to-night," he thought. "Fifty
thousand pounds for the estate. He is right; he must be going mad. But
will he get her to marry him, I wonder. If he does, I shall cry quits
with him, indeed."



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII

George had spoken no falsehood when he said that he felt as though he
must marry Angela or go mad. Indeed, it is a striking proof of how
necessary he thought that step to be to his happiness, that he had
been willing to consent to his cousin's Shylock-like terms about the
sale of the property, although they would in their result degrade him
from his position as a large landed proprietor, and make a
comparatively poor man of him. The danger or suffering that could
induce a Caresfoot to half ruin himself with his eyes open had need to
be of an extraordinarily pressing nature.

Love's empire is this globe and all mankind; the most refined and the
most degraded, the cleverest and the most stupid, are all liable to
become his faithful subjects. He can alike command the devotion of an
archbishop and a South-Sea Islander, of the most immaculate maiden
lady (whatever her age) and of the savage Zulu girl. From the pole to
the equator, and from the equator to the further pole, there is no
monarch like Love. Where he sets his foot, the rocks bloom with
flowers, or the garden becomes a wilderness, according to his good-
will and pleasure, and at his whisper all other allegiances melt away
like ropes of mud. He is the real arbiter of the destinies of the
world.

But to each nature of all the millions beneath his sway, Love comes in
a fitting guise, to some as an angel messenger, telling of sympathy
and peace, and a strange new hope; to others draped in sad robes
indeed, but still divine. Thus when he visits such a one as George
Caresfoot, it is as a potent fiend, whose mission is to enter through
man's lower nature, to torture and destroy; to scorch the heart with
fearful heats, and then to crush it, and leave its owner's bosom
choked with bitter dust.

And, so far as George is concerned, there is no doubt but what the
work was done right well, for under the influence of what is, with
doubtful propriety, known as the "tender passion," that estimable
character was rapidly drifting within a measurable distance of a
lunatic asylum. The checks and repulses that he had met with, instead
of cooling his ardour, had only the effect of inflaming it to an
extraordinary degree. Angela's scornful dislike, as water thrown upon
burning oil, did but diffuse the flames of his passion throughout the
whole system of his mind, till he grew wild with its heat and
violence. Her glorious beauty daily took a still stronger hold upon
his imagination, till it scorched into his very soul. For whole nights
he could not sleep, for whole days he would scarcely eat or do
anything but walk, walk, walk, and try to devise means to win her to
his side. The irritation of the mind produced its natural effects upon
his conduct, and he would burst into fits of the most causeless fury.
In one of these he dismissed every servant in the house, and so evil
was his reputation among that class, that he had great difficulty in
obtaining others to take their place. In another he hurled a heavy pot
containing an azalea-bush at the head of one of the gardeners, and had
to compromise an action for assault. In short, the lunatic asylum
loomed very near indeed.

For a week or so after the memorable night of his interview with
Philip, an interview that he, at least, would never forget, George was
quite unable, try as he would, to get a single word with Angela.

At last, one day, when he was driving, by a seldom-used road, past the
fields near the Abbey House on his way from Roxham, chance gave him
the opportunity that he had for so long sought without success. For,
far up a by-lane that led to a turnip-field, his eye caught sight of
the flutter of a grey dress vanishing round a corner, something in the
make of which suggested to him that Angela was its wearer. Giving the
reins to the servant, and bidding him drive on home, he got out of the
dog-cart and hurried up the grassy track, and on turning the corner
came suddenly upon the object of his search. She was standing on the
bank of the hedge-row, and struggling with a bough of honeysuckle from
which she wished to pluck its last remaining autumn bloom. So engaged
was she that she did not hear his step, and it was not until his hard
voice grated on her ear, that she knew that she was trapped.

"Caught at last. You have given me a pretty hunt, Angela."

The violent start she gave effectually carried out her purpose as
regards the honeysuckle, which snapped in two under the strain of her
backward jerk, and she turned round upon him panting with fear and
exertion, the flowery bough grasped within her hand.

"Am I, then, a wild creature, that you should hunt me so?"

"Yes, you are the loveliest and the wildest of creatures, and, now I
have caught you, you must listen to me."

"I will not listen to you; you have nothing to say to me that can
interest me. I will not listen to you."

George laughed a little--a threatening, nervous laugh.

"I am accustomed to have my own way, Angela, and I am not going to
give it up now. You must and you shall listen. I have got my
opportunity at last, and I mean to use it. I am sorry to have to speak
so roughly, but you have only yourself to thank; you have driven me to
it."

His determination frightened her, and she took refuge in an armour of
calm and freezing contempt.

"I don't understand you," she said.

"On the contrary, you understand me very well. You always avoid me; I
can never see you, try how I will. Perhaps," he went on, still talking
quite quietly, "if you knew what a hell there is in my heart and brain
you would not treat me so. I tell you that I am in torture," and the
muscles of the pallid face twitched in a way that went far to confirm
his words.

"I do not understand your meaning, unless, indeed, you are trying to
frighten and insult me, as you have done before," answered Angela.

Poor girl, she did not know what else to say; she was not of a nervous
disposition, but there was something about George's manner that
alarmed her very much, and she glanced anxiously around to see if any
one was within call, but the place was lonely as the grave.

"There is no need for you to look for help, I wish neither to frighten
nor insult you; my suit is an honourable one enough. I wish you to
promise to marry me, that is all; you must and shall promise it, I
will take no refusal. You were made for me and I for you; it is quite
useless for you to resist me, for you must marry me at last. I love
you, and by that right you belong to me. I love you--I love you."

"You--love--me--you----"

"Yes, I do, and why should you look at me like that? I cannot help it,
you are so beautiful; if you knew your loveliness, you would
understand me. I love those grey eyes of yours, even when they flash
and burn as they do now. Ah! they shall look softly at me yet, and
those sweet lips that curl so scornfully shall shape themselves to
kiss me. Listen, I loved you when I first saw you there in the
drawing-room at Isleworth, I loved you more and more all the time that
I was ill, and now I love you to madness. So you see, Angela, you
_must_ marry me soon."

"_I_ marry you!"

"Oh! don't say you won't, for God's sake, don't say you won't," said
George, with a sudden change of manner from the confident to the
supplicatory. "Look, I beg you not to, on my knees," and he actually
flung himself down on the grass roadway and grovelled before her in an
abandonment of passion hideous to behold.

She turned very pale, and answered him in a cold, quiet voice, every
syllable of which fell upon him like the stroke of a knife.

"Such a thing would be quite impossible for many reasons, but I need
only repeat you one that you are already aware of. I am engaged to Mr.
Heigham."

"Bah, that is nothing. I know that; but you will not throw away such a
love as I have to offer for the wavering affection of a boy. We can
soon get rid of him. Write and tell him that you have changed your
mind. Listen, Angela," he went on, catching her by the skirt of her
dress; "he is not rich, he has only got enough for a bare living. I
have five times the money, and you shall help to spend it. Don't marry
a young beggar like that; you won't get value for yourself. It will
pay you ever so much better to marry me."

George was convinced from his experience of the sex that every woman
could be bought if only you bid high enough; but, as the sequel
showed, he could not well have used a worse argument to a person like
Angela, or one more likely to excite the indignation that fear of him,
together with a certain respect for the evident genuineness of his
suffering, had hitherto kept in suppression. She wrenched her dress
free from him, leaving a portion of its fabric in his hand.

"Are you not ashamed?" she said, her voice trembling with indignation
and her eyes filled with angry tears; "are you not ashamed to talk to
me like this, _you_, my own father's cousin, and yourself old enough
to be my father? I tell you that my love is already given, which would
have been a sufficient answer to any _gentleman_, and you reply by
saying that you are richer than the man I love. Do you believe that a
woman thinks of nothing but money? or do you suppose that I am to be
bought like a beast at the market? Get up from the ground, for, since
your brutality forces me to speak so plainly in my own defence, I must
tell you once and for all that you will get nothing by kneeling to me.
Listen: I would rather die than be your wife; rather than always see
your face about me, I would pass my life in prison; I had sooner be
touched by a snake than by you. You are quite hateful to me. Now you
have your answer, and I beg that you will get up and let me pass!"

Drawn up the full height of her majestic stature, her face flushed
with emotion, and her clear eyes flashing scornful fire, whilst in her
hand she still held the bough of sweet honeysuckle; Angela formed a
strange contrast to the miserable man crouched at her feet, swaying
himself to and fro and moaning, his hat off and his face hidden in his
trembling hands.

As he would not, or could not move, she left him there, and slipping
through a neighbouring gap vanished from sight. When she was fairly
gone, he stirred, and having risen and recovered his hat, which had
fallen off in his excitement, his first action was to shake his fist
in the direction in which she had vanished, his next to frantically
kiss the fragment of her dress that he still held in her hand.

"You _shall_ marry me yet, my fine lady," he hissed between his teeth;
"and, if I do not repay your gentle words with interest, my name is
not George Caresfoot;" and then, staggering like a drunken man, he
made his way home.

"Oh, Arthur," thought Angela, as she crept quite broken in spirit to
the solitude of her room, "if I only knew where you were, I think that
I would follow you, promise or no promise. There is no one to help me,
no one; they are all in league against me--even my own father."



                            CHAPTER XXXIX

Notwithstanding his brave threats made behind Angela's back, about
forcing her to marry him in the teeth of any opposition that she could
offer, George reached home that night very much disheartened about the
whole business. How was he to bow the neck of this proud woman to his
yoke, and break the strong cord of her allegiance to her absent lover.
With many girls it might have been possible to find a way, but Angela
was not an ordinary girl. He had tried, and Lady Bellamy had tried,
and they had both failed, and as for Philip he would take no active
part in the matter. What more could be done? Only one thing that he
could think of, he could force Lady Bellamy to search her finer brains
for a fresh expedient. Acting upon this idea, he at once despatched a
note to her, requesting her to come and see him at Isleworth on the
following morning.

That night passed very ill for the love-lorn George. Angela's vigorous
and imaginative expression of her entire loathing of him had pierced
even the thick hide of his self-conceit, and left him sore as a
whipped hound, altogether too sore to sleep. When Lady Bellamy arrived
on the following morning, she found him marching up and down the
dining-room, in the worst of his bad tempers, and that was a very
shocking temper indeed. His light blue eyes were angry and bloodshot,
his general appearance slovenly to the last degree, and a red spot
burned upon each sallow cheek.

"Well, George, what is the matter? You don't look quite so happy as a
lover should."

He grunted by way of answer.

"Has the lady been unkind, failed to appreciate your advances, eh?"

"Now look here, Anne," he answered, savagely, "if I have to put up
with things from that confounded girl, I am not going to stand your
jeers, so stop them once and for all."

"It is very evident that she has been unkind. Supposing that instead
of abusing me you tell me the details. No doubt they are interesting,"
and she settled herself in a low chair, and glanced at him keenly from
under her heavy eyelids.

Thus admonished, George proceeded to giver her such a version of his
melancholy tale as best suited him, needless to say not a full one,
but his hearer's imagination easily supplied the gaps, and, as he
proceeded, a slow smile crept over her face as she conjured up the
suppressed details of the scene in the lane.

"Curse you! what are you laughing at? You came here to listen, not
laugh," broke out George furiously, when he saw it.

She made no answer, and he continued his thrilling tale without
comment on her part.

"Now," he said, when it was finished, "what is to be done?"

"There is nothing to be done; you have failed to win her affections,
and there is an end of the matter."

"Then you mean I must give it up?"

"Yes, and a very good thing too, for the ridiculous arrangement that
you have entered into with Philip would have half-ruined you, and you
would be tired of the girl in a month."

"Now, look you here, Anne," said George, in a sort of hiss, and
standing over her in a threatening attitude, "I have suspected for
some time that you were playing me false in this business, and now I
am sure of it. You have put the girl up to treating me like this, you
treacherous snake; you have struck me from behind, you Red Indian in
petticoats. But, look here, I will be square with you; you shall not
have all the laugh on your side."

"George, you must be mad."

"You shall see whether I am mad or not. Did you see what the brigands
did to a fellow they caught in Greece the other day for whom they
wanted ransom? First, they sent his ear to his friends, then his nose,
then his foot, and, last of all, his head--all by post, mark you.
Well, dear Anne, that is just how I am going to pay you out. You shall
have a week to find a fresh plan to trap the bird you have frightened,
and, if you find none, first, I shall post one of those interesting
letters that I have yonder to your husband--anonymously, you know--not
a very compromising one, but one that will pique his curiosity and set
him making inquiries; then I shall wait another week."

Lady Bellamy could bear it no longer. She sprang up from her chair,
pale with anger.

"You fiend in human form, what is it, I wonder, that has kept me so
long from destroying you and myself too? Oh! you need not laugh; I
have the means to do it, if I choose: I have had them for twenty
years."

George laughed again, hoarsely.

"Quite penny-dreadful, I declare. But I don't think you will come to
that; you would be afraid, and, if you do, I don't much care--I am
pretty reckless, I can tell you."

"For your threats," she went on, without heeding him, "I care nothing,
for, as I tell you, I have their antidote at hand. You have known me
for many years, tell me, did you ever see my nerve desert me? Do you
suppose that I am a woman who would bear failure when I could choose
death? No, George, I had rather pass into eternity on the crest of the
wave of my success, such as it has been, and let it break and grind me
to powder there, or else bear me to greater heights. All that should
have been a woman's better part in the world you have destroyed in me.
I do not say that it was altogether your fault, for an evil destiny
bound me to you, and it must seem odd to you when I say that, knowing
you for what you are, I still love you. And to fill up this void, to
trample down those surging memories, I have made myself a slave to my
ambition, and the acquisition of another power that you cannot
understand. The man you married me to is rich and a knight to-day. I
made him so. If I live another twenty years, his wealth shall be
colossal and his influence unbounded, and I will be one of the most
powerful women in the kingdom. Why do you suppose that I so fear your
treachery? Do you think that I should mind its being known that I had
thrown aside that poor fig-leaf, virtue--the green garment that marks
a coward or a fool; for, mark you, all women, or nearly all, would be
vicious if they dared. Fear and poverty of spirit restrain them, not
virtue. Why, it is by their vices, properly managed, that women have
always risen, and always will rise. To be really great, I think that a
woman must be vicious with discrimination, and I respect vice
accordingly. No, it is not that I fear. I am afraid because I have a
husband whose bitter resentment is justly piling up against me from
year to year, who only lies in wait for an opportunity to destroy me.
Nor is he my only enemy. In his skilful hands, the letters you possess
can, as society is in this country, be used so as to make me
powerless. Yes, George, all the good in me is dead; the mad love I
have given you is hourly outraged, and yet I cannot shake it off.
_There_ alone my strength fails me, and I am weak as a child. Only the
power to exercise my will, my sense of command over the dullards round
me, and a yet keener pleasure you do not know of, are left to me. If
these are taken away, what will my life be? A void, a waste, a howling
wilderness, a place where I will not stay! I had rather tempt the
unknown. Even in Hell there must be scope for abilities such as mine!"

She paused awhile, as if for an answer, and then went on--

"And as for you, poor creature that you are, words cannot tell how I
despise you. You discard me and my devotion, to follow a nature, in
its way, it is true, greater even than my own, representing the
principle of good, as I represent the principle of evil, but one to
which yours is utterly abhorrent. Can you mix light with darkness, or
filthy oil with water? As well hope to merge your life, black as it is
with every wickedness, with that of the splendid creature you would
defile. Do you suppose that a woman such as she will ever be really
faithless to her love, even though you trap her into marriage? Fool,
her heart is as far above you as the stars; and without a heart a
woman is a husk that none but such miserables as yourself would own.
But go on--dash yourself against a white purity that will, in the end,
blind and destroy you. Dree your own doom! I will find you expedients;
it is my business to obey you. You shall marry her, if you will, and
taste of the judgment that will follow. Be still, I will bear no more
of your insolence to-day." And she swept out of the room, leaving
George looking somewhat scared.

When Lady Bellamy reached Rewtham House, she went straight to her
husband's study. He received her with much politeness, and asked her
to sit down.

"I have come to consult you on a matter of some importance," she said.

"That is, indeed, an unusual occurrence," answered Sir John, rubbing
his dry hands and smiling.

"It is not my own affair: listen," and she gave him a full, accurate,
and clear account of all that had taken place with reference to
George's determination to marry Angela, not omitting the most trivial
detail. Sir John expressed no surprise; he was a very old bird was Sir
John, one for whom every net was spread in vain, whether in or out of
his sight. Nothing in this world, provided that it did not affect his
own comfort or safety, could affect his bland and appreciative smile.
He was never surprised. Once or twice he put a shrewd question to
elucidate some point in the narrative, and that was all. When his wife
was finished, he said,

"Well, Anne, you have told a very interesting and amusing little
history, doubly so, if you will permit me to say it, seeing that it is
told of George Caresfoot by Lady Bellamy; but it seems that your joint
efforts have failed. What is it that you wish me to do?"

"I wish to ask you if you can suggest any plan that will not fail. You
are very cunning in your way, and your advice may be good."

"Let me see, young Heigham is in Madeira, is he not?"

"I am sure I do not know."

"But I do," and he extracted a note-book from a drawer. "Let me see, I
think I have an entry somewhere here. Ah! here we are. 'Arthur P.
Heigham, Esq., passenger, per _Warwick Castle_, to Madeira, June 16.'
(Copied from passenger-list, _Western Daily News_.) His second name is
Preston, is it not? Lucky I kept that. Now, the thing will be to
communicate with Madeira, and see if he is still there. I can easily
do that; I know a man there."

"Have you formed any plan, then?"

"Yes," answered Sir John, with great deliberation, "I think I see my
way; but I must have time to think of it. I will speak to you about it
to-morrow."

When Lady Bellamy had gone, the little man rose, peeped round to see
that nobody was within hearing, and then, rubbing his dry hands with
infinite zest, said aloud, in a voice that was quite solemn in the
intensity of its satisfaction,

"The Lord hath delivered mine enemies into mine hand."



                              CHAPTER XL

Two days after Sir John had been taken into confidence, Philip
received a visit from Lady Bellamy that caused him a good deal of
discomfort. After talking to him on general subjects for awhile, she
rose to go.

"By the way, Mr. Caresfoot," she said, "I really had almost forgotten
the object of my visit. You may remember a conversation we had
together some time ago, when I was the means of paying a debt owing to
you?"

Philip nodded.

"Then you will not have forgotten that one of the articles of our
little verbal convention was, that if it should be considered to the
interest of all the parties concerned, your daughter's old nurse was
not to remain in your house?"

"I remember."

"Well, do you know, I cannot help thinking that it must be a bad thing
for Angela to have so much of the society of an ill-educated and not
very refined person like Pigott. I really advise you to get rid of
her."

"She has been with me for twenty years, and my daughter is devoted to
her. I can't turn her off."

"It is always painful to dismiss an old servant--almost as bad as
discarding an old dress; but when a dress is worn out it must be
thrown away. Surely the same applies to servants."

"I don't see how I am to send her away."

"I can quite understand your feelings; but then, you see, an agreement
implies obligations on both sides, doesn't it? especially an agreement
'for value received,' as the lawyers say."

Philip winced perceptibly.

"I wish I had never had anything to do with your agreements."

"Oh! if you think it over, I don't think that you will say so. Well,
that is settled. I suppose she will go pretty soon. I am glad to see
you looking so well--very different from your cousin, I assure you. I
don't think much of his state of health. Good-bye; remember me to
Angela. By the way, I don't know if you have heard that George has met
with a repulse in that direction; he does not intend to press matters
any more at present; but, of course, the agreement holds all the same.
Nobody knows what the morrow may bring forth."

"Where you and my amiable cousin are concerned, I shall be much
surprised if it does not bring forth villany," thought Philip, as soon
as he heard the front door close. "I suppose that it must be done
about Pigott. Curse that woman, with her sorceress face. I wish I had
never put myself into her power; the iron hand can be felt pretty
plainly through her velvet glove."

Life is never altogether clouded over, and that morning Angela's
horizon had been brightened by two big rays of sunshine that came to
shed their cheering light on the grey monotony of her surroundings.
For of late, notwithstanding its occasional spasms of fierce
excitement, her life had been as monotonous as it was miserable.
Always the same anxious grief, the same fears, the same longing
pressing hourly round her like phantoms in the mist--no, not like
phantoms, like real living things peeping at her from the dark.
Sometimes, indeed, the presentiments and intangible terrors that were
gradually strengthening their hold upon her would get beyond her
control, and arouse in her a restless desire for action--any action,
it did not matter what--that would take her away out of these dull
hours of unwholesome mental growth. It was this longing to be doing
something that drove her, fevered physically with the stifling air of
the summer night, and mentally by thoughts of her absent lover and
recollections of Lady Bellamy's ominous words, down to the borders of
the lake on the evening of George's visit to her father, and once
there, prompted her to try to forget her troubles for awhile in the
exercise of an art of which she had from childhood been a mistress.

The same feeling it was too, that led her to spend long hours of the
day and even of the night, when by rights she should have been asleep,
immersed in endless mathematical studies, and in solving, or
attempting to solve, almost impossible problems. She found that the
strenuous effort of the brain acted as a counter-irritant to the
fretting of her troubles, and though it may seem an odd thing to say,
mathematics alone, owing to the intense application they required,
exercised a soothing effect upon her. But, as one cannot constantly
sleep induced by chloral without paying for it in some shape or form,
Angela's relief from her cares was obtained at no small cost to her
health. When the same brain, however well developed it may be, has
both to study hard and suffer much, there must be a waste of tissue
somewhere. In Angela's case the outward and visible result of this
state of things was to make her grow thinner, and the alternate mental
effect to increasingly rarefy an intellect already too ethereal for
this work-a-day world, and to plunge its owner into fits of depression
which were rendered dreadful by sudden forebodings of evil that would
leap to life in the recesses of her mind, and for a moment cast a
lurid glare upon its gloom, such as at night the lightning gives to
the blackness which surrounds it.

It was in one of the worst of these fits, her "cloudy days" as she
would call them to Pigott, that good news found her. As she was
dressing, Pigott brought her a letter, which, recognizing Lady
Bellamy's bold handwriting, she opened in fear and trembling. It
contained a short note and another letter. The note ran as follows:


 "Dear Angela,

 "I enclose you a letter from your cousin George, which contains
  what I suppose you will consider good news. _For your own sake_ I
  beg you not to send it back unopened as you did the last.

                                                          "A. B."


For a moment Angela was tempted to mistrust this enclosure, and almost
come to the determination to throw it into the fire, feeling sure that
a serpent lurked in the grass and that it was a cunningly disguised
love-letter. But curiosity overcame her, and she opened it as gingerly
as though it were infected, unfolding the sheet with the handle of her
hair-brush. Its contents were destined to give her a surprise. They
ran thus:


                                  "Isleworth Hall, September 20.

 "My dear Cousin,

 "After what passed between us a few days ago you will perhaps be
  surprised at hearing from me, but, if you have the patience to
  read this short letter, its contents will not, I fear, be
  altogether displeasing to you. They are very simple. I write to
  say that I accept your verdict, and that you need fear no further
  advances from me. Whether I quite deserved all the bitter words
  you poured out upon me I leave you to judge at leisure, seeing
  that my only crime was that I loved you. To most women that
  offence would not have seemed so unpardonable. But that is as it
  may be. After what you said there is only one course left for a
  man who has any pride--and that is to withdraw. So let the past be
  dead between us. I shall never allude to it again. Wishing you
  happiness in the path of life which you have chosen,

                       "I remain,
                               "Your affectionate cousin,
                                              "George Caresfoot."


It would have been difficult for any one to have received a more
perfectly satisfactory letter than this was to Angela.

"Pigott," she called out, feeling the absolute necessity of a
confidant in her joy, and forgetting that that worthy soul had nothing
but the most general knowledge of George's advances, "he has given me
up; just think, he is going to let me alone. I declare that I feel
quite fond of him."

"And who might you be talking of, miss?"

"Why, my cousin George, of course; he is going to let me alone, I tell
you."

"Which, seeing how as he isn't fit to touch you with a pair of tongs,
is about the least as he can do, miss, and, as for letting you alone,
I didn't know as he ever proposed doing anything else. But that
reminds me, miss, though I am sure I don't know why it should, how as
Mrs. Hawkins, as was put in to look after the vicarage while the
Reverend Fraser was away, told me last night how as she had got a
telegraft the sight of which, she said, knocked her all faint like,
till she turned just as yellow as the cover, to say nothing of four-
and-six porterage, the which, however, she intends to recover from the
Reverend--Lord, where was I?"

"I am sure I don't know, Pigott, but I suppose you were going to tell
me what was in the telegram."

"Yes, miss, that's right; but my head does seem to wool up somehow so
at times that I fare to lose my way."

"Well, Pigott, what was in the telegram?"

"Lord, miss, how you do hurry one, begging your pardon; only that the
Reverend Fraser--not but what Mrs. Hawkins do say that it can't be
true, because the words warn't in his writing nor nothing like, as she
has good reason to know, seeing that----"

"Yes, but what about Mr. Fraser, Pigott? Isn't he well?"

"The telegraft didn't say, as I remembers, miss; bless me, I forget if
it was to-day or to-morrow."

"Oh, Pigott," groaned Angela, "do tell me what was in the telegram."

"Why, miss, surely I told you that the thing said, though I fancy
likely to be in error----"

"What?" almost shouted Angela.

"Why, that the Reverend Fraser would be home by the midday train, and
would like a beefsteak for lunch, not mentioning, however, anything
about the onions, which is very puzzling to Mrs.----"

"Oh, I am glad; why could you not tell me before? Cousin George
disposed of and Mr. Fraser coming back. Why, things are looking quite
bright again; at least they would be if only Arthur were here," and
her rejoicing ended in a sigh.

As soon as she thought that he would have finished his beefsteak, with
or without the onions, Angela walked down to the vicarage and broke in
upon Mr. Fraser with something of her old gladsome warmth. Running up
to him without waiting to be announced, she seized him by both hands.

"And so you are back at last? what a long time you have been away. Oh,
I am so glad to see you."

Mr. Fraser, who, it struck her, looked older since his absence, turned
first a little red and then a little pale, and said,

"Yes, Angela, here I am back again in the old shop; it is very good of
you to come so soon to see me. Now, sit down and tell me all about
yourself whilst I go on with my unpacking. But, bless me, my dear,
what is the matter with you, you look thin, and as though you were not
happy, and--where has your smile gone to, Angela?"

"Never mind me, you must tell me all about yourself first. Where have
you been and what have you been doing all these long months?"

"Oh, I have been enjoying myself over half the civilized globe," he
answered, with a somewhat forced laugh. "Switzerland, Italy, and Spain
have all been benefited by my presence, but I got tired of it, so here
I am back in my proper sphere, and delighted to again behold these
dear familiar faces," and he pointed to his ample collection of
classics. "But let me hear about yourself, Angela. I am tired of
No. 1, I can assure you."

"Oh, mine is a long story, you will scarcely find patience to listen
to it."

"Ah, I thought that there was a story from your face; then I think
that I can guess what it is about. Young ladies' stories generally
turn upon the same pivot," and he laughed a little softly, and sat
down in a corner well out of the light. "Now, my dear, I am ready to
give you my best attention."

Angela blushed very deeply, and, looking studiously out of the window,
began, with many hesitations, to tell her story.

"Well, Mr. Fraser, you must understand first of all--I mean, you know,
that I must tell you that--" desperately, "that I am engaged."

"Ah!"

There was a something so sharp and sudden about this exclamation that
Angela turned round quickly.

"What's the matter, have you hurt yourself?"

"Yes; but go on, Angela."

It was an awkward story to tell, especially the George complication
part of it, and to any one else she felt that she would have found it
almost impossible to tell it, but in Mr. Fraser she was, she knew,
sure of a sympathetic listener. Had she known, too, that the mere
mention of her lover's name was a stab to her listener's heart, and
that every expression of her own deep and enduring love and each tone
of endearment were new and ingenious tortures, she might well have
been confused.

For so it was. Although he was fifty years of age, Mr. Fraser had not
educated Angela with impunity. He had paid the penalty that must have
resulted to any heart-whole man not absolutely a fossil, who had been
brought into close contact with such a woman as Angela. Her loveliness
appealed to his sense of beauty, her goodness to his heart, and her
learning to his intellectual sympathies. What wonder that he learnt by
imperceptible degrees to love her; the wonder would have been if he
had not.

The reader need not fear, however; he shall not be troubled with any
long account of Mr. Fraser's misfortune, for it never came to light or
obtruded itself upon the world or even upon its object. His was one of
those earnest, secret, and self-sacrificing passions of which, if we
only knew it, there exist a good many round about us, passions which
to all appearance tend to nothing and are entirely without object,
unless it to be make the individuals on whom they are inflicted a
little less happy, or a little more miserable, as the case may be,
than he or she would otherwise have been. It was to strive to conquer
this passion, which in his heart he called dishonourable, that Mr.
Fraser had gone abroad, right away from Angela, where he had wrestled
with it, and prayed against it, and at last, as he thought, subdued
it. But now, on his first sight of her, it rose again in all its
former strength, and rushed through his being like a storm, and he
realized that such love is of those things that cannot die. And
perhaps it is a question if he really wished to lose it. It was a poor
thing indeed, a very poor thing, but his own. There is something so
divine about all true love that there lurks a conviction at the bottom
of the hearts of most of us that it is better to love, however much we
suffer, than not to love at all. Perhaps, after all, those really to
be pitied are the people who are not capable of any such sensation.

But what Mr. Fraser suffered listening that autumn afternoon to
Angela's tale of another's love and of her own deep return of that
love, no man but himself ever knew. Yet still he heard and was not
shaken in his loyal-heartedness, and comforted and consoled her,
giving her the best advice in his power, like the noble Christian
gentleman that he was; showing her too that there was little need of
anxiety and every ground for hope that things would come to a happy
and successful issue. The martyr's abnegation of self is not yet dead
in the world.

At last Angela came to the letter that she had that very morning
received from George. Mr. Fraser read it carefully.

"At any rate," he said, "he is behaving like a gentleman now. On the
whole, that is a nice letter. You will be troubled with him no more."

"Yes," answered Angela, and then flushing up at the memory of George's
arguments in the lane, "but it is certainly time that he did, for he
had no business, oh, he had no business to speak to me as he spoke,
and he a man old enough to be my father."

Mr. Fraser's pale cheeks coloured a little.

"Don't be hard upon him because he is old, Angela--which by the way he
is not, he is nearly ten years my junior--for I fear that old men are
just as liable to be made fools of by a pretty face as young ones."

From that moment, not knowing the man's real character, Mr. Fraser
secretly entertained a certain sympathy for George's sufferings,
arising no doubt from a fellow-feeling. It seemed to him that he could
understand a man going very far indeed when his object was to win
Angela: not that he would have done it himself, but he knew the
temptation and what it cost to struggle against it.

It was nearly dark when at length Angela, rising to go, warmly pressed
his hand, and thanked him in her own sweet way for his goodness and
kind counsel. And then, declining his offer of escort, and saying that
she would come and see him again on the morrow, she departed on her
homeward path.

The first thing that met her gaze on the hall-table at the Abbey House
was a note addressed to herself in a handwriting that she had seen in
many washing bills, but never before on an envelope. She opened it in
vague alarm. It ran as follows:


 "Miss,--Yore father has just dismissed me, saying that he is too
  pore to keep me any longer, which is a matter as I holds my own
  opinion on, and that I am too uneddicated to be in yore company,
  which is a perfect truth. But, miss, not feeling any how ekal to
  bid you good-bye in person after bringing you up by hand and doing
  for you these many years, I takes the liberty to write to you,
  miss, to say good-bye and God bless you, my beautiful angel, and I
  shall be to be found down at the old housen at the end of the
  drift as my pore husband left me, which is fortinately just empty,
  and p'raps you will come and see me at times, miss.

                                   "Yore obedient servant,
                                                        "Pigott.

 "I opens this again to say how as I have tied up your things a bit
  afore I left leaving mine till to-morrow, when, if living, I shall
  send for them. If you please, miss, you will find yore clean
  night-shift in the left hand drawyer, and sorry am I that I can't
  be there to lay it out for you. I shall take the liberty to send
  up for your washing, as it can't be trusted to any one."


Angela read the letter through, and then sank back upon a chair and
burst into a storm of tears. Partially recovering herself, however,
she rose and entered her father's study.

"Is this true?" she asked, still sobbing.

"Is what true?" asked Philip, indifferently, and affecting not to see
her distress.

"That you have sent Pigott away?"

"Yes, yes, you see, Angela----"

"Do you mean that she is really to stop away?"

"Of course I do, I really must be allowed, Angela----"

"Forgive me, father, but I do not want to listen to your reasons and
excuses." Her eyes were quite dry now. "That woman nursed my dying
mother, and played a mother's part to me. She is, as you know, my only
woman friend, and yet you throw her away like a worn-out shoe. No
doubt you have your reasons, and I hope that they are satisfactory to
you, but I tell you, reasons or no reasons, you have acted in a way
that is cowardly and cruel;" and casting one indignant glance at him
she left the room.

Philip quailed before his daughter's anger.

"Thank goodness she's gone, and that job is done with. I am downright
afraid of her, and the worst of it is she speaks the truth," said
Philip to himself, as the door closed.

Ten days after this incident, Angela heard casually from Mr. Fraser
that Sir John and Lady Bellamy were going on a short trip abroad for
the benefit of the former's health. If she thought about the matter at
all, it was to feel rather glad. Angela did not like Lady Bellamy,
indeed she feared her. Of George she neither heard nor saw anything.
He had also gone away.



                             CHAPTER XLI

Meanwhile at Madeira matters were going on much as we left them; there
had indeed been little appreciable change in the situation.

For his part, our friend Arthur continued to dance or rather stroll
along the edge of his flowery precipice, and found the view pleasant
and the air bracing.

And no doubt things were very nicely arranged for his satisfaction,
and had it not been for the ever-present thought of Angela--for he did
think of her a great deal and with deep longing--he should have
enjoyed himself thoroughly, for every day was beautiful, and every day
brought its amusements with it. Perhaps on arriving at the Quinta Carr
about eleven o'clock, he would find that the steam launch was waiting
for them in a little bay where the cliff on which the house stood
curved inwards. Then, a merry party of young English folks all
collected together by Mrs. Carr that morning by the dint of superhuman
efforts, they would scramble down the steps cut in the rock and steam
off to some neighbouring islet to eat luncheon and wander about
collecting shells and flowers and beetles till sunset, and then steam
back again through the spicy evening air, laughing and flirting and
making the night melodious with their songs. Or else the horses would
be ordered out and they would wander over the lonely mountains in the
interior of the island, talking of mummies and all things human, of
Angela and all things divine. And sometimes, in the course of these
conversations, Arthur would in a brotherly way call Mrs. Carr
"Mildred," while occasionally, in the tone of a spinster aunt, she
would address him as "Arthur," a practice that, once acquired, she
soon found was, like all other bad habits, not easy to get rid of. For
somehow in all these expeditions she was continually at his side,
striving, and not without success, to weave herself into the substance
of his life, and to make herself indispensable to him, till at last he
grew to look upon her almost as a sister.

But beyond this he never went, and to her advances he was as cold as
ice, simply because he never noticed them, and she was afraid of
making them more obvious for fear that she would frighten him away. He
thought it the most natural thing in the world that he and Mildred
should live together like brother and sister, and be very fond of each
other as "sich," whilst she thought him--just what he was--the
blindest of fools, and then loved him the more for his folly. The
sisterly relationship did not possess the same charms for Mildred that
it did for Arthur; they looked at matters from different points of
view.

One morning, peeping through a big telescope that was fixed in the
window of the little boudoir which formed an entrance lobby to the
museum, Mrs. Carr saw a cloud of smoke upon the horizon. Presently the
point of a mast poked up through the vapour as though the vessel were
rising out of the ocean, then two more mastheads and a red and black
funnel, and last of all a great grey hull.

"Hurrah!" called out Mrs. Carr, with one eye still fixed to the
telescope and the remainder of her little face all screwed up in her
efforts to keep the other closed, "it's the mail; I can see the Donald
Currie flag, a white C on a blue ground."

"Well, I am sure, Mildred, there's no need for you to make your face
look like a monkey, if it is; you look just as though the corner of
your mouth were changing places with your eyebrow."

"Agatha, you are dreadfully rude; when the fairies took your
endowments in hand, they certainly did not forget the gift of plain
speech. I shall appeal to Mr. Heigham; do I look like a monkey, Mr.
Heigham? No, on second thoughts, I won't wait for the inevitable
compliment. Arthur, hold your tongue and I will tell you something.
That must be the new boat, the _Garth Castle_, and I want to see over
her. Captain Smithson, who is bringing her out, has got a box of
things for me. What do you say if we kill two birds with one stone, go
and see the vessel and get our luncheon on board."

"I am at your ladyship's service," answered Arthur, lazily, "but would
you like to have the compliment apropos of the monkey? I have thought
of something extremely neat now."

"Not on any account; I hate compliments that are not meant," and her
eyes gave a little flash which put a point to her words. "Agatha, I
suppose that you will come?"

"Well, yes, dear, the bay looks pretty smooth."

"Smooth, yes, you might sail across it in a paper ship," yawned
Arthur.

"For goodness' sake don't look so lazy, Mr. Heigham, but ring the bell
--not that one, the electric one--and let us order the launch at once.
The mail will be at anchor in about an hour."

Arthur did as he was bid, and within that time they were steaming
through the throng of boats already surrounding the steamer.

"My gracious, Mildred," suddenly exclaimed Agatha, "do you see who
that is there leaning over the bulwarks? oh, he's gone, but so sure as
I am a living woman, it was Lord Minster and Lady Florence
Thingumebob, his sister, you know, the pretty one."

Mildred looked vexed, and glanced involuntarily at Arthur who was
steering the launch. For a moment she hesitated about going on, and
glanced again at Arthur. The look seemed to inspire her, for she said
nothing, and presently he brought the boat deftly alongside the
gangway ladder.

The captain of the ship had already come to the side to meet her,
having recognized her from the bridge; indeed there was scarcely a man
in Donald Currie's service who did not know Mrs. Carr, at any rate, by
sight.

"How do you do, Mrs. Carr; are you coming on to South Africa with us?"

"No, Captain Smithson; I, or rather we, are coming to lunch, and to
see your new boat, and last, but not least, to claim my box."

"Mrs. Carr, will you ever forgive me? I have lost it!"

"Produce my box, Captain Smithson, or I will never speak to you again.
I'll do more. I'll go over to the Union line."

"In which case, I am afraid Donald Currie would never speak to me
again. I must certainly try to find that box," and he whispered an
order to a quartermaster. "Well, it is very kind of you to come and
lunch, and I hope that you and your friends will do so with me. Till
then, good-by, I must be off."

As soon as they got on the quarter-deck, Arthur perceived a tall,
well-preserved man with an eyeglass, whom he seemed to know, bearing
down upon them, followed by a charming-looking girl, about three-and-
twenty years of age, remarkable for her pleasant eyes and the humorous
expression of her mouth.

"How do you do, Mrs. Carr?" said the tall man. "I suppose that you
heard that we were coming; it is very good of you to come and meet
us."

"I had not the slightest idea that you were coming, and I did not come
to meet you, Lord Minster; I came to lunch," answered Mrs. Carr,
rather coldly.

"Nasty one for James that, very," murmured Lady Florence; "hope it
will do him good."

"I was determined to come and look you up as soon as I got time, but
the House sat very late. However, I have got a fortnight here now, and
shall see plenty of you."

"A good deal too much I daresay, Lord Minster; but let me introduce
you to Mr. Heigham."

Lord Minster glanced casually at Arthur, and, lifting his hat about an
eighth of an inch, was about to resume his conversation, when Arthur,
who was rather nettled by this treatment, said,

"I think I have had the pleasure of meeting you before, Lord Minster;
we were stopping together at the Stanley Foxes last autumn."

"Stanley Foxes, ah, quite so, forgive my forgetfulness, but one meets
so many people, you see," and he turned round to where Mrs. Carr had
been, but that lady had taken the opportunity to retreat. Lord Minster
at once followed her.

"Well, if my brother has forgotten you, Mr. Heigham, I have not," said
Lady Florence, now coming forward for the first time. "Don't you
remember when we went nutting together and I tumbled into the pond?"

"Indeed I do, Lady Florence, and I can't tell you how pleased I am to
see you again. Are you here for long?"

"An indefinite time: an old aunt of mine, Mrs. Velley, is coming out
by next mail, and I am going to stop with her when my brother goes
back. Are you staying with Mrs. Carr?"

"Oh no, only I know her very well."

"Do you admire her?"

"Immensely."

"Then you won't like James--I mean my brother."

"Why not?"

"Because he also admires her immensely."

"We both admire the view from here very much indeed, but that is no
reason why you and I should not like each other."

"No, but then you see there is a difference between lovely scenery and
lovely widows."

"Perhaps there is," said Arthur.

At this moment Lord Minster returned with Mrs. Carr.

"How do you do, Lady Florence?" said the latter; "let me introduce you
to Mr. Heigham. What, do you already know each other?"

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Carr, we are old friends."

"Oh, indeed, that is very charming for you."

"Yes, it is," said Lady Florence, frankly.

"Well, we must be off now, Florence."

"All right, James, I'm ready."

"Will you both come and dine with me to-night sans facon, there will
be nobody else except Agatha and Mr. Heigham?" asked Mrs. Carr.

"We shall be delighted," said Lord Minster.

"_Au revoir_, then," nodded Lady Florence to Arthur, and they
separated.

When, after lunching and seeing round the ship, Miss Terry and Arthur
found themselves in the steam launch waiting for Mrs. Carr, who was
saying good-by to the captain and looking after her precious box,
Arthur took the opportunity to ask his companion what she knew of Lord
Minster.

"Oh, not much, that is, nothing in particular, except that he is the
son of a sugar-broker or something, who was made a peer for some
reason or other, and I suppose that is why he is so stuck up, because
all the other peers I ever met are just like other people. He is very
clever, too, is in the government now, and always hanging about after
Mildred. He wants to marry her, you know, and I expect that he will at
last, but I hope he won't. I don't like him; he always looks at one as
though one were dirt."

"The deuce he does!" ejaculated Arthur, his heart filling on the
instant with envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness towards
Lord Minster. He had not the slightest wish to marry Mildred himself,
but he boiled at the mere thought of anybody else doing so. Lady
Florence was right, there is a difference between ladies and
landscapes.

At that moment Mildred herself arrived, but so disgusted was he that
he would scarcely speak to her, and on arriving at the landing stage
he at once departed to the hotel, and even tried to get out of coming
to dinner that night, but this was overruled.

"Good," said Mildred to herself, with a smile; "I have found out how
to vex him."

At dinner that evening Lord Minster, who had of course taken his
hostess in, opened the conversation by asking her how she had been
employing herself at Madeira.

"Better than you have at St. Stephen's, Lord Minster; at any rate, I
have not been forwarding schemes for highway robbery and the national
disgrace," she answered, laughing.

"I suppose that you mean the Irish Land Act and the Transvaal
Convention. I have heard several ladies speak of them like that, and I
am really coming to the conclusion that your sex is entirely devoid of
political instinct."

"What do you mean by political instinct, Lord Minster?" asked Arthur.

"By political instinct," he replied, "I understand a proper
appreciation of the science and object of government."

"Goodness me, what are they?" asked Mrs. Carr.

"Well, the science of government consists, roughly speaking, in
knowing how to get into office, and remain there when once in; its
objects are to guess and give expression to the prevailing popular
feeling or whim with the loss of as few votes as possible."

"According to that definition," said Arthur, "all national questions
are, or should be, treated by those who understand the 'science and
objects of government' on a semi-financial basis. I mean, they should
be dealt with as an investor deals with his funds, in order to make as
much out of them as possible, not to bring real benefit to the
country."

"You put the matter rather awkwardly, but I think I follow you. I will
try to explain. In the first place, all the old-fashioned Jingo
nonsense about patriotism and the 'honour of the country' has, if
people only knew it, quite exploded; it only lingers in a certain
section of the landed gentry and a proportion of the upper middle
class, and has no serious weight with leading politicians."

"How about Lord Beaconsfield?"

"Well, he was perhaps an exception; but then he was a man with so
large a mind--I say it, though I detested him--that he could actually,
by a sort of political prescience, see into the far future, and shape
his course accordingly. But even in his case I do not believe that he
was actuated by patriotism, but rather by a keener insight into human
affairs than most men possess."

"And yet he came terribly to grief."

"Because he outflew his age. The will of the country--which means the
will of between five hundred thousand and a million hungry fluctuating
electors--could not wait for the development of his imperial schemes.
They wanted plunder in the present, not honour and prosperity for the
Empire in the future. The instinct of robbery is perhaps the strongest
in human nature, and those who would rule humanity on its present
basis must pander to it or fail. The party of progress means the party
that can give most spoil, taken from those that have, to those that
have not. That is why Mr. Gladstone is such a truly great man; he
understands better than any one of his age how to excite the greed of
hungry voters and to guide it for his own ends. What was the
Midlothian campaign but a crusade of plunder? First he excited the
desire, then he promised to satisfy it. Of course that is impossible,
but at the time he was believed, and his promises floated us
triumphantly into power. The same arguments apply to that body of
electors whose motive power is sentiment--their folly must be pandered
to. For instance, the Transvaal Convention that Mrs. Carr mentioned is
an admirable example of how such pandering is done. No man of
experience can have believed that such an agreement could be wise, or
that it can result in anything but trouble and humiliation; but the
trouble and humiliation will not come just yet, and in the meanwhile a
sop is thrown to Cerberus. Political memories are short, and when
exposure comes it will be easy to fix the blame upon the other side.
It is because we appreciate these facts that in the end we must
prevail. The Liberal party, or rather the Radical section, which is to
the great Liberal party what the helm is to the ship, appeals to the
baser instincts and more pressing appetites of the people; the
Conservative only to their traditions and higher aspirations, in the
same way that religion appeals to the spirit, and the worship of
Mammon to the senses. The shibboleth of the one is 'self-interest;' of
the other, 'national honour.' The first appeals to the many, the
second to the finer few, and I must leave you to judge which will
carry the day."

