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Title: My Little Lady
Author: Poynter, Eleanor Frances
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Little Lady" ***

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Eleanor Frances Poynter is the author of My little lady (1871
novel), Ersilia (1876 novel), Among the hills (1881 novel),
Madame de Presnel (1885 novel), The wooing of Catherine and
other tales (1886), The failure of Elisabeth (1890 novel), An
exquisite fool (1892 novel), Michael Ferrier (1902 novel); and
translator of Wilhelmine von Hillern's The vulture maiden (Die
Geier-Wally) (1876) and Agnès Mary Duclaux (later Mrs James
Darmesteter)'s Froissart (1895).

Two of her novels were translated in French: My little lady
as Madeleine Linders (1873); and Among the hills as Hetty
(1883).


_The Saturday Review_ vol. XXX p. 794 comments _My little lady_ as
follows: "There are certain female characters in novels which
remind one of nothing so much as of a head of Greuze,--fresh,
simple, yet of the cunningly simple type, 'innocent--arch,' and
intensely natural.... 'My Little Lady' is a character of this
Greuze-like kind.... The whole book is charming; quietly told,
quietly thought, without glare or flutter, and interesting in
both character and story,... and, if slight of kind, thoroughly
good of its kind."



COLLECTION

OF

BRITISH AUTHORS


TAUCHNITZ EDITION.


VOL. 1148.



MY LITTLE LADY.


IN TWO VOLUMES.


VOL. I.



Thy sinless progress, through a world
By sorrow darken'd and by care disturbed,
Apt likeness bears to hers through gather'd clouds
Moving untouch'd in silver purity.

WORDSWORTH.



MY LITTLE LADY.



_COPYRIGHT EDITION_.



IN TWO VOLUMES.


VOL. I.



LEIPZIG

BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

1871.


_The Right of Translation is reserved_.



To

J.C.I.



PART I.



MY LITTLE LADY.



CHAPTER I.

In the Garden.


There are certain days in the lives of each one of us, which
come in their due course without special warning, to which we
look forward with no anticipations of peculiar joy or sorrow,
from which beforehand we neither demand nor expect more than
the ordinary portion of good and evil, and which yet through
some occurrence--unconsidered perhaps at the moment, but
gaining in significance with years and connecting events--are
destined to live apart in our memories to the end of our
existence. Such a day in Horace Graham's life was a certain
hot Sunday in August, that he spent at the big hotel at
Chaudfontaine.

Every traveller along the great high road leading from
Brussels to Cologne knows Chaudfontaine, the little village
distant about six miles from Liége, with its church, its big
hotel, and its scattered cottages, partly forges, partly
restaurants, which shine white against a dark green background
of wooded hills, and gleam reflected in the clear tranquil
stream by which they stand. On every side the hills seem to
fold over and enclose the quiet green valley; the stream winds
and turns, the long poplar-bordered road follows its course;
amongst the hills are more valleys, more streams, woods,
forests, sheltered nooks, tall grey limestone rocks, spaces of
cornfields, and bright meadows. Everyone admires the charming
scenery as the train speeds across it, through one tunnel
after another; but there are few amongst our countrymen who
care to give it more than a passing glance of admiration, or
to tarry in the quiet little village even for an hour, in
their great annual rush to Spa, or the Rhine, or Switzerland.
As a rule one seldom meets Englishmen at Chaudfontaine, and it
was quite by chance that Horace Graham found himself there. An
accident to a goods train had caused a detention of several
hours all along the line, as he was travelling to Brussels,
and it was by the advice of a Belgian fellow-passenger that he
had stopped at Chaudfontaine, instead of going on to Liége, as
he had at first proposed doing, on hearing from the guard that
it was the furthest point that could be reached that night.

Behind the hotel lies a sunshiny shady garden, with benches
and tables set under the trees near the house, and beyond, an
unkempt lawn, a sort of wilderness of grass and shrubs and
trees, with clumps of dark and light foliage against the more
uniform green of the surrounding hills, and it was still cool
and pleasant when Graham wandered into it after breakfast on
that Sunday morning, whilst all in front of the hotel was
already basking in the hot sunshine. He had gone to bed the
night before with the fixed intention of leaving by the
earliest morning train, for his first impressions of
Chaudfontaine had not been cheerful ones. It was nearly
midnight when, with his companions, he had crossed the bridge
that connects the railway station with the hotel on the
opposite side of the stream, and scarcely a light was shining
from the windows of the dim white building before him; he was
very tired, rather cross, and disposed to grumble at the delay
in his journey; and the general aspect of things--the bad
supper, the sleepy waiter carrying a candle up flights of
broad shallow wooden stairs, and down a long passage to a
remote room barely furnished, the uncertain view of a
foreground of rustling poplars, and close behind them a black
silent mass of hill--all these had not tended to encourage him.

But a man must be very cynical, or very _blasé_, or wholly
possessed by some other uncomfortable quality, who does not
feel much cheered and invigorated by morning sunbeams pouring
into a strange bed-room, and awakening him to new scenes and
unexperienced sensations. Horace Graham was neither cynical
nor _blasé_; on the contrary, he was a pleasant-tempered, fresh-
hearted lad of twenty or thereabouts, who only three weeks
before had made his first acquaintance with French gendarmes,
and for the first time had heard children shouting to each
other in a foreign tongue along white-walled, sunshiny,
foreign streets. Three weeks touring in Germany had only
served to arouse in him a passion for travelling and seeing,
for new places and peoples and scenes, that in all his life,
perhaps, would not be satiated; everything was new to him,
everything amused him; and so it happened that, while he was
dressing and studying from his window the view that had been
only obscurely hinted at in the darkness of night before, a
sudden desire came over him to remain where he was for that
day, climb the hills that rose before him, and see what manner
of country lay beyond.

It was still early when, after breakfasting by himself in the
salle-à-manger, he found his way into the garden; no one was
stirring, it seemed deserted; he wandered along the gravel
paths, trod down the tall grass as he crossed the lawn, and
arrived at the confines of the little domain. On two sides it
was bounded by a narrow stream, separating it from the road
beyond; at the angle of the garden the shallow, trickling
water widened into a little fall crossed by a few planks;
there were trees and bushes on each side, and the grassy
garden bank sloped down to the stream. It was very green, and
peaceful and dewy. Horace stood still for a minute looking at
the flickering lights and shadows, and watching the dash and
current of the water.

"_Fi donc, Mademoiselle, tu n'es pas raisonnable_," cries a
sweet shrill little voice close to him, "_tu es vraiment
insupportable aujourd'hui_."

He turned round and saw a child between five and six years
old, dressed in a shabby little merino frock and white
pinafore, standing with her back towards him, and holding out
a doll at arm's length, its turned-out pink leather toes just
touching the ground.

"_Veux-tu bien être sage?_" continues the small monitress with
much severity, "_encore une fois, un, deux, trois!_" and she
made a little dancing-step backwards; then with an air of
encouragement, "_Allons, mon amie, du courage!_ We must be
perfect in our steps for this evening, for you know, Sophie,
if you refuse to dance, M. le Prince will be in despair, and
M. le Baron will put his hand on his heart and cry, 'Alas,
mademoiselle, you have no pity, and my heart is desolated!' "

"Madelon!" cries a voice through the trees in the distance.

"_Me voici, papa!_" she answered, stopping the dancing-lesson
and looking round. As she did so she caught sight of Horace,
and gazed up in his face with a child's deliberate stare. She
had great brown eyes, a little round fair face, and light hair
curling all over her head. She looked up at him quite
fearlessly for a moment, and then darted away, dashing against
somebody who was coming along the path, and disappeared.

"Take care, _ma petite;_ you nearly knocked me down!" cried a
good-humoured voice, belonging to a large gentleman with a
ruddy face, and black hair and beard. "Ah! good morning,
Monsieur," he continued as he approached Horace; "I rejoice to
see that you have not yet quitted Chaudfontaine, as you spoke
of doing last night."

"I have changed my mind," said Horace, smiling as he
recognised his fellow-traveller of the night before. "I think
of staying here to-day, and not leaving for Brussels till to-
morrow morning."

"You will not regret it," said his companion, as they turned
back towards the hotel, and walked on slowly together; "it is
true there is not much here to tempt you during the day; but
numbers will arrive for the four o'clock _table-d'hôte_. In the
evening there will be quite a little society, and we shall
dance. I assure you, monsieur, that we also know how to be gay
at Chaudfontaine."

"I don't doubt it," answered Graham; "and though I don't care
much about dancing----"

"You don't care about dancing?" interrupted the Belgian with
astonishment; "but that is of your nation, Monsieur. You are
truly an extraordinary people, you English; you travel, you
climb, you ride, you walk, and you do not dance!"

"I think we dance too, sometimes," said the young Englishman,
laughing; "but I own that it is walking I care for most just
now--the country about here seems to be wonderfully pretty."

"In fact it is not bad," said the Belgian, with the air of
paying it a compliment; "and if you take care to return in
time for the four o'clock _table-d'hôte_, you cannot do better
than make a little promenade to gain an appetite for dinner. I
can promise you an excellent one--they keep an admirable cook.
I entreat you not to think of leaving for Brussels; and
precisely you cannot go," he added, drawing out his watch,
"for it is just the hour that the train leaves, and I hear the
whistle at this moment."

And, in fact, though they could not see the train from where
they stood, they heard its shrill whistle as it rushed into
the station on the other side of the river.

"So it is decided," said Graham, "and I remain."

"And you do wisely, Monsieur," cried his companion; "believe
me, you will not regret passing a day in this charming little
spot. Do they speak much in England of Chaudfontaine,
Monsieur?"

"Well, no," Horace was obliged to acknowledge, "they do not."

"Ah!" said the Belgian, a little disappointed; "but they speak
of Brussels, perhaps?"

"Oh! yes, every one knows Brussels," answered Graham.

"It is a beautiful city," remarked his companion, "and has a
brilliant society; but for my part, I own that at this season
of the year I prefer the retirement, the tranquillity of
Chaudfontaine, where also one amuses oneself perfectly well. I
always spend two or three months here--in fact, have been here
for six weeks already this summer. Affairs called me to Aix-
la-Chapelle last week for a few days, and that was how I had
the good fortune to meet Monsieur last night."

"It was very lucky for me," said Horace. "I am delighted to be
here. The hotel seems to be very empty," he added. "I have
seen nobody this morning except one little girl."

"But no, the hotel is almost full--people are gone to mass,
perhaps, or are in bed, or are breakfasting. It is still
early."

"That little girl," said Horace--"does she belong to the
house?"

"You mean the little girl who ran against me as I came up to
you just now? No, the _propriétaire_ of the hotel has but one
daughter, Mademoiselle Cécile, a most amiable person. But I
know that child--her father is one of the _habitués_ of the
hotel. She is much to be pitied, poor little one!"

"Why?" asked Graham.

"Because her father--_ah! bon jour, Madame_--excuse me, Monsieur,
but I go to pay my respects to Madame la Comtesse!" cried the
Belgian, as an elderly red-faced lady, with fuzzy sandy hair,
wearing a dingy, many-flounced lilac barége gown, came towards
them along the gravel path.

"At last we see you back, my dear Monsieur!" she cried--"ah!
how many regrets your absence has caused!--of what an
insupportable _ennui_ have we not been the victims! But you are
looking better than when you left us; your journey has done
you good; it is plain that you have not suffered from
absence."

"Alas! Madame," cries the other, "you little know! And how,
for my part, can I venture to believe in regrets that have
left no traces? Madame is looking more charming, more
blooming----"

Horace waited to hear no more; he left the pair standing and
complimenting each other on the sunny pathway, and wandered
away under the shade of the big trees, crossed the little
stream and the white dusty road beyond, and began to ascend
the hills.

"What an ugly old woman!" thought the lad. "She and my friend
seem to be great allies; she must be at least ten years older
than he is, and he talks to her as if she were a pretty girl;
but she is a Countess apparently, and I suppose that counts
for something. Oh! what a jolly country!"

He strode along whistling, with his hands in his pockets,
feeling as if he had the world before him to explore, and in
the happiest of moods. Such a mood was not rare with Horace
Graham in these youthful days, when, by force of a good
health, and good spirits, and a large capacity for fresh
genuine enjoyment, he was apt to find life pleasant enough on
the whole, though for him it lacked several of the things that
go to make up the ordinary ideal of human happiness. He was
not rich; he had no particular expectations, and but few
family ties, for his parents had both died when he was very
young, and except an aunt who had brought him up, and a
married sister several years older than himself, he had no
near relations in the world. He was simply a medical student,
with nothing to look forward to but pushing his own way, and
making his own path in life as best he could. But he had
plenty of talent, and worked hard at his profession, to which
he was devoted for reasons quite unconnected with any
considerations of possible profit and loss. Indeed, having
just enough money of his own to make him tolerably
independent, he was wont to ignore all such considerations in
his grand youthful way, and to look upon his profession from a
purely abstract scientific point of view. And yet he was not
without large hopes, grand vague ambitions concerning his
future career; for he was at an age when it seems so much
easier to become one of the few enumerated great ones of the
world than to remain amongst the nameless forgotten
multitudes; and life lay before him rather as something
definite, which he could take up and fashion to his own
pleasure, than as a succession of days and years which would
inevitably mould and influence him in their course. It is not
wholly conceit, perhaps, which so assures these clever lads of
the vastness of their untried capabilities, that there are
moments when they feel as if they could grasp heaven and earth
in their wide consciousness; it is rather a want of experience
and clearness of perception. Horace Graham was not
particularly conceited, and yet, in common with many other men
of his age, he had a conviction that, in some way or other,
life had great exceptional prizes in store for him; and indeed
he was so strong, and young, and honest-hearted, that he had
been successful enough hitherto within his narrow limits. He
had pleasant manners, too, and a pleasant face, which gained
him as many friends as he ever cared to have; for he had a
queer, reserved, unsociable twist in his character, which kept
him aloof from much company, and rather spoilt his reputation
for geniality and heartiness. He hated the hard work he had to
go through in society; so at least he was wont to grumble, and
then would add, laughing, "I daresay I am a conceited puppy to
say so: but the fact is, there are not six people in the world
whose company I would prefer to my own for a whole day."

He found his own company quite sufficient during all his
wanderings through that long summer's day in the lovely
country round Chaudfontaine, a country neither grand nor wild,
hardly romantic, but with a charm of its own that enticed
Graham onwards in spite of the hot August sun. It was so
green, so peaceful, so out of the world; the little valleys
were wrapped so closely amongst the hills, the streams came
gushing out of the limestone rocks, dry water, courses led him
higher and higher up amongst the silent woods, which stretched
away for miles on either hand. Sometimes he would come upon an
open space, whence he could look down upon the broader valley
beneath, with its quiet river flowing through the midst,
reflecting white villages, forges, long rows of poplars, an
occasional bridge, and here and there a long low island; or
descending, he would find himself in some narrow ravine, cleft
between grey rocky heights overgrown with brushwood and
trailing plants, the road leading beside a marshy brook, full
of rushes and forget-me-nots, and disappearing amongst the
forest trees. All day long Graham wandered about that pleasant
land, and it was long past the four o'clock dinner hour when
he stood on the top of the hill he had seen that morning from
his window, and looked across the wide view of woods and
cornfields to where a distant cloud of smoke marked the city
of Liége. Thence descending by a steep zig-zag path, with a
bench at every angle, he crossed the road and the little
rivulet, and found himself once more in the garden at the back
of the hotel.


CHAPTER II.

In the Salon.


He had left it in the morning dewy, silent, almost deserted;
he found it full of gaiety and life and movement, talking,
laughing, and smoking going on, pretty bright dresses glancing
amongst the trees, children swinging under the great branches,
the flickering lights and shadows dancing on their white
frocks and curly heads, white-capped bonnes dangling their
_bébés_, papas drinking coffee and liqueurs at the little
tables, mammas talking the latest Liége scandal, and
discussing the newest Parisian fashions. The table-d'hôte
dinner was just over, and everybody had come out to enjoy the
air, till it was time for the dancing to begin.

The glass door leading into the passage that ran through the
house stood wide open; so did the great hall door at the other
end; and Graham could see the courtyard full of sunshine, the
iron railing separating it from the road, the river gleaming,
the bridge and railway station beyond, and then again the
background of hills. He passed through the house, and went out
into the courtyard. Here were more people, more gay dresses,
gossip, cigars, and coffee; more benches and tables set in the
scanty shade of the formal round-topped trees that stood in
square green boxes round the paved quadrangle. Outside in the
road, a boy with a monkey stood grinding a melancholy organ;
the sun seemed setting to the pretty pathetic tune, which
mingled not inharmoniously with the hum of voices and sudden
bursts of laughter; the children were jumping and dancing to
their lengthening shadows, but with a measured glee, so as not
to disturb too seriously the elaborate combination of starch
and ribbon and shining plaits which composed their fête day
toilettes. A small tottering thing of two years old, emulating
its companions of larger growth, toppled over and fell
lamenting at Graham's feet as he came out. He picked it up,
and set it straight again, and then, to console it, found a
sou, and showed it how to put it into the monkey's brown
skinny hand, till the child screamed with delight instead of
woe. The lad had a kind, loving heart, and was tender to all
helpless appealing things, and more especially to little
children.

He stood watching the pretty glowing scene for a few minutes,
and then went in to his solitary _réchauffé_ dinner. Coming out
again half an hour or so later, he found everything changed.
The monkey boy and his organ were gone, the sun had set,
twilight and mists were gathering in the valley, and the
courtyard was deserted; but across the grey dusk, light was
streaming through the muslin window curtains of the salon, the
noise of laughter, and voices, and music came from within now,
breaking the evening stillness; for everyone had gone indoors
to the salon, where the gas was lighted, chairs and tables
pushed out of the way, and Mademoiselle Cécile, the fat good-
natured daughter of the _propriétaire_, already seated at the
piano. The hall outside fills with grinning waiters and maids,
who have their share of the fun as they look in through the
open door. Round go the dancers, sliding and twirling on the
smooth polished floor, and Mademoiselle Cécile's fingers fly
indefatigably over the keys, as she sits nodding her head to
the music, and smiling as each familiar face glides past her.

Horace, who, after lingering awhile in the courtyard, had come
indoors like the rest of the world, stood apart at the further
end of the room, sufficiently entertained with looking on at
the scene, which had the charm of novelty to his English eyes,
and commenting to himself on the appearance of the dancers.

"But you do wrong not to dance, dear Monsieur, I assure you,"
said his Belgian friend, coming up to him at the end of a
polka, with the elderly Countess, who with her dingy lilac
barége gown exchanged for a dingier lilac silk, and her sandy
hair fuzzier than ever, had been dancing vigorously.
"Mademoiselle Cécile's music is delicious," he continued, "it
positively inspires one; let me persuade you to attempt just
one little dance."

"Indeed, I would rather look on," said Horace; "I can listen to
Mademoiselle Cécile's music all the same, and I do not care
much for dancing, as I told you; besides, I don't know anyone
here."

"If that be all," cried the other eagerly, "I can introduce
you to half a dozen partners in a moment; that lady that I
have just been dancing with, for instance, will be charmed----"

"Stop, I entreat you," said the young Englishman, in alarm, as
his friend was about to rush off; "I cannot indeed--I assure
you I am a very bad dancer; I am tired with my long walk too."

"Ah, that walk," said the Belgian, "I did wrong in advising
you to take it; you prolonged it till you missed the _table-
d'hôte_ dinner, and now you are too much fatigued to dance."

"But I am very much amused as it is, I assure you," insisted
Graham. "Do tell me something about all these people. Are they
all stopping at the hotel?"

His companion was delighted to give any information in his
power. No, not a third of the people were stopping at the
hotel, the greater part had come over from Liége, and would go
back there by the ten o'clock train.

"Then you do not know many of them?" Graham said.

"No," the Belgian admitted, "he did not know many of them;
only those who were staying at Chaudfontaine. That lady he had
just been dancing with, Monsieur had seen in the morning, he
believed; she was the Countess G----, a most distinguished
person, with blood-royal in her veins, and came from Brussels.
That pretty girl in blue was Mademoiselle Sophie L----, who was
going to be married next month to one of the largest
proprietors in the neighbourhood, the young man standing by
her, who was paying her so much attention. The odd-looking man
in shoes and buckles was a rising genius, or thought himself
so, a violinist, who came over occasionally from Liége, and
hoped to make his fortune some day in London or Paris; and
perhaps he will do so," says the Belgian, "for he has talent.
That little dirty-looking young man with a hooked nose, and
the red Turkish slippers, is a Spaniard going through a course
of studies at Liége; he is staying in the hotel, and so are
the fat old gentleman and lady seated on the sofa; they are
Brazilians, and he has been sent over by his Government to
purchase arms, I believe. Those three young ladies in white
are sisters, and are come here from Antwerp for the summer;
that is their mother talking to Mademoiselle Cécile. I see no
one else at this moment," he added, looking slowly round the
room at the groups of dancers who stood chattering and fanning
themselves in the interval between the dances.

"Who is that?" asked Graham, directing his attention to a
gentleman who had just appeared, and was standing, leaning in
the doorway opposite.

He was a tall handsome man, with light air, and a long fair
moustache and beard, perfectly well dressed, and with an air
sufficiently distinguished to make him at once conspicuous
amongst the Liége clerks and shopkeepers, of whom a large part
of the company consisted.

"Ah! precisely, Monsieur, you have fixed upon the most
remarkable personage here," cried his companion, with some
excitement; "but is it possible you do not know him?"

"I never saw him before," answered Graham. "Is he a celebrity?
A prince, or an ambassador, or anything of that kind?"

"No, nothing of that kind," said the other laughing, "but a
celebrity nevertheless in his way. That is M. Linders, the
great gambler."

"I never even heard of him," said the young Englishman; "but
then I don't know much about such people."

"It is true, I had forgotten that Monsieur is not of this
country; but you would hear enough about him were you to stay
any time at Wiesbaden, or Homburg, or Spa, or any of those
places. He twice broke the bank at Homburg last year, won two
hundred thousand francs at Spa this summer, and lost them
again the next week. He is a most dangerous fellow, and
positively dreaded by the proprietors of the tables."

"What! when he loses two hundred thousand francs?"

"Ah! that is a thing that rarely happens; as a rule he is
perfectly cool, which is the principal thing at these tables,
plays when the run is in his favour, and stops when it is
against him; but occasionally he gets excited, and then of
course the chances are that he loses everything like another."

"What can he be doing here?" said Graham.

"Who knows? Stopping a night or two on his way to Paris, or
Brussels, perhaps, on the chance of finding some one here rich
enough and imprudent enough to make it worth his while. You do
not play, Monsieur?"

"Never in that way," answered the lad, laughing; "I can get
through a game of whist decently enough, but I rarely touch
cards at all."

"Ah, then you are safe: otherwise I would have said, avoid M.
Linders; he has not the best reputation in the world, and he
has a brother-in-law who generally travels with him, and is
even a greater rogue than himself, but not so lucky--so they
say at least."

"Do you know him, this famous gambler? He does not look much
like one," says Graham.

"That is true; but he is a man of good birth and education, I
believe, though he has turned out such a _mauvais sujet_, and it
is part of his _métier_ to get himself up in that style. Yes, I
know him a little, from meeting him here and elsewhere; he is
always going about, sometimes _en prince_, sometimes in a more
humble way--but excuse me, dear Monsieur, Mademoiselle Cécile
has begun to play, and I am engaged to Mademoiselle Sophie for
this dance; she will never forgive me if I make her wait."

The dancers whirled on; the room grew hotter and hotter. M.
Linders had disappeared, and Graham began to think that he too
had had almost enough of it all, and that it would be pleasant
to seek peace and coolness in the deserted moonlit courtyard.
He was watching for a pause in the waltz that would admit of
his crossing the room, when his attention was attracted by the
same little girl he had seen that morning in the garden. She
was still dressed in the shabby old frock and pinafore, and as
she came creeping in, threading her way deftly amongst the
young ladies in starched muslins and gay ribbons who were
fluttering about, she made the effect of a little brown moth
who had strayed into the midst of a swarm of brilliant
butterflies. No one took any notice of her, and she made her
way up to the large round table which had been pushed into the
far corner of the room, and near which Graham was standing.

"Do you want anything?" he asked, as he saw her raise herself
on tiptoe, and stretch forward over the table.

"I want _that_," she said, pointing to a miniature roulette
board, which stood in the middle, beyond the reach of her
small arm.

He gave it to her, and then stood watching to see what she
would do with it. She set to work with great deliberation;
first pulling a handful of sugar-plums out of her pocket, and
arranging them in a little heap at her side on the table, and
then proceeding with much gravity to stake them on the
numbers. She would put down a bonbon and give the board a
twirl; "_ving-cinq_," she would say; the ball flew round and
fell into a number; it might be ten, or twenty, or twenty-
five, it did not much matter; she looked to see what it was,
but right or wrong, never failed to eat the bonbon--an
illogical result, which contrasted quaintly with the intense
seriousness with which she made her stakes. Sometimes she
would place two or three sugar-plums on one number, always
naming it aloud--"_trente-et-un_," "_douze-premier_," "_douze-
après_." It was the oddest game for a small thing not six years
old; and there was something odd, too, in her matter-of-fact,
business-like air, which amused Graham. He had seen gambling-
tables during his three weeks' visit to Germany, and he felt
sure that this child must have seen them too.

"Eh! What an insupportable heat!" cried a harsh high-pitched
voice behind him. "Monsieur Jules, I will repose myself for a
few minutes, if you will have the goodness to fetch me a glass
of _eau sucrée. Je n'en peux plus!_"

Graham, recognizing the voice, turned round, and saw the
Countess G---- leaning on the arm of a young man with whom she
had been dancing.

"But it is really stifling!" she exclaimed, dropping into an
arm-chair by the table as her partner retired. "Monsieur does
not dance, apparently," she continued, addressing Horace.
"Well, you are perhaps right; it is a delightful amusement,
but on a night like this---- Ah! here is little Madelon. I have
not seen you before to-day. How is it you are not dancing?"

"I don't want to," answered the child, giving the roulette-
board a twirl.

"But that is not at all a pretty game that you have there,"
said the Countess, shaking her head; "it was not for little
girls that Mademoiselle Cécile placed the roulette-board
there. Where is your doll? why are you not playing with her?"

"My doll is in bed; and I like this best," answered the child
indifferently. "_Encore ce malheureux trente-six! Je n'ai pas
de chance ce soir!_"

"But little girls should not like what is naughty: and I think
it would be much better if you were in bed too. Come, give me
that ugly toy; there is Monsieur quite shocked to see you
playing with it."

Madelon looked up into Horace's face with her wide-open gaze,
as if to verify this wonderful assertion; and apparently
satisfied that it had been made for the sake of effect,
continued her game without making any reply.

"Oh, then, I really must take it away," said the Countess;
"_allons_, be reasonable, _ma petite;_ let me have that, and go
and dance with the other little boys and girls."

"But I don't want to dance, and I like to play at this," cries
Madelon with her shrill little voice, clutching the board with
both her small hands, as the Countess tried to get possession
of it; "you have no right to take it away. Papa lets me play
with it; and I don't care for you! Give it me back again, I
say; _je le veux, je le veux!_"

"No, no," answered the Countess, pushing it beyond Madelon's
reach to the other side of the table. "I daresay you have seen
your papa play at that game; but children must not always do
the same as their papas. Now, be good, and eat your bonbons
like a sensible child."

"I will not eat them if I may not play for them!" cried the
child; and with one sweep of her hand she sent them all off
the table on to the floor, and stamped on them again and again
with her tiny foot. "You have no right to speak to me so!" she
went on energetically; "no one but my papa speaks to me; and I
don't know you, and I don't like you, and you are very ugly!"
and then she turned her back on the Countess and stood in
dignified silence.

"_Mais c'est un petit diable!_" cried the astonished lady,
fanning herself vigorously with her pocket-handkerchief. She
was discomfited though she had won the victory, and hailed the
return of her partner with the _eau sucrée_ as a relief. "A
thousand thanks, M. Jules! What if we take another turn,
though this room really is of insufferable heat."

Madelon was let confronting Horace, a most ill-used little
girl, not crying, but with flushed cheeks and pouting lips--a
little girl who had lost her game and her bonbons, and felt at
war with all the world in consequence. Horace was sorry for
her; he, too, thought she had been ill-used, and no sooner was
the Countess fairly off than he said, very immorally, no
doubt,

"Would you like to have your game back again?"

"No," said Madelon, in whom this speech roused a fresh sense
of injury; "I have no more bonbons."

Graham had none to offer her, and a silence ensued, during
which she stood leaning against the table, slowly scraping one
foot backwards and forwards over the remains of the scattered
bonbons. At last he bethought him of a small bunch of charms
that he had got somewhere, and hung to his watch-chain, and
with which he had often enticed and won the hearts of
children.

"Would you like to come and look at these?" he said, holding
them up.

"No," she replied, ungraciously, and retreating a step
backwards.

"Not at this?" he said. "Here is a little steam engine that
runs on wheels; and, see, here is a fan that will open and
shut."

"No," she said again, with a determined little shake of her
head, and still retreating.

"But only look at this," he said, selecting a little flexible
enamel fish, and trying to lure back this small wild bird.
"See this little gold and green fish, it moves its head and
tail."

"No," she said once more, but the fish was evidently a
temptation, and she paused irresolute for a moment; but Graham
made a step forward, and this decided her.

"I don't care for _breloques_," she said, with disdain, "and I
don't want to see them, I tell you." And then, turning round,
she marched straight out of the room.

At that moment the music stopped, the waltzing ceased, an a
line of retreat was left open for Graham. He saw the Countess
once more approaching, and availed himself of it; out of the
noise and heat and crowd he fled, into the fresh open air of
the quiet courtyard.


CHAPTER III.

In the Courtyard.


Three gentlemen with cigars, sitting on the bench under the
salon windows, two more pacing up and down in the moonlight
before the hall-door, and a sixth apparently asleep in a
shadowy corner, were the only occupants of the courtyard.
Graham passed them by, and sought solitude at the lower end,
where he found a seat on the stone coping of the iron railing.
The peace and coolness and silence were refreshing, after the
heat and clamour of the salon; the broad harvest-moon had
risen above the opposite ridge of hills, and flooded
everything with clear light, the river gleamed and sparkled,
the poplars threw long still shadows across the white road;
now and then the leaves rustled faintly, some far-off voice
echoed back from the hills, and presently from the hotel the
sound of the music, and the measured beat of feet, came
softened to the ear, mingled with the low rush of the stream,
and the ceaseless ringing of the hammers in the village
forges.

Horace had not sat there above ten minutes, and was debating
whether--his Belgian friend notwithstanding--a stroll along the
river-bank would not be a pleasanter termination to his
evening than a return to the dancing, when he saw a small
figure appear in the hall doorway, stand a moment as is
irresolute, and then come slowly across the courtyard towards
him. As she came near he recognised little Madelon. She pauses
when she was within a yard or two of him, and stood
contemplating him with her hands clasped behind her back.

"So you have come out too," he said.

"_Mais oui--tout ce tapage m'agace les nerfs_," answered the
child, pushing her hair off her forehead with one of her old-
fashioned little gestures, and then standing motionless as
before, her hands behind her, and her eyes fixed on Graham.
Somehow he felt strangely attracted by this odd little child,
with her quaint vehement ways and speeches, who stood gazing
at him with a look half _farouche_, half confiding, in her great
brown eyes.

"Monsieur," she began, at last.

"Well," said Graham.

"Monsieur, I _would_ like to see the little green fish. May I
look at it?"

"To be sure," he answered. "Come here, and I will show it to
you."

"And, Monsieur, I do like _breloques_ very much," continues
Madelon, feeling that this is a moment for confession.

"Very well, then, you can look at all these. See, here is the
little fish to begin with."

"And may I have it in my own hand to look at?" she asked,
willing to come to some terms before capitulating.

"Yes, you shall have it to hold in your own hand, if you will
come here."

She came close to him then, unclasping her hands, and holding
a tiny palm to receive the little trinket.

Horace was engaged in unfastening it from the rest of the
bunch, and whilst doing so he said,

"Will you not tell me your name? Madelon, is it not?"

"My name is Madeleine, but papa and every one call me
Madelon."

"Madeleine what?"

"Madeleine Linders."

"Linders!" cried Horace, suddenly enlightened; "what, is M.
Linders--" the famous gambler he had nearly said, but checked
himself--"is that tall gentleman with a beard, whom I saw in
the salon just now, your papa?"

"Yes, that is my papa. Please may I have that now?"

He put the little flexible toy into her hand, and she stood
gazing at it for a moment, almost afraid to touch it, and then
pushing it gently backwards and forwards with one finger.

"It does move!" she cried delighted. "I never saw one like it
before."

"Would you like to keep it?" asked Graham.

"Always, do you mean?--for my very own?"

"Yes, always."

"Ah, yes!" she cried, "I should like it very much. I will wear
it round my neck with a string, and love it so much, --better
than Sophie."

She looked at it with great admiration as it glittered in the
moonlight; but her next question fairly took Horace aback.

"Is it worth a great deal of money, Monsieur?" she inquired.

"Why, no, not a great deal--very little, in fact," he replied.

"Ah! then, I will beg papa to let me keep it always, always,
and not to take it away."

"I daresay he will let you keep it, if you tell him you like
it," said Graham, not clearly understanding her meaning.

"Oh! yes, but then he often gives me pretty things, and then
sometimes he says he must take them away again, because they
are worth so much money. I don't mind, you know, if he wants
them; but I will ask him to let me keep this."

"And what becomes of all your pretty things?"

"I don't know; I have none now," she answered, "we left them
behind at Spa. Do you know one reason why I would not dance
to-night?" she added, lowering her voice confidentially.

"No; what was it?"

"Because I had not my blue silk frock with lace, that I wear
at the balls at Wiesbaden and Spa. I can dance, you know, papa
taught me; but not in this old frock, and I left my other at
Spa."

"And what were your other reasons?" asked Graham, wondering
more and more at the small specimen of humanity before him.

"Oh! because the room here is so small and crowded. At
Wiesbaden there are rooms large--so large--quite like this
courtyard," extending her small arms by way of giving
expression to her vague sense of grandeur; "and looking-
glasses all round, and crimson sofas, and gold chandeliers,
and ladies in such beautiful dresses, and officers who danced
with me. I don't know any one here."

"And who were the Count and the Prince you were talking about
to Mademoiselle Sophie in the garden this morning?"

Madelon looked disconcerted.

"I shan't tell you," she said, hanging down her head.

"Will you not? Not if I want to know very much?"

She hesitated a moment, then burst forth--

"Well, then, they were just nobody at all. I was only talking
make-believe to Sophie, that she might do the steps properly."

"Oh! then, you did not expect to see them here this evening?"

"Here!" cries Madelon, with much contempt; "why, no. One meets
nothing but _bourgeois_ here."

Graham was infinitely amused.

"Am I a _bourgeois?_" he said, laughing.

"I don't know," she replied, looking at him; "but you are not
a milord, I know, for I heard papa asking Mademoiselle Cécile
about you, and she said you were not a milord at all."

"So you care for nothing but Counts and Princes?"

"I don't know," she said again. Then with an evident sense
that such abstract propositions would involve her beyond her
depth, she added, "Have you any other pretty things to show
me? I should like to see what else you have on your chain."

In five minutes more they were fast friends, and Madelon,
seated on Graham's knee, was chattering away, and recounting
to him all the history of her short life. He was not long in
perceiving that her father was the beginning and end of all
her ideas--her one standard of perfection, the one medium
through which, small as she was, she was learning to look out
on and estimate the world, and receiving her first impressions
of life. She had no mother, she said, in answer to Graham's
inquiries. _Maman_ had died when she was quite a little baby;
and though she seemed to have some dim faint recollection of
having once lived in a cottage in the country, with a woman to
take care of her, everything else referred to her father, from
her first, vague floating memories to the time when she could
date them as distinct and well-defined, facts. She had once
had a nurse, she said, --a long time ago that was, when she was
little--but papa did not like her, and so she went away; and
now she was too big for one. Papa did everything for her, it
appeared, from putting her to sleep at night, when
Mademoiselle was disposed to be wakeful, to nursing her when
she was ill, taking her to fêtes on grand holidays, buying her
pretty things, walking with her, teaching her dancing, and
singing, and reading; and she loved him so much--ah! so much!
Indeed, in all the world, the child had but one object for a
child's boundless powers of trust and love and veneration, and
that one was her father.

"And where do you generally live now?" asked Graham.

"Why, nowhere in particular," Madelon answered. "Of course
not--they were always travelling about. Papa had to go to a
great many places. They had come last from Spa, and before
that they had been at Wiesbaden and Homburg, and last winter
they had spent at Nice: and now they were on their way to
Paris."

"And do you and your papa always live alone? Have you not an
uncle?" enquired Graham, remembering the Belgian's speech
about the brother-in-law.

"Oh! yes, there is Uncle Charles--he comes with us generally;
but sometimes he goes away, and then I am so glad."

"How is that? are you not fond of him?"

"No," said Madelon, "I don't like him at all; he is very
disagreeable, and teases me. And he is always wanting me to go
away; he says, 'Adolphe'--that is papa, you know--'when is that
child going to school?' But papa pays no attention to him, for
he is never going to send me away; he told me so, and he says
he could not get on without me at all."

Graham no longer wondered at Madelon's choice of a game, for
it appeared she was in the habit of accompanying her father
every evening to the gambling tables, when they were at any of
the watering-places he frequented.

"Sometimes we go away into the ball-room and dance," she said,
"that is when papa is losing; he says, 'Madelon, _mon enfant_, I
see we shall do nothing here to-night, let us go and dance.'
But sometimes he does nothing but win, and then we stop till
the table closes, and he makes a great deal of money. Do you
ever make money in that way, Monsieur?" she added naïvely.

"Indeed I do not," replied Graham.

"It is true that everyone has not the same way," said the
child, with an air of being well informed, and evidently
regarding her father's way as a profession like another, only
superior to most. "What do you do, Monsieur?"

"I am going to be a doctor, Madelon."

"A doctor," she said reflecting; "I do not think that can be a
good way. I only know one doctor, who cured me when I was ill
last winter; but I know a great many gentlemen who make money
like papa. Can you make a fortune with ten francs, Monsieur?"

"I don't think I ever tried," answered Horace.

"Ah, well, papa can; I have often heard him say, 'Give me only
ten francs, _et je ferai fortune!_' "

There was something at once so droll and so sad about this
child, with her precocious knowledge and ignorant simplicity,
that the lad's honest tender heart was touched with a sudden
pity as he listened to her artless chatter. He was almost glad
when her confidences drifted away to more childlike subjects
of interest, and she told him about her toys, and books, and
pictures, and songs; she could sing a great many songs, she
said, but Horace could not persuade her to let him hear one.

"Why do you talk French?" she said presently; "you speak it so
funnily. I can talk English."

"Can you?" said Horace laughing, for indeed he spoke French
with a fine English accent and idiom. "Let me hear you. Where
did you learn it?"

"Uncle Charles taught me; he is English," she answered,
speaking correctly enough, with a pretty little accent.

"Indeed!" cried Graham. "Your mother was English, then?"

"Yes. Mamma came from England, papa says, and Uncle Charles
almost always talks English to me. I would not let him do it,
only papa wished me to learn."

"And have you any other relations in England?"

"I don't know," she answered. "We have never been in England,
and papa says he will never go, for he detests the English;
but I only know Uncle Charles and you, and I like you."

"What is your Uncle Charles' other name? Can you tell me?"

"Leroy," she answered promptly.

"But that is not an English name," said Graham.

This was a little beyond Madelon, but after some
consideration, she said with much simplicity,

"I don't know whether it is not English. But it is only lately
his name has been Leroy, since he came back from a journey he
made; before that it was something else, I forget what, but I
heard him tell papa he would like to be called Leroy, as it
was a common name; and papa told me, in case anyone asked me."

"I understand," said Graham; and indeed he did understand, and
felt a growing compassion for the poor little girl, whose only
companions and protectors were a gambler and a sharper.

They were still talking, when the silence of the courtyard was
broken by a sudden confusion and bustle. The sound of the
music and dancing had already ceased; and now a medley of
voices, a shrill clamour of talking and calling, made
themselves heard through the open hall door.

"Henri! Henri! Où est-il donc, ce petit drôle?"

"Allons, Pauline, dépêche-toi, mon enfant, ton père nous
attend!"

"Ciel! j'ai perdu mon fichu et mes gants."

"Enfin."

"The people are going away," says Madelon; and, in fact, in
another minute the whole party, talking, laughing, hurrying,
came streaming out by twos and threes into the moonlight, and,
crossing the road and bridge, disappeared one by one in the
station beyond, the sound of their voices still echoing back
through the quiet night. The last had hardly vanished when a
tall solitary figure appeared in the courtyard, and advanced,
looking round as if searching for some one.

"Madelon!" cried the same voice that Graham had heard that
morning in the garden.

"There is papa looking for me; I must go," exclaimed the child
at the same moment; and before Graham had time to speak, she
had slipped off his knee and darted up to her father; then
taking his hand, the two went off together, the small figure
jumping and dancing by the side of the tall man as they
disappeared within the doorway of the hotel.

A few minutes more, and then a sound as of distant thunder
told that the train was approaching through the tunnel. Graham
watched it emerge, traverse the clear moonlit valley with
slackening speed, and pause at the station for its freight of
passengers. There was a vague sound of confusion as the people
took their places, and then with a parting shriek it set off
again; and as the sound died away in the distance, a great
stillness succeeded the noise and bustle of a few moments
before.

Horace was afraid he had seen the last of Madelon, for
returning to the hotel he found no one in the salon, with the
exception of Mademoiselle Cécile, who was already putting out
the lights. The hall, too, was deserted; the servants had
vanished, and the _habitués_ of the hotel had apparently gone to
bed, for he met no one as he passed along, and turned down the
passage leading to the salle-à-manger. This was a large long
room, occupying the whole ground floor of one wing of the
hotel, with windows looking out on one side into the
courtyard, on the other into the garden, two long tables,
smaller ones in the space between, and above them a row of
chandeliers smothered in pink and yellow paper roses. The room
looked bare and deserted enough now; a sleepy waiter lounged
at the further end, the trees in the garden rustled and waved
to and fro in the rising night breeze, the moonlight streamed
through the uncurtained windows on to the boarded floor and
white table-cloths, chasing the darkness into remote corners,
and contending with the light of the single lamp which stood
on one of the smaller tables, where two men were sitting,
drinking, smoking, and playing at cards.

One of them was a man between thirty and forty, in a tight-
fitting black coat buttoned up to his chin, and with a thin
face, smooth shaven, with the exception of a little yellow
moustache, and sharp grey eyes. He would have been handsome,
had it not been for his unpleasant expression, at once knowing
and suspicious. The other Horace immediately recognised as
Monsieur Linders; and a moment afterwards he perceived little
Madeleine, sitting nestled close up to her father's side. The
lamplight shone on her curly head and innocent _mignonne_ face
as she watched the game with eager eyes; it was piquant, and
she was marking for her father, and when he had a higher score
than his opponent, she laughed and clapped her hands with
delight.

Graham stood watching this little scene for a minute; and
somehow, as he looked at the little motherless girl, there
came the thought of small rosy children he knew far away in
England, who, having said their prayers, and repeated their
Sunday hymns, perhaps, had been tucked into little white beds,
and been fast asleep hours ago; and a kind, foolish notion
entered the young fellow's head, that, for that one evening at
least, he must get the brown-eyed child, who had taken his
fancy so much, away from the drinking, and smoking, and card-
playing, into a purer atmosphere. He went up to the table, and
leant over her chair.

"Will you come out again and have a walk with me in the
garden?" he said in English.

The man opposite, who was dealing, looked up sharply and
suspiciously. Madelon turned round, and gazed up into the kind
face smiling down on her, then shook her head with great
decision.

"Not a little walk? I will tell you such pretty stories, all
about fairies, and moonlight, and little boys and girls, and
dragons," said Horace, drawing largely on his imagination, in
his desire to offer a sufficient inducement.

"No," said Madelon, "I can't come; I am marking for papa."

"What is it?" said M. Linders, who understood very little
English; "what does this gentleman want, _mon enfant?_"

"I was asking your little girl if she would take a walk with
me in the garden," says Horace, getting rather red, and in his
bad French.

"Monsieur is too good," answers M. Linders, making a grand
bow, whilst his companion, having finished dealing, sat
puffing away at his cigar, and drumming impatiently with his
fingers on the table; "but the hour is rather late; what do
you say, Madelon? Will you go with Monsieur?"

"No, papa," says the child, "I am marking for you; I don't
want to go away."

"You see how it is, Monsieur," said M. Linders, turning to
Graham with a smile and shrug. "This little one thinks herself
of so much importance, that she will not leave me."

"Are you then mad," cried his companion, "that you think of
letting Madelon go out at this time of night? It is nearly
eleven o'clock, and she can hardly keep her eyes open."

"My eyes are wide, wide open, Uncle Charles," exclaimed
Madelon, indignantly; "I'm not a bit tired, but I don't want
to go out now."

"Monsieur will perhaps join our party," said Monsieur Linders,
very politely. "I should be delighted to try my luck with a
fresh adversary."

"Thank you," said Graham, "but I hardly ever touch cards."
Then turning to Madelon, he added, "I must go away now, since
you will not come for a walk. Won't you wish me good-bye? I
shall not be here to-morrow."

She turned round and put her little hand into his for a
moment; then with a sudden shy caprice snatched it away, and
hid her face on her father's shoulder, just peeping at him
with her bright eyes. But she started up again suddenly as he
was leaving the room, calling out "_Adieu, Monsieur, bon
voyage_," and kissing her hand to him. He smiled and nodded in
return, bowed to M. Linders, and so went away. There was a
moment's silence after he went, and then, "You have made a
fine acquaintance this evening, Madelon," said her uncle.

Madelon made a little _moue_, but did not answer.

"Are you then mad, Adolphe," he said again, "that you permit
Madeleine to pick up an acquaintance with anyone who chooses
to speak to her? An Englishman too!"

"Papa is not mad," cried Madelon, between whom and her uncle
there was apparently a standing skirmish. "He was a very kind
gentleman, and I like him very much; he gave me this little
goldfish, and I shall keep it always, always," and she kissed
it with effusion.

"Bah!" said M. Linders, "English or French, it is all one to
me; and what harm could he do to the little one? It was an
accident, but it does not matter for once. Come, Madelon, you
have forgotten to mark."

"It is your turn to deal next, papa," said the child, "may I
do it for you?"

Horace Graham left Chaudfontaine by the earliest train the
following morning; and of all the people he had seen on that
Sunday evening at the hotel, only two ever crossed his path
again in after years--M. Linders, and his little daughter,
Madeleine.


CHAPTER IV.

Retrospect.


M. Linders was of both Belgian and French extraction, his
father having been a native of Liége, his mother a Parisian of
good family, who, in a moment of misplaced sentiment, as she
was wont in after years to sigh, had consented to marry a
handsome young Belgian officer, and had expiated her folly by
spending the greater part of her married life at Malines,
where her husband was stationed, and at Liége, where his
mother and sister resided. Adolphe's education, however, was
wholly French; for Madame Linders, who, during her husband's
life, had not ceased to mourn over her exile from her own
city, lost no time, after his death, in returning to Paris
with her two children, Thérèse, a girl of about twelve, and
Adolphe, then a child five or six years old.

Madame Linders had money, but not much, and she made it go
further than did ever Frenchwoman before, which is saying a
great deal. Adolphe must be educated, Adolphe must be clothed,
Adolphe was to be a great man some day; he was to go into the
army, make himself a name, become a General, a Marshal,--heaven
knows what glories the mother did not dream for him, as she
turned and twisted her old black silks, in the _entresol_ in the
Chaussée d'Antin, where she had her little apartment. She had
friends in Paris, and must keep up appearances for Adolphe's
sake, not to mention her own, and so could not possibly live
in a cheap out-of-the-way quarter.

As for Thérèse, she was of infinitely small account in the
family. She was plain, not too amiable, nor particularly
clever, and inclined to be _dévote;_ and, as in spite of
positive and negative failings, she also had to eat and be
clothed as well as her handsome fair brother, she could be
regarded as nothing else than a burden in the economical
household.

"You ask me what I shall do with Thérèse?" said Madame Linders
one day to a confidential friend. "Oh! she will go into a
convent, of course. I know of an excellent one near Liége, of
which her aunt is the superior, and where she will be
perfectly happy. She has a turn that way. What else can I do
with her, my dear? To speak frankly, she is _laide à faire
peur_, and she can have no _dot_ worth mentioning; for I have not
a sou to spare; so there is no chance of her marrying."

Thérèse knew her fate, and was resigned to it. As her mother
said, she had a turn that way; and to the Liége convent she
according went, but not before Madame Linders' death, which
took place when her daughter was about seven-and-twenty, and
which was, as Thérèse vehemently averred, occasioned by grief
at her son's conduct.

Adolphe had also known the fate reserved for him, and was by
no means resigned to it; for he had never had the least
intention of becoming a soldier, and having escaped
conscription, absolutely refused to enter the army. He was a
clever, unprincipled lad, who had done well at his studies,
but lost no time in getting into the most dissipated society
he could find from the moment he left college. He inherited
his father's good looks, but his mother's predilections
apparently; for he set out in life with the determination to
be Parisian amongst Parisians--of a certain class, be it
understood; and having some talent for drawing, as indeed he
had for most things, he used it as a pretext, announced that
he intended to be an artist, and furnishing a room in the
Quartier Latin, with an easel and a pipe, he began the wild
Bohemian life which he found most in accordance with his
tastes.

He was selfish and reckless enough, but not altogether
heartless, for he had a real affection for his mother, which
might have been worked upon with advantage. But Madame
Linders, who had indulged him till he had learnt to look upon
her devotion as a thing of course, now turned upon him with
the fretful, inconsequent reproaches of a weak mind; and
finding that he was constantly met with tearful words and
aggrieved looks, her son avoided her as much as possible. His
sister he could not endure. Thérèse had always been jealous of
the marked preference shown to him; and now, with an evident
sense of triumph, she preached little sermons, talked at him
with unceasing perseverance, and in truth was not a very
engaging person.

Madame Linders had not been dead ten days, when the brother
and sister had a violent quarrel, and parted with the
determination on either side never to meet again--a resolution
which was perfectly well kept. Thérèse retired to the Belgian
convent, and Adolphe, the possessor of a few thousand francs,
the remains of his mother's small fortune, returned to his
studio and to the life he had chosen.

The success and duration of a career of this sort is in exact
proportion to the amount of capital, real or assumed, invested
in it. Monsieur Linders' capital was very small; his francs
and credit both were soon exhausted, and began to find that
making-believe to paint pictures was hardly a paying business.
He tried to take portraits, attempted etching, gambled, and,
finally, being more in debt than he could well afford,
disappeared from the Paris world for a number of years, and
for a long space was known and heard of no more. It was indeed
affirmed in his circle of acquaintance that he had been seen
playing a fiddle at one of the cheap theatres; that he had
been recognized in the dress of a fiacre-driver, and in that
of a waiter at a Café Chantant: but these reports were idly
spread, and wanted confirmation. They might or might not have
been true. M. Linders never cared to talk much of those seven
or eight years in which he had effaced himself, as it were,
from society; but it may be imagined that he went through some
strange experiences in a life which was a struggle for bare
existence. Respectable ways of gaining a livelihood he ever
held in aversion; and it was not, therefore, to be expected
that a foolish and unprofitable pride would interfere to
prevent his using any means not absolutely criminal in order
to reach any desired end.

At length, however, he emerged from obscurity, and rose once
more to the surface of society; and one of his old
acquaintance, who encountered him at Homburg, returned
marvelling to Paris to relate that he had seen Adolphe Linders
winning fabulous sums at _trente-et-quarante_, that he was
decently clothed, had a magnificent suite of apartments at one
of the first hotels, and an English wife of wondrous beauty.
Monsieur Linders had, in fact, sown his wild oats, so to
speak, and settled down to the business of his life. In former
days, gambling had been a passion with him--too much so,
indeed, to admit of his playing with any great success; he had
been apt to lose both temper and skill. Time, however, while
increasing this passion for play, till it gradually became a
necessity of his life, had taught him to bring to bear upon it
all the ability which would have eminently fitted him for some
more praiseworthy employment. Formerly he had indulged in it
as a diversion; now it became a serious business, which he
prosecuted with a cool head, determined will, and unfailing
perseverance--qualities for which few would have given him
credit in the wild unsettled period of his early career. The
result was highly satisfactory to himself; he was soon known
as one of the most successful haunters of the German and
Belgian gaming-tables; he cast off the outward aspect and
manners of the Bohemian set he had once affected, and assumed
the guise and dress of the gentleman he really was--at least by
birth and education--and which he found at once more profitable
and more congenial to his maturer tastes. He lived splendidly,
and spent money freely when he had it; incurred debts with
great facility when he had not--debts which he did or did not
pay, as the case might be.

It was during a winter spent at Brussels that he made the
acquaintance of Charles Moore, a young Englishman with tastes
identical with his own, but inferior to him in ability,
talents, and even in principles. A sort of partnership was
formed between them, Mr. Linders undertaking most of the work,
and the Englishman contributing his small fortune as capital;
and not only his own, but that of his sister Magdalen, a young
girl who had come abroad with her brother, the only near
relation she had in the world. M. Linders had been introduced
to her, and she, in complete ignorance of the real character
of either him or her brother Charles, had, with all the
simplicity of eighteen, straightway fallen in love with the
handsome gentlemanlike man, who, on his side, made no secret
of the impression produced on him by the great loveliness of
the English girl. Moore, who was a thoroughly heartless scamp,
had not the least compunction in agreeing to a marriage
between his sister and this man, with whose character and mode
of life he was perfectly well acquainted; indeed, it suited
his views so well, that he did what lay in his power to
forward it. There were no difficulties in the way; the two
were almost alone in the world. He had been left her sole
guardian by their old father, who had died a twelve-month
before; and she, trusting her brother entirely, was glad to
leave everything in his hands. The marriage was accomplished
with all possible speed, and it was not till nearly two months
later that an accident revealed to Magdalen Linders, what
indeed in any case she must have discovered before long--what
manner of man this was she had got for her husband.

Then she did not pine away, nor sicken with despair, being of
a great courage, strong to bear evil and misfortune, and not
made of the stuff that gives way under cruel deception and
disappointment. She uttered only one reproach--

"You should have told me of all this, Adolphe," she said.

"You would not have married me," he answered gloomily.

"I--I do not know. Ah, I loved you so much, and so truly!"

And she did love him still; and clung to him to the last, but
not the less was she broken-hearted, so far as any enjoyment
of life was concerned; and her husband saw it. All sense of
rejoicing seemed to die out of her heart for ever. She hated
the splendour with which he sometimes surrounded her, even
more than the paltry shifts and expedients to which at other
times they had to resort, when he had spent all his money, and
there was no more forthcoming for the moment; she wept when
her children were born, thinking of the iniquity of the world
they had entered; and when her two little boys died one after
the other, there was almost a sense of relief mixed with the
bitterness of her sorrow, as she reflected on the father she
could not have taught them to respect, and on the abject evil
and misery from which she could not have shielded them.

As for M. Linders, he at once adored and neglected his wife,
as was the nature of the man; that is, he adored her
theoretically for her rare beauty, but neglected her
practically, when, after a few months of married life, he saw
her bloom fading, and her animation vanish, in the utter
despondency which had seized her, and which found its outward
expression in a certain studied composure and coldness of
manner. There soon came a time when he would have willingly
freed himself altogether from the constraint of her presence.
He travelled almost incessantly, spending the summer and
autumn at the German watering-places; the winter in France, or
Belgium, or Italy; and he would sometimes propose that she
should remain at a Paris hotel till he could return to her. In
the first years after their marriage she objected vehemently.
She was so young, so unused to solitude, that she felt a
certain terror at the prospect of being left alone; and,
moreover, she still clung with a sort of desperation to her
girlish illusions, and, loving her husband, could not cease to
believe in his love for her. She had plans, too, for reforming
him, and for a long time would not allow herself to be
convinced of their utter vanity and hopelessness. After the
death of her little boys, however, she became more
indifferent, or more resigned. And so it came to pass that
when she had been married about six years, and four months
after her third child was born, Madame Linders died, alone at
a Paris hotel, with no one near her but the doctor, her baby's
nurse, and the woman of the house. She had dictated a few
words to tell her husband, who was then in Germany, that she
was dying; and, stricken with a horrible remorse, he had
travelled with all possible haste to Paris, and arrived at
daybreak one morning to find that his wife had died the
evening before.

Madame Linders' death had been caused by a fever, under which
she had sunk rapidly at last. There had been no question of
heart-breaking or pining grief here--so her husband thought
with a sort of satisfaction even then, as he remembered his
sister's words of bitter reproach over their mother's death-
bed; and yet not the less, as he looked at his dead wife's
face, did the reflection force itself upon him, that he had
made the misery instead of the happiness of her life. He was a
man who had accustomed himself to view things from the hardest
and most practical point of view; and from such a view his
marriage had been rather a failure than otherwise, since the
memory of the little fortune she had brought with her had
vanished with the fortune itself. But it had not been
altogether for money that he had married her; he had been in
love with her at one time, and that time repeated itself, with
a pertinacity not to be shaken off, as he stood now in her
silent presence.

Whatever his feelings may have been, however, they found no
expression then. He turned sharply on the women standing
round, who had already, after the fashion of womankind,
contrived, without speaking, to let him know their opinion of
a man who had left his wife alone for six months at an hotel,
whilst he went and amused himself. He scarcely glanced at the
small daughter, now presented to him for the first time; and
he bade Madame Lavaux, the mistress of the hotel, "make haste
and finish with all that," when, with tearful voice, and
discursive minuteness, she related to him the history of his
wife's last days. He made all necessary arrangements; took
possession of Madame Linders' watch and few trinkets; himself
superintended the packing of her clothes and other trifling
properties into a large trunk, which he left in Madame Lavaux'
charge; attended the funeral on the following day; and
immediately on his return from it, ordered a fiacre to be in
readiness to convey him to the railway station, as he was
going to quit Paris immediately. He was on the point of
departure, when he was confronted by Madame Lavaux and the
nurse bearing the infant, who begged to know if he had any
directions to leave concerning his child.

"Madame," he answered, addressing the landlady, "I entrust all
these matters to you; see that the child is properly provided
for, and I will send the requisite money."

"We had arranged that her nurse should take her away to her
own home in the country," said Madame Lavaux.

"That will do," he answered; and was about to leave the room,
when the nurse, an honest countrywoman, interposed once more,
to inquire where she should write to Monsieur to give him
tidings of his little daughter.

"I want none," he replied. "You can apply here to Madame for
money if the child lives; if it dies she will let me know, and
I need send no more." And so saying, he strode out of the
room, leaving the women with hands and eyes uplifted at the
hard-hearted conduct of the father.

For nearly two years M. Linders was absent from Paris,
wandering about, as his habit was, from one town to another, a
free man, as he would himself have expressed it, except for
the one tie which he acknowledged only in the sums of money he
sent from time to time, with sufficient liberality, to Madame
Lavaux. No news reached him of his child, and he demanded
none. But about twenty months after his wife's death, business
obliged him to go for a few weeks to Paris; and finding
himself with a leisure day on his hands, it occurred to him,
with a sudden impulse, to spend it in the country and go and
see his little girl. He ascertained from Madame Lavaux where
she was, and went.

The woman with whom little Madeleine had been placed lived
about fifteen miles from Paris, in a small village perched
half-way up a steep hill, from the foot of which stretched a
wide plain, where the Seine wound slowly amongst trees and
meadows, and scattered villages. The house to which M. Linders
was directed stood a little apart from the others, near the
road-side, but separated from it by a strip of garden, planted
with herbs and a patch of vines; and as he opened the gate, he
came at once upon a pretty little picture of a child of two
years, in a quaint, short-waisted, long-skirted pinafore,
toddling about, playing at hide-and-seek among the tall poles
and trailing tendrils, and kept within safe limits by a pair
of leading-strings passed round the arm of a woman who sat in
the shade of the doorway knitting. As M. Linders came up the
narrow pathway she ran towards him to the utmost extent of her
tether, uttering little joyous inarticulate cries, and
bubbling over with the happy instinctive laughter of a child
whose consciousness is bounded by its glad surroundings.

When, in moments of pseudo remorse, which would come upon him
from time to time, it occurred to M. Linders to reflect upon
his misdeeds, and adopt an apologetic tone concerning them, he
was wont to propound a singular theory respecting his life,
averring, in general terms, that it had been spoilt by women,--
a speech more epigrammatic, perhaps, than accurate, since of
the two women who had loved him best, his mother and his wife,
he had broken the heart of the one, and ruined the happiness
of the other. And yet it was not without its grain of meaning,
however false and distorted; for M. Linders, who was not more
consistent than the rest of mankind, had, by some queer
anomaly, along with all his hardness, and recklessness, and
selfishness, a capacity for affection after his own fashion,
and an odd sensitiveness to the praise and blame of those
women whom he cared for and respected which did not originate
merely in vanity and love of applause. He had been fond of his
mother, though he had ignored her wishes and abused her
generosity; and he had hated his sister Thérèse, because he
imagined that she had come between them. Their reproaches had
been unbearable to him, and though his wife had never blamed
him in words, there had been a mute upbraiding in her mournful
looks and dejected spirits, which he had resented as a wrong
done to the love he had once felt for her. In the absence of
many subjects for self-congratulation, he rather piqued
himself on a warm heart and sensitive feelings, and chose to
consider them ill-requited by the cold words and sad glances
of those whose happiness he was destroying. The idea that he
should set matters straight by adjusting his life to meet
their preconceived notions of right and wrong, would have
appeared to him highly absurd; but he considered them
unreasonable and himself ill-used when they refused to give
their approbation to his proceedings, and this idea of ill-
usage and unreasonableness he was willing to encourage, as it
enabled him to shift the responsibility of their unhappiness
from his own shoulders on to theirs, and to deaden the sense
of remorse which would make itself felt from time to time. For
in the worst of men, they say, there still lingers some touch
of kindly human feeling, and M. Linders, though amongst the
most worthless, was not perhaps absolutely the worst of men.
He was selfish enough to inflict any amount of pain, yet not
hardened enough to look unmoved on his victims. He had, in
truth, taken both their misery and their reproaches to heart;
and sometimes, especially since his wife's death, he had
surprised in himself a strange, unaccountable desire for a
love that should be true and pure, but which, ignorant of, or
ignoring his errors, should be content to care for him and
believe in him just as he was: such a love as his wife might,
perhaps, have given him in her single month of unconscious
happiness. It was a longing fitful, and not defined in words,
but a real sentiment all the same, not a sentimentality; and,
imperfect as it was in scope and tendency, it expressed the
best part of the man's nature. He despised it, and crushed it
down; but it lay latent, ready to be kindled by a touch.

And here was a small piece of womankind belonging to him, who
could upbraid by neither word nor look, who ran towards him
confidently, stretching out tiny hands to clutch at his
shining gold chain, and gazing up in his face with great brown
eyes, that recalled to him those of her dead mother, when she
had first known and learnt to love him. Had Madelon been a shy
plain child--had she hidden her face, and run from him
screaming to her nurse, as children are so wont to do, he
would then and there have paid the money he had brought with
him as the ostensible cause of his visit, and gone on his way,
thinking no more about her for another two years perhaps. But
Madelon had no thought of shyness with the tall fair handsome
man who had taken her fancy: she stood for a moment in the
pathway before him, balancing herself on tiptoe with uplifted
arms, confident in the hope of being taken up; and, as the
woman recognizing M. Linders, came forward and bade the child
run to Papa, with a sudden unaccustomed emotion of tenderness,
almost pathetic in such a man, he stooped down and raised her
in his arms.

As he travelled back to Paris that day, M. Linders formed a
plan which he lost no time in carrying, partially, at least,
into execution. During the next twelvemonth he spent much of
his time in Paris, and went frequently to see his mall
daughter, never without some gift to win her heart, till the
child came to regard his pocket as the inexhaustible source of
boundless surprises, in the shape of toys and cakes and
bonbons. It was not long before she was devoted to her father,
and, her nurse dying when she was a little more than three
years old, M. Linders resolved at once to carry out his idea,
and, instead of placing her with any one else, take possession
of her himself. He removed her accordingly from the country to
Paris, engaged a _bonne_, and henceforth Madelon accompanied him
wherever he went.


CHAPTER V.

Monsieur Linders' System.


My little lady had given Horace Graham a tolerably correct
impression of her life as they had talked together in the
moonlight at Chaudfontaine. When M. Linders took her home with
him--if that may be called home which consisted of wanderings
from one hotel to another--it was with certain fixed ideas
concerning her, which he began by realizing with the success
that not unfrequently attended his ideas when he set himself
with a will to work them out. His child's love and trust he
had already gained, as she had won suddenly for herself a
place in his heart, and he started with the determination that
these relations between them should never be disturbed. She
should be educated for himself; she should be brought up to
see with his eyes, to adopt his views; she should be taught no
troublesome standard of right and wrong by which to measure
him and find wanting; no cold shadow of doubt and reproach
should ever rise between them and force them asunder; and
above all, he would make her happy--she for one should never
turn on him and say, "See, my life is ruined, and it is you
who have done it!" She should know no life, no aims, no wishes
but his; but that life should be so free from care and sorrow
that for once he would be able to congratulate himself on
having made the happiness, instead of the misery, of some one
whom he loved and who loved him.

These were the ideas that M. Linders entertained concerning
Madelon, expressing them to himself in thoughts and language
half genuine, half sentimental, as was his nature. But his
love for his child was genuine enough; and for the fulfilment
of his purpose he was willing to sacrifice much, devoting
himself to her, and giving up time, comfort, and even money,
for the sake of this one small being whom in all the world he
loved, and who was to be taught to love him. He took her about
with him; she associated with his companions; he familiarized
her with all his proceedings, and she came in consequence to
look upon their mode of life as being as much a matter of
course, and a part of the great system of things, as the child
does who sees her father go out to plough every day, or mount
the pulpit every Sunday to preach his sermon. Of course she
did not understand it all; it was his one object in life that
she should not; and fondly as he loved his little Madelon, he
did not scruple to make her welfare subordinate to his own
views. He was careful to keep her within the shady bounds of
that world of no doubtful character, which he found wherever
he went, hovering on the borders of the world of avowed
honesty and respectability, jealously guarding her from every
counter-influence, however good or beneficial. He would not
send her to school, was half unwilling, indeed, that she
should be educated in any way, lest she should come to the
knowledge of good and evil, which he so carefully hid from
her; and he even dismissed her good, kind-hearted bonne, on
overhearing her instruct the child, who could then hardly
speak plain, in some little hymn or prayer, or pious story,
such as nurses delight in teaching their charges. After that
he took care of her himself with the assistance of friendly
landladies at the hotels he frequented, who all took an
interest in and were kind to the little motherless girl, but
were too busy to have any time to spend in teaching her, or
enlarging her ideas; and indeed all the world conspired to
carry out M. Linders' plan; for who would have cared, even had
it been possible, to undertake the ungracious task of opening
the eyes of a child to the real character of a father whom she
loved and believed in so implicitly? And she was so happy,
too! Setting aside any possible injury he might be doing her,
M. Linders was the most devoted of fathers, loving and caring
for her most tenderly, and thinking himself well repaid by the
clinging grasp of her small hand, by the spring of joy with
which she welcomed him after any absence, by her gleeful voice
and laughter, her perfect trust and confidence in him.

There must have been something good and true about this man,
roué and gambler though he was, that, somehow, he himself and
those around him had missed hitherto, but that sprang
willingly into life when appealed to by the innocent faith,
the undoubting love of his little child. Thus much Madelon all
unconsciously accomplished, but more than this she could not
do. M. Linders did not become a reformed character for her
sake: he had never had any particular principles, and
Madelon's loving innocence, which aroused all his best
emotions, had no power to stir in him any noble motives or
high aspirations, which, if they existed at all, were buried
too deep to be awakened by the touch of her small hand. His
misdeeds had never occasioned him much uneasiness, except as
they had affected the conduct of others towards himself; and
he had no reproaches, expressed or implied, to fear from
Madelon. "No one had ever so believed in him before!" he would
sigh, with a feeling not without a certain pathos in its way,
though with the ring of false sentiment characteristic of the
man, and with an apparent want of perception that it was
ignorance rather than belief that was in question. Madelon
believed indeed in his love, for it answered readily to her
daily and hourly appeals, but she cannot be aid to have
believed in his honour and integrity, for she can hardly have
known what they meant, and she made no claims upon _them_. It
was, perhaps, happy for her that the day when she should have
occasion to do so never arrived.

She was not left quite uneducated, however; her father taught
her after his own fashion, and she gained a good deal of
practical knowledge in their many wanderings. When she was six
years old she could talk almost as many languages, could
dance, and could sing a variety of songs with the sweetest,
truest little voice; and by the time she was eight or nine,
she had learned both to write and read, though M. Linders took
care that her range of literature should be limited, and
chiefly confined to books of fairy-tales, in which no examples
drawn from real life could be found, to correct and confuse
the single-sided views she received from him. This was almost
the extent of her learning, but she picked up all sorts of odd
bits of information, in the queer mixed society which M.
Linders seemed everywhere to gather round him, and which
appeared to consist of waifs and strays from every grade of
society--from reckless young English milords, Russian princes,
and Polish counts, soi-disant, down to German students and
penniless artists.

It was, no doubt, fortunate, even at this early age, that
Madelon's little pale face, with its wide-open brown eyes, had
none of the prettiness belonging to the rosy-cheeked, blue-
eyed, golden-haired type of beauty, and that she thus escaped
a world of flattery and nonsense. She was silent too in
company, as a rule, keeping her chatter and laughter, for the
most part, till she was alone with her father, and content
sometimes to sit as quiet as a mouse for a whole evening,
watching what was going on around her; she was too much
accustomed to strangers ever to feel shy with them, but she
cared little for them, unless, as in Horace Graham's case,
they happened to take her fancy.

It must no be imagined, however, that M. Linders was quite
without conscience as regarded his child; there were some
people with whom he took care that she should not associate,
some society into which he never took her. Many an evening did
Madelon spend happily enough while her father was out, in the
snug little parlours of the hotels, where Madame, the
landlady, would be doing up her accounts perhaps, and
Monsieur, the landlord, reposing after the exertions of the
day; whilst Mademoiselle Madelon, seated at the table, would
build card-houses, or play at dominoes, and eat galette and
confitures to her heart's content. Here, too, she would get
queer little glimpses into life--hearing very likely how
Monsieur B. had made off without paying his bill, or how those
trunks that Madame la Comtesse C. had left eighteen months
ago, as a pledge of her return, had been opened at last, and
been found to contain but old clothes, fit for the rag-market;
how a few francs might be advantageously added on here and
there in the bill for the rich English family at the _premier;_
how the gentleman known as No. 5 was looked upon as a
suspicious character; and how Pierre the waiter had been set
to watch the door of No. 8, who had spent three months in the
house without paying a sou, and was daily suspected of
attempting to abscond. All these, and a dozen similar stories,
and half the gossip of the town, would come buzzing round
Madelon's ears as she sat gravely balancing one card one the
top of the other. She heard and comprehended them with such
comprehension as was in her; and no doubt they modified in
some degree her childish views of life, which in these early
days was presented to her, poor child! under no very sublime
or elevated aspect; but they had little interest for her, and
she paid small heed to them. In truth, her passionate love for
her father was, no doubt, at this time her great preservative
and safeguard, ennobling her, as every pure unselfish passion
must ennoble, and by absorbing her thoughts and heart, acting
as a charm against many an unworthy influence around her. The
first sound of his footstep outside was enough to put both
stories and gossip out of her head, and was the signal for her
to spring from her chair, and rush into the passage to meet
him; and a few minutes after they would be seated together in
their room upstairs, she nestling on his knee most likely,
with her arm tight round his neck, while he recounted the
adventures of the evening. His purse would be brought out, and
it was Madelon's special privilege and treat to pour out the
contents on the table and count them over. If M. Linders had
won it was a little fête for both--calculations as to how it
should be spent, where they should go the next day, what new
toy, or frock, or trinket should be bought; if he had lost,
there would be a moment of discouragement perhaps, and then
Madelon would say,

"It does not signify, papa, does it?--you will win to-morrow,
you know."