"And if ever you become Prime Minister, shall you rule England upon
these principles?" asked Mrs. Carr.

"Certainly; it is because I have mastered them that I am what I am. I
owe everything to them, consequently in my view they are the finest of
all principles."

"Then Heaven help England!" soliloquized Arthur, rudely.

"And so say we all," added Lady Florence, who was a strong
Conservative.

"My dear young people," answered Lord Minster, with a superior smile,
"England is quite capable of looking after herself. I have to look
after myself. She will, at any rate, last my time, and my motto is
that one should get something out of one's country, not attempt to do
her services that would in all probability never be recognized, or, if
recognized, left unrewarded."

Arthur was about to answer, with more sharpness than discretion, but
Mrs. Carr interposed.

"Well, Lord Minster, we have to thank you for a very cynical and lucid
explanation of the objects of your party, if they really are its
objects. Will you give me some wine?"

After dinner Mrs. Carr devoted herself almost exclusively to Lord
Minster, leaving Arthur to talk to Lady Florence. Lord Minster was not
slow to avail himself of the opportunity.

"I have been thinking of your remark to me in London about the
crossing-sweeper," he began.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake don't drag that wretched man out of his grave,
Lord Minster. I really have forgotten what I said about him."

"I hope, Mrs. Carr, that you have forgotten a good deal you said that
day. I may as well take this opportunity----"

"No, please don't, Lord Minster," she answered, knowing very well what
was coming; "I am so tired to-night."

"Oh, in that case I can easily postpone my statement. I have a whole
fortnight before me."

Mrs. Carr secretly determined that it should remain as much as
possible at his own exclusive disposal, but she did not say so.

Shortly after this, Arthur took his leave, after shaking hands very
coldly with her. Nor did he come to the Quinta next day, as he had
conceived too great a detestation of Lord Minster to risk meeting him,
a detestation which he attributed solely to that rising member of the
Government's political principles, which jarred very much with his
own.

"Better and better," said Mrs. Carr to herself, as she took off her
dress, "but Lord Minster is really odious, I cannot stand him for
long."



                             CHAPTER XLII

"Why, Arthur, I had almost forgotten what you are like," said Mildred,
when that young gentleman at last put in an appearance at the Quinta.
"Where have you been to all this time?"

"I--oh, I have been writing letters," said Arthur.

"Then they must have been very long ones. Don't tell fibs, Arthur; you
have not stopped away from here for a day and a half in order to write
letters. What is the matter with you?"

"Well, if you must know, Mildred, I detest your friend Lord Minster,
the mere sight of him sets my teeth on edge, and I did not want to
meet him. I only came here to-day because Lady Florence told me that
they were going up to the Convent this afternoon."

"So you have been to see Lady Florence?"

"No, I met her buying fruit yesterday, and went for a walk with her."

"In the intervals of the letter-writing?"

"Yes."

"Well, do you know I detest Lady Florence?"

"That is very unkind of you. She is charming."

"From your point of view, perhaps, as her brother is from mine."

"Do you mean to tell me that you think that horrid fellow charming?"
asked Arthur in disgust.

"Why should I not?"

"Oh, for the matter of that there is no reason why you should not, but
I can't congratulate you either on your friend or your taste."

"Leaving my taste out of the question, why do you call Lord Minster my
friend?"

"Because Miss Terry told me that he was; she said that he was always
proposing to you, and that you would probably marry him in the end."

Mildred blushed faintly.

"She has no business to tell you; but, for the matter of that, so have
many other men. It does not follow that, because they choose to
propose to me, they are my friends."

"No, but then they have not married you."

"No more has he; but, while we are talking of it, why should I not
marry Lord Minster? He can give me position, influence, everything
that is dear to a woman, except the rarest of all gifts--love."

"But is love so rare, Mildred?"

"Yes, the love that it can satisfy a woman either to receive or to
give, especially the latter, for in this we are more blessed in giving
than in receiving. It is but very rarely that the most fortunate of us
get a chance of accepting such love as I mean, and we can only give it
once in our lives. But you have not told me your reasons against my
marrying Lord Minster."

"Because he is a mean-spirited, selfish man. If he were not, he could
not have talked as he did last night. Because you do not love him,
Mildred, you cannot love such a man as that, if he were fifty times a
member of the Government."

"What does it matter to you, Arthur," she said, in a voice of
indescribable softness, bending her sunny head low over her work,
"whether I love him or not; my doing so would not make your heart beat
the faster."

"I don't wish you to marry him," he said, confusedly.

She raised her head and looked full at him with eyes which shone like
stars through a summer mist.

"That is enough, Arthur," she answered, in a tone of gentle
submission, "if you do not wish it, I will not," and, rising, she left
the room.

Arthur blushed furiously at her words, and a new sensation crept over
him.

"Surely," he said to himself, "she cannot---- No, of course she only
means that she will take my advice."

But, though he dismissed the suspicion thus readily, it left something
that he could not quite define behind it. He had, after the manner of
young men were women are concerned, thought that he understood Mildred
thoroughly; now he came to the modest conclusion that he knew very
little about her.

On the following afternoon, when he was at the Quinta talking as usual
to Mrs. Carr, he saw Lord Minster coming up the steps of the portico,
dressed in much the same way and with exactly the same air as he was
accustomed to assume when he mounted those of the "Reform," or
occasionally, if he thought that the "hungry electors" wanted
"pandering" to, those of the new "National Club."

"Hullo," said Arthur, "here comes Lord Minster in his war paint, frock
coat, tall hat, eye-glass and all. Good-bye."

"Why do you go away, Arthur? Stop and protect me," said Mildred,
laughing.

"Oh, no, indeed, I don't want to spoil sport. I would not interfere
with your amusement on any account."

Mildred looked a little vexed.

"Well, you will come back to dinner?"

"That depends upon what happens."

"I told you what would happen, Arthur. Good-bye."

"Perhaps it is as well to get it over at once," thought Mildred.

In the hall Arthur met Lord Minster, and they passed with a gesture of
recognition so infinitesimally small that it almost faded into the
nothingness of a "cut." So far as he could condescend to notice so low
a thing at all, his lordship had conceived a great dislike for Arthur.

"How do you do, Lord Minster?" said Mildred, cordially. "I hear that
you went to the Convent yesterday; what did you think of the view?"

"The view, Mrs. Carr--was there a view? I did not notice it; indeed, I
only went up there at all to please Florence. I don't like that sort
of thing."

"If you don't like roughing it, I am afraid that you did not enjoy
your voyage out."

"Well, no, I don't think I did, and there was a low fellow on board
who had been ruined by the retrocession of the Transvaal, and who,
hearing that I was in the Government, took every possible opportunity
to tell me publicly that his wife and children were almost in a state
of starvation, as though I cared about his confounded wife and
children. He was positively brutal. No, certainly I did not enjoy it.
However, I am rewarded by finding you here."

"I am very much flattered."

Lord Minster fixed his eye-glass firmly in his eye, planted his hands
at the bottom of his trousers pockets, and, clearing his throat,
placed himself in the attitude that was so familiar to the House, and
began.

"Mrs. Carr, I told you, when last I had the pleasure of seeing you,
that I should take the first opportunity of renewing a conversation
that I was forced to suspend in order to attend, if my memory serves
me, a very important committee meeting. I was therefore surprised,
indeed I may almost say hurt, when I found that you had suddenly
flitted from London."

"Indeed, Lord Minster?"

"I will not, however, take up the time of this--I mean your time, by
recapitulating all that I told you on that occasion; the facts are, so
to speak, all upon the table, and I will merely touch upon the main
heads of my case. My prospects are these: I am now a member of the
Cabinet, and enjoy, owing to the unusual but calculated recklessness
of my non-official public utterances, an extraordinary popularity with
a large section of the country, the hungry section to which I alluded
last night. It is probable that the course of the present Government
is pretty nearly run, the country is sick of it, and those who put it
into power have not got enough out of it. A dissolution is therefore
an event of the near future; the Conservatives will come in, but they
have no power of organization, and very little political talent at
their backs, above all, they are deficient in energy, probably because
there is nothing that they can destroy and therefore no pickings to
struggle for. In short, they are not 'capaces imperii.' The want of
these qualities and of leaders will very soon undermine their hold
upon the country, always a slight one, and, assisted by a few other
pushing men, I anticipate, by carefully playing into the hands of the
Irish party which will really rule England in the future, being able,
as one of the leaders of the Opposition, to consummate their downfall.
Then will come my opportunity, and, if luck goes with me, I shall be
first Lord of the Treasury within half a dozen years. But now comes
the difficulty. Though I am so popular with the country, I am, for
some reason quite inexplicable to myself, rather at a--hum--a discount
amongst my colleagues and that influential section of society to which
they belong. Now, in order to succeed to the full extent that I have
planned, it is absolutely essential that I should win the countenance
of this class, and the only way that I can see of doing it is by
marrying some woman charming enough to disarm dislike, beautiful
enough to command admiration, rich enough to entertain profusely, and
clever enough to rule England. Those desiderata are all to a striking
degree united in your person, Mrs. Carr, and I have therefore much
pleasure in asking you to become my wife."

"You have, as I understand you, Lord Minster, made a very admirable
statement of how desirable it is for yourself that you should marry
me, but it is not so clear what advantage I should reap by marrying
you."

"Why, the advantages are obvious: if by your help I can become Prime
Minister, you would become the wife of the Prime Minister."

"The prospect fails to dazzle me. I have everything that I want; why
should I strive to reach a grandeur to which I was not born, and
which, to speak the truth, I regard with a very complete indifference?
But there is another point. In all your speech you have said nothing
of any affection that you have to offer, not a single word of love--
you have been content to expatiate on the profits that a matrimonial
investment would bring to yourself, and by reflection, to the other
contracting party."

"Love," asked Lord Minster, with an expression of genuine surprise;
"why, you talk like a character in a novel; now tell me, Mrs. Carr,
_what_ is love?"

"It is difficult to define, Lord Minster; but as you ask me to do so,
I will try. Love to a woman is what the sun is to the world, it is her
life, her animating principle, without which she must droop, and, if
the plant be very tender, die. Except under its influence, a woman can
never attain her full growth, never touch the height of her
possibilities, or bloom into the plenitude of her moral beauty. A
loveless marriage dwarfs our natures, a marriage where love is
develops them to their utmost."

"And what is love to a man?"

"Well, I should say that nine of a man's passions are merely episodes
in his career, the mile-stones that mark his path; the tenth, or the
first, is his philosopher's stone that turns all things to gold, or,
if the charm does not work, leaves his heart, broken and bankrupt, a
cold monument of failure."

"I don't quite follow you, and I must say that, speaking for myself, I
never felt anything of all this," said Lord Minster, blankly.

"I know you do not, Lord Minster; your only passions tend towards
political triumphs and personal aggrandisement; we are at the two
poles, you see, and I fear that we can never, never meet upon a common
matrimonial line. But don't be down-hearted about it, you will find
plenty more women who fulfil all your requirements and will be very
happy to take you at your own valuation. If only a woman is necessary
to success, you need not look far, and forgive me if I say that I
believe it will not make much difference to you who she is. But all
the same, Lord Minster, I will venture to give you a piece of advice:
next time you propose, address yourself a little more to the lady's
affections and a little less to her interests," and Mrs. Carr rose as
though to show that the interview was at an end.

"Am I then to understand that my offer is definitely refused?" asked
Lord Minster, stiffly.

"I am afraid so, and I am sure that you will, on reflection, see how
utterly unsuited we are to each other."

"Possibly, Mrs. Carr, possibly; at present all that I see is that you
have had a great opportunity, and have failed to avail yourself of it.
My only consolation is that the loss will be yours, and my only regret
is that I have had the trouble of coming to this place for nothing.
However, there is a ship due to-morrow, and I shall sail in her."

"I am sorry to have been the cause of bringing you here, Lord Minster,
and still more sorry that you should feel obliged to cut short your
stay. Good-bye, Lord Minster; we part friends, I hope?"

"Oh, certainly, Mrs. Carr. I wish you a very good morning, Mrs. Carr,"
and his lordship marched out of Mildred's life.

"There goes my chance of becoming the wife of a prime minister, and
making a figure in history," said that lady, as she watched his tall
figure stalking stiffly down the avenue. "Well, I am glad of it. I
would just as soon have married a speech-making figure-head stuffed
full of the purest Radical principles."

On the following day Arthur met Lady Florence again in the town.

"Where have you been to, Lady Florence?" he said.

"To see my brother off," she answered, without any signs of deep
grief.

"What, has he gone already?"

"Yes; your friend Mrs. Carr has been too many for poor James."

"What! do you mean that he has been proposing?"

"Yes, and got more than he bargained for."

"Is he cut up?"

"He, no, but his vanity is. You see, Mr. Heigham, it is this way. My
brother may be a very great man and a pillar of the State, and all
that sort of thing. I don't say he isn't; but from personal experience
I _know_ that he is an awful prig, and thinks that all women are
machines constructed to advance the comfort of your noble sex. Well,
he has come down a peg or two, that's all, and he don't like it. Good-
bye; I'm in a hurry."

Lady Florence was nothing if not outspoken.



                            CHAPTER XLIII

A week or so after the departure of Lord Minster, Mildred suggested
that they should, on the following day, vary their amusements by going
up to the Convent, a building perched on the hills some thousand feet
above the town of Funchal, in palanquins, or rather hammocks swung
upon long poles. Arthur, who had never yet travelled in these
luxurious conveyances, jumped at the idea, and even Miss Terry, when
she discovered that she was to be carried, made no objection. The
party was completed by the addition of a newly-married couple of whom
Mrs. Carr had known something at home, and who had come to Madeira to
spend the honeymoon. Lady Florence also had been asked, but, rather to
Arthur's disappointment, she could not come.

When the long line of swinging hammocks, each with its two sturdy
bearers, were marshalled, and the adventurous voyagers had settled
themselves in them, they really formed quite an imposing procession,
headed as it was by the extra-sized one that carried Miss Terry, who
complained bitterly that "the thing wobbled and made her feel sick."

But to Arthur's mind there was something effeminate in allowing
himself, a strong, active man, to be carted up hills as steep as the
side of a house by two perspiring wretches; so, hot as it was, he, to
the intense amusement of his bearers, elected to get out and walk. The
newly-married man followed his example, and for a while they went on
together, till presently the latter gravitated towards his wife's
palanquin, and, overcome at so long a separation, squeezed her hand
between the curtains. Not wishing to intrude himself on their conjugal
felicity, Arthur in his turn gravitated to the side of Mrs. Carr, who
was being lightly swung along in the second palanquin some twenty
yards behind Miss Terry's. Shortly afterwards they observed a signal
of distress being flown by that lady, whose arm was to be seen
violently agitating her green veil from between the curtains of her
hammock, which immediately came to a dead stop.

"What is it?" cried Arthur and Mildred, in a breath, as they arrived
on the scene of the supposed disaster.

"My dear Mildred, will you be so kind as to tell that man" (pointing
to her front bearer, a stout, flabby individual) "that he must not go
on carrying me. I must have a cooler man. It makes me positively ill
to see him puffing and blowing and dripping under my nose like a fresh
basted joint."

Miss Terry's realistic description of her bearer's appearance, which
was, to say the least of it, limp and moist, was no exaggeration. But
then she herself, as Arthur well remembered, was no feather-weight,
especially when, as in the present case, she had to be carted up the
side of a nearly perpendicular hill some miles long, a fact very well
exemplified by the condition of the bearer.

"My dear Agatha," replied Mildred, laughing, "what is to be done? Of
course the man is hot, you are not a feather-weight; but what is to be
done?"

"I don't know, but I won't go on with him, it's simply disgusting; he
might let himself out as a watering-cart."

"But we can't get another here."

"Then he must cool himself, the others might come and fan him. I won't
go on till he is cool, and that's flat."

"He will take hours to cool, and meanwhile we are broiling on this hot
road. You really must come on, Agatha."

"I have it," said Arthur. "Miss Terry must turn herself round with her
head towards the back of the hammock, and then she won't see him."

To this arrangement the aggrieved lady was after some difficulty
persuaded to accede, and the procession started again.

Their destination reached, they picnicked as they had arranged, and
then separated, the bride and bridegroom strolling off in one
direction, and Mildred and Arthur in another, whilst Miss Terry
mounted guard over the plates and dishes.

Presently Arthur and Mildred came to a little English-looking grove of
pine and oak, that extended down a gentle slope and was bordered by a
steep bank, at the foot of which great ferns and beautiful Madeira
flowers twined themselves into a shelter from the heat. Here they sat
down and gazed at the splendid and many-tinted view set in its
background of emerald ocean.

"What a view it is," said Arthur. "Look, Mildred, how dark the clumps
of sugar-cane look against the green of the vines, and how pretty the
red roofs of the town are peeping out of the groves of fruit-trees. Do
you see the great shadow thrown upon the sea by that cliff? how deep
and cool the water looks within it, and how it sparkles where the sun
strikes."

"Yes, it is beautiful, and the pines smell sweet."

"I wish Angela could see it," he said, half to himself. Mildred, who
was lying back lazily among the ferns, her hat off, her eyes closed,
so that the long dark lashes lay upon her cheek, and her head resting
on her arm, suddenly started up.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing, you woke me from a sort of dream, that's all."

"This spring I remember going with her to look at a view near the
Abbey House, and saying--what I often think when I look at anything
beautiful and full of life--that it depressed one to know that all
this was so much food for death, and its beauty a thing that to-day is
and to-morrow is not."

"And what did she say?"

"She said that to her it spoke of immortality, and that in everything
around her she saw evidence of eternal life."

"She must be very fortunate. Shall I tell you of what it reminds me?"

"What?"

"Of neither death nor immortality, but of the full, happy, pulsing
existence of the hour, and of the beautiful world that pessimists like
yourself and mystics like your Angela think so poorly of, but which is
really so glorious and so rich in joy. Why, this sunlight and those
flowers, and the wide sparkle of that sea, are each and all a
happiness, and the health in our veins and the beauty in our eyes,
deep pleasures that we never realize till we lose them. Death, indeed,
comes to us all, but why add to its terrors by thinking of them whilst
it is far off? And, as for life after death, it is a faint, vague
thing, more likely to be horrible than happy. This world is our only
reality, the only thing that we can grasp; here alone we _know_ that
we can enjoy, and yet how we waste our short opportunities for
enjoyment! Soon youth will have slipped away, and we shall be too old
for love. Roses fade fastest, Arthur, when the sun is bright; in the
evening when they have fallen, and the ground is red with withering
petals, do you not think we shall wish that we had gathered more?"

"Yours is a pleasant philosophy, Mildred," he said, struggling faintly
in his own mind against her conclusions.

But at this moment, somehow, his fingers touched her own and were
presently locked fast within her little palm, and for the first time
in his life they sat hand in hand. But, happily for him, he did not
venture to look into her eyes, and, before many minutes had passed,
Miss Terry's voice was heard calling him loudly.

"I suppose that you must go," said Mildred, with a shade of vexation
in her voice and a good many shades upon her face, "or she will be
blundering down here. I will come, too; it is time for tea."

On arriving at the spot whence the sounds proceeded, they found Miss
Terry surrounded by a crowd of laughing and excited bearers, and
pouring out a flood of the most vigorous English upon an unfortunate
islander, who stood, a silver mug in each hand, bowing and shrugging
his shoulders, and enunciating with every variety of movement
indicative of humiliation, these mystic words:

"Mee washeeuppee, signora, washeeuppee--e."

"What _is_ the matter now, Agatha?"

"Matter, why I woke up and found this man stealing the cups; I charged
him at once with my umbrella, but he dodged and I fell down, and the
umbrella has gone over the rock there. Take him up at once, Arthur--
there's the stolen property on his person. Hand him over to justice."

"Good gracious, Agatha, what are you thinking about? The poor man only
wants to wash the things out."

"Then I should like to know why he could not tell me so in plain
English," said Miss Terry, retiring discomfited amidst shouts of
laughter from the whole party, including the supposed thief.

After tea they all set out on a grand beetle-hunting expedition, and
so intent were they upon this fascinating pursuit that they did not
note the flight of time, till suddenly Mildred, pulling out her watch,
gave a pretty cry of alarm.

"Do you know what time it is, good people? Half-past six, and the
Custances are to dine with us at a quarter-past-seven. It will take us
a good hour to get down; what _shall_ we do?"

"I know," said Arthur, "there are two sledges just below; I saw them
as we came up. They will take us down to Funchal in a quarter of an
hour, and we can get to the Quinta by about seven."

"Arthur, you are invaluable; the very thing. Come on, all of you,
quick."

Now these sledges are peculiar to Madeira, being made on the principle
of the bullock car, with the difference that they travel down the
smooth, stone-paved roadways by their own momentum, guided by two
skilled conductors, each with one foot naked to prevent his slipping,
who hold the ropes, and when the sledge begins to travel more swiftly
than they can follow, mount upon the projecting ends of the runners
and are carried with it. By means of the swift and exhilarating rush
of these sledges, the traveller traverses the distance, that it takes
some hours to climb, in a very few minutes. Indeed, his journey up and
down may be very well compared with that of the well-known British
sailor who took five hours to get up Majuba mountain, but, according
to his own forcibly told story, came down again with an almost
incredible rapidity. It may therefore be imagined that sledge-
travelling in Madeira is not very well suited to nervous voyagers.

Miss Terry had at times seen these wheelless vehicles shoot from the
top of a mountain to the bottom like a balloon with the gas out, and
had also heard of occasional accidents in connection with them.
Stoutly she vowed that nothing should induce her to trust her neck to
one of them.

"But you must, Agatha, or else be left behind. They are as safe as a
church, and I can't leave the Custances to wait till half-past eight
for dinner. Come, get in. Arthur can go in front and hold you; I will
sit behind."

Thus admonished--Miss Terry entered groaning, Arthur taking his seat
beside her, and Mrs. Carr hers in a sort of dickey behind. The newly-
married pair, who did not half like it, possessed themselves of the
smaller sledge, determined to brave extinction in each other's arms.
Then the conductors seized the ropes, and, planting their one naked
foot firmly before them, awaited the signal to depart.

"Stop," said Miss Terry, lifting the recovered umbrella, "that man has
forgotten to put on his shoe and stocking on his right leg. He will
cut his foot, and, besides, it doesn't look respectable to be seen
flying through a place with a one-legged ragamuffin----"

"Let her go," shouted Arthur, and they did, to some purpose, for in a
minute they were passing down that hill like a flash of light. Woods
and houses appeared and vanished like the visions of a dream, and the
soft air went singing away on either side of them as they clove it,
flying downwards at an angle of thirty degrees, and leaving nothing
behind them but the sound of Miss Terry's lamentations. Soon they
neared the bottom, but there was yet a dip--the deepest of them all,
with a sharp turn at the end of it--to be traversed.

Away went the little connubial sled in front like a pigeon down the
wind; away they sped after it like an eagle in pursuit; _crack_ went
the little sledge into the corner, and out shot the happy pair;
_crash_ went the big sledge into it, and Arthur became conscious of a
wild yell, of a green veil fluttering through the air, and of a fall
as on to a feather-bed. Miss Terry's superior weight had brought her
to her mother earth the first, and he, after a higher heavenward
flight, had lit upon the top of her. He picked her up and sat her down
against a wall to recover her breath, and then fished Mildred, dirty
and bruised, but as usual laughing, out of a gutter; the loving pair
had already risen and in an agony of mutual anxiety were rubbing each
other's shins. And then he started back with a cry, for there before
him, surveying the disaster with an air of mingled amusement and
benevolence, stood--Sir John and Lady Bellamy.

Had it been the Prince and Princess of Evil--if, as is probable, there
is a Princess--Arthur could scarcely have been more astounded. Somehow
he had always in his thoughts regarded Sir John and Lady Bellamy, when
he thought about them at all, as possessing indeed individual
characters and tendencies, but as completely "adscripti glebae" of the
neighbourhood of the Abbey House as that house itself. He would as
soon have expected to see Caresfoot's Staff re-rooted in the soil of
Madeira, as to find them strolling about Funchal. He rubbed his eyes;
perhaps, he thought, he had been knocked silly and was labouring under
a hallucination. No, there was no doubt about it; there they were,
just the same as he had seen them at Isleworth, except that if
possible Sir John looked even more like a ripe apple than usual, while
the sun had browned his wife's Egyptian face and given her a last
finish as a perfect type of Cleopatra. Nor was the recognition on his
side only, for next second his hand was grasped first by Sir John and
then by Lady Bellamy.

"When we last met, Mr. Heigham," said the gentleman, with a benevolent
beam, "I think I expressed a wish that we might soon renew our
acquaintance, but I little thought under what circumstances our next
meeting would take place," and he pointed to the overturned sledges
and the prostrate sledgers.

"You have had a very merciful escape," chimed in Lady Bellamy,
cordially; "with so many hard stones about, affairs might have ended
differently."

"Now then, Mr. Heigham, we had better set to and run, that is, if
Agatha has got a run left in her, or we shall be late after all. Thank
goodness nobody is hurt; but we must find a hammock for Agatha, for to
judge from her groans she thinks she is. Is my nose---- Oh, I beg your
pardon," and Mrs. Carr stopped short, observing for the first time
that he was talking to strangers.

"Do not let me detain you, if you are in a hurry. I am so thankful
that nobody is hurt," said Lady Bellamy. "I believe that we are
stopping at the same hotel, Mr. Heigham, I saw your name in the book,
so we shall have plenty of opportunities of meeting."

But Arthur felt that there was one question which he must ask before
he went on, whether or no it exceeded the strict letter of his
agreement with Philip; so, calling to Mrs. Carr that he was coming, he
said, with a blush,

"How was Miss Caresfoot when--when you last saw her, Lady Bellamy?"

"Perfectly well," she answered, smiling.

"And more lovely than ever," added her husband.

"Thank you for that news, it is the best I have heard for some time.
Good-bye for the present, we shall meet to-morrow at breakfast," and
he ran on after the others, happier than he had been for months,
feeling that he had come again within call of Angela, and as though he
had never sat hand in hand with Mildred Carr.



                             CHAPTER XLIV

At breakfast on the following morning Arthur, as he had anticipated,
met the Bellamys. Sir John came down first, arrayed in true English
fashion, in a tourist suit of grey, and presently Lady Bellamy
followed. As she entered, dressed in trailing white, and walked slowly
up the long table, every eye was turned upon her, for she was one of
those women who attract attention as surely and unconsciously as a
magnet attracts iron. Arthur, looking with the rest, thought that he
had never seen a stranger, or at the same time a more imposing-
looking, woman. Time had not yet touched her beauty or impaired her
vigorous constitution, and at forty she was still at the zenith of her
charms. The dark hair, that threw out glinting lights of copper when
the sun struck it, still curled in its clustering ringlets and showed
no line of grey, while the mysterious, heavy-lidded eyes and the coral
lips were as full of rich life and beauty as they had been when she
and Hilda von Holtzhausen first met at Rewtham House.

On her face, too, was the same expression of quiet power, of conscious
superiority and calm command, that had always distinguished it. Arthur
tried to think what it reminded him of, and remembered that the same
look was to be seen upon the stone features of some of the Egyptian
statues in Mildred's museum.

"How splendid Lady Bellamy looks!" he said, almost unconsciously, to
his neighbour.

Sir John did not answer; and Arthur, glancing up to learn the reason,
saw that he also was watching the approach of his wife, and that his
face was contorted with a sudden spasm of intense malice and hatred,
whilst his little, pig-like eyes glittered threateningly. He had not
even heard the remark. Arthur would have liked to whistle; he had
surprised a secret.

"How do you do, Mr. Heigham? I hope that you are not bruised after
your tumble yesterday. Good morning, John."

Arthur rose and shook hands.

"I never was more surprised in my life," he said, "than when I saw you
and Sir John at the top of the street there. May I ask what brought
you to Madeira?"

"Health, sir, health," answered the little man. "Cough, catarrh,
influenza, and all that's damn----ah! infernal!"

"My husband, Mr. Heigham," struck in Lady Bellamy, in her full, rich
tones, "had a severe threatening of chest disease, and the doctor
recommended a trip to some warmer climate. Unfortunately, however, his
business arrangements will not permit of a long stay. We only stop
here three weeks at most."

"I am sorry to hear that you are not well, Sir John."

"Oh! it is nothing very much," answered Lady Bellamy for him; "only he
requires care. What a lovely garden this is--is it not? By the way, I
forgot to inquire after the ladies who shared your tumble. I hope that
they were none the worse. I was much struck with one of them, the very
pretty person with the brown hair, whom you pulled out of the gutter."

"Oh, Mrs. Carr. Yes, she is pretty."

After breakfast, Arthur volunteered to take Lady Bellamy round the
garden, with the ulterior object of extracting some more information
about Angela. It must be remembered that he had no cause to mistrust
that lady, nor had he any knowledge of the events which had recently
happened in the neighbourhood of the Abbey House. He was therefore
perfectly frank with her.

"I suppose that you have heard of my engagement, Lady Bellamy?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Heigham; it is quite a subject of conversation in the
Roxham neighbourhood. Angela Caresfoot is a sweet and very beautiful
girl, and I congratulate you much."

"You know, then, of its conditions?"

"Yes, I heard of them, and thought them ridiculous. Indeed I tried, at
Angela's suggestion, to do you a good turn with Philip Caresfoot, and
get him to modify them; but he would not. He is a curious man, Philip,
and, when he once gets a thing into his head, it is beyond the power
of most people to drive it out again. I suppose that you are spending
your year of probation here?"

"Well, yes--I am trying to get through the time in that way; but it is
slow work."

"I thought you seemed pretty happy yesterday," she answered, smiling.

Arthur blushed.

"Oh! yes, I may appear to be. But tell me all about Angela."

"I have really very little to tell. She seems to be living as usual,
and looks well. Her friend Mr. Fraser has come back. But I must be
going in; I have promised to go out walking with Sir John. _Au
revoir_, Mr. Heigham."

Left to himself, Arthur remembered that he also had an appointment to
keep--namely, to meet Mildred by the Cathedral steps, and go with her
to choose some Madeira jewellery, an undertaking which she did not
feel competent to carry out without his assistance.

When he reached the Cathedral, he found her rather cross at having
been kept waiting for ten minutes.

"It is very rude of you," she said; "but I suppose that you were so
taken up with the conversation of your friends that you forgot the
time. By the way, who are they? anybody you have told me about?"

In the pauses of selecting the jewellery, Arthur told her all he knew
about the Bellamys, and of their connection with the neighbourhood of
the Abbey House. The story caused Mildred to open her brown eyes and
look thoughtful. Just as they came out of the shop, who should they
run into but the Bellamys themselves, chaffering for Madeira work with
a woman in the street. Arthur stopped and spoke to them, and then
introduced Mrs. Carr, who, after a little conversation, asked them up
to lunch.

After this Mildred and Lady Bellamy met a good deal. The two women
interested each other.

One night, when the Bellamys had been about ten days in Madeira, the
conversation took a personal turn. Sir John and Arthur were sitting
over their wine (they were dining with Mrs. Carr), Agatha Terry was
fast asleep on a sofa, so that Lady Bellamy and Mildred, seated upon
lounging-chairs, by a table with a light on it, placed by an open
window, were practically alone.

"Oh, by the way, Lady Bellamy," said Mildred, after a pause, "I
believe that you are acquainted with the young lady to whom Mr.
Heigham is engaged?" She had meant to say, "to be married," but the
words stuck in her throat.

"Oh, yes, I know her well."

"I am so glad. I am quite curious to hear what she is like; one can
never put much faith in lovers' raptures, you know."

"Do you mean in person or in character?"

"Both."

"Well, Angela Caresfoot is as lovely a woman as ever I saw, with a
noble figure, well-set head, and magnificent eyes and hair."

Mildred turned a little pale and bit her lips.

"As to her character, I can hardly describe it. She lives in an
atmosphere of her own, an atmosphere that I cannot reach, or, at any
rate, cannot breathe. But if you can imagine a woman whose mind is
enriched with learning as profound as that of the first classical
scholars of the day, and tinged with an originality all her own; a
woman whose faith is as steady as that star, and whose love is deep as
the sea and as definite as its tides; who lives to higher ends than
those we strive for; whose whole life, indeed, gives one the idea that
it is the shadow--imperfect, perhaps, but still the shadow--of an
immortal light: then you will get some idea of Angela Caresfoot. She
is a woman intellectually, physically, and spiritually immeasurably
above the man on whom she has set her affections."

"That cannot be," said Mildred, softly, "like draws to like; she must
have found something in him, some better part, some affinity of which
you know nothing."

After this she fell into silence. Presently Lady Bellamy raised her
eyes, just now filled up with the great pupils, and fixed them on
Mildred.

"You are thinking," she said, slowly, "that Angela Caresfoot is a
formidable rival."

Mildred started.

"How can you pretend to read my thoughts?"

She laughed a little.

"I am an adept at the art. Don't be down-hearted. I should not be
surprised if, after all, the engagement between Mr. Heigham and Angela
Caresfoot should come to nothing. Of course, I speak in perfect
confidence."

"Of course."

"Well, the marriage is not altogether agreeable to the father, who
would prefer another and more suitable match. But, unfortunately,
there is no way of shaking the young lady's determination."

"Indeed."

"But I think that, with assistance, a way might be found."

Their eyes met, and this time Mildred took up the parable.

"Should I be wrong, Lady Bellamy, if I supposed that you have not come
to Madeira solely for pleasure?"

"A wise person always tries to combine business and pleasure."

"And in this case the business combined is in connection with Mr.
Heigham's engagement?"

"Exactly."

"And supposing that I were to tell him this?"

"Had I not known that you would on no account tell Mr. Heigham, I
should not have told you."

"And how do you know that?"

"I will answer your question by another. Did you ever yet know a
woman, who loved a man, willingly help him to the arms of a rival,
unless indeed she was forced to it?" she added, with something like a
sigh.

Mildred Carr's snowy bosom heaved tumultuously, and the rose-leaf hue
faded from her cheeks.

"You mean that I am in love with Arthur Heigham. On what do you base
that belief?"

"On a base as broad as the pyramids of which you were talking at
dinner. Public report, not nearly so misleading a guide as people
think, your face, your voice, your eyes, all betray you. Why do you
always try to get near him to touch him?--answer me that. I have seen
you do it three times this evening. Once you handed him a book in
order to touch his hand beneath it; but there is no need to enumerate
what you doubtless very well remember. No nice woman, Mrs. Carr, ever
likes to continually touch a man unless she loves him. You are always
listening for his voice and step, you are listening for them now. Your
eyes follow his face as a dog does his master's--when you speak to
him, your voice is a caress in itself. Shall I go on?"

"I think that it is unnecessary. Whether you be right or not, I will
give you the credit of being a close observer."

"To observe with me is at once a task and an amusement, and the habit
is one that leads me to accurate conclusions, as I think you will
admit. The conclusion I have come to in your case is that you do not
wish to see Arthur Heigham married to another woman. I spoke just now
of assistance----"

"I have none to give, I will give none. How could I look him in the
face?"

"You are strangely scrupulous for a woman in your position."

"I have always tried to behave like an honourable woman, Lady Bellamy,
and I do not feel inclined to do otherwise now."

"Perhaps you will think differently when it comes to the point. But in
the meanwhile remember, that people who will not help themselves,
cannot expect to be helped."

"Once and for all, Lady Bellamy, understand me. I fight for my own
hand with the weapons which Nature and fortune have given me, and by
myself I will stand or fall. I will join in no schemes to separate
Arthur from this woman. If I cannot win him for myself by myself, I
will at any rate lose him fairly. I will respect what you have told
me, but I will do no more."

Lady Bellamy smiled as she answered--

"I really admire your courage. It is quite quixotic. Hush, here come
the gentlemen."



                             CHAPTER XLV

A few days after the dinner at the Quinta Carr, the Bellamys' visit to
Madeira drew to a close. On the evening before their departure, Arthur
volunteered to take Lady Bellamy down to the parade to hear the band
play. After they had walked about a while under the shade of the
magnolia-trees, which were starred all over with creamy cups of bloom,
and sufficiently inspected the gay throng of Portuguese inhabitants
and English visitors, made gayer still by the amazingly gorgeous
uniforms of the officials, Arthur spied two chairs in a comparatively
quiet corner, and suggested that they should sit down.

"Lady Bellamy," he said, after hesitating a while, "you are a woman of
the world, and I believe a friend of my own. I want to ask your advice
about something."

"It is entirely at your service, Mr. Heigham."

"Well, really it is very awkward----"

"Shall I turn my head so as not to see your blushes?"

"Don't laugh at me, Lady Bellamy. Of course you will say nothing of
this."

"If you doubt my discretion, Mr. Heigham, do not choose me as a
confidante. You are going, unless I am mistaken, to speak to me about
Mrs. Carr."

"Yes, it is about her. But how did you know that? You always seem to
be able to read one's thoughts before one speaks. Do you know,
sometimes I think that she has taken a fancy to me, do you see, and I
wanted to ask you what you thought about it."

"Well, supposing that she had, most young men, Mr. Heigham, would not
talk of such a thing in a tone befitting a great catastrophe. But, if
I am not entering too deeply into particulars, what makes you think
so?"

"Well, really, I don't exactly know. She sometimes gives me a general
idea."

"Oh, then, there has been nothing tangible."

"Well, yes, once she took my hand, or I took hers, I don't know which;
but I don't think much of that, because it's the sort of thing that's
always happening, don't you know, and nine times out of ten means
nothing at all. But why I ask you about it is that, if there is
anything of the sort, I had better cut and run out of this, because it
would not be fair to stop, either to her, or to Angela, or myself. It
would be dangerous, you see, playing with such a woman as Mildred."

"So you would go away if you thought that she took any warmer interest
in you than ladies generally do in men engaged to be married."

"Certainly I should."

"Well, then, I think that I can set your mind at ease. I have observed
Mrs. Carr pretty closely, and in the way you suppose she cares for you
no more than she does for your coat. She is, no doubt, a bit of a
flirt, and very likely wishes to get you to fall in love with her--a
natural ambition on the part of a woman; but, as for being in love
with you herself, the idea is absurd. Women of the world do not fall
in love so readily; they are too much taken up with thinking about
themselves to have time to think about anybody else. With them it is
all self, self, self, from morning till night. Besides, look at the
common-sense side of the thing. Do you suppose it likely that a person
of Mrs. Carr's wealth and beauty, who has only to lift her hand to
have all London at her feet, is likely to fix her affections upon a
young man whom she knows is already engaged to be married, and who--
forgive me if I say so--has not got the same recommendations to her
favour that many of her suitors have? It is, of course, quite possible
that Mrs. Carr's society may be dangerous to you, in which case it
might be wise for you to go; but I really do not think that you need
feel any anxiety on her account. She finds you a charming companion,
and in some ways a useful one, and that is all. When you go, somebody
else will soon fill the vacant space."

"Then that's all right," said Arthur, though somehow he did not feel
as wildly delighted as he should have done at hearing it so clearly
demonstrated that Mildred did not care a brass button about him; but
then that is human nature. Between eighteen and thirty-five, ninety
per cent. of the men in the world would like to centre in themselves
the affections of every young and pretty woman they know, even if
there was not the ghost of a chance of their marrying one of them. The
same tendency is to be observed conversely in the other sex, only in
their case with a still smaller proportion of exceptions.

"By the way," asked Arthur, presently, "how is my late guardian, Mr.
George Caresfoot?"

"Not at all well, I am sorry to say. I am very anxious about his
health. He is in the south of England now for a change."

"I am sorry he is ill. Do you know, I daresay you will think me
absurd; but you have taken a weight off my mind. I always had an idea
that he wanted to marry Angela, and sometimes I am afraid that I have
suspected that Philip Caresfoot carted me off in order to give him a
chance. You see, Philip is uncommonly fond of money, and George is
rich."

"What an absurd idea, Mr. Heigham! Why, George looks upon matrimony as
an institution of the evil one. He admires Angela, I know--he always
does admire a pretty face; but as for dreaming of marrying a girl half
his age and his own cousin into the bargain, it is about the last
thing that he would do."

"I am glad to hear it. I am sure I have been uncomfortable enough
thinking about him sometimes. Lady Bellamy, will you do something for
me?"

"What is that, Mr. Heigham?"

"Tell Angela all about me."

"But would that be quite honourable, Mr. Heigham--under the conditions
of your engagement, I mean?"

"You never promised not to talk about me; I only promised not to
attempt verbal or written communication with Angela."

"Well, I will tell her that I met you, and that you are well, and, if
Philip will allow me, I will tell her more; but of course I don't know
if he will or not. What ring is that you wear?"

"It is one that Angela gave me when we became engaged. It was her
mother's."

"Will you let me look at it?"

Arthur held out his hand. The ring was an antique, a large emerald,
cut like a seal and heavily set in a band of dull gold. On the face of
the stone were engraved some mysterious characters.

"What is that engraved on the stone?"

"I am not sure; but Angela told me that Mr. Fraser had taken an
impression of it, and forwarded it to a great Oriental scholar. His
friend said that the stone must be extremely ancient, as the character
is a form of Sanscrit, and that he believed the word to mean 'For
ever' or 'Eternity.' Angela said that it had been in her mother's
family for generations, and was supposed to have been brought from the
East about the year 1700. That is all I know about it."

"The motto is better suited to a wedding-ring than to an engagement
stone," said Lady Bellamy, with one of her dark smiles.

"Why?"

"Because engagements are like promises and pie-crust, made to be
broken."

"I hope that will not be the case with ours, however," said Arthur,
attempting a laugh.

"I hope not, I am sure; but never pin your faith absolutely to any
woman, or you will regret it. Always accept her oaths and
protestations as you would a political statement, politely, and with
an appearance of perfect faith, but with a certain grain of mistrust.
Woman's fidelity is in the main a fiction. We are faithful just as men
are, so long as it suits us to be so; with this difference however,
men play false from passion or impulse, women from calculation."

"You do not draw a pleasing picture of your own sex."

"When is the truth pleasing? It is only when we clothe its nakedness
with the rags of imagination, or sweeten it with fiction, that it can
please. Of itself, it is so ugly a thing that society in its
refinement will not even hear it, but prefers to employ a
corresponding formula. Thus all passion, however vile, is called by
the name of 'love,' all superstitious terror and grovelling attempts
to conciliate the unseen are known as 'religion,' while selfish greed
and the hungry lust for power masquerade as laudable 'ambition.' Men
and women, especially women, hate the truth, because, like the
electric light, it shows them as they are, and that is vile. It has
grown so strange to them from disuse that, like Pilate, they do not
even know what it is! I was going to say, however, that if you care to
trust me with it, I think I see how I can take a message to Angela for
you--without either causing you to break your promise or doing
anything dishonourable myself."

"How?"

"Well, if you like, I will take her that ring. I think that is a very
generous offer on my part, for I do not like the responsibility."

"But what is the use of taking her the ring?"

"It is something that there can be no mistake about, that is all, a
speaking message from yourself. But don't give it me if you do not
like; perhaps you had rather not!"

"I don't like parting with it at all, I confess, but I should dearly
like to send her something. I suppose that you would not take a
letter?"

"You would not write one, Mr. Heigham!"

"No, of course, I forget that accursed promise. Here, take the ring,
and say all you can to Angela with it. You promise that you will?"

"Certainly, I promise that I will say all I can."

"You are very good and kind. I wish to Heaven that I were going to
Marlshire with you. If you only knew how I long to see her again. I
think that it would break my heart if anything happened to separate
us," and his lips quivered at the thought.

Lady Bellamy turned her sombre face upon him--there was compassion in
her eyes.

"If you bear Angela Caresfoot so great a love, be guided by me and
shake it off, strangle it--be rid of it anyhow; for fulfilled
affection of that nature would carry a larger happiness with it than
is allowed in a world planned expressly to secure the greatest misery
of the greatest number. There is a fate which fights against it; its
ministers are human folly and passion. You have seen many marriages,
tell me, how many have you known, out of a novel, where the people
married their true loves? In novels they always do, it is another of
society's pleasant fictions, but real life is like a novel without the
third volume. I do not want to alarm you, Mr. Heigham; but, because I
like you, I ask you to steel your mind to disappointment, so that, if
a blow comes, it may not crush you."

"What do you mean, Lady Bellamy, do you know of any impending
trouble?"

"I? Certainly not. I only talk on general principles. Do not be over-
confident, and _never_ trust a woman. Come, let us get home."

Next morning, when Arthur came down to breakfast, the Bellamys had
sailed. The mail had come in from the Cape at midnight, and left again
at dawn, taking them with it.