As for M. Linders, the thought of the little, eager innocent
face that would greet his return home was the brightest and
purest vision that lighted his dark and wayward life, and he
appealed to his child's sympathy and encouragement in a way
that had something touching in it, showing as it did the
gentler side of a man who was always reckless, and could be
hard and merciless enough sometimes; but he was never anything
but tender with his little Madelon, and one can fancy the two
sitting together, as she counts over the little gold pieces
shining in the candlelight. Once, not long after his marriage,
he had appealed to his wife in the same way, when, after an
unusual run of luck, he had returned in triumph with his
winnings. She, poor girl, looked first at them and then at
him, with a piteous little attempt at a smile; then suddenly
burst into tears, and turned away. It was the first and last
time he tried to win her sympathy in these matters, and was,
perhaps, the beginning of the sort of estrangement that grew
up between them.

These were happy evenings, Madelon thought, but she found
those happier still when her father was at home, generally
with one or two men who would come in to play cards with him.
They were always good-natured and kind to the little girl who
sat so still and close to her father's side, watching the game
with her quick, intelligent eyes; though some of them, foolish
smooth-faced lads, perhaps, would go away cursing the fate
that had ever led them across M. Linders' path, and carrying
an undying hatred in their hearts for the handsome courteous
man who had enticed them on to ruin. How M. Linders lured
these poor birds into the snare, and by what means he plucked
them when there, Madelon never knew; all that belonged to the
darker side of this character, which she never fully
understood, and on which, for her sake, we will not dwell.

Most of all, however, did Madelon enjoy being at the German
watering-places, for then she went out with her father
constantly. The fair-haired, brown-eyed little girl was almost
as well-known in the Kursaals of Homburg and Wiesbaden as the
famous gambler himself, as evening after evening they entered
the great lighted salons together, and took their places
amongst the motley crowd gathered round the long green tables.
There she would remain contented for hours, sometimes sitting
on his knee, sometimes herself staking a florin or two--"to
change the luck," M. Linders would say laughingly,--sometimes
wearied out, curled up fast asleep in a corner of one of the
sofas. Then there were the theatres, to which her father often
took her, and where, with delighted, wondering eyes, she made
acquaintance with most of the best operas and learnt to sing
half Bellini's and Weber's music in her clear little voice.
More than once, too, she was taken behind the scenes, where
she saw so much of the mysteries of stage-working and
carpentering as would have destroyed the illusions of an older
person; but it did not make much difference to her; the next
time she found herself in the stalls or balcony she forget all
about what was going on behind, and was as much enchanted as
ever with the fine results prepared for the public gaze.

On other nights there would be the balls, always a supreme
enjoyment. It must be owned that Madelon took great pleasure
in seeing her small person arrayed in a smart frock; and she
was never weary of admiring the big rooms with their gilded
furniture, and mirrors, and brilliant lights, and polished
floors, where a crowd of gay people would be twirling about to
the sound of the music. She danced like a little fairy, too,
with pure delight in the mere motion, was never tired, and
rarely sat down; for Mademoiselle, who generally held herself
rather aloof from strangers, would be pleased on these
occasions to put on a little winning graciousness, giving her
hand with the air of a small princess to any one soliciting
the honour of a dance; and she was seldom without some tall
partner, attracted by her _gentillesse_ and naïve prattle--a
moustached Austrian or Prussian officer, perhaps, in white or
blue uniform, or one of her counts or barons, with a bit of
ribbon dangling from his button-hole; or, if all else failed,
there was always her father, who was ever ready to indulge her
in any of her fancies, and never resisted her coaxing pleading
for one more dance.

These were the evenings; for the days there were pleasures
enough too, though of a simpler kind, and more profitable,
perhaps, for our poor little Madelon, in her gay unconscious
dance through that mad Vanity Fair, innocent though it was for
her as yet.

Except on some special emergency, M. Linders rarely went to
the gambling tables during the day. He had a theory that
daylight was prejudicial to his prosperity, and that it was
only at night that he could play there with any fair chance of
success; but he not unfrequently had other business of a
similar nature on hand to occupy his mornings and afternoons;
and when he was engaged or absent, Madelon, with the happy
adaptability of a solitary child, had no difficulty in amusing
herself alone with her toys, and picture-books, and dolls. At
other times, when her father was at leisure, there would be
walks with him, long afternoons spent in the gay Kursaal
gardens, listening to the bands of music; and on idle days,
which with M. Linders were neither few nor far between,
excursions perhaps into the country, sometimes the two alone,
but more frequently accompanied by one or two of M. Linders'
companions. There they would dine at some rustic Gasthof, and
afterwards, whilst her father and his friends smoked, drank
their Rhine wine, and brought out the inevitable cards and
dice in the shady, vine-trellised garden, Madelon, wandering
about here and there, in and out, through yard and court, and
garden and kitchen, poking her small nose everywhere, gained
much primary information on many subjects, from the growing of
cabbages to the making sauerkraut--from the laying of eggs by
ever-hopeful hens, to their final fulfilment of a ruthless
destiny in a frying-pan. In return, she was not unwilling to
impart to the good Hausfrau, and her troop of little ones and
retainers, many details concerning her town life; and might
sometimes be found, perched on the kitchen table, relating
long histories to an admiring audience, in which the blue silk
frocks and tall partners made no small figure, one may be
sure.

It was a golden childhood. Even in after years, when, reading
the history of these early days in a new light, she suffered a
pang for almost every pleasure she had then enjoyed, even then
Madelon maintained that her childhood had been one of
unclouded happiness, such as few children know. The sudden
changes of fortune, from splendour to poverty of the shabbiest
description, the reckless, dishonest expenditure, and the
endless debts consequent on it; the means--doubtful to say the
least of them--employed by M. Linders for procuring money; the
sense of alienation from all that is best, and noblest, and
truest in life;--all these, which had gone far to make up the
sum of her mother's misery, affected our Madelon hardly at
all. Some of them she did not know of; the rest she took as a
matter of course. In truth, it mattered little to her whether
they lived in a big hotel or a little one; whether the debts
were paid or unpaid; whether money were forthcoming or not;
she never felt the want of it, we may be sure. If she did not
have some promised fête or amusement on one day, it was
certain to come on another; and even the one or two occasions
on which M. Linders, absolutely unable to leave an hotel until
he had paid part of what he owed there, had been obliged to
confiscate everything, caused her no uneasiness. The next
week, very likely, she had other trinkets and knick-knacks,
newer and prettier; and indeed, so long as she had her father,
she cared for little else. In any small childish misfortune or
ailment she had but to run to him to find help, and sympathy,
and caresses; and she had no grief or care in these first
years for which these were not a sufficient remedy.

Amidst all the miserable failures, and more unworthy successes
of a wasted life, M. Linders gained at least one legitimate
triumph, when he won his child's undying love and gratitude.
All her life long, one may fancy, would Madelon cherish the
remembrance of his unceasing tenderness, of his unwearying
love for his little girl, which showed itself in a thousand
different ways, and which, with one warm, loving little heart,
at any rate, would ever go far to cover a multitude of sins.
The only drawback to her perfect content in these early days
was the presence of her uncle Charles, whom she could not
bear, and who, for his part, looked upon her as a mere
encumbrance, and her being with them at all as a piece of
fatuity on the part of his brother-in-law. There were constant
skirmishes between them while they were together; but even
these ceased after a time, for Moore, who, ever since his
sister's marriage, had clung fitfully to M. Linders, as a
luckier and more prosperous man than himself, was accustomed
to be absent on his own account for months together, and
during one of these solitary journeys he died, about two years
after Horace Graham had seen him at Chaudfontaine. Henceforth
Madelon and her father were alone.

Madelon, then, by the time she was eight years old, had learnt
to sing, dance, speak several languages, to write, to play
_rouge et noir_, and _roulette_, and indeed _piquet_ and _écarté_,
too, to great perfection, and to read books of fairy tales. At
ten years old, her education was still at the same point; and
it must be owned that, however varied and sufficient for the
purposes of the moment, it left open a wide field for labour
in the future years; though M. Linders appeared perfectly
satisfied with the results of his teaching so far, and showed
no particular desire to enlarge her ideas upon any point. As
for religion, no wild Arab of our London streets ever knew or
heard less about it than did our little Madelon; or was left
more utterly uninstructed in its simplest truths and dogmas.
What M. Linders' religious beliefs were, or whether he had any
at all, we need not inquire. He at least took care that none
should be instilled into his child's mind; feeling, probably,
that under whatever form they were presented to her, they
would assuredly clash sooner or later with his peculiar system
of education. For himself, his opinions on such matters were
expressed when occasion arose, only in certain unvarying and
vehement declamations against priests and nuns--the latter
particularly, where his general sense of aversion to a class
in the abstract, became specific and definite, when he looked
upon that class as represented in the person of his sister
Thérèse.

Of the outward forms and ceremonies of religion Madelon could
not, indeed, remain entirely ignorant, living constantly, as
she did, in Roman Catholic countries; but her very familiarity
with these from her babyhood robbed them in great measure of
the interest they might otherwise have excited in her mind,
and their significance she was never taught to understand. As
a rule, a child must have its attention drawn in some
particular way to its everyday surroundings, or they must
strike it in some new and unfamiliar light, before they rouse
more than a passing curiosity; and though Madelon would
sometimes question her father as to the meaning and intention
of this or that procession passing along the streets, he found
no difficulty in putting her off with vague answers. It was a
wedding or a funeral, he would say, or connected with some
other ordinary event, which Madelon knew to be of daily
recurrence; though none such had as yet had part in the
economy of her small world; and priests, and nuns, and monks
became classed, without difficulty, in her mind, with doctors
and soldiers, and the mass of people generally, who made money
in a different way from her father, with whom, therefore, she
seldom came into personal contact, and with whom she had
little to do--money making being still her one idea of the aim
and business of life.

The first time, however, that she ever entered a church, when
she was little more than nine years old, was an experience in
her life, and this was the occasion of it. It was in a French
provincial town, where M. Linders had stopped for a day on
business--only for one day, but that Madelon was to spend for
the most part alone; for her father, occupied with his
affairs, was obliged to go out very early, and leave her to
her own devices; and very dull she found them, after the first
hour or two. She was a child of many resources, it is true,
but these will come to an end when a little girl of nine years
old, with books and dolls all packed up, has to amuse herself
for ever so many hours in a dull country hotel, an hotel, too,
which was quite strange to her, and where she could not,
therefore, fall back upon the society and conversation of a
friendly landlady. Madelon wandered upstairs and downstairs,
looked out of all the windows she could get at, and at last
stood leaning against the hall-door, which opened on to the
front courtyard. It was very quiet and very dull, nothing
moving anywhere; no one crossed the square, sunny space, paved
with little stones, and adorned with the usual round-topped
trees, in green boxes. Inside the house there was an
occasional clatter of plates and dishes, or the resonant nasal
cry of "Auguste," or "Henri," from one or other of the
servants, but that was all. Madelon found it too tiresome; the
_porte-cochère_ stood half open, she crossed the courtyard and
peeped out. She saw a quiet, sunny street, with not much more
life or movement than there was within, but still a little
better. Over the high walls surrounding the houses opposite
green trees were waving; at one end of the street there was
the gleam of a river, a bridge, and a row of poplars; the
other end she could not see, for the street made a bend, and a
fountain with dribbling water filled up the angle. Presently a
little boy in a blue blouse, and a little girl with a tight
round white cap, came up to the stone basin, each with a
pitcher to fill; they were a long time about it, for what
would be pleasanter, on this hot summer morning, than to stand
dabbling one's fingers in the cool water? Madelon watched them
till she became possessed with an irresistible desire to do
the same. It was only a few steps off, and though she was
strictly forbidden by her father ever to go out alone, still--
she had so seldom an opportunity of being naughty, that her
present consciousness of disobedience rather added, perhaps,
to the zest of the adventure. She would go just for this once--
and in another moment she was out in the street. The little
boy and girl fled with full pitchers as she came up to the
fountain, suddenly awakened to a sense of the waste of time in
which they had been indulging; but that made no difference to
Madelon; she stood gazing with mute admiration at the open-
mouthed monsters, from whose wide jaws the water trickled into
the basin below; and then she held her hands to catch the
drops till they were quite cold, and thought it the best play
she had ever known. By-the-by, however, she began to look
about her in search of further excitement, and, emboldened by
success, turned the corner of the street, and ventured out of
sight of the hotel. On one side large _portes-cochères_ at
intervals, shutting in the white, green-shuttered houses, that
appeared beyond; on the other a long, high, blank wall, with
nothing to be seen above it, and one small arched doorway
about half-way down. This was the shady side; and Madelon,
crossing over to it, arrived at the arched door, and stood for
a moment contemplating it, wondering what could be inside.

She was not left long in doubt, for two priests crossed the
road, and pushed open the door, without seeing the child, who,
urged by a spirit of curiosity, crept unnoticed after them,
and suddenly found herself in a cloister, running round a
quadrangle, on one side of which rose the walls and spires and
buttresses of a great church; in the centre a carefully kept
space of smooth grass. Madelon stood for a moment motionless
with delight; it reminded her of a scene in some opera or play
to which she had been in Paris with her father, but, oh! how
much more beautiful, and all real! The sunlight streamed
through the tracery of the cloisters, and fell chequered with
sharp shadows on the pavement; the bright blue sky was crossed
with pinnacles and spires, and there was an echo of music from
the church which lured her on. The two priests walked quickly
along, she followed, and all three entered the building by a
side door together.

A vast, dim church, with long aisles and lofty pillars, which
seemed to Madeleine's unpractised eye, fresh from the outer
glare, to vanish in infinite mysterious gloom; a blaze of
light, at the far-off high altar, with its priests, and
incense, and gorgeous garments and tall candles; on every side
shrines and tapers, and pictures, awful, agonised,
compassionate Saviours, sad, tender Madonnas; a great silent
multitude of kneeling people, and, above all, the organ
peeling out, wave after wave of sound, which seemed to strike
her, surround her, thrill her with a sense of--what? What was
it all? What did it all mean? An awful instinct suddenly woke
in the child's heart, painfully struggling with inarticulate
cries, as it were, to make itself understood, even to herself.
Wholly inarticulate, for she had been taught no words that
could express, however feebly, these vague yearnings, these
unutterable longings, suddenly stirring in her heart. This
wonderful, solemn music, this place, so strange, so separate
from any other she had known, what was it? what did it all
mean? Ah, yes, what did it all mean? A little girl, no older
than herself, who knelt close by the door, with careless eyes
that roamed everywhere, and stared wondering at Madelon's
cotton frock and rough uncovered little head, could have
explained it all very well; she had a fine gilt prayer-book in
her hand, and knew most of her Catechism, and could have
related the history of all the saints in the church; she did
not find it at all impressive, though she liked coming well
enough on these grand fête-days, when everyone wore their best
clothes, and she could put on her very newest frock. But our
little stray Madelon, who knew of none of all these things,
could find nothing better to do at last than to creep into a
dark corner, between a side chapel and a confessional, crouch
down, and begin to sob with all her heart.

Presently the music ceased, and the people went pouring out of
the great doors of the church. Madelon, roused by the movement
around her, looked up, dried her eyes, and came out of her
corner; then, following the stream, found herself once more
outside, not in the cloister by the door of which she had
entered, but at the top of a wide flight of steps, leading
down to a large sunny Place, surrounded with houses, where a
fair was going on. She was fairly bewildered; she had never
been in the town before, and though, in fact, not very far
from the hotel where she was staying, she felt completely
lost.

As she stood still for a moment, in the midst of the
dispersing crowd, looking scared and dazed enough very likely,
she once more attracted the attention of the little girl who
had been kneeling near her in the church, and who now pointed
her out to her parents, good, substantial-looking bourgeois.

"_Comme elle a l'air drôle_," said the child, "with her hair all
rough, and that old cotton frock!"

"She looks as if she had lost someone," says the kindly
mother. "I will ask her."

"No, she had not lost anyone," Madelon said, in answer to her
inquiries, "but she did not know where she was; could Madame
tell her the way to the Hôtel de l'Aigle d'Or?"

"It is quite near," Madame answered; "we are going that way;
if you like to come with us, we will show it to you."

So Madelon followed the three down the broad steps, and out
into the Place, where she looked a queer figure enough,
perhaps, in the midst of all the gay holiday-folk who were
gathered round the booths and stalls. She did not concern
herself about that, however, for her mind was still full of
what she had seen and heard in the church; and she walked on
silently, till presently Madame, with some natural curiosity
as to this small waif and stray she had picked up, said, "Are
you staying at the hotel, _ma petite?_"

"Yes," answered Madelon, "we came there last night."

"And how was it you went to church all alone?"

"Papa had to go out," says Madelon, getting rather red and
confused, "and I was so dull by myself, and I--I went out into
the street, and got into the church by a little door at the
side--not that other one we came out at just now; so I did not
know where I was, nor the way back again."

"Then you are a stranger here, and have never been to the
church before?" said Monsieur.

"No," said Madelon; and then, full of her own ideas, she asked
abruptly--"what was everyone doing in there?"

"In there!--in the church, do you mean?"

"Yes, in the church--what was everyone doing?"

"But do you not know, then," said the mother, "that it is to-
day a great fête--the fête of the Assumption?"

"No," said Madelon, "I did not know. Was that why so many
people were there? What were they doing?" she persisted.

"How do you mean?--do you not go the _messe_ every Sunday?" said
Madame, surprised.

"To the _messe!_" answered Madelon--"what is that? I never was in
a church before."

"Never in a church before!" echoed a chorus of three
astonished voices, while Monsieur added--"Never in this church,
you mean."

"No," answered Madelon, "it is the first time I ever went into
a church at all."

"But, _mon enfant_," said the mother, "you are big enough to
have gone to church long before this. Why, you must be eight
or nine years old, and Nanette here went to the _grand' messe_
before she was five--did you not, Nanette?"

"Yes," says Nanette, with a further sense of superiority added
to that already induced by the contrast of her new white
muslin frock with Madelon's somewhat limp exterior.

"And never missed it for a single Sunday of fête-day since,"
continued Madame, "except last year, when she had the
measles."

"Do you go there every Sunday?" asked Madelon of the child.

"Yes, every Sunday and fête-days. Would you like to see my new
Paroissien? My god-father gave it to me on my last birthday."

"And is it always like to-day, with all the singing, and
music, and people?"

"Yes, always the same, only not always quite so grand, you
know, because to-day is a great fête. Why don't you go to
church always?"

"She is perhaps a little Protestant," suggested the father,
"and goes to the Temple. Is that not it, my child?"

"I do not know," said Madelon, bewildered; "I never went to
any Temple, and I never heard of Protestants. Papa never took
me to church; but then we do not live here, you know."

"But in other churches it is the same--everywhere," cries
Madame.

"What, in all the big churches in Paris, and everywhere?" said
Madelon. "I did not know; I never went into them, but I will
ask papa to take me there now." Then, recurring to her first
difficulty, she repeated, "But what do people go there for?"

"Mais--pour prier le bon Dieu!" said the good man.

"I do not understand," said Madelon, despairingly. "What does
that mean? What were the music and the lights for, and what
were all the pictures about?"

"But is it, then, possible, _ma petite_, that you have had no
one to teach you all these things? And on Sundays, what do you
do then?" said the mother, while Nanette stared more and more
at Madelon, with round eyes.

"We generally go into the country on Sundays," said Madelon.
"Papa never goes to church, I am sure, or he would have taken
me. I will ask him to let me go again--I like it very much." It
was at this moment that they turned into the street in which
stood the hotel. "Ah! there is papa," cried Madelon, rushing
forward as she saw him coming towards them, and springing into
his arms. He had returned to the hotel for a late _déjeuner_,
and was in terrible dismay when Madelon, being sought for, was
nowhere to be found. One of the waiters said he had seen her
run out of the courtyard, and M. Linders was just going out to
look for her.

"_Mon Dieu!_ Madelon," he cried, "where, then, have you been?"

"I ran out, papa," said Madelon, abashed. "I am very sorry--I
will not do it again. I lost myself, but Monsieur and Madame
here showed me the way back."

Her friendly guides stood watching the two for a moment, as,
after a thousand thanks and acknowledgments, they entered the
hotel together.

"It is singular," said Madame; "he is handsome, and looks like
a gentleman. How can anyone bring up a little child like that
in such ignorance? She can have no mother, _pauvre petite!_"

"What an odd little girl, Maman," cried Nanette, "never to
have been to church before, and not to know why people go!"

"_Chut_, Nanette!" said her father. "Thou also woudst have known
nothing, unless some good friends had taught thee." And so
these kindly people went their way.

Madelon, meanwhile, was relating all her adventures to her
father. He was too rejoiced at having found her again to scold
her for running away; but he was greatly put out,
nevertheless, as he listened to her little history. Here,
then, was en emergency, such as he had dimly foreseen, and
done much to avoid, which yet had come upon him unawares,
without fault of his, and which he was quite unprepared to
meet. He did not, indeed, fully understand its importance, nor
all that was passing in his child's mind; but he did perceive
that she had caught a glimpse through doors he had vainly
tried to keep closed to her, and that that one glance had so
aroused her curiosity and interest, that it would be less easy
than usual to satisfy her.

"Why do you never go to church, papa?" she was asking. "Why do
you not take me? It was so beautiful, and there were such
numbers of people. Why do we not go?"

"I don't care about it myself," he answered, at last, "but you
shall go again some day, _ma petite_, if you like it so much."

"May I?" said Madelon. "And will you take me, papa? What makes
so many people go? Madame said they went every Sunday and _fête_
day."

"I suppose they like it," answered M. Linders. "Some people go
every day, and all day long--nuns, for instance, who have
nothing else to do."

"It is, then, when people have nothing else to do that they
go?" asked Madelon, misunderstanding him, with much
simplicity.

"Something like it," answered M. Linders, rather grimly; then,
with a momentary compunction, added, "Not precisely. They do
it also, I suppose, because they think it right."

"And do you not think it right, papa? Why should they? I have
seen people coming out of church before, but I never knew what
it was like inside. I _may_ go again some day?"

"When you are older, my child, I will take you again,
perhaps."

"But that little girl Nanette, papa, was only five years old
when she went first, her mother said, and I have never been at
all," said Madelon, feeling rather aggrieved.

"Well, when we go to Florence next winter, Madelon, you shall
visit all the churches. They are much more splendid than
these, and have the most beautiful pictures, which I should
like you to see."

"And will there be music, and lights, and flowers there, the
same as here, papa?"

"Oh! for that, it is much the same everywhere," replied M.
Linders. "People are much alike all the world over, as you
will find, Madelon. Priests, and mummery, and a gaping crowd,
to stare and say, 'How wonderful! how beautiful!' as you do
now, _ma petite;_ but you shall know better some day."

He spoke with a certain bitterness that Madelon did not
understand, any more than she did his little speech; but it
silenced her for a moment, and then she said more timidly,

"But, papa----"

"Well, Madelon!"

"But, papa, he said--_ce Monsieur_--he said that people go to
church _pour prier le bon Dieu_. What did he mean? We often say
'_Mon Dieu_,' and I have heard them talk of _le bon Dieu;_ is that
the same? Who is He then--_le bon Dieu?_"

M. Linders did not at once reply. Madelon was looking up into
his face with wide-open perplexed eyes, frowning a little with
an unusual effort of thought, with the endeavour to penetrate
a momentary mystery, which she instinctively felt lay
somewhere, and which she looked to him to explain; and he
_could_ not give her a careless, mocking answer; he sat staring
blankly at her for a few seconds, and then said slowly,

"I cannot tell you."

"Do you not know, papa?"

"Yes, yes, certainly I know," he answered hastily, and with
some annoyance; "but--in short, Madelon, you are too young to
trouble your head about these things; you cannot understand
them possibly; when you are older you shall have them
explained to you."

"When, papa?"

"Oh, I don't know--one of these days, when you are a great
girl, grown up."

"And you can't tell me now?" said Madelon, a little wistfully;
"but you will let me go to the church again before that? Oh,
indeed it was beautiful, with the lights, and the singing, and
the music. Do you know, papa, it made me cry," she added, in a
half whisper.

"_Vraiment!_" said M. Linders, with some contempt in his voice,
and a slight, involuntary shrug of the shoulders.

The contempt was for a class of emotion with which he had no
sympathy, and for that which he imagined had called it forth;
not for his little Madelon, nor for her expression of it. But
the child shrank back, blushing scarlet. He saw his mistake,
perhaps, for he drew her towards him again, and with a tender
caress and word tried to turn her thoughts in another
direction; but it was too late; the impression had been made,
and could never again be effaced. All unconsciously, with that
one inadvertent word, M. Linders had raised the first slight
barrier between himself and his child, had given the first
shock to that confidence which he had fondly hoped was ever to
exist undisturbed between them. In the most sacred hour her
short life had yet known, Madeleine had appealed to him for
help and sympathy, and she had been repulsed without finding
either. She did not indeed view it in that light, nor believe
in and love him the less; she only thought she must have been
foolish; but she took well to heart the lesson that she should
henceforth keep such folly to herself--as far as he was
concerned, at any rate.

As for M. Linders, this little conversation left him alarmed,
perplexed, uneasy. What if, after all, this small being whom
he had proposed to identify, as it were, with himself, by
teaching her to see with his eyes, to apprehend with his
understanding, what if she were beginning to develop an
independent soul, to have thoughts, notions, ideas of her own,
perhaps, to look out into life with eager eyes that would
penetrate beyond the narrow horizon it had pleased him to fix
as her range of vision, to ask questions whose answers might
lead to awkward conclusions? For the moment it seemed to him
that his whole system of education, which had worked so well
hitherto, was beginning to totter, ready at any time, it might
be, to fall into ruins, leaving him and his child vainly
calling to each other across an ever-widening, impassable
gulf. Already he foresaw as possible results all that he had
most wished to avoid, and felt himself powerless to avert
them; for, however ready to alienate her from good influences,
and expose her to bad ones, he yet shrank from inculcating
falsehood and wrong by precept. With a boy it would have been
different, and he might have had little hesitation in bringing
him up, by both precept and example, in the way he was to go;
but with his little innocent woman-child--no, it was
impossible. She must be left to the silent and negative
teachings of surrounding influences, and in ignorance of all
others; and what if these should fail? Perhaps he over-
estimated the immediate danger, not taking sufficiently into
account the strength and loyalty of her affection for him;
but, on the other hand, he perhaps undervalued the depth and
force of those feelings to the consciousness of which she had
first been roused that day. "It shall not occur again, and in
time she will forget all about it," was his first conclusion.
His second was perhaps wiser in his generation, taking into
consideration a wider range of probabilities. "No," he
reflected, "there has been an error somewhere. I should have
accustomed Madelon to all these things, and then she would
have thought nothing of them. Well, that shall be remedied,
for she shall go to every church in Florence, and so get used
to them."


CHAPTER VI.

At Florence.


If we have dwelt with disproportionate detail on the above
little incident, we must be forgiven in consideration of its
real importance to our Madeleine, marking, as it did, the
commencement of a new era in her life. The sudden inspiration
that had kindled for a moment in the great church died away,
indeed, as newer impressions more imperatively claimed her
attention; but the memory of it remained as a starting point
to which any similar sensations subsequently recurring might
be referred, as a phenomenon which seemed to contain within
itself the germ and possible explanation of a thousand vague
aspirations, yearnings which began about this time to spring
up in her mind, and which almost unconsciously linked
themselves with that solemn hour the remembrance of which,
after her conversation with her father, she had set apart in
her own heart, to be pondered on from time to time, but in
silence,--a reticence too natural and legitimate not to be
followed by a hundred others of a similar kind.

M. Linders, for reasons of his own, with which we need not
concern ourselves here, spent the following autumn and winter
in Florence, establishing himself in an apartment for the
season, contrary to his usual practice of living in hotels;
and this was how it happened that Madelon made two friends who
introduced quite a new element into her life, one which, under
other circumstances, might hardly have entered into it as a
principle of education at all. The rooms M. Linders had taken
were on the third floor of a large palazzo with many
occupants, where a hundred feet daily passed up and down the
common staircase, the number of steps they had to tread
increasing for the most part in direct proportion to their
descent in the social grade which, with sufficiently imposing
representatives on the first floor, reached its minimum, in
point of wealth and station, in the fifth storey garret. On
the same floor as Madelon and her father, but on the opposite
side of the corridor, lived an American artist; and M. Linders
had not been a week in the house before he recognized in him
an ancient _confrère_ of his old Parisian artist days, who,
after many wanderings to and fro on the earth, had finally
settled himself in Florence. The old intimacy was renewed
without difficulty on either side. M. Linders was made free of
the American's _atelier_, and he, for his part, willingly smoked
his pipe of an evening in the Frenchman's little salon. He was
a great black-bearded yellow-faced fellow, with a certain
careless joviality about him, that made him popular, though
leading a not very respectable life; always extravagant,
always in debt, and not averse to a little gambling and
betting when they came in his way. He was a sufficiently
congenial spirit for M. Linders to associate with freely; but
he was kind-hearted, honourable after his own fashion, and had
redeeming points in an honest enthusiasm, in a profound
conviction of the grand possibilities of life in general, and
of his art in particular. He was no great artist, and his
business consisted mainly in making copies of well-known
pictures, which he did with great skill, so that they always
commanded a ready sale in the Florence market. But he also
painted a variety of original subjects; and, in unambitious
moments, occasionally surprised himself by producing some
charming little picture which encouraged him to persevere in
this branch of his art.

This man took a great fancy to Madelon, in the first instance
from hearing how prettily and deftly she spoke English; and
she, after holding herself aloof in dignified reserve for
three days from this new acquaintance, was suddenly won over
in a visit to his _atelier_, which henceforth became to her a
sort of wonderland, a treasure domain, where she might come
and go as she pleased, and where, from beneath much
accumulated dust, persevering fingers might extract inimagined
prizes, in the shape of sketches, drawings, plaster casts,
prints, and divers queer possessions of different kinds. After
this, she soon became fast friends with the American, who was
very kind and good-natured to her, and M. Linders' promise
that she should see all the churches in Florence was fulfilled
by the artist. He took her to visit both them and the
galleries, showed her the famous pictures, and told her the
names of their painters; and the genuine reverence with which
he gazed on them, his ever-fresh enjoyment and appreciation of
them, impressed her, child as she was, far more than any mere
expressions of admiration or technical explanations of their
merits would have done.

Sometimes, if she accompanied him to any of the churches where
he happened to be copying a picture, he would leave her to
wander about alone, and they were strange weird hours that she
spent in this way. She did not indeed again assist at any of
the great church ceremonies, but the silent spaces of these
chill, grand, solemn interiors impressed her scarcely less
with a sense of mysterious awe. Tapers twinkled in dim side
chapels, pictures and mosaics looked down on her from above,
rare footsteps echoed along the marble pavements, silent
figures knelt about here and there, pillars, marbles, statues
gleamed, and heavy doors and curtains shut in the shadowy,
echoing, silent place from the sunshine, and blue sky, and
many coloured life without. Madelon, wandering about in the
gloom, gliding softly into every nook and corner, gazing at
tombs and decorated altars and pictures, wondered more and
more at this strange new world in which she found herself, and
which she had no one to interpret to her. It had a mysterious
attraction for her, as nothing had ever had before; and yet it
was almost a relief at last to escape again into the warm,
sunny out-of-door life, to walk home with the painter through
the bright narrow streets, listening to his gay careless talk,
and lingering, perhaps, at some stall, in the busy market-
place, to buy grapes and figs; and then to take a walk with
her father into the country, where roses nodded at her over
garden walls, and vines were yellowing beneath the autumn sky.
Her sensitive perception of beauty and grandeur was so much
greater than her power of grasping and comprehending them,
that her poor little mind became oppressed and bewildered by
the disproportion between the vividness with which she
received new impressions, and her ability for seizing their
meaning.

The pictures themselves, which, before long, she learnt to
delight in, and even in some sort to appreciate, were a
perpetual source of perplexity to her in the unknown subjects
they represented. Her want of knowledge in such matters was so
complete that her American friend, who, no doubt, took it for
granted that she had been brought up in the religion of the
country, never even guessed at it, not imagining that a child
could remain so utterly uninstructed in the simple facts and
histories; and, somehow, Madelon divined this, and began to
have a shy reluctance in asking questions which would betray
an unsuspected ignorance. "This is such or such a Madonna,"
the artist would say; "there you see St. Elizabeth, and that
is St. John the Baptist, you know." Or he would point out St.
Agnes, or St. Cecilia, or St. Catherine, as the case might be.

"Who was St. Catherine?" Madelon ventured to ask one day.

"Did you never hear of her?" he answered. "Well then, I will
tell you all about her. There were, in fact, two St.
Catherines, but this one here, who, you see, has a wheel,
lived long before the other. There once dwelt in Alexandria a
lovely and accomplished maiden--" And he would no doubt have
related to her the whole of the beautiful old mystical legend;
but her father, who happened to be with them that day,
interrupted him.

"Don't stuff the child's head with that nonsense," he said,
and, perhaps, afterwards gave his friend a hint; for Madelon
heard no more about the saints, and was left to puzzle out
meanings and stories for the pictures for herself--and queer
enough ones she often made, very likely. On the other hand,
the American, who liked to talk to her in his own tongue, and
to make her chatter to him in return, would tell her many a
story of the old master painters, of Cimabue and the boy
Giotto, of Lionardo da Vinci, and half a dozen others; old,
old tales of the days when, as we sometimes fancy, looking
back through the mist of centuries, there were giants on the
earth, but all new and fresh to our little Madelon, and with a
touch or romance and poetry about them as told by the
enthusiastic artist, which readily seized her imagination;
indeed he himself, with his black velvet cap, and short pipe,
and old coat, became somehow ennobled and idealised in her
simple mind by his association through his art with the mighty
men he was teaching her to reverence.

Madelon spent much of her time in the painter's _atelier_, for
her father took it into his head this winter to try his hand
once more at his long-neglected art, and, armed with brushes
and palette, passed many of his leisure hours in his friend's
society. We cannot accredit M. Linders with any profound
penetration, or with any subtle perception of what was working
in his little daughter's mind, but with the most far-reaching
wisdom he could hardly have devised better means, at this
crisis in her life, for maintaining his old hold upon her, and
keeping up the sense of sympathy between them, which had in
one instance been disturbed and endangered.

She was just beginning to be conscious of the existence of a
new and glorious world, where money-making was, on the whole,
in abeyance, and roulette-tables and croupiers had apparently
no existence at all; and the sight of her father at his easel
day after day, at once connected him with it, as it were,
since he also could produce pictures--_tout comme un autre_. Then
M. Linders could talk well on most subjects, and in the
discussions that the two men would not unfrequently hold
concerning pictures, Madelon was too young, and had too strong
a conviction of her father's perfect wisdom, to discern
between his mere clever knowledge of art and the American's
pure love and enthusiasm; or if, with some instinctive sense
of the difference, she turned more readily to the latter for
information, that was because it was his _métier;_ whereas with
papa----Oh! with papa it was only an amusement; his business was
of quite another kind.

The American amused himself by painting Madelon more than
once; and she made a famous little model, sitting still and
patiently for hours to him and to her father, who had a knack
of producing any number of little, affected, meretricious
pictures, in the worst possible style and taste. Years
afterwards, Madelon revisited the studio, where the black-
bearded friendly American, grown a little bent and a little
grey, was still stepping backwards and forwards before the
same easel standing in the old place; orange and pomegranate
trees still bloomed in the windows; footsteps still passed up
and down the long corridor outside where her light childish
ones had so often echoed; the old properties hung about on the
walls; and there, amongst dusty rolls piled up in a corner,
Madelon came upon more than one portrait of herself, a pale-
faced, curly-headed child, who looked out at her from the
canvas with wistful brown eyes that seemed full of the
thoughts that at that time had begun to agitate her poor
little brain. How the sight of them brought back the old
vanished days! How it stirred within her sudden tender
recollections of the quiet hours when, dressed out in some
quaint head-gear, or _contadina_ costume, or merely in her own
everyday frock, she had sat perched up on a high stool, or on
a pile of boxes, dreaming to herself, or listening to the talk
between the two men.

"That man is a fool," the American would exclaim, dashing his
brush across a whole morning's work; "that man is a
presumptuous fool who, here in Florence, here where those
others have lived and died, dares to stand before an easel and
imagine that he can paint--and I have been that man!" He was
wont to grow noisy and loquacious over his failures--not moody
and dumb, as some men do.

"You concern yourself too much," M. Linders would reply
calmly, putting the finishing touch to Madelon as a _bergère_
standing in the midst of a flock of sheep, and a green
landscape--like the enlarged top of a _bonbonnière_. "You are too
ambitious, _mon cher_--you are little, and want to be great--hence
your discomfort; whilst I, who am little, and know it, remain
content."

"May I be spared such content!" growled the other, who was
daily exasperated by the atrocities his friend produced by way
of pictures. It was beyond his comprehension how any man could
paint such to his disgrace, and then calmly contemplate them
as the work of his own hands. "Heaven preserve me from such
content, I say!"

"But it is there you are all in the wrong," says M. Linders,
quite unmoved by his companion's uncomplimentary energy. "You
agitate, you disturb yourself with the idea that some day you
will become something great--you begin to compare yourself with
these men whose works you are for ever copying, with who
knows? --with Raffaelle, with Da Vinci----"

"I compare myself with them!" cries the American, interrupting
him. "I! No, mon ami, I am not quite such a fool as that. I
reverence them, I adore their memory, I bow down before their
wonderful genius"--and as he spoke he lifted his cap from his
head, suiting his action to his words--"but compare myself! --
I!" Then picking up his brush again, he added, "But the world
needs its little men as well as its great ones--at any rate,
the little ones need their _pot au feu;_ so to work again.
_Allons, ma petite_, your head a little more this way."

This little conversation, which occurred nearly at the
beginning of their acquaintance, the painter's words and
manner, his energy, his simple, dignified gesture as he raised
his cap--all made a great impression on our Madelon; it was
indeed one of her first lessons in that hero-worship whereby
lesser minds are brought into _rapport_ with great ones; and,
even while they reverence afar off, exultingly feel that they
in some sort share in their genius through their power of
appreciating it. Nor was it her last lesson of the same kind.

Her second friend was an old German violinist, who inhabited
two little rooms at the top of the big house, a tall, broad-
shouldered, stooping man, whose thick yellow hair and
moustache, plentifully mixed with grey, blue eyes, and fair
complexion, testified to his nationality, as did his queer,
uncouth accent, though he has spent at least two-thirds of his
life in Florence. He was an old friend of the American
painter's, and paid frequent visits to his studio; and it was
there he first met Madelon and her father. He did not much
affect M. Linders' company, but he took a fancy to the child,
as indeed most people did, and made her promise that she would
come and see him; and when she had once found her way, and
been welcomed to his little bare room, where an old piano, a
violin, and heaps of dusty folios of music, were the principal
furniture, a day seldom passed without her paying him a visit.
She would perch herself at his window, which commanded a wide
view over the city, with its countless roofs, and domes, and
towers, and beyond the encircling hills, with their scattered
villas, and slopes of terraced gardens, and pines, and olives,
all under the soft blue transparent sky; and with her eyes
fixed on this sunny view, Madelon would go off into some
dreamy fit, as she listened to the violinist, of whose playing
she never wearied. He was devoted to his art, though he had
never attained to any remarkable proficiency in it; and at any
hour of the day he might be heard scraping, and tuning, and
practising, for he belonged to the orchestra of one of the
theatres. It was quite a new sensation for Madelon to hear so
much music in private life, and she thought it all beautiful--
tuning and scraping and all.

"But that is all rubbish," the German would cry, after
spending an hour in going through some trashy modern Italian
music. "Now, my child, you shall hear something worth
listening to;" and with a sigh of relief he would turn to some
old piece by Mozart or Bach, some minuet of Haydn's, some
romance of Beethoven's, which he would play with no great
power of execution, indeed, but with a rare sweetness and
delicacy of touch and expression, and with an intense
absorption in the music, which communicated itself to even so
small a listener as Madelon.

It would have been hard to say which of the two had the more
enjoyment--she, as she sat motionless, her chin propped on her
two hands, her brown eyes gazing into space, and a hundred
dreamy fancies vaguely shaped by the music, flitting through
her brain; or he, as he bent over his violin, lovingly
exacting the sweet sounds, and his thoughts--who knows where? --
anywhere, one may be sure, rather than in the low-ceiled,
dusty garret, redolent of tobacco smoke, and not altogether
free from a suspicion of onions.

"There, my child," he would say at the end, "that is music--
that is art! What I was playing before was mere rubbish--trash,
unworthy of me and of my violin."

"And why do you play it?" asks Madelon, simply.

"Ah! why indeed?" said the violinist--"because one must live,
my little Fraülein; and since they will play nothing else at
the theatre, I must play it also, or I should be badly off."

"You are not rich, then?" said Madelon.

"Rich enough," he answered. "I gain enough to live upon, and I
ask no more."

"Why don't you make money like papa?" says Madelon; "then you
could play what you liked, you know. We are very rich
sometimes."

The old German screwed up his queer, kind, ugly face.

"It--it's not my way," he said drily. "As for money, I might
have had plenty by this time, if I had not run away from home
when I was a boy, because I preferred being a poor musician to
a rich merchant. Money is not the only nor the best thing in
the world, my little lady."

M. Linders apparently saw no danger to Madelon's principles in
these new friendships, or else, perhaps, he was bent on
carrying out his plan of letting her get used to things; at
any rate, he did not interfere with her spending as much time
as she liked with both painter and musician; and every day
through the winter she grew fonder of the society of the old
violinist. He was a lonely man, who lived with his music and
his books, cared little for company, and had few friends; but
he liked to see Madelon flitting about his dusky room,
carrying with her bright suggestions of the youth, and gaiety,
and hopefulness he had almost forgotten. He talked to her,
taught her songs, played to her as much as she liked, and
often gave her and her father orders for the theatre to which
he belonged, where, with delight, she would recognise his
familiar face as he nodded and smiled at her from the
orchestra. He instructed her, too, in music; made her learn
her notes, and practise on the jangling old piano, and even,
at her particular request, to scrape a little on the violin;
but she cared most for singing, and for hearing him play and
talk. She never felt shy or timid with him, and one day, at
the end of a long rhapsody about German music and German
composers, she asked him innocently enough--

"Who was Beethoven, and Mozart, and--and all those others you
talk about? I never heard of them before."

"Never before!" he cried, in a sort of comic amazement and
dismay. "Here is a little girl who has lived half her life in
Germany, who talks German, and yet never heard of Beethoven,
nor of Mozart, nor of--of all those others! Listen, then--they
were some of the greatest men that ever lived."

And, indeed, Madelon heard enough about them after that; for
delighted to have a small, patient listener, to whom he could
rhapsodize as much as he pleased in his native tongue, the
violinist henceforth lost no opportunity of delivering his
little lectures, and would harangue for an hour together, not
only about music and musicians, but about a thousand other
things--a queer, high-flown, rambling jumble, often enough,
which Madelon could not possibly follow nor understand, but to
which she nevertheless liked to listen. A safer teacher she
could hardly have had; she gained much positive information
from him, and when he got altogether beyond her, she remained
impressed with the conviction that he was speaking from the
large experiences of deep, mysterious wisdom and knowledge,
and sat listening with a reverential awe, as to some strange,
lofty strain, coming to her from some higher and nobler region
than she could hope to attain to as yet, and of which she
could in some sort catch the spirit, though she could not
enter into the idea. At the same time there was a certain
childlike vein running through all the old man's rambling
talk, which made it, after all, not unsuited to meet the
instinctive aspirations of a child's mind. With him love and
veneration for greatness and beauty, in every form, amounted
almost to a passion, which was still fresh and genuine, as in
the lad to whom the realization of the word _blasé_ seems the
one incomprehensible impossibility of life. In the simple
reverence with which he spoke of the great masters of his art,
Madelon might have recognized the same spirit as that which
animated the American; and as the artist had once uncovered at
the name of Raffaelle and Lionardo da Vinci, so did the
musician figuratively bow down at the shrines of Handel, or
Bach, or Beethoven. From both these men, so different in other
respects, the child began to learn the same lesson, which in
all her life before she had never even heard hinted at.

All this, however, almost overtaxed our little Madelon's
faculties, and it was not surprising that, as the winter wore
on, a change gradually came over her. In truth, both intellect
and imagination were being overstrained by the constant
succession of new images, new ideas, new thoughts, that
presented themselves to her. She by no means grew accustomed
to churches--not in the sense, at any rate, which her father
had hoped would be the result of his new system. It was not
possible that she should, while so much remained that was
mysterious and unexplained; she only wearied her small brain
with the effort to find the explanation for all these new
perplexities, which she felt must exist somewhere, though she
could not find it; add to this, these long conversations, this
music, with its strange, vague suggestions, and even the
thousand novelties of the picturesque Italian life around her,
not one of which was lost on her impressionable little mind,
and we need not wonder that she began to suffer from an
excitement that gathered in strength from day to day. She grew
thin, morbid, nervous, ate almost nothing, and lost her usual
vivacity, sitting absorbed in dreamy fits, from which it was
difficult to arouse her, and which were very different from
the quiet, happy silence in which she used to remain contented
by her father's side for hours. All night she was haunted with
what she had seen by day in picture-galleries and churches.
The heavenly creations of Fra Angelico or Sandro Botticelli,
of Ghirlandaio or Raffaelle, over which she had mused and
pondered, re-produced themselves in dreams, with the intensity
and reality of actual visions, and with accessories borrowed
from all that, in her new life, had impressed itself most
vividly on her imagination. Once more she would stand in the
vast church, the censers swinging, the organ pealing overhead,
round her a great throng of beatified adoring saints, with
golden glories, with palms, and tall white lilies, and many-
coloured garments; or pillars and arches would melt away, and
she would find herself wandering through flower-enamelled
grass, in fair rose-gardens of Paradise; or radiant forms
would come gliding towards her through dark-blue skies; or the
heavens themselves would seem to open, and reveal a blaze of
glory, where, round a blue-robed, star-crowned Madonna, choirs
of rapturous angels repeated the divine melodies she had heard
faintly echoed in the violinist's dim little room. All day
long these dreams clung to her, oppressing her with their
strange unreal semblance of reality, associating themselves
with every glowing sunset, with every starry sky, till the
pictures themselves that had suggested them looked pale by
comparison.

She was, in fact, going through a mental crisis, such as, in
other circumstances, and under fostering influences, has
produced more than one small ecstatic enthusiast; the infant
shining light of some Methodist conventicle; the saintly child
visionary of some Catholic convent. But Madelon had no one to
foster, nor to interpret for her these feverish visions, so
inexplicable to herself, poor child! To the good-natured,
careless, jovial American, she would not have even hinted at
them for worlds, and not less carefully did she shun appealing
to her father for sympathy. That contemptuous "_vraiment_" dwelt
in her memory, not as a matter of resentment, but as something
to be avoided henceforth at the cost of any amount of self-
repression. She would sit leaning her languid little head on
his shoulder; but when he anxiously asked her what ailed her,
she could only reply, "I don't know, papa." And indeed she did
not know; nor even if she had, could she have found the words
with which to have explained it to him. It was, after all, the
old German who won her confidence at last. There was, as we
have said, something simple, genuine, homely about the old
man; a reminiscence, perhaps, of his homely Fatherland still
clinging about him, after more than forty years of voluntary
exile, which Madelon could well appreciate, though she could
not have defined it; for a child judges more by instinct than
reflection, and it was through no long process of reasoning
that she had arrived at the certainty that she would be met
here by neither contempt nor indifference. Moreover, his
generally lofty and slightly incomprehensible style of
conversation, and the endless stores of learning with which
she had innocently accredited him, had surrounded him with
that vague halo of wisdom and goodness, so dear to the hearts
of children of larger as of smaller growth, and which they are
so eager to recognize, that they do not always distinguish
between the false and the true. From the very beginning of
their acquaintance, it had occurred to Madelon that she might
be able to gain some information on that subject, which her
father had pronounced to be above her comprehension as yet;
but which, on reflection, and encouraged by a Nanette's
example, she felt quite sure she could understand if it were
only explained to her. Twenty times had that still unanswered
question trembled on her lips, but a shy timidity, not so much
of her old friend as of the subject itself, which had become
invested in her mind with a kind of awful mystery, to which a
hundred circumstances daily contributed, checked her at the
moment of utterance.

One evening, however, she was sitting as usual at the window
in the old man's room. The sun had set, the short twilight was
drawing to a close, church bells were ringing, down in the
city yellow lights were gleaming in windows here and there,
above, the great sky rounded upward from a faint glow on the
horizon through imperceptible gradations of tint, to pure
depths of transparent blue overhead, where stars were
beginning to flash and tremble; within, in the gloom, the
musician sat playing a sacred melody of Spohr's, and as
Madelon listened, some subtle affinity between this hour and
the first one she had spent in the church touched her, and her
eyes filled with sudden tears of painful ecstasy. As the old
German ceased, she went up to him with an impulse that
admitted of no hesitation, and, as well as she could, told him
all that was in her mind--her dreams, her strange weird
fancies, all that for the last few months had been haunting
and oppressing her with its weight of mystery. "Papa said I
could not understand," she said in conclusion, "but I think I
could. Will you not explain it to me? Can you not tell me what
it all means, and who--who is God?"

The German had heard in silence till then, but at this last
question he started from his listening attitude.

"_Was--was--_" he stammered, and suddenly rising--"_Ach, mein Gott!_"
he cried, with the familiar ejaculation, "to ask me!--to ask
me!"

He walked twice up and down the room, as stirred by some
hidden emotion, his head bowed, his hands behind his back,
murmuring to himself, and then stopped where Madelon was
standing by the window. She looked up, half trembling, into
the rugged face bent over her. He was her priest for the
moment, standing as it were between earth and heaven--her
confessor, to whom she had revealed the poor little secrets of
her heart; and she waited with a sort of awe for his answer.

"My child," he said at length, looking down sadly enough into
her eager, inquiring eyes, "when I was no older than thou art,
I had a pious, gentle mother, at whose knee night and morning
I said my prayers--and believed. If she were alive now, I would
say, 'Go to her, and she will tell thee of all these things'--
but do not speak of them to me. Old Karl Wendler is neither
good, nor wise, nor believing enough to instruct thee, an
innocent child."

He made this little speech very gently and solemnly; then
turned away abruptly, took up his hat, and left the room
without another word. Madelon stood still for a minute
baffled, repulsed, with a sort of bruised, sore feeling at her
heart, and yet with a new sense of wondering pity, roused by
something in his words and manner; then she too left the room,
and though the darkness crept softly downstairs.

So ended this little episode with the violinist. Not that she
did not visit and sit with him as much as before; the very
next day, when she returned, rather shyly, upstairs, she found
him sitting in the old place, with the old nod and smile to
welcome her, but somehow he managed to put things on a
different footing--he spared her his long metaphysical
discourses, and talked to her more as the child that she was,
laughing, joking, and telling her queer hobgoblin and fairy
stories, some of which she knew before indeed, but which he
related with a quaint simplicity and naïveté, which gave them
a fresh charm for her; and under this new aspect of things,
she brightened up, began to lose her fits of dreaminess, to
chatter as in old times, and cheered many an hour of the
musician's solitary life. The American artist, too, left
Florence about this time for a visit to Rome; and during his
absence the _atelier_ was closed, and wandering through churches
and picture galleries were exchanged for long excursions into
the country with her father; by degrees dreams, fancies,
visions floated away, and Madelon became herself again.

She had gone through a phase, and one not altogether natural
to her, and which readily passed away with the abnormal
conditions that had occasioned it. She was by no means one of
those dreamy, thoughtful, often melancholy children who
startle us by the precocious grasp of their intellect, by
their intuitive perception of truths which we had deemed far
above their comprehension. Madelon's precocity was of quite
another order. In her quick, impulsive, energetic little mind
there was much that was sensitive and excitable, little that
was morbid or unhealthy. One might see that, with her, action
would always willingly take the place of reflection; that her
impulses would have the strength of inspirations; that she
would be more ready to receive impressions than to reason upon
them. Meditation, comparison, introspection, were wholly
foreign to this little, eager, impetuous nature, however they
might be forced upon it in the course of years and events; and
with her keen sense of enjoyment in all glad outward
influences, one might have feared that the realities of life
present to her would too readily preclude any contemplation of
its hidden possibilities, but for a lively, susceptible
imagination, which would surely intervene to prevent any such
tendency being carried out to its too prosaic end. It was
through appeals to her imagination and affection, rather than
to her reason and intellect, that Madeleine could be
influenced; and whatever large sympathies with humanity she
might acquire through life, whatever aspirations after a high
and noble ideal, whatever gleams of inspiration from the great
beyond that lies below the widest, as well as the narrowest
horizon, might visit her--all these would come to her, we may
fancy, through the exercise of pure instincts and a sensitive
imagination, rather than through the power of logical
deduction from given causes.

From our small, ten-year-old Madelon, however, all this still
lay hidden; for the present, the outward pressure, which had
weighed too heavily on her little mind and brain, removed, she
returned with a glad reaction to her old habits of thought and
speech. Not entirely indeed; the education she had received,
remained and worked; the "obstinate questionings," an answer
to which she had twice vainly sought, were unforgotten, and
still awaited their reply. This little Madelon, to whom the
golden gates had been opened, though ever so slightly--to whom
the divine, lying all about her and within her, had been
revealed, though ever so dimly--could never be quite the same
as the little Madelon who, careless and unthinking, had
strayed into the great church that summer morning six months
ago; but the child herself was as yet hardly conscious of
this, and neither, we may be sure, was M. Linders, as with
renewed cheerfulness, and spirits, and chatter, she danced
along by his side under the new budding trees, under the fair
blue skies.

It was soon after this, when the delicious promise of an early
spring was brightening the streets and gardens of Florence,
filling them with sunshine and flowers, that another shadow
fell upon the brightness of Madelon's life, and one so dark
and real, as to make all others seem faint and illusory by
comparison. Her father had a serious illness. He had not been
well all the winter; and one day, Madelon, coming down from
the violinist's room, had been frightened almost out of her
small wits at finding him lying back unconscious in a chair in
their little _salon_. She called the old woman who acted as
their servant to her assistance, and between them they had
soon succeeded in restoring him to consciousness, when he had
made light of it, saying it was merely a fit of giddiness,
which would have passed off. He had refused to be alarmed, or
to send for a doctor, even after a second and third attack of
the same kind; but then a fever, which in the mild spring
weather was lurking about, lying in wait of victims, seized
him, and laid him fairly prostrate.

His illness never took a really dangerous turn, but it kept
him weak and helpless for some weary weeks, during which
Madelon learnt to be a most efficient little nurse, taking
turns with the old servant and with the violinist, who
willingly came down from his upper regions to do all he could
to help his little favourite. In some respects she, perhaps,
made the best nurse of all, with her small skilful fingers,
and entire devotion to her father. She had a curious courage,
too, for such an inexperienced child, and the sense of an
emergency was quite sufficient to make her conquer the
horrible pang it gave her loving little heart to see her
father lying racked with pain, unconscious, and sometimes
delirious. She never failed to be ready when wanted; the
doctor complimented her, and said jokingly that the little
Signorina would make a capital doctor's assistant. Her German
friend nodded approval, and, best of all, it was always to his
Madelon that M. Linders turned in his most weary moments--from
her that he liked to receive drinks and medicine; and she it
was who, as he declared, arranged his pillows and coverings
more comfortably than anyone else. In delirium he asked for
her continually; his eyes sought her when she was not in the
room, and lighted up when she came with her little noiseless
step to his bedside. The old German, who had had a strong
dislike to, and prejudice against this man, took almost a
liking to him, as he noted the great love existing between him
and his little daughter.

The American did not return till M. Linders was nearly well
again, and thinking of departure. Madelon was in despair at
the idea of leaving Florence; it had been more like home to
her than any place she had yet known, and it almost broke her
heart to think of parting with her old German friend; but M.
Linders was impatient to be gone. He wanted change of air, he
said, after his illness; but, indeed, had other reasons which
he proclaimed less openly, but which were far more imperative,
and made him anxious to pay an earlier visit to Germany this
year than was usual with him. Certain speculations, on the
success of which he had counted, had failed, so that a grand
_coup_ at Homburg or Baden seemed no less necessary than
desirable to set him straight again with the world, and he
accordingly fixed on a day towards the end of April for their
departure.

The American made a festive little supper the evening before
in his _atelier_, but it was generally felt to be a melancholy
failure, for not even the artist's rather forced gaiety, nor
M. Linders' real indifference, could enliven it. As for the
old German, he sat there, saying little, eating less, and
smoking a great deal; and Madelon at his side was speechless,
only rousing herself later in the evening to coax him into
playing once more all her favourite tunes. Everyone, except,
perhaps, M. Linders, felt more or less sorry at the breaking
up of a pleasant little society which had lasted for some
months, and the violinist almost felt as if he were being
separated from his own child. Madelon wished him good-bye that
night, but she ran upstairs very early the next morning to see
him once more before starting.

The old man was greatly moved; he was standing looking sadly
out of the window when she came in, and when he saw her in her
little travelling cloak, the tears began to run down his
rugged old cheeks.

"God bless thee, my little one!" he said. "I shall miss thee
sorely--but thou wilt not forget me?"

"Never, never!" cries Madelon, with a little sob, and
squeezing the kind hands that held hers so tightly.

"And if I should never see thee again," said the German, in
broken accents, "if--if--remember, I----" He hesitated and
stammered, and M. Linders' voice was heard calling Madelon.

"I must go," she said, "papa is calling me; but I will never
forget you--never; ah! you have been so good, so kind to me.
See here," she said, unclosing one of her hands which she had
kept tightly shut, and showing the little green and gold fish
Horace Graham had given her years before, "I promised never to
part with this, but I have nothing else--and--and I love you so
much--will you have it?"

"No, no," said the old man, smiling and shaking his head,
"keep thy promise, and thy treasure, my child; I do not
require that to remind me of thee. Farewell!"

He put her gently out of the door as her father's step was
heard coming upstairs, and closed it after her. She never did
see him again, for he died in less than two years after their
parting.

M. Linders went to Homburg, to Baden, to Wiesbaden, but he was
no longer the man he had been before his illness; he won
largely, indeed, at times, but he lost as largely at others,
playing with a sort of reckless, feverish impatience, instead
of with the steady coolness that had distinguished him
formerly. Old acquaintance who met him said that M. Linders
was a broken man, and that his best days were over: men who
had been accustomed to bet on his success, shrugged their
shoulders, and sought for some steadier and luckier player to
back; he himself, impatient of ill-luck, and of continual
defeat in the scenes of his former triumphs, grew restless and
irritable, wandered from place to place in search of better
fortune and better health, and at length, at the end of a
fortnight's stay at Wiesbaden, after winning a large sum at
_rouge-et-noir_, and losing half of it the next day, announced
abruptly that he was tired of Germany, and should set off at
once for Paris. Madelon had noticed the alteration in her
father less than anyone else perhaps; she was used to changes
of fortune, and whatever he might feel he never showed it in
his manner to her; outwardly, at least, this summer had
appeared to her very similar to any preceding one, and she was
too much accustomed to M. Linders' sudden moves, to find
anything unusual in this one, although, dictated as it was by
a caprice of weariness and disgust, it took them away from the
Germany tables just at the height of the season. Once more,
then, the two set out together, and towards the middle of
August found themselves established in their old quarters in
the Paris Hotel, where Madame Linders had died, and where
Madame Lavaux still reigned head of the establishment.


PART II.


Chapter I.

After five Years.


One evening, about three weeks after their arrival in Paris,
Madelon was standing at a window at the end of the long
corridor into which M. Linders' apartment opened; the moon was
shining brightly, and she had a book in her hand, which she
was reading by its clear light, stopping, however, every
minute to gaze down into the front courtyard of the hotel,
which lay beneath the window, quiet, almost deserted after the
bustle of the day, and full of white moonlight and black
shadows. Her father was out, and she was watching for his
return, though it was now long past eleven o'clock.

There was nothing unusual on her part in this late vigil, for
she was quite accustomed to sit up for her father, when he
spent his evenings away from home; but there must have been
something strange and forlorn-looking in the little figure
standing there all alone at such an hour, for a gentleman, who
had come in late from the theatre, paused as he was turning
the key of the door before entering his room, looked at her
once or twice, and, after a moment's hesitation, walked up to
the window. Madelon did not notice him till he was close
behind her, and then turned round with a little start,
dropping her book.

"I did not think it was you--" she began; then seeing a
stranger, stopped short in the middle of her speech.

"I am afraid I have startled you," said the gentleman in
English-French, but with a pleasant voice and manner, "and
disappointed you too."

"I beg your pardon, Monsieur," she answered, "I thought it was
papa; I have been looking for him so long," and she turned
round to the window again.

It was five years since Horace Graham and Madeleine had spent
an hour together in the courtyard at Chaudfontaine, so that it
was not surprising that they did not at once recognise each
other at this second unforeseen meeting; the young man, as
well as the child, had then been of an age to which five years
cannot be added without bringing with them most appreciable
changes. For Graham, these years had been precisely that
transition period in which a lad separates himself from the
aggregate mass of youth, and stands forth in the world as a
man of his own right, according to that which is in him. This
tall, thin, brown young army doctor, who has passed brilliant
examinations, who is already beginning to be known favourably
in the profession, whose name has appeared at the end of more
than one approved article in scientific Reviews; who has
travelled, seen something of Italy, Switzerland, Belgium; who
for five years has been studying, thinking, living through
youthful experiences and failures, and out-living some
youthful illusions, cannot fail, one may be sure, to be a
different personage, in many respects, from the fresh-hearted
medical student who had sauntered away an idle Sunday amongst
the woods and valleys round Chaudfontaine, and had looked with
curious, half wondering eyes at the new little world disclosed
to him at the hotel. As for our little Madelon, the small,
round, pinafored child was hardly recognisable in this slim
little girl, in white frock, with brown hair that hung in
short wayward tangling waves, instead of curling in soft
ringlets all over her head; and yet Graham, who rarely forgot
a face, was haunted by a vague remembrance of her eyes, with
the peculiar look, half-startled, half-confiding, with which
they met the first glance of strangers. Madelon's brown eyes
were the greatest charm of a face which was hardly pretty yet,
though it had the promise of beauty in after years; to liken
them to those of some dumb, soft, dark-eyed animal is to use a
trite comparison; and yet there is, perhaps, no other that so
well describes eyes such as these, which seem charged with a
meaning beyond that which their owner is able to express in
words, or is, perhaps, even conscious of. When seen in
children, they seem to contain a whole prophecy of their
future lives, and in Madelon they had probably a large share
in the powers of attraction which she undoubtedly possessed;
few could resist their mute appeal, which, child as she was,
went beyond her own thought, and touched deeper sympathies
than any she could yet have known.

There was a moment's silence after Madelon had spoken, and
then she once more turned from the window with a disappointed
air.

"Pardon, Monsieur," she said again, "but can you tell me what
time it is? Is it past eleven?"

"It is more than half-past," said Graham, looking at his
watch. "Have you been waiting here long?"

"Since ten o'clock," said Madelon, "papa said he would be in
by ten. I cannot think where he can be."

"He has probably found something to detain him," suggested
Graham.

"No," answered Madelon, rejecting this obvious proposition;
"for he had an appointment here; there is some one waiting for
him now."

"Then he has perhaps come in without your knowing it?"

"I do not think so," said Madelon, "he would have called me;
and besides, I should have seen him cross the courtyard. I saw
you come in just now, Monsieur."

Nevertheless she left her station by the window, and moved
slowly along the passage to their apartment; it was just
opposite Graham's, and as she went in, leaving the door open,
Horace, who had followed her without any very definite
purpose, looked in. It was a tolerably large room, with a door
to the left opening into a smaller apartment, Utrecht velvet
chairs and sofa, a mantelpiece also covered with velvet, on
which stood a clock, a tall looking-glass, and two lighted wax
candles; a table in the middle with some packs of cards, and a
liqueur bottle and glasses, and a bed on one side opposite the
fireplace. The window looked on to a side street, noisy with
the incessant rattling of vehicles, and so narrow that the
numerous lighted interiors of the houses opposite were visible
to the most casual observer. A smell of smoking pervaded the
room, explained by the presence of a young man, who held a
cigar in one hand, whilst he leaned half out of the window,
over the low iron balcony in front, shouting to some one in
the street below. He looked round as Madelon came in, and
slowly drew himself back into the room, exhibiting a lean,
yellow face, surrounded with dishevelled hair, and ornamented
by black unkempt beard and moustache.

"_Monsieur votre père_ does not arrive apparently,
Mademoiselle," he said.

"I have not seen him come in, Monsieur," answered Madelon; "I
thought he was perhaps here."

"Not at all, I have seen nothing of him this evening. But this
is perhaps a trick that Monsieur le Papa is playing me; he
fears to give me his little revenge of which he spoke, and
wishes to keep out of my way. What do you say to that,
Mademoiselle?"

"I am quite sure it is not so," answered Madelon, with a
little defiant air. "I heard papa say it was quite by chance
he had lost all that money to you, for you did not understand
the first principles of the game."

"Ah! he said that? But it is lucky for us other poor devils
that we have these chances sometimes! You will at least admit
that, Mademoiselle?"

"Papa plays better than anyone," says Madelon, retreating from
argument to the safer ground of assertion, and still standing
in the middle of the room in her defiant attitude, with her
hands clasped behind her.

"Without a doubt, Mademoiselle; but then, as he says, we also
have our chances. Well, I cannot wait for mine this evening,
for it is nearly midnight, and I have another appointment.
These gentlemen will wonder what has become of me.
Mademoiselle, I have the honour to wish you good evening."

He made a profound bow, and left the room.

Madelon gave a great sigh, and then came out into the passage
again where Horace was standing. He had been a somewhat
bewildered spectator of this queer little interview, but the
child evidently saw nothing out of the way in it, for she made
no remark upon it, and only said rather piteously,

"I cannot imagine where papa can be; I do wish he would come
back."

"Does he often stay out so late as this?" asked Graham.

"Oh! yes, often, but not when he says he is coming in early,
or when he is expecting anyone."

"And do you know where he is gone?"

"No, not at all. He said he was going to dine with some
gentlemen, but I don't know where! Oh! do you think anything--
anything can have happened?" cried Madelon, her hidden anxiety
suddenly finding utterance.

"Indeed I do not," answered Graham, in his kindest voice. "His
friends have persuaded him to stay late, I have no doubt; you
must not be so uneasy--these things often happen, you know. Let
us go and look out of the window again; perhaps we shall see
him just coming in."

They went to the end of the corridor accordingly; but no one
was to be seen, except the man who had just left M. Linders'
apartment walking briskly across the moonlight space below,
the great doors of the _porte-cochère_ closing after him with a
clang that resounded through the silent courtyard. Graham had
nothing further to say in the way of consolation; he could
think of no more possible contingencies to suggest, and,
indeed, it was useless to go on reasoning concerning perfectly
unknown conditions. Madelon, however, seemed a little
reassured by his confident tone, and he changed the subject by
asking her whether the gentleman who had just left was a
friend of hers.

"Who? Monsieur Legros?" Madelon answered. "No, I don't know
him much, and I do not like him at all; he comes sometimes to
play with papa."

"To play with him?"

"Yes, at cards, you know--at _écarté_, or _piquet_, or one of those
games."

"And it was with him that your father had an appointment?"

"Yes," said Madelon; "he came last night, and papa told him to
be here again this evening at ten, and that is why I cannot
think why he does not come."

She turned again disconsolately to the window, and there was
another pause. Madelon relapsed into the silence habitual to
her with strangers, and Graham hardly knew how to continue the
conversation; yet he was unwilling to leave the child alone
with her anxiety at that late hour: and besides, he was
haunted by vague, floating memories that refused to shape
themselves definitely. Some time--somewhere--he had heard or
seen, or dreamt of some one--he could not catch the connecting
link which would serve to unite some remote, foregone
experience with his present sensations.

He moved a little away from the window, and in so doing his
foot struck against the book which Madelon had dropped on
first seeing him, and he stooped to pick it up. It was a
German story-book, full of bright coloured pictures; so he saw
as he opened it and turned over the leaves, scarcely thinking
of what he did, when his eye was suddenly arrested by the
inscription on the fly-leaf. The book had been given to
Madelon only the year before by a German lady she had met at
Chaudfontaine, and there was her name, "Madeleine Linders,"
that of the donor, the date, and below, "Hôtel des Bains,
Chaudfontaine." It was a revelation to Horace. Of course he
understood it all now. Here was the clue to his confused
recollections, to the strange little scene he had just
witnessed. Another moonlit courtyard came to his remembrance,
a gleaming, rushing river, a background of shadowy hills, and
a little coy, wilful, chattering girl, with curly hair and
great brown eyes--those very eyes that had been perplexing him
not ten minutes ago.

"I think you and I have met before," he said to Madelon,
smiling; "but I daresay you don't remember much about it,
though I recollect you very well now."

"We have met before?" said Madelon. "Pardon, Monsieur, but I
do not very well recall it."

"At Chaudfontaine, five years ago, when you were quite a
little girl. You are Madeleine Linders, are you not?"

"Yes, I am Madeleine Linders," she answered. "I have often
been at Chaudfontaine; did you stay at the hotel there?"

"Only for one night," said Graham; "but you and I had a long
talk together in the courtyard that evening. Let me see, how
can I recall it to you? Ah! there was a little green and gold
fish----"

"Was that you?" cried Madelon, her face suddenly brightening
with a flush of intelligence and pleasure. "I have it still,
that little fish. Ah! how glad I am now that I did not give it
away! That gentleman was so kind to me, I shall never forget
him. But it was you!" she added, with a sudden recognition of
Graham's identity.

"It was indeed," he said laughing. "So you have thought of me
sometimes since then? But I am afraid you would not have
remembered me if I had not told you who I was."

"I was such a little girl then," said Madelon colouring. "Five
years ago--why I was not six years old; but I remember you very
well now," she added, smiling up at him. "I have often thought
of you, Monsieur, and I am so glad to see you again."

She said it with a little naïve air of frankness and sincerity
which was very engaging, giving him her hand as she spoke.

"I am glad you have not quite forgotten me," said Graham,
sitting down by her on the window seat; "but indeed you have
grown so much, I am not sure I should have recollected you, if
I had not seen your name here. What have you been doing ever
since? Have you ever been to Chaudfontaine again?"

"Oh, very often," said Madelon. "We go there almost every year
for a little while--not this year though, for we were at
Wiesbaden till three weeks ago, and then papa had to come to
Paris at once."

"And do you still go about everywhere with your papa, or do
you go to school sometimes?"

"To school? oh no, never," said Madelon, not without some
wonder at the idea. "Papa would not send me to school. I
should not like it at all, and neither would he. I know he
would not get on at all well without me, and I love travelling
about with him. Last winter we were in Italy."

"And you never come to England?"

"No, never. I asked papa once if he would not go there, and he
said no, that we should not like it at all, it was so cold and
_triste_ there, one never amused one's-self."

"But I thought you had some relations there," said Graham.
"Surely I saw an uncle with you who was English?"

"Oh yes, Uncle Charles; but he never went to England either,
and he died a long time ago. I don't know of any other
relations."

"So you never talk English now, I suppose? Do you remember
telling me to speak English, because I spoke French so
funnily?"

"No," said Madelon, colouring and laughing. "How is it
possible I can have been so rude, Monsieur? I think you speak
it very well. But I have not forgotten my English, for I have
some books, and often we meet English or American gentlemen,
so that I still talk it sometimes."

"And German too," said Horace, looking at her book.

"Yes, and Italian; I learnt that last winter at Florence. We
meet a great many different people, you know, so I don't
forget."

"And you are always travelling about?"

"Yes, always; I should not like to live in one place, I think,
and papa would not like it either, he says. Do you remember
papa, Monsieur?"

"Very well," said Graham; and indeed he recalled perfectly the
little scene in the salle-à-manger of the Chaudfontaine hotel--
the long dimly lighted room, the two men playing at cards, and
the little child nestling close up to the fair one whom she
called papa. "Yes, I remember him very well," he added, after
a moment's pause.

"How strange that you should see us here again!" said Madelon.
"Did you know we were staying in the hotel, Monsieur?"

"Not at all," answered Horace, smiling. "I only arrived
yesterday, and had no notion that I should find an old
acquaintance to welcome me."

"How fortunate that I was waiting here, and that you saw my
name in that book," said Madelon, evidently looking on the
whole as a great event, brought about by a more remarkable
combination of circumstances than everyday life as a rule
afforded. "Without that you would not have known who I was,
perhaps? Papa will be very glad to see you again. Ah, how I
wish he would come!" she added, all her anxieties suddenly
revived.

"Do you always sit up for him when he is so late?" said
Graham. "Surely it would be wiser for you to go to bed."

"That is just what I said to Mademoiselle an hour ago," said a
kind, cheery voice behind them, belonging to Madame Lavaux,
the mistress of the hotel. "Of what use, I say, is it for her
to sit up waiting for her papa, who will not come any the
sooner for that."

"Ah! Madame, I must wait," said Madelon. "Papa will come
soon."

"But, _ma chère petite_--" began Madame.

"I must wait," repeated Madelon, piteously; "I always sit up
for him."

Graham thought he could not do better than leave her in the
hands of the landlady, and with a friendly good-night, and a
promise to come and see her the next day, he went back to his
own room. In a few minutes, he heard Madame pass along the
corridor and go upstairs to bed; but, though tired enough
himself after a day of Paris sight-seeing, he could not make
up his mind to do the same, when, on opening his door, he saw
Madelon standing where he had left her. He could not get rid
of the thought of this lonely little watcher at the end of the
passage, and taking up a book he began to read. From time to
time he looked out, but there was no change in the posture of
affairs; through the half-open door opposite he could see the
lights burning in the still empty room, and the small figure
remained motionless at the moonlit window. All sounds of life
and movement were hushed in the hotel, all the clocks had long
since struck midnight, and he was considering whether he
should not go and speak to Madelon again, when he heard a
faint cry, and then a rush of light feet along the passage and
down the staircase.

"So he has come at last," thought Graham, laying down his book
with a sense of relief, not sorry to have his self-imposed
vigil brought to an end. He still sat listening, however; his
door was ajar, and he thought he should hear the father and
child come up together. There was a moment's silence as the
sound of the footsteps died away, and then succeeded a quick
opening and shutting of doors, the tread of hasty feet, a
confusion of many voices speaking at once, a sudden clamour
and stir breaking in on the stillness, and then suddenly
subdued and hushed, as if to suit the prevailing quiet of the
sleeping house.

"Something must have happened," thought Graham. "That poor
child!--perhaps her father has, after all, met with some
accident!" He left his room and ran quickly downstairs. The
confused murmur of voices grew louder as he approached the
hall, and on turning the last angle of the staircase, he at
once perceived the cause of the disturbance.

A little group was collected in the middle of the hall, the
night porter, one or two of the servants of the hotel, and
some men in blouses, all gathered round a tall prostrate man,
half lying on a bench placed under the centre lamp, half
supported by two men, who had apparently just carried him in.
He was quite insensible, his head had fallen forward on his
breast, and was bound with a handkerchief that had been tied
round to staunch the blood from a wound in his forehead; his
neckcloth was unfastened and his coat thrown back to give him
more air. The little crowd was increasing every moment, as the
news spread through the house; the _porte-cochère_ stood wide
open, and outside in the street a _fiacre_ could be seen,
standing in the moonlight.

"A doctor must be fetched at once," someone was saying, just
as Horace came up and recognized, not without difficulty, in
the pale disfigured form before him, the handsome fair-haired
M. Linders he had met at Chaudfontaine five years before.

"I am a doctor," he said, coming forward. "Perhaps I can be of
some use here."

No one seemed to notice him at first--a lad had already started
in quest of a surgeon, and jumping into the empty _fiacre_ that
had brought the injured man to the hotel, was driving off; but
Madelon turned round at the sound of Graham's voice, and
looked up in his face with a new expression of hope in her
eyes, instead of the blank, bewildered despair with which she
had been gazing at her father and the strange faces around. To
the poor child it seemed as if she had lived through an
unknown space of terror and misery during the few minutes that
had elapsed since from the passage window she had seen the
_fiacre_ stop, and, with the presentiment of evil which had been
haunting her during these last hours of suspense, intensified
to conviction, had flown downstairs only to meet her father's
insensible form as he was carried in. She was kneeling now by
his side, and was chafing one of his cold hands between her
poor little trembling fingers; but when she saw Graham
standing at the edge of the circle she got up, and went to
him.

"Will you come to papa?" she said, taking him by both hands
and drawing him forward.

"Don't be frightened," said Horace, in his kind, cheerful
voice, trying to encourage her, for her face and lips were
colourless, and she was trembling as with a sudden chill. He
put one arm round her, and came forward to look at M. Linders.

"Allow me," he said; and this time his voice commanded
attention, and imposed a moment's silence on the confusion of
tongues. "I am a doctor, and can perhaps be of some use; but I
must beg of you not to press round in this way. Can anyone
tell me what has happened?" he added, as he bent over M.
Linders.

"It was an accident, Monsieur," said a man of the working-
class, standing by, "this poor gentleman must have had some
kind of fit, I think. I was crossing the Boulevards with him
about ten o'clock; there were a good many carriages about, but
we were going quietly enough, when suddenly I saw him stop,
put his hand to his head, and fall down in the road. I had to
run just then to get safely across myself, and when I reached
the other side, I saw a great confusion, and heard that a
carriage had driven straight over him."

There was a moment's pause, and Madelon said in a tremulous
whisper, "Papa used to have vertiges last winter, but he got
quite well again."

"To be sure," said Graham; "and so we must hope he will now.
That was more than two hours ago," he said, turning to the
man--"what have you been doing ever since?"

"We carried him into the nearest _café_, Monsieur, and some
proposed taking him to a hospital, but after a time we found a
letter in his pocket addressed to this hotel, and we thought
it best to bring him here, as he might have friends; so we got
a _fiacre_. But it was a long way off, and we were obliged to
come very slowly."

"A hospital would perhaps have been the better plan," said
Graham; "or you should have found a doctor before moving him.
However, now he must be carried upstairs without further
delay. My poor child," he said, turning to Madelon, "you can
do no good here--you had better go with Madame, who will take
care of you; will you not, Madame?" he added, turning to the
landlady, who, roused from her bed, had just appeared, after a
hasty toilette.

"Yes, yes, she can come with me," said Madame Lavaux, who was
not in the best of tempers at the disturbance; "but I beg of
you not to make more noise than you can help, Messieurs, or I
shall have the whole house disturbed, and half the people
leaving to-morrow."

The sad little procession moved quietly enough up the stairs,
and along the corridor to M. Linders' room. Graham had gone on
in front, but Madame Lavaux had held back Madelon when she
would have pressed forward by the side of the men who were
carrying her father, and she had yielded at first in sheer
bewilderment. She had passed through more than one phase of
emotion in the course of the last ten minutes, poor child! The
first overwhelming shock and terror had passed away, when
Graham's reassuring voice and manner had convinced her that
her father was not dead; but she had still felt too stunned
and confused to do more than obey passively, as she watched
him carefully raised, and slowly carried from the hall. By the
time they reached the top of the staircase, however, her
natural energy began to reassert itself; and, as she saw him
disappear within the bedroom, her impatient eagerness to be at
his side again, could not be restrained. His recent illness
was still too fresh a memory for the mere sight of his present
suffering and insensibility to have any of the terrors of
novelty, after the first shock was over, and all her former
experiences went to prove that his first words on recovering
consciousness would be to ask for her. Her one idea was that
she must go at once and nurse him; she had not heeded, nor,
perhaps, even heard Graham's last words, and she was about to
follow the men into the bedroom, when Madame Lavaux interposed
to prevent her.

"Run upstairs to my room, _petite_," she said; "you will be out
of the way there, and I will come to you presently."

"No," said Madelon, refusing point-blank, "I am going with
papa."

"But it is not possible, my child; you will only be in the
way. You heard what M. le Docteur said?"

"I _will_ go to papa!" cries Madelon, trembling with agitation
and excitement; "he will want me, I know he will, I am never
in his way! You have no right to prevent my going to him,
Madame! Let me pass, I say," for Madame Lavaux was standing
between her and the door of the room into which M. Linders had
been carried.

"_Allons donc_, we must be reasonable," says Madame. "Your papa
does not want you now, and little girls should do as they are
told. If you had gone to bed an hour ago, as I advised, you
would have known nothing about all this till to-morrow. Eh,
these children! there is no doing anything with them; and
these men," she continued, with a sigh, "the noise they make
with their great boots! and precisely Madame la Comtesse, au
_premier_, had an _attaque des nerfs_ this evening, and said the
house was as noisy as a barrack--but these things always happen
at unfortunate moments!"

No one answered this little speech, which, in fact, was
addressed to no one in particular. It was, perhaps, not
altogether Madame Lavaux' fault that through long habit her
instincts as the proprietor of a large hotel had ended by
predominating so far over her instincts as a woman as always
to come to hand first. The nice adjustment between the claims
of conscience and the claims of self-interest, between the
demands of her bills and the demands of never-satisfied,
exacting travellers, alone involved a daily recurring
struggle, in which the softer emotions would have been
altogether out of place, we may suppose. In the present
instance she considered it a hard case that her house should
be turned topsy-turvy at such an untimely hour, and its
general propriety endangered thereby; and Madelon's grief,
which at another time would have excited her compassion, had
for the moment taken the unexpected form of determined
opposition, and could only be looked upon as another element
of disturbance. Madelon herself, however, who could hardly be
expected to regard her father's accident with a view to those
wider issues that naturally presented themselves to Madame
Lavaux, simply felt that she was being cruelly ill-used. She
had not attended to a word of this last speech, but
nevertheless she had detected the want of sympathy, and it by
no means increased her desire to accede to Madame's wishes.

"I _will_ go to papa," she repeated, the sense of antagonism
that had come uppermost gaining strength and vehemence from
the consciousness of the underlying grief and sore trouble
that had aroused it, "or I will stay here if you will not let
me pass; rather than go away I will stand here all night."

Graham had heard nothing of this little altercation, but now
coming out of the bed-room to speak to Madame Lavaux, he found
a most determined little Madelon standing with her hands
clasped behind her, and her back set firmly against the wall,
absolutely refusing to retreat.

She sprang forward, however, as soon as she saw him.

"I may go to papa now, may I not?" she cried.

"Mademoiselle wants to go to her papa," says Madame, at the
same moment, "I beg of you, Monsieur, to tell her it is
impossible, and that she had better come with me. She asserts
that her father will want her."

"That is all nonsense," said Graham hastily; "of course she
cannot come in now," then noticing Madelon's poor little face,
alternately white, and flushed with misery and passion, he
said, "Listen to me, Madelon; you can do your father no good
now. He would not know you, my poor child, and you would only
be in the way. But I promise you that by-and-by you shall see
him."

"By-and-by," said Madelon; "how soon?"

"As soon as we can possibly manage it."

Nothing, perhaps, would have induced Madelon at that moment to
have given into Madame Lavaux' unsupported persuasions, but
she yielded at once to Horace; indeed her sudden passion had
already died away at the sight of his face, at the sound of
the kind voice which she had somehow begun to associate with a
sense of help and protection. She did not quite give up her
point even now, however.

"I need not go upstairs," she said, with trembling lips and
tears in her eyes. "I may go into my own room, may I not?"

"Your room? Which is that?" asked Graham.

"This one--next to papa," she said, pointing to the door that
led into the passage.

"Yes, you can stay there if you like; but don't you think you
would be better with Madame Lavaux, than all by yourself in
there?"

"No, I would rather stay here," she answered, and then pausing
a moment at the door, "I may come and see him presently?" she
added wistfully, "I always nursed him when he was ill before."

"I am sure you are a very good little nurse," said Graham
kindly, "and I will tell you when you may come; but it will
not be just yet. So the best thing you can do will be to go to
bed, and then you will be quite ready for to-morrow."

He had no time to say more, for his services were required. He
gave Madelon a candle, closed the door that communicated
between the two rooms, and she was left alone.


CHAPTER II.

A Farewell Letter.


Madelon was left alone to feel giddy, helpless, bewildered in
the reaction from strong excitement and passion. She was quite
tired and worn-out, too, with her long watching and waiting;
too weary to cry even, or to think over all that had happened.

She did not go to bed, however; that would have been the last
thing she would have thought of doing; for, Graham's last
words notwithstanding, she had a notion that in a few minutes
she would be called to come and watch by her father, as she
had often done in the old days at Florence; so she only put
down her candle on the table, and curled herself up in a big
arm-chair; and in five minutes, in spite of her resolution to
keep wide awake till she should be summoned, she was sound
asleep.

Low voices were consulting together in the next room, people
coming in and out; the French doctor who had been sent for
arriving; cautious footsteps, and soft movements about the
injured man. But Madelon heard none of them, she slept soundly
on, and only awoke at last to see her candle go out with a
splutter, and the grey light of dawn creeping chilly into the
room. She awoke with a start and shiver of cold, and sat up
wondering to find herself there; then a rush of recollections
came over her of last night, or her father's accident, and she
jumped up quickly, straightening herself, stretching her
little stiff limbs, and pushing back her tumbled hair with
both hands from the sleepy eyes that were hardly fairly open
even now.

Her first movement was towards the door between the two
bedrooms, but she checked herself, remembering that Monsieur
le Docteur had told her she must not go in there till she was
called. There was another door to her room leading into the
corridor, and just at that moment she heard two people stop
outside of it, talking together in subdued tones.

"Then I leave the case altogether in your hands," says a
strange man's voice. "I am absolutely obliged to leave Paris
for B---- by the first train this morning, and cannot be back
till to-morrow night; so, as you say, Monsieur, you are in
Paris for some time----"

"For the next few days, at any rate," answered the other; and
Madelon recognized Graham's voice and English accent, "long
enough to see this case through to the end, I am afraid."

"If anything can be done, you will do it, I am sure,"
interrupted the other with warmth. "You must permit me to say,
Monsieur, as an old man may say to a young _confrère_, that it
is seldom one meets with so much coolness and skill in such a
very critical case. Nothing else could have saved----"

The voices died away as the speakers walked towards the end of
the passage. Madelon had hardly taken in the sense of the few
sentences she had heard; she was only anxious now to see
Graham and ask if she might go to her father, so she opened
her door softly and crept into the passage, meeting Horace as
he returned towards the sick-room after seeing the French
doctor off. He looked down on the little figure all pale and
ruffled in the cold grey light.

"Why, I thought you were asleep," he said. "Would you like to
see your father now? You may come in, but you must be very
quiet, for he is dozing."

"Then he is better?" said Madelon, anxiously.

Graham did not answer, he opened the door and led her in. The
room looked cheerless with the shaded night-lamp casting long
shadows, which mingles with those that the growing daylight
was chasing away. M. Linders was lying with his head supported
on a heap of pillows: his forehead was bandaged where the deep
cut had been given just above the brow, and he looked deadly
pale; his eyes were closed, he was breathing heavily, and
Madelon thought that, as Graham had told her, he was asleep;
but it was, in fact, rather a kind of stupor, from which
louder noises than the sound of her soft footfall would have
failed to rouse him. She went on tiptoe up to his bedside, and
stood gazing at him for a moment, and then with a swift,
silent movement buried her face in her hands, and burst into
an agony of crying.

"He is very ill--oh! is he going to die?" was all the answer
she could give in a hoarse whisper to Graham's attempts at
comfort, trying the while to smother her sobs, so that they
might not break out and wake her father.

"I hope not--I hope not," said Horace, quite grieved at the
sight of her distress; "but you must not cry so, Madelon; how
are you to nurse him and help him to get well again if you
do?"

She stopped sobbing a little at this, and tried to check her
tears.

"Do you really think he will get well again?" she said; "he
looks so ill."

Graham did not at once answer. In truth, he saw no prospect of
M. Linders' ultimate recovery, though he would probably regain
consciousness, and might, perhaps, linger on for a few days.
But there always remained the hope born of a determination not
to despair, and it seemed cruel, at that moment, not to share
it with our poor little Madelon.

"We must hope so," he said at last, "we must always hope for
the best, you know; but he must be kept very quiet, so you and
I, Madelon, must do our best to watch him, and see that he is
not disturbed."

"Yes," said Madelon, drying her eyes quite now. "I will take
care of him."

"Very well, then, if you will sit with him now, I will go and
speak to Madame Lavaux, if she is up; there are several
arrangements I have to make."

He went away, leaving Madelon contented for the moment, since
she could sit and watch by her father; she remained
motionless, her eyes fixed on his face, her hands clasped
round her knees, her whole mind so absorbed in keeping
perfectly quiet, the one thing she could do for him just then,
that she hardly ventured to breathe. But not even yet did she
understand the full meaning of what had happened, nor clearly
comprehend all that she had to dread. She was not really
afraid that her father would not recover; she knew indeed that
he was very ill, much worse than he had ever been at Florence,
and that it might be a long, long time before he would be well
again, but she did not think that he was going to die. She had
asked the question indeed, prompted by an instinctive terror
that had seized her, but in fact she hardly knew what death
meant, much less had she ever conceived of her father as dead,
or imagined life without him. Nevertheless, the sudden panic
had left a nameless, unrecognized fear lurking somewhere,
which gave an added intensity to her desire that he would wake
up and speak to her once more; and sometimes the beating of
her own heart seemed to deafen her, so that she could not hear
the sound of his heavy irregular breathing, and then nothing
but the dread of disturbing him could have prevented her from
jumping up and going to him to make sure that he was still
sleeping. When would he awaken and look at her and speak to
her again? It appeared so long since she had heard his voice,
and seen him smile at her; since he had wished her good-bye
the evening before, she seemed to have lived through such long
hours of unimagined terror and sorrow, and all without being
able to turn to him for the sure help, for the loving
protection and sympathy that had ever been ready for his
little Madelon; and even now, he did not know how she was
watching him, nor how she was longing to go to him and kiss
him, to put her arms round his neck, and lay her soft little
cheek caressingly against his. This thought was the most
grievous of all to Madelon just then, and the big tears came
into her eyes again, and fell slowly one by one into her lap.

Graham, however, returning presently, somehow seemed to bring
courage and consolation with him. Madelon brightened up at
once when he sat down by her and told her that he had asked
Madame Lavaux to send them up some coffee, so that they might
have it together there; and then, seeing the tears on her sad
little face, he assured her in his kind way that her father
would wake up presently and speak to her, and that, in the
meantime, she need not sit quite so still, as she would not
disturb him if she moved about quietly; and when, by-and-by,
the _café-au-lait_ arrived, they had their little meal together,
whilst he told her in a low voice how her father had partially
recovered his consciousness in the night and asked for her,
but had been quite satisfied when he heard she had gone to
bed, and had afterwards gone off to sleep as Madelon saw him
now.

"By-the-by, Madelon," Graham said presently, "tell me if you
have any relations living in Paris, or any friends that you go
and visit sometimes?"

"No," says Madelon wondering, "I have no relations--only papa."

"No uncles, or aunts, or cousins?"

"No," said Madelon again, "only Uncle Charles, who died, you
know."

"Ah, yes--that was an English uncle; but your papa, has he no
brothers or sisters in Paris, or anywhere else?"

"I never heard of any," said Madelon, to whom this idea of
possible relations seemed quite a new one. "I never go to
visit anyone."

"Then you have no friends living in Paris--no little
companions, no ladies who come to see you?"

"No," answers Madelon, shaking her head, "we don't know anyone
in Paris, except some gentlemen who come to play with papa--
like Monsieur Legros, you know--only some are nicer than he is;
but I don't know the names of them all. At Wiesbaden I knew a
Russian princess, who used to ask me to go and see her at the
hotel--oh, yes, and a German Countess, and a great many people
that we met at the tables and at the balls, but I daresay I
shall never see them again; we meet so many people, you know."

"And you have no other friends?"

"Oh, yes," said Madelon, her eyes shining suddenly, "there was
the American artist, who lived in our house in Florence, and
the old German who taught me to sing and play the violin; I
was very fond of him, he was so good--so good."

"Who were they?" asked Graham.

Madelon explained, not in the least understanding the purport
of all these questions, but her explanation did not help
Graham much. In truth, he was revolving some anxious thoughts.
In accepting the charge of this sick man, he felt that he had
incurred a certain responsibility, not only towards M.
Linders, but towards his little girl, and any relations or
friends that he might have. It was on Madelon's account above
all that he felt uneasy; what was to become of her if her
father died--and Graham had little doubt that he was dying--all
friendless and alone in the world as she would apparently be?
Had any arrangements for the future been made, any provision
left for her? What was to become of this poor child, clinging
so closely to her father, and so dependent upon him that she
seemed to have no thoughts nor ideas apart from him?

Graham had been questioning Madame Lavaux as to what she knew
of M. Linders and his life, and had gained much information on
some points, though very little on others. Madame Lavaux had
readily related the history of Madelon's birth and Madame
Linders' death. It was a story she was fond of telling; it had
been a little romance in the ordinary routine of hotel life,
and one in which, when she had duly set forth M. Linders'
heartlessness and her own exertions, she felt that she must
shine in an exceptionally favourable light; and indeed it was
so pitiful a tale the her hearers could not but share the
indignation and compassion she felt and expressed when she
spoke of _cette pauvre dame_, who so young and so beautiful had
been left alone to give birth to her infant, and, still alone,
to die four months later. But when Graham endeavoured to get
any facts bearing directly upon the present emergency, he
found Madame Lavaux less well-informed. M. Linders had come to
her hotel year after year, she said, and she had always taken
him in, on the little girl's account (who was a _chère petite_,
though troublesome sometimes, as children would be); otherwise
she would have been sorry to have such a _mauvais sujet_ about
the house, in and out at all hours, and queer-looking men
sitting up with him half the night. Had he any relations or
friends? That she did not know, she had never seen or heard of
any, but she did not wonder at that--they did well to keep
clear of him, a bad man, who had broken more hearts than his
wife's, she would answer for it. For the rest, she knew little
about him, she added, with a sudden fit of professional
reticence, induced by the recollection that it might be as
well not to gossip too much about the affairs of her
_clientèle;_ he came and went, paid his bill regularly enough,
generally seemed to have money at his command, and of course
it was not for her to inquire how he got it, though she might
have her suspicions. What was to become of his little girl in
case of his death? Madame had never thought of that: did
Monsieur think he was going to die? In that case how much
better to have taken him to the hospital; a death in the house
was always so inconvenient and disagreeable--not that she had
grudged it to that _pauvre_ Madame Linders, but this was a
different thing altogether; would he certainly die? Monsieur
said he did not know, one must always hope, but the case was a
grave one, and seeing that Madame could give him no help he
left her.

He had questioned Madeleine in the hope that she would be able
to tell him of some one for whom he could send, or to whom he
could at least write, but here again he was baffled, and he
could only wait now for the moment when M. Linders should
recover consciousness.

The hotel was all astir by this time with life and movement,
doors opening and shutting, footsteps up and down the
staircases and corridors, voices talking, calling, grumbling,
downstairs eating and drinking going on with much clattering
of plates and dishes, fiacres and omnibuses driving up,
tourists setting off in gay parties for their day's sight-
seeing, luggage being moved, travellers coming, travellers
going, to England, to the north, to the south, to the ends of
the earth--all the busy restless hotel life going on except in
this one silent room, where two people sat very quietly
watching a third, who, as one of them foresaw sadly enough,
would never take part in all this stir and bustle of life
again. Outside was broad sunny daylight now, but within it was
all dim and cool, for the night had been hot, and the window
stood wide open, and now the morning air blew freshly through
the Venetian shutters, that were closed to darken the room and
shut out the sun, which later would shine full upon them. The
morning hours slipped away; there was nothing to be done while
M. Linders remained in this state, and Madelon, by Horace's
advice, took a book, and seated herself on a low stool by the
window to read. Now and then she would stand looking at her
father with a most pitiful yearning in her great brown eyes;
once or twice, M. Linders, in his dull slumber, half torpor,
half sleep, seemed in some sort conscious of her presence; he
moved his head uneasily, said "Madeleine," and then some low
muttered words which she could not catch, but he never quite
roused up, and after each throb of expectation and hope, she
could only return to her book, and her silent watching.

Graham went in and out, or sat reading and writing at the
table, and at twelve o'clock he made Madelon go downstairs to
breakfast with Madame Lavaux in her own little sitting-room.
Madame, who was really very fond of her, had forgotten all
about the altercation of the night before. Indeed she was both
good-natured and kind-hearted as soon as she could allow her
better impulses to have their own way; but she was a little
apt, as are most people to whom life resolves itself into a
narrow ministering to their personal pains and pleasures, to
look upon untoward occurrences as evidence of the causeless
animosity of some vague impersonality, continually on the
watch to adjust the largest events of life so as to occasion
her particular inconvenience. If half Paris and its environs
had been destroyed by an earthquake, her first impression of
the catastrophe would very possibly have been that it could
not have happened at a worse moment for raising the price of
early asparagus, though the further reflection that the
general want of accommodation would justify her in doubling
her hotel tariff, might in some measure have restored her
faith in the fitness of things. After this, she would have
found time to be overwhelmed with compassion for the
sufferers. M. Linders' accident, she found, had, as yet, been
attended with no evil results, so far as she was concerned; no
one had been disturbed in the night, no one had left, so that,
for the moment, it had been safely transferred to that region
of abstract facts, which she could consider dispassionately,
and judge by the light of her kindly impulses; and it was
under the influence of these that she was now bent on petting
and making much of Madelon, giving her cakes and confitures
and all kinds of good things. On second thoughts she had
rejected the idea that M. Linders was going to die; it would
be so very troublesome and inconvenient, that she found it
pleasanter to persuade herself that he would surely recover;
and now, on the strength of his conviction, and with a kind
wish to console Madelon, she became so encouraging, so certain
he would be well again in a few weeks--in a few weeks did she
say?--in a few days--with this clever English doctor, who, as
she improvised for the occasion, everyone knew was one of the
first doctors in London--with all this Madame so encouraged and
cheered our Madelon, that she came upstairs again at the end
of an hour looking quite bright, and almost expecting to see
some wonderful change for the better in her father. M.
Linders, however still lay as she had left him, and perhaps
the sight of his pale bloodless face chilled her, for she
crept silently to her corner, and took up her book again,
without saying a word of her new hopes. Presently Graham,
looking up from his writing, found that she had done the best
thing possible under the circumstances, for, with her book
lying open upon her lap, and her head resting against the
window-frame, she had fallen fast asleep. He went up to her,
raised her gently in his arms, and carried her into her own
room; so perfectly sound asleep was she, that she hardly
stirred, even when he laid her on her bed; and then, drawing
the curtain round her, he left her to herself.

If this long morning had passed slowly and sadly for our
sorrowful little Madelon, it had been a time of anxiety and
uneasiness enough for Horace Graham also; who had never, I
daresay, felt more nervous than during these quiet hours when
M. Linders, partly from the effects of his accident, partly
from the opiates that had been given him, lay unconscious. He
was young in his profession, and though clever and skilled
enough in the technical part, he had had little experience in
what may be called the moral part of it, and he positively
shrank form the moment when this man, of whose life and
character he knew something, should wake up, and he should
have to tell him that he was dying. It was so absolutely
necessary, too, that he should know the danger he was in; for
if, as was too probable from his mode of life, his affairs
were in disorder, and his arrangements for his child's future
had still to be made, the time that remained to him was in all
human probability but short. For the rest, Graham felt in
himself small capacity for preaching or exhortation, and
indeed from a professional point of view, he dreaded a
possible outburst of excitement and remorse, as lessening his
last chance of saving his patient's life; and yet to him--
young, full of energy, and hope, and resolution, though no
nearer perfection and tried wisdom than any other man with
crude beliefs and enthusiasms and untested powers for good or
evil--to him death still appeared one of the most awful facts
in life, and he could not think unmoved of the task of
announcing to such a man as this, that his last chances were
over, and such life as one can live in this world was for him
a thing of the past for ever now. Not a twelvemonth later,
Graham had stood by so many dying men, had listened to so many
dying speeches, had seen death met in so many forms, and with
such strange variety of character, with indifference or
calmness, or resignation, with wild triumph, or wilder
remorse, that he looked back with a sort of wonder on his
present inexperience and perplexity. Not the less, however,
did he now sit framing a dozen speeches one after the other,
dreading the effect of saying too much, and fearing to say too
little, till, about an hour after Madelon had fallen asleep,
M. Linders at length stirred, opened his eyes, and tried to
move.

Graham was at his side instantly, and the sick man gazed up at
him in silence for a moment.

"What has happened?" he said at last in a feeble voice: "who
are you? where is Madelon?"

"Madelon is in the next room asleep," answered Graham; "you
met with an accident last night--I am an English doctor staying
in the hotel--the French one had to leave--do you remember?"

He paused between each sentence, and M. Linders' eyes, which
were fixed upon him as he spoke, gradually acquired an
expression of intelligence as memory returned to him. He
closed them again and turned away his head.

"Yes, I remember something about it," he said, "but--_que
diable_--I cannot move a limb; am I much hurt?"

"A good deal," said Graham, helping him to raise himself a
little. "You had better keep quiet, and take this," giving him
a cordial, as M. Linders sank back exhausted.

"That is better," he said, after a few minutes of struggling
breathing. "So I am a good deal hurt? Am I--am I going to die
by chance, M. le Docteur?"

He spoke in his old half-sarcastic, half-cynical way, but a
feeble, gasping voice, that made an effect of contrast, as of
the tragic face espied behind the grinning mask. Somehow it
touched Graham, burdened as he was with the consciousness of
the death-warrant he had to pronounce, and he paused before
answering. M. Linders noticed his hesitation.

"Bah!" he said, "speak, then; do you think I am afraid--a
coward that fears to know the worst? I shall not be the first
man that has died, nor, in all probability, the last. We ought
to be used to it by this time, _nous autres!_"

"Perhaps it is always best to be prepared for the worst," says
Graham, recovering himself at this address, and taking refuge
at last in a conventional little speech. "And though we must
always hope for the best, I do not think it right to conceal
from you, Monsieur, that you are very much injured and shaken.
If you have any arrangements to make, anyone you would wish to
send for, or to see, I earnestly advise you to lose no time."

He watched M. Linders narrowly as he spoke, and saw a sudden
gleam of fear or excitement light up his dull eyes for a
moment, whilst his fingers clutched nervously at the sheet,
but that was all the sign he made.

"So--I am going to die?" he said, after a pause. "Well--that is
ended, then. Send for anyone? Whom should I send for?" he
added, with some vehemence. "For your priests, I suppose, to
come and light candles, and make prayers over me--is that what
you are thinking of, by chance? I won't have one of them--you
need not think of it, do you hear? --not one."

"Pardon me," said Graham, "but it was not of priests I was
thinking just then--indeed, it seems to me that, at these
moments, a man can turn nowhere so safely as to his God--but
there are others----"

He spoke quietly enough, but M. Linders interrupted him with a
fierce, hoarse whisper. "I can arrange my own affairs. I have
no one to send to--no one I wish to see. Let me die in peace."

In spite of his assumed indifference, his whole soul was
filled and shaken with a sudden dread terror; for the moment
he had forgotten even his child. Graham saw it, but could not
urge him further just then; he only passed his arm under the
pillow, so as to raise his head a little, and then said, with
such professional cheerfulness as he could muster,

"_Allons_, Monsieur, you must have courage. Calm yourself; you
are not going to die yet, and we must hope for the best. You
may live to see many people yet."

M. Linders appeared scarcely to hear what he was saying; but
in a few moments his face relaxed, and a new expression came
into it, which seemed to soften the grey, ghastly look.

"My poor little girl!" he said, with a sort of groan--"my
little Madelon!--to leave thee all alone, _pauvre petite!_"

"It was precisely of her that I wished to speak," said Graham.
"I am afraid, in any case, you must look forward to a long
illness, and, on her account, is there no friend, no relation
you would wish to send for?"

"I have no friends--no relations," said M. Linders,
impatiently. "A long illness? Bah! M. le Docteur, I know, and
you know that I am going to die--to-day, to-morrow, who knows?--
and she will be left alone. She has no one in the world but
me, and she has been foolish enough to love me--my little one!"

He paused for a moment, and then went on, with a vehemence
that struggled for utterance, with his hoarse feeble voice and
failing breath.

"If this cursed accident had happened but one day sooner or
later, I could have left her a fortune--but a superb fortune;
only one day sooner--I had it two days ago--or to-morrow--I
should have had my revenge last night of that _scélérat_--that
devil--that Legros, and won back the money he cheated me of,
he--he--of all men, a mere beginner, a smatterer--ah! if I had
been the man I once was, it would have been a different
account to settle----"

He lay back panting, but began again before Graham could
speak.

"I only want time--give me a little time, and my little
Madeleine shall have such a fortune as shall make her
independent of every one; or stay, why not send for him now? I
will give you his address--yes, now--now at once, before it is
too late!"

"That is quite impossible, Monsieur," Graham answered with
decision; "and if you agitate yourself in this way, I must
refuse to listen to another word. You are doing all you can to
lessen your chances of recovery."

"You do not play, Monsieur?" said M. Linders, struck with a
new idea, and not in the least attending to what Graham was
saying.

"Do you want to win my money?" said the young man, half
smiling. "No, I do not play, nor, if I did, have I any money
to lose. Leave all these notions alone, I entreat of you; calm
yourself; you need not trouble yourself to speak much, but
just tell me what your wishes are concerning your little girl--
in any case it is always best to be prepared. Have you made
any will? Is there any one to whose care you would wish to
entrust her in the event of your death?"

M. Linders had exhausted his strength and his passion for the
moment, and answered quietly enough. No, he had made no will,
he said--of what use? Everything he had was hers, of course--
little enough too, as matters stood. He owned he did not know
what was to become of her; he had made no arrangements--he had
never thought of its coming to this, and then he had always
counted on leaving her a fortune. He had sometimes thought of
letting her be brought up for the stage; that might be
arranged now, if he could see S----, the manager of the Théâtre
----. Could he be sent for at once?

"Certainly, if you really wish it," answered Graham with some
hesitation, and then added frankly, "I have no sort of right
to offer an opinion, but will you not consider a moment before
fixing on such a fate for your child? She is surely very young
to be thrown amongst strangers, on such a doubtful career,
especially without you at hand to protect her."

"It is true I shall not be there," said the father with a
groan; "I had forgotten that. And I shall never see my little
one grown up. Ah! what is to become of her?"

"Has she no relations?" said Graham, "in England for instance----"

"In England!" cried M. Linders fiercely, "what could make you
fancy that?"

"I had understood that her mother was English----" began Graham.

"You are right, Monsieur; her mother was English, but she has
no English relations, or, if she has, they are nothing to her,
and she shall never know them. No," he said slowly, after a
pause, "I suppose there is only one thing to be done, and yet
I would almost rather she lay here dead by my side, that we
might be buried together in one grave; it would perhaps be
happier for her, poor little one! Ah, what a fate! but it must
be--you are right, I cannot send her out alone and friendless
into the world, she must go to her aunt."

"She has an aunt, then?" said Graham, with some surprise.

"Yes, Monsieur, she has an aunt, my sister Thérèse, with whom
I quarrelled five and twenty years ago, and whom I have
cordially hated ever since; and if ever woman deserved to be
hated, she does;" and indeed, though he had not mentioned his
sister's name for years, the very sound of it seemed to revive
the old enmity in all its fresh bitterness. "She lives near
Liége," he went on presently. "She is the Superior of a
convent there, having risen to that eminence through her
superior piety and manifold good works, doubtless. Mon Dieu!"
he cried, with another of his sudden impotent bursts of
passion and tenderness, "that it should have come to this,
that I should shut up my little one in a convent! And she will
be miserable--she will blame me, she will think me cruel; but
what can I do? what can I do?"

"But it seems to me the best thing possible," said Graham,
who, in truth, was not a little relieved by this sudden and
unexpected solution of all difficulties. "So many children are
educated in convent, and are very happy there; she will be
certainly well taught and cared for, and you must trust to
your sister for the future."

"Never!" he said, half raising himself on his elbow with a
mighty effort. "Well taught!--yes, I know the sort of teaching
she will get there; she will be taught to hate and despise me,
and then they will make her a nun--they will try to do it, but
that shall never be! I will make Madelon promise me that. My
little one a nun!--I will not have it! Ah! I risk too much; she
shall not go!"

He fell back on the pillow gasping, panting, almost sobbing,
all pretence and semblance of cynicism and indifference gone
in the miserable moment of weakness and despair. Was it for
this, then, that he had taught his child to love him--that he
had watched and guarded and cherished her--that he should place
her now in the hands of his enemy, and that she should learn
to hate his memory when he was dead? Ah! he was dying, and
from the grave there would be no return--no hand could be
stretched out from thence to claim her--no voice make itself
heard to appeal to her old love for him, to remind her of
happy bygone days when she had believed in him, and to bid her
to be faithful to him still. Those others would be able to
work their will then, while he lay silent for evermore, and
his little one would too surely learn what manner of father
she had had, perhaps--who knows?--learn to rejoice in the day
that had set her free from his influence.

Graham very likely understood something of what was passing in
M. Linders' mind, revealed, as it had been, by those few
broken words, for he said in a kind voice,

"I think you may surely trust to your child's love for you, M.
Linders, for she seems to have found all her happiness in it
hitherto, and it is so strong and true that I do not think it
will be easily shaken, nor can I fancy anyone will be cruel
enough to attempt it." And then, seeing how little capable M.
Linders seemed at that moment of judging wisely, he went on to
urge the necessity of Madelon's being sent to her aunt as her
natural guardian, representing the impossibility of leaving
her without money or friends in the midst of strangers.

"There is a little money," said M. Linders, "a few thousand
francs--I do not know how much exactly; you will find it in
that desk. It would start her for the stage; she has talent--
she would rise. S---- heard her sing once; if he were here now,
we might arrange----"

He was rambling off in a low broken voice, hardly conscious,
perhaps, of what he was saying. Graham once more interposed.

"No, no," he said, "you must not think of it. Let her go to
her aunt. Don't be uneasy about her getting there safely; I
will take charge of her."

"You will?" said M. Linders, fixing his dim eyes on Graham,
and with some resumption of his old manner. "Pardon, Monsieur,
but who are you, that you take such an interest in my
affairs?"

"Anyone must take an interest in your little girl," said
Graham warmly, and in the kind, frank voice that somehow
always carried with it the conviction of his sincerity and
good faith, "and I am truly glad that the chance that brought
me to this hotel has put it in my power to be of use to you
and to her. For the rest, my name is Graham, and I am an army
surgeon. I don't suppose you recollect the circumstance,
Monsieur, but I very well remember meeting you at
Chaudfontaine some years ago."

"No, I don't remember," said M. Linders faintly, "but I think
I may trust you. You will see that Madelon reaches Liége
safely?"

"I will take her there myself," answered Graham. "Would you
like to send any message to your sister?"

"I will write," said M. Linders, "or rather you shall write
for me; but presently--I cannot talk any more now--it must do
presently."

Indeed he was faint from exhaustion, and Graham could only do
all that was possible to revive him, and then remain by his
side till he should have recovered his strength a little; and
as he sat there, silently watching, I daresay he preached a
little sermon to himself, but in no unfriendly spirit to his
patient, we may be sure. This, then, was what life might come
to--this might be the end of all its glorious possibilities, of
all its boundless hopes and aims. To this man, as to another,
had the great problem been presented, and he had solved it--
thus; and to Graham, in the fulness of his youth, and
strength, and energy, the solution seemed stranger than the
problem. To most of us, perhaps, as years go on, life comes to
be represented by its failures rather than its successes, by
its regrets rather than its hopes; enthusiasms die out,
illusions vanish, belief in the perfectibility of ourselves
and of others fades, as we learn to realize the shortness of
life, the waywardness of human nature, the baffling power of
circumstances, too easily allowed; but in their place, a
humble faith in a more perfect and satisfying hereafter, which
shall be the complement of our existence here, the fulfilment
of our unfinished efforts, our many shortcomings, springs up,
let us trust, to encourage us to new strivings, to ever-fresh
beginnings, which shall perhaps be completed and bear fruit in
another world; perhaps be left on earth to work into the grand
economy of progress--not wholly useless in any case. But at
four or five and twenty, in spite of some failures and
disappointments, the treasure of existence to an honest, frank
heart, still seems inexhaustible as it is inestimable. The
contrast between the future Graham looked forward to, full of
hopes and ambitions, and this past whose history he could
guess at, and whose results he contemplated, forced itself
upon him, and an immense compassion filled the young man's
heart at the sight of this wasted life, of this wayward mind,
lighted up with the sudden, passionate gleams of tenderness
for his child, the one pure affection perhaps that survived to
witness to what had been--a great compassion, an honest,
wondering pity for this man who had thus recklessly squandered
his share of the common birth right. Ah! which of us, standing
on safe shores, and seeing, as all must see at times, the sad
wreck of some shattered life cast up by the troubled waves at
our feet, does not ask himself, in no supercilious spirit,
surely, but with an awe-struck humility, "Who or what hath
made thee to differ?"

Perhaps, as M. Linders lay there, he also preached to himself
a little sermon, after his own peculiar fashion, for when, at
the end of half an hour, he once more aroused himself, all
signs of agitation had disappeared, and it was with a perfect
calmness that he continued the conversation. Graham could not
but admire this composure in the man whom but just now he had
seen shaken with passion and exhausted with conflicting
emotions; whom indeed he had had to help, and judge for, and
support in his hour of weakness and suffering; whilst now M.
Linders had resumed his air of calm superiority as the man of
the world, which seemed at once to repel and forbid support
and sympathy from the youth and inexperience at his side.

"You are right, Monsieur," he said, breaking the silence
abruptly, and speaking in a clear, though feeble voice,
"Madelon must go her aunt. Did I understand you to say you
would take charge of her to Liége?"

"I will certainly," said Graham; "if----"

"I am exceedingly indebted to you," said M. Linders, "but I am
afraid such a journey may interfere with your own plans."

"Not in the least," replied Graham. "I am only travelling for
amusement, and have no one to consult but myself."

"Ah--well, I shall not interfere with your amusement long; and
in the meantime, believe me, I am sensible of your goodness.
It may make matters easier if you take a letter from me to my
sister. I am afraid I cannot write myself, but I could
dictate--if it be not troubling you too much--there are a pen
and ink somewhere there; and if you could give me anything--I
still feel rather faint."

Graham rose, gave him another cordial, drew a small table to
the bedside, and sat down to write. M. Linders considered for
a moment, and then began to dictate.


"Ma soeur,--We parted five and twenty years ago, with a mutual
determination never to see each other again--a resolution which
has been perfectly well kept, and which there is no danger of
our breaking now, as I shall be in my grave before you read
this letter; and you will have the further consolation of
reflecting that, as we have never met again in this world,
neither is there any probability of our doing so in another----"


"Pardon me," said Graham, laying down his pen, as M. Linders
dictated these last words, "but you are about to recommend
your child to your sister's care; of what use can it be to
begin with words that can only embitter any ill-feeling there
may have been between you?"

"But it is a great consolation I am offering her there," says
M. Linders, in his feeble voice. "However, as you will--
_recommençons;_ but no more interruptions, Monsieur, for my
strength is not inexhaustible."


"Ma soeur,--It is now five and twenty years since we parted,
with the determination never to see each other again. Whether
we have done well to keep this resolution or not, matters
little now; we shall, at any rate, have no temptation in the
future to break it, for I shall be in my grave before your
receive this letter. I am dying, a fact which may possess some
faint interest for you even now--or may not--that is not to the
purpose either. It is not of myself that I would speak, but of
my child. I am sending her to you, Thérèse, as to the only
relative she has in the world; look on her, if you prefer it,
as your mother's only grandchild; we had a mother once who
loved me, and whom you professed to love--for her sake be kind
to Madelon. I am not rich, and without money I cannot leave
her amongst strangers, otherwise I would have found some other
means of providing for her; at the same time, I do not send
her to you absolutely penniless--she will take to you the sum
of three thousand francs, which will provide her board for the
next two or three years, at any rate; I do not cast her on
your charity. I have two requests to make, and if your
religion teaches you to have any regard for the wishes of a
dying man, I trust you will hold them sacred as such. In the
first place, I demand of you that you should not bring her up
to be a nun; she has not, and never will have, the slightest
vocation--is not that the right word?--for such a life. My wish
is that she should be educated for the stage, but I do not
absolutely desire it; circumstances must in some measure
decide, and something must be left to your discretion, but a
nun she shall not be. In the second place, respect my memory,
so far as my little Madeleine is concerned. Keep your powers
of abusing me, if they be not already exhausted, for the
benefit of others; she has never been separated from me since
she was an infant, and the little fool has actually learnt to
love me, and to believe in me. It is an innocent delusion, and
has made her happy--do not disturb it. I tell you, my sister,
it will be the worst work you have yet wrought upon earth, and
an evil day for you, if, even when I am in my grave, you try
to come between me and my daughter.

"Your brother,

"Adolphe Linders."


"I will sign it," said the sick man, holding out his hand for
the pen. He had dictated the letter with some pauses and gasps
for breath, but in the uniform indifferent voice that he had
adopted since the beginning of the conversation. He dropped
the pen, when he had scrawled the signature with almost
powerless fingers, and his hand fell heavily on the bed again.
"That is done," he said, and, after a pause, continued:
"Monsieur, circumstances have compelled me to place a
confidence in you, with which, at another time, I should have
hesitated to burden you, fearing to cause you inconvenience."

"You cause me no inconvenience, and I shall do my best to
carry out your wishes," said Horace. "In return, I must beg of
you to keep yourself quiet now."

"One moment, Monsieur--my money you will find in that desk, as
I have said; after paying my funeral and other expenses, you
will, I think, find there is still the sum left that I have
named in my letter. I must beg of you to hand it over to my
sister. I can trust her so far, I believe; and I will not have
my child a pauper on her hands, dependent on her charity for
food and clothing; otherwise it might have been wiser--however,
it is too late now, and in two of three years much may happen.
One word more, and I have done. I have no sort of claim on
your kindness, Monsieur, but you have proved yourself a
friend, and as such I would ask you not to lose sight of
Madelon entirely. She will be but a friendless little one when
I am gone, and I have not much confidence in her aunt's tender
mercies."

"You may depend upon it that I will not," said Graham
earnestly, and hardly thinking of the sort of responsibility
he was accepting.

"Thank you; then that is all. And now, Monsieur le Docteur,
how long do you give me?"

"How long?" said Graham.

"Ah! how long to live?--to-day, to-night, to-morrow? How long,
in short?"

Then Graham spoke plainly at last, without further reticence
or concealment, so useless in the face of this indifference
and levity, real or affected.

"M. Linders," he said, "the chance on which your recovery
hangs is so slight, that I do not think it probable, hardly
possible, that you can live over to-morrow. Will you not try
to understand this?"

There was something so wistful and kind and honest in Graham's
expression as he stood there, looking down on his patient,
that M. Linders was touched, perhaps, for he held out his hand
with a little friendly gesture; but even then he could not, or
would not abandon his latest pose of dying _en philosophe_.

"I understand well enough," he answered; "a man does not
arrive at my age, _mon ami_, without having faced death more
than once. You think, perhaps, it has terrors for me?--not at
all; to speak frankly, pain has, but I do not suffer so much
now. That is a bad sign, perhaps. Well, never mind, you have
done your best for me, I know, and I thank you. Except for
that little regret that you know of as regards Legros and--and
Madelon, I am content that life should come to an end--it is
not too delightful in any case, and those that I cared for
most did their best to spoil mine for me. For people who
believe in a hereafter, and choose to contemplate a doubtful
future, adorned with flames and largely peopled with devils, I
can imagine death to have its unpleasant side; but I look upon
all such notions as unphilosophical in the extreme. And now,
Monsieur, I think I could sleep a little. By-and-by, when
Madelon awakes, I should like to see her."

He turned his head away, and presently fell into a light dose.
Did he mean, or did he persuade himself that he meant half of
what he said? Graham could not decide; and, in truth, he had
uttered his little speech with an air of dignity and
resignation that half imposed upon the younger man, and
impressed him, in spite of his better judgment. An heroic soul
going forth with an unfeigned stoicism to meet its fate? Or an
unhappy man, striving to hide a shivering consciousness from
himself and others, with an assumption of philosophical
scepticism? Ah! who was Graham, that he should judge or weigh
the secrets of another man's heart at such an hour as this? He
left the bedside, and went back once more to his writing.

A few minutes afterwards, Madame Lavaux knocked softly, and
looked into the room. Graham went out into the passage to
speak to her, closing the door after him.

"How is he now, the poor Monsieur?" asks Madame.

"He is sleeping now," Graham answered; "there is nothing to be
done but to keep him as quiet as possible."

"And will he recover, do you think?"

"Hardly. One must always hope; but he is very ill."

"Ah! well," said the landlady, resigning herself; "but, after
all," she added, "it is sad to see a man die like that; and
then there is the child. Otherwise the world will be none the
worse for wanting him. But what is to become of the little
girl?"

"That is all arranged," replied Graham, "she is to go to an
aunt, a sister of her father's, who, it appears, is Superior
of a convent near Liége. But can you tell me, Madame, had
Madame Linders quarrelled with her English relations? When she
was dying alone here, had she no friends of her own that she
could have sent for to be with her?"

"She would not have them, Monsieur; you see, she was devoted
to her husband in spite of all, this poor Madame, and _he_ had
quarrelled with her relations, I believe; at any rate, she
would not send for them. 'Adolphe will come,' she would always
say, 'and it would vex him to find anyone here,' and so she
died alone, for he never arrived till the next morning.
However," continues Madame, "it was not of that I came to
speak now, it was to know if Monsieur would not wish to have a
nurse to-night to attend the poor gentleman? It is what we
must have had if you had not been here, and there is no reason
why you should knock yourself up with nursing him."

"It certainly might be better," said Graham considering, "I
had thought of it, but--however, you are quite right, Madame, a
nurse we will have; where can I get one?"

Madame said he had better apply to the Soeurs de Charité, and
gave him an address, adding that if he would like to go
himself she could spare half an hour to sit with Monsieur
there.

"I will go at once," replied Graham, "whilst he is sleeping;
he is not likely to rouse again just a present; don't let him
talk or move if he should awake, but it is not probable that
he will."

So it was arranged, and Madame Lavaux established herself with
her knitting in the dim, silent room, whilst Graham departed
on his errand, satisfied that his patient was in safe hands.
Not ten minutes had elapsed, however, when a knock came at the
door of the sick-room, and a summons--could Madame come at
once? Madame cast a look at her charge; he was perfectly still
and quiet, sleeping profoundly apparently; there could be no
harm in leaving him for a moment. She went, intending to
return immediately; but, alas! for human intentions,
downstairs she found a commotion that drove M. Linders, M. le
Docteur, and everything else out of her head for the time
being. Madame la Comtesse _au premier_ had lost her diamond
ring--her ring, worth six thousand francs, an heirloom, an
inestimable treasure; lost it? it had been stolen--she knew it,
felt convinced of it; she had left it for five minutes on her
dressing-table whilst she went to speak to some dressmaker or
milliner, and on her return it had vanished. Unpardonable
carelessness on her part, she admitted, but that did not alter
the fact; it had been stolen, and must be found; house,
servants, visitors, luggage, all must be searched and
ransacked. Where were the gendarmes? let all these people be
taken into custody at once, pointing to the group of startled,
wondering, servants,--let everyone be taken into custody.
Madame Lavaux had enough to do and to think of for the next
hour, we may be sure, and though, at the end of that time,
Madame la Comtesse found the ring safe in the corner of her
pocket, whither it had slipped off her finger, and the
disturbance was at an end, not so were the consequences of
that disturbance.

For in the meantime a very different scene was being acted out
upstairs.


CHAPTER III.

Madam's Vigil.


Five minutes after Madame Lavaux had left the room, Madelon,
just awakened from her sound sleep, came creeping gently in.
It was almost dark by this time, for it was late in the
afternoon, and the Venetian shutters were still closed that
had kept out the heat and glare all day; but now she threw
them back, and let in the tepid evening breeze, and the faded
light of the dying day; carriages and carts were rattling in
the street below, shrill voices came from the opposite houses
where lights were appearing here and there; high up in the
serene grey-blue sky a few reddened clouds had caught the last
gleams of the setting sun.

"Madelon," said M. Linders, roused by the noise she had made
in opening the shutters.

A sudden throb of joy came over her as she heard his voice
again, and she went swiftly and stood by his bedside.

"Are you better, papa?" she said, putting her two little cool
hands into one of his, hot with fever.

"We are alone, are we not?" he answered, looking feebly
around. "Come and sit up here by me. Can you jump up? That is
right," as she climbed up and nestled close to him, her feet
tucked under the sheet; "here, _petite_, let me put my arm round
you."

He raised himself with an effort, and passed his arm round
her, so that she could lay her head on his shoulder; and then
in answer to her question,--

"No, I am not better," he said, "and I do not suppose I ever
shall be better now. But never mind that," as she raised her
head suddenly, and looked at him with wide, frightened eyes,
"let us talk a little, Madelon. We have always been happy
together; have we not, my child?"

"Ah! yes, papa."

"And later, when you are grown into a woman--as you will be,
you know, by-and-by--and you think of the years when you were
when you were a little girl, you will like to recall them;
will you not, Madelon? You will remember that they were
happy?"

"Yes, papa, I have been happy, ah, so happy!" says Madelon,
half crying, and nestling closer to him; "but why do you talk
so? What do you mean?"

"You will think of all our travels together, what pretty
placed we have visited, all the _fête_ days we have spent; and
you will remember that, whatever else I may or may not have
done, I have always tried to make you happy, and to be a good
papa to my little one. Promise me that, Madelon."

"I promise it, papa," she said. "How could I forget? Why
should I not remember? Why do you talk to me in this way,
papa? Are you very ill?"

"Very ill," he replied, holding her tighter to him, "so ill
that all those happy days are come to an end for me, and for
you, too, _ma petite;_ we shall never go about again together.
You--you--" his voice broke with a sort of groan, but he went on
again directly, "I wonder what my little Madelon will be like
when she grows into a great girl? I should have liked to have
seen you, my little one. I wonder if you will be tall--I dare
say you will--for your mother was tall, and your face is very
like hers."

"Am I like her, papa?"

"Very," he said, stroking her wavy hair, with his feeble
fingers; "your eyes--yes, you have eyes that resemble hers
exactly, and sometimes I have thought that when you grew up it
would be almost like seeing her over again--for you know I did
love her," he added, in a lower tone, turning his head
restlessly on the pillow, "though they said I did not. I never
meant her to die alone; they might have known that. I wish--
Bah! I am forgetting----"

"What did you say, papa?"

"Nothing," he answered; "I think I was forgetting where I was.
How dark it is growing! you must light the candles soon. I
must look at you again; you know I want to see your eyes, and
smile, and pretty hair once more. And you, my little one, you
will not forget my face? Don't cry, don't cry," he said, with
a sudden pain in his voice; "I cannot bear it. I have never
made you cry before: have I, my child?"

"Never, never," she said, stifling her tears desperately.

"You must think of me sometimes when you are grown up," he
went on in his feeble voice, harping still on the same
subject. "You will have no money, my poor little one--if it had
not been for that devil Legros--but it is too late to think of
that now. Well, I think you will have beauty, and that will go
far even if you have no _dot_, and I should like you to marry
well. But when you have a husband, and are rich, perhaps, you
must still think sometimes of the days when you were a little
girl, and had a papa who loved no one in the world so much as
his little Madelon."

"Papa, I want no money, nor husband, nor anything else," cried
Madelon, in a burst of tears, and throwing both her arms round
his neck. "I want nobody but you, and I love you, and always
shall love you better than any one else in the world. Papa,
are you going to die and leave me?"

"So it seems," he said bitterly. "It is not my choice,
Madelon, but one cannot arrange these little matters for
oneself, you see. Now listen, my child; I am not going to
leave you quite alone. I have a sister, who is your aunt
Thérèse; I have never spoken to you about her before, for she
became a nun, and we have not always been very good friends,
but I think she will give you a home. She is the Superior of a
convent near Liége, and that English gentleman--the doctor, you
know--will take you to her; do you understand?"

"Yes, papa."

"Well, you must stay with her for the present. It is not just
what I could have wished for you, _ma petite_, but I have no
choice, as it happens; and if ever you are dull or unhappy
there, you will not blame me, or think I was unkind in sending
you, will you, my child? for indeed I could not help it, and
you will be a good little girl, I know. By-and-by, as I said,
perhaps you will marry--I cannot arrange all these matters
beforehand. I used to think sometimes that perhaps you might
have come out on the stage a few years hence. Would you have
liked that, Madelon?"

"Yes--no--oh, I don't know, papa--I want you--I want you!"

"Yes--you will want me, _pauvre petite_. Good Heavens! that a
child so small, so young should be left without me to take
care of her! Bah, I must not think of it. Madelon, there is
one thing more you must promise me--never to become a nun."

"A nun, papa?"

"Yes, a nun," he repeated, in his feeble vehement way, "a nun
like your aunt Thérèse. Do you know what it means? To grow
pious, and narrow-minded, and sour, to live for ever shut up
between four walls from which there is no escape, to think
yourself better than all the world. Madelon, promise me never
to become a nun; if I thought that were the future in store
for you--promise me, I say."

"I promise, papa," she said, quite solemnly, putting her hands
together with a quaint little gesture; "indeed I should not
like it at all."

"If I could only foresee--if I could only arrange," he said
piteously. "God knows I have done what I think is best for
you, my child, and yet--who knows what may come of it?
Madelon," he went on in a faint, pleading, broken voice, "you
will not let them make you think ill of me, and blame and
despise me when I am dead? They will try perhaps, but you must
always love me, my darling, as you do now; it must not be all
in vain--all that I have been striving for--ah, don't cry--there--
we won't talk any more now--another time."

There was a minute's silence in the darkening twilight;
Madelon's face was hidden in her father's shoulder, as he lay
there with his arm still round her and his eyes closed, faint
and exhausted. All of a sudden he roused himself with a start.

"Ah, I am dying!" he cried, with a hoarse voice, "and it is
all dark! Light the candles, Madelon--light them quickly, I
must see you once more before I die!"

Startled, awe-struck, only half realizing the meaning of his
words, Madelon slid off the bed and prepared to obey. At that
moment there came a tremendous knocking at the door of the
room, and a voice half chanting, half shouting,--

"Are you here, my friend? Are you within to-night? Can one
enter? Open quick; it is I, it is your friend! Are you ready
for your little revenge? I am ready, for my part; I will give
it to you--yes, with pleasure--yes, with an open heart!"

"It is Legros!" cried M. Linders from his bed, in a sudden
spasm of rage, "it is that villain, that _misérable!_ Yes, yes,
come in; Madelon, light the candles quickly; where are the
cards? Ah--I will have my revenge yet!"

The door burst open, and Legros entered, just as Madelon had
succeeded in lighting the candles. He stopped short in his
uproarious entrance, suddenly sobered by the appearance of M.
Linders, as he lay propped up with pillows, his white face and
bandaged head, and eyes gleaming with fever and rage.

"Papa is very ill," says Madelon. "Monsieur, do not stay to-
night, I beg of you!"

"What are you saying, Madelon?" cried her father; "I forbid
you to say that again; bring me the cards. Legros, I am ready
for you; ah, there is then one more chance in life!"

"You are not fit to play, Monsieur," said the young man,
stepping back; "I will come again to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" answered M. Linders, with a sort of laugh, "have
you then so many to-morrows that you can talk of them
recklessly? Well, then, I will tell you--I have not--not one;
but I have to-night, and that I will not lose. Ah! you think
to cheat me in that way? you will put me off till to-morrow?
you will say then--Ah, this M. Linders can never have his
revenge now, he is quiet enough, I can keep his money in my
pocket? You shall not say that, Monsieur; Madelon, bring the
cards, and the lights, close to me, here, I cannot see well,
it is so dark."

He seized the cards, and began to deal them out on the
coverlet with his trembling hands. Madelon placed a small
table at his side, put one candle on it, and with the other in
her hand stood close to his pillow white and motionless.
Legros slowly and reluctantly drew a chair to the bedside, and
sat down opposite. There was a moment's pause, whilst M.
Linders shifted and sorted his cards, and then, "A vous,
Monsieur," he cried, with a sort of fierce impatience; but at
the same instant his hold relaxed, the cards tumbled all in a
heap on the floor, his head fell back. Madelon screamed and
started forward, upsetting the table and the candle; Legros
sprang up. It was at that moment that the door opened, and
Graham, followed by a Soeur de Charité, entered the room.

Never, to the last day of his life, one may fancy, would
Graham forget the little scene before him, which, indeed,
always returned to his memory with an impression as vivid as
that made upon him now--the overturned table, the scattered
cards, Madelon in her white frock, her pale scared face, her
wavy hair, her great brown eyes illuminated by the candle she
still held, the terrified Legros, the ghastly look of the
dying man--he saw it all at a glance, as he entered the room he
had left so dim and silent but half an hour ago. It was to
Legros he first addressed himself in a tone of strong
indignation.

"Monsieur," he said, "you can have no business to transact
with a dying man, and your presence is not desired here. Might
I request you to leave me alone with my patient?"

"On my honour, Monsieur," cries the other, pale and
stammering; "it was no doing of mine--he would have it so."

Graham, very likely, did not hear what he said; he was already
at M. Linders' side. He raised his head, he felt his pulse and
heart.

"It is nearly over," he said to the Soeur de Charité; "will you
take the little girl into the next room?" And Madelon,
frightened and trembling, offered no resistance as the Soeur
took her by the hand and led her away.

It was as Graham said; all was nearly over. The feeble life,
that with careful tending and cherishing might have flickered
and lingered on yet a little longer, was all but quenched in
this last supreme passion and effort. M. Linders never spoke
again, and died in less than two hours, quietly at last, as
men do for the most part die, it is said.

"That poor child!" said Graham, "who will tell her?"

"I will," said the brave, cheery little Soeur Angélique, and
went.


* * * * * *


It was nearly midnight when the sad little bustle that had
been going on in the chamber of death was hushed at last, and
the Soeur de Charité prepared to depart. She had offered indeed
to stay all night, but when Graham assured her that there was
no occasion for any one to remain, as his room was just
opposite, and he should be on the watch to see that all was
quiet, she owned that she should be glad to go, as there was
much illness about, and her services might be required
elsewhere. She stood talking to Graham for a few moments
before leaving.

"That poor little one," she said, "I should like to have one
look at her, just to see that she is quiet; I don't think she
half understood, or took in, what I said to her."

"Madame Lavaux told me she was in bed," Graham answered, "but
we will see if she is asleep. Poor child, she will understand
it all soon enough."

He opened the door gently between the two rooms, and they
looked in. All was dark and silent, but they could just
distinguish a little head laid on the white pillow, and could
hear Madelon's soft, regular breathing.

"That is all right," said Graham, "we will not go in and
disturb her; she will sleep till the morning, I daresay, for
she was up almost all last night." He closed the door again as
he spoke, and so they left her.

It was true that Madelon was asleep, but she was not exactly
in bed. When the Sister had come in to tell her of her
father's death, she had found her seated on the ground close
to the door, with her hands clasped round her knees, her head
leaning against the doorway; some one had bought in some
supper on a tray, but it stood on the table untouched, though
she had eaten nothing since the morning. She did not move when
Soeur Angélique came in, but she looked up with an expression
of dumb, helpless misery that went to the Sister's heart; she
sat down beside her on the floor, put her arm round her, and
told her the sad news in her gentle, quiet tones, which had
acquired a ring of sympathy and tenderness in a thousand
mournful scenes of sorrow and despair; but, as she had said to
Horace, she hardly knew whether the child understood her, or
took in what she was saying. Madelon did not speak nor cry;
she only sat gazing at the little Sister with a look of
perplexed terror dilating her brown eyes, that never changed
as Soeur Angélique went on with her pious, gentle maxims and
consolations, which fell blankly enough we may be sure on our
small Madelon's bewildered mind; and presently, hearing
herself called, and seeing indeed that she was making no
impression with her kind little speeches, the Sister rose to
go, saying as she did so, "You will go to bed now, _chère
petite_, will you not?" and then thinking that a familiar face
and voice might perhaps have a kindlier influence than her own
just then, she added, "and I will ask Madame Lavaux to come to
you."

"No, no," cried Madelon, suddenly rousing, and starting up at
these last words. She had comprehended what the Sister had
told her well enough so far as words went, but she was too
stunned and confused to take in their full meaning; and in
truth her presence there at all had only been another
unfamiliar element in this bewildering whirl of events,
imparting an additional sense of unreality. But when she
mentioned Madame Lavaux, the name linked itself at once with
recent memories and emotions, and its accustomed association
with her every-day life made it a rallying point, as it were,
for her scattered ideas. Madame Lavaux had been cross and
unkind to her the night before; Madame had buoyed her up with
false hopes of her father's recovery only that morning;
Madelon did not want her, would not see her. She stood still
for a few minutes after the Soeur de Charité had left the room,
all her sorrows and doubts and certainties resolved for the
moment into a dull, unreasoning dread of seeing Madame Lavaux
come in; and then, suddenly fancying she heard footsteps
approaching the door, she hastily blew out her candle, and all
dressed as she was, crept under the coverlet of the bed. She
would pretend to be asleep, she thought, and then no one would
disturb her. The footsteps passed on, but presently the door
did open, and some one looked in: it was Madame Lavaux, who,
seeing that Madelon made no sign, concluded that she was
asleep, and went away softly, with a kind pity in her heart
for the desolate child. As for Madelon, the pretence of
slumber soon passed into reality, for, after lying awake for a
while listening to the low voices and rustling movements in
the next room, fatigue and her own enforced tranquillity
overcame her, and she fell sound asleep.

It must have been long past midnight when she awoke again with
a sudden feeling of fright and strangeness, for which she
could not account, but which made her spring off the bed and
listen if she could hear any one moving. All was very still;
not a sound came from the adjoining apartment; her own room
was quite dark, for the windows and outside shutters were
closed. Madelon felt scared, lonely, desolate, without knowing
why; and then, all at once, she remembered the reason. All
that the Sister had said came back with fresh meaning and
distinctness to her senses restored by sleep; and, sitting
down on the floor just where she was, she began to cry with a
low moaning, sobbing sound, as a child cries when it is sorry
and not naughty.

No one heard her, no one came near her; she was all alone, and
in a few minutes she stopped crying, half frightened at her
own voice in the silence and darkness. And then she began to
wonder if her father were still in the next room, or whether
they had taken him away anywhere; if not, he was all alone in
there, as she was in here. It would be some comfort to be with
him, she thought. Madelon knew that he was dead, but death was
an unfamiliar experience with her; and she could not perhaps
clearly separate this hour from all other hours when she had
been hurt, or sorrowful, or frightened, and had run to her
father to be comforted.

She got up, and, opening the door, stole softly into the other
room. It was not quite so dark in there: the windows and
Venetian shutters were wide open, and a lamp in the street
below gave an uncertain light, by which she could just
distinguish the gleam of the mirror, the table in the centre
of the room, and the bed, where the outline of a silent form
was vaguely defined under the white covering sheet. Madelon
had had some half-formed idea of getting on to the bed, and
nestling down by her father, as she had done only the evening
before, when he had put his arm round her, and they had talked
together; but now a chill dread crept over her--a sense of
change, of separation; she had not even the courage to raise
the sheet and look upon his face. She stood gazing for a
moment, afraid to go back into the darkness of her own room;
and then, with a sudden movement, as though urged by some
terror, she turned quickly away, and went swiftly to the open
window. She looked down into the narrow, dark street, dimly
illuminated by an occasional lamp; she looked up to the
starlit space of sky visible above the house-roofs and
chimneys, and neither above nor below did she find any
comfort; for a sudden awful realization of death had come to
her in the darkness and silence, almost too keen and terrible
for our poor little Madelon to bear--each realization, too, a
fresh shock, as with an instinctive shrinking from this new
consciousness of an intolerable weight her mind slipped away
into some more familiar channel, only to be brought rudely
back to this fact, so unfamiliar, and yet the only one for her
now, in this sudden shattering of all her small world of hopes
and joys and affections. And is it not, in truth, terrible,
this _strength_ of facts, when we are, as it were, brought face
to face with them, and held there till we recognise them? No
means of evasion, no hope of appeal from what is, in its very
nature, fixed, unalterable, irrevocable; the sin is committed,
the loved one gone, the friendship broken and dead, and for us
remains the realization in remorse, and heart-breaking, and
despair.

Which of us is strong enough to wrestle with facts such as
these? which one of us can look them long in the face and
live? In the desperate recoil, some of us find ourselves
recklessly striving to forget and ignore them, and some find a
surer refuge in facts that are stronger still than they; but
to one and all, in kindly compassion to human weakness, each
new emotion, each passing interest and trivial incident,
combines to interpose a barrier between us and the terrible
moment that overwhelmed us; and time which, in later years,
seems to drag out the slow hours and days into long ages of
dreary grief, can deal swiftly and mercifully with a little
child. Hardly had Madelon grasped the true measure of her
grievous loss, or tasted its full bitterness, when the
reaction came with a great burst of tears, and crouching down
in the corner by the window where she had spent so many hours
of the previous day, she sobbed away half the terror and awe
that were oppressing her poor little heart. Presently she
began to grow sorry for herself in a vague, half-conscious
sort of way--poor little Madelon, sitting there all alone
crying, no one to help her, no one to comfort her--then the
sobs came at longer and longer intervals as she gradually lost
consciousness of where she was, or why she was there; and with
the tears still wet on her cheek, she was nearly asleep again,
when she was roused by some one bringing a light into the
room; it was Graham, who had come to fetch something he had
left on the table, and to see that all was quiet.

Madelon was too much accustomed to late expectant vigils to be
startled; and, indeed, in her drowsy state, her first
impression was only the familiar one of a welcome arrival. "Me
voici, papa!" she cried, jumping up promptly; and then she saw
the young man coming towards her, and with a suddenly revived
consciousness of the still, white-sheeted form on the bed, she
sank down on her low seat again, the sensation of blank misery
all revived.

Graham, on his side, was not a little surprised at the small
figure that had started up to meet him; he had fancied her in
bed hours ago. He came up to where she was sitting, a most
sad, disconsolate little Madelon, all huddled together, her
hands clasped round her knees, her eyes shining through a
short wavy tangle of brown hair, all rough and disordered.

"Don't you think you would be better in bed?" says Horace, in
his kind, cheery voice.

"No," she answered abruptly; she was so miserable, so sore at
heart with the sudden disappointment, poor child, and Graham
had been the cause of it.

"But I am afraid you will be ill to-morrow if you sit there
all night," said Graham; "do you know what time it is?"

"No," she said again; and then, as he came a step nearer, she
gave a stamp on the floor, and turned her back on him. "Ah, do
leave me alone!" she cried, in a miserable little broken
voice, covering her face with her hand.

Graham saw that she was utterly wretched and worn out. He
could guess pretty well how it had all happened, and
reproached himself for not having foreseen and provided
against the chance of her waking up and finding herself alone;
and now he hardly knew what to do--to speak to her, or to urge
her any more just then, would only make matters worse. At last
he said quietly,--

"I have some writing to do, and I am going to bring it in
here; you will not mind that, I daresay?"

No answer; Horace left the room, but in a moment he returned,
sat down at the table and began to write.

A stillness which the rapid scratching of the pen upon the
paper, and the vague, ceaseless hum of the great city coming
through the open window, only seemed to render apparent;
occasionally the clang of a church clock, the sudden rattle of
wheels rising like hollow thunder and dying away into remote
distance, a far-off cry, and then a silence more profound by
contrast. Madelon, sitting in her dark corner, began to
recover herself; in truth, it was the greatest possible relief
to have Graham in the room with her, bringing light and the
warm sense of a living presence into the chill, unnatural
silence and darkness of death; and presently she began to
awake to a half-penitent consciousness that she had been
cross, rude, not at all raisonnable in fact; little by little
she shifted her position, and at length turned quite round to
look at M. le Docteur.

Monsieur le Docteur was not looking at her, nor thinking of
her apparently, for he never raised his eyes from his writing;
the candle light shone on his rough brown hair, on his
pleasant, clever face, with keen profile, well defined against
a shadowy background. Madelon sat watching him as though
fascinated; there was something in the absorbed attention he
was giving to his writing, which subdued and attracted her far
more than any words he could have spoken to her, or notice he
could have taken of her just then. He had apparently forgotten
her, this kind Monsieur le Docteur, who had evidently more
important things to think about than her and her pettish
little speeches; or she had perhaps made him angry, and he
would not take any more notice of her at all? There was a
certain amount of probability in this last idea to the self-
convicted little Madelon, that urged her to some sort of
action; she sat still for a few moments longer, then got up
and stole softly across the room to where Graham was sitting.