                             CHAPTER XLVI

The departure of the Bellamys left Arthur in very low spirits. His
sensations were similar to those which one can well imagine an ancient
Greek might have experienced who, having sent to consult the Delphic
oracle, had got for his pains a very unsatisfactory reply,
foreshadowing evils but not actually defining them. Lady Bellamy was
in some way connected with the idea of an oracle in his mind. She
looked oracular. Her dark face and inscrutable eyes, the stamp of
power upon her brow, all suggested that she was a mistress of the
black arts. Her words, too, were mysterious, and fraught with bitter
wisdom and a deep knowledge distilled from the poisonous weeds of
life.

Arthur felt with something like a shudder that, if Lady Bellamy
prophesied evil, evil was following hard upon her words. And in
warning him not to place his whole heart's happiness upon one venture,
lest it should meet with shipwreck, he was sure that she was
prophesying with a knowledge of the future denied to ordinary mortals.
How earnestly, too, she had cautioned him against putting absolute
faith in Angela--so earnestly, indeed, that her talk had left a
flavour of distrust in his mind. Yet how could he mistrust Angela?

Nor was he comforted by a remark that fell from Mildred Carr the
afternoon following the departure of the mail. Raising her eyes, she
glanced at his hand.

"What are you looking at?" he said.

"Was not that queer emerald you wore your engagement ring?"

"Yes."

"What have you done with it?"

"I gave it to Lady Bellamy to give to Angela."

"What for?"

"To show her that I am alive and well. I may not write, you know."

"You are very confiding."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing. At least, I mean that I don't think that I should care to
hand over my engagement ring so easily. It might be misapplied, you
know."

This view of the matter helped to fill up the cup of Arthur's nervous
anxiety, and he vainly plied Mildred with questions to get her to
elucidate her meaning, and state her causes of suspicion, if she had
any; but she would say nothing more on the subject, which then
dropped, and was not alluded to again between them.

After the Bellamys' departure, the time wore on at Madeira without
bringing about any appreciable change in the situation. But Mildred
saw that their visit had robbed her of any advantages she had gained
over Arthur, for they had, as it were, brought Angela's atmosphere
with them, and, faint though it was, it sufficed to overpower her
influence. He made no move forward, and seemed to have entirely
forgotten the episode on the hills when he had gone so very near
disaster. On the contrary, he appeared to her to grow increasingly
preoccupied as time went on, and to look upon her more and more in the
light of a sister, till at length her patience wore thin.

As for her passion, it grew almost unrestrainable in its confinement.
Now she drifted like a rudderless vessel on a sea which raged
continuously and knew no space of calm. And so little oil was poured
upon the troubled waters, there were so few breaks in the storm-walls
that rose black between her and the desired haven of her rest. Indeed,
she began to doubt if even her poor power of charming him, as at first
she had been able to do, with the sparkle of her wit and the half-
unconscious display of her natural grace, was not on the wane, and if
she was not near to losing her precarious foothold in his esteem and
affection. The thought that he might be tiring of her struck her like
a freezing wind, and for a moment turned her heart to ice.

Poor Mildred! higher than ever above her head bloomed that "blue rose"
she longed to pluck. Would she ever reach it after all her striving,
even to gather one poor leaf, one withered petal? The path which led
to it was very hard to climb, and below the breakers boiled. Would it,
after all, be her fate to fall, down into that gulf of which the
sorrowful waters could bring neither death nor forgetfulness?

And so Christmas came and went.

One day, when they were all sitting in the drawing-room, some eight
weeks after the Bellamys had left, and Mildred was letting her mind
run on such thoughts as these, Arthur, who had been reading a novel,
got up and opened the folding-doors at the end of the room which
separated it from the second drawing-room, and also the further doors
between that room and the dining-room. Then he returned, and, standing
at the top of the big drawing-room, took a bird's-eye view of the
whole suite.

"What _are_ you doing, Arthur?"

"I am reflecting, Mildred, that, with such a suite of apartments at
your command, it is a sin and a shame not to give a ball."

"I will give a ball, if you like, Arthur. Will you dance with me if I
do?"

"How many times?" he said, laughing.

"Well, I will be moderate--three times. Let me see--the first waltz,
the waltz before supper, and the last galop."

"You will dance me off my head. It is dangerous to waltz with any one
so pretty," he said, in that bantering tone he often took with her,
and which aggravated her intensely.

"It is more likely that my own head will suffer, as I dance so rarely.
Then, that is a bargain?"

"Certainly."

"Dear me, Mildred, how silly you are; you are like a schoolgirl!" said
Miss Terry.

"Agatha is put out because you do not offer to dance three times with
her."

"Oh! but I will, though, if she likes; three quadrilles."

And so the matter passed off in mutual badinage; but Mildred did not
forget her intention. On the contrary, "society" at Madeira was soon
profoundly agitated by the intelligence that the lady Croesus, Mrs.
Carr, was about to give a magnificent ball, and so ill-natured--or,
rather, so given to jumping to conclusions--is society, that it was
freely said it was in order to celebrate her engagement to Arthur
Heigham. Arthur heard nothing of this; one is always the last to hear
things about oneself. Mildred knew of it, however, but, whether from
indifference or from some hidden motive, she neither took any steps to
contradict it herself, nor would she allow Miss Terry to do so.

"Nonsense," she said; "let them talk. To contradict such things only
makes people believe them the more. Mind now, Agatha, not a word of
this to Mr. Heigham; it would put him out."

"Well, Mildred, I should have thought that you would be put out too."

"I!--oh, no! Worse things might happen," and she shrugged her
shoulders.

At length the much-expected evening came, and the arriving guests
found that the ball had been planned on a scale such as Madeira had
never before beheld. The night was lovely and sufficiently still to
admit of the illumination of the gardens by means of Chinese lanterns
that glowed all around in hundreds, and were even hung like golden
fruit amongst the topmost leaves of the lofty cabbage palms, and from
the tallest sprays of the bamboos. Within, the scene was equally
beautiful. The suite of three reception-rooms had been thrown into
one, two for dancing, and one for use as a sitting-room. They were
quite full, for the Madeira season was at its height, and all the
English visitors who were "anybody" were there. There happened, too,
to be a man-of-war in the harbour, every man-jack, or, rather, every
officer-jack of which, with the exception of those on watch--and they
were to be relieved later on--was there, and prepared to enjoy himself
with a gusto characteristic of the British sailor-man.

The rooms, too, were by no means devoid of beauty, but by far the
loveliest woman in them was Mrs. Carr herself. She was simply dressed
in a perfectly-fitting black satin gown, looped up with diamond stars
that showed off the exquisite fairness of her skin to great
perfection. Her ornaments were also diamonds, but such diamonds--not
little flowers and birds constructed of tiny stones, but large single
gems, each the size of a hazel-nut. On her head she wore a tiara of
these, eleven stones in all, five on each side, and surmounted over
the centre of the forehead by an enormous gem as large as a small
walnut, which, standing by itself above the level of the others,
flashed and blazed like a fairy star. Around her neck, wrists, and
waist were similar points of concentrated light, that, shining against
the black satin as she moved, gave her a truly magnificent appearance.
Never before had Mildred Carr looked so perfectly lovely, for her face
and form were well worthy of the gems and dress; indeed, most of the
men there that night thought her eyes as beautiful as her diamonds.

The ball opened with a quadrille, but in this Mrs. Carr did not dance,
being employed in the reception of her guests. Then followed a waltz,
and, as its first strains struck up, several applicants came to
compete for the honour of her hand; but she declined them all, saying
that she was already engaged; and presently Arthur, looking very tall
and quite the typical young Englishman in his dress-clothes, came
hurrying up.

"You are late, Mr. Heigham," she said; "the music has begun."

"Yes; I am awfully sorry. I was dancing with Lady Florence, and could
not find her old aunt."

"Indeed, to me Mrs. Velley is pretty conspicuous, with that green
thing on her head; but come along, we are wasting time."

Putting his arm round her waist, they sailed away together amidst of
the murmurs of the disappointed applicants.

"Lucky dog," said one.

"Infernal puppy," muttered another.

Arthur enjoyed his waltz very much, for the rooms, though full, were
not crowded, and Mildred waltzed well. Still he was a little uneasy,
for he felt that, in being chosen to dance the first waltz with the
giver of this splendid entertainment over the heads of so many of his
superiors in rank and position, he was being put rather out of his
place. He did not as a rule take any great degree of notice of
Mildred's appearance, but to-night it struck him as unusually
charming.

"You look very beautiful to-night, Mildred," he said, when they halted
for breath; "and what splendid diamonds you have on!"

She flushed with pleasure at his compliment.

"You must not laugh at my diamonds. I know that I am too insignificant
to wear such jewels. I had two minds about putting them on."

"Laugh at them, indeed. I should as soon think of laughing at the Bank
of England. They are splendid."

"Yes," she said, bitterly; "they would be splendid on your Angela.
They want a splendid woman to carry them off."

Oddly enough, he was thinking the same thing: so, having nothing to
say, he went on dancing. Presently the waltz came to an end, and
Mildred was obliged to hurry off to receive the Portuguese Governor,
who had just put in an appearance. Arthur looked at his card, and
found that he was down for the next galop with Lady Florence
Claverley.

"Our dance again, Lady Florence."

"Really, Mr. Heigham, this is quite shocking. If everybody did not
know that you belonged body and soul to the lovely widow, I should be
accused of flirting with you."

"Who was it made me promise to dance five times?"

"I did. I want to make Mrs. Carr angry."

"Why should my dancing five or fifty dances with you make Mrs. Carr
angry?"

Lady Florence shrugged her pretty shoulders.

"Are you blind?" she said.

Arthur felt uncomfortable.

In due course, however, the last waltz before supper came round, and
he, as agreed upon, danced it with his hostess. As the strains of the
music died away, the doors of the supper-room and tent were thrown
open.

"Now, Arthur," said Mildred, "take me in to supper."

He hesitated.

"The Portuguese Governor----" he began.

She stamped her little foot, and her eyes gave an ominous flash.

"Must I ask you twice?" she said.

Then he yielded, though the fact of being for the second time that
night placed in an unnecessarily prominent position made him feel more
uncomfortable than ever, for they were seated at the head of the top
table. Mildred Carr was in the exact centre, with himself on her right
and the Portuguese Governor on the left. To Arthur's left was Lady
Florence, who took an opportunity to assure him solemnly that he
really "bore his blushing honours, very nicely," and to ask him "how
he liked the high places at feasts?"

The supper passed off as brilliantly as most successful suppers do.
Mrs. Carr looked charming, and her conversation sparkled like her own
champagne; but it seemed to him that, as in the case of the wine,
there was too much sting in it. The wine was a little too dry, and her
talk a little too full of suppressed sarcasm, though he could not
quite tell what it was aimed at, any more than he could trace the
source of the champagne bubbles.

Supper done, he led her back to the ball-room. The second extra was
just beginning, and she stood as though she were expecting him to ask
her to dance it.

"I am sorry, Mildred, but I must go now. I am engaged this dance."

"Indeed--who to?" This was very coldly said.

"Lady Florence," he answered, confusedly, though there really was no
reason why he should be ashamed.

She looked at him steadily.

"Oh! I forgot, for to-night you are her monopoly. Good-bye."

A little while after this, Arthur thought that he had had about enough
dancing for awhile, and went and sat by himself in a secluded spot
under the shadow of a tree-fern in a temporary conservatory put up
outside a bow-window. The Chinese lantern that hung upon the fern had
gone out, leaving his chair in total darkness. Presently a couple,
whom he did not recognize, for he only saw their backs, strayed in,
and placed themselves on a bench before him in such a way as to
entirely cut off his retreat. He was making up his mind to disturb
them, when they began a conversation, in which the squeezing of hands
and mild terms of endearment played a part. Fearing to interrupt, lest
he should disturb their equanimity, he judged it best to stop where he
was. Presently, however, their talk took a turn that proved intensely
interesting to him. It was something as follows:--

_She_. "Have you seen the hero of the evening?"

_He_. "Who? Do you mean the Portuguese Governor in his war-paint?"

_She_. "No, of course not. You don't call him a hero, do you? I mean
our hostess's _fiance_, the nice-looking young fellow who took her in
to supper."

_He_. "Oh, yes. I did not think much of him. Lucky dog! but he must be
rather mean. They say that he is engaged to a girl in England, and has
thrown her over for the widow."

_She_. "Ah, you're jealous! I know that you would like to be in his
shoes. Come, confess."

_He_. "You are very unkind. Why should I be jealous when----"

_She_. "Well, you need not hurt my hand, and will you _never_ remember
that black shows against white!"

_He_. "It's awfully hot here; let's go into the garden." [_Exuent_.]



                            CHAPTER XLVII

Arthur emerged from his hiding-place, horror-struck at hearing what
was being said about him, and wondering, so far as he was at the
moment capable of accurate thought, how long this report had been
going about, and whether by any chance it had reached the ears of the
Bellamys. If it had, the mischief might be very serious. In the
confusion of his mind, only two things were clear to him--one was,
that both for Mildred's and his own sake, he must leave Madeira at
once; and, secondly, that he would dance no more with her that night.

Meanwhile the ball was drawing to a close, and presently he heard the
strains of the last galop strike up. After the band had been playing
for a minute or two, a natural curiosity drew him to the door of the
ball-room, to see if Mildred was dancing with anybody else. Here he
found Lady Florence, looking rather disconsolate.

"How is it that you are not dancing?" she asked.

He murmured something inaudible about "partner."

"Well, we are in the same box. What do you think? I promised this
galop to Captain Clemence, and now there he is, vainly trying to
persuade Mrs. Carr, who won't look at him, and appears to be waiting
for somebody else--you, I should think--to give him the dance. I will
be even with him, though."

Just then the music reached a peculiarly seductive passage.

"Oh, come along!" said Lady Florence, quite regardless of the
proprieties; and, before Arthur well knew where he was, he was
whirling round the room.

Mrs. Carr was standing at the top corner, where the crush obliged him
to slacken his pace, and, as he did so, he caught her eye. She was
talking to Lady Florence's faithless partner, with a smile upon her
lips; but one glance at her face sufficed to tell him that she was in
a royal rage, and, what was more, with himself. His partner noticed
it, too, and was amused.

"Unless I am mistaken, Mr. Heigham, you have come into trouble. Look
at Mrs. Carr." And she laughed.

But that was not all. Either from sheer mischief, or from curiosity to
see what would happen, she insisted upon stopping, as the dance drew
to a close, by Mildred's corner. That lady, however, proved herself
equal to the occasion.

"Mr. Heigham," she said sweetly, "do you know that that was our
dance?"

"Oh, was it?" he replied, feeling very much a fool.

"Yes, certainly it was; but with such a temptation to error"--and she
smiled towards Lady Florence--"it is not wonderful that you made a
mistake, and, as you look so contrite, you shall be forgiven. Agatha,
there's a dear, just ask that man to go up to the band, and tell them
to play another waltz, 'La Berceuse,' before 'God save the Queen.'"

Arthur felt all the while, though she was talking so suavely, that she
was in a state of suppressed rage; once he glanced at her, and saw
that her eyes seemed to flash. But her anger only made her look more
lovely, supplying as it did an added dignity and charm to her sweet
features. Nor did she allow it to have full play.

Mildred felt that the crisis in her fortunes was far too serious to
admit of being trifled with. She knew how unlikely it was that she
would ever have a better chance with Arthur than she had now, for the
mirrors told her that she was looking her loveliest, which was very
lovely indeed. In addition, she was surrounded by every seductive
circumstance that could assist to compel a young man, however much
engaged, to commit himself by some act or words of folly. The sound
and sights of beauty, the rich odour of flowers, the music's
voluptuous swell, and last, but not least, the pressure of her
gracious form and the glances from her eyes, which alone were enough
to make fools of ninety-nine out of every hundred young men in Europe
--all these things combined to help her. And to them must be added her
determination, that concentrated strength of will employed to a single
end, which, if there be any truth in the theories of the action of
mind on mind, cannot fail to influence the individual on whom it is
directed.

"Now, Arthur."

The room was very nearly clear, for it was drawing towards daylight
when they floated away together. Oh! what a waltz that was! The
incarnate spirit of the dance took possession of them. She waltzed
divinely, and there was scarcely anything to check their progress. On,
on they sped with flying feet as the music rose and fell above them.
And soon things began to change for Arthur. All sense of embarrassment
and regret vanished from his mind, which now appeared to be capable of
holding but one idea of the simplest and yet the most soaring nature.
He thought that he was in heaven with Mildred Carr. On, still on; now
he saw nothing but her shell-like face and the large flash of the
circling diamonds, felt nothing but the pressure of her form and her
odorous breath upon his cheek, heard nothing but the soft sound of her
breathing. Closer he clasped her; there was no sense of weariness in
his feet or oppression in his lungs; he could have danced for ever.
But all too soon the music ceased with a crash, and they were standing
with quick breath and sparkling eyes by the spot that they had started
from. Close by Miss Terry was sitting yawning.

"Agatha, say good-bye to those people for me. I must get a breath of
fresh air. Give me a glass of water, please, Arthur."

He did so, and, by way of composing his own nerves, took a tumbler of
champagne. He had no longer any thought of anxiety or danger, and he,
too, longed for air. They passed out into the garden, and, by a common
consent, made their way to the museum verandah, which was, as it
proved, quite deserted.

The night, which was drawing to its close, was perfect. Far over the
west the setting moon was sinking into the silver ocean, whilst the
first primrose hue of dawn was creeping up the eastern sky. It was
essentially a dangerous night, especially after dancing and champagne
--a night to make people do and say regrettable things; for, as one of
the poets--is it not Byron?--has profoundly remarked, there is the
very devil in the moon at times.

They stood and gazed awhile at the softness of its setting splendours,
and listened to the sounds of the last departing guests fading into
silence, and to the murmurs of the quiet sea. At last she spoke, very
low and musically.

"I was angry with you. I brought you here to scold you; but on such a
night I cannot find the heart."

"What did you want to scold me about?"

"Never mind; it is all forgotten. Look at that setting moon and the
silver clouds above her," and she dropped her hand, from which she had
slipped the glove, upon his own.

"And now look at me and tell me how I look, and how you liked the
ball. I gave it to please you."

"You look very lovely, dangerously lovely, and the ball was splendid.
Let us go."

"Do you think me lovely, Arthur?"

"Yes; who could help it? But let us go in."

"Stay awhile, Arthur; do not leave me yet. Tell me, is not this
necklace undone? Fasten it for me, Arthur."

He turned to obey, but his hand shook too much to allow him to do so.
Her eyes shone into his own, her fragrant breath played upon his brow,
and her bosom heaved beneath his shaking hand. She too was moved;
light tremors ran along her limbs, the colour came and went upon her
neck and brow, and a dreamy look had gathered in her tender eyes.
Beneath them the sea made its gentle music, and above the wind was
whispering to the trees. Presently his hand dropped, and he stood
fascinated.

"I cannot. What makes you look like that? You are bewitching me."

Next moment he heard a sigh, the next Mildred's sweet lips were upon
his own, and she was in his arms. She lay there still, quite still,
but even as she lay there rose, as it were, in the midst of the
glamour and confusion of his mind, that made him see all things
distraught, and seemed to blot out every principle of right and
honour, another and far different scene. For, as in a vision, he saw a
dim English landscape and a grey ruin, and himself within its shadows
with a nobler woman in his arms, "Dethrone me," said a remembered
voice, "desert me, and I will still thank you for this hour of
imperial happiness." The glamour was gone, the confusion made
straight, and clear above him shone the light of duty.

"Mildred, dear Mildred, this cannot be. Sit down. I want to speak to
you."

She turned quite white, and sank from his arms without a word.

"Mildred, you know that I am engaged."

The lips moved, but no sound issued from them. Again she tried.

"I know."

"Then why do you tempt me? I am only a man, and weak as water in your
presence. Do not make me dishonourable to myself and her."

"I love you as well as she. There--take the shameful truth."

"Yes, but--forgive me if I pain you, for I must, I must. I love
_her_."

The beautiful face hid itself in the ungloved hands. No answer came,
only the great diamond sparkled and blazed in the soft light like a
hard and cruel eye.

"Do not, Mildred, for pity's sake, involve us all in shame and ruin,
but let us part now. If I could have foreseen how this would end! But
I have been a blind and selfish fool. I have been to blame."

She was quite calm now, and spoke in her usual singularly clear voice.

"Arthur dear, I do not blame you. Loving _her_, how was it likely that
you should think of love from _me_? I only blame myself. I have loved
you, God help me, ever since we met--loved you with a despairing,
desperate love such as I hope that you may never know. Was I to allow
your phantom Angela to snatch the cup from my lips without a struggle,
the only happy cup I ever knew? For, Arthur, at the best of times, I
have not been a happy woman; I have always wanted love, and it has not
come to me. Perhaps I should be, but I am not--a high ideal being. I
am as Nature made me, Arthur, a poor creature, unable to stand alone
against such a current as has lately swept me with it. But you are
quite right, you must leave me, we _must_ separate, you _must_ go; but
oh God! when I think of the future, the hard, loveless future----"

She paused awhile, and then went on--

"I did not think to harm you or involve you in trouble, though I hoped
to win some small portion of your love, and I had something to give
you in exchange, if beauty and great wealth are really worth anything.
But you must go, dear, now, whilst I am brave. I hope that you will be
happy with your Angela. When I see your marriage in the paper, I shall
send her this tiara as a wedding present. I shall never wear it again.
Go, dear; go quick."

He turned to leave, not trusting himself to speak, for the big tears
stood in his eyes, and his throat was choked. When he had reached the
steps, she called him back.

"Kiss me once before you go, and I see your dear face no more. I used
to be a proud woman, and to think that I can stoop to rob a kiss from
Angela. Thank you; you are very kind. And now one word; you know a
woman always loves a last word. Sometimes it happens that we put up
idols, and a stronger hand than ours shatters them to dust before our
eyes. I trust this may not be your lot. I love you so well that I can
say that honestly; but, Arthur, if it should be, remember that in all
the changes of this cold world there is one heart which will never
forget you, and never set up a rival to your memory, one place where
you will always find a home. If anything should ever happen to break
your life, come back to me for comfort, Arthur. I can talk no more; I
have played for high stakes--and lost. Good-bye."

He went without a word.



                            CHAPTER XLVIII

Reader, have you ever, in the winter or early spring, come from a hot-
house where you have admired some rich tropical bloom, and then, in
walking by the hedgerows, suddenly seen a pure primrose opening its
sweet eye, and looking bravely into bitter weather's face? If so, you
will, if it is your habit to notice flowers, have experienced some
such sensation as takes possession of my mind when I pass from the
story of Mildred as she was then, storm-tossed and loving, to Angela,
as loving indeed, and yet more anxious, but simple-minded as a child,
and not doubtful for the end. They were both flowers indeed, and both
beautiful, but between them there was a wide difference. The one, in
the richness of her splendour, gazed upon the close place where she
queened it, and was satisfied with the beauty round her, or, if not
satisfied, she could imagine none different. The limits of that little
spot formed the horizon of her mind--she knew no world beyond. The
other, full of possibilities, shed sweetness even on the blast which
cut her, and looked up for shelter towards the blue sky she knew
endured eternally above the driving clouds.

Whilst Sir John Bellamy's health was being recruited at Madeira,
Angela's daily life pursued an even and, comparatively speaking, a
happy course. She missed Pigott much, but then she often went to see
her, and by way of compensation, if she had gone, so had George
Caresfoot and Lady Bellamy. Mr. Fraser, too, had come back to fill a
space in the void of her loneliness, and for his presence she was very
grateful. Indeed none but herself could know the comfort and strength
she gathered from his friendship, none but himself could know what it
cost him to comfort her. But he did not shrink from the duty; indeed,
it gave him a melancholy satisfaction. He loved her quite as dearly,
and with as deep a longing as Mildred Carr did Arthur; but how
different were his ends! Of ultimately supplanting his rival he never
dreamt; his aim was to assist him, to bring the full cup of joy,
untainted, to his lips. And so he read with her and talked with her,
and was sick at heart; and she thanked him, and consecrating all her
most sacred thoughts to the memory of her absent lover, and all her
quick energies to self-preparation for his coming, possessed her soul
in patience.

And thus her young life began to bloom again with a fresh promise. The
close of each departing day was the signal for the lifting of a
portion of her load, for it brought her a day nearer to her lover's
arms, subtracting something from the long tale of barren hours; since
to her all hours seemed most barren that were not quickened by his
presence. Indeed, no Arctic winter could be colder and more devoid of
light and life than this time of absence was to her, and, had it not
been for the warm splendour of her hopes, shooting its beautiful
promise in unreal gleams across the blackness of her horizon, she felt
as though she must have frozen and died. For hope, elusive as she is,
often bears a fairer outward mien than the realization to which she
points, and, like a fond deceiver, serves to keep the heart alive till
the first bitterness is overpast, and, schooled in trouble, it can
know her false, and yet remain unbroken.

But sometimes Angela's mood would change, and then, to her strained
and sensitive mind, this dead calm and cessation of events would seem
to resemble that ominous moment when, in tropic seas, the fierce
outrider of the tempest has passed howling away clothed in flying
foam. Then comes a calm, and for a space there is blue sky, and the
sails flap drearily against the mast, and the vessel only rocks from
the violence of her past plunging, while the scream of the sea-bird is
heard with unnatural clearness, for there is no sound nor motion in
the air. Intenser still grows the silence, and the waters almost cease
from tossing; but the seaman knows that presently, with a sudden roar,
the armies of the winds and waves will leap upon him, and that a
struggle for life is at hand.

Such fears, however, did not often take her, for, unlike Arthur, she
was naturally of a hopeful mind, and, when they did, Mr. Fraser would
find means to comfort her. But this was soon to change.

One afternoon--it was Christmas Eve--Angela went down the village to
see Pigott, now comfortably established in the house her long departed
husband had left her. It was a miserable December day, a damp,
unpleasant ghost of a day, and all the sky was packed with clouds,
while the surface of the earth was wrapped in mist. Rain and snow fell
noiselessly by turns; indeed, the only sound in the air was the loud
dripping of water from the trees on the dead leaves beneath. The whole
outlook was melancholy in the extreme. While Angela was in her old
nurse's cottage, the snow fell in earnest for an hour or so, and then
held up again, and when she came out the mist had recovered its
supremacy, and now the snow was melting.

"Come, miss, you must be getting home, or it will be dark. Shall I
come with you a bit?"

"No, thank you, Pigott. I am not afraid of the dark, and I ought to
know my way about these parts. Good-night, dear."

The prevailing dismalness of the scene oppressed her, and she made up
her mind to go and see Mr. Fraser, instead of returning at present to
her lonely home. With this view, leaving the main road that ran
through Rewtham, Bratham, and Isleworth to Roxham, she turned up a
little bye-lane which led to the foot of the lake. Just as she did so,
she heard the deadened footfall of a fast-trotting horse, accompanied
by the faint roll of carriage-wheels over the snow. As she turned half
involuntarily to see who it was that travelled so fast, the creeping
mist was driven aside by a puff of wind, and she saw a splendid blood-
horse drawing an open victoria trotting past her at, at least, twelve
miles an hour. But, quickly as it passed, it was not too quick for her
to recognize Lady Bellamy wrapped up in furs, her dark, stern face
looking on straight before her, as though the mist had no power to dim
_her_ sight. Next second the dark closed in, and the carriage had
vanished like a dream in the direction of Isleworth.

Angela shivered; the dark afternoon seemed to have grown darker to
her.

"So she _is_ back," she said to herself. "I felt that she was back.
She makes me feel afraid."

Going on her way, she came to a spot where the path forked, one track
leading to a plank with a hand-rail spanning the stream that fed the
lake, and the other to some stepping-stones, by crossing which and
following the path on the other side a short cut could be made to the
rectory. The bridge and the stepping-stones were not more than twenty
yards apart, but so intent was Angela upon her own thoughts and upon
placing her feet accurately on the stones that she did not notice a
little man with a red comforter, who was leaning on the hand-rail,
engaged apparently in meditation. The little man, however, noticed
her, for he gave a violent start, and apparently was about to call out
to her, when he changed his mind. He was Sir John Bellamy.

"Better let her go perhaps, John," he said, addressing his own effigy
in the water. "After all, it will be best for you to let things to
take their course, and not to burn your own fingers or commit yourself
in any way, John. You will trap them more securely so. If you were to
warn the girl now, you would only expose them; if you wait till he has
married her, you will altogether destroy them with the help of that
young Heigham. And perhaps by that time you will have touched those
compromising letters, John, and made a few other little arrangements,
and then you will be able to enjoy the sweets of revenge meted out
with a quart measure, not in beggarly ones or twos. But you are
thinking of the girl--eh, John? Ah! you always were a pitiful beggar;
but tread down the inclination, decline to gratify it. If you do, you
will spoil your own hand. The girl must take her chance--oh! clearly
the girl must take her chance. But all the same, John, you are very
sorry for her--very. Come, come, you must be off, or her ladyship and
the gentle George will be kept waiting," and away he went at a brisk
pace, cheerfully singing a verse of a comic song. Sir John was a merry
little man.

In due course Angela reached the rectory, and found Mr. Fraser seated
in his study reading.

"Well, my dear, what brings you here? What a dreary night!"

"Yes, it is dreadfully damp and lonesome; the people look like ghosts
in the mist, and their voices sound hollow. A proper day for evil
things to creep home," and she laughed drearily.

"What do you mean," he answered, with a quick glance at her face,
which wore an expression of nervous anxiety.

"I mean that Lady Bellamy has come home; is she not an evil thing?"

"Hush, Angela; you should not talk so. You are excited, dear. Why
should you call her evil?"

"I don't know; but have you ever noticed her? Have you never seen her
creep, creep, like a tiger on its prey? Watch her dark face, and see
the bad thoughts come and peep out of her eyes as the great black
pupils swell and then shrivel, till they are no larger than the head
of this black pin, and you will know that she is evil, and does evil
work."

"My dear, my dear, you are upset to talk so."

"Oh! no, I am not upset; but did you ever have a presentiment?"

"Plenty; but never one that came true."

"Well, I have a presentiment now--yes, a presentiment--it caught me in
the mist."

"What is it? I am anxious to hear."

"I don't know--I cannot say; it is not clear in my mind. I cannot see
it, but it is evil, and it has to do with that evil woman."

"Come, Angela, you must not give way to this sort of thing; you will
make yourself ill. Sit down, there is a good girl, and have some tea."

She was standing by the window staring out into the mist, her fingers
alternately intertwining and unlacing themselves, whilst an unusual--
almost an unearthly expression, played upon her face. Turning, she
obeyed him.

"You need not fear for me. I am tough, and growing used to troubles.
What was it you said? Oh! tea. Thank you; that reminds me. Will you
come and have dinner with me to-morrow after church? It is Christmas
Day, you know. Pigott has given me a turkey she has been fatting, and
I made the mincemeat myself, so there will be plenty to eat if we can
find the heart to eat it."

"But your father, my dear?"

"Oh! you need not be afraid. I have got permission to ask you. What do
you think? I actually talked to my father for ten whole minutes
yesterday; he wanted to avoid me when he saw me, but I caught him in a
corner. He took advantage of the opportunity to try to prevent me from
going to see Pigott, but I would not listen to him, so he gave it up.
What did he mean by that? Why did he send her away? What does it all
mean? Oh! Arthur, when will you come back, Arthur?" and, to Mr.
Fraser's infinite distress, she burst into tears.



                             CHAPTER XLIX

Presentiments are no doubt foolish things, and yet, at the time that
Angela was speaking of hers to Mr. Fraser, a consultation was going on
in a back study at Isleworth that might almost have justified it. The
fire was the only light in the room, and gathered round it, talking
very low, their features thrown alternately into strong light and dark
shadow, were George Caresfoot and Sir John and Lady Bellamy. It was
evident from the strong expression of interest, almost of excitement,
on their faces that they were talking of some matter of great
importance.

Sir John was, as usual, perched on the edge of his chair, rubbing his
dry hands and eliciting occasional sparks in the shape of remarks, but
he was no longer merry; indeed, he looked ill at ease. George, his red
hair all rumpled up, and his long limbs thrust out towards the fire,
spoke scarcely at all, but glued his little bloodshot eyes alternately
on the faces of his companions, and only contributed an occasional
chuckle. But the soul of this witches' gathering was evidently Lady
Bellamy. She was standing up, and energetically detailing some scheme,
the great pupils of her eyes expanding and contracting as the unholy
flame within them rose and fell.

"Then that is settled," she said, at last.

George nodded, Bellamy said nothing.

"I suppose that silence gives consent. Very well, I will take the
first step to-morrow. I do not like Angela Caresfoot, but, upon my
word, I shall be sorry for her before she is twenty-four hours older.
She is made of too fine a material to be sold into such hands as
yours, George Caresfoot."

George looked up menacingly, but said nothing.

"I have often urged you to give this up; now I urge no more--the thing
is done in spirit, it may as well be done in reality. I told you long
ago that it was a most dreadfully wicked thing, and that nothing but
evil can come of it. Do not say that I have not warned you."

"Come, stop that devil's talk," growled George.

"Devil's talk!--that is a good word, George, for it is of the devil's
wages that I am telling you. Now listen, I am going to prophecy. A
curse will fall upon this house and all within it. Would you like to
have a sign that I speak the truth? Then wait." She was standing up,
her hand stretched out, and in the dim light she looked like some
heathen princess urging a bloody sacrifice to her gods. Her
forebodings terrified her hearers, and, by a common impulse, they rose
and moved away from her.

At that moment a strange thing happened. A gust of wind, making its
way from some entrance in the back of the house, burst open the door
of the room in which they were, and entered with a cold flap as of
wings. Next second a terrible crash resounded from the other end of
the room. George turned white as a sheet, and sank into a chair,
cursing feebly. Bellamy gave a sort of howl of terror, and shrank up
to his wife, almost falling into the fire in his efforts to get behind
her. Lady Bellamy alone, remaining erect and undaunted, laughed aloud.

"Come, one of you brave conspirators against a defenceless girl,
strike a light, for the place is as dark as a vault, and let us see
what has happened. I told you that you should have a sign."

After several efforts, George succeeded in doing as she bade him, and
held a candle forward in his trembling hand.

"Come, don't be foolish," she said; "a picture has fallen, that is
all."

He advanced to look at it, and then benefited his companions with a
further assortment of curses. The picture, on examination, proved to
be a large one that he had, some years previously, had painted of
Isleworth, with the Bellamys and himself in the foreground. The frame
was shattered, and all the centre of the canvass torn out by the
weight of its fall on to a life-sized and beautiful statue of
Andromeda chained to a rock, awaiting her fate with a staring look of
agonized terror in her eyes.

"An omen, a very palpable omen," said Lady Bellamy, with one of her
dark smiles. "Isleworth and ourselves destroyed by being smashed
against a marble girl, who rises uninjured from the wreck. Eh, John?"

"Don't touch me, you sorceress," replied Sir John, who was shaking
with fear. "I believe that you are Satan in person."

"You are strangely complimentary, even for a husband."

"Perhaps I am, but I know your dark ways, and your dealings with your
master, and I tell you both what it is; I have done with the job. I
will have nothing more to do with it. I will know nothing more about
it."

"You hear what he says," said Lady Bellamy to George. "John does not
like omens. For the last time, will you give it up, or will you go
on?"

"I can't give her up--I can't indeed; it would kill me," answered
George, wringing his hands. "There is a fiend driving me along this
path."

"Not a doubt of it," said Sir John, who was staring at the broken
picture with chattering teeth, and his eyes almost starting out of his
head; "but if I were you, I should get him to drive me a little
straighter, that's all."

"You are poor creatures, both of you," said Lady Bellamy; "but we
will, then, decide to go on."

"Fiat 'injuria' ruat coelum," said Sir John, who knew a little Latin;
and, frightened as he was, could not resist the temptation to air it.

And then they went and left George still contemplating the horror-
stricken face of the nude marble virgin whose eyes appeared to gaze
upon the ruins of his picture.

Next morning, being Christmas Day, Lady Bellamy went to church, as
behoves a good Christian, and listened to the Divine message of peace
on earth and good-will towards men. So, for the matter of that, did
George, and so did Angela. After church, Lady Bellamy went home to
lunch, but she was in no mood for eating, so she left the table, and
ordered the victoria to be round in half an hour.

After church, too, Angela and Mr. Fraser ate their Christmas dinner.
Angela's melancholy had to some extent melted beneath the genial
influence of the Christmas-tide, and her mind had taken comfort from
the words of peace and everlasting love that she had heard that
morning, and for awhile, at any rate, she had forgotten her
forebodings. The unaccustomed splendour of the dinner, too, had
diverted her attention, for she was easily pleased with such things,
and altogether she was in a more comfortable frame of mind than she
had been on the previous evening, and was inclined to indulge in a
pleasant talk with Mr. Fraser upon various subjects, mostly classical
and Arthurian. She had already cracked some filberts for him, plucked
by herself in the autumn, and specially saved in a damp jar, and was
about to settle herself in a chair by the fire, when suddenly she
turned white and stood quite still.

"Hark!" she said, "do you hear it?"

"Hear what?"

"Lady Bellamy's horse--the big black horse that trots so fast."

"I can hear nothing, Angela."

"But I can. She is on the high-road yet; she will be here very soon;
that horse trots fast."

"Nonsense, Angela; it is some other horse."

But, as he spoke, the sound of a powerful animal trotting very rapidly
became distinctly audible.

"It has come--the evil news--and she has brought it."

"Rubbish, dear; somebody to see your father, no doubt."

A minute elapsed, and then Mrs. Jakes, now the only servant in the
house, was heard shuffling along the passage, followed by a firm,
light step.

"Don't leave me," said Angela to Mr. Fraser. "God give me strength to
bear it," she went on, beneath her breath. She was still standing
staring vacantly towards the door, pale, and her bosom heaving. The
intensity of her anxiety had to some extent communicated itself to Mr.
Fraser, for there are few things so catching as anxiety, except
enthusiasm; he, too, had risen, and was standing in an attitude of
expectancy.

"Lady Bellamy to see yer," said Mrs. Jakes, pushing her head through
the half-opened door.

Next second she had entered.

"I must apologize for disturbing you at dinner, Angela," she began
hurriedly, and then stopped and also stood still. There was something
very curious about her reception, she thought; both Mr. Fraser and
Angela might have been cut out of stone, for neither moved.

Standing thus in the silence of expectancy, the three made a strange
picture. On Lady Bellamy's face there was a look of stern
determination and suppressed excitement such as became one about to
commit a crime.

At last she broke the silence.

"I come to bring you bad news, Angela," she said.

"What have you to say? tell me, quick! No, stop, hear me before you
speak. If you have come here with any evil in your heart, or with the
intention to deceive or betray, pause before you answer. I am a lonely
and almost friendless woman, and have no claim except upon your
compassion; but it is not always well to deal ill with such as I,
since we have at last a friend whose vengeance you too must fear. So,
by the love of Christ and by the presence of the God who made you,
speak to me only such truth as you will utter at his judgment. Now,
answer, I am ready."

At her words, spoken with an earnestness and in a voice which made
them almost awful, a momentary expression of fear swept across Lady
Bellamy's face, but it went as quickly as it came, and the hard,
determined look returned. The mysterious eyes grew cold and glittered,
the head erected itself. At that moment Lady Bellamy distinctly
reminded Mr. Fraser of a hooded cobra about to strike.

"Am I to speak before Mr. Fraser?"

"Speak!"

"What is the good of this high-flown talk, Angela? You seem to know my
news before I give it, and believe me it pains me very much to have to
give it. _He is dead, Angela._"

The cobra had struck, but as yet the poison had scarcely begun to
work. There was only numbness. Mr. Fraser gave a gasp and half
dropped, half fell, into his chair. The noise attracted Angela's
attention, and pressing her hand to her forehead she turned towards
him with a ghost of a laugh.

"Did I not tell you that this evil woman would bring evil news." Then
addressing Lady Bellamy, "But stop, you forget what I said to you, you
do not speak the truth. Arthur dead! How can Arthur be dead and I
alive? How is it that I do not know he is dead? Oh, for shame, it is
not true, he is not dead."

"This seems to me to be a thankless as well as a painful task," said
Lady Bellamy, hoarsely, "but, if you will not believe me, look here,
you know this, I suppose? I took it, as he asked me to do, from his
dead hand that it might be given back to you."

"If Mr. Heigham is dead," said Mr. Fraser, "how do you know it, where
did he die, and what of?"

"I know it, Mr. Fraser, because it was my sad duty to nurse him
through his last illness at Madeira. He died of enteric fever. I have
got a copy of his burial certificate here which I had taken from the
Portuguese books. He seems to have had no relations living, poor young
man, but Sir John communicated with the family lawyer. Here is the
certificate," and she handed Mr. Fraser a paper written in Portuguese
and officially stamped.

"You say," broke in Angela, "that you took this ring from his dead
hand, the hand on which I placed it. I do not believe you. You
beguiled it from his living hand. It cannot be that he is dead; for,
if he were, I should have felt it. Oh, Arthur!" and in her misery she
stretched out her arms and turned her agonized eyes upwards, "if you
are dead, come to me, and let me see your spirit face, and hear the
whisper of your wings. Have you no voice in the silence? You see he
does not come, he is not dead; if he were dead, Heaven could not hold
him from my side, or, if it could, it would have drawn me up to his."

"My love, my love," said Mr. Fraser, in a scared voice, "it is not
God's will that the dead should come back to us thus----"

"My poor Angela, why will you not believe me? This is so very painful,
do you suppose that I want to torture you by saying what is not true
about your love? The idea is absurd. I had meant to keep it till you
were calmer; but I have a letter for you. Read it and convince
yourself."

Angela almost snatched the paper from her outstretched hand. It ran
thus, in characters almost illegible from weakness:--


 "Dearest,--Good-bye. I am dying of fever. Lady Bellamy will take
  back your ring when it is over. Try to forget me, and be happy.
  Too weak to write more. Good-bye. God----"


At the foot of this broken and almost illegible letter was scrawled
the word, "ARTHUR."

Angela read it slowly, and then at length the poison did its work. She
did not speak wildly any more, or call upon Arthur; she was stung back
to sense, but all the light went out of her eyes.

"It is his writing," she said, slowly. "I beg your pardon. It was good
of you to nurse him."

Then, pressing the paper to her bosom with one hand, with the other
she groped her way towards the door.

"It is very dark," she said.

Lady Bellamy's eyes gave a flash of triumph, and then she stood
watching the pitiable exhibition of human misery as curiously as ever
a Roman matron did an expiring gladiator. When Angela was near the
door, the letter still pressed against her heart, she spoke again.

"The blow comes from God, Angela, and the religion and spiritual
theories which you believe in will bring you consolation. Most likely
it is a blessing in disguise--a thing that you will in time even learn
to be thankful for."

Lady Bellamy had overacted her part. The words did not ring true, they
jarred upon Mr. Fraser; much more did they jar upon Angela's torn
nerves. Her pale cheek flushed, and she turned and spoke, but there
was no anger in her face, nothing but sorrow that dignified, and
unfathomable love lost in its own depths. Only the eyes seemed as
sightless as those of one walking in her sleep.

"When your hour of dreadful trouble comes, as it will come, pray God
that there may be none to mock you as you mock me." And she turned
like a stricken thing, and went slowly out, blindly groping her way
along.

Her last words had hit the victor hard. Who can say what hidden string
they touched, or what prescience of evil they awakened? But they went
nigh to felling her. Clutching the mantel-piece, Lady Bellamy gasped
for air; then, recovering a little, she said:

"Thank God, that is over."

Mr. Fraser scarcely saw this last incident. So overwhelmed was he at
the sight of Angela's agony that he had covered his face with his
hand. When he lifted it again, Lady Bellamy was gone, and he was
alone.



                              CHAPTER L

Three months had passed since that awful Christmas Day. Angela was
heart-broken, and, after the first burst of her despair, turned
herself to the only consolation which was left her. It was not of this
world.

She did not question the truth of the dreadful news that Lady Bellamy
had brought her, and, if ever a doubt did arise in her breast, a
glance at the ring and the letter effectually quelled it. Nor did she
get brain-fever or any other illness; her young and healthy frame was
too strong a citadel to be taken out of hand by sorrow. And this to
her was one of the most wonderful things in her affliction. It had
come and crushed her, and life still went on much as before. The sun
of her system had fallen, and yet the system was not appreciably
deranged. It was dreadful to her to think that Arthur was dead, but an
added sting lay in the fact that she was not dead too. Oh! how glad
she would have been to die, since death had become the gate through
which she needs must pass to reach her lover's side.

For it had been given to Angela, living so much alone, and thinking so
long and deeply upon these great mysteries of our being, to soar to
the heights of a noble faith. To the intense purity of her mind, a
living heaven presented itself, a comfortable place, very different
from the vague and formularised abstractions with which we are for the
most part satisfied; where Arthur and her mother were waiting to greet
her, and where the great light of the Godhead would shine around them
all. She grew to hate her life, the dull barrier of the flesh that
stood between her and her ends. Still she ate and drank enough to
support it, still dressed with the same perfect neatness as before,
still lived, in short, as though Arthur had not died, and the light
and colour had not gone out of her world.

One day--it was in March--she was sitting in Mr. Fraser's study
reading the "Shakespeare" which Arthur had given to her, and in the
woes of others striving to forget her own. But the attempt proved a
failure; she could not concentrate her thoughts, they would
continually wander away into space in search of Arthur.