"I did not mean to be cross, Monsieur," she said, in her
little trembling voice, standing with her hands clasped behind
her back, and tears in her eyes. Perhaps Graham _had_ forgotten
her for the moment, for he gave a little start as he looked
round.

"I am sure you did not," he said quite earnestly, as he laid
down his pen, "but you are so tired to-night, and unhappy too;
are you not?"

"Ah, yes," she answered, with a little sob, "I am very
unhappy!"

He put his arm round her, as she stood beside him, and took
one of her little hands in his; he was so sorry for the poor
little girl, and yet he hardly knew what to say to console
her. She gave two or three more little sobs, rubbing her eyes
with her other hand to keep back the tears; presently she
looked up into his face, and said:

"Do you really think I had better go to bed?"

"Indeed I do," replied Horace, much relieved by the practical
turn her thoughts were taking; "I am really afraid you will be
ill to-morrow if you do not, and you know I must take care of
you now."

"I thought papa was all alone in here, and I was alone too,"
said Madelon, "it was so dark and lonely in my room."

"Well," said Horace, "I am going to stay in here for a little
while, and presently I will open your door, and then it will
be almost as if you were in the same room; won't that do?"

"Yes, thank you," said Madelon, who indeed was so tired that
she could hardly speak. Graham lighted a candle for her, and
opened the door leading into the inner room; she paused a
moment as she took the light; and gazed up into the kind face
looking down upon her; then she put her hand into his, and
saying, "Good-night, Monsieur," went into her own room. Graham
closed the door, and returned to his writing. That was all
that passed between them, but from that time Madelon's feeling
for Horace Graham approached adoration.


CHAPTER IV.

Madelon's Promise.


A week later, and Madelon was again, as on the day of her
father's death, standing at a long open window, looking out on
the fading glories of another evening sky. But instead of the
narrow Paris street, with its noisy rattle of vehicles, and
high white houses limiting the view of earth and heaven,
before her lay the small garden of a Liége hotel, and beyond,
the steep slope of a hill, where, mingled with trees, roof
rose above roof, to where two churches crowning the ridge,
showed their grey masses outlined against the clear pale blue.

Madelon had left Paris with Horace Graham the day before, and
they had arrived at Liége that afternoon. The young doctor,
bent on fulfilling the promise he had made to M. Linders, had
altered all his plans, remaining in Paris till his little
charge's affairs were settled, and then bringing her to Liége,
with the intention of leaving her in her aunt's hands, and
then proceeding to Switzerland for the accomplishment of as
much of his proposed tour as should still be practicable. He
willingly forfeited these days out of his brief holiday, for
he had come to regard the child so unexpectedly thrown upon
his care, with a very sincere interest, an affection not
unmixed with wonder. Madelon was not at all like any other
little girl he had ever had anything to do with, or rather--for
his experience on this point was limited--unlike his
preconceived notions of little girls in general. We, who know
what Madelon's education had been, cannot feel surprised at
her total ignorance of all sorts of elementary matters, her
perfect unconsciousness of the most ordinary modes of thought
current in the world, and of the most generally received
standards of right and wrong, combined with a detailed
experience in a variety of subjects with which children in
general have no acquaintance. But for Graham, there was much
that could only be matter for conjecture, much that he could
only learn from inference, and to him there was something at
once strange and pitiable in the simplicity with which she
talked to him of her past life, dwelling on little episodes
that only served to exhibit more and more clearly the real
character of M. Linders and his associates. Not for the world
would he have touched the child's innocent faith, or revealed
to our simple Madelon that her father was not the perfection
she dreamed him; but he began to understand better the meaning
of M. Linders' last words in his letter to his sister, and
they gained a pathetic significance and force as he learnt to
appreciate the affection that had subsisted between the father
and child, and foresaw too plainly that the time must come
when some rude shock would shatter all Madelon's early
beliefs, and desecrate, as it were, her tenderest memories.
There was something so sad in this certain retribution that
must fall upon her innocent head, as the child of such a
father, something so touching in her anomalous position, left
all friendless and lonely in the midst of such a hard,
relentless world, that Horace felt all his tenderest feelings
stirred with compassion, and he could have wished to have
shielded her for ever from what, he could not but fear, too
surely awaited her sooner or later.

What he could do, he did, and it was more than he thought.
Madelon's sudden devotion to him, of which indeed he knew and
suspected nothing, was of infinite service to her in her first
bitterness of her grief, by giving a new current to her ideas,
whilst it did away with the sense of lonely desolation that
had nearly overpowered her in that first dark hour. In her
ardent little nature there was a necessity for loving, even
stronger perhaps than for being loved, a certain enthusiasm, a
capacity for devotion that had opportunely found an object in
the time of extreme need. For a short hour it had seemed to
her as if life itself had come to an end with her father's
death; the darkness and vagueness of the future had crushed
her down, all the more that she had scarcely comprehended what
was the weight that so oppressed her--and then a moment had
changed it all; a kind word spoken, a kind face looking down
upon her, a friendly hand stretched out, and the vague terrors
had vanished. From that time Horace Graham's presence was
bliss to our Madelon; when she was unhappy, she dried her
tears if he consoled her; if he was out, she sat listening for
his returning footsteps; if he was busy, she was content to
remain for hours with her book on her knee, her chin propped
on her hands, her wistful eyes following his every movement.
Monsieur Horace, as it pleased Madelon to call him, knew
nothing of all this, we may be sure; but he was very good and
tender to the little girl, and did all he could to cheer and
console her in the sudden overpowering fits of grief that came
upon her from time to time. Finding that she liked to talk of
the past, he encouraged her to do so, being anxious, indeed,
to learn all he could of her former life, and to ascertain,
if, after all, there were indeed no friends to whom he could
apply, in the event of his mission to her Aunt Thérèse
proving, from any cause, unsuccessful. But as before, on this
point he obtained no sort of satisfaction. Madelon never got
much beyond the Florence artists, and her German countess, and
Russian princess. M. Linders, it was evident, had had no
friends beyond the acquaintance he had made at the different
places at which he had been wont to tarry from time to time;
and these, for the most part, Graham inferred to have been of
so doubtful a character that he could only rejoice for
Madelon's sake that all further chance of connection was
broken off. Madelon dwelt at great length on their last winter
at Florence; she loved Italy, she said; she liked it better
than France or Belgium, and Florence was such a beautiful
place; had Monsieur Horace ever been there? There were such
splendid churches, and palaces and galleries, with such grand
pictures and statues; the American used to take her to see
them. Papa had several friends there who knew a great deal
about pictures, who were artists indeed; she used to go to
their studios sometimes, and she liked hearing them talk. And
then there were the fêtes and processions, and the country
people in such gay dresses, and all with such a blue sky and
such bright sunshine; and then the Sundays! very often she and
papa would go out into the country to some inn where they
would breakfast and dine; ah! it had been so pleasant. "I
shall never be so happy again," sighs Madelon.

The warm, glowing, picturesque Italian life had, as we know,
forcibly seized her imagination, her eyes shone with delight
as she recalled it, and, almost involuntarily in describing
it, she made use of the soft words and phrases of the Italian
tongue, which with the ready talent she possessed for
languages, she had caught up, and spoke fluently.

"Where did you go when you left Florence?" asked Graham.

"We came north across the Alps and through Switzerland to
Baden, and then we stayed a little while at Homburg, and then
we were at Wiesbaden for six weeks: do you know Wiesbaden,
Monsieur Horace?"

"I was there once for two days," answered Graham; "were you
happy there too?"

"Ah yes, I was always happy with papa, but I like Wiesbaden
very much. It is so pretty and gay; do you remember the
Kursaal gardens? I used to walk there and listen to the band,
and sometimes we sat and had coffee at the little round
tables, and looked at all the people passing. And then in the
evening there were the balls; last summer I used sometimes to
go to them with the Russian Princess."

"And who was the Russian Princess?" Graham inquired.

"She was a Russian lady papa knew there, and she was very kind
to me; I used to walk with her, and sit by her at the tables,
and prick her cards for her; she said I brought her luck."

"Prick her cards!" cried Graham.

"Yes--don't you know? at rouge-et-noir," says Madelon in
explanation, "one has little cards to prick, and then one
remembers how many times each colour has won; otherwise one
would not know at all what to do."

"I see," said Graham; "and so your Russian Princess played at
rouge-et-noir--did she win much?"

"Yes, a great deal," cried Madelon, spreading out her hands,
"she always had _chance_ and was very rich; she wore such
beautiful toilettes at the balls; she knew a great many
gentlemen, and when I went with her they all danced with me."

And so on, _da capo_; it was always the same story, and Graham
soon found that he had reached the limits of Madelon's
experiences in that direction. As a last resource, he wrote to
her American and German friends at Florence, the most
respectable apparently of M. Linders' many doubtful
acquaintance, and indeed the only ones with whose address
Madelon could furnish him. From the old German he received a
prompt reply. The American was absent from Florence, he said
on a visit to his own country, which was to be regretted, as
it was he who had been M. Linders' friend, and who could have
given more information concerning him than it was in his power
to do. Indeed, for himself, he knew little about him; he had
spent the last winter at Florence, but his society and
associates were not such as he, the German, affected. M.
Linders had once been an artist, he believed; he had spent
much of his time in painting, but he knew nothing of his early
life. That he was a notorious gambler he was well aware, and
had heard more than one story about him that certainly placed
his character in no very favourable light; more than this he
could not say. Of Madelon he spoke with the warmest affection,
and there was a little note enclosed to her in Graham's
letter, which she placed, and carefully preserved, we may be
sure, amongst her most precious treasures.

These letters written, and M. Linders' few papers, which were
of little interest or importance, examined, Graham had
exhausted his sources of possible information, and could only
trust no obstacle would intervene to prevent his little charge
being at once received at the convent, and placed under her
aunt's guardianship and care. So, with as little delay as
possible, they had packed up, and set off on their journey:
and now, as Madelon stands at the window of the little hotel
salon, Paris lies many a league behind them, beyond the great
northern levels, across which they have been speeding for so
many hours. And behind her, too, already separated from her by
a distance more impassable than that which can be counted by
leagues, lies Madelon's old life, to which many and many a
time, with passionate outcries, perhaps, with tender
unspeakable yearnings, she will look back across an ever-
widening space, only to see it recede more hopelessly into a
remoter past.

She does not understand all this yet, however, with the new
life scarcely a week old. She is thinking of Monsieur Horace,
as she stands there looking out at the sunset sky; they have
just dined, and behind her a deft waiter is removing the
cloth; and in a minute she turns round gladly, as Monsieur
Horace himself comes into the room.

"Shall we take a walk, Madelon?" he says, "or are you too
tired?"

"I am not at all tired," Madelon answered. "I should like to
have a walk; may we go and look at the convent where Aunt
Thérèse lives? I should like to see it."

"That is a good idea," said Horace. "I will inquire
whereabouts it is, and we will go and have a look at it."

The convent, they were told, stood on the outskirts of Liége,
about a quarter of a mile outside the town, and a little off
the great highroad leading through Chaudfontaine and its
adjacent villages to Pepinster and Spa. It was at some
distance from the hotel; but Madelon repeated that she was not
at all tired, and would like a long walk, so they set off
together in the mild September evening. To their left lay the
old town with its picturesque churches, its quaint old
Bishop's palace, its tall chimneys and busy quays, and
wharves, and warehouses, stretching along the river banks; but
all this they left on one side as they went along the wide,
tree-planted boulevards, where carriages were rolling, and
lamps lighting, and people walking about in the ruddy glow;
and presently these too were passed by, and they came out on
the dusty high-road. A few scattered houses were still to
their right hand and to their left; but the city, with its
cloud of smoke, its kindling lights and ceaseless movement,
was behind them now. Of all its restless stir no sound reached
them through the soft twilight but the chime of bells from its
many towers, which rang out the evening angelus just as they
saw, standing on the summit of a gentle slope to their left, a
building with steep grey slate roofs and belfry, rising above
low white surrounding walls, and knew that they had reached
their destination.

The carriage-road up to the convent made a circuit, and swept
round to the other side of the little declivity: but in front,
separated from the highroad by a hedge, there was only the
slope of a ploughed field, with a gate at the lower end,
opening on to a narrow path that led straight through it up
the hill; and this path Graham and Madelon followed, to where
it joined a weed-grown footway skirting the outer wall of the
building. There was a garden inside apparently, for trees were
waving their topmost branches overhead, and vines, and
westeria, and Virginia creeper hung down in long, many-
coloured tangled shoots and tendrils over the angle of the
wall outside. A little beyond was a side-door, with a bench
placed beside it; and above, surmounted by a crucifix under a
little pent-house, a narrow shelf on which stood an empty bowl
and spoon, just placed there probably by some wandering
pensioner, who had come there, not in vain, to seek his
evening meal.

"Shall we sit down for a minute and rest?" said Graham.

Madelon seated herself at his side without speaking; she had
been talking fast enough, and not without cheerfulness, during
the early part of her walk; but since they had come within
sight of the convent, her chatter had died away into silence.
Perhaps she was tired, for she sat quite still now, and showed
no wish to resume the conversation. The sound of the city
chimes died away; the little bell in the belfry close by kept
up its sharp monotone for a minute longer, and then it too was
hushed; the trees whispered and rustled, the grasshoppers
chirped shrilly all around, but a great stillness seemed to
fall upon the darkling earth as the grey evening came down,
and enfolded it in its soft mists. Grey fields stretched away
on either hand, grey clouds that had been rosy-red half an
hour ago, floated overhead; only the trees looked dark against
the tender grey sky, the encircling hills of Liége against the
lingering twilight glow.

The silent influence of the hour made itself felt on these two
also, perhaps, for neither of them spoke at first; indeed,
Graham's thoughts had wandered far beyond the horizon before
him, when he was aroused by the sound of a little sob, and
turning round, he saw that Madelon was crying.

"What is it, Madelon?" he said; "are you tired? What is the
matter?"

She did not answer at once, she was struggling with her tears;
at last out came the grief.

"It--it all looks so sad, and gloomy, and _triste_," she said. "I
do not want to come here and be shut up in the convent; oh,
take me away, take me away!"

She clung to Graham as if she were to be parted from him that
moment, whilst he soothed her as best he could.

"We will go away at once if you like," he said; "I think we
did wrong to come at this time of the evening; everything
looks grey and cheerless now--you will see to-morrow how much
brighter it will all appear."

"It is not only that," said Madelon, striving to check her
sobs; "but just now, when we were sitting here, somehow I had
forgotten all about where I was, and everything; and I thought
I was out walking with papa, as I used to be, and I was
planning what we would do to-morrow--and then all at once I
remembered--and to-morrow I shall be in there, and I shall
never see him again, and you will be gone too--oh, papa, papa----"

She was shaking all over with one of her sudden bursts of
passionate crying. What could he do to console her? What could
he say to comfort her? Not much, perhaps, but then much was
not needed; only a few words commonplace enough, I daresay--but
then, as we have said, Monsieur Horace's voice and words
always had a wonderful influence with our little Madelon. How
is it, indeed, that amidst a hundred tones that fret and jar
on our ears, there is one kind voice that has power to calm
and soothe us--amid a hundred alien forms, one hand to which we
cling for help and support? Graham did not say much, and yet,
as Madelon listened, her sobs grew less violent, her tears
ceased, she began to control herself again. "Listen," said
Graham, presently, "is not that singing that we hear? I think
it must be the nuns."

Madelon raised her head and held her breath to listen; and
sure enough, from within the convent came the sound of the
voices of the nuns at their evening prayers. She listened
breathlessly, a change came over her face, a light into her
eyes, and she tightened her grasp of Graham's hand. The
melancholy voices rising and falling in unison, seemed a
pathetic, melodious interpretation of the inarticulate
harmonies of the evening hour.

"I like that," said Madelon, relaxing her hold as they ceased
at last; "do you think they sing like that every evening,
Monsieur Horace?"

"I have no doubt of it," he answered, "it is their evening
service; see, that must be the chapel where the windows are
lighted up."

"Perhaps they will let me sing too," said Madelon. "Ah, I
shall like that--I love singing so much; do you think they
will?"

"I think it very likely," said Horace; "but now, Madelon, we
must be going towards home; it is almost quite dark, and we
have a long walk before us."

Madelon was almost cheerful again now. She so readily seized
the brighter side of any prospect, that it was only when the
dark side was too forcibly presented to her that she would
consent to dwell on it; and now the sound of the nuns singing
had, unconsciously to herself, idealised the life that had
appeared so dull and cheerless when viewed in connexion with
the grey twilight, and had changed its whole aspect. When they
reached the boulevards, where the lamps were all lighted now,
and the people still walking up and down, it was she who
proposed that they should sit down on one of the benches for a
while.

"This is the last walk I shall have with you," she said, "for
such a long, long time."

"Not so very long," said Graham, "you know I am to come and
see you on my way back from Germany, and then if I can manage
it, we will have another walk together."

"That will be very nice," said Madelon; and then, after a
pause, she added, "Monsieur Horace, supposing Aunt Thérèse
says she will not have me, what shall I do then?"

This very same question had, as we know, presented itself to
Graham before now, and he had felt the full force of the
possible difficulty that had now occurred to our unthinking
Madelon for the first time.

"Indeed I do not know, Madelon," he answered, half laughing,
"but I don't think we need be afraid; your aunt is not likely
to turn you away."

"But if she did," persisted Madelon, "what should I do? Would
you take me away to live with you?"

"With me?" said Graham, smiling, "I don't think that would
quite do, Madelon; you know I am a soldiers' doctor, and have
to go where they go, and could not have you following the
regiment."

"Then you cannot come and go about as you please," said
Madelon; "I thought you always went where you liked; you are
not with the regiment now."

"No, I have a holiday just now; but that will come to an end
in two or three weeks, and then I must do as I am bid, and go
where I am told."

"And you have no home then? Ah, take me with you, Monsieur
Horace, I should like to see the world--let me go with you."

"Would you like to put on a little red coat, and shoulder a
musket and stand to be shot at?" says Graham, laughing at her.
"I hope to see more of the world than you would quite like, I
fancy, Madelon, that is, if we have any luck and get ordered
out to the Crimea."

For indeed it was just the moment of the Crimean war, and
while the events recorded in this little story were going on,
the world was all astir with the great game in which kingdoms
are staked, and a nation's destinies decided; treaties were
being torn, alliances formed, armies marching, all Europe
arming and standing at arms to prepare for the mighty
struggle, and Graham, like many another young fellow, was
watching anxiously to see whether, in the great tide rolling
eastward, some wave would not reach to where he stood, and
sweep him away to the scene of action.

Madelon had not heard much about the Crimea, and did not very
well know what Horace meant; but she understood the first part
of his speech, and she, too, laughed at this picture of
herself in a little red coat. Presently, however, she recurred
to her original question.

"If you were not marching about, would you let me come and
live with you?" she asked again.

"Indeed, I do not say that I would," said Graham, laughing,
"and I don't mean to settle down for a long time yet; I have
to make my fortune, you know."

"To make your fortune!" cries Madelon, pricking up her ears at
the sound of the words, for indeed they had a most familiar
ring in them; "why, I could do that for you," she added after
a moment's pause.

"Could you?" said Graham absently; he did not follow out her
thought in the least, and, in fact, hardly heard what she
said, for the words were suggestive to him also, and carried
with them their own train of ideas.

"Yes, and I will too," says Madelon, in one brief moment
conceiving, weighing, and forming a great resolution. "Ah, I
know how to do it--I know, and I will; I promise you, and I
always keep my promises, you know. I promised papa that I
would never become a nun, and I never will."

"Indeed, I cannot fancy you a nun at all," said Graham,
rousing himself, and getting up. "Don't you think we had
better be going back to the hotel now? It is getting quite
late."

"And when your fortune is made, may I come and live with you?"
said Madelon, without moving.

"We shall see about that afterwards," he answered, smiling,
"there is time enough to think about it, you may be sure.
Come, Madelon, we must be going."

"Ah, you do not know, and I will not tell you," said Madelon,
jumping up as she spoke.

"What do I not know?" asked Graham, taking her hand in his, as
they walked off together.

"What I will do--it is my secret, but you will see--yes, you
will see, I promise you that."

She almost danced with glee as she walked along at Graham's
side. He did not understand what she was talking about; he had
missed the first sentence that might have given him the clue,
and merely supposed that it was some childish mystery with
which she was amusing herself.

But Madelon understood full well, and her busy little brain
was full of plans and projects as she walked along. Make a
fortune! how many fortunes had she not seen made in a day--in
an hour! "Give me only ten francs, _et je ferai fortune!_" The
old speech that she had quoted years ago to Horace Graham--
though, indeed, she had no remembrance of having done so--was
familiar to her now as then. Ah! she knew how fortunes were
made, and Monsieur Horace did not--that was strange, but it was
evident to her--and she would not tell him. Her superior
knowledge on this point was a hidden treasure, for a great
ambition had suddenly fired our ten-year-old Madelon. Not only
in maturer years are great plans laid, great campaigns
imagined, great victories fought for; within the narrow walls
of many a nursery, on the green lawns of many a garden, the
mimic fort is raised, the siege-train laid, the fortress
stormed; and in many a tiny head the germs of the passions and
ambitions and virtues of later years are already working out
for themselves such paths as surrounding circumstances will
allow them to find. But Madelon's childhood had known neither
nursery nor sheltered home-garden. Her earliest experiences
had been amidst the larger ventures of life, the deeper
interests that gather round advancing years; her playground
had been the salons of the gayest watering-places in Europe,
her playthings the roulette-board and the little gold and
silver pieces that had passed so freely backwards and forwards
on the long green tables where desperate stakes were ventured,
and fortunes won and lost in a night; and it was amongst these
that she now proposed to try her own little game of
enterprise, and prepare this grand surprise for Monsieur
Horace. The idea was an inspiration to her. Her whole soul was
bound up in Horace Graham; I think she would willingly have
laid down her life for him, and have thought little of the
offering; a sort of _furore_ of gratitude and devotion possessed
her, and here at length was an opportunity for doing something
for him--something he did not know how to do for himself, great
and wise though he was, and this idea added not a little zest
to the plan, in Madelon's opinion, one may be sure. Ah, yes,
she knew what to do, she would go to the gambling-tables, as
she had seen her father and his associates go scores of times;
she would win money for him, she would make his fortune!

So Madelon schemed as she walked along by Graham's side,
whilst he, for his part, had already forgotten her little
speech, if indeed he had ever heard it.

So it is often--a few careless words between two people,
quickly spoken, soon forgotten, by at least one of them--and
yet, perhaps, destined to alter the course of two lives.
Before they had reached the hotel Madelon had arranged not
only the outline, but the details of her scheme. Spa was, as
she well knew, but a short distance from Liége; she would at
once beg her aunt to allow her to go over there for a day, or
two days, if one were not enough, and then--why, once there,
everything would be easy, and perhaps, even before Monsieur
Horace came back from Germany, as he had said he would, all
might be done, the promise redeemed, the fortune made! A most
childish and childlike plan, founded so entirely on deductions
drawn from experiences in the past, so wholly without
reference to the probabilities of the future, and yet not the
less the result of a fixed resolution in Madelon's mind, which
no subsequent change in the mere details of carrying it out
could affect. For, in her small undeveloped character lay
latent an integrity and strength of will, a tenacity of
purpose, which were already beginning to work, unconsciously,
and by instinct as it were, for she could assuredly never have
learnt from her father, who regarded honesty and integrity as
merely inconvenient weaknesses incidental to human nature
under certain conditions. But to Madelon they were precisely
those sacred truths which lie hidden in our inmost hearts, and
which, when once revealed to us, we cling to as our most
steadfast law, and which to deny were to denounce our best and
purest self. Not to every one are the same truths revealed
with the same force; for the most part it is only through a
searching experience that we can come clearly to understand
one or another, which is to our neighbour as his most unerring
instinct; and such must have been this integrity of purpose in
Madelon, who, in affirming that she always kept her promises,
had uttered no idle vaunt, nor even the proved result of such
experience as her short life had afforded, but had simply
given expression to what she instinctively knew to be the
strongest truth in her nature.

That evening, after Madelon had gone up to bed, she stood long
at her open window looking out into the night. Her bedroom was
high up in the hotel, and overlooked a large public place;
just opposite was a big, lighted theatre, and from where she
stood she could catch the sound of the music, and could fancy
the bright interior, the gay dresses, the balcony, the great
chandeliers, the actors, the stage. It was her farewell for
many a long day to the scenes and pleasures of her past life,
but she did not know it. The sound of the music stirred within
her a sort of vague excitement, an indefinite longing, and she
was busy peopling the future--a child's future, it is true, not
extending beyond two or three weeks, but yet sufficient to
make her forget the past for the moment. She must have stood
there for nearly an hour; any one looking up might have
wondered to see the little head popped out of window, the
little figure so still and motionless. Up above the stars
twinkled unheeded; down below other stars seemed to be dancing
across the wide Place, but they were only the lamps of the
carriages as they drove to and fro from the theatre. And
yonder, on the outskirts of this busy town, with its lights
and crowds and gay bustle, sleeping under the silent, slow-
moving constellations, surrounded by the dark rustling trees,
stands the still convent, where a narrow room awaits this
dreaming eager little watcher. Our poor little Madelon! Not
more difference between this gay, familiar music to which all
her life has been set hitherto, and the melancholy chant of
the nuns, whose echoes have already passed from her memory,
than between the future she is picturing to herself and the
one preparing for her--but she does not know it.


CHAPTER V.

Mademoiselle Linders.


Immediately after breakfast the next morning Graham once more
started for the convent, this time, however, leaving Madelon
at the hotel. He had written from Paris to the Superior
immediately after her brother's death, but had received no
reply. M. Linders' letter he had kept by him to deliver in
person when he should have reached Liége.

Madelon was watching for his return, and ran to meet him with
a most eager face.

"Have you seen my aunt?" she said. "Am I to go?"

"Yes, you are to go, Madelon," he said, looking down on her,
and taking her hands in his. "I have seen your aunt, and we
have agreed that it is best I should take you there this
afternoon."

He sat down and gave her some little account of the interview
he had had with her father's sister; not the whole, however,
for he said nothing of his own feeling of disappointment in
the turn that it had taken, nor of the compassion that he felt
for his little charge.

The fact of M. Linders having quarrelled with his sister had,
on the whole, tended to prejudice the latter in his favour
rather than otherwise, for M. Linders unfortunately seemed to
have had a talent for quarrelling with every respectable
friend and relation that he possessed; and it was with a
strong hope of finding a good and kind guardian for Madelon in
her aunt, that he had started for the convent. He wrote a few
words of explanation on his card, and this, with M. Linders'
letter, he sent in to the Lady Superior, and in return was
requested to wait in the parlour till she should come to him.
A key was handed to him, and he let himself into a large,
square room, furnished with a table, a piano, and some straw
chairs; a wooden grating shut off one end, within which were
another table and more chairs; one or two prints of sacred
subjects were on the walls, two large windows high up showed
the tops of green trees in a sunny inner courtyard,--Graham had
time to take in all these details before a door on the other
side of the grating opened and the Lady Superior appeared.

Mademoiselle Linders had doubtless displayed a wise judgment
in her choice of life; she could never under any circumstances
have shone in society, but there was something imposing in her
tall figure in its straight black draperies, and the ease and
dignity to which she could never have attained in a Paris
salon, she had acquired without difficulty in her convent
parlour. She had worked hard to obtain her present position,
and she filled it with a certain propriety of air and
demeanour. But her features were harsh, and her thin, worn
face, so far as could be distinguished beneath the half-
concealing black veil, wore a stern, discontented expression.
Somehow, Graham already felt very sorry for little Madelon, as
holding M. Linders' letter in one hand, the Superior
approached the grating, and sitting down on the inner side,
invited him by action, rather than words, to resume his chair
on the other.

"If I am not mistaken, Monsieur," she began in a constrained,
formal voice, "it was from you that I received a letter last
week, announcing my brother's death?" Graham bowed.

"I thought it unnecessary to answer it," continued the
Superior, "as you stated that you proposed coming to Liége
almost immediately. If I understand rightly, you attended my
brother in his last illness?"

"I did, Madame--it was a short one, as you are aware----"

"Yes, yes, an accident--I understood as much from your letter,"
says Madame, dismissing that part of the subject with a wave
of her hand; "and the little girl?"

"She is here--in Liége that is--we arrived last night."

"In this letter," says the Superior, slowly unfolding the
paper, "with the contents of which you are doubtless
acquainted, Monsieur----"

"I wrote it at M. Linders' dictation, Madame."

"Ah, exactly--in this letter then, I see that my brother wishes
me to take charge of his child. I confess that, after all that
has passed between us, I am at a loss to imagine on what
grounds he can found such a request."

"But--pardon me, Madame--" said Graham, "as your brother's only
surviving relative--so at least I understood him to say--you
surely become the natural guardian of his child."

"My brother and I renounced each other, and parted years ago,
Monsieur; were you at all intimate with him?"

"Not in the least," replied Graham; "I knew nothing, or next
to nothing, of him, till I attended him in his last illness;
it was by the merest accident that I became, in any way, mixed
up in his affairs."

"Then you are probably unaware of the character he bore,"
Thérèse Linders said, suddenly exchanging her air of cold
constraint for a voice and manner expressive of the bitterest
scorn; "he was a gambler by profession, a man of the most
reckless and dissipated life; he plunged by choice into the
lowest society he could find; he broke his mother's heart
before he was one-and-twenty; he neglected, and all but
deserted his wife; he ruined the lives of all who came in his
way--he was a man without principle or feeling, without
affection for any living being."

"Pardon me, Madame," Graham said again, "he was devotedly
attached to his little daughter, and--and he is dead; to the
dead much may surely be forgiven," for indeed at that moment
his sympathies were rather with the man by whose death-bed he
had watched than with the bitter woman before him.

"There is no question of forgiveness here," says Madame the
Superior, with a slight change of manner; "I bear my brother
no malice; it was not I that he injured, though he would
doubtless have done so had it been in his power. In separating
myself from him, I felt that I was only doing my duty; but I
have kept myself informed as to his career, and had I seen
many change or hope of amendment, I might have made some steps
towards reconciliation."

"And that step, Madame," Graham ventured to say, "was taken by
your brother on his death-bed----"

"Are you alluding to this letter, Monsieur?" she inquired,
crushing it in her hand as she spoke, "you have forgotten its
contents strangely, if you imagine that I consider that as a
step towards reconciliation. My brother expresses no wish of
the kind; he was no hypocrite at least, and he says with
sufficient plainness, that he only turns to me as a last
resource."

And, in fact, the letter was, as we know, couched in no very
pleasant or conciliatory terms, and Graham was silenced for
the moment. At last, ----

"He appeals to your mother's memory on behalf of his child,"
he said.

"He does well to allude to our mother!" cried the Superior.
"Yes, I recognise him here. He does well to speak of her, when
he knows that he broke her heart. She adored him, Monsieur. He
was her one thought in life, when there were others who--who
perhaps--but all that signifies little now. But in appealing to
my mother's memory he suggests the strongest reason why, even
now that he is dead, I should refuse to be reconciled to his
memory."

Graham was confounded by her vehemence. What argument had he
to oppose to this torrent of bitter words? Or how reason with
such a woman as this--one with a show of right, too, on her
side, as he was bound to own? He did not attempt it, but gave
up the point at once, turning to a more practical
consideration.

"If you are not disposed to take charge of your little niece,
Madame," he said, "can you at least suggest any one in whose
care she can be left? I promised her father to place her in
your hands, but you must see it is impossible for me to take
any further responsibility on myself. Even if I had the will,
I have not at present the power."

"I never said I would not take charge of my niece, Monsieur,"
said the Superior.

And to what end then, wonders Graham, this grand tirade, this
fine display of what to him could not but appear very like
hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness? To what end indeed?
And yet, perhaps, not wholly unnatural. After five-and-twenty
years of convent life, Thérèse Linders still clung to the
memory of the closing scenes of her worldly career, as the
most eventful in the dead level of a grey monotonous life,
still held to the remembrance of her mother's death, and of
her fierce quarrel with her brother, as the period when all
her keenest emotions had been most actively called into play.
And indeed what memories are so precious to us, which, in our
profound egotism, do we cherish so closely, as those of the
times which stirred our strongest passions to their depth, and
which, gathering up, as it were, all lesser experiences into
one supreme moment, revealed to us the intensest life of which
we are capable? There are women who would willingly barter
months of placid existence for one such moment, though it be a
bitter one; and though Mademoiselle Linders was not one of
these, or she would never have discovered that her vocation
lay within the walls of a convent, she was, nevertheless, a
woman capable of strong feelings, of vehement passions; and
these had, perhaps, found their widest scope in the love,
though it had been a wayward one, that she had felt for her
mother, and in her intense jealousy of her brother. For a
quarter of a century these passions had lain dormant, crushed
beneath the slow routine of daily duties; but these, in their
unvarying monotony, had, on the other hand, made that lapse of
years appear but as a few weeks, and kept the memory of those
stormy scenes fresher than that of the events that, one by
one, had crept into the convent life, and slowly modified its
dull course. The news of her brother's death had affected her
but little; but the sight of the familiar handwriting, the
very framing of the sentences and choice of words, which had
seemed to her like a fresh challenge even from his grave, had
revived a thousand passions, jealousies, enmities, which one
might have thought dead and buried for ever. What ghosts from
old years that Graham could not see, what memories from her
childhood and girlhood, what shadows from the old Paris life,
were thronging round Thérèse Linders, as with changed name and
dress she sat there in her convent parlour! Old familiar forms
flitting to and fro, old voices ringing in her ears, her
brother young, handsome, and indulged, herself plain,
unprepossessing, neglected, and a mother whom she had held to
and watched till the last, yet turning from her to the son who
had scorned her wishes and broken her heart. It had all
happened twenty-five years ago, but to the Superior it seemed
but as yesterday. The old hatred blazed up again, in the form,
as it doubtless appeared to her, of an anger righteous even
against the dead. Nor was the revival without its charms, with
all its old associations of strife and antagonism--like a
breeze blowing freshly from the outer world, and suddenly
stirring the slow, creeping current of her daily life.

"I never said I would not take charge of my niece," she said;
"on the contrary, I have every intention of so doing. I only
wish to make it clearly understood that my brother had no sort
of claim upon me, and that I consider every line of this
letter an insult."

"His child, at least, is innocent," began Graham.

"I am not likely to hold her responsible for her father's
misdeeds," says Madame, drawing herself up. "I repeat that I
am willing to receive my niece at once, though I cannot
suppose that with the education and training she has received,
she is likely to be anything but a burden and a care; however,
that can be looked to and corrected!"

"Indeed you will find her a most innocent and loveable child,"
pleaded Graham eagerly, and not without an inward dismay at
the idea of our little unconscious Madelon being looked to,
and corrected by this grim woman; "she thinks her father was
perfection, it is true, but it is through her total want of
comprehension of his real character, and of the nature of his
pursuits; and--believe me, Madame, it would be cruel to disturb
that ignorance."

"She has nothing to fear from me in that respect," said the
Superior coldly; "my brother might have spared the threats
with which he insults me; his child will never hear his name
mentioned by me. From the time she enters this house her past
life is at an end; she must lean to forget it, and prepare for
the future she will spend here."

"Not as a nun!" cried Graham involuntarily.

"And why not as a nun, Monsieur?"

"It was her father's last wish, his dying request that she
should never become a nun: it was the fear of some such design
on your part that made him hesitate about sending her to you,
Madame. You must surely understand from his letter how anxious
he is on that point."

"I see that he proposes an alternative that I cannot
contemplate for a moment; it is not to train actresses that we
receive pupils at the convent, Monsieur; and I have too much
regard for my niece's welfare not to prepare her for that life
which on earth is the most peaceful and blessed, and which
will win for its followers so rich a reward hereafter. But
pardon me--I cannot expect you to agree with me on this point,
and it is one that it is useless for us to discuss."

She rose as she spoke, and Graham rose also; there was nothing
more to be said.

"Then it only remains for me to bring Madelon here," he said,
"and hand over to you the sum of money which M. Linders left
for her use."

"That is all," replied the Superior; "if you can bring her
this afternoon I shall be ready to receive her. You must
accept my thanks, Monsieur, for your kindness to her, and for
the trouble you have taken."

Graham, as he walked back to the hotel, was ready to vow that
nothing should induce him to hand Madelon over to the care of
her grim aunt. He understood now M. Linders' reluctance to
send her to his sister, and sympathised with it fully. Poor
little Madelon, with her pretty, impulsive ways, her naïve
ignorance,--Madelon, so used to be petted and indulged, she to
be shut up within those dull walls, with that horrible, harsh,
unforgiving woman, to be taught, and drilled, and turned into
a nun--he hated to think of it! He would take her away with
him, he would hide her somewhere, he would send her to his
sister who had half a dozen children of her own to look after,
he would make his aunt adopt her--his aunt, who would as soon
have thought of adopting the Great Mogul. A thousand
impossible schemes and notions flitted through the foolish
young fellow's brain as he walked along, chafed and irritated
with his interview--all ending, as we have seen, in his coming
into the hotel and telling Madelon she was to go to the
convent that very afternoon. One thing indeed he determined
upon, that against her own will she should never become a nun,
if it were in his power to prevent it. He had promised her
father not to lose sight of her, and, as far as he was able,
he would keep his engagement.

He did not witness the meeting between his little charge and
her aunt. He bade farewell to a tearful, half-frightened
little Madelon at the door of the parlour, he saw it close
upon her, and it was with quite a heavy heart that he turned
away, leaving behind him the little girl who had occupied so
large a share of his thoughts and anxieties during the last
ten days. He had nothing to detain him in Liége now, and he
left it the next morning, with the intention of carrying out
as much of his proposed tour as he should find practicable.
His original intention had been to proceed from Paris to
Strasbourg, and so into Switzerland, and over the Alps to the
Italian lakes. So much of his holiday was already gone,
however, that he gave up the idea of the lakes; but
Switzerland might still be accomplished, and Strasbourg at any
rate must be in his first point, as it was there that, on
leaving England, he had directed his letters to be sent in the
first instance, and he expected to find them lying awaiting
them.

He did find them, and their contents were such as to drive all
thoughts of his tour out of his head. It was with a wild throb
of excitement and exultation, such as he had never known
before, that, on opening the first that came to hand, one that
had been lying there for nearly a week, he read that the
regiment to which he was attached was under immediate orders
for the Crimea, and that he must return, without loss of time,
to England. Even then, however, he did not forget little
Madelon. He knew that she would be counting on his promised
return, and could not bear the idea of going away without
seeing her again, and wishing her good-bye. He calculated that
he had still half a day to spare, and, notwithstanding his
hurry, resolved to return by Brussels rather than Paris,
choosing those trains that would allow him to spend a couple
of hours in Liége, and pay a visit to the convent.

It was only three days since he had last seen the white walls
and grey roofs that were growing quite familiar to him now,
and yet how life seemed to have changed its whole aspect to
him--and not to him only, perhaps, but to somebody else too,
who within those walls had been spending three of the saddest,
dreariest days her small life had ever known.

When Graham asked for Madelon, he was shown, not into the
parlour, but into a corridor leading to it from the outer
door; straw chairs were placed here also, on either side of
the grating that divided it down the middle, and on the inner
side was a window looking into another and smaller courtyard.
As Graham sat there waiting, an inner door opened and a number
of children came trooping out; they were the _externes_,
children of the bourgeois class for the most part, who came to
school twice a-day at the convent; indeed they were the only
pupils, the building not being large enough to accommodate
boarders.

The children, laughing and chattering, vanished through the
front door to disperse to their different homes, and then, in
a minute, the inner door opened again, and a small figure
appeared; a nun followed, but she remained in the background,
whilst Madelon came forward with a look of eager expectation
on the mignonne face that seemed to have grown thinner and
paler since Graham had last seen it only three days ago. His
return, so much sooner than she had expected, had filled her
with a sudden joy, and raised in her a vague hope, that she
stood sadly in need of just then, poor child!

"So you see I have come back sooner than I expected, Madelon,"
said Graham, taking the little hands that were stretched out
to him so eagerly through the grating, "but I don't know what
you will say to me, for I shall not have time for the walk I
promised you, when I thought I should stay two or three days
in Liége. I must go away this afternoon, but I was determined
not to leave without wishing you good-bye."

"Go away this afternoon!" faltered Madelon, "then you are
going away quite--and I shall never see you again!"

"Yes, yes, some day, I hope," said Horace; "why, you don't
think I am going to forget you? My poor little Madelon, I am
sorry to have startled you, but I will explain how it is," and
then he told her how there was a great war going on, and he
had been called away to join his regiment which was ordered
out to the Crimea; "you know," he said smiling at her, "I told
you it would never do for you to come marching about with me,
and running the chance of being shot at."

He tried to speak cheerfully, but indeed it was not easy with
that sad little face before him. Madelon did not answer; she
only leant her head against the wooden bars of the grating,
and sobbed in the most miserable, heart-broken way. It made
Graham quite unhappy to see her.

"Don't cry so, Madelon," he kept on saying, almost as much
distressed as she was, "I cannot bear to see you cry." And
indeed he could not, for the kind-hearted young fellow had a
theory that children and dogs and birds and all such
irresponsible creatures should be happy as the day is long,
and there seemed something too grievous in this overpowering
distress in little Madelon. She checked herself a little
presently, however, drawing back one hand to wipe away her
tears, while she clung to him tightly with the other. He began
to talk to her again as soon as she was able to listen, saying
everything he could to cheer and encourage her, telling her
what he was going to do, and how he would write to her, and
she must write to him, and tell him all about herself, and how
she must be a good little girl, and study very hard, and learn
all sorts of things, and how he would certainly come back some
day and see her.

"When?" asks Madelon.

"Ah, that I cannot tell you, but before very long I hope, and
meantime you must make haste and grow tall--let me see how tall
shall I expect you to be? as tall as that----" touching one of
the bars above her head.

She tried to smile as she answered, "It would take me a long
time to grow as tall as that."

"Not if you make haste and try very hard," he said; "and by
that time you will have learnt such a number of things, music,
and geography, and sewing, and--what is it little girls learn?"
So he went on talking; but she scarcely answered him, only
held his hands tighter and tighter, as if she was afraid he
would escape from her. Something seemed to have gone from her
in these last few days, something of energy, and spirit, and
hopefulness; Horace had never seen her so utterly forlorn and
downcast before, not even on the night of her father's death.

At last he looked at his watch. "I must go, Madelon," he said,
"I have to catch the train."

"No, no, don't go!" she cried, suddenly starting from her
desponding attitude, "don't go and leave me, I cannot stay
here--I cannot--don't go!"

She was holding him so tightly that he could not move, her
eyes fixed on his face with an intensity of pleading. He was
almost sorry that he had come at all.

"My poor little Madelon," he said, "I must go--I must, you
know--there--there, good-bye, good-bye."

He squeezed the little hands that were clinging so desperately
to him, again and again, and then tried gently to unloose
them; suddenly she relaxed her hold, and flung herself away
from him. Graham hastened away without another word, but as he
reached the door he turned round for one more look. Madelon
had thrown herself down upon the low window-seat, her face
buried in her folded arms, her frame shaking with sobs; the
nun had come forward and was trying to comfort her--the bare
grey walls, the black dresses, the despairing little figure
crouching there, and outside the courtyard all aglow in the
afternoon sunshine, with pigeons whirring and perching on the
sloping roofs, spreading their wings against the blue sky--it
was a little picture that long lived in Graham's memory. Poor
little Madelon!


CHAPTER VI.

In the Convent.


Not till Monsieur Horace was indeed gone, and there was no
longer any hope of seeing him return, not till the last door
was closed between them, the last link broken with the outer
world, not till then perhaps did our little Madelon begin to
comprehend the change that one brief fortnight had worked in
her whole life. Till now, she had scarcely felt the full
bitterness of her father's death, or understood that the old,
happy, bright, beautiful life was at an end for ever. These
last days had been so full of excitement, she had been so
hurried from one new sensation to another, that she had not
had time to occupy herself exclusively with this great sorrow
that had fallen upon her; but there was nothing to distract
her now. Her father's death, which she had found so hard to
understand in the midst of everyday life and familiar
associations, she realized all too bitterly when such
realization was aided by the blank convent walls and the dull
convent routine; the sorrow that had been diverted for a
moment by another strong predominant feeling, returned with
overwhelming force when on every side she saw none but strange
faces, heard none but unfamiliar voices; liberty, and joy, and
affection seemed suddenly to have taken to themselves wings
and deserted her, and she was left alone with her desolation.

The child was half-crazed in these first days in the extremity
of her grief; the nuns tried to console her, but she was at
first beyond consolation. She did not know what to do with her
sense of misery, her hopeless yearning, with the sudden
darkness which had fallen upon her bright life, and where she
was left to grope without one hand stretched out by which she
could reach back as it were, into the past, and grasp some
familiar reality that should help her to a comprehension of
this strange new world in which she found herself. We hear
often enough of the short life of childish troubles, quickly
excited, and as quickly forgotten--true enough perhaps of the
griefs isolated, so to speak, in the midst of long days of
happiness. But the grief that is not isolated? The grief over
which the child cries itself to sleep every night, and which
wakes with it in the morning, saddening and darkening with its
own gloom the day which ought to be so joyous? In such a grief
as this, there is, perhaps, for the time it lasts, no sorrow
so sad, so acute, so hopeless, as a child's. For us, who with
our wide experience have lived through so much, and must
expect to live through so much more, a strength has risen up
out of our very extremity, as we have learnt to believe in a
beyond, in a future that must succeed the darkest hour. But a
child, as a rule, has neither past nor future; it lives in the
present. The past lies behind, already half forgotten in to-
day's happiness or trouble; the future is utterly wide, vague,
and impracticable, in nowise modifying or limiting the sorrow
which, to its unpractised imagination, can have no ending.
When a child has learnt to live in the past, or the future,
rather than in the present, it has learnt one of the first and
saddest of life's experiences--a lesson so hard in the
learning, so impossible to unlearn in all the years to come.

A lesson that our Madelon, too, must soon take to heart, in
the midst of such dreary distasteful surroundings, with a past
so bright to look back upon, with a future which she can fill
with any amount of day-dreams, of whatever hue she pleases--a
lesson therefore, which she is not long in acquiring, but with
the too usual result, a most weary impatience of the present.
The first violence of her grief exhausted itself in time, as
was only natural, and something of her old energy and spirit
began to show itself again; but the change was not much for
the better. She did not mope nor pine, that was not her way;
but she became possessed with a spirit of restless petulance,
which at first, indeed, was only another phase of unhappiness,
but which, not being recognized as such, presently developed
into a most decided wilfulness. She turned impatiently from
the nun's well-meant kindness and efforts to console her,
which somehow were not what she wanted--not that, but something
so different, poor child!--she was cross, peevish, fractious
without intending it, scarcely knowing why; the nuns set her
down as a perverse unamiable child: and so it happened, that
she had not been many weeks in the convent before she came to
be regarded with general disfavour and indifference instead of
with the kindly feeling that had at first been shown to the
forlorn little stranger.

Graham had indeed wasted some pity on her, in imagining her
under the immediate control of her aunt. The Superior had far
too many things to think about for her to trouble herself with
any direct superintendence of her little niece; Madelon hardly
ever saw her, and in fact, of the convent life in general she
knew but little. Her lessons she soon began to do with the
other children in the class, and for the rest she was placed
under the special care of one of the younger Sisters, Soeur
Lucie by name.

Like Madelon, Soeur Lucie had been brought, a little ten-year-
old orphan to the convent, to be under the care of one of the
nuns who was her aunt; and it was, perhaps, on this account,
that she was chosen by Mademoiselle Linders as a sort of
_gouvernante_ for her niece. But there was no other resemblance
between this placid, fair-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked
Flemish girl, whose early recollections were all of farms and
farmyards, of flat grassy meadows watered by slow moving
streams, of red cows feeding tranquilly in rich pastures, of
milking, and cheese-making, and butter-making, of dairies with
shining pots and pans and spotless floors, and our vehement
brown-eyed Madelon, who in her ten years had seen more of the
world than Soeur Lucie was likely to see if she lived to be a
hundred. Soeur Lucie had passed a happy, peaceful childhood in
the convent, and, as she grew up into girlhood, had listened
submissively to the words of exhortation which urged her to
give up the world and its vanities, which she had never known,
and by such voluntary renunciation to pass from a state of
mere negative virtue into that one of superior holiness only
to be attained beneath the nun's veil, and behind the convent
grating. She took the vows as soon as she was old enough,
endowed the convent with her fortune, and was perfectly happy.
She had neither friends nor relations outside this little
world in which she had been brought up, and she desired
nothing beyond what it could afford her. She had, as she well
knew, secured for herself in the next world a sure
compensation for any little sacrifices she might have made in
this--a reflection that often consoled her under a too
prolonged course of prayer and meditation, for which, to say
the truth, she had little aptitude--and for the rest, she was
universally allowed to be the best compote-maker (the nuns
were famous for their compotes, which were in great demand),
the best embroiderer, the best altar-decorator in the convent.
What more could be expected or demanded of life? Soeur Lucie,
at any rate, was quite satisfied with her position, and this
perfectly simple-minded, good-tempered little sister was a
general favourite. Madelon could not have fallen into kinder
hands; Soeur Lucie, if not always very wise, was at least very
good-natured, and if she did not win much respect or
admiration from our little Madelon, who was not long in
discovering that she knew a great deal about a great many
things that the nun had never heard or dreamt of, the poor
child at least learnt to recognize hers as a friendly face,
and to turn to her in these dreary days.

The convent was neither very large nor very wealthy. The
building itself had formerly been a château-farm, which, with
its sheds and outlying buildings, had, many years ago, been
converted with considerable alterations into its present form;
rooms had been partitioned off, a little chapel had been
built, the hall turned into a refectory, the farmyard and
orchard into a pleasant sunny garden with lawn, and flower-
beds, and shrubs, with vines and fruit-trees alternating with
creepers along the old walls. As for the sisters, few were
from the upper ranks of society, belonging for the most part,
rather to the middle and bourgeois class. Mademoiselle Linders
had gained her present position not less by her superior birth
and education, than by that to which she would more willingly
have attributed her elevation--a certain asceticism of life
which she affected, an extra observance of fasts and vigils,
which the good nuns looked upon with reverence, without caring
to emulate such peculiar sanctity in their own persons. The
rule was not a strict one, nor, though the Superior was
careful to enforce it to its utmost rigour, was the life one
of particular hardship or privation. They were a simple, kind,
good-hearted set, these Sisters, having their little disputes,
and contentions, and jealousies among themselves occasionally,
no doubt, but leading good, peaceable lives on the whole, with
each day and hour well filled with its appointed tasks,
leading through a continual, not useless round of embroidery,
teaching, compote-making, and prayers.

Perhaps some one looking round on them, with their honest,
homely Belgian faces, would have tried to imagine some history
for them, in accordance with the traditions that cling about
convent walls, and associate themselves with the very mention
of a nun; and most likely they would have been all wrong. None
of these Sisters had had very eventful lives, and they had,
for the most part, dropped into their present mode of
existence quite naturally. With little romance to look back
upon, save such as finds a place in even the homeliest life,
with an imperfect middle-class education that had failed to
elevate the mind, or give it wide conceptions of life, and
religion, and duty, a certain satisfaction at having done with
secular life and its cares, and at having their future here
and hereafter comfortably provided for, was perhaps the
general tone amongst this prosaic, unimaginative community. We
are, indeed, far from affirming that in that little society
there was no higher tone of religious enthusiasm, that there
were not some who not only found their highest religious ideal
in the life they had chosen, but to whom it formed, in fact,
the highest ideal to which they could attain, and calculated,
therefore, to develope in them the best and noblest part of
their natures. To such, the appointed, monotonous round, the
unquestioning submission to the will of another, the obedience
at once voluntary and enforced, would not only bring a
gracious sense of repose after conflict, but, by satisfying
their religious cravings and aspirations, by demanding the
exercise of those virtues which appeared to them at once the
highest and the most attainable, would give peace to souls
which, in the world's active life, would have tossed for ever
to and fro in reckless unquiet warfare, nor have ever once
perceived that in such warfare they might, after all, be
fulfilling the noblest ends. "Peace, and rest, and time for
heavenly meditation," they had cried, stretching out weary
hands to this quiet little harbour of refuge, and perhaps--who
knows?--they had there found them.

Such, then, was this little world in which our Madelon
suddenly found herself placed to her utter bewilderment at
first, so alien was it to all her former experiences, so
little could she understand of its meaning, its aims, its
spirit and intention; no more than, as it seemed to her, those
around her understood her, or her wants and wishes. To her,
the convent only appeared inexpressibly _triste_ and dreary, a
round of dull tasks, enlivened by duller recreations, day
after day, for ever bounded by those blank, grey walls--no
change, no variety, no escape. The bare, scantily-furnished
rooms, the furniture itself, the food, the nuns' perpetual
black dress, and ungraceful headgear,--Madelon hated them all,
as she gradually recovered from her first desolation, and
became alive again to external impressions; and, as the first
keenness of her sorrow wore off, this vague sense of general
unhappiness and discomfort showed itself in an attitude of
opposition and defiance to every one and everything around
her. From being helplessly wretched and cross, she became
distinctly naughty, and before long our Madelon had drifted
into the hopeless position of a child always refractory,
always in disgrace, a position from which, when once assumed,
it is almost impossible for the small hapless delinquent to
struggle free.

That Madelon was very naughty cannot be denied, and the fact
surprised no one so much as herself. The nuns, accustomed to
all sorts of children of every variety of temper, of every
shade of docility and wilfulness, of cleverness and stupidity,
found nothing astonishing in one more perverse little
specimen, but Madelon could not understand it at all. She was
not used to feeling naughty, and did not know what it meant at
first. In her life hitherto, when she had been as happy as the
day is long, she had had singularly few opportunities for
exercising the privilege of every child of Adam, and
exhibiting her original waywardness. But it was far otherwise
now, and she could not understand why she always felt cross,
always obstinate, always perverse; she only knew that she was
very miserable, and it was quite a discovery to be told one
day that it was because she was naughty, and that if she were
good, she would be happy.

"I always am good," said Madelon, firing up, and speaking from
the experience of former days, "and I am not at all happy--I
never shall be here."

But alas! it was proved too clearly that she was not at all
good, and indeed she began to think so herself, only she did
not see how she could help it.

Madelon got into great disgrace in the very first weeks after
her arrival at the convent, and this was the occasion of it.
The only room vacant for her was a cell that had been occupied
by a sister who had died a short time previously, a sister of
a devout turn of mind, who had assisted her meditations by the
contemplation of a skull of unusual size and shininess. The
cell was a cheerful, narrow little room, looking out on the
convent garden, and the first pleasant sensation that Madelon
knew in the convent was when she was taken into it, and saw
the afternoon sun shining upon its white-washed walls, and the
late climbing roses nodding in at the open window; but she
became possessed with a perfect horror of the skull. She
discovered it the first evening when she was going to bed, and
was quite glad to pop her head under the bed-clothes, to shut
out all sight and thought of it. But awaking again that first
night in her grief and loneliness, she saw a stray moonbeam
shining in, and lighting it up into ghastly whiteness and
distinctness, as it stood on a little bracket against the wall
beneath a tall wooden crucifix. For the first minute she was
half paralysed with terror; she lay staring at it without
power to move, and then she would assuredly have run to some
one for protection had she known to whom to go, or, indeed,
had she not been too terrified to do more than hide her head
under the counterpane again. From that time it became a
perpetual nightmare to her. By day its terrors were less
apparent, though even then, with her innate love for all
things bright, and joyous, and pleasant, it was a positive
grief to her to have such a grim object before her eyes
whenever she came into the room; but at night no sooner was
she in bed, and the light taken away, than her imagination
conjured up a hundred frightful shapes, that all associated
themselves with the grinning death's-head. In vain she covered
it up, in vain she shut her eyes--sleeping or waking it seemed
always there. At length she could bear it no longer, and
entreated piteously that it might be taken away; but Soeur
Lucie, to whom the little prayer was made, did not view the
matter in at all the same light as Madelon. In the first
place, if formed part of the furniture of the room, and had
always been there, so far as he knew--which, to the nun, whose
life was founded on a series of unquestioned precedents,
allowing of nothing arbitrary but the will of the Superior,
appeared an unanswerable reason why it should always remain;
and, in the next place, with the lack of sympathy that one
sometimes remarks in unimaginative minds, she did not in the
least understand the terror with which it inspired the child,
but assured her, in her good-humoured way, that that was all
nonsense, and the she would get over it in time. So the skull
remained, and Madelon was miserable, till one night, in a
moment of desperation, she jumped out of bed, seized it with
both hands, and flung it with all her might through the window
into the garden below. She was frightened when she heard the
crash of falling glass, for in her excitement she had never
stopped to open the window, but greatly relieved,
notwithstanding, to think that her enemy was gone, and slept
more soundly that night than she had done for a long time
previously.

Next morning, however, Madelon had a cold, a pane of glass was
found in fragments on the gravel walk beneath the window, a
skull was discovered, lying among the long grass on the lawn;
one can fancy the exclamations, the inquiries, the commotion.
Madelon, though not a little frightened, avowed boldly enough
what she had done, and so far gained her end that the skull
never reappeared, and a safe precedent was established for
Soeur Lucie's future guidance; but she got into great trouble
at the time, and gained moreover the unenviable distinction of
having committed a deed of unparalleled audacity. After this,
what might not be expected of such a child? The nuns at once
formed a bad opinion of her, which they owed it to themselves
to confirm on the occasion of each succeeding offence, by a
reference to this past misdeed which had first taught them of
what enormities she was capable.

Matters were no better when there came to be a question of
lessons. Madelon did not mind the actual learning, though she
wearied a little of the continued application to which she was
unused; but she resented to the last degree the astonishment
that her ignorance on all sorts of subjects excited both in
the nuns who taught her, and in the other children in the
class, and which was expressed with sufficient distinctness.
"Never studied geography, nor history, nor arithmetic!" cries
Soeur Ursule, who superintended the school; "not know the
principal cities in Europe, nor the kings of France, nor even
your multiplication table!" These speeches, with strongly
implied notes of admiration after each sentence, and
illustrated by the expression on the faces of a small, open-
mouthed audience in the background, roused Madelon's most
indignant feelings; she rebelled alike against the injustice
of being held up to public reprobation for not knowing what
she had never been taught, and against the imputations cast
upon her education hitherto. "I can do a great many things you
cannot," she would answer defiantly, "I can talk English, and
German, and Italian--you can't; I can dance--you can't; I can
sing songs, and--and, oh! a great many things that you cannot
do!" A speech of this sort would bring our poor Madelon into
dire disgrace we may be sure; and then angry, impenitent, she
would go away into some corner, and cry--oh! how sadly--for her
father; for the happy old days, for Monsieur Horace, too,
perhaps, to come back, and take her out of all this misery.

Behind the convent was a strip of ground, which produced
cabbages and snails on one side, and apple-trees on the other;
a straight walk divided these useful productions from each
other. When Madelon was _en pénitence_ she used sometimes to be
sent to walk here alone during the hour of recreation, and
would wander disconsolately enough among the apple-trees,
counting the apples by way of something to do, and getting
intimately acquainted with the snails and green caterpillars
amongst the cabbages. Our poor little Madelon! I could almost
wish that we had kept her always in that pretty green valley
where we first saw her; but I suppose in every life there come
times when cabbages, or things of no cheerfuller aspect than
cabbages, are the only prospect, and this was one of her
times. She used to feel very unhappy and very lonely as she
paced up and down, thinking of the past--ah, how far that past
already lay behind her, how separate, how different from
anything she did, or saw, or heard in these dull days! She did
not find many friends to console her in her troubles; good-
natured Soeur Lucie did indeed try to comfort her when she
found her crying, and though she was not very successful in
her efforts, Madeleine began to give her almost as much
gratitude as if she had been. Soeur Lucie could not think of
anything to tell her but that she was very naughty, and must
try to be good, which Madelon knew too well already. It would
have been more to the purpose, perhaps, if she had told her
she was not so very bad after all, but Soeur Lucie never
thought of that; perhaps she did not care much about the
child; by this time Madelon was beginning to be established as
the black sheep of the little community, and Soeur Lucie only
expressed the general sense; but being very good-natured, she
said in a kind way what other people said disagreeably.

Neither from her companions did she meet with much sympathy,
and, indeed, when out of disgrace, Madelon was apt to be
rather ungracious to her schoolfellows, with whom she had
little in common. The children who came daily to the convent
were of two classes--children of the poor and children of a
higher bourgeois grade, shopkeepers for the most part. Madelon
was naturally classed with the latter of these two sets during
the lesson hours, but she stood decidedly aloof from them
afterwards, at first through shyness, and then with a sort of
wondering disdain. She had never been used to children's
society; all her life her father had been careful to keep her
apart from companions of her own age, and, accustomed to
associate continually with grown-up people, she chose to
regard with great contempt the trivial chatter, and squabbles,
and amusements of her small contemporaries. After a time,
indeed, she condescended to astonish their minds with some of
her old stories, and was gratified by the admiration of a
round-eyed, open-mouthed audience, who listened with rapt
attention as she related some of the glories of past days,
balls, and theatres, and kursaals, princes and counts, and
fine dresses; it served in some sort to maintain the sense of
superiority which was sorely tried during the untoward events
of the lesson hours; but this also was destined to come to an
end. One day there was a whispering among the listeners, which
resulted in the smallest of them saying boldly,--

"Marie-Louise says your papa must have been a very bad man."

"What!" cries Madelon, jumping off the high stool on which she
had been seated. This little scene took place during the hour
of recreation, when the children ate their luncheon of bread
and fruit.

"Ah, yes," says Marie-Louise, a broad-faced, flaxen-haired
damsel, half a head taller than Madelon, and nodding her head
knowingly. "Those are very fine stories that you tell us
there, Mademoiselle, but when I related them at home they said
it was clear your papa must have been a very wicked man."

Madelon turned quite white and walked up to the girl, her
teeth set, her small fists clenched. "You are wicked!" she
stammered out; "how dare you say such things? I--I will never
speak to you again!" and then she turned, and walked off
without another word.

The matter did not end here, however, for the children talked
of it among themselves, the nuns heard of it, and, finally, it
reached the ears of Madame la Supérieure herself. Madelon,
summoned into the awful presence of her aunt, received the
strictest orders never again to refer to these past
experiences in any way. "You are my child now," says Madame,
overwhelming the poor little culprit before her with her
severest demeanour, "and must learn to forget all these
follies." If Madelon feared any one, it was her aunt, who had
never cared to win her little niece's love by any show of
affection; the child came before her trembling, and escaped
from her gladly. She had no inclination to draw down further
reprimands by disobedience in this particular, so far as words
went, nor indeed had she any temptation to do so. From this
time she kept more apart from the rest of the children, rarely
joining in their games, and preferring even Soeur Lucie's
society to that of her small companions. So, altogether,
Madelon's first attempts at a convent life were not a success,
and time only brought other sad deficiencies to light.

Whatever the nuns may have thought or said, concerning her
ignorance of history, geography, and arithmetic, it was a far
more serious matter when there came to be a question of her
religious knowledge. The good sisters were really horrified at
the complete blank they found, and lost no time in putting her
through a course of the most orthodox instruction. Before she
had been a month in the convent, she knew almost as much as
Nanette, had learnt why people go to church and what they do
there, had studied her catechism, could find her places in her
prayer-book, could repeat Ave Marias and Paternosters, and
tell her beads like every one else. And so Madelon's questions
are answered at last, her perplexities solved, her yearnings
satisfied! She apprehended quickly all that she was taught, so
far as in her lay, and vaguely perceived something still
beyond her powers of apprehension, something that still
confusedly connected itself with the great church, with the
violinist's playing, with the pictures and the music of old
days, and which, for the present, in her new life, found its
clearest expression, not in the nuns' teaching, for, kind and
affectionate as it in truth was, it was marred from the first
to Madelon by the inevitable exclamation of wonder and horror
that she should not know all about it already--not in the
questions and answers in her catechism, nor in the religious
dogmas and formulas which she accepted, but could hardly
appreciate--not in all these, but in the little chapel with its
gaudy altars, and twinkling lights, its services, and music,
and incense. Indeed, apart from all higher considerations, the
pictures, the colouring, the singing, all were the happiest
relief to the child, who, used to perpetual change and
brightness, wearied indescribably of the dull, colourless
life, the uniform dress, the want of all artistic beauty in
the convent. Her greatest reward when she had been good was to
be allowed to join in the singing in the chapel--her greatest
punishment, to be banished from the evening services.

No need, however, to pursue this part of little Madelon's
history further. With the nuns' instruction, and the learning
of her catechism, vanished all that had distinguished her, in
this respect, from other children of her years and station.
She had learnt most of what can be learnt by such teaching,
and for her, as for others, there remained the verifying and
realization of these lessons, according to her capacity and
experience. Only, one may somehow feel sure, that to this
passionate, wilful little nature, religion would hardly
present itself as one simple sublime truth, high, pure, and
serene as the over-arching, all-embracing heaven, through
which the sun shines down on the clashing creeds of men; but
rather as a complex, many-sided problem, too often at variance
with her scheme of life, to be felt after through the medium
of conflicting emotions, to be worked out at last through what
doubts, questionings, with what perplexities, strivings,
yearnings, cries for light--along this in nowise singular path,
no need to follow our little Madelon.

For the rest, she imbibed readily enough at this time many of
the particular views of religious subjects affected by the
nuns, at first, indeed, not without a certain incredulity that
such things could be, when her father had never spoken to her
about them, nor made her aware of their existence; but
presently, with more confidence, as she remembered that he was
to have told her all about them when she was older. There were
the legends and histories of the saints, for instance, in
which Madelon learnt to take special delight, though it way be
feared that she regarded them rather as pretty romantic
stories, illustrated and glorified by her recollections of the
old pictures in Florence, than as the vehicle of religious
instruction that the nuns would willingly have made them. She
used to beg Soeur Lucie to tell them to her again and again,
and the good little nun, delighted to find at least one pious
disposition in her small rebellious charge, was always ready
to comply with her request, and went over the whole list of
saints and their lives, not sparing one miracle or miraculous
virtue we may be sure, and telling them all in her simple,
matter-of-fact language, with details drawn from her daily
life to give a touch of reality, which invested the mystic old
Eastern and Southern legends with a quaint naïve homeliness
not without its own charm--like the same subjects as
interpreted by some of the old Dutch and Flemish masters, in
contrast with the high-wrought, idealised conceptions of the
earlier Italian schools. But it was through the medium of
these last that Madelon saw them all pass before her--St.
Cecilia, St. Catherine, St. Dorothea, St. Agnes, St.
Elizabeth--she knew them all by name. Soeur Lucie almost changed
her opinion of Madelon when she discovered this--for about a
day and a half that is, till the child's next flagrant
delinquency--and Madelon found a host of recollections in
which she might safely indulge, as she chatted to Soeur Lucie
about the pictures, and galleries, and churches of Florence,
not a little pleased when the nun's exclamations and questions
revealed that she herself had never seen but two churches in
her life, that near her old home and the convent chapel.

"Oh, I have seen a great many," Madelon would say, "and
palaces too; I daresay you never saw a palace either? but I
like the churches best because of the chapels, and altars, and
tombs, and pictures. At Florence the churches were so big--oh!
as big as the whole convent--but I think the chapel here very
pretty too; will you let me help you to decorate the altar for
the next fête, if I am good?"

So she chattered on, and these were her happiest hours
perhaps. Sometimes she would be allowed to accompany Soeur
Lucie to the big kitchen, and assist in the grand compote-
making, which seemed to be going on at all seasons of the
year. There, sometimes helping, sometimes perched on her
favourite seat on the corner of the table, Madelon would
forget her sorrows for awhile in the contemplation of the old
farm-kitchen with its rough white-washed walls, decorated with
pots and pans, and shining kettles, its shelves with endless
rows of blue and white crockery, its great black rafters
crossing below the high-pitched ceiling leaving a gloomy
space, full of mystery to Madelon's imagination; and then,
below, the long white wooden table, the piles of fruit, the
busy figures of the nuns as they moved to and fro. Outside in
the courtyard the sun would be shining perhaps, the trees
would wave, and cast flickering shadows on Madelon, as she
sat, the pigeons would come fluttering and perching on the
window-sill, and Soeur Lucie, whilst paring, cutting, boiling,
skimming, would crone out for Madelon's benefit the old tales
she knew so well that she could almost have repeated them in
her sleep. Madelon only begged to be let off the tragical
ending, which she could not bear, at last always stopping her
ears when the critical moment of the sword, or the wheel, or
the fire approached. She took great interest in the history of
Ste. Thérèse, especially in the account of her running away in
her childhood, which seemed to her most worthy of imitation--
only, thinks Madelon, she would have taken care not to have
been caught, and brought back again. The subsequent history of
the saint she found less edifying; nothing that savoured of
conventual life found favour in Madelon's eyes in these days;
and indeed her whole faith in saints and legends was rudely
shaken one day by a broad and somewhat reckless assertion on
the part of Soeur Lucie, that all the female saints had been
nuns--an assertion certainly unsupported by the facts, whether
legendary or ascertained, but which had somehow become a fixed
idea in Soeur Lucie's mind, and was dear to the heart of the
little nun.

"They were not nuns like you, then," says Madelon at last,
after some combating of the point, "for they could go out, and
walk about, and do a great many things you must not do--and if
I were a saint, I would never, never become a nun!"

"But it is the nuns that have become saints," cries Soeur
Lucie, with the happiest conviction; and Madelon, unable to
argue out her own ideas on the subject, contented herself with
repeating, that anyhow they had not all been nuns like Soeur
Lucie, which was indisputable.

These were, as we have said, Madelon's happiest times, and,
indeed, they hardly repaid the child for long days of
weariness and despondency, for hours of heart-sick longing for
she knew not what, of objectless hoping, of that saddest form
of home-sickness, that knows of no home for which to pine. In
all the future there was but one point on which her mind could
rest--Monsieur Horace's promised return, and that was too
vague, too remote to afford her much comfort. And her own
promise to him, has she forgotten that? She would not have
been the Madelon that we know if she had done so, but we need
hardly say that she had not been two days in the convent,
before she instinctively perceived how futile were all those
poor little schemes with which she had been so busy the
evening before she parted with Graham, how impossible it would
be to ask or obtain her aunt's permission for going to Spa on
such an errand. The convent was to all intents and purposes a
prison to our little Madelon, and she could only wait and
cherish her purpose till a happier moment.

She heard twice from Graham in the first few months. He wrote
just before leaving England, and once from the Crimae; but
this last letter elicited an icy response from the Superior,
to the effect generally that her niece being now under her
care, and receiving the education that would fit her for the
life that would be hers for the future, she wished all old
connections and associations to be broken off; in short, that
it would be useless for Graham to write any more letters, as
Madelon would not be allowed to see them. Graham received this
letter at Balaklava, at the end of a long day's work, and
laughed out loud as he read the stiff, formal little epistle,
which, to the young man in the midst of the whirl and bustle
of camps and hospitals, seemed like a voice from another
world; there was something too ludicrous in the notion of a
child of eleven years old being forbidden to receive letters,
because she might possibly be a nun nine or ten years hence.

"As for that, we'll see about it by-and-by, old lady," he said
to himself, "but in the meantime there is no use in writing
letters that are not to be delivered;" and then he thrust
Mademoiselle Linders' letter into his pocket, and thought no
more about it.

So Madelon heard nothing more of Monsieur Horace, though she
often, often thought of him, and wondered what he was doing.
He was very busy, very hard-worked; an army-surgeon had no
sinecure in the Crimea in those days, as we know, and it was
perhaps well for the child, who cared more for him than for
any one else in the world, that she knew nothing of his life
at this time, of wintry battle-fields and hospital tents, of
camps and trenches, where, day and night, he had to fight in
his own battle with sickness, and wounds, and death. No news
from the war came to Madelon's ears, no whisper from all the
din and clamour that were filling Europe, penetrated to this
quiet, out-of-the-world, little world in which her lot was
cast. The mighty thunder of the guns before Sebastopol rolled,
echoing, to the north, and roused sunny cities basking in the
south, and stirred a million hearts in the far islands of the
west; but it died away before the vine-covered gate, the
white-washed walls of the little Belgian convent. There life
stole on at an even pace, little asked of it, yielding little
in return, and amongst that peaceful Sisterhood, one little
restless spirit, ever seeking and feeling after what she could
not find, looking in the faces of all around her, if so be
some one could help her, and, with a child's instinct,
rejecting each in turn.