She was dressed in black; from the day that she heard her lover was
dead, she would wear no other colour, and as she gazed, with her hands
idly clasped before her, out at the driving sleet and snow, Mr. Fraser
thought that he had never seen statue, picture, or woman of such
sweet, yet majestic beauty. But it had been filched from the features
of an immortal. The spirit-look which at times had visited her from a
child now continually shone upon her face, and to the sight of sinful
men her eyes seemed almost awful in their solemn calm and purity. She
smiled but seldom now, and, when she did, it was in those grey eyes
that the radiance began: her features scarcely seemed to move.

"What are you thinking of, Angela?"

"I am thinking, Mr. Fraser, that it is only fourteen weeks to-day
since Arthur died, and that it is very likely that I shall live
another forty or fifty years before I see him. I am only twenty-one,
and I am so strong. Even this shock has not hurt me."

"Why should you want to die?"

"Because all the beauty and light has gone out of my life; because I
prefer to trust myself into the hands of God rather than to the tender
mercies of the world; because he is there, and I am here, and I am
tired of waiting."

"Have you no fear of death?"

"I have never feared death, and least of all do I fear it now. Why,
the veriest coward would not shrink back when the man she loved was
waiting for her. And I am not a coward, and if I were told that I must
die within an hour, I could say, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are
the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!'
Cannot you understand me? If all your life and soul were wrapped up in
one person, and she died, would you not long to go to her?"

Mr. Fraser made no reply for a while, but in his turn gazed out at the
drifting snow, surely not more immaculately pure than this woman who
could love with so divine a love. At length he spoke.

"Angela, do you know that it is wrong to talk so? You have no right to
set yourself up against the decrees of the Almighty. In His wisdom He
is working out ends of which you are one of the instruments. Who are
you that you should rebel?"

"No one--a grain, an atom, a wind-tossed feather; but what am I to do
with my life, how am I to occupy all the coming years?"

"With your abilities, that is a question easy to answer. Work, write,
take the place in scholastic or social literature which I have trained
you to fill. For you, fame and fortune lie in an inkstand; your mind
is a golden key that will open to your sight all that is worth seeing
in the world, and pass you into its most pleasant places. You can
become a famous woman, Angela."

She turned upon him sadly.

"I had such ideas; for Arthur's sake I wished to do something great;
indeed I had already formed a plan. But, Mr. Fraser, like many
another, when I lost my love I lost my ambition too; both lie buried
in his grave. I have nothing left to work for; I do not care for fame
or money for myself, they would only have been valuable to give to
him. At twenty-one I seem to have done with the world's rewards and
punishments, its blanks and prizes, its satisfactions and desires,
even before I have learnt what they are. My hopes are as dull and
leaden as that sky, and yet the sun is behind it. Yes, that is my only
hope, the sun is behind it though we cannot see it. Do not talk to me
of ambition, Mr. Fraser. I am broken-spirited, and my only ambition is
for rest, the rest He gives to His beloved----"

"Rest, Angela! that is the cry of us all, we strive for rest, and here
we never find it. You suffer, but do not think that you are alone,
everybody suffers in their degree, though perhaps such as you, with
the nerves of your mind bared to the roughness of the world's weather,
feel mental pain the more acutely. But, my dear, there are few really
refined men and women of sensitive organization, who have not at times
sent up that prayer for rest, any rest, even eternal sleep. It is the
price they pay for their refinement. But they are not alone. If the
heart's cry of every being who endures in this great universe could be
collected into a single prayer, that prayer would be, 'Thou who made
us, in pity give us rest.'"

"Yes, we suffer, no doubt, all of us, and implore a peace that does
not come. We must learn

         "'How black is night when golden day is done,
           How drear the blindness that hath seen the sun!'

"You can tell me that; but tell me, you who are a clergyman, and
stronger to stand against sorrow than I, how can we win even a partial
peace and draw the sting from suffering? If you know a way, however
hard, tell it me, for do you know," and she put her hand to her head
and a vacant look came into her eyes, "I think that if I have to
endure much more of the anguish which I sometimes suffer, or get any
more shocks, I shall go mad? I try to look to the future only and to
rise superior to my sorrows, and to a certain extent I succeed, but my
mind will not always carry the strain put upon it, but falls heavily
to earth like a winged bird. Then it is that, deprived of its higher
food, and left to feed upon its own sadness and to brood upon the bare
fact of the death of the man I loved--I sometimes think, as men are
not often loved--that my spirit almost breaks down. If you can tell me
any cure, anything which will bring me comfort, I shall indeed be
grateful to you."

"I think I can, Angela. If you will no longer devote yourself to
study, you have only to look round to find another answer to your
question as to what you are to do? Are there no poor in these parts
for you to visit? Cannot your hands make clothes to cover those who
have none? Is there no sickness that you can nurse, no sorrow that you
can comfort? I know that even in this parish there are many homes
where your presence would be as welcome as a sunbeam in winter.
Remember, Angela, that grief can be selfish as well as pleasure."

"You are right, Mr. Fraser, you always are right; I think I am selfish
in my trouble, but it is a fault that I will try to mend. Indeed, to
look at it in that light only, my time is of no benefit to myself, I
may as well devote it to others."

"If you do, your labour will bring its own reward, for in helping
others to bear their load you will wonderfully lighten your own. Nor
need you go far to begin. Why do you not see more of your own father?
You are naturally bound to love him. Yet it is but rarely that you
speak to him."

"My father! you know he does not like me, my presence is always a
source of irritation to him, he cannot even bear me to look at him."

"Oh, surely that must be your fancy; probably he thinks you do not
care about him. He has always been a strange and wayward man, I know,
but you should remember that he has had bitter disappointments in
life, and try to soften him and win him to other thoughts. Do this and
you will soon find that he will be glad enough of your company."

"I will try to do as you say, Mr. Fraser, but I confess I have only
small hopes of any success in that direction. Have you any parish work
I can do?"

Nor did the matter end there, as is so often the case where parish
work and young ladies are concerned. Angela set to her charitable
duties with a steady determination that made her services very
valuable. She undertook the sole management of a clothing club, in
itself a maddening thing to ordinary mortals, and had an eye to the
distribution of the parish coals. Of mothers' meetings and other
cheerful parochial entertainments, she became the life and soul.
Giving up her mathematics and classical reading, she took to knitting
babies' vests and socks instead; indeed, the number of articles which
her nimble fingers turned out in a fortnight was a pleasant surprise
for the cold toes of the babies. And, as Mr. Fraser had prophesied,
she found that her labour was of a sort which brought a certain
reward.



                              CHAPTER LI

On one point, however, Angela's efforts failed completely; she could
make no headway with her father. He shrank more than ever from her
society, and at last asked her to oblige him by allowing him to follow
his own path in peace. Of Arthur's death he had never spoken to her,
or she to him, but she knew that he had heard of it.

Philip had heard of it thus. On that Christmas afternoon he had been
taking his daily exercise when he met Lady Bellamy returning from the
Abbey House. The carriage stopped, and she got out to speak to him.

"Have you been to the Abbey House to pay a Christmas visit?" he asked.
"It is very kind of you to come and see us so soon after your return."

"I am the bearer of bad news, so I did not loiter."

"Bad news! what was it?"

"Mr. Heigham is dead," she answered, watching his face narrowly.

"Dead, impossible!"

"He died of enteric fever at Madeira. I have just been to break the
news to Angela."

"Oh, indeed, she will be pained; she was very fond of him, you know."

Lady Bellamy smiled contemptuously.

"Did you ever see any one put to the extremest torture? If you have,
you can guess how your daughter was 'pained.'"

Philip winced.

"Well, I can't help it, it is no affair of mine. Good-bye," and then,
as soon as she was out of hearing; "I wonder if she lies, or if she
has murdered him. George must have been putting on the screw."

Into the particulars of Arthur Heigham's death, or supposed death, he
never inquired. Why should he? It was no affair of his; he had long
ago washed his hands of the whole matter, and left things to take
their chance. If he was dead, well and good, he was very sorry for
him; if he was alive, well and good also. In that case, he would no
doubt arrive on the appointed date to marry Angela.

But, notwithstanding all this unanswerable reasoning, he still found
it quite impossible to look his daughter in the face. Her eyes still
burnt him, ay, even more than ever did they burn, for her widowed
dress and brow were agony to him, and rent his heart, not with remorse
but fear. But still his greed kept the upper hand, though death by
mental torture must result, yet he would glut himself with his desire.
More than ever he hungered for those wide lands which, if only things
fell out right, would become his at so ridiculous a price. Decidedly
Arthur Heigham's death was "no affair of his."

About six weeks before Angela's conversation with Mr. Fraser which
ended in her undertaking parish work, a rumour had got about that
George Caresfoot had been taken ill, very seriously ill. It was said
that a chill had settled on his lungs, which had never been very
strong since his fever, and that he had, in short, gone into a
consumption.

Of George, Angela had neither seen nor heard anything for some time--
not since she received the welcome letter in which he relinquished his
suit. She had, indeed, with that natural readiness of the human mind
to forget unpleasant occurrences, thought but little about him of
late, since her mind had been more fully occupied with other and more
pressing things. Still she vaguely wondered at times if he was really
so ill as her father thought.

One day she was walking home by the path round the lake, after paying
a visit to a sick child in the village, when she suddenly came face to
face with her father. She expected that he would as usual pass on
without addressing her, and drew to one side of the path to allow him
to do so, but to her surprise he stopped.

"Where have you been, Angela?"

"To see Ellen Mim; she is very ill, poor child."

"You had better be careful; you will be catching scarlet fever or
something--there is a great deal about."

"I am not at all afraid."

"Yes; but you never think that you may bring it home to me."

"I never thought that there was any likelihood of my bringing anything
to you. We see so little of each other."

"Well, well, I have been to Isleworth to see your cousin George; he is
very ill."

"You told me that he was ill some time back. What is it that is really
the matter with him?"

"Galloping consumption. He cannot last long."

"Poor man, why does he not go to a warmer climate?"

"I don't know--that is his affair. But it is a serious matter for me.
If he dies under present circumstances, all the Isleworth estates,
which are mine by right, must pass away from the family forever."

"Why must they pass away?"

"Because your grandfather, with a refined ingenuity, made a provision
in his will that George was not to leave them back to me, as he was
telling me this afternoon he is anxious to do. If he were to die now
with a will in my favour, or without any will at all, they would all
go to some far away cousins in Scotland."

"He died of heart-disease, did he not?--my grandfather, I mean?"

Philip's face grew black as night, and he shot a quick glance of
suspicion at his daughter.

"I was saying," he went on, without answering her question, "that
George may sell the land or settle it, but must not leave it to me or
you, nor can I take under an intestacy."

Angela did not understand these legal intricacies, and knew about as
much about the law of intestacy as she did of Egyptian inscriptions.

"Well," she said, consolingly, "I am very sorry, but it can't be
helped, can it?"

"The girl is a born fool," muttered Philip beneath his breath, and
passed on.

A week or so afterwards, just when the primroses and Lent-lilies were
at the meridian of their beauty and all the air was full of song,
Angela heard more about her cousin George. Mr. Fraser was one day sent
for to Isleworth; Lady Bellamy brought him the message, saying that
George was in such a state of health that he wished to see a
clergyman.

"I never saw a worse case," he said to Angela on his return. "He does
not leave the house, but lies in a darkened room coughing and spitting
blood. He is, I should say, going off fast; but he refuses to see a
doctor. His frame of mind, however, is most Christian, and he seems to
have reconciled himself to the prospect of a speedy release."

"Poor man!" said Angela sympathetically; "he sent and asked to see
you, did he not?"

"Well--yes; but when I got there he talked more about the things of
this world than of the next. He is greatly distressed about your
father. I daresay you have heard how your cousin George supplanted
your father in the succession to the Isleworth estates. Your
grandfather disinherited him, you know, because of his marriage with
your mother. Now that he is dying, he sees the injustice of this, but
is prevented by the terms of your grandfather's will from restoring
the land to your branch of the family, so it must pass to some distant
cousins--at least, so I understand the matter."

"You always told me that it is easy to drive a coach and four through
wills and settlements and legal things. If he is so anxious to do so,
can he not find a way out of the difficulty--I mean, some honourable
way?"

"No, I believe not, except an impossible one," and Mr. Fraser smiled a
rather forced smile.

"What is that?" asked Angela carelessly.

"Well, that he should--should marry _you_ before he dies. At least,
you know, he says that that is the only way in which he could legally
transfer the estates."

Angela started and turned pale.

"Then I am afraid the estates will never be transferred. How would
that help him?"

"Well, he says he could then enter into a nominal sale of the estates
to your father and settle the money on you."

"And why could he not do this without marrying me?"

"I don't know, I don't understand much about these things, I am not a
business man; but it is impossible for some reason or another. But of
course it is absurd. Good night, my dear. Don't overdo it in the
parish."

Another week passed without any particular news of George's illness,
except that he was getting weaker, when one day Lady Bellamy appeared
at the Abbey House, where she had not been since that dreadful
Christmas Day. Angela felt quite cold when she saw her enter, and her
greeting was as cold as herself.

"I hope that you bring me no more bad news," she said.

"No, Angela, except that your cousin George is dying, but that is
scarcely likely to distress you."

"I am sorry."

"Are you? There is no particular reason why you should be. You do not
like him."

"No, I do not like him."

"It is a pity though, because I have come to ask you to marry him."

"Upon my word, Lady Bellamy, you seem to be the chosen messenger of
everything that is wretched. Last time you came to this house it was
to tell me of dear Arthur's death, and now it is to ask me to marry a
man whom I detest. I thought that I had told both you and him that I
will not marry him. I have gone as near marrying as I ever mean to in
this world."

"Really, Angela, you are most unjust to me. Do you suppose that it was
any pleasure to me to have such a sad duty to perform? However, it is
refreshing to hear you talk so vigorously. Clearly the loss of your
lover has not affected your spirits."

Angela winced beneath the taunt, but made no reply.

"But, if you will condescend to look at the matter with a single grain
of common-sense, you will see that circumstances have utterly changed
since you refused to marry George. Then, Mr. Heigham was alive, poor
fellow, and then, too, George wanted to marry you as a wife, now he is
merely anxious to marry you that he may be enabled to make reparation
to your father. He is a fast-dying man. You would never be his wife
except in name. The grave would be his only marriage-bed. Do you not
understand the difference?"

"Perfectly, but do _you_ not understand that whether in deed or in
name I cannot outrage my dead Arthur's memory by being for an hour the
wife of that man? Do _you_ not know that the marriage service requires
a woman to swear to 'Love, honour, and obey,' till death parts,
whether it be a day or a lifetime away? Can I, even as a mere form,
swear to love when I loathe, honour when I despise, obey when my whole
life would rise in rebellion against obedience! What are these estates
to me that I should do such violence to my conscience and my memories?
Estates, of what use are they to one whose future lies in the wards of
a hospital or a sisterhood? I will have nothing to do with this
marriage, Lady Bellamy."

"Well, I must say, Angela, you do not make much ado about ruining your
father to gratify your own sentimental whims. It must be a comfortable
thing to have children to help one in one's old age."

Angela reflected on Mr. Fraser's words about her duty to her father,
and for the second time that day she winced beneath Lady Bellamy's
taunt; but, as she returned no answer, her visitor had no alternative
but to drop the subject and depart.

Before she went, however, she had a few words with Philip, urging the
serious state of George's health and the terms of his grandfather's
will, which prevented him from leaving the estates to himself, as a
reason why he should put pressure on Angela. Somewhat, but not
altogether to her surprise, he refused in these terms:

"I don't know to what depths you have gone in this business, and it is
no affair of mine to inquire, but I have kept to my share of the
bargain and I expect you to keep to yours. If you can bring about the
marriage with George, well or ill, on the terms I have agreed upon
with him, I shall throw no obstacle in the way; but as for my trying
to force Angela into it, I should never take the responsibility of
doing so, nor would she listen to me. If she speaks to me on the
subject I shall point out how the family will be advantaged, and leave
the matter to her. Further I will not go."



                             CHAPTER LII

Three days after her conversation with Lady Bellamy, Angela received
the following letter:--


                                 "Isleworth Hall, Roxham, May 2.

 "Dear Cousin Angela,

 "My kind and devoted friend, Lady Bellamy, has told me that she has
  spoken to you on a subject which is very near to my heart, and
  that you have distinctly declined to have anything to do with it.
  Of course I know that the matter lies entirely within your own
  discretion, but I still venture to lay the following points before
  you. There have, I am aware, been some painful passages between us
  --passages which, under present circumstances, had much better be
  forgotten. So, first, I ask you to put them quite out of your
  mind, and to judge of what I have to propose from a very different
  point of view.

 "I write, Angela, to ask you to marry me it is true (since,
  unfortunately, my health will not allow me to ask you in person),
  but it is a very different offer from that which I made you in the
  lane when you so bitterly refused me. Now I am solely anxious that
  the marriage should take place in order that I may be enabled to
  avoid the stringent provisions of your grandfather's will, which,
  whilst forbidding me to leave these estates back to your father or
  his issue, fortunately does not forbid a fictitious sale and the
  settlement of the sum, or otherwise. But I will not trouble you
  with these legal details.

 "In short, I supplanted your father in youth, and I am now anxious
  to make every reparation in my power, and at present I am quite
  unable to make any. Independently of this, it pains me to think of
  the estate passing away from the old stock, and I should like to
  know that you, who have been the only woman whom I have felt true
  affection for, will one day come into possession of it. Of course,
  as you understand, the marriage would be _nothing but a form_, and
  if, as I am told, you object to its being gone through with the
  ceremonies of the Church, it could be made equally legal at a
  registry office.

 "But please understand, Angela, that I do not wish to press you: it
  is for you to judge. Only you must judge quickly, for I am a fast-
  dying man, and am anxious to get this matter off my mind one way
  or other, in order that I may be able to give it fully to the
  consideration of subjects of more vital importance to one in my
  condition, than marrying and giving in marriage.

                     "Ever, dear cousin Angela,
                                 "Affectionately yours,
                                              "George Caresfoot."

 "P.S.--Remember you have your father to consider in this matter as
  well as yourself."


The receipt of this letter plunged Angela into the greatest distress
of mind. It was couched in a tone so courteous and so moderate that it
carried with it conviction of its sincerity and truth. If she only had
been concerned, she would not long have hesitated, but the idea of her
duty to her father rose up before her like a cloud. What was her true
duty under the circumstances? there was the rub!

She took the letter to Mr. Fraser and asked his advice. He read it
carefully, and thought a long while before he answered. The idea of
Angela being united to anybody in marriage, even as a matter of form,
was naturally abominable to him, but he was far too honourable and
conscientious a man to allow his personal likes or dislikes to
interfere with whatever he considered to be his duty. But in the end
he found it impossible to give any fixed opinion.

"My dear," he said, "all that I can suggest is that you should take it
to your father and hear what he has got to say. After all, it is he
who must have your true welfare most at heart. It was into his hands
that I heard your mother, in peculiarly solemn words, consign you and
your interests. Take it to your father, dear, there is no counsel like
that of a father."

Had Mr. Fraser been the father, this would, doubtless, have been true
enough. But though he had known him for so many years, and was privy
to much of his history, he did not yet understand Philip Caresfoot.
His own open and guileless nature did not easily suspect evil in
another, more especially when that other was the father of her whom he
looked upon as the earthly incarnation of all that was holy and pure.

Angela sighed and obeyed--sighed from doubt, obeyed from duty. She
handed the letter to Philip without a word--without a word he read it.

"I want your opinion, father," she said. "I wish to do what is right.
You know how painful what has happened has been for me. You know--or,
if you do not know, you must have guessed--how completely shattered my
life is. As for this marriage, the whole thing is repugnant to me;
personally, I had rather sacrifice fifty properties than go through
it, but I know that I ought to think of others. Mr. Fraser tells me
that it is my duty to consult you, that you will naturally have my
interest most at heart, that it was into your hands and to your care
that my mother consigned me on her deathbed. Father"--and she clasped
her hands and looked him full in the face with her earnest eyes--"Mr.
Fraser is right, it must be for you to decide. I will trust you
entirely, and leave the burden of decision to your honour and
generosity; only I say, spare me if you can."

Philip rose and went to look out of the window, that he might hide the
evident agitation of his face and the tremor of his limbs. He felt
that the crucial moment had come. All his poor sophistry, all his
miserable shuffling and attempts to fix the responsibility of his acts
on others, had recoiled upon his own head. She had come to him and
laid the burden on his heart. What should he answer? For a moment the
shades--for with him they were only shades--of good angels gained the
upper hand, and he was about to turn and look her in the face--for
then he felt he could have looked her in the face--and bid her have
nothing to do with George and his proposals. But, even in the act of
turning to obey the impulse, his eyes fell upon the roof of Isleworth
Hall, which, standing on an eminence, could easily be seen from the
Abbey House, and his mind, quicker than the eye, flew to the outlook
place upon that roof where he had so often climbed as a boy, and
surveyed the fair champaign country beyond it; meadow and wood, fallow
and cornland, all of which were for him involved in that answer. He
did not stop turning, but--so quick is the working of the mind--he
changed the nature of his answer. The real presence of the demon of
greed chased away the poor angelic shadows.

"It would not be much of a sacrifice for you, Angela, to go through
this form; he is a dying man, and you need not even change your name.
The lands are mine by right, and will be yours. It will break my heart
to lose them, after all these years of toiling to save enough to buy
them. But I do not wish to force you. In short, I leave the matter to
your generosity, as you would have left it to mine."

"And suppose that I were to marry my cousin George, and he were not to
die after all, what would be my position then? You must clearly
understand that, to save us all from starvation, I would never be his
wife."

"You need not trouble yourself with the question. He is a dead man; in
two months' time he will be in the family vault."

She bowed her head and left him--left him with his hot and glowing
greed, behind which crept a terror.

Next morning, George Caresfoot received the following letter:


                                          "Bratham Abbey, May 5.

 "Dear Cousin George,

 "In reply to your letter, I must tell you that I am willing to go
  through the form of marriage with you--at a registry-office, not
  in church--in order to enable you to carry out the property
  arrangements you wish to make. You must, however, clearly
  understand that I do not do this on my own account, but simply
  and solely to benefit my father, who has left the matter to my
  'generosity.' I must ask you as a preliminary step to make a copy
  of and sign the enclosed letter addressed to me. Our lives are in
  the hand of God, and it is possible that you might be restored to
  health. In such an event, however improbable it may seem, it
  cannot be made too plain that I am not, and have never in any
  sense undertaken to be, your wife.

                                        "Truly yours,
                                              "Angela Caresfoot."


The enclosure ran as follows:


 "I, George Caresfoot, hereby solemnly promise before God that under
  no possible circumstance will I attempt to avail myself of any
  rights over my cousin, Angela Caresfoot, and that I will leave her
  as soon as the formal ceremony is concluded, and never again
  attempt to see her except by her own wish; the so-called marriage
  being only contemplated in order to enable me to carry out certain
  business arrangements which, in view of the failing state of my
  health, I am anxious to enter into."


This letter and its curious enclosure, surely the oddest marriage
contract which was ever penned, George, trembling with excitement,
thrust into the hands of Lady Bellamy. She read them with a dark
smile.

"The bird is springed," she said, quietly. "It has been a close thing,
but I told you that I should not fail, as I have warned you of what
will follow your success. Sign this paper--this waste-paper--and
return it."



                             CHAPTER LIII

By return of post Angela received her strange agreement, duly copied
and signed, and after this the preparations for the marriage went on
rapidly. But where such a large transaction is concerned as the sale
of between three and four thousand acres of land, copyhold and
freehold, together with sundry rent-charges and the lordship of six
manors, things cannot be done in a minute.

Both George and Philip and their respective lawyers--Sir John would
have nothing to do with the matter--did their best to expedite
matters, but unfortunately some legal difficulty arose in connection
with the transfer, and who can hurry the ponderous and capricious
machinery of the law?

At length it became clear to all concerned, except Angela, that it
would be impossible for the marriage to take place before the eighth
of June, and it also became clear that that was the last possible day
on which it could take place. George begged Philip (by letter, being
too ill to come and see him) to allow the marriage to be gone through
with at once, and have the business transactions finished afterwards.
But to this Philip would not consent; the title-deeds, he said, must
be in his possession before it took place, otherwise he would have no
marriage. George had therefore no option but to accept his terms.

When Angela was told of the date fixed for the ceremony--she would not
allow the word marriage to be mentioned in connection with it--she at
first created considerable consternation by quietly announcing that
she would not have it performed until the tenth of June. At last,
however, when matters were growing serious, and when she had treated
all the pressure that it was possible to put upon her with quiet
indifference--for, as usual, her father declined to interfere, but
contented himself with playing a strictly passive part--she suddenly
of her own mere motion, abolished the difficulty by consenting to
appear before the registrar on the eighth of June, as George wished.

Her reasons for having objected to this date in the first instance
will be easily guessed. It was the day before the anniversary of
Arthur's departure, an anniversary which it was her fancy to dedicate
solely to his memory. But as the delay appeared--though she could not
altogether understand why--to put others to great inconvenience, and
as George's state of health had become such as to render postponement,
even for a couple of days of doubtful expediency, and as, moreover,
she decided on reflection that she could better give her thoughts to
her dead lover when she had gone through with the grim farce that hung
over her, she suddenly changed her mind.

Occasionally they brought her documents to sign, and she signed them
without a question, but on the whole she treated the affair with
considerable apathy, the truth being that it was repugnant to her
mind, which she preferred to occupy with other and very different
thoughts. So she let it go. She knew that she was going to do a thing
which was dreadful to her, because she believed it to be her duty, but
she comforted herself with the reflection that she was amply secured
against all possible contingencies by her previous agreement with
George. Angela's knowledge of the marriage-law of her country and of
what constituted a legal document was not extensive.

For this same reason, because it was distasteful, she had never said
anything of her contemplated marriage to Pigott, and it was quite
unknown in the neighbourhood. Since the Miss Lee scandal and his
consequent disinheritance, nobody had visited Philip Caresfoot, and
those who took interest in him or his affairs were few. Indeed the
matter had been kept a dead secret. But on the seventh of June, being
the day previous to the ceremony, Angela went down to her nurse's
cottage and told her what was about to be done, suppressing, however,
from various motives, all mention of her agreement with George. It
added to her depression to find that Pigott was unaccountably
disturbed at the news.

"Well, miss," she said,--"Lord, to think that I sha'n't be able to
call you that no longer--I haven't got nothing in particular to say
agin it, seeing that sure enough the man's a-dying, as I has on good
authority from my own aunt's cousin, her that does the servants'
washing up at the Hall, and mighty bad she does it, begging of her
pardon for the disparagement, and so he won't trouble you for long,
and somehow it do seem as though you hadn't got no choice left in the
matter, just as though everybody and everything was a-quietly pushing
you into it. But, miss, somehow I don't like it, to be plain; a
marriage as ain't no marriage ain't altogether natural like, and in an
office, too, along with a man as you would not touch with a pair of
tongs, and that man on his last leg. I'm right down sorry if I makes
you feel uncomfortable, dearie; but, bless me, I don't know how it is,
but, when a thing sticks in my mind, I'm as bound to hawk it up as
though it were a bone in my throat."

"I don't like it any more than you do, nurse, but perhaps you don't
understand all about the property being concerned, and about its
having to pass away from my father, if I don't do this. I care nothing
about the property, but he left it to 'my generosity!' Arthur is dead;
and he left it to 'my generosity,' nurse. What could I do?"

"Well, miss, you're acting according to what you thinks right and due
to your father, which is more nor I does; and poor, dead Mr. Arthur up
in Heaven there will make a note of that, there ain't no manner of
doubt. And somehow it do seem that things can't be allowed to go wrong
with you, my dear, seeing how you're a-sacrificing of yourself and of
your wishes to benefit others."

This conversation did not tend to put Angela into better spirits, but
she felt that it was now too late to recede.

Whilst Angela was talking to Pigott, Sir John and Lady Bellamy were
paying a call at Isleworth. They found George lying on the sofa in the
dining-room, in which, though it was the first week in June, a fire
was burning on the hearth. He bore all the signs of a man in the last
stage of consumption. The hollow cough, the emaciation, and the hectic
hue upon his face, all spoke with no uncertain voice.

"Well, Caresfoot, you scarcely look like a bridegroom, I must say,"
said little Sir John, looking as pleased as though he had made an
eminently cheerful remark.

"No, but I am stronger than I look; marriage will cure me."

"Humph! will it? Then you will be signally fortunate."

"Don't croak, Bellamy. I am happy to-day--there is fire dancing along
my veins. Just think, this time to-morrow Angela will be my legal
wife!"

"Well, you appear to have given a good price for the privilege, if
what Anne tells me is correct. To sell the Isleworth estates for fifty
thousand, is to sell them for a hundred and fifty thousand less than
they are worth. Consequently, the girl costs you a hundred and fifty
thousand pounds--a long figure that for one girl."

"Bah! you are a cold-blooded fellow, Bellamy. Can't you understand
that there is a positive delight in ruining oneself for the woman one
loves? And then, think how she will love me, when she comes to
understand what she has cost me. I can see her now. She will come and
kiss me--mind you, kiss me of her own free will--and say, 'George, you
are a noble fellow; George, you are a lover that any woman may be
proud of; no price was too heavy for you.' Yes, that is what she will
say, that sort of thing, you know."

Sir John's merry little eye twinkled with inexpressible amusement, and
his wife's full lips curled with unutterable contempt.

"You are counting your kisses before they are paid for," she said.
"Does Philip come here this afternoon to sign the deeds?"

"Yes; they are in the next room. Will you come and see them?"

"Yes, I will. Will you come, John?"

"No, thank you. I don't wish to be treated to any more of your
ladyship's omens. I have long ago washed my hands of the whole
business. I will stop here and read the _Times_."

They went out, George leaning on Lady Bellamy's arm.

No sooner had they gone than Sir John put down the _Times_, and
listened intently. Then he rose, and slipped the bolt of that door
which opened into the hall, thereby halving his chances of
interruption. Next, listening at every step, his round face, which was
solemn enough now, stretched forward, and looking for all the world
like that of some whiskered puss advancing on a cream-jug, he crept on
tiptoe to the iron safe in the corner of the room. Arrived there, he
listened again, and then drew a little key from his pocket, and
inserted it in the lock; it turned without difficulty.

"Beau-ti-ful," murmured Sir John; "but now comes the rub." Taking
another key, he inserted it in the lock of the subdivision. It would
not turn. "One more chance," he said, as he tried a second. "Ah!" and
open came the lid. Rapidly he extracted two thick bundles of letters.
They were in Lady Bellamy's handwriting. Then he relocked the
subdivision, and the safe itself, and put the keys away in his
trousers and the packets in his coat-tail pockets, one in each, that
they might not bulge suspiciously. Next he unbolted the door, and,
returning, gave way to paroxysms of exultation too deep for words.

"At last," he said, stretching his fat little fist towards the room
where George was with Lady Bellamy, "at last, after twenty years of
waiting, you are in my power, my lady. Time _has_ brought its revenge,
and if before you are forty-eight hours older you do not make
acquaintance with a bitterness worse than death, then my name is not
John Bellamy. I will repay you every jot, and with interest, too, my
lady!"

Then he calmed himself, and, ringing a bell, told the servant to tell
Lady Bellamy that he had walked on home. When, an hour and a half
later, she reached Rewtham House, she found that her husband had been
suddenly summoned to London on a matter of business.



That night in her desolation Angela cast herself upon the floor with
outstretched arms and wept for her dead lover, and for the shame which
overshadowed her. And the moon travelling up the sky, struck her,
shining coldly on her snowy robe and rounded form--glinting on the
stormy gold of her loosed hair--flooding all the room with light: till
the white floor gleamed like a silver shrine, and she lay there a
weeping saint. Then she rose and crept to such rest as utter weariness
of body and mind can give.



All that night, too, George Caresfoot paced, hungry-eyed, up and down,
up and down the length of his great room, his gaze fixed on the
windows which commanded Bratham, like that of some caged tiger on a
desired prey.

"To-morrow," he kept muttering; till the first ray of the rising sun
fell blood-red upon his wasted form, and then, bathing his thin hands
in its beams, he sank down exhausted, crying exultingly, "not
to-morrow, but _to-day_."



That night Lady Bellamy sat at an open window, rising continually to
turn her dark eyes upon the starry heavens above her.

"It is of no use," she said at last, "my knowledge fails me, my
calculations are baffled by a quantity I cannot trace. I am face to
face with a combination that I cannot solve. Let me try once more! Ah,
supposing that the unknown quantity is a directing will which at the
crisis shatters laws, and overrides even the immutability of the
unchanging stars! I have heard of such a thing. Let me change the
positions of our opposing planets, and then, see, it would all be
clear as day. George vanishes, that I knew before. She sails
triumphant through overshadowing influences towards a silver sky. And
I, is it death that awaits me? No, but some great change; there the
pale light of my fading star would fall into her bright track. Bah, my
science fails, I can no longer prophesy. My knowledge only tells me of
great events, of what use is such knowledge as that? Well, come what
may, fate will find one spirit that does not fear him. As for this,"
and she pointed towards the symbols and calculations, "I have done
with it. Henceforth I will devote myself to the only real powers which
can enlighten us. Yet there is humiliation in failure after so many
years of study. It is folly to follow a partial truth of which we miss
the keynote, though we sometimes blunder on its harmonies."



                             CHAPTER LIV

The arrangement for the morrow was that Angela and her father were to
take a fly to Roxham, where the registry office was, and whither
George was also to be conveyed in a close carriage; that the ceremony
was then to be gone through, after which the parties were to separate
and return to their respective homes. Mr. Fraser had been asked to
attend, but had excused himself from doing so.

In pursuance of this programme, Angela and her father left the Abbey
House about ten o'clock and drove in silence to the town. Strange as
it may seem, Angela had never been in a town before, and, in the
curious condition of her mind, the new sight of busy streets
interested her greatly, and served to divert her attention till they
reached the door of the office. She alighted and was shown with Philip
into a waiting-room. And here, for some unexplained reason, a great
fear took hold of her, a terror of this ceremony which now loomed
large and life-like before her.

"Father," she said, suddenly, after a moment of irresolution, "I am
going home. I will not go on with this business."

"What can you mean, Angela?"

"I mean what I say. I never realized how dreadful it all was till now;
it has come upon me like a revelation. Come, I am going."

"Angela, don't be a fool. You forget that George will be here in a
minute, and that the settlements are all signed."

"Then he can go back again and the settlements can be torn up. I will
not go on with it."

Philip was by this time almost beside himself with anxiety. After
having thus with thought and toil, and by the aid of a blessed chance,
lifted this delicious cup to his lips, was it to be dashed from him?
Were the sweet dreams so near approaching to realization, in which he
had been wrapped for so many days, all to be dissipated into thin air?
Was he to lose the land after all, after he had fingered--oh! how
lovingly--the yellow title-deeds? For, alas! the sale depended on the
marriage. It could not be, neither fate nor Angela could be so cruel.
He turned upon her with the boldness of despair.

"Angela, you must not go on like this, after having agreed to the
thing of your own free will. Think of what it involves for me. If you
refuse to marry him now at the last moment, I shall lose the Isleworth
estates. Heavens, to think that so much property should be dependent
upon the mere whim of a girl! Cannot you have a little consideration
for others beside yourself? Do you really mean to sacrifice the hopes
of my whole life, to throw away the only opportunity I can ever have
of righting my wrongs, in order to gratify a sentimental whim? For
God's sake, think a little first before you sacrifice me. You promised
to do it."

Never before had Angela seen her father so strongly excited; he was
positively shaking with agitation. She looked at him steadily, and
with such contempt that, even in his excitement, he quailed before
her.

"Very well, then, I will carry out my promise, dreadful as it is to
me; but remember that it is only because you beg it, and that the
responsibility of its consequences must always remain with you. Now,
are you satisfied?--you will get your land."

Philip's dark face assumed a look of fervent gratitude, but before he
had time to reply, a messenger came to say that "the gentleman" was
waiting.

Her resolve once taken, Angela followed him with an untroubled face
into the room where the registrar, a gentleman neatly dressed in
black, was sitting at a sort of desk. Here the first thing her glance
fell upon was the person of George Caresfoot. Although it was now the
second week in June, he wore a respirator over his mouth and a scarf
round his neck, and coughed very much. These were the first things she
noticed. The next was that he was much thinner, so thin that the
cheek-bones stood out from the level of his face, whilst the little
blood-shot eyes seemed to protrude, giving to his general appearance,
even with the mouth (his worst feature) hidden by the respirator, an
unusually repulsive look. He was leaning on the arm of Lady Bellamy,
who greeted Angela with a smile which the latter fancied had something
of triumph in it.

With the exception of the messenger, who played the part of clerk in
this civil ceremony, there was nobody else in the room. No greetings
were interchanged, and in another moment Angela was standing, dressed
in her funeral black, by George's side before the registrar, and the
ceremony had begun.

But from that moment, although her beautiful face preserved its
composure, she scarcely saw or heard anything of what was going on. It
was as though all the streams of thought in her brain had burst their
banks and mingled in a great and turbulent current. She was filled
with thought, but could seize upon no one idea, whilst within her mind
she heard a sound as of the continuous whirring of broken machinery.

Objects and individuals, real and imagined, presented themselves
before her mental vision, expanded till they filled the heavens with
their bulk, and then shrank and shrank, and vanished into nothing. The
word "wife" struck upon her ears, and seemed to go wailing away,
"wife, wife, wife," through all the illimitable halls of sound, till
they were filled with echoes, and sound itself fell dead against the
silence of the stars.



It was done. She awoke to find herself a married woman. Lady Bellamy
stepped forward with the same half-triumphant smile with which she had
greeted Angela hovering about her lips.

"Let me congratulate you, _Mrs._ Caresfoot," she said; "indeed, I
think I am privileged to do so, for, if I remember right, I was the
first to prophesy this happy event;" and then, dropping her voice so
that Angela alone could hear her, "Do you not remember that I told you
that you would as certainly come to the altar rails within nine months
with George Caresfoot as you would to your death-bed? I said that nine
months ago to-day."

Angela started as though she had been stung.

"Events have been too strong for me," she murmured; "but all this is
nothing but a form, a form that can now be forgotten."

Again Lady Bellamy smiled as she answered,

"Oh, of course, Mrs. Caresfoot, nothing but a form."

Angela's eye fell upon the ring on her finger. She tore it off.

"Take this back," she said, "I have done with it."

"A married woman must wear a ring, Mrs. Caresfoot."

She hurled it upon the floor.

Just then George and Philip returned from a little back-room where
they had been with the registrar, who still remained behind, to sign
the certificate. George advanced upon his wife with a dreadful smile
on his features, removing the respirator as he came. His object was to
kiss her, but she divined it and caught her father by the arm.

"Father," she said, "protect me from this man."

"Protect you, Angela; why, he is your husband!"

"My husband! Have you all agreed to drive me mad?"

Lady Bellamy saw that if something were not done quickly, there would
be a shocking scene, which was the last thing she wanted, so she
seized George and whispered in his ear, after which he followed her
sulkily, turning round from time to time to look at Angela.

On her way from Roxham, Lady Bellamy stopped her carriage at the
telegraph office and went in and wrote a telegram.

"I respect that woman, and she shall have her chance," she said, as
she re-read it previous to handing it to the clerk.

Three hours later Mildred Carr received the following message at
Madeira:


 "From A. B. to Mrs. Carr, Quinta Carr, Madeira:

 "Angela C. married her cousin G. C. this morning."


That night Lady Bellamy dined at Isleworth with George Caresfoot. The
dinner passed over in almost complete silence; George was evidently
plunged in thought, and could not eat, though he drank a good deal.
Lady Bellamy ate and thought too. After the servants had gone, she
began to speak.

"I want my price, George," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean what I say. You are now Angela Caresfoot's husband; give me
back those letters as you promised, I am impatient to break my
chains." He hesitated. "George," she said, in a warning voice, "do not
dare to play with me; I warn you that your power over me is not what
it used to be. Give me back those letters. I have done your wicked
work for you and will have my pay."

"All right, Anne, and so you shall; when will you have them?"

"Now, this instant."

"But I have not got my keys."

"You forget your keys are on your watch-chain."

"Ah, to be sure, so they are. You won't turn round on me when you get
them, will you, Anne?"

"Why should I turn on you? I wish to get the letters, and, if I can,
to have done with you."

He went with a somewhat hesitating step to the iron safe in the corner
of the room and opened it. The he opened the subdivision and rummaged
about there for a while. At last he looked up.

"It is very curious, Anne," he said, in a half-frightened voice, "but
I can't find them."

"George, give me those letters."

"I can't find them, Anne, I can't find them. If you don't believe me,
come and look for yourself. Somebody must have taken them."

She advanced and did as he said. It was evident that the letters were
not there.

"Once before when you were ill you hid them. Where have you hidden
them now?"

"I haven't hidden them, Anne; I haven't, indeed."

She turned slowly and looked him full in the eyes. Her own face was
ashy pale with fury, but she said never a word. Her silence was more
terrible than words. Then she raised her hands and covered her eyes
for a while. Presently she dropped them, and said, in a singularly
soft voice,

"It is over now."

"What do you mean?" he asked, fearfully, for she terrified him.

"I mean a great deal, George Caresfoot. I mean that something has
snapped the bond which bound me to you. I mean that I no longer fear
you, that I have done with you. Use your letters, if you will, you can
harm me no more; I have passed out of the region of your influence,
out of the reach of your revenge. I look on you now and wonder what
the link was between us, for there was a mysterious link. That I
cannot tell. But this I can tell you. I have let go your hand, and you
are going to fall down a great precipice, George, a precipice of which
I cannot see the foot. Yes, it is right that you should cower before
me now; I have cowered before you for more than twenty years. You made
me what I am. I am going into the next room now till my carriage
comes, I did not order it till half-past ten. Do not follow me. But
before I go I will tell you something, and you know I do not make
mistakes. You will never sleep under this roof again, George
Caresfoot, and we shall not meet again alive. You have had a long day,
but your hour has struck."

"Who told you that, woman?" he asked, furiously.

"Last night I read it in the stars, to-night I read it in your face."

And again she looked at him, long and steadily, as he crouched in the
chair before her, and then slowly left the room.

After awhile he roused himself, and began to drink wine furiously.

"Curse her," he said, as the fumes mounted into his brain, "curse her,
she is trying to frighten me with her infernal magic, but she sha'n't.
I know what she is at; but I will be beforehand with her." And,
staggering under the mingled influence of drink and excitement, he
rose and left the house.

Lady Bellamy sat in the drawing-room, and waited for her carriage; at
last she heard the wheels upon the gravel. Then she rose, and rapidly
did something to the great lamp upon the paper-strewn table. As she
shut the door she turned.

"That will do," she said.

In the hall she met the servant coming to announce the carriage.

"Is your master still in the dining-room?" she asked.

"No, my lady."

She laughed a little, and civilly bade the man good-night.



                              CHAPTER LV

Outside the door of the registry-office, Angela and her father had to
make their way through a crowd of small boys, who had by some means or
other found out that a wedding was going on inside, and stood waiting
there, animated by the intention of cheering the bride and the certain
hope of sixpences. But when they saw Angela, her stately form robed in
black, and her sweet face betraying the anguish of her mind, the sight
shocked their sense of the fitness of things, and they slipped off
without a word. Indeed, a butcher's boy, with a turn for expressive
language, remarked in indignation to another of his craft so soon as
they had recovered their spirits.

"Call that a weddin', Bill; why, it's more like a--funeral with the
plumes off; and as for the gal, though she's a 'clipper,' her face was
as pale as a 'long 'un's.'"

Angela never quite knew how she got back to the Abbey House. She only
remembered that she was by herself in the fly, her father preferring
to travel on the box alone with the coachman. Nor could she ever quite
remember how she got through the remainder of that day. She was quite
mazed. But at length it passed, and the night came, and she was
thankful for the night.

About nine o'clock she went up to her bedroom at the top of the house.
It had served as a nursery for many generations of Caresfoots; indeed,
during the last three centuries, hundreds of little feet had pattered
over the old worm-eaten boards. But the little feet had long since
gone to dust, and the only signs of children's play and merriment left
about the place were the numberless scratches, nicks, and letters cut
in the old panelling, and even on the beams which supported the low
ceiling.

It was a lonesome room for a young girl, or, indeed, for anybody whose
nerves were not of the strongest. Nobody slept upon that floor or in
the rooms beneath it, Philip occupying a little closet which joined
his study on the ground floor. All the other rooms were closed, and
tenanted only by rats that made unearthly noises in their emptiness.
As for Jakes and his wife, the only servants on the place, they
occupied a room over the washhouse, which was separate from the main
building. Angela was therefore practically alone in a great house, and
might have been murdered a dozen times over without the fact being
discovered for hours. This did not, however, trouble her much, simply
because she paid no heed to the noises in the house, and was
singularly free from fear of any kind.

On reaching her room, she sat down and began to think of Arthur, and,
as she thought, her mind grew clearer and more at peace. Indeed, it
seemed to her that her dead lover was near, and as though she could
distinguish pulsations of thought which came from him, impinging on
her system, and bringing his presence with them. It is a common
sensation, and occurs to many people of sensitive organization when
asleep or thinking on some one with whom they are in a high state of
sympathy, and doubtless indicates some occult communication. But, as
it chanced, it had never before visited Angela in this form, and she
abandoned herself to its influence with delight. It thrilled her
through and through.