END OF VOL. I.



MY LITTLE LADY.



_COPYRIGHT EDITION_.



IN TWO VOLUMES.


VOL. II.



LEIPZIG

BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

1871.


_The Right of Translation is reserved_.



PART II.

(continued.)



MY LITTLE LADY.



CHAPTER VII.

Fever.


For more than two uneventful years Madelon remained in the
convent; but early in the third spring after her arrival, a
low fever broke out, which for the time completely disturbed
the peaceful, even current of existence there, and, by its
results, altered, as it happened, the whole course of her own
life.

She was between twelve and thirteen then, and had grown into a
slim little maiden, rather tall for her age, with a little
pale face as in old days, but with her wavy brown hair all
braided now, and fastened in long plaits round her head. In
these two years she has become somewhat reconciled to her
convent life; not, indeed, as a permanent arrangement--it never
occurred to her to regard it in that light--but as something
that must be endured till a new future should open out before
her. She learns her lessons, sings in the chapel, knows
something of compote-making, and can embroider with skilful
little fingers almost after Soeur Lucie's own heart. She still
holds aloof from her companions, turning to Soeur Lucie for
society, though rather with the feeling of the simple-hearted
little nun being _bon camarade_, than with any deeper sentiment
of friendship or respect. She is rarely _en pénitence_ now; the
vehement little spirit seems laid; and if something of her old
spring and energy have gone with it, if she is sometimes sad,
and almost always quiet, there is no one to note it much, or
to heed the change that has apparently come over her. And yet
Madelon was in truth little altered, and was scarcely less of
a child than when Graham had brought her to the convent. She
had learned a variety of things, it is true; she could have
named all the principal cities in Europe now; and though she
still stumbled over the kings of France, her multiplication-
table was unexceptionable; but her education had been one of
acquisition rather than of development. Her mind had not yet
had time to assimilate itself with those around her, nor to
become reconciled to the life that was so at variance with all
her old traditions; and she maintained a nucleus, as it were,
of independent thought, which no mere extraneous influences or
knowledge could affect. In the total silence imposed upon
herself, and those around her, concerning her past life, there
had been no possibility of modifying her ideas on that
subject, and they were still at the same point as when she
entered the convent. She still clung to her father's memory,
with all the passionate love of which her ardent little soul
was capable; she still believed in his perfection, and held to
her recollections of the old days with a strength and tenacity
only enhanced by the contrast which her present life daily
forced upon her. The past lived in her memory as a bright,
changeful dream, varying from one pleasure to another, with an
ever-shifting background of fair, foreign towns and cities,
Kursaals, palaces, salons, gardens, mountains, and lakes, and
quiet green nooks of country--all, as it seemed to her, with
the power of generalization that seizes on the most salient
points, and takes them as types of the whole, shining in
sunlight that never clouded, under clear blue skies that never
darkened. Madelon knew that that time had gone by for ever;
and yet, in all her dreams for the future, her imagination
never went beyond a repetition of it all--only for her father
she, perhaps, substituted Monsieur Horace: for Monsieur
Horace, we may be sure, was not forgotten, any more than her
promise to him; though, indeed, this last had been so long in
abeyance that she had ceased to think of it as likely to be
speedily fulfilled. She had almost come to regard it as one of
the many things referred to that somewhat vague period when
she should be grown up, and when, in some way--how she did not
know--she would be released from the convent and from Aunt
Thérèse, and be at liberty to come and go as she pleased. In
the meantime she had almost given up hoping for Monsieur
Horace's return. The time when she had last seen him and heard
from him already seemed so remote to her childish memory. No
one ever spoke to her about him, and he never wrote to her.
She did not for a moment think he had forgotten her; she had
too much confidence in him for that; but by degrees a notion,
vague at first, but gradually becoming a fixed idea destined
to have results, established itself in foolish little
Madelon's head, that he was waiting till he should hear from
her that his fortune was made before he would come back to
her. Madelon would get quite unhappy when she thought of this--
he must think her so faithless and forgetful, yet how could
she help it? That the promise had made as deep an impression
upon him as upon her she never doubted for a moment; and was
it not most possible, and even probable, that he was expecting
to hear of the result, perhaps even in want of this wonderful
fortune, on which he must be counting? It was a sad thought,
this, to our Madelon, but gradually it became a confirmed one
in her mind.

How long this state of things would have lasted--whether, with
the fading of childish impressions, present abiding influences
might have taken possession of her, whether, some few years
hence, some sudden development of her devotional tendencies
might have roused her latent powers of enthusiasm, and turned
them in a new direction just at the moment when youthful
ardour is most readily kindled, and tender, fervent hearts
most easily touched--whether, in such a case, our little
Madelon, inspired with new beliefs, would have renounced her
old life in the fervour of her acceptance of the new, and,
after all, have taken the nun's vows, and been content to
allow her native energy and earnestness to find scope in the
loftiest aspirations of a convent life--all this can never now
be known. Something there was in her character which, under
certain conditions, might have developed in such a direction.
The time might, indeed, surely would have come, had she
remained in the convent, when a sudden need and hunger for
sympathy, and perhaps excitement, would have risen in her
soul, too keen and imperative to be satisfied with past
memories; and when, in the absence of all support and
friendship in the outer world, she might have seized on
whatever she could find in the narrow circle in which she
moved, to still that imperious craving. Not in vain, then,
might have appeared those old dreams and visions in Florence
long ago. Madelon might have learnt to find in them a new and
deep significance, an interpretation in accordance with her
latest teaching, and through the dim years they might have
come back to her--prophetic warnings, as she might have been
taught to consider them--linking themselves with present
influences, to urge her on to one course. Her father's last
command, her own promises, sacred as she held them now, might
have availed nothing then, against what she might have been
taught to consider a voice from on high, a call of more than
earthly authority.

Such, we say, might have been the turn things would have taken
with Madelon, had the uninterrupted, monotonous convent life
continued to be hers. But long before her mind was prepared
for any such influences, early in the third year after her
father's death, certain events occurred, which brought this
period of her history to an abrupt close.

How, or why the fever broke out--whether it was the result of a
damp, unhealthy winter, or through infection brought by one of
the school-children, or from any other obvious cause, we need
not inquire here. It first showed itself about the middle of
February, and within a fortnight half the nuns had taken it,
the school was broken up, and the whole convent turned into a
hospital for the sick and dying.

Two of the sisters died within the first week or two; one was
very old, so old, indeed, that the fever seemed to be only the
decisive touch needed to extinguish the feeble life, that had
been uncertainly wavering for months previously; the other was
younger, and much beloved. And then came a sense as of some
general great calamity, a sort of awe-struck mourning, with
which real grief had, perhaps, little to do. The Superior
herself had been struck with the fever, and in three days she
was dead. Her vigils, her fastings, the wearying abnegations
of her stern, hard life had left her little strength for
struggling against the disease when it laid hold of her at
last, and so she too died in her cell one cold, bleak March
morning, with a hushed sisterhood gathered round her death-
bed, and gazing on it, as on that of a departing saint. Little
beloved, but much revered, Thérèse Linders also had got that
she had laboured for, and was now gone to prove the worth of
it; that which she had valued most in her narrow world had
been awarded her to the full--much honour, but small affection;
much glorification to her memory as to one of surpassing
sanctity, few tears of tender or regretful recollection. She
had had a strange, loveless life, with a certain pathos in it
too, as in the life of every human being, if looked at aright.
Not always, one may imagine, had such cold, relentless
pietism, such harsh indifference possessed her. She lies there
now, still and silent for evermore on earth, a crucifix
between her hands, tapers burning at her head and feet, with
the hard lines fixed on her cold grey face; and yet she also
had been a little, soft, round child, with yearnings too, like
other children, for a mother's kisses and a mother's love. "Go
away, Adolphe, you are very naughty, and I do not love you;
mamma always kisses you, and she never, never kisses me!" This
little speech, uttered by our poor saintly Superior when she
was but eight years old, may perhaps give the key to much in
her after life; and if we cannot, with an admiring sisterhood,
henceforth count this unhappy, soured woman in our catalogue
of saints, we will at least grant her a place amongst the
great company of "might-have-beens," most inscrutable problems
in this puzzling life of ours, and so bid her a not unkindly
farewell.

Madelon, meanwhile, knew nothing of these things; she had
taken the fever also, and while death was busy in other parts
of the convent, she lay unconscious in her little cell,
tossing in delirium, or lying in feverish stupor, with Soeur
Lucie coming softly in and out. In this desolated overworked
household, the child had come to be considered as only another
item of trouble, hardly of anxiety; for her life or death just
then was felt to be of the very smallest consequence to any
one. The one tie that had bound her to the convent had been
snapped by her aunt's death; if she lives, think the nuns--if
indeed they find time to think of her at all--she is a burthen
on our hands; if she dies, well then, one more coffin and
another grave. This is perhaps the ebb-tide of Madelon's
importance in the world; never before has been, never again
will be, we may trust, her existence of so little moment to
any human being--that existence which, meanwhile, in spite of
all such indifference, in perfect unconsciousness of it
indeed, is beginning to assert itself again. For though the
Superior had died amidst lamentations, and the places of Soeurs
Eulalie and Marguerite will know them no more, our little
Madelon, over whom there are none to lament or rejoice, will
live.

One afternoon she awoke, as from a long sleep. The low sun was
shining into the cell, lighting up the wooden crucifix on the
white-washed wall; Soeur Lucie, in her strait coif and long
black veil, was sitting by the bedside reading her book of
hours; through the window could be seen a strip of blue sky
crossed by some budding tree in the convent garden, little
birds were beginning to chirp and twitter amongst the
branches. The spring had come in these last days whilst
Madelon had been lying there, and in the midst of the glad
resurrection of all nature, she too was stirring and awakening
to consciousness, and a new life.


CHAPTER VIII.

Madelon overhears a Conversation.


Amidst the springing flowers, the twitter of pairing birds,
and the bursting of green leaves through the brown, downy
husks, in the bounteous April weather, Madelon began to
recover rapidly. She was nursed with kindness and care, if not
exactly with tenderness, by Soeur Lucie; but tenderness our
little black sheep had long since learnt not to expect in the
convent, and she hardly missed it now. It was in the first
days of her convalescence that she heard of the death of her
aunt Thérèse, through some chance remark of one of the Sisters
who came into her cell. Had it not been for this, they would
have kept it from her longer; but the news scarcely affected
her at all. Her aunt had shown her no affection in these last
two years that they had lived under the same roof, and, on the
few occasions on which Madelon had come in contact with her,
the pale, cold face, and severe manner of the nun had inspired
her niece with a dread, which only lacked opportunity to
become a more active dislike. She heard the news then with
apathy, and was still too languid and weak to think of the
loss in reference to herself, or to realise that, so far as
she knew, she had now no relation in the world. Nor did such
realization come at once, even when she grew stronger; her
aunt had counted for so little in her present mode of life,
that it did not occur to her that her death might bring any
possible change into it; indeed, as we have said, she had
ceased to look for any immediate change. Monsieur Horace had
brought her to the convent, and Soeur Lucie took care of her
there, and so she supposed matters would go on for the
present.

If, however, the news of her aunt's death affected her but
little, it was quite otherwise with another conversation that
she overheard a few days later, and which, indeed, was not
meant for her ears either. She had awakened one evening from a
long, sound sleep, and was lying quietly in the dusk, dreamily
wondering how soon she should make up her mind to arouse
herself and take the medicine that she knew awaited her as
soon as she should declare herself awake, when Soeur Ursule
entered the room. She had come with some message to Soeur
Lucie, and when it was delivered, stood chatting a few minutes
by the window where Soeur Lucie sat knitting. She was a gaunt,
brisk, elderly woman, who had been governess in a large
school, before an opportune legacy had enabled her to fulfil
her dearest wish and enter the convent, where, with fresh zeal
and energy, she resumed the duties most congenial to her, as
teacher and superintendent of the school. Thoroughly devout
and conscientious, and with a kind heart _au fond_, she
nevertheless brought with her into her new sphere all the
habits and modes of thought acquired during a long struggle
with a very hard, secular world--a practical turn of mind,
verging on hardness, a dictatorial manner, a certain opinion-
activeness, which still showed itself now and then in oddest
contrast with the habitual submission demanded of a nun.

"She looks better this evening," she said now, nodding towards
the bed where Madelon lay with her eyes still closed.

"Yes, yes, she is getting on; I shall have her up to-morrow, I
hope," answered Soeur Lucie, with some natural pride in this
specimen of successful nursing.

"Ah, well--she could have been better spared though, than some
that are gone," answered the other; "but no doubt it is all
for the best. Not but that I am glad that the child is
recovering--still we shall certainly find her a great burthen
on our hands."

"It is true, then," cried Soeur Lucie, "what I heard Soeur Marie
saying--that our sainted mother had bequeathed her to the care
of the convent, and left directions that she is to take the
veil as soon as she is old enough."

"Yes, it is true enough, and, as I was saying, all is no doubt
for the best; otherwise it is really a great charge for us to
have a child of that age on our hands to bring up."

"But that was just my case," replied Soeur Lucie simply. "I
have not been out of the convent for more than six months
since I was ten years old, as you know, Soeur Ursule."

"You, _ma Soeur!_ That was quite a different matter; every one
knows what a marked vocation you had even in your childhood,
and how willingly you devoted your fortune, and resigned all
worldly hopes--whereas this little one has always been the most
tiresome child in the class, and, moreover, will have to live
at the expense of the convent."

"That is true," said Soeur Lucie reflecting; "I never heard
that she had any money, and of course people cannot live for
nothing."

"She has not a sou--you may depend upon it," said Soeur Ursule
emphatically; "she brought nothing with her when she came."

"Nothing!" cried Soeur Lucie.

"Or so little, that it must all be gone by this time. I really
do not see how it can be arranged--Soeurs Marie and Catherine
settled it with our late sainted Superior, and I think even
they are beginning to repent a little, for they were talking
only this morning of all the expense we have had lately."

"Poor child," murmured Soeur Lucie, who had no unkindly
feelings towards her little charge, "there is surely enough
for one more."

"That is all very well, _ma Soeur_, but an extra person is an
extra person, as we all know. We might keep the child for a
time out of charity, but when there is a question of her
taking the vows, and living here always, it is another matter
altogether. It has not been the custom in our house to receive
sisters without _dots_, and it will never do--never; but of
course our sainted mother knew best, and my opinion was not
asked, though it might have been as well worth having as that
of some others."

"Poor child," said good little Soeur Lucie again, looking
towards the bed; "and she has improved very much lately, don't
you think so, _ma Soeur?_"

"Oh, yes, she has improved, no doubt; it would be astonishing
if she had not, after being here more than two years; but that
is not the question. However, I must be going," she added, "I
have a hundred things to do before vespers. And the border for
that altar-cloth will be ready by the end of the month, you
think?"

"I hope so," answered Soeur Lucie. "Madelon shall help me as
soon as she is strong enough again; she can embroider quite
nicely now."

"So much the better; she will have to do plenty by-and-by, and
make herself useful if she is to stay here."

Soeur Ursule left the room as she spoke, and Soeur Lucie, with
her knitting in her lap, sat meditating in the darkness.
Presently a restless movement in the bed roused her. "Are you
awake, Madelon?" she said softly.

No answer, only another toss, and a sort of long sigh. Soeur
Lucie rose, lighted a candle, measured out some medicine, and
then with the glass in one hand, and the light in the other,
she came to the bedside. Madelon was lying with her back
towards her, her arms flung over her head, her face buried in
the pillow. She did not move, and Soeur Lucie touched her
gently.

"It is time to take your medicine, mon enfant," she said.

Madelon turned round then, and taking the glass, drank off the
contents without a word; as she gave it back to the nun,
something in her face or expression, fairly startled the
little sister.

"Why, whatever is the matter, _mon enfant?_" she cried, "you
must have been dreaming, I think."

"No, I have not been dreaming," answered Madelon; and then, as
the nun turned away to put the glass and candle on the table,
she caught hold of her gown with all the strength of which her
feeble fingers were capable.

"Don't go, please don't go, Soeur Lucie," she said, "I want to
speak to you."

"In a moment; I am not going," answered the sister. "Well,
what is it, _ma petite?_" she added, coming back to the bedside.

"What--what was it Soeur Ursule was saying to you just now?"
asks Madelon.

"Just now!" cried Soeur Lucie, taken aback; "why, I thought you
were asleep."

"No, I was not asleep," Madelon answered, "I only had my eyes
shut."

"But that is very naughty, _mon enfant_, to pretend to be asleep
when you are awake."

"I didn't pretend," said Madelon aggrieved, "only I hadn't
opened my eyes, and I could not help hearing what you said."

"Ah well, if you heard, there is no use in my telling you,"
says Soeur Lucie, who was not at all above using that
imperfect, but irrefragable, logic familiar to us from our
nurseries; "so you had better go to sleep again, for I cannot
stop here any longer. Let me smoothe your pillow."

"No," said Madelon, escaping from her hands with an impatient
toss. "Ah, don't go away yet," she added piteously. "Was it
true what Soeur Ursule said about me?"

"About you, _mon enfant?_"

"Yes, about me--that I was to become a nun."

"Ah!" said Soeur Lucie, with the air of being suddenly
enlightened, "yes--yes, I suppose so, since she said it. Now I
must go, and do you go to sleep."

"No, no," cried Madelon, raising herself in the bed and
stretching out both arms after Soeur Lucie's retreating figure.
"Ah, Soeur Lucie, don't leave me. I can't be a nun; don't let
them make me a nun!"

There was something so pitiful and beseeching in her accent,
something so frail-looking in the little, white, imploring
hands, that Soeur Lucie's heart was touched. She came back
again.

"_Ecoute_, Madelon," she said, "you will be ill again to-morrow
if you talk so much; lie down now, and tell me what it is you
want. No one is going to make you a nun now, you know."

"No, not now, but by-and-by. Is it true that Aunt Thérèse said
I was to be made one?"

"Yes, that is true enough, I believe; but there is nothing to
be unhappy about in that," answered Soeur Lucie, who naturally
looked at things from a different point of view than
Madelon's. "There are many girls who would be glad of such a
chance; for you see, _mon enfant_, it is only because nothing
could be refused to our late sainted Superior, that it has
been arranged at all."

"Soeur Ursule said I should be a burthen," answered Madelon. "I
don't want to be a burthen; I only want to go away. Ah! why do
you keep me? I am miserable here; I always have been, and I
always shall be--always."

"But that is foolish," replied Soeur Lucie, "for you will be
very happy--far happier than you could ever be out in the
world, _ma petite;_ it is full of snares, and temptations, and
wickedness, that never can come near us here. Look at me; I
was no older than you when I first came here, and never has
girl been happier, I believe. No, no, Madelon," she went on,
with a good-natured wish to make things pleasant, "you will
stay with us, and be our child, and we will take care of you."

"I don't want you to take care of me!" cries Madelon, the
burning tears starting painfully to her eyes. "I hate
convents, and I hate nuns, and it is wicked and cruel to keep
me here!"

"Am I cruel and wicked? Do you hate me?" said Soeur Lucie,
rather aggrieved in her turn.

"No, no," cried Madelon, with compunction, and throwing her
arms round Soeur Lucie's neck; "you are very kind, Soeur Lucie,
and you won't let them make me a nun, will you? You will tell
them all that I should be miserable--ah! I should die, I know I
should!"

"Well, well, we will not talk about it any more to-night. As
for me, I have nothing to do with it--nothing; but I cannot
have you make yourself ill with chattering; so now let me put
your pillow straight, and then you must go to sleep as fast as
you can."

With a final shake of the pillow and arrangement of the bed-
clothes, Soeur Lucie went away, leaving Madelon, not to sleep,
but to lie broad awake, framing the most dismal little
pictures of the future. And was this to be the end of it all,
then?--the end of her vague dreams, her undefined hopes, which,
leaping over a dim space of intervening years, had rested on a
future of indefinite brightness lying somewhere outside these
convent walls? Ah, was all indeed at an end? Never to pass
these dull walls again, never to see anything but these dreary
rooms,--all her life to be one unvarying, relentless routine,
day after day, year after year--to be forced to teach stupid
children, like Soeur Ursule, or to make jam and embroider
alter-cloths, like Soeur Lucie, to say such long prayers, and
to wear such ugly dresses, thinks poor Madelon, with a queer
jumble of the duties and obligations of a nun's life. Ah! what
would be the use of getting well and strong again, if that
were all that life had in store for her? "Why did I not die?"
thinks the poor child, tossing restlessly from side to side.
"I wish I was dead! Ah! why did I not die? I wish I had never
been born!" To her, as to all inexperienced minds, life
appeared as a series of arbitrary events, rather than as a
chain of dependent circumstances ceaselessly modifying each
other, and she could not conceive the possibility of any
gradual change of position being brought about in the slow
course of years. The long succession of grey, weary days,
which she had lately taught herself to consider as a path that
must be traversed, but which would still lead ultimately to a
future of most supreme happiness, suddenly seemed to terminate
in a grave black as death itself, from which there could be no
escape. "If papa were here," thinks Madelon, "he would never
allow it; he would never leave me in this horrible place, he
would take me away. Oh! papa, papa, why did you die?" And
burying her face in the pillow, she began to sob and cry in
her weakness and despair.

But this last thought of her father had suggested a new set of
ideas and memories to Madelon, and by-and-by she stopped
crying, and began to think again, confusedly at first, but
presently with a more definite purpose gradually forming
itself in the darkness of her bewildered thoughts. Has she not
promised her father never to become a nun? Perhaps he had
thought of something like this happening, and that was why he
had made her promise, and of course she must keep her word.
But how is she to do that? wonders Madelon. If Monsieur Horace
were here, indeed, he might help her. Ah, if Monsieur Horace
was but here! Should she write to him, and tell him how
unhappy she was, and ask him to come and take her away? He had
given her his English address, and told her to be sure and let
him know, if she were in any trouble, or wanted any help. "But
then," thinks our foolish little Madelon, with the most
quixotic notions busy in her tired little brain, "I have not
done what I said I would, and he will think, perhaps, I want
to break my word." Alas, must that grand surprise that was to
have been prepared for him, all those fine schemes, and plans,
and projects, must they all fall to the ground? Was she never,
never to show him how much she loved him? And yet, if they
made her a nun, how could she do it all? He would never have
his fortune made then, though she had promised to do it, and
he would think she had forgotten him, and cared nothing about
him. So wearily did Madelon's mind revolve, dwelling most of
all on that promise made so long ago; and as she realized the
possibility of her never being able to fulfil it at all, she
became possessed with a feverish desire to get up that very
moment and set about it. If--if--ah, supposing she were to run
away--Aunt Thérèse is not here now, and she would not be afraid
of the other nuns finding her, she would hide herself too well
for that--supposing she were to run away, go to Spa, make the
fortune, and then write to Monsieur Horace? Would not that be
an idea?

When Soeur Lucie came in an hour later, to look after Madelon,
she found her fast asleep; the traces of tears were still on
her cheeks, and the pillow and bedclothes were all disarranged
and tossed about again, but she was lying quite quietly now.
Soeur Lucie stood for a moment, looking down upon the child's
white face, that had grown so small and thin. Her hair had
been all cut off during her illness, and curled in soft brown
rings all over her head, as when she was a little child, and
indeed there was something most childlike in the peaceful
little face, which had a look of repose that it seldom wore
when the wistful brown eyes were open, with their expression
of always longing and seeking for something beyond their ken.
Somehow Soeur Lucie was touched with a sudden feeling of
unwonted tenderness for her little charge. "_Pauvre petite_,"
she murmured, gently raising one hand that hung over the side
of the bed, and smoothing back a stray lock of hair. Madelon
opened her eyes for a moment; "Monsieur Horace," she said, "I
have not forgotten, I--I will----" and then she turned away and
fell sound asleep again.


CHAPTER IX.

The Red Silk Purse.


It was about three weeks later, that Madelon was sitting one
evening at her bed-room window; it was open, and the breeze
blew in pleasantly, bringing with it the faint scent of early
roses and lingering violets. In the garden below, lengthening
shadows fell across the cherished centre square of grass, the
trees were all golden-green in the western sunlight; black-
veiled Sisters were walking about breaking the stillness with
their voices and laughter; along the convent wall the vines
were shooting and spreading their long tender sprays, and on
the opposite side a great westeria was shedding showers of
lilac blossoms with every breath of wind amongst the shrubs
and evergreens below.

Madelon, sitting forward on her chair, her chin propped on her
hands, her embroidery lying in her lap, saw and heeded none of
these things; her eyes were fixed dreamily on the sky, but her
thoughts were by no means dreamy, very intent rather upon one
idea which she was endeavouring to rescue from the region of
dreams and vagueness, and set before her with a distinctness
that should ensure a practical result. This idea, which indeed
was no new one, but simply that of running away from the
convent, which had first occurred to her three weeks before,
had presented itself with more assurance to her mind during
every day of her convalescence; and now that she was nearly
well again, it was fast becoming an unalterable resolution.
There were difficulties in the way--she was considering them
now--but she knew she should be able to overcome them; we say
advisedly; she _knew_ it, for the child already recognized in
herself an unwavering strength of mind and purpose, which
assured her that no foreseen obstacles could stand between her
and any fixed end that she proposed to herself; as for
unforeseen ones--our small-experienced Madelon did not take
them into account at all.

It was not that she was a prodigy compounded of nothing but
firmness, and resolution, and obstinacy, this little slender
girl, who sat there in the evening sunlight, puzzling out her
plan; there were plenty of weak points in her character, which
would perhaps make themselves sufficiently apparent in years
to come. But these at least she possessed--a persistency of
purpose in whatever she undertook, on which she could
confidently rely, and a certain courage and independence that
promised to carry her successfully through all difficulties;
and these things are, I think, as the charmed cakes that the
Princess carried to the enchanted castle, and wherewith she
tamed the great lions that tried to oppose her entrance.
Madelon sees before her a very fair enchanted castle, lying
outside these convent walls--even something like a Prince to
rescue--and she will not fail to provide herself with such
charms as lie within her reach, to appease any possible
menagerie that may be lying between her and it.

She had already sketched out a little scheme whereby she might
redeem the two promises which, lying latent in her mind for
these two years past, had suddenly sprung into such abnormal
activity, and, in the limited circle of her small past,
present and future, monopolized at once her memories, and
energies, and hopes. She must get out of the convent--that was
evidently the first thing to be done; and this safely
accomplished, the path of action seemed tolerably clear. She
would make her way to Spa, which, as she well knew, was not
far off, and go to an hotel there, which her father had
frequented a good deal, and where there was a good-natured
landlady, who had always petted and made much of the little
lonely child, once at Spa-- but here Madelon's plans assumed a
bright and dazzling aspect, which, undimmed by any prophetic
mist, unshaded by any foreboding cloud, almost deprived them
of that distinctness so requisite for their calm and impartial
consideration. All the difficulties seemed to lie on the road
between the convent and the Redoute at Spa; once there, there
could be no doubt but that this fortune, which she was pledged
in her poor little foolish idea to obtain, would be made in no
time at all. She could perfectly figure to herself the piles
of notes and gold that would flow in upon her; and how she
would then write to Monsieur Horace at the address he had
given her; and then Madelon had in her own mind a distinct
little picture of herself, pouring out a bag of gold at
Monsieur Horace's feet, with a little discourse, which there
was still time enough to compose!

But it could not be denied that there were two formidable
obstacles standing between her and this so brilliant
consummation; first, that she was not yet out of the convent,
and that there was no perfectly obvious means of getting out;
secondly, that she had no money. The former of these
objections did not, however, appear absolutely insurmountable.
Just beneath her window the wall was covered with a tangle of
vines, and jessamine, and climbing roses; to a slim active
child, with an unalterable purpose, the descent of even twenty
feet of wall with so much friendly assistance might have
seemed not unfeasible; but, in fact, Madelon's window was
raised hardly ten feet above the flower-bed below. Once in the
garden, there was, as in most old garden walls, a corner where
certain displaced bricks would afford a sufficient footing,
aided by the wide-spreading branches of the great westeria,
and the tough shoots of clinging ivy. The wall was not high;
what might be its aspect on the other side she was not
certain, though she had an unpleasant haunting memory of a
smooth, white-washed surface; but once on the top, it would be
hard indeed if she could not get down; and then, as she knew,
there was only a field to be crossed, and she would find
herself in the highroad leading from Liége to Chaudfontaine,
and so through Pepinster to Spa. No, getting out of the
convent was not the difficulty. It would be easier, certainly,
if one could walk out at the front door; but this being a
possibility not to be calculated upon, two walls should not
stand in the way. The real problem, of which even Madelon's
sanguine mind saw no present solution, was how to get on
without money, or rather how to procure any. She had none, not
even a centime, and she was well aware that her fortune could
in no wise be procured without some small invested capital:
and besides, how was she to get to Spa at all without money?
Could she walk there? Her ideas of the actual distance were
too vague for her to make such a plan with any certainty; and
besides, the chances of her discovery and capture by the nuns
(chances too horribly unpleasing, and involving too many
unknown consequences for Madelon to contemplate them with
anything but a shudder), would be multiplied indefinitely by
so slow a method of proceeding. Certainly this question of
money was a serious one, and it was this that Madelon was
revolving, as she sat gazing at the golden sunset sky, when
she was startled by a sudden rumbling and tumbling in the
corridor; in another moment the door was burst open, and Soeur
Lucie and another sister appeared, dragging between them a
corded trunk, of the most secular appearance, which had
apparently seen many places, for it was pasted all over with
half-effaced addresses and illustrated hotel advertisements.

Madelon gave a little cry and sprang forward; she knew the box
well, and had brought it with her to Liége, but had never seen
it since then till to-day. It was like a little bit of her
former life suddenly revived, and rescued from the past years
with which so much was buried.

"This is yours apparently, Madeleine," said Soeur Lucie, her
broad, good-humoured face illumined with a smile at the
child's eagerness; "the sight of it has done you good, I
think; it is long since you have looked so gay."

"Yes, it is mine," cried Madelon; "where had it been all this
time, Soeur Lucie?"

"Soeur Marie and I were clearing out a room downstairs, and we
found it pushed away in a corner, so we thought we had better
bring it up for you to see what was in it."

"I know," said Madelon, "it was a trunk of mamma's; there are
some things of hers put away in it, I think. I never saw them,
for we did not take it about with us everywhere; but I brought
it with me from Paris, and I suppose Aunt Thérèse put it
away."

"Our sainted Superior doubtless knew best," said Soeur Lucie,
with a ready faith, which was capable, however, of adjusting
itself to meet altered circumstances, "but we are clearing out
that room below, which we think of turning into another store-
room; we have not half space enough for our confitures as it
is, and another large order has arrived to-day. And so,
Madeleine, we had better see of there is anything in the box
you wish to keep, and then it can be sent away. We shall
perhaps find some clothes that can be altered for you."

"Yes," said Madelon, on whom, in spite of her new schemes and
resolutions, that little sentence about sending the box away
had a chilling effect; it was like cutting off another link
between her and the world. Soeur Lucie went down on her knees
and began to uncord the trunk.

"Here is the key tied to it," she said; "now we shall see."

She raised the lid as she spoke, but at that moment a bell
began to ring.

"That is for vespers," she cried, "we must go; Madeleine, in a
few days you will be able to come to the chapel again; to-
night you can stay and take out these things. Ah, just as I
thought--there are clothes," she added, taking a hurried peep,
and then followed Soeur Marie out of the room.

Madelon approached the box with a certain awe mixed with her
curiosity. It was quite true that she had never seen what it
contained; she only knew that it had been her mother's, and
that various articles belonging to her had been put away in it
after her death. It had never been opened since, to her
knowledge; her father had once told her that she might have
the contents one day when she was a big girl, but that was all
she knew about it.

Madelon had no very keen emotion respecting the mother she had
never known; her father had spoken of her so seldom, and
everything in connection with her had so completely dropped
out of sight, that there had been no scope for the
imaginative, shadowy adoration with which children who have
early lost their mother are wont to regard her memory; her
father had been everything to her, and of her mother's brother
she had none but unpleasant recollections. But now, for the
first time, she was brought face to face with something that
had actually been her mother's, and it was with a sort of
instinctive reverence that she went up to the box and took out
one thing after another. There was some faint scent pervading
them all, which ever afterwards associated itself in Madelon's
mind with that hour in the narrow room and gathering twilight.

There was nothing apparently of the smallest value in the
trunk. Any trinkets that Madame Linders might once have
possessed had been parted with long before her death; and
anything else that seemed likely to produce money had been
sold afterwards. Here were nothing but linen clothes, which,
as Soeur Lucie had hinted, might be made available for Madelon;
a shawl, and a cloak of an old-fashioned pattern, a few worn
English books, with the name "Magdalen Moore" written on the
fly-leaf, at which Madelon looked curiously; a half-empty
workbox, and two or three gowns. Amongst these was a well-worn
black silk, lying almost at the bottom of the trunk; and
Madelon, taking it out, unfolded it with some satisfaction at
the thought of seeing it transformed into a garment for
herself. As she did so, she perceived that some things had
been left in the pocket. It had probably been the last gown
worn by Madame Linders, and after her death, in the hurry and
confusion that had attended the packing away of her things,
under Monsieur Linders' superintendence, it had been put away
with the rest without examination.

A cambric handkerchief was the first thing Madelon pulled out,
and, as she did so, a folded paper fluttered on to the ground.
She picked it up, and took it to the window to examine it. It
was the fragment of a half-burned letter, a half sheet of
foreign paper closely written in a small, clear hand; but only
a fragment, for there was neither beginning nor ending. It was
in English, but Madelon remembered enough of the language to
make out the meaning, and this was what she read in the fading
light.

It began abruptly thus:--

"... cannot come to me, and that I must not come to you, that it
would do no good, and that M. Linders would not like it. Well,
I must admit, I suppose, but if you could imagine, Magdalen,
how I long to see your face, to hear your voice again! It is
hard to be parted for so long, and I weary, oh, how I weary
for you sometimes. To think that you are unhappy, and that I
cannot comfort you; that you also sometimes wish for me, and
that I cannot come to you--all this seems at times very hard to
bear. I think sometimes that to die for those we love would be
too easy a thing; to suffer for them and with them--would not
that be better? And I do suffer with you in my heart--do you
not believe it? But of what good is it? it cannot remove one
pang or lighten your burthen for a single moment. This is
folly, you will say; well, perhaps it is; you know I like to
be sentimental sometimes, and I am in just such a mood to-
night. Is it folly too to say, that after all the years since
we parted, I still miss you? and yet so it is. Sometimes
sitting by the fire of an evening, or looking out at the
twilight garden, I seem to hear a voice and a step, and half
expect to see my pretty Maud--you tell me you are altered, but
I cannot realize it, and yet, of course, you must be; we are
both growing old women now--we two girls will never meet again.
Don't laugh at me if I tell you a dream I had last night; I
dreamt that..." Below these words the page had been destroyed,
but there was more written on the other side, and Madelon read
on:

"... no doubt tired of all this about my love and regrets and
sympathy, and you have heard it all before, have you not? Only
believe it, Magdalen, for it comes from my heart. I think
sometimes from your letters that you doubt it, that you doubt
me; never do that--trust me when I say that my love for you is
a part of myself, that can only end with life and
consciousness. Well, let us talk of something else. I am so
glad to hear that your baby thrives; it was good of you to
wish to give it my name, but your husband was quite right in
saying it should be called Madeleine after you, and I shall
love it all the better. I already feel as if I had a
possession in it, and if big Maud will not come to me, why
then I shall have to put up with little Maud, and insist on
her coming to pay me a visit some day. But you must come too,
Magdalen; your room is all ready for you, it has been prepared
ever since I came into this house, and if I could see your
baby in the little empty bed in my nursery I think it would
take away some of the heartache that looking at it gives me. I
am writing a dismal letter instead of a cheery one, such as I
ought to send you in your solitude; but the rain it is
raining, and the wind it is blowing, and when all looks so
gray and forlorn outside, one is apt to be haunted by the
sound of small feet and chattering voices; you also, do you
not know what that is? I am alone too, to-day, for Hor..."

Here the sentence broke off abruptly; the edges of the paper
were all charred and brown; one could fancy that the letter
had been condemned to the flames, and then that this page had
been rescued, as if the possessor could not bear to part with
all the loving words.

It was like a sigh from the past. Still holding the paper in
her hand, Madelon leant her head against the window-frame and
looked out. The sun had set, the trees were blowing about,
black against the clear pale yellow of the evening sky,
overhead stars were shining faintly here and there, the wind
was sighing and scattering the faint-scented petals of the
over-blown roses. Half unconsciously, Madelon felt that the
scene, the hour, were in harmony with the pathos of the brown,
faded words, like a chord struck in unison with the key-note
of a mournful song. As she gazed, the tears began to gather in
her eyes; she tried to read the letter again, and the big
drops fell on the paper, already stained with other tears that
had been dried ever so many years ago. But it was already too
dark, she could hardly see the words; she laid the paper down
and began to cry.

It was not the first part of the letter that moved her so
much, though there was something in her that responded to the
devoted, loving words; but she had not the key to their
meaning. She knew nothing of her mother's life, nor of her
causes for unhappiness; and for the moment she did not draw
the inferences that to an older and more experienced person
would have been at once obvious. It was the allusion to
herself that was making Madelon cry with a tender little self-
pity. The child was so weary of the convent, was feeling so
friendless and so homeless just then, that this mention of the
little empty bed that sometime and somewhere had been prepared
and waiting to receive her, awoke in her quite a new longing,
such as she had never had before, for a home and a mother, and
kind protection and care, like other children. When at last
she folded the letter up, it was to put it carefully away in
the little box that contained her few treasures. It belonged
to a life in which she somehow felt she had some part, though
it lay below the horizon of her own memories and
consciousness.

Only then, as Madelon prepared to put back the things that she
had taken out of the trunk, did it occur to her to look if
anything else remained in the pocket of the black silk gown.
There was not much--only a half-used pencil, a small key, and a
faded red silk netted purse. There was money in this last--at
one end a few sous and about six francs in silver, at the
other twenty francs in gold.


CHAPTER X.

Out of the Convent.


"I think you might very well come down to vespers to-night,
_mon enfant_," said Soeur Lucie one evening about a week later.

"To-night!" said Madelon, starting.

"Yes; why not? You are quite well and strong enough now, and
we must set to work again. I think you have been idle long
enough, and we can't begin better than by your coming to
chapel this evening."

Madelon was silent and dismayed. Ever since she had found the
money her project of flight had become a question of time
only, and it was precisely this hour of vespers she had fixed
on as the only one possible for her escape: the nuns would all
be in the chapel, and, once outside the convent, the
increasing darkness would favour her.

"Ah, not to-night, Soeur Lucie, please," she said, in a
faltering voice; "I--I am tired--I have been in the garden all
the afternoon;--that is, I am not tired; but I don't want to
come down to-night."

"Well, I will let you off this one evening," said Soeur Lucie,
good-naturedly; "though you used to be fond of coming to
vespers, and certainly I don't think you can be very tired
with sitting in the garden. However, we must begin work
regularly to-morrow; so you had better go to bed at once, and
get well rested. Good night, _ma petite_."

"Good-night," said Madelon; and then, as Soeur Lucie turned to
leave the room, she felt a sudden pang of self-reproach. She
was deceiving the good-humoured, simple little sister, who had
been kind to her after her own fashion; and she was going
away, and would never see her any more. She thought she would
like to have one more kind word from her, as she could not
wish her good-bye.

"Do you love me, Soeur Lucie?" she said, flinging her arms
round her neck.

"To be sure, _mon enfant_," answers Soeur Lucie, with some
astonishment; then, hastening to add the qualifying clause by
which so many worthy people take care to proclaim that their
love is human, and not divine, "that is, when you are good,
you know, and do what you are told."

"Ah," said Madeleine, relaxing her hold, "then if I were to do
something you thought very naughty, you would not love me any
more?"

"Indeed, I don't know. You are not going to be naughty, I
hope?" answered the nun; "but I can't wait any longer now.
Make haste, and go to bed quietly."

She hurried out of the room as she spoke. Madelon listened
till the sound of her footsteps died away; and then, without a
moment's further pause or hesitation, began pulling together a
few things into a small bundle. She had no time to waste in
vain regrets: what she had to do must be done quickly, or not
at all. A dozen windows overlooked the garden, and presently
the nuns would be returning to their cells, and her chances
would be over. Even now it was possible that one or another
might have been detained from the chapel, but that she must
risk; better that, she thought, than to wait till later, when
a prolonged vigil or a wakeful sister might be the cause of
frustrating all her hopes and plans. She had no fear of her
flight being discovered before the morning. Since her illness
she had always gone to bed early, and Soeur Lucie never did
anything more than put her head in at the door, on her way to
her own room, which was in a different part of the building,
to see that all was dark and quiet; and if Madelon did not
speak, would go away at once, satisfied that she was asleep.

The chapel bell was still ringing as she went swiftly about
her few preparations, but it had ceased by the time the small
bundle was made up, and Madelon, in her hat and cloak, stood
ready to depart. She had laid all her plans in her own mind,
and knew exactly what she meant to do. She had decided that
she would walk to Chaudfontaine; she knew that she had only to
follow the highroad to get there, and the distance she thought
could not be very great, for she remembered having once walked
it with her father years ago. To be sure she had been very
tired, but she had been only a little girl then, and could do
much better now; and it appeared to her this would be simpler
and better than going into Liége to find the railway-station,
of whose situation she had no very distinct idea, and where
she might have to wait all night for a train, thus doubling
her chances of detection. She would rather walk the five or
six miles to Chaudfontaine during the night, and take the
first morning train to Pepinster and Spa; once there, there
could of course be no further difficulties.

She stood at the window now, ready to take the first step. She
had on the old black silk gown, in which Soeur Lucie's skilful
fingers had already made the necessary alterations, a black
cloth cloak, and a little round hat and veil. She had grown a
good deal during her illness, and the idea of height was aided
by the straight black skirt, which, reaching to her ankles,
gave her a quaint, old-fashioned air. She had her bundle on
her arm, but there was still a moment of irresolution, as she
looked for the last time round the little whitewashed room. It
appeared to her that she was going to do something so
dreadfully naughty. Our Madelon had not lived so long in a
convent atmosphere, without imbibing some of the convent ideas
and opinions, and she was aware that in the eyes of the nuns
there were few offences so heinous as that which she was going
to commit. "But I am not a nun yet," thinks the poor child,
clasping and unclasping her hands in her perplexity, and
struggling with the conscience-stricken sense of naughtiness,
which threatened at this last moment to overpower all her
foregone conclusions, and disconcert her in spite of herself--
"I am not a nun yet, so it cannot be so very wrong in me; and
then there is Monsieur Horace----" and with the thought of him
all Madelon's courage returned. The rush of associations
linking his name with a hundred aspirations, hopes, plans,
which had become a habit of mind with her, revived in full
force, and with these came a sudden realization of the
imminent nature of the present opportunity, which, if lost,
might never return.

The next moment she had dropped her bundle on the flower-bed
below, and was scrambling out of the low window, clinging to
the window-sill, catching hold of tough stems and pliant
branches, crashing down through twigs, and leaves, and
flowers, on to the ground beneath. Could these convent-trained
vines and roses have known what daring little culprit was
amongst them, would they have cried aloud for aid, I wonder,
stretching out thorny sprays, and twining tendrils, to catch
and detain her prisoner?--or would they not rather, in their
sweet liberty of air, and dew, and sunshine, have done their
best to help forward this poor little captive in her flight,
aiding her in her descent, and shielding her from all prying
eyes with their leafy branches, their interlacing sprays of
red buds, and soft, faint flowers?

But they paid no heed one way or the other, and Madelon, with
not a few scratches on her hands, and more that one rent in
her frock, was safely on the ground. It was all the work of a
moment; in another she had caught up her bundle, and was
darting over the lawn, across the twilit garden, as if the
whole sisterhood were in pursuit. Hardly knowing how she did
it, she clambered up the wall, through the big westeria,
reached the top, and slipping, sliding, found herself in the
pathway running round the outside, scratched, bruised, and
breathless, but without the walls, and so far free, at any
rate. Months afterwards she found some withered lilac-blossoms
lodged amongst the ribbons of her hat; how they recalled to
her the moment of that desperate rush and clamber, the faint,
dewy scent of the flowers, which she noticed even then, the
rustle and crash of the branches, which startled her as with
the sound of pursuing footsteps.

Once outside, she paused for a moment to take breath, and be
certain that no one was following her. All was quiet, and in
the stillness she could hear, as once before, the voices of
the nuns singing in the chapel. Picking up her bundle again,
she walked quickly away, along the little weed-grown path at
the back of the building, down the slope of the ploughed
field, up which she had come with Horace Graham two years and
a half ago. In thinking over her journey beforehand, she had
decided that it would be unwise to be walking along the
highroad whilst there was still any daylight left, and that
she would hide herself somewhere till it should be quite dark,
before setting out on her walk to Chaudfontaine. So, as soon
as she had reached the bottom of the unsheltered slope, she
looked about for a place of refuge. She found it in a clump of
trees and bushes growing by the roadside; and creeping in
amongst them, our Madelon's slim little figure was very well
concealed amongst the shadows from any passer-by. Eight
o'clock had struck as she left the convent. "I will wait till
nine," she resolved. "An hour will not be very long, and it
will be quite dark by that time." And so she did wait, with
the most determined impatient patience, through an hour that
seemed as if it would never end, whilst the darkness fell, and
passing footsteps became more and more rare. At last she heard
the shrill-toned convent clock strike nine, and coming out of
her place of concealment, she began her journey in earnest.

It was a dark, still, cloudy night. Above was the black mass
of the convent dimly defined against the sullen sky; she took
one glance at it before she bade it farewell; all was silent,
not a light shone from its windows, not a tree waved above the
surrounding walls. Behind her hung the great cloud of smoke
that ever darkens over the city of Liége. Here and there a
sudden glare illuminated the gloom of the surrounding hills;
it came from the furnaces of the great iron-foundries; before
her stretched the dusky road, between hedges and trees and
scattered houses, soon lost in the obscurity beyond. Not a
footstep could be heard, not a leaf rustled as Madelon and her
bundle emerged from their hiding-place; but the child felt no
alarm at the silence and solitude--the darkness and loneliness
of the road could not frighten her. Indeed she was naturally
of so courageous a temperament, and just then, through joy and
hope, of so brave a spirit, that it would have been only a
very real and present danger that could have alarmed her, and
she did not even dream if imaginary ones. She almost danced as
she went along, she felt so free and happy. "How glad I am to
have quitted the convent," she thought to herself; "how _triste_
it was, how dismal! How can people exist who always, always
live there? They do not live, I think, they seem half dead
already. Aunt Thérèse, how mournful and cold she always
looked; she never smiled, she hardly ever spoke; she was not
alive as other people are. Soeur Lucie told me that she would
be a glorious saint in Heaven, and ten thousand times more
happy than if she had not lived in the convent; how does Soeur
Lucie know, I wonder? If so, she must have been glad to die--it
was, perhaps, for that, that she made herself so miserable,
that she might not dread death when it came; but that seems to
me a very foolish way of spending one's life. And if to be
like Aunt Thérèse was to be a saint, I am sure all the nuns
were not so. How they used to chatter and quarrel sometimes;
Soeur Marie would hardly speak to Soeur Lucie for a week, I
remember, because she said Soeur Lucie had made Aunt Thérèse
give her the best piece of embroidery to do, after it had been
promised to her. I do not believe that; I love Soeur Lucie, she
was always kind to me, and never quarrelled with any one. Oh!
even if I had not made that promise to papa, I could never,
never, have been a nun; I have done well in running away."

She walked on for a long time, her thoughts running on the
scenes she had left behind, on the last two years of her life;
she had no remorse now, no regrets at their having come to an
end. To our lively, independent, excitable Madelon, they had,
as we know, been years of restraint, of penance, of utter
weariness; and never, perhaps, had she felt them to be so more
keenly than in these first moments of her release. But she
would have found them harder still without the memory of
Monsieur Horace, and her promise to him, to fill her heart and
imagination, and her thoughts reverted to him now; how, when
she had made his fortune, she would take it all to him; how he
would look, what he would say. This was a little picture the
child was never weary of imagining to herself. She filled it
in with a hundred different backgrounds, to suit the fancy of
the moment; she tinted it with the brightest colours. Out in
the vague future, into which no one can venture to look
without some point on which to rest the mind, this little
scene had gradually become at once the end of her present
hopes, the beginning of another life, of which, indeed, she
knew nothing, but that it lay in a sort of luminous haze of
success and happiness. She never doubted she would attain it;
it was not an affair of the imagination only, it was to be a
most certain reality; she had arranged it all in those long
weeks gone by, and now that the beginning was actually made,
she was ready to look at it from the most practical point of
view. Taking out her little purse, she began to count her
money for at least the fiftieth time, as she walked along in
the darkness.

"I have here twenty-six francs," she said to herself; "out of
these, I must pay my journey to Spa. Why should I not go to
Spa on foot? It cannot be a very long way; I remember that
papa sometimes went backwards and forwards twice in the day
from Chaudfontaine. I have already come a great way, and I am
not in the lest fatigued. If I could do that, I should save a
great deal of money--not that I am afraid I shall not have
plenty without that; ten francs would be sufficient, but it
will be perhaps safer if I can keep fifteen. Let me see; I
must pay for my room at Spa. I wonder whether Madame Bertrand
is still the landlady at the Hôtel de Madrid. Also I must have
some breakfast and some dinner; all this, however, will not
cost me ten francs. I imagine I could still take the train
from Chaudfontaine to Spa. Ah, I am getting very tired; I
wonder if I have much further to go. I think I must rest a
little while."

Madelon, in fact, but lately recovered from her fever, and for
many months unused to much exercise, was in no sort of
condition for a six or seven miles' walk. She had started with
great courage, but it seemed to her that she had already been
on her journey quite an indefinite length of time, and that
she must be near the end, whilst in fact she had only
accomplished half the distance. She would sit down for a short
time, she thought, and then the rest would soon be
accomplished, and she looked about for a seat of some kind.
The road hitherto could hardly have been called lonely, for
houses had been scattered on either side, and part of the way
had led through a large village, where, from some uncurtained
window, from some café or restaurant, long gleams of light had
shot across the road, revealing for an instant the little
figure passing swiftly along, glad to hide again in the
obscurity beyond. But all this was left behind now, and as far
as she could make out, she was quite in the open country,
though in the darkness she could hardly distinguish objects
three yards off. She found a big stone however, before long,
and sitting down on it, leaning her head against a tree, in
five minutes the child was soundly asleep.

How long she slept she never knew. Tired out, her repose was
at first profound and unconscious; but presently it began to
be haunted by confused dreams, in which past, present, and
future were mingled together. She dreamt that she was
wandering in some immense vaulted hall, where she had never
been before, and which yet resembled the refectory of the
convent; for long tables were spread as for the evening meal,
and in the twilight, black-robed nuns whose faces she could
never see, were gliding to and fro. And then, how or why she
did not know, they were no longer the deal tables of the
convent, with their coarse white cloths and earthenware
plates, but the long green tables of the Kursaal, with Aunt
Thérèse as croupier, and all the nuns pushing and raking the
piles of money backwards and forwards. She was amongst them,
and it seemed to her she had just won a great heap of gold;
but when she tried to get it, Aunt Thérèse, in the character
of croupier, refused to let her touch it. "It is mine; is it
not, papa?" she cried to somebody standing at her side; and
then looking up, saw it was Monsieur Horace; he did not speak,
but gazing at her for a moment, shook his head, and moved away
slowly into the gloom. And then the nuns and Aunt Thérèse also
seemed to vanish, and she was left alone with the tables and
the money, in the midst of which lay a long figure covered
with a sheet, as she had seen her father the night that he had
died. She did not think of that, however, but ran eagerly up
to the table to take her winnings, when the figure moved, a
hand was put out to seize the gold, and the sheet falling off,
Madelon recognized her dead father's face.

With a shriek she awoke, and sprang up, shivering and
trembling with cold and fright--all the terrors of the night
suddenly come upon her. She looked round; all was as it had
been when she went to sleep; the lonely road, the dark fields,
the trees and hedges; but a breeze had sprung up before the
dawn, and was rustling the leaves and branches; overhead a
star or two was shining in dark rifts, and in the east a
melancholy waning moon was slowly rising, half obscured by
scattered clouds. With a sudden impulse, born of an urgent
sense of utter loneliness and helplessness, the child fell on
her knees and repeated an Ave Maria; the clouds drifted away,
and the low moon shone out between the trees with a pale glow,
that to our convent-taught Madelon seemed suddenly to
irradiate and transfigure the night with a glory not of earth.
Never in after years did she, in church or picture-gallery,
come across glorified Madonna, or saint floating in ethereal
spaces, without the memory returning to her of a silent road,
dark, rustling trees, a midnight sky swept with clouds; and
then a vision, as it were, of light and hope, giving new
strength and courage to one little terrified heart.

Madelon started on her journey with renewed energy, but she
hardly knew how she got through the miles that remained. The
moon rose higher and higher, the road bordered with poplar-
trees seemed to stretch before and behind into a never-ending
length, as in some wearying nightmare. Madelon, in her
straight, old-fashioned silk frock, her bundle on her arm,
marching steadily on, looked nothing but a queer little black
speck, casting a long narrow shadow, as she passed from one
moon-lit space to another. Ever afterwards, when she looked
back upon that night, the whole seemed like some perplexed,
struggling dream, of which the waking reality appeared less
vivid than the visions that had haunted her sleep. Perhaps she
would have broken down altogether but for the friendly hints
of the coming day that presently began to show themselves.
There came a moment when the night grew more silent, and the
breeze more chilly, and the surrounding world more dim and
fantastic in the uncertain moonlight; and then the shadows
began to waver and grow confused, long streaks of light showed
themselves in the east, the moon grew fainter in the
brightening sky, the birds began to chirp and twitter in every
tree and bush. The night had vanished, and the horizon was all
aglow with the ruddy light of a new day, when Madelon turned
the last bend of the road, and saw before her the white
cottages, the big hotel, the stream and hills of
Chaudfontaine.


CHAPTER XI.

The Countess G----.


No one was yet stirring in the little village, which, scarcely
emerged from the early twilight, lay still and silent, except
for the ceaseless, monotonous clang of the forges. Madelon was
tired out; she knew it was too early for any train to start
for Spa, and nothing better occurred to her than to sit down
and rest once more in a sheltered corner amongst some bushes
under a big hawthorn-tree growing on the bank of the river;
and in a few minutes she was again sound asleep, whilst the
mass of snowy blossoms above her head grew rosy in the
sunlight.

It was broad daylight when she awoke again, and sat up rubbing
her eyes, and feeling very chilly, and stiff, and sleepy, but
with a quickly succeeding delight in the bright May morning, a
joyous sense of escape and freedom, of all that she had
accomplished already, and was going to accomplish on this day
to which she had looked forward so long. Everything looked
gold and blue in the early sunlight; the river danced and
sparkled, the poplar-trees were now green, now silvery-grey,
as they waved about in the breeze; the country people were
passing along the road, laughing and chattering gaily in their
queer _patois_. The dark night seemed to have vanished into
indefinite remoteness, like some incongruous dream, which, on
waking, one recalls with difficulty and wonder, in the midst
of bright familiar surroundings. The two years of convent
life, too, seemed to be slipping out of little Madelon's
existence, as if they had never been; she could almost fancy
she had been sleeping all these months, and had awakened to
find all the same--ah! no, not quite the same. Madelon had a
sharp little pang of grief as she thought of her father, and
then a glad throb of joy as she thought of Monsieur Horace--and
then she suddenly discovered that she was horribly hungry,
and, jumping up, she began to walk towards the village.

Not fifty yards from where she had been sleeping stood the
hotel where she had so often stayed, and where she had first
met Horace Graham. There, too, everything was stirring and
awakening into activity--shutters being thrown back, windows
opened, the sunny courtyard swept out. Madelon stood still for
a moment looking on. She wondered whether her old friend,
Mademoiselle Cécile, was still there; she thought it would be
very pleasant to go in and see her, and have some breakfast in
the big _salle-à-manger_, with the pink and yellow paper roses,
and long rows of windows looking out into the courtyard and
garden. But then, she further reflected, breakfasting at an
hotel might probably cost a great deal of money, and she had
so little money to spare; so that on the whole it might be
better to see what she could find in a shop, and she walked
quickly up the village street. Chaudfontaine contains none of
the luxuries, and as few as possible of the necessaries of
life, which are for the most part supplied from Liége; but
sour bread is not unknown there, and Madelon having procured a
great, dark tough hunch for her sous, turned back towards the
hotel. She stood outside the iron railing, eating her bread,
and watching what was going on inside; the stir and small
bustle had a positive fascination for her, after her months of
seclusion in the convent. It brought back her old life with
the strangest vividness, joining on the present with the past
which had been so happy; it was as if she had been suddenly
brought back into air and light after long years of darkness
and silence. Through the open door of the hotel she could see
the shadowy green of the garden beyond. Was the swing in which
she had so often sat for hours still there? The windows of the
salon were open too, and there were the old pictures on the
wall, the piano just where it used to stand, and a short,
stout figure, in skirt and camisole, moving about, who might
be Mademoiselle Cécile herself. Presently some children came
running out into the courtyard, with shining hair and faces,
and clean white pinafores, fresh out of the nurse's hands.
Madelon looked at them with a sudden sense of having grown
much older than she used to be--almost grown up, compared to
these small things. She had been no bigger than that when she
had first seen Monsieur Horace. She tried to recall their
first meeting, but in truth she could not remember much about
it; it was so long ago, and succeeding visits had so nearly
effaced the remembrance of that early time, that it was rather
the shadowy memory of a memory, than the reality itself, that
came back to her mind.

Madelon had long finished her breakfast, but, busy with these
recollections, was still lingering outside the courtyard, when
a gentleman and lady came out of the hotel and walked down
towards the gate. The gentleman was stout, black-haired, red-
faced, and good-humoured-looking; the lady elderly, thin, and
freckled, with a much tumbled silk gown, and frizzy, sandy
hair, under a black net bonnet, adorned with many artificial
flowers. In all our Madelon's reminiscences of the past, these
two figures assuredly had no place, and yet this was by no
means the first time they had met at this very hotel. The lady
was the Countess G----, with whom one memorable evening Madelon
had had a grand fight over a roulette board; the gentleman was
Horace Graham's _quondam_ fellow-traveller, the Countess's old
admirer, and now her husband.

They were talking as they came together down the courtyard,
and Madelon caught the last words of their conversation.

"Adieu, _mon ami_," cried the lady, as they approached the gate;
"I shall rejoin you this afternoon at Liége."

"And by the earliest train possible, I beg of you," answered
the other. "I may find it necessary to go on to Brussels this
evening."

"By the earliest train possible, _mon ami_. Adieu, then,--_au
revoir_."

"_Au revoir, ma chérie_," answered the gentleman, turning back
to the hotel, but pausing before he had taken a dozen steps.

_"Ma chérie_, you will not forget my business at Madame
Bertrand's?"

"But no, _mon ami_, it shall be attended to without fail."

"_Ma chérie_----"

"_Mon ami_----"

"You must hasten, or you will miss the train."

"I go, I go," cried the Countess, waving her parasol in token
of farewell, and hurrying out of the gateway. These last words
aroused Madelon also. In hearing strange voices talking what
seemed some familiar, half-forgotten tongue, she had almost
forgotten the train; but she started up now from where she had
been half standing, half leaning, and followed the Countess
across the bridge into the railway station. Indeed she had
only just time to take her ticket, before the train for Spa
came rushing up with slackening speed into the station. There
were few passengers either coming or going at this early hour,
but Madelon's heart gave a great jump as she saw two black-
robed figures get out of one of the carriages and come towards
her. In another moment she saw they were Soeurs de Charité,
with a dress quite different from that worn by the nuns; but
the imaginary alarm suggested very real causes of fear, which
somehow had almost slipped from her mind since the first hours
of her escape from the convent. In her new, glad sense of
freedom, she had quite forgotten that the hour had long since
arrived when her flight must most certainly be discovered, and
that there were, after all, still only six miles of road
between her and her old life; and it was with quite a newly
awakened dread that even now unfriendly eyes might be watching
her from some one of the carriage-windows, that she jumped
hastily into the nearest compartment she could find. It was
not empty, however, for the Countess, who had preceded her
across the bridge had already taken her place, and was
arranging her flounces in one corner. She looked up, astounded
at Madelon's somewhat precipitate entrance; and as the train
moved off, she treated her small companion to a most
unceremonious stare, which took in every detail of her
personal appearance.

"Are you travelling alone?" she asked, at length, abruptly.

"Yes, madame," said Madelon, getting rather red. She had
resented the stare, and did not want to be talked to; her one
idea now was to get to Spa unnoticed. But she had ill-chosen
her travelling companion--the Countess was a lady whose
impertinent curiosity was rarely baffled.

"What! quite alone? Is there nobody at all with you?"

"No, madame."

"But that is very extraordinary, and not at all the thing for
a young person of your age. What makes you go about all by
yourself?"

"I--I have no one to go with me," faltered Madelon, getting
more and more hot and uncomfortable.

"But that is very strange, and, as one may say, very improper;
have you no friends?"

"Yes,--no," began Madelon; but at that moment, with a shriek,
the train entered a tunnel, and the sudden noise and darkness
put a stop to the conversation for a time. The Countess began
again presently, however, as they went speeding across the
next valley.

"Do you live at Chaudfontaine?" was her next inquiry.

"No," says poor Madelon, looking around despairingly, as for
some means of escape; but that was hopeless, and she could
only shrink further into her corner.

"And where are you going now, then?"

"I am going to Spa."

"To Spa? Ah, indeed--and what are you going to do there?
Perhaps," said the Countess, more graciously, and with another
glance at the shabby frock and poor little bundle, "perhaps
you are going into some situation there?"

"Situation?" repeated Madelon, bewildered.

"Yes--you would make a very nice little nursery-maid, I dare
say," said the Countess, with much condescension; "and,
indeed, if you should be wanting any assistance in that way,
you have only to apply to me; and if you can produce good
credentials, I shall be most happy to assist you. I am always
ready to help deserving young people."

Madelon grew red as fire. "I am not a nursery-maid," she said,
with much indignation; "I don't know what you mean, and you
have no right to ask me so many questions--I will not answer
any more."

Another shriek and another tunnel; when they once more emerged
into daylight, Madelon had retreated into that corner of the
carriage remotest from the Countess, who, for her part, showed
some wisdom, perhaps, in making no attempt to resume the
conversation.

At Pepinster, they changed trains; and here Madelon found an
empty carriage, where, without disturbance, she might sit and
congratulate herself on having accomplished this first step in
her journey. Indeed, this seemed to her so great a success,
that she felt nothing but hope as she sat curled up in a
corner, only wishing vaguely, from time to time, that her head
would not ache so much, and that she did not feel so very,
very tired. She had a great confidence in the swiftness of the
train, which was every moment increasing the distance between
herself and Liége, and so, as she thought, lessening the
chances of her being discovered in case of pursuit; and yet,
when it stopped at length at the well-remembered Spa station,
she lingered a moment in the carriage, feeling as if it were a
friendly place of refuge she was leaving, to face unknown
dangers in the outer world.

No one noticed her, however, as she slowly alighted and looked
about her. There were, as we have said, but few passengers at
this early hour, and the platform was already nearly deserted.
At a little distance she could see Madame la Comtesse and her
flounces walking briskly away; on one side was an English
family of the received type, wrangling with porters and
omnibus-drivers in the midst of their luggage; on the other,
an invalid Russian wrapped to the nose in furs, leaning on his
valet's arm; in the foreground, a party of gay Liégeois, come
over for a day's amusement. No one looked at our poor little
Madelon, as, half-bewildered, she stood for a moment on the
platform, her bundle on her arm, her veil pulled down over her
face; one after the other they vanished, and then she too
followed, out into the tree-bordered road, with the familiar
hills on either side, sheltering the little gay white town.
The day had changed within the last hour, the sunshine was
gone, and in its place was a grey, lowering sky. Madelon
shivered as she walked along; her head ached more and more;
she wondered what it was that made her feel so tired and weak,
and then she remembered that she had been ill for a long time,
and that she had been up all night. "I will ask Madame
Bertrand to let me lie down and go to sleep," she thought,
"before I go to the Redoute, and then I shall be all right."
She walked on as fast as she could, so as to arrive sooner at
the hotel; she remembered its situation perfectly, in the
Place Royale, not far from the stand where the band used to
play every evening; and there its was at last, all unchanged
since she had last seen it three years ago, and with "Hôtel de
Madrid" shining in big gold letters above the door.

Every one who knows Spa, knows the Place Royale, with its
broad walks and rows of trees, leading from the shady avenues
of the Promenade à Sept Heures at the one end, to the winding
street with its gay shops at the other. The Hôtel de Madrid
was situated about half-way down the Place, and, as compared
with the great hotels of Spa, it was small, mean, and third-
rate, little frequented therefore by the better class of
visitors, and with no particular recommendation beyond its
situation on the Place Royale, its cheap terms, and its
excellent landlady. M. Linders, whose means did not always
admit of reckless expenditure, and whose credit was not wholly
unlimited, had gone there two or three times, when visiting
Spa to retrieve fallen fortunes; and the first time he had
taken Madelon with him, she and Madame Bertrand had become
such fast friends, that, for his child's sake, he never
afterwards went anywhere else. Madelon had the most lively,
pleasant recollections of the stout motherly landlady, whose
store of bonbons and confitures had been absolutely endless.
Of all her friends in this class, Madame Bertrand had been the
one to whom she had most attached herself, and now it was
almost with the feeling of finding herself at home that she
saw the hotel before her.


The door stood open, and she went into the small hall, or
rather passage, which ran through the house, ending in another
door, which, also open, afforded a green view of many currant
and gooseberry bushes in Madame Bertrand's garden. To the
right was the staircase, to the left the _salle-à-manger_, a low
room with two windows looking on to the Place, and furnished
with half-a-dozen small round tables, for the hotel was of too
unpretentious a nature to aspire to a _table d'hôte_; the floor
lacked polish, and the furniture was shabby, yet the room had
a friendly look to our homeless Madelon, as a frequent
resting-place in such wanderings to and fro as had been hers
in former years. She went in. A man was sitting at one of the
tables, a tall bottle of red wine at his side, and a dish of
cutlets before him, eating his late _déjeuner_, and reading a
newspaper; whilst a waiter moved about, arranging knives and
forks, table-napkins, and _pistolets_, with occasional pauses
for such glimpses of the outer world as could be obtained
through the muslin curtains hanging before the somewhat dingy
windows.

"Is Madame Bertrand at home?" asked Madelon, coming up to him.

The man stared down at the shabbily dressed little figure
before him, glanced at the bundle hanging on her arm, and then
answered civilly enough that Madame Bertrand was not at home.
Did Mademoiselle want anything?

"I wanted to speak to Madame Bertrand," answered Madelon
rather piteously; "will she be back soon, do you think? When
can I see her?"

"_Eh, je n'en sais rien_," said the man. "If Mademoiselle wants
to see her, she had better call again--or she can leave a
message," and he went on laying the tables.

Madelon sat down despondingly on a chair near the door, hardly
knowing what to do next. It was the first check in the
carrying out of her little programme, a programme so neatly
arranged, but with this defect, mainly arising from
inexperience, that it had made no sort of allowance for
unforeseen circumstances--and yet of such so many were likely
to arise. She had quite settled in her own mind what she was
going to say to Madame Bertrand, and also what Madame Bertrand
would say to her, but she had not provided for this other
contingency of not finding her at all. She sat and considered
for a minute. Two or three men came in laughing and talking,
and stared in her face as they passed by and called for what
they wanted. She began to feel uncomfortable; she could not
stay there till Madame Bertrand returned; what if she were to
go to the Redoute first, and then return to the hotel? Yes,
that would be the best plan; if only she had not felt so very
tired, with such aching limbs and head; the sight and smell of
the meat and wine made her feel almost faint. However, that
could not be helped, she must do the best she could. She went
up to the waiter again. "I must go now," she said, "but I will
come back presently to see Madame Bertrand; may I leave these
things here?" and she held up her bundle.

"Mademoiselle wants a room--or is it something for Madame?"
said the man, perplexed at this strange little visitor, who
was wholly out of the range of his experience.

"No, no, it is mine," said Madelon; "if I might leave it here----"

The waiter set down the tray he was holding, and left the room
followed by Madelon. "Mademoiselle Henriette!" he cried.

"Mademoiselle Henriette is in the garden," answered a shrill
voice from above; and at the same moment a trim little figure
appeared from amongst the currant and gooseberry bushes, and
came in at the open door leading into the passage.

"Does any one want me?" she cried.

"Pardon, Madame," said Madelon, coming forward to tell her
little story, whilst the waiter returned to his plates and
dishes, "I wanted to see Madame Bertrand, but they say she is
out, and that I must return later; might I leave my things
here for a little while till I come back?"

"Do you want a room, Mademoiselle?" said the other; "I regret
to say that the hotel is quite full; we have not a single bed
at your disposal."

"Ah, what shall I do? what do you think would be best?" said
poor Madelon, piteously, suddenly breaking down in the grown-
up part she had been half unconsciously acting, and ready to
burst into tears. Things were not turning out at all as she
had wished or intended. "I did want a room, but I thought I
should have found Madame Bertrand, and she would have helped
me; I don't know what to do now."

"Do you know my aunt? I am Madame Bertrand's niece," says
Mademoiselle Henriette in explanation. "She will not be in
just yet, but if you like to wait in here a little while, you
can do so, or you can return by-and-by."

She opened the door of a small parlour as she spoke, and stood
aside for Madelon to enter. A little faded room, with a high
desk standing in the window, gaudy ornaments on the
mantelpiece, a worn Utrecht velvet sofa, and a semicircle of
worsted-work chairs--not much in it all to awaken enthusiasm,
one would think, and yet, as Madelon came in, she forgot
disappointment, and fatigue, and everything else for a moment,
in a glad recognition of well-remembered objects.

"It is not a bit altered," she cried, quite joyfully, turning
to Mademoiselle Henriette as she spoke.

"You have been here before then," says Mademoiselle, looking
curiously at the child, and seeing for the first time, in the
clearer light of the room, what a child she was.

"Yes," answered Madelon, "I used to come here very often; we
liked coming, because Madame Bertrand was so kind. I know she
will be glad to see me again--ah!" she cried, breaking off in
the middle of her sentence, "there is the little china dog I
used to play with, and the bonbonnière with the flowers
painted on the top--ah, and my little glass--do you know, Madame
used always let me drink out of that glass when I had supper
with her--but you were not here, then, Mademoiselle."

"That is true, I have only been with my aunt about six months;
she is growing old, and wants some one to help her," answered
Mademoiselle Henriette, a most brisk, capable-looking little
personage, "but I daresay she will recollect you. Are you all
alone? Have you come far to-day?"

"Not very far," said Madelon, colouring up, and suddenly
recalled to the present. "I think, please, I will leave my
things here now, and come back presently."

"I think you had better stay here quietly and rest; you look
very tired," said Mademoiselle kindly; and indeed as the glow
faded from her cheeks, Madelon showed a most colourless little
face, with heavy eyelids, that seemed as if they could hardly
open.

"No, I would rather go out now," she answered; "I can rest
afterwards."

Indeed, tired as she felt, she had changed her mind, thinking
that if she stayed now, it would be hard to set off again by-
and-by, and she was determined to get her business done to-
day--she had a morbid dread, too, of questions from strangers,
after her experience with the Countess.

"I _must_ go out," she repeated; "but I will come back again,
and then perhaps Madame Bertrand will have come in, and will
tell me where I can sleep to-night."

Mademoiselle Henriette had neither time nor sufficient
interest in the child to contest the point further; and
Madelon, having safely deposited her bundle in a corner of the
sofa, departed on her errand.


CHAPTER XII.

What Madelon did at the Redoute.


And so more than half Madelon's troubles are over, and she is
really approaching the moment so looked and longed for, for
which so much has been dared and risked! Ah, is it so that our
dearest hopes get fulfilled? In after years Madelon always
looked back upon the remainder of that day, as upon the
previous night, as a sort of horrible nightmare, through which
she struggled more and more painfully--to what awakening we
shall presently see. The golden morning had faded into a grey
drizzle; the mist hung upon the hills, hiding their tops, and
there were low heavy clouds, presaging an afternoon of more
decided rain. The golden hope, too, that had so sustained and
cheered our Madelon, seemed to have suddenly faded also; and
in its place was that ever-increasing sense of utter weariness
and aching limbs, which seemed as if it would overpower her
before she had gone a dozen yards from the house. She went on
bravely, however, trying to brace herself with the
consciousness of a great purpose, very near its fulfilment
now; but somehow she seemed almost to have forgotten what it
was, or why she had ever formed it. Her keenest feeling at
that moment was, perhaps, that expressed by the quick, furtive
glance with which she looked round from time to time, as some
following footstep made itself heard behind her. The sudden
alarm at Chaudfontaine had given rise to a haunting dread,
which she was unable to shake off, though even that was rather
a vague sensation than a well-defined, reasonable fear.

Still she kept on her way, strong in the strength of a
resolution that had so taken possession of all the deepest
feelings and affections of a most ardent little nature, that
nothing but absolute physical inability could have held her
back from keeping to it now. It was perhaps well for her,
however, that with her childish pleasure in planning every
detail, she had arranged everything beforehand with such
minuteness, that she had no need to reflect now as to what she
had to do. She had only to go on mechanically, and indeed she
seemed to have no power of reflection left in her at all, as
she walked slowly up the street, past the gay shops, where, a
happy, chattering little girl, she had so often lingered with
her father, to choose some pretty trifle. Almost without
thinking, so familiar was the road, did she enter the Redoute,
and ascend the wide staircase; and then at last she feels a
thrill as she sees before her the big salons that she has so
often re-visited in her dreams, with their gilding, and
mirrors, and velvet, that she loves so well, and with which
some of her happiest hours are associated--sees, too, the long
green tables, where Monsieur Horace's fortune is to be made,
and Madelon's promise redeemed at last.

Nothing seemed so strange to our inexperienced Madelon, as
that everything should be unchanged; only yesterday she had
been sitting quietly in the convent garden, with long years
separating her from the old life--and now it seemed but
yesterday that she had been here. She went straight up to the
_rouge-et-noir_ table. She was familiar with both it and
roulette, but of the two games _rouge-et-noir_ was that which M.
Linders had always most affected; and without thinking much
about it, Madelon had fixed upon it as the one at which she
would try her fortune. It was still early, and the tables had
not long been opened, yet there was already a crowd two or
three deep round them; and Madelon, hovering on the outside,
had to wait some time for an opening that would enable her to
approach near enough to lay down her money. It seemed so
natural to be standing there watching the play--the expectant
silence, the clink of the coin, the monotonous drone of the
croupier, were all so familiar, that for a minute she quite
forgot that she had any special object in view; and then, with
one of those starts of realization with which from time to
time she seemed to waken up out of some confused dream, she
remembered why she was there, and what she had to do. It was
only then, that on taking out her purse with its cherished
contents, so as to be ready when her turn should come, it
flashed across her mind that she had intended to ask Madame
Bertrand to change the two ten-franc pieces that formed her
capital, into pieces of five francs, which would have given
her two chances more. Well--it could not be helped now, and,
after all, had she not more than enough? "_Dix francs, et je
ferai fortune--dix francs, et je ferai fortune_--" The old words
seemed to set themselves to a tune in Madelon's head, chiming
in with the croupier's perpetual "_Rouge gagne et la couleur_,"
"_Rouge perd et la couleur_," whilst the two precious coins grew
warm in the little hand that was clasped so tightly over them.
She had half relapsed into her dreamy state, when a woman who
had been standing in front of her came pushing through the
crowd. Madelon instinctively stepped forward to take her
place, and roused up on finding that she was near enough to
the table to lay down her money. The croupier was counting out
the cards for the next stakes. Madelon waited till that turn
was over, and then, leaning across the back of the chair
before her, threw one of her little gold pieces on the table.

It was on the red she had staked. There was a pause as the
other players made their game; Madelon's languid pulses began
to flutter with a sudden interest, increasing to breathless
excitement as the croupier began to deal out the cards. "_Rouge
perd et la couleur_," and the poor little piece was swept away.
Madelon's heart sank with a sudden pang, and then it beat
faster, and her cheeks flushed, as, with a quick impulse,
without a moment's hesitation, she threw her remaining ten
francs on to the same spot. Another pause--another deal. "_Rouge
perd et la couleur!_" She had lost again, and her last chance
was gone.

Surely at the gambling-tables of Spa that day there was no
more pitiful little tragedy played out than that represented
by these two warm little gold coins, raked away by an
indifferent croupier into a great careless heap, and carrying
with them how many hopes, and ambitions, and longings--all
crushed and scattered in one brief moment. Madelon half
uttered a stifled cry, half made an involuntary movement
forward; then, recollecting herself, shrank back, disengaging
herself from the crowd. The gap was immediately filled up; no
one remarked, or cared for, the poor, despairing child. The
brave little spirit almost gave way, as Madelon, with a sudden
sick feeling of faintness and giddiness, was obliged to sit
down on the nearest sofa--but not quite even then. All was
lost--nothing now remained for her to do in those _salons_, and
she must not stay there, she knew; so in a minute she got up
again, and made her way out of the room and down the
staircase, clinging to the balustrade, blindly groping her
way, as it were, till she was once more in the street.

Here the fresh air revived her a little, and she was able to
consider what she should do next. Ah! what, indeed, was she to
do, with a programme so rudely disarranged, with all her
little plans and projects so shattered to fragments, that to
restore them to anything like their former shape seemed
hopeless? Madelon could think of nothing better to do than to
go back to the hotel from which she had come. She had left all
her small possessions there, and perhaps Madame Bertrand would
have come in, and would be able to help her. In all the world
our despairing Madelon could turn her thoughts nowhere at this
crisis but to the good, unconscious Madame Bertrand, the one
friend to whom she could apply, and who might perhaps be
willing to assist her.

It seemed a long time before she found herself at the hotel
again, and yet, in fact, it was scarcely more than half an
hour since she had left it. Through the open door to the left
she might have seen the waiter still busy over his plates and
glasses, while the gentleman who had been breakfasting had
only just finished his newspaper. But Madelon never thought of
them, nor looked in that direction, indeed; with dazed eyes
she was making her way along the semi-darkness of the passage
to the parlour at the end, when she ran right up against some
one who was coming towards her--a stout old lady, with grey
hair, and a little grey moustache, a very gay shawl, and a
large bonnet, with primrose-coloured ribbons. Madelon
recognised her in an instant. "Oh! Madame Bertrand!" she
cried, flinging her arms round her, "don't you know me? I am
Madeleine Linders."

Madame Bertrand stepped back, a little overwhelmed by this
vehement salutation, and then,--

"Madeleine Linders?" she cried. "What! little Mademoiselle
Madelon, who used to come here so often with her papa?"

"Yes, I am little Madelon," she answered; and indeed the sight
of the kind old face, the sound of the cheery, familiar voice,
made her feel quite a small Madelon again. "You have not
forgotten me, have you, Madame Bertrand?"

"Indeed I have not, though you have grown into such a tall
young lady. But why have you not been here for such a long
time? Where is your papa?"

"Ah! Madame," says Madelon, her sense of utter discouragement
gaining ground again, as the first flush of pleasure at the
sight of her old friend died away, "I am very unhappy. Papa
died nearly three years ago, and I have been in a convent ever
since, with Aunt Thérèse; but Aunt Thérèse is dead too; and
they said that I was to be a nun, so I ran away."

"To be a nun!--a child like you? How could they think of such a
thing?" cried the good old woman. "And you look tired out.
Come in here and tell me all about it."

She drew her into the little parlour as she spoke.
Mademoiselle Henriette was sitting at the high desk in the
window looking on the garden, and some one else was there too,
fanning herself in one of the worsted-work chairs. It was
Madame la Comtesse, who had come there to settle her husband's
business with Madame Bertrand. Both looked up as the landlady
came into the room, half carrying, half dragging Madelon.

"_Pauvre petite! pauvre petite!_" she kept on saying, shaking
and nodding her kind old head the while.

She made the child lie down on the sofa, pulled a cushion
under her head, and then introduced her generally with "They
wanted to make her a nun, and so she has run away from the
convent."

"Run away!" cried Mademoiselle Henriette, turning quite round.
"Well, I thought there was something very queer----"

"Run away!" cried the Countess. "Dear me, but that is very
naughty!"

These little speeches, coming in the midst of Madame
Bertrand's effusive benevolence, seemed quite irrelevant to
the matter in hand, but nevertheless imparted a sudden chill.

"Not at all naughty," said Madame, at last, rallying, and
still busy about the sofa, where Madelon had passively and
wearily laid back her aching little head. "It was the very
best thing she could do. Nun, indeed! I have no great opinion
of convents, nor nuns either, myself; an idle pack--the best of
them only say more prayers than their neighbours, and there is
nothing very clever in that. I could do it myself, if I had
the time."

"But it is very singular," said the Countess, getting up.
"That is certainly the same little girl I travelled with from
Chaudfontaine this morning. I thought there was something odd
about her; she would not answer any of my questions. But there
is no convent at Chaudfontaine. Are you sure she is telling
you the truth?"

"Of course she is, Madame--I have known her since--since she was
that high," replied Madame Bertrand, with some indignation; a
reply so conclusive to herself, that its want of apparent
logic may be pardoned. "Tell me, _mon enfant_, where is your
convent that you speak of."

"At Liége," said Madelon, rousing and trying to sit up. "Aunt
Thérèse was the Superior, but she is dead. I walked to
Chaudfontaine in the night--and--oh, Madame Bertrand, don't let
them come and take me back!" She gave a terrified glance round
the room, and caught hold of Madame Bertrand.

"No one shall take you away; don't be afraid, _chère petite_;
but tell us all bout it. Walked to Chaudfontaine in the night!
Why, you must be half dead, poor little one! And what have you
come to Spa for--have you any friends here?"

"No," said Madelon, "I thought you would help me, and let me
stay here for a little while."

"And so you shall--for as long as you like," said Madame; "but
what have you come here for? Have you no friends to go to?"

"Yes--I--I--ah, I forgot!" cried Madelon, burying her face in her
hands. All of a sudden she remembered how she had intended
writing to Monsieur Horace, all that she had meant to say to
him, and how she would have asked him to come and help her--and
now all that was at an end. As to telling Madame Bertrand or
any one else of her cherished plans--never; that was her own
secret, which she would never, never part with, except to
Monsieur Horace himself. "I forgot," she cried, "I have no
one--ah? what shall I do, what shall I do?"

"Do!" said the Countess, interposing with much prompt energy,
"it is not difficult to know what you must do; you must go
back to the convent, of course. I never heard of anything so
improper as your running away."

"No, no, no," cried Madelon; "I cannot go back there--never;
they would kill me." She flung herself down on the sofa again,
while old Madame Bertrand tried to comfort her. No one should
make her go back; she was her _chère petite_, she would take
care of her--and was she not very hungry? would she like some
soup, or some cakes, or some bread and _confiture?_

Meanwhile the Countess was saying to Mademoiselle Henriette,
"This is a most extraordinary affair. If we do not take care,
your excellent aunt will be imposed upon; but I am going back
to Liége in an hour, and can perfectly well take the little
girl with me, and leave her at the convent."

"Indeed, Madame, we should be much indebted to you," said
mademoiselle Henriette, briskly; "it is evident that she has
no friends, and has come to my aunt simply because she was in
some way acquainted with her formerly. As you say, if we do
not take care we shall certainly have her on our hands; my
aunt is quite capable of it."

"Then that is easily settled," said the Countess; "I will take
charge of her. No thanks, Mademoiselle, I am only doing my
duty. I really do not know what young people of the present
day will come to. Does any one know what her name is, or
anything about her?"

Madame Bertrand, who had been vainly endeavouring to extract
from our desponding little Madelon any decided expression of
opinion on the subject of cakes or confitures, overheard this
last question. "Poor little one, I know her very well," she
said, lowering her voice confidentially, "her name is Linders;
her father was Monsieur Linders, a famous gambler--it was long
before you came here, Henriette, and Madame will not have
heard of him probably; but here in Spa he was well known, and
he used often to come to our hotel."

"Linders!" cried the Countess--"M. Linders--yes, certainly I
remember him perfectly, and the little girl too. M. Linders?--
of course, every one knew him."

"Ah! Madame, did you know my father?" said Madelon, raising
her head at these last words, and clasping her hands
imploringly; "be good to me then, I entreat of you; do not
speak of sending me back to the convent. I cannot go!"

There was something pitiful in the child's voice and gesture,
something pathetic in the little appeal to her father's
memory, that might have touched any one less animated by a
stern sense of duty than the Countess. As it was, she was not
in the least affected.

"On the contrary, _mon enfant_," she answered, "I shall be doing
you the greatest kindness, and no more than my duty, in taking
you back there; and we have agreed that you shall return with
me at once."

"I will not go!" cried Madelon, wildly; "I cannot, I will
not!--I will not! Do you hear? What right have you to take me?
I am not your child!--I will not go with you!"

She got up as she spoke, confronting the Countess, and trying
to throw all the energy of which she was capable into her
vehement words. But even in her own ears her voice sounded
shrill and weak, and seemed to die away as if she were talking
in her sleep; the very strength of her emotion appeared
unreal, and failing her when she most needed it: her words
seemed to have no meaning, and as she finished speaking, she
dropped down on her seat again with a little sob, feeling that
she was conquered, for she had no power of resistance left in
her.

So she lay upon the sofa in a sot of doze, while a tribunal of
three sat upon, condemned, and sentenced this poor little
criminal, who knew nothing of what they were saying after she
had made her own ineffectual little protest. Madame Bertrand,
indeed, good old soul, with the softest and kindest of hearts,
would not at first hear of her being sent away; she was fond
of the child, she said; she had known her for years, and felt
sure there was something in her story that they did not yet
understand. But Madame Bertrand was old--moreover, she was not
a little in awe of the niece whom she had called in to assist
her failing powers; moreover, she had perhaps a lurking idea
that they might after all be right, and that there was
something exceptionally heinous in running away from a
convent; so she was soon overruled by the other two, who
settled the matter in a very summary way--Madelon must return
to the convent with Madame la Comtesse that very day.

She was roused up presently, and made to drink some wine by
Madame Bertrand, who was in despair because she could eat none
of the good things she had provided, and felt nothing but and
old traitress, as Madelon stood up at last, looking about her
with dazed eyes; and then, without further opposition,
submissively put on her hat, took up her bundle, and prepared
to follow the Countess. Indeed, had Madame Bertrand known how
recently the child had recovered from a long illness, nothing,
I think, would have induced her to let her go; but she only
supposed she was over-tired with her strange night journey;
and, in fact, the wine and the rest together had so far
revived Madelon that she appeared quite capable of walking
down to the station with the Countess. Madame Bertrand gave
her great hug as she wished her good-bye, and was perhaps a
little aggrieved at the passive way in which Madelon received
it.

"If ever you want help, come back to me--will you not, _mon
enfant?_--and I will help you, if I can."

"Yes," said Madelon; "but they will not let me run away again;
will they?"

"Let you run away, _ma petite?_"

"Yes--Aunt Thérèse, you know. She won't let me do it again."

"Your aunt? You told me she was dead;" cried Madame.

"Yes, so she is," said Madelon. "I was forgetting, I think.
Good-bye, Madame Bertrand. You will let me stay next time,
will you not? But I must go now?" And she followed the
Countess out of the house without another word.

Madame la Comtesse, having got her own way, was kind enough to
the child who had so unwittingly strayed across her path. When
they reached the station she gave her her ticket, made her sit
down in the waiting-room, and even offered her refreshment in
the interval before the train started. Indeed, we should err
if we attributed to the Countess, whom this little episode in
our Madelon's history has brought for the second, and we may
trust for the last, time before us--we should err, I say, in
attributing to her any feeling of ill-will towards Madelon, or
any special interest in her conduct or fate. Neither need it
be imagined that she was actuated by any large views of duty
towards the world in general: she was not at all benevolent,
but neither was she particularly ill-natured; she was merely a
shallow-minded, frivolous woman, who, having long since
lowered her standard of perfection to suit her own
attainments, saw fit to measure every one else by her own
narrow ideal, and to set them right where they proved
themselves wanting--a convenient process, which enabled her to
satisfy her vague sense of duty, and right and wrong, without
any reference to her own possible shortcomings. In capturing
our little stray Madelon, and taking her back to the convent,
she felt she was doing a deed that would afford her matter for
self-congratulation for days to come; and she was gracious and
affable accordingly, speaking to Madelon in a tone of
condescending good-nature, which was quite lost upon the
child, who was beyond caring for kindness or unkindness just
then. She was only conscious of some terrible burden, which
she could not define nor reason upon, but which seemed to
oppress and weigh her down, making her incapable of thought,
or speech, or motion. When they got into the railway-carriage
she could only lean back in the corner, with a general sense
that something dreadful had happened, or was going to happen;
but that her head ached too much, and felt too confused, for
her to remember what it was all about.

They changed carriages at Pepinster, and, still in the same
dream of misery, Madelon followed the Countess from one train
to another. They set off again, but presently, as the
slackening speed showed that they were approaching another
station, she suddenly woke up to the keenest perception of her
situation, with a quickening of her numbed senses to the most
vivid realization of all she had lost, of all she might have
to endure. Ah! it was all true, and no dream--she had run away
from the convent to make Monsieur Horace's fortune; and she
had not done it, and now all was over, and she was being taken
back to the convent--and there would be no more chance of
escape for her--never more. In the agony of this thought she
turned towards the Countess, with a half-formed intention of
throwing herself at her feet, and imploring, in such voice and
accents as should admit of no refusal, to be allowed to go
away--anyhow, anywhere, only as far as possible from Liége. But
she checked herself as she saw that the Countess, with a
handkerchief thrown over her face, had comfortably composed
herself to sleep in one corner, and a new idea suggested
itself as the train stopped at a little village station. The
child glanced towards the woman; she still slept, or appeared
to do so, and the next moment Madelon had opened the door,
and, taking up her bundle, had slid swiftly and silently out
of the carriage.

The train moved on, and a drowsy Countess might presently
awake to find with astonishment that she was alone in the
compartment; but our little Madelon, left standing on the
platform, had slipped out of her sight and knowledge for ever.


CHAPTER XIII.

The Restaurant at Le Trooz.


The train disappeared, and our forlorn little Madelon remained
standing alone on the platform. Forlorn, indeed! It was
raining hard now, a thick, persistent drizzle, through which
everything looked dim and blurred, and which was almost as
dense as the low-hanging mists that hid the tops of the hills.
Madelon stood still and shivered for a minute, clutching her
little bundle under her cloak, and trying to collect her
ideas.

Not a hundred yards off was the village, lying between the
hills in the next valley to Chaudfontaine, and not more than
three miles from that place, but shut out from it by a barrier
of rocky, wooded hill, round which there was only just space
for the road and stream to wind; an amphibious little village,
half in and half out of the water apparently, for it stood
just where the stream spread out in wide shallows, round low
islands, on and amongst which the houses were clustered and
scattered. Madelon instinctively turned towards it; she had
the very vaguest idea in her poor, bewildered little brain as
to where she was, or what she was going to do, only one thing
obvious in the surrounding uncertainties--that she could not
remain standing on the platform in the pouring rain. She gave
up her ticket mechanically, passed through the gate, and
followed the muddy road leading to the cottages. She was very
tired, she had never felt quite so tired before, and her knees
trembled as they had done that day when the fever came on at
the convent; she was so dizzy too, that she had to stop now
and then, to grasp the one fact of her being where she was and
not somewhere else altogether; her single idea was to go on
walking until--until when? That was a question she could not
have answered, only somewhere she must go, where she would be
out of the way of countess or nuns, or any other enemy who
might be lying in wait to pounce upon her. This was all she
thought about as she passed along the village street, which
was dull and deserted-looking enough on this wet, grey
afternoon, till the sight of a church with an open door,
suggested something quite different, and which was a positive
relief after that nightmare motion of walking perpetually with
failing limbs, and a sense of pursuit behind. She would go in
there, and sit down and rest for a little while. By-and-by,
when the giddiness and trembling had gone off, she would be
better able to think of what she should do; she would be out
of the rain, too, there--the cold rain, which had already
drenched her cloak and skirt.

She went in; it was a village church of the simplest
description, very small, with plain wooden benches and
confessionals, and a high altar with inexpensive decorations,
in nowise remarkable. But hardly was Madelon inside the door,
when she stood suddenly motionless, transfixed by a horrible
terror that, weak and exhausted as she was, wholly seized and
gained possession of her; for, raised in the middle of the
aisle, covered with a black velvet pall and with a row of tall
candles on either side, stood a coffin, with white embroidery
of death's heads on the pall, and little banners with painted
death's heads decorating every candle. To the terrified,
speechless child, the skulls seemed to become animated--to
grin; they seemed to move; the whole air was suddenly full of
them, chattering, dancing, swarming round her; she tried to
scream, but could not; she turned to fly from the dreadful,
haunted spot, but with the first step she made, strength and
consciousness gave way altogether, and she sank senseless to
the ground.

Ten minutes later, a woman of the village, coming in to see
the preparations for the funeral of Monsieur N----, lately one
of the great proprietors of the neighbourhood, nearly stumbled
over Madelon's prostrate form. She started back, half uttering
an exclamation of surprise and alarm; then, seeing that it was
a child who was lying so still upon the stone floor, she knelt
down by her, laid her head in her lap, and began rubbing her
hands. Madelon was not quite unconscious, apparently, for she
moved her head uneasily, and uttered a low moan. "She is not
dead, at any rate," muttered the woman, still chafing the cold
little hands, while she studied the small white face, the
short rings of hair just appearing under the hat all crushed
in her fall, the bundle lying at her side, and the worn frock
and cloak soaked with rain. "I wonder if she is alone?" added
the woman to herself. She glances round the empty church, then
gently laying Madelon on the floor again, with a cushion to
support her head, she went to the door, and peered out into
the rain for a few moments; then, returning, without calling
for help, or summoning any one, she stooped down, took Madelon
in her arms--which, indeed, she was well able to do, for she
was a tall, strong woman, between thirty and forty, and the
child was very slight and thin after her recent illness--and
carried her out of the church, down the street, towards the
end of the village. No one was stirring in the pouring rain,
or seemed to notice her, except one or two boys, who ran after
her shouting and singing--"Eh, Jeanne-Marie, Jeanne-Marie--what
have you got to-day, Jeanne-Marie?" And to them she gave no
sort of heed, walking steadily and swiftly on, without even
turning her head, till she paused before a low, white-washed
cottage, standing a little apart from the village, between the
poplars that bordered the road. In front was a bench, and on
one side a vine, all dripping and forlorn, was trained over a
trellis that sloped from the roof, and, with wooden supports,
made a shelter for a row of bee-hives placed on a plank
beneath; under the front gable was a wicker contrivance for
pigeons, and below it, in large gold letters on a blue board,
the words, "Café et Restaurant." The door opened at once into
the little public room of the humblest pretentions, furnished
with a cupboard containing a store of bottles and glasses, a
stove in one corner, above it some bright copper tea-kettles,
a dozen chairs, and a deal table pushed near the one small
window that looked out on the road and the stream beyond, and
then across fields, and meadows, and trees, to the hills. A
man, with a heavy, loutish face and figure, was sitting with
his arms on the table, twirling a glass about in his fingers,
a bottle half full of vine before him. He turned round as
Jeanne-Marie entered with Madelon in her arms, and rising
slowly went towards them.

"Eh, Jeanne-Marie, what have you got there?" he said.

"Does that concern you?" answered the woman sharply enough;
"drink your wine, Jacques Monnier, and do not trouble yourself
with other people's affairs."

"_Est-elle morte, la petite?_" asked Jacques, recoiling at the
sight of Madelon's white face.

"_Est-elle morte?_" repeated Jeanne-Marie, "and with her eyes as
wide open as yours! _Allons, mon enfant, du courage_," she
added, as Madelon opened her eyes for a moment; but she closed
them again, and the woman looking round, said, "There will be
no peace here, with you men coming in and out. Open that door
for me, Jacques," pointing to one nearly opposite the
entrance.

The man obeyed. It opened at the bottom of the ladder-like
staircase, a gleam of light from above, showing where another
door at the top step led into a small bed-room. Jeanne-Marie
carried Madelon upstairs like a baby, took off her hat and
damp cloak, laid her on the bed, and then ran downstairs again
for a glass of cordial.

Madelon, however, was already reviving, and when Jeanne-Marie
went up to her again, she raised herself on the bed, resting
on one elbow, and fixed her large eyes upon the woman, first
with a look of blank unconsciousness, and then with a sudden
light of terror in them, as of some wild hunted thing just
caught by its pursuers.

"Don't take me back to the convent!" she cried in sharp,
piteous accents; "don't take me back; I can't go, I can't--no,
no, no!"

"No one shall take you back," said Jeanne-Marie, trying to
soothe her. But she paid no heed.

"Indeed I can't go. Ah, Madame, you said you knew papa; have
pity upon me! I promised him I would never be a nun. He died,
you know, and sent me to the convent at Liége to be with Aunt
Thérèse; but he made me promise before he died. I can't go
back--I should die too. Ah, Madame, have pity on me!"

She was kneeling on the bed now, her hands clasped with her
pitiful little imploring gesture. Jeanne-Marie came close to
her, and smoothed back her hair caressingly with her rough
work-a-day fingers.

"_Soyez tranquille, mon enfant_," she said, "you shall not be
taken back to the convent, and no one shall make you a nun."

"You promise?" said Madelon, catching hold of her arm, and
looking into her face with eager, suspicious eyes; "you
promise not to take me back?"

"Yes, I promise," said the woman; "fear nothing, _ma petite_."

"And you won't tell Aunt Thérèse that I ran away? For she
would be so angry, you know; she wanted to make me a nun like
herself; you won't tell her--you won't, you won't?"

"No, no," said Jeanne-Marie. "I will tell nothing, you are
quite safe here; now lie down and be quiet, and I will give
you something nice to drink."

But Madelon's eyes wandered; the terrified look came again,
and she clung tighter and tighter to Jeanne-Marie.

"Please ask Aunt Thérèse to go away!" she cried; "she is
standing there in the corner of the room, staring at me; she
will not move--there--there she is, don't you see? Oh, tell her
to go away--she stares at me so, and oh! there is a coffin at
her side, it is all over death's heads; Aunt Thérèse has a
death's head--oh! take me away, take me away!"

With a shriek of terror the child threw herself back on the
bed, covering her eyes with her hands, burying her face in the
pillow.

Jeanne-Marie went to the top of the stairs and called "Jacques
Monnier!"

"_Hein?_" said the man, coming slowly to the door below, and
standing with his broad figure framed in it.

"Jacques," said Jeanne-Marie, "go at once for the doctor, and
tell him to come here, for some one is very ill."

"_Hein?_" said Jacques again, "does that concern me? I must
attend to my own affairs, and finish my wine, Jeanne-Marie."

"If you do not go this moment," said the woman, with a little
stamp of her foot, "you shall never taste my wine again, with
or without payment, Jacques, _et je tiens parole, moi!_"

"There is other wine to be had in Le Trooz," answered the man
sulkily, but moving nevertheless towards the entrance, when
she was recalled by Jeanne-Marie.

"Jacques," she said, coming two or three steps down the
stairs, "if Monsieur le Docteur inquires who is ill, you will
say it is my niece."

"But she is then your niece, _la petite_," said Jacques,
scratching his head as an outward expression of some inward
perplexity.

"You will tell Monsieur le Docteur what I say," repeated
Jeanne-Marie imperiously, "and make haste;" and she went
upstairs again, and closed the bed-room with a certain
emphasis, as though to prevent further discussion.

Madelon was still lying on the bed, with her face buried in
the pillow; a violent shivering of cold or of fear had seized
her, but she resisted Jeanne-Marie's efforts to raise her with
the obstinacy of a strong will acted on by intense physical
alarm. But at length the woman's persuasive words appeared to
have a soothing effect, though she seemed scarcely to take in
their meaning, for she allowed herself to be undressed and put
into bed, and after taking some warm drink, fell into a
restless, starting sleep.

Jeanne-Marie drew a curtain across the small window, so as to
shut out the slanting sunbeams, which were pouring into the
room, on to the patchwork quilt and white pillow where the
little feverish head lay so uneasily; then, taking up her
knitting, she sat down by the bedside, and as she mechanically
added row after row to the blue worsted stocking, she
reflected. From Madelon's few distracted words, she imagined
that she knew the state of the case very well; it was one not
unprecedented, and presented no difficulties to either
comprehension of belief. "They wanted to bring her up as a
nun, and so she ran away. Well, thou hast done wisely, little
one; I also know something of convents and nuns, and if it
depends on me to protect thee, they shall not touch thee, _mon
enfant_." This was her final resolution as she sat knitting and
reflecting, with a great sympathy with, and tenderness for,
the poor little terrified, hunted girl, lying there at her
mercy.

Such tenderness, and power of sympathy with distress, were
indeed amongst Jeanne-Marie's strongest characteristics,
hidden though they were under a harsh, imperious manner and
exterior. For she too had had a strange, sad, troublous life,
with tragedy and sorrow enough in it, which it does not
concern us to relate here, and which were yet of no small
concern to our little Madelon, as she lay there, dependent on
this one woman for freedom, shelter, and even existence. For
if, as is surely the case, in our life of to-day lies a whole
prophecy of our life in the future, if in our most trivial
actions is hidden the germ of our greatest deeds, then our
most momentous decision in some sudden emergency, is but the
sure consummation and fruition of each unnoticed detail, our
action of to-day but the inevitable result of a whole precious
lifetime of preparation for some unforeseen crisis. So, too,
from a present habit of thought, much may be surmised as to
what has been done and suffered in the past; and though little
was known about Jeanne-Marie, some inferences might have been
drawn concerning her former life, had any of her neighbours
been skilled in the inductive method, or been sufficiently
interested in the woman to study her character closely. But in
fact they cared very little about her. It is true that when
she had first come into the village, there had been many
conjectures about her set afloat. She did not belong to that
part of the country, she could not even speak the Liége
_patois_, and never took the trouble to learn it, invariably
using the French language. She had no belongings, and never
spoke of her former life; so that it was not long before a
vague, open-mouthed curiosity, seizing upon a thousand
untested hints and rumours to satisfy itself withal, led the
villagers to whisper among themselves that some strange
history was attached to her; and woe to that woman who, in a
small village, is accredited with a strange history that no
one knows anything about! But Jeanne-Marie had outlived all
this; her secrets, if she had any, were never revealed either
then or later, and in time people had ceased to trouble
themselves about her. She led a silent, solitary life,
resenting perhaps the suspicion with which she had at first
been received, and holding aloof from her neighbours as they
held aloof from her. Her restaurant was well attended, for she
gave the best wine in the village, was liberal, and of an
honesty above suspicion; but even the men who were her most
constant customers did not like her, and were half afraid of
her. She held imperious rule among them, issuing imperative
commands which she expected to be obeyed, and enforcing strict
order and regularity in her house. To the women of the village
her manners were cold, abrupt, and reserved; she never stopped
to gossip or chatter; she would come and go about her business
without an unnecessary word, and the women, looking after her,
had ceased to do more than shrug their shoulders, and resume
the flow of talk her silent presence had checked.

But it was, after all, only the gay, and prosperous, and happy
that she shunned. The poor, the friendless, the erring, the
rejected of this world, were certain to find in Jeanne-Marie a
friend who never failed, one who looked out for the sorrowful
and broken-hearted, and never passed by on the other side.
Even the village children knew to whom to run when hurt, or
unhappy, or in disgrace, sure of getting consolation and
sugar-plums from the sad, lonely woman, though equally sure of
being sent away as soon as their tears were dried, and their
troubles forgotten. If the poor, abused Ugly Duckling of Hans
Andersen's tale had strayed on a wintry day to her door, she
would have taken it in, and nourished, and cherished it all
through the cold, dark weather; but when the summer was come,
and the duckling grown into a swan, spread its broad white
wings against the blue sky, she would have watched it fly away
without word or sign to detain it; she would have had nothing
in common with it then.

So to Jeanne-Marie it seemed the simplest thing in the world,
that, having found Madelon in need of help, she should help
her at the cost of any trouble to herself; that she should
take in, and cherish this poor little stray girl without
inquiry, without hope, or thought of reward. At Madelon,
happy, successful, contented, Jeanne-Marie would not have
looked a second time; but for Madelon, forsaken, shelterless,
dependent on her, she would have been ready almost to lay down
her life.

In about half an hour, Jacques Monnier returned with the
doctor. He knew Jeanne-Marie well, as he knew everyone in the
village, and went at once upstairs to the little bedroom where
Madelon was lying.

"Your niece, I think Jacques Monnier told me?" he said, after
watching Madelon for a minute as she lay in her uneasy sleep.

"Yes," said Jeanne-Marie with a certain sullenness of manner,
which she was apt to display towards her superiors in station.

"Has she been here long?" said the doctor, feeling Madelon's
pulse, but looking steadily at the woman; "when was she taken
ill? How is it you have not called me in before?"

"Look here, Monsieur le Docteur," answered Jeanne-Marie with a
sort of stolid defiance, "I called you in to tell me what to
do for the child, not to put me through a catechism. She
fainted away this morning, and when she came to herself again,
she began to rave and talk nonsense, so I sent for you. Now
tell me what is to be done."

Just then Madelon opened her eyes.

"Do you not know me, Madame?" she said. "I am Madeleine
Linders, and papa is dead; he sent me to be with Aunt Thérèse,
but she is dead too--Oh, save me, save me!" she cried,
springing up with all the old terror upon her; "don't let them
take me, papa, you made me promise that I would not stay
there. Tell Aunt Thérèse to go away, papa; papa, save me!" and
she clung to the doctor's arm. "Besides, you know," she went
on, speaking fast and eagerly, "I promised him--Monsieur
Horace, you know--and I must keep it, I must keep my promise to
Monsieur Horace,--I must, I must!"

"You hear?" said Jeanne-Marie, as Madelon fell back on the
pillow again muttering to herself.

"I hear," answered the doctor, "and I see that she is in a
high fever, and it may go hard with her, poor child! It is
fortunate she is with you, Jeanne-Marie," he went on, kindly,
"for you are a capital nurse, I know; but I am afraid it will
be a long business."

"That is no matter," she answered.

"If you would like to have her removed to the hospital at
Liége," continued the doctor, doubtfully, "it might still be
done. It may injure your business to have her here. Still, as
you say she is your niece----"

"As I say she is my niece," returned Jeanne-Marie, abruptly,
"it is not likely I should turn her out of the house, and that
is enough. My business will take care of itself. And now tell
me what I am to do, doctor?"

He prescribed for Madelon, said he would call again, and left
the house, pondering on the woman who kept so apart from her
neighbours, and on her small visitor, who he knew well enough
was not her niece, for had not Jacques Monnier told him how
Jeanne-Marie had suddenly come in out of the rain, carrying
the girl in her arms, and had taken her upstairs without a
word of explanation?

"There is a mystery somewhere," thought the doctor; "but it is
no concern of mine." And so he went his way to visit his next
patient.

Jeanne-Marie had no fears concerning the doctor's discretion;
he was a man too busy in his scattered district to have much
time or inclination for gossip. But she had far less
confidence in Jacques Monnier's wisdom, and thought it not
inexpedient to go downstairs, after the doctor's departure,
and give her customer a word of exhortation. He was seated at
the table as before, twirling the glass in his fingers, and
gazing vacantly out of window.

"Well, Jacques," said Jeanne-Marie, "and what did you tell the
doctor?"

"I told him what you told me," said the man, in a surly voice.

"What was that?"

"That your niece was ill, and that he was to come and see
her."

"Was that all?"

No answer.

"Was that all?" repeated Jeanne-Marie. "_Allons_, Jacques, don't
keep me waiting. I will know what you said to the doctor."

Jacques, who under other circumstances might have met this
imperative mode of questioning by dogged silence, or an
evasive answer, was too uncertain as to what the doctor
himself might have repeated to Jeanne-Marie, to attempt
equivocation.

"I told him," he said, slowly and reluctantly, "that it was a
queer thing you should have picked up your niece in the
street, and that I didn't believe she was your niece at all;
and no more I do, Jeanne-Marie," he added, gaining courage as
he spoke.

"Ah! you told him that?" said the woman. "Well, look you,
Jacques, if I find you saying any such thing again, this is
the very last time you cross my door-step, and that account of
yours will have to be paid in full next week. You understand?"

"Oh! yes, I understand well enough," he answered sulkily; "but
if I hold my tongue the neighbours will talk; I am not the
only person who saw you come through the street, I will answer
for it."

"Who said I came through the village at all? And what does it
matter to you what the neighbours say?" retorted Jeanne-Marie,
"attend to what I say--that is enough for you, Jacques--and if
you do hear anyone say anything about the child upstairs, tell
them it is my niece come on a visit, and not a word more;
otherwise you understand----"

"Oh! yes, I understand," he repeated grumbling, "but what do I
care? Yours is not the only wine to be had in Le Trooz----"

"Bah!" was Jeanne-Marie's only answer, as she left the room.
She knew her customer too well to be in the least afraid of
his carrying his implied threat into execution. Indeed,
Jacques Monnier, who had no mind to be ousted from the
convenient little restaurant, where he got good wine and long
credit, acted upon the hints he had received, and stuck
manfully to Jeanne-Marie's version of her adventure. And so it
happened, that although for a day or two a few rumours were
afloat in the village, they soon died away; and it was
received as an established fact by those who cared to interest
themselves in Jeanne-Marie's affairs, that it was her niece
whom the doctor went to see so regularly. And so much apart
did Jeanne-Marie keep from her neighbours, that the subject
was soon half-forgotten, and Madelon's very existence seemed
problematic, as she lay in the little upstairs room, and the
woman who sheltered her, appeared to come and go about her
business much the same as usual.

As for Jeanne-Marie, as soon as the house was quiet, on the
evening of that day so eventful for our little Madelon, she
sat down and wrote two letters: one she put into a large
envelope, which she directed to a street in Paris; the other,
inclosed in the first, was addressed to the Superior of the
Convent at Liége, and the letters, with their Paris direction,
were put into the post that very night.


CHAPTER XIV.

Madelon's Convalescence.


Madelon, if she had but known it, had small reason to
apprehend any very vigorous pursuit on the part of the nuns.
There was, it is true, no small commotion in the convent, when
Soeur Lucie, entering Madelon's cell the morning after her
flight, found the empty room, the unslept-on bed. She did not
indeed realize at first that the child had run away; but when,
after inquiry and search through the whole convent, she found
that nothing had been seen or heard of her, since she herself
had quitted the cell the previous evening, then the whole
truth became apparent, and a general sense of consternation
pervaded the sisterhood. It was the enormity of the offence
that struck them aghast, the boldness of the attempt, and its
complete success. It was altogether a new idea to them that
any one should wish to escape from those walls; an appalling
one that any one should make such an attempt, and succeed.
Soeur Lucie, held responsible for Madelon, was summoned before
the Superior, questioned, cross-questioned, and, amid tears
and sobs, could only repeat that she had left her charge as
usual, the evening before; and that, in the morning, going to
her cell, had discovered that she had vanished; how, or when,
or whither, she could not imagine. How she had escaped was
indeed at first a mystery, which could not fail to rouse an
eager curiosity in the sisters, and a not unpleasing
excitement succeeded the first indignation, as, with one
accord, they ran to examine Madelon's room. The window stood
wide open, the branches of the climbing rose-trees were broken
here and there, small footsteps could be traced on the flower-
bed below. It was all that was needed to make their
supposition a certainty--Madelon had run away.

This point settled, a calmer feeling began to prevail, and, as
their first consternation subsided, the nuns began to reflect
that after all worse things might have happened. If it had
been one of themselves indeed, that would have been a very
different matter; such a sin, such a scandal could not even be
thought of without horror. But this little stray girl, who
belonged to nobody, whom nobody had cared for, who had been a
trouble ever since she had come, and who had been left a
burthen and a responsibility on their hands--why should they
concern themselves so much about her flight? No doubt she had
made her escape to some friends she had known before she was
brought to the convent, from no one knew where, two or three
years ago. The nuns were not more averse than other people to
the drawing of convenient conclusions from insufficient
premises, and this theory of Madelon's having run away to her
friends once started, every one was ready to add their mite of
evidence in aid of its confirmation. Some thought she had
possibly started for England--it was an Englishman who had
brought her to the convent; others that she had friends in
Paris--it certainly was from Paris she had come; one suggested
one thing, and one another, and in the meantime, though
inquiries were made, the search was neither very energetic nor
very determined. When the evening came, it was generally felt
to be rather a relief than otherwise that nothing had been
heard of the small runaway. What could they do with her if she
came back? No one felt disposed to put in a claim for her--
least of all Soeur Lucie, whom she had brought into terrible
disgrace, and who had yet been really fond of the child, and
who for months after had a pang in her kind little heart
whenever she thought of her wayward charge. And so, when, two
days later, a letter, with neither date nor signature, but
bearing a Paris post-mark, arrived for the Superior,
announcing that Mademoiselle Madeleine Linders was with
friends, and that it was useless for any one to attempt to
find her or reclaim her, for they had her in safe keeping, and
would never consent to part with her, every one felt that the
matter was arranged in the most satisfactory manner possible,
and troubled themselves no more.

As for the Countess G----, there had been a flatness about the
termination of her share in Madelon's adventures that
effectually put a stop to any desire on her part to pursue the
matter further; and finding, on her arrival at Liége, that her
husband was obliged to start for Brussels that very afternoon,
she found it convenient altogether to dismiss the subject from
her mind. With her departure from Liége, we also gladly
dismiss her from these pages for ever.

So Madelon, tossing and moaning on her bed of sickness, is
once more all alone in the world, except for Jeanne-Marie, to
whom, before two days were over, she had somehow become the
one absorbing interest in life. The lonely woman, whose
sympathies and affections had, as one might guess, been all
bruised, and warped, and crushed in some desperate struggle,
or in some long agony, found a new channel for them in an
indescribable, yearning love for the little pale girl whom she
had rescued, and by whose side she sat hour after hour,
wondering, as she listened to her wild broken talk about her
father and Monsieur Horace, Aunt Thérèse, and Soeur Lucie, what
the child's past life could have been, and by what strange
chances she had come to be in such evil straits. A new world
of hopes and fears, of interests and anxieties, seemed to have
suddenly opened for Jeanne-Marie, as she sat in the little
upper chamber; whilst in the public room downstairs the rough
men, in obedience to her word, sat silently drinking and
smoking, or talking in subdued voices, so that no disturbing
sound might reach the sick child above.

Madelon's second attack of fever was far worse than the first.
Weakened as she was by her former illness, it was an almost
hopeless fight with death that was carried on for days; and
when the crisis came at last, the doctor himself declared that
it was scarcely possible that she should rally, and be
restored to life and reason. But the crisis passed, and
Madelon was once more safe. She awoke about midnight to the
confused consciousness of a strange room, perplexing her with
unfamiliar surroundings. A dim light burned before the
coloured picture of a saint that hung on the rough white-
washed wall, and by its uncertain gleams she could distinguish
the rude furniture, the patchwork quilt, the heavy rafters
that crossed above her head. The window stood wide open,
letting in the night scents of the flowers in the garden
below; she could see a space of dark, star-lit sky; and hear
the rustling of the trees, the whispering of the breeze among
the vine-leaves that clustered about the window. Her eyes
wandered round with vague bewilderment, the flickering light
and long shadows only seeming to confuse her more, as she
tried to reconcile her broken, shadowy memories with the
present realities, which seemed more dreamlike still.

The door opened, and Jeanne-Marie came in, holding another
candle, which she shaded with her hand, as she stood by the
bed for a moment, looking down upon Madelon.

"You are better," she said at last, setting down the candle on
the table behind her, and smoothing the pillow and coverlet.
Her voice was like her face, harsh and melancholy, but with a
tender, pathetic ring in it at times.

"Am I?" said Madelon. "Have I been ill again? Where is Soeur
Lucie? This is not the convent--where am I?"

"You are not at the convent now," answered Jeanne-Marie. "I am
taking care of you, and you must lie very still, and go to
sleep again when you have taken this."

Madelon drank off her medicine, but she was not satisfied, and
in a moment her brain was at work again.

"I can't make out where I am," she said, looking up at Jeanne-
Marie with the old wistful look in her eyes--"is it in an
hotel? --is papa coming? I thought I was at the convent with
Aunt Thérèse. Ah! do help me!"

"I will tell you nothing unless you lie still," said Jeanne-
Marie, as Madelon made a most futile attempt to raise herself
in bed. She considered a moment, and then said--"Don't you
remember, _ma petite?_ Your papa is dead, and you are not at the
convent any more, and need not go back there unless you like.
You are with me, Jeanne-Marie, at Le Trooz, and I will take
care of you till you are well. Now you are not to talk any
more."

Madelon lay silent for a minute. "Yes, I remember," she said
at last, slowly. "Papa is dead, and Monsieur Horace--he is not
here?" she cried, with startling eagerness.

"No, no," said Jeanne-Marie, "no one is here but me."

"Because you know," Madelon went on, "I cannot see him yet--I
cannot--it would not do to see him, you know, till--till--ah! you
do not know about that----" She stopped suddenly, and Jeanne-
Marie smoothed the pillow again with her rough, kindly hands.

"I know that you must go to sleep now, and that I shall not
say a word more to you to-night," she said; and then, without
heeding Madelon's further questions, she put out the light,
and sat silently by the bedside till the child was once more
asleep.

Madelon did not recover readily from this second attack. Even
when she was pronounced wholly out of danger, there were the
weariest days to be passed, relapses, weakness, languor.
Flowers bloomed and faded in the garden below, the scent of
the roses perfumed the air, the red-tipped vine-shoots growing
upwards narrowed the space of blue sky seen through the little
window, till the sun shone in softened by a screen of glowing
green leaves; and all through these lengthening summer days
our pale little Madelon lay on her sick bed, very still, and
patient, and uncomplaining, and so gentle and grateful to
Jeanne-Marie, who nursed and watched her unceasingly with her
harsh tenderness, that a passionate affection seized the hard,
lonely woman, for the forlorn little stranger who was so
dependent upon her, and who owed everything to her compassion
and care.

It was not long before a recollection of the past came back to
Madelon, sufficiently clear, until the moment of her jumping
out of the train at Le Trooz; after that she could remember
nothing distinctly, only a general sense of misery, and pain,
and terror. She asked Jeanne-Marie numberless questions, as to
how and where she had found her, and what she had said.

"How did you know that I had run away from the convent?" she
asked.

"You said so," answered Jeanne-Marie. "You were afraid that
your aunt would come and take you back."

"Aunt Thérèse is dead," said Madelon. "I remember it all very
well now. Did I tell you that? And did I tell you about papa,
too? How strange that I should not remember having said so
many things," she added, as the woman replied in the
affirmative.

"Not at all strange," replied Jeanne-Marie. "People often talk
like that when ill, and recollect nothing of it afterwards."

"Still, it is very odd," said Madelon, musing; and then she
added, suddenly, "Did I talk of any one else?"

"Of plenty of people," replied Jeanne-Marie. "Soeur Lucie, and
Soeur Françoise, and numbers of others."

"Ah! yes; but I don't mean in the convent!--any one out of the
convent, I mean? Did I talk of--Monsieur Horace?"

"Sometimes," said Jeanne-Marie, counting her stitches
composedly.

"What did I say about him?" asked Madelon, anxiously. "Please
will you tell me? I can't remember, you know."

Jeanne-Marie looked at her for a moment, and then said, rather
bluntly,--

"Nothing that anybody could understand. You called to him, and
then you told him not to come; that was all, and not common
sense either."

"Ah, that is all right," said Madelon, satisfied; her secret
at least was safe, and never, never, should it be revealed
till she had accomplished her task. As she once more mentally
recorded this little vow, she looked at Jeanne-Marie, who was
still sitting by her bedside knitting.

"Jeanne-Marie," she said in her tired, feeble little voice,
and putting out one of her small thin hands, "you are very,
very good to me; I can't think how any one can be so kind as
you are; I shall love you all my life. What would have become
of me if you had not found me and taken such care of me?"

"What will become of you if you don't leave off talking, and
do as the doctor bids you?" said Jeanne-Marie, stopping her
little speech; "he said you were to be quite quiet, and here
have you been chattering this half-hour; now I am going to get
your dinner."

As she became stronger, Madelon would sometimes have long
conversations with Jeanne-Marie--in which she would tell her
much about her past life, of her father, of how happy she had
been as a little child, of how miserable she had been in the
convent, and of how she had hated the life there. But more
often she would lie still for hours, almost perfectly silent,
thinking, brooding over something--Jeanne-Marie would wonder
what. Madelon never told her; she had begun to love and cling
to the woman, almost the only friend she had in the world, but
not even in her would she confide; she had made the resolution
to tell no one of her plans and hopes, to trust no one, lest
her purpose should in any way be frustrated; and she kept to
it, though at the cost of some pain and trouble, so natural is
it to seek for help and sympathy.

Madelon's fixed idea had returned to her with redoubled force
since her illness. Her one failure had only added intensity to
her purpose since her first sense of discouragement had passed
away; there was something in the child's nature that refused
to acknowledge defeat as such, and she was only eager to begin
again. Our poor little Madelon, with her strange experiences
and inexperiences, her untutored faiths and instincts, shaking
off all rule, ignorant of all conventionalities, only bent,
amidst difficulties, and obstacles, and delays, on steadily
working towards one fixed and well-defined end--surely, tried
by any of the received laws of polite society, concerning
correct, well-educated young ladies of thirteen, she would be
found sadly wanting. Shall we blame her? or shall we not
rather, with a kindly compassion, try for a while to
understand from what point of view she had learnt to look at
life, and to arrive at some comprehension of, and sympathy
with her.

In the meantime, though it was evident she could do nothing
till she was well again, an old perplexity was beginning to
trouble Madelon; what was she to do without money? Once, a
strange chance--which, with a touch of convent superstition
that had been grafted on her mind, she was half disposed to
look upon as miraculous--had provided the requisite sum, but
the most sanguine hopes could hardly point to the repetition
of such a miracle or chance, and during long hours, when
Jeanne-Marie was attending to her customers below, or sitting
at her side, knitting, Madelon's brain was for ever working on
this old problem that had proved so hard before, when she sat
thinking it out in the convent cell. But at any rate she was
free here; she might come and go without scaling walls, or
fear of pursuing nuns; and then could she not earn some money?
The thought was an inspiration to Madelon--yes, when she was
strong and well enough, she would work day and night till she
had gained it. If she were only well.

It was about this time that Jeanne-Marie perceived a change in
her patient, hitherto so still and resigned, a certain uneasy
restlessness and longing to be up and about again.

"Jeanne-Marie, do you think I shall soon be well?" she would
ask again and again; "do you think the doctor will soon let me
get up?"

"You will never be well if you toss about like that," Jeanne-
Marie said grimly, one evening; "lie still, and I will tell
you some stories."

She sat down by her, and, as she knitted, told her one story
after another, fairy-tales for the most part, old stories that
Madelon knew by heart from her early studies in the German
picture-books and similar works. But Jeanne-Marie told them
well, and somehow they seemed invested with a new interest for
Madelon, as she half unconsciously contrasted her own
experiences with those of the heroes and heroines, and found
in their adventures some far-fetched parallel to her own. But
then their experiences were so much wider and more varied in
that old charmed, sunny, fairy life; the knot of their
difficulties was so readily cut, by a simple reference to some
Fortunatus' purse, or the arrival in the very nick of time of
some friendly fairy. Madelon did not draw the parallel quite
far enough, or it might have occurred to her that benevolence
did not become wholly extinct with the disappearance of
fairies, and that friendly interference is not quite unknown
even in these more prosaic days. The Fortunatus' purse, it is
true, might awake a sense of comparison, but who could have
looked at Jeanne-Marie's homely features, and have dreamed of
her in connexion with a fairy? In truth, it requires a larger
and deeper experience than any that Madelon could have
acquired, or reasoned out, to recognise how much of the charm
of these tales of our childhood can be traced to the eternal
truths that lie hidden in them, or to perceive that the
shining fairy concealed beneath the frequent guise of some
crabbed old woman, is no mere freak of fancy, but the symbol
of a reality, less exceptional perhaps amongst us poor
mortals, than amongst the fairies themselves, who, finding
their presence no longer needed, vanished from our earth so
many centuries ago.

It was the next morning, that, after the doctor's visit was
over, Jeanne-Marie returned to the bedroom, with the air of
having tidings to impart.

"You will be satisfied now, I hope," she said, as she met the
gaze of the restless brown eyes. "M. le Docteur says you may
get up for an hour this afternoon."

"Does he?" cried Madelon, eagerly; "then he thinks I am
better--that I shall soon be well."

"Of course you are better," said Jeanne-Marie--"you are getting
stronger every day; you will soon be quite well again."

"And how soon shall I be able to go out?--to go on a journey,
for instance?"

"You are, then, very anxious to get away?" asked Jeanne-Marie.

"But yes," said Madelon naïvely, "I must go as soon as
possible."

"Ah, well," said the woman, stifling a sigh, "that is only
natural; but there is no hurry, you will not be able to go
yet."

"No," said Madelon, sadly, "I shall not be able to go yet."

She did not remark Jeanne-Marie's sad voice, nor the unwonted
tears that filled her eyes; the woman felt half heart-broken
at what she imagined to be her charge's indifference. Madelon
was not indifferent or ungrateful, but her mind was filled
just then with her one idea, and she had no room for any
other; it wrought in her what seemed a supreme selfishness,
and yet she had no thought of self in the matter.

She lay quite still for a few minutes, her pale little face
glowing with her renewed hopes. Then she said,--

"Jeanne-Marie, would you mind putting out my things where I
can see them?--my frock and all. Then I shall believe I am to
get up."

Jeanne-Marie acquiesced silently. Madelon's scanty wardrobe
had all been mended and put in order, and now it was spread
out before her; but somehow the sight of the old black silk
frock brought a sudden chill with it; the very last time she
had put it on had been on the morning of the day she had
escaped from the convent. Since then what had she not gone
through! what disappointment, terror, sickness nearly to
death! Might she not indeed have been dead by this time, or a
prisoner for ever within the convent walls, had it not been
for Jeanne-Marie? Her eyes filled with tears at the thought.
She longed to tell Jeanne-Marie once more how much she loved
her; but the woman had left the room, and Madelon could only
lie patiently, and think of all she was going to do, when she
should be well again.


CHAPTER XV.

A Summer with Jeanne-Marie.


At the back of Jeanne-Marie's house lay the garden, sheltered
by the steep rocky hill that rose just beyond. All through the
long summer evenings the voices of the men, as they sat
smoking and drinking in its vine-covered arbours, might be
heard; but during the day it was comparatively deserted, and
Jeanne-Marie had no difficulty in finding a quiet, shady
corner where Madelon might sit as long as she pleased without
being disturbed. An outside wooden staircase led from her room
to the garden below, so that she could come and go without
passing through the lower rooms of the house; and we may be
sure that it was considered a golden day by both her and
Jeanne-Marie, when she first made this little expedition. The
child, still almost too weak to stand or walk, was carried by
her strong, kind hostess down the flight of steps, and once
more found herself under the blue heavens, with a world of
sweet summer sights and sounds around her, as she lay on her
little improvised couch amongst the flowers and sweet-smelling
herbs.

"There," said Jeanne-Marie, contemplating her with much
satisfaction, "now you have nothing to do but to get well
again as fast as you can."

"Ah, I shall soon be well now!" cried Madelon, joyfully. The
colour came into her pale cheeks, her eyes shone with a new
light. Mists, and rain, and darkness seemed to have fled from
her life, and in their place a full tide of summer sunshine,
in which the birds sang gladly, and the flowers seemed to
spring up and open unconsciously, was crowning and glorifying
the day.

That she had nothing to do but to get well, was not at all
Madelon's idea, however. A few evenings later, as she lay
awake in her bed, watching Jeanne-Marie moving about in the
twilight, arranging things for the night, she said,--

"Jeanne-Marie, I want to earn some money."

"Some money, little one! What is that for?"

"Ah, that I cannot tell you; but I want some, very much--thirty
francs at least. See here, I have been thinking--I can
embroider--Soeur Lucie said I could do it almost as well as she
could; do you think you could get me some to do? Ah, please
help me. I should like to earn some money."

Two days afterwards, Jeanne-Marie produced two strips of
cloth, such as are used for purposes of church decoration,
with patterns and materials for embroidery.

"Is that the sort of thing?" she said. "If you could do these,
you would get thirty francs for them, I daresay; I will see
that they are disposed of."

"I will try," said Madelon. "Jeanne-Marie, how good you are to
me!--whatever I want, you do for me!"

"That is nothing," said the woman, and went abruptly away to
attend to her customers.

So, all the long summer days, Madelon sat through hot
noontides in the shady garden below, through golden sunsets at
the open window of her room above, stitching with silks and
gold and silver thread, till her weak little fingers ached,
and the task seemed as if it would never be done. Down in the
homely neglected little garden, all a sweet tangle of flowers
and weeds, she would seat herself; the birds would twitter
overhead, the bees would come humming round her amongst the
unpruned vines and roses that clambered everywhere, while the
embroidery pattern slowly grew beneath her fingers. She worked
steadily and well, but she could not work very fast; and she
wearied, oh! how she wearied of it sometimes; but she never
wavered in her purpose. "It is for Monsieur Horace," she would
say, and begin again with fresh zeal. Through the open window
of the little kitchen, which looked upon the garden, she could
see Jeanne-Marie coming and going, chopping herbs, shelling
peas and beans; and sometimes, when Madelon was too tired of
her work, she would gladly throw it down, that she might help
in these employments. "May I make an omelette, Jeanne-Marie?"
she would say; "I know how to do it, if you will let me try."
And the sight of Madelon flitting about the kitchen, busy
among the pots and pans, seemed to stir some long-forgotten
emotion in Jeanne-Marie's sad heart--too long-forgotten to be
learnt anew without pain, for her eyes would fill with tears
as she watched her. The child never went into the village, or,
indeed, stirred beyond the garden; that was all the world to
her just now, peopled by Jeanne-Marie, her hopes, and her
embroidery.

Is it most strange or most natural, one wonders, that there
are times when one small nook of earth shuts out, as it were,
the whole universe from our eyes, when one personal interest
occupies us to the exclusion of the whole world of action, and
progress, and speculation, and thought? Thrones may topple
over, nationalities be effaced, revolutions in politics, in
religion, in science be effected, and all pass unheeded while
we sit counting our own private loss and gain in love or
friendship, in grief or joy. Whilst Madelon has been wearying
out her little heart and brain in the pursuit of her self-
imposed task, the world has not been, and is not, standing
still, we may be sure, and her small wheel of life is somehow
kept in motion by the great revolving circle of events,
however little she may think of, or heed them. Sebastopol has
fallen in these last months, the Crimean war is at an end, and
all the world that was discussing battles and sieges when
Horace Graham last parted with Madelon one September
afternoon, is talking of treaties and peace now, as the allied
armies move homewards from the East. And--which indeed would
have had more interest for Madelon could she have known it--
Graham himself, after more than two years' hard work, had been
wounded in one of the last skirmishes; and with this wound,
and the accompanying fever, had lain for weeks very near to
death in the Scutari hospital, to be sent home at last,
invalided to England. While Madelon had been slowly recovering
from her fever in her little out-of-the-world refuge at Le
Trooz, Graham had been gaining health and strength in a
pleasant English home, with a sister to nurse and pet him,
nephews and nieces to make much of him, and the rosiest cheeks
and bluest eyes in the world to fall in love with, as he lay
idly on the lawn through the summer days. It was at the house
of his sister, who was married to a country doctor in Kent,
that this double process of love-making and convalescence went
on, with the greatest success and satisfaction to all parties;
and it was Miss Maria Leslie, the ward of his brother-in-law,
Dr. Vavasour, who was the owner of those bluest eyes and
rosiest cheeks.

Meanwhile Madelon, stitching, stitching away at her work,
thought vaguely of Monsieur Horace as being still in that far-
off country from which he had last written to her, and
wondered a little how soon a letter written to the English
address he had given her would reach him. What would he say
and think when he received it? And when, ah! when would she be
able to write it? She worked on steadily, and yet it was
already September when the last stitch was put in, and she
could give the work to Jeanne-Marie. A few days afterwards the
woman put thirty francs into her hands.

"There is your money," she said; "now what are you going to do
with it?"

"I am going away," answered Madelon.

"Yes?" said Jeanne-Marie, without any apparent emotion, "and
where are you going?"

"I am going to Spa. Ah! Jeanne-Marie, do not ask me what I am
going to do; it is my secret, I cannot tell any one, but you
shall know some day."

Jeanne-Marie was silent for a moment, then, "Look here, _ma
petite_," she said; "I don't want to know what you are going to
do; it is no concern of mine, and I cannot keep you if you
want to go away; but who are you going to in Spa? I cannot let
you go off without knowing where you are, and whether you are
safe. You might have the fever again, or some one might try to
take you back to the convent, and I should know nothing about
it. Where are you going? Have you any friends at Spa?"

"There is only Madame Bertrand at the Hôtel de Madrid,"
replied Madelon, rather disconsolately; "I would not mind
going to her again, she is so kind; she wanted me to stay with
her the last time I was there--but then there is Mademoiselle
Henriette--it was she who wished to send me back to the
convent; if she were not there, I should not be afraid."

"And is there no other hotel you could go to?"

"I should not like to go to another," said Madelon, "they
would be all strange; I would rather go to Madame Bertrand,
and I should not have to stay there long."

"And then what are you going to do?"

"I don't know--I am not sure," answered Madelon, rather
embarrassed. "I shall write to a friend I have--Monsieur
Horace, you know--and he will tell me what to do."

"And why do you not write to him at once, _mon enfant?_"

"I cannot," was all Madelon's answer, nor could Jeanne-Marie
ever extract any further explanation on that point. The next
day Jeanne-Marie was missing from the restaurant for some
hours; but she reappeared in the afternoon, and presently came
out into the garden, where Madelon, seated in her favourite
corner, was nursing a big cat, and sorting out herbs for
drying.

"What a long time you have been away!" she said, as Jeanne-
Marie came up to her. "See, I have done all these; I think
there are enough to last you all the winter."

"Not quite," answered the woman; "bur never mind them now. Do
you want to know where I have been? I have been to Spa, and
seen Madame Bertrand."

"Have you?" cried Madelon; "did you tell her about me? Was
Mademoiselle Henriette there?"

"Mademoiselle Henriette is gone; she and her aunt had a grand
quarrel, and she left, and so Madame Bertrand is alone again.
I told her all about you: she said she was glad you had not
gone back to the convent, and that you could go to her
whenever you wished, for she would take care of you. So as
your work is done," Jeanne-Marie added with a sigh, "there is
nothing to keep you, and you may go as soon as you like."

"May I" cried Madelon; "to-morrow, next day? Ah! Jeanne-Marie,
how happy you have made me; you will know why, you will
understand some day--tell me when I shall go."

"We will say the day after to-morrow. I will get your things
ready," answered Jeanne-Marie. She stood gazing at the child
for a moment, as if she would have said something more, then
turned away quickly and entered the house.

Madelon never thought of connecting Jeanne-Marie's sad looks
and ways with her own departure; and indeed, hardly noticed
them, in her joy at having accomplished her task, and earned
the longed-for thirty francs. She did not understand nor
suspect the woman's passionate longing for her affection; no
child can comprehend that strange, pathetic yearning that
older people have for a child's love--a love so pure, and
fresh, and ingenuous, that when it is freely and frankly
given, it is surely the most flattering and precious in the
world. Madelon gave Jeanne-Marie all the love she had to
bestow, but the first place in her heart was already taken;
and perhaps the woman had discovered that it was so, and was
half jealous of this unknown Monsieur Horace, whom she divined
to be at the bottom of all Madelon's plans and ideas. But if
it were so, she never spoke of it, nor of any of the half-
formed hopes and projects she may have had; and Madelon never
could have guessed them, as her kind, sad hostess silently
made up her small wardrobe into a bundle, and patched the old
black silk frock once more, sighing over it the while. And had
Madelon then no regrets at leaving the little cottage, where
she had been tended with such motherly care? Some, perhaps;
for as she sat that last evening watching Jeanne-Marie at her
work, she, too, sighed a little; and at last, clasping her
arms round the woman's neck, she cried, "Jeanne-Marie, I will
love you always--always!--I will never forget you!"

"That is as may be," says melancholy Jeanne-Marie, disengaging
herself.

"Ah! you will not believe me," said Madelon; "but I tell you I
never forget, and you have been so good, so kind to me!
Sometimes I think I should like to stay with you always--would
you let me?"

"Would I let you?" said Jeanne-Marie, dropping her work
suddenly, and looking at the child. "No, I would not let you,"
she said, after a moment's pause, "unless you had nowhere else
to go; but you have other friends, it appears, and it is well
for you. No, I would not let you, for it would be as bad a
thing for you as could be. Ask any of the neighbours what they
would think of it--ask them if they think you would get good or
bad from me, and see what they would say!" She gave a little
scornful laugh.

"I don't know what you mean," said Madelon, fixing her great
eyes on her with a puzzled look--"I don't care what they would
say. You are one of the best people I ever knew, and I love
you with all my heart; but I _must_ go away."

"Why must you?" asks Jeanne-Marie, stitching away at the black
frock.

"That is what I cannot tell you," said Madelon. "No, I will
not tell any one, though I should like to tell you, too,"
added the poor child, gazing wistfully at almost the only
friend she had in the world.

"Well, well," said Jeanne-Marie, "I do not want to hear your
secrets, as you know, unless you like to tell them; but I am
not going to lose sight of you altogether till I hear you are
safe with your friends. You must write me a letter from Spa,
and if I do not hear or see anything of you in a week's time,
I shall come and look after you."

"Yes, I will write," said Madelon; "and I wish--I wish I was
not going away; I have been so happy here." And then she hid
her face on Jeanne-Marie's shoulder, while the sky was all
rosy with the sunset of the last of these peaceful summer days
that our Madelon was to spend at Le Trooz.

Jeanne-Marie could not spare time to go again to Spa the next
day, but she went with Madelon to the station, and waited till
the train that bore her away was out of sight, and then, all
lonely, she walked back to her empty house.


CHAPTER XVI.

How Madelon kept her Promise.


Madelon was standing in a little upper bedroom of the Hôtel de
Madrid, a room so high up that from the window one looked over
the tops of the trees in the Place Royale below, to the
opposite hills. It was already dusk, but there was sufficient
light to enable her to count over the little piles of gold
that lay on the table before her, and which, as she counted,
she put into a small canvas bag. It was the third evening
after her arrival in Spa; she was preparing for her third
visit to the Redoute, and this was what her capital of thirty
francs had already produced.

The last ten-franc piece disappeared within the bag, and
Madelon, taking her hat and cloak, began to put them on
slowly, pausing as she did so to reflect.

"If I have the same luck this evening," she thinks, "to-morrow
I shall be able to write to Monsieur Horace--if only I have--and
why not? I have scarcely lost once these last two nights.
Certainly it is better to play in the evening than in the
daytime. I remember now that papa once said so, and to-night I
feel certain--yes, I feel certain that I shall win--and then to-
morrow----"

She clasped her hands in ecstasy; she looked up at the evening
sky. It was a raw, grey September evening, with gusts of wind
and showers of rain at intervals. But Madelon cared nothing
for the weather; her heart was all glowing with hope, and joy,
and exultation. She put on her hat and veil, took up her
money, and locking her door after her, ran downstairs. She
hung the key up in Madame Bertrand's room, but Madame Bertrand
was not there. On Madelon's arrival at the hotel she had found
the excellent old woman ill, and unable to leave her room, and
it was in her bed that she had given the child the warmest of
welcomes, and from thence that she had issued various orders
for her comfort and welfare. Her attack still kept her
confined to her room, and thus it happened that our Madelon,
quite independent, found herself at liberty to come and go
just as she pleased.

She hung up her key, in the deserted little parlour, and,
unchallenged, left the hotel, and went out into the tree-
planted Place, where the band was playing, and people walking
up and down under the chill grey skies. She felt very hopeful
and joyous, so different from the first time she had started
on the same errand, and the fact inspired her with ever-
increasing confidence. She had failed then, and yet here she
was, successful in her last attempts, ready to make another
crowning trial, and with how many more chances in her favour!
Surely she could not fail now!--and yet if she should! She was
turning towards the Redoute, when an idea suddenly occurred to
her--an idea most natural, arising, as it did, from that
instinctive cry for more than human help, that awakes in every
heart on great emergencies, and appealing, moreover, to that
particular class of religious sentiment which in our little
orphaned Madelon had most readily responded to convent
teaching. What if it had been the Holy Virgin Mother who had
been her protector in all these troubles, who had raised her
up friends, and had brought her from death, as it were, to
life again, to fulfil her promise? And if it were so,--which
seemed most probable to Madelon,--would it not be well to
invite her further protection, and even by some small offering
to give emphasis to her prayers? Madelon's notions, it will be
perceived, were not in strict accordance with convent
orthodoxy, which would scarcely have been willing to recognize
the Virgin's help in a successful escape from the convent
itself; but orthodox notions were the last things with which
it was to be expected our Madelon would trouble herself.
Without other thought than that here might be another and sure
way of furthering her one object, she made her way into a
church, and expending two sous in a lighted taper, carried it
to a little side chapel, where, above a flower-decorated
altar, a beneficent Madonna seemed to welcome all sad orphans
in the world to her all-protecting embrace.

To me there is something infinitely touching in these shrines
to the Virgin, with all their associations of suffering and
prayer, in their little ex-voto pictures, and flowers, and
lighted tapers. I do not envy those who can see in them
nothing but the expression of a pitiable superstition; to my
mind they appeal to far wider sympathies, as one thinks of the
sick and weary hearts who have come there to seek consolation
and help. Everywhere one comes across these shrines--in the
gloom of some great Cathedral, in some homely village church,
in some humble wayside chapel, where, amidst sunny fields and
pastures, amidst mountains, streams, and lakes, one reads the
little heart-broken scrawls affixed to the grating, praying an
Ave-Maria or Paternoster from the passer-by, for a sick
person, for a mother watching beside her dying child, for a
woman forsaken of the world. A whole atmosphere of consecrated
suffering seems to float round these spots sacred to sorrow,
the sorrow that humbly appeals, as it best knows how, to the
love, wide enough to embrace and comfort all desolate, and
yearning, and heavy-laden souls.

One can fancy Madelon as she walks along the dim church; one
or two lights twinkle here and there in the darkness, the
taper she holds shines on her little pale face, and her brown
eyes are lighted up with a sudden glow of enthusiasm,
devotion, supplication, as she kneels for a moment before the
Virgin's altar, with an Ave-Maria on her lips, and an unspoken
prayer in her heart.

Half an hour later, Madelon, in the midst of the blaze of
light in the big gambling salon of the Redoute, is thinking of
nothing in the world but rouge-et-noir and the chances of the
game before her. For the first time she has ventured to push
her way through the crowd and take a seat at the table; and
for the moment she has forgotten her object, forgotten why she
is there even, in the excitement of watching whether black or
red will win. It matters little, it seems; whatever she stakes
on, comes up; her small capital is being doubled an trebled.
She had taken off her veil, which hitherto she had carefully
kept down, and the little flushed face, with the eager eyes
that sparkle with impatience at every pause in the game, is
noticed by several people round the table. Her invariable
luck, too, is remarked upon. "Stake for me, _mon enfant_,"
whispered a voice in her ear, and a little pile of five-franc
pieces was put in front of her. Madelon, hardly thinking of
what she did, staked the stranger's money along with her own
on the red. It won. "Thank you, my child; it is the first time
I have won to-night," said the voice again, as a long hand
covered with rings swept up the money. Madelon turned round
quickly: behind her stood a woman with rouged cheeks, a low
evening dress half concealed by a black lace shawl, beads and
bracelets on her neck and arms--a common figure enough--there
were half-a-dozen more such in the room--and she took no more
notice of Madelon, but went on pricking her card without
speaking to her again. But to the child there came a quick
revulsion of feeling, that she could not have explained, as
she shrank away from her gaudily-attired neighbour. All at
once the game seemed somehow to have lost its interest and
excitement; the crowds, the heat, the light, suddenly
oppressed her; for the first time her heart gave way. She felt
scared, friendless, lonely. There came to her mind a thought
of the peaceful faces of the black-robed sisters, a sound as
of the tinkling bell ringing above the old cabbage-ground, a
breath sweet with the scent of fresh roses in Jeanne-Marie's
little garden; she had a momentary impulse to go, to fly
somewhere, anywhere--ah! but whither? Whither in all the wide
world could she go? Back to the convent to be made a nun? Back
to Jeanne-Marie with her promise unfulfilled? "I will keep my
promise, I will not be frightened," thinks the poor child,
bravely; "I will fancy that papa is in the room, and that he
will take care of me." And all these thoughts pass through he
head while the croupier is crying, "_Faites votre jeu,
Messieurs, faites votre jeu!_" and in, and on she goes again.