How long she sat thus she could not tell, but presently the
communication, whatever it was, stopped as suddenly as though the
connecting link had been severed. The currents directed by her will
would no longer do her bidding; they could not find their object, or,
frighted by some adverse influence, recoiled in confusion on her
brain. Several times she tried to renew this subtle intercourse that
was so palpable and real, and yet so different from anything else in
the world, but failed. Then she rose, feeling very tired, for those
who thus draw upon the vital energies must pay the penalty of
exhaustion. She took her Bible and read her nightly chapter, and then
undressed and said her prayers, praying with unusual earnestness that
it might please the Almighty in His wisdom to take her to where her
lover was. Her prayers done, she rose, put on a white dressing
wrapper, and, seating herself before the glass, unloosed her hair.
Then she began to brush it, pausing presently to think how Arthur had
admired its colour and the ripples on it. She had been much more
careful of her hair since then, and smiled sadly to herself at her
folly for being so.

Thinking thus, she fell into a reverie, and sat so still that a great
grey rat came noiselessly out of his hole in a corner of the room,
and, advancing into the circle of light round the dressing-table, sat
up on his hind legs to see if he was alone. Suddenly he turned and
scuttled back to his hole in evident alarm, and at the same second
Angela thought that she heard a sound of a different character from
those she was accustomed to in the old house--a sound like the
creaking of a boot. It passed, however, but left an indefinable dread
creeping over her, and chilling the blood in her veins. She began to
expect something, she knew not what, and was fascinated by the
expectation. She would have risen to lock the door, but all strength
seemed to have left her; she was paralysed by the near sense of evil.
Then came a silence as intense as it was lonely.

It was a ghastly moment.

Her back was towards the doorway, for her dressing-table was
immediately opposite the door, which was raised some four feet above
the level of the landing, and approached by as many steps.

Gradually her eyes became riveted on the glass before her, for in it
she thought that she saw the door move. Next second, she was sure that
it _was_ moving, very slowly; the hinges took an age to turn. What
could be behind it? At last it was open, and in the glass Angela saw
framed in darkness _the head and shoulders of George Caresfoot_. At
first she believed that her mind deceived her, that it was an
apparition. No, there was no mistake. But the respirator, the hollow
cough and decrepitude of the morning--where were they?

With horror in her heart, she turned and faced him. Seeing that he was
observed, he staggered into the room with a step which was half
drunken and half jaunty, but which belied the conflict of passions
written on his brow. He spoke--his voice sounded hoarse and hollow,
and was ill-tuned to his words.

"You did not expect me perhaps--wonder how I got here! Jakes let me
in; he has got a proper respect for marital rights, has Jakes. You
looked so pretty, I could not make up my mind to disturb you. Quite a
romantic meeting, is it not?"

"You are a dying man. How did you come here?"

"Dying! my dear wife; not a bit of it. I am no more dying than you
are. I have been ill, it is true, but that is only because you have
fretted me so. The dying was only a little ruse to get your consent.
All is fair in love and war, you know; and of course you never really
believed in that precious agreement. That was nothing but a bit of
maidenly shyness, eh?"

Angela stood still as a stone, a look of horror on her face.

"Then you don't know what you have cost me. Your father's price was a
hundred and fifty thousand, at least that is what it came to, the old
shark! It isn't every man who would come down like for a girl, now is
it? It shows a generous mind, doesn't it?"

Still she uttered not a syllable.

"Angela," he said, changing his tone to one of hoarse earnestness,
"don't look at me like that, because, even if you are a bit put out at
the trick I have played you, just think it was because I loved you so
much, Angela. I couldn't help it, I couldn't really. It is not every
man who would go through all that I have gone through for you; it is
no joke to sham consumption for three months, I can tell you; but we
will have many a laugh over that. Why don't you answer me, instead of
standing there just like the Andromeda in my study?"

The simile was an apt one, the statue of the girl awaiting her awful
fate wore the same hopeless, helpless look of vacant terror which was
upon Angela's face now. But its mention recalled Lady Bellamy and the
ominous incident in which that statue had figured, and he hastened to
drown recollection in action.

"Come," he said, "you will forgive me, won't you? It was all done for
love of you." And he moved towards her.

As he came she seemed to collect her energies; the fear left her face,
and in its stead there shone a great and awful blaze of indignation.

Her brush was still in her hand, and as he drew near she dashed it
full into his face. It was but a light thing, and only staggered him,
but it gave her time to pass him, and reach the still open door. Bare-
footed, she fled like the wind down the passages, and down the stairs.
Uttering an oath, he followed her. But, as she went, she remembered
that she could not run upon the gravel with her naked feet, and, with
this in her mind, she turned to bay by a large window that gave light
to the first-floor landing, immediately opposite which was the
portrait of "Devil" Caresfoot. It was unbolted, and with a single
movement of the hand she flung it open, and stood panting by it in the
full light of the moon. In another moment he was upon her, furious at
the blow, and his face contorted with passion.

"Stop," she cried, "and listen to me. Before I will allow you to touch
me with a single finger, I will spring from here. I would rather
thrust myself into the hands of Providence than into yours, monster
and perjured liar that you are!"

He stopped as she bade him, and commenced to pace round and round her
in a semicircle, glaring at her with wild eyes.

"If you jump from there," he said, "you will only break your limbs; it
is not high enough to kill you. You are my wife, don't you understand?
You are my legal wife, the law is on my side. No one can help you, no
one; you are mine in the sight of the whole world."

"But not yours in the sight of God. It is to Him that I now appeal.
Get back!"

She stretched out her arm, and with her golden hair glimmering in the
moonlight, her white robes, and the anger on her face, looked like
some avenging angel driving a fiend to hell. He shrank away from her,
and there came a pause, and, save for their heavy breathing, stillness
again fell upon the house, whilst the picture that hung above them
seemed, in the half light, to follow them with its fierce eyes, as
though it were a living thing.

The landing where they stood looked upon the hall below, at the end of
which was Philip's study. Suddenly its door burst open, and Philip
himself passed through it, grasping a candlestick in one hand and some
parchments in the other. His features were dreadful to see, resembling
those of a dumb thing in torture; his eyes protruded, his livid lips
moved, but no sound came from them. He staggered across the hall with
terror staring from his face.

"Father, father," called Angela; but he took no notice--he did not
even seem to hear.

Presently they heard the candlestick thrown with a clash upon the hall
pavement, then the front door slammed, and he was gone, and at that
moment a great ruddy glow shot up the western sky, then a tongue of
flame, then another and another.

"See," said Angela, with a solemn laugh, "I did not appeal for help in
vain."

Isleworth Hall was in flames.



                             CHAPTER LVI

Arthur did not delay his departure from Madeira. The morning following
Mildred's ball he embarked on board a Portuguese boat, a very dirty
craft which smelt of garlic and rancid oil, and sailed for Lisbon. He
arrived there safely, and mooned about that city for a while, himself
a monument of serious reflections, and then struck across into Spain,
where he spent a month or so inspecting the historical beauties of
that fallen country. Thence he penetrated across the Pyrenees into
Southern France, which was pleasant in the spring months. Here he
remained another month, meeting with no adventures worthy of any note,
and improving his knowledge of the French language. Tiring at last of
this, he travelled to Paris, and went to the theatres, but found his
own thoughts too absorbing to allow of his taking any keen interest in
their sensationalisms; so, after a brief stay, he made his way up to
Brittany and Normandy, and went in for inspecting old castles and
cathedrals, and finally ended up his continental travels by spending a
week on the island rock of Saint Michel.

This place pleased him more than any he had visited. He liked to
wander about among the massive granite pillars of that noble
ecclesiastical fortress, and at night to watch the phosphoric tide
come rushing in with all the speed of a race-horse, over the wide
sands, which separate it from the mainland. There the thirty-first day
of May found him, and he bethought him that it was time to return to
London and see about getting the settlements drawn and ordering the
wedding bouquet. To speak the truth, he thought more about the bouquet
than the settlements.

He arrived in London on the first of June, and went to see his family
lawyer, a certain Mr. Borley, who had been solicitor to the trust
during his minority.

"Bless me, Heigham, how like your father you have grown!" said that
legal gentleman, as soon as Arthur was ensconced in the client's chair
--a chair that, had it been endowed with the gift of speech, could
have told some surprising stories. "It seems only the other day that
he was sitting there dictating the terms of his will, and yet that was
before the Crimean war, more than twenty years ago. Well, my boy, what
is it?"

Arthur, thus encouraged, entered into a rather blundering recital of
the circumstances of his engagement.

Mr. Borley did not say much, but, from his manner and occasional
comments, it was evident that he considered the whole story very odd--
regarding it, indeed, with some suspicion.

"I must tell you frankly, Mr. Heigham," he said, at last, "I don't
quite understand this business. The young lady, no doubt, is charming
--young ladies, looking at them from my clients' point of view, always
are--but I can't say I like your story about her father. Why did you
not tell me all this before? I might then have been able to give you
some advice worth having, or, at any rate, to make a few confidential"
--he laid great emphasis on the word "confidential"--"inquiries."

Arthur replied that it had not occurred to him to do so.

"Umph, pity--great pity; but there is no time for that sort of thing
now, if you think you are going to get married on the tenth; so I
suppose the only thing to do is to go through with it and await the
upshot. What do you wish done?"

Arthur explained his views, which apparently included settling all his
property on his bride in the most absolute fashion possible. To this
Mr. Borley forcibly objected, and in the end Arthur had to give way
and make such arrangements as the old gentleman thought proper--
arrangements differing considerably from those proposed by himself.

This interview over, he had other and pleasanter duties to perform,
such as ordering his wedding clothes, making arrangements with a
florist for the bridal bouquet, and last, but not least, having his
mother's diamonds re-set as a present for his bride.

But still the days went very slowly, there seemed to be no end to
them. He had no relations to go and see, and in his present anxious
excited state he preferred to avoid his friends and club
acquaintances. Fifth, sixth, seventh; never did a schoolboy await the
coming of the day that marked the advent of his holidays with such
intense anxiety.

At length the eighth of June arrived. Months before, he had settled
what his programme should be on that day. His promise, as the reader
may remember, forbade him to see Angela till the ninth, that is, at
any hour after twelve on the night of the eighth, or, practically, as
early as possible on the following morning. Now the earliest train
would not get him down to Roxham till eleven o'clock, which would
involve a wicked waste of four or five hours of daylight that might be
spent with Angela, so he wisely resolved to start on the evening of
the eighth, by a train leaving Paddington at six o'clock, and reaching
Roxham at nine.

The day he spent in signing the settlements, finally interviewing the
florist, and giving him directions as to forwarding the wedding-
bouquet, which was to be composed of orange-blossoms, lilies of the
valley, and stephanois, and in getting the marriage-license. But,
notwithstanding these manifold employments, he managed to be three-
quarters of an hour before his train, the longest forty-five minutes
he ever spent.

He had written to the proprietor of the inn at Rewtham, where he had
slept a year ago the night after he had left Isleworth, to send a gig
to meet him at the station, and, on arriving at Roxham, a porter told
him that a trap was waiting for him. On emerging from the station,
even in the darkness, he was able to recognize the outlines of the
identical vehicle which had conveyed him to the Abbey House some
thirteen months ago, whilst the sound of an ancient, quavering voice
informed him that the Jehu was likewise the same. His luggage was soon
bundled up behind, and the steady-going old nag departed into the
darkness.

"Well, Sam, do you remember me?"

"Well, no, sir, I can't rightly say how I do: wait a bit; bean't you
the gemman as travels in the dry line, and as I seed a-kissing the
chambermaid?"

"No, I don't travel at present, and I have not kissed a chambermaid
for some time. Do you remember driving a gentleman over to the Abbey
House a year or so ago?"

"Why, yes, in course I does. Lord, now, and be you he? and we seed old
Devil's Caresfoot's granddaughter. Ah! many's the time that he has
damned me, and all so soft and pleasant like; but it was his eyes that
did the trick. They was awful, just awful; and you gave me half-a-
crown, you did. But somehow I thought I heard summat about you, sir,
but I can't rightly remember what it be, my head not being so good as
it used to."

"Perhaps you heard what I was going to be married?"

"No. I don't think how as it was that neither."

"Well, never mind me; have you seen Miss Caresfoot--the young lady you
saw the day you drove me to the Abbey House--anywhere about lately?"

Arthur waited for the old man's lingering answer with all his heart
upon his lips.

"Lor', yes, sir, that I have; I saw her this morning driving through
the Roxham market-place."

"And how did she look?"

"A bit pale, I thought, sir; but well enough, and wonnerful handsome."

Arthur gave a sigh of relief. He felt like a man who has just come
scatheless through some horrible crisis, and once more knows the sweet
sensation of safety. What a load the old man's words had lifted from
his mind? In his active imagination he had pictured all sorts of evils
which might have happened to Angela during his year of absence. Lovers
are always prone to such imaginings, and not altogether without
reason, for there would seem to be a special power of evil that
devotes itself to the derangement of their affairs, and the ingenious
disappointment of their hopes. But now the vague dread was gone,
Angela was not spirited away or dead, and to know her alive was to
know her faithful.

As they drove along, the old ostler continued to volunteer various
scraps of information which fell upon his ears unheeded, till
presently his attention was caught by the name Caresfoot.

"What about him?" he asked, quickly.

"He be a-dying, they do say."

"Which of them?"

"Why, the red-haired one, him as lives up at the Hall yonder."

"Poor fellow," said Arthur, feeling quite fond of George in his
happiness.

They had by this time reached the inn, where he had some supper, for
old Sam's good news had brought back his appetite, which of late had
not been quite up to par, and then went straight to his room that
faced towards the Abbey House. It was, he noticed, the same in which
he had slept the year before, and looking at the bed he remembered his
dream, and smiled as he thought that the wood was passed, and before
him lay nothing but the flowery meadows. Mildred Carr, too, crossed
his mind, but of her he did not think much, not that he was by any
means heartless--indeed, what had happened had pained him acutely, the
more so because his own conscience told him he had been a fool. He was
very sorry, but, love being here below one of the most selfish of the
passions, he had not time to be sorry just then.

For just on the horizon he could distinguish a dense mass which was
the trees surrounding the Abbey House, and between the trees there
glimmered a faint light which might proceed from some rising star, or
from Angela's window. He preferred to believe it was the latter. The
propinquity made him very happy. What was she doing? he wondered--
sitting by her window and thinking of him! He would ask her on the
morrow. It was worth while going through that year of separation in
order to taste the joy of meeting. It seemed like a dream to think
that within six-and-thirty hours he would probably be Angela's
husband, and how nobody in the world would be able to take her away
from him. He stretched out his arms towards her.

"My darling, my darling," he cried aloud into the still night. "My
darling, my darling," the echo answered sadly.



                             CHAPTER LVII

That night Arthur dreamed no evil dreams, but he thought he heard a
sound outside his door, and some one speak of fire. Hearing nothing
more, he turned and went to sleep again. Waking in the early dawn he
felt, ere yet his senses fully came, a happy sense of something, he
knew not what, a rosy shadow of coming joy, such as will, only with
more intensity, fall upon our quickened faculties when, death ended,
our souls begin to stir as we awaken to Eternity.

He sprang from his bed, and his eye fell on a morocco case upon the
dressing-table. It contained the diamonds which he had had re-set as a
wedding present to Angela. They were nothing compared with Mildred
Carr's, but still extremely handsome, their beauty being enhanced by
the elegance of the setting, which was in the shape of a snake with
emerald head and ruby eyes, so constructed as to clasp tightly round
Angela's shapely throat.

The sight of the jewellery at once recalled his present circumstances,
and he knew that the long hour of trial was passed--he was about to
meet Angela. Having dressed himself as quickly as he could, he took up
the jewel-case, but, finding it too large to stow away, he opened it,
and, taking out the necklace, crammed it into his pocket. Thus armed
he slipped down the stairs, past the open common room where the light
shone through the cracks in the shutters on a dismal array of sticky
beer-mugs and spirit glasses, down the sanded passage into the village
street.

It was full daylight now, and the sun never looked upon a lovelier
morning. The air was warm, but there was that sharp freshness in it
which is needful to make summer weather perfect, and which we always
miss by breakfasting at nine o'clock. The sky was blue, just flecked
with little clouds; the dewdrops sparkled upon every leaf and blade of
grass; touches of mist clung about the hollows, and the sweet breath
of the awakened earth was full of the perfect scent of an English
June, which is in its way even more delicious than the spicy odours of
the tropics. It was a morning to make sick men well, and men happy,
and atheists believers in a creative hand. How much more than did it
fire Arthur's pulses, already bounding with youth and health, with an
untold joy.

He felt like a child again, so free from care, so happy, except that
his heart swelled with a love beyond the knowledge of children. His
quick temperament had rebounded from the depths of unequal depression,
into which it so often fell, to the heights of a happy assurance. The
Tantalus cup was at his lips at last, and he would drink his full, be
sure! His eyes flashed and sparkled, his foot fell light and quick as
an antelope's, his brown cheek glowed--never had he looked so
handsome. Angela would not forget her promise; she would be waiting
for him by the lake, he was sure of that, and thither he made his way
through the morning sunshine. They were happy moments.

Presently he passed into the parish of Bratham, and his eye fell upon
a neat red brick cottage, a garden planted with sunflowers, and a
bright gravel path running to the rustic gate. He thought the garden
charmingly old-fashioned, and had just entered a mental note to ask
Angela who lived there, when the door opened, and figure he knew
emerged, bearing a mat in one hand and a mopstick in the other. He was
some way off, and at first could not quite distinguish who it was; but
before she had come to the gate he recognized Pigott. By this time she
had stepped into the road, and was making elaborate preparations to
dust her mat so that she did not see him, till he spoke to her.

"How are you, Pigott? What may you be doing down here? Why are you not
up at the Abbey?"

She gave a cry, and the mat and mopstick fell from her hands.

"Mr. Heigham!" she said, in an awed voice that chilled his blood,
"what has brought you back, and why do you come to me? I never wronged
you."

"What are you talking about? I have come to marry Angela, of course.
We are going to be married to-morrow."

"Oh, then it's really _you_, sir! _And she married yesterday--oh, good
God!_"

"Don't laugh at me, nurse--please don't laugh. It--it upsets me. Why
do you shake so? What do you mean?"

"Mean!--I mean that my Angela _married her cousin, George Caresfoot,
at Roxham, yesterday._ Heaven forgive me for having to tell it you!"

Reader, have you ever mortally wounded a head of large game? You hear
your bullet thud upon the living flesh, and see the creature throw up
its head and stagger for a moment, and then plunge forward with
desperate speed, crashing through bush and reeds as though they were
meadow-grass. Follow him awhile, and you will find him standing quite
still, breathing in great sighs, his back humped and his eye dim, the
gore trickling from his nostrils. He is dying--but be careful, he
means mischief before he dies.

Any great shock, mental or physical, is apt to reduce man to the level
of his brother beasts. Arthur, for instance, behaved very much like a
wounded buffalo as soon as the stun of the blow passed away, and the
rending pain began to make itself felt. For a few seconds he gazed
before him stupid and helpless, then his face turned quite grey, the
eyes and nostrils gaped wide, and a curious rigidity took possession
of his muscles.

The road he was following led to a branching lane, the same that
Angela was turning up that misty Christmas Eve when she saw Lady
Bellamy glide past in her carriage. This lane had in former ages, no
doubt, to judge from its numerous curves, been an ancient forest-path,
and it ran to the little bridge over the stream that fed the lake--a
point that, by travelling as the crow flies from Pigott's cottage,
might be reached in half the time. This fact Arthur seemed at that
dreadful moment to suddenly realize, more probably from natural
instinct than from any particular knowledge of the lay of the land. He
did not speak again to Pigott, and she was too frightened at his face
to speak to him. He only looked at her, but she never forgot that look
so long as she lived. Then he turned like a mad thing, and went
_crash_ through the thick fence that hedged the road, and ran at full
speed towards the lake, diverging neither to the right nor to the
left, but breaking his way without the slightest apparent difficulty
through everything that opposed him.

Very soon he came to the little bridge, and here, struck by some new
instinct, he halted. He did not appear to be out of breath, but he
leaned on the rail of the bridge and groaned like a dying man. His
ghastly face made a blot in the mimic scenery of the place, which was
really very pretty. The bridge commanded no view, for the little creek
it spanned, and into which the stream ran, gave a turn before it grew
into the neck of the lake; but it was hedged in by greenery, and the
still pool beneath it was starred with water-lilies, turning their
innocent eyes up to the blue sky, and looking as peaceful as though
there were no stormy winds or waters in the world to toss them.
Amongst these water-lilies a moorhen had built her nest, and presently
she came clucking out right under Arthur's feet, followed by ten or a
dozen little hurrying black balls, each tipped with sealing-wax red.
She looked very happy with her brood--as happy as the lilies and the
blue sky--and the sight made him savage. He took up a large stone that
lay by him and threw it at her. It hit her on the back and killed her,
and Arthur laughed loud as he watched her struggle, and then lie
still, while the motherless chicks hurried, frightened, away. And yet
since he was a boy he had never till now wantonly injured any living
creature.

Presently, the dead water-hen floated out of sight, and he roused
himself, straightened his clothes, which had been somewhat torn and
deranged, and, with a steady step and a fixed smile upon his lips,
went forward, no longer at a run, but walking quietly up the path that
led to the big oak and shaded glen. In five minutes he was there.

Again he paused and looked. There was something to see. On one of the
stone seats, dressed in black, her face deathly pale, her head resting
on her hand, and trouble in her eyes, sat Angela. On the other was her
constant companion, the dog which he had given her. He remembered how,
a little more than a year before, she had surprised him in the same
way, and he had looked upon her and loved her. He could even smile at
the strange irony of fate that had, under such curiously reversed
circumstances, brought him back to surprise her, to look upon her, and
hate her.

She moved uneasily, and glanced round, but he was hidden by a bush.
Then she half rose, paused irresolutely, and, as though struggling
against something foolish, sat determinedly down again. When Arthur
had done smiling, he came forward a few steps into the open, feeling
that his face was all drawn and changed, as indeed it was. It was the
face of a man of fifty. His eyes were fire, and his heart was ice.

She turned her head, and looked up with a shrinking in her eyes, as
though she feared to see something hateful--a shrinking which turned
first to wonder, then to dread, then to a lively joy, and then again
to awe. She rose mechanically, with a great gasp; her lips parted, as
though to speak, but no words came. The dog, too, saw him, and
growled, then ran up and sniffed, and leaped upon him with a yelp of
joy. He waved it down, and there was something in the gesture that
frightened the beast. It shrank behind him. Then he spoke in a clear,
hard tone--not his own voice, she thought.

"Angela, is this true? Are you _married?_"

"Oh, no;" and her voice came stealing to his senses like half-
forgotten music; "that is, yes, alas! But is it really you? Oh,
Arthur, my darling, have you come back to me?" and she moved towards
him with outstretched arms.

Already they were closing round him, and he could feel her breath upon
his cheek, when the charm broke, and he wrenched himself free.

"Get back; do not dare to touch me. Do you know what you are? The poor
lost girl is not fallen so low as you. She must get her bread; but, at
any rate, I could have given you bread. What! fresh from your
husband's arms, and ready to throw yourself into mine! Shame upon you!
Were you not married yesterday?"

"Oh, Arthur, have pity! You do not understand. Oh, merciful God----"

"Have pity! What need for pity? Were you not married yesterday?" and
he laughed bitterly. "I come--I come from far to congratulate the new-
made wife. It is a little odd, though, I thought to marry you myself.
See, here was my wedding present;" and he tore the diamond necklace
from his pocket. "A snake, you see; a good emblem! Away with it, its
use is gone!"

The diamonds went flashing through the sunlight, and fell with a
little splash into the lake.

"What! are you not sorry to see so much valuable property wasted? You
have a keen appreciation of property!"

Angela sank down on her knees before him, like a broken lily. Her
looks grew faint and despairing. The stately head bowed itself to his
feet, and all the golden weight of hair broke loose. But he did not
pause or spare her. He ground his teeth. No one could have recognized
in this maddened, passion-inspired man the pleasant, easy-tempered
Arthur of an hour before. His nature was stirred to its depths, and
they were deep.

"You miserable woman! do not kneel to me. If it were not unmanly, I
could spurn you with my foot. Do you know, girl, you who swore to love
me till time had passed--yes, and for all eternity, you who do love me
at this moment--and therein lies your shame--that you have killed me?
You have murdered my heart. I trusted you, Angela, I trusted you, I
gave you all my life, all that was best in me; and now in reward--
degraded as you are--I must always love you as much as I despise you.
Even now I feel that I _cannot_ hate you and forget you. I _must_ love
you, and I _must_ despise you."

She gazed up at him like a dumb beast at its butcher; she could not
speak, her voice had gone.

"And yet, when I think of it, I have something to thank you for. You
have cleared my mind of illusions. You have taught me what a woman's
purity is worth. You did the thing well, too! You did not crush me by
inches with platitudes, bidding me forget you and not think of you any
more, as though forgetfulness were possible, and thought a tangible
thing that one could kill. You struck home in silence, once and for
all. Thank you for _that_, Angela. What, are you crying? Go back to
the brute whom you have chosen, the brute whose passion or whose money
you could prefer to me, tell him that they are tears of happiness, and
let him kiss them quite away."

"Oh, Arthur--cruel--Arthur!" and nature gave way. She fell fainting on
the grass.

Then, when he saw that she could not understand or feel any more, his
rage died, and he too broke down and sobbed, great, gasping sobs. And
the frightened dog crept up and licked first her face and then his
hand.

Kneeling down, Arthur raised her in his arms and strained her to his
heart, kissing her thrice upon the forehead--the lips he could not
touch. Then he placed her on the seat, leaning her weight against the
tree, and, motioning back the dog, he went his way.



                            CHAPTER LVIII

Arthur took the same path by which he had come--all paths were alike
to him now--but before he had gone ten yards he saw the figure of
George Caresfoot, who appeared to have been watching him. In George's
hand was a riding-whip, for he had ridden from the scene of the fire,
and was all begrimed with smoke and dirt. But this Arthur did not
notice.

"Hullo," he began; "what----" and then he hesitated; there was a look
in Arthur's eyes which he did not like.

But, if George hesitated, Arthur did not. He sprang at him like a wild
cat, and in a second had him by the throat and shoulder. For a moment
he held him there, for in his state of compressed fury George was like
a child in his hands. And as he held him a fierce and almost
uncontrollable desire took possession of him to kill this man, to
throw him down and stamp the life out of him. He conquered it,
however, and loosed the grip on his throat.

"Let me go," shrieked George, as soon as he could get breath.

Arthur cut short his clamours by again compressing his wind-pipe.

"Listen," he said; "a second ago I was very near killing you, but I
remember now that, after all, it is she, not you, who are chiefly to
blame. You only followed your brutal nature, and nothing else can be
expected of a brute. Very likely you put pressure on her, like the cad
that you are, but that does not excuse her, for, if she could not
resist pressure, she is a fool in addition to being what she is. I
look at you and think that soon _she_ will come down to _your_ level,
the level of my successful rival. To be mated to a man like you would
drag an angel down. That will be punishment enough. Now go, you cur!"

He swung him violently from him. His fall was broken by a bramble-
bush. It was not exactly a bed of roses, but George thought it safer
to lie there till his assailant's footsteps had grown faint--he did
not wish to bring him back again. Then he crept out of the bush
smarting all over. Indeed, his frame of mind was altogether not of the
most amiable. To begin with, he had just seen his house--which, as
luck would have it, was the only thing he had not sold to Philip, and
which was also at the moment uninsured, owing to the confusion arising
from the transfer of the property--entirely burnt down. All its
valuable contents too, including a fine collection of pictures and
private papers he by no means wished to lose, were irretrievably
destroyed.

Nor was his mood improved by the recollection of the events of the
previous night, or by the episode of the bramble-bush, illuminated as
it was by Arthur's vigorous language; or by what he had just
witnessed, for he had arrived in time to see, though from a distance,
the last act of the interview between Arthur and Angela.

He had seen him lift her in his arms, kiss her, and place her on the
stone seat, but he did not know that she had fainted. The sight had
roused his evil passions until they raged like the fire he had left.
Then Arthur came out upon him and he made acquaintance with the
bramble-bush as already described. But he was not going to be cheated
out of his revenge; the woman was still left for him to wreak it on.

By the time he reached Angela, her faculties were reawakening; but,
though insensibility had yielded, sense had not returned. She sat upon
the stone seat, upright indeed, but rigid and grasping its angles with
her hands. The dog had gone. In the undecided way common to dogs, when
two people to whom they are equally attached separate, it had at that
moment taken it into its head to run a little way after Arthur.

George marched straight up to her, livid with fury.

"So this is how you go on when your husband is away, is it? I saw you
kissing that young blackguard, though I am not good enough for you.
What, won't you answer? Then it is time that I taught you obedience."

"Swish!" went the heavy whip through the air, and fell across her fair
cheek.

"Will that wake you, eh, or must I repeat the dose?"

The pain of the blow seemed to rouse her. She rose, her loosed hair
falling round her like a golden fleece, and a broad blue stripe across
her ghastly face. She stretched out her hands; she opened her great
eyes, and in them blazed the awful light of madness.

He was standing, whip in hand, with his back to the lake; she faced
him, a breathing, beautiful vengeance, and in a whisper so intense
that the air was full of it, commenced a rambling prayer.

"Oh, God," she said, "bless my dear Arthur! Oh, Almighty Father,
avenge our wrongs!"

She paused and fixed her eyes upon him, and they held him so that he
could not stir. Then, in strange contrast to the hissing whisper,
there broke from her lips a ringing and unearthly laugh that chilled
him to the marrow. So they stood for some seconds.

The sound of angry voices had brought the bulldog back at full speed,
and, at the sight of George's threatening attitude, it halted. It had
always hated him, and now it straightway grew more like a devil than a
dog. The innate fierceness of the great brute awoke; it bristled with
fury till each separate hair stood out in knots against the skin, and
saliva ran from its twitching jaws.

George did not know that it was near him, but Angela's wild eye fell
upon it. Slowly raising her hand, she pointed at it.

"Look behind you," she cried.

The sound of her voice broke the spell that was upon him.

"Come, give me no more of your nonsense," he said, and then, as much
from vague fear and rampant brutality as from any other reason, again
struck her with the whip.

Next second he was aware of a tremendous shock. The dog had seen the
blow, and had instantly launched itself, with all the blind courage of
its race, straight at the striker's throat. It missed its aim,
however, only carrying away a portion of George's under-lip. He yelled
with pain, and struck at it with the whip, and then began a scene
which, in its grotesque horror, beggars all description. Again and
again the dog flew at him, its perfect silence contrasting strangely
with George's shrieks of terror, and the shrill peals of horrible
laughter that came hurrying from Angela's lips as she watched the
struggle.

At last the dog gripped the man by the forearm, and, sinking its great
teeth into the flesh, hung its weight upon it. In vain did George,
maddened by the exquisite pain, dash himself and the dog against the
ground: in vain did he stagger round and round the glen, tearing at
its throat with his uninjured hand. The brute hung grimly on.
Presently there came an end. As he reeled along, howling for help and
dragging his fierce burden with him, George stumbled over a dead bough
which lay upon the bank of the lake, and fell backwards into the
water, exactly at the spot where the foundations of the old boat-house
wall rose to within a few inches of the surface. His head struck
heavily against the stonework, and he and the dog, who would not loose
his grip, lay on it for a moment, then they rolled off together into
the deep pool, the man dragging the dog with him. There were a few
ripples, stained with little red filaments, a few air-bubbles that
marked the exhalation of his last breath, and George's spirit had left
its enclosing body, and gone--whither? Ay, reader, whither had it
gone?



The outcry brought Philip and old Jakes running down to the lake. They
found Angela standing alone on the brink and laughing her wildest.

"See," she cried, as they came panting up, "the bridegroom cometh from
his chamber," and at that moment some unreleased air within the body
brought it up for an instant to the surface, so that the torn and
ghastly face and head emerged for a second as though to look at them.
Then it sank again.

"The brave dog holds him well--ha, ha, ha! He cannot catch me now--ha,
ha, ha! Nor you, Judas, who sold me. Judas! Judas! Judas!" and,
turning, she fled with the speed of the wind.

Mr. Fraser had but just come down, and was walking in his garden, when
he saw this dreadful figure come flying towards him with streaming
hair.

"_Betrayed_," she cried, in a voice which rang like the wail of a lost
soul, and fell on her face at his feet.

When she came back to life they found that she was mad.



                             CHAPTER LIX

The news of George Caresfoot's tragic death was soon common property,
and following as it did so hard upon his marriage, which now was
becoming known, and within a few hours of the destruction of his house
by fire, it caused no little excitement. It cannot be said that the
general feeling was one of very great regret; it was not. George
Caresfoot had commanded deference as a rich man, but he certainly had
not won affection. Still his fate excited general interest and
sympathy, though some people were louder in their regrets over the
death of such a plucky dog as Aleck, than over that of the man he
killed, but then these had a personal dislike of George. When,
however, it came to be rumoured that the dog had attacked George
because George had struck the dog's mistress, general sympathy veered
decidedly towards the dog. By-and-by, as some of the true facts of the
case came out, namely, that Angela Caresfoot had gone mad, that her
lover, who was supposed to be dead, had been seen in Rewtham on the
evening of the wedding, that the news of Mr. Heigham's death had been
concocted to bring about the marriage, and last, but not least, that
the Isleworth estates had passed into the possession of Philip
Caresfoot, public opinion grew very excited, and the dog Aleck was
well spoken of.

When Sir John Bellamy stepped out on the platform at Roxham on his
return from London that day, his practised eye saw at once that
something unusual had occurred. A group of county magistrates
returning from quarter sessions were talking excitedly together whilst
waiting for their train. He knew them all well, but at first they
seemed inclined to let him pass without speaking to him. Presently,
however, one of them turned, and spoke to him.

"Have you heard about this, Bellamy?"

"No; what?"

"George Caresfoot is dead; killed by a bulldog, or something. They say
he was thrashing the girl he married yesterday, his cousin's daughter,
with a whip, and the dog made for him, and they both fell into the
water together and were drowned. The girl has gone mad."

"Good heavens, you don't say so!"

"Yes, I do, though; and I'll tell you what it is, Bellamy, they say
that you and your wife went to Madeira and trumped up a story about
her lover's death in order to take the girl in. I tell you this as an
old friend."

"What? I certainly went to Madeira, and I saw young Heigham there, but
I never trumped up any story about his death. I never mentioned him to
Angela Caresfoot for two reasons, first, because I have not come
across her, and secondly, because I understood that Philip Caresfoot
did not wish it."

"Well, I am glad to hear it, for your sake; but I have just seen
Fraser, and he tells me that Lady Bellamy told the girl of this young
Heigham's death in his own presence, and, what is more, he showed me a
letter they found in her dress purporting to have been written by him
on his death-bed which your wife gave her."

"Of what Lady Bellamy has or has not said or done, I know nothing. I
have no control over her actions."

"Well, I should advise you to look into the business, because it will
all come out at the inquest," and they separated.

Sir John drove homewards, thoughtful, but by no means unhappy. The
news of George's agonizing death was balm to him, he only regretted
that he had not been there--somewhere well out of the way of the dog,
up a tree, for instance--to see it.

As soon as he got home, he sent a message to Lady Bellamy to say he
wished to speak to her. Then he seated himself at his writing-desk,
and waited. Presently he heard his wife's firm step upon the stairs.
He rubbed his dry hands, and smiled a half frightened, wicked little
smile.

"At last," he said. "And now for revenge."

She entered the room, looking rather pale, but calm and commanding as
ever.

"So you have come back," she said.

"Yes. Have you heard the news? _Your flame_, George Caresfoot, is
dead."

"I knew that he was dead. How did he die?"

"Who told you he was dead?"

"No one, I knew it; I told him he would die last night, and I felt him
die this morning. Did she kill him or did Arthur Heigham?"

"Neither, that bulldog flew at him and he fell into the lake."

"Oh, I suppose Angela set it on. I told him that she would win. You
remember the picture falling in the study at Isleworth. It has been a
true omen, you see."

"Angela is mad. The story is all over the country and travelling like
wild-fire. The letter you forged has been found. Heigham was down here
this morning and has gone again, and you, Lady Bellamy, are a
disgraced and ruined woman."

She did not flinch a muscle.

"I know it, it is the result of pitting myself against that girl; but
pray, Sir John, what are you? Was it not you who devised the scheme?"

"You are right, I did, to trap two fools. Anne, I have waited twenty
years, but you have met your master at last."

Lady Bellamy made a slight exclamation and relapsed into silence.

"My plot has worked well. Already one of you is dead, and for you a
fate is reserved that is worse than death. You are henceforth a
penniless outcast, left at forty-two to the tender mercies of the wide
world."

"Explain yourself a little."

"With pleasure. For years I have submitted to your contumely, longing
to be revenged, waiting to be revenged. You thought me a fool, I know,
and compared with you I am; but you do not understand what an amount
of hatred even a fool is capable of. For twenty years, Lady Bellamy, I
have hated you, you will never know how much, though perhaps what I am
going to say may give you some idea. I very well knew what terms you
were on with George Caresfoot, you never took any pains to hide them
from me, you only hid the proofs. I soon discovered indeed that your
marriage to me was nothing but a blind, that I was being used as a
screen forsooth. But your past I could never fathom. I don't look like
a revengeful man, but for all that I have for years sought many ways
to ruin you both, yet from one thing and another they all failed, till
a blessed chance made that brute's blind passion the instrument of his
own destruction, and put you into my hands. You little thought when
you told me all that story, and begged my advice, how I was revelling
in the sense that, proud woman as you are, it must have been an agony
of humiliation for you to have to tell it. It was an instructive scene
that, it assured me of what I suspected before that George Caresfoot
must have you bound to him by some stronger ties than those of
affection, that he must hold you in a grip of iron. It made me think,
too, that if by any means I could acquire the same power, I too should
be able to torture you."

For the first time Lady Bellamy looked up.

"Am I tiring you," he said, politely, "or shall I go on?"

"Go on."

"With your permission, I will ring for a glass of sherry--no, claret,
the day is too hot for sherry," and he rang.

The claret was brought and he drank a glass, remarking with an
affectation of coolness that it was a sound wine for a pound a dozen;
then he proceeded.

"The first thing I have to call your attention to is this Arthur
Heigham plot. At first it may appear that I am involved with you; I am
not. There is not, now that George Caresfoot is dead, one tittle of
evidence against me except your own, and who will believe _you?_ You
are inculpated up to the eyes; you delivered the forged letter, I can
prove that you cozened the ring out of Heigham, and you told Philip:
there is no escape for you, and I have already taken an opportunity to
renounce any responsibility for your acts. At the inquest I shall
appear to give evidence against you, and then I shall abandon you to
your fate."

"Is that all?"

"No, woman. _I have your letters!_"

She sprang up with a little scream and stood over him with dilated
eyes. Sir John leaned back in his chair, rubbed his hands, and watched
her tortured face with evident satisfaction.

"Yes, you may well scream," he said, "for I not only possess them, but
I have read and re-read them. I know all your story, the name of the
husband you deserted and of the child who died of your neglect. I have
even sent an agent to identify the localities. Yes, you may well
scream, for I have read them all, and really they are most instructive
documents, and romantic enough for a novel; such fire, such passionate
invective, such wild despair. But, since I learnt how and why you
married me, I will tell you what I have made up my mind to do. I am
going after the inquest to turn you out of this house, and give you a
pittance to live on so long as you remain here. I wish you to become a
visible moral, a walking monument of disgrace in the neighbourhood you
ruled. Should you attempt to escape me, the payment will be stopped;
should you obtain employment, your character shall be exposed. At
every turn you shall be struck down till you learn to kiss the hand
that strikes you and beg for pity on your knees. My revenge, Anne,
shall be to break your spirit."

"And are you not perhaps afraid that I may turn upon you? You know me
to be a woman of strong will and many resources, some of which you do
not even understand."

"No, I am not afraid, because I still have a reserve force; I still
hold the letters that I stole two days ago; and, even should you
murder me, I have left directions that will ensure your exposure."

A pause ensued.

"Have you nothing more to say?" he said, at last.

"Nothing."

"Supposing, Anne, that I were to tell you that I have been trying to
frighten you, and that if you were to go down on your knees before me
now, and beg my forgiveness, I would forgive you--no, not forgive you,
but let you off with easier terms--would you do it?"

"No, John, I would not. Once I went on my knees to a man, and I have
not forgotten the lesson he taught me. Do your worst."

"Then you understand my terms, and accept them?"

"Understand them! yes. I understand that you are a little-minded man,
and, like all little-minded men, cruel, and desirous of exacting the
uttermost farthing in the way of revenge, forgetting that you owe
everything to me. I do not wish to exculpate myself, mind you. Looking
at the case from your point of view, and in your own petty way, I can
almost sympathize with you. But as for accepting your terms--do you
know me so little as to think that I could do so? Have you not learnt
that I may break, but shall never bend? And, if I chose now to face
the matter out, I should beat you, even now when you hold all the
cards in your hand; but I am weary of it all, especially weary of you
and your little ways, and I do not choose. You will injure me enough
to make the great success I planned for us both impossible, and I am
tired of everything except the success which crowns a struggle. Well,
I have ways of escape you know nothing of. Do your worst; I am not
afraid of you;" and she leaned back easily in her chair, and looked at
him with wearied and indifferent eyes.

Little Sir John ground his teeth, and twisted his pippen-like face
into a scowl that looked absurdly out of place on anything so jovial.

"Curse you," he said, "even now you dare to defy me. Do you know, you
woman fiend, that at this moment I almost think I love you?"

"Of course I know it. If you did not love me, you would not take all
this trouble to try to crush me. But this conversation is very long;
shall we put an end to it?"

Sir John sat still a moment, thinking, and gazing at the splendid
Sphinx-browed creature before him with a mixture of hatred and
respect. Then he rose, and spoke.

"Anne, you are a wonderful woman! I cannot do it, I cannot utterly
ruin you. You must be exposed--I could not help that, if I would--and
we must separate, but I will be generous to you; I will allow you five
hundred a year, and you shall live where you like. You shall not
starve."

She laughed a little as she answered.

"I am starving now: it is long past luncheon time. As for your five
hundred a year that you will give me out of the three or four thousand
I have given you, I care nothing for it. I tell you I am tired of it
all, and I never felt more superior to you than I do now in the moment
of your triumph. It wants a stronger hand than yours to humble me. I
may be a bad woman, I daresay I am, but you will find, too late, that
there are few in the world like me. For years you have shone with a
reflected light; when the light goes out, you will go out too. Get
back into your native mud, the mental slime out of which I picked you,
contemptible creature that you are! and, when you have lost me, learn
to measure the loss by the depths to which you will sink. I reject
your offers. I mock at your threats, for they will recoil on your own
head. I despise you, and I have done with you. John Bellamy, good-
bye;" and, with a proud curtsey, she swept from the room.



That evening it was rumoured that Sir John Bellamy had separated from
his wife, owing to circumstances which had come to his knowledge in
connection with George Caresfoot's death.



                              CHAPTER LX

That same afternoon, Lady Bellamy ordered out the victoria with the
fast trotting horse, and drove to the Abbey House. She found Philip
pacing up and down the gravel in front of the grey old place, which
had that morning added one more to the long list of human tragedies
its walls had witnessed. His face was pale, and contorted by mental
suffering, and, as soon as he recognized Lady Bellamy, he made an
effort to escape. She stopped him.

"I suppose it is here, Mr. Caresfoot?"

"It! What?"

"The body."

"Yes."

"I wish to see it."

Philip hesitated a minute, and then led the way to his study. The
corpse had been laid upon the table just as it had been taken from the
water; indeed, the wet still fell in heavy drops from the clothes on
to the ground. It was to be removed to Roxham that evening, to await
the inquest on the morrow. The shutters of the room had been closed,
lest the light should strike too fiercely on the ghastly sight; but
even in the twilight Lady Bellamy could discern every detail of its
outline clearly marked by the wet patches on the sheet which was
thrown loosely over it. On a chair, by the side of the table, above
the level of which its head rose, giving it the appearance of being in
the act of climbing on to it, lay the carcass of the dog, its teeth
still firmly set in the dead man's arm. They had been unable to unlock
the savage grip without hacking its jaws asunder, and this it was not
thought advisable to do till after the inquest.

At the door Philip paused, as though he did not mean to enter.

"Come in," said Lady Bellamy; "surely you are not afraid of a dead
man."

"I fear the dead a great deal more than I do the living," he muttered,
but came in and shut the door.

As soon as her eyes had grown accustomed to the light, Lady Bellamy
went up to the body, and, drawing off the sheet, gazed long and
steadily at the mutilated face, on the lips of which the bloody froth
still stood.

"I told him last night," she said presently to Philip, "that we should
never meet again alive, but I did not think to see him so soon like
this. Do you know that I once loved that thing, that shattered brain
directed the only will to which I ever bowed? But the love went out
for ever last night, the chain snapped, and now I can look upon this
sight without a single sigh or a regret, with nothing but loathing and
disgust. There lies the man who ruined me--did you know it? I do not
care who knows it now--ruined me with his eyes open, not caring
anything about me; there lies the hard task-master whom I served
through so many years, the villain who drove me against my will into
this last crime which has thus brought its reward. The dog gave him
his just due; look, its teeth still hold him, as fast, perhaps, as the
memories of his crimes will hold him where he has gone. Regret him!
sorrow for him! no, oh no! I can curse him as he lies, villain,
monster, devil that he was!"

She paused, and even in the dim light Philip could see her bosom heave
and her great eyes flash with the fierceness of her excitement.

"You should not talk so of the dead," he said.

"You are right," she answered; "he has gone beyond the reach of my
words, but the thought of all the misery I have suffered at his hands
made me for a moment mad. Cover it up again, the vile frame which held
a viler soul; to the earth with the one, to undreamed of sorrow with
the other, each to its appointed place. How does it run?--'The wages
of sin is death.' Yes, that is right. He is dead; the blow fell first
on him, that was right, and I am about to die; and you--what will
happen to you, the Judas of the plot, eh? You do not think that you
will enjoy your blood-money in peace, do you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Philip, nervously; her wild way frightened
him.

"Mean! why, that you are the sorriest knave of all. This man was at
least led on to crime by passion; Bellamy entered into it to work out
a secret revenge, poor fool; I acted because I couldn't help myself at
first, and then for the sake of the game itself, for when I take a
thing in my hand, I _will_ succeed. But you, Philip Caresfoot, you
sold your own flesh and blood for money or money's worth, and you are
the worst of all--worse than George, for even a brutal love is a
nobler thing than avarice like yours. Well, as the sin is, so will the
punishment be."

"It is a lie! I thought that he was dead."

"You thought that Arthur Heigham was dead!--then I read your thoughts
very wrongly when we met upon the road on Christmas Day. You wished to
think that he was dead, but you did not think it. Even now your
conscience is making a coward of you, and, as you said just now, for
you the silence of the dead is more terrible than the accusations of
the living. I know a little about you, Philip. Do you not see shadows
on your walls, and do not departed voices come to haunt you in your
sleep? I know you do, and I will tell you this--the _Things_ which you
have suffered from at times shall henceforth be your continual
companions. If you can pray, pray with all your strength that your
daughter may not die; for, if she does, her shadow will always be
there to haunt you with the rest. Why do you tremble so at the mere
mention of a spirit? Stand still, and I will show you one. I can if I
like."

Philip could stand it no longer. With a curse he burst out of the
room. Presently she followed him, and found him standing in front of
the house, wiping the cold perspiration from his forehead.

"You accursed woman," he said, "go, and never come near this house
again!"

"I never shall come to this house again," she answered. "Ah, here is
my carriage. Good-bye, Philip Caresfoot. You are a very wealthy man
now--worth I do not know how many thousands a year. You have been
singularly fortunate--you have accomplished your ends. Few people can
do that. May the accomplishment bring happiness with it! If you wish
it to do so, stifle your conscience, and do not let your superstitions
affect you. But, by the way, you know French, do you not? Then here is
a maxim that, in parting, I recommend to your attention--it has some
truth in it: Il y a une page effrayante dans le livre des destinees
humaines: on y lit en tete ces mots 'les desirs accomplis.'" And she
was gone.

"I owed him a debt for tempting George on in that business," thought
Lady Bellamy to herself, as she rolled swiftly down the avenue of
giant walnuts; "but I think that I have repaid it. The thorn I have
planted will fester in his flesh till he dies of the sore.
Superstition run wild in his weak mind will make the world a hell for
him, and that is what I wish."

Presently she stopped the carriage, and walked to the top of a little
knoll commanding what had been Isleworth Hill, but was now a black
smoking blot on the landscape. The white front of the house was still
standing, though riven from top to bottom, and through its empty
window-places the westering sun poured great streams of fire which
looked like flame shining through the eye-sockets of a gigantic skull.

"I did that well," she said; "and yet how blind I was! I should have
known that he spoke the truth when he said the letters were not there.
My skill failed me--it always does fail at need. I thought the fire
would reach them somehow."

When she arrived at Rewtham House, she found that Sir John had left,
taking luggage with him, and stating that he was going to put up at an
inn at Roxham. On the hall-table, too, lay a summons to attend the
inquest on the body of George Caresfoot, which was to take place on
the morrow. She tore it across. Then she went up and dressed herself
for dinner with such splendour that her maid thought it necessary to
remind her that there was no company coming.

"No," she said, with a strange smile; "but I am going out to-night.
Give me my sapphire necklace."

She sat through dinner, and afterwards went into the drawing-room, and
opening a despatch-box, read and burnt a great number of papers.

"There go the keys to my knowledge," she said aloud, as they flickered
and fell into ashes. "No one shall reap the fruits of my labours; and
yet it is a pity--I was on the right track, and, though I could never
have succeeded, another might. I had the key, though I could not find
the lock. I must go through with it now. I cannot live deprived both
of success and of my secret power, and I could never begin and climb
that stair again."

Then, from a secret drawer in the despatch-box, she extracted a little
phial, tightly stoppered and sealing-waxed. She examined it closely,
and looked at the liquid in it against the light.

"My medicine has taken no harm during this twenty years," she thought.
"It still looks what it is--strong enough to kill a giant, and subtle
enough to leave little trace upon a child." Then she shut up the
despatch-box and put it away, and, going to the open window, looked up
at the stars, and then down at the shadows flung by the clouds as they
swept across the moon.

"Shadows," she mused, "below, and gleams of light between the shadows
--that is like our life. Light above--pure, clear, eternal--that is
like the wider life. And between the two--the night, and above them
both--the stars.

"In the immensity, where shall I find my place? Oh, that I might sleep
eternally! Yes, that would be best of all--to sink into sleep never
ending, unbroken, and unbreakable, to be absorbed into the cool
vastness of the night, and lie in her great arms for ever. Oh, Night!
whom I have ever loved, you bring your sleep to wearied millions--
bring _me_ sleep eternal. But no, the stars are above the night, and
above the stars is--what? Yes; the hour I dread like every other
mortal with my body, and yet dare to long for with my spirit, has
come. I am about to cast off Time, and pass into Eternity, to spring
from the giddy heights of Space into the uncertain arms of the
Infinite. Yet a few minutes, and my essence, my vital part, will start
upon its endless course, and passing far above those stars, will find
the fount of that knowledge of which it has already sipped, and drink
and drink till it grows like a God, and can look upon the truth and
not be blinded. Such are my high hopes. And yet--if there be a hell!
My life has been evil, my sins many. What if there be an avenging
Power waiting, as some think, to grind me into powder, and then endow
each crushed particle with individual sense of endless misery? What if
there be a hell! In a few minutes, or what will seem but a few minutes
--for surely, to the disembodied spirit, time cannot exist; though it
sleep a billion years, it will be as a breath--I shall have solved the
problem. I shall know what all the panic-stricken millions madly ask,
and ask in vain! Yes, I shall know if _there is a hell!_ Well, if
there be, then I shall rule there, for power is native to my soul. Let
me hesitate no longer, but go and solve the problem before I grow
afraid. Afraid--I am not afraid. 'I have immortal longings in me.' Who
was it said that? Oh, Cleopatra! Was Cleopatra more beautiful than I
am, I wonder? I am sure that she was not so great; for, had I been
her, Antony should have driven Caesar out of Egypt. Oh! if I could
have loved with a pure and perfect love as other women may, and
intertwined my destiny with that of some _great_ man--some being of a
nature kindred to my own--I should have been good and happy, and he
should have ruled this country. But Fate and Fortune, grown afraid of
what I should do, linked my life to a soulless brute! and, alas! like
him I have fallen--fallen irretrievably!"

She closed the window, and, coming into the room, rang the bell.

"Bring me some wine," she said to the servant. "I do not feel well."

"What wine, my lady?"

"Champagne."

The wine was brought, and stood, uncorked, upon the table.

"That will do," she said. "Tell my maid not to sit up for me: it will
be late before I go to bed to-night."

The man bowed and went, and she poured out some of the sparkling wine,
and then, taking the little phial, opened it with difficulty, and
emptied its contents into the glass. The wine boiled up furiously,
turned milk-white, and then cleared again; but the poison had
destroyed its sparkle--it was dead as ditch-water.

"That is strange," she said, "I never saw that effect before." Next
she took the phial and powdered it into a pinch of tiny dust with a
whale's tooth that lay upon the table. The dust she took to the window
and threw out, a little at a time. Lady Bellamy wished to die as she
had lived, a mystery. Then she came and stood over the deadly draught
she had compounded, and thought sometimes aloud and sometimes to
herself.

"I have heard it said that suicides are cowards; let those who say it,
stand as I stand to-night, with death lying in the little circle of a
glass before them, and they will know whether they are cowards, or if
they are spirits of a braver sort than those who can bear to drudge to
the bitter end of life. It is not yet too late. I can throw that stuff
away. I can leave this place and begin life anew in some other
country, my jewels will give me the means, and, for the matter of
that, I can always win as much money as I want. But, no; then I must
begin again, and for that I have not the patience or the time.
Besides, I long to _know_, to solve the mystery. Come, let me make an
end, I will chance it. Spirits like my own wear their life only while
it does not gall them; if it begins to fret, they cast it from them
like a half-worn dress, scorning to wrap it round them till it drops
away in rags."

She raised the glass.

"How lonely this place is, and how still, and yet it may well be that
there are millions round me watching what I do. Why does he come into
my mind now, that good man, and the child I bore him? Shall I see them
presently? Will they crush me with their reproaches? And--have my
nerves broken down?--Is it fancy, or does that girl's pale face, with
warning in her eyes, float between me and the wall? Well, I will drink
to her, for her mind could even overtop my own. She was, at least, my
equal, and I have driven her mad! Let me taste this stuff."

Lifting the glass to her lips, she drank a little, and set it down.
The effect was almost magical. Her eyes blazed, a new beauty bloomed
upon her cheek, her whole grand presence seemed to gain in majesty.
The quick drug for a moment burnt away the curtain between the seen
and the unseen, and yet left her living.

"Ah," she cried, in the silence of the room, "how it runs along my
veins; I hear the rushing of the stars, I see strange worlds, my soul
leaps through infinite spaces, the white light of immortality strikes
upon my eyes and blinds me. Come, life unending, I have conquered
death."

Seizing the poison, she swallowed what remained of it, and dashed the
glass down beside her. Then she fell heavily on her face, once she
struggled to her knees, then fell again, and lay still.



                             CHAPTER LXI

After throwing George Caresfoot into the bramble-bush, Arthur walked
steadily back to the inn, where he arrived, quite composed in manner,
at about half-past seven. Old Sam, the ostler, was in the yard,
washing a trap. He went up to him, and asked when the next train
started for London.

"There is one as leaves Roxham at nine o'clock, sir, and an uncommon
fast one, I'm told. But you bean't a-going yet, be you, sir?"

"Yes, have the gig ready in time to catch the train."

"Very good, sir. Been to the fire, I suppose sir?" he went on, dimly
perceiving that Arthur's clothes were torn. "It were a fine place, it
wore, and it did blaze right beautiful."

"No; what fire?"

"Bless me, sir, didn't you see it last night?--why, Isleworth Hall, to
be sure. It wore burnt right out, and all as was in it."

"Oh! How did it come to get burnt?"

"Can't say, sir, but I did hear say how as Lady Bellamy was a-dining
there last night along with the squire; the squire he went out
somewhere, my lady she goes home, and the footman he goes to put out
the lamp and finds the drawing-room a roaring fiery furnace, like as
parson tells us on. But I don't know how that can be, for I heard how
as the squire was a-dying, so 'taint likely that he was a-going out.
But, lord, sir, folk in these parts do lie that uncommon, 'taint as it
be when I was a boy. As like as no, he's no more dying than you are.
Anyhow, sir, it all burned like tinder, and the only thing, so I'm
told, as was saved was a naked stone statty of a girl with a chain
round her wrists, as Jim Blakes, our constable, being in liquor,
brought out in his arms, thinking how as it was alive, and tried to
rewive it with cold water."

At that moment Sam's story was interrupted by the arrival of a
farmer's cart.

"How be you, Sam?"

"Well, I thank yer, for seventy-two, that is, not particular ill."

"Have you a gentleman of the name of Heigham staying here?"

"I am he," said Arthur, "do you want me?"

"No, sir, only the station-master at Roxham asked me to drop this here
as it was marked immediate," and he handed Arthur a box.

Arthur thanked him, and, taking it, went up to his room, leaving old
Sam delighted to find a new listener to his story of the fire.

It was from the florist, and contained the bouquet he had meant to
give Angela on her wedding-day. It had cost him a good deal of thought
that bouquet, to say nothing of five guineas of the coin of the realm,
and he felt a certain curiosity to look at it, though to do so gave
him something of the same sensation that we experience in reading a
letter written by some loved hand which we know grew cold before the
lines it traced could reach us. He took the box to his room and opened
it. The bouquet was a lovely thing, and did credit even to Covent
Garden, and the masses of stephanois and orange-bloom, relieved here
and there by rising sprays of lilies-of-the-valley, filled the whole
room with fragrance.

He drew it from the zinc-well in which it was packed in moss and
cotton-wool, and wondered what he should do with it. He could not
leave such a thing about, nor would he take it away. Suddenly an idea
struck him, and he repacked it in its case as carefully as he could in
the original moss and cotton-wool, and then looked about for the sheet
of tissue-paper that should complete the covering. He had destroyed
it, and had to search for a substitute. In so doing his eye fell upon
a long envelope on his dressing-table and he smiled. It contained his
marriage licence, and he bethought him that it was a very fair
substitute for tissue-paper, and quite as worthless. He extracted it,
and, placing it over the flowers, closed up the box. Then he carefully
directed it to "Mrs. George Caresfoot, Abbey House," and, ringing the
bell, desired the boots to find a messenger to take it over.

When he had done all this, he sat down and wondered what could have
come to him that he could take pleasure in doing a cruel action only
worthy of a jealous woman.

Perhaps of all the bitter cups which are held to our lips in this sad
world there is none more bitter than that which it was his lot to
drink of now. To begin with, the blow fell in youth, when we love or
hate, or act, with an ardour and an entire devotion that we give to
nothing in after-life. It is then that the heart puts forth its most
tender and yet its most lusty shoots, and if they are crushed the
whole plant suffers, and sometimes bleeds to death. Arthur had, to an
extent quite unrealized by himself until he lost her, centred all his
life in this woman, and it was no exaggeration to say, as he had said
to her, that she had murdered his heart, and withered up all that was
best in it. She had done more, she had inflicted the most cruel injury
upon him that a woman can inflict upon a man. She had shaken his
belief in her sex at large.

He felt, sitting there in his desolation, that now he had lost Angela
he could never be the same man he would otherwise have been. Her cruel
desertion had shattered the tinted glass through which youth looks at
the world, and he now, before his day, saw it as it is, grim and hard,
and full of coarse realities, and did not yet know that time would
again soften down the sharpest of the rough outlines, and throw a
garment of its own over the nakedness of life. He was a generous-
hearted man and not a vain one, and had he thought that Angela had
ceased to care for him and loved this other man, he could have found
it in his heart to forgive her, and even to sympathize with her; but
he could not think this. Something told him that it was not so. She
had contracted herself into a shameful, loveless marriage, and, to
gain ends quite foreign to all love, had raised a barrier between them
which had no right to exist, and yet one that in this world could, he
thought, never be removed.

Misfortunes rain upon us from every quarter of the sky, but so long as
they come from the sky we can bear them, for they are beyond the
control of our own volition, and must be accepted, as we accept the
gale or the lightning. It is the troubles which spring from our own
folly and weakness, or from that of those with whom our lives are
intertwined, which really crush us. Now Arthur knew enough of the
world to be aware that there is no folly to equal that of a woman who,
of her own free will, truly loving one man whom she can marry if she
will sit, deliberately gives herself to another. It is not only a
folly, it is a crime, and, like most crimes, for this life, an
irretrievable mistake.

Long before he got back to London, the first unwholesome exaltation of
mind that always follows a great misfortune, and which may perhaps be
compared with the excitement that for awhile covers the shameful sense
of defeat in an army, had evaporated, and he began to realize the
crushing awfulness of the blow which had fallen on him, and to fear
lest it should drive him mad. He looked round his little horizon for
some straw of comfort at which to catch, and could find none; nothing
but dreadful thoughts and sickening visions.

And then suddenly, just as he was sinking into the dulness of despair,
there came, like the fist gleam of light in chaotic darkness, the
memory of Mildred Carr. Truly she had spoken prophetically. His idol
had been utterly cast down and crushed to powder by a hand stronger
than his own. He would go to her in his suffering; perhaps she could
find means to comfort him.

When he reached town he took a hansom and went to look for some rooms;
he would not return to those he had left on the previous afternoon,
for the sympathetic landlord had helped him to pack up the wedding
clothes and had admired the wedding gift. Arthur felt that he could
not face him again. He found some to suit him in Duke Street, St.
James, and left his things there. Thence he drove to Fenchurch Street
and took a passage to Madeira. The clerk, the same one who had given
him his ticket about a year before, remembered him perfectly, and
asked him how he got on with Mrs. Carr. But when his passage was taken
he was disgusted to find that the mail did not sail for another five
days. He looked at his watch, it was only half-past one o'clock. He
could scarcely believe what had happened had only occurred that
morning, only seven hours ago. It seemed to him that he had stood face
to face with Angela, not that morning, but years ago, and miles away,
on some desolate shore which lay on the other side of a dead ocean of
pain. And yet it was only seven hours! If the hours went with such
heavy wings, how would the days pass, and the months, and the years?

What should he do with himself? In his condition perpetual activity
was as necessary to him as air, he must do something to dull the sharp
edge of his suffering, or the sword of madness which hung over him by
such a slender thread would fall. Suddenly he bethought him of a man
whom he had known slightly up at Cambridge, a man of wealth and evil
reputation. This man would, he felt, be able to put him in a way of
getting through his time. He knew his address and thither he drove.



Four days later, a figure, shrunk, shaky, and looking prematurely old,
with the glaze of intoxication scarcely faded from his eye, walked
into Mr. Borley's office. That respectable gentleman looked and looked
again.

"Good Heavens," he said at length; "it isn't Arthur Heigham."

"Yes, it is, though," said an unequal voice; "I've come for some
money. I've got none left and I am going to Madeira to-morrow."

"My dear boy, what has happened to you? You look so very strange. I
have been expecting to see your marriage in the paper. Why, it's only
a few days ago that you left to be married."

"A few days, a few years, you mean. I've been jilted, that's all,
nothing to speak of, you know, but I had rather not talk about it, if
you don't mind. I'm like a nag with a flayed back, don't like the
sight of the saddle at present," and poor Arthur, mentally and
physically exhausted, put his head down on his arm and gulped.

The old lawyer took in the situation at a glance.

"Hard hit," he said to himself; "and gone on to the burst," and then
aloud, "well, well, that has happened to many a man, in fact, you
mightn't believe it, but it once happened to me, and I don't look much
the worse, do I? But we won't talk about it. The less said of a bad
business the better, that's my maxim. And so you are going abroad
again. Have you got any friends at Madeira?"

Arthur nodded.

"And you want some more money. Let me see, I sent you 200 pounds last
week."

"That was for my wedding tour. I've spent it now. You can guess how I
have spent it. Pleasant contrast, isn't it? Gives rise to moral
reflections."

"Come, come, Heigham, you must not give way like that. These things
happen to most men in the course of their lives, and if they are wise
it teaches them that gingerbread isn't all gilt, and to set down women
at their proper value, and appreciate a good one if it pleases
Providence to give them one in course of time. Don't you go making a
fool of yourself over this girl's pretty face. Handsome is as handsome
does. These things are hard to bear, I know, but you don't make them
any better by pitching your own reputation after a girl's want of
stability."

"I know that you are quite right, and I am much obliged to you for
your kind advice, but we won't say anything more about it. I suppose
that you can let me have some money?"

"Oh yes, if you want it, though I think we shall have to overdraw.
What do you want? Two hundred? Here is the cheque."

"I am anxious about that young fellow," said Mr. Borley to himself, in
the pause between Arthur's departure and the entry of the next client.
"I hope his disappointment won't send him to the dogs. He is not of
the sort who take it easy, like I did, for instance. Dear me, that is
a long while ago now. I wonder what the details of his little affair
were, and who the girl married. Captain Shuffle! yes, show him in."



                             CHAPTER LXII

Next morning Arthur cashed his cheque, and started on his travels. He
had no very clear idea why he was going back to Madeira, or what he
meant to do when he got there; but then, at this painful stage of his
existence, none of his ideas could be called clear. Though he did not
realize it, what he was searching for was sympathy, female sympathy of
course; for in trouble members of either sex gravitate instinctively
to the other for comfort. Perhaps they do not quite trust their own,
or perhaps they are afraid of being laughed at.

Arthur's was not one of those natures that can lock their griefs
within the bosom, and let them lie there till in process of time they
shrivel away. Except among members of the peerage, as pictured in
current literature, these stern, proud creatures are not common. Man,
whether he figures in the world as a peer or a hedge-carpenter, is, as
a matter of fact, mentally as well as physically, gregarious, and
adverse to loneliness either in his joys or sorrows.

Decidedly, too, the homoeopathic system must be founded on great
natural facts, and there is philosophy, born of the observation of
human nature, in the somewhat vulgar proverb that recommends a "hair
of the dog that bit you." Otherwise, nine men out of every ten who
have been badly treated, or think that they have been badly treated,
by a woman, would not at once rush headlong for refuge to another, a
proceeding which also, in nine cases out of ten, ends in making
confusion worse confounded.

Arthur, though he was not aware of it, was exemplifying a natural law
that has not yet been properly explained. But, even if he had known
it, it is doubtful if the knowledge would have made him any happier;
for it is irritating to reflect that we are the slaves of natural
laws, that our action is not the outcome of our own volition, but of a
vague force working silently as the Gulf Stream--since such knowledge
makes a man measure his weakness, and so strikes at his tenderest
point, his vanity.

But, whilst we have been reflecting together, my reader and I, Arthur
was making his way to Madeira, so we may as well all come to a halt
off Funchal.

Very shortly after the vessel had dropped her anchor, Arthur was
greeted by his friend, the manager of "Miles' Hotel."

"Glad to see you, sir, though I can't say that you look well. I
scarcely expected to find anybody for us at this time of year.
Business is very slack in the summer."

"Yes, I suppose that Madeira is pretty empty."

"There is nobody here at all, sir."

"Is Mrs. Carr gone, then?" asked Arthur, in some alarm.

"No; she is still here. She has not been away this year. But she has
been very quiet; no parties or anything, which makes people think that
she has lost money."

By this time the boat was rising on the roll of the last billow, to be
caught next moment by a dozen hands, and dragged up the shingle. It
was evening, or rather, verging that way, and from under the magnolia-
trees below the cathedral there came the sound of the band summoning
the inhabitants of Funchal to congregate, chatter, and flirt.

"I think," said Arthur, "that I will ask you to take my things up to
the hotel. I will come by-and-by. I should like the same room I had
before, if it is empty."

"Very good, Mr. Heigham. You will have the place nearly all to
yourself now."

Having seen his baggage depart, Arthur turned, and resisting the
importunities of beggars, guides, and parrot-sellers, who had not yet
recognized him as an old hand, made his way towards the Quinta Carr.
How well he knew the streets and houses, even to the withered faces of
the women who sat by the doors, and yet he seemed to have grown old
since he had seen them. Ten minutes of sharp walking brought him to
the gates of the Quinta, and he paused before them, and thought how, a
few months ago, he had quitted them, miserable at the grief of
another, now to re-enter them utterly crushed by his own.

He walked on through the beautiful gardens to the house. The hall-door
stood open. He did not wait to ring, but, driven by some impulse,
entered. After the glare of the sun, which at that time of the year
was powerful even in its decline, the carefully shaded hall seemed
quite dark. But by degrees his eyes adapted themselves to the altered
light, and began to distinguish the familiar outline of the furniture.
Next they travelled to the door of the drawing-room, where another
sight awaited them. For there, herself a perfect picture, standing in
the doorway for a frame, her hands outstretched in welcome, and a
loving smile upon her lips, was Mildred.

"I was waiting for you," she said, gently. "I thought that you would
come."

"Mildred, my idol has been cast down, and, as you told me to do, I
have come back to you."

"Dear," she answered, "you are very welcome."

And then came Miss Terry, pleased with all her honest heart to see
him, and utterly ignorant of the fierce currents that swept under the
smooth surface of their little social sea. Miss Terry was not by
nature a keen observer.

"Dear me, Mr. Heigham, who would have thought of seeing you again so
soon? You _are_ brave to cross the bay so often" (her thoughts ran a
great deal on the Bay of Biscay); "but I don't think you look quite
well, you have such black lines under your eyes, and, I declare,
there's a grey hair!"

"Oh, I assure you your favourite bay was enough to turn anybody's hair
grey, Miss Terry."

And so, talking cheerfully, they went in to the pleasant little
dinner, Mildred leaning over so slightly on his arm, and gazing into
his sad face with full and happy eyes. After all that he had gone
through, it seemed to Arthur as though he had dropped into a haven of
rest.

"See here," said Mildred, when they rose from table, "a wonder has
come to pass since you deserted us. Look, sceptic that you are!" and
she led him to the window, and, lifting a glass shade which protected
a flower-pot, showed him a green spike peeping from the soil.

"What is that?"

"What is it?--why, it is the mummy hyacinth which you declared that we
should never see blossom in this world. It has budded; whether or not
it will blossom, who can say?"

"It is an omen," he said, with a little laugh; and for the first time
that evening their eyes met.

"Come into the garden, and you can smoke on the museum verandah; it is
pleasant there these hot nights."

"It is dangerous, your garden."

She laughed softly. "You have proved yourself superior to danger."

Then they passed out together. The evening was still and very sultry.
Not a breath stirred the silence of the night. The magnolia, the moon-
flower, and a thousand other blooms poured out their fragrance upon
the surrounding air, where it lay in rich patches, like perfume thrown
on water. A thin mist veiled the sea, and the little wavelets struck
with a sorrowful sound against the rock below.

"Tell me all about it, Arthur."

She had settled herself upon a long low chair, and as she leant back
the starlight glanced white upon her arms and bosom.

"There is not much to tell. It is a common story--at least, I believe
so. She threw me over, and the day before I should have married her,
married another man."

"Well?"

"Well, I saw her the morning following her marriage. I do not remember
what I said, but I believe I spoke what was in my mind. She fainted,
and I left her."

"Ah, you spoke harshly, perhaps."

"Spoke harshly! Now that I have had time to think of it, I wish that I
could have had ten imaginations to shape my thoughts, and ten tongues
to speak them with! Do you understand what this woman has done? She
has sold herself to a brute--oh, Mildred, such a brute--she has
deserted me for a man who is not even a gentleman."

"Perhaps she was forced into it."

"Forced!--nonsense; we are not in the Middle Ages. A good woman should
have been forced to drown herself before she consented to commit such
a sacrilege against herself as to marry a man she hated. But she, 'my
love, my dove, my undefiled'--she whom I thought whiter than the snow
--she could do this, and do it deliberately. I had rather have seen
her dead, and myself dead with her."

"Don't you take a rather exaggerated view, Arthur? Don't you think,
perhaps, that some of the fault lies with you for overrating women?
Believe me, so far as my experience goes, and I have seen a good many,
the majority of them do not possess the exalted purity of mind you and
many very young men attribute to them. They are, on the contrary, for
the most part quite ready to exercise a wise discretion in the matter
of marriage, even when the feeble tendencies which represent their
affections point another way. A little pressure goes a long way with
them; they are always glad to make the most of it; it is the dust they
throw up to hide their retreat. Your Angela, for instance, was no
doubt, and probably still is, very fond of you. You are a charming
young man, with nice eyes and a taking way with women, and she would
very much have liked to marry you; but then she also liked her
cousin's estates. She could not have both, and, being forced to
choose, she chose the latter. You should take a common-sense view of
the matter; you are not the first who has suffered. Women, especially
young women, who do not understand the value of affection, must be
very much in love before they submit to the self-sacrifice that is
supposed to be characteristic of them, and what men talk of as stains
upon them they do not consider as such. They know, if they know
nothing else, that a good income and an establishment will make them
perfectly clean in the opinion of their own small world--a little
world of shams and forms that cares nothing for the spirit of the
moral law, provided the letter is acted up to. It is by this that they
mark their standard of personal virtues, not by the high rule you men
imagine for them. There is no social fuller's soap so effectual as
money and position."

"You speak like a book, and give your own sex a high character. Tell
me, then, would you do such a thing?"

"I, Arthur? How can you ask me? I had rather be torn to pieces by wild
horses. I spoke of the majority of the women, not of them all."

"Ah, and yet she could do it, and I thought her better than you."

"I do not think that you should speak bitterly of her, Arthur; I think
that you should be sorry for her."

"Sorry for her? Why?"

"Because from what I have gathered about her, she is not quite an
ordinary young woman: however badly she may have treated you, she is a
person of refined feelings and susceptibilities. Is it not so?"

"Without a doubt."

"Well, then, you should pity her, because she will bitterly expiate
her mistake. For myself, I do not pity her much, because I will not
waste my sympathy on a fool; for, to my mind, the woman who could do
what she has done, and deliberately throw away everything that can
make life really worth living to us women, is a most contemptible
fool. But you love her, and, therefore, you should be sorry for her."

"But why?"

"Because she is a woman who at one-and-twenty has buried all the
higher part of life, who has, of her own act, for ever deprived
herself of joys that nothing else can bring her. Love, true love, is
almost the only expression, of which we women are capable, of all the
nobler instincts and vague yearnings after what is higher and better
than the things we see and feel around us. When we love most, and love
happily, then we are at our topmost bent, and soar further above the
earth than anything else can carry us. Consequently, when a woman is
faithless to her love, which is the purest and most honourable part of
her, the very best thing to which she can attain, she clips her wings,
and can fly no more, but must be tossed, like a crippled gull, hither
and thither upon the stormy surface of her little sea. Of course, I
speak of women of the higher stamp. Many, perhaps most, will feel
nothing of all this. In a little while they will grow content with
their dull round and the alien nature which they have mated with, and
in their children, and their petty cares and dissipations, will forget
that they possess a higher part, if indeed they do possess it. Like
everything else in the world, they find their level. But with women
like your Angela it is another thing. For them time only serves to
increasingly unveil the Medusa-headed truth, till at last they see it
as it is, and their hearts turn to stone. Backed with a sick longing
to see a face that is gone from them, they become lost spirits,
wandering everlastingly in the emptiness they have chosen, and finding
no rest. Even her children will not console her."

Arthur uttered a smothered exclamation.

"Don't start, Arthur; you _must_ accustom yourself to the fact that
that woman has passed away from you, and is as completely the personal
property of another man, as that chair is mine. But, there, the
subject is a painful one to you; shall we change it?"

"It is one that you seem to have studied pretty deeply."

"Yes, because I have realized its importance to a woman. For some
years I have longed to be able to fall in love, and when at last I did
so, Arthur," and here her voice grew very soft, "it was with a man who
could care nothing for me. Such has been my unlucky chance. That a
woman, herself beloving and herself worthily beloved, could throw her
blessed opportunity away is to me a thing inconceivable, and that,
Arthur, is what your Angela has done."



                            CHAPTER LXIII

"Then you will not marry now, Mildred?" said Arthur, after a pause.

"No, Arthur."

"No one?"

"No one, Arthur."

He rose, and, leaning over the railing of the verandah, looked at the
sea. The mist that hid it was drifting and eddying hither and thither
before little puffs of wind, and the clear sky was clouding up.

"There is going to be a storm," he said, presently.

"Yes, I think so, the air feels like it."

He hesitated a while, and looked down at her. She seemed very lovely
in the half lights, as indeed she was. She, too, looked up at him
inquiringly. At last he spoke.

"Mildred, you said just now that you would not marry anybody. Will you
make an exception?--will you marry me?"

It was her turn to pause now.

"You are very good," she murmured.

"No, I am not at all good. You know how the case stands. You know that
I still love Angela, and that I shall in all probability always love
her. I cannot help that. But if you will have me, Mildred, I will try
to be a good husband to you, and to make you happy. Will you marry me,
dear?"

"No, Arthur."

"Why not? Have you, then, ceased to care for me?"

"No, dear. I love you more than ever. You cannot dream how much I do
love you."

"Then why will you not marry me? Is it because of this business?"

"No," and raising herself in the low chair, she looked at him with
intense earnestness, "that is not the reason. I will not marry you,
because I have become a better woman since you went away, because I do
not wish to ruin your life. You ask me to do so now in all sincerity,
but you do not know what you ask. You come from the scene of as bitter
a disappointment as can befall a man, and you are a little touched by
the contrasting warmth of your reception here, a little moved by my
evident interest, and perhaps a little influenced by my good looks,
though _they_ are nothing much. Supposing that I consented, supposing
I said, 'Arthur, I will put my hand in yours and be your wife,' and
that we were married to-morrow, do you think, when the freshness of
the thing had worn off, that you would be happy with me? I do not. You
would soon get horribly tired of me, Arthur, for the little leaven
that leavens the whole lump is wanting. You do not love me; and the
redundance of my affection would weary you, and, for my part, I should
find it difficult to continually struggle against an impalpable rival,
though, indeed, I should be very willing to put up with that."

"I am sorry you think so."

"Yes, Arthur, I do think so; but you do not know what it costs me to
say it. I am deliberately shutting the door which bars me from my
heaven; I am throwing away the chance I strove so hard to win. That
will tell you how much I think it. Do you know, I must be a strange
contradiction. When I knew you were engaged to another woman, I
strained my every nerve to win you from her. While the object was
still to be gained, I felt no compunction; I was fettered by no
scruples. I wanted to steal you from her and marry you myself. But now
that all this is changed, and that you of your own free will come and
offer to make me your wife, I for the first time feel how wrong it
would be of me to take advantage of you in a moment of pique and
disappointment, and bind you for life to a nature which you do not
really understand, to a violent and a jealous woman. Too late, when
your life was hampered and your future spoiled, you would discover
that you hated me. Arthur dear, I will not consent to bind you to me
by any tie that cannot be broken."

"Hush, Mildred! you should not say such things about yourself. If you
are as violent and jealous as you say, you are also a very noble-
hearted woman, for none other would so sacrifice herself. Perhaps you
are right; I do not know. But, whether you are right or wrong, I
cannot tell you how you have made me respect you."

"Dear, those are the most comfortable words I have ever heard; after
what has passed between us, I scarcely thought to win your respect."

"Then you will not marry me, Mildred?"

"No."

"That is your fixed determination?"

"It is."

"Ah, well!" he sighed, "I suppose that I had better 'top my boom'
again?"

"Do what?"

"I mean I had better leave Madeira."

"Why should you leave Madeira?"

He hesitated a little before replying.

"Well, because if I do not marry you, and still come here, people will
talk. They did before, you know."

"Are you afraid of being talked about, then?"

"I? Oh! dear no. What can it matter to me now?"

"And supposing I were to tell you that what 'people' say, with or
without foundation, is as much a matter of indifference to me as the
blowing of next summer's breezes, would you still consider it
necessary to leave Madeira?"

"I don't know."

He again rose and leant over the verandah rail.

"It is going to be a wild night," he said, presently.

"Yes; the wind will spoil all the magnolias. Pick me that bud; it is
too good to be wasted."

He obeyed, and, just as he stepped back on to the verandah, a fierce
rush of wind came up from the sea, and went howling away behind them.

"I love a storm," she murmured, as he brought the flower to her. "It
makes me feel so strong," and she stretched out her perfect arms as
though to catch the wind.

"What am I to do with this magnolia?"

"Give it to me. I will pin it in my dress--no, do you fasten it for
me."

The chair in which she was lounging was so low that, to do as she bade
him, Arthur was forced to kneel beside her. Kneeling thus, the sweet,
upturned face was but just beneath his own; the breath from the curved
lips played amongst his hair, and again there crept over him that
feeling of fascination, of utter helplessness, that he had once before
resisted. But this time he did not attempt to resist, and no vision
came to save him. Slowly drawn by the beauty of her tender eyes, he
yielded to the spell, and soon her lips were pressed upon his own, and
the white arms had closed around his neck, whilst the crushed magnolia
bloom shed its perfume round them.

Fiercer swept the storm, the lightning flashed, and the gale catching
the crests of the rising waves dashed them in spray to where they sat.

"Dear," he said presently, "you must not stop here, the spray is
wetting you."

"I wish that it would drown me," she answered, almost fiercely, "I
shall never be so happy again. You think that you love me now; I
should like to die before you learn to hate me. Come, let us go in!"



                             CHAPTER LXIV

When Mildred received Lady Bellamy's telegram, she was so sure that it
would prove the forerunner of Arthur's arrival at Madeira that she had
at once set about making arrangements for his amusement.

It so happened that there was at the time a very beautiful sea-going
steam yacht of about two hundred and fifty tons burden lying in the
roadstead. She belonged to a nobleman who was suddenly recalled to
England by mail-steamer, and, through a series of chances, Mildred was
enabled to buy her a bargain. The crew of the departed nobleman also
continued in her service.

The morning after the storm broke sweet and clear, and, except that
the flowers were somewhat shattered, all Nature looked the fresher for
its violent visitation. Arthur, who had come up early to the Quinta,
Mildred, and Miss Terry were all seated at breakfast in a room that
looked out to the sea, which, although the wind had died away, still
ran rather high. They made a pretty picture as they sat round the
English-looking breakfast-table, with the light pouring in upon them
from the open windows, Miss Terry, with her usual expression of good-
humoured solemnity, pouring out the tea, and Mildred and Arthur, who
sat exactly opposite to each other, drinking it. Never had the former
looked more lovely than she did that morning.

"My dear," said Agatha to her, "what have you done to yourself? You
look beautiful."

"Do I, dear? Then it is because I am happy."

Agatha was quite right, thought Arthur, she did look beautiful, there
was such depth and rest in her clear eyes, such a wealth of happy
triumph written on her features. She might have sat that morning as a
study of the "Venus Victrix." Her talk, too, was as bright as herself.
She laughed and shone and sparkled like the rain-drops on the bamboo
sprays that rocked in the sunshine, and whenever she addressed herself
to Arthur, which was often enough, every sentence seemed wrapped in
tender meaning. Her whole life went out towards him, a palpable thing;
she waited on his words and basked in his smile. Mildred Carr did
nothing by halves.

Arthur was the least cheerful of the three, though at times he tried
his best to join in Mildred's merriment. Any one who knew him well
could have told that he was suffering from one of his fits of
constitutional melancholy, and a physiognomist, looking at the
somewhat dreamy eyes and pensive face, would probably have added that
he neither was nor ever would be an entirely happy man.

By degrees, however, he seemed to get the better of his thoughts,
whatever they might be.

"Now, Arthur, if you are quite awake," began, or rather went on,
Mildred, "perhaps you will come to the window. I have something to
show you."

"Here I am at your service; what may it be?"

"Good. Now look; do you see that little vessel in the bay beneath
there to the right of Leeuw Rock?"

"Yes, and uncommonly pretty she is; what of her?"

"What of her? Why, she is my yacht."

"Your yacht?"

"Goodness gracious, Mildred, you don't mean to say that you've been
buying a yacht and told me nothing about it? Just think! Well, I call
that sly."

"Yes, my dear Agatha, I have; a yacht and a ready-made crew, and the
very prettiest saloon in the world, and sleeping-cabins that you will
think it an honour to be sea-sick in, and a cook's galley with bright
copper fittings, and a cook with a white cap, and steam-steering gear
if you care to use it, and----"

"For goodness sake, don't overwhelm us; and what are you going to do
with your white elephant, now that you have got it?"

"Do with it? why, ride on it, of course. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' or
rather 'lady and gentleman.' Attention! You will both be in marching,
or rather in sailing, order by four this afternoon, for at five we
start for the Canaries. Now, no remarks; I'm a skipper, and I expect
to be obeyed, or I'll put you in irons."

"You've done that already," said Arthur, _sotto voce_.

"Mildred, I won't go, and that's flat."

"My dear, you mean that you are afraid of being flat. But, Agatha,
seriously, you must come; nobody is sick in those semi-tropical
waters, and, if you won't, I suppose it would not be quite the thing
for Arthur and I to go alone. And then, my dear, just think what a
splendid place the Canaries must be for insects."

"Why?" asked Agatha, solemnly.

"Because of all the little birds it has to support."

"But I thought they lived on hemp-seed."

"Oh, no--not in their native land."

"Well, I suppose I must go; but I really believe that you will kill me
with your mania for sea-voyages, Mildred. I suppose you will take to
ballooning next."

"That is by no means a bad idea; I should like to see you in a
balloon, Agatha."

"Mildred, I know where to draw the line. Into a balloon I will never
go. I have been into a Madeira sledge, and that is quite enough for
me. I always dream about it twice a week."

"Well, my dear, I promise never to ask you when I want to go
ballooning; Arthur and I will go by ourselves. It would be a grand
opportunity for a tete-a-tete. And now go and see about getting the
things ready--there's a dear; and, Arthur, do you send John down to
Miles' for your portmanteau."

"Hadn't I better go and see about it myself?"

"Certainly not; I want you to help me, and come down and talk to the
skipper, for he will be under your orders, you know. He is such a
delightful sailor-man, perfect down to his quid, and always says, 'Ay,
ay,' in the orthodox fashion. Certainly you must not go; I will not
trust you out of my sight--you might run away and leave me alone, and
then what should I do?"

Arthur laughed and acquiesced. Sitting down, he wrote a note asking
the manager of the hotel to send his things up to the Quinta Carr,
together with his account, as he was leaving Madeira for the present.

The rest of the morning was spent by everybody in busy preparation.
Boxes were packed and provisions shipped sufficient to victual an
Arctic expedition. At last everything was ready, and at a little after
three they went down the steps leading to the tiny bay, and, embarking
on the smart boat that was waiting for them, were conveyed in safety
to the _Evening Star_, for such was the yacht's name. Arthur suggested
that it should be changed to the _Mildred Carr_, and got snubbed for
his pains.

The _Evening Star_ was a beautiful craft, built on fine lines, but for
all that a wonderful boat in a heavy sea. She was a three-masted
schooner, square-rigged forward, of large beam. Her fittings below
were perfect down to the painted panels after Watteau in the saloon
and the electric bells, and she was rigged either to sail or steam as
might be most convenient. On the present occasion, as there was not
the slightest hurry and no danger of a lee-shore, it was determined
that they should not avail themselves of the steam-power, so the
propeller was hoisted up and everything got ready for that most
delightful thing, a long cruise under canvas.

Arthur was perfectly charmed with everything he saw, and so was Agatha
Terry, until they got under way, when she discovered that a mail-
steamer was a joke compared with the yacht in the matter of motion. In
short, the unfortunate Agatha was soon reduced to her normal condition
of torpor. Mildred always declared that she hibernated on board ship
like a dormouse or a bear. She was not very sea-sick, she simply lay
and slept, eating very little and thinking not at all.

"By the way," said Arthur, as they sailed out of the bay, "I never
gave any directions about my letters."

"Oh! that will not matter," answered Mildred, carelessly, for they
were leaning over the taffrail together; "they will keep them for you
at 'Miles' Hotel.' But, my dear boy, do you know what time it is? Ten
minutes to seven; that dreadful bell with be going in a minute, and
the soup will be spoiled. Run and get ready, do."



                             CHAPTER LXV

When dinner was over--Miss Terry would have none--they went and sat
upon the moonlit deck. The little vessel was under all her canvas, for
the breeze was light, and skimmed over the water like a gull with its
wings spread. In the low light Madeira was nothing but a blot on the
sky-line. The crew were forward, with the solitary exception of the
man steering the vessel from his elevated position on the bridge; and
sitting as they were, abaft the deck-cabin, the two were utterly alone
between the great silence of the stars and of the sea. She looked into
his face, and it was tender towards her--that night was made for
lovers--and tears of happiness stood in her eyes. She took his hand in
hers, and her head nestled upon his breast.

"I should like to sail on for ever so, quite alone with you. I never
again wish to see the land or the sun, or any other sea than this, or
any other eyes than yours, to hear any more of the things that I have
known, to learn to know any fresh things. If I could choose, I would
ask that I might now glide gently from your arms into those of eternal
sleep. Oh! Arthur, I am so happy now--so happy that I scarcely dare to
speak, for fear lest I should break the spell, and I feel so good--so
much nearer heaven. When I think of all my past life, it seems like a
stupid dream full of little nothings, of which I cannot recall any
memory except that they were empty and without meaning. But the future
is worse than the past, because it looks fair, and snakes always hide
in flowers. It makes me afraid. How do I know what the future will
bring? I wish that the present--the pleasant, certain present that I
hold with my hand--could last for ever."

"Who does know, Mildred? If the human race could see the pleasant
surprises in store for it individually, I believe that it would drown
itself _en masse_. Who has not sometimes caught at the skirt of to-day
and cried, 'Stay a little--do not let to-morrow come yet!' You know
the lines--

        "'O temps suspends ton vol, et vous heures propices
          Suspendez votre cours,
          Laissez nous savourer les rapides delices
          Des plus beaux de nos jours.'

"Lamartine only crystallized a universal aspiration when he wrote
that."