And while she is intent on making Monsieur Horace's fortune,
Monsieur Horace himself, not five hundred yards off, is
walking up and down the Place Royale, listening to the band,
and troubling his head not at all about fortune-making, but
very much about Madelon. On his recovery from his illness, he
had come to Spa to drink the waters, and had been there nearly
a month, during which time he had twice been over to Liége to
make inquiries about Madelon. His dismay had been great, when,
on his first visit to the convent, he had learnt that
Mademoiselle Linders was dead, that her little niece had
disappeared three or four months before, and that nothing had
been heard of her since, with the exception of the vague,
anonymous letter from Paris. He wrote off at once to Madame
Lavaux, the only person with whom he could imagine Madeleine
to have taken refuge; but, as we know, Madame Lavaux had
neither seen her nor heard anything about her. He had then, in
his perplexity, written to her old friends in Florence,
thinking it just possible they might be able to give him some
information, but with no more success. He received an answer
from the American artist, in which he mentioned the death of
the old violinist, lamented Madelon's disappearance, but, as
may be supposed, gave no news of her.

Graham was greatly annoyed and perplexed. What could have
become of the child? To whom could she have gone? She had had
no friend but himself when he had last parted from her, and
she could hardly, he imagined, have made any outside the
convent walls. And why had she run away? Had she been unkindly
treated? Why had she not written to him if she were in
trouble? These and a hundred other questions he asked himself,
reproaching himself the while for not having kept up some kind
of communication with her, or with Mademoiselle Linders. He
had a real interest in, and affection for, the child, whom he
had befriended in her hour of need; and held himself besides
in some sort responsible for her welfare, after the promise he
had made to her father on his death-bed. What was he to do if
all traces of her were indeed lost? This very day he had again
been over to Liége, had paid a second visit to the convent,
and had made inquiries of every person who probably or
improbably might have had news of her, but with no more result
than before; and now, as he walked up and down the Place
Royale, he was debating in his own mind whether he could take
any further steps in the matter, or whether it must not rather
now be left to time and chance to discover her hiding-place.

A shower of rain came on, dispersing the few people who had
cared to linger in the open air in this raw, chilly evening;
and Horace, leaving the Place, went up the street, which, with
its lights and shops, looked cheerfully by comparison, and,
like the rest of the world, turned into the Redoute, more than
usually full, for it was the race-week, and numbers of
strangers had come into the town. The ball-room, where dancing
was going on, was crowded; and Graham, who, attracted by the
music, had looked in, had soon had enough of the heat and
noise. In a few minutes he had made his way into the gambling
salon, and had joined one of the silent groups standing round
the tables.

Meanwhile, Madelon, once more absorbed in the game, is
meditating her grand _coup_. Hitherto she has been playing
cautiously, her capital accumulating gradually, but surely,
till she has quite a heap of gold and notes before her. It is
already a fortune in her eyes, and she thinks, if she could
only double this all at once, then indeed would the great task
be accomplished; she might go then, she might write to
Monsieur Horace, she would see him again--ah! what joy, what
happiness! Should she venture? Surely it would be very rash to
risk all that at once--and yet if she were to win--and she has
been so lucky this evening-- her heart leaps up again--she
hesitates a moment, then pushes the whole on to the black,
reserving only one ten-franc piece, and sits pale, breathless,
incapable of moving, during what seemed to her the longest
minute in her life. It was only a minute--the croupier dealt
the cards--"_Rouge perd, et couleur_," he cried, paid the smaller
stakes, and then, counting out gold and notes, pushed over to
her what was, in fact, a sufficiently large sum, and which, to
her inexperienced eyes, seemed enormous. "Who is she?" asked
one or two of the bystanders of each other. "She has been
winning all the evening." They shrugged their shoulders;
nobody knew. As for Madelon, she heard none of their remarks--
she had won, she might go now, go and find Monsieur Horace;
and as this thought crossed her mind, she gathered up her
winnings, thrust them into her bag, and rose to depart. As she
turned round, she faced Monsieur Horace himself, who had been
standing behind her chair, little dreaming whose play it was
he had been watching.

She recognised him in a moment, though he had grown thinner
and browner since she had last seen him. "Monsieur Horace!--
Monsieur Horace!" she cried.

He was still watching the game, but turned at the sound of her
voice, and looked down on the excited little face before him.
"Madelon!" he exclaimed--"Madelon here!--no, impossible!
Madelon!"

"Yes, yes," she said, half laughing, half crying at the same
time, "I am Madelon. Ah! come this way--let me show you. I have
something to show you this time--you will see, you will see!"

She seized both his hands as she spoke, and pulled him through
the crowd into the adjoining reading-room. It was all lighted
up, the table strewn with books and papers; but no one was
there. Madelon was in a state of wild excitement and triumph.

"Look here," she cried; "I promised to make your fortune, did
I not, Monsieur Horace?--and I have done it! Ah! you will be
rich now--see here!" she poured the contents of her bag on the
table before him. "Are you glad?" she said.

"Glad!--what on earth are you talking about? Where did you get
this money, Madelon?"

"Where?--why, there, at the tables, to be sure--where else?" she
answered, getting frightened at his manner.

"But--gracious powers! are you out of your senses, child?"
cried Graham. "Whatever possessed you to come here? What
business have you in a place like this? Are you alone?"

"Yes, I am alone. I came to make your fortune," answered
Madelon, dismayed.

"My fortune!" he repeated. "What can have put such a notion
into your head? As for that money, the sooner you get rid of
it the better. What the devil--good heavens! a baby like you!--
here, give it to me!"

"What are you going to do?" cried Madelon, struck with sudden
fear, as he swept it up in his hand.

"Take it back, of course," he answered, striding into the next
room.

"Ah! you shall not!" she cried passionately, running after
him, and seizing his hand; "it is mine, it is mine, you shall
not have it!"

"Hush, Madelon," he said, turning round sharply, "don't make a
disturbance here."

She made no answer, but clung with her whole weight to his arm
as he approached the table. She dragged his hand back, she
held it tight between hers; her face was quite pale, her teeth
set in her childish passion.

"Madelon, let go!" said Graham; "do you hear what I say? Let
go!"

"Give me my money back!" she cried, in a passionate whisper;
"you have no right to take it; it is my own."

"Let go," he repeated, freeing his hand as he spoke. She
seized it again, but it was too late; he had placed the money
on the table, and with the other hand pushed it into the
middle. A horrible pause, while Madelon clung tighter and
tighter, watching breathlessly till she saw the croupier rake
in the whole. All was lost, then; she flung Horace's hand
away, and rushed out of the room. "Madelon!" he cried, and
followed her. Down the lighted staircase, out into the lighted
street, he could see the swift little figure darting along the
Place Royale, where he had been walking not half an hour ago,
all quiet and dark now; the music gone, the people dispersed,
the rain falling heavily. Still she ran on, into the avenue of
the Promenade à Sept Heures. It was darker still there, only a
rare lamp slanting here and there a long gleam of light across
the wet path. Horace began to be afraid that he should lose
her altogether, but she suddenly stumbled and fell, and when
he came up to her, she was sitting all in a heap on the ground
at the foot of a tree, her face buried in her hands, her frame
shaking with sobs.

"Madelon," said Horace, stooping down, and trying to take her
hands; "my little Madelon, my poor little child!"

She jumped up when she heard his voice, and started away from
him.

"_Ne me touchez pas, je vous le défends_," she cried, "_ne me
touchez pas, je vous déteste--vous êtes un cruel--un perfide!_"

She began to sob again, and dropped down once more upon the
ground, crouched upon the damp earth, strewn with dead fallen
leaves. Her hat had fallen off, and the rain came down upon
her uncovered head, wetting the short hair as it was blown
about by the wind, drenching her thin little cloak and old
black silk frock. A very pitiful sight as she sat there, a
desolate, homeless child, on this dark, wet autumn night, deaf
in her excess of childish rage to Horace's words, shaking him
off with wilful, passionate gestures whenever he touched her--a
very perplexing sight to the young man, who stood and watched
her, uncertain what to say or do next.

At last she grew a little quieter, and then he spoke to her in
a tone of authority:--

"You must get up, Madelon; you will get quite wet if you stay
here."

He took hold of her hand, and held it firmly when she tried to
loosen it, and at last she got up slowly. As she rose, she
became conscious of the wet and cold, and was completely
sobered as she stood shivering at Horace's side.

"My poor little Madelon!" he said, in the kind voice she
remembered from old times. "You are quite wet and so cold, we
must not stay here; tell me where you are going?"

"I don't know," said Madelon, beginning to cry again. Only an
hour ago she had been so full of joy and hope, with such a
bright future before her; and now the rain and wind were
beating in her face, above her the black sky, darkness all
around; where indeed was she going?

"But you have some friends here?" said Horace--"you are not
staying here all alone?"

"Yes, I am all alone," said Madelon, sobbing. "Oh! what shall
I do?--what shall I do?"

"Don't cry so, Madelon," said Graham, "my poor child, don't be
frightened. I will take care of you, but I want you to tell me
all about this. Do you mean you are all alone in Spa?"

"Yes, I am all alone; I came here three days ago. I had been
ill at Le Trooz, and a woman there--Jeanne-Marie--took care of
me; but as soon as I was well and had money enough, I came to
Spa, and went to the Hôtel de Madrid. Papa and I used to go
there, and I knew Madame Bertrand who keeps it."

"So you slept there last night," said Horace, not a little
mystified at the story, but trying to elucidate some fact
sufficiently plain to act upon.

"Yes, last light, and before. I left my things there, and
meant to have gone back to-night, but I have no money now.
What is to be done?" That grand question of money, so
incomprehensible to children to whom all things seem to come
by nature, had long ago been faced by Madelon, but had never
before, perhaps, presented itself as a problem so incapable of
solution--as a question to be asked of such a very dreary,
black, voiceless world, from which no answer could reasonably
be expected. But, in truth, the answer was not far off.

"I will take care of all that," said Horace; "so now, come
with me. Stay, here is your hat; we must not go without that."

He arranged her disordered hair and crushed hat, and then,
taking her hand, led her back towards the town, Madelon very
subdued, and miserable, and cold, Horace greatly perplexed as
to the meaning of it all, but quite resolved not to lose sight
of his charge any more.

Arrived at the Hôtel de Madrid, he left Madelon for a moment
in the shabby little coffee-room, while he asked to speak to
Madame Bertrand. Madame Bertrand, as we know, was ill and in
bed, but the maid brought down Madelon's bundle of things.
Graham asked her a few questions, but the girl evidently knew
nothing about the child. "Madame knew--she had dined in
Madame's private room the last two days," but she could not
tell anything more about her, and did not even know her name.

When Graham came back to the room, he found Madelon standing
listlessly as he had left her; she had not moved. "Well," he
said cheerily, "that is settled; now you are my property for
the present; you shall sleep at my hotel to-night."

"At your hotel?" she said, looking up at him.

"Yes, where I am staying. Your friend here is not well. I
think I shall look after you better. You do not mind coming
with me?"

"No, no!" she cried, beginning to cling to him in her old way--
"I will go anywhere with you. Indeed I did not mean what I
said, but I am very unhappy."

"You are tired and wet," answered Graham, "but we will soon
set that to rights; you will see to-morrow, you will not be
unhappy at all. Old friends like you and me, Madelon, should
not cry at seeing each other again; should they?"

Talking to her in his kind, cheerful way, they walked briskly
along till they arrived at the hotel. Madelon was tired out,
and he at once ordered a room, fire, and supper for her, and
handed her over to the care of a good-natured chambermaid.

"Good night, Madelon. I will come and see after you to-morrow
morning," he said smiling, as he left her.

She looked up at him for a moment with a most pitiful, eager
longing in her eyes; then suddenly seizing his hands in her
wild excited way--"Oh, Monsieur Horace, Monsieur Horace, if I
could only tell you!" she cried; and then, as he left the
room, and closed the door, she flung herself upon the floor in
quite another passion of tears than that she had given way to
in the Promenade à Sept Heures.


CHAPTER XVII.

The old Letter.


When Horace went to see after Madelon the next morning, he
found her already up and dressed. She opened her bedroom door
in answer to his knock, and stood before him, her eyes cast
down, her wavy hair all smooth and shining, even the old black
silk frock arranged and neat--a very different little Madelon
from the passionate, despairing, weeping child of the evening
before.

"Good morning, Madelon," said Graham, taking her hand and
looking at her with a smile and a gleam in his kind eyes; "how
are you to-day? Did you sleep well?"

"I am very well, Monsieur," says Madelon, with her downcast
eyes. "I have been up a long time. I have been thinking of
what I shall do; I do not know, will you help me?"

"We will talk of that presently," said Graham, "but first we
must have some breakfast; come downstairs with me now."

"Monsieur Horace," said Madelon, drawing back, "please I
wanted to tell you, I know I was very naughty last night, and
I am very sorry;" and she looked up with her eyes full of
tears.

"I don't think we either of us quite knew what we were doing
last night," said Graham, squeezing her little hand in his;
"let us agree to forget it, for the present at all events; I
want you to come with me now; there is a lady downstairs who
very much wishes to see you."

"To see me?" said Madelon, shrinking back again.

"Yes, don't be frightened, it is only my aunt. She wants to
know you, and I think will be very fond of you. Will you come
with me?" And then, as they went along the passage and
downstairs, he explained to her that he was not alone at the
hotel, but that his aunt, Mrs. Treherne, was also there, and
that he had been telling her what old friends he and Madelon
were, and how unexpectedly they had met last night.

He opened the door of a sitting-room on the _premier_; a wood-
fire was crackling, breakfast was on the table, and before the
coffee-pot stood a lady dressed in black.

"Here is Madelon, Aunt Barbara," said Graham; and Mrs.
Treherne came forward, a tall, gracious, fair woman, with
stately manners, and a beautiful sad face.

"My dear," she said, taking Madelon's hand, "Horace has been
telling me about you, and from what he says, I think you and I
must become better acquainted. He tells me your name is
Madeleine Linders."

"Yes, Madame," says Madelon, rather shyly, and glancing up at
the beautiful face, which, with blue eyes and golden hair
still undimmed, might have been that of some fair saint or
Madonna, but for a certain chilling expression of cold
sadness.

"I knew something of a Monsieur Linders once," said Mrs.
Treherne, "and I think he must have been your father, my dear.
Your mother was English, was she not? Can you tell me what her
name was before she married?"

"I--I don't know," said Madelon; "she died when I was quite a
baby."

"Nearly thirteen years ago, that would be? Yes, that is as I
thought; but have you never heard her English name, never seen
it written? Have you nothing that once belonged to her?"

"Yes, Madame," answered Madelon; "there is a box at the
convent that was full of things, clothes, and some books.
There was a name written in them--ah! I cannot remember it--it
was English."

"Moore?" asked Mrs. Treherne. "Stay, I will write it. Magdalen
Moore--was that it?"

"Yes," said Madelon; "I think it was--yes, I know it was. I
remember the letters now. But I have something of hers here,
too," she added--"a letter, that I found in the pocket of this
dress--this was mamma's once, and it was in the trunk. Shall I
fetch it?--it is upstairs."

"Yes, I should like to see it, my dear. You will wonder at all
these questions, but, if I am not mistaken, your mother was a
very dear friend of mine."

Madelon left the room, and Mrs. Treherne, sitting down at the
table, began to arrange her breakfast-cups. Horace was
standing with one arm on the mantel-piece, gazing into the
fire; he had been silent during this short interview, but as
Madelon disappeared,--

"Is she at all like her mother?" he inquired.

"She is like--yes, certainly she is like; her eyes remind me of
Magdalen's--and yet she is unlike, too."

"You must be prepared," said Horace, after a moment's pause,
"to find her devoted to her father's memory; and not without
reason, I must say, for he was devoted to her, after his own
fashion. She thinks him absolute perfection; and, in fact, I
believe this escapade of hers to have been entirely founded on
precedents furnished by him."

"I think it is the most dreadful thing I ever heard of," said
Mrs. Treherne--"a child of that age alone in such a place!"

"Well, I really don't know," answered Graham, half laughing.
"I don't suppose it has done her much mischief; and of this I
am quite sure, that she had no idea of there being any more
harm in going to a gambling-table than in going for a walk."

"That appears to me the worst part of it, that a child should
have been brought up in such ignorance of right and wrong.
However, she can be taught differently."

"Certainly; but don't you think the teaching had better come
gradually?--it would break her heart, to begin with, to be told
her father was not everything she imagines--if indeed she could
be made to understand it just yet, which I doubt."

"Of course it would be cruel to shake a child's faith in her
father," answered Mrs. Treherne; "but she must learn it in
time. Monsieur Linders was one of the most worthless men that
ever lived, and Charles Moore was as bad, if not worse. I
wonder--good heavens, Horace, how one wonders at such things!--I
wonder what Magdalen had done that she should be left to the
mercy of two such men as those."

"Well, it is no fault of Madelon's, at any rate," Horace
began; and then stopped, as the door opened, and Madelon came
in. In her hand she carried a queer little bundle of
treasures, that she had brought away with her from the
convent--the old German's letter, the two that Horace had sent
her, and one or two other things, all tied together with a
silk thread.

"This is the letter," she said, selecting one from the packet,
and giving it to Mrs. Treherne. It was the one she had read in
the evening twilight in her convent cell last May. "I am
afraid there is no name on it, for there is no beginning nor
ending. I think it must have been burnt."

"Why, that is your writing, Aunt Barbara!" said Graham, who
had come forward to inspect these relics.

"Yes, it is mine," said Mrs. Treherne. "It was written by me
many years ago."

She glanced at the letter as she spoke, then crushed it up
quickly in her hand, and with a sudden flush on her pale cheek
turned to Madelon.

"My dear," she said, putting one arm round the child's waist,
and caressing her hair with the other hand, "I knew you mother
very well; she was my cousin, and the very dearest friend I
ever had. I think you must come and live with me, and be my
child, as there is no one else who has any claim on you."

"Did you know mamma, Madame?" said Madelon. "And papa--did you
know him?"

"No, my dear, I never knew your father," said Mrs. Treherne,
with a change in her voice, and relaxing her hold of the
child.

"You forget, Madelon," said Graham, coming to the rescue,
"your father never went to England, so he did not make
acquaintance with your mother's friends. But that is not the
question now; my aunt wants to know if you will not come and
live with her in England, and be her little girl? That would
be pleasanter than the convent, would it not?"

"Yes, thank you. I should like to go and live in England very
much," said Madelon, her eyes wandering wistfully from Mrs.
Treherne to Graham. "And with you too, Monsieur Horace?" she
added, quickly.

"Not with me, exactly," he answered, taking her hand in his;
"for I am going off to America in a month or two; and you know
we agreed that you and I could not go about the world
together; but I shall often hear of you, and from you, and be
quite sure that you are happy; and that will be a great thing,
will it not?"

"Yes, thank you," she said again. Her eyes filled with sudden
tears, but they did not fall. It was a very puzzling world in
which she found herself, and events, which only yesterday she
had thought to guide after her own fashion, had escaped quite
beyond the control of her small hand.

Perhaps Mrs. Treherne saw how bewildered she was, for she drew
her towards her again, and kissed her, and told her that she
was her child now, and that she would take care of her, and
love her for her mother's sake.

"Now let us have some breakfast," she said. "After that we
will see what we have to do, for I am going to leave Spa to-
morrow."


Late in the afternoon of the same day, Horace, who had been
out since the morning, coming into the sitting-room, found
Madelon there alone. It was growing dark, and she was sitting
in a big arm-chair by the fire, her eyes fixed on the
crackling wood, her hands lying listlessly in her lap. She
hardly looked up, or stirred as Graham came in, and drew a
chair to her side.

"Well, Madelon," he said, cheerfully, "so we start for England
to-morrow?"

"Yes," she said; but there was no animation in her manner.

"Has my aunt told you?" he went on. "We are going to sleep at
Liége, so that she may go to the convent, and settle matters
there finally, and let the nuns know they are not to expect
you back again."

"Yes, I know," said Madelon. "Monsieur Horace, do you think we
might stop for just a little while--for half-an-hour--at Le
Trooz, to see Jeanne-Marie? She would not like me to go away
without wishing her good-bye."

"Of course we will. It was Jeanne-Marie who took care of you
when you were ill, was it not? Tell me the whole story,
Madelon. What made you run away from Liége?"

"There was a fever in the convent; I caught it, and Aunt
Thérèse died; and when I was getting well I heard the nuns
talking about it, and saying I was to live in the convent
always, and be made a nun--and I could not, oh! I could not--
papa said I was never to be a nun, and it would have been so
dreadful; and I could not have kept my promise to you,
either."

"What was this promise, Madelon? I can't remember your making
me one, or anything about it."

"Yes, don't you know? That evening at Liége, the night before
I went into the convent, when we were taking a walk. You said
you wanted to make your fortune, and I said I would do it for
you. I knew how, and I thought you did not. I meant to do it
at once, but I could not, and I was afraid you would think I
had forgotten my promise, and would want the money, so I got
out of the window and came to Spa. But I lost all my money the
first time I went to the tables, and there was a lady who
wanted to take me back to the convent; but she went to sleep
in the train, and I got out at Le Trooz. I don't remember much
after that, for the fever came on again; but Jeanne-Marie, who
keeps a restaurant in the village, found me in the church, she
says, and took me home, and nursed me till I was well."

"And how long ago was all this?"

"It was last May that I ran away from the convent, and I was
with Jeanne-Marie all the summer; but as soon as I was well
again, and had enough money, I came back here--that was four
days ago; and last night I had the money, and to-day I should
have written to you to tell you that I had kept my promise,
and made your fortune."

"And so it was all for me," said Graham, with a sudden pang of
tenderness and remorse. "My poor little Madelon, you must have
thought me very cruel and unkind last night."

"Never mind," she answered, "you did not understand; I thought
you knew I had promised;" but she turned away her head as she
spoke, and Graham saw that she was crying.

"Indeed I don't remember anything about it," he said; "why, my
poor child, I should never have thought of such a thing. Well,
never mind, Madelon, you shall come to England with us. Do you
know you are a sort of cousin of mine?"

"Am I?" she answered, "did you know mamma as well as Mrs. ----
as Madame _votre Tante?_"

"Well, no; the fact is, I never even heard her married name,
though I knew we had some relations named Moore, for she was
my mother's cousin, also. But she went abroad and married when
I was quite a child, and died a few years afterwards, and that
is how it happened that I never heard of, or saw her."

"Ah! well, you knew papa," said Madelon; and then there was
silence between them for a minute, till a flame leaping up
showed Madelon's face all tearful and woe-begone.

"You are not happy, Madelon," said Graham. "What is it? Can I
help you in any way? Is there anything I can do for you?"

She fairly burst into sobs as he spoke.

"Monsieur Horace," she answered, "I--I wanted to make your
fortune; I had looked forward to it for such a long time, and
I was so happy when I had done it, and I thought you would be
so pleased and glad, too, and now it is all at an end----"

How was Graham to console her? How explain it all to her?
"Listen to me, Madelon," he said at last; "I think you were a
dear little girl to have such a kind thought for me, and I
don't know how to thank you enough for it; but it was all a
mistake, and you must not fret about it now. I don't think I
care so very much about having a fortune; and anyhow, I like
working hard and getting money that way for myself."

"But mine is the best and quickest way," said Madelon,
unconvinced; "it was what papa always did."

"Yes, but you know everybody does not set to work the same
way, and I think I like mine best for myself."

"Do you?" she said, looking at him wistfully; "and may I not
go and try again, then?"

"No, no," he answered kindly; "that would not do at all,
Madelon; it does not do for little girls to run about the
world making fortunes. Your father used to take you to those
rooms, but he would not have liked to have seen you there
alone last night, and you must never go again."

He tried to speak lightly, but the words aroused some new
consciousness in the child, and she coloured scarlet.

"I--I did not know--" she began; and then stopped suddenly, and
never again spoke of making Monsieur Horace's fortune.


CHAPTER XVIII.

Partings.


So it was something like the end of a fairy tale after all;
for a carriage stopped before the restaurant at Le Trooz, and
out of it came a gentleman, and a lady beautiful enough to be
a fairy godmother, and the little wandering Princess herself,
no other than our Madelon, who ran up to Jeanne-Marie as she
came to the door, and clasping her round the neck, clung to
her more tightly than she had ever clung before, till the
woman, disengaging herself, turned to speak to her other
visitors. Mrs. Treherne came into the little public room,
which happened to be empty just then, and siting down on one
of the wooden chairs, began to talk to Jeanne-Marie; whilst
Madelon, escaping, made her way to the garden at the back,
where she had spent so many peaceful hours. It was not a week
since she had been there and it looked all unchanged; the sun
was shining again after the last few days, and filling the air
with summer heat and radiance; the grapes were ripening on the
wall; the bees humming among the flowers; Jeanne-Marie's pots
and pans stood in the kitchen window. How quiet, and sunny,
and familiar it looked! Madelon half expected to find her
chair set in the old shady corner, to see Jeanne-Marie's face
appearing through the screen of vine-leaves at the open
window, to hear her voice calling to her to leave her work,
and come and help her make the soup! Ah no, it was not all
unchanged; was there indeed anything the same as in the old
days that already seemed such ages distant, the old time gone
for ever? With a sudden pang, Madelon turned away, and went
quickly up the outside staircase, all overgrown with unpruned
sprays and tendrils, into the room she had occupied for so
many weeks. How happy she had been there! what dreams she had
dreamed! what hopes she had cherished! what visions she had
indulged in! Where were they all now? Where was that golden
future to which she had so confidently looked forward, for
which she had worked, and striven, and ventured all? She knelt
down by the bed, flinging her arms out over the coarse blue
counterpane. Ah, if she had but died there, died while she was
all unconscious, before this cruel grief and disappointment
had come upon her!

And meanwhile, Jeanne-Marie, in the room below, had been
hardening her heart against the child after her own fashion.
She had answered Mrs. Treherne's questions curtly, rejected
the faintest suggestion of money as an insult, and stood
eyeing Graham defiantly while the talk went on. "Madelon has
grand new friends now," she was thinking all the time very
likely, "and will go away and be happy, and forget all about
me; well, let her go--what does it matter?" And then presently,
going upstairs to look for this happy, triumphant Madelon, she
found her crouching on the floor, trying to stifle the sound
of her despairing sobs.

"Oh, Jeanne-Marie, Jeanne-Marie!" she cried, as soon as she
could speak, "I wish I might stay with you, I wish I had never
gone away; what was the use of it all? I thought I was going
to be so happy, and now I am to go to England, and Monsieur
Horace is to go to America, and I shall never, never, be happy
again!"

"What was the use of what?" says Jeanne-Marie, taking the
child into her kind arms; "why will you never be happy again?
Are they unkind to you? Is that gentleman downstairs Monsieur
Horace that you used to talk about?"

"Yes, that is Monsieur Horace. Ah, no, he is not unkind, he is
kinder than any one--you do not understand, Jeanne-Marie, and I
cannot tell you, but I am very unhappy." She put her arms
round the woman's neck, and hid her face on her shoulder. In
truth, Jeanne-Marie did not understand what all this terrible
grief and despair were about. Madelon, as we know, had never
confided her hopes, and plans, and wishes to her; but she knew
that the child whom she loved better than all the world was in
trouble, and that she must send her away without being able to
say a word to comfort her, and that seemed hard to bear.

So they sat silent for awhile; and then Jeanne-Marie got up.

"You must go, _ma petite_," she said; "Madame is waiting, and I
came to fetch you." She walked to the door, and then turned
round suddenly. "_Ecoutez, mon enfant_," she said, placing her
two hands on Madelon's shoulders, and looking down into her
face, "you will not forget me? I--I should not like to think
you will go away, and forget me."

"Never!" cried Madelon; "how could I? I will never forget you,
Jeanne-Marie, and some day, if I can, I will come back and see
you."

So they parted, and, of the two, it was the brave, faithful
heart of the woman that suffered the sharper pang, though she
went about her daily work without saying a word or shedding a
tear.

Mrs. Treherne had large estates in Cornwall, on which, since
her husband's death, she had almost constantly resided; and
thither, with Madelon, she proceeded, a few days after their
arrival in London. Graham did not go with them. He had been
appointed to accompany a government exploring party into
Central America, and his time was fully occupied with business
to settle, arrangements to make, outfit to purchase, and,
moreover, with running down to his sister's house in the
country as often as possible, so as to devote every spare hour
to Miss Leslie. The summer love-making had ended in an
engagement before he started for Spa--an engagement which--
neither he nor Miss Leslie having any money to speak of--
promised to be of quite indefinite length. In the midst of all
his bustle, however, Graham contrived to take Madelon to as
many sights as could be crowded into the three or four days
that they stayed at the London hotel; and in a thousand kind
ways tried to encourage and cheer the child, who never said a
word about her grief, but drooped more and more as the moment
for separation drew near. Graham went to see her and his aunt
off at the Great Western terminus, and it was amidst all the
noise, and hurry, and confusion of a railway-station that they
parted at last. It was all over in a minute, and as Graham
stood on the platform, watching the train move slowly out of
the station, a little white face appeared at a carriage-
window, two brown eyes gazed wistfully after him, a little
hand waved one more farewell. It was his last glimpse of our
small Madelon.


PART III.


CHAPTER I.

Letters.


For five years Horace Graham was a wanderer on the other side
of the Atlantic. He had left England with the intention of
remaining abroad for two years only; but at the end of that
time, when the exploring party to which he belonged was
returning home, he did not find it difficult to make excuses
for remaining behind. He had only begun to see the country, he
said in his letters to England; he knew two men who were going
further south, to Paraguay, to La Plata, to Patagonia,
perhaps; and he meant to accompany them, and see what was to
be seen; time enough to think of coming home afterwards; of
what use would it be for him to return just then? "We are both
young," he wrote to his future wife, Maria Leslie, "and can
well afford to wait a year or two before settling down into
sober married life. You, my dear Maria, who so often said this
to me when, in the first days of our engagement, I urged a
speedy marriage, will, I know, agree with me. I see now that
in those days you were right and I was wrong. We are not rich
enough to marry. I should do wrong to make you submit to all
the trials and hardships which struggling poverty entails;
though indeed, in all the world, I know of no one so well
fitted to meet them as my dearest Molly. How often we used to
picture to ourselves some little snuggery where you could knit
and darn stockings, and I could smoke my pipe! Is not that the
correct division of labour between man and woman? Well, some
day we will have some such dear little hole, and I will smoke
my pipe; but you shall not be condemned to stitching--you shall
do--let me see--what shall you do?--anything in the world you
like best, my dear girl; for I mean to be a rich man in those
days, which I often picture to myself as the good time coming,
to which some of us are looking forward. When I hear of an
opening in England, I shall return--perhaps sooner, if it is
very long in coming; unless, indeed, you would like to join me
out here. What do you think of that proposal? We could settle
down comfortably in Peru or Mexico, and you could make friends
among the Spanish ladies, and learn from them to sleep all day
and dance all night, unless you would prefer to accompany my
pipe with your cigarette; for, of course, you too would smoke,
like every one else. And from time to time we could go on long
expeditions--such as I am making now--day and night in an open
boat, on some river flowing through trackless forests, great
trees dipping down into the water, strange flowers blooming
overhead, strange beasts that one never saw before, hopping
and rushing about; and mosquitoes, of which one has seen
plenty, eating one up alive at every opportunity. My poor
Molly! I can see your face of dismay. No, don't be afraid; you
shall not be asked to leave your own comfortable home till I
can return and take you to as good a one; and then I mean to
write a book about my adventures, and you shall do nothing
worse than shudder over them at your leisure at our own
fireside."

To which Maria replied:--"I think, my dear Horace, you are
quite right not to hurry home. As you say, we are both young,
and have life before us; and do not trouble yourself about me,
for as long as I hear that you are well and happy, I can and
ought to desire nothing further. The idea of coming out to you
made me shiver indeed; you will say I am very unenterprising,
but I don't think I should ever care about leaving England;
one is so happy here, what more can one desire? What can I
tell you in return for your long letter? Georgie will have
given you all the village news, no doubt; has she told you
that we have a new curate--Mr. Morris? He preached last Sunday,
and is a great improvement on Mr. Saunders, who was the
dullest man I ever heard. The school gets on nicely; I have
two more pupils, and receive many compliments, I assure you,
on the way in which I manage my class. I sometimes wonder if
it could not be arranged some day, that you should enter into
partnership with Dr. Vavasour, who is growing old, and gets
tired with his day's work? I often think of this, and of how
pleasant it would be, but, as you may suppose, have never even
hinted at it to your sister. Is it such a very wild castle in
the air? It is a very pleasant one, and I sometimes sit and
think it all over. We should never have to leave Ashurst then;
there is a pretty little house lately built at the end of the
village, which would just suit us, I think; you could write
your book, and when it was done, read it to me, as you know I
do not much care about reading. You should smoke your pipe as
much as you please, and I would sit and work, for there is
nothing I like doing better, and I should find it very
uncomfortable to sit with my hands before me. Do you think I
mean to grow idle in my old age? No, not if we have a hundred
thousand a-year, for I am sure there must be always something
for every one to do," and so on; a little moral sentiment
closed the letter.

When Graham received it, he read it over twice, and sighed a
little as he folded it up, and put it away. He was relieved
that Maria should take such a calm view of the subject, for he
had felt his own letter to be somewhat egotistical, and yet--
well, right or wrong, he could not help it; he _could_ not give
up his travels and researches just then. The spirit of
adventure was upon him, driving him, as it has driven many a
man before, further and further into the wilderness, heedless
of danger, and hardships, and discomfort; almost heedless,
too, of home, and friends, and love--all that, he would have
time to think of at some future day, when he should find
himself obliged to return to England. Maria's suggestion of
the country partnership as the goal of his ambition and his
hopes, her picture of the new house at the end of the village,
rose before his mind, but in no such tempting light as before
hers. "She is a dear, good girl," he thought, "but she does
not understand. Well, I suppose it will come to that, or
something like that, at least; what better can one look
forward to? one cannot roam about the world for ever--at least,
I cannot, bound as I am; not that I repent that;" and then it
was that he sighed. Nevertheless he did roam about for three
years longer; and then his health giving way, he was obliged
to return to England, and arrived at his sister's house, a
bronzed, meagre, bearded traveller, with his youth gone for
ever, and years of life, and adventure, and toil separating
him from the lad who had first seen little Madelon at
Chaudfontaine.

He had not forgotten her; it would have been strange indeed if
he had, for Mrs. Treherne's letters, which followed him in his
wanderings with tolerable regularity, were apt to be full of
Madeleine; and in them would often be enclosed a sheet, on
which, in her cramped foreign handwriting, Madelon would have
recorded, for Monsieur Horace's benefit, the small experiences
of her every-day life.

"I am learning very hard," so these little effusions would
run; "and Aunt Barbara says that I advance in my studies, but
that I shall do better when I go to London, for I will have
masters then, and go to classes. I like Cornwall very much; I
have a garden of my own, but the flowers will not grow very
well--the gardener says the wind from the sea will kill them.
It seems to me there is always a wind here, and last week
there was a great storm, and many ships were wrecked. Aunt
Barbara said she was glad you were the other side of the
ocean, and so indeed was I. I never thought the wind and sea
could make so much noise; it is not here as at Nice with the
Mediterranean, which was almost always calm, and tranquil, and
blue like the sky. Here the sea is grey like the sky--that
makes a great difference. Will you soon write to me once more?
I read your letter to me over and over again. I like to hear
all about the strange countries you are in, and I should like
to see them too. We have a book of travels which tells us all
about South America, and I read it very often. I send you one
little primrose that I gathered to-day in my garden."

Again, nearly a year later.

"I do not know how people can like to live always in one
place, when there is so much that is beautiful to see in the
world. Aunt Barbara says that she would be content always to
live in Cornwall; and it is very kind of her to come to
London, for it is that I may have masters, she says; but I
cannot help being glad, for I was so tired of the rocks, and
the sea always the same. We arrived last week, and Aunt
Barbara says we shall stay the whole winter, and come back
every year, very likely. I like our house very much; it is in
Westminster, not far from the Abbey, where I went with you;
one side looks on to the street, that is rather dull; but the
other looks on to St. James's Park, where I go to walk with
Aunt Barbara. We went to the Abbey last Sunday; it reminded me
of the churches abroad, and the singing was so beautiful. In
Cornwall there was only a fiddle and a cracked flute, and
everybody sang out of tune; I did not like going to church
there at all. Please write to me soon, Monsieur Horace, and
tell me where you are, and what you are doing; I fancy it all
to myself--the big forests, and the rivers, and the flowers,
and everything."

Accompanying these would be Mrs. Treherne's reports:

"Madeleine improves every day, I think. She is much grown, and
resembles her mother more and more, though she will never be
so beautiful, to my mind; she has not, and never will have,
Magdalen's English air and complexion. She gets on well with
her London masters and classes, and has great advantages in
many ways over girls of her own age, especially in her
knowledge of foreign languages. I trust that by degrees the
memory of her disastrous past may fade away; we never speak of
it, and she is so constantly employed, and seems to take so
much interest in her occupation and studies, that I hope she
is ceasing to think of old days, and will grow up the quiet,
English girl I could wish to see Magdalen's daughter. Indeed
she is almost too quiet and wanting in the gaiety and
animation natural to girls of her age; but otherwise I have
not a fault to find with her. She is fond of reading, and gets
hold of every book of travels she can hear of, that will give
her any idea of the country you are exploring. We share your
letters, my dear Horace, and follow you in all your
wanderings, with the greatest interest."

One more letter.


"March 1st, 186--.

"My dear Monsieur Horace,

"Aunt Barbara bids me write and welcome you back to England.
We look forward to seeing you very much; but she says, if you
can remain with your sister a week longer, it will be better
than coming down to Cornwall now, as we shall be in London on
Monday next, at the latest. We should have come up to town for
Christmas as usual, if Aunt Barbara had not been so unwell;
and now that she is strong again, she wishes to be there as
soon as possible. It would not be worth while, therefore, for
you to make so long a journey just now. I hope you will come
and see us soon; it seems a long, long time since you went
away--more than five years.

"Ever your affectionate

"Madeleine Linders."


It was at the end of a dull March day that Horace Graham, just
arrived from Kent, made his way to his aunt's house in
Westminster. He thought more of Madelon than of Mrs. Treherne,
very likely, as the cab rattled along from the station. There
had never been much affection or sympathy between him and his
aunt, although he had always been grateful to her, for her
kindness to him as a boy; but she was not a person who
inspired much warmth of feeling, and his sister's little house
in the village where he had been born, had always appeared to
him more home-like than the great Cornwall house, where, as a
lad, he had been expected to spend the greater part of his
holidays. But he was pleased with the idea of seeing his
little Madelon again. He had not needed letters to remind him
of her during all these years; he had often thought of the
child whom he had twice rescued in moments of desolation and
peril, and who had been the heroine of such a romantic little
episode--thought of her and her doings with a sort of wonder
sometimes, at her daring, her independence, her devotion--and
all for him! When Graham thought of this, he felt very tender
towards his foolish, rash, loving little Madelon; he felt so
now, as he drove along to Westminster; he would not realize
how much she must be altered; she came before him always as
the little pale-faced girl, with short curly hair, in a shabby
black silk frock. It was a picture that, somehow, had made
itself a sure resting-place in Graham's heart.

"We did not expect you till the late train, sir; it is close
upon dinner-time, and the ladies are upstairs in the drawing-
room, I believe," said the old butler who opened the door.

"Upstairs? in the drawing-room?" said Graham; "stop, I will
find my way, Burchett, if you will look after my things."

He ran upstairs; the house was strange to him, but a door
stood open on the first landing, and going in, he found
himself in a drawing-room, where the firelight glowed and
flickered on picture-lined walls, and chintz-covered easy-
chairs and sofas, on an open piano, on flower-stands filled
with hyacinths and crocuses, on the windows looking out on the
dark March night, and the leafless trees in the Park. No one
was there--he saw that at a glance, as he looked round on the
warm, firelit scene; but even as he ascertained the fact, some
one appeared, coming through the curtains that hung over the
folding-doors between the two drawing-rooms--some one who gave
a great start when she saw him, and then came forward blushing
and confused. "My aunt is upstairs,"--she began, then stopped
suddenly, glancing up at this stranger with the lean brown
face, and long rough beard. "Monsieur Horace!" she cried,
springing forward. He saw a tall, slim girl, all in soft
flowing white, he saw two hands stretched out in joyous
welcome, he saw two brown eyes shining with eager gladness and
surprise; and all at once the old picture vanished from his
mind, and he knew that this was Madelon.


CHAPTER II.

Sehnsucht.


Graham had numberless engagements in London, and except at
breakfast, or at lunch perhaps, little was seen of him at his
aunt's house during the first days after his arrival in town.
One evening, however, coming home earlier than usual, he found
the two ladies still in the drawing-room, and joining them at
the fireside, he first made Madelon sing to him, and then,
beginning to talk, the conversation went on till long after
midnight, as he sat relating his travels and adventures.
Presently he brought out his journal, and read extracts from
it, filling up the brief, hurried notes with fuller details as
he went on, and describing to them the plan of his book, some
chapters of which were already written, and which he hoped to
bring out before the season was over. Mrs. Treherne was a
perfect listener; she was sufficiently well informed to make
it worth while to tell her more, and she knew how to put
intelligent questions just at the right moment. As for
Madelon, she had been busily engaged on some piece of
embroidery when he first began talking, but gradually her
hands had dropped into her lap, and with her eyes fixed on him
in the frankest unconsciousness, she had become utterly
absorbed in what he was saying. Graham's whole heart was in
his work, past and present, and this rapt naïve interest on
the part of the girl at once flattered and encouraged him.

"I can trust you two," he said, putting away his papers at
last, "and I am not forestalling my public too much in letting
you hear all this; but you are my first auditors, and my first
critics. You won't betray me, Madelon?" he added, turning to
her with a smile.

She shook her head, smiling back at him without speaking; and
then, rising, began to fold up her work, while Mrs. Treherne
said,--

"I should have thought you would have found your first
audience at Ashurst."

"I did try it one evening," he said, "but one of the children
began to scream, and Georgie had to go and attend to it; and
the Doctor went to sleep, and Maria, who had been all the
afternoon in a stuffy school-room, looking after a school-
feast or something of the sort, told me not to mind her, and
presently went to sleep too; so I gave it up, after that."

"It was certainly not encouraging," said Mrs. Treherne; "but
you must surely have fallen upon an unfortunate moment; they
do not go to sleep every evening, I presume?"

He did not answer; he was looking at Madelon, his eyes
following her as she moved here and there about the room,
putting away her work, closing the piano, setting things in
order for the night. It was a habit he had taken up, this of
watching her whenever they were in the room together,
wondering perhaps how his little Madelon had grown into one of
the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Indeed she was
little Madelon no longer--and yet not wholly altered after all.
She was tall now, above the middle height, and her hair was a
shade darker, and fastened up in long plaits at the back of
her head; but her cheeks were pale as in old days, and a
slight accent, an occasional idiom, something exceptional in
style, and gesture, and manner, showed at once and
unmistakably, her foreign birth and breeding. As Mrs. Treherne
had once said, she had not, and never would have, an English
air and complexion; but her beauty was not the less refined
and rare that the clear, fair cheeks were without a tinge of
colour, that one had to seek it in the pure red lips, the soft
brown hair, the slight eyebrows and dark lashes, the lovely
eyes that had learnt to express the thought they had once only
suggested, but still retained something of the old, childish,
wistful look. And yet Graham watched her with a vague sense of
disappointment.

"What do you think of Madeleine?" Mrs. Treherne said to him
the following afternoon; he had come in early, and they were
together alone in the drawing-room. "Do you not find her grown
and improved? Do you think her pretty? She is perhaps rather
pale, but----"

"She has certainly grown, Aunt Barbara, but this is not
astonishing--young ladies generally do grow between the ages of
thirteen and eighteen: and I think her the prettiest girl I
ever saw--not at all too pale. As for being improved--well--I
suppose she is. She wears very nice dresses, I observe, and
holds herself straight, and I daresay knows more geography and
history than when we last parted."

"You are disappointed in her," said Mrs. Treherne. "Do you
know I suspected as much, Horace, from the way in which you
look at her and speak to her. Tell me in what way--why you are
not satisfied?"

"But I am satisfied," cried Graham; "why should I not be?
Madelon appears to me to have every accomplishment a young
lady should have; she sings to perfection, I daresay, dances
equally well, and I have no doubt that on examination she
would prove equally proficient in all the ologies. I am
perfectly satisfied, so far as it is any concern of mine, but
I don't see what right I have to be sitting in judgment one
way or the other."

"You have every right, Horace; I have always looked upon you
as the child's guardian in a way, and in all my plans
concerning her education I have considered myself, to a
certain extent, responsible to you."

"It was very good of you, Aunt Barbara, to consider me in the
matter. I thought my responsibility had ceased from the moment
you took charge of her; but for her father's sake--does Madelon
ever speak of him, by-the-by?"

"Never."

"Never alludes to her past life?"

"Never--we never speak of it; I have carefully avoided doing
so, in the hope that with time, and a settled home, and new
interests, she could cease to think of it altogether; and I
trust I have succeeded. The memory of it can only be painful
to her now, poor child, for, though I have never referred to
the subject in any way, I feel convinced she must have learnt
by this time to see her father's character in its true light."

"It is possible," said Graham. "Well, as I was saying; Aunt
Barbara, for the sake of the promise I made her father on his
death-bed, if for no other reason, I shall and must always
take an interest in Madelon."

"And I for her mother's sake," replied Mrs. Treherne, stiffly.
"If you have no other interest in Madelon than----however, it is
useless to discuss that. I want to know how we have
disappointed you--Madelon and I--for you are disappointed; tell
me, Horace--I am really anxious to know."

"Dear Aunt Barbara, I am not at all disappointed; or, if I am,
it is not your fault or hers--quite the reverse. Nothing but
the perversity of human nature. Shall I own the truth? All
these years I have kept in my mind a dear little girl in a
shabby old frock which she had outgrown--a dear, affectionate
little soul, with so few ideas on people and things, that she
actually took me for one of the best and wisest of human
beings. See how much vanity there is in it all! I come back,
and find a demure, well-drilled, fashionable young lady. I
might have known how it would be, but it gave me a sort of
shock, I own--my little wild Madelon gone for ever and a day,
and this proper young lady in her place."

"You are unreasonable, Horace," said Mrs. Treherne, half
laughing, half vexed; "and ungrateful too, when Madeleine has
been working so hard, with the hope, I know, of pleasing and
astonishing you with her doings."

"But I am pleased," said Graham. "Astonished? No, I cannot be
astonished that Madelon, with you to help her, should
accomplish anything; but I am delighted, charmed. What more
shall I say? So much so, Aunt Barbara, that when I am married--
as I mean to be shortly, and set up a house of my own--you and
Madelon will have to pay me visits of any length. I _shall_
always feel that I have a sort of property in her, through
early associations."

"Are you going to be married shortly?" said Mrs. Treherne;
"have you anything definite to do? Where are you going to
settle?"

"Do you not know?" he answered. "Dr. Vavasour has offered me a
partnership."

"And you have accepted it?"

"Not yet. He has given me six months to think it over; so I
need not hurry my decision; and, in the meantime, I have
plenty to do with my book. In fact, I need the rest."

"It seems a pity--" began Mrs. Treherne.

"What seems a pity, Aunt Barbara?"

"That with your talents you should settle down for life in a
country village. You could surely do something better."

"I don't know," he answered with a sigh. "There is nothing
else very obvious at present, and I cannot be a rover all my
life. For one thing, my health would not allow of my taking up
that sort of thing again just at present; and then there is
Maria to be considered. She hates the idea of leaving Ashurst,
and it has been her dream for years that this partnership
should be offered me, and that I should accept it. I owe it to
her to settle down into steady married life before long."

He rose, as he said these last words, and walked to the
window. Mrs. Treherne was called away at the same moment, and
he stood gazing out at the strip of garden before the house,
the Birdcage Walk beyond, the trees in the Park blowing about
against the dull sky. His thoughts were not there; they had
wandered away to the tropics, to the glowing skies, the
strange lands, the wild, free life in which his soul
delighted. He was glad to find himself in England once more,
amongst kindred and friends, but he loathed the thought of
being henceforth tied down to a life from which all freedom
would be banished, which must be spent in the dull routine of
a country parish. Graham was not now the lad who had once
looked on the world as lying at his feet, on all possibilities
as being within his grasp; he had long ceased to be a hero in
his own eyes; he had learnt one of life's sternest lessons, he
had touched the limits of his own powers. But in thus gaining
the knowledge of what he could not do, he had also proved what
he could be--he had recognised the bent of his genius, and he
knew that of all the mistakes of his life he had committed
none more grievous than that of binding himself to a woman who
neither sympathised nor pretended to sympathise with him and
his pursuits; and in compliance with whose wishes he was
preparing to take up the life for which, of all others within
the limits of his profession, he felt himself the least
suited. And she? Did she care for him?--did she love him enough
to make it worth the sacrifice?--was there the least chance of
their ever being happy together? Ah! what lovers' meeting had
that been that had passed between them at his sister's house!
What half-concealed indifference on her side, what
embarrassment on his, what silence falling between them, what
vain efforts to shake off an ever-increasing coldness and
constraint! It was five years since they had parted--was it
only years and distance that had estranged them, or had they
been unsuited to each other from the beginning? Not even now
would Graham acknowledge to himself that it was so, but it was
a conviction he had been struggling against for years.

"Will you take some tea, Monsieur Horace?" said a voice behind
him. He turned round. The grey daylight was fading into grey
dusk, afternoon tea had been brought in, and Madelon was
standing by him with a cup in her hand. "Aunt Barbara has gone
out, and will not be home till dinner-time," she added, as she
returned to the tea-table and fireside.

"Then you and I will drink tea together, Madelon," said
Graham, seating himself in an arm-chair opposite to her.
"Where have you been all this afternoon? Have you been out
too?"

"I have been to a singing-class. I generally go twice a-week
when we are in town."

"And do you like it?"

"Yes, I like it very much."

So much they said, and then a silence ensued. Madelon drank
her tea, and Graham sat looking at her. Yes, a change had
certainly come over her--this Madelon, who came and went so
quietly, with a certain harmonious grace in every movement--
this Madelon, who sometimes smiled, but rarely laughed, who
spoke little, and then with an air of vague weariness and
indifference--this was not the little impetuous, warm-hearted
Madelon he remembered, who had clung to him in her childish
sorrow, who had turned from him in her childish anger, who in
her very wilfulness, in her very abandonment to the passion of
the moment, had been so winning and loveable. It was not
merely that she was not gay--gaiety was an idea that he had
never associated with Madelon; it had always been a sad little
face that had come before him when he had thought of her; but
in all her sadness, there had been an animation and spring, an
eagerness and effusion in the child, that seemed wholly
wanting in the girl. It was as if a subtle shadow had crept
over her, toning down every characteristic light to its own
grey monotonous tint.

Madelon had not the smallest suspicion of what was passing in
her companion's mind. During all these years, in whatever
other respects she might have altered, the attitude of her
heart towards him had never changed. What he had always been
to her, he was now; the time that had elapsed since they
parted had but intensified and deepened her old feeling
towards him--that was all. He had been in her thoughts day and
night; in a thousand ways she had worked, she had striven,
that he might find her improved when he came home, less
ignorant, less unworthy, than the little girl he had parted
with. His return had been the one point to which all her hopes
had been directed; and, poor child, with a little unconscious
egotism, she took it for granted that just then she occupied
almost as large a share in Graham's mind as he did in hers. He
had always been so good, so kind to her, he must surely be
glad to see her again, almost as glad as she was to see him.
She, on her side, was ready to go on just where they had left
off; and yet now, when for the first time they were alone
together, a sort of shyness had taken possession of her.

She was the first to break the silence, however. "Why do you
look at me so?" she said, setting her tea-cup down, and
turning to Horace with a sudden smile and blush.

"I am trying to adjust my ideas," he answered, smiling too; "I
am trying to reconcile the little Madelon I used to know with
this grand young lady I have found here."

"Ah, you will never see that little Madelon again," said the
girl, shaking her head rather sorrowfully; "she is gone for
ever."

"How is that?" said Graham. "You have grown tall, you wear
long gowns, and plait up your hair, I see; but is that a
reason----"

"Ah, how can one survive one's old life?" said Madelon,
plaintively; "one ought not, ought one? All is so changed with
me, things are so different, the old days are so utterly gone--
I try not to think of them any more; that is the best; and my
old self is gone with them, I sometimes think--and that is best
too."

She sat leaning forward, staring at the dull red coals; and
Graham was silent for a moment.

"Then you have forgotten the old days altogether?" he said at
last.

"I never speak of them," she answered slowly; "no, I have not
forgotten--it is not in me to forget, I think--but I do not
speak of them; of what use? It is like a dream now, that old
time, and no one cares for one's dreams but oneself."

"Am I part of the dream too, Madelon? For I think I belong
more to that old time you talk about, which is not so very
remote, after all, than to the present. I had a little friend
Madelon once, but I feel quite a stranger with this
fashionable Miss Linders before me."

"You are laughing at me," said Madelon, opening her eyes wide.
"I am not at all fashionable, I think. I don't know what you
mean; what should make you think such a thing, Monsieur
Horace?"

"Well, your general appearance," he answered. "It suggests
balls, fêtes, concerts, operas----"

Madelon shook her head, laughing.

"That is a very deceptive appearance," she said. "Aunt Barbara
and I never go anywhere but to classes, and masters, and to a
small tea-party occasionally, and to see pictures sometimes."

"But how is that?--does Aunt Barbara not approve of society?"

"Oh, yes, but she thinks I am not old enough," answered
Madelon, demurely. "So I am not out yet, and I have not been
to a ball since I was ten years old."

"And do you like that sort of thing? It does not sound at all
lively," said Graham.

"It is rather dull," replied Madelon, "simply; but then I think
everything in England is--is _triste_--I beg your pardon," she
added, quickly, colouring, "I did not mean to complain."

"No, no, I understand. You need not mind what you say to me,
Madelon; I want to know what you are doing, what sort of life
you are leading, how you get on. So you find England _triste?_
In what way?"

"I don't know--not in one way or another--it is everything.
There is no life, no movement, no colour, or sunshine--yes, the
sun shines, of course, but it is different. Ah, Monsieur
Horace, you who have just come back to it, do you not
understand what I mean?"

"I think I do in a way; but then, you know, coming to England
is coming home to me, Madelon, and that makes a great
difference."

"Yes, that makes a great difference; England can never be home
to me, I think. I will tell you, Monsieur Horace--yesterday at
that Exhibition I went to with Aunt Barbara, you know, I saw a
picture; it was an Italian scene, quite small, only a white
wall with a vine growing over the top, and a bit of blue sky,
and a beggar-boy asleep in the shade. One has seen the same
thing a hundred times before, but this one looked so bright,
so hot, so sunny, it gave me such a longing--such a longing----"

She started up, and walked once or twice up and down the room.
In a moment she came back, and went on hurriedly:--

"You ask me if I have forgotten the past, Monsieur Horace. I
think of it always--always. I cannot like England, and English
life. Aunt Barbara will not let me speak of it, and I try to
forget it when she is by, but I cannot. Aunt Barbara is very
kind--kinder than you can imagine--it is not that; but I am
weary of it all so. When we walk in the Park, or sit here in
the evening, reading, I am thinking of all the beautiful
places there are in the world; of all the great things to be
done, of all that people are seeing, and doing, and enjoying.
I wish I could get away; I wish I could go anywhere--if I could
run away--I have a voice, I could sing, I could make money
enough to live upon. I think I should have done so, Monsieur
Horace, if I had not known you were coming home. Yes, if I
could run away somewhere, where I could breathe--be free----"

"You must never do that," cried Graham hastily--he was standing
opposite to her now, with his back to the fire; "you don't
know what you are saying, Madelon. Promise me that you will
not think of it even."

"I was talking nonsense, I don't suppose I meant it really,"
she answered; "I could not do it, you know; but I promise all
the same, as you wish it."

"And you always keep your promises, I know," said Graham,
smiling at her.

"Ah, do not," she cried, suddenly covering her face with her
hands, "don't speak of that, Monsieur Horace--I know now--ah,
yes, I understand what you must have thought--but I did not
then; indeed I was only a child then, I did not know what I
was doing."

"I don't think you are much more than a child now," said
Graham, taking one of her hands in his; "you are not much
altered, after all, Madelon."

"Am I not?" she said. "But I have tried to improve; I have
worked very hard, I thought it would please you, and that you
would be glad to find me different--and I am different," she
added, with a sudden pathetic change in her voice. "I
understand a great deal now that I never thought of before; I
think of the old life, but it is not all with pleasure, and I
know why Aunt Barbara--and yet I do love it so much, and you
are a part of it, Monsieur Horace--when you speak your vice
seems to bring it back; and you call me Madelon--no one else
calls me Madelon--" Her voice broke down.

"You are not happy, my dear little girl," said Graham, in his
old kind way, and trying to laugh off her emotion. "I shall
have to prescribe for you. What shall it be?--a course of balls
and theatres? What should Aunt Barbara say to that?"

"She would not employ you for a doctor again, I think," said
Madelon, smiling. "No, I am not unhappy, Monsieur Horace--only
dull sometimes; and Aunt Barbara would say, that is on account
of my foreign education. I know she thinks all foreigners
frivolous and ill educated; I have heard her say so."

When Madelon went to her room that night, she sat long over
her fire, pondering, girl-fashion, on her talk with Horace
Graham. The tones of his voice were still ringing in her ears;
she seemed still to see his kind look, to feel the friendly
grasp of his hand; and as she thought of him, her familiar
little bed-room, with its white curtained bed, and pictured
walls, and well-filled bookshelves, seemed to vanish, and she
saw herself again, a desolate child, sitting at the window of
the Paris hotel that hot August night her father died, weeping
behind the convent grating, crouched on the damp earth in the
dark avenues of the Promenade à Sept Heures. He had not
changed in all these years, she thought; he had come back kind
and good as ever, to be her friend and protector, as he had
always been; and he had said she was not altered much either,
and yet she was--ah! so altered from the unconscious,
unthinking, ignorant child he had left. She began to pace up
and down the room, where indeed she had spent many a wakeful
night before now, thinking, reflecting, reasoning, trying to
make out the clue to her old life--striving to reconcile it
with the new life around her--not too successfully on the
whole. How was it she had first discovered the want of harmony
between them? How was it she had first learnt to appreciate
the gulf that separated the experiences of her first years,
from the pure, peaceful life she was leading now? She could
hardly have told; no one had revealed it to her, no one had
spoken of it; but in a thousand unconsidered ways--in talk, in
books, in the unconscious influences of her every-day
surroundings, she had come to understand the true meaning of
her father's life, and to know that the memory of these early
days, that she had found so bright and happy, was something
never to be spoken of, to be hidden away--a disgrace to her,
even, perhaps. Aunt Barbara never would let her talk of them,
would have blotted them out, if possible; she had wondered why
at first--she understood well enough now, and resented the
enforced silence. She only cherished the thought of them, and
of her father the more; she only clung to her old love for him
the more desperately, because it must be in secret; and she
longed at times, with a sad, inexpressible yearning, for
something of the old brightness that had died out one mournful
night nearly eight years ago, when she had talked with her
father for the last time.

"I think I must be a hundred years old," the girl would say to
herself sometimes, after returning from one of those little
parties of which she had spoken to Graham, where she had spent
the evening in the company of a dozen other young ladies of
her own age, all white muslin and sash-ribbons. "These girls,
how tiresome they all are!--how they chatter and laugh, and
what silly jokes they make! How can it amuse them? But they
are still in the school-room, as Aunt Barbara is always
telling me; and before that, they were all in the nursery, I
suppose; they do not know anything about life; their only
experiences concern nurses and governesses; whilst I--I--ah! is
it possible I am no older than they are?"

She would lean her arms on the window-sill, and look out on
the midnight sky; the Abbey chimes would ring out over the
great city, overhead the stars would be shining perhaps, but
down below, between the trees in the Park, a great glare would
show where a million lamps were keeping watch till dawn. Shall
we blame our Madelon, if she sometimes looked away from the
stars, and down upon the glare that brightened far up into the
dark sky? All the young blood was throbbing and stirring in
her veins with such energy and vigour; the world was so wide,
so wide, the circle around her so narrow, and in that bright,
misty past, which, after all, she only half understood, were
to be found so many precedents for possibilities that might
still be hidden in the future. Shall we blame her, if, in her
youthful belief in happiness as the chief good, her youthful
impatience of peace, and calm, and rest, she longed with a
great longing for movement, change, excitement? Outside, as it
seemed to her, in her vague young imagination, such a free,
glorious life was going on--and she had no part in it! As she
stood at her window, the distant, ceaseless roar of the street
traffic would sound to her, in the stillness of the night,
like the beat of the great waves of life that for ever broke
and receded, before they could touch the weary spot where she
stood spell-bound in isolation. And through it all she said to
herself, "When Monsieur Horace comes home,"--and now Monsieur
Horace had come, would he do anything to help her?

Graham, indeed, was willing enough to do what he could do for
her; and before he went to bed that night he wrote the
following letter to his sister, Mrs. Vavasour:


"My dear Georgie,

"The butter and eggs arrived in safety, and Aunt Barbara
declared herself much pleased with your hamper of country
produce; but you will, no doubt, have heard from her before
this. She is looking wonderfully well, and not a day older
than when I left England. As for Madeleine Linders, I hardly
recognised her, she is so grown and so much improved. I find I
have at least a fortnight's business in London, and then I
will run down to you for another visit, if I may. Would it put
you out very much if I brought Madeleine with me for a time? I
should like you and her to know each other, and a change would
do her good. Aunt Barbara seems to have been giving her a
high-pressure education, with no fun to counterbalance it, and
the poor child finds it horribly dull work; and no wonder--I
know I should be sorry to go through it myself. A few weeks
with you and the children would brighten her up, and do her
all the good in the world. Let me know what you think of it.

"Ever yours,

"Horace Graham."


CHAPTER III.

At Ashurst.


It was two days after Graham's talk with Madelon, that some
people of whom mention has once or twice been made in this
little history, were sitting chatting together as they drank
their afternoon tea in Mrs. Vavasour's drawing room at
Ashurst, a low, dark-panelled, chintz-furnished room, with an
ever-pervading scent of dried rose-leaves, and fresh flowers,
and with long windows opening on to the little lawn, all shut
in with trees and shrubberies. Mrs. Vavasour, who sat by the
fire knitting, was a calm, silent, gentle-looking woman, with
smooth, fair hair under her lace cap, and those pathetic lines
we sometimes see in the faces of those who through
circumstances, or natural temperament, have achieved
contentment through the disappointments of life, rather than
through its fulfilled hopes. She was the mother of many
children, of whom the elder half was already dispersed--one was
married, one dead, one in India, and one at sea; of those
still at home, the eldest, Madge, an honest, sturdy, square-
faced child of eleven or twelve, was in the room now, handing
about tea-cups and bread-and-butter. Dr. Vavasour was a big,
white-haired man, many years older than his wife, who had
married him when she was only seventeen; he was a clever man,
and a popular doctor, and having just come in from a twenty
miles' drive through March winds and rain, was standing with
his back to the mantelpiece, with an air of having thoroughly
earned warmth and repose. He was discussing parish matters
with Mr. Morris the curate, who was sitting at the small round
table where Maria Leslie, a tall, rosy, good-humoured-looking
young woman of five or six-and-twenty, was pouring out the
tea.

"If the Rector is on your side, Morris," said the Doctor, "of
course I can say nothing; only I can tell you this, you will
lose me. I will have nothing to do with your new-fangled
notions; I have said my prayers after the same fashion for the
last sixty years, and as sure as you begin to sing-song them,
instead of reading them, I give up my pew, and go off to
church at C----, with my wife and family."

"Not with Miss Leslie, I trust, Doctor," said the Curate; "we
could not get on without Miss Leslie, to lead the singing."

"Miss Leslie does as she likes, and if she prefers sham
singing to honest reading, that's her concern, not mine. But I
tell you plainly, sir, I am an old-fashioned man, and have no
patience with all these changes. I have a great mind to see if
I can't get made churchwarden, and try the effect of a little
counter-irritation. Madge, my child, bring me a cup of tea."

"I hope _you_ do not hold these opinions, Miss Leslie," said the
Curate, in an under tone to Maria Leslie; "we could not afford
to lose you from amongst us; you must not desert us."

"Oh, no, I could not give up my Ashurst Sundays," answers
Maria, fidgeting amongst her cups and saucers; "I have too
many interests here, the schools, and the church--and the
preaching--not that the Rector's sermons are always very
lively; and then I like chanting and intoning."

"And can you not convert the Doctor?"

"I think that would be impossible; Dr. Vavasour always held to
his own opinions. Will you have some more tea?"

"No more, thank you. I should have thought, Miss Leslie, you
might have converted any one; I cannot fancy any arguments you
might use being other than irresistible."

"Mr. Morris," said Mrs. Vavasour, breaking in upon this little
tête-à-tête, "have you seen those curious spiders that my
brother brought home from South America? You might fetch Uncle
Horace's case, Madge, and show them to Mr. Morris; they are
worth looking at, I assure you."

An hour later this little party had dispersed. Mr. Morris had
taken leave, Maria had gone to dress for dinner, Madge to her
school-room; Dr. Vavasour and his wife were left alone.

"I had a letter from Horace this afternoon," she said, taking
it out of her pocket, and giving it to the Doctor to read.
"What do you say to our having Miss Linders here for a time? I
have often thought of asking her, and this will be a good
opportunity. Do you object?"

"Not in the least, my dear; she is some sort of a cousin of
yours; is she not?"

"A remote one," said Mrs. Vavasour, smiling. "However, I am
very willing to make her acquaintance, especially if the poor
girl wants a change. I agree with Horace, that a too prolonged
course of Aunt Barbara must be trying."

"Why, I thought Mrs. Treherne was everything that was perfect
and admirable; she has never troubled us much with her
society, but I am sure I understood from you----"

"So she is," said his wife, interrupting him; "that is just
it--Aunt Barbara is quite perfect, a kind of ideal gentlewoman
in cultivation, and refinement, and piety, and everything
else; but she is, without exception, the most alarming person
I know."

"Well, let Miss Linders come by all means," repeated the
Doctor. "Isn't it nearly dinner-time? I am starving. I have
been twenty miles round the country to-day, and when I come in
I find that long-legged fellow Morris philandering away, and
have to listen to his vacuous nonsense for an hour. Whatever
brings him here so often? He ought to have something better to
do with his time than to be idling it away over afternoon tea.
Is he looking after Madge?"

"Poor little Madge!" answered Mrs. Vavasour, laughing. "No, I
wish I could think Mr. Morris had nothing more serious on
hand: but it is much more likely to be Maria."

"Maria!" cried the doctor; "is that what the man is up to? But
surely he knows she is engaged to Horace."

"Indeed I much doubt it," Mrs. Vavasour answered; "the
engagement was to be a secret, and I am not aware that any one
knows of it but ourselves, and Aunt Barbara--and Miss Linders
probably--and if Maria will not enlighten Mr. Morris as to how
matters stand, I do not see what any one else can do."

"Then Molly is very much to blame; and I have a great mind to
tell her so."

"I think you had better let things take their own course,"
said Mrs. Vavasour. "Maria is quite old enough to know what
she is about, and Horace will be down here in a few days to
look after his own interests."

"Well, but--bless my soul!" cried the doctor, "I can't make it
out at all. Do you mean that Maria is allowing this fellow
Morris's attention? I thought she and Graham were devoted to
each other, and had been for the last five years?"

"I think they thought they were, five years ago, when Horace,
fresh home from the Crimea, was all the heroes in the world in
Molly's eyes; and he was just in the mood to fall in love with
the first pretty bright girl he saw. But all that was over
long ago, and in these five years they have grown utterly
apart."

"Then the sooner they grow together again the better," said
the Doctor.

"I don't believe it is possible," answered his wife. "I don't
see how they can ever pull together; they have different
tastes, different aims, different ideas on every conceivable
subject. I am very fond of Molly; she is an excellent, good
girl in her way, but it is not the way that will fit her to
become Horace's wife. She will weary him, and he will--not
neglect her, he would never be unkind to a woman--but he will
not be the husband she deserves to have. For my part, I think
it will be a thousand pities if a mistaken sense of honour
makes them hold to their engagement."

"That may be all very well for Horace," said the Doctor; "but
what about Molly? When a girl has been looking forward to
marrying and having a house of her own, it is not so pleasant
for her to have all her prospects destroyed."

"Then she can marry Mr. Norris, if she pleases."

"Indeed! Well, if Maria's mistaken sense of honour does not
stand in the way of a flirtation with Morris, I shall be much
astonished if Horace's does not make itself felt one way or
another. However, it is no concern of mine; manage it your own
way."

"Indeed I have no intention of interfering," said Mrs.
Vavasour. "I can imagine nothing more useless, especially as
Horace will be here in less than a fortnight. But I will write
to-night to Aunt Barbara about Miss Linders."

"Oh, yes, ask Miss Linders down here, by all means; and if
Morris would only fall in love with her, that might settle all
difficulties; but I suppose there is not much chance of that."
And so saying, the Doctor went to dress for dinner.

It was a new world, this, in which our Madelon found herself,
after the still leisure of her home in Cornwall, with its
outlook on rocks, and sea, and sky, after the unbroken
regularity of her London life, with its ever-recurring round
of fixed employments--a new world, this sheltered English
village, lying amongst woods, and fields, and pastures,
divided by trim brown hedges, whose every twig was studded
with red March buds, and beneath which late March primroses
were blowing--and a new world, too, the varied life of this
bright, cheerful house, where people were for ever coming and
going, and where children's footsteps were pattering, and
children's voices and laughter ringing, all day long.

It was with the children especially that Madelon made friends
in the early days of her visit. From Mrs. Vavasour she had the
kindliest welcome; but the mistress of this busy household had
a thousand things to attend to, that left her but little time
to bestow on her guest. She had deputed Maria Leslie to
entertain Madelon; but Maria also had her own business--school-
teaching, cottage-visiting in the village; nor, in truth, even
when the two were in each other's society, did they find much
to say to each other. It had never been a secret to Madelon
that Graham was engaged to Maria Leslie, and the girl had
looked forward, perhaps, to making friends with the woman who
was accounted worthy of the honour of being Monsieur Horace's
wife; but the very first day she had turned away disappointed.
There was, both instinctively felt, no common ground on which
they could meet and speak a common language intelligible to
both; memories, interests, tastes, all lay too wide apart; and
as for those larger human sympathies which, wider and deeper
than language can express, make themselves felt and understood
without its medium, something forbade their touching upon them
at all. There was, from the first, a certain coolness and
absence of friendliness in Maria's manner, which was quite at
variance with her usual good-humoured amiability, and which
Madelon felt, but did not understand. She could not guess that
it was the expression of a vague jealousy in Maria's mind,
excited by Madelon's beauty and graciousness of air and
manner, and by a knowledge of her past relations with Horace
Graham; Maria would hardly have acknowledge it to herself, but
it raised an impassable barrier between these two.