"Oh! Arthur, I tell you of love and happiness wide as the great sea
round us, and you talk of 'universal aspirations.' It is the first
cold breath from that grey-skied future that I fear. Oh! dear, I
wonder--you do not know how I wonder--if, should you ask me again, I
shall ever with a clear conscience be able to say, 'Arthur, I will
marry you.'"

"My dear, I asked you to be my wife last night, and what I said then I
say again now. In any case, until you dismiss me, I consider myself
bound to you; but I tell you frankly that I should myself prefer that
you would marry me for both our sakes."

"How cold and correct you are, how clearly you realize the position in
which I am likely to be put, and in what a gentlemanlike way you
assure me that your honour will always keep you bound to me! That is a
weak thread, Arthur, in matters of the heart. Let Angela reappear as
my rival--would honour keep you to my side? Honour, forsooth! it is
like a nurse's bogey in the cupboard--it is a shibboleth men use to
frighten naughty women with, which for themselves is almost devoid of
meaning. Even in this light I can see your face flush at her name.
What chance shall I ever have against her?"

"Do not speak of her, Mildred; let her memory be dead between us. She
who belonged to me before God, and whom I believed in as I believe in
my God, she offered me the most deadly insult that a woman can offer
to a man she loves--she sold herself. What do I care what the price
was, whether it were money, or position, or convenience, or the
approbation of her surroundings? The result is the same. Never mention
her name to me again; I tell you that I hate her."

"What a tirade! There is warmth enough about you now. I shall be
careful how I touch on the subject again; but your very energy shows
that you are deceiving yourself. I wish I could hear you speak of me
like that, because then I should know you loved me. Oh! if she only
knew it--she has her revenge for all your bitter words. You are lashed
to her chariot-wheels, Arthur. You do _not_ hate her; on the contrary,
you still long to see her face; it is still your secret and most
cherished hope that you will meet her again either in this or another
world. You love her as much as ever. If she were dead, you could bear
it; but the sharpest sting of your suffering lies in the humiliating
sense that you are forced to worship a god you know to be false, and
to give your own pure love to a woman whom you see debased."

He put his hands to his face and groaned aloud.

"You are right," he said. "I would rather have known her dead than
know her as she is. But there is no reason why I should bore you with
all this."

"Arthur, you are nothing if not considerate, and I do not pretend that
this is a very pleasant conversation for me; but I began it, so I
suppose I must endure to see you groaning for another woman. You say,"
she went on, with a sudden flash of passion, "that you should like to
see her dead. I say that I should like to kill her, for she has struck
me a double blow--she has injured you whom I love, and she has
beggared me of your affection. Oh! Arthur," she continued, changing
her voice and throwing a caressing arm about his neck, "have you no
heart left to give _me?_ is there no lingering spark that _I_ can
cherish and blow to flame? I will never treat you so, dear. Learn to
love me, and I will marry you and make you happy, make you forget this
faithless woman with the angel face. I will----" here her voice broke
down in sobs, and in the starlight the great tears glistened upon her
coral-tinted face like dew-drops on a pomegranate's blushing rind.

"There, there, dear, I will try to forget; don't cry," and he touched
her on the forehead with his lips.

She stopped, and then said, with just the faintest tinge of bitterness
in her voice: "If it had been Angela who cried, you would not be so
cold, you would have kissed away her tears."

Who can say what hidden chord of feeling those words touched, or what
memories they awoke? but their effect upon Arthur was striking. He
sprang up upon the deck, his eyes blazing, and his face white with
anger.

"How often," he said, "must I forbid you to mention the name of that
woman to me? Do you take a pleasure in torturing me? Curse her, may
she eat out her empty heart in solitude, and find no living thing to
comfort her! May she suffer as she makes me suffer, till her life
becomes a hell----"

"Be quiet, Arthur, it is shameful to say such things."

He stopped, and after the sharp ring of his voice, that echoed like
the cry wrung from a person in intense pain, the loneliness and quiet
of the night were very deep. And then an answer came to his mad,
unmanly imprecations. For suddenly the air round them was filled with
the sound of his own name uttered in such wild, despairing accents as,
once heard, were not likely to be forgotten, accents which seemed to
be around them and over them, and heard in their own brains, and yet
to come travelling from immeasurable distances across the waste of
waters.

"_Arthur! Arthur!_"

The sound that had sprung from nothing died away into nothingness
again, and the moonlight glanced, and the waters heaved, and gave no
sign of the place of its birth. It had come and gone, awful,
untraceable, and in the place of its solemnity reigned silence
absolute.

They looked at each other with scared eyes.

"_As I am a living man that voice was Angela's!_"

This was all he said.



                             CHAPTER LXVI

Dr. Williamson was a rising young practitioner at Roxham, and what is
more, a gentleman and a doctor of real ability.

On the night that Lady Bellamy took the poison he sat up very late,
till the dawn, in fact, working up his books of reference with a view
to making himself as much the master as possible of the symptoms and
most approved treatment in such cases of insanity as appeared to
resemble Angela Caresfoot's. He had been called in to see her by Mr.
Fraser, and had come away intensely interested from a medical point of
view, and very much puzzled.

At length he shut up his books with a sigh--for, like most books,
though full of generalities, they did not tell him much--and went to
bed. Before he had been asleep very long, however, the surgery bell
was violently rung, and, having dressed himself with the rapidity
characteristic of doctors and schoolboys, he descended to find a
frightened footman waiting outside, from whom he gathered that
something dreadful had happened to Lady Bellamy, who had been found
lying apparently dead upon the floor of her drawing-room. Providing
himself with some powerful restoratives and a portable electric
battery he drove rapidly over to Rewtham House.

Here he found the patient laid upon a sofa in the room where she had
been found, and surrounded by a mob of terrified and half-dressed
servants. At first he thought life was quite extinct, but presently he
fancied that he could detect a faint tremor of the heart. He applied
the most powerful of his restoratives and administered a sharp current
from the battery, and, after a considerable time, was rewarded by
seeing the patient open her eyes--but only to shut them again
immediately. Directing his assistant to continue the treatment, he
tried to elicit some information from the servants as to what had
happened, but all he could gather was that the maid had received a
message not to sit up. This made him suspicious of an attempt at
suicide, and just then his eye fell upon a wineglass that lay upon the
floor, broken at the shank. He took it up; in the bowl there was still
a drop or two of liquid. He smelt it, then dipped his finger in and
tasted it, with the result that his tongue was burnt and became rough
and numb. Then his suspicions were confirmed.

Presently Lady Bellamy opened her eyes again, and this time there was
intelligence in them. She gazed round her with a wondering air. Next
she spoke.

"Where am I?"

"In your own drawing-room, Lady Bellamy. Be quiet now, you will be
better presently."

She tried first to move her head, then her arm, then her lower limbs,
but they would not stir. By this time her faculties were wide awake.

"Are you the doctor?" she said.

"Yes, Lady Bellamy."

"Then tell me why cannot I move my arms."

He lifted her hand; it fell again like a lump of lead--and Dr.
Williamson looked very grave. Then he applied a current of
electricity.

"Do you feel that?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Why cannot I move? Do not trifle with me, tell me quick."

Dr. Williamson was a young man, and had not quite conquered
nervousness. In his confusion, he muttered something about
"paralysis."

"How is it that I am not dead?"

"I have brought you back to life, but pray do not talk."

"You fool, why could you not let me die? You mean that you have
brought my mind to life, and left my body dead. I feel now that I am
quite paralysed."

He could not answer her, what she said was only too true, and his look
told her so. She gazed steadily at him for a moment as he bent over
her, and realized all the horrors of her position, and for the first
time in her life her proud spirit absolutely gave way. For a few
seconds she was silent, and then, without any change coming over the
expression of her features--for the wild gaze with which she had faced
eternity was for ever frozen there--she broke out into a succession of
the most heart-rending shrieks that it had ever been his lot to listen
to. At last she stopped exhausted.

"Kill me!" she whispered, hoarsely, "kill me!"

It was a dreadful scene.

As the doctors afterwards concluded, rightly or wrongly, a very
curious thing had happened to Lady Bellamy. Either the poison she had
taken--and they were never able to discover what its exact nature was,
nor would she enlighten them--had grown less deadly during all the
years that she had kept it, or she had partially defeated her object
by taking an overdose, or, as seemed more probable, there was some
acid in the wine in which it had been mixed that had had the strange
effect of rendering it to a certain degree innocuous. Its result,
however, was, as she guessed, to render her a hopeless paralytic for
life.

At length the patient sank into the coma of exhaustion, and Dr.
Williamson was able to leave her in the care of a brother practitioner
whom he had sent for, and in that of his assistant. Sir John had been
sent for, but had not arrived. It was then eleven o'clock, and at one
the doctor was summoned as a witness to attend the inquest on George
Caresfoot. He had, therefore, two hours at his disposal, and these he
determined to utilise by driving round to see Angela, who was still
lying at Mr. Fraser's vicarage.

Mr. Fraser heard him coming, and met him in the little drive. He
briefly told him what he had just seen, and what, in his opinion, Lady
Bellamy's fate must be--one of living death. The clergyman's remark
was characteristic.

"And yet," he said, "there are people in the world who say that there
is no God."

"How is Mrs. Caresfoot?" asked the doctor.

"She had a dreadful fit of raving this morning, and we had to tie her
down in bed. She is quieter now, poor dear. There, listen!"

At that moment, through the open window of the bedroom, they heard a
sweet though untrained voice beginning to sing. It was Angela's, and
she was singing snatches of an old-fashioned sailor-song, one of
several which Arthur had taught her:


     "Fare ye well, and adieu to all you Spanish ladies,
      Fare ye well, and adieu to ye, ladies of Spain,
      For we've received orders to return to Old England,
      But we hope in a short time to see you again.

                *       *       *

     "We hove our ship to with the wind at sou'west, my boys;
      We hove our ship to for to strike soundings clear;
      It was forty-five fathom and a grey sandy bottom;
      Then we filled our main topsail, and up channel did steer.

                *       *       *

     "The signal was made for the grand fleet to anchor,
      All in the Downs that night for to meet;
      So cast off your shank-painter, let go your cat's-topper,
      Hawl up your clew-garnets, let fly tack and sheet."


Without waiting to hear any more, they went up the stairs and entered
the bedroom. The first person they saw was Pigott, who had been sent
for to nurse Angela, standing by the side of the bed, and a trained
nurse at a little table at the foot mixing some medicine. On the bed
itself lay Angela, shorn of all her beautiful hair, her face flushed
as with fever, except where a blue weal bore witness to the blow from
her husband's cruel whip, her head thrown back, and a strange light in
her wild eyes. She was tied down in the bed, with a broad horse-girth
stretched across her breast, but she had wrenched one arm free, and
with it was beating time to her song on the bed-clothes. She caught
sight of Mr. Fraser at once, and seemed to recognize him, for she
stopped her singing and laughed.

"That's a pretty old song, isn't it?" she said. "Somebody taught it me
--who was it? Somebody--a long while ago. But I know another--I know
another. You'll like it; you are a clergyman, you know." And she began
again:


          "Says the parson one day as I cursed a Jew,
           Now do you not know that that is a sin?
           Of you sailors I fear there are but a few
           That St. Peter to heaven will ever let in.

          "Says I, Mr. Parson, to tell you my mind,
           Few sailors to knock were ever yet seen;
           Those who travel by land may steer against wind
           But we shape a course for Fiddler's Green."


Suddenly she stopped, and her mind wandered off to the scene of two
days previous with Arthur by the lake, and she began to quote the
words wrung from the bitterness of his heart.

"'You miserable woman, do you know what you are? Shame upon you! Were
you not married yesterday?' It is quite true, Arthur--oh, yes, quite
true! Say what you like of me, Arthur--I deserve it all; but oh!
Arthur, I love you so. Don't be hard upon me--I love you so, dear!
Kill me if you like, dear, but don't talk to me so. I shall go mad--I
shall go mad!" and she broke into a flood of weeping.

"Poor dear, she has been going on like that, off and on, all night. It
clean broke my heart to see it, and that's the holy truth," and Pigott
looked very much as though she were going to cry herself.

By this time Angela had ceased weeping, and was brooding sullenly,
with her face buried in the pillow.

"There is absolutely nothing to be done," said the doctor. "We can
only trust to her fine constitution and youth to pull her through. She
has received a series of dreadful mental shocks, and it is very
doubtful if she will ever get over them. It is a pity to think that
such a splendid creature may become permanently insane, is it not? You
must be very careful, Pigott, that she does not do herself an injury;
she is just in the state that she may throw herself out of the window
or cut her throat. And now I must be going; I will call in again
to-night."

Mr. Fraser accompanied him down to the gate, where he had left his
trap. Before they got out of the front door, Angela had roused herself
again, and they could hear her beginning to quote Homer, and then
breaking out into snatches of her sailor-songs.

                  "'High aloft amongst the rigging
                   Sings the loud exulting gale.'

"That's like me. I sing too," and then followed peal upon peal of mad
laughter.

"A very sad case! She has a poor chance, I fear."

Mr. Fraser was too much affected to answer him.



                            CHAPTER LXVII

Public feeling in Marlshire was much excited about the Caresfoot
tragedy, and, when it became known that Lady Bellamy had attempted to
commit suicide, the excitement was trebled. It is not often that the
dullest and most highly respectable part of an eminently dull and
respectable county gets such a chance of cheerful and interesting
conversation as these two events gave rise to. We may be sure that the
godsend was duly appreciated; indeed, the whole story is up to this
hour a favourite subject of conversation in those parts.

Of course the members of the polite society of the neighbourhood of
Roxham were divided into two camps. The men all thought that Angela
had been shamefully treated, the elder and most intensely respectable
ladies for the most part inclined to the other side of the question.
It not being their habit to look at matters from the same point of
view in which they present themselves to a man's nicer sense of
honour, they could see no great harm in George Caresfoot's stratagems.
A man so rich, they argued, was perfectly entitled to buy his wife.
The marriage had been arranged, like their own, on the soundest
property basis, and the woman who rose in rebellion against a husband
merely because she loved another man, or some such romantic nonsense,
deserved all she got. Gone mad, had she?--well, it was a warning! And
these aristocratic matrons sniffed and turned up their noses. They
felt that Angela, by going mad and creating a public excitement, had
entered a mute protest against the recognized rules of marriage sale-
and-barter as practised in this country--and Zululand. Having
daughters to dispose of, they resented this, and poor Angela was for
years afterwards spoken of among them as that "immoral girl."

But the lower and more human strata of society did not sympathize with
this feeling. On the contrary, they were all for Angela and the dog
Aleck who was supposed to have chocked that "carroty warmint," George.

The inquest on George's body was held at Roxham, and was the object of
the greatest possible interest. Indeed, the public excitement was so
great that the coroner was, perhaps insensibly, influenced by it, and
allowed the inquiry to travel a little beyond its professed object of
ascertaining the actual cause of death, with the result that many of
the details of the wicked plot from which Angela had been the
principal sufferer became public property. Needless to say that they
did not soothe the feelings of an excited crowd. When Philip, after
spending one of the worst half-hours of his life in the witness-box,
at length escaped with such shreds of reputation as he had hitherto
possessed altogether torn off his back, his greeting from the mob
outside the court may fairly be described as a warm one. As the
witnesses' door closed behind him, he found himself at one end of a
long lane, that was hedged on both sides by faces not without a touch
of ferocity about them, and with difficulty kept clear by the
available force of the five Roxham policemen.

"Who sold his daughter?" shouted a great fellow in his ear.

"Let me come, there's a dear man, and have a look at Judas," said a
skinny little woman with a squint, to an individual who blocked her
view.

The crowd caught at the word. "Judas!" it shouted, "go and hang
yourself! Judas! Judas!"

How Philip got out of that he never quite knew, but he did get out
somehow.

Meanwhile, Sir John Bellamy was being examined in court, and,
notwithstanding the almost aggressive innocence of his appearance, he
was not having a very good time. It chanced that he had fallen into
the hands of a rival lawyer, who hated him like poison, and had good
reason to hate him. It is wonderful, by the way, how enemies do spring
up round a man in trouble like dogs who bite a wounded companion to
death, and on the same principle. He is defenceless. This gentleman
would insist on conducting the witnesses' examination on the basis
that he knew all about the fraud practised with reference to the
supposed death of Arthur Heigham. Now, it will be remembered that Sir
John, in his last interview with Lady Bellamy, had declared that there
was no tittle of evidence against him, and that it would be impossible
to implicate him in the exposure that must overtake her. To a certain
extent he was right, but on one point he had overshot himself, for at
that very inquest Mr. Fraser stated on oath that he (Mr. Fraser) had
spoken of Arthur Heigham's death in the presence of Sir John Bellamy,
and had not been contradicted.

In vain did Sir John protest that Mr. Fraser must be mistaken. Both
the jury and the public looked at the probabilities of the matter,
and, though his protestations were accepted in silence, when he left
the witness-box there was not a man in court but was morally certain
that he had been privy to the plot, and, so far as reputation was
concerned, he was a ruined man. And yet legally there was not a jot of
evidence against him. But public opinion required that a scapegoat
should be found, and it was now his lot to figure as that unlucky
animal.

By the time he reached the exit into the street, the impression that
he had had a hand in the business had, in some mysterious way,
communicated itself to the mob outside, many a member of which had
some old grudge to settle with "Lawyer Bellamy," if only chance put an
opportunity in their way. As he stepped through the door, utterly
ignorant of the greeting which awaited him, his ears were assailed by
an awful yell, followed by a storm of hoots and hisses.

Sir John turned pale, and looked for a means of escape; but the
policeman who had let him out had locked the door behind him, and all
round him was the angry mob.

"Here comes the ---- that started the swim," roared a voice, as soon
as there was a momentary lull.

"Gentlemen----" piped Sir John, with all the pippin hue gone from his
cheeks, and rubbing his white hands together nervously.

"Yah! he poisoned his own poor wife!" shouted a woman with a baby.

"Ladies----" went on Sir John, in agonized tones.

"Pelt him!" yelled a sweet little boy of ten or so, suiting the action
to the word, and planting a rotten egg full upon Sir John's imposing
brow.

"No, no," said the woman who had nicknamed Philip "Judas." "Why don't
you drop him in the pond? There's only two feet of water, and it's
soft falling on the mud. You can pelt him _afterwards_."

The idea was received with acclamation, and notwithstanding his own
efforts to the contrary, backed as they were by those of the five
policemen, before he knew where he was, Sir John found himself being
hustled by a lot of sturdy fellows towards the filthy duck-pond, like
an aristocrat to the guillotine. They soon arrived, and then followed
the most painful experience of all his life, one of which the very
thought would ever afterwards move him most profoundly. Two strong
men, utterly heedless of his yells and lamentations, took him by the
heels, and two yet stronger than they caught him by his plump and
tender wrists, and then, under the directions of the woman with the
squint, they began to swing him from side to side. As soon as the lady
directress considered that the impetus was sufficient, she said,
"Now!" and away he went like a swallow, only to land, when his flying
powers were exhausted, plump in the middle of the duck-pond.

Some ten seconds afterwards, a pillar of slimy mud arose and staggered
towards the bank, where a crowd of little boys, each holding something
offensive in his right hand, were eagerly awaiting its arrival. The
squint-eyed woman contemplated the figure with the most intense
satisfaction.

"He sold me up once," she murmured; "but we're quits now. That's it,
lads, let him have it."

But we will drop a veil over this too painful scene. Sir John Bellamy
was unwell for some days afterwards; when he recovered he shook the
dust of Roxham off his shoes for ever.



                            CHAPTER LXVIII

A fortnight or so afterwards, when the public excitement occasioned by
the Caresfoot tragedy had been partially eclipsed by a particularly
thrilling child-murder and suicide, a change for the better took place
in Angela's condition. One night, after an unusually violent fit of
raving, she suddenly went to sleep about twelve o'clock, and slept all
that night and all the next day. About half-past nine on the following
evening, the watchers in her room--namely, Pigott, Mr. Fraser, and Dr.
Williamson, who was trying to make out what this deep sleep meant--
were suddenly astonished at seeing her sit up in her bed in a
listening attitude, as though she could hear something that interested
her intensely, for the webbing that tied her down had been temporarily
removed, and then cry, in a tone of the most living anguish, and yet
with a world of passionate remonstrance in her voice,

"_Arthur, Arthur!_"

Then she sank down again for a few minutes. It was the same night that
Mildred and Arthur sat together on the deck of the _Evening Star_.
Presently she opened her eyes, and the doctor saw that there was no
longer any madness in them, only great trouble. Her glance first fell
upon Pigott.

"Run," she said, "run and stop him; he cannot have gone far. Bring him
back to me; quick, or he will be gone."

"Who do you mean, dear?"

"Arthur, of course--Arthur."

"Hush, Angela!" said Mr. Fraser, "he has been gone a long time; you
have been very ill."

She did not say anything, but turned her face to the pillow and wept,
apparently as much from exhaustion as from any other cause, and then
dropped off to sleep again.

"Her reason is saved," said Dr. Williamson, as soon as they were
outside the door.

"Thanks be to Providence and you, doctor."

"Thanks to Providence alone. It is a case in which I could do little
or nothing. It is a most merciful deliverance. All that you have to do
now is to keep her perfectly quiet, and, above all, do not let her
father come near her at present. I will call in and tell him. Lady
Bellamy? Oh! about the same. She is a strange woman; she never
complains, and rarely speaks--though twice I have heard her break out
shockingly. There will never be any alternation in her case till the
last alteration. Good-bye; I will look round to-morrow."

After this, Angela's recovery was, comparatively speaking, rapid,
though of course the effects of so severe a shock to the nervous
system could not be shaken off in a day. Though she was no longer mad,
she was still in a disturbed state of mind, and subject to strange
dreams or visions. One in particular that visited her several nights
in a succession, made a great impression upon her.

First, it would seem to her that she was wide awake in the middle of
the night, and there would creep over her a sense of unmeasured space,
infinite silence, and intense solitude. She would think that she was
standing on a dais at the end of a vast hall, down which ran endless
rows of pillars supporting an inky sky which was the roof. There was
no light in the hall, yet she could clearly see; there was no sound,
but she could hear the silence. Only a soft radiance shone from her
eyes and brow. She was not afraid, though lonely, but she felt that
something would presently come to make an end of solitude. And so she
stood for many years or ages--she could not tell which--trying to
fathom the mystery of that great place, and watching the light that
streamed from her forehead strike upon the marble floor and pillars,
or thread the darkness like a shooting star, only to reveal new depths
of blackness beyond those it pierced. At length there came, softly
falling from the sky-roof which never stirred to any passing breeze, a
flake of snow larger than a dove's wing; but it was blood-red, and in
its centre shone a wonderful light that made its passage through the
darkness a track of glory. As it passed gently downwards without
sound, she thought that it threw the shadow of a human face. It lit
upon the marble floor, and the red snow melted there and turned to
blood, but the light that had been its heart shone on pure and steady.

Looking up again, she saw that the vault above her was thick with
thousands upon thousands of these flakes, each glowing like a crimson
lamp, and each throwing its own shadow. One of the shadows was like
George, and she shuddered as it passed. And ever as they touched the
marble pavement, the flakes melted and became blood, and some of the
lights went out, but the most part burnt on, till at length there was
no longer any floor, but a dead-sea of blood on which floated a myriad
points of fire.

And then it all grew clear to her, for a voice in her mind spoke and
said that this was one of God's storehouses for human souls; that the
light was the soul, and the red in the snow which turned to blood was
the sin which had, during its earthly passage, stained its first
purity. The sea of blood before her was the sum of the scarlet
wickedness of her age; from every soul there came some to swell its
awful waters.

At length the red snow ceased to fall, and a sound that was not a
voice, but yet spoke, pealed through the silence, asking if all were
ready. The voice that had spoken in her mind answered, "No, he has not
come who is to see." Then, looking upwards, she saw, miles on miles
away, a bright being with half-shut wings flashing fast towards her,
and she knew that it was Arthur, and the loneliness left her. He lit a
breathing radiance by her side, and again the great sound pealed, "Let
in the living waters, and cleanse away the sins of this generation."

It echoed and died away, and there followed a tumult like the flow of
an angry sea. A mighty wind swept past her, and after it an ocean of
molten crystal came rushing through the illimitable hall. The sea and
the wind purged away the blood and put out the lamps, leaving behind
them a glow of light like that upon her brow, and where the lamps had
been stood myriads of seraphic beings, whilst from ten thousand
tongues ran forth a paean of celestial song.



Then everything vanished, and deep gloom, that was not, however, dark
to her, settled round them. Taking Arthur by the hand, she spread her
white wings and circled upwards. Far, far they sailed, till they
reached a giant peak that split space in twain. Here they alighted,
and watched the masses of cloud tearing through the gulfs on either
side of them, and, looking beyond and below, gazed upon the shining
worlds that peopled space beneath them.

From the cloud-drifts to the right and left came a noise as of the
soughings of many wings; but they did not know what caused it, till
presently the vapours lifted, and they saw that alongside of and
beneath them two separate streams of souls were passing on
outstretched pinions: one stream, that to their left, proceeding to
their earthly homes, and one, that to the right, returning from them.
Those who went wore grief upon their shadowy faces, and had sad-
coloured wings; but those who returned seemed for the most part happy,
and their wings were tipped with splendour.

The never-ending stream that came flowed from a far-off glory, and
that which returned, having passed the dividing cliff on which they
stood, was changed into a multitude of the red snow-flakes with the
glowing hearts, and dropped gently downwards.

So they stood, in happy peace, never tiring, from millennium to
millennium. They watched new worlds collecting out of chaos, they saw
them speed upon their high aerial course till, grown hoary, their
foundation-rocks crumbling with age, they wasted away into the
vastness whence they had gathered, to be replaced by fresh creations
that in their turn took form, teemed with life, waxed, waned, and
vanished.

At length there came an end, and the soughing of wings was silent for
ever; no more souls went downwards, and none came up from the earths.
Then the distant glory from which the souls had come moved towards
them with awful mutterings and robed in lightning, and space was
filled with spirits, one of whom, sweeping past them, cried with a
loud voice, "Children, Time is dead; now is the beginning of
knowledge." And she turned to Arthur, who had grown more radiant than
the star which gleamed upon his forehead, and kissed him.

Then she would wake.



Time passed on, and gradually health and strength came back to Angela,
till at last she was as powerful in mind, and--if that were possible--
except that she was shorn of her lovely hair, more beautiful in body
than she had been before her troubles overwhelmed her. Of Arthur she
thought a great deal--indeed, she thought of little else; but it was
with a sort of hopelessness that precluded action. Nobody had
mentioned his name to her, as it was thought wiser not to do so,
though Pigott and Mr. Fraser had, in as gentle terms as they could
command, told her of the details of the plot against her, and of the
consequences to the principal actors in it. Nor had she spoken of him.
It seemed to her that she had lost him for good, that he could never
come back to her after she had passed, that he must hate her too much.
She supposed that, in acting as he did, he was aware of all the
circumstances of her marriage, and could find no excuses for her. She
did not even know where he was, and, in her ignorance of the uses of
private detectives and advertisements, had no idea how to find out.
And so she suffered in silence, and only saw him in her dreams.

She still stopped at the vicarage with Pigott; nor had there as yet
been any talk of her returning to the Abbey House. Indeed, she had not
seen her father since the day of her marriage. But, now that she had
recovered, she felt that something must be done about it. Wondering
what it should be, she one afternoon walked to the churchyard, where
she had not been since her illness, and, once there, made her way
naturally to her mother's grave. She was moving very quietly, and had
almost reached the tree under which Hilda Caresfoot lay, when she
became aware that there was already somebody kneeling by the grave,
with his head rested against the marble cross.

It was her father. Her shadow falling upon him, he turned and saw her,
and they stood looking at each other. She was shocked at the dreadful
alteration in his face. It was now that of an old man, nearly worn out
with suffering. He put his hand before his eyes, and said,

"Angela, how can I face you, least of all here?"

For a moment the memory of her bitter wrongs swelled in her heart, for
she now to a great extent understood what her father's part in the
plot had been, and she regarded him in silence.

"Father," she said, presently, "I have been in the hands of God, and
not in yours, and though you have helped to ruin my life, and have
very nearly driven me into a madhouse, I can still say, let the past
be the past. But why do you look so wretched? You should look happy;
you have got the land--my price, you know," and she laughed a little
bitterly.

"Why do I look wretched? Because I am given over to a curse that you
cannot understand, and I am not alone. Where are those who plotted
against you? George dead, Bellamy gone, Lady Bellamy paralysed hand
and foot, and myself--although I did not plot, I only let them be--
accursed. But, if you can forget the past, why do you not come back to
my house? Of course I cannot force you; you are free and rich, and can
suit yourself."

"I will come for a time if you wish--if I can bring Pigott with me."

"You may bring twenty Pigotts, for all I care--so long as you will pay
for their board," he added, with a touch of his old miserliness. "But
what do you mean 'for a time'?"

"I do not think I shall stop here long; I think that I am going into a
sisterhood."

"Oh! well, you are your own mistress, and must do as you choose."

"Then I will come to-morrow," and they parted.



                             CHAPTER LXIX

And so on the following day Angela and Pigott returned to the Abbey
House, but they both felt that it was a sad home-coming. Indeed, if
there had been no other cause for melancholy, the sight of Philip's
face was enough to excite it in the most happy-minded person. Not that
Angela saw much of him, however, for they still kept to their old
habit of not living together. All day her father was shut up in his
room transacting business that had reference to the accession of his
property and the settlement of George's affairs; for his cousin had
died intestate, so he took his personalty and wound up the estate as
heir-at-law. At night, however, he would go out and walk for miles,
and in all weathers--he seemed to dread spending the dark hours at
home.

When Angela had been back about a month in the old place, she
accidentally got a curious insight into her father's mental
sufferings.

It so happened that one night, finding it impossible to sleep, and
being much oppressed by sorrowful thoughts, she thought that she would
read the hours away. But the particular book she wanted to find was
downstairs, and it was two o'clock in the morning, and chilly in the
passages. However, anything is better than sleeplessness, and the
tyranny of sad thoughts and empty longings; so, throwing on her
dressing-gown, she took a candle, and set off, thinking as she went
how she had in the same guise fled before her husband.

She got her book, and was returning, when she saw that there was still
a light in her father's study, and that the door was ajar. At that
moment it so happened that an unusually sharp draught coming down one
of the passages of the rambling old house, caught her candle and
extinguished it. Making her way to the study-door, she pushed it open
to see if anybody was there previous to asking for a light. At first
she could see nobody. On the table, which was covered with papers,
there stood two candles, a brandy-bottle, and a glass. She was just
moving to the candle to get a light, when her eye fell on what she at
first believed to be a heap of clothes huddled together on the floor
in the corner of the room. Further examination showed that it was a
man--she could distinctly see the backs of his hands. Her first ideas
was that she had surprised a thief, and she stopped, feeling
frightened and not knowing what to do. Just then the bundle
straightened itself a little and dropped its hands, revealing to her
wondering gaze her own father's face, which wore the same awful look
of abject fear which she had seen upon it when he passed through the
hall beneath her just before Isleworth broke into flame on the night
of her marriage. The eyes appeared to be starting from the sockets in
an effort to clearly realize an undefinable horror, the hair, now
daily growing greyer, was partially erect, and the pallid lips, half-
opened, as though to speak words that would not come. He saw her too,
but did not seem surprised at her presence. Covering up his eyes again
with one hand, he shrank further back into his corner, and with the
other pointed to a large leather arm-chair in which Pigott had told
her her grandfather had died.

"Look there," he whispered, hoarsely.

"Where, father? I see nothing."

"There, girl, in the chair--look how it glares at me!"

Angela stood aghast. She was alarmed, in defiance of her own reason,
and began to catch the contagion of superstition.

"This is dreadful," she said; "for heaven's sake tell me what is the
matter."

Philip's ghastly gaze again fixed itself on the chair, and his teeth
began to chatter.

"_Great God,_" he said, "_it is coming._"

And, uttering a smothered cry, he fell on his face in a half faint.
The necessity for action brought Angela to herself. Seizing the
water-bottle, she splashed some water into her father's face. He came
to himself almost instantly.

"Where am I?" he said. "Ah! I remember; I have not been quite well.
You must not think anything of that. What are you doing down here at
this time of night? Pass me that bottle," and he took nearly half a
tumbler of raw brandy. "There, I am quite right again now; I had a bad
attack of indigestion, that is all. Good night."

Angela went without a word. She understood now what her father had
meant when he said that he was "accursed;" but she could not help
wondering whether the brandy had anything to do with his
"indigestion."

On the following day the doctor came to see her. It struck Angela that
he came oftener than was necessary, the fact being that he would
gladly have attended her gratis all year round. A doctor does not
often get the chance of visiting such a patient.

"You do not look quite so well to-day," he said.

"No," she answered, with a little smile; "I had bad dreams last
night."

"Ah! I thought so. You should try to avoid that sort of thing; you are
far too imaginative already."

"One cannot run away from one's dreams. Murder will out in sleep."

"Well, I have a message for you."

"Who from?"

"Lady Bellamy. You know that she is paralysed?"

"Yes."

"Well, she wants you to go and see her. Shall you go?"

Angela thought a little, and answered,

"Yes, I think so."

"You must be prepared for some bitter language if she speaks at all.
Very likely she will beg you to get her some poison to kill herself
with. I have been obliged to take the greatest precautions to prevent
her from obtaining any. I am not very sensitive, but once or twice she
has positively made me shiver with the things she says."

"She can never say anything more dreadful to me than she has said
already, Dr. Williamson."

"Perhaps not. Go if you like. If you were revengeful--which I am sure
you are not--you would have good reason to be satisfied at what you
will see. Medically speaking, it is a sad case."

Accordingly, that every afternoon, Angela, accompanied by Pigott,
started off for Rewtham House, where Lady Bellamy still lived, or
rather existed. It was her first outing since the inquest on George
Caresfoot had caused her and her history to become publicly notorious,
and, as she walked along, she was surprised to find that she was the
object of popular sympathy. Every man she met touched or took off his
hat, according to his degree, and, as soon as she had passed, turned
round and stared at her. Some fine folks whom she did not know--
indeed, she knew no one, though it had been the fashion to send and
"inquire" during her illness--drove past in an open carriage and pair,
and she saw a gentleman on the front seat whisper something to the
ladies, bringing round their heads towards her as simultaneously as
though they both worked on a single wire. Even the children coming out
of the village school set up a cheer as she passed.

"Good gracious, Pigott, what is it all about?" she asked, at last.

"Well, you see, miss, they talk of you in the papers as the 'Abbey
House heroine'--and heroines is rare in these parts."

Overwhelmed with so much attention, Angela was thankful when at last
they reached Rewtham House.

Pigott went into the housekeeper's room, and Angela was at once shown
up into the drawing-room. The servant announced her name to a black-
robed figure lying on a sofa, and closed the door.

"Come here, Angela Caresfoot," said a well-known voice, "and see how
Fate has repaid the woman who tried to ruin you."

She advanced and looked at the deathly face, still as darkly beautiful
as ever, on which was fixed that strange look of wild expectancy that
it had worn when its owner took the poison.

"Yes, look at me; think what I was, and then what I am, and learn how
the Spirit of evil pays those who serve him. I thought to kill myself,
but death was denied me, and now I live as you see me. I am an outcast
from the society of my kind--not that I ever cared for that, except to
rule it. I cannot stir hand or foot, I cannot write, I can scarcely
read, I cannot even die. My only resource is the bitter sea of thought
that seethes eternally in this stricken frame like fire pent in the
womb of a volcano. Yes, Angela Caresfoot, and like the fire, too,
sometimes it overflows, and then I can blaspheme and rave aloud till
my voice fails. That is the only power which is left to me."

Angela uttered an exclamation of pity.

"Pity--do not pity me; I will not be pitied by you. Mock me if you
will; it is your turn now. You prophesied that it would come; now it
is here."

"At any rate, you are still comfortable in your own house," said
Angela, nervously, anxious to change the subject, and not knowing what
to say.

"Oh! yes, I have money enough, if that is what you mean. My husband
threatened to leave me destitute, but fear of public opinion--and I
hear that he has run away, and is not well thought of now--or perhaps
of myself, cripple as I am, caused him to change his mind. But do not
let us talk of that poor creature. I sent for you here for a purpose.
Where is your lover?"

Angela turned pale and trembled.

"What, do you not know, or are you tired of him?"

"Tired of him! I shall never be tired of him; but he has gone."

"Shall I tell you where to find him?"

"You would not if you could; you would deceive me again."

"No, oddly enough, I shall not. I have no longer any object in doing
so. When I was bent upon marrying you to George Caresfoot, I lashed
myself into hating you; now I hate you no longer, I respect you--
indeed, I have done so all along."

"Then, why did you work me such a bitter wrong?"

"Because I was forced to. Believe me or not as you will, I am not
going to tell you the story--at any rate, not now. I can only repeat
that I was forced to."

"Where is Arthur?"

"In Madeira. Do you remember once telling me that you had only to lift
your hand--so--ah! I forgot, I cannot lift mine--to draw him back to
you, that no other woman in the world could keep him from you if you
chose to bid him come?"

"Yes, I remember."

"Then, if you wish to get him back, you had better exercise your
power, for he has gone to another woman."

"Who is she? What is she like?"

"She is a young widow--a Mrs. Carr. She is desperately in love with
him--very beautiful and very rich."

"Beautiful! How do you mean? Tell me exactly what she is like."

"She has brown eyes, brown hair, a lovely complexion, and a perfect
figure."

Angela glanced rapidly at her own reflection in the glass and sighed.

"Then I fear that I shall have no chance against her--none!"

"You are a fool! if you were alone in the same room with her, nobody
would see her for looking at you."

Angela sighed again, this time from relief.

"But there is worse than that; very possibly he has married her."

"Ah! then it is all over!"

"Why? If he loves you as much as you think, you can bring him back to
you, married or unmarried."

"Perhaps. Yes, I think I could; but I would not."

"Why? If he loves you and you love him, you have a right to him. Among
all the shams and fictions that we call laws, there is only one true--
the law of Nature, by virtue of which you belong to each other."

"No, there is a higher law--the law of duty, by means of which we try
to curb the impulses of Nature. The woman who has won him has a right
to consideration."

"Then, to gratify a foolish prejudice, you are prepared to lose him
forever?"

"No, Lady Bellamy; if I thought that I was to lose him for ever, I
might be tempted to do what is wrong in order to be with him for a
time; but I do not think that. I only lose him for a time that I may
gain him for ever. In this world he is separated from me, in the
worlds to come my rights will assert themselves, and we shall be
together, and never part any more."

Lady Bellamy looked at her wonderingly, for her eyes could still
express her emotions.

"You are a fine creature," she said, "and, if you believe that,
perhaps it will be true for you, since Faith must be the measure of
realization. But, after all, he may not have married her. That will be
for you to find out."

"How can I find out?"

"By writing to him, of course--to the care of Mrs. Carr, Madeira. That
is sure to find him."

"Thank you. How can I thank you enough?"

"It seems to me that you owe me few thanks. You are always foolish
about what tends to secure your own happiness, or you would have
thought of this before."

There was a pause, and then Angela rose to go.

"Are you going. Yes, go. I am not fit company for such as you. Perhaps
we shall not meet again; but, in thinking of all the injuries that I
have done you, remember that my punishment is proportionate to my sin.
They tell me that I may live for years."

Angela gazed at the splendid wreck beneath her, and an infinite pity
swelled in her gentle heart. Stooping, she kissed her on the forehead.
A wild astonishment filled Lady Bellamy's great, dark eyes.

"Child, child, what are you doing? you do not know what I am, or you
would not kiss me!"

"Yes, Lady Bellamy," she said, quietly, "I do, that is, I know what
you have been; but I want to forget that. Perhaps you will one day be
able to forget it too. I do not wish to preach, but perhaps, after
all, this terrible misfortune may lead you to something better. Thank
God, there is forgiveness for us all."

Her words touched some forgotten chord in the stricken woman's heart,
and two big tears rolled down the frozen cheeks. They were the first
Anne Bellamy had wept for many a day.

"Your voice," she said, "has a music that awakes the echoes from a
time when I was good and pure like you, but that time has gone for
ever."

"Surely, Lady Bellamy, the heart that can remember it can also strive
to reach another like it. If you have descended the cliff whence those
echoes spring, into a valley however deep, there is still another
cliff before you that you may climb."

"It is easy to descend, but we need wings to climb. Look at me,
Angela; my body is not more crippled and shorn of power than my dark
spirit is of wings. How can _I_ climb?"

Angela bent low beside her and whispered a few words in her ear, then
rose with a shy blush upon her face. Lady Bellamy shut her eyes.
Presently she opened them again.

"Do not speak any more of this to me now," she said. "I must have
time. The instinct of years cannot be brushed away in a day. If you
knew all the sins I have committed, perhaps you would think too that
for such as I am there is no forgiveness and no hope."

"Whilst there is life there is hope, and, as I once heard Mr. Fraser
say, the real key to forgiveness is the desire to be forgiven."

Again Lady Bellamy shut her eyes and thought, and, when she drew up
their heavy lids, Angela saw that there was something of a peaceful
look about them.

"Stand so," she said to Angela, "there where the light falls upon your
face. That will do; now shall I tell you what I read there? On your
forehead sit resolute power to grasp, and almost measureless capacity
to imagine; in your eyes there is a sympathy not to be guessed by
beings of a coarser fibre; those eyes could look at Heaven and not be
dazzled. Your whole face speaks of a purity and single-mindedness
which I can read but cannot understand. Your mind rejects the
glittering bubbles that men follow, and seeks the solid truth. Your
spirit is in tune with things of light and air; it can float to the
extremest heights of our mental atmosphere, and thence can almost gaze
into the infinite beyond. Pure, but not cold, thirsting for a wider
knowledge, and at times breathing the air of a higher world; resolute,
but patient; proud, and yet humble to learn; holy, but aspiring;
conscious of gifts you do not know how to use, girl, you rise as near
to what is divine as a mortal may. I have always thought so, now I am
sure of it."

"Lady Bellamy!"

"Hush! I have a reason for what I say. I do not ask you to waste time
by listening to senseless panegyrics. Listen: I will tell you what I
have never told to a living soul before. For years I have been a
student of a lore almost forgotten in this country--a lore which once
fully acquired will put the powers that lie hid in Nature at the
command of its possessor, that will even enable him to look beyond
Nature, and perhaps, so far as the duration of existence is concerned,
for awhile to triumph over it. That lore you can learn, though it
baffled me. My intellect and determination enabled me to find the cues
to it, and to stumble on some of its secrets, but I could not follow
them; too late I learnt that only the good and pure can do that. Much
of the result of years of toil I destroyed the other night, but I
still know enough to empower you to reconstruct what I annihilated;
you can learn more in one year than I learnt in ten. I am grateful to
you, and, if you wish it, I will show you the way."

Angela listened, open-eyed. Lady Bellamy was right, she was greedy of
knowledge and the power that springs from knowledge.

"But would it not be wrong?" she said.

"There can be nothing wrong in what the ruling Wisdom allows us to
acquire without the help of what is evil. But do not be deceived, such
knowledge and power as this is not a thing to be trifled with. To
obtain a mastery over it, you must devote your life to it; you must
give it

         "'Allegiance whole, not strained to suit desire,'

"No earthly passion must come to trouble the fixed serenity of your
aspirations; that was one, but only one, of the reasons of my failure.
You must leave your Arthur to Mrs. Carr, and henceforward put him as
much out of your mind as possible; and this, that you may be able to
separate yourself from earthly bonds and hopes and fears. Troubled
waters reflect a broken image."

"I must, then, choose between this knowledge and my love?"

"Yes; and you will do well if you choose the knowledge; for, before
you die--if, indeed, you do not in the end, for a certain period,
overcome even death--you will be more of an angel than a woman. On the
one hand, then, this proud and dizzy destiny awaits you; on the other,
every-day joys and sorrows shared by all the world, and an ordinary
attachment to a man against whom I have, indeed, nothing to say, but
who is not your equal, and who is, at the best, full of weaknesses
that you should despise."

"But, Lady Bellamy, his weaknesses are a part of himself, and I love
him all, just as he is; weakness needs love more than what is strong."

"Perhaps; but, in return for your love, I offer you no empty cup. I do
not ask you to follow fantastic theories--of that I will soon convince
you. Shall I show you the semblance of your Arthur and Mrs. Carr as
they are at this moment?"

"No, Lady Bellamy, no, I have chosen. You offer, after years of
devotion, to make me _almost like an angel_. The temptation is very
great, and it fascinates me. But I hope, if I can succeed in living a
good life, to become altogether an angel when I die. Why, then, should
I attempt to filch fragments of a knowledge that will one day be all
my own?--if, indeed, it is right to do so. Whilst I am here, Arthur's
love is more to me than such knowledge can ever be. If he is married,
I may learn to think differently, and try to soothe my mind by forcing
it to run in these hidden grooves. Till then, I choose Arthur and my
petty hopes and fears; for, after all, they are the natural heritage
of my humanity."

Lady Bellamy thought for awhile, and answered,

"I begin to think that the Great Power who made us has mixed even His
most perfect works with an element of weakness, lest they should soar
too high, and see too far. The prick of a pin will bring a balloon to
earth, and an earthly passion, Angela, will prevent you from soaring
to the clouds. So be it. You have had your chance. It is only one more
disappointment."



                             CHAPTER LXX

Angela went home very thoughtful. The next three days she spent in
writing. First, she wrote a clear and methodical account of all the
events that had happened since Arthur's first departure, more than a
year ago, and attached to it copies of the various documents that had
passed between herself and George, including one of the undertaking
that her husband had signed before the marriage. This account was in
the form of a statement, which she signed, and, taking it to Mr.
Fraser, read it to him, and got him to sign it too. It took her two
whole days to write, and, when it was done, she labelled it "to be
read first." On the third day she wrote the following letter to go
with the statement:

"For the first time in my life, Arthur, I take up my pen to write to
you, and in truth the difficulty of the task before me, as well as my
own want of skill, tends to bewilder me, and, though I have much upon
my mind to say, I scarcely know if it will reach you--if, indeed, this
letter is ever destined to lie open in your hands--in an intelligible
form.

"The statement that I enclose, however, will--in case you do not
already know them--tell you all the details of what has happened since
you left me more than a year ago. From it you will learn how cruelly I
was deceived into marrying George Caresfoot, believing you dead. Oh,
through all eternity, never shall I forget that fearful night, nor
cease to thank God for my merciful escape from the fiend whom I had
married. And then came the morning, and brought you--the dead--alive
before my eyes. And whilst I stood in the first tumult of my amaze--
forgetful of everything but that it was you, my own, my beloved
Arthur, no spirit, but you in flesh and blood--whilst I yet stood
thus, stricken to silence by the shock of an unutterable joy--you
broke upon me with those dreadful words, so that I choked, feeling how
just they must seem to you, and could not answer.

"And yet it sometimes fills me with wonder and indignation to think of
them; wonder that you could believe me so mad as to throw away the
love of my life, and indignation that you could deem me so lost as to
dishonour it. They drove me mad, those words, and from that moment
forward I remember nothing but a chaos of the mind heaving endlessly
like the sea. But all this has passed, and I am thankful to say that I
am quite well again now.

"Still I should not have written to you, Arthur; I did not even know
where you were, and I never thought of recovering you. After what has
passed, I looked upon you as altogether lost to me for this world. But
a few days ago I went at her own request to see Lady Bellamy. All she
said to me I will not now repeat, lest I should render this letter too
wearisome to read, though a great deal of it was strange enough to be
well worth repetition. In the upshot, however, she said that I had
better write to you, and told me where to write. And so I write to
you, dear. There was also another thing that she told me of sad import
for myself, but which I must not shrink to face. She said that there
lived at Madeira, where you are, a lady who is in love with you, and
is herself both beautiful and wealthy, to whom you would have gone for
comfort in your trouble, and in all probability have married.

"Now, Arthur, I do not know if this is the case, but, if so, I hasten
to say that I do not blame you. You smarted under what must have
seemed to you an intolerable wrong, and you went for consolation to
her who had it to offer. In a man that is perhaps natural, though it
is not a woman's way. If it be so, I say from my heart, be as happy as
you can. But remember what I told you long ago, and do not fall into
any delusions on the matter; do not imagine because circumstances have
shaped themselves thus, therefore I am to be put out of your mind and
forgotten, for this is not so. I cannot be forgotten, though for a
while I may be justly discarded; it is possible that for this world
you have passed out of my reach, but in the next I shall claim you as
my own.

"Yes, Arthur, I have made up my mind to lose you for this life as a
fitting reward for my folly. But do not think that I do so without a
pang, for, believe me, since my mind emerged stronger and clearer from
the storms through which it has passed, bringing back to me the full
life and strength of my womanhood, I have longed for you with an ever-
increasing longing. I am not ashamed to own that I would give worlds
to feel your arms about me and your kiss upon my lips. Why should I
be? Am I not yours, body and soul?

"But, dear, it has been given to me, perhaps as a compensation for all
I have undergone and that is still left for me to undergo, to grasp a
more enduring end than that of earthly ecstasy: for I can look forward
with a confident assurance to the day when we shall embrace upon the
threshold of the Infinite. Do not call this foolish imagination, or
call it imagination, if you will--for what is imagination? Is it not
the connecting link between us and our souls, and recalling memories
of our home. Imagination, what would our higher life be without it? It
is what the mind is to the body, it is the soul's _thought_.

"So in my imagination--since I know no better term--I foresee that
heavenly hour, and I am not jealous for the earthly moment. Nor,
indeed, have I altogether lost you, for at times, in the stillness of
the night, when the earthly part is plunged in sleep and my spirit is
released from the thraldom of the senses, it, at indefinite periods,
has the power to summon your beloved form to its presence, and in this
communion Nature vindicates her faithfulness. Thus, through the long
night rest comes upon me with your presence.

"And at last there will come a greater rest; at last--having lived
misunderstood--we shall die, alone, and then the real life or lives
will begin. It is not always night, for the Dawn is set beyond the
night, and through the gates of Dawn we shall journey to the day. It
is not always night; even in the womb of darkness throbs the promise
of the morning. I often wonder, Arthur, how and what this change will
be. Shall we be even as we are, but still, through unnumbered ages,
growing slowly on to the Divine, or, casting off the very semblance of
mortality, shall we rise at one wide sweep to the pinnacle of
fulfilled time, there to learn the purposes and mark the measure of
all Being.

"How can I know? But this I believe, that whatever the change, however
wide and deep the darkness which stretches between what is and what is
not yet, we cannot lose ourselves therein. Identity will still be
ours, and memory, the Janus-headed, will still pursue us, calling to
our minds the enacted evil and that good which, having been, must
always be. For we are immortal, and though we put off the mortal dress
--yes, though our forms become as variable as the clouds, and assume
proportions of which we cannot dream--yet shall memory companion us
and identity remain. For we are each fashioned apart for ever, and
built about with such an iron wall of individual life that all the
force of time and change cannot so much as shake it. And while I am
myself, and yet in any shape endure, of this be certain--the love that
is a part of me will endure also. Oh, herein is set my hope--nay, not
my hope, for hope upon the tongue whispers doubt within the heart, but
the most fixed unchanging star of all my heaven. It is not always
night, for the Dawn is set beyond the night; and oh, my heart's
beloved, at daybreak we shall meet again!

"Oh! Arthur, even now I long for the purer air and flashing sympathies
of that vast Hereafter, when the strong sense of knowledge shall
scarcely find a limit ere it overleaps it; when visible power shall
radiate from our being, and living on together through countless
Existences, Periods, and Spheres, we shall progress from majesty to
ever-growing majesty! Oh, for the day when you and I, messengers from
the Seat of Power, shall sail high above these darkling worlds, and,
seeing into each other's souls, shall learn what love's communion is!

"Do not think me foolish, dear, for writing to you thus. I do not wish
to make you the victim of an outburst of thought that you may think
hysterical. But perhaps I may never be able to write to you again in
this way; your wife, if you are married, may be jealous, or other
things may occur to prevent it. I feel it, therefore, necessary to
tell you my inmost thoughts now whilst I can, so that you may always
remember them during the long coming years, and especially when you
draw near to the end of the journey. I hope, dearest Arthur, that
nothing will ever make you forget them, and also that, for the sake of
the pure love you will for ever bear me, you will always live up to
your noblest and your best, for in this way our meeting will be made
more perfect.

"Of course it is possible that you may still be free, and, after you
know that I am not quite so much to blame as you may have thought,
still willing to give your name to me. It is a blessed hope, but I
scarcely dare to dwell upon it.

"The other day I was reading a book Mr. Fraser lent me, which took my
fancy very much, it was so full of contradictions. The unexpected
always happened in it, and there was both grief and laughter in its
pages. It did not end quite well or quite badly, or, rather it had
_no_ end, and deep down underneath the plotless story, only peeping up
now and again when the actors were troubled, there ran a vein of real
sorrow and sad, unchanging love. There was a hero in this odd book
which was so like life--who, by the way, was no hero at all, but a
curious, restless creature who seemed to have missed his mark in life,
and went along looking for old truths and new ideas with his eyes so
fixed upon the stars that he was always stumbling over the pebbles in
his path, and thinking that they were rocks. He was a sensitive man,
too, and as weak as he was sensitive, and often fell into pitfalls and
did what he should not, and yet, for all that, he had a quaint and
gentle mind, and there was something to like in him--at least, so
thought the women in that book. There was a heroine, too, who was all
that a heroine should be, very sweet and very beautiful, and she
really had a heart, only she would not let it beat. And of course the
hero and heroine loved each other: of course, too, they both behaved
badly, and things went wrong, or there would have been no book.

"But I tell you this story because once, in a rather touching scene,
this hero who made such a mess of things set forth one of the ideas
that he had found, and thought new, but which was really so very old.
He told the heroine that he had read in the stars that happiness has
only one key, and that its name is 'Love,' that, amidst all the
mutabilities and disillusions of our life, the pure love of a man and
woman alone stands firm and beautiful, alone defies change and
disappointment; that it is the heaven-sent salve for all our troubles,
the remedy for our mistakes, the magic glass reflecting only what is
true and good. But in the end her facts overcame his theories, and he
might have spared himself the trouble of telling. And, for all his
star-gazing, this hero had no real philosophy, but in his grief and
unresting pain went and threw himself into the biggest pitfalls that
he could find, and would have perished there, had not a good angel
come and dragged him out again and brushed the mud off his clothes,
and, taking him by the hand, led him along a safer path. And so for
awhile he drops out of the story, which says that, when he is not
thinking of the lost heroine, he is perhaps happier than he deserves
to be.

"Now, Arthur, I think that this foolish hero was right, and the
sensible heroine he worshipped so blindly, wrong.

"If you are still unmarried, and still care to put his theories to the
test, I believe that we also can make as beautiful a thing of our
lives as he thought that he and his heroine could, and, ourselves
supremely happy in each other's perfect love, may perhaps be able to
add to the happiness of some of our fellow-travellers. That is, I
think, as noble an end as a a man and woman can set before themselves.

"But if, on the other hand, you are tied to this other woman who loves
you by ties that cannot be broken, or that honour will not let you
break; or if you are unforgiving, and no longer wish to marry me as I
wish to marry you, then till that bright hour of immortal hope--
farewell. Yes, Arthur, farewell till the gate of Time has closed for
us--till, in the presence of God our Father, I shall for ever call you
mine.

"Alas! I am so weak that my tears fall as I write the word. Perhaps I
may never speak or write to you again, so once more, my dearest, my
beloved, my earthly treasure and my heavenly hope, farewell. May the
blessing of God be as constantly around you as my thoughts, and may He
teach you that these are not foolish words, but rather the faint
shadow of an undying light!

"I send back the ring that was used to trick me with. Perhaps,
whatever happens, you will wear it for my sake. It is, you know, a
symbol of Eternity.

                                                   "Angela Caresfoot."



                             CHAPTER LXXI

Just as Angela was engaged in finishing her long letter to Arthur--
surely one of the strangest ever written by a girl to the man she
loved--Mr. Fraser was reading an epistle which had reached him by that
afternoon's post. We will look over his shoulder, and see what was in
it.

It was a letter dated from the vicarage of one of the poorest parishes
in the great Dock district in the east of London. It began--


 "Dear Sir,

 "I shall be only too thankful to entertain your proposal for an
  exchange of livings, more especially as, at first sight, it would
  seem that all the advantage is on my side. The fact is, that the
  incessant strain of work here has at last broken down my health to
  such a degree, that the doctors tell me plainly I must choose
  between the comparative rest of a country parish, or the certainty
  of passing to a completer quiet before my time. Also, now that my
  children are growing up, I am very anxious to remove them from the
  sights and sounds and tainted moral atmosphere of this poverty-
  stricken and degraded quarter.

 "But, however that may be, I should not be doing my duty to you, if
  I did not warn you that this is no parish for a man of your age to
  undertake, unless for strong reasons (for I see by the Clergy List
  that you are a year or so older than myself). The work is
  positively ceaseless, and often of a most shocking and thankless
  character; and there are almost no respectable inhabitants; for
  nobody lives in the parish, except those who are too poor to live
  elsewhere. The stipend, too, is, as you are aware, not large.
  However, if, in face of these disadvantages, you still entertain
  the idea of an exchange, perhaps we had better meet. . . ."


The letter then entered into details.

"I think that will suit me very well," said Mr. Fraser, aloud to
himself, as he put it down. "It will not greatly matter if my health
does break down; and I ought to have gone long ago. 'Positively
ceaseless,' he says the work is. Well, ceaseless work is the only
thing that can stifle thought. And yet it will be hard, coming up by
the roots after all these years. Ah me! this is a queer world, and a
sad one for some of us! I will write to the bishop at once."

From which it will be gathered that things had not been going well
with Mr. Fraser.

Meanwhile, Angela put her statement and the accompanying letter into a
large envelope. Then she took the queer emerald ring off her finger,
and, as there was nobody looking, she kissed it, and wrapped it up in
a piece of cotton-wool, and stowed it away in the letter, and sealed
it up. Next she addressed it, in her clear miniature handwriting, to


            "Arthur P. Heigham, Esq.,
                               "Care of Mrs. Carr,
                                               "Madeira,"


as Lady Bellamy had told her; and, calling to Pigott to come with her,
started off to the post-office to register and post her precious
packet, for the Madeira mail left Southampton on the morrow.

She had just time to reach the office, affix the three shillings'
worth of stamps that the letter took, and register it, when the
postman came up, and she saw it stamped and bundled into his bag with
the others, just as though it were nothing, instead of her whole life
depending on it; and away it went on its journey, as much beyond
recall as yesterday's sins.

"And so you have been a-writing to him, Miss?" said Pigott, as soon as
they were out of the office.

"Yes, Pigott," and she told her what Lady Bellamy had said. She
listened attentively, with a shrewd twinkle in her eyes.

"I'm thinking, dearie, that it's a pity you didn't post yourself,
that's the best letter; it can't make no mistakes, nor fall into the
hands of them it isn't meant for."

"What can you mean?"

"I'm thinking, miss, that change of air is a wonderful good thing
after sickness, especially sea-air," answered Pigott, oracularly.

"I don't in the least understand you. Really, Pigott, you drive me
wild with your parables."

"Lord, dear, for all you're so clever you never could see half an inch
into a brick wall, and that with my meaning as clear as a haystick in
a thunderstorm."

This last definition quite finished Angela. Why, she wondered, should
a haystack be clearer in a thunderstorm than at any other time. She
looked at her companion helplessly, and was silent.

"Bless me, what I have been telling, as plain as plain can be, is,
why don't you go to this Mad--Mad--what's the name?--I never can think
of them foreign names. I'm like Jakes and the flowers: he says the
smaller and 'footier' they are, the longer the name they sticks on to
them, just to puzzle a body who----"

"Madeira," suggested Angela, with the calmness of despair.

"Yes, that's it--Madeiry. Well, why don't you go to Madeiry along with
your letter to look after Mr. Arthur? Like enough he is in a bit of a
mess there. So far as I know anything about their ways, young men
always are, in a general sort of way, for everlasting a-caterwauling
after some one or other, for all the world like a tom on the tiles,
more especial if they are in love with somebody else. But, dear me, a
sensible woman don't bother her head about that. She just goes and
hooks them out of it, and then she knows where they are, and keeps
them there."

"Oh, Pigott, never mind all these reflections, though I'm sure I don't
know how you can think of such things. The idea of comparing poor dear
Arthur with a tom-cat! But tell me, how can I go to Madeira? Supposing
that he is married?"

"Well, then you would learn all about it for yourself, and no
gammoning; and there'd be an end to it, one way or the other."

"But would it be quite modest, to run after him like that?"

"Modest, indeed! And why shouldn't a young lady travel for her health?
I have heard say that this Madeiry is a wonderful place for the
stomach."

"The lungs, Pigott--the lungs."

"Well, then, the lungs. But it don't matter; they ain't far off each
other."

"But, Pigott, who could I go with? I could not go alone."

"Go with? Why, me, of course."

"I can hardly fancy you at sea, Pigott."

"And why not, miss? I dare say I shall do as well as other folks
there; and if I do go to the bottom, as seems likely, there's plenty
of room for a respectable person there, I should hope. Look here,
dear. You'll never be happy unless you marry Mr. Arthur; so don't you
go and throw away a chance, just out of foolishness, and for fear of
what folks say. That's how dozens of women make a mess of it. Folks
say one thing to-day and another to-morrow, but you'll remain you for
all that. Maybe he's married; and, if so, it's a bad business, and
there's an end of it; but maybe, too, he isn't. As for that letter, as
likely as not the other one will put it in the fire. I should, I
doubt, if I were in her shoes. So don't you lose any time, for, if he
isn't married, it's like enough he soon will be."

Angela felt that there was sense in what her old nurse said, though
the idea was a new one to her, and it made her thoughtful.

"I'll think about it," she said, presently. "I wonder what Mr. Fraser
would say about it."

"Perhaps one thing, and perhaps another. He's good and kind, but he
hasn't got much head for these sort of things, he's always thinking of
something else. Just look what a fool Squire George (may he twist and
turn in his grave) made of him. You ask him, if you like; but you be
guided by yourself, dearie. Your head is worth six Reverend Fraser's
when you bring it to a thing. But I must be off, and count the linen."

That evening, after tea, Angela went down to Mr. Fraser's. He was
directing an envelope to the Lord Bishop of his diocese when she
entered; but he hurriedly put it away in the blotting-paper.

"Well, Angela, did you get your letter off?"

"Yes, Mr. Fraser, it was just in time to catch the mail to-morrow.
But, do you know, that is what I want to speak to you about. Pigott
thinks that, under all the circumstances"--here Angela hesitated a
little--"she and I had better go to Madeira and find out how things
stand, and I almost think that she is right."

"Certainly," answered Mr. Fraser, rising and looking out of the
window. "You have a great deal at stake."

"You do not think that it would be immodest?"

"My dear Angela, when in such a case as this a woman goes to seek the
man she loves, and whom she believes loves her, I do not myself see
where there is room for immodesty."

"No, nor do I, and I do love him so very dearly; he is all my life to
me."

Mr. Fraser winced visibly.

"What is the matter? have you got a headache?"

"Nothing, only a twinge here," and he pointed to his heart.

Angela looked alarmed; she took a womanly interest in anybody's
ailments.

"I know what it is," she said. "Widow James suffers from it. You must
take it in hand at once, or it will become chronic after meals, as
hers is."

Mr. Fraser smiled grimly as he answered:

"I am afraid that I have neglected it too long--it has become chronic
already. But about Madeira; have you, then, made up your mind to go?"

"Yes, I think that I shall go. If he--is married, you know--I can
always come back again, and perhaps Pigott is right; the letter might
miscarry, and there is so much at stake."

"When shall you go, then?"

"By the next steamer, I suppose. They go every week, I think. I will
tell my father that I am going to-morrow."

"Ah! you will want money, I suppose."

"No, I believe that I have plenty of money of my own now."

"Oh! yes, under your marriage settlement, no doubt. Well, my dear, I
am sure I hope that your journey will not be in vain. Did I tell you I
have also written to Mr. Heigham by this mail, and told him all I knew
about the matter?"

"That is very kind and thoughtful of you; it is just like you,"
answered Angela, gently.

"Not at all, not at all; but you have never told me how you got on
with Lady Bellamy--that is, except what she told you about Mr.
Heigham."

"Oh! it was a strange interview. What do you think she wanted to teach
me?"

"I have not the faintest idea."

"Magic."

"Nonsense."

"Yes, she did; she told me that she could read all sorts of things in
my face, and offered, if I would give myself up to it, to make me more
than human."

"Pshaw! it was a bit of charlatanism; she wanted to frighten you."

"No, I think she believed what she said, and I think that she has some
sort of power. She seemed disappointed when I refused, and, do you
know it, if it had not been for Arthur, I do not think that I should
have refused. I love power, or rather knowledge; but then I love
Arthur more."

"And why is he incompatible with knowledge?"

"I do not know; but she said that, to triumph over the mysteries she
wished to teach me, I must free myself from earthly love and cares. I
told her that, if Arthur is married, I would think of it."

"Well, Angela, to be frank, I do not believe in Lady Bellamy's magic,
and, if its practice brings people to what she is, I think it is best
left alone; indeed, I expect that the whole thing is a delusion
arising from her condition. But I think she is right when she told you
that to become a mistress of her art--or, indeed, of any noble art--
you must separate yourself from earthly passions. I owe your Arthur a
grudge as well as Lady Bellamy. I hoped, Angela, to see you rise like
a star upon this age of insolence and infidelity. I wanted you to be a
great woman; but that dream is all over now."

"Why, Mr. Fraser?"

"Because, my dear, both history and observation teach us that great
gifts like yours partake of the character of an accident in a woman;
they are not natural to her, and she does not wear such jewels easily
--they put her outside of her sex. It is something as though a man
were born into the world with wings. At first he would be very proud
of them, and go sailing about in the sky to the admiration of the
crowds beneath him; but by-and-by he would grow tired of flying alone,
and after all, it is not necessary to fly to transact the ordinary
business of the world. And perhaps at last he would learn to love
somebody without wings, somebody who could not fly, and he would
always want to be with her down on the homely earth, and not alone up
in the heavenly heights. If a woman had all the genius of Plato or all
the learning of Solomon, it would be forgotten at the touch of a
baby's fingers.

"Well, well, we cannot fight against human nature, and I daresay that
in a few years you will forget that you can read Greek as well as you
can English, and were very near finding out a perfect way of squaring
the circle. Perhaps it is best so. Lady Bellamy may have read a great
many fine things in your face. Shall I tell you what I read there? I
read that you will marry your Arthur, and become a happy wife and a
happier mother; that your life will be one long story of unassuming
kindness, and that, when at last you die, you will become a sacred
memory in many hearts. That is what I read. The only magic you will
ever wield, Angela, will be the magic of your goodness."

"Who knows? We cannot read the future," she answered.

"And so you are going to Madeira next week. Then, this will be the
last time that we shall meet--before you go, I mean--for I am off to
London to-morrow, for a while, on some business. When next we meet, if
we do meet again, Angela, you will be a married woman. Do not start,
dear; there is nothing shocking about that. But, perhaps, we shall not
meet any more."

"Oh, Mr. Fraser! why do you say such dreadful things?"

"There is nothing dreadful about it, Angela. I am getting on in life,
and am not so strong as I was; and you are both young and strong, and
must in the ordinary course of things outlive me for many years. But,
whatever happens, my dear, I know that you always keep a warm corner
in your memory for your old master; and, as for me, I can honestly
say, that to have known and taught you has been the greatest privilege
of a rather lonely life."

Here Angela began to cry.

"Don't cry, my dear. There is, thank God, another meeting-place than
this, and, if I reach the shore of that great future before you, I
shall--but there, my dear, it is time for you to be going home. You
must not stop here to listen to this melancholy talk. Go home, Angela,
and think about your lover. I am busy to-night. Give me a kiss, dear,
and go."

Presently, she was gone, and he heard the front-door close behind her.
He went to the window, and watched the tall form gradually growing
fainter in the gloaming, till it vanished altogether.

Then he came back, and, sitting down at his writing-table, rested his
grizzled head upon his hand and thought. Presently he raised it, and
there was a sad smile flickering round the wrinkles of the nervous
mouth.

"And now for 'hard labour at the London docks,'" he said, aloud.



                            CHAPTER LXXII

Nothing occurred to mar the prosperity of the voyage of the _Evening
Star_. That beautiful little vessel declined to simplify the course of
this history by going to the bottom with Mildred and Arthur, as the
imaginative reader may have perhaps expected. She did not even get
into a terrific storm, in order to give Arthur the opportunity of
performing heroic feats, and the writer of this history the chance of
displaying a profound knowledge of the names of ropes and spars. On
the contrary, she glided on upon a sea so still that even Miss Terry
was persuaded to arouse herself from her torpor, and come upon deck,
till at last, one morning, the giant peak of Teneriffe, soaring high
above its circling clouds, broke upon the view of her passengers.

Here they stopped for a week or so, enjoying themselves very much in
their new surroundings, till at length Arthur grew tired of the
islands, which was of course the signal for their departure. So they
returned, reaching Madeira after an absence of close upon a month. As
they dropped anchor in the little bay, Mildred came up to Arthur, and,
touching him with that gentle deference which she always showed
towards him, asked him if he was not glad to be home again.

"Home!" he said. "I have no home."

"Oh, Arthur;" she answered, "why do you try to pain me? Is not my home
yours also?"

So soon as they landed, he started off to "Miles' Hotel," to see if
any letters had come for him during his absence, and returned, looking
very much put out.

"What is the matter, Arthur?" asked Miss Terry, once again happy at
feeling her feet upon solid soil.

"Why, those idiots at the hotel have returned a letter sent to me by
my lawyer. They thought that I had left Madeira for good, and the
letter was marked, 'If left, return to Messrs. Borley and Son,' with
the address. And the mail went out this afternoon into the bargain, so
it will be a month before I can get it back again."

Had Arthur known that this letter contained clippings of the newspaper
reports of the inquest on George Caresfoot, of whose death even he was
in total ignorance, he would have had good reason to be put out.

"Never mind, Arthur," said Mildred's clear voice at his elbow--she was
rarely much further from him than his shadow; "lawyers' letters are
not, as a rule, very interesting. I never yet had one that would not
keep. Come and see if your pavilion--isn't that a grand name?--is
arranged to your liking, and then let us go to dinner, for Agatha here
is dying of hunger--she has to make up for her abstinence at sea."

"I was always told," broke in that lady, "that yachting was charming,
but I tell you frankly I have never been more miserable in my life
than I was on board your _Evening Star_."

"Never mind, dear, you shall have a nice long rest before we start for
the coast of Spain."

And so Arthur soon settled down again into the easy tenor of Madeira
life. He now scarcely made a pretence of living at the hotel, since,
during their cruise, Mildred had had a pavilion which stood in the
garden luxuriously set up for his occupation. Here he was happy enough
in a dull, numb way, and, as the days went on, something of the old
light came back to his eyes, and his footfall again grew quick and
strong as when it used to fall in the corridors of the Abbey House. Of
the past he never spoke, nor did Mildred ever allude to Angela after
that conversation at sea which had ended so strangely. She contented
herself with attempting to supplant her, and to a certain extent she
was successful. No man could have for very long remained obdurate to
such beauty and such patient devotion, and it is not wonderful that he
grew in a way to love her.

But there was this peculiarity about the affair--namely, that the
affection which he bore her was born more of her stronger will than of
his own feelings, as was shown by the fact that, so long as he was
actually with her and within the circle of her influence, her power
over him was predominant; but, the moment that he was out of her
sight, his thoughts would fall back into their original channels, and
the old sores would begin to run. However much, too, he might be
successful in getting the mastery of this troubles by day, at night
they would assert themselves, and from the constant and tormenting
dreams which they inspired he could find no means of escape.

For at least four nights out of every seven, from the moment that he
closed his eyes till he opened them again the morning, it would seem
to him that he had been in the company of Angela, under every possible
variety of circumstance, talking to her, walking with her, meeting her
suddenly or unexpectedly in crowded places or at dinner-parties--
always her, and no one else--till at last poor Arthur began to wonder
if his spirit took leave of his body in sleep and went to seek her,
and, what is more, found her. Or was it nothing but a fantasy? He
could not tell; but, at any rate, it was a fact, and it would have
been hard to say if it distressed or rejoiced him most.

Occasionally, too, he would fall into a fit of brooding melancholy
that would last him for a day or two, and which Mildred would find it
quite impossible to dispel. Indeed, when he got in that way, she soon
discovered that the only thing to do was to leave him alone. He was
suffering acutely, there was no doubt about that, and when any animal
suffers, including man, it is best left in solitude. A sick or wounded
beast always turns out of the herd to recover or die.

When Mildred saw him in this state of mental desolation, she would
shake her head and sigh, for it told her that she was as far as ever
from the golden gate of her Eldorado. As has been said, hers was the
strongest will, and, even if he had not willed it, she could have
married him any day she wished; but, odd as it may seem, she was too
conscientious. She had determined that she would not marry him unless
she was certain that he loved her, and to this resolution, as yet, she
firmly held. Whatever her faults may have been, Mildred Carr had all
the noble unselfishness that is so common in her sex. For herself and
her own reputation she cared, comparatively speaking, nothing; whilst
for Arthur's ultimate happiness she was very solicitous.

One evening--it was one of Arthur's black days, when he had got a fit
of what Mildred called "Angela fever"--they were walking together in
the garden, Arthur in silence, with his hands in his pockets and his
pipe in his mouth, and Mildred humming a little tune by way of amusing
herself, when they came to the wall that edged the precipice. Arthur
leant over it and gazed at the depths below.

"Don't, dear, you will tumble over," said Mildred, in some alarm.

"I think it would be a good thing if I did," he answered, moodily.

"Are you, then, so tired of the world--and me?"

"No, dear, I am not tired of you; forgive me, Mildred, but I am
dreadfully miserable. I know that it is very ungracious and ungrateful
of me, but it is the fact."

"You are thinking of _her_ again, Arthur?"

"Yes, I have got a fit of it. I suppose that she has not been out of
my mind for an hour altogether during the last forty-eight hours. Talk
of being haunted by a dead person, it is infinitely worse being
haunted by a living one."

"I am very sorry for you, dear."

"Do you suppose, Mildred, that this will go on for all my life, that I
shall always be at the mercy of these bitter memories and thoughts?"

"I don't know, Arthur. I hope not."

"I wish I were dead--I wish I were dead," he broke out, passionately.
"She has destroyed my life, all that was happy in me is dead, only my
body lives on. I am sure I don't know, Mildred, how you can care for
anything so worthless."

She kissed him, and answered,

"Dearest, I had rather love you as you are than any other man alive.
Time does wonders; perhaps in time you will get over it. Oh! Arthur,
when I think of what she has made you, and what you might have been if
you had never known her, I long to tell that woman all my mind. But
you must be a man, dear; it is weak to give way to a mad passion, such
as this is now. Try to think of something else; work at something."

"I have no heart for it, Mildred, I don't feel as though I could work;
and, if you cannot make me forget, I am sure I do not know what will."

Mildred sighed, and did not answer. Though she spoke hopefully about
it to him, she had little faith in his getting over his passion for
Angela now. Either she must marry him as he was, or else let him go
altogether; but which? The struggle between her affection and her idea
of duty was very sore, and as yet she could come to no conclusion.

One thing there was that troubled her considerably, and this was that,
though Madeira was almost empty, there were enough people in it to get
up a good deal of gossip about herself and Arthur. Now, it would have
been difficult to find anybody more entirely careless of the judgments
of society than Mildred, more especially as her great wealth and
general popularity protected her from slights. But, for all her
oddities, she was a thorough woman of the world; and she knew, none
better, that, in pursuance of an almost invariable natural law, there
is nothing that lowers a woman so much in the estimation of a man as
the knowledge that she is talked about, even though he himself is the
cause of the talk. This may be both illogical and unjust, but it is,
none the less, true.

But, if Mildred still hesitated, Arthur did not. He was very anxious
that they should be married; indeed, he almost insisted on it. The
position was one that was far from being agreeable to him, for all
such intimacies must, from their very nature, necessitate a certain
amount of false swearing. They are throughout an acted lie; and, when
the lie is acted, it must sometimes be spoken. Now, this is a state of
affairs that is repugnant to an honourable man, and one that not
unfrequently becomes perfectly intolerable. Many is the love-affair
that comes to a sudden end because the man finds it impossible to
permanently constitute himself a peregrinating falsehood. But, oddly
enough, it has been found difficult to persuade the other contracting
party of the validity of the excuse, and, however unjust it may be,
one has known of men who have seen their defection energetically set
down to more vulgar causes.

Arthur was no exception to this rule. He found himself in a false
position, and he hated it. Indeed, he determined before long he would
place it before Mildred in the light of an alternative, that he should
either marry her, or that an end should be put to their existing
relations.



                            CHAPTER LXXIII

As the autumn came on, a great south-west gale burst over Madeira, and
went sweeping away up the Bay of Biscay. It blew for three days and
nights, and was one of the heaviest on record. When it first began,
the English mail was due; but when it passed there were still no signs
of her, and prophets of evil were not wanting who went to and fro
shaking their heads, and suggesting that she had probably foundered in
the Bay.

Two more days went by, and there were still no signs of her, though
the telegraph told them that she had left Southampton Docks at the
appointed time and date. By this time, people in Madeira could talk of
nothing else.

"Well, Arthur, no signs of the _Roman?_" said Mildred, on the fifth
day.

"No, the _Garth Castle_ is due in to-day. Perhaps she may have heard
something of her."

"Yes," said Miss Terry, absently; "she may have fallen in with some of
the wreckage."

"I must say that is a cheerful suggestion," answered Arthur. "She is
an awful old tub, and, I daresay, ran before the gale for Vigo, that
is all."

"Let us hope so," said Mildred, doubtfully. "What is it, John?"

"The housemaid wishes to speak to you, please, ma'am."

"Very good, I will come."

It has been hinted that Agatha Terry was looking absent on the morning
in question. There was a reason for it. For some time past there had
been growing up in the bosom of this excellent lady a consciousness
that things were not altogether as they should be. Miss Terry was not
clever, indeed it may be said that she was dense, but still she could
not but see that there was something odd in the relations between
Arthur and Mildred. For instance, it struck her as unusual that two
persons who were not married, nor even, so far as she knew, engaged,
should habitually call each other "dear," and even sometimes
"dearest."

But on the previous evening, when engaged in a search after that
species of beetle that loves the night, she chanced to come across the
pair standing together on the museum verandah, and, to her horror, she
saw, even in that light, that Mildred's arm was round Arthur's neck,
and her head was resting on his heart. Standing aghast, she saw more;
for presently Mildred raised her hand, and, drawing Arthur's head down
to the level of her own, kissed him upon the face.

There was no doubt about it, it was a most deliberate kiss--a kiss
without any extenuating circumstances. He was not even going away, and
Agatha could only come to one conclusion, that they were either going
to be married--or "they ought to be."

She sought no more beetles that evening, but on the following morning,
when Mildred departed to see the housemaid, leaving Arthur and herself
together on the verandah, she thought it was her "duty" to seek a
little information.

"Arthur," she said, with a beating heart, "I want to ask you
something. Are you engaged to Mildred?"

He hesitated, and then answered.

"No, I suppose not, Miss Terry."

"Nor married to her?"

"No; why do you ask?"

"Because I think you ought to be."

"I quite agree with you. I suppose that you have noticed something?"

"Yes, I have. I saw her kissing you, Arthur."

He blushed like a girl.

"Oh, Arthur," she went on, bursting into tears, "don't let this sort
of thing go on, or poor Mildred will lose her reputation; and you must
know what a dreadful thing that is for any woman. Why don't you marry
her?"

"Because she refused to marry me."

"And yet--and yet she kisses you--like that!" added Miss Terry, as the
peculiar fervour of the embrace in question came back to her
recollection. "Ah, I don't know what to think."

"Best not think about it at all, Miss Terry. It won't bear
reflection."

"Oh, Arthur, how could you?"

He looked very uncomfortable as he answered--

"I know that I must seem a dreadful brute to you. I daresay I am; but,
Miss Terry, it would, under all the circumstances, be much more to the
point, if you insisted on Mildred's marrying me."

"I dare not. You do not know Mildred. She would never submit to it
from me."

"Then I must; and, what is more, I will do it now."

"Thank you, Arthur, thank you. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to
you."

"There is no need to be grateful to the author of this mischief."

"And supposing she refuses--what will you do then?"

"Then I think that I shall go away at once. Hush! here she comes."

"Well, Arthur, what are you and Agatha plotting together? You both
look serious enough."

"Nothing, Mildred--that is, only another sea-voyage."

Mildred glanced at him uneasily. She did not like the tone in his
voice.

"I have a bit of bad news for you, Arthur. That fool, that idiot,
Jane"--and she stamped her little foot upon the pavement--"has upset
the mummy hyacinth-pot and broken the flower off just as it was coming
into bloom. I have given her a quarter's wages and her passage back to
England, and packed her off."

"Why, Mildred," remonstrated Miss Terry, "what a fuss to make about a
flower!"

She turned on her almost fiercely.

"I had rather have broken my arm, or anything short of my neck, than
that she should have broken that flower. Arthur planted it, and now
the clumsy girl has destroyed it," and Mildred looked as though she
were going to cry.

As there was nothing more to be said, Miss Terry went away. As soon as
she was gone, Mildred turned to Arthur and said--

"You were right, Arthur; we shall never see it bloom in this world."

"Never mind about the flower, dear; it cannot be helped. I want to
speak to you of something more important. Miss Terry saw you kiss me
last night, and she not unnaturally is anxious to know what it all
means."

"And did you tell her?"

"Yes."

It was Mildred's turn to blush now.

"Mildred, you must listen to me. This cannot go on any more; either
you must marry me, or----"

"Or what?"

"Or I must go away. At present our whole life is a lie."

"Do you really wish me to marry you, Arthur?"

"I not only wish it, I think it necessary."

"Have you nothing more to say than that?"

"Yes, I have to say that I will do my best to make you a good and
faithful husband, and that I am sure you will make me a good wife."

She dropped her face upon her hands and thought.

Just then Miss Terry came hurrying up.

"Oh, Arthur!" she said, "just think, the _Roman_ is in, after all, but
all her boats are gone, and they say that half of her passengers and
crew are washed overboard; do go down and see about it."

He hesitated a little.

"Go, dear," whispered Mildred. "I want time to think. I will give you
my answer this afternoon."

Mildred sat still on the verandah thinking, but she had not been there
many minutes before a servant came with her English letters that had
been brought by the unfortunate _Roman_, and at the same time informed
her that the _Garth Castle_ had been sighted, and would anchor in a
few hours. Mildred reflected that it was not often they got two
English mails in one day. She began idly turning over the packet
before her. Of late letters had lost much of their interest for
Mildred.

Presently, however, her hand made a movement of almost electric
swiftness, and the colour left her face as she seized a stout envelope
directed in a hand of peculiar delicacy to "Arthur Heigham, Esq., care
of Mrs. Carr, Madeira." Mildred knew the handwriting, she had seen it
in Arthur's pocket-book. It was Angela Caresfoot's. Next to it there
was another letter addressed to Arthur in a hand that she did not
know, but bearing the same postmarks, "Bratham" and "Roxham." She put
them both aside, and then took up the thick letter and examined it. It
had two peculiarities--first, it was open, having come unsealed in
transit, and been somewhat roughly tied up with a piece of twine; and
secondly, it contained some article of jewellery. Indeed, by dint of a
little pressing on the outside paper, she was able to form a pretty
accurate opinion as to what it was. It was a ring. If she had turned
pale before when she saw the letter, she was paler still now.

"Heavens," she thought, "why does she send him a ring? Has anything
happened to her husband? If she is a free woman, I am lost."

Mildred looked at the letter lying open before her, and a terrible
temptation took possession of her. She took it up and put it down
again, and then again she took it up, wiping the cold perspiration
from her forehead.

"My whole life is at stake," she thought.

Then she hesitated no longer, but, taking the letter, slipped off the
piece of twine, and drew its contents from the envelope. The first
thing to fall out, wrapped in a little cotton-wool, was the ring. She
looked at it, and recognized it as Arthur's engagement ring, the same
that Lady Bellamy had taken with her. Then, putting aside the
statement, she deliberately unfolded the letter, and read it.

Do not think too hardly of her, my reader. The temptation was very
sore. But, when one yields to temptation, retribution is not
unfrequently hard upon its track, and it would only have been
necessary to watch Mildred's face to see that, if she had sinned, the
sin went hand in hand with punishment. In turn, it took an expression
of astonishment, grief, awe, and despair. She read the letter to the
last word, then she took the statement, and glanced through it,
smiling once or twice as she read. Next she replaced everything in the
envelope, and, taking it, together with the other letter addressed to
Arthur, unbuttoned the top of her loose-bodied white dress, and placed
them in her bosom.

"It is over," she said to herself. "I can never marry him now. That
woman is as far above me as the stars, and, sooner or later, he would
find it all out. He must go, ah, God! he must go to marry _her_. Why
should I not destroy these letters, and marry him to-morrow? bind him
to me by a tie that no letters can ever break? What! purchase his
presence at the price of his daily scorn? Oh, such water is too bitter
for me to drink! I have sinned against you, Arthur, but I will sin no
more. Good-bye, my dear, good-bye."

And she laid her throbbing head upon the rail of the verandah, and
wept bitterly.



                            CHAPTER LXXIV

About three o'clock that afternoon Arthur returned to the Quinta,
having lunched on board the _Roman_. He found Mildred sitting in her
favourite place on the museum verandah. She was very pale, and, if he
had watched her, he would have seen that she was trembling all over,
but he did not observe her particularly.

"Well," he said, "it is all nonsense about half the crew being
drowned; only one man was killed, by the fall of a spar, poor chap.
They ran into Vigo, as I thought. The other mail is just coming in--
but what is the matter, Mildred? You look pale."

"Nothing, dear; I have a good deal to think of, that is all."

"Ah, yes! Well, my love, have you made up your mind?"

"Why did I refuse to marry you before; for your sake, or mine,
Arthur?"

"You said--absurdly, I thought--for mine!"

"And what I said I meant, and what I meant, I mean. Look me in the
face, dear, and tell me, upon your honour as a gentleman, that you
love me, really love me, and I will marry you to-morrow."

"I am very fond of you, Mildred, and I will make you a good and true
husband."

"Precisely; that is what I expected, but it is _not_ enough for me.
There was a time when I thought that I could be well satisfied if you
would only look kindly upon me, but I suppose that _l'appetit vient en
mangeant_, for, now you do that, I am not satisfied. I long to reign
alone. But that is not all. I will not consent to tie you, who do not
love me, to my apron-strings for life. Believe me, the time is very
near when you would curse me, if I did. You say"--and she rose and
stretched out her arm--"that you will either marry me or go. I have
made my choice. I will not beat out my heart against a stone. I will
_not_ marry you. Go, Arthur, go!"

A great anxiety came into his face.

"Do you fully understand what you are saying, Mildred? Such ties as
exist between us cannot be lightly broken."

"But I will break them, and my own heart with them, before they become
chains so heavy that you cannot bear them. Arthur"--and she came up to
him, and put her hands upon his shoulders, looking, with wild and
sorrowful eyes, straight into his face--"tell me now, dear--do not
palter, or put me off with any courteous falsehood--tell me as truly
as you will speak upon the judgment-day, do you still love Angela
Caresfoot as much as ever?"

"Mildred, you should not ask me such painful questions; it is not
right of you."

"It is right; and you will soon know that it is. Answer me."

"Then, if you must have it, _I do_."

Her face became quite hard. Slowly she took her hands from his
shoulders.

"And you have the effrontery to ask me to marry you with one breath,
and to tell me this with the next. Arthur, you had better go. Do not
consider yourself under any false obligation to me. Go, and go
quickly."

"For God's sake, think what you are doing, Mildred!"

"Oh! I have thought--I have thought too much. There is nothing left
but to say good-bye. Yes, it is a very cruel word. Do you know that
you have passed over my life like a hurricane, and wrenched it up by
the roots?"

"Really, Mildred, you mystify me. I don't understand you. What can be
the meaning of all this?"

She looked at him for a few seconds, and then answered, in a quiet,
matter-of-fact voice.

"I forgot, Arthur; here are your English letters;" and she drew them
from her bosom and gave them to him. "Perhaps they will explain things
a little. Meanwhile, I will tell you something. Angela Caresfoot's
husband is dead; indeed, she was never _really_ married to him." And
then she turned, and slowly walked towards the entrance of the museum.
In the boudoir, however, her strength seemed to fail her, and she sank
on a chair.

Arthur took the letter, written by the woman he loved, and warm from
the breast of the woman he was about to leave, and stood speechless.
His heart stopped for a moment, and then sent the blood bounding
through his veins like a flood of joy. The shock was so great that for
a second or two he staggered, and nearly fell. Presently, however, he
recovered himself, and another and very different thought overtook
him.

Putting the letters into his pocket, he followed Mildred into the
boudoir. She was sitting, looking very faint, upon a chair, her arms
hanging down helplessly by her side.

"Mildred," he said, hoarsely.

She looked up with a faint air of surprise.

"What, are you not gone?"

"Mildred, beyond what you have just said I know nothing of the
contents of these letters; but whatever they may be, here and now,
before I read them, I again offer to marry you. I owe it to you and to
my own sense of what is right that I should marry you."

He spoke calmly, and with evident sincerity.

"Do you know that I read your letter just now, and had half a mind to
burn it; that I am little better than a thief?"

"I guessed that you had read it."

"And do you understand that your Angela is unmarried, that she was
never really married at all--and that she asks nothing better than to
marry you?"

"I understand."

"And you still offer to make me your wife?"

"I do. What do you say?"

A flood of light filled Mildred's eyes as she rose and confronted him.

"I say, Arthur, that you are a very noble gentleman, and, that though
from this day I must be a miserable woman, I shall always be proud to
have loved you. Listen, my dear. When I read that letter, I felt that
your Angela towered over me like the Alps, her snowy purity stained
only by the reflected lights of heaven. I felt that I could not
compete with such a woman as this, that I could never hope to hold you
from one so calmly faithful, so dreadfully serene, and I knew that she
had conquered, robbing me for Time, and, as I fear, leaving me
beggared for Eternity. In the magnificence of her undying power, in
the calm certainty of her command, she flings me your life as though
it were nothing. 'Take it,' she says; 'he will never love you--he is
mine; but I can afford to wait. I shall claim him before the throne of
God.' But