As for Graham, no one saw much of him. He was shut up all day
in his brother-in-law's study, writing, copying notes, sorting
and arranging specimens, preparing the book that was to come
out in the course of the next season; and, when he did appear,
at breakfast or dinner, he was apt to be silent and moody,
rarely exchanging more than a few words with any one. Madelon
wondered sometimes at this taciturn Monsieur Horace, so
different from the one she had always known; though, indeed,
in speaking to her the old kindly light would always come back
to his eyes, the old friendly tones to his voice. But, like
every one else, she saw but little of him; and, in fact,
Graham in these days, a grim, melancholy, silent man, brooding
over his own thoughts, his own hopes, plans, disappointments
perhaps, was no very lively addition to a family party.

There was one small person, however, whom our Madelon at once
inspired with a quite unbounded admiration for her. A few
evenings after her arrival, some one knocked at her bedroom
door as she was dressing for dinner; she opened it, and there
stood Madge in the passage, her hands full of red and white
daisies.

"I have brought you some flowers, Cousin Madelon," said the
child shyly.

"They are beautiful," said Madelon, taking them from her;
"won't you come in? I will put some of them in my hair."

She sat down before the looking-glass, and began arranging
them in her hair, whilst Madge stood and watched her with
wide-open eyes.

"They are out of my own garden," she said presently.

"I might have guessed that, they are so pretty," said Madelon,
turning round and smiling at her; it was in the girl's nature
to make these little gracious speeches, which came to her more
readily than ordinary words of thanks. "I like them very
much," she went on; "they remind me of some that grew in the
convent garden."

"Were you ever in a convent?" asked Madge, with a certain awe.

"Yes, for two years, when I was about as old as you are."

"And were there any nuns there?" asked Madge, whose ideas were
not enlarged, and who looked upon a nun as the embodiment of
much romance.

"To be sure," answered Madelon, rather amused; "they were all
nuns, except some little girls who came every day to be taught
by them."

"Then you were at school there?" said Madge.

"Not exactly; my aunt was the--what do you call it?--Lady
Superior of the convent; that was why I went there."

"And did you like it?" inquired Madge, who was apparently of
opinion that such an opportunity for gaining exceptional
information should not be wasted.

"I don't know," answered Madelon; "I don't think I did at the
time; I used to find it very dull, and I often longed to be
away. But the nuns were very kind to me; and it is pleasant to
look back upon, so quiet and peaceful. I think we don't always
know when and where we are happy," she added, with a little
sigh.

She sat leaning against the table, her head resting on her
hand, thinking over the past--as she was for ever thinking of
the past now, poor child! How sad, how weary they had been,
those years in the convent--yes, she knew that she had found
them so--and yet how peaceful, how innocent, how sheltered!
Reading her past life in the new light that every day made its
shadows darker, she knew that those years were the only ones
of her childhood which she could look back upon, without the
sudden pang that would come with the memory of those others
which she had found so happy then, but which she knew now
were--what? Ah, something so different from what she had once
imagined! But as for those days at the convent, they came back
to her, softened by the kindly haze of time, with the
strangest sense of restfulness and security, utterly at
variance, one would say, with the restless longing with which
she looked out on the world of action--and yet not wholly
inconsistent with it perhaps, after all. Did she indeed know
when and where she would be happy?

Madge, meanwhile, stood and looked at her. She had fairly
fallen in love with this new cousin of hers; her beauty, and
gracious ways, her foreign accent, and now her experiences of
nuns and convents had come like a revelation to the little
English girl in her downright, everyday life. With a comical
incongruity, she could compare her in her own mind to nothing
but an enchanted princess in some fairy tale; and she stood
gazing first at her and then at the glass, where soft wavy
brown hair and red and white daisies were reflected.

"What are you thinking of?" said Madelon, looking up suddenly.

"I--I don't know," replied Madge, quite taken aback, colouring
and stammering; and then, as if she could not help it--"Oh!
Cousin Madelon, you are so pretty."

"It is very pretty of you to say so," said Madelon, laughing
and blushing too a little; then holding out both hands she
drew Madge towards her, and kissed her on her two cheeks. "I
think you and I will be great friends; will we not?" she said.

"Yes," says unresponsive Madge shortly, looking down and
twisting her fingers in her awkward English fashion.

"I would like you to be fond of me," continued Madelon, "for I
think I shall love you very much; and I like you to call me
Madelon--nobody else calls me so--except--except your Uncle
Horace."

"It was Uncle Horace told me to," cried Madge. "I asked him
what I should call you, and he said he thought Cousin Madelon
would do."

"I think it will do very well," said Madelon, rising. "To-
morrow will you take me to your garden? I should like to see
your daisies growing."

After this Madge and Madelon became great friends; and when
the former was at her lessons, there was a nurseryfull of
younger children to pet and play with, if Madelon felt so
disposed. Sometimes in the morning, when she was sitting alone
in the drawing-room, little feet would go scampering along the
floor upstairs, shrill little voices would make themselves
heard from above, and then Madelon, throwing down book or
work, would run up to the big nursery, where, whilst the two
elder children were in the school-room with their mother,
three round, rosy children kept up a perpetual uproar. It was
quite a new sensation to our lonely Madelon to have these
small things to caress, and romp with, and fondle, and she
felt that it was a moment of triumph when they had learnt to
greet her entrance with a shout of joy. Down on the floor she
would go, and be surrounded in a moment with petitions for a
game, a story, a ride.

Graham came up one day in the midst of a most uproarious romp.
"Nurse," he said, putting his head in at the door, "I do wish
you would keep these children quiet--" and stopped as suddenly
as the noise had stopped at his appearance. Madelon, all
blushing and confused, was standing with the youngest boy
riding on her back, whilst the little girls, Lina and Kate,
were holding on to her skirts behind; they had pulled down all
her hair, and it was hanging in loose waves over her
shoulders.

"I beg your pardon, Madelon," said Graham, coming in, and
smiling at her confusion. "I had no idea that you were here,
and the instigator of all this uproar; where is nurse? I shall
have to ask her to keep you all in order together."

"Nurse has gone downstairs to do some ironing," says Lina.
"Oh, Uncle Horace, we were having such fun with Cousin
Madelon."

"Uncle Horace, will you give me a ride? You give better rides
than Cousin Madelon," cries Jack, slipping down on to the
ground.

"Uncle Horace, Cousin Madelon has been telling us about South
America, and we have been hunting buffaloes."

"I am sorry," says Madelon; "I quite forgot how busy you are,
Monsieur Horace, and that you could hear all our noise. We
will be quieter for the future, and not hunt buffaloes just
over your head."

He looked at her without answering; there was a flush on her
pale cheeks under the shadow of the heavy waves of hair, a
smile in her eyes as she looked at him with one of her old,
shy, childish glances, as if not quite sure how he would take
her apology. He could not help smiling in answer, then laughed
outright, and turned away abruptly.

"Come here, then Jack, and I will give you a ride," he said,
lifting the boy on to his shoulder. "This is the way we hunt
buffaloes."

Half-an-hour later, Maria, just come in from the village,
looked into the nursery, attracted by the shouts and laughter.
"It is really very odd," she said afterwards to Mrs. Vavasour,
in a somewhat aggrieved tone, "that when Horace always
declares he cannot find time to walk with me, or even to talk
to me, he should spend half his morning romping with the
children in the nursery." And Mrs. Vavasour, who had also gone
upstairs with Madge and Harry when they had finished their
lessons, had not much to say in answer.


CHAPTER IV.

Ich kann nicht hin!


One day, Madelon said to Mrs. Vavasour, "Please let me have
all the children for a walk this afternoon."

"What, all! my dear girl," said Mrs. Vavasour; "you don't know
what you are undertaking."

"Oh, yes, I do," Madelon answered, smiling; "they will be very
good, I know, and Madge will help me."

So they all set out for their walk, through the garden, and
out at the gate that led at once into the fields which
stretched beyond. They walked one by one along the narrow
track between the springing corn, a little flock of brown-
holland children, and Madelon last of all, in her fresh grey
spring dress. Harry had a drum, and marched on in front,
drubbing with all his might; and Jack followed, brandishing a
sword, and blowing a tin trumpet. Madge would have stopped
this horrible din, which indeed scared away the birds to right
and left, but Madelon only laughed and said she liked it.

Graham, coming across the fields in another direction, saw the
little procession advancing towards him, and waited on the
other side of a stile till it should come up. The children
tumbled joyfully over into Uncle Horace's arms, and were at
once ready with a hundred plans for profiting by the unwonted
pleasure of having him for a companion in their walk; but he
distinctly declined all their propositions, and sending them
on in front with Madge, walked along at Madelon's side.

"Why do you plague yourself with all these children," he said,
"instead of taking a peaceable walk in peaceable society?"

"I like the children," she answered, "and I should have found
no society but my own this afternoon, for Mrs. Vavasour was
going to pay visits, she said, and Maria went out directly
after lunch."

"And you think your own society would have been less peaceable
than that of these noisy little ruffians?"

"I don't know," she answered; "I like walking by myself very
much sometimes, but I like the children, too, and Madge and I
are great friends."

"I think Madge shows her sense--she and I are great friends,
too," said Graham, laughing.

"Madge thinks there is no one in the world like Uncle Horace--
she is always talking about you," said Madelon, shyly.

"That is strange--to me she is always talking about you--she
looks upon you as a sort of fairy princess, I believe, who has
lived in a charmed world as strange to her as any she reads
about in story-books. Madge's experiences are limited, and it
does not take much to set her little brain working. If Maria
and I are abroad next winter, I think I must get Georgie to
spare her to me for a time."

"Are you going abroad again?" said Madelon; and as she asked
the question, a chill shadow seemed to fall upon the bright
spring landscape.

"It is possible-- I have heard of an opening."

He paused for a moment, and then went on,--

"I don't know why I should not tell you all about it, Madelon,
though I have said nothing about it to any one yet--but it will
be no secret. I had a letter this morning telling me that
there is an opening for a physician at L----, that small place
on the Mediterranean, you know, that has come so much into
fashion lately as a winter place for invalids. Dr. B----, an old
friend of mine, who is there now, is going to leave it, and he
has written to give me the first offer of being his
successor."

"And shall you go?" asked Madelon.

"Well, I should like it well enough for a good many reasons,
for the next two or three years, at any rate. It is a lovely
place, a good climate, and I should not feel myself tied down
if anything else turned up that suited me better; but there
are other considerations--in fact, I cannot decide without
thinking it well over."

"But at any rate, you would not go there till next winter,
would you?" said Madelon, with a tremor in her voice which she
vainly tried to conceal.

"Not to stop; but if I accept this offer, I should go out
immediately for a week or two, so as to get introduced to B----
's patients before they leave. A good many will be returning
next winter probably, and it would be as well for me, as a
matter of business, to make their acquaintance; you
understand?"

"Yes, I understand--but then you would have to go at once,
Monsieur Horace, for it is already April, and the weather is
so warm that people will be coming away. I remember how they
used to fly from Nice and Florence--every one that we knew as
soon as it began to get hot."

"Yes, I have not much time to lose, and if I decide to go at
all, I shall start at once. But it is very doubtful."

They had reached the end of the field whilst talking; a heavy
gate separated it from a lane beyond, and the children, unable
to open it, had dispersed here and there along the bank,
hunting for primroses.

"Shall we go on?" said Graham, "or would you like to turn back
now? You look tired."

Madelon did not answer; what was the use of going on? What did
it matter? Everything came to the same end at last--a sense of
utter discouragement and weariness had seized her, and she
stood leaning against the gate, staring blankly down the road
before her. There were about twenty yards of shady, grassy
lane, and then it was divided by a cross-road, with a cottage
standing at one of the angles. Graham, who was looking at
Madelon, saw her face change suddenly.

"Why, there are----" she began, and then stopped abruptly,
colouring with confusion.

Graham looked; two figures had just appeared from one of the
cross-roads, and walking slowly forward, had paused in front
of the cottage; they were Mr. Morris the curate and Maria
Leslie. The clergyman stood with his back to Graham and
Madelon, but they could see Maria with her handkerchief to her
eyes, apparently weeping bitterly. The curate was holding one
of her hands in both his, and so they stood together for a
moment, till he raised it to his lips. Then she pulled it away
vehemently, and burying her face completely in her
handkerchief, hurried off in a direction opposite to that by
which she had come. Mr. Morris stood gazing after her for a
moment, and then he also disappeared within the cottage.

This little scene passed so rapidly, that the two looking on
had hardly time to realize that they were looking on, before
it was all over. There was a sort of pause. Madelon gave one
glance to Graham, and turned away--then the children came
running up with their primroses. "Here are some for you, Uncle
Horace; Cousin Madelon, please may I put some in your hat?"

Madelon took off her hat, and stooped down to help Madge
arrange the flowers; she would not try to understand the
meaning of what they had just witnessed, nor to interpret
Monsieur Horace's look.

"You are going home," said Graham, unfastening the gate
without looking at her; "then we part company here; I have to
go further." And without another word he strode off, leaving
the children disconcerted and rebellious at this abrupt
termination of their walk.

"Madge," said Madelon, caressing the little square perplexed
face, "you won't mind having a short walk to-day, will you?
Let us go home now, and we will play in the garden till your
tea-time;" and wise little Madge agreed without further demur.

It was on the evening of the same day that Madelon, coming in
from the garden where she had been wandering alone in the
twilight, found Horace discussing his plans with Mrs.
Vavasour, who was making tea. She would have gone away again,
but Graham called her back, and went on talking to his sister.

"I must send an answer as soon as possible," he was saying; "I
can't keep B---- waiting for a month while I am making up my
mind; I will speak to Maria this evening."

"It would be as well," answered Mrs. Vavasour; "she ought to
be told at once. But must an answer be sent immediately? I
think you will see that it will be useless to hurry Maria for
a decision; she will want time for consideration."

"She shall have any reasonable time," he replied shortly; "but
that is why I shall speak at once--she can think it over."

"And if you have in a measure made up your mind," continued
her sister, "she will be better pleased, I am sure; she will
wish in some sort to be guided by your wishes."

"That is just what I am anxious to avoid," he answered
impatiently. "I do not desire to influence her in any way; I
would not for the world that she should make any sacrifice on
my account, and then be miserable for ever after."

"My dear Horace, you do not suppose Maria----"

"My dear Georgie, I know what Maria is, and you must allow me
to take my own way."

He began to stride up and down the room with his hands in his
pockets, Madelon watching him in silence. Presently he began
again:--

"I know what Molly is; if she imagined that I wanted to go to
this place, she would say 'Go,' without thinking of herself
for a moment; but ten to one, when we got there, she would be
for ever regretting England, and hating the society, and the
mode of life, and everything, and everybody; and it would be
very natural--she has never been abroad, and knows nothing of
foreign life and manners."

"Then you do not mean to go?" said Mrs. Vavasour.

"I have not said so," he answered--"I shall put the matter
calmly before Maria; tell her what I think are the reasons for
and against, and leave her to decide. I suppose she cannot
complain of that."

"I do not imagine for a moment she will complain," replied
Mrs. Vavasour; "but I think she will want your judgment to
help her."

He only muttered something in answer to this; and Madelon
asked in a low voice, "Is it about going abroad that Monsieur
Horace is doubting?"

"Yes, he told you about it, did he not?" said Mrs. Vavasour.
"I hope he may decide to go--it would be the very thing for
him."

"Do you think so?" said Graham, who had overheard this last
remark; and turning to Madelon with rather a melancholy smile,
"Listen to the description, Madelon, and tell me what you
think of it--a little town on the shores of the Mediterranean,
sheltered on every side by hills, so that all the winter is
spring, and flowers bloom all the year round. The gardens are
full of pomegranate and orange trees, and the hills are
terraced with vineyards, and covered with olives and chestnuts
everywhere else. Do you think that that sounds inviting?"

"A great deal too good to be true," said Mrs. Vavasour,
laughing. "I never believe thoroughly in these earthly
paradises." But Madelon did not laugh; her eyes lighted up,
her cheeks glowed.

"Ah!" she cried, "I can imagine all that. I believe in such
places; they exist somewhere in the world, but one cannot get
to them."

"One can sometimes," said Graham; "for perhaps Maria and I are
going to this one, and then you had better become an invalid
as fast as possible, Madelon, that Aunt Barbara may bring you
there too."

"And you are really going?" she asked, with a sad sick feeling
at her heart.

"Perhaps," he said, "we shall see what Maria says. I am afraid
she may not take the same view of it all that you do;" and
Maria coming in at that moment, the conversation dropped.

After tea they were all sitting, as usual, in the drawing-
room; a wood fire burnt and crackled on the low hearth, but
the evening was warm, and the long windows were open to the
lawn, where Graham was walking up and down, smoking a pipe.
Dr. Vavasour was dozing in an arm-chair, Mrs. Vavasour sat a
the table stitching, Maria in the shade knitting cotton socks,
and Madelon was leaning back in her chair, the lamplight
falling on her brown hair and white dress, a piece of
embroidery between her fingers, but her hands lying in her
lap, and such sad thoughts in her poor little weary head. So
this was the end of it all? Monsieur Horace was going to be
married, and then live abroad--yes, she was certain he would
live abroad--who would stay in England if they could help it?--
and she would never, never see him again! The one thought
revolved in her brain with a sort of dull weariness, which
prevented her seizing more than half its meaning, but which
only required a touch to startle it into acutest pain. No one
spoke or moved, and this oppressive silence of a room full of
people seemed to perplex her as with a sense of unreality, and
was more distracting for the moment than would have been the
confusion of a dozen tongues around her.

Presently, however, Graham came in from the garden, and walked
straight up to her.

"Will you not sing something?" he said.

She rose at once without speaking or raising her eyes, and
went to the piano.

"What shall I sing?" she said then, turning over her music.

"Anything--it does not matter," said Graham, who had followed
her; "never mind your music--sing the first thing that comes
into your head."

She considered a moment, and then began.

When Madelon sang, her hearers could not choose but listen; in
other matters she had very sufficient abilities, but in
singing she rose to genius. Gifted by nature with a superb
voice, an exceptional musical talent, these had been carefully
cultivated during the last two or three years, and the result
was an art that was no art, a noble and simple style, which
gave an added intensity to her natural powers of expression,
and forbade every suspicion of affectation. As she sang now,
the Doctor roused up from his doze, and Mrs. Vavasour dropped
her work; only Maria Leslie, sitting in the shadow of the
window-curtain, knitted on with increased assiduity.

It was a German song, Schumann's "Sehnsucht," that she was
singing; it was the first that had come to her mind at
Graham's bidding, and, still preoccupied, she began it almost
without thought of the words and sentiment; but she had not
sung two lines, when some hidden emotion made itself felt in
her face with a quite irresistible enthusiasm and pathos.
These were the words:--


    "Ich blick' im mein Herz, und ich blick' in die Welt,
    Bis vom schwimmenden Auge die Thräne mir fällt:
    Wohl leuchtet die Ferne mit goldenem Licht,
    Doch hält mich der Nord, ich erreiche sie nicht.
    O die Schranken so eng, und die Welt so weit!
    Und so flüchtig die Zeit, und so flüchtig die Zeit.

    Ich weiss ein Land, wo aus sonnigem Grün
    Um versunkene Temple die Trauben blühn,
    Wo die purpurne Woge das Ufer besaümt,
    Und von kommenden Sängern der Lorbeer träumt;
    Fern lockt es und winkt dem verlangenden Sinn,
    Und ich kann nicht hin--kann nicht hin!"


As Madelon sang these last words she looked up, and her eyes
met Graham's, as he stood leaning against the piano, gazing at
her face. She blushed scarlet, and stopped suddenly.

"I--I don't think I can sing any more," she said, letting her
hands fall from the keys into her lap. She turned round, and
saw Maria looking at her also, watching her and Graham
perhaps. "How hot it is!" she cried, pushing the hair off her
forehead with a little impatient gesture. "_J'étouffe ici!_" And
she jumped up quickly and ran out of the room.

Out of the atmosphere of love, and suspicion, and jealousy
that was stifling her, into the hall, up the shallow staircase
to the long matted passage which ran the length of the house,
the bed-rooms opening on to it on either side. Madelon paced
it rapidly for some minutes, then opened a door at the end,
and entered the nursery. Nothing stifling here; a large, cool,
airy room, with white blinds drawn down, subduing the full
moonlight to a soft gloom, in which one could discern two
little beds, each with its small occupant, whose regular
breathing told that they had done, for ever, with the cares
and sorrows of at least that day.

Madelon stood looking at them, the excitement that had made
her cheeks burn, and her pulses throb, subsiding gradually in
presence of this subdued, unconscious life. She smoothed the
sheets and counterpane of one little sleeper, who, with bare
limbs tossed about, was lying right across the bed, all the
careful tuckings-up wofully disarranged; and then, passing on,
went into an inner room, that opened out of the larger
nursery. The window was open here to the cool, grey sky, the
moonlight shining in on the white curtains, the little white
bed at the further end.

"Is that you, Cousin Madelon?" says Madge, raising a brown,
shaggy head as Madelon softly opened the door. "Won't you come
in, please? I am not asleep."

Madelon came in, and went to the window. It looked down upon
the lawn, with the still tree-shadows lying across it, and
some other shadows that were not still--those of two people
walking up and down, talking earnestly. She could distinguish
Monsieur Horace's voice, and then Maria's in answer, and then
Monsieur Horace again, and a sudden pang seemed to seize the
poor child's heart, and hold it tight in its grasp. How happy
they were, those two, talking together down there, whilst she
was all alone up her, looking on!

"Do come here, Cousin Madelon," said Madge's impatient voice
from the bed. "I want you to tuck me up, and give me a kiss."

Madelon went up to the bed, and kneeling down by it, laid her
cheek wearily by Madge's on the pillow. The child passed her
arm round her neck, and hugged her tight, and the innocent,
loving caress soothed the girl's sore heart, for the moment,
more than anything else could have done.

"Little Madge," she said, drawing the child closer to her, as
if the pressure of the little, soft, warm limbs had power to
stop the aching at her heart. "Oh! Madge, I wish I were no
bigger and no older than you. One is happier so."

"Do you?" said Madge, wondering. "I should like to be grown-
up, as tall and beautiful as you are, and to sing like you.
You were singing just now downstairs; I opened the window, and
could hear you quite plainly. Why did you stop so soon?"

"It was hot," said Madelon, her face flushing up again at the
recollection; "and one is not always in the mood for singing,
you know, Madge."

"Ah, but do sing me just one song, now, Cousin Madelon--just
here, before I go to sleep."

Still kneeling, with Madge's head nestling on her shoulder,
Madelon began to sing a little half-gay, half-melancholy
French romance of many verses. The tune seemed to grow more
and more plaintive as it went on, a pathetic, monotonous
chant, rising and falling. Before it was ended, Madge's hold
had relaxed, her eyes were closed--she was sound asleep for the
night. Madelon rose gently, kissed the honest, rosy, freckled
face; and then, as if drawn by some invincible attraction,
went back to the window.

Yes; they were still there, those two, not walking up and down
now, but standing under the big tree at the end of the lawn
still talking, as she could see by their gestures. "Ah, how
happy they are!" thinks our Madelon again, forgetting the
scene of the afternoon, her doubts, her half-formed
suspicions--how happy they must be, Monsieur Horace, who loves
Maria, Maria who is loved by Monsieur Horace, whilst she--why,
it is she who loves Monsieur Horace, who has loved him since
he rescued her, a little child, from loneliness and despair--
she, who for all these years has had but one thought, Monsieur
Horace, one object, Monsieur Horace, and who sees herself now
shut out from such a bright, gleaming paradise, into such
shivering outer darkness. Ah, she loved him--she loved him--she
owned it to herself now, with a sudden burst of passion--and he
was going away; he had no thought of her; his path in life lay
along one road, and hers along another--a road how blank, how
dreary, wrapped in what grey, unswerving mists.

"Ah, why must I live? Oh! that I could die--if I could only
die!" cries the poor child passionately in her thoughts,
stretching out her hands in her young impatience of life and
suffering. "I love him--is it wrong? How can I help it? I loved
him before I knew what it meant, I never knew till----"

She stopped suddenly, with a blush that seemed to set her
cheeks all a-flame--she had never known till half-an-hour ago,
when she had looked up and met his eyes for that one moment.
Ah! why had he looked at her so? And she--oh, merciful heavens!
had she betrayed herself? At the very thought Madelon started
as if she had been stung. She turned from the window, she
covered her face with her hands, and escaping swiftly, she
fled to her own room, and throwing herself on the bed, buried
her face in the pillow, to wrestle through her poor little
tragedy of love, and self-consciousness, and despair.

And while Madelon is crying her heart out upstairs, this is
what has been going on below. There had been an uncomfortable
pause in the sitting-room after her swift retreat; Mrs.
Vavasour neither moved nor spoke, Maria knitted diligently,
and Graham stood gloomily staring down on the music-stool
where Madelon had sat and sung, and looked up at him with that
sudden gleam in her eyes, till, rousing himself, he walked
through the open window, into the garden, across the lawn, to
the shrubbery. He stood leaning over the little gate at the
end of the path, looking over the broad moonlit field, where
the scattered bushes cast strange fantastic shadows, and for
the first time he admitted to himself that he had made a
great, a terrible mistake in life, and he hated himself for
the admission. What indeed were faith, and loyalty, and honour
worth, if they could not keep him true to the girl whose love
he had won five years ago, and to whom he was a thousand times
pledged by every loving promise, every word of affection that
had once passed between them? And yet, was this Maria to whom
he had come back, this Maria so cold and indifferent, so alien
from him in tastes, ideas, sympathies, was she indeed the very
woman who had once won his heart, whom he had chosen as his
life-long companion? How had it all been? He looked back into
the past, to the first days after his return from the Crimea,
when, wounded and helpless, worn out with toil and fever, he
had come back to be tended by Englishwomen in an English home.
A vision rose before him of a blooming girl with blue ribbons
that matched blue eyes, who came and went about him softly
through the long spring and summer days, arranging his
cushions, fetching his books, and reading to him by the hour
in gentle, unvarying tones. Yes, he understood well enough how
it had all come to pass; but those days had gone by, and the
Maria who had brightened them, was not she gone also? or
rather, had she ever existed except in the eyes that had
invested the kind girl-nurse with every perfection? And now
what remained? Graham groaned as he bowed his head upon his
crossed arms, and suddenly another vision flitted before him--a
pale face, a slender form, a pair of brown eyes that seemed to
grow out of the twilight, and look at him with a child's
affection, a woman's passion--Graham was no boy, to be tossed
about on the tempestuous waves of a first love; he had long
held that there were things in life, to which love and
courtship, marrying and giving in marriage, might be looked
upon as quite subordinate--and yet he felt, at that moment, as
if life itself would be a cheap exchange for one touch of the
small hand that had clung so confidingly to his, years ago,
for one more look into the eyes that had met his, scarcely ten
minutes since.

Such a mood could not long endure in a man of Graham's stamp
and habit of mind; and in a moment he had roused himself, and
begun to walk slowly back towards the house. What he might
feel could have no practical bearing on the matter one way or
another, and feeling might therefore as well be put out of
sight. He was bound to Maria by every tie of honour, and he
was no man to break those ties--if she were disposed to hold by
them. But was she indeed? Graham had not been blind to what
had been going on round him during the last few weeks, and he
felt that some explanation with Maria was due. Well, there
should be an explanation, and if he found that she was still
willing to hold to their engagement--why, then they would be
married.

He went up to Maria, sitting at the window.

"It _is_ very warm in-doors," he said; "suppose you come and
take a turn in the garden."

"As you like," she answered; "I don't find it particularly
warm;" but she laid down her work at once, and joined him in
the garden.

They took two or three turns up and down the lawn in silence,
till at last Graham, trying to speak cheerfully, said, "I had
a letter this morning, Maria, that I want to consult you
about, as it concerns you as well as me."

"Does it?" she said indifferently. "Well?"

"There is an opening for a physician at that winter place for
invalids on the Mediterranean," said Graham, explaining, "and
I have the offer of it; it would suit me very well, for the
next year or two at any rate, and would enable us to marry at
once; but my doubt, Maria, is, whether you would not object to
leaving England."

"I don't see what that has to do with it," answered Maria,
shortly and coldly. "Of course you will do what you think
best."

"What I might think best in the abstract, Maria, is not the
point; what I want to ascertain are your wishes in the
matter."

"I should have thought you might have known already," she
replied; "you are very well aware that, for years, it has been
my wish that you should have this partnership with Dr.
Vavasour."

"I am aware of it," he said, and paused. "Listen to me,
Maria," he continued in a moment, "let me put the case fairly
before you. If I accept Dr. Vavasour's offer, it closes, so to
speak, my career. I shall be bound down to this country
practice for life probably, for years at any rate, since,
after making the arrangement, I could not feel justified in
altering it again during Dr. Vavasour's lifetime. If, on the
other hand, I go to L----, I shall be bound to no one, and free
to take anything else that might suit me better."

"Go, then!" cried Maria, hastily, "I will not stand in your
way. I should have thought, Horace, that after all these
years, you would have been glad to look forward to a quiet
home and a settled life; but I see it is different, so go to
L----, and never mind me. If it becomes a question between me
and your career, I should think your choice would not be a
difficult one."

Her voice began to tremble, but she went on vehemently: "Why
do you ask my opinion at all? It can make no difference to
you; you have gone your own way these five years past without
much regard for my wishes, one way or another; and since your
return home, you have hardly spoken to me, much less consulted
me----"

It was at that moment that Madelon, kneeling at Madge's
bedside, began to sing, and the sound of her voice ringing
through the open window of her little upper room, Graham
involuntarily stopped, and lost the thread of Maria's speech.
She perceived it at once.

"Ah! yes, that is it," she cried passionately, hardly knowing
what she said. "Do you think I do not see, that I cannot
understand? Do I not know who it is you care to listen to now,
to talk to, to consult? Ask her what she thinks, ask
Madeleine's advice----"

"Be silent!" cried Horace, with sudden anger, "I will not have
Madeleine's name mentioned between us in that way. Forgive me,
Maria," he went on, more calmly, "but this sort of talk is
useless; though, if I cared to recriminate, I might perhaps
ask you, how it happens that Mr. Morris comes here so
frequently."

"Mr. Morris!" faltered Maria; "who told you----"

Her momentary indignation melted into tears and sobs; she
turned, and put out her hand to Graham, as they stood together
under the big plane-tree.

"Oh, Horace," she said, "I am very unhappy, and if you blame
me, I cannot help it--I daresay I deserve it."

"My poor Molly," he answered, taking her hand in his. "Why
should I blame you? and why are you unhappy? Let me help you--
unless, indeed, I am altogether the cause of it all."

Meanwhile, Mrs. Vavasour, left all alone in the sitting-room,
stitched away in the lamplight, looking out from time to time
into the dewy garden, where the two figures were pacing up and
down. The murmur of their voices reached her, and presently
she also heard Madelon singing up above, and then the two went
away out of hearing, and she could distinguish nothing in the
silence but the rustling of her own work and the soft,
inarticulate sounds of the early night. She could guess pretty
well what the result of that talk would be. That very
afternoon, going to Maria's room on her return home, she had
found the girl in an agony of weeping, and had learnt from her
that Mr. Morris had just made her an offer, and that she had
been obliged to tell him that she was already engaged--and 'Oh!
what could Mr. Morris think of her, and what would Horace
think?' cried poor Maria, filled with remorse. And Mr. Morris
cared for her so much; he had been so miserable when she had
told him they must part, and said she was the only woman he
had seen that he could care for; and that was the only
reproach he had uttered, though she had treated him so badly.
And Horace did not care for her one bit now--she could see it,
she knew it, he was tired of her, and she was not clever
enough for him, and would never make him a good wife. All this
our little-reticent Maria had sobbed out in answer to Mrs.
Vavasour's sympathising questions, with many entreaties to
know what she had better do next. Mrs. Vavasour could only
advise her to say to Horace just what she had said to her, and
she had sufficient confidence in Maria's courage and good
sense to trust that she would do so now, when matters had
evidently come to a crisis. But it was with the keenest
interest she awaited the end of their conversation.

She had not to wait very long. In a few minutes she saw Maria
coming quickly across the lawn; she passed through the window
and the room without looking up or speaking, and, with a
little sob, disappeared. Graham followed more slowly, and
sitting down by the table, moodily watched his sister's
fingers moving rapidly to and fro.

"That is all over," he said at last.

"What is all over?" inquired Mrs. Vavasour.

"Everything between Maria and me. We have agreed upon one
thing at last, at any rate."

"I am sure it is for the best, Horace," said Mrs. Vavasour,
looking at him with her kind, gentle eyes.

"I don't see how anything should be for the best when one has
behaved like a brute, and knows it," he answered, getting up,
and beginning to walk up and down the room.

"Is it you who have been behaving like a brute, Horace? I
cannot fancy that."

"I don't know why not," he answered gloomily; then, pausing in
his walk, "No one knew of our engagement except ourselves and
Aunt Barbara?" he asked.

"No one else was told."

"Well, then, no great harm is done, so far as gossip goes. You
had better write to Aunt Barbara. I shall go abroad at once."

"To this town on the Mediterranean?"

"Yes, I shall write to-night to B----; and I will start by the
seven o'clock train to-morrow morning for London. No one need
get up; I will tell Jane to let me have some breakfast."

"We shall hear from you?"

"Yes, I will write when I am across the water. Good-bye."

He stooped down and kissed her as he spoke. She laid her hand
on his arm, and detained him for a moment.

"Horace," she said, "you must not vex yourself to much about
this; you and Maria have only discovered in time what numbers
of people discover when it is too late--that you are not suited
to each other. Believe me, it is far better to find it out
before marriage than after."

"I daresay you are right," he said. "Don't be afraid, Georgie,
I shall not vex myself too much, but at present the whole
thing appears hateful to me, as far as I am concerned."

The next morning he was gone before any one of the family was
stirring.


CHAPTER V.

Er, der Herrlischste von Allen.


"Ashurst, July, 186--,

"Dear Uncle Horace,--Mamma has a bad headache, and says I am to
write and ask you whether you have quite forgotten us, and if
you are never coming to see us again. She says, cannot you
come next week, because Lady Lorrimer's great ball is on the
31st. She and cousin Madelon are going, and she would be very
glad if you could escort them, as papa says he will not go.
Cousin Madelon is here still, and Aunt Barbara is coming on
Monday to stay with us for a little while before she goes back
with her to Cornwall. Cousin Madelon has been reading French
with me, and giving me music-lessons. We had a pic-nic in the
woods last week, and my holidays begin to-morrow. I wish you
would come back, Uncle Horace, and then we could have some fun
before Cousin Madelon goes away. I wish she would never go,
but stay here always, as Maria used. I have been reading some
of your book; mamma said I might, and I like it very much.
Mamma sends her love, and I am

"Your affectionate niece,

"Madge Vavasour."


"Mamma says that she received yesterday the note that I
enclose, and that she sends it to you to read."


The note was from Maria Leslie, and was dated from a country-
town whither she had gone to stay with some friends, shortly
after Graham's departure from Ashurst.


"Dearest Georgie,

"I feel that you are the first person to whom I should write
the news that I am engaged to be married to Mr. Norris. He has
just had the offer of a living in the north, and lost no time
in coming to tell me of his prospects, and to invite me to
share them. To you, who know him so well, I need say nothing
of my own great happiness. I only fear that, after all that
has passed, you may think I have been a little precipitate;
but I could not but feel that something was due to Mr. Morris,
and that it would be wrong to keep him in suspense. Send me
you good wishes and congratulations, dear Georgie, for I
cannot feel that my happiness is complete without them.

"Ever your affectionate,

"Maria Leslie."


Graham arrived by the last available train on the evening of
the 31st, and was told by Madge, who came running into the
hall to meet him, that Mamma and Cousin Madelon were dressing,
and would Uncle Horace have some dinner, or go and dress too?
Uncle Horace said he had dined already, and would dress at
once, and so disappeared upstairs with his portmanteau.

When he came down to the drawing-room, he found Mrs. Treherne
sitting alone in the summer twilight at the open window.

"Is that you, Horace?" she said, putting out her hand; "you
are quite a stranger here, I understand. Georgie says she has
been jealous of my seeing so much of you in London."

"I think Georgie has no right to complain of me," he answered;
"if there is a thing on earth I hate it's a ball--are you
going, too, Aunt Barbara?"

"Indeed, no--I think you will have enough to do with two
ladies; here comes one of them."

A tall, slender figure, moving through the dusk with her soft
trailing draperies, and water-lilies in her brown hair. Graham
had not seen her since that evening, more than three months
ago, when she had looked up at him, and escaped in the midst
of her unfinished song. They took each other's hands in
silence now; a sudden consciousness and embarrassment seemed
to oppress them both, and make the utterance of a word
impossible.

Madelon was the first to speak; she went up to Mrs. Treherne.

"Can you see my flowers, Aunt Barbara?" she said; "are they
not pretty? Madge walked three miles to-day to the sedge
ponds, on purpose to get them for me."

"Is Madge still your devoted friend?" Horace asked.

"Oh! yes, Madge and I are always great friends. I must not
expect all her attentions though, now that you are come back,
Monsieur Horace."

The old childish name seemed to break the spell, and to bring
back the old familiarity.

"And so you are going to a ball at last, Madelon," Graham
said. "For the first time in my life I am sorry I cannot
dance, for I shall be deprived of the pleasure of having you
for a partner."

"Thank you," she said, "I should have liked to have danced
with you very much; but, after all, it is in the intention
that is the greatest compliment, so I will not mind too much.
I think I will be very happy even if I do not dance at all."

She looked up at him for the first time, and even in the dusk
he seemed to see the light in her eyes, the smile on her lips,
the colour flushing in her cheeks. It was not of the ball she
was thinking--it was of him; she had felt the grasp of his kind
hand, his voice was sounding in her hears, he has come back at
last--at last.

"You have been away a long time, Monsieur Horace," she said
softly, "but we have heard of you often; we have read your
book, and the critiques upon it; it has been a great success,
has it not? And then we have seen your name in the papers--at
dinners, at scientific meetings----"

"Yes," said Graham, "I have been doing plenty of hard work
lately; but I have come down into the country to be idle, and
have some fun, as Madge would say. We will take our holidays
together, will we not, Madge?" he added, as the child,
followed by her mother, came into the room.

Lady Lorrimer's ball was the culminating point of a series of
festivities given in honour of the coming of age of an eldest
son. To ordinary eyes, I suppose, it was very like any other
ball, to insure whose success no accessory is wanting that
wealth and good taste can supply; but to our Madelon there was
something almost bewildering in this scene at once familiar
and so strange; in these big, lighted, crowded rooms; in this
music, whose every beat seemed to rouse a thousand memories
and associations, liking the present with the so remote past.
As for Madelon herself, she made a success, ideal almost, as
if she had indeed been the enchanted Princess of little
Madge's fairy tale. Something rare in the style of her beauty--
something in her foreign air and appearance, distinguished her
at once in the crowd of girls; she was sought after from the
moment she entered the room, and the biggest personages
present begged for an introduction to Miss Linders. The girl
was not insensible to her triumphs; her cheeks flushed, her
eyes brightened with excitement and pleasure. Once, in a pause
of the waltz, she was standing with her partner close to where
Graham was leaning against a wall. He had an air of being
horribly bored, as indeed he was; but Madelon's eye caught
his, and he was obliged to smile in answer to her look of
radiant pleasure.

"You are enjoying yourself, I see, Madelon," he said.

"I never was so happy!" she cried. "Ah! if you knew how I love
dancing!--and it is so many years since I have had a waltz!"

Later on in the evening, Lady Lorrimer, the fashionable, gay,
kind-hearted hostess, came up to her.

"Miss Linders," she said, "I have a favour to ask of you. My
aunt, Lady Adelaide Spencer, is passionately fond of music,
and Mrs. Vavasour has been telling us how beautifully you
sing. Would it be too much to ask you for one song? It is not
fair, I know, in the midst of a ball, but the next dance is
only a quadrille, I see----"

"I shall be most happy," says Madelon, blushing up, and
following Lady Lorrimer down a long corridor into a music-
room. There were not above a dozen people present when she
began to sing, but the room was quite full before she rose
from the piano. She sang one song after another, as it was
asked for--French, German, English. The excitement of the
moment, the sense of triumph and success, seemed to fill her
with a sort of exaltation; never had her voice been so true
and powerful, her accent so pure, her expression so grand and
pathetic; she sang as if inspired by the very genius of song.

"We must not be unconscionable, and deprive Miss Linders of
all her dancing," said Lady Lorrimer at last--"you would like
to go back to the ball-room now, would you not? But first let
me introduce you to my aunt; she will thank you better than I
can for your singing."

Lady Adelaide Spencer, the great lady of the neighbourhood, a
short, stout, good-natured old woman in black velvet, and a
grizzled front, gave Madelon a most flattering reception.

"Sit down and talk to me a little," she said. "I want to thank
you again for your lovely voice and singing. It is not every
young lady who would give up her dancing just for an old
woman's caprice."

"Indeed I like singing as much as dancing," says Madelon.

"And you do both equally well, my dear; you may believe me
when I tell you so, for I know what good dancing is, and I
have been watching you all the evening. You must come and see
me and sing to me again. You live with your aunt, Mrs.
Treherne, Mrs. Vavasour tells me."

"Yes," replied Madelon.

"I knew Mrs. Treherne well years ago; tell her from me when
you go home, that an old woman has fallen in love with her
pretty niece, and ask her to bring you to see me. She is
staying at Ashurst, I believe?"

"Yes," said Madelon, "we are both at Dr. Vavasour's house. I
have been there all the spring and summer, and Aunt Barbara
has come for a few weeks before we go home to Cornwall."

"Do you live always in Cornwall?" asked Lady Adelaide. "Have
you never been abroad? Your French and German in singing were
quite perfect, but you seem to me to speak English with a
foreign accent, and a very pretty one too."

"I was born abroad," answered Madelon--"I spent all the first
part of my life on the Continent. I have been in England only
five years."

"Ah, that accounts for it all, then. What part of the
Continent do you come from?"

"I was born in Paris," says unthinking Madelon, "but we--I
travelled about a great deal; one winter I was in Florence,
and another in Nice, but I know Germany and Belgium best. I
was often at Wiesbaden, and Homburg, and Spa."

"Very pretty places, all of them," said Lady Adelaide, "but so
shockingly wicked! It is dreadful to think of the company one
meets there. Did you ever see the gambling tables, my dear?
But I dare say not; you would of course be too young to be
taken into such places."

"Yes, I have seen them," said Madelon, suddenly scarlet.

"My health obliges me to go to these baths from time to time,"
continued the old lady; "but the thought of what goes on in
those Kursaals quite takes away any pleasure I might otherwise
have; and the people who frequent the tables--the women and the
men who go there night after night! I assure you my blood has
run cold sometimes when one of those notorious gamblers has
been pointed out to me, and I think of the young lives he may
have ruined, the young souls he may have tempted to
destruction. I myself have known some sad cases--I am sure you
sympathise with me, Miss Linders?"

"Lady Adelaide," said a portly gentleman, coming up, "will you
allow me to take you into supper?"

"You will not forget to come and see me, my dear," cried Lady
Adelaide, with a parting wave of her fan as she moved away,
leaving the girl sitting there, silent and motionless. People
brushed by her as they left the room, but she paid no heed.
Mrs. Vavasour spoke to her as she passed on her way to supper,
but Madelon did not answer. All at once she sprang up, looking
round as if longing to escape; as she did so, her eyes met
Graham's; he was standing close to her, behind her chair, and
something in his expression, something of sympathy, of
compassion perhaps, made her cheeks flame, and her eyes fill
with sudden tears of resentment and humiliation. He had heard
them, he had heard every word that had been said, and he was
pitying her! What right had he, what did she want with his
compassion? She met his glance with one of defiance, and then
turned her back upon him; she must remain where she was, she
could not go out of the room alone, but, at any rate, he
should not have the opportunity of letting her see that he
pitied her.

Horace, however, who had in fact heard every word of the
conversation, and perhaps understood Madelon's looks well
enough, came up to her, as she stood alone, watching the
people stream by her out of the room.

"There is supper going on somewhere," he said; "will you come
and have some, or shall I bring you an ice here?"

"Neither," she answered, quickly. "I--I don't want anything,
and I would rather stay here."

"Perhaps you are right," he said. "We shall have the room to
ourselves in a minute, and then it will be cooler."

In fact, the room was nearly deserted--almost every one had
gone away to supper. Madelon stood leaning against the window,
half hidden by the curtain; the sudden gleam of defiance, of
resentment against Horace, had faded; it had vanished at the
sound of his kind voice, which she loved better than any other
in the world. But there were tears of passion still in her
eyes; her little moment of joyousness and triumph had been so
cruelly dashed from her; she felt hurt, humiliated, almost
exasperated.

"How hot it is!" she said, glancing round impatiently. "Where
is every one gone? Cannot we go too? No, not in to supper.
What is going on in that little room? I have not been there."

"It leads into the garden, I think," answered Graham. "Shall
we see? Wait a moment. I will fetch you a shawl, and then, if
you like, we can go out."

He strode off quickly. There was vexation and perplexity in
his kind heart too. He understood well enough how the girl had
been wounded--his little Madelon, for whom it would have seemed
a small thing to give his right hand, could such a sacrifice
have availed her aught. And he could do nothing. His
compassion insulted her, his interference she would have
resented; no, he could do nothing to protect his little girl.
So he thought as he made his way into the cloak-room to
extract a shawl. He was going his way in the world, and she
hers, and she might be suffering, lonely, unprotected, for
aught that he could do, unless--unless----

"Those cloaks belong to Lady Adelaide's party," cried the
maid, as Graham recklessly seized hold of one in a bundle.
"You must not take those, sir; Lady Adelaide will be going
immediately."

"Confound the cloaks, and Lady Adelaide too!" cried Graham,
impatiently. "Here, give me something--anything. Where is Miss
Linders' shawl? Which are Mrs. Vavasour's things?"

Madelon had stood still for a moment after Horace had left
her, and then, as he did not immediately return, she left her
station behind the window-curtain, and began walking up and
down the room. "How tired I am!" she thought wearily. "Will
this evening never end? Oh! I wish I have never come. I wish I
were going away somewhere, anywhere, so that I should never
see or hear again of anybody, that knows anything about me.
Why cannot we go home? It must be very late. I wonder what
time it is? Perhaps there is a clock in here."

The door of the room which Graham had said led into the garden
stood ajar; she pushed it open, and went in. It was a small
room, with a glass door at the further end, and on this
evening had been arranged for cards, so that Madelon, on
entering, suddenly found herself in the midst of green-baize-
covered tables, lighted candles, packs of cards, and a dozen
or so of silent, absorbed gentlemen, intent upon the trumps
and honours, points and odd tricks. The girl, already excited,
and morbidly susceptible, stopped short at this spectacle, as
one struck with a sudden blow. Not for years, not since that
evening the memory of which ever came upon her with a sudden
sting, when she had met Monsieur Horace at the gambling-tables
of Spa, had Madelon seen a card; Mrs. Treherne never had them
in her house; in those little parties of which mention has
been made as her only dissipation, they had formed no part of
the entertainment, and the sight of them now roused a thousand
tumultuous emotions of pain and pleasure. A thousand
associations attached themselves to those little bits of
pasteboard, whose black and red figures seemed to dance before
her eyes--recollections of those early years with their for-
ever-gone happiness, of her father, of happy evenings that
she, an innocent, unconscious child, had passed at his side,
building houses with old packs of cards, or spinning the
little gold pieces that passed backwards and forwards so
freely. She was happy then, happier than she could ever be
again, she thought despairingly, now that she had been taught
so sore a knowledge of good and evil. The last evening of her
father's life came suddenly before her; she seemed to hear
again his last words to herself, to see the scene with Legros,
the cards tumbling in a heap on the floor, his dying face. A
kind of terror seized her, and she stood gazing as though
fascinated at the dozen respectable gentlemen dealing their
cards and marking their games, till Graham's step and voice
aroused her.

"Here is your shawl, Madelon," he said, putting it round her
shoulders; "did you think I was ever coming? That woman----"

He stopped short in his speech; she turned round and looked at
him with her white, scared face, her wide-open, brown eyes, as
if she had seen a ghost. Ghosts enough, indeed, our poor
Madelon had seen during these last five minutes; but they were
not visible to Graham, who stood sufficiently astonished and
alarmed, as she turned abruptly away again, and disappeared
through the glass door into the garden.

"Stay, Madelon!" he cried and followed her out into the night.

It was raining, he found, as soon as he got outside. The
garden had been prettily illuminated with coloured lamps hung
along the verandah, and amongst the trees and shrubs, but they
were nearly all extinguished now. It was a bleak mournful
night, summer time though it was, the wind moaning and
sighing, the rain falling steadily. Graham, as he passed
quickly along the sodden path, had a curious sensation of
having been through all this before; another sad, rainy night
came to his mind, a lighted street, a dark avenue, and a
little passionate figure flying before him, instead of the
tall, white one who moved swiftly on now, and finally
disappeared beneath the long shoots of climbing plants that
overhung a sort of summer-house at the end of a walk. The
lamps were not all extinguished here; the wet leaves glistened
as the wind swept the branches to and fro, and Horace, as he
entered, could see Madelon sitting by the little table,
trembling and shivering, her hair all blown about and shining
in the uncertain light. What had suddenly come over her?
Graham was fairly perplexed.

"Madelon," he said, going up to her, "what is the matter? has
anything happened, or any one vexed you?"

"_Non, non_," she cried, jumping up impatiently, and speaking in
French as she sometimes did when excited, "_je n'ai rien--rien du
tout;_ leave me, Monsieur Horace, I beg of you! How you weary
me with your questions! I was rather hot, and came here for a
little fresh air. That was all."

"You are cooler now," said graham, as she stood drawing her
shawl round her, her teeth chattering.

"Yes," she said, with a little shiver, "it is rather cold
here, and damp; it is raining, is it not? Let us go back and
dance. I adore dancing; it was papa who first taught it to me;
do you know, Monsieur Horace? He taught me a great many
things."

"You had better not dance any more," said Graham, taking her
little burning hand in his. "You are overheated already, and
will catch cold."

She snatched away her hand impatiently.

"Ah! do not touch me!" she cried. "Let us go--why do we stay
here? I do not want your prescriptions, Monsieur Horace. I
_will_ go and dance."

"Wait a minute," said Graham; "let me wrap your shawl closer
round you, or you will be wet through: it is pouring with
rain."

The friendly voice and action went to her heart, and seemed to
reproach her for her harsh, careless words. They walked back
in silence to the house; but when they reached the empty
music-room again, she put both hands on his arm with an
imploring gesture, as if to detain him.

"Don't go--don't leave me!" she said; "I am very wicked,
Monsieur Horace, but--"

And then she dropped down on to a seat in the deep recess
formed by the window.

The sight of her unhappiness touched Graham's heart with a
sharper pang than anything else had power to do. He loved her
so--this poor child--he would have warded off all unhappiness,
all trouble from her life; and there she sat miserable before
him, and it seemed to him he could not raise a finger to help
her.

"You are not happy, Madelon," he said, at length. "Can I do
nothing to help you?"

She raised her head and looked at him.

"Nothing, nothing!" she cried. "Ah, forgive me, Monsieur
Horace, for speaking so to you; but you do not know, you
cannot understand how unhappy I am."

"Buy why, Madelon? What is it? Has any one spoken unkindly to
you?"

"No, no, it is not that. You do not understand. Why do you
come to me here? Why am I here at all? If people knew who and
what I am, would they talk to me as they do? Supposing I had
told Lady Adelaide just now--yes, you heard every word of that
conversation--she would have despised me, as you pitied me,
Monsieur Horace. Yes, you pitied me; I saw it in your eyes."

"My pity is not such as you need resent, Madelon," said
Graham, with a sigh.

"I do not resent it," she answered hastily. "You are kind, you
are good; you do well to pity me. What al I? The daughter of
a--a--yes, I know well enough now--I did not once, but I do now--
and I am here in your society, amongst you all, on
sufferance."

"You are wrong," answered Graham quickly, scarcely thinking of
what he said. "In the first place, it can make no difference
to any one that knows you who your father was; and then you
are here as Mrs. Treherne's niece----"

"I am my father's daughter!" cried Madelon, blazing up, "and I
must not own it. Yes, yes, I understand it all. As Mrs.
Treherne's niece I may be received; but not as---- Oh, papa,
papa!" her voice suddenly breaking down, "why did you die? why
did you leave me all alone?"

Graham stood silent. He felt so keenly for her; he had so
dreaded for her the time when this knowledge of her father's
true character must come home to her. In his wide sympathy
with everything connected with her, he had regrets of that
poor father also, dead years ago, who in his last hours had so
plainly foreseen some such moment as this, and yet not quite,
either.

"Monsieur Horace," Madelon went on wildly, "I did so love
papa, and he loved me--ah, you cannot imagine how much! When I
think of it now, when I see other fathers with their children,
how little they seem to care for them in comparison, I wonder
at his love for me. He nursed me, he played with me, he took
such care of me, he made me so happy. I think sometimes if I
could only hear his voice once more, and see him smiling at me
as he used to smile--and I must not speak of him, I must not
even mention him. It is unjust, it is cruel. I do not want to
live with people who will not let me think of my father."

"You may speak of him to me, Madelon----"

"To you?" she said, interrupting him; "ah, you knew him--you
know how he loved me. But Aunt Barbara--she will not let me
even mention his name."

"Then she is very wrong and very foolish," Graham answered
hastily. "Listen to me, Madelon. You are making yourself
miserable for nothing. To begin with, if everybody in the room
to-night knew who your father was, and all about him, I don't
suppose it would make the least difference; and as for the
rest, you have no occasion to concern or distress yourself
about anything in your father's life, except what relates to
yourself. Whatever he may have been to others, he was the
kindest and most loving of fathers to you, and that is all you
need think about."

"But Aunt Barbara----"

"Never mind Aunt Barbara. If she chooses to do what you and I
think foolish we will not follow her example. You may talk to
me, Madelon, as much as ever you please. I should like to hear
about your father, for I know how often you think of him. Now,
will you go back to the ball-room? I give you leave to dance
now," he added, smiling.

She did not move nor answer, but she looked up at him with a
sudden change in her face, and he saw that she was trembling.

"What is it now, Madelon?" he said.

"You are so good," she said. "When I am unhappy, you always
comfort me--it has always been so----"

"Do I comfort you?" said Graham--"why, that is good news,
Madelon."

"Ah! yes," she cried, in her impulsive way, "you have always
been good to me--how can I forget it? That night when papa
died, and I was so unhappy all alone--and since then, how
often--"

Graham turned away, and walked twice up and down the room.
There was a distant sound of music, and footsteps, and voices,
but people had drifted away into the ball-room again, and they
were alone. He came back to where Madelon was sitting.

"If you think so, indeed, Madelon," he said, "will you not let
it be so always? Do you think you can trust me enough to let
me always take care of you? I can ask for nothing dearer in
life."

"What do you mean?" she cried, glancing up at him startled.

"Do you not understand?" he said, looking at her, and taking
one her little hands in his--"do you not understand that one
may have a secret hidden away for years, and never suspected
even by oneself, perhaps, till all at once one discovers it? I
think I must have had some such secret, Madelon, and that I
never guessed at it till a few months since, when I found a
little girl that I knew years ago, grown up into somebody that
I love better than all the world----"

"Ah! stop!" she cried, jumping up, and pulling her hand away.
"You are good and kind, but it is not possible that you--ah!
Monsieur Horace, I am not worthy!"

"Not worthy! Good heavens, Madelon, you not worthy!" He paused
for a moment. "What is not possible?" he went on. "Perhaps I
am asking too much. I am but a battered old fellow in these
days, I know, and if, indeed, you cannot care enough for me----"

He held out his hand again with a very kind smile. She looked
up at him.

"Monsieur Horace," she said, "I--I do--"

And then she put both hands into his with her old, childish
gesture, and I daresay the little weary spirit thought it had
found its rest at last.


CHAPTER VI.

Mrs. Treherne's Forgiveness.


Mrs. Treherne was sitting in the drawing-room of her London
house. The window was open to the hot dusty street, long
shadows lay upon the deserted pavement, the opposite houses
were all closed, and no sound disturbed the stillness of the
September evening but the shouts of the children, as they
played up and down the steps, and under the porticoes of the
houses, and the bells of the Westminster clocks chiming one
quarter after another. Through the half-drawn curtains that
hung between the two drawing-rooms she could see Graham and
Madelon sitting together, looking out upon the Park, as they
talked in low tones, and a sudden sadness filled her heart.
They were to be married next week, and go abroad at once,
whilst she returned to Cornwall; and the even current of a
lonely life, that had been stirred and altered in its course
five years ago, would return to its original channel, to be
disturbed, perhaps, no more.

It was of these five years that Mrs. Treherne was thinking
now, and of others, perhaps, beyond them again, when she too
had been young, and beloved, and happy. There are some lives
which, in their even tenour of mild happiness, seem to glide
smoothly from one scattered sorrow to another, so that to the
very end some of the hopefulness and buoyancy of youth are
retained; but there are others in which are concentrated in
one brief space those keen joys and keener sorrows that no one
quite survives, which, in passing over us take from us our
strongest vitality, our young capacity for happiness and
suffering alike. Such a life had been Mrs. Treherne's. She had
been a woman of deep affections and passions, and they all lay
buried in those early years that had taken from her husband,
and children, and friend, and it was only a dim shadow of her
former self that moved, and spoke, and lived in these latter
days.

It was an old story with her now, however. She did not envy
these two happy people who were talking together in the next
room. It was of Madelon she was thinking most, thinking sadly
enough that in all these years she had not been able to win
the girl's heart. When she had first seen the child of the
friend who in all the world had been most dear to her, she had
promised herself that, for Magdalen's sake, she would take her
home and bring her up as her own daughter; and she had kept
her promise, but she had failed in making her happy. She knew
it now, when she contrasted the Madelon of to-day, going about
with the light in her eyes, and the glad ring in her voice,
with the Madelon of six months ago. She had not been able to
make her happy, and she would leave her without a regret; and
the thought gave Mrs. Treherne a sharper pang than she had
felt for many a day.

And meanwhile this was what Madelon was saying,--

"In another month, Madelon," Graham had said to her, "we shall
be at L----, and you will be looking out on the blue skies that
you have so often longed for."

"Yes," she replied, "and then perhaps I shall be thinking of
the grey ones I have left behind; I shall be sorry to leave
England after all. I will pay your country so much of a
compliment as that, Monsieur Horace, or rather I shall be
sorry to leave some of the English people--Aunt Barbara, I do
not like to think of her alone; she will miss me, she says."

"I should not wonder if she did, Madelon."

"I do not know why she should; I think I have been ungrateful
to her; she has been so good, so kind to me, why have I not
been able to love her more? Where should I have been if she
had not taken care of me? and such care! If I lived to be a
hundred I could never repay all she has done, and now I am
going away to be happy, and she will be lonely and sad."

"We will ask her to come and see us, some day, at L----. I saw a
house when I was there, that would suit us exactly, and it has
a room, which shall be sometimes for Aunt Barbara, sometimes
for Madge. It has an open gallery, and an outside staircase
leading down to the garden, which will delight Madge's small
mind."

"Like my room at Le Trooz," cried Madelon. "Ah! how glad I am
that you can go there first, and that I shall see Jeanne-Marie
again; if only we do not find her ill--it is so long since I
have heard from her, and she used to write so regularly."

"For my part," said Graham, "I wish to see the hotel at
Chaudfontaine, where I first met a small person who was very
rude to me, I remember."

"And your wish will not be gratified, sir, for the season will
be over by next month and the hotel closed for the winter. I
am sorry for that, but I wonder you can wish to see a place
where any one was rude to you--now with me of course it is
different."

"In what way, Madelon?"

"Ah! that I will not tell you--but we will go to the convent at
Liége, Monsieur Horace; I would like to see Soeur Lucie again.
Poor Soeur Lucie--but it is sad to think that she is always
there making her confitures--there are so many other things to
be done in the world."

"For example?"

"Joining a marching regiment," she said, looking at him half-
laughing, half-shyly. "Monsieur Horace, where will you go when
you are tired of L----? You will be tired of it some day, I
know, and so shall I. Where will you go next?"

"I don't know," he answered; "you see, Madelon, in taking a
wife, I undertake a certain responsibility; I can't go
marching about the world as if I were a single man."

"You don't mean that!" she cried, "if I thought you meant
that, I--I--ah, why do you tease me?" she added, as Graham could
not help laughing, "you know you promised me I should go with
you everywhere. I am very strong, I love travelling, I want to
see the world. Where will you go? To America again? I will
adopt the customs and manners of any country; I will dress in
furs with a seal-skin cap, and eat blubber like an Esquimau,
or turn myself into an Indian squaw; would you like to have me
for a squaw, Monsieur Horace? I would lean all their duties; I
believe they carry their husband's game, and never speak till
they are spoken to. My ideas are very vague. But I would
learn--ah, yes, I could learn anything."

Mrs. Treherne was still sitting, thinking her sad thoughts
when she felt an arm passed round her neck, and turning round,
saw Madelon kneeling at her side. "Horace has gone out," she
said; "we have been talking over our plans, Aunt Barbara; we
have settled quite now that we will first go to Liége and Le
Trooz, and see Jeanne-Marie, and then go on to the south. It
is good of Monsieur Horace to go to Liége, for it is all to
please me, and it is quite out of his way."

"And you go on to L---- afterwards? You will be glad to find
yourself abroad again, Madeleine."

"Yes," she said, hesitating; "but I shall be sorry to leave
you, Aunt Barbara."

"Will you, my dear? I am afraid, Madeleine, that I have not
made you very happy, though I have only found it out in these
last few weeks."

"Aunt Barbara, how can you say such a thing?" cried Madelon.
"What have you not done for me? Why, I could never, never
thank you for it all; it is for that--because it is so much--
that I cannot say more. One cannot use the same words that one
does for ordinary things."

"I know, my dear," said Mrs. Treherne, smoothing the girl's
hair, "but nevertheless I have not made you happy, and I now
know the reason why. Yes, I have been talking to Horace, and I
understand your feeling; and if it were all to come again,
perhaps I might act differently; but it is too late now, and
it matters little, since you are happy at last."

"Aunt Barbara, I have been happy----"

"You see, Madeleine, your mother was my very dearest friend;
all your love has been for your father, and that is only
natural; but some day, perhaps, you will understand what a
mother might have been to you, and then, my dear, you will
care for me also a little, knowing how dearly I loved yours."

"I know," said Madelon, "and I do love you, Aunt Barbara, but
I must always care for papa most of all."

"I know, my dear; it is only natural, and from what Horace
tells me, he must have deserved your love." And with those
words, Mrs. Treherne in some sort forgave the man who had been
the one hatred of her life, and won the heart of the girl
beside her.

"Aunt Barbara," she cried again, "I do love you." And this
time Mrs. Treherne believed her.


CHAPTER VII.

Conclusion.


The hotel at Chaudfontaine was closed for the winter. Every
window in the big white building was shuttered, every door
barred; the courtyard was empty; not a footstep, nor a voice
was resounded. Nevertheless, an open carriage from Liége
stopped in front of the gate, and two people getting out,
proceeded to look through the iron bars of the railing.

"Was I not right?" said Madelon. "I told you, Horace, it would
be closed for the winter, and so it is."

"I don't care in the least," he replied. "If it affords me any
gratification, Madelon, to look through the railings into that
courtyard, I don't see why I should not have it."

"Oh! by all means," she answered; "but it is just a little
tame, is it not?--for a sentimental visit, to be looking
through these iron bars."

"That is the very place where I sat," said Graham, not heeding
her, "and took you on my knee."

"I don't remember anything about it, Monsieur Horace----"

"Nothing, Madelon?"

"Well, perhaps--you gave me a fish, I remember--it was the fish
that won my heart; and I have it still, you see."

"Oh! then, your heart was won?"

"A little," she answered, glancing up at him for a moment; and
then, moving on, she said, "See here, Horace, this is the
hawthorn bush under which I slept that morning after I had run
away from the convent. How happy I was to have escaped! I
remember standing at this gate afterwards eating my bread, and
that dreadful woman came out of the hotel."

"Is there no way of getting in?" said Graham, shaking the
gate.

"None, I am afraid," Madelon answered. "Stay, there used to be
a path that led round at the back across a little bridge into
the garden. Perhaps we might get in that way."

They were again disappointed; they found the path, and the
wooden bridge that crossed the stream, but another closed gate
prevented their entering the garden.

"This, however, becomes more and more interesting," said
Graham, after looking at the spot attentively. "Yes, this is
the very place, Madelon, where I first saw you with a doll in
your arms."

"Really!" she said.

"Yes, really; and then some one--your father, I think--called
you away."

They were silent for a minute, looking at the trees, the
shrubs, the grass growing all rough and tangled in the
deserted garden.

"We must go," Graham said at last; "it is getting late,
Madelon, and we have to drive back to Liége, remember, after
we have seen Jeanne-Marie."

They got into the carriage again, and drove on towards Le
Trooz, along the valley under the hills, all red and brown
with October woods, beside the river, gleaming between green
pastures in the low afternoon sun. They had arrived at Liége
the day before, and that morning was to have been devoted to
visiting the convent; but the convent was gone. On inquiry,
they learnt that the nuns had removed to another house ten
miles distant from Liége, and on the hills where the old farm-
house, the white, low-roofed convent had once stood so
peacefully, a great iron-foundry was smoking and spouting fire
day and night, covering field and garden with heaps of black
smouldering ashes.

"How places and things change!" said Madelon, as they drove
along; "we have had two disappointments to-day--shall we have a
third, I wonder? Supposing Jeanne-Marie should have gone to
live in another house? Ah! how glad I shall be to see her
again!--and she will be pleased to see me, I know."

As she spoke, the scattered houses, the church, the white
cottages of Le Trooz came in sight. Madelon checked the driver
as they approached the little restaurant, the first house in
the village, and she and Graham got out of the carriage. The
bench still stood before the door, the pigeons were flying
about, and the bee-hives were on their stand, but the blue
board was gone from the white wall, and the place had a
deserted look.

"It is strange," said Madelon. She pushed open the door that
stood ajar, and went into the little public room; it was
empty; the table shoved away into one corner, the chairs
placed against the wall--no signs of the old life and
occupation.

"Can Jeanne-Marie have gone away, do you think?" said Madelon,
almost piteously. "I am sure she cannot be here."

"I will inquire," said Graham.

He went out into the road, and stopped a little girl of ten or
twelve years, who was walking towards the village with a
pitcher of water.

"Do you know whether the woman who lived in this house has
left?" he asked. "Jeanne-Marie she was called, I think?"

The child stared up at the strange gentleman with the foreign
accent:

"Jeanne-Marie that used to live here?" she said. "She is
dead."

"Dead?" cried Madelon. The tears came rushing into her eyes.
"Ah! why did I not know? I would have come if I had known.
When did she die?"

"More than a month ago," the girl answered; "she died here in
this house."

"And who lives here now?" inquired Graham.

"Jacques Monnier--he that works at the factory now. He is out
all day; but his wife should be here."

And in fact, at the sound of the voices, the door leading into
the kitchen opened, and a young woman appeared.

"Pardon," said Madelon, going forward; "we came here to
inquire for Jeanne-Marie; but she--she is dead, we hear."

"Yes, she is dead," the woman replied; then, in answer to
further questions, told how Jeanne-Marie, when she was taken
ill, had refused to let any one be written to, or sent for;
and had died alone at last with no one near her but a hired
nurse. "She left enough money for her burial, and to have a
wooden cross put on her grave," said the woman, "and asked M.
le Curé to see that all her things were sold, and the money
given to the poor."

"Is she buried here?" said Madelon. "Horace, I should like to
see her grave."

"Louise, there, can show it to you," says Madame Monnier,
pointing to the child; "run home with your water, _ma petite_,
and then come back and show Monsieur and Madame the road to
the churchyard."

"And I have a favour to beg," said Madelon, turning to the
woman again. "I knew Jeanne-Marie well; she was very kind to
me at one time. Might I see the room in which she died? It is
upstairs, is it not, with the window opening on to the steps
leading into the garden?"

The woman consented civilly enough, concealing any
astonishment she might feel at this tall, beautiful lady, who
had come to inquire after Jeanne-Marie; and Madelon left
Graham below, and went up alone to the little bed-room, where
she had spent so many hours. It was hardly altered. The bed
stood in the old place; the vines clustered round the window.
Madelon's heart was full of sorrow; she had loved Jeanne-Marie
so much, and more and more perhaps, as years went on, and she
had learnt to understand better all that the woman had done
for her--and she had died alone--she who had saved her life.

When she came down again Louise had reappeared, and was
waiting to conduct them to the churchyard. The child went on
in front, and they followed her in silence down the village
street. It was already evening, the sun had sunk behind the
hills; the men were returning from their work; the children
were playing and shouting, and the women stood gossiping
before their doors. All was life and animation in the little
village, where a strange, silent woman had once passed to and
fro, with deeds and words of kindness for the suffering and
sorrowful, but who would be seen there no more.

"There is the grave," says Louise, pointing it out to them. It
was in a corner of the little graveyard; the earth was still
fresh over it, and the black cross at its head was one of the
newest amongst the hundred similar ones round about. Graham
dismissed the child with a gratuity, and he and Madelon went
up to the grave. There was no name, only the initials J. M. R.
painted on the cross beneath the three white tears, and the
customary "_Priez pour elle!_" Some one had hung up a wreath of
immortelles, and a rose-tree, twined round a neighbouring
cross, had shed its petals above Jeanne-Marie's head.

Madelon knelt down and began to pull out some weeds that had
sprung up, whilst Graham stood looking on. Long afterwards,
one might fancy, would that hour still live in his memory--the
peaceful stillness brooding over the little graveyard, the
sunset sky, the sheltering hills, the scent of the falling
roses, and Madelon, in her dark dress, kneeling by the grave.
Her task was soon accomplished, but she knelt on motionless.
Who shall say of what she was thinking? Something perhaps of
the real meaning of life, of its great underlying sadness,
ennobled by patient suffering, by unselfish devotion, for
presently she turned round to Graham.

"Oh, Horace," she said, "help me to be good; I am not, you
know, but I would like to be----and you will help me."

"My little Madelon!" he raised her up, he took her in his
arms. "We will both try to be good, with God's help. The world
is all before us, to work in, and do our best--we will do what
we can; with God's help, I say, we will do what we can."

They drove swiftly back towards Liége; the air blew freshly in
their faces, the sunset colours faded, the stars came out one
by one. As they vanish from our sight, they seem to fade into
the mysterious twilight land. For them, as for us, other suns
will rise, other days will dawn, but we shall have no part in
them; between them and us falls the darkness of eternal
separation.


THE END.



PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.



Typographical errors silently corrected by the transcriber :

Part 1 chapter 3 : =Ou est-il donc, ce petit drôle?= silently
corrected as =Où est-il donc, ce petit drôle?=

Part 1 chapter 3 : =ton père nous attends= silently corrected as
=ton père nous attend=

Part 1 chapter 5 : =large porte-cochères at intervals= silently
corrected as =large portes-cochères at intervals=

Part 1 chapter 5 : =went to the grande messe= silently corrected
as =went to the grand' messe=

Part 1 chapter 5 : =for a late déjeûner= silently corrected as
=for a late déjeuner=

Part 2 chapter 4 : =bursts of passionate crying?= silently
corrected as =bursts of passionate crying.=

Part 2 chapter 8 : =Ecoutes, Madelon= silently corrected as
=Ecoute, Madelon=

Part 2 chapter 11 : =his late déjeûner= silently corrected as
=his late déjeuner=

Part 2 chapter 12 : =quite irrevelant= silently corrected as
=quite irrelevant=

Part 2 chapter 14 : =said so many things;= silently corrected as
=said so many things,=

Part 3 chapter 2 : =he said, but one of the children= silently
corrected as =he said, "but one of the children=

Part 3 chapter 3 : =but she is; without exception= silently
corrected as =but she is, without exception=

Part 3 chapter 4 : =je m'étouffe ici= silently corrected as
=j'étouffe ici=

Part 3 chapter 5 : =aret hey not pretty= silently corrected as
="are they not pretty=

Part 3 chapter 5 : ="Yes, you pitied me= silently corrected as
=Yes, you pitied me=

Part 3 chapter 6 : =like an Esquimaux= silently corrected as =like an
Esquimau=

Part 3 chapter 7 : =lived in this house has left!= silently
corrected as =lived in this house has left?=





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